Ok, so I still don't own these characters and hell yes I still love writing this.
Dave Teagues looked at the crossword puzzle with some satisfaction and then chuckled in anticipation. That would show old Mrs Donaldson that he could create the cryptic crossword from Hell. She might be able to break it, eventually, but he would have his revenge for her dismissive letter from the other day that accused him of getting lazy in creating crosswords.
Hearing the rattle of the handle on the doors he looked up just in time to see Vince shoot in, close the door, rest on it heavily and then turn and peer carefully through the blinds.
“What in the world – you just left! What happened?”
Vince spun around, waved his arms at him in what might have been an effort to tell him to be silent and then resumed peering through the blinds. After a moment he relaxed, or rather his shoulders slumped a little. Only then did he turn back and Dave stopped breathing for a moment at the sight of his pale, almost green, face. “Oh God. What’s wrong?”
“Might as well ask what’s right! I saw two of those damn Feds that Nate and Dwight are so worried about – and they were bang on the money, if for the wrong reasons!” He pulled out a large red handkerchief and mopped his face distractedly. “They pulled into the parking bay in front of me. They got out – and then they stared down at the bay, at the island in front of the Grey Gull. And then the older Fed looks at the younger Fed and asks if he can see what he can see on the island. And the younger Fed says that if he meant the big barn-like building with cracks in it filled with light then yes he could. Which is why I’m freaking out!”
Dave froze in place for a long moment and afterwards could have sworn that his heart had stopped beating for that long moment. Then his brain woke up to the fact that there was a tidal wave of adrenalin slopping through his body and his nervous system sprang into life. “What???” He’d virtually leapt out of his chair in a single bound. “They saw the Barn?”
“Right up until it vanished a few seconds later.” He sank into a chair. “This is… this…”
Dave completed his brother’s train of thought. “A catastrophe.” He said it in a flat, horrified, tone of voice that he knew that Vince described as ‘Dave’s Doom Tone’. “We’ve got Feds in town who now know that Haven’s not your average town in Maine. All we need now is for someone to come down with a Trouble right in front of them and the catastrophe is complete.”
That got a growl out of Vince. “Don’t tempt fate – not now.” He rubbed a hand over his face, visibly thinking hard. “We’ve got to warn Nate and Dwight, as soon as possible. The Feds are going to be talking to them about this case of theirs, whatever it is, and we need to warn them that those two somehow saw the Barn.”
“Wait a minute,” said Dave slowly. “There’s supposed to be three of them. Where’s the third?”
“I don’t know. If we were insanely lucky then the third one is Audrey wearing another identity, but I don’t think that our luck’s running that way at the moment.”
Dave mulled this for a moment. “Good point,” he conceded. Then he hurried over to the phone. “Let’s warn Nate and Dwight first. If they’re not at the police station then I’ll message Nate’s cellphone.”
“You’d better be as cryptic as possible, just in case someone else sees his phone,” Vince warned.
“Oh, I’ll do my best,” Dave sighed.
Gibbs leant against the sea wall and looked out over the harbour with hard eyes. He didn’t like this place; it continued to set off loud alarm bells in his gut. That said, the local seaman’s café sold some damn good coffee. The man who had made it must have been in the Navy at some point, because there was a good pinch of salt in it.
Hearing footsteps to one side he looked around to see McGee. “What did you find?”
“A lot of suppressed fear,” the Jedi said quietly. “Boss, this place feels like it’s five minutes from having a nervous breakdown. Plus someone’s watching us. Several people in fact.”
“Yeah,” Gibbs grunted, looking around the harbour. “That’s what I get too. All of it. Come on – let’s find Haven PD’s headquarters. I want to ask a few pointed questions before Fornell gets here.”
The nerve centre of Haven PD was a large red-brick building that looked to be about a hundred years old. As they approached the main entrance they saw a car draw up and two men get out. The first was a sandy-haired muscular man with slightly prominent eyes and who was wearing a bullet-proof vest. The second was a tall, thin, dark-haired man with restless eyes that had ghosts behind them. Gibbs looked at that both with a measuring gaze. The two men had all the signs of being veterans – of different wars though. Then he saw the gleaming badge on the belt of the first man. Aha. The chief of police.
The larger man turned towards him and raised his eyebrows. “That’s me. Can I help you?”
