A Friend in Need
13. Chapter Thirteen
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“A Friend in Need” " Chapter Thirteen



Melissa Carter rolled over in her bed, only partially awake, and reached for Jeff. It didn’t matter how many months he had been gone, she still started every day reaching out to him. When her hand connected with nothing but the soft cool cotton of their bedding, she sighed in disappointment, and rolled back on to her other side. Suddenly, her eyes flew open. She’d just reached for Jeff " something she hadn’t done for the past week and a half. Then she registered on what she was facing, her very own nightstand, alarm clock, and bed lamp! Suddenly, she was wide awake. Her eyes flew around her bedroom, and an overwhelming feeling of relief flooded her body as she realized she was home. Home!

Once she had convinced herself that it wasn’t an illusion, her joy was short lived as she heard a rustling sound when she sat up, and looked down to discover a piece of paper pinned to her pajama top, a top she had not gone to bed in, she realized with horror. Leary of putting fingerprints on what would probably be considered evidence, she slowly got up and moved towards the bathroom. Once there, she reached into the cabinet under the sink and pulled out a pair of rubber gloves she used when cleaning, and after donning them, carefully unpinned the note so she could read it. It was only four lines, but her hand began to tremble as she read them.

Contact Henry Goldblume, immediately.
Tell no one of what happened while you were gone.
You willingly forfeit your life if you contact the authorities.
Enjoy the rest of your life, Mrs. Carter.


She began to shake in earnest as she was hit by realization after realization. ‘I've been drugged. They undressed and redressed me. They're still threatening me, even now that I'm free. I need to call the police, or FBI, or someone. Henry must be worried sick.’ All of those different thoughts fought for dominance, but the last one was the easiest to address. She did need to call Henry, right now, to let him she was safe, and to thank him for paying whatever had been asked in ransom. Having something concrete to do seemed to reduce her inner quaking, and she nodded firmly to her reflection in the mirror, then returned to the bedroom to call.

When Henry answered Melissa was so happy to hear his voice, she lost hers for a moment. After the second, rather annoyed, "Hello?" she was finally able to respond, although the quiver in her voice shocked her.

"Henry, its Mel. I'm ok....I'm home."

"Melissa, thank god, thank god!! I'm on my way, don’t go anywhere, I'll be there in half an hour."

"I won’t, " Melissa answered, her voice getting stronger now that she was actually in contact with someone she trusted.

"I'm on my way, Melissa, goodbye." Henry hung up, then immediately placed another call, to the corporate security firm Michael Weiss had recommended. When Agent Gibbs had left yesterday, he’d decided he would cooperate with NCIS once Melissa was back safe and sound, provided she agreed, but he wasn’t going to allow anything else to happen to her. Therefore, he’d arranged to have bodyguards surrounding Melissa 24/7 until the kidnappers had been caught. Gibbs had seemed extremely competent, but he wasn’t going to take any more risks.

Talking to Henry, however briefly, seemed to energize Melissa. He would be there soon, and after that would come the authorities. She got up, and hurried downstairs, moving purposefully towards her kitchen. She opened a drawer and pulled out a box of plastic bags, and carefully slid the note inside, sealing the bag. She placed it on the kitchen table, then got the coffee maker going. Once the smell of fresh brewed coffee was wafting through the room, she found two large plastic bags in another box, and hurried back upstairs. Rushing into the bathroom, she stripped off her pajamas, and placed the top and the bottom in separate bags. She doubted there would be any forensic evidence to be found on them, but just in case anyone asked for them, she intended to have them ready.

Ten minutes later she was showered, teeth brushed, and hair combed. She ran through her morning routine at a rapid clip, including drying her hair, kept short for convenience sake, and applying the minimum amount of make-up needed to add some color to her pale skin. She then rushed into the bedroom and briefly pondered what to put on. The day would most likely be spent speaking to law enforcement people, and she wanted to look professional, but be comfortable at the same time. To that end, she chose a simple pants suit and low heeled pumps, thinking that would probably carry her through any contingency.

