Tony looked back at Gibbs like he was making it all up.
"Boss I think I'd remember being kidnapped." He laughed, gazing down and around expectantly at the deserted squad room. "This is a joke right? Kate's winding me up - it's nearly my birthday she's playing a trick, right?"
His amusement was cut abruptly short when he noticed Gibbs wasn't wearing his usual stoic glare or even the less often seen rare smile.
"Tony," Gibbs said softly, squeezing his arm where he held it. "This isn't a joke."
A laugh bubbled up inside him, fighting for release, Tony tried to deny it life, but the pressure became too great and it burst forth. Grabbing the railing in front of him Tony attempted to remain on his feet, but his turned to jelly legs couldn't support him and he sank slowly towards the floor.
Gibbs still had a hand on him and moved quickly, wrapping both arms around his waist, cushioning his descent. Tony was glad he hadn't just let him fall, his head hurt enough without adding yet another knock to it today.
"Boss?" Tony begged unashamedly, head in hands.
"Bower took you from a park in Long Island while you were out with your father" Gibbs spoke quietly from above him, "held you for three days, from June 30th to July 2nd."
"Well, don't sugar coat it for me," he quipped through the fingers still covering his face.
His mind went on rewind back to the moment he walked into the store. He couldn't remember if he'd heard Bower enter after him, or if he'd already been inside. Was he being followed or did he just happen to bump into his former abductor and the guy felt like celebrating their twenty-five year reunion? Pre-planned or coincidence? Tony knew which side Gibbs would ere on.
"Do you know why?" Tony asked shortly, asking about both then and now.
Though he knew it was an unreasonable request for details after only a few hours, when he didn't receive any kind of a response Tony risked a glance up at Gibbs. He relaxed a little when he saw his attention wasn't on him and followed his gaze. He was glaring down at those random few who were brave enough to be staring back up at them from their desks below. Tony didn't blame anyone for being intrigued. He was after all a giggling idiot, having a mini breakdown in full view of the whole office. Not a great way to end the day, the boss was sure to give a headslap for this one.
With thoughts of punishment in mind Tony slowly but surely pulled himself together and though he didn't bother to stand up he did drop the hands from his face and attempt to school his expression to something more resembling cool professionalism.
With Gibbs' glare aimed at them the brave few quickly and quietly dissipated and before long it was just them alone in the squad room. Tony waited quietly and held his breath, preparing for a slap, a yell or less desirable, but no less expected, for Gibbs to simply walk away and leave him to get his shit together.
Putting all his energy into keeping his body absolutely still Tony couldn't prevent the sudden intake of breath when Gibbs unexpectedly dropped to one knee in front of him.
"Whatever this is, believe me I won't let anything happen to you."
Tony swallowed and he could feel his lower lip trembling. Gibbs never spoke delicately to him. It could only mean he was in some serious trouble that even the boss didn't think he'd come out of okay or he was doing a really bad job of keeping it together and Gibbs was being gentle so as not to push him further over the edge into all out sobbing.
"Hey, you listening DiNozzo?" Gibbs tapped him lightly on the back of the head.
"Listening boss," He nodded, accepting confirmation of the latter explanation with a sniff.
"Good boy," Gibbs smiled softly at him. "Now do you remember anything that can help us find these guys?"
Tony thought about it, but shook his head, no, he really didn't. Fear was creeping up on him again, like smoke it was swirling around his mind, clouding every rationale thought. He'd been unable to control his reaction each and every time he'd come face to face with man Gibbs called Craig Bower yet the name meant nothing to him, he didn't even think he recognised the face, his reaction was more instinctive, which was why it was so damn hard to control. The second man from the parking lot had seemed familiar, but Tony couldn't place him either.
To compound his fears further try as he might he certainly didn't remember being abducted when he was six. Sure it was a long time ago, but even so Tony remembered being a kid, having friends, going to school, summer camps. He remembered his Mom being home a lot, his Dad being away a lot. He remembered being spanked so hard he couldn't sit for weeks after ruining one of his Dad's ski suits at Halloween. He even remembered the night his mom died, and if he was going to block memories out surely that one would be on the top of his list of 'times to forget'?
The no memory part was scaring him the most, giving his imagination way too much room to run with. He'd worked child abduction cases, seen what bad people are capable of and the mere suggestion that anything like that could have happened to him… Tony screwed his eyes shut. Cutting off that train of thought before he went somewhere he couldn't possible return from. Feeling like his entire life, everything he thought he knew about himself, had been called into question Tony looked around the near empty office that had been his home for the past two and a half, near three years. From where he sat, his back against the railing slumped on the floor between MTAC and the bullpen, things seemed so much bigger all of a sudden, like if he wasn't careful he could easily get lost in the orange corridors and never be found.
