~ Chapter 7 ~
They wasted no time.
"Where are we going?" McGee was struggling into Tony's shirt, wet fabric sticking to his skin.
She dragged on her shirt, pants, ignoring their dampness and the fact McGee could see her. "What we should have done. We are going with Tony and waiting for Gibbs to find us." She rolled up the sleeves of Tony's coat, but it was still miles too big.
"Here." McGee handed her his, and they swapped. His coat was a slightly better fit, and she buttoned it up while McGee struggled into his trousers. "Do you really think we're in that much danger?"
"I do not like expensive hidden things. You read all those detective novels; no good ever comes from it, yes?" The thought of all that wealth lying beneath the cabin made her feel ill; there was no safety while it remained there.
"Well…" He paused. "D'you hear that?"
She stiffened, but she could only hear her heart thumping against her ribs and the wind starting to pick up outside. "It is nothing. Come on."
"Tony isn't my size." He struggled with the zip. "Stupid Armani—"
A man's voice.
But not Tony's.
Barely enough time for them to exchange a glance before the door opened wide. They flinched away at the bleaching light, blinking at the shadow in the doorway.
A short man built like a breadroll, binoculars dangling around his neck, looking at them in surprise. They gaped at him.
"I thought I heard voices!" He stopped and stared. "Wow, what happened to you two?"
"Who are you?" Ziva stuttered.
"Wayne. I was just…" He started at them in amazement. "How the hell did you get up here? Snow's like a foot deep!"
"Uh..." Bewildered, she glanced at McGee
"Our car went off the road into the river," he said after a moment's hesitation. "We spent the night here."
The man whistled. "Wow. You could sell that story to the paper. Y'all alright?"
"A bit bruised. Could have been worse."
"I'll say. Roads around here are murder in the Winter." He winced. "Sorry, poor choice of words. I can take you back to my place for a phone and that if you want; it's a few hours hike, but better than staying up here, right?" He grinned at them. The smile McGee returned was uncertain.
Ziva considered. She did not trust this man, to turn up so conveniently, but he did not seem intent on hurting them, and she was quite happy to leave and get as far away as possible from the drawstring bag beneath the floor.
"We have to wait, our friend has gone up the hill to see if he could phone…"
"Ah, that explains the tracks I followed." He nodded to himself. "We can meet up with him. Ain't hard to follow tracks like that."
She glanced sidelong at McGee. He shrugged imperceptibly, then bent down to grab his shoes. She followed, keeping the man in view.
McGee glanced up at him apologetically. "I'm sorry, I think we messed up your cabin."
He waved a hand. "Oh, it's not mine. This is Don Elliot's place, he hasn't been here in months. Don't think he'll care…" He wandered across the room, nudged the dead rat with his foot before moving towards the bedroom. Ziva followed his path with her one good eye.
He is looking for something.
Moving around casually, swinging the binoculars around his hand. Acting as if interested to see inside a mysterious neighbours hunting cabin. She turned away, carefully pulling on her boot. The coins were back under the floor, wood pressed firmly into place. His riches were safe.
McGee still struggling with his shoes, face creased with pain. "Wish I hadn't given Tony my socks," he muttered.
"I am sure the leaking blood will keep your feet warm," she said dryly, zipping up her boots and feeling the leather split open blisters.
"Where's the chest?"
A shiver sparked down her back. McGee's eyes looked passed her, skin blanching.
She turned. Wayne was standing in the doorway, and he was no longer smiling.
"Where's the goddam chest."
They were frozen. Words coiled in her chest. She stiffened, trying to stop her eyes darting towards the fire, but he saw the head movement. The man's eyes narrowed. His gaze shifted, landing glowing wood oven.
"No. No, no, no…" The blood drained from his cheeks, and he looked ill. "Tell me you didn't."
Ziva couldn't speak. Not in the face of such horror, the white rage building behind his eyes
McGee tried to stand. "I'm sorry, we—"
Shocking a man so plump could move so fast. No time to react.
He was suddenly right there, arm swinging to bring the heavy binocular base down onto McGee's skull.
Ice was forming inside his head. Could feel the shards slicing into his brain as his head moved. Parts of his skin stuck to the snow as he turned his head.
What?...How did...wait. Phone. Where's the phone? There, black shadow. There. Move, move... why can't I?...
His body twitched, shuddered.
Hands are tied. Yes. Hands and feet. Tied like a deer. 'Cept all at the back. Raccoon, maybe…
A man. That's right. Must have been him at the window. Damn rude to sneak up on him like that.
God, his head…
Mouth filled with blood, static in his eyes. Too dazed to even cry out at the kicks to his abdomen, the shrieking rampage battering against his face.
"You bastards! I'll kill you, I'll tear your eyes out you sonofabitch—"
Heard Ziva shout, sounds of blows that were not on him. He curled, heard the thud as she was thrown into the wall. They were both stiff and cold and he was so fast--
Feet around him, unknown foot sinking into his abdomen to make him curl.
Tony, we need help…
The crunch of ice, light slipping along the walls. His eyes opened and saw the silhouette in the doorway.
Then came the gunshot. The sound filling the room, a cry of pain lost in the echo. Silence in it's wake.
He felt his eyes moving between them, the roar in his head getting louder. Two of them, there were two—
A hand got him by the collar, threw him against the wall. Smell of blood, a hand gripping him by the arm to hold him upright as black swarmed across his eyes.
