Word Count: 6393/37,000+
Warnings: It's slash, but you won't see that here
Disclaimer: They're not mine, pretty as I find them. Go to the producers if you want to talk money.
Summary: AU but following canon events: A series of thefts around Virginia and Maryland may prove to be something far more deadly and dangerous.
Gibbs stepped off the elevator at 0630 hours, a large cup of black coffee in his left hand. Nerves and anger had ensured he only got six hours of sleep last night, but it was enough to recharge him for the day ahead as long as he kept well caffeinated.
One thing he did not expect to find when he stepped into his team's space in the bull pen was Tony sitting at his desk, clearly wearing the same clothes as the night before.
“I thought I told you to go home and get some sleep last night,” Gibbs barked. Stopping right in front of Tony's desk, he couldn't miss either the bleary eyes or the hint of triumph on Tony's face.
“You told me to get some sleep. Going home was not part of the agreement,” Tony replied teasingly.
“You knew what I meant,” Gibbs snapped. “And you don't look like you got any sleep either.”
“Two hours on Abby's futon,” Tony countered. “Check the security cameras.”
“Don't tempt me,” Gibbs growled.
“But I figured it out,” Tony said gleefully, refusing to let Gibbs' anger drag him down. “He steals pictures from every home. Oh, there might be some jewelry missing, a few pricey odds and ends, but there's always at least one picture missing. And it's not for the frame.” Tony handed Gibbs a report containing the list of items stolen from every victim, including the former military families they'd just learned about yesterday. Abby had gotten that much from the police servers. They were compared and correlated to show exactly what Tony was saying.
“Plain wood frame, cheap metal … these are nothing special,” Gibbs agreed, skimming the list.
“Mementos,” Tony said smugly.
Gibbs paused and looked over the list again. “Wait … thieves don't often take mementos.”
“We haven't found a single clue that he's selling what he steals,” Tony pointed out. “What if it's not the theft that's the point? What if the murders are the point?”
Gibbs considered that. “The only connection between these families is the military.”
“They don't attend the same schools, churches, groups. Most of them live on base at Quantico or in Dumfries and Triangle right outside base, but not all, and not all in the same part of town. There's no reason to go driving all over Virginia for a few small items here and there when you could get the same from a single neighborhood. For that matter, any single take could be better than all these put together if the guy bothered to go for the whole jewelry box or a few electronics. As thefts, these don't make sense.”
“So what is the connection?” Gibbs muttered. “There are more military families in the area than these few, so why is he picking them?”
“Still working on that part, boss,” Tony admitted before letting out a huge yawn. “I was hoping I could turn something up in the interviews.”
“You need more sleep first,” Gibbs said, his tone making it clear that was an order.
“I'm fine, boss,” Tony said halfheartedly. The words were countered even more when he yawned again.
“Two hours in the last forty-eight? And how many the night before? Even when the rest of us are on down time, you're still running full tilt. You're working too hard, adding in this stuff for the Director,” Gibbs said softly so as not to be overheard. “Go home and sleep. I don't want to see you back before three.”
“My interviews,” Tony protested.
“Ten hundred I have a phone call with Captain Willkins’ parents in Arizona. I originally interviewed them when they were out for the funerals last June. Thirteen hundred I'm meeting with Staff Sergeant Bizarro's sister, who lives down the street from his old place. Eighteen hundred with Mr. FitzWilliam's sister. She's got an apartment in DC,” Tony replied.
“McGee can handle the Willkins call. He helped back in June. I'll take the thirteen hundred,” Gibbs said. “Email me the details. You'll be back in time for the FitzWilliam interview.”
“You sure, boss?” Tony asked hesitantly even as his hand reached for his bag. The other hand was tapping something into his computer. Gibbs hoped that was the email he had requested.
“Go home, sleep, eat, and shower,” Gibbs ordered. “Don't come back before sixteen hundred.”
“Sent McGee and Ziva copies of the report. Hey, you said fifteen hundred earlier,” Tony protested even as he turned off his computer, stood, and slung his bag on his shoulder.
