AUTHOR: Sage Harper
PROMPT: 17. Home
WORD COUNT: 3,533
SUMMARY: “Home is not where you live but where they understand you.” ~Christian Morgenstern
WARNINGS: none really (well it includes a case, but so does canon)
DISCLAIMER: Lyrics courtesy of Johnny Cash. All the other good stuff belongs to Donald P. Bellisario et all, I'm just borrowing and will put them back when I've finished.
“Agent Gibbs” Madame Director began, in her best ‘one is not amused’ voice “I assume you are aware Agent McGee has brought a baby into work?”
“Nope, hadn’t a clue.” Gibbs’ eyes twinkled with amusement over the rim of his coffee up. “But thanks for pointing it out.”
“Sarcasm does not become you, Jethro.”
“Oh really, I thought it was one of the few things you liked about me.”
Gibbs set the cup down on his desk, then crouched and extracted the baby from her car seat. As per protocol the car seat had an NCIS visitor’s card clipped to it.
The baby’s face lit with contentment as she nestled into Gibbs’ arms. Her tiny outfit (a black long sleeved t-shirt declaring ‘I’m already smarter than the president’ and cranberry coloured cords) was accessorised with scarlet fleecy booties, and her hair in pigtails. She was her mother in miniature.
“Director Shepherd meet Lola Sciuto.”
“Umm yes, nice to meet you.” The director’s gaze never wavered from Gibbs. “I hadn’t realised …”
“Well you were the one who asked Abs to come in,” Gibbs began “as it seems somebody was incapable of providing a competent replacement during her assigned day off.”
The Director bristled at the thinly veiled dig, then pointed out;
“Maybe so, but it wasn’t such short notice that Abby couldn’t have made suitable childcare arrangements.”
“Well of course she did,” Gibbs replied, as if to a simpleton. “I’m taking care of her.”
Director Shepherd was about to set forth all manner of protestations, but realised it would be utterly futile. Once Gibbs got an idea into his head it would be easier to mine diamonds with toothpicks than get it out.
“Isn’t that right Lola-Bug?” Gibbs continued, grinning at Lola, as he slung the diaper bag over his shoulder “you get to hang out with Grandpa Gibbs, and we are going to have so much fun. Oh yes we are … but first I need coffee.”
“See, I knew this was a bad idea.” McGee stated, concluding his summary of what had occurred in the squad room.
“You think I’d have done this if we’d had an alternative,” Abby perched on the corner his desk.
“Sarah doesn’t have any lectures today.”
“Yeah but she’s probably studying or something,” Abby pointed out. “Besides your sister can barely take care of herself.”
“Oh as if your brother could do any better.”
“Well at least I’m not in denial about it… and hell like you’re gonna win any awards, I leave you for twenty minutes and Lola isn’t even here. You better have a good explanation.”
McGee sighed, not taking Abby’s indignation to heart. He knew she was just concerned for the baby’s welfare.
“She’s with Gibbs,” he answered, smiling as the relief flooded Abby’s face “he went out for coffee, and should be back …” the elevator dinged “right about now.”
Gibbs strode in purposefully, sipping his drink; Lola clamouring for a taste herself. He’d forgotten that errands took twice as long when you had to deal with a baby and hordes of people cooing over said baby.
“DiNozzo, get the truck” he said “Naval lieutenant found stabbed in her home. McGee you’re with me.”
“And you, special agent Sciuto.” He smiled at Lola, then handed her and the bag over to Abby “you stay and co-ordinate things this end, you can do that can’t you?”
Lola beamed, as if with understanding.
“Bye Abs,” McGee said “Lola, I’ll be back real soon. So you be good for mommy, OK.”
He gave both of them a peck on the cheek, then ran to catch up with his colleagues.
An hour later Jimmy Palmer entered the lab to discover a scene of barely held together chaos. The lab itself was perfectly organised, but Abby and Lola were both in tears.
Considering Jimmy’s knowledge and experience of distressed females, let alone infant ones, could fit on a post-it note; he froze.
“She just won’t stop crying.” Abby said, desolate and desperate. “She wants me to hold her all the time, but I can’t, with all the things that need to be done. So, so I had to put her down, and then she’ll learn to be OK by herself.”
“Ah, I see.”
Abby cried even harder.
“Oh God, I’m ferberising her! My own tiny innocent baby, I must be a monster.”
“No, you’re not.” Jimmy said, with conviction “I think you’re a good mom.”
“Absolutely,” then he remembered his purpose “Uh this is from Dr. Mallard, he wants you to …”
“Oh yeah, like I don’t have enough to do!” Abby snarled “Sorry Jimmy, it’s not your fault… Is it busy in autopsy?”
“Not really,” Jimmy offered his handkerchief “We’re just got the one body.”
