TITLE: Ghosts in the
SUMMARY: It rarely happens – a case so huge that all of the CSIs must work together. But when an attempted robbery in a bodega leaves nine people dead, everyone is on the case. And even that isn't going to be enough to bring this killer to justice.
SPOILERS: Any and all aired episodes.
PAIRING: Eventual D/L, slight Flack/OC
RATING: T. I may up it later for language and violence, but right now, it's at T.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the show or the characters. Only in the magical land of Narnia. I only own my OC.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Takes place well after Lindsay returns from Montana. Since I don't read spoilers, I have no idea when that may be, or what is going to happen. I very much appreciate NO ONE TELLING ME. I don't read spoilers. Please don't feel the need to enlighten me. I prefer to remain in the dark. Thank you. If anyone does spoil me, there will be hell to pay. You do not want to piss me off.
Many, many thanks go
to Blue for the beta and Spunky for the gamma.
Chapter One: A Sense of Foreboding
The New York Symphony Orchestra was giving a command performance.
Unfortunately, it was in Danny Messer's head.
The pounding was unbearable; it was like someone had taken a two by four and nailed him right on the forehead. Repeatedly. He refused to open his eyes, because the light would just make it worse. And he could feel the sun beating down on his bare arms, so he knew it was morning. His tongue was thick in his throat, and his entire mouth felt fuzzy, almost as though he had swallowed a towel sometime during the night – which was entirely possible. He'd done stranger things when intoxicated.
He shifted on the mattress and groaned loudly. The noise made his head throb again. It wasn't the only thing, either. He was sore. Everywhere. He was sore in places he hadn't even realized had muscles. Had he run the New York Marathon last night and didn't remember? He knew he couldn't lay in bed forever. Eventually, he had to schlep into the lab. He blearily opened his eyes and immediately regretted it. The sunlight was filtering in through the slats of the partially open Venetian blinds. The music in his head crescendoed. He blindly groped for the bedside table in search of his glasses.
There was no bedside table.
This was not his room.
Few things panicked Danny more than waking up in unfamiliar surroundings. He groaned again and covered his face with his hands. This was not a good way to start the day. Steeling himself for the inevitable, he lowered his hands and glanced around the room.
Fortunately – or unfortunately, he hadn't yet decided – he recognized it. It wasn't his, but it was just as familiar. There was a time, not that long ago, when he could have navigated the room in his sleep. Right now, though, this was the last place he wanted to be. He knew he shouldn't have had that fifth shot of tequila. Tequila always fucked him up. But the body shots had been his idea. She just looked so damn fine in that bustier top she'd been wearing. He remembered that top. He'd removed it on multiple occasions. No man alive could resist that top.
The top in question was lying a few feet from the bed, crumpled into a ball in front of the dresser. His glasses sat on top of said dresser. She must have picked them up, because he distinctly remembered dropping them on the floor the previous night.
Danny slid his legs out from underneath the sheet, only just now realizing that he was naked. Well, this was just fantastic. Any hope he'd had that they hadn't done what he thought they'd done vanished as soon as he caught sight of his boxer-briefs hanging from the corner of her bedroom door. He padded barefoot across the room to retrieve them and heard the unmistakable sounds of the shower running down the hall. He glanced at his watch. He had to leave in about five minutes or he would be late for work, so he couldn't stick around for the breakfast she would surely make. He'd have to just take off without saying goodbye. He hated doing that to her, but today he had no choice. She would understand.
He absently wondered, as he pulled on his jeans, if he should feel guilty about this. But the fact that he was wondering, and not actually feeling guilty, spoke volumes. Why should he feel guilty? They were both currently unattached, and neither had any delusions that whatever they shared meant anything more than what it did. She was more than willing, though granted the tequila might have affected her judgment. It didn't mess her up the way it did him, though. Next time they went out, he'd have to make her drink whiskey. That was her Kryptonite.
Unfortunately, it was the only thing. He had to hand it to her… That woman could definitely hold her liquor.
Now completely dressed, he stumbled down the stairs and into the kitchen, headed for the coffee maker. A pot was already brewing, but as he approached it, he saw that a note had been taped to the top.
Water first. Coffee later. Trust me. Remember the ferry incident?
He rolled his eyes but opened the fridge and pulled a bottle of water out of it. The ferry incident was something he didn't care to remember, actually. He still avoided the ferry launch. He drained half the bottle in three gulps and glanced at the clock on the microwave. He didn't have time to wait for the coffee to finish perking. He'd just have to grab a cup on his way into the lab.
The water was still running. She always took an eternity in the shower. He suspected it was her way off washing off the nightmares that always plagued her sleep. All the times he'd spent the night, he didn't think she'd ever slept soundly. He did what he could, but her demons were her own, and though she was exceptional at fighting them off during the day, it was a different story when the lights went out. He supposed that was one reason she never protested when he came over, even after they decided that this thing they had was too complicated to continue.
