Author's note: I actually wrote this chapter months ago, then lost it, and then stumbled upon it recently when I was halfway done writing it all over again. The two versions weren't quite the same, so I merged the bits I liked from each and finished it off. Yay, progress.
See the first chapter for disclaimer & warning.
Thank you for reading.
Nick and Warrick met up with Detective Vega and headed to Kintaro's a couple hours into their next shift. Evan Gracie's last known address turned out to be a dead end, as he had moved out two months prior and left no forwarding address. As soon as they entered, Kintaro's Nick could see why Greg liked the place.
Music -the sort Greg usually played at the lab- was blaring through the shop's impressive speaker system; there racks full of t-shirts featuring more bands and musicians than the Texan could name; the walls were covered with posters, stocked CD shelves, and racks that held assorted jewelry and accessories. The store's patrons and employees alike were a colorful bunch: each with a unique hairstyle, several piercing or tattoos, and enough band paraphernalia to turn them into walking advertisements. A young woman with green streaks in her black hair and a piercing highlighting one of her perfectly formed eyebrows greeted them cheerfully shortly after they walked in.
"Hi, welcome to Kintaro's! I'm Aubrey. Can I help you find anything?"
The men exchanged an amused glance before Vega smiled at the lively employee. "I'm Detective Vega with the LVPD; this is Nick Stokes and Warrick Brown from the Crime Lab. Is Evan Gracie working tonight?"
The young woman rolled her eyes. "I knew something was up when he called in sick tonight. That isn't like him." Suddenly, she looked concerned and Nick figured she must have just realized what it meant that they were there. "He isn't hurt or anything is he?"
"No, nothing like that," Nick answered. Aubrey looked relieved but confused, and he decided to phrase his request carefully. "We're just looking to ask him some questions. Do you know where we can reach him?"
"Um, he lives downtown somewhere with a couple friends…I don't know where exactly." The girl frowned apologetically before offering, "I know his cell number though. Would that help?"
All three men smiled. "It would help a lot, actually," Warrick answered as Vega pulled out a notepad and a pen.
Thirty minutes later, the two CSIs waited as Detective Vega and several officers knocked on the door of the house that Archie had traced the cell's account holder back to. On paper, it was only being rented out to one man named George Banning. Considering that it was a four bedroom, Nick wasn't surprised that the young man was sharing it unbeknownst to the owner.
"Do you mind if we check the house?" Vega asked, making it sound like more of a demand than a question. A warrant was supposedly on the way, but none of the men working the case had wanted to wait for it. Fortunately, they did not have to.
"Yeah, sure…" The young man stepped aside to allow the officer in. "My other roommate -Brian- is home though. He's probably still asleep; second door on the right."
As the officers checked the house and startled the other resident, an officer pulled the confused brunette out where Nick and Warrick could speak to him. Nick introduced them both right away and asked the young man's name.
"George Banning; my ID's inside."
"That's fine, you can get it in a minute," Nick answered; "And your other roommate, Brian, what's his full name?"
"Brian Edward Jensen."
Warrick and Nick both had to fight the urge to laugh when George actually gave the other man's full name. "Thank you, George. Aside from you two and Evan, does anyone else live here?"
As George answered 'no', an officer led a young blonde man out of the house. His hair was mussed, he was wearing only a t-shirt and boxers, and he looked very drowsy, yet oddly unperturbed by the fact that the police had woken him and asked to search his home.
"Are you Brian?" Warrick asked as he looked over the tired-looking blonde.
"Mm-hmm," Jensen nodded, yawned, and scratched his neatly trimmed goatee. He still looked and sounded half-asleep. "What's going on…were we robbed?"
"No, we're lookin' for Evan Gracie." Nick answered as the officer returned to the house and Jensen stood next to his roommate. "When was the last time you saw him?"
"Uh…yesterday morning, I think." Jensen blinked for a moment, and then he looked and sounded like he had finally woken up fully. "Yeah, it was just for a minute though. He popped into his room to get something and then was off again. He's been coming and going a lot for the last few weeks."
Banning nodded his agreement. "We figured he finally found himself a girl, but he hasn't mentioned anyone."
Nick thought of their original suspect and his not-quite-concrete alibi. "Do either of you know a Mark Flynn?"
