Part 1

"I never thought old St. Nick would end up on my table," Doctor Robbins mused, as he brought the scalpel down to make the first Y-incision. On the table right next to him, a small portable radio was playing "Let it Snow."

"I believe it's safe to assume we're not dealing with the original Santa," Grissom said, picking up a stack of X-rays and peering at the images.

"Occam's Razor," the doctor stated. "Think horses, not zebras."

"Exactly."

The two coroners shared a fleeting smile, but the presence of death had a sobering effect, even after years of cutting up bodies. Without any further ado, Robbins started to report his findings:

"The X-Ray shows multiple fractures to the back of the skull, ribcage, and spine, all of which is consistent with a fall from a height of approximately 30 feet. He landed on his back. I'm thinking he lost consciousness right away and bled out."

"There was a lot of blood at the scene," Grissom confirmed.

"I can't tell you for certain whether he fell or whether he was pushed, but look at this:" Robbins put the scalpel down to lift the deceased's right arm, exposing a bluish discoloration not far from the wrist. He repeated the procedure with the other arm, showing Grissom a matching bruise. "I am certain these contusions weren't caused by a fall."

"Defensive wounds?"

"In my professional opinion? Yes. He was trying to shield his face. Instinct."

Grissom pursed his lips. "Then whatever hit him, will have left traces on his clothes. I'll get Greg to take a closer look. Anything else?"

"That's all I can tell you right now."

Grissom nodded. "Thanks, doc."

"Any time." The coroner lowered his visor and picked up the electric saw. The radio started to play "Jingle Bells."

Grissom picked up his file and headed out. Behind him, the saw's high-pitched whine drowned out the radio.

"Greg?" Grissom stuck his head through the door.

The dead Santa's red suit had been spread over the large, brightly lit table. Greg was hunched over the pant leg, scraping something into a tiny paper envelope. At Grissom's call he straightened, and sealed the envelope.

"I put the photos from the roof on your desk," Greg said. "The vic was definitely on the roof. I found eight cigarette butts, all one brand; I sent them off to DNA. Other than that, no footprints, no blood, no signs of a struggle. Clean as a whistle."

"Did you check the sleeve? According to the post mortem, the vic suffered defensive wounds to the forearms."

"Yeah, I found some greasy residue. Maybe fat or wax. Sent it to Trace, along with a short brown hair that I found on the vic's shoulder." Greg grinned, pleased with himself.

Grissom stifled a fond smile. "Good work."

"It gets better. Check this out." Greg picked up a white plastic box and shoved it in Grissom's direction. "Look what we found in Santa's pocket."

Grissom peered at the contents and raised an eyebrow. "Lock picks?"

"I had Hodges check scrapings from the lock of the door that leads to the roof. Bingo. Our vic definitely used the lock picks to gain access to the roof." Greg shot his supervisor a mischievous grin. "And here I always thought Santa traveled by chimney."

"Life is full of disappointments," Grissom said philosophically. "Maybe our Santa has priors. Did you check his prints, yet?"

"Philips printed him, but I haven't had time to run them through AFUS. I can do it now, if you want. I'm done here."

Grissom nodded. Thanks to Christmas, he had to work with a skeleton crew. Warrick had taken an entire week off to take his wife skiing. Catherine had taken Lindsey on a trip to Europe. Nick had asked for a few days off to visit the parents of his new girl friend. Grissom wouldn't have granted his request, if Greg hadn't volunteered to work both Christmas shifts. Most of the lab personnel were at home, celebrating Christmas with their families. In their absence, Greg's lab skills were indispensable.

But why Greg had chosen to work instead of spending Christmas with his folks, especially after he had almost been killed in the line of duty, remained a mystery to Grissom. He knew that Greg got on well with his family. In previous years, Greg had always requested leave – and Grissom had always granted it.

"Greg?"

"Yeah?"

Grissom hesitated. It was never easy to bring up the assault. It had left them all stunned and enraged and aware of their own vulnerability. They all knew how to shoot and had attended self-defense courses, but they were scientists, not cops. "Let me know if you find our vic in the database," Grissom finally said.

"Will do." Greg folded the Santa suit and carefully placed it in its evidence box, then labeled up his smaller evidence bags.

Grissom allowed himself a few seconds to watch Greg's efficient movements and his painstaking care, nodded, and retreated to his lab, to read the reports that were piling up on his desk.

TBC