Disclaimer: All characters and such belong to CBS. I own the characters that I made up and the new plot.
Summary: Grissom and his team dig up eight bodies in the woods and rush to process the evidence before a possible serial killer strikes again. Back at the lab, DNA evidence provides a chilling twist on the old story...
Chronology: No specific time, just one of the seasons with Grissom
Pairings: Slight GSR.
Rating: T for situations and probably some mild cursing.
Author's Note: My deepest apologies to everyone who has been following this story. I feel so bad about how long it takes me to update. Hopefully my recent streak of writing inspiration will continue and you won't have to wait so long for the next one. I'd love to hear from you!
Jim Brass smartly rapped his knuckles on the outer screen door of the tiny, faded green house. Several seconds passed and there was no response from inside. Sara and Grissom fidgeted behind him. He knocked again.
This time, the battered inner door creaked open slowly to reveal a skinny young girl with matted long black hair and pale blue eyes. She wore a bright blue spaghetti strap top, stained here and there, that hung on her bony frame and a shabby pair of denim shorts. Her eyes darted over the men and the woman standing on her porch, never looking them in the eye.
"Is this the Malone residence?" Brass asked.
The girl jerked her head up and down once.
Brass glanced over at Grissom before turning back to the girl. "Is Mr. Malone home?"
Her head jerked to the side and back again, her eyes widening.
"Guess that's a no," Brass muttered under his breath.
Grissom held up a hand. Doing his best to look the girl in eye, he gently said, "We're with the crime lab. We have a warrant to look around the house. May we come in?"
Looking truly fearful now, the girl nonetheless unlatched the screen door and pushed it partially open. She then backed hurriedly away from the doorway, hands clasped at her sides, biting her lip, eyes still downcast and flitting back and forth.
Grissom held the door open for Sara and Brass before he entered himself. The interior of the house was rather dark, and the smell of old food and unwashed clothing hung in the air. Paint was peeling from several walls and the carpets were all stained. He realized he was standing in the living room only when he noticed a lump of furniture that had once been a couch and an old TV perched precariously on a small plywood structure. Piles of food wrappers and pizza boxes littered the floor.
He pulled out his pocket flashlight and directed its beam into the darkest corners, but only found more filth. "I'm going to have a look in the garage," he announced. "Sara, stay with her."
"Got it," Sara replied. She watched as Grissom left the room, and then turned to the strange waif standing behind her. Crouching down to her level, she softly said, "My name's Sara Sidle. What's yours?"
The girl only shivered in response.
"Ok," Sara replied quietly. "We don't have to talk if you don't want to."
She fidgeted and shifted, but seemed marginally less threatened.
"We just need to look around, maybe take a few things that will help us learn about your dad. Is that ok?"
Her eyes widened but she still didn't say anything.
Sara nodded and stood up, trying to decide what to do while she waited for Grissom. She surveyed the living room, trying not to inhale too deeply. Anybody who raises kids in a place like this doesn't deserve to have them, she thought, her brow creasing in anger.
Meanwhile, Grissom entered the attached garage cautiously, not sure if he should trust the word of a terrified child as to whether or not the homeowner was around. Brass and a group of cops were covering the perimeter, but this was exactly the sort of place that heavily reinforced the idea of 'better safe than sorry'.
The garage smelled of motor oil, rot, and dirty laundry and had all manner of garbage strewn about the floor and workbenches, including at least two dead mice and a layer of grime that seemed to permeate the very air. Still, Grissom had a strange, sick feeling that the area might somehow be cleaner than the inside of the house.
He moved through the space delicately, stepping over tools and trash, looking for something to connect this Charles Malone to the bodies in the woods. The sheer amount of stuff scattered around was overwhelming, but the years had taught the CSI how to instantaneously categorize the visual details he was getting and concentrate on what might be relevant to the case at hand. Old cans of paint, rusty wrenches and hammers, empty half-crushed beer cans, broken glass, drop cloths, batteries of various sizes, snack food wrappers, and mildewed boxes of rodent poison cluttered the shelves and workbenches but only got a cursory glance as Gil labeled them "likely irrelevant" in his mind. If he didn't find anything else, he might go back and take a closer look to see if they were pertinent to the case.
When he'd almost given up and returned to carefully examine the old batteries, he realized what he'd originally thought was the back wall was actually a filthy tarp that had probably been an off-white color at one point but was now sort of a dingy blue-gray that matched the walls. He approached it with caution, and peeled back an edge even more carefully.
A nondescript old shovel with a rough wooden handle leaned up against an old yellowed chest freezer.
