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 7 is 7,800 words, rating 15.
The King of Elfland’s Daughter
Chapter Seven: Trusted Agent
It was cold in Cleveland and there was frost on the ground. Sporadic gusts of bitter wind blew through the parking garage. The car spaces were almost unoccupied, with the exception of three motorbikes; the place belonged to an office building and it was a Sunday.
The three men who waited there were dressed for the weather, in warm sweaters and heavy jackets, and their leader wore a stocking cap pulled tight over his shaven head. He wasn’t wearing gloves and he blew into his cupped hands to warm them. The sound of approaching footsteps, heels clicking on the access ramp, reached his ears and he took his hands away from his mouth and unzipped his jacket. His right hand slipped inside the jacket and rested on the butt of his gun.
The man relaxed slightly as a woman came into sight. She was tall, over six feet in her heels, and was wearing a silver-grey fur coat. The length of leg that showed through the front of the coat, as she took long strides, implied that underneath the coat she was wearing a mini-skirt. Her shoes were light strappy affairs with slim three-inch heels, ridiculous for this weather, and the man briefly wondered if she’d been out clubbing the night before and had stayed out all night and well into the day. He shivered, briefly, and it wasn’t from the cold. This psycho bitch gave him the creeps. What she’d done to the stray cat when he’d challenged her to prove that she wasn’t an undercover cop…
She halted a few paces away and looked at him with an expression of arrogant superiority on her face. “You have the guns?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “You got the money?”
“The specific guns I requested?” she pressed.
“Sure thing,” he said. “Beretta M-9 and Heckler and Koch MP-5K just like you said. Show her, Tyler.” One of his two henchmen held up an attaché case, opened it, and revealed two guns duct-taped to the inside. “There. Now show me the money.”
Her hand dipped into a coat pocket and came out holding a thick roll of bills. “Here. Now stop wasting time and give me the guns. I have places to go and people to kill.”
The exchange was made. The seller flipped through the bills, checking that they were indeed all fifties, but didn’t take the time to count the money thoroughly. Even if she’d shorted him by a few he was still making a massive profit.
Just how massive was revealed when the woman felt the weight of the case of guns, frowned, and ripped the MP-5K from its tape fastenings. Blue plastic was revealed as the duct tape came away and took black paint with it. She hurled the gun to the concrete floor with such force that it shattered.
“You’re making a big mistake,” said the woman, her tone icy. “Give me back my money or come up with real guns right now.”
“Tough shit, bitch,” the gun seller replied. “I’m not selling a machine gun to a whack job like you. Whatever you’ve got planned would be a blood-bath and you’d have the cops turning over every stone in town. You’d wreck things for everybody. Fuck that. And,” he put his hand on the butt of the gun at his waistband, “there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” the woman said. She flung the case, still containing the replica Beretta, across the car park and then turned, walked away for a few steps, and faced him again. Her hands went to the fastenings of her coat.
The dealer took a firm grip on his pistol, ready to draw if she produced a weapon, but instead she opened the coat to reveal that she was naked underneath. His jaw dropped. “What the Hell? Lady, if you think showing your tits is going to get me to give you the money back then you’ve got another think coming.”
“Oh, that’s not what I had in mind at all,” the woman said, as she took off her coat and laid it down on a clean section of concrete. “I’m just being nice to Charlotte by making sure that I don’t ruin her coat by getting it filled with bullet holes or covered in blood.” She slipped off her shoes, set them down beside the coat, and then moved a few yards away. “It’s thirty-six hours since I last killed someone. Too long. I’m rather glad you’ve given me an excuse.”
“You’re fucking crazy,” the dealer said. He drew the gun from his waistband and flipped off the safety. “In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve got guns. Real ones.”
Tyler followed his example and pulled out a large pistol that had a long magazine mounted in front of the trigger guard. The other henchman, a hulk of a man over six feet tall with broad shoulders and a bulging belly, held a baseball bat in his right hand. He raised it into a threatening position.
“That don’t impress me much,” the woman said. Suddenly wings sprouted from her back; twice the size of an eagle’s, feathered in dark red, spreading wide and then folding into a semi-furled position.
“Holy shit!” the gun dealer exclaimed. “You’re an angel!”
“Oh, no, quite the reverse,” the woman said. He didn’t see her move but suddenly she was right in front of him, within arm’s reach, and her leg blurred upward as she kicked him in the stomach with tremendous speed and force.
The impact drove the breath from the dealer’s lungs and he doubled up, retching, his gun forgotten. Instantly the woman spun and seized Tyler, grabbing his gun hand and pulling, and bringing up a knee into his groin. The gun chattered in a brief un-aimed burst. Two bullets struck Tyler’s boss in the right arm and shoulder, causing him to drop his gun and fall face-first to the floor, and another three bullets passed harmlessly over his head and struck the garage’s ceiling. Then the woman kicked Tyler’s legs out from under him, wrenched the gun from his hand, and stamped on his throat.
