Hodges cried out with happiness and glee as he turned to page six-hundred and thirty-one having finally acquired a match between the textbook and the sample he had been given. With a satisfied smirk he quickly bookmarked the page, picked up the encyclopaedia and dashed off towards Catherine's office only to run into Nick on the way there.
"Whoa, easy there Hodges," Nick picked himself up the floor pointing to the sign mounted on the wall which exclaimed in large letters, 'NO RUNNING IN THE LAB.' "You had any luck with that sample yet?"
Hodges scowled, he didn't want to share the information with Nick, or Sara for that matter, and he'd been on the way to tell the lead investigator the newly accessible information but unfortunately for him he had no choice. He flicked back to page six-hundred and thirty-one and explained his findings. "The mold which was extracted from the victim's clothing was a species of Stachybotrys Chartarum, most commonly known as black mold."
"Good job Hodges," Nick congratulated him before asking, "what exactly does that tell us by the way?"
"Well this type of mold commonly inhabits building materials which are rich in cellulose and can also grow on fungi which have infested buildings which have been prone to water damage and poor air quality."
"Okay then, we've previously established that the victims were probably not killed in the van, but most likely in an undisclosed location."
"Right," Hodges nodded, pretending to be engaged into the conversation.
"So it's highly likely that our primary crime scene is an abandoned building, which has been heavily damaged by water. Heavy rain? Flash flooding possibly?"
"I can't answer that for sure, but one other thing you might want to know about this mold. Long exposure to it can result in chronic fatigue, headaches, irritation to the eyes and all sorts of nasty symptoms."
"So maybe our killer could be feeling a bit under the weather then."
"As I've said though, it's all dependant on whether the killer has had long periods of exposure to the mold."
"Okay, pass on the new information to Catherine and I'll go and see if we've got anything from DN..." Nick began speaking before Catherine entered the room thereby silencing Hodges' requirement to speak with her.
"What new information?" She asked immediately, not even starting their conversation with a simple 'hey there.'
Hodges opened his mouth to talk only to find Nick speaking over the top of him. "Hodges determined the sample found on the victim's clothing to be black mold..."
"Also known as Stachybotrys Chartarum," Hodges piped up, eager to get his two cents worth of the credit.
"Anyway," Nick continued. "The mold supposedly develops in buildings which have been heavily damaged by water which contain materials rich with cellulose."
"Well anywhere like that would be virtually uninhabitable," Catherine deduced. "An ideal place to hide out anyway."
"Definitely so," Hodges rambled on. "As long exposure to the mold can induce symptoms such as chronic fatigue, headaches, irritation to the eyes, sneezing, rashes, chronic coughi..."
"Okay Hodges, I get the picture," Catherine silenced his jittering and he pulled another sour face. "Nick, go and have a look into any abandoned apartments or houses in the Las Vegas area which have suffered serious amounts of flooding. The valley around Mount Charleston might be a good place to start."
Hodges saw Nick nod and begin to head out the door only for the door to be flung open before he'd even got close to it. Jim Brass dashed into the room with a look of both anger and anxiety etched upon his face.
"We need to up our game," Brass said worriedly. "Sanders is missing."
"Tell me what happened when you left the lab," Brass asked Officer Highcliffe, who sat rather uncomfortably in the seat opposite him.
"Please... please, you can't fire me; I swear I was only gone less th..." Highcliffe began to stutter nervously.
"That's not up for me to decide, just answer the question," Brass told him with an air of impatience in his voice. "What happened when you left the lab?"
"Okay, okay," Highcliffe composed himself. "He told me he wanted to meet someone, just at the Starbucks across the street, oh and it wasn't regarding the case by the way," he quickly added.
"I don't know who he was, but he seemed to know Sanders quite well, definitely not around from these parts, I couldn't tell what the accent was."
"What did he look like?" Brass asked him, having calmed down since his initial panic.
"Urrm... some guy, looked to be in his late fifties, early sixties, mop of white hair. Oh and he had glasses too," Highcliffe responded, trying to remember what Peter Grimsrund looked like.
Nick, Catherine and Ray looked on in the observation room; all three of them had been possessed into a stunned silence on hearing that their co-worker, their friend was in serious danger. Ray took his phone away from his ear and snapped it shut, shaking his head.
"I've called his cell three times," he told Nick and Catherine who had stood around him, hoping for some good news. "It's ringing but nobody's picking it up."
"I think I know who Greg was meeting," Nick deduced, picking up on Officer Highcliffe's description of the man. Catherine and Ray both looked at him, demanding him to reiterate "He came to the lab last night; Greg invited him over for some expert opinion on the case. He recognised the Blood Eagle and told us a bit about the suspected perpetrators. I think he's a family friend or something but I don't see why he would be behind all these murders."
