Summary: Gibbs and the NCIS Major Case Response Team investigate the brutal murder of a Marine and the trail leads them first to a Congolese immigrant named Cierre LuaLua, exotic and mysterious, and then to a deadly and seemingly invulnerable killer who could well be a literal devil. Chapter 5 is 7,500 words, rating 15.
The King of Elfland’s Daughter
Five: Admiral Ackbar
Tony and Ziva entered the squad-room and stopped dead in their tracks. Seven handguns were aimed straight at their faces, plus two oddly-shaped devices that were obviously weapons too, and even Abby was holding her Tazer ready for offensive action.
“Uh, Boss,” Tony said nervously, “what’s with the pistol-packing reception committee? You knew we were coming and, okay, I wasn’t expecting a cake but pointing guns at us is a little over the top.”
“Two hours ago Cheyenne Doyle walked in here looking exactly like Ziva,” Gibbs said, “and came within a cat’s whisker of killing every one of us. I think we’ve an excuse for being a little jumpy.”
“I guess so,” Tony said. “This is like a scene from that Chuck Norris movie, ‘Code of Silence’. These two punks go to rob a bar, and walk in and draw their guns, only it’s the bar where all the off-duty cops hang out and two seconds later they’ve got thirty guns pointing at them. I kind of get how they must have felt now.”
“Well, that sounds like DiNozzo,” Gibbs said. His pistol muzzle dipped by perhaps two thirds of an inch.
“Uh, Doyle quoted from movies too,” said a man Tony didn’t recognize. He was almost as tall as Tony, although of course not as handsome, and the ‘AFOSI’ legend on his cap revealed him to be an agent from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. The left sleeve of his shirt was ripped and stained from shoulder to elbow with what had to be blood. Tony had a matching stain across the bottom of his shirt and all over the top half of his pants.
“Good point,” Gibbs said. “Okay, DiNozzo, what’s Rule Six?”
“Never apologize, it’s a sign of weakness,” Tony replied at once.
“Oh, so that’s how you knew,” a chunky African-American AFOSI agent remarked, incomprehensibly as far as Tony was concerned. Gibbs merely nodded in reply.
“I only know Rule One,” Cierre said.
Tony was somewhat perplexed as to how the African girl, who had been a prisoner in Interrogation when he had left the office, was now free, pointing a gun at him, and wearing an NCIS cap. “Which version?” he asked. “Never screw over your partner, or never leave two suspects together?”
“Neither of those,” Cierre said. “My Rule One was taught to me by Sharwyn, who was taught it by Buffy, and it is ‘Don’t Die’.”
“A worthy rule,” Ziva said, “but sometimes hard to keep.” Then her forehead furrowed. “You speak Hebrew?” She turned to stare at Tony. “And you understood her?”
“Oops,” Cierre said. Her left hand went to a pendant at her neck. “I am sorry, Major Davis. I forgot, even though I promised you I would remember.”
“What are you talking about?” Tony said, frowning at Ziva. “She’s speaking English. And it seems to have improved since lunchtime, which is a little weird.”
“She spoke in Hebrew,” Ziva insisted.
“Uh, maybe you hit your head when you went out of the window,” Tony said.
“It was you who received a fractured skull,” Ziva said, “and perhaps the miraculous treatment you received did not repair all the damage.”
“Well, that sounds like the DiNozzo and David I know,” Gibbs said, “but I think we’ll ask a few more questions before we put the guns down.”
“I’ve got one,” Abby said. “Ziva, what’s the name of my rhino?”
“If you have a rhino you have not told me about it,” Ziva said. “You have a hippo named Bert.”
Cierre stared at Abby and her eyebrows shot up. “You must be wealthy to have room for such a large creature in a city,” she said, “and is the climate in Washington not inimical for a tropical beast?”
“Bert is a stuffed toy,” Abby explained.
“Oh. It was foolish of me not to think of such a simple explanation,” Cierre said.
“I guess it’s another thing you have to learn about this country,” Abby said, smiling at Cierre. “Don’t worry, you’ll get it eventually.”
“Now that’s different,” Tony said. “When we left here Abby was looking at Ms LuaLua as if she wanted to strangle her. Now she’s being nice.”
“Quite a change in attitude,” Ziva agreed.
“Anyone who bashes Cheyenne Doyle face-first into the wall is okay by me,” Abby said. “Plus, she saved Tim’s life.”
“Is that so? Then she’s okay by me too,” said Tony. “The place wouldn’t be the same without McGeek.” He glanced around. “In fact it isn’t the same anyway, and I don’t just mean the Christmas tree that’s sprouted up since we left. Or all the new faces. The room smells funny. Like a Laundromat. And McGee’s got a new monitor.”
“The smell is from the stuff the cleaners used to get the blood out of the carpets,” Gibbs said.
“And Doyle put a bullet through my old monitor,” McGee added.
“So they gave you a nice new LCD one,” Tony said. “Why couldn’t she have shot mine? The clunky old one takes up way too much room on the desk.”
