Tony walked cautiously across the courtyard glancing to the left and right as he approached the wooden picnic table. He was aware of a group of men standing to the side watching him, murmuring in low voices and shifting nervously. Slowing his pace, he prepared for the attack he knew was about to occur. The tall, heavily tattooed leader of the gang called out, "Hey punk, stop, I want to talk to you!" Tony paused, turned and clenched his fists as he faced the wildly grinning man. "Me and you have some business to finish," the tattooed man said fiercely.

Tony squinted and sized up his opponent. Although the convicted murderer was a few inches shorter than Tony, he more than made up for that disadvantage with his thickly muscled arms and chest, developed from hours of weight lifting in the prison yard. Cracking his knuckles, the man glared and growled, "You killed one of my men last week, pretty boy, and now you have to pay the price." With a feral smile the man produced a short knife from a pocket of his jeans.

Shaking his head and smiling ruefully Tony locked eyes with the man. Not making eye contact was a sign of weakness which Tony could not afford. He had to keep all the advantages he could if he planned on getting out of this latest situation alive. "You know, knives aren't allowed in here--you'll get a week in solitary if any of the guards see you," Dinozzo softly but firmly informed the man.

"A week in solitary will be worth watching your ass die. I've done too much to make my reputation in here and I won't let a piece of shit like you take that away from me," the man snarled.

At that moment the tattooed man crouched and leapt at Tony, sunlight glinting off the knife as it arced toward Tony's body. The NCIS agent shifted to the left and spun behind his attacker, pulling the knife wielding hand toward the prisoner's own thick torso. The strong man struggled, and Tony felt a burning sensation in his side as the knife cut and penetrated along his body.

Ignoring the pain, Tony kicked his opponent's legs out from under him with a sweeping move, then brought his foot heavily down on the man's wrist causing his grip on the now blood-stained weapon to loosen. Grunting, the man dropped the knife which Tony scrambled over to retrieve, grinning as his long fingers closed around the hilt. Turning quickly, Tony kicked out at the man's prone form, making contact with his temple and causing the gang leader to cry out in rage and pain.

Standing, the man rushed forward barreling his head into Tony's gut and grabbing him around the waist; the momentum shoving them both into a concrete wall. As the back of Tony's head smacked into the stone, his knees buckled briefly and pain exploded through his skull. Tony then felt a bulging arm press hard against his throat, closing off his airway and causing him to choke. Gripping the knife still in his hand, and without much thought beyond that of his own survival, Tony quickly jammed the blade into the corded neck of the man trying to kill him. As bright red blood sprayed out onto the concrete behind him, Tony closed his eyes and turned his head to avoid the splatter, but he could feel the cold drops as they landed on his cheek. Within seconds the arm fell away from Tony's neck as the man tumbled heavily backward and landed on the dirty ground of the courtyard.

Gasping for air, Tony looked up to see if any of the gang leader's followers were ready to step in and take up the fight. Thankfully, none of them moved, just stared at their commander as he clutched his throat while each slowing pulse of his heart shot more crimson blood into the air. Shouts broke the stillness as three armed guards ran up to them, one grabbing Tony and shoving him to the ground while placing a gun barrel between his shoulder blades. The second bent to check the other fighter, who had now ceased struggling and whose wide eyes stared unseeingly at the cloudless blue sky.

"He's dead," the guard stated, looking at the others.

"Get these men back to their cells," the third guard yelled, "and take this one," he pointed his weapon at Tony, "to the warden."

The guards reached for Tony's arms and pulled him roughly from the ground, then marched him toward the interior of the concrete building. He glanced back at the now dead body laying in the courtyard, wondering how many more men he might have to kill before this ordeal was over. "Strike that," he thought somberly. "If this is ever over."


The warden leaned back in his chair and pursed his lips at the sight of the man the guards drug into his office. This bastard had been in his prison for two months now, and had proven to be nothing but continual trouble. The money Bell had paid him over the last few months to ensure that the man was kept here, although sizable, was beginning to seem like a small amount compared to the headaches the prisoner was creating.

Anthony Dinozzo had changed considerably during the time of his incarceration. The prison commander recalled the cocky and brash personality the agent had displayed the first week he had been brought in on a very sketchy murder charge. The American had been confident his government would quickly have him released--what the man had not realized was that his government, even his teammates, had no idea where Tony was being held. His "murder conviction" wasn't even on the record books. These discrepancies were possible in the corrupt Mexican prison system when enough money changed hands. So as the days turned into weeks, Agent Dinozzo had finally concluded that his survival would not come at the hands of his country--or his friends. His survival had depended on him alone.

Now, several months since that first day Dinozzo had been brought to the prison, the somewhat soft and hopelessly optimistic American agent was gone. In his place stood a lean and dark prisoner, who only thought about making it through each individual day of his confinement. The warden didn't need to look at the file laying on his desk to know that this man had already killed two inmates who attacked him, been in numerous fights, and had spent more than his share of time being punished in solitary confinement.

Sighing, the warden addressed the prisoner, "So I take it you are claiming self defense in this little altercation?"

Tony appeared bored and resigned, "Does it matter?" he shrugged, gazing steadily at the prison official who seemed to relish every opportunity to torment him. "I've already been sentenced to life; what difference does it make?"

"It makes a difference as to whether you get to see the light of day during that life," the warden coldly stated as he walked around his desk to get a closer look at the federal agent. DiNozzo was somewhat hunched over, his arm wrapped around his waist. Dark blood oozed from a gash in his shirt. Scrapes, bruises, and yet more blood were evident on his face from the attack, and it was hard to tell what other injuries the man had sustained. "Have you been hurt?" the warden asked--one of Bell's directives had been to keep the American alive and suffering.

"I'm fine," Tony responded through clenched teeth, choosing not to reveal the various agonies that were beginning to course through his body.

"Good," the warden smiled devilishly, playing along with what he knew was a lie, "then you won't be needing medical attention before spending the next week in solitary confinement."

Tilting Tony's chin up to look directly in his green eyes, the warden softly intoned, "You really are getting on my nerves, Agent Dinozzo. If you want your time here to be more tolerable, I suggest you stop causing so much trouble."

Tony glared back, but saw no reason to reply. He was at the mercy of this place and nothing he said or did mattered any more.

"Take him," the warden ordered. As Tony was led from the office, the prison commander knew there was a chance the injured man would not last a week in solitary, but right now he didn't care. He would rather lose a nice profit than continue to deal with the almost daily occurrences the man seemed to create. Sitting down at his desk, the warden reached for Dinozzo's file. Any evidence of the agent's time at the prison would have to be destroyed upon his death. No paper trail could remain. The ringing desk phone brought him from his reverie. However, the warden nearly dropped the receiver as his secretary informed him of who was holding on the line. NCIS Director Vance was waiting to speak to him.