Across Hell's Half Acre
On Nevada Highway 95, traffic was non-stop. No one ever stopped along this hot, dry stretch of road unless they had to. The air buzzed with the constant hum of traffic.
Life further northeast, moved at a much slower pace. Houses were sparse out here. There were a few scraggly herds of sheep or goats. Most of the roads were dirt and colored bleached tan or the occasional dark clay if the composition was right. A narrow paved, neglected two-lane road tied the dirt roads together, and led them back to Highway 95. The road was quiet. Its busiest time came when a family of lizards darted across to the other side or a vehicle sped down it in a rush to get to or from civilization.
In the distance, the windshield of a pickup glistened. It was moving toward a Palomino and rider. The horse was tacked with matching Spanish-style silver and turquoise, bridle and saddle. It had spunk that showed as it moved at a walk that was closer to a Passage trot. The rider didn’t look like he belonged on a horse this beautiful or have tack this expensive. It was hard to tell if he was supposed to be a Latino gangster or a Hispanic gardener, and his a wide-brimmed straw sombrero further confused the options. He kept one hand wrapped tightly around the saddle horn, while holding the reins taut with his other. His head bounced as if he were asleep.
As the pickup approached, the horse began acting up and snorting. The pickup flew past and the horse tried to bolt. The rider’s head snapped up and he fought to get the horse back under control. With the fight over, the sun revealed the rider was C.S.I. Greg Sanders and there isn’t a happy bone in his body right now.
Venomously he told the horse, “I am going to kill Nick Stokes!”
Four days earlier…
Greg, Nick, Sara, and Morgan ate their lunches in silence, each engrossed in results, photographs, or reports. The slow night (something no one would say out loud for fear the mere mention of the word would change it) had been a welcome relief after months of non-stop exposure to humanity’s stupidity and brutality. It was a simple pleasure to be able to eat lunch in peace, instead of in shifts.
They were so engrossed in their work that no one noticed Russell come to the door with call sheets swaying in his hand. The longer they didn’t notice him, the larger his smile grew.
“You know…” Russell began. They all looked up at him. “The last time it was so quie—”
“Don’t you dare say it,” Nick warned him.
Russell laughed. “You don’t want me to say quie—”
“No. Don’t. Don’t you dare,” Sara told him.
Russell laughed again, but didn’t continue to prey on their superstition that just saying ‘quiet’ would end the calm evening. Instead, he handed out the call sheets.
“There is always a calm before the storm so enjoy the moment,” Russell reminded them, then broke off to say, “Morgan you’re working with Finlay tonight but she had court today and will be an hour late. She’ll call when she’s out front so be ready to go.”
Russell left the room, letting the group look at where he was sending them.
“Body found in a pasture. Nothing like a walk through cactus in the dark.” Morgan grumbled.
“I have a head,” Sara told her. “At least yours sounds like it’s all in one spot. Love digging through trash for body parts!”
“I gotta four car wreck on ninety-three,” Nick told them. “I get to untangle bodies from metal. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”
Greg pocketed his call and began collecting his work.
“What’s yours Greg?” Nick asked him.
“Body at the Bellagio.”
“That’s all yours says?” Sara asked.
“It says more,” she insisted. “What does it say?”
“Possible O.D.” Greg packed his laptop in a bag, turning his back on them.
Morgan smiled at Nick and Sara before telling him, “Yours sounds quick.”
“Won’t know till I get there.”
“I think we need to do Call Roulette,” Morgan added.
“Yes! You need to play, Greg,” Sara urged.
“No I don’t.”
“You just want to keep the easy call,” Nick taunted.
“I have to try to determine if the deceased overdosed. How is that easy?”
“Well, you don’t do much at the scene. When the body gets back here, Hodges or Henry will draw the blood, run the test, and you’ll write the report.”
Morgan leaned forward asking, “Or will he? I bet that new intern will write it.”
“None of that is going to happen,” Greg insisted. “Good night, guys.”
“I could make you,” Nick told him.
“How?” Greg turned to him.
“He’s the senior C.S.I. in the room,” Morgan said.
“And I’m bigger than you,” Nick added.
Their arguments didn’t insight much amusement in Greg. “Whatever.” He picked up his bag to leave.
The three began heckling him, wearing him down, until he finally bellowed, “ALRIGHT! Fine! Here.”
Greg tossed the sheet on the table. Sara folded the call sheets into thirds and tossed them in the center of the table. Nick shuffled them and then produced a quarter. He sat it down in front of Greg.
“Greg, you go first. The usual rules. Heads you draw a call, tails, you pass it to the right.
Greg stared at the coin. He really didn’t want to play this tonight. He just wanted to go to his call, get it done, and come back to finish writing the ten reports he still had left. But he also knew they wouldn’t let him back out now.
He picked up the quarter and with great dismay, watched it flip through the air…
Greg stormed across the parking garage to his Denali, jamming his finger against the unlock button on his key remote. The vehicle, parked among the fleet of C.S.I. vehicles, chirped and flicked its lights to greet him. He threw open the back door behind the driver’s side and it smacked the side of Nick’s Denali. Nick appeared at the back, surprising Greg, but not enough to smooth his temper.
“Easy there, Greg.”
“Go to hell,” Greg snapped and got in.
Greg turned the engine on, threw it into reverse, and backed up. The bumper barely cleared Sara’s Explorer.
He threw it in drive, hearing Nick call, “Greg!”Greg drove away, careful not to let his anger get any further into his driving. He glanced back, seeing Sara join Nick, both staring at his taillights. Greg looked away. Right now, he wished all of his co-workers would go to hell!