Author: c_b_syndrome/LJ Harris
Rating: PG13 this chapter - R overall
Spoiler Warning: Even though it's seriously A/U... Yes
Other Warnings: Depends on how easily squicked you are... it -is- CSI, after all. Character Death in this chapter
The insanity of the Fullmetal Alchemist A/U -- CSI: -- CSI: Miami crossover continues. This is one evil and persistent Plot Bunny.
“One of These Things
is Not Like the Other”
The first thing that caught Horatio Caine’s eye as he strode up the drive of the run-down, 70’s style tract home, was the young officer standing sentry outside the front door. The face was new, and Horatio guessed that he wasn’t just a transfer from another shift or department, but a rookie.
The officer was whip-thin and just barely hit the minimum height requirement for the Miami-Dade police department at 5’8”. His stance appeared relaxed but alert, and while there was a slight sheen of sweat on the young man’s forehead, there was none of the clamminess or pallor that would be typical of a rookie working his first homicide. Even his dark blue eyes held none of the wide dilation of shock and fear and were scanning the gathering crowd just outside the barrier of yellow tape with careful observation. All very professional, collected and by-the-book.
“This blood splatter has more than the usual amount of brain matter stuck in it,” Horatio heard Calleigh Duquesne say from just inside the small house and caught the subtle twitch of facial muscle on the officer... and that was what pegged him.
He lowered his sunglasses just enough to meet the officer’s eyes over the top of them and a smile tugged at the corner of his lips. Horatio gave him a nod and took note of the young man’s name tag. “Officer… Biggins?”
“Is this your first homicide?”
A low chortle drifted through the door then Eric Delko said, “You sound like you’re surprised.”
“Not at all,” Calleigh said. “But doesn’t it seem a bit odd that it has the consistency of well-done scrambled eggs? And look at the pattern of the blood. This wasn’t done with a projectile.”
Biggins’ cheek twitched again, and Horatio caught the quick darting of the officer’s eyes toward the door and the almost-but-not-quite furrow of his brow. The CSI tilted his head and leaned further into his line of sight. “Officer Biggins?”
Biggins blinked and focused on Horatio. He swallowed nervously, but kept his composure otherwise. “S-sir? Yes, sir. Sorry.”
“It’s like an oven in here,” Eric said, “what’d you expect?”
Horatio nodded at Biggins and slid his sunglasses back up his nose. “You’re doing fine, sir.”
“Well, yeah,” Calleigh said. “But this looks almost… flash-fried. Like they were cooked before they hit the wall.”
“It’s like the back of his head simply exploded,” Alexx Woods added to the discussion, and Horatio could hear the stunned confusion in the gentle Medical Examiner’s voice. “But there aren’t any burns anywhere near his face to account for it. For that matter, I haven’t seen any on the rest of his body, either.”
Biggins’ eyes went just the slightest bit wider at that.
“It gets easier, Officer Biggins,” Horatio said, then left the rookie to handle the door as he went inside. He had a crime scene to process, after all. And from the sound of it, not one that was routine.
He was assaulted by the overwhelming stench of rotting death as he crossed the threshold --something not unexpected; it was a crime scene, after all—but while the smell had drifted from the house to alert the neighbors that something was amiss, it was like a miasma within the home’s walls.
The preliminary reports mentioned that the resident lived alone; was rarely seen by his neighbors --and from the looks of things, it certainly appeared that the man was a hermit. It was mid-day and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, but the inside of the house was like a cavern with heavy curtains drawn tight. The atmosphere was thick and heavy –the air conditioning hadn’t been turned on at least since the victim was killed.
As Horatio took off his sunglasses and gazed about the living room, he wondered if the man ever used it at all –a disturbing thought, considering just how hot and humid Miami weather got most of the time.
There was little evidence of typical suburban life within view, in fact. With the exception of the incredible number of books scattered around the room, it reminded Horatio more of someone squatting in a shack in the Everglades. No television, no computer, and oil lamps rather than electric lights. There was no art on the walls, not even photographs of family except for one single framed 5 x 8 perched on one of the overloaded bookshelves that mostly lined one interior wall.
