AN: OK, so it might be stretching coincidence a bit to bring Kath back for a brief appearance, but 1) I love to recycle, and 2) How many Police Lieutenants can DC have anyway…
Still Up There On the Mountain
Tim didn't know if he should blunder into the silence or let the atmosphere freeze still further. Think. OK, no need to blunder. He lifted his cup and said, "Thanks for the coffee, Tony. How were Polly and Patch?"
"You're welcome. Not good." Tony flashed his friend a look. He was grateful for the distraction. He was wondering if he was being over sensitive; Ziva could prod at him all she liked, but Lucy was out of bounds. She hadn't meant it to sound that way, he knew, but she didn't mind suggesting, in the guise of a joke, that he was dim enough to forget Lucy. Never mind, he'd just told himself she could go ahead.
"They were in a bit of a state – really weren't up to talking about it. I'm going over tomorrow night if we don't pull a case in the meantime; Polly said they'd have calmed down enough by then. Lucy'll take care of them. The one thing Patch did say was that Arthur's making veiled threats against anyone and everyone, including his wife, Tam, Sunny, Keshowse, oh, and us… I'm going to try to find out who he's been talking to, associating with in prison, to see if there's any real problem. My gut says not –"
"Can't really see Hastings Senior being able to get anyone, inside or out of prison, to do what he wants," Gibbs agreed.
Tony nodded wryly. "I'm with you on that, Boss. And his former associates are in other establishments. I'm just not going to assume anything."
Tim nodded. "Let me know if there's anything I can do."
"And keep us posted," Gibbs added.
"Sure," Tony said agreeably, and the awkward moment passed. After a while he was humming to himself again, Tim wondered if he was even aware it was Jack Jones's 'The Mood I'm In'.
True to NCIS form, it was drawing towards evening, and they were all thinking about home when Gibbs' desk pone picked up his cell, glanced at it, muttered something rude, dropped it carelessly, and picked up the landline instead. He wrote for a moment, while Tim inspected the dropped mobile. "Grab your gear. Marine holding his wife hostage."
They all leapt to their feet, including Tony, who then hesitated, sighed, and sat down again. Gibbs almost relented and told him 'you too', but he remembered the consequences of his SFA returning to the field before he was ready. Ducky had said, "Even Monday is barely adequate, Jethro, but we know what he's like."
Tony was back at his desk, and the Boss was about to say something mildly sympathetic, when Ziva said sweetly, "You cannot come with us, Tony. Have you forgotten you are on desk duty?"
Gibbs frowned, although his tone was only mildly reproving when he said, "That's for me to decide, Ziva. Still, it's a pity DiNozzo can't come; he's usually good in hostage situations."
Tony flashed a shark-wide, dangerous smile, that one that Tim hated, if this kept up, the poor guy would give in and blow… but he replied mildly enough, "Concerned about my memory again, Ziva? I promise you, I got it back three weeks ago. Give me what you've got, Boss, and I'll get you everything I can."
Gibbs handed him the paper, with one of those silent questions. 'You good?'
'I'm good, Boss.' The grin was easy.
Tim paused by his friend's desk. "Boss's run his battery flat. Ring me? And I've got his six, OK?"
Tony actually let affection creep in at the corners of his voice. "Yeah. Get gone, McGee. Watch yourself too."
McGee got gone. He was glad that Gibbs had spoken up; maybe if Ziva realised she was alone in her attitude, she might reconsider it.
Tony pushed it all aside; there was work to do. He put Gibbs' phone to charge, and pulled the address given; it did indeed belong to a marine currently attached to a training unit in Virginia. A single man. Huh? He checked. The man was where he should be, with his unit, slap bang in the middle of Holiday Lake State Park, running a youth camp for potential recruits.
OK, maybe the dispatcher meant girlfriend. He called her up, and no, he'd said wife. She sent him a recording. His hackles rose at once. It couldn't be…
"Hello? Hello? Look, there's a guy across the street… he just dragged his wife into the house, screaming at her. He called her a cheating trollop, said he was going to cut her throat. I started over there… he took a shot at me. He's a marine… I seen him in uniform sometimes. She keeps screaming… "
"What's your name, Sir?"
"Huh? Oh, er… er…Parker."
