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Fic: Marine Knots Part 2

I hate airports. Most people complain about flying, especially flying coach, but I don’t really mind that. It’s one of the places where being short is a great advantage. While everyone around me is grumbling about being squashed, I settle my five foot and three-quarters of an inch frame into the seat and stretch out my legs.

Airports are something else entirely. I’ve never been crazy about crowds, and being in a crowd and unarmed is worse. People are more irritated in airports, more prone to push others out of their way, to snap at strangers who move more slowly than they would like, and to just generally be rude and mean-spirited. I have never been able to work up enough menace in my appearance to get any kind of personal space. Harry, of course, can do it without even really trying. I’ve never envied him the magic, which seems to carry with it all kinds of baggage, but I wouldn’t mind having a little bit of that ability. It’s hard to work up a good ‘back off’ presence when you look like a cheerleader and people know that you probably aren’t armed.

I had a rental car in time to catch the tail end of DC’s morning rush hour, and was soon tooling around town looking every bit the tourist. All Harry had been able to tell me about the actual crime was that the victim had been a Marine, attending a fundraiser somewhere on Capitol Hill. Something like that would be hard to keep out of the news, so I headed to a coffeehouse for caffeine and a newspaper.

I stayed in the car while I drank my coffee and read the paper. I knew intellectually that I could take out most people in hand-to-hand, but I felt vulnerable without weapons. I hadn’t walked around unarmed since I graduated from the academy. Sending them with Harry had kept me from having to worry about airport security, but it meant I was going to be wandering around a very dangerous city unarmed until he got here. I missed my gun like some people miss their pets, and I missed the throwing knives I’d been practicing with nearly as much.

It wasn’t hard to find the story; there had been several prominent politicians in attendance and the murder was on the front page. It didn’t mention that an arrest had been made; only that NCIS had the case and were working on several leads. Thomas wasn’t named anywhere in the story, but toward the end of the article a semi-familiar name popped out at me: Lisa Lewinski, senatorial candidate for the state of Illinois and resident of the Gold Coast in Chicago. Just the kind of woman who would bring her own personal hairdresser to take care of herself and her staff on a trip to Washington.

A few phone calls and a fifteen minute drive later, I was sitting in the living area of Ms. Lewinski’s suite in the Hotel Monolith. “I already told that appalling man from NCIS everything I know. Thomas couldn’t possibly have done this. He’s such a gentle man.”

I kept my face professionally blank. There was no need to tell the politician that Thomas most certainly could have done it if he’d seen the other man as a threat. “I know that, Ms. Lewinski. I’m not officially with the investigators on this.” I dropped my voice, making the tone conspiratorial. “Let’s just say that Thomas called someone very close to him, and that someone called in a favor from me.” The woman’s expression changed slightly, and just like that, I was no longer a cop, but one of them. “What can you tell me about last night?”

“Miller was practically hounding Thomas, looking for a date. Thomas made it clear he wasn’t interested, that he was involved with someone else.” Lewinski looked at me with interest. “I’ve never met his friend, you know, but he must be someone very special.”

I nodded and brought the conversation back to the investigation, because I definitely didn’t want to get into that discussion. “And then?”

“Thomas was feeling a little crowded, so he went out to get a little space and air. He came back exasperated, said he was going back to the hotel, and left. And then that little twit of a senator’s wife started screaming about the dead Marine.”

“Was there any blood on Thomas’ shirt?”

“There most certainly was not! He was wearing the Versace; I would have noticed.” She leaned in a little, a gleam in her eyes. “Just because I don’t own the property, doesn’t mean I can’t admire the view.”

I nodded in understanding. Thomas was very nice to look at. “Do you know why they took him?”

The woman frowned. “Something to do with the security recording, I think. That was why they started asking about him, anyway. And they’ve had his suite cordoned off with yellow tape all morning, looking for something to pin on him.”

I asked a few more questions about the fundraiser and the victim, made my excuses, and headed for the next stop on the agenda: the crime scene down the hall.

