Queen of Spades

Summary: Greg thought it was a bad day when he woke up in the middle of the desert covered in blood. But he knew for sure when he called work and found out he's been missing for three days straight.

Author's Note: This story was actually just renamed today as its previous title, "Bloody Sunday" became horribly inappropriate. And while I sometimes stick with my somewhat irrelevant working titles (Why, just look at "Slither!"), I figured this title was much more ominous and awesome (and will, eventually, be more relevant than my working title). Anyways, this story I started back in March and then I let it go for a while before I reread it one day and fell in love with it again (and also figured out exactly what I was going to do with it). The thing with a good mystery is, you have to technically write the end before you write the beginning. Well, I didn't do exactly that, but after writing a few things, I did figure out how it was all going to work out. And, if I may say so myself, I think it's quite clever. Anyways, read, review, and be sure that this will have an ending. It's also one of my shorter chapter stories and probably won't exceed ten chapters (just to give you an idea). In the meantime, enjoy chapter one.

Disclaimer: CSI belongs to me and only me and you guys are now forbidden from writing or reading anything about it that wasn't written by me lest ye be sued (by me).

Disclaimer to the Disclaimer: The above statement is completely, totally, and utterly false.

Chapter One: Murphy's Law

Even in college, Greg Sanders had never been known to drink more than he could handle. The first and only hangover he ever had was after his first insane night of drinking when he was seventeen and he'd never gone back to that place since. That was why, when he woke up with a pounding headache, he assumed that he and Nick had gone a little overboard when they went out for drinks the night before. His room was bright, which meant the windows must have been open because a burning red light blinded him through his closed lids. Greg moaned and covered his eyes with his forearm as he rolled over on his floor.

The mouth full of dry dirt made him realize that he wasn't on the floor of his apartment like he'd thought. He opened his eyes a crack and realized he wasn't even inside, which would explain why the sun was so hot. Slowly and painfully, he sat up and rubbed his eyes with his hands. He blinked. Something was in his eyes. He tried to wipe it away with his hands but it just made it worse. So he used his sleeve and looked down.

"Jesus!" The exclamation was not uncalled for as he saw his hands, and probably his eyes too, were covered in dry and not-so dry blood. He looked around at his surroundings. He didn't remember falling asleep in the desert. A chill ran up and down his spine as he realized something was very wrong.

Trying to ignore his pounding headache, Greg tried to clean his hands on his jeans before pulling out his cell phone. He glanced at the time and rolled his eyes. 7:00AM. He had missed his shift. Grissom would be pissed. He might as well call in before calling a cab and try to explain.

Greg pulled out his phone and realized he had no signal. Now how was he going to get a cab? He looked around for a road and couldn't find one. It was then that he noticed the tire tracks in the dirt. He followed them, hoping they would lead him to a road, and possibly get a signal to call out.

It was hot, and it was only early morning. However Greg ended up in the middle of the desert, he knew that someone else had to be involved. Was this some cruel joke on Nick's part? If so, Greg would get him back. The blood on him was probably just corn syrup and food coloring to freak him out. Greg passed the time by trying to remember what he and Nick had done the night before and plotting revenge on his friend for ditching him in the Nevada desert.

After twenty minutes of sweating and still no road in sight, Greg decided to check for signal again. He had one bar. One bar was better than nothing, and it also meant he had to be closer to a road. He decided to call the lab first.

The phone only rang twice before he got an answer. The voice was gruff. Tired. "Grissom."

"Hey, Grissom," Greg said looking at his surroundings. "Sorry I missed work, I uh…" Greg tried to find the words. "I overslept."

There was a pause and Greg had to check his signal to make sure the call hadn't been dropped. After a moment, Grissom spoke, sounding confused. "Who is this?"

"Uh… who is this?" Greg asked, worried he had the wrong number. "Sorry, I meant to call Gil Grissom I guess I—"

"Greg." He said the name almost as a sigh of relief.

Greg was getting annoyed. "What?"

"Where are you?"

Greg looked around. "Uh… can I get back to you on that, boss?"

"Don't bother," said Grissom. "We're tracing you through GPS, stay on the line."

"There's no need to do all that," said Greg, surprised at his diligence. "I was thinking of calling a cab."