The call ended, and Tony's blood ran cold. He knew that voice. What were the odds? Horowitz was in a secure mental facility – for life. Wasn't he? He rang a colleague in Baltimore, and almost cried when the sergeant was actually there, and willing to help. A few gut churning minutes, which he filled by starting to hunt for the bomb lover, police hater's present whereabouts, then the file arrived in Tony's in-box. Yep, it was identical, but for the hostage taker being a marine. That word trollop… who used it? And Parker… that was the name Horowitz had used before…
Caspar Horowitz, aged forty-nine, sentenced to life eleven years ago…currently – shit! Absconded from half-way house five days ago – what was he even doing there? Whereabouts unknown. Never mind,Tony knew exactly where he'd be. He'd been after police before, now he was after NCIS. And the really bad thing was that it was likely him he was after; he was the only one who'd been there then, should have been there now, and he was the one who'd spotted the trap. And he was the only one it wasn't likely to get this time.
His back began to itch, remembering the sting of shrapnel as he'd annoyed his Captain by bearing him to the ground – "DiNozzo, what the hell –" the rest of it cut off by the sound of the explosion. He called up Tim's number. In use.
Trying to stay calm, he called Ziva.
"Tony, what do you want? We –"
"Ziva. Tell Gibbs not to go into the house. Tell them all not to –"
"Tony, we have to. There is a woman in there who needs –"
"No, there isn't. There's nobody in the house – Look, Ziva, there's no time to argue about this. Tell Gibbs not to look surprised, but it's a trap. He's there somewhere watching…"
"Tony, that's ridiculous. We can hear a woman screaming."
"Yes, and it sounds exactly the same every time, yes? Is there a doll on the front steps? There are steps, right?"
"I cannot see from here. It is getting dark. And I cannot interrupt Gibbs, he is talking to the police chief. It is that Lieutenant he seems to get on so well with. I will not –"
"Ziva! Do you want me to make this a direct order? You're wasting time. Tell Gibbs now! I can't reach McGee – "
"He is speaking to Abby. He – "
She heard the phone clatter down at the other end, and stood looking at hers for a while in inner debate; half inclined to think Tony was just desperate to get in on the case somehow, then she started very slowly forwards. Did she really think that of him? She stopped dead again, in bewilderment. There was a large rag-doll lying on the front porch steps.
Abby squeaked. "Tony – what – ?"
He hadn't waited for the elevator, but annoyed his recently injured foot by jumping down the stairs three at a time, to race into the lab and snatch the phone out of her hands. "Tim? Tell them all not to go near the house. It's a trap! A bomber. He's there in the crowd somewhere."
Tim didn't hesitate, and he didn't get it wrong. He calmly walked to Gibbs as if giving a report, and repeated, softly, what Tony was telling him. Kath Wigg listened gravely too, and began calmly issuing orders.
"Caspar Horowitz, Boss. Nut job. Loves seeing people blown up, that's why the doll's on the front porch, not inside the house. He got life; he's out somehow. Tony helped take him down in Baltimore, now he's here. In the crowd. Abby's sending me a picture… now."
He handed the phone to Gibbs. "Hostage negotiator's on his way, Boss, wants to speak to you," he said loudly.
"Did you get the picture, Gibbs?" Abby's voice was anxious. Tim and Ziva, who had joined them, strained to hear what the forensics specialist was saying.
"We got it, Abs. And we can see the doll on the porch. Positioned so you just couldn't help pick it up. Hold on."
Kath brought him up to date, and borrowed the phone. "Tell Tony he was right. And tell him Kath says thanks. We're making out we haven't figured it, but there's a perimeter being set up; the bomb squad won't show until we've got him. He won't get away from the scene. Tell Tony we'll get him."
"And Abby, tell him –"
"He's not here, Gibbs."
"Where is he?"
"I think he's on his way to you, Gibbs…"
That almost got a reaction from Gibbs; only long experience and professionalism kept his body language unaltered, and the expletive off his lips. "OK, Abs. I'll take care of him – er, it." He disconnected, and at once, Tim's phone rang again.
"McGee! Something else… Horowitz went grey while he was in prison. I'm on my way down cuz I might recognize him faster than anyone else –"
"Ya think, DiNozzo?" Gibbs' reply was hissed, but Tim and Ziva both swung away from watching the crowd to listen.
