Title: When I'm Gone
Archive: Just ask real nice.
Disclaimer: NCIS and related characters are owned by Donald P Bellasario and CBS. Anyone else is mine. I do not profit off this effort, cause that would be very, very wrong.
Summary: A double murder and an orphaned boy, lead Gibbs and Kate to places they never imagined.
AN: I'm back! Did you miss me? Many thanks for all the wonderful reviews I received or "Sometimes They Come Back", its one of my favorite…until now. This is a crazy long fic, so strap yourself in, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.
Chapter 1: Discovery
Kate walked in the front door of the house and the first thing she noticed was the heavy scent of blood in the air. In her nearly two years with NCIS she had never smelled the blood first, it was a very disconcerting feeling.
They had been called to a double homicide at Norfolk. Lt Commander Jackson Carter and his wife Elizabeth were murdered in their off-base housing; his throat had been cut, she had been battered repeatedly before getting the same deadly treatment. Both bodies had been found by the husband's CO who came looking for the usually punctual Lieutenant after he didn't show for his shift at the armory that morning and didn't answer the phone. He had been greeted by an ugly surprise.
Now Kate was looking at that surprise and understood what the MPs meant when they said it was the worst scene they had seen in years. The Commander was slumped against the far living room wall, a trail of blood on the wall starting from where he was standing when they killed him to his current position. He had bled profusely before death; there was a virtual pool underneath him. Elizabeth was on the couch, her hair now a gruesome red shade, the cushions under her soaked. Both victims had duct tape over their mouths to prevent them from calling for help. Around the room were various blood spatter patterns Kate couldn't make heads or tails of.
God, these poor people. What they must have gone through. Kate could almost feel their fear in the last seconds of their lives before someone slit their throats. She shivered internally at the thought.
She must have stood too long because suddenly Gibbs' face came into her view.
"Kate…photos?" His tone was hard, but Kate could see some concern in his eyes.
"Yeah…sorry." She shook her head slightly to clear the thoughts that had been running through it. She didn't know why this scene bothered her so much more than all the others – but it did.
Gibbs gave her a strange look and put a hand out as she started to walk into the living room, pausing her movement.
"I'll have Tony handle it. Why don't you check the rest of the house for evidence?"
For no reason she could determine, Kate nodded passively and picked up her kit, backing out of the room and heading down the long hall to the bedrooms. She couldn't figure out her reaction to the scene, except it was the most gruesome she had ever seen, just the sheer volume of blood found on the walls was enough to creep her out.
And Kate didn't creep out easily.
Sighing, she poked her head in the first door on her right. Bathroom. Nothing looked disturbed, no blood spatter here. She closed the door as a reminder to herself she had checked it already.
The next door was closed and she cautiously opened it to find a linen closet; she briefly looked at the contents and closed the door. Nope.
She turned to the door across the hall to another closed door. Again she opened it slowly, but when lights streamed out of the partially opened door, Kate knew she had a bedroom.
Kate fully opened the door and stopped in her tracks at the sight in front of her.
"This is pretty gruesome, boss," Tony stated and stood up from his position over the Lt Commander.
Gibbs said nothing, merely gave Tony a look as he snapped photographs of the wife's body before Ducky carted her off.
"She's searching the rest of the house," came Gibbs' always-to-the-point answer.
"Shouldn't Kate be taking…"
"Tony! Sketches….finish them."
Gibbs could sense Tony's confusion at his tone, but he wasn't in the mood to explain the look on Kate's face when she saw the bodies. That look was the reason he had given her the job he would have normally done himself. She looked….shaken, for lack of a better word. And shaken was something Kate Todd never was – at least in his presence.
He snapped another shot of the woman when he heard Kate's voice call his name from the entrance to the living room. His head immediately popped up at her strained tone.
"I think we have a problem," she stated and turned back toward the kitchen where the MPs and Carter's CO were waiting to be interviewed. He followed her quickly, handing the camera to a still confused-looking Tony.
"Where's their son?" he heard her ask as he entered the kitchen.
"According to the CO, Carter mentioned his seven year old son had his very first sleepover last night at a friend's. We are trying to check on it, but no one's home," the larger MP answered.
Gibbs now felt the need to interject. "And no one informed us of this because?"
"We tried to brief you, sir, but you went right into the collection; we didn't want to interrupt."
Gibbs felt his anger boiling. "Are you new here? That is the kind of information we need before we collect. Next time…interrupt!"
"Yes, sir," they responded in unison.
"Find him, and find him yesterday," Gibbs commanded, and they again agreed in unison.
Satisfied, Gibbs turned to Kate and ushered her out of the room. "Any luck?"
"No, I only got to the boy's room…"
"Ok, keep looking."
