CSI
Looking for Katie by Serenity [Reviews - 2]
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Nick watched as Greg’s nimble fingers bent and folded the piece of white paper, pressing it into crisp folds and sharp angles. With a final dramatic flourish he presented the origami crane to Nick, bowing his head slightly.

Nick took the paper creature and turned it over in his hands. “How did you ever learn to do this, man?”

Greg grinned and brushed some imaginary crumbs from the top of the breakroom table. “Papa Olaf taught me. You’ll never be bored if you can do origami.”

Nick laughed and set the bird down on the table. “I can think of better things to do with my hands.” he joked, and then winced inwardly. Had that sounded like flirting? He hadn’t meant it to sound so… suggestive. But Greg hadn’t seemed to notice, and was already getting up from his chair to grab another cup of his Blue Hawaiian before anyone else realised he’d brewed a fresh pot.

Nick swirled the remainder of his coffee around the bottom of his mug, watching the dark liquid slosh about.

“Refill?” Greg called over, breaking his thoughts.

“Yeah, thanks G’.” Nick nodded, feeling slightly privileged that he was allowed not one but two cups of Greg’s precious coffee.

“Now don’t go telling everyone I was giving this stuff away, I got a rep to protect you know.” Greg winked.

Nick felt the blush creep into his cheeks and covered it by taking a long sip.

“Good?” Greg asked.

“The best.”

“Stick with me and you’ll always get the best of the best.” Greg teased in his best Humphrey Bogart impression, giving Nick‘s shoulder a quick squeeze. Nick wondered if the other man had any idea of what he was doing. Was he really naďve enough not to realise that his words were almost always filled with innuendo? Or did he know exactly what he was doing, and was just getting some warped pleasure from making Nick analyse every single conversation they ever had, trying to work out if the attraction was mutual?

He was saved from thinking about it further by Grissom entering the breakroom, his glasses perched on the end of his nose and an empty cup in his left hand, piece of paper in his right.

“Ah good, you’re both here.” he nodded, holding out the cup and shaking it in a not-so-subtle way. Greg rolled his eyes and obediently filled it with the last of his coffee. Grissom took an appreciative sniff of it before taking a noisy slurp, while simultaneously handing Nick the piece of paper.

“Missing person.” Nick read. “You want us both on this?”

“Yes, and Sofia is already on her way, so…..” Grissom indicated to the door with his cup. Taking the hint, Nick got up and quickly drained the last of his beverage, following Greg through the door.

“I’m driving.” Greg called back to him.

