Most definitely dedicated to AlkalineTeegan, without whom this story would not exist.
Standard Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Additional Disclaimer: Any (huge, gaping) flaws in the handling of procedure are mine; I try to research but sometimes one just has to make a leap, or follow where the storyline leads. Any unkind words towards the city of Baltimore and/or its police are purely for the sake of the fic.
Sadly, I don't think there will be much in the way of Mounties in this story, but they'll certainly be back in the sequel to "Obstructed Views" due to overwhelming demand. In the meantime, give this a shot:
The biting March wind was on attack, swirling in deceptively mild circles low to the ground, then suddenly darting upward in spears to strike bits of flesh not covered by clothing. Now that night had fallen, the wind seemed colder and crueler as it invaded the gaps between sleeve and glove, collar and scarf. The temperature was falling rapidly, and the sky promised snow.
The lingering effects of winter were keeping some of the nearby nosy neighbors indoors, but there were still dozens of gawkers surrounding the brightly lit crime scene.
The cops on scene weren't having problems keeping the perimeter clear, but one stupid tourist with a camera had started taking pictures, and suddenly a half dozen people were trying to snap a souvenir, making it a busy evening. Cameras were confiscated, and threats of being taken to a holding cell issued, but neither the cops nor the onlookers seemed extremely concerned. It was just a dance, and one none were more practiced in than the reporters who camped to the side of the observers. But even they were strangely listless, saying the right words, asking the expected questions, but without strong interest.
Murder was not a novel concept in Baltimore.
Gibbs noted these facts but paid little attention to them; future fuzzy-imaged tabloid coverage was not high on the list of things he gave a shit about. He was busy trying to salvage the scene of a cadet's murder. A scene that had been ruined after discovery by local law enforcement officers. Two fucking moronic rookies who couldn't tell the difference between a kid that's been dead for a day and a living human being in need of help.
His own two probies were taking photos and sketching the scene, fairly useless activities since no one could be certain the immediate area looked anything like it had before Dumbass 1 and Dumbass 2 dragged the already stiff body across the alley and into the street for better light, kicking what they called "unimportant junk" out of the way as they moved.
How could anyone have graduated from a police academy without realizing that CPR was not necessary on a body in rigor, or that the Heimlich would not help a kid with blue skin and open, unseeing eyes? What would possess anyone, anywhere, to stab their own EpiPen into a corpse found in an ally?
He took a moment to glare at them both, still sitting on the cold, wet, disgusting ground in the alley where Gibbs had commanded them to stay. They squirmed and looked away from him, back towards the detective trying to simultaneously ream them out and extrapolate pertinent information.
He turned back to the scene. His probies were at least out of the way, and since what they were doing held little chance of being of any use in this case, he was able to ignore them.
His medical examiner was in the middle of another case, and couldn't make the trip tonight. Given the non-pristine nature of the remains, Gibbs didn't bother to argue. The ME's assistant that waited quietly at the corner of the perimeter was capable enough to transport a body bag back to DC.
Gibbs was bagging evidence. It was a farcical task given the amount of trash littering the alley and the space the body had traversed already, but was made even more difficult by the flashes of something his eye kept catching in the crowd. Each time he looked up, he couldn't determine the cause. He tried to convince himself it was just camera flashes.
He knew that wasn't it.
Detective Delilla approached him from the side. His craggy face and deep-sunk eyes were impassive as they met Gibbs', but his voice held a hint of apology and incredulity after his interview with the Baltimore rookies.
"Sorry Gibbs, nothing useful. They responded to a call at 5:07 p.m. from a nearby restaurant owner who reported a body in the alley. When they arrived, no one else was present and…" he gestured towards the body, now sporting a shirt ripped free of buttons, head tilted back and opened and an EpiPen jutting out of the left thigh.
Delilla's thumb and forefinger pinched the bridge of his nose, eyes closed, as he continued. "Paramedics showed up at 5:09 p.m. and stopped them."
"They did all that damage in two minutes?"
Delilla ignored the outburst, which was not an unwise choice. "The EMTs radioed in, suggesting someone from homicide come out immediately. Not exactly standard procedure, but at least someone had the brains to use their radio."
Gibbs' disgusted snort also went unanswered.
"I arrived on scene at 5:25. Since the body was already disturbed, I removed the vic's wallet and when I found his ID from the Naval Academy, I called you guys and was told to wait around in the cold and sit on my damn hands while you drove up here from DC. I took statements from the paramedics and let them go. No one touched anything else until you got here at 7:22 p.m."
Gibbs' attention snapped back to the crowd again. He almost had it that time. There was definitely something off out there.
Eyes still on the crowd, but addressing the detective, he ordered, "I expect those two to be made available to me later. If I talk to them now, there might be two more murders."
Delilla nodded, waiting to see what else was coming.