Kate nodded and headed back into the room, this time thoroughly inspecting the entire space - finding nothing. Just as she was walking out the door, Kate swore she heard a scratching sound coming from above her. Pausing, she looked up, concentrating to hear the sound again. Once more she heard it, whatever it was sounded like something crawling around… bigger than an animal for sure.
Kate sat down her kit and walked into the closet; she had seen an attic entrance in the ceiling during her first look through. Now she stared at the closed door, where a rope hung down just far enough so she could stand on her tiptoes and grab it. She had noticed the chair in the closet earlier, but now with the scratching noise a thought started to form in her head. Just before she pulled the rope Kate got out her cell and called Gibbs.
"Kate, why are you…"
"I heard a noise in the attic, I'm investigating. The entrance is in the boy's closet."
"Not until I get there…." he started but she shut the phone and put it back on her belt, replacing it in her right hand with her sig sauer.
Slowly Kate pulled on the cord, the hinges barely squeaking as it swung open to reveal a set of hideaway stairs. Kate reached up and pulled the stairs down, taking one slow step. Cautiously, and with little noise, Kate climbed the stairs, stopping near the top and pausing. She really should wait for…
"Kate, dammit!" she heard him hiss just as she prepared to peek.
She looked down at him; he was standing at the bottom of the stairs. "Well now you're here, can I look?"
He gave her a chastising look but nodded. "Carefully."
She rolled her eyes and popped her head up quickly and then back down. When nothing came flying at her, she took another full step up, allowing only from her eyes up over the ledge. Scanning left to right, she found her target about halfway.
A small boy sat with his knees up to his chest in the far corner of the attic. Kate couldn't get a really good look at him, since the area was near pitch black. The only illumination was the light following her up the stairs and a small sliver of sunlight coming through a vent in the roof.
Once more she ducked her head down to her boss. "I think the Lt Commander's son is up here. He's in the far west corner, curled into a ball, shaking hard. I think he's in shock. Grab a blanket, would you?"
Turning, Gibbs spied one on the bed and picked it up; it was the fleece kind, with the Washington Redskins logo on the front. Walking to the closet he handed her the blanket. She had been looking around the room for something, what he didn't know exactly.
"Thanks. Doesn't look like he was at the friend's, might want to tell the MPs to stop looking."
Gibbs flashed her a look. "Naw, I'll let them sweat it until you get him out of there."
She rolled her eyes and turned back, keeping her movements smooth and slow. Reaching the top, Kate leaned forward a bit into the attic. She felt Gibbs take a few steps onto the ladder with her, close enough to hear her, but not so far that the boy would see him.
"Jake, honey." She had noticed a wooden plaque with his name on it in the room. "Hi, my name is Kate, I work for the police." She decided to keep it simple for the time being, and shifted slightly, pulling her badge off her belt to show him. "We need to get you out of this dirty attic so I want you to come to me, ok?"
He seemed to consider her words and loosened his position some, allowing her to see his face a bit more clearly. But still he didn't move.
"Come on, Jake. I won't hurt you -- I want to help you. But you gotta help me first and come to me. I'm the good guy, remember?" She made a small 'come here' motion with her hand.
He watched her with his eyes, but still didn't move. Kate sighed internally, she was going have to go up into the attic and fetch him.
"Ok, sweetie. I'm going to come in after you. I'm going to move really slow, and if I'm scaring you, just tell me to stop. Ok?" When he gave no response at all, Kate took that as an assent of sorts. "Alright, Jake. One..." She took a step up, one more and she could pull herself into the low attic. She would have to crawl to get to him, as there was no standing room. "One more and I'm going to come up, ok?" Again he didn't respond and she followed her own direction. "Don't worry, buddy. I won't hurt you," she said as she started to crawl toward him, the blanket clutched in her right hand; she took notice of the logo when Gibbs handed it to her. "So you like the Redskins, huh? I've always been partial to the Patriots myself. Maybe it's the name, I don't know. But I'll watch every game I can. I love that Tom Brady, even if he does dance like a chicken."
That time she got a small smile from him. Kate was nearly at him now, talking as she crawled. "He's a good QB, though his receiving corp doesn't exactly hurt him any. Ol' Joe Gibbs should be good for the Skins this year, don't you think?"
Now she reached him and took a moment in the low light to briefly look over him. He was very dirty, as Kate was sure she was now, but seemed none the worse for wear. Kneeling, Kate took the blanket and slowly wrapped it around him; when he didn't jerk away she pulled him into her body slightly. That's when she noticed the deep wine colored stains on the front of his jersey shirt.
"Jake, are you hurt?" She asked and started inspecting him more thoroughly for wounds.
"Mommy…" he whined.
Instantly she understood: the blood was Elizabeth's. He had seen the bodies, probably went up to his mother and tried to help her. Kate nearly recoiled in horror; this boy might have actually witnessed his own parents' murders.
