That I Come From pt. 1
Halloween had come and gone without incident, and things were calming down after the team's rather dramatic kidnapping/espionage case. Of course, Xander noticed that some of the team, notably Tim and Tony; were a bit awkward around him, as if they were afraid that he'd go postal no them at the drop of a hat; but things were slowly getting back to normal or at least what passed for normal at NCIS.
"So you're telling me that you grew up in Southern California and you don't know anything about college basketball," Tony asked incredulously.
"What can I say Tony, I was never much of a jock and sports kind of bore me."
"You didn't play any sports in high school?"
"I was on the swim team, but other than that, nope."
"Why the swim team," Ziva asked.
"My girlfriend liked how I looked in the uniform," Xander replied.
"Uniform," Ziva asked, confused.
"Yeah, a speedo," Xander shot back with a twinkle in his eye.
Ziva froze and seemed to go non-verbal for a moment or two while Tony and Tim chuckled at her discomfort. Tony then came back to the subject at hand. "So you have no idea about who's good or bad in the world of college basketball?"
"Nope, not a clue." He leaned forward, "So who do you like this year Tony?"
"Ohio State, of course," Tony said, with obvious pride in his alma mater. "Sullinger's gonna have a monster year."
"Didn't they get beaten in the championship by Kentucky last year," Tim asked.
"They might have," Tony replied.
"And they were eliminated by Kentucky the year before that as well," Ziva added.
"Yeah," Tony said with a huff.
"So it would be fair to say that Ohio State should win it all as long as Kentucky isn't there," Tim piled on.
"So you guys are saying that I should be pulling for Kentucky," Xander asked, twisting the dagger.
"No," Tony shot back. Only to be over-ridden by "Yes," from Tim, Ziva and Gibbs.
"Et tu, Boss," Tony asked, turning the mild puppy dog eyes at Gibbs.
Gibbs just looked at DiNozzo for a second and snorted. "Everyone up in MTAC," Gibbs said. "There may be a situation at NS Great Lakes."
Without a word the team got up and followed Gibbs up to MTAC, it was Xander's first time there and he thought that it was something he might get the Council to consider, mostly because it was cool as hell. He'd get Andrew to make the presentation and after five minutes, Giles would be ready to sign anything just to shut the geek up.
"What's the situation, Captain," Gibbs asked the older man in uniform on the screen.
"We've had four recruits killed over the last month, the same MO each time." The picture changed from the old guy to a close-up of a man's neck. There were two holes in it surrounded by very pale skin. "All four died from massive blood loss, apparently from neck wounds."
Xander turned almost as white as the victim when he saw the image on the screen. Here he was trying to get away from the supernatural and it just seemed to follow him around. He tuned out the conversation between Gibbs and the old guy in charge and took a good long look at the neck wound. There was something off about it. Then it hit him; the wound was too neat. There was no tearing around the wound, nor were there bruises or impressions on the neck from the other teeth; all of which would be present if it had been a real vampire attack. He was relaxing when he heard a too familiar word, "Sunnydale".
It was then that he noticed that everyone was looking at him. "Sorry," he said sheepishly. "I was a bit lost in the past."
"So you've seen something like this before," Gibbs asked.
Xander started to panic but he held it in. If he just stuck to the party line, he'd be alright. "Yeah, back in Sunnydale we saw this all the time," he began. "We had a heck of a gang problem and we didn't find out until later that they were sponsored and controlled by the mayor. Anyway, they would attack people with barbeque forks; it was kind of their signature."
"Why," the captain asked.
"Superstition mostly," Xander replied. "The mayor was very into the occult so he had the gang's signature kill look like a vampire attack. It kept the population scared inside at night so the gang could operate with impunity and the fear also worked to keep the mayor in power. It also let the cops know which murders to ignore. The cops on the night shift there were all in the mayor's pocket as well so if they saw a 'barbeque fork accident' it was filed and forgotten without any kind of investigation."
"And the mayor, what happened to him," Gibbs asked.
