A bad few days for the team take a turn for the worse when one of them goes missing – will the rest of the team get to their missing colleague before it's too late?
I anyone has the time and inclination – I would really appreciate your feedback!
Out There, Somewhere
Tony and Ziva were already at their desks attempting to trace the movements of a Navy Petty Officer suspected of involvement in the smuggling of decommissioned weapons. They had been on the case for days and were getting nowhere fast – they knew Gibbs would be out of MTAC any minute now and they needed something for him. For some reason Gibbs had been even more abrupt and demanding than usual all week, they had all felt the sharp end of his tongue, and judging by the look on his face as he made his way down stairs, things were not going to get any better anytime soon.
"Do you two have anything for me?"
They both took a sudden interest in their monitors.
"Working on it Boss."
"Then work faster!"
Gibbs sat at his desk and hit the intercom.
"Abby – what have you got from that laptop?"
"And a very good morning to you Gibbs – I have nothing from the laptop because I have no laptop."
"What? McGee was supposed to bring it back here last night."
"Well, I'll check the evidence lock-up, but there's nothing here."
"You do that – I'll call McGee, he had better have a damn good reason for not getting that evidence back here!"
Gibbs hit the speed-dial on his phone. Ziva glanced from Tony to Gibbs – this was not good, they had left McGee out in Shenandoah National Park bagging evidence at the scene of a possible smuggling exchange site.
Gibbs had left him there because he was convinced that McGee had led them on a wild goose chase, following co-ordinates he had taken from an encrypted web site they had driven out to the park, all they had found was a laptop lying on the grass. Gibbs had been even more angry than usual at the waste of time, and despite McGee's protests that the very fact that a laptop was out here in the middle of nowhere must mean something – he had taken Ziva and Tony with him in the sedan to interview some of Petty Officer Owen's crew mates, his parting shot to McGee had been.
"As far as I can see there's nothing here – but you stay and get anything you can find – and get that computer back to Abby – maybe she can find something where you couldn't!"
That had been over 11 hours ago, he should have delivered the evidence last night – where was he?
"Has McGee sent you an email? I know you don't always check….."
"He knows I hate email Ziva!"
Tony puts down his phone.
"There's no answer on his home number."
"No email – Tony, check the garage – see if he returned the truck last night."
Ziva went to Tony's desk and waited as he contacted the garage – Gibbs was still on his cell – no answer. Tony looked up at Ziva and shook his head.
"The truck wasn't returned Boss – do you want me to get Abby to check the GPS?"
"Do it Tony – Ziva, get the sedan – we move as soon as we get a location, I'll let the Director know we may have a problem."
Within minutes Abby has the location – according to the signal the truck was in the same place they had left it last night.
"Hurry Gibbs – go find him, I'll keep calling – maybe he just fell asleep, you know how he is sometimes…."
Tony was pretty sure he had never known Gibbs drive so fast. As they pulled up alongside the truck they could see the back door wide open, the laptop in its evidence bag lying on the ground – no sign of McGee. Tony went to the driver's door, Gibbs checked inside the truck and Ziva scanned the area for any signs of life….
"Probie! McGee – answer me!"
Gibbs called out.
"He's not here Tony."
Ziva and Tony ran back to Gibbs – he was holding a tranquiliser dart, and pointed into the truck. There was McGee's phone, crushed and broken.
"Someone's taken him?" Tony gasped in amazement. "Who would…?"
"When we find the bastard we'll ask him Tony. Let's bag and tag, get any evidence back to Abby."
Ziva picked up the phone carefully and placed it in an evidence bag, she looked at Tony, he was looking around him, almost willing McGee to walk out from behind a tree, laughing at the joke he had played on them – but this was no joke, where was he, and who had taken him?
Gibbs watched them both – he needed to get them working.
"Tony, get out a BOLO on McGee, then have Headquarters send out a team to collect the truck, everything else we take to Abby."
He knew that he needed to make another call.
"Ducky, I need a favour."
"Well of course Jethro, is this to do with Timothy, have you found him?"
