- *No Site Warnings Apply
- Canon Divergence
- Crime Drama
8 June 2009
Elizabeth removed her glasses and tossed them on her desk. “We’re facing a serious diplomatic issue involving a critical ally in the Middle East — a region we’ve been at war in for nearly a decade — and you’re telling me I can’t go to Israel?”
“It’s not that you can’t go to Israel,” Blake started to say.
Daisy finished for him. “It’s that you can’t go to Israel for your first overseas visit.”
“Israel is an ally.”
“A contentious ally,” Blake corrected. She raised a brow. “Which you know. Ma’am.” He looked to Daisy for help.
Nadine saved them both. “Israel is a military and ideological ally in a warzone. If you go there for your first official visit, the media narrative will be about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, not about our diplomatic ties. It will draw plenty of scrutiny and even more speculation.”
“Fair enough.” She considered her options. “I can make a trip to Canada, and then fly to Israel.” Blake and Daisy both shook their heads. “Are you kidding me? What’s objectionable about visiting Canada?”
“Nothing, ma’am, and that’s the point.”
“Visiting Canada for a first international trip is like going to your grandmother’s house for your first adult sleepover,” Blake said. “It’s not a softball, it’s a Nerf ball. A giant, squishy one.”
“They’re discussing the legalization of marijuana in open assembly, Blake. That doesn’t sound like my grandmother.”
“Really? Because it sounds a lot like mine.”
“Remind me to go to your grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving, then,” she said, amused. “Britain?”
“Manageable,” Nadine admitted, “though we’ll have to manoeuvre around any offers of a royal meeting.”
“Fine, then. Britain first then Israel. I should make a stop at a military base,” she considered. All three aides shook their heads. “Why not?”
“Any American diplomatic visit to Israel will heighten tensions in the area. Insurgent forces in Iraq and Afghanistan will be looking for an opportunity.”
Of course it would. Elizabeth blew out a breath. “Okay, here’s the plan. Britain, then I fly to a base for a visit to the troops, then Israel, and I stop in Canada on the way home. That way, it does look like a tour of our military allies, but in a deliberate, nothing-to-see-here kind of way.”
Blake and Daisy looked at each other, pointing and making a few aborted noises. Finally, they nodded. “Manageable,” Daisy said. “Especially if we play up Dr McCord’s prior service.”
“Well, then. Go forth and manage it.” She waited until they left. “Do they ever make you feel…?”
“Old, just by existing?” Nadine asked. “Every single day.”
“As long as it’s not just me.” She leaned back in her chair. “What a mess.”
“It is unfortunate.”
“A US federal agency and a foreign intelligence service doing an end run around both their governments and upending the current diplomatic equilibrium for no reason anyone can see?” Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Sure, let’s go with that.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, were you complaining or admiring just then?” Nadine pursed her lips in a gesture Elizabeth had realized was to hide a smile. “End runs and upending the status quo are in your wheelhouse.”
“Working outside channels around political deadlock or apathy, in order to save lives, is a different matter. Yes, I am aware it’s all about perspective and nuance, but it counts. I’ll be damned if I can find a reason for NCIS to deliver one of their agents into Mossad’s hands because he stopped a foreign spy who’d killed an American agent on our soil.”
“Neither can DCIS,” Nadine said. “Not yet, anyway.”
“I need a meeting with Deputy Director Wright,” Elizabeth told her. “Even if they haven’t found anything conclusive yet, I need whatever they have, even speculation, to deal with the diplomatic repercussions. And a few minutes, at least, with the Secretary of Defense. Today, if possible.”
“Did you intend to eat today, ma’am?”
“Only if it’s on the schedule.”
“I’ll be sure to include it. I’ll try to get a lunch meeting with one or both of them.”
“And a meeting with the ambassador from Israel,” Elizabeth said gravely. “After the other two. Let’s make that one a little more formal, shall we? And I need a conference call to our embassy in Tel Aviv. Anything in the media yet?”
“Not as yet, but it’s only a matter of time. There are too many ongoing investigations — and the FBI investigating the murder of an ICE agent by a foreign spy is too juicy.” Nadine made a note on her phone. “We’ve got a prepared statement for when it hits the news cycle.”
“The president is going to want the Secretary of the Navy’s resignation before then,” Elizabeth said. “To let that play out first. The media will connect Davenport’s departure with this, but it’s better if that happens after the fact.” She shook her head and retrieved her glasses. “Thank you, Nadine.”
