Disclaimer: I do not own CSI nor profit from this fictitious story.
A/N: Woohoo! New and improved! Less swearing. Better grammar. Lose weight fast and keep it off. Well, maybe not the last one. Enjoy with my condolences. --your humble author
Sara walked into Catherine's office carrying a huge stack of papers. "Where's Gil?"
"I'm sure he's somewhere."
Sara set down her papers. "I've looked everywhere in this building and called his pager and his cell phone. I got nothin'."
"That's impossible. Grissom's always here. Heck, I've seen him working on a scene as sick as a dog."
"He isn't here! I've been everywhere; I even sent Nick into the guy's bathrooms. No Grissom. I figured you'd know where he is."
A look of concern crossed Catherine's face. Grissom was always available. Either he was in the building (half of the CSI's just assume he lived there) or he could be reached via cell phone. Catherine almost suggested smoke signals, but got a better idea. "Have you ever been to Gil's house?"
Catherine grabbed her purse and started out the door. "Then let's go."
Grissom woke up with a terrible headache. He would have rubbed the back of his head, except that his hands were bound behind his back. He would have taken in his surroundings, except for a blindfold over his face. Butterflies weld up in his stomach.
"Hello?" he asked with surprising calm. No one answered him. "I'd like to know why I've been kidnapped and tied up."
"And why would you like to know that?"
The voice was equally calm but had an edge to it. More importantly Grissom recognized it. He couldn't place a name or a face, but he knew the voice.
"Yes, that does seem to be one of your more aggravating flaws."
Grissom bowed his head in an acknowledgment. "You wouldn't be the first to say that."
"I may be the last."
Well spoken. Confident. Likely an intelligent person. He knows what he's doing; he planned this carefully. Most importantly, he knows who I am.
"Your voice is familiar, but I can't remember who you are. It isn't fair that you should threaten my life and I don't even know your name. Please, remove the blindfold."
There was a long pause and then the sound of movement. The blindfold was taken off of Grissom. He sat face to face with a gun. Slowly, he trailed his eyes up until he met his captor's glare.
"You," Gil whispered, losing a fraction of his calm.
"Bet you wish you still had on the blindfold."
Catherine knocked on the door but no one answered. She pulled a credit card out of her pocket.
"Gonna bribe a locksmith?" Sara asked with a grin.
"No. I'm gonna break in."
She grabbed the handle tightly and slid the card between the door and the doorway. She moved the credit card down and began to jerk the handle of the door when she discovered the door wasn't locked.
"I'm liking this less and less," she whispered as they entered the house. "Something's wrong; I can feel it."
Immaculate. That was the one word that described Grissom's house. Everything was in its place and not even a speck of dust stood to ruin the décor. That was fortunate for the missing director since it made his unfinished breakfast on the table stand out like a neon sign.
"Two pieces of unbuttered toast, half a grapefruit, and a cup of tea. That's our Grissom," Sara observed as she put her finger in the tea. "It's cold." She picked up a yellow rose that was next to Grissom's plate. "He didn't really strike me as the kind of guy who liked flowers."
Catherine walked into the dining room from Grissom's bedroom where she had discovered no evidence at all. "What did you find?" she asked and was handed the rose. Her eyes grew wide. "Please tell me you pulled this out of a vase."
"No, I found it on the table. Why? What's wrong?"
"A year ago we were working a case about a killer whose M. O. was to leave a yellow rose at the side of his victim; traditionally, a person gives yellow roses when he or she leaves. The guy was incredible. He didn't leave us a single piece of evidence and it drove Grissom up the wall. Then, on the fourth crime scene, Gil found a half of a fingerprint and ran it through the computers, narrowing it down to a man in Nevada. Amazingly, he came up with three possible suspects. One of them was Thomas Carey."
"Carey? That names sounds familiar."
Catherine grimaced. "It ought to. Tom Carey was a CSI who worked with Grissom previously. They weren't chummy, but Gil had no clue it was Tom until the fingerprints came back, and even then he didn't believe it. He asked him what was going on, why his fingerprints had appeared at the crime scene. Tom played innocent and said he didn't know. Grissom believed him."
Sara's eyes had grown large, like a child listening to a scary story. "What happened next?"
"Grissom called in Greg to do some special analyses on the crime scenes. They worked on all four scenes for two days—nonstop. But it was finally Greg who came up with an extra clue he got by creating a new method of testing the fingerprints. Some compound that narrows down protein markers."
"That's right! I remember hearing about that in a seminar I went to! Greg might be a little geeky, but nobody does his job better. So what happened?"
Catherine sighed. "Greg proved it was Tom but a little too late. Tom had been keeping an eye on Gil and Greg once he realized that he was a suspect. He didn't figure he had too much to worry about since the only evidence was half a fingerprint. When Greg broke the case, he ran to Grissom's office. So did Tom. As Greg explained his findings, Tom slipped a can of tear gas into the office and just about killed Gil and Greg. With that diversion going on he hopped in his car and left. He hightailed it out of Las Vegas so fast that nobody knew where he went."
"But if Grissom's missing and there's a yellow rose here..."
"Then I guess Tom Carey found his way back."
There was a short pause and then a simultaneous epiphany. "Oh, no—Greg!"
Greg shuffled out of his office, rubbing his bleary eyes as he did so. That likely accounted for why he walked into the doorframe.
"Oh, that's gonna leave a mark," he mumbled as he gingerly felt his eye. "Hmm, I wonder if this could pass for a barroom brawl injury. 'Why yes, I did get this fighting for a woman's honor.'"
