"Sweetie," a female voice said from behind Catherine. "You really should dress to show off your feminine side," she chided. "After all, you're not very womanly."
Catherine glared back at her. "Who the fuck are you?"
"That's not nice."
"And the question still remains, lady. You would be? Before I arrest you for being in here without a reason?" She leaned back to look at her. Long flowered dress, shawl. Love beads. Longish hair. "I'm waiting."
"Uh-huh. And that's supposed to mean something to me?"
"I'm Blair's mother."
"Damn good thing I'm not dating your son then, huh?"
"I'm just saying. You could be more feminine."
"Bitch, I'm a fucking detective, I don't need to be feminine and there's nothing wrong with not being some fainting little femme bitch," she said dryly. Yelina clapped at that. "Thank you, sister." She stood up. "For your information, *Naomi*, I'm a Detective third grade. I'm a seventeen year veteran to the police departments I've worked in. What gives you *any* right to criticize how I look?"
"I just think that a more feminine approach would help you."
"To do what?" she shouted. "I'm here catching people who kill others so you can bake cookies. It's women like me who make your lives easier. So go find whatever reason you're here for. I'm sure someone's looking for you somewhere."
She snorted. "I've known many fine female detectives. None of them were like you."
"Yeah, well, I was a Vice cop, lady. We're a whole different breed."
"You should get in touch with your female side. It could help you understand the female perspective more."
"Catherine," Frank called. "Why don't you go find Wolfe about your case?" he suggested as he came over to separate them.
"Listen, Naomi, you don't know me from an axe murderer." The woman gave her a look. "You don't. You have no fucking clue who I am. Getting in touch with my feminine side? I dated women for fifteen years. I touched more of my feminine side and theirs than most of the women in this damn city. Not all women are femme little bitches. Some of us are Amazons. So that the femme little bitches, like you, can go find your own commune and be happy. Which I suggest you do because you are interfering with my work. Doing so means I can charge you with obstruction of justice. How would you like to spend the next thirty days in jail?" She opened her mouth and Catherine snorted. "For your edification, I'll also point out I've got a Master's degree in progress. I've got one hell of a man at the moment."
"I thought you said you dated women."
"I did until I dated a petty bitch who cheated on me. Now I've got a man who can give better oral sex than all my former women combined. So hop off your little high of whatever you were taking and blow off. Before you get arrested."
"Catherine," Frank ordered.
Yelina coughed. "She did walk up to us unannounced and did start on Catherine," she offered. "I have no idea who this woman is."
"I'm Blair's mother, dear."
"Ah, that explains it," she said, looking distasteful. "Frank, please remove her before she upsets Catherine and myself more?"
"Of course. This way, Miss Sandburg, I'm sure Jim's looking for you by now."
"Do not touch me."
"Oh, shut up! Frank's a married man and he's got taste. He'd never go for a woman who dyed her hair that color or wore ugly clothes that don't match."
"Materialism is bad," she said firmly.
"Yeah, but you can be immaterial and still match," Catherine shot back. "Your son manages it most of the time." She huffed off. Catherine glared at her. "Get her out of here, Frank," she hissed. She didn't see Yelina dialing her phone and speaking quietly.
"Jim, sweetie, come help me," she called when she spotted him and another guy. "Please, the women here are attacking me."
"Attacking *you*!" Catherine demanded. Frank and Yelina both held her down and another officer came up to walk her off, whispering quietly.
"See, that's what she needs."
Catherine got free and walked over, kissing her hard and fast, making her fall to the ground and give her a stunned look. "Maybe you should look for your place, femme bitch. On your knees and begging for a good domme. Because plenty of women are tops and don't sacrifice any femininity to do it. See, aren't you happier there on the floor? Where the amazon put you?" She walked back and kissed Ryan, making him moan. "Good thing I stole you from your tribe."
"Not like I mind."
"Your mother's not that bad compared to her."
"My mother's a saint compared to her. Frank, she's got a damn long arrest record if that's Blair's mother. You might want to check for outstanding warrants. Catherine, there's something outside you need to go over with me." He led her off, making her calm down.
She called Blair. "Your mother's here. You need to get her some help. I don't care what sort of help. Get her laid. Find her a commune she can retire to. Something before I put her in for a 72 hour mental health evaluation, Blair." She hung up and let him cuddle her once they were outside, weathering the looks they got. "Someone's mother just decided to tell me I should be more feminine."
"Catherine stunned her," Ryan offered. "She attacked without warning."
"Shows the woman's lack of judgement," one officer offered. "Does anyone higher up know?"
"Frank was trying to save her life," Catherine quipped.
Horatio walked out and looked at them. "Catherine," he said calmly.
"She walked up behind me and introduced herself by saying I should be more feminine."
"Still, we do not attack back, Catherine. She's still begging from where you showed her the proper place for feminine women." He came over. "It's not polite, Catherine, and we do try to stay polite."
"Then she shouldn't have started a verbal attack on me," she shot back.
"She shouldn't have and I do believe Jim is yelling at her about that," he offered, patting her on the arm. "You can let go, Mr. Wolfe."
"Sorry, Horatio." He looked at her and let go. "Think Chocolate's doing okay?"
"Did you close the bedroom door?"
"No but she was in the cage when I left. She was trying to squat on the couch."
"Wonderful," she said bitterly. "Anything else I should know?"
"Ray's here," he said, nodding at the GTO pulling in. He waved at him. "Blair's mother's here."
"She started off saying I should be more feminine," Catherine said, looking at him.
He gave her a hug. "You're an amazon for a good reason. So the femme things you used to date could have a big, dominant, woman overtop of them." He walked inside. "Horatio, I have a suspect but he's a fainting drama queen. He's being drug in by patrol."
"Thank you, Ray," he called, looking at her. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Just keep her away from me."
"Then lets go back inside and get back to work," he ordered, letting them proceed him. "Good thinking, Mr. Wolfe," he offered when Catherine outpaced them.
Ryan grinned. "It's not her fault. Naomi did piss her off."
"I meant calming her down."
"I had to or I'd hear the rant all night," he said with a grin.
"Not if you give me a back rub," she called from the elevator. "Coming? We have court tomorrow. Since I've already been warned it's going to be a bitch and a half, I should probably learn how to play nicer." They caught up and rode up with her. She got off and ran into Frank. "I'm sorry I ruined your lunch, Frank."
