Nick reached across to scratch the opposite arm. He snapped his hand into a fist and dropped it to the table. He focused all his attention on the microscope and tried to ignore the itching bites. Hodges walked up, standing dangerously close.
“You know, I have a home remedy that works great on insect bites,” Hodges told him.
Nick looked up at him. Hodges smiled. Nick didn’t return it.
“What do you want, Hodges?” Nick growled.
“The hairs you found on your corpse’s clothes are male, but of no relation to the victim. I collected the assault kit and there was no semen. I also pulled her dental records and have a name for your Jane Doe – Sarah Montrèsor.”
Nick picked up the print outs, looking them over. Both the results and Hodges barreling ahead without his permission made his anger start to raise one page of results at a time.
“Why did you run the hair DNA through CODIS? I didn’t ask you to do that.”
Hodges grinned. “I needed something to do and I wanted to show my initiative. Looks like the husband may be good for her murder, too.”
Nick stood, turning to face him.
“What?” Hodges innocently asked.
“Lab rats run the tests. The C.S.I. decides which databases to run them through, if they need to be run at all. If you ever do my job for me again you will be fired. Am I clear?”
Hodges quickly began to crumble under Nick’s anger. He offered Nick a nervous smile. “I was just trying to help.”
“Did I say I wanted your help?”
“I, uhm— My bad. I’m sorry. Bye.”
He scampered away. Nick looked up, finding Grissom standing in the hall, staring at him. Nick turned his back on Grissom, sitting back down at the microscope. Tonight not even Grissom, someone he respected more than his own father, was safe from the angry demon raging inside him.
Grissom found Hodges hiding in his lab with his nose stuck in work.
“Hodges?” Grissom said.
He smiled at him, but his smile didn’t hide how bad Nick had shaken him.
“I heard Nick yelling at you. What happened?” Grissom asked.
Hodges shook his head, turning back to his work. “Nothing. I just… Nothing. It was… nothing.”
“Hodges, what happened?”
Hodges looked up at him. “I don’t want him to know I said anything.”
“I’d heard what happened at his crime scene, so I was trying to help. I ran the DNA results through CODIS. He got angry and said I was doing his job but he’s never gotten angry when I’ve done that for him before. I don’t know what I did wrong.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong, Hodges. Give me what you gave him.”
Hodges reprinted the documents and handed them to Grissom.
“Thank you Hodges. Take a break if you need one.”
Grissom left, reading the information.
On an exam table, in a bright white
clean room, laid the corpse from the well. The body was pale. The skin was
supple and gleamed like wax. In one of nature’s rare mysteries, the body fat
had been exposed to moisture and high concentrations of alkali, turning the
body into soap. Warrick surprised himself when he remembered that exposing the
corpse to the dry, arid heat above the well would have caused it to disintegrate
before his eyes, taking all the evidence with it. But Grissom came through, pulling strings and even dragging Ecklie and the Mayor into securing him a clean room at the hospital where he could maintain the same conditions it had been found in the well.
Working in a clean suit wasn’t the most comfortable thing Warrick had ever done, but it was loose enough that it let him collect tissue samples and photograph the corpse. Warrick heard the airlock door open and looked up. The other person, also in an environmental suite, had their back to him. They attached an air hose from overhead to their suit and turned. Warrick smiled at Grissom.
“Couldn’t stay away, could you?” Warrick asked.
“I haven’t had an adipocerous corpse before, so no.” Grissom circled the mummy with a smile. “He is nicely preserved. It looks like he was laid to rest yesterday. Has the hospital director given you any trouble about keeping him here?”
Warrick chuckled. “None. Him and several doctors have been in in to see this guy. I think they’re just as fascinated by it. Although, the director was pushing me to get Ecklie to release him to the hospital once the case is closed.”
“If he brings it up, tell him we’ll see where the case leads first. If we find next of kin, they’ll have to make that decision, not us. Is there any sign of purification?” Grissom asked.
“Haven’t found any yet. This happened fast. I wonder if he was under water before the well dried out.”
“Was it sealed?”
“Yeah. Until this morning when the farmer reopened it to drill.”
“Why was it sealed?”
“Well…” Warrick leaned on the counter behind him. “The farmer said that when he was a kid, they were always pulling dead things out of the well, but they didn’t use it much then because the grove hadn’t gotten that far. One day his dad came in mad because the board covering it was broken again. That’s when he was probably sealed in.” Warrick paused, looking up at Grissom. “I’m thinking this was the last thing that fell into the well.”
“Do you like the farmer for this?”
“Naw. The guy’s a jerk, but I don’t suspect him of being involved. His dad… Maybe. But he died five years ago from cancer, so not much to move on there.” Warrick stood up, staring at the corpse’s face. “But there was a whole bunch of gold coins at the bottom of the well. I had to leave a State Patrolman to secure the area ‘cause we had to get this guy here before he started falling apart. I’ll go back later to get those, but I tell ya, Grissom, I think this may be a dead end case.”