"Stay down," a new voice snarled. The snap of a gun reloading, heard him turn away.
"Are you completely retarded? I said get them out quietly, not start a goddam brawl!"
"They burnt the chest!"
A voice that was almost sobbing. "I told you we shouldn't have left it out here, I told you!"
Warmth on his shoulder. Weird. His head lifted, rocked to the left; Ziva beside him, hand clutched over her arm. Blood oozed through the cracks of her fingers, running down his arm to tap against the wood.
"What the hell are you doing in my cabin."
Very close. that cold voice. He lifted his head, saw a dark shadow above him.
"We were lost." It came out drowsy; he could feel the blood pulse in his face.
"Their car went off the road."
The man stared at them both for a moment. His eyes were pale, grey, like the underbelly of a snow cloud. Then he turned, moved into the other room.
Her right hand gripped his wrist, silencing him.
Don Elliot came back, stuffing the bag of coins down his vest.
"Man, this is such a mess-" That mad rage had fallen away, and Wayne's voice was starting to tremble.
"No. Before we had a mess. Now we have witnesses. Shut up and let me think."
Tim breathed in through his nose, for blood was filling his mouth and it felt like he was going to choke. There was the heavy smell of dog in the air. Tim made his eyes open, saw it watch them from the door; ears back against its skull and mouth pulled wide to show yellow teeth. At the sight blood thumped louder, swarming sound in his ears, buzzing into his eyes.
Felt her turn, but his eyes shut against the roar, and—
Arm starts to slide out from under the rope.
"We can fix it," Elliot said at last. A lie; the situation was irreparable. But he could slow it down, give them time to get out.
Wayne looked at him, face hopeful. God, stupid Wayne. His idiot cousin who never learnt to control his temper, and once again they were up the creek.
Looked across at the two carbuncles, the festering piles of inconvenience. Man slumped against the wall, eyes shut and half conscious. Woman with a bloody hand against her arm, eyes darting between them. The other one, tied up and unconscious in the snow.
They would be cops. With his luck, he was surprised they hadn't managed to destroy the coins as well.
He pushed away the fury that made him want to shoot them right there. Rash acts solved nothing, as Wayne was always eager to demonstrate.
Well then. That left logic, something Don Elliot was very good at.
Far too late to get them out, even from the moment Wayne told him of seeing them make their way to the cabin. The snow had stopped him, and his first plan of leaving them be, to die naturally or be found, came into being. But that had failed, and the second plan to remove them before they found anything followed not long after, even though he stopped the other one from using his phone.
Only one option left to him, now.
Ziva swallowed once, twice. She was feeling light headed, and nausea was starting to hit.
But far worse than that, she could see the man Don Elliot had reached a decision, and by the darkening of his eye it was not a nice one. But they were trapped; there was a gun between them and the door, two fit men. And McGee...
She squeezed his limp wrist, whispered his name. His head twitched.
His head lifted, turned to her unsteadily.
"Are you...?" Words failed, because everything she wanted to ask he was quite clearly not.
He forced the word from his swelling lips. "P-peachy."
The taller man – Elliot – came across the room. His hand lifted, the cradled gun lifting to rest against the hollow on her neck. She went still, feeling her pulse beat against the cold metal.
He reached down, yanked McGee's jacket off her shoulder and examined the hole. She flinched as his fingers moved around the back of her arm, looking for an exit wound she knew he wouldn't find.
"Shouldn't have done that," he said quietly to himself. He looked over McGee, seemed satisfied. "Go get the other one, bring him back here," he said to Wayne.
Wayne looked uneasy. "What are you doing?"
"Fixing your mistake." Elliot motioned her to get up.
She didn't move. She could feel herself trembling.
His eyes were cold. "Move, or I will make you move."
Apparently she was not fast enough, because he hauled her upright and dragged her to the door.
"Ziva…" McGee, calling after her weakly.
No time for tricks. She was thrown out the door, heard it slam as she landed deep in the snow. She was not fast enough to rise, nor to escape the raining blow. Even though she knew it was coming.
Tim heard the sound from outside. The sound of struggling, Ziva's cry of pain. Then quiet.
His heart was wrenching in his chest, fear leaving him without breath. Wayne dragged him into the other room, belted him to the legs of the bed, arms locked at his sides. He struggled, feeling the pressure building in his face. Wayne put his foot against Tim's ribs, pressing down until the pain caused him to pass out.
His last thought was one of despair. That after all this, they would be killed by people.
Even as he at least wrenched one arm free, Tony could hear him coming. The sound of crunching snow, grinding flat under boots. He dragged himself one armed through the snow, towards the black shadow. All he needed was one number, one press of the button. Just one...
A shape come over the rise as he fumbled for the phone, brought it close to his blurry eyes.
Broken across the face, the screen dark.
He stared at it, and all the air went from his lungs. No...
He never saw the foot swing, though he sure felt the metal toe to the ribs. Like a harpoon through the side as ribs split; sudden darkness.
When it lifted, he was moving though without choice.
There were hands around his ankles, pulling him through the snow. He lifted his head, saw a great white furry back. He tried to struggle, but his one free arm could only claw at the snow. In the end he lay limp as he was dragged down the hill.
I got mugged by the Abominable Snowman, he thought weakly, hand trailing behind him. Abby'll never believe it.