CASE OF THE WEREWOLF KILLER

Chapter 10: Tracking a Killer

They decided to use Grissom's hummer. After retrieving a hand held radio, bottles of water, and some sandwiches, the three piled into the vehicle with Gideon taking the back seat allowing Barrett to sit shotgun.

"So how long does it take to get to this guy's last known location?" Barrett asked, drinking some water to hydrate before their run.

"About an hour and a half. Open me one of those would you?" Grissom answered, reaching for a bottle which Gideon opened then handed over.

"I hope we find the trail quickly. I don't want to be combing these hills every night in hopes of spotting this thing," Barrett commented, staring at the passing scenery which contained the most garishly decorated buildings he'd ever seen.

Some were incredible feats of architectural design while others looked liked theme parks with waterfalls, amusement rides, a replica of the Sphinx no less, and many other amazing looking venues and hotels. The lights painted the night sky with garish color. Much better looking than their day time appearance he'd seen from the plane earlier.

But the first time he'd ever been here had been at night and he'd been awed by the sheer grandeur of it and at the same time disgusted by the amount of electricity being wasted. The place looked like the sun itself had come down to light things up.

Not being a gambling man, he wasn't interested in the night life on the strip. His only business, that first visit, was the case that had brought he and Grissom together. Their case was in a small community some miles away for which he'd been grateful. Vegas was a crazy enough city without trying to find a murderer among its glitz and glamor.

His mind returned to the present where he was glad to note Grissom had removed them from the insane traffic of the city. They were now cruising at a faster speed down a wide highway. There wasn't much to see but desert and the occasional housing area so he closed his eyes and took a brief nap.

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

Gideon stared at the flashing lights of the strip with blind eyes. His mind was on the last encounter he'd had with their unsub. Skin walkers were a blight that needed exterminating as quick as possible. It was bad enough they were humans but add in their human failings like insanity and they became dangerous nuisances that brought unwanted attention to the legitimate supernatural community. And there still was the question no one was able to answer earlier...why take three forms? It made no sense.

"Thinking about our target?" Gil murmured from the driver's seat, his eyes still firmly on the road.

The cougar shifter stared into the rear view mirror and caught Gil's eyes on him. "Though I agree with Reid on this being a thrill killer, I'm still wondering why the unsub has taken three forms and did they originally start off this way or were they a Native American seeking revenge,first, and enjoyed it so much they kept on doing it and thought bigger was better?"

"Or are they one of those paranormal nuts that wanted to experience a new thrill?" Gil asked right back. He shook his head. "Afraid we'll not get an answer to any of our questions since we can't get close enough to demand answers. But I understand your desire to want them."

Gideon sighed. "You're right. Though, I hate being left with a huge blank spot under motivation of the killer in my report."

There was a thoughtful silence for a moment then Gil said, "You still might find your answers if we have someone take a picture of the person then track them back to their first kill."

The cougar shifter's eyes blinked then snorted at himself in disgust. "Of course we can and it's normal procedure during the stake out portion of the investigation. I don't know why we missed that though."

"Forest for the trees mentality...happens to all of us which is why we discuss everything to such great lengths," Gil soothed his friend.

"So true. I'll remind Hotch of that when we return. If the team finds the unsub's residence here, we can get plenty of pics of them and hopefully identify them. It will be tougher if they haven't a criminal record but eventually we should find out who they were."

"When you do, make sure to let me know as well. Nick and I would love to know what motivated this person too."

"Of course. My only concern now is taking the unsub out before they take another victim."

"And that could be one of us if Dr. Reid's supposition is right and that's what this little jaunt is about after all, but I have another question for you...do we know if any of the victims we're shape shifters?" Barrett, who had roused at the sound of their voices, asked.

Gideon and Gil blinked in surprise. It was the CSI scientist who answered. "No, we don't."

"Then we better do a little more digging into the case when this part is done. I want to know if they've been targeting our kind at all or were they just humans," Gideon said, pulling out his notebook and jotting down what he needed to tell Hotch.

"It might even answer your question, Gideon, about why they've taken three forms," suggested Barrett, thoughtfully.

"It might indeed. Thank you."

"No problem. Be sure you tell me what you find out, too," Barrett said, pleased he'd been of some help.

