Not Even Past
Dawn sighed happily as she finished her comparison and resisted the urge to pet the tablet appreciatively. When she got back to Graham’s, she’d call Slayer Central with the good news- although this was about the only part of that call that promised to be good. She wasn’t feeling any calmer about her morning interview several hours later. In fact, she was pretty sure if she had Slaydar, it would be going off full tilt about now.
“Your piece is the real deal, I take it?” the woman next to her asked with a wry smile.
Lara Whitmire was an archaeologist, specializing in Mesopotamia. She was still a few years too young to be considered top of her field- as Willow put it, she didn’t have grey hairs yet- but she’d definitely made a name for herself. She was currently based at the University of Pennsylvania, but she’d been one place or another in America ever since she left Cambridge to do her Ph.D. at Yale around the time Buffy had been Called.
“Yep. We can’t exactly break out the bubbly in here, but I’ll totally buy cake in the café once we’re done.”
“Sure. Any chance you’ll tell me where your ‘client’ came by such an interesting artifact?”
“I don’t have the details. I can’t even go on record about who the client is.”
Lara showed every sign of exasperation. They had to be careful in their conversation, because the historian who had come down from Yale with the other exemplar Dawn had needed for her comparison was not a Council ally, nor was the Smithsonian curator.
Lara wasn’t an ally exactly, but she was in the know- her father, Alistair had been on the old Council. He’d been among the dead when the First blew up the London headquarters. Lara’s mother, a former Potential, had seized the opportunity to get away from Council control, returning to her native Italy.
Dawn carefully handed back the Yale piece and watched the historian secure it in its case for transport, thanking him profusely as he did so. She and Lara finished clearing the worktable after he left before taking off their gloves. Dawn’s thanks to the Smithsonian researcher were considerably warmer, as she’d worked with him once before to verify several translations. He was delighted to hear that she would be in town on a permanent basis.
When she’d said her goodbyes to the beaming curator, Dawn and Lara headed out for the public areas.
Dawn let Lara lead her to the smaller museum cafe in the dinosaur wing. It was quiet this late in the afternoon- the two women had the place pretty much to themselves. Dawn picked her dessert and waved at Lara to select whatever she wanted before they tucked themselves into a table by the window, where they’d not only get the last of the afternoon sun, but it would also be difficult for anyone to eavesdrop without being noticed.
It was a slow process, winning the trust of people the old Council had burned. Many of the adult former Potentials who had grown up under the Travers regime wanted nothing to do with the Council now that they had a choice. Those who had cautiously chosen to work with the New Council had been valuable sources of information about current and former Watchers and Council facilities. Giles didn’t know everything, and with the central archives as well as the senior personnel obliterated in one swoop, they’d had quite a time piecing everything back together while finding newly called Slayers worldwide and training the willing.
“So was your Akkadian tablet the only reason you’re in town?” Lara asked, digging into her double chocolate slice with verve.
Dawn grinned. It was driving Lara bonkers not to get to see the real thing. Dawn had brought plenty of photographs, of course. But seeing as the tablet was from the original Ekur archive, it was far too precious to remove from Council vaults. More so, once you considered that there was every chance the stories it contained about Inanna and Enlil were relevant to some of the issues Slayers dealt with. And as Dawn had just verified in her comparison, the text they had contained more details than any other recovered. Maybe this would be the sweetener she needed to persuade Lara...
“No, we’ve been working in the Mid-Atlantic region steadily enough that we’re opening up a new branch,” Dawn said. “DC is centrally located, not to mention it makes it easy to talk to certain people. This week was supposed to be all about getting the house ready.”
Lara raised a suspicious eyebrow.
“Supposed to be?” she asked, her tone practically demanding to know what had gone wrong.
Dawn tried not to grin. She’d been working on Lara for a while now, hoping to be able to put her in the ‘ally’ category soon, if not convince her to join up outright. Her expertise combined with her knowledge of both the Council and the supernatural would put her on the fast track to Watcher. Right now, training new Watchers was far more problematic than training new Slayers- and took way more time.
She was pretty sure Lara was on the verge of coming around. Dawn was positive if Lara could be convinced to visit Slayer Central, it would seal the deal.
