Hot Shot


The Alden Clinic was off the far end of Spring Mountain road, set off the main drag by a long gated driveway and indicated only by a discreet sign on the wall bordering the facilities. It didn’t have to advertise itself to the average person on the street, not according to the tax bracket of their clientele. Discretion was paramount, and only a very few of Las Vegas’s movers and shakers were actually aware of the presence of a multimillion-dollar infertility clinic catering to famous patrons.

 

Within the carefully laid out offices and grounds, a murder was being committed.

 

***   ***   ***

 

Lydia may I have a word with you?”

 

Looking up from her magnifying glass, Lydia nodded at Gil, then set the tool down. Warrick gave her a reassuring glance before returning to his perusal of the stained sports coat on the light table. Slowly Lydia followed Gil to his office.

 

“Sit down—this won’t take very long,” he told her absent-mindedly, searching his desk for the file that had been there just a second ago. He didn’t see the spasm of absolute terror that crossed Lydia’s face when she spotted the acrylic box holding the orange-kneed tarantula, which sat on the corner of the desk closest to her.

 

“Ah, here we go—so, you’ve worked out fairly well and I’d like to keep you on but if I TELL that to Ecklie he’s liable to—what’s the matter?”

 

Lydia had her eyes screwed shut and was squirming in her seat, arms crossed over her abundant chest.

 

“S-spider! I HATE them---“ came her chuffed confession. Gil looked over the top of his glasses at her, and then at the tarantula in the box.

 

“Quentin won’t hurt you,” he began patiently, his reassurances wasted as Lydia popped up from her chair to stand behind it, fingers locked on the back in a death grip.

 

Lydia—“ Gil pursed his lips, mind racing, “—Did Ecklie KNOW about your arachnophobia?”

 

“Yes. No problem with maggots or sexton beetles or any flying insects, but spiders—“ she shivered again, and Gil reached for the box. He reluctantly set it on the counter behind him and looked back again at Lydia, who although still pale, was attempting a smile.

 

“So let me be clear on this—your former boss sends you, an arachnophobic, to work for ME, an entomologist.”

 

Lydia bit her lip and nodded. Gil sighed.

 

“Conrad Ecklie is the absolute KING of petty-assed mind games. Ah well—his loss, our gain.”

 

Smiling at Lydia, Gil added, “I’m going to make sure he knows how ANNOYED I am to be STUCK with you, and I’ll pester him about when your transfer is over. That should insure you’ll be with us a while longer.”

 

“Thanks,” Lydia shyly replied, rubbing her stomach. Gil gave a little nod and watched her leave, his thoughts tinged with anger at Ecklie, and curiosity about the re-assignment. Even after nearly four months, none of the other CSIs had managed to get it out of Lydia, and Gil would never openly pry over the matter—he rose and decided to check with Robbins in the morgue.

 

After all, Gil knew, neither the dead nor the living could keep secrets forever.

 

***   ***   ***

 

It was a no-brainer 401, and Warrick wondered why burglars were stupid enough to think just because you couldn’t see a fingerprint it wasn’t there. One of these geniuses had cut himself breaking the window at the point of entry, so not only was there blood, but he’d left his prints on the band-aid box in the bathroom.

 

Lydia was dusting in there, chuckling softly to herself. Then she moaned. Warrick didn’t like the sound of it, and peeked around the doorway just in time to see her double up and clutch her stomach.

 

“You all right?”

 
“Stomachache. I’ll be okay—“ she smiled wanly up at him. He was struck again by how blue her eyes were, by the slight baby chubbiness of her cheeks and chin. Compared to Sara and even Catherine, Lydia had curves.

 

Definite, lush, well-rounded curves—Warrick shook his head, trying to concentrate on her pale complexion instead of her more distracting features.

 

“You sure?” he hated to sound bossy.

 

She gave a shrug.

 

“Once I get some—“ Flashing a palm at him, she grinned weakly; Warrick made out the letters PB on her hand and grinned.

 

“Pepto-Bismol.”

 

“Right on the first guess. If we can stop and pick some up on the way in, I’ll owe you one.”

 

Warrick nodded, glancing around the bathroom, trying not to look as relieved as he felt by her words.

 

“They might have some here—“ he teased, knowing full well the legal and ethical issues of tampering with private property at a crime scene. Lydia laughed and groaned a little again, bending forward, her braids slithering over her shoulders. Swiftly he reached out and cupped her shoulder.

 

“I’m fine, I’m fine—just feeling a little nauseous. Maybe if I throw up I’ll feel better.”

 

“Okay, that I did NOT need to hear—“ Warrick announced, making Lydia giggle again, weakly. She waved him out.

 

“Go—let me finish up in here and we can turn the site over to the officers, okay? I’ll meet you in the car.”

 

Once there though, she didn’t look much better, and Warrick finally spoke up as he took them into traffic.

 

“Maybe you should call in sick, Lyd—it’s not likely to be a heavy night, and I can take the rest of this stuff in.”

 

“No, it’s okay—if I can stay in the labs and sit down I should be fine—I can make it through the shift—“ But she sounded as if she was trying to convince herself, and Warrick shook his head worriedly.

 

“Gris isn’t LIKE Ecklie—he’s pretty cool with release time.”

 

“Yeah well I’m still the new kid, and I don’t want to make waves, you know?”

 

He did.

 

Warrick followed her up the aisle in the drugstore and fished down a bottle of Mylanta from the shelf when she couldn’t reach it. He thrust out his jaw and quickly laid a hand on her forehead, pulling it back when the heat shocked him.

 

“Jeez girl, you’re burning up—“ he chided gently. Lydia took the bottle from him.

