Disclaimer: Chris Johns, Shelley (Desmoins), Jim (Maxwell) and Lenny (Peters) belong to me. Everything else belongs to the writers and producers of CSI. No harm, no foul, no money made.
Originally written for the Nick Fic Song Challenge over on TalkCSI, this is the story that I did submit for the round. Thanks once again to Smokey for putting up with me! This takes place in the same universe as my story 'Red Rain'. No spoilers for that, but this does flesh out some of Nick's backstory.
Much Too Young
Hunched over a microscope, comparing two hair samples, Nick didn't immediately acknowledge the call. Jim was waiting on the results and finishing up would be faster than starting over again thanks to an interruption.
"Just a second." Definitely a match. Whether that was good or bad, Nick wasn't sure - he'd long since lost track of the case - but at least Jim had his answer. Finally satisfied, he leaned back from the microscope, just in time to see the shift supervisor walk in, looking underwhelmed. "Hey, Chris."
"You been hidin' in here again, Stokes?" Johns asked.
"No, Boss. Just trying to clear the backlog."
Johns cracked a rare smile. "You've been here eighteen months and you haven't figured you won't ever do that?"
Nick shrugged. "It's a goal."
"Well, it's not one you're gonna achieve today. You're up."
Nick stared blankly at his supervisor. "Up?"
"We are, case you hadn't noticed, swamped today. Every field qualified CSI is out at a scene and I've just got a call from PD about a robbery. You passed your evals, end of last week, right?"
Nick nodded slowly as he suddenly had an inkling of what Johns meant.
"Thought the paperwork crossed my desk. In that case, grab your kit. You're up."
And for the life of him, Nick couldn't quite manage to kill the grin that blossomed at that confirmation. Sure, it meant that they were busier than a shopping mall on Black Friday. Sure it meant there were a whole lot of folks who'd gotten hurt by other folks. But - and this was the big one - it meant that he was finally going to get to step out of the lab and into the real world and do the job he'd wanted to do from the start.
Johns just rolled his eyes. "Lenny's right; you are like a goddamn puppy."
And the sheer fact that Nick couldn't quite manage any level of irritation at the insult probably just further proved Johns' point.
Johns rolled his eyes again. "So go grab your kit. I'll fill you in on the way out to the scene." And with the order given, he headed out of the trace lab, presumably to take care of some last minute paperwork.
Pausing only to make a note of the positive match for Jim, should the older CSI return to the lab while he was out, Nick followed on his heels.
Twenty minutes later, the puppy-keen grin had been tempered measurably by the onset of nerves. His first scene. His first real crime to try and solve. It wasn't a case that could make a career - but screwing it up could easily break it before he'd really got started.
Johns hadn't given him a lot of information on the ride over. The crime scene was in one of Dallas' more upscale neighbourhoods and the chief indicator of a crime having occurred was a neighbour having spotted a door left open that shouldn't have been. The police had been called and, seeing that the door had been forced, CSI had been drafted in.
"That's it?" Nick had asked.
"That's it," Johns had confirmed. "Photo document the door, dust for prints then do a walk through and look for anything out of place. Sketch, shoot, bag and tag as you need to. Officer Davies is the officer on scene; if you need any help, he's the go-to."
It had all seemed simple.
As Johns now pulled up in front of a house that fit most definitions of mansion - at least in Nick's mind - Nick realised that simple was the last thing it would be.
"I'm processing that on my own?"
"You wanted to go out into the field," said Johns inflexibly.
Nick was pretty sure this was some kind of CSI 1 hazing stunt, but he was wise enough not to mention that. Instead he climbed out of the truck and started up the drive. He wasn't surprised that Johns had pulled away before he'd even reached the tape.
"Walk in there like you belong," he mumbled. "Remember what you learned. Don't. Screw. Up."
Making sure that he had a firm grip on his kit and his ID badge properly displayed, he ducked beneath the tape and carried on up the drive. Of Officer Davies, there didn't appear to be any sign, but the forced door was readily apparent. The front door was open and hanging at an angle suggestive of someone forcing the hinges. Well, that at least gave him a good place to start.