The room itself was a shambles, but it was difficult to tell how much of it was created in the process of the crime, and how much was already a part of the victim’s normal living arrangements. The shelves bulged with hard-bound books of varying ages and thicknesses, the floor was a maze of scattered piles of even more books –nearly obscuring the ugly avocado shag carpeting that looked to be original when the house was built. The coffee table was buried under several stacks along with papers, leather-bound journals, and a half-empty cup of what appeared to be coffee at one point, but now was a petrie dish of fuzzy, green mold.
Directly across from the front door was a wide arch leading into a small, and quite bare, kitchen. It was stark white and there was nothing on the counters, save for a coffee-maker that was half full. There wasn’t a single cup or plate, or even a set of canisters to be seen.
To his left, at the end of the packed bookcases, was a door leading into what appeared to be the bedroom, but Horatio doubted the victim slept in there much, because the battered couch under the front room window had an afghan and a pillow.
Horatio carefully wove his way through the leather-bound landmines --and around Alexx, who was kneeled next to the victim-- to get to the shelves. He gently lifted the photograph to get a closer look. Within the tarnished silver frame the victim was posed with a little girl in long brown pig-tails and a huge white dog. Regardless of how the man lived, he thought, he was somebody’s father.
“Alexx, do you know if one of the officers moved the body?” Calleigh asked from right behind Horatio. He turned and noticed the scowl on her pretty face as she stared at the blood-stained wall on the opposite side of the room.
“No, Baby,” Alexx said as she examined the knuckles on the victim’s right hand. They were in perfect condition. No bruising, no contusions, no defense wounds of any kind –and they weren’t rough and knobby, but elegantly smooth. The hands of an academic. “Mr. Tucker is right where they found him.”
Calleigh’s eyes narrowed as she did silent calculations, then she shook her head. “Someone did.”
“Are you thinking there was more than one crime committed, Calleigh?” Horatio asked.
“I dunno. Maybe.”
Alexx gently brushed at the short bangs on the victim’s forehead –hair that might have been ginger, were it not for the blood and gore matting it and turning it a dark brown. “You never even had a chance to defend yourself, did you, Mr. Tucker?” the ME said. “And now it looks like someone else took advantage of you, too. I’m so sorry.”
Tucker’s eyes were wide and terrified and were once light blue behind large, round glasses. His arms weren’t well-defined --the man was not an athlete-- nor did any sort of physical labor. It probably didn’t take much effort to overpower him.
Horatio glanced up from Mr. Tucker, then closed his eyes and turned his head just in time to avoid the flash of Eric’s camera as he took a shot of a bloody footprint in the center of the living room floor. When he faced Eric again, the younger man was kneeling down to take a closer look.
“Well, there’re definitely two distinct sets of footprints,” Eric said as he glanced up. “Rough guestimate, size 12 and size 8. But I’m not going to get any usable tread pattern from these.” He pointed at one set of prints and said, “Size 12 went out the front door. He didn’t look to be in a hurry, either.” Then he stood and crossed the room, watching the path on the floor as he headed toward the only other door leading off the room. “Size 8 went this way.” He stopped at the open doorway and nodded. “Through the bedroom.”
Horatio followed the younger CSI into the bedroom. It wasn’t nearly as dark as the living room, the window was closed, but the heavy curtain had been pulled down and tossed onto the unmade twin bed. Other than the bed, the only other furnishing was a spindly night-stand that didn’t look like it should support the weight of the even more books piled on top of it, and more shelves lining one wall.
In the far corner of the room, in stark contrast to the volumes of books, was a plain wooden trunk. It was covered in dust and the lid was partially open, revealing the arm of a doll hanging over the lip. It was the only evidence Horatio had seen so far that a child had ever lived here.
Horatio tilted his head in curiosity as he gazed around the small room. There were two other doors. One led to a bathroom that was almost as bare as the kitchen, and the other opened to a shallow, empty closet. “Eric, how many one bedroom houses do you think were built in this area in the 70’s?”
