The Mile High City Affair
ATF crossover with "NCIS"
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*click* Gibbs was suddenly aware of a thin stream of light penetrating his sleep. He tried fuzzily to pinpoint its origin. A vague sense of déjà vu swept over him; this had all happened before...that's right, when wife 3 had clocked him over the head with a baseball bat. And when wife 2 went after him with a seven-iron. And--
A small voice reminded him that he was divorced. So what...? He opened his eyes.
*click* "Good. You're not dead." Caitlin Todd pocketed Ducky's small penlight and straightened. "We've been trying to reach you for an hour. Tony was worried when I told him you weren't asleep under your boat." He scowled, and a small smile appeared on her face. "Peace offering?" she said hopefully, holding up a cup of coffee.
Gibbs acquiesced, sitting up and taking the cup from her. "What?"
Kate half-sat, half-leaned on his windowsill. "Marine sniper went UA from his base in Hawaii."
"UA? What did the MPs say?"
"Honolulu police department, MPs, and NCIS think he might be tied to an assassination cold case." Kate paused, looking around. "May I use your bathroom?"
"Second door on the left." Once she had gone, he got up to change. "What's with all the LEOs?"
"MPs were still searching his place when the PD and the FBI came in, so the MPs took them and the case to NCIS," came her voice over the running water.
Gibbs just frowned as he put on his holster. FBI? "Who at NCIS Hawaii contacted us?"
"Agent Owens called HQ early this morning. He caught Abby, who called up Tony and McGee when she couldn't reach you." Kate emerged from the bathroom and stood at the doorway to his room, scanning quickly. Her eyes fell on the landline receiver off the hook, and the cell phone in pieces on his desk. Giving him a half-chastising look, she picked it up. "Gibbs."
Gibbs just gave her a look, daring her to comment. Sighing, she pocketed the pieces carefully.
Ryan Kelly, ATF Team 8's supervising agent, glared at the ringing phone. It was four $#!% AM in the morning, and he and his team had been covering for Team 7--the sale of small arms to Columbia. He had agreed to take the Moitinho case off Larabee's hands since they had a lot on their plate and could use the help.
Well, that and the fact that his own team was dying of boredom, evidenced by the Saran wrap on the toliet seat prank that had nailed his senior agent. Learned, of course, from Team 7.
The Larabee gang was out on the biggest bust this year, catching a gun-runner named Sutton. The final meeting had been rescheduled several times, and they were hoping this time it was for real. They were tired, and Standish had been in the cold for several months already.
*rrrrrrrriiiiiinnnngggg* For a moment Kelly wished he were not so level-headed; pulling a Larabee and shooting the stupid thing looked like a particularly excellent idea at the moment.
He snatched the receiver, snarling "Kelly" and preparing to tell the caller off. He listened a moment, then sat up, totally awake now and in a much more conciliatory mood. "I'll talk to Travis right now."
"I have no idea," came Owens' voice over the teleconference call. "The MPs, Honolulu PD, the Denver FBI all come trooping into my office, asking where Gunnery Sergeant Michael Garcia was." The NCIS agent paused. "Sean Harrison--the PD detective in charge--told me privately that it might have something to do with an old ATF case."
"ATF?" Tony asked, and when he got a confirming nod from Owens, he murmured to Kate, "Let's hope this doesn't go the way of the last case we had with them."
"What is this, the annual interagency cooperation party?" Gibbs muttered.
Owens took a deep breath. "According to Harrison, the Denver ATF still have a huge open case. The former governor of Colorado, Clayton Hopewell, is suspected of trying to knock off some of his political opponents before the last election."
"You're kidding," Tony said in disbelief. "I thought that went out of style in the US years ago."
"There was no hard evidence, so they couldn't pin him down, but it was bad enough that Hopewell was voted out of office. He retired to Hawaii. The ATF team supervisor called in a personal favor with Harrison to ask 'em to keep an eye on the governor while he was down there."
"What does this have to do with our UA Marine?" Gibbs asked pointedly.
"Garcia disappeared four days ago, and when the MPs were looking for clues, they found a tape of one of the governor's cronies handing Garcia a large sum of money. Few days later, he flew out--in a ticket paid in cash--although he didn't have leave time. Harrison checked the airport cameras--it's Garcia. Flight attendants on the flight recognized him, although he was traveling under an alias." Owens sighed. "Mostly, though, we're going on the fact that the FBI are overly interested in the case. They know stuff we don't."