The remaining henchman came in with his baseball bat swinging. The winged woman side-stepped the clumsy blow and used the barrel of the gun in a guide parry to send him stumbling around and past her. She then tossed the gun onto Tyler’s writhing body to free up her hand. When the bat-wielding henchman tried to deliver a back-hand blow she seized his arm, jerked it up behind his back, and began to force him toward one of the garage’s concrete support pillars.
The man tried to resist, digging in his heels and straining against her, but she flapped her wings, lifted him from the ground, and flew straight at the pillar at dizzying speed. She rammed him head-first into the concrete and then let him fall. His hand released its grip on the bat; she landed, snatched it up, and delivered a crushing blow to the back of his head. She followed that with another, and then another, and after her third strike the man’s head was a mess of oozing blood and shattered bone.
Once satisfied that he was dead she left the body and headed back toward her first two victims. The gun seller was still alive, had risen to his knees, and didn’t even seem to be all that badly hurt. She clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth, irritated with herself for wrongly assuming that he was out of action for the duration, and rushed across to get to him before he could recover his gun. He was just reaching for it with his left hand when she arrived and seized his arm. She tossed away the bat, took hold of the back of his neck, and jerked him upright. Her mouth gaped open and she lowered her head toward his throat.
“Oops, silly of me,” she said, stopping half-way and pushing him away again. “That would be pointless. It’s more than five years since I stopped being a vampire but, as they say, old habits die hard.” She gave his arm a brutal twist that dislocated his elbow, released it, and grabbed his chin. He began to spit out a stream of obscenities at her but they were cut off as she wrenched his head around until his neck broke.
“You weren’t much of a challenge,” she remarked, as she released his limp body and let it fall. “I could have kept the fur coat on after all. I’d say the NCIS agents would have blown you away in about a second. In fact Cierre, or that girl I pushed out of the window, probably could have taken you out without needing to use their guns and they’re not even bullet-proof. Of course they’re professionals and you’re just a miserable excuse for a Thieves’ Guild underboss. Pathetic even by the standards of mortals.”
She picked up his gun from the floor and scrutinized it. “Ruger P-94DC,” she read aloud. “9mm x 19. Not a Beretta but I suppose it will do.” She made as if to tuck it into her waistband, remembered that she was naked, and laughed. Instead she laid it down again and went through the dead man’s pockets. She retrieved the roll of bills, found and emptied a wallet, and appropriated a spare magazine for the pistol and a folding knife. Next she moved on to the gunman Tyler, on whose throat she had stamped, and who had choked to death by this time. She stripped him of valuables and ammunition, tossing aside as unimportant a zip-lock plastic bag of some sort of herb, and then examined his gun.
“Intratec, Miami FLA,” she read. “9 mm Luger Mod. TEC-9. Patent Pending. What do you make of it, Athena?” She cocked her head, as if listening, and then pointed the weapon at Tyler’s body and squeezed the trigger. A burst of automatic fire resulted and five bullets struck the corpse before she could release the trigger. Bodhi grinned. “Now I have a machine gun,” she said. “Ho ho ho.”
“Gibbs!” Abby’s pigtails shook as she bounced over to greet him. She took the Caf-Pow that he proffered and gave him a beaming smile in return. “Just what I needed! We’re making progress.”
“That’s good to hear,” Gibbs said. He held out the coffee cup in his other hand to Colonel Carter. “Cierre told me how you like your coffee,” he said. “Thought you might like some.”
“Thank you, Agent Gibbs,” Carter said, accepting the coffee. “That’s very thoughtful of you.” The smile that she gave him would have had the Pope tossing away his ferula, trading in his vestments for an Armani suit, and checking out the Aftershave counter. “I’m very impressed by your lab here,” she remarked, “and Miss Sciuto…”
“Call me Abby,” Abby interjected.
“…Abby,” Carter continued, “is something of a marvel.”
Abby beamed at her. “Colonel Carter is a genius,” she said.
“If I’m to call you Abby you should call me Sam,” Carter responded, and the two women beamed at each other.
Gibbs brought the mutual admiration society back on track. “So what have you found out?” he asked.
“Well, the gun is definitely Tony’s,” Abby began, “and the spare magazine has Ziva’s fingerprints on it. No other prints on any of the items we recovered, just like at the other places; I don’t think Doyle’s kind of creature has fingerprints like a human. But the knife and scabbard have traces of blood of all the right types. The full DNA comparison isn’t finished yet but some of the blood contains Plague antibodies. It’s Tony’s, that’s pretty much a certainty. If the other blood isn’t Gunny Sherman’s, and maybe Ziva’s too, I’ll eat Bert.”
“Bert?” queried Colonel Carter, her eyebrows arching upward.
Abby picked up her hippo and held him aloft. “Bert,” she said. “Very definitely not edible.” She squeezed the toy and it made a farting noise. “But very cute.”
