A Friend in Need
16. Chapter Sixteen
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“A Friend in Need” " Chapter Sixteen

WARNING: Disturbing Imagery and Content, Graphic Violence. You may wish to skip the first half of this chapter.

David drove carefully all the way back to Calverton. The last thing he could afford was to be pulled over by a cop, since there was a BOLO out on him, and the way his luck was running, if he even went two miles over the speed limit he’d be sure to get caught. The mood of his men in the van was jubilant. They had completed their mission without a single hiccup, and they were making plans to go out that night to celebrate. David wasn’t willing to pop their bubble quite yet, but the last thing he or the other four could afford was for his guys to go out, get plastered, and run their mouths, perhaps even inadvertently saying something that would give away the operation. David would make sure they had so many things to do when they returned to home base, that the evening’s plans would have to be postponed.

When they got back to the plantation, David pulled the van up to the side of the house. There was an old storm cellar door that led to the basement, where they had prepared a room, months ago, on the off chance they ever needed to keep someone prisoner, other than their corporate ‘guests.’ This room lacked the amenities of the regular guest room, and more resembled a prison cell than a five star hotel suite. David hadn’t really known why they would need it when Peter had insisted it be prepared, and when questioned, he’d merely said if they were going to get into the kidnapping business, they needed to be ready for all contingencies. The basement had already contained a small room, created by some previous tenant that was nothing more than four walls with an ancient, crude toilet and rust stained slop sink in it. It had probably been designed to be used as a place children could duck into, while playing outside, to do their business and return to their revelries, without tracking dirt through the whole house. They had removed the pitted old mirror that was hanging precariously over the sink, put in a sturdy cot, and installed two dead bolts on the door. Peter had gone so far as to insist that they put White down there and lock him in, to see if he could find a way to escape, and David had complied, even though he thought Peter was being completely paranoid. At the time, David hadn’t foreseen any situation in which they would need the room. Now, five months later, not only did they have an occupant for the cell, but supposedly Peter and Garrison had been busy setting up a torture space on the other side of the basement. David was privately beginning to have second thoughts about the whole operation, but at this point he was in so deep, he didn’t see a way out. Plus, the money from the previous kidnappings was still locked away in some Swiss bank account, and he wasn’t going anywhere until he had his fair share.

When David opened the panel door on the side of the van, he saw that DiNozzo was still lying quietly on the floorboards. Deeming it safe, he had leaned in, intending to drag the unconscious man out by his ankles. David was completely unprepared, when, after grabbing hold of DiNozzo’s bound feet, the man had bent his knees and then straightened them back out, catching David in the center of his chest and sending him flying out of the van and onto the ground. By the time David and his men had reacted, DiNozzo, eyes still blindfolded, hands cuffed, and legs tied, had scooted to the edge of the van and hopped out. When Marty went to grab him, David barked, “Leave him alone, I’ll get him,” as he stumbled awkwardly to his feet. He wasn’t afraid that DiNozzo would get away, he knew that his action had been an instinctual response to being taken prisoner. Nevertheless, he was furious that the man had managed to get the better of him, embarrassing him in front of his men. Closing the distance between himself and DiNozzo, he stepped in front of the sightless man, and slammed his fist into his jaw. When Tony crumpled to the ground, Barker landed a vicious kick to his midsection, saying, “Now we’re even.” Then looking over at his men, he gestured to the once again unconscious man, and ordered, “Get him into the basement.” Once DiNozzo had been picked up off the ground, David turned and walked towards the cellar door.

