"Evan Morris? I'm Catherine Willows from the crime lab; I need to ask you a few questions."
"Sure thing," the manager of the prop department replied nervously. He was a tall, skinny man. He looked tired and unshaven, sporting dark rings under his eyes, and his hair was an untamed blond mop. Catherine noticed he looked a little shifty, trying not to look directly at her yet he seemed also to unsuccessfully hide his nerves.
"Martin Salisbury claims that the gun was kept in the table drawer seen on-stage and that it's put there at the start of the show. Can you confirm this?"
"Y-yes," he stammered, "the prop gets stored here from t-the first act and w-we usually p-put it back about an hour before the show begins."
"An hour? That would be more than enough time to switch the guns, especially if you knew where to find it." She gave Evan an intimidating glance.
"W-what you think I did it?"
"We can't prove that. Yet. So where is the prop at the moment?"
"Urrm... I-I don't know, it was never found after the shooting."
"Well it's a good thing we're here. We're good at finding things." She whispered to him.
"Hello Catherine," Ray had just arrived to assist, "Sara told me you needed some help processing."
"Actually Ray, I've already done most of the room already and found nothing. I've had a look at the stage as well, no prints, blood, shoe treads or anything useful. You might want to have a look at those lockers over there; I haven't had a chance to check them."
"Urrm," Evan piped up, "don't you need a warrant or something to look inside them..."
"Why do you want a warrant if you've got nothing to hide?" Catherine asked him in an overly sweet manner.
"Y-yeah I guess so, I'll open them," he replied, conceding to their request and proceeding to open up the end locker marked with his name.
"Well, this is interesting," Ray said taking as he took photo and bent down to pick up something.
"What have you got Ray?" She called out.
He held up what looked like a pistol, clutching the grip with his fingertips. The pistol itself could have been mistaken for your authentic Glock 19, only there were noticeable disparities to the keen eyes of the CSI. Catherine noticed the colour begin to drain from Evan Morris' face and she gave him a look of arousing suspicion, causing him to quake nervously.
"Looks like we found our not-so-smoking gun."
"Blood from the fabric came back."
Nick looked up as Greg strode into the break room accompanied by a slightly dusty case file. Greg slid the file across the table to him.
"DNA got a hit in a cold case from last year," Greg continued, "don't know if you remember it. Suzanne Hopkins, nineteen years old, murdered July the second of last year. Autopsy concluded COD was exsanguination due to a stab wound directly to the heart. Doc Robbins also found a diamond fragment in the vic's mouth, skin under the fingernails and high blood alcohol content. We found no murder weapon, had a few suspects but no evidence to connect them to the crime, body was found in her own home just off the Summerlin Parkway, again nothing was found to suggest she was killed there. No developments meant that the case got pushed to the bottom of the pile, eventually went cold."
"Yeah I remember this case," Nick said as he flicked through the file, "with regards to the possible murder weapon, Doc's reported that the entry wound has pointed edges, either side of it, suggests it was caused by a double bladed weapon."
"A dagger, perhaps?"
"Possibly, but that's not a whole lot of use if we don't have any leads at all. I'm sure there're thousands of daggers in Vegas alone."
"But there are not so many distributors of your soily trace around here," a voice called from behind Nick. He turned around and saw it belonged to Hodges, who had an expression planted on his face which radiated an extortionate level of smugness, "I found traces of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium."
"Plant fertiliser," Greg replied, sounding unsurprised by the results.
"Yes well done Einstein," Hodges retorted, "but there's more, the sample collected from your runaway fabric has a significantly higher concentration of nitrogen, generally used to make one's lawn a little greener," he began rambling, quietly adding, "Mother liked to keep the garden looking as green as possible."
"Where is this going Hodges?" Nick said with a slight annoyance in his voice.
"Hold on, I'm getting there. Now there aren't any factories in Nevada which distribute this particular kind of fertiliser but I got a hit on a company in La Paz County, Arizona, 'Miracle Lawns'."
"Miracle Lawns? Hold on a sec," Nick said, frantically flipping through the case file, "aha! Frank LeTorneau, driver for Miracle Lawns, lives two doors down from the victim. Daughter was good friends with the vic as well. We spoke to him last time but couldn't tie him towards any physical evidence or anything to suggest he was at the Hopkins house."
