The Mile High City Affair
ATF crossover with "NCIS"
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Verucchi was in front as he and his team rushed onto the tarmac. He came to a breathless halt in front of the teams, turning instantly to the NCIS agent. "I...I am really sorry, Agent Gibbs."
Gibbs continued speaking to Tony. "--in charge of the investigation, report by 1700 Romeo every day. You have Kate's shooter in three. I'll be back after the funeral." Still ignoring Verucchi's outstretched hand, the senior NCIS agent turned and tilted the head at his casket, and the attendants on the tarmac pushed it towards the plane as he followed.
Lynn Koschesky turned to McGee. "Agent McGee, I am--"
"Yeah, well." McGee swallowed. "So are we all."
Verucchi turned to Tony. "Agent DiNozzo, I am sorry about what--"
Tony turned sharply to him. "You're going to be sorrier when Gibbs returns," he snapped. "I suggest that you get us what information we want, and soon, or I'll tell Gibbs you were withholding information...and he'll consider you just as guilty in Kate's death. He will chew off your butt, you got it? You're going to sit there and your butt's going to shrink so much that when you stand up, your torso's going fall straight down over your legs. And then he'll use one of his dozen Marine ways to kill you slowly." Tony narrowed his eyes. "And I will personally keep you alive until he returns."
Verucchi stared back, but after a minute, he nodded and then headed out with his FBI team. Behind them, the plane roared in its takeoff.
"Very intense, Tony," Abby commented, her eyes dancing. Tony grinned down at her.
McGee turned to the ATF agents. "This was a genius idea."
JD stood up straight, grinning proudly. "We're good, what can we say."
"Have you done this before?" Tony asked, turning to him with a slightly suspicious look.
"We buried the AD once." Chris chuckled.
Tony's grin widened. "Okay. Now what?"
"Marshals're on their way," Vin announced. "Chris is still downstairs, checkin' everything out."
Tony turned to Ducky, handing him a Kevlar and a weapon. "Here, Ducky, let me--"
Ducky slid into the vest expertly and picked up the sidearm, which he quickly checked to be loaded. He locked it, took the last two magazines from the hand of the shocked Tony and slipped them inside his pockets.
The now-silent but surprised agents turned to Orin, who just had a small smile on his face. At Tony's utter look of astonishment, the elderly director merely chuckled, his eyes twinkling at his old friend, who smiled in amusement. "I'm afraid you don't know much of anything Ducky and I did when we worked together, hm?"
The others just chuckled lightly, and then McGee asked, "Where are all of them right now?"
"Downstairs just inside the loading area," Verucchi replied. "The escort comes in an hour, and they'll be ready to go." He handed a small card. "Numbers, etc. Doc, you've still got some time. I'll see you downstairs." With that, he headed out.
Tony signaled Gibbs, who came out once Verucchi had left. The older agent unfolded a large sheet of paper to reveal a drawing of a face. "Kate woke up this morning, did this before Kelly's team came to take her. This isn't her best work, but it should at least give us some reference."
Vin nodded. "Kelly's boys brought Lawrence in this mornin'. Maybe on some off chance she can ID that woman."
"Can I suggest something?" McGee spoke up. When the two agents and the assistant director turned to him, he said, "Based on your descriptions of the shooter, it seems that the old woman look is merely a disguise. The FBI uses a software program on photos of missing children to show what they look like today. To create that program, they needed age-specific criteria--wrinkles, length of nose and ears, everything."
"And this helps us how?"
"Based on the drawing Kate gave us, we can use the computer program to put together a color, dimensional photo of what the suspect probably looks like. We'll take out the wrinkles, look at the length of the nose and the eare, and have the program determine an age and then give us a picture closer to what she actually looks like. It might be easier to identify her that way."
"How long will this take?" Orin asked.
"Get started, then."
+ + + + + + +
"We got to get a good lure--a good target--to pull this woman out. If you were the killer, who is your biggest threat right now," Buck put forth, rolling his chair up to the impromptu gathering in the bullpen.
"Kate," Nathan supplied. "She looked right at him, long enough to supply a drawing. She's a federal agent, too. He'll get nailed in court if she lives to identify him."
