"Okay everyone, we really need to get this case solved soon. We're back to square one and the DA is nagging us for a conviction, hopefully we might find something with a bit of restored energy," Catherine spoke to her team as they poured over photos, papers and evidence in the layout room.
After failing to get a conviction with Risetti, Catherine had sent everyone home for some rest. The case was frustrating for her alone and she could tell it was taking its toll on Sara and Ray as well and she knew that a tired team would become a sloppy team. Time was against them, the production was moving on to Los Angeles in two nights time and realistically she could only keep one of the suspects in Vegas after then. Furthermore, they had no suspects in custody and a few hundred eyewitness accounts to go on, not enough to stand up in court.
"Right," Catherine began to move to one side of the room, "I say we go over all our suspects and leads again, starting with the leading male and shooter, Martin Salisbury."
"He had a good relationship with the victim," Sara continued, "the two of them were going to leave to set up their own theatre school in California after the production."
"Production Stage Manager confirms this," Ray spoke, "we know that the prop gun supposed to be used in the production was replaced with an authentic Glock 19 pistol. We know that Martin Salisbury was the shooter, intentional or not we're yet to determine but we have no fingerprints, shoe treads, or epithelials which put him in the prop room or on stage before the show began."
"Let's move on to suspect numero dos," Catherine intervened, walking back to the other side of the room, "Evan Morris, our prop manager who had a bit of a thing for the victim."
"He claims that he placed the prop gun in the drawer approximately two hours before the show was due to begin," Sara explained, "this suggests the gun was replaced between six pm and eight pm on the night of the shooting. Evan Morris has an alibi; he gave us a receipt from LuckyGoChicken which has a time of six twenty-two pm, Detective Vartann spoke to the guy serving who confirms he was in there."
"But the gun that was used to kill Lorna McAlman was registered to him," Ray pointed out, "he finds out that she was having sex with someone else, he gets jealous and finds a way to kill her. He's got motive, I've seen it happen before. As far as we know, he never could have put the gun in the drawer in the first place."
"But, Risetti said that the guy was sloppy, often leaves his things lying around, he's suitable for framing. Anyone could have taken that gun and put it in the drawer; I suppose he's the type of person who leaves their locker open, plant the prop gun there. Boom, automatic suspect."
"Those are logical theories," Catherine noted, "but this is all speculation and if we don't have the evidence to prove them, they'll never stand up in court. Right, what have we got on our final suspect?"
"Quinz Martinez Algora Risetti," Ray said unenthusiastically, placing emphasis on each of his flamboyant names to which Sara stifled a small smile. "We know he was in the victim's dressing room but that was forty-eight hours before her death. He convinced her not to go off with Martin Salisbury and stay on at the production."
"Evan Morris mentioned something about that being true when he overheard them, does Martin Salisbury know about her change of heart? It seems like something he wouldn't take easily." Sara suggested, a hint of excitement in her voice, had they found a missing link?
"Killing her over it seems a bit excessive," Catherine pointed out. "We could have Brass look into him a bit more."
"Oh but we've seen plenty of people kill for less logical reasons."
"I don't know Sara, there just doesn't seem to be anything right about this case. It's looking to be a perfect murder, or worse, an accident caused by workers' negligence." She sighed heavily and buried her face in her hands, "oh I can't believe we've come under all this stress and work for it to be just an accident."
"Actually, erm, I think I might have something beneficial for you," Catherine looked up and saw that Henry, the toxicologist had walked into the room with what looked like to be the tox report from Lorna McAlister. "Sorry it took a while, I've been extremely backlogged, Days are investigating a diarrhoea outbreak in an elementary..."
"Please tell me it's a breakthrough," Catherine cut in, her voice highlighting her desperation to close the case.
"A breakthrough, possibly, but anyway I found small amounts of hyoscine, hyosycamine, solanine, solamargine and various glycoalkaloids, all chemicals found in the berries of Solanum Americanum." Henry looked up to see three confused faces looking at him, encouraging him to elaborate. "Basically, she was poisoned by nightshade."
"Nightshade?" Sara repeated, surprised by the results, "Doc Robbins mentioned in autopsy that she had vomit lining the oesophagus long before her death, I presume caused by the nightshade? Maybe, having her shot was simply Plan B?"
"Nightshade is very poisonous," Ray spoke, "she must have consumed just a small amount to only get vomiting. That means the source must have contained a small amount or..."
"Or she only consumed a small amount of the source!" Sara said excitedly, "Ray, the champagne we found in her room! It was opened and had hardly been drunk at all. We completely forgot about it!" She slapped her forehead as the whole team realised that this was certainly a major breakthrough.
"Okay Sara," Catherine intervened, "you process the champagne bottle. Henry, good work, I need you to run tox on the champagne in the bottle, and that gets higher priority than diarrhoea!" Henry nodded and dashed off to work, "Ray, let's go and find out where we can get this nightshade."