"He was killed in a gas explosion in 1999," Xander replied. The gang activity started winding down after that, but they were so entrenched in the town that it was impossible to clean em all out." Xander turned to face the Captain on the screen, "You might want to see if anyone in the area has a connection to Sunnydale."
"You think that some remnant of the gang found its way here," the Captain asked.
"It's a possibility," Xander replied.
"But why now, why wait fourteen years after things broke up?"
"I don't know; that's just the first possibility that came to mind."
The Captain changed his focus again. "Agent Gibbs, would you be willing to oversee this investigation?"
Gibbs paused for a second, thinking about their current load and said, "Certainly sir, we'll be there this evening."
"Thank you agent," the Captain replied and then the screen went dark.
"You've gotta be kidding me," Xander said, as soon as the picture died.
"What's the matter probie," Tony asked.
"Chicago, in November," Xander said, looking at his teammates like they were idiots. "It's colder than a Siberian welldigger's ass there."
"Actually, I believe the high there today was thirty five with a low of twenty three," Tim chimed in with his 'matter of fact' voice. "That's not so bad."
"Not so bad," Xander said as the others started to leave. "I'll freeze." He fell in behind the others, "Think about it. I grew up in California and spent the last ten years in Africa, eighty is a cool to mild day for me, I can't even imagine freezing; let alone below freezing." He then got a panicked look on his face. "When are we leaving, Gibbs?"
"About two hours," Gibbs answered. "Why?"
"I don't have anything for cold weather," Xander shot back. "God help me, I'm gonna have to buy clothes." He looked positively ill at the notion of shopping.
"Just be quick about it," Gibbs groused. "Xander," he called out as the younger man was hurrying towards the elevator.
"You don't have to bring the entire arsenal," he said with a grin.
"Spoilsport," Xander replied as the doors closed.
Shopping hadn't been as bad as Xander had anticipated. At the local Wal-Mart he'd gotten a couple more flannel shirts and some T-shirts to go under em. Then he'd lucked out and found a military surplus store and bought a couple of jackets, a stocking hat and some fingerless gloves. The piece-de-resistance, though, was an old Army greatcoat. There were still unit insignia's on the coat and Xander recognized some of them from the pictures of his dad and granddad. What made it perfect, though, was that because it was an 'Army' coat, it would really get under Gibbs' skin; something Xander was always looking to do just to get the guy to loosen up a bit.
What hadn't been as painless had been the call he was forced to make. Every report of possible vampire activity had to be forwarded to the appropriate section, and this meant a call to Cleveland. With a grimace he dialed his phone.
"Hello, NSWC; how can I help you?"
"Hi Alexa, it's Xander; can you get a hold of Dawn for me?"
"Xander, where are you?"
"Washington at the moment, but I'm on my way to the Chicago area and I need to run some stuff by Dawn."
"Sorry to hear that," the girl replied. She was a senior slayer and had been in Cleveland even longer than Dawn had. Consequently she'd been ringside for the great Xander/Dawn debacle.
Xander listened to about twenty seconds of muzak before the phone was picked up. "What is it Xander," Dawn asked.
Stifling the replies he wanted to make, Xander did his best to remain professional. "There are a group of wanna-be's north of Chicago. The group I'm with has been pulled in on the investigation and I need to know who's running the local house. I've been out of the loop on that kind of thing for six months."
"What do you mean, wanna-be's," she asked.
"Well, from all appearances, it really is a case of people killing other people with barbeque forks."
There was silence for almost a minute, then; "You've got to be kidding me."
"I wish I was, but that's really what it looks like. When we get there I'll look around to make sure, but right now my gut's telling me that it's a case of human on human." Xander had phrased things that way intentionally. He knew that given half a chance, Dawn would nit-pick his arguments to death with her superior knowledge of demon species but neither she nor anyone else argued with Xander's instincts. He'd been right too many times for her to be able to blow it off.
Most likely realizing that she'd been outmaneuvered, Dawn replied; "The head watcher in Chicago is Paul McGann, he's a new guy from Canada." Then she rattled off the house number and the man's personal cell number. "Now I want you to promise me to give them a call if you run into anything out of the ordinary."
