Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 265

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

Chapter 265: And That Was Monday

Monday morning. Back to work.

Usual start up time is eight, so usual heading off time is seven thirty. Which means the last sight of his family, before heading out into the hot July air, was Abby nursing Kelly, and leaning in close to kiss them both goodbye.

The Main Entrance
Ah yes, the glorious orange hue that means justice and work.


Somehow he’s significantly less gung ho about being at work than he normally is. Draga’s already at his desk, and he can smell Gibbs’ coffee, so he’s around here somewhere. Ziva and Tony’s desks are empty. But Tony’s on breakfast treats/drinks on Monday, so they get in a little later than everyone else.

Looks like it’s a normal Monday.

He sits down at his desk, pulls the baby pictures out of his go bag, tacks two on his wall, one on the back of his computer, (so people can see without having to hang all over his desk) and fires up his computer.

Only 274 new emails since the last time he checked.

Maybe, if he’s lucky, there won’t be a body today.

Not that lucky. Usually, when Tony’s on snacks, he comes in, doles them out, and then sits down. Today he’s got the snacks, but instead of putting the bag on his desk, and handing them out he keeps hold of them and says, “Eating on the road today.”

Gibbs chooses that second to appear out of nowhere. “Where to?”

“We’re heading for the Reagan. Van to Norfolk. Heilo from Norfolk to the Reagan.” He looks at Tim. “Bet this is what you were hoping for for your first case back.”

Tim shoulders his go bag, rolling his eyes. “You know it.”

Draga’s looking at him, wondering.

“I get seasick.”

“You get seasick and signed on to be a Navy Cop?” Draga asks as they head to the elevator.

“Long story.”

“You know there are these pressure—“

“Got ‘em all memorized. And a special bracelet that’s supposed to help with it in my bag.”

“Does it help?” Draga asks.

“Not really.”


Tony winces. “No.”

“No?” Draga’s looking at Tim, wanting to know how bad the experience that prompted Tony’s ‘no’ was.

Tim shakes his head. “Like mainlining speed. It’s not pretty.”

“He was awake for three days the last time he tried that,” Ziva says.

“Not three days, but yeah, didn’t like the side effects. I wasn’t sick to my stomach, though.”

“Nope, not sick,” Tony adds. “But you could hear his heart beating from the other side of the room.”

“I thought it was supposed to make you sleepy,” Draga says.

“It might, but that’s not how I react to it.” That makes Tim remember something, so he grabs his phone and starts texting.

“Letting Abby know what’s up?” Gibbs asks.

“Good plan, need to do that, too.” He sent her a fast text as well while saying, “Asking Jimmy about the stuff Breena’s on for morning sickness.”

A minute later he’d gotten one back from Jimmy. Motion sickness is usually more of an inner ear balance thing than a hormonal thing, but the stuff she’s on works for chemo patients, too. Might help you. How much do you weigh?

Tim sent back 171.

I’ll write you a script and bring some if we get called out to join you.


They were getting the van ready when Tim said to Tony, “Never thought I’d be around to see this again.”

“Had to happen. Wasn’t working stuck in between them.”

“That’s fine. Still not calling you Boss.”

“Gibbs said the same thing to me.”

Tim laughed at that. “So, campfire when we come back?”

“Think so. That seemed to work well last time.” Of all of his changes from the first time, the one that stuck was how he rearranged everything so it was easier to get to. The one he would have liked to have seen stuck was the campfire. Okay, sure Gibbs likes the report in style, but Tony thought his report in, and then talk through what you think is going on works better than Gibbs’ report in, and then Gibbs somehow magically comes up with the answer. And it’ll sure as hell work a ton better than Gibbs magically figures out what’s up next when Gibbs isn’t there anymore. Plus, it is doing a better job of keeping Draga in the loop, which means he’s getting fewer, do you really know what you’re doing style questions.

“Yeah, I think it did. Gibbs actually talking at them?”

“Uh huh. He’s a really good second-in-command.”

“Shouldn’t that be Ziva?”

“At this point it’s basically everyone who isn’t Draga.”


Gibbs tossed Tim the keys. “Let’s go.”