 

“Flu, probably—“ she groaned, “But it’s all right in my stomach now—“

 

“Yeah, well from the looks of it—“ before he could continue with his lecture, Lydia spasmed. Cupping her mouth, she staggered away from Warrick and rounded the corner, the sounds of retching loud and unmistakable. Gingerly Warrick moved to her, wincing at the splashes and puddle on the linoleum, right by the Air Sanitizer display. He rubbed her back as she hunched over, gripping the shelf.

 

“All right, that’s it, Lydia, you’re going to the ER with me right NOW.”

 

 He glanced at a stock clerk and called, “Cleanup on the aisle while I get this woman out of here?”

 

***   ***   ***

 

“So what are we looking at? Dispatch says it’s a 401, but they don’t bring the meat wagon out for those—“ Catherine mused as they pulled through a gated wall and up a long well-kept drive. Gris frowned, shaking his head slightly.

 

“A body at the scene automatically bumps it up to a 419—after that it’s up to us to determine if the code changes again,” Gil murmured, studying the array of police cars parked haphazardly around an impressive set of double doors.

 

“True—“ Catherine replied as he pulled them up next to a well-trimmed hedge bordering the building. She sighed, looking around.

 

“Nice landscaping—bet it costs them a fortune to keep it looking this green.”

 

“Terraforming on a miniature level—“ Gil agreed. Sara strode up to meet them, tucking her hair behind her ear and flashing a quick smile.

 

“Welcome to the Alden Clinic guys—where the eggs are on ice, and the best of your husband or lover is always just a vial away—“

 

Gil winced slightly; Catherine laughed outloud.

 

“A fertility clinic? They must be doing some good business to afford digs like this—what do they have on tap, royalty?”

 

Sara gave an elegant shrug as Jim Brass walked up to join them, accompanied by a heavyset woman in a crisp lab coat. He gave nods to everyone and spoke up.

 

“Hey guys--we’ve got the 419 inside, ID pending. This is Doctor Naomi Farris, the director of the clinic and the one who found our body.”

 

Something in his tone, a hint of bland humor alerted the team. Grissom looked at the imposing woman, who pushed up her glasses and stepped forward.

 

“Doctor Farris—“ He acknowledged carefully. The woman eyed him in a fashion he wasn’t used to; as if he was a commodity instead of a person, peering into his face carefully. She gave a knowing nod.

 

“Good Midwestern stock, Germanic and northern European, obviously. Probably prone to heart trouble in later years, but your blue eyes and mesomorphic frame would be DEFINITE selling points—you ARE virile, aren’t you?”

 

“Excuse me?” Gil interrupted her little musings, eyes wary. Doctor Farris managed a faint smile, blinking.

 

“Sorry, as a geneticist I tend to take people apart trait by trait; I was just thinking what I could DO with your semen.”

 

In the embarrassed pause that followed, Catherine and Sara fought desperately to keep straight faces. Brass gave a little pained sigh.

 

“Hey I got weeded out in the first round—alopecia’s a bitch, market-wise,” he confessed.

 

Gil shot him a ‘what-the-hell-did-you-get-us-into’ look, but Doctor Farris missed it, turning her attention to Catherine with a critical eye.

 

“Fabulous bone structure, obviously natural—Nordic stock with Anglo-Saxon roots and lovely skin and hair tone—oh yes, now YOUR eggs would be premium my dear.”

 

“Uh, thanks,” Catherine responded, slightly stunned.

 

“Don’t mention it—judging on what I can see, we here at the clinic would be happy to meet your asking price for three viables. Before you refuse out of hand, please think it over—we pay extremely well—“

 

“Can we PLEASE get to the body?” Gil snapped, a little perturbed by Doctor Farris’s predatory gleam. Brass managed a benign smile as the director of the clinic started a bit.

 

“Of course, so sorry to talk shop. The body’s in one of our collection suites—right this way.”

 

She led them through a track-lit hall of marble and glass, the décor rich and imposing. Gil managed to walk next to Brass, hissing under his breath.

 

“I thought selective genetics went out with Mengele—“

 

“Think again. Apparently the Alden Clinic is one of the top infertility facilities in the country. Not only can you conceive a baby with their help, you can also pick the features you want—sort of a one stop smorgasbord of desired traits.”

 

“Doesn’t that rather defeat the purpose of chance and mutation? Not to mention take all the FUN out of producing a child?” Sara commented on the other side of Brass. He shrugged.

 

“By the time a person comes to a place like this—fun is no longer a factor and money is no object.”

 

“Desperation should never be prelude to parenthood—“ Gil sighed, and no one disagreed with him.

 

 

 

 

They rounded a corner and took a plush elevator down to a lower level, stepping out into a hall lined with polished oak doors. One of them was open, blocked with yellow tape; Doctor Farris let the CSIs go ahead of her to it.

 

“We have a night shift to accommodate our clientele, but it’s only about a third of the dayshift—this room was booked for a collection at four-thirty, but nobody checked on our patient until around nine when a tech on the way to the North Vault walked through and saw the open door,” Doctor Farris commented. Gil seemed to barely hear her; he was taking in the room with his usual intensity. Sara watched his profile, admiring his eyelashes.

 

“This is a—collection room?” came his slightly scandalized comment. Doctor Farris nodded.

 

“Oh yes—we’re a far cry from the days of a dirty magazine and a cup in the men’s room, you know.”

 

“Puts a whole new meaning to giving at the office—“ Brass added under his breath. Catherine simply stared.

 

The room was plushly carpeted, and done in soothing neutral tones. A large overstuffed sofa dominated one corner facing a plasma TV screen. On wall one was a discreet lab cupboard door over a credenza.

 

And on the floor in a huge pool of fluids lay a crumpled body.

 

“This has GOT to be the ultimate in humiliating deaths—“ Sara commiserated. “—Caught with your pants down in more than just a metaphysical sense.”

