Chapter 1 (Part I)
There was an apprehensive, heavy silence in the courtroom while Greg Sanders sat in the witness chair. The DA paused to collect her thoughts before questioning him. She was an attractive brown-haired woman, but he wondered if she was even aware of that right now. He decidedly didn’t care. He just wanted to get back to the evidence he’d left the new tech.
Greg glanced at Nick Stokes, sitting in a chair directly behind the DA. Greg had to stop the smile when he remembered how Nick had gone off about the trial on the way over this morning. It was a posthumous trial for Craig Toomey, a man that had bombed the clinic almost two months ago. Nick said the case should have gone to trial before Toomey had a chance to commit suicide, and having it after his death was a waste of taxpayer’s money. Greg knew better than to attempt to get Nick off track once he got started on a tirade like that. Voicing that he disagreed would have driven Nick wholeheartedly into his argument and made him a road menace. It was safer for everyone to let the storm blow over.
Unfortunately, the storm was still raging all the way to the doors of the courtroom, so he never had the opportunity to point out that if the state won the Toomey estate, plaintiffs would walk away with about five thousand each. It wasn’t much, but it would at least give them closure. That was good news, and good news is what the city needed right now.
A serial killer had been running rampant for a week, murdering homeowners along with EMS and police who responded to fake emergency calls. Whoever was doing this had somehow hacked into the Emergency Response computers and was dispatching the EMS and police to their deaths – and so far no one was able to distinguish a real dispatch from a fake one except to call dispatch. However, that took time, time that could cost people’s lives and so the murders continued. The second problem was that every crime scene so far had evidence but none that identified the killer’s identity.
The DA approached the stand.
“You were the second crime scene investigator in charge of inspecting the Centennial Hills Clinic?”
A jolt ran through Greg’s body when his phone began vibrating in his pocket. He resisted grabbing it.
“Did you find evidence that Craig Toomey had detonated the bombs on August twenty-first two thousand and seven?”
The phone started vibrating again.
“Yes. We found—” Greg hesitated when Grissom came into the courtroom. He quickly refocused on the DA. She was waiting for his answer.
“Yes. After we had taken several of the bomb fragments apart, we found DNA inside that had survived the explosion. It was matched to Craig Toomey.”
Grissom sat down behind Nick and leaned over the back of the bench to whisper something. Nick’s eyes enlarged slightly and he looked back. Greg could read him mouthing ‘Another one?’
Grissom handed him a piece of paper and left. Nick looked back at Greg. His lips tightened slightly and even slighter he bobbed his head, his telltale ‘hurry up’ signal.
“Mr. Sanders, please answer the question,” Greg heard the DA say.
Greg refocused on the DA. “I’m sorry. Can you repeat that last question?”
He stayed focused on her now. He didn’t feel like having the case blown because he was distracted by a conversation he sure to soon be included.
Nick turned the SUV around a corner and met a street full of media and other people. “What is this?” he asked.
Greg was pulling a T-shirt over his head and hurried to pull it down to see.
“You can say that again.”
Policemen saw the two and it took six to push people back and make a path for Nick to drive through. Greg watched as they passed an ambulance. Then he looked ahead and saw two more and suddenly his heart sank.
“The EMS Killer strikes again.” Greg sighed.
Nick glanced at him, then ahead. “How do you know?”
“There is an ambulance on the wrong side of the tape.”
Nick stopped at the tape and the two got out, pulling their vests on. Greg grabbed his field kit and headed for the house where police were coming and going. Assistant Corner David stood at the door writing on a clipboard. Grissom and Ecklie were halfway up the sidewalk talking.
“Hey, CSI, when are you going to find this guy? When are you going to stop him?” someone yelled.
Greg glanced back. Nick had turned back and was walking up to the paramedic Greg assumed had shouted out. It was a man and woman team. The woman was more buff than her male partner was. Greg stopped, watching and waiting to see if Nick needed help. It was a lengthy conversation. It ended with Nick giving the woman a reassuring pat on the shoulder. He turned and caught up with Greg. Greg fell into step beside him.
“They said half the medics called out sick today. They’re running on a skeleton crew of six ambulances in a city of over a million people. If we don’t catch this guy soon, we won’t have any firefighters, paramedics, or police left to protect Vegas.”
“Not at night, anyway.”
“Who’s to say the killer won’t change his m.o. to killing during the day? He’s motives and patterns have even baffled the profiler. Even she thinks it’s strange that this guy waits around for the EMS and kills them.”
Greg didn’t argue. There was a lot about this serial killer that wasn’t adding up, to everyone else. In his mind, everything made sense, but he wanted evidence to back him up before he voiced his theory. If he could wait that long, anyway.
The two stopped next to Grissom, watching Ecklie head back toward the crowd.
“I want you,” he motioned to Nick, “to sweep the basement. Be meticulous; let’s see if we can’t find something. Greg, go in the back and help Catherine. The property opens onto the desert so I want you two to do at least a mile radius. And we have to have this wrapped up by one. We’re having an all teams meeting at two-thirty.”
The two headed off to their assigned areas.
“Greg,” Grissom called.
Greg turned back.
“Don’t ever let another CSI distract you on the stand again.”
Greg winced. Grissom had noticed that? “I won’t.”
Greg hurried away to avoid the subject from going further.
Greg walked into the break room. It was crowded with CSI and lab technicians. He found an open chair next to Archie. Everyone looked tired. The case was beating them, wasn’t it?
“Have any of you found anything?” Grissom asked as he walked to the center of the crowded room.
