AUTHOR: Ashleigh Anpilova
CHARACTER: Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
SUMMARY: A problem with a national server has taken away all web and cell phone access, not just for NCIS, but for all Federal Agencies. In addition, NCIS's computers had all gone down as well. With a deadline for a case looming the team is starting to panic. However, Ducky is on the ball.
WORD COUNT: 2,920
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for mrlnpndrgn: N - Networking - demonstrating that you can get information without all those newfangled techno toys.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, nor am I making any money from them. I merely borrow them from time to time.
Ducky hummed to himself as he made a pot of tea. Once it had stood for the necessarily length of time he poured himself a mug and still humming, took it over to his desk and sat down. He pushed the useless computer out of the way, put his cell phone into his briefcase, took a pad and pen from his desk drawer and confirmed that the landline phone was still working. It was.
A freak incident, Timothy had tried to explain, but Ducky had lost track of what he was saying after the first half a dozen words, had taken down a large national server and several cell towers, which had led to not only NCIS being without access to the internet and their cell phones, but also all other Federal Agencies and police precincts. If that hadn't been bad enough, another freak incident, Ducky couldn't recall if they were related or not, had taken out NCIS's own internal computer system. The necessary steps were, apparently, being taken to get things back up and running as soon as possible, but they had been informed the chances of that happening within twenty-four hours were remote.
Team Gibbs had a deadline for a case on which they had been working and had been relying on spending the day tying things together, producing reports and finalizing evidence - well what little evidence they had. Jethro had not been pleased, in fact that was putting it mildly, when the children had told him that for the most part, all of their work, evidence, files and reports had been on their computers and thus was inaccessible. No, Jethro had not been happy. In fact Ducky could barely remember a time when Jethro had been so angry, apart from when he was dealing with a perpetrator.
Thankfully his anger had been fairly short-lived. After all even Jethro had to admit that it wasn't their fault that they didn't have access to computers, cell phones or the internet; they hadn't caused the incident. He had gathered the team together in the squad room and they were going to try to remember and reproduce whatever they could. Ducky had excused himself, saying he would work from Autopsy, and after glaring at him in his 'glare at Ducky' way, Jethro had agreed that would be all right.
Ducky glanced at his watch saw that it was nine thirty and picked up the phone; the person he needed to talk to first of all would be available. "Hello, Frank," he said, when the phone was answered. "It's Ducky Mallard . . . I'm fine, thank you. How are you? . . . Good. Good. Now, Frank, the reason I'm calling is . . . Well, yes, of course I still play . . . When? . . . Just a moment I'll check my diary." He opened the desk drawer and took out his diary and quickly turned to the date Frank had mentioned. "Yes, I do indeed happen to be free . . . What?" he chuckled softly. "Yes, of course I still have a real diary. I'm not quite a bad as Jethro - Agent Gibbs - but I do not entirely trust all these modern gadgets and newfangled techno toys, I believe they are called. . ." He chuckled again. "No, I didn't think you did either, which is why I am calling you. Frank do you remember a case on which you worked; it must have been four or five months now. It was that rash of strange murders, when on the face of it you couldn't find a cause of death? . . . Yes, that's the one. Now, did you happen to keep written notes as well as your computer ones? . . . You did? Oh, that is splendid. Would you be so kind as to fax a copy over to me, please? . . . Oh, we recently had two dead marines and like you I could not find a cause of death. I believe the cases may be related in some way, thus my asking to see your notes. Would that be all right? . . . Thank you, Frank. And one more thing, the name of the detective who was working the case, please . . . Ah, that's right; I remember it now from the papers. Thank you . . . Yes, of course I will."
They chatted about the upcoming bridge tournament to which Frank had invited him for a few minutes, as well as the current state of old friends, before Ducky thanked Frank again and hung up. He didn't begrudge the few extra minutes he had spent just chatting to Frank, that kind of thing was important, vital even in keeping lines of communication open. It meant that the next time he needed something, Frank would be even more inclined to assist him. He often thought that if there was anything Jethro could do to improve the way he handled cases and got information, it would be to be prepared to spend a minute or two engaging in what might be seen simply as 'mindless chit-chat', but was so very important. However, he hadn't known Jethro for all the years he had known him without knowing that he wasn't going to change.
He sighed softly to himself before getting up and walking around Autopsy for a minute or two; sitting for any length of time without moving always made his long ago injured leg ache more and become stiffer. When he had walked off the stiffness, he poured himself another mug of tea and sipped it while he waited for Frank to fax through copies of his reports.
