TITLE: Death of a Santa
CHARACTERS: Grissom & Greg, plus a few minor characters
WARNINGS: I will talk about autopsies and about certain distasteful crimes, but the story will be a lot less graphic than the show; also, there may be a slashy undercurrent, but nothing explicit

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Usually, the flashing lights of the squad cars and ambulances and the bustle of cops and medics attracted swarms of curious onlookers. Tonight the crowd was significantly smaller, although not entirely absent. A handful of rubbernecks stood outside the yellow tape, stamping their feet and rubbing their hands to keep the cold at bay, the need to satisfy their curiosity outweighing their holiday spirits.

"Look at them. Can you believe it?" Greg muttered as he lugged his heavy kit out of the trunk. "Don't they have anything better to do? Like eating turkey or singing carols?"

"Apparently not," Grissom said mildly. He'd long ceased to be amazed at people's inherent lack of common sense.

The two forensic scientists ducked under the yellow tape and headed for the police officer in charge.

"Ernesto Navarro. Works for maintenance. He's the one who called it in," Captain Brass greeted them, indicating a thin man in a grimy work overall. The man was sweating, in spite of the cold. He wasn't handcuffed, but two uniformed cops were hovering nearby, close enough to apprehend him, if necessary.

Gil Grissom took in the way Navarro shifted from one foot to the other, and pursed his lips. The man carried himself like he'd spent the better part of his forty-plus years in jail. Not the kind of man who'd call the cops, no matter what.

"Several priors: mostly B & E, two arrests for assault, but no convictions, " Brass reeled off, consulting his notebook. "Out on parole."

"Look, I only found the guy," the man stammered, wiping his palms on his pant leg. "Would I have called you if I had anything to do with this?"

"Did you touch anything?" Grissom asked. "Or move the body?"

"And get my prints on him? No way!" Navarro looked insulted. "Look, can I go? It's Christmas. I'd like to be with my family."

"Then what were you doing outside?" Greg asked.

The man scratched his ear and shrugged. "Catching some air?" he suggested.

Brass rolled his eyes. "Get him some coffee, but keep him here," he told the two cops, before taking the lead. They crossed a well-kept courtyard with well-kept flowerpots. Not a place for the very rich, but definitely for the well-to-do. "Many of the tenants are away over the holidays, visiting their folks," Brass continued. "My guess is, Navarro was breaking into some of these apartments. Maybe the vic surprised him."

"No security cameras," Grissom observed.

"After this, they'll probably get them," Greg predicted.

The three men stopped next to David Philips, the assistant coroner.

Grissom carefully set down his case and pulled a pair of latex gloves out of his coat pockets. "Hello David. What have we got?"

The coroner got up and stepped back, giving Grissom a full view of the body: a fat, white-haired man in his sixties, with a long white beard. He lay sprawled on the concrete. The man wore a crimson red suit with white lining, a black belt, and black polished boots. A Santa hat lay less than two yards away.

"Ho, ho, ho," Greg said irreverently.

Grissom shot him a glance of mild reproach, before focusing on the body. "COD?"

"According to preliminary findings: Exsanguination," Philips told him, pointing at the large, glistening pool of blood that had formed around the victim's head. "Caused by blunt force trauma to the skull, consistent with a fall from great height. Time of death: less than two hours ago."

"Any ID?"

"Nothing in his outer pockets," Brass said. "Maybe under the costume."

Grissom dropped into a crouch to study the victim's face. It was a jolly, rotund face, with blue eyes that were staring unblinkingly at the star-studded sky. Grissom followed the dead man's gaze to scan the rooftops

"It could have been an accident," Greg said.

"Or he could have been pushed," Brass said.

"Well, it looks like Blitzer and the others aren't here to tell us what happened," Grissom said softly. "So let's get him to the lab. Greg? You take the roof."

He rose to his feet to make room for the body bag crew.

"He sure looks the part, doesn't he?" Brass said, pocketing his notebook. "Makes you wonder. Who'd want to kill a fake Santa?"

Grissom pursed his lips. "Maybe the killer doesn't believe in Christmas."

TBC