Detective Anthony DiNozzo was ready to pull his hair out. It wasn't enough that he was trying to solve a serial killings case, but he had two federal agencies arguing over which one of them would take the lead.
"Hey! I have an idea. Why don't you let me keep the lead on this case?" Tony yelled over the arguing of the two Feds. "Only one of the victims was Navy, so NCIS really doesn't need to be too involved here and we all know the only reason the FBI is here, is because Baltimore is so close to DC. If this was out in Bumfuck, Kansas you wouldn't have shown up yet, Fornell. We didn't ask for your help.
"Now, I have a witness to interview. Goodbye." Tony left the two older men in the interrogation room.
"Dude, are you sure that was the smartest thing to do? Pissing off the Feds ain't the smartest thing." Tony's partner said as he fell into step.
"Really don't care at this point, Dave. I just wanted them to shut up. Otherwise they would have been arguing until morning and I don't have time for it."
Gibbs and Fornell exchanged a glance. "Did we just get railroaded by a local LEO?" Fornell said after a moment.
The NCIS agent considered. "Yes, Tobias, I think we did. Navy's involved, my case."
"This is our case, Gibbs."
"Not anymore." Gibbs stalked out of the room, eyes finding the back of the young detective's head. He followed him toward the parking garage. Where did the man think he was going? Gibbs caught up with him and his partner. "I'll drive," he said flatly.
"No, you will not drive. You will get the files you promised me, Special Agent Gibbs."
"I don't take orders, DiNozzo, I give them. Get in the car." DiNozzo turned to face him. Their eyes met for a long moment. "I want this bastard, and he won't get away from me."
"I'm interviewing this witness. You'll only scare her off. She doesn't like military men."
"And you?" Gibbs raised a brow and the stakes. There was a moment of shock in the young man's eyes.
A smirk spread over the young man's face. "I love uniforms," he replied. "Get in the car. I'll drive."
Tony waited for Gibbs to get in the car before turning to his partner. "I'll take the Navy cop, you go deal with the feebie. He's not going to go away with this guy hanging around, so we'll have to deal with them. Make sure Fornell gets that profile he promised us."
David nodded. "You know the Chief isn't going to be happy when he hears about your blow up at the Feds."
Tony smirked at him. "When is the Chief ever happy with me?"
"Hey! DiNozzo! I thought we were leaving?" Gibbs yelled out the window.
Tony sighed and glared at David. "I'm gonna end up killing this guy. I just know it." He opened the door and slid into the driver's seat. "You're a real pain in the ass, you know that?" He pulled out of the parking lot and into the busy Baltimore streets.
"The second 'b' in my name stands for bastard," Gibbs replied.
"Well it sure ain't false advertising," Tony mumbled. "Now, can I drop you off some where? You know, so you can get the files you promised me."
"After we talk to the witness."
Tony swung the car into an alley and brought the car to a halt with a screech. He turned to face the older man. "Look. The witness we are going to talk to will run at the first sign of you. You have military written all over you and we are going to speak to a paranoid schizophrenic who thinks that the military has implanted a chip in her head and is listening to every thought she has."
"And you think this is a good witness?" Gibbs scoffed.
"She's the only one we have. So, you get the files, I'll handle the witness. I'm not going to lose her because of your stubborness."
Gibbs nodded sharply. "I want a complete tape of it."
"No tapes. I told you. Paranoid."
"Verbatim, DiNozzo. I want a verbatim transcript."
"She's not the only paranoid one," Tony muttered.
David Karls took a breath before cornering the FBI agent. "Special Agent Fornell, when will that profile be here?"
"Detective Karls, the profile will be here when you give me all of your files."
"You have copies of all the pertinent information. I know that because we copied it ourselves. There's nothing missing. We gave you all the information that your profiler requested."
"The FBI has jurisdiction. We're taking the case."
"Last I heard, you and Special Agent Gibbs agreed to leave Tony as lead." Karls gave the man his blandest look. Fornell's eyes narrowed.