“She was aiming at me, Tony,” McGee pointed out. “You weren’t here to be shot at.”
“No, because she stabbed me in the guts,” Tony said, “and I’m a little unclear about how come I’m not dead or in surgery with months of recuperation to follow. Maybe, once you all stop pointing guns at me, somebody could give me an explanation?”
“I think this game of ‘Truth or Dare’ at gunpoint has gone on long enough,” Jenny Shephard said. “These are the real DiNozzo and David, I’m quite convinced, and we could be using the time more productively.”
Gibbs nodded and holstered his gun. “DiNozzo, you’re going to get read into Project Blue Book. Ziva, you’re not.”
“But I need to know,” Ziva protested.
“It’s not up to me,” Gibbs said. “The Project is multi-national and some of the other nations don’t trust Israel. What you need to know is that Cierre’s one of the good guys. Cheyenne Doyle… isn’t. She’s been… hired… to kill Cierre, and probably several other Air Force employees, and she’ll kill anyone who gets in her way. And she has certain… advantages. She can change her appearance, she can… well, I guess you would have to call it ‘teleport’, and she can’t be harmed by normal bullets or by getting her head rammed into a wall hard enough to crack the brick.”
“I stamped on her throat,” Ziva said, “and it only made her annoyed. It should have crushed her larynx.”
“I’ll see your stamping on her throat and raise you shooting her in the face,” Tony said. “If she can’t be harmed by normal bullets then what does harm her? Silver bullets?”
“Got it in one, Tony,” Abby said.
Tony’s eyes opened wide enough to seem in danger of falling out of their sockets. “Huh? What is she, a freaking werewolf?”
“An Erinyes devil,” said Cierre. “She is highly resistant to injury from normal weapons. Only silver, or an enchanted weapon like my knife, can slay her. Although she does seem to be somewhat vulnerable to electricity.”
“Erinyes? As in the Ancient Greek Furies?” Ziva asked.
Cierre shrugged. “I don’t know anything about the Ancient Greeks,” she said.
“I, uh, think the Greeks based their myths on the kind of thing that she is,” Tim chimed in.
“Sounds more like something out of one of your games,” said Tony.
“Where do you think the game designers got their ideas?” Tim said. “I know it sounds crazy, Tony, but Cheyenne Doyle really is something other than human and she’s lethal. She fits the description of that kind of devil… except that she doesn’t have wings.”
“They can retract their wings so they can pass as human,” Cierre supplied. “But if she catches you outdoors she might grab you, fly up a hundred feet, and drop you again. Watch out for that.”
Bodhi jerked Charlotte Mayfield’s head back and thrust the barrel of her SIG into the Trust agent’s mouth. “I hope you’ve been a busy girl,” Bodhi said, “because if you haven’t come through for me… then a bullet is going to come through you.”
Mayfield rolled her eyes wildly. Bodhi withdrew the gun barrel and Mayfield gasped for breath before speaking. “I have everything you asked for,” she said, “I swear. The credit cards, the IDs, the sonic grenades… everything.”
“And I’ll need a new iPod,” Bodhi added. She sat down on the edge of Mayfield’s desk and tapped the balls of a Newton’s Cradle executive toy with the barrel of her gun. “Those frigging NCIS agents fried mine. I want it loaded with plenty of Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC. Oh, and ‘I Touch Myself’ by Divinyls. I love that one.” She tapped the steel balls again and set them swinging and clicking.
“I don’t understand how you know so much about Earth,” Mayfield said. “You didn’t get that from Athena.” She wiped away a smear of blood from where the gun barrel had nipped her upper lip against her teeth.
“I’ve been here before,” Bodhi revealed. “That’s why I was selected when you were stupid enough to summon a devil. Oh, by the way, Athena says ‘Hi’. No, that’s not quite right, really she says ‘Please, I beg you, stop torturing me’, but that’s not going to happen. Give me the fucking iPod.”
“I will, I will,” Mayfield said. “Eighties bands? You were here that long ago? Way earlier than the Stargate was operating?”
“Actually it was May 2002,” Bodhi said. “Put some Linkin Park and Jimmy Eat World on the iPod, too, while you’re at it. And hurry the fuck up. I don’t have all day.”
Mayfield picked up her phone and gave orders to her aide Devon. Bodhi’s gun lifted and remained trained on Mayfield until the conversation had finished and the phone had been replaced.
“Back to business,” Bodhi said, lowering her gun. “This might not work and we could do with a back-up plan. You’d better get the Trust’s mole in NCIS busy. If she can find out the identity of the representative of the Bridesmaids it could make all the difference.”
“Even the SGC don’t know that,” Mayfield pointed out.
“They say they don’t know,” Bodhi said, “but that doesn’t mean it’s the truth. Maybe they’ll let it slip to NCIS now. And any extra information could be vital. Just do it.” She pursed her lips. “Oh, one more thing. I need a replacement designer outfit. The one you gave me has a few bullet holes in it. That might raise eyebrows at the hotel reception desk.”