“Indeed so,” Carter agreed.
“Her iPod was damaged,” Abby went on. “It looks to have had a high-voltage charge through it, which fits with the Air Force people zapping her with their ray-guns, but I managed to salvage some of the content.” She bounced across to her stereo and turned it on. A crescendo of guitars and drums sounded out, making Gibbs wince, and then the vocals started.
Welcome to the jungle
We’ve got fun ’n’ games
We got everything you want…
Abby spotted Gibbs’ expression and turned it off. “Welcome to the Jungle,” she declared, unnecessarily. “The song she was playing when Tony and Ziva met her.”
“I guess that fits,” Gibbs said. “The knife is the one she used on Tony, the gun is the one she took from him, and it’s her… iPod thing. So why do I still feel like something doesn’t add up? What about that necklace? Have you found out what it does yet?”
“We have,” Carter answered. “It took a while. At first it didn’t seem to do anything at all but then Cierre tried it out. It is a translation device, like Cierre’s, but it only translates between two languages. English and the Common Tongue of Faerûn.”
Gibbs frowned. “Doyle wasn’t wearing it when she turned up here impersonating Ziva,” he pointed out, “and DiNozzo and David would have mentioned it if she’d worn it at the St. Regis. Doyle, or Bodhi or whatever the hell she was really called, spoke English… and a lot better than Cierre.”
“There’s more, Gibbs,” Abby said. “Watch this.” The necklace in question was on one of her benches. She switched on one of her instruments, waited until its screen had lit up, and then held a detector close to the pendant. The screen showed a pattern of vertical bars, meaningless to Gibbs other than reminding him of the graphic equalizer of Abby’s stereo when she had played that horrible song, and he merely looked at her and frowned. Abby grinned back. “Now watch this, Gibbs. Sam?”
Abby took the detector away from the necklace and pointed it toward Sam. Carter lifted up the device she’d brought with her, designed to disrupt Doyle’s teleportation, and switched it on. The display screen showed another pattern.
No, not another pattern. Gibbs leaned forward and stared at the screen. His jaw clenched. “It’s the same,” he growled. “Am I right?”
“Absolutely identical,” Colonel Carter confirmed. “Anyone wearing that necklace can’t teleport.”
“Someone did something hinky to it so she couldn’t zap herself out of trouble,” Abby said. “The Farrow-Marshall Aeronautics people, I’d guess. Using us to get rid of her, like Tim said, because she was attracting too much attention.”
Gibbs smacked the back of his own head. “No, Abbs,” he said. “I knew something was wrong but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I should have spotted it earlier. How could someone else have gotten Doyle to wear a translation device when she speaks English anyway? It wasn’t her. The girl in the hotel room was acting like Cierre did when she first saw a TV because it was the first time she’d seen a TV. And she didn’t show even a flicker of recognition when she saw me, and DiNozzo and David, because she’d never seen us before. It was a set-up but Doyle did the setting-up. We shot the wrong devil.” He shook his head. “And that’s something that only two days ago I never thought I’d ever say.”
“Tell me about it,” said Carter, with a smile. “When I had to make my report to General Hammond about meeting demons, dragons, and a seven-foot tall angel wearing a bath towel I had trouble believing my own words.” The smile was replaced by a serious expression. “I think you’re right. The necklace is emitting ionizing radiation in the vacuum ultra-violet spectrum, but without any kind of power source, and without disrupting the translation function. Only Faerûnian technology – magic – can do that. It’s from Cierre’s world and the most likely source is Bodhi herself.”
Abby wrinkled her nose. “So she brought in one of her own kind, put her in the hotel room looking like Doyle, gimmicked the necklace so the other one couldn’t zap out of there, and left her to get shot? That’s… cold. Sneaky and cold.”
“I guess that’s all part of being a devil,” Gibbs said. “So why did she do it? It has to be to make us think the threat is over so we let down our guard. And if we let Cierre walk out of here alone – Doyle will be waiting.”
“Cierre’s not easy to kill,” Carter said, “as a lot of people could testify… if they weren’t dead. But I agree that we should take every precaution.”
“And we’d better get someone watching your back too,” Gibbs advised. He pursed his lips. “Although maybe now she’ll lie low and then hit the meeting. I don’t like trying to second-guess her. I’d like to call on Farrow-Marshall Aeronautics and ask Charlotte Mayfield some very pointed questions but it’s too soon. We don’t have a thing that would stick and all we’d do would be to tip our hand. Until we can establish a link between Farrow-Marshall and Supermaterials Research we can’t make a move.”
“I guess I should cancel the ‘Ding dong, Doyle is dead’ party, right Gibbs?” Abby said.
Gibbs narrowed his eyes. “Maybe not. Officially, she’s dead.”
“And if she is dead, why not say so?” Carter said, her tone indicating that she was quoting.