The three of them watched on as the questioning of Highcliffe continued, Brass having asked him to describe the car which Peter Grimsrund had driven to the location in however the three CSIs hadn't heard the response in their efforts to identify who Greg had been meeting.
"What happened after this guy arrived at the meeting point?" Brass asked the officer.
"The two of them started talking, the guy pulled out some sort of photo album and started talking about the first page," Highcliffe began explaining the events which followed. "I felt like I was intruding a bit so I backed off a little to let them have a little privacy," Brass looked at him suspiciously. "Not, like, couple of blocks, but just out of earshot."
"Okay, now what happened next?"
"I offered to get them some coffee..."
"You what?" Brass asked in alarm.
"I thought it would be okay, they were sat right outside the shop, I could see them through the window and I thought I'd only be gone a few minutes," Highcliffe hurriedly replied, alarmed by the increasingly aggressive tone in Brass' interviewing. "I even went out to ask what sized drinks they wanted, I literally had my back turned for just a minute whilst I placed the orders. When I came back out with the coffee, they were gone."
"Well, they were no longer sat on the bench and the car wasn't there anymore, I feared for the worst and immediately followed protocol and came back and informed you."
"There's no point banging on about protocol having just violated it. You were given a simple task. Keep both eyes on CSI Sanders. Now, he's missing, how do you think that's gonna look?"
"Urrm... very bad?" Highcliffe almost whimpered a reply. There was a momentary silence between the two of them. "So, what's going to happen now?"
"You had better get hoping that Sanders is still alive for a start," Brass retorted and briskly made his way out of the interrogation room. He caught the eye of the three CSIs and headed in their direction. "I'm not one to criticise the department but we really have got some morons working for us."
"I still don't understand what on earth Greg was doing out the lab anyway?" Catherine asked rhetorically.
"Good point," Ray spoke up. "If he wasn't out there in the first place and had stayed put in the lab, none of this would have happened."
Nick squirmed uncomfortably having remembered that he had suggested to Greg to go out and get himself breakfast and a breath of fresh air. Cut it out Nick, it's not your fault some moronic officer can't do their job, the voice inside his head told himself.
"Do we have anything on this guy Greg was supposedly meeting?" Brass asked.
"Nick reckons he was a family friend of Greg," Catherine answered.
"He came in to the lab yesterday and talked to us a bit about the Blood Eagle, and came up with the idea that this National Gathering of fascists might be behind these killings," Nick elaborated. "His name was Peter... Grimsrund, I think."
"You reckon this Peter Grimsrund guy could be capable of doing all of this by himself?" Brass asked them. "And, be able to simply snatch Greg off the streets like that?"
"Well, Greg ain't exactly Cassius Clay," Nick said light-heartedly. "But he should have been easily able to overpower this guy, which makes me wonder whether there are more people involved."
"Doc Robbins mentioned in the autopsy report that the previous two victims had been stunned prior to death," Ray pointed out. "Matthew Ellis, the second victim was a pretty big guy. With the element of surprise on his hand, this Peter guy could easily stun Greg, drag him into the vehicle and drive off in a matter of seconds."
"There's got to be more than one guy involved," Catherine said. "There's no way that a scheme as elaborate as this could all be conducted by just one man. Particularly one who physically, doesn't appear to be able to work this vigilante style."
"Right, I'll get some detectives to delve into this Peter Grimsrund guy," Brass sprang into action. "I'll let you guys know if we find anything."
"Okay then," Catherine replied. She turned towards Nick and Ray. "Our best bet is to go back to the first three victims, see if we notice anything peculiar which stands out. We've still got surveillance footage to come from A/V and Sara's with Selma in DNA having a look at hairs. If the worst comes to the worst, we'll be back at the scene again."
"How long do you reckon we've got?" Ray asked Nick the inevitable and frightening question.
"I... erm, don't know," Nick replied, not wanting to think of the worst. "But whoever's been doing this has been playing a game all this time. They'll want Greg alive... for a while, anyway."
The car suddenly came to an abrupt stop. Greg, who hadn't been strapped in felt himself falling onto the floor of the car as his momentum carried on. He had no idea how long they had been travelling for as his spatial awareness had been compromised by the journey, a bag had been placed over his head, presumably so he had no idea where he was going. Greg knew that the effects of the stun gun had worn off now as he was able to wiggle his fingers and toes now, however ultimately he was still incapacitated by the ropes which had restrained his wrists.
The door of the car opened and he felt Peter hauling him out of the car. Was this it, he thought to himself. Had they arrived at the scaffold? He was suddenly dropped on the ground; this suggested to him that Peter was still alone at this point. Greg figured he could escape now, but he realised he wouldn't be able to get very far in his position.
He heard a door slide open. A van perhaps? Once more, he felt his body being dragged to a new vehicle. Within moments he found himself making contact with the floor of another vehicle. He heard the door slam behind him and became fully aware of his sense of smell. Wherever he was, it stank, and the smell was very familiar to Greg. Decomp.
