Gibbs leaned within millimeters of the woman's face, but she remained unflinching. This was not the first time she'd dealt with a skeptic, though admittedly, she'd never met anyone quite like the ex-marine/NCIS agent who stood in front of her. Does he think this is the first time someone called me crazy? She thought. Or the first time someone tried to intimidate me because they were too scared to admit the truth to themselves?
"Who told you this?" he asked again, this time almost a whisper. She met his icy blue eyes with her soft brown ones and said with unwavering certainty, "Shannon told me. This morning."
Melinda Gordon closed her eyes as she stepped out of her bright red SUV and tried to soak up the sunshine and the early morning sounds- the hustle and bustle of a Washington DC morning. She decided to stop and get some coffee on her way to the Naval Yard in hopes that the familiar morning ritual would help her get through the next few hours. She was always nervous at this point; after all, there's no easy way to approach a complete stranger and impart the fact that one has been blessed with the gift of communicating with ghosts, and oh, by the way, your dearly departed has a message for you. Melinda had dealt with all kinds: believers, non believers, the angry, the sad, and the just plain rude. The ghost that appeared to her the day before, Shannon, had specifically stated this case would be difficult. Apparently, Shannon's husband was not the easiest person to confront with the inexplicable, nor had he quite healed from the emotional wounds that come with losing a loved one – two loved ones, actually- to violence.
"He might not ever." Shannon said, now standing calmly in front of Melinda.
"Not ever what?" Melinda asked, looking down in an attempt to hide the fact that she was talking to what appeared to others as thin air.
"Heal." Melinda was standing in line now, and the apparition flashed right behind
her. "Not completely. But maybe this will help. If he can help her, maybe he can help himself."
"I hope so." Melinda said, and Shannon disappeared. The man in line in back of her overheard, and looked at her inquisitively.
Melinda smiled that "silly me!" smile that usually got people off her back; it was easiest to let them think she was crazy, stupid, or both. He returned her smile "I hope so too… hope that you're free this evening."
She laughed and very conspicuously brushed her hair back with her left hand, letting the sparkling wedding band catch the light. "Sorry. I'm just in town for the morning."
"Well then let me get your coffee," he said, undeterred. He offered his hand, "I'm Tony."
"Melinda. And that's okay, I'll buy my own."
"Aww, that's no way to treat a guest to our fine city." He stepped ahead of her and made his order, nodding for her to add her drink to the end.
"Black coffee, grande." she told the barista, somewhat reluctantly.
Tony chucked. "You remind me of Gibbs." Melinda arched one eyebrow. "My boss," he hastily added. "Over at NCIS: Naval Criminal In-"
"Investigative Service" she finished for him. Her mind processed this information: a possible in. She lifted the cup to her lips.
"I wouldn't." Tony said. "You've got to give it at least 15 minutes to cool down. That's why I come here. The drinks are all still hot by the time I get them to the office."
"Do you always buy drinks for your coworkers?" she asked, hoping her flirty smile would disguise her dig for information.
"Yeah… all the time." Tony picked up the tray of drinks and led Melinda to the door. When I lose a bet, he added silently to himself.
"So what's your boss like?"
Tony laughed. "Well, you know how some marines are really tough? Yell a lot, aren't afraid of anything?"
"They haven't met Gibbs yet."
"Sounds like he'd be tough to work for."
"I hold my own," said Tony, never willing to let an opportunity for self-aggrandizing pass unclaimed. "And he's the best investigator NCIS has- his instincts are almost supernatural."
The two were now in front of Melinda's car. "Thanks for the coffee."
"You're welcome. And if you decide to stay in town a bit longer, I know a place you could crash…"
Melinda laughed, rolling her eyes. "It was nice to meet you Tony." She called as the door slammed shut.
Tony was a bit surprised to see Melinda Gordon step out of the elevator, but he wasn't unused to being pursued by women- even married ones.