"No Duck, that's the favour – it looks like….no, he has been taken….."
He hesitated as he heard Ducky's gasp.
"We have some evidence for Abby, I …would you give her the heads-up, I don't want her coming to it cold…."
"I'll tell her right away…Jethro, the evidence?"
"There's not much Duck, no sign of a struggle, no….blood, but there's a tranquiliser dart, and his phone….."
"Oh my word – hurry back – I'll go to Abby right away."
Ducky walks through the door of her lab to find Abby sitting staring at the phone.
"Come on Timmy, answer me."
"Abby my dear, I thought you had already called Timothy several times."
"That was his work phone Ducky – he's just got one a brand new cell for personal use. I thought - I hoped he may have it with him and he would answer……but he's still not answering…I….I'm really….."
Ducky held out his arms and she ran to him and hugged him tight.
"My dear….there's something I have to tell you."
They thought Abby was going to fall apart when they handed over the evidence bags, but, although her eyes were brighter than usual and her lip trembled a little as she signed the chain of custody documents, as soon as she opened the bag containing the dart, she became icy calm – determined to gather whatever she could from this sparse haul. Gibbs gave her a gentle hug and went to give Vance a sitrep – not that there was much to tell him. Ziva and Tony checked on the BOLO – no hits yet – they then set about finding any camera footage of the roads around Tim's last location. There wasn't much – the coverage in rural areas was nothing like the city. After that they needed to get on to McGee's case files – check if there was any hint as to why someone would choose to take him rather than any of the other team members.
"Jethro – any news?"
"Not much Leon, as I told you he's definitely been abducted, but by whom and why – nothing so far."
"Anything at the scene that might help?"
"Couple of things - Abby has them now."
"How's she holding up?"
"She'll be OK as long as she has something to do – I'm worried about her reaction when she really has time to think what's happened to him."
"Any idea at all why McGee was targeted?"
"Soon as I go from here, I'll be checking his files, but he works the team cases….you haven't had him doing…?"
"No Jethro – that was a one-off, if I ever wanted his help again – I would ask you first."
"In that case I'll get back…"
"Before you go – I have another piece of news that isn't going to please you. I understand your team put away a Captain David Watson?"
"Damn right! That bastard had his own family kidnapped for $2 million."
"Then it is bad news – I just heard from Leavenworth – he escaped day before yesterday – before you say it – I tore the commander a new one for not letting us know sooner – he says they informed the family, local LEOs, he didn't think it was important for us to know!"
"Not important! This….it was McGee, well Abby and McGee…"
"What was Jethro?"
"They traced the money, Watson managed to transfer it overseas, but McGee traced it back to DC – if Watson is out for revenge…I need to get protection on Abby – just in case – I also need to talk about someone who knew Watson at Leavenworth, see if he ever talked about the case."
"I'll get you a video conference set up right away. Anything else you need Jethro – I mean, anything – you let me know."
"I will Leon, thanks."
"Drop everything else – it could be Watson – you remember Tony, the Pentagon…."
"That snake…of course – who could forget?"
Ziva looked puzzled.
"Before your time Ziva – this creep arranged to have his wife and daughter kidnapped so that he could embezzle money from the Pentagon – the little girl was blind too…man he was a piece of work. But you said…I thought he was still…."
"We only just got word – he's been on the loose over 24 hours – he could be after McGee - I need to tell Abby – she'll have a protection detail until we find Watson."
Gibbs headed down to the lab and Ziva asked Tony.
"Why does Gibbs think Abby needs protection?"
"It was our computer wizards who trapped Watson in their web. Oh my God – he could have taken McGee – that's why Gibbs…damn it DiNozzo, get with the programme! We need to get that file – find out who Watson might contact now he's out – let's move!"
When Gibbs reached the lab he found Ducky sitting with Abby as she sat staring at a fingerprint search running on the screen.
"Abs – do you have anything?"
"Not yet – nothing from the phone – just….just Tim's prints. There was one partial on the dart – I'm running that now…..the laptop was clean – and I mean completely clean – no prints, never been used. There was….on the dart….there…"
Ducky took her hand.
