Summary: Gibbs and the NCIS Major Case Response Team investigate the brutal murder of a Marine and the trail leads them first to a rather unusual Congolese immigrant named Cierre LuaLua, and then to a deadly, and seemingly invulnerable, assassin who could well be a literal devil. Chapter 6 is 7,600 words, rating 15.
The King of Elfland’s Daughter
Six: Dead Bodhi
Bodhi materialized in the bullpen with a Goa’uld shock grenade in her right hand, her gun in her left, and her arm poised for a throw.
Her plan was ruined when she collided with the Christmas tree.
The grenade fell from her hand, landed at her feet, and rolled under the tree. She tried to kick it out into the room but the branches frustrated her attempt. All that she achieved was to put a spin on the grenade and cause it to roll around in a circle.
“Oh, bugger!” Bhodi exclaimed, and then yelped in pain as a bullet hit her in the shoulder. She teleported out instantly and Cierre’s second shot, and Agent Blenkowski’s first, passed harmlessly through the space vacated by Bodhi’s head and hit the wall.
“Shock grenade!” Cierre yelled. “Cover your ears and look…”
The grenade went off before she could finish the warning. She had clapped her hands over her own ears, closed her eyes, and sought shelter behind a desk; the AFOSI agents, too, had been briefed on the Goa’uld weapon and took appropriate action. Tim McGee followed their example, but was slower to respond, and he was still partially exposed when the device emitted a tremendous burst of sound and light.
Every bauble on the Christmas tree shattered, tinsel and glittering shards were scattered across the floor, and the tree took on a precarious lean. Michelle Lee, who had stood up rather than taking cover, fell to the floor unconscious. Tim reeled, disorientated by the sonic blast, and he screwed up his eyes as a glaringly bright after-image filled his view. But Cierre and the three AFOSI agents, sheltered by the office partitions and with ears protected and eyes averted, came up ready to fight.
Three seconds after the blast Bodhi re-appeared, deeper within the room, in the place where she had retrieved her gun during her first assault on the NCIS office. Her gun was already leveled, held in a two-handed grip, and she was facing toward where she had last seen Cierre. The Drow girl, however, was moving and keeping low behind the partitions. And the ‘clap’ of Bodhi’s materialization gave a warning of her arrival and ruined her advantage of surprise.
The AFOSI agents opened fire. Agent Blenkowski squeezed off two shots; one missed but the other hit Bodhi in the chest. Agent Dorsey’s shot struck Bodhi in the center of the forehead. And Cierre popped up from behind a partition and double-tapped Bodhi in the stomach and the right breast.
Bodhi fired once in reply, her bullet carving a gouge across the top of Cierre’s left shoulder, and then teleported out again. Before she vanished the agents were able to see that maroon stains were spreading across her pale blue sweater and a stream of blood was running down her face.
“If it bleeds, we can kill it,” Blenkowski said, repeating the quote he had used when Gibbs had killed the Bearded Devil. “Although we must have put two or three bullets into the kill-zone. I would have thought she’d have gone down already.”
“The silver inserts mustn’t have enough penetrative power to go through bone,” Agent Drummond said. “It can’t have been much worse than being hit by a BB gun. We’ll need solid silver bullets.”
“Yeah,” said Dorsey. “I thought the silver would open the way and let the lead through. Guess not.”
“Still, we hurt her,” said Blenkowski. “I don’t think she’ll be back any time soon.”
“What the hell was that thing she used?” McGee asked. “My ears are ringing and my vision’s blurred.” He took a step, wobbled on his feet, and put a hand against a filing cabinet to steady himself. “And I’m dizzy.”
Cierre holstered her gun, went to the prone body of Michelle Lee, and checked that the agent was still unconscious before slipping on her translation amulet and replying. “A Goa’uld sonic grenade,” she explained. “Like the flash-bangs that SWAT teams use in hostage rescues except that it is electronic rather than explosive.”
“Good thing she dropped it,” Agent Dorsey remarked. “If it had gone off closer to us we’d have been in big trouble. As messed up as the Christmas tree.” Everyone looked at the tree, almost denuded of foliage and of decorations, and leaning over drunkenly.
McGee blinked repeatedly, trying to clear his vision, but the bright after-image remained. He squinted at the unconscious form of Michelle Lee. “Is Michelle okay?” he asked.
“She is only stunned,” Cierre confirmed. “When she wakes she will be blind, for a little while, but it will pass. The effects are only temporary.”
“I was just about to ask if everyone was okay,” Jenny Shephard called, from the balcony in front of her office. “Is Lee the only casualty?” A second later she answered her own question. “Cierre, you’re bleeding.”
Cierre’s ‘BORN TO SNOWBOARD, FORCED TO WORK’ T-shirt now had one white sleeve and one red one. “Oh, fuck,” Cierre groaned. “More clothes ruined.”
Jenny began to descend the stairs. “I would have thought the wound in your shoulder would be of more concern than the blood on your shirt,” she said.
