Chapter 26

A/N- The next chapter in the Palmer family adventures. I don't own NCIS. Please let me know what you think.

Jimmy was behind the wheel of his Dad van driving to the office with Jess after they dropped Vic off at school. Jess' phone rang. She put it on speaker.

"Hello."

Hi Jessica. It's Veronica. Did I catch you at a good time?"

"Jimmy's in the car with me and we're driving to work. What's up?"

Veronica answered "I was able to present your offer last night."

"Really? That was fast. Thanks."

"It gets even better."

Jimmy and Jess looked at each other with hopeful smiles. "What did they say?"

"Congratulations! You got the house!"

Jimmy squeezed Jess' hand. "That's great news! Thank you."

"I'm on my way to open escrow. I'll meet with you to tomorrow to get more details. They want a 45 day escrow. Is that okay with you?"

Jimmy and Jess looked at each other and nodded. "That's a little quicker that we asked for but we can do that. We'll contact the lender and get the ball rolling."

"Great. I'll see you tomorrow and schedule an inspection." Veronica disconnected the call.

Jimmy pulled into the parking lot at work finding his favorite space. He turned and gave Jess a big kiss. She happily returned it.

"Moving won't interfere with our cruise, will it?" Jess asked.

"It will make timing tight but I think we can manage." Jimmy responded.

"Should we cancel it and go later?" Jess asked.

"It's already paid for and it'll be something really fun and relaxing to do before moving."

Jess nodded. "We would be getting back a week before escrow closes."

"That's enough time for the walk through. We hadn't talked yet about how to move. I think we definitely need to hire a moving company. It shouldn't be too expensive since it's not that far between places."

"It's also us moving from a two bedroom apartment to a four bedroom house. We haven't accumulated that much stuff."

"We should hire them to pack as well."

"Good idea."

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Jimmy and Jess walked hand in hand into NCIS with big grins on their faces. Tim was the first to notice.

"Good morning. What has the Palmers so happy this morning?"

Jimmy and Jess looked at each other and nodded. Jimmy spoke up. "We got the house!"

McGee smiled broadly. "Congratulations. That's great news. When do you move in?"

"We close in about 45 days." Jess answered.

"What does Victoria think about all this?"

"We haven't had a chance to tell her yet since she's in school. We're sure she will like it. We told her all about the place and showed her some pictures after we saw it."

Torres and Parker came into the squad room and were excited for Jimmy and Jess. "We're going to ask you for some tips when it comes time to plant our garden," Jess said to Parker. Parker smiled and nodded. "Be glad to."

Jess' phone rang and she went to her desk and picked up the receiver. "NCIS, Special agent Palmer." "This is Pierre Montreau from Worldwide Esq. LLP returning your call."

Jess perked up. Mr. Montreau, thank you for returning my call."

"How can I help you?"

"We are looking into the death of retired Navy Commander Peter Johannsen. We discovered your firm had some dealings with him."

Montreau paused for a moment as he looked at some papers that were given to him. "Yes, I first Imet with him in our Monte Carlo office a number of years ago. He was brought in to be the face of a new travel company since he was in the US Navy."

"Do you know if he was a professional gambler? He made regular visits to the casino and made large bets."

Montreau shook his head in surprise. "You folks in NCIS are sure well informed."

Jess grimaced. "Not really. We're just really good at our jobs."

"No offense," Agent Palmer. "You are really good at your jobs. I assume you want to know if Johannsen had any enemies that would like to kill him."

"That would help."

"I didn't know him well but I knew he liked to play poker. He was quite good I was told. There was a high stakes private game at the casino every few months."

"That would explain his regular trips to Monaco. Who were the other players?

"I just heard rumors of high rollers from around the world. Places like Dubai, Malta, Las Vegas, Russia."

"Was Johannsen an owner in the company?"

"A minor owner as thanks for his services."

"Do you know the name of the people who put on the game?"

"No, but I know how you can get an invite to the game. They may be helpful to you."

"That would be very helpful. Who do we contact?"

"Call the Old Casino and ask for Vittorio Novati in public relations. Tell him I sent you. Make sure you don't tell him you're from the police."