"There was some blood on the tip of the dart Jethro – it's Timothy's blood group – we're running DNA now, but that could take some time."
Their attention turned to the screen as the search programme stopped and the words POSITIVE MATCH appeared on the screen. Abby's fingers flew across the keyboard and a military ID appeared on the screen.
"Geoffrey Best – Naval Academy Cadet – dishonourable discharge, sentenced to 10 years for a serious assault – I don't understand."
"Jethro, isn't he the agent who transferred to the Academy from your team?"
"He was on my team, had me fooled for a while – I thought he was a good agent, thought he'd make a good officer, but he nearly beat a midshipman to death in an argument over a card game! He wanted me to testify to his good character – but when I saw what he did….They sentenced him to 10 years, but he was released on parole last week – 3 years early – I was so mad, been taking it out on everyone I guess, specially McGee….but what has he got to do with this? Best was long gone before Tim joined NCIS. Abby, are you OK?"
"How can I be Gibbs? Tim is out there somewhere – you need to find him, I'm so….."
Gibbs held her tight.
"Listen to me Abby – we are going to find him – you can count on it. Now you stay here with Ducky and do not leave this building without one of us – you hear me?"
"I'm not going anywhere until Tim is back safe!"
He kissed her cheek and left her with Ducky. Is should be time for his video conference.
In MTAC Gibbs was joined by Tony and Ziva, they had a few names of people who knew Watson, so far no new leads.
"Special Agent Gibbs, I'm Phil Jessop – you wanted to hear about Watson? He was on my wing."
"How the hell did he escape Jessop?"
"He's terminally ill Agent Gibbs, end stage pancreatic cancer. He was at the hospital having a new round of chemo, but it was only delaying the inevitable – the docs say he only has weeks to live. Someone must have helped him – there was a car waiting for him – by the time the guard noticed he was long gone."
"Any ideas on the accomplice?"
"Oh I'm pretty sure – a former inmate – name of Geoffrey Best."
"What? They knew each other?"
"You didn't know? They were real close, and I mean real close. Watson was caught up in a fight early in his stay – Best pulled him out, and pretty much from that day they were a couple."
"There's our connection. Do you have a recent picture of Watson?"
"Sure – he has changed a lot since he got in here – give me the address and I'll email it right away."
They headed back to the squad room to wait for the picture. Abby and Ducky were waiting for them.
"Any news Jethro?"
"We're waiting for a new picture of Watson for the BOLO, then we amend it to include Best."
"Looks like it Abs."
"Agent Gibbs – sorry to interrupt – this envelope just arrived for you, marked urgent – it has been checked."
Gibbs took the envelope, put on gloves and ripped it open. He removed a computer disc.
"Abs – can you put this on the plasma?"
She nodded, took the disc – with shaking hands she inserted the disc in the computer. The plasma flickered into life and an image filled the screen. Abby took a step back, her hands flew to her mouth and she whispered.
Ducky put his arms around her giving silent support. They all stood, transfixed by the image before them. It was McGee, dressed only in boxer shorts, ankles and wrists bound, lying in a dark room – the camera flash showed his eyes were closed, a gash on his right arm had left a pool of blood on the floor.
A voice broke the silence.
"Remember me Gibbs? You stole my life – abandoned me to my fate and I spent 7 years locked away in prison. Well – it's an eye for an eye – you took my life and now I'm going to take a life, I have nothing to lose now – my life is done. You didn't look after me and now you haven't looked after one of your people, and because of that he's going to die – not today and maybe not tomorrow – but he will die – you'll never find him – not alive at least. McGee helped to ruin the life of someone I love and now it is time for him to pay – we didn't want him to be too comfortable so we gave him a little something to remember us by. The effects of the tranquiliser will have worn off by now; he'll be awake, alone and in pain with no hope of escape. You can start counting the hours now Gibbs, counting down his life."