“Good for you,” Abby gratefully accepted the proffered tissue “Hey, uh, could I ask a favour? Well it’s kinda a favour of Ducky, but as you’re going back down could you sort it.”
“Umm yeah, I guess.”
Abby handed to Lola to Jimmy.
“Great, oh you’ll need this too.” She looped the diaper bag around his shoulder.
“Uh Abby, are you sure this is a good idea … I mean, well, I don’t exactly have experience of babies.”
“We’ve all gotta start somewhere Jimmy,” Abby smiled “relax, it’s not that tough really. Anyway Duckman will know what to do.”
“Thanks Jimmy,” Abby kissed his cheek “you’re a lifesaver.”
“What an interesting exchange,” Ducky commented mildly.
“I’m sorry doctor,” Jimmy flustered “Abby just sprung this on me, she was really upset and needed someone else to watch the baby for a while.”
“I thought agent Gibbs was on babysitting duty.”
“Well I guess he must be busy too, Abby was sure you’d be alright about watching the baby, but uh if not I could go see agent Gibbs and …”
“She has a name you know.”
“The baby, her name is Lola.” Ducky removed his gloves and took the baby “isn’t that right, my little love.”
“Oh yeah, I did know that, it’s a nice name.” Jimmy gave her a little wave. Flattered by the attention of her new friend Lola smiled, then turned a curious gaze to Ducky.
“Ah yes, you haven’t seen me in my scrubs before, have you?” Ducky smiled “they aren’t a terribly flattering colour and shape, but get the job done. Now this is a rather exciting day for you, my dear, for today is the day you observe your first autopsy.”
Ducky walked to the table.
“Petty officer Simms,” he addressed the corpse “this is Miss Sciuto, she shall be observing us today… now, Mr Palmer, what is your initial prognosis of the cause of death.”
“Stabbing, through the chest.”
“Yes, that would be my diagnosis.” Ducky lent closer “but we all know not to assume anything.”
“You’re right of course Doctor,” Jimmy said “and no sign of a struggle, she must have known her attacker”
“Very good,” Ducky smiled “I think the time is right for you to do an autopsy by yourself. Though of course for now I shall observe, if you need any help.”
“Thank you, doctor” Jimmy beamed with pride.
So engrossed in assisting Jimmy, and maybe an anecdote or two, Ducky barely noticed the autopsy doors open. In fact he only really paid attention when he heard a familiar voice …
And I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when,
I’m stuck in Folsom prison, and time keeps draggin’ on
Ducky turned and noticed Gibbs was crouched beside the playpen; which had to put up as Lola was not longer happy to be held, and it wasn’t safe to let her roam. In an attempt to pacify her Gibbs had begun to sing what he felt was rather fitting considering her situation.
Ducky smiled and approached them, making the solo a duet.
When I was just a baby my mama told me. Son,
always be a good boy, don’t ever play with guns.
But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die
now every time I hear that whistle blowin’ I hang my head and cry…
As Lola gave a standing ovation Gibbs turned to the M.E;
“Got anything for me, Duck?”
“Yes, plenty,” Ducky gave a conspirital wink “but I don’t think it would be appropriate to discuss such matters in front of the children.”
Gibbs laughed, patting Ducky’s cheek.
“Anything to do with the body.”
“Ah yes, in that case you best talk to Mr Palmer.”
Jimmy gulped slightly, facing the agent like a rabbit caught in headlights.
“The cause of death is a single stab wound to the chest.” He stammered. “No defensive wounds, and the tox screen came back negative for drugs, but she had been drinking quite heavily the night before.”
Gibbs nodded, encouraging him to continue.
“These parallel stab wounds to the back,” Jimmy gently rolled the body onto it’s side so Gibbs could see “are pretty strange. For them to be so neat I mean… anyway they’re deep but not enough to kill her. And they must have been inflicted before the chest wound.”
“Yeah, that’d make sense.” Gibbs agreed “There was a lot of blood on those couch cushions she was slumped against. Any defensive wounds?”
“None … which is really weird. I mean it was like she just stood there and let someone do that to her, and why would anyone do that?”
“Well that’s what we’re gonna find out.”
Jimmy flushed “Oh yeah, of course, uh that’s all.”
“Thanks,” Gibbs smiled, “great job, Jimmy.”
“You really think so?” Jimmy beamed.
“Agent Gibbs likes me,” Jimmy said, with more than slight disbelief once Gibbs had left.
“Well of course he does,” Ducky smiled “Jethro is an excellent judge of good character and ability. Of which you have both.”
“Why do you always call him Jethro?” Jimmy asked, then blushed, feeling it was a stupid question.
“Because that’s his name,” Ducky answered simply “and well it would be rather silly to address him in a formal as we are … very good friends.”
“Boss, we’ve sort of got a lead.”
