Chapter 1 – Assembling the Team
Gibbs stood outside of the Directors office and just stared at the door. He could see his secretary Cynthia out of the corner of his eye hit speed dial before hanging up after only one ring. It was the code that she and Vance had worked out for when he was in a particular kind of mood, a sort of early warning system. Of course it only worked for those times that he wasn’t in the sort of mood that caused damage to the Directors door, but it was a system none the less. He would have been offended if it wasn’t so damn amusing.
He hadn’t even been the one to notice it either, it had been DiNozzo as always who’d put the pieces together from the few times that he was present for it. Tony of course had waited to tell him about it until he was acting like a wild bear, then he’d just slipped it into the conversation like it didn’t matter one way or the other, knowing full well that it would snap him out of his ire and make him smirk.
“I guess this is why the director has Cynthia warn him when you’re about to blow into his office.”
He’d had to wait until the case was over to get all the details, and it had cost him a six pack and some good steaks, but it had been worth it. After that he’d tested the theory, watched for it, and he hadn’t been disappointed. Now when he wanted to save on the bullshit, give Leon a bit of a head start on getting all of his shit together so that he could skip all the stutter steps to the truth, he would pause to stare at the door and give Cynthia time to discretely give him his forewarning.
Deciding it had been plenty long enough already, he pushed his way past the door and slammed it behind him.
“Explain.” That was it all he had to say, they both knew what he was talking about, he only ever got this way when someone was trying to do an end run around him to his team. It didn’t happen nearly so often these days, by now nearly everyone in every agency had heard the stories and knew better, he should have known that the knuckle heads at the FBI were slower on the uptake than everyone else.
“They aren’t trying to get around you Gibbs, in fact you’re included, they want everyone. You, DiNozzo, David, McGee, Miss Sciuto, and the good Doctor Mallard.” Like that made it all better, like the fact that they weren’t trying to steal his people out from under him, but were instead co-opting the entire team him included without so much as a by-your-leave somehow changed things.
“I don’t care if they want you along for the ride Leon, no one tells my team where to go and what to work on but me.” Or someone else closely connected to his team. He had on occasion taken suggestions from his team mates or other extended members. The FBI wasn’t a part of that in any way shape or form, never was and if he had his way never would be.
“And me. But this doesn’t come from me, this comes from on high, from several mountain tops. Not only the secretary of the Navy but also the Director of the FBI. They’re getting political pressure like you wouldn’t believe. This wasn’t a request when it was made to me and it still isn’t one now that it’s been passed down to you. You and your team will be working a joint task force with the FBI to solve this cluster fuck in whatever way you can.”
“There isn’t even a navy victim Leon, we have no jurisdiction over this mess. Let them do the clean up themselves.” What the hell did they expect him to do on a civilian case? Hell, everything from the laws down to the standard procedures where different on a civi-case.
“I understand that Gibbs, and don’t think I didn’t point it out myself, but your team has a certain reputation and certain skills that are needed. There’s no way out of it, trust me I’ve looked, until further notice you and your entire team have been outsourced to the FBI. You report to the FBI field office at oh six hundred tomorrow, where you will be briefed and given your marching orders. The only concession I was able to get you was the agreement that Fornell and his people would be on the taskforce with you.”
“How kind of you Director.”
“It was agreed that at least one person there besides your team should be able to speak Gibbs fluently. Less bloodshed that way.”
As he slammed out just as angry as he’d been when he’d arrived he decided there was nothing else to be done for the moment. He and his team had been taken out of rotation thanks to this request for assistance, and now all there was left to do was to tell his team. Joy.
Anthony DiNozzo looked around the conference room and knew a new kind of dread. Everyone was here. Ziva, Little Timmy, Abbey, the good doctor, the autopsy gremlin, everyone. All that was missing was Gibbs, and since he was the one to call the meeting he had a feeling he would be here, in his own sweet time, but he would be here. Why would the boss need to talk to all of them at once? The boss hated talking at all.
When Gibbs finally showed up the look on his face did nothing to alleviate his unease, and from the looks on everyone elses faces it was doing the same to them.
“What’s this about Jethro?” They had all silently agreed that Ducky and Abbey would take point with this. They alone were exempt from the Gibbs slap, and something told him that one wrong step right now would lead to the mother of all Gibbs slaps. The kind that put your head through a wall.
“What’s going on is that from this moment until further notice we’ve all been shanghaied into the FBI. They have requested our help with a special assignment, so with orders coming down from on high we’ve been volunteered for their little taskforce.”
That was a world of not good. The only feeb that Gibbs could stand was Fornell and if this had been his baby he would have known to ask Gibbs directly first. That could only mean one thing. They were going to work for a FBI guy that wasn’t Fornell. Gibbs would probably blow a gasket within the first five minutes of the blowhard trying to tell them what to do and shoot the poor bastard. Oh joy.
“Do you know the assignment boss?” He knew that Abbey and the Duck man were supposed to be asking all the questions but that was back when they all thought someone was being shipped off again by the good Director Vance. Now that it was clear that they were all being conscripted onto the same mission he figured he would need as much advance knowledge as possible to keep this thing from turning into a total disaster.
“No, the FBI has decided that we and Fornells team should all be briefed together tomorrow at oh six hundred down at the hoover building.” Everyone already knew how Gibbs would react to that, being told to do something, then not being told exactly what that something was. The one thing Gibbs couldn’t stand, well one of the things he couldn’t stand, was power plays.
“Yeah, apparently it was decided by all parties that Fornell should be involved to keep the peace.”
