“…and, and there’s three bodies. They’re… Someone beat in their faces! There’s blood everywhere!”
Nick glowered at the computer screen as the speakers replayed the 911 recording of the call reporting the three bodies at the house. It made him angry because he knew the voice – it was the suicide man. He didn’t care why he had reported the bodies – it was the end of a long string of 911 calls that had led D.B. to the crime scene, and allowed the man to lure him into a room alone.
“I don’t think listening to that recording is going to get you anywhere, Nick.”
He turned his head. Ecklie stood behind him. He looked as stressed as everyone else did. Was he in the same suit as yesterday?
Without really caring about the answer, Nick turned away from him. He tapped the stop button with the mouse.
“He planned this whole thing,” Nick said.
“There’s no way he could have known D.B., or Grissom he thought, was going to be at the crime scene. It was just chance.”
“No. It wasn’t.”
“Conrad, I thought that at first too, and it was bothering me. He was after the man he thought was Grissom, so how did he get lucky enough to get that very person right where he wanted him? Since it’s now forty-eight hours and no one has a clue where to start looking for D.B, I went back to the recording. Then I remembered that when I showed up that night, Maggie was exhausted—”
“Maggie, the day shift supervisor?”
Nick nodded, continuing, “She said they had been running all day because they kept getting calls about prank crime scenes. They had been going all day.”
“The officers responding should have been able to clear that up. I didn’t know that was going on.”
“That’s just the thing, Conrad,” Nick turned to him. “He staged nearly a hundred crime scenes all over town. Everywhere. He put corpses or body parts all over town. Except that most of the corpses turned out to be dummies and blow up dolls, and the body parts were from pigs, dogs, and other animals. He knew how to get C.S.I. on the scene, and he did this all day. He intentionally caused a backlog and what’s worse, he knew when to stop, so that the graveyard would be overwhelmed and that last call would be given to D.B.”
“That’s all too coincidental.”
“And for all that coincidence, he still managed to kidnap D.B. and leave him for dead! And he intentionally left evidence so that we had to waste precious time sifting through it, looking for any shred of information that tells us where he took D.B. And we’re running out of time!”
Nick sat down on a stool and leaned on his legs. He inhaled and exhaled a long breath.
“We found you, Nick. We’ll find him.”
“Barely found me.” Nick shook his head. “Luck found me.”
“Luck didn’t find you. The evidence did. And it’s going to find D.B. too.”
Nick held his tongue and shook his head instead.
“We found Sara and Morgan with evidence, too. We have a good track record of finding our people and bringing them home.” Conrad turned away and left. “Don’t give up on D.B. He needs you to stay focused and positive, Nick.”
Nick closed his tired eyes, just for a moment, whispering a prayer. With no evidence, no clues, it was all he could think to do.
He couldn’t remember when he stopped feeling hot or when chills began creeping through him. He didn’t know how many hours he had laid on the cot, forcing his mind to stay focused on his verbal report. D.B. had long forgotten why it was so important to stay awake, but it was increasing difficult. His eyes kept drifting to sunlight streaming through a broken skylight, where dust swirled and danced through the light.
He didn’t even notice how fast he was breathing as his heart raced and his body was doing everything it could to continue functioning on a quickly depleting supply of fluids.
“Yeah?” he asked.
“Are you coming?”
He smiled a little. “Look… The sun on the dust.”
“It is beautiful.”
He turned his head, smiling at his wife, Allyson. She stood a few feet from him, smiling back.
“Nothing like you.”
She only smiled.
“I will. I just have to finish my report.”
“It can wait. Come home.”
His eyes drooped closed and then a seizure hit.
Finlay ran down the hall, passed another hall, spotted Nick and Sara, and ran back to them.
“His name is Jackson Perry,” Finlay told them as she came to a stop. She handed Nick a photocopy of the suicide man’s Maryland driver’s license. “He was seven months from graduating from John Hopkins with his medical doctorate.”
“That’s a start,” Nick said.
“Oh, that’s just the start. Remember he said that Angelica was his mother, before he shot himself?”
“Angelica is from Maryland and before she moved here with her family, she had a child when she was seventeen, allegedly from her twenty-nine year old boyfriend. Both denied it so he never went to jail. But when she left, he stayed in Maryland with the son. When she moved here, she met Devin when she was hired as his assistant. The two married and ten years later they had a daughter. Sometime during all this, she reconnected with her son in Maryland. Then his dad, Arnold Perry, died from a heart attack right after Jackson turned eighteen. His step-dad Devin Nolan stepped in and supported Jackson, getting him into John Hopkins with his connections – not that Jackson needed it. He was brilliant, in the top of his class.”