He grabbed a pen from the junk drawer and scribbled a quick goodbye underneath the note she'd left on the coffee maker, tossed the now empty water bottle in the recycling bin by the kitchen door, and left, taking care to lock the door behind him.
Flack sat in the table at the window, gingerly sipping his coffee. It was hot and kind of bitter – the machine must have been on the fritz. Although, he had decided to try something different than his usual black coffee, so maybe the bitter taste was his tongue's way of telling him to switch back.
He'd been coming to this diner for several months now, ever since their investigation into the death of a paintball player had revealed that an officer under his charge had stolen heroin from a previous drug bust. Mac had taken Flack's notes from the bust and used them to bring the officer down. He really had no choice in the matter, but the rest of the department didn't seem to see it that way. He had practically been shunned. So instead of brown bagging it for lunch, as he usually did, he had started eating out more often. The diner was within walking distance of the precinct, but not close enough that it was frequented by other cops, so he was generally safe in coming here.
He usually chose the table in the window because he liked to watch the people passing by on the sidewalk. He found that observing the passersby helped him with his investigative skills. He liked to study the way people walked and moved and attempt to determine what kind of mood they were in. He concentrated on their facial features and mannerisms when they were having conversations and tried to figure out the tone of their voices.
A girl walking by the window caught his eye. She looked about sixteen, but she carried herself like a woman of the world. She stopped abruptly in the middle of the sidewalk and started digging through her purse, emerging triumphantly with her phone after a few moments. She flipped it open and stepped to the side, closer to the window and out of people's way. She turned towards the window – and Flack – presumably to better hear the person on the other end of the line.
Her hair was dark brown, almost black, and fell to her mid-back in loose curls. Her skin was darker, so he imagined that she was Spanish. Her eyes were a smoky gray color, and they lit up when she smiled, which she was doing at the moment – a bright, sunny smile that threatened to split her face in two. She had a great figure – curvy in all the right places, nicely toned arms, and shapely legs. And he thanked every deity he could think of for the unseasonable warmth they'd been having lately, because that outfit she was wearing would feed his fantasies for the rest of his life; the tight jeans showed off her muscular thighs and the curve of her ass, the tiny T-shirt revealed just enough of her midriff to be tantalizing, and he was suddenly very jealous of her shoes.
He leaned closer to the window to get a better look. They were sneakers – thick-soled gray sneakers with lighter gray patches at the toe and heels. Yeah, he was pretty sure he had seen those shoes in the store the other day and had given serious consideration to purchasing them himself. He glanced up at the girl again, wondering what made her the type of woman who would buy men's shoes, and that's when he caught sight of the top edge of her tattoo, nestled on her hip, peeking out over the waistband of her jeans.
God. She was killing him, and she didn't even know it. He returned his eyes to her face.
She wasn't smiling anymore. Her eyes had darkened; her brow was furrowed. He didn't need to hear her conversation to know that she was arguing with the person on the other end. He could tell. There was tenseness in her body that had been absent before, and she clenched and unclenched the fingers of her free hand as she talked. The muscles in her jaw were twitching. After a few minutes she angrily hung up and dropped the phone into her open purse. She sighed heavily, her shoulders slumping, and rested her forehead against the window, her eyes trained on the floor of the coffee shop.
Then she looked up and met his gaze.
For one moment, one spectacular moment, they locked eyes. She was beautiful, and she was looking right at him. He looked away, embarrassed that she had caught him staring. His cheeks burned with humiliation, his eyes downcast, engrossed with the way the cream swirled in his coffee. He cautiously raised his eyes again, sure that she would be gone. But she was still standing there.
Her gaze was intense, penetrating. She stared him down without blinking, without flinching. Suddenly uncomfortable, he nodded to acknowledge her. She gave him the once-over and a smile, then turned around and melded into the crowd of pedestrians.
He went after her, but by the time he had gotten out onto the sidewalk, she had disappeared. He sighed, ran a hand through his hair, and started back towards the station, leaving his unfinished coffee on the table in the diner.
Of course, when he told the story later, he got her number.
Lindsay got a chill as soon as she approached the perimeter of the crime scene. The yellow crime scene tape seemed to stretch the entire block around the tiny bodega. Normally, there would be interested passersby – people crowding around the tape for a peek at the bodies – but today there was no one. Police cruisers blocked both entrances to the street. Save for the necessary personnel – the officers, the coroners, and the CSIs – the entire street was empty.
Not a good sign.
She had never known that a street in New York City could be so quiet, almost as though the city itself seemed to realize what had happened here. The whole area had a sense of foreboding. It was eerie.
