?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Fic: Marine Knots Part 1

Title: Marine Knots
Genre: Crossover (NCIS/Dresden Files book series)
Author: PaBurke and FaithDaria
Rating: PG-15 for innuendo, violence, and gore
Spoilers: Only up to Season 4 of NCIS (totally ignoring anything from Season 5) White Night of Dresden Files
Summary: Thomas goes to Washington, D.C. and is framed for murder. He calls the only person he knows that can get him out of this mess. Or, alternately, the ‘Harry and Thomas’ show goes to D.C.
Author’s Note: This was written for sncross-bigbang.


Jethro Gibbs strode through the dark and mostly deserted offices. Most teams were either out working on a case or had decided to go home for the night. Ziva was still at her desk, as was McGee. They were both running from something and trying to keep busy.

“Where’s DiNozzo?”

Ziva smirked. “Probably out with his girlfriend.”

“Call him,” Gibbs ordered. “We have a case.”

His team obediently picked up their backpacks and waited as Gibbs retrieved his gun and badge. He tossed the keys to McGee. Ziva was already on the phone and, by the sound of it, was leaving a voice mail.

“He hasn’t been too good at returning calls when he’s out with Jeanne,” ventured McGee.

“Have Abby call him every five minutes until he picks up. Ducky’s already on his way.”

“Sure thing, boss.”

Gibbs’ team joined him on the elevator. “What’s the case?” Ziva asked.

“A dead marine at a senatorial fundraiser on Capitol Hill for people from the Mid-West.”

McGee wrinkled his nose. “Turf war?”

“Turf war,” agreed Gibbs.

“Turf war,” Ziva asked.

McGee explained the situation. “It happened on Secret Service territory. It’s going to involve people across state lines, so the FBI will be there.”

“But it’s a dead marine,” protested Ziva.

“That’s why we’re going,” Gibbs said.

The trip to the scene of the crime passed quickly. It was easy to see where the party had been; there were lights flashing and suited people everywhere. They were interviewing glittering politicians and aides. McGee parked and followed Gibbs to the middle of the melee. Fernell was in the middle. He offered Gibbs a nod and mostly ignored the other NCIS agents.

He stepped into the center of their group to hide from observing eyes. “It’s a mess, Jethro. Everyone wants it done quickly, but it’s yours if you want it.”

Gibbs blinked. “Why?”

“The victim had recently come out of the closet and was back from a tour. Purple Heart. He was telling everyone of the accomplishments the US has had in Iraq. It doesn’t matter who did it or why, it’s going to be used for someone’s agenda and the investigators are going to be scapegoats. There’re too many news reporters attending. The woman who found the body got hysterical and yelled at the top of the lungs that there was a dead marine out on the alcove. It’s not going to go away quietly.”

“We’ll take it.”

Fernell nodded. He had expected as much. He jerked his head toward a graying man in a suit. “Bingham was in charge of security. He has the camera footage from the building cameras. My men are collecting as much of the news footage as possible, but we’re sure that at least one tape made it past our block and will be on the news within the hour.”

“McGee, find the body and Ducky. Get pictures and sketches. Ziva, collect the interviews from the FBI. Re-interview anyone you deem fit.” Gibbs was already walking toward the Secret Service agent. “And call DiNozzo. I want him here now!”

McGee had his phone out on his way inside. After leaving an urgent message on Tony’s voice mail, he found Ducky and Jimmy in an alcove taking the core temperature of a male marine in dress blues. He still had the haircut, the tan and the calluses from service overseas. He had a single wound to the chest cavity and there was a lot of blood. This was definitely the scene of the crime, not the dump site. McGee guessed that the victim was relatively good-looking for a guy. McGee took pictures of the hands (no defensive wounds, but the left was bloody and the right had the Marine’s ring from graduating basic), the uniform (so that Abby could study the blood spatter), the shoes (there was blood on them and on the soles.) Had he stepped in his own blood before going down? McGee took a picture of every blood spatter that he could find in the alcove.

He was about to put away the camera and get out the sketchpad when Ducky said, “You missed some, Timothy.” Ducky was pointing to a tile that he was deliberately not standing on.

McGee obediently took those pictures and then stepped back and looked at the big picture. “How many gawkers stepped in blood, you suppose?”

Ducky snorted in disgust. He hated it when people interfered with crime scenes. “Numerous, I’m sure. We don’t even know if this is the position that he died in. He’s been dead less than an hour and the blood hasn’t had a chance to pool.”

“Less than an hour?” McGee looked out on the busy yard and visually swept the alcove again. “And everyone’s already here? Why didn’t they try to send him to the hospital, or stop the bleeding? I don’t see any indication that someone tried to staunch the bleeding. And for this response time, the first witness must have walked in immediately after the crime.”

“Someone must have declared him dead,” Jimmy said. He winced and hid slightly when McGee and Ducky looked at him. “Possibly?”

“You are absolutely correct, Palmer,” Ducky agreed. “He probably would not have survived the trip to the hospital, but nobody tried.”

