THEY MEET AGAIN

By Gunnery Sergeant

A/N: Nature Heaven's Island doesn't exist, it's just my invention.

Prologue

The first corpse was discovered two days before the Independence Celebration.

As the roads of Heavenly Shores City were cleaned and decorated in preparation for the annual parade, a woman with a slashed throat was found lying in a pool of coagulated blood in one of the many alleys near the harbour.

Nobody cared much about her murder.

She was a whore and the local cops quickly declared she had been killed by one of her clients, perhaps by someone who hadn't wanted to pay her, or by someone she had refused to service.

Whatever the reason, the good, dignified local authorities didn't consider it necessary to investigate further, some of them even believing the woman had somehow deserved her brutal death.

And nobody, with the exception of a young policeman, noticed a thick lock of the woman's hair was missing.

It had been unevenly cut, as if it had been done in a hurry, but the cop didn't give it more than a passing thought, nor did he wonder if it was somehow connected with the homicide.

The second corpse was discovered on July 3rd.

It was another prostitute, and she had been killed in the same way as the first one, with a deep cut to her throat. Again, a thick lock of her hair had been hastily cut- but this time the detail was noticed by the ME, who listened with a certain interest when a young policeman informed him about having seen the same thing on the first corpse.

Thus, this second murder raised a bit more attention in the local authorities. The first corpse was dug up and a more extensive autopsy was conducted, but it shed no light on the killer's identity or purpose.

Some investigations were done among the prostitutes that worked in the harbour area, but gave no results, and the whores were simply advised to be more careful when they come in contact with men.

The third murder happened twelve days later and this time the victim wasn't a prostitute, but a private nurse, a respectable wife and mother of three children.

She had been killed as she was returning home early in the evening, after having spent the whole afternoon at a patient's house. The modus operandi was the same of the previous times: a slashed throat and a missing lock of hair.

The victim's husband, Miles Andrews, was a retired US Navy captain. He remonstrated with the police chief and the major and, dragging in front of them his three teary-eyed children, he shouted he wanted to know who had killed his wife. The man claimed to have influent relatives in Washington, and the major promised to do all he could to discover the culprit, if only to avoid a diplomatic incident with the USA.

Investigations were made and the path of the victim's last trip reconstructed, but none of the persons who had seen Sarah Andrews walk toward her home had witnessed anything strange. No one had noticed if she had been pursued or followed, and no suspicious individuals had been seen lingering in the area.

The whole matter remained enveloped in a cloud of mystery and, as the local press began to sniff around in search of a good story they could sell internationally, the fear for the Hair Collector spread among the populace, as women started to avoid being outside as darkness fell.

And then, in late July, the killer hit for the fourth time. But that evening his plans were thwarted, and the intended victim was able to survive the attack…

I

Darkness had already fallen on Heavenly Shores City– Nature's Heaven Island's Capitol—when Mossad Officer Ziva David left the communication centre to return to her rented cottage.

Nature's Heaven was a medium sized island in the Atlantic Ocean, an independent country that had chosen to stick to a very naturalistic way of life.

There were no cars on the island, just carts, wagons pulled by horses or bicycles. With the exception of fridges, there were no electrical household appliances allowed on Nature's Heaven Island. No TVs, no washing machines, no dishwashers. Phones and computers were allowed only in the communication centre located in the district where the government buildings, airport, hospital and all the banks were concentrated.

The island was inhabited mostly by people who had chosen to live at strict contact with nature and visited each year by tourists that wanted to forget their frantic life-styles for a couple of weeks.

On paper, it looked like it was the last place where one would think to find a terrorist cell. However its nearness to the USA and the somehow lax security measures adopted by the ever welcoming local government made it a good place to lay low for a while before moving on to more strategic locations.

Ziva had been sent to Nature's Heaven Island by her father, because Mossad had received intel about a wanted Hamas terrorist that was supposedly hiding there. Her job had been to locate the man, keep him under surveillance and then ask for the help of other Israeli officers stationed in Mexico to abduct and take him out of the country without fuss.

Ziva had been on the island for the past week, but so far she hadn't found the terrorist. She had just located the abandoned house where he had been living and her recent trip to the communication centre – she had had to leave her sat phone there with the phones of all the other people entering the island -- had been to inform her father of this disappointing development.

Eli David had given her orders to stay there ten days more to see if the terrorist would come back. After that Ziva could return home, to Israel.