Peter was pacing around the basement, his feet keeping time to the throbbing of his head, as he waited for David to arrive. Sylvia had left over an hour ago, although it had taken all of his powers of persuasion to convince her to do so. When Barker had called, and reported that they had DiNozzo, and were on their way back, Peter had known that he needed to make Sylvia leave. He wanted to shelter her from the ugliness that was coming. She, however, had sensed his increased anxiety and tension, and had dug her heels in, claiming he needed her there, which had made him frantic. She knew they were planning to scare Gibbs with pictures of DiNozzo in captivity, but she didn’t fully understand what it would take to make someone like Gibbs back down. Peter didn’t ever want her to know what was about to happen. She probably thought they could just slap him around a little, and that would suffice. He had no intention of stripping her of that notion. As his feeling had evolved from mere respect and camaraderie to something deeper, Peter had become increasingly protective of Sylvia. He wanted Sylvia in his life for a long time to come, and was afraid that if she witnessed the brutality he was about to sanction, she’d be repulsed, and reject him. All of those concerns had combined, adding fuel to the headache he’d been fighting off for the last day and a half. He had become short tempered and snappish with Sylvia after Barker's call. Sylvia was attuned to his moods, and very aware of when his old injury was making itself known. They’d had an argument over whether he should take his migraine medicine and lie down for a while. Peter hadn’t wanted to risk taking the medicine, as it had a tendency to make him groggy. When it appeared to be the only way to ensure that she would relent, and go back to the city, he had finally given in. Sylvia hadn’t noticed that he had only taken half his regular dosage, and she had kissed his check and reluctantly said her farewells.

The minute she had gone, Peter had gone down to the basement, to check on what Garrison had accomplished. When David and the other men had left early in the day, Peter had pulled Garrison aside and explained to him what was going to happen that evening. He carefully explained they would need a place set up so they could tape DiNozzo’s torture and interrogation once they had him. Garrison had assured Peter that he knew just what to do, and had outlined a plan, which Peter had approved. He knew Garrison had made a trip out earlier, for supplies, but had not been able to break away from Sylvia to go down and investigate. When he got down there, finally, it was almost 4:00; he could see that Garrison had indeed been busy. Two very sturdy meat hooks had been driven into the beams supporting the floor boards that served as a ceiling for the room, and two lengths of chain had been threaded through them. Under the chains, sharp shards of gravel and rock had been laid, so that anyone with bare feet would be unable to step fully down without inflicting a fair amount of damage and pain to their feet. Four work lights on stands, the kind one often sees at road construction sites at night, had been set up around the area, and extension cords had been run from light to light, and then back to the outlet by the stairs. Clearly Garrison had felt the single bulb suspended from the ceiling would not provide sufficient light. On a small table at the side of the room sat two hand held, DVD camcorders, all loaded and ready to record. Peter was just about to plug the lights in to see how well they worked, when he heard the old storm doors being opened.

As Peter watched, Barker climbed down the wooden slats that served as a makeshift ladder. When he got to the bottom he turned and saw Peter. “My guys are bringing him now,” he told Peter as he crossed over to him, looking at the changes that had been made to the basement while he’d been gone. “You’ve been busy, I see,” he commented, as they both looked back to the opening when they heard voices. They watched as Marty Franklin scurried down the ladder, then White and Holmes leaned through the opening, handing down DiNozzo’s limp body.

Peter had a moment of fear as he looked at the unconscious man. “He isn’t dead is he?” he demanded to know, immediately thinking about how that would totally ruin his plan.

“Relax, he’s just fine,” Barker assured him. “He tried to get away as we were taking him out of the van, and I cuffed him on the chin, but he’ll wake up when we need him to.” Barker didn’t mention the kick, since he knew that hadn’t been necessary, but he’d been pissed and unable to stop himself. He didn’t want to admit that lack of control to Phelps though, since he knew the man didn’t hold him in the highest regard as it was.

By now, the other two men were in the basement also, and they all looked over at Barker and Phelps for instructions. DiNozzo was lying on the ground, where Franklin had dropped him. “Remove the earplugs and blindfold, and strip him down to his underwear,” Peter ordered. He wanted the maximum amount of skin showing when they filmed him for Gibbs, so the NCIS agent could see the full extent of the damage done to his man. “And hurry,” he added. He wanted the tape to arrive at NCIS by 7:30 at the latest, which meant it had to be dropped off in the courier box by around six, with instructions to make it a rush delivery. Turning to Barker, he said, “Go upstairs and bring down two sets of the black jumpsuits and masks for all of us. Grab the voice distorter while you’re there. I’ll do the questioning while you wield the whip.”

