Title: The Minstrel Boy
Authors: Kristen999 and everybetty (Beth)
Category: Action/Adv/Angst and good old-fashioned Whump.
Spoilers: Set early Season Five, spoilers in particular for "Mea Culpa"
Disclaimer: All rights belong to CBS and their fine writers. Please don't sue it's just for fun.
Summary: The minstrel boy to the war has gone, in the ranks of death you will find him. Fallout from a centuries old war across the ocean causes significant repercussions for the team. Nickcentric Team fic.
Notes : This is a co-authored piece by everybetty (Beth) and Kristen999. Each chapter was written by both authors to give a seamless feel and flow to the story. Any comments should be directed to both writers.
Warnings: This story contains coarse language as well as violent situations. And much whump. Not for the faint of heart.
Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
Tune: "The Moreen" Ancient Irish Air
The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death you will find him;
His father's sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;
"Land of Song!" cried the warrior bard,
"Tho' all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!"
The Minstrel fell! But the foeman's steel
Could not bring that proud soul under;
The harp he lov'd ne'er spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder;
And said "No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and brav'ry!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free
They shall never sound in slavery!"
He made the fourth circuit around the block, going up two further, even scanning the adjacent lots near the fancy new Wolfgang Puck restaurant under construction. This area was a few miles west of the ever-growing strip. That's Vegas: always expanding, as many tourist spots as there are particles of sand. If a new section for profit-making opportunities was available, then brick, mortar and neon were erected to cash in on the dollars flowing in. Oddly enough, there wasn't much flashing florescence around this area; still low key, development inching closer and closer to the suburban areas hanging on to the less congested sprawl.
Can't escape Vegas when it has its sights set on you. Nick peered through the windshield thinking there had to be parking somewhere, wasn't like the place was offering all you could eat T-bone specials. Surprisingly enough the blackjack tables and flesh pits hadn't made their way out here yet. Just an area booming with art houses, antique shops, the aforementioned up and coming famous eating establishment and the address of his current objective.
"Finally," Nick complained out loud when a Honda shot out of a space, his larger SUV able to barely squeeze into the tight fit. Sighing at his watch, he hopped out, grabbed his kit and began walking briskly to his scene.
He was solo tonight, and had been on several occasions the past few weeks unless very warranted. Double homicide with no partner was a bit ridiculous. Ever since Ecklie had been named the new Assistant Lab Director the hammer had fallen and the new reign began. Stricter protocol, more paper work, and a beady eye on every minute on the clock. The sound of ka-ching echoed like an invisible reminder with every ordered supply and test.
The Nazi-like control surrounding even a single paper clip smelled of yearly budget bonus, though no one mentioned a word out loud. Nick wiggled his wrist, the metallic kit bumping against his knee more than he intended. As he approached the building of his quest his ears perked up at the noise that shouldn't be there.
Singing. No… chanting?
Nick's feet slowed as he stared at a quaint looking building, bustling with excitement, the camaraderie boiling out into the streets. All the signs of a rip-roaring party and not the site of a murder. A wooden sign hung over the red front doors, depicted on it a knight on a white stallion slaying a dragon. The words "The George" appeared in old-fashioned lettering below the heroic acts of the painting.
His eyebrows arched as he watched a drunkard spill out the front doors and stumble near his feet. He hopped out of the way in time, just before the guy heaved all over his shoes. He wet his bottom lip as he stood trying to figure out if he had the wrong address. Yep, old looking pub in the middle of town. Dark, large bay windows, tinted so you couldn't peer through them, chalk sign outside with tonight's special and beers on tap, brown stucco walls complete with real straw overhangs along the roof.
" 'Scuse me." The man puking his guts out earlier swayed, miraculously staying on his feet before stumbling back inside, singing an awful tune off key as he re-entered the joint.
Nick didn't know what to make of the guy; a colorful flag wrapped around his shoulders, face painted in red and black stripes. The CSI began to question the directions, not comprehending his whereabouts. Certainly a crime hadn't taken place here... speaking of, since when did the city of Sin make way for English pubs in the middle of what was going to be the next beacon for the ever expanding big lights of the city?
