Being the director of NCIS definitely had its perks. Wrangling Jethro Gibbs was not one of them.
Of course, she’d known that when she accepted the job so she had no real excuse to complain–she’d worked with Gibbs enough to be well aware of his tendency to buck authority when it suited him. Nevertheless, she suspected Gibbs had been a definite factor in the timing of Tom’s decision to move on to Homeland Security and there were times when she thought he had the right idea.
Times like now.
“Look,” Jenny stated clearly and calmly, putting ninety percent of what was left of her patience into her voice. “I know how you feel about other agencies butting in on your investigations, but this is not the time to get territorial.”
Gibbs shook his head. “Territory’s got nothing to do with it, Jen. Don’t you just find their stories a little too damned convenient? I mean, Smith and Jones? They’re barely even trying and yet you’re bending over backwards to give them access to a crime they very well may have committed.”
She sighed. “Do you really think that little of me, Jethro? The first thing I did when I got the call from Agent DiNozzo was to contact UNIT in New York. They put me through to London, where no less than the organization’s first commander, former Brigadier General Sir Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart confirmed that yes, they do indeed have a John Smith on permanent retainer.”
Gibbs scoffed. “If you dig deep enough, probably every agency in the world has at least one John Smith on retainer. All that means is this guy had a 90% chance of hitting it right when he picked the name.”
Jenny pinched the bridge of her nose. She briefly entertained the idea of shooting him right then and there with the service revolver she kept in her desk drawer, but discarded it. Like it or not, he was still her best chance to find the Admiral before his disappearance could cause an international incident. Though God help him if Vance should happen to get wind of this; even saving her ass in the eyes of the entire United Kingdom wouldn’t be worth Gibbs’ life then. Not that Vance could do anything besides rub it in, but that was more than enough.
“Would you like to see the file they sent me?” she asked in a voice that was almost a challenge.
“Yeah, as a matter of fact, I would,” Gibbs said. “And while you’re at it, anything they sent you on a Martha Jones.”
Suppressing a bitter sigh, she brought up the file on her desktop and let him circle around to stand behind her, so he could see it over her shoulder. After clicking through a few pages, Gibbs snorted. “Is there any relevant information that isn’t redacted?”
“So most of his records are classified,” she answered, exasperation nearly reaching the boiling point. “So were Admiral Sullivan’s reasons for being in the United States–if you ask me, the latter is far more relevant to the case.”
Gibbs made a sound that clearly indicated he didn’t buy it; no doubt his infamous gut instinct was giving him different information. “Fine,” he announced. “When they get up here, when you meet them, you tell me they’re not hiding anything and I might just consider letting it go.”
For someone with diplomatic skills as appalling as Gibbs’, he sure had mastered the diplomatic art of making promises that ultimately promised absolutely nothing.
Cynthia poked her head in at that moment. “Ma’am? The rest of Agent Gibbs’ team is here, along with the two agents from UNIT.”
Sending one last warning glance in Gibbs’ direction, Jenny nodded. “Send them in.”
The first person into the room was a man she’d never met, but more or less recognized from the admittedly poor quality photograph in the file she’d been sent. He bounced in like a rubber ball in a blue suit and red sneakers and immediately began wandering around her office, inspecting everything in it.
He was followed by DiNozzo, McGee and David and a young woman in jeans and a leather jacket.
“Mr. Smith, Miss Jones,” she introduced herself. “I’m Director Shepard. I can’t tell you how grateful we are to have UNIT’s cooperation in this. The United States Navy has been understandably concerned about how your government will react to Admiral Sullivan being…misplaced.”
“If I were you, I’d be more worried about how Sarah Jane will react.” Smith grinned cheekily at her. “And it’s Doctor, by the way. Doctor Smith: nearly Doctor Jones too, but who’s counting, right, Martha? Pleasure to meet you, Madame Director–Shepard, did you say it was?”
“Jenny Shepard, yes.” Sarah Jane must refer to the reporter, Sarah Jane Smith, who was listed as the Admiral’s emergency contact, the one she had so far refrained from contacting because she didn’t want to put their little problem on the front page of every English newspaper. The fact that Doctor Smith called Miss Smith by her given name implied an interesting degree of intimacy between him and their missing Admiral (maybe the two Smiths were related?) but didn’t otherwise yield much in the way of useful information.
“Jenny! Always liked the name Jenny.” Again the manic grin, then, “You know what? I could really murder a cup of tea right now. Don’t suppose you keep that sort of thing about by any chance?”
“Doctor, don’t you think that’s a bit rude?” Miss Jones chided with a knowing look and a frown.
“Is it?” He stopped, the sudden lack of movement a little startling; it was hard to believe that much energy could just stop. “Yes, I suppose it is a bit. Dreadfully sorry.”
Jenny’s smile was only half forced. “It’s no trouble. I’m sure we can find a tea bag somewhere in the building. What about you, Miss–or would you prefer Doctor–Jones?”
