The Mile High City Affair
ATF crossover with "NCIS"
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Nathan zipped shut the bag holding Garcia's body. "Well, we're done here."
"So're we," Vin replied as he snapped the last photo and surveyed the room, nearly stripped bare. "Mattress's in the truck."
"Good timing, too," Nathan commented. "You guys expecting company?" He pointed out the window, where a FBI truck had just pulled up.
Gibbs and Larabee exchanged looks.
+ + + + + + +
A cleaning man with his head held low pushed his large cart past the FBI team onto the elevator and soon disappeared, going down to the first floor. Farther down, an elderly man was talking animatedly to a tall black man in a cap as they carried their bags downstairs. An unmarked van backed up near the elevator.
FBI agent Tim Bickerstaff and his teammates moved to the next door, opening it with the master key. Empty. He scowled and move to the next door. None noticed when the cleaning man pushed his now much lighter cart behind a wall and jumped into the van, closing the door as it pulled out.
TWO HOURS LATER
"I didn't appreciate that little stunt." Verucchi frowned.
"Eh, no harm, no foul," Gibbs replied, a tiny smile of amusement playing at his lips.
"I'm having my men retrieve the body," Verucchi continued. "Direct orders from the Denver FBI director."
"Oh," Gibbs asked, looking around. "Is he here, somewhere?"
"I don't have time for this," the FBI team boss retorted. "You know that you don't have our resources."
"If I were stranded on an island, I'd rather have MacGyver than James Bond," Kate commented from her chair. At a few raised eyebrows, she shrugged, smiling. "Two great-looking guys, but one can build a car out of a palm tree and the other has to have some Mercedes with rockets dropped in front of him."
"If you were stranded with Gibbs, he could just build a boat," Tony snarked, grinning.
Verucchi cleared his throat with a growl.
+ + + + + + +
"Pack up the body," Bickerstaff said shortly to his agents, pointing the man with the gurney towards the body on the slab.
Ducky moved with a speed that surprised even the FBI agents. "I am doing the autopsy," the ME said sharply. "Gunnery Sergeant Garcia was a Marine."
"And you'll stop us, old man?" laughed one of the agents. Bickerstaff glared down at the medical examiner, who narrowed his eyes at them and stood his ground.
"Is there a problem, Doctor?"
The FBI team turned to see some of Larabee's boys at the door. Chris stepped forward leisurely, a tiny but feral smile on his face. He reminded Ducky of a hungry panther who had just spotted a herd of sheep. Fat, dumb, and very...vulnerable sheep. The ME wondered briefly if he would have to clean up more tables for some more bodies.
"You stay out of this," Bickerstaff shot at him. "This is the FBI's undercover man and thus, our body."
"This is my building," Chris drawled slowly, watching Bickerstaff with a predatory smile.
Behind them, Buck maneuvered into the autopsy room, a wide, amused grin on his face. He clapped one of the FBI agents on the back so hard the man stumbled a bit. "I'll think up somethin' nice to say at yer funeral."
"Don't strain yer brain muscles," came an amused Texan voice from the autopsy table where Garcia lay. Ducky nearly jumped. How had Vin managed to slip in without him noticing? It was as unsettling as Gibbs' tendency to materialize out of thin air.
"Who're you, anyway?" JD asked.
"Special Agent Tim Bickerstaff," the man replied, a smug grin on his face, expecting some kind of comment.
Buck paused a moment, pretending to think. "Hint?"
Bickerstaff shouted indignantly, "Dan McQuitty, 'the Scream' killer. That was me. I brought him in."
JD gasped in mock admiration. "Was McQuitty the bad guy in the 'Scary Movie' series? He was hilarious," he said in pretended excitement, grinning when they saw Bickerstaff nearly shake with indignation.
Larabee took another casual step into the autopsy room, the dangerous grin still on his face. Perhaps that was even more unnerving than a mad Chris Larabee, because Bickerstaff looked at him, and then at Ducky, and headed out. And to think, the ME mused a little guiltily, he had playfully accused Orin of exaggerating when the director described his first encounter with Larabee.
"H-ll, cowboy, why don'tcha just glare 'stead of talkin' next time?" drawled the Texan, blue eyes dancing merrily.
