– – – –
Tony entered Quill at the Jefferson. It was a Wednesday night so the place wasn’t packed, but it was still somewhat crowded and finding SecNav might not be easy. The environment was calm, and the piano music nice and mellow.
He was discreetly taking in the room when someone appeared at his elbow and murmured, “Agent DiNozzo?”
“And you would know that how?”
“Mr. Davenport showed me your picture, actually. He’s waiting for you in the East Cabinet Room. If you’ll follow me.” There were only two rooms that could be reserved at Quill, and he wondered how Davenport had secured one on such short notice.
In the room, he found Davenport seated in an armchair sipping a drink. The man didn’t rise, so Tony nodded his head. “Mr. Secretary.”
“Have a seat, Agent DiNozzo.” Once Tony was seated, he tilted his glass a bit in Tony’s direction. “You a Scotch drinker?”
“On occasion,” Tony replied.
“We’re not at work—order whatever you like.”
The maître d’ came up to Tony’s chair. “Sir?”
Resigned to the situation, Tony ordered, “The Balvenie PortWood.”
Davenport cocked a brow but didn’t say anything, just sipped his drink. Tony figured he wouldn’t want to talk until they had privacy, so he just relaxed in the chair and waited.
As soon as he had his drink and the door was closed, Davenport, bluntly said, “I want your opinion about what to do with the David situation.”
Tony blinked, but otherwise didn’t react. “You want my opinion?”
“Seems like you’re the only person in your chain of command who behaved with a lick of sense. I have no idea what Gibbs was thinking, but he’s not here for me to ask.”
“To be fair, I don’t know that Gibbs ever let Ziva get involved with the chain of evidence. He could have had that one handled and just refused to talk to me about it.”
Davenport gave a dismissive wave. “I don’t care about that. I care about her passing information to a foreign intelligence agency.”
“Frankly, sir, I find that shortsighted.”
“Oh?” Davenport looked surprised. “How’s that?”
“If chain of custody were ever successfully challenged on even one case she worked, it would snowball into possibly any case she worked winding up under review. Major Case handles high profile cases for NCIS. If convictions are overturned, the scandal could be just as big, or bigger, than an isolated case of espionage. Her taking information regarding cases and operations outside the US—let’s be real, cosmically people aren’t going to care. However, if the murderer of someone’s little girl gets off on a technicality…” he trailed off leadingly.
Davenport looked thoughtful. “All right. I hadn’t considered that angle, I admit. So what would you do?”
Tony glanced away for a moment, the past warring with the present. He tried to put himself in Davenport’s shoes. “I’d send her back to Israel and use the espionage issue as leverage to keep her in line.”
Eyes narrowing, Davenport simply said, “Explain.”
“I don’t think you can get a conviction for espionage. Not when the documentation is murky and the director gave her the access. So your choices are to send her back to Israel or leave her in a position where you can keep an eye on her. Problem is, she can cause trouble for NCIS either way if she’s angry. She just has to slip some information to the wrong person, a leak about procedural breaches, or foreign operatives being given access to confidential materials… it could be a disaster.
“The most punitive thing you can do is prison, but, as I said, I don’t think it will stick. And even if it did, she has nothing to lose at that point. The next most punitive thing is sending her back home and note that she’s a spy and stole classified materials. She would never be able to enter the US again, and likely several other countries as well. But if you just send her home and use the threat of her going on a known spies list…”
Davenport was nodding, looking thoughtful. “If she causes any problems for NCIS at all, we clip her wings and she’s not welcome on US soil.”
“If her goal is to remain in the US, her father could always send her back as some attaché to the embassy or whatever. The point is she could return provided the espionage was kept quiet. Keeping that secret so that Mossad doesn’t lose face and David has freedom of movement is the only leverage we have.” Tony wasn’t sure how he even felt about what he was saying, but he knew if he were in SecNav’s shoes, it’s what he would do.
“I will take that under advisement.” He gave Tony a thoughtful look. “What would you do about Shepard?”
Tony nearly choked. “Pardon?”
“Surely you admit her judgment was highly questionable in even placing David at NCIS, not to mention her error with the system access.”
“Sir, respectfully, I’m not the right person to answer that question.”
“I want your opinion, son, and I’m going to have it. What would you do?”
Blowing out a breath, Tony reluctantly said, “Well, first, I’d get that security hole plugged; there should have been an alert when someone’s access exceeded their clearance that required a documented waiver. But in terms of the director… I don’t think you can easily explain removing her from the position if you’re going to keep the David situation under wraps. Might be different if you plan to take it to court.”
“Might not have a choice but to get rid of Jenny if I have David arrested,” Davenport remarked blandly.
Tony winced. “Right. In any case, if you aren’t going through legal channels with David, you don’t have reason to remove Shepard. That said,” he remarked slowly and carefully, “I think you can make the case that HQ is light a management layer.”
“We have a full complement of General Crimes teams, Cyber, CI/CT, and so on, and yet it’s the only office of its size that doesn’t have a Special Agent in Charge at the helm running the operations.” Tony felt like the observation was legitimate. Morrow had gotten rid of the DC SAC and never replaced him, but it was a vital position, and without it, Shepard had often been way too involved in what her teams were up to rather than running the agency—especially the MCRT. Despite the fact that he knew what he was saying was accurate, it didn’t feel good saying it in these circumstances.
“I see. And if there were a SAC under Shepard running the day to day of that office, one I trusted…” he trailed off, staring into space with a faraway look in his eyes. He finally focused on Tony again. “Thank you, Agent DiNozzo, you’ve been very helpful.”
Again, knowing he’d been dismissed, Tony left his half-finished Scotch on the table and got to his feet. “Goodnight, Mr. Secretary.”
– – – –
Thursday morning, Mike once again jogged up the stairs to Shepard’s office. In his entire career, he’d never had an assignment like this. He hadn’t even been able to touch a case since he started because he didn’t have a fully functioning team. So, instead of keeping McGee on cold cases, he’d sent him downstairs to work with Rick Balboa’s team until Monday when Cassie Yates would start as the team’s SFA.
Mike was kind of relieved that his wife was so wrapped up right now in getting their daughter ready for her first year of college, which would begin in less than a month. Her distraction kept him from having to make excuses about why he couldn’t talk to her about work. She knew all about confidential and classified. He could usually give her the bare bones of things, but not in this situation.
Cynthia waved him into the office, but he came up short when he realized the Secretary of the Navy was seated at the head of the conference table, sipping coffee. The director was seated in the chair next to him.
His posture stiffened and he gave a brisk nod. “Good morning, Mr. Secretary.”
“Agent Weppler, please have seat,” SecNav said tersely, gesturing to the chair.
He took the seat indicated, putting him across the table from the director and next to SecNav.
Davenport immediately began with, “I’ve consulted with several people, including the Attorney General, and here’s what we’re going to do in regards to the David situation. She’ll remain in custody of NCIS until Director Shepard has had a conversation with Eli David and made clear our dissatisfaction with this situation. We’ll present him with two choices: first option, we prosecute her for espionage, and even if it won’t stick in court, it will be a black eye for Israel and his administration; or number two, with Director David’s assurance that he’ll keep his daughter under control, we send her back to Israel immediately. If he manages to do that, she won’t be banned from entering the US at a future date.
“When he chooses the latter, and he will, Director Shepard will impress upon Ms. David the importance of her, or anyone at Mossad, not making problems for NCIS. If she should, she’ll be marked on our watch lists as a known spy who stole confidential records from NCIS, and will therefore be denied entry into the US. This information will also be shared with several of our allies, which will affect her ability to travel to various allied countries.”
