Two 12-year-olds, one a brunette, the other a redhead, were walking home from school discussing their homework assignments.
"Have you been able to get through the book assigned to us?" the brunette asked.
"I'm about halfway there," the redhead answered as the pair approached her house. "What time did your mom say she was picking you up?"
"Around 5:30," the Brunette replied.
"In that case, we'd better get to finishing that book if we want to enjoy our weekend. You know how much of a stickler my dad is about homework," the redhead stated as she opened the door to her house. "Dad, I'm home," she continued as she entered the foyer. The lack of a response concerned the young daughter. Normally, her father would be home before her, and would usually let her know via text message if he was going to be late. Nothing, however, could prepare the two pre-teens for what lay before them as they entered the kitchen.
The father was lying on the floor in a pool of blood. A bullet hole had gone straight through his forehead.
It had been five months since a car bomb had tore through the NCIS Navy Yard office. Much of the physical damage had been repaired, and most of its staff had recovered from their physical wounds. Emotional woulds, however, were still healing. The crisis counselor had a chance to speak with everyone and left his card in case anyone wanted or needed additional support.
For the number one Major Case Response Team, Friday was a day to catch up on paperwork. Although Director Vance would never admit it, he knew that were still healing in their own special way.
Special Agent Tim McGee had brought in an advance draft of his latest book for his peers to review before he submitted it to the publisher. It was well-known fact around the office that the core characters in his book series were based upon his team.
"'And so, for the first time in his life, L. J. Tibbs realized that his team was much more than just that,'" Senior Field Agent Tony DiNozzo read aloud. "'Even though they were not related by flesh and blood, the shared experiences among them made them a family.' What kind of sappy story is this, McNovelist?"
"Actually," Special Agent Ziva David spoke up, "I think McGee has captured our essence quite well this time, although a story about a ghost haunting the main character is a little far-fetched."
"That's why it's called fiction," McGee noted.
"Well, Thom," Special Agent Gibbs noted as he entered the bullpen, referring to McGee by his nom de plume, "it's time to head to the world of reality. Grab your gear, we got a marine shot to death in his own home." Gibbs made a bee-line for the elevator as his team geared up. "There's a daughter out there that lost her family today," Gibbs stated as the elevator doors closed.
McGee and DiNozzo started to take pictures of the scene while Gibbs and Ziva talked with the daughter and her friend. "I'm Special Agent Gibbs and this is Special Agent David, NCIS," Gibbs stated to the girls, "What's your names?"
"Catherine McCoy," stated the red-haired daughter, "but everyone calls me C. J."
"Tessa White," stated the other girl.
As Gibbs continued to interview the girls, Tony and Tim chatted while collecting evidence. "You know, that redhead looks familiar."
"Tony, she's way to young for you."
"Get your mind out of the gutter, Probie," Tony retorted. "I'm thinking maybe I've met her mother before or something,"
"Probably not," Ziva interjected, "her mother was killed in a car crash in 2006, it's been father and daughter ever since."
McGee took a fingerprint scan of the victim. "AFIS confirms that this is Gunnery Sergeant William McCoy."
Before anyone could speak further, Acting Medical Examiner Jimmy Palmer took a liver probe reading. "Time of death, Palmer?" Gibbs inquired.
"Based on liver temperature, I'd say that it hasn't been that long," Palmer noted. "Rigor mortis hasn't set in yet either. I'd say he's been dead for about four hours, tops."
"The daughter indicated that he left for the Pentagon at 0500 this morning. He usually gets home around 1430. Ziva, take the girls back to the Navy Yard. Miss White's mother will pick them up tonight. Child Services will meet you over there."
"DiNozzo, you got anything besides idle gossip."
"Of course, boss. We found a .45 round embedded in the wall behind our victim. It definitely could have made that hole in his head."
"Okay, get it to Abby for processing."
"On it, boss."
"So, ma'am," C. J. inquired to Ziva, "what's going to happen to me?"
"Well, for starters," Ziva started, "being called 'ma'am' makes me feel old. You can call me Ziva. From what I understand, you'll be staying with Tessa over the weekend, after that, I don't know. Do you have any family in the area."