+ + + + + + +
"All we did was take the body and the evidence," McGee muttered when Verucchi had gone. "What's his problem?"
"That's because Garcia's dead," finally spoke up a voice. "I'm FBI Special Agent Lynn Koschesky," she introduced herself. "I know why Tom isn't telling, but I'm going to do it anyway."
"Tell what?" Gibbs asked.
"Michael Garcia was undercover for the FBI," she replied, and jaws dropped. "We want Hopewell behind bars as much as you, so we asked Garcia two years ago to see if he would agree to help us."
"And you didn't tell us?" Standish asked sharply.
"We wanted to do this subtly," Koschesky shot back. "Chris Larabee is not exactly the king of subtlety."
"The FBI believed a Marine would be a good pretender?" Kate asked.
"When I met him, he seemed to me a Marine through and through," Koschesky said. "Love of country, sense of the duty, blah blah blah. He even had the grouchy Marine gunny thing down." There were a couple snickers at that, and Koschesky grinned until Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "Sorry," she mumbled.
"We thought he wouldn't be able to pretend well enough, but he was great. More than that, he had the bad background," she continued. "Verucchi really pushed, and Garcia could deliver. He knew the underside of Purgatorio and he could shoot. We can make up a fake record for a sniper, but Hopewell would want to see for himself.
"The Marines agreed to let him help us out. We had to get him 'suggested' into the criminal circles for Hopewell to pick him up. About half a year ago, Garcia was hired. Hopewell told him to bide his time, and so he did." She shrugged. "I don't know why he chose now to do it."
"What happened to make you go after him?"
"Mike was supposed to check in with us when he got to Denver. He was always on time, most of the time early. We got worried when he was late--started tracking him within an hour," Koschesky replied. "He just disappeared. No contact, no nothing."
Koschesky shook her head helplessly. "I can only think of some reasons. He felt somebody was on to him, so he ran to protect the operation; he knows something we don't." She paused a moment, then muttered, "He went rogue."
"You buy that?"
"Look. I don't like this any more than you do, but Hopewell was offering him $1.5 million. It was enough to make anyone turn." She sighed. "Verucchi thinks he got bought. Like he says--the man who can be bought by money is the most dangerous."
"Sir?" The NCIS director looked up to see his secretary at the door. "Call for you, line 2." She smiled sympathetically. "It's ATF Assistant Director Travis, sir. I think he's having a bad day. He's mumbling something about body-snatching."
Tom Morrow chuckled. If there were awards for most tolerant and put-upon agency directors, he and Travis would be neck and neck. It was a rare week where one did not call to vent frustration to a sympathetic ear. It was much cheaper than therapy; as if a psychologist would actually believe their stories.
"Well, I got angry phone calls from the FBI and the Secret Service last night. One of my agents locked the FBI off Air Force One and the other, with help from my medical examiner, stole a dead body from the plane."
How did it make Tom feel? Good, of course. D-mn, he had smart agents. But he was sure the psychiatrist would only file a formal request to have Gibbs and his team in his doctor's office. Or maybe straight to a padded room with no get-out-free card.
He was impressed by how long Orin had held out with both teams in Denver. He had really expected a phone call much earlier than this. Morrow wondered if Orin had already shot Larabee and Gibbs and had been subsequently treated to a ticker-tape parade by the city's residents; no, of course not. That would mean the good citizens had already forgiven Orin first for letting a body-snatching team with a overly chatty ME run rampant in Denver with a group which had an inordinate affection for beer, had a cigarillo-smoking, trigger-happy boss, and loved playing with all sorts of dynamite....
Was he the only one who was eternally amused that Larabee's team worked for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives?
Morrow chuckled to himself. He was sure Travis' payback would be hell, but for the moment, the peace and quiet--no Anthony DiNozzo--were worth it. He grinned as he hit the button for line 2 and listened to the click to indicate he was connected. "Hi Orin." He hoped he didn't sound too guilty.
"Keep Gibbs at home next time!" *click*
"What do you think, Doctor?" Larabee asked, leaning over, peering at the body.
"I don't know, and I won't for hours."