Miss Jones looked embarrassed. “That’d be nice, yeah. And just Martha’s fine.”
Cynthia smiled. “I’ll bring it right up.”
She closed the door behind her and Jenny turned her attention back to the small group of agents and strangers gathered in front of her desk. Despite her best efforts, she couldn’t quite dodge Gibbs’ knowing look. The hard stare she gave him in return would have revealed nothing to the Joint Chiefs; this being Jethro, it probably told him everything.
Resisting the urge to sigh, she folded her hands on her desk. “So. What do we have so far? Agent DiNozzo?”
Looking very much like a kid in school who wasn’t expecting the teacher to call on him, Tony stood up just a little bit straighter. “Ah, not very much. I’ve been working my way up Sawyer’s chain of command, but so far everyone is telling me the same thing: nothing. All we know is that the Admiral was in the country to attend some top secret meeting. As for the Admiral himself, he’s been attached to UNIT for most of his career and has a record so clean it squeaks.”
“Does he have any enemies?” Jenny asked.
“What, Harry?” Smith interjected from where he was inspecting the pictures on her wall. “Nonsense! He could be an imbecile at times, but he was always a very nice one.”
Jenny turned to regard him calmly. “You seem to be rather well acquainted with our missing Admiral, Doctor Smith.”
He didn’t miss a beat. “Of course. Why do you suppose they sent me?”
Cynthia came in with the tea then, as well as a cup of coffee for Agent Gibbs. Jenny couldn’t help but smile at the inclusion: a caffeinated Gibbs did tend to be a more agreeable Gibbs, even if in this case it would probably take more than a cup of coffee to allay his concerns.
“Thank you, Cynthia,” she said. Miss Jones echoed the thanks, elbowing Doctor Smith until he did the same. Jen saw Gibbs’ eyes drift to the NCIS mug in the other man’s hands and suppressed a sigh. Oh well. If humoring him a little would get him off her back, it might be worth it. Just as long as their visitors didn’t find out.
She gave him a slight nod when he glanced at her: giving tacit permission while still maintaining plausible deniability should anything come to light.
“So, if there’s no one who could have personal reasons for wanting Admiral Sullivan to disappear,” she picked up the thread of the conversation. “Then that brings us back to the reason for his visit. Which, under the circumstances, I’m fairly certain I can persuade someone in the chain of command to reveal.”
Abby jumped away from the microscope, letting out a little sound that was almost a shriek. “Jeez, Gibbs! You gotta learn not to sneak up on people. One of these days you’re going to give someone a heart attack.”
Standing in the entryway of her lab, Gibbs chuckled. He had a cup of coffee in one hand and an empty mug held gingerly in the other, as if he were trying to touch it as little as possible.
Wow, Abby thought to herself. I knew Gibbs’ coffee habit was pretty serious, but I’ve never seen him do two-for-one before.
As if reading her mind–which, knowing Gibbs, wasn’t entirely improbable–he waved the empty mug in her direction, crossing to her desk to set it down. “I want you to check that for prints and let me know what you find.”
Intrigued, Abby studied the mug. Since it bore an NCIS logo, it seemed unlikely to belong to Admiral Sullivan. “What am I looking for?”
“Anything Smith and his partner aren’t telling us,” he answered.
Abby smirked, one eyebrow climbing up to her bangs. “Does the Director know you’re investigating the investigators?”
A wry smile crossed Gibbs’ face as well. “That depends on who’s asking.”
Grinning, she picked up the mug in one gloved hand and carried it over to the table that held her fingerprinting kit. “So where exactly are Mr. Smith and Miss Jones?”
“Getting a ride back to Norfolk,” was the clipped answer. “Think you can have that done by the time they get back?”
Abby just looked at him. “Gibbs! You know better than that. Unless they just happen to be the first hit on the first database I try, this could take hours, even days.”
“Start with UNIT,” Gibbs suggested.
That made her grin all over again. “Ooh, you’re good: if they’re not in the UNIT database, then we know right away that they’re lying about something.”
He smiled back. “That’s my girl.”
“Just one thing, Gibbs–if I’m going to hack into the UNIT employee database? I’m going to need McGee. I may be good, but we’re probably talking CIA level security here. I may not be able to hack it at all, if they have the same kind of set up as Langley.”
Gibbs nodded. “I’ll send him down. Anything else you need?”
Abby pouted. “I’m wounded that you have to ask.”
Gibbs chuckled low under his breath before leaning in to plant a kiss on top of her hair. “One Caf-Pow coming up.” He then nodded towards the microscope. “Find anything?”
“So far only that I need a more powerful microscope,” she answered mournfully. “Whatever this goop is, it sure is stubborn. I’m running it through the mass spectrometer next: we’ll see what comes up.”
He nodded. “Keep me posted.”
Abby just smirked. “Don’t I always?”