Feeling a light tugging on his arm Tony came back to the reality of his situation with the realisation that there were so many more questions he wanted to ask.
"Come on," Gibbs pulled him up, "you're staying with me tonight."
Tony smiled gratefully, his eyes tearing with relief that he wouldn't be made to go with strangers to some safe house. He'd hoped Gibbs hadn't noticed his overreaction but the warm palm that suddenly cupped his cheek was very telling. Tony nodded his appreciation and wanted to apologise for losing it so badly over something so small, but he had a feeling Gibbs knew just how much the offer meant to him.
The boss grasped hold off his arm and without a word or eye contact Tony obediently followed him up the rest of the stairs, heading for MTAC. As they walked in silence Tony's mind wandered, he thought back on the last few times he'd stayed at Gibbs' house. He'd stayed for over a month at the beginning of the year when his apartment building's boiler blew up, and six months before that he'd stayed for an extended period after they learned one of his undercover marks from his Baltimore days was "looking" for him. On both occasions he'd had a pretty good time, though he'd bet Gibbs probably had a different opinion of their forced shared time together out of the office. However, despite their obvious lifestyle differences, Gibbs had never made him feel unwelcome, like his door was always open to him whenever he needed it.
Of course it was literally left open as well and during the past few years Tony had used that open door policy many, many times. He found Gibbs' home to be… comfortable. Clearly each of his ex-wife's had put their mark on the place in one way or the other and Gibbs being Gibbs had simply left what worked. It was that kind of homeliness that attracted Tony and made him feel at ease whenever he was there. He'd never had a home like that before. The house he'd grown up in had been large and fairly empty, more show home than family home. He didn't remember much else about it, having moved out soon after his Mother had died. His Father had been through more wives than even Gibbs and with each new Step-Mom Tony had a new address, until one day school became his permanent residence. Once he hit double figures the only times he ever spent with his father, which became fewer and far between the older he got, was in the various hotels he stayed in when travelling on business. Some kids would have loved having the kind of freedom he had at such a young age, getting to hang out with older kids, girls especially, by the pool all day in some really beautiful places. But truthfully all he had ever wanted was somewhere familiar to return to. Somewhere to visit when he was feeling sad, somewhere he could remember the good times, somewhere that held evidence of his own existence.
"I thought you were going to MTAC." Tony asked suddenly, realising they'd walked right passed the security sealed doors and over to the elevator.
"Was. It can wait." Gibbs answered him, pressing the call button while pulling out his cell.
Tony remained silent and listened in while Gibbs talked to Kate.
"Body guards?" Tony questioned, eyebrows raised once Gibbs ended the call. "Boss I don't need protecting."
The elevator doors opened and Gibbs stepped inside shaking his head without saying a word.
Once home Tony fell asleep on the couch within minutes of sitting down. Gibbs had wanted to question him, so he could give Abby and the others more to work with in tracking down Bower, and identifying the mystery man that had approached Tony in the parking lot, but it was clear he was in no state to answer questions, let alone attempt to remember what happened to him twenty five years ago. So he made him comfortable by throwing the afghan over him and wandered into the kitchen to make coffee. Agents Barratt and Pulaski were going to be outside providing security, but Gibbs had no intention of sleeping, he was going to watch DiNozzo's six tonight.
He rung Ducky shortly after Tony started snoring and explained the situation, but he'd advised Gibbs to lay off for now, that the anxiety of the situation would have drained him and answers would have to wait. Gibbs hated to wait, but agreed to let Tony get a little peace before putting him through what would turn out to be a third degree. Abby called him next, a little after eleven and told him they'd uploaded the footage from the NCIS parking lot cameras and were running facial recognition, but no hits yet. McGee had hit a virtual wall in liberating the details of the closed file, so with no new leads Gibbs had ordered them all home with instructions to return early tomorrow.
After pouring himself another coffee Gibbs checked on Tony and confirming he was definitely just asleep not unconscious made his way down into the basement. There would be no bourbon and sanding tonight, but then those weren't the only reasons he ever went down there.
Gibbs placed his mug on the bench and pulled a small key out of his pocket, unlocking the narrow draw under his old work desk. Tugging it open Gibbs fumbled through the contents until he found the file he was looking for. Staring at the name on the front Gibbs took pause, he thought he knew pretty much all there was to know about Anthony DiNozzo jr, however it appeared even his unique style of background checking didn't uncover everything.
Gibbs sat back on his stool, folder in hand and eyed the bottle of bourbon on his top shelf. He couldn't imagine how Tony was feeling about all of this, the summary of Bower's sealed file Abby had found gave nothing more than the basic facts of the case, dates, locations and outcome, but just the very thought of what may have happened to the kid in those three days he was missing made Gibbs crave a drink right the hell now.
