Disclaimer: I do not own any characters mentioned in this story and no breach of copyright is intended.
A/N: This is my first crime fiction. I've tried to make it as realistic and suspenseful as possible and hope that I have had some success. There is a liberal dose of Tony/Ziva running through the story. I promise there are no babies/pregnancies to be found. There's a bit of bad language toward the last chapters and of course some scenes of passion. (Nothing too graphic)
The Major Crimes Squad of NCIS is currently investigating the brutal murder of 2 Naval Academy students, Midshipmen Kimberly Wyatt and Rosemary Garrett. Both women were found in parkland by passers by - close to the Academy in Annapolis. Both women had been assaulted and strangled. No effort to conceal the bodies was made and the team have not much to go on. Gibbs is increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress on this case and desperate to make a breakthrough.
The bell chimed as the elevator doors sprung open and Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs strode out clutching his morning coffee in one hand. As he passed through the bullpen on his way to his desk he barked "DiNozzo! What have we got?"
The senior field agent paused in the act of taking his Sig Sauer and badge from his desk drawer and replied.
"Got another body, Boss. Midshipman Karen Strickland stationed at the naval Academy, Annapolis. She was found by a couple of students jogging in Jenson Park at approx. 0600. Looks like the same MO as the two we're already working on. Ducky and Palmer are already on their way"
"OK Gear up, McGee, fuel the van. I'll meet you out back in 5 minutes," the lead agent tossed the keys to the junior agent then took the stairs two at a time as he sprinted up to MTAC in search of the agency Director.
Tony watched his boss 'double time' it up the stairs before looking across the bullpen at his partner who sat at the opposite desk. Ziva David was on the phone speaking rapidly in Hebrew to an unknown party, seemingly oblivious to the office around her.
The usually calm and controlled Mossad officer was looking decidedly agitated, her cheeks flushed and her jaw set with anger.
Interest piqued, Tony moved across to glance down at the caller id display on the telephone making no attempt to disguise his eavesdropping.
The conversation became quite heated, ending when Ziva sent the phone crashing down onto its cradle. She took a moment to breathe deeply, her chest heaving with emotion before looking up to meet Tony's enquiring green stare with a glare of her own.
"Lover's tiff, Zee-vah?" he teased as he moved closer to where the Israeli agent sat.
"Shut up, Tony, it does not concern you," Ziva fired back at him as she snatched up her weapons and badge from the desk drawer.
Tony's eyes narrowed, he leaned closer to whisper, "What's up, Ziva? Get out of the wrong bed this morning?"
A calculating sparkle lit Ziva's eyes as she came around the desk and pushed her body seductively close to his.
"We are not all like you, Tony," she pouted in a sultry voice. "I am very selective about where I sleep." She looked him up and down. "And with whom".
Tony's jaw tightened as he absorbed the insult and the teasing glint left his eyes to be replaced by a piercing look.
"So if it wasn't a lover's tiff, Ziva, what was it? Trouble with one of your spy friends, maybe? Or was it Daddy calling you home?"
Tony caught the telltale sign and raised one brow knowing he had hit his mark. Ziva silently cursed herself for the lapse in her usual steely control; she pushed passed him and made her way to the elevator.
"Are you coming DiNozzo or do you wish me to make your excuses to Gibbs?"
Director Jenny Shepard was sitting in the front row of the mini theatrette that was MTAC. On the giant screen that covered most of the wall, she watched as a covert operation unfolded via satellite from Afghanistan.
Ignoring the intelligence analysts who sat staring at computer screens that lined the side wall, Gibbs slid into the vacant seat beside her and watched the operation going down on the big screen.
"Agent Gibbs," Shepard said without taking her eyes from the sight of US marine's intercepting a convoy of trucks.
"Got another body at the Academy. Midshipman Karen Strickland. We're headed out there now" Gibbs took a mouthful of the brew he called coffee.
Jenny turned her head and lowered her voice so that the analysts at the computer screens could not overhear. "Jethro, I received a call from the CO at the academy. Seems our Midshipman was the daughter of Rear Admiral Peter Strickland stationed at the Pentagon. I have notified SecNav and he wants you to use any and every means available to find who is responsible for these murders."
Jenny searched her senior agents face for signs of dissent but as usual he wore an inscrutable mask. It was always difficult to read his mind but she knew him well and could tell that his gut was churning with the news of this latest death.
