Signed SEAL'd Delivered
Tracy Little could smell it when she walked in the front door. She sighed as she realized that this was going to be one of those days where she hated her job. At 19 and in college, there weren't too many options for employment that didn't put her behind a counter asking if someone wanted fries with that.
Her long blonde hair had never done well in the hot greasy environment of a restaurant, and regardless of that, she had always been happiest with solitary work. She could listen to music, work at her own pace, and not talk to whiny 16 year old kids complaining about how their parents had mistreated them.
At least they had parents who cared enough to ground them for being out past curfew, her parents hadn't even noticed when she would be gone for days at a time. That wasn't a good thing for her; she had gotten into lots of trouble by the time she was 17.
The smell from the kitchen snapped her back to the present. Occasionally Mr. Macey would leave something in his kitchen when he was suddenly called away on business. Tracy put the kitchen off for later as she recalled the time he had been called out of state after pulling a steak out to thaw on the counter and she was wonderfully fortunate enough to be the one that found it 2 weeks later when she came in to tidy up.
She shivered in disgust as she remember the way the meat juice had seeped through the container and over the counter, the smell of molded rotting meat permeated the room and it took everything she had not to throw up as she wiped the rotted streaks of blood off the counter and floor. Perhaps he had heeded her words and left the meat to thaw in a bowl this time so she wouldn't face quite the same mess as last time.
Tracy decided that the revolting part of her day could wait a little while, so she could keep her breakfast down. She moved first to the bathroom, turning up her iPod and singing along with her favorite Sugarland songs. The chemical smells wafting through the air as she scrubbed and wiped each surface helped to block out the smell of Mr. Macey's rotting meat.
She knew she should just move to the kitchen now, but she couldn't force herself to face what may await her and so she went on to the bedroom.
Tracy was surprised to see Mr. Macey's room in such disarray. He was normally very neat and tidy, perfect corners on the bed. Something she was sure stuck with him through boot camp and military training. However, today his bed was unmade, slightly askew and the pillows were on the floor with clothes strewn about. She imagined he may have been suddenly called out for work in the middle of some wild bedroom fun, and found herself blushing.
Tracy had always found her boss very attractive, so she didn't doubt that he had any number of wild nights, but this was the first time he had run out in such a hurry as to leave evidence of it.
After straightening up the bedroom and the living room she threw the clothes into a small white laundry basket and made her way toward the garage to start a load of laundry before she tackled the kitchen. As she passed through the kitchen she glanced over the counter tops, scared of what she might find, and perplexed when she didn't see anything laid out, rotting.
Perhaps he left something thawing in the oven, she mused, hoping it was in a dish of some sort, so she didn't have to clean out the whole stove. Tracy was lost in thought as she pulled the door open that separated the kitchen from the attached garage, flipping the light switch on in the same motion.
She was met with a wall of stench as the door swung open and her eyes instantly landed on the decaying body of her boss hanging from the rafters of his garage.
She could hear someone screaming as the laundry basket fell to the floor, clothes scattering. It was several seconds before she realized it was her shrill voice she heard and she tore her eyes away from the disgusting sight, sprinting to the front door and running outside sucking in gasp after gasp of glorious fresh air, but unable to shake the acrid stench.
"Good Morning, McGee." Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo said with his classic smile as he breezed into the bullpen barely 2 minutes early that morning a white paper bag in his hands.
Timothy McGee felt himself bristle slightly before he realized that despite the cocky smile on Tony's face the other agent had called him by his actual name instead of some ridiculous McNickname. "You're in a good mood. What's the occasion?"
"What's not to be happy about? It's the first sunny day of spring, it's Friday. My hair is behaving..." as if to illustrate his point Tony brushed his hand forward across his hair. McGee went back to booting up his computer as Tony continued to ramble. "Got myself a new shirt. Someone told me I look good in green." he finished, running a hand over his tie and looking down at his light green designer Italian shirt.