"Suicide. He's got gunshot wound straight to the temple. The gun was just inches from his hand."
"Perhaps. I sent everything else up to Abby with your Agent Jackson." Ducky continued to examine the body with the large magnifying glass. "Ah, for you to go when while in the bloom of your youth," the ME lamented to the dead Marine. "It's always difficult for those who are left. I'm afraid your Miss Lawrence might not take the news so well."
Chris pressed his lips into a thin line, biting back a comment designed to end the conversation right then and there. The ME was harmless and actually full of information when one picked through the stories--not unlike Ezra. Besides, he had no desire to offend the Travises' oldest family friend.
"Mary, the dear girl--after Stephen died, she was so hurt and angry," Ducky rambled on. "She was so sure his death was more than a robbery gone wrong, but people told her she was in denial, not allowing herself to grieve." He humphed. "This from 'friends' and other self-appointed comforters."
"She was right," Chris offered shortly.
"Ah, so she was." Ducky carefully cut something off the body, then pointed the business end of scalpel across the body at the ATF agent. "I sometimes suspect she envies you your freedom." Larabee didn't respond, but a brief flicker of surprise crossed his face; satisfied, Ducky continued talking and working. "She was so happy to have Billy, you know, but her hands were tied. It wouldn't do for the daughter-in-law of Orin Travis to traipse around the state on a self mission to find her husband's murderers, you know. Orin and Evie would have supported her in full, but Mary," Ducky sighed as he continued to work. "She wanted to go, but she did not want to cause trouble for them or poor Billy. Imagine! Children at his school--gossiping at that age!"
Ducky turned out the room lights and picked up a blue light to start examining the body. His younger companion had become rather quiet--quiet, not the usual glaringly silent--and Ducky smiled to himself. "Go home, Chris. Get some sleep," he admonished gently. "I would if I could. It won't do you much good to be here, anyway."
MARY TRAVIS'S HOME
Mary was sitting on the top step of the back porch, her back to the lighted kitchen. Chris stuck his hands in his pockets, looking out into the gathering dusk, and finally stepped out onto the porch quietly. She didn't turn around, even when he sat down next to her.
They sat in silence for awhile, just the usual night sounds filling the quiet. Chris almost didn't hear it when she finally spoke. "I thought by the time Ducky came again I'd be over it."
She folded her hands into her lap almost nervously, trying to maintain her composure. "We just talked--all of us--just on and on since he's come...about him and Orin, all the time they spent together working, and...Stephen. Ducky was...Stephen's godfather," she said softly, her voice in a whisper. "When Stephen and I were married...Ducky was...because my parents were gone, he walked me down the aisle. Seeing Ducky just...."
Chris only nodded, not saying anything. He knew how it felt. For the first year after they had begun to work together again, seeing Buck meant seeing the ghosts of his wife and his son, even though he had had a long history with the ladies' man before he even met Sarah. It wasn't until he and Buck had a mutual history, built on memories with Team 7, that he could look at his old friend and not feel the pain of the loss of his family...and perhaps the same was true of Buck.
When he looked over at Mary, she was impatiently trying to blink back a few tears. After a few moments, she said, "I'm fine, Chris. You can go back inside."
"I'm fine, Mary."
The two lapsed into a comfortable silence. Behind them, they could hear the chatter going on, Orin telling stories about his times with Ducky, much to the amusement of Kate and McGee, and Ezra's cultured Southern voice commenting on how they'd have to get Ducky to talk, too, about his times with Orin--because wouldn't the good doctor have fine stories about their 'esteemed assistant director.'
At that, Chris and Mary laughed out loud, Chris shaking his head. "He never gives up," he offered, and Mary smiled a little. It was the first time all day that she had smiled; at least Ezra was good for something.
He looked over at her, Ducky's words still ringing in his head. He gave her a sidelong glance, almost seeing the woman tromping around dressed in all black with an itchy trigger finger, drinking hard whiskey and shooting anybody who got in her way. It was an intensely amusing image...and, he had to admit, slightly unsettling, at least for him. Mary was always the emotionally stable one.
