Chapter 3

Following the familiar 'ding' declaring the elevator's arrival, Forensic Scientist Abigail Sciuto didn't have to think twice about whose fast approaching steps was echoing through the corridor outside her lab. And had it not been for Tony and McGee's respective calls from upstairs only seconds prior, the man's natural fragrance consisting by caffeine mixed with the stoic base notes of wood and sawdust still would've given him away every time.

Not even bothering to turn around Abby greeted her visitor. "Hi Gibbs!"

"Tell me you've got something Abs." Came the gruff, slightly urged reply, confirming that it was indeed Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs who had now taken position behind her.

"That, I can," Abby announced excitedly, leaving no time to waste. "Okay, so Tony heard Ziva say something about a girl, right? Well, I had a friend from the local P.D. check for reports on missing girls consistent with what we could establish from our findings in the woods," She began, taking a brief pause to hit a few of the seemingly endless sea of buttons covering her double set of keyboards. "And voilà, meet Tanya Ivanov. She's the twelve-year-old only daughter of Aleksandr Ivanov, big time millionaire and owner of a Russian multimillion dollar oil company named IvanOIL Inc."

Not actually expecting an answer the scientist threw a quick glance to her right, where her boss was now intently studying the young Russian that had appeared on one of the computer screens, before resuming her rant.

"She disappeared two days ago and hasn't been seen or heard from since, father claims she was taken from their home in Travilah, Maryland while he was attending a business meeting in DC. Nothing was reported missing – well, nothing except the daughter that is – both bodyguards had been knocked unconscious and the nanny was found locked inside a closet mostly unharmed."

"They were collecting leverage for blackmail." Gibbs concluded.

"My thought exactly." Abby chirped in agreement, but the content smile spreading on her lips became short-lasting, disappearing completely as realization finally hit her. "Gibbs, if the kidnappers intend to use the daughter to gain control over her family I don't see any reasons for them to keep Ziva alive, assuming they haven't already… you know. And I don't think I can… I-I mean, please just tell me she'll be okay, okay?"

Pressing a comforting kiss to the younger woman's temple Gibbs choose his words carefully, making sure he made a promise he knew he could keep. "We'll find her Abby."

And find Ziva he would, no matter how long it was going to take him, but for it to be before it was too late he could only pray.

"I told you to shut up, bitch!"

The third slap left the world spinning and it took her a bit longer to regain her posture than it had the first two times. Fighting off the dark spots rimming her vision Ziva made a mental note to stop correcting her captor whenever pronouncing her name wrong.

She'd only just been introduced to the man, whose identity was still beyond her knowledge, but she could tell by the bulging vein visible beneath his ski mask that he was an individual of hot temper and low patience. He was also the owner of a thick, heavily accented voice, not in complete synch with his rather slim frame.

She supposed the two bulky lackeys behind him were meant to pose as compensation for the muscle their boss lacked where they stood positioned on each side of Mr. Bitch Slap, as her still foggy brain had decided to call him.

All men were armed but the testosterone oozing mountains were the only ones with their guns drawn, pointing them at Ziva and Tanya respectively. One of them was bearing Ziva's own Sig nicely tucked in behind his belt, much to her irritation. No one laid hands on her weapon, no matter how beefy or gorilla-like they might be.

"Now, Miss David – or should I say Agent?" The masked man began anew, intentionally mispronouncing her name while flashing her badge in a mocking manner. "I'd like for you to stay quiet while I have a word with young Tanya here."

Immediately overwhelmed with protectiveness over the girl Ziva lashed out towards the man on the left, the one who was approaching a very frightened looking Tanya. "You will not touch her!"

Senses still momentarily impaired from the recent head trauma, Ziva failed to notice the third man in the room, who had sprung into action. Yet another blow had her hit the floor with tremendous force and she couldn't prevent the pained cry finding its way up her throat as the man from the right straddled her.

"Ziva!" Tanya sobbed as lackey number one proceeded to grab her by the arm and drag her across the room towards the other side.

Ziva, desperate to offer the scared child some sort of solace, found herself unable to speak through the blinding pain originating from her side. And with the weight of a full grown man pressing down on her ribs she soon started feeling light-headed.

Content with Ziva being immobilized for the time being, the masked man turned his attention to Tanya.

The sniffling girl had been forced down a chair and confusion filled her eyes as a camera was propped up on a stand before her. She threw Ziva a worried glance, her confidence dropping even further at the woman's lack of movement.

The sudden touch of a hand gently squeezing her shoulder sent the girl stiff with fear.

"And now dear Tanya," The man in the mask said softly, as he turned her slightly where she was seated. She was now directly facing the dark lens. "You will do exactly as I say."

He turned to the subordinate who had taken stance behind the camera. "Abrov, did you get the paper?"

"Yeah, here." The man known as Abrov confirmed, handing over a freshly printed copy of USA Daily.

The masked man turned back to Tanya and asked, "You're a smart girl, are you not?"

The girl simply stared at him, eyes red-rimmed and wide.

"I think you are," He went on, not really caring for an answer. "And therefore I will give you a chance to get out of all this unharmed."

Her eyes followed as her captor gesticulated towards the camera, his deep voice disturbingly gentle.

"All you have to do is repeat what I say into the lens, and you'll be home with daddy in no time." He grasped her tightly around the jaw in such a sudden move even Abrov seemed a bit startled. "Are we clear?"

Struggling to find words Tanya nodded the affirmative.

"What's that, dear?" His grip tightened, she could feel his rough nails penetrate her pale skin. "I cannot seem to hear you."

"Y-yes!" Tanya stuttered.

"Such a good girl, daddy taught you well." He smiled behind the mask, his eyes glistering in anticipation. He threw a glance at the other side of the room. "Balk, status?"

"She's unconscious." The larger man reported in his mother tongue.

Russian being her first language as well, Tanya felt her heart sink. I'm alone, again.

A few minutes later, Tanya was still sitting in the wooden chair, now holing up the newspaper for the camera to see.

Behind the stand Abrov pressed REC, but it wasn't until upon seeing the masked man's approving nod that the girl's trembling voice filled the silence.

"My name is Tanya Ivanov, daughter of Alexandr Ivanov, and here are my abductors' demands."


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