Author: Mechabeira PM
"I know it is easy to poke fun," she spits. "I know they seem quaint or old-fashioned or foolish but they are my people, Tony. They are a part of who I am and where I come from." Casefile. TZRated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Crime - Tony D. & Ziva D. - Chapters: 2 - Words: 10,258 - Reviews: 52 - Favs: 24 - Follows: 76 - Updated: 05-10-13 - Published: 03-15-13 - id: 9102614
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Hello, gentle readers. I needed the chance to stretch a bit and this is what happened. No, I haven't forgotten my other stories-not even a little. I just wanted to try out something new. This will be shorter than my other works, sparer, and wildly different.
Current season. Teeny-ish spoilers for "Aliyah," "Truth and Consequences," "Shabbat Shalom," "Shiva," and maybe something else that I am forgetting. Apologies for that.
Love. To you, that is. Tray tables and seat backs in their upright and locked positions? Good. Safety first. xoxo
. . . .
They'd been summoned, he and Ziva. Summoned to Vance's office like commoners to the king's court. Like jesters. Tony suppresses the urge to crack a joke and the toothpick moved left-to-right.
"I got a dead Marine in Jerusalem."
Jerusalem. A walled city. Is that where she is from? Hm. Maybe. "And you're sending us?" he asks flatly. He will not be a jackass this time.
"You've been requested by the acting director of Mossad. A transport flight leaves Norfolk in three hours. Go home and pack a bag. I'm faxing the paperwork over now."
Ziva turns without a word and marches out. She is stiff, almost angry. She yanks her bag from behind her desk and storms to the elevator without a word.
Tim looks up. "Sick day?"
Tony wants to shield her from him. "Assignment in Israel. See ya, Probie."
She holds the door but won't look at him. He lets their shoulders bump. "Mixed feelings, huh?"
She shrugs and fishes for her car keys. He is reminded without warning that she has very recently built a new life from the foundation up.
"Pick me up?" she requests quietly.
He nods and nods. "Sure. An hour?"
She smiles, gets in her tiny red car, and zooms away.
. . . .
Nine hours. Turbulence. A C-130 jumpseat no bigger than a box of cereal. They touch down none-too-gently and Tony feels like his five lowest vertebrae are made of ground lightbulbs. He groans.
Ziva springs out of her seat and down the ramp. At some point she has tied her hair up in a tight ponytail but the stiff desert wind blows a few strands loose and they whip around her face. He follows with both of their bags.
The driver does not kiss her cheek. She slides into the back seat of his Towncar and he gets in the other side. The leather seats are plush beneath his very sore behind. He groans again and she glares. "It was not that bad, Tony."
"I don't have your nerves of steel," he retorts peevishly. Something dark move across her features. "But I wish I did," he amends, and she smiles weakly.
"No," she whispers. "You do not."
. . . .
They are taken to Jerusalem's park-like German Colony. The streets are narrow. Palm trees rustle in the breeze and Tony feels very foreign as he rises from the Towncar's back seat. The buildings are subtle stone with wrought-iron balconies. Old. Expensive.
Ziva leads him through the afternoon sunlight into a cool, shaded courtyard. The doors are all green. She chooses one at random, it seems, and a man in maintenance clothes unlocks it for her.
Coffee and pastries are waiting on a low marble table. She tisks when he eats two of them in big bites.
"What?" he defends, mouth full. "I'm hungry."
"We are not here on vacation." She glides off to unpack.
There is one bedroom and two iron beds. The mattress is soft when he plunks down. Ziva shakes her head. "Not now."
He has time only to shed his jacket when the front door swings open and two men enter. One wears a knit yarmulke. They kiss Ziva's hands, her cheeks, offer condolences for her father. They've brought gifts. Four gold bracelets and a watch are opened before her.
She is disdainful, even aggravated. "What do you want?"
The one in the skullcap sits on a low divan in front of her. All the furniture is low, Tony notices. He wonders if there is a cobra in a basket somewhere.
"Our acting director is struggling with communication and tactical planning," he says. He is smooth but straightforward. "Yosef and I are here to ask for your help."
Ziva scoffs. "Mossad is not my problem."
The other one is nervous, twitchy. He is not old enough to shave. "We have a dead American soldier in our morgue," he says. "Eyewitness accounts say a Purim celebration in the Geula neighborhood got out of hand. There was a fistfight and gunshots. Few people came forward. They were worried—children were present."
She shakes her head, incredulous. "A drunken holiday brawl is not Mossad business. You are covering something. Tell me now or leave."