It had been a very long night. He had arrived at work the previous evening and was leaving at eleven in the morning. A seventeen-hour shift. And there hadn't been a moment's rest; which would explain why he was leaving work seven hours late.
Greg found his way outside and to his car. The walk to the ultra-subcompact (they didn't get any smaller) felt like an eternity, but as he settled into his seat, he breathed a sigh of relief. The only thing on his mind was his bed at home. That, and actually getting home. He had fallen asleep at the wheel before and dying was not on his to-do list.
Just as he moved to turn the car on, a wet cloth was shoved over his face from behind. Startled, he immediately fought to remove the rag, but it was of no use. He was being held firmly in place by someone's tight grip. The noxious liquid he breathed in caused him to cough profusely and he instantly recognized it as chloroform.
"Help!" he yelled, but his cry was severely muffled.
"Be quiet and stop moving, Greg," was the only reply but it served to stop the biochemist. Whoever was drugging him had to know him.
"How...my name?" He was growing weak from the chloroform and his struggling grew less and less. "...stop...please..." he whispered as the drug took over his system.
The young man finally stopped moving altogether and when the vice grip on his body was released, he slumped down, unconscious.
Nick digested the information then choked on the Pepsi he was drinking. Warrick dropped the chip he had planned to eat. "Tom—Psycho—Carey? The one who tried to kill Gris and Greg?"
Sara nodded and sat down. "That's the one. And he's got Grissom right now. Has anybody seen Greg?"
"He's got Grissom?"
"Yes, and you can guess who else he wants. Have you seen Greg?"
"Isn't he in his office?"
"No," Warrick corrected. "I saw him leave. He worked a late night and left about an hour ago."
Sara took a deep breath. "Are you sure?"
"We passed his car on the way into the building."
Tom carried Greg into the hotel and sat him on a chair. Grissom had been expecting Greg, but it still made him angry.
"Any more guests, Tom?"
"None that you know. Y'know, Gil, it was a lot easier to bring him in here than you. It's time to lay off the cookies."
Grissom glared at Carey but kept his voice even. "I'll keep that in mind."
"I'm sure you will."
Carey tied Greg's wrists securely to the arms of the chair, then used some of the rope to tie his chest to the chair's back. That way the younger man wouldn't fall forward and constrict the amount of oxygen he could breathe. Greg wasn't exactly in possession of his faculties. As the blindfold was slipped over Greg's face, Gil noticed the black eye.
"Did you hit him?" His voice wasn't quite as even as it had been earlier.
Tom tiled Greg's face so he could examine the bruise. He smiled. "Well, it looks like little Greggy got hurt; kid's got himself a shiner. Beatin' up on your people, Gil? Really, that's not good for morale."
Grissom didn't respond but was glad to know Tom hadn't hurt Greg.
Carey put Grissom's blindfold back on. "I have to go run a few errands and I'd hate to give you any advantage like sight, so just sit around and don't try anything. I'd hate to kill you. Yet."
Twenty minutes after the door closed behind Carey, Greg began to wake up. He moaned softly and tried to pick his head up off his chest, but the chloroform and lack of sleep left his body a little similar to Jello.
"Oh my gosh," he groaned. "What did I do last night?"
"Greg, you okay?"
Greg paused and underneath his blindfold, his brow furrowed. Apparently he hadn't partied too hard the night before. "Grissom? What happened? What's going on?"
Gil frowned. Greg sounded very surprised and the older man hesitated to say exactly what was going on. "Do you remember what happened to you?"
"Well, I...um...lemme think. Okay, I'm pretty sure I left work and I went to my car. Then...oh, no."
"It's all right. Just tell me what happened."
"Right after I got in, some guy puts a chloroform rag over my face and knocks me out. Grissom, why can't I see? Why can't I move? What's going on?"
"Greg, calm down. I really need you to be calm."
"Then I really need to know what's happening."
So Gris related everything he knew, including his own abduction that morning. Greg's reply was soft with concern.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, just got a headache. The question at hand, though, is what does Tom want with us? Why aren't we dead?"
"I don't think I want an answer to that question. He's a freakin' psycho and whatever it is that he wants probably involves us being dead."
"But we're not dead."
Greg's voice dripped with sarcasm. "Gee, that's a pity. Maybe we should remind him when he gets back. I wouldn't want to screw up his plans or mess with his schedule, you know."
Greg sighed. "I'm sorry. It's just that I'm...scared. I remember the crime scenes. I remember the pictures of those bodies. Gris, he's nuts. God only knows what he's gonna do."
Catherine set the yellow flower down in the middle of the table. Sara, Nick, and Warrick just looked at it.
"Is that the one from Grissom's house?" Sara finally asked.
"No. This is the one from Greg's car. I went to take a look and there it was, right on the front seat. His keys are even in the ignition. I don't know where we should start. We're not just dealing with a professional killer; we're dealing with a professional CSI killer. He knows every trick in the book and how to get around them."
"We could start by splitting up," Nick suggested. "Warrick 'n I can take Grissom's house and you two can get Greg's car. I don't know how we're gonna find them, but those are the only leads we have."
Catherine, Nick, and Warrick were all in agreement, but Sara was still confused about Tom Carey. She hadn't worked there when the killings happened. She didn't know what they were all about. "Could somebody let me know what I'm getting into?"
"Tom Carey was really good," Warrick began. "The guy knew what he was doing. 'Course, he also took kind of a strange pleasure in it."
