Most of the characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. All others belong to me, and if you want to play with them, you have to ask me first. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.
spoilers for Season 7 I actually got the idea
from a joke on
I actually got the idea from a joke onYTDAW. My mind is a strange, strange place.
"We're screwed, Jim." Alex looked over at his old Marine buddy, and Brass felt the uncomfortable tug of conscience. The agent looked down at his carefully braced leg, his lips white with pain and his face showing hints of what Brass might almost have called despair, if Alex hadn't been a hard-ass FBI sonofabitch. But the Bureau did not despair; Jim knew that.
"C'mon, Lexie, you guys are magic. You telling me they can't get a sub in here to take your place?"
Alex didn't flinch at the old nickname; he still remembered Jim's, apparently. "No way, Balls. Not enough time. I got four hours before the meeting and surgeons breathing down my neck to fix this thing." He ran a hand through his graying hair and gestured at the ICU environment with an irritation only partly caused by the analgesic-dulled pain of a badly fractured ankle. "And he's expecting me. Not just any old guy." He blew out a breath and swore an oath that would probably have had the nearest nurse frowning at him if he'd spoken any louder.
Jim's conscience was noisier now, as annoying and inescapable as a cricket under the furniture. He cast around for alternatives, because what he was thinking, well…he didn't want to think it.
Most definitely not.
"They won't just cast you up so you can make the meet? Even on crutches?"
Alex shook his head, scrubbing one hand warily over his five o'clock shadow. "Balls…I can't even stand."
Jim didn't push it. If Alex Luther said he couldn't do something, it meant it couldn't be done.
"We've been chasing this guy for months now…eight months of work shot to hell," Lexie went on, sounding dangerously exhausted. "If we miss this meet, he'll drop out of sight and surface halfway around the world, all because he's expecting a guy with my face to show up. And I had to go step off a curb and break my ankle on the way down."
Jim heard the unspoken addendum. There will be more bodies. Lots more.
The cricket was getting too loud to be ignored. Jim looked at his old friend--the stocky, powerful body, the clever hands, the piercing eyes that crinkled with humor lines at the corners.
He'll kill me.
"Lexie." Jim swallowed. "Just how dangerous is this?"
Grissom, playing for time, slowly took off his glasses and set them on his desk. "Did you just say what I think you said?"
Brass, standing on the other side of the desk with two large boxes in his arms, looked distinctly harassed. "Unfortunately, yeah."
Grissom pointed at the chair next to Brass, and the captain sat down with a sigh, putting the boxes on the floor. "At the risk of sounding cliché, Jim, I'm a CSI, not an undercover agent. Isn't the Boston Butcher the FBI's bailiwick?"
Brass turned his hands up, a helpless gesture. "Yeah, it is, but there's a problem."
Grissom sighed in turn, and folded his hands on his desk. "Why don't you start from the beginning?"
"Ugh. All right." Brass rubbed his eyes. "I have an old buddy working for the Bureau--we were in the Marines together, back in the Dark Ages. He usually works the Northeast, but they've tracked the Boston Butcher as far as Vegas, though they don't think he's killed here yet."
Grissom looked briefly into memory. "A classic serial killer--probably a white male, known to have committed at least seven murders over the course of the last two years, possibly more. He kidnaps his victims, keeps them for two days, then cuts their throats and dismembers them."
"They can pin him for seven murders. He's probably got more on his trophy list," Brass said with weary disgust.
"So why me?"
Brass shrugged, a touch of humor lightening his face. "Because you're a virtual double for Alex. The Bureau doesn't have time to get any kind of reasonable substitute here, and the Butcher will know who to look for. It has to be him, or someone who looks just like him, or the whole operation's screwed to hell."
Grissom shot him a skeptical look. "You want me to go undercover to catch a serial? I have no power to arrest anyone--"
"No, no!" Brass waved a hand. "No, and you're not going to be bait, either. Look, Alex set up a meet with the suspect, that's all. They need to get his prints."
