Disclaimer:- I do not own NCIS or its characters and any copyright infringement is unintentional
Night time is street slang for the evening onset of heroin withdrawal (start of night time.)
A/N – Much of this story was intended to form part of "Withdrawal." However RL circumstances dictated that I cut "Withdrawal" short. I was disappointed that I didn't get to write and share this part of the story with you…so here it is, in the form of a sequel.
I have included a recap at the start but, as this story picks up just two weeks after "Withdrawal" ends, you may find it necessary to revisit and re-familiarise yourself with the original story. It contains medical and legal details that I did my best to decipher accurately but please keep in mind that some liberties have been taken to keep the storyline flowing. I hope you enjoy it, L
Attorney Cameron Scott parked his BMW in the visitor's parking lot of the Petersburg Federal Correction Institution. Climbing from the driver's seat, he shrugged on his Hugo Boss jacket and used the car window to check his reflection. Openly pleased with his appearance, he opened the back door and removed his briefcase before striding toward the visitor's centre.
He looked around at the large razorwire fence noting that, while it was no doubt under constant surveillance, it was not patrolled, by armed guards. As a minimum security facility, the inmates were mainly non-violent "white collar criminals" and considered to pose little physical risk to the public. Scott smiled at the irony as he thought of his client.
"If only they knew," he muttered.
By and large, the US public knew Thomas Grayson as one of the wealthiest and most respected business entrepreneurs and philanthropists in the country. What was not commonly known was the callous ruthlessness with which Grayson disposed of anyone and anything perceived to be a threat to his business empire. A shrewd and calculating businessman, he had allegedly used his wealth to finance his only son,
Evan, into the illegal drug trade. Though lacking his father's business acumen, Evan had shown surprising guile and confidence in dealing with the highly volatile and street-wise dealers, importers and distributors of the drug underworld and, in just under a year, had made a name for himself as formidable, unforgiving and someone you didn't cross.
Several weeks earlier, Evan unknowingly met and befriended an undercover federal agent, Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, who was investigating the distribution of narcotics through the US Navy. When the agent's cover was eventually blown, Evan exacted sadistic requital by injecting the agent with heroin and PCP for days on end before administering a fatal dose. DiNozzo's team arrived in time to save his life and get him to the hospital but several subsequent ill-conceived attempts on the agent's life led to Evan being gunned down and killed in a nighttime raid by NCIS.
With Evan Grayson dead, the evidence garnered by DiNozzo had been enough to have Thomas Grayson arrested on charges ranging from bribing customs officials to suspicion of drug-importation and conspiracy to murder.
Due to Grayson's estate in the Cayman Islands, his significant wealth and the seriousness of the charges against him, JAG prosecutor, Commander Peter Barnes, had successfully argued that he was a likely flight risk and the judge had ordered Grayson be remanded in custody. Consequently, Grayson had traded Armani for olive prison garb and a twenty-room mansion for a twelve by twelve foot cell with communal showers, dining and recreation areas.
Now it was up to Scott to blow the prosecutors case out of the water and free his client. He felt a shot of adrenaline race through his veins and his lips curled in a small grin. The thrill of the chase was exhilarating; discrediting witnesses, challenging evidence, twisting the law in favour of his client - this was why Cameron Scott got paid the big bucks; this is what he lived for.
Entering the visitor's centre he showed his photo ID to the guard, signed the visitor's log and placed his briefcase on the scanning device before being led down the drab corridor to one of the interview rooms. He took a seat and waited for the arrival of the enigmatic and still powerful, Thomas Grayson.
Returning from his favourite diner, the aroma of the coffee tickled his nostrils and caused his taste buds to tingle with anticipation. The dark grey overcast sky threatened rain and matched his mood as he shrugged deeper into his jacket to ward off the cold.
Was it only three weeks since they'd found Tony barely alive in that abandoned tenement house? Gibbs refused to think what would have happened had they not arrived in time.
Credit for Tony's survival would rightly be attributed to Ducky, the EMT's and the lifesaving treatment and dedication of the medical team at Bethesda Naval Hospital. However, Gibbs knew without doubt that the younger man's dogged determination and will to live were just as crucial.
A cold shiver danced its way down his spine causing him to shudder as he recalled his agent, desperately ill in a hospital bed, undergoing a controversial ultra-rapid detox treatment. He was thankful that Tony would never remember that critical period - he was just as certain that he would never forget.
Somewhat reluctantly, the lead agent had left Tony recuperating in Stillwater under the watchful eye of his father, Jackson Gibbs. Despite the fact that Jackson had seen Tony at his most unprotected and vulnerable, the unlikely pair had forged a relationship seasoned with genuine affection.