"Since Miss Todd is in prime condition to be a bullseye," Ezra replied sardonically retorted. "I highly doubt your team leader will allow her out of that safehouse, much less play a target."
"Mary," Buck cut in. "She was next to Kate and sort of remembers her face."
"'I highly doubt YOUR team leader will allow her out of that safehouse, much less play a target one more time,'" Tony mimicked.
"There is one more, brothers." Josiah leaned forward, his tone heavy. "Beckie Lawrence."
The agents exchanged a few looks.
"They suspect Garcia told her at least something; she's been seen in the company of the ATF ever since."
Buck nodded, although the distaste at the idea was obvious. "We let her out for short spin around the block. They'll target her immediately."
"Involving civilians bad idea," Tony countered.
"You got a better plan?" JD retorted.
"How are we even going to get her to agree to this?"
"Tell Orin," replied a familiar voice at the bullpen door. They turned to see the elderly ME approach, looking surprisedly different in a loose turtlenck covering a holster. "When we worked together, we unfortunately had to recruit numerous civilians to jump start our cases. Orin was a natural at convincing them to help." Ducky's eyes twinkled. "Ive always told him that one day his devastating charm would backfire."
"He can get her to play bullseye for a professional killer?" Tony asked doubtfully. "No one's that good."
The older man merely looked amused. "Orin was always fond of saying, 'When youve got it, youve got it.' Have some faith, Tony; he's got it."
"I fear Mr. Travis is as devious as the good doctor says," Ezra drawled from his desk. When the NCIS agents looked at him, he replied, "How else do you think he has gotten us seven to stay?" He smiled at the ME, who chuckled.
+ + + + + + +
Chris shut his desk drawer and checked the weapon, then held out a vest to Mary. "Your father-in-law pulled some of Kelly's guys to help," he said in a low voice. "The rest of Kelly's boys are going to take you, Billy, Evie, and Kate somewhere safe until we pinpoint exactly where Hopewell is."
He turned around the weapon he had just checked, holding it out to her. Looking a little shocked, she carefully took it. "Leave Billy with Evie. Orin'll bring Dr. Mallard down here in just a little while; he's got a weapon, too. Kate is also armed, so you shouldn't have to use it. If you do, remember what I taught--"
"'Aim well; one good shot is better than six bad ones; keep moving after a miss,'" Mary murmured as she unconsciously tightened her hold on the sidearm.
A tiny smile twitched at the corner of his mouth, and the ATF agent nodded. "Good girl."
+ + + + + + +
Tony watched doubtfully through the one-way mirror as Travis continued to talk to Lawrence. He couldn't see the assistant director's face, and Lawrence's was generally unreadable. "I hope this works."
Just then the door connecting to the backroom opened, and Orin came in. Expectant faces turned to him, and he said shortly, "Vin, take JD and Nathan--get up to Hopewell's compound, go do what Chris had planned. Hopewell will move as soon as he hears whether this worked or did not work, and I have no intention of letting him go this time. I will let Chris know."
He turned to the others. "Get Miss Lawrence in a vest and wired up, boys. Duck, let's get you out of here."
+ + + + + + +
It had taken longer than expected to explain to Lawrence how this was going to work--mostly because they had barely been ready. Lawrence thought the picture of the shooter seemed somewhat like someone she knew, but she wasn't sure; and then Tony and McGee had come up with another idea.
Each thought, privately, that it was too bad Kate hadn't been here to see it.
"How we doing, probie?" Tony asked, bending down to look at the screen.
"We're set to go. Ezra's already at the door," McGee replied. A camera across the street taking in the bar scene showed the many patrons in the establishment. The NCIS agent wished briefly there were less. It would make his job easier.
They'd done it before when Tony and Kate had gone undercover as talent agents, so when Tony had pulled him aside to ask him the plausibility of it, he understood. The idea was to use that when they took Lawrence to the bar. The only problem--there were too many patrons, and without anyone having seen her real face, it would be very difficult to identify the shooter positively just on sight.
On the left hand sides of both his and Abby's computers were a scanned-in version of Kate's sketch and the cleaned up picture done by the computer program. He had charge of Lawrence's camera, hidden in a pair of eyeglasses. Abby had charge of Buck's and Ezra's, the former's in a button on his collar and the latter's like Lawrence's.