"And how would the cab find you if you don't know where you are?" Grissom asked.

"I can figure out where I am," Greg said, defensively. "I was just gonna walk until I found a road. Follow these tire tracks."

"Don't move," Grissom said.

Greg was about to take a step but stopped. "What the hell is this all about anyway, Grissom?" he asked. "I said I was sorry, but you don't need to send someone all the way out here to lecture me in person."

"Are you alright?" Grissom asked, sounding stern.

Greg was caught off guard both by the question and the peculiar manner in which it was asked. Grissom spoke to Greg as though he were an escaped mental patient. "I got the hangover from hell, but other than that I'll survive, thanks for caring." Greg looked down at his blood-stained hands. "Oh, and I want to ask Nick something…"

Grissom muttered something to someone else in the room. "Greg, where have you been?"

"I told you, I overslept," Greg said. "Nick and I went out last night, I guess I had a little too much to drink, and somehow ended up... here… Is Nick there? Can I yell at him?"

Grissom muttered again before speaking directly to Greg. "Greg, you went out with Nick on Sunday."

Greg did not know what to say. "Uh, yeah, isn't it..." He pulled the phone away from his ear and stared at the date. "Thursday?" he muttered. He put the phone back to his ear. "Grissom, it's supposed to be Monday."

"We know where you are," Grissom said. "Nick and Sara are on their way."

"So where am I?" Greg asked.

"Ten miles west of I15 by Enterprise."

" Enterprise?" Greg looked around. "That's kind of far, isn't it?"

"Just a little," said Grissom. "You said there were tire tracks."

"Yeah," said Greg, looking at his bloodied jeans. A sickening feeling washed over him as he realized it might not be corn syrup after all. "And… Grissom, I think I'm covered in blood. It's all over me, and I don't know why, or if it's mine, or if it's someone else's, or even if it's blood at all, and I don't know how I got covered in it." Greg was wondering if he should panic.

Grissom answered Greg's unasked question. "Greg, calm down. Talk slower. Nick and Sara are coming fully equipped to answer all those questions."

"Great," Greg said. "So I just became part of a crime scene."

"Maybe," said Grissom. "If it is actually blood." Someone spoke to Grissom at the other end and he answered to them. "It's Greg, I just sent Sara and Nick out to get him… I'm getting to it, hold on—Greg?"

"Hm?" Greg replied.

"Ecklie's on my back to work this bombing case. Listen—you have no idea how relieved we are to hear from you. Sit tight, and when Nick and Sara get there tell them everything you told me and anything else you can remember. I gotta go."

And with the click of his cell phone, Greg was alone again. He looked over his shoulder at the rising sun. "So if that way's east…" he said. "That means I've been walking west towards Enterprise."

Greg stopped when all of a sudden something Grissom said rang in his head. So there had been a bombing in Las Vegas in the last three days. What else had he missed? He felt as though he were Rip Van Winkle, asleep for decades. Greg rubbed his eyes and wiped the sweat off his brow. Damn it was hot.

After about an hour of waiting, Greg's thoughts began to get a little discombobulated. Images swam before his eyes. Colored spots dotted his vision. He couldn't hold onto a coherent train of thought. He began thinking in circles. For a moment, he even forgot why he was standing still and started following the tire tracks again.

The wave of nausea caught him completely off guard and Greg quickly spun around and doubled over as whatever contents he had in his stomach resurfaced and spilled out onto the dirt.

Greg suddenly felt very dizzy as he stumbled backwards. Eventually, the heat became overwhelming and he toppled over, unconscious.

Greg awoke to a splash of cold water on his face. He blinked and saw himself looking up at a very cocky looking Nick.

"Rise and shine, sleeping beauty," Nick said. "You just had a minor heat stroke."

"Is that why I still feel nauseous?" Greg asked.

"We got here just in time," Nick said. "Sara and I saw you lying out there and so we poured some water down your throat and cooled you down as fast as possible."

Greg was panting as he rested in the shade of Nick's Tahoe. "That's why I feel nauseous," Greg said with a moan. "How much water?"

"Not enough to make you sicker than you already are," Nick said. "And frankly, I'm offended that you think I wouldn't know how much to give you."