Half an hour later, he had finished processing the door and there was still no sign of Davies - which was beginning to concern Nick more than a little. The regs said there was supposed to be at least one officer at any scene a CSI was processing and that probably counted for double when the CSI was as newly minted as Nick felt. The question was: what to do?
He could wait outside. That was option one. Johns was supposed to be coming back to check on him sooner rather than later. The only problem with that idea was that he didn't like the idea of sitting around doing nothing, particularly given the size of the house.
Option two was to go ahead and enter the house and start processing in there. Without an apparent police officer on the scene, though, he didn't feel right about that, either.
"Guess that leaves option three," Nick murmured. "I take a look around out here and see if I can figure out where Officer Davies is."
That much decided, he stowed most of his kit on the porch and, armed with a handful of scene markers, his camera and flashlight, Nick began a slow and careful circuit of the house's perimeter.
There was nothing out of the ordinary to be seen in front of the house. Manicured lawns didn't reveal a wealth of footprints and he'd already determined that the absent police officer was not in the front yard. Moving clockwise, into the side yard, however, Nick found his first indication that whatever had happened at this house was far from being the simple robbery Johns had billed it as. It was a blood trail on the concrete path. Just little dots with comet tails pointing towards the back yard. He frowned and photographed it. Had to be gravitational drops, but from what?
As he progressed further along the path, getting nearer and nearer the back yard, the drops got bigger. That had to mean he was getting closer to the source. Was that a good thing? He wasn't sure. Then there was a partial boot print, also in blood. Now he was sure: whatever he was heading towards couldn't be good at all. Not to have produced enough blood that someone had walked through it. He photographed that print and moved on.
There was a side gate, shut but unlatched. Nick reached up and pushed it. It swung open six inches and then hit an obstruction. That made no sense. He pushed a little harder and heard something slump over. It sounded like a sack of potatoes - but that made even less sense. Whatever it was, the obstruction had cleared enough that he could squeeze through the gate. So he did.
And then wished to high heaven and back that he hadn't.
The obstruction was the missing police officer.
Davies was lying with his legs stuck straight out and his body in a boneless sprawl in a large pool of blood. That on its own told Nick that even if Davies was, miraculously, still alive he wouldn't be for too much longer. He checked for a pulse anyway. There wasn't one.
Panic now reared its head.
Just what the hell was he supposed to do?
There was a strong impulse to just turn around and run, but Nick forced that back. Running wouldn't solve anything - and would, most likely, land him with even more crap back at the lab. Behind that, there was a strong desire to puke. The scent of blood was strong and sickly and it took every ounce of willpower he possessed not to lose his lunch there and then.
"Can't contaminate the scene," he muttered through gritted teeth. "Gotta do something. Gotta call-" Davies' radio, clipped to his shoulder, attracted his attention. "Call it in."
Nick started to reach for the radio, only to stop a moment later. Doing this was going to disturb the scene. Couldn't do that. Shouldn't do that. On the other hand, he had no other means of calling this in. He bounced the heel of his hand off his forehead. First rule of the job: photograph the hell out of everything. It was an imperfect solution but better than nothing. He took the photographs, then unclipped Davies' radio and tried to dredge up the correct call signs.
He fumbled the microphone key a couple of times then managed to get it right. "This is CSI 1 Stokes at, uh..." Crap. What was the address? "Uh 4029 Rosewood, requesting back up." He swallowed. "Officer down."
Almost immediately, the dispatch officer came back: "Say again?"
Nick swallowed again. "Officer down," he repeated. "4029 Rosewood. I, uh, I'm requesting back up."
There was a pause, then: "I show Officer Davies attending that scene."
Nick tamped down on his first impulse, which was to retort, that yes, Officer Davies was here - he just happened to be dead, and what part of 'officer down' was dispatch having an issue with? Instead, he pressed the microphone key again and said, "Yes, sir; this is CSI 1 Stokes, requesting back up. Officer Davies is down."
