Grissom was the first on scene as he waited for Catherine and Nick to catch up with him at the entrance of the Taj Mahal Hotel. They quickly managed to get an elevator for them selves in the hotel service area that was big enough for all of their equipment. After waiting to get to the ninth floor they stepped out into a hallway that had a few cops checking out the area.
"Grissom it is over here. I am glad you could make it here so quickly."
They walked into the suite that was done up with an eastern flair. Each wall was painted with vibrant colors and the windows were a classic onion shape. There was a four-poster bed placed in the center of the room that was adorned with luxuriant fabrics. Off in the corner was a double door leading to a large bathroom with a whirlpool tub along with the other necessities done in the same style. The floor appeared to be a dark wood with colorful floor rugs. There was one rug in front of the bathroom door were paramedics seemed to be huddled around someone.
"Is he still alive?"
"Yes but he is going to have one hell of a headache when he wakes up. We are going to take him to the hospital just in case and make sure it is just a concussion."
"When you get there please bag his robe in case it has evidence and bag his hands. Another CSI will be there shortly to collect any evidence. Jim can you clear everyone out of here."
Jim Brass stopped talking to one of the officers present and proceeded to get everyone else out. He directed his men to seal off this corridor for now as well as the stairs and elevator until the CSI's were done.
"Any idea what happened?"
"This room was rented for a two week duration by a Daniel Devoure who apparently provides the entertainment here as Divina Devoure. He is downstairs right now with some uniforms that are taking his statement. He decided to try and get to know his son with this surprise vacation that he cooked up along with his son's partner. The man the paramedics just left with is the partner, his name is Ben Bruckner and he works for Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. He was conscious when we first got here and informed us that some one had taken his partner Michael Novotny. Michael Novotny is 32 years old, black hair and brown eyes with pale white skin. He owns his own comic book store in Pittsburgh and is also one of the creators of the comic book Rage. We already put out on APB out on him and we are just waiting to see if anything turns up."
"Alright since we are dealing with a possible kidnapping the sooner we can process information the better. Catherine why don't you take the bathroom, I'll take the main room and Nick if you could handle the hallway, stairs and elevator that would be great. Also Catherine if you could call up Sara and get her to go to the hospital to get anything she can from Mr. Bruckner."
"Will do. Come on Nicky it looks like you have a lot of work ahead. Just look at the long hallway."
"Why do I always get stuck doing the points of exit."
"Because you are so good at it."
"Well now isn't this interesting."
"What did you find Catherine?"
"A nice stash drugs in one of the bags here on the lavatory."
"Appears at least one of these men was HIV positive. Other than that it is pretty typical what they brought with them. There are two shavers, toothbrushes, hairbrushes and some protection some that they have already used. Either the cleaning lady hasn't been here yet or she isn't doing a great job. There is no sign of blood in here though."
"I have managed to get some fingerprints on the door as well as other areas that we will have to figure out who they belong to. I also managed to find a glass of wine spilled on the floor but they never got the chance to touch their food. I am taking samples of everything to the lab to see what we can find."
"You are thinking that one of them was drugged."
"There isn't that much in signs of a struggle. Either Michael let the person in and didn't see the attack coming or he was too incapacitated to do anything about it. Which ever way it happened once we process the evidence we will have a better idea."
"It would be nice if Mr. Bruckner could give us a better idea of what went on."
"I am just going to finish collecting my things and then we will go find Nick."
"Hey, Grissom. How much do you want to bet that all of those fingerprints belong to either Michael or Ben and that the perp wore gloves?"
"It does seem as if the person knew what they were doing."
Sara walked through the halls of the hospital almost as if she were on automatic pilot having been here numerous times before. She had already talked to the nurse and was told that Ben Bruckner had been moved from the ER to ICU. He was still slipping in and out of consciousness but the good news was that he only had a severe concussion.
From outside the hospital room it seemed as if Ben was still resting but the moment Sara opened the door she could hear him gasping for breath. Sara was tempted to call for a nurse but ended up stepping closer to him to try and find out what was going on. His hands were still wrapped in plastic but he had grabbed a pair of sweats the hospital had provided for when he was ready to go and he appeared to be trying to sit up. His face was covered with tear tracks and he was still trying to recover.
"Where do you think you are going?"
"I can't stay here. I need to find Michael."
"If you help us we can find him."
"What do you need?"
"Well for starters any evidence under your fingernails."
Ben just stared down at his hands before placing both of them in front of Sara. She pulled out a container with a screw lid and began to meticulously clean out each nail and deposited the grime into the jar. She then fingerprinted him so that they could rule out his prints and did a visual search for any injuries. Along the hairline of his right temple a dark purple bruise had begun to form in a partial circle.
"Do you feel up to telling me what happened?"
"I thought Michael could use a break since he has been working so hard on Rage and the comic book store not to mention taking care of our adopted son Hunter as well as his daughter and Gus. Daniel had invited us out here since he finally landed a steady gig that was paying really well. It seemed like a great idea and everything was going great until tonight. I had decided to take a shower after we had walked around Las Vegas looking at all the sights and Michael said he was going to order room service. We were planning on staying in and just spending time with each other. I was probably in the shower for twenty minutes and had gotten out and dried myself off when I heard this weird thud. I managed to get on my robe quickly and went out in the room to find Michael passed out on the floor. The next thing I remember was coming to and Michael was gone. I tried to tell the police everything but my head still hurt."
"Well it looks like you took one hell of a hit. Do you know if Michael had any enemies? Was anyone threatening him? Would any one have any reason to hurt him?"
"Since Rage has been getting more and more popular I know Justin and Michael have both been under a lot of pressure from morality groups and anti homosexual organizations. I don't think it has ever gone as far as threats but they do occasionally receive letters."
"Do either one of them keep those letters?"
"I think Justin may have kept some. Michael used to joke with him that he was now a true artist since his artwork had inspired some and pissed off a few people as well. Justin usually gets a good laugh at the absurdity of their comments."
"Justin Taylor. Has anyone contacted Michael's mother?"
"I can ask and find out. If they haven't would you like for us to tell her."
"It would probably best coming from me. I just hope some one can find him and bring him home."
"We will do our best."
Grissom was back in his office looking over the crime scene photos hoping something would catch his attention. The room had not held too much evidence, which was unusual, but sometimes all it took was one piece to make all the pieces fall into place. Unfortunately he felt like he was working without that piece. Nick had finished processing the hallway, elevator and stairs and had come up with very little. Nick had collected numerous prints but Grissom felt that Catherine was probably right that their perp had used gloves. It reminded him of when he was a child and had broken his Mother's favorite lamp and when she asked him who was responsible he had told her Mr. Nobody did it. It was as if Mr. Nobody had struck again but this crime was far more serious.
"Hey boss, I got some results."
"What did you find Greg?"
"Well from what Mr. Bruckner said and the samples collected I have been able to confirm that there was a mixture of drugs in the wine including a muscle relaxant Rohypnol. Your vic wouldn't have been able to fight off the attacker with the amount that was probably in his system. I also managed to do a rush on the evidence collected and it appears That Mr. Bruckner managed to scratch his attacker and the blood I found was type AB negative. Now if you could just find someone I could compare it to I can tell you if you have your guy."
"That is always the hard part. I don't suppose you know anything about the fingerprints."
