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A naval investigator in the Ozark mountains

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This story is No. 6 in the series "Waifs and strays". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Special Agent Gibbs in action in the Arkansas Ozarks

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
NCIS > Other BtVS/AtS Characters(Current Donor)vidiconFR1515,2225174,50920 Jun 1120 Jun 11Yes
Author’s note:

The title gives away the crossover here. I own neither of the used properties; Joss Whedon owns Buffy the Vampire Slayer and NCIS is the property of Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill.

It might be wise to (re) read Lonely Souls chapter 26 Talents and Cousins to properly understand this part of the series. The story is set after Lonely Souls chapter 1 Of Witches and Confused Mothers, but only by a few months, so about concurrent with chapters 26-30 of Lonely Souls.

Edited to replace Maclay with Maclay and add more to the Author’s note.

A naval investigator in the Ozark Mountains

Billy Jeff Hutchinson was on the trail of a deer. He grinned. It promised to be a fine, large buck and he was looking forward to dragging it home to his parents’ house. The family would have enough venison for months and he’d take some to the ship with him and ask Chef to prepare it. It wasn’t regulation but for venison Chef and Commander Rossiter gladly made an exception as long as it was hunted in season.

He smoothly and silently moved through the woods with the ease of a man who was used to stealth. He’d been hunting since he was eleven, first with his grandfather, then with his father and uncles. A hunt with the family was the most fun, but to bag the best game it was best to hunt alone. He’d left his bike far down the trail into the hills and set up his camp so he could scout out the area. He’d expected to stay a day or two until he’d found the buck he wanted and maybe hunt some other critters as well. The game wardens had asked to keep an eye out for possible rabies and Billy Jeff had promised to do so.

Rabies was dangerous and well worth keeping track of. He grinned again. Commander Rossiter had hinted the venison feast was going to be a celebration of a promotion for Billy Jeff. And Billy Jeff, once promoted, intended to propose to Nadine. Promotion, good food, a woman beyond all others, a family feast…what more could a man want?

The large buck’s tracks led up the vague trail Billy Jeff could see light ahead and thought that a clearing was likely. Probably a place where a tree had fallen or some local had cut it down. He approached carefully, wondering if the clearing would offer him a good shot at the buck. He heard voices and sighed. More hunters. He just hoped they hadn’t shot his buck. He rose from his crouching walk and entered the clearing, gun down.

“Darnation Donny! What did I tell ya about keepin’ the kettle boilin’?  We’ll nevah have this batch done thus way!”

Billy Jeff stood stock still. A portable still, of the type once popular in the Prohibition Era stood in the clearing and two men were tending to it, an older one and a younger one, barely out of boyhood.

The older of the two looked up and saw Billy Jeff. “Darnation! What th’hell ‘re you doin’ here?”

“Huntin,’” Billy Jeff fell into the language of the hills laconically. He was honestly unsurprised by the presence of a still in the hills. He knew lots of locals brewed their own moonshine. And he couldn’t care less.

“Huntin’?  Huntin’ what?” the man asked.

“Buck deer.” Billy Jeff pointed at the trail.

The older man nodded, approvingly. “Good eye…you gonna tell?”  He gestured at the still with which the younger man was struggling.

“Ain’t no business of mine…brewin’ something that’s good wit’ the deer?”

The older man chuckled. “Naah…just showin’ the kid the ropes. Family tradition, see. Got some good crabapple gin th’other month tho’. Ain’t got it wi’ me,” The man sounded regretful at losing the sale.

“”S good. I’ll be headin’ after the buck.”

“Hah. Have a good hunt.” The older man looked at the sky and sniffed. “Gonna have to be careful…s’gonna be a storm.”

Billy Jeff looked up as well and nodded. “Yass…Yer right. Any shelters near?”

The older man rubbed his nose in thought. “None I’d reckon I’d recommend…mostly fallen trees…leaky ol’ hut down that ‘ways.” He gestured to the side. “My granpaw built that in Prohibition.” He grinned and pointed his thumb at the still. “We did that for the money then.”