Tony’s handing out the snacks while he fills them in. “So, according to the call, 1800 hours, day before yesterday, three sailors: Ender, Simmers, and Blake didn’t show up for roll. Since the Reagan was in the middle of the Atlantic, and since they had been at their posts as of 1700, the higher ups started searching for them. As of 2200 yesterday, they still hadn’t been found.”

“Isn’t the Reagan an aircraft carrier?” Draga asks.

“Yes, it is, Flyboy. Hoping you’ll be able to help us find all the hidden nooks and crannies where three sailors might hide.”

“Yeah, but… Carriers have NCIS Agents Afloat, right?” Draga asks.

“Good point. Why are we heading to Norfolk?” Tim asks.

“Yes, they do. But, at 0600, when Agent--oh you’ll love this McGeek--Mulder—“

“Really?” Tim looks away from the traffic for a second to see if Tony’s joking.

Tony’s not. “Really. Three missing persons, and Agent Mulder’s in charge.”

“Oh, this is great,” Draga says with a grin. “Scully on board too?”

Gibbs shoots a quick less fooling around more working look at the three of them.

“No pretty red-heads for you, Flyboy. Gibbs has that market cornered.”

Draga looks curiously at Gibbs. Gibbs just shakes his head.

Tony continues on, “As of 0600, Mulder was running the search for those three—“

“How are they searching?” Ziva asks.

“Don’t have details on that.”

“Do we know if they went for a swim?” Gibbs asks.

“Report says they didn’t, but I don’t see how they could know that,” Tony answers.

“All carriers have sensors and security on the decks. Anyone tries to go for a swim, and it’ll set them off,” Draga answers.

“Is that new?” Tim asks. He’d never heard of that.

“Think they got done installing them on all the ships in early ’15. Pretty cool system. There’s a series of lasers around the perimeters as well as cameras. The cameras are always on, and if one of the beams gets broken, it immediately sounds an alarm, the footage gets replayed, the computer can tell if it’s a bird or something, and if it’s a bird or something, no one does anything, but if it’s a guy, then all hands onto rescue mode.”

“Cool.” Tim replies.

“McGee, Flyboy, once we’re done with the scene, you two’ll be making sure the sensors worked properly.”

“Why do we have a scene? This is a missing persons case,” Ziva asks.

“As I was saying before we got onto whether or not our sailors took a swim, Agent Mulder had been running the search. He notices something, quote, smells really off, unquote. He’s in the process of checking it out, and was, ‘pushed’ down one of those ladders/stairway things they have between decks. So, Mulder’s in the infirmary, with his left leg broken in three places, and we’re being heiloed in to take over the search.”

“What does ‘smells really off’ mean?” Ziva asks.

“Dead body? Dead bodies? That’s what Mulder thought. Could be little green men for all we know, though. Whole area’s been roped off, waiting for us. Supposedly, no one’s been allowed nearby and a watch has been set to keep the spot clear.”

“So three missing sailors, maybe dead, and two hours before we get there,” Gibbs adds, maybe just stating the obvious, maybe giving Tony a hint.

Either way Tony followed up with, “Okay, Flyboy, pad out, I want a list of every non-standard hiding place you can think of on a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier that’ll fit a person. The more out of the way, the better. I want wherever you’d take a girl if that girl was the Captain’s wife.”

Draga grins. “If I’m gonna fool around with the Captain’s wife, I’m taking her off his ship.”

That got a headslap from Gibbs.

“Non-standard hiding places, working on it.”


Setting foot onto the Reagan after the helio ride, Tim was awfully pleased to see the seasickness didn’t hit him nearly as hard as it usually did. They’d actually been on there for twenty minutes, working their way below decks to ‘smells really off’ and he was only feeling mildly nauseous, which given the fact that it’d been less than a day since Tropical Storm Helene blew through and the sea was still rough was a miracle.

He was wondering a little if maybe actually talking some about what had happened with his Dad was part of why he wasn’t massively sick. Maybe, since almost twenty-five years of fear about what might happen to him on a ship had, not precisely died, but been put into some better perspective, his stomach wasn’t quite so upset by the prospect of being on a ship.

So, he was thinking that he might actually get through the case without tossing his cookies when they got to the ‘smells really off.’ And it does. They all know that smell. Been there, done that, got the commemorative t-shirt in every color they make it in. There’s something, likely someone, very dead down here.

