A SOLITARY ACT

Prologue

NCIS agents Leroy Gibbs and Anthony (Tony) DiNozzo sat in Interrogation across from a young woman and her older brother, breaking Gibbs' Rule about never putting suspects together. One of them was going to go down for the embezzling, and Tony sincerely hoped it was the right one. He and Gibbs both knew that the woman was practically innocent in all this - she'd thought she was helping out her brother. Might sound like a cover story to some, but the agents had the proof. The only thing Linnea Swanson was guilty of, was loving her brother.

Gibbs looked at Linnea, tears silently running down her cheeks. He knew she was innocent, and he knew that she knew that he knew she was innocent. "Those are the facts, Miss Swanson. I would love to arrest someone else for this. We know the money and transfers were planted where it would look like you did it."

"We have surveillance video from the bank," added Tony, "video you're not in at the time of the deposits." He slid a calculating look at her brother, Andrew. "But someone else is." He slides a picture Gibbs had taken out of a file across the table so the siblings could see it. His heart twinged as Linnea looked at the picture and understood.

"Gonna' try and tell us that isn't you?" Gibbs asked Andrew.

Andrew looked at the picture coolly, seemingly unconcerned. "I got nuthin' to say."

"Well then, let's talk about the ship's surveillance and key card entry codes, all of which place you, Petty Officer Swanson, on duty when the money transfers from the ship's payroll to an off-shore account took place." Tony pushed a printout of entry times across the table.

"An-drewwww," his sister wailed through her tears. "Tell them! They think it was me, Andy. Please!" she implored.

He looked at his sister, then the two agents. "Like I said. I got nuthin' to say."

Tony couldn't believe this guy. Andrew was ready and willing to let his little sister take the fall for him. How could someone treat their family like that?

Apparently, Gibbs was having the same thought. "Now what kind of man doesn't own up to his mistakes, and lets a woman take the blame for him?" he asked casually.

"Not just any woman, either," chimed in Tony. "His little sister. I don't know about you, Agent Gibbs, but I'd walk barefoot over hot coals and broken glass for my little sister." There wasn't so much as a blink out of Andrew Swanson. "Hell, I'd even take a bullet for my little sister." Tony got up and walked around the table to stand behind the young man, boxing him in with one hand on the table, the other on the back of the chair. "What I wouldn't do," he growled in Swanson's ear, "is let my little sister go to jail for me."

Petty Officer Swanson pushed the pictures and papers away. "Pffft," he said cockily. "She won't get jail time. It's all circumstantial."

"Son," Gibbs began, as Tony angrily pushed away from the table. "This isn't going to the Military Tribunal. This is going to Federal Court. Evidentiary laws are a little different. Cases have gone to trial with less than this, and ended up with a prison sentence."

The agents could see that the young serviceman was starting to get nervous, but still wasn't ready to admit to anything or give them his accomplices. Tony sat back down across from Linnea, who had a nervous habit of twisting her fingers. He wanted to reach over and hold her hand to make her stop. "As it stands right now, to avoid trial, the Fed is willing to offer 15 to 20."

"Years?" Linnea rasped. She looked at her brother, pleading with him to say something. "You're just going to let them do this to me?" she whimpered through the tears. "Andy, please! Don't let them send me to jail!"

Tony shrugged. "With good behavior, you might get out in 10."

Andrew turned his head away from his sister. He sincerely hoped she wouldn't go to jail, but frankly, what the guys he owed the money to had promised they would do to his sister was a lot scarier than this.

Gibbs could see the fear in the P.O's eyes, knew there was a lot more to the story than they were getting. "Not jail, Miss Swanson. Federal Prison. Makes your average jail look like a vacation in Aruba." He turned to her brother. "That where you were planning' on runnin' to with the money before it went all to hell, Aruba?"

"Like I said," the P.O stated gruffly. "I got nuthin' to say."

Tony closed his eyes, not believing it had come to this. The wrong person was going to prison, for God's sake!

"Ok, then," Gibbs said, standing and picking up the pictures and papers and putting them back into the file. "Agent DiNozzo?"

