Author's Notes: This story is not just angst and fluff! It includes a case and it's about time (after ten chapters), that I get to work on it! So…

Meanwhile, back at the lab…

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Full headers and disclaimer in Chapter 1

Title: A Father's Heart, Chapter 11 (completed 10/03/2009)

Chapter Rating: T

Word Count: 2,189

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Mac tried his best to stiffle the yawn that threatened to escape his control. After his conversation with Lindsay the night before, he was unable to get to sleep. He wasn't able to calm the young mother's fears, nor could he give her the information that would have at least allowed her some sense of empowerment. He understood Lindsay's frustration. Because he understood, and because of the special place she and Danny held in his heart, he allowed her a degree of latitude that he would never grant anyone else. .

Mac realized some time ago that he looked on Danny as the son he so wished he'd had with Clare. Now past fifty, he hadn't found another woman to permanently grace his life. He realized he wasn't likely to ever father children of his own.

When he offered a job to a bright, gifted young CSI from Montana, he didn't know what he was setting in motion. He was normally not a fan of workplace romances. Certainly his own had not worked out well, and had caused him some degree of discomfort and turmoil. Still, when he realized what was happening between the young man he looked on as a son and the lovely young woman he was fast seeing as a daughter, he could not have been more pleased. Although, if the course of true love never did run smooth, he wished it didn't have to be quite as rocky as it was for Danny and Lindsay.

Initially, he had some concerns. Danny made no effort to hide his womanizing ways. Indeed, he frequently boasted of the number of women he'd been with. Mac wouldn't be surprised to find notches carved into Danny's desk for the number of lab techs, clerks, accountants, rookie cops and even one young coroner that he counted among his conquests. And those were only the women at work. When he saw the first signs of their budding attraction, he was concerned that Lindsay would just be another notch on Danny's bedpost. She could so easily be hurt, and then he might lose her from his team, and his life.

But Mac noticed a subtle change in Danny not long after Lindsay came on board. When he saw the two sharing a table in the audience one evening at Cozy's, he wasn't just surprised that they were there. Sitting with them for a few minutes during a break, Lindsay was quick to explain she had just found out that Mac played and thought Danny would be interested. But Mac saw the way Danny looked at Lindsay, and was astonished to realize that his prediction from several months before, made only to tease the young man, had come true.

Love had happened to Danny Messer.

A sharp ding announced his arrival at the thirty-fifth floor. Mac stepped out of the elevator as the doors opened, taking a large swallow of the hot coffee he was holding. He needed to refocus on the job and get his mind out of its unexpected sentimental turn. Seeing his newest CSI stepping out of the trace lab, he called to him.

"Adam! My office!"

It was hard to keep a straight face as he watched the perpetually flustered young man jump. Nearly as amusing was the way Adam's face so clearly displayed his thoughts. Mac realized he would be wasting a few minutes assuring Adam that there was no problem with his job performance, and that he was not about to be fired, before he would get the chance to get a report on the evidence gathered in the Melinda Ponzio case. Adam had been noticibly jumpier since the shooting just after Jess' death. Mac supposed it was due to the shock of all that had happened. Still, he had a sense that Adam's nervousness was particularly severe in his own presence, and he couldn't fathom quite why. Sighing, he reminded himself for the umpteenth time that he was neither a mind-reader nor a shrink. He did his best to understand the various personalities of his team, but some things were simply beyond his comprehension and probably always would be.

Adam sprinted across the hall to join his boss and arrived at the door of Mac's office just as Mac was keying the combination to unlock it. As they stepped inside, Mac held up a hand to forestall Adam.

"Adam, everything's fine, I've got no problems with your work, I just got in and I need an update on the Melinda Ponzio case. Did you start going through her personal effects? And did you find anything on the money that was found?"

Mac sat down at his desk while Adam visibly switched gears.

"Ah, yea boss. Didn't find anything substantive in the evidence we collected at the vic's apartment. Nothing to suggest anything other than an accidental death. In fact, it's funny just how much of nothing there was. I mean…you were there…that place was sterile."

Mac nodded, he'd been surprised as well at the conspicuous lack of personal items and the lived-in look that was present in most private homes.

Adam must have realized that his hands had been gesticulating wildly, because he suddenly shoved them in his pockets, looking sideways at the boss as he continued.

"The money was just money. Small bills, just a whole lot of 'em. No sequential numbers, no bank alerts, no trace beyond the usual. Did you know that, on average ninety to ninety-five percent of all paper money in the US is contaminated with traces of cocaine?"

Mac nodded, "Yes, Adam, so please don't let me find you sniffing your wallet. What about the vic's personal effects?"

Adam snorted, "Oh..uh..sniffing my wallet. Right, good one boss. No, no, I wouldn't do that."

Mac was drumming his fingers on his desk. "Adam?"

"Oh, yeah - Sid finally got the body last night and I got her clothes first thing this morning. They're like…a…garden of bodily fluids. I got saliva, blood, nasal mucus, semen - even some urine - from spots all over her clothes. I sent it all over to DNA; that should be back this afternoon sometime. Well, except for the urine. I sent that to Tox."

