“You know what's going to happen to you? I'm going to march you to the zoo and feed you to the yak.”
February 1, 2008. Alexandria, VA
Tony pulled out of the parking lot at eight that night. He had no intentions of giving Werth any more chances to run into him. He was actually looking forward to spending some time alone in his apartment tonight, with pizza and beer and The Thomas Crown Affair, the original. Although, Pierce Brosnan’s version wasn’t half-bad, and Rene Russo naked was never bad.
He tried not to think about how similar Damon looked in his black leather jacket to a young Steve McQueen. And that definitely was not the reason behind his choice of DVD tonight. Not at all.
Two minutes away from his destination, his phone rang. The caller ID said Andover.
“Agent DiNozzo, w-we have a problem. Park’s in DC, and he just kidnapped Portman’s daughters from their school play.”
“Shit. What about their protection detail? Everyone okay?”
“They’re fine, just pissed and… embarrassed.”
“Uh, Sir, that would be the other problem.”
“You lost him?!?” Tony swerved to the side and stopped. “Where’s he heading?”
“Our Tech hacked into his cell phone – Portman received a voice message an hour ago. Park asked him to come alone to an abandoned industrial warehouse in Alexandria. We’re headed there now but we figured you’re only ten minutes out, a-and he already has a forty minute head start on us.”
“Forty minutes?? What the hell were you guys doing for forty minutes?”
The voice on the phone wavered. “He said he had an upset stomach, Sir. We gave him a wide berth.”
Tony barked at Andover to text him as well as his team the warehouse address. Then hung up and took the first U-turn towards Alexandria. If Park was in DC then his lackey Wan was no doubt with him. Tony looked at the address he’d just received and called Gibbs. He picked up in two rings.
“Park is here and has the Portman daughters. Commander just broke out of his protection detail and is going after them alone. Am on my way.”
“Tony, wait for backup. Where’s Ziva?”
“Calling her next. You have the address.”
“I’ll be there in ten. Don’t do anything stupid, Tony. Wait for me.”
He could hear Gibbs running until his voice started to echo which meant he was either in the elevator or the stairs. Tony shook his head, not surprised that Gibbs had once again just assumed Tony would do something stupid.
“Rule number 38, Boss.” My case, my lead. Considering he’d done most of the legwork on this one while Gibbs had moved on to the infinitely more important radar robbery.
Tony hung up before Gibbs could growl another word. He reached Ziva who in turn promised to call McGee and the local LEOs. But he couldn’t wait for either of them to catch up. Portman had two Korean-American daughters – one was eight and the other six. Alvarez was survived by two sons. How could James Park, a son deprived of his own father, not realize or care about the pain he was inflicting on other kids?
Tony reached in exactly seven minutes and was the first on the scene as expected. Ziva couldn’t be far behind with the way she drove. But he couldn’t just sit in his car until backup arrived. He got out, having parked far enough that the car engine wouldn’t be heard, and crept as close to the perimeter of the warehouse as he could, taking cover behind some bushes.
The warehouse looked like a standard-sized construction with a loading dock and drive-in bay in the front, with mostly likely another pair at the back. It looked to be either abandoned or temporarily vacant. The neighborhood was commercial and deserted, naturally for this time of the night. There wasn’t a soul in sight, except for two armed guards in the front.
“Goddamnit,” Ziva would have been so much better at taking them down. But if there was the slightest chance that Park had the Portmans in there, Tony couldn’t risk waiting.
“Sorry, Boss, guess you were right. I am about to do something stupid.”
At least he had the sense to put on his Kevlar jacket. Maintaining his cover behind the bushes and the dark of the night, Tony crept up along the perimeter to get to the south side of the warehouse. He ran a good ten yards with his gun drawn until he hit the warehouse wall with his back and held his breath. Creeping up alongside the wall towards the back of the warehouse, he found another two guards manning the second dock and bay. He decided to creep back to the front, the guards there were smaller, and that’s when he heard a little child’s wail coming from inside.
“That’s it.” Tony gritted his teeth. He picked up a little pebble and very subtly scratched against the surface of the wall. It made just enough sound to attract one of the guards’ attention, who then started to walk towards Tony.