Silence. That wasn’t the response Grissom wanted from an entire team of CSI, Greg was certain of that. He looked up when the door opened and was surprised to see Sara. She pulled up a chair next to Greg.
“What about evidence we’ve collected so far? We collected a piece of clothing at the last scene and I know we have other evidence bu—”
“Not to burst your bubbles, boss,” Hodges piped up, “but don’t you think if we actually had any useful evidence someone would be doing a victory dance in the hallway?”
Greg rubbed his finger over his lips to keep from smiling and repress his laughter. Hodges had a funny way of making the not so happy answers funny – unfortunately, that humor was lost on Grissom, and most of the rest of the team, right now.
“Thanks for that insight, Hodges,” Grissom rebuked. “Does anyone else have anything constructive to offer?”
“How about theories of the killer’s choice of location?” Sara asked.
“What’s your idea?”
She smiled, her cheeks brightening the lightest shade of crimson. “Could he perhaps be targeting a certain type of house?”
Greg looked down. No. It wasn’t the houses. His gut told him that.
“What do you mean?” someone asked.
“They all seem to be the same architecture and color.”
“That’s like saying it’s the color and brand of lawnmower they own,” Catherine said.
“Maybe it is,” Warrick replied.
For a few minutes, the room was silent. Grissom cleared his throat.
“Any other ideas?”
‘Yes,’ Greg thought.
“Well, if that’s all, then—”
“I think the killer is someone related to or close to the clinic bomber,” Greg blurted out.
The entire room turned to look at him, followed by silence.
“Is there something you found that you haven’t told us, Greg?” Grissom asked. There was a hint of accusation in the question. It wasn’t something most people would hear, but it was something that months of working under the man had trained him to pick up.
“No,” Greg answered. “It’s just that…” Greg trailed off; noticing eyes hadn’t left him yet. He wasn’t sure he should even continue and was even less certain he should have said anything at all.
“Just what?” Catherine asked.
“Well… The killings started the same day Craig Toomey committed suicide, just like the threat letters promised. And the letters all had personal information only someone related to, or close to, Toomey would know.”
“We already checked his background, Greg,” Catherine retorted. “He had an ex-wife and no family or friends.”
“I still don’t get why he bombed the clinic for his ex,” Mandy commented.
Greg did get it. Toomey still loved his ex-wife and the bombing was to avenge her being forced to die by the clinic refusing to help her.
Warrick defended the accusation. “They refused his medical insurance and she died because she couldn’t get treatment. The guy loved her, Mandy. Not saying he should have blown up a building and forty people, but at least his motive made sense.” Warrick turned to Greg. “This serial killer’s pattern is random, Greg. It may be rare, but that’s what it is.”
“But every serial killer has a pattern,” Greg defensively argued, “even if it’s not obvious to us. The killer is killing these people for a reason and I think they are somehow connected with Toomey.”
“This banter doesn’t do anything to help us identify the killer, motive, or pattern,” Grissom said, “so, if there is nothing else, let’s get back to work. Keep digging.”
People got up from chairs and crowded toward the door. Nick and Warrick followed, talking about the piece of clothing Nick had found at the last crime scene. Greg sighed, staring at the floor. He looked at the pair of hiking boots that stopped next to his sneaker, and then up at Sara’s face. She smiled.
“It’s a good theory. More believable than mine.”
“But there’s no evidence.”
She smiled, laying her hand on his arm. “Someone once told me that in a case without evidence, a theory is a good starting place.”
She nodded, leaving him. Greg laid his head back against the wall. Every so often, he imagined his job just might drive him insane.
Sara came out the door, finding Grissom waiting. The two started walking together.
“I overheard what you told Greg,” he told her.
She smiled at him. “Did you?”
“Why would you do that? He needs to focus on the evidence.”
“Because you told me that once. My theory was wrong, the evidence proved it, but I didn’t feel so frustrated trying to solve the case.”
“I told you that?”
Grissom smiled. “I’ll have to remember I said that for the next frustrated rookie.”
Sara smiled lovingly at him, her hand brushing against his. “I hope she doesn’t fall in love with you, too.”
Grissom smiled, but didn’t respond.
Greg entered the house behind Catherine and the two stopped, staring at the dead couple, three dead firemen, and two dead policemen. David was checking the body temperature of the nearest victim, a woman in her early forties.
“I’m beginning to feel like we’re living in a horror movie,” Catherine commented.
“You can leave the theater for a horror movie and you don’t get blood on your jeans.”
Catherine smiled, even chuckled.
“I’ll go left, you go right?”
“Sure. We’ll work our way back until David’s done.”
Greg sat his field case down next to David’s case and pulled out his flashlight. With a point of light and slow steps, he started around the perimeter of the room, probing into every nook, every shadowed spot, and every corner that could hide evidence. He crouched down to look under a chair, shining his flashlight under it. He froze. He heard someone breathing. It was light, like someone asleep, but he was definitely hearing breathing. He slowly looked up, expecting it to be Catherine or David. Catherine had left the room and David was still with the corpse. Greg’s eyes drifted down to the fireman next to him. He reached out and pushed his fingers against the man’s throat. A strong, very much alive, heart pushed blood through the vein under his fingers, surprising him.
“WE HAVE A LIVE ONE!” Greg yelled, dropping his flashlight and moving next to the man.
David ran to the door, “WE NEED A MEDIC! PRONTO!”
David leapt over two bodies to get to them and fell to his knees. This was the first live person they had found at an EMS Killer scene, and perhaps the first person who could tell them who they were looking for. Catherine ran into the room.
“He’s alive?” she asked.
“Yes,” Greg looked up at her. “We may have a witness.”
Catherine’s face told of her relief.