Chapter Two: In the Event of my Death
The letter came in the mail with an Indiana postmark, but he knew the handwriting well enough that he knew it had been penned in a D.C. apartment. He turned the envelope over in his hands a few times, wondering why she would have addressed it to his home rather than the office. He knew what would be inside; she was the type that always had to have the last word, even in death.
He carried it inside, went downstairs and poured a couple fingers of bourbon, and studied the letter. His name, his address, crafted in the firm strokes of her pen. No return address; what would be the point? There was no one there to collect it anyway.
With a deep breath, he slipped the blade of his knife under the flap of the envelope, not wanting to destroy the paper. He knew in the back of his mind that he was never going to throw this away; when they came to clean out his personal effects after his own ungraceful exit from existence, they would find this letter tucked into a small lockbox with the pictures of Shannon and Kelly.
He slipped the single sheet of paper out and smelled her perfume on it; he wondered if the smell simply lingered from the touch of her hands, or if she’d deliberately applied the scent to the paper. It didn’t matter. He unfolded the sheet and began to read.Gibbs,
At the risk of sounding melodramatic, if you’re reading this letter, it means I’m dead. I’m sorry. I know you told me not to apologize, but there you are. I have every intention of living long enough to retire and get a gold watch, but if you’ve gotten this letter in the mail, it means I didn’t, and I have one last favor to ask of you.
I’m sure you weren’t expecting that. You were probably expecting some long, drawn-out emotional thing about how much I appreciate the opportunity you gave me to come and work for you and all that other warm and fuzzy stuff, but neither you nor I are warm and fuzzy people, and besides, it would be a little on the macabre side if I thanked you for giving me the job that probably killed me, wouldn’t it? I’ll save us both the embarrassment.
I have a friend who no one knows about. Her name is Willow Rosenberg. I met her years ago, when I was still with the Secret Service, in a place called Sunnydale, California. You might remember hearing about Sunnydale on the news; it went down in a giant sinkhole or an earthquake or something – I forget what the official story was – in spring of 2003. Just a few months before I came to work for you, in fact. Personally, I’m glad it’s gone; it was a horrible place and the world is better off without it.
Anyway, I’m getting off topic. Willow. Nobody really knows about her, except now you. I need you to call her for me, and tell her I’m dead. She needs to know. She… it’s hard to explain. Willow and I met at kind of low points in both our lives – her boyfriend had just left her to go ‘find himself’ and my fiancé had just gotten another woman pregnant, we were both desperate for something and I guess we found it in each other.
She came and stayed with me for awhile after Sunnydale went down – she was the roommate I had when I first came to NCIS, the one that left to go to England. That’s where she is now. She works for the Council of Watchers, and that’s the only number I have for her. She might be hard to get a hold of, but please… it’s really, really important to me that you keep trying until you can get her. If you call and she isn’t there, you can also talk to Rupert Giles, Buffy Summers or Xander Harris – they will always know how to find her and can get her in touch with you.
They may have something for you. If they do, you should take it. Believe what they say, if not because they can show you proof, then because I am asking you to. Please.
I’m trusting you with this, Gibbs, instead of Abby or (God forbid) Tony, because I know you’ll understand when I tell you something’s important, and I know you’ll follow through on this for me. You’re that kind of guy. And sometimes I wish things were a little bit different between us, you know? But I guess since you’re there, reading this, and I’m wherever I am, there’s no point speculating, is there? Forget about it. Life goes on, and I hope yours does, too.
Take care of yourself for me, and for God’s sake, would it kill you to eat a vegetable once in awhile?
Below her signature was a telephone number beginning with the country code 44 and a London area code. He mentally calculated the time difference, realized that it was currently three a.m. in England, and decided to make the call in the morning. He set the note on the workbench, carefully out of the way where it wouldn’t be harmed, and picked up a piece of sandpaper.
