Grissom walked into the lab, watching Catherine and Warrick. Catherine had her eyes pressed against a microscope, looking at something. Warrick was preparing DNA samples. Hodges was working with fibers.
“What are you working on?” Grissom asked Catherine as he walked up.
She pulled her head back. Her puffy, red, watery eyes told him she had been crying. “Hair from our last crime scene.”
“I said we can put the other cases on hold for now.”
She got up when a paper printed on the printer behind her and grabbed it.
“I know, but until we have something to work on with their case, I have to keep busy.”
Grissom didn’t argue. That made sense. He looked across the room. Someone had brought the website up on a computer. For six hours now, nothing had happened to the two and the two had stopped talking. It looked as if Nick may have even dozed off.
“Warrick, aren’t you supposed to be in A/V?”
“Yeah. But I needed a break, Gris. I just… I left Archie with it for now.”
“Has he had any luck with the website?”
“Naw. This guy planned for that. He’s been hopping servers since this started, Archie said.”
Catherine sat down on a stool, staring at the paper in her hand. “And there’s nothing in the video feed we can use?”
“I have watched, re-watched and re-watched it again,” Warrick answered her. “I can’t see anything. This guy knew we’d use it and has made sure there’s nothing unique or significant.”
She looked at the monitor, watching the men.
“They haven’t spoken in a while,” Grissom commented.
“They’re scared,” she told him, looking back at him.
Warrick looked up at Grissom. “Do you think they knew this was coming?”
“I suspect they did.”
Warrick leaned back against a cabinet, looking at the floor. He didn’t want to talk any more. He wanted answers that would lead him to his friends.
Neither saw Hodges slowly look up from his work as something dawned on him.
“They did know,” Hodges said.
The three looked at him.
“Did they tell you that?” Catherine asked.
“No, but I overheard them in the locker room on the day we all received the invitations.” Hodges’ eyes grew wide as he recalled the conversation he’d heard.
Five Days Ago
Grissom walked off the elevator, smiling at the receptionist as he passed her. He stopped at the break room, fixed a cup of hot tea, and then headed into his office. He sat down, setting the cup aside, and picked up the pile of mail sitting in the basket at the edge of his desk. He noticed an envelope with ‘Your Invited!’ printed at an angle along the bottom. He pulled it out, examining it. There was no return address and the postal stamp indicated it had been mailed from Las Vegas.
Catherine came into his office, holding up an identical invitation. “Did you get one of these?”
Grissom opened the envelope. “I just found it.”
Warrick stopped in the door and Grissom saw the invitation in his hand. “The entire police force got these invitations. Have you been to the website on it?”
Grissom opened it and found that inside was only an URL. He turned to his computer, jiggling the mouse to wake it. Logging on, he typed the URL from the invitation. Catherine walked around his desk to watch. Grissom glanced at Warrick.
“You’ve been to it?” Grissom asked.
“Yeah. Looks like we’ve gotta serial killer.”
The website loaded and in large, flashing letters, it read, ‘Coming soon! Two Men Die. Check back frequently.’
Grissom sat back.
“This killer's got balls,” Catherine said.
Grissom couldn’t agree more.
“Is Archie trying to locate the website?” Grissom asked Warrick.
Grissom frowned at the screen. What could this mean? What two men?
“For now we have other cases to handle. I just got in, let me find out what we have and I’ll have your assignments. Are Greg and Nick here?”
Catherine and Warrick didn’t answer. Grissom looked up at Catherine.
“They’re late again?”
“Mandy said they were here for six hours after their shift. Grissom, I don’t know what they’re doing. They say they’re working on their cases, but their work is behind.”
“There was another picture of Greg and a victim, and he swears he knows nothing about it,” Warrick told him, haughtily adding, “as usual.”
“When they get in, tell them I want to talk to them.”
“I’d like to know why they’re suddenly attached at the hip,” Warrick growled.