"Don't worry, I will," Gil promised.

"You know what's truly annoying?" Barrett mused, not expecting them to answer. "Is having to track down some fool human who decided to dabble in our world. Don't we have enough problems of our own?"

Gideon snorted. "It's the nature of humans to be fascinated and reckless. That will never change."

"Too true!" Barrett sighed and signaled for a bottle of water from Gideon who handed him one. After taking a deep swig, he said, "Ya know, I've never heard of a skin walker being able to take more than one form at the same time...I don't think I've heard it was even possible."

"It's not supposed to be. Wish I knew how the hell they managed it but that's a question we won't get an answer on since only the unsub would know it," Gideon said, shaking his head.

Barrett just snorted. "Well, I hope we can at least discover why they did it. Seems overkill when you're hunting humans but if they were targeting us as well, then it would make sense."

Gideon frowned. "I don't like the idea of a human discovering our kind and going on a hunt for us...might give others the same idea."

"Now there a truly scary thought. Let's hope this guy is just an aberration," Barrett said, shivering.

"It just might be part of the unsub's psychosis," Grissom ventured. "And we haven't established if their human mind knows about the supernatural world outside their skinwalker form," he reminded them.

"Lots of questions. Hope we get some answers soon as nothing about this case makes much sense," Gideon said, disgusted.

Silence fell for awhile in the car. Traffic had thinned the further they'd gotten away from the strip and the stars were bright but still couldn't compete with all the neon lights shining behind them like a beacon.

"Looks like we're nearly there," Gideon observed some ten minutes later, finishing his water and watching Grissom steer the car onto a turnoff that was clearly marked as the destination for the Las Vegas Springs Preserve.

The Springs Preserve was the premier place in Las Vegas where people more interested in nature would come to explore the valley's vibrant history through interactive science and nature exhibits, an eight acre botanical garden (one section was where weddings were held), hiking and biking trails, and live animal shows. There was The Desert Living Center (which held exhibits, classrooms, meeting spaces, and an art gallery), the Waterworks Museum, The Nevada State Museum, The Origen Museum, a large child's playground, a café, a gift shop, and ticket booths plus a large parking lot.

It was a fantastic place and one Gideon wished he had time to explore. However, they were here because a body had been dumped at the edge of the beautiful gardens.

It was a long five mile drive from the entrance to the back of The Gardens and it should have been dark out here as the place was closed but the lights of the strip and the Spring's security lighting which was spread over the entire facilities pathways provided more than enough light. Of course to the shifter's animal eyes it was as bright as day.

Grissom finally halted his car near the area of the last body drop and cut the engine. Silence fell as the engine ticked as it cooled. The three shifters stepped out and stretched. The scent and sound of water could be heard from the Waterworks Museum and from the sprinkler system that was presently misting The Gardens.

Turning away from The Gardens all one saw was the vast desert and in the distance the mountains.

Grissom raised an arm and pointed to an area that was left of their position. "That leads to the Las Vegas Wash. The scent led us that way and up. We met our quarry about halfway up the escarpment. So that's where we try and pick up the scent again. Our quarry kept off the preserve's hiking trails and biking routes apparently as we found no trace of them near the body dump."

"But they did enter the preserve to leave the body. I suspect they may even be working here so they could stalk the perfect victim. We've already begun interviews of the workers but our search parameters were large of necessity. With this possibility, we can narrow down the suspects to those who arrived within the last six month and whether they've left. I'll call Hotch and have him put Garcia on this. At least our suspect pool will be smaller and we just might get lucky," Gideon told them as he reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell.

"Have them speak to Captain Brass. He might already have something on that. Would save your team covering the same ground," Grissom added. Gideon nodded that he'd heard then turned away to speak with his superior.

While Gideon was occupied, Barrett and Grissom began stripping their clothes off. Before altering their form, the two sucked down more water. When Gideon completed his call, he hurriedly stripped his clothing off too.

Stowing their clothing away, Grissom locked the car and stashed the keys behind the left rear wheel. Turning back to his companions he asked, "Ready?"

"Let's do this!" Barrett responded, morphing immediately. In quick succession, Grissom and Gideon did the same and within moments three shifters stood on four feet, shaking their bodies out to settle the transformation. Without a sound, Grissom headed off at a run with the other two in his wake.