Yarmulke leans forward. "The Sikrikim are Mossad business, Ziva."
His conspiratorial whisper makes Tony want to punch his lights out. "Who the hell are they and why aren't we at a crime scene?"
"All the evidence has been collected and the scene released," Baby Face says. "You cannot shut down a busy intersection three weeks before Pesach."
Exhaustion nearly sweeps him out of his chair. "What is pay-suck besides income tax and why do we need to care about it? This. Is. A. Murder. Investigation."
Yarmulke gives him a look. "Pesach is Passover. In an Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood like Geula or Mea Shearim it requires very serious and detailed preparation." He hands her a folder. "Here is what you'll need. We will see you this evening."
They leave. Ziva rises and goes to the bedroom only to emerge a moment later having traded her jeans and button-down for a knee-length skirt and twinset. The fabric looks soft. Tony wants to touch it.
"You need to change," she says.
He looks down at his jeans and t-shirt. "Why?"
"Because you do. Put on dark trousers and a dress shirt. And this."She hands him a disc of floppy dark velvet. Her eyes are flat brown. Is she angry? He can't tell. "There are hairpins on the dresser."
. . . .
She warns him about the crowds, about the rudeness, about the drivers and taxis and butcher shops, but she does not warn him about the children. Packs of them. Everywhere. Little boys dash between shoppers, between cars, over dips in the narrow, dusty sidewalks. They breeze past him with long sidecurls flying in the wind. A few hold their skullcaps on with one hand.
"Isn't it a school day?" he complains.
Ziva cocks her head, thinking. "It is probably a half-day for cheder boys. The girls are at home helping to prepare for the holiday."
Did he step back into 1950? "And the boys are allowed to run amok?"
She shrugs. "They sit in cheder all day every day."
"Did you attend one of these kkkkhhhay-durs?"
She is studying, studying, eyes sharp and narrowed. "Yes, for a while."
"I got kicked out."
He laughs. "Imagine my surprise."
An odd, hurt look crosses her face. He is immediately sorry. "It is what it is, Tony. Here is our crime scene."
The ribbon tape has been torn down. Everything is the color of sand except for a sign proclaiming women in modest dress only in both Hebrew (he thinks) and English. There are two brown-er splotches on the ground. Blood, long-dried.
"When did this happen?" he asks. Their evidence is worthless.
"Purim," she muses, scanning walls.
Their 'busy intersection' is a wide spot in a shopping district of skinny, winding streets. He itches in his dress clothes. A religious man behind a storefront counter eyes his hair. He pats it down self-consciously.
"POOR-eem. Pour-EEM. When was that?" Tony feels whiny. He wants a steak and a shower.
"A month ago."
He snarls like a dog. Two small boys stop and stare. "A month ago? And they just called us in yesterday?!"
Ziva crouches modestly in her skirt and sweater. She turns on the balls of her feet to look at him. "My father died just before that, Tony. They are still...coping."
He wants to pummel himself á la Jim Carrey in Liar Liar. "Oh," he chokes. "Sorry."
She peers between cobblestones. That hurt look returns for a split-second. "It is ok. I am the only one responsible for knowing these things."
He crouches beside her. The yarmulke is heavy on his head. "No, you're not."
. . . .
No one knows their dead Marine PFC. No one in Geula, anyway. They cross a wide avenue into another neighborhood and the bustle becomes angrier and even more insistent. A woman deliberately bumps Ziva and scowls at her. They exchange words.
Tony is hot and prickly. He wants to take a nap. "What did she want?"
"I am not wearing tights. She thinks it's a problem."
He turns. The bumping lady is obviously gossiping about them with another woman. They could be interchangeable—black headscarf, shapeless, colorless blouse, long dark skirt. The both wear thick black stockings and mannish shoes. He blinks. They look like elderly nuns but have smooth makeup-less faces. Neither of them are yet forty.
"What did you say?"
"That my rav permits bare legs as long as my skirt is tznius."
He is confused and stops for a moment among more running boys. He has to trot to catch up—she is bound for a bookstore at the edge of a square.
"What's a ruv and why do you have one?"
"A rabbi. One I go to for religious advice."
He is not happy with her answer. "Like a guru? And why didn't I know this before?"
"I don't have a rav," she whispers harshly. A few people turn and stare. They are making a spectacle. "I just said that to shut her up."
She steps away from him and calls to a young man in religious garb—dark pants, a white shirt, a velvet yarmulke. There are strings hanging from his waistband. She implores him, holding out the photo, but he won't take it from her.