After she was dressed, Melissa gathered the two plastic bags, and proceeded back down to the kitchen, in need of a fortifying cup of coffee before Henry arrived. She had no doubt he had been frantic with worry for her safety. The man could be as cold and hard a business man as she had ever seen, but when it came to 'his' people, he was very protective, and treated all of his employees with respect and dignity. In his own way, he was a chauvinist. He never discriminated based on gender when it came to work, but he still treated women as special, as deserving of respect and courtesy above and beyond that shown to the men in his employee. It was actually kind of nice in an old fashioned way, since it never interfered with work, and she was living proof of that truth, as she was the Vice President of Development. Melissa liked her job, and loved her employer. He wasn't just her boss, he had become her friend, and fortunately, her husband also got along very well with Henry. They golfed together occasionally, and played poker every once in a while. Melissa considered herself fortunate to have a boss as caring as Henry, and if he had just paid a ransom to get her back, she owed him a huge vote of thanks.

Placing the two plastic bags containing the pajamas on the table, along with the one containing the note, she moved toward the coffee maker, truly craving a caffeine jolt to help her focus. Standing at the kitchen counter, she drank her first cup of coffee as a free woman, and reveled in the joy of being in her own home, in her own kitchen, with no masked men with voice synthesizers playing waiter. Just as she finished the coffee, her front doorbell sounded, followed rapidly by heavy knocking. Hurrying to the door, she looked through the peephole, and quickly slid the chain off the door, then unlocked it and threw it open. As soon as the door was open, Henry was through it, pulling her into his arms, and hugging her to him. She felt a kiss against her temple, and then another squeeze, before she was finally released, and able to look into Henry's eyes. Glancing behind him, she saw several armed men, and she stiffened, her eyes flying up to meet Henry's again.

"What's going on? Who are they?" she asked anxiously.

"They're bodyguards, Mel, and we'll talk about it, but first, are you alright?"

"I'm fine, Henry, really. I'm so happy to be home, and so happy to see you, I can't begin to tell you. Come in, come in, and... I guess, your bodyguards should come in, too."

After the men had entered, the last one through closed the door and re-locked it. The men dispersed through the house, clearing the rooms and checking doors and windows to ensure everything was locked up tight. After a few minutes, they all reassembled in the kitchen, where Melissa and Henry had headed while they were checking out the house. Melissa had offered Henry coffee, and poured another cup for herself, then headed over to the table with Henry. They were both seated when the spokesman for the bodyguards entered the kitchen and said to Henry, "All clear, Mr. Goldblume. I'm going to set up a perimeter around the house, and leave someone in the foyer, in case you need anything." With no further discussion, the man exited the room, leaving Mel looking after him and shaking her head.

"Since when do you travel with a phalanx of bodyguards, Henry?" Melissa asked, bemused.

"They're not for me, Mel, they're for you. I just got you back, and I'm not taking any chances on anyone taking you away again," he responded quietly.

She started to shake her head and offer up objections, but then she remember the note, and her reaction to it, and suddenly the thought of armed men surrounding her for protection didn't seem so preposterous. Henry watched the emotions chase across her face, and waited until she had thought the idea through, then saw her nod her head, as though she had reached a decision.

"That might prove to be necessary, because I want to contact the authorities, and report what happened. They left a note," she said, indicating the plastic encased piece of paper on the table.

Henry reached for it, and after reading it, his face hardened, and he said, "I've been contacted by NCIS. You're not the first person these people took, and somehow they knew you had been taken. I refused to cooperate with them until you were back, and I knew you were safe. If you want to talk to someone, I know who to call, but it's up to you. The guards stay, here, at work, everywhere you go, until these bastards are caught. I want them caught, Mel, and I'm willing to do whatever we have to help, but I'm not willing to have to tell Jeff that I allowed his wife to be killed by doing the right thing. That is not going to happen."

Melissa looked at Henry for a full minute, then she nodded her head, "Ok, the guards stay, and I'll cooperate with them, if for no other reason, than I owe you my life. Thank you for paying the ransom, and thank you for caring enough to provide bodyguards. That doesn't seem adequate for all you've been through, and all this has cost you, but I mean it sincerely, thank you, Henry, for saving my life."