For the first time, he entertained the notion that she really was envious of him, as the ME had proposed. "I, uh, want to apologize. For something I said. Although at the time, it felt...justified."
Mary looked at him as if he'd just grown another head, and Chris groaned inwardly. He was NOT that tactless. "That day in Gloria Potter's store, when you attempted to...talk to me."
She immediately began to protest: "Chris, no, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have been so presumptuous as to assume things and to meddle. It's--"
"Yeah, but I shouldn't have presumed to know what it was like for you as a woman, or that you had it easier than I did."
"H-ll, Mary, can't you just accept the apology?!"
At that, the blonde blinked in surprise, and then the corners of her mouth quirked up in a small smile, which grew. "An apology. I'm impressed." For just that moment, her green eyes lost the sadness there and laughed, dancing at him.
Chris smiled at her. "Don't tell the others." His grin widened, and she herself laughed this time.
NEXT MORNING, 5 AM
"Coffee and doughnuts in the kitchen," Buck announced as he and Tony bumped into the rest of the still groggy agents. "Chris called about finding Garcia. Do you know what happened?"
"Not yet. How come you're not tired?" JD yawned as they stepped onto the elevator.
"We slept on the flight over," Tony replied. "Have we got news for you."
Buck swallowed a bite of doughnut. "Lawrence...had a lot of trouble fitting in. Klutzy, shyly quiet, and hated dresses--tripped on her skirt, fell down the stairs once at a party. Not the way to go when her uncle and her step-aunt had to do business and society parties almost every week."
"Wonderful guardians," Ezra replied in a bitter tone, one that made the NCIS agents look up in slight surprise at the vehemence.
"Actually," Buck corrected gently, "They knew a lot about her--her likes, her dislikes. They knew about Garcia and would always let him stay when he had leave, to visit her. Their worlds were just too different."
"Here's the kicker. Bordelais said she spent time at a local high school rifle league during her high school years," Tony continued as the doors dinged open. "Her former boss says that she took a real keen interest in rifling and got really good at it target shooting."
+ + + + + + +
"Ah! Jethro," the ME greeted as the agents trooped in. "I have nothing concrete, I'm afraid. I was hoping for some needle marks, but I found none."
Tony frowned. "Duck. He's got a huge gaping bullethole in his head. Wouldn't that be how he died?"
"While we cannot yet rule out suicide," Ducky replied, "I rather suspect that our Marine did not kill himself. All of you have mentioned already he apparently showed no signs of suicidal tendencies. I think suicide would be quite a shock to both his friends and even to him."
Nathan nodded. "If you remember, there were no signs of a struggle when we entered the hotel room, and Dr. Mallard and I found the hair at the temple kind of burned--meaning the muzzle was right next to his head. That made us think that he had killed himself. But...that could also mean he knew his attacker, if he was murdered. The shot is to his temple. He's a Marine. He had to have tried something to get away, unless he had been doped up. We thought maybe someone stuck him."
"There were no needle marks, however," Ducky continued. "Even so, the suicide theory is somewhat difficult to explain. Look at the blood spatters on his arm." He pointed at a trail. "See, this trail goes all the way up to his wrist, but this one right next to it stops abruptly. There's a few more like it. It's...it's like something is partly covering his hand when he shot himself." He held up the photos taken of Garcia at the crime scene. "We sent his clothes up to Abby, but you can see from the photos--the missing blood droplets aren't on the clothes.
"And look at how the blood is flowing down his arm from the shot," Ducky continued, pointing at the photo. "There are two trails. One flowing directly down his arm, as if he had shot himself while he was sitting up--as we found him. However, take a look at this one." Ducky pointed at a miniscule thin red line on the arm. "See, this tiny trail doesn't flow from his shoulder to his hand, as one would expect."
"It just kind of starts at the shoulder, with no origin," Gibbs muttered. "And then it flows down toward his torso."
"Now consider this." Ducky waved them over to the body and gently turned the face to the side. "See, all along here, take a look at the skin...and the slight depressions. It's like this all along his right side." At their puzzled looks, he smiled conspiratorially. "What if I told you the time of death was approximately 0730 local time?"
Chris looked at the doctor in disbelief. "He was sleeping?"