He didn't have to wait long before the fax machine begun to churn out the documents. "Goodness me," he said, as page after page after page after page arrived. "I do believe Frank Oxton is even more garrulous that I am."
He took the papers over to his desk and opened the report he had made on the two dead marines and began to compare the cases. "Yes," he said, some forty minutes later. "I was correct. We are indeed dealing with the same murderer. I wonder why he suddenly decided to make the move from killing ordinary people to killing marines? That really could be his mistake." He fell silent as he began to compose a far more succinct report based on his and Frank's autopsies.
Once he had done that he again picked up the phone and dialed the relevant number. He listened to it ring, until someone grabbed it. It wasn't the person whom he had been expecting. "Good morning, may I speak with Detective Harold Pearson, please? My name is Doctor Donald Mallard; I am the Medical Examiner for NCIS . . . Yes, thank you, I'll wait."
As he waited, he had no doubt whatsoever that, unless the detective in question was in a meeting or interviewing a suspect or something else which would mean he simply couldn't come to the phone, that he would shortly be talking to Ducky. Harold Pearson was an old school cop, a year or two away from retirement and he and Ducky were friends. Their friendship had come about following a lecture Ducky had given at Harold's son's school. The young Henry had expressed an interest in becoming a doctor and eventually a medical examiner. However, he had recently fallen behind somewhat with his schoolwork due to a protracted illness, and hadn't believed he would be able to achieve his goal.
After spending some time speaking to the boy, Ducky had seen a keen mind, someone who was genuinely interested in learning, and would be quite happy to put in the years needed to become a doctor. Thus, he devoted a couple of evenings each week to helping Henry get his schoolwork, in particular his science subjects, not only up to the standard they should be, but beyond. Ducky knew that Harold, Beth, his wife, and Henry himself regarded him as being fully responsible for Henry getting a place at medical school. For his part Ducky felt that while he had helped to a degree, when it came down to it, it had been Henry and his passion, intelligence and interest which had earned him the place.
Another minute or so went by, before he heard the sound of the receiver at the other end being grabbed. "Hey, Ducky. Sorry to have made you wait. That idiot just said there was a call for me. He didn't tell me who was calling until a few seconds ago." Harold sounded someone vexed.
Ducky hastened to reassure him. "Please do not apologize, Harold. It's quite all right. I hope I am not disturbing you?"
"No. Just trying to stop the youngsters from getting too stressed because they can't use their cells or the internet; you'd have thought the world was about to end the way they're behaving."
Ducky chuckled. "Yes, I know what you mean. The younger agents here are behaving in the same way; I imagine the same is happening in all Federal Agencies and police stations."
"Yeah. Probably. I guess we shouldn't all be connected to the same server. At least that way if you lost access and the FBI didn't, you could get some help from them.
"I'm honestly not sure how these things work, Harold. I'm afraid whilst I am more than happy to use technology and confess to being a little lost without the ease of accessing information, I don't really know how it works beyond the basic level."
"Nor do I, Ducky, and I can't say I want or need to know. Anyway, what can I do for you? I'm guessing this isn't just a social call."
"No, it isn't. However, before I tell you quite why I called, how are Beth and Henry?"
"They're fine, Ducky, thanks. Henry's doing really well. Got top marks on his most recent exam."
"Oh, that is excellent. Please do give them my best wishes."
"I will, Ducky, thanks. So what can I do for you? I'm sitting here armed with my pen - honestly I swear some of the kids here don't know what a pen is for."
Ducky chuckled. "It concerns a case you were lead detective on from about four or five months ago. The ME was Frank Oxton, and it was the case where on the face of it there was no obvious cause of death. Do you happen to remember the case?"
For a moment Harold was silent; Ducky could almost hear his brain whirring. The he said, "Ah, yes. Yeah, Ducky. I do. Not only couldn't Frank find a cause of death, but we had virtually no leads and very little evidence. It's still open, of course, but with no further deaths in the last month or so, I have to confess it's not top of my list of cases to work on."
"There have been further deaths."
"Why didn't I know about them?"
"Because they are marines. Two of them to be precise. And like Frank I too was unable to find a cause of death and like you and your team, my colleagues turned up very little evidence. However, we did find one particular thing and I wondered if it might tie in with something you may have found. I believe I recall a newspaper reporting that you had a suspect. Was that so?"
