It didn't take long for the police to show up; I figure it must've been a slow night for them to respond so quickly.
They started taping off the area. Most of the police were dressed in normal, blue uniforms except for a burly officer on his cell phone in a suit.
He stuck out like a sore thumb.
Before you could say 'Moo Goo Gai Pan' the place was a full-scale crime scene. A growing crowd was gathering just outside the tape.
You could catch bits of speculation as to what had happened behind the tape like, "…I heard they opened fire in the kitchen screaming like a madman…" "…they found him in a pool of his own blood…" "….they took at least $500 from the Chinese restaurant, demanded 2 take-out boxes of pork lo mein and took off in a bright red Ferrari…"
A silver SUV pulled up and two men and a woman came out, carrying what looked like tackle boxes and began talking to the police officer in the suit.
We had arrived at the crime scene after, unfortunately, Nick (who miraculously beat me to the Denali keys) drove slowly to avoid 'getting lost'.
I was a little concerned to be working a missing kid scene with Greg and Nick. Both of them had soft spots for kids that could endanger them, the kid or the case
I had never seen too much of Nick's concern for children because I rarely worked missing child cases, but I had seen Greg's.
When Greg gets worried, Greg gets distracted and we don't need that.
Nick was able to handle himself good enough, I was sure; he had been a CSI longer than I had.
Greg, on the other hand, was not a weathered CSI, he had been in the lab, he wasn't tough like Nick. Greg was soft, sweet, the kind of person who always saw the best in people.
I mentally vowed to watch Greg no matter what.
I wouldn't have him pulled, that's not what I would want, that wouldn't be what Greg needed. I'll just stay nearby.
Maybe I'd been staring at Greg for longer than I realized because he and Nick were giving me some odd looks.
"Sar, you okay?" Nick asked fighting a smile.
I knew him, he'd never let me live down staring at Greg.
I had gotten distracted again. Focus!
"Yeah…I'm, um, I'm fine. Just a little ADD today."
It wasn't a lie.
"Yeah, we can tell," Nick teased.
Greg was still giving me that odd look.
"Stop fantasizing, Sanders," I teased.
He blushed bright red which made me realize I was probably right, I could feel my face getting a little warm, too, so I faked a cough and looked away from the guys.
I could hear Nick laughing a little as he went over to join Brass, who was standing just across the yellow tape.
"What've we got, Jim?" Nick asked.
Brass sighed," Missing 16-year-old boy. His name's John Pettit. His friends reported him missing 2 hours ago."
"Then why are they already calling us?" I asked.
"First on the scene found bullet casings in the gutter," Brass said tensely.
"Have you taken the kids' statements yet?" Greg asked nervously.
I could tell he was already getting edgy about this case. I really wished that I could hug him or hold his hand or something like that to encourage him just then, but not in front of Nick and Brass…that would be awkward, to say the least.
"Sara, did you catch that?" Brass asked, snapping me out of my daze.
Nick was rolling his eyes and shaking his head at me, I'd really liked to have smacked him just then but this is serious-time…I'll wait until we're back in the Denali.
"Sara!" Nick called.
"Huh?" I said looking around.
Greg smiled and laughed a little before taking my arm and leading me over to the primary scene.
"We're going to split the kids up to make sure all stories get told. We'll start processing while Nick and Brass talk to one of the kids and then one of us'll swap with Nick and talk to another kid," Greg whispered to me.
His eyes flashed with concern, "Are you okay, Sara? I mean is there something that you need to talk about? I'm a good listener, remember?"
I smiled and said, "I'm cool, Greggo, thanks. Let's get to work."
Brass called some kid over, he was about 5 ft 6 and had dark, medium-length curly hair with some Dr. Pepper-red streaks in it. He was sorta pale, but had dark blue-brown eyes and looked like he had seen plenty of days of hard outdoor work.
"Nick, this is Walker Craig, he's 16," Brass said, "Walker, this is Nick Stokes, he works for the crime lab."
"Hey," Walker said. His voice was nasally and had a crackly sound to it like it wasn't finished changing.
"Walker, do you mind telling us what happened tonight?" I asked him.
"Yeah, ummm…we're staying at some cheap hotel off the Strip and Tater, Emi, John-John and me walked down here for some supper. We've been eating buffets ever since we got here. They say I've got a never-ending stomach…or that's what John'd say…anyhow, we'd been taking turns paying; I paid for dinner last night, Emi paid for breakfast, Tater paid for lunch, so John had to pay for supper.
"He told us to go ahead and start walking back and he'd catch up after he paid.
We got about 2 blocks and Em noticed he hadn't caught up yet so we came back here. They said they hadn't seen him since he paid," Walker said sadly.
I felt awful for this kid, but something was bugging me.
"Hotel?" I asked, "You're not from around here?"
"No, sir, I'm from Heber Springs, Arkansas," he sighed.
Arkansas. That explained the accent.
"What's John look like?" Brass asked.
"He's about my height, maybe an inch shorter. He's heavier than me, maybe 140, 150 lbs.? He's got bright red hair that's cut pretty short, curly like you wouldn't believe…" Walker was having trouble talking about his friend, I could tell.
"What was he wearing?" Brass pressed.
"I…I don't know…I don't remember…" Walker said, the young man was on the verge of tears. I couldn't watch much more of this.
"Jim," I said, "I think that's enough for now."
"Yeah," Brass agreed.
Brass waved me over and Nick passed me on his way to join Greg. He looked depressed, but I knew that nothing cheered Nick up better that immersing himself in his work.
I offered him a smile as he passed and he made an attempt to return it.
I got over to Brass and he asked, "You ready?" He looked a little down, too. I guess cases with kids tore him up as well.
"Yeah. You?" I asked.
He went over to the three teens and brought back the sole girl.
