Brass’s thoughts had wondered off without any structure, brought on by sheer boredom. The firefighter’s doctor told Brass that Dario Ricci would be awake soon, five hours ago. Since then Brass had made a dozen trips to the coffee vending machine, three to the restroom just for some place to go, visited with every nurse on the floor, caught up on some national headlines in the newspaper, and finally sat down to play a game on his cell phone. The game and phone sat in his hand forgotten as he thought about where the world would have been today without mobile entertainment along with other, very random thoughts.
Dario moved and that broke his trance. He looked at the man, watching him stir as he regained consciousness. Brass closed his phone and dropped it in his jacket pocket. He gave the man time to figure out where he was. He was, after all, a victim as the evidence pointed out, and Brass had respect for anyone willing to run into burning buildings to save people’s lives. Dario opened his eyes and looked around the room until he found Brass. The detective smiled as he stood.
“Dario Ricci, I’m Detective Jim Brass. LVPD.”
“Where am I?” Right away Brass heard Dario’s thick Bronx or Queens accent. His guess that the man’s skin color and bone structure hinted at Italian decent was further concreted.
“The hospital. Do you remember what happened to you?”
“We responded to a fire call and… There were three of us. Where is Danno and Brick?”
“Richard. We call him Brick. Where are they?”
Brass hated this part of his job. “I’m sorry Dario, but Dan and Richard are dead. The EMS Killer succeeded in killing them, and two policemen.”
“Ah no. No, no, no.” Dario pushed his hand against his forehead, squeezing his eyes shut. “That bastard!”
Brass couldn’t agree more.
“Dario, I know you just woke up and this isn’t exactly the news anyone wants, but it would really help us if you could tell me what happened at that house.” Brass pulled out his notepad and pen from his shirt. He flipped it open to a blank page. “Central dispatch doesn’t have any record of sending you three or those policemen on a call. But your station does have record of someone calling from dispatch with the call. Was there anything unusual when you got to the house?”
“Yeah!” Dario looked up at him, dropping his hand. “It was dark.”
“Dark?” Brass poised his pen to start writing.
“No lights on at all. Even the street light was out. And that wasn’t a neighborhood that a street light would be out. We saw smoke coming from a window, but we waited for our police backup like we were told to. They got there and we entered the house. The place was filled with smoke but… But it was all wrong.”
“The smoke… It felt… Clean.”
“Clean? How do you get clean smoke?”
“It wasn’t smoke from a fire, is what I’m saying. I didn’t get my mask on until I got to the door and it felt different. It was cool; smoke isn’t cool. And it felt moist.”
“Cool, moist smoke? Don’t they call that fog?”
“In a house?”
“Good point. So you three went in?”
“Yeah. Yeah. Then…” Dario stopped, his face going blank. “Then I remember hearing Brick scream get out. He kept screaming it but stopped all of a sudden. I heard a gun go off. Then I felt something poke my neck and then…” He looked back at Brass. “Then nothing. I don’t remember nothin’ except waking up here. Nothing else at all.”
Brass sighed. He knew this was too easy. “You’re sure? Nothing else?”
Dario shook his head. “Detective, that bastard killed two good friends and has made this city go crazy. If I remembered something, I’d tell you.”
Brass put his notepad away. He dug out a business card and sat it on the table. “If you do remember something else, call me.”
“In a New York minute.”
Brass smiled. “Thank you.”
Catherine was leaning over a map on the light table when Greg came into the layout room carrying a piece of paper. Paper flags tagged the map with her flowing handwriting on each of them.
“Back on the pattern map, huh?” he asked.
“Yeah. If I stare at it long enough I may actually solve this case.”
She glanced at the paper. “What’cha got?”
“Good news or bad news, depending on how you want to look at it.” He sat the paper down and then sat down on a stool.
She picked it up, leaning her hip against the table. She let out a sigh, tossing the paper on the table.
“The firefighter was sedated?”
“Yep. Bras called me before I came over here. He said Dario remembers there was smoke when they got there. The interesting thing is the firefighter said the smoke felt moist and clean.”
“It was mist?”
“Maybe. What would cause that?”