Sitting up straight, shaking thoughts of those unknown details of the past out of his mind Gibbs concentrated on what he was missing today. Bower apparently admitted to kidnapping Tony in '78, so there was no trial, he was simply charged and sentenced. Now Bower had resurfaced, trying once again to abduct Tony and another man had made it inside the Navy Yard. The question was why?
Gibbs flicked through Tony's file and came up empty. Nothing in there, not the details on Tony's school, his many step-mothers or the casual neglect that had been inflicted on him by his family growing up suggested why Tony was taken. He guessed without the details McGee was still searching for they were pretty much at a dead end until they got Bower into interrogation.
Replacing DiNozzo's file back in the draw and locking it Gibbs grabbed his empty mug and made his way back upstairs. He an idea of what he could do to get his answers, but didn't want Tony to wake up alone, he also didn't want him to know about the files he kept. Those were for Gibbs only, and though Tony had told him odd stories here and there about his father, DiNozzo had no idea how much else he knew about his life prior to NCIS and Gibbs intended to keep it that way.
Hours later, after making yet another pot of coffee and plenty of phone calls, Gibbs returned to his sentry position. Pulling the afghan back up from where it had pooled on the floor he was about to sit down in the chair next to Tony when there was a loud knock at his front door. Gibbs leaned over to look out the window and seeing who it was that had gotten passed the agents outside he didn't bother with his gun.
"Jethro, what a pleasure," Fornell greeted him, stepping inside.
"Not always Tobias," Gibbs said casually, snatching a large thick brown envelope out of Fornell's hand before he even offered it.
"Well considering you had me out of bed at three this morning and I'm on your door step before sunrise you owe me a coffee and an explanation."
Gibbs ripped into the envelope and was about to make a scathing comment about their mutual ex-wife when he pulled out a photograph and froze. He stared at the image for nearly a minute, his heart beating wildly in his chest before snapping out of it, taking action.
"Hey, where you going?" Fornell yelled in surprise as Gibbs shoved passed him, reaching for his coat and weapon.
Photograph shoved back inside the enveloped tucked tightly under his arm Gibbs paused and turned to Fornell before stepping out onto the porch, looking him dead in the eye so he'd see just how serious his next request was.
"Stay here and look after him," Gibbs said sternly, pointing at Tony still asleep, tucked up on the couch, "do not let him out of your sight Tobias or I swear I'll kill you myself."
Leaving a bewildered Fornell behind to babysit Gibbs stormed off and over to his car. He was seething with anger as he drove towards the Navy Yard, with what he'd just seen he seriously needed to calm down before reading the rest of it. Gibbs knew he was acting irrationally, but if he was going to be forced into confronting his best agent with the contents of that brown envelope there was someone else who he needed to see it first.
Abby woke with a start, the sudden silence in her lab launching her upper body off the lab table in a flash.
"How can you sleep with that on?" Kate asked with a yawn, hovering near the stereo.
Abby slid her feet to the floor and jumped off the table before leaning down into a stretch.
"I have got to stop sleeping in my lab," she replied while hanging practically upside down, her head between her knees, pigtails trailing the floor.
"What happened to your futon?" Kate queried, placing a tray of four coffees and one Caf-Pow next to her computers.
Abby smiled wickedly, picking up the Caf-Pow and pointing behind her at McGee, lying on said futon, snuggling up with Bert under the desk.
"We should take a picture." Kate grinned evilly.
"I'd rather you didn't." McGee spoke without opening his eyes and surprised both women.
"Your right, DiNozzo wouldn't let you live it down." Kate smiled as she said it, but the reminder of Tony only brought home to all of them why it was they'd slept at the Navy Yard last night instead of their own comfortable beds.
"Have you heard anything?" Abby turned hopeful eyes on Kate.
"No," Kate acknowledged quietly, handing McGee a coffee as he shuffled his way over to them, eyes still at half-mast.
Abby, shook her head and sucked on her straw. After her call last night Abby had hung up on Gibbs first for a change and had sat back staring at her babies, willing them to give her answers.
Setting the receiver down Abby noticed McGee stood in front of her, anxiously waiting to hear what was said.
"He says go home, be in early tomorrow." Abby spoke with a heavy heart, picking up and putting on her firearms testing glasses.
McGee hovered, but Abby paid him no notice, instead picking up Bert and giving him a big bear hug.
"Are you going home?" McGee asked once the farting noise stopped.
Abby looked over her goggles at him, she put Bert down and pulled over the box of evidence Metro had expressed over and lifted out the gun.
"I'm going to process this. Pretty sure the only prints will be Bowers, but…" She ended her sentence with a shrug, feeling too low to talk.
"Well I'm staying too then," McGee announced, retaking his seat and having another crack at getting into the sealed file that contained the details Gibbs so desperately wanted.