"Decide to take me up on my offer?" he asked, cutting her off as she walked toward the bullpen, where the security guard had motioned.
Melinda smiled. "Actually, I'm here to see your boss."
"He stepped out. Is there something I can help you with?" Tony offered.
"That's okay. I'll wait." She said.
McGee walked in at that moment, and Tony offered him a coffee from the tray he was holding.
"Had to pay up, huh?" McGee said, grabbing a cup. "That's what you get for making a bet with Ziva."
"No woman should be able to bend that way" Tony hissed, and then more formally, "Melinda, this is Agent McGee; McGee, Melinda. She's here to see the boss."
"Nice to meet you. Gibbs just went down to the lab. He should be back any minute."
Tony leaned in closer, "So after this business with Gibbs, do you think you'll be free for lunch?"
Melinda laughed again, "wow. You're persistent."
"Also known as annoying" said Gibbs, materializing inches behind Tony and startling him into dropping the last remaining coffee on the floor. The two men looked down at it a second.
"That mine?" Gibbs asked.
"Getting you another one, boss," said Tony. He grabbed his jacket and headed toward the elevator.
"You can have mine." Melinda offered, handing it to him. "I haven't drunk from it… too hot." She shot Tony a sideways glance, and he smiled back gratefully.
Gibbs accepted the cup and took a sizable gulp, unfazed by its blistering temperature.
"My name is Melinda Gordon. I was wondering if I could have a word with your in private."
Gibbs nodded and led her to the empty conference room, where they sat at one end of the long table.
Melinda took a breath. Here we go. "Agent Gibbs, I wanted to talk to you about your late wife, Shannon."
Gibbs said nothing, simply tilted his head. Not many people knew about his past, and he preferred to keep it that way. He didn't think this woman's intentions were dishonest, but he was at a loss as to her motives.
"I know you lost Shannon and your daughter a few years ago… ten years ago. The reason I'm here is because Kelly wasn't Shannon's only child." She paused, searching his face for a reaction. This is where things usually got tenuous.
Gibbs leaned back, closed his eyes, and then met her gaze. "Shannon only had one child, and she's dead."
"I know this must be unexpected. But the truth is, Shannon gave birth to a little girl before you two met, and gave her up for adoption. The girl's name is Lily."
Gibbs laughed, exasperated. "Ms. Gordon. If my wife had a child, I would have known about it. What is it that you want?"
"She didn't tell you because she thought it would be best to start over with you. But now, the reason I'm here-"
"Yes. Why are you here?" Gibbs was now leaning intently toward her, eye to eye.
"She needs help." Melinda said simply. "They need your help."
"Lily… and Shannon."
"Lily?" Gibbs repeated incredulously. This is ridiculous, he thought… but at the same time, something about this woman compelled him to keep listening.
"Yes. Shannon never told you this, but when she was still in high school, she got pregnant. Her family and the boy's family agreed that Shannon could have the child as long as she put her up for adoption, which she did. Lily was adopted by a family in Virginia – at the time Shannon died, that's all she knew. But now she can see that Lily is in trouble."
"And you know this how?"
"I have a gift. I can see and hear spirits; they come to me for help sometimes. Shannon won't cross over until she knows Lily is okay."
"Cross over?!?" Gibbs was losing his patience. Melinda held up her hands in an attempt to appease him but she knew she only had a few more seconds to gain his trust before he kicked her out. Or has me arrested, she thought, looking around nervously. Luckily, Shannon appeared and offered some help. "The tattoo." She said, "ask him if he remembers my tattoo."
"Shannon had a tattoo. Do you remember?" Melinda asked quickly. She knew from his eyes that he did…. However, her relief was short lived.
"How in the hell do you know that?" he demanded. "Who told you?!"
She closed her eyes. "Shannon told me. She knew you'd remember it."
"Shannon told you? When?"
Melinda just shook her head and looked to Shannon's ghost for support. "It was a lily, over my heart. I had it tattooed after giving up the baby. I just told him it was my favorite flower… I never told him the truth."
