The body of a dead Marine takes Abby on one of her strangest hunts. Once she had solved the puzzle, she becomes obsessed and simply has to have something.
An established relationship story.
Written: November 2013. Word count: 3,430.
Gibbs strode into Autopsy. "What've you got for me, Duck?"
"Something rather strange, Jethro."
"Yes. You see, I believe this poor young man was tied up some kind of wool."
"Wool?" Gibbs stared at the rather degraded piece of wet thread which Ducky held between a pair of tweezers."
Ducky nodded. "Yes. Or yarn if you prefer. You knit or weave with it."
"Yeah, Duck. Know that. But how could he have been tied up with it? Is it that strong?"
"Some yarn is incredibly strong and very difficult, even impossible, to break without using scissors or a knife. In fact I do remember a time when -"
Gibbs rolled his eyes and snapped, "Duck!"
"We haven't got time for stories. The case."
"Oh, yes, I do apologize, Jethro; I'll save that story for another occasion."
"You do that, Duck."
Ducky smiled at Gibbs and Gibbs knew his friend wouldn't forget. "As I was saying, some wool is very strong and unbreakable, thus technically, yes, our young friend here could have been tied up with just the wool. However, the thicker marks on his wrists show he was also tied up with something else as well."
Ducky handed Gibbs a magnifying glass and lifted one of the dead man's wrists for Gibbs to peer at. Ducky was right; there were two sets of marks, one a lot thicker than the other. The thinner marks seemed to have cut far more deeply into the skin than the thicker ones had done.
"It is my belief that Sergeant Zachary struggled so hard to free his hands that the person who tied him up was forced to add rope, against which our young Sergeant continued to struggle. And in doing so the yarn became tighter and tighter and broke the skin before actually snapping, hence why there are only one or two small pieces of yarn left."
Gibbs wouldn't argue with Ducky when it came to that kind of analysis. "Sounds logical to me, Duck." Although what good it did them, he wasn't sure. Wool was wool, wasn't it? A heck of a lot of people had it in their homes. "You say something, Duck?" he asked, suddenly aware that Ducky had spoken.
"I said that it wasn't just the scraps of wool I took out of the wounds which we have."
Ducky shook his head and positive beamed at Gibbs. "No. I've been saving the best for last." He picked up one of the small jars and handed it to Gibbs. "I found this stuck to one of our young friend's socks."
Gibbs peered into it and saw a small bundle of dark green yarn. He handed the jar back to Ducky and said, "Great, Duck, but I don't see how this helps us."
"Well, I thought that Abigail could test the wool and find out the exact composition and then she and or Timothy could try to track it down."
Gibbs frowned. "Is that possible? I mean a lot of people knit or weave, donít they? How can they track down one particular type of yarn?"
"There are some very uncommon brands of yarn, Jethro, Some serious knitters will travel for hours to find the right wool shop which stocks a particular brand of wool or will pay an extortionate amount of money to have it shipped to them."
Gibbs gave Ducky a skeptical look. "Wool's wool, isn't it?"
Ducky shook his head. "Oh, no. Not at all - at least it isn't to the serious knitter. Mother used to knit and she would only use one hundred percent wool, and she could tell if there was even a very small amount of acrylic in the wool she handled. I can't be certain, but I believe this is one hundred percent wool."
Gibbs raised an eyebrow and then shrugged. "Okay, Duck. It's worth a try. Why don't you take it to Abbs and see what she can do with it."
Ducky smiled. "I'll do that, Jethro."
"I'll get on with following up," Gibbs paused for a moment, grinned at Ducky and said, "other leads."
"Sensible ones, you mean?" Ducky chuckled softly.
"Whatever." And with that, Gibbs strode back out of Autopsy.
"Good morning, my dear Abigail, and how are you on this fine -" Ducky came to an abrupt stop as he saw Abby. She was sitting at her desk with her head in her hands and making a soft moaning noise. He hurried over to her and put his arm around her shoulders. "What on earth is the matter, Abby? Are you sick?" Why hadn't anyone told him? For how long had she been sick? She had been quite well when he had left for a three week holiday, whatever it was must have happened quickly.
She raised her head and he was shocked to see quite how pale she was under her already pale make-up. She looked ghastly; her forehead was damp with perspiration and her eyes were sunken and her black make-up was smudged.