Cierre placed her right hand over the wound. “By the power of Auril, heal this wound,” she said. She looked up at Jenny. “I am healed,” she said, “but the T-shirt cannot be cleaned and repaired so easily without cantrips that neither I, nor anyone else on this world, can cast.” A wide grin appeared on her face. “Although that may change if we can put our dealings with Faerûn on a more solid footing and recruit more personnel.”
Major Davis had emerged from Jenny’s office in time to overhear the exchange. “Those aren’t the sort of abilities we’ll be prioritizing when we start recruiting,” he said, as he collapsed his Zat into its inactive form and slipped it back inside his jacket. He followed Jenny down the stairs. “You’ll have to put up with getting things sewn up, and dry-cleaned, for a while yet. And, Cierre,” he added, “you’d better take that amulet off again before the unconscious agent wakes up. If she hears you using words like ‘personnel’ she’ll start asking questions and I don’t want to have to read even more people into the program.”
Cierre removed the amulet at once. “Usstan rothrl dosst quarth, Major Davis,” she said. “Now I change my clothes. They bring my case from hotel when they bring me so I have clothes here.”
“I’m going to have to hide my shirt from my girlfriend when I get home,” Blenkowski remarked, “or she’s going to wonder how come I don’t have a wound to match the holes in my sleeve and account for all the blood.”
“Tony will…” McGee began, and then his face paled. “Uh-oh! Gibbs thought maybe Doyle was making it easy for us to find her so she could split us up and attack us a few at a time. It looks like he was right. So, if she hit us here... what did she do at the hotel?”
The sonic pulse hit Gibbs like a physical blow. He clenched his teeth and fought against the wave of dizziness that swept over him, just succeeding in staying conscious, and then tried to get to his feet but couldn’t get his legs to work. His hearing was muffled, everything sounding as if his ears were stuffed with cotton wool, but he just managed to make out the sound of shattering crockery. It had to be coming from those jars that had so worried Agent Burleigh and he guessed that their breaking couldn’t mean anything good. He made another attempt to rise, again unsuccessfully, but Ziva was struggling to get out from under him and he managed to roll over and make way for her.
Ziva had been sheltered from the grenade blast by Gibbs’ body, as well as by Tony, and she was almost unaffected. She sprang to her feet, her gun levelled, and then she cried out “Ma la‘azazél?” Her pistol cracked once. Then she swapped the gun over to her left hand, drew a knife with her right, and threw herself forward in a dive straight at Tony.
Gibbs managed to sit up and he extended his gun arm and looked along the sights. There were three… creatures… wriggling on the floor. They looked like some kind of eel, with fins on their backs and two stubby little walking fins, and they were heading for the prone humans with remarkable speed. One was making for Agent Burleigh, who was on his hands and knees on the floor, and another was slithering over DiNozzo’s shoe. The third was coming straight for Gibbs.
A Goa’uld. Gibbs remembered what he had been told by Major Davis. The alien creature would burrow into him, attach itself to his spinal cord, and take over his mind. He started to tighten his finger on the trigger, almost without conscious thought, but he stopped himself from firing; Tony’s unconscious body was too close to the line of fire. Instead he drew his knife with his left hand, with desperate speed, and snapped it open.
Ziva landed beside DiNozzo. The Goa’uld was pushing its muzzle under the leg of Tony’s pants, obviously intending to make its way to his body by that route; Ziva jabbed the point of her knife into the creature, just above its fins, and flipped it backward off Tony. Then she chopped down and severed its head from its body.
The Goa’uld heading for Gibbs coiled itself up and then suddenly, as if its body was a spring, launched itself into the air. It hurtled toward his throat with its mouth, a weird four-part jaw like nothing on Earth, gaping open. He swatted it out of the air with the barrel of his pistol and then, following Ziva’s example, brought his knife around and down and pinned the Goa’uld to the floor. It hissed, thrashed, and then wrapped its tail around his arm and tried to pull itself free. He slammed the barrel of his gun down on its head, and again, and again until it went limp and its coils dropped away from his arm.
The third of the creatures had reached Agent Burleigh. He was still on all fours, shaking his head, and his Zat gun was lying several feet away. He seemed to be too dazed to have recognized his peril. And the snake-like creature was much too close to him for Gibbs to risk a shot.
“Ziva!” Gibbs yelled. “Save Burleigh! One of the…”
He didn’t need to finish his warning. Ziva’s arm blurred and her knife streaked through the air to impale the Goa’uld. Burleigh scrambled to his feet, shook his head one more time, and then stamped on the Goa’uld’s head. The stamp didn’t seem to have much effect, the room’s thick carpet presumably taking the force out of the blow, and so Burleigh retrieved his Zat and shot the little wriggling alien with an energy beam. Its struggles ceased but Burleigh zapped it again.