She heard Danny approach and turned to look at him as he knelt and placed his kit on the ground. He was moving much more slowly than usual. His face was haggard and drawn, and he had barely been able to keep his eyes open all day. Twice that morning, she had caught him napping at his desk, his hand still clutching the pen he'd been using to fill out his paperwork. He'd been late, too. He was never late. He was always sitting at his desk when she arrived. She had asked him if he was feeling okay. He'd answered that he just hadn't gotten enough sleep and quickly changed the subject. She didn't want to broach the topic again.
If it were something more serious, she hoped he would confide in her. Though she could hardly ask him to do so when she had, until just recently, been unwilling to open up to him. If she hadn't needed to return to Montana, Danny might never have found out why she had been pushing him away since October.
"Shit," Danny muttered under his breath. He stared at the crime scene. She wondered if he was as hesitant to cross the tape as she was. He stooped, picked up his kit, and lifted the tape for her. "C'mon, Montana. Nothing worse than a cold crime scene."
She ducked under the tape, and her stomach went cold, despite the warm temperature. She now saw why it seemed as though the entire block had been taped off.
There was high velocity spatter on both the sidewalk and the windows of the bodega, in addition to the blood trail that led from the door down the street, and the blood pools that were accumulating in the gutter. Lindsay and Danny carefully picked their way among the blood drops to enter the bodega, which made the mess on the street look insignificant.
Lindsay knew that she would never grow accustomed to the smell of death. She tolerated it because she must, but it burned her nostrils, it made her eyes water. The bodega reeked of it. And though the coroner had removed the bodies, she could plainly imagine how the scene must have looked to the responding officers – like a slaughterhouse. Blood was everywhere. It coated the walls and the floor. There was even some on the ceiling. The coppery smell was so thick she could taste it. As if that weren't bad enough, there were tiny pieces of what she suspected to be someone's brain scattered by the counter. She was not squeamish by nature, but she could feel the bile rise in her throat and knew that she was going to be sick. She turned her head, focusing on the only thing that wasn't covered in blood – Danny.
He looked as though he was having a similar reaction. He brought his closed fist to his mouth and momentarily held his breath. It was reassuring to know that it was not just her having such an adverse reaction to the scene. One would have to be dead not to be affected by such carnage. He also looked away, locking his eyes with hers.
She turned as Mac approached. His face was pale, ghostly, and the look in his eyes was haunted. She could tell that, even though he had been doing this for longer than both she and Danny, he was just as disturbed by the sight as they were.
"Where do you want us, Mac?" she asked, hoping that the tremor in her voice wasn't obvious. She had made some mistakes over the last few months, what with the horrors from her past resurfacing unexpectedly, and she was determined to redeem herself in the eyes of her boss. She knew it was an honor that Mac had personally selected her to work on his team. She hated the thought that she had, in some way, let him down.
Mac quickly scrutinized the two of them, almost as if he were determining whether or not they were up to the task of processing this scene. "Outside," he said after a moment of silence that seemed to last an eternity. "Stella will be in here. Hawkes and I are headed back with the bodies."
"How many are there?" Danny asked, his eyes darting around to look at the blood-smeared walls.
Mac waited a beat before responding. Lindsay thought he might be composing himself. "Nine."
"Holy shit. Mac, are you kidding me?" Danny's accent grew thicker as his voice became heavy with emotion. He took of his glasses and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.
Mac said nothing about Danny's use of profanity. The scene warranted it. Lindsay would have been surprised if Danny had censored himself. "We're going to get this guy," Mac said, gesturing to the door with one gloved hand. "But I need you guys outside in order to do that. The weather's cooperating now, but you know the old saying…"
"If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes," Lindsay said with a small smile about which she immediately felt guilty. They had the same saying in Montana, as well.
"Exactly. Get to it. Don't miss anything. When we find this guy, we'll need every piece of evidence available to nail him to the wall."
Lindsay was all too happy to exit the bodega and return to the street. She didn't consider herself claustrophobic, but she couldn't imagine being in that tiny shop with all that blood and brain matter. She couldn't help but admire Stella for being able to stick it out. As soon as she was outside, she took a deep breath. The smell of blood still lingered, but it was fainter, and the fresh air – or as fresh as the air could be in New York – went a long way into calming her stomach.
She and Danny were silent for several long moments before he finally turned to face her. "You all right?"
She nodded slowly. Though the memories of the crime scene she had survived were still raw, she was beginning to deal with what had happened. Testifying at the trial had gone a long way to closing a wound that had been open for far too long. "Are you?" she asked.
He dismissed her concern with a wave of his hand. "I'm fine. Just another crime scene, right?"
He was lying. She could tell. This was not just another crime scene. This was quite possibly the worst crime scene either one of them had ever had to process. And she knew that no one on the team would rest until the perpetrator was behind bars.
With that thought still in her mind, she exhaled through pursed lips and squared her shoulders. "Right, then," she said. "Let's get started."