Peter watched the men remove DiNozzo’s clothes while he waited. When they removed the handcuffs so they could take off his jacket and shirt, he had an idea. He’d had Garrison pick up leather wrist cuffs to use when securing DiNozzo the chain, but metal handcuffs would be more painful, as the steel would cut into his wrists as he struggled to get free. “Do we have another set of cuffs?” he asked Joe White, after he set the handcuffs and a ring of keys on the ground.

“Yeah,” White said. “This isn’t our set. Franklin still has ours. We used his own cuffs on him, since they were right there.”

“Good, we’re going to need both sets. When he’s undressed, hook each of his wrists with a cuff from each set. We’ll use the other end of each to secure his arms to the chains,” Phelps instructed.

It didn’t take long for the men to get Tony ready. He was naked, except for a pair of black cotton knit boxer briefs, and his body was limp, all his weight being supported by his arms, which were tightly cuffed to the two chains, from which he was suspended. There was a mean looking bruise forming on his stomach, and Phelps suspected Barker hadn’t been completely honest about his tussle with DiNozzo. He wasn’t worried, as he could see the rise and fall of his chest as he hung there, unconscious. When Barker returned, they quickly slid the coveralls on over their clothes, and the other men put on the face masks, while White turned on the lights. The room blazed to life, and DiNozzo’s body seemed to glow from the power of the lights. Peter smiled; Gibbs would be able to see every single detail. It had been decided that Franklin and Holmes would each work a camera, that way there would be no chance of something going wrong with the recording; if one camera failed, they would have a backup. Both men had been looking over the recording devices while Phelps and Barker had been getting ready. Peter instructed them to always be aware of the other camera, and to stay out of range of it. He didn't want to accidently give NCIS anything to work with in find them.

“Okay, exactly how do you want to do this?” Barker had asked.

“Use the whip to wake him up,” Phelps had instructed. “We’re going to want to question him first. Even though the welts from the whip will appear right away, it’ll take several minutes for the bruising to show up and start to spread. I want him real pretty by the time we start filming him for Gibbs.” He then pulled the ski mask down over his face, placed the voice synthesizer around his head, looked to make sure Franklin and Holmes had the cameras rolling, and nodded at Barker.

Barker backed up, and to the left. He swung the heavy black leather braided whip Garrison had purchased behind him, then, with a sharp flick of the wrist, his arm shot forward. There was a whoosh, and then the sound of the whip cracking, as its tail slashed across Tony’s back and wrapped around his side, echoing through the room. Tony’s eyes flew open as a stripe of fire burned across his back, and as his body shuddered in pain, he grunted. His feet instinctively tried to connect with the ground, and even as he was adjusting to the searing pain that lanced across his back, a new set of pains, duller and more diffused, blossomed under his feet, as he stepped down onto the sharp gravel. Bright lights blazed into his eyes, blinding him, and when he tried to roll himself up into a protective ball, he realized his arms were raised above him, and cuffed to something he guessed was chain. Before he could assess the situation any further, he heard the hiss of a whip as it cut through the air, and felt it slice across his upper thighs. Fighting the scream trying to escape his throat, his body sagged, and he felt the metal of the handcuffs bite into the soft skin of his wrists. He hung there panting, then once again tried to stand to alleviate the pressure, but his feet slid on the sharp rocks and gravel below.

Peter stood to the right side, watching with satisfaction as angry red welts formed on the agent’s back and legs. Checking to make sure Barker’s men had recorded that, he held up his hand, indicating that Barker should pause. After activating the switch on the voice synthesizer he said, “Agent DiNozzo, how nice of you to join us. Although I must say, my feelings are rather hurt, since you don’t look all that pleased to be here.”

Tony tried to fight through the fog of pain that encompassed him, and turned his head to see who was speaking, but the bright lights and the sweat that was streaming down his face, made it impossible to see anything clearly. “What do you want?” he managed to pant.