"I was right." Agent Ziva David said from right next to DiNozzo making him jump in surprise as he turned toward her.
"Where did you come from?"
Ignoring his question she reached up to his shirt and repeated his motion from a moment ago, running her hand down his tie and looking at his shirt. "It brings out your eyes." she stated in a matter-of-fact tone as she turned and moved to her desk.
"Incoming." Tony said as he launched a silver wrapped breakfast burrito from his bag in McGee's direction.
The younger agent looked up in time to block the silver torpedo from smacking him square in the face before he fumbled it three times and eventually dropped it in his lapped.
Tony chuckled, moving towards Ziva's desk as he said over his shoulder, "Nice going, McClumsy." He pulled a second burrito out of the bag, smiling as McGee grumbled behind him, and dangled the burrito over Ziva's head.
Agent David thumped him heartily in the stomach making Tony wince and drop her breakfast directly into her waiting hand.
"Geez, you're welcome." he muttered sarcastically, rubbing his stomach where she had punch him before moving back to his desk and diving into his own breakfast as he opened his email and various internal programs.
"Thank you." McGee and Ziva said at the same moment.
They were drowned out nearly completely at Special Agent Gibbs' curt "Grab your gear." as he entered the bullpen, his standard large morning coffee in one hand. The three agents instantly sprang to their feet and began holstering their weapons and grabbing backpacks.
Reflexes quicker then most would expect from a man of his years he deftly snapped the burrito Tony tossed his way out of the air without spilling a drop of his coffee or even missing a step as he moved toward his desk to grab his things. "Got a dead Lieutenant."
The house was in a suburb where you had to be sure your friends knew your address or they might end up at your neighbors house. With street after street of the same house right next to itself the only distinction being that each house was opposite it's neighbor. A garage on the left, door on the right followed by a door on the left, garage on the right.
"Ugh! How boring!" Tony sighed as he pulled the van up in from of their destination house, distinctive only in it's crime scene tape and emergency vehicles. The three agents hopped out of the van, moving to the back to gather their supplies. "Definitely a Home Owners Association neighborhood. Not a single colorful paint scheme, no flamboyant mailboxes, no pack rat neighbors with five cars in their front yard. This is Un-American!"
"It is American tradition to put rats in packages?"
Tony just rolled his eyes at Ziva as he spotted Gibbs' empty car across the street. He ventured inside to find the boss and get to work, leaving Tim to explain that one to the Israeli.
The warring smells of long dead corpse and cleaning chemicals assaulted his nostrils immediately as he stepped through the door and he almost envied the Probie lagging behind to explain yet another idiom to Ziva.
Pushing that aside and breathing through the stench, trying to flick that little switch in his brain that would help him zone out the smell, Tony followed the stench to the open door separating the kitchen and garage.
Gibbs was standing back from the still hanging body examining the scene in silence. Tony pulled a camera out of his bag and began to shoot the scene. Definitely looked like a suicide, but they always investigated suicides as murder until it was proven otherwise.
"Get a shot of that chair, DiNozzo." Gibbs said, sipping his coffee, which made the burrito in Tony's stomach feel slightly unsettled. How that man could consume anything in the presence of rotting human flesh was beyond him.
"On it, Boss."
"Make sure you get several angles, with correlation to the body."
"Not my first day, Boss."
Gibbs only grunted in reply.
Ziva joined them after a few moments. "Local LEOs state they did not touch a thing. Looked through the door and saw our guy. Called us right away thanks to the maid's statement that this is Lieutenant Trevor Macey, US Navy Seal."
"The maid is Tracy Little." McGee stepped into the garage making a face. "She has worked for the deceased for about 10 months. She comes by every 2 weeks and has her own key. She said the lieutenant was sometimes out of state for a week or two at a time on short notice."
McGee shifted nervously glancing at their boss.
"What wrong with you, Probie?" Tony asked between flashes of the scene in the garage he turned and snapped a picture of McGee's face making him blink and shoot the older agent an angry look.
