DISCLAIMER: Don't own anything associated with the show… I just like playing with the characters in it from time to time. Dance Monkeys! Dance!
RATING: T for Teen
SPOILERS: Through US Aired Episodes of Season 9
WORD COUNT: 4546
SUMMARY: Riley works an unusual case with Nick and learns the hard way that the whole world is going to the dogs.
A/N: This story was spawned after a rather amusing tail was told to me by a friend. The plot bunny hopped to life and beat me down until this fic was done. The inspiration was all hers, as are a few of the characters contained within. This one was also made possible by the tireless work of GuerillaBeta, who managed to meet my impatience once again.
REVIEWS: Reviews are the way I know if people are enjoying the work or not. So, if you leave one, THANKS! And if not, I hope you found at least a little something to brighten your day, and thanks for taking the time to read.
Assignments were Riley's favorite part of the shift. It was when she found out what her night was going to be like. It was also when she knew what everyone else's night was going to be like.
Tonight already promised to be interesting. Grissom had caught her in the locker room and told her she would be working with Nick for a change. Greg was a lot of fun to work with, but she was really looking forward to seeing how Nick approached a case. She had already gotten all the dirt on him from Greg and a couple of the techs, and Riley was intrigued to learn just how much of it was really true.
As Grissom called off the first assignment for Greg and Catherine, she was a little disappointed. "Catherine, take Greg out with you. We've got another suspicious activity call out on WLVU's Fraternity Row. There have been a rash of exploding toilets out there, and I seem to recall Greg has some experience with these."
Greg waggled his eyebrows at Riley and grinned. "At least I didn't blow up the whole lab to test that theory."
Grissom gave him a slightly disapproving glare just before Catherine piped in with, "No, just flooded the garage for a couple days, genius." She grabbed the slip from Grissom and shot back at Greg. "I'll be handling any experimentation on this case, thank you very much."
Riley was looking forward to hearing that story later.
"Nick, it looks like we might have some vandals who've crossed the line to animal abuse out in Seven Hills. There have been several complaints of locks being superglued for a few weeks now. All minor property crimes, until tonight. A woman came home to find her cat covered in glue and stuck to her front door. The fire department is still trying to get the cat loose from the door, and they've asked that we investigate the source. The escalation to animal abuse has everyone concerned they've got another serial killer in the making. But…" Grissom handed him the slip.
Nick finished his thought, "It's probably just some drunk teenagers with too much time and not enough sense."
Catherine snickered when she added, "Sounds right up your alley, Nicky." Riley saw the roll of Nick's eyes as he looked past Catherine's jibe.
"And you're taking Riley out with you tonight. I want you to get her checked out on a department vehicle and the trip out to Seven Hills is perfect for that." Grissom nodded to her with what she almost thought was a wink, and that worried her. "Make sure you take the long way."
"You got it, Boss." And with that, everyone broke for the night.
The ride out to Seven Hills could best be described as eventful. Nick had directed her to take the Strip. Riley was fairly certain it was the crossroads of hell because after that they navigated a maze of interconnected highways and meandering side roads until they reached the tangled spiderweb of residential streets known as Seven Hills. The one thing Riley Adams knew for certain, she was going to be using that stupid GPS locator a lot in the near future.
Once they were comfortably maneuvering through the neighborhood, Riley finally spoke up. "I have one thing to say about working this case with you, instead of Greg."
Nick continued to shuffle through his paperwork as he asked, "And what's that?"
"I don't think we would have survived that drive with all the jokes he would have been making about our 'victim.'" Riley managed to hold in most of the smirk threatening to break through, right up until the moment Nick's bark of laughter erupted.
"Oh man! I don't even want to think of all the wrong things he woulda made out of a cat covered in glue." They both were still laughing when they finally reached the scene.
The fire department was just removing the door to the house as they arrived. With the door off the hinges, they could safely cut off a section of the door off in order to transport the cat to animal control for examination and shaving.
As Nick and Riley made their way through the crowd of firefighters and neighbors, the jokes about a naked cat were already circulating. They both knew Greg never would have survived this case without punning himself to death.
As they neared the front of the crowd, Nick nodded to an older gentleman watching everything with great interest. "O'Reilly, what the heck are you doing out here? They didn't call you back from retirement, did they?"
