MacArthur Supply Base, Washington.
The warehouse in question turned out to be close enough that even Tony didn’t object when Gibbs threw Ziva the car keys. He still had the distinct impression that he’d forgotten to pack his stomach when they’d left the office however when the car screeched to a stop at the guard post.
Gibbs flashed his ID at the impassive NCO manning the gate, and even managed a semi-pleased grunt when the NCO insisted on checking everyone’s IDs before letting them through.
Ziva glanced over at Gibbs and tilted her head questioningly as she spun the wheel and roared off in the indicated direction. “That did not feel like they were bolting the stable, Gibbs,” she remarked. “That was too practised and normal for them.”
“Door, Ziva, door,” Tony interjected from the back seat.
Ziva rolled her eyes as the car came to a sudden stop, jolting Tony somewhat. “Very well, Tony. Bolting the door after the animal has left.”
“Agreed,” Gibbs said, climbing out of the car. “Security seems quite on the ball here, which means whatever happened, happened without help from outside.”
Looking back at the gate in the distance, Tony could see Ducky and Palmer’s NCIS van now being checked by the guards. He could have sworn that Gibbs had indicated they’d left before ‘em. He shrugged. Either Palmer had managed to get them lost already
on such a short route, or Ziva’s driving had finally shattered the time/space vortex. Either way, it was probably a record.
Gibbs followed his line of sight and grunted. “DiNozzo, get Ducky and Palmer set up. McGee, Ziva, with me.”
Gibbs strode off quickly followed by the others, McGee frantically scanning through his PDA to orientate himself on all the info from the original call-out to NCIS. “McGee?” Gibbs tersely inquired.
“Err, deceased is one Seaman Alison Balboa, joined up three years back, no disciplinary problems, well thought of according to her fitness reports, due for promotion in a couple of months, boss.”
They reached the door to the warehouse in question, and produced their ID cards once more. A Lt Commander came over to them. “Agent Gibbs,” he nodded, “I’m Lt Commander Tucker, tonights watch CO. I’ve had the location kept clear and have the patrol who found the body waiting to talk to you or your men.”
“Very good, Commander,” Gibbs nodded, again impressed against his will at the quality of the base’s training. Without breaking step, he continued on into the warehouse which was piled high with packing crates rearing up either side of the route. If he hadn’t left DiNozzo outside, he’d have been expecting an Ark of the Covenant reference about now.
“These are Officers David, Agent McGee,” he indicated to the Lt Commander. “What else can you tell me?”
Tucker seemed a little put-off by the brusque approach, but a quick glance at the other two NCIS officers settled him down. He shrugged his shoulders. “Not much I can say, sir. Balboa was a solid, reliable seaman, knew her job well, never had any problems with her.”
They turned another corner. “As for last night, standard routine patrol around the inside of each warehouse every hour. She didn’t check in after this one, so I sent another patrol in, not expecting anything other than a flat radio. Frankly, I welcomed the break in the normality, thought it would sharpen the other seamen up a tad.”
They reached what could only be described as a clearing in the middle of all the packing crates, and stopped. “They found this,” Tucker remarked unnecessarily.
There were packing crates piled up high on either side of the space in question. There was a charred vertical line down the crates, splitting open the crates and spilling their contents out onto the floor. The line was on both sides of the area, directly opposite each other, and Gibbs would have laid money that they’d been caused at the same time, by the same effect. Whatever it had been.
In the centre of the area was the body, and a couple of broken, smashed crates, looking like there had been a brief, vicious fight. Blood streaks were present on the floor, and a small puddle of blood by the victims head. Without needing any prompting Gibbs heard McGee raise his camera up and start snapping photos.
He was far, far more concerned with the small, blonde woman currently kneeling beside his dead body. She wore a casual brown jacket over a pink top, with blue jeans tucked into a pair of stylish boots. There was a quick glint from a cross on a chain around her neck. “Who the hell are you?”
The civilian looked back over her shoulder, and actually rolled her eyes at him. “Gee, hold on a moment Mr Grumpy,” she said and went back to studying the victim’s neck.
Gibbs choked. “Tucker!” he snapped at the Lt Commander beside him.
“Okay!” the blonde said brightly, and bounced up off the floor. Approaching Gibbs, she fished inside her jacket for her ID. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” she said perkily before her face fell. “Oh god, I’ve been hanging round Faith too much,” she moaned.
Lt Commander Tucker quickly glanced between the two, and decided that he was best out of it, despite desperately wanting to know how this woman had gotten into the warehouse.
Gibbs gritted his teeth. Already, he could tell this was going to be one of those infuriating cases. “Agent Gibbs, Naval Criminal Investigative Service,” he said, flashing his badge at her.
Just as casually, she waved her ID card under his nose.
“Special Agent Buffy Summers, IWC.”