DISCLAIMER: I don't own these wonderful characters. They're owned by Dick Wolf, CBS and scads of other people, who might also include the Navy. Regardless, they definitely aren't owned by me. I'm only borrowing them - no copyright infringement is occurring, no money is being made, no profit is to be had anywhere.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Del Robertson
Something was wrong. She could feel it in her bones.
She'd felt it on the ride down in the elevator. It had started with a tingling sensation washing over her body. Then, the short hairs at the back of her neck had risen. And, the hairs on both arms stood on end.
By the time the car slid to a halt and the doors opened, she had one hand firmly resting on the butt of her gun. Holding the elevator door open with her other hand, she craned her neck, poking her head outside the door, looking left and right. Taking a deep breath, she stepped out into the corridor.
Calm down, Ziva. You're in one of the most secure buildings in this country. There is nothing to be worried about here. As she took another step, that tiny voice in her head that was supposed to be trying to reassure her came back with, Then, why are all the lights out down here, if there is nothing to worry about?
Her rational side had tried to dismiss the lack of lighting as nothing more than a side-effect of the blizzard raging outside the building. If that had been the case, though, the elevator car she'd been riding in would have come to a complete halt when the power went out. Then, it would have started up again as soon as the reserve generators had engaged. Regardless, she would have known of the occurrence. And, the emergency lighting in the rest of the building would have automatically come on. Instead, the entire floor she had stepped out onto was awash in complete darkness.
Save for the myriad of red and green twinkling lights at the end of the long corridor. That in itself gave her further pause. Until she recalled McGee explaining to her that after all the lights used on the fourteen-foot tree in the main lobby had caused the electrical boxes to overload last year, they'd taken to purchasing battery-operated Christmas lights for the individual offices.
Still, she hadn't expected to see what passed for typical American-fare Christmas decorating in this part of the building. She reached for her flashlight, laying it across the barrel of her gun as she inched forward down the hallway. Just as she was about to turn it on, she heard a man's deep laughter resonating throughout the corridor. Immediately, she froze, her finger locked upon the 'on' switch of the flashlight. Eyes darted about as she swore she heard the distant sound of -- perhaps jangling keys.
The janitorial staff was given this evening off. Not wanting to further give away her position to whoever may be watching, Ziva replaced her flashlight, preferring to remain hidden in the darkness. After all, if I can not see them, perhaps they too can not see me.
Thinking of Tony's references to the movie he'd been telling her about during the party, some horror film titled Christmas Slasher 3, she reached for her cell phone with the intention of calling the team for backup. Winter storm and power outages aside, her phone was government issue and would work anywhere under virtually any conditions. If I had it with me. She exhaled softly, issuing forth a complex curse in her native tongue as she realized she left it in her desk drawer after Gibbs insisted they were all off-duty and any business would have to wait until after the holidays.
This is what I get for trying to fit in with the rest of my coworkers.
It had been the Director's idea to throw the annual Christmas party after hours at the office instead of at the restaurant/hotel as per the usual arrangements. She said given the weather and the lateness of their shifts, it might ensure a better attendance rate. She had made a point of looking at Ziva as she'd said it.
And, her suspicions had been confirmed later when Gibbs pulled her to the side and informed her that she would be expected to attend. Somehow, she had found herself cornered by Tony and McGee and Ducky's assistant. The discussion had centered around the best gifts Santa had ever given them. Tony's had been a home-theatre set that he could watch all his favorite movies on. McGee's had been a collection of Hardy Boys' books. She had stayed quiet, hoping in their over-indulgence of eggnog, they would overlook her lack of participation in the conversation.
With his usual suaveness, Tony had called her out, asking what Santa had given her as a little girl - your very first explosives kit, maybe a super-spy decoder ring, perhaps martial arts lessons? She should have known it would only lead to more aggravation from the American when she informed him that she did not believe in Santa Claus.
In his drunken superiority, DiNozzo claimed that Santa did exist, you just had to know what to ask for. As a kid, he claimed, it was easy. Model planes. Toy cars. That sort of thing. As an adult, though, you had to ask for more adult toys. McGee jumped in at this point, citing that if he were to ask Santa for something this year, it would be a new computer system. Ducky's assistant said all he would wish for was nice decorations. His fondest holiday memories were of decorating the house and the tree with his parents, stringing up sets of lights after lights. Now that they were gone, that was what he missed most; enjoying the twinkling of the Christmas lights. In typical DiNozzo fashion, Tony had mouthed off about how he would wish for a gorgeous babe to share the holiday with. Someone he'd be willing to put the X back in Xmas with.
