- Character Bashing
- Death - Minor Character
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Action Adventure
- Alternate Universe
- Challenge Response
It was late afternoon before they got back to the Grid and there were still a number of questions outstanding although some things were a little clearer as McGee told them pretty much everything he knew – which admittedly wasn’t a huge amount – although he had believed the story he was told that Tony had been arrested by MI5 and NCIS needed to rescue him. McGee hadn’t given any thought to how Tony might be rescued from the British domestic Intelligence Agency and had been surprised when Tony appeared to be completely comfortable – to say nothing of not being imprisoned – with the apparent head of MI5. Gibbs, however, had been unsurprised at Tony’s freedom although he was furious with himself for having been taken in by Shepard and David. Tony, in his turn, was furious when he discovered Shepard had tried to persuade McGee to work undercover for her on the same operation she’d tried to force him to take.
They were no clearer, however, why Shepard had brought the entire group over to the UK. John, Tony and Adam discussed this while they were waiting for a briefing from Ruth Evershed on the money trail she’d been looking into and Tony was sceptical that the two very different issues might be related.
‘It happens far more than you might think,’ Adam commented. ‘And in this case, we know Weir was selling information and we also know Israel will buy pretty much any information available in the hope a few grains of gold might be found in it.’
Tony shrugged. ‘Maybe. I’ve had little to no experience with international espionage. Do you think Mossad were involved in the plot to kidnap Rodney?’
‘Not involved, no,’ John said thoughtfully. ‘But they may well have known about it and wanted a share of anything gained from it.’
‘And what do you think the Israelis will do when they find you’ve deported her?’
‘They won’t do anything because we haven’t deported her,’ a new voice said and Harry entered the conference room.
‘Huh?’ Tony looked confused.
‘She could be a valuable source of information on Weir and the Russian connection,’ Harry explained, and Tony noticed neither John nor Adam looked at all surprised by this news.
‘You knew? You knew and didn’t tell me?’
‘We didn’t know for sure,’ said Adam.
‘But we did suspect it might happen,’ John added. ‘Why deport her when it doesn’t gain us anything?’
Harry nodded. ‘We’re still debating whether or not to let her ‘escape’ on the way to the airport, in the hope she might lead us to anyone we’re unaware of.’
Tony frowned. ‘That could be quite dangerous. She is Mossad trained—’
John threw his pen onto the table with a clatter. ‘Y’know what? I’m really fed up of the way everyone says ‘Mossad trained’ as though it gives their agents some sort of superpower. So they know fifty ways to kill someone. So do I. They can track and shadow and stuff. So can we. They have super training in self defence. So do we! We can do everything they can, but no-one says ‘Ooo. MI5 trained’.’ He sat back in his seat and huffed.
‘Feel better now?’ Adam grinned, and when John scowled at him and opened his mouth to argue, he held up his hands. ‘Hey, I agree with you. Every word. But it does give us an advantage sometimes when the bad guys don’t think we’re capable and let their guard down.’
Tony looked from one to the other. ‘Okay. Be careful she doesn’t take you by surprise, that’s all I’m saying. Her training – shut up, John – leads her to act first and ask questions later. I know. I’ve worked with her for over a year.’
Harry nodded in thanks, then, as the door opened to admit Ruth, he jumped up to help her carry in a bundle of papers and a laptop and place them on the table. Tony saw John and Adam smirk at each other but didn’t quite understand why. Ruth set herself up and then clicked the large screen on which displayed a number of diagrams.
‘I think I’ve found where everything is and how it links up, but please bear with me because it is complicated. I’ve found payments from Kolya to various people, but it isn’t quite clear where his money comes from although my guess is either the Russian Intelligence Service, or from Igor Vasiliev and the Russian Mafia. Kolya has made payments to pretty much everyone in our cells as well as Weir and Landry, and I’ve also found payments made to Landry that I can’t trace but which appear in the same account as the others in the Cayman Islands. Weir keeps her most of her money in Switzerland which makes things very difficult to track, but I think I’m there.
‘Kolya’s money is spread around. He certainly doesn’t declare it to the American tax people and I’m almost certain I’ve not found everything he’s hidden. One new name has come up, a Jennifer Keller, who works at the DSTL and has received transfers of money from Kolya, and has also made a few large cash deposits in her Nat West account.’
‘Nat West?’ asked Adam with a frown.
‘National Westminster Bank. You must have heard of it, Adam.’
He scowled at her. ‘I have, I’m just surprised anyone took a bribe and put it in their Nat West account. Didn’t anyone there question where it came from?’
‘Yes, which is how I found the cash payments. She’s being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office at the moment but she isn’t aware of it yet although they will be speaking to her any day soon. I spoke to the person in charge of her case and asked him to hold off from speaking to her as we have an ongoing operation concerning her and they’ve agreed but…’
‘They’re not known as the Serious Farce Office for nothing,’ finished Harry grimly. ‘Okay, I’ll have a word with them myself and make sure they’re quite clear on this.’
‘So we think she could be our leak at DSTL?’ John asked. ‘Shall I have a word with Rodney and see if he knows her?’
‘Yes please, John, as soon as you can. Was there anything else, Ruth?’
‘Yes. Weir drew out a large sum of money on Tuesday 24th October, eight thousand pounds in cash from her Barclays account in London just after 10.00. Her credit card was then used to purchase a train ticket at Waterloo station, so I checked the station camera footage – thankfully the images on CCTV and security cameras are retained for a month – and I found her getting on a train to Salisbury at 10.50. It got into Salisbury at 12.20 and I was able to follow her to a bench in the Cathedral Close where she met two men and handed them an envelope.’ She paused and took a drink of water. ‘Now, we can’t prove that the envelope contained money but I think we can assume it did. She then went back to the station and caught the 13.47 back to Waterloo. I have the facial recognition software running on the two men she met as we have a clear view of them arriving at the meet.’
‘So this was after Rodney had been rescued and was safely in London,’ John clarified.
Ruth nodded. ‘I’ve asked for details of her mobile phone to be sent to us, but you know how difficult it is to get that sort of information without a search warrant.’
‘Then get a search warrant,’ Harry told her. ‘Christ knows we have enough on her to lock her up a few times over.’
‘Um. I have. Well, I’m waiting for it to come back from the court, but as soon as it does I’ll get onto the phone people and…’ she trailed off. ‘Yes. Well. I’ll go and chase it up shall I?’
They watched as Ruth hurried out. ‘Nice girl, but she does flap a bit,’ John commented, which drew him a glare from Harry. Tony suddenly realised why John and Adam had been smirking earlier. The old dog!
‘Now.’ Harry clasped his hands on the table. ‘Ideas about what the two men from Salisbury might be up to.’
‘Trying to kidnap the Zelenka’s kid?’ Adam suggested. ‘To hold that over them to get them to hand over details of, what was it called?’
‘Project Pegasus,’ supplied John. ‘Possible, but Meredith is being well looked after at a place they’d struggle to discover.’
‘A break in at DSTL?’ Tony suggested. ‘Try and get the information directly?’
‘But why would they break in when they have direct access to someone there?’ asked Adam.
‘If this Keller woman isn’t in Rodney’s department, she might have trouble getting to what they want.’
‘Rodney’s already explained that the information they’re after isn’t there, at least not enough to make any sense of,’ John pointed out. ‘And he also said that very few people actually knew about Project Pegasus anyway, so we may find Keller is on Rodney’s staff.’
‘John, go and call him now so we can clear this bit up,’ Harry ordered. ‘Do it in my office for some privacy. We’ll carry on brainstorming.’
It appeared, however, that any more ideas had dried up as no-one had anything to suggest while John was gone. Fortunately he returned after a few minutes.
‘I’m surprised you didn’t all hear Rodney yelling,’ he told them, sitting back down. ‘Keller does work for him. She’s one of his lab techs and I expect her ears are burning after the words Rodney used to describe her! He wanted to fire her straight away but I told him to keep quiet until we know just what’s happening. He’s hopping mad though.’
The others grinned at this description.
‘Do the bad guys know nothing is kept at the DSTL?’ Tony asked
‘If they have access to Keller they do, as she’ll have told them, or at least told Kolya,’ John said. ‘Why?’
‘I was wondering if they might try and break in.’
‘How long is your chum down there for, John?’ Adam asked. ‘Has he gone back to Scotland yet?’
‘Major Lorne is down until Friday,’ Harry told him. ‘And if we’ve not wrapped this up by then another team is coming down to take over. The Home Secretary sorted it out yesterday after he left here. We don’t want to leave the DSTL vulnerable and it could be some time before a new security company is put in place. In the meantime, the Royal Marines will be sharing guard duty with the current security people. Or at least until they walk off site in frustration,’ he finished happily, and when the others looked a little confused, he continued; ‘If we just kick them out, we’ll have to pay thousands in breach of contract, but if they break the contact and leave site, they have to pay us.’
‘So the Royal Marines are able to have fun and games officially pissing them off?’
‘It’s what we do best.’ John nodded in satisfaction.
‘But we still don’t know why those two men were hired.’
For the first time since this whole mess had started John was reluctant to go home. Not because he didn’t want to see Rodney, because he did, desperately so. But all the other folk at Holly Lodge? He could do without them and without having to be polite. He wanted a beer, junk food, and to curl up with his scientist and shut out the whole world. Instead, he’d have to eat a proper meal at a proper table, and be nice and charming and all the other crap that came with being well brought-up and well mannered. So when he sighed heavily he just knew his cousin raised his eyebrows, even though John was driving and couldn’t see Tony’s face.
‘S’up?’ Tony asked.
‘Nothing really. It’s just been a long day and I’m tired.’
‘And now you’re going to have to play nice for the whole house-full?’
John huffed. ‘How did you know?’
‘Come on, John! It’s not that difficult. You normally live alone during the week and now there’re six of us and Brian. I feel a little the same, and this is supposed to be a vacation for me!’
John grimaced. ‘D’you mind being dragged into work while you’re on your hols? ‘M’fraid I forgot that bit. I’ve just got used to having you around. Should I apologise?’
Tony laughed. ‘Are you kidding? This is the best fun I’ve had for years! I get to work for MI5. MI freaking 5! You realise just how awesome that is, right? I’m living the plot of ‘The Ipcress File’! And I got to see my bitch of a boss and her little assassin sidekick led off in handcuffs! You can’t buy entertainment like that! Plus, everyone at MI5 treats me like I can really help and they listen to my ideas and stuff. I didn’t realise just how much I’d got used to being ignored or pushed off as a joke. I love it here. And, you know, working with you and us being friends again and meeting Rodney and Brian. I’m just not looking forward to going back Stateside, especially as I’ve been on the opposite side of this affair to my boss, well, bosses. And seeing Ziva taken away in handcuffs might have been great, but I’m probably gonna have to work with her again and she’s gonna hate that. And so am I, but for different reasons.’ He finally broke off to take a breath.
John laughed, suddenly feeling much better, lighter. ‘So, you’re happy here?’
‘You could stay y’know. Harry’d like to keep you.’
Tony was silent for a while, so long, in fact, that John took a swift look at him, wondering if everything was alright.
‘I’m fine, John. I was just wondering what it would be like here, working with you full time.’
‘Well, for a start, you’d probably work mostly with Adam as I don’t think we could be on a team together, but I think I’d quite like it. David is only four years older than me, but he seems much more than that really. Maybe it’s because he’s the heir, I don’t know, but I do know I’ve enjoyed having you around, having family around. And so has Rodney, and Brian of course, but then he’d like anyone who’d feed him or rub his belly!’
Tony laughed. ‘I’ve gotten pretty fond of them both too, but there’s a lot to think about if I did decide to stay.’ He fell silent and John let him be, recognising that to leave his job and his country in one fell swoop was a big decision to make.
The rest of their journey passed in silence, but a pleasant, genial silence: the sort only found between family or very good friends, which in their case John thought happily to himself, was both.
The other occupants of Holly Lodge had also passed a pleasant day, and Rodney pointed out to anyone who’d listen just how much work he’d managed to get done without the interruptions which usually peppered his day at the DSTL.
‘But don’t you need specialist equipment when you work?’ asked Tony, when they’d all settled in the sitting room after dinner with coffee, as had become their wont. ‘The sort of stuff that can’t easily be brought home?’
‘Not really,’ Rodney said, stroking underneath his chin with a thumb. ‘And if we do, it’s usually something we’d know about in advance so could plan it into our schedule.’
Radek nodded. ‘If we were perhaps to work three days at home with just two in our labs, we would each ensure that our lab work was properly planned.’
‘But it’s unlikely the DSTL would agree for all three of us to do that,’ Miko pointed out. ‘Who would supervise the technicians?’
‘And speaking of technicians,’ John cut in. ‘We need to discuss Jennifer Keller.’
Rodney heaved a great sigh. ‘I should just fire that bitch,’ he muttered which made Donald frown.
‘Who is this person and why would you wish to fire her?’
John opened his mouth to reply but Rodney got in first.
‘She’s one of our technicians who received a few cash payments from the bloke who arranged my kidnapping,’ Rodney explained. ‘The stupid bint paid them into her Nat West account and John wouldn’t let me fire her arse,’
‘Because she may well lead us to anyone else still out there,’ John told him, for the third or fourth time. ‘We’re all pretty sure there are more of Kolya’s people out there, and we know that the two men Weir met are still at large—’
‘At large? Does anyone really say that?’ Rodney snarked, and John glared at him.
‘As I was saying. Weir’s two chums are still at large and we have no idea how many others there might be, so no, you can’t fire her.’
‘Why would Keller spy for the Russians or possibly the Americans?’ Tony asked. ‘What’s made her turn traitor?’
Rodney shrugged. ‘No idea.’
‘Oh, come on, Rodney!’ Miko frowned. ‘You know exactly why she’d turn on you.’
Rodney looked surprised. ‘No, I really don’t. I have as little to with her as possible and the work she does do is shite. I’m always having to get her to run stuff again or check for errors. I’d have fired her months ago but it takes so long to get security clearances through, I wouldn’t get a new minion for at least a year if I found someone who looked suitable; so even if her work is shoddy, it’s better than the nothing I’d have if she wasn’t there.’
‘Rodney!’ Miko shook her head in exasperation and turned to the others. ‘She was trying to get him to ask her out for months, but he never even noticed her until I mentioned it to him, and then he said very loudly ‘Hello? I have a boyfriend’ and she ran out of the lab crying.’
‘Did she?’ Rodney asked in astonishment. ‘I remember you telling me about someone trying to get my attention, but I don’t think I ever knew who it was. I thought most people I work with had met John so, you know, realised I prefer a di…’ but the last word was muffled as John slapped his hand over Rodney’s mouth.
‘No! Not in front of Miko!’
Rodney pulled away from John’s hand and glared. ‘You have no idea what I was going to say!’
‘Oh, I think I do,’ John glared back.
‘Fine!’ Rodney folded his arms and stuck out his bottom lip in a fine sulk.
There were grins around the room.
‘I recall him doing just that not long after he came to live with us,’ Donald reminisced, ‘when I was home for Christmas I think. Mother threatened to wipe soap across his bottom lip and he soon pulled it back in.’
John looked thoughtful but Rodney poked his chest with his finger.
‘Don’t even think about it you…you…’ but just for once he was lost for words which made the others laugh although Tony was quick to tell him they were laughing with him, not at him.
‘By the way, Ducky, you should have seen Madame Director led away in handcuffs this morning. It was awesome!’
‘She was handcuffed again?’ Donald asked in surprise.
‘She was told very clearly that the David woman was to be left back at the hotel,’ John explained. ‘But, of course, they both ignored Harry, and David showed up at Thames House. Harry called the Police and they took them both away in handcuffs. David is going to be deported to Israel and it’s unlikely she’ll be allowed back at NCIS as the Defence Secretary was extremely annoyed she was ever given a job. He’s furious with Shepard and I don’t fancy her chances at keeping her position.’
‘Goodness me!’ Donald exclaimed. ‘How could she be so foolish as to ignore an order from Sir Harry?’
‘Well, they’re both pretty arrogant,’ Tony pointed out. ‘It turns out that her shooting of Ari, and oh Ducky! You should have heard Jack O’Neill. He kept calling him ‘Hairy Haswanobi’ and Ziva was furious.’
‘Hairy Haswanobi?’ Rodney frowned, cuddling up to Brian and ignoring John. ‘Who’s he? And who on earth calls their kid Hairy?’
‘His name was Ari Haswanari, no, Haswa… Crap! I can’t remember it now!’ Tony shook his head then grinned. ‘Anyway, the terrorist who killed my old partner, Cate Todd, turned out to be Ziva’s half brother and he went after Gibbs, that’s my boss, but when he was about to kill him, Ziva appeared and shot him instead and Gibbs was really grateful and so when Madame Director gave her a job on our team, Gibbs was okay with it because she’d saved his life, except she didn’t because it turned out she was ordered to do it by her father to get her onto Gibbs’ team and so she was lying all that time.’
‘Well, that was clear as mud,’ Rodney told him. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘I’m afraid Anthony was a little excited there, Rodney, but allow me to explain—’
‘No, no,’ Rodney said hurriedly. ‘Thanks, Donald, but it’s fine. I got the gist of it, thank you.’
Donald’s eyes rested on Rodney for a long moment then he turned to Tony. ‘Did her father really order her to kill Ari?’
Tony nodded. ‘She admitted it to Jack O’Neill. Poppa David ordered her to kill him to get her a place on Gibbs’ team.’
‘Because…well… actually, we don’t know yet.’ Tony blinked. ‘And we don’t know why they all came to England, except that it wasn’t for the reason the Director gave to Timmy.’
‘She told them I was being held by MI5 for questioning. She didn’t say what they were supposed to be questioning me about, just that they were holding me. She must have realised that she’d be found out quickly enough when they got here, though.’
‘Unless she was told by someone that you really were being held,’ suggested Radek, adding his idea to the mix.
‘But who’d do that? Because it was bound to come out that he wasn’t,’ Rodney protested.
‘That’s what we’re still trying to find out,’ John said, pulling Rodney closer to him and ignoring his muttering. ‘But we can’t think why she’d lie because, as you said, as soon as they met up with us they’d know Tony was here of his own volition.’
‘Unless it didn’t matter by that time,’ Donald said slowly, thinking it through. ‘All she had to do was make them believe they were on a rescue mission to get them all here, but once they were here, it didn’t matter. She’d achieved her goal. They were all in the UK.’