Catherine smiled, tapping a finger on the light table. “A smoke machine. I used them when I danced and that’s exactly how the smoke felt in my lungs.”
Greg lifted his eyebrows.
“Not a word,” Catherine warned.
He put his hands up in defense, laughing. “You brought it up.”
“I’ll make some calls and see if anyone’s rented one lately.” Catherine turned, picking up her folders. “He’s one lucky fireman. The other two were dosed with enough sedative to drop an elephant.”
“I think the dose was on purpose,” Greg blurted before he could stop the words.
When Catherine turned her head and stared at him, he wished his subconscious hadn’t run away with his mouth.
“Course… I could be wrong,” Greg quickly added.
She stopped, staring at him. “Why do you think the dose wasn’t meant to kill him?”
Greg shook it off, looking out into the hall. At the map. The floor, the stools, anywhere but her.
“I just… Was thinking out loud. I have some more hair samples I have to get to DNA. If you—”
Catherine had already started working with the map again and asked in an almost absent-minded tone, “You’re still leaning heavy on your belief the killings have something to do with the bomber, aren’t you? Even though we have no evidence to prove it?”
“It’s because we don’t have evidence that I’m sticking to it.”
She smiled. “That’s a good reason. So why do you think the killer let this guy live?”
“I’m not sure. Yet.”
“Do you think the homes or the people are the connection?”
Greg didn’t answer. She looked up at him, smiling. He knew it all too well. She was about to say something that wasn’t supposed to hurt, but would.
“Until you have something to back up your theory, including motive, your theory just won’t hold.”
“Get to those DNA samples.”
He left without arguing, but he felt like his mother had just sent him to his room after catching him sneaking in late.
Greg looked up from his microscope when a box full of evidence bags was sat down next to his arm. He looked up at Grissom. He was staring at the box, looking as if he were in deep thought about something.
“Were you able to pull anything from the hairs I gave you?” Grissom asked.
“They came from the homeowner’s five cats or all of the elimination samples.”
“What are you working on now?”
“Sara left me some fibers to look at. So far they’re either from the house or too generic to help.” Greg looked at the microscope, adding silently, ‘As if this killer would actually leave something we could find. She hasn’t in the last nine scenes.’
Grissom looked at the box of evidence and Greg followed his eyes.
“Do you know where Nick and Warrick are right now?” Grissom asked him.
“No. Sorry.” Greg waved his hand at the box. “Do you need me to run this?”
“No. Catherine spoke to me before I went home yesterday. She said you still believe in your theory.”
Greg didn’t deny or confirm.
Grissom looked up at him. “I’ll give this to day shift. Finish up what you’re doing and then you have seventy-two hours to research Craig Toomey’s background more. I don’t want to see anything come across my desk that was already discovered. Everything has to be new.”
Greg risked a smile and Grissom returned it.
“Good luck,” Grissom told him.
Grissom picked up the box and left.
Robinson looked up when the door opened and Grissom came in pushing a gurney. He stopped, staring at the full morgue.
“If you can’t find a space, park it in the hall.”
“David’s coming with two more and there’s a fourth on its way.”
“I hope you guys catch this killer soon. I’m putting in more overtime than the county would like.”
Grissom smiled. He spotted a spot at the far end of the room and pushed the gurney to it. He came back to stand next to Robinson.
Robinson shook his head. “This police officer was shot like the others.”
“And I’m sure when we run ballistics we’ll find he was shot with his own sidearm.”
Robinson leaned on the table, looking at Grissom. “This is frustrating you.”
“It’s frustrating everyone and we aren’t seeing an end in sight. People are angry and they don’t feel safe in the city while these murders are happening.”
Robinson looked down at the man on his table. “I’m getting tired of greeting widows and widowers to identify corpses. I can understand that.”
The door burst open as David pushed a gurney in and pulled another. He stopped, looking around the room.
“Hall?” he asked Robinson.
“Yes. Make sure to turn the air up so they stay cool.”
David nodded as he backed up with the gurneys.
Grissom’s phone started ringing and he pulled it out. The message on the face made him frown.
“Unfortunately. See you in a few hours.”
Robinson nodded, watching him leave.
Grissom stopped his SUV outside an apartment building. Next to him, Warrick was staring at the building, and he looked confused. He turned to Grissom.
