As Ziva made her way home, she made sure to stop off at a convenience store to pick up some more cough drops, tissues, and cough syrup to sleep. She was not happy at all that she was ordered to stand down by Gibbs. Despite feeling under the weather, she believed strongly that she could perform her usual tasks. In the end as she struggled with the situation in her mind, she knew that the quicker she got rest, the sooner she could return to work.
Dropping her bag and coat inside her door rather unceremoniously, she took her purchases and shuffled her way into the kitchen to heat up a kettle of water for tea before ripping open some of the medicine packages and reading their instructions. The clerk recommended something called TheraFluwhich she might prefer as a tea drinker but that the taste may not be all that great. Ziva did not care. She just wanted to kick the cold quickly but when she explained that to the man, he gave her a funny look as he insisted on certain products advertising flu relief.
With a sigh, she took her mug of TheraFlu tea and set it down on the end table in her living room before collecting her laptop from her bedroom. Settling down on her couch, curling up underneath the large blanket, she pulled up the Skype program to wait for Steve to come online and accessed the files she saved regarding the case that she begun to look into that Gibbs didn’t know about.
The Fantasia Motel was as seedy as it sounded. Even the cockroaches had roach problems. It was more of a brothel than an establishment where one would choose to stay for any length of time. And yet, the deceased Petty Officer looked as if he was planning to stay there a while.
As Tony sketched the crime scene and McGee took reams of photo’s, Doctor Mallard did what he does best and examined the body. “I’m sorry poor boy. Death by suffocation is such a horrific way to pass on. I only hope that you passed out from the lack of oxygen quickly. To prolong a death like this is inhumane.”
“So he was murdered? It wasn’t a suicide, Duck?” Gibbs asked as he watched his close friend examine the body closely. The Naval Petty Officer had been suffocated by a clear plastic bag which was initially held and then taped around his neck.
“Oh yes, I’d have to perform an autopsy to confirm it but the poor man struggled to get this bag off him,” Ducky explained. “Note the defensive wounds on his hands and fingers. And I know what you’re going to ask, Jethro. And you’re right, he wasn’t killed on the bed, but rather he was positioned here post mortem. Note that his clothing isn’t dishevelled. The killer likely tidied the Petty Officer up when he stopped struggling.”
“Time of death?” Gibbs asked simply as he picked up the sailors wallet with a gloved hand.
“I estimate that he died around seven to eight hours ago. I should be able to narrow the window once I get him back to autopsy,” Ducky replied with a somber smile. “What with the temperature in here and the windows being left open, I hesitate to guess a closer estimation.”
“Whenever you’re ready Duck,” Gibbs nodded as he checked the sailors ID. “McGee, I’ll need everything we have on Petty Officer 1st class Jeffery Pekelo.”
McGee nodded as he took the victim’s identification card and ran it through his handheld device and waited. “You know, it looks a lot like it was set up in here to make it appear like a suicide.”
Tony had walked back in from making a quick sketch of the bathroom with the man’s toiletry bag in hand. “This guy would be right up McGee’s alley. He also uses FemmeGlowlotion.”
The younger agent rolled his eyes as he read on Pekelo’s details. “His current assignment is on the USS Ranger, working as an engineer. He’s on a week-long liberty so UA doesn’t apply.”
“He’s on liberty and he chooses to come here?” Tony asked with a frown. “That doesn’t add up.”
“Two back to back tours out at sea. I hate to say this but he might want to look for some female – or otherwise – company,” Tim said as he picked up his camera to take pictures again.
Ducky only sighed at the exchange as he looked up at Gibbs who merely continued to stare at the body as if waiting for it to produce something to point to the guilty party for them.
“I’ve brought the gurney, Doctor Mallard,” Jimmy said dutifully as he entered the room.
“Wonderful my boy. Let’s get him rolled onto the bag so we can move him. Uh – Anthony? Would you mind giving Mr. Palmer a hand for me with that? I am afraid I pulled a muscle getting out of bed yesterday and it is still quite uncomfortable for lifting heavy things,” Ducky said with a light laugh.
