Warrick carefully set up the rigging over the well and then slipped into a rappel harness. He looked up at the Patrolman Shoemaker standing nearby, and then behind him. Farmer Dell was watching him with the evil eye. He hadn’t been shy about expressing, again, how angry it made him that he couldn’t start drilling his well right now.
Warrick fastened the carabiner onto the harness, fastened a small bag of equipment to the rope, and lowered himself into the well. He began a slow descent into the small shaft, watching the ground below him. At the bottom he spread his legs, avoiding stepping on the ground any more than he had to. David had been careful when he’d come down to collect the mummy, but he’d hidden many of the gold coins by accidentally shifting the dirt.
Warrick pulled off his padded gloves and pulled on latex gloves. From the bag, he pulled out a spade, small hand strainer, and a clear nylon bag with a carabineer. He fastened the clear bag to a rope hanging nearby and then leaned over to sift through the loose dirt. As he collected the gold coins, he discovered that the water table was only a few inches below the surface.
He finished with the coins and put the tools back in his pack. He pulled out plastic test tubes with stoppers and a small metal spoon. Warrick scraped the stones, catching the falling silt and minerals in the tube, and then carefully dug down into the ground to collect soil samples. From the bag, he pulled out a long suction tube, pushed it into the ground, and pulled out a sample of the water. Warrick filled a tube with it, stopped it with a cork, and held it up to the light to look at it. He lowered it, staring at Farmer Dell standing at the edge of the well overhead.
“You’re not supposed to be on this side of the tape, sir,” Warrick told him.
“It’s my property. I want my well back!”
“I’m working as fast as I can.”
“Sir, you have to get behind the tape,” he heard the Patrolman Shoemaker tell Farmer Dell.
The officer appeared, laying his hand on Farmer Dell’s elbow.
“It’s my property!” Farmer Dell
yanked his arm away. “I’ll stand wherever I damn well please!”
The two walked away, the officer explaining, “I know it is your property, sir, but this will go much faster if you let the C.S.I. do his job, sir.”
Warrick put the tubes into the bag, zipped it shut, and started climbing out of the well. He reached the top and found the Patrolman Shoemaker and Farmer Dell by the cordon tape still arguing about the farmer’s rights at a crime scene on his property.
Warrick just smiled and shook his head. He turned to pick up his gear. He had thought about leaving the repelling tripod there in case he had to go back down, but with the way that Farmer Dell was acting, he didn’t think leaving anything behind was safe. Warrick pulled the bag of coins up and worked it free from the line.
“Did you get that gold from my well?”
Warrick looked over his shoulder. Once again, Farmer Dell was ignoring the cordon tape. He charged under, headed toward Warrick.
“Yes. What do you know about them?” Warrick answered.
Warrick turned, facing the man at his full height. Sometimes that was all he needed to disarm an angry person. It didn’t work on Farmer Dell; he kept charging toward Warrick like an angry boar.
“They belong to me.”
“Do they? Tell me about them.”
“You found them in my well! They belong to me!”
Warrick realized this man had no legal claim to these coins, other than ‘finders’ keepers,’ which didn’t amount to squat when it came to a possible murder.
“I’m sorry, sir, but until I’ve cleared them, they’re evidence. If you would like to fill out—”
“I ain’t filling out shit! Give them to me right now.”
Warrick looked up as the Patrolman Shoemaker stopped on the other side of Farmer Dell.
“Sir, for the last time, even if this is your property, you have to stay behind the tape until the C.S.I. has cleared the scene.”
“You’re going to listen to him?” Farmer Dell demanded of the Patrolman Shoemaker.
“As a matter of fact, yes. Now come on.” The officer motioned off toward the grove, out of the taped area.
“Well you can listen to a nigger, but I ain’t.” Farmer Dell turned his angry, beady eyes on Warrick. “Give me those coins, you damn nigger!”
Warrick was surprised that the comments weren’t making him angry. Instead, they made him smile. The anger behind the words was forced and unpersuasive, the words of a lonely, angry old man.
“Sorry. You’ll have to fill out the proper forms.” Warrick said.
Farmer Dell grabbed for the bag and Warrick dodged his hand with a side step. The old man hadn’t expected Warrick to move so he stumbled past him, right into the well. The old man grabbed the rope and slid to a stop a few feet from the bottom. He let go, dropping into the few inches of water at the bottom of the well, and then turned his angry eyes to them.
“GET ME OUT OF HERE!”
“Do we have to?” the Patrolman Shoemaker whispered to Warrick. “He’s out of the way down there.”
Warrick turned fast to keep Farmer Dell from seeing him smile. “I’ll go call for a fire truck.”
