Chapter 9: Best Served Cold
To his credit, Gibbs listened to Fornell as the FBI agent outlined his idea. After the man had finished speaking, Gibbs was silent for a moment before replying.
"Are you out of your damned mind? You honestly think that NCIS would ever agree to this?" Gibbs snapped, warming up to a truly livid rant. "I don't know how you do things at the FBI, but NCIS does not use a potential target as bait and then pretend to sleep with them!"
"I never said sleep with her, Jethro!" Fornell replied quickly, trying to calm the other man down. "I said to act like Kat was following through with her plans for separation from her husband with you."
"And in the process make her look like-"
"It may keep her safe." Interrupted Fornell sharply. "If they think that she's not a viable target to use for leverage, it may take her off their radar."
"She's pregnant with his child- no matter what we do, she'll be a 'viable target' until the baby is born." Gibbs snapped.
"But I'm not due for a few more weeks." Said Kat, coming down the stairs carefully, Ziva following behind her.
"How long have you been listening?" asked Fornell, shifting uncomfortably.
"Long enough." Replied Kat calmly. "Do you think that if we do this, it will buy us some time?"
"Possibly." Fornell rubbed his balding crown. "If Gibbs' house is being watched or if anyone is listening, have you two said or done anything that would interfere with this plan?"
Kat and Gibbs exchanged looks before Kat finally shook her head. "I've made dinner. Cleaned his house, done laundry, and otherwise made myself very comfortable at his house. I even ironed his uniform for tonight and made him lunch. If anything I've made it more likely, not less, if anyone was listening."
Fornell nodded. "I'll have my team sweep the house- they'll be subtle if they find anything."
"Make sure they take pictures and send them to Abby." Said Gibbs. "I want to know that thing's range."
"Is there any way we could trace the signal of a listening device?" asked Ziva.
"You'd have to ask Abby or McGee." Replied Gibbs, shrugging. "I know they've done it before, but I don't know how."
"Well we are ready to go." Said Ziva, holding up a brown paper bag. "Whoever did this," she added, gesturing around the room, "did not touch any of the things in the bag- in fact, they seemed more interested in causing mayhem."
"Get Kat back to the house." Replied Gibbs firmly. " Fornell, I want more guards on the house."
"Already called them in, Jethro." Answered the other man with a smile. "They'll be stationed all around the house, as well as up and down the street. The place is covered."
Kat sighed. "Well, I'd better get back and start getting ready- can't have my escort looking better than me."
Gibbs caught Ziva's arm as she walked by, following Kat. "Ziva, don't let her out of your sight." He commanded softly as Kat spoke with Fornell.
"Understood." Replied Ziva softly. "Are you ready?" she asked more loudly, looking at the other woman.
"More than." Replied Kat sourly. "I'm not sure I want to come back here- I feel like my home has been…defiled in some way. The bastards even destroyed my child's crib."
"We'll get them, Kat." Gibbs said fiercely. "I swear to you, we'll find the animals who did this and punish them."
"I'll hold you to that." She said softly, walking to the door.
"Your comparison of the people who ripped the Kelley home apart to animals was apropos, Jethro." Said Dr. Mallard, studying the crime scene photos intently. "They certainly tore through the house, much like a dog tearing at a stuffed animal. My mother's corgis used to make an awful bloody mess- stuffing everywhere."
"Ducky, this was more than looking for something- they made this personal." Said Gibbs, crossing his arms to lean against the wall.
"Oh, most certainly." Agreed the bow-tied medical examiner, flipping through the photos to find the one he was looking for. "For instance-" he said, pointing, "notice in the nursery how the walls have been torn open and the crib dismantled- they did no such thing in the master bedroom or guest room. If I had to guess, I would conjecture that Warrant Kelley wasn't kidnapped solely for his knowledge about informants; look into his service record and you may find the link you've been looking for."
"You think this may have started as a personal vendetta." It was more of a statement than a question.