 

Gil sighed, shaking his head. He dropped to a squat and carefully eyed the man, then stared at his face more closely. He shot a look at Sara, who handed him a pair of tweezers without a word. Gil gripped the edge of the dead man’s mustache and slowly peeled it off, holding it up like a dead fuzzy caterpillar.

 

“Who was this room booked to, Doctor Farris?”

 

“We don’t use names here, just codes, for privacy and security, so I’m afraid I can’t give you that information without a warrant.”

 

Catherine knelt down next to Gil and shot him a stunned look.

 

“I know him, Gil. All of LAS VEGAS knows our victim!” she whispered. Gil nodded, looking down into the man’s dead eyes.

 

“Hans Gruber of Manfred and Hans—“ he intoned slowly, dropping the fake mustache into a plastic envelope.

 

***   ***   ***

 

“Are you a relative?” the nurse asked in a slightly bored tone. Warrick shook his head regretfully, looking back to where Lydia was slumped on a waiting room sofa, arms wrapped around her stomach. The nurse softened a little and pushed a clipboard at him.

 

“If she can sign it, she can admit herself so you don’t have to wait for someone to show up—have her do that right now and then you can fill out the paperwork while she’s being seen—“ the nurse spoke in a low voice. Warrick flashed her a grateful smile and nodded. He lumbered back to his partner and dropped down beside her.

 

“Okay Lyd, put your signature right here. You have your insurance card?”

 

“Y-Yeah—“ she gasped softly, taking the pen from him. Warrick held the clipboard steady, watching her shaky signature scrawl across the bottom of the forms.

 

“Listen, is there somebody I can call or notify?” he rumbled softly. Lydia handed over her cell phone.

 

“April—work number’s already programmed—ohhhh!” it slipped from her grasp as she doubled over; Warrick dropped the clipboard and slid an arm around her. The nurse at the admittance station scurried over and helped ease Lydia back on the sofa.

 

“Let’s get her in a chair and back into one of the exam rooms right now—“

 

Minutes later Warrick found himself trying to help Lydia out of her sweater. Given the circumstances it should have been embarrassing, but he found himself far more concerned with her incapacity than her impending nudity. Lydia clung to him, hot and shaking, her skin damp with fear.

 

“It hurts—“ she hissed in a chokey breath, tears welling up. He pulled the sweater over her head and busied himself with the hospital smock as he spoke.

 

“It’s gonna be okay, baby—the doctor’s coming and he’ll figure out what the hell’s going on. Bring your arms up—“ gently he slid the gown around her, letting himself breathe in her warm scent just under her ear as he reached around her to fasten the neck ties under her hair.

 

A single knock on the door barely registered before it swung open.

 

“I’m Doctor Munro and you’re Ms Petrowski, right?” without waiting for an answer the skinny redheaded man stepped into the examination room and stared into Lydia’s eyes. Warrick tried to move out of the way, but she reached for his fingers so he shifted to one side and let her cling to them.

 

The doctor checked her eyes and bent forward, looking in her mouth.

 

“Coated tongue, acetone breath, elevated fever—“ he helped her lie back and began to knead her midsection, moving to the right side; Lydia cried out even though his touch was light.

 

“Abdominal pain localized to the lower right quadrant—“ Warrick glared at Doctor Munro.

 

“Acute appendicitis. Looks like we’re going to need get that puppy out pronto—“ he cheerfully announced. Warrick blanched.

 

“Whoah, you mean surgery? NOW?” he demanded. Munro nodded.

 

“Oh yeah. We’ll start her on an IV and get her in to OR One ASAP because I’m betting her white count is over the moon. Bringing your wife in quickly was the best thing you could have done—I don’t think her appendix has ruptured yet, so we can get it out before any peritonitis begins. We’ll get rolling on this right now, so give her a kiss and we’ll do the rest. Let me line up a tech to do a blood draw and a liver panel—“

 

Lydia shivered, her brow sweaty now, and Warrick almost didn’t have the heart to pull his fingers free from her death grip. The doctor went to the house phone and began dialing while Warrick leaned in to speak in a low voice.

 

“I’ve got to make a few calls so people don’t worry, but I’m not going anywhere, okay Lydia? You hang in there.”

 

“Yeah I will. You’re—such a—good husband,” she teased back with a ghost of a smile. Warrick arched an eyebrow at her, and as he rose, brushed his lips lightly against her hairline. She didn’t seem to notice as another shudder of pain wracked her body.

 

An orderly came in with a gurney; the doctor helped her onto it and began to wheel her out of the room. Warrick followed it part of the way, letting it her out of his sight only when it passed through a set of double doors marked NO UNAUTHORIZED ENTRANCE BEYOND THIS POINT.

 

He headed back to the waiting room, Lydia’s cell phone in his hand, and dialed the number labeled ‘April work’.

 

A few rings later a husky voice answered.

 

“Hey Lydia, what’s up honey?”

 

Warrick blinked and cleared his throat.

 

“Sorry, but this is Warrick Brown, Lydia’s associate at the Crime Lab. Are you—April?”

 

“Yes—“ the voice was guarded now. Warrick spoke again.

 

“I’m at the emergency room of Desert Palms Hospital. Lydia’s got appendicitis and is probably going in for surgery within the hour. She wanted me to call you and let you know.”

 

“Jesus! Oh my baby girl! Let me get someone to cover for me here and I’ll be right over. Is she going to be all right?”

 

“At this point I don’t honestly know—does she have any family, anyone else we need to contact?”

 

“Her dad and step mom are in Chicago, and in their seventies—let me think—!”

 

“Yeah—I have to let our supervisor know as well—“

 

“Yes, I understand. I’m on my way—“

 

Warrick stared at the phone a second, and began to dial again.

 

***   ***   ***

 

Gil hung up his cell phone and looked at Catherine, who saw his expression and immediately came over, looking up with alarm.

