AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
PAIRING: Leroy Jethro Gibbs/Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUB-GENRE: Established Relationship
SUMMARY: When a young Marine is found dead an anonymous tip points to one person. However, there is a problem and the team is divided.
WORD COUNT: 4,440
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for timetiger: A - Agoraphobia
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
"Got a tip, boss. It looks like a good one." DiNozzo looked across the squad room.
"A Frances Holliday, apparently she and Taylor has a history that goes back to Taylor's pre-Marine days."
"Ms. Holliday's younger brother, Devlin, and Taylor were in the same gang. Devlin died; Ms. Holliday blamed Taylor. She was heard to threaten him. Looks like she's been as good as her word."
Gibbs frowned. "How long ago was this, DiNozzo?"
DiNozzo glanced down at the piece of paper in front of him. "Er. Five years, boss."
"She's waited for five years to take her revenge?"
"Well, some people . . . It's a good tip, boss. I reckon it's worth interviewing her."
Gibbs stared at DiNozzo for a moment before shrugging and saying. "Bring her in. Go with him, McGee."
"On it, boss." DiNozzo stood up and grabbed his gear; a moment later McGee did the same.
AN HOUR LATER
"You tell him, Tim."
"Oh, no, Tony. You can tell him. You're the senior agent as you never tire of telling us."
"Yeah? Well, as senior agent I'm ordering you to tell him."
"Tony, I -"
"Yes, boss?" McGee and DiNozzo spoke in perfect synchrony as they turned their full attention to Gibbs.
"Where's my suspect?" McGee and DiNozzo looked at one another and made 'you tell him gestures'. Gibbs rolled his eyes. "DiNozzo!"
"Where's my suspect? You tell me."
"Well, the thing is, boss. We didn't bring her in."
"Yeah, DiNozzo, noticed that. Why not?"
"Well, you see, boss. She says she's got agoraphobia."
"Agoraphobia?" Now that was a first for Gibbs. He'd heard many excuses during his time as a Federal Agent, but this a new one.
"Yeah, boss. That's -"
"I know what it is, DiNozzo."
"Sorry, boss. Of course you know."
"And Ms. Holliday told you this herself?
McGee nodded. "Yes, boss. She wouldn't even come to the front door. She's got an entry phone system set up and she let us in. She said she hasn't been outside the house for five years - not since her brother died."
Gibbs stared at his agents. "Do you believe her?" He was interested in their respective replies.
"Yes," McGee said firmly.
"No," DiNozzo said equally as firmly.
Gibbs nodded. He wasn't at all surprised by their differing opinions. "Either of you had any experience with people suffering from agoraphobia?"
"So what makes you both so certain? DiNozzo?"
DiNozzo looked away from Gibbs and twisted the cap he held in his hands. "It's too . . . Who'd stay in the house for five years?"
"You mean you don't know."
DiNozzo nodded. "It's just a feeling."
Gibbs stared at him. He wasn't going to dismiss DiNozzo's 'feeling' out of hand. He wasn't always right when he had them, but nor was he always wrong. "McGee? What made you believe her?"
"She said we could contact her doctor. She got really agitated when we tried to insist she come with us. And we did try; we tried hard - both of us. I don't think it was an act, boss."
"Good cop; bad cop?" Gibbs asked. McGee and DiNozzo nodded. He had no need to ask who played which part.
"What do we do now, boss?" McGee asked.
"I go and see her."
"Do you want me to come with you, boss?" DiNozzo asked.
"No, McGee. Need you both to stay here and find me everything you can on exactly what happened five years ago. And see if you can dig anything else up about Brian Taylor's recent activities."
McGee nodded and hurried over to his desk, sat down and started tapping keys on his keyboard as he stared intently at the computer screen.
DiNozzo hovered for a moment. "Are you going on your own, boss?" Gibbs stared at DiNozzo. "Sorry, boss, none of my business."
"You think, DiNozzo? But no, I'm not. Going to take Ducky with me."
"Ducky?" The surprise showed in DiNozzo's voice.
"Yeah, DiNozzo. You got a problem with that?"
"But Ducky's -" Gibbs stared at him. "Not an agent."
"Noticed that, DiNozzo. But he is a doctor and he's used to analyzing people." Gibbs grabbed his coat, his Sig and his car keys and strode across the squad room to the elevators.
TWENTY MINUTES LATER
"So what exactly is it you wish me to do, Jethro?" Ducky sat quite placidly in the passenger seat as Gibbs drove.