Tony waited, his back to the side wall and his safety off, until just the right moment when the guard came within his reach. He grabbed the man from behind, muffling his mouth with one hand and hitting the back of his neck hard enough to knock him out.
A minute later when the first guard did not return, the second one called for him. “Blaine?”
He approached, drawing his own gun. And even though he was a bit more careful, Tony grabbed him in the same stranglehold from behind and rammed his head into the brick wall, rendering him unconscious. He waited a few seconds to see if the guards at the back had been alerted somehow. Once he was sure he was in the clear, he grabbed the keys hanging out of the second guard’s pockets and headed back to the front.
“Where are you guys?” Tony mumbled, sorely missing the security of his team at his back.
Quietly he unlocked the entrance and crept in, scanning each direction with his Sig clasped in both hands. There were stacks of crates all over the place which provided for ample cover, using which he kept moving inwards, led by the cries of a frightened child. With every step, his fury grew.
There was a clearing up ahead and stark white lights illuminated the area. Tony counted twelve armed men, two of them were standing in front of what looked like a metal pen used to hold large dogs. The two little girls were locked inside.
To the right was Commander Portman, tied to a chair and looking like he’d just gone three rounds with Tyson. His face was swollen and bloody but his eyes kept seeking his daughters. His lips were split open and panting but every time he spoke, he spoke to his daughters.
“It’s gonna be okay, Tara, Nessa, it’s okay, daddy’s okay…”
He looked at his watch, Ziva and the others should be here any minute. All he had to do was bide his time until they got here. He figured that’s what Portman had been doing too, hoping the agents would have hacked his phone by now and were sending help. Well, all he had was Tony, for now.
A tall Asian man emerged from the shadows behind Portman. He was dressed in an expensive black suit and fur-lined overcoat. He had his arms folded behind him. James Heung Park. The pictures Interpol sent over did him no justice. This man was evil to his core and completely heartless.
“We will not harm your children, Commander”, he spoke in a tone so soft it took Tony by surprise. “You know what you must do.”
“I will, as soon as you let them go,” Portman rasped painfully.
Tony wondered what Park wanted. He didn’t have to wait too long. Portman looked up at James who’d now come around to stand before him. He looked scared, but not for himself, only for the fate of his daughters once he was dead.
He panted for awhile and finally lowered his head. “Yes,” he rasped. “Yes, I was there, when Alvarez picked the fight with your father. And I defended my friend when your father attacked him. B-but we did not set out to kill –”
Another man’s hand swiped down from the shadows behind Portman and smacked him right across the cheek, knocking his head to one side. Eric Wan.
“Stop lying!” He screamed, but shut up when Park held a hand up to order silence.
Park bent closer to Portman. He spoke slowly and carefully in his thick foreign accent. “You, and Alvarez, and Simmons together killed my father. You Americans, you thought nobody saw you, that you were invincible. I don’t care who started the fight, or who shot who with whose gun. All I know, Commander, is that you and your men are responsible for my father’s dishonorable death. And you must confess your sins, to me.”
Portman glared back at him. “After you set my girls free. Once they’re home with their mother, I will say whatever the hell you want me to say, and let you avenge your father’s death.”
Park straightened up but did not respond. Instead, he turned to nod at one of the bad guys standing closest to the cage. The man pulled out his own gun and pointed it through the bars right at the younger one’s head.
“No!!! Wait, please!!” Portman screamed in panic, and Tony winced, praying the commander would somehow find it in him to stall a little longer. Unfortunately, the father could only hold out for so long.
“Okay, okay! I confess! I’m responsible! I should have controlled my men and I didn’t and you lost your father because of it. Please!! Just let them go, please!!”
Fuck. Tony pulled out his backup weapon and found a strategic spot behind the crates, one where he could stay behind cover and still hold both his guns out at the same time. He spread his feet to stabilize his stance, looked left then right to make sure he had the most strategic targets in sight, namely the guy pointing the gun at the girls on the left, and Wan on the right. He drew a deep breath, preparing for what he must do next.
“Oh, DiNozzo, this has got to be the stupidest thing you’ve ever done.”
Meanwhile, Park’s face had melted into an evil smile. He waxed on about justice and redemption for awhile. Then he fell quiet and nodded at Wan, who pulled out his own gun, no doubt the DH45, and aimed it at Portman’s head.