“Get going or I'll take all of the interviews and you can come back tomorrow,” Gibbs snapped.
“Yes, boss. Right away, boss,” Tony said, almost laughing as he walked towards the elevator. “Don't forget to ask about the pictures,” he called over his shoulder.
Ziva was puzzled to see Tony leaving the elevator as she arrived.
“Where are you going?” she asked, noticing that he was wearing the same clothes as yesterday.
“Home,” Tony said gruffly, pushing quickly past her.
She grabbed his arm before he could get away. “What's wrong with you?” she asked worriedly.
“Nothing. Gibbs’ orders,” he replied, shaking off her hand and striding away.
Ziva could only turn and watch him go until he was out of sight in the parking lot. Going upstairs she wondered what had just happened. Tony never got sent home early. Usually he stayed longer than anyone else, like yesterday afternoon. Could this have something to do with all his doctor’s appointments? She had pointed them out to Gibbs recently, for all that he had done with the information. Or rather, hadn't done.
Arriving in the bullpen, she found Gibbs at his desk. Looking at him carefully she saw no sign of worry on his face, no hint as to what drove him to send Tony home. Or at least she could see nothing beyond the stoic mask and the burning anger in his eyes, both of which had been present the night before.
“Good morning,” she said politely as she settled at her desk.
“Morning,” Gibbs grunted.
“Why did you send Tony home?” she asked politely.
“Check your email.”
Ziva didn't know what to make of that, but did check her email. There was an email from Tony containing a long report comparing the items stolen from each home as well as the people who had died, looking for a correlation.
“When did he write this?” Ziva asked in surprise at the detailed analysis.
Gibbs didn't answer.
At the end of the report, Ziva found a summary of Gregory Peck's statement as given to Special Agents Gibbs and DiNozzo last night. Before she could ask about that, Tim arrived.
“McGee, get a sketch artist over to Potomac Hospital by this afternoon,” Gibbs ordered before the younger agent had a chance to sit down.
“Mr. Peck woke up?” Tim asked excitedly,
Ziva watched Gibbs nod stiffly. “Tony's summary of the interview is in your email,” Ziva added.
“Where is Tony?” Tim asked, glancing over at the senior agent's desk.
“Home,” Gibbs said shortly. Tim seemed to give that only a moment's thought before shrugging as though he didn't care, which drove Ziva nuts. What was going on with Tony and was she the only one who didn't know?
“You're taking his phone interview with Mr. and Mrs. Wilkins at ten. Review the interview notes from last June,” Gibbs added.
“Yes, boss,” Tim said, quickly booting up his computer.
Orders given, Gibbs seemed content to focus on his desk for the next half hour. Ziva watched him read through several folders, but she couldn't identify their contents. She was relieved when his coffee cup hit the trashcan and Gibbs stalked for the elevator.
The instant the doors closed behind him, she was across the bull pen and leaning over Tim's desk. “What is going on?” she hissed.
“What?” Tim asked distractedly, his eyes still focused on his computer screen.
“What is going on?” Ziva snapped. “Gibbs obsessing over this cold case, then his friend gets involved and everyone seems to know something about him but me. Now Gibbs sends Tony home for the day? This is not normal.”
Tim turned to look at her, but had to blink several times before his eyes properly focused. “Gibbs tends to get obsessed over cases with kids involved,” he said as though it were obvious. “Happens all the time. And this one, with so many murders going unsolved, that tends to get his goat too.”
“And the Pecks?” Ziva asked. Tim had a point so far, but she was still missing something.
“Umm, I've only heard as much as you have,” Tim insisted. “Though Mrs. Peck was pleased to hear Gibbs was leading up this case.”
“What is so special about this family?” Ziva demanded.
“Gibbs is very protective of his old friends,” Tim said, shrugging.
At face value, that seemed like a plausible explanation, but Ziva detected an uneasy twitch in Tim's forehead that implied he was hiding something. She would find out what. “And Tony?”
“He was clearly here when Gibbs got the call that Gregory Peck was awake, and from the look of this,” Time gestured at the report open on his screen, “he was here all night. Gibbs probably just sent him home to get some sleep.”