Grissom leaned in, almost afraid to go with the logical conclusion. There was a crumbly residue of dark dirt on the rusted metal bottom, however, and as he moved his pocket flashlight up the length of the object, he found several dark reddish dried smears. A quick swab and some phenolphthalein confirmed the presence of blood. He snapped several pictures.
He was afraid to try the freezer.
Sara was still standing awkwardly with the little girl when Grissom suddenly reentered the living room. "I think I found the shovel that was used," he informed his partner, and then stopped.
The girl was keeping her fists tightly clenched by her sides, but he could still see a reddish stain along the outside edges.
As non-threateningly as he could, he crouched down in front of her. Gently, he asked, "May I see your hands, please? Palms up." He demonstrated with his own hands.
She began to shake.
Grissom waited a minute before he slowly reached towards her. She didn't react. He gently took her wrists in his hands and brought them forward. She still didn't resist, but shook harder. With extreme caution, he opened her fingers away from her palms.
He, Sara, and the girl all winced.
Both palms were a mess of red flesh. The wounds oozed a little blood and showed evidence of repeated partial healing and re-injuring. Some areas oozed a white liquid and were possibly infected. The skin around the outer edges of the wounds was pink with new skin, but everywhere else bore signs of some terrible trauma.
Somewhat shocked, Sara raised her own camera and snapped a picture of the shocking injuries on the girl's hands.
The girl was crying now, silently. Fearful tears ran down her face, and only a few seconds after Sara had taken the picture, the terrified child vomited violently, barely missing Grissom's shoes.
Grissom stood with Sara and Brass several feet from where the girl was sitting in the back of a squad car, bare feet dangling through the open door, wrapped in a heavy gray police blanket. Despite the blanket and the warmth of the day, she continued shivering.
"You called for an ambulance?" Grissom asked Brass.
"Yeah, one should be here in about fifteen minutes."
"How did we not know that he had a kid?" Sara added, exasperated and clearly disgusted with the child's condition.
"Catherine didn't get much from the vehicle registration other than the guy's name and address. I had her start pulling up every piece of paper she could find on him, but it'll take a while. I asked her to call as soon as she had anything substantial."
They stood silently for a moment, just observing the shell-shocked child, and then Grissom walked slowly over to the car and pulled the door in front of the girl open the rest of the way. "Jim, do you have bottled water in your car?" Grissom asked as he peered at the girl in the backseat of the squad car, slipping a hand under her chin and tilting her head up. She didn't resist, just maintained that look of dull fear.
"Yeah, sure. What for?"
"I'd say it's a safe bet that she's malnourished, which means she's likely dehydrated as well. Plus she just threw up whatever she might have had in her stomach."
It only took the detective a minute to retrieve a bottle and hand it off to Grissom, who gently tipped some of the water into the girl's mouth, her hands painfully cradled in her lap. She sipped at the water like a baby bird.
Grissom's cellphone chose that moment to finally ring. "Sara, can you get that?" he asked, carefully tipping more water into the thirsty girl's mouth.
Sara eased the cellphone out of his back pocket gingerly and answered it on the third ring. "Grissom's cellphone, Sara Sidle speaking. Hey Catherine." She moved away from the car to continue the conversation.
When Grissom looked up a few minutes later, she signaled to him to come over to where she stood. He pressed the bottled water into Brass' hands with quick instructions on how to get the water into her throat without making her caugh.
"Well?" he asked as he approached his fellow CSI.
"She's a foster kid," Sara announced, even more disgusted than she'd been earlier. "A foster kid, for god's sake. How the hell did he get a foster kid? You know what, scratch that. How the hell did he pass home inspections?"
Grissom turned to look at her with a small shrug and a gentle tone. "The system's overburdened and overlooked. It sounds terrible, but I'm actually not terribly surprised."
Sara snorted, shaking her head.
"Did you get anything else?"
"Yeah…" Sara's own tone softened a little. "Her name's Kiara Goodrich and she's fourteen."
"Fourteen?" Now Grissom looked shocked, and turned to survey the girl in the back of the squad car. "I have seen twelve year olds bigger than her."
"She couldn't have killed those women," Sara added, dismissive. "There's no way."
"I agree with you Sara," he admitted. "But you saw her hands, the color of her shirt, the size of her feet. She was at the crime scene. We need to know what went on there, and how she's involved."
"I know," Sara admitted quietly. "But it doesn't seem fair."
Author's Note: Again, I'm so so sorry for the delay. I'm really trying to move things along as this story gets closer to a conclusion. Reviews are greatly appreciated, and thanks for sticking with me.