Ducky smiled proudly. "Yes!" he emphasized with a wave of his arm. "I do not know if it is possible to test this, but if the fellow slept on his side, he might also be somewhat heavier along the left. When one sleeps, the weight is distributed evenly alongside that sleeping area. That's why some people have very flat heads, at least in the back, if they--"
"Duck!" Gibbs cut him off. "If he was sleeping, why wouldn't he have heard his attacker come in? He's a Marine."
"We sent up the blood to Abby to be tested," Nathan replied, the implication unspoken.
+ + + + + + +
Abby clicked on the computer, bringing up some lab work on the screen. "He had a high blood-alcohol content--it was...much higher than usual. It was kind of strange."
"He was drinking on the job?" McGee asked in disbelief.
Abby grinned as she held up a bagged soda bottle. "I sucked up the last bits of soda from the inside of the empty bottle and tested for them. High alcohol content, but he didn't taste it."
She turned back to her computer, bringing up another chart. "The bottle had Everclear in it. It's this tasteless, no smell but really strong alcohol. I remember in college, when there was a shortage of drinks, the people hosting a party used to put some into the drinks. I mean, you're talking people lying in the barf on the--"
"Abby! Was there anything else?" Gibbs interrupted.
"Yeah," Abby replied, turning back to the computer. "Whoever mixed up the drink did really, really well. It didn't come up the first time around." She clicked up a screen. "There are trace, trace amounts of Rohepnol in the water. I didn't even get it the first time and didn't run the test again until Nate came by with Ducky's theory."
"What did you get on the weapons?"
"I haven't gotten there yet. But I think it's pretty safe to say that Gunny Garcia was knocked off." Abby tilted her head at them. "You've got another suspect you don't know about."
+ + + + + + +
"Thanks. No, that's good. Bye." Kate hung up the phone and turned, her smile wide. "That was just Agent Owens. He talked to Garcia's Marine buddies. They said Garcia doesn't drink because he becomes a sleepy drunk. The one time they ever saw him drink, they hauled him home after just three and he was dead to the world; the next morning, they were almost afraid he'd died, he was sleeping so deeply."
"So whoever it was put in just enough of the alcohol imitator and the Rohepnol to knock Garcia out for the night," Nathan said, leaning forward. "So they can get in and out of the hotel room without him hearing."
"That has to mean that whoever it was knew Garcia well--a close friend," McGee suddenly spoke up. When they all turned to him, he stammered, "Well, I mean, they had to know he was a sleepy drunk." He blinked, then continued in a more animated, faster tone. "I mean, for example, me. I don't know Garcia, so if I wanted to drug him really badly, I'd use the Rohepnol through and through and skip the alcohol." He paused. "I mean...not that I would drug Garcia. Or anybody else. I'm just giving an example of--and it's...it's just a theory."
There was a long silence, and McGee fidgeted.
"Nice, probie," Tony clapped him on the back. "We'll make a real agent out of you."
+ + + + + + +
Abby turned, her glasses still on. "Whoever did this was either very smart or very dumb." She held up the hotel notepad first. "This is the hotel letterpad. There are never a lot of sheets on a pad."
"Because people steal 'em?" Tony commented with a grin, and Abby's own smile widened in agreement.
"Anyway, here's what I got." She typed quickly and brought it up onto the screen. "From the depressions of the writing into the pad, I was able to bring up the text of some of the above sheets, the ones that are missing."
After a pause, Kate said in confusion, "It looks like it was the same letter written a few different times."
Abby turned around with a gleam of accomplishment in her eyes. "Yup." She held up the bagged suicide note. "It's multiple copies of the note you found--the one that was unfinished and squished between the bag and the wastebasket, all addressed to Rebekah Lawrence."
"That doesn't make any sense," Tony frowned. "He addresses the suicide note to a specific person in letter-form and then writes it several different times?"
"I think we can assume it might not be a suicide note," Josiah replied. "It shows no evidence of being as such, and the only reason we thought it was a suicide note was because we thought he'd committed suicide."
Abby nodded. "All the note says is not to believe everything she sees on the news about him and that he promises to let her know more in a more secure venue--even if he personally can't do it, he'll let her know. It's not a typical suicide note."