Ziva shook her head. “I do not believe that. Gibbs never sends us home for sleep when the case is hot.”
“He sent us home yesterday at four,” Tim pointed out.
“Tony could have done that work during the day,” Ziva instead. “It is his fault if he wanted to stay up all night.”
Tim shrugged. “I don't know, but it's between them and if Gibbs doesn't want to talk about it ...”
“You know something,” Ziva said, pointed her finger between his eyes. “You know something and I will find out what it is.”
“If you say so,” Tim replied blandly, turning back to his computer screen. Unfortunately for him, his poker face needed more work and it was clear he was worried about something. About her finding out what he was hiding?
Was she not a part of this team? What were they hiding from her?
She returned to her desk to continue making calls and interview appointments, but she would be watching for a chance to corner Gibbs in private. He would talk to her yet.
Tim was relieved when he was called down to the evidence locker to check in the files and evidence sent up by the police forces of the four Virginia cities with recognized similar cases. He was rather looking forward to doing a proper comparison, hoping and praying there was some clue the police had found that would lead them to the killer. Goodness knew his interview call this morning hadn't netted him anything useful.
Of course, the real reason he was relieved right now was it got him away from Gibbs' snapping and Ziva's boring eyes. She knew he was hiding something about the Pecks, not that he had any evidence that one or all of them were shifters, and he knew he was going to break if left alone with her too long. He needed to have a word with Gibbs, soon. Though Tony would be better. No, Tony would feel safer. Going anywhere near Gibbs right now was a dangerous proposition, and it always seemed easier when Tony was around to play buffer. But someone had to tell Gibbs that Ziva was prying. Especially since she'd been making calls in Hebrew, probably to her contacts. Who knew what she might dig up.
But, that wasn't his priority right now. Looking through those boxes was his priority now, and something didn't look quite right.
“Are you sure this is everything?” Tim asked Tammy, the woman in charge of the evidence locker this shift.
“What's wrong?” Tammy countered.
“Dumfries has three cases, but just one box, while Aquia has one case and three boxes,” Tim answered, shifting around the pile of file boxes.
“That does seem odd,” Tammy agreed. She checked over the paperwork she had accepted when the files came in. “One box is all that the Dumfries police department shipped.”
“Odd,” Tim muttered. “I'm going to take the evidence up to Abby … you're sure this is everything?”
“That's the lot,” Tammy insisted. “All checked in. Just sign here.”
“Thanks, Tammy,” Tim said, pushing the cart of boxes into the elevator.
Abby was bopping around the lab, looking far too busy to be working on Gibbs' case. “Hey, Abby,” Tim bellowed over the music. “Got the evidence from Virginia.”
“Sweet,” Abby cried excitedly, turning the music down a notch or two as she finished setting up a fingerprint search.
“Whose case is this?” Tim asked, putting the box from Dumfries on her workbench first. He wanted a look at those reports.
“Oh, just starting to look into a few things for Bollman. He caught a possible murder in Norfolk last night.” Abby was quick to sign the log that Tim presented, allowing him to finally open that box. “What do we have here?”
“A quandary,” Tim replied. “Dumfries has three times the cases and one third the data.” Inside the box was a selection of fingerprints, all identified as belonging to the homeowner or friends thereof, some bullets, and a few thin files.
“There's nothing in here,” Abby commented worriedly, piling the fingerprints to one side.
“Sure looks that way,” Tim said, his brow furrowing in confusion as he flipped through the files. There were a few initial reports for the cases where NCIS had been called in. However, the three cases that had remained in local hands had barely more in their files. There were a few reports on the fingerprints and summaries of the autopsy reports, but no final reports signed by the coroner or the forensic staff. There were implications that there had been interviews with friends and family, but no notes from those interviews had been added to the official files.
“Gibbs isn't going to like this,” Abby said nervously as she read over his shoulder.
“All these cases are headed by Detective Coltrain,” Tim noted. “Maybe he kept his notes separate from the case files.”
