A very grateful "Thank you" goes out to my Ace BETA "Gottahavemyncis"
Twenty heart-stopping, adrenaline- pumping minutes later, three federal agent-filled cars screech to a halt outside the gas station in question, all of them pouring from the cars just before the vehicles came to a complete stop.
Without sparing even so much as a glance for Tony and Ziva, who already know what to do, Fornell and Gibbs head straight for the Metro cop that looks like he's in charge of the situation. "Sergeant Wilson?"
"Yeah, you Agents Fornell and Gibbs?" He asks expectantly.
The two agents flash their badges as Gibbs keeps things moving along without any wasted time. "What else can you tell us? What happened?"
"Store clerk was shot up pretty bad, lived just long enough to tell the local deputy that your guy Martin came in with two women. Said the gunman holdin' him up took a hostage after he left the store– some local hero who had just gotten out of a cab out fronttried to stop him while he was leaving and ended up paying for it with his life."
At this point of his monologue, the cop pauses, presumably to take a breath though he now changes his focus, looking Gibbs straight on as he seriously speaks his next words. "I'm guessing that hero is your missing Agent."
With a short understanding nod, Gibbs keeps the man moving along with his details. "What else can you tell us?"
"Store clerk mentioned the menacing looking guy that came in just minutes before the shooting, said he had two women with him and the whole scene just creeped him out. Thought they were in it together, a team."
"He say why he thought that?"
"Couldn't. He went from stable condition into cardiac arrest without warning and before he could tell us anything else. They couldn't get his heart started again."
Both Senior Agents are brought up short at the reminder of the loss of life in this situation. Finally, after a respectfully silent moment, Gibbs pushes forward. "Anything else you can tell us? Right now, I've got a man and his family missing and we need to find them ASAP before they join your victim in the morgue."
"Video cameras weren't operational so my guys have been busy trying to track down the few scared witnesses who were in the store at the time. They didn't stick around to become the next target. We did find a second witness who says he saw the gunman rushing out of the store, waving his gun erratically. Says he got scared the gunman would use him as his next target and fled the scene. He never looked back, even when he heard the shots."
"So this gunman went in intending on robbing the place, but left with nothing?"
"That's about the size of it. Guess he got spooked, started emptying his gun out of fear. Store clerk came out to try and run interference for your man. Told us he knew your guy was in trouble, wanted to help.
"Where's this witness now?" Gibbs asks.
The cooperative Sergeant points toward the Metro PD car parked at the front of the store. "Staying warm and staying put in my car. Didn't want him leavin' the scene again. Knew you'd wanna talk to him."
"Thanks."Gibbs just barely manages to offer.
"Sure thing, Agent Gibbs. Sure hope you find your man."
"So do I." Gibbs replies as he turned to go talk to the witnesses. "DiNozzo!" He hollers. He needs his Senior Field Agent as up to speed on this as he is. They'd likely be working different angles in the search for Tim. If they both take this witness's statement, they might come away with more than just one perspective and set of ideas, and they need every advantage they can get to find the McGee family.
"Hey." The scraggly looking teenager mumbles as Gibbs opens the car door and motions for him to get out. "You wanna know about the guy that got wasted as soon as he got out of his cab, huh?"
A painful gasp for air assaults his lungs as his body slowly creeps towards consciousness. With it comes a world of agony and a struggle for the very thing that is essential for living, air. Right now, the act of breathing and drawing in enough oxygen is very nearly beyond the reach of his battered and tormented body. Laying here, wherever here is, he barely has time to realize that he's still alive before blackness swoops in and steals him away once more.
Gibbs and Fornell sent the almost uncaring witness, with an accompanying agent, back to the Navy Yard for the composite sketch that the Agency Sketch Artist would put together for Abby to run facial recognition. The MCRT Team Leader feels a wave of aggravation that Abby is already too snowed under with the growing pile of crime scene evidence to do the sketch this time, but he needs her skills focused right where they already are at the moment, on the evidence.