“Of course, ma’am.”
Nadine was nearly out the door when Elizabeth stopped her. “Nadine? There’s one more thing.”
* * *
10 June 2009
“Ma’am?” Blake ducked his head in the door. “He’s here.”
She set aside the report she was reading. “Good. Show him in.”
“There’s a small problem, ma’am.”
When Leon Vance was shown into her office almost ten minutes later, he looked put out and a little ruffled. As she stood, he straightened his jacket. “Madam Secretary. You should talk to your security.”
Elizabeth raised a brow at Fred Cole, her current detail. “Fred?”
“He was carrying a weapon, ma’am.”
“Toothpicks aren’t weapons, man, I told you that!”
She’d heard of the man’s affectation, but it seemed like it might be more than a quirk if he walked into a meeting with them. Or got so bent about having them seized. “I see.”
“Since he was found with one weapon, ma’am, we were required to search him, thoroughly, for any others,” Fred continued stoically.
Her lips twitched. “Thank you for your diligence.” He nodded and took his post by the door, ignoring Vance’s glare. “The Diplomatic Security Service doesn’t take their orders from me, Mr Vance. Besides, can you blame them?”
His expression as he took a seat said he did, indeed, blame them. “Ma’am. Can I ask why I’m here?”
“I don’t know, can you?” she asked in the same tone of voice as when she corrected her own children. Vance glowered. “You’re here, Mr Vance —”
“Not for long.” He leaned back from her cool tone — or the words themselves. “And you’re currently suspended pending the conclusion of several investigations. We both know how those will turn out, so let’s not pretend otherwise, alright? Alright,” she continued without waiting for a response. “You’re here because I’m one of the people who’s going to be cleaning up the mess that you, Gibbs, Rivkin, Eli David and his daughter all made. You do recall that, correct?”
Vance narrowed his gaze. “You forgot DiNozzo.”
By the door, Fred Cole stiffened. Elizabeth laid aside her glasses and rose to lean on her desk. “No, I didn’t. Agent DiNozzo has been cleared by the FBI and DCIS of any wrongdoing. The only mistake he made was in going to speak to his partner alone, without an FBI team on hand to arrest her and, incidentally, Rivkin. He attempted to detain and arrest a foreign national suspected of committing multiple murders on American soil —”
“Several were terrorists —”
“For which they should have been arrested, not executed. And Mossad does not get to run operations on US soil. Cut me off again, Vance,” she added. All of her children would have recognized her tone. “This is not a meeting or a consult. This is you getting called on the carpet. I suggest you get used to it if you haven’t already.
“Now,” Elizabeth circled her desk and leaned against the front. “What the hell were you thinking?”
“Mrs McCord —” Cole cleared his throat deliberately. Elizabeth was too amused by Vance’s twitch to be annoyed by his terrible attempt at a powerplay. “Madam Secretary.”
“Let me tell you what this looks like from my perspective — and the entire diplomatic and foreign affairs arm of the US government.” She crossed her arms and sat back. “It looks like you were willing to undermine our ongoing diplomatic efforts with both Israel and Palestine. It looks like you were actively engaged in and complicit with attempts to keep the State Department and the Israeli government out of the loop in matters of national security. It’s clear you were acting outside your mandate and authority.
“And it’s evident you were willing to risk the health, life and liberty of your own agent. You absolutely denied him his right to counsel and due process,” she continued over Vance’s attempt to speak. “And, once again, circumvented the State Department since we should have been part of any foreign government requesting interviews, much less an interrogation, of a US citizen.
“You prioritized the secrets of a foreign security agency over one of our own, concealing intel on the death of a Homeland agent. And, when you learned compromising information about someone in your own agency — namely a foreign officer who was committing espionage — you not only failed to take appropriate steps but appeared to be providing her with a flight home at taxpayer expense.
“So, former Director Vance, explain to me how reality differs from appearance and why it should matter in the face of your stunning degree of incompetence and authoritarianism.”
“Oh, now I can speak?” Vance ground out.
“Be careful,” Cole warned.
“What’s your problem, anyway?” Vance snapped. “Agent.”
Cole crossed his arms. “I don’t have a problem. I didn’t get sold out to Mossad for the price of my director’s ego.”
