MAGIC BULLET : 100
If a stranger offered you the chance to get away with murder...
would you take it?
He felt cold, so dreadfully, sickly cold, as though the heat were slipping away from him with each beat of his heart. He pressed down upon the wounds, feeling the warmth leaching out between his fingers along with a sticky, thick liquid that oozed out and about him. Those eyes stared up at him, begging, pleading for an end to the suffering.
He glanced about madly, screaming, but his words were unintelligible even to him. He wasn't even certain it was English anymore. Even if it were, he did not think he'd be able to hear his own voice over the thundering of his own heart in his ears as it slammed in his skull.
A hand pawed at him limply, catching his shirt and his attention. "Gri..."
"Warrick," he breathed, his voice dropping to a barely audible whisper in what was the only thing he felt coherent of as a dozen Klaxon sirens wailed in his mind about differentials and the pints of blood a body could lose before death. "Hang on... It's going to be alright. You're going to be fine, Warrick."
But those dark eyes were already glazed as the body slowly went still and limp.
Warrick Brown died in his arms, and Grissom had been completely unable to do anything to help him, to save him. He'd desperately tried CPR, pounding on the man's chest, but to no luck. Nothing. The paramedics arrived, took the CSI, and pumped epinephrine into Brown's veins in monstrously large doses, shocking his heart, but nothing. Not a damned flicker of a response. Warrick had been dead by the time Grissom got to him. His body just hadn't quite gotten the hint yet.
After the EMTs had taken Warrick from the scene, it was a simple matter of going through the motions, Grissom's own body and mind unreasonably and uncomfortably numb. He felt dazed and sluggish, as though the whole world moved in a viscous sludge about him, sucking the entomologist down and into it. He answered Brass's questions, but his own responses had little to no coherence nor meaning to Grissom. Catherine had tried to talk to Grissom and to assure her boss that she was certain he'd be cleared of all suspicion in no time at all, as one of the day shift crew called in on short notice to avoid potential conflict of interest cut away his shirt to collect and process any lingering trace evidence or potential GSR. Grissom understood the need, the protocol, but he couldn't have cared less. Nothing really mattered. All that mattered was the simple fact that Warrick had died there.
His head hurt, aching and throbbing with a building migraine, but even that didn't seem to be of any important anymore. Catherine must have noticed it, for, the next thing Grissom knew, he had been herded into her Crime Lab registered Denali. She must have gotten help from Stokes and Sanders in ferrying him to the truck. The woman was sharp and knew her superior well, Grissom had to give her credit for that. With him as a suspect and the term "conflict of interest" being bandied about and dropped here and there on a dime, Willows couldn't take him back to the Lab. Instead, she and the guys drove him home.
When he finally had a chance to take his medication, Grissom rubbed his bleary eyes and glanced across his own living room coffee table to survey the other three investigators. As always, Catherine bore an oddly warm expression, fetching her boss water like a mother hen. Stokes looked distant and contemplative, obviously bothered but equally as obviously not ready to process any emotions, still thinking about the murder in a clinical, investigative sense to avoid the messy jumble of grief that even Grissom knew would hit Nick as soon as the gravity of the situation, of his friend's death, hit home like a hammer blow to his heart. Sanders, however, looked like he had already hit that, shaking like a leaf, his eyes misty. He looked so much younger and so very innocent compared to the other, more seasoned CSIs. Grissom pondered how lucky the three of them were to be alive granted the sordid events their crime scenes brought them, wondered at how close the three of them- no, the four of them, including himself, and the rest of the team- had been over the years.
The next morning, Grissom was cleared of all wrong doing.
It had been a day now, and the body hadn't been released yet, but that didn't change the facts or the evidence. Dead. As in gone. As in permanent. As in just another victim lying out on Doc Robbins's slab to be stripped, studied, photographed, washed, and catalogued along with the evidence. The others couldn't bring themselves yet to even look at the body, but, as lead investigator and supervisor, Grissom felt it almost necessary to be present, despite Ecklie's protests. He wanted to be there. He needed to be there. He had seen Warrick Brown die, and a part of Gil Grissom needed the kind of bittersweet closure of bringing the killer to justice, even if it wouldn't bring Warrick back from the dead.