He shook his head, marveling at her for being grateful, when she should have been furious that the job he provided had caused her to be kidnapped, and her life put in jeopardy. He knew she would never see it that way, but that was how he saw it, and he was going to keep her safe from now on. That vow would not be broken. He agreed with Michael Weiss, if the law enforcement community couldn't catch these bastards, then maybe it was time for private citizens to start protecting their own. He didn't say any of that, just looked at Melissa, and felt great relief to see her in front of him, safe and sound.

He felt compelled to ask her, since the bags of evidence were sitting right in front of them, "Do you want me to call NCIS? I'll stay with you, and I want to hear what happened, too, so if we're calling them, I'll wait until they get here, and you'll only have to go through it once."

"Absolutely! I have no intention of honoring that order. It was given to intimidate me into not reporting the crime, and that is not going to happen. I will not be frightened into keeping quiet. I was going to call the police, but NCIS actually makes more sense. I'm the wife of a Marine, and they would be the ones with jurisdiction. Do you know how they found out I had been taken?"

"They wouldn't divulge that information, but they knew a lot, and weren't too happy with me when I refused to cooperate until I had you back. They'll be right over, as soon as I call them, that I do know."

"Ok, make the call. In the meantime, I'm starving, and I doubt I still have anything edible in the house, so.... I guess I can't run out to the store without taking armed bodyguards, so how do we get something for breakfast?"

Chuckling, Henry suggested, "Call in an order, and use my name, not yours. We'll send one of the guys to pick it up, and that way, we're sure it won't be tampered with, and you'll get to eat. Then make a list, and we'll send someone to a grocery store, how's that sound?"

Melissa was already moving to get her take-out menus. She had never ordered take-out food for breakfast before, but hey, at this point, her stomach was loudly protesting being ignored, and she was willing to do anything to appease it.

When Melissa rose from the table, Goldblume pulled the business card left by Special Agent Gibbs from his pocket, and quickly dialed the number for his cell written on the back. When it was answered, he began, "Good morning, Special Agent Gibbs, this is Henry Goldblume. I'm sitting in Melissa Carter's kitchen, and we would both like to speak with you. How soon can you get here?"

_____________________________________________

Gibbs and his entire team were standing in Abby’s lab when Goldblume called. It was 0700 and they had been discussing how best to proceed. There had been no hits on the BOLO for Barker during the night, and the two person team assigned to watch the exterior of his house had had no movement either. Abby was continuing to watch the various banking accounts of the executives she and McGee had isolated as potential targets, and planned to try working with Courtney Kreiger again later in the day to see if she had remembered anything new about the other men that had accompanied Barker when they ambushed the FBI surveillance team. Ziva and McGee were going to start investigating the daily routines of the potential victims, trying to see if there were patterns that made one person a more likely target than another, looking for anything that might make the kidnappers choose one person over another, and Tony and Gibbs were planning on stopping in to see Fornell to find out what was going on with the FBI’s investigation into Friday’s events. No one was particularly happy, although all of these things needed doing, it almost felt like busy work - as if they were in a holding pattern, waiting for something new, either good or bad, to happen.

When Gibbs’ phone rang, everyone in the room watched expectantly while Gibbs talked. When he said, “We’ll be there in twenty five minutes,” and hung up, no one made a sound, sure that something had broken on the case. “That was Goldblume. Melissa Carter’s home and wants to talk. I’m heading over there right now. DiNozzo, you’re with me. Let’s get a move on it people. I want some answers,” he said as he headed for the door.

Goldblume’s call seemed to dispel all of the lethargy the others had been feeling, and the room snapped into action. Tony hurried after Gibbs, and McGee prepared to print out the list of potential targets, their addresses, and their places of employment. Ziva went to get a car for her and McGee, and within four minutes Abby was once again alone in her lab, absorbed in her own computer searches.