“You ruined my Givenchy?” Mayfield’s mouth dropped open in obvious horror.
“Technically the NCIS and AFOSI agents ruined it,” Bodhi said. “They’re the ones who shot me. Anyway, give me a replacement, something equally expensive, or I’ll rip out your fucking tongue.” She gave Mayfield a sweet, and patently insincere, smile. “Isn’t it lucky that we’re the same size?”
“So they took the tube out of my throat and pretty much sent me on my way,” Tony related. “They didn’t even ask for my insurance information. And every question I asked they just answered with ‘It’s classified’. I don’t even have a scar. If it wasn’t for all the blood on my clothes I’d be wondering if somehow that bitch didn’t stab me after all. And Ziva says she was cut to pieces by glass shards and the hospital just gave her something to drink and her cuts healed right up. Come to think of it, two of the AFOSI agents were covered in blood, and it looked like it was their own, but they’re walking around fine and I didn’t even see any sign of bandages. What’s going on?”
Gibbs lowered his coffee cup. “Major Davis will explain,” he said. Only Gibbs and Major Davis were in the Director’s office with Tony; Ziva was changing her clothes, Director Shephard was following up an independent line of inquiry of her own, and the rest of the agents were busy with various tasks downstairs.
“You get the explanation after you sign the non-disclosure agreement,” Major Davis said.
Tony rolled his eyes but signed. “Okay, so what’s the big secret?” he asked. “Aliens?”
“Actually, yes,” Major Davis said. “And don’t bother with the expressions of disbelief. I heard them all earlier from Special Agent Gibbs and Miss Sciuto. It didn’t take long to convince them.”
Gibbs nodded in confirmation. “It’s true, DiNozzo,” he said. “Believe it.” He raised his cup to his lips and took another drink.
Tony sucked in his cheeks, closed one eye, and then let his cheeks out again. “If Gibbs believes it then I guess I’ll have to,” he said, “and my experience at the hospital doesn’t fit with anything normal. But, seriously, aliens?”
“Aliens,” Davis confirmed. “Cierre is an alien. The treatment you received originated on her planet. It’s rare and expensive even there and, consequently, the supplies we’ve been able to obtain are usually only for the personnel of the SGC. Luckily you were taken to the emergency department at George Washington University Hospital and that’s one of the few places where any of it is kept. It’s supposed to be exclusively for the President.”
“Then how come they gave it to me?” Tony asked.
“Cierre insisted,” Davis said, “and I got on to the hospital and gave the right code words. Luckily we’d already moved the President out of town, when we heard there was an alien assassin in the vicinity, and I was able to take the risk.”
“Cierre insisted? Well, I have to thank her, but I’m surprised,” Tony said. “We didn’t exactly get off to a good start, what with me pointing a gun at her face and everything.”
“She felt that it would be her fault if you died,” Davis explained, “and she was already blaming herself for Sherman’s death. And, before she joined us, she was tricked into killing someone who was definitely one of the good guys. She doesn’t want any more deaths on her conscience.”
“I’m all for her not having my death on her conscience,” Tony said. “She’s an alien? Not from the Democratic Republic of Congo?”
“Her ears are real, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said. “Ducky examined her. She’s an alien. Accept it and let Major Davis move on.”
“I’ll keep it short,” Davis said. “In 1928 archaeologists found an object in Egypt that turned out to be a Stargate. A way of opening wormholes to allow almost instantaneous travel to planets orbiting other stars. It was useless then, in the days before computers, but eventually the Air Force got it working and we started sending exploration teams to other planets. And we met aliens. Unfortunately some of them are distinctly unfriendly and we’ve been fighting a low-intensity war for the past eight years.”
“Low-intensity?” Tony grinned. “So, no humungous spaceships coming to blow up the White House and the Empire State Building?”
Major Davis pursed his lips. “Umm, well, that almost happened,” he admitted. “Twice. Luckily we have allies out there too. But it’s not relevant to the present situation.”
Gibbs gave Davis a hard stare. The Major hadn’t said anything about the bombardment from space scenario when he’d given the original briefing.
“Cierre comes from a planet called Toril,” Davis went on. “It’s a strange place. The inhabitants fight with bows and arrows, and swords, but they also have some… advanced techniques… they call magic. And our physicists can’t come up with any better explanation. Most important are their healing methods. They can manufacture potions that can heal wounds instantly. That’s what the hospital used on you and Officer David. And I had a few in my briefcase that we used to patch up Agents Blenkowski, Dorsey, and Drummond. There’s only one left, and the nearest re-supply is in Colorado, so try not to get stabbed again.”
“I hear you,” Tony said, “but it’s not like I had a choice. Shooting someone in the face usually stops them being able to stab you.”
“Yes, well, the woman – or creature – who calls herself Cheyenne Doyle is one of the less pleasant inhabitants of Cierre’s planet,” Davis said, “but I’ll get to her in a minute. Anyway, obtaining as many of the healing potions as possible is one of our top priorities but the ruler of the city nearest to the planet’s Stargate will only allow limited trading. We need to open up new supply routes and, if possible, recruit some of the natives to work with the SGC. Especially the ones who can cast healing spells.”
