Disclaimer: I don't own CSI
The vines crawled higher up the failing brick walls in their quest to block out the night sky. I lay back on the cracked patch of concrete in the backyard, staring through a tunnel of leaves at that one single star. Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight… right? But for all I knew the star was probably already dead and I was simply looking at former glories.
There was a disturbance in the light streaming from the house through the leaves into my dark haven. A shriek. Screams. Shouts. Then silence. Mum! Dad! I jerked upright, startled. The eerie silence rang in my ears like a deafening bell. What happened? I curled up into a ball and stayed stock still, watching something liquid run down the inside of the kitchen window. Blood? Footsteps thudded on the backyard grass. Black, leather shoes. Smooth soles. Quiet, stealthy, lethal. My heart raced as they neared. Each step to a thousand beats. My breath pushed against my chest, begging for escape. The feet turned. Slowly. Thud. Thud. Thud. And it was gone. I didn't move. I waited, shivering in the cold air that was sifted through my leafy hideout. I waited until dawn. 9-1-1.
Morgan sat in the break room, stirring her coffee round and round, watching the brown liquid swirl like the churning in her stomach. Was it fear? Excitement? Danger? What she knew for sure was that it definitely had something to do with an ancient microscope and a smile that belonged to a certain Greg Sanders.
"I'm sure your coffee's cold enough now. I'm getting dizzy watching you do that for twenty minutes." Hodges stood up and held onto the nearby cabinet for dramatic effect. Morgan smirked.
"Should've locked that elevator down for a few more hours."
"Well too late now. I'm heading home." As he walked out, DB walked in, placing his phone back in his pocket.
"Sorry Morgan, we've got a double homicide on Lakeside Drive, North Vegas. I'm on another case so we're short." He said.
"Alright." Morgan sighed, tipping her now ice cold coffee down the sink.
"Cheer up. You're working it with your little boyfriend." DB smiled in his strange way and walked down the hallway. That continuous joke certainly didn't help.
Morgan dug the heels of her palms into her eyes to try and clear her head of fatigue. She was just out of the doorway when Greg came up to her.
"Hey, I got our kits. Ready?" He seemed mighty energetic for the early hours of morning.
"Never." She smiled tiredly.
The early morning sky bled orange to the east and was smothered in grey cotton. The smell of rain tickled my nose as I sat huddled on the sidewalk with a police department blanket around my shoulders. Someone was taking my temperature, a voice was asking me questions but all I cared to hear were shrieks and screams. Another car arrived and two CSIs stepped under the yellow tape.
"Brass, what happened?" I looked up at hearing a familiar voice. CSI Sanders.
"Nicholas and Elizabeth Scott, married couple, 45 and 49. That's their daughter there, Leila, 22. She was hiding in the backyard when the attack happened. Called 911 in the morning. I think she's in shock, she's not talking." Brass said. I watched them, listening to their emotionless professionalism. Was that all my parents were reduced to? Name, marital status and age? Just another dot on a graph of statistics?
"That's what you become when you don't make anything of yourself. You're forgotten, you become a nobody." My aunt's voice rang in my head.
Sanders looked in my direction, his eyebrows knitting together in thought. Then realisation smoothed out his features.
"She'll talk to me." He said, so quietly I barely heard. He indicated for the pretty blonde – I squinted my eyes to see the name on her vest: Brody – to start processing the house first. He walked towards me, placing his kit on the ground, then sat on the curb next to me. The man called Brass followed, standing slightly away.
"Leila, right?" Sanders said. I nodded. I was supposed to feel something but I was just so numb.
"I remember you." He said, a heavy lightness in his tone. I nodded again. "You practically followed me from the other side of the tape like a shadow on my first case." A traitorous smile tugged at the corners of my mouth. I was not supposed to smile the day my parents get slaughtered just because my childish uniform crush turned up to investigate it.
"You know, I still owe you for saving my ass." I turned slightly to face him. "That piece of evidence you told me I dropped, it basically solved the case." He looked nervously up at Brass. I followed his gaze. The man's eyebrows were raised sky high. His look was so humorous I almost forgot why they were here.
"So…" Sanders said, "If you could tell Captain Brass here the exact details of what you heard, saw, smelt, felt… anything. It could really help us find who did this. And just count it as another thing I owe you. I'll pay you back for it, I promise." My heart skipped a beat at his smile despite everything. I don't think I've ever hated myself more than that moment.