"Well, yeah. I had someone in mind, but without any shred of evidence, in fact just the opposite, I couldn't even bring the bastard in to talk to him. I couldn't get the backing from higher up to bring him in. Ever since the Sinclair case, people have been a lot more concerned about 'saving face', which if you ask me is ridiculous."
"I do so agree. I am assuming, Harold, that like Frank and myself, you kept detailed written notes as well as anything that might be on the computer." Ducky mentally crossed his fingers and hoped that was the case.
"Certainly did. Want me to fax a copy of them over to you?"
Ducky beamed. "Yes, please. If that would be all right, of course. I don't want to get you into any trouble."
"Who's gonna know?" Harold laughed. "Got something else you might like to have a look at as well. You're done something on getting inside a killer's mind, that kind of thing, haven't you?"
"Yes," Ducky said, deciding now was not the time to explain in some detail as to what he had done.
"Yeah. Well, I got Jefferson Neilson to draw up a profile on the person. It was pretty good and I admit I don't tend to give that psycho stuff much of the time of day, but this seemed sound. Got him to give me a paper report as well as the stuff he put on the computer. I'll send a copy of that as well."
"Thank you, Harold. That really would be extremely helpful." Ducky had already compiled his own profile on the perpetrator and it would be very interesting to see if it tallied with Jefferson Neilson's. He didn't know that much about Neilson, other than he was fairly young, was what at one point called a high-flyer, and tended to give the people with whom he conversed the impression he was psychoanalyzing them as they spoke. As a result, he had very few conversations that went on for more than a few seconds. However, he was highly regarded and it was felt he would go far.
"I'll fax copies over as soon as I get off the phone."
"Thank you, Harold. That really is very kind of you," Ducky said.
"Anything I can do to help, Ducky. You know that."
"Yes, I do. Thank you." Again they chatted for a minute or two, mainly about Henry and his studies, and Ducky accepted an invitation to dine with the Pearsons the following week. He also promised as soon as the weather improved and they both had a free Saturday, that he would play golf with Harold.
Once he hung up, he popped to the restroom before coming back to find the promised reports. He quickly read the profile first; it was very brief and to the point, and he suspected the one that would be on the electronic file would be far more detailed. He idly wondered why Neilson hadn't simply printed that out rather than produce a second report for Harold. Oh, well, people were strange at times. He was rather pleased to see that Neilson's profile concurred with his own.
Harold's notes were, as he had expected, very detailed and he was delighted to see the piece of evidence he was hoping for. "I think we just might have you," he said, turning his attention to writing a summary of Harold's notes.
Once he had done that he made another couple of calls, one of which involved him calling in a long standing favor. By the time he decided to pop out and grab a sandwich, he believed he had all the evidence Jethro would need to meet the deadline of the case. He believed it was quite possible the murderer would be in Jethro's interrogation room before the end of the day.
"How'd you do it, Duck?" Jethro asked, leaning against one of the Autopsy tables as he flicked through firstly Ducky's report and secondly the file. "And how did you know to call these guys?"
"Well, Jethro, in the first place I resorted to the good old fashioned method of networking. I made some phone calls, I got information faxed to me, I called in a favor, I spent time talking to people. As for how I knew to contact them, I suddenly remembered Frank Oxton telling me, at a bridge game, about his odd case, whereby he couldn't find a cause of death. I should have recalled it sooner, once we started to get dead bodies where I couldn't determine the cause. However, I didn't until today. And once I had remembered that I knew the police would have been involved and it turned out the lead detective was an old friend of mine. And the other people I contract were ones with whom I also had at the very least a nodding acquaintance with. Thus, it really was a simple case of calling them. It's amazing what a simple conversation can elicit."
"Yeah, can see that. You got all this from a few phone calls?"
Ducky shrugged. "Well, my dear Jethro, they were phone calls to the right people." He smiled. "So do you think this will be sufficient for Director Vance to give you the green light?"
"If it isn't, Duck, don't know what will be. Reckon this is more detailed than the stuff on the computers."
Ducky smiled. "I wouldn't go that far, Jethro. However, I do believe it is a fair approximation of what you and the team had gathered together."
Jethro grinned. "I better go and see Leon. Thanks again, Duck." He headed to the door, then stopped and turned around. "Of course you know that once the computers are fixed or whatever it's called, I'll have to get one of the kids to type this lot into them, don't you?" He grinned. "After all we need a complete case file. Catch you later." And with a wave, he strode out of the room.