Nick slowly regained consciousness. He opened his eyes, staring at his lap. Then his eyes drifted to the cement at his feet. He legs had been tied just under the knees to the chair, and taut ropes were tied around his ankles and wrists but not to the chair. The led somewhere else. His arms were tied at the elbow to the chair, limiting his movement. The taut ropes disappeared under his chair. Under his right palm, he felt a cylindrical object, but he couldn’t see it. Nick slowly lifted his head. For several minutes, nothing registered. His groggy mind was trying to get back to regular functionality to grapple with anything else. It was an icy jolt when his mind was suddenly able to identify that he was staring down the shaft of an arrow in an armed crossbow.
Nick pulled his eyes away from the crossbow to the tight rope coming from under his chair tied to the trigger of the crossbow, a dangerous tiny piece of metal that would send the arrow straight into his heart. It wouldn’t kill him right away. He would feel excruciating pain for ten or fifteen minutes, he would bleed out, seize perhaps, and then die. The two questions that immediately followed all of that was where did the taut rope to the weapon lead, and where did the ropes tied to his ankles and wrists go?
Nick looked around him, trying to get his bearings. He could tell he was in the deep end of the pool, but little else could be seen beyond the bright work lights shining down on him. He also noticed there were at least three cameras aimed in his direction. Nick craned his neck to look back and saw the edge of someone’s shoulder. He stared at the shirt, trying to remind himself why it looked so familiar.
“Greg?” Nick said.
There was no answer.
“Greg, that you?”
There was a soft moan in reply.
“Greg, don’t move. Whatever you do, do not move. Do you hear me?”
Behind Nick, Greg was just starting to get a grasp on their situation. There was double barrel shotgun aimed at his chest. He looked down, and while he couldn’t see it, he was tied in the same fashion as Nick.
“Where are we?” Greg muttered.
“I have no idea.”
Greg started to lift his hand.
The taut ropes on Nick’s side started to move.
“HOLD STILL!” Nick ordered.
Greg froze. “Why?” he asked.
“If you move, I’ll be shot with a crossbow. I assume he’s got you set up like this over there?”
“Double barrel shotgun.”
The two were silent for a moment.
“Do you remember anything?” Nick asked.
“Not really. We did make it to the crime scene, didn’t we?”
Nick hesitated. He wasn’t sure. He realized he was missing several hours of memories.
Greg looked around him at the pool they were in, noticing the cameras.
“What’s with the cameras?”
In a booming voice Blaine’s voice boomed, “Relax, gentlemen. And smile. The entire world is watching you.”
“YOU WILL NOT GET AWAY WITH THIS!” Nick screamed.
Blaine laughed. It made both Greg and Nick’s anger boil to hear him laughing at them.
“But my dear CSI Stokes, I already have. As my beloved departed sister would have told you, death is just a family trait. You do know who my sister is, don’t you?”
The two didn’t answer.
“No? Let me remind you. She was exquisite, with—”
“Petra was as insane as you are!” Greg growled.
“Ah. So you do remember her. And you both killed her.”
“She committed suicide. We didn’t touch her!”
“But you did. You helped find her, arrest her, convict her, and when she couldn’t stand being in jail, your very actions killed her. Lucky for you both, I promised her I would make sure you both understood just how wrong you were.”
“We were not wrong,” Nick snarled. “And when they find you, you’ll have to follow your family history of committing suicide in jail!”
Blaine laughed. “They have to catch me alive for that to happen,” he crooned.
Nick pressed his lips together. He wasn’t going to continue trying to reason with a madman.
“How’s the arm, Greg? How are you feeling?”
“FINE!” Greg snarled.
“That’s good to hear. You’ll have to keep me update on that.”
“What did you do to me?”
There was no answer.
“What did you do to me!?” Greg screamed.
Blaine didn’t answer. Greg let out a slow breath.
“How is your arm?” Nick whispered.
“Like it’s broken?”
“No. Like I’ve been stabbed or something.” Greg looked at his arm. Where it hurt his sleeve covered, but he didn’t see any blood. “Doesn’t look like I have been.”
“He’s just messing with your head. Don’t let him.”
That was so easier said than done for both of them.
