Chapter 3: Whodunits
WARNINGS: AU in a big way
UMMARY: What if Gibbs, DiNozzo, and McGee were PI's in the 1940's?
DISCLAIMER: I own nothing. Absolutely, positively nothing. Disheartening really.
"Mr. Noraton." DiNozzo glanced at the stage one more time before turning his full attention to the man who was the reason for his being at the LoBall. "Yes. Yes she is something. Apparently you hire quality talent to go with the quality of your food and drinks."
"Thank you. My father always told me 'if you're going to do something, do it right.' I've never forgotten his words."
My father told me to shut the door behind me when I left. Different fathers, different words of advice huh? Tony smiled politely, "Sounds like sage advice." He spun the ice around in the bottom of his glass.
"Would you care for another drink Mr. --?"
"DiNozzo. Anthony DiNozzo. Sure. Scotch."
Mr. Noraton raised his hand to wave a waiter over. His beefy hand was the size of two of Tony's; gold and bejeweled rings adorned three of his fingers, the flesh of those digits curving and pillowing out over the edges of the shining metal.
"Danny, I need two scotch on the rocks. Make it my private reserve."
"Yes, sir." The waiter scampered off.
"Your staff seems very well trained. I take it your hostess was kind enough to inform you that you had a guest waiting?"
"Yes, yes. All of my employees are well instructed. Ida is particularly good at warning me about visitors."
"I'm a 'wealthy' man, Mr. DiNozzo and every once and a while, I get visitors at my clubs who are, shall we say, up to no good."
"Up to no good?"
Mr. Noraton lifted his index finger to his nose and pushed the tip to the side. "Gangsters, Mr. DiNozzo. Men of ill-repute."
"Ahhh." Tony settled in his chair more comfortably. "So Ida told you she didn't think I was a man of ill-repute -- a representative from one of the local families?"
"No, no. She simply pointed you out to me. I made that judgment call for myself."
"Well thanks for the vote of confidence, I guess."
"I will admit to being curious as to why a," Noraton paused and let his eyes sweep across Tony, "A police officer? A Private Investigator? Would be interested in meeting with me."
"Good eye… I'm a PI, and I'm actually doing some follow up on the death of Edgar David's daughter, Caitlyn." Tony watched Noraton's features as he mentioned Edgar and Caitlyn.
"Ahh, poor Caitlyn. Still in the blush of youth and taken from us too soon. She was a lovely, lovely woman."
"And in good health?"
"Prior to her death? Yes. As far as I know. But then again, I wasn't as close to the family in the past few months as I had been in the past."
"No? And why was that?"
"I don't --," he stopped as the waiter delivered their drinks.
"Thank you Danny my boy."
"You're welcome, sirs."
"Good health, much wealth, and the happiness that comes with." Noraton lifted his glass in toast.
Tony raised his glass in response and took a sip. "Now this, Sir, is scotch."
"It is my guilty pleasure."
"I can see why." He took another sip before redirecting Noraton. "You were saying?"
"Hmm, what? Oh, yes, I don't really like to speak out of school Mr. DiNozzo. And I really don't have proof that I'm right, but…"
"I rather think that I was pushed out of the David inner circle. Pushed out in a calculated and determined manner."
"No offense, but you don't strike me as the type it would be easy to push out of any place you didn't already want to leave."
Noraton chuckled good-naturedly. "That is a fair assessment of my character… and my girth." He savored a taste of scotch before continuing. "And perhaps I was a willing recipient of the 'push' – ready to jump ship as it were. Perhaps, indeed."
"What makes you think you were being pushed?"
"My fingertips tingled? My belly ached? My nose itched? I really don't know Mr. DiNozzo. I dare say it wasn't any one thing, and more a collection of 'things'." He took a deep breath and moved the conversation away from his troubled body parts. "I'm guessing that Ziva David is the one who has retained your services?"
Tony hesitated for half a second before nodding his head in agreement.
"Yes, I thought as much. She was never satisfied with the doctor's proclamation of heart-attack. And I don't know that I completely disagree with the child. A heart attack? At 26 yrs of age? Unlikely – unless you're built a bit more like me, and Caitlyn was a wisp of a thing… a strong wind could carry her away."
"Did the police ask you your opinion on the matter?"