"Thank you for your time and help, Mr. Montreau."

"I liked the Commander. Please find out who did this."

"We will. Goodbye Mr. Montreau."

"Goodbye Agent Palmer."

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Jess stepped out from behind her desk. Everyone looked at her expectantly.

"I have a lead. We may be looking in the wrong direction."

Parker spoke up. "How so, Palmer?"

"It may be totally unrelated to Voyages Ltd. He was a regular participant in a high stakes poker game with players from around the world. I was given the name of the person who sets up games at the casino to see if I can get more information on the other participants."

"Are you trying to get a trip to Monaco out of this?" Parker said with a grin.

Jess laughed. "I'm not a poker player."

Torres spoke up. "You should send McGee. He's the best poker player in the squad."

"Wait team. I don't think we need to plan an undercover operation at this point. Palmer, contact this person and see what you can find out." Parker stated. "Everyone else, follow up on your other leads."

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After lunch, Parker and Torres met with the two retired Naval officers to gauge their interest in the mission. Captain Brighton, the most interested of the two, served with Johannsen in Operation Desert Storm and wanted to help find his killer. At the conclusion of the meeting agreed to being part of the mission and would make himself available. Parker thanked the two Captains and ended the meeting. Parker would contact Brighton with more details as they came available.

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Jimmy and Jess got a text from the mortgage lenders stating that everything was in order for their loan pending the appraisal. The Palmers were not worried because they were making a 30% down payment so they shouldn't have any issues with a potential low appraisal.

Jimmy called Veronica and asked for a referral to an appraiser. She said she would send him and Jess a list of three names and the names of inspectors. She said it would be a good idea to schedule them in the next week to give the owners a chance to make any necessary repairs. Jimmy told her that they would contact them the following day.

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Vito Verbanski scowled at his computer monitor as he scrolled through the financial information on the screen. His phone rang.

"Si."

"I told you to reduce the collectables by today. What's going on there? If you can't do the job I'll get someone who can." The voice on the phone growled.

"My target was just found dead."

"How much did he owe?"

"He owed nothing. His employer everything."

"Why was he your target if he didn't owe anything?"

"I was going to use him to help me collect. I now need to come up with a different way."

"Get on it and no more excuses."

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Jess called the Monte Carlo casino and asked for Vittorio Novati in the hope that he was working a little late. She decided to pretend she was calling for her boss to get in the game. After a five minute wait he came to the phone.

"Hello, this is Vittorio Novati. How can I help you?"

"My name is Jessica calling for Mr. McGee. He was referred to you by a friend regarding your poker game."

"How do you know about the game? It is by invitation only."

"As I said we were referred by a friend."

"Who is this friend?"

"Captain Johannsen. He said he was a regular."

"Ah, I know Mr. Johannsen very well. How is he?"

"He was planning on attending the next game. When is it?"

"We don't provide that information until we extend an invite. Mr. McGee will need a formal introduction and approval."

"What information do you need to extend an invite?" Jess asked.

"A referral from an active member like Mr. Johannsen and a $20,000 buy in to play."

"How many players typically participate?"

"It varies slightly but we cap the number at a dozen."

"Thank you for the information. We will get you the information as soon as possible."

"Don't wait too long if you want to be at the game next week."

"I didn't think you provided that information without an invite."

"That I did but I like the sound of your voice and you do know Mr. Johannsen. I'm sure it will be ok."

"Would I be presumptuous to ask what day next week so we can make travel arrangements, Sr. Novati?"

He laughed. "No Jessica and please call me Vittorio. The game is next Saturday here at the casino. I can help with the travel arrangements if needed. A room at the casino hotel is included. Will you be coming too?

Jess laughed. "Mr. McGee usually travels with his bodyguard and travel secretary. I doubt I will be going on this trip…. but you never know?"

Vittorio chuckled. "Well, I hope you do. I would be happy to show you all the sites."

Jess groaned inwardly. "Thank you again for the information and we will get back to you very soon." She disconnected the call.

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Parker looked over at Jess at the conclusion of phone call. "Well, what did you learn?"