She tamped down the thought and focused on the task at hand -- convincing a traumatized little boy to move toward the opening-and his own hell. With the limited space, Kate couldn't carry him.
"Jake, I know we just met, but from one football fan to another, I need you to do something for me." He looked at her with wide blue eyes, fear etched into them. "I know you're scared, but I need you to be brave and go with me back into your room." She saw the terror increase ten-fold on his face. "I'll be right behind you, ok? And my friend Gibbs is down there waiting for you too. He's just like me, a police officer."
Jake looked nervously between Kate and the attic access.
"Gibbs…" Kate called softly. "Can you please show Jake here your badge?"
Slowly Gibbs' head appeared and he smiled warmly at the boy. "Hey there, Jake. I'm Gibbs." He pulled out his badge and showed him. "I work with Kate."
Jake looked between the two agents before staring directly into Kate's eyes and nodding slowly.
It wasn't too long after that that Gibbs was helping Jake, then Kate, get down the stairs. The boy immediately went to Kate's side, hiding slightly behind her leg, wrapping the blanket more closely around him. Kate placed one hand on the top of his head.
Kate shrugged at Gibbs and noticed the dust particles come off her; she could only imagine what she looked like.
Keeping her voice low, she spoke. "Did you call the paramedics?"
"Yeah, they are here, ready to look at him."
"Not sure how well that will go over," she muttered and started stroking Jake's hair absently.
Gibbs noticed her reaction to the boy and made a note to watch her carefully; last time she got too close to a victim she nearly got herself blown to hell and back.
Kate kneeled in front of him, continuing to speak in low tones. "Jake, is it ok if the paramedics come and look at you?"
All of a sudden the boy came alive, as if the mention of the paramedics set something off in him. His eyes were wild. "Mommy…I want to see my Mom."
"I want my Mommy!" he screamed and started to dart past her for the door. Kate was faster though, scooping him up into her arms. "Noooooooo…..Mom! Dad! Heeeelp."
"Jake…" She tried to soothe him, rubbing her hand up and down his back. "Jake…"
He refused to be calmed though and started pounding at Kate on her shoulders. "Let me down, I want my Mommy…..I want to see her!"
Kate looked at Gibbs who had a helpless expression on his face. "Jake, baby. It's ok, it's all going to be ok, but I need you to calm down."
"They hurt them! They hurt them!" With that, all the energy seemed to drain from the boy and he slumped against Kate body, his small body racked with sobs.
With that, Kate met Gibbs' eyes and her stomach dropped three floors. He had most likely seen whatever happened to his parents. And now they knew they were looking for more than one person.
"Paramedics…" Kate mouthed around the boy's head. Gibbs nodded and disappeared down the hall.
"Jake, honey, I'm going to have some paramedics come and look at you. To make sure you're not hurt."
He pulled his head up and looked at her; his eyes looked older than his age. "I wasn't hurt, Kate. My Mom and Dad were -- you gotta help them."
She didn't think this was the best place to get into it so she nodded slowly. "My friends are trying to help your parents, Jake. Did you see what happened to them?"
His voice was quiet and Kate had to strain to hear the 'yes' that came from him.
"Ok, did you see the people who did it?"
This time he just nodded, confirming her suspicions.
"Did they see you?"
He seemed to contemplate that before shrugging his shoulders in an 'I don't know' gesture and placing his head back on her shoulder.
When Gibbs returned with the paramedics he found Kate standing in the middle of the room, rocking slowly back and forth with the boy still in her arms, his head rested on her shoulder, eyes closed.
Gibbs gave the paramedics a 'one second' gesture and approached her slowly, touching her elbow lightly when he got close enough.
She turned to him and there was something in her eyes that caught his attention enough to pause his thoughts. It only took Gibbs a few seconds to find a word for her expression: pain. She was feeling pain for this boy and that concerned him.
She nodded and put him down on his bed, talking softly and indicating for the paramedics to come over. The EMTs slowly pushed Kate out of the way during their exam so she watched standing next to Gibbs, who was giving her, what he thought, were surreptitious glances. He was proven wrong, however.
"What?" There was a tint of weariness in her tone.
Gibbs knew better than to play dumb with her. He spoke without taking his eyes off the boy. "You seem to be getting attached."
She turned her head and shot him a nasty look. "He's a 7 year old who just lost his parents, Gibbs. Have a heart."
Now he looked directly at her. "And you need to keep your objectivity."
"Not a problem."
"Keep it that way," he said and turned to leave. "Bag his clothes and bring him in, we need to try and get a statement."
He started out the door and she hissed 'bastard' under her breath.
"I heard that," he called out and disappeared from her sight.
"Good," she said to no one in particular.
tbc……………….and don't forget to vote. Heeeee!