Gibbs woke in his cell feeling decidedly unwell. He looked at his watch. It was after 2am. He lay on the pungent bunk and gripped his stomach tightly as cramps struck him, spasm after spasm. He could feel his perspiration dampening his shirt as another wave of nausea washed over him.
Damn it! Guess Raul wasn't bluffing after all.
He got up quickly and ran to the bucket in the corner and retched. Having purged the meagre contents of his stomach, he crawled slowly back to the bunk. He looked at the bottle of water on the floor and desperately wanted to take a drink to wash away the metallic taste in his mouth but decided against it. He was convinced that he had ingested some form of poison and knew it had to be in the water. Drinking more would only make it worse. He groaned as another spasm tore through him. He curled up on the bunk and brought his knees to his stomach to try and alleviate his discomfort. He closed his eyes but knew that he wouldn't be sleeping through this.
Tony and Franks sped down the highway and followed the Sat Nav instructions to exit for Conchos and take the minor road into the hills. The moonlight provided a natural illumination for their journey. Tony gave Mike his spare weapon, just in case they needed it. Soon they reached the tiny village. There wasn't a soul on the street at that hour and little signs of life anywhere. There weren't that many buildings, but still Tony had no idea where to start looking for Gibbs.
"DiNozzo, what kind of car did McGee say they put Gibbs in?" Franks asked, as they slowly rolled down the street.
"A blue old style Ford sedan," Tony replied.
"Like that one?" Franks said pointing to the car parked outside a tiny white-washed cottage.
"Like that one!" Tony replied enthusiastically, anticipating an end to their search.
They continued down the street and pulled the car around the side of the terraced buildings. Quietly they got out and stole silently along the side and around to the front of the buildings facing the street. They peeped in the front window of the white cottage. Tony could see two guys asleep in chairs, their feet resting on the desks in front of them. There was no sign of Gibbs. He signalled for Franks to follow him around the back. They crept around back and Tony noticed the small barred window close to the roof tiles. He pulled over an old oil drum that was lying outside and used it to stand on. He peeked through the window. It was difficult to see anything in the darkness, but then he noticed a slight movement followed by a soft moan.
"Boss?" he whispered as loudly a he could risk. There was no reply.
"Boss?" he tried again, a little louder this time.
Gibbs thought he was imaging things. He was sure he could hear DiNozzo calling him. He turned towards the sound never the less. He looked up towards the window and couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the silhouette through the bars.
"Hey, Boss," Tony said casually, as if finding Gibbs in a Mexican jail was an every day occurrence.
"DiNozzo? How did you find me?" Gibbs asked, trying to stand straight.
"Long story. Are you okay?" Tony enquired, hearing something unusual in Gibbs' voice.
"Fine," Gibbs lied, not wanting to worry Tony unnecessarily.
"How many out there, Boss?" Tony asked quietly, wanting to know for sure what he was up against.
"Two and Raul if he's still out there," Gibbs informed him.
"Okay. You hang in there. We're going to get you out," Tony promised, hoping he was right.
Gibbs was curious as to whom the 'we' referred, but Tony had quickly disappeared before he could ask. He doubled over again as another cramp took hold. He took deep breaths and tried to breathe through the pain. He sat uncomfortably on the bunk and waited. He had to be prepared for anything.
Outside, Tony informed Franks what Gibbs had told him. As there was only one way in or out, they had no choice but to come in the front door. They both checked their weapons.
"Try not to kill anyone," Tony said to Franks. "They're still Mexican police at the end of the day, even if what they are doing to Gibbs is illegal. Vance won't be happy if we cause an international incident."
"I'll do my best," Franks replied.
The two men returned to the front of the little house. Covertly, Tony tried the door handle. Much to his surprise, the door opened. His eyes never strayed from the two sleeping policemen as he put his foot inside the door. He scanned the room, looking for any sign of Raul. As far as he could see, there was no one else inside. He entered the room as quietly as he could, closely followed by Mike Franks. As Tony sneaked towards one of the sleeping men, Franks tiptoed towards the other. Without warning, one of the men woke and saw the two shadows in the room. He moved quickly towards his side arm. Tony reacted just as quickly and jumped the man before he had time to draw his weapon. The ensuing struggle woke his compatriot, but Mike Franks took care of him pretty swiftly with a telling blow to the base of his skull with the butt of his gun.
DiNozzo continued to tumble around the floor, trying to get the better of the other police officer. Tony did have a significant height advantage over the other man, and it wasn't long before it showed. Tony found himself pounding on the weakening officer and realised quickly that the man was beaten. He hauled him to his feet and sat him back on the chair from which he had fallen. Using the officer's own cuffs, he handcuffed him to the chair. Franks, meanwhile, had gone to find Gibbs. He walked through the only other door at the back of the room. There he found Gibbs' standing anxiously at the bars of his cell, having heard the commotion in the other room.
"Mike?" he said, surprised to see his old friend.
"Hey, Probie. We're busting you out," Franks joked. He tried to open the cell in which Gibbs was being held, but it was padlocked. "Gotta find the key first," he told Gibbs before disappearing back through the door. He was only gone for less than a minute when he reappeared.
"You look like shit, Probie," Franks said, as he observed the perspiration and drawn look on Gibbs' face. Gibbs didn't comment.
"Let's get outta here," he said, putting his best foot forward and striding out of the jail. He examined the scene in the adjoining room as he entered it. One of his captors lay unconscious on the floor while the other was a bloody mess, secured to a wooden chair across the room.
"No Raul?" Gibbs asked, glancing around the room again.