"I'm the lead on this case. I have been since I got here."
"Not that I know of, Special Agent Fornell." Karls left the room. He found a quiet corner to let his breath out. "DiNozzo, you are damn lucky I'm willing to back you."
After Tony dropped Gibbs off he headed for the Harbor. He parked the car and made his way to one of the alleyways. "Betha? It's Tony. I'm alone."
A head peaked up from behind a garbage bin. "It's okay, Betha. Come on out."
Betha slowly came out from behind the bin. She was dressed in ratty clothes and could easily been confused for a homeless woman, but he knew that she had an apartment that her son paid for.
"Tony, are you sure they didn't follow you?" Betha asked as she looked around.
"I'm sure, Betha." He held out his arm to side. Betha rushed to his side and started to frisk him. She would never talk to him unless she was sure that he wasn't wired.
"Open your mouth," she ordered. Tony did as she said and bent down so she could see easier. She shined a flashlight into his mouth. She turned off the flashlight and ran her fingers through his hair. Finally she was satisfied. "Okay, they haven't gotten to you. You're lucky you know. I thought for sure that they'd get you after you helped me."
Tony had met Betha when he'd been driving around trying to find a suspect and saw two men beating up on who he thought was a homeless woman. It turned out that the two Army Privates had thought it would be fun to mess with a crazy lady. The two men where currently serving a three year prison sentence and Tony had made a new informant. Betha might not be the sanest person in the world, but she had contacts like no one else.
"What have you got for me, Betha?"
"There's been talk of a new guy that hangs around here. He pretends to be homeless but he doesn't panhandle. He watches. He's always watching. I've watched him and I don't like what I see. So I followed him. He was following a girl. He raped her. Then he killed her. Cut her up. Took her tongue. He laughed when he did it. Three nights later I followed him again. This time he was following a boy. Did the same to him, but he was rougher. The boy was still alive when he cut him up. And he only raped the girl once. He raped the boy twice. Took the boy's tongue while he was still alive. Then he slit his throat."
Tony held out a stack of photographs. "Who were the victims?"
She looked through the pictures and finally held up two of them. "These are them. They were so pretty before he took them."
Sara James and Kevin Hanok. The two latest victims. "Is he still hanging around?"
"No. After the boy, he left. Haven't seen him again."
"What did he look like Betha?"
"Tall. Taller than you. Blonde hair. White skin. No tan. He had a tattoo on his cheek. A small knife percing the skin of his cheekbone and a drop of blood running down his face."
"Thank you, Betha. This will be very helpful." Tony pulled out an envelope with Betha's informant fee. He held it out to her and she took it. He started to leave but she grabbed his hand.
"You need to be careful, Tony. He knows you are hunting him. I heard him talking to himself. He said that you will be his last victim. That the cop hunting him would be his final masterpiece. He said your name." Betha let go of his hand, then turned and ran out of the alley.
"What have you got for me?" Tony asked his partner as he came in. Fornell was sitting at the conference room table they'd taken over.
"Feebs coughed up a profile. White male, 20-35, loner."
"Did they tell us anything we don't know?"
"He's probably staying in a flop where he can pay cash. He doesn't work regular hours."
"Betha says he's my height, blonde, pale, with a tattoo."
"That narrows things down," Gibbs stated.
Tony stiffened. "I didn't hear you come in, Agent Gibbs."
"How about sharing everything with the rest of the class, Detective DiNozzo?" Gibbs' voice was hard. Karls stepped back away from the confrontation. It was going to be a doozy.
"Do you have the files?" Tony's voice was calm.
"Do you have my transcript?" Gibbs countered.
"Fornell's coughed up a preliminary profile. Your turn."
"You get the file when I get my report."
"You don't get to order me around, Agent Gibbs." Tony turned to look the former Marine in the eyes. The ice in them made his heart clench.
"Of course I do, DiNozzo, this is an NCIS investigation." Gibbs smirked. "The tattoo, is a small knife piercing the cheek with blood running from it." Tony's eyes narrowed.