Tony caught her just as her legs buckled, her eyes were bright with tears, and she was shaking from head to toe. Ducky helped Tony to get her sitting down, and handed her a handkerchief, she sat staring at the screen, even though the picture was gone it was seared in her mind, every terrible detail. Gibbs knelt down in front of her.
"Abby – look at me – I need you now – Tim needs you."
She straightened up in the chair, took Ducky's handkerchief and wiped her eyes.
"I….I need to analyse the disc – it's all we have right now – that picture….I may be able…Oh Gibbs – please find him."
"We will – but only if we work together, you ready?"
Ziva handed Abby the disc and along with Ducky she made her way to the lab.
"Gibbs – if Best hates you this much, why go after McGee and not you?"
"He has gone after me Ziva, he's taken one of my people, he knows…..I need coffee!"
Gibbs headed out.
"He knows what Tony?"
"That taking one of Gibbs' people is like taking one of his limbs – did you see his face when he saw McGee, he'd take his place in an instant."
"As would I Tony."
"Me too Ziva – but Best picked the most vulnerable one – that's why Gibbs is hurting so bad – you and I…and Gibbs – we've been in situations like this before, and got out – but Tim…."
Gibbs was back – with a coffee from the vending machine – he really was worried, normally nothing on earth would make him drink that stuff. Tony tried to think of something to say, something that would make them all smile – but he couldn't think of a thing – filling his mind was the image of his team mate – his friend, lying God knew where – hang on Tim, just hang on – we'll find you.
What? …Where? My head….oh I'm cold….thirsty….feel sick….can't see. Stop rambling – think! Something hit me….my neck…then nothing…now…I'm in real trouble this time. What do I do? What would Gibbs do? Not lie here doing nothing – need to assess the situation. Can I move? Try…careful….my arm…don't lean on that arm! OK, nice and slow – sit up now – Oh man my clothes are gone – glad Tony's not here….no I'm not…I wish….no – no wishes, action – move McGee! Right, I can see…it's dark, but I'm not blindfolded – now what? Check the perimeter – must be a door, find something to cut these ropes…do something…tired – No! Don't sleep – mustn't sleep…..really thirsty…how long have I been out? Stupid question Probie! Tony would head slap me for that one. Oh – here's the wall – metal, rivets, oh man - that's why I feel sick – I'm on a ship! Should I call for help – who would hear me? Maybe whoever took me is still here – no shouting – keep moving…pipes down the wall….all smooth, nothing to cut these ropes…keep moving – my knees, they'll be bleeding now – I must look a mess – who cares McGee? No one here to see….another pipe…Yes! Ragged edge…let's try..is it sharp enough?…Ow!! It's sharp alright – try cutting the rope – not your wrists Timothy – Ducky? Is that you? Concentrate – you have to do this – keep going…
The amended BOLO was out and Vance had freed every available agent to help follow up any leads, so far they were all false alarms, but they were checking out every single sighting – just one small break, that's all they were looking for – anything.
Gibbs had heard nothing from Abby – that was not good; if she had found even the tiniest hint of Tim's location she would have called him right away. Time to pay her a visit.
With Caf-Pow in hand he walked into the lab – she was still poring over that picture, Ducky looked up as he entered, shook his head and mouthed the word 'nothing.'
"Abs – take a break…"
"I can't take a break – I keep looking…but I can't find anything – just…Tim and…blackness all around him."
She knocked the Caf-Pow onto the floor, spilling its contents.
"Oh now look what I've done! I can't do anything right. All I can tell you is that Tim is being held in a dark place, that he's hurt – he could be dying and I can't help him!"
She knelt to mop up the spilled drink. Gibbs pulled her upright.
"Abs stop! We are helping him the only way we know how. We still have leads to follow up. Don't give up on him Abby, if we find any new evidence I'll need you at the top of your game – can you do it, or do I need to get…?"
"No! No-one wants him back more than me – if you find anything else, you bring it right here – I……"
She glanced at Ducky, he had not left her side all day.
"We will be ready – right Duckman?"
"Absolutely my dear, go Jethro, we'll be waiting – bring us something to work with."