Gibbs didn’t take it for granted that his own Goa’uld was neutralized. It could well be playing dead. He used his gun barrel to hold it firmly in place while he pulled his knife out of its body and then decapitated the creature. Only then did he relax slightly and shift the aim of his gun toward the bathroom door. He very much doubted if Doyle was still there, he was fairly sure she had teleported out immediately after throwing the stun grenade, but taking things for granted was never a good idea.
“Yesh matzav al hapalim!” Ziva growled. For her to lapse into Hebrew was extremely unusual, in Gibbs’ experience; she must be badly shaken. She took hold of her gun in her normal two-handed grip and advanced, cautiously, to make sure that the bathroom, and the rest of the hotel suite, was all clear.
Gibbs climbed to his feet and went to DiNozzo. He knelt down and checked for a pulse. “He’s alive,” Gibbs said, “but is he going to be okay? That was some kind of non-lethal grenade, right? But what does it do when someone’s right on top of it?”
“A sonic grenade,” Burleigh confirmed. “Sound and light only. The only after-effects I’ve ever heard of are temporary blindness, maybe temporary deafness, and a headache. He’ll be fine in an hour or so. But if he hadn’t thrown himself on the grenade we’d all have been knocked out – and three of us would be wishing we were dead right now.”
“What were those… things?” Ziva demanded. She holstered her gun and joined Gibbs beside DiNozzo. “I thought at first they were venomous snakes, or Love eels, but no snake or eel has a mouth like that. And no nation or terrorist group has anything like that grenade. We fight a devil who can teleport, who can only be harmed by silver, and who leaves traps for us with unknown grenades and strange beasts in jars – just what is going on?”
For a moment Gibbs was thrown by her reference to ‘Love eels’ but then he realized that she must mean Moray eels and she’d misunderstood their English name to be ‘Amore’. Just the kind of slip that DiNozzo would love to tease Ziva about but he was still totally out, oblivious to what was going on, and Gibbs wasn’t going to repeat it to him later. “You’re going to have to read David into the program, Burleigh,” he said to the AFOSI agent. “I don’t see any way you can get around it.”
“She probably saved my life, maybe all our lives,” Burleigh said. “Won’t get no argument from me on that. Major Davis will go along with it, after this, and the Russians will just have to deal.”
“Well? Explain to me,” Ziva said.
“Not here,” Burleigh said. “If I brief you without Davis clearing it first he’ll skin me alive – and if he doesn’t General O’Neill will. But you will get briefed, that’s for sure.”
Ziva pursed her lips. “If I must wait, then so be it,” she said, “but I do not like it.” She left Tony’s side and went to retrieve her knife from the body of the dead Goa’uld. Her nose wrinkled as she saw the blue blood that coated the blade. “Only shellfish have blue blood,” she commented, “and those things are not shellfish.” She directed a piercing gaze at Burleigh but received no response. After a moment she shrugged, took out a sheet of tissue, and began to clean her knife.
Gibbs moved to where the shattered remnants of the pottery jars lay on the carpet. He started to reach out for a piece but then halted, reconsidered, and donned gloves. Physical evidence might be pointless with regard to their pursuit of Doyle but it could lead them to her human employers. Although getting them to trial might be problematical… He picked up one of the shards and noticed, immediately, that one of the broken edges was remarkably straight. Further examination of that, and of the matching segment, confirmed that the jar had been scored almost through, probably with a mini rotary saw, to ensure that it broke easily. Even so, relying on it shattering simply through falling onto the thick pile of a luxurious hotel suite carpet seemed a little too chancy. He went to the desk on which the jars had stood and saw the other half of the puzzle.
A strip of metal, on which the jars had stood, rigged with a small circuit board and three mechanical devices. He looked closer. Three small spring-loaded steel bars with hammer heads, three little catches in the open position, some wiring and a tiny microphone.
Burleigh joined him in scrutinizing the device. “Ingenious,” commented the AFOSI agent. “The grenade triggered the hammers striking the jars to release the G… the snakes. It looks like something the Mythbusters might have put together.”
“Or someone at Farrow-Marshall Aeronautics,” Gibbs said. “But not Doyle. It might have been her idea to set a trap for us but somebody else did the work.” He turned to Ziva. “Check the rest of the place out,” he ordered. “See if she left anything behind.” He didn’t bother to warn her to beware of any other booby-traps; that kind of caution was second nature to Ziva.
“It’s a bitch trying to catch someone who can teleport,” Burleigh remarked. “We’re always one step behind.”
“True,” Gibbs agreed. “We’re dancing to her tune.” He frowned as he remembered the song Doyle had been singing when they arrived. ‘I search myself, I want you to find me’. Doyle had, indeed, planned for them finding her. And that meant that his guess, that Doyle had made herself easy to find so that she could draw some of them away and attack the Navy Yard office while it was lightly defended, could well be correct. He took out his phone. “I’m going to call in,” he said. “Then we’ll bag up the evidence and, as soon as DiNozzo comes round, we’ll get out of here.”
“Get out of my house!” Charlotte Mayfield hissed. “I have dinner guests arriving soon. If any of them see you like this I’ll be ruined.”
