The Nolan estate was massive. The 13 bedroom, two story mansion, sat on 10 acres of lush green grass surrounded by palm trees, hedges, gardens, and an impressive stone fence.
Upon arriving at the address, Sara and Finlay were forced to impatiently wait for the D.A. to get a warrant for the code to open the impressive wrought iron gates blocking entrance to the property, only to find that they had to have a code to open either the front or back door also. It left the two C.S.I. and the two officers escorting them on the steps, watching the rising sun slowly brighten the sky from the east. As the dim light turned to gray, Sara’s patience reached a quick end.
“Maybe we should start on the perimeter,” she suggested to the officers and Finlay. “I saw a pool, there may be a pool house, or a shed at the back.”
She didn’t get a reply from anyone. She looked at the two officers. They didn’t look motivated to move away from the front door. She turned her head to Finlay, prepared to ask why she didn’t want to do the suggestion. She stopped when she found Finlay staring intently at something across the lawn.
“Julie?” Sara asked.
Finlay didn’t answer.
Finlay looked at her. “Huh?”
“We should start on the perimeter while we wait.”
Finlay looked back at the spot that had her attention. She got up and walked to the edge of the driveway, staring across the grass again.
“What’s wrong?” Sara asked her.
She turned back to Sara. “Tell me what’s wrong with this property.”
“It costs more than my one bedroom condo?” an officer answered.
Finlay almost smiled. “No.”
Sara looked around them. Suddenly she saw what Finlay saw.
“The grass is almost knee high. All the shrubs and trees haven’t been trimmed. There are flower beds with dead flowers. This place hasn’t been taken care of in weeks. What about it?”
Finlay nodded, looking around them again. “How long did Robbins think Nolan had been dead?”
“It was inconclusive because he was frozen. He guessed perhaps three, maybe four days.”
“It had to have been longer. With a place like this, Devin Nolan would have had maybe a dozen gardeners and grounds keepers. But look at this place, Sara! Nobody has been here to take care of it in weeks! The flowers are dead because no one has been here to check on the water system. That’s bluegrass, not Bermuda, and the desert is the worst place for it to be because it needs so much water. But even with the sprinklers working, it would grow slow. Since it’s probably at least sixteen inches now, no one has mowed it for two or three weeks. And where is the house staff? Why is there no one here?”
“Maybe they guy killed them too.”
“I don’t think he did. I’m sure at least some of the staff here has friends or families that would have reported them missing. Even if it was only six reports filed, it would have been flagged. When we learned that all of those people were last know or seen here, we would have noticed no staff or even found the kidnapper, here. As careful as he’s been so far, there is no way he would have let us even accidently stumble into his plans.”
Sara was about to rebuttal when her cell phone rang. She answered it instead, grateful for the distraction from the frustrating conversation. “Hey Conrad”
‘The security company finally came through. Ready for the code?’ he asked.
She trotted up to the keypad by the door. “Go.”
She punched in the code and the door clicked. She tried the handle and it opened.
“We’re in. We’ll let you know if we find anything.” Sara hung up the call.
The four entered the house together, coming into an impressive foyer. They stopped there, all four trying to decide on a plan of action, or expecting one of the others to come up with one.
“We’ll start securing the house,” one of the officers told the C.S.I.
One man headed off to their left, while the second started up the stairs.
Sara looked up when something sparkled across her face. Above her was a glass dome and a large chandelier suspended under it. The morning sunlight hit the crystals on the chandelier, dancing light around the room. She looked down when Finlay walked away from her side.
Finlay stopped at a table, pulled on a glove, and swiped her finger across the table. She held the finger up for Sara to see the light coat of dust on it.
“It would take a couple weeks for this to accumulate,” Finlay pointed out.
Sara knew she was right, but she was irritated by the facts. None of them got them any closer to finding D.B., and that made her heave a heavy sigh.
“The last thing we need is more mystery. We are never going to find D.B. if all we keep getting are questions and no answers!”
Finlay walked up to Sara, looking her in the eye. “I’m not trying to add more unanswered questions, just figure out where my friend is so I can save his life.”
Sara looked away with an involuntary head shake. “You want the top or bottom?”
Finlay chuckled at the unintentional joke, which made Sara smile.
“Top,” Finlay said and headed up the stairs.
Sara went the direction the police officer had disappeared.
Finlay’s search of the upstairs didn’t answer any questions, let alone give a clue where the man had hidden D.B.
While the rooms weren’t as clean as they should be, there was no sign of a struggle or blood that had been cleaned up. It was as if the Nolan family had one day decided to disappear, only to resurface in some stranger’s house across town as the victims of a kidnapper using them to lure D.B. into the field.
She walked into a study that looked as neat but unkempt for as the rest of the house. However, she was rewarded with a laptop on the desk waiting for its owner to return to use it. She sat down in the chair and tapped a key. The computer lit up, and to her surprise, there was no password on it. The desktop had a variety of icons for games, Microsoft Office, and applications she was unfamiliar with. She opened Outlook. The screen came up and immediately emails began to pour in. She skimmed through them. One caught her eye with the subject of: Fall Tuition is due.