Abby shook her head disapprovingly. “Sloppy.”
“I'll call him directly as soon as we check the rest of these are in better shape,” Tim said, setting the Dumfries files aside and grabbing a box from Aquia.
“Ziva, you're with me,” Gibbs ordered abruptly, tossing his first coffee cup of the afternoon into the trash and grabbing a file of notes from his desk.
While Ziva was frantically trying to figure out who they were going to interview and where the right notes were, Gibbs stepped over to Tim's desk.
“You're in charge while we're gone,” he ordered. “Unless it affects the interview questions, anything you or Abby come up with can wait until we get back. Call if there's another case.”
“Yes, boss,” Tim replied, obviously filing the orders away properly and turning back to the files he'd been sorting through all morning.
“And if DiNozzo arrives before four, tell him he's in deep but put him to work,” Gibbs added. “Unless he still looks like death warmed over, in which case send him home.”
“Boss?” Tim said quietly, his head tilted slightly to bare his neck. In that one word he managed to pack his loyalty to Gibbs orders and yet express his disbelief that Tony would go home if Tim ordered him to.
“I'm leaving you in charge,” Gibbs growled softly, which made Tim nod. Gibbs was pleased at the lack of obvious nerves in the face of his growl, despite the edgy set of the younger agent's shoulders all morning. Tim was shaping up well, though he still had a bit to go.
Deciding he had given Ziva enough time to scramble, he turned and stalked towards the elevator. She barely made it between the doors before they closed, but she did make it.
“You're hiding something from me,” Ziva said before she'd stopped moving from her run to catch him.
Gibbs gave her a firm look. “If you need to know, I'll tell you,” he informed her gruffly.
“Whatever-it-is is effecting everyone's behavior on this case, including yours,” Ziva said pointedly.
“But not the case,” Gibbs countered. Her digging could explain those phone calls in Hebrew this morning and the nervous look Tim had been sporting since Gibbs went for coffee the first time. “And stop interrogating McGee. Should the need arise, I will tell you.”
He refused to respond to any further questions or queries until she settled into silence for the drive to Triangle. It was a relief when she finally stopped trying. To be honest, he wasn't sure how to tell her, or what. This case was getting far too personally complicated.
Ziva followed Gibbs up the steps of Lucinda Montgomery's house at five minutes before two in the afternoon. They would have been even earlier, what with Gibbs doing the driving, but they had gone a little out of their way and stopped for coffee near the Quantico main entrance. Based on the reaction of the man behind the register, the employees of that particular shop had become far too familiar with Gibbs over the last few months.
Reviewing the case notes Ziva had brought with her, she noted that Lucinda was the younger sister of retried Staff Sergeant James Bizarro, killed in May of last year along with his wife, Eglantine.
Sometimes these English names confused her immensely.
“Mrs. Montgomery?” Gibbs began politely when an older woman opened the door at his knock. “I'm Special Agent Jethro Gibbs of NCIS. This is Officer Ziva David. You spoke with my second, Special Agent Tony DiNozzo, yesterday.”
There was a look in her eyes that went from tense and worried to welcoming at those words. Ziva wondered at the cause. Usually people did not relax when faced with federal agents, even when they were innocent of any wrongdoing.
“Come in,” Lucinda said, waving them in. “Can I get you anything to drink?”
The inside of the house was decorated simply. The style was a mixture of different areas, possibly controlled by the different areas of the world that the Montgomerys had traveled to while Lieutenant Colonel Montgomery was in the Corps. There was a lovely Japanese screen against one wall, opposite a painting that had surely been bought in a European street fair.
“No thank you, ma'am,” Gibbs said, though he had left his half empty coffee cup in the car.
Ziva just shook her head, her attention focused on the pictures on the mantle.
“My husband,” Lucinda said fondly, following Ziva's gaze as she sat in an armchair. Ziva assumed she was talking about the tall man in uniform in several of the pictures. She recognized Staff Sergeant Bizarro in several of the photos, along with his wife. However, she didn't remember any reference to the Bizarro's owning dogs, nor did she see any sign of the damage that dogs do to a house in this home, yet there were dogs in at least half the photos on the mantle.