Greg didn't know what to think. That carefree teenager who was a neighbour of the victims of his first case as a CSI was a stark contrast to the young woman on the curb. Her curious questions about every detail of DNA analysis and forensics had put a smile on his face, easing his anxiety. With a sigh, he entered the house. He was going to find out exactly what happened in this place.
"Hey, Greg." Morgan called from the back door. "Over here." Morgan shone her torch around the kitchen and sliding back doors.
"The wife was stabbed twice in the chest, first one missed any vital organs. Second one straight in the heart. TOD around 11pm last night." David examined the body. "Ligature marks around the neck. Defensive bruises on the arms…" He lifted the fingers and scraped the nails for the CSIs, then placed it in an evidence pouch. "There's quite a line-up in autopsy so I'll give you what I can get for now."
"Thanks, David." Greg nodded and took pictures of the wounds the assistant medical examiner mentioned.
"So you think the killer held the vic with his left hand and stabbed with his right?" Morgan tilted her head, examining the angle of the bruises on the neck.
"Could be." Greg replied. "And where's the husband?" He looked around for the body.
"Oh, I got him taken outside already. His throat was slit. No sign of defensive bruising." David said, following the body out of the house.
"The TV was still on so the killer probably attacked the husband first from behind and then finished the wife." Morgan reasoned.
"Blood spatter along the wall consistent with the slitting of the throat. The smear here on the ground leading to the kitchen…" Greg photographed it "… the wife probably came down, saw what was happening and the killer turned on her."
"Could be." Morgan echoed Greg. He raised a brow at her, inciting a smile. Greg looked back at the bloody scene, trying to get the image of the sparkle in her tired eyes out of his mind. This was work time. If he stuffed up either way, Ecklie was going to turn him into a crime scene.
"David said the vics were possibly killed with a knife." Morgan changed the topic, sensing something unprofessional creeping into the air. "But no knives are missing from the holder." She pointed her torchlight towards the kitchen counter next the wall.
"Killer must've brought his own."
"Black fibres. Looks like it's been cut. Maybe the killer accidentally cut his sleeve or something." Morgan picked it up with tweezers and placed it in another evidence pouch. "You take it to Hodges."
"You find it you take it." Greg teased, placing numbers down next to the blood patterns. She pouted, he laughed and well, both of them knew there were rules for a reason.
I sat in the empty steel room. Steel chairs, steel table… so heartless, so cold. I felt like it was a visual extension of the prison in my heart. Part of me wished I'd died with them. The phone vibrated on the table and Captain Brass picked it up.
"Brass?" I could just make out the muffled sound from the phone. "Got an eyewitness saying he saw a black SUV that wasn't usually part of the neighbourhood leaving at around eleven last night. Number plate starts with VLW but they didn't get the rest."
"Okay thanks." The captain replied.
"So Leila," he looked at me, "what happened last night?" I just stared at the grey walls.
"Your parents were killed last night, why did you only call for help in the morning?" He tried to get some eye contact. I continued my stare. I knew that on the other side of that wall, someone was watching. He tried three more questions before sighing.
"Just wait here." He said and left. The screeching of the chair on the floor gave me a shudder. A few minutes of muffled voices on the other side of the wall and then a soft knock. I looked up and of course, they had fetched Sanders. He sighed.
"Please, just say something. You're freaking me out." He dropped all professionalism and I met his gaze.
"Am I really scarier than dead bodies?" I asked quietly. He seemed shocked, but he laughed.
"Well, you were acting like a moving one, so I suppose so." He smiled. "I know you don't wanna remember but I also know that you remember every detail. So please, help us out here?" I sighed, just wanting to be left alone. I nodded.
"Okay, so why did you call the police six hours after it happened?"
"Okay, and did you hear anything while it happened?"
"Lights changed shades in the house so I looked. Blood was dripping down the kitchen window from the inside. Black, leather shoes came outside then left."
"Did you go into the house again?"
"Why were you hiding?"
"I was back home visiting my parents and I just wanted to see my childhood hideout again."
"Are you sure you didn't hear anything else?"
"The TV was still on." I closed my eyes, shuddering as I returned back to my nightmare. "There were clicks, like he was tapping his gun while he walked around the backyard." I opened my eyes again, glad to see Sanders instead of those black, leather shoes.
"And any idea who would want to hurt you or your parents?" I shook my head.
"Okay, that was great."