McGee flipped out his phone and texted Ziva. He warned her to ask about the body position when each witness first saw it, if they –or anyone else- moved it and why no one thought to call the paramedics instead of the coroner, and to check shoes for blood.

Ziva acknowledged that she had received the message with a simple, ‘rgr.’

McGee sketched out the locations of all the blood. When he walked around Ducky and Palmer to the rail, he noticed more blood. It was on the rail itself and running down the supports. McGee took a picture and then, carefully avoiding the blood, leaned over the rail to see what was below. He saw landscaped bushes and flowers, but nothing reflected back up to him.

Ducky stood at his side. His eyes followed the blood trail. “It is possible that the assailant threw it down there to retrieve later.”

“Yes,” McGee agreed. “But it is also possible that someone else –either purposefully protecting the assailant or wanting a souvenir –tossed it down.”

“I’ll stand here and watch while you investigate,” said Ducky.

“Thanks.” McGee took the camera and the sketch pad and raced downstairs and out the door. He dodged the men in suits who were loitering, or interviewing, or corralling the news people. He saw Ziva collecting shoes from angry, expensively dressed people. It was a good thing that NCIS was in charge of the investigation. They would not be influenced to abandon or ignore any clues, no matter who it annoyed. Gibbs was walking with Bingham with security tapes in hand. Gibbs motioned McGee over.

McGee was torn and shook his head. Gibbs joined him to the bushes on the side of the building. “Are you done already?” Gibbs barked.

“No. I’ve got to take luminescence and a black light to the tiles leading away from the body, to see if there is a trail.”

“Then why are you down here?”

McGee pointed to Ducky directly overhead. “It looks like the murder weapon was dropped off the side.”

Gibbs nodded. “Good possibility. DiNozzo call yet?”

“No, boss.”

Gibbs grunted but wandered away to help Ziva collect interviews and shoes. McGee waited until Gibbs was out of hearing range to call Tony yet again. Still no answer, McGee left a stressed message on voice mail. McGee put away his phone and took out his flashlight and camera. He searched the bushes and flowers. Then he took a step back and searched the wood chips. He couldn’t even find a drop of blood. If the murder weapon had been still dripping up in the alcove, there should be some blood down here somewhere. There wasn’t even an indication that the woodchips and the plants had been disturbed recently. So it didn’t look like an accomplice caught the murder weapon. He recorded the lack of evidence with the camera.

Where did the murder weapon go?

“Anything, Timothy?” Ducky called down.

“Nothing.” His frustration must have shown on his face.

Gibbs returned with two young FBI agents. “These two will search down here and keep an eye out for anyone suspicious,” he ordered. “Get back up there and finish that part of the job.”

Timothy nodded. “Sure thing, boss.”

McGee was nearly finished with the luminescence and the camera when Gibbs strode through the now empty reception hall with the NCIS laptop.

“You done?”

McGee thought through it. “Until Ducky and Palmer move the body.”

“Good.” Gibbs handed McGee the computer and the security footage. “Make this play so that I can interview people intelligently.”

McGee efficiently set up the computer on a nearby table. He returned to work while Gibbs studied the security.

“McGee,” Gibbs called out.

In short order, McGee was at Gibbs’ elbow.

“Which one is the victim?” he waved a hand at the screen.

There weren’t many options. Only three marines in dress blues were pictured. It was easy to pick out… “Ducky! What is your patient’s name?”

“Staff Sergeant Terrance Miller,” Ducky called back.

McGee pointed to the screen. “That’s him.” The security camera had caught Miller chatting with another dark-haired, well-proportioned man on the outskirts of a larger group of women. The second man kept backing away from Miller, shaking his head. Finally, one of the women came to the second man’s rescue, latching onto the man’s arm. Miller looked disappointed but had wandered away. The NCIS agents watched Miller chat with various other attendees. Then without warning –and near the time of Ducky’s estimated time-of-death, Miller broke away from a conversation to walk over to the alcove.

McGee leaned over Gibbs to rewind the footage to see if Miller had followed anyone into the alcove. Sure enough, the man that had turned Miller down before had just stepped out for a breath of fresh air. Gibbs and McGee re-watched Miller walk out to the alcove. A few minutes later, the dark-haired man walked out of the alcove alone. He didn’t move hurriedly or look around suspiciously. He rejoined the group of women he had previously hung with. He had his back to the alcove where Miller had died. After speaking with two different women, he obviously made his excuses and left. The door had barely closed on the dark-haired man when a petite female glided out to the alcove. Then all heads turned to the alcove; the woman must have yelled.

Gibbs paused the footage, frowning.

McGee was just as confused. “He’s either one cool customer, or he didn’t do it.”

“He’s not a professional either,” Gibbs added. “They would have taken care of security.”

“Is it just me, or is this too easy?”

“It’s too easy.” Gibbs pointed at the screen. “Magnify the picture of the guy’s face. I want to know who he is.”