Ziva had been instantly offended by his sexist attitude, asking why if he believed in such an entity as Santa Claus, would he waste his wish on something as trivial as sex?
"Oh, I guess in your infinite wisdom - " Tony hurled back " - IF you believed in Santa, that is, you'd wish for something more substantial?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I would."
"Really?" Tony had folded both arms over his chest at this point, looking at her with a disbelieving smirk. "And, what would that be? What would you wish for? World peace?"
Ziva was being baited. She knew it. "Nothing so lofty, Tony." How best to get out of this situation without completely offending McGee -- Tony, she didn't care about. But, she genuinely liked McGee and didn't want to upset his heritage too much. "If I were to believe in Santa," she looked at each of the men in turn, gauging their reactions as she answered, "I would have to ask him for a gorgeous woman, holiday decorations and a computer system." McGee and his friend seemed genuinely pleased by her truly diplomatic response. She couldn't help turning to Tony and adding, "I would not ask for anything as presumptuous as world peace, but I think one silent night would not be too much to ask for, would it?"
That had been the point in the party in which Gibbs and the Director had approached the trio, asking where Abby was. The young man with the glasses had spoken up, citing that he thought Abby was probably still down in her lab working on some analysis Ducky had asked her for. The Director had leveled that glare at Gibbs, the one that demanded without words to know If I ordered a mandatory party, why isn't everyone in attendance? And, I do mean everyone.
Sensing her chance to possibly slip away for a while, Ziva instantly volunteered to go down to the lab and retrieve their companion. Fortunately for her, most of the party-goers had imbibed a little too excessively by that point and hadn't realized they could just call down to the lab rather than sending someone in person. She had successfully volunteered and was across the room and in the elevator before anyone could protest.
Something akin to a scritching sound refocused Ziva's attention. She didn't think they had a rodent problem, but what else could that sound have been? She heard it again. Definite scritching noises. Like the sound of tiny toenails. She cocked her head, trying to discern what direction the noises were coming from. Sweat began to form along the line of her brow as she remained immobile in the corridor, the only sound to be heard now, the pounding of her own heart richocheting in her ears.
Images of Tony's low-budget movie flashed through her mind again. He'd insisted on telling her in vivid, gory detail about each death as Sandy, the demented monster of the film had gone on a killing spree after he'd been turned down as a cheerleader for the local college squad because he was a man. Based on that, according to Tony, Sandy justifiably went insane, dressing as a female cheerleader and stalking his intended victims. In typical slasher-fashion, he caught each one unawares and alone. With nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, each one was hacked with a knife, then left with their bloody pom-poms tied about their necks. By Tony's explanation, it was the perfect means of exacting his brutal revenge on all the so-called 'real' cheerleaders that had crushed his dream.
The silence was interrupted by the same jingling sound. This time, coming from one of the rooms at the end of the hall. Finger indexing her gun, keeping her gaze firmly locked on the far end of the corridor, Ziva crept down the hall on stealthy feet.
The only good thing about this situation is that I'm not one of Tony's blonde, big buxomed, yet academically-challenged cheerleaders. Therefore, by all the premises he puts forward about American horror films, I should be perfectly safe from harm.
Following the edge of the wall, she made her way on quiet feet to the frame surrounding the large plexi-glass door. Bracing her back against the wall, she took several deep breaths, gathering her resolve. Once she pushed off from the wall, she would be vulnerable, visible to anyone on the other side of the door. The muted glow of intermittently twinkling lights through the plexi-glass cast the hallways into a myriad of festive shadows.
The sound of laughter . . . she looked up at the ceiling tile above her head as it seemingly came from above . . . sent a cold shiver down her spine. She briefly considered discharging her weapon into the ceiling. Could there be someone in the air-ducts? From the other side of the door, she could hear muffled cries. Steeling herself, taking a deep breath, she stepped out into the open and charged through the door.
Throwing herself in a tuck-and-roll, she came up on one knee, arms locked in front of her, eyes and gun moving in tandem to sweep the room. Spotting Abby - and no one else - she rose to her feet.
The lab technician was seated in her chair. Rather, tied in her chair, arms at her sides, with thick strands of lighted garland used to restrain her. As an added measure, the garland had been tied about both wrists and down between her legs to her ankles. Recognizing the style, Ziva noted that the ropes were tied to be comfortable, yet effective. Whoever wanted to immobilize Abby did not do so with malicious intent. The white garland stood out against the black of Abby's outfit, the green and red lights twinkling insistently, giving off a demented strobe-effect. Despite the red cloth tied about Abby's mouth, Ziva was certain she could understand every muffled word that was forced out through the gag. In addition, a quarter-length sheet of printer paper had been pinned to the front of Abby's blouse.