"The police? Ahh, you mistake my 'understanding' of Ziva's assessment of her sister's death for agreement. I didn't completely agree with her. While Caitlyn did appear to be young and healthy, the person who I would consider to be the most detrimental to her health wasn't at the house the night she died."
Tony shook his head in confusion. "And who do you suspect?"
"Suspicion is such a strong word. I have an inkling of a thought someone who I think it might possibly be. But I don't know that my assumptions are worth labeling him as a suspect."
"Again, it's just a supposition. But my gut tells me it was Ari; he would have been the only one able to get close enough to Caitlyn to poison her -- if it was indeed a poison induced death.
But as I said, he wasn't at the David home when Caitlyn died."
"Ah, Ziva didn't mention Ari to you? Ari Perecer. He was Caitlyn's fiancé. Strange she didn't mention him to you. If there was any foul play at the David home, Ari… Ari would be the one that I would worry about."
Tony whipped out the small notebook he carried in his front pocket and scribbled down Ari Perecer. "You mention 'foul play' Mr. Noraton, but I still hear you prefacing that phrase with 'if'. What do you think happened to Caitlyn David?"
"I think Dr. Ethington was right, and she died of a heart attack. I wouldn't, however, be surprised if further research into Caitlyn's death proved her heart attack was caused by outside sources."
Tony paused then went back to an earlier question. "If I'd been in your shoes I think I would have still taken my concern – my inkling – to the police."
"Have you ever thought you were being followed Mr. DiNozzo, but turn around to see nothing? No one behind, you? – the streets as empty and clear as the bright blue sky? Well that is how I felt -- how I feel -- about Caitlyn's death. Assumptions, feelings, suppositions get you nowhere in business, and they get you nowhere in the rest of life. I will not put my name in the newspapers based upon assumptions or feelings. I work off of facts, numbers, and analytical tangibles."
Tony swirled his thoughts around as he swirled the amber liquid in his glass.
"And, as I said Mr. DiNozzo, Ari would be my prime suspect if it weren't for 2 things. 1) he hadn't been near the David compound for almost a week prior to Caitlyn's death, and 2) the only way he would get money from the David's is to marry into the family. No Caitlyn. No money."
Staring at the large man in front of him, Tony threw out, "The same thing can't be said about you Mr. Noraton." Tony glanced at his notes, "You, Mr. Tell, and Jeanne Froge, all gained when Caitlyn David died."
"True. But let me offer up a few more facts. 1) I watched Caitlyn and Ziva David grow up from around the age of 5 until now. Twenty years. They were like nieces to me. I wouldn't harm a hair on their heads. 2) Edgar David was an asshole, but he was also my partner and a friend for more years than I care to share. Again, I wouldn't hurt him or his. And finally, 3) look around you Mr. DiNozzo; does it look like I need money from the David's?"
"Family kills family Mr. Noraton, they even did it in the Bible. And money, to quote the good book, 'is the root of all evil'. People who don't have it, want it; and those who do have it, want more. So, I'm going to ask, where were you on the night that Caitlyn David died?"
Noraton chortled, "Let's see, that was the 23rd? Two months ago? Ha, I would have been where I am every night. At the HiBall and then at the LoBall, or vice versa; I close one or the other of them down every night."
"Okay." That wouldn't be very easy to confirm, especially since Noraton seemed to have so many of his employees eating out of his hand. New question. "So how much money have you inherited?"
"None of us has actually inherited any money yet. It's still tied up in the courts, but there should be a grand total of around 15 million."
DiNozzo whistled softly under his breath.
"Yes, indeed. 5 million for each of us. It's definitely something worth whistling about."
"And Perecer, your personal first bet for 'whodunits', he gains nothing by Caitlyn's death?" Noraton nodded his head in affirmation. "All right, then who's your second bet for 'whodunits'?"
"I guess I'd have to say 'I am'. I'm a business man, so money makes my world go round." He gave a hard smile, "fortunately, I know I didn't do it, so I'll give you my number three choice. Tell. Lee Tell. He's a lawyer. Enough said." Noraton chortled at his own dry sense of humor and hefted his way out of the booth. "I do have some duties to attend to tonight Mr. DiNozzo, so I'm going to leave you here to mull over the facts, and I dare say, the feelings. I'll send some dessert over for you. The Baked Alaska is sublime. And it's on the house."