Two Weeks Before
Nick leaned over with a magnifying glass, and using tweezers, carefully pulled a fiber off the clothes under it.
“Nick,” Grissom said.
He froze. Unfortunately, in the last month that he and Greg had been trying to track down their stalker, he’d gotten very familiar with the various levels of ‘Grissom’s patience is thinning’ tones. This was Grissom’s ‘on the verge of yelling’ tone – a very uncommon tone that he and Greg had managed to elicit twice in the last week alone.
“Yeah?” Nick kept working.
“We need to talk about the evidence you collected from the suicide-homicide yesterday, Nick.”
“What about it?”
“Your finger prints are all over the gun.”
Nick stood up, closing his eyes. Nick turned to Grissom, telling him, “Grissom, I swear to you I wore gloves. I even put them on in front of Catherine and showed her, just like you told me to.”
“Yes. She said the same thing. So how did your finger prints get all over the evidence?”
‘Because my psychotic stalker wants you to believe I’m incompetent?’ Nick let out a soft breath. He couldn’t tell Grissom that, so he was going to have to play his defensive card and hope it worked. Again. Nick dropped what was in his hands on the table and held them out.
“Here. Do a GSR test.”
“I think you do!” Nick snapped. “I am not doing this, Grissom, and before you even ask, again, I don’t know who is! But I’m sure I can come up with a few years of suspects.”
Grissom looked at the gun, then Nick. “I can’t keep finding excuses for you and Greg, Nick. I don’t know what’s going on with you two, but this isn’t acceptable. I don’t know how much longer I will be able to tolerate this.”
Grissom left. Nick put his hands on his hip, turning in a slow circle. He wanted to scream. He wanted to find this guy and beat him into a pulp. He was ruining his life and career and without his job…
Nick inhaled a slow breath, let it out, and went back to work.
Greg sat in front of his open locker, staring into it. He didn’t see the locker; however, his mind was miles away. He looked up when Catherine came in and then turned away, reaching inside for his gun box. She glanced at him; he saw it out of the corner of his eyes.
“You okay?” she asked.
Greg froze when his cell phone started ringing. It sat on the bench next to him, and he slowly looked down at the device. He didn’t recognize the number, which meant the stalker was calling to tell him the time again.
“Aren’t you going to get that?”
“What time is it?” Greg asked.
She glanced at her watch. “Two fourteen.”
Greg stared at his phone.
“Greg, aren’t you going to answer that?”
He shook his head. “No. He’ll leave a message.” He muttered to himself.
The phone stopped ringing. He looked up at her.
“Who always leaves the same message every day?”
“You said that the bastard always leaves the same message every day. Who are you talking about?”
Greg stared at her, trying to think up a really good lie. “Credit card collector. I got behind on a bill.”
“They’re persistent, aren’t they?” She finished putting her things away and closed her locker.
Greg’s phone happily beeped, letting him know of the awaiting voice mail. It didn’t care that it was delivering a nightmare every day, twice a day on days he only worked one shift. If he worked a double or had been sent home early for something his stalker had done, the calls were unremitting.
“Yeah,” Greg said, “They are.”
Catherine sat down next to him. She smiled, laying her hand on his shoulder.
“Greg, you know you can talk to me, right? You know if you had something you needed to get off your chest, I’d listen.”
“Do you want to get a cup of coffee and talk about whatever is bothering you?”
Greg looked into her eyes. He wanted to tell her everything. He wanted to unload everything that was happening to him and Nick. He wanted to beg her to help them find this guy before he found them. In order to protect those they cared about from his lunacy, they had agreed not to tell anyone until they had a positive I.D.
When he told her, “Maybe later,” Greg could see the disappointment his answer gave her. He knew she wanted to help him because when she’d found a couple photographs, they had mysteriously disappeared before he could record them. He didn’t like her taking that risk, but he was grateful.
“Well, let me know if you change your mind. You know how to get a hold of me.”
Greg looked down. His phone started ringing again. She picked it up, holding it out to him.
“Whoever this is, you should probably stop ignoring them.”
He thought to himself, ‘He’ll just keep calling even if I answer it.’
She sat it on his leg, standing up. “Good night, Greg. See you tomorrow.”
Longingly, he watched her walk away.