"I don't have any other family, period. My grandparents have all passed away, I have no aunts or uncles. To be honest, my dad wasn't interested in seeing anyone since mom passed. He just wanted to make sure that I was taken care of. Mom and Dad took me in because they wanted to have a family, even though they couldn't do so by themselves."
"So, you are adopted."
"Yes, ma — Yes, Ziva. They never tried to hide the fact from me, and they also made sure to tell me that they loved you like I was their own."
"I see," Ziva answered before continuing. "We have a grief counselor meet you when we get to the Navy Yard. He's a good man."
"I heard about what happened to your building," Tessa stated. "Some of our classmates had parents who worked on the Navy Yard. We talked about it in class."
"You two are brave young souls," Ziva commented. "But it's all right if you want to cry. We will find who did this to your father, C. J."
At the Navy Yard, the team gathered around the monitor to go over what they new. DiNozzo started out. "Gunnery Sergeant William McCoy, Age 37, born in Brewton, Alabama. Married his high school sweetheart at age 18, enlisted in the Marines right after that. Adopted their daughter, Catherine, as an infant in 2000. His COs considered him an excellent Marine. He was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, earned himself a purple heart and bronze star."
Ziva picked up the time line after that. "After his wife passed away in 2006, the government was gracious enough to approve his request for a desk job — he's been working out of the Pentagon ever since."
"I've checked his phone records and bank statements," Tim chimed in. "There's nothing out of the ordinary, regular deposits from the military, he paid all of his bills on time. Most of his outgoing calls were to his daughter's cell phone."
"The bedrooms were trashed," DiNozzo continued, "The only prints we got were from the Gunny and Miss C. J. Looks like they mostly took some jewelry, and a couple of new flat screens."
"I'm sorry to interrupt, but I'd like to help if I can," C. J. stated as she entered the bullpen. "Did you find my Dad's laptop? My dad always made sure his laptop was secure when he got home. There was a metal label on top, I'm assuming it was a government computer."
"We didn't see any indication of a laptop in the house," McGee noted. "I'll contact the Pentagon and verify that he was issued a laptop."
"Is there anything you can tell us about your dad's work?" Gibbs inquired.
"He was not very open about what he did. I never really asked any questions, though. I knew that his job involved some things that are secrets."
"I understand," Gibbs answered. "McGee, until we confirm otherwise, we presume a leak of classified information. When you get a hold of the Pentagon, find out what his duties were."
"On it, boss."
Gibbs turned back to the young redhead, "Why don't you go back to the conference room with your friend. If we have any other questions, we'll come talk to you, okay"
"Okay, Agent Gibbs."
"What have you got, Abs," Gibbs stated as he entered the forensics lab, with a Caf-POW in hand.
"As I'm sure Tony has told you," Abby replied, "all the fingerprints we found at the scene match out father and daughter. Ballistics on the recovered bullet, however, is a bit more interesting. I confirmed that it did not match Gunnery Sergeant McCoy's service weapon, but you already know that since the bullet was a .45 and his service weapon was a 9 mm."
"Your point, Abby."
"The bullet got a hit in the system. There's no owner information about the gun, but it did draw a red flag."
"Looks like the same gun is connected to an active FBI investigation. Good work, Abs. Send a copy of everything you find to Fornell."
"What have you got, Palmer?" Gibbs asked as he entered Autopsy.
"I can confirm that Gunnery Sergeant McCoy died from the shot to the head," Palmer replied. Time of death was about 1400 this afternoon. Gunshot residue on his forehead indicates that he was shot at fairly close range, but not close enough to create any powder burns. There's also no signs of a struggle. Whoever did this made a clean hit."
"Understood. Make sure you send a copy of your report to Fornell. Our bullet is tied to an ongoing FBI investigation." Gibbs stepped out of autopsy, leaving Palmer stunned. As he walked to the elevator, he grabbed his cell phone and made a call. "Fornell, it's Gibbs," he stated as soon as the other party answered his phone. "We got a dead Marine shot with a gun connected to one of your cases." He paused to listen to Agent Fornell's reply. "Got the same MO here, .45 at close range, no powder burns. Yeah, they wore gloves. They took jewelry from the master bedroom. The Daughter thinks he had a government-issued laptop, it wasn't at home. I'm having Abby and Palmer send you a copy of their reports. Okay, we'll see you Monday afternoon."