"We have your DNA on the hilt of the dagger that was used to kill Suzanne Hopkins," Nick explained to the terrified Katrina LeTorneau, "your father has said that he killed your best friend, but the evidence isn't pointing that way. Could you explain to me what really happened that night?"
"You don't have to answer that," her attorney told her but she shook her head.
"The two of us, we went to a party," Katrina began speaking, her voice was shaky, high-pitched and she spoke slowly and so quietly Nick had to gesture to her to speak louder. "Sorry," she continued, "we both went back to mine; I didn't know that Dad was home. We were drunk. Then the next moment is all a blur, but suddenly, I, I see her waving granddad's dagger around. And then she's shouting at me, and, I don't know why. So I tried to take the dagger from her and... and..."
She began to stutter more and more, her eyes began welling up with tears and she was visibly beginning to shake. Nick told her to take her time and tried reassuring her. Katrina was able to calm down a little, she took a deep breath and she brushed her fringe out of her eyes. There was something which caught Nick's attention. "Hold on Katrina, show me your arms please."
Katrina recoiled slightly quickly hiding her arms from Nick but reluctantly rolled up her sleeves revealing many small scars which crawled from up her wrists to her elbow. Nick felt his stomach drop as he realised he fully understood what had happened that night.
"She attacked you with it didn't she," Nick spoke to her softly, tears began to fall again as she nodded her head slowly, "you tried to grab the knife off her," she nodded again and put her hand to her face to wipe away from the tears which cascaded down her pearly-white cheeks. "You got the knife from her, and she tried to grab it back?" Again, she nodded. "You killed her in self defence," he said which sent her over the edge. She had now buried her face in her arms and began crying into the table. Nick took her hand into his, offering comfort to the twenty year old, realising just how vulnerable she had become.
From behind the glass, Frank LeTorneau stood watching his daughter break down. He himself was finding it hard to watch and he too had some secrets to reveal, he turned to Greg, who was standing by him and explained, "I helped move the body to the Hopkins'. I cleaned up the mess. I cleaned my father's dagger. I couldn't lose my li'l girl so soon after my wife passed."
Greg nodded, without saying a word. Katrina was still in tears in the interrogation room, her co-operation was beginning to become stagnant. Greg still had one question remaining. "Why didn't you get rid of the sheet?"
LeTorneau looked at him sadly; he said just word, "Leverage." The look of confusion on Greg's face forced him to elaborate, "Katrina was the life of the party but she got 'erself into trouble often. Either with boys or booze. She was a loose cannon, I though' one day I was gonna lose her and I couldn' live with that possibility. I know it was bad of me, but I used it as a threat, if she got into trouble again I'd rather see her safely locked up in jail, than in a casket six fee' under. Is she goin' to jail?"
"Well," Greg began hesitantly, "although it was done in self defence, you failed to report it. You covered up and compromised the evidence which means, you'll both be doing time." LeTorneau remained motionless. "As much as I'd like the jury to see it as self defence, the fact you stayed quiet for almost a year, is going to swing them towards a charge of manslaughter." Greg saw for the first time emotion in LeTorneau's eyes as he prepared to leave, he felt a twinge of sadness for the guy who'd lost his wife, his daughter and now his own life, "I'm sorry."
LeTorneau sighed and continued staring at his daughter in distress, he quietly told himself ignoring Greg's apology, "so be it."
The case was now moving forwards having had a stagnant start. Sara couldn't help but smile as she was able to find three fingerprints on the champagne bottle. She wasn't disheartened at first to find that the first two had come back to Lorna McAlman, the victim, but nevertheless she had most faith on the print which she had lifted near the neck of the bottle.
"Doing my job for me I see," Mandy walked into the lab, casually sat on a chair behind Sara and began eating an apple.
"Sorry Mandy," Sara replied, not taking her eyes off the screen, "this was really important and you were on break." She put the final print through the scanner and watched the screen in front of her waiting for the result to come up.
"Don't worry about it! Swing has been really busy at the moment, I've already had to process thirty-two of them in the past hour alone, and I could do with a rest."
"Tox data from the champagne came back," Henry had entered the lab, "and the good news is that I found traces of your nightshade and amylase. Your victim spat some of it out; I guess that's why the poison didn't kill her."
"Nightshade?" Mandy inquired, "I thought you were investigating that theatre shooting, not some hocus pocus."
At that moment the computer screen beeped signalling that it had found a result. The three of them looked at the screen with anticipation; a smile broke out on Sara's face as she read the details off the screen. "Case closed."
A photo was slung in front of his face. He looked down at it, it was a champagne bottle, but it was not just any bottle. It had been the one he had laced with the nightshade he had bought at the Sixth Sense Occult Shop, the one he had hand delivered to Lorna McAlman. It was his only mistake, the only slip-up in his perfect murder.