Gibbs is already texting Ducky, letting him know to come out. “Ziva, this smell like less than three days to you?”

She shakes her head. “No. I’d think what we’re going to find has been dead longer than that.”

Draga’s not look happy at this conversation. He’s decidedly green around the gills right now.

“Of course, it could just be hot down there. That would speed things up,” Ziva adds.

Draga swallows hard at that.

Tim takes pity on him and gets Draga fingerprinting the ladder Mulder fell down. Sure it’s not likely to be too useful, probably twenty men a day go up and down that ladder, but he needs to work on his fingerprinting skills, and it’s not impossible that something useful might come up from those prints.

Plus, he remembers his first time finding a decomposing body. That was bad enough. Trapped in a small area with recycled air… much worse. Draga can skip that until he’s got a few more miles under his belt.

Meanwhile, the ladder leads down to a storage area. Which is where the smell seems to be coming from. They circle around to a different ladder, and down they go.

On the upside it’s bright. Mostly. There are overhead lights, but tall boxes of… Tim doesn’t know, something in stacks of tall boxes, cast deep shadows.

So, flashlights out, following their noses, but after a while the smell is so thick, so omnipresent, suffusing every molecule of everything around them, that they can’t navigate by it.

They split up, each one covering their own area between the rows of boxes. He’s got the last row, between rough wooden boxes piled up to well over his head on one side and the steel of the bulkhead on the other.

Of course he found it. Why wouldn’t he find it? That’s how the universe works, right? He’s finally not feeling like being on a ship is going to make him throw up everything he’s ever eaten, so he’s the one who finds the body.

The body slowly being eaten by thousands of wriggling maggots. 

No one was saying anything. They’re spread out and searching between the boxes. And while it’s true that aircraft carriers aren’t precisely quiet, it was quiet enough. There’s a sound that goes with thousands of maggots eating, it’s very soft, and it’s entirely possible that he imagined it, but when the wet, squelchy, rustling hit Tim he spun on his heel and sprinted away.

That he kept it together long enough to jerk his thumb in the direction he came from as he whipped past Tony and get clear of the crime scene before throwing up is something he’s rather proud of. That he didn’t make it to the head, wasn’t.

“You weren’t kidding about seasick, were you?” Draga said a few seconds later, handing him both a bottle of water, and a box of wetnaps. He’s got no idea why Draga would have them, but it was certainly convenient.

Tim shook his head. He took a sip of water, swished it around his mouth, and realized he didn’t have anywhere to spit, so he swallowed and hoped it would stay down.

It took a few minutes, but he got the mess cleaned up, and then found Ziva, gave her his camera, because of all the scenes in all the world, that’s the one he can’t document, and decided now would be a very good time to go have a chat with Mulder about exactly what he was doing when he got pushed, and all the details of the case he could get from him.

Didn’t take him too long to find the infirmary. The medic took one look at him (one smell probably, he has to reek of corpse and, assuming you could smell it over/through corpse, puke) and was getting ready to treat Tim. Tim cut him off, showed his badge, and asked where Agent Mulder was.

“Back here. Can I get you anything?”

Tim shook his head, few minutes too late for that. “Just Mulder.”

“Okay.” Tim followed the Medic back behind a large partition to a collection of beds. “Dave, got a…” He looks at Tim, wondering who he is.

“NCIS, DC Branch.” Tim extended his hand to a guy who couldn’t be less Fox Mulder if he tried. Dave Mulder was probably six three, ebony skinned, and lying on his back with his leg in traction. “I’m Tim McGee. You talked to my partner earlier.”

“DiNozzo. You all got here, and from the smell of it, you found what I was looking for.” Tim nods, looks around, no chairs, so he half sits/half leans against the bed next to Mulder’s. “Take it you found a body.”

He doesn’t want to think about that, but he does answer, “Oh yeah. How long have your men been missing?”

“Two days come 2200.”

He doesn’t want to see it. Would really prefer not to have that image in his mind, but the image does flash back into his head, and he feels the queasiness rising in his stomach again, along with a panicky cold sweat. Deep breath, calm, you’re nice and safe, here in the clinic. He’s pressing the point on his right wrist as he says, “We found someone. I really doubt it’s one of your men. At least, I don’t think you’d get that many maggots that fast.”

