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ROCK CREEK PARK

The NCIS vehicles pulled into the parking area. A military truck was already disgorging Marines. The team emerged from their vehicles and looked around.

"You are sure this is the right place, McGee?" Ziva asked.

McGee nodded. "It's the logical place to start, Ziva. This area has the largest infestation of oriental bittersweet in the park."

Gibbs looked around, "Duck. What do you think?"

Ducky came across to join them. "Your man has brought us here for a reason. Mostly like to find something. A clue to Roslyn's whereabouts, perhaps. He isn't going to make this too difficult, as he wants you to find it. I would suspect that if this is the correct area, then what ever he wants you to find will be reasonably close. Probably well hidden. He wants you to search for it; not for some passerby to stumble upon it."

"Any idea what we are looking for, Dr Mallard?" Vance asked.

Ducky's face was troubled. "It may be another note. Or something associated with Ros. An article of clothing or even..." Ducky fell silent.

Everyone looked at him. He sighed. "Or even a body part. Such as one of Ros' fingers."

Amaia made a retching noise.

Tony swung away from the team, his face drawn. I should have ignored Ros and followed her anyway. Dammit. This is all my fault.

Sam watched Tony walk away alone for a moment, then walked after him. Gibbs watched her go. That's my girl.

"Tony."

"What?"

"Gibbs was right. It isn't your fault. I'm sorry."

"You know what Gibbs says about apologizing."

"That rule doesn't count between friends."

"Are we friends?"

"Aren't we?"

Tony swung around to look at her. "Yeah. I guess we are." He managed a small lopsided smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Not going to stop me feeling guilty though."

"Or me. But we'll cope."

"Yeah." Tony drew in a deep breath and looked towards where Gibbs was standing watching them. "Yeah. We will."

Sam smiled and headed back to join the others. Tony moved towards Director Vance. Gibbs joined them. Tony looked from Gibbs to Vance and back again. "If the person responsible for Ros' disappearance is Kepa Urkullu, then Sam could be in danger here."

Gibbs and Vance nodded.

Tony's voice was soft. "I screwed up once with this. I don't intend to screw up again. Let me accompany Sam on her sector search." He looked Gibbs in the eyes. "I give you my word I will keep her safe, Boss."

Gibbs looked at him silently for a moment, then nodded. Tony strode away to rejoin the team.

Vance spoke quietly. "Sam isn't going to like that."

"She'll cope."

Vance looked sideways at Gibbs. "He failed the last time he was supposed to protect someone."

"Tony didn't fail. Jenny caused her own death. She dismissed her protection."

Vance nodded. "But DiNozzo still feels guilty about it," he observed.

Gibbs turned to look at Vance. His expression was unreadable. "We all feel guilty about something, Leon."

Vance nodded again. Together they walked over to join the officer commanding the Marines. After a brief discussion with him, they headed to where the team was waiting.

They formed a line search formation and slowly moved out north from their start point. Vance remained behind with the USMC officer.

Sam moved slowly, her eyes intent on the ground in front on her. Reaching out with her hand from time to time to sweep branches from her face. Suddenly, she was grabbed from behind. Sam let out a startled yell and struggled in Tony's embrace. "What the hell are you doing?"

"You can't go through there. Poison ivy. Gibbs will kill me if I let you blunder through that."

"Poison ivy?"

"Yeah. Nasty stuff. Brings you out in large evil red rash. Ask McGee about it some time. He gets it at least once a year."

"But he's a scout master! Surely he'd recognize poison ivy?"

"I think he likes it. I think he gets off on the smell of calamine lotion."

Sam laughed, and they continued their search. She noted that Tony stayed close to her. Never more than an arm's length away. Gibbs has obviously decided I need a babysitter. Or Tony's developed a protective streak. Or both.

They had been searching about an hour when Vance called them back in. "Take a break, and we'll start in another direction. Doctor Mallard doesn't think that there will be anything any further out, and I am inclined to agree with him."

The team dropped down onto the ground. Sam dragged her water bottle out of her pack and took a mouthful. She looked around. Where are you Ros? Is there a clue to your whereabouts here? Are we on the right track? Sam looked around again. She saw her own anxiety and fear mirrored on the faces of her friends. Sam stuffed her water bottle back into her pack and allowed Gibbs to haul her to her feet. Once more they headed out. This time heading east. They hadn't been searching long when one of the Marines let out a yell. "I've found someone."

"Someone?" Tony looked at Sam. They all began to run to where the Marine crouched, bent over a small hollow in the ground. As they got closer, the team began to draw back. Reluctant to get too close. Afraid of what they might find. Gibbs and Vance strode past them and joined the Marine. Vance looked over his shoulder, "Dr Mallard, quickly. I think she's still alive."

Ducky hurried to join them, as Vance called for an ambulance on his cellphone. Slowly, the rest of the team drew nearer. In the small, well hidden hollow, a figure lay in a crumpled heap. The face was bruised and blood stained. Where the sleeve was torn it was obvious that the arm it had covered was bruised and most likely broken. The figure had been comprehensively beaten. Amaia drew a small sobbing breath. Sam felt like someone had just punched her in the stomach. The figure was Special Agent Roslyn Danvers.

Gibbs got to his feet and came to join them. He looked into the faces of each member of his team. "There is an ambulance on its way. This is now a crime scene. You know what to do."

"Yes, Boss."

Silently they filed back to the vehicles to collect their equipment. Their real task had begun.

NCIS SQUAD ROOM - SEVERAL HOURS LATER

"What have we got?" Gibbs looked around at his team. They were huddled together; their faces drawn and shocked.

Tony spoke first. "I've arranged security for Ros. I've sent Agents Stern and Binder up to Bethesda. Ziva and I will relieve them later."

Gibbs nodded his approval. "Sam and I will take the watch after yours. Then McGee and Amaia after us."

"I've spoken to Abby," Amaia said. "There are no fingerprints on Ros' ID except her own. The assailant must have worn gloves. Abby's not optimistic about getting prints off the note or envelope either."

Sam spoke next. "I've logged all the evidence from Rock Creek Park with Abby, including Ros' clothes."

Ziva placed a pile of surveillance tapes on Gibbs' desk. "Security tapes from the guard house. I got the tapes for the last few days as well. Just in case he was chasing the joint."

"Casing," Tony murmured, "not chasing."

"Whatever." Ziva shrugged.

"Boss," McGee spoke up. "We may be able to track him further. Using the tapes from the guard house as a starting point, I might be able to trace his path around the city via the traffic cameras. We know the time he was here. He will have been caught on cameras both coming and going."

"Do it, McGee."

McGee headed for the stairs to MTAC and then stopped dead.

Director Vance was coming down the stairs. His tread was heavy and slow. His face expressionless. He walked past McGee and stopped facing them.

When he spoke, his voice was quiet. "This is no longer an investigation into the abduction and assault of a Federal Agent."

They looked at him. Ziva drew her breath in sharply. Sam raised her hand to her mouth. Gibbs placed his hand on Sam's shoulder. McGee drew close to Tony. Amaia dropped her head into her hands.

They all knew what was coming.

Leon Vance looked at each of them slowly. His eyes met Gibbs'. "I have just had a telephone call from Bethesda. Special Agent Roslyn Danvers suffered a massive myocardial infarction most likely due to the trauma of her injuries. She could not be revived. Her body is on the way here for Dr Mallard to perform the autopsy."

His eyes traveled from face to face. Every one of his agents wore an expression of shock, outrage and anguish.

"This is now a murder investigation."



MargyW
MargyW
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