"I cracked the file." McGee announced into the thoughtful silence like it was nothing.
"What did you find?" Kate and Abby asked him immediately.
Abby stared at McGee when he averted his eyes and didn't answer. She knew he was still a little nervous, being new and everything, but something else was stopping him from sharing.
"McGee?" She encouraged, offering a disarming smile.
"I think we should wait for Gibbs." He said quietly, looking from Abby to Kate like he suddenly realised he was the wildebeest against two lioness'.
"McGee, we need to know what's in that file, same as Gibbs." Kate pointed out.
Abby watched the indecision cross McGee's face.
"That bad?" She asked not sure she wanted to know the answer.
"I don't think Tony would appreciate me sharing…" he stammered when she reached out and held his hand.
"Timmy, Kate's right. This is a case and we need to know, the more we can tell Gibbs when he gets here the better."
Abby smiled sadly, watching McGee down almost a full coffee she waited none too patiently with Kate while he brought up the file he'd read last night for them to see. After looking at the first image, Abby wished they had waited for Gibbs.
Gibbs laid all the photographs from the envelope out over the autopsy table one by one and stared at them, taking note of every bruise and mark that bastard Bower admitted making in his signed confession. He reached out at a head shot and touched the face of the familiar little boy who's bright green eyes stared back at him with reverence.
"I take it even you knew nothing of this." Ducky came up behind him, taking a good look at the images laid across his autopsy table, voice a low whisper in the deathly silence of the cold room.
"Not a clue Duck." Gibbs answered with a heavy heart.
He couldn't tear his gaze away from the disturbing images in front of him. In the envelope Fornell had brought was the original full FBI case-file for the abduction of Anthony DiNozzo jr, born July 8th 1972. He was taken just a week before his seventh birthday. It included a signed confession by Craig Bower, who was the only party charged and sentenced for the crime.
"And Am I right in presuming you think this has something to do with what happened yesterday?" Ducky asked quietly.
"Kate's description matches Bower Duck, and DiNozzo sure seemed to have a reaction to him." Gibbs spoke lowly.
"It was a long time ago Jethro," Ducky moved to his left side, purposefully blocking his view of the photos. "I don't need to tell you that Child abductors do not often stalk their prey into adulthood, but if that is the case here what could the perpetrators possible want with him after this long?"
"I don't know Duck," Gibbs sighed heavil y, "but I'm hoping you can find out."
Gibbs pushed off the table, leaving the photos, envelope and the rest of its contents spread out over the unused metal top. Ducky spun around, nearly chasing Gibbs out of the room.
"Jethro I'm hardly qualified to get into the mind of such a sick individual. Knowing he has hurt someone close to me makes this even more difficult."
Gibbs turned back and stared back at his friend.
"Duck I need answers. I need them now." He said in earnest.
"I'll do my best." Ducky nodded to himself, as Gibbs resolutely walked out.
Before heading back to fetch DiNozzo he stopped by Abby's lab not at all surprised to see McGee and Kate there too, all wearing exactly the same clothes as yesterday. Before he could ask Abby came running at him and gave him a hug. Gibbs would never admit it, but after staring at those photos of Tony he really appreciated the Abby love at the moment.
"Gibbs, it's awful." She whispered in his ear.
Gibbs peeled her off, his confused gaze drawn to what was displayed on her big screen. Up there for all to see were the same pictures he'd left with Ducky down in autopsy.
"McGee," Gibbs barked, pointing at the images.
McGee flinched and hit the keyboard a few times, the pictures suddenly vanishing.
"Sorry Sir, erm I mean Gibbs – Boss!" McGee tripped over his own tongue.
Gibbs gave him a lopsided grin, DiNozzo almost always called him Boss, only Gibbs when he was trying to be professional. He managed to make it sound less like a formal title and more a like a name, most notably so when he was whining or asking for something. Kate exclusively called him Gibbs, like most other people in the office, but as long as it wasn't Sir or Leroy, he really didn't care what McGee chose.
"You got into the file I take it?" Gibbs asked, neglecting to mention the one he'd got from Fornell and left with Ducky.
He stepped forward taking the two remaining coffees still in the cardboard carrier from Abby's desk.
"I managed to reroute into a proxy server which redirected me to-" McGee drummed to a halt in the face of Gibbs' glare. "Yes, yes we did."
"We've read through all of it, and seen the photos," Kate leaned against Abby's lab table.
"Gibbs how could he not tell us?" Abby asked him annoyed.
"I don't think he knows Abby." Gibbs told her softy, not wanting her thinking Tony had been hiding secrets from her, from him.
He wished they had waited and told him about it before looking in the file, but understood they only had Tony's best interests at heart, even he didn't think before opening that envelope that what was inside would be so upsetting.