"No, Boss, just these guys. We'd better get out of here before he gets back, I guess," Tony advised, before taking the conscious officer's tie and using it to gag him.
Franks checked up and down the street before giving the all clear for Gibbs and DiNozzo to follow. They hustled up the street and around the side to where Tony had left the car. They all climbed into the car quickly and Tony started it and turned back onto the street. He realised that they would have to drive past the jail again to get back to the main road. He had no choice. He sped down the street, and as he reached the jail he saw one of the officers stumble out of the building into the street. Tony realised that he had a weapon, a long barrel rifle. He put the accelerator to the floor and the car responded. He raced past the officer as he raised the rifle, took aim and fired. The first shot missed the vehicle entirely. The second shattered the rear window and caused shards of glass to rain down on Gibbs, who had crouched down in the back seat to avoid being hit. Tony continued and was glad to reach the turn in the road that would take him out of the officer's line of fire.
Gibbs sat back up and looked out of the shattered window. They were clear, for now. He sat back and rested his head against the seat. He had only relaxed when another merciless spasm gripped him. Without realising it, he groaned loudly enough to make Franks and Tony turn around. He was clutching his abdomen.
"Jeez, Boss, are you hit?" Tony asked in a panicked tone.
"I'm all right," Gibbs replied, through gritted teeth. "Just keep driving."
Tony knew they needed to keep moving, but he was worried for Gibbs. He wanted to say something. Instead Franks spoke up.
"Hell, Probie, you don't look all right," Franks informed him. "Are you sick?"
Gibbs knew he couldn't hide the fact that he was ailing from them. He didn't want to alarm them, so he decided to sugar coat the truth a little.
"Just something I ate," he said, which was technically not a lie.
"Food poisoning! Oh man!" Tony said. "Whatever you do, please don't throw up in the car."
Franks glared at him and Gibbs would have too, had he been able to raise his head. He was feeling really rough, worse than he was letting on, but the last thing he wanted was for them to take him to a Mexican hospital. He wanted to go home. Then a realisation hit him. How would they get back into the States? As far as he knew he was a fugitive in this country. If they tried to cross the border, they would be stopped and arrested. They needed to come up with an alternative way out of Mexico, and fast!
Tony continued to drive as fast as the tiny country road would allow. As they finally approached the highway, Tony turned to Franks.
"Where to from here?" he asked, knowing Franks knew the country well.
"Well, first things first; we've got to get rid of this car. Shot-out windows will draw attention to us. Take a left onto the highway. It will take us into a little town where we should be able to find another ride," Franks advised. "They'll be expecting us to head for the border and they'll be waiting for us. We need to find another way out of Mexico."
Gibbs listened to his friend's plan as his gut twisted within. He knew he couldn't hold it any longer and ordered Tony to pull over. Tony braked suddenly and the car skidded to a halt. Gibbs opened the door just in time to throw up. Tony and Franks exchanged worried glances as Gibbs wiped his mouth on his sleeve. Franks found a half empty bottle of water, which he threw back to Gibbs.
"Are you gonna make it, Probie?" Franks asked, not meaning it literally.
Gibbs rinsed his mouth and spit out the water. He looked to his good friend, his eyes conveying the trouble he was in. Franks knew that look. It was one he'd seen only once or twice before. Gibbs was worried. Neither man said anything, yet their exchange spoke volumes. Gibbs didn't want Tony to know and Franks understood that. He said nothing. Gibbs climbed back into the car and tried to avoid the worried glare emanating from DiNozzo.
"Drive, DiNozzo," he ordered gruffly. Tony did as he was told and they got underway once again.
They continued on their way until they reached a gas station and rest stop. Franks thought it would be a good place to find an alternative ride. There were several cars parked around. Beside the gas station was a diner. Tony decided to get some food while Franks scoured the parking lot to check out their transport options. Gibbs stood with his back leaning on the car, appreciating the chill in the early morning air. Franks wandered around the parking lot and found a pickup truck unlocked and with keys still in the ignition. A gift, thought Franks. He waited for DiNozzo to come out with the food and drinks. He signalled for him to come over. Gibbs was already on his way. The three of them got into the cab of the pickup. Tony once again chose to drive. Franks sat in the middle and Gibbs on the outside, just in case he needed to make a hasty exit. The noisy engine burst into life and they quickly pulled onto the road and continued north.
"DiNozzo, do you still have that phone?" Franks asked out of the blue.
"Yeah, why?" DiNozzo asked.
"Why do you think?" Franks responded, sounding a little tetchy. Gibbs leaned across so that his pained glare could reach Tony. The phone was quickly handed over.
Franks first called directory enquiries, looking for the number of a guy called Alvarez in La Pesca. Tony was curious as to why he would be looking for the guy now. He listened as Franks spoke in Spanish to Alvarez. When he got off the phone, he told Tony to take the next exit off the highway. They were changing direction and were heading east.
"Can I ask why?" Tony enquired.
"I've just scored us a way out here," Franks said with satisfaction.
"Okay then," Tony replied. He continued driving but couldn't help but worry about Gibbs. Despite his best efforts to hide it, Tony could see he wasn't doing so well. He could hear his concentrated and deliberate breathing as he tried to quell his nausea. He was glad to see him sipping from the bottle of water he had given him, but wondered how long he could keep it down for. He decided that if he wasn't showing any signs of improvement in the next hour or two he was going to call Ducky. Until then, he concentrated on the road ahead.
A/N - thanks again to everyone who's reviewed. I appreciate your comments.