"Oh, Hi, Boss!" Tony tried to sound airy. "I'm guessing you're setting up a perimeter?"
If ya can't beat 'em, join 'em, Gibbs decided. He was never going to change Tony. "Well, no, DiNozzo. We're going to just let him walk out of here. And who's looking after the shop?"
"You know Abby is, Boss. And she knows what to look for. If she finds anything else we need she'll send it to Ziva's cell. Keep yours _ er, I mean McGee's, free."
"Sure." A sudden random train of thought was set up in Gibbs' mind. "Why didn't you just call Ziva? Would have been faster than running down to Abby."
"Well… er, I needed Abby's input, Boss. Be there in a minute." Was there something hasty about the way he closed the call? Gibbs shrugged inwardly. Something for later. Tim, standing near and trying to look as if he wasn't scanning the crowd, had been wondering the same thing. He glanced at Ziva, who determinedly watched the spectators, and said nothing. His phone beeped again; this time he answered it.
"One more thing, Boss…"
"It's me, Tony."
"Ah. One more thing, McMe – the screams. He may be a bit more sophisticated now, although he only disappeared five days ago, who's to know what reading material your average mad bomber gets his hands on in prison…"
"Yeah, sorry. One of the ways we made him last time was that the scream was always the same."
"Only heard it twice, and yes it was. Recorded?"
"Yeah, and triggered remotely. Might be in his pocket of course, but he could be standing there holding the remote. We could be lucky."
"Got it." He paused and gave Gibbs the new information. "Boss says we'll try to shake things up a bit."
Kath picked up a bull-horn, and took up where she'd left off to talk to Gibbs. "Hey," she yelled. "It's gone quiet in there. We need to know if your wife's OK. We need you to tell us what you want." The only reply was the heart-rending scream. Tim and Ziva spoke together.
"The plaid jacket."
It was a warm March evening, but the man in the thick jacket also wore a hunter's hat with the earflaps down. What they could see of his hair was grey.
Kath held her position facing the house; one by one the MCRT began to alter position and fan out. Sergeant Fordham, Kath's second in command, distracted the crowd's attention by bringing her a vest and loudly insisting she put it on. "We have to go in soon, Lieutenant!" A murmur of ghoulish excitement ran through the crowd.
They'd nearly flanked Horowitz when a couple in the crowd decided they weren't going to be ghouls any longer, and began to move away. The bomber stiffened, as he saw plainly from the attitude of the young man revealed behind them that this was a cop, and he'd been made. He began to weave through the throng, knowing that the law wouldn't start shooting while there were innocent people around. Tim and Ziva followed, trying to keep him in sight until the crowd thinned out, by which time he had something of a head start. They raised their guns.
Horowitz turned to face them and was debating this, on the brink of running, when another figure materialised behind him. The click of a Sig being cocked was accompanied by a genial "Caspar! Long time, no see!"
The bomber gave up without a fight, which was sensible. It didn't stop him from mouthing threats as Gibbs began to drag him away. "You've ruined my life again, DiNozzo! It was you I wanted to get! Eleven years I –"
Tony shook his head. "Caspar, Caspar… you didn't fool me the first time, you think you'd fool me the second? Eleven years you spent talking the shrinks into thinking you were a reformed character? I didn't ruin your life, Caspar, you did that when you started stuffing dollies with semtex and nails. I wish you luck with your next psychiatrist."
He turned on his heel, and Tim noticed the wince. "You've set that foot off again, chucking yourself down three flights of stairs. Why didn't you just phone Ziva?"
"Gibbs asked that. I needed Abby's input." His voice was light and without inflection, and Tim knew his friend well enough to recognise a porky when he heard one. Tony just grinned, thinking that was that, and ambled off to say hello to Kath, and watch the bomb squad piling sandbags around the doll. They didn't want the unfortunate marine to return from his camping trip to find the front of his house demolished.
Tim watched him go, and said very quietly to Ziva, "He did call you, didn't he? You can't speak up and say so?"
"What are you implying? I can kill –"
"Don't give me that tired old paper clip threat, Ziva. It doesn't cut anything. Why didn't you say something?"
