“What’s so important, Abbs?” Gibbs asked as he entered the lab. “I’ve got Dawn Summers upstairs right now.”
“You need to see this Gibbs,” Abby replied. “Like, right now. Especially if you have Dawn Summers upstairs. Ok, so you remember how it didn’t make any sense that Dawn’s sister could be your daughter? Before I ran Dawn’s DNA, I went back and tested Buffy against what’s on record for your daughter. Gibbs, Buffy Summers isn’t just your daughter. She’s a perfect match to Kelly.”
She pointed to the results. Gibbs stared at the screen, uncomprehending.
“Buffy Summers and Kelly Gibbs are the same person,” Abby told him. “DNA doesn’t lie. Gibbs, your daughter isn’t dead. She never was. Kelly is alive.”
“That’s not possible. The investigation determined that Kelly and Shannon died in that car, Abby,” he whispered.
He couldn’t allow himself to believe it was possible. There was just no way it could be, and he knew
he wasn’t strong enough to survive losing Kelly a second time.
“Then the conclusion the investigation came to was wrong,” Abby replied. “Look at this-they used dental records for the identification on Shannon, but identifying remains from dental records can be problematic- especially with children, who often don’t have up to date records, because they’re still growing and their teeth are changing so rapidly. Kelly had gone nearly a year since her last dentist visit, so the investigation relied on the combination of known location, blood type, and general appearance. The dead girl looked like Kelly, had the same blood type, and Kelly was known to have been in the vehicle.”
Abby refrained from pointing out that the dead girl had also suffered facial injuries that would have made misidentification more likely.
“But it wasn’t Kelly?” Gibbs demanded.
Abby shook her head.
“They didn’t do DNA testing. Back then, it was far more expensive, and testing wasn’t routine. As far as the investigators were concerned, it wasn’t necessary in Kelly’s case. They had no reason to suspect the girl in the vehicle was anyone else. I went back to the evidence for that case and managed to find a sample I could still get DNA from. I don’t know who that little girl was, but she was definitely not your daughter. Completely unrelated to you or your wife. Someone switched children.”
“Who would do that?” Gibbs asked hoarsely. “And how would they get Kelly not to contact me? If she were in trouble, the first thing she would do is try to tell me.”
Abby looked flummoxed.
“I don’t know. Maybe you should ask Dawn Summers about her sister.”
Gibbs felt like the world was spinning backwards.
“Abby, I doubt she knows anything about it. She’s younger than Kelly- she would have only been five or six when the accident happened.”
Abby’s eyes widened.
“Gibbs? If Buffy Summers is really Kelly, could Dawn Summers also be someone else?”
“I don’t know, Abbs. But you’re going to find out. Go ahead and run her DNA right now- check it against Kelly’s first. Then against every database we’ve got. Start with missing and abducted children.”
Abby did her best mock salute as he headed for the elevator.
When Gibbs got back upstairs, he intercepted McGee, who was looking troubled as he headed back to the interview room.
“Boss, I just got off the phone with White Memorial, the L.A. hospital Dawn Summers claims as her birthplace? They have no record of Buffy or Dawn Summers’ birth. In fact, they don’t have records of anyone named Summers being admitted during the time periods we’re looking at.”
“McGee, when you go back in, ask Summers more about her sister.”
“Ok… can I ask why, boss?”
“Her sister’s DNA popped up in connection to an old case.”
McGee looked startled, but nodded.
“Possible child abduction- don’t
tell Summers that.”
McGee’s eyes bugged out as he absorbed what Gibbs had just said.
“Understood. Um, boss?”
Gibbs pinned him with that pained look of impatience that usually went with a ‘what, McGee?’ but didn’t say anything.
“Do we think Summers is also abducted? It would explain a few things.”
“We don’t know yet, McGee. Abby’s running her DNA right now. Try to keep her here as long as you can- I’m hoping Abby will finish before Summers leaves.”
Privately, Gibbs expected Abby to come up with a match- which would give them more excuse to delve into Summers’ background. Of course, there would also be the minor problem of contacting a set of parents who had probably been told long ago that there was no realistic hope of getting their child back alive. That was a phone call he planned to make himself.
McGee took a deep breath and cleared his expression before letting himself back into the interview room. He found Dawn fidgeting restlessly, phone in hand.
“Agent McGee, how much longer do you think this will take?” she asked.
“I’m not sure,” McGee replied. “Why?”
“I have a one o’clock appointment that I absolutely have to keep,” Dawn replied. “The way this has been dragging out, I’m starting to get a little nervous.”