“A grand looking man,” Ziva offered awkwardly, claiming a spot on the couch.
“He was,” Lucinda said, seeming pleased. “I've missed him since the car accident. James and Eglantine were so supportive in the aftermath. I admit, I'm at a bit of a loss as to what I'm going to do now, with them and Margery gone.”
“Your losses this last year have been intolerable,” Gibbs said in that kindly tone that seemed to settle older folks and children so well. He sat in the chair next to Lucinda, leaning forward on his knees as he spoke quietly and earnestly. “I hate to tell you, but we've come to believe that the death of your brother and your niece may be connected.”
“I told him,” Lucinda hissed, shaking her hand angrily. “I told that blasted detective that their deaths sounded too similar, but he kept saying I was mistaken. Just because I'm older and a woman doesn't mean I'm an idiot.”
“What detective?” Gibbs asked worriedly, sitting up straight as his military training took over in his surprise.
“The one from Dumfries. He handled Margery's death,” Lucinda said.
“But we are handling the FitzWilliam's case,” Ziva said quizzically.
“Do you remember this detective's name?” Gibbs asked politely, but with a bite in his tone.
“I believe he left a card, just in case I remembered something,” Lucinda said dryly, standing and walking to her desk in the next room.
It was a relief to finally have the bull pen to himself. Tim had been feeling cornered all day, which meant he'd been going through the files at a much slower rate than was normal. With Gibbs and Ziva gone he could finally focus.
Unfortunately for Tim, that focus didn't last more than an hour. He ignored the ding of the elevator doors until he caught movement in the far side of the team's space out of the corner of his eye. He looked over to check if it was Tony arriving early, but instead found himself looking at an unfamiliar man wearing a visitor's badge and a sour expression.
“Can I help you?” Tim asked, standing and stepping around his desk.
“I'm looking for Special Agent Gibbs,” the stranger snapped, turning to Tim and flashing a badge attached to his belt, probably for a local detective.
“He's out of the office for the next few hours. I'm Special Agent McGee. Perhaps I can help you.”
The detective glared at Tim and leaned a hip against Tony's desk in an insolent slouch. “I doubt it.”
“You don't know until you ask,” Tim said encouragingly even as he fought down the urge to call security and have them drag the man out. Usually a patient man, this detective seemed determined to push every one of Tim's buttons, leaving him feeling on a deep level that his territory had been invaded.
“I doubt you have the authority to tell me why the Director of NCIS had my case files and evidence boxed up and shipped out,” the man said angrily.
“Because they match several cases we have been investigating, and your boss and our boss thought we had the best resources to deal with them,” Tim countered firmly, standing straight and using his height advantage to look down on the detective. “Which lead detective are you?” he asked, having a bad feeling about the answer.
“He left his card, I know he did,” Lucinda muttered, flipping through the piles of paper on her desk until she came up with a small square of cardboard. “Here. Detective Coltrain,” she announced, coming back into the living room.
“What?” Gibbs snapped, standing and taking the card from her.
“You know him?” Ziva asked, trying to place the name.
“He was the detective in charge at Greg's,” Gibbs grumbled. “And he never mentioned there were similar cases on his docket.”
“He should have,” Lucinda said firmly. “He's been by twice about Margery's death and been needling me for details about James.”
“I think we'll have to have a talk with Detective Coltrain,” Gibbs said grimly, but his eyes softened when he turned back to Lucinda. “Thank you,” he said to her kindly.
“No, thank you,” Lucinda countered. “If you can find the bastard who killed my people, the thanks are all yours.”
“Oh, I don't need thanks to go for him,” Gibbs promised her. “He messed with the wrong family the other day.”
“Detective Coltrain,” the man replied smugly.
“Ah, I called your office this morning,” Tim said, turning and picking up the thin stack of files from Dumfries even as his stomach clenched unhappily. “They said you were working night shift today.”
“I got in early and found you'd stolen my cases,” Coltrain snapped. “Drove straight here.”