I’ve noticed over the years that a badge and a bored expression can get you into almost any situation, whether you belong there or not. It’s not a good thing, really, but it served me well in this instance. I left my badge clipped to my belt, nodded to the DC cops guarding the door, and ducked under the crime scene tape. There was a box of gloves and a box of shoe covers next to the door, and I slipped those on without hesitation and hugged the wall as I walked in. The suite was nearly identical to Lewinski’s rooms down the hall; except that this one had several sturdy plastic boxes marked ‘Evidence – NCIS’ stacked on the couch. The floor had probably been swept for trace evidence, judging by the look of the carpet. I moved through the room in the general direction of the evidence boxes, and glanced at the one designated as ‘priority.’ There were three knives in individual bags. One I recognized as the cold iron throwing knife Thomas kept around in case of a chance encounter with a fey. The second was his kukuri, and the third was a close approximation of it, covered with blood. A brightly colored shirt and a pair of pants were in bags next to it, both showing dark red splotches of their own.

“You’re not supposed to be here.”

I forced myself to turn at a casual rate, despite the fact that the voice had startled me. The kid standing behind me reminded me of Harry’s friend Billy; he was far too young for the job he was doing, and even with a scowl on his face he resembled nothing so much as a half-grown puppy. Of course, just like Billy, he was probably hiding some muscle underneath a little bit of baby fat. And unlike me, he was most definitely armed. I missed my gun. “The officers guarding the door let me in. Does this have to do with the murder last night?”

The scowl deepened. “You’re not supposed to be here,” he reiterated, clearly not willing to simply arrest me. Another nice perk from wearing a badge.

“I followed crime scene protocol. I was just visiting with Ms. Lewinski down the hall and was curious.” I looked past him into the bedroom and spotted the dark red stain near the door.

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” the kid said. “This area is off-limits to anyone but NCIS personnel.” I went toward the door without protest, lest the rookie decide to arrest me. He stopped me just at the yellow tape and held out his hand. “Can I see your badge, please?”

Damn. I had hoped he wouldn’t do that. If he called Stallings and told him I was in Washington DC and not home with the flu, my career was toast. If I refused, though, I would probably wind up facing charges, which would put me in deeper trouble. I handed it over, and he studied it briefly before returning it to me. As I waited, I took off the booties. He didn’t, however, write anything down from it, so I was probably in the clear. I ducked under the yellow tape and made good my escape.

I made a few stops and headed for the coffeehouse to meet Harry. I settled down at a table near the door with my cell phone, a notebook, and the yellow pages, and ordered the coffeehouse specialty. The waitress brought me a cinnamon roll that normally would take me a week in the gym to work off, but I was on what promised to be one of Harry’s ‘special’ cases and would probably work it off in the next 48 hours running for my life. While I waited for Harry to drive up in his clown car, I called and found the mechanic that I knew the Beetle would need and jotted down the number for a tow truck. Then I started looking for motels that would let us bring in Mouse.

When I heard the tortured sounds of a dying four-cylinder engine, I looked at my pocket watch. Only thirteen hours. No wonder the Beetle was dying. I gathered up my things, made one last phone call, and headed out to meet my friend.

xxx

Gibbs’ cell phone rang and he answered it with a bark. “Gibbs.”

McGee was softly chanting a number. “Boss,” the young agent interrupted himself. “A woman was just snooping around Raith’s suite. A Karrin Murphy from Chicago PD.” He then proceeded to rattle off how the woman spelled her name and the first half of her badge number. McGee paused to ‘catch his breath’ and Ziva yelled the last numbers to the younger agent. Gibbs wrote it all down.

“Good. Hurry back to the lab,” Gibbs ordered. He hung up without saying good-bye or letting McGee end the conversation in a more polite manner.

Gibbs sat down at his desk and called up information for the number the Chicago’s Police Department. It took three transferred calls before he got results. He hated being put on hold. He had a team to do stuff like this; DiNozzo was going to pay for missing the beginning of the case.

