Disclaimer: I do not own CSI or its affiliated characters. Characters not in the series are my own.
A/N: This is the fourth story in my series, Chronicles of Las Vegas. It's not necessary to read the first three stories in order to understand this one but if you want to go from the beginning, A Midsummer Nightmare would be your starting point. :)
The title, Deep Freeze has no relation to the CSI: Miami episode of the same name.
A woman in her early twenties pulled up to the driveway of her mother's house in Paradise. A small and modest bungalow was all she needed for a single fifty-eight year old although it wasn't great for many more people, particularly not for the woman's four year old twins who required a lot more space, however the move was only temporary.
The woman swept back her long, blonde hair and fumbled for the keys before opening the door to the house. "Hey, hey easy!" She cried out as the four year olds ran past her laughing and chasing each other into the house. "Mom, we're back, can you help me move the groceries."
The woman walked back to the car and picked up two bags of groceries from the front seat and took them into the house, placing them by the front door. "Mom!" she called out again, "I need a little help here." She made a second trip to the car and fetched two more bags of groceries, again depositing them by the front door. Once again, her mother hadn't responded to her calls and the woman was getting impatient now and becoming increasingly irritated by her children's shrieking as they chased each other round the house, "Kids, can you please go and get your grandma to help me move this stuff!"
"Yes mom," her two sons chanted and ran off towards their grandmother's room. She managed to balance the last three grocery bags in her arms and carry them back towards the hallway. She saw that her children hadn't listened to her and were busy chasing each other around the living room.
"I thought I told you to go and get your grandma," she told them.
"But she's not in her bed mom," one of them said to her quietly, she realised she couldn't stay mad at them for this and thought that maybe she'd gone for one of her evening walks. She picked up a pair of grocery bags and walked into the kitchen, seeing the light was off in the kitchen she switched it on.
Upon surveying the scene she instantly dropped her bags, shrieking, "Oh my god!"
Sara walked underneath the crime tape and into the suburban bungalow, there were two patrol cars parked alongside the house and two unis were standing around the outside ensuring that nobody was to step inside unauthorised. She entered what appeared to be a large open-spaced room which combined a family room and a dining room. She saw that Jim Brass was in conversation with a woman in her twenties who appeared to be crying, she caught a glimpse of what they were saying as she went past.
"So what time did you leave for the supermarket," she heard Brass ask the woman.
"A little after eight pm," the woman replied, "I decided to take the kids with me because she... she said she was feeling tired and I didn't want to leave some hyperactive children in her care when she wasn't feeling too well."
She walked into the main kitchen area where she saw Greg taking photos of the scene. David was kneeling down on the floor and as she got closer she saw the body of a woman approximately in her fifties, the top half of it anyway, the rest of the body was lying beneath a relatively small, but heavy refrigerator. One arm lay awkwardly askew above her body whilst the other looked like it had been pinned underneath the fridge.
"Lividity hasn't taken place yet," David observed, "meaning TOD was less than two hours ago, I can't give you an accurate liver temp," he pointed at the fridge lying on top of the victim, "that's not helping me very much."
"Seemed to be a struggle don't you think," Sara said looking around at the kitchen, she spotted a broken chair; "this looks like it might have broken during the fight."
"I thought the same as well," Greg said, walking over to where she stood, "but look over on the counter tops there," he pointed to the counters on the far side of the kitchen, "china plates, kitchen appliances, glasses, all of which are in perfect condition."
"Unless the fight was contained in this side of the kitchen alone."
"I've got a head injury," David exclaimed, "looks our victim took a blow to the back of her head."
"Maybe our killer then crushed her with a fridge, to make it look like an accident?" Greg spoke.
"I think I've got a bit of blood here," Sara called out, examining a few blood droplets which lined the walls near the sink, she swabbed the sample with phenolphthalein and tested with hydrogen peroxide, the sample turned pink, "yep, definitely got blood here."
"There's not much of it, unless it was just the one blow or the killer cleaned up."