“You must have missed my message asking you to call back,” Tim said calmly, though it was a struggle to stay so in the face of such animosity. “But this works just as well. I had a number of questions to ask you regarding your files.”
“I'm not here to answer your questions,” Coltrain said rudely. “I'm here to reclaim my files and my evidence. NCIS has no authority over my cases.”
“In the police report,” Ziva said, “it says that several photos were stolen from your brother's house, along with a few items of jewelry. Do you know exactly which photos?” If Tony was right and their killer was taking mementos then there might be a clue to how he chose his victims the type of photo he chose to steal.
“Actually, I do,” Lucinda said. She walked over to the mantle and picked up two photos, one of a cluster of dogs playing with a young child, perhaps one of Margery's children, and the other showing Eglantine Bizarro with her arms around another large dog. She looked at them sadly before handing them to Ziva. “The first was taken from Margery's house, the second from James'. Those are the ones I'm certain about.”
“Might we have these?” Gibbs asked, looking over Ziva's shoulder at the photos. “For the case file. We can scan them and return them shortly.”
“Of course,” Lucinda replied. “I have the negatives, so if you need to keep them ...”
“We will return them shortly,” Ziva promised, slipping the photos out of their frames and returning the frames to their owner. “Once we've compared them with any other stolen photos we can identify.”
Gibbs claimed the photos from Ziva, studying them carefully for a moment before saying, “Thank you, ma'am. We'll be in touch if we have any further questions,” and stalking out the door.
“Oh, that killer messed with the wrong alpha male,” Lucinda muttered, watching Gibbs go.
“Gibbs will catch this murderer,” Ziva assured her. “He has become rather obsessed with this case.”
“I expected nothing less,” Lucinda said, grinning oddly. “And you tell that nice Agent DiNozzo I want to meet him next time. He has such a nice voice.”
Ziva raised an eyebrow at that comment but held her tongue on the subject of Tony. “I'll tell him you said so.”
“You do that. Have a good day, young lady.”
Tim had never been so happy to see Tony as he was when the man walked into the bull pen that afternoon, a full hour and a half before Gibbs had told him to return. Coltrain was being impossible, refusing to answer questions and just insisting he was waiting to see Gibbs. If Tim had to watch the man slouch insolently in front of him much longer, he was going to do something foolish.
“Tony, this is Detective Coltrain. He's the lead detective for the Dumfries cases,” Tim said as soon as Tony arrived next to his desk. “Detective, this is Special Agent DiNozzo.”
“We met,” Coltrain said abruptly.
Tim shot Tony a questioning look to which Tony replied, “At the Peck residence two nights ago. And last June at the Wilkins residence, as I recall.”
“Good memory,” Coltrain said derisively.
“What can we do for you, Detective?” Tony asked, taking his desk back from the other man by sheer force of presence.
“I'm here to see Special Agent Gibbs about getting my cases back,” Coltrain said, even as he took a few steps back from Tony's desk.
“I'm afraid that won't be possible,” Tony replied in a seemingly reasonable and apologetic tone. “Your chief and my director agreed that those cases belong to NCIS.”
“No,” Coltrain snarled. “My chief told me Special Agent Gibbs demanded those files without proper cause and I'm here to demand them back.”
“If we didn't have proper cause to claim those files,” Tony said calmly, “why did your superiors send them up?”
Coltrain just glared at him, but even from an odd angle Tim could tell the man had nothing on Gibbs in the glare department.
“Actually, I'm more curious why there's nothing in those files,” Tim cut in. “Where are the interview notes? The case summaries? The autopsy reports?” He'd asked the questions before, earlier, and doubted the Coltrain would actually answer now, but it was worth trying and would give Tony a better idea of the situation.
“Somewhere you'll never find them,” Coltrain said, rounding on Tim angrily.
“Are you intentionally interfering with our investigation?” Tony's voice was calm, but there was an angry light in his eyes that Tim was more used to seeing in Gibbs' expression.
“What the hell are you going to do about it?” Coltrain countered cockily. “You're not even in charge of this case anymore. Whatcha do to get yourself demoted?”
