Disclaimer: Most of the characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. All others belong to me, and if you want to play with them, you have to ask me first. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.
Spoilers: through season 7
My regular muse went on vacation and was replaced by Ridicula, the Muse of Silly. Believe it or not, this began with an edge-of-sleep half-dream and was originally CSI: Miami.
"911, what is your emergency?"
"Hello, this is Halston Stewart with the Cape Meadows Psychiatric Group…one of my patients just called me from home, she's incoherent and seems to be in a rage. Can you send a patrol car out to her house?"
"This is a new one on me," Brass said, jerking a thumb at the cathedral ceiling of the mansion's entrance hall.
Grissom looked up, brows rising. "I have to admit, I've never seen anything quite like this," he agreed.
High above their heads dangled two men, wrapped in chain and pressed back to back, and quite dead. Fresh, but dead.
Getting the bodies down wouldn't be a problem; the chains were hooked into a single one, which ran through a pulley and back down to a box bolted to the floor; someone had modified the old-fashioned chandelier apparatus. A large handle was evidently turned to carry the men aloft, but until they were brought back down cause of death would probably remain unknown.
Grissom set down his case, still looking up. "We'll need a ladder."
Brass sighed, and reached for his phone.
In the end, it was Sara who went up the rungs, perching blithely at the top to photograph the dangling duo, and Brass muffled his amusement at Grissom's not-quite-academic interest in those long legs climbing upwards. Before he could come up with a suitable sly comment, though, Grissom turned away. "What have we got?"
Brass smothered his grin. "No ID on those guys yet, but the owner of the house is one Jacqueline Panzer, single, thirtysomething. Her neighbors haven't seen her since yesterday and she wasn't here when the patrol car pulled up." He shrugged. "No priors, no record of disturbances, but the neighbors only remember seeing one guy hanging around, Panzer's boyfriend. Didn't know his name, though."
Grissom nodded, resigned. "Maybe we can get an ID when we have them down."
A few minutes later, Sara began her descent, and Brass noted that Grissom was somehow available to steady the ladder even though he had been on the far side of the hall when she'd taken her last photo. Still, Brass had to give the CSI points for subtlety; Grissom had let her go up in the first place.
The initial photos done, the ladder was carried out again, and then David's assistant slowly turned the handle to lower the corpses to the slate floor. The mechanism was quite efficient, Brass noted; it didn't take require much effort on the diener's part.
Sara took more photos as David knelt to examine the bodies and Grissom hung over the coroner's shoulder. Both corpses were dark-haired, but one was short and slender while the other had a more muscular build. "Blunt force trauma," David noted first, nodding at the bruise on one man's temple. "Probably not the cause of death, though."
That was fairly obvious. The two bodies showed classic signs of asphyxiation, and the chains that bound them together were pulled cruelly tight against their chests, half buried in their shirts.
"Looks like it was the suspension that killed them," Grissom commented.
Brass glanced up at the ceiling, two and a half stories high, and shuddered. Losing air with that much between him and the ground...not a pretty way to go.
David, feeling his way around the bodies, extracted a wallet from the huskier man and handed it up to Grissom; then his brows rose in mild surprise as he pulled a passport from the other. Sara took it.
"Dennis Cornwall, of San Antonio, Texas," Grissom said, looking at the driver's license window of the wallet.
Sara flipped open the passport. "And we also have Kenneth Lipton, fresh from Dover, England."
Brass grimaced. "Great. Here's hoping we don't have to involve the Feds."
Grissom didn't answer, but his expression echoed Brass' sentiment.
David frowned, and leaned over the bodies, sniffing experimentally. Brass restrained his disgust, but Grissom cocked his head with interest, and Sara spoke. "What is it?"
David looked up at her. "Do you smell chocolate?"
By the time shift ended, Brass still had found no trace of Jacqueline Panzer. Her neighbors had no idea where she might have gone, though one was able to give a tentative ID of Dennis Cornwall as her boyfriend. No one recognized Lipton's face, however.
Fresh out of ideas for the moment, he stopped by the lab to see how Sara and Grissom were coming; they had the bodies, the chains, and the two computers collected from Panzer's house.
He found Grissom in one of the layout rooms, studying the chains stretched across the long table. "Lemme guess--you're looking for links."
Grissom's smile tilted up on one side, sardony and amusement. "Hello, Jim. Actually, the links are Sara's business."
Brass leaned a shoulder against the doorframe. "Whaddya got?"
Grissom looked back down at the table. "Robbins confirmed that both men died of asphyxia; the chains were, for lack of a better word, tied around them with slipknots before they were hoisted aloft. Since both suffered blows to the head, he couldn't say whether they were conscious enough to struggle, but their own weight was obviously enough to compress their chests to the point of death."
He waved a hand at the lightboxes on the opposite wall; they held ultraviolet photos of the corpses' chests. The bruising was widespread.
"Any luck with Ms. Panzer?" Grissom asked.
Brass shook his head. "Nothing. She has family in Alaska, looks like, but nobody's answering the phone up there."
Grissom began packing the chains carefully into an evidence box. "We've got samples running from the bodies, the chains, and the house. Something'll turn up."
