A convoy entered Fair Acres Mobile Park consisting of an unmarked LVPD car, a C.S.I. SUV, and two squad cars. They pulled up outside of Joan’s trailer as she and Elan come out. Joan carried the sewing basket that had been in the Wright trailer.
Catherine hurried to get out, glancing at the Wright trailer across the street. The police tape dangled from the door. The women had pulled it off to go inside.
The group surrounded the two women.
“Ma’am, put that basket down,” Catherine orders.
Both women stare the group.
“It’s just a sewing basket. The hospital called me and said Guistina was asking for it.”
Sara pulled on rubber gloves, prepared to take the basket from Joan.
“Did you go into her trailer to get it?” Sophie asked.
“Yes. It’s her trailer and her basket.”
“It is evidence and you tampered with a crime scene to get it,” Catherine informed her. “Put the basket down.”
Sara walked up to Joan, grabbing the other side of the handles. For a moment it looked like Joan might fight for it, but she finally released the basket. Sara returned to the SUV with the basket, watching officers arrest Elan and Joan.
Grissom entered the autopsy room. Doctor Robbins leaned over the exam table, aligning the pieces of Takoda on the table.
“I was in an interview,” Grissom explained. “You called?”
“Greg said the gorilla’s surrogate mother had arrived unannounced. How’d that go?”
“I found subdural bruising when I photographed the body.” Robbins led Grissom over to a computer screen with the photographs. “Her neck, wrists, and ankles were bound before she was dismembered. I also found a contusion that broke through the skull, most likely a blow that killed her before she was dismembered.” Robbins turned to Grissom with a smile, but it faded when he recognized Grissom’s expression – he’s not surprised.
“You knew I’d find this.”
“The evidence is pointing toward a human killer. I didn’t know you’d find this, but it doesn’t surprise me.”
Grissom called a number on his cell phone. “Greg, get a camcorder and meet me out front.” Grissom smiled. “We’re going to record an interview.” Grissom hung up. “Thank you Albert.”
Robbins nodded, watching him leave in a hurry.
Elan sat with her hands folded on the table. She was placid and didn’t look too concerned that she was in an interview room. Sara entered the room with a manila folder and sat in the chair opposite of Elan. When she looked up, Elan smiled. Sara almost returned it until she remembered why she was there.
“You waived your right to a lawyer,” Sara noted.
“Innocent people don’t need lawyers, honey.”
Sara doesn’t reflect the warmth in the comment. Right now she considered Elan a cold-blooded killer, until the interview showed otherwise. Sara pulled a photograph out of the folder and sat it down in front of Elan. It was a blown up image of the blood found on the birdcage.
“The blood here says you handled it while you were bleeding. Yesterday you told us that you gave Guistina a canary as a pet, but we haven’t been able to find it. Only a damaged cage. Did you change your mind?”
“A missing bird and a little blood is what all this fuss is about?”
“Both. What happened, Elan?”
“Then you can explain the blood in the cage, I suppose.”
Elan extended her hand, palm up, to Sara. She pulled back a bandage, revealing a cut along the side of her palm. Along the edges, the cut had bruised.
“Honey, growing old is a curse to humans. I have skin like tissue paper. I have arthritis and a shuffle is as fast as I go these days. I’m on Coumadin and bleed like I had water in my veins.”
“How did your blood get in the birdcage?”
“Do you recall my saying I bought the bird to keep Guistina company?”
“I was putting food and water in the cage for her and scraped it on the door. You should have seen her face, honey. It was like gold to get that pretty little bird. She hung it up in front of the window and when it started singing, she sang back. Oh, honey, you should have heard her voice! I could have sworn the heavens opened up and gave her music. She said she was in her church choir before she married John – never knew that about her. Funny how animals make people different isn’t it?”
“If only we could laugh about it.”
Elan sadly nods. “I know you and those other two ladies think maybe Joan did this, but she didn’t. Joan looks like she could rip your limbs off but she is sweet and she was Guistina’s best, probably only, friend. She wanted to get her out of that house, but not like this. Nothing like this.”
“We’ll see.” Sara stood and left.
Grissom, Greg, and Terri stopped outside Ralph’s cage. Greg hid his nervousness by moving the handheld video camera from one hand to the other.
Inside Ralph sat in a corner, staring out at the habitat. Terri opened the door into the cage but the gorilla didn’t respond.
Grissom stopped inside the door, telling Terri, “Thank you. I’ll let you know when we’re ready to leave.”
Terri starts to argue.
“Anma should be calling any minute to okay this visit. We need to speak to Ralph alone, Terri.”
Terri challenged what Grissom was going to do. “Do either of you know sign language?”
“Yes, I do.”
Terri doesn’t look convinced.
“You’ll be down the hall, won’t you?” Grissom interrupted. “If there is any trouble we’ll call you.”
Terri glanced at Greg. He offered a nervous smile. Terri turned and left the two with Ralph.
Grissom dug a candy bar out of his jacket pocket and peeled one open. That gets Ralph’s attention. Grissom sat the open candy bar on the floor and then motioned between it and Ralph. Ralph picked it up and began eating.
Grissom sat down in front of him, motioning Greg to start recording. Greg turned the camera on and pushed record. Grissom signed while he spoke with Ralph.
“Hello, Ralph. Your mother sent you candy bars. She said you could have one now and the others after we’ve talked. Is that okay?”
Ralph softly grunted with a nod. Grissom smiled but he was very careful not to show his teeth. Ralph looked past Grissom. He turned, finding Greg hovering far back by the door.
“Sit down, Greg.”
Greg shook his head.
“Greg, sit down.”
Greg shook his head more adamantly.
“He won’t harm you. Sit down so you can record the conversation.”