"You have a name for me?"
Gibbs smiled. It wasn't comforting. "After I get my report."
"Fine. Betha heard rumors about a homeless guy who was in prime panhandling space but wasn't asking for money. He was just watching people. So she decided to watch him. She followed him and watched him kill Sara James. Three nights later she saw him kill Kevin Hovak. Her descriptions of the events matches the M.E.'s reports. She decided to contact me after Kevin's death because she heard the suspect talking to himself. He named his final victim."
"Who is it?" Fornell asked. "We need to get this person into protective custody ASAP."
Tony looked around the room. "I think I'm pretty safe here." Gibbs shot a hard look at the younger man. "I mean, I have my partner right here. An FBI agent and a NCIS agent. I'm in the middle of a police station."
"You?" Fornell asked. The look on his face clearly said that he wasn't quite comprehending what DiNozzo was saying.
"Yes, me. She said that he knows that the police are hunting him and that I'm the lead detective on the case and that I would be his final masterpiece. Honestly it makes sense. Look at all of his victims. They've all been in public service of one kind or another. He started with an EMT. Then a Firefighter. Teacher, a doctor from a free clinic. Then a military man. We knew a police officer had to be there some where and what better of a choice than the one that's hunting him down."
"Well, looks like we won't have to put you undercover after all, DiNozzo." Everyone in the room turned to look at the man who entered. "You just get to be yourself. Of course that's enough to make anyone want to kill you, so I can't say I'm terribly shocked by the news."
"Chief," DiNozzo said wearly.
"We'll just have to make sure that he can find you. Keep you out in the public. We'll make sure you have back up," the Chief said with a sneer. "Agents," the Chief acknowledged before leaving the room.
"You think he means the same kind of back up you got when he lent you to Narco for that heroin bust?" David asked Tony.
"What kind of back up was that?" Gibbs asked.
"None. I take it back. I had David because he refused to follow orders. He's the only reason I made it out of that bust alive. The Chief would love to see me dead."
"Or behind bars. After the bust he tried to say that there was no investigation into that heroin ring and that Tony was a dirty cop who was trying to make the deal for himself. The Chief didn't count on Tony being so thorough and keeping all of the papers and phone conversations. The Chief's under investigation because of it, but no one really thinks anything'll come of it."
Gibbs' eyes narrowed. Fornell's shoulders stiffened. Tony shrugged. "That's life in the big city. Don't know why he hates me." He smiled.
"Must be your winning personality," Karls said smiling. He liked Tony. They worked well together. "Or maybe it's because you were flirting with his daughter at the picnic?"
"He hated me before I ever met his daughter. Besides, she's not my type."
"Too connected. Now, Agent Fornell, we need to tighten the noose around this bastard's neck. I need a press relase to piss him off. Then, we need to do some interviewing of the panhandlers and runaways. Think you two can manage to be non-threatening? And you have a name for me, don't you, Agent Gibbs?"
"Sean Parsons," Gibbs said flatly. "This is his file. Dishonourable discharge."
Tony put out his hand.
"I'm not turning the investigation over to you, Agent Gibbs. Give me the file."
"We'll provide backup."
"My team's on the way," Fornell countered.
"I don't care. Give me the file."
Karls couldn't help but laugh at the three of them.
"What?" Tony snapped.
"It's like a freaking nature special. When you three figure out who's the alpha, just let me know. I'll take care of the file, Agent Gibbs. And maybe I can recruit us some real back up." Tony snapped the file from Gibbs' hand and turned to protect it with his body. Gibbs smacked the younger man across the back of the head. Karls found his hand on his gun. Tony turned to face the NCIS agent. Gibbs smirked at him.
"What was that?"
"Must be losing my touch."
"No one has smacked me upside the head since I turned twelve and I don't appreciate it." There was a slight smile on his face. "You're lucky. I elbowed Rocco in the balls for it."
Tony stared at the file in front of him. The Chief and Fornell were off giving a press conference. Letting the city know what the suspect looked like. Hopefully it would only be a matter of time Before Sean Parsons was in custody.