The quote sounded vaguely familiar to Gibbs but he couldn’t place it. He wasn’t interested enough to probe so he merely continued. “We tell the Press we got the killer, we act as if she’s dead, but we keep our guard up. If she thinks we’ve fallen for her fake death scam maybe we can get ahead of her for a change. Oh, and good work, Abbs.”
“Thanks, Gibbs, but I wouldn’t have caught on to the teleport blocker without Sam,” Abby said.
“I can’t give a ‘good work’ to someone who’s not one of mine,” Gibbs said, “but thanks, Colonel Carter.” Something that had been niggling at the back of his mind worked itself to the fore and he raised the point. “You mentioned the necklace was emitting radiation. Is it hazardous?”
“It’s low power,” Carter said, “and the atmosphere stops the rays after about five feet. My projector puts out ten times as much radiation but it’s still safe to use for short periods. But I wouldn’t want to wear the necklace next to my skin for a month. And I really, really, wouldn’t want to wear it for six months. The Common-to-English translation feature could be pretty useful to us but we’d have to block the UV radiation to make it safe. A covering of gold, I think; lead would work, of course, but nobody wears lead jewelry.”
“It might catch on in the Marines,” Gibbs said, “although given recent events I’d pick silver. But right now I think I’ll go and pick Cierre’s brains. She said she’d heard of Doyle before, under the name of Bodhi, and maybe she might remember something that’ll held us predict Doyle’s next move. So far she seems to have anticipated our moves in time to be ready for us. Next time I’d like the boot to be on the other foot.”
Jimmy Palmer fiddled with his tie and swallowed hard before speaking. “Doctor Mallard,” he said, “I… have something to confess to you.”
“Oh dear, Mr. Palmer,” Ducky said, looking at his assistant over the rims of his glasses, “I do hope it’s not that you’ve been neglecting to devote your usual level of meticulous attention to the care of the surgical instruments. You are not normally remiss in your duties.”
“Oh, no, nothing like that, Doctor Mallard,” Palmer said, a nervous smile appearing briefly on his face and then fading again. “It’s more of a… personal matter.” Ducky said nothing, merely raising his eyebrows questioningly, and Palmer swallowed again before continuing. “I’ve been having a… relationship with Michelle… Agent Lee. In the workplace.”
Ducky smiled. “I am aware of that, Mr. Palmer,” he said. “My eyes may not be what they were but they are still sufficiently keen to be able to observe items of feminine underwear appearing mysteriously, and then being hastily removed from sight, in circumstances in which Agent Lee was the only possible owner of the undergarments in question. It did not seem to be affecting your work, however, and so I was prepared to turn a Nelsonian eye to the matter. But why are you choosing to disclose it at this particular moment?”
“Uh,” Palmer fiddled with his tie again, “she’s been asking questions. About the case. And I’m a little… uncomfortable about it. She was getting… intense. And suggesting that we, uh, should, uh, be sort of conspirators to find out what the big secret is and, uh, pool what we discover. I got the feeling that she was relying on me not telling anyone because we’re, uh…”
“Oh dear.” Ducky put a finger to his glasses and pushed them more firmly into place. “I’m afraid, Mr. Palmer, that you will have to repeat your confession. To Agent Gibbs and, I expect, to Director Shephard too.”
“Thank you, Mr. Palmer,” Jenny Shephard said. “You may go. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t mention this to anyone else.”
“Of course, Director,” Palmer said. He turned to go, bumped into a chair and stumbled, and then hastily set the chair straight and vacated the room with all possible speed.
“Dammit!” Gibbs growled, as soon as the door had closed behind Palmer. “If Lee is leaking information it’s no wonder we’re playing catch-up.”
“You think she might be a mole?” Jenny raised an eyebrow. “Not merely being inquisitive? One would expect an agent to exhibit curiosity.”
“I don’t know her all that well,” Gibbs admitted, “but from what I do know I’d say it’s out of character. And, for that matter, her coming in yesterday wasn’t in character either. Everybody else called in to ask if we needed them. She just turned up out of the blue.” He clenched his jaw and nodded slowly. “And when we all pointed our guns at her she was worried at first. When you said we were going to ask her some questions she got positively scared. Then I said we were after a killer who’d passed herself off as David, and a blonde, and Lee relaxed. That doesn’t ring true.”
“Hmm.” Jenny tapped her desk with a finger. “You’re right. And when Doyle came in with the stun grenade everyone else took cover. I gather that Lee stood up, and even took a step toward it, and that’s how she was the only one rendered unconscious. If she knew in advance that it was a stun grenade then she was putting herself safely out of the fight so that she didn’t have to shoot at Doyle and she wasn’t likely to get shot. It’s not conclusive evidence but it’s certainly grounds for suspicion.”
“Doyle was ready for us at the Hay-Adams,” Gibbs said, “and Lee was there when we planned the raid. And she knew we had the credit card details so she knew we’d find out about the booking at the Park Hyatt. Everything’s circumstantial but we can’t take the chance. We have to assume Lee’s compromised. And we might be able to turn that to our advantage.”