"Talk to Ms. Holliday about her agoraphobia, try and put her at her ease, then listen and watch when I talk to her." Gibbs glanced away from the road for a moment to look at Ducky. "Nothing you haven't done before, Duck."
"No, I know that, Jethro. May I ask if you disbelieve her?" Ducky turned in his seat to look at Gibbs.
Gibbs shrugged, indicated and pulled out to overtake a car that was traveling at only ten miles per hour over the speed limit. "Don't know, Duck. Won't know until I see her and talk to her. DiNozzo's sure she's faking; McGee's sure she's not."
"And what makes them so certain?"
"In DiNozzo's case, his gut, or equally as likely because he's out of his comfort zone, which he won't admit to, but knows. McGee, because she said the right things and reacted in the right way."
"I see. I confess I am not surprised by either of their beliefs."
"Nor am I. You know much about it, Duck?"
Ducky settled back into his seat and for a moment Gibbs regretted asking the question and wondered if he was about to be subjected to a lecture on the subject or to one of Ducky's stories. He must have given himself away, or it was just all the years they had known one another for and how close they were, because Ducky turned back to look at him and smiled. "Do not worry, my dear," he said, putting his hand on Gibbs's thigh for a second or two, "I am not about to lecture you and I actually do not have a story to tell about it either. Well, not a long one."
Gibbs turned his head and smiled at Ducky. "You know me pretty well, Duck."
"Well I should do, should I not? After all the years we have been friends and the amount of time we spend together."
"Guess so. Well. Go on, tell me."
Ducky chuckled softly. "I was merely going to say that I personally have no experience of agoraphobia, it is not something I have ever suffered from. My knowledge of it mainly comes from books and papers on the subject; although I have known someone who suffered from it."
"Yes. It was the son of one of Mother's friends, which in itself was somewhat unusual."
"How come?" Again Gibbs glanced at Ducky.
"Agoraphobia is twice as common in women as in men. I won't bore you with the reasons why."
"Appreciate that, Duck." Gibbs smiled to himself. He had a feeling that whether Ducky 'bored' him or not now, the chances were fairly high that later that night when they were at home, maybe over dinner, or maybe afterwards, that he would be treated to a much fuller explanation of things relating to agoraphobia.
Ducky laughed softly. "This young man didn't suffer as badly as some suffers do. He was actually able to go outside his home from time to time."
Gibbs frowned. "I thought the whole point was that going out wasn't possible. You telling me some people can?"
"Yes, my dear. I am. There are varying degrees of agoraphobia, rather like there are varying degrees of most other phobias or illnesses. Some people can manage quite well if they stick to known routes and places. Some may even be able to travel on a bus or train if they go with someone they know. And there are times that are better than other times."
"So our suspect could have left her home and killed Taylor?"
Ducky sighed softly. "Technically, yes. However, as you said we have not met her or spoke to her yet, so . . . I am not willing to commit myself, Jethro, not until I have met her - and maybe not even then. And even those people who are able to go out in certain situations will, in order to prevent anxiety attacks, often choose to remain in their homes as often as possible. They avoid their feared situations which can, of course, lead to the fear growing stronger, thus the problem gets worse. It is a very debilitating and disabling illness, Jethro, one which has a huge affect on the life of the sufferer."
"I imagine it must be," Gibbs said quietly. The idea of not being able to go outside, or even of going out but only to certain places, struck him as being something truly awful. How could people live like that? How could they spend their whole lives indoors? For someone like him who liked the outdoors and space, it seemed impossible to conceive.
"And then, on top of having to deal with agoraphobia, some people, but not all, who suffer from it also suffer from a condition called panic disorder."
"I presume you would like me to be concise?"
"Sure would, Duck." Gibbs again smiled to himself.
"Very well. The short explanation is that people who have panic disorder, suffer panic attacks that occur suddenly, more often than not they occur without warning. Such an attack is like a suddenly and very severe attack of anxiety and fear. People who suffer from this disorder may worry about having such an attack in a public place, which they would find embarrassing and there may not be anyone around to help them. Thus, some people develop agoraphobia - the kind where their fear is of being in public place - because of the panic disorder."
If that was the short version, Gibbs reckoned he'd need a stiff bourbon or two before he heard the long version. "So you're telling me that some people develop agoraphobia because they have this panic disorder and not the other way around?"
Ducky nodded. "Yes."