“Sort of, McGee?” Gibbs said, as he sat back down at his desk in the squad room “You either have or you haven’t, so which is it?”
“Umm well,” McGee considered it “yes we do.”
He projected a document onto the plasma screen.
“Lieutenant Simms took out a life insurance policy, on herself. And get this; it pays out a quarter of a million dollars if she’s murdered.”
“Sounds like motive to me.” Ziva said, thrilled that this was seemingly going to be a straightforward case. “Who’s the benefactor?”
“Her son” McGee answered “But actually I don’t think he did it. As he’s eight months old, but …”
“You think the baby’s father bumped her off to get the money?” Ziva suggested “wow, that’s very cold.”
Gibbs head slapped her; then turned to McGee.
“You were saying, Tim …”
“Uh thanks Boss,” McGee said “Lieutenant Simms’ will leaves everything to her brother, Robert Simms; and appoints him guardian for her son. So I guess he would benefit from the payout too, by proxy. So maybe Ziva wasn’t that far off.”
“Shall we bring him in then?”
“No, I thought we’d try a new game plan and just let the perp get away with it.” Gibbs rolled his eyes “what about the kid’s father, any chance he might be in on it?”
“My research suggests that Lieutenant Simms used a sperm bank.” McGee answered “So I guess not.”
“Speaking of sperm donors,” Gibbs began “Where’s DiNozzo?”
“He is with Director Shepherd; she wished to speak with him.” Ziva said
“Fine, you and McGee go get Mr Simms.”
“Hey,” DiNozzo greeted Gibbs and Ziva “what’d I miss?”
“Not much, McGee is just about to start.”
“Probie, ah come on, can’t we get some ‘bad cop’ action … uh yeah, shutting up now boss.”
McGee entered the interrogation room, and sat down opposite Robert Simms.
“Is there any news on Caroline?” Simms said, hopeful
“Uh what sort of news are you expecting?” McGee frowned as he took a sip of coffee
“I reported her missing yesterday. When she didn’t show up to pick up Jacob from day-care… do you have kids, agent McGee?”
“A daughter, she’s about the same age as your nephew.”
“Then I guess you’d understand. Carrie is a good mother; I mean she had some problems, being a single mom and all. But she’d never just abandon him.”
“When was this, that you realised something was wrong?”
“About 5:30 last night, the day-care called. So I went and picked Jake up, took him back to my place … then waited there for her until 9AM. Then I dropped Jacob off at the day-care, on my way into work.”
“Is there anyone who can verify you were at home last night?”
“I … phoned for pizza about 9PM, got it delivered. Called Carrie’s home and cell phones a few times, no answer. Otherwise not really.”
“You think he’s guilty, boss?” Tony asked
“He sure doesn’t look it.” Gibbs said “and the neighbours say they never saw him at her house last night. But there’s something he’s not telling us.”
“Mr Simms,” McGee began “I’m sorry to say this, but your sister was found dead this morning.”
Simms reaction was to break down; McGee awkwardly passed him a box of tissues.
“I, I never, thought she would go through with it.” Simms said “She’d mentioned it, a few times, over the last few months or so. But I never thought she’d … kill herself … I know that sounds terrible, but she was depressed. But I thought she’d been getting better. I should have seen it coming, stopped her.”
McGee took a deep breath, bracing himself to explain.
“Actually we … we think she was murdered.”
The next day proved equally successful on the babysitter front, and they were still no closer to finding Lieutenant Simms’ killer. So it came as a welcome break when Abby called the team down to her lab.
“Skull, scapula, patella, phalanges … and eyes, and ears, and mouth and nose.” Abby sang, then stopped as she heard the lab door open “hey McGee, I was just giving Lola an anatomy lesson.”
“Dada,” Lola greeted him, stretching out her arms to be held.
McGee cradled her close, breathing in her unique sweet baby scent.
“Still no luck?” Abby asked, rubbing his back.
“I guess not.” McGee sighed “all the leads we’ve had so far are dead ends. And I just can’t help thinking of her little boy, how he’ll be growing up without his parents … so that’s kinda close to home.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.”
The lab door opened again; and the rest of the team entered.
“Hey Gibbs,” Abby beamed “a Caff-Pow, for me? Oh you’re too kind.”
“What you got Abbs,” Gibbs handed over the large plastic cup
“The curious case of the murder weapon,” Abby held up the knife “that isn’t necessarily a murder weapon … which is sure to be a crowd pleaser.”
“Wait, how can that not be the weapon?” DiNozzo frowned “we saw it stuck in her chest.”
“It’s OK, that’s not up for debate.” Abby smiled “So, from the top. I tested the handle, and found traces of … you’ll never guess what … ah come on, guess” Abby sighed at their lack of enthusiasm “wood.”