McGee obeyed with a few keystrokes. Soon, McGee had the man’s face enlarged to fill the whole screen. He tilted his head. How would he describe this man in a book? About thirty, no obvious birthmarks, right at six feet tall and classically beautiful. He vacillated between Michelangelo’s David and a porn star, depending on whether he was trying to blend in or flirting with someone. He was sculpted and he was wearing a shirt too bright and too tailored to be strictly straight. McGee noticed that he couldn’t see any blood or dark spots on the man’s clothing. Gibbs snatched the laptop and walked out of the reception area to question witnesses.

McGee returned to his task of finding and photographing the spots of blood that had been tracked by the gawkers. Then Ducky and Palmer wheeled a black bag on a gurney out of the alcove. McGee finished the job there as well in a timely manner. The blood had smeared under the Staff Sergeant, but there was a lot of it there. McGee peeked over the rail to check on the two FBI agents that Gibbs had assigned. They were still there, but they weren’t searching anymore. The woodchips were definitely disturbed now. The plants and the bushes had lost some leaves or flowers. The change in the landscaping was obvious from before. McGee was more convinced than ever that no one had been down there to retrieve the missing weapon.

Satisfied that he had canvassed the murder scene, McGee joined the rest of the NCIS team outside. Gibbs had sent most of the people home. The FBI agents were firmly escorting busybodies and reporters off the premises. Ziva had a group of women separated and was trying to get them to answer questions. She had the NCIS laptop in hand with a picture of the obvious suspect. McGee recognized them as the same women that had hung with ‘Porn Star David’ during the party. To a woman, they were all vehemently insisting that ‘Toe-moss’ could not have possibly been involved in the murder.

Gibbs arrived at the little group about the same time McGee did. Ziva had lost control of the questioning and was looking flustered and frustrated.

“Introduce me,” Gibbs commanded Ziva as he took the laptop away from her and handed it to McGee.

Most of the women responded favorably to Gibbs’ authoritative presence, backed down and quieted. One, probably the eldest female there, stood up straighter and crossed her arms over her chest. Gibbs addressed her and only her.

“I am Special Agent Jethro Gibbs. I believe that you are Ms. Lewinski, campaigning for Illinois’ congressional seat.”

“I am.” Ms. Lewinski was flattered to be recognized but tried not to be. Which was wise; Gibbs had probably read the information from Ziva’s notes.

“I presume that you are from Chicago?”

“I am.”

McGee quietly moved out of eyesight of most of the women and sat down within earshot of the conversations. He opened the laptop and hoped that this part of Capitol Hill was wired for wireless. It was. With a slight grin sent Gibbs’ way, he started searching the Internet for clues about ‘Toe-moss.’

“And these women are your staff?”

“For the most part.”

“Was Thomas part of your staff as well?”

Lewinski glared at Gibbs, trying to figure out whether or not she should answer. McGee found Lewinski’s website and browsed through, looking for names of assistants. He didn’t find anyone named Thomas. He shook his head at Gibbs and knew that Gibbs saw the hint.

“Is Thomas a close personal friend?” Gibbs tried again.

Lewinski sniffed. “Toe-moss came as a personal favor to me and my staff. He prefers the other gender for ‘close friends.’”

“Did he know Staff Sergeant Miller before this engagement?”

“I don’t believe so.”

“But they talked.”

“Staff Sergeant Miller was looking for a date. Thomas is faithful to his friend in Chicago. Thomas tried to let him down gently.”

“What did Staff Sergeant talk to Thomas about?”

Lewinski waved a hand. “The usual; job, family, home, friends.”

“Did the Staff Sergeant seem to be intimidating Thomas?”

A woman on the side sniffed. “It takes more than testosterone to intimidate Thomas. Nothing fazes him; he had more experience refusing dates than most people have accepting them.”

“Did Thomas’ answers seem rushed or inaccurate in any way?”

Lewinski thought about it. “No, he talked about his sisters, recently immigrating from France and starting his shop in Chicago.”

“Do you know where his citizenship is?”

“Here,” a woman in the back piped up.

McGee started cross-referencing immigrants from France in Chicago.

“And the name of his shop?” Gibbs asked in the same easy tone of voice as before.

“Coiffure Cup,” another woman added.

Bingo. McGee abandoned the previous search to find the owner or proprietor of the Coiffure Cup of Chicago. And it matched their information: Thomas Raith. The shop was a salon/coffee shop. Lewinski had brought along a hairdresser for herself and her team. McGee would let Abby explain to Gibbs why. He was not going to be able to understand.

Ziva suddenly appeared at McGee’s side and dropped her notepad on the keyboard. Right on top was written Lisa Lewinski. A quick glance and McGee knew she was staying at the Hotel Monolith. The real question now was, was their register online?

Nope, or rather Hotel Monolith’s guest list was not available without some serious hacking. He pointed to a phone number on Monolith’s website and Ziva punched it into her cell as she walked away. Depending on how closed-lip the administration was, NCIS might need a warrant to get the guest list. McGee e-mailed Abby. She could make the phone calls clearing up the legalities without anyone eavesdropping.

