Some more background stuff in this chapter. ;-) Thanks a bunch for everyone reading and reviewing. Also huge thanks to Imagine for her hard work in making this better.

Some more explaining

4 June, 11:00 am

McGee had fallen asleep. Again. Frustrated, Abby hugged Bert and, though it wasn't intentional, managed to elicit a loud farting noise from the hippo. Within seconds, the nurse assigned to her friend entered the room. When the woman saw the stuffed toy, she shook her head, a disapproving scowl on her face.

"Ms Scutio, please. His fever has only broken a few hours ago. He needs his rest."

She apologized but didn't feel sorry at all. She wanted McGee back to his old, slightly neurotic self. With one last warning glance, the nurse left and Abby thought about giving Bert another squeeze. Instead, she decided to carefully place Bert next to Tim, setting one flaccid hand on the hippo's head.

Absently tracing the outline of McGee's hand, she glanced at the screen by his bed. The machine reflected his temperature and heart rate back at her. Everything looked fine. He was a lot better than yesterday.

McGee's fever had finally broken and, earlier, he had been lucid enough to understand where he was and what had happened. Abby had listened from the hall as Fornell questioned McGee about their kidnapping. Tim, however, had nothing more to add to the own report she had given days before. Frustrated, Fornell left the room in a huff. There was no doubt that it was a serious huff – the kind with a capital H.

Her observations about the FBI agent, however, quickly gave way to the realization she was free to see her friend. At once, McGee was on the receiving end of an excited hug that soon had him coughing and her apologizing. She had then tried to explain about Gibbs, but had only managed to utter a few sentences when he inconveniently fell asleep.

The rest of the morning had pretty much been the same. McGee would slowly wake up, take a sip of water, and listen intently as she started her – by now - scientifically worked out pointer plan of What Had Happened. Each time, he fell asleep less than a minute after she began talking.

She gave a small huff and then seated herself by McGee's bed, alternating between watching the agent and the monitor. It hadn't taken her long to correlate the change in patterns on the screen to McGee's coming awake.

She smiled to herself at her remembered promise about the poison ivy and the reddish rash over his hands and arms. Grabbing the lotion from the bed cupboard, she squirted a bit onto her hand and then rubbed it into the rash.

"I'm sorry, Tim. I know I promised but we did make it out. And once we have Gibbs, I'll make sure that we catch the guys who did this to you. You just get better."

In answer McGee opened his eyes.


"Oh, hi." She replied, a bit too brightly as she blinked a threatening tear away. McGee stared at her a little longer and she squeezed his hand, forgetting for the moment where it was resting. A loud farting noise escaped from beneath his hand.

McGee frowned at the noise then looked uncomfortably unsure.

"It's okay, Tim! It's not you. It's Bert," Abby held the offending hippo in the air. "I thought he would make you feel better. Always worked for me and it worked for Tony, too, that time he had the plague. But," she paused then lowered her voice conspiratorially as she continued, "I don't think Nurse Ratchett likes Bert. Which is a shame, you know, cause Bert would never ever hurt anyone."

McGee nodded and then frowned as a stray thought finally came through. "Who is Nurse Ratchett?"

"Oh, she's the übernurse that has been coming in every five minutes to check up on me. Really, I can't say why."

McGee glimpsed at Abby's clothes. Black t-shirt with dancing skulls, white skull-themed mini skirt with striped long socks and he was sure, her usual black platform boots.

"I'm sure she just making sure I'm doing okay, Abs." he managed to say with a slight grin, "I'm sure it has nothing to do with you."

Abby immediately beamed. "Maybe you're right. Maybe all she needs is a hug."

McGee wanted to debate the issue but he was beginning to feel sleep pull him back into unconsciousness. Abby was still babbling on about his nurse and how some people just needed what she called pick-me-up hugs compared to the I'm-not-lonely hugs when he finally drifted away.

One last thought kept nagging him though. He remembered something about Abby explaining that Gibbs, Tony and Ziva had gone missing.

