Two figures arrived at the foot of a modest house situated just off the West Hacienda Avenue. Before going to knock on the door as they usually would, the two of them stopped by the car which they had pulled up in, engaged in conversation.
"So, Saturday night was great," Catherine spoke to her lover, the two of them had spent most of the journey discussing their night together, the first one they had had for a while. The dinner was decent, but was unmemorable in comparison to the 'after-party' back at Vartann's house.
"Yeah," he replied, "well, I have the day off tomorrow, and I know you've only got it pencilled in, so I was wondering if you wanted to do something." Truth be told, the two of them had hardly talked since they had woken up next to each other Sunday morning. Work had become demanding as usual and Catherine particularly had worked doubles due to Greg's absence over the weekend, she was relieved that she probably had a relaxing day to look forward to tomorrow.
"Yeah, that would be nice," she replied simply, "do you want to tell them, or shall I?"
"It's alright, I'll do it," the two of them walked up to the door, solemn expressions on both their faces. Whilst it was still difficult to inform someone their loved one was deceased, it was all part of the job and something that the people who worked in law enforcement got used to. It didn't stop them hating that part of the job though.
A man, around the same height as Vartann answered the door cautiously, in fact, the two of the looked very much alike aside from the clothes, skin colour and hair style, "Mr Freybould," Vartann cleared his throat, "I'm detective Lou Vartann, this is Catherine Willows from the crime lab, may we come in please?"
Mr Freybould's face changed from suspicion to sorrow, "I can't say I haven't been expecting you," he opened the door and let them in, ushering them into a small sitting room. The two of them sat down on the couch whilst Mr Freybould went to make them a cup of coffee, despite their insistence not to worry. The TV was on the news channel, images from the scene that Catherine had just combed through made their way on to the screen with eerie familiarity. She spotted Brass in one particular screenshot, ushering people away and refusing to answer the questions of the news reporters.
"I know you're both here to tell me my wife is dead," Mr Freybould had returned with two cups of coffee, his face showing both acceptance and despair. Shocked at his bluntness, Catherine just nodded her head to confirm the bad news. "I've been watching all morning, waiting for a phone call, a knock on the door, I recognised the silver Ford Focus as soon as it came on, I had a nasty feeling it w..."
It was only then that he began to break down into tears; he held his face in his hands, appearing to be embarrassed about displaying his grief in front of the two of them. "Mr Freybould," Catherine finally spoke up, "we're very sorry for your loss."
"Is there anyone who had anything against Marie?" Vartann asked, "Any problems at home? From previous experience, bombs have been a rather personal crime."
"Are you implying I might have something to do with this?" Freybould asked with a hint of irritation in his voice. "Because I knew she was dead before you two got here? Because it was a personal attack it was the husband's fault?"
"No," Catherine replied, "we're not accusing you of anything; we just need a bit of context."
"Well I love Marie, I love her so much, even when she seemed eternally pissed off with me, I still loved her. She might come across as a bit aggressive or ruthless sometimes, I mean she's the assistant director at NevadaTelecom, and you know how big that is. I'm willing to bet she made quite a few enemies climbing to the top of that ladder."
"Have you received any hate mails, any death threats at all?" Catherine asked, casting her mind back to the previous week involving a case to do with loansharks and blackmail.
"Not that I know of," Freybould replied sadly, "listen, Marie could sometimes come across as quite a bitch, but still nothing that people would want her dead for."
"Okay, thanks for your time, Mr Freybould. Do you mind if we have a look around?" She inquired.
"No, go ahead, anything to help you with your investigation."
"I have one more question," Vartann spoke, Freybould gave him a suspicious look, having taken a slight dislike to Vartann following his initial questions, "where does your wife park her car?"
"We have a garage, but there is no space to fit the Focus in. Oh and she had it serviced recently, there was something wrong with the emergency brake which needed replacing, she's been nagging me for lifts to work since it went in, it was so much easier when Larry used to take her in."
"He's the neighbour, used to carpool with Marie, she'd drive Tuesdays and Thursdays, he'd do the other three days, but then he left the company
Vartann thought hard for a moment, a newly serviced car explodes the morning after it's returned. He made a mental note to go and visit that garage at some point but there was also the possibility that the car may have been sabotaged overnight. The road outside was pretty quiet; anyone could sneak in and set up the bomb in relatively short time without being caught. He kept those questions to himself for later possibly, but for now he had been given a new lead to have a look at, "okay, can I have the contact details for the garage she took the Focus to?"
