Catherine saw Grissom down the hallway and hurried up to him. Ecklie glanced at her as she approached, quickly ended his conversation and left.
“What was that about?”
“There are other websites cropping up across the country. Most of them are fakes, but it’s making it difficult to isolate his. Ecklie is getting calls from around the world. Plus, Homeland Security is now involved. They have a profile of a suspected terrorist that they sent over.”
Catherine shook her head. “If only it were so simple. Warrick and I finished with their SUV and there was nothing in it, Grissom. I don’t think this guy was ever in it.”
That displeased Grissom. He felt like he was caught in a labyrinth and every turn was only taking him further and further away from the exit.
“Are you okay?” Catherine asked quietly.
“I should have listened better, Catherine. I think about every conversation I’d had with the two and the photographs that kept appearing. Or the contaminated evidence – those two have never been sloppy; I don’t know why I believed they would be now. I should have seen this.”
“Grissom, we all thought they were falling apart. And there was a wide rumor that they were… Dating.”
“Dating? Where did that come from?”
“Their strange behavior and them always leaving and coming to work together.”
“I never thought that. I just thought they were falling apart on us.”
“Something’s happening!” Mandy said.
The two looked down the hall at her. She waved them to follow. The two jogged after her, following her into the A/V lab.
“Niiiiicccckkkyyyyyyy,” a voice droned.
No, not the voice. Something else was droning. Something was sprayed in his face, making him jerk his head back. He opened his eyes, finding Blaine couched in front of him, but well below the arrow. He held a spray bottle that he sat on the concrete floor next to a covered box.
“Nick, you get to make a choice,” Blaine told him.
“What choice?” Nick asked.
“Greg, are you awake?”
“Yes,” Greg answered. Nick noticed he sounded congested, but that didn’t hide the disdain in his reply.
“Now, one of these choices means you’ll get to leave here alive. Scouts honor.” Blaine held up his three fingers, smiling. “I used to be an Eagle Scout. I remember when I—”
“The choice?” Nick wasn’t about to go down memory lane with a psycho killer.
“It’s easy. You just move a leg or arm, Greg dies, you leave.”
Nick’s jaw tightened. “No.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to reconsider?”
Blaine began spritzing him. Nick turned his head to keep the liquid out of his face.
“What are you doing!? STOP!”
Blaine stopped and Nick returned his glare to him.
“Last chance, Nick.”
“Did you really think you’d convince me to kill my friend?”
Blaine sat the bottle down and picked up the box. “No.” He offered his crazy, sadistic grin. “I’d counted on you refusing. Nicky—”
“Nicky… When you were twelve, you had a little bit of an incident.”
“I had a lot of incidents when I was twelve.”
Blaine lifted the cover from the box, revealing six bees in a clear box. Nick couldn’t remember to breathe. He remembered the incident. He had been playing with a friend at a park that opened onto the Texas plains. At the edge of the park, there was a tree, and they often saw bees around it. Being boys, neither gave it much thought. They decided to climb it and he was stung only three times. He could only remember getting away from the tree. Then he woke up in the hospital and learned he had a severe allergy to the Hymenoptera venom.
“No,” Nick said.
“What’s happening?” Greg asked.
“Isn’t it going to ruin your little show if you kill us both so soon?” Nick taunted, hoping it would give him an edge.
Blaine motioned to Nick’s hand. “You have epinephrine in your hand, Nicky. You just have to use it and save yourself. Course… you’ll have to get it in your leg to do that, won’t you?”
Nick looked at his hand, then his thigh. That was where the directions instructed the epinephrine to be given and nowhere else. However, in order to do it this time, he’d have to pull on the strings and kill Greg. Nick felt sick. He shook his head, meeting Blaine’s eyes.
“You’d never let me leave here alive. I’ll die before you force me to kill him.”
Blaine leaned forward. “You CSI guys are all alike, falling on your swords for one another.”
Nick didn’t reply.
“Loose the hounds.” Blaine opened the door on the cage.
Nick pressed back into his chair, watching six bees fly out of the cage. At first, it seemed they would fly off, but suddenly they turned and headed for him. Nick cringed as they buzzed around him. He looked down at the spray bottle, then Blaine’s grinning face. He had sprayed him with something to attract the bees.
With a long, swooping step, Blaine stepped out of the path of the arrow and backed into the darkness.
Nick jerked his head away from a bee, startling one that had landed on his shoulder. He almost yanked his arm when it stung him.