"What are you guys doing on shift anyway?" Greg said, as he sat up and leaned against the tire of the car. "It's like…" he looked at his watch. "Ten in the morning, shouldn't you guys be done by now?"

"We should," said Nick. "But we've been pretty busy over at the lab."

"So busy that Grissom could spare you guys to come and pick me up?" Greg asked. He scratched his upper arm and for the first time realized he was shirtless. He looked down and realized his shirt wasn't all he was missing. "Whoa! Where are my clothes?"

"Easy, Greggo," Nick said, chuckling. "Your shirt and pants are in the car. I told you, we needed to cool you down, put you in a hyperthermia vest, towels on your head neck and lower torso, you know the drill."

"Why the hell do you have a hyperthermia vest just lying around?" Greg asked, noticing it lying beside him.

Nick shrugged. "Once I dated a nurse and she has this thing with hot and cold—"

"Stop talking right now," Greg said, holding up his hand. "My head hurts too much for kinky sex stories."

"Hey Greg," Sara said, stepping around the side of the Tahoe and holding a swab in one hand and an evidence bag in the other.

"Jesus!" Greg said, standing up quickly. He grabbed the vest and held it in front of him.

Sara smiled at him broadly, and Greg hoped her eyes were closed behind her sunglasses. "Nice boxers," she said casually. "You woke up about a mile east, yeah?"

"Uh… yeah…" Greg said, feeling dizzy again, probably from standing up so fast. He shook his head. "Sara, can I talk to you when I have some clothes on?" he asked, holding onto the side of the car.

Sara held her hands up and turned around. "OK," she said. "There's not much to see anyway."

Greg looked after her in a mixture of umbrage and embarrassment as Nick started chuckling. Greg looked at him. "Please say she didn't see me like this when I was unconscious?"

Nick hesitated. "She didn't see you like that when you were unconscious."

"You're lying," Greg said.

Nick was still laughing as he nodded. "Yes I am."

"Oh, you shut up," Greg snapped as he leaned against the car and slid back to the ground. "Please get me my clothes now."

Shaking his head, Nick opened the car door and brought out Greg's shirt and pants, neatly folded and handed them to him. "Hey, man," he said. "Sorry for saving your life."

Greg grabbed his clothes and began putting on his pants. "So what have I missed in the past three days?"

"A lot," Nick said, suddenly sobering up. "Someone decided to bomb the MGM Grand."

Greg almost dropped his shirt. "You're kidding."

"Nah," said Nick. "Killed about fifty people. Bastard left us some clues, too, and that's why we've been working 'round the clock."

"What kinda clues?" Greg asked as he poked his head out of the neck of his t-shirt.

"Clues like the ones we found on you," Nick answered, changing the subject. "Any idea why you're covered in blood?"

"If I did, do you think I'd be in the middle of the desert suffering the after-effects of a heat stroke?" Greg returned.

"Touché," Nick said.

"Can I come back now?" Sara called from the other side of the car.

"Greg's decent," Nick replied.

"Greg's never decent," Sara said as she rounded the corner of the hood of the car. She still had the evidence bag. "There was an empty syringe at the dump site," Sara told them both, holding up the bag. "Plus a pile of white powder, I'll need to send it to Hodges to figure out what it is, but it looks like shaved limestone."

"Chalk?" Greg said.

Nick looked very confused. "No, that's impossible," Nick said.

Sara shrugged. "It looked identical."

"Identical to what?" Greg asked, looking from Sara to Nick. They were ignoring him as they argued.

"No," said Nick. "I did not leave him at the MGM, Sara, we weren't anywhere near there. I left him at the club, like I've said so many times. What the hell does he have to do with this?"

"He did disappear Sunday night?" Sara said. "The bombing happened Monday morning. Looks like the same guy."

"What would he want with Greg," Nick said. "It doesn't make any sense."

"I just gather the evidence," Sara replied with a shrug. "Look, it might not even be chalk, it could be, I don't know, something else."

Nick shook his head vehemently. "This is seriously messed up."

"Would someone care to fill me in on what you're arguing about?" Greg interrupted.

Nick looked at him. "Greg, do you remember what happened after I left on Sunday?"

"No," Greg said. "I don't remember anything except that we went to a bar and my car broke down. I was complaining about it and then… Nope, sorry, I've got nothing."