The elevator ride had ended by the time Gibbs had finished his call. Tony was waiting in the bullpen. "So, when will our friends at the FBI be making a visit?"
"Fornell will be meeting with us on Monday to brief us on their case. He wants to interview the daughter himself, see what she knows."
Tessa remained with her that evening. C. J has always be a strong young woman, Tessa thought. If there was a time for her to let her emotions out, now was a good time. Tessa listened as her best friend talked about how her father and how they handled the loss of her mother. Much of the time, however, the young redhead cried in mourning.
Tessa's mother realized that Catherine was in no condition to concentrate on her studies, and indicated to her daughter that she should simply be there for her best friend. That evening, her husband, a Navy Commander with the JAG office, came home. "Hey hon. I heard about Gunny's murder. I got his my copy of his will from my files. It stated that we take care of C. J., but he also left one final request."
"Catherine, Tessa, I need your help downstairs." C. J. and Tessa promptly responded to Mrs. White's direction. "Tessa, your dad needs to have a moment with C. J. Why don't you help me fix dinner." Tessa nodded in acknowledgment.
Once Commander White was alone with C. J., he began to talk, "Catherine, your father told me to take you into our family if something happened to him. He also asked me to give you this. I haven't read it, but I'm sure it is something important," Commander White explained to the young redhead as he presented her with an envelope addressed to her.
"Okay," C. J. answered as she received the envelope.
The following Monday afternoon, Tony, Ziva, and Tim were gathered in the bullpen waiting on Fornell to brief them on a string of home invasions that appeared to be related to their murder investigation. "I still can't shake it off," Tony commented aloud. "I swear, that redhead looked familiar to me."
C. J. was walking into the bullpen with Commander White when she overheard Tony's comment. She quietly stood behind Tony before responding. "If I remind you of someone else, Agent DiNozzo," she stated, startling the senior field agent, "maybe you can help me."
While Tony tried to get over the young girl's surprising entrance, Ziva greeted the young girl and her escort. "Agent Fornell with the FBI is on his way over to ask Catherine a few questions. He should be here in about 15 minutes."
"Thank you, Ziva," C. J. replied. "While I'm waiting, I had another inquiry to make," she stated as she handed Ziva an envelope. "My father wrote this for me in case he was killed in Iraq," she continued. "The letter also tells me about how my parents met my biological mother. He told me that she was an NCIS agent, and that she gave me up because she wasn't ready to have kids quite yet. I was hoping that you knew her, and that I could at least get the chance to meet her."
Tony and Tim looked over Ziva's shoulder as she read the letter. They read on how she met the McCoys during her time at the NCIS office in Pascagoula. The team's eyes widened when they saw the biological mother's name.
After C. J. was escorted to the conference room, the team gathered in a campfire to discuss the sudden revelation. "Wow," Tony stated, "I did not see that coming. It still leave us with two questions."
"I suppose the first question is, how do we tell her that her biological mother passed away four years ago? What's the second question?"
"Who's her father?" Tony replied.
"What was her mission prior to Pascagoula?" McGee inquired.
"Wasn't that the undercover mission in Paris?" Tony noted. "If it was — Now I'm starting to get a little intrigued."
"You don't think —" Ziva stated. The look on Agent DiNozzo's face indicated that he had reason to suspect that they knew the father as well. "Well, then, how do we go about confirming our suspicion?"
"Well, Abby could run a DNA test," McGee noted. "Since she's inquisitive about her biological parents, I'm sure C. J. would be willing to give us a DNA sample."
"The question is, how do we get his DNA?" Ziva asked the group.
"That's even easier," Tony noted.
That evening, Tony stopped by the White residence. "Agent DiNozzo, I wasn't expecting to see you. I heard the FBI was taking over the case."
"They are, ma'am, since it's related to their robbery case and our team has got a another dead Marine Sargeant to deal with. I dropped by to talk to C. J. regarding her father's letter."
"Of course. Catherine told us that her biological mother was a NCIS agent. Catherine, there's someone at the door for you."
Catherine ran down the stairs to greet Tony. "Agent DiNozzo, what brings you here?"
"I was hoping to talk to you a little bit about your mom."
Mrs. White led Tony and C. J. to the living room. "Can I get you anything?"