“NCIS!” Tony screamed at the top of his lungs. Every felon in the room spun around towards the sound of his voice. “You’ve been surrounded. Put your weapons down and get away from the hostages, now!!”
There was a second’s pause, and then all hell broke loose.
Ziva drove faster and rougher than she’d ever driven before.
Being as pissed as she was, it wasn’t hard to do. Portman broke protocol and endangered not just himself but also his daughters, and now maybe Tony too. Alas, he wasn’t the first father to do so and he wouldn’t be the last.
When she got there, the front entrance was open and Tony was nowhere to be seen. He wasn’t picking up his phone either.
“Ah-brookh!” she grunted and barged in, following the sound of the gunfire knowing it would lead her to him.
When she came in, the first thing she noticed was Tony practically surrounded on three sides and taking fire from eight, no, nine assailants taking cover behind metal crates and wooden boxes just like Tony had. Three men lay dead or injured in the clearing up ahead. Commander Portman was still tied to the chair, looking bloody and hurt but miraculously alive. And he was struggling hard to break free, screaming as he craned to look back at someone in the shadows.
She pulled out her own gun and joined in, felling a couple men right away just before one of them could take advantage of Tony’s blind spot. Tony turned to look at her, smiling in relief briefly before ducking a bullet that almost blew the back of his head open.
“Ziva! The girls!” He screamed at her the moment she managed to run and join him behind the cover of the same crate. “Park and Wan have them and they just took off for the backdoor.”
He’d clearly scoped the place out and knew the lay of the warehouse better than her. She nodded. “Go! I will take care of these bastards and get Portman.”
Tony took off running, and Ziva turned around just in time to avoid a flying kick from a bad guy who’d managed to creep up to her.
Good, close combat was more her style anyway.
Gibbs had a very, very bad feeling about this. He’d known the moment Tony uttered the words ‘Rule 38’ that this was not going to go well. It was Tony’s way to let Gibbs know that he absolved his boss of all responsibility for whatever happened tonight. But Goddamnit, Gibbs would not stand for being pushed to the curb like that.
He and McGee reached at about the same time, which was probably about ten minutes after Ziva, give or take. McGee went in the front to back up Ziva, and he headed around to the back. That’s where he saw something that made the blood in his veins run cold.
Park and Wan came storming out the back and they held a little girl each in one arm, holding them up for cover with a gun stuck into their sides, threatening their lives. They looked back and ordered the two armed men standing guard at the dock to kill whoever came out of the warehouse after them. They were planning to make a run for the Robinson R44 parked in the open space behind the warehouse.
Before he or even the Korean mob bosses could make another move, the door burst open again and the two guards turned to shoot. Gibbs took one guy out, and the other one was taken out by whoever was pushing through that door.
“Stop right there!!” Tony yelled as he held his gun up, standing completely exposed and in the open. The only reason they hadn’t shot him down yet was because they’d just spotted Gibbs charging towards them from behind.
A quick glance alerted Gibbs to the bullet hole in his agent’s left thigh and the bright red trail of blood in his wake. Tony was pale and losing blood fast, but he was still standing.
Gibbs ran towards him, unable to shoot at the two hostiles because of the children. Unfortunately, the thugs were more interested in snuffing the life out of Tony who’d clearly done a hell of a job ruining their day.
“Let the girls go,” Tony demanded again.
Park laughed. “Are you really in a position to make any demands, officer?”
“Agent, did you not hear me announce myself?”
Gibbs would have rolled his eyes if he could without taking them away from his targets.
“You’re not taking them with you,” Gibbs interrupted, letting Tony know he was there, that he had his back. DiNozzo must have heard him loud and clear, but did not let his attention waver.
“Looks like we’re at an impasse,” Park said, holding six year old Tara high enough to have to peep from behind her head, despicable coward that he was.
Gibbs did not have a shot, and even if he did, he couldn’t possibly risk it with Park and Wan both holding guns to the little girls. The kids were crying, and the smaller one was screaming her lungs out. If she kept that up, Gibbs feared Park might lose his temper and hurt her anyway. He didn’t know if Commander Portman was alive, but if he was, Gibbs didn’t want to face him without his daughters safe and sound. And Gibbs knew for a fact Tony shared that sentiment.