“Good luck with that.” Nick grinned, twirling the keys of the Denali around his finger.

~~~

They arrived at the house twenty minutes later, pulling up beside Sofia’s vehicle. The detective was standing in the doorway of the modest two-story dwelling, her notebook in hand.

“Hey Sofia.” Nick nodded in greeting.

“My two favourite CSIs.” Sofia said dryly, a smirk tugging at the corner of her lip.

Greg mirrored Nick’s nod and pulled both of their silver field kits out of the trunk, handing one to Nick. “So what have we got?” he asked.

“The house belongs to Mrs Maria Jackson. She lives here with her 16 year old daughter Katie. Mrs Jackson went into Katie’s room to check on her at 11pm, but found the room empty. The last time she saw her was approximately 9pm, when she put her to bed.”

“Snuck out to see a boyfriend perhaps?” Greg offered.

Sofia shook her head. “Unlikely. Katie has Down’s Syndrome. Her mother says she has very few friends, let alone boyfriends. Mrs Jackson seems like the over-protective sort, but I guess that’s kind of understandable.”

“What about the husband?” Greg wondered.

“Deceased, apparently.” Sofia checked her notes to confirm the facts. “Mrs Jackson said he died soon after Katie was born. Heart attack. They moved from Boston to Nevada and into this house not long after.”

“I’ll check out the bedroom, if you’ll do the perimeter.” Nick suggested.

Greg nodded his acceptance and opened his field kit, pulling out his digital camera. “I’ll meet you inside once I’m done.”

Nick made his way inside the house, taking in the cosy but worn furniture, the brightly coloured walls and the child-like paintings that seemed to adorn every available space.

A plump, blonde-haired woman was sitting on the sofa, her face buried in a tissue. A female uniformed officer was knelt beside her, trying to comfort her. Nick could see that her face was red and stained with tear-tracks. He took a deep breath and made his way towards her.

“Excuse me Ma’am.” he said softly. “My name is Nick Stokes, I’m with the Crime Lab. If it’s possible, I’d like to take a look in Katie’s room.”

“Why?” Maria Jackson asked, her voice tiny and shaking with emotion.

“We might find something that helps us to work out where Katie is.” he explained.

She nodded and pointed to the bedroom across the hall. “It’s through that door.”

“Katie’s room’s on the ground floor?” he asked. He knew only too well that crimes of opportunity usually happened in ground floor bedrooms. He felt his heart sink to somewhere in the pit of his stomach.

“Yes, she wanted that one, so I let her have it.” she sniffed. “I sleep upstairs.”

“Thank you Ma’am.” Nick said politely. “I’ll try not to disturb anything.”

He moved into the room and began taking photographs. Nothing looked disturbed, the bed was neatly made and there was no sign of a struggle. He took his time photographing and marking the room, he didn’t want to miss anything that might be probative.

After a while he heard Greg’s soft voice coming from the living room, speaking in hushed tones.

Nick pulled out his fingerprinting kit and dusted the windowsill, finding a few smudges and a partial that looked promising. The window slid open easily, and was big enough for someone to climb through. Unless Greg could say otherwise, he figured this as the point of entry.

“Hey, find anything?”

Nick turned to see Greg standing behind him. “Not so far. I’ve just started though. Do you think she could have climbed out this window? Or been taken through it by someone?”

“Well, there’s no sign of forced entry outside, no tyre marks on the road outside either. I’ve taken some prints, but they’re more likely to belong to the inhabitants. I’ve also bagged Katie’s hairbrush and toothbrush for DNA. I’ve got her prints from some finger-paintings that were hanging in the hallway, and I’ve taken the mother’s prints for comparison.”

“Nice work.” Nick nodded, impressed. Greg was really excelling as a CSI.

“You want me to ALS the bed?” Greg offered, already opening his kit.

“Sure, thanks.” Nick nodded, a little distracted by a photograph of Katie on the nightstand. He photographed it, dusted it for prints and then lifted it to take a closer look. Katie’s innocent smile shone out of the picture, her light blonde hair glistening in the sun. She had all the usual physical characteristics of someone with Down’s Syndrome, but looked like a very happy young girl, full of love, clutching her battered grey teddy bear to her chest.

He turned to see Greg putting on a pair of orange goggles, then the room filled with the eerie blue light of the ALS.

“Got a fibre here.” Greg said quietly, more to himself than to Nick. Nick came over and snapped a few shots with the camera that hung around his neck, before Greg grabbed some tweezers and carefully lifted the strand from the pillow. He sealed it carefully in an evidence bag and quickly labelled it.

Nick turned back to the nightstand and started to look through the drawers, riffling through more drawings and trinkets.

“Nick.”

Greg’s voice was so grave that it sent a chill down his spine, like ice-water sliding over his skin. He turned slowly and looked at Greg, who was staring at the bed in horror. Nick’s gaze followed Greg’s to the overturned comforter, and the dark red blood stain on the sheet below.

“Oh God.” Nick swallowed hard. “Did you find semen?”

Greg swept the ALS over the sheet a second time. “Negative. I’ll take a swab of this blood and make sure it matches our vic. Then I’ll…… hang on….”

“What have you got?” Nick asked, coming closer.

“A hair. Complete with skin tag. Both Mom and Katie are blonde, right?”

Nick nodded.

“Well, we got a brown hair here, long. Any family that come visit?”

“Sofia said that Mrs Jackson doesn’t have any other family.” Nick held out the evidence bags for the hair and the swab, labelling them. Then they bagged the sheet too.

“Do you think she was raped before she was taken?” Greg asked, his voice wavering.

Nick sighed. “It’s possible. It’s even possible that she was targeted because of her handicap.”

“I think they prefer the word disability these days.” Sofia stated from the doorway, her arms crossed.

Nick mentally berated himself for using the wrong term. He‘d never been very good with political correctness, his straight-talking Texas upbringing sometimes meant that he came off as harsh towards other cultures or people who were different, but it was never intentional.

“They’d have to be pretty twisted to get off on that.” he said, hoping the embarrassing moment had passed.

“If there’s anything I’ve learned since becoming a CSI,” Greg sighed, “is that Las Vegas is full of sick freaks.”

“As is the rest of the world, G’.” Nick said sadly, cupping Greg’s neck in a sympathetic manner. “It’s why we do what we do.”

“You ready to talk to Mrs Jackson?” Sofia asked. Nick looked at Greg, who nodded that he would finish up in the bedroom.

Nick made his way back to the living room and took the seat opposite Mrs Jackson. “Do you feel up to answering some more questions?” he asked her gently.

She nodded and pulled a fresh tissue from the box.

“Is there anything missing from her room, any clothes or personal objects? A special toy, or something like that?”

Mrs Jackson’s eyes went wide. “Milton.” she gasped. “Milton, her teddy bear. It wasn’t on her bed. She never goes anywhere without it.”

“Thank you Mrs Jackson.” Nick nodded, casting his mind back to the photograph beside the bed. “That could be helpful.”

“I need to find her.” she sobbed. “She has a heart condition, she needs to take medication.”

“Can you tell me about that?” Nick probed.

A nod, then a moment’s silence as she gathered her thoughts. “Katie was born with a hole in her heart. She had an operation to correct it, but she needs to take beta-blockers to keep her heart rate down. She has to take them every day. If her heart rate raises too much…” she stopped to blow her nose, “she could have a heart attack.”

“Is there anything else you can tell us? Have you seen any strange cars around the neighbourhood, anyone acting suspiciously around Katie? Anything you can tell us, Mrs Jackson, even if it doesn’t seem that important.”

She shook her head. “No, I haven’t…. Oh where is she? She needs to be here with me! She has her routines, it’s the only thing that keeps her settled. She needs order, she needs her routine! She gets upset if it’s disturbed.” Her voice was reaching an almost hysterical level.

“I understand.” Nick tried to calm her down. “We’ll do everything we can to find her and bring her back to you as soon as possible.”

“Please….” she cried, before collapsing against the shoulder of the uniformed officer.

Nick put what he hoped was a comforting hand on her shoulder before going outside to meet back up with Greg at the Denali.

“Get everything you need?” Greg asked as he loaded their kits back into the trunk.

“Yeah.” Nick sighed, scraping a thumbnail across his eyebrow. “Let’s get this evidence back to the lab as quickly as possible.” But he knew in his heart that it might already be too late to find Katie alive.