"She had a lily tattooed over her heart. She told you it was her favorite flower." Melinda offered, hoping this would help Gibbs to understand. Instead, he seemed to grow more impatient. Slamming his hand on the table, he stood up. " Who told you this?" he demanded. Melinda watched as Shannon took a step toward the table and covered his hand with hers.
Gibbs glanced sharply down at his hand. It felt like the table top was heating up, and a shiver shot up his arm. What in the hell is going on? He was losing- no, he had lost his patience with this woman. She must have been a friend of Shannon's from before, yet he didn't recognize her. Whatever she wanted, she was good. She didn't waiver as she looked him the eye and said, "Shannon told me. This morning."
Gibbs took a deep breath, straightened from his crouch in front of Melinda, and strode from the room without another word.
"Just give him a minute." Shannon told Melinda. Melinda nodded and got out her cell phone to call Delia, who was watching the store back in Grandview. This was going to take longer than she thought.
The team looked up sharply as Gibbs walked purposefully into the bullpen. They knew that walk, that look on his face. Something was up.
"Melinda Gordon," he stated. "I want to know everything about her."
"Criminal background check…" said Ziva, already dialing his phone.
"Phone records, credit cards…" continued McGee.
"And I will take this down to Abby." Said Tony, reaching a gloved hand to pick up the coffee cup now resting on Gibb's desk. Gibbs gave it one rueful glance- so sad to waste half a cup of coffee- and nodded. He had some background checks of his own to perform- he wasn't going to let his team know that Shannon was involved in this… not yet. He still needed some more information from the mysterious Ms. Gordon.
When Gibbs walked back into the conference room, he had two new cups of coffee. He handed one to Melinda and sat back down. Then he waited for her to talk first, to recant what she had said earlier, to confess whatever the hell she was up to… but today was obviously not his day, and Melinda did none of these.
She nodded her thanks as she picked up the coffee and took a sip. Shannon was standing behind her husband now. "He's trying to intimidate you," she said with the knowing smile of someone who figured out his tricks long ago. "He wants you to talk first. Don't."
Melinda tilted her head in acquiescence to Shannon and went back to her coffee. I have all day, she thought, I guess. Originally, she had been hoping to get back to Grandview that afternoon, but she could tell this was going to be a long day. She should have known that an NCIS agent would want cold hard facts to support what she was saying- facts she didn't have, at least not with her. And Shannon had warned her that Gibbs was a hard nut to crack. Finally, she got tired of these games. "Agent Gibbs, I know that this must come as a great shock to you. But it's important that you listen to me. A young woman is in danger."
"This… Lily. And only I can help her." It wasn't a question.
"Well, you can help her, yes. And more importantly, that's what Shannon wants. She wants you to help her daughter, and to get to know her… to be part of her life. To have her in yours."
"Alright." Gibbs leaned back in his chair, willing to indulge her for the moment. "Tell me about Lily."
"Her name is Lily Beaumont. She'll be 31 on the 15th. She lives in Tavistock. She's married… and" Melinda glanced up at Shannon, hovering inches behind Gibbs, her face full of both hope and fear, "… and her husband is planning to kill her."
Gibbs stared a Melinda a moment and then broke into a crooked smile.
"Agent Gibbs. I know this is a lot to take in," Melinda rushed on, "but just find Lily. Ask her who her mother is- she only knows her first name. But you'll see… and maybe… I don't know… maybe you can find out what her husband is planning."
"You don't know?" Gibbs asked. "Shannon" (this with air quotes) "didn't tell you?"
"All she knows is that something is terribly wrong. She doesn't know how, but she knows that it's going to happen soon. She doesn't want to watch another daughter die before her time."
This last comment gave Gibbs pause. After all, he'd never been able to lose that grain of culpability that resided in him since he lost Shannon and Kelly. If I had been there… Gibbs rose. "Is that all?" he asked.