"I think she's doing it on purpose." Sara mused, looking at the stone-faced girl in the interrogation room.
"Doing what?" Greg joined her, holding the case files.
"Only talking to you and pretending she's all shattered. My bet, she's the one who did it. How can you hear the TV from the corner of the backyard?"
"She does have sensitive hearing." Greg pointed at her medical files then proceeded to re-skim through her other background information.
"Sidle." Sara said, picking up her phone. "Alright. I'm on it." Greg looked up at her.
"A student, Paula Harris, was stabbed this morning at UNLV." Sara told him, sighing. Greg raised a brow.
"That's Leila's roommate."
I watched the streetlights zip by as CSI Brody drove me to my apartment. I could feel bags forming under my eyes. Her phone rang.
"Brody." She answered.
"Bring her back, Morgan. I think she's in danger." Sanders voice buzzed through Morgan's earpiece. She gave me a worried look and found the nearest intersection to make a U-turn. I looked in the side view mirror. Black SUV.
"Morgan." I uttered my first word to her and she seemed surprised. "We're being followed." She looked up at the rear-view mirror before calling for assistance. They were speeding up. Catching up.
"Morgan, they have guns. Drive!" I couldn't keep the anxiety out of my voice. She couldn't keep it out of her eyes. The black SUV scraped the side of our car before Morgan sped up enough to stay in front. She swerved across lanes and I held on so tightly I could see the whites of my knuckles. I could hear my heart leap against my ribcage. The SUV bumped the right back side of our car. It swerved to regain direction. The sound of screeching breaks and accelerating engines hounded my ears and I used one hand to block out some of the noise. It hurt.
Then sirens. The wails of salvation. The black SUV turned into a small street and sped away as police cars chased after it. Morgan slowed the car to a halt on the side of the road and breathed deeply for a while. Her phone rang again.
"Brody." Her voice wavered slightly.
"Morgan! Are you alright?" Sanders' voice.
"Yeah, I'm fine. We'll be back in a sec." She had regained her calm.
"We need to put her in protective custody before we find our guy." Brass talked in hush tones at the corner of the corridor of the PD. Greg sneaked a look at Leila, standing beside DB. He knew she could hear. She looked shaken but not broken. More than anything, the car chase seemed to have shaken lose her cocoon of impenetrability.
DB nodded in response to Brass' suggestion.
"Well, it's Greg's case. I approve. You guys make the arrangements." He gave a single 'go ahead' nod and took a sip of coffee from his cup before leaving.
"Right." Greg said, scratching his head. "Where do we put her?"
"There's a safe house in Paradise. Hah, that's funny. And another in Henderson. There's one just round the corner too, but it's a bit too close for comfort. Take your pick." Brass counted on his fingers.
"Uh, where would you like to stay?" He asked Leila. She looked up slowly from the cup that hadn't left her lips. She shrugged.
"Henderson?" Greg suggested.
"Okay." She whispered, nodding. Brass looked impatiently between the two before dialling a few numbers to make arrangements. He walked towards Leila and pointed at one of the officers standing at the end of the corridor.
"One of these officers will take you there. When everything's cleared, you can go home."
"Actually," Greg said, "I'll take you. I guess I owe you that much." Leila smiled for a brief second before taking another sip of her water. Greg's phone buzzed.
"Hey Greg. Morgan. Those black fibres are specifically-made, fire retardant, bullet-proof material. It shouldn't have been easily cut off by a knife unless there was previous serious stress on the fabric. There's only one place in all of Vegas that sells it. The manager's a man named Miguel Torres."
"Nice. I'm just gonna drop Leila off at a safe house in Henderson then I'll join you. Can you check out the company data before leaving?"
"Okay I'm on it, meet you there." He placed the phone back in his pocket.
"Okay, let's get you out of here." He smiled and Leila stood meekly and followed.
"There will be an officer outside at all times in case you need anything." Sanders said. I sat on the couch in the cold living room. I looked out of the tall windows with pattern-less curtains. The sun was lower in the sky as the afternoon crept in.
"Wouldn't that be suspicious?" I asked, still looking out the window. He chuckled lightly.
"Don't worry, he won't be in uniform and he won't exactly be pacing around on the sidewalk. He'll just be in that little building in the front yard." I nodded.
"Here, call me if something happens or you think there's anything you remember about anything." He handed me a card. I took it and smoothed a thumb over the thick texture. The numbers engraving itself into my mind.
