AN: I haven't made a disclaimer for quite a while – I neither own nor profit from this or any other of my NCIS stories.
Justice is a Bag of Jelly Beans
The series of attacks had been brutal, sadistic and mindless, and were increasing in frequency. All the victims had been able to say was that the perpetrator was a white male, who attacked from behind, and the first blow was always disabling, since all his victims were trained fighters. He had attacked men and women, and seemed to follow no particular pattern, the only connection being that they were all marines, and there was possibly a preference for higher ranks and ratings.
He had sometimes raped, victims of both sexes, sometimes not, but there was always appalling violence. It could have been called frenzied, except for the fact that the attacker had always used a condom to avoid leaving DNA. That, they agreed, certainly showed premeditation. Having met the traumatised victims, the MCRT had not seen their beds for three days, in their determination to make sure that it didn't happen again. The next attack could end in murder; it was a wonder no-one had already died.
There was no joking in the bull-pen, and very little conversation. Exhaustion pulled and plucked and tugged insistently at the three agents who sat, glazed eyes glued to their screens; anger hung in the air like a migraine. Gibbs had barked, "Going to see Fornell," and vanished without waiting for an answer.
Tony had lifted his head and looked round at the other two. "Anyone else want a quick shot of fresh air?" The other two sent back identical weary smiles, and shook their heads. Tony nodded and turned back to his screen.
It was maybe ten minutes later that they caught, at last, their first break. Tony's desk phone shrilled. "Yeah… oh… OK, fair enough. She has? On our way, Boss." There was actually the ghost of a smile on the SFA's face. "Abby called Gibbs to say she's found something. He called me to say go down to see her. Come on…"
Tim muttered something about staying. "No, you too, McGozzeyed. A couple of minutes change of scenery'll be good for you."
An agent on the other side of the partition stood up. She'd been paying attention ever since Tony had said 'found something'. "I'll listen to your machines, Tim," she said. "I'll call you if there's anything."
"Thanks, Karla," Tim said sincerely, grateful that other people were so willing to help; but then who wouldn't in a case like this? He followed the other two with equal measures of reluctance and relief.
Even Abby was subdued, for her. "It's not much," she greeted them, "and it'll need something else to go with it… but I remembered what one victim said. Sergeant King… he said he knew the guy was white even though he wore gloves and came from behind, because he caught a glimpse of his reflection in a glass door. Not enough to identify him by… anyway, I looked for prints on anything that could carry one, because I remembered you saying you could see the seam of a glove in one victim's bruises, Tony, and I thought seams on gloves can come apart, and Gibbs says never to assume so I thought just because he was wearing gloves didn't mean there couldn't be a print – "
Tony put one hand on her shoulder, and made soothing gestures with the other. "Hey… sshh… breathe already. You found one, then. You're a genius, Abbs."
Her shoulders slumped. "Only a partial," she said glumly. "Print, I mean, not genius. I mean, I am a genius… The programme's running, and it'll give us what it can, but it won't be enough. There could be hundreds of matches from what I get."
"You're still a genius," Tony assured her. "Send what you get up to my computer, not McGees." Tim again made as if to protest. "He's got enough on his plate with the programmes he's already running."
Tim pulled a wry face, acknowledging that Tony just might be right, and grinned at the goth, adding his thanks. "Nice work, Abbs… we've gone with less before."
Ziva wondered why Tim had deferred to Tony twice now, after all was he not better employed doing what he did best, and was he not entitled to point that out to DiNozzo? How tired a person was had no significance, failure would be the only outcome if a mission was not pursued single-mindedly to its end. This was like a mission, was it not? To locate and neutralise a dangerous offender… Gibbs would have made McGee stay at his post. She listened to the conversation going on behind her as they headed back to the elevator and the squadroom.
"That was nice, McGentleman… reassuring her. Abby doesn't like this any more than the rest of us do…"
"She really doesn't like it when her forensics don't come up with something. I only told her the truth."
"Yeah, well, she needed to hear it. What about you? You feel any better?"
Tim actually laughed, although it was short-lived. "I know how Abby feels. I've taken every scrap of data, from all the attacks, here and other places… all on American soil or American bases… I've twisted them every which way…. I don't like it when my programs don't come up with something. But you're right, Tony."
"The breather was a good idea. Maybe I'll see something when we get back."
Ziva, in front of the two men in the elevator, could see the warped ghost of Tony's pleased smile in the stainless steel patina of the door. "What about you, Ziva?" the hazy, reflected lips inquired, catching her by surprise. At Mossad they never asked how you were feeling, only if you could do your job.
"It is frustrating," she had to agree. "I am trying to find a likely suspect in criminal records; I put in one set of parameters and get a hundred names, another set gets me none."
"Try sitting back with your eyes closed, and let your mind drift over the case instead of looking at the screen."
"Will that help?"