“What sort of wood?”
“Pine, it had some kind of varnish and polish in the mix, so I guessed it was from a piece of furniture.”
“The bookcase in her living room was pine.” McGee recalled “It looked pretty scratched up too, in the corner of one of the shelves.”
“The shelf that was just below shoulder height, right?” Abby prompted
“So the killer was stood in front of the bookcase when he stabbed her, and scratched the wood as he pulled the blade back.”
“That’s a very sexist statement Ziva.” Tony said “why would you assume the killer is male?”
“Because Tony,” Ziva began “statistically, people are most likely to be killed by a male relative. The last person to see Lieutenant Simms’ alive was her brother. He has a motive, and no solid alibi for the time of her death. So it seems rather reasonably to assume his guilt”
“Well see in this country we have this saying; ‘innocent until proven guilty’.” Tony countered “and that means …”
“The thing I can’t understand,” McGee said, ignoring his colleague’s bickering “is how someone can let themselves be repeatedly stabbed in the back.”
“Literally or metaphorically?” Abby clarified
“In this case literally,” McGee elaborated “Lieutenant Simms was in the navy, she’d taken self defence classes. She had a lot to live for, not least her son. I just can’t imagine that she wouldn’t have at least tried to put up a fight.”
“Maybe she had no one to fight against,” Abby suggested “except herself, and that can be the hardest battle of all.”
McGee looked at her curiously.
Gibbs whistled, calling time on Tony and Ziva’s bickering.
“Thank you Gibbs,” Abby smiled, and held up the knife again “notice the duct tape on the handle of the knife, well I tested that too. And discovered traces of exactly the same wood imbedded in the adhesive. From which we can hypothesise …”
“Somebody taped the knife handle to the bookcase,” McGee said “then repeatedly pushed her against it.”
“Yay, Timmy gets a gold star.” Abby hugged him “but, there’s one final twist.”
“Yeah, that didn’t work” DiNozzo noted “so they pulled it out and stabbed her in chest… so there were prints on the tape and handle.”
“Yup, all hers.”
“The killer could have worn gloves.” Ziva noted
“I thought that too; until we went through her computer files and found a suicide note. She’d sent it as a mass email.”
Abby projected the email onto the screen.
“That was sent when Robert Simms was home,” Tony noticed the time stamp “the pizza delivery guy verified that.”
“Someone else could have forced her to write it, then killed her.” Ziva pointed out. “Someone who knew she had post natal depression, that she had lapsed back, again that points to her brother.”
“Except I have been through every square inch of that room and found no trace of him or anyone else having been there that night.” Abby said
“Well it still looks like murder to me.” Ziva insisted
“And that is the final piece of the jigsaw.” McGee said “I looked over the insurance policy; and it doesn’t pay out in the event of suicide. She must have known that, and set this up accordingly … Lieutenant Simms killer, is Lieutenant Simms”
“I brought you some tea.” Abby said, setting the mug down beside McGee’s desk that evening “how’s the novel coming along?”
“I’m taking a break from it.” He sighed “And started something different.”
“Cool,” She sat down on his lap “you going to tell me what is?”
“OK, but promise you won’t laugh or anything.” McGee pulled her close “I’m branching out a bit, into historical crime fiction. Which is apparently going to be the next big thing; but that’s not why I’m doing. I just really like the idea. Anyway it’s a murder mystery, set in Edinburgh medical school. So I asked Ducky for some first hand accounts, to add authenticity.” McGee shook his head “guess how many hours worth if Dictaphone recordings I have of ‘the anecdotes with no end’.”
“I’m guessing a lot,” Abby giggled
“It’s probably going to take me longer to make any kind of sense of the research than write the book itself.”
“That’s not what’s really eating you, is it?”
“Not really,” he admitted “it’s the Simms’ case; I just don’t get how a mother could kill herself. Leave her child alone like that. I know she chose a guardian, who’s still family, but that’s not the same.”
“You read her note, her medical records. She was depressed, felt unworthy, a bad mother. To her it must have seemed like the only way out. It wasn’t an act of selfishness, but love. She honestly thought that her son was better off without her.”
“You can understand that?”
“I … I wouldn’t do that to Lola, or you. But as a mother, knowing that you truly would do anything to provide for your child, give you life to keep them from harm. Then yes a part of me can understand; I don’t think it was the right thing, but I can see why she thought it was.”
“Yeah, I thought you would.” McGee smiled, kissed her “thanks, for explaining
“Anytime, well not really. Because I have to sleep and everything. Which is what we both should be doing, as you have an early start tomorrow.”
“Good point, go on then, you get to bed. I’ll be there in a minute.”
“A real minute,” she raised an eyebrow “or a McGee minute?”
McGee shut off his computer.
“A real one, you can time it if you like.”