Gibbs reached into his upper jacket pocket and pulled out his ID, flipping it open so that they could see first the shield and then the photo part of it. “Agent Gibbs, NCIS. This is Agent McGee.”
McGee showed them his ID as well. And then something interesting happened. Hendrickson and the other man exchanged a glance. It wasn’t the ‘Oh shit, we’ve got Feds here’ look that he’d seen so many times before in small towns. No, it was the ‘Oh shit, the feds we knew were coming are here’ look.
“How can we help NCIS?” Hendrickson eventually asked. Followed by: “Oh – this is Detective Nate Wuornos.”
“Welcome to Haven,” Wuornos said with a smile that did not have a lot of genuine warmth behind it at all.
“We’re here on an ongoing case. So we could benefit from some local knowledge.”
“Well then – let’s go to my office,” Hendrickson said with a slight smile.
Hendrickson’s office was surprisingly sparse and had very little to suggest that it was actually his. A large map, few pictures, slightly uncomfortable furniture. Gibbs sat down on his chair, with McGee next to him. Hendrickson took his own chair behind the desk, whilst Wuornos leant against a filing cabinet and watched them with a cautious expression.
Gibbs broke the brief silence. “We’re investigating the deaths of a Seaman and an FBI agent. Both died from a fairly rare condition. At almost the exact same time.” And there it was. A look between the two Haven men, a look of concern and worry that was expressed in an instant.
“There was one connection between the two. They’d both dated one Marine Sergeant John Frasier McNeill. Now, he isn’t a suspect in their deaths as they both died in front of witnesses, but we’d still like to talk to him. And he travelled to Haven, his home town, yesterday on emergency leave after hearing that his ex-wife had died here.” He pretended to look at his notebook. “One Ellen McNeill.”
Hendrickson nodded tiredly. “Yeah, Ellen was killed two days ago. Hell of a shame.”
“How did she die?”
The big man sighed. “She was a nurse at the local hospital. She worked a late shift until just before midnight. She was driving home when she was broadsided by a drunk driver who’d forgotten to put his lights on. He was killed instantly – Ellen bled out before the paramedics could get there.”
Gibbs shook his head sadly. “Damn shame.”
“She was a hell of a nurse,” Wuornos broke in with a sad smile. “Patched me up a few times.”
Gibbs made a mental note of them, because it sounded as if ‘a few times’ was an understatement. He could see a few visible scars on the man’s arms and hands and he wondered what kind of policing Haven required.
“Well now – we’ll need to know where McNeill could be staying so we can ask him a few questions.”
Wuornos and Hendrickson swapped glances again. “Problem is,” the chief of police with a slight frown, “The McNeills aren’t so much a family as more of a clan. There’s a lot of them. John McNeill could be staying with his parents, any one of his four uncles, or his three brothers, two sisters and fifteen cousins. That’s a lot of ground to cover.”
“Oh, you don’t need to worry about that - we’re persistent,” McGee said with a poker face and Gibbs repressed a smile. Becoming a Jedi had advanced the kid in all kinds of ways.
Hendrickson stared at them both and then nodded, before pulling the pad in front of him towards him. “Well,” he said as he took out a pen, “The least I can do is provide you with some names and addresses. Will that do?”
“Thank you kindly,” Gibbs replied as he looked around the room again. The level of fear had diminished slightly, being replaced with extreme caution. Interesting. The room was silent apart from the scratching noises from Hendrickson’s pen skittering over the paper. When he was finished he tore it off the pad and pushed it over the surface of the desk towards Gibbs.
“Hopefully that should help you.”
Gibbs picked it up, looked at it, nodded shortly and then handed it over to McGee. “You’d better check those addresses out,” he muttered.
“Will do Boss,” McGee replied. And it was at that point that a phone warbled. It belonged to Wuornos, who pulled his out with a slight frown.
“You’ll have to excuse me for a minute, I need to make a call,” Wuornos said with a definitely worried expression as he looked at his phone and then stood up. But as he stared to cross the room towards the door he was stopped in his tracks by a perfunctory rap on the other side, followed by it opening to reveal one Tobias Fornell – who Gibbs could see was in one of his carefully hidden rages.