“Why I’m just granting your wish,” Peter said. “You wanted to find the kidnappers, and now you’ve done it.” He nodded at Barker, indicating that he should once again strike DiNozzo with the whip. He stood watching, with a combination of respect and amusement, as the NCIS agent bit his bottom lip to keep from crying out, as the vicious tip of the whip caught him on the left shoulder and lower neck. Then, before DiNozzo could regain any sense of equilibrium he barked, “Tell me what NCIS knows about our operation.”

Tony’s only answer was to spit in the direction of the voice, as he struggled to find some way to stand more upright. He had almost gotten his feet planted, ignoring the pain on his soles, when the whip cracked again, and he felt it tear into his left side, causing his feet to slide back out from underneath him, as his body lurched forward. The pain was excruciating, but he would not give them the satisfaction of screaming out his agony.

“How did you find out about Goldblume and Carter?” the voice asked, and when Tony resolutely refused to answer, the whip struck again. Again and again the whip sliced into him, as he bit into his lips and cheeks, to keep from crying out, or speaking, as the voice bombarded him with questions about NCIS’s investigation, and what they had uncovered, even though he wasn’t able to suppress the moans each time the whip flayed his skin. Finally, when DiNozzo was barely conscious, gasping and wheezing as he struggled to breathe, no longer even able to lift up his head, Peter called the questioning to an end. Apparently the agent was much tougher than Peter had given him credit for being, and they were clearly not going to get any answers out of him right then. By this time, Peter wasn’t even sure he could speak if he wanted to. The interrogation had gone on for quite some time, and the welts on DiNozzo’s body were now a dark red, and many of them were turning a sickening shade of purple. The skin had broken in several places, where the swelling from the welts had left it too fragile to withstand the repeated blows, and blood oozed out of the wounds. His wrists, from which he now hung limply, were bruised and cut, where the skin had been ripped away in his struggle to escape the blows and stand upright, and his feet were raw and bleeding, as they lay, arches down, still and boneless against the gravel. “I want you to get close-ups of his whole body. I’m going to give Gibbs a warning and then pull back for one last shot of the whip striking him,” he instructed the men. “Those are going to be our money shots. Then get him down and toss him in the room.”

When the men had filmed Tony’s body from top to bottom, Peter spoke, "Special Agent Gibbs, as long as NCIS continues to investigate Melissa Carter's kidnapping, NCIS Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo will pay for your interference. If you want your Senior Field Agent back, alive and in one piece, you will cease and desist from your involvement in this matter.” As the cameras continued to scan over Tony's body, the whip slashed across his back one last time, causing him to grunt in pain, Peter smiled.

______________________________________

The bouncing of the gurney, as it was loaded out of the ambulance and pushed quickly along the pavement towards the doors of the ER, woke Liz from her slumber. She was trying to take stock of her condition as she was wheeled through the sliding glass doors, right past Morgan and Fornell who stood by the entrance, concern etched on their faces, and into the first available examining room. She was feeling better after sleeping all the way to Bethesda, the only side effects from her attack that seemed to remain were an overall stiffness and a mild headache. Once she was sure she was going to be fine, she began to try and piece together the scattered memories she had of the investigation at Barker’s complex, and her attack, into some coherent order. She was so distracted by her efforts that she gave only the most minimal of answers to the doctor, as he attempted to determine whether she had suffered any serious injury.

Finally, after he was convinced that she hadn’t suffered a concussion or any broken bones, and that the effects of the stun gun had largely worn off, the doctor prescribed Tylenol and a good night’s rest, and told her he was discharging her. She thanked him, and immediately tried to struggle out of the bed, eager to leave. The doctor told her to relax, saying it would take some time to fill out the necessary paperwork, and that her boss and another agent were out in the waiting room, and anxious to see her. ‘I’ll bet,’ Liz thought to herself, as she lay back against the pillows, wondering if she had enough strength to withstand the grilling Fornell would undoubtedly give her.

“How you doing Liz?” Morgan asked, as he and Fornell swept into the room, not long after the doctor had left.