~~~

Once Nick had filled Greg in on his talk with Mrs Jackson, the rest of the drive back to the lab was silent. The precious evidence was safely secured in the trunk, and Greg had phoned the lab to let them know they were headed back with a high-priority case.

Nick took his eyes off the road every now and then to cast a quick glance at Greg. The other man was staring out of his window, his pale skin almost glowing in the dim light of the interior of the Denali. He had his lower lip pinched between his thumb and finger, like a pincer, tugging the delicate flesh forwards slightly. Nick knew that he was lost deep in thought.

Just as they pulled into the parking lot of the Criminalistics building, Greg shifted and turned towards Nick.

“I think she’s alive.” he said softly. “Or at least, she left that house alive. Otherwise the bear would still be in her room.”

“I’ve been thinking about that too, “ Nick admitted, “but if she is, then time really is of the essence. We gotta work fast, man.”

Nick shut off the engine and they jumped out of the SUV, carefully removing the evidence from the vehicle.

“I’ll take the blood and hair to DNA if you want to get the fibres to trace and the prints to Mandy.” Greg suggested. Nick nodded his approval and the young CSI disappeared into the labyrinth of corridors.

Nick took the envelope containing the fibre Greg had found on the bed to Hodges’ lab, making Hodges promise to run it priority. Mandy had also sworn that his prints would be at the top of her list when he dropped them off with her.

He caught up with Greg again in the breakroom, going over some files.

“What ya got G’?” he asked, pouring himself a cup of coffee. It was just the generic brand, and it made him grimace slightly as he swallowed it.

“Just the case file and some printouts about Down’s Syndrome and the heart medication Katie is on. I thought I’d educate myself while we’re waiting for results.”

“Down’s Syndrome.” came Grissom’s voice from the doorway. “Named after John Langdon Down, the British doctor who first described it in 1866. Around half of all Down‘s children have heart defects.”

“Yeah, well, our missing girl has it.” Nick explained. “And we have absolutely no idea where she is. Her mother is going crazy. This kid is everything to her.”

“Sometimes, when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated.” Grissom quoted.

“Lamartine.” Greg smiled softly, not looking up from his papers.

Grissom shot Greg a look of admiration and continued his journey down the corridor.

Nick reached across the table and lifted the photograph of Katie that Mrs Jackson had given them.

“Must be hard to cope with.” he sighed, “You know, trying to raise someone with Down’s Syndrome on your own.”

“Yeah.” Greg agreed. “But they’re pretty special kids. When I was young my best friend had a cousin with Down’s, we used to play together. He was a pretty cool guy. At the time I never really thought about him being different or anything. He was just my friend‘s cousin who had a cool bike.”

“I had a case a while back where a Down’s kid was murdered.” Nick shook his head as he remembered. “It was pretty nasty. The guy threw his body in a box and left him to be eaten by ants.“ He felt his skin twitch at the memory of the fire ants on his own skin, but pushed that thought away. “I just hope this one doesn’t turn out that way.” He rubbed the back of his hand across his tired eyes.

Greg, as if sensing Nick’s discomfort, stood up and walked around the table, coming up behind Nick and placing both hands on his shoulders, squeezing at the tight muscles there. Nick felt himself shiver slightly under the touch.

“We’ll find her.” Greg promised him. “We’ll find her.”
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