"No, thank you," Tony replied, "and, please, call me Tony." He turned to C. J. and began. "Your mom was the Director of NCIS. I used to work very closely with her. She was tough when she needed to be."
"What happened to her?"
"Unfortunately, she was killed in a shootout," Tony explained as he tried to sanitize the story, "You see, before she met your parents, she was part of an undercover mission. They were going after these bad guys. Her team got two of them, but one got away."
"I see. Why did she put me up for adoption?"
"I couldn't tell you, but I suspect it was because she was very career oriented. Being the director of an armed federal agency sometimes requires personal sacrifices, especially if you're a woman. Your mother probably felt that she couldn't focus on her career and take care of you."
"I understand, Tony," C. J. replied.
"There's one more thing. During that undercover mission, she fell in love with one of her teammates. She gave him up to pursue her career goals. She once told me that was one of her biggest mistakes she ever made."
"Do you think that her teammate is my biological father, Tony?"
"To be honest, I suspect so, but there's only one way to be sure. Our forensic scientist, Abby Sciuto, can run your DNA, and see if we get a match. We would need a sample from you, though. If you don't want to, you don't have to."
"You've got me curious, Tony. What do I need to do?"
Tony took a cheek swab from C. J., and brought it to Abby's lab the next morning. Since the test was not case related, Tony indicated that it was a low priority. Getting a DNA Sample from the suspected father was even easier. Tony knew that he went through several black coffees a day. During a lull in case activity, Tony bought fresh coffees for the team. Once he swapped his target's coffee for a fresh cup, he brought the used disposable cup to Abby.
The case they had been working on had taken a strange twist. While on medical leave, the lead Medical Examiner, Doctor Donald "Ducky" Mallard, had ordered the exhumation of a body, which had become tied to their dead Marine. As a result, Ducky took the lead on this case, which somehow got the team mixed up with a one-hit wonder and fake moon rocks. After the case had been solved, Ducky was cleared to officially return from his medical leave, and Palmer took comp time to take a much-delayed honeymoon with his new bride.
In addition to Palmer's honeymoon, Gibbs's team took turns taking comp days. On Thursday, Tim had the day off, and Tony and Ziva were working on paperwork and exchanging their usual banter when Tony's desk phone rang. "DiNozzo," he stated. He paused to listen to the party on the other end of the line before responding. "Yeah, Abs, I'll be down in a few." As he hung up the phone, Tony commented to Ziva. "The DNA test results are in."
"I've got your back," Ziva responded. "Aren't you taking your comp day tomorrow?"
"Yeah," Tony answered
"Maybe you can talk to the White Family on your day off."
"I'll probably do that, Ziva."
Five minutes later, Tony walked into Abby's lab with a Caf-POW in hand. "Hey, Abs. What do ya' got?"
Abby handed him the DNA test results. "Congratulations, it's a gibb-let. The samples are a paternal match."
"How do you know —"
"Easy, Tony. Why else would you bring me a DNA sample from a Coffee cup? So, who's the other sample from."
"Do you remember the murdered Gunny from a couple weeks ago?"
"Yeah. Isn't that the one with the little girl you thought looked familiar?"
"That's because she takes after her biological mom, Abby. The McCoy's adopted her from none other than Jenny Shepard. The Gunny left his daughter a note telling her. My gut was telling me that she was conceived when Jenny and Gibbs were undercover in Paris."
Abby reminded herself of her recent meeting with her own biological brother. Gibbs had encouraged her to reach out to him after her recurring nightmares resurfaced. Since then, they had been in touch as much as they could. She even started to volunteer at the animal shelter. Connecting with Kyle, Abby thought, was the best advice Gibbs has given me. Perhaps connecting with this girl will help him. "So, are you planning on telling Gibbs?"
"I wanted to talk to the White Family first. Commander White over at JAG has legal custody of C. J., and is the executor of the Gunny's estate."
Tony had called Commander White to let him know that the test results had come back. The Commander indicated that they would be at home that evening. Promptly at 6:00 PM, Tony had once again knocked on the White family door. "Tony, please, come in."
"Thanks for seeing me, Commander."
"Please, call me Jacob. The fact that Bill was willing to tell Catherine about her biological mother leads me to believe that he wanted her to have the opportunity to connect with her."