Mike thought it was a good plan. Her usefulness to Mossad was reduced if she had significant difficulty with travel. Of course, she could still sneak into the country, but being officially denied entry put her and Mossad in a bad spot. And if she were found on US soil when she was on a watch list, it would be a big problem for Mossad and Israel. NCIS wasn’t going to be able to send her to jail, so the threat was their best means of keeping her in line.
“From this point, Agent Weppler,” Davenport continued, “you are free of your duties with regard to David. After the discussion with Director David, Ms. David will be escorted under guard to her home to gather her personal effects and then taken to the airport to board a plane to Tel Aviv. Director David will have to make arrangements for the disposition of the rest of her belongings.”
Nodding, Mike said, “Understood, sir. I’ll return to my duties then.”
“Not quite yet, Agent. There’s something else that involves you. I’d like to put off your retirement for three years. The head of the agency has the power to extend your retirement date to age sixty if there’s cause, and I feel the situation merits it.”
Mike forced back his shock. “What would I be doing for those three years, sir?” Surely they could find someone to run the MCRT, so this must be something else.
“I believe this situation with David happened due to a breakdown in the management chain. It won’t be happening again. I’ve spoken with Director Shepard at length and have agreed to not remove her from her position. However, her direct involvement with the teams and cases in this office has distracted her from her primary function. There needs to be a Special Agent in Charge for this office, and I’d like that to be you.”
Completely stunned, Mike could only stare.
“I realize you’ve done your duty to your country, and more than given time to NCIS, but I’m asking you for three more years as the SAC for HQ. Also, it was not lost on me that the reason why a retiring agent was assigned to the MCRT was because it’s likely Gibbs will be back. Director Shepard confirmed she never processed his retirement.” SecNav shot the director a look, but she just nodded her acceptance of the statement. “I believe Gibbs is an asset, and I’m willing to give him a shot, but not the six months Jenny was planning. He’s got two more months to get his ass back to his desk or his retirement is processed and he’s out permanently.
“You’ll have the team for no more than those two months. If Gibbs doesn’t come back, I expect DiNozzo to be moved back to the MCRT. It’s a hell of a lot easier to replace the head of sex crimes than get someone who can handle major case. If Gibbs does come back, you send that stubborn old bastard to talk to me first, because I owe him an ass chewing for this clusterfuck.”
Davenport gave him a searching look. “You willing to give me those three years?”
“Yes, sir.” Mike knew he should talk to his wife first, but Ellen had always supported his career decisions, and SAC was damn close to regular hours, plus no one would be shooting at him. Going out as a Special Agent in Charge… well, Mike had never aspired to it, but he sure as hell didn’t mind it.
Getting to his feet, Davenport gave Shepard a nod, then said, “You’ll walk me out, Agent Weppler.”
He wasn’t sure what that was about but he rose and asked the director, “Should I return to your office ma’am?”
Shepard had a resigned look about her as she shook her head. “That’s not necessary at this time. I’ll be in MTAC speaking with Eli David shortly. But please see me before you leave for the day.”
SecNav didn’t say anything until they were outside the building, then he turned to Mike. “I’m not asking you to spy on your boss, but I expect you to do exactly what you did when you encountered a problem… deal with it, escalate it, whatever you have to do to keep this crap from happening again.”
“Yes, sir.” Mike knew he was getting this job because he could be a hard ass. In a way, he was being asked to be a fixer, and so that’s what he would do.
“And one more thing,” Davenport said. “Confidentially, in three years I see DiNozzo replacing you. I expect you to mentor him and make sure he’s ready.”
Mike figured DiNozzo would be thirty-six or thirty-seven at that time, and that was damn young to be a SAC, but if that’s what Davenport wanted… “Yes, sir, I’ll see to it.”
– – – –
Tony read the most recent email from the director then put his head in his hands. He wasn’t physically tired but he felt emotionally wrung out. He rubbed his eyes against his palms. “All right, everyone, pack it in,” he ordered as he looked back at his team. “The director has reluctantly agreed to let me go to Quantico tomorrow, so I’ll be out in the morning.
“Jacy, Mike Weppler said his team won’t be on active rotation until Monday, so if you get busy tomorrow, go see him. Hell, even if you just have one case, pull him in and let him help with the record search. He volunteered, so let’s take advantage of it.”
He glanced around at his team as they got their stuff together. “I’ll bring lunch with me on my way back from Quantico. Oh, and don’t forget… we’re taking Beth out after work tomorrow.” Beth shot him an exasperated look, but Tony just winked at her. She shook her head.
After several comments and short conversations, everyone piled out except Michelle. She hovered by her desk, hand on her bag.
“Something you want to talk to me about, Michelle?” He leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers behind his head.
She sighed and stepped closer, fingers absently fiddling with the hem of her shirt. “Tony, I’m not cut out for this.”
“Michelle, it’s been a week. You had a hard time adjusting to Major Case, but you eventually settled in.”
Shaking her head vigorously, she replied, “No, it’s not the same. I had a hard time adjusting to field work and to gross stuff and keeping my lunch down so I didn’t contaminate the crime scene. And, yes, some of the cases were upsetting, but not like this. I can’t take it. Because at least before we usually got justice. Here we’re just part of a mostly-ineffectual machine!”
Tony sat up straight and stared at her for several long moments. “I realize the system is very broken when it comes to many of the cases that will cross our desks, but the victims are better for having us here. We do make a difference. You make a difference.”
“I can’t do it!” she hollered, completely losing her composure. “And I don’t want to talk about it. I just want out of this room. I feel surrounded by things I know we’re going to fail at and women we’re not going to be able to help.”
“All right, Michelle,” he said in a low soothing tone, because he didn’t know what else to say. He couldn’t actually promise her a reassignment, because it wasn’t in his sphere of control. “Reassignments take time. I’ll pull you from new cases, but I can’t just release you. For now, I need you to keep digging through cold cases to see if there are more that match our unsub.”
She blew out a breath and nodded. “Okay. I can do that.”
There had been two stalking cases this week, and, ultimately, there hadn’t been anything that could be done about either of them. Michelle had reacted very badly to both, and he probably should have pushed the issue of her talking about whatever was bothering her. On the other hand, he wasn’t a shrink.
“All right, then. Clear on out. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Once he was alone, he dragged his hands through his hair and groaned with frustration. He knew Shepard didn’t need this right now, but he didn’t have much choice but to fire off an email to her explaining that his probationary agent was asking for a transfer. He was almost ready to go when his phone chimed with a text summoning him upstairs.
A few minutes later, he found Cynthia already gone and the door open, the soft murmur of voices coming from within.
“Tony,” Jenny called out, waving him inside. “Come in. I asked Mike to come up so we could talk about Michelle Lee. I also have some news for you.” She was seated on her sofa off in the nook with a stack of files by her and had two chairs pulled up.
Crossing to them, he greeted, “Director. Agent Weppler.”
“Sit.” She drummed her fingers briefly on the file folders. “A couple things before we get into the transfer. First, Agent Weppler is delaying his retirement for three years and has been promoted to the Special Agent in Charge of this office.”
Tony glanced at Weppler and inclined his head. “Congratulations, sir. I look forward to working for you.” He knew Weppler preferred things a little more formal at work but wasn’t known for being a dick. Tony knew one of the SFAs in the CCU and she had indicated Mike kept it professional with everyone but let them interact with each other however they chose as long as they didn’t cross the line. So Tony would buck up and be formal with the boss and run his team how he saw fit.
Weppler’s eyes narrowed briefly, but he only said, “Thank you, Agent DiNozzo.”