Tony knew that it often helped him, but as yet had no idea if it would work for Ziva. "I've no idea," he said airily, "but at least your eyes will have a rest." He knew from the squaring of her shoulders that his attempt to cheer her had fallen flat. She still didn't think much of him professionally, that was just as clear as it had been after the Meyers case; he still hadn't figured out how to handle it…
Just as the elevator opened, Tim's phone buzzed. Karla Howe turned to face them, holding her own cell phone. She smiled slightly, shrugged and flipped it shut. "One of your correlation programs just came up, Tim. You must have sensed it."
"Thanks, Karla." Tim hurried to his desk as the young black agent went back to hers with a quiet 'you're welcome', and peered urgently at what was displayed on his screen. "Well I'll be –" He bit back the profanity, because Tim McGee was a man who didn't swear.
Tony followed him over curiously. Ziva followed Tony. "What is it, Tim?"
"This is the last hunter program I put in," Tim said. "It was the one I thought would be least likely to get results. I thought I was giving it too much information."
"Sod's law," Tony said ruefully.
"Who is Sodslaw?" Ziva asked. Tony resisted the urge to tell her it was a type of salad; his last attempt to lighten things had spiralled down in flames.
"It's a law of cussedness, Ziva," Tim explained. "It states first of all that the slice of toast you drop will always land jam side down." Ziva frowned, then made the connection. She allowed a brief smile, then it was gone. Well, the SFA thought, at least the probie had managed to raise it. "I went back a few more years, just to widen the field a bit, and found some more attacks that took place on military bases in other countries. The one factor that comes up every single time is a hospital. Every place there's been an attack has one. In three days of looking, it's the only common feature that's ever appeared. It could mean nothing…"
Tony grimaced. "Or everything. A nurse… or a doctor… or anyone whose job's supposed to be healing…" He looked sick for a moment, recalling how many times he'd been in need of a healer during his life. They'd been good people, every one of them… "Nice work, McGee."
Tim perked up a bit. "I'll send the new cases across for you and Ziva to add in," he said. "They may tie in to something. They must tie in to something," he finished heavily. Tony patted his shoulder and headed back to his own desk. He was surprised to see Ziva sit down and close her eyes.
Another fifteen minutes, and they had something to go on. Abby's results arrived on Tony's computer, seventy-one names, and instead of the burden being taken from Tim's shoulders, it was seized with both hands. "Come on, Tony, you know I'm faster than you."
The SFA smiled, and ceded his chair to his probie. "Well," he said, "it seemed like a good idea at the time."
Tim's fingers flew, discarding possible matches who weren't white and male, forty-nine names; weren't medical staff, thirty-one; hadn't been at any of the relevant hospitals at the times of the attacks, twelve…and weren't in the DC area at present.
Two names remained. A doctor who had retired due to arthritis, and a male nurse. They looked at the face on the screen, and all three guts tightened. "It's him," Tim said.
"It is him," Ziva agreed.
"We shouldn't assume," Tony said virtuously, and they both glared at him. "But it's him."
"Brian Brassington," Tim read. "Age thirty three, rejected by the Corps nine years ago. It's got to be him… oh shit." Tim McGee occasionally was a man who swore. "Tony, he's at Bethesda." His fingers flew again, and brought up duty rosters. "He's at Bethesda, right now."
"Come on," Tony said, grabbing his badge and gun. Before Tim could disentangle himself from Tony's workstation, the SFA had loped over to the younger man's desk and grabbed his Sig and shield, and handed it to him.
Ziva was ahead of them as they ran to the stairs. "Should we not wait for Gibbs?"
"He can meet us there," Tim yelled at her back as they plunged down the echoing staircase. Behind him, Tony was also yelling, filling the Boss in as he ran.
Tony's driving was one step under Gibbs' degree of recklessness. "The cops don't know me," he retorted grimly to Tim's comment. "They're not afraid to stop me. I don't want to have to be dodging them – we'd end up on the nine o'clock news. Get Brad Pitt on the horn, McGrumble. Tell him whatever you think best, but make sure he meets us at the front entrance. I don't care what he's doing. We need someone who knows the place – I only know the plague pit." Tim winced and called.
The roster had said that Brassington was on duty in the radiography department. "No," Brad said as he met them. Tony was unsurprised to see he'd brought two security officers with him. "They're short-staffed in the ante-natal clinic, so he was sent there. He wasn't too happy apparently."
"The ante- natal clinic?" Tim sounded surprised that such a thing existed.
"In the maternity and neo-natal wing. Even Marines get pregnant, Special Agent McGee," Brad chuckled, but the laugh ended as quickly as it had begun. He led them swiftly down a broad corridor. "What do you want to do, Tony?"
Tony didn't hesitate. "We find out exactly where he is. I might need you to come up with a plan to isolate him. Then you get the hell out, keep everyone else away, and leave him to us. He's beyond violent, Brad." The Commander nodded, and nothing more was said until they arrived at the end of the passage, outside the double doors to the maternity wing.