"There's a definite blood pool here," David pointed out, "she definitely bled out a little from her wound." David examined her eyes, "burst blood vessels in the eyes, and implies that she also asphyxiated, probably due to crushing injuries."
"That implies she was alive when the fridge fell on her," Sara noted.
"Or, when the fridge was pushed on her," Greg pointed out.
"I spoke with the daughter," Brass walked in, "our victim's name is Claudia Blanchard, she's fifty-eight years old. Her daughter and two grandchildren came to visit for the weekend."
"None of them saw anything?" Sara asked.
"Nope, they all went grocery shopping and left the house around eight, returned about two hours later and that's when they found Claudia, crushed under her own fridge."
"So there's a two hour gap in which the victim could have been killed in. Anyone else at home?"
"Nope, her husband was killed in a car crash two years ago; she's lived alone since then." Two coroners wheeled in a gurney with a body bag attached to it into the kitchen.
"Urrm, guys," David said, "could I have a hand moving the fridge?" Sara and Greg nodded and bent down and lifted the fridge so it was upright, noting that it was pretty heavy, even with two of them lifting it up. David and the coroners gently placed the body in the body bag, zipping it up and wheeled the gurney out of the kitchen for transportation back to the lab.
Sara was about to go back to processing when something caught Greg's eye. "Hang on Sara," he called, "take a look at this." Sara walked around to where Greg was standing, not sure what he was talking about he prompted him to talk, "look how when we lifted the fridge upright, it stands away from the wall."
"Your point being?" Sara asked, still not on the same wavelength as Greg.
"Usually, you'd have your fridge propped up right against the wall, but here, it's about half a metre away from the wall. That suggests someone, our killer, could have moved the fridge forwards a bit, so they could stand behind it and push it on top of the victim."
"So you're reckoning a homicide?"
"Well let's see whether the evidence suggests otherwise, I'm not gonna go and jump to conclusions quite yet. I'll go and have a snoop around the rest of the house, see if anyone tried to break in."
"Okay, I'll finish up in here then I'll help you with the perimeter."
Across the other side of town, Ray and Nick pulled up to the entrance of the glamorous Emerald Eyes casino. As the two of them got out of the Denali, armed with their evidence collection kits, Detective Vega walked up to the two of them and filled them in on some initial details. "The victim is a Mr Lomar Valdez, twenty-eight years old, he's from LA and according to the receptionist at the hotel, he checked in two nights ago accompanied by his girlfriend. In Vegas for the week, I don't think Day Three involved appreciating Vegas' fine sidewalks."
"Where's the girlfriend now?" Nick asked as the three of them headed towards the crime tape.
"We don't know," Vega replied, "but we're looking for her at the moment, she's a suspect."
"How so?" Ray asked.
"Guy dropped out of the window on the seventeenth floor, most likely that she was in the room with him."
"And you don't think he jumped?" Ray inquired.
"Well, windows in hotels in Vegas only open about six to eight inches," Nick talked, "prevents people from jumping out or falling out I guess, protects the casinos' ass. Not many people would choose to jump through the window."
The three of them ducked under the crime tape and saw one of the coroners making notes on the body. Nick saw that the victim was lying face down on the sidewalk directly below the window of their assumed hotel room. There was remarkably little blood on the sidewalk and the glass embedded into his wounds were noticeable.
"Who called it in?" Nick asked after pondering over the scene for a moment.
"Mandy Shoeturner, she's over there if you want to talk to her." Vega pointed at a young women sitting on a nearby bench who looked both in shock and agitated.
"Thanks," Nick walked over to the woman and sat down on the bench alongside her. "Mandy Shoeturner?" She nodded and swept back a part of her short, red hair from her face. "I'm Nick Stokes from the crime lab, I'm gonna need you to tell me how you came across the body."
Mandy swallowed hard and began talking hesitantly, "Well," she cleared her throat, "I was just walking down the street, I was heading to my friends' apartment, she lives just a couple of blocks away." She cleared her throat again, "I was just walking past the Emerald Eyes, when I heard... glass shattering... from above. I thought at first someone was being shot out until I heard a dull thud and I... I called it in afterwards."
