Robbins glanced at the door of the morgue when Nick walked in. Nick stopped to look at the three bodies Robbins was working on. Two had recently died, while the third was a leather-skinned mummy. The two recent deaths had their faces brutally beaten in, leaving them beyond recognition.
“Can they help us find him?” Nick asked. In kidnap cases before, Robbins had seen Nick enraged and out for blood. It was strange, and uncomfortable, to see him so calm.
The M.E. shook his head. “No. In fact, these bodies leave more questions than answers. This one…” Robbins walked over to a body that was mummified. “Starts the mystery. A Caucasian female between forty and fifty.” Robbins gently lifted one arm. “She was bound for a long time before she died. I pulled some fibers from the wounds and sent them to Hodges. But then things get really strange. She’s already had an autopsy and was buried for a while; in her condition, I can’t tell if either the autopsy or burial were before or after death.”
“Could you get finger prints?”
Robbins held up a hand. The tips of the fingers had been cut off. “No. And her teeth were pulled out. The other two had their fingers burned with acid that removed the prints. They also had their teeth removed, before the beating to the face, all post-mortem.”
“So someone is trying to hide their identities.”
“Not the man, they weren’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“Most of his skull was destroyed from a shotgun blast, and from what I can tell, it appears he pulled the trigger himself.”
Nick paused for a moment and his jaw flexed a couple times. Robbins began to suspect the calm was masking Nick’s rage. “Oh, this just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?
Robbins agreed. “Unfortunately so. The second woman's face was beaten in after the teeth were removed. I also think this other woman committed suicide. Her wrists are slit, in the right direction, and the wounds appear to be self-inflicted.”
“Their killer could have forced them to commit suicide.”
“That is true, but the fact remains that both killed themselves.”
“How long have they been dead?”
“I don’t know. They were frozen. So was the mummified female, but she was likely mummified before frozen because there wasn’t enough tissue damage. I sent skin and hair samples to Henry; maybe they’ve been reported missing.”
Robbins saw Nick’s fire when he growled through gritted teeth, “What the hell did D.B. stumble into?”
“Nothing good, from the looks of things. There was nothing turned up at the house?”
“No,” Nick answered as he shook his head. “The house belongs to a couple who are on vacation in Maryland right now. The only person they had coming to the house was a man to mow the lawn twice a week, but the owners said he didn’t have access to the house. That lead checked out. We’re at a dead end here if Henry doesn’t find anything.”
Nick’s cell phone beeped and he looked at the text message. He ran out of the morgue.
Ten minutes earlier…
The officer at the front desk looked up when the elevator dinged. He watched a young man walk off and turn toward the desk. It was hard to tell if his all black clothes made him look ill, or if he really was ill. His skin was sallow, his eyes had sunken in their sockets, and he looked like he may be starving but it was hard to tell with his grungy full beard and greasy hair that could only be described as dark.
He stopped a few feet from the desk.
“I need to talk to a C.S.I.,” the man said.
“You need to report that to the police.”
“I need to talk to a C.S.I.”
The officer considered arguing, but picked up his phone and dialed a number instead.
Finlay answered. “Yeah?”
“Someone up here is requesting to speak to a C.S.I. about a kidnapping.”
“We don’t have time for this.”
“He won’t call the police.”
He heard her sigh. “I’ll be right up.”
He hung up, looking at the man. He was looking at something in the lab.
“One will be here in a couple minutes.”
The young man looked at him. For someone who wanted to report someone kidnapped, the man was unusually calm. That calm set caused the officer’s instincts to flash red flags.
“How long has the person been missing?” the officer asked.
“I need to talk to a C.S.I.,” the man repeated.
Finlay came into the room. The officer motioned to the man. She stopped in front of him and forced a smile. “C.S.I. Julie Finlay.” She extended her hand to him.
The man pulled his hand out of his right pocket, along with a gun. She drew her sidearm, aiming at him. Behind her the officer leapt to his feet, drawing his sidearm and aiming at the man.
“Put down the gun, sir,” Finlay ordered.
“My mother was kidnapped seven years ago,” the man told her. “When Grissom found the kidnapper, he let him kill himself. And then he couldn’t find my mother. Six weeks ago, some kids went into an abandon barn and found her. She’d been there for seven years!”
“I’m sorry to hear that, but—”
Finlay stopped talking. Part of her desperately wanted to believe that hearing this guy’s story was all he needed, but her instincts were not convinced this was going to end in any way good for anyone in the room.
“She was tied to a post and we were told she died from dehydration. Do you have any idea what it’s like for someone to die like that?” He waved the gun to make points in his question.
“Yes. I do. But—”
“Don’t try pacifying me.”
She saw Nick move into the room with his sidearm aimed at the man.