Like a persistent mosquito, thoughts of Tony's long and painful recovery buzzed around Gibbs' head and he slapped them away. As much as NCIS Special Agent Gibbs wanted justice to be served, Jethro Gibbs wanted to blow Thomas Grayson to hell for the horror he'd inflicted on his agent. Not for the first time, the two personas battled for his soul.
Passing through the security checkpoint and entering the elevator, he leaned heavily against a wall and attempted to roll the tension from his neck and shoulders. What had initially appeared to be an open and shut case against Thomas Grayson, had developed some serious flaws. In a rush of anger he pounded his fist against the elevator wall as he recalled a meeting from the previous week. He, Director Vance and Commander Barnes were discussing the impending hearing when an anxious McGee burst into the director's office.
"Excuse me, Sirs," he said before turning to Gibbs. "Boss, there's a problem with the data Tony retrieved from Evan Grayson's computer."
"What kind of problem?" Gibbs asked.
"As you know, the data Tony downloaded from Evan Grayson's computer provided the decryption codes we needed to access the payments to customs officials and drug lords," McGee replied. "It was a Cayman Island account in the joint names of Thomas and Evan Grayson and both men had access to it."
"All of the transactions in question were electronic; there were no signatures, no PINs and no cards used to incriminate any one person. We know that payments were made but we can't be certain which one of the Graysons made them."
"What about the IP addresses?" Vance asked. "We should be able to match those to Grayson's computers."
"That's what I've been trying to do but they used a high anonymity proxy server," McGee replied.
"McGee!" Gibbs hissed impatiently.
"Sorry, Boss, it's an encrypted server that hides the original IP addresses. It makes it almost impossible to determine which computer initiated the transactions."
"You saying we can't use the data as evidence?" Gibbs asked.
"We can use it," Commander Barnes replied, "but without irrefutable proof that Thomas Grayson was actively involved, the data will be considered circumstantial at best."
"Circumstantial?" Gibbs spat, shooting to his feet and sending his chair crashing to the floor. "DiNozzo nearly died getting that data!"
"Commander, how will this affect the hearing?" Vance asked.
"All Grayson has to do is deny all knowledge of the payments and blame his dead son," the commander replied. "As things stand right now, we can't prove otherwise."
"You think he'd do that?" Gibbs asked. "Blame his kid?"
"If Grayson is found guilty, he's facing life in a federal penitentiary and stands to lose billions. He'll do whatever it takes."
The words plunged the room into rigid shocked silence until Vance found his voice.
"If we can't make a case with the payments then that leaves the testimonies," he said. "Grayson's word against his nephew, Billy Matthews and DiNozzo's."
The commander sighed audibly.
"I'm concerned about the strength of the testimony from Billy Matthews," he said. "His recollection of times, dates and places are vague and inconsistent. To be honest, unless there's considerable improvement over the next two weeks, Matthews will be more of a liability than an asset."
"That just leaves DiNozzo," Vance said turning back to Gibbs. "There's only two weeks to the hearing, you think he'll be ready?"
"He'll be ready," Gibbs stated with unshakable certainty.
"There's something else," the commander said. "Our office received a subpoena to provide the defence with a copy of Tony's personnel file."
"Why?" Vance asked.
"Because the best form of defence is offence," Pete said. "They know that Tony's testimony is crucial – it's his word against Grayson's, so-"
"They'll try to discredit DiNozzo," Gibbs growled.
Shaking himself from his musings, Gibbs took a long pull of his coffee and felt an ominous stirring in his gut. In just under two weeks, Tony would take the stand at the hearing and Grayson's high price attorney would throw everything at him. But what did the defence attorney want with Tony's personnel file? His arrest record and performance appraisals were first rate and only bolstered Tony's testimony.
The façade of indifference that the former detective utilised to great effect camouflaged a sharp wit and highly intuitive mind that had tripped up some of the sharpest thinkers on both sides of the law. But, currently, Tony was well under par – struggling physically and emotionally with the devastating effects of a narcotics addiction that was forced upon him. The thought of someone coming after his agent kicked his paternal instincts up another few notches.
"Not on my watch," he vowed.
"No!" Thomas Grayson hissed, rocketing to his feet and stalking to the far side of the small interview room. "I won't do it!"
Attorney Cameron Scott sighed and looked expectedly toward the door as it swung open and the irritated-looking prison guard appeared with his hand resting ominously on his nightstick.
"Sit down, Grayson or I'll take you back to your cell," the guard threatened.
Grayson's jaw clenched, as anger and disdain coiled behind his eyes like a living thing fighting to get out. With unspoken protest he walked back to the table and dropped heavily into the plastic chair.