 

“Warrick took Lydia into Desert Palms. She’s undergoing an emergency appendectomy,” he told her bleakly.

 

“Whoah! Poor kid—“

 

“Yeah. He wants to wait for her.”

 

Unspoken, the memory of Holly Gribbs hung between them, and Catherine nodded.

 

“I told him Nick would cover.”

 

“Good call—“ Catherine lightly punched Gil’s shoulder and smiled. They turned back to the crime scene and watched as Sara expertly syringed up semen residue from the carpet. Catherine began dusting the credenza for prints, moving with quick, practiced grace. Gil walked over a squatted down next to Sara; as she tucked the samples away she couldn’t meet his eye.

 

“Gris—not that I’m any sort of expert on fluid volume or anything, but there seems to be WAY too much—“

 

“--Of a donation here for a single individual,” He finished, scanning the rug. Sara nodded, rubbing her nose in an embarrassed way. Gil shrugged, thinking out loud.

 

“The average human male ejaculation is roughly five cubic centimeters, or about a tablespoon, so—yeah, you’re right—“

 

Sara stared at him, a tiny smirk playing on her mouth. She crossed her arms as they both stood up again.

 

“Where do you GET all this esoteric information? Do you just sit around on weekends reading up on human statistics so you can spout them at will?”

 

Gil turned to gaze at her, noting her flushed cheeks. He cocked his head, something amazingly sweet in his quick gaze.

 

“Sometimes.”

 

“So. You memorized the volume of your sperm?”

 

“Not mine. I tend to beat the averages in a lot of areas—“ he replied with a straight face. She blinked. Brushing past him, Sara added in a low tone,

 

“I remember—“

 

Now it was his turn to flush. He coughed and turned his attention to the crime scene once more, trying to drive back the memories that had now taken his libido hostage. Gil kept his eyes firmly off of Sara’s hands and looked to the door of the suite.

 

“No forced entry, so who would have had access?”

 

“Anyone he chose to let in—it locks from the inside. And apparently the Alden clinic does have manual assistance technicians available for semen collection of course,” Sara replied. Gil blinked and turned his head to look at her; she nodded.

 

“Manual assistance technicians?”

 

“It’s a--hands-on sort of service—“ she shot back, “--Or maybe that should be Hans on—“

 

 She was biting her lips hard now as Gil ran a palm over his bright red face.

 

 Taking pity on him, Sara carried the trace kit out, leaving Gil to recover on his own. He wandered over to Catherine and lightly touched the lab door.

 

“So this connects to the processing area?”

 

“Apparently. After the guy delivers his payload into one of the cups he knocks on the door and hands it through. It gets treated after that.” Catherine muttered, her concentration on the dust. She looked up, feeling Gil’s accusing stare.

 

“His--payload?”

 

“Considering what he’s paying to have it pampered, washed, sorted and stored, yeah. White gold, n’est ce pas?”

 

Gil shook his head.

 

“And they say romance is dead—“

 

“Hey, a place like this has nothing to do with romance. It’s a reproductive industry, nothing more,” Catherine sighed.

 

Warrick finished his second cup of coffee and checked the clock over the door as he watched a statuesque woman scurry up to the information desk. The nurse pointed at him, and he rose, realizing this must be Lydia’s roommate. She turned to him, and Warrick matched her evaluating gaze.

 

The woman before him was tall enough to look him in the eyes. She wore a casino uniform he vaguely recognized: standard skirt, blouse and vest combo in pinks and greys topped with a filmy scarf around her throat. Her black hair was up in a tidy twist, and she wore enormous hoop earrings.

 

“I’m April—“ she held out her hand and shook his, her grip matching his strength. Warrick noted her faint mustache, her big brown eyes and worried expression. He nodded.

 

“Warrick Brown. Lydia’s been in for about half an hour. You want some coffee?”

 

“Yeah—“ as she went to the vending machine, Warrick beat her to the slot and paid for it; she shot him a grateful look.

 

Lydia was right about you—you ARE kind.”

 

Warrick gave a little shrug and led the way back to the chairs, settling in and watching April sip the hot drink.

 

“She came in to work with a stomach ache—was she sick yesterday?”

 

April nodded in recollection, blowing on the coffee a moment before taking a second sip.

 

“A little—she thought her perogies were off even though Damian and I had almost half of them,” she replied in her husky voice.

 

Warrick smiled in recollection.

 

“Damn things are addictive—“ he agreed. April nodded.

 

“Oh yeah, we eat well at 2231 Saguaro Place. Lydia cooks and I clean—and so far, Damian and I have been getting the better end of the deal these past two years.”

 

“Who’s Damian?” Warrick asked, visions of a third roommate coming to mind. April pulled her wallet out of her purse and fished a photo from it. A trio of smiling faces beamed up: A boy, his parents.

 

“My son. He’s eight now. I’ve got joint custody with my ex-wife, and he spends every other week with us.”

 

“Cute kid—“

 

“Likes science. I’m saving for Tech and praying for scholarships.”

 

“There are a few. You mentioned Lydia’s folks?”

 

 “Back in Chicago—they’re both in a senior care center, Mr. Brown—“

 

“—Call me Warrick.”

 

“—Warrick, and I think we ought to wait and see how the surgery goes—she’s pretty protective of them.”

 

Something pensive in her expression set off small warnings for him.

 

“Yeah—“ Warrick was about to say more, but Nick walked in and made a beeline in their direction, his glance taking them both in.

 

“So?” he asked guardedly.

 

“We haven’t heard yet—“ Warrick admitted. “Nick, this is Lydia’s roommate, April--?”

 

“—Muro,” she offered, shaking Nick’s hand. Nick’s eyes widened a bit at her grip, but he smiled warmly.

 

“Pleased to meet you ma’am.”

