Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 213

McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

Chapter 213: Habit

A case might have been a godsend. Or it might have been a very bad thing. After all, someone got killed, actually three someones, so there’s a perspective issue and all, but still, something to think about other than Abby and Kelly was a good thing.

Either way, Tim had been in the bullpen just long enough put his go bag down, flick on his computer screen, get a third of his password in, and then Gibbs’ phone rang, and a minute later they were gearing up and heading toward Georgetown.

Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo doesn’t mind at all if most people think he’s something of an intellectual lightweight. In fact, he’s spent years cultivating a personality designed to make people who just casually know him think he’s got about fifty fewer IQ points than he actually has.

This usually works to his advantage, especially as a cop.

People who think he’s stupid slip up. They say things they shouldn’t. They’re less careful about keeping the details of their stories straight. And all of that is a good thing.

And sure, Tim’s smarter than he is, Gibbs is more intimidating, and Ziva’s danger sense is so well-honed she can tell when people are watching her from two hundred feet away behind her, but even with all of that, he’s not a moron, and does not appreciate being treated as such, so the fact that Tim and Gibbs are both doing the worst job in the history of worst jobs of trying to act like everything is okay, when it clearly isn’t, but neither of them are talking about why, like somehow they’re managing to pull one over on him is awfully annoying.

He gets Tim by himself as they’re systematically going through the crime scene. Tim’s bagging. He’s shooting everything.

“Okay, what the hell happened? Yesterday you were all, ‘Yay! New baby pics.’ Today, there are no baby pics, you and Gibbs are communicating entirely in monosyllabic grunts and looking pleased that we’ve got a triple homicide.”

Tim, not saying anything, took out his phone and showed Tony the pictures.

“They look great! So what’s going on?”

So Tim told him.

And Tony stopped bagging and just stood there, looking pale and very worried. “Are they going to be all right?”

“Everyone says so. But no one actually knows. And we won’t know until something happens or Kelly’s born.”


“Yeah. So, best case scenario, two months of constant fear followed by an uneventful birth with the Doc hovering over us the whole time because even if her placenta does move further out of the way, it’s not going to end up all the way at the top the way it’s supposed to be, so she could start hemorrhaging at any moment or not stop bleeding the way she’s supposed to after Kelly’s born.”

“Great,” Tony says with a lot of sarcasm and a sigh. “But, Kelly’s far enough along that if she needed to come out, she’d be okay, right?”

“Probably. She’s tiny, but lots of preemies are born at thirty-two weeks and do just fine.”

“So the real risk is Abby?”

“Yeah.” Tim nods a little. “Jimmy and Penny and Ducky are all saying that she’ll be fine, but you go online and see stories of women who went to do the grocery shopping and bled out before they could get it stopped, and the baby lives… sometimes… but…” Tim shudders, feeling the fear arcing through him again, stops that sentence, forces it back down, picks up another shell casing, there are tons of them around them, and says, “So, yeah, three dead bodies, lots of leads, huge, heaping stacks of intel to go through, bring it on, Gibbs and I both need something else to think about because otherwise we’ll sit there, hovering over Abby, driving her buggy.”

The single greatest adversary of fear is not courage, nor bravery, not even distraction, not really, it’s habit.

The same thing happens over and over and the worst doesn’t come.

Habit lulls the little, screaming voices, clutching their collective blankets over their heads, trembling at the unknown.

Because, really, the heart of fear is the unknown.

And habit is its antithesis.

Habit is the known, the known so well and so often that without conscious thought or effort actions take place, motions are gone through, and a web of well-known comfort wraps around and supports you through your daily endeavors.

And it’s true that no case is really routine. There are always twists and turns and unexpected bits and pieces, but there’s also a routine to a case, a comforting, lulling pattern of actions.

And, so, it was a case that Gibbs, Tim, and Abby desperately needed.

Once they get back to the bullpen, Tim has a set routine of what happens next. First off, phone records and financials, and for this case, that’s times three. Well, technically, two. They haven’t been able to ID the third vic, yet.

His phone records search is set to handle as many variables and databases as he might want to throw at it. So, first hunt, see if the vics were calling each other, if so, how often and when.

Next hunt, any numbers they had in common.

Third hunt, any numbers called more than five times in the last week.

Fourth hunt, IDs on all of those numbers.

He sets his first computer to slicing and dicing the data on that and then moves to his second computer.

Financials are trickier, first and foremost, he’s got to get the rights to go into them. Unlike Verizon and Sprint, most banks aren’t willing to give him blanket permission to go poking around in people’s financial records. So getting his permissions in place to go in and build the database he needs takes two hours. And proof of death, requisition forms, requests for data, he can do them in his sleep he’s done them so many times.