There was a silence as they all digested this.
‘That’s the only thing it could be,’ John said finally. ‘She needed a reason to get them all over here. But why?’
‘Does she need all of them?’ Radek asked with a frown. ‘What if she only needed an excuse for herself?’
‘Then she wouldn’t have brought the rest of the floorshow with her,’ Tony said immediately. ‘She could have found a good enough reason to get herself into the UK so…’
‘She needed one of the others,’ John finished.
‘Ziva,’ both Donald and Tony said at the same time, and looked at each other. Tony made a motion for Donald to continue.
‘She needed an excuse to get Ziva here and the only way she could do that, without arousing suspicion, was to bring Timothy and Jethro too. She spun a yarn about Anthony being held by MI5 to persuade Timothy and Jethro to accompany her so her arrival with Ziva did not stand out, and they came to here last night to maintain the deception.’
‘But why would yelling git agree to that when he knew you weren’t being held by anyone,’ Rodney pointed out absently, shifting to the floor to rub Brian’s tummy. ‘Donald spoke to him only a couple of days ago.’
‘Just a moment.’ Donald sat forward, a frown on his face. ‘Rodney, you are correct. Gibbs knew we were both fine when he called two days ago. He ordered us to go back to NCIS at once and said he wasn’t prepared to allow Anthony’s secondment to MI5.’
‘That’s right,’ John nodded. ‘I’d forgotten he’d called. So, if he knew about the secondment, why was he so angry that you weren’t being held by MI5 as Shepard had told him? He knew you were okay, Tony.’
‘As did Director Shepard,’ Donald added. ‘Jethro told me she hadn’t agreed to Anthony’s secondment.’
‘So why lie to us when they knew Gibbs had spoken to you, Ducky?’ Tony asked, very puzzled.
‘Ah, but did Director Shepard know that Jethro had called? We don’t know if she did. But, of course, that would still mean Jethro knew you were not being held by MI5, so why would he agree to accompany her?’
There was a further silence as they all absorbed Donald’s comments, then Rodney spoke up. ‘Okay, I’m getting confused here. Let’s set this out again. Yelling Git knew Tony was alright, so why was he angry when he found out she’d lied about her reasons for coming to the UK?’
‘Because he wasn’t angry about that but something else?’ suggested Radek, and John could see how much he was enjoying trying to solve the puzzle before them, and being a part of the group discussion.
‘‘He wasn’t aware she’d been trying to get both me and Timmy to go undercover for her,’ Tony said immediately. ‘That’d make him angry alright. He hates not being consulted about stuff like that.’
‘Okay, that works,’ Rodney said thoughtfully. ‘So our next question is why did David and Madam need to be in the UK, or in London specifically?’
‘Ziva needed to be here, Director Shepard just needed to bring her, get her into the country without the UK authorities realising,’ Donald said. ‘Although that doesn’t explain why they brought Timothy with them.’
‘Yeah, it does,’ Tony argued. ‘It provided better cover for Ziva if it looked as though the entire team had come.’
‘So why would David need to be in the UK?’ John asked.
‘To collect something or to deliver something?’ suggested Miko. ‘It must be a physical object as news could be relayed through other means.’
‘Or to help someone with something?’ Radek added.
‘It could be pretty much anything,’ Rodney said in exasperation. ‘We could sit here all night and discuss who or what.’
‘Okay, let’s look at it another way,’ John said. ‘We suspect the Israelis were aware that Rodney would be kidnapped, and if they did they’d want some of whatever Kolya’s gang got out of him. Agreed?’
There were nods from around the sitting room.
‘And they might not know he’d been rescued and his kidnappers captured. What if the Israelis sent David here to find out what’d happened to Rodney and the whereabouts of the information they were promised. What if she was always going to be their link to the Russians?’
There was a pause as they all considered this hypothesis.
’Rodney wasn’t actually introduced last night or even mentioned by name, was he?’ John continued. ‘So unless David seen a photo of him, she wouldn’t have recognised him. ‘
‘I can see how it would fit the information we have,’ Tony said cautiously. ‘But Gibbs’ rule 39 comes to mind.’
‘’There is no such thing as coincidence’,’ Donald murmured.
‘And what did Adam tell you this morning, Tony? It happens far more than you might think,’ John told him. ‘If she was under instruction from David or her father, to get David to Britain, there’s our reason for her and her merry band being here. And David needs to collect something that can’t be posted, or to actually do something that can’t be done by anyone else.’
‘Or meet someone who couldn’t get to the US?’ suggested Miko thoughtfully. ‘If it was someone who couldn’t get into America or who couldn’t afford to be seen there?’
‘The only person who seems to be involved in all of this who isn’t either a US citizen, or has no problem getting a visa is Vasiliev, the Russian billionaire,’ John said. ‘But I can’t think why he’d be refused entry to the US as he doesn’t have a criminal record, not that we know of, and like I said, he’s a billionaire.’
‘No,’ Tony said suddenly. ‘No. There is someone else who seems to be tied up in this. That chap you and Adam hate, the one Harry slapped down. He’s—’
‘Mace,’ John interrupted. ‘Oliver Mace. David came here to meet Oliver Mace.’
The suspicion that Mace might be the reason for Shepard and David’s trip to the UK was sufficiently worrying that John left the sitting room at Holly Lodge to make a call to Harry Pearce. He made the call in the library and had just told Harry how they reached the conclusion that Mace could be the link between NCIS and Mossad, when Rodney slipped into the room and squeezed in next to John in his armchair.
‘Ooof. You need to lose some weight, Fitz-Sheppard!’ he complained as he wriggled himself into a comfortable position.
John sighed, moved over a little, and switched on the speaker-phone. ‘You’ve got Rodney here now as well, Harry.’
‘Hi, Harry,’ Rodney called out, waving his hand for some unknown reason.
Was there something you needed, Rodney? Harry asked, and John thought he could hear the tiredness in his boss’s tone.
‘Yes,’ Rodney admitted, still wriggling a little to give himself more room. ‘I’m a bit concerned about Keller being the mole at DSTL.’
Do you think we might be mistaken?
‘No, no I think you’re right, at least after Miko told me Keller had been trying to get into my pants for a while. How can she not realise that I’m gay and even if I wasn’t, she’s not my type at all and…ow!’ he broke off and glared at John who had just cuffed him on the back of the head. ‘What was that for!’
‘Rodney, pipe down. Harry doesn’t need to know about your type of women, or men for that reason,’ he added as Rodney opened his mouth to argue. ‘Just tell him what you want and go. I’m working here!’
‘I don’t want anything, I was trying to help, but if you don’t want my help…’
Rodney. What did you want to discuss regarding Keller?
‘Oh, yeah, right. Well, I’m not saying she isn’t the mole, as she’s one of the only people it could be, but there’s very little she could actually tell anyone about Project Pegasus, since she doesn’t really do anything on it. Radek, Miko and I have kept it pretty close to our chests and the only things the minions have done are some calculations. We’ve kept them away from the project and working on the everyday stuff that we deal with.’
‘She does know about the project though,’ John confirmed, worried that they might have been looking at the wrong reason entirely for Rodney’s kidnapping.
‘She knows we’re working on something we’re keeping from them, but the way those blokes who kidnapped me kept asking for details of the ‘weapons delivery system’ proves they’ve no real idea what we’re working on.’
Rodney, just what is Project Pegasus?
‘I can’t tell you, Harry. I’m sorry, but I really can’t tell you, and certainly not on a telephone that could easily be bugged.’
‘It’s much harder to bug a phone than you would imagine,’ John pointed out. ‘And this is a secure line to Thames House anyway.’
‘Still not telling you. We can’t let it fall into enemy hands, that’s about all I can tell you at the moment,’ Rodney said stubbornly. ‘I’m having a meeting next week with the MOD’s Chief Scientific Advisor and I shall only tell him the barest details of it and only because we’ll need their permission and funding to create a prototype.’
‘Does anyone else know you’re almost at the stage of creating a prototype?’ asked John, his mind busy assessing the risk of this being known.
‘Nope. Only Radek, Miko and me. And you two now, of course.’
So actually, you were kidnapped too soon to be able to give any real details away.
‘Yes. If they’d waited a few months we might have had an initial prototype ready. Which is why I’m concerned about Keller being the mole. While she doesn’t have any details about Pegasus, she does know there isn’t anything physical to see as yet, and, like I said, she knows we’re working on something super top secret that is nowhere even close to being in a production stage. Why would so many people be interested in what amounts to a concept?’
‘Does Keller or anyone at DSTL know where you are?’ John asked suddenly.
‘No. She knows I’m with the Zelenka’s, but not where we are. And since you turned on the phone jammers, there’s no way she could find out, even by trying to trace our mobiles.’
Did she call you, or you call her before the jammer was switched on, Rodney?
‘I don’t think so, although if the Israeli & that woman who’s Tony’s boss knew where to find us, they may have told someone else,’ Rodney said thoughtfully. ‘We’re not going to have to move again are we?’
‘We may have to,’ John said, concerned that he hadn’t thought about that. ‘Damn them all to hell!’
Quite. Okay, well, good work, John. Pass on my thanks to the others, please.
After John had replaced the receiver he and Rodney remained where they were, squashed into an armchair, for a while.
‘Missed being with just you,’ John told Rodney, planting a kiss on his head.
‘Miss you too. It’s nice to get a bit of privacy for once, isn’t it?’
‘Mmm,’ John hummed, holding his partner close and enjoying the silence.
Wednesday passed quietly on the Grid, for once. Adam and his team had disappeared off on a new operation and Ronon and Teyla had taken the day off after spending much of their time recently in the basement with their guests.
All the kidnappers, bar Kolya, had been transferred to the police on various charges involving kidnapping. Kolya remained in the hopes he might be persuaded to divulge more information and also because he was a US citizen, and MI5 hoped to avoid any arguments with the US Embassy. The US Secretary of Defence was aware they were holding Kolya, and for the moment, it would have to be enough.
By Thursday, some ‘just us’ time with Rodney and a couple of good nights’ sleep made John feel much better. When he and Tony headed onto the Grid they stopped to speak to the twins, Colin and Malcolm, to see if any new information had turned up.
‘We’ve been doing some further digging into Henry Landry,’ Colin told them. ‘I’ve been speaking with Daniel Jackson to see what he’s been able to dig up, and it would appear that Landry’s made a couple of trips to Russia, one in the company of some other Senators and one on his own when he was the guest of Igor Vasiliev.’
‘What?’ demanded John, shocked that Landry would be so blatant about his relationship with a known member of the Russian Mafia and a suspected member of the SVR, or at the very least, one with very strong links to them.
‘He told the Secretary of Defence that he was trying to forge closer relations with the Russians, in the interests of world peace.’
‘And the Secretary of Defence bought that?’
‘Not really,’ Malcolm chipped in, ‘but there wasn’t very much he could do about it. Landry did nothing wrong nor illegal.’
‘We’ve also been tracking the movements of Vasiliev himself and his second in command,’ Colin said. ‘They’ve been in the UK recently, but went back to Russia a couple of days before Rodney was kidnapped. As far as we know, they’ve stayed there since.’
‘Weir hasn’t moved from her flat in the last 48 hours, not even to go shopping, and hasn’t made any phone calls that we know of,’ Malcolm reported. ‘To be honest, I’m getting a little concerned about her. I was going to suggest to Harry that someone pay her a visit, just to make sure she’s okay.’
‘Are the DIA and SVR still watching her?’ asked Tony, sitting on the edge of Malcolm’s desk and doodling on a scrap of paper.
‘The SVR are still watching her flat.’ Malcolm frowned at Tony and snatched the paper from him. Tony gave an apologetic smile. ‘The DIA were watching Mason’s Bank but they’ve pulled their men out now.’
‘Okay, I’ll have a word with Harry about Tony and I going over to see her,’ John told the twins. ‘Anything else?’
‘Yes. The two chaps Weir met in Salisbury. We’ve had the results of the facial recognition and they appear to be thugs for hire. Both have convictions for assault, and one also has a conviction for aggravated burglary. Ruth’s had Weir’s mobile phone records sent to us and there’s nothing we didn’t know about in there, and we now have proof that she’s spoken to Keller. We already knew about her meetings with Kolya but this is usable evidence if we do decide to prosecute her.’
‘Okay, thanks, twins. We’ll go and see Harry about paying Weir a visit,’ John told Colin and Malcolm.
‘Do they mind you calling them ‘the twins’?’ Tony asked as they made their way over to Harry’s office.
John laughed. ‘I think they’re secretly pleased we gave them a nickname. Proves we see them as an important part of the team and not just gofers.’
Tony nodded. ‘I always felt my team was my family, but now I realise I just wanted them to be. In reality, we’re a group of people with very different backgrounds who happen to work together. This past year has been difficult but it has been revealing in that I know just who my friends are.’
‘And…?’ John asked.
‘Ducky and his assistant Jimmy. They’re the only ones I would trust now. McGee showed his true colours while Gibbs was on his Mexican siesta by not listening to me and arguing with every decision I made, and Ziva… Well. I’d certainly never turn my back on her. Gibbs only cares about himself and possibly the results we produce as a team, but as for caring for me, Tony DiNozzo, he just doesn’t.’ Tony shrugged.
John squeezed his cousin’s shoulder in support as they entered Harry’s office. He could see just how badly Tony felt he’d been treated by his so called team, and he fervently hoped he would agree to staying with MI5, either as a liaison or as a full MI5 officer. Would it make me a terrible person if I hope the NCIS crowd get their comeuppance?
Half an hour later John drove himself and Tony towards Weir’s flat. Harry had agreed they should go and check on her, and as there were no other leads to follow up as yet, they might as well spend their time in doing something useful.
As John parked outside her apartment building, Tony looked around to see if he could spot the watchers from the SVR but there was nothing obvious. No parked cars with people in them, no-one loitering on a street corner. I suppose I wouldn’t spot them, not if they’re doing their jobs properly.
After showing their ID cards, the security man of the block allowed them to go up to Weir’s flat.
‘I haven’t seen her for a few days,’ he told them, after they’d explained they were concerned about her. ‘But I only work from 8am to 6pm, and she might come or go during those times so I haven’t worried about her. Not an easy lady to talk to,’ he added. ‘Prefers we guards call her Ma’am and doff our caps to her like she was the Queen, or somebody important.’
John knocked on the door of flat 12 but there was no reply. He shouted through the door but still no-one came, so, after again shouting through the door, they used the master key from the guard and let themselves in.
It was clear the flat had been searched. Books, their pages ripped and spines bent, lay on the floor, furniture was upended, drawers were emptied out and the contents of cupboards scattered about. Weir herself lay on her bedroom floor and she’d been tortured before she was killed. Knife cuts marked her face and bare arms, and her fingers looked to be broken. A single bullet wound on her forehead looked to be what actually killed her but she had obviously suffered before she’d died.
John sighed as he pulled out his mobile to call Harry, then turned to Tony, shaking his head. ‘What a waste. What a waste of a life.’
‘I wonder who killed her? It could be any number of people. D’you think Harry would mind if we called Ducky in to do the autopsy? He’s a brilliant ME and might just spot something we could use.’
John made a further call to Harry and Tony listened to the conversation this time as John put Harry on speaker-phone.
It’s a good idea, Tony. I’ll get a car sent for him straight away, and I think it might be a good idea to bring Rodney and the Zelenkas into Thames House for the rest of the day.
‘Do you think they might be in danger?’ John asked, a worried tone in his voice.
No, I don’t, but then I didn’t think Elizabeth Weir was in any danger either. Let’s bring them all here just to be on the safe side.
Tony and John poked around the house as much as they could without disturbing the crime scene too much, although Tony had to push past his inclination to seal the flat until the police arrived. He itched to take photographs and make sketches even though he knew that wasn’t his job here, but pulled out his mobile phone anyway and took photos of all of the rooms.
‘Force of habit,’ he explained when John looked surprised at what he was doing. ‘You never know if we might find something in them later on.’
John nodded and continued his search as they waited for the crime scene folk and the MI5 pathologist. As he was looking over what papers he could see scattered on the floor around her desk, he suddenly spotted something.
‘Tony, come over here and photograph this.’
Tony stooped to look at what John was pointing to. A couple of A4 sheets of paper showed fairly poor quality photographs of a cluster of buildings, set in countryside. They were either printed from the internet or were actual photographs printed on plain paper. Tony took his own photos of what he could see while John had a closer look at the printer which lay on its side on the floor, the top broken off.
Tony stepped closer and peered down. A tiny SD card had been slotted into a port on the printer, barely visible unless you knew what you were looking for. ‘I’ve not seen one of these before.’
‘They’re pretty new. The idea is that you don’t need a computer to get prints of your photos. You just put the SD card straight into the printer and print directly from it.’
‘Well, it’s new to me, and I’m guessing it was new to whoever searched the flat since they didn’t look too closely at the printer.’ Tony reached out and carefully removed the SD card after photographing it multiple times from multiple angles. ‘Do you think this is what they were looking for?’
‘No idea, but let’s take it and have a look at it. I’d prefer not to leave it for the Police. Can you see the laptop or hard drive anywhere?’
They looked carefully, but it was clear the killers had removed any computers they could find as well as the documents in the secret space under the kitchen cupboard. Since MI5 already had downloads of Weir’s laptop and hard drive, they and the killers probably now had the same information.
‘Why do you think they tortured her?’ Tony asked as they drove back to Thames House, leaving the flat to the crime scene people.
‘Don’t know. Chances are her killing is linked to our operation, but we can’t be sure. Harry was going to contact Jack and co and let them inform the US Embassy, but she’d been dead for at least a day I would say, so unless anything appears on the security footage we’ve got from the building we’ll struggle to prove just who did kill her.’
‘I wonder if the SVR are still watching her apartment. Colin and Malcolm said they were earlier. If they are, it suggests they don’t know she’s been killed.’
‘Unless that’s what they want us to think. But I agree. I think we might have to look elsewhere for our killers.’
‘The DIA had been watching her. And Malcolm said they’d pulled their men from Mason’s Bank.’
‘That doesn’t automatically make them guilty,’ John pointed out. ‘Although I’m struggling to come up with another group who might want her dead, at least connected to our operation.’