Ziva should have felt happy for this news; she hated feeling useless and wasting her time—but she was not. Because in her heart, Tel Aviv had stopped being home. Home now was Washington DC. The place where she had lived for the past three years; where she had learned to be much more than an assassin; where she had made new, wonderful, real friends and where she had lost her heart to the most unlikely man.

Ziva David had always been a practical woman. Her childhood dreams of love and Prince Charming had been shattered when her sister Tali had been killed in a terrorist attack.

She had hardened her heart to become the Mossad officer her country needed her to be. She had put aside her wishes and desires to do her duty—until the day she had met him.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

Former US Marine, NCIS special agent and the man her brother Ari had had a strange obsession for.

As Ari's control officer, Ziva had prepared for him a dossier about Gibbs and the other members of his team and, while Mossad Officer David had been impressed by the man's curriculum, the woman Ziva hadn't felt anything special. Yes, Gibbs was a handsome man, but she had met many a handsome man in her life, what difference would it make meeting one more?

As it turned out, all the difference in the world.

She had met Gibbs and everything had changed.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs was much more than a handsome face and an athletic body. He was charismatic, intelligent, competent, fearless, loyal, ready to do what was right, no matter the price he would have to pay. He was everything Ziva had always sought in a working – or personal – partner. He was also a good man, andshe had never regretted taking Ari's life to save Gibbs'.

In the past three years, she had worked hard to keep her love for Gibbs under control and not betray her true feelings to him.

While she had known there was a special bond between them, she had also known he probably thought of it as a mentor/pupil bond. He had taught her. He had protected her. He had cared for her too, as his return from Mexico to help her had proved—but then, he had cared for all the members of his team and Ziva had had no illusions Gibbs might feel something different, something more for her.

But all this rationalizing hadn't prevented her from falling deeper in love with the older man with each day she passed working at his side and when, two months before, Director Vance had brusquely terminated her liaison position with NCIS, her heart had broken.

They had barely had the time for a brief embrace and a murmured "Take care of yourself" before she had been escorted out of the NCIS building and to the Israeli Embassy. The following morning, she was already on a plane directed to Tel Aviv and the father she had wanted to get away from. He was the reason why she had asked to be assigned as liaison officer.

However, as much as Eli David could be ruthless when he wanted, he could also be a considerate parent. He had noticed his daughter's low spirits and correctly guessed she had left someone important behind. Only he had thought that someone was Tony, not Gibbs.

Ziva smiled as she kept on walking along the torch-lit streets of Heavenly Shores City. She was proud of how she had managed to fool her father and the people he had sent to control her during her first year in America by making them believe she was in love with Tony. Then she sobered. Her flirting with Tony and her friendship with poor Lieutenant Sanders had been all diversions to prevent Gibbs from discovering her real feelings, but now she wondered what could have happened if she had been crazy enough or bold enough or careless enough to let her boss know where her feelings lay.

Would he have sent her back to Israel? Would he have transferred her to another team? Would he have shouted at her? Or would he have been understanding with her and turned her down with kindness? And, oh God, what if he had told her he felt the same?

Beautiful, tantalizing, impossible thought, but one she occasionally liked to indulge when she was in bed alone…

Ziva was brusquely snapped out from her reverie when two strong arms surrounded her from behind.

In the brief instant that it took her to react, she saw a blade reflect the flames of a nearby torch and she understood who was attacking her.

She was aware of the mysterious assassin that was killing women in town. She knew the local authorities had alerted women not to go out alone at night, but Ziva had thought – wrongly and arrogantly, given her current predicament – that no one would be able to catch her unaware.

She reached out with one hand and blocked the blade trying to slash her throat, while she slammed her other elbow in the attacker's stomach. His grip on her loosened, but he didn't set her free.

She locked her ankle with his, twisted it and managed to make him lose his balance. They both landed hard on the paved road and the attacker rolled atop of her as Ziva doubled her efforts to shake him off and grab the knife she carried at her belt.

Then, suddenly, she heard a noise. Someone was walking toward them.

"Help!" Ziva screamed as loud as she could. "Somebody help me!"

The sound of approaching footfalls changed from leisured walking to urgent running.

"Freeze!" a voice shouted from the half darkness surrounding them, and for a moment Ziva thought it sounded a lot like Gibbs'. "I'm armed!"

Her assailant gave a frustrated growl. The blade flashed as he cut a lock of her hair and then, as fast as lighting, he jumped away from her, and quickly disappeared into a nearby alley.

Ziva sat up and waited for her breath to calm down as her saviour's footfalls came closer…

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