“Sure thing Ducky, can’t have you hurting yourself further,” Tony smiled as he tucked his sketching pad back into his kit-bag.
“I’ll go and speak to the manager, see if I can’t get some information out of him,” Tim said as he too replaced his equipment.
“You do that McGee,” Gibbs said as Jimmy and Tony hoisted the body onto the bag to reveal a very crushed and flattened flower beneath the corpse.
“Hello… what do we have here?” Ducky exclaimed as he and Gibbs took a closer look. “It’s not a flower I’m familiar with. How about you Jethro?”
Gibbs eyed the flower for a moment, “I’ve been divorced three times Duck. Just ask any of my ex-wives. Flowers weren’t my thing.”
“Well it’s certainly more exotic than your average bunch of flowers however simple as it appears,” Ducky replied. “Abigail should be able to determine its species and place of origin. Well, Mr. Palmer and I have an appointment in autopsy with our friend here. I’ll let you know when I find something. Come along Mr. Palmer.”
“Yes Sir,” Jimmy said as he wheeled their new friend out of the dingy room.
“So what do you think Boss? The victim hired himself a little late night fun and bit off more than he could chew?” Tony asked as Gibbs placed the flower in an evidence jar.
“I don’t know DiNozzo, why don’t you do something useful so we can figure it out?” Gibbs glared.
“I’ll uh, I’ll see how McGee’s doing, maybe canvas the other rooms for people with information,” DiNozzo said, making a quick exit.
Smirking subtly, Gibbs looked around the room once again. His gut was telling him that something was different about this case. While the two were out talking to everyone, he went about turning the room over, looking for every bit of evidence that he could possibly find.
“I guess Ducky wouldn’t like me paying him a visit in autopsy while he’s working,” Steve stated as Abby changed her CD to one of her work mixes.
“He doesn’t mind visitors usually,” she replied hitting play before moving to pull a slice of pizza out of the box and made her way back to him. “Do you want me to bring you over to autopsy? I can say that he’ll be talking to the body more than he’ll talk to you until he’s finished.”
“So he really does talk to bodies?” Steve asked, “I’ll see him later. If it helps him work, he should focus his attention on the body. How long do you think Gibbs and the others will be?”
Standing over the box with the victim’s clothing, Abby had a slice of veggie pizza in her hand as she eyed everything while she chewed thoughtfully as Steve sat watching from the table in the corner where she banned him to while he worked on his lunch. “Could be a half hour. Could be another two hours,” she said setting the pizza down on the paper plate and went to open the first evidence bag with the guy’s pants in it. Immediately she noticed a very light powder along the pocket opening. “Hello. What do we have here?” she murmured as she went and got a cotton swab.
Steve watched Abby intently. She was an artist, that was for sure. The girl could multi-task too. He had half a mind to offer her a job with Five-0 but he knew she’d never leave Gibbs. He was like a father to her and she loved him as one. Plus he didn’t think the budget would stretch as far as equipping a new lab just for her andkeeping her addiction to caf-pow in order. He watched as she downed the second cup he’d seen her with, and she’d only finished the first only 30 minutes beforehand.
She dropped the testing vial into the mass spec and hummed when she turned back to the rest of the clothes. She pulled Steve in with general conversation as they killed time for the team to return. Just as the mass spec alerted its finished analysis, she turned back to the computer to pull up the results, studying the levels of different compounds it indicated. “That’s weird.”
“I thought you were good with weird,” Steve grinned as he joined her by the monitors.
“I like good weird. This is just weird weird. There is significant levels of pollen mixed with a very subtle amount of cocaine and the weird – talcum powder. I hope its just a cross contamination of wherever the guy’s hands have been. Otherwise if he was dealing drugs, he’s an idiot for cutting it with talcum powder,” she explained. “And I don’t recognise this pollen. I’ll have to run more tests on it.”
“What have you got for me Abs?” Gibbs asked as he strolled into the room, clutching a cup of coffee in one hand and a fresh caf-pow in the other. He paused as soon as he saw her company. “McGarrett? Didn’t think you’d be here til the weekend.”