"A…meet," Grissom said, skeptical. "Who's the suspect?"
"Guy named Earl Bancroft. He's a landscaper, and a transvestite on the weekends." Brass shrugged. "To each his own."
"Mmm." Grissom looked at the boxes next to Brass' chair. "I take it there's some kind of costume involved?"
A reluctant grin tugged at the captain's mouth. "Yeah, well, Alex made arrangements for the meet at the grand opening of a new restaurant down in Chinatown. He was gonna wear this mascot outfit and hand out flyers." He nudged a box lid with the toe of his shoe, revealing a splash of vivid fluffy yellow.
The feathers didn't faze Grissom. "A chicken restaurant, I take it."
"Well, it ain't ostrich." Brass narrowed his eyes. "Does this mean you'll do it?'
Grissom sighed. "It looks like it. Fortunately, it's a slow night so far."
"Great! Thanks, Gil." But Brass stayed seated as Grissom rose, and the CSI shot him a questioning look across his desk.
Brass blew out a breath through his nose, and a tinge of red rose to his cheeks. "There's just one more thing."
Grissom squinted, trying to keep his eyes level with the mesh opening in the beak of the chicken costume. It's a good thing I left my glasses with Jim. He was sweating inside the bulky costume despite the chilly desert night, and it would not have been possible to push them back up his nose without removing the oversized head.
He handed another flyer to a passerby, mentally cursing Brass for talking him into this stunt. You're a CSI, not a Bureau stooge, he scolded himself. You could be doing paperwork...
Though, on reflection, even wearing a chicken costume was almost better than signing endless forms.
He was wondering irritably how long it would be before he could give up on the meet, when a tall man about his own age stepped up to take a flyer. In the press of tourists and locals, he didn't stand out very much, but Grissom's trained eye recognized the face he'd seen in a surveillance photo just ninety minutes before. It also noted the trace of eye shadow on the outer corner of the man's right eyelid.
"Mr. Capp?" Bancroft said easily, calling Grissom by the pseudonym Agent Luther had chosen when arranging the meet. "We spoke on the phone."
The man didn't seem at all fazed by speaking to a giant chicken, but Grissom knew that if he really was a psychotic killer, he kept himself under control at almost all times. "Mr. Bancroft. Thanks for meeting me out here."
Bancroft nodded almost regally. "Time is often of the essence. Is there somewhere we can go?"
"Sure." Grissom turned to face the restaurant--a clumsy maneuver in the suit--and waved at the maitre d' just inside the open door. "Hey Zhu, I'm taking ten."
The man--actually an agent keeping an eye on Grissom while directing seating for the evening--lifted a hand. Grissom turned back to Bancroft. "This way."
He led the suspect around the corner and into an alley that gave access to the back of the row of restaurants; it was relatively well-kept as such things went, and was mostly free of garbage and smell. Grissom bent a little at the waist so he could tip the heavy chicken head off, then straightened. "Sorry about that. It scares the kiddies if I do it in front of them."
Bancroft chuckled politely. Grissom set the head down on the ground and unzipped the costume a little, pulling out a manila envelope. "All the specs are there. We're really looking for a rush job on this thing, but without cutting corners, you know?"
"Of course." Bancroft opened the envelope and slid out the papers and photos it held, looking them over. Grissom exhaled. Whatever else happened--whether Bancroft accepted the fictional yard remake job or not--they had his prints.
The landscaper took several minutes to examine the proposal. Only in Vegas could such a thing be carried off, Grissom thought as he waited; arranging an initial meeting next to a Chinese restaurant in the middle of the night, without the landscaper finding it odd. In fact, he'd suggested the time, and hadn't seemed at all surprised by the circumstances.
Finally Bancroft put the papers back in the envelope. "This looks quite doable, Mr. Capp, but I'll need to check my schedule to make sure I have enough men for the job. Can I get back to you later today?"
"Absolutely." Grissom gave the man an affable smile and took the envelope, gripping it near the edge even though there were probably plenty of prints on the contents. "You have my number."