The warning would have warmed his heart if her tone hadn't sounded like she was lecturing a four year old. "Ordinary for me, or ordinary for everyone else," Xander heard himself ask.
There was a pause and when she answered, it almost sounded like Dawn's voice had thawed a bit. "Ordinary for everyone else of course." She then added, "If you ran into what was ordinary for you, we'd be evacuating the city and probably most of the Great Lakes."
It took Xander a second to process the fact that he'd joked with Dawn for the first time in over two years; calling him stunned would be putting it mildly. Deciding to end things on a high note he replied, "No doubt. Sorry to run, but I've got a plane to catch, stay safe Dawn."
He almost missed her whispered, "Stay safe Xander." But he heard it and was smiling the entire way to Chicago.
"You just had to wear that coat, didn't you Xander," Gibbs groused as they walked out of the terminal at O'Hare.
"Hey, it's military, within my budget and it's keeping me warm right now despite the fact that it's cold enough for my nose hair to freeze," Xander said from the depths of his greatcoat. "Plus it gives me somewhere to stash my sword."
"You do know that we work for the navy, and we'll be conducting an investigation at a naval installation; right?"
"Hey, Army, Navy; what does it matter, ultimately they both work for Uncle Sam." He pointed at the shoulder insignia, "Besides, it's from the Fourth Infantry, that was my Granddad's unit."
"When was your Grandfather in the Army," Ziva asked.
"World War Two," Xander replied. "His unit hit Utah Beach on D-Day." He paused for a second. "He said that it was one of the worst days he could ever imagine, but that once he saw a concentration camp, he knew that what he'd gone through was worth it."
Ziva and the others just nodded their heads at this statement but then Tony spoke up. "You didn't really bring your . . . . .," he was cut off by the hiss of metal.
"Sword, sure I did," Xander said. "It was a gift from a friend, plus it's a good weapon for intimidation. Most people would rather get shot than cut up into fillets."
"I bet that's right," Tony said. Then he turned to Gibbs. "Base housing boss?"
"Yeah, you and McGee are bunking together, me and Xander and of course Ziva gets her own place."
"That is not necessary Gibbs," Ziva started. "I am perfectly comfortable . . . ,"
"I know you are, but it'll be bad enough with everyone closing ranks. We don't need the extra scrutiny."
Ziva just nodded and kept her mouth shut. She hated being singled out because of her gender. Sure, she used it from time to time, what woman didn't; but to always be held apart because she was the only woman on the team chaffed her. Still fuming a bit, she got into the rental car with the others and headed north.
Naval Station, Great Lakes had been training sailors for over one hundred years, and the building the team was currently in looked like it had been standing for most of it. Mostly they were looking over the reports and photographs of the four killings; Tim was currently cursing (quietly) the buildings crappy WiFi connection. Because of the time lag, three of the victims were already in the ground, however; the latest body had been sent to Ducky for a more in depth autopsy and the crime scene samples had been sent to Abby for her to work her voodoo. "Was there a lot of blood found at the scenes," McGee asked from his corner.
"No, barely any," Tony answered, flipping a page of the report he was perusing.
"So they were killed somewhere else and the bodies were dumped," Tim concluded.
"Not necessarily," Xander chimed in. If these nutsos think they're vampires, they may have had some way to collect the blood at the scene." He saw everyone looking at him oddly. "I admit it's not likely, but you've got to remember that whoever is doing this thinks they're vampires or wants everyone else to think they're vampires."
"You said 'they'," Gibbs asked. "Why?"
"Well the tox screens were clear, there were no signs of a struggle and none of these guys were small. That suggests multiple assailants," Xander continued. "One smaller and nonthreatening perp as the lure and then a much larger partner to restrain the victim; then once he's under control the lure finishes the victim off."
The others looked thoughtful at the possible scenario and Gibbs just grunted. "Are there any commonalities to the victims," Xander asked.