As Gibbs fished for more information, McGee searched the internet. He found evidence of Raith’s passport and US citizenship. He found Raith’s credit card, which had some unique store purchases on it. He also found the bank accounts. While McGee could not see the actual transactions, he did find out that one of Raith’s accounts was shared with a ‘Harry Dresden.’

“McGee,” Gibbs barked.

McGee hurried to shut down the computer and followed his boss and Ziva to the NCIS car. McGee got into the car that Gibbs was driving and Ziva pulled out the keys for the evidence van.

“Are we going to the Hotel Monolith?” McGee ventured.

“I don’t know, McGee. Are we?”

“Did Ziva confirm that Raith was staying there?”

“Wraith, Elf Lord?” Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

McGee managed not to flush. “R-A-I-T-H, Raith. According to what I was able to piece together, Thomas Raith emigrated from France six months ago and set up shop in Chicago.”

“Shop?”

“A salon-slash-coffee shop, hence the name the Coiffure Cup. He’s a hairdresser by trade.”

Gibbs grunted.

McGee assumed that was a hint to continue. “I couldn’t find much. My French is sketchy, you’ll have to get Ziva to read his background. He owns the shop free-n-clear; paid it off in a couple of months. Both his shop and his apartment are in the ritzier part of town. He doesn’t have any weapons registered. He doesn’t have a police record. And I don’t think he owns a car –his place is within walking distance from his shop. He did recently file for an insurance payout for a boat that was subjected to arson. The police really don’t think he set it himself and he had some witnesses to back up his story. He doesn’t belong to any clubs that I could find. He does share one bank account with a Harry Dresden.”

“Who’s Dresden?”

“I don’t know yet.”

Gibbs grunted again, but McGee had nothing to add. The young agent was very glad when they arrived at the Hotel Monolith. Even with Gibbs not mad at him, the silence was oppressive. They got out of the car and waited for Ziva. She had made the stop for the legal papers, just in case. Within a very short period of time, the Israeli drove into the parking lot. The three agents walked up to the front desk and flashed their badges. McGee watched as Ziva and Gibbs played bad-cop-worse-cop. He wished that he had timed how long it took before the management succumbed and handed over the electronic key to Raith’s suite.

The good news was that, according to their records and the computer tracking of the rooms, Raith was in his suite as he had been since thirty minutes after the murder. He had even called down for a little wine and fruit from room service at eleven. He had opened the door to receive it. He had even talked the maid delivering it into a quick trim, which she adored.

Gibbs asked for a lay-out of the hotel. There were two sets of stairs and two elevators near Raith’s door. McGee knew that Tony was being cursed mentally. Gibbs nodded toward the stairs leading from the main lobby and McGee was thankful that Raith was only on the fourth floor of this twenty floor monstrosity. Gibbs and Ziva would each take an elevator up. McGee obeyed his orders. By the third floor, he was thanking God for all the time he had invested in his personal trainer.

Gibbs was waiting for him at the top –of course, a place like this would not have slow elevators. Gibbs peaked out the door to keep an eye on Raith’s entrance and McGee assumed that Ziva mirrored Gibbs in the other stairwell. Gibbs watched McGee’s even breathing and nodded with approval. “You good?”

McGee un-holstered his gun. “Yes.”

Gibbs signaled to Ziva and the three congregated outside Raith’s door. Gibbs used the electronic key and the three slid inside.

“Federal Agents,” Gibbs announced.

The main room of the suite was sparkling. A chair was obviously where Raith did all his work. He had his clippers and combs precisely laid out on a side table. He had his hair products laid out on another table. It was all very orderly if a little make-shift. The agents cleared the room and then cleared the bathroom, which resembled the main room. The door to the bedroom was firmly closed.

Gibbs nodded to Ziva. She opened the door and Gibbs swept in.

And very nearly tripped on Raith’s bloody clothes.

Gibbs opened the door for the other two and they slid it. There was a body-shaped lump on the bed. Ziva hurried to the far side of the room and McGee stood at the foot of the bed. They had to step over clothes and towels and a general mess. Raith’s luggage was in the corner, half empty. He was living out of it.

“Thomas Raith,” Gibbs said loudly. “You are under arrest.”

A groan, the lump moved. A hand lowered the blanket and a rumpled –and confused- Thomas peaked out. McGee immediately was reminded of his private nickname: Porn Star David, and from Ziva’s sudden intake of breath, she agreed.

Thomas looked startled. He spoke in French, “Qui êtes-vous? Pourquoi êtes-vous dans ma chambre à coucher? Et sont-ils ces pistolets?”

“Thomas Raith?” Gibbs asked.

Thomas nodded slowly, “Oui? Pourquoi êtes-vous ici?”

“Get up,” Gibbs ordered. “You are under arrest for the murder of Terrance Miller.”