“You can’t reschedule?” McGee asked, mentally calculating whether it was worse to upset Summers by making her miss her appointment, or Gibbs by letting Summers leave when he’d said to keep her here as long as possible.
“Not within the next six months,” Dawn told him, her face serious. “Setting up this appointment took several weeks and a metric buttload of paperwork. I realize what you’re doing here is important, but so is this appointment.”
“What’s so important?” McGee asked curiously. “If you don’t mind me asking. Nothing to do with the investigation, just personal curiosity. I’ve never met an antiquities appraiser before.”
Dawn was relieved to finally have a question she could answer with near complete honesty. She was starting to suspect it might be the only question like it she’d get.
“Comparing an item that recently was acquired for one of our collections against specimens in the Smithsonian’s Akkadian holdings. If our new piece is genuine, it is worth more than this building and everything in it. Getting my schedule, an archaeologist with the appropriate background, the historian I need to talk to, and the artifacts I need to see for comparison to all line up in one place was not easy. If I cancel on such short notice, the chance that these people will free up more time in their busy schedules for me anytime soon is not good.”
McGee decided with a sinking feeling that it was going to have to be Gibbs who got upset. He might not be involved in academia or antiquities, but he understood what Summers meant- if she backed out, her next request for an appointment with the people she needed became low priority. It could take months to get her appointment rescheduled, maybe longer.
“Would it be possible for you to come back again tomorrow?” McGee asked. “Clearly, you need to keep your appointment, but we still have a few more questions for you, and I don’t want to rush and miss something. With cases like this, sometimes it’s the smallest details that turn out to be what unravels the case.”
“Yeah, that shouldn’t be a problem,” Dawn replied, tapping on her phone screen to pull up her calendar. “Everything I have scheduled for tomorrow can be rearranged. This afternoon is the only thing that can’t.”
“Great. Anyway, sorry I kept you waiting for so long. It turned out to be longer than I expected.”
At Dawn’s puzzled look, McGee did his best exasperated face.
“I got put on hold for quite a while. I think they may have forgotten I was still holding. I ended up hanging up and calling back.”
“I hate it when that happens,” Dawn said sympathetically. “So, did the birth certificate thing get sorted out?”
“Not exactly, but I’m hopeful we’ll be able to clear it up by the end of the day,” McGee told her. “I did want to ask you a couple more questions about your sister, though.”
“Agent McGee, not that I don’t want to help any way I can, but why the focus on my sister? Buffy’s in England. She had nothing to do with what happened last night. She hasn’t even been back to the States in three years.”
“England? Really? Where?”
“A small town you won’t have heard of not far from Cheltenham.”
At McGee’s blank look, Dawn sighed.
“Cheltenham’s about halfway between Bristol and Birmingham. You don’t know where those are either? Southwest England. About two hours and change by train from London Paddington. Or by car, it’s about the same either way.”
“And how long has she been there?” McGee asked.
“Not counting vacations or work assignments that take her elsewhere? Pretty much since we moved to England after Sunnydale. There was a temporary stay in LA, but we weren’t there long, maybe a couple months. We were in London for the first few weeks after we moved to England while the British paperwork got sorted out-“
McGee broke in.
“Sorry to interrupt, Dawn, but what paperwork? Given the difficulty we’ve been having, if there’s a paper trail on you in England, it might actually be easier for me to follow up there and work backward.”
Dawn thought for a second.
“Um, there would be whatever we had to do for our immigration status, for a start. I was still underage, so I didn’t really see the papers, my sister handled everything since she was my guardian. Giles sponsored us both for permanent residency in the UK, so there’s got to be some papers for that. And I think he and Buffy also set up the paperwork so he’d become my guardian under British law if anything happened to her before I hit legal age. We got national insurance numbers so Buffy could start work, and Giles pulled some strings to get me into his old school so I could finish high school.”
She couldn’t very well tell him that it was unlikely he’d find much paperwork available to him from the British authorities- the files of senior Council personnel were considered need to know, and unless NCIS was way higher in the pecking order than she suspected, they didn’t. Anything Her Majesty’s Government handed over would be sanitized.
“And that was all in London?”
Dawn nodded. Maybe she should check what her public CV and immigrations history actually said. She’d never needed to bother before.
“London for a few weeks, and then we moved to Winchcombe and we’ve been based there ever since.”
She frowned, and her eyes narrowed.
“Agent McGee, you never answered my question. Why the interest in my sister?”
