Naval Recruiting Command was located in a reddish building outside of North Chicago at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Agents McGee and David had made good time from the hotel to meet with Joanna Well's coworkers and superior officer.
The inside of NCR was what you'd expect from an office; lines of cubicles with people working. It was, Agent McGee reflected as he sat down with one of Wells's coworkers, rather unimpressive.
"I'm sorry I had to be the one to tell you this," he said after a moment, "but Joanna Wells was killed this weekend."
The coworker blinked, "That's awful. What happened?"
"We can't really talk about it; it's an ongoing investigation. What can you tell me about Petty Officer Wells?"
"Not that much, Agent McGee. She wasn't very social."
"Any idea if someone would want to hurt her?"
"She seemed nice when we talked. She… didn't come to office picnics or anything like that. I can't believe someone would do that…"
"Did she maybe say anything about why she was going to DC?"
"DC? Washington DC? No. I didn't even know she was planning a trip. I just thought she was sick or something. Like I said, Agent McGee, we didn't really talk.
"Alright, well, thank you for your help. Could you show me to her cubical?"
"Of course, right this way. Are you going to be in town long?"
"Just for the investigation…"
"Maybe I could… show you around town?"
"I'm sorry Agent David, I didn't really know Wells."
"But you were her superior, were you not?"
"I am, but that doesn't mean we talked. She was a good worker, wasn't late or anything like that."
"Did she say why she was going to DC?"
"DC? I'd thought she was meeting with her friends. She's a part of some new age group."
"What sort of new age group?"
"I'm afraid I don't know the details. She mentioned it to me once or twice when she asked for leave though. Had some Latin name. If you'll excuse me, Agent David, I really need to get back to work. We're pretty busy, and with Joanna's death.."
"Of course. If we have any more questions we'll call."
"I'll have someone get you the contact information for her next of kin."
"That would be appreciated."
"Hey Kedzie, how are things back in LA?" Eric waved at Kedzie from one of the large screens in the LA office.
"Not bad, Eric. It's been slow. How's the conference going."
"Actually, about that. Dead girl showed up in the hotel, faked suicide. We think it's connected to an investigation in DC."
"Was she Navy?"
"The girl here? No. But the one in DC was, and she was stationed out of Chicago. I have a program on the computer there that'll get into her financials. Can you run it for me?"
"Sure thing. I'll let you know what it turns up."
"Tell Abby I say hi," Kedzie responded, grinning.
Eric blushed, "Uh, well, I gotta go. Call me if you find anything. I emailed you the information."
Kedzie leaned back in the chair as the screen clicked off. "Alright, Sarah, let's see what your story is. Cause let's be honest, if I don't do something, Sam and Callen will drive me crazy."
"Any luck?" McGee asked Ziva as the two left the NCR building.
"Perhaps. According to her supervisor, Wells was active in some sort of new age group. That is where she believed Wells was going last week, rather than Washington DC."
"Huh. Well, better than me. Co-workers said she didn't really talk much."
"Yes, her supervisor gave me that impression as well. What about her desk?"
"Nothing; Heck, I'd almost think it had been swept clean with how little was on her computer. Apparently she does most of her work on paper."
"Less sawdust, more OCD. Did you get next of kin information?"
"Her family lives in Akron, apparently, though I am not certain as to where that is. Shall we head there next?"
"That's a bit of a drive, we might as well stop by Hornsen's apartment; it's on the way."
"If she has an apartment in town, why was she staying at a hotel?"
"I guess we'll find out."
"You talk to McGee, Dinozzo?"
"Yeah Boss, he sent over the security video from the hotel. Still loading though. Network's been slow all day."
"Fine. What else do you have?"
"Whole lot of nothing. Looks like Wells had a pretty big bank account, but there's no suspicious activity on it. I'm guessing it's family money, boss. She paid for the hotel through that."
"And the dead girl in Chicago?"
"Someone's running that down there; Eric? No idea who he was, but Ziva said he was helping."
"Eric Beal. Works with the undercover office in LA; he was also attending the conference. Very good at what he does."
Tony jumped, "Director Vance. Good to see you."
"What's the story, Dinozzo?"
"Like I was just telling Gibbs, looks like Wells had her own money. There isn't any suspicious activity on her account. Ziva and McGee are running down leads in Chicago. They sent security video, but it's still downloading. Any idea what's up with the network?"
"No idea; but IT is coming to figure it out tomorrow. Keep on it, Dinozzo. SecNav wants to know if there's a connection between our two victims; ASAP."
"Will do, Director."