They drove in silence for a minute or two, until Gibbs stopped the car outside a modest looking house in a rather deserted, somewhat rundown street. He got out of the car, locked it and went around to open the door for Ducky. He automatically offered Ducky his hand to help him out of the car; it was an offer Ducky accepted. Gibbs had noticed that over the last few months Ducky had not only been limping more, he'd also been sitting down a lot more, both at work and at home and always accepted Gibbs's help to stand up.
"You okay, Duck?" Gibbs kept his hand on Ducky's arm for a moment because another thing he'd noticed was that Ducky's balance appeared to be slightly uncertain after he'd been sitting on a low chair or in the car for more than a few minutes.
Ducky looked up at him and smiled. "Yes, my dear Jethro. I am fine."
Gibbs nodded, but he wasn't completely convinced. He'd been so used to Ducky limping, he'd had a slightly limp ever since he'd known him, that he hadn't really paid that much attention to how much worse it had got, at least not until it had got so much worse. He'd somehow missed the transition from the slight limp to how it was now.
He glanced at the sidewalk. "Path's a bit uneven, Duck. You take care."
Ducky smiled at him again. "Yes, my dear," he murmured. Gibbs matched Ducky's pace as they made their way to the front door.
Gibbs pressed the button on the entry phone system and almost immediately a female voice said, "Yes?" Gibbs thought there was more than hint of anxiety in the tone and a glance at Ducky confirmed this.
"Is that Ms. Frances Holliday?"
"Yes, I'm Miss Holliday."
Gibbs didn't miss the faint but obvious correction. "I'm Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs from NCIS, Miss Holliday. Wonder if I might have a few words with you, ma'am?"
For a moment Miss Holliday didn't reply but then she spoke. "Yes, of course, Special Agent Gibbs, do come in." They heard the sound of the door lock opening.
Gibbs spoke again. "Should have said, Miss Holliday, I have Dr. Mallard with me."
"Come in, both of you."
"Thank you, ma'am."
Gibbs pushed the door open and held it for Ducky. They both went inside and as Gibbs closed the door a woman appeared in the doorway of what Gibbs guessed was the sitting room. She was about forty or forty-five, but given her hair was quite grey, she looked older. She was dreadfully thin and pale and even from where he stood Gibbs could see she looked very tired, exhausted even, the dark circles under her eyes were clear.
He moved towards her and took out his ID and held it up, flipping it to show his badge after a moment or two. She glanced at it briefly, but her gaze came to rest on Ducky. "Do come through, Special Agent Gibbs, Dr. Mallard." And she turned and went back into the room.
Gibbs and Ducky followed her. "Do sit down, please," she said, and without waiting to see if they would, she sat down in an arm chair; Gibbs and Ducky sat on the couch. "Your agents were here earlier," she said.
Even though it wasn't a question, Gibbs answered it as if it had been. "Yes, ma'am, Agents DiNozzo and McGee."
She nodded. "They were nice boys - both of them. Agent DiNozzo reminded me a little of - Would you like a cup of tea?"
It was actually Ducky who answered her before Gibbs had a chance to do so. "Yes, please, Miss Holliday; that would be very nice indeed. And, please, do let me give you a hand." He had stood up and moved a little nearer to Miss Holliday even before she could respond.
She managed a small smile, stood up and led Ducky out of the room. Gibbs stood up and took the opportunity to have a quick look around the room. As he did a visual search, he looked for any evidence that Miss Holliday had been out of the house - such as a library book, although he reminded himself that someone could have brought it for her. After all, if she never went out and didn't even answer the door, then someone had to shop for her.
There were plenty of books, but no library books. As he scanned the shelves, he found to his surprise a copy of McGee's latest book which had only been published a week ago. He had it in his hand as Ducky, carrying a tray with a teapot, tea cups and saucers and a plate of biscuits came into the room; Miss Holliday was at his side.
She saw Gibbs immediately and said, "I shop on-line most of the time and anything I cannot get on-line the eldest son of my neighbor gets for me. Thank you, Dr. Mallard."
"It's my pleasure, Miss Holliday."
Once tea had been poured and handed around, Miss Holliday looked at Gibbs and said, "You are here about Brian Taylor." Again it wasn't a question.
Gibbs nodded. "Yes, Miss Holliday, we are." He paused and took a sip of tea before saying, "He's dead."
She nodded. "So your boys told me. And you believe I killed him?"