Banning answered 'yeah' at the same time Jensen said 'sort of'.
Warrick frowned when neither of the young men appeared ready to say more. "Either of you want to elaborate?"
"Not much to say, really," answered Banning. "He's just some guy Evan knows from way back…friend of the family or something."
"His dad's family worked for the Flynn's so they grew up around each other," Jensen explained. "Flynn's been throwing Evan odd jobs since he was a kid."
Warrick finally looked interested. "What kind of odd jobs?"
Jensen shrugged; "Mowing the lawn, painting the trim, clearing the storm drains, running errands…that kind of thing."
"And they've stayed in touch?" Nick asked and received nods from both of the young men. "Do you know when the last time they talked was?"
"Last time I heard of was about two weeks ago," answered Banning. He glanced at Jensen and the blonde looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding his agreement.
An officer called over from the front door just then. "Hey, crime lab; the house is clear and there's something you're going to want to see."
Nick nodded to the officer as Warrick headed over. Before he followed, Nick spoke to the two young men once more. "Thanks for your help. If you'd just wait here a little longer, the officer will let you know when we're finished. I'm sure Detective Vega will have some questions for you too."
Jensen just nodded and stifled another yawn while Banning shrugged and said "Sure, man, whatever."
Nick couldn't help but think that they could easily be Greg's friends and he had to fight an endeared grin as he headed into the house. Twenty minutes later, Gracie's hamper lit up under ALS and Nick decided the thought wasn't so endearing after all. Not when kids that nice could be so clueless about what their friends were doing.
An hour later, Nick watched Greg handle their DNA samples while Warrick and Vega questioned George Banning and Brian Jensen more thoroughly.
"You know, I could just page you when I finish," Greg comment after a few quiet minutes had passed. "Not that I don't enjoy the company, but shouldn't you be running background checks or participating in the interrogations?"
Nick shook his head. "Nah, I don't think Banning and Jensen have anything to do with the crime. Gracie only moved in a few months ago and they were really thrown when we told them we'd found blood in their house. They'll tell Rick and Vega anything they know.
"Archie's gonna pull up everyone's phone records as soon as our warrant comes through. Until then," Nick smirked at the younger man. "You're the one who's gonna shed the most light on Gracie's involvement."
"Well right now all I can tell you is that the blood is human." Greg set the GCMS with practiced ease and leaned back against the counter, smiling at the Texan. "Give me a minute and I'll tell you who it came from."
Nick sat in the only chair currently in the DNA lab, since Greg didn't seem interested in sitting. He shook his head. "Man, I don't think those guys had any idea who they were living with. The looks on their faces when we told them we'd found evidence of a crime in Gracie's room… How does that happen?"
"You said he'd only lived there a few months. Maybe they just weren't that close." Greg shrugged, looking a little morose. Both men were silent for a moment until the DNA results were finished. "The blood is a mixture of Natalie and Daniel Carlisle's…or what we're assuming is Daniel Carlisle's. Has anyone found out if he's missing yet?"
Nick had grown so accustomed to Greg being around lately that he'd almost forgotten the blonde wasn't there when Vega filled he and Warrick in on the way to Kintaro's at the start of shift. "Yeah, Henderson PD checked it out after you ID'd the blood.
"No answer at his condo and no sign of a struggle. He has no roommate or girlfriend that we know of, but he hasn't shown up for work since the murders. His boss and coworkers all say that's pretty unusual for him. One of his friends called the police in Henderson this afternoon to ask about a missing persons report."
Greg perked up slightly at the comment. "So is there any chance of getting an exemplar from his apartment?"
Nick grinned slightly. "That'll be our first priority after we hear what Archie and Gracie's roommates have to say."
A text told Nick that the warrant had gone through. He stood and dropped his voice before turning to the door. "See you later, baby."
"I'll be waiting." Greg's answering grin was all Nick needed to know that the younger man wasn't just looking forward to the new evidence.
Nick crossed the hall into the A/V lab. "Hey Archie, looks like we got our warrant."
"Awesome." Archie was already looking over some records as he spoke. "Go ahead and have a seat; this is your case." He indicated the records he was looking over. "Warrick called to let me know we had permission from Banning and Jensen to check their records, so I'm already on that."
"How's it look so far?" Nick asked as he sat and turned to the monitor.