The Patrolman Shoemaker cleared his throat and called down, “We’re calling a fire truck to bring a ladder, sir.”
“There’s one over at the shed. Go get it. Get me out of here!”
“I’m sorry, sir, but now that you’re down there I can’t leave the area. The C.S.I. has to return the evidence back to the lab. That’s if you want this cleared up quickly. You do still, don’t you?”
Warrick closed his eyes, fighting to keep his laughter silenced. He started walking faster toward his Denali.
“YOU COMMUNIST IDIOT!” Farmer
Dell screamed, “GET ME OUT OF THIS GOD DAMNED WELL RIGHT NOW!”
“Unfortunately, sir, I am not a communist, a Republican, actually, and I am going to have to wait for the proper emergency personnel to help get you safely out of this well. You just sit tight. That fire truck is going to take a while to get here. We are pretty far away from town.”
Warrick was too far away from the well to hear exactly what Farmer Dell started screaming, but he was sure it was the most racist, comical rant he’d heard in a long time. He threw open the door of his Denali and dove in, busting a gut as soon as he had the door closed. He didn’t call the fire truck until he was able to calm down and sound serious – which took another twenty minutes.
“Albert, where’s the autopsy report for Nick’s corpse? She was buried and there were fire ants. Did you finish her yet?”
Robbins turned away from Greg’s tar man, finding Grissom rifling through the files on his desk. Grissom knew he didn’t like him doing that. Grissom’s idea of filing was to smash files into a drawer and find what he needed later, and he carried that habit with him into the morgue.
Robbins sat the skull saw in his hands down, pulled off his gloves, and hobbled over to wave Grissom away from his desk.
“It’s not in there. He picked it up at the start of the shift. All the evidence too. Stop messing with my files, Gil.”
“Did he seem okay to you? I haven’t seen him yet tonight.”
“As a matter of fact, no. For the third night in a row, he bit my head off when I told him I still didn’t have the tox results. He got so belligerent I had to ask him to leave.”
“What did the autopsy tell you about her?”
“Preliminary, I say she died of asphyxiation from the ants. Her lungs were full of them. But there is a chance anaphylactic shock killed her first; which is why I'm waiting on the toxicology results.”
“Were there any signs of trauma? Did she fight back?”
“Her fingers were worn down to the bone; probably from clawing at the box lid. The fire ants had consumed too much of the soft tissue to leave any signs of other trauma or she fought back. There were no bone fractures or breaks that indicated any trauma before death, however.”
“Do you know if her fingers were worn down before or after she was buried?”
Robbins thought about it and started to answer but suddenly he made a connection between Nick’s case and his horrible attitude. Robbins hobbled over to it, yanked open the door and pulled the drawer out. He hastily unzipped the bag and picked up her hand, looking at it. Grissom approached the other side, looking at her other hand.
“After she was buried?” Grissom asked.
Robbins laid the dead woman’s hand on her stomach, looking up at Grissom. “I think he made that connection at the crime scene, which is probably what set off his panic attack.”
“You were there?”
“During the panic attack, did he say anything?”
“He kept repeating help me, but he didn't appear to see any of us. He backed right into the grave.”
Grissom looked at the dead woman. Had Nick seen himself in that box instead of her? It would explain his reaction and it would explain his rare, vile mood.
Grissom zipped the bag up. “I gotta get him off this case. Thanks, Albert.”
“I don’t think you should do that, Gil,” suggested Robbins.
Grissom looked up at him. “He can’t stay objective about this case with his past, Albert.”
“He’s the one that ordered full panels on this woman. He’s being extremely thorough. Did you ever order him to seek counseling after that ordeal?”
Grissom shook his head.
“I think he might be struggling with some things he never dealt with and this case is forcing him to face those things. Maybe letting him see this through is what he needs.”
Grissom smiled. “Thank you.” Grissom walked toward the door. He stopped suddenly and turned, staring at the corpse on the table. It was still partially covered in a hard tar shell. He looked back at Robbins.
“Did Greg ask you to cut the tar off?”
“No. He kept stabbing his corpse, and himself. I decided to do it myself before he destroyed the corpse and potential evidence, stabbed himself to death.”
Grissom nodded. “Probably a good choice.” He turned and left.
Warrick slowed to a stop as he walked into the lab. Nick was busy with the microscope and didn’t see him. It gave Warrick time to decide if he was ready to try talking to Nick.
Warrick walked over to the counter next to Nick and sat the tubes of soil and water in a test tube rack, and the bag of coins on the counter. Warrick pulled a pair of gloves out of a dispenser and began preparing slides. He didn’t acknowledge Nick when he glanced at him. This was a poker game and he had to play his hand right or he’d never get Nick to hear what he had to say.