___________________________________________

David Barker was in the black van, its sides now decorated with logos for ‘Lawn Order’ - a lawn care service, as it sat parked in the driveway of a house that was for sale, three quarters of a block down from Melissa Carter’s home. They always watched the home of their last target after they returned them, to make sure they heeded the warning on the note pinned to their nightwear. David hadn’t been all that surprised when Goldblume had arrived, accompanied by four men who were obviously bodyguards; he wasn’t the first CEO who felt the need to protect the person they’d just invested five million dollars into getting back. Bodyguards were just fine; it wasn’t as if they had any intention of ever approaching those people again anyway. He’d watched with approval when the guards set up perimeter surveillance around the house, since that was exactly what he would have done, and had almost lost interest when he saw a black Charger pull up in front of the house. He watched in horror as Jethro Gibbs and Tony DiNozzo climbed out, and headed for the front door. The fact that the bodyguards didn’t challenge them served to further agitate him, since that meant they had been expected. For the second time in as many days, David found himself on the phone with Peter, informing him of Gibbs’ interference.

This time Phelps seemed as shaken as David. “Get your ass back here, and I’ll call everybody else. We need to have a meeting now, this can’t wait until tonight. Don’t say anything about this to the others until we’re all together. The last thing we need is for someone to panic and do something stupid.”

David didn’t need to be told twice. He backed the van out of the drive and headed for Calverton as fast as he dared. Phelps spent the next five minutes calling everyone else on the team, insisting they drop whatever they were doing, and get out to the house as fast as possible. DeAngelo had resisted, telling Peter it was difficult for him to get away in the middle of the morning, but Peter hadn’t been willing to hear it. His response was to tell DeAngelo to fake an illness or whatever it would take to get away, but then Peter refused to elaborate further on what the problem was when asked, saying it would keep until DeAngelo got there. When Phelps hung up, he began to think about what their options were, wanting to have a plan firmly in place before any of the others arrived.

_________________________________

A tall, muscular man answered the door at Melissa Carter’s, and greeted them by saying, “Hello, I assume you’re Agent Gibbs and one of his team members, but you can understand why I’ll need to see some ID.” Once he carefully examined both Tony’s and Gibbs’ IDs and badges, he stepped aside to allow them entrance. After he’d carefully locked the front door, he led them through the house to the kitchen, where Melissa and Henry were just finishing what looked like bagels and fruit cups.

Goldblume rose when the agents entered, and held out his hand. “Agents Gibbs and DiNozzo. Thank you for coming so promptly. I’d like to introduce you to Ms. Melissa Carter,” then looking at Melissa, he said, “Melissa, this is Agent Gibbs and Agent DiNozzo, from NCIS, the two gentlemen I was telling you about.”

“Pleasure, Ma’am,” Gibbs said, and Tony nodded his hello. “I’m certainly glad to see you back, safe and sound.” Then, looking at Goldblume, he asked, “I assume you’re responsible for the body guard? Probably a good idea, considering.”

“There are four of them. It was Michael Weiss’ idea, actually,” Goldblume admitted, “but I didn’t get to be a CEO by ignoring good advice when I hear it. I suspect you know who Weiss is,” Goldblume stated, trying to gage just how much Gibbs really knew about what was going on.

“I’m aware of him, yes,” Gibbs acknowledged, not wanting to go into much more detail in front of Melissa. She’d been through enough already, and didn’t need to hear about another kidnapping victim who hadn’t been as lucky as herself. Not right then, at any rate.

Melissa had been listening to the exchange, and was aware they were both refraining from going in to details about something involving Michael Weiss, but decided to let it go for the moment. There would be plenty of time to ask questions of her own, once she’d told her story, and given NCIS the artifacts she’d so carefully tried to preserve earlier. “May I get you both some coffee, before we begin?” she asked. When both Tony and Gibbs took her up on the offer, she got two more mugs and spoons and brought them over to the table, where a carafe of coffee and cream and sugar sat. Indicating they should help themselves, she went back to the counter and got the plastic bags which held the note and her pajamas. Once they were all seated, she began to tell her tale.

