Summary: Someone's need for justice endangers a member of the team
Spoilers: Set early Season 7 so anything before that is fair game.
Disclaimer: CSI belongs to CBS, Alliance Atlantis, etc, etc.
The call was logged by LVMPD at 2:48am and a squad car was dispatched to investigate. The caller had reported a body at the bottom of a disused mine shaft about 30 minutes north of the city.
It had been a quiet night in Vegas and therefore a quiet night at the Las Vegas Crime Lab. Sara Sidle and Greg Sanders were out working a B & E at Henderson, Gil Grissom, supervisor of the graveyard shift, had spent most of the previous day in court and therefore had the night off. The remaining three members of the team - Catherine Willows, Warrick Brown and Nick Stokes had spent much of the shift catching up on paperwork.
When the call came in that CSI's would be required at the mineshaft crime scene, Catherine quickly assigned herself as lead investigator (anything to relieve the boredom of paperwork) and left it up to her two younger colleagues to decide which of them would accompany her. After a quick round of Rock Paper Scissors Nick grabbed his kit and joined Catherine for the ride out.
Half an hour later the pulled up at the scene and were surprised to see so much activity in the area. The initial responding unit had been joined by another squad car, the coroner's van, a fire & rescue truck and an unmarked Ford Taurus they recognized as the one usually driven by Jim Brass.
Brass approached as they moved to the rear of the Denali to retrieve their kits.
"Hey Jim, what we got?" asked Catherine as she lifted her heavy case.
"DB about 30 feet down a shaft. Looks like he's been beaten and dumped. We got drag marks leading up to the shaft and footprints both going to and coming away from it. I had the guys tape off the whole area and we've marked our routes in and out. I put a call in for portable lighting - flashlights aren't lighting the shaft too well. Until that arrives we can't really decide on the best way to get the body out." Jim reported as the three walked towards the taped of area.
"Do these tire tracks belong to one of these vehicles, Jim?" asked Nick as he looked around the ground where they were standing.
"No, I already checked that with the uniforms, I'm guessing these tracks belong to whoever was out here tonight." Brass said as he turned to walk back to the parked cars.
The two CSI's walked carefully towards the shaft, following the same path as the police officers had and skirting around the sheet metal cover that had been pulled aside to uncover the shaft. After a careful scan of the immediate area to check for obvious evidence they peered over the side. Although they used quite powerful flashlights the darkness of the mineshaft still made it difficult to make out the very depths. They could see the body lying face down but the light was insufficient to make out anything else.
"Okay," Catherine said as she turned from the opening and scanned the surrounding area, "we'll get started processing up here. Nick, you take the footprints and tire tracks and I'll concentrate on the rest of it."
They were both soon busy with their individual tasks. Nick was photographing and taking plaster casts of what appeared to be four distinctly different shoeprints, he also made a cast of the tire tracks and judged by the size and tread pattern that they probably belonged to a van. Catherine meanwhile had been doing a grid search of the area immediately surrounding the shaft and had found a man's navy blue polo shirt, which she photographed and bagged, but not much else. She dusted the shaft's metal cover hoping for fingerprints but found none. Moving further out from the scene she came across a group of small rocks set in a circular pattern. They had obviously been placed there to contain a fire. Reaching down to feel the rocks Catherine found them to be slightly warm.
Walking back to the Denali to store the evidence, Catherine and Nick were just in time to see a truck pull up behind the group of vehicles; clearly the portable lighting had arrived.
"Find anything, Cath?" asked Brass as he sauntered towards her.
"I got a shirt that I'm guessing belongs to the victim." she stated "Apart from that, nothing really. I did find the remains of a small fire that doesn't feel as though it's been out long... could be our vic was camping out here, was ambushed and robbed and wasn't going to give up without a fight."
"Vagrant?" asked Jim.
"Not if that's his shirt. Good quality, almost new by the feel. Unless he stole it himself that is not the kind of shirt you'd find on a vagrant. Nick's got some great casts from the tire tracks and footprints, looks like we had at least four people moving around out here recently."
"Well, the lights will be on shortly so we'll at least get a better look at one of them." said Brass as he watched them placing the portable lighting around the top of the shaft.
Within minutes the generators where humming away and that area was bathed in light. With the ground around the mineshaft cleared of evidence the assemble group of professionals gathered near the hole to discuss the best way to retrieve the body. The general consensus being that Fire & Rescue would be lowered into the shaft and strap the body into a litter then it could be hauled up and out.
"A CSI is going to have to go down first." stated Catherine. "We'll have to photograph the body in place and process the floor for any evidence that could be lying around. Once that's been done someone else can come down and we'll get the body out then."
"I'll do it." said Nick, checking the pockets of his vest to ensure he had all the equipment he might need with him.
Catherine and Brass looked at him, both surprised at his decision to be the one to enter the shaft. Knowing that he still had problems going below ground since his kidnapping and interment in a Perspex coffin, Catherine had automatically assumed she would be the one lowered into the hole.
"Can I have a word with you Nick?" She turned and moved away from the group.
"Are you sure you want to do this, Nicky?" she asked as he joined her, "I have absolutely no problem going down there if you don't want to, you know."
"Thanks for offering but I can do this Cath. When we had that case with the doomsday cult in the bunker, I spent so much time down there that after a while I found it wasn't affecting me anymore. This is just 30 feet or so and I can always look up and see the lights so there shouldn't be any problem.
"Well, as long as you're sure, but while you're down there we'll keep the radios open, at least that way no one will have to shout to be heard."