Melinda glanced at the imploring look from Shannon. "I'm not leaving until you find her." she said.
Melinda followed as Gibbs left the conference room and returned to find his team waiting for him, armed with a lot of information but few answers. Melinda Gordon appeared to be who she said she was- married, no criminal record, owned a business in the small town of Grandview. Gibbs hesitated a moment. Was it possible that this woman was telling the truth? Had Shannon had a child before they met, gave it up for adoption, and never told him? And if not, what was Melinda up to? Was she trying to distract them from something… but what? There were no other outstanding cases at that time. And what about the tattoo? How did she know that? Gibbs turned to his team. "Lily Beaumont. Tavistock, Virginia." and in reply to their blank looks, "Who is she?!"
A short while later Lily's picture flashed onto the large plasma screen. Melinda stood a few feet behind, but even she could hear the gasp from Gibbs when he saw Lily's face. And no wonder, since she bore an overwhelming resemblance to the apparition of Shannon Gibbs.
No one said anything for a moment as all three agents looked at their boss, surprised at this show of emotion, albeit subtle. Gibbs stared at the screen frozen and unblinking, as if someone had hit his pause button. Finally, McGee broke the silence. "You know her, boss?"
Gibbs turned to Melinda. "Okay," he said softly, "what do you know?"
"I know that Lily and her husband have been fighting, that Lily wanted to separate from him. He's volatile, and Shan-" she stopped short. "uh, she, my source, thinks he's getting someone else to hurt her. Or kill her."
McGee looked at Ziva and Tony and found them as clueless as him. However, the team was not unaccustomed to working in the dark, since Gibbs generally played his hand very close to the chest. "Well, he has a motive," McGee said, cuing additional information to the screen. "Lily inherited about 4 million dollars in 1999 when her father died. He had made his money from business investments. His wife died 2 years previously, and Lily was his only child. Lily has been married to Theodore Beaumont for two years."
"I want any evidence that Mr. Beaumont is up to no good. I want to bring him in." Gibbs barked, and the agents again went to work. He glanced up at Melinda and she could tell he didn't quite believe her, but she was grateful that he was at least giving her – and Shannon- a chance.
The team soon uncovered phone evidence linking Theodore Beaumont to an ex-felon with a violent past. According to his parole officer, he was clean, but Gibbs sent Ziva and Tony to check him out just in case. Not surprisingly, they found a mini-arsenal hidden in his apartment, along with a substantial amount of cash that Gibbs was betting came from Beaumont.
Gibbs and the ex-felon were in the interrogation room, as Melinda, Tim, and Tony sat back in the bullpen, eating some Chinese take-out.
"You and Gibbs known each other long?" Tony asked, finally letting his curiosity get the best of him.
"Not long," Melinda said. She could tell that Gibbs' privacy was important to him, but she also felt that the other agents deserved to know something about this case that they were working so hard on. "I've met his late wife."
"Ahhh… That explains why he never mentioned you. Doesn't talk much about that. Do Theodore and Lily Beaumont have something to do with Shannon?"
Melinda hesitated, then shrugged and said, "in a way."
"The boss seems to be pretty invested in this case… considering it's not exactly in our normal purview." Tim chimed in.
"I bet this isn't how you guys normally spend your Friday nights," Melinda said, changing the subject.
"Eh, there's nothing on TV Fridays anyway," Tim replied, at the same time Tony laughed and said, "You've got that right."
Ziva and Gibbs came back and grabbed their gear. "Tony, you're with us." Melinda stood up as if to follow, and Gibbs took her aside. "Lily isn't there. She's spending the weekend with friends. We're going to go pick up her husband, but you can go home."
"I think I should be here when you talk with Lily."
"Then I'll see you tomorrow morning." Gibbs held her gaze a moment, and Melinda nodded.
