Gabriel is in his office – and the view through the picture window has changed; instead of the frozen Canadian lake it's wheat fields. For a moment I pause to take in the sights – it reminds me of my grandparents house when I was a child. Recalling a memory I see acres of rolling wheat moving in the breeze, home-made butter on a blue dish, freshly roasted chicken and potatoes … I can almost taste the meal, and I sense rather than see Gabriel grinning widely.
"It's a good memory to have Kate. I especially like the roast chicken." He pats his rounded stomach in appreciation.
"No-one did roast potatoes and chicken like Grandma" I said. "It could make …."
I laugh aloud – "Yes, it probably could. At least, weep with the memory of it."
I stare back out over the moving wheat fields and watch a couple of birds take flight from a hidden nest and race off towards the horizon.
"How are Gibbs and Ziva?" Gabriel asks.
Tearing my eyes away from the stunning scene I look at him and smile. "Seems to be going well. She's helping Abby organise the wedding just now, but she's spending time with Gibbs too. It looks like there will be another one to go to."
Gabriel fixes me with a steely gaze. "Remember the deal Kate – two years. You'll be able to see the wedding, but not attend. You've skirted the rules and bent them to almost breaking point, but not this time. You stay here while Ziva and Gibbs marry. He (Gabriel points his finger upstairs) will not be happy if you even try to disobey him, so don't."
I knew Gabriel would give me this lecture, but I just wanted to see if I could swing it my way. Now that I know I am definitely being watched, it won't be possible, but at least I'll be able to watch.
But, Abby and Ducky's wedding comes first and it's now barely 3 weeks away. I have some plans of my own and I need to discuss them with Gabriel.
The team meet back at the bullpen a couple of hours later. Ducky is in autopsy with Jimmy trying to find out how the head of Lt Cdr Kane was detached from the rest of him. Abby's in Forensics sorting out blood samples and some fibres that were found. Gibbs has gone on a coffee run, Tim's trying to eat a sandwich and Tony and Ziva have engaged temporarily in a rubber band war. Nice to know some things never change; rubber band wars were part of office routine when I worked with Tony. It's good that he's consistent … even if he is consistently badly behaved!
Ducky calls up. He has news. The war's forgotten, sandwich remnants are binned and all 3 troop down to Autopsy. Abby decides to visit Ducky and follows the team into the Autopsy suite. It was not a good idea. One look at the head sitting on the table and Abby turns green and vomits spectacularly into a bin that Jimmy has thoughtfully grabbed for her. Temporarily halting his explanation to Tim, Tony and Ziva, Ducky removes Abby to his office and lays her down over the small sofa. A groan escapes her lips as she curls on her side. Just then, Gibbs enters and comes straight to the office. He kneels down beside his Lab Bat and tucks a wayward strand of hair behind her ear.
"You ok, Abbs?"
She crooks a finger and he leans in closer.
"No-one told me I'd feel this sick" is the whispered response. Gibbs places a delicate kiss on her forehead. "It'll get better Abby; promise". Jimmy appears and thoughtfully places the rinsed-out bin beside Abby's head. She murmurs a soft "thank you" and her eyes slide shut. Gibbs stands his knee protests loudly at the sudden movement, and he walks out of the office back into the main suite. Ducky raises an eyebrow and Gibbs gives him a sympathetic shrug – there's not much any man can do about morning sickness except be as supportive as he can be. Ducky nods in response, his eyes flicking to the office. Gibbs mouths "asleep" and Ducky smiles softly – neither of them slept much last night, Abby's restlessness kept both of them awake.
Lt Cdr Kane now becomes the focus of everyone's attention.
In a scant few minutes the team learn that his earthly remains were deep frozen. His head was removed ("possibly to necessitate easier disposal" lectures Ducky) and it's more than likely the rest of him is also in pieces. Ziva and Tim add their piece about the unfortunate child who found the head and Ziva comments that there is a creek nearby to where the remains were found. Gibbs and DiNozzo relate the interview with the widow that was. She has now moved on, proclaimed herself "much happier" and lives in a farmhouse near Little Creek Park, with her younger non-military partner. She bought the farmhouse with the proceeds of the Georgetown house and declares that "country life just suits her complexion". Tony puts her excellent complexion down to an excellent plastic surgeon. Ducky muses on the likelihood of the remaining remains remaining in the river. This precipitates a groan from the office and, just when Ducky is about to ask whether it's his puns that make Abby feel ill, or if it's her pregnancy, he and the rest of the team are treated to the stereo version of vomiting at level 10. Abby staggers out of the office, halts, sees the head again and spins on her feet. She misses the bin this time, and bursts into tears. Ducky indicates that Jethro etc should leave while he administers to his intended. Gibbs endorses this and, grabbing a firm hold of a now-wobbling and pale Tim, they leave rapidly for the elevator.