“Rawlins,” the new voice answered his desk phone.

Gibbs tried to be polite. “I’m Special Agent Jethro Gibbs with Navy Crime Investigators.”

“From the docks,” asked Rawlins.

“From DC,” Gibbs corrected.

Rawlins paused, obviously about to transfer Gibbs to yet another officer.

“I’m looking for information about a Sergeant Karrin Murphy.”

Rawlins swore softly and muttered. “Damn, Murph, you said you were sick, not out to catch Potomac Fever.”

Gibbs catalogued that information. “Do you know why Sergeant Murphy would be in DC?”

“Is Dresden there?” Rawlins drawled.

Gibbs frowned. He had heard that name recently, connected to the prime suspect. “Harry Dresden?”

“That’s him.”

“I don’t believe that’s he’s here.”

“Yet.”

“Excuse me?”

“Dresden’s not there yet. He’ll be there before sunset.”

“The two work together,” Gibbs surmised.

“When Murphy ran SI, cases got closed and people were safer. Dresden was her tool.”

“SI?”

“Special Investigations.”

“She no longer runs that department.”

“Nope.”

Gibbs could recognize a door slamming shut when he heard one. “She was good at it?”

“Very. I don’t mind that she’s been partnered with me. She’s good at protecting her own.”

“What’s her relationship with Thomas Raith?”

“Raith? Oh, Toe-moss. Not much, I think. Harry is closer to him.” Gibbs heard the grin in the detective’s voice but didn’t know why. “Any other questions, Agent Gibbs?”

“Not at this time.”

“Good. If you have any more, just use my extension.” Rawlins rattled it off. Gibbs knew that he was covering for his partner and at this point was willing to play along. He wrote down the numbers. It’d be nice if someone was cooperating with him. Now, if only Raith would quit stonewalling him.

xxx

I’d like to say I roared into Washington DC, but it’s more truthful to say that I limped into the city instead. The Beetle died with an ominous rattle in the parking lot, and I coasted to a stop. Murphy watched this from her seat on the curb with a half-smile on her face. “You made good time.”

I got out of the car, and Mouse followed after me, greeting Murphy enthusiastically. My dog has good taste in people.

“Almost didn’t make it at all,” I said, watching a tendril of smoke curl up from under the hood of my vehicle. “Got the name of a good mechanic in the area?”

“Already called. Tow truck should show up in about ten minutes.”

I stared at her for a long moment. “Now that’s just scary, Murph.”

“I could hear the engine from three blocks away. There was no way you were driving that car across four states without problems somewhere. How was the trip?”

“Eh. Drive four hours, fill the gas tank, stretch the legs, look it’s Ohio. Repeat for Pennsylvania and Maryland.” I opened up the Beetle’s trunk and began transferring the contents over to Murphy’s rental; weapons in the trunk and clothing in the back seat. “What have you found out?”

“He’s being held at NCIS headquarters.”

“The who and the what now?”

Murphy rolled her eyes. “NCIS investigates crimes related to the Navy and Marines. The victim was a Marine.”

“Right. What do they have on him?”

“The murder weapon was found in his hotel room, covered with the victim’s blood, on top of the shirt Thomas was wearing. And according to security tapes, he was the last one to see the victim alive.”

“Motive?”

“The victim had recently come out of the closet and was being a little aggressive with Thomas.”

I grimaced. “That happens sometimes. I’m guessing from the phone call that he wants me to play his circumspect lover.”

Murphy grinned. “I’ve heard you’re pretty good at it.”

“I knew you came all the way out here to see the ‘Ah-ree and Toe-moss’ act.”

“It wasn’t showing in Chicago.” Her smile slipped off her face as she studied me. “You’re ok with it, aren’t you?”

“You know the truth. It’s pretty good camouflage for everyone who doesn’t need to know.” We stood there silently for a moment, leaning against Murphy’s rental. Mouse nudged his head underneath my hand, and I obligingly scratched behind his ears. Murphy shook herself out of her thoughts and glanced at me.