"Not that we can find, at least not yet," McGee answered. "Abby's going a bit more in depth but one was a Fire Controlman, one was a Gunner's Mate and two were Machinist Mates and all of them were here from different parts of the country."
"So they were all in A School," Tony clarified.
"Makes sense," Gibbs answered. "None of the guys in boot would be off base."
"They are all quite good looking," Ziva said as she was looking at the pre-death pictures of the victims." She started flipping through another report. "Was there any signs of recent sexual activity?"
"I don't think they looked," Gibbs replied. "What are you thinking?"
"I'm thinking that the assailant in this case might be female," Ziva said. "It would certainly explain the lack of a struggle in each of the victims," she replied with a smirk.
"I can see that," DiNozzo said. "Guy goes out on the town, gets picked up by a couple of hotties, has the night of his life and then gets forked," he paused, "literally."
There was silence as the other team members considered Tony's scenario. This was broken by the sound of a hand smacking the back of a head. "Thanks boss," Tony muttered.
As he was listening to DiNozzo, something the man had said about there being more than one girl pulled Xander's mind in a different direction. He looked up, "do we have a map that shows the locations of the bodies?"
"Why," Gibbs wanted to know.
"Just a hunch right now," Xander said. Soon enough a map was found and laid out on the table.
"What do you see," Ziva asked.
"I think we're beyond pretend vampires here," Xander said.
"What makes you say that that," Tim asked.
"Because the bodies were laid out on the cardinal compass points; North, South, East and West," Xander replied.
"And this tells you . . . . ." Gibbs began.
"Witches, I honestly think that we may be dealing with girls who think they're witches."
"A high possibility of female perpetrators, the victims laid out on the compass points, one victim per week and the time of death is around one AM."
"Why is that significant," Ziva asked.
"One AM is the true witching hour or thirteen O'clock; so if you've got someone convinced that they're a witch, they're probably running off movies and other bits of popular culture so the common movie clichés should be in play here."
"And the bit with the barbeque fork?"
"Either misdirection or they're collecting the blood for some sort of 'spell'," Xander replied.
"Witches," Gibbs said skeptically.
"Over in Africa there are a lot of men and women who consider themselves witches. Witchcraft is a recognized crime in many of the countries over there, not to mention cultural traditions like the Golem of Hebrew mythology, or the Fakirs and Djinn in Arabic lore or the Yogis of India. Heck, Witchcraft is still on the books as a crime a lot of places here in the good old U S of A," Xander said.
"So a lot of people seriously believe this kind of thing?" Tim asked.
"Sure, I bet I could find you at least three shops in Chicago that openly refer to themselves as magic shops, and by magic I don't mean pull a rabbit out of a hat or something like that."
Gibbs was obviously mulling over what he'd heard and learned; finally he looked at his team. "DiNozzo, you talk to the bunkmates and friends of each victim."
"Find out where they liked to hang out and what they liked to do with their free time; got it boss," DiNozzo replied.
"I'll check their backgrounds and see if there's any kind of connection between the four victims, maybe there's someone or something they all had in common."
"David, you take Xander and . . ."
"Check out where the bodies were dumped and also whatever is near the center of the perimeter they create to see if we can find either where the men were abducted or where they were killed."
"And you, boss;" Tony asked.
"I'm gonna let Ducky and Abby know what to look for and then review what the instructors had to say about each of the victims," Gibbs replied.
They scattered, each going to work on their assignment and hoping that things got clearer.
As Tim dug into things, he figured he couldn't have chosen four men who were more different if he'd tried. The only commonality they seemed to have was that they were all Caucasian. They were from different parts of the country, from different social strata's and different family situations. As he kept digging, what Ziva said came back to him, there was one other thing they had in common, and that was that they were all good looking guys. He paused for a second; maybe if he looked at the type of girls they were attracted to he would find something. It was weird, but he'd seen stranger connections before.
Tony remembered when he'd been this young; he didn't remember being this much of a jerk though. He was talking to Seaman Simpson, who was the bunkmate of Seaman Kovatch, the first victim. So far he'd heard about how much the navy sucked, how it was essential to know how to mix a killer Margarita because girls liked those, and how much better this place was than Amarillo Texas, where Seaman Simpson was from.