It was a shame. If Delilla had been first on scene, Gibbs might've been able to work peaceably alongside a local LEO for once. Now he was too pissed off to bother thanking Delilla for being competent. Why should he thank Baltimore PD for working to clean up the mess their own officers created?
He dismissed the detective with an angry jerk of his hand, and glanced back down to the cadet's ID, now bagged and on top of an evidence bin. Keith Collins. 21.
Gibbs reached for his much-hated cell phone. He needed to call the Naval Academy and get Collins' records. A few months ago, he would have set one of his probies to finding the number. Now, he had a new weapon against the NCIS paper pushers who had demanded he learn how to use one of these things. He dialed 4-1-1 when he needed a generic number, and the agency got billed a few cents each time. It drove the bookkeepers crazy.
Smirking a little, he dialed the 4, then snapped the phone shut and shoved it in his pocket as he took off running towards the southeast corner of the crime scene, pulling his weapon as he ran.
He'd figured out what was bothering him.
A clean-shaven white male, late twenties, dark jeans, dark jacket, had been standing at various points around the taped off area, silent, still, watching. All the other gawkers were chattering to each other, leaning this way and that trying to get a more gruesome view. This guy wasn't bucking for a better story for the water cooler tomorrow. He was memorizing the scene.
And he had just turned and walked away.
Gibbs' footfalls were masked by the overall buzz of the crowd. He had seen what direction his suspect had taken, and soon had him in sight again. But the further they got from the crowd, the less ambient noise there was in this part of downtown Baltimore at nine o'clock at night.
He closed the gap quickly and stealthily. As he was taking the last three steps to close the distance, his intended prey heard him and spun around, back to a nearby brick building.
Gibbs leveled his gun. "Federal agent. Put your hands on your head and start talking."
"Relax, Marine, I've got –"
The moment the suspect's hand slipped into his jacket and Gibbs spotted the shoulder holster in the dim glow of a nearby streetlight, he leapt. His elbow caught the other man's throat, eliciting a pained squawk from the mouth that had just dared to speak to him in a cocky, condescending tone. Having stunned his opponent, who was now gasping for air, Gibbs quickly holstered his gun and grasped both upper arms in front of him, moving to flip the jerk around, intending to slam him up against the wall with hands held crossed behind his back.
The bastard spun in the same direction Gibbs was moving him, increasing their speed, then slamming Gibbs' right shoulder and his own left side into the brick wall, effectively breaking the hold.
Gibbs grunted and reached for the other man's throat, but his target slithered to the side, and tried to sweep Gibbs' legs out from under him.
Annoyed now, Gibbs – still solid on his feet – smashed the bottom of his heel into the side of his opponent's knee, sending him crashing to the ground. The falling man was wily, and grabbed onto Gibbs' coat as he fell, dragging him along for the ride.
They both hit the ground hard, but Gibbs managed to catch himself with his right hand, absorbing most of the impact. He pushed himself back to his feet, but before he had completely risen, was tackled in the ribs by the bruiser, bowled over back into the street.
Damn guy was fast.
They scrabbled, each searching for purchase, neither finding any. Gibbs could tell he had more training than his opponent, but the guy was quick and strong, and was obviously no newcomer to a street brawl.
In the near-dark, they broke apart, each regaining their feet while warily circling the other. As his face came under the orange glow of the streetlight, Gibbs was surprised to see a smile twitch at the corner of the other man's mouth. His hands had stopped any movements that might be construed as reaching under the black leather jacket, staying well away from his weapon. He tried to say something, but still couldn't find his voice after Gibbs' initial blow.
Still circling, Gibbs felt himself smiling in return. So the kid wanted to play, did he? Well that was fine with him. He may regret it tomorrow, but a nice little fist fight seemed like the perfect way to release tension before returning to the Baltimore PD's station house where he'd have to interview those fucking morons who destroyed his scene.
He jumped forward, landing two solid blows to his opponent's ribs. The other man shifted to lessen the impact, but did not try to dodge; instead, he used the opportunity to throw his own punches, connecting once solidly with Gibbs' jaw, and glancing another across his temple.
Gibbs sent his elbow flying again, but it was blocked this time with a forearm, and answered by a left hook that Gibbs himself blocked with a forearm. In close now, he tried an uppercut which struck his foe under the chin, likely aggravating the earlier throat injury judging from the gagging noises that followed.
The kid used Gibbs' own earlier move and slammed his heel against the side of Gibbs' knee, momentarily collapsing the leg. He hopped back a few steps, gasping for air.
Gibbs got up more slowly this time, needing a moment of recovery himself. His leg felt weak under him, and his head was ringing, but he noticed with satisfaction that the other man was limping.
Didn't expect that would hinder him much in the fight, though. Bastard was tenacious.
His adversary looked down, and Gibbs saw a half-rusted length of pipe nestled against the side of the building, near an alley entrance. He was too far to make a dash for it himself.
The other man picked up the pipe, rubbing his throat with his other hand and staring at Gibbs.