Got it!…Now, untie my ankles, sticky hands – that's bad – must be blood, nothing else here…now I can check my watch – see how long…16.35…no wonder I'm thirsty, that's…I can't work it out…how many hours? Concentrate…no it's no good – can't figure it…don't waste time on that – keep moving…can I stand now? Oh not so fast – I'll just lean here for a little while, get my sea legs! Do not throw up – must be a pretty gruesome sight as it is, vomit will not improve my look…now which way? Oh wait 'til I tell Ziva – I got lost in a locked room, she'll never believe…well, maybe she would, she'd probably have picked the lock with a paperclip by now and be out of here…must be a door…wait what's this? My clothes…did they find my knife? No, still here, you were right Tony, the belt buckle is a good place to hide a kn…Wait, idiot!! The new phone…where was it? Jacket – inside pocket – yes! It's getting cold in here…put on the jacket…blood all over it now…at least it's NCIS issue – not one of mine….rambling again…what was I? Oh yeah – the phone. Switched off - battery should be good – here goes, please Abs, be there please, oh no….NO SIGNAL……
At last they had a break – a hotel desk clerk had reported checking in two men who matched the BOLO. They had arrived early this morning; he said the one guy looked 'real sick.' Gibbs, Ziva and Tony were on their way as soon as the call came in; this one looked as if it could be what they had been waiting for. They pulled up at the Quality Inn near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and headed to the reception area.
"Special Agent Gibbs – NCIS, you called about these two men?"
"That's right – I'm even more sure now – it's them –they haven't left the room – I've had our security guy keep an eye on it."
"That's great work. Which room?"
"107 – over to the left, blue Toyota parked outside."
"There's a back door, opens out onto the street – they haven't gone out though – I can see that on the cameras."
He pointed to the monitors behind his desk. Gibbs shook his hand.
"We'll take it from here. Tony, take the back – Ziva, with me."
There was no sound from inside the room, Gibbs called out "Federal Agents!" and Ziva opened the door. They ran into the room and stopped in their tracks. Lying on the bed in a final embrace are Watson and Best, Gibbs moved over to check for a pulse but he knows he won't find one, he had seen enough dead bodies to know that these two were gone.
He opened the back door and Tony ran in.
"They're gone Tony – we need to get Ducky."
Tony stumbled towards the bed; Gibbs was surprised to see his eyes fill with unshed tears.
"How do we find McGee now Boss? These two bastards were the only ones who knew where he is. What do we do now?"
"Tony, if I have to I will search every building in DC! But first let's see if they left any evidence."
Ziva put away her phone, "Ducky is on the way."
"Right, we leave the bodies for him, check everything else. I don't care if we have to bag everything in this room – we have to find something!"
Within moments Ziva handed an envelope to Gibbs.
"This is addressed to you – it was on the nightstand."
Taking care to put the envelope in an evidence bag Gibbs took out the single sheet of paper and read aloud.
"Too late Gibbs. You now know I was serious when I said I had nothing to lose. Without Mike my life would be worthless - so we've gone together, remember that when you find McGee's body. I died holding the person I love – he will die alone, and it's your fault Jethro, you didn't look out for him and he'll soon be gone forever."
Move McGee! Don't lie here feeling sorry for yourself – there must be something else you can do! Gibbs? Leave me alone….tired now…just let me sleep – just for a little…You sleep, you die McGee – how often have I explained that to you – you must use anything at your disposal – anything…but I'm cold Ziva, my arm hurts – there's blood…I'm thirsty…You must drink Timothy – is there any water at all, look! I…dripping – I can hear, yes look Ducky – it's here running down this broken pipe – wash the blood off – now drink….oh wow – that is so good, more – no not too much, be sick…Hey Probie! I thought we said no sleeping…wasn't – just a little rest. No time for that – the door – can you open the door? I don't…Tony, what did he tell me about when he was trapped with that Marine – used his knife to unlatch the door – try that…no handle…what now? Hinges…can I use the knife – unscrew the hinges…nothing else to do…go for it…this is going to be a long job…Timmy, you have to keep going – you can sleep later...just keep trying – please…I will – but hurry and find me please…I'm on a ship did you know? Hurry…
Every bit of evidence from the hotel room was with Abby, Tony and Ziva were with her, helping as much as they could – Ducky and Palmer were working on the bodies. Gibbs was with Vance.