“I’m good from right here. I’m catching the audio.”
Grissom considered arguing but Greg’s fear was on his sleeve and pushing him wouldn’t do any good. Grissom turned his attention back to Ralph.
“This is Greg.” Grissom pointed up at Greg, and then placed a hand on his chest. “I’m Gil. I looked at you the last time I saw you. Do you remember?”
Ralph nodded, signing something.
Grissom carefully smiled again. “Yes. I brushed your hair for you. Are you friends with Takoda?”
“My friends and I looked at what happened to Takoda. We know you didn’t hurt her. Can you tell me who did?”
Ralph signed and it confused Grissom.
“The clean man hurt your old new friend? Who is the clean man? Who is your old new friend?”
Ralph signed the same thing again. Grissom thought about the words.
“Is your old new friend Takoda?”
“Can you tell me about the time the clean man hurt your old new friend?”
Ralph began to sign. Grissom can see the scene as Ralph signs what he saw the night Takoda’s body parts was left in his cage.
A faceless man walked up to the hallway door and made a noise to wake up Ralph. He sat up, watching the man. The man signed something and then the door into the habitat opened. Ralph walked out into the habitat. The door closed behind him. He glanced back, and then walked over to the other cage doors. The other gorillas are still sleeping. He heard something in his cage and returned to it.
The faceless man splashed buckets of liquid on the walls of Ralph’s cage. The red liquid almost oozed down the wall. The faceless man went into the hall and with great effort, pulled a gunnysack into the room. He began scattering the parts of Takoda Red Deer around Ralph’s cage. He placed her head on the floor and it rolled toward Ralph. Her skin had turned pasty white and her wide clouded eyes stare unblinking at him. Ralph doesn’t understand what was wrong with his friend but he knew it was bad and that the faceless man has hurt her.
Ralph grabbed the bars and tried shaking them loose. When he can’t, he beat the bars with his hands and head, and then he tried to dig at the dirt right outside the cage. All he accomplishes was leaving patches of hair and blood on the bars, slightly bend the bars, and making scratch marks in the dirt.
The faceless man left and the habitat door opened. Ralph ran up to Takoda’s head, picking it up. He lifted her face up to his, making grunting noises. His grunts become more frantic the longer she didn’t respond. He collected the pieces of her and went into the habitat. The other gorillas are let out of their cages and several wandered into the habitat.
Ralph went from one to the other, trying to get the other gorillas to help him. The primates either turn away or screech at him. He moved to an area by himself, with his back to the windows. He sat Takoda pieces down and tried to put her back together again. In the hall outside the habitat, the newlyweds strolled up to the observation window. Ralph glanced back when Serena screamed.
The hall quickly filled with hotel employees, followed by police and onlookers. A sound drew the other gorillas back into their cages and the doors closed. Through another door, Terri entered with a tranquilizer gun. Ralph held the pieces out to him, trying to ask his human friend for help fix his broken friend. Terri began to cry.
“I am so sorry, Ralph, I… I can’t.” He lifted his tranquilizer gun and shot Ralph.
The world blurred to black.
Ralph sighed. He dropped his hands in his lap. Grissom started to speak when he noticed Greg was sitting next to him. The young C.S.I. stared at Ralph, stunned by the story the gorilla just told them. Grissom returned his focus on Ralph.
“But who is the clean man?” Greg whispered.
Grissom considered the question. He came up with an idea to figure that out and began signing as he spoke to Ralph.
“Ralph, what do you call the person that brings you food?”
“Food woman. And the man and woman that have the things they put in their ears and listen to your chest?”
“Mother calls them the sick man and woman.” Grissom smiled a little. “Ralph, what does the clean man do?”
“He changes the smell of my cage from me to something else. He picks up when I make messes on the floor.”
“The janitor?” Greg asked.
Grissom answered Greg first. “Yes. The janitor.” To Ralph he said, “I’m sorry this human hurt your friend. I will find him. We will make him understand that what he did was very bad.”
Ralph lifted his chin, staring down his nose at Grissom. Grissom started to sign and speak, but Ralph stopped him with a loud snort.
For several moments, man and beast stared at each other. Ralph signed and Grissom smiled.
“He said he believes I will do that.”
Grissom leaned forward as he pulled the other two candy bars from his pocket. He reached out to set them on the floor and Ralph leaned forward, faster than Grissom could retreat. He grabbed Grissom’s hand, staring him in the eye and growled.
Ralph answers, and then leaned back, again looking down his nose at Grissom.
Grissom smiled, holding out the candy bars. Ralph took them from his hand.
Grissom signed, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Lazily Ralph signed back and Grissom chuckled.
“What did he say?” Greg whispered.
“He asked if I found coconuts. Ralph, they don’t grow in Las Vegas.”
Ralph signed again and Grissom chuckled harder. He told Greg, “He said I should find one and bring it next time. We could share it.”
Grissom stood up. Greg leaps to his feet, staying behind Grissom.
The two went to the cage door and Grissom called out, “Terri, we’re done.”
Terri came out of the veterinarian room and let the two out. Outside, Grissom turned to him.
“Who cleans Ralph’s cage?”
“Steve Perinski. Why?”
“I’m going to need his contact information. He may be able to help us.”
“I’ll go get it.” Terri hurried off to get the information.
Grissom looks back at Ralph. He stared at the habitat, looking thoughtful as he munched his candy bar.
“Did he really say all of that, Grissom?” Greg asked.
Grissom smiled. “I had to interpret some of what he was saying. His language skill is that of a five year old.”
“Do you really think the DA will accept this as evidence?”
“I hope so.”
Ralph heaved a bored sigh when a gorilla ran past his door.