He'd found her alright. Hanging from the ceiling with a rope around her neck, dead. She wasn't even a field agent. How could this happen to her?
She was younger than him and the one who should have been in the least danger. It didn't make sense. He'd immediately called Gibbs, who'd brought the rest of the team over.
They were supposed to be working the scene, but pretty much everyone was in shock. It was possible the case would get taken from them for being too close to the victim and because she was a federal agent making it FBI jurisdiction, but Tony knew that Gibbs would fight tooth and nail to stay on this case. Gibbs was the first to recover, having lost more people unexpectedly than anyone else.
Clapping his hands, Gibbs barked. "Get it together, everyone. We have to find out who did this to her."
"You know the first thing people are going to ask is if it was suicide," Tony pointed out.
"You know we investigate everything as a homicide until proven otherwise."
Tony nodded, "Could it have been suicide though? She always seemed so happy."
"Sometimes there aren't any warning signs, Tony," Kate pointed out gently.
Tony frowned. He knew that, but he really didn’t want to believe that Abby had done this herself. McGee was starting to move as well and Tony joined him as they started processing Abby’s room like a crime scene.
It felt wrong to be going through her things like this. Tony knew she wouldn’t mind. She’d never been body shy, but still he felt like they should have asked permission first.
It was weird. He had no problem going through people’s things when they were alive, but now that she was dead he felt like he should have asked. He wasn’t surprised when Fornell and the FBI crew showed up an hour later before they’d had a chance to finish processing the scene.
Gibbs getting up in Fornell’s face was expected as well. Tony was glad when Fornell readily agreed to keep them in the loop. It would have been hard for Fornell to keep them out of the loop, but knowing he wasn’t going to try was soothing to Tony’s already battered emotions.
Still with the FBI agents on scene and taking over, there wasn’t much left for the team to do. Gibbs made a sharp come hither gesture with his hand and as a whole the team moved over to him. As one, they all moved outside not wanting the very personal discussion to happen within hearing of the FBI agents.
Abby was one of them. Losing her would not be easy for any of them. It was never easy to lose an agent and losing one that you were close to was even more difficult.
Tony knew that none of them would be able to fully grieve until they knew exactly what happened to Abby. They had very little information to go on and probably wouldn’t until the FBI had finished and they could come back and take a closer look again, hopefully with a clearer head. When they were far enough away to not worry about the FBI hearing them, they all stopped at the same time.
“There’s nothing more for us here. We’ll continue searching when we get back to headquarters,” Gibbs barked.
The rest of the team nodded and climbed into the appropriate vehicles and headed back. They were very somber as they headed inside NCIS. McGee seemed to be taking it the hardest. He kept muttering, “Why Abby?” over and over again.
Tony wished he knew the answer to that question as well. All they could do now was search for more information. Maybe there was something in her cell phone history or bank account that would tell them more.
Everyone was silent as they worked to find something, anything that would explain what had happened to Abby. No one felt up to joking around like they normally did. It was McGee standing up abruptly that broke the silence.
“Boss, we need Abby’s personal computer. I’m positive that I can trace what she was doing if I had her hard drive.”
Gibbs nodded. “Fornell’s team should be done by now, I’ll go get it.”
“I’ll go get started on Abby’s work PC. Maybe it was NCIS related somehow.”
Gibbs nodded and McGee left. Gibbs headed into the elevator and Kate and Tony were left to stare at each other across the bullpen. Tony was sure that Gibbs had volunteered to pick up Abby’s laptop because he needed to be doing something more than staring at a computer screen.
Tony hoped that Gibbs remembered to bring the desktop too. Abby didn’t game as much as McGeek, but she still had a desktop as well as a laptop. “Did she say anything to you?” Tony asked Kate.
Kate shook her head. “No. I know she had planned to spend the night at home, but obviously that didn’t go as planned.”
Tony nodded before shaking his head. “It’s just so senseless. Have you found anything that could explain it?”
“Not a thing.”
“At least we don’t have to tell Abby’s parents.”
“Yeah, that’s one of the good things about Fornell taking over. He gets that job, though, Gibbs may have to help out since they’re deaf.”
“Oh yeah. That’s going to make things more difficult, won’t it?”