"Sara, this is John's friend, Emilee Landers, she's 16. Emilee, this is Sara Sidle , from the crime lab."
The girl was short, about 5ft. 3. She had reddish-light brown hair and green-grey eyes.
I nodded a greeting and she did the same.
"So, Emilee, wanna tell what happened tonight?" Brass asked.
"Sure, we um…we left our hotel around 5 or so…maybe 5:13, anyhow, it was 5:30 when we got to the restaurant. It was John-John's turn to pay so he told us to go on while he paid. We left around 7…Walker could've kept eating but Tater was…well, me and Tater, were getting bored watching him eat and John-John was afraid we'd do something embarrassing so he insisted we leave. We got about two blocks and I looked back and saw that John-John wasn't behind us and I said somethin' 'bout it to Walkie and so we went back to The Dragon's Bowl and Walk went in and asked about him. They said they hadn't seen him since he paid…we called the hotel room and he didn't answer, which is very unlike him, so we knew he wasn't there…I can't believe John-John's gone. If he ever is found, his parents'll never let him leave the state again," Emilee said slowly, as if checking every detail before it came out, like she was trying to pull some reasoning for her friend's disappearance from her words.
She was close to her friends, they all had nicknames; Tater, Walkie, John-John…Nicky, Greggo…this girl seems a lot like me.
"What can you tell us about how John looks?" Brass asked.
"He's…he's about 5ft…6, 5ft 5, maybe? I'm not good with estimating…he's taller than me, but not as tall as Tater. He's maybe 150 or 160 lbs. He's got medium length, bright red, crazy curly hair. His eyes are sorta odd lookin'. They're brown at the middle then green and blue-ish around the edges…" the girl recalled, racking her brain for more information.
"What was he wearing?" I asked.
"I don't know, I don't usually pay attention to stuff like that…wish I had now," the girl was just seeming less worried and more and more frustrated.
She bit her lip and looked up from Brass to me.
"Is there anything I can do to help find John-John? I'll do anything…everything I can. What can I do?" she practically begged.
It hurt me to say it, but I knew it had to be done, "Nothing, just stay put. Earlier you said John's parents'd never let him leave the state again, so you're not from Nevada?"
"No, John-John and me are from Heber Springs, Arkansas," Emilee sighed.
"Okay, thanks. You can go back, keep your eyes peeled," Brass said to her.
"This is crazy," I sighed and shook my head. I felt bad that the girl couldn't do more to help her friend, I felt bad for these kids for having their vacation ruined and I felt awful for the boy that was missing.
I really wasn't excited about getting this case from the beginning. I had a weird childhood and it bothered me to watch any kid's childhood be traumatized.
I saw Brass wave me over and Sara headed back over toward Nick and me. She had been weirding out today, it was like she couldn't keep focus, totally unlike her. Of course I had always had trouble keeping focus on stuff around her, focus on work, that is.
She looked really down as she approached me, I was concerned for her. I reached out and touched her arm and she stopped.
"You okay?" I whispered.
"Huh?...Oh, yeah," she said as if snapping from a daze.
"Sara, I'm worried about you. Get some sleep or something. Sar?"
"Yeah…yeah, okay, I'll do that," she said like she wasn't listening to me.
I silently promised to personally make sure she was okay.
When I got over to Brass he brought over a teenage boy.
The boy had a tanned Mediterranean-ish skin tone and brown hair so dark it was almost black and dark brown eyes with a hint of green. He was wearing a blue and maroon stripes short-sleeved polo shirt over a white flannel shirt; tight, dark jeans held up by a silver-studded belt and a pair of brown skateboard shoes.
"This is Jeremy Tate, he's 16. Jeremy, this is Greg Sanders from the crime lab," Brass introduced.
"Aww, don't call me Jeremy. Everyone calls me Tater," Jeremy said dismissively.
"Okay, Tater," I began, fighting back a laugh, "can you tell us what happened here tonight?"
"Yeah, well, we came down here for supper. Walk ate, like, 6 plates of kung pao chicken, John-John got so ticked. When Emi and I started making sculptures out of California rolls, John-John said we were being 'too dad-gum immature' and insisted that we leave while he went to pay. We got about two blocks toward the hotel and Emi noticed that he hadn't joined us yet. Walk went back into the restaurant and they said he had paid and left. Then we called you guys," Tater explained sadly.
"So you don't live nearby? You don't know anybody here?" I asked
"Heck no, I'm from Batesville, Arkansas. Never been any farther west than San Antonio, Texas; other than now, of course," Tater said impatiently.
"Can you describe John for us?" Brass asked.
"Uhhh…sure. He's got bright red curly hair; curlier than your hair, longer than a flat-top, but not as long as mine," he began, motioning to first my hair then to his own almost shoulder-length hair, "He's got brownish-greenish-blueish eyes. He's a little shorter than me and I'm 5 ft 9…so maybe 5ft 6. Probably about the same size as me other than that, though.
"Can you describe what he was wearing?" Brass asked.
"Yeah, he was wearing a green and yellow John Deere trucker hat, a navy t-shirt, some sorta baggy jeans, brown work boots and a camouflage jacket," Tater said.
"A camo jacket?" Brass asked, taking notes.
"Yeah, but not, like, military camo, but hunting camo with the leaves and tree bark, you know?" Tater explained.
"Yeah, okay, that'll help a lot," Brass said.
"Hey, wait. You know what? I've got a picture of John-John here," Tater said pulling out his wallet. He handed me a picture before leaving.
They had described John pretty accurately. The teenage boy looked so happy in the picture, I vowed to make sure the scum that took him would rot in jail.
Okay, so the point of that chapter was basically to show how different people view the same events in different ways. Enjoy…sorry it took so long. Am I forgiven?