Jenny continued. “Mike and I will share the SAC duties for the next two months since he’ll still have the MCRT. I’ll handle most of the administration and whatever he asks of me, and he’ll interface with the field teams. The announcement will be made on Monday.”
Frowning, Tony asked. “And what happens in two months?”
Sighing, Jenny looked uncomfortable.
Weppler cleared his throat and answered, “SecNav has given Agent Gibbs two more months to return to NCIS or his team goes back to you and we find a new lead for the FSVU.”
Tony blinked in shock and fought back the protest, but he was keenly aware his jaw clenched and his hands were fisted.
“I know it’s not what you want,” Weppler added, “but that was ordered by SecNav. The DC MCRT has one of the highest closure rates of any federal agency, and he doesn’t want to see that slip. You were part of that equation. He’s right, it’s easier to find a new lead for sex crimes than major case.”
He really wanted to argue, but he just said, “Yes, sir.” Also, Tony really didn’t like the term ‘sex crimes,’ but changing the culture around that wasn’t something he was going to manage today.
“You know Cassie Yates?” Weppler asked.
“Yes, I do. Great agent.”
“She’ll be starting as the team SFA on Monday. In the vein of staffing for the MCRT, since she wants out of sex crimes, I’m taking Lee back as the team probie. She’s already familiar with Major Case, so she should be able to settle in and we can get back into rotation first thing on Monday.”
Presumably that meant they’d made a decision about Ziva. He’d heard the rumor that she was in an NCIS holding cell but hadn’t tried to confirm it.
Jenny cocked her head to the side and gave Tony a contemplative look. “Ziva is going back to Israel tomorrow, late morning. I’ve let the guards know you’re on the approved visitor’s list. Not sure if you have anything to say or not.”
He wasn’t sure either. “I’ll think about it, ma’am.”
She nodded then held out a file to him. “If you want a probie, you can have this one a week from Monday. We’ll get you someone TAD for that week. If you don’t think you can work with him, you may have to do with TAD agents for a little while.”
Tony took the personnel file and gave it a quick once over. Quinn Garrick, twenty-five years old, 5’10, Caucasian, bachelor’s degree in arctic engineering, followed by moving to Liverpool to get his MFA in popular music. His coursework read a little like an elaborate joke. Because if arctic engineering and popular music weren’t quirky enough, he’d taken minors in bagpiping and citrus. There was a degree program in citrus? He’d then applied to NCIS and passed FLETC with flying colors. Sort of. His instructors hated him—said he was a wise ass, and their assessments were universal in their opinion that he wouldn’t survive a federal agency for more than six months.
“I’ll take him,” Tony replied without a second thought, completely going with his gut.
“Oh, good,” Jenny said, sounding relieved. “I wasn’t sure where he was going to be stationed, to be honest. Agent Weppler didn’t feel he was a good fit for the MCRT.”
The new Special Agent in Charge actually shuddered.
A few minutes later, Tony had just made it out to the stairs, when he heard Weppler call, “Agent DiNozzo.” He paused to let the other agent catch up. “When Shepard mentioned that I was going to be SAC for this office, you weren’t surprised.”
Tony hesitated briefly. “I honestly did not know Secretary Davenport planned to promote you.”
Weppler watched him closely for a second. “Why don’t you just tell me what you do know?”
This was the last position Tony wanted to be in, but he wasn’t going to be lying about shit either. “SecNav asked me what I’d do about Director Shepard if I were in his shoes. I told him I wasn’t the right person to make that assessment, but that this office was obviously light in the management chain. How he chose to interpret that…” he trailed off then added, “I’m not surprised he offered the job to you.”
The newly-appointed SAC looked thoughtful. Stepping closer, he asked softly, “Was David your suggestion, too?”
“I’m sure I’m not the only person who pointed out to him that we only have one bit of leverage in this situation,” Tony replied carefully.
“Hn.” The noise didn’t mean anything to Tony, but the careful assessment he was getting was making him uncomfortable. “Well, then, goodnight, Agent DiNozzo.” Weppler nodded and jogged down the stairs.
– – – –
Tony approached Ziva’s holding cell and sat down in the chair placed right outside. She was reading and didn’t look up, but Tony had no doubt that she knew he was there.
“Have you come to glee?” she finally asked, lifting her head.
“It’s ‘gloat’, and no, I didn’t. There’s nothing to gloat about,” Tony replied calmly.
She slammed her book shut. “You worked so hard to get me thrown away, and yet you say you are not here to gloat. You are a liar.”
“I’m not a liar, Ziva. And I had nothing to do with you being sent back to Israel. You knew if NCIS found out what you were doing that they would be upset, and you did it anyway. Did you think they’d do nothing when they uncovered the truth? Let you get away with it?”
“Bah!” she exclaimed waving her hand. “I followed your foolish rules. But no one would have known if not for you.”
Tony’s eyes narrowed. He doubted the director or Weppler would have told Ziva that he made inquiries to legal, so why was she blaming him? “I’m not sure how your bad acts can be my fault.”
Hopping up from the cot, she began to pace. “If you had been a real man and not run off to tongue your wounds, that horrible Wapner-man would not have been here asking questions! Your lack of spine is why I am being sent back to Israel, why I am losing my home and my friends.”
“I see. I guess I was supposed to put up with your abuse in silence so you could commit your illegal actions. That would have made me a real ‘man’ in your eyes? Yeah, I don’t think so, Ziva. We both know that me putting up with your bullshit has never raised your opinion of me.” He snorted derisively. “It’s funny, deep down inside, probably the only thing you ever respected about me was the fact that I called an end to your bullshit and walked away. The only reason you’re angry is because you got caught as a result. So you can keep insulting and posturing but we both know the real truth.”
“You know nothing,” she hissed stepping up to the bars.
“Don’t I?” he asked arching a brow and giving a knowing smile. There was a lot Tony knew that perhaps she wished he didn’t. But he had no need to poke her now; she was leaving and their game was over. Tony got to his feet and buttoned his suitcoat. “Goodbye, Ziva.”
– – – –
Tony flopped gracelessly into bed and yanked the covers over his head. He was four days into his transfer and he wished the world would pause for a day. It had been one thing after another all week long.
It was hard for him to reconcile himself to all the problems that had been bubbling under the surface, just waiting to erupt: Ziva and the espionage, Shepard planning to send him on an unsanctioned undercover op, McGee’s fucking slanderous book. Not to mention the serial rapist flying under the radar, terrorizing and brutalizing dozens of Navy women.
The level of change recently should have him completely reeling, but it wasn’t as bad as he would have expected. Not that he wouldn’t like things to slow down, but he didn’t feel as overwhelmed as he thought he should. He figured it was because for the first time in a long time, Tony felt like he was in the driver’s seat. It wasn’t about being team lead, it was about making choices because they were the best for him and not because of some neurotic thing centered around Gibbs.
He wondered when the dynamic his life revolved around had become so toxic? It would be easy to blame it on Ziva, but she was really more of a catalyst. She’d exploited and exacerbated problems that had been building from the beginning. Tiny little things that Tony had let go in the interests of not rocking the boat and preserving the first working environment he’d truly felt comfortable in. Those things had built and gathered momentum, putting him in a bad position when Ziva had come around looking for vulnerabilities.
It would also be easy to blame Gibbs, but at the end of the day, Tony was responsible for his life and the choices he’d made. He’d chosen to let things go when he should have stopped it. He’d chosen to make Gibbs’ approval and support mean more than his own self respect.
‘What are you?’ Jenny had asked him the day all the changes began. Such a simple question but the fallout of that answer was completely altering his course.