“Are you sure this is the address? It’s not a house.”
“I’m sure,” answered Grissom.
Warrick reached between the seats and grabbed Grissom’s field kit, handing it to him. He grabbed his own and the two got out, walking into the building. Grissom tapped the number five on the elevator, and in silence, they rode to the top floor. The doors opened and Brass smiled, stepping aside to let them out.
“It was the EMS Killer, and he changed his method.”
“And location,” Grissom added.
Brass led them to the apartment. Inside laid a dead man with David hovering over him. He smiled at Grissom as he entered.
“T.O.D. is around nine pm.”
Grissom glanced at his watch. That was five hours.
“Girlfriend called it in,” Brass told him with a slight motion at the woman sitting in a chair across the room.
“So why do you believe this is the EMS Killer?” Grissom asked Brass.
“This is Sergeant Johnson,” Brass looked down at the corpse. “Retired three days ago, probably because of the killings. There are signs of forced entry and he was shot with his own side arm. Just like the other murdered police officers.”
Grissom frowned at Brass when he looked up. “That doesn’t make him an EMS victim and we don’t know if the weapon used was his own sidearm.”
“It will when you find no other evidence and ballistics matches the bullet in his head to his sidearm.”
Grissom didn’t feel that could even warrant a reply.
He and Warrick began processing the scene, and Grissom discovered quickly Brass had been right. There was absolutely no evidence in the apartment. When he found himself staring at a pristine kitchen, Grissom drew a frustrated breath.
“Warrick, I’m going to work on the elevator and stairwells.”
“Alright,” Warrick answered from somewhere behind him.
Grissom picked up his case and went into the hall. He walked to the elevator. The fire department had been right behind them and stopped the car on the fifth floor for them. Grissom sat his case outside and stepped in with a flashlight. He began searching along the edges of the car, collecting anything that might be linking evidence. From the buttons and the railing inside, he pulled dozens of fingerprints. Grissom dropped the last of the print sheets into his kits and looked around the inside to the car one last time. His eyes stopped on a small camera mounted in the corner. He stepped back, looking down the hall. He saw another camera at the end, just inside the stairwell door. Grissom pulled out his phone and dialed.
“Brass, did the manager mention if their surveillance record to tape?”
“He never mentioned they had any.”
“Wake someone up and check, please.”
Maybe they would finally get a break!
Focused on the documents displayed on the computer monitor, Greg didn’t hear Grissom walk up behind him.
He turned to Grissom.
“Have you found anything?”
“A daughter. Well, step-daughter.”
“Then why haven’t we talked to her?”
“She’s in Paris. She’s a Vogue model and hasn’t been state side for the last two months. I haven’t had any luck getting in touch with her. Apparently LVPD’s arm doesn’t reach to Paris.”
“Does she have a rap sheet?”
“I have surveillance footage I need you to go through. I had it sent to the lab.”
“He’s working on street camera footage from another scene. I need you to go start on this, Greg.”
“I gave you seventy-two hours, didn’t I? And even though that was yesterday, I haven’t bothered you because we didn’t need you. We need you. I’m sorry your theory didn’t pan out.”
Greg slowly turned back to his computer and started closing down applications. “I’ll get right on it, Grissom.”
“Thank you. Let me know if you find anything.”
Greg nodded. He listened to him leave, watched him walk around a corner, and then quickly pulled up a court records window. He jotted down the file number that it was showing and then closed everything and left to work on the footage.
Archie glanced back at Greg. He was slouched in the chair, staring blankly at the footage playing before him.
“How long have you been staring at an empty hallway?” Archie asked.
“It’s only been six hours of eighteen. No wonder I got this job.”
“Oh yeah,” Greg sarcastically answered. “The old lady in 5112 goes in and out of her apartment every time the elevator doors open, some guy in a robe flashed the camera, and I think this guy in 5102 is cheating on his wife. She left for work, assuming from the waitress uniform, about nine pm and two women came and went from his apartment. But so far, no one’s gone to the police officer’s door since he got home at seven.”
Archie laughed, turning back to his footage. “At least yours is somewhat entertaining. I have street camera footage and so far I haven’t seen anything interesting.”