This time, the response from dispatch was better: "Understood, CSI 1 Stokes. Officers are en route. ETA fifteen minutes."
It seemed like a lifetime.
Again came the quandary of what to do. Part of him very much wanted to return to the front yard and wait for the back up officers there. Part of him, however, felt that he probably should finish the perimeter sweep he'd begun. Johns was almost bound to have heard the radio exchange - or find out about it fairly soon - and would be here and expecting him to have something to show for what was rapidly approaching two hours' on-scene.
The yell settled the matter. Johns was already here.
Hastily, Nick trotted back around to the front of the house where he found Johns peering into the house through the ruined front door.
"Nicky?" Johns called.
"Here, boss," Nick answered, provoking a startled yelp from his supervisor.
"You okay?" Johns asked.
There was an undercurrent of 'something' in Johns' voice, but in his relief at no longer being alone at the scene, Nick didn't bother to identify it. Instead, he simply said, "I'm fine."
Johns gave him a long look and for a moment, Nick squirmed. "All right," Johns pronounced. "We wait until the back up officers arrive, then we'll get to work. Shelley and Jim should be here by then, too. What've you done so far?"
Briefly, Nick outlined his actions and was surprised when they rated a comment of "good work" but at that moment the back up officers arrived and there was no time to wonder about the unlikely complement.
The rest of the afternoon passed in a haze, at least as far as Nick was concerned. It very quickly became apparent that Officer Davies' murder was just the tip of an excruciatingly gory iceberg. It was the cops, clearing the house, who found that out. The first body, a girl of no more than ten, was found in the lavish formal hall. The coroner counted six separate stab wounds to her torso. The second body, a woman in her thirties, was found on the threshold of the kitchen. Eight stab wounds to her torso, plus defensive wounds to her arms. The third body, though, was the worst. That was a small boy who had, from a distance, just looked as if he was sleeping on the burgundy carpet of the dining room. It was only close up that the blood pool was visible. Just one wound for him, but it had been a gaping slash across his throat that had severed both carotid artery and jugular vein.
By the time Nick returned to the lab to log his evidence, he didn't think he would ever get the stink of blood from his nose and he finally lost the battle he'd been fighting with his stomach the moment the last evidence log had been signed. He barely made it to the locker room before curling miserably over a trash can and puking.
"Rough first scene," said a gentle voice. "Hell, rough scene for anyone."
Nick closed his eyes. Grateful, in one sense, that it was Shelley who'd found him; he couldn't help but wish she'd arrived just five minutes later when he would have gotten himself cleaned up.
"Nicky, that's about as bad as it gets," she continued.
"It was supposed to be a robbery," he muttered thickly.
"Know what my supervisor told me, when I first went out into the field?" Shelley asked. "He told me to 'always expect the elephant'."
Shelley chuckled. "Exactly. Point is, you can't always rely on what folks have told you about a scene. All you can do is handle what you get and you did a pretty good job of that." She tapped him on the shoulder to attract his attention to the proffered bottle of water. "You did good, Nicky."
Nick took the bottle of water and used it to rinse his mouth out. "How can someone do that to a kid? He was so young. Too young."
Shelley sighed. "That's a question I can't answer."
"How do you get it out of your head?"
"You go home. You kiss your girlfriend, or hug your cat. You find something else to do. You get some sleep and then you start over in the morning."
"It's as simple as that?" Nick gave her a disbelieving stare.
Shelley smiled faintly. "Didn't say it was simple, Nicky. Just said that was what you had to do. Okay? You deal because you have to and because there's a little boy who needs you to figure out what happened to him. And it does get easier."
Nick thought about the boy, his life cut so short. "If I wanted easy, I wouldn't have asked for the transfer to the field."
Shelley offered another faint smile. "You'll do. C'mon. Jim's handled clocking out for us. Time for us to head home so we can start fresh in the morning and nail the bastard behind this."
And that was a sentiment that Nick could definitely get behind.