It was dark by the time the team pulled up to the home of Theodore and Lily Beaumont. It was a large, cookie-cutter house set in a neighborhood of similar homes, surrounded by over-landscaped yards and expensive vehicles parked in cul-de-sacs. They could see that lights were on in the house, and a man answered the door after the first ring of the bell. Gibbs held up his ID and introduced himself. "Are you Theodore Beaumont?" he asked.
"Yes- I'm Ted. What's wrong? Is it Lily?"
Tony smiled and said, "Practicing your shocked widower routine? No such luck buddy, we're here to talk to iyou/i."
Ted looked confused and a little worried. His eyes narrowed and he stepped back, "do you want to come in?"
"I'd appreciate it if you came with us," Gibbs replied.
"What's this about?" Ted demanded, and when it became clear that no answer was forthcoming, he turned to go back in the house. Ziva hand shot out at lightning speed and grabbed his arm. "Mr. Beaumont. We could take you away in handcuffs if you would prefer. I am sure this would give the neighbors something to talk about."
This had the desired effect; Ted agreed to come with them, and Tony read him his rights as they walked to the car.
That night, Gibbs lay awake in bed and reflected back on the arrest, the subsequent interrogation and confession, the sad reality that some men would rather see their wife murdered than lose everything in a divorce. But this wasn't hard; the hard part would come tomorrow when he finally met Lily Beaumont in person. By now, he was pretty sure Melinda Gordon was right- this woman was the biological daughter of his late wife. Gibbs let out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. "Why didn't you tell me?" he asked out loud. But he was only asking the darkness, and if Shannon answered him, he couldn't hear it.
Melinda walked in to NCIS HQ bright and early Saturday morning, and Gibbs was already waiting with two steaming cups of coffee. They both laughed, since she was holding two cups as well. She set them down on his desk and sat down in the chair he offered. They were alone in the bullpen for the moment, and Gibbs updated her on Ted Beaumont's arrest and confession. Melinda hadn't seen Shannon that morning but she had a feeling her spirit wasn't far, since Lily Beaumont was on her way to see Gibbs at that moment.
It was clear to Melinda that Gibbs was no longer suspicious of her, but she wasn't sure if he actually trusted or fully believed her either. "If there's anything you want to say to her... to Shannon, before she crosses over..."
"If I understand what you've been telling me, Shannon's been here all along?"
Melinda nodded. "Spirits aren't always aware of everything going on; they don't experience the world or time the same way that you and I do. But yes, Shannon has been here with you, and with Lily."
"Then anything I wanted to say... I already said." Melinda wasn't sure if his crooked smile was one of gratitude or mocking. At that moment, Tony and Lily Beaumont stepped out of the elevator.
"Agent Gibbs?" Lily asked, offering a hand. Gibbs stood perfectly still a moment, mesmerized by the resemblance... not iexactly/i Shannon, and yet, very much Shannon. He took Lily's hand and introduced himself. Turning to Melinda, he said "This is Melinda Gordon. She's been consulting on this case. If you don't mind, Ms. Beaumont, we'd like to talk with you a moment, and then Agent DiNozzo will get your statement."
Lily nodded and the three went to the conference room.
As soon as the they were seated comfortably around the table, Melinda noticed that Gibbs body language had changed from the last time she spoke with him in that room- he was almost paternalistic as he offered Lily something to drink and made sure she was informed of the details around her husband's arrest.
"I'm surprised, but in a way… not surprised, if that makes sense." Lily looked down at her hands. "You must be wondering why I even stayed with him this long. It's been obvious for a while that money was the only thing he liked about me. But I guess… I guess I thought he would change, if I stayed. When I suggested a separation, he said he wanted to work on things. I'm grateful that you found out about this-this plot before it was too late. Like I told Agent DiNozzo, I'd like to help in any way I can. Is there more information you need?"
Gibbs shook his head and Melinda watched as the apparition of Shannon materialized next to her daughter. Lily looked confused, unsure as to why they asked her to speak with them if they had all the information they needed. Miranda spoke first. "Lily, you were adopted when you were just a baby. You never knew your birth parents."