"So did you all hit the town together?"
"Yeah man, especially after Boot was over me and Stevie and about four other guys closed this place down. God were we hammered that night."
"You all leave together?"
"Yeah man, there wasn't anything worth tapping there that night."
"So who else was with you?"
"Stevie, Boatwright, Thompson, Markle and Stephens, we left together and we came back together."
Tony noted the names so he could cross reference them later with the friends of the other victims. "So is that the only time you all went out?"
"The six of us, yeah. But me and Stevie went out a couple more times before . . . . you know."
"Do you remember the name of the place you went?"
"Nah, man; it was just this local dive over on 10th, but this one time we went to this weird club over on Washington, near the park."
"What was weird about it?"
"Well it was one of those clubs where everyone is wearing makeup and leather, you know, that kind of place."
"Did Stevie like that kind of place?"
"Not the place so much as the chicks."
"Better looking girls there?"
"Not to me they weren't, but Stevie seemed to like the no sun and leather thing."
"Did he pick anyone up?"
"Nah, but a couple of chicks sent him a drink. He went and talked to em but he came back and we came back together."
"When was this?"
"About three days before he . . . . . you know."
"Do you remember the name of that place?"
"Nah, but how many places like that are around here?"
"Good point," Tony muttered as he put away he notebook. "Thanks for all your help," Tony said. Then he handed the young man his card, "If you think of anything else, give me a call."
"Did it help?"
"Yeah," Tony replied, "it did."
Gibbs thought that the instructors had been pretty darned useless as far as helping out his investigation, however good they might be at teaching recruits. Since he'd struck out there, he hoped that Ducky and Abby could give him something. Ducky was first on his list.
"Yes Jethro, Seaman Fredrickson was engaged sexually quite near his demise."
"How do you know that, Ducky?"
"Do you really want me to go into details Jethro?"
Gibbs paused, actually considering it for a second, but then he just let it pass. "Any signs of a struggle or indications that he'd been drugged?"
"No to both, although the full workup won't be done for another twelve hours."
"Is there anything you can tell me?"
"Whoever did this knew what they were doing, Jethro. There was no hesitation, the skin would tear if there were movement and there wasn't. That tells us that whoever wielded the fork did so with precision. And since there was only one wound, with accuracy as well which all adds up to someone who knew what they were doing."
"So someone handy with a barbeque fork, that's most of Chicago."
"Well, you might consider someone who grew up on a farm," Ducky said. "Slaughtering a pig or a man is essentially the same thing as far as the mechanics of the act are concerned."
"I'll keep that in mind," Gibbs said with a grin. "Thanks Ducky and let me know if you find anything else."
"Goodbye Jethro," the old ME replied.
Gibbs hung up but then immediately hit speed dial two on his phone, he didn't have to wait long for an answer. "How do you always know when I've got something for you," Abby asked in a huff.
"Just good timing," Gibbs replied with a smile, "So what can you tell me?"
"They were all killed in the same place, they were naked when it happened, whoever did it put altar oil on them . . . ."
"Before or after they were killed," Gibbs cut in.
"I'd have to say after but that's not certain. I'm running the compound and trying to track down the brand," Abby continued with a rush. "Oh and this is the most important of all, they were all killed on the roof of a building that's at least eighty years old."
"Now how could you know that," Gibbs asked, bemused.
"There were tar and asbestos particulates in the victim's back, from laying on the roof of wherever he was killed, but the great bit was that there was a splinter in his shoulder. I guess when they were taking him off the roof his shoulder hit something like a door frame or something. Well anyway, the splinter was from an American Chestnut and the entire population of American Chestnuts was destroyed by blight prior to 1930. So it has to be in a building that was put up before 1930 or more than eighty years old," Abby finished with a flourish.
"That's my girl," Gibbs said. He could almost hear Abby preen over the phone. "Let me know if you find anything else," he said and hung up. Idly he wondered how everyone else was doing.