Grissom heard the insinuation in his voice, but he wasn’t going to address it. He had noticed the same thing himself. Perhaps today, with this threat out there, it was time to get some answers from the two.
In their own vehicles, Nick and Greg pulled into the parking lot. Greg got out of his car and pulled out two cups of coffee. He handed Nick a cup as the two headed to the lab. They stepped on the elevator, the only two on it.
“Any luck last night?” Nick asked.
“Yeah, actually, I think I might have found a birth certificate. I had to wait until today to call them though.”
“Think it’s him?”
“I dunno. Same mother, but different father than Petra. I can’t be certain.”
Nick nodded. The doors opened and they walked off the elevator together. Right away, they noticed that the lab was unusually active.
“What’s happening?” Nick wondered out loud.
Nick saw Warrick. “Hey, Warrick.”
He stopped, turning back to them.
“What’s going on?”
“Maybe if you two are going to be together so much, you could at least be on time, then you’d know.”
“What does that mean?” Nick asked.
“Nothing. Grissom wanted to see you two as soon as you got in.” Warrick headed off down the hall.
“He’s going to send us on the same case today,” Nick commented.
“Let’s try to talk our way out again.”
The two headed for Grissom’s office.
Grissom watched the two men enter his office. Nick was hiding his nervousness well, but Greg almost skulked into the room.
“You’re sending us out on the same call?” Nick asked.
“What?” Grissom asked.
“Are you sending us out on the same call?” Nick repeated.
“I have to. You both are late and I need two CSI on this call.” Grissom picked up a form and held it out to them. “So yes.”
“You can’t send us on the same call,” Greg retorted.
“And why not?” Grissom let his hand with the form drift back to the desk.
The two were at a loss for an immediate answer.
“I asked, why not?” Grissom asked.
“We… Haven’t…” Nick stumbled for an answer.
“We haven’t worked on a call together since…” Greg trailed off.
“You two have not worked a case together since you came back from vacation, Greg, and that’s when both of your behavior became increasingly strange,” Grissom said, “and I want to know why. Now.”
“I hate Nick,” Greg blurted.
Nick nodded. “If I have to work with him, you’re going to have to fire one of us before the end of the shift.”
A normally rare emotion darkened Grissom’s face: anger.
The two obeyed.
“I want some answers, men. Why are you two telling us you’re working on call evidence when you’re not? Why you are both leaving and coming to work together every day when I know you live on opposite ends of town? Why have both of you been late, every day, for a month?”
The two were silent. Neither had seen this coming.
They didn’t answer.
“Fine. Whatever is going on, it stops today!” Grissom snarled. More calmly, he added, “And if you two are the enemies you’re claiming, and I end up having to come to your crime scene for any reason, I will fire both of you.”
There was a heavy silence, filled with Grissom’s anger.
“Are we clear?” Grissom snapped.
“Yes,” Nick answered.
“Yeah,” Greg muttered.
“From now on, you will leave the lab when your shift is over, unless you have put in a request for overtime or I ask you to stay. Neither of you will start your shift late, not even by one minute. Understand?”
Both CSI nodded. Grissom held the form up again.
“Get to work.”
Nick and Greg stood, Greg taking the paper. The two walked into the hall, heading for the locker room. Nick opened his locker and started getting ready to leave. Greg sat down on the bench.
“Come on. We can’t make him any angrier.”
Greg looked up at his locker. “Nick, we are dead if we work this call together.”
“You don’t know that.”
“We can’t work the same call, Nick. You know we can’t.”
Nick stopped moving, staring into his locker. Greg had voiced his exact thoughts and worry. Nick sat down on the bench.
“Do you want to tell him?”
Greg looked down, shaking his head. “We can’t.”
“Maybe I was wrong. Maybe we should tell them now, clear the air.”
“No… We have to protect them from the truth until we know for sure.”
Nick nodded. “Yeah. But the truth is, Greg, I don’t know how much longer I can keep this secret. I… I’m so tired. And frustrated and…”
The two sat, staring at the row of lockers before them. Nick stood. He put on his gun, ID badge, and vest, and grabbed his field kit.