His whipped his head up at the door banging open when Detective Vartann stepped through, verifying that he did indeed have the right place. His furrowed brow was enough for the cop to pick up on his puzzlement.
"You've got the right place," Vartann answered for him before he had a chance to voice his confused query.
A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, "All right. Care to clue me in on what's goin' on in there?" Nick asked as he nodded in the direction of the pub.
The detective seemed a bit perturbed and sighed loudly. As he drew closer Nick noted the cop's dark suit stunk of cigarettes and stale beer. "A scuffle took place between fans of two rival teams."
Nick peered through the doors, the hooting and hollering assaulting his ears. "In there?"
Vartann bit his lip. "Yeah, the vics got into a physical altercation; once fists went flying they were shoved to a corner out of the way by the locals who didn't want the commotion to interrupt the game."
Nick was still confused but was silenced by an annoyed hand that waved off his questions. "Once the two gentlemen were out of the way, the fight went on. One pulled out a knife, the other guy a newly purchased gun, ending with them killing each other."
The criminalist pursed his lips, then let out a slight laugh. "Um, this place looks jumpin', boss. How come it's not cleared yet?"
Clearly struggling with the situation Vartann mumbled under his breath. "Been waiting for backup for a while now. Traffic's snarled up past Fremont, and that quadruple in Henderson is tying everyone else up. Not to mention that damn convention in town eating up all our extra resources and manpower."
Nick rifled through his pockets for a pack of gum, pulling out a piece and slipping it out of the tinfoil. " 'Kay, no one else on the scene, but this pub's poppin' in there, man." Nick began chewing in earnest, eyes darting back over. "They givin' away pots of gold to be partying around two dead bodies?"
Vartann chuckled. "Don't say something like that in there. It's a British pub, and it's Liverpool vs. Manchester United. Wouldn't matter if the Pope was conducting mass right outside, these guys won't leave 'til the last goal is scored."
The Texan rubbed at his near bald buzz-cut, "Soccer, huh?"
"Football," the other man corrected. Then Vartann shrugged. "It's going to be a huge headache getting statements and sending everyone home."
Nick chewed thoughtfully. "Didn't know we had any British ex-pats around here."
"We don't really, scattered just like any nationality. The news made a big deal about this place opening. Lots of press about them moving every brick over from England. Owned by a rich guy, and it's pulling people from all over the city for the semi-finals."
The CSI ducked his head, still not following why this game was such a big deal. The detective patted Nick on the back. "Huge rivalry that puts most things here in the States to shame. This is bigger than baseball, the NFL, and hockey combined. It's about honor and tradition dating back hundreds of years."
"Sound like a fan," Nick laughed.
"Big sports guy like yourself, I'm surprised you don't watch it. Though I guess back in Dallas it was about rodeos and pigskin."
Nick rolled his eyes. "The night's young and you're already jabbin' at me."
The criminalist flexed his neck then exhaled, clapping his hands together to pump himself up, expecting a fairly decent confrontation. "Let's go."
Vartann smiled. "You're all buff and tough now. Nothing like a tavern full of frenzied fans to start off your night."
Nick smiled; a guy hits the gym more often than most and everyone becomes a commentator. He shook his head, patting the other man on the back as they went in.
It was an amusing contradiction once inside The George as both men entered the large room. They passed into another century, floorboards creaking under their weight as they entered a red-carpeted area. Yet the merry olde England aesthetics of the tavern were negated by the modern additions up front. A huge crowd clamored at the bar and scattered groups of men shouted at massive TV screens almost hidden by their collective bodies. Nick and Vartann navigated the crowd in an attempt to get to the owner who kept himself separate from the folly near a large stone fireplace.
Nick set his kit down gently, subconsciously worried about scratching the hardwood floor. He glanced at the bric-a-brac that adorned the wall; cast iron antique pots and pans, a few faded oil paintings of the English countryside, and a massive tattered Union Jack flag. He surveyed the room, cataloging the makeup of the crowd: a mix of businessmen and crazed-looking fans.