Brass watched while Grissom sealed the evidence, still a little fascinated after all these years by the precise ritual of it when performed by his old friend. Grissom put the lid on the box and sealed it, then pulled off his gloves. "Let's go find Sara."
She was in the computer lab, chatting with Archie while both of them did arcane things to the machines taken from Panzer's. They offered cheerful greetings as the two men came in, but Archie quickly admitted to not yet having broken the encryption on the desktop machine.
Sara, working on the laptop, had had better luck. "It belongs to Cornwall," she explained, fingers tapping rapidly at the keys. "Not a lot of personal data so far, but check this out."
A browser window flashed up, and Brass edged closer for a better look. It appeared to be a hobby Web page, extolling the virtues of--
"Chocolate?" Grissom asked in a bemused tone.
"Cocoa, actually," Sara corrected, grinning with the exhilaration of the hunt. "Cornwall is a total fan of the stuff. I found cocoa links, recipes, sites--his bookmarks file looks like it belongs to Hershey."
"That would explain the smell," Grissom said, brows going up.
Sara nodded. "Yeah, I found cocoa powder on the cuffs of his shirt and some on his pants. Looks like he spilled it on himself and didn't get it all off."
She pointed to a report that sat next to the laptop. "Doc sent that up a few minutes ago--stomach contents."
Brass read over Grissom's shoulder. As he half-expected, Cornwall's last meal had consisted mainly of chocolate, while Lipton had dined on peanuts and tea.
A knock on the open door had them all turning to see Wendy. "I have the report on your chain murder," she said, handing Grissom another printout. "DNA's still running, but I compared exemplars, and get this--the Texan had Panzer's DNA in front and the English guy's in back, if you know what I mean."
"Whoa," Sara muttered.
"And did Mr. Lipton have Mr. Cornwall's DNA, ah, in front?" Grissom inquired dryly.
"You got it," the tech said, grinning.
Brass smirked. "I smell motive."
Further investigation turned up e-mails between Panzer and Cornwall; the two had been carrying on a cyber-romance for several months before Cornwall had moved to Vegas. Lipton, however, had only been in the United States two days--just long enough to land at New York and catch a flight the next day to Nevada.
Halston Stewart, Panzer's psychiatrist, came in when requested, but said little beyond the fact that he had been treating her for three years and that she could be volatile at times, though she had never called him at home before. He claimed that patient-doctor privilege barred him from saying more, and professed to know nothing about Panzer's whereabouts.
Brass believed him, more or less; the man didn't feel like he was lying and was clearly worried about his patient. They let him go with a stern warning to call if he heard from Panzer, but Brass didn't expect much.
They had enough evidence to be very suspicious of Panzer, but not enough to find her. Brass figured that she had left town as soon as she'd hung up the phone at one-thirteen a.m., but the odds of some other jurisdiction picking her up were pretty low.
So he was rather surprised when, halfway into the next night shift, Panzer turned herself in.
The woman across the table in the interview room was tall and strong, and rather striking with a mane of ebony hair, but her eyes were red and her face puffy, and she had an air of woebegone bewilderment. She had been Mirandized, but so far had not asked for a lawyer.
Brass, sitting opposite, folded his hands and rested them on the table. "What happened, Ms. Panzer?" he asked gently.
The story tumbled out of her. Panzer and Cornwall had met online, become friends and then cyber-lovers, and finally he had come to Vegas to be with her. They had spent three months in bliss...until Panzer had come home from work in the middle of the day, unexpected, and found her boyfriend in the arms of his boyfriend, whom he'd also met online. Furious and heartbroken, she had coshed Cornwall when he'd followed her to her bedroom to try to talk, then gone back down and taken Lipton by surprise and done the same to him.
"Why did you suspend them from the ceiling?" Brass asked, still puzzled.
Panzer shook her head. "I don't know...I just wanted them to disappear...they made me sick to my stomach."
He sighed, and gestured for the officer at the door to perform the arrest.
Panzer's rage rose again, spilling over the officer's words, though she didn't resist being cuffed. "Frickin' Limey," she said bitterly. "Came all the way over here to steal my man--"
Her story degenerated into semi-coherent, somewhat homophobic ranting, and Brass watched with weary cynicism as she was led from the room.
Grissom and Sara were waiting in the hallway when Brass emerged; they had been watching through the one-way window. "Sad," Sara commented quietly.
Brass shrugged resignedly. "She could have just thrown them both out, but no, she had to get creative."
Grissom pursed his lips, and Brass noticed that his eyes were starting to gleam. "Now let me get this straight," he said in his quote voice, and paused.
It took Brass a moment, and then he groaned. "Oh, no. Gil, c'mon, don't."
"She put the Limey with the cocoa nut, and cranked them both up," Grissom continued, smirking. Sara's jaw dropped.
Amusement swelling, Brass gave in. "She called her doctor, woke him up..."
Grissom started to chuckle, and Brass couldn't help grinning. Sara looked from one to the other, then rolled her eyes in exasperation. With great deliberation, she reached up and smacked them both lightly on the back of the head.
"Now I feel better," she declared, and walked away.
"You're such a silly woman!" Brass called after her, unable to resist.
She didn't turn, but her gesture made her feelings quite clear. Grissom tossed him a wink and followed her, still snickering.
Score. Brass turned and headed for the front door, humming.