“Dawn, I don’t want to worry you, but we have reason to think she may be involved in an old NCIS investigation.”
“That doesn’t sound right. Other than Riley and Graham, we’ve never known anyone in the military. So how would she be connected to an NCIS investigation? Buffy’s not some kind of criminal.”
Dawn looked alarmed, so he hastened to reassure her.
“Not as a suspect, of course! I apologize if I gave you that impression. Her DNA matched something on file from an old case that’s still unsolved. It’s probably nothing, but I have to follow up on it.”
Dawn still looked uneasy, and McGee couldn’t honestly blame her.
“You said Buffy’s not a criminal, but I noticed in what little we could find on her that she got expelled from her high school in Los Angeles for burning down the gym. What can you tell me about that?”
Dawn slumped slightly in her chair.
“Everyone always brings up the gym. Cause of course she couldn’t come up with a better excuse than ‘mice smoking cigarettes’. Look, that was around the time our parents’ marriage was breaking up. They were fighting constantly. Buffy acted out a bit, but it wasn’t anything that should follow her around all her life. It’s not like she wanted to burn the gym down. She was hanging out with some kids who were smoking, and they blamed her for the fire.”
“Did anyone else get expelled for that incident?” McGee asked, making a note.
Dawn shook her head.
“No, the others were skilled enough at juvenile delinquency to not get caught doing stupid stuff as often as Buffy did. The gym fire was her last strike. To hear our sperm donor tell it, it was also the last straw for Mom’s marriage. He was tired of us dragging him down.”
“That’s pretty harsh,” McGee said, honestly taken aback. “Was your sister aware of your father’s feelings?”
“I’m going to go with yes, considering how loud he was when he told Mom that night,” Dawn replied coolly. “In fact, I’d say the whole neighborhood heard. Hank’s out of our lives for a reason. He didn’t even return Buffy’s calls when Mom died. Haven’t seen him in years, and haven’t really missed him either.”
“Right, well that more than covers the high school incident. What can you tell me about your sister’s activities in 1991?” McGee asked.
“1991?” Dawn asked, now looking completely baffled. “Not much. That’s when life was still… normal. Buffy would have been ten, so that would be what fourth grade, maybe fifth for her? She would have been at Franklin Avenue, and I think she was taking ice skating lessons. Not sure if she’d gotten into cheerleading yet or not. I really can’t tell you more than that. I was only four going on five. Most of what I remember from that time centers around pre-school and the pool in our backyard.”
Of course, those memories were all fake, but there was no need to tell Agent McGee that.
“Interesting that you refer to it as when life was still normal,” McGee remarked.
“Yeah, well, what else can you call it when your parents get divorced and your mom decides it would be a good idea to move you to a town that has a crime problem to rival bad parts of New York, your mom dies suddenly, and then said town collapses into a sinkhole half a mile deep taking all your stuff with it, and almost takes you, too. There’s normal, there’s the pre-divorce period, there’s Sunnydale, and there’s England. Pretty much nothing from pre-divorce on qualifies as normal, at least, not from what I’ve heard from people with normal lives.”
“But you definitely remember Buffy growing up with you and your parents?”
Dawn’s look and tone both suggested she thought he was slightly crazy.
“Yeah, what with her being my sister and all.”
“Ok. We’ll leave it at that. Again, Miss Summers, please don’t worry. It’s probably nothing.”
Dawn looked pointedly at her watch.
“Right, I guess we’ll have to pick up again tomorrow morning. You should have time for lunch and still make your appointment at the Smithsonian.”
“Great,” Dawn said, with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “And tomorrow we’ll be talking more about what happened last night instead of what happened during my wonderful childhood?”
“I would imagine so,” McGee replied. “Thank you for your time, Miss Summers. It might not seem like it, but this really is a big help.”
He showed her to the door, where they found Graham Miller waiting along with DiNozzo.
“Agent DiNozzo,” Summers said, in a voice that was still slightly strained.
“Everything ok, Dawn?” Miller asked, in a voice that made it clear that if it wasn’t, he was going to be very unhappy with McGee and DiNozzo.
“Tell you in the car,” Dawn replied. “We need to grab food and get to Natural History. If I miss this meeting, there will be hell to pay. Possibly literally.”---
With Summers and Miller safely in the elevator, McGee looked expectantly at DiNozzo.
“Well? Did Miller have an explanation for you?”
“Yeah, probie, he did,” DiNozzo snapped. “Along with his CO and a JAG lawyer.”
McGee looked at Ziva and Gibbs in confusion.