“Nick, what’s happening?” Greg asked. “Are those bees?”
“YES!” Nick yelled when another stung his leg.
Within minutes, all six bees stung him and fell to the floor twitching as they died.
As his throat began to swell shut, the world swung back and forth. He closed his eyes, feeling his heart staring to palpate. Pain crept into his muscles and abdomen. Nick leaned over, careful not to move his arms. He looked at the Epipen under his hand, but he couldn’t knowingly kill his friend. He looked at the crossbow. Death would come faster if he could get Greg to pull the trigger, but he knew Greg wouldn’t do that for him.
Nick looked back at his hand and the world wavered. He closed his eyes a moment, and then used his hand to find the cap. It was difficult to as the venom caused his muscles to cramp, but finally he found it. With his thumb and forefinger, he was able to flick the cover off. Nick stared at it. Now what? How was he going to get it into his thigh? Nick’s yes drifted to the back of his hand. There was only one option of getting it in without killing Greg, wasn’t there? Nick slowly, carefully, turned the Epipen around, feeling the sharp needle scrape his skin. It took work and maneuvering to get it positioned just right. He aimed the needle for the muscle in his forearm.
He jammed his arm down on the needle, but at the last minute, it slipped, sliding into his wrist. The sharp metal tore through skin and nicked a tendon before sinking into the muscle. Nick screamed as pain shot up his arm, forcing his hand to let go of the Epipen. The device slipped and fell, hitting the cement floor with a dull click-clang.
Nick fell back into his chair. His head drifted back, resting against Greg’s shoulder. Greg turned his head as far as he could, trying to see him.
“Nick?” he heard Greg say, but the voice was strangely distorted.
The epinephrine worked as fast as the venom had and he was able to draw a long, deep breath.
“Nick, are you okay?”
He let his head fall forward and the world spun.
“Talk to me, Nick. Are you okay? Nick?”
Nick slowly opened his eyes, and then closed them on the spinning world. “Can you just pull the string now?”
Greg chuckled a little. “No. Are you going to live?”
Nick opened his eyes, letting his head fall forward. “For a while, yeah. But I really need to go to the hospital.”
Greg didn’t feel like pointing out that he seriously doubted their deranged captor would call for a doctor.
Nick closed his eyes again, swallowing.
People were relieved to see Nick move, most unaware that his danger was not past. Catherine pushed out of the crowd and rushed away. Grissom followed, finding her sitting in the locker room. He slowly sat down next to her.
Grissom said. “Did I ever tell you about Nick’s interview? It was the reason I hired him.”
“He had just graduated with his bachelors, fresh out of college. His transcripts were impressive, but he had no field experience. So I asked him why I should hire someone who didn’t know anything about the job. He told me that learning the job and processing the evidence was the easy part. The hard part was solving the crimes to help people find closure, even if they were already dead.”
“Sometimes he’s too compassionate.”
Grissom nodded. They were silent for a few minutes.
“One Epipen isn’t enough for him, Grissom,” Catherine told him. Her voice was flat, almost monotone.
“He’s hypersensitive to Hymenoptera venom, isn’t he?”
“Bad. He was stung once when we were on a scene south of town. He’d left his Epipen back in the SUV in his coat and I tried to make it back with him, but it came on so fast! I’ve never seen anyone react so fast to bee stings. That was just one bee; this was six.” She turned her head, looking at Grissom’s legs. “If he doesn’t get more epinephrine in him soon…”
Catherine looked up at Nick’s locker, then Greg’s. “I searched their lockers. There’s nothing in them that will help.”
The two were silent for several minutes.
“I found something in their voice mail boxes,” Warrick said as he appeared in the door. “The voice is the same as their kidnapper. For a week straight, every day, he left multiple messages of 2:15 on Greg’s voice mail, and 2:20 on Nick’s.”
“That proves they knew this was coming,” Catherine said. “Why didn’t they tell us? Why did they think we needed protected more than they did?”
“It was instinctual, Catherine,” Grissom told her. “They knew what this guy was capable of, I would guess, and they were protecting us from what they’re going through now.”
“We don’t have any more leads, Grissom. If they were looking into this guy, where’s their investigation files? Archie said there was nothing in their network folders, and there isn't anything in their lockers or on their phones. That means every shred of evidence they have is in their heads, in an empty pool, in some building, somewhere in the United States.” She shook her head. “What are we going to do now?”
Grissom looked up at Nick’s locker. He didn’t know and not knowing made him sick to his stomach.