“Yeah, something unexpected came up. Let’s just say my injuries didn’t come from falling out of bed. You might want to scratch any sightseeing you had planned for this trip and head straight home.”
“I was going to stay until Friday- it gives me another day to do research on some of the museum’s holdings, then I’m flying out to join my mother for her birthday.”
Dawn looked her straight in the eye.
“I’m rarely accused of being overcautious, but if I were you, I’d ask mum if she minded me flying in early.”
Lara sighed, then glanced down at her watch. If she went straight from the museum to her hotel, she’d have time to pack and catch the late flights from Dulles. Then she looked down at her plate.
“I have time to finish the cake, right?”
“I think so, but you should definitely clear out before dark.”
Lara gave Dawn an evaluating look.
“Dawn, I’ve never seen you this bothered. Is it just a local problem, or something worse going on?”
Dawn chewed her lip for a second. She trusted Lara, but this wasn’t for public consumption and she had that nagging feeling she’d learned over the years meant someone or something was watching. It was a shame that they weren’t someplace where it would be safe to risk magic to ensure they couldn’t be overheard. But she wasn’t nearly as adept as Willow, and not about to take chances- the Smithsonian had more than one artifact in its keeping that shouldn’t be woken up. Yet another reason to work on Lara- none of the current Smithsonian personnel knew anything about the things that went bump in the night or boom with the mojo.
“I think it’s just local, but I’ve been talking to NCIS all morning, and it’s got me on edge.”
Lara put her fork down.
“Want to share?”
“It’s probably nothing, but-“
“Please. I may not be part of the firm, but I grew up around this stuff, too. Whenever you have to start with a disclaimer like that, it’s something.”
“They were checking my background because of what I was involved in last night, and they can’t find a birth certificate for me. Or Buffy. In fact, they can’t find much at all.”
Lara’s face darkened. She hesitated before speaking, but when she did, Dawn knew she finally had her ally.
“Dawn, I respect what you and your sister have done. The reorganization has been really good, and long overdue. But you need to understand, things used to be very different. Travers may have had a noble goal, but his methods were rather brutal. There’s a reason I left England and haven’t been back.”
Lara hesitated. She seemed to be drawing into herself, unusual for the vivacious researcher Dawn had come to know and respect over the past four years. She took a deep breath, and the words emerged as if she had to get them out before she could change her mind.
“Travers used me as leverage against my parents- more my mother, but I think my father was in play, too, and possibly my uncle as well. There was a faction that wanted to treat the girls better- even leave some of them with their parents. Naturally, my mother was in favor of that. How could she not be? Then Travers called my father in. If my family didn’t side with him, he hinted that something unfortunate might happen to me. Going to New Haven didn’t make me safe- he had a long reach- but I felt better with an ocean between us.”
“An ocean wouldn’t have stopped him if he wanted to do something. He reached all the way to California with no problems.”
“I’m aware,” Lara replied grimly. She glanced around and then leaned in, dropping her voice.
“She must have been quite a thorn in his side. And it’s bothered Mamma for a while, your sister popping up out of nowhere. They didn’t ‘miss’ Potentials. Maybe before modern communications and transportation they couldn’t reach them all, but by the 80s or 90s? No way. They might have left a few be as lost causes, but you can bet they kept an eye on them just in case. They didn’t miss a bloody thing. It doesn’t feel right that they would let one evade them, much less grow into the problem she became.”
“You think they did know about her?” Dawn asked, confused.
Lara shook her head.
“No, they would not have let her go untrained. Have you ever met any of the Potentials who trained under the old regime?”
At Dawn’s nod, she waved a dismissive hand.
“Then you know what your sister would have turned into if they had her. They did not know. Someone must have, though. How else could she have stayed hidden for so long?”
“Who would do that, though?” Dawn asked.
“I don’t know. Anyone who did would have been risking everything- Travers would not have forgiven such a move.”
She glanced at her watch.
“I must go- otherwise I will not make my new flight. I’ll call you when I reach Mamma’s. Maybe she will be able to tell us more.”
