Stay in the Moment

Shellie Williams

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or places of NCIS.

Rating: K+

Summary: Someone is kidnapping and torturing young men to death. Will Gibbs and his team find the murderer in time when one of their own is taken?


The bright lights of autopsy revealed in brutal detail many and various markings on the young man's torso. Ducky stood uncharacteristically silent, hands arrested in their examination, his eyes frozen, staring unseen at the body on his table. Even the signal that chimed as the door opened, admitting Gibbs, did not faze him. Gibbs slowed and came to a stop beside his old friend. Eyebrows rose in question, then lowered in a frown of worry as Gibbs followed Ducky's line of sight to the body. He waited, expecting that any minute the doctor would pull in a breath and expound, tying in a personal experience with his findings. Instead, he remained silent and frozen, staring. Gibbs lifted his eyes to Jimmy Palmer, across the room. Ducky's assistant caught Gibbs' gaze, then lowered his own, an expression eerily similar to mourning drawing his features down.

Beginning to worry, Gibbs lifted his hand and clasped Ducky's shoulder. The older man shuddered, as if he'd been taken by surprise. He glanced behind him. "Oh, Jethro, when did you get here?" Turning back to his table, he moved closer to it. "I'm glad you are; I wanted to show you what I found." He began circling the body slowly, his eyes scanning the wounds. Gibbs squinted, wondering if the lights were playing tricks on him, or if that was moisture he saw gathering in Ducky's eyes.

"What do you got for me, Duck?"

"Markings that remind me of my RAMC days. No." He straightened, almost as if standing at attention, and focused his eyes on Gibbs. His voice softened almost to a whisper. "No, this is like nothing I've ever seen, Jethro. This brutality goes beyond my years of experience, or even what I've read or been told, for that matter." He rounded the table, walking closer to Gibbs. "It's as if the torturer were practicing - experimenting, if you will - looking for that method of delivering maximum pain while keeping his subject alive as long as he could. Look -" Turning, he gestured to a particular mark on the man's body. "These puncture wounds go no farther than half to one inch deep - no doubt eliciting pain for Lance Corporal Davenport, but not causing enough damage for the poor boy to bleed to death, or to puncture anything vital. And some of these puncture wounds - here, and here -" he pointed as he explained, "show signs of healing."

"How long do you think the murderer had him?"

Ducky pulled his eyes away from the victim and looked at Gibbs, eyes wide. "Two or three months, at least."

Gibbs nodded slowly. "That fits what we've found so far." He lifted his chin to indicate the body. "Lance Corporal Davenport was reported AWOL nearly three months ago. Back in June his fiancé contacted his C.O. and told him that Davenport never showed up at her apartment when she knew he was home on leave. She didn't think anything of it at first, but after two days she decided that maybe it was more than just throwing back a few cold ones with his buddies and contacted his C.O. The C.O. couldn't do anything about it until he didn't show up for duty, three days later. They found a suicide note in his locker, and a duffle bag at the bridge where he said he was going to jump. Now, two and a half months later, his body shows up in Virginia, nowhere near the water."

Ducky turned back to the body, his shoulders slumped, face heavy with sorry. "All that time he was being tortured."

Gibbs ducked his head in a quick nod. "Anything else, Ducky?"

"Oh, I haven't even begun." Again, he pointed out various wounds as he listed methods of torture. "He has electrical burns, burns from a cattle prod, burns from a tazer - I've already mentioned the puncture wounds, which cover his torso front and back from chin to navel, evidence of blunt force trauma, broken fingers, broken ribs, multiple bruises and contusions -"

"Any sign of rape or sexual torture?"

Ducky shook his head. "No, nothing like that. And he was in pristine condition," he waved his hand over the body, "other than the obvious marks and injuries, of course. The murderer bathed his body, cleaning him thoroughly. He placed him in a posed position on the bed, as if he were sleeping peacefully. I believe the murderer feels extreme guilt for his actions, but not until after he's committed the final act of murder. It's as if he's punishing his victim, no doubt tormenting them verbally even as he inflicts atrocities on their body. But he didn't allow them to respond. Notice here -" Ducky shifted sideways to the head of the table. Gently, he touched the corners of the Lance Corporal's mouth. "The torn and raw skin indicates he gagged the poor fellow, probably with a rag stuffed into his mouth and another tied around to the back of his head. Mr. Palmer found fibers lodged in the victim's throat, as well as in his hair along the path where the gag would have circled his head."

"Metro has two cases very similar to this. I'll ask for the autopsy reports and let you look them over. See if the cases have enough in common to tie them with ours."

Ducky turned and watched Gibbs walk away. "Three bodies? You realize what that means, Jethro."

The doors closed, but Ducky still heard his reply: "Serial Killer."