“We need to go before we make Grissom any angrier tonight. Meet you downstairs.”
Greg put on his gun and grabbed his badge and kit, following him out.
Neither had seen Hodges on the other side of the lockers, listening to the conversation. He had an idea what they were talking about – the entirely wrong idea – and wasn’t going to say anything until they came out of the closet with their big secret.
Catherine, Warrick, and Grissom stared at Hodges. Catherine and Warrick had thought the same wrong thing about the two as Hodges did. Now, in light of the kidnapping, there was a cold realization that the men knew there was a possibly they could be kidnapped or killed, and may even know the identity of that person but had no evidence against him or her.
“My God, Grissom,” Catherine said, “if we’d pushed harder that day, if you’d pried… It sounds like they both wanted to tell us there was a threat.”
“But why didn’t they just tell us. Protecting us didn’t help them at all.” Warrick shook his head. “All they did is put their selves out there as bait.”
“That was the point, Warrick,” Grissom said. “They were trying to protect us from this guy. I want you two to pull their phone records. See if you can find this person’s phone number and a name.”
The two left to obey. Grissom turned to the door.
“What about me?” Hodges asked. “What do you want me to do?”
Grissom turned to him. “Finish up their work. We can’t leave evidence out.” He left.
Hodges frowned. That wasn’t the job he’d expected or wanted.
Five Days Earlier
Nick and Greg climbed out of the SUV, gathered their field kits, and headed for the front door. The house was in a remote area of the desert, at the edge of civilization. It was the perfect place to murder someone. Greg noticed the three police cars parked in front of the house and an officer standing at the door.
“At least there’s police here.”
“Didn’t stop Petra,” Nick coldly reminded him.
Greg didn’t reply. He had been trying not to think about that, actually. The two walked inside, finding David and Detective Brass with the corpse in the foyer. David looked up at them but then quickly looked away.
“It’s about time,” Brass told them. “I was beginning to think we’d have to processes the scene ourselves.”
Neither offered any reasons for their tardiness.
“There are three bodies. This one, another in the kitchen at the back, and one out in the garage.”
“T.O.D.?” Nick asked.
“Looks like around two this afternoon,” answered David.
The two start to walk off in separate directions. The time David gave hit them at the same time and they both turned. The stalker had left 2:15 on Greg’s voice mail and 2:18 on Nick’s voice mail. At first they’d thought these times were significant, but it was clear early on in their investigation the times were arbitrary.
“What time did you say?” Greg asked.
“Two.” David looked up. “Why?”
“Who discovered them?”
Brass answered, “An anonymous, good Samaritan called it in.”
“Has it been traced, yet?” Nick asked.
“No. I thought that was your job.”
Brass’s eyes narrowed when Greg and Nick exchanged a look. “Is there something I should know about?” Brass questioned.
“No. We’ll get started in the back room.”
“Yes,” they answered together.
“Wouldn’t this go faster if you two split up?”
“Hey, you know, we’re the CSI, and if we believe working a room together benefits the case, we’ll do it, alright?” Nick snapped.
For several minutes, no one spoke and the tension built.
“Alright,” Brass finally answered.
The two walked away. Neither looked back when Brass cleared his throat.
Behind them, David and Brass watched them until they’d disappeared. David looked up at Brass.
“Did that seem just a little weird?”
“Everything with those two is getting weird. Be sure to check the corpse for a photograph before they touch it.”
Grissom and Warrick had been searching the warehouse for three hours for any clue connected with the dead body found in a loading bay. As usual, no one saw anything, so they had to clear the warehouse and start searching – with a lot of loud objections from the manager. Grissom found himself in an isolated corner, using his flashlight to probe into every nook and cranny for anything resembling evidence.
Warrick trotted up carrying a laptop. “Grissom, we’ve got a problem.”
“Is the manager demanding a warrant now?”