"Not hardly, Stokes. I live down the street. Lady of the house is friends with my wife, so I called in a favor to get you guys to look into this mess." Riley watched as the two men shook hands and looked each other over.
"You're lookin' good, man. You sure you're not buckin' to come back to the force?" Nick patted the man's arm in jest.
"You look like you've picked up some of what I lost, Stokes." Riley watched as Nick took in a deep breath and sucked in his midsection a little with the comment. "But you're still too damn pretty for police work, kid." They all laughed at the exchange, and that was when the two men remembered Riley was there. "Speaking of too pretty…"
Nick suddenly thought of his manners and introduced her to the older man. "CSI Riley Adams, meet retired detective sergeant Ray O'Reilly. Ray was one of our best guys, back in the day."
Riley took the hand that was offered to her. "Honor to meet you, sir."
Ray shook his head and chuffed, "They just keep getting younger and younger, I guess."
"Yeah." Nick agreed with him a little too quickly for her tastes, but she was willing to let it slide. "So, what do you know about what's going on around here, Ray?"
"Started out with the trash can lids being duct taped shut. Then some wiseacre started filling up keyholes with superglue. That's when people started calling it in." Ray looked around at the people assembled on his neighbor's front lawn. "Stupid pranks, most of 'em are willing to overlook, but when it starts cutting into their pockets, they get ticked. But this?"
"Yeah, it's one thing to glue some locks, but something else entirely when they go after an innocent." Nick was writing everything down in his notes as he spoke to the man.
"Well, I don't know if I'd call Caine an innocent. Damn cat picks fights with every dog on the block." Riley could see the disgust in the man's face as he explained his position. "But even he doesn't deserve to be doused with industrial glue."
Riley was intrigued by his comment when she asked, "Industrial glue?"
"Yeah, some kind of liquid cement, according to the fire chief. Said it looked like the same stuff he uses on his boat." Ray seemed disgusted with that fact, but Riley was already busy scanning the other houses.
"Well, hey… Thanks, O'Reilly. We'll look into this and I'll let you know if we find anything, okay?" Her attention was drawn back to the two men as they shook hands once more and Nick guided her toward the fire chief in front of them.
"Was he always that gruff?"
Nick chuckled and said, "Nah… He used to be even worse. Retirement's been good for his disposition."
"Hey, Chief… What's the verdict on the feline?" Nick greeted the man with enough familiarity to let Riley know that apparently Nick Stokes knew everyone in the Vegas emergency system.
"Gonna have to shave it to get it loose from the door. So, we're gonna take a Sawzall to that corner of the door so they can get it in the animal control vehicle." Nick cringed at the thought of a Sawzall operating that close to a cat. "Yeah, I know, but I got my best guy making the cut and he's doing a straight line off the corner to minimize the time it will take. Thankfully it's not a metal core door, just wood."
"Well, that's something, at least."
"And you guys can take the door with you in your truck when we're done, if you want." Riley had heard the stories about all the things Nick had been forced to cut up and bring back to the lab over the years. And she assumed the pained smile on Nick's face meant the chief also knew and was giving him the business about it.
"Thanks, Chief." He flipped through his notes and then asked, "So, you got any leads for me, or just jokes?"
"According the old lady in the house, there're some teenagers down the block she thinks did it. I guess her precious little orange tabby is something of a bruiser and the kids didn't take too kindly to it scratching up their beagle and they threatened to go after the cat." Riley could tell the man was disgusted at having to attend to such a menial case. "Look, Stokes… If it wasn't for O'Reilly rattling some cages up at PD, this wouldn't rate more than an animal control inspection. So, make your little case report and leave my guys to finish up this circus in peace, okay?"
"Whatever you say, Chief. Just make sure your guys send their paperwork into our office and we'll be square, alright?" Nick let the guy off and motioned for Riley to follow him over to the side.
"Sorry about that, Riley. The Chief is still ticked off about the whole undersheriff thing. I guess they were friends some time back, and he's not happy about how all of it was handled. And so things are a little tense with any case he's involved in right now." He shook his head with the explanation. "I should have warned you about him on the way over."
"No worries." Riley noticed a distraught woman standing near them and gestured to her. "Maybe we should start with the lady of the house?"
Nick looked in her direction and nodded his head. "Good idea. Why don't you try her out and I'll take notes?"