From there, once he’s gotten into their data, he sets a database of the two IDed vics’ financial records and begins to cross reference them.

Like with phone records he starts with payments between them, and branches out from there.

Unlike with the phone records, he actually has to look at the financials as well as set his computers on them. So he loads his data onto a thumb drive and heads for Abby’s lab.

This is not habit. Sitting at his desk, going over the financials while his computers slice and dice, and then heading down for the next part of it is habit. But no one says anything when he heads down there about an hour earlier than usual. He’ll be back up for campfire time, and that’s all that matters.

Spending a moment standing by the door to the lab, watching Abby bop around as she prepares trace for Major Mass Spec, that’s habit. Stepping in, turning the volume down five notches, (He’s been teasing her for years now about how she’s going to be deaf as a post by the time she’s fifty. She usually signs something back to him, and he thinks it might be rude but hasn’t shown it to Gibbs or looked it up online to see if it is, but one day he will, and he’ll learn something to sign back, because he wants to see the look on her face when he does it.) it’s still loud, but he can’t feel the music anymore, kissing her on the neck, petting Kelly gently, and then heading for the computer on the right of her desk, that’s habit.

“You’re early,” Abby says as he logs in and loads up the financials.

“Yep.” Usually he comes down for the third part of his search. It’s not standard policing technique, but it should be, and that’s social media. That’s a more hands-on search, because while it’s true that he can automate it to a degree (find the vics talking about each other, who are their good friends, what were they interested in, where were they when, who’s been stalking them, etc… etc…) it’s still useful to actually go through by hand to get a better feel for who they’re dealing with. You never know when it’ll come in handy to know the vic was a diehard David Bowie fan. “How’s it going down here?”

“At least three co-mingled blood sources. DNA all over the place. Four sizes of bullets. Two guns. Six unknown substances on swabs from Ducky. It’s peachy!” She grinned at him. “You?”

“Just getting started. Three vics, two sets of phone records, two sets of financials. Right now I’m at sit down and see what jumps out on the money trail.”

“Who’s broke?”

“Yep. Then it’s Facebook time, and eventually you’ll get done processing their phones and laptops and I’ll go play with them, too.”

“Any ideas yet?”

“Four sizes of bullets and two guns means someone else had to have been there. But who and when and where… We don’t even have an ID on the third vic, yet. Waiting for you to do your magic with that.”

She pointed to the computer next to him. “She’s working as fast as she…” and then it beeped, and they got the red flag of doom. Abby went to the computer, put in her information and clearances, and then they got the info.

Tim sat back and looked at it. “Great.”

“What’s great?” Gibbs asked.

“Seriously, do you have the lab bugged or something?” Tim asks him.

“Just good timing. What’s up?”

“The chances of you seeing your other Abby.”

Gibbs sends he the tell me more look.

“Your third vic is John Henrids, CGIS. He’s one of Borin’s guys. And she’s probably about to jump out of her skin because her man is way off grid.”

Gibbs nods, pulling his phone out, and heading up the stairs.

He’s back at his desk, ready for the campfire, they’re just waiting on Borin.

It occurs to him the last time he saw her, the four of them were getting drinks, Tony and Ziva were playing darts and Borin asked if he had been serious about going out. After all, she knew about the bet, but going far enough to get tickets was more of a step than she’d expected either of the guys to go, which was making her think that Tim might have actually been interested. And yeah, he did a piss poor job of asking her out, but they’d worked together enough times that the idea that seeing him relaxed and playing was interesting to her.

Since he’d intentionally done the worst job he possibly could have of asking her out, the idea that she might have been interested in saying yes had never, ever occurred to him.

This resulted in him genuinely tripping all over himself, trying to explain what he’d really been doing without sounding like a jerk who was using her, and without Tony and Ziva noticing what was going on.

Fortunately Borin thought it was amusing and wished him the best of luck.

They haven’t seen her since, because, like many people who have the drive to live a job 24/7, the skill to be good at it, and any political skills at all (unlike Gibbs) Borin got booted up the food chain. She’s now the head of the Chesapeake CGIS office.

Abby Borin
The idea that Abigail Borin is mild-mannered or laid-back is not something that has ever occurred to Tim. The fact that compared to how she is right now, ready to avenge one of her team, every single time he’s seen her before she’s been a paragon of mellow isn’t shocking, but it is still hard to deal with.

No hello, no chatter, no coffee even, just hit the ground running and find the bastards that did this.