Nick scoffed. "No kidding. I went on a few scenes with him and he would rate how good the murderer was on a scale of one to ten. One killer was so good that Tom couldn't stop talking about the entire time we were there. He admired a clean killer."
Warrick continued. "So the first case came in and it was of a 37 year old white female killed in her home. Her throat was cut and she bled to death pretty fast; she probably didn't even last a minute. Next to her body were a yellow rose and a bucket of her blood. Carey had cleaned up the place; it was spotless."
"Yeah, but his mopping wasn't the only thing," Nick added. "There was no evidence. No fingerprints, no hair, nothing under her fingernails, no one had spotted him. He hadn't raped her and there was no DNA evidence anywhere. The place was so sterile Gris thought it might have been a doctor who killed her."
Catherine sighed. "It gets worse."
Nick continued where he left off. "So we had nothing to go on. It was infuriating and you should have seen Gris; he was up night and day just looking for any kind of lead. Then, about a month later, when things started to settle down, we find the same thing. Only it's a 19 year old black female and she died from severe blows to her chest and stomach after being hit over the head."
"So she wouldn't be conscious and try to fight back," Sara deduced.
"Bingo." It was Warrick's turn. "And no evidence again; only that yellow rose. Grissom tore through that place but there was nothing to find. So not quite a month goes by and we get called out to a scene where there's a 52 year old white man with gunshot wounds in both kneecaps and a bullet in his brain. On the floor was the yellow rose."
Sara's mouth gaped in surprise. "A white male? And a white female and a black female? He killed indiscriminately!"
"But what about the gun? Didn't you guys trace it to see whom it belonged to?"
Nick rolled his eyes. "Of course we did. That was the first thing Gris had done. It belonged to the victim, and the scratching on the bullets matched the gun. Tom killed his victim with the guy's own gun."
Sara could hardly believe what she was hearing. Carey didn't just kill people. He made murder into an art. And he wasn't simple about it. He made sure his victims suffered. "What about the fourth victim?"
"That was where Carey screwed up. It was only two weeks after his last killing. An Hispanic executive; pushed out of the window of his eleventh story office at night. It could have been a neat killing, but glass flies when it shatters and some of it hit Tom. We figured the killing didn't go as easily as the first three, otherwise he wouldn't have resorted to death by throwing. The first thing we found was half of his fingerprint on a piece of shattered glass; Grissom figured that some glass drew blood and so Tom had to take off his gloves to remove the glass from his face. So it's true we didn't find any blood on anything except that of the victim, but that doesn't mean evidence was missing."
Catherine explained Warrick's somewhat cryptic statement. "Grissom called in Greg to work on the glass. It took him a couple of days but he came up with some special solution that could detect any human protein on the glass. With that, Greg managed to get some DNA information. Greg must have hours—days—in his lab, pouring over solutions and data. Then we didn't believe what we got. A CSI? No, there had to be another explanation. Well, there wasn't, and Tom got away." Catherine took a shaky breath and tried to calm down her rage. "Now he's returned. And we had better find him. Soon."
Sara and Catherine walked around the car. One carried dusting powder and the other had fluorescent lighting to find any blood that might have spilled.
"This makes me so angry," Sara seethed as she opened the dusting powder. "It's like Holly Gribbs all over again. One of them killing one of ours."
"It's not quite as bad. At least we know Greg and Gil aren't dead. Yet."
"How could we possibly know that?"
"Tom left the flowers for us to find, but no body. That means he intends to kill them but is waiting. Also, he wants us to know that he has them, otherwise he wouldn't have left the flowers. So when he kills them, we'll know that, too."
Sara smiled sadly. "You know, you've been hanging around Grissom too long."
"Yeah; you sounded just like him for a second."
They worked in silence, each looking for something—anything—to find their friends and coworkers. It was okay to work on the crime scene of some unknown person. It was a nightmare to work on the scene of friends.
After nearly an hour, Catherine was tempted to throw the light to the ground and stomp on it. Instead, she carefully packed it in its case and set it down. "It's no use," she muttered angrily. "We're not gonna find a single piece of evidence here. Carey's too smart for that."
Sara sighed in defeat. She hadn't come up with anything. Even fingerprints that would have belonged to Greg had been wiped away. "Then what do we do? We can't just give up."
"No, we're not gonna give up. I just don't know where we can go from here. I wish Nick or Warrick would call and say they've found something."
"I wish they'd call and say they found Gris and Greg."
Catherine gave her partner a sympathetic look and both lapsed into silence. They stood in thoughtful quiet until, suddenly, they both looked at each other with the same thought. It was as if the magic CSI fairy had sprinkled them with "idea dust." Yes, idea dust.
"If you were Carey, where would you keep them?" Sara asked excitedly.
"If I didn't have a house or an apartment? If some sort of warehouse wouldn't accommodate me? If I was in a city with hundreds of hotels and motels?"
"He's so interesting and yet the place couldn't be more..."
Nick had the dusting powder. Warrick had the light. It wasn't long after mocking their fallen comrade's décor that they started to work. It wasn't that they truly disliked Grissom's furnishings; actually, the house screamed Gil Grissom lives here and he's a very organized guy. But gallows humor made the job easier.
"What a nut-job," Nick muttered as he walked around the house. "The front door was unlocked, the sliding glass door is ajar, and one of the windows has been opened from the outside. Carey's showing off."
"No, he just wants us to know how easy it was to get Gris. He wants us to know how smart he is. But that just gives him more chances to slip up."
"And more chances for us to catch him." There was a sparkle in Nick's eyes as he said that. He had some hope.