Eric knelt near the window to get a closer look, and shot a glance over his shoulder at Horatio. “It does look too small, doesn’t it?”
Horatio scanned the back wall of the closet, then leaned in and peered closer. “Yes, Eric. It does. Much too small.”
“Looks like Size 8 went out through the window,” Eric said.
Horatio ran his light along what appeared to be a crack in the sheetrock. It wasn’t irregular, such as what happens as a house settles, but straight, like someone had failed to tape the seam before mudding it. As he ran the light further down, it widened by a hair, but enough that he could feel cool air coming through.
When he lightly laid his hand on the wall, he could feel a subtle vibration.
Horatio listened close, and while it was difficult with the ambient noise around the neighborhood, he picked up a low hum. “Eric, has Detective Tripp arrived yet?” he asked, as he eased the strap off his gun.
He didn’t have to look over his shoulder to know that Eric had shifted from his usual casual stance to one that was coiled to move quickly, feet shoulder width and one hand resting on the butt of his sidearm. “He’s still caught in traffic, H. You found a door?”
“Indeed I did, Eric,” he said as he eased his weapon from the holster. “Let’s see where this rabbit hole leads.”
In his peripheral view, he saw Eric motion to Calleigh, and he knew without a shred of doubt that she would fetch the nearest officer for the escort –most likely that would be Biggins.
Right now, however, he was not taking his eyes off the hidden door, because along with the low hum, he’d picked up the sound of something moving.
Gil Grissom leaned against the hood of the county SUV and allowed the buzzing activity to wash over him for the moment. Every experienced field tech available was on the scene, and a few who weren’t so experienced, along with 50 Highway Patrol officers, and the entire police force of Indian Springs –which amounted to 6. There were countless volunteers from the tiny spot in the middle of the desert, along with approximately 100 soldiers from the base nearby, and one chopper in the air.
When three people in law enforcement mysteriously disappear, it’s serious business.
Catherine Willows was heading the line of walkers into the desert from the ravine next to Highway 95. Although ravine wasn’t really an apt description; it was more of a ditch. Approximately ten steep, rocky feet down from the road, 30 feet across, and then an almost gentle grade of approximately five feet up the other side. After that, it was nothing but flat desert. They’d been at it for three hours now, and at this point, they were beginning to look like the stereotypical line of ants.
Sara Sidle was going over every inch of the SUV Warrick and Greg had taken last night, and Nick Stokes was going over the Sheriff’s sedan. At the edge of the scene, Jim Brass was questioning the only person who’d been on the scene and hadn’t disappeared. Deputy John Smith certainly looked nervous and edgy, but Gil was willing to give the benefit of the doubt for now. The deputy looked rather young and possibly inexperienced, but he didn’t act like he was trying to hide anything.
Twelve hours ago, Warrick and Greg left the lab on the call. Nine hours ago, the air lift arrived and found no one at the scene. Eight hours ago, Gil received the call that two of his best CSIs and one small-town sheriff were missing. Seven hours ago, volunteers started arriving. And five hours ago, they were ready to begin the search, but they were stalled by a sudden squall. It dumped sheets of rain on the entire area for a 20 mile radius for two hours, causing a brief, but intense flash flood through the ravine. Then, as suddenly as it had arrived, it passed, taking evidence with it.
So how does an experienced sheriff, two field techs, one burnt Hummer, and a dead body just… disappear? When they arrived on the scene, there wasn’t any sign of a struggle. In fact, except for the SUV and the patrol car, there wasn’t any sign anyone had been here at all. But Gil wasn’t about to leave it at that.
Just because you couldn’t see the evidence didn’t mean it wasn’t there.
Jim closed his notebook and dismissed the deputy. The younger man snapped to attention, and sharply saluted, causing Jim to lurch back a bit in surprise. The detective started to return the gesture, stopped about mid-way, shook his head, then just waved at Smith.
As the deputy drove off, Jim joined Gil at the SUV. “Well?” Gil asked.
