The Mile High City Affair
ATF crossover with "NCIS"
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MARY TRAVIS'S HOME
That had to the fattest, most overfed chipmunk in the world.
Gibbs watched in amusement from inside the kitchen door as Mary Travis's young son squatted on the porch, watching the animal in fascination. Billy had given it a leftover roll from dinner the night before, and it was busily eating away, ignoring its benefactor watching nearby.
As Billy attempted to inch nearer, the chipmunk finally looked up at him suspiciously. The boy took another step forward, and the animal chomped down on what was left of the roll and ran off with it. Gibbs bit back a chuckle as the child sighed disappointedly, his early morning entertainment gone, and sat down on the top step of the porch. Barely a minute had gone by when he sighed again in boredom.
Gibbs wondered briefly where Larabee was; he doubted Billy would have gotten out of bed unless the child had heard his hero moving about first. Larabee had insisted--well, had glared--that he stay at the Travises' at night. It was a full house, with Larabee, Gibbs, and Kate all there.
With that, the NCIS agent stepped out onto the porch. "You're up early today."
The little boy's head shot up, his eyes wide, but settled when he saw the familiar face and smile. "I was gonna go out with Chris when he went to get some stuff, but he said I had to get ready for school." The little face creased into a frown. "I don't want to go to school."
Gibbs chuckled softly.
They lapsed into silence for a couple minutes, watching the sun come up. The little boy was playing with his small horse in his one hand, and in the other, a cruder version of the horse. Pointing to the unfinished carving, Gibbs asked gently, "Did you make that?"
Billy nodded, blushing. "I'm still working on it."
"It's very good. Carving is good to keep your hands busy."
Billy nodded. "Chris says that, too. He built me a whole Noah's ark!" he beamed. "Do you carve, too?"
"Kind of. I'm building a boat in my basement."
"Really?" Billy looked up in surprise and anticipation. "Can I ride in it when you're done?"
Gibbs chuckled. "Of course."
Billy held up his own carving and then the horse Chris had made him. "I can't get the ears."
"You're doing well enough. Did Chris teach you?"
"A little. My pa did, too." The boy fell silent again.
Gibbs smiled down at the child and said softly, "Betcha miss him a lot, hm?" There was no answer for awhile, and then the boy nodded, his head drooping even lower to his chest. "Hey." He turned Billy to look at him, seeing the child's tear-filled eyes. "It wasn't your fault, Billy."
"Sometimes I still dream about...it." Billy wiped a small, dirty back of the hand across his face, making small streaks of tears and dirt across his face. "The man shot Pa right in the stomach, and--'n there was blood, and...Pa...."
"Tell yourself you won't dream about it."
"It won't work," Billy replied despairingly.
"Yes, it will," Gibbs replied, tilting his head so he could look the boy in the face. "Worked for me. I was your age when I saw something bad, too. Trust me. Close your eyes, and say, 'I won't dream about it.' Come on."
Billy nodded and obediently closed his eyes, whispering, "I won't dream about it."
He was about to swipe another dirty hand across his tears when Gibbs, smiling at him, pulled out a hankerchief and gently wiped away some of the tears and the dirt. "You okay?" When the boy only nodded, Gibbs leaned the child against his side and gently rubbed his back until the boy settled.
After a few minutes of silence, Billy whispered, "Is my ma going to die too?"
Well, so much for keeping any news from him.
Billy knew something was up, and there was no point in trying to deny it. Telling the child there were no bad guys was ridiculous; the boy knew better. He'd just have to keep it simple. Gibbs looked at him soberly and picked his words carefully. "We're going to catch the guy and try to keep your ma safe."
Billy nodded, accepting the answer, and Gibbs thought it was going to be over when he opened his mouth again, this time more fearfully, "Are they gonna kill Ma because I told?"
Gibbs blinked and then slowly turned to the boy, trying to stay as quiet as he had before. "Billy, what do you mean they're going to kill your ma because you told?"
Billy's voice trembled, and tears threatened again. "The devil said--he said that it was too bad I came back to my house," he choked out guiltily, and suddenly tears began falling down his face again, faster than he could wipe them away. "An'--an' he said if I said one word he'd kill Ma and that she couldn't hide from the devil. But Chris said they caught all the bad guys and that he wouldn't let the devil get me or my ma ever and that I should tell and not to worry 'cause the devil ain't beat him yet."
