Author: JMK758 PM
The murder of a Navy Lieutenant launches the team on a new mystery where the only witness is an astonishing young woman. Can they solve the mystery in time? Deathfic? Don't spoil, please.Rated: Fiction T - English - Mystery/Drama - Leroy Jethro Gibbs & Ducky M. - Chapters: 12 - Words: 40,000 - Reviews: 29 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 09-22-08 - Published: 07-19-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4407285
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
This is my twelfth NCIS Mystery and the first of my Second Season. All the stories follow one progression, not counting non-Mysteries such as 'Abby's Night Out', 'Into the Light', 'Otherworld', 'Penalties', 'INCIS', 'Shepherd of the Lost', 'Game, Set and…' and others.
The numerous 'Affairs' in my series are, of course, an Homage to Ducky, harkening back to his U.N.C.L.E. days. This series began on the Memorial Day Weekend of Season 4. It is now November.
'Butterfly Affair' begins my Second Season and the back stories cover a progression related to the fourth Season of the televised Series.
NCIS is owned and copyrighted by Belisarius Productions. I make no money on this and I'm not trying to take anything except Abby, Jennifer, Michelle and Ziva.
Thank you to Zepherfox for Beta-reading this story. You have been a tremendous help.
Please Review - but don't give away the surprises.
Rating: T or NCis-17. Death, Intrigue and Mystery.
The Butterfly Affair
The rush hour traffic on Highway 395 on this brisk November morning is already poor and hardly improved when a large blue van rolls to a stop. Doing so in the left lane beside the concrete meridian forces all traffic behind it to a halt. Amid blaring horns and shouts lacking courtesy or kindness, the blocked cars attempt the difficult feat of merging with the middle lane.
The attitudes of the motorists improve immensely when the van's back door opens and a young woman climbs out. She walks back along the traffic, her gait unsteady. The fact that the tall, slim blonde woman is naked doesn't do much to hinder the already slow traffic, though she doesn't improve it either.
A driver pulling over in distress, even on the wrong side of the road, or a passenger leaving the vehicle to walk back along that side, doesn't usually cause much concern. The attraction she garners, however, is equally due to her nudity and to the wide spread of her large and colorful wings.
They span over six feet before closing again in the breeze, and as she passes drivers and pedestrians who look back can see that the upper or back surfaces are orange with black markings and ermine margins. The undersides, forward when extended to those she approaches, are rosy pink with black and white patterns and small, blue eyespots. It is this intricate side that is displayed to oncoming traffic as she walks unsteadily beside the concrete barrier.
Her passage only interrupts the already tedious merging, but she walks past one car after another, oblivious to their presence.
Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo is nearing the Navy Yard and already stressed at the tie-up, which has made him late and about to earn the second scathing reprimand in two days. However, his aggravation vanishes at the spectacle of the naked young woman approaching from several car lengths ahead. His attention to her body is then distracted by her colorful wings, which spread wide to either side, to brush a slow car on her left and the meridian on her right.
Tony closes his mouth but finds he can't do as much for his bulging eyes as the woman approaches in a barely controlled stagger. He hits his brakes as she reaches the front of his car, opens his door to block her and brings the traffic behind him to another full stop. The drivers in the cars before him continue the effort to merge lanes and rubberneck enough to risk whiplash while those behind him are simply out of luck. The horns that blare behind him are, he supposes, equal parts anger at being stopped again and frustration that he has interrupted the approach of the naked woman.
Close up, she appears to be about eighteen or nineteen, five foot nine and, so far as he may tell, a natural blonde. Unfortunately, he has only the hair on her head to go by to make this determination.
Getting out of his car, he turns his attention and gold shield on the irate drivers behind him. "Federal Agent! Honk again and I'll show you a new use for that horn!"
Seeing that no one seems inclined to challenge him, he turns his attention to the blonde butterfly on the other side of his door. "Don't move," he commands and she obeys instantly, freezing still. "Lady, just what do you think you're …?" He doesn't bother to finish, there's no point.
Not only does she answer; her eyes are vacant. Looking beyond her at the now bare stretch of road, he sees the open door of the blue van about sixty feet ahead. As the slow traffic resumes behind him, attempting to thread its way into the middle lane, he stops listening, not caring what the delayed drivers say.
As fascinating as this is, he discovers the surprises are far from over. The blonde woman is absolutely still. He'd told her not to move, she's absolutely obedient to this command, continuing to stare straight ahead, her eyes not even flickering. "Lady, just what do you think you're doing?"
Her pale blue eyes continue to stare straight ahead at nothing, her expression completely blank. "What's your name?" He realizes he might as well be invisible for all the effect he has on her, but then he recognizes that conclusion is wrong. He does have an effect upon her, just not in the way he had anticipated. She doesn't answer questions, but she does follow orders; he'd told her not to move, and beyond breathing she's virtually a statue. He peels off his brown jacket.
