Part 8: Torn to Pieces While Getting Down to Brass Tacks

A scene toward the end of this chapter was inspired by the masterful Monty Python movie, The Holy Grail.

Tim and Jimmy returned to the MCRT bullpen whistling the theme song from the Andy Griffith TV show. Other agents and NCIS employees gave them a wide berth seeing the slightly crazed look in their eyes, understandable though it might be.

"I think I'd like some coffee, Jimmy. Would you like some, too?" Tim asked.

"Lead the way; I could use the caffeine. For some reason, I didn't sleep well last night." Jimmy replied.

"I wonder why."

Tim poured cups of the coffee provided by NCIS for himself and Jimmy, making them palatable by adding a large portion of creamer and sugar. They sat down in front of the vending machines and stared at the steam coming from their cups.

"How are you boys doing today?" Thurman Atteberry, the night janitor, walked into the room.

"Thurman, you're here early." Tim greeted the older man.

"They've called me in to help them deal with the 'janitorial emergency.'" Thurman rolled his eyes.

"What emergency?"

"You mean you haven't noticed NCIS' streak of bad luck?"

"What does that have to do with the cleaning?" Jimmy was confused.

"Have you looked out any of the windows lately?"

"No, we've been in autopsy."

"Check this out." Thurman led them into the next room. The words 'bad luck' were written all over the windows in grease pen.

"When did this happen?" Tim couldn't believe he'd missed this, then remembered he'd entered the building through the evidence garage entrance this morning.

"No one knows. It just appeared on the windows this morning. Some one told me that the first year class at the academy was dared to do it as a prank. But when you combine it with all of yesterday's deaths, it's causing some panic."

"Why did they call you in, can't the day crew deal with this?" Tim asked.

"People are scared and they're calling in sick. They seem to think that they'll be infected with some of the bad luck you've been having lately."

"What about you?" Jimmy asked Thurman.

"I don't believe in luck." He smiled. "It's kind of funny; those who can't stay away from work have brought in lucky charms to protect them."

"Like what?" Jimmy was curious.

"Rabbits. You'll notice a lot of people have them at their desks."


"Nikki Jardine brought them in. She says that a rabbit's foot alone might be lucky, but it'll bring you even more luck if the rabbit is still alive and attached to it. After all, these rabbits weren't killed to make key chain ornaments."

"Where did she get them?" Tim couldn't imagine the germophobic analyst having anything to do with living, sniffling, salivating creatures.

"She went over to the Navy R&D building and liberated the lab animals."

"Why aren't people using four leaf clovers? They're smaller and they won't defecate on your desk." Jimmy wanted to know.

"Yeah, well, Michelle Lee was wearing one when a case she was working on went down in flames. She died of smoke inhalation before anyone discovered that she'd been locked in a conference room. That's when Nikki brought in the bunnies. As long as they clean up after their pets, I think it's rather cute."

As Tim and Jimmy made their way from the break room to the bullpen, they saw almost every person with a bunny on their desk, often chewing on celery or lettuce or, in one case, a progress report.

Jimmy flopped down at Tony's desk. Tim sat down at his own and covertly looked for signs of grief on the younger man's face; rumor had it that he and Michelle had been close. Jimmy had the same glassy stare that he'd worn since discovering Ducky's body. He must be as overwhelmed as Tim was by the events of the last few days to be feeling much of anything right now.

"What are we going to do now? Should we even try to do anything?" Jimmy spoke listlessly.

"I would guess that Assistant Director Vance should be flying in to make some decisions."

Just as the words left Tim's mouth, the assistant director stepped out of the elevator and a bright red cape unfurled behind him. He raised his arm and sprang into the air, circling over the bullpen to survey the area and frowning in disapproval of the rabbit kennel on the side of the room before zipping over to land in front of Tim and Jimmy.

"That was amazing! Where are your tights?" Jimmy blurted out while Tim's mouth hung open in shock.

Vance fixed the young man with a frosty glare and Tim closed his mouth to step in and save his friend from freezing. "Sir, I'm Special Agent Timothy McGee and this is the Assistant to the Medical Examiner Jimmy Palmer. Welcome to Washington, DC."

Vance acknowledged the introductions with a nod. "Good afternoon, Agent McGee, Mr. Palmer. The SecNav briefed me on the events of yesterday and today. May I extend my condolences to you both? NCIS has lost some valuable personnel, but you lost mentors, partners, and friends."

Tim nodded in agreement, unsure if he should speak. Jimmy continued to stare at the assistant director as if waiting for him to start glowing or to shoot laser beams across the room. Tim wasn't sure that Jimmy had escaped completely unscathed from chilly stare he'd received from Vance.

Vance continued, "I'm sorry to be blunt, but as things stand I need to take over operation of NCIS immediately. So let's get down to brass tacks, while I know you're torn apart by the deaths of your coworkers…"

Tim and Jimmy looked at each other in horror. "No!" They yelled together.

The pure white rabbit on Agent Simmons desk took that moment to turn rogue. The animals had been part of a study on emotional control and had been injected with an experimental serum. The white bunny's eyes glowed red, fangs pushed through his gums, and he leapt out of the arms of the startled agent holding him. A deep growl in his throat signaled a change in the other rabbits around the room. In an instant, they transformed and charged the trio. Vance evaded them by soaring into the air and Tim jumped aside, but Jimmy, still overcome by all of the events of the day, wasn't quick enough to evade the enraged animals and was torn limb from limb.

Moments later, the rabbits had returned to normal and were sniffling around the floor looking for lettuce. Vance landed and turned to Tim only to start back in horror. Tim had jumped aside to avoid the rabbits only to be impaled by a number of extremely long brass tacks from a box that Cynthia had cleaned out of Jenny's office and dropped when she tripped in surprise at the rabbits' transformation.

Assistant Director Vance looked around. "It looks like I'll be starting with a clean slate; maybe we should have someone in to clean the carpets, too."