As they sat and listened, Gibbs, Tony and Goldblume were stunned by the level of preparedness the kidnappers had shown. It was one thing to know a target’s daily schedule, that was to be expected, but to know such intimate details, like the type of vitamins they took, or the type of music preferred, the books they read, was quite another thing. They had clearly examined their marks under a microscope before they made their move; it was going to be very difficult to catch people who were this careful and prepared. Gibbs had accepted the evidence Carter had bagged for them, thanking her profusely for her forethought, even though he privately suspected there wouldn’t be a shred of forensic evidence to be found. Gibbs had produced a picture of David Barker, and asked Melissa if he looked familiar, but after studying it for several minutes, much to her dismay, she was forced to admit he didn’t. They had just about finished when Abby had called, asking Gibbs to get a sample of Carter’s hair, in the hopes she would be able to learn something about where the woman had been kept when she ran a chemical analysis on it, telling him something about water supplies and unique signatures, which hadn’t meant that much to him. Melissa had readily agreed, however, eager to do anything she could to help NCIS find the people responsible. As they had talked, it had come out that she was not the only person this had happened to, and her sense of outrage had only grown, although neither Gibbs nor Goldblume, mentioned Nussbaum, and what had happened to him.

When they were basically done, Goldblume observed that Melissa looked exhausted, and suggested she go upstairs and take a short nap, saying he would see Gibbs and DiNozzo out. Melissa, who had been running on adrenaline since waking, was forced to agree with him. Now that she had told the NCIS agents all she knew, she felt drained, and the shaky feeling she’d had earlier had returned. As she went up the stairs, Goldblume accompanied Tony and Gibbs to the front door.

“What do you think your chances are of finding these bastards?” Goldblume asked Gibbs after they had stepped outside.

“I won’t lie to you,” Gibbs answered, “so far they haven’t made many mistakes. The more we know about each of the kidnappings the better. I want to talk to Weiss next, maybe he’ll have something new to add to all of this. But we’ll get them, eventually. Make no mistake about that,” he assured Goldblume.

“Do you want me to go with you when you see Weiss? He doesn’t have the highest opinion of law enforcement at the moment,” Goldblume offered.

“That would be great,” Gibbs said. “We have a Mossad liaison officer on our team, and I thought I’d take her with me. Maybe he could see us in a couple of hours?”

“Let me call him,” Goldblume said. “I’ll make sure he’ll see you. How does eleven o’clock work for you?”

“That would be fine. Give me a call if he can’t see us then, otherwise I’ll meet you at his office at 1100,” Gibbs said, as he held out his hand to Goldblume.

“I’m counting on you,” Goldblume said gravely, as he shook the proffered hand.

___________________________________

By the time the others had arrived at the plantation, Peter had worked out a solution to their problem. When he had analyzed what posed the real danger to them, he kept coming back to one person " Gibbs. The only real threat to their plans was Gibbs, so, if they could neutralize him, they could collect the ransom for Galvin, and move on to the next target. Peter figured that if they kept each of the new victims for one week only, in a month’s time they would have reached their goal of ten million dollars each, less the $200,000 they had each put into the war chest after their first kidnapping to finance the whole operation. So the big question had become, how could they control Gibbs? He was sure he’d come up with a viable plan.

They all arrived separately, each demanding to know why he’d pushed the time for the meeting up, and none were happy when he refused to tell them anything until everyone arrived. David, who’d spent the last hour and a half pacing like a caged animal, had been sworn to silence by Peter, so when the others had asked him what he knew, he’d merely glared at Peter, and shrugged. By the time they were all there, and once again ensconced in the chairs around the dining room table, no one was saying much, the sense of foreboding having effectively made small talk impossible. Peter began the meeting by asking Sylvia to give them all an update on what had happened with the money transfer for Carter.