Within minutes Nick was introduced to Paul and Steve from Fire and Rescue and had been set up with a harness and then lowered into the shaft. The descent went quite quickly and he was surprised when he felt the ground underneath his feet. He uncoupled his harness from the rope and watched as it was pulled upwards again – his kit would be sent down next.
"How you doing, Nick?" Catherine's voice echoed somewhat in the shaft as she spoke into the open radio.
"Fine, Cath, no problem at all." the Texan replied as he began looking around.
The victim was laying on his front, his face turned slightly towards the wall of the shaft, the back of his head covered in dried blood. The left leg was lying at such an unnatural angle it was clearly broken. His uncovered back was covered in bruises and it was obvious he had been badly beaten.
Nick recited his initial findings into his radio.
"Victim is wearing blue jeans and white sport socks, no shirt, no shoes. Hard to tell age at this point but maybe late forties to early fifties. Looks to have taken a beating before he ended up down here."
"Heads up, Nick" Jim Brass's voice cut through and Nick looked up to see his kit being lowered down. He removed his camera and began taking photos of the undisturbed scene.
He was taking a close-up of the right arm when he noticed fibers in a deep abrasion that seemed to run most of the way around the wrist.
"He's been tied up at some point; there are fibers on his wrist that look consistent with a rope." He said as he carefully tweezed a few loose and placed them carefully into a bindle.
It was as he was kneeling next to the body that he heard a very faint moan.
"Catherine" he called as he very carefully placed his fingers on the man's neck to check for a pulse.
"Yeah Nick" she replied.
He moved his fingers slightly and found it – a very weak pulse "This guy's alive! He moaned and I found a pulse. You've got to get some help down here."
"Hang on Nick, its coming" she said into the radio as the Rescue guys scrambled to break out more equipment and Brass called in that a medevac chopper was going to be required.
"Make sure he doesn't move him." Paul said to Catherine. "Have him talk to the guy in case he can hear but don't move him, I'll be down there in a couple of minutes."
She relayed the message to Nick who quickly packed his kit away while reassuring the victim that help was on the way.
Within minutes he heard noises coming from above and looked up to see Paul descending the shaft.
"Any response?" he asked as he freed himself from the rope and removed his backpack then moved to kneel beside the victim, feeling for a pulse himself.
"Nothing at all since that first moan" Nick replied.
"Okay, the stretcher's coming down next. When it gets here you're going to have to give me a hand getting him into it. We'll have to get him up to the surface as soon as possible. There's nothing apart from this leg that looks as though it can't wait until he's up there. Hand me the backpack please, Nick."
As he was speaking he gently felt along the leg then began moving it into a more natural looking position, he then removed a splint from his backpack and carefully applied it to the injured limb. He also managed to place a cervical collar securely around the man's neck.
Nick moved to grab the stretcher as it was lowered down towards them and carefully maneuvered it in the small space.
"Get the backboard out, Nick and place it next to him so we can roll him onto it first." Paul instructed and Nick hurried to comply. He then took up a position by the victim's hip while Paul remained near his head. "We've got to try to keep him as still as possible as we do this Nick; we don't know what other injuries he's got. We'll strap him onto the board then into the litter and up to the surface. Hopefully by that time the helicopter will be here."
"On the count of three, all right Nick?" Paul asked.
"All set." Nick replied as he placed his hands to support the splinted limb as they moved him.
"One… two… three" Both men carefully turned the victim so that he now lay face up on the back board. They quickly began tying him down with straps that were attached to the board at head, chest, pelvis and ankle positions, and made sure that the left leg was completely immobilized.
Paul quickly checked his pulse and was pleased to see his patient was breathing a bit easier after the change of position. He was covered in a thick mixture of blood and dirt however Paul could still make out the extensive bruising that covered his exposed skin. He examined a deep laceration above the left eye that was still seeping blood and decided to dress it before they returned him to the surface.
As he was about to secure the chest strap he noticed what appeared to be a large burn in the middle of the man's chest and bent closer to get a better look. He removed a dressing pad from his pack and after soaking it with sterile water gently dabbed some of the dirt from the wound.
"Take a look at this and tell me what you think it is, will you?" He asked turning to glance at Nick.
The CSI moved up to look at the burn.
"Man, I know exactly what that is – he's been branded!" He grabbed his camera and took several photos of the wound.
"Yeah, that's what I thought." Paul replied, covering the area with a burn dressing and adjusting the chest strap so it wasn't to near the wound.
"Chopper's 5 minutes out" Catherine voice came over the radio.
"We won't be much longer down here" Paul advised as he and Nick lifted the backboard into the litter.
"If you make sure he's properly strapped in, Nick, I'll just dress this head wound."
Removing more dressings from his pack, he carefully wiped as much blood and dirt from the surrounding area as he could and covered the 3 inch gash with a sterile pad and tape.
Nick secured the last strap and stood up ready to assist Paul with moving the litter into position to be lifted back to the surface.
"He'll be ready to be hauled out in just a sec, Cath." He said into the radio as he looked down towards Paul and the victim.
"What the Hell?" He bent closer to the litter to make sure he was actually seeing correctly. "Oh my God!"
Instantly he was surrounded by voices - Brass and Catherine both speaking into their radios and Paul beside him. All demanding to know what had caused his outburst.
All Nick could do was stare at the face that Paul had uncovered when he'd cleaned away the blood and soil that had obscured it. The bruising was extensive and there was also a lot of swelling but Nick knew he wasn't mistaken – he knew this man.
"Nick, what is it? What's the matter?" The anxiety in Catherine's voice came clearly over the radio.
He felt numb, suddenly none of this felt real. He almost laughed out loud at how unbelievable it was but he managed to control that urge and finally answered her.
"Catherine, it's Grissom".