“It’s good to see you too Agent Gibbs. I finished a pretty rough case and decided to come a couple of days early,” Steve explained with a smirk. “I take it you’re all back?”
“No, DiNozzo and McGee are canvassing the scene still,” Gibbs replied.
“And Ziva?” Steve’s smile was full of hope.
Gibbs looked from the man to Abby and back. “I sent her home when we got the call. If I knew you were going to be here today, I would have had her wait here for you then you could have dragged her out yourself,” he said.
“Sent her home?” Steve frowned, “Is she hurt? Or sick?”
“Uh – if you go to her place now, you may want to take a trip past autopsy to get some masks to wear. Looks like the DC weather finally caught up with her,” he warned with a smile.
“Thanks, but I think I’ll be okay,” he smiled, feeling even more anxious to see her.
“Talk to me Abs,” Gibbs nodded, returning his attention to the case.
Abby smiled at him as she finished a hearty sip of her fresh Caf-Pow. “Okay, so I don’t have much – yet. You’re early. But what I can tell you is that I found traces of some weird pollen, cocaine and talcum powder on his pants pockets.”
“Could be a cross-contaminent, either that or our Petty Officer doesn’t know how to cut his drugs,” Gibbs replied.
“Exactly what I said. But I also need to identify what kind of flower that the pollen came from. It’s not common around here that I ever saw,” she said.
“I guess I am early, if you haven’t come across it yet,” Gibbs explained. “We found an exotic looking flower underneath the body- crushed, but Ducky believes it might be a vital clue.”
“It’s probably the same flower then. Where is it?” Abby demanded with wide eyes.
Digging through the evidence collected from the scene, Gibbs retrieved the flower and held it against the light shining through the basement windows. “Do what you can to identify it.”
“There’s no need,” Steve frowned as he stepped closer to take a proper look. “I know that flower anywhere. Before she died, my mother used to make leis out of them because they grow wild around the house.”
The two looked at him curiously. When the man didn’t continue, Gibbs waved his hand at him. “Anytime you’re ready to share with us…” he said, sparing the man no sarcasm that he didn’t dish out to his own people.
“Sorry,” he sighed, the memory of his mother fading. “They’re known as Puakenikeni. Or the ten-cent flower. They’re native to the pacific islands. More common in the Hawaiian islands than others.”
Gibbs sighed as he eyed the evidence spread across the table. “Our victim is a native of Hawaii too,” he said. “Let me know when you know more Abs. I’ll be in with Vance,” he added as he walked out.
“Looks like we might be working together again,” Abby smiled. “But first – you might want to go check on Ziva, especially if she does have the flu. I doubt she knows what to do with herself at home.
“Yeah, I’ll do that,” he replied, “Do you know of a decent flower shop nearby?”
“Yeah. There is one around the corner from her apartment. Stick with daffodils and stargazers. She’s not big into roses, although she did love the bouquet you sent her earlier this week,” she replied.
“I’ll see myself out,” he smiled. “Thanks Abby.”
“Tell her to get better! I know it sucks being sick. And that I’ll bring her soup tomorrow. My grandmother’s recipe. Always made me feel better! Oh! And if she doesn’t answer, she keeps a key taped behind her mail box.”
“Will do,” he waved making his way toward the elevator.
After leaving NCIS Headquarters and making a quick stop at the flower shop that Abby recommended, Steve stood outside the door to Ziva’s apartment with a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a box of her favourite Hawaiian chocolates in the other. Deciding against disturbing her, he had retrieved the key from her mailbox as Abby suggested and unlocked the door.
“Hello?” he announced as he entered, not wanting to surprise her and get a bullet to the chest for it. When there was no reply, he walked further into the apartment. She was definitely home because her belongings where deposited along the hallway. He found her laid out on her couch, her cute little snores rumbling from her chest and throat every so often. Placing the chocolates and flowers on the coffee table in front of her, he closed her laptop and pressed his hand to her forehead. She wasn’t burning up, but her temperature was above normal.