Now, the question was: what did he want for his life? He hadn’t dated seriously since Wendy left him. But, in truth, there had really only been one person he’d have even considered something more permanent with, and that had never been a possibility.
Tony wasn’t entirely sure what the answer to the question was, but he was absolutely certain that he wanted more. He wanted more than a job he was good at. He wanted something for himself.
– – – –
Friday morning, Tony signed into the security log at the FBI. As a federal agent with DoD credentials, he didn’t need an escort, so he was given directions up to the BAU offices. He’d known Derek for a few years—they played basketball together in the same league, but they competed for who had the most no-shows due to their jobs. When he’d called to ask if Derek could give him an opinion on a case, his friend had readily agreed. Fortunately for Tony, the profiler had been in town so this didn’t have to be delayed.
Tony exited the elevators and found Derek waiting for him with a bright smile. “Tony, my man! It’s been a while.” Derek shook his hand then pulled him in for a brief hug.
“Good to see you, Derek,” Tony said sincerely. “We need serious court time some day soon.”
“I hear ya,” Derek said as he cracked his neck. “Things were hell around here leading up to summer, and I need something to burn off the tension. But I hear they were none too good at NCIS. Gibbs retired?”
Tony shrugged. “Eh. Who knows. He’ll probably be back.” Not wanting to drag out the explanation, he said, “I took over the FSVU, but they’re giving Gibbs a couple months to come back and take the MCRT, so he might not be gone for good yet.”
Morgan blinked. “Well, I figured you wanted to see me about an unusual murder, but with you in special victims…” he trailed off, eyes narrowing. “All right. Come on in. Hotch is waiting.”
“Uh… I thought it’d just be you and me,” Tony said as he hesitated.
“Don’t worry about it. I have to tell Hotch about all the cases we’re looking at, and he wanted to sit in.” Morgan led him through some glass doors with the BAU logo, then past some bullpens and up to an office.
A very buttoned-up looking man a few years older than Tony got to his feet as they walked in. Derek immediately said, “Tony, this is my boss, Chief of Unit Four, Aaron Hotchner. Hotch, this is Senior Supervisory Agent Tony DiNozzo, of the FSVU with NCIS. You know, man,” Derek directed to Tony, “It’s annoying that the Bureau and NCIS had to make the SSA acronym slightly different.”
Tony huffed a little laugh as he shook Hotchner’s hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Agent Hotchner.”
“Likewise, Agent DiNozzo.” He took his seat. “I realize you asked to see Morgan, but in my tenure here, NCIS has never asked for our help, and I admit, I was curious.”
Setting his bag by his chair, Tony nodded. “Well, NCIS is a smaller agency, and we have a bad case of little brother syndrome.”
Hotchner gave a short, surprised laugh.
“Also, even though we’re a civilian agency, we have a lot of military attitudes, so we can be very insular,” Tony said more seriously.
The unit chief cocked his head to the side. “But not you?”
“Oh, I’m perfectly willing to get in a pissing match with Fornell if he tries to interfere with one of my cases, but I also know when I’m in over my head. And even though I have someone on my team with a psychology degree and our ME has taken forensic psychology training, this is way over our heads.”
“What’s going on, Tony?” Derek asked from where he was propping up a wall.
“Serial rapist,” Tony replied bluntly.
“You certain?” Hotch asked intently.
“As I can be. We’re still combing through records and making calls, but we were up to thirteen in the digitized records, and found one in our crawl through paper records last night. The cases so far span about six years, though I suspect we’re going to find crimes going back fifteen years or more.”
Derek pushed away from the wall, frowning. “How did you all not catch on that there was a serial rapist with fourteen attacks before now?”
Since Derek’s tone wasn’t accusing, Tony didn’t get defensive. He noted that Hotch was frowning mightily. “The elements our agents have been taught to flag as the signature were different in the majority of the cases. I took over as team leader for the FSVU this past Monday and they had a case going cold; a supervisor has to sign off before a case is officially in the archive. Since I was new to the unit, I read the entire file, including witness statements, and something there was like another cold case I’d looked at. Again, something in the witness account. My team started digging and, well, he’s operating all along the eastern seaboard, so these cases were out of multiple field offices and none of them were even covered by the same RA.”
As he started to reach into his bag, Hotch held up a hand. “Please wait, Agent DiNozzo. Morgan, gather the team and Garcia in the conference room.”
Morgan nodded and gave Tony’s shoulder a squeeze as he walked out.
“Ah… I really just needed an opinion.”
Hotchner got to his feet. “You might as well get all of our opinions. When we get in there, I’d like you to pass around your case summaries, let the team come to their conclusions about the case relationships on their own. Then I’ll have you pass the witness statements you say tie them together and we’ll go from there. So, come with me and I’ll introduce you to everyone.”
Tony and Hotchner were barely the first in the conference room. Soon after, he met Dr. Spencer Reid, followed by Jennifer Jareau, and then Jason Gideon. Gideon seemed impatient to get started but reconciled himself to waiting for Morgan. Apparently, there was another profiler named Greenaway, but she was on medical leave recovering from some injury.
When Morgan returned, he brought with him their tech analyst, an exuberant blonde named Penelope Garcia. She reminded him in some ways of Abby in her effervesce, but Garcia seemed more mature to him. She flashed him a big smile as she took the seat next to him.
Hotchner began with, “Agent DiNozzo is going to pass around the summaries of some open cases. I’d like everyone to look at all fourteen.”
Tony passed all fourteen to Dr. Reid first, who read through them at incredible speed, passing them left and right as he went.
Everyone was shaking their heads, but it was Gideon who said, “On the surface, they don’t seem to be related, other than most of them being blitz attacks, but you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t think they were.” So, Tony handed the witness statements to Dr. Reid.
The profiler’s eyebrows shot up on the third witness statement. It took a while for everyone to get through everything.
After the prolonged reading session, everyone exchanged looks. “You are correct about this being the work of a serial rapist,” Gideon said bluntly. “You sure you got them all?”
“Not even,” Tony replied. “We found all the ones for which we have digitized records, but we’re having to sort through files by hand now.”
“You said you expect to find records going back at least an additional nine years,” Hotchner said. “Why’s that?”
Tony blinked. Okay, yeah, he probably shouldn’t have said that. “Just connecting dots, Agent Hotchner.”
“Well, connect them for us,” he prompted.
Tony was used to making intuitive leaps, and seeing where they took him, but he wasn’t sure about doing that with a room full of profilers.
He felt someone nudge his leg. “Hey, man,” Derek said, “Don’t worry about it. Just tell us what you’re thinking.”
“All right. Victims are all Navy, not even any Marines. Some of the bases these women were stationed at are joint bases, so it’s not happenstance that it’s just Navy women. I even reached out to AFOSI, because our most recent victim was from a joint Navy/Air Force base, and they have nothing matching our cases. We also called several PDs in the jurisdictions where these rapes took place. It’s hard to get information, but so far, nothing.
“I think he was former Navy and was discharged, probably other than honorably, before 1991,” Tony said bluntly, skipping a lot of the in between.
“Why 1991?” Garcia asked.
“Because the Armed Forces Repository of Specimen Samples for the Identification of Remains was created in 1991, though it wasn’t named that until 2002. And we have DNA in two of the cases—broken condom. If I’m right that he was military, he was discharged before the end of 1991, otherwise we’d have a DNA record to match against.”
Gideon braced his elbows on the table. “Why do you assume he’s former military?”
“He knows the Navy. It’s in the bases and facilities he targets, that he’s carefully spread out over different field offices, and not even the same RA or RU in any two cases.”