It must have been the fever, he decided. Who would be crazy enough to kidnap a Marine sniper, a former Mossad assassin and a know-it-all that could talk his way out of anything?

He was sure he must have heard wrong but made a mental note to ask Abby again next time he woke.


4 June, 12:00 am

Fornell was the last one to enter the boardroom. Seated around the table were Director Vance, Jackson Gibbs and Ducky Mallard. In front of the ME was a file already bulging with notes he was sure the doctor had spent the better part of the night compiling.

He put his own smaller folder in front of him on the desk.

"Agent McGee had nothing more to add to Ms. Scutio's report. But I've got some pertinent information from one of my tech guys about Chuck Winslow's financial reports."

"I knew about the other mining outfit coming in but I didn't think too much about it." Jackson Gibbs said slowly. "It's not like the Winslow's never had to deal with competition, so Jethro must have stirred up more than bad family history. Chuck's standing in the community has always been important to him."

Fornell tried not to stare at Jackson. The older Gibbs had just summed up in a few short sentences what his research techie had taken the better part of yesterday uncovering. For a moment he wondered about the history between the two, wondering why it had taken so long for him to find out that Gibbs' father was still alive. He also wondered whether Gibbs' famous rules originated from his father.

"Uhm, yeah. The Golden Arch Mining Group is in the process of acquiring the mineral rights required to legally mine in the area. They are a big conglomerate of subsidiary companies that tend to make hostile acquisitions of smaller rival mining companies. Once they succeed, they strip the mines of their most profitable assets before selling it to another outfit at artificially inflated prices. Usually the miners and the owners are intentionally excluded from the new contracts and either end up having to reapply for their jobs or get laid off completely. The reason Chuck is in trouble is because his son-in-law sold his significant share holding to Golden Arch in order to settle his legal fees. This transaction went ahead without Chuck's knowledge until it was too late. It was a big enough chunk to seriously hurt his influence on the Winslow mine."

"That explains the motive that Chuck had to kidnap Gibbs and his team. I've done a detailed psychological profile on him and it agrees with my findings."

"What else do you have, Dr. Mallard?" Vance asked, speaking for the first time in the meeting.

"Chuck Winslow is a classic narcissist who typically displays an exaggerated sense of self-importance, eclipsed only by a characteristic lack of empathy for others; even for his own family. He is obsessed with success and actual or perceived demonstrations of power. He is likely to exploit others for his own self interest, reacts badly to failure."

"Badly, how?"

"Aggressive, violent tendencies, I'm afraid," the doctor replied.

"In other words, he's your typical bad guy." Fornell stated.

"Do not underestimate him, Agent Fornell. Chuck Winslow is desperate. I fear for Jethro's life as well as the lives of Ziva and Tony. If pushed into a corner, he will resort to killing to achieve his goals."

"Got it, Dr. Mallard." Fornell said, turning to Director Vance, "I've put alerts on all of Winslow's cars as well as Milner's car. If they so much as sneeze in the direction of Washington, we'll find them."

"For Gibbs' sake, I hope so, Agent Fornell," Ducky stated softly.


4 June, 13:00 am

"What did you find?"

"A car registered to Hank has been spotted on interstate 66 outside Centreville. It appears to be headed for Washington. There are three occupants, one of which has been identified as Agent Gibbs. Per your instructions no attempt has been made to stop or follow the car."

For a moment Fornell paused, allowing himself a few seconds to calculate how long it would take him to intercept the car.

"Setup a routine roadblock on the cross with route 655. I'll be there in…around 40 minutes. Have a uniform ready for me."

Satisfied that his orders would be carried out, he hurriedly made his way down the stairs to the car park. At least he had some idea of where Gibbs was and hopefully, the whereabouts of the rest of the team would become known soon.

He had no doubt that Chuck had used the gunnery-sergeant's loyalty to his team members to force him to do his bidding. And he had a fair idea what that task might be.