A/N: Okay, here it is. You all are hysterically funny. Nobody guessed who the bad guy is, but I had some very entertaining suggestions, including Ecklie's son, the resident who helped operate on Grissom in "Edge of Forever," to a long, long, long list nephew of Grissom's who was scared by one of Grissom's pet spiders at the age of 4. Thanks for making me laugh.
NIGHTMARE IN PARADISE
Grissom entered the interrogation room. Casco stood.
"Same room. Very different situation," the detective said. "Sorry I roughed you up."
He extended a hand and Grissom took it, but his focus was on the suspect.
"I'll be right outside," Casco said.
Grissom pulled out a chair and stradled it backwards. He studied the young man for a moment. Nice looking. Slight of build but wiry strong. Light brown hair, longish. Gray eyes. You don't see gray eyes often. Grissom thought he would have remembered.
"Do you know me?" Grissom asked.
"Yeah, I know you," the suspect answered. The surly tone belied the almost angelic face.
"Do I know you?" Grissom said.
"Yeah, but you probably don't remember."
"What's your name?"
"Craig Mason," the suspect replied.
It took Grissom a moment, but then it all came thundering back.
"You're Paul Millander's son?" Grissom said. He thought he sounded incredulous, and he was.
"His adopted son.
Grissom's head was spinning. Paul Millander had been one of the most unsettling cases of his career. Paul Millander, a trans-sexual born Pauline. Paul Millander, an adult man leading two lives: a loner who made Halloween specialty items in one life, a traffic court judge named Mason with a wife and son in the other. He murdered men whose birthdays fell on the same date as the murder of his own father, and he staged the killings to look like suicide, just as his father's death had been staged.
At one point, Grissom thought he would be the killer's next victim, since the date was his birthday, too. But the final victim became Millander himself.
Grissom's frown deepened when he looked back at Craig Mason.
"Your father tried to frame me for one of his murders," he said. "He used a fake Halloween hand to plant my fingerprints around the scene."
"He was messing with your head," Mason said.
"So you thought you'd carry it one step farther and mess with my life?" Grissom said.
"You ruined my family," Mason said, hatred ripe in his voice. "My father killed himself because of you. Everything in my life since has been part of a payback plan. I studied you. I studied your cases. I even followed you sometimes. I took the freakin' hospital job so I could hang out with doctors and nurses and figure out a way to do to you what you did to my father."
Grissom's features softened a bit. What a waste. He no longer saw a cold-blooded, calculating killer sitting across from him. He saw a tormented young man who saw what he wanted to see and believed what he wanted to believe.
"Craig, listen to me. Your father didn't kill himself because of me or anything I did to him. He killed himself because he couldn't live with who he was and what he'd become. He saw his own father murdered. That's something no child should have to witness."
"Sort of like me, huh?" Mason said.
That thought took Grissom's breath away.
When they left police headquarters, Grissom asked Sara to drive. He was too distracted. The full weight of the last eight days had crashed down on him as he walked away from the interrogation room where a 19-year-old man disclosed an anger so deep it had driven him to assault at least four people and kill at least four more just to exact revenge on Grissom.
A wave of nausea had overcome him. His mouth began to water. Grissom separated himself from Brass and Sara and walked into the men's room.
He got sick.
He was sweating. He flushed the toilet and leaned against the wall of the stall. He had no idea how long he stood there before the air conditioning dried his skin and the weakness began to fade.
"Grissom? You okay?" Brass's voice outside the stall.
Grissom unlocked the door and emerged.
"You look like hell," Brass said.
Grissom couldn't think of anything to say. He really didn't want to talk. He walked to a sink, washed his hands and rinsed his mouth as best he could. He splashed cold water on his face, and then leaned heavily on the sink, staring at the drain, reliving the brief encounter with Craig Mason.
He felt Brass's hand on his shoulder. "Why don't you come outside and sit down for a few minutes."