Rodney was waiting for them when they got back to the Grid and he hugged John tightly.
‘Harry said one of your suspects was murdered,’ he muttered, face buried in John’s neck ‘I don’t like this, John. Not at all. I was just beginning to feel safe at Holly Lodge, but now I’m not.’
A bark and a bundle of hair suddenly threw itself at John.
“Oooof!’ he groaned as a bearded collie bounced him. ‘Did you have to bring Brian?’
‘Well, I certainly wasn’t going to leave him behind again,’ Rodney retorted, dropping to his knees and cuddling his dog.
‘Rodney! The Grid is hardly the place for a large bearded collie!’
‘Oh, stop moaning! Everyone loves Brian. Harry’s already been feeding him biscuits, which of course means Brian’ll love him forever. And Malcolm and Colin have taken him round to meet everyone. So far, only Ruth hasn’t made a fuss of him, but she did say that she prefers cats.’ Rodney scrunched up his nose. ‘Who could possibly prefer cats to a beautiful boy like my Brian!’
John shook his head and left Rodney rubbing Brian’s belly as Brian himself lay on his back, panting, legs splayed out and tail wagging.
‘Sorry, Harry,’ he said as he entered his boss’s office. ‘I didn’t realise he’d bring Brian with him.’
‘No problem. You know I love dogs, and home just hasn’t been the same since my Sam died. Now, what did you find at Weir’s, apart from a dead body?’
‘An SD card in the printer that the folk who turned her flat over – and most likely killed her – missed. Tony’s just taken it to Colin to get prints made of anything on it.’
And no sooner had he said this, Tony appeared holding a stack of paper.
‘There were a couple of hundred pictures on the card, so Colin’s only printed off photos of actual places. He’s setting up a laptop so we can look through to see what documents she photographed, but he thought it would be easier if he actually printed the places,’ and he plonked the pile of paper onto Harry’s desk.
Harry looked up at him and frowned. ‘Can you take this lot through to the conference room to look at? I do have other things to do in here.’
Tony flushed, and hurriedly gathered his papers – which had spilled across the desk – together. ‘Sorry, Harry.’
They moved into the small conference room and spread the pictures out, and John pointed his finger at a series of a dozen or so. ‘That’s the DSTL. Why would Weir have photos of the DSTL?’
He stuck his head around the door and yelled for his partner to come. Rodney arrived at once, Brian on his heels.
‘What’s happened?’ he demanded, and in answer John pointed to the photos on the table.
‘Why have you got photos of the DSTL?’ he asked, looking at them.
‘We got them from Weir’s flat,’ John told him. ‘Can you look at them and tell us where they’ve been taken from?’
Rodney nodded and yelled for Radek and Miko who came hurrying over. John explained where the photos came from, and the three sat down to look through them, sorting them into separate piles. Finally, Rodney looked up.
‘Okay, these ones here,’ and he pointed to a pile on his left, ‘are taken from just outside the main gate and show the security cabin and the main drive, although how she managed to take them without being stopped is anyone’s guess.’
‘Oh, I think I can make a pretty accurate guess,’ Tony growled, as he pointed to the shots of the security cabin. ‘You can see quite clearly these guys aren’t watching her. It looks like they have a TV or something in there. No wonder John’s friend was able to get a couple of his men in there without a problem.’
One of the other sets of photos were actually taken from within the DSTL grounds.
‘That’s our lab,’ exclaimed Radek. ‘Look! That’s your car!’
‘Who on earth took these?’ asked John, but Rodney replied almost instantly.
‘Keller. It has to be. She’s the only one who knows where everything is and who could get access to the grounds without a problem. The main question is why she’d take them?’
‘There might be something amongst this lot,’ Malcolm said, as he came in carrying a laptop and a further pile of papers. ‘I’ve loaded the documents that were photographed onto here,’ and he handed Radek the laptop. ‘Here are some more places, although I think these might be inside your lab, Rodney.’ He passed the new batch of photos to Rodney who quickly glanced through them.
‘Yes,’ he said grimly. ’These are inside our main lab, and these are in my office.’ He laid out the photos showing scenes of computer monitors along with a couple of other machines John didn’t recognise. Rodney’s office was clearly rarely used as it was extremely tidy, unlike his study at home.
‘But, why?’ Rodney asked again.
Unfortunately, no-one had any answers for him.
An hour or so later, John gave Harry an update on what they’d discovered so far. The others were still looking through the laptop to see just what had been photographed. ‘I think I need to go down to the DSTL myself.
‘I agree. And I think you should take Rodney with you. No, hear me out,’ he said as John opened his mouth to argue. ‘Rodney will have the best idea if anything is missing or moved from where it should be, especially in his own office. Plus, no-one will ask any questions if he takes you in. You said they already know you as Tom Wilson, so you accompanying him won’t raise any eyebrows. He is a board member, after all.’
John considered this. It certainly made sense although he was very reluctant to take Rodney into possible danger. ‘Could I get Tony in as well do you think?’
‘If we give him some identification for a member of the MOD, probably. He’ll have to watch his accent, but I’ve noticed he’s becoming more British the longer he spends here. Give him a year and I doubt anyone could tell he’d spent most of his life in the States.’
John laughed. ‘He’s always picked up accents quickly. As a kid he was pretty much a Brit by the end of our summer hols. I’m sure he’ll manage to pass as at least mostly British. I’ll go and see what the twins can rustle up in terms of ID. See you later.’
Just after 4pm the MI5 pool car pulled up at the security cabin at DSTL. Rodney stuck his head out of the passenger window.
‘Dr. McKay with Tom Wilson and Anthony Gibbs.’
He didn’t even have chance to hand over the identification he’d collected from ‘Tom’ and ‘Tony’ before the guard waved him through.
‘Nice to see you back, Dr. McKay. Are you feeling better now?’
Belatedly, Rodney remembered that he’d supposedly been on sick leave. ‘Er, yes thanks, much better. I’ve just come to er, pick something up as I’ll be off for a few more days,’ and he coughed into his hand.
The guard gave him an odd look, but lifted the barrier for them to drive through.
‘What was that about?’ John demanded. ‘You can’t act for toffee, Rodney, and don’t try coughing again because that just yells ‘look at me with my fake cough’!’
‘I’d forgotten I was on sick leave. I was just trying to make it seem realistic.’
‘Yeah, don’t bother!’ advised Tony from the back seat. ‘It’s best to stick to the truth as far as you can and just make little adjustments as you need to.’
‘Thank you, Mr Gibbs,’ Rodney said sarcastically. ‘I can’t guess where you got that name from!’
Tony laughed. ‘I couldn’t resist it. And I know just how to act as Agent Gibbs.’
‘Except you’re not Agent Gibbs, you’re a mid level civil servant from the Ministry of Defence,’ John told him. ‘Both of you can stop acting. Just be yourselves as much as possible.’ John pulled up in front of a single story building. Okay, Rodney. This is your lab, isn’t it?
‘Why is it separate from the other buildings?’ Tony asked, looking around.
‘We occasionally use explosives in our work, so we’re well away from anywhere else just in case there’s an accident.’
‘I didn’t know that!’ John said in surprise.
‘Why should you?’ Rodney shrugged. ‘You don’t know most of what we do here and there’s no need to tell you. It’s all supposed to be top secret. One of our main objectives here is to design new weapons for the military. That sometimes means we use explosives, although most of our testing is done on the range a couple of miles away.’ He led them into his lab through an unlocked door.
There was no one there, which surprised Rodney as he’d been expecting the three lab techs to be there. ‘While the cat’s away and all that I suppose,’ he grumbled as he turned on the lights in his office, John just behind him. Tony was looking around the lab and was about to poke something when Rodney spotted him and yelled at him to stop as he hurried towards him.
‘Don’t touch anything! You have no idea what’s safe and what isn’t. I already told you we sometimes work with explosives.’
‘That’s not an explosive,’ Tony argued. ‘It’s a… well, I’m not sure what it is, but it’s not an explosive.’
Rodney was just about to argue back when he heard a curse from John who was still in his office. He spun around to see what was wrong but John called out first.
‘Don’t come any closer! Stay just where you are, or better still, make your way carefully outside.’
‘What?’ Rodney demanded, stepping towards his office, but this time John yelled.
‘Stop! Tony, grab him and get outside! Both of you!’
‘Now, Tony! Do as you’re told!’
It was clear John needed them to obey him, so Tony grabbed Rodney’s arm and began to drag him outside.
‘What? Tony, let go! Stop it! I need to—’ but Tony was insistent and he managed to get Rodney out of the building and away from the door. He gripped Rodney’s shoulders and shook him slightly.
‘Rodney! I don’t know what’s wrong, but John was every inch the Colonel in there and we need to do as he says. Stay here, well away from the building. If I have to tie you up or knock you out, I will!’
Rodney gazed at him in astonishment. Tony was clearly very serious, but he was extremely worried about John and what had happened inside.
‘John…’ he began brokenly.
‘I’ll see what I can do,’ Tony promised. ‘But Rodney, you have to do as he says. You have to.’
Rodney gave a small nod and took a few steps away from the low building. ‘Look after him, Tony. I don’t…’ but his voice broke.
Tony went back to the doorway and called out. ‘John? Rodney’s safe. Now, what is it? What’s happened?’
‘Some bastard’s put an explosive device in his office. It’s under his chair and looks like it has a compression detonator, similar to a landmine. If he’d sat down, then stood up, it would have gone off. I knocked the chair and I think I’ve primed it and started a timer of some sort.’
‘Can’t you just leave it and come out? There’s nothing in there more valuable than your life.’
‘It’s a compression detonator. If I stand up, it’ll go off.’
‘How long do you think you have?’ Tony pulled out his cell phone and began dialling Harry.
‘I don’t know. Not long I think.’
‘Harry? Tony here. John’s disturbed a bomb in Rodney’s office and thinks he’s started a timer,’ he said, trying to keep his voice low enough that Rodney couldn’t hear.
Jesus fucking Christ! I’ll get the bomb squad out, but they might not have time… No. The Royal Marines, John’s friend. They might be able to help. I’ll call everyone I can. Keep them safe, Tony.
‘Tony? What’s happening? Who was that on the phone?’ Rodney demanded.
‘I was talking to Harry. No! Stay where you are!’ he yelled suddenly as Rodney took a step towards him. Making a quick decision he ran over to Rodney, and grabbed him by the shoulders again. ‘Listen to me and do exactly what I tell you. Okay?’
Rodney nodded slowly, frightened by what was happening.
‘Someone’s put a bomb in your office and John thinks he’s primed it. No! Listen! He can’t move because he’s afraid the bomb will explode, but he needs to know you’re safe.’
‘Tony! Let me go! I need…I need…’ Tears ran down Rodney’s cheeks. ‘Let me go. I need to talk to him.’
‘No, Rodney. I can’t. John told me to keep you safe.’
‘What can we do?’ Rodney asked plaintively.
‘I…I don’t know, but we have to do as John says. He needs you to be safe. Will you stay here if I let you go? Promise?’
Rodney nodded and Tony slowly removed his hands, ready to grab Rodney again if he made a move, but instead he collapsed on the ground and put his head in his hands. ‘I can’t lose him, Tony. I can’t.’
Tony nodded, a massive lump in his throat. ‘I know, Rodney. I know. Now, stay here and I’ll go back and talk to him, but you must stay here, okay?’
Rodney moved his head which was still buried in his hands and Tony took that as a yes. He went back to the door to the lab and called out again.
‘I’ve called Harry and he’s sending help, but he doesn’t know how long it’ll take. Can you move the chair?’
‘I’m sitting on it, but if I move it, I’m worried the bomb will go off.’
‘Fuck it, John! I’m coming in!’ Tony said, with a look back at Rodney, still on the ground, but now watching him like a hawk. ‘Rodney, I’m going in but you have to stay there, understand?’
‘Yes, Tony. I will, I do, just…just tell him… tell him I love him.’
‘No need, Rodney. You can tell him yourself when he gets out,’ Tony said, trying for a jaunty tone but pretty certain it didn’t work. He shook his head and walked slowly into the lab again and positioned himself so he could see John who was sitting stock still in Rodney’s chair, while still being able to keep an eye on Rodney.
‘John?’ he said quietly, and John gave him a humourless smile.
‘Tony. You shouldn’t be in here. Get out and keep my Rodney safe.’
‘He’s promised to stay where he is, John. He understands he has to do as you say. Is there… is there anything I can do here?’
John shook his head, careful not to move the chair.
‘Is there anything here that might protect you from the blast?’ Tony asked, looking around the lab.
‘Not that I could get to before the explosion. What did Harry say?’
‘Just that he’s trying to get someone here as quickly as possible.’
John nodded again, his voice finally breaking. ‘I…I’ve really enjoyed working with you these last few days. I… I think we’ve made a great team together.’
The lump in Tony’s throat grew even larger, if that were possible. ‘Me…’ he coughed. ‘Me too. Though I thought you wanted me on Adam’s team?’
‘You’ll work well with Adam. He’s a good chap. Misses his wife.’
Tony nodded, lost for words now. There was nothing he could do to help his cousin, the man who’d been his best friend in their youth. Who would have undoubtedly become his best friend again.
‘You need to go now, Tony. Go and see how my Rodney is. And Tony? Look after him for me, won’t you? Tell him… tell him I love him.’
Tony nodded and stumbled out of the lab. Tears were now streaming down his cheeks and he somehow found himself in Rodney’s arms when he’d meant to take care of him. They clung on to each other desperately, trying to come up with a plan to save the man they both loved, but nothing came, so they simply clung on. Suddenly, there was a massive explosion which blew them both over. Alarms began ringing and people poured out of nearby buildings where windows had been blown out.
Belatedly, Tony realised he should have begun to evacuate the area, but he couldn’t find it in him to care about anyone else as he and Rodney simply clung to each other.
It wasn’t long before they were surrounded by people, some crying, others asking what was happening, but no-one knowing what to do. Tony managed to pull himself together enough to order people away from Rodney’s destroyed lab, declaring it was a crime scene and no-one must enter. Very shortly John’s friend, Evan Lorne, appeared at his side.
‘Tony isn’t it? What’s happened? Why are you here? Where’s John? Is he with you?’
‘Can you get your men to keep people away from the lab, or what’s left of it?’ Tony asked, and grabbing both Rodney’s arm and that of Major Lorne, he dragged them over to the MI5 car which was miraculously still in one piece although covered in dust and debris. He pushed Rodney into the back seat and followed him in, pulling him into a hug, leaving Major Lorne to get in the front.
‘Tony? What’s happened?’ Lorne asked.
‘There was a bomb in Rodney’s office. John triggered it and couldn’t keep it from going off.’
‘Jesus! Is… Was…?’
‘John was killed in the blast.’ Tony pressed Rodney’s face tight against his shoulder. ‘Thankfully there was no fire but it is a crime scene so we have to keep people away.’
‘I’ll get right on it,’ Lorne promised, and opened the car door. He was back within a couple of minutes and his gaze fell sadly upon Rodney. ‘I’m…I’m so sorry, Dr. McKay. John…John was one of the best.’
‘He was the best,’ Rodney growled, and Lorne just nodded.
‘Harry Pearce called me and said where you were and that you were in trouble, but he didn’t tell me what the problem was. I got here as soon as I could.’
‘You couldn’t have helped him if you’d got here any sooner,’ Tony replied bleakly. ‘John said the bomb was like a landmine. Once it was triggered, it was going to go off. You couldn’t have done anything.’
There was a knock on the car window, and one of Mitchell’s men stooped to peer in. Lorne opened the car door.
‘Don’t disturb me now, Stackhouse,’ he snapped. ‘Can’t you deal with it?’ He pulled the door closed.
Stackhouse, however, had other ideas, and opened the door again.
‘Major. Someone’s hurt. We need a medevac.’
‘What? Who’s hurt themselves? Do they need me to wipe their arses for them! If this—’
‘No, Major. Someone inside the building. Someone’s hurt and we need a medevac.’
There was only one person it could be inside the wrecked laboratory. Rodney pushed Tony out of the car, followed closely by Lorne. They went straight to where Stackhouse was pointing and saw a couple of the Royal Marines moving debris covering—
‘John!’ yelled Rodney, and stumbled across the wreckage towards his partner, Tony and Lorne on his heels.
John lay, blinking up at them, covered in dust and grime with small cuts from flying debris, but alive and smiling up at Rodney.
‘Hey, you!’ he managed to say, before being overcome by coughing.
‘Lie still, idiot!’ Rodney ordered, his tone belying his words, as he sank to his knees and touched John’s face tenderly. ‘I can’t believe you lived through that!’
Tony and Lorne appeared at his side and Rodney beamed up at them. ‘He’s alive!’
‘I’ve called for a medevac,’ Lorne told them. ‘They should be here in a few minutes.’
‘I don’t need a medevac,’ complained John, trying to sit up, but he fell back down as he tried to move his left arm. ‘Mmm. Think that might be broken.’
Rodney opened his mouth as though to tell him off but instead just beamed at him. ‘We thought you were dead.’
‘’M not dead yet!’ John said in a squeaky voice, making the others laugh.
‘Idiot!’ Rodney repeated fondly.
The sound of a helicopter arriving caught the attention of the many people still standing around watching and Lorne moved to clear them away from the site, making way for the medics to get to John.
‘We’re going to take you to the Royal Hospital at Gosport, sir,’ one of the medics told John as they gently loaded him onto a stretcher, Rodney grimly holding his right hand. ‘Sir, you need to let us move him,’ he told Rodney.
‘You can move him, but I’m not letting go. I’m staying with him,’ Rodney told him.
‘Sir!’ the medic protested, but Lorne stepped forward.
‘This is the Colonel’s partner and we all thought he was dead. Dr. McKay won’t get in your way, will you, Rodney?’
‘Dr.?’ asked the medic raising his eyebrows.
‘Not a medical one,’ Rodney replied shortly, eyes fixed on John. ‘Come on. We need to get him to hospital. And if you say you’re fine,’ he told John, who had opened his mouth, ‘I’ll…I’ll…well, I’ll do something!’ he threatened, but the tender note in his voice ensured John knew he was joking.
It took some manoeuvring, but they managed to load both John and Rodney – who refused to let go of John’s hand – and were able to take off. Tony and Lorne watched the helicopter leave, then turned to look at the ruined former laboratory.