"What did they want?" Kate asked, puzzled.
"All the info on Garcia AND for Harrison to keep it hush. So, of course, he called the ATF and then came to us." There were chuckles at that.
"Didn't you just say this was an ATF case?" Gibbs asked. "Where are they?"
"This 'interagency cooperation party' happened within the last 40 hours. Harrison contacted the ATF and was told that the team was closing a bust and wouldn't be in until later this morning. He's still working it while the secondary ATF team on the case contacts their director."
"What does Garcia do?" McGee asked.
"He's a sniper. The governor hired snipers for his job the last time."
"Any other information on the case?"
Owens shook his head apologetically. "Sorry. I sent Abby Garcia's laptop as soon as we got it--it went overnight, so she's got it now--and what notes we have. That's it."
"Okay, we'll take it from here." With that, Gibbs ended the telecom connection. "Abs, what did you get from his laptop?"
"Tons. It's like he downloaded every article having to do with the Hopewell case," Abby replied. "I gave that all to McGee. But here's the big whoop."
"So whoop us."
Abby typed in a command, bringing up a large, virtual map onto the flat-screen in her lab. "There are several maps on the laptop, of specific areas in Denver. They're all like this one, 3-D rotational."
Kate stepped forward, narrowing her eyes a little at the map. "Abby, could you slow the turning a little bit?" The ex-Secret Service agent watched carefully as the map spun slowly, then shook her head as she turned to her colleagues. "The map's a sniper's dream. It helps with vantage points--choosing positions, sweep of the area, what obstructions would be there. He's a serious sniper."
Gibbs nodded "McGee. Tell me about the articles."
"Not a whole lot of specifics, just that people were guessing Hopewell had tried to off some of his opponents. Most papers won't even say that, because Hopewell was pretty fast to sue the ATF team for implying he had anything to do with the assassinations. I did a news search on another database, crosschecking the dates. From the obits the few months prior to the accusations, I'd guess there were two victims...a sheriff and a mayor. At least."
"Any other targets?"
"The Clarion's Brian Crowell boldly states that Hopewell had at least one more target, but he won't say whom. He's the only one to even try. I'm sorry, boss, but we'll have to go through the ATF."
"Boss, one of us should really go to Denver, talk to the team in person," Tony cut in, his eyes dancing in anticipation. "That's the only way we can get that information."
Gibbs turned to the agent, his eyes narrowing ever so slightly. "Is it, now."
"Oh yeah." Tony backtracked just slightly at his boss's look. "I'll go, be back with the info in two days." At Gibbs' look, he amended, "One?"
Kate, barely suppressing a smile of amusement, exchanged looks with a grinning Abby.
Gibbs headed for the door. "All of you, grab your gear. McGee, get us on the first flight to Denver."
"YEEESSS!" Tony shouted.
"What is your obsession with Denver?" Kate asked. "You're a tropics guy. Gitmo, Puerto Rico."
"Snow, skiing..." Tony grinned wide. "All those snow bunnies who're cold and need someone to--"
"I don't want to know," Kate exclaimed, cutting him off and gathering up her stuff. "Don't tell me. Please." Behind them, Abby grinned.
Tony shrugged. "You asked," he replied.
Gibbs continued to give orders. "Abby, get me a copy of what you've got there on the laptop. I also want the name of--"
"That would be Director Dale Redding, but you want to talk to Assistant Director Orin Travis," came a voice from the doorway. The agents and Abby looked up to see Ducky. "The ATF team is Chris Larabee's. And Mary Travis, Orin's daughter-in-law, was the third target."
Gibbs just looked at Ducky.
ATF assistant director Orin Travis was dressed in just a sweatshirt and jeans, but Kelly could still feel the aura of quiet authority the older man gave off as he paced the floor of his office. "Does Chris know yet?" he finally asked.
Kelly shook his head. "They're on a bust. Sutton case."
Travis nodded, wiping a hand down his face. The Sutton case was big--his boys had been working on it for over a few years. "How urgent did Chris' PD liasion say it was?"
"Pretty urgent," Kelly replied. "Harrison called me at four am. He's been trying to reach Chris all yesterday, and finally gave up and called me. He said one of the NCIS agents out in Hawaii already contacted a Washington team for help."
Orin looked up at that, frowning. "Did he say whom?"
Kelly shook his head. "He told me that Agent Owens said not to worry about it."