"Nick and Renee were working on those along with a footprint. So far all the prints you collected from the room itself belong to Michael, Ben, Daniel or one of the two cleaning personnel. They have yet to process the fingerprints from the hallway. Lee from AV is looking at the tapes from the exit by the stairs around the time Michael disappeared but he has noticed that the cameras have a blind spot and he hasn't been able to find any footage of with our vic yet."
"Tell me as soon as you find out anything more. I know Sara was going to look for similar cases and I am curious what she turned up."
Grissom walked around the clean hallways of CSI quickly greeting other coworkers as he headed towards the room that the kept the file server that was connected to NCIS along with a few other criminal tracking organizations. Sara was hunched over reading the computer screen before she got up to grab something from the printer totally unaware of Grissom's presence.
"Any luck so far?"
"Don't scare me like that. Most people will announce their presence."
"I did. I asked you a question, one you still haven't answered."
"Well I did get in contact with Justin Taylor, Michael business partner with Rage and he is going to send over some interesting mail for us to go through by courier. I thought I would come down here and see what I could find. It is amazing how many kidnappings have occurred that are still unsolved. Can you imagine how hard this must be on their family's?"
"Hopefully we can make sure this case doesn't end up like that."
"Well I did look for similar cases within the last seven years involving any homosexual males between the ages of 35 to 25 from hotels or motels. There have been a few unusual cases. Some are homophobic bashing where the victim either was severely beaten or killed but they are usually found within a few hours and the abductions tend to be sloppy."
"Do they use any drugs of any kind?"
"No. Are we aware of a certain drug that was used?"
"Try to see if any of those cases involve the use of Rohypnol."
"That is a common drug in decongestants but I will see what I can find."
Grissom waited for the results trying to think of anything else that could help find similar cases. This last abduction was just too well planned for it to be committed by a first timer.
"A few serial rape cases come up but there is no mention of taking the victim away for extended periods of time or great distances. Here is an interesting case. A victim by the name of John Lancey was abducted from a hotel in Nevada after taking his business public. He was drugged with Rohypnol in a scotch he had ordered from room service and disappeared for ten days. When they did find him he had strange burn marks on his upper legs and stomach. Here is another similar case from the same area. This time the victim, Mark Verde, worked as a counselor and was found with the same markings a few weeks later. A third case was documented in a small town between Nevada and Las Vegas but this victim died. His name was Timothy Hall and is survived by his mother Angela Hall."
"Can you track down the survivors along with Angela Hall and let's see if they have anything knew to tell us."
At least they finally had something to go on no matter how far fetched it might be. Grissom decided to get the autopsy file of Timothy Hall and see the marks first hand for himself.
Sara and Warwick were waiting outside the house of John Lancey waiting for him to return. The remained silent in the car until a Porsche pulled into the large driveway.
"That is our cue Sara."
They both stepped out of the car and jogged across the street to meet Mr. Lancey.
"If you are selling anything I am not interested."
"Are you Mr. John Lancey?"
"Yes. Who wants to know?"
"My name is Warwick Brown and this is Sara Sidle, we work for CSI and we were hoping you could answer some questions about your kidnapping a little over a year ago in Nevada."
"Look that was a long time ago and I had a hard enough time rebuilding my life in Las Vegas I have no intention of reliving that experience. Me and my Wife would just like to be left alone"
"I'm sorry. We were under the impression that you were homosexual. We have had a similar abduction occur and we were hoping you might be able to help."
"I can't tell you anything I have not already told the police so please leave."
"Sir we are only asking for a small amount of your time. It would mean a great deal to his family if we could ensure that he was returned safe and sound."
"Well then for his family's sake I hope he is a fast learner. Now please leave."
"That was not very productive."
"Hey Warwick what do you think he meant by fast learner?"
"Damned if I know."
Grissom was back in his office as he opened the crisp manila envelope containing documents concerning Timothy Hall's last days. One of the first things that jumped off of the page was the red burn marks on the man's pale skin. They were perfect circles that were located along the inner thigh and lower abdomen. Cause of death had been determined as heart failure as a result of electrocution. There were five marks in total and Grissom couldn't for the life of him think of any one kind of object that would create them. It had to be something that would allow the current to flow, maybe metal although other materials could conduct electricity. The pattern didn't look to be a symbol of any sort other than the circles themselves. Each was the size of a half dollar and yet the skin still appeared smooth.
"Hey boss sorry to interrupt but I thought you would want to know that I managed to identify the shoe print. It is a size 11 male sketcher that is at least a year old due to the amount of wear. The shoe is pretty common but the left shoe has a nail or tack that has been stuck in it making it more unique. I don't suppose we have any suspects yet?"
"No, we do have some DNA Greg would love to find a match for and the victims list is beginning to pile up."
"How many others?"
"At least three. One was killed which is the file I am looking at now, the other two survived but one of the Vic's killed himself three months after his abduction. Sarah and Warrwick went to talk with the other survivor."
"Do we know if our current Vic knew any of them?"
"I can't see how he would but it never hurts to ask. I think I might go take a visit to the hospital. Any results on the other fingerprints."
"We are still waiting. There are so many to process. Did the video surveillance turn up any leads."
"No the tapes were a bust. Before you go can you think of anything that would create this mark."
"Not a clue. But give me some time to think about it. Maybe Catherine would have an idea."
Grissom had always felt uncomfortable since most of the times he had come hear it was in reference to his hearing problem. There were also the visits whenever one of his CSI's got injured in the line of duty that made him hate this place even more. He turned into another hallway and found Ben Bruckner sitting in a chair with an older man that Gil recognized as Daniel Devoure sitting beside him that was gripping his arm.
"Hello Mr. Bruckner. I am Gil Grissom from the crime lab and I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions."
"Have you been able to find him yet?"
"We are still working on it. I was wondering if any of these names sounded familiar to you? Timothy Hall?"
"No never heard of him."
"Never heard of him either."
"I think Michael met him once."
"Do you know how Michael met him?"
"His best friend Brian was working on a pitch for one of his companies. It was one of the few clients I think Brian ever took with him to Liberty Ave and we met him at a bar called Woody's. I think they might have had a very brief conversation about business since Mr. Lancey started off as a small businessman like Michael. That is all I can remember."
"But you don't know any of the other people?"
"Is it possible that Michael and John Lancey stayed in contact?"
"Doubtful. Michael didn't seem overly impressed by the guy or really friendly with him either. He would have said something if they had stayed in contact. Michael's mother and uncle Vic flew out this afternoon, maybe they would know."
As if on cue Deb and Vic appeared from one of the corridors carrying a bag and a clipboard.
"Hey sweetie, I talked to the doctor and if you just sign these papers we will all go back to Danny's place. Oh I also brought you a change of clothes. That shirt of yours is much too small."
Ben pulled the bag open and his breath caught in his throat. Deb had screwed up and grabbed a shirt of Michael's. It still smelled of Michael's aftershave and was soft. Ben stood up in the hallway and began to take off the shirt the hospital had supplied when he felt someone grab his arm.
"What is that?"
"That faint red mark."
"It is from one of the heart monitors."
"Thank you. You have no idea how much you just helped me."
Ben watched in shock as Grissom suddenly left the group without even finishing his questions. He pulled the other shirt on and grabbed the forms so he could get out of here.
"Deb do you know anyone by the name of John Lacey, Mark Verde or Timothy Hall?"
"No why do you ask?"
Ben followed Deb Vic and Danny outside to the car very anxious to get back to Daniel's house.