‘We need to get a forensic team here,’ Tony noted absently as he and Lorne looked around. ‘And I have to phone Harry and tell him John’s alive.’ He shuddered as he spoke, remembering the desperation he’d felt when they thought John was dead, and despite not believing in a God or any other religious mumbo jumbo, he offered a small prayer of thanks to whichever deity might be listening.
Following a telephone conversation, Harry ordered Tony to go straight home to Holly Lodge, for which Tony was very grateful. He was still feeling emotional and wasn’t sure how he’d cope talking to anyone at Thames House. Holly Lodge would be bad enough, but he was so thankful he could tell them John was fine – hospitalised but fine – that he didn’t mind talking to just Ducky and the Zelenkas.
Tony wasn’t sure if he was insured to drive the MI5 car but decided that was a job for someone else to sort out if he were stopped by the police. Fortunately, the car was fitted with Sat. Nav. so he was able to get home without too many problems, although he’d never driven a right-hand drive car before.
By the time he got back home, he was exhausted, hungry and it was past eight o’clock. The others had already eaten, but Mrs Thompson made up a tray for him to eat in the sitting room in front of a log fire. Ducky and the Zelenkas knew about the explosion and John being alive, having been at Thames House when Tony called, but when Tony first arrived home no-one quite knew what to say although Ducky had given him a warm hug.
Just as he was finishing up his supper, the door opened and Harry Pearce came in.
‘I thought I’d call in and give you the latest news on John.’
‘How is the dear boy?’ Ducky demanded.
‘He’s doing well.’ Harry settled himself into an armchair. ‘He has a number of cuts and bruises but no serious injuries apart from a broken left arm and shoulder which is a miracle, really. He shoved the chair with the bomb into the main part of the lab and threw himself under Rodney’s desk. The bomb exploded in the lab but the desk and internal wall protected him from the worst of the damage. The entire building collapsed on him, which is what caused his injuries, and the blast knocked him out for a short while. Oh, thank you, Mrs Thompson.’ He broke off to accept the tray of supper Mrs Thompson brought for him and tucked in while she fetched a tray of tea and coffee for the others.
Ducky went to the drinks cabinet, pulled out a bottle of cognac and poured a glass for each of them. ‘I think we all need this,’ he said as he passed the glasses around.
Once Ducky was settled back in his chair with his own drink Harry continued, between mouthfuls.
‘The hospital are keeping John overnight, mostly because of the suspected concussion, but hope to release him tomorrow. Rodney, of course, is staying with him and we’ll send a car down for them when John is released. He’s been incredibly lucky. I looked at the photos of what was Rodney’s office and lab and I’m amazed he survived.’
‘We didn’t think he had for a while,’ Tony admitted. ‘Rodney and I were convinced he was dead. It was only when one of Major Lorne’s men saw something moving that we realised he was still alive, and man, I’ve never felt so relieved.’
‘Do you have any idea who may have placed the bomb, Sir Harry?’ asked Radek, his face still a little pale.
‘We’ve got the forensic people down there now, along with some men from the Royal Engineers’ bomb disposal unit. I would think it’ll be a couple of days until we have any firm information but the twins are going over the photos of the DSTL we pulled from Weir’s flat. We don’t think Weir placed the actual bomb, but we do think the photos were taken to help whoever did. We just need to work out who that was.’
‘Rodney was pretty sure Keller took some of the photos at least,’ Tony said, trying to recall just what Rodney had said.
‘Yes, I know, but unfortunately we will need to be able to provide proof if we want a conviction to stick,’ Harry replied. ‘Still, it’s a starting point and we’ll follow up on it, although we have to track Keller down before we can question her about anything. She appears to have vanished.’
‘What about our other two lab techs?’ Miko asked. ‘Tony said all three were missing when they arrived.’
‘Kavanagh and Lee were both at home. Apparently Keller told them that she’d spoken to you, Radek, and you’d said for them all to take some leave. We’ve no idea what happened to her, but it certainly suggests that she at least knew about the bomb.’
There was silence for a while as Harry finished his supper, and he eventually put his tray on the floor, whereupon Brian appeared to check nothing had been left. He’d been searching for his dads since Tony had arrived home and it seemed as though he understood something serious had happened as he wasn’t his usual boisterous self, but appeared content to lay by the door, waiting for them to come home. A lump came to Tony’s throat as he considered how even Brian would have been distraught had John really been killed. He cleared his throat and broke the silence.
‘What would you like me to do tomorrow, Harry?’
Harry looked surprised. ‘I hope you’ll be coming into work. We’re desperately short handed with Adam and his team away, and now John out of action for a while. I’m going to need you to lead the investigation into the bomb.’
Tony must have shown his surprise at this as Harry continued. ‘Frankly, even if John and Adam were available, I’d prefer you to handle this as you have the best experience with police investigations. John and Adam aren’t investigators, so your talents would make a good addition to our section. I’m minded to give you a team of your own if you do agree to stay with us. You’d lead any proper investigations that arise which would help tremendously, since at the moment we have to call on the Met to provide officers or even hand cases over to them if they need investigative skills we don’t have. I do hope you’ll seriously consider staying with us.’
Tony found himself both shocked and gratified at Harry’s words. He’d certainly been seriously thinking about John’s comments that he stay in England, but hadn’t realised Harry wanted him to stay for the skills he would bring to Section D. He’d rather assumed that Harry wanted him to stay as a favour to John, but this gave him a burst of such confidence as he’d rarely experienced. His eyes swept to Ducky, to gauge his reaction to Harry’s suggestion and found the ME had a wide smile on his face.
‘I think it’s a splendid idea, Anthony, and you should give it serious consideration. You’ve been unhappy at NCIS for a while and I know you’re concerned about what will happen now, after the contretemps of the last week. You have family here so won’t be all alone, so think about it, and perhaps discuss it with John.’
‘He’s not the only one I’m interested in working for us you know, Donald,’ Harry said to the older man. ‘I know you’re coming into Thames House tomorrow to continue the post mortem on Elizabeth Weir and I’m very grateful for that since usually a pathologist comes in from the Met on a case by case basis. It would be very useful for us to have our own, but more than that, you’re a profiler and since Zoe left we haven’t had our own in-house profiler. I’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us too. Your past service with us would make employing you a fairly simple process. I’ll have a look at terms and conditions tomorrow, and with the permission of you both, I’d like to draft a contract for each of you to look at. Obviously there’s no pressure, and I’ll fully understand if you do decide to go back to the States, but I would like you to consider what we can come up with.’
He stood and stretched. ‘And now I’m going to take my leave. It’s been a long day for all of us but at least we have some good news to go to bed with instead of the tragedy it might have been. Radek, Miko, I hope you’ll come into Thames House with Tony and Donald tomorrow. This house is very secure, but we’re not quite sure just what’s happening so I’d rather be safe than sorry. Goodnight, all, and goodnight, Brian.’ He bent and fussed the dog for a moment, then left to find his driver who was being fed and watered by Mrs Thompson.
For a while the only noise was the crackle of the logs in the grate. Eventually, Ducky stood and stretched. ‘I’ll say goodnight as well. It’s been a very tiring and emotional day.’
Radek and Miko followed quickly after him and soon it was just Tony and Brian in front of the fire. Tony sat for almost an hour thinking about the day’s events and Harry’s offer of employment, Brian asleep on his feet. At long length he stood. ‘Come on then, mutt. I guess you’re going to want to sleep on my bed since your dads aren’t here. How would you like me to stay in Britain? I could look after you when your dads want to go away somewhere. I think we’d both like that.’
Brian licked his hand and trotted after him upstairs. He liked this new member of his pack and his daddies were missing, as he knew sometimes happened. This time, though, he was a bit worried as all the other members of his pack were upset. Anyway, while his daddies were away somewhere, he’d stick with new Uncle Tony and make sure his feet were kept warm, just like he did with his daddies.
He did hope they’d be back soon though.
They’d taken John for x-rays and an MRI scan and wouldn’t allow Rodney to go with him. He understood that, really he did but it was awfully difficult to be separated from John even for an hour after what had happened. Thankfully, the staff at the hospital were happy to allow Rodney to stay with John. He’d been a little concerned they wouldn’t permit him to stay, but both John’s military and MI5 files showed Rodney as next of kin as well as his medical proxy even though that term wasn’t particularly used in England, and neither had legal status. It had never been a problem previously as neither men had been hospitalised, but it did now give Rodney the authority to be there and to be consulted about John’s injuries and treatment.
He was very grateful for the private room John had been given due to his concussion and the likelihood of noise on the main ward and, as he sat waiting for John to return, Rodney finally allowed his thoughts to return to the DSTL and the blast he’d thought had killed John, and he shuddered. It was, without doubt, the worst few minutes of his life and how strange was it, that it had been just minutes between the blast and discovering John was still alive, when it felt like a lifetime.
More than that, he’d had to ask Tony to tell John he loved him as he’d never actually said those words to the most important person in his life. Rodney made a vow then, in a hospital room waiting for his injured boyfriend to return, and he vowed to tell John that he loved him at the first possible opportunity. Even if John couldn’t say the same words back at him, he needed to tell John, to actually say ‘I love you’.
Before long John was returned to his room, his left arm in a cast and strapped to his chest to keep his shoulder immobile. He offered Rodney a faint grin, but his face was pale and etched with lines of tiredness, and probably with pain as an anaesthetic was impractical due to possible concussion. Once he’d been transferred – very carefully – to his bed, Rodney moved back to his side and clutched his hand.
‘Hey, you,’ John whispered, just as he had back at the DSTL.
‘Hey, you,’ Rodney repeated quietly but said nothing more while the nurses were busy setting up various pieces of equipment. ‘Did they do the x-rays? And the MRI?’
John started to nod, but screwed his eyes up in pain as he moved his head. Rodney put his free hand gently on John’s cheek.
‘Don’t move your head,’ he ordered. ‘Blink instead – one for yes, two for no.’
John blinked once and smiled a little. ‘Love you,’ he managed to whisper, and Rodney gazed at him in shock, not sure if he’d heard properly. ‘Love you,’ John repeated and Rodney felt tears sting his eyes.
‘I love you too, John Fitz-Sheppard, but I’ve been too stubborn and selfish to actually say it. I had to ask Tony to tell you for me earlier because I’d never said it to you.’
‘I did too,’ John whispered. ‘I asked him to tell you. We’re idiots, aren’t we?’
Rodney leaned over and pressed a soft kiss to John’s mouth. ‘Yeah, but I still love you.’
It was a mutual decision to let Ducky drive into Thames House the following morning. Tony would have driven if he’d had to but he knew Ducky was an excellent driver and was used to a right-hand drive car. Tony bagged shotgun leaving Radek and Miko to occupy the back and Ducky made short work of the morning traffic and pulled into the parking garage beneath Thames House at a little before nine o’clock, which was actually a late start for all of them.
‘Anthony and I are supposed to be on holiday,’ Ducky explained to Miko and Radek.
Best holiday I’ve ever had! Tony thought to himself.
It was, however, strange to enter the Grid without John at his side, but he escorted Miko and Radek through to Harry’s office where they would be able to work in peace. Harry had moved himself to the small conference room for the day and he looked perfectly comfortable, papers spread about him, when Tony went in to see what his instructions were for the day. Ducky had disappeared to the pathology lab which was in the basement of the building, making it easier to bring bodies in and out Tony had supposed when he left Ducky there.
‘Hi, Boss,’ Tony greeted Harry who looked up in surprise.
‘Does this mean you’ve thought about my proposal?’
‘Oh, sorry, no. That is, yes I’m thinking about it but I’d like to have another chat with John before I make my decision, if you don’t mind?’
‘Take your time. You need to be sure this is what you want before you go burning any bridges, and speaking of burning bridges, take a seat will you? I want to discuss your, hopefully, erstwhile colleagues with you.’
Raising his eyebrows, Tony sat down opposite his potential new employer. ‘Ziva causing you problems? Are you still going to deport her?’
‘We have a couple of options which I wanted to run past you,’ Harry told him, sorting through one of the piles of papers in front of him. ‘One option, of course, is that we simply put her on a plane for Tel Aviv, but we wouldn’t gain anything by doing just that, so I’ve looked at a couple of other options.
‘We did consider allowing her to escape, as I think I mentioned to you, but you made an extremely valid point that she could just disappear and we’d have an angry Mossad agent, who is possibly also a member of a Kidon unit, on the loose in Great Britain.’
‘A Kidon unit?’ Tony frowned. ‘I don’t think I’ve come across that name before.’
‘It’s an extremely secret division of Mossad which is only rumoured to exist, although I have met one or two of their members in my time,’ Harry explained. ‘It’s a unit that specialises in assassination.’
‘Well, we’ve always joked about Ziva being an assassin, in fact she almost boasts about it herself.’
‘Which is one reason we’re not too sure if she actually is one. Most assassins tend to keep a very low profile, to blend in as much as possible so as not to draw attention to themselves. David is quite boastful, as you say. I don’t doubt for a moment she is a very skilled killer, but I’m not certain she’s a member of a Kidon Unit and nor do other colleagues I’ve spoken to about her.’
‘Plus, she’s the daughter of the head of Mossad, which already gives her quite a high profile I suppose,’ Tony agreed. ‘On the other hand, she did kill her brother. That’s pretty cold blooded.’
‘Half-brother, but yes, it is cold-blooded, but she killed for a purpose; to gain her admittance to the Major Crimes…’
‘Major Case Response Team,’ Tony supplied.
‘Thank you. It gained her admittance to your team, and while your colleague Gibbs obviously already knew she killed her half-brother, I was watching his face when Jack challenged her about acting on her father’s orders and he was surprised at that, very surprised, and possibly shocked that he’d been taken in by her. Your director, however, was not surprised, merely uncomfortable I suspect, that this was now known to all in that room.’
Tony nodded thoughtfully. ‘Do have any idea yet why Shepard allowed herself to be used like that?’
‘We don’t know for sure but I’ve been asking a few questions, both from colleagues here in London and also from people I know in Washington. Put together with the information we’ve had from yourself and McGee, we think it’s possible Shepard believes Eli David can provide her with information concerning her father.’
‘Her father? What’s her father got to do with anything?’
‘Jasper Shepard was an Army colonel who committed suicide in 1992 after being accused of involvement in the selling of decommissioned Soviet weapons due to be destroyed. He was part of a group who went out to Moscow shortly after the Soviet Union imploded to supervise the destruction, but was later accused of accepting bribes from an arms dealer: a Rene Benoit—’
‘Whose daughter Shepard wanted me to get close to,’ Tony finished. ‘I was always suspicious of that undercover gig she tried to get me to take. There’d be no back-up at all for me and I didn’t like the sound of it at all. Did she want to get revenge on him or something, for bribing her father?’
‘She didn’t believe her father was guilty. After his body was discovered and the post mortem concluded that he’d committed suicide, she fought against the decision. She argued for a long time that her father was innocent, but once the situation regarding the weapons was fully investigated it was clear her father was as bent as a nine bob note.’
The look of incomprehension on Tony’s face made Harry grin.
‘He was guilty of taking bribes, Tony, not gay! Have you ever seen her house in Georgetown? She inherited it from her father although she does have a sister so it’s perhaps shared ownership. It’s practically a mansion, yet her father was an army colonel and there was no family money to speak of. How on earth could he afford such a house on an army salary? In the end it was proved, pretty conclusively, that he did accept bribes, which I suppose makes his suicide understandable.’ He paused to take a drink of water.
‘It’s our belief that Eli David had proof that her father was guilty and essentially blackmailed her to allow his daughter to work for NCIS to enable her to pass information back to Israel. Alternatively, he might have claimed to have proof her father was innocent, with David being employed by NCIS etc. etc. Your SecDef has had people searching the NCIS computer systems and it appears David has copied a number of Top Secret files and presumably passed them on to daddy dearest. He’s furious that a foreign agent was given full access to NCIS systems, and that’s enough to get Shepard fired, but being complicit in espionage pretty much guarantees her a jail sentence when she gets back to the USA.’
’So what’ll happen to her and Ziva?’
‘Your SecDef wants Shepard returned in chains, but we’re minded to let her go and see where she leads us to in London. We’ve decided to keep David locked up – largely based on your advice – but we’ll permit Shepard to see her if she asks. We’ll watch her closely if we let her go and we’ll make sure she’s marked with one of those 24 hour tracker thingies the twins have come up with.
‘Now, would you mind taking the lead on the investigation into Weir’s death, please? Ronon and Teyla will work with you and are happy to follow your orders, but don’t hesitate to ask if you need extra help or aren’t sure of our protocols. The twins will happily look into whatever you need them to. I’m afraid we can’t give you full access to our systems as you’re still an agent for a foreign power, but the twins will do what you ask. Are you happy with that?’
It was an enormous amount of information to take in, but Tony nodded and accepted Harry’s final words as a dismissal. He took his leave and went to hunt out a cup of coffee and mull over what he’d just been told.
It was clear he’d managed to avoid a massive, steaming pile of crap by refusing to accept Shepard’s undercover job and was glad she wasn’t going to be able to foist it onto poor McGee. He made a mental note to try and have a word with his probie before they went back to the US, although he didn’t really want to talk to Gibbs, despite what he’d assumed was their previous friendship. That needed thinking over, and possibly a further discussion with Ducky, but he couldn’t help but smile over Gibbs’ reaction if both he and Ducky decided to stay in the UK. Gibbs’d be positively furious at them both, but really, after the way he’d treated them before and after his Mexican siesta, he had only himself to blame.
And with that cheery thought, Tony went to find his two new minions, although he’d better not call them that to their faces. They both looked as though they could kick his ass!
Shepard and David were back in the police cells where they’d spent their first night in England and Shepard could hear Ziva ranting and raving from the cell next to hers which was distracting her from trying to work out just what had gone wrong since they’d landed in Buckinghamshire. She’d needed to get Ziva into the UK with no questions being asked and had then planned to go and get DiNozzo from the country house where he was staying before heading to London where Ziva had a meeting with a contact of her father. It should have been a straight in and out mission but everything had gone wrong as soon as they got to that house, which was clearly all DiNozzo’s fault. How dare he allow himself to be hired by the British! She needed him to go undercover to get her revenge on Benoit for killing her father. It was what she’d spent over ten years planning and she wasn’t going to be stopped by a two-bit Italian cop!
