I had such fun writing one NCIS fiction, I thought I'd try another. This one is a little different and I hope you enjoy it.

Disclaimer: I do not own anything to do with NCIS, just enjoy writing about it!

CHAPTER ONE

NCIS agent Timothy McGee stood silently in the close confines of the elevator doing his best not to flinch as his boss, Jethro Gibbs raked him over the coals. Honestly, it really hadn't been McGee's fault. The address he had given Gibbs as the location of a suspected meth lab really had been an abandoned night club… until recently. Two months ago it had been turned into a nightclub for those who felt clothing should be optional. Obviously, no one had updated the records and needless to say when Gibbs, Tony and Ziva had burst into the club, guns drawn and bellowing "NCIS!" they had been shocked not only to discover there wasn't a single item related to meth manufacturing but to find themselves surrounded by a couple of hundred panicky nudists. Gibbs was livid.

"Don't you ever give me an address without double checking it, do you understand, McGee!? McGee felt Gibb's steely glare burning right through him.

"Yes, Boss," he mumbled looking down at his feet. He could feel his face burning. "It'll never happen again."

"It better not, or I'm sending you back down to the basement with the rest of geeks!" Gibbs smacked the "run" button on the elevator returning it to its normal function. As soon as the doors opened, Gibbs stalked out without a single glance at McGee.

With a miserable sigh, McGee slowly trailed after his boss. His entire week had gone like this. It seemed he could do nothing right and with this last mistake, Gibbs had gone ballistic. Head down, McGee slunk back to his seat and stared steadfastly at his computer, pointedly ignoring the sympathetic glances from Tony and Ziva. Distantly, he heard a phone ring.

"Grab your gear," Gibbs announced already heading for the elevator. "Dead marine." McGee stood watching uncertainly as Ziva and Tony shouldered their back packs. Gibbs glanced at him and rolled his eyes. "You too, McGee," he snapped as he stepped into the elevator. Quickly, McGee grabbed his own gear and hurried after the others. Hopefully this case would go a little better for him.

It took several hours to reach the location, a pond deep in the Appalachian Mountains. Some hikers had come across a body floating in the water and using their satellite phone called for help. Gibbs watched as Tony and McGee fished the body out of the pond and onto the tarp they'd laid out on the shore. Ducky and Palmer arrived a short while later.

"Mr. Palmer," said Ducky irritably, "If you cannot read a map better than that, then I shall have to find a replacement."

"But Doctor," retorted Palmer wearily, "You were the one reading the map. I outlined the route with a highlighter. Nowhere on that map did it say we should take a right onto Rt. 29!"

"Well, how am I supposed to see yellow highlighter in this light," grumbled Ducky, still refusing to back down. He glared at his assistant another moment then turned to Gibbs as he picked up his medical bag. "So, Jethro, what do you have for me today?"

"Dead marine," replied Gibbs looking down at the corpse at his feet. "Coupla hikers found him floating in the pond. Ziva's talking to them now. There's no ID but his uniform identifies him as a marine lieutenant. That's all we know."

Ducky nodded and stooped down to examine the body more closely. "I estimate he's been dead approximately three days. I don't see any evidence of gunshot or knife wounds so I cannot say for sure if this is the result of foul play or simply an unfortunate accident. I'll need to take this poor fellow back to the morgue and have a closer look." Gibbs simply nodded. He turned to survey the area around them.

It was a lonely, forsaken spot surrounded by dense forest and high mountains. The pond was in a small clearing with a dirt track leading past it. Deep shadows gave the area a cold, sinister feel. Gibbs didn't like it. It felt wrong somehow. He frowned and began to say as much to Ducky when he heard a sound coming from further up the track. He turned to see a tall, lean man with a long grey beard striding purposefully down the path towards them.

Gibbs watched warily. The man's flinty gaze met Gibbs' directly without hesitation, his mouth a thin slash across his narrow face. He strode directly to Gibbs and abruptly halted a few feet away studying the NCIS agent with deep suspicion.

"Excuse me," the man said angrily, "Might I ask what you are doin' on my land? This is private property and you have no right to be here."

Gibbs could feel his hackles begin to rise. He held up his badge and ID. "NCIS Special Agent Jethro Gibbs," he said, his calm tone belying in irritation. "And what we're doing here is investigating a dead marine. You wanna comment on that?"

