Grissom stopped the SUV outside The Mirage. He, Greg, and Nick climbed out with field kits in hand. An officer met them at the door and led them through the crowded halls. They passed a large aquarium with several sharks and other salt-water fish. Having seen it dozens of times, the three didn’t even glance at the aquarium. They came to the lion cage, added two years ago, and another familiar sight to the C.S.I. The crowd began to thicken as they came up to the recently added gorilla exhibit. The officer barked for people to move and the crowd parted. He came to a door marked EMPLOYEES’ ONLY where Brass waited. He opened the door for the three and the group went into the hall beyond.
Brass waited for the door to close and silence the crowd outside before he began speaking. “So the witnesses were coming in late after their sudden marriage—”
Nick jabbed, “Did you tell them the odds of it lasting through the weekend were slim?”
“Not my jurisdiction.”
The C.S.I. chuckled at his joke.
“Anyway, they saw our suspect in the gorilla exhibit, holding body parts.”
He stopped talking, waiting for what he just said to sink in.
“What part of the body was the suspect holding?” Grissom asked.
“All of them.”
“The suspect was holding an entire dismembered corpse?” Grissom asked. His tone said he didn’t believe Brass.
“Yes. All of it.”
“How?” Nick asked. “Is the suspect a body lifter or something?”
The group came up on the first door into a gorilla cage. The C.S.I. glanced into the cage at the gorilla staring back at them. She angrily snorted at them.
“Even then…” Grissom trailed off, trying to imagine the type of person who could hold an entire body in parts.
“Was the victim a midget?” Greg asked.
Grissom shot him a disproving look but Greg didn’t take it back.
“We were told you had the suspect in custody. Can we talk to him or her?” Grissom asked.
Brass smiled, one that the three knew. He knew something they didn’t and they weren’t going to like. He continued walking.
“Well, talking to Ralph might be a problem,” Brass told them.
“What language does he speak?” Nick asked. “Or isn’t he speaking?”
“Oh, he can speak. Fluently I’m told. However…”
Brass stopped a door labeled: VETERNARIAN. He flashed another smile at the three men and pushed the door open.
Lying on a large exam table was a heavily sedated silver back gorilla.
“We weren’t able to find an interpreter who spoke gorilla,” Brass finished.
This twist surprised even Grissom.
The barren, dry, hot landscape stretched for miles. On the distance the air shimmered, creating the illusion of water which had led many thirsty man to his death. In the midday sun, there were few sounds – an occasional bird, the buzz of a few insects, or dry plants rustled by an occasional hot, dry breeze.
On County Road 92, a State Patrol car came to a stop in this desolate location. State Patrolmen Boyer and Lance climbed out. Boyer grabbed a pair of binoculars and began scanning the horizon with them. Lance shielded his eyes, also searching the horizon. At the same time, the men spot a woman. She walked slowly, as if she were taking a stroll before lunch. Except there wasn’t a house for miles.
Boyer lowered the binoculars. “Caller was right. There’s a woman wandering around out there. Let’s go see why.”
He tossed the binoculars in the car. Both grab their hats and head out into the desert to talk to the woman.
As they get closer, the men saw she wore a faded ,ankle length, short-sleeved dress. She was so thin that her hipbones almost showed through the dress. Her long brown hair looped into a long, sloppy braid that danced as she walked or when a breeze blew across her back, but the hair was as unhealthy as she was. It had no body or shine. Her arms and face were badly sunburned. A large cut, bruised around the edge, started at her temple and disappeared into her hair, forming a matted red glob. She was barefoot and her feet were sunburned, cracked, and bleeding, but she kept walking. She watched the ground, humming a tune over and over, as she aimlessly followed a line on the ground only she could see.
Lance caught up and walked alongside her. “Ma’am,” he said. “Are you okay?”
She kept walking without answering.
Boyer caught up behind her. He told her, “Ma’am, a man called in to report you out here. He said he almost hit you when you crossed the road in front of him. Do you need help? Would you like us to give you a ride somewhere?”
She didn’t answer or stop.
Boyer reached out and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “Ma’am, please stop walking. We want to he—”
The woman went from humming her tune to a screaming demon that attacked him in a fury of rage. She clawed, bit, and kicked, with screams so loud they were deafening despite they were in the open.
The surprised man lost his footing and fell back with her on top of him. Lance grabbed her by the waist, trying to pull her off. The woman turned her attack on him. Both officers fought to subdue the surprising strong woman, kicking up a cloud of dust and sand.
The only thing that noticed the fight was a hawk perched on a cactus nearby.
With camera in hand, Nick searched the habitat for evidence. He snapped some photos of blood spots before moving to the cage door that released Ralph into the habitat. The door was still down and he noticed that on the ground in front of it, there were fresh dig marks. He crouched, laying his hand in them. He could now see the indentation of claws. It made him wonder…
“Find something?” he heard Greg ask.
