Rota

After some disrespect, Tony accepts the Rota assignment.

AU

Sometime during season 4. Of course, all characters belong to CBS and Mr.B

Prolog Monday

McGee stepped out of the elevator at 0600. He had come in early to finish up a report before Gibbs came in demanding it. As he came into the bullpen, he saw a black duffle bag on Tony's desk. As he watched, a slight figure came up from behind the desk and began loading it with shirts, belts and other clothing.

"Palmer, what are you doing with Tony's things?" McGee asked in surprise.

The young ME assistant looked at him with an angry stare. "I'm getting the rest of Tony's things to send on to him. He asked me to Saturday before I took him to the airport."

McGee questioned, "Airport? Why is he going somewhere on a plane."

"Like you would care, McGee. Read your damn e-mail." Palmer continued packing the bag with care. He then took Tony's Mighty Mouse stapler and favorite mug and placed them in the bag. He zipped it up and started to leave for the elevator.

"What's going on, Palmer?"

"Read your damn e-mail. Tony's gone and you guys made him go. You treated him like crap." Palmer pushed the elevator button and got in. "I hope you are all happy."

McGee hurried to his desk and turned on his computer. He brought up his e-mail. There was one from Vance with the subject heading "Transfers". He opened it.

"Effectively immediately Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo will be team leader in Rota, Spain. Congratulations and good luck, Tony."

McGee sat down hard. When had all this happened? He tried to remember what had happened Friday.

Friday before

"It's not like they offered you your own team"

"You're not Gibbs."

"DiNozzo, I don't need a damn baby-sitter."

These words echoed in Tony's ears. Well, he wasn't Gibbs or a baby-sitter, but he had been offered his own team. Not once, but several times and he had always turned it down to stay to make sure Gibbs was all right. Now, he didn't know. Had he been wrong? Was it too late?

He found an empty interrogation room and got out his phone. "Vance, this is DiNozzo. I suppose the job on the Aleutian Islands is already gone."

The director's voice came over the line. "Yes, it is. You turned it down, remember. And San Diego and the Pentagon."

"Well, it's too late then," sighed Tony.

"No, actually it's not. Parker over in Rota broke both legs in a motorcycle accident two days ago. He's going to have to be riding a desk for the next six to eight months and requested a return to the States. It's yours if you want it. Are you finally ready to leave Gibbs?"

Tony replied heavily, "He's ready to have me gone. When do you need me there?"

"Yesterday," responded the director, "but a week to get your things ready..."

"I can leave tomorrow night. My reports are filed and I can pack and be ready by tomorrow."

Vance replied. "There's a transport plane leaving for Spain at midnight. It'll be making a couple of stops. Get you into Spain Sunday late at night. You sure you want to go that soon..."

"Yeah, I'm sure. I'll say goodbye to the team tonight. I should have done this a year ago."

Tony closed his phone and squared his shoulders. He was not going to let the team think that his leaving was on anything less than his own terms.

Back out in the bullpen, he walked over to McGee and shook his hand. "Good bye, Tim." The younger agent, absorbed in his computer work, nodded absently.

He went over to Ziva's desk, reached out and touched her hair. The beautiful Israeli looked at him questioningly. "Good bye Ziva." He smiled his famous DiNozzo grin.

Then to Gibbs, he reached out and shook the hand of his mentor, ally, friend and tormentor, "Goodbye Jethro," he said. Then he went to the stairs and left.

"What was that all about?" asked McGee.

"He called me Jethro." said Gibbs. "Who knows with DiNozzo?" He bent back to his report.

Monday

When Ziva came in, McGee motioned for her to come over to his desk. "Read this."

She read the message from Vance. "When did this all happen. Why didn't he say anything?"

"I don't know. I guess I had been a little snotty to him. I asked him why he had never been given his own team." replied McGee.

"I told him he wasn't Gibbs. Damn, what was I thinking?I just meant he should lead in his own way."Ziva sat at the desk.

"Jimmy Palmer took him to the airport Saturday. Does Gibbs know?"

"Does Gibbs know what?" Gibbs had come in carrying his coffee.

"Read this." Tim indicated his computer monitor. Gibbs read.

