Tim glared at the man who stood, smirking, and holding the computer power cable that was no longer plugged in. "Cary," he said in surprise, even as realization dawned. "What are you doing?"
Cary Johnstone laughed softly. "You're a clever man, McGee. Put two and two together. I'll give you a hint. The answer is 'four'."
His instinctive respect for management was fast taking a detour. The head of Cybercrimes—who'd brought his 'suspicions' of his staffer, Keating, to Vance's attention—was the one behind all of this? "Nice little chase," Tim remarked. "You led us down a blind alley."
"I was a field agent once. I know how a field agent thinks."
Tim's mind was racing. Agents assigned to departments like Cybercrimes on a permanent basis didn't usually carry firearms with them during the day; just the portal-to-portal part, like everyone else. Inside the building, the guns would just be put in desk drawers. They'd have to take the semi-annual firearms proficiency tests, but probably would only do middling well on them. And that included Johnstone. Was he armed now? Tim couldn't decide on the probability of that. He only knew that he himself was in no shape to put up a fight. "You'd do all this to ruin Keating's career? What; did he annoy you too many times, too?"
Johnstone only laughed again, quietly. He was a low-key man, not one to draw attention to himself. Tim guessed that, as he had noticed a little while ago, the only other people in the squad room were two people working at the far side. Johnstone was taking care to not draw attention to them. If Tim caused a ruckus now, it might go badly for him.
"You've been wrong about so many things, McGee. You and your celebrated team. I'd hoped this wouldn't come to bloodshed, but, as the saying goes, you know too much."
"I do?" Tim said, without thinking. Of course, now he knew the who, but he still hadn't figured out the how and the why.
"If only you hadn't done that trace this morning! I'd have been on my plane, going out of the country, before any of you suspected me. Your traces set off an alarm on my computer, so I had to come in to stop you."
"Oh," Tim said with less force than he'd hoped. But out of the corner of his eye, he saw someone approaching from behind Johnstone. Keating! Keating could save the day and redeem himself in everyone's eyes!
Keating! Tim kept from looking directly at the agent. Keating! You must be here for your debriefing, but I need your help first! Be ready to take this guy down! On the count of three, Keating! One! Two! Thr…
"Got everything squared away?" Keating asked Johnstone as he came up next to him.
"Yeah. The boy scout had finished tracing the file, but I can wipe that off the computer."
Keating shrugged. "Your flight's earlier than mine. If you want to go, I can do the wipe."
"It's not until six. I want to make sure that all traces are gone and that he's good and dead."
"So, take him out and kill him. I've never liked dealing with blood. Ick."
Johnstone hesitated. "You're sure you can do a thorough wipe?"
"Do you think I want any of this traced back to me?"
"You're already the chief suspect," Tim remarked, hotly. Thanks a lot for destroying my fragile faith in you, Keating.
Keating froze. "I can't be. I'm the decoy." He turned to Johnstone. "You promised…"
"Oh, stop sniveling," said Johnstone. "You'll feel better about it all when you have your share of the money."
"I suppose." With no guilt apparent, he remarked, "The file's on its way to the buyers now. I sent it just before I left home to come here. Of course, it's the middle of the night there, so I don't think we'll be wired the money for another six hours or so."
"Works for me. We won't need it until we get to where we're going to." Johnstone pulled out his sig. "Come along, McGee. I wouldn't want blood splatters on the carpet here on my conscience."
"Then I suggest you not move," came a familiar voice from above them. They all looked up to see Gibbs, Ziva and Tony looking down at them from the balcony, each with a gun trained on them.
"I knew I shouldn't have come back for that stupid debriefing!" Keating moaned.
"Oh, shut up!" Johnstone and Tim chorused.
Not too long afterwards, Tim and Gibbs sat in Vance's office and talked with their Director (who was at home) by video phone. "That's a pretty large capture," Vance remarked. "Two special agents; one a department head. I'll be in later this afternoon, after getting in some family time, under my wife's orders."
Gibbs smiled. "I think we can handle things until then."
"So Johnstone was the brains, and he recruited Keating?"
"So it looks. Their recruited thugs in the fake kidnapping of Keating, plus the store clerk, sang like canaries. Guess they saw their promised rewards evaporating fast. Neither Johnstone nor Keating really have the planning capabilities of successful crooks."
"Keating really didn't suspect Ziva at the ballet," Tim added. "He fully intended to have a brief meeting with the thugs, get back to the ballet, then fake his kidnapping after the ballet was over. He figured the stolen file would be traced to his computer, but if he appeared to have been kidnapped, he hoped that would divert suspicion from him."
"He didn't think we'd check airplane passenger lists, eventually?"
"Like I told you two years ago, Leon; Keating isn't the world's brightest agent," Gibbs chuckled.
"And there's the small matter of the downloaded file…"
Tim couldn't quite keep the smile off his face. "It's that dummy file I created about a month ago, when Johnstone first came to us with his suspicions that someone in his department was bad. It's got all the bells and whistles of a top secret file, and looks like something important, but it does…absolutely nothing."
"Good work, Agent McGee."
Tim only smiled again. Those four words made it all almost worthwhile.
"Go home, McGee. Get some rest. Come in on Tuesday and I'll give you your choice."
"Filling in for either Keating or for Johnstone in Cybercrimes, until your wound has healed and we can find replacements."
"Oh, er…yes, sir."
Vance grinned. "Or…just take desk duty with your normal assignment to the squad room."
"I think I'll take that option, sir."
"Thought you would." In the background, a crash and a child's wail was heard above another's loud accusation. "Whoops. Sounds like World War III is about to break out here. I'll see you later."
Tim yawned as the video connection closed. "If it's all the same with you, boss, I think I'll go home now."
"Okay. Want a lift?"
"Sure; if you're offering."
Together they took the elevator down. "Did you get anything out of this, McGee? Other than an injured shoulder?"
"Like what, boss?" Tim still felt like he was processing the events of this strange case.
"You went into this feeling like you should be Keating's contact, since you had more in common with him—both of you being…"
"Whatever. But first Tony and then Ziva did the undercover parts. I noticed that you looked like you were being passed over."
Tim sighed. "I'm just not an undercover person, boss. I realize that now."
"You're wrong there. Not all undercover work would suit you, true, but you came through with flying colors on this one, and that with having to improvise a lot. Good job, McGee."
And that was an even rarer compliment. Tim only smiled as they walked out into the bright afternoon sunshine.