Author's Notes: This one will probably take a lot longer between updates than my last case file. I had most of Number Seven finished when I started posting, but this is as much as I've written for this one. Also, I know I said I was done with case files…but that a whole week ago.
This takes place before the series. Catherine and Grissom follow a case to Texas, and get some help from a young cop when they get there. I'm sure you can guess who said young cop is. I just always wondered about how Nick took the job to impress Grissom, if before, he had been in Texas. Also, I've never been to Texas, and didn't feel like researching, so anything about the setting that's off I apologize for in advance.
"You know why I took this job? Honestly? I wanted to pack heat, walk under the yellow tape, be the man...but mostly, because I want you to think I'm a good CSI."
-- Nick Stokes, Evaluation Day.
"Collins was right," Catherine said. "Same MO."
Beside her, Grissom was silent. The morgue lights were dim and haunting, and the coroner, a middle age woman with no-nonsense eyes, was typing away at the computer behind them. "It looks like it. We haven't seen this for two years."
Catherine smiled wryly. "We're far from home," she said. "It could be coincidence. Or maybe our killer has been in Texas since the last murder in Vegas, and Collins was just the first to recognize the similarities."
Grissom looked over at her, thoughtful. "You could be right. Why don't you see if you can dig anything up on previous unsolved murders in the area?"
Catherine gave him a bright grin. "You got it, boss."
Grissom's eyes narrowed at the body once she had left, and he slowly walked to the other side. The victim was a young man, only twenty eight years old--all of the victims had been about that age, all of them exceptionally handsome. All of them shot six times through the heart.
Grissom steeled himself against an onslaught of unproductive emotions, because letting himself get caught up in the injustice of it never helped. He left the morgue without another word, the slight clicking of tapping keys the only sound he left behind.
Detective Gary Collins was waiting for Grissom in the hallway. "I set Cath up with Mathers," he said, catching pace beside him. "They're going over the unsolved murders for the last two years."
Grissom nodded. "Good. I don't really want to find there have been others, but I have a feeling we will."
Collins winced. "Yeah. You want to see the crime scene now?"
Grissom gave a pleased grin. "I thought you'd never ask."
Gary shook his head wryly and led the way to his car. "I've had my guys with it 24/7 just like you've asked. A couple of our CSIs went over it initially, bagged what they could for evidence, but no one else has touched it. We don't have much longer, though, Gil. The city wants its park back. The crime scene tape doesn't exactly make for a great place to take the kids."
Grissom nodded. "I won't take long. I'll go over it quickly, and only call Catherine if I find something. Otherwise, I'll be done."
Collins nodded. "Good. I've got the bullets running through ballistics now. We'll see if they match up with your other three victims."
Grissom was pretty sure they would. The drive to the park was quiet. Collins had been a CSI years ago, and had attended a few of Grissom's lectures, but they rarely kept in touch any longer. Grissom was just grateful that he had known Collins, because he knew from experience bringing people in from other places could be more trouble than it was worth, and Collins had not needed to call him in.
"Christ," Collins whispered when he parked. "I'm going to kill Kate."
Grissom looked over at him curiously, but Collins was already out of the car, heading towards the crime scene tape. He got out and followed him, catching up just in time to hear him start yelling. "Where the hell is your backup?"
A young man looked up, startled, and then broke out into a wide grin. "Jeez, Gary, you act like I can't take care of myself."
"She went to the bathroom," the officer said, his voice slow and mildly patronizing. "She'll be right back. Don't get yourself so worked up."
"I said I didn't want anyone left at this crime scene alone, people do, occasionally, return to the scene of the crime."
The young man rolled his eyes. "I know that," he said, but he sounded rather as though the idea had never occurred to him. Grissom almost smiled. He didn't think he had ever been that young.
The young officer's eyes moved to Grissom when he noticed they had an audience, before staying back towards Collins. Collins, for his part, looked exasperated. He ran a hand through his hair and turned to face Grissom himself. "Gil Grissom, this is Nick Stokes, my personal cross to bear."
Grissom watched in fascination as all of the color bled from the young man's face. "You're Gil Grissom?" he asked, his voice indicating he didn't believe it.
Grissom raised an eyebrow. "Last time I checked."
Gary looked amused. "Nick, I'm sure he wants to get to work."
Nick glanced at him, before returning his attention to Grissom. "Right. Of course. I just…I can't believe you're here. I read your lecture on the blowfly--it was genius."
Grissom smiled at him curiously. His experience with cops usually had them looking down on him, and it was quite a switch to have one looking up instead. "Thank you," he said.
Gary grabbed Nick's arm and pulled him back. "Let the man work, Nicky. Go see what's taking Kate so long."
Nick pointed across the park. A young woman in a uniform matching his was slowly making her way towards them. "She's coming now. Maybe I can help."
"Grissom doesn't need help," Collins said patiently, and Gil held back another grin. "But you can stay if you want."
"Why would we want to stay?" the young woman, who Grissom assumed must be Kate, asked.
"We're going to help," Nick told her.
"You're not helping," Collins snapped. "Stay on this side of the crime tape, would you?"
Nick nodded, looking mildly like a kicked puppy, and Grissom stepped under the tape. He didn't think there would be much left to find, especially considering the scene had already been processed, but when dealing with serial killers he never took anything for granted.
He pulled out his flashlight, even though the sun was out, so he could illuminate anything in the shade. There was a section of dirt in the center of the crime scene that had been stained dark by blood. It stood out in start contrast to the scattered sections of grass around it, but no evidence jumped out at him.
"There's something in the grass over there."
He looked up to see Nick standing behind the crime scene tape, looking very much as though it was taking all of his willpower to remain on that side. Grissom followed the direction he was pointing, and he saw a small flash of pink hidden by blades of grass, on the very edge of the crime scene. He pulled out his forceps and carefully lifted it up.
It looked like a broken piece of an acrylic nail, and it could mean nothing, but it was still something. He glanced over at Nick with a smile. "Nice catch."
"I noticed it earlier, but Gary said not to touch anything." This statement was accompanied by a smug glance in Gary's direction.
Grissom bagged the evidence. "Well, you did a good job. I might have missed it." He thought that him missing it was unlikely, but he didn't mention that.
Nick shrugged with a modest grin. "It's a hobby."
"Our Nicky has big aspirations," Kate said from beside him, sporting a wide grin.
Collins watched the interaction with a faint grin, before turning to Nick. "You know," he said. "Gris doesn't really know his way around here, and I've got to get back to the station. I want you to play chauffer while he's here--take him wherever he needs to go. Is that okay with you?"
Nick's grin went impossibly wider. "No problem."
Beside him, Kate rolled her eyes but reluctantly allowed a smile, and Grissom returned his eyes to the ground to hide his own.