"Whatcha up to Kedzie," G Callen asked as he strolled into the control room.
"Oh, great. Got tired of bothering Sam and Nate?"
"Don't be like that! I said I was sorry for earlier. Seriously, what are you working on. Maybe there's something I can do to help?"
Kedzie sighed, "It's nothing, Callen. I'm just doing some detective work for Eric. He stumbled onto a case at conference and wanted me to check something."
"A case? Should we be heading out there? Please say yes; I've never seen the city so dead."
"Sorry to disappoint, but he's working with Abby and some of Gibbs's team who were at the conference."
"So what's the story?"
"I don't know all the details. Something about a pair of faked suicides, one in DC and one in the hotel. I'm getting financials on the girl in the hotel."
"Faked suicides? Are we thinking there's a connection?"
"Well… Gibbs sure is. I'll ask Eric when he calls back. It sounds like Local LEOs don't think it was even faked."
"Sounds like it might have been a professional. Anything I can do to help?"
"Not unless you think there's a connection out here."
"I'll take a look."
Kedzie shot him a level look before turning back to the screen, "You are a strange strange man."
Callen grinned sheepishly, "Hey, it beats doing paper work."
"Well well, now what do we have here?" Dr. Mallard peered carefully through the magnifying glass in front of him.
"What is it, Duck?"
"Ah! Jethro! Your timing is as impeccable as ever. I believe I've solved the mystery of the marks on Petty Officer Well's back."
"What are they?"
"Well, now, I still don't know what caused them, but I believe they are writing, or numbers specifically. Yes, you see, I ran the dots through one of the programs Abby gave me some time ago, and this is what it found," Dr. Mallard handed Gibbs a piece of paper with '19:26' written on it, "quite frankly though I'm not sure what to make of it."
"Killer leaving a message?"
"Almost certainly, but it's a very cryptic one. I thought at first it was the time, but that didn't make sense. Still, a pair of numbers is not that odd. It could have a special meaning to the killer, or even to the victim. It's certainly not as strange as some of the things I've seen. I can try to work up a psychological profile, if you wish, Jethro. Jethro?" Ducky blinked and looked around the otherwise-empty morgue, "And you've already left."
Cook County Morgue was a surprisingly large building just off of the Eisenhower Express way. It was, Jimmy Palmer realized as he walked up tot the doors, entirely unlike the morgue back at NCIS. It was a squat grey building a few blocks away from Cook County Hospital with it's own parking lot and a sprawling lawn. Not what you'd expect in Chicago or in an ME's office. Still, this was where he was supposed to be, collecting the body of the girl who'd been murdered back at the hotel for Ducky. He took a breath and pushed open the door.
"Can I help you?"
'What kind of ME's office has a visitors desk,' Jimmy wondered, "Yeah, I'm Jimmy Palmer. I'm with NCIS?"
"That's great," the man behind the desk rolled his eyes, "and?"
"I'm… here to pick up a body?"
"You can't collect bodies here, kid."
"What? Oh, no, not like that. For NCIS. We're taking over an investigation."
"And… NCIS is?"
"Naval Criminal Investigative Service. So, if you could just point me towards the ME…?"
"Look, Kid, I don't know what you think is going on, but this is the morgue for the Chicago PD. Not 'NCSI' or whatever. So why don't you just turn around and go back where you came from. You're not old enough to work for an agency anyway. What are you, twenty? Is this some frat dare?"
"What? No! Look. I just need to talk to the ME, alright? He should have the paperwork."
"Fine, whatever kid," the guard rolled his eyes.
"Look, if you'll just let me talk to the ME…"
"He's back that way, Kid," The guard pointed down one of the hallways, "Hope you realize you're breaking the law if you're not who you say you are."
"I am. Who I say I am, that is, not lying."
"Sure, kid, whatever. Fifth door on the right."
Jimmy frowned, but headed down the hallway and paused outside the door. Was that polka music?
"That footage loaded yet, Dinozzo?"
"Just coming up now, Boss. What'd Ducky say?"
"Killer left a message on the body. '19:26'"
"1926? The year the Cardinals beat the Yankees? Crazed fan?"
"I doubt it. Play the footage."
The footage, like most, was grainy, but it was clear enough. Sarah Hornsen and a man in gray, just like the last tape, made their way through the hallway. Unlike last time, however, at the end of the tape the man looked up towards the camera.
"Slipped up. Matches the description and footage from the hotel here," Gibbs trailed off at the stunned look on Tony's face, "something wrong, Dinozzo?"
"Boss, that's Darby Crane."