"It's all right…we're fine," Scott said to the guard as he waived him away.
Underscoring his warning with a menacing look at Grayson, the guard returned to his post outside the door and Scott continued.
"It's the only way, you know that. The feds have got the records of the joint account but there is nothing to indicate which of you initiated the transactions."
"It's not enough that the feds killed my only son, now you want me to deny all knowledge and let Evan take the fall?" Grayson asked incredulously.
"Would you rather fall with him, Thomas, because that's what will happen unless we do this my way?" Scott asked. "Conspiracy to murder and the attempted murder of a federal agent are just the tip of the iceberg. I wouldn't ask if there was any other way."
"What about the witness testimonies?"
"Your nephew Billy Matthews is a junkie with known animosity toward you. His testimony is weak at best."
Scott's smiled predatorily.
"By the time I'm finished with him his career will be over."
"Who's leading the prosecution?"
"The Navy commander from the JAG office…Peter Barnes."
"Barnes? I thought you were going to have him recused because of his friendship with DiNozzo?" Grayson asked.
"It was part of the deal," Scott told him. "Barnes stays on as prosecutor and you get to await trail in a private cell of a minimum security penitentiary instead of a dorm in general population. If we insist on Barnes being recused we could end up with someone better. "
"Better than you?" Grayson mocked.
Scott huffed out a laugh.
"Unlikely," he replied arrogantly.
Grayson nodded sullenly, swivelled his head from side to side to ensure their privacy, then leaned forward and whispered.
"Is he here?" he asked, avoiding using the name.
"He's here," Scott replied, his displeasure shown clearly on his face. "I don't like this, Thomas. It's too risky; we don't need him."
"That's not your decision; it's mine," Grayson snapped. "He's been briefed? He knows what to do?"
"Yes, but I don't know how he intends to find the witnesses when the prosecution won't even allow me to depose them. NCIS have them tucked away somewhere. I've had good people tailing Gibbs' team for the past two weeks - wherever they are Gibbs and his team are giving them a wide berth."
"That's why I sent for him. You're being paid to get me acquitted. Leave everything else to him. Wherever they are…he'll find them."
Stepping smartly from the elevator and into the forensics lab, the notable absence of blaring music was immediately obvious. Frowning, Gibbs continued through the cavernous room in search of the forensic specialist. The glass sliding doors separated with a hiss bringing an abrupt end to the hushed conversation between Abby, Ziva and McGee who startled nervous at his sudden appearance.
"Gibbs!" Abby exclaimed almost jumping out of her skin and wrapping him in a hug.
"Something going on?" the lead agent asked, handing her a Caf-Pow and eyeballing his agents.
"Um…no!" Abby offered. "That is, unless you're asking did we find anything new about the case, in which case the answer would also…be…no."
His eyes narrowed suspiciously as his agents mirrored Abby's expression of guilt and he instantly decided he didn't want to know.
"What's happening with tracing the computers?" the lead agent asked McGee.
"I'm…er…designing a program that should decrypt the data protecting the IP addresses," McGee replied. "Once we've identified the computers we can allocate the transactions and prove who made the payments."
"How long will it take?" Gibbs asked.
The younger man's shoulders slumped in an obvious sign of his dejection and frustration.
"If it works at all, there are literally hundreds of thousands of possible permutations that could-" he sighed audibly. "It could take weeks."
"Tony hasn't got weeks, McGee!"
"I know that, Boss."
"Stay on it," Gibbs instructed with a rare pat of encouragement on his agent's back.
He rubbed a hand across his brow, fingers pressing hard to dispel a brewing headache and turned to Ziva.
"You interview the two customs officials we busted at the pier?" he asked.
"I did as Commander Barnes suggested and offered a reduced sentence if they testified against Thomas Grayson."
"Both were willing to cooperate and admitted having direct contact with both Evan and Thomas Grayson but…" Ziva took a deep breath and continued, "when I asked them to pick Thomas Grayson's likeness from a selection of photographs, one selected the NCIS janitor who retired to Hawaii last year, while the other selected a photograph of…Alec Baldwin."
"I love Alec Baldwin," Abby gushed before a look from the lead agent curbed her enthusiasm. "But that's so not important right now."
"Neither of the photos selected bore any likeness to Thomas Grayson," Ziva continued. "It is doubtful either of these men had any direct contact with him."
Gibbs took another long pull of his coffee to quell his frustration.
"How many more witnesses?"
"Just the two petty officers from the USS Enterprise," McGee responded. "They're coming in by helo and scheduled to arrive at Anacostia at fourteen hundred."