Tony shrugged. “Fortunately, that’s not our problem. Let’s focus on piecing together Abby’s last day. Surely, we can figure that out without her computer history.”
Kate nodded. Tony started placing pictures and brief descriptions on a timeline on the bulletin board behind him. Sometimes doing things physically jogged the memory in a way that using the multiple computers that surrounded him didn’t.
Of course with so little information to go on, it was no surprise that they turned to speculation once they got the basics up. Gibbs returned to find them arguing about what they thought Abby might have done once she got home that could have resulted in her ending up dead.
Gibbs shook his head and headed downstairs to Abby’s lab. Well it wouldn’t be Abby’s anymore to deliver the computers to McGee. McGee nodded his thanks without looking up, “Put them down over there.” McGee pointed to the evidence tables.
Gibbs dumped the computers on the table with a clatter, causing McGee to look up and glare, “Don’t damage them.”
Gibbs grunted and left. Tony and Kate were still going at it when he returned to the bullpen. “What do we have?” Gibbs snarled.
Kate and Tony stopped arguing mid-sentence. “We’ve mapped out Abby’s last day as best as we could, but there’s still a lot of unknowns.”
“Well get back to it. Arguing over scenarios won’t help anything. We need facts.”
Kate and Tony nodded and moved back to their desks. After a few minutes, Tony gulped and opened his mouth.
“Is it related to the case?” Gibbs growled before Tony could even say anything.
Tony shook his head.
“Then get back to the case.”
Tony sighed. He’d just wanted to know if Abby’s parents had been told and when the funeral was. He knew the entire team would want to attend the funeral. For that matter, the funeral might contain valuable information that would give them the clue they needed to figure out what happened.
“Going to check with Ducky,” Gibbs grunted as he left the bullpen again.
Tony and Kate exchanged glances, but didn’t say anything, returning their attention back to trying to figure out what happened to Abby. They still hadn’t found much when Gibbs returned. It was frustrating and Gibbs finally told everyone to go home and rest and come back fresh the next morning.
Tony exchanged glances with Gibbs before he left and Gibbs subtly shook his head. Fornell didn’t have any leads either. It was a subdued Kate, Tony, and Gibbs that packed up and left.
McGee had been told to go home on Gibbs’ way upstairs, though when Gibbs left he’d still been plugging away at the computers. Tony almost suggested that they all get drinks and talk about Abby, but decided against it. Mostly, he wanted to be alone, right now.
Finding Abby like that had been hard and then he’d been pushing himself to find some clue of what had happened to her. He was exhausted and all he wanted to do was sleep. He knew the others were struggling, but he was too tired to be able to put up a front and try to help them.
Once he arrived home, he quickly fell into bed not even bothering to discard his clothes. Before he knew it, he was asleep. He wished he could say that his sleep was good, but he went from one nightmare to another fueled by the sight of Abby’s dead body.
When he entered the bullpen the next day, he felt even more exhausted than when he’d left. Gibbs was already there and gave Tony a raised eyebrow to which Tony shook his head. Kate arrived shortly after Tony.
“Where’s McGee?” Kate asked.
“Asleep downstairs.” Gibbs grunted.
“Did the McGeek fall asleep at the computer while searching for info?”
“We should go wake him up.” Tony announced. He was doing his best to seem his normal joking self despite everything that was going on.
“Leave him alone, DiNozzo,” Gibbs ordered.
Tony deflated. “Yes, boss. We heard anything new from Fornell?”
“No, still nothing from the FBI.”
“What are we going to do then?”
Gibbs was stopped from answering by his cell phone ringing. “Uh huh. Ok. We’ll be there.”
Tony and Kate grabbed their gear as Gibbs’ hung up and headed for the elevator. “We have a case.”
“Rock Creek Park.”
“What do we have?”
“Dead petty officer.”
“Crime waits for no one, huh?”
When they arrived at the scene they found the petty officer hanging from a tree. He bore a disturbing similarity to how they’d found Abby. Tony couldn’t help wondering if they had a serial killer on their hands.
“Call McGee. See if he’s found out anything and tell him to get over here.” Gibbs barked.
“McGee,” Tony hissed, “ we have a case.”