Shepard walked up and down in the small cell while she tried to think through the rest of her plans for her time in Britain. It was essential Ziva got to the meeting Eli David had set up otherwise he’d never release those papers proving her father’s innocence to her. After she’d got them it might be a good idea to persuade Ziva to give up her allegiance to Eli and work for her at NCIS instead. Ziva must know Eli didn’t care for her, only for what she could do to help him gain more power in Israel. Shepard nodded. Yes. She must make Ziva work for her and then she’d have her own personal killing machine. She liked that idea and began to make a mental list of the people she might let Ziva kill for her.
The young police constable who’d been ordered to keep an eye on the prisoners in the cells was curious about the well-dressed American lady in cell six. She was very quiet, although clearly upset at being locked up which he thought was understandable. He was more than a little concerned about her, though, as Sarge had said they had to be watched as they were very dangerous, although Sarge had been tight lipped about why they’d been locked up. She didn’t look dangerous, just sitting there, not like the other one who’d thrown her meal tray against the wall and threatened to kill them all with a plastic fork. He was worried about the older one especially since she’d begun talking to herself, even though Sarge told him it was just pretend and she was trying to get them to let her go. Young Vince didn’t agree. A nicely dressed lady like her couldn’t be dangerous, but Sarge had said to watch them so Vince carefully wrote down that she’d been talking to herself and nodding as though somebody was answering her, then went to put the kettle on for Sarge’s morning tea.
Shepard was finally released at lunchtime on Friday 4th November, two days after being locked up. There was no explanation, no apology and no Ziva released with her. She was permitted to see Ziva, however since the younger woman was still furious it was difficult to hold a conversation. She agreed to pay a visit to one of Eli David’s contacts on Ziva’s behalf, but only to say Ziva would be in touch as soon as she could. Shepard wasn’t very happy about being kept in the dark, thus she had little choice but to accept it and promise to do her best to get Ziva released.
Neither woman considered their conversations could be overheard or even observed; just one of their many mistakes and assumptions. Harry Pearce smiled grimly as he watched them converse, their every word recorded, and when he nodded to one of his younger operatives to follow Shepard to wherever she was going, there was no indication from her that she even suspected she was being followed. Harry tried to remember who had suggested she was either stupid or arrogant: here was the proof she was probably both.
They’d discussed the chances of getting Shepard to take one of the MI5 black cabs which were fully set up for surveillance. The twins didn’t think she’d be foolish enough to get into a cab waiting right outside the police station she’d been held in, but Tony thought it was worth a shot.
‘I’m not aware of us having such a thing in the US although it’d certainly be a good idea, especially in DC. Maybe the Feebs have some but I’ve never heard of any. She’s arrogant enough not to think she might be under surveillance so it’s worth a shot.’
As Shepard disappeared in the back of an MI5 cab followed by Phil Green, Harry’s young agent, in a second one, Harry climbed into his chauffeur-driven car and nodded to his driver to take him back to Thames House.
Ruth was already following Shepard via the hidden cameras when Harry got back to the Grid and she smiled as he slid into a seat next to her.
‘She hasn’t changed taxis, changed directions, or done anything to suggest she might be trying to lose a tail. She’s either—’
‘Stupid or arrogant, yes, several people have suggested that.’ He watched the screen for a while. ‘Where do you think she’s going?’
‘Weir’s flat, I think,’ Ruth frowned. ‘Did we know they knew each other?’
‘We weren’t aware they did, but David asked Shepard to pay a visit to a contact of her father’s. She didn’t give a name, just an address, but I recognised it straight away. All we need to do now is work out why David would be visiting Weir, although we did suspect that Weir and Eli David were in contact with each other. This just proves our theory that they were, but not why.’
‘Her taxi’s stopped opposite Weir’s flat and Shepard’s got out and is walking towards the apartment block,’ Ruth reported, even though Harry could see the screen if he shifted sideways a little. ‘Green’s taxi’s driven past and he’ll probably get it to turn around somewhere. She’s crossed the road and tried to get into the building… She’s in.’ Ruth turned to Harry who had leaned back in his chair and was watching her with a smile. ‘What?’ she demanded, but he just smiled a bit more, while she flushed and turned back to the screen.
‘Right, she’s back out again, obviously they’ve told her she can’t go up to Weir’s flat – are you still keeping her death a secret?’ Ruth turned to Harry again, who managed to stop smiling and sit up straight.
‘Yes, for the moment. The doorman has been instructed to tell any visitors asking for her that she’s away from home and to take a name and a message if possible.’
‘So what will Shepard do now?’
‘She’s been told to get herself and her agents on a plane for the US tonight. We’ve got the information we wanted from her, that David had been ordered to contact Weir, although we did suspect she might have been meeting…someone else.’
Ruth gave him a sharp look but said nothing.
‘We just want them gone now,’ Harry finished.
‘Will be on a plane back to Tel Aviv tonight and will be marked persona non grata in our records. She won’t be allowed back into the UK with her own face again. If she manages to be smuggled in some way and we catch her, she’ll be arrested for terrorist offences and locked up. We know she’s willing to kill just about anyone who gets in her way. We don’t want that sort of person running around Britain unchecked and neither do the Americans. They’re going to mark her in a similar way, so she won’t be going back to NCIS despite what she might think.’
‘And whatever she wanted with Weir?’
Harry shrugged. ‘We may never know. She can’t have killed Weir herself as she was locked up most of the time, and we have possession of everything left in Weir’s flat after the killer or killers had searched it. We can only assume they took whatever they wanted and until we catch them we’ve no idea of what it actually was.’
‘Until we catch them?’
‘Donald Mallard had found various bits of stuff we might be able to use to get a DNA match and with Tony now investigating the flat, we may get some more.’
‘Stuff?’ Ruth repeated, and laughed.
‘Technical description,’ Harry explained, shamelessly. ‘He sent some samples off last night so we’ll hopefully get a result back later today or tomorrow.’
‘And do we have any other leads?’
‘We have a few people who would have had the opportunity and possibly a motive for killing her, but outside of that, we’ll search the databases and keep our fingers crossed. Now, I didn’t get any lunch and I’m starving. How about we go and grab a sandwich somewhere?’ Harry tried to keep his hope from showing too clearly on his face, realising that if he wanted a relationship with Ruth, he’d have to move very carefully, but to his great pleasure – and surprise – she smiled at him and agreed.
Harry was a gentleman from his head to his feet, but as he motioned for her to leave the Grid before him, he couldn’t help the megawatt smile on his face.
It wasn’t quite a celebratory homecoming for John on Saturday afternoon, but it wasn’t far off. Mrs Thompson had been baking and had made some of his favourite treats – lemon curd tarts and Yorkshire parkin – and had made a steak and kidney pudding for dinner. Harry, Tony, Donald and Radek were waiting at the door and when John looked around for Miko, Radek explained that she’d been invited to go and stay with their nanny’s mother, where Meredith was being kept safe, for the weekend.
‘I’m sorry I can’t let you go home yet, Radek, but until we’re sure we’ve got all the people hunting for you two and Rodney, I’d rather be safe than sorry,’ Harry told him.
Radek nodded, a mixture of understanding and resignation on his face.
‘So we’re a bachelor household now, are we?’ John asked, looking around the sitting room where he’d been settled on a sofa by Rodney, Brian cuddled up next to him while Rodney settled himself on the floor.
‘Yeah, but no strippers or drinking games,’ Tony told him. ‘We’ve only just got you repaired.’
‘And what am I?’ Rodney demanded. ‘Scotch mist?’ And when John looked at him in surprise, he sighed. ‘Hello? Boyfriend here, which means you? Not a bachelor, unless there’s something you want to tell me?’
In reply, John reached out his good arm, grabbed him around the neck and pulled him close. ‘There’s only one thing I want to tell you—’
‘Okay, no, just… no,’ Tony interrupted. ‘Get a room, for heaven’s sake!’
‘Oh, stop it. I just want to tell my boyfriend that I love him, okay? Am I allowed to do that?’ John glared at his cousin.
‘The pair of you can stop arguing right now!’ Donald told them both in a stern voice. ‘Sit down and behave or there’ll be no tarts for anyone!’
The other five men stared at him for a few seconds, then all burst out laughing. Donald glared at them, then realised what he’d said and joined in the laughter, which was enough to put any quarrelling between Tony and John aside. Tony put his hand on John’s good shoulder in an unspoken apology and John smiled up at him and nodded.
‘So what did I miss?’ he asked when everyone was settled with tea and cakes.
‘Well, we still haven’t found Jennifer Keller yet, and she’s our favourite for having actually planted the bomb, although we doubt she made it.’
‘What makes you think that?’ Rodney frowned.
‘Well, it’s generally men who make bombs…’Harry began, taken by surprise at Rodney’s question.
‘And that’s your only reason?’
‘You do know how easy it is to build a bomb?
‘You could probably get the instructions via Google these days. It was much more difficult before the advent of the internet. I had to search the local library when I made my first bomb.’
There was an acute silence in the room before John asked, hesitantly; ‘Your first bomb?’
Rodney twisted his neck to look up at him. ‘Yeah, my first bomb. I made a nuclear bomb for my science project when I was eleven. A non-working one,’ he added at the looks of horror he was getting from everyone except Donald. ‘I thought you knew,’ he told John. ‘It’s why I got sent to Aunt Victoria. I was sure I told you.’
‘No, Rodney, you never told you made a nuclear bomb when you were eleven years old! I might have remembered that!’
‘Umm, what happened after you made it?’ Tony asked. ‘You said you got sent to your aunt. Was that your punishment? Being sent to Ducky’s mum?’
‘Don’t be stupid. I wanted to come to live with my aunt. At least she wanted me!’
John squeezed Rodney’s shoulder. He knew just how much it had hurt him, being pretty much abandoned by his parents after they handed him over to his aunt. It was rare he ever spoke about it but it obviously still hurt.
‘And the bomb?’ Tony asked.
‘The CIA turned up at my school and wanted to talk to me and my parents. They weren’t terribly happy but there wasn’t much they could do since it was a non-working model. I couldn’t get hold of any uranium,’ he told them, as though that explained everything. ‘They did suggest to my parents they keep a better eye on me since they hadn’t noticed what I was making in the garage. That meant having to actually speak to me though or even take an interest in what I was doing, so they looked for a boarding school instead. Luckily, my mother must have mentioned it to my Aunt Victoria and she suggested I come to Britain and go to Donald’s old school which she said coped very well with gifted children and so,’ he shrugged, ‘I came to England and never saw them again.’
John had known most of Rodney’s history with his late unlamented parents, but explained like this, in such a matter of fact way, it almost broke his heart. He hugged Rodney to him and kissed what he could reach of his head. ‘Best idea they ever had,’ he told Rodney. ‘Their loss was definitely my gain.’
After a short, uncomfortable silence, Rodney spoke once more. ‘That’s a long-winded way of saying Keller could have easily made the bomb herself.’
‘And the two men Weir met?’ Tony asked.
Rodney shrugged. ‘May have nothing to do with this, I don’t know. I’m a scientist, not an MI5 officer. That’s your job.’
‘Thank you, Rodney,’ Harry cut in. ‘That’s actually very helpful. We’re still looking for Keller and the two men Weir met. It’s possible they supplied Keller with the materials she’d need, but until we get the report back from forensics we don’t know just what the bomb was made of or how it was made. However,’ he paused and sipped his tea, ‘we released Shepard yesterday and allowed her to see David briefly. David ordered her to visit someone her father had wanted her to meet and, as we had half suspected, it was Elizabeth Weir. Shepard went to her flat but was told Weir was away so she returned to the hotel Gibbs and McGee were staying in. She’d been told to leave the country last night, but they weren’t able to arrange a military flight so quickly so they’ll be leaving first thing in the morning. David was flown to Tel Aviv earlier today, but as yet we haven’t heard anything from our agent there.
‘We had hoped Weir might be asked by David to visit Oliver Mace, but that was probably too much to hope for. It doesn’t mean we’ve ruled him out of being a part of all this as we most certainly haven’t, but until we get some more concrete evidence, we can’t do much about him. I think that just about brings you up to date, John.’
‘Thanks, Harry. How’s Adam getting on?’
‘He’s fine and they’re making some slow progress. I’m very glad we’ve got Tony here to help out, otherwise I’d have had to ask for help from the Met.’
‘And we all know how much you enjoy doing that!’ John grinned at him.
‘We’ve also had some very valuable help from Donald,’ Harry told him, smiling at Donald. ‘He’s done the post mortem on Elizabeth Weir and has discovered one or two things which might help us to identify her killer, but again, we’re waiting for the results. Rodney, can’t you get some of your people working on faster forensic tests? DNA tests can take up to three days, more if the lab has other priorities.’
Rodney looked surprised. ‘I’ll certainly look into it. I have a number of chemists working for me. I’ll make sure to speak to them about it.’
‘Thank you,’ Harry said. ‘Having Donald do our PM has helped tremendously and has moved the case on much faster than usual, even with having to wait for results. I’m minded to speak with the Chairman about MI5 having its own labs. If Donald does decide to stay, we’ll be creating a mortuary lab for him, but I think having our own forensics lab would also be useful.’
John looked over to both his cousin and Rodney’s cousin. ‘Have you both thought any more on Harry’s offer?’
‘Harry gave us both draft contracts to look at last night,’ Tony told him. ‘I’d appreciate you looking over it, John, if you don’t mind, but unless you can find anything that says I have to hand over my first born child or something, I’ll be staying on with you.’
John grinned at his cousin and offered his congratulations while Harry’s face was one great smile. Even Radek, who wouldn’t be affected by Tony’s decision, looked pleased.
‘I, too, have decided to end my working career where it began.’ Donald smiled at them all. ‘I shall bring Mother back to continue to live with me and I suspect she will be extremely happy to have all her family around her again,’ and he nodded at Rodney who flushed in pleasure at being recognised as family.
Harry left shortly after their discussion and Rodney chivvied John upstairs for a nap. John complained that he didn’t need a nap, then agreed to it if Rodney joined him, leaving just Tony, Ducky and Radek in the sitting room. Radek and Ducky had become good friends during the week they’d spent together and Tony half listened to their conversation while he rested his eyes a little.
Tony was awakened from a deep sleep when Jim, one of the house guards, knocked on the sitting room door.
‘Sorry to disturb you, Mr Tony, but there’s an American man at the security gate asking to speak to you and Dr Mallard.’
Tony rubbed his eyes, trying to wake himself up. ‘Who is it?’
‘It’s a Mr Gibbs, sir.’
This took Tony by surprise and he wondered for a moment if he were still dreaming as he couldn’t work out why Gibbs needed to speak to him. In the meantime Ducky also appeared in the doorway.
‘I heard someone mention Jethro’s name. Is there a problem, Anthony?’
Jim cleared his throat. ’The gate security called to say a Mr Gibbs has arrived and he says he needs to speak to you, urgently. He claims to work with you both, but Sir Harry didn’t mention any visitors.’
By this point Radek had emerged from the library asking what the problem was.
Ducky took control of the situation. ‘Everyone into the sitting room and keep your voices down. I don’t want John or Rodney disturbed.’
He herded Jim and Radek towards Tony. ‘Now, Jim, what is the problem?’
‘There’s an American at the main gate asking to speak with yourself and Mr Tony but Sir Harry didn’t tell us anyone was expected and we don’t know if we should admit him or not.’
’Send him up to the house. I am prepared to accept responsibility for his admittance should Sir Harry question your actions.’
Jim looked a little wild eyed. ‘Yessir. I’ll get him sent here. Right away, sir.’
Jim disappeared to speak to the gatehouse while Tony, wide awake by this time, wondered where Gibbs had got a car from and if he was driving as fast as he did at home.
Not going to be home for much longer. As he thought this, he realised he didn’t care but, rather, was looking forward to his new life in Great Britain.
Gibbs finally arrived and stepped into the hall where Tony and Ducky were waiting, Radek having disappeared back into the library with a small smile of apology. Tony didn’t blame him for making himself scarce and wondered for a moment if he should join him and leave Ducky to handle Gibbs, then decided that was cowardly so he stood with Ducky and watched Gibbs close the door.
‘I’m not here to cause trouble,’ Gibbs told them, holding his hands up in front of himself, ‘I just wanted to talk.’
‘Then talk away,’ Tony said, leaning back against the doorframe to the sitting room.
‘Anthony,’ Ducky chided gently, and stepped forward. ‘Come into the sitting room, Jethro, and sit down. I don’t want the pair of you waking John and Rodney.’
With poor grace, Tony stepped aside and followed Ducky and Gibbs to sit down.
‘So?’ Tony asked when they were all comfortably seated. ‘What do you want?’
‘Anthony!’ Ducky said again, frowning at him. ‘What did you wish to discuss, Jethro?’
Gibbs regarded them both and sighed. ‘I wanted to apologise for my behaviour after I came back from Mexico.’ He paused when Tony and Ducky looked at him in surprise. ‘Yeah, I know. Broke one of my own rules. Happens sometimes. Still, I treated you badly, Tony, and I’m sorry. I didn’t know Jenny wanted you to go undercover for her. Glad you didn’t do it. There was no back up and it wasn’t even an official case she wanted you on. Turns out she’s had a bee in her bonnet about her father’s death for years and she never let it go.’
‘She also tried to get McGee to do it when I came to the UK with Ducky,’ Tony reminded him. ‘He’d never’ve lasted a day, and she didn’t care.’
Gibbs flinched. ‘Yeah, I know. I’ve told him to come to me if she tries that again, although I get the feeling she won’t be Director for much longer.’
‘I doubt she will,’ Ducky told him. ‘She kept a number of things from the Secretary of Defence, including this little trip of hers to England. I suspect there will be another name on the Director’s door before very long.’
Gibbs nodded. ‘I didn’t know Ziva had been ordered to kill Ari by her father either. Felt a bit of a fool when she admitted it, but…,’ he shrugged. ‘We’re returning home tomorrow. Will you be coming with us?’
The way he asked made Tony think he already knew the answer and just wanted it confirmed. Tony and Ducky looked at each other then Ducky spoke gently.
‘We have both decided to accept the offers of employment MI5 have made to each of us. It means we will be close to what little family we each have left, and I expect Mother will be happy to return to the country of her birth.’
‘I thought your mother was Scotch, Ducky,’ Gibbs tried to joke, failing miserably.