"We'll be there," Gibbs said. "Meanwhile, go over everything again. If we can't use the data we'll need another witness to back up Tony's testimony."
"Surely you do not believe the judge will take Grayson's word over Tony's," Ziva stated.
"I want nothing left to chance. DiNozzo has enough to worry about without this entire case weighing on his testimony."
Turning to leave, Gibbs caught movement in his peripheral vision as McGee gestured wildly to Abby.
"Something else, McGee?" he asked.
"Um…no, Boss, but…er…Abby has something she'd like to ask you."
Caught by surprise, Abby stood stock still, her green eyes wide as saucers as her extraordinary mind searched for the words she needed.
"You need something?"
The forensic specialist sighed audibly.
"I need to know about Tony," she quietly insisted. "You haven't told us how he's doing for days now and we know you miss him. That is, in your typical understated, stoic, I'd-rather-have-my-fingernails-pulled-than-admit-it kind of way."
"You draw the short straw, Abs?" he asked, watching as McGee suddenly found the ceiling fascinating and Ziva examined her shoes.
"Gibbs!" Abby protested with feigned innocence. "I'm hurt you would think we would do such a thing. There were absolutely positively no drawn straws!"
Gibbs raised a sceptical eyebrow and Abby caved.
"Okay…it was rock, paper, scissors…and only because we're really, really worried about Tony. It's just not the same around here without him."
"Abby is right, Gibbs," Ziva joined in. "We understand that you have been focussed on preparing for the hearing but we have not heard how Tony is for several days now. We are…concerned."
A long moment passed as he examined the anxious faces before him. For all their petty squabbling and their quirky idiosyncrasies his team possessed a staunch loyalty and strong sense of family. When one was in trouble, the others invariably circled the wagons.
"I'm on my way to see Ducky," he said. "I'll call him when I'm done."
"And you'll tell him we miss him?" Abby added.
He leaned in and placed a chaste kiss on her cheek.
"He knows, Abs." he replied over his shoulder as he left the room.
Returning to the elevator, Gibbs gave free rein to the raging anger that burned inside him. With everything his agent had been through, the case against Grayson appeared to be coming apart at the seams. Now there was the added pressure of the entire case riding on Tony's testimony.
With the MCRT working extraordinarily long hours, it had been several days since the former Marine had spoken more than a few words with his father and he was anxious for a more comprehensive progress report on his agent. He checked his watch, noting it was nearly zero ten hundred and decided he would check in with Ducky and call his Dad for an update.
The shrill of a ring tone resonated in the small space and he snatched his cell from his jacket pocket, held it at arm's length and squinted at the display. A sudden feeling of cold dread formed in the pit of his stomach.
"Dad?" he said, his calm tone belying his concern.
"I'm telling ya, son, that boy is just too darn stubborn for his own good!" Jackson exclaimed, his exasperation palpable.
"Dad, slow down." he replied, repeatedly pushing the button to the autopsy level. "What happened? Where's Tony?"
"Where he's been for the past three hours – out like a light on the couch," Jackson stated.
"Three hours? Is he sick?"
"Well, of course he's sick, Leroy, that's why you brought him here!" Jackson sniped before taking a deep calming breath. "I'm sorry, son. We had a bad night…guess I'm a little cranky."
Arriving on the lower level Gibbs squeezed through the narrow gap of the opening doors and rushed into the autopsy room. He located the elderly ME examining x-rays on the viewing boxes and hurried to his side. Ducky turned toward his friend, his welcoming smile faded as he noticed Gibbs' anxious expression.
"Oh my, what has happened?" he uttered.
Placing his hand on the older man's shoulder, Gibbs drew him closer and returned to the call.
"Dad, I'm here with Ducky, I'm gonna put you on speaker."
"Good morning, Jackson!" Ducky's cultured British accent resonated down the phone line.
"Morning, Doc, don't mean to worry you none but the boy's got me about as anxious as I ever hope to be."
Ducky looked at the concern etched into the face of the lead agent.
"Yes, there appears to be a lot of that going around," he replied. "Tell me, what has Anthony done to cause all this fuss?"
In the silence that followed Gibbs and Ducky exchanged worried glances.
From his position in the store, Jackson ducked his head around the doorway and looked through into the darkened living room. The morning sun filtered through the drawn curtains but offered enough suffused light to give Jackson a clear view of Tony's body sprawled loosely on the well-worn couch; one leg dangling over the edge and one arm covering his eyes.
"Dad? Dad, you there?" Gibbs asked.
"Still here, Leroy. Just checking to make sure the coast was clear."