He remembered. Tony had said goodbye, not goodnight and had called him Jethro. He remembered Tony saying that he knew Gibbs would be back when he had gone to Mexico because he hadn't told him goodbye.

Gibbs took the stairs to autopsy. "Where's Palmer, Ducky?"

The ME looked up from the body he was examining. "He left a while ago to mail something. The boy was upset about something. He was muttering about ungrateful people and hoping people were happy now. What is going on?"

"DiNozzo took a transfer. He left Saturday without telling anyone. Well, he must have told Palmer. And Abby. Let me know when Palmer gets back. I want to talk to him."

Gibbs went to the lab, where he heard dirge music playing from Abby's stereo. The usually perky Goth was sitting at her microscope table staring at nothing. When she saw Gibbs, she frowned. "What do you want? Planning to drive me out next?"

"Did he tell you what he was planning?" he asked.

"He came in Friday after he had called Vance. I couldn't talk him out of it even if I had wanted to. Everyday, McGee and Ziva showed they didn't respect him. And you...you know he idolized you, and you gave him every crap duty you could find. Out on the roof in the rain looking for brass like he was a probie." Abby turned her back on him. "Now get out, I have work to do for Jackson's team. You'll have to learn to take your turn."

"Abby, if he was unhappy, why didn't he come to me?"

"Like you've been so approachable the last few months. Snapping his head off, second guessing everything he's done. You forget what he did for you and Maddie? How many times can you expect someone to get smacked down and take it? Now leave my lab, I have work to do."

He went back to autopsy. He saw Palmer filing X-rays. "Palmer, what do you know about this transfer of Tony's?"

The usually reticent and somewhat timid assistant looked him square in the eyes. "Tony is my friend. He's helped me out of a couple of jams. When the whole thing with Agent Lee came down on me, he was the one who visited me and helped me realize I could keep working here even if I had made a mistake. He didn't treat me bad even if he did call me a gremlin. We had dinner together every Tuesday. He helped me study. I helped him with computers and stuff. He was learning a lot, but you just treated him like a big dumb cop. So when he asked me for my help, I was glad to give it."

That was the longest speech Gibbs had ever heard Palmer make. Ducky looked stunned.

"So what happened Friday?" asked Gibbs.

"He didn't say...but like I said it was an accumulation of slights, innuendoes and put downs. He never complained, but I saw and heard. I knew it was hard on him when you came back and just took over like he hadn't done a good job. Then Friday, you told him you didn't need him, McGee told him he was not a leader and Ziva, she told him he couldn't ever be you. So why stay around where you're not appreciated. He'll have his own team at Rota. I helped him pack up at his apartment. I'm going to sublet it for him."

Palmer explained that Tony had caught a military transport to Rota late Saturday night. Abby, Palmer and Tony had shared a movie and pizza before. "I'm going to send his DVDs and other stuff tonight. He may have to live in unmarried officer quarters, but at least he can have his movies."

Sunday evening Rota.

It was a beautiful summer Sunday evening in Spain. It was late, but the moon was full. Tony had caught a bus from the military airport to the NCIS headquarters. He showed his ID to the security guard. It was too late to get into his new quarters, so he went up to the Rota bullpen. He had asked the guard where his team was located. Rota was a smaller station than Washington and there was only one team. The orange color scheme of the Washington office was replaced in Rota with blues and grays.

He saw the empty desk that still had Parker's name plate on the top. Everything else was gone. He opened the desk to find it empty. He looked at the file cabinets. They were locked. He began to put some things into the desk drawers. His kit with toothbrushes, toothpaste and razors went in the top right drawer. The larger bottom drawer was the perfect spot for his extra clothes. He always kept a few extra shirts, pants and ties and even underwear on hand. You never could tell when the job would leave you a mess.

From the state of the other desks, it was obvious the team had pulled a late night Saturday trying to get everything ready for their new leader. He looked at each desk, trying to see what he could learn about each of his team members from the state of their desks. He had read the files on them on the plane over. He could never sleep on a plane, and a military transport plane was designed for cargo, not passengers.