They were running the risk of the suspect going to ground, but the FBI profile indicated that he would need to take his last victim. Parsons had no idea that Tony knew that he was being targeted so Tony would be made available. Both NCIS and the FBI promised back up and a few members of the BPD had also offered their time.
He sat up straight and arched his back. He could feel the muscles tightening up. It always happened before an undercover gig and this could be the biggest of his life. He wasn't all together sure he could trust the feds but they didn't seem happy when they found out about what the Chief had done to him so maybe they'd be okay.
Tony raised his head and saw Gibbs standing in front of his desk. He was holding two cups of coffee. "What, Agent Gibbs? I figured you'd be out with the Chief and Fornell. Making a name for yourself."
"Don't like the press. Here." Gibbs held out one of the cups. Tony took it and saw that it had just the right amount of milk.
"How are you doing?"
Tony sat back in his chair and grinned. "This isn't my first rodeo and I doubt it'll be my last. I'm fine.
"So are you clear on where your team is going to be set up?"
"Yup. Come on." Gibbs motioned to him.
"To get you wired up. You aren't going out there without a full set up."
"You just don't take no for an answer do you, Gibbs?"
Tony sighed. "Fine. This isn't worth arguing over. Is your person here?"
"She's set up in one of the interrogation rooms."
Tony followed Gibbs to Interrogation Room 4. The door opened and a young goth girl stood in the doorway.
"So I'm here, Gibbs. I've got audio, video, and GPS. So where's my victim?"
"Your tech?" Tony asked. He couldn't help but smile. "Love the hair."
"Thanks. You know, you should try streaks," she said brightly. "You must be my victim. Step into my parlor."
"Buzz. Buzz." She caught his wrist and dragged him into the room. "I'm Tony DiNozzo."
"Abby Scuito." They shook hands. He leaned against the table. "So, here we go. GPS tracker. Should go in your watch or a bracelet or something. I've got a camera and audio. Let's get you wired up. Take off that shirt." She winked.
"I think this could be a beautiful friendship. I'll take off my shirt, if you show me your other tats." Gibbs cleared his throat. "What?"
Abby rolled her eyes. "Ignore the bossman. He gets cranky." She winked at him. They were fairly professional as they were taping the wire to his back and untangling the cord to the earpiece. "So, honey, you busy later?"
"On whether we've got a date or not."
"No dating co-workers," Gibbs growled.
"I've got the time if you've got the crime," Abby said, smile wide. "There's a great party going on downtown. You'd so love it. Just ignore anything you see."
"My favorite type of party," Tony replied. He sipped his coffee.
Abby blinked. "Did Gibbs give you coffee?" He nodded. "Whoa. Maybe we shouldn't date."
"Why not?" The Baltimore detective looked at Abby in confusion.
"If he's bringing you coffee, it's serious. I don't break up couples."
Tony snickered. He fished his card out of his pocket and wrote his email and cell phone number on the back. "Here. We definitely need to talk." He put his shirt back on. "So, will I live?"
"I think you'll do." She fixed the video camera into his collar.
"Thanks," Tony said with a grin.
"No prob." She bounced back and turned to look at Gibbs. "You better take good care of him, Bossman. I want that date."
Gibbs glared at her. She smiled back, clearly not upset with the idea of pissing off her boss.
"And with that, I'll head back to my desk. See you at the meeting, Gibbs." Tony left the room.
"So, he's the one huh?" Abby asked ask she hopped up to sit on the table.
"I'm thinking about it. What do your instincts say?"
"That if you recruit him and he takes you up on it, you are in for an interesting time. From what I've found out about him, he moves around a lot. Two years is the longest he's stayed anywhere. He has a degree from Ohio State in Physical Education. He's an excellent investigator and an even better undercover cop. I like him."
"Remember rule number twelve, Abs."
"He's not a co-worker yet."
Gibbs shook his head and kissed the top of her head. "Don't get too attached. He might say no."
