Your prompt: Madeleine Wheeler walks into a bar and meets... Tony DiNozzo!
Fandoms: Trixie Belden, NCIS (References to characters from the Sarah Jane Smith audios and Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooters Inc series)
Characters: Madeleine Wheeler, Tony DiNozzo, Josh Townsend
For the Fandom Walks into a Bar challenge.
Tony DiNozzo never liked asking Madeleine Wheeler for information. Unlike some of his sources, he never had to worry about beating around the bush – she was always happy to help him. And it wasn't as though she'd circle about a topic, telling him everything except what he needed to know. In fact, she was one of his best contacts.
She was sitting at a table for two in the hotel bar when he arrived. As usual, she was impeccably dressed and not a strand of her honey blonde hair was out of place. The glass of wine in front of her looked almost untouched, but then she was an expert in the art of making a single drink last an entire evening, though he'd learned through painful experience that she could match a platoon of marines drink for drink without showing any sign of intoxication. He didn't know where her husband was- business meeting or something like that. For all he knew, Matt wasn't even in DC. Tony wondered idly if Matt knew about her hobby but decided it was useless to speculate.
"Tony, it's good to see you. You're looking well." She stood and gave him a quick once over before air kissing his cheeks. She was one of the few people Tony would let get away with that maneuver. "I just saw your father in New York."
"You're not so bad yourself." Tony hoped she didn't see his flinch at the mention of his father. He still wondered how a woman as canny as he'd discovered Madeleine was had been taken in by Tony DiNozzo Senior's con artist charm, but he was careful to keep his voice neutral. "And how was he?"
"Same as always." Madeleine gave him a quick smile and took a sip of wine before catching the eye of the waiter and indicating that they needed menus. "Life of the party."
Tony thought she was going to elaborate, but they were interrupted by the waiter bringing the menus over and the moment was lost.
After they'd ordered (a burger and a beer for him, a salad for her), Tony waited until the waiter was out of earshot. "So, what do you know about Alexi Caslovan?" He chose not to elaborate. Let her fill in the details of what she thought was important. Madeleine had a knack for that.
Madeleine shrugged. "She's dating Josh Townsend? Seems like a nice girl. I've only met her once or twice. Why do you ask?" That was her way. She had more secrets in her perfectly coiffed head than some of the alphabet soup agencies he dealt with on a regular basis. And she kept them. More than once she'd been called on to negotiate the sharing of information between two agencies working on the same case. Tony was certain she had contacts in every agency he knew about, and perhaps a few he didn't.
But he didn't begrudge her the information, or at least as much information as he could give her. "She contacted NCIS for help. Said she'd seen something we should know about. Then she disappeared. Wait a moment. She's dating Josh Townsend? Sir Donald's son?"
"That's the one. The last time I saw them was in New York. The same party I saw your father at- two weeks ago, perhaps." Madeleine broke off.
A quick glance established that she'd spotted their waiter arriving with the food, so Tony didn't press her to continue, even though they'd moved into the realm of neutral gossip. Instead they made the appropriate polite noises to their waiter, and concentrated on eating until he moved away.
"Sir Donald's birthday? Dad invited me but I couldn't get away." Not that Tony had tried very hard. Socializing with his father was not something he cared to do with his spare time. "Petty Officer Caslovan is an orphan according to Navy records. I can't see her traveling in the same circles you do- or my father. Or Sir Donald for that matter." He paused, considering which direction to take this conversation in. "I haven't even heard anything about Josh since that failed shuttle launch five years ago. We haven't exactly kept in touch." Their paths had crossed during rare vacations from their respective boarding schools, when Josh had been visiting his dad and Tony dragged along with his. They had been thrown together in Bermuda and on the Riviera and in Aspen and left to their own devices while their fathers were busy with other things.
"I remember some of the scrapes you got into. Especially the ones I got you out of." Madeleine sighed, and Tony would have given a good deal to know what she recalled about those times. But that was one of their unwritten lines. They had already spoken more about the past than they ever had before and Tony wasn't surprised when she changed the subject, "I'm not sure where they met. In fact, I'm not sure what Josh has been up to these past few years."