"Oh my god" Abby threw both hands over her mouth, "now we know and he doesn't, oh that's going to kill him Gibbs, we shouldn't have looked."
"Abby we had to, this isn't going to go away Tony was nearly kidnapped yesterday. The fact that he was approached in the Navy Yard suggests this is bigger than a simple wrong place wrong time scenario, someone wants something with him and we aren't going to let them take him a second time." Kate stated emphatically.
"Damn right." Gibbs agreed with her, feeling proud that despite their constant bickering Kate always had her partner's six.
"How doesn't he know?" McGee asked, breaking the re-energised mood of the room by sounding completely clueless.
"Repressed memory," Kate said before Gibbs said something impolite, he looked over at her, curious. "Yesterday, when he left after seeing Bower's photo I confronted him on the stairs, his reaction to the photo, the panic attack at the store and the hospital, they're classic signs."
"Okay, but still, shouldn't he remember having been kidnapped even if he doesn't know the details?" McGee continued.
"He was a little kid when it happened, McGee. Little kids find ways to cope when bad stuff happens to them." Abby answered him this time.
"That's why victims of child abuse sometimes don't press chargers until years later. A trigger in their adult life causes the repressed memories to resurface. To some it's like it happened to someone else and they're watching it like a movie in their head." Kate continued.
"Tony loves movies." Abby whispered softly.
"You're talking about dissociation?" McGee joined in.
Gibbs was getting lost and decided to end the speculation and put them back on task.
"Whatever happened back then, we still need to find out what these guys want with him now." Gibbs planted that seed in their minds, "I'm going to fetch DiNozzo. I want a lead on Bower when I get back!" He shouted before leaving the lab.
When Gibbs finally returned home and sent the agents guarding his house home it was a little after eight AM, the sun was fully up and he was already feeling the heat of the day. Walking through his front door he discovered Fornell slumped in his chair, reading one of his books while Tony continued to sleep on the sofa.
"He has no idea you were gone." Fornell said standing and stretching.
"I doubt that." Gibbs deadpanned and saw Tobias to the door.
"You'll keep me in the loop?" Fornell asked tiredly before leaving.
Gibbs knew he would've looked at the contents of the envelope before handing it to him and this was his way of offering unofficial help. Gibbs appreciated it and showed that with a succinct nod.
Shutting the outside world out, Gibbs hesitated in his hallway, listening to the quiet of the house he stepped back to his front door and taking a key from a small bowl balanced above the basement door, Gibbs did something he hadn't bothered with in years. He locked his front door.
"Boss, you're back." Tony's sleepy voice failed to surprise him as Gibbs walked through to his kitchen pouring himself yet another coffee.
"Get washed up DiNozzo," Gibbs said tiredly, the night had been eventful and while he was glad Tony had managed some rest it didn't mean he'd be in the mood to deal with his usual morning exuberance, "We're heading straight back to the office."
Gibbs waited for him run to off to the bathroom, before letting out a deep nervous breath and bracing himself against the kitchen counter top. It had been a very long time since something had affected him quite like this, as if everything he thought he knew about the world had been ripped out from under him, leaving him adrift in a sea of the unknown. Gibbs didn't know how DiNozzo was coping so well, but then he remembered Tony hadn't seen that file yet. Bile rose in his throat at the very thought of those pictures, seeing Tony at six, round faced with sad green eyes, battered and bruised within an inch of his life. He was sure no amount of rest was going to erase those images from his mind any time soon. Gibbs only hoped when they got back to the office the rest of his team had found something concrete so they could focus on catching the bastard who'd did it and Gibbs could serve some justice of his own.
"I knew something wasn't right back then, just couldn't put my finger on it." The retired detective answered Kate down the crackly phone line.
She shuffled around her desk looking for her PDA which for some reason wasn't in her handbag.
"How?" She asked, continuing the conversation with the phone cradled on her shoulder while she searched.
Gibbs chose that moment to walk into the bullpen another two coffees in hand looking fresh, while Kate was well aware she probably looked hideous, having fallen asleep at her desk after finally getting the contact information for the lead detective on Tony's abduction back in '78. He gave her a look, so she covered the mouth piece and succinctly informed him to whom she was speaking. Kate acknowledged Gibbs' nod, but when he walked to his desk, picked up his own phone and showed it to her she got that he wanted in on this too. With a swift touch of the button Kate included Gibbs in the call to the retired detective.
"I worked a lot of missing kid cases in Jersey, the Island and around those parts. Not all had the happy endings. But this guy, I tell him we've found his kid and he acts as if I've done him a favour by picking up his dry cleaning. Even at the hospital, there's no hugs, tears or anything. And the woman! Don't get me started on her. She was a wreck the whole time, drinking, then nowhere to be seen that day. The father said she'd gone to the spa, everything was too stressful. I tell ya, my kid goes missing, I ain't swanning off to no health spa to get over it after only two days."
