I made a new year's resolution to make more progress on my fics, so...Suspect Willow
by Sam James
Chapter Two: Headliners
The lights in the bullpen were too bright. Jethro Gibbs always found himself squinting as he walked in. The computers’ screens did not help either. All of his agents were already hard at work. Tim typing, Tony writing notes from a phone call. Gibbs glared at the blank dual screens above his agents’ desks. “What can you tell me about the victims?”
His two agents and the Mossad liaison stiffened at his glare. Tony and Tim exchanged a quick glance, and Tim lowered his eyes first, signaling that he would let Tony go first. Tim clicked his computer’s mouse and two heads appeared on the screens. Tony pointed to the one on the left. “Lieutenant Commander Nelson Pondler. Age 34. Navy Infowar specialist. That explains the computer system probie was drooling over.”
“I was not… never mind,” Tim sputtered.
Tony grinned and drew a vertical line in the air with one finger, indicating he had scored. “I spoke to his commanding officer. He said Nelson was good at his job. Creative. But a little unsatisfied with being a computer desk jockey. Kept talking about doing something else. Wanted more action. My god McGee, we found your other half!”
Gibbs saw Tim’s face flush and was careful not to show a reaction. He knew Tony was joking and that McGee had proven himself to the team again and again. But he knew the younger agent had felt trapped in the Norfolk Navy office doing filing, and wanting to do more.
“The blond girl…”
“Woman,” Ziva snapped from her seat.
Tony sent a mock-bow her way. “The blond woman is Mary Frances, Nelson’s former girl, err lady friend. She’s a clerk in the Navy office, not under Pondler or anything, but probably met there. According to the commanding officer they dated fairly seriously for about a year before our boy broke it off just a couple of months ago and started dating the redhead. Two weeks ago, Pondler started asking about the procedures for time off for a wedding and honeymoon.”
Tim pressed a couple of buttons. The two heads vanished replaced by Willow’s picture.
Tony took another look. The face seemed almost vaguely familiar, but not quite. Something about the expression did not fit the shadowy visage in his memory. “Looks like our boy traded up.” Ziva gave him a glare but he continued anyway. “I can see why he wants to move quickly.”
Tim took the lead. “Willow Rosenberg. 25. Graduate of the last class of UC Sunnydale.”
Gibbs stood up, surprised. “Sunnydale?”
“Yes sir,” Tim said. “Top grades there in a self-designed major that seems to combine computers, ancient languages, and mythology. She’s spent the last four years working as a computer teacher and recruiter for a private school in Cleveland, Ohio. Girl Empowerment School Cleveland.” He pressed a button and the school’s website popped up on one of the monitors. Underneath the school’s picture was a motto “Are you ready to be strong?
Gibbs glared at his agents. “That’s not much.”
Tim looked down, “Sorry. I’ll keep looking.”
Tony was defensive. “Well, it’s not like her entire history fell into a hole in the ground… Oh wait, it did.”
Ziva seemed to wake up from her thoughts. “Hole in ground? I don’t know that expression.”
“It’s literal in this case,” Tony answered.
Tim explained, “Sunnydale was a suburb of Los Angeles in California. There was an underground earthquake and the whole town collapsed. Any records would have fallen into the sinkhole and people who knew her will be all over the country by now.”
“Ancient history aside,” Gibbs said. “Why would Homeland security be interested in a high school teacher?”
“It’s an international school,” Ziva speculated. “Students from all over the world.”
“And she does a lot of traveling.” Tim pressed another button and Willow’s passport record appeared on the screen.
Tony looked at the dates, “How can she teach if she spends that much time out of the country?”
“We need more answers, Gibbs said. “We need to find her and see what she knows.”
“She knows computers,” Tim said speculatively. “The Lieutenant Commander was an infowar specialist, might be some connection there?”
Gibbs frowned, thinking of the call he had received from Homeland Security. He didn’t want to alarm his team, but judging from what the agent had said, this case could get… political. “Not bad. Follow it up. Discretely.”
“One more thing,” Tim said. “His cell was Navy issue. I got the password from IT.” He handed his superior a post-it note. “There was not much in the address book, but there was a listing for, for well, her.” Written on the note was a cell number and the words, “Willow Rosenberg.”