She opened the email and carefully read it, looking for anything that told her the identity of the sender. This person wrote about his college semester, but no school was mentioned. He had an internship at the hospital, but didn’t mention the hospital name. The writer told about a professor he couldn’t stand because he felt the woman was judgmental and only liked the sexy girls – not that the writer complained, the writer liked the sexy girls too. The email ended reminding Devin that once again tuition time had come, and could the writer get a hundred extra to buy new jeans since all his had holes in them. The person signed the email, JP.
She looked at the sender. Outlook had the person labeled as ‘That kid.’ There was nothing malicious in the email that hinted this person wanted to harm the Nolan family, but her instincts told her the writer was the kidnapper. She shut down the computer and prepared it to take back to the lab. She had to hunt down JP, That Kid, with the only identification she had so far, [email protected]
“Hey, Finlay,” an officer said when he stopped in the door.
“There’s someone here you might want to talk to her. She’s looking for Devin Nolan for her last paycheck.”
Finlay followed him back down to the foyer. A dark skinned woman stood just inside the door, watching them descend the stairs toward her. She was in her thirties, a little shorter than Finlay, and didn’t seem the least bit concerned there was an officer in the house.
“Hello. I’m C.S.I. Julie Finlay. Can I help you?”
When she spoke, her accent hinted she was Native American. “I’ve come for my last check.”
“Why did Mr. Nolan let you go? And when?”
“Why does it matter? I came here to get what I’m owed.”
“Ma’am, Devin Nolan is dead. You may be the last person that saw him when he fired you.”
“I know he’s dead, I found him three weeks ago. I just want my last check.”
“You know Devin Nolan is dead?”
“Yeah. Jerry found him out in the gardener’s shed and we all went out to see while he called the police. Even Eva, but then she had to be taken to the hospital. Miscarried I was told. A friend of the family was here, though, so he took care of everything. Course, then the asshole fired everyone.”
“You reported Devin Nolan’s suicide?”
“I just said that, didn’t I?”
“Did a coroner show up to take his body?”
“I don’t know. The guy sent everyone home for the day after we found him.”
“Did the police show up before you left?”
“I don’t know. He said they were coming.”
“And this person fired all everyone?”
“Yeah, the entire staff, everyone three weeks ago.” The woman’s voice rose some with her irritation and her angry glare intensified. “I want my check.”
“How long ago was it when Devin committed suicide?”
“Four weeks ago, a couple days after he got out of jail.”
Finlay fished a notepad and pen from a pocket, and held it out to the woman. “Could I get your name and phone number in case I have any other questions?”
“I just want my damned check.”
“I understand that, but Devin and Eva are dead, and this family friend may know something about why or how they ended up that way.”
The woman paled. She put her hands on her chest, retreating a partial step. “Eva is dead too?”
“You didn’t know that?”
“No. No! Eva was alive when we were fired. I mean, she was a mess since they found her mother, and after her miscarriage, but she was alive.”
“Do you know who the father of Eva’s baby was?”
“No. All we ever knew was she had married someone right after high school, but then she came back here pregnant and without a husband.”
“Could I still get your name and phone number? As soon as I can find out about your check, I’ll contact you.”
The woman took the notepad and jotted her name and phone number down. She almost threw it at Finlay and stormed out. Finlay looked down at the name, but wasn’t really seeing it. Sara’s words echoed in her mind: We are never going to find D.B. if all we keep getting are questions and no answers!
Sara walked into the kitchen, impressed by the size. Three of her own kitchens could fit in this one. The granite counters were polished but dusty. Everything was in order, in designated places, and undisturbed. There were two double door refrigerators along one wall. She walked over to one and opened it. It wasn’t a side by side like she had expected. It was a full refrigerator and empty. The second one was the same model, and only had a pint of curdled milk. She walked around to a hallway. There was a door at the end, a door to her left, and a freezer door on her right.
Outside the freezer door the temperature read zero. Why would a house keep their freezer that cold? She remembered that Robbins told them Dean and his daughter, Eva, had been frozen. Was this where they had been kept?
Sara opened the door. There was half a package of pizza rolls and a pint of ice cream, but the rest of the large freezer was empty.
Well, not quite…
She walked over to spots where blood had frozen to the floor. This one had voids and she could imagine Eva lying here with her bloody wrists. On the far side of the freezer there was dirt on the floor. Sara was convinced the kidnapper had stored the bodies had been stored before they were moved to the house across town.
But how did the kidnapper a hold of the Nolan family? And why did he store them before moving them and using them as a lure? She was more frustrated, because she just added more questions to the long list and he was running out of time…
He couldn’t feel how swollen his tongue was because he didn’t have enough saliva to swallow. He tried wetting his lips every few minutes, but there wasn’t enough moisture. D.B. fought back fatigue with determination to free himself.