“Maggots?” Mulder asks.

Tim winces. “Lots of ‘em.”


“Anyone else missing?” Tim asks.


That’s when the fact that Mulder was looking confused about the maggots worked its way through his fear. “Why huh?”

“Just… You need flies for maggots, and we don’t have a lot of them out here. Not none of them, can’t have none. But we’re not on land, and Captain Zackles is vehement about running a clean ship. This is my third float, and ships have a smell to them, lots of men, lots of food, everything all close together, and this was the first ship I ever stepped on that didn’t have that smell.”

Tim thought about that, and Mulder is right. Ships do have a certain smell, and thinking back, he didn’t notice that once they got below decks here. He makes a note of that.

“We headed down the ladder, into the storage area,” Mulder is nodding along, “found the body between the bulkhead and the boxes, about two hundred feet back.”


“What’s stored down there?”

“Maintenance stuff. Everything you need to fix something if you’re a thousand miles from the nearest port.”

“Lots of raw materials.” Tim jots that down.


“So, not a lot of people going down there?”

Mulder flashes him a knowing look. “Either no one is down there, or a whole lot of them are.”

Good to know. “When was the last time a whole lot of people were down there?”

“Don’t know, but we can find out.”

Tim made a note of that, too.  He taps his fingers against his phone, thinking. “If not a lot of people are down there… How often do those boxes get opened?”

“Some of them, like the ones with paint in them, pretty often. The ones with screws and nuts, pretty often, too. Back up pressure gauges, o rings, sheet metal, probably not so much.”

Tim makes a note to find out what’s stored where they found the body.

“You guys sure they didn’t fall/jump overboard?” he asks.

Mulder shrugs. “Only an hour between missing roll and last seen. I’ve watched every inch of the footage from every angle. If they went over, it’s because they cut a door for themselves.”

“Okay.”  Tim stops to think about that. “Could you do that?”

“Sure, it’s possible, but you’d need some really serious cutting tools. Arc welder of the gods or something.”

More nodding from Tim, that’s a good point. Still, weirder things have happened. “But… I mean… It’s a huge ship. Has anyone laid eyes on the whole thing to make sure it doesn’t have any holes it’s not supposed to?”

Mulder’s looking at him like he’s insane. “No, none of us checked. But, look, the outside is designed to withstand missile attacks, depth charges, and, you know," Mulder slams his fist into his palm, "planes crashing into it. It’s not inch thick sheet metal. You’d need some really serious power to get through it, and a lot of time. You couldn’t whip through it in less than an hour.”

“No. You’d have to have it set ahead of time. They store tools down there?”


“The kind of tool that could cut through the side of an aircraft carrier?”

“No idea.”

“Would there be something like that on board?”

“Maybe.” The expression on Mulder’s face seems to be saying, Maybe you could try asking someone who’s actually an expert on air craft carriers this. But he does answer, “Since Pearl Harbor it’s been pretty standard to try and have something that can cut through a bulkhead somewhere on board.”

Tim remembers his grandfather telling stories of being able to hear the men trapped in the ships that had rolled over. They kept tapping out distress codes, but no one could get through to them. Ships that could shrug off a depth charge were ships you couldn’t cut through, not then. Eventually the tapping stopped. And according to him, being stuck, hearing them, unable to do anything, was the single worst part of the battle of Pearl Harbor.

Back on track. “You ever cross paths with Ender, Simmers, or Blake?” Tim asks.

“No. Clean records. Not even particularly close to each other from what I could get. But Ender was part of the engineering crew.”

“Great. Three unrelated crew members vanish. One dead body. One injured NCIS agent. I’ve got to ask, is there any chance you slipped?”

Mulder smiles grimly. “There’s always a chance, right? But there’s a boot print on the back of my jacket that says it’s awfully unlikely.”

“Is that all bagged up and ready to be processed?”

“Yeah, I made sure the medics were careful about getting me out of my clothing. Everything’s ready for trace.”

“Good. Any security footage of that area?”

“No. I’ve got people going in and out of that hallway, but…”

“But lots of people go in and out, it’s the actual doorway that you’d need footage of.”