 

“I’m not a ma’am—trust me,” April purred. Warrick looked away, trying to hide his grin; Nick merely looked puzzled and shrugged.

 

“As you say, Miss,” He turned to Warrick. “Gris wants me to take your cases tonight so you can stay here. It’s pretty slow so far, so it’s not going to be a problem—the rest of them are out at some clinic on Spring Mountain road.”

 

“Okay. Hopefully we’ll be hearing something about Lydia pretty soon.”

 

The two men managed a quick hand knuckle tap, and Nick left again, April watching him closely.

 

“Cute.”

 

“But not your type, trust me,” Warrick interjected. April arched an elegant eyebrow, but before she could say anything, a man in a white lab coat and carrying a clipboard came out to them.

 

“Are you the parties that admitted a Ms. Petrowski?”

 

“Yes—I’m April Muro, listed as her emergency contact.”

 

“Ken Atherton, surgeon on duty for tonight. She came through just fine—we got the appendix out before rupture, so there’s no danger of peritonitis—She’ll be with us for about two days and then I’ll have her discharged. I’d like her off her feet for a week or so, and she’ll need help with the bandaging of her stitches of course—“ he rumbled, looking over the clipboard. April nodded. Warrick rubbed the tension out of his neck.

 

“When can we see her?”

 

She’ll be out for a few hours yet—check back at about three and I can let you see her for a few minutes then.”

 

***   ***   ***

 

“So tell me about our deceased celebrity, Al—“ Gil asked, looking over the coroner’s shoulder. Robbins sighed, shaking his grizzled head as he looked down at the body on the polished metal table.

 

“Hans Gruber. Despite the name, NOT the bad guy from Die Hard-- fifty-two, Austrian immigrant and prominent Las Vegas entertainer. He’s got some hardening of the arteries, some serious dental work, all gold, and a toupee.”

 

“None of which is the cause of death—“

 

“True. Cause of death was fluid asphyxiation.”

 

“There wasn’t any water near the body.”

 

“In, ah, semen. The man’s nose, throat and lungs were saturated with it. He’s also got extensive bruising all over his nose and lower lip—here, take a look—“

 

Robbins gently peeled back the cadaver’s lower lip, revealing a lacy pattern of half-circle bruises there. Gil frowned, his glasses slipping down his nose.

 

“Anything else?”

 

“Well, he was semi-conscious at best when all this was happening. I found two small burns on the back of his shoulder—“

 

“Stun gun?”

 

“Yep—and from the radius of the contact points it’s a heavy duty model, not an over the counter design.”

 

Gil pursed his lips and thought outloud.

 

“So someone stunned him, poured copious amounts of semen down his throat and laid him on the carpet. I may be going on a limb here, but it sounds like a crime of passion.”

 

Robbins shot him a bland look.

 

“Ya think? And not to spoil the surprise, but I’m fairly sure the semen isn’t all from one source.”

 

Gil gave a nod; he began to move away, then glanced again at Robbins, arching an eyebrow as he did so.

 

“What do you know about Lydia Petrowski, our new gal?”

 

Robbins smiled paternally.

 

“Good kid—her espresso brownies are worth their weight in gold—“

 

“Any clue why Conrad dropped her on our shift?” Gil asked softly.

 

“A hint here and there. Ecklie likes to look good on camera, and a blonde goes a long way in helping him overcome his own non-photogenic shortcomings,” Robbins muttered softly, turning back to the body on the table.

 

Gil gave another nod and walked out of the autopsy room, peeling off his smock and tossing it absently into the bin by the door. As he looked up, Sara headed towards him, a clipboard in her hand.

 

“Hey—Trace found some interesting hair on our victim’s shirt. It’s wolf fur.”

 

“Not a surprise since he IS part of a major animal show involving them,” he looked at the clipboard she handed to him, studying her out of the corner of his eye.

 

Sara shrugged, tucking her hair behind one ear in an easy nervous gesture.

 

“True, but he’s not the one who works with them—that’s Manfred’s forte. Hans was the magician of the act. Speaking of acts, we’ve got the press waiting outside and the sheriff on his way—“ she warned. Gil sighed, and she took the clipboard back from him.

 

“Catherine will check with Greg on what he’s got concerning the semen; I’ll look over the clinic records. You need some coffee—“

 

“Thanks—“ he smiled at her observation, and for a moment the look they shared had nothing to do with the case. Finally Sara blinked and strode off; Gil watched her go.

 

Watched some parts more closely than others.

 

“Grissom.”

 

Turning, he looked at the hard flat expression of Sheriff Mobley. The man came bearing down on him, cold blue eyes unblinking.

 

“We need to release a cause of death, and what Robbins tells me won’t do.”

 

“Asphyxiation?”

 

“Not that, the details, Grissom. Pure disgusting tabloid fodder of the worst kind. Las Vegas doesn’t need any publicity that pulls in the freak element.”

 

Although Gil privately agreed with him, he managed a bland expression and spoke up softly.

 

“The truth is the truth, Sheriff, no matter what we might think of it personally. We are nowhere near done with the investigation, and I assure you nobody from MY office is about to speak to the press, so if you’ll let me get on with the job at hand?”

 

“And the cause of death?”

 

“Asphyxiation stands. We’re obligated to keep the details back until the investigation’s done.”

 

“Fair enough—you’ve got twelve hours.”

 

“What?”

 

“The Alden clinic is pressuring the mayor on this--my hands are tied,” Mobley muttered, slightly uncomfortable. Gil kept staring until he added,

 

“Not to mention litigation threats by Gruber’s partner Manfred Von Schlein. Adverse publicity and personal distress are getting bandied about—work with me on this, Grissom—“

 

“I’m not interested in anything but the truth, Sheriff. The evidence is all that concerns me.”