Four CSIs sat in the break room, mulling the case over as they ate lunch. Nick and Sara had been hanging around the lab for a while, examining the burnt out Ford Focus which had been towed back to the lab and waiting for results from trace and DNA. Greg and Ray had only returned recently joined them, having spent most of the morning at the scene.
"Damn, why do they have to make the spicy nachos and the nacho cheese flavours the same colour?" Ray complained, tossing his chips into the middle of the table.
"Hey, I'll swap 'em for this," Nick took the chips and passed Ray the other half of his pickle sandwich.
"Okay then," Sara said, bringing the topic of the case back to the table, "Nick and I found trace of Class B explosives on the side of the other cars caught in the blast radius."
"Did you manage to identify an explosive?" Greg said between mouthfuls.
"Nick's flashy explosive detection kit managed to narrow it down to six possible explosives."
"Oh do you never stop going on about it?" Nick whined.
"Well I've managed to narrow that down to just one explosive," Hodges strolled in, with a satisfactory smirk emerging on his face, "I swabbed the end cap which Ray and Greg found at the scene. Your explosive compound contained, nitroglycerin which is the explosive component of..."
"Dynamite," the CSIs in the room spoke in unison.
"I hate it when you do that," he pouted, "and your other component is silica."
"And we didn't even need to pay two hundred bucks to find that out," Sara spoke to Nick smugly.
"Okay, okay, I get it, enough about the damn kit."
"You paid two hundred dollars for it?" Greg laughed.
"Before you go back to demeaning each other I got something else," Hodges pulled out the battery shaped fragment which Greg and Ray hadn't been able to identify, "I managed to determine that this is a geophone, it's a device which converts vibrations or movements into voltage."
Suddenly, something clicked into Nick's head, "The ignition!" He called out, "victim switches the car on, if it's anything like mine the whole damn thing judders around when it starts. Geophone picks up the vibrations sending the spark to the device and boom!"
"Hold on, you're missing something out here," Ray pointed out, "if the ignition was the main spark then the car would have blown up on the driveway."
"We found what looked like to be the remains of a digital device," Greg raked his memory, "I reckon the geophone activated the timing device which then in turn set off the bomb."
"Nick and I examined the wreckage of the victim's car; we reckon the bomb was placed underneath the hood of the car," Sara explained, "closest to the engine, most vibrations meaning it was guaranteed to go off."
"Well I guess my work is done here," Hodges said to himself as the four CSIs ignored him, carrying on their discussion with the investigation. He was about to turn around and leave when Nick called him back.
"Hey Hodges, did you get any DNA off any of the fragments."
"I sent them to Selma; she'll page you if she gets anything off them."
"Okay, thanks Hodges." At last, some recognition, Hodges thought to himself as he skulked off back to Trace, he heard someone call out to him as he passed DNA.
"Hey Hodges, over here!" A frail voice called out to him, Hodges span around and entered the lab. Selma spun round on her chair and held up her middle finger at him, but it wasn't her middle finger but the one obtained from the crime scene. This gesture was accompanied by a raspberry directed at Hodges. 'Great,' Hodges thought to himself, 'they hired Sanders' nan.'
Brass entered a large open plan office area packed with dozens of cubicles. Workers lined the cubicles, all of them engaged in conversation with complete strangers, someone they'd never meet, or even never hear from again. A tall man emerged from a room to the side, Brass noticed he was well-dressed sporting a well-kept beard and spectacles, if he didn't know better; he could have easily mistaken the man for the old grave shift supervisor.
"Bradley Kiefers?" Brass spoke to him, "I'm Detective Jim Brass and this is Conrad Ecklie from the crime lab," Ecklie held out a hand in a half-hearted attempt to introduce himself, "we're investigating the murder of one of your employees, Marie Freybould."
Kiefers sighed; he'd been informed of a probable visit from the police department having watched Marie's death announced on the news. He also realised that he was likely to be questioned as he was the last person to contact her alive, "Marie was an outstanding worker in the company, she devoted a lot of her time towards advancing career and she was an excellent assistant director."
"Mr Kiefers, when was the last time you were in contact with Mrs Freybould?" Ecklie asked.
"She rang me this morning, just before it happened. She said she was gonna be late for work, stuck in traffic along the Strip. We had a major meeting planned for this morning regarding a merger with another network company based in Utah, I told her she couldn't miss it and she told me that I'd have to get my fat ass there and pick her up."