"Jethro – what else do you need?"
"At this stage – a miracle would be good - honestly Leon, I don't know. Unless we get something from this new evidence…he really could be anywhere, he could be in the next street or hundreds of miles away – I just don't know…"
"You'll find him."
"But will we find him in time?"
"Gibbs – this isn't like you – you're the leader of this team – no time for you to have doubts."
"It's my fault Leon – something I did 7 years ago, something McGee probably knew nothing about – and he's in mortal danger. What do you think Abby…all of them will do if…?"
"It's not over yet Jethro, let's see what this evidence brings – and believe me when I say, if I have to call SECNAV and get every sailor and Marine we have available to search for McGee, then that's exactly what I'll do – we are not losing him – you hear me Jethro!"
"I hear you – I'll see if Ducky has anything yet."
"Ah Jethro – I wondered where you had got to, it's not like you to leave me in peace for this long."
"Not much I'm afraid – no signs of injury as we would expect – Abby has the blood for a tox screen and we took scrapings from the skin and fingernails in case there was anything that could pin down where they may have been in the last few hours. The doctors at Leavenworth were quite correct – Watson only had weeks to live, it's just a pity he didn't die sooner!"
"Amen to that Duck."
"Are you going to see Abby now?"
"Can't put it off any longer – every time I go in she looks at me as if I should have found him by now…and she's right."
"Nonsense Jethro – no one could have done more, we're all doing everything we can – she knows that – she is frightened, she wants him back."
Gibbs was already out of the door.
"We all want him back."
"What was that Doctor Mallard?"
"Just a little prayer Jimmy. Let's take another look at these fingernails – we may have missed something…."
Tony stopped Gibbs as he was leaving the elevator.
"She's on the edge Boss - I don't know how much longer she can go on."
"I do Tony – she'll go on until we find him, we all will. Abby – do you need any more help? Director Vance tells me the FBI has offered…."
"You think they could find something where I can't?"
"Of course not! You're the best there is – not too tired?"
She shook her head.
"No – I'm ready to carry on."
The shadows under her eyes gave the lie to that statement but Gibbs knew that, like the rest of them, she needed to be working – to stop working meant thinking about what might be happening to McGee, and that was too hard. None of them wanted to go down that road.
"I've got something Gibbs – it's not much, but so far…"
"The tox screen showed high levels of diamorphine – enough to arrest the breathing – Ducky says that's what killed them – no surprises there. The scrapings have given us a little help – there's a high level of saline and some traces of oxidised metal under their fingernails."
"Looks like it – the traces aren't big enough to get a specific location – but they've definitely been around rusted metal and sea water."
Ziva is looking at a map of the local area on the screen.
"There is a great deal of coastline Gibbs, where do we start?"
Tony leapt up from his chair.
"Hey – we could get heat seeking helicopters – they'd find him…"
"But like Ziva said Tony, where do we start? Damn it – I'll call Leon – get it started – we'll go for the most derelict areas first – if they managed to do all this without being seen or heard it's not likely that he's anywhere with a lot of foot traffic. You get me the most likely locations – I'll get the air cover!"
Never going to use this knife again – it's ruined…and my nails…well beyond a manicure! How many more screws? Only one left…will it work now…what if there's nothing on the other side? You're right guys…only one way to find out…here goes…pull it…can't - too heavy…no don't stop now…get another drink – then…now pull! It's open! Thank God – now please let there be a way out…metal ladder…can't climb that…shoes – I need my shoes….have to go back in there. Come on Tim – you're nearly there – you can do this, it's only a ladder. On it Boss….
"That's their final word Jethro – no more flights until first light – we have to be patient, they know what they're doing."