He looked at her and snorted. "Feel better?"
"Not really. She wasn't a good kisser." She shrugged. "Ryan's better." She went back to her desk.
Frank looked at Ray, who shrugged. "Not like I've compared. I'd trust her on that one." He went to his desk across from Yelina, then leaned over to talk to her. "What happened?" he asked quietly. "She just walked up and said Cat should be more femme?"
"Feminine. It might help her understand the criminals better," she said dryly.
"Ya know, I don't think she's ever had a problem understanding them when she wants to." He shrugged and sat up again. "Yo, kitten, we have court?"
"The cult members, Ray," she complained.
"Ehhhh," he groaned, then shrugged. "It should be a sink."
"Won't be. The judge hates Horatio," Frank warned.
"Horatio didn't process any evidence, Warrick did ours," Catherine reminded him.
"Point. Then again, his lawyer hasn't made any pre-trial motions," Frank offered.
"Then let's hope the judge isn't suddenly needing to be taken off the bench the hard way," Catherine said dryly.
"We can't do that."
Ray snorted and Catherine looked up at him. "Honey, do you honestly think I can't talk Helena's boyfriend into *helping* me with something that serious?"
"Well, no, but if you tell me that I have to treat you as a suspect if it happens."
She giggled and patted him. "I wouldn't about that. Ray, do you think I could be *mean* this time?"
"I do," he agreed. "I heard he deserves it."
"What are we planning?" Horatio asked, and Frank moved to lean on her divider wall, smirking at her.
Catherine grinned. "I'm being a good girl, Horatio. We talked about this already."
His eyes went wide. "He wouldn't be... Oh. Well, I guess he could be considered..." He nodded. "Acceptable." He walked off happier.
She grinned at Frank. "There's shit coming down the pipe from up north." Ray moaned. "What?"
"Helena's joining you," he reminded her.
"Yeah but we're both much happier in our new homes. You?"
"I'm much happier down here. I can answer to my own name again. All the time."
Yelina handed him a cookie, getting a grin. "We like you for yourself. We'd hate you having to pretend to be anyone else."
"Oh, I don't know, he does a mean Speed impersonation," Eric said as he joined them with a folder. "Who's the detective on the scene this morning?" They all looked clueless. He opened it. "Girl found on the beach with underwear stuffed down her throat?"
"Who was there?" Frank asked.
"No one for over an hour," Eric complained. "We got tired of waiting and did more of it ourselves." That got a groan. "I know I called Jim and he said it was his day off and he wasn't even on the on-call schedule because someone was coming in."
"Yeah, we met her," Catherine said dryly.
"Loudly," Frank agreed. He took the case from Eric and looked it over. "RICE!" he bellowed, making him jump up and give him a panicked look. "Did you get a scene this morning?"
"Um.... My car broke down." Frank glared at him and he came over to get the file. "Sorry, Delko."
"Let's go over it." He followed him back to his desk.
Catherine shook her head and checked her cellphone. One missed call. "Oops." She dialed into her voicemail and grabbed her jacket and PDA, heading out. "Sorry, Frank. Apparently I missed it while I was browbeating the creature."
"Just go," he complained, shaking his head. "Who's out?"
"Speed," Horatio admitted, going back to his office so he could laugh in private. Naomi still looked stunned stupid when he passed her by.
Catherine walked onto the scene. "Sorry, Speed, I was disabusing the notion that I'm not feminine enough."
"Who in the hell?" he complained, looking at her.
"Blair's mother. Walked up behind me and said I needed to be more feminine. Noted Yelina could be too." Calleigh rolled her eyes. "She's presently stunned stupid. I kissed her and she's still babbling at Jim. Eww," she said, looking at the body. "Weed eater or chainsaw?"
"Weed eater," Calleigh said. "We found a piece of the cutting string."
"Still gross." She shrugged and looked around. "Any witnesses for me? I was ignoring my phone while I was pointing out she needed to go somewhere else."
"One," Speed offered, pointing at the heaving man in the bushes. "An officer on lunch found her."
"Okay." She went that way, going to help him up. He looked at her and whimpered. "It's my case. Tell me what you know," she said calmly. He turned green and turned away again, going to get sick some more. "It's not that gross. I've seen worse! You should see ritual child sacrifices." The guy gave another heave. She considered it then the bodies. "Speed, did she have bite marks maybe?" He looked over, giving her an odd look. "What? I know the zombie potions. Any bite marks? He's throwing up bloody chunks, that's not his stomach." The officer waved at her and she helped him to his knees, giving him a heimlich. He finished puking and she nodded, helping him back up. "So," she started again. "Out for lunch?" He turned green again. "You puke on me you lick it back up, Junior."
"I, um, aahh," he let out a whimper.
"I already had a really bad day," she assured him. "Now, give!"
"She wanted me to!" he sobbed. "She was sick and wanted to be some benefit to others. She wanted us to!"
"Us?" Calleigh asked. He went pale. "Don't let him pass out."
"I'm not." She shook him hard. "Straighten up!" she snapped. He swallowed and nodded. "Okay. Speed, he gave you a nice sample over here to match."
"Yay me," he said flatly. "Just what I need for lunch."
"Sorry. Not my fault." She walked him off and into her car. "You puke in my car, I make you lick it up." She slammed the door. "Taking him back, need me for more?"
"No, sit him there, let Alexx look at him," Calleigh called. "It'll be about an hour." That got a nod and Catherine got in to drive off. "Think she'll smack him around?"
"Not with the day she had. I already got a call from Eric." She gave him a look. "Really." Alexx and the ME's van parked, with their ME getting out. "We think she was eaten."
"I don't know," Speed admitted. "The officer who found her told Catherine she was sick and wanted to be of some benefit so they nibbled. Though we did find string to a weed eater."
"I'm not going to eat lunch today," she decided, coming over to do her on-scene preliminary. She looked at a few tears. "Yeah, those are teeth marks," she agreed. "Definitely no lunch for me today."
Catherine walked the officer inside and to her desk. "Stay. Use the can if you need it."
"Yes, ma'am," he said, looking miserable.
Catherine looked around. "Is Frank here?" Ray shook his head. "Yelina?" He shook his head again. "Anyone senior?"
"Ryan. Eric. Rice."