"I do." Bancroft didn't offer to shake hands, the only oddity he'd displayed so far. He nodded towards the costume head still sitting on the ground, a look of veiled amusement in his eyes. "Good luck with the chicken thing."
"I'm doing a favor for a friend," Grissom sighed, telling the truth for once.
An explosion downtown generally meant all hands on deck, but as the CSIs arrived at the shattered storefront, they realized that they were one short. "Where's Grissom?" Nick asked.
Catherine shrugged irritably. "No idea. I called him but all I got was his voice mail." She unslung her camera with a jerk. "No time to argue about it, kids, the wind's picking up and we're losing evidence already."
She was right; the stiff chill gusts were threatening the wide scatter of debris that was the CSIs' goal. They moved out to begin a rapid processing, knowing with a sort of professional despair that their crime scene was becoming more dispersed with every rush of air.
It was second nature by now to ignore the curious crowds that gathered just beyond the police barrier, though Sara spared a moment's gratitude that it was not she who would have to interview the witnesses.
She didn't know where Grissom was, exactly, but he had called her to say that he was doing a favor for Brass and he'd be back before the end of shift. Sara hadn't bothered to enlighten Catherine. Grissom would get to the scene as soon as he could, and meanwhile there was no need to broadcast the fact that she was getting privileged information from the boss. They weren't trying to hide their fledgling relationship--exactly--but it was still so new. They both felt a little tender, unwilling to expose it to comment just yet.
The five of them worked as rapidly as they could, struggling to find a workable medium between speed and proper procedure, but things were getting away from them. Sara fought back a bubble of laughter at the sight of Warrick chasing a bit of charred paper down the sidewalk, the wind snatching it out of reach of his forceps each time he reached for it, but then she had to figure out how to work free a small wire from its position under a shattered brick without losing it herself.
Just as she secured it, she saw Brass duck under the police tape and head in Catherine's direction. "How's it going?" he asked, raising his voice a little to be heard over the wind.
"I'm about ready to hand you some gloves," Catherine shot back, exasperated. "Do you have any idea where Grissom is? We need him here!"
Brass gave her a placating smile. "He'll be here in a few minutes--he was working on something for me and he got held up. Give the man a break, okay?"
Catherine snorted, and went back to her collection. Sara smothered a smile at Brass' placation without taking her attention from her own work, but had to wonder again just what it was that Grissom had been doing.
Within a few minutes a radio car pulled up to the barricade, and both Sara and Catherine looked up. But whatever scold had been on Catherine's lips obviously died aborning as the passenger door opened and Grissom climbed out. His usual impassive crime-scene expression sat above a rounded explosion of acid-yellow feathers--a cartoon chicken body that had barely fit into the seat of the cop car. The "wings" had openings for Grissom's hands, and his legs were covered with a loose pair of yellowish pants meant to evoke chicken legs; some irreverent part of Sara's mind pointed out that she'd never seen such a bow-legged chicken in her life.
But while Grissom's outfit seemed to hold Catherine speechless, it was one other small detail that riveted Sara's attention. The handsome, grave face that rose above the collar of the chicken suit was...bare.
Sara blinked, not sure that she'd seen clearly, but it was true; Grissom's beard was gone. Oddly, the clean-shaven skin was no lighter than the rest of his face, but it was definitely Grissom. Part of Sara's mind mourned the loss of the neat accent to his handsomeness, the silky prickle that could raise goosebumps on her skin with a mere brush, but another was fascinated to see him as he was when they had first met, yet with more maturity and wisdom in his face.
Grissom strode over to Catherine, apparently oblivious to both her open mouth and the ridiculous little feathery tail that was the finishing touch to his costume, and spoke. "What have we got?"
"uh--a--a bomb explosion," Catherine managed. "The wind--"
"So I see," Grissom noted, groping among the feathers at his throat and finally tugging down a zipper. "Give me a set of booties from your kit, will you?"