Grissom had once said that hope was an infinite human trait. People never run out of it. They may be low on it at times and truly feel the impossibility of a situation, but everyone bounces back. "Actually," Grissom had said, "hope is like denial. No matter how bad the situation is, we still think there's a chance. Sometimes, we're even right." Well, Nick and Warrick were going to be right. They didn't have a choice.
"It's amazing," Warrick said after awhile. "We know who he is and he knows we know who he is, but he still doesn't leave any evidence. It's a sign of his pride."
"And that's his biggest flaw."
After another moment of silence, Warrick set down the light and sat down on a chair. "Y'know, he did leave us one thing."
"Well, he left it here for us. He wiped away every fingerprint, made sure to leave no hair, probably caught Gris off guard so there's no DNA evidence from a scratch or anything—all we got is that flower."
"So what do we do? Ask the flower where Gris is?"
Warrick cocked his head thoughtfully. "No, but we could ask the flower where it came from."
They each heard the sound of the door opening. It had been two hours since Carey left and neither prisoner spoke much. They concentrated instead on their bindings, but to no avail.
"How are my two favorite prisoners?" a mocking voice asked. There was suddenly the sound of a gun safety being freed. Greg cringed. "Oops, I almost shot you two!" Tom laughed.
"What is the point of being cruel?" Grissom asked, though to the trained ear, his voice was just a bit shaky.
Tom walked behind them and tousled Greg's hair. Greg shuddered. "It's the joy I get in seeing him flinch. Not used to a gun, are you, Greggy? No, our little boy wonder doesn't leave the office much."
He was overcome with emotions. Fear, anger, hatred, dread, and terror. A painful lump formed in Greg's throat. "What do you want?" he asked through clenched teeth. But his voice gave away his fear.
Carey moved his mouth next to Greg's ear. So close that Greg could feel Tom's hot breath. "Hearing you on the verge of tears is a start," he whispered.
"If you're so cocky, why don't you tell us what's going on. What do you want?" Grissom demanded. He could feel the panic emanating from Greg and hoped to change Tom's focus.
Tom stood back up. "I'm surprised you haven't deduced it yet, Gris."
He whipped the blindfolds off his prisoners and moved to stand in front of them. "With your combined talents, you two should know everything from my shoe size to the person I'm going to kill next."
"You're killing someone else?" Greg asked hoarsely.
"Of course I am!"
Grissom turned to Greg. "If he didn't have anything planned before he kidnapped us, he would have killed us hours ago. No," Grissom looked back at Carey for confirmation, "he has some business to do before he kills us."
"Chalk another one up for Gil Grissom; the man's a genius. Do you know who my next victim is?"
Gil didn't answer, though he was desperate to know. For the last year he would lie awake at night wondering what Carey's motives were.
"I'll take your silence as a negative. Her name is Charlotte Ford and soon she will be the former mistress of Michael de Guillore."
"The casino owner?" Greg asked.
"How many Michael de Guillores are there in Las Vegas? Of course it's the casino owner! She threatened to tell Mrs. Guillore about the affair if 'ole Mickey didn't give her more money. We couldn't have that, could we?"
Grissom caught on. "So he hired you to kill her."
"Yeah, except that he hired me to kill her a year ago! Then you two got suspicious and then you," he yelled at Greg, "got too smart for your own good!"
"You had to run. You put Mr. Guillore on hold for a year. The guy's probably a little pissed off," Greg surmised, just a hint of pride in his voice. "You didn't think I could find any evidence on that glass. Did my little protein mixture make you go into hiding for a year?"
He didn't now why he was suddenly so flippant. Maybe it was the return of his sight. It could have been Grissom's strong presence. Likely, all the different emotions stripped away his self-control. Whatever it was, the words just seemed to tumble from his mouth before he could stop them. The story of his life. And he sincerely wished he had stopped them.
Carey turned red.
Carey hit Greg.
The power of the blow forced the young biochemist and his chair to fall backwards. The thud was mostly the sound of Greg's head hitting the floor. He was so shocked that he didn't even make a sound, but stared dazedly at the ceiling. Grissom cried out and nearly jumped from his chair. Greg vaguely noted the sensation of liquid spilling from of his nose and onto his face. As quickly as he was struck down, he was roughly pulled up by his lab coat.
"Got anything else to say?" Tom yelled venomously. His face lost its look of rage as he noticed the blood on the carpet. "Great," he uttered in annoyance. "How am I gonna get that out?"
Blood flowed freely from Greg's nose and dripped onto his lab coat and shirt. He just stared ahead, though. "Are you okay?" Grissom asked softly while Tom pondered the bloodstain. "Greg? Greg, are you okay? C'mon, kid, answer me."
"Why are you so worried?" Carey asked, the stain no longer a concern. "It's not like a bloody nose is such a big deal in the grand scheme of me killing you and you dying."
Greg's voice was barely above a whisper and tears glistened in his eyes. "Why do you hate me? I was just doing my job."
"I hate you," Tom said evenly, "because you caught me." He got down to Greg's eye level and stared the boy in the face. "I had a good thing going. I had everyone fooled. And if it wasn't for your little stroke of luck with a couple of chemicals, I would still be home free."
"I doubt that," Grissom said from his seat. Both men turned to look at Gil. "I had your fingerprint, Tom. You were suspect."
Tom's eyes narrowed angrily. "Yes, that fingerprint. Of all those millions of pieces of shattered glass, you found the half of a fingerprint that pointed to me. How long did you stay up pouring over every piece of glass? Well, I suppose it doesn't really matter anymore. I'll soon have pacified Mr. Guillore. Then I can pacify my sense of injustice and kill the two of you."