Tony stood and extended his hand. "Thank you for your time, sir."
"My pleasure. My pleasure. I hope," again a smile broke across his florid face; this one less hard, and definitively more mischievous, "You enjoy the rest of your evening with us."
Sparing only half a thought to the meaning behind Noraton's grin, Tony settled back into the booth and took another sip of scotch before focusing on his pad of paper.
He was still scribbling notes when a shadow fell over his table again. Without looking up he waved his hand to the table. "You can just put the dessert down… I'll get it in a second." As a second thought Tony looked up as the plate was placed in front of him, "Oh and can I get a cup of –"
… It was her.
The one who'd started singing her set just as Charles Noraton sat down at his table. And she was even more attractive up close than she was from a distance.
Scrambling to his feet, Tony edged out of the booth and found himself right in front of her.
She was dark, and pale, and curved in all the right places. She was also tall. In her heels, she was just an inch or two shorter than him. He'd always been drawn to women who were tiny, petite little things, but suddenly, he was thinking tall might be tastier.
She has a whiskey hued voice that poured over him, pulling him out of his stupor. "Uh, I guess I was. Beautiful women have that affect on me."
She laughed, brushing off his compliment with an invisible flick of her hand. "And a charmer. But then again, good looking men like you normally are. Charming that is." She eyed the table. "Mind if I sit down? These shoes are killing me."
Tony smiled and held his arm out over the table, inviting her to settle in.
As she curved her way into the booth Tony blew out a quick breath, bent his head from one side and then to the other, then slid the seat across from her.
Noraton didn't ask much of the performers, not like some club owners did, wanting private performance (or even one on one performances) so when he'd come back to Abby's dressing room and said he had a friendhe wanted her to meet. She'd been surprised, and curious.
"If you could get a piece of the Baked Alaska my dear, and take it to table 23. Yes, that would be lovely. Quite appreciated really. He's a new fan of yours and I think he'd love meeting you. Would you be able to do that my dear? Just a drink, or a piece of dessert with him, introduce yourself."
"Sure thing, Mr. Noraton." She'd been looking forward to planting her tush in a chair, but she figured five more minutes wouldn't kill her.
And then she saw him.
The delicious guy who she'd devoured with her eyes when she first moved out onto the stage. Maybe this little favor for Mr. Noraton would be worth the sore toes.
So Baked Alaska in hand she headed over and came to a stop at his table. She was just about to clear her throat, or sing a note, or something to get his attention, when, without looking at her, he waved at her to put the plate down. Whatever he's scribbling must be awfully important… that or he's a geycat. She eyed him silently. Mr. Noraton did say that he was a friend of his… maybe he meant he was a 'friend' of his. Sigh… all the cute ones.
Abby had just about made up her mind to walk away when he looked up.
And then he lit up.
And, yeah, the way he took in her figure -- from her toes up to the loose curls on the top of her head -- definitely not a geycat.
Abby and Tony sat in silence for a few seconds. Him, uncharacteristically at a loss of words, and her, trying really hard not to talk too much – and for once, succeeding.
Keep your mouth shut Abby, don't say anything to the cute man. Your mom told you one thing about men, and it's that they don't like women who talk too much. So, shut up. Keep your lips zipped. Only open them to breath. And to laugh if he says something clever.
Ooooh! And to DRINK.
Tony was still racking his brain for something witty, or suave, or even remotely intelligent to say, when he saw the songbird reach across the table and pick up his scotch.
He watched with disbelief and amusement as she closed her eyes and threw back the last of his drink.
With a shake of her head as the alcohol slid smoothly down her throat, Abby took a deep breath and then realized what she'd just done. Her eyes flew open.
Tony smirked. "Good?"
"Yes. Wonderful. Really good. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to do that. But I was thinking about… well, I'm not going to tell you what I was thinking about, but the next thing I knew, I was thinking about having a drink… and there your drink was. Not that I do that a lot – think of drinks that is. I'm not a lush or drunkard. I was just looking for something to do with mouth so that I didn't start babbling about nothing. Or something." She took a deep breath, "Like I just did."
His warm laugh spiked through her veins. "Feel free to use anything of mine whenever you're looking for something to do with your mouth."