He recognized Jardine's desk at once. Neat Nicky had been transferred to Rota a few months after their experiences in Baghdad. He liked the young agent, but she was obviously still obsessively germ phobic. Hand wipes and sanitizer sat out on her desk. He smiled as he remembered what a slob she could be. He knew that though seemingly quiet she had a strong core and wouldn't hesitate to tell him if she thought he was wrong. He wanted and needed that.

He moved to a desk with a slightly chaotic appearance. Post-its in various colors surrounded the computer monitor. Formulas, phone numbers and symbols filled the notes. This would be the desk of Agent Casparski. He was a graduate of Stanford and was an expert in computers and technology. Casparski had barely qualified on his first fitrep, but had steadily improved. Tony could admire someone who worked hard.

The third desk was not as neat as the first two. A large candy dish filled with what looked like M and M's occupied the left corner. Montrose was a lefty. Montrose had been a senior field agent for a year and his reports were excellent. Tony helped himself to some of the candy. Abby had packed him some great sandwiches for the plane ride, but they had been eaten hours ago. He was hungry and thirsty.

He stowed his bags behind his desk and went down to the security guard. "Where can a guy get something to eat around here?"

The guard indicated a base PX a block or so away, but told him it was closed. There was a small convenience store just a couple of blocks off base. Tony breathed in the cooler evening air. He went back up to the bullpen and changed into his running clothes. He had sat too long on the plane and was ready for some exercise. But food first.

As he entered the small store, he felt a familiar tingle. Something was no quite right. The clerk seemed nervous and said in Spanish. "You'll have to hurry sir. We close in fifteen."

"No problem. I just need something to tide me over till morning. I just got in from the States this evening." Tony casually glanced to the mirror behind the clerk. There was the reflection of two hunched figures in the second aisle. They couldn't be up to any good.

"So," said Tony to the clerk, "You get locals in here or just military personnel?"

"A little bit of both. You need to hurry with your choices because I have to close out by one."

In an instant, Tony pulled out his Sig and came up behind the two men. "Get down on your bellies. Now!" Tony cuffed one of the men. He held the other down with his foot on the prone figure's neck. "Call your local police."

An hour later, Tony had managed to fob off the paperwork on the pair of Spanish police who had responded. He was seated at his new desk, eating the sandwiches and chips the relieved clerk had pressed on him. He had asked his new friend, the security guard, if he could sleep in one of the holding cells. He finished his meal, disposed of the trash in a can by the elevator and found his way to the cell. He pulled the cot out into the aisle-no way he was going to sleep in a cell, not after his false imprisonment for the Jane Doe murder, which hadn't turned out to be a murder after all.

He set his cell phone to wake him in a couple of hours. He didn't want to be here when his team came in. They didn't expect him till Tuesday and it wouldn't be fair to catch them trying to finish all the reports and paperwork a new team leader would demand.

Monday morning in Rota

Jardine was the first to get off the elevator followed closely by Casparski and Melrose. As she went to her desk, she looked at the apparently empty desk of the team leader. She noticed a drawer not quite closed and what looked to be a purple stapler on one corner.

"Casparski, I think we've had company." she indicated the desk. "Look inside and see."

Montrose raised a hand, "Let me. I'm the one with a photographic memory. You two keep an eye out." He moved quickly to the desk, pulled out the top drawer, closed it and looked in the second drawer.

He went back to his own desk and closed his eyes. "Top drawer-a three pack of toothbrushes, one missing. Same for toothpaste. Deodorant, razors, hair gel, mints and cell phone. Phone won't work here in Europe. He'll have to get a new one. Second drawer-three shirts, designer labels, one blue, one white and one purple. Three ties and three belts rolled. Underwear-Armani and a thin gray wool sweater and two pair of pants-one gray and one black. Looked like there might have been socks underneath and there's a pair of shoes on the floor under the desk."

Jardine said, "He always kept extra clothes in his desk. With Gibbs you never knew when you would get home to change."

Casparski booted his computer. "So he's been here and gone. I'm going to check the security tape from last night."

The three agents watched the screen as Casparski fast forwarded it. When the time stamp hit midnight Sunday night, they watched the elevators open and a lanky figure carrying a duffle bag enter the room. He sat down at the desk and put down his head. After a few minutes, he yawned and opened his bag. He pulled out a set of running clothes and stripped off his suit coat, pants and shirt. He pulled the sweats on and put on some running shoes. He left down the stairs.

