Back at the department, Grissom smoothed things over with everyone including Brass and Dr. Robbins. They accepted that when someone has a near-death experience they can be excused for stealing the coroner's badge, car and camel hair coat. Grissom also vouched for Lorne's innocence in the Stoffel murder and convinced everyone that Oswald had done it. Lorne sat quietly on a thinly padded, metal frame couch and tried blending into the rest of the institutional furniture while he listened to Grissom and Brass.

"Oswald can't get far," said Brass. "I put out a state and federal BOLO on him."

"He's a clever man, though," said Grissom, "even if he did leave a bit of a trail at the crime scene."

Warrick Brown began laughing again. He was trying to tell everyone who came into the room about the scene at the casino. The image of Oswald's shoes stuck to the floor next to one of the suitcases full of loot—which was lying on its side and also stuck to the floor—sent him into paroxysms every time. "And what really gets me," said Brown, hoarse with laughter, "are the socks stuck to the edge of the pool of glue. Ha, ha! Not that I'm complaining, Lorne, but if you'd made that pool of glue just a little wider, he never would have escaped."

As Warrick continued laughing, Catherine Willows, the latest victim of Warrick's recounting, smiled uncomfortably at Lorne. Lorne smiled back at her. He imagined that she rarely had occasion to exchange looks of any kind with a person whose murder she had been investigating the previous day.

"I don't see how this case could get any stranger," said Brass.

Just then, a young man wearing a lab smock came up to them.

"Mr. Grissom, I analyzed that sample you gave me."

"What did you find, Greg?"

"I hope you can come up with a better explanation than I can," began Greg. "The sample contains human ashes. You found these at Caesars?"


"Because it's as if somebody took a very old corpse—preserved probably for a century or more—and then they burned it within the past twenty-four hours."

"Thanks, Greg," said Grissom. Lorne was surprised by how calmly Grissom was taking this information.

"What's that about?" asked Brass.

"Just one of the many bizarre aspects of the case," Grissom answered. "Did you find out anything about that dancer at the Kitty Box?"

"Justine? Yeah, she doesn't work there anymore."

Lorne jumped off of the couch. "What? I saw her there last night!" he protested.

"She was there to pick up her paycheck."

"Present whereabouts unknown?" asked Grissom.

"As a matter of fact, last evening, a woman fitting her description but using the name—" Brass consulted his notepad—"'Constance Holtz' got on a bus with a ticket for Denver."

"That's incredible," said Lorne.

"You think she's in on the robbery?" Brass asked Grissom.

"No, I'm beginning to realize that what's going on around here is a lot more complicated than that."

Just then, a man in the uniform of a U.S. Air Force officer entered the room. His compact body moved briskly and deliberately. "I'm here to see Gil Grissom," he announced.

Grissom and Lorne exchanged glances. "Ah, Colonel McNutt," said Grissom, stepping forward to offer his hand.

McNutt shook hands as he asked, "Can we talk in front of these people?"

Grissom glanced at everyone. "They already know about every aspect of this case."

McNutt frowned, but went on. "Where is the alien?"

Grissom turned to look at a worried Lorne before answering. "I'm afraid the evidence of alien life slipped through our fingers."

"Slipped through your fingers?" cried McNutt. "How did that happen? In the Air Force, we don't let things like that just slip through our fingers!"

"I suppose not," said Grissom, "but we're civilians, not military. When we civilians find evidence of alien life, it always gets away from us in one way or another. We just can't nail it down the way you guys can."

"That's true," said McNutt, swelling with pride.

"Sorry to have wasted you time," said Grissom.

"Well," said McNutt, "I always wanted to see this forensics unit anyway. I've heard so much about it. Could you introduce me to your people?"

The colonel was introduced to Brass, Willows, Warrick and Greg. "And this," said Grissom, "is Mr. Lorne, a special consultant who has just helped us break an important case."

McNutt gave Lorne a particularly enthusiastic handshake and said, "Glad to meet you."

"Likewise, I'm sure," replied Lorne.

As Grissom walked Lorne out of the building, he said, "I hope your second visit to the CSI unit has been more pleasant than your first."

"A definite improvement," replied Lorne.

Grissom and Lorne were silent for a moment. "Just one thing is nagging me," Grissom said at last. "Are all of the people from Andreas's planet vampires?"

"You know about vampires?" Lorne asked in surprise.

"Shhh," said Grissom. He glanced left and right. "Every criminalist worth his salt has seen the fang marks, but I'd never seen the dust of a slain vampire before—only read about it."

"What can I say?" Lorne sighed. "You got me." But Grissom was not finished surprising him.

"And you aren't an alien either, are you?"

"No," said Lorne.

"'There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophies'," Grissom quoted. The two paused while Lorne thought about how much he should tell.

"Pylea exists," Lorne said finally. "But it is not a planet. It's one of many parallel dimensions."

"And you really came here because you like the music?"

"That's true. And I really do sing," said Lorne.

"And you're good?"

"At least as good as you are, Gil. In fact, we should sing a duet sometime."

"Why not now?" asked Grissom.

"Why not?" Lorne conceded.

And the two new friends walked along the street singing "Danny Boy" in unison as the dawn got as close as it ever does to overtaking the glittering lights of Las Vegas.


In memory of M. Sgt. D. Brian Correia (USAF-ret.), who was a security guard at Bally's Resort and Casino, and fed me one of the lines in this story while we were at Caesar's.