Ecklie and Robbins both threw Grissom out before the autopsy actually took place, and it nearly pushed Grissom over the edge. He found himself wandering, just walking the strip, his feet instinctively guided to the casinos and the rollercoasters he'd held so dear. Yet, even after a few hours of riding those, the rides had yet to yield their usual comfort and clarity. He'd been there. He'd watched Warrick die. No plunging drop, no corkscrews, and certainly not a damned loop-da-loop would ever change that fact. And the killer was still on the loose, with little to no leads or evidence.
In fact, there had been no evidence, really. The bullets recovered from Warrick's car matched bullets from the pistol found dropped at the scene. The serial number had been completely destroyed beyond any hope of restoration. Not a damned fingerprint. No blood. Nothing. Not a damned traffic camera pointed in that direction either, and the surveillance footage from the one security camera in the area had conveniently gone missing.
He had picked his favorite coaster to ride, and spent a few uneventful trips alone before a man in a pressed, ebony business suit slipped into the car beside him, despite all the other empty seats. Grissom might have argued, might have pointed out that there were plenty of other seats on the New York - New York Hotel & Casino's coaster, but he couldn't find it in him to argue after everything that had happened over the last weeks. Instead, Grissom merely gave him a quick survey. The man wore darkly tinted glasses, despite the black of night, hiding his eyes. He had the stereotypical look of a movie secret agent, right down to the damn neared deadly set of his features. The stranger came complete with an attache case, which he quickly stowed between his legs before buckling himself in the car.
When the attendant appeared to ensure their shoulder harnesses were down and secured and possibly lecture the newcomer that bags were not allowed on the coaster, the stranger beat Grissom to the punch of paying off the attendant with a crisp 100 bill. "On me."
Grissom shrugged it off and turned his gaze away. He wasn't about to argue with his random benefactor. The two of them sat in silent for a moment as the train before to coast free of the casino to the climb, jangling the entire way up the chain lift among the Las Vegas lights and the elaborate set dressing of the New York - New York Hotel. He had embraced the scenery so very often on several lonely contemplative rides down the coaster that Grissom had almost memorized the miniature version of New York City that sprawled about them. He smiled faintly at the fake Chrysler Building and the Statue of Liberty juxtaposed almost inappropriately against the Eiffel Tower just up the Strip, unable to even summon his usual appreciation of the effect.
Finally, his unusual companion spoke in a rough voice. "Dr. Gilbert Grissom."
It was only his name, yet it was more than enough to startle even the generally unflappable Grissom as the rollercoaster continued to ascend the initial climb. "Have... we met before?"
"No, but I know you very well."
Grissom furrowed his brow, peering over the increasingly steep drop to the side to hide even his own confusion at the situation. "And how is that?"
"Let's just say I've been following your career very closely, Dr. Grissom." The man smirked ever so slightly, a calculated expression. "Dr. Gilbert Grissom. Born August 17th, 1956, in Santa Monica, grew up in Marina Del Rey, California. Majored in biology in UCLA. Financed your first body farm at college through the winnings of a high stakes poker game. Very nice example you'd set for your students at Williams College."
As the coaster started to tip over the top of the first big hill, before the inertia could take hold, Grissom shook his head. "How did you...?"
The train screamed down the hill, rattling down the track deafeningly, but the stranger just bellowed over the noise, ignoring Grissom's question. "Night shift supervisor of the Clark County Crime Lab." Grissom couldn't watch the shifting Las Vegas skyline about them, unable to tear his gaze from the stranger's knowing look at the man in the suit continued, "Although, admit it: you really only got that position because Captain Jim Brass took a dive on the Holly Gribbs thing."