Out of the corner of his eye, Gibbs noticed Kate at the doorway to the kitchen, a look of heartbroken shock on her face. He looked up briefly at her, and she mouthed that Mary was looking for her son.
Mary would have to wait. Gibbs turned his attention back to the child, who had begun to hiccup, the words barely coming out between his sobs. "So I told the judge who killed my pa, and I was happy I did. And Chris and Ma and Gran'pa and Gran'ma said it would be okay!" Fresh tears poured out, and Gibbs quickly folded the boy into his arms, hugging him and gently rubbing the child's back, trying to calm him.
After a few moments, Gibbs gently pulled Billy up to look at him. "Billy, I want you to listen to me."
The boy nodded, wiping a hand across his face.
"Billy, we are not going to let the devil kill your ma. And this is not your fault. Chris and your ma and your grandparents were right--you should have told the judge who killed your father, and you did a good job. You did nothing wrong. You did well."
"You're not responsible for what happens to your ma," Gibbs replied firmly. "And it was important that you told me what happened. That way Chris and I will know who to look for in this case. You did good, Billy." He waited for the boy to at least acquiesce. "You did, Billy."
The boy nodded reluctantly.
"Why don't you go with Kate now, and get cleaned up, okay? Your ma's looking for you." He indicated his agent behind them, who gently held a hand out to the child.
Gibbs stared back out, turning over in his mind the new information. He could hear Kate's gentle, soothing tone murmuring to Billy over the running water from kitchen sink's faucet. He hadn't studied the case file on Stephen Travis' murder, but a tie between the two was quite possible.
He heard Billy's childish shout as he ran into the house, calling for his mother. The kitchen door opened, then squeak-slammed shut. After a moment, behind him, Kate said quietly, "He shouldn't be dealing with this. So when are you going to tell Mary?"
"What's this about?" were the first words out of Larabee's mouth when they had gathered in the ATF bullpen.
Gibbs frowned. "This morning Billy told me a little about his father's murder."
"Billy?" Mary asked in puzzlement. She almost turned to look for her son, but then seemed to remember that the boy was at school, with Kate watching over him.
"He seems to think 'the devil' is going to kill you because he identified your husband's killer," Gibbs replied bluntly. He ignored the few winces he saw from his own agents and some of the ATF agents at his tone.
Mary looked stricken, almost uncertain what to do as she alternately had her face in her hands, then twitched. "I thought those had ended."
"What had ended?"
"The nightmares. He had a lot, especially in that year after his father's death. That's why I sent him to live with Orin and Evie. Too many ghosts here, at least at first." Mary looked up, her face now more determined. "What happened this morning?"
"Did you catch the man who killed your husband?"
"Yes," Chris cut in impatiently, and although Tony couldn't see his face, he could sense a Larabee glare about to come on. "Billy positively identified him. Now tell us what happened."
"He's under the impression that his mother's now a target because he told."
"I should've seen this coming," she murmured distraughtedly. "I should have done something."
"But we caught Stephen Travis' killers," Chris repeated, his eyes hardening and growing angry at the obvious injury to the boy. "How did they get to him again? And it doesn't explain this 'devil' talk."
"Children take at face value what they're told," Josiah explained. "In all likelihood, this has nothing to do with Billy's nightmares but this was an actual occurrence in his life at some point, in which he was threatened into silence by someone who called himself the devil. Most likely it was one of the killers we caught."
"What do we do," Chris replied, in more a demand than a question.
Josiah thought a moment. "Mary, you and your in-laws need to sit him down and explain to him that 'devil' was actually a human killer and that he's been caught."
"I think Agent Larabee should also be there for this," Gibbs interjected. The NCIS agent didn't flinch at the surprised looks he got but continued to watch the ATF team boss with a piercing stare. "Billy needs to hear it from you as well as from his mother and his grandparents. And then you need to reassure him that you" he looked at Mary "are being protected."