The man stiffened as he turned his gaze to the corpse but made no response. He stared at the dead man, his eyes darkening. Silently he mouthed some words then returned his attention to Gibbs. "I have never seen this man before in my life but I will pray for his soul." He paused as if considering his next words. "I am the Reverend Josiah MacAbee. I minister to the people in this area."

Gibbs lifted his eyebrows in faint surprise. The man looked like some illiterate hillbilly but spoke like a cultured man raised far from these desolate mountains. "You aren't from around here," observed Gibbs tilting his head slightly.

MacAbee's eyes briefly flicked away and then back. "I was born in the hills," he said stiffly, "But left as a young man to pursue my education. It was my wish to bring the Lord's word to the backwards people of the mountains. It has been my mission and I feel I have been successful." He gestured towards the surrounding mountains. "The people here are suspicious of strangers and I have often been called upon to represent them to outsiders as I do now. They revel in their isolation and to many would seem backwards and superstitious, but I can assure you, Special Agent Gibbs, that they are good, God-fearing people who simply wish to be left alone to worship as they will and avoid the evil influences of the outside world."

Gibbs studied the man mildly. "Well, Reverend, I have no desire to upset your congregation but if we find this was more than a simple accident, we may need to speak to some of these people."

MacAbee looked as if he would protest but he pressed his lips together then nodded. "If it comes to that, I will cooperate fully, Agent Gibbs. We have nothing to hide and will be more than happy to help discover what happened to your dead marine."

Gibbs reached into his pocket and handed MacAbee his card. "Call me if you happen to hear anything. How can I get in touch with you?"

McAbee chuckled softly. "We have no telephones here, Agent Gibbs, but if you must get word to me, you can leave a message at the general store in Providence. Brother Samuel Landon runs the general store and he knows how to reach me should the need arise."

Gibbs' eyes narrowed for a moment. He really didn't like this guy but he couldn't put his finger on anything specific. It was just a gut feeling and Gibbs had learned long ago to trust his gut. "Thanks, Reverend, we'll do that."

The Reverend turned to leave when he paused. He could see a tall young man stuffing a camera into his backpack. "Young man!" he called to get the agent's attention. "Be careful there. You are standing on the edge of precipice and could easily fall."

McGee, startled by the man's warning took a step backwards and immediately felt the ground drop away. The edge had been hidden by tall grass and weeds. With a cry of surprise he tumbled down the steep hill. A large oak tree abruptly halted his descent and McGee grunted in pain as he rubbed his bruised and battered body. Slowly, he climbed to his feet. He seemed to be in one piece.

"McGee!" Tim looked up to see Gibbs glaring down at him from the ravine's edge. "Quit fooling around and get back up here. We're leaving."

"I'm on my way, Boss!" called McGee but Gibbs had already disappeared. With a forlorn sigh, McGee reached down to pick up his pack then froze. There, just inches from his pack was a very large, very dangerous looking snake intently watching McGee with its flat, malevolent gaze. After years as a scout, McGee knew his poisonous snakes and he instantly recognized this one as a copperhead. He felt his mouth go dry as the snake turned its attention towards him, its mouth opening threateningly displaying its long, deadly fangs. McGee could feel his heart beginning to pound. He had to get his pack but the snake had rendered him immobile.

"You need some help?" Tim whirled around to see a young woman materialize behind him. Where had she come from? The girl strode up to Tim seemingly unhindered by the brush and rocks that choked the hill. To Tim, she looked like some kind of wood nymph. Her long thick auburn hair reached to her waist and her china blue eyes observed him with some interest.

"Careful!" cried Tim finally able to move. "There's a poisonous copperhead right there!"

The girl stopped alongside McGee then shook her head in amusement. "He won't hurt you." Mouth agape, Tim watched as the woman stepped close to the snake, began to croon softly then carefully reached down and fearlessly grabbed the snake behind its massive, triangular head. Tim could hear it hiss angrily but the copperhead didn't even try to bite her.

"These snakes are among God's noblest creatures," lectured the girl sternly. "You must learn to treat them with respect and they will know you as their friend." Then, without another word, snake still held firmly in her delicate hands, the girl turned and disappeared the way she had come. All Tim could do was stare in shocked disbelief.

"MCGEE!!!"

Cursing, McGee quickly snatched up his pack and began the scramble back to the top of the ravine. Why did these things always seem to happen to him?