Finlay took a breath and continued, “I got in touch with his adviser and he said Jackson told him police found his mother’s body six weeks ago and he took a leave and returned to Las Vegas. His adviser hadn’t heard from him since and he’d missed mid-terms, which was not like him.”
“I think he might have been in the house when Devin and his half-sister killed themselves,” Sara said.
“I think he saw them both do it and had to put the blame on someone,” Nick said. “Both of you go back to Devin’s house and look for anything to do with Jackson.”
The two left. Nick turned, finding Allyson standing at the end of the hall. His heart sank.
“I waited and…” A few tears fell down her face. “Please tell me you know something, Nick.”
He shook his head. “No.”
She burst into tears. Nick walked over and held her.
Morgan sat back in the office chair, dropped her head and pulled her hands down on her neck. The stretch felt good, but it was short lived. She looked back up at the screen, which offered no information.
“Oh!” she heard Greg say from behind her.
Since Finlay had brought Devin’s laptop back to the lab, Greg had been trying to squeeze any information he could about where to look for D.B. Now he was on his feet, staring wide-eyed at the screen.
He almost smiled. “I have a list of Devin’s properties in Las Vegas. All of them!”
She jumped up and ran over. Her hope threatened to fizzle when she looked at the list.
“Forty-two properties?” She looked at Greg. “It’s one hundred and nine degrees outside and it’s the third day, Greg. How are we supposed to figure out where to even start?”
He sat down and copied the Excel file onto the lab server. Greg wheeled himself in front of a lab computer and pulled the information into a program. It brought up a map with ‘pins’ for each address imported.
“So first we eliminate houses without basements. He couldn’t have put D.B. upstairs because someone might see in and a basement would be too cool.”
He filtered out those addresses and seven ‘pins’ disappeared.
“Then take out any property that has people on it regularly, like this medical clinic, strip club…”
“Now, anything that is in an area with high rate of homeless we’ll take out, because they’ve probably already taken over the place and he couldn’t have hidden a person there.”
Eight more removed.
“That leaves us with fifteen.”
“And what if you’re wrong?” she demanded.
“He’s not,” Nick said behind her.
She turned. He was staring at the screen. Or more accurately, glaring at it. For the second time in days she realize she was seeing that anger Greg had warned her was hidden behind Nick’s calm.
“Greg, divide up those addresses and sent them to each of our phones.” As he turned and left, Nick dialed a number. He added, “Make sure to tell Sara and Julie I want at least two officers with them. I doubt Jackson made it easy for us to find or get to D.B.”
Nick lifted his phone to his ear in the hall and began talking. Morgan turned back to watching Greg divide, and with luck, conquer Jackson’s meticulous murder plot.
The night hadn’t brought cool relief to the desert. The baked sand kept the temperature in the upper nineties.
Sandwiched between four squad cars, Nick steered his SUV toward a group dark buildings of an abandoned refinery. The convoy stopped at the locked gate. Nick watched an officer in the front car got out, pulled a pair of bolt cutters from the trunk, and cut the chain. He shoved the gate back and got back in the car. They drove onto the property, parking in a line with their headlights shining on the buildings. Nick grabbed his Maglite before he joined the officers. With a quick confer, they broke off in teams of three to search the buildings.
Nick and two officers headed for last building on the property, walking through a wide door. Glancing back he saw that the door looked across the desert, and the night sky stretched on forever.
As they entered their shoes crunched on something. Nick lit up the ground. They were walking across a dirty cement with broken plastic everywhere. He crouched for a closer look at the plastic. It was cheap plastic that had been sun bleached. He shone his light around him and couldn’t see anything missing this type of covering. He started searching again.
D.B. heard sound somewhere below him but his mind couldn’t connect it to anything important at first. He closed his eyes, having resolved to death.
The search turned up no person – living or dead. Over the officer’s radios, Nick heard the other officers reporting the same where they were searching.
His hope was plummeting. He’d also received texts from the other C.S.I., reporting they hadn’t found D.B. at the properties they’d searched. He had one last property to search, and he wasn’t feeling very optimistic about that property. Was Jackson really going to beat them? Was he really going to get what he wanted, even if it was killing someone for something they hadn’t been involved with?
He heard a familiar voice ask, “The other officers have found nothing too?”
Someone else replied, “No, Nick. Nothing.”
Nick… D.B. knew that was important. In desperation his mind worked over the name, trying hard to remember why.
“Let’s get to the last address,” Nick told the officers.