They watched together on Abby's computer as Ezra's camera moved into the bar. Dots of sweat appeared on McGee's forehead, and he wiped his hands on his pants nervously.
INEZ'S BAR AND RESTAURANT
"I cannot believe I have agreed to this," muttered the manager as she scrubbed down the counter vigorously. "What possessed me to do this?"
"Your undying love for the ATF," Ezra replied, his grin widening when the fiery Mexican woman glared at him. He pushed his glasses up his nose and ran a hand through his disguise's blond hair and then asked thoughtfully, "What was it that you said Agent Gibbs did for you?"
"Señor Gibbs was the substitute summer English teacher at the base when I first came to America," Inez replied, "and I am not doing this out of my debt of gratitude to him because he was not the one who asked." The woman narrowed her eyes at Ezra. "I, of course, assume that the ATF will pay for all damage done today."
"My dear Miss Rescillos, why do you assume there will be damage done today?" Ezra asked cavalierly. He got a look of utter disbelief at his statement. He conceded with a sheepish shrug.
"Uh, can I, um, use the bathroom?" Lawrence stammered nervously.
"Right over there," Buck pointed. "Let me hold your stuff."
She handed it over to him and stepped nervously into the small bathroom and shut the door. McGee stood just across, waiting with Buck, when they heard a loud retching that continued for a few minutes. The toliet flushed, and the sink ran for a little bit, and then the door opened and the young woman came out, looking even more pale and shaky than she had before, her skin taking on a clammy look.
"Tic Tac?" Tony offered helpfully, holding up a small box.
She took it gratefully, and in a fit of nervousness, dumped a whole handful into her mouth. "Thanks," she mumbled.
As the others exchanged concerned looks, McGee murmured a silent prayer for the operation.
HOPEWELL TEMPORARY RESIDENCE
OUTISDE OF DENVER
"Okay," Vin nodded as they stepped into the compound's garage, having left their car behind to avoid notice. "JD, take care of the cars. Don't want no one but Hopewell and maybe few others to make it outta here. C'mon, Nate."
JD made a face as his senior teammates crept into the compound. He popped a hood ever so quietly and looked around, then yanked a spark plug.
"How're you doin', JD?" Abby's voice came over the intercom softly.
"I'm pulling spark plugs out of cars," JD grumbled as he yanked another set from another car and then put a GPS locator on the third. "Vin and Nate went inside to the compound, and here I am, disabling cars."
Abby and McGee chuckled on the other end. "Hear any nuns screeching about climbing every mountain?" Abby kidded.
"Oh no," JD half-whispered, half-moaned. "PROMISE me you won't tell Buck!"
Buck went into Inez's bar before Lawrence did, scanning out all the areas that were potential target areas for a sniper from another building. Thankfully, with the few windows in the building, there weren't many. Lawrence had been carefully instructed to avoid sitting in the direct path of any windows or doors. He seated himself in a corner, where he could get a good line of sight to the bar.
Ezra had already moved around a bit, from the bar to a table and then to the bathroom--all without getting a face. Inez hadn't noticed anyone unusual among her workers, but then again, she had a lot of business and a fair amount of employees.
Tony was waiting outside in the car, monitoring the flow of patrons in and out. They had agreed to maintain as much of intercom silence as they could, not wanting to tip anybody off before they had a chance to be taking pictures. After he scanned the area quickly, then signaled by hand to the car caddy-corner. It pulled up and Lawrence stepped out, looking like she was about to be sick. Again. Tony groaned to himself mentally. What a mistake.
Ezra's eyes flickered briefly as Lawrence came in and seated herself at one of the tables, as planned. The microphone secretly attached inside her Kevlar vest let them hear everything.
"What'll it be?"
"Club soda," Lawrence replied in a tone so clear and firm it surprised them all.
"Patron at Lawrence 3 o'clock, no dice," came McGee's voice. Buck's eyes flickered there briefly to the sharp-looking man wearing a rather large coat. Yeah, he was too big to be the shooter they were looking for.