Nick looked up. Greg was inside Ralph’s cage in a full body painter’s suit. Blood coated the inside of the cage, making it impossible to figure out where the first blow happened. Greg moved methodically across the cage as if he’d created a grid in his mind.
“Yeah. There’s fresh dig marks outside here. Like something or someone was trying to get into the cage.”
Nick looked up, seeing blood and hair on the bent bars. Looking down the wall, he didn’t see any bars bend on any other cage door.
“Got some blood and hair here too.”
“The victim’s, probably.”
Nick reached in his kit and pulled out tweezers. He put the hair in an envelope, and then pulled a pre-moistened swab to collect blood. He snapped the cap on it and boxed it.
“At least you have different evidence. I have a cage full of blood. If that’s not a conviction, I don’t know what is.”
“Better not let Grissom hear you say that. I think he feels sorry for the gorilla.”
Greg chuckled at the comment. Nick smiled a little, but he didn’t find it as funny. He felt sorry for the beast too, and his money was that someone had made a horrible assumption the gorilla was tame. That person went into its cage and discovered it was still as wild as the day it was born. In Nick’s opinion that didn’t make it the gorilla’s fault, but he was sure some judge somewhere wouldn’t see the same way.
Nick got up and started searching the habitat for more evidence. He glanced up when the other gorillas came to their cage doors. He smiled at them.
“We’ll get you out of there soon,” Nick assured them. “Just hold on for a little bit longer, guys.”
One of the gorilla’s showed his teeth at Nick. Another made throat noises and rattled the cage door hard. Nick looked away – if it weren’t for those doors, he was sure he’d be torn limb from limb too. Nick reached the window that looked out at The Mirage hall.
He moved closer, spotting a security camera pointed toward at the habitat. Maybe the cameras could clear up what had happened in here tonight.
Sara and Catherine walked down the hall, watching Officer’s Boyer and Lance. The two sat in chairs outside of a room and both look worse for wear. They are scratched, bruised, and bandaged. The women stop in front of them and the two men rose to their feet.
“Bad day?” Sara asked.
“We’ve had better,” Boyer said with a slight smile.
“What happened to you? A bar fight?”
“She happened.” He hooked a thumb over his shoulder at the room.
The two glance through the door at the woman in the bed. A female nurse was with the woman, changing bandages on her sunburned skin.
“Dispatch said you requested female C.S.I.?” Catherine asked. “Is this a sexual assault?”
Lance shrugged. “Can’t say for sure. We found her out in the desert just walking. When Boyer put his hand on her shoulder, to stop her, she went ape-shit.”
That rose both women’s eyebrows.
“Yeah. I really said that,” Lance said.
“And if he said it, you know it’s bad,” Boyer added.
“I do,” Catherine admitted. She’d known Lance for years and he reserved curse words for situations where it was very appropriate. “She did all this?” Catherine pointed at their injuries.
“All of it,” Lance said as Boyer answered, “Yeah.”
“Okay. We’ll see if we can find out what made her snap like that. Do you know her name? Did she have any I.D.?”
Both shook their head.
Sara and Catherine entered the room. Sara caught the nurse as she left.
Quietly she asked, “Did she consent to an assault kit?”
“I asked her but she didn’t answer yes or no. I did one anyway and she didn’t flip out like she did on the officers. She is completely catatonic right now, except…”
“Well, she keeps humming a song. The same song over and over.”
“Do you know what it is?”
The nurse shook her head. “I don’t recognize it, but it just seems out of place. Kind of like hearing death metal at church.”
Sara smiled at the comparison. “Thanks.”
Sara joined Catherine at the bedside. Catherine pulled the blanket and sheets back to look the woman over.
Her legs have bruises from ankle to thigh, many of them narrow and deep. Around her throat, a bruise was a sickly green color of healing. On one of her hands, she had a scar from a severe burn that likely never saw medical treatment. Her deep blue eyes focused on an infinite spot on the ceiling without blinking. It was clear that woman’s mind had parted with her, leaving her a human shell alive only on impulses.
“Ma’am,” Sara asked, “can I scrape under your fingernails?”
She didn’t answer. Sara looked to Catherine, who gave a slight nod. Sara setup to scrape under the woman’s fingernails.
Catherin talked to the woman as she snapped photographs of her injuries. “My name is Catherine Willows. This is my partner Sara Sidle. We’re from the Las Vegas crime lab. We’re here to help you and figure out what happened to you. Do you remember how you ended up in the desert?”
Catherine pulled a piece of paper from her kit and slid it under the woman’s head. She took out a new comb and reached out to comb the woman’s hair. The woman’s eyes flicked to her and they stared at one another.
“Did you want to say something?” Catherine asked her.
The woman’s eyes drifted back to
the spot. Catherine gently combed her hair and the woman started to hum her
song – over and over. The humming made both women uncomfortable. The tempo of
the song was upbeat, jovial, and completely out of place.