He felt as if days had passed. He listened to Nick wheezing, noticing every breath sounded much like his own. Nick’s breathing had gotten better for a while, but now, like his own breathing, it was becoming more raspy and short. Greg coughed hard, forcing his arms down so he wouldn’t move the strings.
Quietly Nick said, “You don’t sound so good. How you holding up?”
Greg tried to sigh, but ended up coughing again.
“I feel awful.”
“Like I’m coming down with the flu.”
Nick looked up. He could see spots of daylight above their head. The overhead skylights were covered or painted, but some places let small shafts of light into the room. The weak light wasn’t strong enough to light the pool area beyond the light.
“Do you think he’s got sound in his show? Think they can hear us?” Greg asked.
In the CSI lab, Archie heard the two talking. He moved over, listening to the conversation.
“I don’t know,” Nick answered Greg.
He looked down at the pool floor, staring at something under his foot. “I know where we’re at.”
“What?” Archie said. He stood, dialing his phone. “Grissom, are you watching? Get on. Greg knows where they’re at.”
“Lotta good that’ll do,” Nick retorted.
“Still… I’d like to know where I’m going to die. Where are we?”
“We’re at Los Cas—”
They both looked up when they heard a door slam and the conversation was broken off. They could hear footsteps coming.
“No. No. Greg, tell us where you’re at?” Archie grabbed the monitor when they both looked away from the camera. “Greg, Where are you!?” Archie screamed at the monitor.
Blaine came into the light, carrying a syringe in each hand. Around the middle of the syringes were bands of color: one red, one blue.
Archie sank into his chair, staring at the screen. He heard someone run up behind him, but he couldn’t look away. He knew this was about to turn ugly again.
Blaine stopped next to them.
“In one of these needles is a light sedative. The other is water mixed with a little treat.” Blaine crouched down. “Eat me.” He lifted one. “Drink me.” He lifted the other. “Pick a color…” He stared into Greg’s eyes, “CSI Sanders.”
Greg didn’t answer. He coughed a couple times instead.
Blaine smiled more. “Feeling lousy? Achy? Head hurt? Nausea coming and going? You look like hell.”
“You’re not fine. As a matter of fact, if your friends don’t find you in the next four days, you’ll be anything but fine.” Blaine looked into the camera. “Oh! Did I just put a time limit on one of your lives? How evil of me!” Blaine turned back to Greg. “Pick a color, Greg.”
“I would have, except I really do prefer women.”
Blaine stood, facing the camera as he put both syringes in his shirt pocket. “Well, I guess I’ll have to kill one off right now. Eenie, meenie, minee, moe…” Blaine turned, grabbing Nick’s throat with both hands.
Nick tried to pull away and Blaine continued tightening his hands. Nick coughed, gagged, and finally wheezed as he fought for each breath.
“RED! RED!” Greg screamed.
Blaine let go, looking Nick in the eye. “Your partner has more balls than you did.”
Nick pressed his lips together. Yes, Greg was being courageous, but only to save his life and that gave Blaine leverage over them both. Blaine pulled a syringe out of his pocket, holding it up in front of his face.
“Too bad, isn’t it?”
Nick stared at the red band, guessing that was the one with the little treat. Blaine jabbed it into his shoulder. Nick winced, but said nothing. Blaine moved to Greg, giving him the shot before he could see the color band. Blaine stepped back.
“Feel free to talk amongst yourself. After our last close call, they won’t be listening to you anymore.”
Blaine walked back into the shadows.
The effects of the shots were quick. Greg felt like his arms and legs were floating and try as he might, he didn’t feel like he was holding them down. He couldn’t see that he was pulling on the string of the crossbow.
Behind him, Nick fought hard to resist the sleep lulling to him. Eventually he slipped into sleep, and doing so relaxed his body. The taut strings he’d been trying to keep taut pulled on his wrists, pulling them off the arms. The strings to both weapons pulled the triggers…
Archie held his breath, watching the triggers slowly depress. The screen suddenly went black, followed by a shotgun shot and the twang of an arrow. On the black screen, ‘Intermission’ appeared.
“What the hell happened?” Archie asked the screen. “Are they dead? Did you kill them? What the hell just happened!?”
“Archie, calm down,” Grissom said, and then his hand rested on the young man’s shoulder. “I don’t think their dead. He wanted this to go on longer, they haven’t died.”
“How do you know that?”
“The website is still up.”
Archie wanted to believe Grissom, but he was having a hard time doing that.