Disclaimer: Not mine, not making any money
Later that afternoon the team gathered at headquarters.
“What do we know?” Gibbs questioned no one in particular.
“Petty Officer Rhodes has an impeccable service record.” McGee answered. “She’s been a perfect soldier and her commanding officer always gave her good reviews. There’s nothing negative in her file. She lived in an apartment on Stolmyer. No roommate, no boyfriend, no enemies that anyone knows about.”
“What about previous boyfriends?” Tony asked.
McGee shook his head. “She hasn’t dated anyone for at least a year. The last guy was enlisted and they broke it off before he went to Iraq. He died over there several months ago.”
Tony took over. “She was last seen yesterday afternoon at work. Told her co-workers she had to meet someone last night, but she didn’t give a name or where they were supposed to meet. Left work around 6.”
“The woman hasn’t regained consciousness yet and there was no ID on her so she’s still a Jane Doe. She has a severe concussion, more bruises than I care to count and three broken ribs. The doctors are optimistic about her recovery, if she will wake up.”
“Abby is processing the evidence collected at the scene.” Gibbs said. “She’ll run the woman’s DNA through the system and try to get a name.”
Gibbs’ phone rang. “Yeah.” he said and listened for a moment before flipping the phone shut.
“Ducky’s got something.”
The team made their way to autopsy where Palmer was just finishing sewing the Y-incision.
“What is it, Duck?”
“You were right, Jethro. Our petty officer was not killed by slitting her throat. She died of exsanguination, but not from the throat wound. See the skin, here.” he said as he pointed to the left side of the neck. “This wound did not bleed. She was already dead. She lost the blood some other way.”
“Any other wounds?” Ziva asked.
“Nothing that would cause her massive blood loss.” Ducky answered. “She has several bruises on her torso and arms. There are two bruises on her arms that suggest she was forcible held from behind by someone.” He picked up her arm and pointed out the finger shaped bruises around the upper arm. “There are similar bruises on her other arm.”
“Anything else.” Gibbs demanded.
“Actually, yes. There is an abnormality with the cut on her throat, on the right side of her neck. I’ve never seen anything like it. It appears the cut is covering up another wound to the throat.”
“What does that mean?” Tony asked.
“It means, whatever caused that wound is probably what caused her bleed out and caused her death, but while I can tell there was some kind of puncture wound there, I can not determine what caused it. Most likely, the post-mortem cut was to cover up the actual fatal wound.”
“But why?” Ziva mused out loud. “Why bother covering up the fatal wound with something else?”
“Some kind of signature wound, perhaps.” Ducky answered. “Certain serial killers have very specific ways they kill their victims. Perhaps this is someone’s way of covering that up to reduce the risk of having other victims tied to him or giving the authorities a lead on his identity. It reminds me of a case I had just out of medical school. The serial killer shot his victims but then eviscerated them and removed the bullet. He then dumped the bodies in areas where wildlife was abundant. He got away with it for some time. The interesting thing is how he was caught.”
“Was the body moved?” Gibbs asked.
The question distracted Ducky from his story and he answered. “Lividity seems to indicate she was not moved after death, but if that’s the case, where’s the blood. There was most definitely not enough blood at the scene for that to be the location where she bled out.”
“Anything to give us any idea where she was right before she died?”
“It appears she ate a few hours before her death. I’ve sent stomach contents to Abby and blood for a tox screen, but I don’t see any indication of drug use.”
“Thanks, Ducky.” Jethro said as she left.
As they stepped in the elevator, Ziva’s phone rang. She listened and then turned to Gibbs. “The woman is awake.”
“Get to the hospital. Take Tony with you. McGee, you’re with me. We’re going to check out the petty officer’s apartment.”
“Tonight?” McGee questioned.
Gibbs gave him a look. “Yes, tonight.”
Petty Officer Amelia Rhodes lived in a small, one bedroom apartment in a decent neighborhood. Her apartment was neat with little touches that made it a home. There were colorful rugs on floor and throw pillows on the couch. Gibbs and McGee went through the apartment carefully, looking for anything that may give them a clue, but they didn’t find anything out of the ordinary.