Mary shook her head. "I tried to keep him from finding out. How did he find--"
"Ms. Travis," Gibbs interrupted. "Your little boy is beyond you being able to protect him from this kind of news. He's seen his father killed and his mother targeted for murder at least once, possibly more times. Larabee and his team are perpetually in the line of fire. He knows well that he can lose any of you at any time; you can't keep this from him anymore. What he needs to know is that you are protected. That's his only peace of mind."
Chris turned to her suddenly. "You said that your husband's murder was ruled a robbery."
"Yes." Mary obviously hadn't bought it. "You confirmed that it wasn't."
"Who took the case?" Chris asked.
"The Denver police, for awhile. They turned it over to the FBI when they thought there was something bigger going on."
At that, everyone was listening. "What?"
"The police thought something else was going on. They turned it over to the FBI, and the FBI declared it a robbery gone bad. When I started looking into Stephen's death more deeply, I went to the police to get their information. The FBI gave me the run-around."
Chris and Gibbs exchanged looks.
BROWN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Billy sat by the principal's office with his bookbag, Kate next to him. The buses had already pulled out for the early dismissal, and they were waiting for two of Team 3's agents to come and take them to the ATF office.
Kate looked down at the top of the small head, the boy sitting so quietly next to her, and felt a rage building inside. Wasn't it bad enough his own father was shot in front of him? They had to terrorize him, too, by threatening his mother? Tony had called to tell her the entire story--how Billy had ended up with post-traumatic stress disorder, recurring nightmares and amnesia induced by the event, how he had run away from home in a misguided attempted to protect Mary and keep her alive.
She gently wrapped a protective arm around the child, and he leaned against her trustingly for a moment before looking up and asking, "Ma said you used to protect the president. Is that true?"
Kate looked down at the big eyes earnestly looking up at her and teased gently, "You don't believe your ma?"
"Of course I believe my ma. I just never met a real Secret Service agent." Billy cocked his head at her, waiting for his answer.
"Yes, I used to be with the Secret Service and I protected the president."
"Cool!" Billy seemed to relax, then stiffened. "Then how come you're here with me and not with Ma?"
"Because right now your ma has got more then ten agents--including Chris--around her. She's just fine. So I get you." Kate smiled down at him, and he nodded seriously. "You're the cutest person I've ever protected," she teased, and he blushed as he scooted closer to her.
"I've got an agent name," Buck announced as he came in, waving a folder. "Tom Verucchi with the FBI. He's the guy on the case."
"Garcia. Lynn Koschesky, his senior agent, headed the Stephen Travis case for him. Veruccchi was on limited duty on the Travis case while he was being investigated." Buck shook his head. "He had broken protocol to save a kid's life. It might have nothing to do with Hopewell."
Chris picked up the folder from Buck's hand. "Ezra, Nathan, we're going to the FBI HQ. I have to talk to Kelly, so I'll meet you downstairs." He stopped over Gibbs. "Comin'? You can swing by the airport and pick up your lab technician on the way back."
The NCIS agent motioned to Tony and McGee, who quickly jumped up to follow. The five had just gone down to the ground floor in the elevator when the doors opened to reveal a stunning redhead. "Going up?"
"Oh, I am now," Gibbs replied with a smile.
Ezra and Nathan, already off the elevator, watched with unconcealed surprise; Tony scuttled an open-mouthed McGee off the elevator. All four watched as the doors shut behind Gibbs and the redhead.
Nathan turned to Tony, indicating the elevator with a hand. "Did I just see--?"
"Gibbs has a thing for redheads," Tony muttered.
"He was flirting." McGee was nearly in shock. "I didn't even know he knew how!"
"He just hit on the wrong redhead," Nathan muttered. "That's Louisa Perkins, Clayton Hopewell's former campaign manager and one-time Buck Wilmington fiancée."
+ + + + + + +
The elevator doors opened, and Louisa Perkins' laugher floated into the bullpen as she came in. "Thank you, Agent Gibbs, for escorting me." She smiled.
"No," Gibbs replied, "thank you." He turned a teasing smile on her.
Perkins' smile widened at that, and she was just about to turn around when Buck quickly took her arm. "Buck! It's so good to see you. I just met Jeth--"
"Miss Perkins," Josiah cut in quickly. "I'm sorry, I'll try to make this as quick as possible," he commented, steering the redhead from the bullpen into a conference room. He heard the elevator doors ding shut and thanked God that had been brief...who knew one redhead could inadvertently cause so many problems.