She didn't answer, and Tim held back on his rising anger. "He just covered for you, and you still can't cut him a break."
"He did not need to cover for me. I was on my way to tell Gibbs –"
"And it took you longer to walk across than it took him to get down to Abby."
"It seemed such a ridiculous story. I hesitated."
"So, you decided not to take him at his word?" Tim was incredulous. "You decided he was ridiculous? You decided that Tony was ridiculous?"
Ziva looked at the floor and coloured slightly. "No… I…" She trailed off.
"Ziva." Tim's voice was quiet, but emphatic. "He is one of the best men you're likely to meet in your entire life. You know it. You don't need me to tell you. Why are you treating him like this?"
"Like what? I do not understand."
McGee took two steps round from her side to face her. "Well, let me help you. Whenever he shows interest in someone else, like Dana, or Jeanne for that matter, you don't like it. But when he is available, for want of a better word, you keep him at a distance. Or tease him with the likes of Damon Werth. Well, I guess that's OK, Tony doesn't know what he wants either." He thought of Lucy, and the Hastings family. "Or, he didn't. But these days you can't open your mouth to him without putting him down, and I'm actually getting tired of hearing it."
"But all he does is joke – "
"You don't need me to tell you that's not true either. He's not incompetent, Ziva. He's not a loser. Why do you tell yourself that he is? He won't act on it, because he won't hurt you… and his way of dealing has always been to shrug it off. D'you think that makes him weak? It makes him stronger than you realise."
She was looking at him, standing stiff-backed, her face unreadable.
"Oh, now you're thinking I'm fighting his battles for him."
"I was not."
Tim thought she was telling the truth, but it was a point he wanted to make. "Do you think the guy who instigated, planned and led the operation in Somalia just to avenge you needs his battles fought? Is no more than the class clown?"
"Gibbs led –"
"No, he didn't, Ziva. You've never asked."
"Took on Gibbs, Vance, SecNav, the Finance Committee… and Abby, and convinced them all."
"I did not know… I have not tried to find out anything about it, because I did not want to remember… maybe I should have."
Tim didn't answer directly.
"You know what I think? You've met this new guy, and decided that's it. But just in case you've got any lingering feelings for Tony, you're making yourself sure that he's not worth having any lingering feelings for."
He wasn't the only one who could give indirect answers. "You seem to have acquired a psychology degree somewhere along the way, McGee."
He shrugged. "I could be completely wrong about everything, except one thing. He deserves better." He squeezed her shoulder lightly, in awkward apology for his bluntness, and walked off to meet the returning Gibbs.
Tony watched him go. He'd tried not to listen… he really had… and when Tim got to the part about one of the best men she was likely to meet he'd felt embarrassed and guilty beyond words and forced himself away. He shook his head slightly. One of the best men… hell, so are you, McGee, so are you…
Tony straightened up his slumped shoulders, and walked towards Ziva, who stood alone, still as a statue. "Hey… you OK?"
She looked up at him, and in the fading light he wasn't sure if her eyes were a little too bright. "I am fine," she said. "I am sorry I did not take you seriously, Tony. It seemed crazy, and I was impatient… I should have realised that you would not say a crazy thing at a serious time. I want you to know, that I was on my way to tell Gibbs. I hesitated… but I did believe you."
Gibbs and Tim arrived, with a "Nice work, DiNozzo" from the Boss, before Tony could reply, which was as well, since he couldn't think of anything to say. He almost wanted to hug her – hell, he really wanted to hug Tim, his friend, although he didn't want to get talked about, but neither words nor actions right now could adequately express how he felt. But maybe, he was down from the mountain.
In the end he managed, "I'm glad you're OK. I'm glad he didn't get you. I'm glad he didn't get any of you. I'm glad the team's safe," he added with an intense look of gratitude in Tim's direction. "Well," he added ruefully, observing Gibbs' raised eyebrows, "all the way here I was thinking I might find you all blown to atoms."
Gibbs read the depth of emotion there, and said, "Aw, hell, DiNozzo, you're not going to demand a group hug, are you?"
"Great idea, Boss! No…" as they all looked at him in horror. "No, I was thinking, more, pizza."
AN: Hope that sorted it for you, Snoop…