Nine a.m. in Washington, D.C. was two p.m. in London, and Gibbs picked up the phone with a sense of surety that at least he wouldn’t be getting anyone out of bed with devastating news. He dialed 011 and waited for the tone, then dialed 44 and 20 and the telephone number Kate had written. It rang once and was answered immediately by a very professional-sounding young woman with a British accent. “C.O.W. Holdings,” the woman greeted him. “How may I direct your call?”
“I need to speak to Willow Rosenberg.”
“I’m terribly sorry, sir,” the woman replied, “but Miss Rosenberg is out of the office today. Would you like her voice mail?”
“No,” Gibbs replied, picking up Kate’s letter and reading off the first alternate name. “What about Rupert Giles?”
“I’ll put you through to Director Giles’s office, sir. Please hold.” There was a moment of soft music, in which Gibbs had a moment to ponder that Rupert Giles’s title was ‘Director’ before another woman’s voice picked up.
“Director Giles’s office,” she answered.
“Yeah, I need to talk to him.”
“And whom shall I say is calling, sir?”
“Name’s Gibbs,” Gibbs replied. “Calling from Washington. Tell him it’s about Kate Todd.”
“Very good, sir. One moment, please.”
There was more music, and then the line was picked up again, this time by a man. “Special Agent Gibbs?” the voice asked. “This is Rupert Giles. Vanessa said you were calling about Kate.”
“Yes, I am. She…” He paused, swallowed, tried again. “She wanted me to get in touch with Willow Rosenberg for her, and said if Willow wasn’t there, I should talk to you or Buffy Summers or Xander Harris.”
“Yes, indeed. Is Willow needed in Washington? She’s in Berlin at the moment, but I can have her on the first flight if necessary.”
“No, it’s not necessary,” Gibbs replied, swallowing hard again. “There’s nothing she can do. I just… need to pass on some information.”
There was a very long silence, and the sadness was thick in Giles’s voice when he spoke again. “Has something happened to Kate?”
“She was killed in the line of duty two weeks ago,” Gibbs said softly. “Shot by a terrorist on a rooftop in Norfolk.”
“Oh, dear.” There was another long pause, and then Giles said, “Special Agent Gibbs, I am terribly, terribly sorry for your loss.”
It was such a strange thing to say that Gibbs was brought up short. “What?”
“It’s always difficult to lose someone under your command,” Giles replied in the voice of a man who knows what he’s talking about, “But when it’s a woman you care about… I am sorry.”
Gibbs found himself leaning hard against the workbench. “How did you know?”
“She spoke of you often,” Giles explained gently. “She had a great deal of respect and affection for you, and I always had the impression that it was returned, even if you could not be together in the way that I think you both would have liked. I – oh, one moment, please.” His voice grew smaller, and Gibbs knew he’d taken the phone away from his face. “Buffy, do come in. I’ve Special Agent Gibbs on the phone.”
“Kate’s Gibbs?” a woman’s voice – American this time – said. “What’s he calling for?” There was a pause, and then the woman’s voice came again. “Oh, no. Not Kate. What happened?”
“A terrorist killed her two weeks ago in Norfolk.”
“Oh, God. Does Willow know yet?”
“She’s still in Berlin; I don’t anticipate she’ll be back before tonight.”
“She’s not gonna take this well.”
“Yes, I know.” Giles came back on the phone. “Special Agent Gibbs, I deeply appreciate you calling to let us know about this. We’ll take care of notifying Willow for you. Is there…” He paused, seeming to search for words, then continued delicately. “Is there a time at any point in the near future when you might be available for a brief meeting?”
“I guess so,” Gibbs responded. “Let me know when, and I can make myself available.”
“Thank you. It… Kate worked as a liaison for us in a situation of some delicacy… if it is possible, I need to discuss this with you. I should like to discuss with you the possibility of taking her place.”
He looked down at the letter again. They may have something for you. If they do, you should take it
. He nodded. “Sure,” he said. “We can talk about it.”
“I’ll be in touch, Special Agent Gibbs,” Giles said softly. “Thank you for calling.”
The line disconnected, and Gibbs hung up the phone. Then he picked up the letter, slipped it back in the envelope, and went upstairs to put it in the lockbox.