Gibbs arrived at NCIS early. Dawn Summers was supposed to be coming in again, and he wanted to catch McGee before she arrived- assuming she did. He wouldn’t be surprised at this point if she didn’t show.
There was no sign of McGee, but Ziva was slumped at her desk, head down. She showed every sign of having been there all night.
“Ziva,” he said gently, touching her shoulder.
As he’d expected, she shot upright, instantly on the alert.
“Gibbs! What time is it?” she demanded.
“Seven,” he replied. “What was so important that you didn’t go sleep in your bed?”
“I was checking into Kelly and Shannon’s accident,” she replied. “Look at this, Gibbs. Look at where the van was when the driver was shot!”
Gibbs looked, even though he practically knew the investigation report by heart- and saw what Ziva was seeing. The van had been at a T-intersection in an area that only ever saw light traffic, facing a concrete wall.
“You don’t think it was chance that the driver was shot here,” he said.
Ziva shook her head.
“If eliminating Shannon was the sole objective, the van’s route had already passed several places that would suit that purpose, and would also have been an easier shot from the sniper’s likely location. Moreover, if the goal was simply to eliminate her, it would have been more effective to shoot her instead of the driver, or to dispose of both when she reached her destination. If they were able to observe the van accurately enough to pick an ideal location, they would also have been able to track it to the safe house. Drug cartels are not usually shy about eliminating threats to their operations, so why be so roundabout in this case? Why use a sniper?”
Gibbs looked at her, shocked by the implication.
“Kelly was who they were after all along, not Shannon.”
“You said yourself that this organization will stop at nothing to gain control of a girl they have targeted. If you wish to abduct a child from a Marine base, what better way than to stage the child's death? No one will be searching for a child who is dead and buried. With your wife already under threat from the Reynosa cartel, it would have been simple for whoever was behind this to cover their tracks.”
“They didn’t just take advantage of the hit, they set it up,” Gibbs mused. “They contact the cartel’s cleanup man Offer him a bonus if the hit the cartel has already ordered happens on their terms. His bosses won’t care as long as Shannon can’t testify, and with the two people who could tell NIS the dead girl wasn’t correctly identified dead, whoever took Kelly is a ghost.”
“Precisely. If they were being cautious, they dealt with the shooter through an intermediary so he could not identify them. Unless the shooter talks, no one would be the wiser that he was not acting solely on behalf of the cartel. Of course, NIS’s leading suspect has been missing almost since the moment he crossed back into Mexico after the shooting, so it seems likely that whoever arranged this made sure there would be no one left to talk.”
Gibbs’ head spun. Tracking down Pedro Hernandez had been easy once he was south of the border. Almost too easy, but that hadn’t occurred to him until later- by which time he hadn’t been inclined to question it. He’d wanted to put that whole chapter of his life behind him.
Now it sounded a lot like he’d been led straight to Hernandez by people who wanted to make sure he had no chance of tracking down his daughter if he ever realized she wasn’t dead. Bastards had used him to tie up their loose end.
“Gibbs?” Ziva asked. “How did they identify Kelly as a target in the first place?”
“I don’t know, Ziva, but I intend to find out.”---
“You don’t have to do this, you know,” Graham said, not for the first time that morning. As he’d halfway expected, Dawn’s late-night exuberance had evaporated in the harsh light of morning. She was now running on too little sleep, and she had exhausted her preferred coffee blend in the previous evening’s binge.
“No, I do, actually,” Dawn said wearily. “But thanks for worrying.”
“Why?” he demanded. “You’re clearly not comfortable with the situation, and they have no grounds to compel you to cooperate with their investigation. You should have just pulled the Council or Riley in to shut it down in the first place.”
Dawn sighed. Graham had been irritable all morning- not entirely because she’d kept him up until three- and had all but refused to drive her to the Navy Yard to get her to reconsider.
“I’m not sure. Just a feeling. I know there’s more to this than we’ve found out yet. So I’ll play along, at least until Willow gets here. Then if I still have nothing, she can hack in and see what they aren’t saying. Like Giles said yesterday, I can tap out whenever I want to. I feel a lot better knowing that.”
“Ok, fine, I’ll drop you off. If you do decide to tap out, call me and I’ll be there to pick you up in no time flat.”