Suddenly this seemed less like fun.
Until his opponent flung the pipe into an alley. Far, far into the alley.
They both stood still for a moment, listening to the ringing, clunking noise reverberate in the quiet, cold evening, accompanied only by their harsh breaths. They were both under the streetlight now, and Gibbs looked at the man in askance. What the hell?
The other man looked back and rubbed the back of his neck with one hand, a small sheepish smile appearing on his face. He flicked his own throat, indicating he still couldn't talk, then shrugged. Straightening back up, he assumed an overly Hollywood fighting stance, using one hand to beckon Gibbs forward in a little "come here" motion that would be more at home in an awful martial arts movie than in a real life street fight.
Gibbs glanced at the guy's face again. Was he serious?
The grin he got in return was also out of place. But it answered his unspoken question. He was both serious, and not serious.
Well, that mystery could be solved later. Gibbs waded back into the brawl, trading strike for strike.
His opponent overextended, leaving Gibbs a clear shot to incapacitate the man with another blow to the throat.
He didn't take it.
Given the damage he had already inflicted there, it was possible he could cause a more serious injury than he intended. He threw a punch into ribs, instead.
Expecting the guy to step back at such a solid, centered blow, Gibbs found himself out of position when his foe took the hit with a grunt, and actually managed to step forward into it rather than losing any ground. He now had a clear shot at Gibbs' injured knee.
Gibbs twisted around on his good leg, trying to protect his injured one. He knew his knee would not hold up to another attack.
He also knew he couldn't move fast enough to avoid it. Yet the expected impact never came.
Instead, he got a return punch to the ribs.
They now focused on in-close upper body blows. As his frustration at the past few hours started to wane, Gibbs realized so did the strength of their hits. They were both tiring, just pounding on each other for the sake of pounding.
Something wasn't right with this guy, that was for sure. But maybe it wasn't what he'd originally thought.
Exchanging a last round of blows – head, head, ribs – jaw, ribs, shoulder – the two pushed apart again, panting.
The streetlight glinted off a metallic object at his rival's belt. Gibbs froze for a second, mind wary of a knife, but the glint was gold.
He moved forward, but not in a fighting stance. His pointed finger led the way.
"What the hell is that?"
He got an innocent expression and two hands raised in the air as a reply.
"Don't bullshit me. Is that a badge?"
In a fair imitation of a monkey, the man opposite him used one finger to scratch his scalp, then pulled the badge off of his belt, staring at it as if it were foreign to him. Then he overacted a sudden eureka moment, finger held straight up in the air. He tossed his badge to Gibbs, and reached into his jacket.
Gibbs tensed, but did not order him to stop.
The ham-fisted asshole lifted out his wallet and flipped it open to a Baltimore Police ID. He held it up to his face, pointing first at the ID, then at himself, and nodded. The big dumb grin on his bloody face never dimmed.
Gibbs stalked up to him, checking out the ID, reading the badge. "You didn't think it was important to reveal you were a police officer, Detective DiNozzo?" He let his furiousness come out is his voice, and couldn't resist drawling out the end of the man's name. Di-Nohhh-Zohhh. Rhymed nicely with bozo.
A flash of anger passed over the detective's face, as he again flicked his throat.
Gibbs slapped the man's badge to his chest and stalked away a few paces. "And I'm supposed to feel bad about that? Like it never occurred to you to verbalize you were a cop before reaching into your jacket when a federal agent has a gun pointed at you?"
DiNozzo's face went curiously blank. He shrugged, and set about restoring his badge and ID to their previous resting places.
Gibbs realized he hurt. And it was freezing. He felt blood dripping down the side of his face, and was suddenly unsure how much longer his knee would hold him up.
The cop was bleeding from his right temple and eyebrow. He'd have one hell of a shiner tomorrow. Possibly two. Both of his hands were bleeding, and his lip had cracked open multiple times. Gibbs knew his punches to the younger man's ribs were solid, and his knee couldn't be feeling much better than Gibbs' own malfunctioning joint. But the detective stuck his hands in his pockets and rocked back and forth, like an aimless businessman on a lunch break.
What the hell was wrong with this guy?
It started to snow. Big, heavy flakes that felt wonderful on his bruised face.
The two men stood silently for a long time, measuring each other, chins raised in fake defiance that was really just a ruse to catch more of nature's tiny ice packs falling down like frozen pieces of heaven.
"Gibbs? Are you okay?"
Head snapping around, Gibbs identified the voice as coming from one of his probies. He saw them both creeping steadily towards him, eyes and steps tentative. "Who the hell is watching the scene if you two are out here?"
"We'll go back – you've been gone for a half hour, you know? We got worried."
He went running out, gun drawn, and they waited thirty minutes to do anything about it?
Shit, he hated rookies of all kinds right now.
When he turned back to order DiNozzo to follow him, the man was gone.