“No. Worse. There’s a crowd of media outside wanting to know what we’re doing about the killer and which two CSI he’s kidnapped.”
Grissom turned to him. “What? Where are they getting this information?
“The website.” Warrick held the laptop on one arm and opened it.
The website had changed from earlier that night: Visit CSI Gil Grissom at 413 Industrial Lane, to see how he plans to save his two CSI.
Grissom called Catherine on his cell phone.
“Willows,” Catherine answered.
“Catherine, I want you and Ronnie out of that house right now. Go back to the lab and wait until I call you. Do not stop anywhere, for anyone, or anything.”
“Why? What’s going on?”
Grissom hung up his phone and dialed Nick’s number. “Warrick, call Greg.”
Neither Nick nor Greg answered, nor did either of the men’s voicemail…
Greg and Nick were glad to be leaving the crime scene as they packed evidence and their equipment into the SUV.
“Told you we’d be fine working this together,” Nick ribbed.
Greg smiled. He glanced at his watch. It was two o’clock on the nose.
“Oh. I left that bag with the bloody sweater sitting on the steps. I’ll be right back,” Greg told him.
Nick climbed in behind the wheel and waited for Greg. He dug a pack of gum from his pocket and put a stick in his mouth. He heard Greg talking and glanced in the rear view mirror. A police officer had stopped him, asking about something. Greg nodded and got in.
“They have to stay here tonight. He wanted to know if we’d cleared a restroom.”
Nick laughed, holding out the pack. “Guess they didn’t like the idea of shooting it in the breeze?”
Greg took a stick. “Would you?”
“Not if I had a nice bathroom in a house someone was killed in, I guess.”
The two laughed.
Nick started the vehicle and pulled out of the driveway onto the dirt road joining it. Nick glanced at the radio’s clock. Two after two shone back at him. He quickly looked away.
Greg leaned back in his seat, closing his eyes.
“He didn’t call us tonight,” Greg said with a yawn.
“We don’t have signal out here.”
Greg checked his phone. “I’ve got one bar.”
“Mine was up and down the entire time.”
Greg’s stomach growled loudly. “Hit a drive through on the way back.”
Nick turned onto the paved highway, heading toward town. He glanced at Greg. He was half-asleep in the passenger side, a place Nick wished he could be at right now. As he looked away, he glanced at the clock. Only three minutes had passed. Mentally he kicked himself for doing that. He knew watching the time wasn’t going to make things happen or not happen, but something more human kept making him look at the clock. He reached out and turned on the radio, hoping a good song would come on and distract him.
Nick began muttering the words to a song that came on, letting his mind go back to the crime scene and pick at it some more. His serene moment was interrupted when he saw a white van down the road with its hazards flashing. The driver was crouched by the back tire, trying to fix it. The man was dressed in painter overalls with a paint stained painter’s cap. Nick hit the SUV hazard lights and pulled up behind him. He glanced at Greg, considering waking him to help, but then decided to let Greg sleep.
Nick climbed out, asking the driver, “Need some help?”
“Oh, yeah. Damn tire blew,” the driver answered.
Nick noticed that he was wearing the cap low, casting a deep shadow down his face when he looked toward the SUV lights. He felt a tinge of nervousness, what with their stalker still at large, but he couldn’t just leave someone stranded in the middle of the desert. He walked over and crouched down next to man.
“Let me give ya a hand.”
“You’re too kind, son. Thank you for stopping.”
The driver moved out of his way when Nick picked up the car jack and slid it under.
“No problem.” Nick realized that this tire wasn’t blown or flat. “Did you feel a tire go out? This one looks fine.”
“All four are fine, Nicky,” Blaine Juhl told him, “but you and Greg won’t be.”
In a cold, heart stopping moment, Nick he realized he had walked right into the stalker’s trap. He wrapped his hand tight around the jack and spun, swinging it.
“GREG!” Nick screamed.
Blaine shot Nick in the back of the neck with a tranquilizer dart.
He reached for the dart, got a grip on it, and almost had it pulled out when he dropped to the ground unconscious.