Anyone who thought that would work in their favor had obviously never seen the two of them working together. Separately they were a pain in the ass to their individual bosses, together they were a force of nature.
Not to say that Gibbs wasn’t a force all his own, or Fornell for that matter, but putting the two together against what he was assuming would be a common enemy if Fornell got as much say in this as they did, that was just asking for trouble.
“We’re being put up in a FBI house for the duration of this assignment to ensure complete secrecy so pack a bag. Since we’ve been taken off rotation for this you’re all dismissed for the rest of the day to get yourselves squared away. See you at oh six hundred.”
There was nothing else to be said so they all just took off, there was a lot to do and little time to do it in, especially since none of them knew exactly how long they would be gone for.
Gibbs stood outside the FBI building with his team at his back and tried to not be so frustrated. It wasn’t working but seeing Fornell just inside the glass doors with the same look of annoyance on his face did wonders for his mood. At least he wasn’t the only one in the dark on this.
“Gibbs? Did they tell you anything about this clusterfuck we’re supposed to be helping with? I can’t get word one from anyone, you’d think it was a national secret or something.” The man looked as harassed as he felt.
“How do you know it isn’t?” It could be, after all this was a joint taskforce, who knew what other alphabets were going to be involved besides NCIS and the FBI.
“My own people might not be willing to tell me anything about what this is, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been able to have some of my own people tell me a little about what it isn’t.” His contacts hadn’t heard anything either, but that wasn’t enough proof for him, but if Fornells people hadn’t heard anything either that changed things. Between the two of them adding in Ziva and Tony’s varied contacts they had pretty much asked everyone if they’d heard anything, nothing had bounced back.
So this thing wasn’t big enough for the bigger boys to have hand in. So what the hell was it?
“Nope, all I was told was that there were no Navy casualties but my teams expertise was still needed.” Don’t think that wasn’t as frustrating as hell. Being told the bare minimum just wasn’t how he worked.
“Do you at least know who’s in charge?” The since it isn’t either of us went unsaid.
“No, all I know on that front is that they’re a ringer, brought in from somewhere further south from us.”
“Mexico?” He better not be being pulled into an international incident. Those always got so messy.
“I heard California, but that could just be office gossip.”
“Never discount scuttlebutt Fornell.”
“Depends on who’s repeating it Gibbs.” Fair enough.
They could have gone on like that all morning but some kid who looked like he should still be in school came up to them to lead them to the conference room for their debrief. Finally.
Seeing the person in charge did not fill him with any form of confidence. The woman was in her early twenties, slim and professional looking. The kind of agent that was still trying to make their name, which never worked out well for anyone involved.
“Hello, I’m aware that you already know each other, so I will simply introduce my team before we get started. Behind me to the left is Agent Misha Mikhailov and to the right there is Agent Patricia Collins and I am Agent Nadya Zabat. You have been made a part of my task force because of your skills at interrogation, no other reason. My team and I have already done all the leg work, we have our suspects in custody, we just need you to break them.”
If this woman thought he and his team would be going into an interrogation blind, she had another thing coming.
“We’ll all be flying out in an hour so I hope you all brought your things.”
“Flying out? Where?” Fornell looked pissed off, which was a feat. Pissing him off was easy, making him show it, that was something few had ever accomplished.
“The suspects are from Beacon Hills California, we’ll be working out of the Sacramento offices.” The woman looked like she was annoyed that they were asking questions. He had news for her, she wasn’t old enough or skilled enough to have her word treated like law. That was a privilege that came with age, rank, and experience. None of which she had as far as he could tell. He’d had enough.
“My team and I have our bug out bags all packed, knowing Fornell his team does as well, we’re ready to go now. By the time we land, I want every scrap of evidence you have, and I do mean everything from day one of your investigation down to the second you ran off to pick us up in a conference room waiting for us to go through. The plane ride will be spent with you and your team filling us in, fully, about this investigation of yours. If I find that you’ve held anything back, and I do mean anything, and it causes problems for my team I will burn your career to the ground. Do we understand each other?” As he spoke she became more and more furious, while his people and Fornells became more and more gleeful. He guessed he wasn’t the only one who’d had enough of her high and mighty attitude.
“There’s no reason for you to be poking around my case.” She couldn’t be serious.
“How exactly is it you think we can interrogate your suspects without information? Do you think I can just walk into that room, say pretty please, and have them tell me everything? I need information, ammunition, to use against them. I need everything you know about them, their involvement, their connections, everything so that it appears that I already have all the answers and all I need now is their side of the story. So are you cooperating or are we going back home?” He hated dealing with people freshly in charge. Make no mistake, this woman was greener than grass. No wonder she hadn’t gotten anywhere with her suspects yet.
“I can and I will. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t we working on a bit of a time constraint here. Unless you got these people on charges that could send them to Gitmo without enough to really charge them I’m guessing you’re going to have to cut them loose soon. After that it’s anyone’s guess what happens next.” More than likely, if these people did enough to get the Director of the FBI and SecNav interested, they would rabbit and everyone here knew it.
“We have them for another thirty-six hours.” Which meant they already wasted half their time getting nowhere. Wonderful.
“If they’re as tough to crack as you say, that might not be enough time, so are you going to continue to argue with me or are you going to do what needs to be done to get your suspects locked up. It’s that simple, you make the choice, then you live with the consequences whatever they may be.” He watched the fury and indecision war behind her eyes. Now he just had to hope that she made the right decision.
“Fine, everything will be ready for you when you land. I’ll fill you in on the flight. We have to leave now if we’re going to make it.”
“Fine with me.” Standing he lead his team out of the building. He was right at the beginning this would be a joy of an assignment. He could already tell.