"Yeah, we found the car…" Nick walked over to Greg and rolled up his sleeve. "The needle would explain these," he said.

"What is it?" Greg asked, trying to look down at his arm.

"Multiple puncture wounds," Nick replied. "Sara first found them when she took off your shirt."

Greg did a double take. "You took off my shirt?" he said.

Sara shrugged, her face expressionless. "Someone had to strip you while Nick went for the towels and hyper-vest."

"Greg, you don't do drugs," Nick said dubiously.

"I'm flattered at your confidence," Greg replied.

Nick looked over his shoulder at Sara. "Why would a terrorist drug a guy and then leave him in the middle of a desert with his trademark chalk?"

"Just before his bomb goes off in the MGM Grand?" Sara added.

"Greg, your apartment isn't anywhere near the strip," Nick said.

"Hell no," Greg answered.

"And neither was that club," Nick said, shaking his head. "It doesn't make any sense."

"Let's get him back to the station," Sara said. "He can talk to Brass."

Greg spent most of the morning vehemently repeating his statement that he didn't remember anything. When he was finally released, he ran into Catherine, and the papers she was carrying fell out of her hands.

"Sorry," Greg said, helping her pick up the papers.

"It's OK, Greg," Catherine said with a sigh. She looked up at him and smiled. "It's just good to have you back. We've been worried about you."

"Because I was missing for three days?" Greg said. "Aw, come on, that's nothing. When I go missing for three weeks is when you should worry."

"I feel like you're not taking this seriously," Catherine said as Greg handed her the papers he collected for her. "You woke up in the middle of a desert covered in blood with no memory of the past three days. I'd be a wreck."

Greg grinned at her. "That's the difference between you and me, Catherine. I don't believe in worry."

"It's not a religion, Greg," Catherine deadpanned, rising to her feet with Greg.

"No," said Greg. "It's a philosophy. Tell me about this MGM bomber."

"Didn't Grissom give you leave?" Catherine asked.

"Nope," said Greg. "You guys are shorthanded and need all the help you can get."

"I suppose that's true…" Catherine started walking down the hall.

Greg called after her. "Wait! You didn't tell me about the case."

Catherine turned and gave him a tired look. "Technically, I can't," she said. "As you're now part of it."

"Bull shit," Greg said with a laugh, but Catherine's face was dead serious. She shrugged.

"Sorry, Greg," she said. "You're going to have to work the other cases if you're going to stay on. Not this one."

"But everyone's working the bomber case," Greg said, annoyed. "Even the day shift."

"Which is why we'll need you more than ever," Catherine called, strolling down the hall. "Just because someone bombs a hotel doesn't mean crime stops altogether."

"This is a hot case!" Greg called after her retreating back. "You can not leave me out in the rain here, Cath!"

She turned the corner and pretended she didn't hear him. Greg hit the wall in frustration. He was still feeling a little woozy, which he thought was strange as recovery from heat stroke didn't take this long normally.

"Look on the bright side," Warrick said from behind as he patted him on the back. "One of the hottest cases of the year, and though you're not working it, you will forever be immortalized as being a part of it."

"I'd rather solve a crime than be a victim of it," Greg muttered.

"Greg, I don't know anyone who'd want to be a victim of a crime," Warrick said. He opened the file in his hand and looked through it. "Now, Ecklie said there's a 419 over on fourth and union—"

"Great," Greg said, taking the file out of Warrick's hand. "When do we go?"

"You," Warrick corrected.

"Yes…" said Greg. "You and me."

"Nah," Warrick said, slowly. "Just you. Mindy is already down there, she needs your help."

"Warrick, who is that?" Greg asked, shaking his head in disbelief.

"Day shift," Warrick replied. "We're all working together today."

"Fantastic," Greg said, trying not to tear the file up in his hands. "I get gypped because I got a little too drunk last Sunday and now I'm stuck working a scene with some skirt named Mindy. What kind of name is that anyway? Sounds like a ditz."

"Don't let Sara hear you talking that way," Warrick said looking at his watch. "From what I hear, you're all just talk, Sanders."

Greg frowned at Warrick. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"I gotta go," Warrick said with a spark in his eye. "Have fun with Mindy."