"Boss?" McGee was met with just a raise of Gibbs' eyebrows in response so he continued, "Apparently the lieutenant had a habit of dropping everything to leave town and it was not unheard of for him to leave food out on the counter for a week or two before Miss Little returned to clean it up."
"Your point, McGee?"
"Uh, she thought the smell was from the kitchen and had avoided that part of the house until after she was done cleaning the rest of the rooms. Apparently the bedroom had been a mess. She thought it was possibly a sexual rendezvous that caused the mess in there, but after finding the lieutenant, she's concerned it could have been from someone ransacking the room."
Gibbs swore under his breath. "Ziva, McGee, bag and tag. Get her cleaning supplies. She probably cleared off every finger print."
"You thinking it's a murder, Boss?"
"No, DiNozzo, I know it is."
The younger agent turned back to the body hanging from the ceiling trying to figure out what it is that the team lead saw, but he wasn't seeing it.
ME Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard came in a moment later with Jimmy Palmer right behind him. He approached the body.
"Before you ask, Jethro, time of death is going to be a little tricky. I can't take a liver temp since he's been gone so long, but once I get back to the lab I am sure we can find some insect activity to get down to the day and closer to a time of death."
"Want us to cut him down, Duck?" Tony asked as the ME moved around the lieutenant's body.
Ducky apparently didn't hear the young agent as he continued to examine the deceased. "Who did this to you, my poor man?"
DiNozzo squinted his eyes, trying to see whatever it was the two older men were seeing that screamed murder over suicide. Tony felt himself examining the uncovered skin, face, hands, arms. The mottled color only appeared to be from his state of decay with no obvious signs of a struggle.
It wasn't until Tony moved behind the man that he gave himself a mental head-slap as he saw the knot tied in the rope at his neck and raised his camera to take several pictures of it.
No self respecting Navy Seal would tie such a sloppy knot. The rope was tight enough to pinch into Lieutenant Macey's skin, but on review it was not a slip knot. No one trying to kill themselves with such a wide knowledge of knots would chose to tie their noose in that manner.
Someone had staged quite a suicide scene here.
It wasn't until Tony went to cut the lieutenant down that it occurred to him. No matter how rested he had felt when he woke up this morning he really must be over-tired and anxious for the weekend.
Tony hadn't even had to move the chair he had photographed earlier to reach the knot which was secured to a wooden beam in the ceiling. There was no way the lieutenant could have been standing on this chair when he hung himself. The rope was too short and there was no indication on the floor suggesting the chair had scooted the 3 feet from the victim's feet as he stepped off.
His investigative skills, wherever they had gone, were back in full force. The agent noticed the slight fraying along the rope from just above the knot to where the rope was strung through a higher rafter, before hanging taut straight down where it was attached to the victim.
Any 2 month Probie would have seen the rope was clearly tied on this man, flung through the rafters and pulled up until the man was off the ground before being tied in place. No wonder Gibbs had given him such an irritated look a moment ago.
He felt a bit of shame creep over him as he realized that he had actually wanted this to be a suicide. Tony had hoped that, after working 10 plus hour days for the last week and a half, they could wrap up a quick suicide and be off work for a much needed weekend.
As Ducky signaled that he and Jimmy were ready to catch the lieutenant, Tony cut the rope. As he watched, Jimmy struggled and eventually lost his hold on the body, dropping it to the cement floor.
Tony knew his good mood was officially gone from that morning when he had none of his normal desire to tease the young man who really never had any luck in these types of situations.
He began to think that it was odd no one ever offered to help him out with this type of thing since he was inevitably going to drop something or break something. He didn't even find humor in watching Jimmy bluster as Ducky gave him a lecture on the proper treatment of the dead.
"DiNozzo!" Gibbs snapped and Tony found himself wondering how long he had been staring at that wooden beam and not hearing Gibbs call him.
"On it, Boss." Tony responded before he realized he didn't have any idea what he'd been asked to do.
Barely noon and he already knew it was going to be a long day.