Elizabeth cleared her throat, redirecting Vance. Cole wasn’t wrong, but she needed answers from Vance, not a show. Not without popcorn, anyway. “You’ve demonstrated that you can speak, Vance, though whether it’s of sense is yet to be determined.”
“I didn’t have a choice once DiNozzo killed Rivkin.”
She waited a moment for clarification, but Vance seemed to think that was explanation enough. “You had plenty of choices, Vance. You made a stupid one.”
“Sometimes politics gets in the way, and you need to work around the system.”
“And when you do, you need to weigh the outcome against the potential damage working outside the guard rails will do. I did an end run around the White House, using old contacts to get a pair of stupid kids away from being executed in Syria. And if I had failed, I would have resigned.” She stared down at Vance, who looked uncompromising. “You weighed the justified shooting of a spy running an operation on US soil, who had committed multiple murders — including a federal agent and who was involved in passing intel from your own agency to another government — against the rights and health of an agent who was doing his job. Not to mention the interests of our own agencies.
“Now, from where I’m sitting,” she patted a hand to her desk, “that doesn’t make any sense. But maybe you have information that I don’t. What were you going to get out of this, Vance? What intel or resource made this seem equitable?”
“Maintaining our relationship with Mossad is vital to our security.”
Elizabeth gave him an incredulous look. “They ran ops on our soil, killed people and stole intel from a US agency. Even divorcing themselves from Rivkin, which they have and will, they still bear the burden of making an effort to retain relations. Trust me, I plan on capitalizing on that. Why do you think the Prime Minister of Israel is so pissed off? He’s embarrassed, yes, but he’s also lost a lot of political capital as a result of this. Which is why Eli David is already history — so they can point to the changeover and play the previous administration card to minimize the cost.” She shook her head. “David always had more to lose in this than you, and you’re savvy enough to know it. I’m not buying what you’re selling, Vance.”
Vance was calm, but she could see the sweat on his forehead. He’d spent too long at the top of his agency, unused to being questioned. That was the problem with Washington insiders — they all considered themselves sharks, predators fighting for the top spot. In reality, they were more like guppies trying to get ahead of the next fish, not realizing they were all clumped together with the real predators watching for one of them to move the wrong way.
Elizabeth had come through the intelligence community, where every action had repercussions. She’d made a home in academia, where the fight for tenure and funding was the life or death of careers. Washington was a kiddy pool in comparison. The aides were often more ruthless than their bosses.
“Besides, you had a Mossad liaison officer in your agency for years. Tell me one time that relationship explicitly benefited NCIS, the Navy, or its personnel.”
“She was very useful. Her contacts provided intel, and she had insight into the region.”
“She couldn’t collect evidence or testify,” Elizabeth countered. “Which are necessary for investigative work as opposed to counter-espionage. Hundreds of agents could have taken her place on the MCRT, many of whom have military backgrounds and comparable skill sets, which seem, in Officer David’s case, to mostly involve hitting things and compromising cases. Other than some experience with explosives — which, interestingly, we also train people in — David’s Mossad background didn’t seem to bring much to the table but a few contacts. Something that people who can also legally collect evidence also have.
“So, Vance, one more time — what was the bargain?” Elizabeth gave him a moment to think about it, circling back to her chair. By the time she’d leaned back in her usual pose, he’d said nothing. “Really? It’s been too long since you were in the field, Vance.”
“You shouldn’t have so much access to NCIS records.”
“That’s your defence? Fine, we’ll play it that way.” She shrugged. “Your entire agency — former agency — is an open book right now, Vance. Everyone and their mother has access to NCIS records while we try to figure out what’s been going on over there. Be grateful you’re talking to me, not Morrow. He has a stake in this twice over. The dead ICE agent is one of his, and you’ve muddied the agency he spent a decade dragging into the modern era. It was personal, wasn’t it?” she added.
He didn’t flinch, but his lips tightened. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
She rocked her chair to the side, casually. “Either you owe David or he has something on you.” She’d had her suspicions, especially after meeting with the DCIS deputy director, but the picture was much clearer now. “And rather than own up or resign when you were compromised, you let the Davids steal intel and would have sacrificed an agent, a man you have a duty of care to, in favour of saving your own job and ass.
“You’re done, Vance. Maybe, depending on how quiet people want to keep this, you’ll keep your pension and benefits, but you’re done.” She watched him draw inwards. “You’ll never work in the DoJ or DoD again once people learn your motives. Incompetence is forgiven, corruption is expected, but being compromised is something no one will risk. I suggest you polish your resume for the private sector. Provided your lawyer can keep you out of jail.”