“Hey,” Nick said, “why don’t you put that gun down, man?”
“Why don’t you kiss my ass?” the man snapped at Nick.
“Whatever the problem is, I’m sure we can work it out.”
“Oh yeah? You can bring my mom back from the fucking dead? You’re that good of a C.S.I.? Better than that asshole Grissom?”
Nick grimaced a little. “No, but—”
“THEN SHUT THE FUCK UP! I’M TALKING TO THIS BITCH!” The man motioned at Finlay with his gun.
Nick didn’t try continuing.
“My dad, he couldn’t handle the idea of how my mom died,” the man told Finlay. “So he put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. The stress of dealing with my mom’s death and then my dad’s suicide, made my sister miscarry. She became so depressed that she took a whole bottle of Ambien and drown in the bathtub. That mother fucker killed my entire family! All of them are dead. All because he couldn’t keep the kidnapper from killing himself.” The man smirked. “Well, I hope you C.S.I. are better than he was because I left him to die just like my mother.”
“Him who?” Finlay asked. “Who did all this?”
Sara came walked through a door behind the man, stopping to block it. She didn’t draw her weapon, but she kept her hand on it, ready to react.
“That fucking C.S.I., Gil Grissom!”
“Grissom is in… What country did you leave Grissom in?” Nick asked.
“Las Vegas, idiot! I took him right out his crime scene, his fucking precious crime scene, and left him for dead. The same way he left my mother!”
“That was not Gil Grissom,” Nick told him. “He wasn’t—”
“Time’s a’wastin’.” The man put the gun to his temple.
“NO!” Finlay yelled at the same time the man pulled the trigger.
The man crumpled to the floor and blood began to pool around the gunshot wound in his head.
“I spoke to Gil this morning; he’s still in London,” Sara told the other C.S.I. “What did this guy say he did to him?”
“He thinks…” Finlay trailed off, unable to voice the obvious.
Nick wasn’t as silent. “He kidnapped D.B. because he thought he had Grissom.”
Sara walked a few steps into the room. “Nick…” She looked over at him, “we’re having a heat wave this week. If he left him to die of dehydration we have three, four days tops, to find him.”
Nick was aware of that as soon as he realized the kidnapper had mistaken D.B. He turned to Finlay, and found several technicians and Greg standing in the hall behind her. With the clock ticking on D.B.’s life, someone had to take charge – in an instant he decided that would be him. Nick flicked the safety back on his gun and holstered it.
“Greg and Sara, get back to work on the evidence from the house. Triple check everything, make sure you two have missed nothing.” Nick began, “Finlay, stay with the kidnapper, see if we can figure out where he may have stashed D.B. We have to work fast to find, D.B., people, so get back to your labs. As soon as we get evidence on this case, it takes priority over everything else. Understood?”
The crowd mobilized, obeying their marching orders. Nick turned back to the dead man, staring at him.
Very quietly Finlay told him, “If he mistook D.B. for Grissom that means this guy had never met Grissom. Even if we find his mother’s kidnapping case, chances are we won’t have his name. We won’t even know where to start looking for D.B., Nick.”
“When the time comes to worry about that, we’ll worry about it. Right now, I have to start making some phone calls to see if anyone can tell me what case this guy was talking about.” Nick left Finlay to wait for the M.E.
But before he began making calls he made a stop in a stairwell. Nick grabbed the stair railing on the landing and leaned on it, letting his fear and panic show. While the situation surrounding D.B.’s kidnapping wasn’t exactly like Nick’s experience, there were too many similarities. Those similarities drudged up old fears and horrific memories, but somehow that was a good thing. Because there was no way he was going to stop looking for D.B. He was determined to find his supervisor and pull him back to safety, no matter what it took or cost him.
Nick inhaled a deep breath, exhaled, and began making phone calls.
Nick looked up when a case jacket was dropped by his elbow. Finlay sat down on a stool, staring at him for a few awkward moments.
“D.B.’s kidnapper burned off his fingerprints with acid,” she began, “and he had several of his teeth removed so there are no dental records.”
That made Nick turn a glare on his computer. She looked at it.
“What’s are you doing?”
“I’m trying to find a kidnapping case that Grissom was lead on and matches the people we have in the morgue.”
“How do you know they were the ones the man was talking about?”
“His mother died seven years ago, in the desert, and the mummified corpse is female. If someone dies in the desert, and animals don’t get to them first, the heat and low humidity will cause their body to mummify. So I’m just assuming the two go together.”
“Like a needle in a stack of needles.”
Finlay started to comment but closed her mouth. Nick didn’t notice.
“I have a small something,” Henry walked into the room, followed by Hodges saying, “I have nothing, Nick.”