“I’m okay,” she answered. “Just a headache. The doctor said Tylenol would help.” She looked over at her two supervisors and asked, “What happened?”

“I was hoping you would be able to tell US that, Agent Templeton,” Tobias answered more tersely than he’d intended.

Liz shook her head in aggravation. “I just can’t remember. I know I was walking down the sidewalk, on my way to another townhouse, then nothing. The next thing I remember clearly was waking up on a gurney, surrounded by paramedics. It’s so frustrating!”

Morgan could see what this was costing Liz, and he quickly jumped in, “Don’t worry Liz. It’ll be fine. We’ll get you that Tylenol, and as soon as the doctor has the paperwork done, you’re going home and straight to bed. We’ll revisit this tomorrow, and maybe, after a good night's sleep, you’ll remember something more, okay?”

“No, it’s NOT okay, Special Agent Morgan,” Fornell barked. “Agent DiNozzo was kidnapped, and Templeton may well be our only witness. As soon as she’s done here, the three of us are heading over to NCIS, and we’re going to go through everything she did today, step by step, in the hopes she’ll remember something to help us find these bastards.”

Liz gaping at Fornell, stunned by what he’d just said. “What do you mean DiNozzo got kidnapped? How in the hell did that happen?”

“You were there, why don’t you tell me!” Fornell snapped at her.

“I DON’T KNOW!” Liz practically screamed. “I keep trying to tell you that I don’t remember anything that happened.”

Morgan realized they were about one step away from this spiraling completely out of control, and he interrupted before either of the other two could say anything more. “Let’s just calm down people. I'll get you that Tylenol, Liz, and you can rest on the way to NCIS. Maybe chasing the headache away will help you remember something.” He gave Fornell a slight glare, warning him against aggravating the situation any further. “Did you eat anything today, Liz? Do you want me to get you a sandwich or something?” he asked.

The thought of food had her stomach threatening to revolt, and she shook her head and said, “No food, but I would like that Tylenol, and some water.”

“No problem. I’ll go get it, and see what’s taking the doctor so long,” Morgan said as he moved to the door. “In the meantime, you just take it easy.”

When Morgan had left the room, Liz took a deep breath, looked at Fornell, and said, “I’m sorry about getting angry, Sir. It’s just so frustrating. I want to remember, want to do anything I can to help catch these bastards, but I don't remember.”

Tobias could see that she was telling the truth, and he softened a bit, realizing he’d pushed too hard, been too sharp with her, “Don’t worry about it now, Agent Templeton,” he said. “Give it a little time, maybe after you’ve had some aspirin, things will get a little clearer. We’ll go back over everything when we get to NCIS, and something may occur to you.” Right now Liz was their only hope. Of course, someone called 911, so maybe there had been another witness. God, he hoped so, or Gibbs was going to be even more impossible to live with than usual, and more dangerous than a bear when it’s cub had been threatened.

Morgan came back in the room, not long after that, carrying a glass of water and the Tylenol, and by the time Liz had swallowed three of the pills, a nurse had brought in the discharge papers, along with written instructions from the doctor that simply echoed what he had said earlier.

Once Liz had signed the forms, Fornell quickly herded Morgan and her out the doors and into a waiting car, chauffeured by Agent Primus. Apparently Primus knew their destination, because, once the doors were shut, he pulled out and headed towards NCIS. As they rode in silence, Liz leaned back and rested her head against the cushion, allowing her eyes to close. She wished she was heading home, to the siren call of her own bed, not to NCIS and Gibbs’ unreasonable demands and hasty judgments. There was no way he was going to be anything but an absolute pain in the ass to deal with, and she dreaded facing him. Damn DiNozzo! He’d managed to go and get himself kidnapped again! This day was never going to end.