“We feed her misinformation,” Jenny agreed.
“Ah, if I might make an observation,” Ducky put in.
“Of course, Dr. Mallard,” Jenny said. “Go ahead.”
“Well, in my opinion, if Agent Lee is compromised it is likely to be the result of blackmail,” Ducky said. “I do not see her primary motivations as financial and I doubt if she could have been bribed. No, her motivations relate to people. I would remind you that the one occasion on which she went above and beyond the call of duty was in the case involving the gang trafficking in enslaved Chinese girls. I would venture to suggest,” he said, stroking his chin, “that it would be a good idea to check on the whereabouts of loved ones, particularly family members. A threat to one, most likely a hostage, would be a lever that might compel her to betray us whereas other inducements would be likely to fail. And if that is indeed the case then using Agent Lee to pass on misinformation might put said hostage in extreme jeopardy.”
“That seems logical, Dr. Mallard,” Jenny said. “You may well be correct. We’ll have to take that into consideration. Still, at least there is no immediate need to make use of her in that manner. With Doyle dead some of the urgency has gone.”
Gibbs scowled. “She’s not dead,” he revealed. “We shot a ringer. I was on my way to tell you when Ducky and Palmer caught up with me.”
“What?” Jenny jerked bolt upright in her chair.
“Oh, dear,” Ducky said. “That is rather grave news.”
Gibbs ran through a brief recap of what he’d worked out in the lab. “I had a word with Cierre,” he added. “Doyle, or Bodhi, has done it before on their world. She was fighting a bunch of… vampire hunters… and she set up a look-alike to get staked instead of her. Then she ambushed the good guys. I’d guess she has something like that in mind for us, or at least for Cierre and the SG-1 people. The edge we have right now is that we know she isn’t dead and she doesn’t know we know. It’s a help but it’s not enough. I want to turn the leak round on her and set a trap.”
“First we need to find out if we really would be endangering a hostage who, at the moment, is only hypothetical,” Jenny said. “Hmm. Lee has access to a lot of information. It will be difficult to investigate her without risking her finding out. Perhaps we should enlist an… outside agency.”
“I’m not keen on washing our dirty linen in public,” Gibbs said, “but I think you’re right. I could call Fornell, I guess, but AFOSI is already here and know the background. Getting them to handle the investigation might be the best option. I’ll have a word with Burleigh and see if his people can spare a team. Otherwise it’ll have to be the FBI.”
“And I’ll go through Lee’s file and look for vulnerabilities,” Jenny said. “How many people know that Doyle’s not dead?”
“Besides you and Ducky only Abby, Colonel Carter, and Cierre so far,” Gibbs said. “But we’ll have to tell the rest of the team, and the AFOSI people, and Major Davis.”
“Delay as long as possible,” Jenny said. “They’ll act more natural if they don’t know.”
“Once Lee’s gone home,” Gibbs said, and then a thought occurred to him and he groaned aloud. “Dammit, Lee went off on her own to get the credit card information,” he said, “even though I’d said nobody was to go anywhere alone. That means we can’t trust what she brought us. She could have kept something back. It’ll all have to be re-checked. One step forward, one step back. It would be so much easier if I could just put Lee in the Interrogation room and ask her some questions.”
“Ah, Jethro,” Ducky put in, “have you considered that Agent Lee might have one of those, ah, Goa’uld creatures inside her? That would account for her probable disloyalty without any need to consider blackmail.”
“According to Paul – Major Davis – Colonel Carter can detect Goa’uld hosts,” Jenny said, “and Lee was present when Carter arrived. I think we’re clear on that score.”
Gibbs wasn’t sure whether or not he felt relieved to hear that. Being taken over by one of those things would be a horrible fate but, on the other side, it would have meant that Michelle Lee wasn’t voluntarily being a traitor and that there was no hostage to worry about. If there was a hostage, and Ducky’s deduction made that seem very plausible, then they’d have to move fast. And moving fast, without the cooperation of the victim’s family, required a lot of ingenuity and hard work. Lee would have to be put under surveillance and her phones and e-mails monitored; luckily she was a mediocre field agent, although good at the legal stuff, and it shouldn’t be too hard a task for an AFOSI team whereas trying to do the same thing to DiNozzo or David or McGee, without them spotting it, would have been orders of magnitude harder.
“Good,” Gibbs said. “I’d better have a word with Burleigh right away.”
“And I have to go lie to the Press,” Jenny said, with a sigh. “Why couldn’t this have been Leon’s weekend on call?”
Gibbs frowned. “Actually I think I’m glad it was my team’s weekend on duty,” he said. “If it had been one of the other teams things could well have gone worse. Maybe Cierre would be dead… or maybe we’d have two dead agents.”
