Sara stood in the doorway of the bathroom, staring at the floor. She didn’t even try to hide her tears when Nick came up behind her. Nick leaned against the doorframe and looked at the ceiling.
It took him several minutes to realize what he was staring at, and when it hit him, he stood up straight.
“Did anyone notice the door to the attic?”
Sara wiped her tears and turned, looking up. “No.”
Nick walked under the door and had to hop to catch the chain dangling from it. He pulled it down, moving out of the way when the ladder slid out. He turned to tell Sara to grab flashlights and found her waiting with them. Nick took one and they climbed into the attic. They started through the items, but before long, Sara stopped.
“Nothing happened up here, Nick.”
Nick turned to her. “Donald has the same last name as this family, right?”
“Yeah, but there was no familial DNA match to the family members.”
“All the same, I think he’s somehow connected to them. Since we didn’t find any of Donald’s sperm on the mother or teenagers, but we did find his skin under the nails of all family members, I think he was the one who talked the other teenager into attacking and killing them.”
“Why? Why would he do that?”
Nick paused in his search, momentarily overcome with rage. Gruffly he asked back, “Why does anyone kill anyone anymore?” He looked across the attic, at the items in it. What had he hoped to find up here? “Your right. Nothing happened up here. We should just… Wait with Greg…”
She heard defeat in Nick’s voice. Defeat she’d felt not so long ago. It had nearly driven her to the brink of insanity. She turned, needing to focus on something else.
“You’re not wrong, I’m just scared for Greg. But we have to find Donald and maybe, something up here, will give us a lead. We should keep looking.”
“Donald hadn’t planned on killing the family, I don’t think.”
“Yes he did.”
“How can you be so sure?”
She looked over her shoulder at Nick. “When he killed the officer and first attacked Greg that was opportunity… The two were in the wrong place at wrong time. But not the family. That was intentional, I’d guess even planned. Donald knew exactly what he was doing. That’s why the largest amount of blood was in the bathroom.”
Nick stared at her. Quietly he replied, “That’s even more reason we have to find out how Donald Fritz is tied to this family. If we want a conviction, we need that connection.”
She nodded. Sara turned away, continuing to search the attic. Under blankets and a box of forgotten toys she found a locked luggage trunk.
“Nick, I need a crowbar to open this trunk.”
Nick hurried downstairs and returned with one. The two worked until the lock gave with a pop. She pushed open the lid and stared at what lay inside – torn photographs, photographs in broken frames, burned photographs of Donald Fritz with this family. Nick picked up a photo album tucked at the back. Most of the pictures had been removed, the ones that didn’t have Donald most likely. The pictures began at age six and stopped abruptly at age thirteen. For six years he lived with this family, grew with them, had birthdays and Christmases with them, went on family outings and vacations.
At one point in his life, Donald Fritz, teenager murderer, had belonged to a seemingly loving family.
“Adopted you think?” Sara asked.
Nick shook his head. “I don’t know. I’ll go grab bags and a kit. Be right back.”
Sara watched Nick disappear down the ladder before she turned back to the chest and started unloading it. She found report cards – the boy did well in most of his subjects all through grade and middle school. She pulled out a stack of blank books tied together and pulled the string off. Skimming the book she realized she was reading Donald Fritz’s journals and they began when he was five. Being able to write at that age was impressive, but add that the level of writing was similar to middle school age, and she realized this child had a high IQ. While his early years that could have been seen as the sign of a savant, by the time he was ten, that IQ couldn’t wipe away how dark and ominous his writing had grown.
He wrote about visions and fantasy of killing people, and all the ways he wanted to do it. There were news clippings from around the world about teenagers going on murders sprees in schools and malls, of teenagers killing family. Scattered throughout the journals he regularly mentioned Emily, and spoke about how she told him he shouldn’t think about these things or try these things. At first, Sara thought she was a therapist, but that changed when she found the first page filled with her name. The last entry in the book was talking about how he’d killed a homeless man, how it felt, how he enjoyed it, how he hated Emily for not letting him and wished he could kill her too.
“Emily told you not to kill?” Sara mused.
She’d never heard of a serial killer with a voice that told them not to do harm.
She sat the journals aside and picked up the last item: a metal box with a three number combination. She fiddled with it until it opened. What she found inside gave her a giant piece of the puzzle.
Headlines from nine years ago reading: ‘Serial Killer Keeps Las Vegas Up,’ ‘Serial Killer Writes Paper and Calls Himself Glass,’ ‘Family Of Three Attacked, Parents Killed, Surviving Boy In Critical Condition.’