"Cool, he won't want lunch either. He doesn't move." She walked off, going to the lab portion to find Eric. "I need help."
"Speed and Calleigh's scene had an officer who was puking his guts and bloody chunks of what we think is the victim. He's scared of me. Won't even puke since I told him he can't."
"Eww," Ryan noted from his spot.
"Sorry. So I could use someone higher up with more tact. They said it'll be an hour."
"Go put him in a room and make him write out a statement," Eric offered.
"He's an officer, Eric. I don't want to do IAB's job."
"Point. He can write out the statement and it won't look too bad." She nodded and walked off, going to make him do that. He shook his head and called Speed. "She didn't know what to do with him so she didn't make it look bad on him if she's wrong." He smiled. "I'm going to agree with Ryan. Eww. No, I told her to sit him somewhere and have him write out the statement. She said he's scared of him, won't even puke." He grinned. "That works. Yeah, probably." He hung up. "How would they do it up there?"
"Not a clue," Ryan admitted. "She had too many problems up there already, Eric."
"Good point. So, is she suing them?"
Ryan looked at him. "She's talked about it a few times. Come look. The soil is glowing funny and I can't find it." He came over to help.
Horatio and Frank came in off their scene and found Stetler fuming. "What?" Frank asked.
"That brat you hired from Chicago is taking my job."
"How?" Horatio asked.
"She's questioning an officer in a crime."
"Which is her job," Frank noted patiently. "Then you get them. That's how we do that." He walked past him rolling his eyes. He made it to their interrogation rooms and found her watching through the window and the guy shaking. "He okay?"
"He's still too scared to puke or write much," she said quietly. "Have I been that mean?"
"Not really." He walked in, followed by Horatio. "Hey." The officer gave him a grateful look. "You're that scared of her?"
"I heard how she was Justice in Chicago. Like she punished those the system missed and how she made a lot of rookie officers retire suddenly," he begged. "Please?"
"I was not. That was Helena," she said from the doorway. "I was Vice, occult, and cults, little man. If I had to complain about another officer I did it loudly to the bosses."
"Oh. Who's Helena?"
"She's in Vegas. Jigen's Girl." He nodded and went green again. "I'll let you guys handle it since he seems to be able to talk to you two. Speed just pulled in."
"That's fine, you get the paperwork," Frank offered.
"Of course. I didn't want to step on anyone's toes or look like IAB." She walked off, going to fill out reports. Stetler stomped off. "You're not impressing me," she said blandly when she felt him glaring at her. She looked over. "I don't want your job, asshole. Get over it. He was just too scared of me to do anything." She finished her report and handed it to Speed when he walked past. "Preliminary. He's too scared to write."
Speed leaned on her divider, looking it over. "Works for me." He looked at her. "That's protocol when we suspect an officer. That and to let Frank or Horatio know first. We call the idiot huffing over there," he said with a nod toward Stetler, "when we've got a confession."
"That's what I thought but he was too scared of me and I don't want to ride him like I'm taking over his job, since he can't seem to do his job, and I don't want to step on toes or look like I'm accusing an officer."
"I know. Going to Eric was probably the wise thing. We'll compare the chunks he blew to her."
Horatio came out. "No need. He confessed, gave us names." He looked at Catherine. "Vigilante rumors?"
"Back when Helena was undercover. That was part of her cover actually. She was Chicago's Angel of Mercy."
"Interesting. Did we participate?"
"I did some of her research for her into a criminal or two. Most of the time they confessed. That was all part of her undercover, Horatio."
"I understand." He smiled at her. "It'll be fine. Rumors are spreading."
"Of course they are. They're spread by the same people who tried to have her shot instead of letting her have her badge, as they promised. It came from the same people who kept putting me out there without a chance in hell of backup unless I needed SWAT for a drug bust. It's probably also from some officers who're now suffering because they don't have the three of us anymore to abuse. Hell, I was doing the work of eight others," she said bitterly.
He patted her on the head. "It'll be fine and we'll stick up for you, Catherine." He got a nod. "Good work noticing that. Speed?"
"We'll still match just in case." He looked at the statement. "So it was what she wanted as her final wishes?" Horatio nodded once. "Yay. How did she die?"
"Them," he said dryly. "They took a weed eater string to strangle her when the pain got too much."
"Hmm. Yeah. So we'll wait for the autopsy report from Alexx and then we'll see, huh?" He went to talk to the others and get his samples rushed since he had a confession. That way he could be booked by that night. He ran into Eric and shook his head. "I'm not sure if I feel sorry for the guy or not."
"His friend's final wish was to be beneficial to her friends by letting them feast on her so they might gain some immunity from the same disease that got her," he read, then looked at him.
"Very. Then again, the guy was so scared of Catherine he couldn't puke anymore."
"Good. Still nasty." He walked off shaking his head.
Speed smirked. He was definitely going to get the pool for the worst case of the month that the city's CSIs ran and for the worst arrest scene.
Catherine looked up as the judge started to throw out evidence. "Um, sir, you're going on a faulty assumption. There was an expert. I'm an acknowledge expert in the field of cults and the occult." He stared at her and she shrugged. "It's been my speciality since I joined the force back in Chicago fifteen years ago. My BA in Anthropology, with later classes in Psychology and official profiling lessons through the FBI academy. I can provide proof that I'm more than good enough to look up the references in a book and brief people. Plus more than smart enough to figure out when lunar events happen by looking in a calendar."
"Catherine Demoranth, Detective Third Grade," she said, staring him down. "Cults, Occult, and former vice detective, now in homicide down here." He didn't look impressed. "Let me guess, I'm female so therefore I can't read? We took it directly out of the books and we can produce the books if you want. Not like I care. The city will take the shipping costs from the University of Chicago out of the budget for this trial."
"I don't like your attitude."
"Sir, to be frank, I could care less." He looked stunned. "I'm not here to humor you. I'm here to testify as an expert in this. Besides, even if you throw it out, we still saw him trying to kill his last victim."
"You and who?"
"Four federal agents out of NCIS that were working on it with us since it traipsed into their territory. One of the DC teams. Plus there was an FBI agent there somewhere, another two detectives out of Chicago, and a CSI from Las Vegas. It was a cooperative effort."
"I see." He stared her down and she just quirked up an eyebrow. "I still do not think this evidence was collected legally."
