Gibbs pulled his car up in front of the apartment complex where Lieutenant Commander Harris lived. He stepped out of the car, took a deep breath and started walking toward the apartment door. He was not looking forward to this, he knew this case was going to be a rough one, and it was still too damned early in the morning for this mess.
“What have you got?” Gibbs bellowed as he walked into the apartment.
“Boss, the Lieutenant Commander had a box in her closet. As Lieutenant Commander Regan mentioned, it was full of letters. I looked at a few, and they were not that threatening, no bodily harm or harm to her family. Just telling her to quit looking, it won’t lead anywhere,” Ziva recited.
“Boss, I have her laptop and will be taking it to Abby. She has some encrypted files that we need to try and unlock – they possibly hold the key to the evidence she had in the larger case,” McGee reported.
“Good job guys, let’s look around for any other details that might help us learn more about our victim and more importantly the threats on her.” Gibbs began to look around the apartment and noticed that she had no pictures on the walls of friends or family.
After a few hours of combing through the personal effects of Lieutenant Commander Harris, the team took off to go and interview her at Bethesda. Gibbs had called the hospital earlier and found out she had been heavily sedated, going and seeing her any earlier in the investigation would have been a waste of time – she would have been too groggy and incoherent.
The car pulled up in front of the hospital, and Gibbs, DiNozzo, and Ziva began walking toward the door. McGee had stayed behind and was working with Abby to decode the laptop found in the apartment. While in the elevator, Gibbs turned to Ziva and said, “I would like you to interview her…she might respond better to another woman.”
“Ok, I can do that,” Ziva answered.
As they approached her room, the reality of the attack took shape. She was in the intensive care unit on the brain injury wing at Bethesda. She had no solid walls to her room, only glass ones. This was so the nurses could keep a close eye on her – with a head trauma and brain injury you need to be able to see your patient at all times. As they prepared to open the door, a doctor approached them.
“Special Agent Gibbs? I am Dr. Finn O’Daniel, I am the Neurologist assigned to Lieutenant Commander Harris’ case. I was told you would be coming to see her. She is coming out of sedation; I must ask that you go easy on her. She has a Grade III concussion, and I don’t know that she can take lots of stress right now.”
“What other injuries does she have, how severe was this attack?” DiNozzo asked he had a softness to his voice, you could tell that he took this seriously, and he had compassion for what this woman had gone through.
“It appears as if the attacker choked her, she has bruising around her neck. It seems he punched her as well – not only in the face but in the chest and torso. If he didn’t hit her in the torso, then he might have been kneeling on her – the bruising is quite disturbing. The punches to the face have caused considerable swelling.”
The team was visibly shaken to hear of the brutality of the attack. This sort of thing was not uncommon for them to see, but usually, the victim doesn’t survive. Often, they are hearing Ducky give them this run down as he has completed an autopsy. It is hard to listen to what this woman had gone through and to know that she is alive.
DiNozzo was surprised that even through her injuries, she was a beautiful woman. Lieutenant Commander Jillian Harris had chocolate-cherry hair that fell softly on her shoulders. She had perfect lips, even if they were temporarily swollen. He could tell that she was a knockout. In a way, she reminded him of Kate – she had that look on her face even as she was asleep that warned you to back off but yet she still looked vulnerable.
Just about that time, he felt a hand on the back of his head. “Boss, what was that for?”
“Quite ogling over the victim, you are here to do a job.”
“Right boss, got it. “
Gibbs stayed near the door so that he could hear what was going on but not be in the line of sight. He told DiNozzo to stay back as well; he wanted Ziva to be the dominant person in the room. It would be better for the victim, he said.
“Lieutenant Commander Harris, can you hear me?”
Slowly Jillian began to open her eyes – they fluttered at first and then stayed open. There was fear in her blue-green eyes – it was evident to Gibbs, and he was on the other side of the room.
“Where am I? What happened? Who are you?”
“Shh…it is okay, you are safe now. My name is Special Agent David, I am with NCIS. You are at Bethesda Naval Hospital, you were injured. Do you recall what happened?”
“NCIS? Oh no, I don’t want NCIS involved…you need to go away…I don’t want to talk to you…,” Jillian’s voice trailed off as she tried to look around the room to see if there was anyone else there. “Who is that? Is he on your team? He needs to leave, you both do…I won’t cooperate.”
Gibbs slipped out of the room as she began her hysterics. He informed the nurse of what was going on but did not return to the room. He could see the panic in the eyes of Ziva and DiNozzo. They didn’t know what to do next.
The nurse ran into the room and provided another sedative to the Lieutenant Commander through her I.V. line. Slowly her mood changed and she settled down.
Tony slowly walked toward the bed and reached for Jillian’s hand, “Ms. Harris, we are not here to hurt you. We want to help; indeed, we want to find the person who did this to you. We talked to the Admiral, we know about the case you are working. We don’t want to jeopardize that, we just want to make sure you stay safe. Do you understand?”
Slowly Jillian nodded her head. “I don’t know who it was, he wore a mask.”
“Ok, can you tell us what you remember before the attack?” Ziva asked, she took a cue from Tony and lowered her voice so she sounded more soothing. Frankly, Ziva was shocked at how easily Tony calmed her down. She never thought he had that in him, but then again, after Jeanne; Tony was not the same Tony she met when she joined NCIS.
“It was raining…I was in the office by myself…I work late, all the time. I began packing up to head home, and I heard a noise. I laughed it off, I was sure it was in my head, and I was just paranoid, but I heard it again. I pulled my cell phone out of my purse and dialed the Admiral. I didn’t hit send right away, I figured I had it primed in case I needed help. I turned around, and there was a man in my doorway.”
“Can you describe him? Take your time Ms. Harris, there is no rush,” Tony asked.
“Um…he wore a mask…ski mask…could only see his lips and his eyes. They looked familiar, but I couldn’t immediately place them. He had a black turtleneck on and black pants. I couldn’t see any distinguishing marks…no tattoos or anything.”
“Did he say anything to you? Did you recognize the voice?” Ziva asked.
“He just said, ‘I warned you Bitch…leave the case alone.’ He grabbed me by my neck and slammed me into the door frame. I tried to fight him off, kick him, scratch him; anything but he was too strong for me. He punched me in the face and then slammed me to the ground.” As Jillian recounted what happened, she began to tear up; it was hard to tell this story.
“Ms. Harris, thank you…I know that was hard for you. We have more questions, but you need your rest. We are going to leave now, but we will come back tomorrow…we just want to find the person who did this and make sure you are safe from here on out, alright?”
Jillian again nodded at the words spoken by DiNozzo. He put her at ease and she was okay with them coming back tomorrow. Of course, she had sedatives in her, and it could just be the drugs making her so agreeable.
Ziva and Tony slowly began walking out of her room, while Jillian drifted off to sleep.
“What did she tell you?” Gibbs asked as his agents approached him near the nursing station.
“She said he wore a mask, she recognized the eyes and lips but couldn’t immediately place who it was. He slammed her into the door and down on the ground. He did get in punches like the doctor said.” Ziva gave her report to Gibbs and turned to look at Tony. “How in the world did you get her to calm down and open up?”
“The ol’ Anthony DiNozzo magic Zee-vah!”
“Well, whatever it was, she does remember quite a bit of what happened. Let’s hope she starts to remember whose lips and eyes they were. Then we have an open and shut case.”
Gibbs didn’t say anything further as they walked to the car. It had been a long day, he wanted to get back to the office and finish up a few things and head for home. He had a date with a glass of bourbon and a boat.