"Oh, my yes. This-" Ducky waved vaguely over the photos on his desk, "may have been made to look like for hidden information, but it became something far more savage once they got to the nursery."
"They may not have known Kat was pregnant?" Gibbs looked at Ducky skeptically.
"Well if they were observing Warrant Officer Kelley, they must have seen that his wife was very obviously pregnant. No, I think what caused the amount of rage unleashed on this room is that someone saw that their child was a girl."
Gibbs stepped out of the elevator as his cell rang. Opening it, he answered, "Yeah, Gibbs."
"Gibbs, it's Fornell. My team found something in your home like you suspected, but not a bug. Someone stuck a tracking device into Kat's cell phone, hardwired to the battery. As long as she kept it charged it was on and working." Fornell's tone was clipped and gruff- he was angry. Gibbs leaned into the secluded corner by the stairs and sighed.
"There's something we're missing, Tobias. Have her empty out her purse, her suitcase, anything she's had since day one. Make it seem like she's looking for something, but search everything. The people who took her husband knew where they were, when they were vulnerable, even when he was alone. They had to have bugged her before Kelley was taken."
"But how?" asked Fornell, his confusion palpable over the phone.
"Well hell, Fornell, they got into their house once, what makes you think they didn't do it before? Search everything, from her hairdryer to the lining of her purse." Gibbs ordered tersely before he snapped the phone closed and turned on his heel, stepping back inside the elevator.
Gibbs strode into Abby's lab to find both her and McGee staring intently at Abby's computer screens. "Abby, McGee-"
"Boss I was just about to call you," said McGee, unable to tear his eyes away from the screen in front of him as he typed furiously. "We recovered a laptop from a floor safe that showed signs of someone trying unsuccessfully to crack it. It has an encryption second only to the NSA, but Abby and I were just able to crack it."
"It wasn't easy." Added Abby, gripping her Caf-Pow!, "This guy was serious about security."
"Among it's contents are the original copy of what was on the flash-drive that Kat gave us, as well as a few other files including something I think you'll want to see." McGee hit a few more keys, before pointing to the plasma screen on the wall, which showed a military service record. "I don't think that Warrant Officer Kelley was taken for information, or at least not solely. In the mid 1980's, Sergeant James P. Kelley was reprimanded but not discharged because of a training mission during the Russian Afghan War."
"Warrant Officer Kelley's father?" asked Gibbs. "He died in a car accident 10 years ago, what's he got to do with this?"
"Patience, Gibbs." Chided Abby. "McGee is just warming up."
McGee nodded and hit another key. The image on the screen in front of Gibbs changed to a photo of a town in ruins, buildings piles of charred rubble. "Sgt. James Kelley was assigned to train a team of Afghan troops in the use of weapons and sent to a small town where the Russian army was occupying a house. The town was full of civilians, and the mission designed to train on how to keep collateral damage to a minimum during town or city confrontations. The mission, based on what was later discovered to be flawed intel, went awry when the team tossed grenades into what they thought was just a safe-house full of Russian soldiers. Turns out that it was also a small stockpile of grenades, RPG rounds, and other explosive ammunition. The house and surrounding buildings were destroyed, the town engulfed in flames. 20 Russian soldiers and almost 100 people were either killed or injured." McGee clicked the mouse a few times, and the picture changed to a group of young men, a mix of Marines and Afghan men. "Among the small group of trainees was the man on the end, second row."
The picture zoomed in on a face that Gibbs recognized. "Muhammad al Khalil."
McGee nodded. "Reports later reveal that Khalil had escaped the town to deliver intel to the military and request assistance. His family had been taken hostage by the Russian army in their own home. They were killed in the explosion."
"He gave them the flawed information." Said Gibbs, studying the face on the screen intently.
"Yes. I studied the information on Warrant Officer Kelley's computer, and while interesting and probably useful in the hands of our enemies, has no link whatsoever to al Khalil."
"Revenge, however… it's like killing two bird with one stone." Concluded Abby, her normally merry expression sober.