Bodhi merely smiled back. “Oh, don’t be like that, Charlotte darling,” she said. “I like you. It would be a shame to have to rip out your lungs. And I’ve already done you a huge favor. Did you know that Athena was thinking of moving on into you before long? And now she’s in me, and your boss is in a coma, and you’re in charge of everything. A win/win scenario. Of course you did have to sign over your soul, which I have to admit is a teensy little bit negative, but hey! You might be able to talk them into making you into a devil like me. I’ll even put in a good word for you.” Her expression turned cold. “As long as you keep on my good side.”
Charlotte gritted her teeth and glared at the reflection in her mirror. She’d been touching up her lipstick when Bodhi materialized and the resultant jump had resulted in a streak of Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Volupte running from her lip up to her nose. “Oh, very well. What do you need? You look as if you could do with medical attention.”
“They have figured out how to hurt me,” Bodhi admitted, “which was inevitable, I suppose, with Cierre there to advise them. But it’s not like one of this world’s doctors would have any idea how to do anything for me and, anyway, I healed myself up as soon as I’d dug the bullets out. A shower, and clean clothes, and I’ll be good to go again. If the symbiote trap worked we can go with Plan B. Otherwise we’ll have to switch to Plan C and it will be time for me to die.”
“We have to kill her next time,” Gibbs said, “and that means we have to hit her harder. The ammo you had didn’t cut it.”
“We need solid silver bullets,” Pete Blenkowski agreed, “or maybe silver buckshot. That would be easier to make and would do a lot of damage.”
“I’d go with that if we didn’t keep fighting her in the most expensive suites in the best hotels,” Gibbs said. “I’d kind of like to keep the collateral damage to a minimum. We’ll draw less attention that way.”
“I’m all in favor of that,” Jenny Shephard agreed. “We already have the St. Regis and the Hay-Adams annoyed at us but at least we haven’t blown any foot-wide holes through their designer furniture.”
“Yet,” said DiNozzo. Jenny clicked her tongue but said nothing.
“The biggest problem is her teleporting,” McGee said. “It’s pretty hard to beat her when she can just zap herself out as soon as we start getting the upper hand. There’s no way we can get the drop on her.”
“There might be something we can do about that,” Major Davis said. “Colonel Carter has come up with a gadget that she thinks can jam teleportation. She’ll be bringing it with her when she arrives tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? Excellent,” Cierre said, smiling. “She was not due to arrive until Monday. Will the others come with her?”
“I’m afraid not,” Davis replied. “It wasn’t feasible to cut their meeting short and so, as scheduled, they’ll be here Monday. The good news is that Colonel Carter will be coming loaded for bear – or, rather, loaded for devil. Zats, silver bullets, and your sword.”
“Excellent,” Cierre said. Her smile turned into a wolfish grin. “I will make that bitch eat it.”
“You think a sword will be better than a gun?” Ziva asked.
“Indeed so,” Cierre confirmed. “My sword Angurvadal is no ordinary sword.”
“Believe it,” Major Davis advised. “I’d rather take a bullet than get chopped in half any day.”
Gibbs would have been skeptical, only the day before, but now he’d seen Cierre in action and had observed the healthy respect, bordering on fear, Doyle had shown for Cierre’s nine-inch knife. If Cierre wanted to hit Doyle with a sword, rather than shoot her, Gibbs wasn’t going to object – as long as Cierre could get to close quarters without getting shot.
Ziva had been looking somewhat shell-shocked ever since Davis had given her the official briefing. Now she shook her head and looked at Cierre. “So, that SharShar you wear translates your words?” she asked. “And that is how I hear you speak Hebrew and the others hear you in English?”
“That is so,” Cierre said. “I am not yet fully fluent in English, or the French required by my cover story, and the amulet is a great help. I try to do without it when possible.”
“Such a thing could be of great use to Mossad,” Ziva said.
Major Davis shook his head. “No doubt it could,” he said, “but there aren’t enough to go around. The SGC has to have priority. The CIA has people who speak Arabic, Farsi, Pashto, and Urdu, the normal way, and Mossad has them too. But there are only a handful of people who speak Goa’uld and the only two people on Earth who speak the Common Tongue of Faerûn are Cierre and Dr. Daniel Jackson.”
That, presumably, had been the language Cierre had spoken in her phone call to General O’Neill and he had interpreted it with the aid of one of those necklaces. Gibbs mentally kicked himself for not realizing that earlier although, in his defense, he had had a lot of other things to occupy his mind since that call.
“If we can get more then we’ll pass some on to Mossad, and similar allied organizations,” Major Davis went on, “and that’s one avenue we’re hoping to explore in the forthcoming meeting. Now that I’ve had to read Officer David into the program we will be making full disclosure to the Israeli Government. The Russians will just have to deal with it. It would be useful if you could hold off from informing Mossad for a while, Officer David, so that we can let the Oversight Authority know about the disclosure first. That way maybe we might be able to use the information in a canary trap to pin down which of the Oversight people was the source of the leak.”