Kate glanced at Gibbs and would swear she could see his blood actually boiling from hearing this information about Tony's parents.
"You checked into it?" She asked politely, trying not to give away she had a personal connection to the case.
"Briefly. I talked to her the next day over the phone. She said they were fine. Sounded okay." Kate heard his shrug over the phone. "I had at least ten other cases piling up, the boy was with his family, a guy was being charged, nothing more to do."
"So how did you find him?" Again asked innocently, but her goal was to discovered anything that perhaps wasn't included in the report McGee had hacked into.
The line went quiet for second before in a much more subdued voice he said, "Had an anonymous tip."
"Sorry miss, it was one of those cases. Never leaves you." The old detective audibly sighed before continuing. "The kid was a mess, dumped in an alley wrapped in a blanket. We caught Bower in a nearby apartment, he eventually confessed."
Out the corner of her eye Kate saw Gibbs writing on a piece of paper and then handed it to her.
"What about the ransom?" She read.
The line went silent.
"How'd you know about that?" The detective asked cautiously.
She didn't know herself and looked to Gibbs for help, there was nothing about a ransom in the details McGee had uncovered.
"It's not in the report." Kate agreed on a whim, but it wasn't an answer.
"They got it expunged." He said with a hint of disgust. "Hell even the official report was sealed eventually, don't know how you got that."
Kate got the impression he didn't care either, but refrained from comment.
"Who did and why go to that trouble?" She soldiered on getting a much bigger picture and not liking the implications one bit.
"The father." Kate heard the distinctive sounds of a cigarette being lit. "Claimed it was for his son's protection, that if word got out he'd paid a ransom then others might try."
"You didn't believe him," Kate assumed.
"Told you, might as well have been dropping of his dry-cleaning. Besides, what kind of 'in it for the money' kidnapper roughs up the merchandise like that? They could have just killed him outright, but they didn't. Kid was beaten, and dumped, he wasn't meant to survive. I knew it, the father knew it too, but when I tried to take the chargers further I was told by my department chief we had the guy and was to leave it be."
"You said they could've killed him."
"Another thing that didn't sit right. Bower confessed alright, but claimed he acted alone and pardon my French Miss but that's bull shit. Bower was a stupid kid back then, no way he pulled it off by himself."
Kate didn't think she could say anymore to that so thanked the detective for his time and let him go back to enjoying his Florida retirement. Hanging up she sat and stared at her phone for a while.
"I've tried that on DiNozzo, mind control doesn't work," she heard Gibbs say and almost laughed.
"How are you so calm?" Kate turned to him.
Gibbs gave her a level look as he took his seat, but no answer.
"I take it you have more information?" She asked, knowing without a doubt Gibbs was holding something back.
"Case went to the FBI?" To say she was surprised would be an understatement this was getting bigger and bigger with every lead.
"They were involved." Gibbs confirmed, but gave nothing else away.
"Where's Tony?" She asked, knowing that Gibbs had returned with DiNozzo, but she was yet to see him.
After discovering what she had last night and just now on the phone, Kate didn't know what she was going to say to him. Ten months she'd spent with Tony constantly talking, snooping through her things and generally annoying her, and now she knew one of his biggest secrets, something so epic it changed the way she thought of him, and he had no clue about any of it.
"I left him with Abby. She's showing him the file." Kate heard the note of sadness in his voice and felt her own heart breaking at the thought of how he might react.
"And you're not with him? Is that a good idea?"
When Gibbs refused to turn his head, but his hands instantly stilled over his keyboard Kate knew she'd hit a nerve. This was clearly as difficult for Gibbs as it was going to be for Tony and the fallout was going to be worse than they could ever imagine. Her heart sank a little at that knowledge, but her resolve to solve the case and keep DiNozzo safe was still strong, she hadn't just spent the night chasing pensioners. While McGee and Abby had been doing their computer things she had being putting her own special skills to test. Gibbs' new information about the ransom only added credibility to her theory.
"Gibbs we have a problem." Kate hedged as she stood and approached his desk, hoping he'd forget her last comment.
"Just one?" He answered without the courtesy of looking up.
Kate ignored the jibe and kept talking.
"The story makes no sense."
"It's not a story." Gibbs refuted immediately.
Kate realised there was no way Gibbs was going to approach this case rationally, and that in of itself was a major problem, but first things first, she needed him to understand the logistics of the case and then maybe she could help him deal with the personal aspect.
"Actually, I think it is." Kate paused, returning to her desk to grab the print out of Bower's confession to police, focusing on how he described abducting Tony in the first place. "Bower claims he took the victim from Gantry Plaza Long Island in the middle of a summer afternoon."