"Yeah?" After everything Greg had told her about Nick, Riley was really surprised he was willing to trust her so quickly with such an important aspect of the case.
"Yeah, sure." He shrugged off her reluctance and said, "You wouldn't be here if you couldn't do the job. So, get to it."
She tried to hold in the smile which fought to make it to the surface with his compliment. It would not serve her well to be grinning like an idiot at the worried pet owner as she questioned her.
Quickly checking the case sheet, Riley refreshed her memory with the woman's name and approached her. "Mrs. Ocean?"
"Yes… Who are you?" The anxious woman continued to wring her hands around the picture frame clutched to her chest.
"Ah, I'm Riley Adams and this is Nick Stokes. We're with the Crime Lab."
The woman's eyes lit up and she squeaked out, "Oh thank goodness! You're going to arrest those horrible boys who did this to my poor Caine, aren't you?" She franticly pushed the picture frame in Riley's face and she was immediately met with the image of a large orange tabby cat covered in spots where the fur was obviously torn out from fighting, and the strangest set of raccoon like dark circles around its eyes. The whole thing was creeping Riley out, but she struggled to keep her professionalism in tact as she took the photo from the woman.
"Well, thank you, Ma'am, but could you tell us what makes you think these boys you're talking about did this?" Riley was trying desperately not to start laughing, because the woman honestly saw this as a capital crime, instead of the barely more than a nuisance call it was.
"They threatened to tie him up next time they saw him. And they are always knocking over my garbage cans with their scooters. They are just a bunch of menaces!" The woman was working herself up into a real tizzy when Nick stepped in.
"Ma'am, we're gonna do our best to figure out what happened here tonight. But we need to know if you have anything concrete that makes you think those boys are involved. This is serious business, and we don't want the finger pointed anywhere if it isn't warranted."
"Oh, well, I guess that would be bad, wouldn't it?"
"Yes, Ma'am." Riley caught the hint of a wink on Nick's face when he turned to her, making it that much harder for her to keep a straight face as she answered the woman.
"They aren't nice boys, and they have done mean things in the past, but nothing to the animals, really. They do have a very yippy little beagle dog in their yard, and they seem to treat him well, even if he is just a smelly dog." Riley was beginning to see where the cat got its bad attitude from.
"We're gonna check out all of our leads, but I just want you know that we'll have to get some hard evidence before we can arrest somebody." Riley was very impressed with the way Nick was able to calm the woman down, all the while letting her know she was over-reacting with fantastic subtlety.
After they finished with the pet owner, they both wanted to move away from the firefighter with the Sawzall, so they looked for the animal control officer standing off to the side.
"Hey, Jesse. How's it lookin'?" The small Asian woman looked more like a lab tech than an animal wrangler, but Riley also knew looks could be deceiving. After all, she looked more like a college freshman than a trained criminalist.
"The cat's a little freaked, and is not going to be happy about the shaving, but I think it'll be fine. Skittish for a while, though." She smiled at Nick and then gestured at Riley. "Who's your friend?"
"Oh! Sorry. Jesse Menken, this is Riley Adams. The new CSI." Riley reached out for her hand with a smile.
"Nice to meet you, Riley. I'm one of only four animal control officers in Clark County, so, you'll probably be seeing a lot of me." The woman smiled back at her.
Nick was quick to add, "And she's the only one who works nights."
"But I don't do weekends or windows." They all laughed at her joke. "And before you ask, this is the first time I've been called out to this neighborhood since your doppelganger case a while back."
"The Tinsley Case, right. I thought this part of the neighborhood looked familiar." Nick nodded as he noted her response.
"Right, like it's not all the same, anyway." Just then the Sawzall finished slicing through the door to the cheers of the crowd. "That sounds like my queue. Anything else, come down the kennel. I've got a very unhappy kitty to deal with right now."
"Catch ya later, Jesse!" Nick called out to her as she walked away. He turned back to Riley and said, "Well, now that the victim is leaving the scene…ya wanna start interviewing the neighbors?"
"Sounds like the highlight of the evening." Riley's forced smile gave Nick a chance to chuckle again.
They spent the next few hours talking to everyone in the neighborhood. And almost every person came around to the same thing; those boys down the block. If nothing else, there was obviously enough suspicion to call for a visit to the home.
