Warrick moved back when a picture was slapped in front of him. He looked at Archie.
“What does this look like?”
Warrick set down the magnifying glass he held and picked up the picture. The photo was a fuzzy still taken from one of the camera angles off the edge of the pool. Circled in the picture was a tiled mosaic image that they were sitting in the center. It was faded and many of the tiles were missing. Warrick held it out.
“Did you just notice this?”
“No. Greg did.”
Warrick lowered the picture. “They’re back on?”
“No. Still intermission. I noticed him looking at the floor before… Anyway, I went back through the footage we captured and found this. What does it look like?”
Warrick looked at it again. He leaned on the light table, shaking his head.
“Do you know what it is?”
“No. But it looks so familiar.”
Warrick’s frustration lifted a few notches, because he was thinking the same thing, but the answer wasn’t coming to him. He handed it back.
“No. I don’t recognize it.”
Archer left, staring at the picture.
“Try Grissom,” Nick told him.
Archie waived as he hurried past.
The world was full of pinpricks and noise. Somewhere in the distance, he heard something beeping, like a heart monitor steadily keeping time. He could hear water dripping, one slow drip at a time. There was the sound of something ticking, but it was quieter than the beeping or dripping combined.
Nick was reintroduced to his nightmare when he opened his eyes. They were still in the pool tied to chairs with… Nick lifted his head. The crossbow was tipped over, lying on the floor. He looked down at his wrists. The ropes were loose. Did that mean… What had happened after he was given the shot?! Nick turned in the chair, seeing Greg slumped over behind him.
Nick started to get off the chair but froze. The beeping was coming from nearby. No… Nick looked down. It was coming from under the chair. Nick slowly worked one arm loose from the ropes. He untied his other arm and leaned over to untie his ankles. What he saw under his chair froze him. He had thought that the grey directly under his chair was part of the pool. Now he could tell it was a pressure pad attached to the bomb. A very large bomb that was beeping as the light blinked. Nick untied the ropes and slowly sat back.
“Blaine you son of a bitch,” Nick growled.
He heard a soft beep and looked up. A camera nearby focused on him and the record light started blinking. All around him, the other cameras started flashing too. It was a foreboding sight for him…
…the CSI monitors on the website suddenly came to life with a dozen images showing Nick and Greg. Everyone stopped what he or she was doing to watch. Superimposed over the images was a clock counting down.
Blaine’s voice cut in, telling them, “The show doesn’t always go on. The end is near. The center does not hold. Apocalypse now. Two days. Twelve hours. Time is of the essence. Will you figure out where they are in time?”
Warrick looked back when Doc Robinson stopped next to him.
The camera angles disappeared until one remained, and as the timer faded, the image zoomed in. Nick was staring right into the camera. They could see he was no longer tied to the chair.
“Why hasn’t he gotten up?” Hodges asked from the back of the break room.
Warrick’s thought the same thing at first. He looked over the area, trying to figure it out. Then he saw it. At the edge of the camera, just out of view, was the top of a box with a flashing light. At the angle it sat, he could make out a timer.
“Because he’s sitting on a bomb,” Warrick said.
“I really hate that bastard,” Robinson hissed, referring to the kidnapper.
Warrick nodded. He wasn’t developing any love for the guy either.
“Greg,” he heard someone say. “Gregg-o, you still with me, man?”
Greg’s head felt as if it was full of cobwebs and he couldn’t find his way out of them. He knew the voice, and yet it didn’t have any familiarity.
“Greg, are you with me? Can you hear me?”
Greg tried to talk, but it came out as a soft mutter.
“Listen, man, don’t move. He tricked us with the weapons, they weren’t real. We gotta bomb under our chairs.”
Greg slowly opened his eyes. That cleared some of the cobwebs. He looked around the pool area, the view around him dusting out the remaining cobwebs.
“A bomb?” Greg asked.
“Yeah. Under the chairs.”
Greg looked down at his feet. He noticed the rope around his wrists weren’t taut any more. He worked one arm loose and untied himself. As he leaned over to untie his legs, he stared at the bomb. He felt so tired and weak. A fit of coughing hit him suddenly and he almost fell out of the chair. He sat upright, coughing hard. Greg leaned over the arm until it passed, and then for a few minutes longer until he caught his breath.