"We checked out the books and worked in the library. It's not like it was illegal to look in a book and look up the rituals. I can even give them the name of the Latin Department TA that helped us with the translation from a few books. There's no legal reason that searching a library would be counted illegal and would give us an automatic appeal option."
"I can fine you."
"You can try."
"It was your case in Chicago?"
"It was." She shrugged. "I'm the best they had. I've caught more serial killers than anyone up there or down here. My records speak for itself."
"Really? Because I heard your records were full of disciplinary actions."
"No. I've got one shooting review. I've got one assault charge that I do admit to. It was either knock him down or he was going to stab the two-year-old he had been molesting and carving pictures into. That was ruled a justified arrest as well."
"Really? I've heard allegations that you've taken the law into your own hands."
She burst out laughing. "Really? Do I look like my name is Helena?" He looked horrified. "I'm not the Angel of Mercy we had when she was undercover. I'm the guardian who protected her when she was undercover." She pulled out something. "As a matter of fact, I can let you into those records if my record is going to become pertinent." She handed the order to the bailiff, who handed it to the judge. "You're hereby served in my suit against Chicago." He spluttered. "Anything else, sir?"
"How dare you!" he yelled.
"How dare I? I was doing the work of eight people up there and still had a better arrest and conviction record. How dare you try to throw out evidence. He still was caught over the last victim. If I had been the vigilante I'm accused of, we wouldn't be here." She stared him down. "Even without it, you still have plenty of evidence from Las Vegas." He stood up and stormed out, bringing back Stetler. "Hi again. By the way, I have one of those with your name as well."
"Because you got into my records and they're now sealed," she said with an evil smirk, making him go pale. "Exactly. As a matter of fact, they're now federally sealed. If he's going to get into my record, he's got to be part of the suit."
Stetler considered that. "Why are they federally sealed?"
"Because it impacts Helena's undercover she did for the Feds," she said impatiently. "Do your fucking homework, Stetler. You got us confused and I'm sure as hell not Helena Nichols." That got a few claps from the back of the courtroom. "She is." He blinked then gaped and backed away. "Anything else? Because if not, I've got ethics violations to file later on." She stared at the judge, who backed away. "Now, are we doing this today?"
"I'm still going to rule that evidence invalid, as well as anything the Miami lab processed."
"Which was none of the physical evidence," Horatio said smugly. "All the physical evidence was done in the Cascade lab and in Las Vegas. With some help searching for suspects from our lab, New York's lab, and the NCIS lab."
"I nearly ran that lab," Speed said happily. "I was still up there and we had Feds helping us." He swallowed. "The same as Vegas did."
"It's still invalid!"
"Not the stuff from Las Vegas. No connection to this lab at all. That still doesn't negate the fact that he was caught with his last victim," the prosecutor said firmly. "Federal agents and Detective Demoranth caught him with her going to kill her. The same as the people in Cascade did find a kill scene and their killer with his last body, Your Honor."
"It's still invalid."
Horatio stood up and looked at someone behind him. "Yes?"
"That's fine, we're taking over the case from the Florida and Washington State Attorney's offices," he agreed, standing up. "As well as helping the prosecutor file ethics complaints and misconduct charges."
"And you would be?" the judge demanded.
"US District Attorney Henry Arts, Your Honor." He went pale, which was amusing for an African American man. "I'm in charge of the Southern US office. I'm taking over this case." He handed the paperwork to the prosecutors, then looked at Catherine. "If you must serve me so I can get into your records for the prosecution, go ahead." She handed it over. "Thank you. Officers, please hold him for a moment until we can have Marshals take him into custody?"
"Sure," the bailiff agreed, waving another one forward. He glanced at his boss, who was now purple. "Sir, should we call a paramedic?"
"I'm fine," he growled. "How dare you!" he shouted, glaring at Horatio.
"Justice has to be served when there's corrupt officials." He looked at Catherine. "Don't I have one of those?"
"It's in my briefcase in the car."
"That's fine." He walked her out. "Gutsy."
"He's so dirty I can smell him with a cold, Horatio, and Jim has to go in front of him tomorrow." He groaned at that. "I'm pushing to have him removed before then." He nodded. "Which Mr. Arts can do?" she asked him. He nodded, smirking at her. "How is Agent Gibbs?"
"Cranky. Like usual. He's never anything but cranky." He smirked at her. "So, why did they seal it?"
"To try to frustrate my lawyer." She grinned. "Speaking of, I'm needed up the hall." She waved and headed that way with Ray and Helena. She walked in. "Sorry, Your Honor, the last judge was crooked and tried to declare women finding information in books invalid and illegal."
"The putz up the hall," Ray offered.
"Language," he warned.
"Sorry. Too long undercover." The judge scowled but nodded. They all took their spots. "I apologize to the court."
"Thank you, Detective. Which one are you?"
"I'm Nichols," Helena said, waving a hand limply. "That's Demoranth."
"Fine. Why are we doing this here instead of in Chicago?"
"Chicago's courts have refused to hear this case since it involves federal issues and an undercover by Helena when she was working for the Feds," Catherine said calmly. "They said I had to file it down here since I'm now living down here. Since Ray's down here that made two out of three and it was decided to do this here."
"All right. Why not federal court?"
"They said it was a state matter," Helena told him bitterly. "This is the second time we've had to do this and the State Supreme Court up there upheld the last one and said that any new action could not be filed in Illinois State Court because it was against state law or something. Our attorney has the legal briefing."
"He's given it to me. I still don't understand why here."
"Because we didn't want to travel to another state when two of us live down here," Ray told him, getting a smirk. "I'd rather have went fed for this but they said it wasn't their job."
"So I get to be the unlucky one with the sealed case files." Helena and Catherine both nodded. "Have all the subpoenas been issued?"
"Nearly. I'm a bit behind thanks to the cult case up the hall that just got taken by the US District Attorney's office. They all know it's coming."
"Get them out tonight, young lady."
"Yes, Your Honor." She shook her head quickly, getting a quizzical look. "Sorry, flashback to an early undercover of my own." Helena looked at him. "I almost said Daddy."
"You needed out of Vice sooner."
"Yeah but homicide didn't want to use me as more than a reference guide. Otherwise they were going to stick me in SVU to make me retire sooner."
The judge coughed. "They were?"