"Why don't you kill us now?"
Greg was still in shock, but he wasn't so out of reality to not be jolted by Grissom's question. If his hands had been free, Greg would have wrapped them around Gil's mouth.
"Because," Carey murmured with a grin, "I know just how much it's going to drive you insane knowing that you have all the answers now. And you can't do anything with them. But mostly I don't need any extra dead bodies to hinder my business with Charlotte Ford. When that's done and Mr. Guillore is satisfied, then I get to enjoy myself. Business before pleasure."
"Well?" Brass asked over the phone. "What's going one? Do you have any leads?"
"Sara and I got nothing from Greg's car and Nick and Warrick didn't turn up a thing. Warrick got an idea, though, and we're gonna be stopping by the office to get a picture of Carey and a phone book."
The plan was simple. To find every florist shop and parade Tom's picture around until it was recognized. They didn't know if it would work, but it was the only plan they had.
"Nick, you've got this quarter; Warrick, you're here; Sara, you'll take this part and I'll be here." Catherine was pointing at a map of Las Vegas, which had been sectioned into quarters.
"This is such a long shot," Sara muttered, picking up her copy of the map.
Warrick glared at her angrily. "And your brilliant idea would be...?"
"Look, all I'm saying is that we don't even know if they're still alive, and if they are still alive, how long are they gonna stay that way while we're looking?"
"Should we just give up?" Warrick demanded, his eyes flashing.
Catherine interrupted them before Sara could respond. "Would you two quit it? It's certainly not helping them. So get your griping butts out there and find Tom!"
Warrick and Sara left looking angry and chastised (though certainly not as angry as Catherine). Nick stopped in front of Catherine and smiled.
"Mad is very attractive on you."
"Leave! And Nick?"
Catherine's face softened. She had needed a little something to make her smile. "Thanks."
Tom left and Grissom looked visibly relieved. Greg, however, was not.
"Are you nuts? Do you have a death wish? 'Cause I don't!"
They were able to look at each other because Carey had not put their blindfolds back on, and Gil saw absolute fury in Greg's eyes. "What do you mean?" Gil asked again, calmer.
"Maybe you don't care if Tom kills you, but I don't want to die. Why do you keep making him angrier? Why do you keep pushing his buttons? I don't get it; do you really want to be dead?"
Grissom took a deep breath. One of them had to remain calm and it wasn't going to be Greg. "Greg, what will Tom do when he gets angry?"
"No. Not yet. He isn't ready to do that. Tom's methodical and has everything planned out. When we make him angry, we screw up his plans. We make him do things he doesn't intend to do. Little things that he doesn't even notice."
"Like deviating a septum?"
A tiny smile formed on Grissom's lips. He was glad to hear a glimmer of humor. "He didn't plan to hit you. I think it was as much a surprise to him as it was to you. Keeping with that, if we can get him to things he doesn't expect to do, we can get him to mess up."
"That's all well and good, but we're still gonna die. I don't just want him caught—I want to be at his trial. In one piece. Breathing."
Grissom nodded emphatically. He couldn't agree more. "Yes, that's the goal. Think about it—what did Tom forget to do?"
"No. We can see! We can see and there," he gestured with his head, "is a telephone. You're closest to it. If you can knock it down, we have a chance. Can you do it?"
Greg turned his hopeful face from Grissom to the phone and back again. "I might be able to. I'm gonna have to be able to," he whispered and readied himself.
He jumped in the chair and scooted it forward. It was only a few inches, but it was enough to give them both hope. He continued jumping the five or so feet until he reached the phone. "Now what?"
"Use your head to knock it down. C'mon, Greg, you can do it. 'Atta boy!"
"And now?" Greg asked, as he turned to face Grissom. "How do we call somebody? We're a little tied up at the moment."
Grissom's voice was calm but firm. "You need to fall down and use some part of your body to hit the zero so we can get the operator. We'll have her phone Brass."
Greg didn't question Gil. He made his chair fall down (on his side, not his head) and landed next to the phone. Grimacing in pain, he pushed the zero button with his nose and the phone began to ring. They listened intently.
"Operator. How may I direct your call?"
"We've been kidnapped!" Greg yelled. "We—"
Grissom interrupted quickly. "We need you to dial a number for us. 531-5455, please."
The call went through and the voice that answered sent joy into the hearts of both men.
"This is Brass."
"Jim! It's Grissom—"
"Grissom? Where are you? Are you okay? Is Greg there? Is he okay? Where's Carey?"
"Jim, Greg and I are here but we're in a lot of trouble. Tom wants us dead. More importantly, a woman named Charlotte Ford is his target at the moment. She's the mistress of Michael Guillore. He's out right now to get her. You need to send a team out to save her before he gets to her."
There was a pause while Brass wrote the information down and gave it to another officer to be acted on. "What about you two?" Brass's voice suddenly dropped and he asked concernedly, "Greg, you okay?"
"I think so. Yeah."
"Where are you two?"
Gil and Greg looked at each other. "We don't know," Greg answered. "We both came here unconscious."
"It's a hotel," Grissom offered.
"That only confirmed Catherine's theory."
A part of Grissom (the part that wasn't terrified for his life) was very proud of Catherine. She was always so smart. He smiled inwardly. His team was on the case and they were the best in the business.
"Can you run a trace on this call?" Gris asked.
Jim yelled to one of the junior officers to get the trace started. "Do you have any clue where you are?"