“Not staying today?” Dawn asked, half teasing, but half hoping he’d change his mind.
“No, much as I’d like to, I have to finish up evaluations for the new transfers,” Graham said with a grimace. “It’s always the same- they’re all top notch and come to us from special forces, so they think they’re badass until the first op.”
Dawn snickered. While she hadn’t been old enough to see much of the Initiative, she’d worked with Riley’s unit once or twice since the fall of Sunnydale. The new guys were usually easy to spot. They were the ones who looked a little shell-shocked when their first real demon came at them.
“How many of them pee themselves when they see that vampires are real?”
Graham smothered a laugh.
“More than would care to admit to it,” he said, holding the door for her as they left his apartment.
After the obligatory caffeine pit stop, Dawn toyed with her coffee on the ride to the Navy Yard, trying hard to put her finger on what was bugging her about NCIS, besides their obvious fixation on her sister. She knew there was something she was missing.
Dawn smiled at the guard as Graham passed over their IDs at the Navy Yard security check, and then abruptly paled as he pulled into the parking lot.
“What if they won’t let me leave today?” she demanded. “Like you said, I might be kidnapped, too. Maybe yesterday was really just about stalling for time while they tried to contact our birth parents and get them here? What if they refuse to allow me to leave the building?”
Graham shook his head decisively.
“If they try anything like that, they’re overstepping their bounds big time. They’re not allowed to do that. You’re an adult. You tell them ‘I want my lawyer NOW’ and then call me or Riley. We’ll pull whatever strings we have to if your sister and Giles aren’t on the ground yet. If they are…”
Graham trailed off suggestively, and Dawn had a delightful vision of her sister persuading Giles to let her storm the Navy Yard. Between Buffy, Faith, Xander, and Willow, that would be a rather spectacular assault. Giles wouldn’t really ok such a thing, of course- he’d just dial the President and the NCIS director would get an angry phone call asking him just what the hell was going on in his agency. But it was nice to imagine.
“Good luck,” Graham said as Dawn climbed out. “Chin up- don’t let them see you’re nervous. They can smell fear.”
“Great,” Dawn muttered. “That puts them right up there with all the other nasties I deal with.”
The agent she’d talked to the previous day met her at the elevator and did his best to put her at ease with small talk as he lead her up to the same interview room as they’d used yesterday. They were intercepted halfway there by a tall Goth chick with a lab coat. Dawn blinked, but no, she hadn’t finally found her overdose point for caffeine- NCIS really did have a lab tech who wore four inch platforms and a dog collar to work.
“You’re here! Oh my god, this is-“
“Miss Summers, this is one of our lab techs, Abigail Sciuto,” McGee broke in, looking slightly irritated. “Abby! Don’t you have someplace to be?”
Picking up on the edge in his voice, Dawn glanced from one to the other. She definitely got the vibe that there was more to Abigail Sciuto running into them than her being on her way somewhere.
“Um, hi?” she offered with a tentative smile. “Yes, I’m here. Are you the person I’m supposed to be working with to create the sketch of the guy who smacked me around?”
Dawn had no idea McGee was glaring warningly at Abby from behind her back.
“Oh, right, you’re here for the sketch!” Abby exclaimed. “No, I just wanted to meet you. Because it was so brave what you did trying to help that poor Marine. Most witnesses would have just been freaking out at that point!”
Dawn wasn’t buying that, not least because Ms. Sciuto was right up there with Andrew in the really bad liar category, but she decided to go with it. It was sort of endearing how she relied on sheer enthusiasm to cover her lapse.
“I just did what I could. It didn’t really accomplish much.”
“No, I’m sure it made a huge difference to Corporal McCarthy,” Abby replied earnestly. “He had someone there with him at the end. I’m sorry, Agent McGee, I know you’re busy. I just really, really wanted to see Miss Summers.”
With that baffling pronouncement, the tall Goth squeezed Dawn’s hand before she stood aside to let them pass. Dawn couldn’t help glancing back at her as McGee continued down the hall, and found that Abby was still watching her, all but jumping up and down with excitement.
Yeah, she thought, chalk one up for Graham’s theory about child abduction. No one gets that excited about a witness.