"Well I say we go and pay Mr LeTorneau a visit," Greg remarked, giving Nick a wink he added, "I'll drive."
"Happy for you to, dude, I'm not the one OD-ing on caffeine."
"Ahem," Hodges cleared his throat, halting the two CSIs as they prepared to leave, "I believe you're missing a little praise to the guy who just cracked your case."
The two CSIs looked at each other for a moment and then Nick smiled, walked over to Hodges and gave him an affectionate pat on the shoulder, "well done, Einstein."
The two CSIs left with smirks on their faces, leaving a perplexed Hodges standing alone in the break room.
"Care to guess what your victim's COD is?" Al Robbins casually asked Sara.
"Errm, gunshot wound to the chest?" She replied, looking down at Lorna McAlman's lifeless body with pity. Even after staring at hundreds of bodies lying in Doc Robbins' 'chop-shop', she always felt immense sadness whenever a new case came around.
"It's tragic when my job is made this easy. Your bullet entered here," he indicated to the bullet hole in the middle of her chest, "it grazed the number four rib, dissected the aorta and eventually embedded itself in the spinal cord. I extracted it for you."
He held up the plastic container which housed the bullet and passed it to Sara who examined it. "9mm," she reported, "consistent with the Glock 19 we recovered from the scene. Did you find anything else?"
"David found nothing in her external examination, just a lot of make-up. Hardly a surprise, seeing as there's no evidence of a struggle on stage. Internally, aside the obvious bullet intrusions, she was a pretty healthy human being. However, I did find minute traces of vomit lining the oesophagus."
"Yes, but not in the immediate hours before death at least; her stomach contents showed she had a lasagne, garlic bread and salad shortly before taking to the stage. I sent a sample of her blood to tox anyway." He looked at Lorna's face again and sighed, "you know, Mrs Robbins and I had booked tickets to see this show Sunday night, I'm now going to have to find another way to keep her quiet for three hours."
"You know, when Grissom doesn't want me bugging him, he usually just sits in front of some soapy TV programme. Even though he hates them, he can just zone out and think of... well, whatever. It works though; I would not be seen dead watching those types of shows."
"It's just a shame Mrs Robbins is a big fan of them," he said sadly, "oh and one more thing I should mention about your vic. I did note some slight vaginal abrasions but she wasn't raped, I'd put that down towards recent rough sex. I didn't find any seminal fluids though."
"There was no condom in the trash, it was empty, but I guess that supports my theory with regards to the unusual hand prints I found on the victim's dressing table."
"I'm sorry there's not a lot I can help you with regarding this case."
"It's a good thing we've still got the physical evidence to rely on then," she gave Doc Robbins a smile and walked out of the morgue. She breathed a small sigh of relief as she immediately felt herself warming up having left the autopsy room, heading back to her usual roost to start examining the evidence.
Just as she ascended the top of the stairs her phone rang, "Sidle."
"Hey Sara, it's Catherine, I need you to come down to PD, we've got another suspect."
"No problem, I'll see you there," she replied before hanging up and changing her destination to the Police Department.
The last time Nick remembered being in this part of town was on that fateful midsummer's night, statistically, this was supposed to be the safest part of Las Vegas. 'Little comfort to Suzanne Hopkins,' he thought to himself as Greg parked up at their destination. Morning was upon them and Nick was already starting to feel the arid climate get to him, he wished he'd taken up the offer of coffee before they had left now. Reluctantly leaving the comfortable land of air conditioning, he dragged himself out the car and headed towards the door of the LeTorneaus.
Nick noticed the 'Miracle Lawns' truck parked alongside a smaller car on the driveway, before he tapped on the door three times. No answer. 'Saturday morning,' he thought to himself. He knocked three more times and this time called out, "Frank LeTorneau, LVPD, open up!"
The door opened to reveal a grumpy looking man clothed in a dressing gown, he could barely keep his eyes open and was far from clean shaven, it was obvious to Nick that he'd just been dragged out of bed. LeTorneau gave out a small grunt, which may have sounded like something on the lines of "what?"
"Good morning Mr LeTorneau, I'm Nick Stokes, this is Greg Sanders, we're from the crime lab investigating the death of Suzanne Hopkins from last year."
"We're going to need to ask you a few questions," Greg continued, pulling out a notebook and pen.