“Hold on a minute,” Tony said. “SGC?”
“Stargate Command,” Davis expanded. “We’ve arranged a meeting with a representative of an organization on Toril called the Bridesmaids. Normally any meeting like that would take place at Cheyenne Mountain but this time they asked for it to be in our capital city. We’re really keen to stay on their good side so we agreed. It’s set for Tuesday, eleven hundred hours, at the Pentagon. I think Doyle intended to kill Cierre, impersonate her, and take her place at the meeting. And then kill the representative.”
“Or she could just walk in, like when the Terminator stormed the police station in the first movie,” Tony said, “and ignore the guards shooting her. You have to cancel the meeting.”
“We don’t think she can withstand multiple hits for long,” Davis said. “If it comes down to it, and we don’t have any other choice, we’ll cancel the meeting. But that’s very much the last resort. How will it look to our prospective allies if we have to admit we can’t protect their ambassador in our own capital? We need to stop Doyle first. And find out who brought her here.”
“If she’s a devil then would it have been some kind of black magician who summoned her?” Tony suggested. “Like in ‘The Devil Rides Out’? Christopher Lee played the good guy in that one, for a change, and the wizard was the guy who was Blofeld in ‘Diamonds Are Forever’.”
Gibbs transferred his coffee to his left hand to free his right up for a head-slap. Major Davis, however, sat up straighter.
“A black magician? I hadn’t thought of that,” Davis said. “It might explain how she appeared in Cleveland. That was puzzling me. We’d thought the only place outside Cheyenne Mountain where a wormhole to Toril could be opened was in California.”
“California?” Tony narrowed his eyes. “That rings a bell.” He thought for a second. “Doyle said something about California while I was bleeding on the floor. She… uh… that’s it! She looked at my gun, or maybe Ziva’s, and said ‘SIG P-228? I used to have one of these. I took it from a California cop just before I killed him.’ And then she kicked me in the head and put me out.”
“She killed a California cop?” Gibbs set his coffee cup down. “There’ll be a record of that. We might learn something. Anything else?”
“Only that she didn’t even try to act innocent,” Tony said. “She must have decided to kill us the moment we walked in. And she was stronger and faster even than Cierre. Oh, and she was playing ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ when we got there and she said it was her favorite song.”
“Playing ‘Welcome to the Jungle’? What’s that, a game?” Gibbs asked.
“It’s a song, Boss,” Tony explained. “Guns ’N Roses. It was featured in the last Dirty Harry movie. The worst one. But the song was a big hit. Not exactly my thing but it’s memorable.”
“I think I vaguely remember it,” Gibbs conceded.
“And yet a… devil… from another planet knew it well enough for it to be her favorite,” Tony said. “How come?”
“You need to know about the Goa’uld,” Davis said. He ran through an abbreviated explanation of the parasitic aliens.
When he’d finished Tony winced. “They sound like the alien in ‘The Hidden’,” he said. “A sci-fi movie with Kyle MacLachlan. This creepy alien climbed into human bodies and turned them into crazy thrill killers. If I remember right it could patch up the host body so they could take a whole lot of damage before they went down. If those Gould things can do the same maybe that’s what Doyle is and she isn’t a devil at all.”
Davis shook his head. “They can heal their hosts to some extent,” he said, “but a head shot will kill them just as dead as a human.”
“That will be why Cierre told us to double-tap Doyle in the head,” Gibbs put in.
“That’s right,” Davis confirmed. “Body shots will work but if the host stays alive long enough the Goa’uld might manage to extricate itself. You need instant kills.”
“So Doyle isn’t a Goa’uld,” Tony deduced, “or I would have killed her.”
“Actually she is,” Davis contradicted him. “She’s a devil with a Goa’uld inside her. She showed it, just for a second, when I hit her with a zat’nik’tel – that’s a Goa’uld energy weapon. And the Goa’uld actually pleaded for us to help it. I presume it thought that someone invulnerable to most weapons would make a better host than a human, and it would be able to take control. It found out, too late, that it was wrong.”
“Anything to report, McGee?” Gibbs asked. DiNozzo, behind him, listened with one ear but his attention was elsewhere. Ziva, now wearing a light grey track-suit emblazoned with the NCIS logo, was at the far side of the bullpen with Cierre. They appeared to be instructing each other in various martial arts moves and the two women, moving lithely, were an irresistible draw to DiNozzo’s eyes.
“We’ve made some progress, but I don’t know how useful it will be in the short term, Boss,” McGee answered. “We’ve been investigating the credit card Doyle used at the hotel, and for the plane flight,” he went on. “If her identity is a fake, put together in a few days, it wouldn’t have been simple to match it up with a working credit card. So we looked deeper.”
“It’s a company card,” AFOSI Agent Drummond took over, “issued on the account of a company called Supermaterials Research Inc.”