Grissom headed down to the library section of Las Vegas Mercy hospital wanting to check something out. He was soon able to find numerous sources involving ECT. In the past it had been used to treat depression but once upon a time it had also been a part of behavior modification. In the sixties and early seventies some professional doctors had decided to try and use the pain caused by ECT as a deterrent for certain behaviors. Although it was a severe treatment it was deemed acceptable if the behavior was viewed as being abnormal. As far as psychology was concerned it was a difficult science since there were very few clear-cut answers. Unfortunately doctors personal feelings on what is or is not acceptable along with societies played a role in determining if someone was functioning well. Homosexuality was still abnormal behavior to some out there and people ways of dealing with it could be ludicrous. Even though there was some research indicating sexual identification occurred at an early age others felt it was a learned behavior, one that with enough work could be unlearned. Grissom couldn't help but wonder if Timothy hall had been a poor student.
Most of the books Grissom skimmed through went through what parts of the brain reacted the most to ECT and the side effects. It was strange such a treatment was supposed to change a behavior considering the treatment usually caused damage to the short term memory while the patience was under treatment. It could explain why the survivors had been able to provide very few details of what had happened to them. One of the last sources he was checking on was by a famous psychiatrist living in Las Vegas who had addressed the problems with using ECT to modify behavior.
Dr. Mackenzie felt that for a patient to be truly responsive to any therapy there had to be a desire to change as well as trying to catch the bad habit somewhat early on. In his experience it was easier to help a twenty five year old to end an unwanted behavior than say a forty five year old. Although encouragement and support from family members could be helpful ultimately it fell on the patient in most cases to recognize his abnormal behavior and strive to change it. Countering his opinion was Grissom's old friend Al Robbins. Al argued that in many cases ECT was abused and the doses of electricity were sometimes too much. The amount of damage the shock therapy could cause to the human body was too great. The most damning evidence against ECT was that it did not address the root of the problem. Grissom decided to try and contact Dr. Mackenzie hoping to learn some more and then he would approach Al about it with Timothy Hall's autopsy report. The phone call was short since Dr. Mackenzie was only too happy to talk about behavioral modification. His last call was to Catherine to tell her what he had found.
"Catherine it me Grissom, look the connection is breaking up but I found out what may have made the marks. I am going to follow a lead. I have an appointment with a Dr. Mackenzie who might be able to tell me more about it. I will fill you and the team in when I get back. Maybe we can all head out for brunch if everyone is still awake."
Gil climbed the numerous stairs up to the Spanish revival house. He slid open the front gate and found himself in a courtyard with a brick pathway. A man was sitting at a wood table with a large green umbrella overhead. He was as old as Al was but he was very slim and fit. His hair and mustache had turned white with his tanned skin and pale blue eyes. Wrinkles seemed to cover his hands as well as around his eyes. He was wearing a light blue golf shirt and Khaki pants and eyed Grissom up and down.
"You must be Gil Grissom."
"Dr. Mackenzie I assume."
"The one and only. I did manage to dig out a few of my articles if you would like to come into my office. What specific part of behavior modification are you interested in?"
"I am working on a case right now that may involve the use of ECT. I was wondering if you had any specific cases where a subject underwent this treatment to change his or her sexual preference. I was also wondering if you know of doctors within this area who support such treatments."
"ECT is not something to try unless every other option has been explored. If done incorrectly the effects can be devastating."
"Do you know of anyone in your profession who still uses ECT and had administered it under questionable circumstances or incorrectly?"
"Your best bet would be to ask the Las Vegas board of directors of Psychiatrists and Psychologists they are the ones that regulate and license. If any thing does go wrong during treatment it has to be reported to them."
"Well thank you for the articles. Is that Al in the picture on your desk?"
"You mean Al Robbins. Yes it is. We went to the same charity to raise money for a cure for AIDS when we ran into each other again. We used to work in the same building until the HMO's started forcing people like Al into different areas of work. Do you work with him now?"
"Yes he works as a corner with the crime lab. I also knew him when he was younger and really enjoyed working with him. Is that Mark Verde to your right?"
"You know him?"
"In a round about way. His death was tragic."
"Yes it is always hard to lose some one with so much potential."
Grissom started to take in the rest of his surroundings as the situation became awkward. Sitting under a paperweight was the face of Michael Novotny. He quickly skimmed the article that boasted about an issue of Rage that brought to light some of the issues associated with AIDS. If Grissom left now he could probably be back here with Brass in less then an hour but the man had yet to say anything incriminating and was being open with Gil. Curiosity always had a way of getting the better of him.
"My understanding was he was already an extremely successful child Psychiatrist."
"Well he did have his own problems to deal with."
"Life was never easy for him but he just seemed to get stuck there."
"Weren't you the head of behavioral modification research at Mercy Hospital?"
"Yes, that is my area of expertise."
"What type of research did you do?"
"We tried to discover which situations ECT proved to be effective."
"Did you ever try it to discourage someone from being homosexual?"
"Most tests state that it does not work."
"That is not what I asked you."
"I did experience some success in that area."
"I think you may want to contact a lawyer."
"I think you should shut up and sit down. I was hoping you would understand what I am trying to accomplish and be supportive. I really do have a lot to do and so little time. I am doing my part to help people become more constructive to our society."
"You choose all of them because they were public figures that may influence others into accepting homosexuality. His partner happens to be a public figure too, why not take him as well."
"The man will probably die soon so why waste my precious time. It is so unfortunate that people like them become burdens to the rest of us. Now Gil I do have a gun that I have removed from my desk and I happen to be a great shot. If you would be so kind as to move towards the basement stairs."
Gil's eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness of the basement and he had to step around paint cans and boxes. The small hallway led to a door that the doctor opened and shoved Gil inside. He could just make out the outline of a person sitting on a chair with their back to him. He stepped closer and realized Michael had been tied to the chair and was also gagged. Michael's head was looking at the floor and the only movement was his chest rising and falling. Gil was pushed to the ground and felt a handcuff bite into his wrist as he was attached to a pipe that came out of the floor only to jog into the wall.
"I know it is not the most comfortable position but you will adjust. You will be able to see first hand how I can help him."
The doctor removed the gag that kept Michael quiet then left the room closing the door behind him bathing the space in darkness.
"Who are you?"
"You're awake. My name is Gil Grissom, I work with the crime lab."
"Are you here to help me?"
"I was trying but I am in a bit of a predicament here."
"We have a little while before he returns. Is Ben alright?"
"He was kept in the hospital overnight for a concussion but he was fine. Your mother and Uncle Vic flew in and all of them are staying with your father."
"You mean Daniel. I don't know if it would be okay with him to call him my father. He just found out about my existence over a year ago."
"You had no way of knowing. Does anyone know you're here?"
"My phone was cutting out so I can't be sure."
"I guess we will find out soon enough."
Ben sat in front of Daniel's computer searching for any information for the three names Gill had asked him about. After a few failed attempts he gradually was able to find information on their abductions. The cases seemed similar enough to Michael's but they didn't mention that fact that the victims were drugged. Ben printed out the articles and went searching for more information. He managed to pull up a photo from an AIDS fundraising party that had a few pictures with Mark Verde. He almost passed one picture until he realized it was Timothy Hall along with a few other people and Mark Verde. He decided to print the photographs and kept searching to see what he could come up with.***
Grissom was still examining the room trying to formulate a plan on how to get out. He couldn't remember how long he had tried to wiggle the pipe loose that had him trapped to no avail. Momentarily Gils thoughts were disrupted as Michael began talking to him.