Billy Jeff laughed. “So did we. Can’t do that no more.” He raised a hand in farewell, his Annapolis ring gleaming in the sun and crossed the clearing, eyes on the deer track. He never knew why two bullets struck him in the back and head just as he left the clearing.

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Leroy Jethro Gibbs was not amused. The weather was thick and muggy and the air was full of flies and tiny droplets of water. Numbers of tiny streams ran down the forested hills towards the rushing sounds of the Arkansas River. The corpse was not helping the general atmosphere.

Second Lieutenant William Jefferson ‘Billy Jeff’ Hutchinson was an avid hunter according to his relatives. And as an avid hunter he’d entered the woodlands of the Arkansas hills to see what he could bag…and now Billy Jeff was lying, face down and very dead indeed, on the mulch of the Arkansas hill forests he’d loved so much, being eaten by flies. The maggots were crawling in the wounds left by the bullets. Billy Jeff’s parents and brothers had called in his disappearance after he’d failed to return from a hunting trip in time to return to his station.

His commanding officer, Commander Vernon Rossiter had been worried as well since Hutchison always called his girlfriend, Nadine Barstow, a civilian employee at the base they both worked at, at least once a day every leave he spent hunting. Gibbs approved of the man. A commanding officer who knew his staff well enough to see when they were upset and knew their habits sufficiently to know when something was off. He’d called in NCIS even when his assistant had told him it was too early.

“Well Ducky?” Gibbs addressed the ME while looking around the area.

“Shot twice in the back and the back of the head, Jethro. From my initial investigation I’d say he’s been dead for about a week.”

Gibbs nodded. “Thought so. Anything on the weapon?”

He looked around at the team scouring the clearing. Small flags dotted the ground where cigarette buts had been found. Something large and heavy had stood at the center of the clearing, with traces of burning nearby. It had been delineated in purple thread. He’d tentatively identified it as portable oven of some kind. Two different coloured flags showed the location of the two casings that had been found, carelessly discarded. If they were the actual casings of the bullets it was almost incredible that they had been left behind, one of he most stupid acts he’d ever seen in his career.

“Sorry, Jethro, Not until I run the tests in the lab.”

“Not an unusual caliber then.”

“Looks like an ordinary hunting rifle.”

“Thanks Ducky.”

Gibbs stood back as the mortal remains of the promising young officer were lifted onto the stretcher. At least the closure of a burial was granted the family.

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Gibbs stood looking at the neat house in the neat suburb of the neat little town of Mountain Home, Arkansas. He strode up to the door and knocked on the screen door. A young woman opened the door and looked at him, in his NCIS windbreaker and cap.

Gibbs dragged out his ID and showed it. “Agent Gibbs ma’am, NCIS. I’m looking for Mr. or Mrs. Hutchison?”

“I-I’m Nadine Barstow…please come in.” The pretty young blonde stepped aside and Gibbs went in. *The girlfriend.*

An older couple sat on the couch. “Mr. and Mrs. Hutchison? Agent Gibbs, NCIS. I’m afraid I’ve got bad news. We found your son in the forest.”

Mrs. Hutchison and Nadine started crying, Mr. Hutchison extended his arms around his wife. “What happened? Was it an accident?”

Gibbs looked sour. “He was shot. Mr. Hutchison, do you have any idea of the kind of gear your son was carrying?”

“He was wearing standard hunter’s gear, he had his new rifle with him. We bought it together.” He nodded towards the table. “I got the papers there.”

Gibbs walked to the table and after looking permission he picked up the papers. “So he carried this gun. Anything else?”

“He always wore his Academy class ring and his wallet,” Nancy provided.

Gibbs nodded. “I see. I thought so. Mr. Hutchison, Mrs. Hutchison, Miss Barstow, my condolences on your loss. We will do our utmost to capture those responsible.”