"Nothing's jumping out at me. They didn't call Kintaro's or either of the Carlisle's at all from what I've seen and they haven't contacted Gracie in almost a week." Archie typed quickly and another window opened, showing Evan Gracie's phone records. "Let's see….we have a few calls to work, some late night 'entertainment', and a few numbers are coming up a lot during odd hours."
Nick nodded and crossed his arms. "Pull 'em up; let's see who he's been callin'."
Archie nodded as he typed, still looking at the monitor: "Mark Flynn, Jordan Summers, and Bill Thompson."
Nick frowned; Jordan Summers was the second victim and had been Natalie Carlisle's fiancée. He wondered how Gracie and Summers had known each other. "I wasn't expecting Summers. Flynn isn't a surprise. Who's Bill Thompson?"
Archie pulled up the man's DMV information and Nick knew they were getting somewhere as soon as he saw the young man. He had a bright smile, black eyebrows but purple hair, and was wearing a vintage black military jacket. "Thanks Archie. Take a closer look at those records and let me know if you find anything. "
Nick stood and pointed to the screen before he headed for the door. "We need to talk to that guy. I'm gonna see where Warrick and Vega are."
Nick heard Archie call out that he'd be working on it as he headed into the hall. He turned his gaze trough the walls as he headed out. Greg was working studiously in his lab, completely unaware of everything outside the glass walls and thrumming music. Vincent was working trace again that evening and he aimed a brief scowl at the DNA technician before turning his attention to his work.
It took all of his professionalism, but Nick managed not to turn on his heel and head into the DNA lab. They would talk later, whenever they had some time together. Nick knew it was ridiculous, but he hated that he was not going to see Greg after work that evening. The idea of one day apart should not feel so lonely a week into the relationship.
Warrick was just returning from the police station when Nick reached the reception area. The taller man nodded in greeting when he caught the Texan's eye.
"Hey man. Banning and Jensen don't know much more than they told us at the house. Their own alibis stand up though. They didn't have anything to do with the murders."
Nick nodded, "I figured as much. Greg matched the blood from Gracie's room to the Carlisle's. We need to get him an exemplar from Daniel Carlisle's place. Archie checked out the phone records.
Flynn is on there, of course, along with Jordan Summers." Nick nodded at the surprise on Warrick's face. "Yeah, we need to figure that one out. We also need to look into a guy named Bill Thompson. Gracie called him a lot during high plotting hours and he's got purple hair and a black military jacket."
Warrick nodded once; "Sounds like we need to sic Vega on him. Want to head to Carlisle's place and get Greggo that exemplar in the meantime? Maybe check the place out a little?" Nick agreed and Warrick called Vega to fill him in as they headed for the parking lot.
Nick climbed in the driver's seat while Warrick ended the call. "Alright; Vega's gonna track down Thompson. The guy had a juvenile record: B&E and some petty theft. He did his time and he's been clean for the last few years though."
"Sounds like the kind of friend you call if you need to break into someone's house," Nick commented as he pulled out of the crime lab's parking lot. He thought of Gracie's roommates and their shocked expressions. "Maybe that's why it looked like a robbery gone wrong…"
Warrick glanced at his friend. "You're thinking Thompson didn't know they were there for more than a simple burglary? I could buy that. The way that scene looked, someone was definitely in over their head."
"We have two suspects at the scene, but we can't prove that there was more than one killer." Nick frowned. "It also might explain where we found the second suspect's blood."
"Maybe it wasn't Natalie that hit him," Warrick agreed. He sighed. "I guess we'll see once we talk to Thompson and follow up on the evidence."
Daniel Carlisle's condo was expensive, modern, and utterly unimpressive, as far as Nick was concerned. The place was neat, nearly pristine, with just enough personal touches to prevent it from looking too institutional. There was no evidence to suggest that the last morning he left his home went any differently from any other day. There was no sign of a struggle or break in and no missing clothes, luggage, or passport.
"Nice place," Warrick commented after their initial walk through.
"I don't know," Nick muttered. "I'd take my crowded, overpriced house over it any day." He didn't add that he'd also prefer Greg's small but comfortable apartment. Warrick would never let him live it down.