"Did anyone have anything against her in the company, anyone who might, want her out of the way?" Brass asked, writing down everything Kiefers said onto his notepad.
"Marie was a ruthless woman, you ask her to take part in a one hundred metres race, and she'll break the legs of her competitors before they even get to the start line. Nevertheless, she was an excellent worker and her death comes at a massive loss for the company. She didn't please everyone but I don't see how anyone would want her dead, does taking her parking spot count as a threat?"
"Do you mind if I have a look through her personal stuff?" Ecklie asked.
"Go ahead, but I don't know what you'll find here though, but anything to help catch the guy who did this." Kiefers phone began ringing, "sorry, I gotta go and get this."
"We'll get in contact if we find anything new," Brass commented to him. Kiefers retired back into his office to take the call as Brass noticed Ecklie rummaging through Marie Freybould's desk. A stocky man, of Oriental descent approached Brass. He, like Kiefers also looked to be dressed well for the job, Brass spoke to the man, "anything can I help you with?"
"If you want to know what Marie Freybould was really like, you shouldn't be speaking to the guy at the top of the food chain," he sneered at the homicide detective, there was something about the man which Brass found unpleasant, even sinister.
"Not a fan, I take it," Brass commented.
"Ding dong, the bitch is dead. You wonder why everyone round here's doing their job like normal, not at all affected by what's happened?"
"Maybe it's because they're emotionless, but you don't have to take my word, just personal experiences with salespeople."
"It's because everyone hated her guts, I mean, she got to where she was by blowing the boss and getting rid of the competition, there's a good starting point."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Basically, anyone who opposed her had their bags packed and out the door in a blink of an eye."
"Do you have any individual names for me?"
"I can get some."
"Hey Jim," Ecklie had walked back from quickly examining the desk of Marie Freybould, "I didn't find anything of suspicion around her desk and work area."
"Wow, you done that quickly," Brass replied.
"That's why I'm the Undersheriff."
"Nah," Brass chuckled patting him on the shoulder, "you're my bitch for today."
"Yeah that's great, thanks Jim," Catherine hung up the phone and turned to face Nick who'd handed her the reports of their initial findings, "Brass says he's got a whole list of suspects, ex-employees of NevadaTelecom, all of which wanted a piece of Marie Freybould."
"Yeah but that's no good if we don't have any evidence to convict them," Nick replied, "anyway we reckon the bomb was a pipe bomb and the explosives used were dynamite."
"Did you work out how it goes off?"
"We have a good idea, we identified one component of the bomb to be a geophone, a device which picks up ground vibrations and converts it into an electrical charge."
"So you suspect the ignition as being the trigger?"
"Greg and Ray found a digital clock device; we reckon the spark initiated the clock of some sort which detonated the bomb at a specific time."
"Hold on that doesn't make sense," Catherine rested her head onto her right hand, "if you're gonna have the bomb go off at a specific time, you'd wire it up to the clock on the dash, not use some fancy device to convert the ignition to turn on a clock."
"So that suggests that there was some sort of countdown, and the bomb was set to go off at say, half an hour after Marie Freybould turned her car on."
Catherine opened her mouth to speak when she noticed that Selma was stood beside the door, "I managed to lift some epiphilials off one of the end caps of the bomb."
"Did you get a match?" Catherine asked raising her eyebrow.
"Unfortunately, no match was found in CODIS, our guy isn't in the system. Mandy couldn't find any prints off the fragments either, seems like our bomber wore gloves. Sorry I couldn't be any more of a help."
"It's not your fault Selma, you're doing a great job," Catherine smiled.
"First day in Vegas and... boom! Way to start your new career with a bang." The eccentric DNA tech walked off, humming away to something which Catherine recognised as Rage Against the Machine.
Catherine turned back to discuss with her assistant supervisor when her cell phone began to ring, sighing she retrieved it from her jacket and answered it, "Willows."
"Cat, it's Lou," she heard on the other end of the line, "I checked out the garage, they remember the Ford Focus and their records show they did indeed replace the emergency brake system."
"Did they pimp her ride with some added fireworks?"
"They denied even touching the hood let alone placing the bomb in the car. Pretty dodgy garage though, I had a look at their employers, every one of them has some sort of record, drug possession, assault, domestic violence..."
"We got some epithelials, no hit in CODIS; I don't think these guys would have built it anyway. I can't say I'm too surprised though."