"I thought ye already caught the guy?" LeTorneau mumbled back.
"We're investigating a new lead into the case."
"Now Mr LeTorneau, you deliver fertiliser for 'Miracle Lawns' is that correct?" Nick asked to which LeTorneau nodded. Nick then gave him a photo to examine. "Can you explain the origins of this cloth? We found traces of fertiliser identical to the type you deliver on this particular cloth."
"Yeah, I put them cloths in the back of me truck, stops the crap gettin' everywhere."
"Okay, now explain to us how Suzanne Hopkins' blood got on a cloth with traces of 'Miracle Lawns' fertiliser."
LeTorneau straightened up suddenly upon hearing Nick's comments and he noticeably began to raise his voice. "Oh come on, anyone coulda nabbed it from the back of me truck, I'm losin' them things all the time and I aint the only 'Miracle Lawns' driver livin' round these parts."
"Actually," Greg piped up, "you are."
"Well that don't mean I killed the girl, does it?"
"Well if you could just let us take a look at..."
"Are you kiddin'? You come bangin' on me front door at this godly hour an' accuse me of somethin' I didn' do which happened a year ago. Now, you're tryin' to snoop aroun' my house, or my truck, you know, you ain't stepping near my place again without a warrant."
"Anymore questions you have will be asked to my attorney." With that, he walked inside and slammed the door.
"Nice guy," Greg said sarcastically, "sounds to me like he's hiding something."
"Yeah, problem is we can't prove it," Nick replied sadly walking back towards the car.
"You know, I've been looking at some new digs, even had a look around here, it doesn't strike me as an area a delivery boy can afford to live in."
"Oh, and you can afford it?" Nick smirked at him.
"Well, no. Not yet anyway. Maybe if I ever get around to publishing my book."
"Excuse me a moment," a high-pitched, feeble sounding voice came from behind. The two CSIs turned to see an elderly woman walking towards them from across the road, "are you two here because of that sheet I sent over?"
"You're our mysterious Sherlock?" Nick asked her, surprised.
The woman nodded, "Me and my husband, Larry saw it on the driveway after we returned from bingo. Must have blown in from somewhere but it looked all bloody and torn so I got Larry to drive it round to LVPD."
"Well we've managed to relate it back to a homicide which occurred on this street last year. You've been an excellent help ma'am."
"Oh is that to do with Suzie's death? Poor girl was so lovely, and so was her friend, Katrina I think her name was. When they were younger they used to come over and help me get rid of my weeds and I'd bring them fresh lemonade and cookies out for them. Even when they grew out of that, they'd always smile and say hi when they passed by the house. I've only seen Katrina once since Suzie's death, poor girl she must have lost a huge part of her, especially so soon after her mother died."
"We appreciate your help ma'am and we'll let you know if there are any further developments," Nick called out to her as she continued wandering down the street. "So Greg, what do you reckon? Freak gust of wind blows the cloth from LeTorneau's truck onto the neighbour's driveway?"
"Sounds plausible," Greg replied, "but why would LeTorneau keep the cloth for so long? Why not get rid of it?" He noticed that Nick had got his phone out and started tapping in a number. "You don't think that's good enough for a warrant do you? Like the guy said, that cloth could have been taken by anyone."
"Maybe, but it's worth a shot. I've been granted warrants for far less evidence; you just got to call the right judge."
Evan Morris sat alone nervously in the interrogation room. He was agitated that was for sure, his hands were shaking, so were his feet, tapping excessively against the cold marble flooring. It had been a tough night for everyone at the production and it seemed like it was never going to end for him. Was this the end? Was he going to spend the rest of his life behind bars, all because of a stupid prop? Even if he did get out of here, what was there left to live for? Lorna was gone, Lorna, the only woman he had truly loved, taken out of his life so viciously and cruelly. What of his job? Where had he gone wrong? He was responsible for making sure everything was correctly in its place, but he had failed, Lorna was dead because he hadn't done his job properly and he could never forgive himself for it.
Catherine watched the man fidget behind the glass, a sense of pity beginning to grow inside her. She knew all too well what it was like to be on the opposite side of the table: Scared. Isolated. Lost. She saw Sara approaching her and passed her some photos of her findings.
"We found the prop gun in Mr Morris' locker," Catherine began explaining as Sara began sifting through the photos, "he claims he has no idea how it got there. I've already swabbed and fingerprinted him."