‘We drink scotch; people born in Scotland are Scottish,’ Ducky told him with a small smile. ‘However, Mother was born in London, she only moved to Edinburgh when she married my father.’
‘And you, Tony? What family do you have here?’
‘My cousin John, who you saw the other day. He’s a former Royal Marine and a Senior Case Officer for MI5. His father, my uncle, lives near York on the family estate which is close to the Paddington estate. Uncle Patrick’s older sister was my grandmother who married into the Paddington family which is what my mother was before she married my father,’ Tony explained, saying more than he’d intended, as he was shocked at the sight of Gibbs both apologising and trying to make a joke. ‘You should come and visit when you take some leave,’ he found himself saying.
Gibbs gave a small laugh. ‘I may do that.’
He stood and looked around awkwardly. ‘I didn’t know this was an MI5 secure location. I also have no idea why you’d need a secure location but I’ll leave that story for when I see you next. You’ll be coming ho… back to DC to pack, I guess?’
They both nodded.
‘We need to discuss with SecNav when we can officially be released,’ Tony explained. ‘I’m seconded at the moment and I have no idea how it’ll all be worked out, but I’ll be back to close up my flat at least.’
‘And I will have to arrange to sell my house and find one here for Mother and myself,’ Ducky added.
Gibbs nodded and held out his hand. ‘It’s been a pleasure working with you, Tony.’
‘And with you, Jethro.’ Tony clasped his former boss’s hand. ‘I learnt a huge amount from you. Thank you. Take care of McGee for me, will you? Don’t let my probie do anything I wouldn’t do.’
They both laughed nervously and Ducky held his hand out, too.
When the door finally closed behind Gibbs, Tony leaned back against it, sighing. ‘Well, that went slightly better than I thought it might. At least he’s not still mad at me.’
Ducky patted his shoulder and gave him a reassuring smile. ‘I suspect he was never ‘mad’ with you but rather frustrated with himself for the gaps in his memory. Then when he returned from Mexico he was trying to prove Ziva innocent of murder, which as it turns out was rather ironic.’
Tony nodded thoughtfully.
‘Are you regretting the decision you’ve made already?’ Ducky asked.
‘Not at all, I’ve just never seen Gibbs so…so quiet before. And he’s now lost two of his team, along with you and most likely his boss. Who do’y’ think will be the next director?’
Ducky laughed. ‘Maybe Gibbs himself?’
A relaxing weekend was what they all needed. There was no work, no excitements, and though Radek was missing both Miko and Meredith, they enjoyed their all male time together.
‘It’s not that I don’t like having women around, because I do, quite a lot,’ Tony explained. ‘It’s just…nice to be able to relax amongst family and not have to watch what you say or do.’
Radek flushed a little in pleasure at being included as ‘family’ and Rodney nodded in agreement.
‘I know it’s different for John and me, obviously, but I agree. It was one of the things I found most difficult when I went to Cambridge. I’d been use to an all male environment for seven years, and it was weird suddenly having girls, women, all around. I just never knew what to say to them, although Captain Kirk over there had no problems whatsoever!’
‘When did you two actually start going out?’ Tony asked curiously, as John lazily flicked two fingers up at McKay.
‘Well, we were friends right from the start.’ John smiled at Rodney. ‘We met on our first day at Eton and were best friends from the very first day. It helped, I suppose, that we had very similar timetables, both very much science oriented and belonged to the same hobbies clubs and such. We both read maths at Cambridge too and chose the same College, although for very different reasons. We were still just friends then, although we did most things together. It was only when Rodney came back from MIT with his first PhD that we started seeing each other as more than just friends.’
‘I came back to the UK because I missed him,’ Rodney explained, a reminiscent smile on his lips. ‘He was in the Royal Marines by that point and since he was based in Scotland I chose to do my second PhD at Edinburgh.’
‘Where I did my medical training,’ Donald added. ‘It’s a lovely place to study and live. I thoroughly enjoyed my six years there.’
By Monday morning, John was ready to go back to work.
‘The doctor told you to rest for a few days,’ Rodney told him crossly. ‘What part of rest do you not understand?’
‘I have rested – for a couple of days.’
‘You were blown up and you had a concussion.’
‘But I’m fine now. Rodney, you know I’ll go stir-crazy if I have to sit around doing nothing for a few days.’
Rodney sighed. He did understand, but John didn’t understand just how it had felt for him. Believing John dead, that he’d never see him again.
He felt an arm snake around his neck and a forehead press against his, a pair of lips brushing against his lips.
‘I do understand, Rodney,’ John said very quietly, as though he’d actually read Rodney’s thoughts. ‘I thought I’d never get the chance to tell you myself how much I love you, how much you mean to me.’
Rodney relaxed against him, arms curling around John’s shoulders, holding him tightly. ‘I thought you were dead. I had no idea what…’ his voice broke.
John just held him close with his one good arm until the shaking ceased. ‘I know, baby,’ he whispered. ‘I know.’
‘I’m just not sure I can go through that again. I really don’t know how, or even if, I can live without you.’
Lips brushed against his once more. ‘I do understand, but you have to understand that I need to see this operation through. I need for it to be tied up, with all the people who want to hurt you locked away. Once that’s done, we’ll talk again and decide together what we want to do. Okay?’
Rodney nodded and buried his face in John’s shoulder, afraid to let him go just yet. John clearly understood this since he held Rodney close to him, close enough that Rodney could feel both their hearts beating, and it gave him the strength to let go. As long as both their hearts were still beating, preferably close together, they’d be alright.
He made Donald and Tony promise to keep an eye on John, and to make him take a rest if they thought he looked tired, and to stop him from doing anything dangerous.
‘How you expect us to be able to that, I have no idea,’ Tony grumbled. ‘As he keeps telling us, he’s a Royal Marine, and I swear they have most of their self-preservation removed when they sign up or join up or whatever it is they do.’
‘Hey!’ John protested, but he didn’t deny the truth in what Tony said.
Rodney sighed. ‘Just do your best,’ he told Donald and Tony, then turned to John. ‘And you! You just listen to what they say!’
‘Yes, dear,’ John replied, and laughed when Rodney smacked his good arm.
Adam was already on the Grid when the three men from Holly Lodge arrived, and he walked directly to John and hugged him. Then he too smacked his good arm.
‘Ow! What was that for?’
‘I’d’ve slapped your stupid head if you hadn’t injured it,’ Adam told him. ‘Seriously. Stop trying to get yourself killed.’
‘I wasn’t trying…’ John stopped under the glare Adam was giving him. ‘Okay,’ he muttered instead, dropping his gaze to the floor.
Adam glared at John a little longer to make sure he understood. ‘Come on, Harry wants to see us. All of us,’ he added as Tony and Donald made to move away.
They crowded into Harry’s office and Adam was dispatched to fetch an extra chair.
‘There’ve been a few developments over the weekend,’ Harry told them. ‘I wanted to get you all up to speed together. First of all, the results are back from fibres Donald found on Elizabeth Weir’s body and sent off for analysis. They’re from a dark grey woollen twill, a fabric most often used for suits or overcoats,’ he read from a report. ‘They couldn’t get a DNA profile from it but said they’d be able to match the garment they’re from if we could find it. They’re still waiting for DNA results from the stuff Donald took from under her fingernails.’
‘So our killer is someone with a grey suit or overcoat?’ Adam asked with a touch of sarcasm. ‘No problem!’
John nodded in agreement. ‘Where do we even start?’
Tony, however, frowned at them. ‘No, that’s not how it’s done. We already have a suspect pool. We examine that first, and only if we can’t find our man there do we have to widen the field.’
Looks of comprehension dawned on John and Adam’s faces.
‘And that’s exactly why I offered you a job,’ Harry told Tony with a smile. ‘These two are experts at preventing a bomb from going off in the city, but have no experience with criminal investigations. Now,’ and he looked at the others in his office. ‘Bearing in mind what Tony has just said, who do we know who wears a dark grey twill overcoat?’
‘I’m assuming apart from yourself?’ Adam asked with a grin.
Harry glared at him.
‘Sorry.’ Adam bit his lip. ‘Mace. Oliver Mace wears a dark grey overcoat, summer and winter. But how can we match it?’
‘It’s not a problem if we know who his tailor is.’ John grinned a little maliciously. ‘He still uses Graham and West doesn’t he, Harry?’
Tony frowned. ‘How will that help us?’
‘Because all bespoke tailors keep a scrap of fabric from each item they make for a customer. Dad uses Graham and West which is how I know who Mace goes to. He told me one day that he’d met my father there, and when I asked Dad about it he just said ‘filthy upstart’ and changed the subject.’
A smile split Tony’s face. ‘I can just hear Uncle Patrick saying that. Who do you go to?’
‘Stephenson. Most of the officers in the Corps do and I just stayed with them, although I have heard the usual comments about recognising your tailor if you do use them.’
‘I thought that was the point. That people recognise you have a bespoke tailor rather than buying off the peg like us lesser mortals,’ Adam said curiously.
‘There’s a great difference between the various bespoke tailors, though,’ Harry explained. ‘Stephenson are known for their civilian attire being almost military in cut and some men dislike them because of that. However, that’s beside the point. We need to contact Graham and West and see if they can supply a piece of the fabric from Mace’s overcoat. If the lab can match it we can prove Mace was in Weir’s apartment at some point. We’ll just have to wait for the DNA which will prove pretty conclusively who murdered Weir.’
‘But you think it was Mace?’ asked Tony.
‘Well, he’s been in our sights for a while,’ said Harry. ‘And although we thought David had come here to speak to him, she sent Shepard to see Weir.’
‘Would Mace actually be stupid enough to meet a foreign agent himself?’ Adam asked with a frown.
‘Weir was a foreign agent,’ John pointed out. ‘We know he met her a couple of times at least. But I get your point. Meeting a CIA agent isn’t half as suspicious as meeting a Mossad officer.’
‘And Mace, despite what we might think, is far from stupid,’ Harry added. ‘He could have arranged to meet David at Weir’s flat and couldn’t because she was killed, but David still sent Shepard there since she didn’t know Weir was dead. That would fit. It’s possible Mace is the missing link in Ruth’s investigations into the money trials. If he was being paid by the Israelis, it makes sense that he’d want to keep a meeting between himself and them off our radar.’
‘Is this not all a little too convenient?’ Donald ventured to ask. ‘Everything appears to have fallen into place so easily, along with evidence that Mace was in Weir’s flat and thus may have killed her. I’m a little concerned it might all be too straightforward to be true, since real life is rarely like that. Indeed, I remember a time when—’
‘Donald’s right you know,’ interrupted John with a quick smile of apology at cutting him off. ‘Are we making the evidence fit the crime rather than vice-versa?’
There was a short silence after this as everyone considered that.
‘I understand what you mean, Donald,’ Harry said eventually. ‘But it doesn’t make it any less so. As you know, much of our work depends upon creating a working hypothesis and then testing it, much as a scientist would. Sometimes the most obvious explanation actually is the explanation, but I’m more than happy to look at any other hypotheses we might come up with.’
‘I’m not disagreeing with you,’ Donald explained. ‘I’m merely suggesting that we also look at other possibilities, although I am unable to posit one at the moment.’
Harry smiled. ‘You make a very good point, and we’ll make sure we examine any other possibility or situation that might occur to any of us.’
They’d no sooner settled down to work after a late lunch-break when Harry stuck his head around his office door and yelled for John, Tony and Adam to join him.
‘I’ve explained to him umpteen times how to do that through his intercom system,’ Malcolm grumbled from his desk. ‘Bloody luddite!’
John grinned and patted his shoulder as he went to join the others, and just as they sat down, the entry pods activated and Jack O’Neill sauntered in. Tony immediately went to get another chair and set it down by Harry’s desk as Jack made himself comfortable in Tony’s former seat.
‘So, how are we all?’ Jack asked with a grin. ‘Glad to see you suffered no lasting injuries, John. Do try not to get yourself blown up again. And Tony. Welcome to the UK. I hear you’re joining the cousins. If you get sick of them, come over to the dark side and work for me.’
‘Stop trying to poach my officers!’ Harry told him, trying to muster up a scowl.
‘You know you love me really.’ Jack blew a small kiss at Harry and joined in the laughter that followed while Harry shook his head in resignation.
‘So, boys and girls,’ he began once they were all settled, ‘I come bearing news from the colonies. It would appear that Senator Henry Landry was arrested by the FBI about,’ he glanced at his watch, ‘two minutes ago, on charges of espionage, treason, theft, abuse of position and having a bad haircut. We might have problems making the theft charge stick, but it doesn’t matter since the other charges constitute a capital crime and thus carry the death penalty.’
There was a deathly hush in the small office. Adam spoke first. ‘Is…is he likely to be put to death?’
‘Nah, but he’ll serve life imprisonment without parole, which is more important,’ Jack told him breezily.
‘No more than the man deserves.’ Harry was quite blunt. ‘Jack told me earlier that over thirty overseas agents have been captured and or killed, entirely due to the highly confidential material he passed to foreign powers, Russia amongst them.’
John nodded. ‘I’ve seen too much death in my own military career to agree with the death penalty, but he’s a traitor and at the very least is guilty of being an accessory to murder.’
There was a further short silence, then Jack spoke again.
‘We’ve also heard from our Israeli Ambassador that Eli David has been replaced as Director of Mossad and placed under arrest. A number of US officials will be under investigation following the arrest and seizure of information, including an NCIS senior agent, a Leon Vance, who, it appears, has been in close contact with David for a number of years following a joint operation together. He may not be charged with espionage, but he’ll almost certainly lose his job as no one will want to work with him. There’s going to be a wholesale clearing of house among all the US agencies and government bodies, and not before time.’
‘I’ve come across Vance,’ Tony admitted. ‘He really didn’t like me and thought only people with graduate degrees should be permitted to advance in NCIS, much like senior promotions in the armed forces. I didn’t like him either,’ he added as an afterthought.
‘But you do have a graduate degree.’ John frowned. ‘You have a masters in Law from Georgetown.’
‘But it was done as a part-time degree and he doesn’t think they’re as good as full-time degrees.’
‘Is he stupid?’ John demanded. ‘A part-time degree should be worth double what a full-time one is. You have to work much harder as people normally have full-time jobs to cope with as well.’
‘I don’t disagree,’ Jack cut in, ‘and yes, he is that stupid. He’s got a massive chip on his shoulder about something, I’m not quite sure what.’ He shrugged. ‘Landry, however, has been arrested and all his assets frozen, including the accounts he has in the Cayman Islands. I’m curious to know what his rationale was. It may have been pure and simple greed, but there could be some underlying fanaticism or crusade motivating him. We probably won’t know until the trial.’
Just after 11 on Tuesday morning a call came through from Hampshire Police to say Jennifer Keller’s body had been found the previous evening in her car at a campsite in the New Forest. The site was closed for the winter and it had been pure luck that one of the forest Rangers had happened to pass close by the site and noticed new car tracks which shouldn’t have been there. Someone in the police had been paying enough attention to notice Keller had been put on an APW – an All Ports Warning, the British equivalent to a BOLO, Adam explained to Tony.
‘We watch so many cop shows in the UK these days that everyone knows what a BOLO is, but even some of the Police don’t know what our own version of it is. There was a case a couple of years ago when a Chief Constable laid into Harry because he hadn’t issued a BOLO on a suspected terrorist and he was aghast when Harry told him that no, he hadn’t, because we didn’t use BOLOs over here, but if the CC had checked the APW listings, he have seen the suspect’s name listed in black and white, because we live and work in Great Britain not Los Angeles. John and I had to leave the room before we burst out laughing, but Harry was very annoyed about it.’
‘And I still don’t see what’s funny about the upper echelons of the English Police not even recognising their own acronyms,’ Harry said acidly, surprising Adam by coming up behind him.
‘Jesus! Don’t scare me like that!’
‘Not Jesus. Just plain Harry will do. Sir Harry if you want to lick my arse.’
This made Tony laugh. ‘My old boss, Gibbs, use to appear out of thin air and frighten the life out of us. And he always knew everything that went on, even when he’d not been around.’
‘He probably had you all bugged,’ John told him, also appearing from thin air.
Tony rolled his eyes. ‘Perhaps he did, but where’ve you been? We were looking for you.’
‘Been telling Rodney his lab assistant had turned up dead,’ John told him, sitting down and leaning back in his chair, flicking a pencil between his fingers. ‘Any more details about Keller?’
‘Apart from her being dead, you mean?’ Adam shrugged his shoulders. ‘Donald’s asked for the body to be brought back here and he’ll do the post mortem tomorrow. We might know more about it after that. What did Rodney have to say?’
‘Not much, actually. Radek jabbered away in Czech in the background but I have no idea if he was trying to help or was insulting my parentage.’
‘So what happens now?’ Tony asked.
‘You tell us. We don’t usually get involved to this depth in Police procedure. They’ve generally taken the case over by the time we get to the evidence bit.’ John tapped his pencil on his lips. ‘What would your next step be if this was your case?’
‘It is his case, in that respect at least.’ Harry wheeled a chair over and settled himself in it. ‘And on that subject, we need to get Tony set up with a desk near you two. I’ll speak to someone about it. So, Tony. What do we need to do next?’
Tony was quiet for a moment, thoughts running through his mind. ‘Who’s doing the forensics on the car and the kill site?’
The others looked at each other. ‘Hampshire Police I suppose,’ Adam said with a shrug. ‘Why?’
‘Because I think that’s probably something else that we might want to look at keeping in-house. A crime scene can yield so much information if you know what you’re looking for and quite honestly, I wouldn’t have trusted the forensics guys from rural US PDs to examine a crime scene properly. I’d be surprised if your locals are any different.’ He looked over to Harry. ‘I’d like to go down there myself and take a look at the crime scene. I do know what I’m looking for and I might find something to help us.’
‘That’s fine by me,’ Harry told him. ‘I said you’d have a free hand to do what you needed to.’
‘You mentioned the possibility of setting up our own forensics lab? I’d say it’s essential we have our own forensics people to send and take over a case like this. I just hope the locals’ve not trashed the crime scene, but they might have because they don’t have the trained people we would have. I don’t suppose there’re many murders in the New Forest.’