Dawn nodded gratefully, rising to hug Lara and give her the kiss on both cheeks that was customary among Italians. Lara was a fascinating mix of England and Italy, as likely to lecture you on the proper way to make tea as show you how to make espresso.
“Be careful. Call sooner if you run into any trouble.”
“You be careful, also,” Lara replied. “Something does not feel right about all this.”
Dawn suppressed a shiver. Lara wasn’t wrong. Something didn’t feel right- and that was as close to rule 7 as made no nevermind.---
Ziva frowned as she watched Lara Whitmire’s taxi pull away from the curb. She’d managed to follow the two women to the café when they’d emerged from the non-public area of the museum, but with the café empty, she hadn’t dared go in after them. If she’d gotten close enough to listen, it would also have been close enough for Dawn Summers to spot her. Something told Ziva that Summers did not believe in coincidence any more than Gibbs did.
She’d gotten close enough to hear Whitmire giving instructions to her cab driver, though- first to her hotel, where the driver was to wait, then to the airport. It was possible Summers was an agent, after all- the non-public meeting would have given her ample time to pass something off to Whitmire, who was now changing her plans to fly immediately. If she had originally intended to leave town after the meeting, she would have brought her bags with her to the museum.
Ziva waited by her car, pretending to be a lost tourist fumbling with a map as Summers emerged from the museum entrance. Summers walked swiftly to where Miller waited in his car, and Ziva hopped into her own. She was also careful to stay several cars behind them at all times while tailing them as they made their way toward the river-from what McGee had been able to tell them of his unit, she suspected Miller would be employing countersurveillance measures.
To her surprise, rather than drop Summers at a hotel, or even take her to his own residence, Miller headed for the Pentagon. She pulled into a different section of the parking lot and watched as Miller and Summers both went in. There was only one reason she could think of why they would come here, and she had no excuse to follow them inside, much less a good way to do so without either one seeing her.
Gibbs was not going to be pleased.
She pulled out her phone, and after a moment’s hesitation, she punched McGee’s number.
“McGee? I need you to check departures at the local airports. Passenger’s name is Whitmire, Lara.”
She spelled the last name for him phonetically, and waited, listening to the sound of clicking keys, until McGee found it. As she’d suspected, it was a sudden change- her original itinerary did not have her flying until later in the week.
“Rome? Are you sure? And she is not listed as a known agent? Thank you, McGee. No, I will be back shortly.”
She hung up on McGee and after a deep breath, punched another number- one she would have preferred not to have to use.
“Abba. I have a question for you. Do you recognize the name Lara Whitmire? What about Dawn Summers?”---
On his way up from Ducky’s domain, Gibbs stopped by the lab again. As he’d hoped, Abby had more for him. He could tell by the way she brightened and almost bounced up and down when she spotted him coming through her door.
“Gibbs! Which do you want first- mother, daughter, or dead girl Doe?”
“Mother,” Gibbs said. He was curious to hear what she’d found out about Joyce Summers.
“Joyce Summers is no relation to either Buffy or Dawn Summers!” Abby chirped. “No more DNA in common than you’d expect from random strangers. But here’s where it gets interesting. I ran her DNA through the databases and got nothing. Not exactly surprising, because even if she had some sort of criminal record or something, it would be pre-1991, right? And we know DNA testing wasn’t as common back then. So I ran her description and tried facial recognition on her photo.”
“You can do that?” Gibbs asked.
“Gibbs, please. The photo was small, but it was clear enough to get measurements for facial isometrics. Unlike DNA, photos of missing persons do go back to the time frame we’re looking at- and most of them have been digitized. Anyway, Joyce Summers is most likely a missing woman from Ohio, Carol Winters. Mrs. Winters was reported missing in mid January 1991 from her hometown- she left her parents’ house to go to the supermarket and never came back.”
“No one investigated her disappearance?” Gibbs asked.
Abby shook her head emphatically.