 

For a long moment the two men stood in the hall and stared at each other with open dislike.

 

“Fine. But the clock’s ticking so I’ll leave you to it.” Mobley snarled, turning on his heel and striding off.

 

 

“This is so decadently—repulsive—“ Greg muttered, staring into the eyepiece of his electron microscope and adjusting the focus by pushing a button on the side.

 

“In what way?” Catherine cheerily inquired, leaning over his shoulder. Starting a little, he tried to look a bit blasé, but she arched an eyebrow waiting and he gave in, as he always did to her.

 

“We’ve got a party going on in this guy’s mouth, not to put too fine a point on it. At least fifteen different DNA samples here that I’ve isolated so far with more being processed now. Bukake a go-go if you get my drift.”

 

“That’s utterly gross, Greg,” Catherine muttered absently as she looked over the DNA printout. She stopped at a dark band and stared at the lab tech, who smirked.

 

“Yeah, a compliance hit. Seems someone within Las Vegas Law Enforcement was a donor at the Alden Clinic.”

 

“Really?” stunned, Catherine paused a moment, pondering, and Greg laughed.

 

“I’ve given it some thought too, but I can’t run the ID until I get permission from IA, so until then—“ he shrugged. Catherine nodded, looking over the page again.

 

“With all these different—samples—all in the same degree of viability?”

 

“Some were semi-frozen, most were either thawed or fresh and unfrozen—a real mixed bag in more ways than one,” Greg mused, tapping a pen on the table, not daring to comment further. Catherine ignored that and glanced through the glass walls to the hallway where Nick and Sara were conferring and wondered what had them so tense.

 

***   ***   ***

 

Warrick watched April put away the cell phone and try to stifle a yawn; sympathetically he smiled, rubbing the back of his neck.

 

“April listen, you could go home and catch some sleep if you want—I work the night shift, so staying up’s no hardship on me.”

 

“Thanks—“ April flashed him a grateful look, “I work the swing myself, so I’m overdue here. You’ll call if Lydia asks for me?”

 

“Sure thing—go home.”

 

April rose, running a hand over her chin and wincing.

 

“Shower and a shave—if I don’t get a call from you or the hospital I’ll be in during visiting hours then.”

 

Warrick was surprised to be hugged but allowed it, patting April lightly on the back in return. She smiled up at him.

 

“Thanks for being there. Looks like Lyddie was right about you.”

 

“In what way? That I’m a sucker for her stuffed cabbage?” he gruffly smiled back. April shook her head.

 

“You’re intuitively good with people. Even ones like me. And cute.”

 

Warrick arched an eyebrow at the last throwaway line, but April merely waggled her fingers and walked off, leaving him to pace down the hall and check his pager. Nothing. He paced back again, flexing his shoulders and looking out the windows at the garish lights in the distance along the Strip.

 

Unbidden, he suddenly thought of his grandmother; her big knowing eyes and generous smile, her clear alto voice.

 

//What is it ‘bout this gal that’s got you in knots, Warrick John?//

 

Smiling, he wondered what he would have answered. Warrick knew he would have to, of course—there was no ducking or dodging a direct query from Nana Lou. She asked only to help you clarify things—in truth, she always knew the answers before you said them. Warrick pictured sitting across from her in the old house, sinking into the flowered sofa and looking at the bony woman in the green housedress.

 

I like her. She’s—different.

 

She’s a white girl. Not gonna be an easy thing, even nowadays, Manchild.

 

Might not happen at all, Nana Lou. She might not be interested.

 

My my, that lab of yours hiring blind gals now? Don’t give me those doubts, Warrick John—if she hasn’t come ‘round she will. I can feel it in my shoulders.

 

It was an oddly comforting thought to consider that Nana Lou would have approved of Lydia. Warrick laughed softly to himself and was about to resettle himself in a chair when a nurse approached him.

 

“I don’t mean to disturb you, but our appendicitis case is awake and asking for you?”

 

***   ***   ***

 

Jim Brass was trying hard not to react, but it was damned difficult. He ran a hand under his jaw and looked patiently at the man sitting in the interrogation room, remembering to keep his voice low and pleasant.

 

The man on the opposite side of the table was almost an imposing figure, over six feet tall with a thick coiffured mane of dark ringlets and under a hawk-like nose, a huge mustache that would have done a Hell’s Angel proud. He wore a leather trench coat in fine grey, tailored, and the shirt under it was gleaming green silk.

 

“I realize this must be very hard for you Mr. Von Schlein, but we have questions, and your cooperation can help us find the answers.”

 

“So ask your qvestions, keptin. I face voolves everyday, I’m not afraid of you,” came the sneering reply. Brass blinked and bit back a sigh. Gil looked at Manfred patiently.

 

“You had a good working relationship with Hans Gruber?”

 

“A vorking relationship, a personal relationship—after tventy years, the two are not so apart, nich war?”

 

“Ja nich,” Gil replied patiently, “Were you close enough in your intimacy to share clothes?”

 

Manfred gave Gil a quelling look and shook his head imperiously.

 

“Ve vere different sizes, in many vays, ja? Hans vas smaller, qvicker. He had amazing hands.”

 

“Did he ever work with the wolves in your show?”

 

“Nein. Years ago vun of them bit him,” Manfred admitted. “They know his fear.”

 

“That’s interesting, because we found wolf fur on his shirt—a pretty generous amount for a man who avoids them,” Gil announced pleasantly. Manfred paused a moment and waved a vague hand in the air.

 

“It could haf come from me—ve—hugged—occasionally,” Manfred admitted, his face slightly pink. Gil kept a straight face, but Brass suddenly found the scarred tabletop fascinating.

 

“Did you still—hug?”

 

Manfred looked up, his dark eyes narrowing.

 

“Until ze day he died. Vot is your point?”