"Do you have a lot of family I don't mean to be noisy but sometimes talking about other things helps keep my mind off of what happening."
"I don't mind. It is not like we are going anywhere just now. I happen to be fairly close with my mother but I rarely see any other relatives other than that. How about you?"
"Well if you mean in the conventional sense I have quite a few. You have already met my mother, uncle and partner but I also have a son and a daughter. We recently managed to get custody of a sixteen year old that was living out on the streets. His mother was abusing him and Ben decided to open our home to Hunter. It wouldn't be the same without him even though he constantly raids my cookie stash. Recently some friends of mine decided to have another child but since they are lesbians they needed a sperm donor. I was lucky that they chose me and instead of being just a donor I am actually her father."
"Why did you say conventional?"
"Well I also have people I consider family that would be unconventional. My business partner Justin is more like a younger brother since my mother took him in and tried to raise him. There is also Justin's partner and my best friend since I was fourteen, Brian Kinney, who has been a part of the family for a long as I can remember. There are also my other best friends Emmet and Ted who must love us since they keep coming back for more. Mel and Lindsay are the couple I was telling you about earlier and their first child is Gus. For a while it seemed Gus would be as close as she could get to a grandchild and know she has three. We may not be blood related but they are the best family any man could ask for."
"I suppose if you are talking about unconventional families my team would apply. They have become more than just my co-workers since we all try to be there for each other. I can remember one case I worked on that involved a serial killer and I publicly announced that I thought the FBI had the wrong man. I was right but they wouldn't admit it and instead went to a lot of trouble to have me suspended. I never expected them to put their own jobs at risk to keep investigating a closed investigation. Catherine ended up saving my life when I confronted the killer and he threatened me with a gun. I am privileged to have them."
"You sound like you really respect and care for them."
"I can't help it. They are just that good."
"That is the great part of owning your own store, no one gets to tell you what to do."
"If only I could open up my own CSI and put an end to all that miserable politicking."
"You forgot all the extra hours."
"Considering the fact that I sometime feel surgically attached to some of my equipment with all the time I already spend in the lab maybe that would be a bad idea."
Grissom and Michael couldn't help but laugh at the fact that they were obviously both workaholics at times. At least finally having someone else to talk to made the whole experience a little more bearable.
Catherine had been stuck in the morgue watching as Al Robbins did an autopsy for another case she was working on. She had gone to Gil's office hoping he would be back but except for the collection of live bugs it was empty. She decided to see who was still around when she found Nick in a separate evidence room looking at the pictures from the crime scene
"Have you heard from Grissom recently. He left a message on my cell but I can't really tell what he was saying."
"No last I heard he was headed to the hospital to have another discussion with Ben Bruckner."
"Thanks Nick. Have you had any more luck with the fingerprints?"
"That was a bust just like the tapes."
"The parking Garage might not be that big of a bust. Unlike a lot of the other hotels in Las Vegas the Taj-Mahal has a really beefed up security system in place. One of the original owners was apparently paranoid that his competitors may try to get him. Each section of the parking areas has its own booth where the individual who wants to park grabs a ticket. There is a main computer that then takes a video clip of each license plate and the computer catalogs the time of each car entering and exiting. We know the approximate time the perp left so we can use the computer to find which tags left around that period. We can then backtrack those tags to get the images of the license plates and enter them into our DMV computer and finally get some names.
"It sounds like a lot of work but I am in."
"Maybe we should get Sara or Warwick to help.'
"Sara is back at the main files server contacting other departments to see if there are any other similar cases than the three we already found. Warwick is in the staff room and should probably be available."
"Sounds great. How about I get started on the tags during the time they left then Warwick can back track on the video clips and you could call up the DMV info."
"You are on."
Ben eyes that had slowly been sliding shut became wide open as a hand squeezed his shoulder. He looked up to see Daniel looking down at him with a look of concern. It was so strange to be looking at him knowing that this was how Michael may end looking like. He still had nice facial features but one of Michael most attractive qualities was his boyish charm that had always been distinctly Michael.
"You should get some rest Ben. It has been a long day and you need to conserve your strength."
"I am not ready to go to sleep yet. I just need to do something."
"I know how you feel but I don't think there is much we can do. Deb has been on the phone most of the day getting Michael's picture released on the news stations along with a heartfelt plea for his return. You are trying to find out who those people are that the gentlemen mentioned?"
"I found some newspaper articles that may indicate a connection with Michael's abduction."
"But this one victim was returned still alive, that is good news."
"Out of the three names two are now dead. Were you in attendance at this AIDS fundraiser about two years ago?"
"Yes actually I was. That is one fundraiser I always perform at when they ask me. Why?"
"I was just looking at some pictures from the function."
"I always was better at recognizing faces instead of names."
"Do you recognize any of these men?"
"Yes, he helps counsel young teens when they were identified as being HIV positive."
"His name is Mark Verde. He was one of the victims who later committed suicide."
"Damn. He was a nice guy and dedicated so much of his time. I was wondering why I hadn't seen him in while. Most of the other people are researchers or doctors trying to create either a vaccine or a cure. The older looking man to Mark's left is actually his older cousin. He wasn't really there for the function, he was kind of dragged there by Mark so they could both do something productive with their evening."
"Do you recognize him, this is Timothy Hall?"
"He was a pre med student at LVU and had been interning with the organization for the past few months. I think Tim and Mark were friends but it was a while ago."
"Where are you going?"
"To see if the crime lab has anything yet and to make sure they know about this."
Daniel watched as Ben took two steps at a time to get out of the basement. He just hoped that all the efforts by Ben, Deb and Vic would cause positive results.
Gil shifted his seated position on the cold basement floor to get some feeling back in his legs. Michael and Gil had kept talking to each other to try and pass the time.
"My father left my mother at young age. I ended up spending most of my time by myself learning as much as I could."
"I used to escape into the world of my comic books when my mother was at work. At least in there everything was much more simple and the good guys always won."
"I feel the same way about my interest in bugs. Everything is predictable once you know what species you are dealing with, not like people."
"To understand the masses you must first understand the abnormal."
"I don't want to understand either, I just like to listen to the evidence."
"Why did your dad leave?"
"My mother had a hereditary disease that caused her to go deaf. I guess it was too much for him to deal with."
"It had to be more than that. My Uncle gets sick and even though it would be easy to walk out on him I love him."
"So if things were to get bad with your partner you would still stay with him?"
"Defiantly. Don't get me wrong I would like for him to stay healthy but he means the world to me. Even if I could have just one more moment with him even if he was ill it would be worth it. I knew soon after I got involved with him about what could happen but by then I was already in love with him. If I were to choose to be a coward just think about all that I would be missing."
"Somehow I doubt everyone would feel the same way."
"I never did manage to fit in and be normal whatever that is."
Just then the door opened and Dr Mackenzie entered and turned on the overhead light. Gil had become so accustomed to the darkness that at first the light was blinding. Once his eyes had finally adjusted he glanced over at Michael. Where the bonds had tied him to the wooden chair purple bruises were already visible. He had a cut along with some bruising above his left eye that had caused it to swell shut. Blood had trickled down from the cut all the way down to his neck.