“Agent McGee, can I ask you a question?” Dawn said as she sat down in the interview room, glancing around as she did.
“Sure, Dawn, fire away,” he replied.
“Was someone else observing my interview yesterday?”---
Down in the bullpen, DiNozzo groaned.
“Come on, probie! You’re a trained NCIS agent and you can’t come up with a better answer then ‘um’?”
“He did not actually say ‘um’, Tony,” Ziva observed. “He just… froze.”
“Knock it off, both of you,” Gibbs ordered. “I want to hear what’s going on in there, not down here.”
McGee, fumbling to recover from the unexpected question, told Summers that since she had arrived early, it would be a few minutes before the sketch artist joined them.
He then proceeded to question her about what had happened in Quantico the other night, as if that really were the main reason she was at NCIS today. Gibbs could see Dawn relax somewhat as the interview ran more along the lines of what she had been expecting yesterday, but she was clearly still puzzling over why the interview was being observed.
Her answers to McGee’s questions were calm, and mostly truthful. Watching objectively, though, Gibbs noticed what had bothered Ziva in the first place. There were occasional hesitations, which might at first glance seem to be Summers trying to remember what had happened, but to a trained observer looked more like Summers deciding how much she could safely say.
Ducky’s theory about their suspects would explain that hesitation- Summers was probably not authorized to tell them about vampires. Colonel Finn hadn’t divulged anything about his unit’s mission, and Gibbs would bet that the ok to tell NCIS anything on the subject had to come from on high. It would explain Miller’s caution yesterday and his need for a JAG lawyer, and specifically one who worked with his unit- there was a fine line between operational security and raising suspicion.
When the sketch artist finally arrived, McGee left the woman to work with Summers and excused himself.
He looked flustered when he arrived in the bullpen.
“Boss, I’m sorry. I wasn’t expecting her to ask that. I’m not sure why she did- I think Abby might have weirded her out a little.”
“Abby?” Gibbs demanded, puzzled. “When did Abby talk to her?”
“She was hanging around in the hallway earlier,” Ziva said.
“She was waiting to meet Dawn,” McGee told them. “I’m sure after the DNA results, she couldn’t pass up a chance to see your daughter. She covered by saying she wanted to meet her because it was so brave of her to try to help Corporal McCarthy, but I don’t think Dawn bought that. I just didn’t expect her to put it all together so fast.”
“Put all what together, McToast?” DiNozzo asked skeptically.
“She knows we’re interested in her for more than just her witness statements about Tuesday night,” McGee replied. “She’s not dumb, Tony.”
“No,” Gibbs agreed, watching the girl in question on the screen as she directed the sketch artist to change something slightly.
“She’s not. But I doubt she’s figured out what we’re looking at. McGee, I doubt this sketch is going to take very long- Summers’ witness account was concise, I expect her description will be, too. When the artist is finished, keep her busy until I get up there with Ducky.”
“Sure, Boss. Why Ducky?”
“Because I want someone with psych training there when we try to explain the results of the DNA analysis to her,” Gibbs replied. “I don’t expect she’s going to be too happy about it- and that’s if she believes us.”
“How do I keep her busy?”
Gibbs glared at him. Sometimes he wondered how McGee made it through MIT when he asked such obvious questions.
“Ask her if she’s got questions, and if she does, go ahead and answer them. Hell, talk about anything you want- tell her about your next book if she’s a fan. Just make sure she doesn’t leave.”
With that, he headed down to autopsy. He wanted Ducky there not just for his psychological training, but also for moral support. Facing down an adult daughter he hadn’t known existed forty-eight hours ago was more nerve wracking than being in a war zone.---
Buffy knew she was not really an ideal travel companion for transatlantic flights at the best of times, but she was surprised how patient the others were being with her today. She was about ready to crawl out of her skin from the suppressed energy that normally would get worked off slaying whatever demons happened to be foolish enough to get in her way. Sadly, Slaying was not an option for in-flight entertainment.
She really shouldn’t have called. But Faith’s words had burrowed into her brain and she’d had to try. When she’d gone on a coffee run before they headed to the station, she’d ducked into a phone box and dialed her old home number.