As dawn broke, Nick decided to call it in to PD, and have a detective meet the boys and their parents for a little conversation. And if they were really lucky, the detective might be able to bring them a warrant to look around as well.
When Detective Vartan finally showed up, he actually did manage to find a judge willing to write them some paper for the search. With the parents and two of the boys seated in the living room, Vartan questioned them, at length, about the things they had been hearing around the neighborhood while Riley and Nick took a look around the place.
By the time they made it to the garage, they had managed to collect seven different samples of adhesives from the house. Apparently glue was the glue that held the Graner family together; the father was a plant foreman at an adhesive manufacturing company. And industrial adhesives were their stock and trade.
Looking around the open garage, Nick was busy collecting another bottle of glue when something caught Riley's eye from across the street. In the driveway opposite the Graner's was another open garage, and inside was what looked like a do-it-yourself sailboat. She could see that a large fan was blowing out of the garage and, as she took a few steps out into the Graner's driveway, she was able to make out the hand-painted name on the back of the boat; Mopsitta Tanta.
The name seemed vaguely familiar, but she was unable to recall why. However, what really struck her was what appeared to be a paint can sitting on the floor of the garage underneath the boat. And then she remembered what O'Reilly had said; "Yeah, some kind of liquid cement, according to the fire chief. Said it looked like the same stuff he uses on his boat."
Nick started to speak to her from the garage, but she stayed focused on that boat and that paint can. "I think I've found every other glue known to mankind, but no liquid cement. How about you? Riley?"
She was finally pulled out of her stare when he called her name. "Huh?"
"Something caught your eye?" He walked up beside her and looked across the street as well.
"I was ah, just thinking… Didn't O'Reilly say something about liquid cement for a boat?"
Instantly picking up on her train of thought, Nick nodded his head and called one of the uniforms over to the garage entrance. "Larson, keep this area secured. We need to go check out something across the street."
"Will do, Stokes." The officer called in his position to the lead officer and they removed their gloves as they walked to the back of the Tahoe.
Dropping his gloves into the marked evidence bags, Nick calmly explained what they were about to do. "Look, we have to handle this carefully, because we've got one of two scenarios, here. It's either that we've got the source of the glue and the boys just swiped it, or…we've got new suspects."
Riley deposited her gloves in the other bag when she said, "And either way it goes, our search warrant isn't going to help us."
"You got it." Nick handed Riley her portable kit and stuffed some fresh gloves into his pockets. "So, let me do the talking and hopefully we don't screw this up, okay?"
As they walked across the street, it became perfectly clear that something had gone on in the neighbor's garage. There was a large spill of liquid adhesive beneath the boat, and the fan Riley had seen before was working hard to dry it quickly, and remove the fumes from the garage.
When they started up the drive, Riley could hear a woman's voice coming from behind the fence on the side of the house. The closer they got, they more they could hear.
"How in the heck did you get it all over your ears, Duncan?"
Nick gestured for Riley to walk toward the fence and he moved to knock on the gate.
"Connor, will you please just sit still? Mommy can only handle one bad boy at a time."
As Nick knocked on the gate he discovered that it wasn't latched when it swung open, revealing two Labradors and their owner in a battle of wills. That was when the overpowering scent of peanut butter hit them.
Nick's face immediately morphed into a sour expression at the smell, but Riley was more concerned over the reaction of the owner. "Excuse us, Ma'am. We're with the Crime Lab."
"Unless you call making a mess out of my garage and ruining my morning a crime, I think these boys are gonna be punished enough." The woman's broad smile greeted them as she stood up from her crouch.
She was about to hold her hand out to them, but quickly remembered that they were both covered in peanut butter. "Sorry about that. The boys got into some glue in the garage and I'm trying to not have to shave the poor things to get it out of their fur." She looked down and noticed that they were both busy licking the peanut butter off of one another. "But this is starting to look like more trouble than it's worth."
As she tried to wipe the stuff off of her hands, Nick finally seemed to come back around to the scene before them. "Ah, I'm Nick Stokes and this is my partner Riley Adams. We're actually investigating a call from one of your neighbors and we noticed your boat."
"My husband's pet project. Don't know if it'll ever sail, but it keeps him out of trouble." The black lab came in to nuzzle against her leg once he realized they had company. "This is Duncan, and the one still trying to lick the peanut butter off of his paws is Connor. And I'm Cindy. What seems to be the trouble?"