“A holding company, registered in Delaware,” McGee added. “They don’t conduct any business. All the company does is receive royalties on a few technology patents and pay off credit card bills. It’s tailor-made for funding people using fake identities.”
“So who controls the company?” Gibbs asked.
“That’s not going to be easy to find out,” Drummond said. “Corporations registered in Delaware don’t have to file or record any details when there’s a transfer of ownership. The beneficial owner on record is a guy in a place called Sark, in the Channel Islands off Britain, but I’d bet he was just a figurehead and he won’t have a thing to do with the company now.”
“A straw owner,” McGee said. “Finding out who really owns the company is going to take way too long to be any help. But we might be able to find out what other credit cards have been issued.”
Gibbs nodded slowly. “So when Doyle moves on to a new identity we’ll be a step ahead of her. How long will this take?”
“It’s not going to be quick, Boss,” McGee admitted. “There are too many safeguards designed to stop people finding out credit card information. We’d need to go to the offices with a court order and there’s no way we can do that before Monday. But if we get the names of new hotel reservations, and use that as a starting point, we should be able to spot any of them who got their card through this company. Either Doyle or someone else up to something hinky.”
“It’s something,” Gibbs said, “but not enough. I’ve something else for you to work on. Doyle let slip in front of DiNozzo that she’d killed a cop in California and taken his gun. There’ll be a case file on record. The odds are it will just be down as ‘unsolved’ but there might be something useful. Like a connection that will give us a lead on Doyle’s backers.”
“California’s pretty big, Boss,” McGee pointed out. “Any idea of where or when?”
“Concentrate on Sunnydale, Santa Barbara County,” Major Davis suggested. “That’s the most likely place for Doyle to have been. In fact she might have been there right before she went to Cleveland.”
“Okay, I’ll start just before the Cleveland flight and work backwards,” McGee said.
“I’ll stay on the credit cards and hotel reservations,” Drummond said.
High heels clicked on the floor as Director Shephard descended from the MTAC room and approached. “I’ve something else for one of you to do,” she said. She held out a notebook. “That outfit Doyle was wearing was a Riccardo Tisci original from Givenchy’s Fall Collection,” she said. “I’ve managed to get a list of everyone in the States who bought one. Someone on the list has to have had contact with Doyle.”
Drummond took the notebook, turned over the first page, and her eyebrows rose. “It’s pretty short,” she said. “It won’t take all that long to work through it.”
“Haute Couture doesn’t sell in quantity,” Jenny Shephard agreed. “And you can skip some of the names. I think we can rule out Beyoncé.”
Abby’s laboratory was a hive of activity and was filled with the smell of white-hot metal. Abby was heating a crucible with a propane burner; AFOSI agents Blenkowski and Dorsey were doing something with bullets at one bench and, next to them, Burleigh was feeding rounds into a magazine. For once Abby’s stereo wasn’t blasting out industrial rock at deafening volume and the whir of the extractor fan was clearly audible.
Gibbs waited until Abby had poured out the contents of the crucible into molds and then produced a Caf-Pow from behind his back. “How’s it going, Abbs?” he asked.
“It’s hard work, Gibbs,” Abby responded, snatching the drink eagerly. “The melting point of silver is way higher than lead and that makes it tricky. But we’re getting there.”
“You’re making silver bullets?” Tony asked.
“Not solid silver,” Abby said. “We’re just packing the cavities of normal hollow-point bullets with silver. That’s the best we can do for the moment. If only Winchester Silvertip bullets were real silver that would save so much work.” She began to suck on the straw of her Caf-Pow.
“Where’s the Lone Ranger when we need him?” Tony lamented. “Hey, if Doyle’s a devil maybe we could have her exorcised.”
“She’d put a bullet through the priest’s head before he got anywhere,” Gibbs pointed out, “or just teleport away. We need to kill her.”
Abby lowered her Caf-Pow temporarily. “That gives me an idea,” she said. “Would holy water work on her?”
“It’s an idea,” Gibbs said. “I noticed she wasn’t wearing the Star of David, when she was pretending to be Ziva, so maybe she is vulnerable to holy things. We’d best ask Cierre. She’s the expert.”
“I’ve got something that I’m pretty sure will work on Doyle,” Abby said. She picked up two letter-openers from her desk and passed them to Gibbs. “These are sturdy enough and sharp enough that I thought it would be a waste to melt them down. One for you and one for Ziva.”
Gibbs assessed the knives. “They’ll buckle if they hit a rib,” he delivered his verdict, “but I wouldn’t want to take one in the throat. Rule Nine: never go anywhere without a knife. And now we’ve got knives that will work on Doyle. Good thinking, Abbs.”
“What about me?” Tony asked. “I hope you’ve got some silver for me.”
“Sure, Tony,” Abby said. “Doyle dropped Ziva’s gun but she’s still got yours. We thought you might like to use your .45 so I’ve made one mag of silver tips for it and I can start on another one. Or we’ve got lots of nine millimeter if you’d prefer another SIG.”