It took them a good thirty minutes to reach the location where they'd first encountered the beast. Each took a quadrant and began searching for the creature's scent. It was Barrett that detected it first as his nose was far keener than either wolf or cougar.

With a weird yap his kind were known for to alert them, he headed up the hill at a run that slowed to more of a scramble as his canid paws struggled to get purchase on the rocky, steep path up the walls of the wash. Of the three, only the cat had less problems and was soon leaping ahead of them to the top. It was even more difficult for Grissom, whose heavier form wasn't made for climbing.

On the rim that ran along this section of the wash, there were more trees and low shrubs and not far below was the wide expanse that was the Las Vegas Wash that poured through a large wetland. They followed the scent along the rim for some time before it seemed to plunge down a steep embankment to the water below.

Again, the canids had a difficult time getting down without actually falling to the rocks below but Gideon used the trees and brush to get down more easily than they. But finally the three reached the bottom, more or less at the same time, and as they pushed through a thick field of cattails, they ran into company.

Water dripped off the lone, gray fox's chin as it raised it's head in alarm and prepared to run but a low bark and series of soft grumbles from Grissom made it freeze. It was smaller than the golden jackal so it felt overwhelmed by the three predators, especially the two it was not familiar with. It tolerated Grissom in its territory as the wolf made a habit of sharing his kills with him. It large eyes watched the other two alertly, body ready to flee if it thought they threatened him.

To make it feel more comfortable, the three sat down and relaxed. Grissom began a barking conversation that the fox responded to with small high pitched yips of its own. The 'conversation' lasted some minutes then it seemed the two canids had come to an agreement of some kind because the fox turned and made off along the river bank with Grissom following.

Gideon looked puzzled but Barrett just tossed his head in a come along gesture and took off after the wolf. The cougar looked around one more time before heading off after the strange collection of dogs.

The fox lead the group deeper and deeper into the wet lands before halting. It sat down and barked at Grissom, using its paw to tap at a patch of ground before it. The wolf nodded and barked back. The fox bobbed its head before turning into the brush and running off, vanishing in a second.

Grissom walked up to the spot the fox had pointed at and studied the odd print in the soft mud. The other two came up along side him and did the same. Barrett made a grimacing face of disgust and backed up from the spot. The cougar also grimaced but wasn't as bothered by the nasty odor.

The white wolf's fur made him stand out among the dark reeds waving in the night air as he raised his head and sniffed around for a scent. He sneezed then shook his huge shaggy head. Suddenly he morphed into his biped form. The other two did the same, waiting to see what he had to say.

"So what did he say and where are we?" Gideon asked, his voice high and thick...hard to talk around long fangs.

"My fox friend brought us here where he and others had seen our target. It terrified everyone and he asked that we get rid of it before all their food is scared away. We now have proof the unsub is still around because they were seen hunting then crossing at this very spot a few hours ago. No one has seen or heard them since."

"I don't know if that's good news or bad. We might have caught them finally but with a scent like that and as big and dangerous as you say they are, I'm kind of glad we didn't," Barrett commented, his nose still wrinkling in disgust. "I can smell where they crossed the water here."

"The fox saw them climb up that bank over there and head up out of sight. As for where we are, this is the beginning of the new Clark County Wet Lands Park. It's thirteen miles from the Spring's Preserve."

"We've come a long distance then. Is there a facility here too like at the Springs?" Gideon asked, looking around. Sounds of small creatures calling to each other and frogs croaking filled the air, the presence of three shifters not having disturbed them too much.

"No, nothing yet. Ground breaking for the project was due to start this year," Grissom informed them.

"Good. I was afraid we would have to widen our suspect pool. So let's go for a swim," Gideon said, grimacing at the idea of getting wet. He altered back to his cougar form and stepped reluctantly into the water, immediately beginning to paddle quickly across the small pond.

Without speaking, the two canids did the same, leaving long ripples behind them as they swam swiftly across. Reaching the opposite bank, they climbed out and shook the water from their fur. A short distance away, the cougar was grooming its face, its coat more repellant than the two dogs so he wasn't as wet.

Barrett immediately began searching for their target's scent while Grissom watched him. He soon found it. Unfortunately, wet the thing reeked even worse than when dry, setting the jackal to violently sneezing.