"Hey, Tony," C. J. stated as she entered the room.
"Hi, C. J. Abby finally had some time to kill and finally ran the DNA test. I was right about your biological father."
"So, do you know him? What's he like?"
"He was a Gunny in the Corps, much like your adopted father," DiNozzo explained. "He came from a small town in Pennsylvania. He had a crush on this red-haired girl in high school, but never got the nerve to talk to her until after he joined the corps, literally as they were taking the train out of town. They fell in love, got married, had a daughter."
"So, I have a sister?" C. J. inquired.
"Had a sister. They were killed by this bad guy long before you were born. It was their death that led him to leave the Corps and join NCIS. He re-married, three times in fact, but those marriages didn't work out in the end."
Jacob was listening as Tony told C. J. about her biological father. "It sounds like Bill would have been great friends with him," he noted before turning to Tony. "Does he know yet?"
"I asked Abby to keep it quiet until I talked to you. If you want to meet him, I'll be sure to arrange it," Tony answered. "It might be a good thing for C. J., if anything. Abby actually found out recently she was adopted, and that her biological brother lived here in DC. Talking to her brother helped her get over nightmares she'd been having since the bombing."
Catherine nodded in agreement, "I'd like to talk to him. It sounds like we have a lot in common."
On Friday afternoon, Gibbs walked back into the bullpen from his usual coffee run and was surprised to find his senior field agent doing paperwork. "DiNozzo," Gibbs blurted, "I thought you were taking a comp day today."
"I was, boss, but something came up," Tony fibbed as he stood up from his chair. "There's someone in the conference room waiting for us."
The boss followed DiNozzo into the conference room, surprised by who greeted him. "DiNozzo, didn't we turn the McCoy case over to Fornell?"
"Technically, since it was a Marine who was murdered, we've still got our fingers in that pot. However, that is not why she's here." Tony took a dramatic pause before continuing. "Catherine Jennifer McCoy, meet your biological father, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs."
It had been a long time since Gibbs had flashed back to the undercover mission in Paris with his former partner and director. He quickly came back to the present as the Navy officer stood up to shake his hand. "Commander Jacob White," the officer introduced himself, "Navy JAG office. Bill named Allison and I as Catherine's legal guardians. Bill's will included a letter for her, telling her about her mother."
"Tony told me about Jenny, and how you met her," Catherine explained as she gave Gibbs a hug.
"Did he," Gibbs inquired. "What else did he tell you."
"That you were a Gunny like my dad," she replied, "and that I had a sister."
"DiNozzo," Gibbs stated, "who else knows,"
"C. J. showed the letter to McGee and Ziva," Tony explained, "and I had Abby confirmed that she was your —" Tony's train of thought was interrupted by his boss's patented head slap. "What was that for?"
"For not telling me that she was Jenny's kid," Gibbs stated annoyingly.
"Gibbs," C. J. inquired, "do you ever feel alone without your family?"
"Catherine," Gibbs answered, "I miss my girls so much. However, I've got my team: Tony, Ziva, Tim, Abby, Ducky, and Palmer. As for you, I bet you and Tessa are practically sisters already."
As C. J. nodded in agreement, Jacob spoke up. "Gibbs, I believe it was Bill's wish that Jennifer could have eventually been part of Catherine's life, and we hope that your family can be a part of ours."
Gibbs and Jacob exchanged business cards. "My door is always open," Gibbs stated. "In the meantime, why don't I introduce you to the rest of my family."
Gibbs and Tony brought Catherine and Jacob down to the bullpen to meet the team. C. J. remembered Ziva and Tim from her previous visits to the Navy Yard, but this time, she got to know them a little better. Ziva told her about how she emigrated to the US from Isreal, and how she used to be a officer in Mossad. McGee told her about his computer skills (which went way above C. J.'s head) and how he transitioned from being a tech to being a valuable field agent.
Next up was Abby's lab. Abby complemented the young redhead on her piercing blue eyes that, no doubt to Abby, she inherited from her father. C. J. liked Abby's mix of Gothic fashion and boundless energy. The trip to the lab was not complete without the forensic scientist showing off her favorite stuffed animal. C. J. laughed when Bert made his usual tooting sound.