Suddenly Tony winced as McGee began shouting into her microphone about Lawrence's waiter, and evidently Buck and Ezra heard it too; he saw them as they moved quickly towards Lawrence. "Ezra! Ten o'clock, give me a visual," Abby's voice came over. A few seconds later, "Match! It's the waitress."
Ezra's arm shot across, snatching the tray from the waitress and upending it. Buck ran forward, barely flashing his badge as they converged on the counter. A full bar brawl broke out; at one point, as Tony rushed in, he saw Inez fling a bottle straight at a patron, knocking him out of his fight with Standish. "Your timing is again impeccable, Miss Rescillos," came Standish's unhurried voice. The NCIS agent shook his head mentally at Standish as he looked around for Lawrence. She had at least the wisdom to back off; she seemed to want to melt into the crowd, but suddenly seemed to think better of it and just ducked out of the way.
The waitress was reaching for her weapon. "Go for it, honey!" Tony dared, his own up as he stepped in front of Lawrence.
The 'waitress''s hands stopped moving to her back pocket. As if sliding forward and up in surrender, they neared the part of the counter where the intrepid bar manager kept a shotgun.
"That's enough," Buck hissed, his own weapon pointed straight at her.
The now silent restaurant stood in shock, watching the scene unfold as Buck and Ezra patted her down and handcuffed her. Outside, police cars roared up.
Tony turned to Lawrence. "You okay?" he asked with genuine concern. She nodded blankly, still looking peaked.
Ezra hopped over the bar as Buck escorted the perp out. "I believe this calls for a celebratory drink," he announced. "We have our shooter and Miss Rescillo's establishment remains fairly unt--" he looked around the chaotic room "remains still standing." He laid out a few glasses. "What will it be, gentlemen?"
HIGHWAY NEAR HOPEWELL COMPOUND
Chris sat in the ATF town car, having just picked up Vin and Nathan. He looked at the southbound lanes again impatiently. In the car a mile or so down, facing northbound, was Gibbs with Josiah and JD. Tony, Buck, and Ezra had dropped off a shaken Lawrence with the half of Kelly's team responsible for her protection; the still nameless shooter had been taken into custody. The three were driving to meet them now.
Chris muttered a small curse. Waiting--even if it meant to catch the jerk of a governor--was not one of his strong points. "He's heading south on the interstate," McGee suddenly radioed. "He's the white Bronco."
"Please tell me that's a bad joke," came Buck's voice. "White Bronco fleeing LEOs on the highway? Which way?"
"South!" Abby answered, then winced as a litany of curses came over the line, followed by shouts of "Turn around, turn around!" and the acceleration of some other cars.
Ahead of them, Josiah saw Chris' car shoot forward, the engine gunning. The tiny dot disappeared behind a hill for a moment, then reappeared.
"All the exits have been blocked off," McGee's voice came over the line. "And the Denver Police are coming. You can chase him right into them."
Chris' low hiss crackled over the line; the profiler knew well his boss didn't like the idea.
Apparently Gibbs didn't like the idea either. "We don't have the time," the NCIS agent said into the intercom. "We cut him off now before he passes that field." Seeing an emergency vehicle turn around coming up, he suddenly jerked up the parking brake.
"H-ll!" Nathan exclaimed from Chris' car in an uncharacteristic shout as the three ATF agents watched the back end of Gibbs' car whip around almost 180 degrees, swerving into the southbound lanes after taking one of the highway turn-arounds meant for cop cars. All three started at the never-before-heard screech over the intercom.
"JD, are you all right?" came McGee's voice over the com.
"Why do you assume it was me?!" JD's indignant exclamation came across the earpieces in a too-high voice, giving himself away.
"How did the man even obtain his driver's license?" Ezra pondered into the intercom.
Chris slowed and parked so he blocked the turn-around, taking care to avoid hitting Gibbs' stopped car. He could see Josiah already crouched behind the vehicle, weapon in hand, as was JD. Gibbs was slamming the trunk down, having pulled a large shotgun from it. Police cars were pulling up on all sides, building a wall to trap in the fleeing perp.
Although he'd only disabled four cars, JD noted that of the ten cars in the garage, there were only four, not six, coming; three began to slow. One hesitated, then started to speed up. Gibbs fired, sending a shotgun round into the windshield; Vin's rifle shot went straight into one of the front tires. The car began to screech, the metal of the wheel scraping the concrete, and agents and cops scrambled to get out of its way.