The doctor walked over to the table beside the chair and proceeded to put the gag back in Michael's mouth. Michael's head thrashed trying to avoid what was happening until the doc smacked the back of his head and finally got it on. He picked up a small remote control with a button and started the reel of film that projected a myriad of images onto the screen. Grissom started to look at the different images of heterosexual sex until a scene of two men kissing took over. Apparently Michael reacted to the stimuli as Gil watched his body jerk slightly before being still. This continued on and every time a scene depicting homosexuality flashed Michael would end up receiving a shock. All Gil could do was watch as Michael whimpered in pain with each new punishment. At one point Michael had even closed his eyes not wanting to look at the screen and still received a shock for not cooperating. When Michael's body began to slump over the doctor finally left him alone after turning the current a little higher. Gil wanted to cross the room and check on him but all he could do was observe from afar.
Sara had finally emerged from the server room to get some food when she noticed Ben Bruckner asking if Gil Grissom was available. She was tempted to just keep walking since she needed some food and coffee after working for 36 hours straight but decided it couldn't hurt to try and help him.
"Hello Mr. Bruckner, is there something I could help you with?"
"I was wondering if there was any news on Michael."
"We are still working on it and following every lead we can."
Up close Ben was looking worse for wear with dark circles forming under his eyes and his hair was slightly messed as he ran his finger through it. Sara looked down and noticed a couple of magazines and some print outs Ben had tucked into a file.
"Have you looked into the Hope foundation yet?"
"Not to my knowledge, why do you ask?"
"Gil came to the hospital before I was discharged and started to mention a few names to see if Michael knew any of them. He has only met one of them face to face and that was by chance. A few weeks ago Michael did an issue of Rage that involved some of the research Hope is involved in and they also received a portion of the profits. They decided to do an article on him and his comic book. Almost two years ago John Lancey was the subject of an article concerning obstacles he had to face as a result of his sexual orientation in the business world.'
"I take it Timothy Hall and Mark Verde associated with Hope as well."
"Mark Verde was responsible for writing articles concerning raising teenagers with life altering STD's and Timothy Hall helped write up what the latest scientific advancements were."
"Alright, I'll make sure that the police look into it."
"These are some pictures from a Gala that was held between the first and second abduction, maybe one of them would have an idea who would do this."
"Did Grissom tell you were he was going."
"No. He just looked at a mark on my chest and asked how I had gotten it."
Ben pulled his shirt partially up revealing his muscular torso until he could point to the round red mark that had finally begun to fade.
"How did you end up getting that souvenir?"
"One of the electrodes from a heart monitor didn't want to let me go."
"Why don't you wait here for a moment in case we have more questions? There is a couch right over there if you want to make yourself comfortable."
Sarah watched as Ben practically dragged himself over to the couch and slumped down. She smiled at him briefly before going to find the rest of the team. It only took a brief moment to locate the group. Catherine was talking to Brass as Nick and Warwick continued to gather the information off of the computer.
"Hey Nick, did I miss anything?"
"We finally came up with a list of suspects. Catherine is talking to Brass about bring them in for questioning. How did your search go?"
"No more similar cases but Michael's partner showed up with some interesting papers concerning our vics. They were all involved with an organization called Hope and were public figures in their monthly publication."
"In other words we are dealing with a large amount of possible vics for the perp to choose from. I almost prefer the long list we managed to get from the parking lot computers."
"No one ever said this job was easy. There are also some photos from one of their gala's that had at least one of the victims."
Sarah started to spread the photographs in front of Nick as well as the other papers concerning the Hope foundation when Nick picked one up.
"Well look who is in this photograph."
"The guy beside Al with his arm around Al's shoulder happens to look a lot like one of the DMV photos associated with the garage. Maybe this will be enough to get a warrant against him. Is he in any of these other photographs?"
Sara and Nick studied the photographs more carefully until they came across a few other pictures with the suspect in question. A few showed the suspect seemed to know Mark Verde well. With the new evidence in hand the team went out to try and find a sympathetic judge.
"Psst Michael, please talk to me."
Grissom had been trying for quite some time to get a response out of Michael and that was the best he had managed so far. Michael still remained slumped forward in the chair and still had yet to move except for an occasional shiver. Grissom was very concerned that shock had begun to set in but was unable to get up close enough to tell. He had been trying to work himself out of the cuffs but they had started to bite into the tender skin. If he were a magician he could probably just dislocate his thumb or use trick handcuffs but luck was not on his side.
When he was younger he was always fascinated by magic, not because he believed in it but there had to be a logical way to make things happen. He would sit for hours watching a local magician performing tricks until he thought he had it reasonably figured out as to how. He had always been shy but gradually worked up the courage to ask the magician how he had done it. Most times the magician would tell the children it was magic but before he could spout his usual line Grissom started explaining how he thought the trick was performed. Marvin the magician became Grissom's first real friend. He was much older but Grissom always had difficulty relating to kids his own age. Marvin was different, he didn't mind hanging out with Grissom and was always willing to teach him a trick or two. When he became old enough he worked, as Marvin's assistant before he got involved with CSI. Marvin said being a magician was part showman, part deceiver and part scientist. Each new trick was like a hypothesis that needed to be tested over and over again until it appeared to be true. What Grissom would give to be a magician now but he had to deal with what he had.
He knew a great deal about human anatomy and applied enough pressure to break one of his thumbs. He couldn't help the hissing noise that escaped out of his lips as he pushed the mangled digit along with the rest of his hand through the cuff. Although the one handcuff was still on he was able to get it unwrapped from the pipe until he was free to move. He tried to get up on his shaky legs but it had been a while since his last meal and decided it was better to crawl. The chair felt as if it was a great distance away as his pant legs scraped against the cold concrete floor. Soon he was directly in front of Michael and he raised his head to get a good look. Blood was now trickling out of the side of his mouth and Grissom figured he had probably bit down on part of his own flesh in his mouth during the last episode. When he lifted one of Michael's eyelids he could only see white and there was no movement. Carefully Grissom began to remove the electrodes as he listened for the Doctors return. Michael's skin was already discolored where the smooth white disks had been. Grissom could not see any of Michael clothes so he pulled off his jacket and wrapped Michael up in it before lowering him to the floor. Grissom slowly crawled towards the door and tried the handle to find that it had been locked. Since he could not run he was just going to have to find a good hiding place. He began to look at his surrounding with new eyes and a new purpose.
As Sarah, Brass and Catherine went to leave to find the judge Sarah couldn't help but notice Ben still sitting in the waiting room. Even though she knew better she motioned for him to join them. On the car ride over Sarah took the time to explain what they had discovered in the photographs as she tried to avoid Jim's dirty looks about bringing a civilian along. When they finally reached the courthouse they were dismayed to find that Judge Philips was the only one left inside.
"Damn, he is the worst for issuing warrants."
Sarah couldn't seem to keep herself from getting frustrated at this turn of events when she knew they were so close. They walked down a few halls and barely noticed the other people crowding the halls until they reached Judge Philips chambers.
"Okay, before we go in there I just want to make one thing clear I will talk to Philips about getting the warrant and no one else alright."
Catherine didn't say anything and Sarah was mildly insulted that Brass would think she would screw it up while Ben seemed to be off in another world. Brass knocked on the thick wood door and opened when he heard someone tell him to come in.
"Well if it isn't Jim Brass, to what do I owe the honor Officer?"