“You aren’t going to wear that to see your ‘boyfriend’, are you?”

I looked down at my t-shirt and jeans and then at Murphy. “What’s wrong with it?”

“If you look the part, it’s a little more believable.” She reached into the car and pulled out a bag. “Put one of these on.”

I reached in and pulled out a shirt. It was black. With purple stripes. There were three others in the bag, each just on the edge of ostentatious. Hell’s bells. I looked at Murphy. “You have got to be kidding me.”

“Think of them as a costume. Hurry up, before the tow truck gets here.”

I set the bag down on top of the car and gazed at its contents for a long moment. “The things I do for my brother,” I said, sighing, and pulled off my t-shirt. I studiously avoided looking at Murphy as I buttoned up the new shirt. She had, after all, seen Thomas without a shirt, and I was pretty sure seeing me in the same position was like comparing one of those prints they hang up in a hotel lobby to the Mona Lisa: not bad to look at, but nowhere in the same league as DaVinci.

When I turned back to look at Murphy, her face was carefully blank. “Sit down,” she said, nudging me gently toward the curb. “You can’t go with your hair looking like that.” She rummaged through her backpack and pulled out a hairbrush. Most women would have carried a purse, but most women don’t need to carry extra ammunition and holy water-filled waterguns. She brushed my hair for about a minute, which was a fairly pleasant experience, but when she went back into her backpack and brought out the gel I stopped her.

“He likes to be able to run his fingers through my hair,” I told her, pitching my voice a little higher than normal and putting a little fondness into the tone. Murphy snorted, but obligingly dropped the tube back. She was quiet for a moment, her small fingers fussing with my hair, and then I felt a sharp tug and saw her hand drop across my face. Held between her thumb and forefinger was a grey hair. “Somebody’s getting old,” she said in a sing-song voice.

I tilted my head back until I could see her. “I didn’t need to see that, Murph,” I groaned, and took the hair from her, destroying it with a little judiciously applied fire magic. “It’s all Thomas’ fault.”

“How’s that?”

“Family makes you crazy. And old before your time.” I stood up as a battered tow truck rattled into the parking lot.

Murphy gave the driver directions to the mechanic, who we would see in the morning, and they dragged the Beetle away. Mouse jumped happily into the backseat despite the fact that he had just spent most of the day in the car, and Murphy drove me to NCIS headquarters. She gave me a long lingering look as I got out of the car and smirked. “You’ll do,” she said, and drove away with my dog, who seemed happy enough to leave me alone now that he had Murphy as a companion. Traitor.

I studied the building for a second, gathering up my courage. “Welcome to the ‘Ah-ree and Toe-moss’ show,” I muttered, and walked in.

I got through the metal detectors without them exploding and tried to look comfortable and confident in the new shirt, which was much tighter across the torso than my usual shirts. It helped that I had my duster on overtop of it. On the plus side of things, Murphy had somehow managed to find a shirt that was long enough for my arms, which hardly ever happens. I could count on one hand the shirts I’ve owned as an adult that fit my arms, and most of them resembled a tent everywhere else.

Head in the game, Harry. Most of my magic arsenal was with Murphy, since they likely wouldn’t let me carry blunt objects, even ones made out of wood, into a government office. All I had was the shield bracelet on my left wrist and the rings on my right hand. I couldn’t afford to let my concentration slip, even if Murphy apparently knew my dimensions well enough to buy me a shirt that fit perfectly.

The polite lady with a gun on her hip called for my escort after scrutinizing my driver’s license and consultant’s badge, and I stood there attempting to give out murky sexuality vibes with an official visitor’s badge attached to my coat.

The promised escort eventually arrived in the form of a kid who didn’t look old enough to shave. There was a bit of baby fat still in his face, and his expression was just shy of earnest and willing to please, which made me feel old. There was also something vaguely familiar about his face, like I’d seen it in passing sometime recently. I shook off the feeling. It would come to me eventually.

“I’m Special Agent McGee. I understand you have information about a case?”