Her dad had picked up. Cranky- she’d realized belatedly that the time difference meant she’d probably woken him up- but definitely him. It was only then that she’d realized she hadn’t thought about what to say if he answered.
She’d babbled something about a wrong number and hung up. She’d been halfway down the block when the phone started ringing again. She didn’t have the guts to go back and answer.
She should have. It had been the only thing she’d thought about since.
“B, give it a rest. Meditate or something,” Faith muttered. “Plane’s not going to fly any faster no matter how badly you’re bouncing in your seat. Keep it up and you just might bounce hard enough to put a hole in the ceiling or end up down below with the baggage.”
“I want to be there now,” Buffy said, aware as she did that she sounded like a petulant child. “And don’t tell me to take a nap. I don’t want any more cryptic dreams. I want to know for sure what’s going on.”
“Not in mid-air, she can’t,” Willow said firmly. “Wait until we’re on the ground. You managed to sleep last night.”
“Yeah. For like an hour. After we went patrolling.”
Willow glared. This was the first she’d heard of patrolling last night. Considering they hadn’t even arrived at Faith’s flat until 1:30 in the morning, she was surprised Buffy had bothered sleeping at all. From the sounds of it, Faith hadn’t- which probably explained how she’d been able to sleep for most of the flight until Buffy’s constant fidgeting woke her up.
“You’re not going to be any help to anyone if you’re strung out from not sleeping. I swear, the two of you need regular reminders about rule 28 as much as any of the trainees.”
Faith shrugged off the not-quite-scolding. ‘Evil never sleeps, but Slayers need to’ had been one of Dawn’s contributions to the rules. It had been added after a bustup between D and B that had involved frayed tempers due to lack of sleep during apocalypse season five or six years back.
“Relax. We’ll be on the ground in another couple hours, and by the time we are, D can give us the full rundown on what the Navy cops hit her with this morning. I still don’t get why she feels like she has to play ball with them anyway.”
“Misplaced sense of compassion. She’s only ever dealt with Sunnydale and Cleveland cops- people under the influence of Hellmouths, not competent investigators. She probably figured it would be a good idea to steer them away from the real culprits so they didn’t end up as tonight’s entree.”
Buffy shook her head irritably.
“Doesn’t matter. What matters is I know she’s with them right now, and I can’t do anything to help her from here. This was a mistake. We should have travelled Wicca Express.”
“Too late now,” Xander pointed out. “I’ll grant you most first class passengers are pretty self-involved, but even they might notice half a dozen people disappearing mid-flight.”
“It may in fact be a good thing that Dawn is occupied at NCIS,” Giles said, entering the conversation.
“How so, G-man?”
Giles let the detested nickname pass without comment.
“If Dawn is with NCIS, she is not out and about as she would otherwise be. This means that those who targeted her earlier in the week will find it much more difficult to do so again. They can hardly walk into a secure facility in broad daylight.”
Buffy actually brightened at that.
“Ok, so there is one upside to the nosy Navy cops.”
“There’s also the possibility Dawn may be able to find out more information,” Willow pointed out. “I mean, NCIS don’t know that she knows what’s going on. So they may let something slip.”
Buffy’s shoulder sagged.
“This is really saying that you all want me to take a nap, isn’t it?”
“Fraid so, best bud o’ mine,” Xander told her. “Willow has a point- you’re going to be off your game tonight if you don’t get some shuteye, and if Dawn’s right about this crew, we’ll all need to be sharp.”
Buffy took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly. Faith grinned as she recognized the signs of B starting one of the mindcalmers they’d both been taught.
“If you’re napping, so am I,” she announced. “Someone wake me around Baltimore, k?”
“Wake you in an hour,” Xander repeated. “Got it.”---
The sketch didn’t take long. Summers was evidently as good at descriptions as Gibbs had expected.
By the time McGee got back up, the sketch artist was on her way out. She handed him a hardcopy of her results. McGee gulped as he got a look at it- you could tell just from the face that the guy was not someone to mess with.
When McGee entered the interview room, he found Dawn staring at her phone, an odd expression on her face.
“I have a question for you, Agent McGee,” she said, before he could say anything.