"Put this on." This brings her out of her paralysis, she reaches for the jacket but, there being no way that she'll be able to put his jacket on in the usual way, he aids her to pull it up her arms from the front and reaches behind her neck under her long blonde hair to snap the upper closure to hold the jacket against her chest. Since it's only long enough to hang midway to her hips and is useless from the back, it's little better than nothing. "Get back into your van."
Without any change of expression she turns around, he has to step back to avoid her wings, and they leave his car to walk the sixty feet to the blue van. DiNozzo ignores the blaring horns and more strident calls, doubting the woman is even aware that she's attracting attention.
His surprise thus far is overwhelmed as he inspects her back. From the rear the outstretched wings are an intricate mosaic of orange with black, bordered in black that's dotted with small white spots like ermine. He'd supposed that the wings were attached to her back, but finds they're grafted to her flesh. Her back shows lightened scar tissue surrounding the edges of where the wings had been inserted, showing that whatever had been done to her had healed some time ago. The wings extend slightly beyond the roadway meridian on the left, nearly out to traffic on her right, easily six feet. They also block him quite effectively from getting around her. "Hey lady, could you, you know, close the wings?"
She tightens her back muscles, shifts her shoulder blades, the wings close and he has to step back to avoid them. They appear as substantial as fine silk, almost translucent but independently colored on front and back. They're set into her flesh about eight inches apart, from the middle of her shoulder blades to the base of her rib cage and extend back some three and a half feet behind her. Now, however, he can come up beside her and escort her back to her vehicle.
When they reach the blue van the woman, without any orders from him, climbs onto the rear bumper and crawls into the enclosure, her closed wings just clear the top. DiNozzo realizes this is literal obedience of his order and very gratefully closes the door, sealing her from sight. Now there might be a chance of the morning rush hour traffic to return to normal – whatever that might be.
It's obvious from the first moment that the woman can't have driven the vehicle, so he steps up to the front, wondering where the driver has gone. It's then that he receives his next surprise.
The uniformed Navy Medical Corps Lieutenant hasn't left the van and he clearly will not do so under his own power, nor anything else ever again, not with his lower body, from stomach to feet, awash in blood. He's belted into place, his face and hands bloodless gray white, though his left hand upon his stomach, his lap and legs are covered with blood, and a pool of red blood has gathered on the seat between his legs.
DiNozzo looks into the back of the van at the naked butterfly, her body prone and motionless on blankets on the deck. Her back muscles are still bunched, holding the wings aloft, quite probably at considerable strain. "Oh, you can relax now." She does so, and her wings now extend to either side, each touching the side walls. DiNozzo pulls his cell phone out and presses a speed dial combination. He doesn't have long to wait.
"Hi, boss, I'm out on –"
/You're late, DiNozzo – again./
"I know I am, boss," he looks at the dead Lieutenant and the naked butterfly, "but this time I have a hell of an excuse."
Butterflies are Free
Rush hour is officially over and traffic has cleared slightly by the time the Major Case Response and the Medical Examiner's vans make their way from the Navy Yard, up the Interstate and around to pull in behind DiNozzo's car. He had moved it behind the blue van but set flares more than a hundred yards back to make room for Gibbs' car and the vans to stop between his car and the closest flare. All five vehicles form a phalanx along the wrong side of the road.
He had also been frugal with information, mentioning only the late Lieutenant Arthur Cavaluzzi. That information had been obtained from the ID card in the man's left breast pocket, not requiring DiNozzo to search the body. As to the rest, he'd decided to save the best for last.
"At least this time you won't have to estimate a TOD," DiNozzo tells Ducky as the agents assemble near the driver side door to look in at the body. "He stopped the van at ten after eight. It doesn't even look like he made a move to take the belt off."
Wearing latex gloves, Gibbs carefully opens the door, touching as little of the control as physically possible. As the door swings wide McGee, having photographed the truck from several feet back, steps in between them to take some closer pictures of the body.
"Save some memory," DiNozzo advises from behind the rest of the team, "you're going to need it."
"Wait'll you get a look at the passenger."
They lean in to look behind the driver's seat as best they can and find an apparently naked woman, face down, partially covered by colorful– "Are those what I think they are?" Gibbs asks.
Wanting a better view, not certain why he bothers to disbelieve anything anymore, Gibbs leads the others to the rear of the van and opens the door. The view is not that much more credible from this angle either.
"If you think that's something, watch this." DiNozzo is about to call her out, then reconsiders. "Boss, can we get a sheet from this door to my car?"
Looking at the astonishing woman, Gibbs doesn't want to cause another traffic jam. He nods curtly to Lee. Less than a minute later she returns with a large sheet they tie to the open door of the van and Tony's rear view mirror.
Then Tony looks into the van, his voice rises to a commanding tone. "Come out."