Grissom sighed. "I don't know what to tell you, Jim. There's nothing here to indicate which hotel we're in. Hell, I don't even see a Gideon's bible."
Speaking with Brass, and Tom having left, gave the prisoners renewed spirits. Greg even smiled at Grissom's bible comment (though it hurt to smile). Relief had flooded them at the thought of a trace and a rescue. They would be saved in no time.
Gil was about to comment on the uniquely colored neon lights he could see through the curtain when they heard a sound. A key in a deadbolt. Both men paled.
"He's back," Greg whispered hoarsely.
The phone in Brass's office went dead. He turned to another officer and demanded the results of the trace. Frantically, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed Catherine.
"Things just got worse."
If his life weren't in immediate danger, Greg would have been very embarrassed to be lying on the floor, tied to a chair by the phone. But his life was in immediate danger.
Carey hung up the phone and pulled out a gun. "What the hell are you doing? Who was on the phone?"
Greg couldn't answer. He could barely hear the question. All of his energy was focused on the barrel of the gun pointed at his head and the twitchy finger on the trigger.
"Who was on the phone?" Tom screamed, hauling Greg up by the boy's hair. Greg let out a yell but it hardly made a difference to Carey. Angrily—psychotically, Carey shoved the gun against Greg's nose, making it renew its bleeding. "Tell me who you called or I will blow your head off your shoulders!"
Greg couldn't even breathe, let alone answer. He just waited to lose his head, of which he had always been quite fond. Before the matter could escalate further, Grissom spoke up.
"It isn't his fault."
"Really?" Tom asked, turning to Grissom. "Did the magic telephone fairy push him down and dial the phone?"
"I told him to do it."
A chilling silence descended over the room. Carey slowly moved away from Greg, who would have been relieved if Grissom's life was suddenly in more danger.
"Who did you tell him to call?" Tom asked softly. He emanated calm.
"And what did you tell her?"
Grissom remained honest. "I didn't tell her anything."
"That's a lie!"
In all reality, it wasn't a lie. Grissom hadn't told her anything; he had asked something of her. "It is not a lie."
"Did you tell her where you are?"
"How could I? You brought us here unconscious and there's nothing to give away the name of the hotel. Besides, I already explained to you that I didn't tell her anything."
Tom snorted and brought up the gun, aiming it at Grissom's chest. His eye was twitching. "What happened on the phone?"
Grissom remained silent.
"Tell me what you did on the phone!"
Carey unlocked the safety and carefully enunciated his next words. "Tell me or I will kill you."
Grissom's eyes narrowed and he stared icily at Tom. "No," he replied defiantly.
Tom carefully aimed the gun.
"No!" Greg yelled. "Please!"
The gun went off and hit Grissom in the shoulder. Gil was knocked back against the wall in his chair, though neither fell to the floor. Greg cried out and choked back a sob. Tom pointed the gun at Grissom's other shoulder but his cell phone rang before he could pull the trigger.
Carey relocked the safety and put it back in his coat. "Yeah?" he asked after he pulled out the cell phone. "Oh, Mr. Guillore. No, sir, I haven't left to finish the job. I came back here for something I left behind and...yes, sir, I'll leave right now. Good bye." He hung up. "Great, she leaves for her aerobics class in half an hour," he mumbled, putting away the phone.
Grissom's shoulder and arm were red with blood and Tom looked smugly satisfied. He replaced the blindfolds. He didn't say anything to Grissom but he stooped down to Greg's ear to speak.
"Just keep thinking to yourself, 'I'm next. I'm next', and it'll help to pass the time. See you boys soon."
Tom grabbed the yellow rose he had forgotten and left the hotel room.
Brass thanked God that he could speak with all four CSIs at once. He didn't know how that cell phone technology worked, but it made him a happy detective.
"Grissom called me. He—"
"He called you?"
"Are they okay?"
"Where are they?"
"What did he say?"
Brass took a deep breath. He should have expected that reaction. "I had a trace put on the call but they were cut off. I think Carey walked in."
There were four pained sighs on the other ends of the line.
"But we were able to trace down the section of Las Vegas where they're at. We got it to within a one mile radius. Granted, it doesn't place them exactly, but it gives us a chance."
He continued to explain where they should search and advised them to look for a florist shop by an out of the way hotel. After all, there were fewer flower shops to search in than hotels. It made them feel like letter carriers; they knew who they were looking for. They had the state. They had the city. They knew the zip code. It was the address that was missing.
The detective informed them about Charlotte Ford, even though he had no clue where that would go. He didn't know if Carey would show up or if they could catch him. The most important thing was to find Grissom and Greg.
"One last thing," Brass said. "You've all got guns and I know you can shoot them, but I don't want you to be in any situation alone. You will partner up because I have no idea how this is gonna end, but it damn well isn't going to end with one of you four getting hurt. Am I understood?"
A chorus of "yeses" answered him.
"Good. I'll call if anything happens with Charlotte Ford."
Nearly half an hour had passed since Tom left. Grissom had lost a lot of blood and was beginning to lose consciousness. For his part, Greg couldn't get the words out of his head. 'I'm next. I'm next. I'm next.' The mental recording played with demonic persistence. He pushed down his terror and rage with concern.
"Gris? Grissom, are you okay?"
Grissom was slow to respond. "I've lost a lot of blood and I don't know how much longer I can stay awake. But unless enough time passes for me to lose huge amounts, this bullet wound isn't going to kill me. How are you?"