Most of the people in the room were familiar with the term ‘canary trap’ but it was obvious from Cierre’s expression that it meant nothing to her.
“I’ll explain later,” McGee whispered. Cierre’s face lit up in a brilliant smile.
Ziva nodded. “I will wait,” she said, “but do not make it too long.”
“That necklace lets you read other languages as well as speak them, doesn’t it?” Gibbs asked Cierre. “I remember you saying it would help you follow ‘Deep Six’.” When she assented he passed her a note. “We found that in Doyle’s room,” he told her, “but it’s written in some kind of hieroglyphics. It must have been meant for the parasites. Can you read it?”
Cierre’s eyebrows rose as she scrutinized the note. “It says ‘Kill any non-Goa’uld agents and then call Athena’,” she interpreted.
Gibbs pursed his lips. “I was hoping it might have had some clue about where she’s located,” he said, “but it turns out it’s useless. We don’t know who to call or what the hell to say if, for instance, we guess at that Mayfield woman. And we’d have to fake a dead agent.”
“And that would open a whole new can of worms,” Jenny Shephard said. “I’m putting together a press release and I’m downplaying everything. If I announced that the wanted murderer had also killed a Federal Agent it would ramp up the interest level to the point where we’d have no chance at all of keeping the investigation discreet. And the FBI would want in and I wouldn’t be able to say no.”
Gibbs groaned aloud at the thought of FBI Special Agent Fornell shoe-horning his way into the case and trying to take over.
“I’m not reading anyone else into the program,” Major Davis said, “unless my hand is forced. I’m all for keeping the FBI out of it.”
“What about Palmer and Agent Lee?” Jenny Shephard asked.
Davis shook his head. “It might have been okay to read that guy Palmer in at the same time as his boss,” he said. “It would have made things simpler for your Medical Examiner. But I don’t see the point in adding him now. Same with Agent Lee. Not unless it becomes unavoidable.”
“It might even help the investigation if Lee isn’t read in,” Gibbs said. “Her side of things is to build a legal case against whoever is financing the hit through that dummy company. If she can come up with something we can take to court, with no mention of devils or aliens, then all the better. And she’ll probably find that easier if she isn’t distracted by all the weird stuff.”
“That makes sense,” Jenny agreed. “Very well, we’ll keep Major Davis happy and exclude Michelle Lee from any future briefings.” She glanced at her watch. “And now we’d better decide what to do about the night-time. The sleeping accommodation here is… minimal, to say the least.”
“I doubt if Doyle knows our home addresses,” Gibbs said, “but I don’t think anyone should be alone. Just in case.”
“I still have my hotel room,” Cierre said, “and it has two beds.” She shot a brief glance at McGee before suggesting “Perhaps Ziva could stay with me. She is formidable and together we would be more than a match for our foe.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” Gibbs said, “but I think it might be better if David played bodyguard to Abby. And I would advise against using the hotel room. I wouldn’t put it past Doyle to have booby-trapped it.”
“Cierre can stay with me,” Jenny offered. “Ziva and Abby too. I have plenty of room.”
“I was going to assign Dorsey to guard Cierre,” said Burleigh, “but your idea sounds good to me.”
“I have a handloading kit at home,” Blenkowski said. “I’ll have a try at coming up with some silver bullets.”
“Me too,” said Gibbs. “Even if Colonel Carter is bringing silver bullets with her I don’t want to wait. Doyle could teleport in here before we arrive and be waiting to ambush us.”
“I’d better mention something about Colonel Carter,” Major Davis said. “She’s a tall, good-looking, blonde. Please don’t mistake her for Doyle and shoot her on sight.”
“Security says Lieutenant-Colonel Carter is coming up,” Jenny Shephard announced. “Be on your guard but don’t do anything… precipitate.”
Gibbs glanced at his watch. “She’s early,” he said. “I wouldn’t have expected her for at least a couple of hours.” He slipped his gun from its holster and the other agents followed suit.
The woman who emerged from the elevator was indeed tall, matching Cierre almost exactly in both height and build, and blonde. And calling her ‘good-looking’ was doing her a disservice. She was extremely good-looking. She wasn’t in uniform but was clad in a flight jacket and pants. Her eyebrows climbed, as she saw the guns that pointed in her direction, but she showed no other reaction and her smile didn’t waver.
“Hello, Major Davis, Cierre,” she greeted her Air Force colleagues. “I see you’re not taking any chances.”
“We can’t afford to, Colonel,” Davis said. “Not with what we’re up against. If you don’t mind, we’ll ask you a few questions to make sure you’re really you.”
“Go ahead,” Carter said.
“One of the agents here isn’t read into the program,” Davis went on, “so I can’t ask you about any of the Classified ops we’ve been on.”
“I have question I can ask,” Cierre said. She wasn’t wearing her necklace, as Agent Lee was present, and her English was no longer fluent. “When I first watch TV, and you telled me I had watched for too long, what was I say to you?”