Clumps of people wore nothing but red from head to toe holding signs that read, 'You'll Never Walk Alone'. Thick accents screamed madly about another yellow card. Several guys whose faces were obscured by more red paint, but with black stripes, clanked large pints of ale together at the others' distress.
A man in his forties with thin dark hair and tiny spectacles waved them closer over the roar of the various celebrations and an array of colorful cursing.
"This is Robert Alfred, owner of the George," Vartann, introduced, just as the place nearly rumbled with feet pounding the floorboards with cheers.
"Call me Alfie, mate. Everyone does."
Nick introduced himself, getting the pleasantries aside. "You see what happened?" His voice strained over the noise.
"Sorry. Been too busy trying to make sure I don't run out of spirits, and keeping everyone happy." The man wiped at his sweat-covered brow and then over his dirtied apron.
"Air conditioner not working?" Nick asked, the heat of almost a hundred bodies stifling in the small building. Alfred shook his head with a shrug. "Been down all night."
Nick turned to the detective. "Where are the DBs?"
Vartann and Alfred turned towards a small room off to the side, the low lighting hiding it from the casual eye. Nick followed their gaze and then calculated the distance away from the melee of fans, waves of people heading to the bar, other tense faces glued to the big screens.
"And no one's concerned about a gun going off? Two men getting into a violent fight?" Nick questioned the owner.
The older gentleman scoffed. "Got nothing but fisticuffs and barney going on every time a foul's called on one team or another. Doesn't take much with as much ale and gin as these buggers have downed." The smaller man shrugged. "It sorts itself out. Someone buys another round or the argument dies down until the next call."
"And our two guys. Who tossed them into the other room to calm down?" the criminalist asked.
"Already told the detective, it was Lenny and Gabe. They're staying at the end of the bar, until you speak to them," the pub man answered, pointing to two guys who looked like your typical stockbroker or salesman with loosened ties and rolled up shirtsleeves.
"Both regulars," Alfred said, nodding at the men, a cloud of smoke from their cigarettes hovering over their heads.
Vartann picked up his ringing cell phone while Nick mentally counted nearly seventy people cramped inside the quaint building. Good thing it seemed that the only suspects involved were dead; trying to corral this many people to print and speak to would have been a nightmare and just trying to get them to leave was looking to be a freaking headache.
The detective hung up his phone. "We got a couple squad cars outside to help clear everyone out of here."
The owner smiled amusedly at the news. "You've got to be kidding, right? You chaps are going to send all these rowdy drunkards into the streets? In the middle of the game? Are you mad or just looking for barney?" Alfred asked.
"Who's Barney?" Nick asked the pub owner.
"Trouble, lad. Trouble," the man answered wearily.
Nick shook his head at the nonsensical-seeming Cockney slang but smiled as he headed towards Lenny and Gabe.
Vartann beat him to the duo, making the necessary introductions, both men nodding cordially.
The closest to them, a middle-aged guy whose neatly trimmed blonde hair and stocky build made him look more like one of those European Strongest Man champions, shook Nick's hand with an iron grip. "I'm Lenny Richardson, work over at Dumont Brokers."
His companion fit the definition of nondescript; average build, brown eyes, and dark hair. He raised his pint at the pair. "Gabe Dowd, own my own business in town. You here to find out about those two wankers?"
Nick kept a neutral expression, while Vartann took out his notepad and began the conversation. "When did you first notice the two?"
The human tank snorted, "We didn't pay them any mind until the drunk one began dancing around like an idiot after the first twenty minutes. He was here when we got our first Boddingtons."
Vartann scribbled in his notebook. "He was already intoxicated when you got here?"
"Yeah," the large fellow answered, while keeping his eyes towards the game. "You could tell he was some stupid bloke visiting. He came alone, acting a fool, like he was a regular, when everyone knew he was some daft tourist."
"He was from Vegas?" Nick inquired.
"No, mate, he was from out of the country. You know, a tourist." The man smiled knowing that the CSI had neglected to realize that he could be a naturalized U.S citizen. "Anyhow, with that accent, man was definitely from Liverpool, all lairy about the first goal." The other man answered this time, his accent much thicker.