Maintaining a wary eye upon her surroundings, the agent made her way across the room to where her coworker was bound and gagged. Kneeling down, she began to swiftly work on the knotted garland at Abby's feet. As the insistent mumblings escalated, she abandoned her task, reaching up to yank down Abby's gag.
"Gee, just take your time there, Ziva!"
Holding up her fingers in a signal for Abby to keep her voice lowered, she asked in hushed tones, "Where is he?"
"Long gone, by now." Judging from the plastic cups lining her workstation, Ziva guessed Abby was buzzing on a caffeine-high and there was no way the tech could keep her growing excitement levels down. Or her voice. "It was unbelievable. I mean, I have this place wired with cameras for image and sound and everything. I mean, a spider could sneeze in here and I'd know about it." Judging from Abby's reaction that the immediate danger had passed, Ziva holstered her weapon. "But, you know, I never knew he was even here. One minute, I was working away, rocking out to some serious tunes while I was processing some stuff on that guy Ducky's been working on. And then, the next, he was standing here. In the flesh. I couldn't believe it. But, there's no other explanation. I mean, who else could have gotten past my security system undetected?"
"Who is he?" Ziva asked. "What did he look like? Can you describe him?"
"Santa." At the agent's disbelieving look, she reiterated, "Santa. Claus. Big man, wears a red suit, carries a bag of goodies, goes Ho-Ho-Ho."
"I am familiar with the premise." Ziva folded both arms over her chest, eyeing the woman before her skeptically. "You expect me to believe that a fictional character from a children's poem broke into a high-security, top-secret military installation and came into your lab with the sole intention of tying you up with garland?"
"Exactly." Abby's emphatic bobbing of her head caused the pig-tails in her hair to bounce up and down.
"To what end?"
"I don't know. But, I'm sure there's a perfectly logical explanation for it. Maybe he's an extra-terrestrial. Or, he's worried about the results of the tests I'm running. Maybe he's - "
Abby's voice was reduced to incomprehensible grumblings once again as Ziva deftly replaced the gag over her mouth. She loved Abby. Truly, she did. But, there were times when a caffeine-loaded American Goth girl was just too much for even her to handle. Sitting back on her heels, smirking at her own resourcefulness, she studied her captive, the twinkling of holiday lights reflecting in the eyes of her noticeably irritated glare.
One again spying the note pinned to Abby's blouse, Ziva reached out, deftly plucking it up. Holding it close, she was just able to make out by the glow of the Christmas lights the words that were hand-scrawled across the page. As she read, a disbelieving frown spread over her face. Followed by a raising of surprised eyebrows. To be concluded with a broad smile.
Standing up, leaning in, Ziva placed a sound kiss on the gag covering Abby's mouth. Even through the gag, Abby's squawk of surprise was clearly audible. At Abby's clearly startled expression, Ziva gave by way of explanation, "Merry Christmas, Abby" before smoothly reaching out and slicing through the garland about Abby's wrists with her knife.
Immediately, Abby worked at freeing her hands from where they were tied about her chair. Obtaining the slightest bit of freedom, she tried to reach up, only to find her arms were still securely tied enough that her fingers couldn't quite reach the gag in her mouth.
"Ziva! Ziva! Wait!" She shouted through her gag, her entire body moving with her actions, causing her chair to uncontrollably swivel around. "Ziva!" Using the toes of her boots, she worked to move her chair back around until she was once again facing the door. As she saw Ziva's back retreating out the door, she realized she was too late. "Ziva! I'll get you for this! Ziva!"
Even though she knew the agent was gone, Abby's screaming, kicking, thrashing tirade continued on undaunted for several more minutes. She was envisioning all sorts of things she would do to the agent - evil, wicked things - holiday themed tortures - once she managed to work herself free from the rest of her bonds. Then, as the caffeine-adrenaline-induced surge finally began to dissipate, she collapsed with resignation. Letting out an exasperated growl, she tried to calm herself down before starting on undoing the rest of her garland-bondage.
As she caught her breath, her gaze fell upon the note Ziva had read and left behind.
Abby could almost swear she heard the jangling of sleigh bells and the deep-belly laughter of a jolly man in a red suit somewhere overhead. Sitting there, on Christmas Eve, strapped to her chair with garland amongst the red and green glow of Holiday lighting, Abby was left to ponder exactly what it took to make one of the most dangerous women in the world believe in Santa Claus.
Return to NCIS Fiction
Return to Main Page