Tim had one last question. “Is anything, besides the men, missing?”

“Nothing that’s crossed my path. But, there’s more than five thousand people here, and the Reagan’s the size of a small city. Unless it was something we use all the time, no one’s going to notice something missing.”

“I get that. We got a case where shells were being stolen off battleships. Inventory was every six months. Deep storage. Took a long time before anyone noticed them missing.”

“It’s every three months here, and the answer to your next question is, yes, we just wrapped up the inventory ten days ago.”

“Long enough to cut a hole and take something.”

“If a hole can be cut.”

“Okay, thanks, this has been useful.”

“Yes, it has. Let me know what you find out?”

“We’ll keep you in the loop.” He shook Mulder’s hand again, and gave him his card. “Hope you heal up fast.”

That got a frustrated snort out of Mulder. “I’ll be in this damn thing for another week.  Doc’s thinking it’ll be three months before I’ll get to the walking cast part.”

Tim winced. “Sorry to hear it.”

“You and me both. We’re heading back to Norfolk. I was supposed to have shore leave this week. Now all I get to do is sit on my ass and read.”

“Really sorry.”

“Thanks. Well, go see if anyone cut a hole in the ship.”

“On it.”

“What happened?” Gibbs asked him when he finished updating the team on what he’d found out from Mulder

Tim rubbed his temples, and pressed hard on the point on his wrist. Really not helping at all. (He checked his watch, only an hour until Jimmy and Ducky, and maybe some of those pills, would be here.) Only reason he hasn’t thrown up again is because his stomach is already empty. “Every nightmare I’ve ever had that didn’t involve Abby or Kelly getting hurt.”

“I’ve seen you sicker than that and not lose it.”

“I know.” And he has been sicker than that, way sicker than that, and kept his food located inside his body until he found the head.

“So, what happened?”


Gibbs squinted, remembering. “You hate them.”

“More like terrified.”

Gibbs sent him the keep talking look.

Tim rolled his eyes a little, and pressed the point on his wrist again. “I did acid in college, had a full body, full sensory hallucination of being eaten alive by them. It lasted eight hours of real time, and about three days of subjective time, and I could see and feel the whole thing. Walking into that was pretty close to a flashback and add in seasickness and the smell on top of it, and… honestly, we’re all pretty lucky I didn’t puke on the corpse.”

“That’s why you hate maggots?” Tony asked, stepping back from sending Ziva and Draga off to find out what sorts of cutting tools might be on an aircraft carrier.

Tim nodded.

Tony winced.

Gibbs just stared at both of them, not sure what to do with that.

“You really meant it when you said you didn’t like them,” Tony said.

“Yeah I really meant it.”

“Can you go back there?” Tony asked.

“Put a gun to my head and I will, but…” 

Tony nods. He and Gibbs have made McGee do more than enough shit end of the stick stuff over the years. He can get a pass on this one. “When Ducky and Jimmy head back with the body, you go with them. Phone records, financials, personal histories, all your usual stuff for right now. Take Draga, too, and go through each of the missing men’s lives with a microscope.”

“Thank you.”

“And when you helio out, go around the ship, make sure there aren’t any new holes in it.”

“Will do.”

“Good, Jethro, I’m not liking the vibe I’m getting off the XO when I started asking about what they keep back there. He's acting hinky. Time to go put the fear of Gibbs into him.”

Orders in place, Tim found a quiet nook, took his computer out of his go bag, plugged in, and began to get the permissions he needed to start going through Ender, Simmers, and Blake’s lives with a fine tooth comb.

Norfolk to DC is three hours. The helio ride from Norfolk to the Reagan was another half hour. So, they got there, called in Ducky and Jimmy twenty minutes in, which means they’d been on board for four hours by the time Jimmy and Ducky showed up.

By that point they’d made several suppositions.

A: Whomever was being eaten by the maggots was not Ender, Simmers, or Blake.

B: Ender, Simmers, and Blake were still unaccounted for.

C: There did not “appear” to be anything missing, but the higher ups were acting awfully hinky about something.

D: If they weren’t on the ship, where the hell were they? (In the water, yes, great. With what? And where were they going? Middle of the freaking ocean, either someone had to pick them up, or they had to awesome swimmers.)

