“McGee, I may have to kill you.” Ziva walked into the bullpen favoring her left leg.
“Why? What did I do?” There was only so much McGee could do before 0900.
“Thanks to all the desserts you’ve been bringing in, I’ve been running an extra mile every morning before work. I got a Charles-horse right in the middle of the coffee shop.”
“Charlie-horse,” Tony corrected, not even looking up from his Sports Illustrated. “And don’t complain or McBakey will start holding out on us again.”
“Fine. But if our next suspect runs, don’t expect me to help you with the chase.”
McGee had been taking instructions from David in baking some basic goods for the team. Tony went so far as to hug McGee after a delivery of fresh blueberry muffins. McGee gave David proper credit when asked who taught him, but only Ziva knew the true nature of their relationship.
“David’s coming again tonight. Any requests?” McGee tried to mask the excitement in his voice. It had been 2 months since David’s first visit, and their workload had eased up enough that he could spend a few days in DC. He had also located an old school friend interning on the Hill, so he could be kept busy while McGee worked.
Tony took his legs down off his desk and in a very desperate voice said, “Probie, I will be extra super special nice to you today if the Muffin Man is nice to me tomorrow.”
“It would be nice, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said, sweeping into the room, “if you got some work done. Got a double hit. Chief Petty Officer found dead in a burned out car, wife murdered at home, both last night. McGee, Ziver, you take the house. DiNozzo, with me at the crash site.”
McGee managed to grab the keys to the fleet sedan just before Ziva could, which meant they’d get to their crime scene in one piece. She grumpily accepted shotgun, and they drove to the scene.
“So, big plans for tonight?” Ziva asked in a sensual tone.
“Not doing this,” McGee said, but his flushing face answered the question. “It’s none of your business.”
“Of course it’s my business! I’ve been keeping your secret, so I get to be kept up on the ‘undercover’ work.”
He rolled his eyes, trying to think of anything that would get his face back to its normal hue. “You make innuendos but you can’t even get the name of a muscle cramp right?”
“I work with Tony, remember?”
“Fair enough. Alright, yes, it’s kinda a big night. We’ve been talking about it for a few weeks, and tonight we’ll… you know...”
“Well I’m happy for you. It’s about time.”
“Hey, what does that mean?”
“Oh come on, the last time you had anyone on your arm was when we infiltrated that celebrity club with Abby and Agent Lee.”
Tim had forgotten how long it had been since he had last had sex. He was somewhat nervous about it, but he gradually became more and more comfortable talking about it with David after their first meeting. David would be teaching him a few things, but nothing Tim wasn’t ready for. He was decidedly not going to give Ziva that much detail, though.
Gibbs and Tony arrived at the scene, but one side of the road was closed off for evidence for a half mile on each side of the car. They had to maneuver around the shoulder of the opposite side of the road to allow the coroner’s van through. As they crossed under the crime scene tape, a LEO directed them to the officer that found the scene.
“What are we looking at?" Gibbs squinted towards the charred remains on the side of the road.
“Patrol found it this morning,” the sergeant looked quite ready to go home, but at least tried to remember everything vividly. “This area’s pretty scarce, mostly fields and not a whole lot of traffic, so a lot of people like to rev up their cars and blast through here. We patrol it maybe a couple of times a night, so we’re figuring it happened sometime between 3 and 7 AM.”
“Is that all?” Gibbs gave his patented ‘Ya think?’ tone.
“Had to close most of the road. Found some skid marks a ways back on the road, and found a couple of bullet casings but they had already been run over. Hopefully no other evidence got contaminated. Called you guys as soon as we ran the plate. We sent officers to notify next-of-kin, and apparently they found his wife dead too. It’s been a long morning.”
He walked them closer to the car, which had been about 100 feet from the road. Much of the outside appeared crumpled up in one way or another, though parts appeared to have blown outward instead of inward. The engine block, the interior, and the accompanying dead body in the driver’s seat all looked like they had been thoroughly immolated. Jimmy and Ducky were already at the site, trying to remove the body with as little damage as possible.
As they approached, Tony recognized the car, and failed to stifle a heartbroken moan.
“Something you want to share, DiNozzo?”
“This car, it’s a Shelby GT500. Probably not even 2 years old, just a baby. Wonder how he afforded one on a Chief Petty Officer’s salary.” Tony snapped a few shots, accepting the fate of the poor vehicle.
“I’ll have McGeek run their financials when they’re done at the house. But, damn.”
“Chief Petty Officer Warren Bronston. What do we have, Duck?”
“Well Jethro, given the burning of the body, I can’t give you exact time of death.” Ducky moved closer to the body to demonstrate, “However, I can tell you that the most likely cause of death was a broken neck, which is consistent to what the sergeant told me about the scene.”
The officer continued, “The car appears to have hit that tree over there at a very high speed, then spun over here and burned. We’re not sure if the crash caused the fire or vice versa, but there’s engine debris near the tree.”
“DiNozzo,” Gibbs nodded toward the tree, issuing a silent command.
“On it, boss.”
Ducky chimed in, “I’m not sure. The damage to the skin and this angle isn’t conducive to revealing that kind of wound. I’ll need to get him to autopsy to further examine him. The proverbial bright side, if there is one in these situations, is that with his neck broken he was most likely not alive to feel the flames.”
McGee entered the house to take pictures while Ziva took witness statements. The forced entry was obvious, but he methodically searched and documented the rest of the downstairs. The desk in the study had been ransacked, and there was a laptop power adapter missing its owner, so McGee’s first thought had been armed robbery gone wrong. The TV in the living room, however, was fairly new, mid-to-high end, and still there.
Moving upstairs, he documented the body in the hallway. Single shot through the back, brass unpoliced on the carpet, bullet lodged in the wall behind the victim. He noticed that one of the arms was at an odd angle, like it had been moved after she fell. He photographed it meticulously as Ziva came up the stairs.
“Witness across the street says he heard a loud noise around 4 AM, looked out the window and saw a car starting and pulling away. All he could tell me about it was that it was red and loud. He said he complained several times to the Bronstons about the Chief Petty Officer’s car, which was apparently yellow and loud, waking him up when he drove it late at night. He assumed it was one of their friends.” Ziva scanned the body. “You thinking armed robbery?”
“Not quite sure. I checked the desk downstairs, laptop’s missing but the TV’s not. Haven’t checked the bedroom yet to see if anything’s missing. Look at her arm, not really positioned for a fall, is it?”
“You’re right, maybe she held something that the killer took?”
“I didn’t see her purse downstairs, can you check out the bedroom for me?”
Ziva walked into the bedroom, immediately noticing the TV also still present in this room, along with a few jewels on the vanity. She found the purse, took pictures, and then began looking inside. “Wallet’s gone, no phone that I can see,” she called out to him. “There’s a few dollars cash but not much else. Somewhat sloppy for a robbery.” She looked over to the nightstand and saw a charger cable for a phone perched next to the lamp and alarm clock. She walked back out to the hallway. “Maybe he took her phone. I saw a charger but nothing in her purse. If she was calling the police, he would’ve wanted to stop the call.”
“LEOs said they actually called her after finding Bronston, and when she didn’t answer they came by and found the break-in. If she didn’t call the police, maybe she called him. That could give us a time of death. Let’s check the garage, see if we can’t find anything to do with the crash.”
The garage looked like a mechanic’s shop. There was a hydraulic lift, multiple toolboxes, several engine components, and a set of tires. As he took more photos, he noticed a couple of small blue canisters. When he turned them over, he saw the word NOS and the explosive warning label.
“I think we just found out what our officer was doing out so late at night.”