"They were." She looked through the box of files and came up with a tape, handing it to her attorney. "I went to school with the Chief up there," she said with a small grin. "That means I had drinking buddy rights." He smirked at that and the other attorneys looked horrified.
"Was it gotten legally, with his permission?"
"It was taken before I had to get his permission, Your Honor. That law was passed about two years after that was made if I remember right."
"Oh." He nodded and looked at the other side. "Are you prepared to open today?"
"Your Honor, this is a farce!" he shouted.
"Do not yell at me, young man. I will charge you with contempt," he said firmly. He slumped. "Now, if you can state your case in a reasonable tone of voice, opening is yours."
The second attorney stood up. "Your honor, we believe that this action is not only vindictive in nature, but relies on false and/or prejudicial information. It also relies on personal and proprietary information that has no bearing on their careers. It was not malicious, it was the nature of the job. The lead detective is claiming that the City of Chicago mistreated her because she was female and she had knowledge of things that happened up there within the department. Instead it was a matter of the budget and other things. We had no control over that."
"Really? I thought you guys made your own budget," the judge said, staring at her. She blinked back. "Does not the city make it's own budget?"
"It does, but the department has to fit within certain guidelines given by the city. The cutting of the Vice department and certain precinct's budgets was not done with intent to harm the detectives."
"We believe they're doing this to air out some dirty laundry that's best left in the past. Such as Detective Nichol's undercover assignment, which was classified by the FBI years ago. We ask that you dismiss this foolish action." She sat down.
Their attorney stood up and cleared his throat. "Your honor, we can prove it was done with malicious intent. We can also prove that it only had a bit to do with Detective Nichol's undercover. This has not a lot to do with her undercover but a few of the assignments she was given directly by the Chicago PD before the FBI took over her care. It has to do with maliciously cutting a budget every year with no intent to renovate or change the department they were cutting. They didn't want to move the detectives to other units. They didn't suggest that they move. They didn't want them to move, they wanted them to suffer. The same as it's about one of my clients being refused her rightful pay raises, both because she is female and because," he turned when Horatio came in, "because she knew some of the other matters involved." He looked back again. "It also has to do with how they treated the most precious resource they had, some of their best detectives. It was malicious and we can prove that on some of these tapes and files. We have a memo within these that state, from the present Chief of Police's own hand, that Detective Nichols and Demoranth were not to be promoted ever again. That Detective Kowalski was to stay undercover, hoping that he'd get shot."
He presented that one to the bailiff. "We also have multiple copies of proof that they were overworking all three of them in an unreasonable manner. We have proof of what reasonable is in many cities in the same departments. We also have proof that they were doing this specifically to them. The other detectives in the same units weren't forced into the same circumstances or into the lack of backup, which was intended to get them killed, or even into the problems they had during that last cult case when the city was knowingly letting their officers destroy scenes and evidence. We can also show that their spending problems did go to other areas. That is in Federal court at the moment." He sat down. "In fact, this problem was against these three and two other detectives who helped Detective Nichols, and any detective who got close to helping the other two were summarily fired. That has been proven in another three civil actions." He handed over those forms. "We knew what this was about before now, Your Honor, and they're trying to play innocent yet again to get out of responsibility. This is the third time Detective Demoranth has had to sue Chicago over their issues. The second time Detective Nichols has, and the first for Detective Kowalski, though he has gone through their mediation process and gotten nowhere twice."
"Very well." The judge flipped through them, then looked at the city's table. "Do you have your first witness ready?"
"No, Your Honor. We haven't been able to see most of their proof."
"We gave them full copies, Your Honor," their attorney stated. "We sent it through their own people. If they didn't get it, that's not our fault. I have signed statements saying that their Internal Affairs people took charge of the files." He dug those out and handed them over to the bailiff for him as well.
"You gave them over a month ago?" the judge asked.
"Yes, Your Honor, I knew they'd try something like this. This snowball job is annoying and extremely trite."
"It is." He looked at the city's attorneys. "In a month you couldn't get through two boxes of evidence?"
"I haven't seen them," the head lawyer told him. His assistant nodded.
"Your Honor, please have the record show his second nodded?" Helena asked.
"So noted," he agreed. "Why?" She pulled out something and handed it over, making him scowl and show her the picture of her watching one of the taped interviews through a window. "Would you care to explain this picture?"
"No, it's obviously faked," she sneered. "Prove it's real," she demanded.
"Sure." She stood up and walked out, leading a blind-looking man in by his hand. His pinstriped suit was carefully pressed and his blue shirt and yellow tie was neat and clean. "Please state your name for the record?"
"Is it safe?"
"It is, I'm not going to allow you to be arrested in here, sir. If you have an outstanding warrant they can get you outside the courthouse," the judge offered. "I have heard that some criminals may end up being called in this matter due to the nature of some undercover operations all three went on."
"Oh, I'm one," he said, taking off his glasses and putting them on his head. "The name's Arsene Lupin the Third. Master Thief and Criminal at Large." He grinned and handed over a video tape. "That's a still from this, Your Honor. The tape has a date code and it was taken by someone who I hired to sit across the street and tape their offices. A very legal PI who had no idea I was myself." He smirked at Horatio, who just glared. "Sorry, I'll leave again soon and I won't bother your city."
"See that you don't," he said firmly, glaring at his detectives.
"My thing, Lieutenant Caine," Helena promised quietly. "She suggested I call the PI but he's needed in other matters." She looked at the judge again. "Save's the court's time, money, and headache medicine bills."
"Thank you for that. Bring me a tv, bailiff?" He nodded and went to get one, dragging it back in a few minutes later. He handed over the tape and it was slid in. He looked at the date code, then the signed receipt. "Three days after they took charge of it. Interesting. What took you so long?"
"She was on vacation," Lupin offered with a bright grin. "She came back when she heard this case was going to be done again."
"Thank you. Any idea where?"
Lupin pulled out a notebook and looked at it then at him. "Paris. She was spending six days at a well-known underground brothel. The name translates as 'Desire'. It's on the West Bank." He blinked at that. "I didn't ask if she was working or buying but I can if you want me to."
"No, that's more than good enough." He went back to watching the tape, then looked at the evidence he already had. "Where is that interview?" It was found and handed over, along with a second one. "Two tapes?"
"We interviewed him twice. Without sound I don't know which it was," the attorney noted.