They glance around at the carnage. Blood is everywhere. Gibbs is acutely aware of his agents bagging, tagging and photographing the scene. Gibbs looks back at the LEO who was most helpful earlier but now stands as quiet as a church mouse while the grunts secure the scene both inside the store and out.
"Where's this cab driver?"
"No one knows." Comes the unexpectedly vague answer from the formerly helpful LEO. "No one saw him leave, at least not that anyone remembers. Guess he just faded into the chaos and disappeared."
"Didn't want to be the next victim." Fornell surmises.
"So we got nothin'!" Gibbs bites out angrily as he answers his ringing phone. "Yeah, Gibbs!"
"Gibbs! Gibbs! Gibbs! We definitely have more than nothing!" Abby's excited chatter fills the phone line.
"Whattaya got, Abbs?"
"Okay, jeez. The taxi that Timmy's mom and sister were in has been located and it is on its way here to me as we speak. The driver's here already. He's not talkin' though."
"We'll get him to talk." Gibbs vows. "I'm on my way."
"Uhm. Gibbs. I can guarantee even you won't be able to get him to talk. I wouldn't waste my time coming back here to interrogate him." Abby insists.
"Why the hell not, Abby?"
"Because, Jethro. The poor man is dead!" Ducky's impatient voice booms out over the phone line.
"Talk to me, Duck."
"Time of death approximately four and a half hours ago. Preliminary cause of death, gunshot wound to the temple."
"Martin." Gibbs bites out.
"As you, yourself like to say, Jethro It's a safe bet,"Ducky agrees sadly. "Director Shepherd is speaking with the poor man's family now."
"Thanks, Duck. Abby, keep me posted." Gibbs replies before snapping his phone shut and turning back to his team and calling out to them. "Anything?"
"Nothin'!" Tony answers in complete frustration "Absolutely nothing!"
"We have more than nothing, Gibbs." Ziva corrects as she walks over to him and hands him the brass she's found and bagged.
"Where'd you find it?" Gibbs asks.
Ziva turns and points to the spot further up the road, clearly a turnout for traffic, with its wide concrete surface large enough for a tractor trailer to pull into. "Right next to thefresh dark tire tracks left by a car, obviously leaving in enough of a hurry to leave behind all this trace evidence of their presence."
"Bastard stopped, got out and took a shot at what? He already had McGee!" Tony angrily surmises.
"Maybe." Gibbs agrees. "Right now, we've got way too many questions. I want some answers and I want 'em now!"
"Gibbs. We all want to find McGee." Ziva reminds him calmly. "We are doing all that we can."
"No. We're not!" The boss argues back heatedly.
"What else can we do, Boss? We've got BOLO's out. We're out here working the last known place he was…" Tony defends their efforts.
"Find me that bastard Martin!" Gibbs barks as he turns and walks back to the car, throwing his hat down on the hood in complete frustration.
Almost in slow motion, the things in her vision return in stages as Megan McGee's heart stops racing and she is finally able to form a rational thought. . Unfortunately, at almost the same time Martin deems it appropriate to block her view of her daughter by reaching down and hauling her roughly to her feet, his large hand gripping her upper arm so tight, it hurts..
Gasping in pain, the devastated mother holds her silence as best she can while the monster holding her hostage marches her back into the kitchen. Being denied the chance to check on her daughter, to determine whether she's still breathing and in need of help, further escalates her mental anguish, hampering her ability to think of her next move.
"Don't make me hurt you, sweetheart." Martin growls in her ear. "You wanna end up like your baby girl? Like your little boy, too? Oh, THAT'S right! He was OUR little boy, WASN'T HE?" The evil promise of her own death at the hands of this monster is unmistakable in his tone, along with the mockery of him getting her pregnant with Tim.
Still, she holds her silence. His words are a sharp reminder that he has already taken everything that mattered to her. She has nothing left for him to take except her soul, her life. And none of that is his for the taking, any more than her children's lives had been.