Tim McGee was considering how he could make a novel out of the case. He couldn’t include anything about the SGC and other planets, of course, and not just because it could mean going to jail. Even if he disguised it enough to make it seem as fictional as ‘Wormhole X-Treme’ it wouldn’t fit with the realistic tone of his first two ‘Deep Six’ books. The supernatural element made it even more jarring. But he couldn’t resist the urge to do something with the case. The scene where Ziva, in her fictional guise as ‘Officer Lisa’, was thrown out of a high window and saved herself by catching a flagpole was too good not to use. Perhaps if he made the villain someone who was only faking being a supernatural entity, using techniques from stage magic…
His musings were interrupted by Gibbs’ voice from behind him.
“What’ve you got for me, McGee?”
Tim jerked upright. “Boss! Uh, I’ve got the police reports from Sunnydale, California, about Bodhi. Although I guess it doesn’t matter that much now she’s dead.”
Gibb’s lips tightened for an instant. “Let’s hear it anyway,” he said.
“Sure, Boss. She appeared in Sunnydale in May 2002 with three accomplices. They killed two police officers, and eight civilians, and put another five people in the hospital. This was over a three-day period and then, suddenly, they were gone and the file was marked ‘Case Closed’. With no explanation.”
“That ties in with what Cierre told us,” Gibbs said. “They went back to… where they came from.”
Tim nodded. “I guess that would be right,” he said. “Some of the language in the reports is… like code phrases. As if the local cops have encountered things like her before, and know what they’re dealing with, but don’t want to go right out and say so in case they sound crazy.”
“Which will be why Major Davis told us that Sunnydale was where we should start looking,” Gibbs said. “Is there anything that takes us forward?”
“Not really,” Tim admitted. “They describe her as being five foot nothing, instead of six feet tall, but we already knew she could change what she looks like. And the gun she took was a SIG P-229, not a 228, but that’s trivial. The only thing that might be any help at all is that apparently she was trying to kill two Sunnydale residents, Joan Summers and Randy Giles, and she failed. Randy Giles was one of the people she hospitalized but he was out after one day so he can’t have been too badly hurt.”
“Interesting,” Gibbs said, “but not useful. If they weren’t two thousand miles away I’d want to talk to them but a phone conversation’s not the same. Anything else?”
“I found something in Cleveland,” Agent Drummond reported. “Olympia Farrow, the CEO of Farrow-Marshall, is in the hospital there. She was admitted last weekend following a ‘stroke’.” She made air-quotes with her fingers. “She’s still there, in a coma, on life support. And Executive Vice-President Charlotte Mayfield has taken over running the company for the time being.”
“I’m thinking Olympia Farrow had one of those things in her,” Tim said, “and it decided moving into Doyle would be a good idea. And it left Farrow a vegetable when it moved out.”
Gibbs grimaced. “I hate this case and everything about it. Well, maybe not everything. Amos Burleigh is a good guy, and working with him and his team has been fine,” he said, and Agent Drummond responded with a smile. “And Cierre’s a good… person,” Gibbs went on, “and meeting her has been interesting.”
“Yeah, I like her,” Tim agreed. Cierre was right across at the other side of the room but she still turned and gave Tim a beaming smile. Those pointed ears of hers obviously were very efficient. Tim smiled back. If she was interested in him, and she certainly seemed to be, he wasn’t going to brush her off; he had a thousand questions for her, she was hot – especially when she was in motion, as graceful as a figure-skater – in an exotic way, and it wasn’t as if Tim had a problem with strong women.
Gibbs quirked an eyebrow upward. “If we can get this case wrapped up quickly maybe you might get a chance to spend some time with Cierre before she heads off back to Colorado,” he said. Tim groaned inwardly. Gibbs was just too damn perceptive and, unfortunately, Tony was close enough to have picked up on it. “It might be worth taking a look at police reports from Cleveland,” Gibbs went on. “There might be something like you saw in the Sunnydale reports. There has to be some reason that’s where they went to get Doyle.”
“On it, Boss,” Tim replied. Gibbs merely nodded in response, turned, and walked off.
Tony waited until Gibbs was well out of the way before pouncing. “Hey, McGeek,” he said, grinning, “are you going to be asking Cierre out on a date? Are you sure you’re up to it? She’d break you in half.”
Tim didn’t reply but merely looked over Tony’s shoulder.
Tony frowned. “Don’t tell me Gibbs is behind me,” he said. “Even he can’t move that fast. Uh, can he?” He turned his head and his grin disappeared. Cierre was glaring at him from a foot away.
“You call Tim ‘McGeek’,” Cierre said, her tone cold. “I know geek is bad word, like dork. Why you call him that? And I not break friends, only enemies.”
“It’s just friendly teasing,” Tim spoke up hastily, “between… abbin. Tony doesn’t mean anything insulting.”
“Oh! Like when General Jack call Daniel ‘Space Monkey’ or ‘Rock Hound’,” Cierre said. “I apologize… I am apologize.”
Tim considered correcting her English but decided against it for the moment.
“That’s okay,” Tony said. “At least you didn’t slap the back of my head.”