"Tony." Gibbs interrupted her calmly.
"What?" Kate locked eyes with him.
"You said victim." He continued in the same level tone that was really irritating to her, "The victim," he emphasised, "was Tony."
Kate sighed and changed tactics, knowing he'd want her to overlook his current weakness on display.
"Gibbs, the point is he claims to have taken him, a child he'd never met before from a crowded public area, in full view of 100 plus witnesses without anyone noticing anything out of the ordinary." Kate paused for breath, "that's just not possible. He'd have to have been a highly skilled individual to pull it off. In profiling terms this report suggests the perpetrator would easily blend into a family environment. He'd be experienced, definitely have previous convictions against children or a history of violence against those younger than him, making him at least twenty-five when the abduction occurred." She held her hand up, an order for him to keep it shut until she'd finished her profile. "He'd be able to scan a crowd and pin point the one child who could be taken without anyone noticing."
"Well we know Mr DiNozzo wasn't the most attentive of parents, what are you saying?"
Ignoring the snapped response Kate leaned forward, hands supporting her against Gibbs' desk.
"The report is wrong."
"We know that." Gibbs groused.
Yes they did, but more than a ransom drop was missing.
"I mean the entire thing is a fabrication. In abductions like the one described here the abducted child would have to be quiet, a loner, someone separated from his peers and easily led." Kate could see she had gained Gibbs' attention, taking a quick breath she went for the zinger. "Does Tony really strike you as having been the kind of child that could be taken by a stranger against his will and without a fight?"
She could see Gibbs was thinking that over, while it was possible for people to change as they grew up, Kate doubted Tony was ever an introvert.
She smiled, thought he'd never ask.
"Abby ran Bower's rap sheet. In '78 he was a petty thief, a drug addict in his late teens, not even a weapons charge. It's why he got a light sentence and early parole."
"Your point?" Gibbs said through gritted teeth.
Clearly reminding Gibbs one of the men responsible for hurting Tony all those years ago got off lightly was a bad idea, so she swiftly moved on.
"He doesn't fit the profile either." Kate stressed, slamming down a photo of Bower when he was arrested. "Despite everything else that doesn't fit, including the ransom demand, do you really think all those wealthy long Islanders' would not have noticed him trolling around their children?"
"You realise what you're suggesting?" Gibbs said as he picked up his desk phone and quickly dialled.
Kate nodded, she did. Tony's father was the one who was with him that day in the park and made the initial report to the police. When Gibbs had said he wasn't the most attentive of parents Kate knew what he was referring too. Tony had shared many childhood stories with her in the last almost a year and DiNozzo sr often came out sounding like a complete ass, even if that was never Tony's intention. He had falsified his report, of that she was sure. The only question was, why? She could understand the fear that if news of a ransom got out then others might try the same, but a ransom demand would suggest Tony had been targeted by the kidnappers, most likely by someone who was close to or knew the family. Bower had no connection to the DiNozzo's according to his own statement and the evidence processed. The detective on his case clearly believed Bower was a scapegoat for a bigger team and Kate agreed. The fact that Tony's father somehow had enough pull to not only arrange for the details of the ransom to be removed from the filed case report, but also concocted a story that painted Bower as a paedophile, working alone, suggested some serious pre-planning. Why, certainly was the question they needed to answer before they could even begin to work out what had prompted Bower to resurface after all this time.
Kate waited while Gibbs ordered McGee to the bullpen, a satisfied smile on her face to see the fight back in his eyes. While she wanted to know what other information Fornell had that the police file didn't, she knew there was also another concern.
"Has Tony said anything about the other guy in the parking lot?"
"Not yet." Gibbs shook his head, concentration focused on his computer screen.
She got from his short clipped response that he'd had other things to deal with last night and swiftly moved on, mindful that they'd have to proceed at a comfortable pace. Tony had been on the verge of yet another panic attack in the stairwell yesterday, if they pushed too hard too soon, he might just break down completely and there'd be no answers for them then.
"Abby's report says Bower's latest released from prison was in 2000, was his being armed and in that convince store a-"
"Coincidence Kate?" Gibbs grinned sadly, finishing what he was doing.
"Okay, so no. But why target Tony now?" Kate paced the bullpen, thinking it out.
"Probably for the same reason he was targeted back then." Gibbs answered passionately.
He slammed his hand, palm down, hitting his desk and stood up, all in one smooth move, grabbing his gun. Kate jumped and quickly grabbed her gear too.
"Where you going boss?" McGee asked, having walked into the bullpen too late to hear what had been said.
"To talk to the one person who can tell us what the hell happened twenty-five years ago." Gibbs shouted over his shoulder as he stormed out.
"Who?" McGee called after him.
"His father," Gibbs managed to make the word sound like a curse as it bounced back to them.
