Chapter 24 – X – A rainy Saturday in September 2026
Ziva spotted yet another black letter X on the floor; this one was in the hallway from the laundry room to the family room and kitchen. The four from earlier that morning were in the family room, playroom, and living room.
She bent to pick up the poster board weight letter from the floor. A voice from end of the hallway stopped her.
"NO, Ima; that's an evidence marker," Rivka spoke from behind her mother.
"Yeah, Ima; you're in our crime scene," LJ appeared at her side, seemingly from out of nowhere. Of all the children, LJ seemed to have inherited his Ima's Ninja sneak skills the most, according to Tony. She was inclined to agree with her husband; LJ could just appear from skinny air sometimes.
Ziva smiled at her two children, "Oh, I shall move then. Who is the lead on this case?"
"Anthony," both responded quickly.
LJ added some details, "Stolen diamonds in a basketball and four missing sailors. Since it was Anthony's idea, it's his lead. Rule 38."
Ziva nodded, "Sounds like an interesting case; have you been working on the same one all morning?"
Beth joined her siblings, "Nope. This is our third case today; my case was a missing body from autopsy, but we found the body at the city morgue. Riv's case was about stolen computer hard drives with sensitive information. We wrapped that one about an hour ago."
"And Tali and I are going to lead a case together since she's the Director now," LJ piped up. "Hey, does that mean she gets to boss Grandpa?"
Tony came around the corner from the offices and laughed at LJ's comment. "LJ, you five don't need to boss your grandfather at all. He'd do just about anything for any one of you kids, including your cousins."
"ABBA!" Riv shouted at her father. "You contaminated our crime scene," she pointed to the black X under his foot.
"Oh no; I'm sorry. You need some crime scene tape," he backed off the X and grinned at Ziva.
"Tali's trying to make some for us," LJ held up his hands. "I wish we had some real stuff though."
It was Ziva's turn to grin at her husband, "I will be right back. Hold that thought." She disappeared into the garage for several minutes. The kids looked at their father as Anthony came looking for his siblings.
Tony shrugged, "I have no idea…"
"FOUND IT!" Ziva came back inside holding up the remnants of a roll of yellow crime scene tape. "I think there are about a hundred feet on here still, judging by the size of the roll."
"WOW!" Anthony and the younger three had mouths open. "Is that real crime scene tape?"
"Yes, and if you are careful and put it back on the roll when you are done, you can reuse it many times," Ziva replied as she handed the roll to her older son.
"Thank you, Ima! We need to show this to Tali," Anthony and the others ran towards the playroom.
"I forgot we had that," Tony commented. "You made the kids' day."
"Good," she kissed him on the cheek. "It is also one less thing cluttering the garage. Let them have some fun with it; eventually it will become trash and be out of the house…"
Tony followed Ziva into the kitchen; she handed him a loaf of bread, the tub of spread, and a package of cheese slices. "You make the grilled cheese sandwiches, I will make the tomato soup," she suggested. As he nodded and put the ingredients on the counter while he heated the griddle, Ziva went into the garage to take a container of tomato soup base from the freezer.
"This really is the perfect lunch for this dreary, rainy day," she returned with the soup base and dumped it into a large microwaveable pot.
"Yeah, it is; and I have been craving your tomato soup," he grinned at her as he placed the first four sandwiches on the griddle with plenty of space between them. He claimed the extra space was his "secret ingredient" that made his sandwiches taste much better than others.
They heard Anthony talking in the family room, "DiNozzo, take the suspect to interrogation. He knows something and we're gonna find out what." The familiar clink of Asher's tags on his collar could be heard as the dog followed the boys to the playroom.
The parents met gazes and grinned at each other. Anthony sure sounded like their memories of being on the MCRT with Gibbs at the helm.
"Do you think any of them will go into law enforcement?" Ziva asked quietly. "Not that I think it is not a good thing, I just… well… I…"
Tony leaned over and kissed his wife on the cheek, "I know… I don't want to stop them from being whatever they want to be and whatever they are meant to be, but…" He sighed, "Law enforcement is, well, we KNOW what it takes from a person…"
"Sometimes too much," she leaned against her lover as he wrapped an arm around her.
"But on the good side, it brought us together, sweet cheeks. That is one thing I will NEVER regret about choosing the career path I did," he placed a gentle kiss on her head and then on her lips as she turned to face him.
"Ima, Abba, when is lunch? I'm hungry!" LJ ran into the kitchen. "Anthony is interrogating the suspect and he sent me to find out about lunch."
