Catherine didn’t see the bright flowers outside the window. Against the darkness behind them, they almost glowed in the light coming through the window. She noticed a reflection in the window and turned. Doctor Ian Cooper stood behind her, staring at the surgical cap in his hand. He looked up at her, and then motioned to the two rows of chairs nearby. Catherine moved to them and the two sat down.
“How bad?” Catherine asked.
Solemnly he leaned forward and braced his elbows on his legs. She sat back, bracing herself for the bad news.
“I was able to stop the internal bleeding, but he lost a lot of blood. A bullet severed his spinal cord, but… He has an epidural hematoma that’s causing swelling. Catherine… He’s in a coma and he isn’t going to wake up, and he won’t survive this. He has a day, maybe two. All I can do is make him comfortable.”
Catherine turned her head. She lifted hand, rubbed her fingers against her lips, dropped her hand, considered standing and pacing. Why did it feel like the room was suddenly a broom closet? Why was it so hard to breathe?
“I should… Uhm… I need to… Call his parents, then?”
“Yes. Tonight.” Ian’s pager went off and he glanced at it. He looked back at Catherine. “We’ll move him to ICU 4 in a half hour. Two nurses up there know him, he’ll be in good care, and I will check up on him as soon as I’m out of my next surgery. If you want to, you can wait in the room for him.”
“Thank you Ian.”
He reached out, taking her hand. “He found out who ran Sophia off the road. I will take care of him to the end.”
She watched him walk away before looking at the floor. She looked at her phone when it started ringing. She drew a breath and answered it.
“Gil…” Catherine closed her eyes. Her withheld tears began flowing. “You need to come home. It’s Greg, Gil. He, uhm, Ian said to cal…” She covered her mouth, bursting into gasping sobs.
In the distance, the rising sun lit up the sky with beautiful pastels. The sight was lost to Ecklie. He wanted to curse at the ground he was searching, the bushes that snagged his pants, the stones that scuffed his good shoes, and mostly the asshole that had put Greg in the hospital. However, he held his tongue because any of that would show weakness, and he’d suffered enough at his father’s hands that he wasn’t about to show it now.
“I found a crowbar,” the C.S.I. called.
Ecklie turned. C.S.I. Darla held it up for him to see. He hated working with first years.
“And what do we do with evidence when we find it? Do we wave it in the air and let the world know we found it?”
Darla lowered her hand. “No, sir. We bag and tag it.”
Ecklie continued searching. The light of his flashlight sparkled across something in a spiny bush. He crouched down and reached under the brush, grimacing as the thorns snagged his bare skin and tore it. He felt a gun. No. He felt two. He grabbed them and pulled them out.
“Bring me bags,” Ecklie called to Darla.
Ecklie didn’t turn. He looked up at the rising sun.
“Where are you, you son of a bitch?” Ecklie asked the dawn. He was actually glad he wasn’t lead on this case. He might be tempted to provide the attacker with a convenient ‘accident’ when he or she was caught.
Nick walked into the main layout room, watching Wendy placing computer diagrams of the house on the light table.
Nick commented. “Archie sure worked fast.”
“You’re not the only one that wants Greg’s attacker found now.” Wendy glanced at him.
Nick nodded. He knew that. Every technician, every officer, every C.S.I. on the case, had moved this to the top of the list. He wondered if Greg realized how many friends he’d actually made on this job.
“Okay…” She laid a paper in front of her with tiny writing and marks on it, and then looked at the diagrams. Using different colored sticky flags, she marked blood spatter as mom, dad, teen daughter, preteen daughter, son, police, unknown 1, dog, cat, or Greg. She tagged the spots on the map.
“Okay…” Wendy said again.
“You said that already, Wendy. Get to it.”
She glanced back at him. He was staring at the maps and either didn’t know he’d snapped at her or wasn’t sorry he had.
She looked at the maps. “We have some blood from the officer in the front hall and his blood trail leading to the kitchen. The blood pool in the pantry is his, so he must have been killed there. In the hall, there are drops from the dog to the basement. From the living room, the cat to the basement. On the steps, we have two donors. We have the unknown and Greg. Upstairs—”
“Wait a second. There’s drops from Greg on the basement stairs?”
“Anywhere else downstairs?”
“The blood pool near the washer and dryer and a blood trail leading halfway up the steps. The blood transfer on the front door handle was also Greg’s blood.”
“Upstairs, both daughters’ blood came from these two bedrooms and a blood trail to the hall closet. Likely, they were carried. The same for the son. Dad’s blood was in the bed and was smeared across the carpet to the hall closet. Mom’s blood next to the bed and then smeared to the hall closet. In the family bathroom, it was all Greg’s blood. That’s probably where he… Uhm…”
“Move on. You told me there’s an unknown one and two. How do you know there were two assailants?”
“Unknown one is the John Doe found in the pantry with the officer. There was a lot of his blood in the hall, stairs, and right at the back door. The drag mark from the back door to the pantry was his. So he was killed at the back door and drug back to the pantry. That’s our unknown one. We collected hair, skin, or both from every victim in the house, meaning he had contact with all of them. It’s not likely he shot himself and drug himself back to the pantry, which that means we have to be looking at a second assailant, a second unknown.”
Nick picked up a stack of photographs, separated by room, and looked at them. He began laying them out on the table, watching the directionality of the drops and smears. When he was done, he stared. Realizing what the blood spatter and photographs were telling him was a hard reality to swallow.
Nick shook his head. No. Greg wouldn’t have… “That means… Greg was attacked in the basement, then went upstairs on his own and… Greg… Why the hell did you go upstairs? What were you thinking?”
Wendy looked at the table. “That he didn’t want the killer to escape.”
Nick felt sick to his stomach. She was right, wasn't she? Greg couldn't let the killer keep killing - he had no idea that everyone else in the house was already dead. He had gone upstairs to save someone's life, and the last heroic act he may ever make.