The three walked back toward the door, crunching across the plastic. Nick glanced at the wall to his left and noticed something on the floor that looked out of place. He stopped to shine his light on the object.
D.B meant to scream, “NICK!” but all he could manage was a soft whisper no louder than a breeze. D.B. pulled against the restraints. Even if he’d had the strength to pull harder, the restraints weren’t giving him his freedom.
He tried to scream again but his voice was no more than his warm breath over his cold lips. The footsteps stopped crunching. They were leaving! He had to find some way to get their attention.
The moment before panic set in, D.B. remembered the I.V. pump. He couldn’t see it in the dark, not that he could see much. D.B. moved his hand to try grabbing the I.V. tubing. The infection in his hand made the stretch painful. D.B. closed his eyes and kept trying until his fingers caught the tubing. He reeled in the tubing as quickly as he could until it was taunt.
D.B. stopped and listened. If they were gone, he wasn’t about to ruin his only chance of signaling help.
“Did you find something, Nick?” he heard an officer say from below.
“I’m not sure. I—”
D.B. yanked with as much strength as he had left. The I.V. pole flew past him and crashed onto the floor. He held on tight to the I.V. line, listening, hoping, and praying…
Nick jumped when something overhead crashed. He and the two officers immediately aimed their flashlights where the noise had come from. It took Nick a moment to realize this building had a mezzanine in it – it looked like some kind of equipment had come through the holes in the mezzanine floor but had since been removed. A catwalk ran through the rafters of the building from the mezzanine to various platforms around the building.
As Nick swung his light back toward the object the light flashed across something. Nick moved the beam back and stared at the Swiss Army Knife on the ground. He walked over and picked it up. The blade was open and it had not been here long enough to be covered with dirt or rust. Nick looked back up, feeling his hope rising.
“He’s up there. See if you can find a way up there, guys.”
The three began searching for a way up. They came to the realization at the same time. All the ladders that had been cut off well above their heads. The pieces sat on the floor around the building, their cut ends sparkling in their flashlights from fresh, clean cuts. Nick was certain that D.B. was in the mezzanine here.
“One of you go get my SUV and bring it over here. And someone call fire and paramedics!”
The officers left together, but within minutes one came back with the other officer. One drive Nick’s SUV into the building and he directed him to back up to the wall under a cut-off ladder closest to the mezzanine. He slipped his flashlight into his vest pocket upside down and climbed onto the roof of the SUV. The officers aimed their flashlights on the ladder for Nick.
Nick sneered at the ladder when he realized that even standing on his SUV, he was at least seven feet short. He couldn’t reach last rung of the ladder. He knew he should wait for fire to arrive with a ladder to reach it, but there was no way he was doing that. He had to get to D.B.
“I need a boost up,” Nick called down to the officers.
One climbed up and boosted Nick up. After a couple tries, he was able to grab the last rung and pull himself onto the ladder. He climbed up to the catwalk and was about to reach his hand out to grab a railing when he noticed a very faint green light. He pulled his flashlight from his pocket and shined it down the catwalk.
The catwalk was wired with trip wires and bombs. Jackson had even planned on them finding the right location! Nick wasn’t letting that stop him from saving his supervisor.
“CALL THE BOMB SQUAD!” Nick yelled. He looped an arm around a ladder rung. He was waiting right here, as close as he could to where he knew D.B. was, until help arrived. “We’re almost to you, D.B.,” Nick called out. “Hold on, man. We’re right here. Hang on.”
There was no answer from the dark mezzanine.
The first sound that his tired mind connected with the soft beeping of an EKG, followed by someone talking quietly in the distance. D.B. moved his hand, feeling cloth over and under it. He moved his arm so he could close his fingers around the cloth under him.
He tried to wet his mouth and could this time, but just barely.
“Hey,” he heard Finlay say. A hand picked up his hand, warming his cold fingers.
He opened his eyes, staring at Finlay’s smile before seeing her face.
“Hey,” D.B. softly said.
She smiled some more. “Welcome back.”
“I made her go home and get some rest. She’s been here for days.”
“You’ve been in here for two weeks.”
“Did you catch the guy?”
“He committed suicide at the lab.”
“It’s a long story and there’s plenty of time for it. He didn’t make it very easy to find you or get to you, but we did. You’re C.S.I. found you and brought you home.” She rubbed his shoulder.
D.B. closed his eyes. “He thought I was Grissom.”
“Yes, he did.”
D.B. thought about that. “I think that’s a compliment.”
She chuckled a little and he smiled a little.
His eyes drooped shut. Sleep came easy knowing he was safe, and he’d beaten death.