"No problem." He patted me on the shoulder and I tensed at his touch. He seemed to notice, opening his mouth to say something, then simply closing it again. His lips thinned into a sad smile before he left.
"Sanders, wait." I said before he opened the door. "Bullet-proof fabric?" He looked shocked for a second.
"My dad used to engineer them. He owned shares in the manufacturing company. But for some reason he quit recently. I… I actually went to see them to see if he was alright."
"Great. I mean, not great, but thanks." He smiled again before quickly grabbing his phone and speed-dialling. I sighed as he left. I know those black, leather shoes now. How could I forget the smell?
Greg pulled up next to Morgan who was leaning on her car, looking repeatedly at her watch. She eyed him playful and continued while he got out.
"I'm sorry. Traffic." Greg shrugged.
"Yeah-ha, sure." She teased.
"That girl, aye. A bit young for you don't you think?" Greg opened and closed his mouth like a fish.
"No, Brody, no." he finally managed. She raised her brows and pressed her lips together.
"Brody, aye? Well, Mr Sanders," she paused for dramatic effect, "you ready to squish out some answers?"
"Couldn't be more eager." Greg said in a monotone. Morgan laughed.
Greg rapped on the door of the office building beside the factory. No answer. He tried again before the two decided to enter the factory foyer instead.
"Hello? Anyone here?"
"Can I help you, sir?" a young man walked out from the entrance to the manufacturing area. His English laced with a strong Latino accent though he didn't exactly look Hispanic. The door sealed mechanically in a series of clicks. There was a fingerprint scanner for entry and the walls were a spectacular white.
"Yes, can we speak to the Miguel Torres please?" An older man appeared behind the first.
"That would be me. Can I help you?" He didn't give off any hint of authority in his stance or tone. His accent was less strong but still evident.
"Yes, I'm Greg Sanders and this is Morgan Brody. We're from the Las Vegas Crime Lab. May we ask you some questions please?" The man shrugged, trying to give off an air of casualty but there was a sense of anxiety behind his eyes.
"Is there anywhere we can talk?" Morgan asked.
"Sure, come this way." He led them back to the small office building and invited them to sit down at a desk.
"Mr Torres, do you know a man named Nicholas Scott?" Morgan asked.
"No," Miguel paused, "Well, not really. I believe he used to work here."
"How long have you been the manager here?" Morgan asked again.
"Not long. Maybe three weeks."
"What were you doing before?"
"I was working in the factory." Morgan raised a brow. Greg remained straight-faced.
"Sir, do you know anyone who might've wanted to hurt Mr Scott?"
"No, I wouldn't know. But we deal some pretty high-tech things in here. A lot of people want to steal our engineering formula."
"I see. Thank you very much sir." Greg smiled before leaving with Morgan. As they were heading out, they heard a commotion and a male voice call out. They shared a look and ran into the factory foyer.
"Get back to work! How many times do I have to tell you to keep that clean! It's important. Mistakes are expensive here." A plump Caucasian woman was pulling the first young man by the ear. When the two CSIs turned up, she whipped her head around.
"And who the hell are you trespassing here?"
"Sorry, we just heard a commotion here." Greg said before Morgan could introduce themselves.
"Well I'm just disciplining my son if you don't mind. So please get out." She turned her head back around and, scanning her finger on the scanner, led the son back into the factory. Greg tried to take a peak but didn't see anything. He let out a whistle.
"Wow." Morgan looked a little shocked. They went back to their cars.
"Something's definitely wrong with this place." Morgan muttered before getting into her car.
Greg knocked on the door as the sun began to sink under the horizon. Long shadow reached into the living room, dancing stiffly across the lacquered floor. I went to answer.
"Hey." He said. "Brought you some dinner. You must be hungry." He said, handing over a Thai take-out box.
"Thanks." I said. "Is that all?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Well, there's food in the fridge and I'm sure you knew that."
"I really should stop underestimating your observational skills." I smiled. Damn it. Why did I smile? He seemed encouraged by it however and I stepped aside for him to enter. I sat on the floor next to the glass coffee table and opened the box while he watched. As soon as the smell of peanut sauce filled the room I heard his stomach growl. I tried to supress a laugh.
"You eat it." I said.
"Nah, I actually did bring it for you. I'm still on the job." He replied, looking at his watch.
"Well you still need to eat. In case you miss anything again." I pushed the food towards him before heading to the kitchen and grabbing the pasta I'd made to past the time. It was cold. The way I liked it.