+ + + + + + +
McGee again leaned forward to peek across the airplane's aisle, and Kate finally looked up in annoyance. "McGee. I expect this from Tony. Not you." Tony made a face at her from the window seat.
McGee sighed and sat back in his middle seat. After a moment, he whispered, "Is Ducky okay?"
All three peered discreetly across the aisle to where their boss sat with Ducky. The normally chatty ME had been unusually quiet, saying no more than five words since they'd met at the airport and boarded the plane. They were scheduled to land in Denver in an hour, and he was still silent.
"Just leave him be," Tony replied quietly. "Let Gibbs handle him."
Across the aisle, Gibbs sat patiently, his head against the back of the seat. He had been waiting for Ducky to speak for the entire flight, and there was not a peep out of him. He knew that the man had a lot of memories stored up, but he didn't know that it was this bad.
As if reading his mind, Ducky said quietly, "He was my godson." Gibbs turned to see the normally unflappable ME looking quietly into his soda cup. "I watched Stephen Travis grow up; I was at his graduation, at his wedding." He swallowed a moment. "The last time I saw Orin and Evie...Mary and Billy--it was at Stephen's funeral." He sighed. "I just...I've sent the cards at the holidays and birthdays, but I think I bring back too many memories to them. They don't remember me at a time when Stephen wasn't alive." He paused. "And me, them."
Gibbs nodded quietly, watching Ducky. The elderly ME fell silent again, toying with his cup, and the agent nudged him. "Worried?"
The older man set the cup down, as if he were about to say something. He paused, then looked up at Gibbs. "Mary lost her husband--Orin and Evie lost their son--to violence," he said quietly. "They nearly lost Billy to the same people. Mary and Stephen's son."
Gibbs' eyes widened slightly. "What?"
"He was five years of age," Ducky replied, his tone rife with disgust. "He was the only witness to his father's murder. So, understandably, he was...."
"...a target," Gibbs replied, his voice taking the same tone as Ducky's.
The man nodded quietly. "And then there's Mary."
"She's got quite an interesting file."
Ducky just chuckled. "You can say it, Jethro. Trouble finds her quite easily. Kidnapped, nearly burned out of her business district and home, nearly blown up, then this." He shook his head.
"She's not going to die, Duck."
"I don't think Orin and Evie can take anymore," Ducky replied quietly. "It's hard enough to see our own colleagues pass on, but this--we are getting far too old to be burying those younger than we. When Christopher Pacci died, well." He shrugged and fell silent.
Ducky sighed, fnally looking up. "You should have seen his family the day of Stephen's funeral." He shook his head. "Parents are not meant to bury their children."
Kelly looked over at his passenger, sitting shotgun in the company car. Orin Travis looked as though he had aged ten years since this (early) morning, and the younger man could not help feeling sorry for the assistant director. His team already had gotten police surveillance out on Mary, Billy, and Evie Travis.
The agent pulled up on the final road out to the Larabee ranch. A few cars dotted the driveway, so they knew the team was at the ranch, the usual way they kicked back to relax after a tough case. And so they should--Sutton was arrested. It would be all over the news this morning.
"They should have their cell phones," Orin grumbled as he climbed out of the car. The two men headed up to the door and rang the doorbell; there was no answer. Orin pounded it impatiently a couple more times, and then the two men heard a muffled drawl spouting a list of unprintable words, only a few of which were English.
Italian with a tinge of a Southern accent. Kelly had never heard that before; it was kind of amusing.
"STANDISH! OPEN THIS DOOR!" Travis roared. Apparently he was not amused.
After several moments, the door opened, and a very unhappy ATF undercover agent opened the door, barely awake. "Director. You are certainly not the face I wish to see upon waking."
Orin took a deep breath and kept his patience. Standish was a good agent, he reminded himself. And he had been out in the cold for months; he deserved his rest. "Is Chris here?"
"Director, this IS his ranch."
'Good agent, good agent, good agent,' Orin repeated to himself. "I need to talk to him."
"Come now, Director Travis, you seriously would not consider forcing us to come to the office today! I believe that this utterly cruel and unusual call back to the office would warrant the raise I have been seeking, and--"
Kelly stepped in between the director and the ATF agent. "Hey Ez."
Kelly didn't mince words. "It's Hopewell, Ezra."