The former Mrs Kane becomes the focus of their attention when they get to the bullpen. Gibbs didn't like her and Tony thought she was "evil". Ducky's information has indicated that Lt Cdr Kane died sometime after his shore-leave ended and his remains had been kept frozen until recently. He wants to know why they've suddenly appeared now; and what's the story with the dog tags? Tim, now looking a little less pale, starts keying information rapidly into the computer. Up flashes the information on Kane's last phone call, last credit card usage, and last cash withdrawal – and, not surprisingly, they're all on the last official day of his leave. Then, everything falls silent. There is no bank or credit card traffic – even his email log shows that although he received mail, he certainly didn't answer it. Ziva muses that "the wife did it" in order to be with her younger lover. It's all pure speculation, but Gibbs is inclined towards Ziva's way of thinking. Barely 3 months after he disappears, the "widow" puts the house up for sale and moves into the new place with the new man. A younger, attractive, well-groomed, expensive man. And, now that her husband will be officially declared dead, she'll be entitled to his pension and benefits too. No more will she be regarded as the wife of an AWoL Navy Officer – she's a bone fide widow, and she'll get the bells and whistles. Something churns in Gibbs' gut – something sour and unhealthy. If she killed him, or was complicit in his death, he'll have her. If she wasn't, if she was his widow (he didn't think she was grieving) then there was nothing he could do. They needed to find out where the body was stored and why it was moved. First stop was the new owners of the Georgetown house – he'd start with them.
He drives. DiNozzo's sitting beside him, hanging on to the door handle and trying not to squawk in fear as Gibbs' throws the car round corners and hurtles as speed down the road. Ziva and Tim are quietly sitting in the back – Ziva's calm and relaxed; Gibbs' driving does not worry her. Tim on the other hand has turned a dreadful shade of green and is trying hard not to throw up over him, Ziva, the car and worst of all, Gibbs. Mercifully, the speed that Gibbs drives at has the team at the former Kane residence quickly and Tim gratefully leaves the car almost before it comes to a complete halt. Gibbs merely raises an eyebrow at Tim's fast exit; Tony is silent and Ziva pats his army sympathetically. All 4 proceed to the house.
The exterior of the house has barely changed since Mrs Kane sold it; the interior is another story. Walls and floorboards are exposed and lovingly looked after. The garish colours Mrs Kane so loved have been replaced by more muted, neutral tones. The sitting room is comfortable but elegant. The house is now owned by former American Ambassador Richard Leitz and his wife Ruth. They remember Mrs Kane well. At least, Mrs Leitz does. What she has to say is interesting and not in a good way. Mrs Leitz prepares coffee and brings the tray through with Ziva's help. The group is gathered in the sitting room and Gibbs can't help but admire the hand-built book shelves that sit on each side of a grand fireplace. It turns out that Mr Ambassador ("please, call me Rick") is a closet "wood man". Like Gibbs, it's his passion, aide to concentration, release and hobby. Unlike Gibbs he actually has time now to spend at it. But, it's Mrs Leitz who holds the stage. She gets herself comfortable and begins the tale of the House Sale from Hell.
"Rick was coming to the end of his tenure in Japan and we wanted somewhere central in Washington that had space. We've 2 children, both married with families of their own, and we wanted to be able to put them up when they visited. The size of this house was just perfect for us. But, Mrs Kane! My, that woman was horrible!" Ruth Leitz stops briefly to sip her coffee and draw breath. "She was dreadful. I've been around a lot of cold women in my time – but she took the prize. The only thing you'd get from her was frostbite. She was rude, nasty, imperious … it took me a while to realise that it was her husband who'd gone missing. Now, I didn't expect her to open up and give intimate details of their life, but I remember seeing a picture on a bureau over there (she waves her hand towards the gap between the two doors) and I asked her if her husband was deployed. She stood over there (pointing to the rug in front of the fireplace) and said that he had been, but was on shore leave. Was due to take up post on his next ship – and she couldn't remember the name! I thought that was amazing; imagine, not knowing where he was supposed to go! She dismissed him out of hand – and that photograph was the only one of him on display in this house. She showed us round every room, including into her bedroom, and Rick noted that there was another photograph at her bedside; and it wasn't her husband. I thought maybe it was her son, but according to what I read in the Post, they had no children. He was handsome – blond hair, green eyes, quite athletic from what I remember …"
She stops momentarily and Ziva pipes up.
"Mrs Leitz. Was there a large freezer in the kitchen when you viewed the house?"
Gibbs' eyebrows raise – he was going to ask the same question.
"Yes dear, there was" came the reply. "However, according to Mrs Kane it had broken down between us viewing the house and completing the sale, so she replaced it at her expense. It turns out the replacement was faulty, and we were back and forward trying to get it fixed. Eventually the store gave us a new one, but Mrs Kane was apoplectic about it. She said she'd measured the space specifically and only a certain model would do – and the store sent something different. It's left a gap, but we don't mind.
By now Gibbs' eyebrows have practically disappeared into his hairline. After seeking permission from the Leitz's, they head for the kitchen. Sure enough the large silver-coloured freezer doesn't fill the space. There's a foot-wide gap between the edge of the freezer and the wall and Mrs Leitz has stacked a couple of wine racks in the available space. Carefully removing the contents and the racks they slowly start to manoeuvre the freezer.
Just then Rick Leitz comes into the kitchen. Seeing the team struggle with the freezer he immediately moves in to help; gently nudging Ziva out of the way. Within a couple of minutes all 4 men (and a quietly fuming Ziva) are standing in the kitchen peering round the freezer. All see the same thing – a small brown stain on the floor. Spinning on her heel, Ziva heads back to the front door and picks up the NCIS case. By the time she's back in the kitchen she has in her hand a swab. Squeezing past Rick and Tony, she leans over and gently rubs the swab over the stain. The unmistakable sound of a head slap is heard and standing up, she's treated to the sight of Tony ruefully rubbing the back of his head and gently blushing former Ambassador. Tim's grinning. He too was looking directly at Ziva's butt, but he was smart enough not to get caught! Adding a few drops of liquid from her test kit, the team and Rick watch as the tip of the swab turns pink to show the presence of human blood.