Grissom's jaw tightened, and it wasn't from the first harsh, jolting turn. The man in the suit knew about him, knew more about him that Grissom really cared for any stranger to know. He scowled at the stranger beside him that had dared invade both his solace of the coaster and his privacy.
"Who are you?" Grissom demanded in a half-growl.
The man flashed a twisted grin, but Grissom knew it wasn't from the ride as the train thundered through another tight turn and whipped about towards the hotel again. "Agent Graves. And, I assure you, the pleasure is, in fact, all yours."
"Why is that, pray tell?"
The man reached up once to tip his glasses down and draw a pistol, in a slick, cool motion despite the jarring of the coaster around them, cocking it with a dry click and pointing it at Grissom. "Because I am the man who's going to give you Warrick Brown's killer."
They sat in silence for the rest of ride, mostly because Grissom couldn't think of any rational to say to that without both his piece and some serious back-up, wondering if, perhaps, this man was really a contract killer, Warrick's murderer come to add another casualty from the LVPD Crime Lab to his list of hits. When the train finally came to a stop at the station, the ride attendants didn't approach as they usually did, as though somehow afraid of the man in the black, despite the fact that the stranger had been quite careful to keep his handgun out of obvious sight. Grissom sat, feeling pinned by the shoulder restraints of the ride, like a trapped rat amid a deadly viper.
"As the old cliche always goes, don't do anything funny," the stranger ordered.
Slowly, deliberately, the stranger took his glasses off, folded them, and tucked them into his breast pocket, keeping his handgun trained on his captive. Grissom tensed, half-expecting a quick and clean single GSW to the head at point blank range, a distant part of his brain illogically thankful for the close range since it would leave plenty of fresh, clean evidence. That is, a part of his mind was thankful for that before it dully sank in that Grissom wouldn't be the one to analyze the evidence of his own murder. He swallowed and held his breath, keeping his features as passive and unphased as he could muster, hoping the effect lasted though whatever this was and that this hitman didn't get the satisfaction of seeing a reaction from his victim.
With an air of eerie reverence, the man took the attache case from between his legs where he had somehow stowed it through the bumpy ride of the notoriously "rough" New York rollercoaster without any extra expended effort- all the while holding a casual conversation laced with a hint of impending doom. He set the brown case upon his legs carefully, gingerly. The man stared at the attache case as though it were a ticking time bomb for a moment, despite how innocuous it seemed. Grissom vaguely acknowledged the designer and manufacturer as Louis Vuitton based off of the repeating pattern of the logo, from a case revolving around murder and mayhem in a purse counterfeiting ring. In anyone else's hands, the attache might have seemed utterly mundane, but, in this stranger's hands, it could have held anything.
The man drew a deep breath before solemnly requesting, "I want you to think very clearly about how it felt to hold Warrick Brown as he died for a moment."
"I will not play into your game."
The man smirked. "I'm not asking you to. I'm only asking that you bear that in mind, that you remember that though it all."
Grissom sighed, feeling a truth gnawing at his gut. "I'll never forget."
"Good," the man said with a quick, curt nod.
The investigator let out another breath. "Who are you?"
"My name is Agent Graves, and I'm your new best friend." The man chuckled oddly even as Grissom committed the name and facial structure of his unwanted companion to memory. "Although, don't bother running my id. I know what you're thinking Dr. Grissom."
"Really now?" Grissom questioned, annoyed by the presumption.
Graves nodded. "You're thinking that I'm going to kill you but, if I don't, you're going to run my name, along with any and all prints and video images you find of me from the casino surveillance tapes." The stranger turned to Grissom and just about winked mischievously at the trapped CSI. "Don't bother. It will be a waste of your time and resources to search for a person who doesn't exist when you will have far more important matters to attend to."
Were Graves one of Grissom's CSIs, he might have been proud at such a keen insight. He had indeed been contemplating the scores of evidence to identify this Agent Graves if the stranger allowed him to live.