“Harry Dresden,” I replied, holding out my hand for him to shake, “and no, I don’t. I need to see Thomas Raith. I came to see him as soon as he called me.” I tried to inject a little worry into my Murphy impersonation voice. “It’s just terrible, thinking about him being locked away. I knew he’d need me here.”

The kid’s eager-to-please look remained, reminding me of a golden retriever. “You’ll have to talk to my supervisor about that,” he said, leading me to an elevator. When the doors slid shut, he turned to me and asked, with polite interest in his voice, “So how did you and Mister Raith meet?”

“At a costume party,” I answered truthfully. It was a bad idea to lie to cops, even rookies. “There were fireworks between us, but we’d each come with someone else.”

He nodded thoughtfully. “And what do you do for a living?”

“I’m a wizard.”

“You mean for parties?”

I shook my head and managed to laugh at a higher pitch without my voice cracking. “I advise people about the occult. And sometimes I consult with the police.” The doors to the elevator opened before he could ask more questions, and I stepped out into the open and away from further queries. Special Agent McGee was a good fisherman: easy to talk to, good at asking leading questions, and non-threatening. Forget playing good cop, it was hard to remember that he was a cop at all. If he really was the rookie I took him to be, his boss was going to prove to be a problem.

Agent McGee took me into an open office space, with low cubicles set in groups, and stopped next to a grey-haired man whose body language screamed ‘soldier.’ “Boss?”

The man turned from the big screen he was perusing and looked at the two of us. “Yeah, McGee?”

“This is Harry Dresden. He’s here to see Mr. Raith. Mr. Dresden, this is Special Agent Jethro Gibbs.” The kid seemed to get ready to say something else, but instead beat a hasty retreat to a nearby desk from the glare his superior sent after him.

The same glare found its way to me next, but I’ve been intimidated by some of the scariest things out there, and it didn’t have the same effect on me. “Are you his lawyer,” the man finally asked.

“No. Thomas and I have a personal relationship.” I glanced at the screen he’d just been looking at and froze. It was split two ways, with the photo of a man in uniform on the left. The right side was running video of a small, windowless room occupied by one person: Thomas. He was sitting at a table by himself, his hands in front of him and his face turned to the corner, studiously avoiding the camera. There was an edge of a wall-length mirror on the wall opposite him. Probably a one-way mirror. By the way he was carefully not moving, he knew they were watching him.

I felt a surge of anger. They had my brother in a cage, observing him like some exotic new animal. There was a muffled pop behind me, presumably a computer dying. The lights overhead flickered, and the screen in front of me began to ghost with static. Easy, Harry. This wasn’t helping.

Agent Gibbs was watching me when I looked back at him, his face carefully neutral. I waited until I was sure my tone would be completely even before speaking. “Can I see him, please?”

The older man studied me for a long second, trying to meet my eyes without being obvious about it, and then nodded and headed down the hallway, motioning for me to follow. He led me to an unmarked door, opened it and walked in, and I was two steps behind him, my senses jangling for the possibility of a trap.

It wasn’t. Thomas was sitting at the table, looking at the door, and the neutral mask dropped when he saw me. “Ah-ree,” he said with that ludicrous French accent, and he got up and hugged me.

“You touch my ass, and I’ll slug you,” I said very, very softly, and he made a sound that would probably pass as a choked sob but was in actuality laughter. Then he broke the embrace and looked me square in the eyes.

“I had nothing to do with what happened to that man,” he said gravely.

“I know,” I replied, and meant it. “I trust you, Thomas.” I turned to Agent Gibbs. “Can we have some privacy?”

He looked back at me, then Thomas, and then turned to the mirrored wall. “Cut the cameras,” he grated out, and left the room, closing the door behind him.

Because I have an inherent distrust of authority, honed over most of my adult life, I waited for a moment and then hexed down the camera and microphone, and two of the fluorescent light bulbs by accident. Then I Listened, and caught the sound of people talking, very faintly. Finally I turned back to Thomas. “What are you wearing? I know you didn’t dress yourself,” I said, still in my Murphy Impersonation Voice.