“Given a free choice I’d take a fifty-caliber machine gun,” Tony said, “but that would be a little unwieldy for carrying around Washington. My .45 would be the next best thing. Thanks, Abby.”
Agent Burleigh handed Tony a full magazine. “We didn’t get introduced upstairs,” he said. “Special Agent Amos Burleigh, AFOSI.”
“Special Agent Tony DiNozzo,” Tony responded, shaking Burleigh’s hand. “Pleased to meet you. Nothing says ‘hello’ like a magazine of silver bullets.”
“And a hearty ‘Hi Ho, Silver, Kemosabe,” Agent Blenkowski chimed in.
“Who was that masked man?” Tony responded. He gave Blenkowski a broad grin.
“Pete Blenkowski,” the AFOSI agent introduced himself. He grinned back at Tony. “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
“Round up the usual suspects,” Tony answered.
“Are you going to strangle them, or should I?” Burleigh asked Gibbs.
“I usually find a slap across the back of the head is enough,” Gibbs replied. “DiNozzo! I’ve got a movie for you. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That’s what you look like you’re starring in. Change into something that isn’t soaked in blood, get your Colt, and be ready to move the second we have a location for Doyle.”
“Sure thing, Boss,” Tony replied. His cheery grin altered slightly and became something feral and menacing. “I’m looking forward to a rematch. Only this time on our terms.”
“This can’t be right,” Tim muttered. “The town has a population of 38,500 but they’ve lost more cops in the line of duty than Metro DC.”
“What have you got, McGee?” Gibbs asked from behind him.
Tim jerked in his seat, startled by Gibbs’ silent approach, something he could never get used to despite it happening at least once every day. “Uh, not much, Boss,” Tim admitted. “I can’t tie up anything in the past year with Doyle killing a policeman and taking his gun. And if she flew from California to Cleveland she didn’t do it under that name. I doubt if I’ll learn anything useful soon enough for it to be any help.”
“I wasn’t expecting much anyway, McGee,” Gibbs said. “That line of inquiry might lead us to whoever hired – summoned – Doyle but it won’t help us find her now. You might as well get back to checking the hotels.”
“On it, Boss,” Tim responded.
“I’ve got something,” Agent Drummond declared. “There’s someone on the Director’s list who will bear closer examination.” She put a photo up on the plasma display. “Charlotte Mayfield. Vice-President of Farrow-Marshall Aeronautics, a technology company based in Bethesda.”
Gibbs frowned as he looked at the woman’s picture. “Blonde, slim, high cheekbones; she looks quite a lot like Doyle,” he observed.
“And she’s very tall,” Drummond went on. “Six feet, or close to it, and pretty much the same build as Doyle, so Mayfield’s Givenchy outfit would fit both of them. But here’s the clincher. Guess where Mayfield was last week?”
If one of his own team – almost certainly DiNozzo – had asked a pointless question like that Gibbs would have responded with a cold stare or a cutting remark. As Drummond wasn’t under his command he refrained and merely supplied the obvious answer. “Cleveland?”
“Got it in one,” Drummond confirmed. “She came back the day after Doyle came to Washington.”
“Hmm,” Tim said. “An aerospace company. I wonder if they’ve passed on any technology patents to Supermaterials Research?”
“If they have it was probably through cut-outs,” Drummond said.
“That doesn’t mean we can’t back-track and find a link,” Tim said. “It just means it will take longer.” He pursed his lips. “Or they could be doing the funding by making payments on patents that don’t really exist.”
“Keep on it,” Gibbs ordered, and he turned away towards where Director Shephard was approaching.
“The news media have gotten hold of the hotel stabbing story,” Jenny announced. “I’ve fielded two calls from reporters so far. Also Leon Vance called and wanted to know if he should come in; I told him no. Then Erica Barrett called, and then Agent Keating. I told them the same thing.”
Gibbs groaned. “All we need is for reporters to start turning up here in person,” he said. “Either we scare the pants off them by shoving guns in their faces or else we risk one of them being Doyle and her blowing Cierre’s head off.”
“I’ve downplayed the incident quite a lot,” Jenny said, “and I don’t think we’re in any danger of being overrun by reporters. But if we are then we’ll have to find some middle ground between brandishing guns and leaving ourselves open to attack. Perhaps we should send Ms LuaLua back to the interview room to carry on reading Deep Six in safety. Or…”
At that moment the elevator doors began to open and Jenny, contradicting what she had just said, immediately pulled out her Glock and aimed it.
Gibbs spun around at the first sound from the elevator and drew his gun. At the desks Tim McGee and Agent Drummond snatched up their guns. Major Davis readied his ray-gun but kept it low and out of plain sight. Cierre and Ziva, still exchanging martial arts techniques, released each other and pulled out their weapons. Cierre held her gun in her left hand while using her right to remove the translation amulet from around her neck. Ziva noticed the action with her peripheral vision, and her eyebrows rose fractionally, but her attention primarily was concentrated on the new arrival. DiNozzo, now clad in clothes free of bloodstains, had been watching the two girls but was quick to draw his Colt and join everyone else in aiming it at the elevator door.