“Not a thing,” Tony said, grinning back, but the grin had too many teeth and didn't reach his eyes. He leaned back in his seat, his hands propped behind his head, lounging in that smug way that drove Tim nuts when the case was hot and Tony was about to reveal his newest bit of police work. “When's the boss due back, McGee?” Even as he spoke to Tim, his eyes never left Coltrain.
“Depends on how long the interview goes,” Tim started, then paused when his phone rang. He picked up and barely had time to say, “McGee,” before Gibbs began speaking.
“Call Dumfries PD. I want Detective Coltrain in front of my desk first thing tomorrow.”
“He's there already,” Tim said, beginning to feel a touch amused.
“Keep him there,” Gibbs barked. In the background the car's engine revved louder and honking horns indicated Gibbs had probably just cut several people off in his increased rush.
“Tony's in early, too,” Tim added before Gibbs could hang up.
“How's he look?” There was an odd tenderness to the question that Tim couldn't quite place.
“Normal,” Tim replied, uncertain how else to answer.
Gibbs grumbled something unclear then said, “Put him to work.” He hung up before Tim could reply.
“Boss should be back soon,” Tim said as he hung up. “And says you're in deep.”
Tony gave him a sharp look, but before he could say anything, Coltrain cut in.
“Oh? Do tell. What has Special Agent DiNozzo done to get himself into trouble this time? Are you even capable of going ten minutes without pissing someone off?”
Tony gave the detective a sharp look, then pointedly turned to Tim. “What for this time?”
Tim turned to Tony, trying to block Coltrain out with his body language. “You weren't supposed to come back until four,” he said. “Gibbs left me in charge.”
Tony snorted, and this time his grin reached his eyes. “Congratulations. What's your orders, boss?”
A warm flush suffused Tim at that choice of words and he knew Tony had done it on purpose. “You did good with the report you wrote last night, but you need to double check that the case files we just got match.”
“You mean that's not what you've been doing all day?” Tony asked teasingly.
Tim just shook his head. “Just read the files, though Dumfries files are a waste of time. Aren't they, Detective Coltrain?”
“They're my files,” Coltrain said insistently.
“I may not be able to make you cough up the rest of the files,” Tim said, “but Gibbs will be here soon.” He let the implied threat linger, noting the uncertain look on the detective's face with a sense of pride. He really did have the best alpha.
Gibbs stalked off the elevator and strode full speed for his desk. He had made no stops, allowed no delays on his way back to the office, including a lack of coffee. It might have allowed him to shave almost twenty minutes off the drive, but did nothing to improve his mood.
He was pleased to note that Tony and Tim were working diligently at their desks, ignoring the ass who was standing in the middle of the bull pen ranting something about giving back his files. Gibbs ignored him too, stopping in front of Tony's desk to look his second over carefully. The man looked much better, showered, shaved, and at least somewhat rested.
He glared firmly for about a minute, until Tony looked up at him. The cocky grin visible to anyone and everyone indicated that Tony felt on top of his game, but the slight tilt of his head, baring his neck just slightly, showed he knew he was in trouble too. Good. Gibbs could chew him out later, when there weren't others watching, as long as he admitted he was in the wrong.
Gibbs could feel Ziva's curious look boring into his back, and ignored it. Instead, he gave Tony a nod, then glanced up at the balcony above them and looked pointedly at Tony. Then he turned away, glaring at Coltrain as he passed on his way to his desk. “What brings you here?” he barked as he sat.
“You stole my cases,” Coltrain whined, walking over the lean possessively on Gibbs' desk.
Gibbs simply looked up at him with one raised eyebrow. This was not a man who could dominate, whether he had the height advantage or not.
“It's bad enough I have to hand over the cases with members of the military,” Coltrain continued, a hint of uncertainty building at Gibbs' lack of reaction. “But you have no right to take away cases that have no military connection.”
“Victims in your cases,” Gibbs said, putting a sarcastic emphasis on the possessive, “were once members of the Marines and Navy.”
“Ex-military is not your jurisdiction,” Coltrain countered peevishly.