Standing, Tony pulled out his handcuffs slowly. He didn't want to be doing this, dammit! He took Linnea by the arm and pulled her gently out of the chair. "Linnea Swanson, you're under arrest for embezzlement and theft of government funds," he said softly, the cuffs closing around her wrists with a click, trying to drown out her cries of confusion and fear.

Linnea struggled to get away from Tony. "Wait! Please!" she cried. "I want a deal!"

Gibbs stopped at the door and came back to the table. "I can't promise anything…"

She was almost bent in half with the emotional pain. "Please! I'll give you everything I know! Names, dates, phone numbers, addresses, whatever you want! If I've got it, I'll give it to you, pleeeeeeaaaaassssssseeeeee!" she begged, trying to catch her breath.

Gibbs and Tony shared a look over Linnea's head. This could give them the information they were looking for to crack the bigger ring.

Without looking at anyone, Petty Officer Swanson spoke. "Could you please let my sister sit down?" he asked softly. "She's having a panic attack, she won't be able to breathe very well."

With a hand signal to Ziva and McGee, who were watching from the Observation Room, he told them to bring Ducky, their M.E. up to have a look at her. This was eating Gibbs up inside, too.

Tony pulled Linnea's chair away from the table and gently helped her sit as she tried to control her breathing. He moved around the table and brought his own chair up in front of hers, wanting to be close if anything should happen.

Linnea raised her teary eyes to Tony's. "Please," she gasped, "a deal!"

"Let's wait until Dr. Mallard's had a look at you, ok? Then we'll talk deals." Tony promised.

"No, no, no, no," Linnea rasped, shaking her head furiously. "Now! Please, now!"

Tony looked at Gibbs for help. On the one hand, if they kept this prison talk up, she'd most likely hyperventilate herself into passing out. But it also appeared that if they didn't talk, she'd hyperventilate herself into unconsciousness. Getting the almost invisible nod from the boss, Tony began, talking quietly and calmly. "Ok, we'll talk deal. But I have to be honest and tell you that we can't get the sentence reduced, you'll still be looking at at least 15 years."

Her breathing a little more regular, Linnea wiped her wet cheeks on the shoulder of her shirt. "(sniff) It's not the time I want changed," she gasped, embarrassed at her red eyes and red, drippy nose. What she'd give for a tissue.

'Didn't want a sentence reduction?' thought Tony to himself. 'Well then what the hell else was there?' He raised an eyebrow at Linnea, silently telling her to continue.

"I could care less about the time," she coughed. "If I go to prison, with or without a trial, (sniff) I want to be placed in solitary." Looking at the agents, she saw that she'd shocked them - who in their right mind would ask for solitary? "Please? That's all I want, and I'll give you everything I can." She started to hiccup and cough. Raising sad, terrified eyes to Tony's she begged, "please?"

Tony looked at Gibbs in shock, to see that the man himself was also in shock. The two men had a silent conversation with their eyes. Gibbs didn't know how he'd work it, but he'd get her what she asked for. She'd be safer in solitary, seeing as she didn't belong in prison to begin with. He gave Tony a slight 'go ahead' nod.

"Ok," said Tony in disbelief. "We'll get you into solitary."

Linnea closed her eyes in relief, beginning to cry again. She opened her eyes and looked at Tony. "Thank you!" she gasped.

At that moment, Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard entered the room, stethoscope around his neck, big, black, doctor's bag in his hand, escorted by Junior Agent Timothy McGee.

"McGee, take Petty Officer Swanson back to holding and prepare his release forms," Gibbs said quietly. He hated what had happened here. He began to rethink his idea of keeping the siblings together for interrogation. He'd thought the brother would step up and keep his sister from going to prison if he saw what it would do to her. Maybe he should have let DiNozzo take Miss Swanson in a separate room, and then Gibbs could have gotten the confession out of the Petty Officer any way he had to. He looked down and saw Linnea with an oxygen mask covering her nose and mouth and inhaling deeply as Ducky instructed.

Leaving the young lass to the vigilant care of Anthony, Ducky walked over to Gibbs. He could see that the man was blaming himself for this medical event. "Don't be too hard on yourself, Jethro," he told his friend. "She's going to be fine after a few good breaths of pure oxygen."