E: A Nimitz class aircraft carrier is only slightly smaller than a city

F: There are only (hahahahaha) 5700 people on it. And it’s floating in the ocean, so compared to searching Lejeune… It’s still a huge fucking mess, and this time they aren’t going to get extra people to help.

By the time Jimmy and Ducky got there, Tim knew that Ender had been part of the engineering crew. Blake had been on underwater demolitions/salvage before joining the Navy. And last, but not least, Simmers, had a sealed juvie record for gang related issues, but had “gone straight” and joined the Navy out of high school. 

He was reporting that to the team as Ducky and Jimmy joined them.

Without stopping his report, Jimmy handed Tim a bottle labeled Zofran, one of which he downed about two seconds later. And no, Zofran’s not particularly good at treating motion sickness, (It's awfully good with morning sickness, which is why Breena takes it. )but Jimmy and Ducky both know it’s extremely unlikely that the motion of the ship is the problem. Which is why the pill he downed is actually just compressed powdered sugar and baking soda, with a label for Zofran on it. Two hour long ride, more than enough time for Jimmy to put together eight placebo pills.

Tim wrapped up with the report on their missing sailors and Jimmy and Ducky were able to add one more piece of intel to the collection. There was indeed a rather non-standard looking hole, about twentyish feet above the waterline, a bit below what looked like a small deck protruding from the port side.

Yeah, that little black dot under that small deck. Not
supposed to be there.
“It’s really well hidden.” Jimmy was saying to Tony and Gibbs. “You basically can’t see it from the ship. You’ve got to be on the outside looking in, and it’s on the side the planes take off of, not land on, so they wouldn’t see it coming in,” Jimmy said as they headed down the ladder toward the body.

“Great. Got a time of death for me, Ducky?” Tony asks.

“Anthony, I understand that you’re taking after Jethro on this, possibly one upping him, but could you at least wait until I see the body before asking how long it’s been dead?”

Tony smiled at Ducky. “Thought by now you’d be able to tell by the smell.”

Ducky inhaled, deeply, “I’d say, Anthony, based on smell alone, assuming we are looking at the same temperature here as where the body is, that this is at least six days, if not longer.”

Jimmy’s nodding along, concurring with that assessment. “So, where is our John Doe?” He offers Ducky a hand getting down the last step. “And do we have a way to get him out of here more easily than the ladder?”

“Come, now Mr. Palmer, you know it’s never that easy.”

“No, Dr. Mallard, it never is. Lead on, Tony.”

Draga nudged Tim. “They always that formal?”

“Only here. Off hours they’re Ducky and Jimmy. Ducky would tell you it’s useful to have markers that block off your work life from your home life, and especially when you do what they do, I have no reason to doubt him. It’s a lot easier to live Rule Eleven if you’ve got a wall between here and home.”

“Eleven: when the case is done, walk away?”

“Yep. That’s the idea. Of course, that’s a bit harder to do when you’re, literally, married to your job the way we are.”

“I can see that.”

“Anyway, it’s not going to take them all that long to get this handled. So get your stuff packed up and then we’ll head down and offer a hand. Not fun to try and get a body up a ladder.”


It’s not just a body bag that has to go up the ladder. Tim’s not a great fan of moving corpses around, but he’s done it. No it’s the two buckets next to the body bag. Pretty big buckets, and what’s likely in those buckets is making his body feel tight and cold, fear sweat creeping down his spine.

Jimmy sees the way he’s staring at them, and it doesn’t take him more than a second to decide what to do.


Tim looks away from the buckets to Jimmy. “What?”

“I don’t know what the hell we’ve walked into, but the John Doe was lying on a pile of fish.” Jimmy’s staring right into Tim’s eyes, lying his ass off. Of course there are no fish, but Tim’s freaking out just looking at the buckets damn things are in, and being stuck in a van with them for three hours isn’t likely to be pleasant, so time to double down on the placebos.

“Huh?” Tim stares at Jimmy, baffled.

“Yeah, weird, huh?”

Tim nods slowly, appreciating what Jimmy’s doing, but wishing he was better with off the cuff lies.

“Lids down good and tight on those fish?”

