Light seeped through the blinds as Ray Langston got himself ready for work. Catherine had mentioned fieldwork so he decided that the vest would be useful to wear today. He noticed that his head was no longer spinning; he must have had a good night sleep. 'That's a first' he thought to himself as he tied up his shoelaces. 'You know, I could get used to getting up at this time of day.'

He wandered into the bathroom and quickly splashed his face with cold water, although he was certainly feeling better than yesterday, he wasn't fully awake and he could still feel a dull throb emitting from the back of his head. He popped a couple of aspirins and washed them down with a cool glass of water.

He had gotten nothing in the mail that morning, also a first; it was nice to not be receiving various spam, bank statements, bills and kidney beans for a change. A quick glance of his watch showed that it was now half past ten and he silently groaned as he remembered he had another shift starting in just over thirteen hours still. He didn't feel like going into work today, but given the circumstances, he felt it was necessary to, and he knew that Greg would have done the same had it been him.

Thankfully, the scene he was heading for was not far from his house or the crime lab, so it was only going to be a short drive. He tuned in to his favourite radio station and letting the lyrics of B.B. King's version of 'Please Send Me Someone to Love' provide some escape from the fact he was on his way to a murder investigation. He let the music take him somewhere else, and to him it was a high which couldn't be beaten.

A loud blast of the horn of the car behind brought Ray back down to earth, realising the light was now green, he saw the occupant of the car behind cursing and waving his arms around in frustration and Ray laughed at how easy it could be to tick a person off.

Ray was surprised to discover how pristine the crime scene had become, he'd had a glance at the crime scene photos and it had looked like someone had conjured up a tornado in Roland Herriot's office, however it appeared that Hazmat had already been through and done their job. Ray saw that the items that Catherine had asked to be retrieved were already bagged and waiting outside the office to be taken to the car. There were quite a few cadets around the scene he noticed as well, all of them were happy to move the items into Ray's car to be taken to the lab.

After about ten minutes of taking stuff back and forth, the only item left to take was the computer, which still resided in the office. As Ray walked back into the office he spotted something which Catherine didn't appear to have mentioned in her report. He stood peering at the one thing which appeared out of place, making his surroundings invisible to him. "Is something wrong Dr Langston?" A high pitched voice suddenly spoke which brought Ray out of a second trance. The voice belonged to one of the cadets, a skinny man who looked like he was fresh from high school.

"What's your name, cadet?" Ray asked in his usual composed tone.

"Urrm... Parsons, Luke Parsons," the cadet replied hesitantly.

"Well Luke, what can you tell me about the chain on the door," Langston pointed to the chain which Roland Herriot used to privatise his office.

"Urrm... it's unlocked and still attached to the door?"

"Okay, so what does that suggest?"

Luke thought hard for a moment before replying, "urrm... that it wasn't forced open... maybe the victim knew his killer."

"You know what Luke," Langston smiled at the cadet, "I was thinking exactly the same."

"Mr Nugent, do you know who this man is?" Vega placed the autopsy photo of Joseph Huyt on the table in front of Geoffrey Nugent.

"Never seen him before in my life, why, should I know him?" he responded, sitting back in the chair and folding his arms. The man was in his early fifties, he donned a red cap which complimented with his red leather jacket and jogging bottoms. Even from across the table, Nick could smell the cigarettes and the booze. It appeared that the man hadn't showered for quite some time, nor was he clean shaven. Nick had a thought that even if he hadn't showered after his dumpster dive, no one would raise an eyebrow standing next to this guy.

"Well he's dead, murdered actually" Nick told Nugent, "and we found your blood at the scene of the crime."

"Well, I certainly didn't kill him," Nugent retorted, "heck I didn't even know the guy."

"Well see here's the thing," Nick leaned over the desk, trying hard not to inhale too much of Nugent's bad breath, he said softly, "we reckon this guy was nabbed in Victorville, killed and dumped in Vegas. It just so happens to be coincidental that you and he are from the same place."

"I told you I didn't kill him," Nugent said defiantly.

"Then care to explain what you were doing outside Penny's Plumbing shop at two thirty this morning," Vega said in an intimidating tone to which Nugent shrugged his shoulders. Vega slammed another photo on the table, this one showing Nugent's car turning into the parking lot where the body was found, "you see, we reckon this guy was dumped there between eleven last night and seven this morning, and your car was the only to enter and exit the parking lot between so I'll say again, explain what you were doing outside Penny's Plumbing shop this morning!"