"We came to request you to sign a warrant for a house search."
"What evidence do you have?"
The judge seemed to patiently listen as Jim went through everything they had managed to find out. When he had finished explaining everything and tried to stress the fact that a member of the CSI team might be at risk they watched as the Judge seemed to become fascinated by his own pen.
"That seems like a bit of a far stretch don't you think. All you have is opportunity, there is no motive or means for that matter. Do you even know what he supposedly does? According to you one man is unwilling to press charges, and the other two are deceased. I really see no reason to sign do you."
"Being homophobic sounds like one hell of a motive to me."
Brass just glared at Sarah again as she interrupted even though Brass had specifically told her not to.
"Aren't you the CSI that is rumored to have a crush on Gil Grissom? You would probably say anything right now if it meant a chance to get him back. I don't think you are really looking at this case objectively."
"Well as all things in life I suppose it is how you present it." Ben stepped in front of the judge as he had finally had enough of wasting time putting up with this idiot.
"And if you don't mind me asking who are you?"
"No I don't mind my name is Ben Bruckner. Michael Novotny the victim in question happens to be my partner. Since you seem to have such a way with expressing the so called facts maybe you would like to be the one to explain to his Mother, or his daughter not to mention Gus and Hunter as to why Michael isn't safe at home. While you're at maybe you would be kind enough to explain why you are reluctant to do anything to help him to his friends or his Uncle Vic. I am sure Daniel would love to hear why he may never be able to build any type of relationship with his only son."
"Look I understand that you are upset but..."
"No I don't think you do. You say that Dr Mackenzie only had opportunity but there is more to it than that. His motive is most likely that he is homophobic since he seems to target people within the gay community, his means are the fact that as a doctor he would have easy access to the drugs that were used to take Michael. You may not see that as enough evidence but I am sure that the people from channel five that are waiting outside of your office will see it differently."
"Hey there is nothing like discrimination of one sort or another to make a killer copy. The fact that you are hindering an investigation that has already involved four victims isn't going to help. You were the judge that told that one victim of a horrific gay bashing to suck it up and be a man a few months ago if I remember the case correctly. I may be from Pittsburgh but even I remember the reaction you ended up getting, you are lucky to still be on the bench. You even gave the man who pleaded guilty a pretty light I would say this is the last thing your reputation needs. I am sure if we had another choice of a judge we could go to we would but we are here so why don't you make yourself useful."
" How dare you."
"Let's get one thing straight. I really don't care about your career and I don't care about any future professional relationship with you like they might. I just want my partner to be safe at home and I will do whatever I have to."
"That sounds an awful lot like blackmail. Not to mention the fact that any information you gave the press could be seen as compromising an investigation."
"Call it what you want but I have very little to lose at this point where as you have an awful lot to loose."
Brass just started shaking his head this was not the way to deal with this judge. He was one of the few he had run into that was a real displeasure to work with and when he wanted to he could be a real thorn in anyone's side. Between Ben and Sarah he figured he could kiss his possibility of getting a warrant goodbye. He was surprised as he watched the judge pick up the pen and sign the papers.
"Get out of my office and don't ever bring Him back with you or else."
The group stepped outside and almost ran right into the news crew that Ben had mentioned before. Sarah was curious and decided to ask Ben if he had actually planned for them to be there.
"Nope, but my mother always said God provided in mysterious ways. It seemed like a good option at the time."
Brass had called for backup to me him at the Mackenzie household and formulated a plan. He still hadn't figured out how Ben had managed to convince them to bring him with just in case they needed some one to confirm if they had found anything belonging to Michael. Catherine had sat in the back of the car talking to him about trying to keep a positive outlook that Michael would be fine. Ben seemed to barely keep paying attention to her as each agonizing mile brought them closer to the end. Brass knew he was always giving Gil a hard time about how he ran CSI but he hoped his friend would be all right and that Michael would be safe with his family tonight. He brought the car to a stop a few houses down the road as another cruiser pulled up behind them with no siren. Brass motioned them to keep guard at the back of the house while he went into to talk to Mackenzie.
They waited patiently at the front gate as they hear the sound of feet shuffling around. Brass kept his hand on his revolver just in case with Catherine and Sara standing behind him. Finally an old man answered with a smile that almost immediately faded.
"Hello, I am an officer with the Las Vegas police department and my name is Jim Brass, behind me are two Crime Scene Investigators. This is Catherine Willows and Sara Sidle. We have a warrant to search your premises."
"Please come in. You will have to overlook any mess, I wasn't expecting visitors."
"Well we will try to get out of here as soon as possible. Would you mind answering a few questions?"
"No of course not anything to help."
As Brass entered the residence he took one look back to make sure Ben was still by the car as they had agreed. Once he had satisfied himself that Ben wasn't in any danger he stepped inside.
The house was quite large and appeared to be in pretty much an immaculate condition. Everything looked to be in its proper place and would probably make looking for clues harder for the team. As Catherine and Sarah set up their equipment to track down even the smallest piece of evidence he turned his attention back to Dr. Mackenzie.
"This is quite a nice home you have, a good neighborhood too."
"Thanks I have always loved this place."
"Must be great for family functions."
"There certainly is enough room."
"When was the last time you saw your nephew Mark Verde?"
"I think it was at a benefit for an organization he worked for. That was of course before his death."
"You never went to see him while he was at the hospital after his abduction?"
"He refused any visitors and seemed to push everyone away. I guess I should have seen it coming but it didn't seem like there was anything we could do."
"How did you feel when Mark told you he was gay?"
"It came as a bit of a shock but it doesn't change the fact that I still loved him."
"What's your blood type?"
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"Just curious. You don't have to answer any questions unless you want to."
"I happen to be AB negative along with thousands of other people in this city."
"What did you do as a result of the shock you received?"
"You said that Mark being gay was a shock. Did you get angry, did you just say nothing. What was your reaction?"
"I really don't remember that far back officer."
"Most people who are shocked by something remember exactly what they were doing, what they said or how they felt. Take 9/11 for instance, pretty much everyone as long as they were old enough would remember what they were doing."
"And sometimes people can embellish on a memory. I really can't tell you what my initial reaction was other than I was understandably shocked. He had a bright future ahead and being gay would only make things harder on him. I would have done anything I could to have helped him through any difficult times he would have experienced."
"How kind of you. Unfortunately no one was able to help him after the abduction."
"It was tragic."
Brass turned around to see Sara pulling out a pair of sneakers and closely examining them. She stood up and managed to get Dr. Mackenzie's attention.
"Excuse me Dr. Mackenzie but are these your shoes?"
"Yes they are. I use them for running or doing things around the house."
"Where were you on Friday night?" as Sara continued questioning the suspect
"I was visiting a friend down at the Taj Mahal."
"Well your shoe has an irregularity since you stepped on a thumbtack that matches a footprint near to a crime scene."
"I was there visiting a friend so it would not be unusual for my footprint to be there."
"The footprint in question was found inside a particular hotel room. Now unless Michael Novotny or Ben Bruckner happen to be friends of yours and they forgot to mention you coming for a visit your excuse doesn't sound very plausible."
Sara waited with Brass to see if they could get him to squirm when they noticed Catherine coming out of the kitchen holding a robe that had the Taj Mahal insignia on the upper left breast. The material looked to be tattered and was covered in some black substance as Catherine walked towards their suspect.