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Gibbs sat at the improvised desk at the local Sheriff’s office, sipping coffee. The local sheriff sat opposite him, sipping coffee as well. Both men had their feet on the desk.

“Billy Jeff was a right good boy. Can’t think of no one who’d want to go and kill him…” Sheriff Gary Tyler Tumpron was an elderly, more than comfortably padded man with tiny shrewd piggy eyes in his rosy face and a thin remaining crest of hair surrounding his bald pate. “But it weren’t an accident.”

Gibbs blinked. He’d been prepared to convince the older man that this was murder, not an accident. Many local law enforcement officers, resentful at the intrusion of NCIS refused cooperation. Tumpron hadn’t. He’d cleared of a desk in his own crowded office for Gibbs and had been truly helpful.

The sheriff chuckled. “Billy Jeff wouldn’t never have taken of his ring, and he weren’t wearing it…so someone took it. And he warn’t carrying his gun either.”

Gibbs nodded. “Someone robbed his corpse. There’s no money left in his wallet and his watch is gone as well, don’t know if that makes it murder…”

“My gut tells me it is.” Tumpron chuckled thumping his ample stomach. “And it’s plenty big and old, it ought to know.”

Gibbs chuckled as well. “Yeah, mine says the same thing. Got a notion of who might have done it?”

Tumpron scowled at the ceiling. “Can’t rightly say…It ain’t about no woman…I don’t think it’s about money, even with him bein’ robbed…”

“Any suspicious characters? Vagrants? The shooting and the looting might not be related.”

“Got a vagrant, Clem Burly. But he’s been moving ‘round here for years, old Marine...He wouldn’t shoot an officer, nor rob one. He ain’t done no work in years, too old, but he used ta, not a man to stay inside…” Tumpron mused.

Gibbs nodded, knowing the type.

“Then there’s the Commune,” Tumpron scowled. “Don’t like ‘em, don’t like what they do to their womenfolk. But they don’t kill no people.”

“Commune?” Gibbs asked, interested.

Tumpron turned his piggy eyes on the ex-marine and grinned. “Tha’s what we call ‘em…official name’s the Most Holy Communion of the Chosen of God, for the Enactment of His Will, by the Instruments that He has Created to Do His Bidding.”

Gibbs blinked. “Some name.”

“Yeah.”

“What’s the gig? New Church?” Gibbs asked.

“Nah, founded in the early days, before the Revolution, been here since before the town. Came here to avoid the ‘guvvermint’. Don’t like payin’ taxes. Don’t believe in licenses. Don’t believe in regulations. Don’t believe in education exceptin’ the Good Book.” Tumpron shrugged. “Ain’t got nothin’ ‘gainst the Bible, but I reckon learning to write from the old King James ain’t doin’ nothin’ for their employment chances.”

“Sounds like they might be trouble,” Gibbs noted.

“Most of them aren’t, more pacifist than the Quakers, lead by example, only got guns for huntin’, don’t smoke don’t drink. One of them did this; the Elders would’ve gone to the Hutchinson’s within the hour that they knew.”

“So we can ignore the Commune?”

Tumpron sipped his coffee. Gibbs took a big swallow of his own. It was strong and slightly salty, like some marines and most sailors made it.

“I’d ‘ve said yes a year or two ago, but they got a couple of hotheads. The Maclay’s for one. They want to go out and see that all women submit to the will o’ the Lord, don’t go to school an’ stuff…Old man Maclay’s known to beat his wife…”

Gibbs nodded. His phone rang and he opened it, looking an apology at the Sheriff. “Gibbs.”

“Jethro,” Came Ducky’s voice. “There’s something you need to see…”

“You at the morgue, Duck?” Gibbs asked.

“Yes, yes indeed I am,” Ducky confirmed.

Gibbs looked at the sheriff who looked interested.  “We’ll be right over.” He hung up and swallowed his coffee in a single gulp. “Ducky found something. Wanna come?”

Tumpron rose, swallowed his own coffee, adjusted his belt over his stomach and nodded. “Yeah. Ducky?”