“Special Agent Fornell, FBI,” Fornell grated out, flashing his badge and then narrowing his eyes as he stared at Wuornos’s own badge on his belt. “Ah. Nathan Wuornos. Just the man I wanted to see.”
“Excuse me, I need to make a phone call.”
“Do it later,” Fornell growled. “I need to talk to you now about one Agent Audrey Parker.”
Wuornos paled ever so slightly as he saw the rage that was seething just below the surface of Fornell’s face and then raised a weary set of eyebrows. “Ok,” he said and returned to his place by the filing cabinet.
Fornell looked around the room, registered the presence of Gibbs and McGee with flickers of his own eyebrow, delivered a handshake to Hendrickson that left the latter wincing slightly and then sat down and pulled out a lot of notes from his briefcase.
“I don’t like people who pretend to be federal agents,” he said in a tone of voice that could have broken rocks into powder. “I especially don’t like people who pretend to be FBI agents. It complicates investigations, it jeopardises prosecutions, it hinders convictions and above all it diverts resources from other cases and pisses me off.”
Gibbs smiled slightly and then jerked a thumb at Fornell. “What he said.”
“Now,” Fornell glared at Wuornos. “Former Chief Wuornos - I understand that not only did you not report this fraudulent agent but you actually gave her a job as a detective. Would you care to tell me why?”
Wuornos and Hendrickson exchanged a quick, worried, glance which no-one else in the room missed – Gibbs because he was expecting it, McGee because he looked as if he was expecting it and Fornell because he was watching them like a very angry hawk.
“She genuinely thought that she was Agent Audrey Parker,” Wuornos said carefully. “It’s rather difficult to explain, but when the real agent Parker arrived here in Haven-”
“Who now has a highly convenient case of amnesia,” Fornell snarled.
“That had nothing to do with Audrey – um, Detective Parker.”
“I’m still waiting to hear why you made someone who was impersonating a Federal Agent – which is a crime! – a detective in the Haven PD. She was a fraud.”
This evidently touched a nerve with Wuornos, who straightened up from his position by the filing cabinet. “She saved people’s lives,” he said hotly. “The other Agent Parker said that she’d deal with everything and our Audrey was left here to help with things called ‘solving crimes’ and, oh yes, saving lives.”
Fornell shot him a look of utter disdain, which Wuornos matched with one of his own. Gibbs watched dispassionately. The two men had only just met and evidently disliked each other already. But there was something else in the air again now. Fear. Wuornos and Hendrickson were afraid of something and this Audrey Parker was linked to it.
“Then perhaps you can direct me to her,” Fornell said with a challenging smile. “I have a lot of questions for her. And given the fact that there’s still an open investigation into how she came to have an FBI badge and a sidearm that’s supposed to be in a gun locker in Bangor, I think that those questions will take me some time.”
“Yeah, well, good luck with that,” Wuornos snapped. “No-one’s seen her for the past six months.” His head dropped and his gaze swept the floor suddenly. “We don’t know where she is.” There was something in his voice that confirmed something for Gibbs. Firstly while he wasn’t outright lying he wasn’t telling the entire truth. And secondly he loved Audrey Parker - or missed her like crazy at the very least.
Fornell, who was just as skilled at ‘reading’ people in these kind of circumstances, looked at Wuornos and his eyes narrowed slightly as he obviously picked up at least something from the man. “Where was she last seen?”
Wuornos looked up again and a slight smile crossed his lips for a second. “Entering a barn,” he said cryptically after a long moment. “Someone went in after her but he didn’t see her in there.”
There was a moment of silence whilst Fornell wrote a few notes. “And where is this barn located?”
This question seemed to amuse Wuornos. “Good question,” he said quietly. “It was not far from Froggett’s point. You’ll have to see for yourself.”
There was something in his voice that set the hairs on the back of Gibbs’ neck on edge. He suddenly had no doubt at all that the barn wasn’t there any more – and that it was connected to whatever the hell he and McGee had seen earlier on that island.
McGee had also made the connection, because he nodded slightly at Gibbs and then pulled out his own phone, activated the screen and started to tap at it.
“We have a few places to check out, Boss,” he said quietly. Then he passed over his phone. And oh look. One of the McNeills had a farm not too far away from Froggett’s point.
“Fornell,” Gibbs said. “We have some places to go. You need to join us.”