Elizabeth put on her glasses and drew a folder towards her then looked back to Vance. “And don’t depend too much on contacts or favours to keep you in your place, Vance. Everyone is watching to see how this shakes out, and no one in Washington will risk backing someone who is going to embarrass them or, worse, cost them votes or funding. SecNav has already been asked to resign by the president.” That was an unpleasant shock for him, she could see. “No one wants any charges or lawsuits to impact the office.”
“If the family of the ICE agent and Tony DiNozzo don’t sue you, SecNav and Gibbs — or even Eli David and Mossad, despite the difficulty of doing so from another country — they damned well should.”
“NCIS will apologize to DiNozzo.” He looked like he’s swallowed something unpleasant and it didn’t escape either of them that he didn’t offer to do so himself. “He’ll come back —” Cole snorted.
“If he does, there are a dozen people who would have him taken in for a concussion check and a psychological assessment. Anthony DiNozzo is being courted by every major investigative agency on the eastern seaboard and plenty more besides.” Except for the CIA, but that was another matter.
It was a real shame that DiNozzo had been taken off the recruitment list after he was burned by a CIA operative. Elizabeth herself had flagged him as a potential intelligence asset before she’d left Langley. He’d been too well settled at NCIS at the time, but he had tremendous potential as an analyst. She hoped wherever he wound up, DiNozzo wasn’t so put off by what had been done to him that he left investigating behind. It would be a sheer waste of talent.
“You see, unlike you, DiNozzo has spent his whole career making friends. Just look at how this started — a man he once investigated, even arrested for murder, was the one who stood up for him and set off the dominoes you laid out.”
“He’s made plenty of enemies.”
“Sure, but how many more like Rabb do you think there are?”
“And the willingness to work as a team, for a goal rather than his own ego, which you and Gibbs were so keen to exploit? There are a lot of people who want that loyalty for themselves. You’ve spent a career earning favours, but those are only worth as much as someone is willing to pay out. And as for Gibbs?” Elizabeth shook her head. “He’s spent a lifetime making enemies, many of whom are now waiting to rattle his closet and see how many bodies shake out.
“Like you, he no longer has the protection of the Secretary of the Navy. Without you, Gibbs doesn’t have a sitting director of NCIS willing to fight for their ‘best asset.’ And like both you and Davenport, no matter what comes out of these investigations, Gibbs is done at NCIS. Depending on what’s in that closet of his, he might be done in general. But that’s the FBI and Inspector General’s concern now, not mine.”
“You aren’t going to call him on the carpet and lecture him like a kid?”
“No,” Elizabeth said mildly, “because his actions don’t have international and diplomatic consequences. He ordered his agent to comply with his director’s shady demands. You ordered your agent to remove himself from the country instead of answer questions from the relevant authorities. And you don’t have even the weak defence of following orders. Unless you take orders from Mossad now,” she added, brow lifted.
“You were in the CIA, ma’am. I know you know how things work.”
“I know that sometimes you reach a place where you have to make a choice, even if that choice is to walk away.” She looked over at Cole. “Show Mr Vance out, please, Fred.”
Nadine came in after Fred herded Vance away, possibly to find another excuse for a full-body search. When she cleared her throat, Elizabeth looked up from the papers she’d been staring blankly at. “Yes?”
“Did you get the answers you were looking for, ma’am?
“No.” Elizabeth slumped back. “Just more questions. I need DCIS on the phone.”
“Blake has the number. I’ll get him.”
Moments later, she was on the line with Allen Wright. “Madam Secretary? What can I do for you?”
“I just confirmed Leon Vance is compromised by Eli David.” She ignored her staff, lingering curiously around her desk and studied the Capitol Dome out the window. “He didn’t say it outright, but it was clear to me that his reason for complying with David’s demands was personal. It seemed like something that might need investigating.”
“I — normally, I don’t thank people for doubling my workload, ma’am.”
“I feel you there, Director Wright.” The fallout stretched before them like a minefield. Elizabeth hoped DiNozzo continued to enjoy being wined and dined. And that he found a soft place to land, well outside the thorny tangles of his old agency. He deserved it for being the one to expose the rot festering at NCIS. “Good luck.”
“Thank you, ma’am. I certainly need it.”