Gibbs chuckled. “His last name is Mallard.”

“Heh. Well, all good. Gibbs? When you’re done, I got some rookies, need to see a real crime scene?”

“We’ll take ‘em up.” Gibbs grinned at the corpulent sheriff. “Want to make it a full exercise? Run up the mountain?”

Tumpron chuckled as well, his paunch trembling. “For them, yeah…I’ll take a trike.”

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The morgue at the hospital was not as advanced as Ducky’s usual work place but he’d deemed it sufficient. The senior pathologist had assisted him to see if he needed a refresher.

The two men stood watching the shrouded corpse in respectful silence, unusual for Ducky. The town’s pathologist was a tall, rangy man with a mournful expression and a shock of silvery white hair. His huge nose had been broken several times and he had the aura of an accomplished woodsman. His hands were large, with long powerful fingers. He towered over Mallard but the smaller man seemed quite comfortable.

“After noon Doc, Dr. Mallard. Nice to meet ya. Gibbs told me about you.” Tumpron greeted the two men. “Gibbs, this is Dr. Falk, Dr. Falk, special agent Gibbs.”

He hoisted his belt again, his belly trembling and the handcuffs and gun clattering. Dr. Falk shook hands with Gibbs. Ducky did the same with Tumpron. Then he carefully removed the shroud from the dead officer. His cleaned face, the maggots and dirt removed, looked unpleasant, the blood had flowed into his face and turned it into a livid, purply liver colour.

Dr. Falk opened a folder and removed a drawing. “Ducky and I looked at his face and we noticed something odd…”

Ducky nodded. “Percival, you really should consider taking extra courses, that sort of eye is quite rare. I remember when I was younger there was a man called Pitterby, quite an interesting chap, we were at Edinburgh together…”

Dr. Falk showed every sign of listening carefully and Gibbs cleared his throat intervening before the story could get out of hand. “What did you find, Ducky?”

“Oh, right, sorry, Jethro. Someone took a knife to the poor man’s face, but what with the scavengers and insects it was quite difficult to discern a pattern.”

Dr. Falk pointed at the drawing, then turned the page and showed one where the two men had drawn a conjectural image of what they thought the fresh carved wounds had looked like. “Post mortem, inflicted quite a while after death.”

The two law officers read the words the roughly carved incisions had spelled out. “Evil guvirnment pig…”

“Yes…note that the letters are badly shaped…the G’s are actually mirrored, indicating to my mind that the perpetrator is a not a proficient writer. The knife was quite sharp, and as Percival tells me, almost all the children in this town know how to carve meat better than this.”

Tumpron winced and Ducky shot him an apologetic look, also patting the corpse. “No offence meant dear boy, I do apologize.”

Tumpron looked at the lines. Then he looked at Dr. Falk. “So…Percival…you thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?

Falk gave the sheriff a dark look. “I’m thinking someone wants us to think the Commune, but some of them are so dumb that I wonder if it couldn’t be them…Gareth.”

Tumpron guffawed. “Touché…Gibbs?”

“Can we talk to these people? Do they come to town?” He asked after a moment’s thought.

“Sometimes, usually for shopping and such,” Tumpron replied.

“Let’s go have a look. And if they’re not in town…”

“We’ll drive for a little visit,” Tumpron confirmed.

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Gibbs was not impressed with the first members of the Commune he saw. The sallow faced, sandy haired man with the sunken cheeks and fanatical eyes whose dark haired son with an expression of idiotic superiority walked a half step behind him was not a prepossessing figure. What really galled Gibbs was the fact that two women, dressed in long, dark dresses from neck to ankles and heavy cowls with veils walked two steps behind the men, faces looking down to the pavement, carrying the family’s shopping.

“Mr. Maclay? Can we have a word?” Gibbs addressed the man.

“Who’re ya?  You with Tumpron?” Maclay demanded belligerently.