"I do not know him," he says. His voice is high and nasal. "But I can ask in my beis medresh. Can I take this?"
"Ok," he nods. He is pale, bookish. His glasses slide down his nose and he jabs them back up. Another boy—they are not adults—sidles up and smiles. "How do you know Mordechai? Where is he? I haven't seen him in weeks."
"His name is Michael Zeller," Tony interjects. "He was a United States Marine. He was killed in a brawl across the street."
The boys mutter something in Hebrew. Ziva nods. "Mordechai was his Hebrew name?" she asks. "He was becoming...more observant?"
"Yeh," mutters one of the boys. "He was learning with Rabbi Meir. I'd say talk to him, but he only has yichud with women on Tuesdays from twelve to two." He sweeps his hand up and down. "You should put on something a little more tznius before you see him."
Ziva only smiles and thanks him. Tony scowls as they stride away. "You let some buck-tooth bookworm tell you how to dress?"
"It is his rebbe, Tony. I would not disrespect him."
"Then why did you tell off that old lady?"
"It was different, Tony." She smiles and it is beautiful in the waning afternoon light. "Are you getting hungry?"
"Yes," he pouts.
"Come with me. I know a place you would enjoy."
She takes him to a café with white tiles on the floor and walls. The owner, a mustachioed man with warm brown skin, recognizes Ziva and waves. They sit. Plates of grilled meat and bread arrive, then pickled vegetables, then sodas and water. The waitress has a gold tooth. She looks like an extra from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
"How'd you get kicked out of school?"
Ziva chews slowly and swallows, eyes on him. "Why do you want to know?"
He scoffs. "Why wouldn't I?"
She goes quiet for a while. The food is amazing. He stuffs himself and waits.
"I was in first grade," she finally says. "And we were learning about Pesach. Passover. It is coming soon. We were supposed to learn all about urchatz—it's a type of ritual hand-washing—and I was sent to the school basement to get a basin." She sips water. "There had been airstrikes all week and...I refused to go. The rabbi who taught my class sent me to the back of the room for the rest of the day. He said I did not deserve the honor of helping the teacher."
He moves a wad of pita into his cheek with his tongue. "They kicked you out for that?"
She nodded. "Religious Zionist chedarim are competitive. I am certain there was another student waiting to take my place."
Tony pushes aside a plate of cucumber slices. He was no longer hungry. "That sounds like total crap, Ziva."
She shrugs and switches water for a cup of mint tea. A tiny smile plays across her face. "I wasn't so upset. I went to a school that was closer to home. I had friends there. It was better."
He wants to offer something—consolation, commiseration, a hug—but there is a rush of noise and a truck pulls up in front of the restaurant. Something bearing the IDF logo is rolled off the back. It is some kind of robot. Ayoung soldier in combat dress operates it with a remote.
Ziva shrugs. "Someone has forgotten a briefcase in the park. They're going to blow it up."
"Blow it up?"
"Or shoot it."
He looks around. A few old men play dominoes, a young couple trade cell phones and laugh, and one of the soldiers from the truck orders a plate of food to go. He drops his voice to a whisper. "Are you kidding me?"
Ziva shrugs again. "Too many bombings here. Better to err on the side of caution."
"What if it's just a business proposal or a term paper?"
She holds her tea with both hands. Her nails are neat and even. "Then that person should not have been so careless."
. . . .
Tony is exhausted by eighteen-hundred IST. Jetlagged, over-full, he drags his feet across town as Ziva leads him back to their borrowed apartment in the German Colony. Baby Face and Yarmulke are waiting for them. He wants to cry.
"What?" he simpers.
Baby Face puts his hands out. "What did you find?"
"Baalei Teshuva," Ziva says. "Studying with the Brisker Rebbe in Mea Shearim. I see him for private audience on Tuesday."
They nod, pleased. Tony wants to sleep. He also wants them to speak real English, for crying out loud.
Yarmulke leans back. "There is plenty to do in the meantime. Can we interest you in a tour of the redesigned Mossad headquarters, Ziva?"
She throws the file on the low table. "No, you cannot. I do not know why you are bothering me about this. I am not Israeli. I am not Mossad. I am not interested in being either of those things again, so please just stiff it."
"She means stuff it," he translates. It is not lost on him that Tony is interpreting American idioms to Israelis from an Israeli. "Why are you so keen on her, anyway?"
Ziva's nostrils flare and she stands, arms crossed. "Because the agency is falling apart. My father was outside his purview when he died and they don't know how to deal with that, nor the consequences of his actions." She wheels on Yarmulke and Baby Face. "My life—my apartment, my car, my job, my cat—they are all back in the U.S. Leave me alone."