“What about Abby?”
“Well, the case may be related.”
“You’ll understand when you get here.”
McGee sighed and started packing things up. He couldn’t afford to have someone stumble across what he’d been looking at. It wouldn’t be right or fair to Abby.
Finally, he had everything appropriately put away, so that nothing of Abby’s was exposed to any prying eyes. He blinked when he arrived at the crime scene and saw the body. “Another one?”
“Are we sure they’re related?”
“Did you find anything on Abby’s?”
“Maybe. I need to do some more digging when we get back.”
After collecting the initial evidence, the team moved to split up to head back to headquarters.
“I’ll go with McGee,” Tony quickly called.
“No, I will,” Kate protested, glaring at Tony.
They argued back and forth for a bit before Gibbs interrupted, “DiNozzo with McGee. Todd with me.”
Tony took the keys and driver’s seat. “How are you handling it?”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you ok?”
“I know you and Abby were close.”
“I’m fine, Tony.”
“Ok. Well if you want to talk you know where to find me.”
McGee nodded. “Thanks, Tony.”
“Don’t mention it.”
Back at headquarters, McGee immediately headed back down to Abby’s lab. He thought he was close to something and wanted to finish it, so that he could actually give the team a clue. Tony headed for the bullpen to put his head together with Kate and Gibbs to figure out the petty officer’s death.
They were still in the early stages of gathering information when McGee rushed upstairs. “I found it!”
“Tim?” Tony questioned.
“Well?” Gibbs barked impatiently.
“I found some encrypted text messages between Abby and someone else talking about how they were going to tie her up and hang her from the ceiling.”
“Do you know who?”
“Not yet, but I’m working on it. They managed to have their number listed as blocked in Abby’s phone and I just barely broke the triple encryption on the messages themselves.”
“Here. See if something similar happened with our petty officer.” Tony tossed the phone in the evidence bag to McGee.
“On it!” McGee hurried back down to the lab.
After that it was a flurry of evidence gathering and note taking as they got all their ducks in a row. McGee returned with proof that the person who killed Abby was the same one who killed their sailor. Apparently the person didn’t have a preference for gender, but had a tendency towards those in the BDSM scene.
Only he took it further than BDSM was intended to go. Tony knew that Abby had been into that scene, but usually she was pretty good at scoping out potential partners. He couldn’t help wondering how this guy had slipped through the cracks. Usually the BDSM community was pretty good at policing it’s members and preventing things like this from happening.
For once, Gibbs handed over the capture to the FBI and let them bring the guy in and figure out how many others he’d killed that they hadn’t caught. He was more concerned with Abby and her celebration of life. In fact, the whole team was.
Abby was a bright presence at the office and she would be missed by all. A really wonderful slideshow featuring Abby throughout her life was put together and displayed followed by wonderful stories from everyone who had been touched by her. Tony found himself really moved and learning some new things about Abby that he’d never known.
As a kid the concept of stranger danger hadn’t really made sense to her and she would bounce up to people and announce the strangest things. Tony was really happy to have been a part of it and he could see the others were too. As the official ceremony drew to a close he grabbed McGee and suggested hitting a bar for a more informal celebration.
McGee nodded and Tony extended the invitation to Kate and Gibbs. The four of them moved to a quiet bar where they could talk quietly together about Abby. They all shared stories about Abby, deepening their bonds as a team and establishing a rapport that would last them for many years to come.
They all had their own ways of grieving, but that didn’t stop them from being family. They would miss Abby, but family is about people who care and take care of each other and that was what they did for each other now. They were all closer together now than before and would do their best to avoid a repeat of the loss they’d experienced because of Abby.
It wasn’t the same without Abby, but slowly things settled into a new normal. Kate, McGee, Tony, and Gibbs developed a sense of familiarity that allowed them to anticipate each other in the field and increased their solve rate well above any of the other teams.
They all missed Abby, but sharing memories of her had allowed them to remember the happy times. They all struggled with their own nightmares from finding her, but they grew few and far between. Abby had been one of those who truly embraced life and it was a balm to the soul to know that she would have had no regrets when she died. Sharing this with each other, truly bonded their team together in a way that nothing else could.