"Ah." He nodded and marked them into evidence as well. "Sit, Mr. Lupin." He sat at their table, smiling at Ray, who smacked him on the arm. "Not friends?"
"Not hardly. I tolerate Helena's boyfriend but his friends annoy me because I can't arrest 'em," Ray said bitterly, glaring at Lupin.
"You keep that up and pretty soon you'll be just like Pops," he teased.
"That's one way ta go," Ray quipped back. "At least he's a good and honorable cop."
"Who got served three days ago," Helena agreed dryly. "Speaking of, when is the convention?"
"Washington, DC, and we're already scheduled to be there," Ray said happily.
"Enough chatter," the judge ordered. He went back to looking at the evidence and the tapes. "Okay, call your first witness," he ordered coolly.
"He's not here yet, sir," the lead lawyer said.
"Why not? The schedule said we were start today and all witnesses have to be ready to testify at any given point in time, pending the officers' other cases. I can be a bit patient if they're on a scene or arresting someone, or even in another judge's courtroom."
"Our Chief of Police is a busy man, Your Honor. We expected him to be needed in two days. We expected their opening statement to take longer."
"Then you miscalculated and if he's not down here in a reasonable amount of time I'm going to hold him in contempt," he said with a small shrug. "Your choice of course." The second attorney got up and walked out to call him, coming back looking displeased. "Is he or isn't he coming?"
"He said he's never been served, sir."
Lupin pulled out his notebook again. "He was served the same day the evidence was taken over. Almost all the Chicago PD subpoenas were served that same day." He looked up. "I can have the warrant officer their attorney hired fax you the list if you want. I do know that there was some contention about who got served."
"Is he preventing all the other officers from coming down?" the judge asked. She grimaced but nodded. "Even though they can be held in contempt?"
"He said if they left their posts they would be fired," Lupin told him, handing over a smaller tape. "From the meeting two days ago, Your Honor. I did bug it illegally but it should be noted." The bailiff took it and put it into the tape recorder, letting him listen to the Chief of Police up there order the officers not to show up and threatening their jobs over it. "I didn't think the bugging would be that controversial in that circumstance. The person wearing the wire did agree to do so. It was on Catherine's former boss's lapel if it makes any difference. Clearly in the open and barely disguised. It even had a microphone head on top of the pin." He produced a picture of it. The top of the dragonfly pin was a microphone head. Clearly one.
"Thank you, Mr. Lupin. Anything else I should know?"
"One of them did try to fly down this morning but she was arrested at the airport. The judge did let her out but she was taken into supposedly protective custody."
"I see. Which one?"
"Her former boss, Betts."
"Hmm." He considered it, tapping his fingers. "Someone make sure of his information?"
Horatio stood up. "I have, Your Honor, just now." He looked at his notes. "According to the head of the labs up there, who is my equal in case you didn't know, Captain Betty Chamberlin is protective custody. The other officers noted are listed as being on restricted desk duty though no reasons were given. The Chief was listed as being in his office having lunch by his openly available and posted schedule and the mayor was said to be in his office as well." He handed his notes to his people's attorneys.
"You are, for the record?"
"Lieutenant Horatio Caine, head of the dayshift, Miami-Dade Felony crime lab."
"Impressive. I've seen your work on other cases." He looked at the notes when they were handed over then at the lawyers. "I'm going to put the Chief in contempt since he did threaten the others. Their jobs are too valuable to risk," he decided. "While I do that, do you have any other witnesses?"
The head attorney stood up. "This is still a farce, Your Honor! This has no place in this court."
"According to the Illinois and the Federal District Courts, it does." He put those decisions in front of him again. "They said it had to be decided down here and I find you falling down on your job. Now, do you have any other witnesses?"
"I need a day to get him down here."
"You should have been more prepared," he said coolly. "You have a day, young man." He looked at the other side. "Would you care to put the other things into evidence now or wait until it becomes relevant? That way I can refer back to things and we're not wasting the rest of today."
"I can do that," he agreed, handing it over and the index lists. "We do have one other box of evidence but it was thought to be overkill and some of it was gotten by Mr. Lupin on Detective Nichol's behalf."
"I want that as well." Lupin used his phone to page someone and that box was wheeled in on a handtruck. "Thank you. Are you a witness as well?"
"I wasn't asked to be one. Again, overkill," Goemon said frankly. He bowed to him and left it here, leaving again.
"Interesting friends you keep, Detective Nichols."
"They stood up for me and with me when no one else would," she said firmly.
"That's fine. I can see why it was necessary." He started to fill out evidence sheets, going over them. The other side started to look dejected when he introduced taped statements from the missing officers. Since they had been threatened they could be entered into the transcripts as testimony.
Horatio saluted Catherine and the others a few days later. "Well played," he praised.
"With backpay," Ray agreed happily, saluting his ladies. Helena smirked at him. "Go out with me tonight?"
"Sure. Make someone jealous," she said with a wink. Catherine snorted. "You don't think so?"
"No, not really, sweetie. Um, there's smoke coming in under the door. I kinda think you're about to be kidnaped. Call when you get back to work and we'll chat." Helena nodded and finished her drink, then got up so they wouldn't have to gas bomb the cop bar they were in. A peal of tires later and she was gone. "Gotta love the theatrics those three use," she said happily, sipping her beer.
"True," Ray agreed, smirking back. "So, you, me. A club?"
"You, me, a club, and a chiropractor," she said dryly. "I'm not as young as I was when I was busting in the clubs."
"I know. You're still a spring chicken though," he teased. "We can bring the others and make them jealous?"
She hesitated and looked at Horatio. "Does anyone have a late case tonight?"
"Speed. That's rather usual though." He pulled out his phone and texted everyone since he had one code that hit them all. He got back answers ranging from 'make her wear something pretty' from Yelina to a groan from Speed to 'I'll watch the cats until she gets home' from Eric, to a blank one from Ryan. "Eric said he'd watch your cats."
"Chocolate's about to be given away," she joked. She finished her beer and poured some more from the pitcher. Then she refilled Ray's. "We need to change."
"We do," he sighed, looking at his dress pants, then her pants suit. "We look like old folk." He stood up. "See you there, Horatio?"
"Of course, Ray." He smiled at Catherine.
She kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you for sticking up for me, Horatio. It means a lot to us but Ray's not the mushy sort." She grinned at his smile. "Now, you're coming, right? Or should I ride up on my bike and use some of Lupin's tricks?"