Her eyes widened for a moment and for the first time since they'd gone into the house he saw the weariness fade just a little and she smiled. "I'm not sorry he's dead. I may have . . . More than once, Agent Gibbs, I wished for his death. But no, I didn't kill him."
"You believed he was responsible for your death of your brother, don't you?"
She shook her head. "No, Special Agent Gibbs. I know he was."
Gibbs glanced swiftly at Ducky before turning his attention back to Miss Holliday. "That's a pretty strong accusation."
She sighed. "Brian Taylor killed Devlin, Agent Gibbs. Oh, he didn't stick a knife in him or put a gun to his head, but he killed him." She took a swallow of tea and looked at Gibbs. "You were a Marine, weren't you?"
Gibbs held the gaze. "I was."
"My father was also a Marine. I respect the service, Agent Gibbs. I even support the way it will accept young men who haven't got perfect backgrounds; those who are offered a choice between prison and the service. But sometimes you get it wrong."
"And did we get it wrong with Brian Taylor."
"And you know this how?"
"Because one the younger brothers of the boy who goes to the store for me has become hooked on drugs - thanks to Brian Taylor."
Gibbs glanced swiftly at Ducky who asked quietly, "How do you know this, Miss Holliday?"
"Elliott, that's the boy who helps me, told me one day. He'd followed his younger brother and he described the man who was giving him drugs. I recognized Taylor from his description."
"Descriptions can be faulty; the mind sees one thing and often transcribes it as something else."
She nodded, put her cup down and stood up. "Yes, I know that, Agent Gibbs, I have a great deal of time to read and study. However, photos don't lie - well, actually they do, we all know how easy it is to manipulate photos and touch them up these days. However, these photos," she handed Gibbs a camera, "are still in the camera."
Gibbs took the fairly basic digital camera and looked down at the photograph showing on the display. It was of Brian Taylor and it showed him handing something to a young teenage boy who couldn't have been more than fifteen. He flipped to the next one and saw another photo; this time Taylor was handing the boy a syringe.
"How did you get these?"
"Elliott took them."
"And brought them to you?"
"Why didn't you report it?"
"I was going to. However, I . . ." She trailed off and looked at Ducky. "Given what you said to me while we were in the kitchen, you know about agoraphobia, don't you, Dr. Mallard?"
He nodded. "Yes, Miss Holliday, at least to an extent."
"My fear is not just of open spaces, but also of being in public places. And I also suffer from panic disorder. I believe the whole prospect of maybe being forced out of my home by someone who thought I was acting, or being . . . I wanted to report Brian Taylor, truly I did. I wanted him brought to justice. However, I imagined what doing so might lead to and - I suffered a very severe panic attack and by the time it had passed, Elliott arrived to tell me Brian Taylor was dead and . . ."
"I understand," Ducky said soothingly. "Jethro?"
"Miss Holliday, where were you on the night Brian Taylor was killed?"
"Here. I was here, Agent Gibbs. Just as I always am. As I told Agents DiNozzo and McGee, I have not been out of the house for five years. Not since . . . Not since Devlin died. I didn't kill Brian Taylor. I couldn't have killed him."
"You threatened to." Gibbs spoke flatly. "Five years ago; you threatened to kill Taylor."
"Yes. Yes, I did. But I didn't. I wouldn't have put his mother through the hell I went through when Devlin died. Brian Taylor may not have been a good boy or a good man or a good Marine, but he was a son. Devlin was my brother and the pain of his death was bad enough. I couldn’t begin to imagine what a mother would feel like. So no, Agent Gibbs, I did not kill him."
"Were you here alone?"
Miss Holliday nodded. "Yes."
Gibbs stared at her and then said, his tone hard, "Do you really suffer from agoraphobia, Miss Holliday? Or is it all just a convenient act?"
However, Miss Holliday actually smiled. "Before I became ill I was a photographer, Agent Gibbs. I spent at least ninety percent of my time taking photos outdoors." She stood up suddenly and took a photo album from the bookcase, opened it and held it out to Gibbs. "That's one of mine," she said softly.
Gibbs stared at it and then looked at Ducky. "You were a war zone photographer?"