Finally, Catherine got a tour of the morgue. Because of the lull in activity, the only body that was down there was Ducky. He was happy to entertain C. J. with his stories, especially those that involved Gibbs and Jenny.
After finishing the NCIS tour, C. J. and Jacob returned to the bullpen to say goodbye to the team. "It's been great meeting all of you," Catherine stated. "I hope we can get together real soon."
"Count on it, C. J," Gibbs said to her. "You do what you have to do for family."
Catherine returned a giggle, "That sounds like something out of the Deep Six series."
The entire team perked up. "You read Deep Six?" McGee queried.
"I'm not afraid to read above my grade level. I love Deep Six."
"Then you'll be glad to know," Tony interjected, "that you're looking at the one and only Thom E. Gemcity himself."
Catherine was amazed that the writer of her favorite book series was a officer of the law, and part of her father's team, to boot. "I can see where you get your inspiration, and then some. Any chance you could make me a character in your next book."
"Of course he will," Ziva answered, "he writes about us all the time."
"It looks like C. J. has got your next book started for you, Probie," Tony added.
"I'd like for McGee's next book to have a happy ending." The team turned around to see a familiar face enter the bullpen. "An ending that includes catching the men that killed Bill McCoy, among others. They struck again, this time they killed an agent with the Postal Inspection Service. I heard you guys had time to kill, and we're backlogged over at the bureau, so gear up."
Jacob and C. J. quickly finished their goodbyes as Gibbs's team gear up to assist in Agent Fornell's investigation. "Rule 38, Tobias," Gibbs stated. "You're taking point on this one."
Ziva took pictures of the scene while McGee spoke with Gibbs and Fornell. "Special Agent Kelsey Donaldson, US Postal Inspection Service. 35, single, enlisted in the Marines out of high school, became an MP. Transitioned into civilian service five years ago. Graduated top of her class at FLETC."
"What else do we got?" Fornell inquired.
"Time of death appears is between two to five hours ago," Ducky stated. "The wounds are consistent with Mister Palmer's report on Gunnery Sargeant McCoy. I'll know more when I get her on my table, but I'd guess that this case is indeed related to the McCoy murder. Timothy, could you get the bag and gurney for me."
"Sure thing, Ducky," McGee answered.
"I take it Palmer's taking his honeymoon?"
"I, for one, hope it lasts longer than our marriages did," Fornell commented. "Is there anything else I missed?"
"Gunny had a laptop," Gibbs noted.
"I'm sure Agent McGee will verify that Donaldson was issued a laptop as well. I heard Scuttlebutt that says you and Jenny had a kid."
"Just found out about it myself, Tobias."
"It seems that Jenny made sure she went to a good home. Now, it's our job to find the bastard who broke her home."
The FBI was backlogged on cases, and was gracious enough to let Gibbs's team, along with Fornell, continue to work the case. They gathered in the NCIS bullpen to discuss the latest updates. "Postal Inspection Service has confirmed that Agent Donaldson was issued a laptop," McGee noted.
"We Didn't find a laptop at the crime scene," Gibbs added. "So, we have to assume it was taken in the robbery."
"Well then, neither of you are going to like this," Tony continued. "I went over the FBI reports on their previous cases and found that all of our victims had government-issued laptops. However, no laptops were recorded as evidence in any of the previous cases."
"How come were just finding out about this?" Fornell queried.
"What we got here," Tony lightened the mood by doing his impression of Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke, "is failure to communicate. The previous cases were all handled by different teams. We're the first team to work two cases."
"Maybe I need to start head slapping my men," Fornell noted. "McGee, you got asset tags for those laptops."
"Yes, I do. Working on getting the MAC addresses of each of the computer's on-board ethernet and wireless cards. Every device capable of being connected to a network has their own unique address. Once we have that address, if they're online anywhere, we'll find them." McGee explained to the not-so technically savvy senior agents.
"Understood," Fornell replied. "Let me know if you run into any trouble getting that information. I'll make a few phone calls if I have to."
"On it, boss," McGee answered as Gibbs and Fornell headed for the elevator.
"What do you got, Abby?" Fornell inquired as they entered the Forensic Scientist's Domain.
"Well, the good news," Abby replied, "is that ballistics did come back on the bullet from yesterday's crime scene. It is a match to the .45 we found at Gunny McCoy's. I got GSR trace from Ducky, it's also a match."