Thomas was surprised and startled and incredulous all at once. “Qui? Que dites-vous?”

Ziva answered in his own language. “Vous êtes en état d'arrestation pour le massacre de Miller.”

“Je n'ai pas assassiné n'importe qui,” Thomas protested. “Je suis juste un coiffeur.”

“Raith,” Gibbs ordered. “Get your hand out from under that pillow and stand up, or we’ll shoot.”

Raith looked at his pillow as if it had suddenly appeared.

“Lentement,” Gibbs warned. McGee was reminded that Gibbs and the director had worked undercover in Paris. Gibbs was probably as fluent as Ziva in French. McGee should learn another language. If nothing else, he would be able to use it in his writing.

Raith slowly moved his hand out from under the pillow. He raised them and the blanket fell to his waist. Of course, he was bare-chested. Ziva had to tear her eyes away from Raith’s body and that unnerved McGee. Ziva was still in mourning for the nuclear scientist. McGee saw a silver glint of a necklace. Was that a pentacle charm?

“Tenez,” Gibbs ordered.

Raith swung his legs out from under the covers and then stopped. He was staring at the bloody pile of clothes at Gibbs’ feet. He turned white as the satin sheet he was under. “Sacre bleu. Est-il ce sang? Sur ma chemise?” He finally switched over to thickly-accented English. “Blood will stain it.” Then, as if he realized how that sounded, he hurried to explain. “It was not like that last night, je jure.”

“You’ll get your chance to explain, Raith. Now stand and keep your hands on your head.”

Raith obeyed. He was nude. McGee flushed red and even Ziva had a little color in her cheeks. Gibbs rolled his eyes. He grabbed Raith’s elbow and pushed him into the wall. “McGee, get him some clothes,” he demanded dryly. McGee was glad to have something to do.

“Don’t I get a phone call,” asked Raith.

“As soon as you get to NCIS.”

xxx

It was still dark when I got back to my apartment, but the eastern edge of the sky was a slightly lighter shade of gray. I had taken Molly out on a hunt for a missing child fae, a favor for the Summer Lady, and it had taken longer than expected. Then I had received a half hour lecture from Charity on the merits of returning her daughter before the clock read 3 am, and why my continued existence would hang on developing this ability. It took me a moment to remember how to get past my wards, and slightly longer to get the door open. I nodded to Mouse and Mister, kicked off my shoes, and fell across the bed to sleep the blissful sleep of a job well done. And that was when the phone rang.

It took me four rings to find the thing, and by then I was too exhausted to do anything but mumble a hello into the receiver.

“Harry?” The voice was so tentative that it took a second to register that I was talking to my supremely confident half-brother. The French accent thick enough to remind me of a Monty Python sketch added a degree of difficulty as well.

“Thomas? What’s wrong?”

There was a pause, long enough that my own mental processes began to catch up. Pre-dawn phone calls were never good. Well, anything happening before dawn was usually a bad thing, but phone calls especially. They typically meant one of two things, and since my brother was obviously still alive, that only left . . .

“I’m in jail.” There was a note of misery in his voice that was not entirely fake. The prospect of being locked away from his clients - and the energy they provided - for any length of time was undoubtedly unpleasant.

“What happened?”

“They said I killed someone. A Marine working at the fundraiser.”

“And did you?”

“No! I’ve been set up! And Harry, I’m afraid what will happen to me here. I shouldn’t have come to Washington.” The flamboyant Toe-moss voice dropped a notch. “I miss the things in the apartment. No one here understands what I need.”

“I’ll take care of it. Is there anything else you need to tell me?”

“Only things I can tell you in person,” his voice purred.

I rolled my eyes. Toe-moss was obviously performing for an attentive audience. “I’ll leave right away.”

“Be careful, Harry. This isn’t a safe place for people like us.”

I snorted, hit the button, and immediately dialed Murphy. She was only slightly more chipper than I had been to answer the phone at 4:30 in the morning, and interrupted me twice while I filled her in on the situation. After I was done, she was silent for a split second. “You realize this is a trap, right?”

“No, Murph, really?”

“Not for Thomas, dummy. For you. Someone is trying to lure you away from Chicago.”

“Well, it’s working.”

“What kind of backup are you taking?”

“Thomas will be there.”

“He’ll be in jail. And speaking of that, what’s your plan when you get to DC?”

“Get him out of jail.”

“And how do you plan to do that?”

I thought about that for a minute. “Set the building on fire?”

“That sounds like a Harry plan.”

“It has an elegant simplicity.”

“It’ll probably get you both killed.” There was a sigh that I couldn’t quite interpret on her end of the line. “I’ll fly down and meet you there.”

“You don’t want to ride with me?”

“A twelve hour road trip in the Beetle, in September? No, thank you.”

I grimaced. “It’s more like fifteen. Assuming it doesn’t break down on the way.”

“Always assuming that. Stop by my house and pick up a few things that I can’t take on the plane.”

