A/N: This idea has been bugging me since before Don't Wake Me When It's Over. I only just fleshed it out. Thank my sister's house for being such a wonderful muse to me. Please let me know what you think and if I should keep going with it!
Exhaustion was nothing new to Mac Taylor. His career paths and personal battle with insomnia made that inevitable. He didn't see it as a bad thing. His job often required odd hour shifts that ended up lasting over 12 hours, so being able to work under those conditions was a plus. He always felt that the longer he could stick with a case on consistent basis, the better chance they had of solving it anyways. If that involved a 20 hour work day, then so be it. More than that, he thrived off it. He actually enjoyed it. Being exhausted at the end of the day usually meant that he'd accomplished something. It also made it easier to sleep whenever that moment came.
Despite that, he had his limits. Stella was often the first to point them out to him. He usually listened. He didn't always do what she said, but he listened. He figured he should have learned his lesson already, but he didn't have a reputation for being stubborn for nothing- he just preferred the term dedicated. Stella had a few terms of her own for it which he chose not to repeat. To her credit, she rarely ever pulled out the "I told you so" card. She was too busy making sure Mac hadn't finally found the edge he'd been flirting with for years.
Even with her uncanny ability to read a situation, not even Stella saw this coming. No one did. The case had started routine enough, but somewhere along the way, there had been a switch, and now it was anything but. Mac was quickly reaching a breaking point and not even Stella could pull him back.
That was his goal, after all- this killer- to drag Mac down to his level, make Mac as disillusioned and crazy as he was.
At this point, Mac couldn't say with any certainty that he wasn't.
72 hours earlier…
"What have we got, Flack?" Mac carefully made his way across the beach, stepping over various collections of washed up debris and knowing that despite his best efforts, he'd end up with a sock-full of sand at the end of the day.
Don winced as he felt the tiny pebbles slosh around his own shoes, but continued to lead the head CSI to the body which was hidden up against an outcropping of rocks and surrounded by a mix of dead ocean foliage. "No ID, for starters. Vic is female, somewhere in her late twenties/early thirties." Mac set down his kit as they stopped in front of the body and started to don his gloves. "Looks like a gunshot wound to the head, and possibly one to the lower abdomen."
Mac snapped on the second glove as an ocean breeze whipped at his hair. It was just past noon, but autumn was just getting into full swing, which meant that the weather still had hints of summer in it if you stood in the sunlight, but the wind always carried the threat of a cold winter. Down on the secluded beach, shaded by tall rocky cliffs, it was almost frigid. His suit jacket, while perfect for the temperature in the city, wasn't quite enough here.
He fought back a shiver as the wind finally subsided and stepped closer to the body. The woman was young and beautiful despite the tell-tale hole in her forehead and ghostly white pallor of her skin. Her long brown hair was matted and tangled in seaweed. She wore only a blouse and jeans. Her shoes were nowhere to be found. The blouse, a pale yellow to begin with, was stained a pinkish hue near the hem. Mac lifted the blouse to see another hole, slightly larger than the one of her forehead, just below her navel.
"What do you make of that?" Don asked after letting Mac examine the body for a few minutes in silence.
Mac studied the hole in the shirt, and without looking up said, "Stippling pattern suggests close contact shot." He lifted the woman's forearms. "Defensive wounds." He checked the fingernails. "Looks like blood trace." Mac hesitated as turned over her left hand and found a ring.
"What are you thinking?" Don asked, seeing Mac's expression change as his keen eyes suddenly lost their edge. It wasn't the first time he'd seen it happen.
Don had noticed that certain cases would take Mac off into his own world. Flack could never anticipate which ones- sometimes the most heinous crimes wouldn't even phase Mac, and then a case of domestic abuse would send him over the edge. Often times it depended on Mac's mood…which explained why Flack could never tell which cases to look out for. As close as they were as friends, Flack found it hard to read Mac and never really heard about his personal problems…almost ever. If Mac ever did happen to tell Flack, it was because it was relevant to a case, or Mac was trying to keep him from talking about a completely separate and usually more important personal problem- then there was the one time Flack actually caught Mac drunk on the 11th of September just two weeks ago. Maybe that was it…
After another few seconds, Mac let out a sigh. "A struggle with a gunshot to the abdomen- not the center of the chest which is more common, but below, and an execution style shot to the head… It was deliberate, personal."
"Trying to a send a message?" Don suggested, watching as Mac stepped back from the body and looked down on it with an unreadable expression.
"Maybe, but to who? Her or someone else?" Mac muttered, more to himself than Flack. "Who found the body?" He suddenly asked, his demeanor shifting fully back to that of a hardened detective. Flack knew better than to comment on it.
"Guy looking for his dog. He was hiking along the trail up there with the dog this morning and the animal ran off. So he came down here to look for him and stumbled upon this. We probably never would have found it otherwise. This stretch is hard to get to and not exactly prime real estate in the tanning department." Don swept his hand around at the narrow and craggy beach, blocked on both sides by almost 100 vertical feet of rock. "The guy who found her lives in California, just got here yesterday night, and I'm guessing the vic's been dead longer than that." Don added, knowing what Mac's follow-up question would have been.
Mac nodded in confirmation. "She couldn't have been in the water long if we've still got trace, though. We'll have to get her to Sid." Another icy breeze nipped at Mac's exposed neck. "Sooner than later."
"Something is off about this."
"You find something on the body, Sid?" Mac asked, eyebrows and interest raised as he pulled on a blue lab coat outside the morgue.
Sid pursed his lips and shook his head. "No, it's just that I could have sworn your shift ended almost 8 hours ago." He said thoughtfully, tilting his head as he fixed Mac with a pointed look.
Mac just smiled as he finished buttoning the coat around him. "Double shift, Sid. Stella and Danny are working on a triple downtown, and Lindsay and Hawkes are off, so I had to fill in."
"For being the boss, you sure fill in a lot." The ME said, leading the way into the morgue. "I thought that's what subordinates were for."
"The body, Sid." Mac said with a smile and glint in his eye. He had a patience for the quirky ME that could only be explained by the fact that Mac didn't mind his off-topic ramblings nearly as much as he let on. He hadn't worked with Sid very long, but the kindly older man had the softest heart of any human being Mac had ever met, despite working with the dead all day. Mac couldn't bring himself to even get upset with him.
"Of course." Sid unsnapped his glasses from around his neck and clicked them back into place on his nose. "Cause of death was the shot to the head. Close range, I'd say no less than 4 feet, but no more than 10. She was shot first, however, just below her navel. Bullet entered at a downward angle and embedded in the iliac fossa of the pelvis. She wouldn't have bled out quickly. The shot to the head probably came soon after. I managed to extract the two bullets. Both 9 mm. Pretty damaged."
Sid held up the glass bottle and rattled the 2 balls of warped metal inside before Mac took it from him and looked them over.
The ME snapped off his glasses again and dropped them so they hung around his neck. "You know, I do believe this is the sixth double shift you've taken in the last few weeks alone." Sid continued as if their conversation had never been interrupted by discussing the dead body between them.
The same lack of inhibition that caused Sid to go to "that creepy place" the CSIs were so familiar with, was the same thing that allowed him to cross lines into personal territory that no one else would dare go with Mac Taylor, and he still got away with it every time. Stella wasn't even that lucky. Again, Mac just couldn't bring himself to get defensive, especially when he knew what a sensitive soul Sid was and the fact that he'd taken notice only emphasized that point. Mac did his best to set Sid at ease while trying not to obviously brush the ME off.
"Hawkes took the swing shift last night and Lindsay just got off from a double yesterday. They both get here in an hour." Mac replied absently, tilted the container to get a better look at the bullets. "Anything else?"
"Isn't your double shift over now as well?"
"About the body." Mac clarified, finally looking away from the bullets and giving Sid a look.
"Ah, yes, indeed." The glasses were back on his face again. "And this may explain the odd placing of the bullet. Your vic was at least 3 months pregnant."
"What?" Mac set the bullets back on the table. His eyebrows drew together and his forehead creased.
"Yes. I've just sent up DNA samples to the lab. There's no sign of sexual assault. I'd say it's a good bet your killer knew about the pregnancy and didn't approve."
"Possibly her husband…Maybe she had an affair…" He speculated aloud. "You have anything that could help us identify her or the shooter?" Mac asked, quickly getting over his shock and instead focusing on the evidence.
"Not yet, but I'm still working on it. Here's the trace from under the fingernails." Sid handed over the envelope. "I can definitely say your vic wasn't dumped into the water or I wouldn't have gotten that. I think it's more likely she was left on the beach and the tide did the rest. I'm putting time of death at 24-36 hours ago."
"At least that gives her time to be in missing persons." Mac sighed. "Thanks." He gathered the evidence and was headed out the door when Sid called him back.
"Hm?" He turned, thinking Sid had forgotten something.
"You… heading home?" He asked casually.
Mac smiled and nodded, willing to humor his ME. "As soon as Lindsay and Hawkes get here."
Sid's smile showed his relief. "Just curious."
"Sure thing, Sid." Mac smirked.
After exhausting every last excuse for work he had left, Mac finally conceded that it was time for him to go home. Lindsay and Hawkes were working hard on the vic's clothes and an ID, and any DNA or trace results would take hours to come in. It was already pushing 9 pm. He had no reason to stay. The case was in good hands until he came back.
Stella and Danny were just returning from their scene when he finally packed up his office and slipped on his jacket to leave.
"You heading out?" Stella asked, standing in his doorway and trying not to look impressed.
"Yes." Mac answered simply, giving her a tight smile. "Lindsay and Hawkes are taking over for now. How'd it go at the scene?"
"Ugh." Stella sighed, "Amateur bodega robbery gone bad. Kid freaked out when the owner fought back and started shooting. We got prints, bullets, casings, security footage, and the kid's student ID which he dropped."
"Brilliant." Mac said wryly.
"Yeah, needless to say he won't be getting any degrees for that heist. Scagnetti is picking him up now. How is your case going?"
Mac let out a short breath. "Uh, not a lot to go on right now, but I'd really like to talk to the Jane Doe's husband- whoever that is. She was pregnant… looks like someone aimed for the baby before they shot her in the head."
Stella frowned. She would never understand the reason people could so recklessly throw the life of another human being away- especially the life of a supposed loved one. Cases with children seemed to hit Stella especially hard, but she could tell by looking at him, that this had struck a chord with Mac as well. She knew he'd been struggling this last month. It was always a hard time for him- at least for the last few years it had been. She'd had to keep an especially close eye on him, and he had thankfully been more open to letting her.
Stella stepped further into his office. "Sleeping any better?" She asked, eyebrow raised curiously, but her eyes demanded the truth. Mac wasn't stupid enough to deny it.
He quickly stifled his yawn and smiled sheepishly. "Yes, I've just been here all day." That day having started at around 5am.
"Well, get home already and get to sleep." Stella grinned, ushering him out of his office and toward the elevators.
"I'm going, I'm going…" Mac smirked. "See you later."
As soon as the elevator doors shut, Mac slumped against the wall. This particular car was empty except for him, which he was grateful for. He could feel a headache coming on and for the first time in a while was looking forward to sleeping in his bed. He hadn't been lying to Stella when he said he'd been sleeping better, but after nearly a month of averaging only 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night, his body had a lot of catching up to do. So long as this case didn't hit any unexpected turns, he was counting on making up as much as he could tonight.
Mac managed to keep himself awake for the drive home and actually forced himself to change into sweats and a t-shirt before falling into his bed. Just before he closed his eyes, his phone started buzzing on the nightstand. Please, not right now… It of course would make perfect sense that the one time Mac wanted to sleep, his job would pull him away from it… He didn't even lift his head as he dragged the phone off the table and held it in front of his eyes. It was a text… The bright screen and his blurry vision made for hard reading, but after a lot of blinking and tilting of the screen, he managed it.
Rest up while you can…
Mac blinked a few more times, as if that would make the message any clearer. It didn't. He was still just as confused. The number was blocked. 'Wrong number, I guess…' He thought to himself tiredly as the phone slipped from his hand and his eyes slid shut.
It was still dark when Mac was pulled from the depths of some already forgotten dream by the vibrating phone still lying under his hand. It didn't stop this time. Someone was calling him. He tried to read the screen, but gave up and simply answered. "Taylor." He mumbled, allowing his eyes to shut again.
"Mac, it's Flack. Look, I'm sorry to wake you-…"
"What is it?" Mac asked, sleep already starting fade as he heard the urgency in Flack's voice. The LED clock on his nightstand read 3:15.
"We got another body."
Mac waited for him to go on. He wasn't on call, so there was another reason Flack was telling him this.
"Female. Shot to the head and lower abdomen… Mac, it looks like we've got a serial."
He was wide awake now, already sliding from his bed as Flack gave him directions to the scene. He had just pulled on a sweatshirt when his phone again lit up and started shaking. With a sigh, he picked it up and realized with a start that it was another text. He'd almost forgotten about the last one. He opened the message, and for one painful moment, Mac's heart stopped.
Game on, Detective.
A/N: There's the first chapter! I hope it got you interested enough. Let me know if you want to see more!