______________________________________

It was almost six o’clock by the time Ziva, McGee and Gibbs got back to NCIS. The traffic had been terrible, and even with Gibbs cutting a path for their two car caravan, it had been slow going. The delay had only served to heighten Gibbs’ anxiety, and he knew the worst was yet to come. Abby was going to fall apart when she heard Tony had been taken, and he couldn’t really blame her. He knew the rest of the team didn’t understand why she reacted so badly every time Tony’s life was endangered. Not that they didn’t worry also, but their concern never reached the level of hysteria that Abby exhibited. But Gibbs knew why. He could still remember Abby, sitting on the ground in Jeffers’ basement with Tony’s head resting on her lap, covered head to toe in Tony’s blood, as she crooned to his inert form. They didn’t know about that, and he wasn’t about to tell them. When they finally got to the parking garage, Gibbs waited for McGee, wanting his youngest agent there, knowing Abby would need him, after he offered her initial comfort.

It was a solemn and silent group that rode down in the elevator to Abby’s lab. When the doors opened, Gibbs was assailed by the grinding guitars from Abby’s music, and he paused for just a second, letting the normalcy of the scene wash over him. He was about to shatter Abby, and he needed the time to steel himself. Abby heard people enter her lab, but she was so absorbed in what she was studying on the computer, that she didn’t look up until her music suddenly disappeared. When her head shot up, her mouth already open to chastise whoever had dared to turn off her tunes, she saw Gibbs and the rest of the team. One good look at the expression on Gibbs’ face was all it took.

“NOOO!” she moaned, as she looked at McGee and Ziva standing behind Gibbs. “Where’s Tony, Gibbs?” she demanded. “Why isn’t he with you?” and even though she was asking those questions, tears were already starting to pool in her eyes.

“They took him, Abs,” Gibbs said as gently as he could, although he knew it didn’t really matter how he broke the news to her, nothing was going to make this easier for her. He held out his arms, fully expecting Abby to launch herself at him, and was surprised when she didn’t move. She just stood there, frozen, staring at him as tears coursed down her face, immobile and silent. Gibbs went over to her, and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her in close, and he held her tight as he promised, “We’re going to get him back, Abs. You’ll see. We’re going to get him back. We always do. I promise. It’s going to be just fine.”

“It’s NOT going to be just fine,” Abby spat, suddenly angry at the world, and taking it out on Gibbs, as she pulled her head back far enough so she could look him in the eye. “How can you say that? This can’t keep happening Gibbs. It just can’t!” her voice broke on the last sentence, as she buried her head back into Gibbs’ chest, encircling him with her arms as she pressed in closer, and finally gave in to the sobs that had been threatening to overtake her.

Gibbs held her as she shook, rubbing a hand soothingly up and down her back, murmuring reassurances that they would find Tony, and everything would be okay. As he held her he briefly looked up, acknowledging Jenny, who had entered the lab just moments ago, and now stood watching, along with Ziva and McGee, who looked decidedly uncomfortable.

This wasn’t the first time they’d seen this side of Gibbs, and witnessed his uncharacteristic tolerance of Abby’s need for physical reassurance; they understood that his relationship with Abby was unique, but that didn’t seem to help them reconcile the patient, gentle man in front of them with the gruff and demanding man they dealt with on a daily basis. Jenny, on the other hand, understood it far better. As she looked at Gibbs and Abby, locked in a tight embrace, as he offered soft reassurances, she felt a momentary pang of jealousy, and immediately felt guilty. She knew Gibbs saw Abby as a surrogate daughter, someone who could unlock that part of him that had almost died along with Kelly. She understood Abby’s almost inconsolable panic every time something happened to Tony. She’d read the files on the Jeffers case when she took the job as Director, eager to know as much as she could about all of Gibbs’ team members. She knew that was the root of Abby’s overbearing protectiveness of Tony, although she would never mention it to either them or Gibbs. Knowing this couldn’t be allowed to continue, Jenny was just about to interrupt them, when Abby once again lifted her head.

“He needs a LoJack, Gibbs!!! When you get him back, we’re having Ducky implant one in him, even if you have to sit on him to make him hold still. This has got to stop! At least with a LoJack, we’ll always know where he is,” as she spoke, the tears started again. Wiping at her eyes furiously, rubbing the already running black mascara and eyeliner all over her face, she demanded, “A LoJack, Gibbs, promise me!”