"So?" I asked.
"Well, you seem much more talkative now." He said, staring at the Thai food.
"Would you prefer pasta instead?" I asked, ignoring his comment. I didn't want to explain the torture of screams in my head that filled the silence. I'd listened to them for long enough. If I didn't make an effort to break free, I might sink into that pool of insane grief I was being dragged into.
"Sure." He finally said. I gave him my plate and I took the Thai food. He ate like a hungry little boy who had been sitting on the road all day waiting for a food ration. It was like I was giving him a safe house instead of the other way around.
"So why did you really come?" I asked, trying to hide the fact I was watching his every move. The subtle blinking of his eyes, the way he was slightly smiling the whole time, his attention on his food, the way his shirt and fit perfectly on his perfect frame… I swallowed. I didn't feel ashamed anymore because I was avoiding the subject. I was always good at self-deception. I pretended nothing had happened.
"I was honestly wondering if you were doing okay." He paused, "but I also need you to try and identify some people for me."
"Sure." He retrieved the case file from his bag and lifted a picture out, placing it on the coffee table. I froze.
"Why?" I asked, everything I was trying to ignore coming back to me. He noticed.
"Who is she, Leila. Did she hurt you?"
"Do you know her?"
"Okay, do you know her name?"
"Amelia Scott-Torres." I muttered. He lifted his brows.
"Are you related to her?"
"Aunt." I muttered. "Did she do it?"
"No, we don't know anything yet."
"And this man?"
"Miguel Torres, her husband."
"And this one?"
"Antonio. Their son." My vision became unfocussed and the remnants of food in my mouth became slippery. I swallowed, trying not to let the tears flow from my eyes. I hadn't cried since it happened. I wasn't going to start. But somehow, my tear-ducts rediscovered their function and seemed over-excited to be useful again. I swallowed again and turned away.
"Excuse me." My voice wavered more than I expected. Before I could stand up, he came and sat next to me on the floor and placed an arm around my shoulder. I couldn't see anything but large blurry dots like an unfocussed camera behind a rainy window. He stroked my arm as a sob escaped from my chest.
"You're not helping." I managed. "I hate crying. Just go do your job." It was barely understandable. He ignored me and pulled me into a hug. I hated it. I hated feeling comforted by his warmth, feeling his toned chest through his thin shirt, his hushed breath on top of my head. I hated it because I loved it. I hated needing this. I hated how he felt like the iron bridge while I was the rotting wooden boards falling into the water. I cried anyway. My tears fell with the sun until the room was lit only by moonlight.
"Come on, tell me it didn't take you that long to get her to identify some people!" Morgan teased. She was testing out her own feelings about imagining him with another woman. It wasn't quite what she wanted. That hint of envy, not quite jealousy, tingled in her. She'd swore not to have any romantic relations with a co-worker but she realised it'd been there since the moment of their awkward first meeting. Damn it how life always ruined her plans.
"It did, well, she had a break down. I couldn't just leave her there." Greg said. They were in the break room sifting through the details of the case.
"What is it with her anyway? How do you know her? Why're you so close?"
"Close? We're not close. She calls me Sanders."
"Why're you all defensive then?"
"Why are you so curious?"
"If I wasn't curious, I wouldn't have this job. So answer it."
"How do you know her?" Morgan hid her satisfied smile with her coffee cup.
"Ah, well I met her on my first case as a CSI. She's a really detailed observer and I happened to drop a vital piece of evidence and she noticed. She was following me around the crime scene, from the other side of the tape of course. She was cute then, carefree little girl. I think she had a crush on me actually." He smiled in reminiscence. "It was really kinda cute."
"I bet." Morgan said.
"You don't have to believe me. Anyway, I saw her a few more times the past three years, not enough to remember her name, but enough to remember her face. She's a nice girl. Intelligent, helpful, curious…" he pointed at Morgan when he said the word, "I just thought she could really do something with her life, you know, it's just such a pity this happened to her. I really like her." He admitted, then quickly added, "not in the way you suggest though."
"I mean it." His tone changed so sharply Morgan just managed to not choke on her coffee.
"Okay. Anyway, so what do we know."
"Well let's see –" his phone buzzed loudly.
"Sanders." He said. There were voices in the background and a single gunshot.
"…help." A whisper. Leila.
Please tell me if you liked it. I would really appreciate a review. :)