Gibbs glanced into the rear view mirror, cursed and slammed a palm against the steering wheel, then steered the car off the dirt road, down a sloping drive onto a weed-overgrown lot. In the fast-waning light of dusk, he carefully maneuvered his way around the scattered rusted-metal spikes and gears of ancient mechanical debris to come to a stop in front of a collapsed, half-standing barn. He left the car, slammed the door closed and stood beside it, hands fisted at his sides, watching as the other car pulled in and parked twenty yards away. Anthony DiNozzo, his left arm in a sling, opened the car door, exited and headed his way.
"Get off my ass and stay off my ass!" Gibbs demanded once Tony stopped to stand a few feet from him.
"If you're so sure he's clean, what's the harm in checking it out?" Tony's tone stayed calm in the face of Gibbs' rage.
"What's your gut telling you, Gibbs? I'm betting that, right now, it's screaming, wailing, yodeling like Slim Whitman on crack. Screaming so loud it gets harder every minute for you to ignore. Kinda like you've been trying to ignore me but that's not gonna work, either. Me, your gut. Sooner or later, you'll have to listen. Better sooner, Gibbs."
"Last warning, DiNozzo."
"I'm about to give you last warning, Gibbs," a hint of answering anger was in Tony's voice before he paused to calm and continue in a conciliatory tone.
"I get it, okay. He's a friend. Brothers in arms, saved your life, you're a loyal guy, it's hard to face facts. Fact number one, he tried to take me out. Obviously not an action of enough concern for you to consider worthy of investigation."
"You didn't get a look at who took the shot at you. You've just decided it was him."
"I didn't just decide it! He knew I was on to him, he has motive. You really think, for no reason, I'd just pull him out of my ass to accuse? Why? You could settle this now if you'd just look at the evidence. It's not gonna go away just because you ignore it. Ever ask yourself, why now? You don't hear a word for twelve years and, suddenly, there he is, like white on rice and you're best buds again. What excuse did he give for the sudden disappearing act, the clandestine meeting. That's where you were headed, right?"
"That what this is all about?" Gibbs asked.
"What?" Tony asked.
"The 'best buds' thing. You jealous? Like some spoiled brat acting up not getting enough attention from his dad?"
Tony's expression hardened.
"No, Gibbs. I was listening when you ordered me to butt out of your personal life and stick to business. This is all business. Started with my gut that something was off about the guy. Lots of evidence now on that disc I gave you this morning to back it up. I pulled it out of the trash can, by the way. It's in your middle desk drawer if you decide to face facts and look at it."
"You got so much evidence, why haven't you done anything but bug me with it?"
"I'm about to. I just got it all tied together last night, enough to convince even you. I wanted to give you the chance first to do it yourself. Like I said, though, last warning. Tomorrow morning, I'm taking it to Fornell."
"If it was anything, you'd already have."
"Maybe not iron-clad," Tony admitted. "But, it's there. Circumstantial, but you don't believe in serial coincidence. If it was anybody else, you'd be all over it. Believe me, Fornell will be all over it as soon as I give it to him. Whatever Granger's setting you up for, whatever favor he's about to ask you at your little meet, whatever lies he's told you, you need to step away."
"You do what you have to do," Gibbs said. "But, between me and you, this subject is closed. Done. You keep following me, I'll shoot your tires out."
"Just like that?" Tony said, "You refuse to even consider the possibility? Sight unseen, it's done? I've heard, second hand, that you've actually said I was a good agent; your best. You're gonna ignore evidence collected by your best agent?"
"Like I said, I get it. You're one loyal sonofabitch. But, there's loyal and then there's stubborn stupid. Lose the blinders! He's gonna go down, don't let him take you down with him. And, what about me, Gibbs? While Granger was off who knows where doing who knows what the last decade or so, I had your six. I may not have served under combat with you, but I've served with you under fire, for a lot longer than he did. I may not have been part of a band of brothers, but I thought, up until a few days ago, I was a friend. He saved your life? Good for him! So have I, more than once. You may owe him, but you owe me more! The absolute least you owe me is to look at the evidence before you toss me over!"
Gibbs turned on his heel to walk away but was stopped by Tony's sudden, yanking grip on his bicep. Gibbs reacted immediately, throwing back an elbow in a savage shove to DiNozzo's chest that instantly freed him from the grasp.
Gibbs didn't react at all to the cry of 'Boss!' that sounded behind him as he stalked to his car, never looking back. His phone rang as he gunned the sedan back onto the road, raising an engulfing cloud of dust. He pulled the cell from his pocket. He glanced at the display, saw that the call was from DiNozzo and left it unanswered. When the ringing stopped, he flipped the phone open to turn it off.