“I know what a Resident Agency is, but what’s an RU?” Garcia echoed.
“Resident Unit,” Tony replied. “One to two man posts. Senior agents staff them because they have to work without support or supervision. Cases like this should be kicked to the nearest resident agency, but it doesn’t always happen.”
“You consider that he’s one of you?” Gideon said challengingly.
“Of course,” Tony replied. “But if he were an agent, we’d have him by now. All of our DNA is in the system. Also, even agents on TAD for a year don’t move around with this frequency. He’s definitely not an agent. Could he work for NCIS in another capacity? Yes, I suppose, though it’s a stretch to think he’s traveling to these bases in any official NCIS role. If he is with NCIS, he’s using NCIS for access to personnel records and not as an avenue to get onto the bases.”
Tony waved his hand as if clearing things away. “Look, this isn’t about my ego. I don’t care if I’m right or wrong about him being former Navy. But it’s one possibility, and if I’m right, he’d have to be out of the Navy before 1991, and so we have a lot of records to dig through. But even if he’s not Navy, he knows the Navy. And, yeah, to some degree he knows NCIS, too.”
Gideon got to his feet. “We’ll take the case. Send all your case files to Garcia, and we’ll be at the Navy Yard this afternoon,” he near-ordered as he walked out the door.
“What?!” Tony exclaimed. “I just wanted to get an opinion on what we were dealing with.”
The senior profiler stuck his head around the door. “What opinion? The one you already know? That you have a prolific serial rapist who isn’t going to stop, and that your team isn’t equipped to handle?”
“Jason…” Hotchner murmured as Tony glared.
Gideon waved his hand and shook his head. “I’m not dismissing you, Agent. You caught something that everyone had missed for probably more than a decade. But no team is better equipped than ours to handle this. We’ll see you in a few hours.” With that the man disappeared.
“I told my director I was coming for a consult with a buddy of mine, not inviting the BAU to the Navy Yard this afternoon,” Tony said dryly.
Garcia glanced around the table. “With the crimes happening in so many states, can the FBI claim jurisdiction?”
“NCIS is a federal agency, and all the victims that we know of are military,” Tony retorted. “No one could claim jurisdiction from us.”
“Oh.” She made a face. “You know, I don’t think we’ve had another federal agency call us in before.”
“It’s very rare,” Hotchner commented giving Tony an assessing look. “You have a serious problem, Agent DiNozzo, and we want to help. We can help. I could call and speak to your director if you think that would make a difference.”
Tony sighed. “Let me talk to her first, but I’m pretty sure she’s going to have to clear this with the Secretary of the Navy, so we might not get an answer today.”
Hotchner inclined his head. “You can use the phone in my office. It will afford you a little privacy, and if you need me to speak to her, please let me know.”
Pulling out his cellphone as they were walking, Tony checked his text messages and winced. “They found three more cases,” he offered. Seventeen so far.
“Please let your director know that we just want to help,” Hotchner said as he showed Tony into his office then left, giving Tony privacy to call Jenny.
Blowing out a breath, knowing this wasn’t going to be easy, he dialed the number.
– – – –
Mike shut another file, returned it to the box, and grabbed the next. Having spent the morning reading the witness statements of rape victims, he was feeling numb. Which, on the one hand, was an improvement considering how angry he’d been getting earlier. It was easy to compartmentalize “serial rapist” as just another case to be solved until you were in the weeds reading the statements of young women who had been horribly wounded in a way he would never understand. But then he began to see his daughter, Paige, the faces of the women and it had really gotten under his skin.
In all his years in the CCU, Mike could honestly say that they almost never closed a rape case gone cold. And if one did get solved, it was advancements in forensics or a recently submitted sample into CODIS, and not the work of his Cold Case Unit. As a result, he had very little experience with this type of case and he was finding limits within himself he didn’t know he had.
He hadn’t had a lot of respect for Agent Lee’s insistence on leaving the FSVU, even though he was happy enough to put her to work. While he still had issue with an agent requesting a reassignment after only a week, he could more readily understand how someone might instantly know these types of cases were more than they could bear.
Tipping his head to the side, he cracked the cervical bones then rubbed the back of his neck, loosening tense muscles. His estimation of DiNozzo had gone up a little more. The kid was an enigma, that was for sure, but Mike was now convinced he had one of the hardest jobs in the building.
Ten minutes later he kind of wanted to hit something as he found the signature touch and word combination he was looking for. Instead, he called out to Lee who had already moved up to the MCRT bullpen where they had more space to go through files. “Got another.”
Her face twisted slightly, but she came and took the file to run it downstairs.
Mike was two more files in when he became aware of someone approaching his desk. His eyebrows shot up. “Director,” he acknowledged. “What can I do for you?”
“Agent DiNozzo called. The BAU would like to consult on this case, but they have to be officially invited in. Even though you won’t be in the job until Monday, this seems like it would normally be your decision. I’d like your thoughts.”
He appreciated the gesture, but he thought she was perhaps overlooking one thing. “Ma’am, considering NCIS’ historical dislike of letting other agencies in on our cases, I’m not sure I’d have made that call, even if I’d been in the job a year, without consulting you.”
She tilted her head in acknowledgment. “He’s waiting for my call. I’m not inclined to involve Secretary Davenport in the decision, but I’ll consider your opinion on the matter.”
Mike took a moment to realistically think everything through. “I think we need them,” he said finally. “I’d stress to the lead that we need them to be discreet about their involvement and make sure no one outside of the BAU is involved. It’s not an FBI case.”
“Realistically, how many do you think we’re going to find?”
“DiNozzo thinks they’ll go back at least to ’91 and at the rate we’ve found them, averaging about three a year, we’re looking at forty-plus.”
Shepard winced then nodded. “All right. I’ll make the call. But I’m going to deny their request for system access and to have our files sent to the FBI. If they want to use their analysts, they’ll need to bring them here. Otherwise, they’ll have to rely on ours.”
Once she was gone, Mike considered the box of files. Deciding he needed a break, he went to get a room set up for the BAU to camp out in. He was still getting used to the layout of HQ but he was pretty sure there was a conference room down the hall from the FSVU they could appropriate.
– – – –
Tony entered his bullpen and dropped the bags of food on the spare desk. Beth was sitting at the probie’s desk since Michelle was back up with the MCRT already.
“Four more,” Beth said bluntly. “It’s going faster because Balboa’s team is going through files too since they didn’t catch a case today.”
“Twenty-one,” Tony said on a sigh. “Here’s the deal, the director has okayed the BAU consulting on this case and they’ll be arriving in about an hour or so. Let’s take a break from the files, eat, and discuss how this is going to go.” He shucked his suit coat and tie, not pleased to be so buttoned up on a Friday.
Everyone wound up sitting in a small circle eating their bánh mì sandwiches in silence for several minutes. Finally, Tony broke into the reverie. “They’re going to need a liaison to work with them. I think it should probably be Jacy. Erin, I know you have the psychology background, but Jacy has more years working rape cases and understands the psychology of it as well as anyone.”
Jacy held up one finger in a clear gesture to wait while she chewed and swallowed. “I’m going to have to disagree with you, Tony. I’ll do it if you insist, but I think it should be you.”
“I agree,” Erin chimed in. “I’m sure we’ll be working the case as much as our other caseload allows, but it should be you taking point on this.”
Tony shook his head, feeling like he needed to stay leading his team and let this go to someone else.
Beth caught his eye and cocked her head toward the door.
A minute later they were walking down the stairs and outside. As soon as they could be assured some privacy, Beth said, “I’m not your boss or even your mentor, but as someone who is hopefully coming to be a friend, I think you need a sounding board and to bounce some ideas around. Tell me what’s going on in your head.”