He heard what he presumed to be Peter get in the driver's side. As he was imprisoned in the back of Peter's car he had thought for a long time. Why, Peter? Why have you got yourself involved with such heinous crimes? However, throughout the journey, he'd been able to hear Peter's heavy breathing throughout, he felt the car violently swerve left and right at times and the words Peter had said to him before he had been stunned, "I'm really, really sorry" suggested that maybe, he wasn't involved, not directly anyway.
The new vehicle remained stationary for a while in an eerie silence. Greg himself couldn't speak due to the fact he had been gagged as well however this silence was broken with Peter speaking. Nobody replied to him, but he wasn't talking to himself, Greg figured he was on the phone. He was speaking in Norwegian but Greg got the general gist of the conversation as he mentally translated it.
"Yes... yes, I've got him... just off Telephone Canyon Road... okay... I'll be there shortly." Peter spoke nervously and slowly, which supported the possibility that maybe there was something else involved which he'd never considered. Greg heard Peter sigh heavily and put the phone down, but at the same time, he could also hear the sound of someone tapping three numbers onto what he assumed to be a different phone.
"Hello, I think I've just seen a kidnapping... on the intersection of Cheyenne and Jones... the guy was tall, about six foot, early-thirties, thick, sandy blonde hair with spikes... yeah I got the vehicle and plate as well, it was a white GMC Savana, plates Nevada, Five, Five, Four, S, G, H... it headed west along Cheyenne, turned northwards onto the US Ninety-five."
The phone was slammed down and Greg felt the engine roar to life and all of a sudden, there seemed to be a way out. From what Peter had just said, he'd just reported his own kidnapping. Whilst it gave him an inkling of hope, Greg still feared that the worst for him, and possibly Peter was still to come from this ordeal.
"Hey," Sara called out to Selma cheerfully, hiding her anxiety for Greg's safe-being.
"Howdy," Selma replied in her usual enthusiastic manner. "I expect you're hoping for some results from those hairs that were sent over to me."
"Hoping for?" Sara asked. "That doesn't sound promising."
"I'm afraid I got zilch. Big, fat, nothing. The hairs you sent me, none of them had skin tags so it can be assumed they were naturally shed, and I wouldn't be surprised if all of them belonged to Greg."
"Okay, thanks for trying though," Sara called back to her as she left. She headed around to the break room but saw that nobody was occupying it; she noticed that they were all eagerly crowded around in the A/V lab and assumed that Archie had managed to get a breakthrough. She walked through the doorway and exclaiming, "hey, why wasn't I invited to the party?"
"Hold on a moment," Archie said, scanning through the footage one frame at a time. "Flimsy surveillance only takes an image every ten seconds but... here!"
Archie stopped the surveillance at a frame revealing two figures two male figures, neither represented Peter Grimsrund and both of whom were carrying a bag which distinctly resembled the body of Dirk Faversham. One of the men was facing away from the camera, although he sported a mop of frizzy, dark coloured hair. The man closest to the camera however was looking directly at it; he was a tall man, who appeared to be balding who had an iconic silver goatee. His cold eyes glared directly back at the CSIs watching which chilled many of them who were even standing around merely observing. He also had his middle finger pointed up at the camera.
From that frame, it had become apparent. They were playing a game all along, and quite frankly, their capture was the lowest of their concerns.
"Well, that confirms our theory," Nick spoke up. "There's more than one of them."
"But what exactly does Peter Grimsrund have to do with this?" Ray asked. "From what I've heard about him, he doesn't seem to fit in with this at all?"
"Maybe it's just a disguise?" Sara suggested.
The atmosphere of the room was once again changed abruptly as Detectives Vega and Vartann dashed into the room.
"We've got a new lead," Vega said simply.
Vartann threw a USB to Archie who, despite not expecting it, was skilfully able to catch it. "Anonymous nine-one-one caller phoned in about five minutes ago reported a kidnapping in North Las Vegas, description of the victim matches Greg."
"Hold on a minute," Catherine spoke up. "Greg was taken from outside this lab; we're nowhere near North Las Vegas."
"Beats me," Vega said simply. "However the caller also reported the vehicle and the plate number as well, you might want to check that out."
"Apparently the kidnappers went North on US ninety-five," Vartann added.
Realising that this could potentially be a huge lead, Catherine once again stepped up to her supervisor role. "Okay, Archie and Ray, you analyse the nine-one-one tape. Nick, you have a look at the vehicle and Sara, north on US ninety-five is the way to Mount Charleston, I want you to see if you can find any reports on buildings in that location which have been subjected to large amounts of water damage, possibly from flash floods."