"What?" McGee squeaked.
Kate felt for him and would have filled him in had she thought Gibbs would actually wait for her.
"Keep Tony here McGee, he is not to leave the building." She said instead, running out on Gibbs' heels.
McGee stood still, looking stunned in the middle of the bull pen.
"Wait," he shouted after her, "how exactly am I supposed to do that?"
Abby's music sent a loud thumping beat around the lab. Tony didn't mind it so much. At least it prevented them from talking.
"Abigail!" Ducky shouted over the noise walking in, "Will you please turn that infernal racket off?"
Abby grabbed her remote and turned the music down, but not off like she did for Gibbs. Tony smiled at her cheekily. So far she had been great, after showing him the case file of his apparent abduction Abby had left him alone to digest the information. She'd broke him in delicately, letting him read the detached detective's notes and hospital record before showing him the photos and letting him read Bower's detailed confession, along with his father's own statement of events. It all seemed so surreal, he remembered none of it.
On the drive back to the office that morning Gibbs had driven in his normal racing driver manner without talking. Usually Tony tried to fill the silence with as much mundane conversation as possible, but this morning Gibbs had looked like he was only just holding himself together and now Tony knew why. His boss and teammates had all seen the file.
When he first caught sight of the photos they had him chucking up in Abby's trash can. It was his face, as he remembered himself all those years ago, but he did not remember having those taken. In any other circumstances Tony thought he would be embarrassed that his colleagues had seen such intimate and disturbing pictures of him, but these circumstances were far from normal. The boy in the photo, the one Bower describes inflicting pain and suffering on for no apparent reason other than his own twisted enjoyment was him, not another victim. Him. Anthony DiNozzo jr.
Tony grabbed for the trash can again and dried heaved into it.
"Oh my," Ducky crouched beside him and Tony felt a warm hand on the back of his neck. "It's okay my boy."
Tony nodded, lifting his head and pulled up his knees pushing the ruined can to one side, but not out of reach, just in case he needed it again.
"I'm sorry, Ducky." Tony whispered, swiping at his watering eyes.
"Why whatever for?" Ducky asked sincerely.
Tony looked up and saw Ducky was still bent low next to him, a terribly uncomfortable position for someone his age no doubt. Looking over his head he could see Abby on the other side of her lab through the glass, head phones now on. He smiled, Ducky and Abby were great friends, they all were, and he really hoped he wouldn't have to leave any of them over this.
"Want something Ducky or just up for a visit?" Tony asked accepting the tissue the old M.E offered him.
"Well Gibbs didn't answer his phone, so I thought I'd come see how you were doing."
"I'm doing just fine." Tony chuckled, feeling light headed and giddy all of a sudden. "Fine and dandy, couldn't be better."
"Anthony," Ducky spoke kindly, putting one hand on his knee. "This will be difficult, but you'll get through it. You are not alone, you hear me?"
"Thanks Ducky." Tony nodded, seeing the truth in that.
"May I ask what just made you so violently ill?"
"Oh, erm, I just thinking about my name." Tony laughed again, sure he was sounding rather mad.
"Bower called me junior in the store yesterday. Only my father ever called me that." Tony saw Ducky's eyes flash when he said that. "What?"
"Nothing, my boy," Tony stared at Ducky, but the M.E adverted his gaze.
"YES!" Abby's screamed, interrupting what Tony was going to ask next. "I got a match!"
"A match to what?" Tony asked, pulling himself together and walking over to her standing by her computer.
"I pulled a second print off the gun Bower used on you in the store."
"And you got a match." Ducky asserted.
"No." Abby smiled.
"Abs!" Tony snapped, very Gibbs like he realised when Abby gave him the evil eye. "Sorry."
"I got a trace on the gun, it wasn't easy, but I finally found it to be last registered to this guy."
Abby brought up a picture of a very fat old man on the screen.
"He's your match?" Tony asked.
"No. He's dead, was indicted for fraud in 1972 by the FBI, but his nephew however is very much alive and the current keeper according to the evidence logs. If you can get me a print I'll run a comparison, but his photo matches the image taken from the NCIS security cameras."
"Who is he Abs?"
"He is none other than… Henry Miller, former Long Island resident and business owner." Abby danced, bringing up the image on her screen.
Abby turned her bright smile on him, wanting recognition for a job well done, but all Tony could do was stare at the very familiar face of one Henry Miller.
"Anthony? What's wrong?" Ducky asked cautiously.
"I knew I recognised his voice." Tony whispered, "When he approached me in the parking lot I thought I knew him, but..."
"Who is he Anthony?" Ducky asked in a soothing tone.
Tony swallowed, knowing that what he said next would change everything, not just the direction of the investigation, but his whole life.
"He's a friend of my Father."