But, settling in, working the data, he’s very aware of the fact that no one at NCIS or Coast Guard is sleeping anytime soon.

Murders are like jigsaw puzzles with a missing lid, one piece in place makes it easier to see the whole picture, get enough of them, and you’ve got a feel for what you’re dealing with, eventually, you get enough to see what the picture is, and then it’s just a matter of slapping the little buggers into place.

Getting Henrids and CGIS into place is a major piece of the puzzle.

It’s a smuggling ring.

Cloe (Pvt. First Class, Marines) and Jensen (Petty Officer, Navy) ran the first and second steps of the process. Cloe got the raw opium out of Afghanistan and into the custody of his buddy, Jensen. Jensen made sure the drugs got to their processor in Barbados. Henrids, who was replacing Jensen’s younger brother, was in charge of moving the product out of Barbados and into the States. From there they had a collection of at least seven other guys who moved it up and down the eastern seaboard in tiny boats, and then fifteen more guys who handled sales and distribution.

It’s a small ring, but there’s not a lot of people who trade in pure heroin.

Borin’s people had been running this with the DEA for close to a month, building a case, and when Jensen’s younger brother died, they found a chance to get their own man into it, so they did.

So, they’ve got motive. They’ve got opportunity. They’ve got a massive mess because the three links at the top of the pyramid are dead, and close to 2000 kilos of heroin are missing.

To say that Gibbs and Vance are less than pleased at the idea that this op had been going on for more than a year at DEA and a month at CGIS, under their noses, focusing on their guys would be an understatement.

To say that Borin couldn’t care less about that would also be an understatement.

To say that all three are pissed at DEA, who couldn’t even be bothered to send someone to see what was going on is an even bigger understatement.

And when Tim found the next big chunk of the puzzle, that the reason why no one at DEA showed up was that no one at DEA was actually involved in this, the proverbial shit hit the metaphorical fan and spattered on everyone even remotely nearby.

Really, all in all, it was a very clever plan. “Harkness” and “Milo,” the “DEA Agents” were in fact members of a rival smuggling group, who had infiltrated Cloe’s group. Triple agents.

And with as big and unwieldy as DEA is, and how bad it is at actually co-operating with other agencies, it wasn’t hard for two guys to put on some bad suits, get some fake badges, and walk right into CGIS, lay out all the information about this “sting” they’d been working on for over a year, and then, the plan was, give CGIS all the info, wait for them to swoop in and arrest everyone, and then they’d just walk in flashing badges and paperwork, confiscate the drugs and the info on who the processors and producers were, and take over.

The problem was that Cloe and Jensen figured out who “Harkness” and “Milo” were, resulting in a five person fight/shootout in a cabin with Henrids in the middle.

It took two days, two solid day, two days where the only person who got any down time was Abby, mostly because Gibbs and Tim forced her to rest. (Okay, Tim got a cat nap. She made some very pointed remarks about how if she needed rest he did, too, so he agreed to lay down with her, and as soon as she was asleep he drug himself back up and went back at it.) But by the end of day two they had tracked down “Milo.”

Unfortunately, in that he was deader than Marley (as Ducky said, which got Jimmy talking about reggae, and Ducky looking at him like he’s a twit, but Jimmy linked it back to Dickens and popular media, and from there Ducky took over, and the rest of the team just stood there, exhausted and dead-eyed watching them chatter away) so he wasn’t providing any useful information on finding Harkness or the drugs.

At least, he wasn’t until Ducky and Jimmy got him back, got the trace to Abby, Abby got the trace into Major Mass Spec, and from there came the voila moment that broke the case wide open.

Sometime Tim wonders what it must have been like to try and do this when you couldn’t take dirt samples from the vic’s clothing and find out they’d been cavorting around somewhere in a ten mile circle of ground on the southwest shore of the Chesapeake where that one particular sort of moss grows.

But by that point he was too tired to care much.

They closed in on Harkness, a small boat, 2000 kilos of heroin, and this was a nice coup, four of the guys who belonged to Harkness’ own drug ring.

Sunday, round about noon, both of them having slept basically round the clock recovering from that case, Tim found that routine helps, work helps, and most of all, nothing going wrong helps.

And it’s not that fear is gone, because it’s not. It’s just living the routine over and over and seeing that the world didn’t end, another day went by and the worst didn’t happen, pushes fear back, increases the expectation of yet another day of just… normal.

And he figures that’s probably about as good as this is going to get.

So he got up and make them breakfast, like he usually does on Sunday morning (even if it’s technically afternoon), and the rhythms of life went on.


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