He isn't getting anything more from her, of that she'll make damned sure. Somehow, she will learn to live with the fact that this bastard's quest has cost her children their lives. If she lets him have his way with her again, their deaths will have be in vain. That is not acceptable.
Letting go of her, Martin stares evilly into her eyes as he barks in short angry words:"Fix. My. Dinner. Now!
Metro PD's Sergeant Wilson sighs heavily as he folds his cell phone shut, walking toward the Federal Agents working on the case he's been unlucky enough to have happen in his jurisdiction. "Your agent's cell phone has just been located."
"What? Where?" Tobias Fornell asks almost in reflex, even though this new information isn't about one of his men.
"State park about twenty minutes from here." Wilson replies as he points to the one detective on the scene that isn't scouring for evidence, but rather, standing closest to them, writing on a clipboard. "Detective Miller?"
"Sir!" The prepared man snaps out as he steps up and confirms the information.
Gibbs feels his gut clench at the news that his missing and now presumed dead agent's cell phone has just been found in the same park as the blood trail they 'd followed. The blood that turned out to be Tim's. What the hell had they missed? " Where exactly was it found?" He asks angrily.
"Not somewhere you'd be if you weren't scouring the grounds for a missing person like my men are right now, about a mile off the beaten path." Detective Miller answers without batting an eye.
"Tell them not to touch anything!" Gibbs orders as he turns to get Tony's attention, yelling to his Senior Field Agent, "DiNozzo!"
Tony sprints towards the boss, closing the distance very quickly. "Yeah, Boss?"
"Go get us McGee's phone."
"His pho… wait, we have his phone?"
"My people found it. Benicia State Park" Wilson replies.
The blood drains from Tony's face as it registers the fact that they were just there earlier in the day – with the blood trail that had Tim's blood...and they'd somehow missed this? "Boss? That's ri…"
"Yeah. DiNozzo. I know. Go on, get over there. Tell Ziva to take what you collected here back to Abby." Gibbs orders firmly to get his Senior Field Agent moving past this particular punch to the gut.
"Jenkins!" Fornell breaks his own silence to call out to his own men. "You and half these guys here get over to Benicia State Park. Agent DiNozzo's lead on site!"
"Don't have enough cars to split up, Boss." Tony reminds the Team Leader.
"Let Fornell's team drive." Gibbs orders wearily as he turns to get into his own agency vehicle,
"On it, Boss!" Tony replies seriously as he triple-times his way over to Ziva to inform her of the boss's order, before running over to the FBI Sedan that is filling up with agents.
Watching both his agents head out to their designated tasks, the Team Leader turns to get into his own agency car, only to be stopped by the words of the Officer with all the information.
Gibbs turns and glares at the man impatiently.
"Your agent's been found, too."
"Better be a damned good reason you're just now telling me this." Gibbs growls angrily.
"Tryin' to spare your team some grief, Agent Gibbs." The other man replies evenly. "There's a body at the county morgue that matches your agent's description almost completely. No identification on him. I've already told them to expect you shortly."
Fornell, getting in the passenger seat at the same time, barely has enough time to close the door before the car shoots out of the parking lot like a bullet.
Not even a mile down the road, in the midst of the uncomfortable silence, the NCIS agent drags his phone out of his pocket, opens it and hits the speed dial for his Forensic Scientist. Gibbs waits impatiently for her to answer the call. Thankfully, it is not a long wait.
"Gibbs! Are you calling with good news?"
"You got anything for me yet, Abbs?"
"You cannot rush science, Gibbs! How many times do we have to have this conversation? I know we want all the answers on this yesterday, but that does not mean I can make that happen!"
"Call me when you've got somethin'" Gibbs answers her rant with his typical short response that he cuts off by ending the call.
"You didn't tell her about the morgue." Fornell observes quietly.
"No reason until we verify it." The Team Leader replies in the same tone.
The only response the FBI agent gets is the car accelerating under the pressure of the tension emanating from the driver's seat.