"Please don't. I'll show up. You go get pretty. You have lost some weight since you've been down here."
"Too much sweating. You guys need to pay the air conditioner repairman for outside." He laughed so she got up and headed home to take a shower and change. Which would give her enough time to get sober again. She came out of the bedroom fussing with a velvet top when someone knock, looking through the spyhole. "Hold on, Eric, I'm nearly dressed." She opened the door and walked off. "Okay, it's safe."
He peeked in, looking at her cats. "Hi, furry monsters." He walked in and caught the escapee, putting her back inside. Then he blinked when she came out in a small coordinating velvet skirt to go with the velvet tank top. "Um, no," he said, shaking his head, eyes wide. "No, not Miami style." He came in to help her find something, ending up giving her favorite stretch dress an odd look. It got bypassed since it came down to the floor. He found a longer skirt and handed it over. "Try that."
"I'll have to change shirts. I only wear that one with leather." She sighed and got into a footlocker in the bottom of the closet, kneeling down to dig through it. "If I have lost some weight...."
"You have," he assured her.
She grinned up at him. "Thanks, dear." She pulled out something and headed into the bathroom, coming out in three inch stiletto heels, a long stretch skirt made of the same lycra/polyester/shiny material her favorite dress was made of. Plus a blue velvet bustier. She turned. "Can you please tighten it?"
"Sure." His eyes were still wide but he did tighten it for her. "No tights?"
"No, too hard to get out of later." She turned and he blinked at her. "What?" She looked down. "Yeah, you two get to play tonight," she told her breasts, dragging him out by his hand. "Now, go change, Eric." She checked the hall for cats, then grabbed her wallet, ID, gun, and headed out.
He gave the gun an odd look. "You're going armed?"
"Of course. Someone might want to steal Speed or Frank." She shrugged and tucked it into her back waistband in the small holder sewn into the skirt's waistband. Then she shoved the other things into her bra and arranged her breasts again. "Ah, better." She walked out. "Pimpmobile or bike?" she said, considering it.
"Car," he squeaked. He hurried to his. He was not going to think about how the skirt clung to every inch of her body just right, highlighting the curves, or how the bustier had made her formerly limp breasts stand up proudly tonight. She even fluffed out her hair and applied lipstick and eyeliner in the car before driving off. He texted Speed and warned him, then went to go change.
Catherine saw the admiring looks for her car and parked, getting out, making them all stare in horror. "Hey, women can be pimps just as much, baby," she told one, patting him on the cheek. "Aren't you too young to play these big boy games?"
"I'm plenty old and plenty built."
She looked at him and snorted. "With that toothpick? Honey, I've used bigger toys in my girlfriends' asses. Until you learn how to please your women, all that is is nothin' special. Every man's got one, but most can't use it and don't use enough tongue." She blew a kiss and walked up to the door, smiling at the bouncer, who was an off-duty cop. "Gonna frisk me?" she teased.
"Hell no, Detective. You carrying?" She nodded, letting him see. "Behave tonight and make all the young toys beg."
"I like it when they beg." She winked at him. "We won."
"Congrats." He let her in and around the metal detector, getting an odd look. "She's a detective."
"Oh." He nodded and patted her down, finding her badge. He blinked at where it was and she just grinned. "No pockets?"
"It'd ruin the lines." She stroked his face. "You can frisk some more if you want. You're very good at it." He blushed and let her go. "Thanks. Any of the others of us here yet?"
"One, Detective. By the bar." She grinned and walked over there, finding Speed ordering a beer. He shook his head. She was old enough to be his mother! She wasn't supposed to be an object of lust for him!
She walked up behind Speed, leaning on his back, chin on his shoulder. "Ryan's not here yet and you're fairly safe to dance with," she said in his ear. "Wanna?"
He looked at her. "Can you actually keep up?"
"I did this for years for the job, Speed." She drug him out to the floor, showing him how it was done.
He smirked and joined in. It was good and teasing between them. She did do that outfit proud. "Where did you get that?" he called over the music.
"My closet. It's got lots of scary things in it," she offered with a wink and turned around to dance with the guy who kept feeling up her ass. "That's not for you. I require more than groping to give access to the back passage." He groaned and moved closer. Speed got her back and it was great. She loved teasing Frank. He was so cute when he blushed.
Ryan walked in and saw the trio on the floor, sighing in defeat. Horatio and Calleigh watched him stare when they came in. "I suck at that."
"Go out there, let her teach you," Horatio said, giving him a shove. Ryan went to steal his girlfriend back from the other two. He shook his head and went to the bar to get a drink. Catherine did look fantastic and Speed didn't look too bad either.
"It almost looks like Speed borrowed some of Eric's clothes," Calleigh said over the music. He nodded at that. The others in their group came in and she waved, nodding out there. Eric looked and moaned, shaking his head but going out to find someone to dance with.
Ryan walked up to the trio and yanked Catherine into his arms. "Mine, thanks guys. Help?" he mouthed to her. She smiled and helped him move, making his hips do what she wanted. The others gave them fond looks but Ray came out and took Speed off. Blair and Jim finally showed up and Blair went to join Ray and Speed on the floor, letting Jim play watch cop for them all. It was a good party.
Catherine walked into work the next morning in the same clothes, giving the officers who stared a dirty look. "Yes, I do own skirts. It's just hard to chase people down in them." She sat down at her desk and took off her heels, putting on the keds she had in her bottom desk drawer. They were black, they'd go. Then she pulled out her black button up silk shirt and slid it on over her bustier. By the time she was done buttoning it she looked professional again, if still hot and a bit goth. Frank, who had actually made it home, gave her an amused look. "What? There was a bust up the street and the guys needed backup. A few of us didn't make it home last night, boss."
"I'll let you nap for lunch."
"Thanks but I should be okay. I'm still just as tough as I used to be, Frank."
"Yes, but you're not as young," he teased.
She gave him an odd look. "I don't celebrate birthdays." She started her computer, seeing the postit on the screen. She frowned and called the number on it. "This is Demoranth, you wanted something?" She listened. "Gee, boss, how many cases did you work a month when you were a regular detective?" She smirked. "Yeah, well, I was doing triple that most months. Hence the suit, which we won. The judge was very not impressed and it'll give the officers stuck up there the ability to change the system. It shouldn't bother us down here though I hope I never have to go back up there for another case." She smiled. "Well, it is nice to have them acknowledge they were holding promotions back when I deserved them," she said dryly. "The back pay will be very nice as well. So will the retirement account they claimed I couldn't have since I retired after only sixteen years." She leaned back.