The stairwell door opened and an obese person came out dressed in black boots, black cargo pants, and black turtleneck.
Greg slowly sat up. His instincts told him there was something off about the person’s enlarged body. Maybe it was the black ski mask. The person walked to the police officer’s door and knocked. They pulled a needle out of the leg pocket of their cargo pants. The door opened and they rushed in, needle aimed. Several minutes passed before the masked figure walked out.
The old lady came out of her apartment and instantly shrunk back, but the murderer didn’t stop. The man in 5102 came out of his apartment, staring at the murderer. He ran to the ex-officer’s door and put his hand over his mouth. He suddenly ran after murder. The killer turned, pulling out a needle and flicking the cap. Greg’s eyes followed it against the wall. The man took a swing but the killer moved faster. With moves he’d only seen in Kung Fu movies, the killer knocked the man out. The murderer lifted her hand to jab the needle into the man but stopped. Greg noticed the old woman had come to the door and was speaking.
The killer stood, collected the needle cap and left. The older woman ran out and patted the man’s face until he woke up. The two retreated to her apartment. Greg watched the time code and nearly forty minutes passed. The man returned to his apartment. Twenty minutes later, the policeman’s girlfriend came off the elevator and entered the apartment. Greg stopped the tape and rewound it to the spot when the killer came out of the stairwell.
He grabbed his cell phone and dialed Grissom.
“Grissom,” he answered.
“Grissom, we need to bring the old lady in 5112 and the man from 5104 in for questioning. They may have seen the killer.”
“Are you sure?”
“The old woman spoke to the killer. I think she stopped the killer from killing the man in 5104.”
“I’ll let you know when we get them.”
Greg hung up. He felt something brush his arm and looked up. Archie was staring at the monitor.
“So that’s him?” Archie asked. “Can’t see how someone like that could be killing all these people.”
Greg didn’t answer. His instincts finally told him what was wrong. The outfit was too lumpy. This person was faking being obese because they knew about the cameras, meaning the footage was worthless. Greg got up and started walking. He pulled out his cell phone as he entered an empty waiting room and sat down on a chair. Greg went into his phone book and found a name: Squigy. He hit dial and lifted it to his ear.
On the other end a voice answered, “Adam speaking.”
Adam laughed. “Pidge! Hey. How you doing?”
Greg smiled. “Ok. Hey, you remember when we were fifteen and your mom found those cigarettes you had hidden under your bed? And I told her they were mine?”
Adam laughed harder. “Oh yeah! You got in so much trouble. You dad was going to ground you for life!”
Greg laughed half-heartedly. “Yeah. Good times. Remember you said you’d do anything for me for that?”
Adam stopped laughing. “What do you want?”
“I need you to pull some strings with your boss for my case.”
“Why aren’t you going through your boss?”
“I’m not really supposed to be following this lead.”
“Not really? With you it’s more like not at all.”
“Okay. So he told me to drop it, but I think I’m on to something.”
“Does this have to do with that serial killer that’s been in the news?”
“No favor needed. What do you need, cous?”
“I need your guys to find out what they can about a Petra O’Connor or Petra Toomey. She works for Vogue and I can’t seem to get anywhere from Vegas. Maybe some local muscle can get me some answers. Think you can do that for me?”
Greg looked up when the door opened. Grissom poked his head in.
“I need you to go with Warrick.”
On the phone, Adam told him, “Sure. Mac’s pretty cool and we haven’t been too busy lately.”
“Great. Let me know what the traces results are when you have them, okay?”
Adam laughed. “Your boss is there, isn’t he? You are going to be so busted!”
“Whatever. Just do it.” Greg told Adam as he stood.
“Fine. I’ll see you in Warcraft tonight?”
“Maybe. And thank you.” Greg hung up and hurried past Grissom, avoiding looking him in the eye. Because if he did, he knew he would be compelled to tell him what he was really doing.
Nick and Brass entered Interview Room B, both staring at Mr. Dawson – the man who got beat up on the tape. He was slouched in one of the chairs and appeared to be napping. He was also covered in bruises. Nick and Brass looked at one another, and then Brass slammed the door shut.