Jim shook his head and sighed. “He doesn’t know a thing. Apparently he was so freaked out at finding a DB he just spent the rest of the night tossing his lunch. He said that Sheriff Branaugh sent him home, and when he left, everyone was just fine.”
Jim opened his notebook, and started going over the information he did get, but Gil only half listened to him. He was more interested in the dark sedan with tinted windows that was pulling to a stop at the shoulder just at the edge of the barrier. One of the soldiers from the base, an officer who stood about six feet, with dark hair and rectangular glasses, leaned down to peer into the window, then stepped back, and saluted as the passenger door opened and another officer emerged. This one actually appeared younger --no more than 5’8”, slight-built, with black hair that seemed to constantly get in his face-- and clearly outranked the first one.
Interestingly, the formalities were instantly dropped as the younger man led the older one away from the car, and leaned in to speak to him. Gil had become good at lip-reading over the past few years, but these men were turned in a way that he couldn’t see anything they were saying.
With the Air Force base not all that far from Las Vegas, Gil had learned to identify most of the shoulder insignia representing each division. The one on the shoulders of the two officers and a small handful of others among the search teams was new, though. The background was green, with a rampant white dragon in the center of a gold interlaced diamond and hexagon and laurel leaves beneath. Something tugged at the edge of Gil’s memory at the symbol, but he couldn’t quite grasp it.
He was just listing which books he would dig through when he got back to the lab, when the officer in glasses tensed up, and started pointing toward the ravine. He’d turned a bit and waved at the highway, and it was clear the man was growing agitated. Gil could now see what he was saying, and he focused on the man’s mouth.
‘Dammit, Roy if there was even a shred of evidence left, it’s gone now. You’re taking too big of a risk having us out here like this.’
The ranking officer –‘Roy’—remained unreadable, but it was obvious by the other man’s reaction that what ever he’d said didn’t sit well at all.
‘Necessary? With that psycho running loose? How many of our people are missing?’
‘Roy’, glanced in Gil’s direction. Dark eyes assessed much in an instant, and he took the other man by the shoulder and turned him, thus ending Gil’s eavesdropping, but giving the senior CSI something else very interesting to contemplate.
“Did you even hear a word I’ve said?” Jim said, pulling Gil’s attention back to the detective.
He gave Jim an oh-so innocent look and said, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t listening.”
“Now why doesn’t that surprise me,” Jim said.
Gil tilted his head curiously as he returned his attention to the two soldiers. “Jim, why would a man be wearing leather gloves in hundred degree weather?”
“I don’t know. For work?”
“These aren’t work gloves. They’re more like driving gloves.”
“Maybe for driving then.”
Gil shook his head. “He wasn’t driving.”
Jim followed Gil’s gaze to the arguing soldiers. “You got something?”
Gil pushed off the front of the SUV. “I don’t know, yet,” he said as he strode to the edge of the ravine. He crossed his arms and studied the landscape. There had been some sign of surface scorching on the rocks leading down into the ravine earlier, but very little, very light, and it was washed away by the downpour. Still, there was something not-quite-right about the terrain.
“Jim, what do you see?” he asked when the detective joined him.
“A lot of wide open space to get lost in. But I’m sure you see something completely different.”
“You’re right.” Gil turned and headed across the highway --toward the gradual rocky incline-- and began to climb. He paused and glanced back over his shoulder at Jim, who was at the base, feet planted firmly, arms crossed, and a stubborn set to his jaw. “Are you coming?”
With a defeated sigh and sag to his shoulders, Jim Brass followed Gil up. “Sure, why not. It’s not like I have anything better to do today but climb rocks in street shoes.”
The words had no sooner left his lips, when Gil heard Jim slip and cuss under his breath. He paused and looked back over his shoulder again. “Careful.”
“Aw c’mon,” Jim said. “I like to live dangerously. I thought you knew that.”
Gil reached a wide out-crop and waited for Jim to catch up. About five minutes later, the detective was next to him, grumbling and scowling. “Why did I let you talk me into this?”
Gil feigned mild offence. “I just asked if you were coming. You could have said no.”