Thomas shrugged, managing to make the faded red sweatpants and T-shirt look like something from a designer. “Neither did you,” he said, putting his hand on my arm.

I flushed red and looked down. “Murphy dressed me.” Thomas managed to keep from laughing, but I suspect it was a near thing. I spoke again before he could make another smartass comment. “I’m pretty sure they’re still watching, but I hexed down the camera and microphone, so we should be ok.”

“First things first, Harry. Do you have backup?” Thomas had thankfully dropped the French accent. “This is a trap for at least one of us, and you have more enemies than I do.”

“Sad but true. Murphy flew into town this morning, and Mouse rode along with me. What about you? Do you need to feed?”

“I should be all right for another day or so before it gets bad.”

That put us on a specific timetable to get him out of this. “All right. Tell me everything that happened last night.”

xxx

Tony was screwed.

It wasn’t his fault! He had left after the work day was over. Gibbs’ NCIS team was supposed to have the weekend off. Jeanne had the weekend off from the hospital. He and Jeanne had planned to spend the weekend in the deserted part of the Appalachian mountains. One sleeping bag and the starry sky for a tent. No rain in the forecast, it should have been a perfect weekend getaway.

Then the most publicized NCIS case of the year happened.

And he had been out of cell phone reception range, defying rule 12 or was it rule 17? Never be unreachable. Of course the Director had given the case to Gibbs. He was the only one with the brass balls to run this case sans politics. His team would be the only ones willing to ignore the publicity, the chance to get their faces and names on the front page of every news story. So when Jeanne had wanted to go to a restaurant for a late lunch and they had driven to the nearest town, Tony realized that his voice mail box was filled to capacity. He was being ordered back to work now. Only now was a three hour drive away.

Jeanne had seen the news on the little TV that the greasy spoon owner used to keep occupied. She had heard that NCIS was in charge of the case. She had quickly and silently packed up their stuff. Sometimes, there were advantages to dating a career woman. She just looked so sad on the ride home. Maybe that’s why Tony loved her so much.

Tony was screwed no matter which way he looked. He had listened to enough of McGeek’s messages to know that Gibbs wanted him back in town immediately. Abby had left several warnings, as had Ziva. He broke every speed limit on the way back to the office. He kept all the radio stations on the news, hoping against hope that the reporters had learned something that Gibbs hadn’t. Of course, that would put Gibbs in a really bad mood, but Tony needed every scrap of information he could glean. He called Abby and she tried to give him as much as she knew. She knew that there was a suspect in the interrogation room that Gibbs had not charged and had not cracked. That was more than the news radio knew.

Which was as much as Gibbs knew. Tony needed to walk into NCIS knowing something new. How?

Pure luck was his only option. He hated relying on luck. Gibbs was going to be pissed and Tony was screwed.

Tony dropped off Jeanne with a quick kiss and hurried to NCIS without changing clothes. He looked a little rumpled, but he had no choice. He did stop at the corner coffee shop to get him self some caffeine for what was sure to be a very late night and to get Gibbs some as a peace offering. It wouldn’t go far, but anything and everything would help get Tony out of the doghouse for the next …oh, year.

So Tony parked in his normal parking spot, juggled the two cups of coffee and locked his car up. He happened to walk in behind a stranger, a very tall stranger in a beat-up, black trench coat. Tony had seen him get out of his car: he had been the passenger and a woman had been the driver. And there had been a really big honkin’ dog in the backseat. The stranger kept tugging at the sleeves of his shirt and then he tugged at the hem and the collar. He looked really uncomfortable and then he tried to look normal. Tony had watched the guy put on his ‘game face.’