 

“My point is that when your partner of twenty-two years decides to donate his semen to a fertility clinic, it seems unusual that he wouldn’t have told you about it. Yet your initial statement claims just that.”

 

Manfred’s expression shifted to one of petulance; he leaned back in the chair and sighed.

 

“Hans had an idea uf starting a family. He vanted to fahzer a child that we could raise togezer to take over our act. I tought the idea vas---foolish. It’s difficult enough to be taken seriously ven you are an immigrant and—socially different. I had no intention of seeing everyting ve had built torn avay by ze media.”

 

“Yeah, the concept of a pair of—socially different—entertainers raising a child might be tough,” Brass spoke up softly. Gil gave a slow nod.

 

“But the question is—was it worth killing over?”

 

“Ven you find Han’s murder, I suggest you ask him—“ Manfred muttered impatiently, “Now I must go—I have a tribute to write and a show to reschedule.”

 

Rising, he strode to the door, leaving Gil and Brass to look at each other with mirror expressions of frustration.

 

“Our killer,” Gil sighed. Brass nodded.

 

“But clever. Knows more than he’s telling. The security at the Alden clinic is impressive and extensive. This isn’t the sort of place anyone can break into without inside help. Hans had a coded account and a pass—Manfred doesn’t.”

 

Gil drummed the table with his fingertips, thinking.

 

What evidence do we have? Wolf hair, semen, no fingerprints on the door—“

 

Nick knocked and walked in, his expression puzzled. Both men looked up at him.

 

“Gris, about all those semen samples that Hans, uh, drowned in—“

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Well— if they came from the lab behind the collection room—then where did the containers originally holding them go?”

 

***   ***   ***

 

Warrick looked down at the pale smile Lydia flashed at him and felt a tingle warm the inside of his chest. She was tousled and groggy, and a pair of tubes were trailing out of the crook in her left arm, but the smile reassured him as nothing else could. Lydia croaked.

 

“Hey.”

 

“Hey yourself, Pepto woman—good thing I got bossy on your ass and brought you in, huh?”

 

“Oh yeah—owe you big time, I know—“ she agreed, rolling her eyes. Her hand moved restlessly over the sheet, and Warrick bent to scoop up her fingers in his, squeezing them lightly.

 

“So—When you’re up to it, I was thinking that the payback could take the form of serious cooking—say, three or four major meals, desserts included, with holiday options.”

 

Lydia laughed, and immediately winced; guiltily, Warrick tried to let go, but her grip tightened.

 

“Got a deal—“ she managed grinning again, just as the nurse stuck her head in the door.

 

“She needs to rest now—“ came the soft reminder. Warrick nodded, then gently began to pry his fingers from Lydia’s grip.

 

“April will be here during visiting hours. He--sorry, SHE was here with me while you were in surgery.”

 

Lydia nodded in relief, her eyes closing. She gave a final weak squeeze to Warrick’s fingers before letting go. He patted her sheet-covered foot in passing and left the room, not quite smiling, but close enough.

 

 

By the time he reached the lab, only Catherine was there, sorting DNA printout and matching them to a list of coded names obtained from the Alden clinic. Warrick looked over the list and whistled, recognizing a few of the people on it.

 

“So how’s Petrowski?” Catherine murmured, checking off a name.

 

“She’ll pull through.”

 

“Good thing you were so—attentive.”

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Warrick demanded weakly. Catherine managed one of her maddening little smiles and handed Warrick a sheet.

 

“Oh come on. You like her, Warrick. It’s obvious.”

 

“I like a lot of people. I’d haul any of you into the ER too if you puked at the grocery store, all right?”

 

Catherine turned her blue eyes on him and the corner of her mouth went up in a knowing smirk.

 

“I know you would. But staying all night—that’s special. And even if Lydia doesn’t know it, I do. Thanks, Warrick.”

 

He shrugged at her words, knowing full well that while it didn’t expunge his guilt over Holly, it was a start. His glance fell on the name at the top of the DNA sheet and he pointed to it.

 

“Oh man—no wonder Grissom’s getting pressure from the higher ups—“

 

Catherine nodded bleakly.

 

“Oh yeah, it’s going to be a BARREL of fun to round up the Mayor, the sheriff and three prominent casino owners to ask them how their semen drowned Hans Gruber.”

 

***   ***   ***

 

Sara sighed. Behind her, Doctor Farris was standing, her arms crossed over her chest, her expression thunderous.

 

“Really Mr. Grissom, this is too much! You have the warrant to search the suite and access to my donor lists, but I don’t see why you and your team need to go any further onto my premises! Mr. Gruber was murdered over THERE, not here in my preparation lab.”

 

“Doctor Farris, while the late Mr. Gruber was murdered over there, we suspect the cause of death came from over HERE. Let us do our job and we can be out of your way as quickly as possible,” Sara politely pointed out. Farris turned to look at her.

 

“Euro Mediterranean stock, ectomorphic frame a plus, but the diastema might be a problem. Tell me, are your periods regular?”

 

“Ma’am, I’m looking for evidence, not impregnation—“ Sara snapped, looking at Gil for support. He hid his smirk, barely.

 

“I’m going to have to ask you to stop propositioning my technicians, Doctor Farris—at least while they’re on the job.”

 

Doctor Farris sighed.

 

“Sorry—it’s just more difficult than you can imagine to work with a limited gene pool—money does not translate to good DNA, and I must admit your team are all—very attractive people.”

 

“It’s required in our line of work—“ Sara muttered, getting a little of her own back. Farris looked askance, but Gil merely shrugged and continued to dust the vial rack with Red Creeper.

 

“Who has access to this processing lab?”

 

“Doctor Danvers and his technical aides Charles and Diana.”

 

“We’ll need to talk to them.”