“No, Gibbs, they did! The local police found her car in the supermarket parking lot, but no trace of her- she’d never gone into the store. The police report says her friends and family were worried about her, as she was recently widowed and taking it hard. Her husband was in the military and was killed in a road vehicle accident in Saudi Arabia during the buildup to Desert Storm. She was four months pregnant when she got the news- she miscarried. Anyway, she was reported missing within hours and because of the concerns about her state of mind, the police didn’t wait to investigate. But they came up with a big fat nothing. It was like she just vanished into thin air.”
Gibbs looked at the photo. Carol Winters had been about the same age as Shannon.
“And Gibbs, look at the name!”
“Yeah, Abbs, I see it. Winters became Summers. But did she do it, or did someone else?”
Abby looked at him in astonishment.
“You think someone abducted her and
Kelly? Gibbs, that’s pretty dark.”
“I don’t want to try to tell Dawn Summers that we think her mother kidnapped her sister unless we’re absolutely sure, Abby.”
“Good point. That brings us neatly to our next topic- the dead girl who is not Kelly. Gibbs, I can’t find anything about this girl. No missing children who might be her, no DNA matches to Joyce, Dawn, Buffy, or any of the databases- it’s like she didn’t exist until her body showed up in that car. This child was not malnourished or poorly cared for, Gibbs, or the investigators would never have been fooled into misidentifying her as Kelly. So it’s hard to believe that no one reported her missing.”Not so hard, actually, if what Ducky was saying about the Council is right
, Gibbs thought grimly. They didn’t need her anymore, so they traded what was left of her for one they wanted.
“Finally,” Abby said, “you might want to sit down for this part. No, seriously, Gibbs.”
She waited until he obediently seated himself on one of her lab stools.
“Remember you asked me to run Dawn Summers’ DNA? Congratulations, Gibbs, it’s a girl- Dawn Summers is a sibling match to Kelly- with a degree of commonality indicating full siblings. And before you ask, I ran her DNA against yours, too. I have no explanation for this, because she’s old enough that you should know about her, but she is definitely your child, Gibbs. And Shannon’s.”
It was good that Abby had made him sit down, because he really doubted his legs would have held him upright. Two daughters? God, if only he could tell Shannon. She would have been so happy…
Abby picked something up off the lab bench that served as her ‘desk’ more often than the desk in her actual office.
“There’s more?” Gibbs asked, not sure he could handle anything else beyond Kelly back from the dead and another daughter who defied any reasonable explanation.
“I, um, made you a copy of the photo from Dawn’s locket,” Abby said hesitantly. “You know what Dawn looks like, but I thought you’d want to see Kelly, too. I figured you’d rather this than Kelly’s current passport mugshot.”
She handed him the photo. She’d blown it up slightly from the locket size and used the lab’s image analysis software to clean it up so he could see the three women better. The two girls were smiling, their mother’s arms around them. He ignored the mystery that was Joyce Summers in favor of her supposed daughters. His daughters. Dawn was still a teenager, looking much younger and far more cheerful than he’d seen her- not that he’d seen her at her best.
Kelly… Kelly had inherited that smile of his mother’s that could blind you, spreading her happiness to everyone else in the room. The hair might be dyed, but the eyes had to be from her other grandmother. He stared at the photo, alert for any sign that either girl had been abused or mistreated, and found none. Whatever else had happened to his little girl, she had grown up loved. That
didn’t mesh with what Ducky had said about the Council at all.
“They were happy, Gibbs,” Abby said softly. “Whoever she really was, Joyce Summers cared about those girls. You can see it looking at them.”
Gibbs nodded. It was true. It showed in the expression on all three faces, and in Dawn’s frantic reaction when she’d realized her last tangible connection to the only mother she had known was missing. Even if the woman had been involved in Kelly’s abduction, his gut said there was no way either of the Summers sisters knew it.
Part of him wanted nothing more than to go track Dawn down right now. Maybe she could explain all this- and even if she couldn’t, the father in him wanted to see his daughter safe at home, where the bastards he was supposed to be chasing couldn’t lay another hand on her. For all he knew, she was still a target.
The other part of him was terrified that there was no good ending to this story. His girls might never come home. If they spooked her, Dawn would probably run, and if the Council had the kind of immunity Ducky had implied, once she left the US, he’d never see her again- and any chance of seeing Kelly would vanish with her.