“Oh, now you tell me.”
Gil welcomed the detective’s personal brand of humor. It wasn’t because the man didn’t have any concern for the missing men… Gil knew for a fact that Jim was very worried. Just as he was. But both men had known each other for years and knew how to act as a pressure valve for each other when things got tense. It was necessary to be a little bit insane in order to keep their sanity intact.
Gil nodded toward the desert and said, “Now what do you see?”
“The same thing, only more of it,” Jim said. “So are you going to tell me what you see?”
“I see evidence.”
“I thought the rain had washed all that away.”
“What the Lord taketh away, the Lord giveth.”
“Don’t you kinda have that backwards?”
Gil shook his head, and then pointed to the desert side of the ravine. “Not this time. Notice how that area is perfectly flat? It’s also in a perfect circle. The bedrock is usually covered in several feet of sand in this area, but right there, the sand was all washed away. Why?”
“And you think this is evidence of our missing people?”
“It’s evidence of something, Jim.”
“Please tell me you’re not starting to believe those alien abduction stories that David’s always going on about.”
Gil gave Jim a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me look. “There’s always a rational answer. It’s just a matter of finding it.”
Jim let out a relieved breath and said, “Oh, good. You had me worried for a minute there.” Then his cellphone barked, causing Gil to arch a brow. As he pulled it from its case, he shrugged and said, “It came with the phone. I thought it was kind of neat.” Then he placed the receiver to his ear and said, “This is Brass.” He listened for a moment, then glanced up at Gil. “It’s the chopper. They’re low on fuel and headed back to base.”
“Have them get some shots of that circle before they go.”
Jim nodded and put in the request, but Gil’s attention was already elsewhere. He scanned the terrain in an arc, taking in every detail he could within his field of vision. The arc ended where the black sedan was still parked and the two officers were still talking. As if by some signal only ‘Roy’ heard, the ranking officer gazed up at Gil. Fathomless eyes met his, and a fine brow slowly rose in challenge.
This just keeps getting weirder and weirder, Eric thought as he followed Horatio and Biggins down the narrow passage to the basement. The rookie had taken the lead, Eric covered the rear, and all three of them had their guns out, backs pressed against the wall --descending the stairs with extreme caution.
The moment H had asked about Tripp, Eric knew that there was trouble. Technically, the first officers on the scene should have cleared the entire house, and frankly, anyone with two brain cells would have known there was more to the interior than what was immediately seen. On the other hand, it would have taken the officers hours to find that door. They just didn’t have that sort of training, and who would have suspected a secret passage in a lower middle-class tract home anyway?
There would be some write-ups, Eric was sure, but not for not finding the door and clearing the whole house… for not informing the CSIs of the fact that they didn’t find it. They reported the house secure. It wasn’t. And that made this scene very dangerous, indeed.
Typically, there were certain things that could be anticipated in this situation and Eric was automatically on the alert for them. Those conditions still existed, but the bizarre nature of a hidden door and what they found just beyond it unnerved him, because now he didn’t know what to expect. Every sense was heightened; every little sound made him tense and he kept reminding himself to breathe. The last thing he wanted to do was get overly twitchy and make a deadly mistake.
The first room they’d entered had all the windows sealed off and blocked, and the only light available came from the Maglites the three of them carried. Their preliminary sweep had revealed a wall of shelves filled with more books –no surprise there—and a rough bench loaded down with beakers and test tubes and Bunsen burners, all connected together like some twisted Mouse Trap game, and his first thought was meth-lab. The smell of sulfur and other chemicals stung his nose, but the odor was all wrong. So Mr. Tucker was cooking something else, entirely. Designer drugs?
Eric could see parts of what looked to be giant doodles on the walls and ceiling, but there hadn’t been enough light to get a good look. It wasn’t until Horatio lit the single oil lamp on the bench, that the younger CSI fully saw the hastily painted circles and the archaic symbols within them. It was enough light to see the entire room at once and to discern the shapes all over the walls, ceiling and, Eric discovered, the floor. But the low, unsteady glow of the oil lamp did nothing to chase away the absolute creepiness of the scene.