She about jumped out of her skin as she sprung to her feet, scattering the box and its contents across the floor. Ecklie stood behind her holding evidence bags and her forensic kit.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“It’s okay. Where’s Nick?”
“We received a tip about Donald Fritz’s location. Nick insisted on being there when the kid was arrested.”
Sara looked down at the newspaper clippings. She knew she should feel sorry for the boy, but she couldn’t find a thread of sympathy. This teenager had brutally murdered a policeman she knew, killed an entire family, and left Greg struggling for life. She wanted him to get the death penalty, and she wanted to be sitting in the front row to watch the light go out of his eyes. No. That wasn’t what she really wanted. What she really wanted was to have him corner her and give her a reason to put a bullet in his brain. She couldn’t even acknowledge that these thoughts should be frightening her.
Sara knelt down, picking up the items and putting them in the box. Suddenly the world made no sense.
“He’s fifteen!” Sara cried, springing to her feet again. She turned back to Ecklie. “A fifteen year old kid killed Greg!”
“He’s not dead yet, Sara.”
“Stop with the bullshit, Ecklie! He has a DNR. His healthcare advocate will—”
“I’m his advocate. He’s not dead yet.”
Sara stared at him. “You? Why would he choose you?”
“Because he didn’t think I’d care.” Ecklie sat the bags and kit at Sara’s feet.
“You would do that? You’d just pull the plug on him?”
“I told them to keep reviving him, but I won’t let them put him on support. If Greg can’t be revived, then I have to respect that.”
“Respect that? Respect that you’re going to let him die?”
“I’m already breaking the order by letting them revive him, Sara! In his will he requested not to be revived more than twice – they’re reviving him every hour! He’s dying and I know that, and as much as he annoys me and pesters me and makes me grit my teeth, I can’t let him go! I actually like the kid. Do you have you any idea what kind of hell it’s been having to decide to go against the kid’s wishes because I’m too selfish to let him die?”
Sara stared. That was the most emotion she’d ever seen come out of Ecklie. “No. I didn’t know any of that, Conrad.”
He sighed, looking down. “I just wish… I wish that the last forty hours could be magically erased. I wish my wife would wake me up, tell me all this was nothing but a nightmare, and I’d come to work later and find Greg alive, and well, and he wouldn’t be suffering and I didn’t have to make the worst choice in my life.”
Sara wanted to tell him she felt sorry for the position he was in, and that they all wished this was just a horrible nightmare. But she said none of it.
They two stood in silence for a long moment. It was long enough time to reflect on what had just happened between them, what truths had been revealed about them both.
Ecklie held his hand out for the news clippings in her hand.
“Gloves,” she reminded him.
He fished a pair from a hip pocket and she handed the clippings over when they were on. Ecklie looked through them.
“I remember this case,” Ecklie told her. “I was level one when it happened. When I saw his pictures I kept thinking I’d seen it before, but didn’t realize he’d just grown up.” Ecklie shook his head. “The poor kid was found in blood. The killer must have been spooked, he never finished him, but his parents and sister were killed around him. It was… Hellish. No one could come out of that mess okay.”
“He didn’t. He murdered seven people.”
Ecklie nodded. He handed the clippings back to Sara and walked to the ladder. He started down them, telling her, “I’ve posted four units here, and one of them is down here at the bottom of the ladder. Why don’t you take a few hours off when you’re done here? Grissom says you haven’t gone to see Greg.” Ecklie stopped with his head right above the floor. “Don’t wait until it’s too late, Sara.”
Ecklie disappeared. She turned, going back to work.
Brass, Nick, and four officers approached a transient camp under a bridge. An officer spoke with two men and after a moment, they pointed in a direction. The group walked in the direction. They came around a ‘box house’ to find Donald Fritz writing on a cement column. He had almost covered the lower half of the column with ‘Emily.’
He looked up, saw the officers, and bolted. The group ran after him, one officer radioing in the chase.
Sara entered the hospital room, staring at Greg. It was the first time she’d seen him and it shook her seeing what the teenager had done to him.
Grissom was asleep in a recliner in the corner. She walked over to him and gave his arm a squeeze. He woke, looking up at her. Grissom turned his arm and their fingers locked together.
“He won’t survive this… Will he?” she whispered.
Grissom started to answer.