Nick’s hand rested on his shoulder.
“Are you… You’re burning up!”
Greg didn’t need Nick to tell him that. He felt like he was in the desert at two in the afternoon. Greg slumped back in his chair. His chest was tighter than he remembered it last time.
Nick turned in his chair some more. He tried to draw a deep breath, but his lungs couldn’t.
Greg closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. He slowly dropped his hand. There was a new noise. He looked in the direction of it.
“Do you hear water running?”
Nick turned the other direction. He did. Suddenly the running turned into a roar and water shot out from behind the work lights, falling on the pool floor inches from Greg. Greg pulled his legs up, hugging them. He shivered when the water landed on his arm.
“What is it?”
Nick looked around them, then back at the water. “There has to be something we can do here.”
Greg closed his eyes, trying to think. His head throbbed so bad that it was difficult to concentrate on anything. Nevertheless, an idea surfaced. He started patting his pockets, finding his keys in his front right. He pulled them out and isolated a blue one. He looked at the record light of each of the cameras until he found the blinking one. Greg turned to it, holding up the key.
“What are you doing?” Nick asked him.
Greg suddenly started coughing and leaned over the arm of the chair as the coughing turned to vomit. The vomiting stopped, but it left him winded. With a shaky hand, he wiped his mouth off. He faced the camera again, holding the key up.
“Warrick,” Greg said.
“What are you doing?” Nick asked again.
“I’m doing something”
“I can see that. What?”
Greg shook the key a little and held it out so it was closer to the camera.
“Greg… What are you doing?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Because he’s listening.”
Nick didn’t understand, but he decided Greg doing anything right now was better than sitting.
The break room was packed with people watching the events. Grissom stood at the front next to Warrick, watching Greg.
“Why is he saying your name, Warrick?” Grissom asked, looking up at him.
Warrick moved closer. He suddenly dug into his pocket, pulling a key ring out, and singling out a matching blue key. He looked up at the screen.
“I gottcha, Greg, I gottcha.” Warrick turned to Grissom. “I’m going to need help searching his place. Something’s there, but I don’t know what.”
“You got all that from a key?”
Warrick held up his matching key. “It’s his apartment key. He’s got something there, maybe his investigation files.”
“Take Catherine and hurry.”
Warrick left to get Catherine. Grissom’s gaze returned to the monitor. Greg was still holding up the key, but he was coughing again. Over the last twenty-four hours, Grissom had watched him become paler, and his suspicion was their kidnapper had given him something before the webcast began. Something meant to kill him in the end.
The lock rattled and the door opened. Catherine and Warrick walked into the living room of a dark apartment. Warrick flicked on the switches and Catherine was surprised.
“I never took Greg to be so neat,” she commented.
“You haven’t seen this place when he’s been working doubles for a week. It gets pretty nasty.”
“So why do you have a key to Greg’s apartment?”
“Tina and I sometimes get into it in the middle of the night and I kept waking him when I came here to crash. He got tired of me waking him up.”
She laughed. “What are we looking for?”
“I dunno. I’m sure we’ll know it when we find it. I’ll search his bedroom. He uses that bedroom as his office if you want to start there.” Warrick pointed at a door off the living room.
Catherine nodded, heading to the room. She opened the door, flicked the light switch, and stared.
The room walls were covered with articles and pictures, along with notes scribbled in Greg’s barely legible handwriting. That’s where the disorder ended. The rest of the room was neat and even the large table that took up the center of the room had items piled neatly on it. Among the papers, maps, and notes, were file folders that never should have left the police station or CSI labs. Briefly, it crossed her mind that Grissom was not going to be happy about that.
“Warrick, I think I found it.”
Warrick stopped in the doorway with her. “Wow. He must have been researching a case for a while.”
“I can’t wait to see what’s in Nick’s house.”
“You think he’ll have something?”
Catherine nodded. “This has to do with their kidnapper. He’ll have something.”
“I’ll go get some boxes to put all this in, and then we’ll check it out.” Warrick left.
Catherine walked over to the desk, picking up an MP3 player. She slid an earbud in her ear, turned it on and pushed play. The police recordings of the fake dispatcher that aided Petra O’Connor began playing.
“You boys found him, but at what cost?” Catherine looked around the room.