CHASING THE FLAME

Chapter 5: Grissom Gets an Offer He Can't Refuse

Greg Sanders hunched over his microscope for more than an hour now trying to identify the John Doe #8 with the creepy hands in the air. The epitheliaos from the man's body and those found at the crime scene, so far, weren't giving up their secrets. He sighed and straightened up. Rubbing his eyes, he wrote down his findings but allowed his computer to continue searching. It was possible they might never find out who this guy was but it was too early to throw in the towel just yet.

That left hoping his clothing might give them a clue where to start looking for John Doe's point of origin and that task had been left to Nick Stokes.

With careful attention to detail, the dark haired, well built, young man in a different lab, searched every inch of the dead man's clothing, collecting bits of hair, skin flakes, body fluids, dirt, grass, and other debris he could find. Catherine Willows was beside him searching the data base about the origin of the man's clothing.

"Well that's interesting..." Catherine murmured after an hour searching dozens of websites.

"What is?" Nick asked, distractedly.

"This suit was made by a company that hasn't existed since the 1800's."

Frowning, Nick turned his head to stare at her. "Our John Doe likes vintage clothing?"

"I don't know. I need to do a swatch exam under the microscope to see how old the clothing really is," she said thoughtfully.

"Good idea. I'm finished with the jacket..."

"Thanks." She took the suit coat from him and went to another workstation.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Grissom was in a different lab working on the odd stick he'd found. It was 15 inches exactly and made of polished ebony and oak. The ebony part was thick, obviously where one held it, ending in a raised ring of lighter wood that separated it from the oak section that went from wide to very narrow at the point.

It was a wand but what kind, Grissom had no idea. He did know it wasn't a conductor's baton, those were lightweight and very thin. And it definitely wasn't a magician's wand which had tricks installed within them and were slim and black (usually), with white tips at either end.

No, the only thing it did resemble was what was known in the trade as a wizard's wand. Those used in all of those live action role playing games known as LARPing, very popular lately though he wasn't certain if there was one located in Las Vegas. He made a note to check that later.

Returning to his study of the wand he put it under the microscope but could see nothing unusual however, he did get some fingerprints off it. He took minute scrapings of the two sections of wood but examination under the microscope only revealed it was indeed real wood. The polish, however, might yield a clue so he prepared a scraping of that for a deeper scan with an electron microscope.

His work was interrupted by the appearance of Captain Jim Brass who came in behind Grissom and cleared his throat to get the man's attention.

"Sorry, but you did ask me to accompany you for that meeting in the parking lot which is in a few minutes."

Grissom blinked in surprise that he hadn't noticed the time. "Oh, yes...thank you." He carefully placed his evidence in a baggy, sealed it, wrote the date and time on it then added his signature before locking it in the evidence locker behind him. Pulling off his gloves, he tossed them in the can near the door. He paused a moment, wondering if he should remove his lab coat then decided he should and took it off, hanging it on a hook near the door then grabbing his jacket and pulling it on.

"Ready when you are," he said, nodding for Brass to precede him out the lab door.

As they walked down the hall to the elevator, Brass asked, "Find out anything more on our John Doe?"

Grissom shook his head. "Nothing so far but we've only just begun processing all the items taken from the body and you know that takes time."

"Yeah, but you guys are so fast, I'd thought I just check," Brass said, facetiously. Grissom's team was fast but 24 hours was simply too quick to have anything and he knew it. "I hate these weird cases. Too often they end up remaining unsolved."

The other man shrugged. "When it's obvious the goal cannot be reached, don't adjust the goal, adjust the action steps," he said, sagely.

"More quotes? Who said that little gem?" Brass asked, a sarcastic tone in his voice. He was well used to Gil dropping philosophical quotes all the time.

"Confucius." The doctor smirked.

Brass rolled his eyes.

Reaching the main floor, they stepped out and walked the quiet corridor that led to the visitors area in the front lobby. As they pushed through the security doors into the reception area, they noted how very quiet and nearly empty of visitors it was. That was normal for the night shift.

They gave the receptionist and guards brief head nods as they passed by heading for the entrance doors. However, neither man pushed the door open. They split up to take a stance before the long, narrow windows that framed the entranceway and scanned the outside area first before exposing themselves to any kind of danger that might be lurking about.