They fast forwarded again. About an hour later, what they had guessed was their new boss returned carrying a plastic bag. He sat at his desk and ate sandwiches and chips. He drank from a liter of milk. Then he yawned and picked up his bag and headed for the stairs.

Casparski switched cameras, looking for the man. He found him in the holding cell area. He had pulled out a cot and was sleeping with his arms wrapped around his bag. Casparski fast forwarded. Three hours later, the sleeper rolled off the cot and yawned. He grabbed his bag and disappeared from view. Casparski switched cameras and found the man entering the shower room. No cameras there. A few minutes later, he emerged dressed in a suit. It was five-thirty Spanish time.

He went out of camera range, but Casparski found him exiting the building holding his duffle bag. He looked around and started toward the gate.

"Well, he was here, but apparently he doesn't plan to report here today. He's due tomorrow." said Jardine. "Let's make sure all our paperwork is done and everything is ready."

Casparski turned to Jardine. "So, you worked with him. What are we in for? Parker was a demanding guy-really concerned with our image. What's this DiNozzo like?"

Jardine sat at her desk and looked thoughtful. "I always thought he was goofy-joking and making movie references. But in Baghdad I saw him at work. He was serious, efficient and good at his job. Gibbs wouldn't have kept him if he wasn't. There was something -no one knows what going on with him last year. Some people told me he had been undercover for the director. Then when she died, the new director didn't have any time for him. At first."

Casparski ran his hands through his white blond hair. "So, I looked up his record. Seems to get injured a lot. But several commendations for bravery-"

Montrose interrupted—"If he worked with Gibbs for seven years, he deserves a medal. I heard Gibbs tear an admiral a new one a couple years ago when I was taking language training at Quantico." Montrose dipped his hand into his candy jar taking a liberal handful of his m and ms. "I have to finish the report on those two drunken marines from Friday, and you guys need to make sure all our forms are ready for inspection. If he trained under Gibbs, we could be in for it."

Montrose opened a file drawer. "Our cold case files have been moved." He strode over to the copy machine. "Casparski, did you see him making copies on the tape?"

"The machine is out of the camera range. But check the counter button. It should be at less than 1200."

.

Monday Morning Rota 2

Tony had used some of the Euros Jimmy had give him-leftover from a trip to France Jimmy had taken with his parents-to buy a swimsuit and rent a cabana on the beach. There, reclining on a chaise, he spent the morning reading through the cold case files. Nothing was apparently wrong-sailors moved through Rota quickly and most were bar fights and petty theft. There was a series of three rapes that looked connected-he would want to see if there were any ships that had come in around the times of the assaults.

He enjoyed the view of the beach, watching the young men and women stake out a claim with blankets and towels. A waiter brought him fruit and bread and sweetened coffee. He watched the waves roll and caught a quick nap.

At eleven, he dressed again and made a formal call on the station chief and harbor master. They took him at to lunch. He felt them trying to get his measure and he took theirs as well. Both seemed like highly competent men

He went back to the beach and reread the assault cases. There didn't seem to be a pattern, but it would be worth another look once he got to the office. At four, he got dressed and flagged down a cab. "Take me to the police headquarters." He was going to pay a formal call on the local police chief.

"Buenos dias, Senor DiNozzo. It is good to meet the new NCIS agent." The police chief was a handsome man in his fifties, trim and rather elegantly dressed.

Tony replied in Spanish "I am sure that sometimes our missions overlap. I want to be a good guest in your country. I know that I will need your help many times in the future."

The Spanish policeman looked steadily at him. "Well, Senor DiNozzo, we have had some incidences of, how to say it, assumption on the part of NCIS that we are all a little less competent than you.."

"I am sure, Senor Calderon that will not be a problem. I did my research on the plane on the way over here. You and your force are the pattern for the rest of Spain. Your men are highly trained and fiercely honest. That's what the NCIS report had to say."

Calderon smiled. "Let me offer you something to drink. I have to go on a little action in an hour, but let us get better acquainted. Where did you learn Spanish? Your accent is almost perfect."