Her previously pleasant, cheerful manner had evaporated. She was serious, but there was something else in her tone he couldn’t quite place- an undercurrent of puzzlement mixed with something far more intense.
“Dawn, you’ve been extremely helpful with our questions, so I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have.”
“You found out about Buffy through DNA analysis, didn’t you?”
McGee tried not to let his shock show. How had she…?
“Yes, actually we did. Why do you ask?”
Dawn ignored his question.
“Did you run a DNA analysis on me too?”
McGee prayed fervently that Gibbs would arrive with Ducky. He had a sinking feeling things were about to go badly.
“We did,” he confirmed.
“What did my DNA results show?”
“That you and your sister are full siblings, as expected,” McGee replied immediately, thankful that there was a truthful answer he could go with on this one without having to explain in full.
Just when he was about to relax, Dawn followed up.
“What else did Buffy’s results show?”
McGee swallowed. This was not good.
“That your sister was the victim of a crime in 1991,” he admitted, hoping that either Gibbs would walk in or Dawn would leave it at that. “That’s why I was asking you questions about her yesterday.”
“What was the crime?”
“An agent was shot and killed while driving a witness of a crime who was under NIS protection to a safe house. Your sister was a passenger in the vehicle.”
“Let me guess- she was declared dead.”
It wasn’t a question, it was a statement, and Dawn was sounding more and more like her father with every question. Then she looked him full in the eye, and McGee really wanted Gibbs to show up to deal with his daughter, because she also looked a lot like Gibbs right now- a very angry
Gibbs. At least Dawn didn’t have a weapon…
“What happened to my mother?”
The question was delivered in a flat voice that held the restrained fury of an avalanche behind it.
“She was killed in the resulting crash.”
“Thank you. That will be all, Agent McGee. We’re through here,” Dawn said quietly- too quietly.
McGee’s instinct was to back away slowly before the explosion, but he was pretty sure Gibbs would kill him if he did.
“No, wait, Miss Summers-“
“Any further questions you have may be directed to my lawyer.”
Dawn tossed a card on the table and moved for the door before he could react. She was gone by the time he stood up.
He ran after her, but it turned out that Dawn was as observant of the building layout as she was about other things- the elevator doors had already closed by the time he got there.
“Oh, this is not good.”
“What’s not good, McGee?”
He froze. Of course Gibbs showed up now. Turning around, he found Gibbs and Ducky had just come up from autopsy. And of course, Tony was at his desk grinning like a loon at the sight of McGee about to get chewed out. He didn’t say anything, but he didn’t have to. McGee could practically hear what he was thinking.
“Boss, Dawn Summers left. I don’t know what happened, but somehow she knew about the DNA results.”
“What do you mean, she knew about the DNA?” Gibbs demanded.
“I came back in after the sketch artist finished, and she said she had a question for me,” McGee explained. “You told me to talk to her, answer any questions she had, so I said ok. She interrogated me about the DNA results for her and her sister, and then she asked me what happened to her mother.”
Gibbs raised an eyebrow. The first two questions made sense. The last one implied she was aware that Joyce Summers was not her biological mother.
“What did you tell her, Timothy?” Ducky demanded.
“The truth- her mother was killed in the car crash after the NIS agent protecting her was shot. She had already guessed that her sister was presumed dead.”
Ducky looked appalled, but it was Gibbs that McGee was worried about.
“How could she have known that?” Ziva asked. “You questioned her about her sister yesterday, but she seemed puzzled as to why you were asking.”
“I don’t know. She had her phone in her hand…” he began, and then wanted to slap himself in the head as it hit him. He should have asked before Summers had a chance to get her questions in.
He dove for his computer and started keying in queries.
“I’m pulling up the local cell phone grid. No incoming calls, but there were about a dozen incoming text messages in the time frame Summers was in the room alone… these can be eliminated, because they’re going to NCIS-issued phones. These three are to agents’ personal numbers… that leaves this unidentified number as likely belonging to Dawn Summers. The message originated overseas - it was sent from Rome.”
Ziva raised an eyebrow.
“Can you get the message, McGee?” Gibbs barked.
The sound of furious typing was all the answer he needed. They all crowded around the screen as McGee pulled the message up.
It was only two words.Kelly Gibbs.