Carter grinned widely. “That’s something I won’t forget,” she said. “You’d been watching for hours, not even breaking for the commercials, and you must have been desperate for the bathroom. But when I pointed it out you just said ‘I must know if this warrior from Kara-Tur retains his title of Iron Chef! Leave me!’ In the end we almost had to drag you away.”
Cierre grinned back. “I could ask other things but no point,” she said. “That is my Jabbress Samantha Carter.”
“I’ll accept that,” Davis said. “I’ve been wracking my brains for non-classified things to ask and coming up blank. But Cierre’s word is good enough for me.” He began introducing the agents to Carter. “You’re here a lot earlier than we expected,” he remarked, once the introductions were complete.
“I didn’t fly commercial,” Carter explained. “I flew an F-15E Strike Eagle up from Peterson AFB. General O’Neill arranged it.”
Gibbs nodded. That made sense. It not only saved time but avoided the hassle of arranging to take weapons and ammunition onto a commercial flight. And, of course, when Carter said she’d flown an F-15 she meant exactly that, not that she’d sat in the weapons officer seat while someone else did the flying. Except… if she’d brought weapons with her, where were they? All she was carrying was a small overnight bag.
The answer was revealed once Michelle Lee had departed, armed with heavy-hitting warrants, to drag senior credit card company personnel into their offices and make them disclose information about Supermaterials Research Inc. Jimmy Palmer was down in the autopsy room, with Ducky, and everyone remaining was cleared for knowledge of Project Blue Book.
Carter took a small leather pouch out of her overnight bag, opened it, and began pulling out item after item. Gibbs felt his jaw dropping lower and lower as more and more came out of the pouch. A P-90 Personal Defense Weapon, a broad belt of black leather, a Beretta M-9 and a FN Five-seveN, several magazines and cartons of ammo, an odd device resembling a small hand-held parabolic microphone but with the dish fitted in reverse, and a sword. An actual broadsword; far too long to have fit into the overnight bag, let alone the pouch. Gibbs made a conscious effort and managed to close his mouth before his jaw dropped so far down it would have been touching his chest.
“Wow!” Abby exclaimed. “A bag like a TARDIS. What is it, a spatial distortion or a, uh, pocket dimension?”
“It’s a Bag of Holding,” McGee said.
“You’re both right,” Colonel Carter said. “It’s a Bag of Holding, from Toril, and it contains a fold in space. It can hold three hundred pounds and remains virtually weightless. We’ve managed to duplicate the effect but our version is a four-foot diameter metal sphere, weighs a hundred and twenty pounds, and needs a constant power source.”
She went on to say more but it was Geek-speak, only peripherally relevant to the case, and more complicated than an explanation of the workings of Abby’s mass spectrometer. Gibbs lost interest and, instead, turned his attention to Cierre. He watched her as she swapped her SIG for the Five-seveN, checked the magazine – silver bullets, Gibbs noticed – and slid it home, and then fastened on the holster and inserted the weapon. Then she picked up the belt and the sword.
“That sword will be a little conspicuous in Washington,” he remarked, as she slid the sword’s scabbard onto the belt and then buckled it about her waist. “And it’s not exactly standard issue for NCIS.”
“I will not take it outside of here, Agent Gibbs,” Cierre assured him. “I will use it only if that creature attacks again.”
He was still inclined to be skeptical of its usefulness but had to admit that having three feet of steel shoved through you would ruin your whole day. And after all it was just Rule 9, ‘never go anywhere without a knife’, carried to extremes.
Colonel Carter changed subjects to something of more interest. “So,” she said, “a devil from Toril, hosting a Goa’uld, is in Washington and wants to kill Cierre. And then to take her place, gatecrash our meeting, and kill the rest of us plus the representative from Faerûn.”
“That’s our theory so far,” Major Davis said.
“You mean hypothesis, Paul,” Carter corrected him, “unless you’ve been able to make testable predictions.” Her smile, and the smiles that appeared on the faces of Abby, McGee, and Agent Drummond, and a slight eye-roll from Major Davis, implied to Gibbs that Colonel Carter was making a science joke. Then Carter’s brows lowered in a frown. “If that was the intention, then why would the devil keep trying to kill Cierre after the first attempt went wrong? There’s no chance of getting away with the impersonation now.”
“We think Cierre is a target in her own right,” Agent Burleigh said. “Whoever summoned the devil – and ten to one says it’s the Trust – wants her dead even if that wrecks the rest of the plan. In fact we’re only assuming that the meeting is a target. The only certainty is that they’re after Cierre.”
“Yeah,” said Gibbs. “What do you know about Farrow-Marshall Aeronautics?”
Carter’s frown grew more pronounced. “The SGC buys some components from them,” she said. “They make an ingenious navigation and guidance package that doesn’t depend on GPS and so will work in alien environments. It’s installed in the F-302 and we also have a stock ready in case we need to launch a… missile attack… through the… Stargate. Oh... crap.” Her eyes turned to Cierre.