Grissom nodded and allowed Brass to steer him a few doors to his office. Sara was waiting. Concern clouded her face. Brass planted Grissom in a chair. He took two small bottles of water from the small refrigerator behind his desk. He handed one to Sara, opened the second one and gave it to Grissom.
Grissom closed his eyes and dropped his head. He didn't think he'd ever been so tired.
When she got him home, Sara suggested he go back to bed. He went to the sofa, instead, and stretched out there. He still hadn't said a word.
He threw an arm over his eyes. Sara hoped he might drift off, but his left hand was so tightly clenched at his side, his breathing so ragged, she suspected he was replaying the whole Millander case, and it was tearing him up, just as it had when it unfolded originally.
Grissom's cell phone rang. He made no move to answer it. Sara picked it up. "Ecklie" appeared in the Caller ID window.
Sara moved off toward the bedroom and answered it.
"Hey, Ecklie, it's Sara," she said before he could speak. "I didn't have a chance to thank you for ignoring a few lab rules so we could rethink the case against Grissom."
"You're welcome. It was a big risk with a big reward. I've got my top CSI back. And that's why I'm calling."
"Jim Brass just brought me up to speed. He told me what happened at the jail."
"Yeah," Sara said. "It was pretty rough. Grissom's a wreck."
"It's been that kind of week for him."
"I'm keeping him on mandatory paid leave for another two weeks, at least," he said. "I want you to get him away from here, as far away from Las Vegas as the two of you can afford to go. Go to Hawaii. Or Paris. Or Istanbul. Anywhere but here. Give yourselves a chance to recharge. Take three weeks if he needs it. Or four. He's got plenty of vacation piled up. All I ask is that when you come home, you bring the old Grissom with you."
After Sara hung up, she checked on Grissom. His breathing had grown more measured. He didn't look relaxed, but she was pretty sure he was sleeping.
She turned away and went to the computer.
When Grissom awoke, he had no idea what time it was. He raised his arm to look at his watch and noticed Sara sitting in a chair across from him, watching him.
He sat up, rubbed his eyes and took a deep breath. His mouth tasted the way the inside of a Dumpster looks.
"Don't go away," he told Sara. He headed for the bathroom.
When he returned, he saw that Sara had moved to the sofa and was reading several sheets of printer paper.
"What do you have there?" he asked.
"Just some research I did while you were asleep."
He sat beside her and reached for the papers. She held them away.
"What?" he said. He knew when she was teasing him.
He frowned and remembered his phone had rung. "What did he want?"
"He's put you on paid leave for a minimum of two weeks. He said you could take up to four."
Grissom felt irritation. It didn't take much to trigger that where Ecklie was concerned.
"Hey, cut him a little slack," Sara said gently. "He authorized our parallel investigation."
"I know," Grissom said. "I just don't like owing him anything."
"He's not going to try to collect," Sara said. "He made that pretty clear. Uh, anyway, he said I should get you out of town, away from Las Vegas."
"There's no where I want to go," Grissom insisted.
"Sure there is," Sara said. "And I've already made reservations."
Grissom felt bewildered.
"First," she said, "we're flying to Lima. That's, uh, in Peru."
He scowled at her, and she smiled.
"From Lima, we fly to Puerto Maldonado. Then it's a two-and-a-half hour trip by boat on the Infiermo River to Refugio Amazonas, and a ten-minute walk to the lodge. The lodge is on the Tambopata National Reserve and the starting point for expeditions to the Tambopata Research Center. After a week there …"
Grissom felt himself grin. "The Amazon Rainforest."
"You said you wanted to go back," she said. "And I've never been. I've heard there are really cool bugs there."
He stood and drew her up to him. He kissed her lightly on the nose.
"When do we leave?" he asked.
"Day after tomorrow."
"Good," he said. "Then I have time to take you somewhere else for a while."
He put his arm around her shoulders and led her to the bedroom.
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