“Sure thing. I’ll be by in an hour or so.” I smiled, knowing she’d probably hear it in my voice. “Thank you, Karrin.”

She hung up the phone, and I hit the button and called one more number. Thankfully, Charity didn’t answer the phone at the Carpenter house or I would have been subjected to another discourse, complete with death threats. I spoke to my apprentice briefly, and then began collecting what I might need for my jaunt to the nation’s capitol. Mister went out for an early morning ramble, and Mouse, seeing that I was leaving on a car trip, gathered his leash and waited by the door hopefully.

“You’re staying here with Molly,” I told him, and let him out to visit his designated area of the yard. I tramped down to the lab and packed up a few things that I might need but would be difficult to find in DC, and tossed Bob in his backpack, more because I didn’t trust him alone with the padawan than because I would need him. He would be riding in the trunk, where I wouldn’t have to talk to him across four states. A person can only take so much Bob in a day.

When I felt reasonably organized, I took the first load of weapons out to the Beetle and began loading up the trunk. The car rocked as I closed it, and I looked up to see Mouse sitting in the backseat. I sighed and pointed at the open door. “Out.”

He looked at me with calm patience and remained exactly where he was. I took a step closer and spotted his food and water dishes on the floor of the backseat, with his leash next to them. “C’mon, Mouse, out of the car.”

At this point he stretched out and lay down across the backseat. “Mouse, I am not riding in a car with you for fifteen hours. Let’s go!”

Mouse closed his eyes and continued ignoring me. I studied the logistics of removing the very large dog from the very small car, and came to the conclusion that there was nothing to be done, short of setting him on fire. Which, granted, I was very good at, but this was my dog and not an abandoned building. Besides, if Mouse wanted to come along, he probably thought I would need him.

“Fine. You can stay,” I growled. Mouse didn’t open his eyes, but his tail thumped against the seat. I closed the car door and wished for coffee.

Molly pulled up in her father’s beat-up truck as I was finishing up the packing. “Are we going on a car trip, boss?”

“I’m going on a car trip. You’re going to watch out for Chicago while I’m gone.” I handed her the supernatural who’s who notebook I’d been putting together for just such an occasion.

“By myself?” She looked a little anxious at the thought.

“There’s a list of contacts in the book. Check in with Ordo Lebes, and answer the office phones during the day, just like you have been. If it looks like something nasty is coming down, you can call and I’ll come through the Nevernever. But it’s September, and bad things rarely start in September.” Of course, now I had just jinxed all of Chicago and the magical entities would be coming out of the woodwork, but there was no need to tell my apprentice that. “And whatever you do, don’t let anyone else touch the notebook. It’s warded against anyone else.”

“So why are you leaving town?”

I sighed and rubbed the bridge of my nose. Molly didn’t know that Thomas and I were brothers. It seemed safest to keep the people who knew to a bare minimum. So I could hardly tell her that I was going to bail my half-brother out of jail.

“It’s complicated,” I finally said. “A friend of mine is in trouble.”

“And you’re going by yourself?”

I glared. My apprentice was getting to know me too well. “Murphy’s meeting me. You can call her cell if there’s trouble. And Mouse is riding along.”

“Sergeant Murphy is leaving too?” Now she definitely sounded worried.

“You have Billy and the Werewolves, your dad is in town, and if it’s truly an emergency and you can’t get ahold of me, call Carlos.” I got in the car, and Mouse opened his eyes and sat up. “Don’t forget to feed Mister.” The Beetle started up with only a slight moan of protest, and I was on my way.

I had three stops to make before I left Chicago, and the first was most important: Gas up the car and get coffee. With coffee in my system, I probably wouldn’t engage in any road rage on the way. Probably. Thomas’ place was next on the list, and I left Mouse to guard the car while I headed upstairs with an empty duffel bag. I rooted through the mess and came up with his cavalry saber, sawed-off shotgun, and a few other nasty-looking things that he wouldn’t have been able to get onto an airplane. The security guy gave me a dirty look as I left, but I had written authorization to get into Toe-moss’ apartment, so there wasn’t much he could do.

I stopped at Murphy’s place on my way out of town, and we loaded up her weapons trunk and suitcase so she wouldn’t have to check anything at the airport. She raised an eyebrow when she saw Mouse sitting in the backseat. “You’re taking your dog with you? Now I’m really glad I’m flying.”

“He wouldn’t let me leave him behind,” I sighed. “Literally.”

“It’s going to make it hard to find a hotel in DC,” she warned as she reached through the window and scratched him behind the ears.

“Can’t be helped. Where do you want to meet up?”

“There’s this coffeehouse called Charlie’s off I 270, exit 1, just before you get into the city.”

“See you there.”

xxx

Gibbs directed Raith through NCIS to one of the interrogation rooms. He put Agent Lee in charge of the suspect’s paperwork and his law-permitted phone call. He ground his teeth as DiNozzo still didn’t answer his phone. He recruited Agent Graham to watch Lee’s back as Gibbs ran down to Abby’s lab. She was on the phone as he walked through the glass doors.