"Hey, Duckman," she said. For the first time since Ducky had met Abby, she didn't smile at him. "Why didn't anyone tell me?"
"Tell you what, my dear?"
"How awful pregnancy is."
Ducky stared at Abby and couldn't stop the smile from breaking out. "You're pregnant?" he exclaimed. "Oh, how wonderful. Oh, my dear Abigail, I am so delighted for you and Timothy."
She stared at him. "Wonderful's not the word I'd use." And she lowered her head again.
Ducky paused for a moment as he worked out in his mind what he was going to say. "Um, if you don't mind me asking, Abby, if it isn't too intrusive and personal a question, do you not wish to have the baby?"
She raised her head and looked at him. "No! Of course we want the baby. It's just . . . I didn't know I'd feel so dreadful."
"Ah," Ducky said, patting Abby's shoulder. "I take it you are experiencing morning sickness?"
She gave a hollow laugh. "And mid-morning and lunchtime and early afternoon and mid-afternoon and late afternoon and early evening and . . . You get the picture?"
Ducky again patted her shoulder. "Oh, I am sorry to hear that, Abby. I won't say I can imagine how you must feel, because I cannot, but you do have my sympathy. And if there is anything I can do, please do not hesitate to ask."
She sighed. "Thanks, Ducky, I wish there was something you or anyone can do. But -" She put her hand over her mouth, jumped to her feet and raced from her lab.
Ducky sat on the edge of her desk and waited patiently until she returned. To his surprise she actually looked slightly better and even managed to smile at him as she sat back down at her desk. To his further surprise she counted on her fingers, "Once, twice and then . . . Yes! Five times."
"That makes five times I've throw-up this morning. I'll be fine now for at least an hour. So what've you got for me, Ducky?"
She sounded quite her usual self. However, Ducky hesitated and wondered if indeed what he had thought was possible, was possible. And even if it was, would it be enough of a distraction to help keep Abby's mind off of how she felt?
"Well," he said slowly as he pulled the jar out from his pocket and held it out to her. "I confess that, despite what I said to Jethro, I am really not -"
Abby held a hand up. "Hang on, Ducky, go back a stage. What did you say to Gibbs?"
"Ah, of course, you were not there. I have young Sergeant Zachary on my table."
Abby nodded. "Yeah, Timmy told me you'd found him. Why can't we ever find them when they're still alive?"
"We do sometimes, Abby."
She sighed. "I suppose. But - Oh, pay no attention to me, Ducky, it's my hormones."
Ducky smiled. "That is something I believe every pregnant lady I have ever known has said at one time or other."
"You know if men had the babies, I reckon human life would have died out by now."
Ducky laughed. "And that is something else I believe every pregnant lady has said at one point."
Abby smiled. "So Sergeant Zachary."
"Ah, yes. Well, he had been tied up and -"
"You want me to try to track down the rope and help nail the dirt-bag?"
"Not the rope, no. There is not a single trace of any fiber from the rope. However, I - and Jethro of course - would like you to attempt to analyze this." He handed her the small jar, "And see if you can track down the origin of it."
He also handed her the chain of evidence form which she took and scribbled her name on before pulling on a pair of gloves and opening the jar. "It's wool," she said, taking the wool out and unwinding it.
Ducky nodded. "Yes, it is. And I believe it is one hundred percent wool - something that not all yarn is - and it appears to be a somewhat unusual green."
Abby stared at it. "So you want me to see if can trace the sheep this came from?"
"Well, the breed of sheep, yes. I'm not sure it will be possible to track the actual sheep - not unless it is incredibly rare. And even then I believe the best you could do was to find the flock from which the sheep came." He stared at Abby and waited for her to say it wasn't possible, that she wouldn't even know where to start.
However, she beamed at him and stood up. "I'll get straight onto it. It might be a job for Major Mass Spec." And with that, she turned on her heel and all but bounced her way into her actual lab.
THREE HOURS LATER
"Hey, Abby," Tim said, going into Abby's lab.
Abby turned around and smiled at him. "Hey, Timmy!"
"You look happy." He went over to her and kissed her cheek.
"I haven't thrown up for three hours - that's two hours longer than usual," she said.