"Okay well I'm heading back now; Brass says he's got a chunky list of disgruntled employees for us to check out."
"Well give me a call if you find something new."
She hung up without waiting for him to reply. She turned back to Nick and they began talking about the bomb itself, "alright where were we? Okay, so now it seems we have a time bomb on our hands. I've been thinking, and they're not nice thoughts, I have a feeling that maybe Mar..."
"Incoming," Nick whispered to her and she looked up to see the Mayor flanked by Ecklie walking into her office.
"Mayor Grimmle, what a pleasant surprise," the irritation in her voice was not subtle.
"I want answers Catherine!" Logan Grimmle was a tall man, in his late forties. Just like those who preceded him; his main concern lay with his political campaign and his popularity. He put a hand through his slicked back hair and sighed, saying to Catherine, "I've got news hounds following me left, right and centre, and they're hungry for answers and I got nothing."
"We're doing our best to solve this, we're sticking to protocol and we're solving this just like..."
"But this isn't like every other case Catherine!" Grimmle snapped back at her, "People don't tune in to some drugged up teenagers going walkabout or some woman who died thinking she was a cat. Average Joes. Arson. Serial Killers. Missing Kids. Bombs." He said raising his hand up an imaginary ladder, "that's how the hierarchy of the media goes."
"Well you can tell the media that we know exactly what kind of bomb was used and that our team is doing their be..."
"That's not good enough!" Grimmle interjected again, "I need suspects, I need to know if he's going to strike again, I need to kno.."
"Sir," Catherine piped up getting infuriated, "my team are pulling sixteen hour shifts; we have every person possible trying to solve this as fast as possible!"
Nick too was beginning to get enraged, he opened his mouth to make a point but Catherine gave him a look telling him to keep his quiet, she glared at Ecklie begging him to do something but he looked just as nervous and angry as the both of them.
"When I was voted in as mayor, I was told that Catherine Willows' team was one of the best damn teams in the country," Grimmle began wandering around the office as he ranted, "I mean you do know that Vegas took top spot recently as best crime lab in the country?" Catherine nodded. "In the first year that I've been elected in as mayor, I have one member of your team shoot a kid," Nick clenched his fists in his seat, "I find out another member was sleeping around with a psychopathic stripper, you're lucky you got a conviction on that one and finally I've heard rumours you're letting your newest CSI Langston pretty much take over your job."
"That's not true," Catherine protested.
"Oh yeah, how come he's interviewing suspects alone? He's out doing solos alone? I even heard he was telling some of your CSIs what to do and he's only a Level Two!" Grimmle raised his voice, "last time I read protocol, you have to be at least a Level Three to do those things. Now the only reason your team is still together is because I've pulled some strings and let these things slide. I can very easily change my mind. I got you all out of trouble so the very least you could do is do the same for me."
"Errm, sir," Ecklie finally piped up, "can we talk somewhere else and let them get back..."
"As for you Conrad," Grimmle interjected, "this has all been happening right under your nose and yes, I think we really need to talk." He turned back to Catherine, "I'm holding a press conference at five pm and I want answers by then otherwise I'm handing this over to the Feds. You have two hours."
He gave the two of them a look, glared at Ecklie for a moment and stormed out the room, Ecklie bounding along behind like an obedient puppy. Catherine let out a growl of frustration and put her head into her hands. "I can't do this Nick," she began to sob.
"Whoa, don't listen to that jackass you're doing a great job," Nick leant over and put a hand on her back, "he only cares because it affects his reputation and it's a media frenzy."
"But he's right, I've let all those things happen right under my nose."
"But it's not your fault Cath, don't go blaming yourself." She sniffled and muttered thanks, wiping her eyes and composing herself. Her office phone began ringing, she quickly calmed herself down and made sure she wasn't showing signs of distress before answering it.
"There's another bomb," a sinister voice whispered on the other side. Catherine's eyes widened as her fears were confirmed.
"Who is this?" She asked.
"You have one hour." The line went dead, realisation hit Catherine and she quickly got up from her desk and ushered everyone into the layout room, in her mind, an imaginary clock began ticking...
60:00 , 59:59 , 59:58 , 59:57 ...
A/N: Ooooh... angst!
Hope you enjoyed Part 2 of the story, Part 3 should be up sometime tomorrow. Please feel free to review and give me your feedback! Thanks for reading! :)