Nick leaned closer, caught off guard by the oddness of the man's pronunciation. His face scrunched up, but the witness kept talking.
"That twonk wouldn't keep his trap shut; he egged on the wrong chaps. Bugger made a real nuisance of himself, even joked that the IFA could outscore United, cocky bastard."
Nick opened his mouth to speak but the detective saved him any embarrassment. "Compared them to the North Irish league, huh? Bet that group didn't take it too well."
The criminalist smiled, knowing he was saved a little face, and tossed Vartann a grateful glance.
Lenny, the large guy, grunted, taking a drag from his smoke. "Set them off. This one guy blew up, got right in the idiot's face; caused this huge scene. We went over there, tried to calm them both down."
The place suddenly erupted in whistles and the bar rocked with the vibrations of near on a hundred men jumping up and down.
"You see that, Gabe? Blew the damn save!" The large man growled amidst the varied response. The bar soon flooded with more people ordering drinks.
The smaller man cringed. "Damn!" He downed his remaining pint before ordering a shot, then turned back to his new acquaintances. "Anyhow, we got the roughhousing to calm down. Ordered another round, told them to keep to their corners. Worked for a few minutes, before that tourist began running his mouth off again."
Nick squinted, even if it was his ears that had to remain sharp during the increased volume of the pub after the score change. The placed hummed with renewed energy and intensity.
"So, what happened next?" he yelled over the rising thrum of excited patrons.
"Who knows? I mean, the Mancunian lad from the other table cold-cocked the guy, then all hell broke loose. The guy who started everything held his own for a bit, but was about to waste a good bottle on the lad's head. That's when we tossed the buggers into the other room and told them to keep shtoom," Gabe replied, then, seeing the look the Texan had given him amended it to, "keep their traps shut." He turned to look around for the barkeep for another drink.
"So you took it upon yourselves to keep them in line? Why not just throw them to the streets?" the dark haired detective asked.
"We're here all the time, we want to help Alfie keep The George respectable," Lenny replied as his buddy nodded, grabbing an ale and gulping it down. The larger man stood to his full height, his shirt tight against his tree trunk of a torso. "Someone's got to keep the peace, and no way we're going to allow those fools to kill someone on the road. In the side room they could punch each other silly, or sober up."
Nick wasn't about to knock on a guy defending his local watering hole. "Okay. When'd you notice things go from bad to worse?"
The smaller guy snickered and the CSI shared a glance with Vartann; someone really needed to slow his consumption down. The man wiped the foam from his lip with his sleeve. "Soon as we heard the Scouser screaming bloody murder. By the time Lenny and I ran over, the tourist was bleeding like a stuck pig with a freaking pistol in his hands."
"The Brit had a weapon?" Vartann clarified.
"Yeah, charlie screwed around, like he didn't know how to pull the trigger," the more intoxicated man snorted.
"Charlie?" Nick asked, trying to clarify.
"The fool, mate. Stupid tourist guy," the larger man explained. "Though as Gabe said, he had no clue how to fire a gun. Other lad had a knife which it's safe to say had been used before. The tourist was still trying to figure out how to use his new toy. Gave enough time to let the knife-wielding bugger have another go at him and during the row the gun went off. By the time we got there, they were both goners."
Both men commiserated about the events as if they were just going over the rounds of a boxing game gone violent. "Alfie knew that bloke, said he was bad news, short fuse," Gabe rattled off as he searched for the barkeep.
Nick noticed his need, and waved the pub guy away despite the evil glare he got from the intoxicated man.
"Hey, I wanted another pint," Gabe complained, slightly slurring his speech.
"I think you've had quite enough. In fact, you might need to stick around, but we're going to have to clear all of you guys out while we begin our investigation," Nick tried to explain reasonably.
"Wha-?" Lenny growled as he lit another cigarette.
Vartann tried to rein the man in. "You mentioned that the owner knew who the short tempered guy was?"