“I’m using this microscope,” Nick snarled.
“The others are being used too. I can wait. I have to prepare slides anyway and try to identify these coins.”
“I’m going to be a while.”
Warrick looked right into Nick’s icy glare, unmoved by it.
“Guess I’ll have to wait.”
Nick started collecting his evidence and turned to leave.
“I got this friend…” Warrick waited until Nick turned his icy glare back to him. “Once, he dumped out these pills I was hooked on. He’s a pretty decent friend.”
“And what about this friend?” Nick asked in a dark, angry voice.
“Well, there were these two times he got in this ‘I hate the world’ mood. He’s in one of those moods right now. I didn’t give up on him then, I won’t now either. Maybe I should tell him if he needs help with whatever or just needs to vent, I’m here for him. What do you think?”
Warrick held Nick’s glare.
“I think he’d appreciate knowing that,” Nick quietly told him.
“I hope so.”
Nick walked out of the lab.
Warrick watched him until he turned a corner. He sat down on the stool in front of a microscope and slid a slide of the water under the clips. He focused on it and smiled when he saw the number of bacteria and diatoms in the water. They may help give an idea about how long the mummy had been in the well. He removed the water slide and put the slide of soil on. There was silica from sandstone or mudstone, a few pieces of shells from thousands of years ago, small chunks of conglomerate and… Basalt. Warrick sat up with a smile. That wouldn’t tell him when the man died, but it may help solve the adipocere mystery.
“Good evidence?” Greg asked, suddenly appearing at Warrick’s side.
Warrick smiled. “I’m getting somewhere on a dead end case. What’s up?”
Greg handed him a large envelope for developed X-rays. “Robbins said he’d normally call you down, but he’s backed up.”
Warrick pulled out the X-rays and walked over to a light table. He flicked it on and laid them out.
“Aren’t you supposed to be working on a case?” Warrick asked.
Greg heaved a sigh. “Yeah. But the tar won’t come off! Robbins and David are both working on it now. When I tried to help, they practically screamed no at me. I’m getting the distinct feeling this may end up being a John Doe case. I can’t even see the guy’s face.”
Warrick looked up, confused for a moment. “Then how do you know it’s a guy?”
“They were able to get the tar off that part of him.”
Warrick nodded. “Oh. So then you’re free right now?”
“I am. What’s up?”
“Those coins over there. See what you can make of them.”
Greg looked at the bag. He pulled on gloves and walked over to the counter, emptying the coins onto a tray. He held them up and tried brushing the caked dirt off with his a soft brush. When that didn’t work, he grabbed a bottle of sterile water and began gently washing them.
“Oh wow!” Greg said with a grin.
Warrick glanced at him. “Are they worth anything?”
“They’re gold!” Greg held up one of the gold coins. It was darkened with age, but still had much of its original luster.
“You mean they’re solid gold?”
“Mostly. This one’s a US Eagle. It’s 92% gold. And this one,” Greg held up one with a Maple leaf. “Is a Canadian Maple. It’s 99.99% gold.” Greg carefully moved each coin onto the counter. “This collection is from all over there world. There’s some Kruggerrand, Chinese Pandas, an Australian Lunar, and—”
“I don’t know what any of that means, Greg. Are these currency coins or bullion?”
He held up a coin, pointing at the embossed image on it. “Bullion. They’re called coins because they look like coins.
“What’s their worth?”
“I can’t really say. Normally that would be judged by their weight in gold, but some of these are rare, so they’d be worth more than their weight.”
“Let’s pretend they’re all worth the same. Give me a ballpark.”
Greg moved the coins onto a scale. “This isn’t an accurate measurement because these are measured in troy ounces instead of avoirdupois ounces.” He turned to Warrick. “Roughly, they’re worth about two hundred and fifty thousand. What was your mummy doing with these coins?”
Warrick shrugged. “Falling into wells, apparently. Thanks, Greg.”
“Naw. Gave the rest to Hodges. Sorry, man.”
Greg sidled up to Warrick, looking around the other labs. “Hey, do you know which way Nick went? I saw him in here before I came in.”
“And let me guess, you pretended to be busy until he was gone?”
“He hates me.”
“He doesn’t hate you. His case is just getting to him. He was walking toward A.V. last I saw.”
“Okay. See you later.” Greg headed out the door furthest from A.V.
Warrick watched him go, smirking when Greg had his back turned. He turned back to his X-rays. With the bones nearly deliquesced it was hard to figure out what had interested Robbins. He leaned over the films and finally saw it. The fat-turned-soap almost masked what looked like a wallet that had worked its way into the body as it had changed from living tissue to soap.