“Take me,” Tony said. “You need a hostage, take me.”
Park and Wan looked at each other. Gibbs ground his teeth, suppressing the tremor of fear creeping up his spine to support Tony’s plan.
“The girls for me, and we’ll let you get into your helicopter. You can drop me anywhere over the Potomac, if you’d be so generous.”
Park and Wan were already backing up towards their transport. Both Tony and Gibbs charged forward, getting ready to take extreme measures if necessary. If Gibbs could just get close enough, maybe he could shoot Wan’s leg off and grab the girl out of his hands before he recovered…
“You’re not our problem. We’d have to extradite you anyway. But if anything happens to the girls?” Tony tilted his head cockily, “The American government and all its agencies are going to make it their personal mission to hunt you down and kill you.”
Gibbs detected a flicker of hesitation in Park’s face, Atta boy, Tony.
“Wherever you go, we will find you and you will die, like fucking dogs in an alley, like your father,” Tony hissed coldly, looking straight at Park. “And we’ll make it so no one will be left to miss you, or mourn you, or avenge you.”
Gibbs held his breath. Park scowled dangerously at Tony. “I’m going to enjoy killing you, Agent, slowly.”
Tony and Gibbs just waited as the kingpin made up his mind. “Put your gun down and take off your Kevlar.”
“Tony,” Gibbs warned, not liking this plan one bit.
Tony on the other hand, didn’t hesitate. He looked at Gibbs, his eyes conveying ‘cover me’ like they had a thousand times before, and gently placed his gun on the ground. Then ripped off the bulletproof jacket and dropped it to the ground as well.
“The little one first,” he ordered, looking at the girl in Park’s arms.
While Wan moved his gun to Nessa’s temple, Park set Tara down on the ground. The little girl promptly ran as fast as she could into Tony’s waiting arms. He hugged her close for a second then gently pried her away from himself.
“Go stand behind the nice old man there. Stand behind him and grab on tight to his leg, okay?”
Tara did as she was told, running over to Gibbs, who made quiet shushing sounds only she could hear to assure her a bit. They couldn’t take the risk of leaving the girls alone only for another gunman to find them and use them as leverage again.
“Walk over with your hands in the air,” Park ordered and Tony, keeping his eyes on Nessa, did as told. The moment he came within two feet of Park, the Korean grabbed him, swinging him around so he could hold Tony in a stranglehold from behind. Before Tony could react, Park pressed his gun’s nozzle into the back of Tony’s right shoulder and fired. Tony screamed and would have fallen forward with the bullet’s momentum but Park held him up.
“Tony!!” Gibbs saw red but held his ground, what choice did he have? With his jacket off, Tony was an even more effective human shield for Park than little Tara.
“Now, start moving.” Park ordered.
“Not so fast,” Gibbs grunted, seething in anger. “Let Nessa go, Wan.”
The assassin looked at his own boss and at his nod, he put the eight-year old down. She came running to Gibbs and without waiting for instruction, quickly got behind him and grabbed his other leg. Gibbs was relieved he had the girls, but now he was unable to do anything to help Tony.
“Say your good-byes, Agents. If you cooperate, you might still get to see this one again, or at least, some of him.” Park sneered as he and Wan pedaled backwards to the helicopter.
If help didn’t arrive soon, Gibbs was going to lose Tony. His heart raced and the big vein in his temple started to throb painfully.
The sound of gunfire coming from the warehouse started to wane. It sounded like Ziva and McGee were either gaining the upper hand or were down. Gibbs wondered what the hell was keeping the local LEOs. It felt like they’d been stuck in this nightmare for hours but in truth it’d only been a few minutes.
As soon as Wan reached the chopper he jumped up into the cockpit and started the engine.
The growling sound of the rotating blades suddenly brought it all home for Gibbs: They were taking Tony. They were taking him away and there wasn’t a damn thing Gibbs could do about it. His hands trembled as he looked into Tony’s eyes. His boy seemed calm, almost resigned, showing incredible faith in his boss like he always did, had for the past seven years. Even as he continued to lose more blood and could barely support his own weight.
Things happened too fast after that. The backdoors burst open a second time, and out walked the last person Gibbs would have ever expected to see at the warehouse.
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