McGee found her laptop and after a quick examine showed it was password protected, he bagged it to take back to Abby. Hopefully, she would find an appointment book or calendar or email correspondence that would tell them who she was meeting the night she died.
“What did the doc say?” Tony asked as they made their way down the hall toward the blonde’s room.
“Not a lot.“ Ziva admitted. “She regained consciousness and they called us immediately.”
They entered the room to find an empty bed.
“Where is she?” Ziva asked slightly panicked. If they lost this witness, Gibbs would have their head.
Before they had a chance to panic, the bathroom door opened and a small, blonde woman stepped out.
“I was wondering when you would get here.” she said as she slowly made her way back to the bed.
Tony and Ziva waited until the woman had made herself comfortable before they spoke.
“I’m Special Agent Tony DiNozzo and this is Agent David with NCIS.”
At her curious look, Ziva began, “It stands for Naval…”
“I know what it stands for.” The blonde interrupted. At their curious looks she continued. “I used to date a guy in the Army.”
“What’s your name?” Tony asked.
“Buffy Summers.” she replied. “Why is NCIS on this case? I’m not military.”
“No, but there was also a dead petty officer in the warehouse where you found.”
Tony and Ziva both noticed she did not seem surprised by the announcement of a body.
“Okay, Ms. Summers. Can you tell us what happened at the warehouse?”
Buffy shook her head. “No, sorry. I don’t remember much. The last thing I remember is having a drink at the Mello. It’s bar on Stanley Avenue. The next thing I know, I’m waking up in the hospital.”
“Where do you live?” Ziva asked.
“My permanent address is in England.” Buffy answered. “I travel a lot for work and keep an apartment in London. I’m hardly ever there. I mostly live in hotels.”
“What hotel are you staying at now?”
“What kind of work do you do?” This came from Tony.
“I’m a recruiter for a company in England. I meet with potential companies and individuals that the company is interested in working with.”
“What’s the name of this company?” Ziva asked with palpable skepticism.
Buffy didn’t miss the tone. She just smiled and said, “The IWC.”
“What exactly does this company do?” Tony almost demanded.
“I don’t see how that makes any difference.” Buffy said. “Our company does confidential work for several governments around the globe including the good ‘ole US of A. Anything more than that, you don‘t have clearance for.”
“Ms. Summers, someone tried to kill you.”
“I’m well aware of that fact, Agent DiNozzo, but you still don’t have clearance. I’m sorry.”
“What do you know about Petty Officer Amelia Rhodes?” Ziva asked.
“Is she the body you found in the warehouse? I never met her.”
Tony pulled a photograph out of his jacket pocket. “This is Amelia Rhodes.”
Buffy looked at the photograph for moment and shook her head. “Sorry, I’ve never seen her.”
Tony and Ziva tried for the next hour to trip her up or catch her in lie. They couldn’t do it. She never changed her story.
Finally, they decided they had all the information they were going to get for the moment.
“She hiding something.” Ziva said as they left the hospital.
“I know.” Tony answered.
“You know, Tony, I was very impressed with you in there.”
“Yeah? Why’s that?”
“Well, she’s a beautiful woman and you didn’t flirt with her at all. Why is that?”
Tony shrugged and looked thoughtful. “I really don’t know. There’s just something about her that screamed ‘hands off’.”
Ziva accepted that answer although she thought it very odd. She had never known Tony to not flirt with a woman.
After the two agents left, Buffy fought the urge to bang her head on something. She had to get out of here before they came back with more questions she couldn’t answer. The problem, of course, was they had her DNA. The military had her DNA on file from her time with the Initiative in Sunnydale. Willow could probably hack into the database and make that disappear, but there was chance they would be able to track it back to her and Buffy didn’t want to take the risk. She also didn’t want to use the hospital phone to call anyone. She decided she would wait until late, when there were fewer nurses on the floor, and then she would sneak out of the hospital and make a couple of calls.