Lily nodded, confused. "My mother's name was Shannon, and she was only a teenager when she had me. That's all I know. My adoptive parents were wonderful- everything I could ever need. I've never really felt a need to look for my birth mother, actually, until recently. I guess I never felt truly alone until these last few months… I mean, my parents are dead, and my marriage was crumbling. Do you know something about my mother? Where she is?"
Gibbs cleared his throat. "I'm afraid your mother- Shannon- passed away ten years ago, Lily."
"You knew her?"
"I was married to her." Gibbs said. Lily looked stricken, overwhelmed by the day's deluge of new information. Of course, that was nothing compared to what Melinda had to tell her now.
"Lily," Melinda said, "I'm here today… we're all here today… because I have a gift. I know this will sound very strange, but I can see and hear spirits. Your mother- her spirit- came to me and asked me to help you. And she's here now."
Lily looked at Melinda sharply, then at Gibbs. "Excuse me?"
"Your mother is the one who told me that you were in danger. She told me I had to find Agent Gibbs, that he would help you."
"My mother. Is here. Now?"
"Yes. She hasn't crossed over because she's been worried about you… what would happen to you."
"This is true?" Lily asked, turning to Gibbs.
Gibbs shook his head. "I don't know. But I know that what Ms. Gordon told us about Ted was true. That's how we knew where to look, how we found out what he was planning." He reached out and took Lily's hand. "Shannon never told me that she had a child before we met. I know this is a lot to take in. But your mother was an amazing woman, and I'm sure she loved you very much."
iI did. I still do. /i said Shannon, laying a hand on her daughters hair. iI loved her so much… I wanted to find her, but I always thought there would be time. I asked that she be named Lily... it's my favorite flower, and I wanted her to have a piece of me with her always. Then I got the tattoo./i
"Shannon said that she loved you very much. She named you Lily because it's her favorite flower, and she had a lily tattooed over her heart. She said that she always thought there would be time left for her to find you."
iWhen I found out I was pregnant, I didn't know what to do. We lived in a small town and my parents were ashamed of what I had done. They only let me have the baby if I kept her a secret, and gave her away as soon as she was born./i
"Your mother had to give you up and keep your birth a secret. Her parents were embarrassed that she was pregnant so young."
iAnd Jethro…/i now Shannon kneeled next to her husband, her hands on his lap, as if begging for his forgiveness. iI'm so sorry I never told you. I guess I was waiting for the right time… then we had Kelly, and she got older… I wanted to wait until she was old enough to understand. I didn't know…/i
Melinda turned to Gibbs. "She's sorry she never told you. She never found the right time, and then it was too late."
iNow maybe they can be there for each other. I can't stay, but they don't need to be alone. You'll make sure they're there for each other? That they know how much I love them?/i
Melinda nodded and then tucked her head down and wiped a stray tear from her cheek as Shannon faded into the blazing white light and then was gone.
"She's crossed over." Melinda said, "She said that she wants you both to know how much she loves you. She wants you to be there for each other." Gibbs looked down, perhaps sensing that Shannon was finally gone and at peace.
Lily turned to Gibbs and smiled. "Maybe you can tell me about her." she said, and Gibbs nodded. The two looked at each other a long moment, and then Melinda stood.
"I have a long drive ahead of me, and I think you two have a lot of catching up to do."
"Ms. Gordon," Lily stood. "I don't know what to say."
"You don't have to say anything. I'm just glad you're safe."
Gibbs stood and shook her hand. "Thank you." He said simply. Melinda nodded and walked from the room, closing the door behind her.
She made her way to the elevator, relieved to be going home, and to have once again helped a spirit find peace. She thought about her husband waiting for her at home and was once again reminded how lucky she was- how lucky they both were. Tony approached her as she stepped into the elevator, offering a paper cup. "Here's one for the road. Black. Hot."
"No thanks," she said, smiling as the doors slid shut. "I can't stand the stuff."