He set down a cup of tea in front of the former campaign manager. "How are you?"
"Fine, thank you."
"Still on the road, hm?" the profiler asked.
"That's the job," she smiled.
Josiah nodded. "Thank you for flying in. Massachusetts is a bit ways off."
"Not a problem. I can visit while I'm here," she replied with a smile, and the two chuckled. "Buck's doing well, it seems."
Josiah nodded, then continued, "Something's come up, and we need you to provide as much information as you can for us."
"On Clayton Hopewell."
"Yes." Josiah paused. "He's hired another sniper and our sources say Hopewell himself is already back in the outskirts of Denver, most likely to make another political run." He waved a hand. "Hence, the sniper to take out his opponents."
"Another run?" Perkins exclaimed in disbelief. "That's political suicide!" She thought for a moment, then amended with a chuckle, "as if he hadn't done that already."
"Do you remember anything from the time you worked over there."
She paused and thought for awhile. "Agent Sanchez, I'm really sorry. I managed his campaign--where he would stop, where he would speak, what he would say. I had no idea about the Stutzes the first time around. If I'd known, I never would have worked for him and I would have told someone right away. And this has nothing to do with Ms. Travis. I may disagree with her, but--"
"I know," Josiah cut in gently. "I don't think any of us--Mary included--would ever suspect you of condoning any of this. I do need to know what else you might recall from your time working for Hopewell."
"His big agenda was the land rights and education. He wanted more funding for the inner-city schools and also for the rural districts." She nodded. "Yeah, I remember him adding that latter part after he met with some teachers from Denver. One of the poor rural districts."
She paused, then continued. "You ought to ask your Ms. Travis. She might have covered it. I remember the one teacher who impacted him most was this woman who hadn't said anything for almost an hour. Then, near the end of the discussion, she made this comment about money and smaller classes not being a permanent solution or solving the root problem, something about needing deeper changes, then a muttered comment about politicians and theorists telling teachers how to teach their classes."
Josiah stiffened. "What did Hopewell say?"
"Said he would want someone like that on his staff," Perkins smiled. "He talked with her for awhile afterwards. They seemed to get along well. Hopewell talked to her privately a few more times before I quit."
Louisa looked up, slightly surprised at the sudden interest. "Rebekah Lawrence, why?"
"It would have been nice if you had contacted us first," Chris nearly shouted at Verucchi. "Considering this is our case."
"Garcia crossed state borders, putting it in our jurisdiction," Verucchi returned calmly.
"He's a hired assassin and Marine, which puts it in ours and NCIS's!" Chris retorted.
"Mr. Verucchi," Ezra replied smoothly. "You do understand that Garcia is a Denver resident. He might be flying from Hawaii, but he is still within the state borders of Colorado and thus, out of your jurisdiction."
Chris just smirked at the FBI agent, who scowled and replied, "Technicality."
"Sounds like a good one to me," Gibbs replied, an amused look on his face.
"I offered a shared investigation," Verucchi replied.
"That only works if we lead," Gibbs replied.
The man looked between the two teams of agents, obviously unhappy about it. "Fine."
Chris held out a hand, and Verucchi placed a fat folder in it. "Give me the Cliff's Notes."
"Garcia's a sniper hired by Hopewell. Working with a spotter, an accomplice."
Six pairs of eyes shot up to Verucchi's. The agent smirked, having caught them by surprise. "Our sources tell us he's got a spotter. Snipers use them regularly. Find Garcia, find his accomplice."
"Any ideas?" Tony asked.
"It would have to be someone he'd trust to watch his back against the likes of all of us. Someone who knows the area, too. My guess is, someone who could tell Garcia what's changed and what hasn't since he left."
"What does Beckie have to do with this?" Mary asked, frowning, turning her attention from her son, who was playing computer games at JD's desk a few desks away.
"'Beckie'?" Josiah replied, eyeing the reporter carefully. "How do you know her?"
"I told Mary 'bout her," Vin replied.
"I was doing an article," Mary replied. "I'd heard that one of the inner-city districts didn't allow for their teachers to live outside of the district, and Beckie turned out to be a great case in point. She had already bought a house before she started looking for a job, and so she couldn't be hired at the inner-city district she went to school in because her house was outside district lines."