"Alright, alright, I needed a piss!" Nugent gave in, albeit in a desperate manner.

"So how did your blood get there?"

"Yeah, well some hobo came up to me as I was peeing and started screaming at me for pissing in his territory, and then the bastard stabbed me with somethin," Nugent spoke quickly and angrily rolled up his sleeve revealing two small puncture wounds on his right arm.

"Do you expect us to believe that?" Vega said flatly.

"Actually Sara said she found urine by one of the dumpsters," Nick pointed out. "Okay Mr Nugent, was there a body around whilst you were there?"

"No, no there wasn't!" Nugent exclaimed loudly, "and even if there was I woulda called you guys."

"Okay then," Vega gave in to the man's story, "what did the homeless guy look like?"

"Well," Nugent began explaining slowly, "he was old... and he had messy grey hair... and ragged clothes."

Nick sighed and put his head in his hands, Vega commenting, "well this is gonna take a while."

Catherine walked into the layout room, carrying a large box full of bagged items, with a strenuous look on her face. "Well, Grissom collects bugs," she slammed the box on the table and paused for a moment to catch her breath, "Nick collects some nature watch magazine, Doc collects photos of dead celebrities and Greg collects errm... everything." She lifted out one of the bagged items and put it down on the table, "and Roland Herriot collects Russian nesting dolls... or a matryoshka doll as Mrs Herriot kept insisting."

Ray looked up from the books he was dusting for prints with and smiled, "and a good morning to you too Catherine."

"I am so sorry I had to call you in today..." Catherine began but Ray held up his hand to stop her.

"It's okay Cath, I understand. I got some prints off the nesting doll and the books, but I didn't find any blood on them," Ray took one of the books in his right hand, gripping it on the spine, "the prints suggested that the books were pulled off the shelf like this, and then thrown on the floor. Someone had quite a tantrum."

"Okay good, I think we're getting somewhere, we know that there was a struggle and there was physical violence."

"We can also assume that the victim was close to his killer," Ray pointed out, "the chain on the door was still intact which suggested it wasn't a forced entry."

Mandy came into the room, holding up various sheets of paper and results, she looked exhausted but that was not surprising given her workload, "Okay, I got some hits from your prints and blood. The prints on the nesting doll came back to both the victim and one other person. That same person's prints were also found on your books and were a match to the flour hand print found on the victim's shirt."

"Any hits?" Catherine asked.

"Yes, a Mr Alex Voorhees, twenty-one years old, student at WLVU, also a part-time chef at The Herriot Steakhouse."

She handed a file to Catherine who read his rap sheet, "one count of violence, possible disgruntled employee?"

"What about the blood?" Ray asked, as he got to work with printing the nesting dolls found at the Herriot residence.

"Okay I got two donors from your bloodstains, your victim and Alex Voorhees," Mandy read, "oh but the skin which Doc Robbins found under his fingernails is not a match to Alex Voorhees and it's still running through CODIS."

"So maybe there were two assailants," Ray contemplated.

"Well we got a lead on this Voorhees guide; maybe we can cut him a deal to rat his friend out. I'll call Brass to pick him up," Catherine said. "Thanks Mandy."

"Oh Catherine, one more thing," Mandy piped up, "when's Wendy's DNA replacement coming? It's exhausting enough working prints all day but me and Hodges can't keep juggling DNA work on top of things, and I am not touching any more semen again and I'm soooo tire..." she broke out into a yawn emphasising her point.

"Don't worry, I think the Undersheriff mentioned the new DNA tech would be arriving on Thursday, but you know what the situation with the lab is at the moment."

"Yeah I do," Mandy said acceptingly, "it's just putting so much strain on our work."

"I know, we're feeling the same out in the field. Go and have a break, you deserve it."

"Why am I here?" Alex Voorhees demanded, staring across the table at Brass, who gave him a grim smile. From his body language, Brass could tell that the college student seemed surprised at being brought in. Brass noticed he was a muscular kid, could inflict plenty of damage to someone, you would definitely want him on your side in a bar fight. Brass also spotted various bruises and cuts which riddled the young guy's face; he'd been fighting recently, probably Roland Herriot it seemed.

"Well Mr Voorhees, I presume you know Roland Herriot," Brass told the guy.