McGee was on the other end of the speakerphone. “Please Abby? Check and see if Gibbs is in interrogation.”

“He’s not,” the person in question announced.

“Oh, good. I’m sending you some pictures that will interest you.”

Abby pointed at the color copier. “They’re already printing.”

“Explain them to me.”

“I assume that you’re looking at the murder weapon?”

“Yes.”

“That was found in Raith’s pile of clothes. It’s definitely human blood. Abby will need time to match blood and Ducky will need to confirm that it’s the right size and shape.”

“Why does the next picture have the murder weapon cleaned?” Gibbs interrupted.

“I’ll get to that. One thing you should know about the murder weapon: it doesn’t have fingerprints. It’s a different knife from the next picture. That one was well hidden in a cut in the bed springs at the head of the bed with the steel throwing knife. These two do have finger prints. They clinked when Ziva threw the mattress off the frame. We had to cut a good portion of the bed springs to get our hands on those blades. Ziva says that the suspected murder weapon is a very good replication of the clean one. The clean one is of better quality and she doesn’t believe that they are a matched set.”

Gibbs grunted.

“We haven’t found any more weapons-weapons in the suite. We’ve packed up all Raith’s hairdressing tools. I’ve collected the computer programming for the hotel doors. All the times the door was open has been accounted for and I’m going to check to see if anyone erased a recording. Ziva interviewed the hotel waitress that got her hair cut. She says that Raith was wearing the same outfit that he had worn to the banquet and there wasn’t a spot of blood on it at that time.”

Gibbs by-passed the pictures of Raith’s clothes that did have blood on it. The suspect was correct in saying that the shirt was ruined. So were the pants. Gibbs looked at a picture of the shoes. They had been tossed in a corner. They still had their shine. The photograph didn’t feature any blood on them. None on top and no blood on the soles. “How pricy was the outfit?”

“Very,” McGee answered, “Everything in this suite is high end merchandise, though some is a couple years old. Not everything is well cared for, but Ziva insists that the knives were.”

Knives instead of guns, blood on parts of the clothes now that wasn’t there after the murder; this case did not add up. One knife –a replica- that had blood and the original did not, but was well cared for. The clean area of the ‘salon’ part of the suite as compared to the mess of the bedroom; Raith did not add up. The pentacle necklace that Raith wore to sleep, where did that fit in?

It was time for Gibbs to interview Raith. He grabbed all the pictures that McGee had instructed Abby to print out. “Good job, McGee,” Gibbs said as he walked out. His team was taking up the slack of DiNozzo’s absence quite well. That boy was going to be on his blacklist for a while.

Gibbs opened the interrogation room door sharply. He stopped and frowned in disapproval. Agent Lee was laughing. Raith had talked her into standing, facing the mirror, as he explained some suggested hair style for her. He was touching her hair. As Lee’s bodyguard, Graham didn’t look thrilled with the idea and the position. He was hovering close, his hand always close to his gun. Raith wasn’t ignoring Graham very well; he was stiff and his smile guarded. Every once in a while, he’d throw a French insult Graham’s way. The one Gibbs heard basically translated to ‘Neanderthal.’

Lee saw Gibbs’ reflection in the one way mirror. She was instantly and -in Gibbs’ opinion- rightfully chastised. She slid out of Raith’s reach, scooped up her folders and brushed by Gibbs on the way out. “Everything is in order, Agent Gibbs,” floated behind her. It was almost graceful, despite her embarrassment. She must have been getting practice somewhere. Graham nodded to Gibbs and the protective agent followed her out.

Gibbs shut the door firmly and put the folder of pictures on the table. He sat and twisted to look at Raith. The suspect was still standing in front of the mirror. He didn’t look tired, but Gibbs knew that he was. Gibbs could see the wariness in his muscles. He was feeling threatened and was struggling between the ‘fight or flight’ defense mechanism.

“Please sit, Monsieur Raith,” Gibbs directed.

Raith walked around the table and sat across the way. He looked Gibbs in the eyes. “I did not kill Monsieur Miller.”

Gibbs didn’t answer. He just kept on looking at Raith. He was trying to puzzle out the man. Raith had muscle. He was lithe and lean. He had smuggled two knives past airport security. He knew how to use those knives.

He knew how to kill with them.

Gibbs waited. He knew that if he looked in a man’s eyes long enough, he would learn about their character. Some people took longer than others. Raith met his eyes without fear. He didn’t look down, he didn’t try to avoid Gibbs’ gaze.

He knew how not to get caught lying, but he wasn’t afraid of the truth.

There were a lot of layers to Raith. None of the evidence added up. A prosecutor would probably say that Raith wouldn’t want to dirty his favorite –the better- knife on Miller and that’s why he had used the replica. But where had he hidden it during the banquet? Why would he have taken it to the banquet in the first place? How did he get it out of the dining hall without getting caught? A prosecutor would say that he had tossed it off the alcove balcony and retrieved it when he had left, but McGee and the FBI agents had not found one drop of evidence to support that.