"Have you seen her house?" Kate asked.
"Yeah, I've been in it," Mary replied.
"Did you ask her how she paid for it?" JD asked. "It's a really nice house."
"She's the niece of Daniel Bordelais," Mary replied. "They bought the house for her with the last of her inheritance money."
"You'd think she could make her own choices 'bout her money," Vin muttered.
"With a family rich as that," JD cut in with a tone that seemed to indicate he more than knew what he was talking about, "the ties last longer than you'd think."
"So Beckie Lawrence knows you," Josiah replied, his tone turning dark.
"Yes," Mary replied, nodding. "Why?"
+ + + + + + +
"Did he come out alive?" Kate quipped when the six had returned to the office, Abby in tow.
"Them two?" Tony asked incredulously as he indicated Gibbs and Chris. "Need you ask?"
"I'm talking about the FBI agent," Kate replied as she continued to warm her hands on her coffee mug.
Ezra merely chuckled as he returned to his desk, rolling out his chair. "Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan decided to hold off on the rampage--for now. Miss Todd," he changed the subject as he indicated the coffee she was about to sip. "I...wouldn't."
Kate set down the coffee with a slightly puzzled, slightly suspicious look. "Something wrong with it?"
"Vin made it," chorused five voices. The sniper scowled at them all.
Kate frowned, then took a tiny sip; her eyes nearly popped out of her head. "Wow," she squeaked.
Gibbs plucked the mug out of her hands and took a long drink. The other ATF agents stared open-mouthed as he handed the mug back to Kate and shrugged. "What's wrong with it?"
"Thank you," Vin muttered, glaring at his teammates.
In bounced Abby, leaving her bags by the door. "Hey guys!" she greeted with her usual cheerful enthusiasm. "I think this is the first time I've been out of my lab on a case."
"I told you you needed to get out more," Tony grinned, and she returned one as she introduced herself to the other ATF agents.
"All right," Chris replied, interrupting. "What did you get, Josiah?"
"Hopewell knew Lawrence," the profiler replied. "Met her at some conference set up with the teachers across the state. He was impressed enough for Louisa to remember her." He paused, then replied heavily, "Other thing is that Mary knows Rebekah. Interviewed her for an article, has been in her home."
The six agents exchanged worried looks, and Tony leaned forward. "We talked to the FBI agent in charge. His sources tell him Garcia has an accomplice, most likely someone he knows well and trusts and someone who has knowledge of the city's changes since he left."
The room grew quiet before Kate finally ventured, "That still doesn't mean Rebekah Lawrence has something to do with this."
"Abby," Gibbs replied curtly. "What did you find on Lawrence?"
"She's a civilian, no military ties except through Garcia. No police record. No tickets. Not even missed payments on a car or a house. We're talking cleaner than clean, whiter than white. If you put her in a lineup with snow, snow is going to jail."
"She'd make the perfect accomplice," Gibbs replied.
Chris nodded. "Buck. Josiah. Go out to New York, interview Daniel Bordelais. I want to know everything he knew about his niece."
Next to him, Gibbs looked at Tony and inclined his head towards the door. The three agents got up and hurried out.
Chris looked as if he were about to say something, then didn't, instead picking up his ringing cell phone. "Larabee." The agents watched as his expression grew darker. "Yeah." He snapped the phone shut with a clack that made JD wince visibly. "They just found Garcia. He's in a hotel room fifty miles out. The police have just surrounded the place; they're not going to do anything until we get there."
OUTER LIMITS OF DENVER
Below them, the other agents had covered all the exits, having cleared the nearby rooms. Vin signaled the two men when they were all in place.
Gibbs knocked on the door. "Gunnery Sergeant Garcia! Open the door! NCIS!" The two men waited tensely for a response, getting none. "NCIS! Open up!" After another moment, he nodded to the motel manager.
The nervous little man quietly slid the key into the door, unlocking it; Gibbs and Larabee were inside almost at the same time the door opened. They cleared the bathroom, right next to the door, and the open closet; then they entered the bedroom.
"H-ll," Chris muttered, his weapon still pointed directly in front of him. "Wasn't expectin' that."
"Oh boy. We got a major problem," Gibbs breathed.