Not a drug dealer or designer, then. It had been a small measure of relief, but it had also created more questions than it answered. If not drugs… then what?
As Horatio flipped through a thin journal on the bench, Eric photographed the painted circles and a series of diagrams which were tacked on the wall to his left. He’d come in close to shoot each page individually and had discovered that most of them involved organic chemistry. But as he’d reviewed each one, he grew increasingly more disturbed at what he was seeing.
He’d centered his Maglite on two diagrams in the middle –one, clearly the outline of a human body; the other, of a dog. Most of the notes around the forms had been in a spidery scrawl that was difficult to read, but appeared to be Latin. One word was clear –written in bold, block letters across the top of the two diagrams, and Eric had to shove down rising alarm. “This looks like something out of a bad Frankenstein movie.”
Horatio joined him and studied the diagram a moment, and Eric could see the tensing of the man’s jaw. “Doctor Frankenstein was only trying to resurrect the dead, Eric. I think Mr. Tucker was researching something far more insidious,” Horatio said as he’d added his light to Eric’s, forcing into stark relief that single, disturbing word…
“So where’s that humming coming from?” Biggins asked from the middle of the room.
Both Horatio and Eric turned to the young officer who’s lips were pursed in concentration and skimming the walls with his light.
“That, Officer Biggins, is a very good question,” Horatio said, and started looking closely at the bookshelf.
Eric had seen the arc worn into the floor just as H had illuminated it. “Looks like that shelf gets moved a lot.”
“Yes it does,” Horatio said, and gripped the side of the case. It had opened easily and with almost no sound. “Curiouser and curiouser,” he’d said as he’d shined his light down the narrow stairs leading into a basement.
More like a dungeon, Eric thought as they reached the bottom of the stairs and cautiously entered the room.
Calleigh was gathering the tools she was going to need to walk the back yard when Detective Frank Tripp arrived. She suppressed a giggle when he started to bluster through the door, only to jump back out of the way when Alexx and the late Mr. Tucker exited. “Well hello, Frank. Glad you could join us,” she greeted him with her most brilliant smile.
He groaned and rolled his eyes, but Calleigh didn’t take it personal, she knew it was directed at the cause of his frustration…
“Damn tourists,” Frank grumbled.
She rose smoothly to her feet and started for the front door, kit in hand. “Well, I’m about to examine the back yard. Care to join me? You can walk off some of that frustration.”
“He and Eric are down in the dungeon,” she said as she sauntered past and out the door.
The incredulous sound of Frank’s voice was a delightful reward when he nearly squeaked, “Dungeon?!”
“Gentlemen, I believe we found the source of the vibration,” Horatio said as the three men stared at the large glass tank that was filled with a viscous red liquid that seemed almost alive. Aerators were circulating it, making it appear to pulse and throb and breathe, and lights within the tank gave the substance an eerie glow that lit up all but the darkest corners of the basement.
“I’m calling Haz-Mat,” Eric said and flipped open his phone.
“You do that, Eric,” Horatio said, but his attention was on officer Biggins. A perfectly normal reaction would be trepidation, even outright fear, as strange situation after strange situation piled on top of each other. As a seasoned CSI, Horatio Caine knew, the evidence always led to a rational answer, but even he was finding it difficult to believe that little axiom right now.
Biggins, however, looked like he’d just discovered the Rosetta Stone. His eyes were bright with an inner fire, and the man was practically vibrating. He certainly wasn’t breathing.
“Officer Biggins,” Horatio said firmly. Behind him, he could hear Eric calling for Haz-Mat, but Biggins ignored him for the moment. “Biggins!”
The rookie finally snapped around to Horatio, and there was just the briefest flash of such pure, absolute hatred in the young man’s eyes, that Horatio started to point his gun at the rookie’s head.
“We need to secure the room, officer.”
Eric had finished calling in Haz-Mat and was now talking to Calleigh on the phone, telling her to evacuate the building, and clear the area…
…and in the farthest corner of the basement, Horatio heard the sound of a chain scraping along the floor just before he heard an unearthly growl.