From the moment Gibbs and Tony arrived at LJ's remote cabin, Jackson witnessed the agonising physical and mental torment of the younger man's forced addiction. Ducky had spoken with Jackson at length about the side effects of the Methadone substitute Subutex, as Tony's body tried to adjust to the narcotic replacement therapy.
"Jackson, can you tell me what has happened?" Ducky asked.
"Well, Doc, you told me the boy would have good and bad days," Jackson replied with a sigh that came all the way from his boots. "Guess I underestimated how darn bad they could be."
He'd lost count of the number of times in the past few weeks, that Tony had twisted awake in the grip of a nightmare while his muscles wracked in unbearable tear-producing spasms. The younger man had alternated between sweats and chills; drowsiness and insomnia; blinding headaches and nausea, while Jack tried desperately to soothe away the night terrors with only his staunch support and the quiet rasp of his voice.
"It is an unfortunate fact that, in their own way, the effects of the Subutex can be almost as debilitating as the narcotic itself…however, I get the feeling that isn't what has you so upset," Ducky stated.
"Dad? Something happen?" Gibbs asked.
The silence stretched agonisingly until Jackson spoke again.
"These last few days, the boy's been different; angry, moody, impatient – he hasn't said anything but I reckon he just wants to go home, back to his life."
"Yes, I thought this may be a problem," Ducky said shaking his head ruefully. "Anthony has a history of returning to work earlier than recommended. But this time, there will be no negotiation. As I told Anthony, it may be months before he's fit to return to light duties."
"Seems he wasn't listening, Doc. While I was closing the store last evening the boy took himself for a darn run!"
"A run?" Ducky blustered. "Good Lord, it's far too soon for him to begin anything other than gentle exercising. Any rigorous exertion can exacerbate withdrawal symptoms. Not to mention the fact that he has two broken ribs that need more time to heal!"
"I hear ya, Doc. When I realised he was gone I drove around looking for him...found him puking half a mile down the road. He barely recognized me. I got him home but we had one heck of a night."
"I'm gonna kick his ass!" Gibbs growled in an unsuccessful attempt to hide his concern.
"You might wanna hold off on that, son, cause there's something else…he's started to skip his meds."
"You sure?" Gibbs asked.
"Anthony has rushed his recoveries before but he knows better than to do something so foolhardy," Ducky stated.
"I'm not proud of this, but…I counted his pills. Yesterday, there were twenty-three left in the bottle. By my reckoning, there should only be twelve."
"This is not good," Ducky exclaimed. "Any premature attempt to begin the step-down phase of his medication could lead to withdrawal. Subutex requires a very strict regime to be effective and can be very dangerous if it is ignored."
Gibbs cursed under his breath and carded his fingers through his hair.
"Get him packed, Dad. I'll drive up and bring him back with me tonight."
"You'll do no such thing!" Jackson replied. "Truth is, son, good days or bad, Tony and I have been getting along just fine. I shouldn't have called...I reckon he just gave us both a heck of a scare. He's finally sleeping – let him be."
"You did exactly the right thing, Jackson," Ducky said. "Anthony really should see a medical practitioner as soon as he wakes. I'd be more than willing to speak with the local doctor, give him details of Anthony's medical history and set up the appointment."
"Already tried that, Doc, the boy refused point blank. Says he doesn't want word to get around Stillwater that I've got an addict as a houseguest. Tried to talk him out of it but this young fella could give stubborn lessons to a mule."
"Be that as it may, Anthony needs medical attention. Jethro is quite right; perhaps I should get my medical bag and accompany him…."
"That won't be necessary. Just before he fell asleep he agreed to see Doc Murphy in Scranton. We have an appointment booked for seven o'clock tonight."
"Scranton's fifty miles away, Dad."
"I know that, Leroy, but it was the only way the boy would agree to go," Jackson replied. "Sam and Mavis are going to close the store for me tonight. Don't worry, son, I'll see he gets to the doc."
"Dad, I…I should've known he…"
"Now you listen to me, son," Jackson said firmly. "Helping that young fella is the first thing you've asked of me in nearly 20 years. I want to do this for Tony…but I need to do this for us. You do what you have to for family."
A moment passed before Gibbs managed to speak around the large lump that had formed in his throat.
"I'll call ya tonight," he said, "and Dad..."
"I know, son, I know," Jackson replied gently.
Gibbs closed the cell then pushed the heels of his hands against his tired eyes and cursed softly.
A/N JAG Officer, Commander Peter Barnes, is a recurring character created for my story What Lies Beneath. He also appears in Withdrawal.
A/N Three years late but we're underway. Unlike previous stories, this one is far from finished and will be posted progressively as RL permits. Hope you'll bear with me.
With every good wish, L