The parking lot across from the entrance was quiet, traffic on the street between them and the lot was minimal. The sidewalk was empty too. Seeing nothing dangerous or suspicious, the pair pushed their way out the twin doors and stood on the sidewalk, looking around alertly.

"Did they say where in the parking lot?" Brass asked, sharp eyes searching the area.

"No, but I suspect that arriving cab might be who we're waiting for..." Grissom said quietly, nodding his chin toward a yellow cab just now pulling up to the curb by the end of the parking lot sidewalk across and at an angle from them.

After a moment, three young people and one older guy climbed out. The taxi remained waiting while the group moved a little ways down the sidewalk then halted, not crossing the street at all. They huddled together and looked around then spotted the pair standing near the doors of the building. They stared purposefully at the pair in front of the building. No one said or did anything while the air filled with a sense of waiting expectancy.

Brass muttered, "I think you may be right. I'll wait here and watch your back while you go make friends."

"Thanks," Grissom murmured, sardonically. He kept his hands loose at his sides and walked to the edge of the sidewalk, pausing to wait for a gap in traffic so he could cross. While watching the traffic, he also studied the group waiting for him.

The older guy was very tall, about 6'7" and leanly built, possibly around his late 40's. His face was shadowed by his broad brim felt hat though Gil could see some dark hair peeking out from under it. His clothing was some sort of grunge style ... black t-shirt with some design on it, worn black jeans, and a pair of old looking hiking boots. Over all this, he wore a long, black leather, duster that flapped a bit in the light evening breeze. In his right hand was a long staff and the street light above them caught the glimmer of something metallic on his wrist.

A hole in traffic appeared and Grissom walked swiftly across still scanning the visitors as he approached. His gaze shifted to the younger male standing beside the older one. He saw a handsome fellow around his early 20's with messy black hair, old fashioned black rimmed glasses and around 5'7". The guy's clothing, however, gave Grissom pause. It was an old fashioned, casual suit with top coat of a darker color, very much like the one the victim had worn. His feet were shod in old fashioned, black patents.

Next to him was a second male also in his 20's, with flaming red hair that matched his pale, freckled face. He was about 6', broad through the shoulders, and very muscular. His outfit too, looked sort of vintage, though he couldn't be certain from this distance. It was a soft gray in color, paired with a rather old fashioned-style, dress, white shirt. Brown lace up shoes covered his feet.

That made Grissom pause a few feet away in confusion. He glanced again at the older man then back to the young males. Though the clothing wasn't that commonly worn, the older man's outfit was definitely modern, but the younger males...what was with the vintage wear? A new fad? Shaking his head mentally, he continued forward until he was at least ten feet from the four. While they stared at him, he took the opportunity to scan the only female in the group.

The young woman was also in her 20's, 5' 7" with a trim built and frizzy brown hair that went a little past her shoulders. Her beautiful face was troubled which wasn't surprising but what was concerning to Grissom was she wore modern attire...a simple, poplin shirt-dress of green with a black braided belt, a white cardigan over this, sensible brown shoes and a plain colored string bag in her hand. Why not the vintage wear of her companions or was that just a male thing? He felt certain, somehow, that she fit with the two boys but not with the older male so she should be wearing the same type of clothing but she didn't. Why was that?

Too many questions and if he continued to stare at them like a fool, he wouldn't get any answers. He didn't miss how tense they all were and, though he didn't see any weapons, unless you counted the older guy's staff and he did, that didn't mean the three youngsters weren't armed which didn't make him feel all that secure standing out here in the open like this.

"I'm Dr. Gil Grissom. Are you here to see me?" He asked politely, making the first move.

The black haired youth seemed relieved and was the first to speak ... another surprise as Grissom fully expected the older man to be the speaker.

"Thank you for coming out here to speak with us, Dr. Grissom and I'm sorry about all the cloak and dagger stuff. What we have to say to you will be hard for you to believe but I swear to you all of it is true," the young man said, earnestly, a thick British accent reaching Gil's ears and making him blink.

"And this has to do with the case we're here to talk about?"

"Yes sir."

"I'm listening."