“Yes,” Cierre said. “I know. They killed M’Zel. And now Mike.”
Michelle Lee stood beside her car, her eyes flicking nervously this way and that, as she spoke into her phone. “I have to give them the information,” she said. “If I don’t they’ll know something’s wrong.”
“That’s all according to plan,” said the heavily auto-tuned voice she knew only as The Weatherman. “As long as you keep us informed everything will work out just right. Learn as much as you can. And if you can find out who SG-1 is meeting I might just arrange for you to visit Amanda at Christmas. Of course if you don’t keep the updates coming then you’ll get a parcel containing a Christmas present you won’t like as much. Amanda’s right hand.”
Ducky entered the bullpen with a smile on his face. “Ah, Jethro,” he said. “Are we making progress?”
“We are, Ducky, we are,” Gibbs replied. “I take it you’re getting bored down there without anything much to do?”
“Oh, I have plenty to keep me occupied,” Ducky said, “but I’m being… discreet. I departed so that I could turn a blind eye to the little breach of Rule 12 that is going on, ah, without my knowledge.”
Gibbs gave a tight little smile. “Lee’s done some good work,” he said, “and she isn’t even scheduled to be in this weekend. She’s on her own time. And it’s not as if she’ll be distracting Palmer from anything urgent. I guess you can leave them to it.”
“What is Rule 12?” Cierre asked.
Gibbs hesitated before answering. “Never date a co-worker,” he told her after a moment. Cierre grimaced and turned away.
Gibbs pursed his lips, set down his coffee, and introduced Ducky to Colonel Carter. Almost immediately Dr. Mallard, who had autopsied the Goa’uld carcasses before disposing of them as hazardous biological waste, began plying Carter with questions about the physiology and life cycle of the creatures. Gibbs soon decided that he would rather not know the details and moved away. He contemplated trying to comfort the distinctly unhappy-looking Cierre but, to his relief, saw that Ziva had taken that task upon herself. He returned to his coffee and set about replenishing his caffeine levels.
“Boss, we’ve got something,” McGee called. Gibbs set down his coffee again and went over to stand behind McGee. DiNozzo appeared beside him, happy to abandon his own trawl through Californian police records at the slightest excuse, and Ducky wandered over too.
“One of the cards has been used,” McGee told them. “A reservation for a suite at the Park Hyatt.” He frowned. “It’s for five nights, starting today, but the reservation was made a week ago.”
“Maybe it’s not Doyle,” DiNozzo said. “What’s the name this time?”
“Jessie MacPherson,” McGee answered. “That’s Jessie spelled J-E-S-S-I-E. I can’t think of a link to the names Doyle used before.”
“Elle ‘The Body’ MacPherson,” DiNozzo mused.
“Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura,” Ducky chimed in. He observed DiNozzo’s raised eyebrows and explained. “Mother has followed wrestling for some considerable time and I’m afraid some of her knowledge rubbed off on me despite all my efforts to avoid it.”
“He was in ‘The Running Man’ and ‘Predator’,” DiNozzo said. “That line ‘I ain’t got time to bleed’ is a classic.”
Gibbs ignored the extraneous chatter and latched onto the salient point. “You said that ‘Cheyenne’ and ‘Doyle’ both brought to mind TV characters called ‘Bodie’, didn’t you, Ducky?”
“Indeed I did, Jethro,” Ducky confirmed, “and now we see names associated with the appellation ‘The Body’. I suspect that this is not coincidence.”
Cierre stood up abruptly. “What was that you said? Doyle used names that relate to ‘Bodie’ or ‘Body’?”
“So it would seem,” Gibbs confirmed. He recalled that Cierre had been being interrogated by McGee at the time Ducky had first come up with the ‘Cheyenne Bodie/Bodie and Doyle’ connection and, as far as he could remember, no-one had mentioned it since. “Does that mean something to you?”
“Bodhi,” Cierre said. “Sharwyn spoke of her. She was a vampire who stole the power of a god before being slain by Viconia De’Vir. And she had been to Earth.”
“A vampire? I thought she was a devil,” Gibbs said.
“She is now,” Cierre said. “It is said that those who die Faithless can avoid being sentenced to the Wall if they agree to become devils. That is what she must have done.”
Gibbs shook his head. “I wouldn’t believe a word of this if I hadn’t seen that creature Doyle conjured up, and seen her laugh off bullets to the head,” he said.
“She’s been to Earth before? When was this?” McGee asked.
“1369, I think,” Cierre said, confusing everyone for a moment until she went on, “Dale Reckoning. That would be five, no six, years ago.”
McGee and Agent Drummond exchanged glances and then both turned to their computers and began typing. “We weren’t looking back far enough,” McGee muttered.
“Leave it for now, McGee,” Gibbs ordered. “Finding out what she did in California might be helpful but it’s not a priority. The hotel booking is. Has she checked in yet?”