Nick turned to Hodges first. “You have nothing?”
He shook his head. “The guy not only burned his fingerprints off and removed teeth, but he also purchased brand new clothes so there is no trace, and washed his entire body with bleach water. This guys was determined to keep his identity hidden.”
“I have figured out some of the relations between the kidnapper and the three corpse we have in the morgue. The kidnapper is the son of the mummified woman. The young woman is the daughter of the man and mummified woman, and within the last 7 days she was pregnant. So either they were married or a couple.”
“Did she miscarry?” Nick asked.
“Possibly. But when I ran the DNA of the man found at the house, it brought up an arrest report from six weeks ago. He apparently assaulted an officer, was in jail for a few days, but the charges were dropped. He is Devin Nolan.”
“Devin Nolan, the millionaire?” Finlay asked.
“Billionaire. Recently a billionaire. But there was something interesting on the arrest report. May I?” He motioned to Nick’s computer.
Nick moved out of his way and he pulled up the report. He pointed at the address on the report. “The address where the woman was found is in the desert.”
“Maybe it’s a vacation home,” Hodges suggested.
“No,” Nick and Finlay both answered. Finlay added, “No. This area has no utilities – most people have solar panels or nothing, and have to port in their water. There’s a few abandoned homesteads out there, which would be perfect to hide someone you just kidnapped and left for dead.” Nick grabbed his cell phone and sent a text message to Greg and Morgan, sending them to check it out.
“Now that we have one name, I’m going to see if anyone’s reported Devin Nolan missing,” Finlay said as she rushed off.
“Clear your schedules for more evidence,” Nick told Henry and Hodges. “Everything on this case takes priority.”
The two nodded and left.
Nick hit a speed dial number on his phone. “Conrad, I need to find State Patrolman Lieutenant Derek Schultz. He arrested the man in the morgue.” Nick grabbed a notepad and jotted the information down. “Thanks.” He hung up, grabbed the paper, and headed out to talk to the officer who arrested Devin Nolan six weeks ago.
He felt like he was inside an oven. When he tried to move his arm and couldn’t, D.B remembered he was still in a nightmare. He opened his eyes, seeing blue sky through the skylights. Sunlight streamed through them, heating the top of the warehouse.
He looked up at the I.V. pole. The bags weren’t empty but the pump had shut off. Just like the man had promised. He closed his eyes for a moment when a wave of dizziness swept through his head. He opened his eyes and tugged at the wrist cuffs a couple of times, but they weren’t coming loose by force.
Working his hip closer to his hand, he was able to reach his fingers into his right pocket and pull out his Swiss Army knife. It took work to get the blade open. Arching his hand just right he was able to push the blade against the cuff. The awkward bending immediately signaled this was going to lead to a cramped hand, but he’d rather have cramped hand rather than die from dehydration.
D.B. began sawing at the cuff. The tough material proved to be resistant against the sharp blade, but the marks the blade left lifted his hope that resistance wouldn’t last. He focused his attention on cutting himself free, and away from his real fear of dying for something he had nothing to do with.
Greg stopped the SUV in front of a farmhouse. He and Morgan sat for a few minutes to take in the slowly deteriorating homestead.
The house had very small patches of paint on the sundried and sand blasted wood. It might have been white once, but it was hard to really tell. The front steps sagged and looked dangerous to be on. Only two of the windows were broken out, which was surprising considering the remote location of the house – or maybe that’s why there were only two broken.
The barn had no paint left on it. It sagged in the middle and was leaning. Eventually it would collapse into rubble, be buried by the sand or rot away, and leave the house alone to remind the desert humans had once been here.
Crime scene tape had been placed over the doors of the house and barn, but now it fluttered in the light breezes that blew across the desert.
“The mummified body was found here?” Morgan asked.
“Yeah. In the barn over there.”
“I’ll take the barn.”
“Okay. Let me know if you find him.”
The two got out, grabbed their kits, and split up to see if they could find answers about why the suicide man had kidnapped D.B., or if luck was on their side, their supervisor himself.
Greg walked up the steps of the house and stopped to pull on a pair of gloves. He pushed the broken crime scene tape out of his way and walked inside.
To his surprise the house was considerably cooler than the 108 outside. He sat his kit down at the door, turned on his flashlight, and began walking through the house. He found fingerprint dust throughout the house, and voids were prints had been lifted for examination.
His search ended in the kitchen at the back and left him feeling more frustrated. Not only had this place been picked clean of any evidence by the previous C.S.I., but there was no sign anyone had been here since and no place to hide D.B.
He headed back to the SUV. While he waited for Morgan, he decided to pull up the case attached to this address. Maybe there were answers in there.