“I’m special agent Gibbs, NCIS. We’re looking into the death of a navy lieutenant who died up in the mountains last week-”

“Don’t know nothin’ ‘bout it. Sheriff.” Maclay turned away and led his family off to a rusty looking truck.

Gibbs made to intercept the women. “Mrs Maclay?”

Maclay turned round. “Don’t talk to them! Be obedient to your master and the LORD!!!” He glared at Gibbs. “Don’t you go and defile our womenfolk, agent. Or yourself by their demonic presence!”

Gibbs exchanged a look with the sheriff who shrugged. The agent stepped back and Maclay interposed himself between the women and the NCIS agent. He only moved once both women were in the car.

“Don’t you come botherin’ us agent,” he threatened.

Gibbs and the sheriff looked after the departing truck. “I think we should go to the Elders.” Gibbs said.

“Agreed. We’d better take my car, they know me, but might clamp up immediately if they know you’re Federal.”

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The sheriff’s car was like him: well used, but capable of more than was obvious at first glance. Both men had gotten a cup of coffee for the journey.

“You were in the navy?” Gibbs asked.

“Marines,” Tumpron confirmed.

“You let yourself go a bit,” Gibbs eyed the large amount of extra meat the other man carried.

“You ain’t tasted my wife’s cooking, remind me to take you home tonight. Then we’ll talk.” Both men chuckled and sipped their coffee. Tumpron turned the car down a track and they drove a while in companionable silence until they reached a large, single storied wooden farm house. Tumpron got out of the car heavily, Gibbs lightly.

“Elder Simmonds!” The sheriff hollered.

An old man appeared on the porch from the back of the house and looked at them, then nodded politely. “Sheriff Tumpron. How may I be of assistance?” His voice was resonant and deep, a strange contrast to his frail looking body.

“A navy officer was found dead in the mountains. We were hoping you knew something, Elder,” Tumpron asked politely.

The old man gestured at a rough table and two benches and sat down, looking thoughtful “Was it an accident?”

“We doubt it Elder.” The sheriff sat down. “Are there any among you who might take to violence against the Government?”

“Among us… no longer.” The elder looked saddened. “We have removed the Maclays from our numbers, they are convinced that all women are demons, but they are merely sinful. They also have been selling alcohol to our younger members and to outsiders as well. Ezekiel Maclay preached violence against our fellow men in Chapel, demanding we take the Sword of the Lord and lift it against the Government. Yet the Government, misguided though it is, is not our enemy, Satan and his lures and wiles are. The Maclays are no longer welcome in our Chapel.”

Tumpron nodded slowly. “How about the communal fields?”

“They no longer worked with their neighbors, they have been cast out there as well. I hear they plan to move to Kansas,” Elder Simmonds replied sadly

“Do they own a rifle?” Tumpron asked.

“I believe they do, it was another reason why they were cast out, all weapons must be stored in the Chapel, that the Lord may bless them and keep them from harming the Righteous,” Simmonds explained

“I see…Thank you very much, Elder.”

“You are welcome sheriff. May you see the error of your ways through His Blessed Intervention,” the Elder raised his hands in blessing.

“Thank you for that too, Elder. Mr. Gibbs?”

Gibbs rose and followed the sheriff. The local law enforcer sat silently and unmoving in his car, thinking. “The Maclays  have been cast out…”

“Is that good or bad?” Gibbs asked.

“It means they broke the rules of the Commune. The way the Elder spoke, they must’ve been preaching bloody revolution against the government.”

“We need more evidence before we can search their place…” Gibbs noted thoughtfully. He glanced at the huge stomach protruding over the belt. “Your gut telling you the same thing?”

“Yes…” The sheriff looked at his watch and the sun. “Lets go pick up Falk and Ducky and we’ll all have dinner.” He tapped the radio. “Crystel…could you call Vera and tell her that I’m bringing three guests over?”

There was a chuckle. “She’s gonna tan your hide Sheriff…”

“Well, I got plenty of it,” the Sheriff replied with a chuckle of his own.