“I’m new to the job, Beth. I feel like I should be leading the team and managing cases, not going on special assignment the first week.”
“Can I offer you some perspective?”
“The cases that stretch the investigative skills of this team tend to be stranger-rape cases and some of the crimes against children. Whereas the lion share of our caseload, we know who the perpetrator is. We spend more of our time persuading victims to come forward than we do figuring out who an unsub is.”
Frowning, he tried to figure out what her point was.
Beth gave him a small smile. “Tony, the team can learn a lot from you on the investigative front. They want to learn from you; they’ve told me so. The BAU needs the team’s best investigator, and that’s you. Having Jacy and Erin involved in the investigation as much as possible and seeing everyone in action is good experience. Especially for Erin. But throwing either of them at the BAU isn’t helping the case to the degree that we could.”
“We can’t know that I’m going to be helpful to the BAU at all,” Tony hedged.
“True. Although, I’m pretty sure you will be. I doubt they know the military to the degree they’re going to need to. But you’re right, if you aren’t doing anything, you should bow out. Throw a TAD agent at them to answer questions and show ‘em how the phones work and get back to your desk.”
He snorted a laugh. “I can’t leave Erin and Jacy to handle everything alone.”
“Well, first of all, Erin and Jacy are very competent, but I’m going to be here next week. There’s no way I’m walking out with this going on. Depending on the caseload, I may not work whole days; we’ll play it by ear. So if you agree, Jacy will be in charge, and I’ll take my cues from her. Plus, Jenny already assigned you a TAD agent for the week.”
Tony made a face. TAD agents often weren’t all that great. They were warm bodies who could do certain tasks, but by the time you got them really up to speed, the person they were covering for was back from vacation or whatever conference or training they’d been sent to.
Beth chuckled. “Oh, Tony, believe me, my ladies know how to get the most out of a TAD agent. Things will be so stocked up, cleaned and primed you won’t know what to do with yourself. Jacy is a master of finding the five hundred follow-up calls that need to be made across eighty cases and having the TAD do it. They’ll work the hell out of him.”
“Seems like maybe I should stick around to witness that,” he said with a smile.
“They’re impressive when they get going. But, seriously, we need the best investigator in the building to work this case.”
Tony scrubbed his hands over his face. “So we need Gibbs to come back.”
Beth blinked rapidly several times. “I’m not sure if that’s false modesty or if you’re that clueless.”
“What?” he asked, bewildered.
“Tony, sweetie, that’s you. Gibbs’ solve rate went up when you joined, but it didn’t go down when he left. The solve rate of the MCRT has as much, if not more, to do with you than Gibbs.”
Tony’s mouth fell open.
– – – –
Tony fiddled with his beer bottle. It was late and he was tired from a really long day. After the BAU team had arrived, they’d split up for a good portion of the afternoon. Morgan and Jareau had gone to talk to the most recent victim again and had taken Erin with them. Gideon and Dr. Reid had gone with Jacy back to the Naval Research Lab to talk to her coworkers. Beth and the TAD had covered the incoming cases. Hotch had stayed and talked over the case files with Tony while they set up the room and helped Garcia whenever she needed it.
The analyst had been furiously inputting core information from the non-digitized casefiles into a database. Whenever anyone had a spare moment, they’d continued combing through the file boxes still being delivered from the archives, finding even more cases that fit their profile. Weppler also had continued to help search through files, and so had Balboa’s team.
He’d actually sent his team home around 1830 hours. Jacy needed to be with her kids, and there wasn’t much for Erin to do but look through more cold cases. He didn’t want her to burn out.
He’d worked with the BAU for a while longer, but by 2000 hours, they didn’t have much except a growing list of victims. They’d agreed to resume tomorrow morning at 0900. He knew Jacy wouldn’t be able to come in on a Saturday they weren’t on call unless there was a crisis, but Erin and the TAD planned to be there to continue the search for victims and help where needed.
The BAU team had invited him to join them for dinner and he’d accepted. It was a little awkward to be the odd man out in a team so tightly knit, but Tony was adaptable and good in social situations, so he handled it. He managed to get on a first name basis with everyone except Gideon, who everyone pretty much called ‘Gideon’ anyway, and Hotchner told Tony to just call him ‘Hotch.’
Derek nudged his shoulder. “You’re quiet.”
“Just thinking,” Tony replied neutrally.
“Case. I feel like there’s something right there that I just can’t quite put my finger on. It’s just teasing at the edge of my mind.” He took a sip of the one beer he was allowing himself.
“As hard as it is to push it out of your head, sometimes not thinking about it is the way to get the answer,” Derek responded.
Penelope appeared and pushed her chair between them. Taking her seat, she threaded her arm through his and Morgan’s. “As I sit here surrounded by chocolate and vanilla deliciousness, I refuse to dwell on that which we cannot deal with until tomorrow. I now give you permission to pay attention to me.”
Tony choked on his beer, half in laughter, half in shock.
“Garcia,” Hotch muttered, rubbing his forehead.
“What?” she replied coyly like she had no idea what he was talking about.
Spencer was watching them with his brow furrowed.
“What is it?” Tony asked.
“I’ve never seen Garcia take to a LEO on one of our cases like this.” He didn’t sound disapproving, more like he was analyzing the variables.
“Hey!” Garcia chimed in. “Tony’s not just our NCIS point of contact, he’s Derek’s friend. That makes him family.” She shot Derek a look. “Not that Derek told me about his friend, who is entirely too yummy for words.”
“Now, Baby Girl, why would I want to share your attention with someone as pretty as Tony? He might turn your head,” Derek teased. Tony couldn’t help it, he started cracking up.
“There is more than enough awesomeness in me to go around,” Penelope said tartly. “Besides Tony needs me to pull him up out of the doldrums, so you will just have to suck it up, buttercup.”
– – – –
Tossing his keys from one hand to the other, Tony got off the elevator on his floor and started towards his apartment. Dinner had gone a long way toward relaxing him, and he was pretty sure he’d be able to sleep easily tonight. Though a little time with his piano would cement it, he thought.
It was odd to have a major case and not be sleeping at his desk or pouring in at 0300 only to leave again at 0730. But that was the Gibbs’ way, and unless there was a missing kid or something exigent, Tony couldn’t see driving his people into the ground on every single case. He was determined to do things the way he thought best. And with no one around to tell him he was doing it too much like Gibbs or not enough like Gibbs, it was easier to settle into his skin as a team leader and find his own path.
He suddenly realized there was someone leaning against his door and he halted, hand automatically going for his sidearm. But then he recognized the man and just stared and blinked stupidly.
When the man cocked an eyebrow in inquiry, Tony managed to shake off his stupor and continue the walk towards his front door. He stopped about a foot away from his visitor. They were about the same height. Tony may have had the edge by a half inch or so, but they were basically eye to eye.
“You ever feel like you’ve made a mistake?” the man from the past asked.
Tony blew out a breath. “Hell, I’m the king of mistakes, bad decisions, and inappropriate attachments. So, what can I do for you, Ian?”
Instead of responding to what Tony asked, Ian replied, “I saw you today… leaving Quantico.”
“I was consulting with the BAU,” he replied, having no reason to hide it.
“I know. I asked,” Ian said candidly, then bluntly added, “I shouldn’t have pretended like I didn’t recognize what was going on four years ago.”