Graves smirked, waving his pistol almost fickly. "Now, Dr. Grissom, since the formalities of our identities have been addressed, how about we discuss business?"
"I'm not interested in any business with you."
"Oh, on the contrary. I assure you, you are," Graves announced sternly, reaching into his breast pocket to pull something, a photograph out and display it to Grissom. "Do you recognize this man, Dr. Grissom?"
The entomologist glanced over to study the photograph and furrowed his brow. "Undersheriff McKeen."
"Good. Very good."
Grissom frowned. "What does this have to do with Warrick Brown?"
"This man killed your esteemed Mr. Brown," Graves announced in a completely flat and emotionless tone.
The creases seemed to deepen in the investigator's face; Grissom shook his head. "Impossible."
"You, of all people, Dr. Grissom, should know what human beings are capable of when it comes to murder." Graves fixed him in a feral stare. "Dr. Grissom, this man is Lou Gedda's mole in the Las Vegas Police Department. He has secretly been working under the employ of Gedda for several years to ensure that no cases which could prove volatile to Gedda's rather... unsavory business were crushed before they could make it to trial. Leaked information to the mob. Tampered with, destroyed, and or just lost key evidence to several cases. Floated identities and locations of witnesses to Gedda to see that they never made it to trial." Graves paused there, letting the information sink in before finishing. "He believed that Warrick Brown was on to his identity as the mole in the LVPD and saw fit to silence him before Brown could make a case against him."
Grissom clenched his jaw, struggling for a moment to keep his cool composure when faced with such a tale. "I don't believe it."
"Oh, but you will." Graves smirked, grinning from ear to ear like a mad cheshire cat. "What is it you always say, Dr. Grissom? Ah, yes. 'The evidence never lies.'" The agent looked down to the case for but a second, eyeing it hungrily. "And, in this case, you will find irrefutable evidence to this fact."
"I'm sorry, but what agency did you say you were with, Mr. Graves?" Grissom questioned, ignoring the bait the stranger hung so tantalizingly before him.
Grissom gave a single, stiff bob of his head. "What do you want?"
"Merely to give you this." Graves gave a jerk of his head in the direction of the attache in his lap. "Now, as I was saying, inside this case, you will find irrefutable evidence to the identity of the man who killed your friend, along with a handgun and one hundred rounds of untraceable ammunition."
"No bullets are untraceable," the CSI argued. "GSR, unique striations like individual fingerprints from the gun that fired it. There is no such thing as a magic bullet. I would think someone as supposedly smart as you are would know better."
"These, I assure you, are." Graves adjusted his tie slightly. "I have seen to it that any investigations will immediately cease once the bullets are retrieved should you chose to exercise terminal force. All untraceable and all yours to do with as you see fit. I am giving you complete carte blanche." The made smiled slyly. "You could say you could get away with murder."
"No one gets away with murder," Grissom snapped.
"Your... fish board should be evidence illustrating quite the contrary," the man pointed out. "I have ensured every possibly means to prevent even mild suspicion from landing upon you. The contents of this case of yours to act upon as you desire, and I leave it at that."
"What if I don't want to take it?" the CSI demanded bitterly.
"I have put you above the law, Dr. Grissom, in regards to the murderer of Warrick Brown, and you intend to just walk away?" Graves laughed a tiny, uneasy chuckle and shrugged. "Then, it will be left here for someone else, perhaps someone with lesser moral convictions to find." He gave a rather pointed, accusing glare over his glasses. "Care to make a wager on what they might do precisely with one hundred untraceable rounds?"
Grissom sighed, feeling rather mentally trapped now to match his physical entrapment. "I'm not a betting man."
"Not when the odds are stacked so badly against your favor."
"Why are you doing this?"