Baby Face opens a satchel and pulls out stacks of velvet jewelry boxes. "Your yichus is precious, Ziva. Your mother's—"
"Shut up," she snarls. "I said I did not want it. I will let you know when I have more intel. Go."
They rise and leave. Ziva stomps across the marble floor to the bedroom.
"You have a cat?" he calls.
"No, but if I did, it would be more important than them." She appears in the threshold, furious. Her dark eyes are hard. "I am going to take a shower."
He is not afraid of her. "Ok," he replies.
The door slams. Pipes scream. There is no television in the apartment, so nothing hides the noise. He paces. The place is small but not uncomfortable. He wonders who owns it.
She returns soundlessly, peering over his shoulder at the street outside. More small boys are running. Two ride skateboards. Tony smirks. "Were you one of those rowdy kids?"
She is wistful but comfortable in thin cotton pajamas. More clothing he wants to touch. "No," she sighs. "There wasn't time. If I wasn't in school then I was training with my father or teachers. Languages, martial arts, weapons skills...I was busy."
"How old were you when you started training?"
She replies so simply he wants to hold her. "Eight."
She looks at him with big, dark eyes. "You were in boarding school by that age."
He wants to laugh at her but can't. "I was playing basketball and pulling pranks on nuns, not learning how to fight for my life."
She hums and looks away. "Perhaps I will go to bed."
He gathers clothes, bound for the shower, and she sits on the bed nearest the window. She is protecting him. He lets her. "What's the plan for tomorrow?"
Ziva looks uncertain. Not uncertain. Shy. "I want to go to the Kotel in the morning," she admits. "It is the thirty-day anniversary of my father's death. The shloshim."
"What's a cuttle and where do we find one?"
"The Kotel. The Western Wall. The only remnant of the holy temple built by King David and King Solomon. It is one of the most sacred places in the world. I want to go there for him. He would have wanted it."
"Ok." Feeling dumb makes him tired. "Can I go with you?"
"Yes," she grants. Her eyelids are drooping.
But she is not asleep when he comes out of the shower—the beautiful, marble-and-glass shower—in cotton pants and a t-shirt. She is lying on her side watching him. The light is dim. He smiles at her. "I'm shocked you're not sawing logs, Zee-vah."
She gives him a shy, sleepy smile. "It is strange here. I have always felt like an outsider but this is...different. More complicated."
He stretches out. The bed is heavenly. "Coulda fooled me. You folded right in with the huddled masses."
"It's my training."
"It's your home."
She props herself on one hand. "No, it is not."
"Sure seems like it. The way you talked to those people—and not just the language—you were one of them. You are one of them."
She chuckles. It is a sweet, husky sound. He loves it. "I am Jewish, Tony, and so are the people we spoke with today. There are certain laws and customs that are innate to me the way they are to them. I may not be religious now, but I was in childhood and those things are not forgotten so easily."
"Did you like, keep kosher and stuff?"
"Yes, all of it."
He feels odd and hollow. "When did you stop?"
Ziva examines her fingernails. "When my mother died."
"Do you miss her?"
"I miss the life I had with her."
She means a life away from Eli David. "What's yichus?" he asks.
She smirks. "Lineage. There are many people here who think I have betrayed my family for not following in my father's footsteps."
She nods. Her hair dampens the pillowcase. "Because you saw my father for what he was, Tony, not for what he represented."
"Because I see you," he corrects. Ziva draws her knees to her chest. He slides beneath his own blankets. "Goodnight, Ziva."
"Laila tov," she whispers.
. . . .
She has a nightmare. He comforts her. Her skin is warm and damp. He brushes her hair back. "It's just a dream."
He expects her to say, no, it isn't, but she nods and swallows. "I know."
He gets her a glass of water. "You ok?"
He threads their fingers together. "This place has much more of an effect on you than you're letting on."
She gulps water with unladylike noises. He takes a chance and strokes her cheek. Ziva leans into him and closes her eyes. His heart flutters.
"I did not expect it."
"No one does."
"I did not want it."
"No one does."
She peers at him from the pillow. "You will come with me to the Kotel tomorrow, yes?"
He smiles, warm and content. "Yes."
. . . .
The Western Wall is astounding. Over a hundred feet high, constructed entirely of white limestone, it takes on the rising sun and glows. Tony is not a religious man, but even he recognizes that there is something entirely holy about the place. He is awed by the dimensions and awed by the crowd. Jerusalem, it seems, is a city of early birds.