 

“I believe Captain Brass already talked to Diana—she was the one who found the late Mr. Gruber,” Doctor Farris sniffed. Gil nodded absently and picked up the rack, noting the prints on it. He deftly pressed the tape lift on a few and pulled them up.

 

“Let’s see if anyone else was here then.”

 

Sighing, Doctor Farris left. For a moment the two CSIs worked in companionable silence, then Sara’s cell phone rang. She answered it tersely,

 

“Sidle—really? Interesting—thanks Greg.”

 

Turning to Grissom she gave a faint smile.

 

“Out of all the semen we found on Hans Gruber—there wasn’t any of his own. None.”

 

“Considering what he was supposed to be doing in the room—“ Gris frowned. Sara bit her lips and crossed her arms.

 

“I have a thought—out from left field mind you, but—“

 

“Run it by me.”

 

“Okay—you saw the collection room—more like a hotel room than a sterile environment? What if it wasn’t an official collection?”

 

Gil arched an eyebrow, elegantly. Sara smirked.

 

“Hey, a crime of passion requires a catalyst—“ came her observation as she slowly pulled off a latex glove.

 

“Yes, but Hans Gruber was—socially different, to quote his partner,” Gil pointed out, stepping close behind her shoulder, intently watching her pull the other glove from her fingers. Sara peeled it off with the slinky skill of a burlesque queen.

 

“Yes, but to quote Lou Reed, Hans could have taken a walk on the wild side—“

 

“Which in this case--” Gil breathed in Sara’s ear, “—means a woman.”

 

***   ***   ***

 

“It was just so—freaky, you know? I really need this job because the money’s good and Doctor Farris arranged for me to get credits for it for my premed program. That’s why I didn’t say anything,” the little blonde blurted. She sat hunched in the chair, mascara running, looking utterly miserable.

 

“Sort of a work study?” Brass empathized, his expression neutral but his eyes almost twinkling. Diana nodded.

 

“And there were a lot of celebrities. Doctor Farris has helped tons of famous people get pregnant, so it’s a really important job. I didn’t know it was so hard for some of them to have babies.”

 

“Especially someone like Hans—“ Gil murmured lightly. Diana looked up at him and blinked when he continued.

 

“Miss Stewart, when did your relationship to Mr. Gruber step over the line from professional to personal?”

 

She broke into a fresh sob, mopping her eyes with a kleenex before responding.

 

“A-after his first collection, a few months back. He was so charming, and shy! It was like he’d never, you know—“

 

“—We know,” Brass interjected. “So you were the technician lending him a—hand?”


“Yes. And after a few weeks it was more—personal. He told me he loved me. That he wanted ME to be the mother of his child,” Diana sighed. “We’d meet in the collection room and talk about the future, and it was just wonderful.”

 

“What happened last night, Miss Stewart? How did Hans end up as he did?” Brass persisted.

 

“It was like usual—I met him at four-thirty and we, well, you know. I’d had a busy day already with other donors, so the rack was out in case Doctor Farris came by. We were just getting dressed. Someone knocked on the door and he let them in—“

 

“Who was it?” Gil asked. Diana shuddered.

 

“That other guy he worked with—Manfred. I think Charles let him in because I heard him talking about getting free passes to some of the shows.”

 

“Explains the security access—go on—“

 

“And they got into an argument. It was in German I think—Manfred was REALLY pissed off, especially when he saw me and the vial rack. He kept yelling ‘Mit einer Frau?, Mit einer Frau?’ so I knew he was mad. Hans told me to run, and I did—when I came back, he was—dead.”

 

Brass nodded and looked at Gil, who sighed. He spoke softly.

 

“Miss Stewart, do you have a record of who ELSE donated last night?”

 

***   ***   ***

 

Warrick pushed the wheelchair down the hall to the elevator, leaning down to finish his story as he did so.

 

“—Found the vials in his car, his fingerprints all over them. After that he confessed.”

 

“So it WAS a crime of passion,” Lydia mused, looking over her shoulder at him. He sighed.

 

“Yeah. It wasn’t the donating part that pissed Von Schlein so much, but the fact that his significant other of almost a quarter of a century had fallen in love with a woman. It would have made them, quote, De Lafingschtock of Vegas, unquote. He stunned Hans and force fed him what he THOUGH was his own semen, but in reality—“

 

“It was the rest of the day’s donations, yeah. Nasty.” Lydia sighed. “So the vials made the bruises on his lip.”

 

“Yeah, Sara matched those up. Gil released the info to Mobley and told him to fudge the details for the press conference, like erasing his OWN name from the files—“

 

Lydia giggled. The elevator binged open and Warrick rolled them in. Lydia punched the lobby button.

 

“It’s too bad. The Wolf Pack was really one of the best shows over at the Black Forest casino. I took Damian for his birthday last year. What will they do with the animals?”

 

“Various wildlife sanctuaries I guess. The Clinic is getting off with light publicity, although the director—“ Warrick trailed off, slightly embarrassed. Lydia glanced at him as the elevator stopped.

 

“The geneticist?”

 

“Yeah—she’s got some bee in her bonnet about the night crew—says we all have outstanding genetic features and she’d pay us to donate to her clinic.”

 

“Anyone considering it?” Lydia laughed as they rolled to the front doors of the hospital. April had the car pulled up and climbed out, coming around to hug Lydia and help her up. Warrick shook his head and prepared to roll the wheelchair back inside.

 

“Not likely—when it comes to semen, most of us in CSI are a bit more picky about the ultimate destination, dig?”

 

April and Lydia laughed at that; Lydia reached out to hug Warrick warmly.

 

“Yeah, but getting it there is half the fun—“ she whispered to him.

 

He looked at her, and felt the tiniest of sparks twinkle between them before she climbed into the passenger seat. Warrick watched the car drive off, and smiled to himself.

 

“Yeah—“

 

END




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