The undercover agent was suddenly awake, his eyes becoming unnaturally bright and alert. Travis' impatience suddenly faded, and although he would never say it to Standish--he would not be hit up for another raise or for another thousand-dollar dry-cleaning bill for a ruined suit--he felt particularly bad about hauling the Larabee boys back out, especially Standish.
Ezra, however, was obviously no longer feeling like guilting the director. "Our esteemed former governor?" His tone showed the sarcastic disrespect he obviously had for the man. At Kelly's slight nod, Ezra was already grabbing a jacket and heading out the back. "I'll take Chaucer. My colleagues went out for a day ride, so their cell phones might not be within range. We'll be at headquarters in an hour."
Orin gave the younger man a grandfatherly, chastising look. "Ezra. This ranch is forty-five minutes away from headquarters."
The undercover agent just smirked. "Director Travis, do you drive a Model T?"
"Drive a little faster, Larabee, and you might pick up the business the Concorde left." Kelly was entirely undaunted by the glare the Team 7 leader shot at him.
They'd barely gotten onto their floor when one of Kelly's men came running, his eyes wide and a little unsettled. "Boss, boss. Agent Larabee!" He rushed on. "A team from NCIS is here. They flew in from Washington, DC, and they won't tell me what's going on." The agent paused a moment, then amended, "Well, the elderly man keeps talking and talking, but he hasn't TOLD me anything."
"Do you have names?"
"Elderly man?" Orin cut in. "Glasses? English accent?"
Everyone turned to look at the older man, who was himself intently watching the Team 8 agent. The agent nodded, even more confused now.
Travis pushed past the bewildered man, the others close behind, and hurried into the Team 7 bullpen. "Ducky!"
Both agencies' employees watched in surprise as the elderly director crossed the floor in record time. How odd it was, Kelly mused, that in those few long strides across the floor, Orin Travis lost all those years he'd gained this morning and then some. He took a sidelong glance at Team 7, who took the annual "Team that causes Travis the most headaches" award every year, and noticed the same surprised looks on their faces--even the ever inscrutable Tanner and Standish.
In the bullpen, Kelly noticed a graying, older man; a brunet, younger man who had the same surprised look on his face; an even younger agent whose mouth was slightly open; and a pretty brunette.
Uh-oh. A woman? Within ten miles of Buck Wilmington?
Orin finally turned to the other agents, the same delighted expression on both men's faces. The other man was busily waving over his companions as Travis smiled. "Boys, this is a former colleague of mine, a most trusted friend," he said, his eyes twinkling. "Dr. Donald Mallard, now the NCIS medical examiner." He turned to the NCIS team, extending a hand to the team. "I'm Orin Travis, an old friend of Ducky's."
Kate smiled as he shook their hands in introductions. Ducky had told them about Orin Travis on the way from the airport; although an assistant director, he seemed to wield much more power than one would suspect, yet still introduced himself as Ducky's friend.
The director was about to turn to his own team when a tall, mustached man suddenly saw her and seemed to come alive. He came around from behind to Kate. "Well, darlin'," he said in a most honeyed voice, "seein' you...is better than seein' the sun...you so outshine it like...the first of May does the last of December."
The bullpen suddenly fell silent, and suddenly the usually inaudible vents seemed to be roaring. There was an audible gulp from one of the ATF agents.
Kate looked up at the man, who was still smiling as charmingly as he could down at her, although with a little less confidence. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see McGee's wide-eyed look and Tony's "uh-oh" one. Gibbs and Ducky looked mildly amused, but Travis looked hell-bent on murder.
The NCIS agent smiled as sweetly as she could and then, without looking at her colleague, said, "Tony, you should have told us your brother worked in Denver." Tony made a face at her back.
There was a collective breath of relief, and five pairs of hands yanked him back into the crowd, threatening all sorts of torture should he land them in another sexual harassment lecture. A tall, whip-cord thin blond turned a flesh-sizzling, bone-burning glare at him.
Orin Travis shot the man a dark look for added measure, then introduced the seven team members and Kelly and his agent. A tall, African-American man came forward, a hand extended, obviously quite excited. "Dr. Mallard, hello!"
"Ah, Agent Jackson!" The ME smiled warmly, shaking his hand. "It is so wonderful to see you again." He leaned forward conspiratorially. "You have considered my offer, I trust?"
The man laughed, open and wide, as his colleagues looked on in a mix of surprise and apprehension. "Thank you, doctor, but I will stick with what I know."