In the barn, Morgan didn’t have any
better luck. She found a couple parts and tools hanging on the wall. She
spotted shoe prints in the dirt floor, leading over to a stall at the back of
the barn. At eye level the stall had old gnaw marks from animals chewing on the
wood, but it was what was below eye level that caught her attention.
Morgan squatted and sat her kit beside her. She reached a gloved hand out and ran it down the smooth spot on one side of a post. Someone had rubbed on it for a while, long enough to smooth and polish the wood. She looked around her for evidence of who, but the place had been picked clean by the C.S.I. before her. She stood up, frustrated.
“MORGAN!” Greg called.
She picked up her kit and headed back to the SUV. Greg had the vehicle running and she was greeted by a blast of cool air when she climbed inside. She noticed he had a laptop wedged between his stomach and steering wheel.
“Nothing in the house?”
“No. The previous C.S.I. picked it clean.” He looked up at her. “The mummified woman they found out here was Devin Nolan’s wife. Nick talked to the officer and he said when they wouldn’t let Devin see her body, he punched the officer. The officer persuaded the D.A. to drop the charges because he knew the guy was just reacting grief and how his wife had died.”
Morgan sat back in her seat. “Okay. Now what?”
Greg looked at his laptop. “We gotta back. I found some other things in this case file that might help us, but Nick wanted me to talk about it with everyone.”
Greg closed his laptop and sat it behind his seat. He slipped the SUV into gear and turned around to head back to Las Vegas.
“He’s sure calm about all this – almost like he doesn’t care.”
“He cares, and he is not calm.”
“He’s acting like it.”
“Morgan, he doesn’t have time to act like this is bothering him, or that he cares, but I know he’s having a hard time with this. I’m sure the way this happened is digging up his past.”
Greg didn’t answer her question. “Just don’t give him a hard time, okay? He’s being brave for us, but the wrong word and he’ll rip your head off.
She couldn’t argue because she had never seen Nick acting so calm and so reactive before. As for herself, she was angry. Angry that they were wasting time sifting through evidence and getting no closer to finding D.B. Despite her anger, she knew better than to let it get the better of her, and that the evidence was all they had to find him.
The C.S.I. gathered around the evidence table, listening to Greg reveal what he’d found.
“…that was nine years ago,” Greg told them, “but six weeks ago some college students found that abandon farm and one of them found the mummified body in the barn. Police were called and at the time they were able to get fingerprints and dental records – she was Angelica Nolan, wife of Devin Nolan. The young woman is the daughter of Nolan and his wife, but there is no mention of a son in the case file. I still can’t figure out how this woman’s son became involved in any of this.”
Nick shook his head. “It wasn’t like Girssom to promise bringing home a kidnapped victim.”
“He clearly felt he could, or he wouldn’t have,” Sara said, defending her husband’s integrity.
“And he couldn’t have known the kidnapper would shoot himself when he was caught,” Finlay said. “That’s not something most kidnappers do.”
“Maybe you weren’t there when D.B.’s kidnapper killed himself?” Nick angrily snapped, “Or how about when mine killed himself?”
His outburst of anger surprised all of them. The team watched him struggle to regain his composure in the heavy silence that followed.
In those minutes Morgan realized what Greg had meant by Nick’s past bothering him on this case, and why he was acting like he didn’t care about D.B. He really was putting on a brave face for the team, when inside he was being torn up by memories of a very similar situation that nearly killed him.
“I’m sorry,” Nick finally said, “That was uncalled for. I’m sorry.”
Finlay nodded. “We’re all worried, you’re not alone. No harm done.”
Regaining his calm, Nick moved on with getting his team back out to find D.B. “Somehow, somewhere, this man is connected to Devin and his daughter, not just Angelica. All of their deaths wouldn’t have driven him to this if he wasn’t. Finlay, Sara, check out the Nolan’s residence. Greg, go talk to the C.S.I. and M.E. who recovered the woman’s body from the barn, see if they can tell us anything or recognize the man.”
They three left with their orders.
“What should I do?” Morgan asked.
“Start calling funeral homes. Robbins said the wife was buried for a while, so we might be able to find something there. Also see if there is any death record for Devin Nolan and his daughter. And find the father of her baby, too.”
She nodded and left.
Nick pulled up the Angelica Nolan case, and he started through the photographs on the hunt for anything that might help. He suddenly stopped and backed up a couple photographs. The evidence marker in the photograph focused his attention. There were lines drawn in the dirt. They were faint and difficult to see. The C.S.I. must have known that because the camera had been angled so that the flash lit up the edges. The woman had left a message, probably her last one as she died: I love you all. Take care of one another.The message caused Nick’s hope to erode a little more. If D.B.’s kidnapper saw this, it probably started his downward spiral to this crime. And possibly his supervisor’s death.