‘No, there aren’t,’ agreed Harry. ‘And Keller’s murder was treated as a suicide at first. I did ask them to preserve the crime scene, but we don’t know what might have been moved or destroyed by the time you get there.’ He gave a heavy sigh. ‘I just need to work out how to justify setting up two new departments here at Thames House, and then equipping them and staffing them.’
‘And that’s why they pay you the big bucks,’ Adam told him with a grin. ‘To make the large and expensive decisions.’
Late on Wednesday afternoon Tony received a preliminary report on the forensics from Hampshire Police. He gave a shout of glee as he read through the email.
John, sitting at his desk next to Tony, looked up. ‘Something interesting?’
‘You could say that.’ Tony stood up and raised his voice. ‘Can we all go to the meeting room, please? We’ve got some initial results from Portsmouth.’
‘Well yes, we probably all can,’ Adam drawled, laughter lighting up his eyes. ‘The question is, may we?’
Tony glared at John.
‘Hey, I never said a word.’ John pointed at Adam. ‘Take it out on him!’
‘You told him, didn’t you?’
‘Told him what?’ John asked, innocently.
‘You told him, and now both of you are going to be on my back about it.’
‘If you picked up bad grammar while you were living in the colonies…’ John began, ducking as Tony threw a pen at him. ‘Hey! Pax!’ he yelled, as a pencil flew his way.
‘Get yourself in there, you, you grammar fascist you!’ Tony told him, throwing a second pen at his cousin. ‘I will get my revenge, I promise!’
Harry joined them in the conference room, where the three men were still teasing each other, and smiled to himself. Bringing in Tony has made such a difference around here.
‘Boys, boys. A little decorum, please!’ Harry glared at them all until they settled down but was unable to hide the glint of a smile in his eyes.
‘Thank you. Now, Tony?’
‘I’ve had preliminary forensics back from Portsmouth. When I was down yesterday I noticed some fibres caught in a bit of loose door trim and I asked forensics to process them. Their scene of crime man argued they could have been caught there at any time but I asked him to process them anyway. Long story cut short, Keller’s car was valeted over the weekend and she apparently paid for the platinum valet which is a deep clean inside and out, including the spare wheel. There’s no way they’d’ve missed those fibres, and as the company she used take before and after photos, we can check that. ‘The main point, though, is that the fibres are from—
‘A dark grey twill,’ John finished. ‘Please tell me I’m right.’
‘You are absolutely right.’
The two cousins grinned happily at each other.
‘Will there be anything left of Mace’s coat by the time we get hold of it?’ Adam muttered. ‘He seems to be losing bits of it left, right and centre.’
Harry smiled. ‘We’re just waiting for the DNA results to come back from both Weir and Keller, although hers will be longer, but if they give the result we’re expecting, the state of his coat will be the last thing on his mind.’
‘How long?’ John asked. ‘I thought you said a couple of days on Weir’s.’
‘I was told three days, but I foolishly counted Saturday and Sunday as working days and apparently Home Office Forensics Officers don’t work weekends.’
A barrage of exclamations assaulted Harry, which essentially questioned the qualifications of the forensic officers, as well as their parentage.
‘I quite agree,’ he told them. ‘But it appears that nagging and demanding don’t make the results appear any faster, or so I’ve been told. Another reason I’d like us to get our own forensics unit because unfortunately, criminals and terrorists do work weekends. However, I’ve been assured that we should have the results of both by Friday which means we just have to wait.’ He turned back to Tony. ‘Any further news about our bomb makers?’
‘Well, it grieves me to admit it, but apparently Rodney was right and Keller was our bomber. There were traces of explosive in her garage and probably would have been in or on her car – no doubt the reason for the expensive valet. Her laptop had been used to find instructions on how to make a bomb although she’d deleted them, of course, but as we all know, no files are ever really deleted, and while the evidence could have been planted to make her look like the bomber, my gut says it wasn’t. Which I know wouldn’t be enough to convict her, but we’re saved having to do that at least.’
‘And if we go with the hypothesis that it was planted?’ John asked.
‘Then we need to find the two men that Weir met since we still don’t know what she paid them for and see if we can find anyone who went to Keller’s house within the last week or so to actually plant the evidence.’ Tony leaned back in his chair and shuffled the papers on the table in front of him thoughtfully. ‘We need to find any CCTV footage from the area and also sweep the house again for fingerprints. It might be worth interviewing the neighbours to see if they noticed any visitors, or anything out of the ordinary; cars, delivery vans, motorcycles, anything that might mean strangers visiting her house.’
‘Let’s get on with that, for the moment at least,’ Harry ordered. ‘Far better to do work we might not need, than lose our chance at getting information or evidence we might want later. Thank you, Tony.’
Friday morning found the whole team back in the large meeting room on the Grid. This time, however, Tony was at the head of the table, and John grinned to himself as he watched his cousin going through the details and evidence the team had collected in the past couple of days.
‘…so the forensic results prove the bomb evidence found at Keller’s house wasn’t planted, and that she did have the help of one of the other Lab Technicians,’ Tony glanced down at his notes, ‘a Peter Kavanagh. A search of his room – he still lives with his mother – yielded two thousand pounds still in Barclays Bank currency bands. They managed to lift a partial fingerprint from one of the bands and it matches Weir’s prints so I would say this is almost certainly part of the money Weir gave to Hudson and Lester in Salisbury. They also found traces of RDX which is—‘
‘Explosive. More accurately, it’s the stuff used in plastic explosive,’ John said grimly.
‘Yes,’ agreed Tony, ‘but the lab report says it’s not particularly good RDX, which means it didn’t have the explosive capacity it might have had – probably the reason you were only injured and not killed, John.’
John clearly didn’t know whether to look pleased or upset. ‘Yeah, don’t repeat that bit to Rodney. I’m trying to keep him off the whole ‘You could have been killed’ rant.’
They all smiled at the thought of Rodney’s famous – or possibly infamous – rants, then Tony continued his report. ‘This means we can tie the bomb, and the people involved with making and placing it, up with Weir, who was almost certainly acting on the instructions of either Mace or Kolya, which means the SVR, or possibly even both of them.
‘David, and the Israelis in general, are mostly red herrings with regards to this case. Eli David obviously wanted shares in anything that came out of the DSTL, and out of the US for that matter, but we’ve no grounds to suspect they were involved in either the kidnapping attempts or the bomb. Sadly, Shepard has no real connection other than pursuing her own agenda regarding her father. She’s certainly guilty of treason, but has no real connection to Rodney’s kidnapping et cetera.’
‘What about Landry?’ Harry asked.
‘I was just getting to him.’ Tony took a gulp of water. ‘He’s also a bit of a sideshow. He was certainly in contact with Oliver Mace, who wasn’t – as far as we’ve been able to discover – giving orders to him. He was mostly passing on US secrets and information, some of which Mace no doubt passed on to MI6.’ He sighed. ‘I don’t think we’re going to be able to touch Mace with anything linked to Landry, as Mace will no doubt claim he was doing it on behalf of his country.’
‘But that doesn’t explain the money Ruth found we think he received from Landry,’ Harry objected.
‘No,’ John agreed. ‘And if we did try to nail him on that, he’d wriggle out of it. But Rodney and I had an idea.’ He looked at his colleagues around the conference table, his eyes filled with mirth. ‘We’re pretty sure that if we try to get Mace on a murder charge, he’ll manage to get himself let off, or the case dismissed or some such trick. But even if he does, he can’t do an awful lot without his money, the money in the Cayman Islands, that is. And if that money were to… go missing, shall we say, he can’t really make a fuss about it because it was gained pretty unlawfully. Rodney says he could… help Mace to make a charitable donation, shall we say. All we need to do is choose a worthy cause to benefit from his ill-gotten gains.’
Only Ruth had a small frown on her face. All the others were smiling happily.
‘It’s not exactly…legal, is it, Harry?’ Ruth finally asked.
‘Not in the slightest. But, as John says, he acquired it illegally and I for one would shed no tears if it were to go missing, and I’m pretty certain the Home Secretary wouldn’t either, if he were ever to hear about it. Which he won’t. My vote is for half the money to go to a services charity of some sort and half to an educational fund for disadvantaged children. He’d hate that!’
John laughed. ‘Let’s all write our nominations down and pass them on to Rodney. He can make his decision, or work out a system for us to chose a couple of charities to donate to. It’s probably best if we stay out of it all together.’
A cough from Tony brought their attention back to him. ‘May I continue?’ he asked, raising his eyebrows, but John just grinned.
‘Be my guest.’
‘Right, where were we?’ Tony shuffled his papers and tried to ignore his cousin’s smirks. ‘Kolya. Acasta Kolya. As I said before, Kolya was an undercover SVR agent who became an American citizen in 2004. We don’t quite know when he became Elizabeth Weir’s handler but it was almost certainly before 2004. He had contact with both Weir and Landry, and was probably getting information from each of them. We can charge him with kidnap, and breaking and entering and such, but since we can’t prove he actually instructed Weir to do anything, my recommendation is that we hand him over to Jack O’Neill and let the CIA deal with him.’
Harry nodded. ‘I have no issue with that. They’re far better placed to deal with him. We’ll just slap a persona non grata on his file.’
‘The other kidnappers have been handed over to the Metropolitan Police and they’ll be charged by them. Which leaves us with Weir and Mace. Weir’s obviously dead, but Mace… We can charge him with two murders, Weir and Keller, but as John said, he’ll likely find a way of wriggling out of it somehow. He was almost certainly giving orders to Weir but we don’t know who might have been giving him orders. It is possible that he was just working for himself.
‘I’m at a disadvantage here, though, as I’ve no idea what resources you guys might have for getting rid of… shall we call them problems? We know he killed Weir and Keller, took money from pretty much everyone we’ve been dealing with and has sold out his country not just to the highest bidder, but all the bidders at the table. I just don’t know what to suggest.’
‘He has friends in fairly high places,’ Harry said thoughtfully ‘Possibly not as many as he thinks, though. Leave this one with me. I need to think and have a couple of chats with certain people. Thank you, Tony, for wrapping this up.’ He looked around the table at his team; senior case officers to technical assistants, John still with his left arm bound to his chest. ‘Thank you, all of you, for your work on this case. We’ve come out of it with relatively few injuries, which is a miracle all things considered. I know for a while we all thought it was going to be much, much worse.
‘Now, we have nothing urgent on at the moment so I’d like you to finish any outstanding reports and then get yourselves off home. I’ll see you all on Monday morning.’
There were grins around the table and a low level of chatter, but when John looked towards Harry, he was given a quick jerk of his boss’s head. Harry wanted a chat with him.
There was a general melée in the conference room after Harry left, as people stood and gathered papers and bags and chatted about the unexpected half day holiday they’d all been given. John managed a quick word with his cousin, telling him not to wait for him.
‘Harry wants a quick word with me but you and Donald get off home. I’ll either get Harry to drop me off or get a taxi. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine,’ he told Tony, who just frowned at him.
‘Rodney threatened me with sudden and violent death if you managed to hurt yourself again. And I believe him, so no. We won’t go home without you. We’ll wait here until you’re done.’
Shaking his head at his cousin’s stubbornness, but privately enjoying the feeling of security it gave him, John made his way to Harry’s office. He had a pretty good idea of what this ‘chat’ was going to be about.
A glass of single malt was waiting on the desk for him and John raised his eyes in surprise.
‘Twice in a week, Harry? You’re getting soft.’
‘I thought this was a conversation that needed a wee dram. Sit!’
It was disconcerting just how difficult it was to relax with a glass in hand when the other hand was strapped up. John finally managed to settle himself, balancing the crystal tumbler carefully on his useless arm.
‘I’d like you all to remain at Holly Lodge for a couple more days,’ Harry began, surprising John who’d thought they’d be relocating to Chelsea the following day.
‘Why? I thought we’d got everyone concerned with the case either locked up or in the mortuary.’
John jerked in surprise. ‘You really think he’s a danger?’
Harry nodded and sighed. ‘I do. He’s already killed twice, tidying up loose ends. He must know, or at least suspect, we have enough evidence to convict him, although I agree that he’ll try every way possible to claim it was all in the national interest. But, John, he’s a very dangerous man and we mustn’t underestimate him.’
‘Are we any safer at Holly Lodge than we would be at Fairburn Mews? He knows everything about Holly Lodge, security measures, guards. At least at Fairburn Mews there’s only one entrance to watch.’
‘And only one exit. I’d rather you stay at Holly Lodge until we’ve got Mace behind bars or… neutralised. Just a few more days, will you? And you have to admit, it’s hardly a hardship considering Mrs Thompson’s cooking.’
‘I think Rodney’s already tried to persuade her to move in with him.’
Harry laughed. ‘I don’t doubt it. That wasn’t what I wanted to talk to you about though, John.’
‘No, I didn’t think it was. You want to know what I intend to do next.’ He grinned at the look of surprise on Harry’s face. ‘Harry, I’ve been an agent for a good few years now, and I’m not stupid. There are a finite number of times I can get almost killed and I suspect that I’m coming to the end of my allocation. And this time was so very, very close.’ He took a sip of his whisky and tried to keep his hand from shaking. ‘I realised, as I sat on that chair waiting to be blown to kingdom come, that I’m not just me anymore. I’m me and Rodney, and Brian too, I suppose. It’s the old Aristotle thing – ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’.’ He took another sip. ‘I can’t give you an answer at the moment, I’m afraid. I need to talk to my other part, and look at my options.’
Harry nodded. ‘That’s fine, John. Just remember that you do have other options Take your time, take all the time you need. You shouldn’t have been in this week at all really, but I know you needed to see this case closed, which it pretty much is now. I have to speak to a couple of people about Mace, and probably talk to our lawyers as well and see just what we can make stick, but I would hope we’ll have it all sorted one way or another over the weekend. I’ll keep you posted, but once this is all closed you need to take some time off. And that’s an order!’
Putting his empty glass down on Harry’s desk, John smiled. ‘Thanks, Harry.’
The call he’d been half expecting came early on Sunday morning. John answered his mobile blearily, barely even half awake. ‘Hello?
Sorry to wake you up, John, but I have some news and I thought you’d want it as soon as possible.
Oliver Mace has been killed in a car accident. His car hit a telegraph pole but no other cars were involved and the police suspect he was many times over the legal limit for alcohol.
‘What!’ John struggled to sit up a little. ‘That’s… Okay, what—
I’ll call in later and give you a full briefing, John. I’m waiting for the police to call back with some more information. Apologise to Rodney for me, will you?
‘Yes, of course.’
I’ll see you later.
‘Okay. Bye, Harry.’
He sank back against the pillows, rubbing his eyes. ‘That was Harry,’ he told Rodney, who’d also been woken by the phone.
‘Really? I’d never’ve guessed. Not with you saying ‘Bye, Harry’. What did he want? It’s not even light outside! He can’t possibly want you to go and do something! He—‘
His voice was muffled by John’s hand over his mouth.
‘Rodney, shut up. He doesn’t want me for anything. He was just phoning to … to give me some news that’s all. And he did apologise for waking you. Now, go back to sleep.’
Rodney glared at him through narrowed eyes. ‘Only because I want to. He told you something important and I’ll want to know what it is later. I won’t forget,’ he threatened, then rolled over and within seconds was snoring softly.
John lay for a moment, thinking about the call. Obviously, Harry’s discussion with the lawyers hadn’t gone so well and they’d moved to Plan B. It wasn’t the first time this had happened and most certainly wouldn’t be the last, but John had never been personally involved before and he wasn’t quite sure how he felt.
He glanced at the clock and saw it was almost six am. He got himself out of bed carefully so as not to wake Rodney again, and not to bang his arm and shoulder, which still gave him some pain but not enough for him to take any of the painkillers the hospital had given him. He managed to pull a sweater over his head and get his right arm through the sleeve but left the other sleeve hanging loosely, then made his way quietly downstairs.
Mrs Thompson was already in the kitchen kneading bread. John smiled at her and pulled out a chair from the table when she ordered him to sit down. This was her kingdom and no-one in their right mind would annoy the Queen in her own kitchen.
‘I’ll just get this loaf in the oven, Colonel, and I’ll make us both a nice cup of tea.’
John had tried to explain that he was now retired from the Royal Marines, but Mrs Thompson had known him while he was still a serving officer, and she just ignored him – which had made Rodney laugh – and continued to treat him like a little boy, all the while addressing his with his former rank. Sitting watching her bake bread took him back to his childhood and the early mornings spent in the kitchen at Grantworth Hall watching their cook baking bread, although he’d been Master John in those days and thoughts of the future were mostly concerned with what they’d have for lunch.
He was drawn from his reverie by the scrape of a chair being pulled out next to him and he smiled as his cousin joined him at the table.
‘Mmmm. Freshly baked bread. That smell takes me back,’ Tony said as he sniffed the air.
‘That’s just what I was thinking,’ John admitted, and smiled his thanks at Mrs Thompson as she placed a cup of tea in front of him. No mugs were allowed in her kitchen, as they’d all discovered when they’d each gone searching for hot drinks. Mugs were to be used outside, she lectured them. Any hot drinks inside were to be taken in a cup with a saucer.
Tony soon had a cup of tea in front of him, and although he wished it could have been coffee, he knew better than to say so after Rodney had been thrown out of the kitchen on their second morning at Holly Lodge for asking for coffee instead of a cup of tea. Mrs Thompson had told him in no uncertain terms, that if he wanted coffee, he’d have to wait until breakfast was served. He’d quickly apologised, most profusely, for being so rude, and she’d forgiven him and had begun to make little treats for him after hearing about his harrowing experiences whilst kidnapped. Still, they all knew if they went to the kitchen before breakfast was served, they’d get a cup of tea or do without.
A couple of thick slices of bread, the butter melting gently into it, were also placed in front of them and the two boys – both now in their thirties – grinned their thanks.
‘So, what’s up?’ demanded Tony thickly, his mouth stuffed full of bread and butter.
John waited until he’d swallowed his own mouthful. ‘Harry phoned earlier.’
Tony’s eyes rose in enquiry while he took another bite of his bread.
‘Mace is dead.’
Tony choked and John slapped him on his back a couple of times, probably a little harder than he needed to.
‘Dead? How?’ Tony managed to gasp when he could talk again.
‘And…?’ Tony made a ‘more details’ motion with his hand.
‘Crashed into a telegraph pole. No-one else involved, probably over the limit. Over the alcohol limit for driving,’ he explained at Tony’s puzzled look.