"That makes three female personnel murdered in six days, Jethro. Two of them were daughters of high-ranking naval officers. All of them stationed at Annapolis. SecNav has given his personal assurance to the families that we will solve this case as quickly as possible."
The Director paused and leaned closer, "I am getting some real heat from above on this one, Jethro. Do we have a motive yet?"
Gibbs took another mouthful of his coffee, stood up and drawled "You'll know when I know, Jen".
Gibbs drove the NCIS truck at his usual break neck speed and managed to shave almost 15 minutes off the trip to Annapolis.
Beside him, Tony kept up a running monologue of the movie he had watched the night before.
"You see this cop, who's an ex MP, is called in to investigate a murder on a US Army base and he has to share jurisdiction with his old CO, played by Sean Connery."
He immediately broke into his best Connery impersonation only faltering when he received a frosty glare from his Boss.
" Ah ….anyway the cop is played by Mark Harmon…." His voice trailed off at the blank look he received from Gibbs.
"C'mon, Boss! You know. Tall good looking, silver haired fox! St Elsewhere? Married to Mindy? …." His voice trailed off and he stared at Gibbs with narrowed eyes.
"Could almost be your double, Boss."
"DiNozzo…..give it a rest."
"Giving it a rest, Boss," Tony replied.
McGee rolling with each erratic lane change in the back of the truck wondered why Ziva - seated between Gibbs and DiNozzo - was so quiet. She normally took great pleasure in matching Tony, verbal thrust for verbal thrust but had ridden in silence from DC.
On arrival at Jenson Park, Gibbs and the team identified themselves to the marine who allowed them entry to the taped off area. The park was situated near the main square of the college and the grisly find had attracted quite a crowd of onlookers.
Midshipman Karen Strickland's partially clad body was lying just to the side of the central path that led through the park. A shocked expression was frozen on her pale face and there were clearly visible bruises to her throat.
"DiNozzo," Gibbs called as he surveyed the scene before them.
"Laser and sketch, Boss? On it" The senior field agent could always anticipate Gibbs' orders.
"McGee, photos of the area and Ziva, take statements from the couple who found the body" he walked off to speak to Ducky, the ageing Medical Examiner who had just arrived with his young assistant Palmer.
"Jethro, I'm terribly sorry we're late. I'm afraid young Mr. Palmer here needs to learn a few of your famous short-cuts if we are ever to make it to a crime scene before you." The older man complained as he made his way toward the dead woman.
Behind him, Jimmy Palmer opened his mouth to defend himself then decided not to bother. He quickly gathered the ME's bag and hurried after his boss.
Ducky squatted down beside the semi naked young woman in order to make his initial examination. "I'm so terribly sorry, my dear. Who could do this to you and leave you in such an undignified way? Let's get you covered up as quickly as possible shall we? Hmmm?"
He took a liver temperature and estimated the time of death between 2100 - 2300hrs the night before.
"Same MO as the other two victims, Duck?" Gibbs asked.
"Well, Jethro, I can't be certain until I get her back home of course but judging from the bruising on the thighs I think that is probably a safe guess," replied the older man. "Mr. Palmer, get the gurney and we'll get this poor young woman away from prying eyes".
Once McGee had finished photographing the victim, Palmer and Ducky began wrapping the body in plastic and transferring it onto the gurney. They placed it in the van for the trip back to the naval yard.
"Can you tell me what time you found the body?" Ziva questioned the young female student who was visibly distressed.
"Yes, Ma'am, it was approx. 0600."
"Officer David please, not Ma'am" Ziva interrupted.
"We jog along this route every morning. That is, me and Josh. I mean Midshipman Andrews Ma'…..I mean Officer David." The young Midshipman wiped her eyes and wrung the tissue in her hand.
"She was just lying there….it was horrible."
Ziva turned to the other witness. "Did you see anyone or anything suspicious … er.." she consulted her notes "Midshipman Andrews?"
"No, Ma'am," Ziva cringed at his continued use of Ma'am.
"No, Officer David ma'am, as Julie said, we use this path every day and have gotten to know the area quite well. Didn't see anything unusual this morning. That is, until we found.." he looked over to where the victim was being gently wrapped and placed on the gurney.
"Well thank you both. If you think of anything else please, call me at NCIS. The number is on the card"
Ziva replaced her notepad in her pocket and wandered over to where Gibbs and Tony stood discussing the scene.