Then he had said the oddest thing: “Welcome to the ‘Ah-ree and Toe-moss’ show.” Hadn’t Abby said that the main suspect was named ‘Toe-moss’? Tony flirted with the entrance security long enough to see McGee come down and get the stranger. McGee had seen him, but Tony had made a motion behind the stranger’s back to keep his identity a secret. He watched McGee take the guy –named Dresden- up in the elevator. Tony made a bee-line for the stairs, to go downstairs to the interrogation room and hopefully well out of Gibbs’ way. He prayed hard that Gibbs would not stop in the observation room when he dropped him off. Prayers were answered.

Gibbs trusted that his subordinates would obey –which they had. The video and microphones had been turned off. Ziva teased Tony a little but mostly filled Tony in on the case. He listened with half an ear, but generally watched the interaction between Dresden and Toe-moss Raith. They were both tall and dark, each striking in their own way. Neither one was forgettable. He looked down at the two unconsumed coffee cups in his hands and had an idea. He thanked Ziva fervently, made a smart-aleck joke at the observation technician who had just seen his computer fry and walked out into the hallway. He did check to make sure Gibbs was no where behind him before knocking at the interrogation door.

“Oui?” Raith answered.

Tony juggled the coffee and the door handle. He shot a quick, apologetic smile at the two men. “Sorry. I just thought that you’d like some coffee. I know that the stuff in the cafeteria could corrode steel.” He set both large plastic cups on the table and dug into his coat pocket and pulled out packets of cream and sugar.

“Merci,” said the pretty one.

“Thanks,” grunted Trench coat.

He waved at the one-way mirror. “Just knock on that when you’re done and Ziva will escort you out.” He left the room and breathed deep. Now it was time to find McGee and see what he knew and what information he needed help finding. He needed to make himself useful for this case pronto.

xxx

“Why haven’t you charged him yet?”

“He hasn’t confessed.”

“Not all of them do, Jethro. Some can hold out under the famous Gibbs stare.”

The agent just shrugged and continued staring at the prime suspect.

“Why are you holding him?”

“All the evidence points to him.”

“Why haven’t you charged him yet?”

“My gut says he didn’t do it. Miller didn’t pose a threat to anything of Raith’s.”

“Some people don’t need a reason to kill,” Jen reminded quietly.

“Raith does.”

The director waited.

“I miss Kate.”

Her jaw dropped. It was the last thing Jen had expected Jethro to say.

“I might need a psychologist to look over the evidence and explain Raith to me.”

“I thought you said that you were sure that he didn’t do it.”

“I did and I am,” Gibbs growled. “But he’s the key to this. Someone had his personal knife reproduced for this. This was planned and planned well. I don’t think that they had expected Raith to bring the knife with him. It might be the only thing that they hadn’t accounted for. Raith had been picked to take the fall. Raith probably has a pretty good idea of who would set him up, but he won’t talk to my team. We both know that in jail, it would be a matter of days before he died. Someone wants him dead and wants us to facilitate it. I need to know why.”

“And Kate,” Jen ventured.

“Ducky’s a little too new at this. It’s more of a hobby for McGee and both concentrate more on actions of people than their environments. If Raith was easy to figure out, we would have done it by now.”

Jen smiled slightly. “I normally get a dinner brought to my office for a case like this.”

“If Raith gets out, it’ll be a matter of hours before he’s dead.” Gibbs’ voice turned wry. “And then I lose my main suspect and my best lead.”

xxx

Gibbs watched Tony and McGee banter back and forth. Tony was slightly subdued, constantly glancing his way. He was being very careful not to push Gibbs’ buttons today. Gibbs was thankful; this case was confusing enough without DiNozzo sarcasm muddying the waters. And Gibbs was sure that Tony would be back to his irreverent self before the case was over.

“I think you’re making a big assumption,” Tony told McGee.

“No, I’m not,” the probie argued. “You weren’t here. Agent Lee listened to their phone call. They share a bank account. They are lovers.”

“I think that’s what they want you to think.”

McGee threw up his hands. “Do you have any proof?”

“They have many of the same features and mannerisms.”

“They are lovers, Tony. When you’re around someone that much, you have a tendency to pick up things like that.”

“Dresden got dropped off by a woman.”