Boosting herself up onto hands and knees, the woman crawls backward out of the van, her appearance more startling and disturbing by the moment. The initial mixed reactions to the nude woman back-crawling toward them with this far less than modest display are overwhelmed when she steps down and remains facing into the van. Her wings, orange and black with ermine border in the back, extend more than three feet to either side of her. They reach several inches above her blonde head and halfway down her calves. DiNozzo's brown jacket covers her only in front as far as her hips, she's completely exposed otherwise.
Gibbs turns to Michelle. "Lee, get something to wrap around her."
"Right away, sir," the embarrassed woman hastens to obey, trying to hide her blush, ashamed not to have thought of it the first time.
"This is absolutely remarkable," Ducky muses as he looks closely at the woman's back, not touching her or the wings which flutter in the breeze.
Gibbs runs his fingertip along the soft, light material. "Feels like silk."
"Oh, definitely an artificial construct, in as much as silk might be considered to be 'artificial'. They are grafted into her flesh, you can see where the incisions have healed about them, leaving this white scarring all about," he indicates the line of discoloration that surrounds the edge of each wing base.
"How long ago?"
"I should say better than four months. One can tell the age of scars, which begin even under the best of conditions, from the various stages of healing, as the redness fades gradually at a predictable rate. This degree, notice the lightness, does not appear until at least four months, then it remains fixed for at least a year. Just using this as an indication, I can only tell you that she had surgery better than four, but less than twelve, months ago. I shall have to run far more detailed tests to narrow the range."
He pulls his attention from the fascinating appendages to the woman herself. She has not moved since she stepped down to the highway. "Has she been like this the whole time?"
"Totally oblivious," DiNozzo confirms. "She'll follow orders but doesn't answer questions. She walks unsteadily but I can't tell if she even knows we're here. She got out of the van when it stopped; I'm guessing he told her to. She started walking along the shoulder but it's just as lucky she didn't stroll into traffic."
McGee, unable to not notice the woman, also notices Ziva's eyes on his and tries to focus his attention anywhere else. It has been weeks since their relationship had exploded and the sting of his renewed relationship with Siobhan O'Mallory has, he knows, hurt Ziva deeply. He had never wanted it to, but since that time her attitude toward him has been only professional, cold and distant.
Michelle Lee steps in to tie a white body cloth about the woman's waist to fashion a makeshift skirt. The unknown woman shows no reaction at all, no awareness that she's being draped or indeed had been naked for so long.
"Get shots of those," Gibbs orders Tim, indicating where the wings join her flesh even as he steps around the front of the woman and leans in close, stares intently at her eyes and demands forcefully: "Who are you?" He receives not even a blink; then he treats her as a half-deaf Marine. "What's your name?" This more powerful inquiry meets with no more success and an even more forceful demand to know whether she can hear them has no effect at all. "What do you think, Ducky?"
"Too soon to give an estimate, I shall have to examine her. And I am not inclined at this point to remove Anthony's jacket to search for needle marks or any other indications of medical intervention."
Gibbs turns to DiNozzo. "I didn't look," the younger man admits. "I was more interested in getting her covered before we had a jam up all the way to Fairfax."
The Supervisor withholds any response, there is little more that can be done now. "McGee, unload the van. Ziva, Michelle, put her in and take her to Abby, have her start on blood work and see if you can ID her." As Michelle cautiously coaxes the woman to turn, her wings describe a wide arc and Gibbs fixes Ziva with a hard glare. "Drive carefully."
She only nods and refrains from pointing out that she is always careful.
The fascinating woman taken into care, the Investigators can return to more mundane duties. When Gibbs and Ducky return to the front of the van, they find that Jimmy Palmer has already performed the initial screening in the gathering of evidence. A probe inserted into the Navy Lieutenant's side shows a temperature of 97.8, he has been dead for about an hour, that information backed by DiNozzo's report. "There's less lividity than there should be," the Assistant Medical Examiner informs his mentor, "I found one wound in his stomach, a bullet went in below his navel, just over the buckle of his belt, probably through his liver. He looks to have bled out. The blood pooled in the seat and floorboards; everything else settled already in his buttocks and ankles."
"DiNozzo," Gibbs calls to where the man sketches the scene from the back of the van, providing an internal and external perspective on the last resting place of the late Lieutenant Cavaluzzi, "how fast was traffic moving?"
"I was doing a turtle crawl at 18 miles, but looking back it's a good thing I was late."
"How long could he live?" Gibbs asks Ducky, who examines the body closely.
"Well, such an injury to the stomach is not immediately fatal. If he had not gotten stuck in traffic and had gotten medical attention he could possibly have survived. I shall be able to tell you more once I get him on the table. But at a rough guess - and I do mean guess - I'd say about 20 to 25 minutes."
It's too soon to conclude that he could have made 6 to 8 miles on this road, but it does give Gibbs a starting point for his reconstruction. He looks about the cabin and finds a better indicator of the problem as he looks past Ducky's shoulder.
"Key's in the ignition, engine's engaged," he checks a few more readouts, "he's running on empty."
Ducky's expression, as he looks up, is grim. "In both senses."