Chapter 2: Crash and Burn
Several anxious faces had gathered 'round, anxiously awaiting news, when Grissom and Robbins returned from the hospital. "Doc, Griss – how's Annie?" Nick asked.
"Exhausted, and she's got a bad case of hives from the allergic reaction, but she's alert and responsive," Robbins assured them. "She'll probably still be feeling like she got kicked by a mule come morning, but she's out of danger at this point."
"Thank God," Greg sighed.
"Find anything else in that blood sample, Greg?" Grissom asked.
Greg shook his head. "Just the cetirizine, fluoxetine, and ibuprofen she already told the doc she'd taken. Standard adult dosages of each, nothing weird there."
Grissom was about to reply, but was interrupted by his cell phone. "Grissom," he said, answering it.
"It's O'Riley – we've got a limo that hit a K-rail in the construction zone down on Fremont, spun out, then nailed two construction barrels and a lamp post. Two dead – the driver, and a young woman in the back. We're going to need CSI to process the scene."
"All right, Nick and Sara are on their way."
"Thanks, Grissom. O'Riley out."
"What's up, Grissom?" Sara asked as the supervisor returned his phone to his pocket.
"Limo accident in the construction zone on Fremont, two dead. Check it out, and keep me in the loop."
"On it," Sara nodded.
As Nick and Sara rushed out, Grissom turned to Greg. "By the way? Annie says Thanks."
"No skid marks," Nick observed as he and Sara walked up toward the wrecked limo, field kits in hand. "Driver didn't even try to stop."
"Incapacitated by something, maybe – a heart attack or a seizure?" Sara suggested. "There's O'Riley," she said, pointing.
"O'Riley – what have we got?" Nick asked, stepping up to the detective.
"A delivery driver in traffic behind the limo called it in right after the accident occurred. He's pretty shaken up, you may want to give him a few minutes before you try to talk to him."
"All right," Sara nodded. "Sounds like we start with the limo. You want front seat or back, Nick?"
"I'll take the John Doe up front," Nick nodded.
"All right – I've got Jane in the back."
"Nick..." Sara said, shining her maglight around the backseat of the limo. "There's only one body back here, but judging by these alcohol glasses, there were at least five passengers."
"Wonder where the others went," Nick mused. "We'll have to see if our witness saw them slip out after the accident."
"Got a couple of used condoms back here," Sara observed, photographing and bagging them. "This was a party on wheels - Greg'll have to tell us if the female DNA component is a match to Jane here."
Frowning, Nick snapped several photos of the palm of the male vic's right hand, then unbuttoned his white shirt, snapping more pictures.
"Ey, Nick!" Sara yelped, shielding her eyes from the bright light of the camera flash with her gloved hand. "Give me some warning before you flash me!"
"Sorry," came the reply from the front seat. "Sara... I don't think the driver died in the impact."
"What? A seizure or something?"
"No... This wasn't an accident, and it wasn't natural - John Doe here was murdered. He was electrocuted..."
"Nick... Jane didn't die in the collision either. There's a stab wound in her back."
Catherine and Warrick came in from the Tahoe carrying boxes of evidence.
"Any other vics?" Grissom asked.
"No, it seems to have been just Annie," Catherine said, shaking her head. "All fifteen of the other BroadSwords say there was one waiter who was getting flirty with Annie, wouldn't leave her alone, even though there were half a dozen other girls there encouraging flirting. He eventually hit the point of outright harassment, and she told him to fuck off."
"Annie actually used the f-word?" Grissom asked.
"Apparently she did," Warrick nodded. "In several languages, even. Apparently, she was pretty pissed. And it gets weirder."
"Werder how?" Grissom asked.
"The guy Annie's girlfriends described as the one hassling her? Yeah, restaurant management says that there's no one matching that description on their waitstaff, or on their payroll in any other capacity."
"Odd indeed," Grissom agreed.
"Greg," Warrick said, stepping into the lab. "I've got sixteen glasses here - I need you to test them all for the presence of benzos."
"On it," Greg nodded. "It may take a while - with Annie out, I'm swamped."
Warrick nodded. "Understood."
"Witness's name is Benjamin Harrison," O'Riley said, nodding towards where a young man in khaki cargo pants and a sky blue polo shirt was sitting near some EMTs, a styrofoam cup in his hand. "He's a driver for Pegasus Express courier service."
Nick nodded. "All right - let's go see what he saw."
He walked over toward the man, Sara and O'Riley following close behind.
"Mr. Harrison?" Sara said as they approached the driver. "I'm Sara Sidle, this is Nick Stokes; we're from the crime lab. And this is Detective O'Riley. If it's all right, we'd like to ask you some questions about what happened."
The man nodded. "Sure. But just call me Ben."
"Can do," Nick nodded. It was a frequent request from witnesses, particularly those under the age of 30 or so. "Can you tell us what you saw happen?"
"The limo was going a couple miles under the speed limit - I was gonna pass him as soon as we were out of construction. All of a sudden, when the road curved around, he didn't follow the curve - he barreled straight into the k-rail, spun out, and took out a couple barrels before the lamp post finally stopped him. I slammed my breaks to keep from hitting him, then pulled off and called you guys."
"Did he slow down at all?" O'Riley asked.
Ben shook his head. "Not until he was decelerated by the k-rail and the laws of physics."
"Was he showing any other signs of erratic behavior?" Sara asked.
"Not at all - drove in a straight line, used his blinkers, and everything."
"Did you notice anything at all odd before the collision, Ben?" Nick asked.
The driver paused. "You guys are gonna think I'm insane."
Sara shook her head. "I sincerely doubt that."
"Whatever it is, I can about promise you that we've heard crazier," Nick agreed. "So shoot."
"All right - just remember, you asked," Ben said, throwing his hands up in mock-surrender. "Just before the limo lost control, I saw blue sparks fly out the window, and a freaky reflection in the driver's side mirror. It looked like lightning."
"That... isn't freaky at all," Sara said. "We believe the driver may have been electrocuted."
Ben whistled. "Daaaaaang... now I've seen everything..."
O'Riley shook his head. "Having been in this job a few years... Trust me, Ben - not even close."