Raith’s eyes were arrestingly grey, pale grey.

Gibbs finally felt the subtle shifting and knew that he was breaking through the layers of Raith. The agent was aware of Raith’s eyes widening, but tried to shift through the little bits of information.

Protector.

Gibbs was surprised with that revelation about Raith, but waited for more.

Family. Family was everything.

“Who was your mother?”

Gibbs ignored the question, keeping his eyes locked with Raith’s.

Complicated family. Deadly family.

“How long has she been dead –ta mere?”

Gibbs was once again in the interrogation room with Thomas Raith, murder suspect. He was looking at him questioningly.

“Your mother?” Raith asked again.

“Too long to matter to this discussion.” Gibbs whipped the picture of the murder weapon out from the top of the file and put it in front of the other man.

Raith was visually surprised. “Where did you get that? How did it get blood on it?” He did not deny that it was his knife, which meant that there was a record of it belonging to Raith –somewhere. This man was too smart to admit to something that couldn’t be verified.

Gibbs silently handed over the next picture which framed the murder weapon on Raith’s bloody clothes.

“That was not like that when I went to sleep. There was no blood anywhere in my suite. Someone is …how do you say… framing me up.”

Gibbs didn’t bother to correct the idiom; he had subordinate agents for that. He merely passed Raith the next picture in the pile, the ‘original’ knife that was not bloody. In this particular picture, the knife was still in the bedsprings.

Raith stilled. He was surprised. He looked at the ‘identical’ knives, side by side. He compared them feature by feature. He was not detoured by the blood on the murder weapon. Gibbs could see the wheels turning in Raith’s head. Was he trying to figure out who had the motive/opportunity to frame him, or was he trying to explain away the evidence?

“See?” Raith finally announced. “J’ai –I framed up. I have one knife…”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow and flipped through the rest of the file.

“…of this type,” Raith qualified. “This one,” he tapped the un-bloodied knife, “belongs to me. The other is fake.”

Of course, a suspect would claim the knife that was not the suspected murder weapon, but Gibbs’ gut believed him.

“Tell me about Staff Sergeant Terrance Miller.”

“He is a Marine. He wanted a date. I was not interested in a Washington DC fling.”

That matched what every other witness had said. “When did you last see him?”

“At the banquet yesterday. It was the first time I had met him. I haven’t seen him since. I’ve been in my suite all night. You can ask room service. They were the only ones there. I never left.”

Gibbs suddenly realized that Raith didn’t know where and when Miller had died. “What happened on the balcony?”

Raith blinked. He was still a little confused with Gibbs’ line of questioning, but the NCIS agent was not quite ready to give the suspect information. “Miller followed me out there. I was looking for cool air and quiet. Miller did not like being told ‘no.’ I had to push him out of my way to go back into the reception hall. The confrontation was upsetting, so I left. I never saw Miller again.”

“Miller never left that alcove you’re talking about.”

Raith blanched. “Than someone else went outside. It was quite hot in that hall.”

“We have the security recording. The next person to see Miller, saw him dead.”

“C’est impossible! The next person must have…”

Gibbs turned around to face the TV sitting in the corner. He knocked on the one-way mirror as he turned on the machine. Gibbs turned back to the door as Abby entered. He noticed that Raith was watching him closely.

Abby pushed him out of the way. “Let me do it. You know it never works for you.” Gibbs couldn’t argue. He did have problems with most electronics. In short order, the TV was frozen at the point where Miller had first asked Raith for a date. Abby slapped the remote control into Gibbs’ hand with a friendly warning. “Don’t break it.”

She ignored Raith as she left the room. Gibbs pressed the play button and sat on the table facing the suspect. He watched Raith watch the security footage. Raith was attentive, his eyes sharp and focused. He never lost the intensity. Gibbs had to twist his head toward the TV to know where the recording was. He was surprised to see that the initial confrontation between Raith and Miller was long over. Raith was watching all of the proceedings carefully.

He was watching for who could have framed him.

Gibbs was tempted to fast-forward this middle part of the security footage. It wouldn’t do for the main suspect to pick up a clue before Abby could review it all with a fine tooth comb. He watched Raith watch the footage and waited. Finally came the part where Raith had disappeared into the alcove. And then Miller had followed. Raith tensed in real life. He was watching every person in the footage. Then Raith reappeared on the scene and had said his farewells. Raith watched and waited.

Predator.

Then came the moment when the senator’s wife had discovered the body.

Shit!” It was said in the heavy French accent but, it wasn’t a French swear. Raith stared at the TV in shock. His left thumb caressed the silver chain that held the pentacle necklace.

Regret.

“Oh, ‘Arry,” he whispered.

Protector.

This interview had left Gibbs with more questions than answers. “Let’s start at the beginning, Monsieur Raith. When did you first know that you were coming to DC? And be sure to leave nothing out.”

Part 2