"We know you killed Lorna McAlman," Jim Brass told the suspect, who sat back in his chair, arms folded with a smug expression on his face.
"Yes, I know, six hundred people saw me shoot the woman," Martin Salisbury answered, raising his eyebrows with confidence, despite the fact he knew he was done for. The nervous disposition he showed the previous night had vanished, clearly there was no need for his acting skills to be used now but he might as well go down fighting.
"Don't be a smart-ass, we have your fingerprint on this bottle of champagne, the special one you prepared, the one you spiked with nightshade, we know her death wasn't an accident, you murdered her."
Martin Salisbury's smile widened, his smile turned into laughter although it wasn't the friendly sort. It was more on the lines of cackling, a sinister laugh which sent shivers down Brass' spine. Then as soon as he had started, his laughter stopped. Completely dead-pan, with an expression which matched Brass'. "Tell me Captain Brass, do you know what it feels like, to have this plan, a plan that was going to make you, make the rest of your life a fantasy, then to have it all taken away and shoved back in your face?"
"Hmm, now that you mention it, no."
"Lorna and I, we were going to be successful, we were sick of travelling around in that crappy circus performance working for that creepy manager. We were going to start a new life, and live the lifestyle we always wanted and then she turned her back on me, for what?" He began to raise his voice, his temper was beginning to boil over and his face had turned a putrid purple colour. "Kinky sex with some creep? I made her happy and this is how she repays me!" He slammed his hands on the table and jumped to his feet.
"Sit down," Brass barked back at him. Martin was startled for a moment but he obliged, "tell me how you did it then."
"When I saw her at rehearsals on Friday morning, I flipped. Just before the show I went into that moron Morris' office and took his gun, he's always leaving it lying around and replaced the prop. I put the prop in his own locker, thinking he would get the blame for it and at the same time I could shut down the whole production! It was his own fault after all for blabbing about her decision change. Then when it came to showtime, I deliberately aimed it at her stone, cold heart."
"Sounds like the only one with the stone cold heart is yourself. Anyway, I've heard enough from you and we've got the evidence to convict you. Martin Salisbury, you're under arrest for the murder of Lorna McAlman."
As the officer led Martin away he turned back and looking directly at Brass he jibed, "Lorna McAlman was a bitch who deserved what she got, she devoted herself to one guy and opened herself up for everyone to have a go. If I couldn't have her... no one could."
Brass sighed and shook his head as he saw the killer put where he belongs. It was men like Martin Salisbury who made him doubt his faith in humanity, "this job just never gets easier," he muttered to himself.
Catherine walked into the locker room to find both Ray and Sara in there, putting away various items and discussing the case. She sat herself down on the bench and let out a long sigh of relief, "well, we finally cracked it."
"Tell me about it," Sara replied, substituting her work clothes into something a little less formal, "let's just say I'm not going to be visiting the theatre again in a hurry."
Catherine let out a huge yawn, "oh, I'm so tired and starving. Who's up for breakfast?"
"Are you paying?" Ray called out.
"Hell no, I can barely afford my microwave meals let alone feed the lot of you."
"I heard someone say breakfast," Greg had just joined them in the locker room closely followed by Nick, both of whom looked far more energetic and alert than the rest of them.
"Catherine's paying," Sara replied.
"Am not!" Catherine retorted, "so I heard you finally closed the Suzanne Hopkins case from last year."
"You heard correct," Nick replied, covering himself in aftershave, "I can't say it was a happy ending for anyone though, we just got back from telling Mrs Hopkins the news."
"She had a bit of a thing for Nick," Greg whispered to the other CSIs.
"Can't say I blame her," Catherine replied, "all of the ladies will drop dead for you if they saw you right now." She gave a wink to Nick and he shrugged it off, pulling over one his t-shirts. "Seeing as you boys have had an easy day today, you can pay for us this time."
"Whoa, I haven't even said yes to breakfast yet," Greg said, holding his hands in the air, "I still got to get ready for court tomorrow, testifying how some gamer got killed by his pizza."
"You never say no to breakfast," Sara said, playfully punching his arm, "besides it's your turn to pay."
"And you owe me about three breakfasts anyway," Ray added.
"Fine, fine I'll pay, so long as we can go to Frank's."
"Oh," Nick moaned, "no, not Frank's. We all know what happened last time we went there."
"Oh Nicky stop fretting," Catherine got up and shut her locker. "it's been so long since we've all eaten out for breakfast, besides the place holds some sentimental value to all of us."
"Plus, it's cheap," Greg pointed out.
"Fine, fine, but I get to choose next time," Nick conceded.
"It's okay," Catherine winked again, "I'm good at keeping to my promises."
A/N - and that is the end of the story. I hope you liked it as much as I enjoyed writing it. The next story in the series, Crunch Time (1x02) will be published Friday June 24, so be sure to have a look at that as well if you enjoyed this story. Thank you all for reading and be sure to let me know what you thought! :)