"Don't think so. He's been feeling out other departments. He's ripe for the picking."
Tony shook two Motrin into his hand. The arguing between the Chief and the two agents was loud enough to rattle the windows. It was odd to see the two feds on the same side however. "Well, this is a switch," he muttered to his partner. He swallowed the pills. Karls grimaced.
"What? That we're on our own, you mean?"
"No, that I'm siding with the feds. It's just wrong."
The argument ended with a slam of the chief's door behind the feds.
"Damn. They're out," Karls muttered. "I thought we'd have at least twenty minutes to relax. Hey, when did you get coffee?"
"Fornell brought it for me. He upped the stakes and brought pastry too. I left it for you."
"Thanks. I'm starved." David took the danish without hesitation. "Want me to call out?"
"Nah. With luck we can get the feds to expense it."
Karls' lips twisted into a parody of a smile. "I don't like this, Tony."
"I'm not exactly puppy dogs and rainbows either."
"I've got your back, man."
"Trust me. I appreciate it."
Tony looked up when one of the other Detectives moved closer. "I'm sorry, Man. The Chief has pulled us. We just got the call. We'd do it on our off time, but suddenly he has something for us to do on our overtime. Some class that we didn't take." The Detective rolled his eyes. "Does he really think he's fooling anyone?"
"Only IAB, Rich. We all know he'll never go down. Don't worry about it, Man. I appreciate the thought and I know you'd be there if you could," Tony said.
Rich patted Tony on the shoulder before moving away.
"You think the feds'll give us some people?" David asked.
"Probably. They each want the collar so I'm thinking they'll cough up some agents." Tony stood up. "I gotta hit the bathroom." Tony headed to the men's room. It was empty when he entered and he walked over to the sink. He turned on the faucet and splashed some water on his face and used his hand to rub it over the back of his neck. He looked up into the mirror and stared at his refection.
He knew he needed to find another department to work in and soon but it wasn't easy finding someplace that was willing to take a risk on. He'd moved around too much and had left too many enemies behind him. He thought back on the coffee that Gibbs and Fornell had brought him. If one of them offered him a job he'd probably take it. He nodded at himself. Who ever offered him a position first had him.
Fornell frowned at Karls. "Where's your partner?"
"Bathroom. That allowed?" Karls snapped.
The FBI agent held up a hand. "I don't like targets without guards."
"Funny. The chief does." The delivery was off-hand and Fornell almost didn't catch it.
"What do you mean?" he asked, frowning.
"Chief pulled off the volunteers we had for this op. We're alone again."
A low almost-growl alerted Fornell to Gibbs behind him. "No, you aren't alone." Fornell had his phone to his ear a moment later. He didn't have to look to know Gibbs was doing the same. There were just some things in this world that weren't done. Leaving someone to get killed because of personal issues was one of them. These idiots didn't deserve to have DiNozzo on their team. He'd have to court him a little less subtly. He ordered up a team for surveillance. Catch the killer, recruit the cop, it was a simple equation. He'd done it before.
Tony came back into the room and took his seat. "What's going on?" He asked Karls.
"They just found out what the Chief did. They didn't look too happy."
Tony snorted. "Are they ever happy?"
"All right, we need to go over the plans for this. Let's get some delivery and take this to a conference room. I'm assuming you have maps of the area?" Gibbs asked.
"Yup. Conference room two is open. We'll meet you there." Tony stood up. "Oh by the way, menus are over there," he said pointed at the main table. "I'll take Lemon Chicken, Singapore rice noodles, an egg roll, and egg drop soup. Thanks." He started out of the room.
"I'll take Beef Hunan style, beef fried rice, a spring roll, and wonton soup," Karls said following Tony.
Gibbs looked at Fornell. "You know what my usual is."
"Why am I paying for this?"
"The FBI has a bigger budget."
Fornell's eyes narrows as Gibbs walked away. He knew that look. There was no way he was letting Gibbs get a hold of this one.