" I spent Two summers in Barcelona, studying at the university." Tony replied. "And by your English, you have spent sometime in the Midwest."

Calderon laughed and said, "Junior year abroad at Michigan."

"So, you're a Spartan. Buckeye here." replied Tony.

"Ohio. I went to one of your American football games where we played Ohio. There was a DiNozzo on the team-a ball catcher or something." said Calderon.

"Receiver," said DiNozzo.

The policeman smiled, "American football is too complicated for me. Well, it has been good to meet you but I have a small operation planned in an hour or so."

Tony asked, "Could I come along as an observer? I'd like to see how things are done here."

The police chief studied his visitor. The clothes were fancy, almost too much. Calderon liked his policemen to be tough and this man looked to be a bit of a dandy. But, there was an air of determination about his new American counterpart he felt he could trust. "Certainly, Agent DiNozzo."

Tuesday morning

Casparski had been at his desk since 0600. All his files were in order. He had been e-mailing a friend back in DC who had worked with NCIS. "Don't be fooled by the guy" his friend had written. "He will look like some GQ doll. Loves his clothes-but he has a reputation for getting things done. Been under Gibbs' shadow for a while, but he is well liked here and respected. Brush up on your movie references. He's a fanatic."

Montrose came in, bearing coffee and pastry. Montrose cocked an eye at the Team Leader's desk. "He's been here."

Casparski questioned "How can you tell?"

"Photographic memory here..the computer keyboard has moved. I'm checking the drawers. Watch the elevator."

Montrose opened the top drawer and then the bottom. He sat back at his desk and closed his eyes. "One shirt and one pair of pants gone. Underwear and tie, the same. One pair of socks too. And there's a bag of energy bars-two gone."

"I'll look at the security tape." Casparski cued up the cameras from the time he left the night before. He fast forwarded until about three a.m. The elevator doors opened and two men came in. He recognized his new team leader and what appeared to be the chief of the local police. They were dressed in vests marked "Policia" over their shirts. The chief took DiNozzo in an embrace, patted his back and left.

DiNozzo grimaced, rubbing his left shoulder. He turned on his computer and began typing. He ate candy two bars. About ninety minutes later, he yawned and turned off the computer. He headed to the stairs.

Casparski changed cameras and saw DiNozzo back in the cell area. He pulled out the cot and stripped down to his underwear. He seemed to be too tired to change, but he hung his coat and pants up carefully before disappearing from the screen. Ten minutes later he reappeared.

"Montrose, get over here. Look at this." Both men's eyes widened as they saw the pattern of bruises on the man's shoulder. They watched as he seemed to be setting an alarm on his watch. He lay down on the cot and was apparently asleep in minutes.

The elevator opened and Jardine got off. "You boys catch the local news this morning? The police had a big raid on a suspected human trafficking ring this morning, and I swear I saw DiNozzo in the background. He was wearing a Spanish police vest..."

Casparski interrupted, "We were looking at the security tapes. He got in around three and..."

"And is standing right behind you." said a rather tired sounding DiNozzo. "Are those doughnuts?"

DiNozzo smiled at his team. Looking at the security tapes to catch him showed some initiative. He grabbed a pastry from Montrose's bag, eyed the coffee, but reached into a drawer for a bottle of water. "Didn't look in that drawer did you, Montrose?"

"I sent you a report about last night. Read it and be ready at 1800.. we are going to work with the Spanish police to intercept the rest of the..." he hesitated, "the rest of the cargo. Nikki, we'll need your Arabic. I'm going over to check out my quarters and grab some sleep."

As he spoke, the elevator doors opened and a young Spanish policeman entered the bullpen. "Senor DiNozzo, the chief wants you to have this." The policeman held out a key. "It's for an apartment. His cousin is going to be gone for a year's assignment with the EU. He thought you might like to use it."

"Thank him for me, but..."

The Spanish policemen cut in. "He will be very offended if you don't use the apartment. He's had it cleaned and stocked with food. He also intercepted your luggage and has had it sent there."

DiNozzo sighed, "Well, we don't want to offend the jefe do we? Thank him for me. Where is this place?"