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Gibbs was lying in his bed in Gary and Vera’s large if ramshackle house, groaning and looking up at the model of the space shuttle the couple’s eldest son, a NASA engineer, had made in his childhood. The meal had been truly stupendous, both in size and in taste. He understood why Gary had the shape he had now. All too well. They’d practically had to roll Ducky to his bed. The only one unimpressed by the vast intake of excellent food was Dr. Falk, who seemed constitutionally incapable of gaining weight. Apparently he’d been eating with Gary and Vera for years and hadn’t gained an ounce.

Gibbs knew he wouldn’t have been able to train off the vast meals even if he exercised all day. He groaned again and then shut his eyes; hoping sleep would claim him soon. He needed to run before breakfast tomorrow.

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Gibbs groaned as he ran up the hill, still weighed down by the vast meal of the previous evening. He’d gotten up at four thirty and was now into his third mile, running around the sheriff’s house. Then a shape appeared, stepping out onto the path a few hundred yards away, walking up to the sheriff’s house. Gibbs speeded up. The figure stopped and Gibbs noted that it looked around, obviously frightened, before its shoulders slumped and it stood waiting. Gibbs approached at an easy run. He looked as the figure raised its head and realized with a shook it was a girl, young, long blonde hair and pretty, wearing a long black dress. He stopped a few yards away from her and looked at her steadily.

“Can I help you miss…?”

The girl looked at him as if he was her salvation. “M-Maclay…T-Tara Maclay…I-I have ev-ev evidence…i-in the c-case of the m-murdered o-officer...”

“And you didn’t tell me this earlier because?”

“My Ma…f-father would have b-beaten m-me. I n-need to be b-back b-before he or my u-uncle o-or b-brother get up…Otherwise he will b-beat my m-mother,” the girl explained.

“We’ll see what we can do,” Gibbs said neutrally.

“I n-need a p-promise…” Tara pleaded.

Gibbs sighed. “I can’t promise anything Miss Maclay,”

“T-to keep me and my m-mother safe…or just M-mother…p-please?” The girl was near tears and Gibbs clenched his fists in anger at her abject fear.

“That I can promise.” He led her to the porch and opened the door, then put her in the kitchen. Sheriff Tumpron, vast and round in a pair of huge PJ’s with came down the stairs, soft and sure footed, his gun in hand. Gibbs nodded at him.

“Sheriff, this is Miss Maclay. She tells me she has information,” Gibbs gestured at the girl.

Tumpron nodded. “I’ll just go get my robe. Make us some coffee Gibbs?”

Gibbs nodded and proceeded to brew the coffee. The sheriff came down in a few minutes and lowered his bulk onto a kitchen chair.

He spoke gently at the nervous girl. “What information do you have, Miss Maclay?”

“I-I do the l-laundry and c-clean t-things…I-I found t-this in my b-brother Don’s things.” She held out the golden circle of an Annapolis ring to the two officers. “H-he also h-has a new g-gun...”

Gibbs gently took the ring. “Think the judge’ll give us a warrant for this, sheriff?”

Tumpron grinned. “I’d think so…I’d certainly think so.”

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Gibbs and Tumpron knocked on the door of the Maclay house and it was opened by a woman who looked down at the ground, obviously frightened. “M-My husband and son are out.”

“We have a warrant to search this property Mrs. Maclay,” Gibbs took the paper out of his pocket and showed it, expecting her to refuse it. She accepted it and read carefully.

“Very well. You may come in,” she nodded gracefully and stepped aside.

Gibbs blinked. Tumpron did the same. Then Gibbs entered. Mrs. Maclay walked with a limp she had not had the day before Gibbs noted, and he gritted his teeth.

 

“My son killed a man. And his father is proud of him,” The words were softly, if bitterly spoken. “And now they are out, hunting my daughter, to kill her, for she is sinful and disobedient and more learned than a woman has a right to be…”

Gibbs smiled. *Bingo!* “She’s safe in the Sheriff’s office. Mrs. Maclay. We can protect you from your son and husband, should you testify…”

“If I testify… Yes. I will. My son…was lost to me from the day he was born…for my daughter…I will face my sins and my maker,” Mrs. Maclay looked at the floor as she spoke.