"Ya think, Leon? Do you think they know that one of my people is out there, trapped and alone?"
"They know that – but we can't compromise the safety of the helicopter crews – you know they're right. If it was anyone else out there you know you'd agree…."
Gibbs scraped his hand through his hair.
"I know Leon, but…"
"But he's one of yours – he's one of mine too Jethro, don't forget that. I'm ordering you and your team to get some rest, you all look dead on your feet – then back here at 06.00 – we're going to find him Jethro."
They all tried to get some rest – it wasn't easy, but they wanted to be ready to help in any way they could. They could do that better if they got some sleep. When they got to NCIS next morning none of them looked as if they had slept much, but they did look a little better that they had last night. Gibbs looked round, he couldn't stay here another day.
"Abby, I want you to double-check those scrapings, Ducky can help you – if there's anything, the tiniest thing that may pin-point a location, you call us."
"Where are you going?"
"We can start checking some of the other dock areas – cut down the search time. Leon said we can get as much manpower as we need. I'll be in contact the whole time."
"I'll get the sedan."
"We'll meet you out front Tony – Leon is coordinating the search from MTAC, there's nothing else for us to do here Ziva – let's go."
Abby and Ducky returned to the lab – she looked at the phone.
"I miss talking to him Ducky…."
"I know my dear, we all do."
"But…you know, even if we didn't really have anything to say – it was…I like having him here….I love having him here….I want him back!"
"Oh my poor girl, come here – let it out, you have a good cry and then we'll get back to the evidence….that's right - Ducky's here…"
Why am I on the floor? It's freezing….is it? Or am I? How long have I been sleeping? I was supposed to get up that ladder – Gibbs will be so mad…It must be morning – it's light up there….the ladder….this is going to hurt…no more thinking….do it….can't - my hands keep slipping, now my arm's bleeding again. Clothes…my shirt…bandage my hands….you're so slow McGee, come on – so close. At least my knife will still cut cotton – that's about all …Now wrap it round my hands…grip the…ow! Not much better….as good as it's getting though so quit whining and move….How many rungs?….8…I can do this….7..the sun is shining, that looks so good….6…phone, have I got? Yes - it's here….5…I'm a real mess…at least in the dark I couldn't see the blood…4….I knew it was a ship – there's the deck….3…shouldn't I be hungry by now? I'm not – is that good or bad?...2….Steady – nearly slipped…these bandages didn't last long…1..last one…pull yourself up….don't….fall….now…Done it! Now the phone…please let there be a signal – just one bar will do, please…yes!
"Ducky! It's him!"
Abby answered immediately.
"Tim! Tim? Can you hear me?"
"Can you trace the call Abby?"
"Of course – I've just been waiting – oh Tim, hold on. Gibbs will be there soon."
She opens another line and calls Gibbs.
"Tim's alive! He just called – I'm tracing it now – I'll send you the location as soon…."
"Abby – what? You're sure it was him?"
"You think I don't know Tim's voice?"
"What did he say?"
"Just my name – he…oh, of course – he's hurt – I tried to get him to answer me – hurry Gibbs! I'm sending the location now."
She turned her stricken face to Ducky.
"He will be OK won't he Ducky?
"I'm sure he will my dear, let me call The Director and make sure an ambulance is on its way – just to be on the safe side."
As soon as he had the location Gibbs turned the sedan around with a squeal of burning rubber – Tony and Ziva held on tight as they sped towards an abandoned dock just south of Baltimore.
"There Boss! That ship – he must be….."
They could hear sirens in the distance as they boarded the ship – it had obviously been here for a long time, rust was fast overtaking the metal – now where?
"McGee…Tim – can you hear me?"
Ziva suddenly ran to the port side.
"Gibbs! There – look…oh my!"
She stopped and knelt beside the prone figure immediately feeling for a pulse.
"Please Tim – don't give up now – we are here."
His eyes flickered open, he tried to focus on the voice, but the sun…too bright …turning his head slightly he could see Gibbs and Tony, Ziva moved to stand with them. He tried to smile, but his lips were cracked and his mouth was so dry. He whispered.