"Okay, the kidnappings have all taken place in this area," Tony marked it out with a grease pencil. He paused when the food arrived and was divvied up. "There forks in there?"
"Sure." Karls handed one over. "I was thinking that we could canvas to see if we can find someone other than Betha who's seen him recently. If he's in a flop, it's got to be nearby."
"Well, there's the drug flops here and here. And don't forget Paulie McGinty's got rooms in the back. He's been known to do longer than hourly."
Gibbs frowned. "There's another possibility. Given his training and the fact that it's summer, he could be camped out on his own. He's stalking you, DiNozzo, that means he's trying to find your regular places, like any good hunter."
"This is my regular place. I haven't seen my apartment in... three days?"
Karls nodded. "Yep. Three days. My girlfriend just called to ask I'd been killed."
"I told you, Dave, you've got to quit with the commitment thing."
"We can't all be Don Jaun. Listen, do you really think he's stalking Tony?"
Gibbs nodded. "I would, in his place. Get your home, your office, your watering hole. If you're going to be his 'masterpiece,' he'll do this one right."
Tony shivered. "That's such a happy thought, Gibbs. Thanks for sharing. Okay, that's my apartment, this is my gym, the YMCA where I play ball with the local kids, and the bar where I do my drinking."
"That looks to be about a three square mile area to cover. In a normal week what's your schedule like?" Gibbs asked.
"Monday, go to work, go to the gym, go home if I don't have a date. Tuesday, work, the YMCA for a pick up game, home if I don't have a date. Wednesday, work, stop in a the bar, home if I don't have a date. Thursday, work, the YMCA, then home-"
"If you don't have a date. We get the picture," Fornell grumbled. Tony grinned at the older man.
"Okay. Friday. Work, gym, bar, home. Saturday. If I don't have to work, I spend most of the day at the Y or home doing my bills or cleaning or whatever then I hit the bar. If I have to work, work, the Y then the bar. Pretty much the same on Sunday. Although if there's a good movie playing at the Charles Theater I'll go there."
"How often do you go to the Charles?" Gibbs asked.
Tony shrugged. "Maybe once or twice a month. Depends on what they're playing."
"Nothing peaked my interest. I've been on a black and white kick."
"Keep to your regular schedule. We need to take a look at your place and set up surviellence there," Gibbs stated. "Do you walk home from the bar?"
"Usually," Tony admitted. "That's when I'd attack, actually. It's usually sort of late and I tend to be in a car. Or the Y. I can't exactly play ball with a gun at my side."
"Yeah. I thought about coaching, but I couldn't make the time commitment." Tony shrugged. "This is my route from the bar. I drive to the Y though."
"I'll get a team there for evaluation," Fornell stated. "I don't want you walking home alone from that bar until we have a full team on you."
Tony shrugged. "Hey, even one person'll be fine. I can just make sure I take home a date."
"We don't know if he'll kill someone else just to get to you. I don't want to take that risk and you don't either."
"So give me a female agent. I don't usually take men home with me, so if we are trying to make this as normal as possible, a male agent, isn't going to cut it."
"Fine. What's your usual type?" Fornell asked.
Tony thought for a moment. "Yeah that's pretty much it. As long as she's vaguely attractive and has a good personality."
"And by personality he means will fall into bed with him with a snap of his fingers," Karls added.
"Fuck you, David. Any way, I'm not really picky. I like women."
"All right, I have an agent that'll fit. I'll give you her picture before you leave today. That way you can recognize her."
"Fine, but I don't think I'll be going to the bar tonight. After not being home for three days, I would usually just go home and crash so it would be tomorrow that I'd go to the bar."
"That's even better. Gives us more time to prep."
Tony gave him a patently false smile. "Great. Thanks for dinner. I'm going to crash. See you tomorrow."
"Your car still in the shop."
Tony checked his phone. There were no messages from the garage. "Looks like it. Going to have to get a rental."
"I'll drive you home," Gibbs stated. It wasn't an offer as much as a statement.