“Oh, yeah, sealed up good. Can’t risk losing them. May have useful evidence. Did you know scales don’t decompose at the same rate flesh does, so it’s possible we might be able to get prints off of them.”

“Good to know.” Draga was hanging back, not wanting to get too close to any of this. “Draga, you’re on bucket duty. I’ll help with the body.”

And, thus, both of them were a whole lot happier.

“Pill help?” Jimmy asks Tim as they head back to the ME’s van.

“Yeah. Still off, but don’t feel like I need to keep a baggie with me all the time.”

“Good.” Jimmy nods. He knows that’s what Breena’s told Tim they do for her. So, he’s just fine with the results.

“Being back on land helps a whole lot more.”

“Yeah, it would,” Jimmy says as Tim helps him get the body lifted into the van, while Draga hangs way back, as far behind them as he can get, and still be part of the group.

The ME’s van can carry eight people in great comfort. As long as six of those people don’t mind traveling horizontally with less than fifteen inches of vertical space between them and the next person. But as of this point, no one has ever complained.

It’s a little less comfortable with four people all of whom prefer to remain upright.

And it’s quite a bit less comfortable when the reclining visitor smells the way their John Doe does.

The thing about a body bag is that it’s designed to move bodies from place A to place B without the contents of the bag spilling all over.

They are not however, air tight. And while it is true they do have hazmat bags, that are, in fact, airtight, those bags are for hazmats, and if you use them for what is just a very smelly corpse, you end up paying the six thousand dollars to replace the hazmat bag out of your own pocket.

(And right this second, Draga’s looking like he’d happily write the check to cover it, if only he had six thousand dollars laying around.)

Jimmy got the John Doe settled, and gestured for Tim and Draga to get in. Tim did. He’s not exactly skipping to get in there, but as long as he doesn’t think about the “fish” sitting next to the John Doe, he’s okay. Draga looks in, goes white, and shakes his head.

“Can’t do it.”

“It’s get in or hitch hike,” Tim says.

Jimmy and Ducky had been settling who was going to drive, but Jimmy seems to have noticed what was going on with Tim and Draga and heads back to them.

“Here.” He heads into the van, searches for a second, and comes back with a small tub of Vicks Vap-O-Rub. “In our job, the smell gives us ideas about what happened, but you don’t need to be that in tune with it. This’ll kill your sense of smell long enough for you to adjust. You’ll get used to it.”

Draga’s staring at the tub. “What if I don’t want to get used to this?”

Jimmy hands it to him. “Then you need to keep job hunting. At least once a season we get one that’s in this shape.”

“Welcome to the glorious world of law enforcement, Eric,” Ducky says to him. “Now, in you get. We have to be off.”

Draga got in, rubbing the Vicks under his nostrils. Tim took the tub from him. It’s better than how the John Doe smells.

They’re about a mile into the trip when Tim pulls out his netbook.

“What are you doing?” Draga asks.

“Checking to see if I’ve got the court orders that’ll let me go through the missing sailors’ financials.”

“In the van?”

“Sure? All the 4G I need is on this thing.”

“Not what I mean. You’re in the back of a van, with a corpse, reading, and okay?”

“Yeah.” Then it occurs to Tim what Draga’s really asking. “It’s just seasickness. I’m fine in cars. Not a big fan of planes though.”


“They don’t make me sick or anything. I just don’t like them.”

“Never been a problem for me.”

“No. I’d imagine not.” Probably not too many Naval test pilots who don’t like planes. “You bring your laptop?”


Tim squints at him. If Draga’s back up tech, they need to work on this. “They go over what should be in your go bag?”


Of course they did. And they gave him what they carry because Tim’s always got all the other stuff in his bag. “Okay, here’s the version from the guy who actually does the tech stuff: full set of clean clothes, three pairs of socks, three pairs of underwear, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, razor, comb, comfy shoes, batteries for everything you use, fully charged. Batteries for everything they use, fully charged. At work I’ve got two main computers on my desk and my lap top.” Tim patted his netbook. “This little guy right here lives in the bag, it’s not great for any heavy lifting, but can at least get the job started. Chargers for all the batteries/devices. Extra power cords. Note pad. Pencils. Pens. At least one highlighter. Five empty thumb drives. I go through them like gum, always restocking them.” Tim pats his pocket and comes up with his clasp knife. “This one stays on you. Rule Number Nine, always have a knife, and one extra magazine for your gun. That’s what’s in a properly stocked go bag.”