“It’s the craziest thing,” Calleigh said to Frank as they picked their way through the tall weeds that had overrun the back yard. The yard was surrounded by an unkempt hedgerow that reached at least ten feet and cast most of the small area in deep shade. The weeds had choked out any semblance of grass, but so far none of them were noxious --just obnoxious with cockleburs and stick-tights-- and looked like it hadn’t been tended in five years. “The guy sealed off the other bedroom, created a secret passage, and set up some sort of lab.”
Frank stumbled, caught himself and glared back at the offending tree root. “Meth?”
Calleigh stopped and looked back. “No. Designer drugs, maybe.” She faced the house and the window directly in front of her, jamming her fists into her hips. “This is the window Eric said Size 8 might’ve gone through.” She studied the weeds nearest the house and moving away, and then set her kit on the ground. “Well, these weeds certainly look like they’ve been disturbed recently, don’t they?”
As she flipped the lid of her kit, Frank jerked his head along the path of disturbance and said, “I think I’ll see where Size 8 came out at.”
“Why thank you, Frank,” Calleigh said as she grinned and slipped on her gloves. Before she could get started, however, her cellphone chirped and she pulled it out of the holster. “Calleigh.”
She listened as Eric instructed her to clear the area for Haz-Mat, then had her attention yanked in the opposite direction by the urgent sound of Frank’s voice. “No one’s in the house now, Eric,” she said as she rose and headed for where Frank was, near the back of the hedgerow. “I’ll get Frank to clear the area for a one block radius. Could you hold on just a second?”
When she reached Frank, he was knelt down, and it wasn’t until she was right on him that she saw the midnight blue of a Miami-Dade Police officer’s uniform. As Frank rolled the body over to expose his face, Calleigh’s breath caught in her throat. “E-eric, are you on the speaker?”
“Because I don’t know who the hell you have in that basement with you, but it’s not Officer Biggins.”
Horatio waved Biggins back from the dark corner as soon as he heard the growl. From the scuff-marks on the concrete, he estimated just how far the animal might be able to reach, and he didn’t want to take the chance of an officer being mauled.
As Biggins stepped back, Eric came into Horatio’s view. The young CSI was keeping calm, but he’d known the man for long enough to read the subtle cues in his body language. Something was up, and by the way Eric’s eyes darted at Biggins, then back to Horatio, he knew that the ‘something’ had to do with the rookie. He was already growing suspicious of the officer and Eric’s silent warning only added to the mounting evidence that Biggins was not all he appeared to be.
Unfortunately, the opportunity to gain the upper hand with a minimum of fuss disappeared as a large, furry form growled once more and leapt out of the shadows.
“Biggins!” Horatio shouted, as he saw the gun come up, and the rookie squeeze the trigger. The animal collapsed in a heap at Biggins’ feet… at the end of the chain that was hooked to the choke collar around its neck.
In an instant, both Horatio and Eric had their own guns aimed at the rookie’s head. “Turn over your weapon,” Horatio ordered.
At first, it seemed that Biggins wasn’t going to do it, but Horatio pulled the hammer back on his gun with a resounding click and the rookie complied with an arrogant smirk.
As Horatio slipped the confiscated weapon into the waistband at the back of his slacks, he said, “Raise your hands. Slowly.”
The smirk grew as Biggins complied.
“Careful H,” Eric said as he patted Biggins down. “He’s a ringer.” Not finding any other weapons, he came back up, his gun quickly returning to its target.
That was almost a relief for Horatio. The last thing he wanted to deal with was a dirty cop. Especially one so young. “Is he, now?” Horatio said. “Well, Mr. Biggins, would you care to tell us who you really are, and what you know about that substance in the tank over there?”
There was a rumble of feet pounding down the stairs, and then Frank, two other officers, and Calleigh burst into the basement, guns drawn.
“I thought I heard a gunshot,” Frank said.
“You thought right, Frank,” Horatio said, his eyes never leaving the arrogant face of the imposter.