The cougar and wolf didn't much care for it either as they too sneezed and backed away from the worst part of the scent trail. Shaking his head and pulling his gums back to reveal his sharp row of tiny fangs, Barrett grimaced in distaste but headed off following the noisome scent into the tall grass and cattails.

It wasn't long before Grissom realized the scent was leading them back toward The Springs Preserve. Soon they were just above where the beaten dirt paths were for both biking and hiking trails. However, their quarry didn't actually step foot on the paths at all, choosing to keep to the brush ten feet above instead. The trail continued on until they reached the rear of the, still under construction, Waterworks Museum.

Barrett continued on around the building until they came to the end of the row of museums and arrived at the point they'd begun the hunt, the huge parking lot. It was there Barrett stopped dead a moment. Shaking his head, he began searching outward in a circle. The wolf and cougar sat and waited, watching him. It wasn't long before the jackal returned to them then morphed into his human form.

"The scent stops dead right here but I thought I'd check further just to be sure," he reported.

Gideon nodded. "That fits with altering back and getting into a vehicle. So either they are a visitor or they work here. I'd opt for working here since your fox friend said our unsub has been hanging around a while. Visiting frequently would be costly. Working here makes more sense."

"Without any further evidence to the contrary, I have to agree with you." Grissom nodded.

"I was hoping they would lead us to their home but that would have been too easy. So, I guess good old fashioned police work will have to locate them. I don't really fancy coming out here and searching every night. Got any other suggestions?" Barrett asked.

"I agree it isn't wise to keep hunting this thing ourselves. We've done what we set out to do which is proving the unsub is still here," Gideon said.

"Then I suggest we call in some help..." Grissom said before altering to his wolf form and howling into the night.

His two companions stared at him in puzzled confusion. The wolf howled for five minutes before out in the distance his calls were answered. The cry of a pack of coyotes were heard over the still night air.

Grissom morphed to human again, a grin on his face.

"Ahh, calling in your adopted pack, eh?" Gideon smirked.

The wolf shifter shrugged. "Seemed like a good idea. They've encountered them so know what to look for and how to keep out of their way while keeping track of them for us."

"Wow, great idea and it'll certainly help us keep tabs on them until we're ready to trap and kill," Barrett agreed, giving a predatory smile. "How long will it take your posse to get here?"

"Oh, by the sound of the howls...about twenty minutes. Might as well eat our dinner while we wait," Grissom suggested changing back to wolf and running toward The Gardens where their vehicle was parked. The two caught up then ran beside him.

At the car, they returned to human form. Barrett retrieved the keys and opened the car then went to the rear to open the hatch, pulling the cooler toward him. Each of them reached in and grabbed a sandwich and drink then sat in their seats, eating in silence.

Nearly twenty-five minutes later, a howl was heard approaching. Putting his trash in the cooler, Grissom then changed to wolf and sent a call back. In minutes, a pack of six adult coyotes came down the paths from the desert to where they waited in The Gardens, halting about ten feet from the group.

The conversation between Grissom and the coyotes was short and noisy. Then, as suddenly as they'd arrived the pack took off again into the desert.

While they'd waited, Gideon and Barrett had decided to get dressed.

Once his business was done, Grissom trotted back to them looking upset, his fur raised and fangs exposed. He altered back and began tugging his clothing on with angry jerks. "They'll keep watch for us. They hate the thing as the criminal has killed four of their members, two of them female." Grissom's manner was savage and angry.

Gideon and Barrett wisely made no comment. They understood his anger and sympathized. Unlike humans, shape shifters held tighter bonds to their own kind and, even though this wasn't a wolf pack, Grissom had adopted the coyotes as his own and considered them his responsibility. The deaths made him feel he'd failed at that duty.

Gideon pitied the skin walker. No matter how powerful the unsub was, an angry, bent for revenge, shape shifter could be enough to bring the fool down. Grissom was not someone to cross and though the unsub was already marked for death, the cougar felt they weren't going to go down quickly if the wolf got to them first. Though he didn't think the CSI scientist would go off on his own, he thought he and Barrett should keep close just in case.

The three climbed aboard the vehicle and were soon heading back to Police Headquarters.