Tony's mind is a mess. His thoughts can't settle on any single part of all the completely screwed up pieces of this mess. Probie's dead. And the worst of it is that the damn fine kid had suffered through all this… all this personal pain and trauma alone, without any support from his team. Hell, the guy probably felt more alone in his final moments than he'd ever felt before. Why the hell wasn't I a better friend to him? His body's out here somewhere thanks to that murderous bastard and I'm being sent to retrieve his wallet? Why the hell was his wallet the only thing they found?
"DiNozzo." Tony answers his cell phone that has just pulled him from his pain filled thoughts.
"Agent DiNozzo, I understand they found your friend at the morgue. The latest 'John Doe' brought in without any identification on him?"
"Who the hell is this?" Tony barks angrily, his mind not willing to accept what he's hearing.
"Miller? As in the Metro Detective from the crime scene at the gas station we just left from?" Tony asks with irritation.
"Yes, Sir. Just thought you'd like to know, is all."
"Thanks. Appreciate it" The Senior Field Agent offers quietly as he attemps to find his manners despite the really bad news he's being handed.
"I'm sorry for your loss. It's always bad when we lose one of the good guys."
"Yeah, well, he was definitely one of the good guys." Tony replies sadly as he snaps his phone shut and lays his head back against the back of the seat. Letting out a deep sigh, he opens his phone back up and hits the speed dial for the Team Leader.
"Boss. Is it true? He's at the morgue? A John Doe?"
"***Sigh*** Not there yet, Tony. I'll let you know."
"Boss, that can't be right! It has to be a mis…"
"DiNozzo." Gibbs cuts in quietly. "Focus. Just get the scene out there processed. Make sure you don't miss anything and get his phone back to Abby. Keep me updated."
"On it, Boss." Tony replies tiredly as he snaps his phone shut once more and turns to look out the window, no one else in the car saying a word.
"Good thing you know how to cook." Lucas Martin remarks in between shoveling French fries into his mouth and tearing into his hamburger as if he hadn't eaten in days. "I was startin' to think you don't wanna to enjoy your time with me. You do realize that if you expect to have a good time with me, then a little cooperation is in order. "
Megan is holding on with every ounce of inner strength she has, to her emotions, to her silence, to her sanity. Staring at the plate of food in front of her, it's all she can do not to lose the sparse contents of her stomach,at the thought of sitting here as if it were nothing out of the ordinary to do so, while her daughter lies in God knows what condition, out of sight in the next room.
In a moment of overwhelming fury and grief, she stands back up. "I need a glass of water."
Glaring at her, his mouth too full of food to speak, Martin's fury radiates from him, filling the air between them with danger.
Hoping to distill his rage, she quickly adds. "You need one too. I'll get it for you."
She's quick to grab a tumbler from the cupboard and turn on the faucet, filling the cup after rinsing it once. Turning back to the table, she sets his water down, watching as he quickly reaches for the drink, his eyes beginning to water.
Hiding her smirk at the reminder of how little pepper she left in the shaker as she cooked his meal, Megan turns back to the faucet, her cup in hand. As her eyes fall on the knife block, her survival instincts throw her a lifejacket. Arm yourself!
"BITCH!" Martin yells as he jerks to his feet, the chair falling to the floor. That startles him enough that he glances at it, providing Megan the perfect opportunity to use her left hand to listen to her instincts before casually turning around, and being yanked up against her captive's body, by the hair on her head. His vice-like hold sends spikes of agony through her body as he spews his angry words, "I told you no funny business! If your baby bird wasn't already dead, she would be now!"
Deliberately taking what can only be a calming breath, Martin releases her and steps back, but just barely; his breath smelling of the lunch he's just consumed makes her sick to her stomach. His silence, while eerie, speaks to his expectation that she'll try to excuse her behavior.
She doesn't disappoint him. "I didn't do it on purpose." She pleads quietly. All her hopes are pinned on him calming down, at least for now. She needs him to leave her along for a minute so she can think her way out of this mess.
"You think I'm stupid enough to believe that? You just better count yourself lucky that I need you alive and well, lady!" he growls in her ear. " Otherwise, that breath you took just now would be your last!"