“Why I do that?” Cierre asked. “Slap is not efficient combat move. Against back of head best to use elbow or knee. Or hard thing,” she picked up a stapler from Tony’s desk, “like this.” She put it down again and Tony relaxed visibly.
“Oh great, she’s another Ziva, only two inches taller and twice as strong,” Tony said. “Maybe I’d best just keep my mouth shut.”
Cierre turned away from Tony and looked at Tim. “Well?” she asked. “Are you ask me?”
Tim raised a hand and fidgeted with his collar. “Uh, yeah,” he said. “After you’ve had your meeting, if you don’t have to go straight back to Colorado, would you like to come out for a drink with me, or maybe a meal?”
Cierre smiled at him. “I stay in Washington all week, unless is emergency, Sunday I go back to Colorado. Yes, Tim, I like very much that we go out. We go dancing, maybe? But not same club I go to with Mike.”
“Agent Lee is the legal guardian for her kid sister Amanda,” Amos Burleigh told Gibbs, “and we can’t find any trace of the girl in the past three weeks. As far as we can tell she hasn’t been in school. It’s not certain, there are records we just can’t get at on a Sunday afternoon, but I can’t rule out the kid having been snatched. And in the circumstances I think we have to take it that she was.”
“How old is Amanda?” Gibbs asked.
“Just turned eight,” Burleigh replied. “Man, I hate it when kids are involved.”
“Lee called in sick three weeks ago Monday,” Jenny Shephard said. “She was back in on the Tuesday. I didn’t think anything of it.”
“Three weeks? There’s no way it could have been set up that far in advance,” Gibbs said. “We’d never have been involved if Doyle hadn’t killed Gunny Sherman and we have her own word for it that it was an impulse killing. She saw a chance to kill Cierre, went for it but wasn’t quick enough off the mark, and Sherman saw her. She didn’t plan ahead.”
“I’ve been wondering what she was doing there anyway, if she hadn’t planned on killing Cierre then,” Jenny mused.
“My guess is she was observing Cierre to pick up on her speech patterns,” Gibbs suggested. “Doyle’s a good voice mimic, she had David’s voice off pat when she first came in here, but she didn’t come up with the right words. She called me ‘Sir’ for a start. It might have worked, and if she’d gotten it right Cierre would be dead, but she blew it. And, with her being bullet-proof, she could risk taking a chance that would have been suicidal for anyone else.”
“But to impersonate Cierre well enough to get into the meeting she’d need to keep it up longer,” Burleigh agreed. “I think you’re right.”
Gibbs returned to the original point. “If Lee was compromised three weeks ago it can’t be anything to do with this case,” he said. “They must have had something else in mind, to start with, and then took advantage when we got involved.”
“Lee has access to a lot of classified information,” Jenny said, “and there’s a lot more she can get at without raising any flags. Like bids for Navy contracts. I’ll take a look at what Farrow-Marshall might be after.”
“And maybe we can get them on charges that don’t involve devils and other planets,” Gibbs said. “That would be a big help in the long term. But in the short term we have to find a way to kill Doyle for real. And the best way to do that is to use Lee to set a trap.”
Michelle Lee started to come out of her cubicle, saw the gathering of agents in the Bullpen, and ducked back out of sight. She listened as Gibbs addressed the teams.
“Listen up,” Gibbs called. “Doyle, or Bodhi, isn’t dead.”
“But we shot her to doll-rags, Boss,” DiNozzo protested, “and we saw her melt away. If that didn’t kill her what the hell do we have to do?”
“That wasn’t Doyle,” Gibbs answered. “It was a look-alike. She set up another of the same kind of creature to put us off the track.” He went on to explain why he had come to that conclusion and then turned his gaze upon Tim. “McGee, tell everyone what you told me about Cleveland,” he commanded.
“Yes, Boss,” McGee said. “We looked for police reports that sounded like the ones we’d found in Sunnydale and we got a couple of hits right away. Tuesday there was a report of a mugger beaten to death by his intended victim. A tall blonde woman. And today there’s been another odd incident. There was a report of shots fired at a parking garage and the responding officers found three dead men. A low-life who sold stolen guns and his two bodyguards. Killed by someone extremely strong but who left the marks of slim, delicate, fingers on the victims. The investigation’s only just started, and there’s not a lot of detail, but what they have so far sounds just like Doyle to me.”
“Do they know if the killer got any guns?” asked Agent Dorsey.
“They found a couple of replica guns, one smashed to pieces,” McGee replied, “and they think the seller was trying a scam and the buyer found out and reacted violently. But the victims would have been carrying and there were no guns – except the fakes – found at the scene. She left Tony’s gun at the Park-Hyatt but she’s picked up replacements. She’s armed and dangerous. Well, she’s dangerous anyway, but with guns she’s even worse.”