Huffing a little in frustration, Tony dragged his hands through his hair. This wasn’t at all what he was expecting, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to deal with this right now. Instead of saying anything, he stepped close and reached next to Ian’s body to unlock the door. They were barely four inches apart when the door swung open behind the sniper. “You might as well go in,” Tony said without inflection. “Let’s not do this in the hall.” Ian melted back into Tony’s apartment.
By the time Tony had locked up and shucked his suit coat, Ian was standing by the window looking out. Tony pulled his rolled up tie out of his pocket and smoothed it out over the back of the couch, the fiddly actions settling any incipient nerves.
“I knew,” Ian said, still staring out into nighttime DC. “I knew how you felt about me. And in my way I was encouraging it—or at least enjoying it.” He snorted and shook his head. “Even if I wouldn’t acknowledge it.”
Although Ian was an instructor for the FBI Academy at Quantico, he also taught a few classes at FLETC from time to time. Including Tony’s Active Shooter Threat Training Program, as well as the Active Shooter Threat Instructor Training Program Tony’d had to take before he could be promoted to senior field agent.
In retrospect, Tony had been barely over Wendy leaving him when he’d come across the legendary sniper and fallen hard for his class instructor. Tony had never been really sure but, at the time, it had felt like he was getting mixed signals from Ian from the very beginning. The man had spent a lot of extra time with Tony, after class and on the range, but claimed it was because Tony had a lot of aptitude and he wanted to see it developed—and nothing more than that.
Tony had always been careful to keep his bisexuality away from his work; it just wasn’t safe to be with a man while in law enforcement. Which is why he thought it was likely that he’d been emotionally vulnerable when he’d let it be so obvious he was into Ian. Between Danny’s betrayal, Wendy’s abandonment, the new job, moving, starting over… Tony had felt adrift. Gibbs was a hardass, and they had still been working out their dynamic at the time. But then he’d walked into ASTTP the first morning and Ian had been at the front of the room, sitting casually on the desk. Tony had been instantly gone. He’d never fallen for someone so quickly in his life.
He’d tried to be subtle, but it didn’t matter because Ian had seemed oblivious to Tony’s interest. Then on the final day of the Instructor Training Program, his second class with Ian, Tony had tried to be a little more obvious, thinking Ian might be interested. But Ian had apparently been clueless again when he told Tony to call anytime if he ever needed a sniper then walked away.
Pushing all the memories aside, Tony stared at Ian’s back. “Okay, so you weren’t as oblivious as you pretended to be. Why come here to tell me now?”
Ian turned around, hands tucked in his pockets. He remembered Ian usually wore a jacket, but DC was warm in August, so he was in short sleeves and jeans. “Because I was just as interested in you.” Ian snorted. “Maybe more so. Because I’ve been thinking about you for over four years—I’ve even been following your career. And because when I saw you today, I wanted to go back in time and smack the shit out myself and then tell me to ask you to dinner.”
“Oh,” Tony managed on a breath, not even sure what to do with that, but his stomach flipped over and he suddenly felt overwarm. Apparently he wasn’t as done with his inappropriate attachment to Ian as he would have liked. “Damn, your timing is bad.” How could this week possibly contain any more?
“You seeing someone?” Ian asked without inflection.
“No. No, not that. Your timing is actually fine on that front. I just have a really difficult case right now, and I can’t wrap my head around this. I’ve hit some critical point of mental fatigue.” He rubbed his forehead as he mentally and almost automatically flailed about for a movie reference with a character who was struggling with just being thought-tired, but it just wound up not being worth the effort.
Ian took a step closer. “Are you averse to the idea?”
“Averse? No. I’m just wondering why you tried so hard to deny it, and what that looks like today. What’s changed?” Tony cocked his head to the side.
There was another step and Ian was about two feet away. “I can explain, but you’re right, the timing is bad. I’d like to take you to dinner. When you’re done with your case, or whenever you’re ready, give me a call.” He extended a business card to Tony with something handwritten on it. “If you don’t call, I won’t bother you again.”
Tony took the card and stared at it for several seconds, noting the personal cell and home numbers. Then he just nodded, not even sure what he was agreeing to.
A strong hand closed around the back of his neck and pulled him forward into a press of warm lips. Tony’s brain shorted out. When he could think again, the front door was closing and he was standing there alone, lips tingling. The kiss had been surprisingly gentle, but that didn’t diminish the intensity.
“Oh, damn,” he muttered to no one as he reached up and ran his fingers over his lips.
– – – –
Tony stared at the wall where there were now thirty-six women’s photos taped up, dating back almost twelve years. They were still looking through the paper records in search of more possible victims. It made him ill to think of all these cold rape cases going unsolved all this time. The only hope in the cases wound up being the sheer happenstance that he’d have looked at the witness statements in those old cases and remembered later.
The BAU continued to discuss the profile and toss ideas around. Tony listened but didn’t participate. He was more focused on something he was missing that was right in front of his face.
Normally, victims were counted from the first as being number one and going up in number to recent victims, but since they hadn’t found the first, that didn’t work. Their most recent case had the one and the rest were numbered in descending order. Six and ten were the two cold cases Tony had picked up in the past which had helped him make the connection to the most recent case. He wished he’d made the connection between six and ten the first time he’d had them in his hands, but he’d only vaguely recalled the similarity and written it off as coincidence.
He stared at the faces… there was something. They’d talked about the fact that other than not crossing racial lines, he didn’t have much of a type. The ages were all over the place, and that wasn’t just because of the long duration of his time committing the crimes. One of the younger victims was more recent. All different builds, hair and eye color, but something was striking Tony as similar…
Derek poked him. “What are you thinking?”
“Something is the same. Their faces. I’m trying to put my finger on it.” That wasn’t all, but it was his current preoccupation.
Dr. Reid pulled out the chair on the other side of Tony and sat down, staring at the pictures intently. “They all have a similar nose,” he said suddenly. “And not just the nose. All their faces are more symmetrical than average. Their noses are all low bridge, slightly pointed, small nares… It’s almost statistically impossible that all these women were chosen at random.”
“He’s picking them by their nose?” Tony asked incredulously.
“No, probably not consciously, but he’s picking women who remind him of a type, and he’s seeing that similarity in their facial structure, most specifically around the nose,” Derek replied.
That the unsub had a specific type seemed to snap some piece into place and the team had a fast and furious discussion. Shortly after, they delivered their profile of a power assertive rapist—though there were a few elements of anger retaliatory—forty to fifty, white, stable job, likely needing some degree of skill, reasonable level of social competence. Tony listened to the profile and made notes, but it didn’t do him a lot of good at this point. Most of these crimes were old and were spread out over more than a thousand miles. Having a profile of the unsub didn’t help much quite yet.
“Hey, Garcia,” he asked, “do you have all the victims’ vital stats in your program yet?” he asked.
“I do indeed, my not-quite-Navy man. What would you like to know?” she asked brightly.
He smiled. She’d taken to calling him funny little names. Apparently being friends with Derek went a long way with her. “Actually, I’d just like to look through them.”
She passed him one of the four laptops sitting in front of her. “Happy scrolling, my dove.”
Scrolling is exactly what he did. And lots of staring. He’d been scrolling top down, but he decided to scroll bottom up to see if it changed his perspective. He suddenly saw a pattern that broke four years ago.
“There was a pattern until four years ago,” Tony muttered, tugging on Derek’s chair, pulling it closer.
“What? Show me,” Derek demanded.
Before Tony could get a word out, he was aware of other people crowding over his shoulder. He pointed at one column of information in the data table Garcia had set up for him. “Until four years ago, all the women were physically stationed at a naval base. That can’t be a coincidence. Then four years ago, it abruptly switched. We have a lieutenant at Walter Reed, our recent petty officer at the Naval Research Lab, a warrant officer in the ASTIT program at FLETC. There are a few assigned to bases, but more than half are not.”