"That's not unusual. He's been spending a lot of time in England, hasn't he?" But that had been before the launch. He'd run into Josh in London- was it eight years ago already?- but Josh had barely said two words to him, making an excuse that he was working. "Did he say anything about her?"
"Just that she was on shore leave and that they had to leave early so that she could get back to her ship. Oh, and that she had been accepted into the officer's training- the Seaman to Admiral program, I think." Madeleine speared a bit of salad with her fork, and Tony patiently waited for her to continue. "As I said, she seemed nice enough, but those parties aren't really designed for deep conversations and I suspect Josh dislikes them even more than you do."
"And what did Sir Donald have to say about his son's new girlfriend?" Tony asked. He noted that he was almost out of beer, but rather than request another one at exorbitant hotel prices, he switched to the glass of water sitting in front of him. Even though he knew Madeleine had already arranged to pick up the tab, it was a matter of principle.
"I think he was more bothered by an American girlfriend, especially one in the armed forces, than by the color of her skin. I get the impression that he hoped Josh would stay in England and settle down to be a proper heir." Madeleine didn't roll her eyes, but gave that impression nonetheless. "Too little, too late. Like you and your dad."
Tony nodded. Madeleine too had grown up with a father who was absent more often than not, but he'd died while she was in college. But this was neither a safe digression nor pertinent to the investigation. "I don't suppose you know how to contact Josh?" If she didn't have his phone number, she'd know how to get it.
But she had already pulled a small notepad and a pen from her bag and was scribbling down a number. "His cell phone. He's bad about keeping it on but he will get back to you. Not sure where he is right now?" Madeleine stared at him over her now empty salad bowl. "But that does raise a question- if you didn't know about Josh, how was she linked with me? As I said, we only met once."
Tony decided there was no reason not to tell her what he'd hoped she'd tell him. Opening the lines of communication and all that. "I ran into Jules at the crime scene and he was playing matters close to his chest. Not that I don't trust him to share information, but-"
Madeleine interrupted, "You thought you'd better double-check anyway, or set the wheels in motion to use me as an unofficial go-between in case your superiors or his got other ideas." She laughed. "Of course. So why were the FBI involved in a Naval Investigation? And what crime? I thought you said she disappeared."
"That's what we're trying to find out," Tony said, as he dipped his last French fry in what was left of the ketchup on his plate. "She was supposed to report for duty but she never showed. Her car was abandoned and that's where I ran into Jules."
"Jules texted me to see if we could have coffee this afternoon." Madeleine shrugged. "You just managed to get to me first. So, you want the usual deal, right? Contact outside usual channels for the sharing of information without the knowledge of the higher-ups. Only catch is that my daughter and her friends are coming up tomorrow. I'll try to keep them out of it, but I can't make any promises."
Tony winced. The Bob-Whites of the Glen were infamous in intelligence circles. Instead of answering her right away, he caught their waiter's eye and indicated he wanted the check.
"I've already told them to bill it to my room," Madeleine reminded him.
"Right, I knew that." He paused. "I think we'll just have to risk the Bob-Whites. There are some odd things about this case and while Max and Gibbs are both amenable to bending the rules when necessary, I'm not sure Vance will be quite so understanding." Or Max's boss, for that matter.
Madeleine nodded, "I'll try to distract them. But they're getting older and more experienced and I've had some close calls of late." Her phone rang and she glanced at it. "I'd better take this."
"I'd best be getting back to the office." Tony stood and pulled Madeleine's chair out for her, as his father had taught him. "It was good seeing you again. We should try this sometime when I'm not investigating a crime." But he knew they wouldn't. Neither of them wanted to be reminded of that part of their pasts.
"Give Gibbs my regards." She gave him a quick wave, and turned to answer the phone so he didn't linger. She'd given him a lead, and while he wasn't eager to see Josh again, perhaps his old friend might have some idea of where Petty Officer Caslovan might be.