"Well yeah," Voorhees replied, as if it was the most obvious statement in the world, "he's m – sorry, he was my manager. This isn't about that stupid dol..."

"Whoa, whoa, hold your horse; did you just say he was your manager?"

"Yep," Voorhees this time replied bitterly, "until he fired me less than twenty-four hours ago."

"Hmm... that sounds like motive to me," Brass mumbled to himself, jotting a few things down on his notepad.


"Oh yeah," Brass said sarcastically, tossing over the photo of Roland Herriot's autopsy mug shot "your boss is dead."

"What?" Voorhees looked generally surprised and in disbelief, "so you think I killed him?"

"Well, if you look at it from our point of view, you've got motive and we also found your prints on various items in Herriot's office, your handprints and your blood on his shirt. I guess you didn't take the news too well, I mean your past record's going against you a bit, says you're always up for a bit of a scrap," Brass added, mockingly punching the air.

"No, no I can explain, there's been some mistake."

"Well you better have a good explanation; I'm not one to make mistakes."

"Okay okay, I'll tell you what happened. I have this competition with the guys at the steakhouse, we do these dares and bet on each other to see who can earn the most cash from it. Yeah, well the guys bet me two-hundred bucks if I stole one of the nesting dolls from his office."

"Let me guess, you were caught."

"Yeah, I was caught returning the doll. I mean, Roland was a fair employer, he'd pay us well above minimum wage, we got decent vacations and not too stressful hours, and he was a funny guy to be around, but touch his stupid doll and he flies off the handle. I mean first he fired me and then he gave me these!" He pointed at the bruises that decorated his face.

"So you fought back?" Brass asked to which Voorhees nodded, "and then you beat him to death with the doll."

"No, it wasn't like that at all! He was the aggressive one, so I pushed him and he bashed his head on the computer. I was angry, I threw some of his books and papers on the floor, and left. The guy was still alive when I left him."

"Okay then," Brass continued to write notes down, "what time was this?"

"Oh errm, about, ten, ten-thirty last night?"

"Can you explain your whereabouts between midnight and two am?"

"Yeah, I was having a few drinks, at the Golden Sapphire, ask the barman, errm, George I think his name was. Can I go now?"

Brass sighed and contemplated for a moment before agreeing, "yes, you're free to go, but don't go far."

The computer beeped at Sara, stirring her from her slumber. Sara groggily lifted her head up from her arms to see what CODIS had got a hit on. She looked at her watch, one o'clock, usually she'd be in bed by now but of course her career was having none of it. She looked at the computer screen again; the prints on the bed sheet and the railings had come back to Melissa Wilcrow. She had committed suicide.

To her surprise, Sara seemed unsatisfied by the conclusion. Why had Melissa Wilcrow, a woman of only thirty, with a high paying job, a nice house and a generally decent standard of living jumped off that balcony. She remembered that Grissom had told her once that 'it was up to them to find out how it happened, not why' but then she remembered the times when he himself, had taken a further interest into his most baffling cases.

As she was delving into her thoughts, Vartann walked in carrying various sheets of paper, "Hey Sara," he said, but upon looking at her he paused for a moment and asked, "are you sure you're alright?"

"No, no," Sara lied again, "I'm fine, what have you got for me?"

"I looked into Melissa Wilcrow's financial status, she got into trouble a few months ago paying off her mortgages and so she took out a loan in January. Take a look at how much she's paying back."

Vartann handed the sheet of paper to her and Sara's eyes scanned down the page, they widened with surprised having read what the victim owed, "whoa! That's almost twenty percent, a week. Why would she go to a loanshark?"

"Maybe she got rejected by other companies? Or she had no idea, anyway she's been receiving quite a few threats in the mail, here's one which says, "Pay up, or pay with your life bitch.""

"I guess the stress got to her and when it comes to crunch time she..." Sara thought back to the note that was left on the bedside table, "runs away."

"Yes, well lucky for us, Mr Loanshark is not too bright. It appears he likes to seal his letters with a kiss," he handed her the envelope addressed to Melissa Wilcrow.

"Great, I'll see if I can get any DNA off it," she smiled and left to go and find Hodges.

A trail of red hair swept past the window which caught Vartann's eye, he remembered that there was something he'd been meaning to ask for a while, and he followed the trail of red hair across the lab into Catherine's office. He managed to catch up with her before she could sit behind her desk.