The noise startled Mr. Dawson awake. He almost fell out of his chair before he caught himself on the table. He glared at the two, watching them sit in the two open chairs across from him.
“Nice nape?” Brass asked. “I can imagine with your extra-curricular night activities you probably need some good sleep.”
“What?” Mr. Dawson asked.
Brass just smiled.
“Look, I didn’t do nothin’ wrong, break any laws, nothin’. Don’t know why I was drug down here.”
“Well, we tend to be suspicious of people who run when they’re told we have a few questions,” Nick informed him with a smile.
Mr. Dawson just sneered. “You accused me of cheating on my wife!”
“You sure do have a lot of female visitors.”
“Someone has to pay the rent,” Mr. Dawson muttered under his breath.
“What?” both men asked.
“Nothin’. Why am I here?”
Brass asked, “What can you tell me about your attacker?”
“The one that beat you up in the hall. We have it on tape, Mr. Dawson.”
“I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.”
“Then tell us how you got all those bruises,” Nick told him.
“I… Play rough.”
“Play rough?” Nick asked.
“Yeah. Football, basketball… That’s why I don’t work. I play rough.”
Brass sighed. Nick closed his eyes for a moment. This was going to take a long time.
In Interview Room A, Mrs. Krowski waited while clutching her handbag to her chest. She refused to let it go even when she was asked to at the scanner downstairs. She even started screaming, in German. Sara convinced the guard to let her keep the damn thing and she returned to the sweet, smiling lady Sara and an officer had picked up.
She smiled again when Sara came into the room with Greg. The two sat down across from her.
“Hello again, Mrs. Krowski,” Sara said to her.
“Oh, hello dear,” the old woman said. “You know, you really should do something with your bedroom. It’s so drab and there’s not even a bed in here.”
Greg and Sara both chuckled.
“This isn’t a bedroom, ma’am. It’s an interview room.”
“Oh. Dear me! For what television show?”
Sara smiled again and she moved on. “Do you know why you’re here, Mrs. Krowski?”She suddenly became nervous, looking from one to the other. Then she leaned forward and whispered, “I am not a Jew, I’m a Catholic. How many times do you have to ask me that?”
Sara and Greg exchange a very concerned look.Sara leaned forward on the table. “Do you recall someone attacking a neighbor in the hallway a couple of nights ago?”
The woman shuddered as she sat up straight and got a new clutch on her purse. “No. I don’t.”
“We don’t talk about those things.”
“You know why.”
“I’m afraid I don’t. Please, tell me.”
Mrs. Krowski looked sad suddenly. She reached across and patted Sara’s hand. She leaned in.
“You must be new here, huh? Okay. I’ll only tell you once though. You must never let them know or you will be sent to a camp for talk like this. Understood?”
“The soldiers always beat people up. They always do. And then those people disappear. We never see them again. If you talk about it, dear, you’ll be one of those people.” Mrs. Krowski sat up suddenly, withdrawing her hand. “We should have some tea, don’t you think?”
Greg let his head fall back with his eyes closed. Sara forced a smile. The woman had witnessed atrocities during World War II, and her aging mind had chosen that era to leave her. It was becoming painfully clear that they might not be able to get anything out of the poor woman’s shattered mind.
Catherine glanced in the break room as she passed and spotted Nick, Brass, and Sara. She entered the room.
“I thought you guys were questioning the apartment building witnesses,” Catherine said.
All three answered, “We did.”
“And?” Mrs. Krowski has dementia or Alzheimer, her doctor hasn’t determined which. At the time of the attack, she was reliving her formative years in World War II Germany. The attacker was an SS officer who was trying to take her Jewish neighbor away to a camp to die. She begged for his life and the officer let him live.”
“And Mr. Dawson doesn’t recall who beat him up. How he got the bruises on his face is a complete mystery to him. Since his attacker wore a mask, there may be some truth there. That was the only useful information we got out of the guy.”
“So we’re right back where we started from?”
“We tried, right?” Catherine asked.
“Optimism left this city about six murders ago,” Brass told her.
She smiled. “We’ll try to catch up to it then. We have another call, Nick. Let’s go.”He stood up and grabbed his jacket, following her out.