Sara heard someone come up behind her and turned. A man and woman were entering. The woman stared at Sara and the man stared at Greg. Grissom stood up behind her, his fingers almost painfully tightening around her fingers. It was the only outward indication that this situation disturbed him. She understood why when he introduced her to the couple.
“Mister and Missus Sanders, this is my wife Sara. She works with your son.”
Sara shook hands with the parents.
“Did Greg—” his mother began, but was cut off by the heart monitor going off.
Nurses and Doctor Ian ran in and the two couples were pushed out of the room. They stood at the window that separated the room from the nurse’s station.
Sara watched Greg’s mother began to sob.
His father wrapped his arms around his mother, holding her, but never taking his eyes off his son.
Sara reacted by moving close to Grissom.
One of her oldest friends was dying before her eyes.
Donald raced through a yard, leapt a fence into an alley, and hit the ground running. Only Nick and one officer had been able to keep up with him.
Donald rounded a corner into an alley as two squad cars sped into it from the opposite end. Donald faked left then turned right. Using one hand to leverage himself, he vaulted over a fence into a backyard. The officer and Nick were right behind. They land in a yard with two angry Dobermans caged in a kennel.
Donald grabbed the latch of the gate as he passed, throwing it open. Nick slammed it shut as he passed, stopping the dogs from charging out. Donald scaled a fence, the sole of his shoe passing through Nick’s outstretched hand.
Suddenly the heart monitor showed a rhythm. It was erratic but it was back. Ian watched it.
Behind him, Sara smiled. She looked up and found Grissom watching Greg with a grim expression.
Grissom looked down at her. “The heartbeat is wrong. This… He can’t do this forever, Sara.”
“Don’t say that!” Sara hissed. “Don’t you dare give up on him.”
Grissom didn’t tell her that his intuition knew how this was going to end.
The heart monitor blared a warning as it lost Greg’s heartbeat.
In that moment, Sara’s heart leapt into her throat. A feeling washed over her. It was a moment of peace. In that moment, she felt as if she’d entered a room full of warn light and unspeakable beauty. It was almost as if the entire planet was holding its breath, expecting something miraculous to happen.
Then the feeling was gone. Reality slammed into her like a semi. Sounds were painfully clear. Lights was harsh and cold. Invisible fingers raked at her stomach and a deafening, silent scream seared across her mind. As fleeting as the peace had been, this feeling was even shorter.
As the two clashing sensations dissolved into a memory, she knew Greg’s heart was never going to beat again.
Donald had lost Nick and the officer. He turned into an alley as a police car turned into it and barreled toward him. Donald scaled a privacy fence and dropped right into Nick and the officer’s waiting arms. The two wrestled him to the ground.
Across from them, sitting on top of a derelict doghouse, was the girl in pigtails and pink dress. She sadly shook her head, disappointed in Donald.
“I told you this would happen, Donald. I told you not to kill. Why didn’t you listen to me?” the pigtail girl asked.
Donald went down screaming, “Shut up you fucking cunt!” Donald grabbed anything at hand to beat off Nick and the officer.
They finally got him on his stomach and Nick held Donald’s hands on his back while the officer cuffed him. The click of the handcuffs around the teenager’s wrists was a bittersweet sound to Nick.
Doctor Ian stepped back from the bed. Quietly he told a nurse, “Time of death thirteen hundred and forty-six hours.”
“No.” Greg’s mother said, taking a step toward them. “You can’t stop! You have to keep trying. He doesn’t want to die! KEEP TRYING!”
She made a lunge for the door, but her husband pulled her back. She smacked him, pounded her fist on his chest, but he held her.
“No! Greg, no!”
He guided her out of ICU.
Sara walked into the room, moving slowly along the bed. The last nurse was shutting equipment off, silencing the room. She left without a word.
Sara felt Grissom behind her and then his hand on her hip. She leaned back against him.
“Did you feel it?” she asked.
Grissom rested his cheek against her temple. “Feel what?”
She closed her eyes. “The moment he died, there was a few seconds of peace. It was like the world, for just a moment, held its breath for him. Something amazing happened, something we couldn’t see or touch. It’s only for a few seconds. And then…” Sara opened her eyes, turning to him. “And then chaos.”
He brushed his hand down her face. He nodded. “No. I didn’t feel it.”
She leaned into him, holding him. Grissom wrapped his arms around her.
She didn’t care if he hadn’t felt. She had and she was glad she had. It was how she knew Greg had moved on to someplace warm and happy.