"Hey," he whispered into her ear and kissed her gently on her neck. Although she didn't say anything at first, she smiled and turned around to return the favour face and they shared another tender kiss.

"Hello stranger," she smiled and sat down behind her desk.

"Have you spoken to Sara recently?" Vartann asked.

"Not since the start of shift," Catherine answered as she began organising her drawers, "why what's up with her?"

"I don't know she seems sort of... deflated. Even when she was processing the scene she was acting rather unresponsive."

Catherine sighed and rubbed her eyes, "we're all like that, the city's got us pulling doubles every other day and the department can't afford to hire more CSIs, heck we haven't even replaced Wendy yet and she's been gone nine months. Then I have Ray having to take time off because of his condition, Greg's just gone down to LA to bury his grandfather and I really can't afford to be losing any more members of the team. We're all feeling the strain. Trust me, when was the last time we've seen each other outside of work." She let out a growl of frustration.

"I was actually gonna ask if you, if you'd like to go out for dinner sometime," Catherine raised an eyebrow prompting Vartann to add, "maybe not today, tomorrow if you're around, or Sunday?"

Catherine contemplated for a moment before saying regretfully, "I, I can't, sorry Lou but given the situation the department's in at the moment, I don't want to make any promises I can't keep. I'm really sorry."

Vartann felt his stomach plummet, with disappointment and he didn't do a good job hiding it as evidenced by the increased look of concern etched on Catherine's face. "Okay, if you err, change your mind, give me a call." He held up his hand to his ear like a phone, smiled and left the room, leaving Catherine in a state of anxiety and regret.

Over the next half hour, she pondered over whether she made the right decision, but that was not the only problem she had. She felt she ought to have a word with Sara about what Vartann had said but at the same time she had a severely understaffed team working sixteen hours at least thrice a week, she herself hadn't taken a day off in what seemed like, a month.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the chirping of her cell phone. She was instantly snapped back into the reality that they were still on a case and promptly answered it.

Before she even had time to confirm she had answered, the caller began conversing, "Catherine, it's Ray, your chef's alibi checked out but I think we've got a new lead."

"Tell me more Ray."

"DNA from the fingernails finally got a hit in CODIS, came back to someone called Lawrence McKinley who happens to own a large share in the Herriot Steakhouse."

"I'm gonna need more than that for a warrant."

"Then I'll give you more. Archie had a look at Roland Herriot's computer files, he's been receiving quite a few instant messages, well, I should say death threats from one particular person. Archie tried to source an origin of these messages, and we managed to track it to our very own Lawrence McKinley."

"Good work Ray, I'll give Brass a call to go and pick this guy up."

"Lawrence McKinley, LVPD, open up," Brass knocked three times on McKinley's elaborate oak door. There was no reply. "Lawrence McKinley, LVPD, open up," Brass repeated again. Likewise, there was no answer from the house. "Brace yourselves," Brass told Catherine and the uni who were standing behind him, guns at the ready. With a little effort and precision Brass kicked the door in and entered the house muttering to himself, "I've still got it in me."

Catherine followed in close pursuit; "Clear" she said having checked the first living room they encountered. Subsequent rooms on the ground floor had proven to be clear also, she had a bad feeling that someone might have got to their guy before she had.

Then she caught a small movement out of the corner of her eye and followed it into the kitchen area, "Freeze!" she shouted to a figure who was heading for the back door. The figure froze instantly, "keep your hands where I can see them," the man, who must have been in his fifties or so obliged, albeit with a sly grin on his face.

A uni had arrived in the kitchen and had cuffed Lawrence McKinley who continued to brandish his sinister grin as he was led away, "you're wasting your time, lady. You've got nothing."

"Oh really," Catherine spoke sarcastically as she picked up the broken and blood-stained nesting doll which sat on the kitchen worktop. She put it back down quickly, realising she wasn't wearing her latex gloves. She walked outside the house and saw Lawrence McKinley being driven away in one of the police cars. As the police car left, a second vehicle, a Denali pulled up to the kerb. A familiar brunette stepped out the car and walked up towards Catherine.

"What are you doing with my guy?" Sara demanded.

Catherine raised an eyebrow, both surprised and perplexed she asked warily, "your guy?"

A/N: I'd just like to say first, fluff is not part of my expertise, so sorry it's a little flat! The fourth and final part of the story will be up sometime tomorrow. Feel free to review and tell me what you think. Thanks for reading!