“Short? Blonde hair? Gymnast build?” McGee rattled off the description of the cop he had met.

DiNozzo was surprised and it showed. “Yeah.”

“She’s a cop. He’s a consultant. They’ve worked together on several cases. Dresden probably called in a favor. Or Dresden and Raith could have a very open relationship. It’s possible. Dresden and Murphy got a motel room together.”

DiNozzo rolled his eyes. “You are looking for the mystery book answer, Probie; the surprise ending.”

“And you’re not,” McGee shot back.

Gibbs looked up from his desk to see Ziva shaking her head at the argument. Then Gibbs saw Abby well out of McGee’s line-of-sight. Her eyes met DiNozzo’s and she gave him two thumbs up. DiNozzo relaxed incrementally.

“Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is, Gemcity? A hundred bucks says that Dresden and Raith are related.”

“You’re on.”

“Both of you are out,” Gibbs barked. “As in out of my sight.” They hurried away.

Good. Gibbs had a phone call to make in privacy. He called Chicago PD and then Rawlins’ extension.

Thankfully, the police officer answered. “Rawlins.”

“Sergeant, this is Agent Gibbs with NCIS again.”

“What can I do for you?”

“I need a gut answer from you. Totally off the record.” There was silence on the other end, but Gibbs was not detoured. “If I told you that Thomas Raith was being held on suspicion of murder, but there was no motive, what would you think?”

There was a long pause. “I’d wonder if that person posed a threat to Dresden. But I need for you to understand something. Earlier this year, Raith’s boat was demolished. The witnesses aboard were potential targets of a serial killer. Raith had figured out that there was a serial killer long before the police, he figured out who the killer was targeting and he had spirited the women and children to his boat for safe keeping. This isn’t in any official report.”

“Sergeant Murphy told you?” Gibbs guessed.

“Yeah. She wanted me to know who a good guy was in a pinch.”

“Like Dresden?”

“Yeah. Did Dresden show?”

“Yes. Drove here.”

Rawlins snickered and then stopped. “Raith, Dresden and Murphy are all in DC? All hell’s about to break loose.”

“Here or there?”

Rawlins snorted. “Probably both.”

“Thank you for your time, Sergeant Rawlins.”

“Welcome. One last thing…”

“Oh.”

“When hell arrives, you can trust Murphy to cover your back. I was partnered with her father back in the day and Murphy’s probably better than her old man. Dresden’s good too but very unorthodox.”

The two hung up. Gibbs sat at his desk and mulled through the information. Raith was a confirmed protector. Raith had a deadly, confusing family that he would protect at all costs. Dresden was part of that family. Raith and Dresden had gone to great lengths to hide their familial connection. It was a good thing that Tony had been suspicious of the men’s relationship. Gibbs probably would have missed it and McGee still was blind to the truth. There was a very good reason for keeping that boy around and it wasn’t just for his pretty looks. Dresden and Raith had pretended to be lovers. Why?

Maybe it was time for Gibbs to find out. He realized that Ziva was on the phone talking in a foreign language. While that wasn’t too unusual, for this case, Gibbs was surprised that she wasn’t rattling off in French. If Gibbs wasn’t mistaken, that was Yiddish.

She hung up the phone, looking bemused.

“Ziva?”

The Israeli jerked her head his way.

“What are you doing on my time?”

“I was trying to find out if there was any equipment can take out electrical components and computers so well.”

Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “You don’t think it’s natural? Or a coincidence?”

“No. I’ve seen everything current and no one has told me if the improvements would make the jammers small enough to be carried –unobserved- by a person.”

“He came through the metal detectors.”

“I know. That is the true advancement. He has equipment better than anything Mossad has. I can’t find where he got it. It must be very new on the market.”

Gibbs grunted and walked away. Ziva assumed that Gibbs wasn’t interested in further chasing of the lead. Or he could be assuming that Ziva wouldn’t need to be told to keep working. Ziva tapped a pencil on her chin. Abby could help her. She knew where and how to find most of the high-tech secrets of the United States.

Part 3