DiNozzo turned to his team. "Read the report and meet at the police headquarters at 1800. We want to be in place before the transport brings in the cargo. A couple of marine sergeants will be joining us." With that the team leader followed the young Spanish policeman into the elevator.

As Montrose read the report, he saw the action unfold in his mind. DiNozzo had been regulated to the rear of the operation. Half-dozen Spanish policemen had established a perimeter around a warehouse. Three others were on nearby rooftops.

DiNozzo saw three men slink by in the shadows of the warehouse. They couldn't see the policemen who were behind dumpsters and an old truck. The tallest of the three put a key in the lock. Suddenly, two American marines barreled through the perimeter and began shouting at the men. The marines took the three down quickly. In an instant they had the men on their bellies. The Spanish policemen pulled their weapons and began shouting. The marines pulled out handguns.

"NCIS!" shouted DiNozzo. "Stand down marines! Stand down!" He ran through the ring of policemen. The marines lowered their guns.

"What are you two doing? These are Spanish policemen and you are on their turf." he asked.

One of the marines was an African American. DiNozzo read his name on the uniform. Alvarez. "What are you two doing?" he repeated.

Alvarez spoke, "We heard these three plotting at the bar. They didn't think we spoke Spanish so they.."

The second marine cut in, "Yeah, I'm a good ole boy from Texas, grew up in El Paso. These scum were talking about how they were going to take delivery on some girls...Sudanese girls...they were selling them to Arab "business men". The marine's voice was angry. "We couldn't let them get away with it."

DiNozzo said, "Well, you interrupted the Spanish police who were going to arrest them. Now, we may never know where those girls are."

The marines looked at the ground. "I guess we could have called the police, but we didn't want these scum suckers to get away." said Alvarez.

The police chief was angry. DiNozzo couldn't blame him. These marines had undone several weeks' worth of police work and now the girls may have been lost. He thought fast. It might not be too late to salvage something.

DiNozzo had the marines stand the prisoners up. They were an unprepossessing group. "Jefe, maybe we can get these men to open up."

The tallest man, who seemed to be the leader, sneered "You can't make us talk."

DiNozzo said calmly, "I can't. The police chief can't, but the marines here might be able to. Why don't we take a little walk, Jefe, while the marines chat with these men?" He turned to the marines. "I'm sure you boys remember the techniques you learned back at Parris Island. Worked with the Gitmo prisoners. No marks."

As he watched the three prisoners, it was easy for him to see which one was the weakest. The man was trembling already. He should be easy to break.

"Take that one-show him how marines get information."

The marines shoved the man. The other two prisoners were led away. One made a break for it. DiNozzo tackled him and was rewarded with a strong kick to the left shoulder. A second kick followed before the police regained control.

The remaining prisoner was sweating profusely. DiNozzo got up and said "Wait a minute, men. Let me talk to the guy. Maybe we can avoid the mess-body fluids are so hard to get off your uniform."

Wednesday morning Rota

Montrose was the first to arrive. They had stayed late last night finishing the paperwork from yesterday's action. The NCIS team and the Spanish police had used the information they had got from the prisoners to intercept a "shipment" of young Sudanese children. They had been destined to be slaves or "servants" for wealthy Arab business men in England.

Montrose took a candy bar from his stash and began reviewing his report. The team had been in place when the trawler put into dock. DiNozzo was hidden under an upturned dingy, while Casparski and Montrose were behind a dumpster. Nikki was with the Spanish police on the perimeter. The two marines were pretending to be a couple of passed out drunks on the dock.

A truck pulled up to the dock. Three men got out and opened up the back. The trawler docked, and a ragged group of wide-eyed and frightened children emerged, pushed by a couple of hard looking men.

"We fed them last night. They can wait till morning for more." said one of the men.

It had been hard to watch the children loaded into the truck, but the police wanted to follow them to where ever they were going to see if they could catch the whole gang.

After the truck pulled away, the marines and Spanish police arrested the trawler crew. DiNozzo and the police chief followed the truck. Montrose, Jardine and Casparski followed in another car. After an hour, the truck pulled into a walled villa. They waited for a half dozen Spanish policemen to join them.