Blaine left him lying by the van and walked around to the passenger side of the SUV. He pulled on rubber gloves, and then in a single fast motion he opened the door and stepped back, letting Greg fall from the vehicle.
Greg woke up scrambling to catch himself. He hit the ground and rolled over, staring up at Blaine.
“Hi, Greg,” Blaine said with a huge smile, and then shot him in the neck with a tranquilizer dart.
Greg grabbed it, pulling it out as he scrambled to his feet. Enough sedative injected into his system to make him feel lightheaded but still coherent enough to react. He ducked behind the door before Blaine could aim again, trying to get away. Blaine followed, in no hurry.
Greg stumbled over Nick and sat down hard. He saw Nick’s side arm and drew it as Blaine stepped around the corner of the van. They aimed at each other. Blaine didn’t move, just smiled a crazy, sadistic smile. Greg’s vision blurred for a few seconds.
“What do you want from us?” Greg asked.
“Entertainment!” Blaine said, then shot and ducked behind the van.
The dart sunk deep into Greg’s neck, barely missing his jugular. Greg grabbed it and pulled it out, but this time enough of the sedative was released. He tried to get on his feet. The world swayed and dipped around him. He saw Blaine come back around the van and tried to aim the gun at him.
“I don’t think you’ll need that anymore,” Blaine told him.
Greg tried to hold tight as Blaine pulled the gun away but his body wasn’t listening to his thoughts any more. Blaine walked over to him, crouching next to him.
“Did you know my sister thought you and him looked delicious? We had something very special planned for you two. And we were going to make friends with all of your friends and invite them over for dinner, something exotic. Imagine their surprise when they found out they were eating you two? Perhaps, when this is over, I may still enjoy Nick, sautéed in a white wine reduction sauce. Maybe I’ll even send a few thigh steaks to that boss of your. The one that sent you two out here, together, so I could just pick you two off like strawberries.”
Blain giggled when Greg tried to speak. He watched him sink to the ground next to Nick, letting out a gleeful laugh.
“I LOVE THIS JOB!” Blaine yelled to the desert.
Collecting himself, Blaine pulled a syringe from his overall pocket. He uncapped it, squirted a little fluid from it, and then pulled up Greg’s sleeve to inject the fluid into his arm.
“There. That should make you feel so much better in a few days,” Blaine told him.
He stood and pulled the two into his van. He walked over to the SUV and jumped onto the hood, reclining on his side in front of the in dash camera. He produced Greg and Nick’s phones, and dialed a number on each of them, tapped the keypads, then set them on the hood within view of the camera.
“This is getting exciting, guys! I think I’ll tip some reporter off that this SUV’s here, let them get the first scoop on this breaking news story. What do you think? See ya in the funnies!”
Blaine slid off the hood, got in his van, and, obeying traffic laws, drove away.
Warrick hadn’t even stopped when Grissom jumped out of the SUV. He ran over to Nick and Greg’s SUV, pushing back the media. Luckily, the two police officers that had secured the farm were closer when Blaine had called in the tip and it broke on the news.
Behind his SUV, Catherine, Brass, and four more police cars pulled up. Brass and the police quickly controlled the mob of reporters that had converged on this desolate spot in the desert.
Grissom pulled on gloves and reached across the hood, picking up Nick’s phone. Warrick and Catherine walked up next to him.
“We need to get this back to the lab. Bag both of the phones.” Grissom handed it off to Warrick.
Grissom walked around the SUV to the open door. He spotted the dart almost covered by sand. Catherine came up behind him, holding two more darts.
“I’ve got two tranquilizer darts.”
“I have a third.”
“Why would he tranquilize them?”
Grissom stood; looking down the road the direction the SUV was headed. “He knew they wouldn’t have gone without a fight, meaning he’d hurt them. He doesn’t want them hurt. Yet.”
Catherine looked down the road too. It led back to Las Vegas and a million different places to hide two people while you killed them.