"No, we went out to celebrate last night and ended up helping in that hostage situation. No, that was Ray. Well, they forced him to stay undercover for nearly five years straight, in and out of various assignments. I haven't had back up since before I got my gold shield. Helena had the same problem. Yeah, that's why we sued." She smiled. "Thanks, boss. Sure, I'll take the lieutenant's exam but if you stick me behind a command desk I'm going to have to throw massive fits and destroy the buildings. Oh, good, then yeah, I'll take it. When is it?" She made a note on her desk calendar. "Sure, I'll be there. Thank you. I'll poke him and see. Are you sure you want Ray there too?" She smirked. "I'll let you tell him that, sir. Thanks." She hung up. "Ray, the boss of bosses wants you to sit the next exam level."
"He can bite me. That might mean I get promoted."
"Okay. I told him I'd tell you and he thinks you're probably going to be there within a few years."
He gave her an evil look. "No thanks."
"Okay. I'm being told I'm sitting it but he has no intention of ever promoting me off this desk."
"You and Yelina are both supposed to be taking the sergeant's exam," Frank said, looking confused. She shrugged. "Let me go check on that. It's possible he thinks you already are." He went to call his boss, make sure he knew that she wasn't a sergeant yet. He blinked at his simple 'yes she is' when his boss hung up on him. He walked back and took her ID to look at. "I think you need to have this changed, woman." He handed it back and shrugged. "Get it done instead of your nap." Ray snickered. "You knew?"
"Paycheck," he said dryly. "She's been paid higher than I am."
She found the number she needed and called down to records. "This is Detective Demoranth. What level am I listed as? I thought I was a Detective, Grade 3." She listened while they looked her up. "Huh. I did not know that. Thank you. I'll be down to get my new ID today." She hung up and nodded. "I am."
Frank smirked. "Okay then."
"I have been since I got here."
Frank snickered. "Someone likes you."
"Yeah, and I'm going to go hug the man." She got up and went to find Horatio giving him a hug in the middle of the hall. "You got me a promotion to Sergeant when I came in." She walked off again still looking a bit confused.
He smiled and shook his head, weathering Ryan and Eric's smirks at him. "Not intentionally. The Chief did it. The day after she got hired he got her full records and promoted her."
"She'll need to get a new ID then," Ryan said. "They gave her one for Detective, Grade 3."
"She can fix that during lunch and you two can have dinner tonight, Ryan."
"I know." He grinned at that. "I can't believe she came in today since they haven't made it home yet."
"Why not?" Eric asked.
"Oh, there was a hostage situation up the street that they got sucked into when she and Ray were leaving the club. That's probably why Calleigh called off." Horatio nodded. "I noticed she hadn't changed. Just shoes and put on a real shirt." He walked off. "I'll start these tests, Horatio."
"Thank you, Mr. Wolfe." He looked at Eric. "You left before them?"
"My mother paged me." He walked off, not looking happy.
"Hmm. I'll talk to him later or get Speed to," he decided. "He'll tell one of us." He walked off, going to gather tests for his own case. He came out of DNA with a frown, going to find Catherine. "Catherine." She looked up at him. "Why were you on my scene?"
"We shared it, Horatio." He looked stunned. "I had the one there earlier in the day. Why, did I spit or something?"
"Hair." She ran her hands through her hair, then let the shed parts into the trash. "Ah. Shedding?"
"I've been doing more of that since I got down here. It's the heat. The same as my scalp is starting to peel big chunks. I'm sorry."
"No, don't be, I just needed to know why." He let her see the report.
"Yeah, I was there," she said, pointing at the photo, "at six that morning for the first body." She looked up at him. "The little kid who had been posed with her bike?"
"I remember. Do we have a suspect on that?"
"Not yet. I'm waiting on you guys to give me *something* because all I got was a lot of 'did she fall while she was riding' remarks." He nodded and took that file to look through. "If you can nudge Delko gently I'd like it."
"I'll see what he has." He looked at the area.
Frank came over and looked then at him. "Horatio, there's a third one there," he reminded him, giving him a look. "Yelina has it."
"Hmm. I hadn't heard about that. Who had her case?"
"Interesting. Let's see if we have any similarities other than Catherine's hair."
"Sorry, Horatio. I'll start brushing it better."
"That's fine." She did it again and even more fell out. "That is a bad problem."
"Maybe I'll need a wig soon but then again being bald might be cooler some days with the way I sweat into my hair. That's why I keep it short." He nodded, going back to the labs to talk to the other two techs. And one other one. He looked at the length of the hair, then at the DNA tech, who shrugged. He carried it back to her to measure it against her current cropped hair. She looked at the hairs then at him. "I haven't had hair that long since I was undercover about four years ago."
"Who was it?"
"Um, I was playing domme in a ring that was using some illegal immigrants in a live sex show."
He blinked at that. "I can't see you doing that."
"Actually I'm a very good domme," she offered with a grin. "When did he promote me?"
"When he saw your full files. The day after you signed." He walked off again, going to see if they could tell age of the samples. He ran into Rick Stetler. "What?"
"You have her hair at a scene?"
"We have hair that's hers, but it's longer than it's been in years," he admitted. That got an odd look. "We're trying to see why now," he admitted. "Though she is shedding heavily due to the heat."
"Wonderful." He stomped off to talk to her.
She looked up and pulled up the casefile from that time. "I logged onto my home computer since I keep all my old case files. Long distance log-ins are wonderful." He blinked at her. "That's why I keep the PDA, so I can make notes and do my reports that way. I've got whole filing cabinets of old reports." Ray nodded at that from his desk. "See? He helped move them."
"Because I have a crappy memory," she told him. He snorted. "I do now and then. It happens." She waved a hand. "That's the only time my hair's gotten that long in the last ten years. I kept it short and functional since I got my first desk job in Vice."
"So... You've had longer hair down here."
"No, I was a bit shaggy for about two weeks," she offered. "Then I got a trim again." She showed her ID since it had her with the shaggy hair. "See? