CSI: Crime Scene Investigators
"Across Hell's Half Acre"
By A. Rhea King
In hindsight, Greg realized things could have been worse, although he wasn't sure how. The rhythmic clip-clop made his mind wander. Each time he caught it wandering, it surprised him how quickly it kept happening.
But the turn of events all started with a coin-toss – that part he'd never forget and he was never going to let Nick forget, either…
Nick and Greg ate their lunches in silence, each engrossed in results and writing reports a pipe. The slow night (something no one would call it out loud for fear of jinxing it) had been a relief after months of non-stop exposure to humanities stupidity and brutality. The simple pleasure of sitting quietly and eating his lunch in peace was something Greg had looked forward to since the shift started. Neither noticed Russell come to the door with two call sheets swaying in hand. He walked up to the table and sat down. His smile grew the longer neither of them acknowledged him.
"Either you two have some really good reading or I'm getting the silent treatment."
Nick smiled, but he didn't look up. "Silent treatment for some future indiscretion."
"Ah. Well, here's the future indiscretion. I have two calls and two CSI with free time." He handed them each a sheet. Russell got up and left, adding, "Let's hope this streak we've got lasts!"
"D.O.B. at the Bellagio," Greg read from his call sheet. "Called in by housekeeping. This should be straight forward."
"DOB at 14643 County Road 121. Anonymous caller. The two units on the scene reported remains." Nick grinned. "Wanna flip for the call?"
"I'm your supe."
"You can't make me flip."
"I could arm wrestle it away. I'm bigger than you."
"I have things to do. I need an easy call."
"And I don't?"
Nick laughed. "For that, you are flipping."
"You seriously don't want to flip?"
"I seriously don't want to flip."
Sara and Morgan walked in.
"Who wants to go find body parts scattered across the desert in the dark?" Morgan waived her call sheet.
"I have possible human remains at the city dump. Again," Sara said
Nick told them, "Greg is refusing to flip."
She sat down with a grin. "Greg won't flip?"
"We should flip, Greg. You could get my call," Morgan encouraged him.
"I don't wanna flip!"
The three taunted and prodded until he finally bellowed, "FINE!"
The calls were tossed print side down on the table. Nick produced a quarter.
"Alright," Nick said. "Greg calls it first. If you win, you get to draw first. If you lose, you wait."
With great dismay Greg watched then coin fly up in the air.
Greg stormed across the parking garage to his Denali, jamming his finger against the unlock button on his key remote. The vehicle, parked among the fleet of CSI vehicles, chirped and flicked its lights to greet him. He threw open the back door behind the driver's side and it smacked the side of Nick's Denali. Nick appeared at the back, surprising Greg, but not enough to smooth his temper.
"Easy there, Greg."
"Go to hell," Greg snapped and got in.
Greg turned the engine on, threw it into reverse and backed up. The bumper barely cleared Sara's Explorer.
He threw it in drive, hearing Nick call, "GREG!"
Greg drove away, careful not to let his anger get any further into his driving. He glanced back, seeing Sara join Nick, both staring at his tail lights. Greg looked away. Right now all he wished was it would all go to hell!
"What happened? I heard you say his name," Sara asked.
Nick pulled his cell phone from the holster on his belt. "He hit my truck with his door, and then told me to go to hell when I said something about it."
Sara stopped Nick from calling. "He's pissed that moved when the unknowns behind home he got stuck with that call in the middle of nowhere. Just let him cool off, Nick."
Nick holstered his phone. "He didn't have to cuss at me."
"Aww. Did our poor supervisor's feelings get hurt?"
"Am I supposed to like you?"
She flashed him a smile before she walked away.
Walking through the quiet hotel halls of the Bellagio it was always hard for Nick to imagine that twelve floors down was a noisy casino, and at varying feet he passed windows that looked out on a dry, hot night in Las Vegas. His kit bounced in his hand, as if it were laughing about how the crime scene toss came out – and without anyone around to see it, he could smile and gloat. He'd lost that toss enough times that he didn't feel the least bit sorry when someone else was stuck with a horrible call.
Nick finally reached the room with the policeman standing outside. The man was watching his cell phone. He looked up to watch Nick walk by, but looked utterly bored.
"Don't fall asleep," Nick joked.
He wasn't amused. Nick walked in to find David crouched over a body. The man was young, maybe his late teens to early twenties, with severe acne. Foam had dried around his nose and mouth. The armpits and chest of his shirt where moist, most likely from sweat.
Brass stood nearby, scribbling in his notebook. Nick stopped behind Brass.
"Hey Greg," Brass said.
"I'm not Greg. And hey back."
Brass glanced at him. "I was told Greg was taking this."
"He lost the coin toss."
Brass just smiled, looking away. He knew what that meant.
"Who's this?" Nick motioned at the dead man.
"We don't know yet. The room is registered to a woman, a Stephanie Foster. Front desk said there were supposed to be three people in this room and from the looks of things, there are at least three."
Nick looked around the room. It was an economy room with two double beds that had been used recently. Between them were a pillow and a couple of blankets where someone had slept on the floor. There were two suitcases and a girl's duffel bag – Nick deduced it was probably a pre-teen because it was pink with the various Disney princesses printed on it.
"Huh. His pupils are blown out," David told him.
Nick leaned over the body. The color was almost lost to the enlarged pupils.
"I'd guess that too from the foam around his nose and mouth."
David and his assistant moved the body onto the gurney and headed for the door.
"Who are— What— Why are there people in my room? What's going on here?"
Nick and Brass turned. A woman and a twelve year old stood in the hall, confronting the officer blocking them from entering. The woman looked at the gurney going out.
"Is that… Who is that?"
"Ma'am calm down. We—"
"My son was supposed to be here! Where the hell is my son!"
"Uh-oh," Brass said under his breath.
Nick nodded. David most likely just wheeled the son out. Nick's phone started ringing but he ignored it. Brass walked up to the woman and Nick trailed behind.
"Ma'am, the maid came in to clean your room not long ago and she found something," Brass said.
Nick's phone started ringing again. He quickly silenced it.
"Something? That person they just took out? I don't… Where is my boy?"
"Can you describe him, ma'am?" Nick asked. "Or do you have a photograph?"
She dug her wallet out of her purse and presented a family photograph that included the man David had just wheeled away.
"Ma'am, let's go down the hall here and talk for a moment."
Nick decided to let Brass handle this. He went back to where the body had been and crouched down. Nick pulled out a UV light and shined it around the area. The area laminated in a blue tinted white.
"NO!" he heard the woman scream and looked back.
She ran through the door before the officer could grab her. Nick dropped his light and leapt up, grabbing her arms. She struggled with him, trying to get into the room. The officer came up behind her, trying to pull her away. For as small as she was, she was surprisingly strong and was determined to get what she'd come in after.
To add to the confusion, Nick's phone started ringing again.
"Cuffs! Get your damned cuffs!" Nick snapped at the officer.
The two wrestled her to the floor and several minutes and four ignored calls on Nick's cell phone, they had her in cuffs. Nick sat back, looking up at Brass. He and the daughter stood in the door, watching the scene. The girl looked up at Brass.
Quietly she asked, "I'm going to have to live with my dad for a while, aren't I?"
Brass nodded. "I think you will, kiddo."
She sighed and crossed her arms over her chest angrily. "Stupid stickers."
Brass, the officer, and Nick looked at the little girl.
The woman snarled at the child, "You keep your God damned mouth shut or you will regret it, Tamara!"
Nick got to his feet. His phone ringing again almost made him rip it out of the holster and throw it through the window. Instead he silenced it again.
"Tell who what, Mom? You didn't even tell me why you drug me out of bed to come to Las Vegas. All I know is I hate Las Vegas even more every time you drag me here."
"Tamara, do not—"
"Get her out of here," Brass ordered.
The woman continued telling Tamara to keep her mouth shut and threaten her. Tamara mouthed the threats back with a dozen eye rolls. Finally Brass and Nick were alone with the girl. Nick crouched down on one knee in front of her.
"Hi. My name is Nick Stokes." He held out his hand. "What's your name?"
She gave his hand one, limp pump. "Tamara."
"It's nice to meet you. I'm sorry to hear you have to live with your dad."
"He's really boring. We don't do just pack up and go on random trips like mom does. Except Vegas and Phoenix. They suck. They're always hot."
"They can be. You said something about stickers. What was that about?"
"They're my mom and Derek's."
"What kind of stickers are they?"
"Did you like the stickers?"
"I don't like any stickers."
"Oh. Sorry. Did anyone ever give your mom or brother money for the stickers?"
"Yeah. All the time."
"Like, a couple bucks or more?"
"More. I don't know why. They're just stupid stickers."
"So you never touched them?"
She shook her head. "That gets me grounded."
"Well, probably—" Nick hesitated when his phone started ringing again. He pulled it out and turned it off. "It's probably good you don't touch them then. Do you know if they brought stickers on this trip to Las Vegas?"
"Yeah. A couple."
"Just a couple stickers?"
"A couple sheets."
"Where are they now? Do you know?"
"Mom sold most of them a little bit ago. They always put them in bag in my suitcase, but I still get in trouble if I touch them."
Nick nodded. "Do you know when you guys got here?"
"Five hours ago."
"Did you come straight here from the airport?"
"You didn't stop anywhere?"
She shook her head.
"Okay. Do you know if your brother, Derek, was in the room when you left?"
"Do you think he stayed here when you two were gone?"
"No. He promised to go check out the pool for me. He sent me a text message and said it was nice, but we'd have to go in the morning before mom and me left. He said it was really hot out there this afternoon. I told him to stop flirting – he likes to flirt but girls get really mean when he does."
Nick smiled. "Girls can be like that sometimes. Tamara, thank you for helping out. Jim will stay with you until your dad gets here," Nick pointed at him.
"When can I go to my dad's? I'm really hungry."
"Does your dad live here?"
"No. He lives in Reno."
Brass told her, "Well, let's you and me get something to eat, and then we'll call your dad. I bet he'll be surprised to find out you're going to be visiting."
She looked at Brass with a 'no shit' glare. Brass just smiled and guided her away. Nick stood and walked over to Tamara's suitcase. He dug through it until he found the bag of stickers. He held them up and smiled, shaking his head.
He bagged the stickers. Nick grabbed a marker from his kit and began marking the outline of the blue tinted white.
Catherine slowed to turn off the highway onto a small asphalt road. She glanced at Morgan.
"I thought our call was human remains spotted in the desert."
"I could have sworn it was."
Catherine frowned. She knew it was. "So who took that call?"
"Sara switched your call? Willingly?"
Catherine drove through gates and into a wide dirt parking lot of the landfill. An officer was standing with two men in overalls. Catherine decided she'd ask more questions about the switch later.
The stopped in front of them and the women got out, joining the men.
"Catherine Willows, Crime lab. Where are the body parts?"
"Part," one of the men said.
"A body part?" Morgan asked.
"Yeah. The head. It's outside the fence on the back of the fill." He pointed in the general direction. "There's an access road back there."
"Could you show us?" Catherine asked.
Both men shook their head, and then one stopped shaking his head and vomited.
Catherine and Morgan looked at each other. They got back in the vehicle and drove around to the access road. Morgan rolled the window down and pulled her flashlight from her vest, switching it on. She got on her knees in the seat and shined it into the weeds along the road. Catherine slowed to a crawl.
"I see it," Morgan said.
She grabbed for the door handle when she felt Catherine grab the back of her vest and give it a tug.
"You can wait until I stop, Morgan."
Morgan smiled over her shoulder and it was returned. Catherine pulled off the road and stopped. Morgan hopped out and trotted back to the head. It was next to the fence, facing the landfill as if the deceased had planned on resting here to watch trash be spread into the land.
Morgan crouched down, looking at it. "I can't see the bottom of the neck. I don't know if the cut is clean or jagged."
Catherine stopped next to her. She turned and then turned again.
"Huh," she said.
Morgan looked up at her, and then in the direction she was staring. Directly above them, up a steep incline, was a road with cars driving by. Morgan stood up.
"Do you think someone threw it out up there?"
"I do think," Catherine answered.
"We may never find the body."
"Let's make sure the evidence tells us that before we lose all hope."