Gibbs shook his head. "Nah, she won't be alright, Ducky, going to prison for 15 years for a crime she didn't commit." With one last glance at the young woman, he walked out of the interrogation room. He needed his basement, his boat, and his bourbon - not necessarily in that order.

*NCIS**NCIS**NCIS**NCIS**NCIS**NCIS**NCIS**NCIS**NCIS**NCIS**NCIS*

One month later…..

Tony stood outside the federal courthouse waiting for Linnea Swanson to be escorted out. The federal prosecutor had accepted her plea agreement, and she'd been sentenced today. Fifteen years in solitary confinement in federal prison. His gut still churned over this, and he needed to make sure that this was what she wanted.

Seeing her being escorted down the steps, in stylish yet plain black pants and curve-hugging jacket - hands cuffed in front of her, burly corrections officer holding her by the arm - he walked over, pulling out his badge. "DiNozzo, NCIS. This was our case. Can I have a moment with Miss Swanson, please?"

The officer looked at Linnea to see if she had any objections, and when she didn't, he nodded. "Don't take long. Got a busful of angry ladies headin' for the pen, and they won't like waiting too long."

Tony nodded, taking Linnea by the arm and leading her a few feet away, out of earshot. "Linnea, you don't have to do this….."

She smiled up at him with sad eyes. "Yes, I do, Agent DiNozzo. Someone like me? I wouldn't last a weekin the general pop, good girls never do." She sighed. "Do you know, except for tussling with my brother as kids….I've never been in a fight." She laughed at herself. "I don't even know how to throw a punch so I don't break my thumb. We were always a 'solve-it-with-words' kind of family. No self-preservation skills, but I can go all Dr. Phil on them." She smiled sadly.

Tony searched her eyes, seeing that she was resigned to do this. "You know there's no visitors in solitary…." he tried.

She shrugged. "No one to visit me, anyway."

"Locked up in that small room 23/7, a 10-inch window too high up to see out of….."

"Guess I'll finally catch up on my reading," she countered.

Tony shook his head slowly. This just wasn't right, and there was nothing he could do about it. "Are you sure this is what you want? Maybe we can work something out…."

All of a sudden came yelling from the prison bus. "Hey, Princess! Let's go! I miss lunch, you're not going to be very happy!"

Linnea looked down at the ground, realizing that she wouldn't be seeing grass or dirt for quite a long time. Suddenly, she wasn't so sure…. No, she had to do this. "It's ok, Agent DiNozzo." She shrugged, finding she was reluctant to say goodbye to her last link to the outside world.

The corrections officer came up. "Time to go, miss."

Linnea nodded sadly and began to back away when Tony grabbed her hand. She looked up at him in surprise.

Tony took her hand and made it into a fist, positioning her fingers where they belonged. "Thumb on the outside," he said quietly, making sure she knew at least one method of protecting herself. He felt his eyes tear up as she smiled sadly at him and gave him a small wave goodbye. He watched her climb on the bus and take a seat, saw her look out the window at him. He could hear the other women inmates already begin to taunt her, but she sat perfectly still, eyes ahead, trying so hard to be strong. But he'd seen the tell-tale tremble of her chin. He watched as the bus was put in gear and began to drive away, and watched until it was out of sight.

He'd just sent an innocent woman to federal prison. For fifteen years. He hadn't gotten justice for Linnea Swanson, and he knew she would haunt him for the rest of his life - the one he couldn't save.

Well? Like it? Love it? Loathe it? Should I continue? Write me a little sumthin' in a review or a pm, let me know! Please. The fate of this story depends on YOU!

Yes, yes, I know I shouldn't be starting another story when I already have 2 still in progress. But writing helps me think! So PLEASE REVIEW and let me know what you thought of this prologue - chapter 1 should be up by tomorrow (Sunday) evening.

DISCLAIMER: I own nothing nor receive anything from anyone or anything having to do with NCIS, CBS, Belisarius Productions, or any affiliates and subsidiaries of the aforementioned entities. Yeah, sucks to be me!