Frank jerked his head at the false ‘Biggins’, and one of the accompanying officers cuffed him. Just as he was being led off, Frank grabbed his arm and jerked him around to face him. “So who the hell are you?”
The imposter grinned and said, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Yeah, well, we’ll find out soon enough.” To the other officers, Frank said, “Get him out of here. And be careful, this guys a cop-killer.”
As Horatio knelt next to the wounded animal, he caught one of the officers jerking the imposter just a little bit harder than he probably should have. He wondered if there would be any delays in the suspect’s arrival at the station, and whether he was going to suddenly develop some mysteriously acquired injuries. He’d never condoned needless violence, but there were times…
As Eric shined his light on the animal, Horatio reached out –slowly so as not to startle it-- and smoothed the silky brown hair that striped the animal’s head, back and tail. It looked canine, but there was something very wrong with the shape of its head. It was too flat and wide, and when it bared its teeth, they weren’t carnivorous, but more omnivorous.
The bullet had pierced its chest and a dark red bloom grew and spread through the thick white fur of the creature’s belly and its breathing was labored and gurgling –Biggins had ruptured the lung, then. It was suffering and there wasn’t much time to save it, but the idea of ending its misery quickly like he would for any animal didn’t sit well with him –especially after what he’d seen in Tucker’s journals.
It opened its eyes and looked right at Horatio with an intelligence that made him shiver, then it made a small, sad noise that made his blood run ice cold.
“Is that… a dog?” Frank asked as he knelt on the other side of the animal.
“I believe this is our key witness, Frank.”
Frank’s eyes went wide and he lurched back.
Calleigh’s only reaction was to sit on the floor, open her kit, and start what triage she could. Only a slight tremor in her hand betrayed just how shook up she was.
“H?” Eric whispered. “Did that… just talk?”
“Yes it did,” he said with a voice that sounded far calmer than he felt.
“My name is Horatio,” he said gently as he petted the creature again.
“Yes. Horatio, friend. Do… do you have a name?”
“Niii-nnna.” The animal –Nina, he corrected—coughed wetly, and pink foam rolled out of her mouth. She pinned him again with a big-eyed gaze. Pained, confused, questioning. “Horatio, where is Papa?”
“Sweet Jesus,” Frank whispered.
Horatio swallowed and tried to smile. The horror of what had happened in this unassuming little house, in this unassuming neighborhood was growing clearer, and for the first time since he was a green field tech, he wanted to be sick. “He… he’s upstairs, Nina.”
“Why did he make me hurt like this?”
Horatio glanced up and asked Calleigh. “Can you help her?”
Calleigh tore her gaze from Nina to stare at him, her face gone ashen. “I don’t know, Horatio. I can try to make her comfortable until we can get her to a hospital—“
“Or a vet?” Frank said.
“I’m c-cold,” Nina said.
“She’s going into shock,” Calleigh said, and Horatio yanked off his suit jacket.
As he laid it over her, covering her as much as possible while allowing room for Calliegh to treat her, he said, “Nina? Nina, look at me.” Her eyes wobbled then settled on his face, and he continued, “Nina, here’s what I want you to do, I want you to concentrate on me. Concentrate on me, Nina. We’re going to get you to a doctor and make it stop hurting, but you have to help us by staying awake. Can you do that for me, Nina?”
“Tired,” Nina whined.
“I know you’re tired, Sweetheart, but you need to stay awake for me, okay? Nina? Nina?”
Nina shivered, then twitched, and Horatio knew she was gone before the life left her completely. Then her eyes went blank and the gurgling, wheezing breath stopped for good.
Calleigh brushed the now flat, dead eyes closed, and sounded so very much like Alexx as she said, “I’m so sorry, Sweetheart. At least you don’t hurt anymore.”
Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi) was created by Arakawa Hiromu and is serialized monthly in Shonen Gangan (Square Enix). Copyright for this property is held by Arakawa Hiromu and Square Enix. CSI: and CSI: Miami are created and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and owned by CBS. All rights reserved.