HINKSTON PARK, WAUKEGAN, IL
"So this is where the first body was found?"
"Yes," Ziva replied, "the body of Seaman Steven Kovatch from Detroit Michigan was discovered here."
"Do we know exactly where," Xander asked.
"It is no longer blocked off, but if McGee gave me the right GPS co-ordinates then it was right over there." She pointed to a field to their left.
"Does that seem a little odd to you," Xander asked his current partner. "I mean, you've got two different stands of trees that are real close to an access road, so why carry the dead body from where you've got cover into a wide open field."
Ziva looked around, it was a good question. Why go to all the trouble and risk exposure when it wasn't necessary. But then it occurred to her that to the criminals it had been necessary, which suggested that whoever it was was seriously off their rails. "I do not know," she replied. "Obviously they thought that it was worth the risk."
"So can we narrow the location down any more," Xander asked as they tromped towards the field. He was currently blessing the unusual lack of snow; it meant that they stood a chance of actually finding something. "Working on it," Ziva said focusing her attention on the GPS unit in her hand. It was very different working with Xander as opposed to working with Tony. Tony was constantly prattling on about movies or some other obscure bit of popular American culture, but Xander seemed content with the quiet, breaking it only to ask relevant questions. Honestly she wasn't sure which she preferred. When they got to the spot that the GPS identified as where the body was found, there was nothing there; nothing to indicate that anything odd had occurred. They took a few pictures but didn't see anything significant. As they were walking away, Ziva turned and saw something odd. It looked like a letter of some sort, right where they'd been. "Xander, do you see anything back where we were?"
Xander turned and looked back, "Do you see something that looks like a letter," he asked.
"I do," Ziva replied, confusion in her voice. Why hadn't they seen it when they were right there; she wondered.
"It must be that angle of the light," Xander's voice intruded into her thoughts. "Get a picture of it while we can still see it."
"Did you recognize it," Ziva asked as they made their way back to the car.
"It looked vaguely familiar but I just can't seem to nail it down," Xander answered her. "You?"
"I've never seen anything like it." She turned and looked at him, "Would your organization be able to help us with this?" She was curious as to what exactly the purpose of the NSWC was. If Alexander was indicative of the competency of their personnel then they were an organization to be feared, but what did they do. She remembered what Xander had said, but he'd never really answered the question when it had been put to him directly.
"They should," Xander replied. "We've got a whole section that deals with archeology and ancient histories, someone there should have an idea about what that thing was."
"If this Council of yours deals with unusual or critical situations, why would you have a group like that?"
"Because sometimes, when approaching people that are trying to kill each other, it is good to know the background of each group and a history of their conflicts so you're not tripped up by what you might consider a matter of little importance but one that one of the combatants feels is of paramount importance." He gulped in a huge amount of air after his inadvertent display of Willow babble.
Ziva was surprised, more by the fact that he had spit that entire statement out in one breath than by what he'd said. She just shook her head in wonder as they finally got back to the car. "Well, at least now we know what to look for," she said as she turned the engine over.
"I just hope the light cooperates," he said as they roared off.
By knowing what to look for, and a little help from a couple of flashlights, they were able to locate the different symbols at each site. It was frustrating for Xander because he could almost tell what they were, but he just couldn't wrap his mind around it. The fact that he could drop the local house a line when they got back to the base and he'd know what each one meant by morning didn't help much.
They surveyed the four scenes and then went to what was the center of the area delineated by the four bodies. Odds are it was somewhere near here. The two of them stood on a street corner, just looking around; hoping something would jump out at them. Ziva was trying to figure out if the upper floors of a nearby building were occupied when she heard Harris mutter, "You've got to be kidding me."
She followed his gaze, trying to figure out what it was that had caught his attention. The only thing of note she saw in the general area was an odd looking bar. It seemed to be catering more to a younger crowd, most of the people going in or out seemed to be high school age or there about. She glanced back at Xander and idly noted the look of both annoyance and fear that were on his face. She turned back to the bar, 'The Bronze', it said over the door. She'd remember that.