“Aren’t you jumping to conclusions? You’ve just begun.”
Warrick smiled. “Always the optimist.”
“I’ve been accused of that. Have you talked to Nick tonight?”
Grissom sighed. “Do you remember when you two were rookies, and I gave him that case where the girl had been raped and almost killed by the same guy five times, and the last time he killed her?”
Warrick thought for a moment. He slowly shook his head, frowning. “He’s in that mood again, huh? What set him off this time?”
“I don’t know. I need you to do whatever you did last time to get him out of it.”
“I just let it run its course, Grissom. Once the case is closed, then I can help.”
“It was a week last time, Warrick. With the way things have been around here these last few months, Nick can’t be like this for a week.”
Warrick looked at his mummy. “I’ll try to talk to him. I can’t promise anything.”
“Oh. Ask Greg about the coins. He’s a numismatics hobbyist.”
“I’d forgotten about that. Thanks.”
Grissom turned to go, and then turned back.
“For adipocerous to be this complete, the victim has to be at least two years old,” Grissom pointed out. “Remember adipocere formation limits your forensic findings because the speed of the process is temperature-dependent. Keep an open mind while you work this case, Warrick.”
“I’ll keep it wide open.”
Grissom left Warrick to continue processing the mummy.
Wearing a full-faced shield and wielding an ice pick and reflex hammer, Greg chipped at the hardened tar between the body and the body bag. He glanced up when Robbins came into the morgue.
“You’re still here?” he asked.
“Haven’t gotten far, I take it?” the doctor asked.
“Naw.” Greg started chipping some more. The pick suddenly slipped and stabbed through the tar into the body. Serum and congealed blood began oozing from the hole as it had from the other five holes Greg had inflicted on the deceased entombed in the tar.
“Damn,” Greg muttered.
Robbins looked up, watching him quickly plug the hole with heavy-duty paper towels.
“How many times have you done that?” Robbins asked.
Greg smiled sheepishly at him. “Not many.”
David came in wearing scrubs. “Okay. I’m off to get X-rays of Warrick’s soap mummy. I should be back in an hour.”
“Take butterfingers Greg with you.”
“I have to finish my tar man,” Greg argued.
“The way you’re going at it, you’re going to kill him a second time. Go help David with the mummy.”
“Why isn’t Warrick helping David?”
“I don’t know,” Robbins told Greg as he walked over to him, “and I don't care. But I do know that I want you to stop torturing this poor soul.” Robbins plucked the pick and reflex hammer from Greg’s hands. “So be a good C.S.I. and go with David.”
David and Greg both laughed. Greg pulled off his face shield. “Lead the way David. I’m dying to see this mummy.”
David walked out of the morgue, telling Greg, “It’s fascinating! The guy doesn’t look like he’s been dead for even a day!”
Robbins slid the face shield on and picked up a skull saw. He went to work on Greg’s victim.
With a magnify glass and tweezers, Nick moved slowly over the cover of the coffin. His mind kept getting sidetrack by the thoughts and memories of his own burial, trying to wander far from this coffin and this case. He paused, sensing a presence.
“Have you seen Warrick’s adipocerous corpse?” Greg asked.
Nick turned his head, staring at Greg. He was pulling on latex gloves.
Greg didn’t wait for an answer. “I have never seen one for real. It’s really cool. You should go see it before it gets tucked away or decays.” Greg looked around the room. “This is a mess. Where do you want me to start?”
Nick didn’t answer. Greg smiled as he looked up, but it faded when he met Nick’s hard stare.
“Don’t you have your own case to work?” Nick snapped.
“I can’t do anything on it right now. Hodges is running samples of tar for me, and my corpse is being chipped.”
told me to put it in an ice bath to harden the tar, but Robbins ordered me out of the morgue. I keep stabbing my corpse, and me, so I’m looking for something to
do while I wait for him to finish. So… What do you need help with?” Greg smiled at Nick.
“I don’t need help.”
Greg looked at the evidence around the room. “Well… There’s the clothes and the—”
“I don’t need help, Greg.” Nick repeated as he stood up.
Greg looked at him.
“Are you sure? I could—”
Nick took a step toward Greg and the younger C.S.I. retreated. “I said, Greg, I don’t need help.”
Greg stared at him. Nick could see he’d scared Greg, but he didn’t care. He wanted everyone to leave him alone. He wanted to do his job, find the person that buried this woman alive, and to make that person pay. Anyone who interfered with that was to be considered the enemy, or so his demon had him convinced.
“Are you okay, Nick? You’re acting… Strange.”
Nick didn’t answer. He couldn’t answer. His demon was sinister enough that it wanted to destroy all of Nick’s relationships today, and it didn’t give a damn about how he'd repair them tomorrow.
“Okay. Well… Let me know if you change your mind.”
Greg rushed out of the room. Nick watched him leave before turning back to the coffin lid.