Ziva finishes her prayers quickly. She kisses the book she read from and lays it on a table. This is a synagogue, he has been told, and it is synagogue property.
Her smile is calm. "Breakfast?"
He agrees. They walk even more winding, narrow streets to another white-tiled restaurant, where the eat eggs in tomato sauce amid students and commuters. It is the first meal she seems to enjoy. He is unfamiliar with the flavors—cumin, maybe, and lots of vegetables—but thinks it's ok. His phone chirps and he answers it with a roll of his eyes; he hasn't had enough coffee.
It's McGee. "I got credit card statements," he says without greeting. "Our dead PFC was donating an awful lot of money to religious institutions."
There is clicking in the background. "I don't know that I can pronounce these correctly."
Tony grows impatient. A server pours him a second cup of coffee and he nods his gratitude. "Try, McGoogle. I don't have all day." Ziva frowns. She doesn't like it when he's mean to Tim.
"Edah HaHareidit and Mishkenot HaRo'im."
He jots it down on a napkin and pushes it across the table. Ziva's frown deepens. She shakes her head. He hangs up on Tim in the middle of some diatribe about credit card fraud or weasel fur.
"Who are ay-duh ha-hairy-deet?"
"The Chareidi Communal Organization. They offer community services to the ultra-orthodox in Mea Shearim and other neighborhoods, but they're most famous for their anti-Zionist philosophies."
"If they're anti-Zionest then why do they live in Jerusalem?"
She pinches the bridge of her nose. "They think the modern state of Israel is a desecration of God's name. It's complicated."
He smirked. "Well, religion has started a lot of wars. I'm sure your father loved them."
She rolled her eyes. "A thorn in his side. The Sikrikim, however, are funded by Edah HaChareidit. Moshe and Yosef mentioned them yesterday. They're a push by citizens to have them labeled a terrorist group because of their violent protests and thuggish behavior."
"Thuggish behavior like fistfights on POOR-EEM?"
"Purim," she corrects. She looks irritated. "Fistfights, bullying, vandalism. They harassed a schoolgirl in Beit Shemesh a few years ago for not dressing according to their standard of modesty. They threw rocks at her, spat on her, called her a whore." She looked at him with wide, angry eyes. "An eight-year-old."
His stomach sours around the strong coffee and tomatoes. He does not like men who prey on children. "Sounds like we might need to pay them a visit about PFC Michael Zeller."
"No," she said simply. "They're the religious mafia, Tony."
He gives her his best Brando. The Godfather. "Nobody knows nothin'."
She gave him a tiny, wry smile. "No, but we should start with the Edah. We know that's where Zeller's money was going."
Rush hour is over. The restaurant is quiet. Only one other couple share a table. The rest have been wiped clean, the chairs pushed in. Ziva's hair is loose around her face and she is part of the scenery. A beautiful part of the scenery, but still—she belongs here. He does not and it is strange and painful.
"Should we go there now?"
"No," she says quiet, looking around. "We are not dressed."
He looks down at his chinos and cotton shirt. "Huh?"
She shakes her head and looks at her own casual cotton attire. "No, we are not dressed properly. These are people who value formality and ritual, Tony."
He really does not want to put on dress clothes again. "I'm not interested in playing by their rules."
Her features sharpen. "Then you are not interested in solving this murder."
Since when is she so touchy? "All right," he relents. "Let's put on our finery. God forbid this Ay-dah know we're only human."
She is further incensed and jabs him in the chest once they're outside. "I know it is easy to poke fun," she spits. "I know they seem quaint or old-fashioned or foolish but they are my people, Tony. They are a part of who I am and where I come from, so please keep your relentless commentary to yourself."
She moves ahead of him. He feels like a cad but cannot shake the sense that he is right. "Zee-vah," he cajoles. "Do you hear yourself defending the people who threw stones at a little girl? Now this might be a stretch, but do they sound any different than the Taliban or any other terrorist group who rape and pillage and plunder in the name of faith? They don't think Israel—or Jews for that matter—should exist. They're the same people who set up a camp in Somalia and—"
Ziva ignores him and steps into the street. A cab screeches to a halt and she pounds on the hood, scolding the driver. He shouts back and she kicks in the passenger side headlight before stalking away.
Tony is torn between running after her and paying the man for the damage, but he doesn't speak either of their languages. He stands in the street, gaping, confused. The taxi speeds off. He catches sight of Ziva; she is a block away, back stiff under her light jacket, hair wild in the hot Jerusalem wind.