"Report suspicious people." Anthony DiNozzo chuckled softly. "You remember those signs, Ziva? No, of course you don't. Wait, don't they have them plastered all over Israel?"
Ziva David scoffed. "We lived at a heightened state of alert. Sometimes, it was not perfect, but if you knew how many incidents had been prevented, you might never sleep again."
Tony flashed her a cheesy smile. "Aren't you glad you work for NCIS now? It's got to be so much less stressful."
Ziva was glad, but she wasn't about to throw Tony a bone. "The stress level is debatable."
Tony opened his mouth, but then closed it again as he turned a corner and held up a hand. He pointed ahead. Ziva sidled closer behind him, looking around.
They had been searching the town of Landmark, Virginia fruitlessly for the past several hours, looking for their main suspect in the death of two Marines. All records indicated that Dmitri Petrov – also a leader in the DC area's Russian Mafia – had fled back to his hometown. The only lead in town, however, had brought them to a bank building that had closed several months back. Ziva and Tony had searched the building thoroughly with no success, but it looked like their re-sweep of the first floor might have been a good idea.
"I thought I saw somebody," Tony whispered, then stepped out into the open, swinging his weapon out in front of him. "NCIS!"
Nobody answered the call, but there was a note dangling from a painting near one of the four glass walls, probably the same type Petrov was famous for leaving those who pursued him in DC. They were all written in Russian, with an English translation below. Ziva had always wondered why he bothered to repeat himself, but she had never entirely understood those who insisted on taunting law enforcement, daring to be caught. It only made it worse on them when they were apprehended – and, eventually, all of them were.
Ziva scanned the room again before joining Tony, not putting her weapon away just yet. "What's this one say?"
"'Tick-tock,'" Tony read. "That's all."
Ziva was not going to be the least bit gentle with Petrov when they caught him. The infuriating notes, the evidence he left that rarely panned out...he was good. But Ziva knew that NCIS was better. They'd find him. "What, does he want us to search that antique clock shop across the street next?"
"Clocks," Tony mused. "Time...countdowns..."
"Bombs," Ziva added, hoping she was wrong.
Tony didn't say anything, but his expression told Ziva she wasn't alone in her thought. He edged over to a corner behind a dusty desk, and tugged gently at a pile of furniture blankets. "Shit. Why can't we ever be wrong?"
Ziva only had time to peek before Tony grabbed her arm and started to run. There was indeed a bomb, and it had seconds left on the countdown. They had just cleared the main door – fortunately, unlocked, since it was the same one they'd had to pick the lock of to get in – when Tony pulled Ziva's arm, pushing her out in front of him, and tackled her, covering her with his body, just in time for the world to explode around them. Glass rained down upon them, a stray shard cutting Ziva's arm, and she felt the heat. Ziva never thought she'd be thankful for anything about a bomb, but she was glad that Petrov hadn't used a larger one. They'd never have been able to clear the blast radius in time.
Ziva waited until the glass had stopped falling before trying to move. "Tony? Are you all right?" She was torn between thanking him and lighting into him for putting himself at further risk for her. She supposed she could always do both. "Tony?"
When he again didn't respond, Ziva wriggled free of Tony's weight on top of her, and quickly assessed him. She didn't see any obvious injuries to his back, so she gently rolled him over, and gasped. He was unconscious, obviously struggling to breathe – likely due to the two larger pieces of glass that had lodged in the side of his neck. There was remarkably little blood, and Ziva knew better than to pull the glass out. She fumbled for her cell phone, quickly dialing 911, and hoping the small town's emergency services wouldn't take too long.