"Well, save for the cartilage in my nose and a minor concussion, I'm doing pretty good. Oh, and there's a psycho who's gonna come back and kill us both." Greg caught himself and stopped talking about Tom. It upset him and he knew it didn't help Grissom. "At least I haven't wet by my pants. Gris, do you think the trace got through? We weren't on the phone that long..."
"I don't know, but Jim's a smart guy. And so are Catherine, Sara, Nick, and Warrick. I wouldn't have any other people looking for us."
They lapsed into another silence. Greg tried hard to keep the anxiety from creeping up his esophagus. The tension made him nauseas and he knew damn well that Gris was lying about the gunshot wound. Perhaps the blood loss wouldn't kill Grissom. But the shock certainly could. And would, if help didn't arrive quickly.
Catherine held up a picture.
"You see this guy?" Warrick asked.
The young woman glanced at the photograph. Tall guy, brown hair, brown eyes, no real defining marks. "Nah. Ain't seen him. You wanna buy some flowers?"
Nick rolled his eyes as he and Sara passed the "Peck and Save" motel. They were on foot but had not found the right hotel. While Catherine and Warrick searched florist shops, he and Sara got the hotels. It was tedious, nerve wracking, and aggravating. They found humor where they could.
"Well, that doesn't beat the last motel we passed."
"They were certainly to the point," Nick replied, grinning at his pun.
Sara did not look humored. "Only a sicko names their hotel the "Cheap and Easy"? Who knew the red-light district had its own red-light hotels?"
"Hey!" Nick scolded. "This is Las Vegas. We don't do anything half way."
"Grissom!" Greg yelled. He couldn't see, but he yelled out his friend's name every few minutes just to make sure the man was still alive. "Grissom, c'mon man, wake up! Dang it, you cannot pass out on me."
The reply was weak and a little annoyed. "I'm not unconscious, Greg, stop yelling. I'm trying to focus on staying awake for you but you're not helping. Of course, the blindfold doesn't help much either. Darkness is so conducive to sleep."
"Yeah, well, if you see any light in that darkness, run away from it."
That elicited a tiny smile from Gil. "I've always wondered if a dying person sees a light at the end of a tunnel. I'm not in a position to ask the people we work with. They're already dead."
"Don't say dead!"
Greg hung his head sadly, feeling bad for yelling at Grissom. "I'm too cute to die," he whispered.
Grissom hid his fear well. He always had. It was a training CSIs had because they encountered so much carnage. He felt sorry for Greg who was a CSI but didn't leave the lab. Actually, the kid never left. When Grissom had been able to see, he had noticed that Greg's lab coat was still on. Of course, it had only been two nights ago when Grissom had fallen asleep in his office.
Gris sighed. "Yes, Greg?"
"What...what are you thinking about?"
Gil felt inclined not to answer the question because he knew his response would only upset Greg more. In fact, it upset Grissom. But Gris was too honest to deny his thoughts. "I was thinking that I've never been on this side of the fence before. This sort of thing only happens to other people and then I go solve whatever mess has been made. Now, it isn't somebody else. It's me."
"You seen this guy?" Nick asked, holding up a picture of Tom. The hotel manager gave the photograph a quick look, then shrugged his shoulders. Nick was about to put the picture away when the manager stopped him.
"Lemme see it again." There was a pause while he gave it an honest look. "I think I've seen him."
Sara's eyes lit up and she nearly leapt over the desk. "Where is he?"
"Room 224. It's on the other side of the building, second floor. Kinda deserted area. Y' want me to help—"
He stopped talking because the twitchy girl, with her cell phone in hand, and the nervous guy ran out of the office.
Tom returned to the room and was mad. Angry. Pissed. A vengeful, murderous, crazed, raging lunatic. He was unhappy in the extreme. He ripped the blindfold off a trembling Greg and grabbed the boy's face with an iron grip.
"Who did you call?"
Greg couldn't answer (again), although he had the oddest inclination to correct Carey's grammar.
"Did you talk to the police?"
Greg's eyes got wide and he stared at Tom in surprise. That was all the answer Carey needed. He released Greg and turned to Grissom, the maniacal expression growing ever wider. He pulled his gun out.
"I drove past Ms. Ford's home while I was out. Do you know what was outside her house? At both ends of the block there was a black car. Those little black cars that the cops drive and they think everybody doesn't know it's them. I kept right on driving. You two called the cops. You tried to get me caught." He got right up in Gil's face. "You failed."
Grissom viewed Tom with a certain dullness. Dullness was the result of losing a pint of blood, not a lack of fear. "What will you do?"
"Well, I'm certainly not gonna live. Guillore'll see to that. I failed him once and now that Charlotte's in police custody, nobody'll ever get to her. He'll hunt me down. I'm a dead man. He wanted me 'cause I'm the best. Now that I've failed twice, I know he'll kill me."
"That's a shame."
Tom smiled. "At least I'll have company."
"You don't have to do this."
"Of course I don't have to. I want to."
Carey looked over at Greg and moved towards the young scientist. He tilted Greg's face up, gently, and stared into his eyes. "Such intelligence. It'll be a loss to the forensic community to blow out your brains."
"Please don't...don't kill me."
"Tom!" Grissom begged. "You don't have to kill him. You can kill me but it isn't his fault. He didn't do anything."
Carey cut the ropes that bound Greg but kept the gun trained on him. "Yeah, he isn't nearly as bad as you are, Gil. That's why I'm gonna shoot him first. I want you to watch him die because I think that'll upset you a lot. I want you to witness that little convulsion the body makes when the bullet strikes and the gurgle the victim emits when he takes his last breath."
"Oh, God," Greg whispered. It was a prayer.