The car slowed and the ear-shattering screech died as the car careened into a ditch on the side of the road. The smoke was clearing as Gibbs and Larabee reached the car. The ATF boss opened the car door before pulling a huffily protesting Hopewell out; he was followed by Horace, who drew his gun.
The ex-governor's assistant had the gun pointed at the agents, a dark look on his face, when Vin grinned, his blue eyes twinkling as he stepped forward and opened his hand, letting a round of revolver bullets drop to the ground.
Gibbs and Larabee advanced, growing smirks on their faces. Hopewell scowled at Larabee. "I remember you."
"It's nice to be remembered," Chris replied, the feral grin crossing his face.
"What is the meaning of this?"
"Someone was paid to shoot Mary Travis," Gibbs replied. "My agent got caught in the crossfire."
"But you wouldn't know anything about that, now would you," Buck growled.
"Look," Hopewell spat angrily. "Are you insinuating that I had something to do with it? I resent the implication I had anything to do with your agent's death. I will not stand by and listen to my good name be dragged through the mud."
"How'd you know Gibbs' agent was dead?"
"It was on the news," Hopewell snarled. "I haven't done anything. As before, I suggest you gentlemen produce more evidence before you sully a man's good reputation and I sue for libel."
Smirking, Chris leaned over, pulling back the lapel of the man's coat and reaching into an inner pocket to pull out an envelope which he handed to Gibbs. Hopewell paled.
Gibbs held the envelope at a distance. "Oh, 'Rebekah Lawrence,'" he read in a mockingly surprised tone, then put on a look of disturbance as he looked at Hopewell. "How you've changed." The snickers behind him only made Hopewell glare at him even more darkly.
"You in the habit of readin' other people's mail?" Larabee drawled, obviously enjoying this far more than he was supposed to.
Gibbs tore open the letter, squinted at the print for awhile before Tony held out a hand to take the letter. "'Dear Beckie, I think you'll be seeing my name on the news pretty soon, and it'll all be about how Mike Garcia took a murder job for money.'" Tony handed the letter back to his boss as he looked Hopewell. "And then it goes on to talk about Hopewell, even mentions how, if they aren't on it already, she's to take the letter to Vin and the ATF and to the NCIS."
Larabee was watching Hopewell with unadulterated pleasure by now. "Arrest 'im, read 'im his rights."
The agents were still gleefully arresting Hopewell when Chris' phone rang again, and he moved off to answer it. The others looked at each other and then began laughing, taking time to catcall Hopewell as the cops pushed him into a car.
"Hey, kid." Buck turned to his friend, his eyes dancing merrily. "Heard ya did good work on 'em cars."
For a split second, JD got a look of panic he quickly covered with a cool expression. "Thanks, Buck."
"Just like 'em nuns who had to confess to the Mother Superior that they were the ones who stopped up the Nazis' cars," Buck grinned. "You'd look good in a habit."
JD's mouth fell open, and he turned to McGee, narrowing his eyes. "You told!"
"I didn't tell, I swear!" McGee promised. "I didn't know Tony was standing behind us when Abby said what she did!"
JD glared. "You are so dead."
Buck was about to launch into a rendition of "The Sound of Music" when Chris came over, his dark expression killing the laughter and teasing. The explosives man asked quietly, "Chris, what's wrong?"
"Kelly just called," Chris replied in barely controlled fury. "Two guys masquerading as US Marshals tried to kill Mary and Agent Todd at the safehouse."
"Are they all right?" Buck asked.
"How they'd know they were at a safehouse?" Tony exclaimed.
"They're fine and Kelly doesn't know," Chris answered both shortly. "It's under control right now." He turned to Gibbs, quiet for a moment before murmuring, "The shooters positively identified your agent as NCIS. Hopewell thinks your agent is dead, and we told the Marshals Agent Todd was Ducky's daughter."
All the agents looked down the highway where the cop car with Hopewell had gone, followed by an escort, grim looks on their faces. "What are we going to do now, Chris?" JD groaned in frustration.