CHASING THE FLAME

Chapter 1: Murder in America

The body had died in a very gruesome manner and it wasn't like any Grissom had seen in his long career as a CSI scientist. He squatted to take a closer look after taking several pictures of it.

The male looked to be in his middle or late twenties, dark haired, pale complected, about six feet, two inches tall and approximately a hundred and seventy pounds......rather skinny actually.....but lean, like a runner. His body lay splayed out on its back but its hands or what was left of them, were held rigidly in the air over his chest as if he'd held something in them originally. What made the scene strange were the hands shouldn't be still hanging in the air like that since death would have caused the body to go limp before rigor mortise took over. So what could have caused his hands to hover like that?

That wasn't the only strange thing, the hands themselves, were severely burned......not in the way a person's would be if they had held something hot, that would leave severely burned skin at least. No, this guy's hands were completely skeletonized. No bit of flesh was left. Adding to the mystery was the fact only his hands had been affected and that was blatantly impossible.

"Okay, I can safely say I've never seen anything like that before," the coroner spoke right next to him making him jump slightly. "If he was burned that severely so should his wrists, arms, face......hell.....his whole front should have at least been singed."

Grissom had to agree. No way could this guy's hands suffer such horrific burns without collateral damage but there was no sign of burns anywhere else on his person....his clothes, though wrinkled.....were untouched by anything but the dirt that had dusted it from laying here in the street for hours. It was creepy.

He looked into the guy's face and shuddered inwardly. The expression was one of absolute terror.

"Wonder what the poor bastard had seen to leave an expression like that?" Robbins asked more to himself than Grissom.

Grissom wondered too. Shaking his head, he waited for Dr. Robbins to finish his brief examination.

"Odd! Except for his hands, I can find no other signs of trauma. There is something in his pants but I'll let you get it. Doesn't seem to be anything else on him. I'll have to wait until I get him back to the lab to see what else I can find to determine how he died. For now, I can only say he may have died of shock from the severity of the burns. I estimate time of death to be some eight hours ago since he's still in full rigor."

"Just before dawn," Grissom murmured.

"That'd be my guess."

"Can I touch the body now?"

"Certainly, I'm done for now," Dr. Robbins said getting up then signaling his assistant to bring the gurney forward.

Grissom searched the body efficiently, finding the object the doctor had felt, reaching into the right side of the pants and pulling it out. Frowning in puzzled confusion, he stared at the smooth stick of wood. It was only about fourteen inches long, made of some dark, well polished wood, and it was thick at one end moving to a much thinner point at the other end. It looked like some kind of wand, like those used by music conductors or magicians.

Shaking his head, he put the stick into an evidence bag then continued his search. After more than five minutes, all he found was a piece of paper with an address on it and nothing more.

Sighing, he rose to his feet and nodded to David to remove the body. The rest of his team, which consisted of Warrick and Nick, were working the dirty alley hunting for clues. The body had been found by a vagrant who normally slept in the alley.

Brass came up to Grissom's side and watched the body be rolled away. "Anything? Because so far I've found no witnesses beyond the one who found the body and he was passed out in a drunken stupor most of the night in his cardboard box home so he wasn't fit to see or hear anything until he woke this morning and fell over the guy."

"Only an address. 1481 Capresse Place. His body was either swept clean or he was the one making sure he couldn't be identified."

"Swell! Well the address is a start but it doesn't help when you don't know who your victim is," Brass grumbled.

Grissom could only shrug in commiseration. That was how things went sometimes. "Hopefully the body will tell us something," he murmured, his mind already going over the few things he seen so far.

Giving a disgusted sound through his nose, Brass left to do a deeper canvas of the area along with Warrick and Nick.

Some eight blocks from the body...............

The hotel was nice and had a wonderful view of the strip.....at least at night it did....right now it looked very pedestrian and plain to the visitor's mind. He turned away from the window where he'd been brooding for some time.

Being in America for the first time should have been an adventure, instead he had to forego the scenery for the grimmer reason he was here.

The door to the hotel room burst open and a young man with red hair strode in. He flopped onto the nearby couch and announced, "the constabulary have found the body."

The black haired young man grimaced. "We should have gotten rid of it but there were just too many witnesses," he growled in frustration.

"So? I don't understand why that's a problem. It's not like they're going to find out anything from it," the red headed male snorted derisively.

A female stepped in from the bedrooms and joined the conversation. "Just because most of our kind think muggles are stupid doesn't make it so, Ron!" She snapped. "They have methods that can ferret out the smallest clue if given half a chance. No.....Harry's right, this is a very bad thing and will only complicate our search even more."

"Ahh, Hermione, you're exaggerating," Ron snorted irritably. Though he found it cool to be in America, the reason they were there made him antsy and worried.

Harry Potter's emerald eyes snapped in angry annoyance at his best friend. "Hermione happens to be right, Ron. Muggles have found ways to solve mysteries in ways we could never dream of and all using only science as their tool. They might not find the answers all the time, but this particular group are well known for having a high rate of success solving crimes."

"Actually, mate, I did know that but what can we do about it? Lactimore is dead, there's no form of identification on his body and none of us are in any of the muggle data bases," Ron growled, surprising his friends with his unexpected knowledge of muggle police work much less about computers.

They gave him an astonished look.

"What? I do read you know and when I learned we were tracking Lactimore to here, I thought I should be prepared for possible encounters with the muggle police as well as the magical community," Ron said, shrugging his shoulders to indicate he thought nothing of it. "Anyway, what's more important this moment is the loss of our known person to have had the Dóiteáin in their possession. With him dead, we've no idea who has it now or where its gone."

"I know, believe me!" Harry growled in frustration as he began pacing their hotel room. The thought of the Dóiteáin in unscrupulous hands made him sick. What it could do to wizarding kind was devastating but what it could do to the world in general was horrifying. It would make World War Two and the war with Voldemort seem like simple altercations in comparison.

They had to find it and soon. Many lives had been lost in the chase to recover the Doiteain over the past twelve months and had taken them through many countries until they finally got close here in America. Unlike Europe, trying to track down the artifact was complicated by being in a country totally different both in magic and behavior than they were used to.

That thought on how different American magic was in comparison to theirs made him halt in his tracks as an old memory surfaced. His face brightened suddenly as a hopeful idea came to him.

"What is it, Harry?" Hermione asked, puzzled by his expression.

"I know of one person who could find it for us and I could kick myself for not having thought of him in the first place. We just might have gotten our hands on the artifact before it was stolen again."

"Huh? Who the heck would that be?" Ron asked, eyeing his friend skeptically.

"Why....Harry Dresden, of course!"

Author's Note: Okay, here is my attempt at using three crossovers, Harry Potter, Dresden Files, and CSI: Las Vegas. Let's see if I can pull this off. Since I couldn't find a weapon in fantasy archives for what I wanted, I decided to just make one up. The Dóiteáin (Irish for flame) is a box with mystical and ancient Celtic runes drawn on it. When opened and a certain spell is used, the box will send a flame so hot it can melt even stone and can be directed at a specific target like the hands of the thief that took it or an entire city block if desired. It is a very deadly weapon in the wrong hands. Also, this time around, I'm going to keep chapters deliberately short but that doesn't mean the story may be short. Reviews would be very welcome.