‘And you don’t think it was an accident?’ Tony asked carefully.
‘I know it wasn’t an accident. I knew it was a distinct possibility if we couldn’t convict him, but…’ He shrugged. ‘I don’t quite know what to think or feel. On the one hand, he was probably involved in Rodney’s kidnapping, and possibly the bomb, or at least aware of what was going to happen. But on the other hand…’ he fell silent.
‘…We can’t just go around killing people we don’t like,’ Tony finished.
‘He was an evil man who killed two people in the last ten days or so, and likely a number of other people who got in his way over the years . I just can’t…’ John shook his head. ‘I’m struggling to accept that this is a valid option. That if we come across someone who does awful things and we can’t send him to prison – for whatever reason – that we can just… just have them killed.’
Tony put his hand on John’s good shoulder and squeezed gently. ‘The other day Adam said that Harry’s paid a lot of money to make the big and expensive decisions. He was joking, but in many ways, it’s true. You’re a good case officer. A really good one, I can see that. But you’re never going to want to step into Harry’s shoes are you? Because his job isn’t just about telling us all what he wants us to do, or filling out forms and reports and going to meetings. It’s about making the really hard decisions that sometimes have to be made. I’m not sure I could do it either, and I’ve been a police officer or a federal agent all my working life. There aren’t that many people who can do it, and if I had to make a guess, I’d say that Harry isn’t feeling all that good about himself at the moment even though he knows it’s his job to make these decisions.’
It was a long speech for Tony but John agreed with pretty much everything he’d said. He wasn’t cut out to be Head of Section D, nor did he want to be Head of Section D. He’d been a damn fine Royal Marine and he was a pretty good Senior Case Officer, but he suspected that was the highest he wanted to go within MI5.
In many ways, even making it to Senior Case officer was good since their world had any number of ways of killing or otherwise disposing of personnel. His predecessor, Tom Quinn, had left MI5 and had had to leave the country under a new name, leaving everything connected to his old name and life behind him. Few people in their world actually made it through to retirement and John wondered for a moment what that would mean for him.
The kitchen door opened at that point and a grumbling Rodney came in, rubbing his eyes, accompanied by the faithful Brian.
‘You weren’t there!’ he complained, looking at John. ‘I woke up and you weren’t there!’
John stood and made a move towards his lover, but Tony pushed him, gently, back into his seat. He guided a still half asleep Rodney into the chair next to John and went to let Brian outside for his morning business. Mrs Thompson came bustling over with a mug of coffee for Rodney, and when John and Tony looked up at her in surprise, she just tutted, gently.
‘Poor Dr. Rodney was kidnapped you know,’ she told them earnestly, with a quick wink that John wasn’t quite sure he’d seen.
Rodney, for his part, simply grasped the mug with both hands and groaned in pleasure. ‘Mrs Thompson, are you sure you don’t want to come and live with me?’ he asked between sips.
‘I’m quite sure, thank you, Dr. Rodney,’ she said, and disappeared again into the pantry where they could hear the rattle of china as she prepared to lay the dining room table.
Rodney curled up under John’s good arm. ‘You weren’t there!’ he complained again, nose buried in his coffee. ‘And what did Harry want with you at o’dark thirty?’
‘He called to say that Mace has been killed in a car crash.’
‘You mean Harry had him bumped off.’
John and Tony exchanged surprised looks over Rodney’s head. ‘Well… he said it was an accident and that Mace had been drinking,’ John said, slowly.
‘Oh come on!’ Rodney snorted. ‘I wasn’t born yesterday. If there wasn’t a decent enough chance that Mace would be locked up for the rest of his life, Harry had to make sure he disappeared in another way. It happens in my world as well, you know. A scientist gets too much information about something he shouldn’t, or has a change of heart about something nasty he’s created. They don’t just get patted on the head and left to retire to the Cotswolds, or Midsomer, despite what the television might try and tell us. They have unfortunate accidents.’ He finally looked up and frowned. ‘What?’
‘That’s… it’s… wow!’ Tony sat back in his chair looking a little stunned.
‘You thought I was too fragile to know such things?’ Rodney scowled at Tony, and twisted his head to include John. ‘I’m not stupid! I know how things work. I knew as soon as you said that Mace was in the whole thing up to his neck that this was only going to end one way, as I’m sure you both did. I’ll not shed any tears over his death. He was an evil and traitorous man, so good riddance to bad rubbish. Now, I wonder if Mrs Thompson will give me a refill?’
No-one was surprised when Harry turned up halfway through breakfast. Mrs Thompson bustled in, laid a place for him and directed him towards the hot-plates filled with the various breakfast dishes. She always made a special breakfast at weekends, something they’d all miss once they were home.
‘So, how is everyone?’ Harry asked, helping himself to bacon and eggs.
‘Well, we all know about Mace,’ Tony told him, buttering another slice of fresh bread. ‘Rodney summed it up pretty well. ‘Good riddance to bad rubbish!’’
Harry nodded. ‘It does mean you’re all now safe to go home,’ he said, cutting his fried bread into neat triangles and loading each one with a piece of bacon and some egg before he ate it. ‘Radek, I’m sure you’ll be happy about that.’
‘I’m going to miss Mrs Thompson,’ Rodney told him gloomily. ‘She said she can’t come and live with me.’
John slapped the back of his head. ‘To echo someone at this table, what am I? Scotch mist?’
Rodney rubbed his head and glared at him. ‘You can’t cook as well as she can. Plus you live in London and I live in Salisbury, or hadn’t you noticed?’
‘Mmmm. About that,’ Harry began. ‘John, you’ve done some courses at the Defence College near Swindon haven’t you?’
John looked surprised. ‘Yes. I did a couple when I was in the Royal Marines and I did one when I first joined Section D. Why?’
‘Because they have a need for a new instructor in Command and Staff Training. I put your name forward,’ he said blithely, taking another mouthful of breakfast.
‘What? I don’t… those courses are generally a few months long. How would that work if I had a case?’ John was a little confused.
‘It’d be a full time post, John,’ Harry told him, smiling gently. ‘You’d leave MI5 and work at Shrivenham full time.’ He put his knife and fork together on his plate and wiped his mouth with his napkin. ‘Just have a think about it, will you? You’re on a week’s leave now and they won’t need an answer until you’re back at work so give it some thought. I’ve emailed you the details along with who to contact for more information.’ He paused and looked at Rodney. ‘I’ve always thought Marlborough was a particularly nice town, although I’m probably biased since I was at school there.’ He glanced over to Tony and Donald. ‘Why don’t you both take a few days to settle in and perhaps sort out some accommodation? I believe Chelsea is a fine place to live, Tony.’ Harry’s smile was all mischief as he closed the door behind him.
There was a brief silence after he’d gone and then everyone began speaking at once. John listened for a moment, unable to make out anything anyone was saying, put his fingers in his mouth and blew a shrill whistle.
‘Quiet! No-one can hear if we all talk at once. Radek. You go first.’
‘I have nothing to contribute, thank you, John. I was simply saying I may go home now to my wife and daughter.’
‘You certainly may. Get your stuff together and I’ll arrange a car to take you to Salisbury. I’m afraid we can’t run to a helicopter this time.’
Radek grinned at them all and disappeared to pack.
‘Thank you, John. I shall begin the search for a house for Mother and myself to share, and then I shall make a trip to Washington to bring her home. In the meantime, I presume we will be returning to Chelsea?’
‘For the moment, yes,’ agreed John. ‘You and Tony are welcome to use Fairburn Mews if you’d like to stay in London or you can join us in Laverstock as I presume that’s where you want to go, Rodney.’
‘Of course I do.’ Rodney frowned at John. ‘Why would I want to stay in London? Brian hates it here.’
John sighed. There were times when he wanted to smack his partner. Despite being the cleverest man on the planet, Rodney didn’t always understand the nuances of polite conversation or behaviour, something he’d got used to over the years but which took other people longer to fully understand.
‘You’re both very welcome to come to Laverstock or stay in Fairburn Mews,’ John told Tony and Donald. ‘Or, if you prefer, go up to Yorkshire and stay at Grantworth. Dad and David would love to see either or both of you. I’ll arrange for you to have the use of a car and Harry will no doubt have a suggestion for an estate agent in London, Donald. Or if you wish to rent, I’ll speak to my father and see what properties we have available.’
Donald looked surprised. ‘Does your father own an estate agency?’
‘No, but the family owns a number of properties in London which are let. My mews house is a family property. I couldn’t possibly afford something like that on my salary,’ John said with a wry grin. ‘I’ll give Dad a bell and see what we have available and see if he has any suggestions if you wanted to buy a property. He and David have a number of contacts.’
‘I thought Uncle Patrick ran the Grantworth estate?’ Tony asked, a little puzzled.
‘He does, at least he and David do between them, but country estates make very little money these days. The properties are the one part of the family business which are actually profitable, and they keep the house and the estate going. Dad and David run them both between them. I just chose to make my career elsewhere.’
‘And you aren’t jealous at all?
John looked surprised. ‘Why would I be? The estate and the properties don’t really belong to Dad or David. They, we, hold them for the next generation. We’re never more than custodians, not owners.’
The others nodded in various degrees of understanding while John waited to see if any further questions were forthcoming.
‘Okay, then. I’ll get on to Harry and see about a car for Donald and Tony, and arrange some transport for us all back to Fairburn Mews. My car is still in the garage there since Harry said not to use it while Rodney was in any danger. Thankfully, that’s all over now.’
He stood from the table but Rodney stopped him with a hand outstretched.
‘What did Harry mean about recommending you for a post at – Shrivenham was it?’
‘I think that’s a conversation you and I need to have together.’
‘But he wants you to leave MI5 and take a job as an instructor?’
‘Something like that, I think,’ John told him with a sigh.
‘And do you want to?’
John gazed at his partner. Trust Rodney to get to the heart of it so quickly.
Chapter Twenty One
Christmas was upon them before anyone realised.
‘I suppose we lost almost a month when I got kidnapped,’ Rodney said thoughtfully, sitting back on his heels on the living room floor in front of a packing case he was – slowly – filling with books from the shelves of John’s house.
John made a noise that could have been agreement or disagreement. ‘Tony, come and see just what you want to keep here,’ he called from the kitchen. ‘I know you’ve got your own stuff coming from Alexandria but is there anything here you want? We’ll have a fully equipped kitchen just from Rodney’s stuff, so this is all spare.’
Rodney heard Tony coming down the stairs from the bedroom where he was busy packing bedding into another packing crate. ‘I want the Le Creuset saucepans you’ve got, John,’ he called before Tony appeared. ‘They’re far better than the old ones I’ve got, so don’t go giving those away. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I want to keep the dinner service that was your mother’s.’
‘Why can’t you believe you’re saying that?’ demanded Tony as he burst into the kitchen.
Rodney couldn’t help a smile coming to his lips as he surveyed his partner’s cousin. Tony was so excited about his new job and soon to be new home. ‘I can’t believe I’m having a conversation about which china I prefer with my gay boyfriend.’
He spent a couple of minutes watching Tony and John discuss the few odds and ends Tony didn’t already have then resumed the final packing of John’s books. A number were duplicates of ones he already had, but they’d decided to take all of them and work out which ones they’d keep once they were settled in their new home.
Harry had been right in his recommendation. Marlborough was a lovely place, and they’d eventually settled on one of the small villages just to the south of the town which was pretty much midway between Porton Down and John’s new place of work near Swindon.
Their new house was actually a very old one, a typically English thatched cottage with roses growing around the door. Rodney had complained about the thatch, the roses and the grade II listing the property had, but fell silent once he’d seen inside since it could have been built just for them. As well as a huge kitchen with an Aga, there were three large reception rooms on the ground floor, one of which was large enough to become a study they could share since it would hold a couple of desks and sofas, as well as all their books. Rodney could see it becoming their favourite room in the house, even though the sitting room had a large inglenook fireplace and lovely views of the garden. There were enough bedrooms and newly fitted bathrooms to allow their family and friends to be frequent visitors, and a garden large enough to make even Brian happy.
‘We’re definitely going to need a gardener, though,’ Rodney had informed John, who looked a little disappointed.
‘I thought I could have a ride along mower,’ John said, sadly.
‘You do know that they only go about five miles an hour, don’t you?’
‘Yeah, but I’m sure you could make it go much faster for me.’
Rodney’s house had been snatched up by Radek as soon as he learned Rodney would be moving.
‘It is a much nicer house and a bigger house than ours, and Meredith will no doubt have many brothers and sisters,’ Radek had said to Rodney, most earnestly.
‘Many?’ squawked Rodney. ‘If you think I’m going to be Godfather to many mini Zelenkas, you’ve got another think coming!’
‘No matter, since Miko and I both agree that John must be the next godfather, and after him, Tony will take a turn.’
Christmas was going to be spent at the new-old house, as Tony insisted on calling it. Donald was still in the US with his mother and John’s father and brother were invited to spend the holiday with Tony and themselves as they wanted to have Christmas in their first home together, even if John’s boxes hadn’t all been unpacked as yet and were being stored in an outhouse. They were being joined by Harry Pearce who had accepted their invitation as soon as it had been given and while Rodney was initially a little concerned at having John’s former boss spend Christmas with them, he remembered the amount of time Harry had spent at Holly Lodge, and stopped worrying.
Finally, with Christmas dinner eaten, the Queen’s Speech watched, presents unwrapped, and drinks poured, the new owners of Osborne Cottage and their guests relaxed in the sitting room, a log fire burning brightly.
‘When do you start your new job, John?’ his father asked idly, scratching Brian’s tummy as he lay full length next to him on a sofa.
‘The first course I’ll teach will be at the end of January, but I actually begin work on the 8th. I just need time to settle in and prepare my lecture notes.’
‘And you’ve already begun as a full-time spook, haven’t you, Tony?’ Patrick Fitz-Sheppard asked his nephew.
‘Well, as John was keen to tell me back in October, that’s a word the CIA use to describe themselves.’ He grinned at his cousin. ‘But I officially left NCIS at the end of November.’ He glanced at Harry, wondering just how much his uncle knew about John’s former job, and how much he could say.
‘Don’t worry, Tony, Patrick knows all about us. He did a little bit of work for us himself at one time,’ Harry told his newest member of staff. ‘David is fully read into the dark side as well.’
There was a silence again as each man sipped his drink and gazed at the fire.
‘One thing I have been meaning to ask you, Rodney,’ Harry began, ‘was just how much can you tell us about the project that started all this,’ he waved a hand around, ‘in October?’
Rodney grinned. ‘Officially, I can’t tell you anything specific except that it’s moved on from being a purely theoretical project into something the Government is actually going spend money on, but since everyone here has a sufficiently high clearance level, John can tell you why it’s called Project Pegasus since he understood the reference when I first mentioned it.’
John grinned back. ‘I’m surprised no-one else got it, in fact I’m shocked. You all need to widen your TV viewing.’ He paused and looked around the room, his eyes dancing with mirth.
‘John,’ Tony said sweetly. ‘If you don’t tell us, I might have to hurt you. Badly.’
His cousin laughed. ‘Okay, I’ll put you out of your misery. There’s a Star Trek: Next Generation episode where the Enterprise goes to search for a badly damaged Starfleet vessel on a classified mission, and recover an experimental device. The episode’s called The Pegasus and the device which they needed to retrieve was a phase-shifting cloaking device, and when Rodney said he and Radek had called their project ‘Pegasus’, I realised what they were doing.’
’So Rodney and Radek have made a phase-shifting cloaking device?’ Tony asked in awe, even if he didn’t really know what it was.
’No!’ said Rodney rolling his eyes. ‘because that is pure science fiction, but…’ he stopped and looked to John for help.
‘Project Pegasus is about creating technology that will eventually enable us to cloak, or camouflage if you like, planes or ships, or any other kind of military hardware,’ John explained. ‘My guess is that Rodney, Radek and Miko have been able to work out the formulae needed to begin proper research into developing cloaking technology.’
‘Even if that were the case,’ Rodney said carefully, ‘the actual development of such a device is years away, but if the basic information were to be discovered by three really brilliant astrophysicists, it would make a cloaking device a realistic proposition, probably within our own lifetimes.’
‘So any foreign power who kidnapped the three brilliant astrophysicists and got their hands on this technology would be a real threat to this country,’ Harry said slowly, finally understanding what had been at stake back in October and early November. ‘And failing that, they would try to kill the scientists to prevent the UK from developing it.’
‘And now a number of other people are involved so it’s almost impossible to steal the information and use it against us,’ Rodney explained. ‘The worst that could happen would be that other nations could try and create their own versions of it, but since they’d still need to create the actual equipment that is needed to take the idea forward, it’s unlikely.’
‘And you got all that from just the name, ‘Project Pegasus’, John?’ Tony asked.
‘The name rang a bell, and when I thought about it, it was the only thing that made sense,’ John admitted. ‘Especially as I know that all three of the brilliant astrophysicists watch Star Trek. Although I suppose you could have called it —‘
‘—Project Enterprise?’ Rodney finished for him ‘Yeah, but doesn’t have the same ring to it. And names are very important, as you well know.’
‘I wanted to change the name of the cottage to Pegasus Cottage, but Rodney wouldn’t let me,’ John told the others.
‘Because it’s been Osborne Cottage for hundreds of years,’ Rodney retorted. ‘You can’t just go changing names willy-nilly.’
‘Willy-nilly! Does anyone still say that?’ John teased, hugging Rodney to him.
Their bickering faded into the background as Tony gazed into the fire. It was a long way from Chudley St Peter and the Paddington estate, especially with detours through the USA and London, but Tony finally felt at ease, at home. He had some of his family around him, with more family still to come when Ducky and his mother moved to London in the new year; a family owned house his uncle was letting him have for a peppercorn rent; and a job he loved, a part of which would be to set up the two new departments he’d suggested. He’d also exchanged a couple of friendly emails with Jethro Gibbs who was now Acting Director at NCIS, much to his annoyance and Tony’s mirth. Life was good.
A cushion came flying his way and he caught it before it knocked something over, laughing as his uncle growled ‘Boys!’ just as he had long years before. What was it the French said?
‘Plus ça change…’ he began quietly,
‘…plus c’est la même chose,’ David finished for him. ‘You alright, Coz?’
‘Fine, thank you, David. Just fine.’
And he was.