The bulky man cut short his tirade, while Nick tried to placate his buddy about being cut off. "Alls I know was when we calmed them down the first time, Alfie complained about having to deal with him causing trouble during games before. Violent drunkard."
The detective looked to Nick and the two knew it was time to begin moving everyone out. The CSI waved over the owner and explained the need to shut the TVs off and make the announcement. The well-mannered man tensed, knowing he was about to infuriate his customers, but he understood the need.
He pushed the buttons on a remote and the volume of the glowing tubes grew silent invoking shouted obscenities and a slew of high-pitched whistling. It was obvious the pub man was well respected because the crowd actually fell to a low muttering and allowed him to speak. The owner stood behind the bar, every eye in the place glaring at him.
Nick and the detective knew it was better that the older man address the horde before they stepped in and gave out instructions. The two men bookended the smaller guy as he gave the crowd the news.
Despite apologies and the need for law enforcement to take over the football fans erupted into a sea of discontent, the ripples of malice directed at the two LVPD men.
Vartann knew it was time to act quickly. "Listen up! We need everyone to exit in an orderly fashion, and follow the police officers outside!"
Nick stared down several evil glares, ignoring a few choice obscenities, but Lenny and Gabe soon joined the fray in trying to escort people out. The group of five each took flanking positions around the crowd ushering them towards the doors, a few disgruntled bartenders helping out, even if it was going to hurt them in the wallet later on.
"Thank you. This way," Nick said, trying to keep things peaceful. He even ignored a few rough bumps by a large set of shoulders belonging to a hulking brute he was walking next to. The criminalist eyed him coolly and the other guy backed down at the intense gaze.
Painted bodies and flag bearers meandered and took their sweet time. Vartann and the criminalist stood at the door like movie ushers, the Texan chewing intensely on his gum. A beer bellied guy with a large colorful hat and tattoos on his arms got into the CSI's face. "We don't fuck with your pastime," he hissed.
Nick could look menacing when needed, his closely shaved head and muscular build a physical manifestation of the business he meant. "If I were back home and two guys were dead at the Cowboys' stadium, I'd do just the same. My job."
The fan snarled while another guy tried to shove him forward. "Sorry, mate. Know you've got your duty," the friend apologized.
Nick nodded, as he and Vartann surveyed the room to see a group of fans switching on the TVs, picking up knocked over stools to plant themselves on. The detective sighed audibly. "Whatcha think?"
Nick estimated that twenty or so customers would undoubtedly spell trouble with their hold out. He peered outside to see the few officers on the scene trying to deal with the upset huddled mass that had not dispersed once they exited.
"I don't know. We could use our mean voices," he joked.
Vartann rolled his eyes. "Let's get who we got on their way home and we'll come back in with some backup if need be."
Nick placed his hands on his hips irritably as the still good-sized hold out of fans stared back at him in challenge. "I'll stand here, make sure the back room stays clear. Still too many inside that could contaminate the scene if they get bored and start wandering."
The detective hesitated but Nick shook his head. "They're more interested in the game than giving me any hassles."
Fans from both teams took respective corners, and began to shout at the TVs as the game went on, and they ignored the orders to leave. Vartann was about to argue when he heard the rowdy crowd still milling around begin to get into it with the too few officers trying to control them. "Jesus," he muttered as he headed out to see what the new fuss was about.
Putting on the grimmest, sternest face he could muster Nick sauntered over to the bar and picked up the remote, stabbing the power button, plunging the TVs back into darkness, then waited for the inevitable protest.
"Bloody hell, mate! What the fuck's yer problem?" one snaggletoothed brute shouted from where he was weaving on his stool.
"Well, I know we speak a different language, mate, but I'm pretty sure 'Get the hell out' is the same on both sides of the world," Nick answered with a steely smile. So much for international diplomacy.
"Who's this then? Some bloody copper?" Mr. Dental Hygiene 2005 asked his equally smile-challenged buddy.
"Naw, mate. He's a forensics guy, like they show on Court TV! You know, fingerprints and all that Sherlock Holmes shit. Lookit his kit, Tommy! Hey, crime guy! You gonna take our fingerprints, yeah?"