She raised her face to his for the first time and he swallowed at the sorrow in her clear blue eyes. “You seem remarkably…”

The woman smiled, sadly. “Articulate for a woman born in this sect? I wasn’t, agent Gibbs. I came here to expiate my guilt, to suffer for my sins. And I have suffered. But my children have suffered as well. And that is wrong. Another thing for which I bear guilt…” She sighed and pointed at a cupboard. “You will find the officer’s property in that cupboard.”

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The trial of Donald Maclay and his father Ezekiel was short: the evidence was overwhelming and the testimony of the Maclay women was a strong corroboration. The vehement denials and abusive language of the defendants did nothing to soften the court towards them.

The public defender was not inclined to search very hard for ways of keeping them out of jail. Not that the judge and Jury were feeling lenient. 

The death penalty was levied on Donald and Ezekiel was convicted to thirty years hard labour without a chance of parole before the twenty year mark. Minutes after the verdict the Maclay women had left the courthouse and a divorce was granted within hours, declaring all the property of Ezekiel Maclay to be forfeit to his wife and daughter, due to the abuse, psychological and physical, that had been heaped upon them. The house was sold to the Commune at fair price and the offer extended by the Elders for the women to take up residence once more, which was firmly, if politely refused.

Gibbs noted in his final report that they both had left for Maryland, where the mother had family. He made a mental note to check up on them in a few months time and then turned to the next case.

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Gibbs was sitting at his desk reading reports a month or so later when his desk phone rang. “Gibbs.”

“Special agent Gibbs, there are two ladies down here who would like to speak with you. They have your card…” 

Gibbs sighed. “Very well. I’ll be right down.” He got up, taking the elevator to the foyer. Two women were waiting outside in the sunlight, their blonde and brown hair glowing. They were both dressed in jeans and comfortable if colourful velvet tops, their jackets open in the warm sunlight.

He stepped through the barrier and blinked as they turned towards him. He recognized them. Tara Maclay and her mother… “Ms. Maclay?”

“I returned to my maiden name,” The woman seemed sad and elated at the same time. “I may not bear it much longer…but it is mine.” She smiled, a warm, glorious smile that warmed Gibb’s heart. He noted that she’d obviously dyed her hair before, the auburn roots were clearly visible near her scalp after several months and the obviously cheap dye was fading into what was her natural, deep red colour.

She sighed and took her daughter’s hand. “But thanks to you my Tara will know her family, go to a proper school, and learn more than I can teach her in the hours we stole. We’re here to thank you agent Gibbs.”

Gibbs blinked. The woman spoke as if she was about to die, yet she looked quite healthy. “No need to thank me ma’am. I was doing my duty and without the courage of your daughter and yourself it would have taken much longer to catch the murderers…if we’d managed to do it at all.”

“Thank you Agent Gibbs, that is very kind of you,” She gazed at her daughter again and sighed as the girl looked shyly at the ground, hiding behind her hair. “Tara wanted to thank you as well…but…”

The girl blushed deeply and Gibbs smiled. “I understand. It’s alright.”

The woman and her daughter nodded and turned away. Gibbs felt a pang in his heart as they walked off and he hurried to catch up. “Excuse me, but might I ask what your name is now?”

She looked up and smiled. “Beckforth. Eileen Beckforth.”

Gibbs looked into her eyes, then at his watch. “Ms. Beckforth, this is dreadfully irregular, but may I invite you and Tara to lunch?”

He was sure Eileen was going to refuse when her daughter elbowed her in the ribs and glared, before blushing heavily and ducking away behind her hair again. Eileen smiled.

“Yes agent Gibbs, we’ll gladly accept.”

Leroy Jethro Gibbs had the feeling things were looking up.

End Note:

Edited, added a few words, corrected the flow.

 

The End

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