He looked down at the wrist restraint and wanted to moan. After half a day and night of sawing at it, he’d only cut an inch into the restraint.
His hand cramped suddenly, making him stop. It was throbbing as bad as his other arm. D.B. looked where the I.V. was inserted in his other arm. Red streaks had begun to form around where the ‘needle’ was inserted in his arm, indicating a growing infection.
He curled his fingers tight around his pocket knife and bent his hand to start sawing again.
There were no warning symptoms when the first seizure struck. It caused his hand to grip the knife; as soon as the convulsions began, the knife slipped from his hand and skidded out of sight.
He lost consciousness by the time the seizure subsided.
The morgue doors opened and Robbins looked up from his computer. A gurney with body in a bag entered followed by David pushing it. He moved it to the center of the room and then turned to Robbins.
“Suicide,” David quickly explained.
Robbins nodded once and went back to work.
“Any news on D.B.?” David asked.
Solemnly Robbins shook his head. David came up to him, pulling exam gloves on while he spoke. “That’s been the talk all night out there since Conrad finally sent out a press release about the kidnapping.”
“He’s hoping to get a lead on this case. So far they’ve gotten answer to questions that lead to more questions. And it turns out the man thought D.B. was Grissom.”
“What man thought he was Grissom?”
Robbins looked up at him, surprised at first. Then he realized David hadn’t been there when the suicide happened the night before, nor had he probably had time to hear about it. He had been single handedly handling night and day shift while Robbins and the day shift M.E. worked with the bodies to find anything about them that hinted to where D.B. might be held.
“A man came in here and said he blamed Grissom for the death Devin Nolan’s wife, Angelica Nolan. Apparently her kidnapper killed himself without telling anyone where she was and she died in the desert from dehydration. We don’t know how the man was attached to the family.”
“Devin Nolan committed suicide four weeks ago. Was this some guy claiming to be him?”
“He did… You signed his death certificate? Then where is it?”
“I filed it with the clerk that afternoon when I got in. Just like I always do.”
“Did you personally file it?”
“Well, no, I sent several with our intern. Just like you do.”
“So where is the body, David? Are you sure it was ruled a suicide?”
“Yes, and yes. A swing C.S.I. covering for Finlay was on the scene when I got there and we agreed it was a suicide. We didn’t have a funeral home yet, so I brought the body here. Not even an hour later, the family lawyer showed up and asked to have the body released to him so the family could prepare it for a kosher burial that night.”
“He said Dean Nolan was Jewish?”
“No. He never said he was Jewish, although I assumed that if the family wanted to do a kosher burial.”
“Did he have the release forms? The right paperwork?”
“Yes. I filed all of the paper work. It was filled out correctly and signed. I didn’t have any reason to question it.”
In his gut, Robbins knew exactly who this ‘lawyer’ was.
He got up and walked over to the cold drawers, opened a door, and pulled out the drawer. He flipped the sheet back from the suicide man’s face.
“Is this the lawyer?”
David walked over and nodded. “Yes. That’s him. He was killed too?”
“No, David.” Robbins fished his cell phone out to text Nick this information. “This is the guy that kidnapped D.B. and then committed suicide in the C.S.I. lobby. I doubt he was ever a lawyer.”
Morgan walked into the cool, dim lit building of Kraft & Sussman Funeral Home. The building was tastefully decorated and cool. The very building seemed to be requesting nothing but the utmost respect from anyone who entered. Morgan spotted a sign pointing to an office and followed the arrows. She found a woman sitting at a desk just inside the door, busily filling out paperwork by hand.
“Excuse me,” Morgan said.
She looked up and smiled.
“Hi. I’m C.S.I. Morgan Brody.” She showed her I.D. badge. “Las Vegas PD.”
“How may I help you?”
“I believe your home handled the burial of Angelica Nolan, wife of Devin Nolan.”
“Oh. Yes. We did.”
“I checked with the cemetery she was buried at and was told she was exhumed two weeks ago. Can you tell me why that was?”
“Her husband made the request through their family lawyer. Apparently there had been a change of plans and they were going to transport her remains back east to her family plot.”
“But… I thought Angelica Nolan was a Nevada native?”
The woman shrugged. “All I know is the lawyer came with the paperwork he needed for the transport. The next day, a transport van showed up for the body.”
Morgan pulled her cell phone from her pocket and pulled up the post-death picture of the suicide man. She showed it to the woman.
“Was this man either the lawyer or driver?”
“The driver. He must have been related to the lawyer though. They looked related.”
“What do you mean?”
“He was older. A gray beard and hair.”
“Are you certain they weren’t the same person?”
“Yes. I spoke to both of them. The lawyer was very professional, polite, refined; how’d you’d expect a lawyer to be. That van driver cussed about every little thing.”
Morgan forced a smile. Of course they were. The guy knew he better than to act the same way. Why did this guy have to be so damned smart?
“Thank you for your time.” Morgan left, walking quickly back to her SUV. She wasn’t going to return with information Nick would be happy with.