His chair was jerked around, and Gideon had his hands braced on the arms of Tony’s chair, leaning right in Tony’s face. “Who is this guy?”
“What?” he asked incredulously. “You think I know who he is?”
“You know the military, you know what this guys does. He’s not in the military, you know that, so what does he do?”
Tony just stared.
“Jason,” Hotch said in a warning tone.
Gideon held up a hand in Hotch’s direction but kept staring at Tony. He was way too deep into Tony’s personal space. “Discount the last four years. Just based on what you saw of the first six years, what does he do? How is he finding them?”
Thoughts were running a mile a minute through Tony’s head, connections coming together, but not making sense yet.
“HOW!” Gideon yelled.
“DoD,” Tony blurted out, the connections coalescing. “I’d say he works for a subcontractor for the Department of Defense.”
Gideon backed off. “What kind of work?” He was aware of Garcia typing furiously.
“It could be anything. Certain types of inspections are outsourced, infrastructure work— utilities, housing construction and repairs, whatever—there are also all kinds of one-off contracts they use civilian companies for. There are larger contracts that wouldn’t fit the bill. They’re permanent in nature like AAFES or DECA, though DECA is a permanent agency in the DoD. I guess he could be inspecting commissaries.”
Tony turned to Garcia and said, “You’re not going to find it. There won’t be electronic records for most of the time period you’re looking for. We’ll have to request them from the DoD.”
Garcia made an unimpressed face. “I’m noticing that.”
Gideon pulled up a chair and sat way too close to Tony again. Tony got that the man was a brilliant profiler but there was something in his manner that put Tony off. “Get in his head. Four years ago something changed. Why? Why did he go from targeting women on Naval bases to going much further afield?”
“We don’t even know that’s right,” Tony said.
“You’re right, we don’t. But it’s the best lead we’ve got so far. It’s going to take time and a lot of red tape to get DoD paper records, so we need to find the pattern for the more recent cases. Think,” Gideon prompted.
Tony’s mind was spinning again, throwing up more connections. “I can’t discount military bases,” Tony muttered. “Garcia, DC is too hard because there are so many bases in the area. The warrant officer doing the ASTIT program at FLETC in Georgia—there’s a Navy base not too far from Glynco in Kings Bay; the Kings Bay Submarine Naval Base. Did they have civilian contractors on a short-term assignment in the months prior to the attack? If it’s something like an inspection with DECA, it will take more digging.”
She typed furiously for several moments. “They do use contractors but mostly things like outsourcing grounds maintenance, which is a permanent local contract…” she trailed off. “Ah. The month before and two weeks after the attack they were undergoing IT infrastructure upgrades.”
He considered that for a brief moment. “Okay, now our most recent victim from the Naval Research Lab… look there and all bases in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.”
“That is no small order, my sweet, but information cannot hide from me! One moment…” After a couple minutes she said. “There’s so much. I’m– oh! Yes. Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling is just now wrapping up IT infrastructure upgrades.”
Tony’s brows shot up. “Okay, that could be a coincidence, but Anacostia-Bolling is Navy-controlled even though it’s a joint base. The base IT infrastructure upgrades were approved for funding about six years ago, I think. When did work actually start?”
She typed for only a few seconds and looked up. “Four years ago.”
“Same contractor doing all the work?”
“For the Department of the Navy, yes,” she confirmed and began typing furiously again.
“Even though it’s only half of the recent cases, of the women we know who were at Navy bases the last four years, check them against IT Infrastructure projects.”
“Already ahead of you… and… Yes. All of them.”
Tony was keenly aware that everyone was just letting him get through his thought processes. “IT infrastructure, in this case, is really more like utility work. They come in dig up the ground and bring in new cable. The subcontractor… do they do generic utility work for the DoD?”
A few seconds of typing, then, “Yes.”
Tony was pretty sure they were on the right track.
Garcia held up a pen with a fluffy thing on the end. “Ah ha! Never let it be said ‘seek and ye shall find’ is just an expression! The company expanded when they added IT services. In addition to bringing the cables into the base, they’re also responsible for some cabling in the buildings, and mounting the wifi access points into the ceiling for when the bases are ready to switch to a secure wifi network. Even though the bases aren’t switching to wifi yet because the security and encryption protocols are still in the works, basic testing is being done by the utility company.”
Morgan looked over Garcia’s shoulder. “So at least someone in that company was behind the firewall?”
“That would be a correct assumption, sugar shack. They’d have all kinds of tests to run.”
JJ looked around the room. “What are we saying? He chose his victims in person until four years ago, and then is somehow selecting them some other way?”
Gideon was pacing, rubbing the side of his face. Finally, he paused and began to gesture as he spoke. “He has a ritual for years… he goes to a military base to complete his work. Something about being on a Navy base sets him off, and he selects his target. But after years, the nature of his job changes—let’s say he’s promoted or he no longer sees enough women to find the right one—something changes so that he has to adjust how he finds his victim. So he searches out another way, but his ritual is so ingrained, every time he goes to a new base, he rapes. He has to. Even though he might not be picking his target directly while at the base, he’s still compelled to complete his ritual.”
“So how’s he picking them?” Morgan asked.
“We’ll figure that out, but first we have to find out who’s working at that company who went to all these locations.” Gideon looked to Garcia.
“Way ahead of you,” she said, fingers flying over the keyboard. And, really, she could teach McGee and Abby a thing or two. “And,” she began with a huff, “company records are not digital. How can they provide IT services and be on paper records? That’s just crazy. I mean, it’s 2006!”
“Garcia,” Hotch said.
“Right! I may be stalled but I am not thwarted. To get access to a military base, I’m really hoping these people have to submit a list of people?” she glanced at Tony.
“Oh yeah,” Tony replied. “They can’t work on base without a background check, not even a subcontractor. And, yes, their names would be filed with the DoD.”
She typed for a bit then made the unimpressed face again. “Never let it be said the military does anything logically. In the purchasing system, the names are just a list for the entire company. However, each base upgrade is considered a separate project with a subset of names attached to it. Let me see if I can find anyone who was at all the sites.”
The room felt like it was frozen in time as Garcia worked her magic. Eventually she said, “Of the men, there are three. The project manager and two engineers.” She stared at the computer. “One of the engineers is a baby; he’s only twenty-five. The other two are forty-two and forty-seven, both Caucasian.”
Either were the right age. “Which has been with the company longer?” Tony asked.
“Tax records are my specialty, so sit and prepare to be amazed.” Tony was literally perched on the edge of his seat as she typed. “The project manager, Clifton Yount, forty-seven years old, OTH discharge from the Navy when he was twenty-six related to repeated altercations with a Lieutenant Susan Ramey. He joined Fletcher Utility Services eighteen years ago, who, as we know, were already four years into DoD contracts.” She spun the laptop around and showed them Lieutenant Ramey. The central facial similarity was perfect.
“Where is he now?” Tony asked.
The laptop was flipped around again, and Garcia quickly replied, “He actually lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, but he’s staying at Best Western in Alexandria.” Everyone got to their feet and she called out, “However, his cellphone puts him at the base right now.”
“Let’s move,” Hotch said.
Tony followed, figuring he’d point out in the car that even though Anacostia-Bolling was only three miles over the bridge from the Navy Yard, by the time they cleared the gate, base security would be detaining everyone from Fletcher Utility on the order Tony was about to give. Because the Bureau arresting someone on a Navy Base? Not happening. Tony would never hear the end of it.
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