"I knew…you'd….find me…."
"We didn't find you Tim – you told us where you were."
"Was she ever Probie! You can relax now – the EMT's are here, let them look at you – we'll be waiting."
Gibbs was on the phone.
"Abs – we've got him, he's conscious…"
"Thank God! Can I talk to him?"
"Not right now – the medics are checking him out, his hands are pretty mangled, and that knife wound is bleeding – I'll find out where they're taking him and Ducky can bring you over – how's that?"
"That's great! I've been so worried you know…"
"I know Abs, we all have, but we've got him back now – we'll make sure he's OK."
Two Weeks Later
Tim made his way through the squad room to his desk – it seemed like an eternity since he had been here, he was stopped on his way by other agents all wanting to welcome him back. He knew he smiling like an idiot, but he didn't care – his smile broadened further when he saw his desk – festooned with balloons and a Welcome Back banner. The whole team was waiting for him. Abby couldn't wait any longer; she ran to him and gave him a very gentle hug – taking great care not to disturb the sling on his right arm. He kissed her cheek.
"You don't have to be quite so gentle you know – I'm not going to break…"
"I know that Tim, but you were so ill, and now….Oh I'm saving up some real hugs for when you're all better!"
He did indeed look like someone who had been very sick, he was still pale, and the shadows under his eyes were taking a while to go – he still found it difficult to sleep, but now he was back things would soon get better. Ducky watched him closely.
"Are you sure you're well enough to be back Timothy? That infection took a lot out of you….and with your other injuries and the dehydration…."
"I'm fine Ducky – really, looking forward to getting back to work."
"In that case, allow me to give you a small welcome back gift and then I'll leave you to get back to work."
He handed a package to Tim, who shook his head.
"Really Ducky – there's no need for…"
"Need does not enter into it – I think you will find everyone has something for you."
"Then – thank you."
Tim tore open the paper and revealed a beautifully bound edition of Robinson Crusoe.
"I hope you like it – I thought that you may find some useful survival tips in case you get stranded again."
Tim laughed, Abby relished the sound - she had been so scared that she would never hear his laugh again.
"Open mine next Timmy!"
She was bouncing around his desk – with a small box in her hand.
Inside the box was a chunky black leather bracelet. He looked into her eyes.
"Let me guess – GPS locator…"
Abby clapped her hands.
"Yes! And you must promise to wear it – I can't go through that again – not knowing…."
"It's a beautiful thought Abs, but you know I can't wear it at work."
"No problema Probie – you can wear it in your leisure time and that way Abby will always know where you are. Here, this is from me."
This box was still small, but quite a bit heavier than Abby's. Tim took off the lid and looked into the box – it was full of small white pebbles.
"You don't have to take them all with you – but I figured – a few of those in your pocket, you know, you could drop one at a time – like…"
"Hansel and Gretel – I get it Tony."
Ziva glared at Tony.
"I thought I told you to get something useful…this is from me."
She handed him a small velvet bag and leaned down to kiss his cheek, she whispered to him.
"It really is very good to see you back here."
"Thank you Ziva…oh – this is really cool…"
He stood up and gave her a hug, then held out the silver compass for everyone to see.
"You will not lose your way from us again now Tim?"
"I will do my very best Ziva."
Catching Abby's expression, he took her hand in his and held tight.
"Abs - you OK?"
"With you standing next to me, of course I am, but you can't blame a girl for being a little jealous…"
"Hey – before this gets all gooey – this is from me Tim."
"Boss? I never…wow – this is…"
"Swiss Army knife – your old knife is completely ruined, so I thought – it's not one with a stupid corkscrew, but it does have a screwdriver attachment, so if you ever get trapped alone again…"
Tim knew he had tears in his eyes, but he didn't care – he'd tried to tell them at the hospital, but with the infection and his fever things had got a bit confused – now, he had to let them know.
"But that's just it – you must understand – you were all with me every step of the way. I couldn't have got out without you – there may have been no one else in that room with me….but I was never alone."