"Yes. And I was a good one. So you tell me, Agent Gibbs, how convenient do you think it would be for me to give up everything and be forced to spend my entire life indoors? However, please do not take my word for it. You have, as I told your agents, my full permission to visit my doctor. His name is Dr. Liddle and here is his address." She handed a card to Ducky who took it and glanced at it. "I'll happily write a note to Dr. Liddle telling him he has my permission to show you my records. Would you -"
She fell silent as Gibbs pulled out his phone and stood up. "Excuse me, Miss Holliday," he said, striding out of the room into the hall. "Gibbs. What do you want, McGee?" He listened for a moment before saying, "You sure? . . . Yeah, McGee; I know. Right You and DiNozzo go and get Captain Billington. I want him in my interrogation room by the time I get back . . . I don't care what he says, cuff him if you have to; hell, shoot him even. But get him to NCIS." He ended the call and strode back into the living room.
He went over to Miss Holliday who now sat next to Ducky; they were looking at the pictures in the album. He cleared his throat and both Ducky and Miss Holliday looked up. He held out his hand to Miss Holliday, "Like to offer you an apology, Miss Holliday, ma'am," he said, as she stood up and took his hand.
"An apology, Agent Gibbs?"
"Yes, ma'am. For troubling you and for any - inference me or my agents might have made."
Ducky, struggling just a little (the couch had been rather low) stood up. "Jethro?"
Gibbs turned to look at him and gave him a nod before he looked back at Miss Holliday. "We know who killed Taylor," he said.
Her hands flew to her mouth. "Not Elliott?" she whispered. "Oh, please, Agent Gibbs, tell me it wasn't Elliott."
Gibbs squeezed the hand he still held. "No, ma'am, it wasn't Elliott. Is that what you thought?"
"It's what I feared, Agent Gibbs. It's what I feared."
"Well it wasn't him. Can't tell you who it was, but no one will be disturbing you again, Miss Holliday. My apologies again."
"No, Agent Gibbs. You have no need to apologize; you were doing your job. I was a logical suspect - I wanted him dead."
"And now all I can think of is what his mother is going through; how much pain she must be in."
Gibbs paused and then said softly, "If it helps at all, Miss Holliday, Brian Taylor died a hero."
"What? But he was -"
"Pushing drugs to young kids, yeah know that."
"So what do you mean? How did he die a hero?"
Gibbs sighed. "Guess we all have levels of what's right and wrong and they'll differ from person to person. Taylor stopped someone from doing something to a kid that he considered worse than taking drugs. The kid's alive and unharmed thanks to Taylor. I know that doesn't make up for Devlin but - Guess in the end he wasn't all bad. Now we'll say goodbye, ma'am." He held out his hand again.
Miss Holliday took it and shook it. "Thank you, Agent Gibbs," she said softly. "I - Thank you. And thank you, Dr. Mallard. I will think about what you said."
"Please do, Jeffery Carrington has had a great deal of success helping people who suffer like you do. I am sure he could help you - at least to a degree." He held out his hand.
She took it and he put his other hand over hers. "Thank you, Doctor," she said again.
LATER THAT EVENING
Gibbs and Ducky sat on the couch after supper; they hadn't talked about the case since getting home. They never did; the home they shared was their sanctuary away from the hell they faced every day. They didn't let the darkness and evil and hatred they dealt with every day into their home. Nor had Ducky 'lectured' Gibbs on the subject of agoraphobia.
Gibbs poured malt scotch for Ducky and bourbon for himself. "Duck?"
Gibbs paused. He been thinking about this for some time and hoped he'd managed to find a way to say what he wanted to say without upsetting Ducky. "Reckon it's time you saw a doctor," he said, "about your leg," he added, when Ducky stared at him.
Ducky was silent for a moment as he sipped his scotch. Then he sighed softly and took Gibbs's hand. "Yes, my dear. I believe you are correct. I confess it is giving me a lot more trouble these days and it does cause me more pain."
"Does it hurt now?"
Ducky shrugged. "It has been a fairly long day."
"That a yes?"
Ducky smiled. "Yes, Jethro. It is indeed hurting more than it normally does."
"Want me to massage it for you?"
Ducky looked at Gibbs and smiled. "We both know what your massages lead to, do we not?"
Gibbs grinned. "You objecting?"
"Oh, no, not at all, my dear. And after all it is Saturday tomorrow and the team is not working."
"Just what I was thinking." Gibbs stood up and held out his hand for Ducky to help him to his feet. He then took Ducky's glass from him and put both on the coffee table and put his arms around Ducky, pulled him into am embrace and kissed him.
It was some ten minuets later before Gibbs picked Ducky's glass back up and handed it to him, and grabbed his own. With his arm around Ducky's shoulders they went out of the living room and along the hallway to their bedroom.