As the two security men positioned themselves to prevent anyone else from coming that way, the others stood to one side, where they wouldn't be seen by anyone looking through the double doors, and Brad explained the layout to them. "The ante-natal clinic is the first place we come to; it's the busiest so it's nearest to the door. There's the waiting area and reception, then the two ultrasound rooms, then the consulting rooms are beyond them. There's a corridor off to the right leading to the maternity wing; and down that corridor are the elevators and staircase to the neo-natal unit."
"We need to stop him from going down that corridor, or anyone else from coming up it," Tony said, laying his plans quickly. "How would you find out where he is right now, Brad?"
"Give me a moment," the doctor said calmly.
"Be careful, Brad."
"I'm a Commander in the U.S. Navy," Dr. Pitt said, rolling his eyes, and disappeared through the double doors.
A few moments later, he was back. "He's ungraciously assisting the ultrasonographer in room one. The receptionist tells me room two is empty. She's phoning the two consultants here today to tell them and their patients to stay in their rooms until we say come out."
"Nice work, Doctor!" Tony said approvingly. He peered through the door. "Two couples, and two ladies who look like mother and daughter. Ziva, when we go in there, tell them quietly to leave through this door, the receptionist too, then guard the door to the consulting rooms. Tim, guard the corridor to maternity. I'll block the double doors and we'll have him in a three way squeeze… guns out as soon as everyone's clear. Let's not engage him physically unless we've no choice. Brad, two things more…When we've cleared, will you phone ultrasound one, and say that Brassington's needed back in x-ray? If he hates maternity that much, it should bring him out like a champagne cork. Then, wait for Gibbs and fill him in?"
The Commander looked as if he'd rather mix it with the rest of them, but he nodded ruefully and backed off. A few minutes later, after some bewildered people had trooped out of the waiting area, he made the call.
It was a good plan; it should have worked perfectly. Brian Brassington marched out of the ultrasound room grinning all over his face, to find three guns aimed at him, and all escape routes blocked.
"Down on the floor," Tony said calmly. "We don't have a problem with shooting if we need to."
Nurse Brassington was of just about average height, and didn't look particularly strong or particularly weak. He was rather ordinary. His eyes, however, were like brown cherry stones, flat, hard and full of malice. He looked from DiNozzo to McGee, and heard the click of Ziva's gun behind him, and finally decided not to die in a hail of bullets. His knees had just begun to bend when the door of the 'empty' ultrasound room two opened, and a couple emerged, giggling in their own little world.
Staff Sergeant Glenn Gallier and his wife Jane, happily holding a photo of their unborn child, stopped laughing, stood still between Tony and his target, and stared. Their presence neutralised the guns, and Brassington knew it. The horrified team got a first hand look at the two-handed, back-of-the-neck disabling first blow that victims had spoken of. Sergeant Gallier grunted and stooped as the blow landed, and didn't have time to straighten up before he was seized by his collar and his belt and thrown head first against the wall.
Tony jumped forward, as Ziva tried to do the same from behind, but Jane Gallier was already in Brassington's grip, his arm tight round her neck. She was unresisting, her arms wrapped round her stomach, her eyes on her husband, unconscious on the floor.
"Get Back. Get back or I'll snap her neck." They didn't doubt he meant it, and they backed slowly off. "Drop your guns." When they hesitated, he jerked the pregnant woman's head back, and she screamed with what little breath she had. The ultrasonographer and her assistant from room two stood in the doorway, eyes wide, two more people to not shoot by mistake, and Tony slowly put his gun down.
At least the operator in room one had the sense to stay where she was. Never assume… he seethed inside as he watched Tim and Ziva follow his lead. I should have checked myself… got to do something.
"Now you…" Brassington spoke to McGee, "Get the hell out of my way. We're going visiting the little babies. The lady and I are going to go out through the back door."
Tim didn't move, his eyes wide with horror. Somehow the thought of this creature let loose amongst new born babies and their mothers, was just not to be tolerated. Tony stepped alongside him. "No, you're not," he said. This time Jane Gallier's cry was of pain rather than fear, as the male nurse gripped her jaw and jerked her head again.
"You're very good at attacking from behind, and hiding behind women," Tony said coldly.
"No wonder they didn't want you in the marines," Tim added.
"Yeah…" his SFA agreed. "You're a coward, and they saw that. You can't control yourself, and they saw that too. Come on, coward… come out from behind the lady. You hurt her one more time and I'll kill you anyway. Let's see you take on a man, from the front." He knew Ziva was poised behind, ready to act too, he hoped she'd get the woman out of the way before she joined in the mix. "I reckon you can't do it. You won't. You're scared."
Brassington shoved Jane Gallier aside; she tottered and Ziva caught her. She rushed her towards the door, but Jane began to fight, wanting to go to her husband. Ziva had her hands full, and Tony was trying not to think about that and concentrate on the here and now, as the monster charged.
AN: Usual thing… thought I could do it as a one-shot… thanks to Andrew, who spent all afternoon digging infections out of my ancient computer so I could finish this chapter. Bunny, seems the healing vibes worked!