"There are no signs of a struggle, Boss. My guess is that she was killed somewhere else and dumped here just like the other two victims."
"Sure looks that way, DiNozzo," Gibbs looked at Ziva. "What did they give you?" he indicated the pair that Ziva had just interviewed.
"They were jogging at 0600 this morning when they found the body and called it in. They did not see anything or anyone unusual Gibbs."
"Ah.. Midshipmen Joshua Andrews and Julie…" Ziva hurriedly took the notepad from her pocket and flicked through the pages. She looked up shamefaced. "I am sorry, Gibbs. I forgot to record the name of the female student. I will go after them now," Ziva took off in the direction of the two young Midshipmen.
Tony had watched Ziva's discomfort with interest.
'Well that was a first!' he thought. That was the sort of Probie mistake he never expected to see from Ziva. Not after all this time working an investigation.
Gibbs also stared at Ziva's retreating form with narrowed eyes. He turned to Tony and raised an eyebrow receiving one in reply.
On arrival at the Naval Academy, Gibbs and Ziva went straight to the administration building to interview Midshipman Strickland's CO, Admiral Kelvin Peters.
"I don't know what more I can add, Agent Gibbs. Midshipman Strickland was a fine student, well liked by her peers and instructors," the Admiral replied.
"Thank you, Admiral, you've been very helpful."
Gibbs handed him a card and turned to leave the office with Ziva "If you do happen to think of anything?"
"I will certainly call you immediately, Agent Gibbs. These murders have the whole Academy terrorised," the Admiral responded.
The two Agents walked from the administration building toward the NCIS truck to wait for Tony and McGee.
"Something bothering you, Ziva?"
"No. I am fine Gibbs. Why do you ask?"
"Well gee, I don't know…maybe the fact that you were staring out the window the whole time we were interviewing the Admiral, David."
"I was? I am sorry, Gibbs…I have a slight headache. It will not happen again"
Gibbs stared at her thoughtfully for a moment before replying. "I know."
Tony and McGee walked down the dormitory corridor leading to the room that Petty Officer Strickland shared and knocked on the door.
"Oh, Probie, this takes me back! Sneaking into the girl's dorm…...""
"Why would you be sneaking into the girl's dorm, Tony? Wait, I don't want to know," McGee said.
"I was sneaking into the girls' dorm, Probie because that's where the girls were! Come on, McGee, you never brought your date home after curfew and had to sneak her back to her room?"
"As a matter of fact, I did not!" McGee said proudly. "I made it a habit to have my date's home at least 15 minutes before their scheduled curfew."
Tony shook his head in disbelief and then realised who he was talking to. "Of course you did, Probie, and that's just sad."
"Why is it sad?" McGee asked.
"Cause I believe you."
After identifying themselves to her room mates and asking a series of questions, they began a thorough search of the room and the personal items belonging to Karen Strickland.
McGee carefully checked the drawers of Strickland's desk and finding nothing of any interest, turned his attention to the young woman's laptop computer. He quickly broke the password that protected the files and set about searching for anything that might provide a clue or motive to the Midshipman's murder.
"I can't find anything here, Tony," he commented to the senior agent. "I've accessed her diary and email and there is nothing out of the ordinary that I can see."
McGee tapped away at the keyboard and located Midshipman Strickland's My Space page. It was full of the usual list of favourite movies, musicians and friends. He clicked onto her photo album and scrolled through the myriad of happy snaps of smiling faces, of friends and fellow students.
He noted one photo in particular of Strickland standing smiling at the camera, her arms around the shoulders of 2 friends as they posed for the shot. It was obviously taken in the Academy gym if the sweats and shorts were anything to go on. The girl's faces glowed with happiness and a shared joke. McGee studied the photo for a few moments thinking that Midshipman Strickland was roughly the same age as his sister.
"I'll take this back to the lab and make a more thorough search, Tony."
Tony was standing at the wardrobe flicking through the row of neatly pressed uniforms.
"Well one thing's for sure, Probie. Strickland wasn't a party girl! Not a single dress to her name." he quipped.
He started to turn away when he noticed the crisp white Judo Gi hanging at the end of the rail.
Tony paused and touched the fabric of the Gi thoughtfully before checking the embroidered badge on the front of the jacket.
"Probie!" he called. "There's nothing more here, let's get back to DC" and he strode from the room with McGee hurrying behind clutching the laptop.