"Can you explain why this was jammed into the flue in your fireplace or would you like to wait for your lawyer?" Catherine asked displaying the robe and tapping her left index finger on the insignia.
"Back off or I swear you'll be recovering a dead body instead of a live one. All it would take is one push of this button and Mr. Novotny gets the shock of his life. I made sure before I left him that the voltage was high enough to kill him."
Dr. Mackenzie started to walk past them clutching his little remote then turned to run through the hallway into the back of the house. They all knew the exits were covered and that their suspect wasn't going anywhere they just needed to talk him into giving up his remote control. They followed the sounds of footsteps until they reached a solid wood door that Brass started to try and kick down. Brass kept talking to the suspect about giving up before it was too late.
"What are you doing? You are going to ruin everything!" was all the three could hear through the door and then more footsteps and a collision as the doctor moved further away from them.
Brass worked away on the door as the wood started to split and crack under the strain. With one final push the door gave in and the team moved down the steps with their weapons out looking for any sign of the suspect. They came to an abrupt halt when they reached the back room to find it was all over.
Grissom ended up dragging himself along with Michael closer to the door behind some boxes that had video equipment. He waited to hear the door unlatch from the other side and hoped he would be able to move fast enough to escape. He continued to whisper to Michael about anything and everything he could think of. He told Michael about the great people he had working with him along with a few of his least favorite people like the sheriff or Ecklie. Grissom even found himself talking about new equipment they had ordered for the lab. Throughout all the time that seemed to pass at a snails pace Michael remained silent and his skin felt cold to the touch. Part of Grissom wanted to scream at the top of his lungs, it made no sense for them to get this far only to have it end now. He stopped talking when he heard the unmistakable sound of approaching footsteps.
The door slowly creaked open and a hand reached in before the upstairs chime announced someone's arrival. Before the door had a chance to close and lock again Grissom just managed to grab it. He took a video camera out of the box and used it to keep the door open. With a new surge of adrenalin pumping through his veins he found the strength to stand up and drag Michael out of the room. He was back in the dim hallway and considered his options. He could hear voices upstairs and knew that in the mean time Dr. Mackenzie would be busy. If he went upstairs they may help him unless they felt the same way. Not wanting to take chances Grissom looked up at the end of the hallway to see a small window. He dragged Michael to the end of the hall and laid him in a seating position up against it. At first he tried to open the window but was unable to get anywhere, he finally pushed a box against the wall to get a better look.
Grissom was getting frustrated when he noticed the problem; someone had placed screws in the window keeping them closed. Didn't they know that was illegal but somehow Grissom doubted that Dr Mackenzie really cared. What Grissom wouldn't do for a screwdriver right now. He remembered that when he was eating he had been given a small butter knife to try and cut up the mystery meat that had proved itself to be useless. The screws were flat heads and the knife was just small enough for it to work.
Grissom hurried back down the hallway and managed to find the knife on the dirty wood floor He quickly made his way back to the window but in his rush knocked some boxes over. Grissom felt as if he were frozen to the ground waiting to see if it had attracted some unwanted attention but to his relief no one seemed to be coming down the stairs. Once back at the window he began to undo the screws. The damn knife kept slipping but through perseverance he managed to get the two screws out. He slid the window open and filled his lungs with the fresh air.
"Almost there Michael, please wake up."
Michael still did not stir but Grissom managed to pick Michael up even though Gil's legs felt as if they would buckle at any moment. The adrenalin had begun to wear off and Grissom felt very weak trying to push the limp form through the window. He was about to sit down again with Michael to take a rest when Michael seemed to get lighter. Grissom caught a glimpse of some fingers that started at Michael wrist and began to move down his arms until they reached the armpits. There was finally some movement from Michael as he looked up through the window and smiled.
"Hey baby. Come to me."
Michael began to pull himself up as his arms opened and seemed to grasp onto something outside of Grissom sight. Before Grissom was able to give one final push to Michael he was already outside. He was about to get himself out when he heard the door at the top of the stairs open and Dr. Mackenzie stood at the top.
"What are you doing? You are going to ruin everything!"
Grissom watched what felt like slow motion as the doctor descended the stairs and pushed him back against the wall but it was probably only seconds, His head made a loud thump when it made contact with the wall and he slowly slid down it. He could hear some banging and realized it was coming from the other side of the door that led to the basement. He could hear Brass now yelling at Dr. Mackenzie to open the door before there was another loud thump and the door vibrated for a moment. Grissom felt himself being roughly grabbed by the back of his shirt and dragged down the hallway. He took one last look at the window and smiled before passing out.
Ben had gotten tired just waiting by the car so he decided to stretch his legs. He started by walking up and down the street but that soon grew old and he found himself walking around the house. He kept ducking to stay out of view of anyone on the main floor but occasionally poked his head up to get a look inside. There were quiet a few rooms in the house all lavishly decorated in a classical style but none of them had any signs of Michael.
Ben had already circled the house twice and was about to leave when he thought he saw some movement in a basement window. He was curious who was down there since he had seen the suspect along with Brass, Catherine and Sara in the foyer through a window on one of the sidewalls. He crouched lower and made his way to the window to peek inside. The person looked unconscious and yet he was still moving to the window. One closer look revealed it to be Michael and soon Ben was reaching inside to pull him out. He managed to get a hold of him first at his armpits and began to pull him up. Michael began to slightly stir and Ben smiled when he finally gazed into Michael's eyes even though he did not seem alert. It was a struggle to try and get him up since he was just dead weight.
"Hey baby. Come to me."
Michael managed to look up again and seemed to finally see Ben for the first time. He reached out for Ben and his arms encircled Ben's neck while Ben managed to get a better hold. Michael squirmed slightly as he tried to get his lower half out until Ben was finally able to gather him in his arms.
Ben had at first felt grateful to find Michael but as he looked his partner over his anger began to creep in. Michael's hair seemed to be plastered to his face as a result of him sweating too much and yet at this moment he was cold to the touch. With his thumb Ben managed to lift Michael face and secretly wished he hadn't. Michael cute nose had a bump on it and it had obviously been bleeding although the blood was now caked on and had become a dark brown. A small trickle had managed to come out of his mouth and looked fresher since it still appeared to be a dark red. There was also a gash above his left eye that seemed to a least start to heal. Ben was amazed to find that Michael already had one black eye and would soon have two black eyes. He laid Michael down on the grass and pulled the jacket open only to find black and yellow bruises had spread across Michael's chest. Ben removed his own jacket and covered Michael legs since he was only in his underwear and Ben desperately wanted to warm him up.
Moving carefully to make sure he wasn't disturbing Michael he laid down beside him and listened to him breathe for a moment. He was considering trying to get some help by going to either the CSI's or the police officer inside when he noticed more movement in the basement. At first it was hard to make out who it was but once they had moved under an overhead light Ben recognized Grissom being dragged down a hallway. Grissom looked up at Ben and noticed he had Michael with him and then he passed out. Not truly thinking it through Ben climbed through the window into the basement as quietly as possible following the two men into a room at the end of the hallway. He noticed the chair in the middle of the room and a large projector screen in front of it. The figure was trying to pull Grissom up into the chair when he happened to look up and see Ben standing by the doorway.