Nick took in a deep breath and held it, counting to ten in time with the pulse of the now throbbing vein in his forehead.
"Hi, Tommy, is it?" he asked Snaggletooth #1. "And you are?" he inquired of the Forensics Files fan.
"Den. Dennis, actually. You really like them guys on the telly?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I am, and I need to go run my tests on the two decedents back there," he said, hooking a thumb towards the side room. "And you know that I need to get to the evidence fast, right? Fingerprints fade, DNA denatures, trace gets lost."
The Court TV guy was nodding knowingly as if he completely understood everything Nick was saying, his head bobbing in an almost vertical up and down manner, the weight of his skull sometimes pulling it off center. Tommy just looked mystified.
"C'mon, Tommy. Let's let Crime Guy do his thing, yeah? C'mon. I need to take a leak and I know just the bloke's car I'm gonna do it on."
The two leaned against each other and staggered out the doors to disappear into the still seething mass of people outside.
Two down, over a dozen more to go, and Nick doubted he could count on any more Court TV fans in the crowd.
Fifteen minutes later he'd managed to get all but five out, using a combination of his wide Texas grin, his strong stern brow, and a few well-placed Vulcan death grip-like squeezes to some recalcitrant shoulders. The last five were engrossed in a deep conversation/argument concerning some guy named Wark, a bunch of 'dirty Mancs', and Mellor vs. Gayle. Complete gibberish to his ears.
Before attempting to roust the hangers-on Nick needed some fresh air. Recharge his batteries and catch some non-tobacco smoke choked oxygen.
He wandered over to the front door to see that Vartann and the uniforms had done an admirable job of clearing the mob. About a dozen red-clothed fans still hung about, most sitting on the hoods of cars, smoking and continuing discussions from inside. They'd all brought their drinks out with them, but with Vegas' what the fuck attitude towards open containers, there wasn't much to be done about it.
He stepped out onto the cement pad in front of the doors to inhale the warm, humid night air. The parking lot was still jammed, a good sign, as that meant most of the drunks they'd sent out into the night were wandering about on foot and not mowing down pedestrians. He scratched his head as he thought where they might have wandered off to. Nearest business was a craft shop next door, not much of interest there to a drunken soccer fan.
A man ran from around the corner of the building, chest heaving as he gasped for air. Nick only got a brief look at him as he was hunched over and the lighting didn't extend out that far from the entrance. Thick head of blonde curls on a medium framed man wearing jeans and a navy jacket. The man raised his head and looked Nick straight in the eye for a split second, the expression on his face pinning Nick where he stood.
"Bomb! There's a bomb in the pub!"
Whereas Nick may have under different circumstances figured the man for one of the rowdy drunk crowd, maybe trying to rile things up, the look on the man's face cleared every speck of doubt immediately.
Before Nick could utter a word to him, or shout for Vartann, the man turned and fled back into the night.
Time slowed down and sped up all at the same time as Nick screamed for Vartann, furious arm gestures waving gaping mouthed football fans back away from the building, then he turned and ran into the pub to get the five that had stayed behind.
His hands grabbed the nearest two arms, fingers digging painfully into their biceps, dragging the bewildered men with him as he locked eyes with the soberest looking one in the bunch.
"There is a bomb in the building. Everyone leaves NOW!"
They couldn't have been too far gone intoxication-wise because he soon found the arms he was holding ripped from his fingers as the men charged headlong for the doors. Even if they had only picked one word out of his statement, the word they'd gotten was "bomb".
They exited the doors and made it to the parking lot, Nick bringing up the rear, when one of the five, a scrawny freckle-faced kid, couldn't have been more than twenty wonder if they carded him at the door? suddenly turned, shouting about his lucky scarf, and darted back towards the pub.
Nick turned at the waist as the kid ran past him, arm outstretched, his fingers brushing the kid's sleeve but never catching.
He pivoted and made it two steps towards the front of the club, watching as the red doors swung shut behind the kid.
He never made the next step.
The building exploded.