Everyone who was assigned a role dutifully obeyed orders and immediately got down to what they were supposed to. Vartann looked across at Catherine, clearly impressed with her sudden explosion of leadership. He walked up to her and whispered into her ear, "wow, nice job!"
"Thanks," she replied before smiling cheekily. "Now, shouldn't you be getting back to yours?"
Greg was aware that they had long left Vegas now as he felt the vehicle manoeuvre along windier roads and they encountered far less traffic lights. After what seemed like an eternity of travelling, he finally realised the vehicle had slowed down to a halt. During that time he had wondered if everyone back at the lab knew that he had gone, or whether they would be looking for him. The glimmer of hope inside his head told him they were, and that he would be back in Vegas in no time. They had found Nick, buried six feet under, they had found Sara, lost in the desert, he had escaped death twice and he was more than ready to do it for a third time.
He heard the van door slide forcefully open and a pair of hands seized his shoulders roughly. Yes, they were definitely here now. He heard a voice call out, "come on, you too old man." The voice had an unmistakably Norwegian accent. He heard the sound of the driver's door opening and closing as Peter followed behind them. "You might want to watch where you walk," the same voice hissed.
Greg had no clue where he was going but after walking about a hundred paces, he felt himself guided up a set of creaky stairs and through a front door. The stench was overwhelming, it was clear that wherever they were had lain in disrepair for a long time. He felt butterflies clench his stomach as he was silently ushered up a staircase to a second floor. Whoever was guiding him was doing so ever so deliberately, making sure that Greg stepped where he was supposed to.
After a short walk, he realised the pace had quickened and he was suddenly flung across the room. Another set of hands stopped his momentum, although they didn't feel warm and welcoming at all and within seconds he felt himself forced upon a chair. His arms were untied but their freedom was short lived as he felt the texture of duct tape licking his wrists and his ankles.
"Let there be light," a voice emitted, Greg felt his stomach clench even further as he recognised this voice as the cold voice which had spoken to him on the phone. In a swift movement, the bag was lifted off his head and the gag was just as quickly removed. "Good morning Hojem, and welcome to my humble abode."
"It's nice," Greg commented sarcastically. Looking around, nice was probably the poor choice of word to describe the room. Wooden cabinets had rotted away, the drapes which enclosed the room in darkness had clear holes in them and the floorboards looked as if they might give way at any moment. "I've waited just as long as you have to be acquainted," Greg continued, hoping that somehow these words may delay his death sentence.
"A long time indeed," the balding man with the cold eyes spoke. "But I hope you don't mind waiting a little longer. Your dear friend Peter and I have some unfinished business." He turned to Peter, who was stood off to one side of the room. "So Peter, what is it you want in return for Hojem here?
"Let my family go," Peter growled bitterly and with deliberation.
"How unexpected, Linden, let them go."
The balding man looked at what Greg realised to be the man, tall and extremely muscular, standing behind him, who moved over to where the drapes were located. He pulled them open, letting the glorious Nevada sunlight into the room through the remains of a window. The sunlight was blocked by two figures, a woman who looked to be in here early thirties, and a small girl who couldn't have been more than ten, who were also tied to chairs, gagged and quivering with fear.
At first it looked as if Linden was going to untie the two females, but to the horror of Greg and Peter, he simply toppled the chairs over, through the opening where the window once was. Even through the gags, their muffled screams could be heard as they plummeted two stories, hitting the ground with a sickening thud.
"No!" Peter yelled, his look changing from horror to rage. "You said you'd let them go!"
"I did let them go," the balding man chuckled. "But it was you who failed to specify, when, where and in what manner!"
"You... bastard!" Peter cried, pulling out a pistol which lay hidden in his back pocket. A further sense of dread gripped Greg; he wasn't sure whether Peter knew what he was doing.
"Peter," he cried out. "Put the gun..."
A loud shot cut Greg off from finishing his sentence, but to his dismay, the shot came from a frizzy haired accomplice who stood at the side of the room. Peter let out a yelp and fell to the ground in a bloody heap. The shot appeared not to be fatal... yet, but Peter was well and truly out of action. Greg opened his mouth to yell out in horror but found no such sound coming out of it. The balding man casually kicked Peter's fallen pistol away whilst Linden dragged Peter to one side.
"Well, that didn't quite go as planned," the balding man said in a cruelly light-hearted manner. "But let's move on to the main agenda Hojem."
Greg looked back at the balding man completely unenthused and still in a state of shock.
"Oh, how rude of me, I haven't introduced myself," the man continued talking in a sickly sweet tone. "My name is Erlen Strasse, and I'll be the last person, you ever lay your eyes on."
A/N: The slightly evil side of me is definitely coming out in this story!
Hope you enjoyed it! I aim to get the final part of this story up sometime tomorrow, but if it isn't, it will definitely be Friday. (Thursday is kind of an important day for me.) Your reviews and comments are always welcome!