"The next poker game is on Saturday next. If we want to install a player it requires a referral and $20,000 buy in. The fact the we mentioned Captain Johannsen's name seemed to qualify as a referral." Jess didn't mention Vittorio's interest in her coming on the trip.

"You mentioned that I would be the player?" Tim asked.

"Yes. Nick said you were the best poker player here."

Tim chuckled. "That's only because the last time we played I won the biggest bet. I don't think Torres likes to lose."

Nick looked up from the file he was reading and said "You're right about that. I hate losing."

"It sounded like Vittorio wanted you to come to the casino."

"Maybe so, but I can't go. The Harpers are coming next week and I'm working with them. I'm also not keen on traveling away from my family. Do we really need to send someone to Monte Carlo to solve this case?" Jess asked.

"How else do we find out who the other players are?" Parker asked.

"We could let Vittorio know who we are and just ask." Jess said.

"Do you have any contacts with the Monaco police or Interpol that could be our go-between?" McGee asked not wanting to travel to Monaco either without Delilah.

"What about director Vance? He might know someone since this is an international case." Torres asked.

Parker nodded. "It's time to talk to the Director. He needs an update anyway."

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Jimmy called Dr. Mallard with the results of a test he was running for him. Before the conclusion of the call he decided to ask if he knew of any high stakes poker games in Europe. Ducky laughed.

"It's funny that you would ask me that question. The next stop on my book tour is in Nice."

Jimmy's ears perked up at the news. "Did you get invited to a game in the past?"

Dr. Mallard answered in the affirmative. "I did. An old friend of mine told me about a game in Monte Carlo a couple of years ago.

"Did you go?"

"I did."

"Were there many players?"

"Ten if I recall correctly. Most were from Greece, Turkey and Northern Africa. There were two from Saudi Arabia."

"Did you win?"

Ducky laughed. "No, but I didn't lose either. I won a little at the beginning and played until I lost those winnings. I didn't stay as long as the other players."

"Was there anything about the other players that made you notice or nervous?"

"It seems a few of them knew each other and worked together."

"Are you going to be in touch with your friend when you go to Nice?"

"Yes. Why do you ask?"

"We're trying to find a killer. Maybe you can go to Monte Carlo and help."

Ducky laughed. "I'm not an agent Dr. Palmer although I heard that you and Jessica teamed up."

Jimmy laughed. "We did. It was fun. Maybe you and your girlfriend can do the same in Monte Carlo?"

Ducky chuckled. "You know Maggie isn't my "girlfriend."

"I know you don't like labels but she is with you, isn't she Dr. Mallard?"

"She is. You know that does sound like fun. It would be a nice break from the tour as I made sure we have a few extra days in Nice."

"Great! I'll let Parker know."

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The team continued throughout the day trying to find any and all possible leads. They weren't having much success locally so Parker met with the Director to get his thoughts on how to proceed as it was looking more and more like a trip to Europe was needed. With the Harpers arriving in a few days to work on their case tying up Jess and Jimmy's time, Parker thought he and Torres should plan to go to Monte Carlo. McGee could quarterback the investigations from NCIS headquarters.

Jimmy and Kasie were going over some lab reports when Jess came down to the lab with the news about Monte Carlo.

"Are you disappointed that you're not going Jess?" Kasie asked.

Jess shook her head. "Not at all. I would like to go there one day but only if I can go with my husband. Besides we have our other investigation to deal with."

Jimmy looked up from his reports. "I'd like to go to the South of France with you, my darling wife, but not for work." Jimmy and Jess smiled at each other.

While they were chatting MassSpec started beeping rapidly alerting Kasie that the test was finished. She walked over to grab the results. "What?!" Kasie shouted out with surprise.

"What is it?" Jimmy and Jess asked in alarm.

Kasie looked in shock back at the test results and then ran them again. The same result.

"Well?" Jimmy and Jess asked again.

"You're not going to believe this but I decided to run a test on Captain Johannsen's shoes. They looked a little discolored where the soles were attached to the sides of the shoes. MassSpec found minute traces of uranium."

"What!" came the response. "I didn't find any traces on his body." Jimmy said.

"We better contact Parker and do a little more digging." Kasie offered.

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