“Summers told DiNozzo last night she’d been tortured before,” Gibbs said. “Turns out that was during a kidnapping when she was a teenager. A doomsday cult decided she was the human sacrifice they needed to transcend this plane of existence or some crazy crap. There was another scare while she was in college, too, a survivor of the original cult. Summers is mostly ok about it these days, but she and everyone around her is very security conscious. To the point that when she’s on assignment in unfamiliar surroundings, she checks in with a designated contact person by phone or text message every 45 minutes.”
McGee noted that it sounded like Gibbs approved. He reflected privately that it might be a good thing Gibbs had never had children with any of his ex-wives. He had visions of them never being let out of the house without GPS locators.
“She tells whoever she checks in with where she is, what she’s doing, and lets them know if she expects to be sleeping or unavailable for any other reason. If she misses a check-in, they call to find out why,” DiNozzo continued. “When she missed her expected check-in last night, Colonel Finn gave her a short grace period and then began calling. When he received no answer for half an hour, he had Dawn’s cell phone traced from his office.”
“Isn’t that illegal?” McGee asked.
“Well, technically, yes, McGoo,” DiNozzo replied. “But given that Summers made him her Washington check-in person because he could do that if he decided it was necessary, she’s not about to file a complaint. And since his actions led to the rescue of a kidnapping victim and the discovery of a multiple homicide involving military personnel, I don’t think the Pentagon is going to take issue with it either.”
“But he brought a lawyer with him anyway,” McGee said.
“Much like the Boy Scouts, Colonel Finn believes in being prepared,” DiNozzo snapped. “What about your interview, probie? What did our damsel no longer in distress tell you about last night?”
“We didn’t get to last night, because I was asking about her background, and that led to questions about her sister,” McGee replied.
“Her sister? I’m so proud of you, probie! Buffy, right? Did you get to see pictures? Is she hot?” DiNozzo asked gleefully, before wincing as Gibbs landed a solid smack on the back of his head.
“I told him to ask about her sister, DiNozzo,” Gibbs snapped. “Buffy Summers’ DNA matches the DNA on file for a crime victim from an old case.”
“Which case, boss?” DiNozzo asked.
Gibbs tossed a file on Ziva’s desk. McGee and DiNozzo crowded around to see it.
“Boss…” McGee said slowly, not sure he was understanding. “This is the file from-“
“From the investigation of my wife and daughter’s death,” Gibbs cut him off. “Yeah, McGee, I know.”
DiNozzo got the look on his face normally reserved for the moment he realized Gibbs was right behind him, and then slapped his own head at the realization he’d just unknowingly applied the word ‘hot’ to Gibbs’ daughter.
“Sorry, boss. Won’t happen again,” he said meekly.
“Then Miss Summer’s sister,” Ziva began.
“Abby tells me Buffy Summers’ DNA is a 100% match to Kelly’s,” Gibbs said, sparing her the question.
“Does Dawn know this?” Ziva asked quietly.
McGee shook his head.
“She has no idea. According to her, in 1991, Buffy was in elementary school and taking ice skating lessons.”
“I know, McGee, I was watching.”
“What do I tell her?”
“Don’t tell her anything for now. But I want to know where Buffy Summers is now and I want her complete history.”
“Right. Dawn said they live in England, a small town near Cheltenham. I’ll start with that.”
“And Dawn Summers?” DiNozzo asked.
“Abby’s running DNA on her to see if she’s also a missing child.”
“You think the parents abducted both of them, boss? Or at least, the mother did? Might explain why their supposed father split and hasn’t been heard from since…”
“I think if someone’s passing off one kidnapped child as their own, DiNozzo, it’s fair to ask if their other child is also abducted.”
“Good point,” DiNozzo agreed.
“DiNozzo, even though we’re digging into Summers, we can’t let the multiple homicide drop. Get back down to Quantico and see what you can find out about that warehouse. I find it hard to believe no one noticed anything. See if you can find surveillance cameras that might have video, or someone who saw people coming or going in the last few weeks.”
“On it, boss.”
“And me?” Ziva asked. “What do I do?”
“Follow Summers,” Gibbs replied.
“You do not trust her?” Ziva said in surprise.
“It’s not that I don’t trust her,” Gibbs replied. “But there’s something funny going on, and there’s a decent chance Dawn may also be an abducted child. Until we get to the bottom of this, I want to know where she is. Besides, you know rule 3.”
“Don’t believe what you’re told, double check. If I follow her, we may find out if she is actually what she says she is.”