Ducky chuckled, shaking a finger at him. "That's what Gerald said." He turned to the NCIS agents. "This is ATF special agent Nathan Jackson, team medic. And while Anthony's brother might not work in Denver, Gerald's brother does." The ME chuckled as Jackson grinned.
"Team MEDIC?" McGee blurted before he could hold it back.
The man chuckled. "With those guys, there should be at least two of us." He jerked a thumb over his shoulder at this teammates.
"So, you work to keep people from ending up in front of Gerald, right?" Tony kidded.
Nathan laughed. "That's one way to put it. Our grandfather owned a funeral home. He and Gerald used to bond over the embalming table. They always tried to include me, but," the medic just smiled wide, shrugging.
"You considered a job offer elsewhere?" exclaimed one unhappy voice from the sea of ATF agents.
"No, no, I merely offered," Ducky cut in, smoothing out the ruffled feathers. "I'm afraid Agent Jackson is quite attached to his job out in Denver." There were looks of relief, and Ducky put a friendly arm around the agent. "Agent Jackson, I do think you ought to reconsider. The dead have quite a few tales to tell."
Jackson laughed. "Thanks, doc, but I'll stick with the living."
"The living talk back, my boy," Ducky reminded, his eyes twinkling.
"Don't I know it," Nathan commented darkly, glaring at his teammates.
+ + + + + + +
Gibbs continued to watch the monitor, concentrating, as PD detective Sean Harrison and Agent Owens ran through all the information they had. He made a few notes, but he knew their side of the feed was being taped.
Larabee was seated next to him, looking both exhausted and alert and all around furious. He had been quite reluctant to share the investigation, but Travis had pulled him aside; Gibbs overheard that the team had just finished a huge bust and could use the help, and so on. Having read the case file and also the agents' files, the NCIS agent was sure they could probably use a third party, too. With a target who was a personal friend and the director's daughter-in-law and Buck Wilmington's fling with Hopewell's former campaign manager, there were a lot of personal ties in the matter.
Chris didn't know whether to thank God he was finally getting another crack at Hopewell or be annoyed at the timing...because it was awful timing, period. And now he had a fed breathing down his neck. Oh, he had JD call up the file. Leroy Jethro Gibbs--what kind of ridiculous name was that?--with a reputation for being a pain in the butt and who apparently didn't know there was a rulebook (besides his own), but to whom everybody accomodated themselves. His scowl deepened.
Mary's life was not dice to be played with, and if JD's intel had been correct, there had been five targets planned for; Mary was only #3. That meant three lives at stake while he had to share time with NCIS.
At least it wasn't the Fibbies.
Owens and Harrison were signing off now, and the techie was rewinding the tape and closing down the call when Chris heard a growl beside him. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Gibbs glare at his PDA--that man used a PDA?--and poke at it harder with the little pen. It apparently didn't work, because Gibbs pounded it to pieces against the plastic arm of the chair he was sitting in. "I hate this thing."
The techie watched dumbly, eyes wide and mouth agape.
Gibbs flung himself up from his chair and headed out, Chris following. A smile was already on the latter's face as the ex-Marine marched through the bullpen: "COMPLETE CRAP!" Chris's men watched in surprise as the silver-haired team boss threw the ruined PDA at the youngest NCIS agent. "Reboot it!" he barked as he headed for the kitchenette.
The agent--McGee, Chris remembered--wrinkled his nose in a big wince. DiNozzo gave him the "you're in trouble now" look as he commented, "So, probie, are you prepared for this one? A NCIS agent is always prepared. Semper Paratus and all that."
Todd rolled her eyes. "That's the Coasties. The Corps' motto is 'Semper Fidelis,' Tony."
Kate turned to McGee. "McGee, if you don't have any new ones, I brought a few in my suitcase. I think Tony did, too."
McGee sighed. "Yeah, I brought two of the new PDAs with me."
"Nice job, probie," Tony said approvingly, clapping him on the back. "We'll make a real agent out of you yet."
"So what are you going to do?" JD suddenly blurted in curiosity, eyeing the busted PDA in sympathy. Heck, even Chris knew that rebooting wouldn't help. That was part of the satisfaction the team boss derived from shooting a computer.
"What we always do," McGee sighed as he rummaged through his suitcase and pulled out a new PDA.
From the doorway, Chris grinned in amusement. Maybe this wasn't going to be that bad.