"And the bad news?"
"All of the prints McGee and Ziva found at the scene came back to our victim. I got nothing on the .45."
"Any other usable evidence?"
"Still, we've got confirmation that these are the same people," Gibbs noted. "Good Job, Abs," he continued while handing her a Caf-POW.
"My dear," Ducky stated as he finished sewing up the body of Agent Donaldson, "Your killer made a critical mistake, he killed a Marine. I can assure you, that justice will be served."
"You can serve up what you know about how she died," Gibbs stated as he and Fornell entered the Morgue.
"Well, I'd say that Miss Donaldson here expired of lead poisoning," Ducky answered. "The wound and gunshot residue patterns are similar to those Mister Palmer found on Gunnery Sergeant McCoy. There's nothing remarkable here except for the fact that it's clear that her case and the Gunny's are related."
"That's all we need to know, Duck," Gibbs answered. "What do you think, Tobias?"
"I don't know what to make of this, Jethro. All of the shooting this weapon is known to be involved in were robberies of just about everyone in the public sector, from GSA all the way to Secret Service."
"The one thing in common is that they all had government laptops."
"You think they might have been targeted for what was on their computers?"
"Anything's possible," Gibbs stated as his phone rang. "Yeah, Gibbs."
"Boss, I've got something that you and Fornell need to come see."
"We're on our way, McGee."
As soon as Gibbs and Fornell stepped off the elevator, McGee began to speak. "I got the MAC addresses associated with the missing laptops from GSA and broadcast each of the addresses out to the cloud to see if I can get a response."
"You better have one if you called me up here, McGee."
"Yes, I do, and you're not going to believe this. They are all hooked up in the same location. It looks like some sort of storage warehouse off of Highway 50 near Landover."
Tony added a few words of his own. "Checked with power and internet providers. There's too much power and bandwidth to be a simple storage facility." He then presented a search warrant to Fornell. "It was enough to convince a judge to sign one of these on a Saturday afternoon."
"Gibbs, DiNozzo, David, with me!" Fornell ordered. "McGee, see if you can do your techie thing to get into those computers, see what they hell they're up to."
"Get Abby to help you," Gibbs added as Ziva and Tony retrieved their badges and weapons.
"On it, boss."
As the team raced up highway 295 toward highway 50 in their Charger, McGee and Abby worked on connecting to the stolen computers. It turns out that the thieves had not made any changes to the laptops, other than to crack the individual users' passwords and log in. A quick perusal of each of the laptops indicated nothing out of the ordinary. "I don't get it, most of these users didn't access anything classified." He pulled up traffic statistics off one of the machines. "That's strange."
"What's strange, Timmy."
"It looks like the computers have only sent data upstream, and there's zero traffic downstream. That's not possible, even if you send something to a computer, you're bound to receive some sort of response." Once he made that observation, a idea came to him. "Unless the response is intercepted by another machine. These guys have opened up holes in just about every firewall. Oh, Boy, I'd better call Gibbs."
As Tim was noting the severity of the issue, Abby started dialing Gibbs's cell phone number.
In the Charger, the NCIS lead agent was quick to respond. "Yeah, Gibbs."
"Boss, I think I've figured out what they're up to."
"Ya think, McGee?"
"They're using the laptops to open up a direct line into secure government servers. They're able to log in and establish a connection before the IT guys even knew the laptop was stolen."
"McGee, that's sounds preposterous!"
"Not as preposterous as using a video game to break down the Pentagon's firewall," the junior agent noted.
"Understood," Gibbs finished as he hung up the phone and directed his conversation at the rest of the team. "We go in hot," Gibbs stated. "For all we know, they could be terrorists." Fornell, Ziva, and Tony nodded in acknowledgement.
Once the team arrived at the warehouse, the team drew their weapons and proceeded to enter the building. Gibbs and Fornell took the front door, Tony and Ziva took the back.
The warehouse sat completely empty, save for a freestanding walled area in the center of the building. There was no indication of anyone inside the building, only the drone of a large air conditioner running. There was only one door to the walled room; there were no windows. Gibbs and Fornell whispered a three-count before simultaneously kicking down the door. "Federal Agents!" they exclaimed, weapons drawn.