"That's great, Abby." He kissed her again.
"And it's all down to Ducky."
"Ducky? Did he give you something to help you? Because we talked about this, Abby, and I know you -"
"No, Tim. Well, yes, but not something to take. He gave me this." She held out a piece of the wool.
Tim stared at it and took it from her. "It's wool," he said.
She gave him one of her looks that instantly made him feel like a complete fool, before squeezing his hand and smiling at him. "Correct. But it's not just any wool."
"Nope. It's one hundred percent wool and I'm almost sure, well fifty percent sure, well maybe nearer to thirty that - Oh, wait here." Hand over her mouth she raced from the room.
For a moment Tim considered following her and holding her hair back or something. However, whenever he had tried that at home, she had ordered him to leave her alone, saying if she was going to throw-up, she wanted to do so alone. Thus, instead he went to the water cooler and poured her a glass of water.
Ten minutes later she hurried back into her lab. To Tim's surprise she was still smiling and didn't look as she usually looked after she had been sick. In fact she looked far better than she had looked since she'd told him she was pregnant.
He handed her the water and she took it and drank some of it before pulling a face. "Be a sweetheart and fetch me a Caf-Pow, please, Timmy."
"Now, Abby, you know even the smell of it makes you feel sick. Here, drink some more water."
She frowned and shook her head. "I don't want any more water. And I feel fine."
"You do?" he said dubiously.
She nodded. "Yes. Well, maybe not fine, but better than I usually feel after I've been sick. Please, Timmy. Please." She gave him the look that always got her her own way.
He sighed. "All right. But don't blame me if -"
"I won't. And when you come back I'll tell you more about the wool."
Tim walked out of Abby's lab shaking his head. Wool? What was that all about? Why was Abby testing wool? Suddenly he wondered if she planned to knit something for the baby. He remembered the booties she'd started to knit for the baby Palmer and Breena still hadn't been granted.
He remembered the tears and all the false starts. What he couldn't remember was where the little bit she'd managed to knit before giving up and throwing it across the room had been consigned to. After that, was she really going to knit something for their baby? Who knew with Abby, she really was the most unexpected person ever - she could still, after all the years they'd known one another for, surprise him.
THE SQUAD ROOM TWO DAYS LATER
"Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs, Gibbs!" Abby cried as she hurried across the squad room.
McGee stood up. "Abby, don't run like that."
"Oh, Timmy, stop fussing. I'm pregnant not handicapped."
"I know, Abby, but . . ."
Tim fell silent under the glare Abby gave him and even flushed a little. "Sorry, Abby," he murmured.
Gibbs glanced at McGee and felt a wave of sympathy as well as envy for him. Even now he could remember how he'd felt when Shannon had told him she was pregnant. He'd tried to stop her from doing anything and like Abby she'd got annoyed.
"Don't worry, Tim," he said, "all fathers to be are the same. As are all mothers to be," he glanced at Abby who acknowledged the look with a small pout.
She hurried over to McGee and put her arm around his shoulders and squeezed them. "It's all right, Tim," she said, before she took her arm away and hurried over to stand in front of Gibb's desk as she beamed at him.
He looked at her. "You waiting for a personal invitation, Abbs?"
"Nope. I'm waiting for the Duckman."
"Because he's the one who gave me the puzzle to solve." She beamed.
"And have you solved it?"
"Of course she has, Jethro. You must have more faith in dear Abigail. Oh, Abby, don't you think you should be sitting down?" And before anyone could speak, Ducky wheeled the chair out from behind the spare desk, pushed it towards Abby and pointedly waited until she sat down in it. He then sat down on the edge of Gibbs's desk.
Gibbs sighed and stood up. "You have my chair, Duck," he said.
"Jethro, I assure you I am quite -"
"Yeah, Duck. Know you are; just sit in the chair."
"Yes, Jethro," Ducky said obediently. He settled down and stared at Abby.
"Okay," she said, looking around them. "The Duckman was right: it is one hundred percent wool."
"Oh, that is very reassuring to -" Ducky fell silent as Gibbs turned to look at him.
"And," Abby said, as if Ducky hadn't interrupted. "I know where it came from?" She beamed and looked around the group.
"Planning on telling us any time soon, Abbs?"
"Patience, Gibbs. I was just getting to that. It's from England."
