"A flash-flood warning remains in effect for Rockingham, Page, and Madison Counties until midnight tonight. This rain isn't going to stop any time soon, folks. Roadways may become flooded in a matter of minutes, especially county and back roads. Do not try to cross flooded roadways…"
"Could you turn that radio off?"
Ziva complied, then turned her head towards the back of the car where her teammate sat.
"No holds barred."
"Holds are wrestling moves. Certain holds are banned from some matches. 'No holds barred' would mean that anything goes and no moves are illegal."
"Let me think…umm…oh, yes. 'The whole nine yards.' Nine yards of what?"
"Ammunition. It refers to machine gun belts in World War II aircraft. An enemy target that was particularly hard to destroy would require using the 'whole nine yards' of ammunition. It would indicate a lot of effort. Like pulling out all the stops."
"That is another one! Why would stopping indicate extra effort?"
"Stops are those little knobs on a pipe organ. Pulling them out increases the volume. So if you pull out all the stops, you will get the most volume."
Ziva sighed. "English is such a… playful language. So many double- meanings. The other day, Ducky was explaining to me how to do something. He finished by saying 'and Bob's your uncle!'"
From his place in the backseat, McGee shrugged. "That's a British saying. I never understood it either."
"I believe, roughly translated, it means 'shut up and let your driver concentrate when he's trying to navigate through a monsoon," Tony said tersely, his eyes never leaving the road. Or what he could see of the road.
They were driving back from a crime scene in rural Virginia. They had managed to finish collecting evidence just before the next round of torrential spring rains had come down. It was still pouring, thundering against the roof of the car and rendering the windshield wipers nearly useless. Only able to see a few feet in front of him, Tony had slowed the car down to a crawl.
"Shouldn't we be back by now anyway, Tony?" Ziva asked. "I thought you said you knew a shortcut."
"I do know a shortcut, Zee-va," Tony growled. "But since I've had to turn back three times because the roads were flooded, it's not really a shortcut anymore."
"We could play the Alphabet Game," McGee suggested.
"Sure, Probie, great idea! I spy, with my little eye….rain! Because that's all we can see." Tony resisted the urge to turn around and dole out a head slap.
"The Alphabet Game?" Ziva asked?
"It's one of those games parents make up to keep their kids from fighting during car trips. You take turns-" McGee began to explain, but was silenced by Tony's glare in the rearview mirror. "I'll explain later."
Ziva peered out the window, trying to look for landmarks that might help Tony as he drove. "It will be dark soon. This gravel road could wash out very easily in this rain. Do you have any idea if we are close to the highway or not?"
"If we're where I think we are, it should be just a couple of miles ahead."
"Where you 'think' we are?"
"Would you like to drive, Probie? 'Cause I'll stop this car right now-"
"Tony! STOP! WATER!"
Tony slammed the breaks. The car skidded to a stop, just inches from the rushing river that had suddenly appeared in front of them. Water splashed up over the front of the hood.
"I don't remember the highway being close to the river," McGee commented.
"I don't remember there being a river here, period," Ziva said.
"That's because it was a creek a few hours ago." Tony shifted the car into reverse and gunned the engine. The tires spun uselessly in the mud and water. He tried again and again, with the same result.
"Fantastic," Ziva mumbled.
"Probie! Get out and push."
"Why me?" McGee whined.
"Because I'm the senior field agent, and I say so. Hurry, before the water kills the engine."
McGee sighed and opened the backdoor. He stepped out into an inch of water, which got progressively deeper as he moved to the front of the car. By the time he was in front, it was up to his knees. The rest of him was soaked from the rain still pouring down from the sky.
He placed his hands on the front of the car and braced himself, but he couldn't get much leverage while standing in the mud and water. He pushed as best he could while Tony hit the gas, but the car went nowhere. After a few tries, the engine sputtered and died.
McGee looked down and frowned. The water that had moments ago been at his knees was now up to his thighs. It was rising fast, too fast. He grabbed the side of the car by the wheel well and tried to pull himself back towards the passenger side door. The force of the water was surprising. It seemed to push him against the car and try to pull him away from it at the same time.
Even through the pouring rain, he could hear the muffled sounds of Tony's cursing inside the car. He put his face as close to the window as he could.
"Guys! The water's rising really fast! I think we need to get out of here!"
He could see Ziva struggling with the door, but the force of the water held it shut. He managed to grab the handle and pull while she pushed. The door opened for a couple of seconds, then slammed shut again. Water rushed in.
"Leave it," Tony instructed. He felt the car shift slightly to the left. "McGee's right. We need to get out of here."
She pushed and McGee pulled again, and they were able to get the door open long enough for her to slip out. The water that was waist-deep on McGee came up to Ziva's chest. She gasped as the cold hit her. She tried to push her way out, to higher ground, but the force was too strong. She couldn't even keep her feet on the ground.
"The roof!" McGee shouted above the noise of the rain. He gave her a shove from behind as she used the edge of the window as a toehold. She was up in seconds, fighting to stay balanced and not slide off the wet car roof. She felt McGee slide up next to her, panting from the effort.
Being on the leeward side of the car made it easier for Tony to get his door open. He grabbed Ziva's hand as she climbed up onto the roof and was about to climb up himself when he felt the car tilt again, hard to the left. It was too unstable to offer protection from the rising water.
"The trees!" he shouted. Ziva seemed to understand. The trees that lined the country road would be the only place to escape the rising flood.
Ziva crouched on her toes, taking a moment to steady herself. She extended up to her full height, and with a helpful shove from McGee, managed to grab an overhanging branch. She used a lower branch to push off with her feet and propel her up into the tree.
McGee dropped to his hands and knees, knowing that he would be thrown from the car roof if he stood. For a moment, he and Tony were face-to-face.
"Go!" Tony demanded. McGee peered through the rain, trying to find a branch sturdy enough to hold him. They seemed just out of reach beyond the end of his arm. He stretched out and up and was surprised to feel his hand wrap around rough, wet wood. Pulling himself up was not easy. His arm muscles seemed to protest under the strain, and he cursed himself for not doing extra pull-ups at the gym. Finally, with a helpful pull from Ziva, he found himself draped over a strong branch.
McGee wrapped his legs around the limb and steadied himself. He leaned back towards the car. Through the blinding rain, he could just make out Tony leaning towards him. The water was almost completely covering the car now. They didn't have much time left.
Just then, McGee heard a loud Ithump./I A large piece of driftwood had slammed into the car, knocking it sideways. He saw Tony flail backwards, away from the tree.
McGee made a desperate, clumsy grab. Somehow, his hand found Tony's wrist. He pulled as hard as he could, but he was off-balance now. Tony was trying to steady himself. Trying to push himself up. The rushing water finally overtook the car completely, knocking his feet out from under him. He fell face-first. Water stung his eyes and burned his nostrils. Tony could feel the car underneath him and he tried to use to push off and up.
Tony's weight, combined with the terrific force of the water, threatened to pull McGee's arm out of socket. The pain was intense, but still he held on. II won't let go. I can't let go./I He thought he felt Ziva, pulling on the back of his jacket, trying to help. He definitely felt Tony slipping…too much water…
"Tony!" he shouted above the roar of the creek. "Kick your feet! Push off of the car!"
Time seemed to slow down. All he could feel was the pain in his arm. All he could hear was the roar of the wind and water. He saw Tony's face, determined.
Then in an instant, his hand slipped away. He saw the surprised look on Tony's face as he flew backwards. Then he was gone.