Agent Michelle Lee stepped out of the elevator and, like Tony and Ziva half an hour earlier, froze as she saw the guns aimed at her. She looked over her shoulder, saw nothing, and turned to look back at the guns. Her eyes widened and she paled visibly. “Uh, guys,” she said, with a distinct tremor in her voice, “could you, uh, put the guns down?”
“Not yet, Agent Lee,” Jenny said. “First we’re going to ask you some questions.” Lee’s eyes, already wide, widened still further.
“We’re up against a killer who successfully impersonated both David and a six-foot blonde,” Gibbs added, “so we’re taking precautions.”
Lee seemed to relax slightly and the widening of her eyes became less extreme. “I don’t understand,” she said.
“Just answer the questions,” Gibbs ordered. He left the questioning to the others; Lee had served as an agent on the Major Case Response Team for a while, two years ago, during the period when Gibbs had taken a temporary leave from the agency. Consequently McGee, DiNozzo, and David had more personal knowledge on which to base questions and Director Shephard came into contact with Lee more often during the normal course of work.
“Okay, I’m happy that she’s the real thing,” McGee said after a few exchanges.
“Yes, that is Michelle,” Ziva confirmed.
“With that established,” Jenny Shephard said, “what are you doing here, Agent Lee? We’ve had phone calls from a couple of agents but you’re the only one to just turn up.”
“I… heard on the radio that an NCIS agent had been stabbed,” Lee replied. “I was only a couple of blocks away so I came in to see if there was anything I could do to help.”
Gibbs turned his head to look at Major Davis.
“I really don’t want to read anyone else into the program,” Davis said, “so she’d have to operate on the same basis as Officer David.”
“I guess that’s fair,” Gibbs agreed. “Okay, Agent Lee, since you’re here there is something you can do. We need some court orders.” He decided to delegate the tedious details. “McGee, tell Lee what we need.”
“Sure thing, Boss,” McGee said. He gave Lee detailed instructions on what was required.
“That’s straightforward enough,” Lee said, “but do I really need to include Diners Club? Hardly anyone has a Diners Club card these days.”
“Ha!” said DiNozzo. “It’s like I said. You’re the only person who uses Diners Club who still has all his own teeth.”
“Actually,” Agent Drummond put in, “they’re still widely used for high-end corporate cards.”
“Which is exactly what we’re looking for,” McGee said, aiming a triumphant grin at DiNozzo.
“Just do it,” Gibbs ordered. “Doyle’s bound to move on to a new identity before long, if she hasn’t already, and I don’t want us to miss it because we didn’t bother to check out some possibilities.” McGee’s phone rang as Gibbs was speaking and the young agent answered it; Gibbs ignored the phone conversation for the moment.
“I won’t get it before Monday morning,” Lee said.
“Do it faster,” Gibbs said. “Haul a judge away from his dinner table, whatever it takes.”
Lee grimaced. “I’ll do what I can, Gibbs.”
McGee finished his phone call and looked up. “Boss, we’ve got a lead,” he announced. “That was the receptionist at the Hay-Adams. A very tall woman turned up, said that she’d had to travel at too short notice to book ahead, and asked if they had a room. She’s taken a suite. And her name is… Dakota O’Brien.”
“I get the ‘Dakota’,” DiNozzo said. “That’s another name for the Sioux so it ties up with ‘Cheyenne’. But I don’t get ‘O’Brien’.”
“Conan O’Brien… Arthur Conan Doyle,” McGee explained. “It has to be her.”
Gibbs grunted. “It’s a little too obvious,” he said. “Why would she use a name that points straight to her? Even if she didn’t know the connections the people providing her fake ID would know. It has to be deliberate and that means she wants us to know where she is.”
“Or she doesn’t care,” DiNozzo suggested. “If she thinks we can’t hurt her she’ll just expect to kill us if we burst in. I mean, she took me and Ziva like Grant took Richmond and she probably thinks she can do it again.”
“Could be that she wants to split us up,” Gibbs said. “We go over there in force and she hits us here. The trouble is we don’t have any choice.” He narrowed his eyes. “But we’d better have more evidence than just the name before we go in with guns blazing.”
“Already checked out, Boss,” McGee said. “The card she used comes from the same source as the one in the name of Cheyenne Doyle.”
“Good enough for me,” Gibbs said. He got out his phone and dialed Abby. “Abbs, send everyone up here,” he told her. “We’ve a lead on Doyle.”
Within a couple of minutes Abby, the other AFOSI agents, Dr Mallard and Jimmy Palmer were all in the squad-room.
“I doubt if we’ll have anything more for you to do, Ducky,” Gibbs said. “You and Palmer might as well go home now.”
“Actually I’m rather looking forward to the chance to perform an autopsy on the, ah, person who styles herself Cheyenne Doyle,” Ducky said.