“Yeah, Abs. We’ll get him a tracker. Just as soon as we have him back; I promise. But you have to pull yourself together now, Abs. We need your help to find him. We’ve got evidence that needs processing, and you and McGee need to finish running those computer searches,” Gibbs reminded her gently.

Abby took a few hiccuppy deep breaths, and then nodded resolutely, “You’re right. I need to wash my face, then I’m going to track those pricks down, so you can shoot them dead.” She spun on her heels and headed towards the washroom.

Gibbs watched her leave, then turned to face Jenny. He knew why she was down here. She’d probably had someone at the front desk alert her the minute he’d returned to NCIS, knowing what she had to say would be better done in person. Jenny didn’t disappoint. The minute Abby had cleared the room, she said, “Jethro, you know I have to pull you off the case. You and your team can’t be the ones to investigate this. It’s too personal now, too easy to let emotions get in the way, cloud your judgment. We can’t risk that. What if one of you over-reacted and jeopardized Tony’s safety? No one should ever have to deal with a case that involves one of their own.”

‘One of their own,’ Gibbs thought bitterly. ‘I will always defend one of my team. But Tony’s more than that. He IS my own, even if no one besides Abby and Ducky knows it.’ There was no way Gibbs was going to let anyone else handle the case. He couldn’t entrust Tony’s life to some one else. He knew he'd get only one shot at convincing Jenny of this, and he needed to sound calm, professional and reasoned when he presented his case to her. "We’ve been in this situation too many times to count, both before you became Director and since. You know that nothing will get in the way of our finding Tony, and no one in this entire organization is better qualified to investigate this case. My team has been on the job since Kreiger approached Ziva, and we've accomplished more since Friday night than the FBI did in more than a week. This team will solve this case, this team will find Tony, and this team is our best chance to bring him home. You're right, we won't be objective. We are more motivated than any other team could possibly be, because he's ours. NCIS is your responsibility, but Tony is mine, as are Ziva, McGee, Abby, Ducky, Palmer and for that matter, you. I would take it personally, no matter who had been taken, but the fact that these bastards took MY Senior Field Agent, that says they know we're investigating. I think they took him to find out what we know, how far we've gotten, and where we are headed. He won't talk. That may buy him some time, but eventually they'll have to kill him, so we have to get to them before that happens. Nobody else stands a chance in hell, Jen. It has to be us. It will be us."

Gibbs had locked eyes with Jenny before he had started, and once he was through, they continued to study each other, while the rest of the room held its collective breath. McGee, Ziva and Abby, who’d come back in during Gibbs’ speech, exchanged a quick glance. That was the most any of them had ever heard Gibbs say at one time, and his words, and the determination behind them, left no doubt; they would be the ones to solve this case and find Tony, now the only question that remained would be whether they did it with the Director’s sanction, or behind her back.

Finally, Jenny looked away and sighed. “Fine. I doubt if I could stop you anyway, and at least this way I’ll know what you find out. But I want to be briefed every step of the way, and you don’t go after anyone without informing me first, no matter what the time of day. Do I make myself clear?” she said firmly.

“Crystal clear, Director,” Gibbs answered.

“Well then, don’t just stand here wasting time, get to work,” she said, and turned to leave. She had just reached the door when Gibbs cell phone began to ring, and she stopped to listen.

Gibbs listened for a moment, and then said, “I’ll be right up.” As he closed the phone, he looked at the others and said, “Fornell, Morgan, and Templeton are at the front desk. I’ll go up and get them. McGee, you help Abby. Check on the tow truck bringing in Tony's car from Barker's, and make sure to get his backpack out of it or we'll never hear the end of it. Ziva, you’re with me.” Ziva, Jenny and Gibbs headed for the elevator. As the elevator doors were closing, Abby and McGee could hear the Director saying something to Gibbs about making sure his team took time to eat something nutritious. Looking at each other and grimacing, McGee asked Abby, “Do you still have that Red Bull and those energy bars down here?”