DiNozzo went over the wall first followed by the Spanish police chief. Casparski picked the lock on the gate, and the rest of the police and NCIS team followed. They listened and could hear the sound of crying children.

DiNozzo waved his team into position. The truck had gone into a garage. Before the door could come down, DiNozzo and three of the Spanish policemen were under it.

It was over quickly. The blustering owner of the villa pretended he knew nothing about the twenty-some children cowering in the basement crawl space under the garage, but the Spanish police cuffed him and hauled him away. It took Nikki a few minutes to convince the children to come out. They were filthy and frightened, but slowly emerged. They seemed to range in age from four years old to early teens.

A bus came for the children. Nikki went with them as did DiNozzo. He was holding one of the youngest, not seeming to mind the mix of snot and tears staining his jacket. Casparski and Montrose helped the Spanish police secure the villa.

They had met back at their headquarters a couple of hours later. Nikki was still with the children-the Spanish police had no one who spoke Arabic. DiNozzo told them to write up their reports and not to come in before noon the next day.

Montrose finished his candy bar and looked at his computer. He had four -wait another just came in—five e-mails.

Email from Washington

He opened the first one-from an Abby Scuito. "You had better take care of Tony. I am one of the few people in the world that can kill you and leave no forensic evidence. Make sure he eats."

The second was from Jimmy Palmer. "Tell Tony the rest of his stuff is in the mail. Let me know when his computer is set up. We can't e-mail him yet."

The third was from a Dr. Mallard. "Agent Montrose," he wrote, "This is a prescription for antibiotics I want you to fill. If you hear Anthony so much as sniffle, make him take the medication. He is not good at taking care of himself so you as his senior field agent are responsible. I am sending you his medical records so you can comprehend why he needs watching."

Montrose wondered why a grown man would need reminding to take his meds. He opened the next e-mail, "If I see another scar on Tony, I will make sure you get a matching one. I know every scar on his body." It was from a Ziva David. "Make him e-mail me back immediately."

Apparently his new boss had engendered strong emotions in his old team. The next e-mail was from a Timothy McGee. "Don't let him fool you...he will never let you down. He never did me, even if I didn't show it."

The final e-mail was from Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Montrose didn't know what to expect in this one. It was short. "Watch his six."

Washington

Gibbs was on his third coffee of the morning. Everything and everyone was irritating him. McGee and David were beginning to understand how much Tony had been able to take the edge off their boss. And the paperwork-who knew Tony had been doing more than his share for years, coming in after midnight most days.

Vance came out of his office and down the stairs. "Have you people watched the news today?" He logged on Tony's old computer and transferred a file to the plasma. "Watch this".

The ZNN news anchor, a fluffy blond reported "Spanish police in cooperation with NCIS in Rota broke up a major human trafficking ring last night."

The Spanish police chief appeared on screen. He said "Without the cooperation of NCIS Special Agent DiNozzo we wouldn't have been able to rescue these children. We are happy with the cooperation of NCIS and look forward to many further joint operations."

The screen was filled with the picture of dozens of ragged children. Ziva said, "Isn't that Jardine on the right?"

"And that's Tony holding that kid." said McGee.

Vance turned to the team. "He's done a lot for our relations with the Spanish police. He did a good job."

Abby came running off the elevator. "McGee, log me on your computer! Tony's on a video link to me."

"Put it on the plasma." ordered Gibbs.

They saw Tony on the screen, with Montrose and Casparski in the background. " Hi Abby. Just wanted to let you know I arrived safe and sound and these guys are taking good care of me."

"Tony, the whole gang's here." shouted Abby."We already miss you."

"Thanks Abby, but I think they..."

"Hell, DiNozzo," interrupted Gibbs, "Place is too quiet without you, but I know you had to move on. Should have let you go a long time ago. Saw you on the TV. Looks like you had a good intro to Spain."

"Yeah, boss, it's great. I've been to the beach"

Montrose cut in, "Broke up a robbery and led a raid on the child smugglers. I'd say we're lucky to have him. And we're not giving him back."

Casparski added, "I'm going to show him that Stanford can whip MIT's butt any day any way."

Gibbs smiled, " You watch his six."

Montrose nodded, " I will."