Megan swallows hard. She screwed up again, underestimated him just enough to keep things from happening in her favor. It's not a mistake she's likely to make again. Now she knows she has no foreseeable way out of this mess. At least he's not doing anything worse to her – in this moment.
"I think you need another lesson in how to cooperate." He announces almost calmly as he unexpectedly sends her sprawling across the room, to land in a heap, her head banging harshly against the wall, the world as she knows it tumbling down into a black void she can't escape.
Angrily punching keyboard keys, Abby jerks back and begins impatiently pacing as she waits for Gibbs to pick up his phone on his end; her end broadcasted over the speakerphone while she vents her excited energy. "Come on, Gibbs! Pick up! Pick up! Pick u…"
"Yeah, Abbs, Whattaya got?"
"Gibbs! Where have YOU been? You're late! You're always right on time when I find something and this time, when Timmy's depending on us the most, you're late!" She fired off her diatribe with the speed of too many Caf-Pows egging her on.
"HEY! " Gibbs barks over the phone.
"Sorry. " She huffs out. "But, I've got MAJOR news! And it's been a while since you checked in and… "
Gibbs'quiet, sad sigh wasn't quiet enough to escape his Forensic Scientist's keen hearing, even over the phone. "Abby, I called you ten minutes ago."
"What aren't you telling me, Gibbs?" She demands. "I can hear it in your tone. You found out something! Spill it!"
"Abby, we just got a confirmation that McGee is d…."
The extra gentle tone in his voice struck her in the heart. Immediately, her mind found 'denial' mode. "No, Gibbs. No! Do NOT tell me Timmy's dead! I will NOT believe you!
"Abby, we're ."
"I have GOOD news, Gibbs, remember me just saying that?"
"Okay. Give it to me."
"I know where they are!" She crows excitedly. "I found them!"
"Send the address to Fornell's cell. Ziva's too."
"Gibbs! This is GREAT news! I've found Timmy and his mom and sister!" She can't help but celebrate by repeating her news loudly.
"No. Abby. You didn't. You may have found his sister and his mother. But, McGee's…"
"Abby, calm down and focus! Now send the address to Ziva and Fornell's phone."
"He's NOT dead, Gibbs!"
"Focus is on finding his mother and sister now, Abby."
"Why are you giving up on him? He's NOT dead! I'd know it if he was dead. I'd feel it. And I don't!"
"Don't hold on to that to tight, Abbs. You're just makin' it harder…"
Abruptly the call is disconnected on Gibbs' end and that is all it takes to send her anger over the top as she quickly sends the address to the phones and begins stomping around her lab to burn through her excess energy and nearly overflowing emotions without hurting one of her babies. How dare Gibbs give up on Timmy like this! Sure, he's right in that they need to focus on Mrs. McGee and Sarah, but that doesn't mean they should believe her friend is dead!
"Jethro?" Fornell asks as the Team Leader tosses his phone angrily up on the dash.
"Check your phone. Give me the address, then get your Task Force headed over there," Gibbs replies in all seriousness. He gives no hint of what exactly it is he's thinking or what the conversation with Abby has done to him on top of the loss of his agent. Tim has died, because of the mistakes and misjudgments of those Tim trusted the most. It leaves such a burning white-hot anger in his soul that the former Marine is finding it hard to breathe or to think straight.
"Hell, this isn'tforty minutes from here!" Tobias exclaims as he reads off the address. "Out in the middle of nowhere, but it's where we caught him the first time! Why would he go back there?"
"You're tellin' me that you knew about this place yet you didn't think to have your people already there waitin' for him to show up, Tobias?" Gibbs demands angrily, his more personal emotions safely locked away once more - now that he had something on which to focus his anger.
Knowing better than to try to explain away that screw-up, Fornell focuses his attention on calling his people with the address of the house Abby gave them.
When silence greets his question, Gibbs lets the surge of anger loose, in the form of his foot pushing the gas pedal to the floor while his arms tighten into steel bands holding the steering wheel.