“So we know Doyle’s still out there, she’s armed herself again, and Cierre’s still a target,” Gibbs picked up the narrative, “and the meeting at the Pentagon is far too vulnerable. Checkpoints and guards are no use against someone who can teleport right past them. All those long straight corridors are a freeway for her. You have to move the meeting, Colonel Carter. Better to lose face than to have the envoy’s head blown off.”
“Well, at least now we know who the envoy is going to be and so we can get a message through to advise her of a change of venue,” Colonel Carter said. “And as long as we take Dove Falconhand shopping afterwards she probably won’t be too disappointed.”
“Dove Falconhand? Of the Seven Sisters?” McGee queried.
“Yes, that right,” Cierre confirmed. “You know of her?”
“I’ve read the Dark Elf trilogy, and she’s in that,” McGee said. He caught Gibbs’ eye, quailed, and said “Shutting up now, Boss.”
“The question is, where can we go instead?” asked Major Davis. “It needs to be somewhere secure but also impressive.”
“The White House?” suggested Cierre. “The President is not there. And I would like to see Oval Office.”
Davis shook his head. “Far too conspicuous. We really don’t need photos of you, and General O’Neill, and Dove Falconhand plastered all over the Press with captions about mystery visitors to the White House.”
Gibbs pointed out of the window at the Vietnam War-era destroyer anchored in the Navy Yard as a museum ship. “What about the Barry? She’s pretty impressive, at least if you haven’t seen a Nimitz-class ship, and we could get her temporarily closed to visitors easily enough. It’s not like it’s peak tourist season. The wardroom would make a great conference room.”
“That’s… not a bad idea,” Davis said. “Can you set it up in time?”
“I can,” Jenny Shephard said. “I think we’re in business.”
“I’ll make sure General O’Neill’s office has a reception committee waiting for Bodhi,” Davis said. “With body armor, full-auto weaponry, and enough silver bullets to turn her into Swiss cheese. And the meeting can go ahead in peace.”
Michelle Lee’s thumbs danced across her phone as she frantically composed a text.
“So, Dove Falconhand,” said Bodhi. “It makes sense. She can represent both Mystra and Mielikki. She’s a tough customer but I can take her, no problem, especially with the advantage of surprise and my guns. I’ll hop over to the Navy Yard during the night and scout out the ship so I can teleport aboard later. And then I can take tomorrow off. Maybe I’ll go shopping for some nice presents to take back home. I owe Sshinda a big one for getting killed instead of me. When I left her she was just getting into ‘Shrek’ and I bet she didn’t have time to finish it before NCIS turned up. Perhaps I should get her the DVD and a portable player.”
“But… how, if she’s dead?” Charlotte Mayfield asked.
Bodhi laughed. “Death doesn’t work the same way for us,” she said. “Hey, I’ve died twice even before I became a devil. If a devil gets killed in the Prime Material Plane she just re-materializes back in the Nine Hells. The down side is that it means we can’t go back to the Prime for a hundred years and, for me, that would really suck. I like it here.”
Charlotte’s eyes flickered toward a desk; only for an instant, but Bodhi picked up on it. She moved quickly to the desk, opened its drawer, and fished out a gun. She ejected the magazine and looked at the contents.
“Silver bullets,” Bodhi said. “Now why do I get the feeling you were thinking of using it on me? That’s not very friendly.” Her eyes glowed red and her mouth contorted into a snarl. “And I hurt people who act unfriendly to me. I hurt them a lot.”
“No! It’s not like that!” Charlotte protested. “It’s just… for emergency defense. You like this world so much… I’m scared you’re going to kill me and take my place.”
Bodhi’s eyes reverted to normal and the snarl was replaced by a smile. “I can see why you might think that but it never occurred to me. You have to work and running a business would bore me stupid. No, I’m going home when this is finished. And I’ll take this gun with me. Promotion in the Nine Hells usually runs on the ‘dead men’s shoes’ principle and the silver bullets will help me make sure that no-one steps into my new Manolo Blahniks.”
Michelle Lee walked into the main office, heading in the direction of the elevator, fastening up her coat as she went. She looked up and froze. Five guns were pointing at her face.
“Uh, I’m Spartacus?” she said, hesitantly, trying unsuccessfully to force a smile onto her face.
“More like Judas,” Gibbs said, “or, to use a more recent example, Benedict Arnold. Put it up on the screen, Abbs.” The plasma screen behind Tony’s desk lit up with a display of text; the message Lee had sent to The Weatherman, irrefutable and damning evidence of betrayal. “We set you up,” Gibbs went on. “You’ve fed your handlers exactly what we wanted them to hear. And I don’t think they’re going to be pleased.”
Lee’s face went pale. “You don’t know what you’ve done,” she stammered out.
“Oh, we know,” Jenny Shephard said. “They have Amanda. But you must know they would never let her go even if you gave them everything they wanted. However now you’re going to do exactly what Gibbs tells you and nothing else. That’s the only way you stand any chance at all of getting her back alive.”