"Takes after another SFA I know," Ziva chuckled. She turned to her son as Tony flipped sandwiches, "Twenty minutes or so; depends on how fast Abba can make sandwiches."
"Thanks, Ima," LJ turned and ran out of the kitchen in the direction of the playroom. "TWENTY MINUTES!" he yelled as he ran.
Twenty three minutes later, each place had a bowl of soup and a plate with sandwiches. Tony was always amazed at how fast a loaf of bread disappeared with the seven of them. Each sandwich-sized loaf made a dozen sandwiches including using the heels. He and the boys usually ate two each, while Ziva and the girls had one and one half each. He took the sandwich with the heels; he actually liked his grilled cheese better with the bread heels.
The kids were chatting about wrapping up the case before lunch. The suspect, Asher, had confessed and was taken to jail. Tali and LJ were discussing their case quietly. At a break in the conversation, LJ stood up.
"Ima, Abba, we have a big case that we need some extra investigators; would you please be on my team?" the boy asked with his best puppy eyes.
"I think that would be fun," Ziva looked to Tony. "Let us clean up from lunch and then we can all investigate your last case for the day.
"Sure, why not?" Tony agreed. "Who has lunch clean-up chores today?"
LJ high-fived his big sister, "I TOLD you they would play!" He grinned at her.
Beth and Anthony cleared the table and loaded dishes in the dishwasher. Ziva put the last serving of soup in a smaller container and put it into the refrigerator. Tony cleaned the griddle; Tali, LJ and Rivka went into the playroom to plan the case.
Once the kitchen and dining room were cleaned, the four entered the playroom.
"Team DiNozzo reporting for duty, ma'am," Tony informed Tali.
"Everybody take a seat; Riv, you ready?" Tali took charge with LJ at her side. When her sister gave a thumbs' up, Tali continued, "We have a big case involving missing pets from base housing."
Rivka put images of the family pets and other animals on the laptop screen, "Missing dogs, cats, rabbits, and other pets," she pointed out.
"So our job is to figure out who is taking these pets and why; and to recover and return as many as possible to their families," Tali looked at her team. "LJ's team will start looking for clues at the homes of the pets; Riv, you check how many have been micro-chipped. Anthony and Beth, check with the local animal shelters to see if any have been turned in. Any questions?"
When no one spoke up, Tali turned to her little brother, "Let me know if you have any problems with those two." She pointed at their parents and grinned.
"Will do," he grinned back. "Okay, DiNozzo and DiNozzo, let's go investigate." He waved his arm for his parents to follow him to the entry way. "Anything and everything that might be a clue should be marked, photographed, and bagged and tagged." He handed his mother a stack of the black X cutouts and handed his father a large zip-lock bag.
Ziva spotted a clump of pet hair near the side of the front door. She dropped an X by it and pointed it out to LJ and Tony. Tony bent down to pick up the clump of hair to bag it as Ziva leaned in to mark a piece of shed claw casing from one of the cats. The two made eye contact and grinned at each other.
"This is kinda fun," he whispered. "Wish our cases had been this easy."
"Yes. Thank you for agreeing to play along." She moved closer and brushed her lips on his.
THWACK; both felt the slap on the back of the head and looked up to see their youngest glaring at them with arms crossed.
"DiNozzo, rule twelve. No kissing on the job. And no flirting either," he gave his parents his best glare.
"I swear, all he needs are the steely blue eyes," Tony spoke softly hoping the boy wouldn't hear him.
LJ glared more at his Abba, "Say something DiNozzo?"
Ziva spoke up, "I thought rule twelve was never date a coworker."
LJ nodded, "It is Leroy Jethro's rule twelve. Leroy Jackson's rule twelve is no kissing on the job. Get to work!"
"Yes, sir!" the DiNozzo parents made the mistake of meeting their gazes and both broke into laughter.
At LJ's scowl, Ziva was quick to explain, "Motek, we are not laughing to make fun of you. It is just that you seem to be channeling your grandfather…"
"Yeah, kiddo," Tony ruffled the boy's hair. "Grandpa would be proud of you, Probie."
An hour later, all DiNozzo pets were officially "found" and returned home. The plus side was that by gathering 'evidence' they'd picked up most of the loose pet hair from around the house and discovered that Simba had slipped into the garage. He was wailing pitifully near the door to the kitchen when Tali found him.
Seven DiNozzo humans and six DiNozzo four-leggeds sat in the family room to wind down the afternoon to watch Cats and Dogs.