“Well, you all know that Nabscot transferred the five million into our account in the Caymans yesterday,” she began. “I picked up a trace on their accounts, which I was able to track back to NCIS, so that answers the question of why Gibbs was at Henry Goldblume’s apartment yesterday. I know they followed the money into our account, but there isn’t any reason to worry. The bank doesn’t know any of our identities, and even if they did, the Cayman Isles have a firm policy of not revealing any information about their account holders to anyone, no exceptions made. From there I bounced the money from account to account, finally settling it into the Swiss account, where all the rest of the funds are deposited. NCIS was able to follow me through three transfers, but I lost them before I got the money into the Swiss account. It’ll be a dead end for them. They know the money was paid out, but they don’t have any way of figuring out to whom.”

“And you’re sure about that?” Peter asked her to confirm.

“Absolutely,” Sylvia said with no hesitation. “But NCIS is definitely on the case, and that worries me. Gibbs is known for not backing down once he starts an investigation. It was one of the things that appeared in his file, over and over again.”

“We’ll deal with that,” Peter assured her. “Let’s just move on to last night. As you all know, David picked up our next target, Joseph Galvin, after he and his men dropped Carter back at her home last night. That went fairly well.”

“What do you mean, fairly well?” DeAngelo wanted to know. Of all those gathered there that day, he was probably the most tense. After all, he spent all day, every day, with FBI agents and the Metro Police.

“There was a slight tussle, and David had to use a stun gun to subdue Galvin. Not really a big deal,” Peter answered, neglecting to mention the level of panic Galvin had exhibited when he’d awoken early this morning. He had actually been so panicked, that Peter had to resort to putting a sedative in the coffee White had brought into him on his first visit that morning. The last thing they needed was for Galvin to work himself up into a heart attack or stroke. DeAngelo made a discontented sound, and shook his head, but otherwise refrained from commenting on what Peter had told them.

“Our bigger concern right now, is NCIS and their involvement with the case. When David was watching Carter’s house this morning, Gibbs and DiNozzo appeared not long after Goldblume. We don’t have any way of knowing how they knew she was home, whether it was because she called them, or for some other reason, but that doesn’t matter. The real issue is that NCIS seems to be all over this case, and we need to find some way to make them back off,” Peter said, summing up why he’d called them all together, ahead of schedule.

“I think we might be wise to cut our losses and run,” DeAngelo said. “We all have 4.8 million dollars each right now, which is a hell of a lot more than when we started. I say we collect the ransom on Galvin as fast as we can, and then close up shop. If we lay low, and David stays hidden, no one will ever figure it out. Then, in a few months, we can all take our money and quietly disappear.”

Peter didn’t like the fact that Jillian and Sylvia appeared to be in agreement, and David seemed to be torn. “There shouldn’t be any reason to have to do that,” he argued. “All we have to do is find a way to get Gibbs to back off for a month, then we can take our money, all ten million dollars of it, and disappear, and he can investigate all he wants.”

“That’s a great idea,” Jillian said, “but how are you planning to get him to back off? Ask him nicely?” She was scared, and that always made her sharp tongued.

“Well, in a way,” Peter told her with a smile. “Actually, I was thinking that Gibbs seems to have a pathological need to protect his people. That was exemplified in what you found in the files. So if we create a situation where the only way he can protect them is by leaving this investigation alone, then we should be fine.”

“I don’t think sending him a threatening note is likely to work,” David growled snidely.

“Neither do I; that’s why you’re going to grab DiNozzo,” Peter announced.

Everyone sat, stunned, while Peter’s words sank in. “You’ve lost your mind!!!” DeAngelo finally broke the silence by announcing. “Gibbs will go crazy. There’s no way he’ll leave this alone if one of his people turns up missing. That will blow up in our faces. You’ve got a classic case of target fixation!”

“What in the hell does that mean?” Sylvia asked.

Jillian and David answered simultaneously, “It means when a pilot is so fixated on his target that he flies right into it.”

Richard nodded his head in agreement with their definition. “That’s what you’re doing, by riling Gibbs up further. Besides, let’s say you’re right, which you’re not, there are rules that would prevent him from just dropping a case because he decided it was inconvenient.”

“Gibbs has already proven that he doesn’t give a damn about NCIS’ rules,” Peter pointed out. “If we make him think that DiNozzo’s life is at risk if he continues to pursue the case, he won’t take the chance. After all, he was a Marine, and their motto is ‘No man left behind.’ We just need to make him believe that continuing on will guarantee that DiNozzo ends up dead. He’s not going to do anything that puts one of his people in harm's way.”