The figure grabbed a piece of wood that was lying on the floor and began to charge. Ben felt a pain in his side as it came in contact with his chest and left him fighting for air. The second time the man hit him Ben managed to trap the wood between his tender side and his arm while his other hand gave an upper cut to the person who just attacked him. The figure seemed to waver slightly on his legs so Ben punched him in the gut and once more to his face until he lay crumpled on the ground. He felt torn between wanting to help Grissom and feeling the need to get back to Michael. He almost jumped out of his skin when he felt a hand lightly grasp his arm.
"Hey it's over. You need to take some deep breaths; it looks like he managed to knock the wind out of you. Why don't you lift your arm so I can see the damage."
Ben turned around only to come face to face with Catherine. Sara walked past him to check on Grissom and she told Brass to get them some medical help right away.
"We will find him. Why don't you just sit down for a moment and tell me what happened."
"Grissom got Michael out and I laid him down on the ground then I saw that Grissom had been caught so I came in here. I don't think I have ever been that angry before. Is he going to be alright?"
Ben turned slightly to look at his attacker just to make sure he was still breathing.
"He is going to be just fine other than having one hell of a headache and at worst some broken bones."
"Can I go see Michael now?"
"The ambulances are on the way but you can wait with Michael if you wish."
Ben was dimly aware as he was led up the stairs to the outside world. It looked as if it was a perfect day except for Michael lying motionless on the ground. The last thing Ben could remember about that day was being loaded into the back of an ambulance still holding Michael's hand as he spoke softly to him about going home.
Grissom slowly opened his eyes and started to survey the room around him. Unlike the dark cluttered basement the place he was in now was clean with lights on overhead and a comfortable mattress with a blanket cradling his body. He found that most of his muscles were sore and that he could feel a sharp pain in the crook of one of his arms. He looked over to find an IV line attached to him along with a few other machines that kept a steady rhythm.
"We were wondering how long it would be before you woke. How are you feeling?" Grissom looked up to find a woman in a nurse uniform. She was slightly younger than Grissom and very fit. She had a dark complexion with dark brown eyes and shoulder length black hair. He realized she was still waiting for an answer.
"Oh well let's try to fix that shall we. I am one of your nurses and my name is Doris. You apparently have had an interesting few days and will be a guest at Las Vegas Mercy hospital for a while. You have a broken thumb, a concussion and you are also dehydrated. In the morning we will try you on some real food but for tonight that IV is just going to have to do."
"Was anyone else brought in with me?"
"Three others were brought in and one will be transferred to a jail ward soon."
"Three? I know Michael Novotny would be one but who else got hurt. Was it anyone from my team?"
"No it was Ben Bruckner, Michael's partner. He happens to be your roomy for tonight since he got into a fight with Dr. Mackenzie but don't worry about him. His injuries are nothing compared to the damage Ben did. Dr. Mackenzie is being pleasantly quiet but then again it would be difficult to be otherwise with a broken jaw. However your team did warn us you may be reluctant to stay so the doctor has also prescribed a sedative that should take effect very soon."
Grissom could feel the drugs seeping through his systems and struggled to keep his eyes open. He became aware as another nurse entered the room and started whispering to Doris.
"I don't suppose you saw him did you? He keeps disappearing and the other nurse told me to check down here."
"It has been happening all day. One of the two of them is always disappearing. It is kind of cute though."
Grissom watched as they walked over to the divider curtain in the room and pulled it back to reveal the other bed. He was able to instantly recognize Ben but he seemed to have three hands. One was tucked under the pillow while two more hand had their fingers entwined laying limply on Ben's upper torso. Ben looked to be happy, a smile that Gil was seeing for the first time.
"Why don't you go talk to the others on the ICU unit and see if they would just let Michael stay down here."
"Are you sure you want the extra work Doris?"
"You're kidding right, at least we won't be chasing these two all over the hospital. If they are so determined to be together why fight it."
The other nurse left and Doris returned to Grissom's bedside to make sure he was tucked in.
"Are they going to be alright?"
"Ben just has a few cracked ribs and was in shock when we brought him here but we should be able to release him tomorrow. We have to treat Michael for dehydration not to mention the stitches he needed for some of his cuts and a few ice packs for some bruising. It will be a few days before we can release him. On the bright side he doesn't seem to remember much and because of the ECT possibly never will."
Grissom looked over one last time before sleep once again claimed him.
Grissom was having a hard day dealing with the politics that were part of the job. He was now trying to avoid the Sheriff who was pressuring for an arrest even though they did not have all the facts in yet. He decided to retreat to his office and hide among the many journals and bottles of insects.
"Excuse me I was told this was the office of a Gil Grissom. I have a package for him and I need his signature."
Grissom waved the deliveryman into his space and quickly signed the paper. He looked at the return address and couldn't remember ordering anything from Pittsburgh but carefully sliced the small box open. On the top he found a letter with his name on it and slowly tore the envelope open and pulled out the sheets along with a few photographs.
I hope this letter finds you well and hopefully engrossed in one of your cases. I know it has been a while since you helped me out but it has taken me a while to readjust to my life. It is strange that for the most part I still can't remember what happened to me during those days except for small snippets of memory. Most of the time when my family starts to discuss that horrible ordeal it feels as if they are talking about someone else's life. I am just grateful that the memories I do have are usually the conversations we shared in the dark.
I still am not sure how I feel about Mackenzie being declared unfit to stand trial. Maybe he is truly mentally unfit since he thought that what he was doing was actually helping us. Ben tells me to look at the bright side that I will never have to speak to him again or tell a room full of strangers what happened (what little I can remember). Part of me would have liked it to go to trial so that maybe just one person in that room would learn how harmful an idea can become when someone decides to act on it. There has to be some purpose as to why such a thing could happen. I refuse to believe that life is just a random series of events. Somewhere in this mess lies an important lesson that I keep missing. You probably think I am crazy for feeling that way since no one but Ben and Justin seem to understand what I mean.
Ben seems to be doing fine although he still has nightmares about it all. For the first week and a half after we came home he never let me out of his site. It was sweet except for the reasoning behind it. I would do anything to take back the fear he must have gone through but all I can do is keep telling him that everything turned out well and that we are fine. Sometimes the words seem so inadequate but it is all I have to offer him.
We managed to keep most of the facts from my son and my daughter since we felt it would only upset them. My friends also don't know most of the details. I am just glad to be home among them and I can't thank you enough. I don't think I would have been able to keep my sanity without you.
There have been some good changes in my life recently. A few days after I came home Daniel came out for a visit. When I was first out in Las Vegas it seemed so hard to try and form some kind of relationship. I think he was still unsure of what he wanted but after all that happened he seems to want me to be a part of his life. I always wanted a father and for the first time I might finally have one. Granted it is too late for him to do things like take care of my first injury or watch me graduate from high school but this was more than I ever expected.
I have enclosed some copies for you and your team of the latest issue of Rage I hope you enjoy it. There are also photographs of Ben, Hunter, Dawn, Gus and I enclosed so you will remember us from time to time.
Grissom pulled out the small stack of photographs admiring Michael and his family. Part of him had always wanted children but there never seemed to be a right time and instead his work became his labor of love. Next to come out of the package was a stack of comic books and Gil almost burst out laughing at the cover. It was an action scene with Rage and Zephyr fighting shadowy figures along with all the members of the CSI team dressed up as superheroes. He couldn't wait to see the others reactions, he personally found the graphics to be very enticing and couldn't wait to read Michael's latest story. Grissom decided to first do something he hadn't done for quite a while as he pulled out a pad of paper and began to write a letter to a friend.
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