Ducky stared at her. "How fascinating. You were able to track down the breed of sheep?"
Abby nodded. "Yes. And it's only found in England." She frowned and glanced down at the tablet she held. "Well, Britain," she said. "Anyway, I even know the name of the mill it came from."
Gibbs stared at her in surprise. "You managed to track that down?"
Abby nodded. "Of course. You know me, Gibbs."
"Well, yeah, but - How?"
Abby looked at him. "Tell me, bossman, do you really want to know?"
Gibbs grinned and shook his head. "Nah," he said. He knew only too well that she'd begin to explain the process to him and after about three words it would be as if she was speaking Swahili.
"It's a mill in Devon called," she checked the tablet again. "Coldharbour Mill. That's with a 'U', Timmy." She hadn't even looked in McGee's direction as his fingers had poised over the keyboard.
Gibbs glanced at McGee. "McGee."
"On it, boss," McGee said and his fingers flew over the keyboard.
THE SQUAD ROOM THE FOLLOWING DAY
"So did you do your thing, McHacker?" Tony was sitting on the edge of Tim's desk, swinging his leg and picking up things from Tim's desk and putting them back down in the wrong place.
Tim rolled his eyes. "No, Tony. I called them and explained the situation and managed to persuade them to send me a list of their customers. There was only one American person on the list. The lady I spoke to said they didn't ship outside of the UK, but this person had been so insistent and had paid well over the odds, that they made an exception."
"Oh," Tony sounded disappointed. "But you could have, you know hacked into their files if you had to, right?"
Tim laughed. "Yes, Tony. I could have. But sometimes -"
"DiNozzo!" Tony jumped up from Tim's desk. "With me."
"On it, boss."
Gibbs paused and looked at Tim. "Nice job, Tim."
Tim smiled. "Thank you, boss."
AUTOPSY THREE DAYS LATER
"Hey, Duckman. Can I use your cell phone, please?"
Ducky took it out of his jacket pocket and handed it to her. "Of course, you may, Abigail."
"Thanks. I'll pay for the call," she said, swiftly keying in numbers.
"There is no need for you to do that, Abby."
She paused. "Er, there might be. You see, I'm calling England."
Ducky blinked. "England?"
"Yeah. You see - Okay, you have to promise me you won't tell Timmy."
"Of course I promise."
"It's like this. I loved the yarn you gave me and the site is great, so British and friendly and - well it's good quality and it's a tradition. They've been operating the mill since 1799 and they want to keep it going. They give tours and everything and produce the wool themselves. So -" she paused for a moment, took a deep breath and said, "I'm going to buy some wool and knit Tim a sweater."
"That's a lovely idea, Abby. But there are plenty of wool shops here."
"But I don't want just any wool. I want wool from Coldharbour Mill."
Ducky smiled at her; for a moment she looked like a little girl who wanted to wear her black frock rather than her pink one. "I thought Timothy said they didn't ship to America."
Abby sighed. "They don't, not normally. But they did for Sergeant Zachary's killer's wife. So they can do it for me. I'm going to call them and persuade them. It might take some time, so if you'd rather I didn't use your phone . . ."
Ducky smiled and patted Abby's hand. "Go ahead, my dear," he said.
She kissed his cheek. "Thank you, Ducky."
HALF AN HOUR LATER
Abby was sitting in the spare chair, still talking but she looked dejected and frustrated. Ducky was just about to suggest he contact one of his British friends and ask if they'd order the wool and ship it to Abby when Abby said suddenly, "Look, I'm pregnant and my doctor says I shouldn't be argued with. It's bad for my health."
"Abigail," Ducky murmured, giving her a firm look.
She smiled at him and gave a little shrug. "You will! Oh, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Okay, it's - Oh, hang on a moment." She put her hand over the phone and looked at Ducky. "Ducky? Can I -"
"Yes, Abby, you may have the wool delivered to my home."
"Thank you, Duckman. You're the best." And Abby returned to her call and gave the person on the end of the phone Ducky's home address.
A moment later he handed her his credit card. He didn't know how Abby and McGee handled their finances, but given quite how Abby wished to keep it a secret, using his card and paying him back would be far safer. The smile she gave him told him quite how grateful she was and that he had done the right thing.
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