Ziva mumbled something in her sleep and batted a tired hand away at her face where she could feel a disturbance in the air around her. Opening her eyes after a few attempts, surprised at her hand actually catching on something she blinked a few times to see if she what she saw was real or remnants of a wish. “Steve?”
“Hey baby,” he smiled softly, sliding his hand from her forehead to cup her cheek. “Surprise.”
“You’re early. Why didn’t you call?” she asked as she tried to sit up but had sunk into her sofa quite deeply and somehow found half of her body tucked between the back of the furniture and the cushions – likely for the extra warmth.
“Easy, easy,” he said. She really was sick. “I decided to surprise you. Thought it would go a ways to make up for missing my last two visits here.”
“It is definitely a surprise. I’m glad that you came but I’m sorry that I’m not in the condition to take you out around like you had for me,” she said, looking around for her tea that had long since grown cold and tasted horribly.
“Don’t be silly,” he replied. “You can show me around some other time. You should concentrate on getting better. Why don’t I go make you some tea while you enjoy the chocolates and the flowers that I brought you.”
Her face softened as she smiled up at him. “You brought me flowers?” she asked. “You are so sweet. Tea would sound great too.” She stretched her arms and back before standing to follow him into the kitchen. “I haven’t done any food shopping lately so I don’t have much around here for you. There are plenty of menus in the drawer though for take out and delivery.”
“Okay,” he smiled as he switched her kettle on. “What are you in the mood for? I can go pick up some groceries for you tomorrow.”
Ziva’s face scrunched up at the thought of food. “You get whatever you want. I really am not up to eating right now, or any time soon. When I start coughing, it can take awhile before I stop or throw up.”
“Well I can wait, Abby treat me to some pizza earlier. She told me to tell you that she’d be by with some soup tomorrow if you’re not back at work,” he explained as he prepared her tea.
“Yes. Gibbs ordered me not to show up there tomorrow. Which is difficult because the team just got assigned a case when he sent me home this morning. Soup sounds good though. Nice and warm on my throat. It feels so raw,” she frowned. “I don’t think you would want to share my bed with me. I’ll only end up making you sick as well.”
“If you’re sure, I guess I could take the couch,” he said, a little disappointed
She shook her head. “There is the guest room. At least only until I won’t cough my germs into your face while we sleep…” she said before another coughing fit began, but was light compared to some that she experienced earlier in the morning that ended with a slight wheeze.
“Okay, bed you,” Steve ordered, “I’ll bring your tea through to you. Is there anything I can get you?”
“A new body?” she asked with a smile as she grabbed a new box of tissues from the cabinet. “And my computer. I must have fell asleep while I was working on it.”
“Sure,” he smiled as the kettle came to boil, “And no new body for you. I love the one you have already.”
“It is giving up on me,” Ziva pouted as she kissed his cheek before shuffling her way out of the kitchen and to her bedroom where she promptly curled up on the edge of the bed still in her robe and slippers. “Maybe you can stay in here with me – at your own risk of course,” she called out before her voice broke into a cough.
After a few moments of silence, he came through with a fresh cup of real tea and her laptop. “I would have snuck into bed with you after you went to sleep anyways,” he admitted as he pulled back her covers for her. “I don’t care if you have the flu, so long as I get to sleep next to you.”
“Thank you,” she sighed as she sipped the hot liquid with a sigh. “Where are your clothes? Did you rent a vehicle?”
“Yeah, my luggage is in the trunk. It’s parked out front. I’ll go get it soon,” he replied as he slipped his hand into hers.
“You can get it now if you wish so that you can come keep me warm sooner,” she responded, looking at him with glassy eyes from her own haze.
“You should rest,” he smiled, squeezing her hand before proceeding to remove his boots and his jeans. “I’ll get it later, there’s no rush. With that, he slipped into bed beside her and spooned with her, hoping that his body heat would help her kill off the virus that was making her unwell.
“Hmm, much better than the couch,” she chuckled as lightly as she dared to avoid another cough, settling against him with a content sigh.