Sara watched in stunned fascination as Grissom peeled off the suit and stepped out of it. She was peripherally aware that the other CSIs, and not a few cops, were also watching the CSI supervisor divest himself of his avian outfit, but Grissom seemed oblivious to the incredulous eyes. So far, no one had had the temerity to giggle, but Sara knew that this one was already making the rounds of the law enforcement gossip mill. She only wondered how long it would be before the photos appeared.
After gaping for another moment, Catherine finally stirred to action, digging in her kit for a pair of the booties that the CSIs used to cover their shoes at particularly sensitive or messy crime scenes. Grissom stepped out of the suit, revealing a dark blue LVPD t-shirt and a pair of rather baggy khaki shorts. He was wearing socks but no shoes, and Sara was somehow not surprised to see him fish a pair of latex gloves from his shorts pocket. Brass gathered up the costume, said something to Grissom in a low voice, and carried it away.
Sara finally found her voice. "Grissom, my kit has extras," she called, and pointed to where she'd set it, several yards away.
His eyes met hers in a brief flash, and she saw the subtle apprehension in his melt into relief when she gave him a tiny grin. "Thanks, Sara," he said, all professionalism, and went to retrieve the tools he would need to rescue evidence from the wind.
"So what happened?" Sara asked later, sitting sideways on the couch in his townhouse with Grissom lying back against her. She looked down at his head resting against her chest and couldn't resist touching that newly bared skin again, still soft and now pink with the skin-darkening makeup washed away.
Grissom's hand covered hers and pressed it a little closer. "Jim asked me to step into the place of an old friend of his who works for the FBI. Apparently we're virtual doubles."
"Apparently? You didn't even see the guy?"
Grissom shrugged. "He was in surgery at the time."
Sara sighed. "There's more to this story than you're telling me."
Grissom tilted his head up to look at her, his expression apologetic. "I know, honey, and I'm sorry, but it's confidential. I'd like to tell you, but I can't."
Sara smiled, letting her fingers linger on his chin. "Sure." She pinched lightly. "Just so long as you do tell me when they let you."
Grissom chuckled, and ducked his head to kiss her fingers. "I will."
"I'm surprised you did the Bureau any favors," Sara mused, letting her other hand slide down his chest.
"I didn't. I did Jim a favor. And to hear him tell it, his buddy isn't much like Culpepper." Grissom sighed. "Jim keeps talking about getting us together when his friend's ankle is healed, just for the fun of it."
Sara couldn't suppress a giggle at the thought. "Might be interesting."
The man in her arms snorted in exasperation and twisted around in a smooth move that had her suddenly pinned beneath him. "Let's not give Jim any ideas."
She grinned up into his face. "You do realize that showing up beardless in a chicken suit has made you the main topic of gossip for the greater Las Vegas law enforcement."
"And probably clear out to Reno, yes," Grissom said, unperturbed. "Something else will come along soon enough and distract them. Sara--"
He halted, and she looked up into his suddenly uncertain face. "Yeah?" she asked, laying a hand against his heart.
His mouth twitched. "You haven't said whether you like it."
"You're you with or without the beard," Sara pointed out, but he shook his head.
"Yes, but do you want me to grow it back, or keep shaving?"
She raised her brows. "You mean it's up to me?"
A faint blush stained his skin, and her own heart melted. "You're the one who has to look at me."
Sara let her hand slide up to his face again. "The scruff was sexy," she said, teasing his skin with the tips of her fingers and feeling him press a little harder against her. "But this definitely has...possibilities."
A slow, confident smile turned up one corner of his mouth. "Well, then, let's explore a few of those possibilities, shall we?"
"Oh, absolutely," Sara drawled as he lowered that mouth to her throat and began his...exploration. "Is the rooster costume one of them?"
Grissom nipped her lightly under the ear, making her shiver. "Only if you'll dress up in a wasp outfit."
"Nah," Sara sighed. "I'm just too chicken."
He raised his head, brows arching. "Is this where I get to make a joke about cocks?"
Sara snickered, and tugged on his hair until their mouths met.