Appearing to gather his courage, the young man launched into a tale that was flatly impossible. Grissom frowned. "Real magic is scientifically impossible and I don't appreciate having my valuable time wasted on such nonsense," he said bluntly. The red headed male scowled at that, face flushing in anger as he began to move forward threateningly but halted himself and looked down at his feet, obviously trying to control his temper.

Hit a nerve apparently, Grissom thought, keeping a wary eye on the male.

The others didn't make any threatening moves. The one who had spoken sighed and looked rather distressed as he glanced over at the older man with a beseeching look. The hard-eyed man seemed to be conflicted about something so didn't answer that look immediately.

However, the female seemed to be annoyed by their inability to get what they wanted across so took it upon herself to plead their case. "There are things in this world that can't be explained by science, Dr. Grissom. They have existed since the beginning of man and prefer to remain apart for their continued survival and they are significantly fewer in number than non-magical people. Unfortunately, to prove to you that what we're saying is true, we must take you somewhere private and show you. No one else must see or know what we're about to reveal to you as that is against our laws. It's bad enough we must tell you at all but you're our only hope of finding who stole what the dead man had." She held her hands out to him as she plead her case.

Grissom didn't know what to make of her story but her urgency came through loud and clear and with the same British accent as the young man. However, what she asked wasn't going to be allowed. No way would Brass let him go with these people on their say so. Even he wasn't sure of his safety right this moment.

He eyed them all and felt out of his depth here. These people seemed honestly concerned and worried about what they were talking about and that magic was very real to them. They didn't seem to be crazy but he'd met some unhinged people that seemed totally logical within their own frame of reference. The fact it didn't jive with the rest of the world didn't trouble them at all.

Sighing, he didn't know what he should do now.

"We're not crazy," the older man spoke up, finally. His accent was clearly American which made this whole business even more puzzling. "The magical world prefers to stay separate exactly for the reason you think we're crazy. If your kind were shown that we truly existed, I wouldn't give a fig for our staying alive very long. Non magical people have a very hard time accepting what they can't accept or believe so they kill it, lock it up, or experiment on it. But trust me, we do exist. And we wouldn't be trying so hard to make you believe if it didn't mean the death of all mankind if we don't find what the victim stole. The danger is that real and that big," the man said in a flat, cold tone.

His eyes were a bit disturbing making Grissom look away every time their eyes met. He wasn't afraid but something about the man wasn't right though he was beginning to believe he wasn't crazy. As a matter of fact, he was impressed by the grim seriousness of these people. They truly believed what they were saying. However, that didn't mean he would or could believe in magic.

The man interrupted Grissom's thoughts by introducing the youngsters and himself. "To show good faith, I will give you our names and who we are. I am Harry Dresden, an American Wizard and a Warden of the White Council...that means my duties are similar to a cops. The young man here..." He gestured to the black haired youth, "...is Harry Potter, the red head is Ron Weasley and that is Hermione Granger. They are British wizards and Aurors which is a type of police for their community. So you see we're in the same business but we deal with magical bad guys."

"So you can appreciate my problem with believing what you're telling me. Also, what's to stop me from doing background checks on you all first before going with you?" Grissom asked, cautiously.

In a quiet, non-threatening tone, Dresden said, "Wouldn't help you. Though, you could find me in the system, you'd also see I work with the Chicago Police sometimes. However, these three don't exist in the non-magical world's data bases so it would be a waste of your time and ours. Besides, we have a spell that will render you unable to speak or write down what you've just heard so you can't simply type it into a computer and search anyway. The spell, however, will allow you to retain everything you learn from us. And there is no choice about allowing the spell to be used as it if for your safety and ours. Now please, decide! We are short on time and object is possibly moving further away as we speak. Believe me, if whoever has it decides to use it, the world will be destroyed and this discussion will be moot."

Okay, now that sounded like a threat even though Dresden remained unfailingly polite the whole time they were talking but Grissom didn't forget this was a dangerous man. He oozed it through his pores. And it didn't help that something about all of these people made the hair on his neck stand up. He didn't believe in the supernatural but he did know the human body had unconscious defenses that reacted to danger and those were already activated and giving him plenty of warning.