"Okay Mandy, you said you heard glass shattering and a thud, did you hear anything else at all?"
"Just a few other people shouting to call nine-one-one, which I did but no... nothing else."
"Okay and what time was this?"
"Midnight, give or take fifteen minutes."
"Okay, thanks very much for your time." Nick wandered back to where Ray was speaking to the coroner. He saw that Nick was walking up to him and cut his conversation short to share information with him. "I reckon our guy was dead before he got tossed out that window."
"I was just about to say the same thing," Ray told him, "the coroner checked his liver temp and it came up as ninety three. He's been dead at least three to four hours."
"That would put his TOD at, around nine thirty pm Friday," Nick replied checking his watch, "two and a half hours before the body hit the sidewalk."
"I did recall there was remarkably little blood for a body which has gone splat."
"Yep, and the eyewitness told me something interesting. A guy being falling through a window to a seventeen storey drop and he doesn't scream or shout out?"
"It looks like someone tried to cover up a murder, to make it look like a suicide, but to me, they haven't done a very good job of it."
"Right, and I reckon our primary crime scene is up on the seventeenth floor."
"Could you get us some surveillance footage of all the elevators and the corridor of the seventeenth floor please?" Ray asked a member of the hotel staff politely who nodded saying that they were already being sent back to the lab. The staff member led them to room seventeen-thirty-five and opened the door for them with the key card. "Thanks," Ray muttered to him as he headed back to the reception.
The two CSIs changed pulled on their latex gloves and stepped into the hotel room, similar to many they had processed before generally containing a TV, a king-sized bed, an en-suite and the minibar which looked like it hadn't been touched. The room itself was surprisingly tidy, Ray noted. Other than the smashed window on the far side, there was nothing to suggest that there had been a struggle in the room. There were various items of clothing strewn over the place; a suitcase lay open on the side of the bed, however the sheets were askew suggesting that room service hadn't visited recently. The bathroom was immaculate and showed no signs of anyone actually being present. The only other things which looked out of place were an empty beer bottle which sat on the bedside table and various chip and candy wrappers which were dotted around the floor.
"Well, I'm willing to rule out a struggle," Nick said, looking around the room with his flashlight, "furniture closest to the window looks undisturbed, bedside lamp intact, weapons of opportunity such as TV remote, lamp don't show any signs of blood or damage to them."
"Killer could have cleaned them down," Ray pointed out, "although the coroner hasn't reported any blunt force injuries on the body thus far."
Nick opened the drawer by the bedside cabinet and photographed the contents, "I got a gun in the drawer." He unloaded the gun and emptied the chamber, "this gun hasn't been fired, I have all bullets accounted for."
"And there weren't any GSWs on the body."
The pair of them wandered around the room, checking through drawers, in the suitcases, checked the bathroom and the wardrobes. "Now either this couple were too lazy to put their clothes away," Nick began commenting on the clothes that littered the room, "or more likely, indulging in some Las Vegas culture. Hey Ray, can you kill the lights please." Ray switched off the lights and Nick began running the ALS on the bed sheets, remarking, "positive for semen."
"Hardly a surprise," Ray picked up a sexy looking black lace bra and smiled at Nick, "I don't think this is Lomar Valdez's type of clothing."
"Not to wear at least," Nick snorted. The two of them continued to process, mostly in silence except for the moment when they photographed something out of place and bagged it. "Okay," Nick said, "I bagged the gun, the TV remote, the lamp, the beer bottle and some of the clothing."
"I'll bring along the rest of the clothing and the sheets," Ray replied, "I've already scanned for blood and semen in the bathroom, nothing."
"Okay, well we also need to go and collect as many fragments of glass from that window as possible. All of that is evidence too."