“We can’t kill DiNozzo,” Sylvia said quickly. “Remember what we learned about what happened when one of his other agents was shot. He killed the man that did it in his own basement, and nothing ever happened to him. They gave him a medal instead of investigating him for murder, and the same thing happened with the guy that killed his first wife and daughter.”

“I’m not saying we kill him,” Peter said impatiently. ‘Aren’t these people listening to me?’ he wondered. “I said we need to make him think we’re willing to kill him, not that we are going to kill him.”

“And how do we do that?” David asked.

“Once we have DiNozzo, we tape him being beaten, and send the tape to Gibbs, with the warning that worse things will happen to his agent if he doesn’t drop the investigation. He’s not going to risk that; not if he thinks we’re serious. He can do it; they’ve got their Marine wife back after all, so they don’t have to keep pursuing the case. The FBI can follow up on what happened to the money, and we all know how ineffective they’ve been,” Peter sneered.

“We don’t even know how much they know already,” DeAngelo argued. “We know they know about Goldblume and Weiss, but what if they’ve figured out more? There’s no guarantee we’ll be safe, even if Gibbs does back down, which I seriously doubt will happen.”

“That’s another reason to take DiNozzo,” Peter pointed out, privately overjoyed that DeAngelo’s argument had actually given him another rationale to push for his solution. “Once we have him, we can make him tell us exactly what NCIS and the FBI know. Then, if we don’t like what he tells us, we can reassess our situation. It’s the most sensible thing to do,” he said fervently. “If you all are really that afraid of him, then we need to know exactly how close he is to discovering who we are, and do anything we can to stop him, even if we don’t go after any more targets.” He paused for a moment to let that sink in, then he said, “If any of you has a better solution for making him back down, I’m willing to listen.”

The other four looked at each other, each privately hoping someone would have another plan, but no one spoke up. Peter waited for over a minute, wanting to seem democratic, and not wanting to give them an excuse to claim he’d forced them into the decision, before he said, “If no one has another plan, let’s decide how this is going to happen. Sylvia, are you still able to track Gibbs and DiNozzo through the GPS locators in their cell phones?”

Sylvia just nodded, not yet ready to trust herself with speech.

“We need to take him when he’s not with Gibbs,” David quickly interjected. 'It was easy for Phelps to come up with this plan,' he thought to himself. 'He isn’t the one sticking his neck out, and there is no way I'm going to get close to Jethro Gibbs. Nothing about this feels right.' He desperately wished he could come up with a different solution.

“Agreed,” Phelps said. “That’s why we need to monitor them, so we know when they aren’t together. Then we grab DiNozzo the first chance we get. The sooner we do this, the sooner we know what’s really going on, and the sooner we can decide how to proceed. Alright?” When the others reluctantly nodded, he continued. “Sylvia, you and Jillian should start tracking Gibbs and DiNozzo, and you, David, need to get your men together and head back to D.C. You want to be ready to strike the minute Sylvia gives you the go ahead. Richard, you need to just keep doing what you’ve been doing. Keep your ears open and stay as close to Fornell and his people as possible. If all goes well, they’ll soon be our only concern.”

“What are you planning on doing?” David wanted to know.

“I’m going to call Pursell, Galvin’s boss, and let him know we have Galvin, and that we’re asking for five million dollars in ransom. I’ll tell him all the usual things, and warn him he only has until Friday to get the money together. That way he can transfer it on Saturday, and by next Sunday, we’ll be that much richer.”

It was a subdued group that drove away from the house in Calverton that afternoon. They had been uneasy when they’d arrived, and their unrest had certainly not been assuaged while there, but Peter had been the mastermind of the whole operation, and none of them felt as though they could completely overrule him. Besides that, he’d left them with an out. If they didn’t like what they learned from DiNozzo, they could still call it quits. All they would have to do was kill DiNozzo, divide up the money they already had, and disappear.