Graves shrugged in a faux-nonchalant way that suggested whatever he was about to say would be a lie or misdirection. "Perhaps I'm just a samaritan that wants to see McKeen go down for what he's done." Grissom smirked at the misdirection, even as Graves carried it on. "Perhaps I'm just a little insane." Graves drew a deep breath. "But, as you have always said, motive is not your business. Only evidence."
The CSI looked down, pursing his lips in a deepening frown. "I'm not a murderer."
"I'm not saying you are, Dr.Grissom," Graves replied to the assertion in a tone that hinted that he knew the statement had really been only for the speaker's benefit. "However, people with loftier morals than you and in far direr of situations have taken the opportunity despite claiming that they could not, would not."
Graves pushed the attache case into Grissom's lap. "Undersheriff McKeen knows that the investigation into the mole is still pending, especially in the light of Warrick Brown's murder. He intends to keep a wary eye on your team. If he so much as suspects that any of your CSIs are getting close to his identity again... well, I suppose you can guess how that will end." He retrieved his dark sunglasses one more and slipped them onto his nose. "You've already lost one of the members of your team, Dr. Grissom, How many others do you need to lose before you decide the situation is dire enough?"
At that, Grissom had almost been tempted to throw open the attache case and just shoot Graves right there where he sat for even suggestion such a thing. Yet, a part of him could not. A part of him knew instinctively from Graves's mannerisms and speech patterns that the mysterious agent was telling the truth, or, at least, what Graves honestly believed to be the truth. Not a single sign of potential fabrication marred the perfectly calm facade to Graves through the entire thing, leaving Grissom faced with the terrible conclusion that whatever was in the case was evidence enough to the truth. It was evidence he had to get to the Crime Lab for analysis.
His hands involuntarily closed upon the attache, and Graves beamed at him in a sense of victory. "See?" Graves gave a nod to the ride operators, and the shoulder restraints released the two men. "Oh, and one another thing, Dr. Grissom." He pointed his handgun to the attache. "The contents of that case are for your eyes only. Show anyone, and I do mean anyone, any of the contents of that case, and I cannot be responsible for the repercussions."
"What sort of repercussions?" Grissom asked carefully, his mind already racing in delirious glee at the thousands of possibilities of what evidence could be in the attache while screaming at the same time to watch his own contact with it to avoid tainting the evidence Graves has left all over the outside of the case.
"Grave ones, Dr. Grissom."
Grissom smirked to himself. "You don't scare me, Agent Graves."
Grissom's smile nearly melted away entirely when he saw the almost macabre grin on Agent Graves's face before the stranger slipped back into the shadows that flanked the coaster station. "No. But I would be very afraid if I were you, Dr. Grissom. For Greg Hojem Sanders. For Catherine Willows-Flynn. For Nicholas Stokes. For Albert Robbins. And, especially for Sara Sidle. If the Undersheriff lives and discovers the contents of that case, you can be certain he will use all of his resources to silence you and whoever you might foolishly share this information with, and you just don't know who he might run into first."
"I may be," Graves admitted as the shadows seemed to pool about him. "But I assure you, I'm one of the good guys. And people like McKeen? They're most assuredly the bad guys."
And, with that, Graves melted away into the night.
Author's Notes: Hi, I'm Kathain Bowen. You may know me from other fanfiction stories such as DUMPSHOCK (insert shameless plug here). I'm here to welcome you to MAGIC BULLET.
To catch you guys up who are a bit confused as well as to offer credit to where its due, 100 BULLETS is the DC/Vertigo title by Brian Azzarrello that begs the opening question to this fic. It's an Eisner Award winner, so you know it's got to be good. The story features our mysterious Agent Graves, who occasionally approached the victim of a terrible wrong and offers them an attache case, 100 untraceable bullets, a handgun, the evidence of the person who wronged them, and the chance to set things right through whatever actions the individual feels the need to take. There's more to it, but anything else would be spoilers and territory I don't currently plan on heading towards (so don't worry about it. P )
So, now that Grissom has been offered the chance, and as the story continues, ask yourself what you would do when presented with the one hundred bullets.