There were three large men in the room, with tanned skin and dark hair and eyes. Definitely Middle Eastern, Gibbs thought, probably a terrorist cell. He didn't have much time to ascertain who they were with, as one of the men immediately fired upon the agent.
Upon hearing shots fired, Ziva and Tony rushed in to support Gibbs and Fornell. "Looks like those three are the only ones here," Ziva noted as one of the men stepped out of the data center. The highly trained assassin immediately tackled him before he could take another shot. Once the suspect was on the ground, she turned him face down and cuffed his arms.
As Ziva took the first suspect, Tony, Gibbs, and Fornell re-entered the computer room. This time, they spotted the two other men and tapped both of them in the shoulder, rendering them unable to fire back. Tony and Ziva provided cover as Gibbs and Fornell cuffed and stuffed the remaining men.
The team had recovered the laptops, guns, and several messages. Based on the information that had been gathered, Fornell deduced that they had stumbled upon a reconnaissance cell. Fornell led the inter-agency coordination, while Gibbs's team processed the evidence. Abby test-fired all of the weapons seized from the raid, all were .45 caliber semi-automatic pistols. The pistol involved in the murder cases was quickly identified. There was no need to interrogate the suspects, the evidence against them was sufficient to have them bound over for trial.
On Sunday afternoon, Gibbs received a call on his cell phone. "Yeah, Gibbs."
"Gibbs, it's Jacob White. How are you doing?"
"Doing good, Jacob. We caught Bill's killer last night. Got plenty of evidence to put him away."
"I was wondering what your plans were for tonight."
"Don't have anything, why?"
"I was hoping you could come by for dinner. You seemed to make a good impression on C. J. Allison and Tessa would love to meet you."
"I'd like that, I'll be over at 1830."
"If I didn't know you were in the corps, I'd definitely know now. We'll see you then."
After finishing his conversation with Jacob, Gibbs contacted another number in his phone book. "Yeah, boss," came the answer from the other line.
"I need you to meet me over at my place in an hour. The Whites just invited me to dinner."
Gibbs promptly arrived at 1830 with his guest in tow. "Gibbs," Mrs. White stated, "Catherine has been talking non-stop about you. I see you brought a guest with you."
"Wouldn't want it any other way, Allison," DiNozzo replied.
"Gibbs! Tony!" C. J. exclaimed as she ran toward the front door.
"Dinner will be ready in a half-hour," Allison noted. "Catherine, why don't you introduce this two men to your sister."
C. J. led the two Special Agents into the Family Room, where Tessa was sitting on the couch. "Hi," Tessa stated. "You must be C. J.'s birth-father,"
"I guess I am," Gibbs noted. "This is my very special Senior Field Agent, Tony."
"How have you been holding up."
"I'm doing all right," Tessa answered. "Still a little shocked that C. J.'s dad died, and definitely still getting used to having a sister."
"You'll do fine," Tony responded. "You've got each others back. What else have you been up to."
"Schoolwork, mostly. Mom kept us home a couple of days so that we could go to the funeral. We mostly had our book reports. C. J.'s a lot better at them then I am, she helped me get through my book."
"What did you have to read?" Gibbs inquired.
"The Silver Crown," Tessa answered.
"Ah, Robert C. O'Brien," DiNozzo noted. "I remember reading that growing up, though I always preferred the one about the rats."
"Maybe because that book was made into a movie," C. J. noted. "You did tell me you were a movie buff."
Tony replied by flashing his trademark smile. "So, what else do you do besides reading?"
"Tell them about your dress!" Tessa said.
"I made this dress I'm wearing all by myself," Catherine noted as she posed. "I sewed it all by hand."
"That's definitely the Gibbs genes at work," Tony stated. "He hand-built a boat in his basement."
As the NCIS agents continued to chat with the girls, Gibbs realized that this 12 year old redhead had managed to weave herself into his family, with a little help from a very special Senior Field Agent. He also noticed how Tony was being a 'big brother' mentor to her.
Gibbs's Rule 11 says: When the job is done, walk away. This time was an exception to that rule. The had captured the men who murdered C. J.'s adopted father, but Catherine was not just another girl, she was his girl, one who, even though another couple was taking care of her, wanted him in her life. Now that she was part of his life, there would be no walking away.