"He explains an undercover assignment to a civilian in one letter he writes four times? Why so many?"
The agents exchanged looks of puzzlement, and then Vin said quietly, "I done it." The others turned sharply, and the sniper shifted a little on his feet. "Pro'bly just a habit," Vin explained in a soft voice. "If'n Mike wasn't good at writin' and he had to write a long letter to Beckie 'bout what was happenin' without tellin' too much--explainin' he wasn't really rogue 'n all that--he'd haveta write and rewrite." The sniper turned red a little at the incredulous looks he was getting. "I gotta write rough copies of thank you cards 'fore I write 'em for real, or I mess up. Beckie suggested it."
"So where are all the other letters he wrote? We only picked out a crumpled up one. There's at least three more," JD said in puzzlement.
Chris suddenly spoke. "Hopewell. Whoever killed Garcia got the other copies and probably took it took it to Hopewell."
"Do you have anything on the weapons?"
Abby nodded. "The only fingerprints on the Remington rifle and the Sig Sauer were Garcia's. No other prints, and Garcia's fingerprints weren't even smudged."
"So he shot himself...by accident? In the head?" JD asked in confusion and mounting frustration.
"Maybe not." Gibbs stepped forward, closer to the screen. "Your Sig Sauer's the same model," he said, holding out a hand to Kate. He wiped down the gun she handed him. The silver-haired agent then crooked his finger at Kate to come over. "Abby, do you have anything that will let Kate leave very visible prints on the weapon?"
"'Course. I'd just have to..." Abby looked around the unfamiliar ATF lab "...look for it."
Chris frowned, then left the room and came back a little later with blackboard erasers from the next room. "These should work well enough for your purpose."
Gibbs raised an eyebrow as a tiny smile crossed his face. He took an eraser. "Kate, left hand." She obligingly held out her left hand and Gibbs dusted her fingers with the chalk dust. He then snapped on gloves and unloaded the clip from Kate's weapon, then held it out to her. "Pick it up naturally and hold the barrel to your temple, like we thought Garcia had done."
"If you don't want me around, Gibbs, you could just fire me," Kate joked as she lifted the weapon to her head. Gibbs pinched two fingers around the barrel, and Kate opened her hand to let go.
Gibbs held up the weapon, Kate's white chalk fingerprints clear against the black metal.
"They're not even close to being in the same places," McGee muttered after looking at Abby's picture of the prints and Kate's on the gun.
Gibbs handed Kate a paper towel and waited for her to wipe her fingers. Then he held up the bagged weapon. "Put your fingers where the fingerprints are."
Kate placed her fingers right there on the spots and tried to hold up the gun. She shook her head. "You can't hold it." She paused a moment as understanding dawned. "Based on where these prints are, Garcia wouldn't be able to hold the gun at all, much less to his head," she said carefully as she turned to Gibbs, whose expression confirmed her guess. "Someone pressed the gun into his hand to make it seem like he'd killed himself."
"He was murdered," Larabee summed up. "He was undercover, he got found out, and he was killed by someone who knew him well enough to drug him up, took our letter of evidence, and set it up to look like a suicide."
"H-hold on," JD suddenly blurted. "That DoD override we were wondering about when we started. He's got computer friends; he could have gotten it. Maybe he didn't get them to override the hard drive--"
"--because he WANTED someone to find that information!" McGee exclaimed, looking at JD, who was nodding in agreement. "He made it look like he was attempting to cover his tracks when he was really leaving a small trail for us to find. The question is, who did he want us to find."
"Bring in Lawrence," Gibbs instructed.
"Now?" Kate asked in disbelief.
Gibbs turned, his eyes narrowing ever so slightly. "School hasn't started yet. You want to arrest her in her school?" Josiah, Kate, and McGee started heading out. "Put her in interrogation."
"She isn't your only problem," spoke a grim voice from the doorway. The agents turned to see Ryan Kelly; the look on his face was not a good one. "You guys left the Travis house too early to get the paper," he said as he came in. "One of my agents just picked it up." He held up that day's copy of the Clarion to the front page's huge headline.
'FBI's undercover Marine found murdered'