So he decided to try a different tactic. Nodding his head toward the building, he said, "The man standing there watching me is Captain Brass and he won't allow me to just take off. I'm still not certain I believe you and I definitely don't like the idea of something being done to me but neither of us will get any answers to our questions if I don't make the first move so I suggest you allow me to speak with him first before I come to any firm decision. He may not allow me to leave with you at all."

Dresden stared over at the short but well built male watching them and nodded. "He's a friend, too...yes?"

How did he know that? Grissom wondered, ill at ease. "Yes, he is."

"He will give you hell, just like a certain police detective I know, but if he trusts your judgement, he'll allow you to go as long as you contact him frequently. We can allow that so he won't worry unnecessarily."

Grissom blinked at that. It was almost as if the guy had read his mind. Okay, enough of that. "You're right that would make it easier. I'll go speak with him. Be right back." Carefully, he turned to face the street, saw it was safe to cross and did so. His steps quickened when he realized he was safely on the other side.

Brass walked forward to meet him. "So?"

"They want me to go with them..."

"Hell no!"

"Yeah, that's sort of how I feel too, however, we really can't throw away our chance to solve this case quickly. Surprisingly, the older guy understands how you feel and advised me to tell you that they will allow me to stay in constant contact with you by phone just to prove they mean me no harm. Apparently, he is some form of police but not one we are familiar with. However, he has ties with the normal police but that's all I'm allowed to tell you." Grissom sighed. "Jim, they need my help and though I find what they said exceedingly strange and hard to believe, I can't in good conscious ignore the fact they feel what they have to show and tell me is vitally important. Unfortunately, as part of the deal, I can't tell you anything about what they said."

"I don't like it!" Brass was firm and blunt.

"I know and I don't blame you, I don't like it either but I don't think we have a choice..."

"Of course we do, especially if these guys turn out to be the ones that killed the victim!" Brass cut him off stridently. None of this sat well with him.

"I don't believe they are, Jim. But they are mixed up in all this and know what is going on which we don't. They say they didn't kill him but do have an idea who did and why. The dead man had something in his possession that was worth killing over and this group needs to get it back."

Brass frowned. "What exactly?"

"I can't say."

The Captain rolled his eyes. "I don't like this!

"You said that."

"Don't be smart. You going to do this anyway?"

"Honestly? I'd much rather not, but...I don't know...something about this makes me afraid but at the same time, I feel if I don't do this something much worse may happen and a whole lot of people may suffer. So despite my reservations, I'm going to do this," Grissom said with obvious reluctance.

"That sounds ominous. Perhaps, I should go with you..." Brass began but stopped at Gil's head shake.

"No, they have strict security rules and they are breaking some already by telling me what they have so they won't be allowing anymore breaches to those rules by adding one more."

"This is crazy ... ," Brass paused and stared at Gil sternly then sighed in defeat at the look of determination on his friend's face. "They did say you could stay in contact with me?"

The doctor nodded. "But my phone is on my desk..."

"I'll go get it. Anything else you need?"

"Check with Catherine to see if she's found out anything new. Thanks, Jim."

"Don't thank me. I don't like that you're going off alone but it is what it is. Be right back," Brass said flatly then turned and headed back inside.

Grissom stood quietly, turning a bit to stare over at the four to see what they were doing. They were watching him and talking quietly among themselves but none were making a move toward him which was a good sign.

It took Brass some fifteen minutes to return. He handed Grissom his phone. "Sorry it took so long ... had to find Catherine. She had nothing new to report though she did say the garments the dead guy was wearing was vintage ... like before the 1800's. Don't know if that helps you or not."

"It just might. Thanks. I'd better be going. I'll call you as soon as we're on our way."

"I'll be waiting for your call. Take care, Gil."

"I will." Gil quickly turned away before he could change his mind, saw it was clear to cross, and did so quickly. In moments he had rejoined the group.

"I know this was hard for you, Dr. Grissom. Thank you for trusting us this far. Please get into the taxi," Harry Potter said.

Nodding grimly, Grissom climbed in back. It was fairly tight when the other three got in beside him and Dresden folded his long length into the front seat. He gave the driver an address that would take them only ten minutes away and soon they were driving off into the night.