Riley watched as Nick crouched down to more closely examine the two dogs. "Can you tell us what happened with the glue in your garage?"
"Oh, they probably got spooked again and ran into the garage last night. My husband and I both work nights at the Tangiers. He's a chef and I run the counting room. So, we set it up for the boys to be able to go in and out on their own when we aren't home." She walked over to point out the doggie door in the side of the garage. "We keep their kennels in the garage, so we can do this year round. Mike rigged the A/C to pump in there when we throw the switch."
Cindy opened the regular door and walked inside the garage. "I guess Mike was working on the boat yesterday and forgot to close up the glue again, so when they went tearing through the garage they must've knocked it over."
Riley began to clue in to what was happening when she asked, "You said something about them getting spooked again…what did you mean by that?"
"Oh…" Cindy bent over and laughed a little, her eyes nearly disappearing in the huge smile she gave them. "Well, they may be big boys, but they are still afraid of pretty much anything that moves, especially at night. And that's when their arch nemesis comes out to torment them."
Nick's face showed Riley that he knew exactly what was going on. "Arch nemesis?"
"Yeah, Old Lady Ocean's tabby cat. That monster cat has been terrorizing every dog in the neighborhood for years. But for some reason she really enjoys going after my boys."
Nick nodded his head as the yellow dog came into the garage and stared up at him with very sad eyes. He knelt down and took a better look at the dog's muzzle. Just underneath the large swath of dried adhesive he could see the distinctive, fine red line of a cat scratch and a little tuft of orange fur stuck to the underside of Connor's jaw.
He looked up at Riley and she only nodded to show that she was following his suspicions. "Can I ask you about your neighbors across the street…the Graners?"
Cindy shrugged at the question and answered matter of factly, "I know most of the neighbors have some trouble with the boys, but they just don't have enough to keep them busy. Mike puts them to work helping him with the boat. Heck, they're the ones that got him this glue. Their Dad works for some glue factory, I guess. And they told him this stuff would work better than what he was using before."
She laughed again and Riley was finding it hard not to join her. The woman was amazingly friendly and seemed to genuinely enjoy life. "Actually, they're the ones that helped Mike come up with the name for the boat."
Nick read the painted name aloud, "Mopsitta Tanta… That's not Spanish, is it?"
"Nope. One of the boys is a paleontology buff and I guess that's the name for some brand new prehistoric parrot they discovered in the North Sea. The Danish Blue Parrot. You see, the kids know I have a thing for parrots. Anyways, that's the formal name of this very old parrot, and they told Mike it was perfect, since you're supposed to name a boat after a girl."
"Well, those boys better find a new person to make fun of, because I think you just saved them from a whole lotta trouble." Nick looked up at the confused woman and asked, "Do you mind if I take a quick picture of your dog's injury, so I can get those boys back on the right track and take care of a menacing cat all at the same time?"
"I think your dogs either chased or were chased by Mrs. Ocean's glue covered cat when Connor here got this scratch on his face." He turned the dog so that she could see the scratch.
"Well, I'll be. Yeah, go ahead and take your picture."
Nick took the camera from Riley, patted the dog's side and then got up. "I think with that and everything you've told us, the Graner's are going to very glad the parrot lady still liked them after their little joke. You've just saved them from being arrested for animal cruelty and vandalism."
The woman looked completely flabbergasted by Nick's admission. "Yeah, thanks to you, looks like the only thing that's gonna happen to them is some compensation for all those locks they've been supergluing in the neighborhood."
"Are you sure it's them?" Cindy quickly came to their defense, showing Riley that the boys must not be all bad.
"We're pretty sure, Ma'am. Judging by their attitude and the sheer volume of superglue and duct tape we got from the house, it would be really hard to get past it." Riley held out her hand to the woman. "Thank you, for your time. And good luck getting that glue off."
As they walked down the driveway Nick pulled out his phone and called detective Vartan. "Hey, Tony… Lean on the boys to own up to the supergluing, but they didn't do the cat… No man, I'm serious… Well, let's just call it canine karma."
Riley laughed at his little joke and the impish expression on his face. When he hung up the phone, she just could not resist the temptation. "Gives a whole new meaning to 'dogma,' huh?"
Nick only groaned and shook his head. "Man, you've already worked for Grissom too long."