"Well, he could possibly be telling the truth, maybe someone was trying to drag him and Martin Salisbury down."
"Two birds with one stone." Sara nodded.
"Well," Catherine continued, "it's possible that he also could have accidentally placed the real gun in the drawer before the performance. Result of negligent behaviour?"
"Yes, but how does that explain the prop left in the locker. There should only have been one gun, surely he would have noticed if there was another."
"Well, somebody knows."
Catherine walked into the room, Sara closely followed behind her. The two of them took their seats opposite Evan Morris, who nervously looked at each woman in turn before resorting back to twiddling his thumbs. There was a short silence before Catherine began questioning.
"So Mr Morris, explain how we found the gun prop inside your locker."
Evan pondered slightly, his eyebrows rising and falling, his mouth twitching, he was beginning to sweat so that the little light in the room bounced off his forehead, illuminating the fear in his eyes.
"I don't know." He mumbled. There was another short silence before Sara spoke.
"Talk us through what you did with the prop before the show."
Evan swallowed hard before recounting, "I arrived on set at one yesterday afternoon. I um, checked to see whether all the props were accounted for, which they were. Then I um... I um... I... I..."
"Did you place the prop in the drawer where it was supposed to be?"
"I um... yes. About two hours before the show started."
"Did you replace the gun during those two hours?"
"I um... yes, I mean no, no I didn't. Why do you think I would want to kill Lorna? I loved her."
"Loved her, in what way?" Catherine raised her eyebrow with suspicion, "Girlfriend? Fling? Crush?"
"I um... I loved her, but I um don't think she felt the same way. I was going to ask her to dinner the other night, after one of the shows but she was with someone else, I mean, I heard raised voices coming from her dressing room, she was arguing with someone, something about going away and then, they lessened, I think I heard her say something about she was staying and then, then..."
"What happened afterwards?"
"They began, began, urrm, making love," Evan began to fidget awkwardly, "I um, could hear it through the door." Sara and Catherine exchanged a glance.
"So what did you do after that? Decide to go and pop a bullet to her head out of jealousy?"
"No, no I didn't, I went home afterwards and I um... went to bed."
"When did you say this happened?" Sara asked.
"Err, couple of nights ago, first night we were in Vegas, I think it was after Wednesday's show."
There was a short moment of silence before it was interrupted by the shrill beeps of Catherine's ringtone. Looking at the caller ID she answered the phone, "Willows."
"Hey Catherine," a familiar southern accent echoed down the line, "it's Bobby, only print I found on your pistol was a partial on the trigger, I presume that would be your shooter."
"Okay, do you have anything else?"
"Yes, I do, actually the reason I wanted to call you. I ran the serial number and got a hit, your gun was purchased in Reno five days ago to a Mr Evan Morris." Catherine's eyes began to widen as the case seemed to be beginning to fit together.
"Nice work Bobby, thanks." She hung up the phone and faced Evan with arousing suspicion. Without returning to her seat she told him, "the gun that was used to kill Lorna McAlman; it was bought by yourself in Reno five days ago. Do you know what I think? Lorna blew you off didn't she and you got angry, so you bought the gun, you were going to blow her brains out there and then."
"No. No! That's not true!" Evan protested.
"But you were clever, plant the gun during the performance, you could pin the blame on Martin Salisbury and you'd just disappear off the radar..."
"I didn't do it I swear! I never even noticed that my gun was missing. I bought the gun because we were going to Vegas and I knew I might need it, Vegas is a rough place and I wanted protection." 'Well, he got something right,' Catherine thought to herself. "I did my job, put the prop in the drawer, went out for a bite, came back just before show-time."
"Can anyone verify that?" Sara asked.
"Um, yes, I have a receipt in my wallet from LuckyGoChicken just down the street."
"Well, that's plausible, assuming we can believe the rest of your story."
There was a long pause following Sara's last words. Catherine could see that the nerves had dissipated and his anxiety had changed to anger. He was a difficult person to read and they knew there wasn't enough physical evidence to convict him yet.
Catherine opened her mouth to speak but she was cut off by Evan, who spoke in a different, surprisingly deep voice, "I want a lawyer."
A/N - Hope you enjoyed Part 2. Part 3 will be up sometime tomorrow. :)