This story is by Linda Holbrook and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
John Rathbone’s Early Retirement
by Linda Holbrook
NCIS Special Agent John Rathbone could feel eyes on him. He knew they came from above. He looked up, met the Director’s gaze, acknowledged with a nod and proceeded up the stairs to his office. He had a sixth sense for knowing when the Director wanted to see him and also when it wouldn’t be good. This was one of those times.
John acknowledged Nikki, The director’s secretary as she motioned for him to follow the Director through the open door. He closed it behind him and stood in front of the desk with hands behind his back. Director King motioned for John to sit, but he remained standing.
“OK,” Director King said as he sat down behind the desk. “Sec Nav has reviewed everything on the Martinez/Clarke case and he wants heads to roll, specifically yours. I don’t want to fire you, John. Hell, I don’t want to lose you at all, you’re too valuable to me. But I don’t have a choice here. I want you to take early retirement, immediately. That way you’ll get all your benefits. I don’t want to fire you. As far as Sec Nav is concerned, you’ll be gone and that’s what he wants. I’ve got all the paperwork right here.” He pulled a file out of his desk drawer and slid it across the desk toward Special Agent Rathbone.
“There’s no other way? A suspension? Disciplinary action? Nothing?” John stepped toward the desk and opened the file folder.
“No. I tried all angles with him. He wants you gone, period. Maybe you could get something with the FBI or CIA.”
“Not likely. If he wants me gone that badly I’m sure he spread the word. Plus I’m fifty-eight. Who the hell wants a washed-up old ex-government employee. I suppose I could get some sniper work with the terrorists.”
“Don’t even joke about something like that, John. Sign these papers and then go down to personnel and they’ll take care of things from there.”
John signed the papers, then slapped his badge, ID, and gun on the Director’s desk.
“Good luck, John. Stay in touch.” Director King said as John headed out the door.
John tossed the last of the personal items from his desk into a paper bag he’d found and sat back with a sigh looking around the room. He sure would miss this place, well, maybe not the terrible green walls, but the people for sure. Special Agents Todd and Rogers rounded the corner just then and seeing what their boss was doing, gathered around his desk.
“What’s up, Boss?” Agent Todd asked.
“Yeah, you’re doing more than a thorough cleaning on your desk there,” Agent Rogers noted. “What’s going on?”
“I’m officially retired, folks. Wayne, you are Senior Special Agent in Charge now. Karen, you are a damn good agent and don’t let him get away with too much bossy shit.” John couldn’t help smiling at the dark haired woman who had come to mean as much to him as a daughter would. “After today, you can find me on my boat and you’re welcome to stop in for a beer anytime. Steaks go on the grill at five.” He gave Karen and hug and a warm handshake to Wayne, then gathered up his things and headed out.
The agents were left speechless staring after him.
Karen Rogers and Wayne Todd made their way along the pier to the boat slip marked number forty-nine where the Lady Justice was moored. Karen carried a six-pack of Heineken and Wayne had a bag full of desserts. He knew John Rathbone had a secret sweet-tooth and he was hoping to get on his good side. John was just flipping the steak on the grill when they asked permission to come aboard and he greeted them with smiles and handshakes.
“What brings you two all the way down here at dinner time? With beer, no less?” John asked.
“And dessert,” Wayne said as he handed him the bag of sweet bakery treats. John looked in the bag, then set it on the deck beside the grill. He handed them each a beer, took one for himself, and turned the heat down under the steak.
“Well, sit. Get comfortable. What can I do for you?” John asked.
Wayne took a sip of his beer and then started in, “John, we’ve heard all kinds of gossip through the rumor mill about why you left, but we feel we deserve to hear the truth, from you. That, and we need your help. On Jimmy’s case.”
“You’re right. You do deserve the truth.” John raked his hand through his short salt-n-pepper hair. “Sec Nav wanted me gone, and I would have been fired if I didn’t take early retirement. The Director had it all ready and waiting for me. It was the hardest damn thing I’ve ever done, walking away from a job I’ve done for so long, that’s so much a part of me, I feel hollow inside. As if I wasn’t broken up enough about losing Jimmy like that, they had to take me right out of the game. Almost like they didn’t want me solving the case, which I would have done.”
“Look, Boss,” Karen said, “We’ll solve it one way or another, but we could use your help. You were there. You saw it. How did it go down?”
“Damn it! Karen, that’s the problem. I can’t remember. I was drugged and hit on the head so, between the drugs and the concussion, I don’t remember much of it.”
“Will you try hypnosis?” Karen asked.
“Yes, I’ll help you.” All he could think was God help him if Sec Nav found out he was back on the case.