"I suppose I'll go down and do that," Ray sighed to which Nick gave him a sheepish grin. "I'll see you back at the lab then." Ray turned to leave the room where something instantly caught his eye, something they hadn't noticed as they entered the room, "Hey Nick," come and take a look at this trash can. Nick stood up and walked over to where Ray was pointing at.
"It's empty," Nick noted.
"Yes, judging by the mess on the floor, I'm willing to bet someone cleaned up, and I don't think it was room service."
"Hey, notice there's not plastic lining either, the trash cans I saw at reception all had plastic lining, how much would you bet that all the rooms in the hotel also lined?"
"Well, I've got some glass to clean up; you better find that trash quick before the garbage vans arrive." Ray winked at Nick.
"Whoa, easy big guy!" Nick laughed, "I did dumpster diving only a fortnight ago. You know, as assistant supervisor I'm relieving you from glass collection duty. Have fun!"
"I don't think you should let your power get to your head and this place is huge, I can't search through them all on my own."
"Don't worry; I'll call in some help."
"Isn't everyone else on a case?"
"Yes," Nick winked, "but I hear Hodges is on field rotation."
Sara heard a cell phone chirp and reached for her own only to find it was not hers ringing. She heard Brass answer the phone and snippets of his conversation as she processed the rest of the house. So far, they had found almost nothing outside the kitchen to suggest foul play but on the other hand there was nothing in the kitchen which pointed to a particular suspect. They hadn't yet collected a fingerprint, not a single one. She hoped that when they eventually got the fridge into the lab they might find something.
"Sara," she heard Brass call her name and saw him walk towards her, "err, I need to leave now, I'm being called in about matters concerning last week so I'll be passing this case onto Detective Monaghan from Days."
Sara was taken aback a bit by the news, she couldn't remember a time recently when Brass had been pulled off a case but she also knew that last week's bombings had taken a big toll on the homicide detective. "Oh okay, well we'll let him know about any leads we get and get him up to speed with things."
"Cool, well I'll see you on another assignment, I think they mentioned that autopsy is almost done as well," Brass flashed her a rare smile and made his way out the house. Just as he was out the door frame he shouted back, "oh and by the way, I know Monaghan's a bit on the butch side, but she easily takes offense to things."
Sara couldn't help but laugh to herself at her mistake although then again she was not to blame. She barely knew any of the Dayshift CSIs let alone the detectives. Having sifted through the house for almost five hours now, Sara knew it was time to call it a day at the scene and start processing what they'd collected. She walked through the house and into the kitchen where she found Greg sat on the chair eating an apple.
"Greg!" she said with concern, "you know we have to replace that."
"Relax Sara, I already processed it," he joked a smirk appearing on his face, "and yes I do know I'll need to replace it."
"Good, now please tell me you got something good. I've hardly got anything, no sign of forced entry but I managed to get a faint shoe impression from the back yard. I'm pretty sure Claudia Blanchard doesn't have size twelve feet."
"Well I can't say I've got a lot either. Small patch of blood there," he pointed towards a patch which was close to the puddle of blood they saw earlier, "I tested everything for blood, rolling pins, breadboards, saucepans etc. I even put luminal on the hilts of the knives. You ready for something weird?" Sara nodded as Greg picked up an evidence bag containing a sharp knife, "I found blood on this knife."
"But there was no sharp force trauma?"
"Yeah exactly, and I even tested it for type of species and it's definitely human blood."
"Are we looking at another victim do you reckon?"
"No idea but I can guarantee there aren't any more DBs in this place. Smells too fresh. I think our only hope lies with that fridge."
Sara held up a small evidence bag and jokingly attempted to put it over the fridge, "I think we're going to need a bigger bag," she smiled.
"Never mind a bag," he pointed out the windows to their Denali, "I think we're gonna need a bigger truck!"
A/N: The Emerald Eyes Casino is a fictional casino, just like the Tangiers/Rampart/Monaco etc. in the series.
That is the end of Part 1 of the story, the second part will be up sometime tomorrow. Feel free to tell me what you thought of it and I hope you enjoyed the story and stay tuned for the rest of it! :)