“But cases that match the MO of a case that does have military victims do potentially fall under my jurisdiction,” Gibbs said calmly.
“Those are my cases,” Coltrain whined again.
“Your chief of detectives did not seem to agree after talking with my director,” Gibbs countered.
“He said your director demanded those files, stole them from us.”
“I did no such thing,” Jen announced from the turn in the stair. Gibbs had noticed her watching for the last minute or so, after Tony called her office. “Chief of Detectives Carter was quite reasonable and agreed that the cases sounded enough like ours that he was happy to turn them over to NCIS.”
Coltrain turned to stare at Jen, but took on a cocky air when he realized he was facing a woman. “Well, I don't agree and I'm not willing to turn my cases over.”
“You haven't,” Tim grumbled.
“Explain, Special Agent McGee,” Jen ordered.
“The files sent to us from Dumfries barely contain preliminary reports and a few scraps of evidence,” Tim replied.
“There isn't any more evidence,” Coltrain said cockily.
“Interview summaries. Autopsy reports. Progress reports. These are not evidence, and they are not in the case files,” Tim snapped back.
“It sounds to me like either you haven't actually been working these cases,” Jen said haughtily, “or you've been hiding these cases from your coworkers and the other agencies.”
“I have been working my cases,” Coltrain said with equal attitude.
“And since when did any of your cases include questioning Lucinda Montgomery about the deaths of James and Eglantine Bizarro?” Ziva cut in. “Or about Margery FitzWilliam?”
That caught Coltrain cold, and he turned and gaped at her like a landed fish.
“Officer David?” Jen asked pointedly.
“Major Margery FitzWilliam's death is an NCIS investigation, and the Bizarros died in Triangle,” Ziva explained calmly. “Neither of which are under the detective's jurisdiction.”
“Perhaps you should have thought more carefully before making demands you can't back up,” Jen suggested.
Coltrain looked around, glancing at everyone with a calculating air. “These cases are my chance for a promotion,” he announced. “I can help.”
“What can you offer?” Gibbs demanded. “Other than those elements of the case files you've hidden?”
“I've been looking for this guy for months,” Coltrain countered. “I recognized the pattern ages ago.”
“And promptly hid it,” Tony cut in. “There's nothing worse getting in the way of a case than a self serving cop.”
“I'm close,” Coltrain snapped, glaring at Tony. Gibbs wanted to stand up and slap the man, across the face rather than the back of the head. He didn't deserve the respect of the latter. “I share my insights, you keep me in the loop and give me some of the credit when the case is solved.”
Gibbs didn't like it, but he glanced up at Jen. She was the politician. Her face was screwed up with disapproval, but she nodded. “Convince us of your worth,” Gibbs said, refusing to fully agree to share anything with this idiot.
Coltrain turned back to Gibbs and gave him a hard look, unimpressive though it was. “He steals photos,” he said brusquely. “They could be reminders of his point of contact.”
“I'll consider that and let you know if it pans out,” Gibbs offered half-heartedly.
Sniffing disdainfully, Coltrain said, “I'll expect to hear from you by the end of the week, or my interview notes stay right where they are.”
“Get out,” Gibbs growled. That finally seemed to distress Coltrain enough to send him packing, though there was still a bit of a strut to his walk that made it clear he thought he'd won.
When the elevator door had chimed shut behind him, Jen turned to Gibbs. “Is there anything to his tip?”
“DiNozzo made the connection last night. We're looking into it,” Gibbs answered.
Jen scowled but ordered, “Keep him out of it as much as possible, but if we need those files, play nice.”
Gibbs nodded when she trailed off, and that was enough to send her back to her office. Gibbs stared at his computer monitor, still off, and the files on his desk, but finally decided what he needed to do was clear his head. He was missing something important about this case. He just couldn't figure out what.
“DiNozzo, take McGee to your next interview. David, you can leave at five. You three better have some new ideas when you get in tomorrow.” With that, he stood and left the bull pen. Maybe some time with his boat would snap things into place. Or some sleep.
He doubted the effectiveness of either.