Warrick snorted and nodded his agreement. The tall man's apartment wasn't that much bigger than Greg's, but it reflected its inhabitant's laid back attitude and sense of style. He frowned at a bland painting on the wall. "Didn't think there was this much money in urban photography."
"Doesn't matter if there is," Nick answered as he picked up a pile of bills from a small writing desk near the entrance hall. "The Carlisle's inherited a decent amount from their grandparents. Comes to them in installments…some sort of estate allowance."
Nick held up the stack of envelopes he had just flipped through. "Well, someone's been bringin' in the mail. We need to talk to the doorman."
Warrick nodded. "I'll grab his toothbrush and anything else that should give us his DNA." Nick could hear the smirk in his friend's voice as he called from down the hall. "You can take it to your boy toy while I check up with Vega."
They stopped by a drive-thru to get coffee and a couple breakfast sandwiches on their way back to the lab. It would be between shifts when they returned and Nick doubted any of them would be approved overtime for their current case. Greg, however, would be in the middle of his double shift to cover the absent day technician.
Nick had been right. The lab was nearly empty when he and Warrick arrived. The taller CSI headed over to PD to catch Vega before he left. The Texan headed straight into the lab.
A bored looking woman at the front desk checked him out suspiciously as he passed. One janitor offered him a smile and a nod; another didn't seem to notice him. Ecklie raised his head from a report when Nick passed his open office.
The Texan groaned quietly when Ecklie called after him. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath before turning around and standing in the doorway. "Stokes, what are you still doing here? All shifts are supposed to be watching their overtime."
Nick was tempted to point out that it wasn't any of Ecklie's business since he didn't work under him. He knew that would not go over well. Normally, he wouldn't care much, but Greg was going to have to work with the ass for the next six to eight hours. Besides, there seemed to be a very weak truce between Ecklie and Grissom and Nick didn't want to start some sort of shift war.
He offered a polite smile, the same as he would to a high maintenance witness that he needed to move along. "Yeah, I know. Don't worry, I'm off the clock. I just wanted to pick up these exemplars from Henderson so we get a match first thing next shift. Can't have an unidentified victim on the books too long now, can we?"
Ecklie watched him for a moment with an unreadable expression before he nodded. "Well, that's certainly true." He offered Nick a look that the Texan could only assume was approving. He found it a little unnerving.
"Sanders is covering DNA today." Ecklie remarked before nodding toward the bags in Nick's hand. "I'm sure he wouldn't mind running that for you before my guys come in and swamp him."
Nick frowned to himself as the senior CSI returned to a file he had open on his desk. "Uh, thanks."
Ecklie made a small sound of acknowledgment, or perhaps dismissal. "Make sure you head out once you're finished with him."
The Texan decided it was best if he didn't try to read anything into that last comment. Ecklie was probably just trying to earn points with the bigwigs and it had nothing to do with Nick or Greg personally. He just nodded and headed to Greg's lab.
The younger man was sorting through a few samples while bobbing his head along to his music, which was turned down lower than he usually played it at night.
Nick smirked as he dropped the bags Warrick had collected onto one of Greg's worktables. "Here you go, doll; exemplars from Daniel Carlisle's condo, as requested."
Greg rewarded him with a grin. Nick bit back a laugh and reminded himself to bring the younger man something nice the next time he stopped by his place.
"Thank you." Greg snatched up the samples and set to work immediately. "At least we'll finally know if it's him we're looking for."
Nick smiled at the younger man's enthusiasm. "That's the spirit." He sighed. "Well, I have to roll on outta here. Ecklie caught me on the way in so I can't act like time just got away from me. I'll talk to you later, yeah?"
"Yeah," Greg focused on the pipette he was using more than he need to. Nick could tell he was a little nervous. "You can call me whenever you wake up…if you want. I mean, I'll probably be off by then so-"
Nick grinned and –after taking a quick glance around- stepped closer so that he was standing directly behind Greg, pressed lightly against the slighter man's back. He dropped his voice. "Sounds like a plan then, babe."
The Texan's grin broadened as he felt Greg relax. The halls around DNA were darkened to save power in-between shifts and Nick could see a matching grin form on the blonde's face through their reflection in the glass. He quelled the desire to stroke Greg's side and forced himself to step away.
Nick was walking out the door when he heard a quiet but clear response.
He smiled to himself as he left the building.