"Thanks. I think."
"We need to see the place anyway."
"Good thing I cleaned up last weekend. See you tomorrow, David. Fornell." Tony followed Gibbs out to the parking lot.
"You know you didn't have to do this. I could've taken a cab," Tony said, catching up to the Agent.
"True, but getting a look at your place is necessary. The sooner the better. I can let Abby know what she'll need and tomorrow we can get it all in place. It's all for your safety DiNozzo."
"Yeah, well at least you aren't trying to sneak off with my evidence this time."
"Technically it was my evidence. He was a Navy Officer, therefore it falls under NCIS jurisdiction."
"Yes, but it was part of a serial killer investigation and therefore my needs are priority."
"How did you catch us anyway?" Gibbs asked.
"You had a look in your eye when I refused to hand it over. I've seen it before and I wasn't about to let you get away with it. I'd been sitting there for four hours waiting for you to show. I was starting to think I was wrong about you. But you came through in the end. Nice to know my skills aren't slipping."
"Get in. You can give me directions on the way."
Tony tossed his backpack in the backseat. He paused. "You know anything about Baltimore traffic?"
"It's always bad?"
"That's true." Tony settled in the front seat. Gibbs looked at him for a minute. "What?"
Tony pulled on his belt. He frowned at Gibbs' profile. Then, he was grabbing for the Jesus-bar and praying they'd get out of the garage safely. There were only two near misses before they pulled out onto the actual roads. He managed a few "turn heres," before he couldn't take it. "Slow down, for fuck's sake! You won't have to worry about this bastard! You're going to get me killed first."
They whipped around another corner. "Easy for you to say. Shit, even I'm not this bad! I said 'left' at the last corner by the way."
Tony grabbed the Jesus-bar tighter when Gibbs did a u-turn in the middle of traffic. "I'm gonna write you a ticket," he grunted as he was slammed into the door. "Oh God," he whimpered as Gibbs cut off an eighteen wheeler. "Let me know when we're dead, okay?" Tony clenched his eyes shut and prayed. He wasn't sure if God was real or not, but he wasn't about to hedge his bets.
Gibbs finally brought the car to a stop in the parking lot of Tony's apartment building. Tony opened the door and seriously thought about falling to his knees and kissing the pavement. He'd never been so happy to be on solid ground. He turned to glare at Gibbs.
"You are a fucking menace! How the hell do you keep that drivers license? Wait, screw that, how are you still alive and not in jail for causing someone else's death?"
Gibbs just stared at him with a bland look. "Let's go, DiNozzo."
"From now on, I drive." Tony turned to lead the NCIS man upstairs. "Here we are, home sweet apartment."
Gibbs looked around him. He frowned. He closed the front door. "How the Hell do you live like this?"
"I'm usually not here."
"Most women prefer to sleep in their own beds," Tony replied. "Now take your tour and get out."
Gibbs looked around the apartment while Tony grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator. Tony went into the living/dining room and collapsed onto the couch. He took a swig of the beer, laid his head back and closed his eyes. He couldn't wait until Gibbs left. He just wanted to sleep. He felt the cushion next to him depress as Gibbs sat down.
"What do you want, Gibbs?"
"If you Chief was no longer an issue would you still be looking for another department?"
Tony raised his head and looked at Gibb. "What are you talking about?"
"I know you are shopping your resume around. I would imagine that most of the reason behind that is the Chief. If he wasn't a problem would you keep looking?"
"Probably. It's not just the Chief. There are enough other people that make my life hell that I'd still be looking."
Gibbs nodded. "I have an opening on my team. I think you would fit in perfectly."
Tony looked at Gibbs in shock. He wasn't expecting a job offer this fast, but he had said that the first team that asked, he'd join but he wasn't quite ready to say yes. He wanted to see this cased finished before agreeing to leave the department. "Ask me again when this is all over. After all, I might not survive."
"Oh you'll survive, DiNozzo. Just remember, I offered you a position first. You go over to Fornell's team, I'll make sure that any cases you have to work with NCIS are hell."
Tony laughed. "Way to make me want to be on your team, Gibbs."
"I only take the best on my team, DiNozzo. Fornell just takes the people who will make him look good. He doesn't share the lime light."
"Maybe credit isn't important to me."
"You want to stay in the shadows, I can accomidate that too. Now, about security. You keep those blinds closed at all times. Make him guess a little bit."
"I don't open them anyway."
"Abby will set up video and audio monitors. I want you wired anytime you leave this apartment. Even if you're just taking out the trash. We don't know how long he's been watching you or where he'll be tempted to grab you. We want to give him opportunities, but don't take any stupid chances."
Tony nodded. "Okay. I'm going to assume that I can wire myself every morning and that I'm not going to have to have Abby come here every day to set me up."
"Just wear the same type of clothing and put the devices in the same areas and you should be good."
"Great. So is there anything else you need? I'm tired and I'd like to get to bed sometime tonight."
"No, I think I've got all the information Abby's gonna need. We'll be back bright and early to set up the monitors."
"Okay. Goodnight." Tony got up and held the door open for Gibbs. "See you tomorrow."
Gibbs stopped in front of Tony and reached up and tapped Tony's cheek. "Follow my orders. I don't want to lose my next investigator before I get him." Gibbs left the apartment and headed down the hall without a backwards glance.
Tony shook his head and shut the door. He locked the door and quickly moved around the apartment making sure that the windows were locked and the drapes drawn. While Gibbs annoyed him, the man's orders were sound.
Tony resisted the urge to rub at the wire. The tape was starting to irritate his back. He let his shades slip down a little and grinned at the prostitute who was trying very hard not to catch his attention. "Hey."
"Hi, hon," she replied, straightening a little. Maybe she was trying to look respectable. It didn't work.
Tony held out the pictures. "You remember seeing either of these two around here?"
She took the pictures and studied them. She shook her head. She was relieved. "Should I have?"
"They went missing a few days ago. We're just trying to find out where they've been. There was a rumor that they were around here. Oh, there is something." He held out a photocopy of their suspect's service picture. "If you see this guy, don't approach him." He handed her a card. "Call me immediately, okay?"
"You want his tag number if he's driving?"
"Definitely. Can you pass this around to the other girls?"
"Sure," she said after a moment. "What's he done?"
"He's a material witness in a murder case." He saw the light dawn in her eyes. He looked at her seriously for a long moment. "We don't know how dangerous he is. Just be careful, okay?"
She smirked at him. "You're a sweet one."
He made a show of looking her up and down. He winked. "So are you."
"You always so charming, DiNozzo?" Gibbs voice came through the earpiece.
Tony grinned. "Always. That was the last one on this street. I'm heading back to the station."
"See you in a few."
Tony looked up and down the street before getting into his car. He locked the doors before turning the key in the ignition. He glanced at his side mirror and pulled away from the curb. In his rearview mirror he saw a black sedan pulling away from the curb. He grinned and shook his head. Febbies were never subtle.
Gibbs and Fornell looked up from the suspect's file when Tony walked into the conference room.
"You know, Fornell, you're guys have got to get better at the covert stuff. I made them with no problem. I guarantee that Parsons would have no issue," Tony said as he sat down.
"They weren't trying to be covert."
"Then how are we supposed to flush him out if I've got Feds hanging all over me."
"Don't worry. When the time comes, they know how to blend." Fornell stood up. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go get a cup of coffee."
Once Fornell left the room, Tony scrubbed his hands over his face. "I think I'm gonna have to lose my protection detail. He'll never come after me with those goons following."
Gibbs smirked. "Don't worry. My guys will still be on you."
Tony frown at Gibbs. "You have guys following me too?"
Gibbs sat back and grinned. "Didn't see them did you?"
Tony thought back. The only car he'd seen following him was the black FBI sedan. Nothing else. He'd been looking too, just in case Parsons was following him.
He shook his head. "No. I didn't see anyone else."
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