Tom pointed to the floor with his gun. "Get on your knees, Greg."
Greg didn't move. He couldn't. The electrical impulses that put thought into action had packed their bags and left.
"Greg, get on your knees or I'll tie you back up and shoot you in the stomach and let you die like that. It's slow and painful and it's how Grissom's gonna die. But I'm being nice to you. Now get on your knees or death will be your blessing."
Shaking, terrified, and streaming tears, Greg got on his knees in the middle of the floor. He couldn't breathe.
Grissom fought against his bindings, muttering curses and cutting his wrists against the rope. He beseeched Tom not to shoot Greg but the killer had lost his mind long ago. The situation was hopeless.
Carey stood behind Greg who knelt on the floor. He aimed his gun, cocked the safety, then turned once to smile at Grissom.
Nick and Sara were, naturally, the first to arrive at the hotel. Warrick and Catherine were on their way and so was half of the Las Vegas police department. But time was short and the two CSIs decided to take action before anyone else arrived. They readied their guns and Nick stood to knock the door down with his foot.
As Tom turned back to Greg, the sound of boot meeting door thundered in the room and shocked all three occupants. The next two events were a flash of movements, sounds, and blood.
Sara saw Greg on the floor, Tom with a gun, and Grissom tied to a chair. She fired her gun at the same time as Nick.
Similarly, Carey saw two people with guns and pulled the trigger before he could be stopped. The bullets raced from their respective guns to their targets, the only difference being the tenth of a second in which they were fired.
Sara and Nick hit Carey and the force knocked him back. He convulsed once and gurgled his last breath. When he was knocked back, the aim of his gun faltered and he missed Greg's head. He did, however, hit Greg in the side, taking a chunk out of rib and narrowly missing a kidney. Greg was thrown to the floor.
Nick and Sara raced into the room, followed only a second later by Catherine and Warrick.
"Greg?" Grissom yelled frantically. "Greg, are you okay? Answer me!"
"Am I dead?"
Gris almost laughed he was so happy to hear Greg's voice, pained though it was. Sara quickly untied Gil while Nick turned Greg over. "What took you so long?" Greg asked weakly. He, too, was going into shock.
"Sorry. Next time you get kidnapped by a psycho, try leaving us a note or something," Nick joked. He tousled Greg's hair and was upset to find a rather large bump. "What the hell happened?"
"A lot," Gil replied. He tried to move towards Greg but he wasn't strong enough. He fell forward and was caught by a waiting Warrick who saw it coming.
"The ambulance will be here soon," he promised, and sure enough, sirens could be heard down the street. "You sure aren't doin' too well."
"Neither is Greg," Catherine muttered. "Greg? C'mon, hon, stay with us. The ambulance is almost here. Greg? Greg? Crap, he's unconscious."
"Is he breathing?" Gil demanded anxiously.
Grissom went limp in Warrick's arms.
It was the next day when they would wake up in the hospital. Each had received a blood transfusion—Grissom got two. There were IV's with antibiotics and saline solution. And morphine. Good stuff.
"Man, I'm never gonna get a date with a nose like this," Greg uttered as he gingerly felt his nose. "It's so swollen I can't even breathe. I can dig the black eye but this just has to go."
Gil rolled his eyes. "Can you write?"
"Then you're doing better than I am. After they took the bullet out they put me in this sling and you know Catherine's gonna make sure I wear it. We don't even get out of here for another few days."
They lay in their beds in the same hospital room. The room was littered with flowers and balloons from coworkers (and oxygen saturation machines, IV's, heart monitors, and drugs from the staff of the hospital). Visiting hour had just finished and everyone left. Everyone except for a nurse who entered with more drugs.
"Just a little something to help you guys sleep tonight. Hospital policy." She fed them the pills, checked bandaging, insured they didn't feel any pain, promised Greg the swelling would, in fact, go down, and left.
For the first time since their rescue, the two were alone, reasonably conscious, and not in a life threatening situation. Greg took advantage it.
"Gris, are you okay?"
"I will be."
Greg took a deep breath. "I don't feel okay. I keep thinking back to everything and I can't help but wonder if it might happen again. What if some other nutcase tries to kill us because we caught him? Hell, I thought I was bored working the lab, and I wanted to get out in the field with you guys; now I don't even know if I want to go back to the lab. How can we go back to work knowing that some psycho might try to kill us? I mean, I thought the world was crazy before—I didn't know the half of it! And now...I just don't know what to do."
Grissom turned to look at Greg. His voice was firm, his expression sure, and his eyes compassionate. "You just never know what's going to happen. But what was going to end with us dead, ended with Nick and Sara busting down a door. We can be murdered, hit by a car, or die in a freak accident. What we do is important and helps other people. We're good at what we do. So considering all the opportunities we have to die, why not make the best of things?"
"You're right, I know. Geez, you're always right. But I still don't know how I'm gonna sleep through the night or manage to not always be looking over my shoulder. I can still see his face. Hear his voice." Greg's throat grew tight. "I can still feel that gun against my face. My life is never gonna be the same."
"I've seen people come through bad situation, Greg. And you're right: Your life will never be the same again. But you'll get stronger and every day will be just a little better than the last. You'll get through this. We'll get through this."
The pills were beginning to take effect on the two; a wash of calm on their troubled minds. Greg turned languidly towards Grissom. "You've seen people be okay?"
There was a long pause. "Then we'll be okay, too."
Gil nodded tiredly. "One day at a time. Greg?"
"I can't stay awake any longer."
"Me, too. Night, Gris."
"Good night, Greg."