“I suspect we won’t be able to, uh, retrieve her body,” Major Davis pointed out. Gibbs deduced that Davis was watching his words because David, Lee, and Palmer had not been read into the program and that what Davis meant was that he expected the body to melt away like the bearded devil had done.
“A shame,” Ducky said, “but I can live with my disappointment as long as we can get confirmation of her death. There are, however, other things with which I can get on. I would appreciate, for instance, the chance to talk with Miss LuaLua now that she is no longer a suspect. I… suspect… that she would have many fascinating tales to tell.”
“All of which will be classified, Ducky,” Gibbs reminded him, “so you won’t be able to pass them on to anyone else.”
“Satisfying my own curiosity will be sufficient,” Ducky said.
Cierre grinned at him, the contrast of her white teeth against her jet-black skin making the grin quite dazzling, and dipped her head. “I happy to talk,” she said, “but first we kill Doyle.”
“You’re not coming with us,” Gibbs stated. “That would be crazy.”
The grin vanished. “It my job to fight things like her,” Cierre said.
“Not in Washington it isn’t,” Gibbs replied.
“General O’Neill ordered us to protect you,” Agent Burleigh reminded Cierre. “Letting you put yourself in harm’s way would be a dumb way of obeying.”
Cierre pouted. “If that are General Jack’s orders I have to do what you say,” she said, reluctant acquiescence evident in her tone.
“Okay, let’s put a strike team together,” Gibbs said.
“I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit,” DiNozzo said. Agent Blenkowski, grinning widely, chimed in and completed the quote in chorus with DiNozzo. “It’s the only way to be sure.”
“You cannot use nuclear weapon in Washing…” Cierre began, a deep frown furrowing her brow, and then she grinned again. “Oh! I stupid! You speak words of Ripley. I watch ‘Aliens’ with T… Murray. Very good movie.”
“DiNozzo, you’re coming with me,” Gibbs said, “but no nukes. Stick to your Colt.”
“Right, Boss,” DiNozzo responded.
“I’d better come too,” Burleigh said. “That way we have one weapon that we know can hurt her and Major Davis can stay here with the other one. Drummond, you keep doing what you’re doing. Dorsey, get onto Metro PD. We had to leave the St. Regis crime scene to them. I want to know if Doyle left anything behind.”
“On it, Chief,” Dorsey said.
“Blenkowski, you stay here too,” Burleigh went on. “Cierre is your responsibility. Keep her alive.”
“Will do, Boss,” the former pilot agreed.
“David, you can fill the last slot on the strike team,” Gibbs said. “Abbs, give Lee a mag of the special bullets. If Doyle comes here again I want us to have maximum firepower.”
“We should set up a password,” Jenny Shephard suggested, “so that we don’t have to go through the whole Twenty Questions routine again.”
“Good idea,” said Gibbs.
“How about ‘I’m Spartacus’?” Blenkowski said at once.
“Works for me,” Gibbs agreed. “Okay, people, time to move.”
“Yeah,” DiNozzo said. “Let’s show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown.”
Doyle, or O’Brien, had gone for a suite at the Hay-Adams, one of the St. Johns Church View suites, just as she had at the St. Regis. This time, according to the reception staff, she was a green-eyed redhead; still recognizable, however, as the same woman as the blonde Doyle in the photo from the bar. That removed the last vestige of doubt and Gibbs felt happy to go in weapons-free. The receptionist confirmed that O’Brien hadn’t come down since she checked in and the team headed up to the room ready for action.
DiNozzo operated the master key-card as quietly as he could and then threw the door open. They entered quickly, guns raised, and fanned out. There was no-one in the living room. The bedroom door was partly open and they could hear the sound of a woman singing softly coming from within. It seemed as if she hadn’t heard their entry.
I love myself
I want you to love me
When I'm feeling down
I want you above me
I search myself
I want you to find me...
Burleigh came to a halt, his eyes on three pottery jars that stood on a desk, an expression of extreme worry on his face. The AFOSI team leader’s moustache gave him a slight resemblance to the astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson; at the moment, Gibbs thought, he resembled Tyson if he’d peered through his telescope and spotted a medium-sized asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Gibbs didn’t know what was so disturbing about the jars; they seemed innocuous enough, probably antiques, with sculptured lids shaped like the heads of animals and a bird. They looked kind of… Egyptian.
Burleigh moved on but he gave the jars a wide berth. Gibbs didn’t know why, and there was no way he was going to ask out loud, but he followed the AFOSI agent’s example and treated the jars as if they were radio-active. Gibbs signaled for DiNozzo to go right, and David to go left, and advanced.
From behind the bedroom door a metal ball hurtled out, bounced once, and rolled across the carpet. A red light on the sphere pulsed.
“Grenade!” Burleigh yelled, and he dived for cover. Gibbs was already moving; he’d registered the spherical object as a weapon without the need for conscious thought. He scooped up Ziva as he turned and made a dive for the exit door. DiNozzo threw himself on top of the sphere, smothering it with his body, and his big Colt .45 roared as he fired at the bedroom door.
And then the device detonated.