“Okay. This why your bag is twice the size of theirs?”

“Probably. For days like today, you want to have a clean set of clothing in your desk, too. Everything on us smells like death right now. The jumpsuits help, some, but not enough. So, in an effort to not discomfort the entire rest of the office, we go in with Ducky and Jimmy, grab some scrubs from them, hit the showers, bag up our current clothing, and honestly, unless I love it, and I don’t love anything I’m wearing today, I just toss it, but if you don’t mind the idea of that smell getting into your house, you can take it home and wash your clothing. Anyway, put on the scrubs, then up to your desk where you’ve got clean clothing.”

“What about the stuff in my go bag?”

“When you get your sense of smell back, you’ll realize why you don’t want to wear it. Won’t be as strong. Won’t knock the people around you out. But you’ll be able to smell it. Tonight, unpack everything and let it air out. Wash the clothing. Send it through twice before you dry it, because if you dry it smelling like this, you’ll never get the smell out.”

“I don’t have any clothing in my desk.”

“Won’t be the first time there was a guy in scrubs working in the bullpen. I’ve done it a few times.”

“What do I do now?”

“Think. If you were going to take something off an aircraft carrier. Something so important you’d cut a hole in the ship and jump off, what would it be?”

“Launch codes. Not sure why you’d jump off, though. Thumb drive, bury ‘em in your phone or laptop, then just walk off.”

“Right. So, what do our perps need right now? What don’t they want to be on the ship for?”

“No idea.”

“Keep thinking.”

They were an hour out of the Navy Yard when Draga said, “You’ve got the camera with all the pics on it, right?”


“Can I see?”

“Sure.” Tim fished through his bag, found the camera, and handed it over.

Draga spent several minutes going through the pictures. Then, sounding excited, he said, “Thought so!”

“What do you have?”

“See these boxes around the body?”

Tim’s very carefully not looking at to body, so focusing in the boxes was something he was happy to do. “Yes.”

“They don’t look like the other boxes.”

Tim looks closer. Box is a box is a box to him. He’s not seeing it.

“Look.” Draga blows up the picture, sounding really excited.

Tim’s shaking his head. “Still not seeing it.”

“The wood’s different. Those crates are two by fours, the other crates are lighter. There’s something very heavy in those boxes.”

“Send it to Tony. According to Mulder it’s storage for raw parts down there, so for all we know there’s extra anchors or something in there, but send it along anyway.”

Draga got his phone out and started texting.

It was well after seven by the time he was back at the Navy Yard, scrubbed up, dressed, and back at his desk.

Draga had beat him to it, and was also at his desk (in borrowed scrubs. Tim resisted calling him Aqua Smurf.) on his computer, working away.

“Now what?” He asked Tim as he headed in and sat down.

“Now I email Tony everything I’ve got,” Which was a heaping pile of not much. Financials, clean. Emails, boring. Phones, the same. He’d already told the computers to start digging deeper, and come morning time he’d start going through what, if anything, they found. “And then I go home.”



Draga’s startled by that. “I thought we didn’t go home when the case was hot.”

“We didn’t used to. I do now. I’m having dinner with my wife and daughter. I’m getting some sleep. And ‘round about four, when I’m on pre-breakfast for Kelly, I’ll turn the computer on and get at it again. But for now, I’m off.”


“Call or text if you need anything.”

“Will do.”

“You’re home.” Abby sounded pretty surprised to see him when he walked in. Then she took a breath and winced. “And you got to play in dead bodies, too.”

He put his go bag on the porch. “Yes, and yes. Another shower?”

She nodded, following him up to their room. “I was sure I’d be on my own tonight.”

“Unless it’s literally life or death, I’m coming home every night,” he said, stripping off. She grabbed his clothing and rushed them to the washer, and a minute later was back up in their bathroom.

“Tell me about it?”

So, in the middle of his third shower of the day, he did.

An hour later, he’d eaten, told her about it, snuggled both his girls, and decided that since four AM was likely his wake up time, that getting to sleep would be a good thing.

So, at nine he was asleep.

And that was Monday. 

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