Mac nodded and took another sip of his coffee. "Sounds like you hit the jackpot on this one, Adam. With all that to work with, you should be able to get something."

Adam was pacing in front of Mac's desk, his hands restless and his body tense. "I hope so, boss, I hope so. Only there's one really weird thing. All the samples - were on the inside of her clothes - not the outside. I can understand the urine, that might be hers because, you know, when a body dies…well…you know what happens. And it's not that surprising to find semen on the inside, if she got dressed after…whatever. But that doesn't explain the rest of it. And even if the urine is hers, it usually stays in one place and this was just all over. So I'm thinking, the killers were sending a message, you know, disrespecting her like that after they killed her. That is, if all that stuff is from the killers, and I can't think how it couldn't be, but then how does it get on the inside of the clothes, unless she's wearing her clothes inside out? And why would she be doing that? It just doesn't make sense, Mac."

Mac shook his head. What really amazed him was that he was able to follow all that. He supposed that with practice, he'd gotten used to Adam's speed-talking. "Adam, ADAM! Breathe! And sit down, you're exhausting me."

Mac was about to take another sip of the coffee only to find there was none left in his cup. Sighing, he put the cup down. He would need to get another, and probably two more, before he felt normal this morning. He would have to go talk to Sid as soon as he finished with Adam and he could run out to grab another cup on his way back from Autopsy.

Adam was now sitting on the edge of the sofa, but his fidgeting was still working Mac's last nerve. Mac had never noticed if Adam drank coffee, but the man acted like he mainlined the stuff.

"What about the chain of evidence? Is there anything to suggest the clothing might have been contaminated? Was the body still dressed when it came over from Brooklyn?"

Adam finally appeared to relax, if only a little. He leaned back on the sofa, but his hands were gripping the edge of the cushions.

"The clothing was removed at the Brooklyn morgue, bagged and tagged. Everything was sealed and didn't appear to be tampered with. I double-checked all the seals and paperwork. All the sign-in and sign-out signatures were there. Chain of evidence looks clear, Mac. What are you thinking?"

"Nothing, Adam, nothing. I just want to be sure we aren't chasing our tails on this. I'm sure Brooklyn handled everything according to protocols." Mac stood and walked around the desk. "Just the same, contact the ME over in Brooklyn. Trace the chain of custody from there until the body arrived here. And let me know when you get the DNA and Tox back."

Adam stood and preceded Mac out the door. When he suddenly stopped and turned, Mac nearly ran into him. He stepped back a bit, suddenly thankful that his empty coffee cup was sitting on his desk.

"Oh…sorry Mac…I almost forgot. I found hairs that could be from at least three donors, too. They look to be human. Some had tissue attached, like they'd been yanked out. DNA's got those, too."

Mac gestured for Adam to continue through the door.

"Good Adam. It sounds like we'll have plenty of evidence to identify Melinda's attackers. I only hope they're in the system. If they are, we've got 'em."

Adam grinned, made a short victory gesture, pumping one fist and fairly skipped out the door. With a last half-wave to Mac, he dashed back to the Trace Lab.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Mac made his way down to Autopsy. Not surprisingly, he found Sid peering into the cavity of a body on his table. Not wanting to startle the ME, he walked around the table so that the two men would be facing each other.

"Good Morning, Sid. This looks to be Melinda Ponzio."

Sid looked up from his work, and quickly removed his glasses.

"Oh, hi Mac. Yes, this is the lady in question. I understand she has some personal connection to our young Mr. Messer?"

"Yes, Sid. She's…a childhood friend of Danny's. So naturally he's off the case. I also have concerns that whoever killed her may have done so because of the connection she has with him. I need to get this one solved and the murderer put away quick, Sid."

Sid nodded his head. He didn't need to know all the details, although he suspected there was a lot more to Danny's connection with this poor young woman than just a long ago childhood friendship.

"Hmmm. Well, Mac. I can tell you that she was not sexually assaulted, although I did find semen stains scattered across her torso and down her legs. I also found traces of a number of other bodily fluids - blood - not apparently her own - saliva, urine and mucus. The blood may have come from scratches she inflicted on her attacker. There was considerable tissue under her fingernails."

Sid held up one of Melinda's hands, showing her long, manicured nails. There were ragged tears in two of the nails. The others had obviously been well-manicured.

Mac inspected the hand. "That's all consistent with what Adam found on the victim's clothing. Adam said the clothing had already been bagged. Can you tell me if Brooklyn started any autopsy work, Sid?"

Sid gently lowered the hand he'd been holding, patting it gently as he laid it back on the table.

"It doesn't look like it. As I said, I found a good bit of trace evidence still on the body. She hadn't been washed and there was certainly no internal exam done. I don't think they even did a rape kit, although based on their initial conclusions, there really wasn't any reason for one."

Sid walked around to the head of the table. "And this is where you ask me for Cause of Death."

Mac smiled and nodded. "Ok Sid - what's your COD?"

Sid gripped the raised edge of the autopsy table. "Well, I can tell you it wasn't electrocution. There are distinctive burn marks on her palms, but they appear to be post-mortem. No, our young Ms. Ponzio had her neck snapped - cleanly and quite professionally."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~