This story is by Barbara (BJ) Wingate and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Standing on the sidewalk outside the main building housing the NCIS headquarters, John Rathborne stood staring towards where his office had been. This had been his last day after being told he was ‘retiring’. And in an email no less, from the head man! Hell, he hadn’t had much of a choice. Either he retired, and receive a partial pension, or he could be fired. Hell of a choice that was. And why was this happening? Because they said he had botched his last investigation. He still wasn’t sure how that had happened.
At age 55 John Rathborne, senior NCIS investigator for the last 18 years, had been tasked with bringing in a known arms dealer who was selling to local terrorists. He had gotten the goods on one Arnold ‘Arnie’ Masterson. Had him dead to rights. John really believed he had proven it beyond the shadow of a doubt and yet the man had walked on a technicality. Shaking his head, John picked up the box of stuff he had removed from his desk that day and walked to his car.
The car was a classic, a 1957 Chevy Impala that he had worked on restoring himself over the years. It still had a problem or two but it drove like a dream and usually started on the first try. Popping the trunk open, he rather unceremoniously tossed the box of stuff in, then leaned his arms against the raised lid and zoned out for a few minutes. At 6’1” that was easy for him to do. He considered tossing in his tie and suit coat as well, but both were not cheap so he decided not to. As he leaned back to close the trunk a hand on his shoulder had him hesitating and turning. It was his partner – ex-partner – Angela Perkins. She was 5’6” tall in stocking feet so, even in the 2” heels she liked to wear, she had to reach up to put that small hand of hers on his shoulder. Her short blond hair framed an oval face and her soft blue eyes looked sad as she regarded him.
“I’m so sorry John. I have no idea what happened. We had that guy. I know we did or at least I thought we did.” Angela dropped her hand from his shoulder, looked at the box in the trunk for a minute, then met his eyes again. “What will you do now? Where will you go?”
John slammed the trunk closed making Angela jump just a bit. She was too much of a professional to get rattled that easily. “Hell if I know. No, I do know. I’m going after that bastard. I know he is guilty as sin and I’m going to prove it! I was right. We were right damn it!” He slapped his hand on the trunk then glanced at Angela again. She was biting her lower lip which was her ‘nervous’ reaction whenever she was upset. “Relax kid, I’m just running off at the mouth. Probably won’t do anything more then go get drunk.”
Angela was in her early 30s so his calling her kid always got her dander up, but not this time. Instead she just nodded then took a step back so he could walk to the door of his car. “Does that mean I’ll you see at Joe’s tonight? Or another time?”
John opened the car door and stopped. “Probably, yeah, I’ll be there. Don’t guess you can bring me the file on Arnie?” He watched as she sighed.
“You know that’s against regulations John.” She stated matter of factly. John nodded and slid into the car, winding the window down as he did. Angela looked around then leaned in the window for a minute. “You forgot these when you packed up though.” Quietly she dropped a few sheets of paper into his lap then straightened up. “Take care of yourself John, see you later.” Turning, she headed back into the building as John drove off.
A few blocks away, John stopped the car and sat, engine running, to read over what Angela had given him. They were some of the pages from the file, notes that John had taken in the case against Arnie. Slowly, as he read them over, he realized where he had made his mistake. Arnie was connected. Not to the mob, but to someone high up in NCIS. He shook his head as he read the notes again then, with a determined look, picked up his cell phone and made a call.
“Homer Investigations. How may I direct your call?” The voice of the female secretary was seductive over the line. John found himself smiling.
“Hey Bonnie, it’s John Rathborne. Is Larry in?” he glanced around and noticed a navy squad car sitting not too far away, watching him. He ignored them.
“Oh, hey John. Yes, he’s here and, for once, not with a client. Let me get him on the phone for you.” John waited as the call was connected.
“John! What’s up buddy? You finally done with that crappy job?” John could picture Larry sitting at his desk, feet up, brown suit looking every bit the PI, messy brown hair, twinkling brown eyes.
“Sorry I didn’t call earlier Larry. Yeah that job is done for. Does that offer of a job with you still stand?” John heard Larry’s feet hit the floor.
“You shitting me John? Of course the offer still stands! When can you get here and start work?”
John chuckled. “How about now? And I’m bringing an open case with me. My case. Deal?” John waited for the response.
“Deal! Get on over here so we can do the paperwork. About time you did some real investigative work anyway. Bonnie! Get me the papers for a new employee! John is joining the crew!” John disconnected the call, put the car in gear and, with a plan in mind, headed out.