“No, boss,” McGee answered. “I’ll call and arrange for us to be told as soon as she does.”
“Do that,” said Gibbs. “I want to hit her before she can set up any traps. And if Colonel Carter’s gadget works as advertised then this time she won’t escape.”
Gibbs went in first, gun in hand, with DiNozzo immediately behind him. McGee came next, operating Colonel Carter’s gadget, with Ziva covering the rear. The AFOSI agents had remained behind, guarding Cierre and Carter, and with the firepower they now had Doyle would meet an extremely hot reception if she made another assault on the Navy Yard.
The room’s occupant was taken by surprise. She was sitting cross-legged on the bed, wearing only a bra and panties, and she was watching ‘Shrek’ on the room’s huge TV. The expression on her face was one of wonder and innocent enjoyment; so different from the feral ferocity Gibbs had seen on Doyle’s face that for a moment he couldn’t believe that it was the same woman and he held his fire.
“Freeze! Federal agents!” he commanded.
The woman’s mouth dropped open as she turned away from the TV and stared into the barrel of the gun. Then she exploded into motion, diving from the bed, hurling herself toward a gun that lay on the dresser. Even as her fingers closed on the pistol’s butt her gaze flicked back toward the TV for a brief instant.
Her action was all the confirmation Gibbs needed and he opened fire. DiNozzo’s gun bellowed an instant later. Red blotches flowered on the woman’s shoulder and lower back as the bullets hit. She jerked under the impacts but still grabbed the gun. She fumbled with it, her finger going outside the trigger guard at first, and then tried to bring it around to the aim. Gibbs and DiNozzo both shot her again as she turned. The gun fell from her hand as the force of the bullets striking knocked her off balance and she slumped back against the dresser.
Her lips pulled back into a snarl, for the first time matching the expressions Gibbs had seen on Doyle, and suddenly a whip appeared in her hand from out of nowhere. She raised it to strike but Gibbs shot her in the throat, DiNozzo put a bullet into her chest just above where the bra cups joined, and then Ziva shot her precisely between the eyes.
She went down instantly, collapsing like a puppet whose strings had been cut, and lay still. Gibbs stood over her and stared down. Her hair was dark, short and spiked up just as Doyle’s had been for the brief moment when she had been zapped by Burleigh’s and Major Davis’ ray guns, and her face matched that version of Doyle’s face too. Yet Gibbs still had a vague feeling that something was wrong. Then the corpse started to become translucent. Gibbs saw a pendant hanging from the dead woman’s neck; it looked very like the one Cierre wore. Hastily he bent down and snatched the necklace away. Seconds later the dead body began to melt away and before long it had vanished completely.
“Well, that was easier than I expected,” DiNozzo said. He looked over at the TV screen, where the animated green ogre and his donkey companion were discussing onions and cake, and holstered his pistol. “I know ‘Shrek’ is a good movie,” he remarked, “but I wouldn’t have thought it was so great anyone would take time out from a gunfight to snatch a glimpse of the action. Especially Doyle. I would have thought ‘Natural Born Killers’ would have been more her style.”
Gibbs frowned. Doyle had shown an easy familiarity with Earth culture in their previous encounters. This time, however, she’d acted more like Carter’s description of Cierre’s first experience of TV. Something wasn’t right. “It was too easy,” he said.
“After what happened the first time I met her I’ll take all the easy I can get,” DiNozzo said.
“She did not expect us, and we caught her by surprise,” Ziva said. “That is… odd. The thing with the names making a trail… how did she not know we would find her here?”
“Her employers set her up,” McGee suggested. “She can’t have known about the connection in the names. She was making too many waves and they used us to get rid of her.”
“Maybe,” Gibbs said. He scanned the room and saw a knife on the table under the TV. Before examining it he holstered his gun and donned gloves. It proved to have a spear-pointed blade of about seven and a half inches in length. “This looks like it could be the knife that killed Gunny Sherman,” he said.
“And that’s my gun,” DiNozzo said. “Should I take it back or do we need it for evidence? It’s not like we’re going to have a trial when the killer has melted away like the Wicked Witch of the West.”
“Bag it for now,” Gibbs said, “and gather up everything else she’s left behind. I’m going to call Ducky. If we’re going to announce that we’ve brought the case to a successful conclusion we’ll have to fake a body.”
Usstan rothrl dosst quarth: (Drow) “I obey your command”
Ma la‘azazél?: (Hebrew) Literal, “What to the Hell?”; colloquial, “What the fuck?”
Yesh matzav al hapalim: (Hebrew) Literal, “There is a situation to the face!”; colloquial, “This (situation) sucks!”
SharShar: (Israeli slang) a gaudy gold necklace, often bearing a large golden medallion. Bling.
canary trap: (espionage term) exposing an information leak by giving different versions of the information to each of several suspects and seeing which version gets leaked. Originally known as a ‘barium meal test’ until Tom Clancy coined the ‘canary trap’ name in his novel ‘Patriot Games’ and it caught on.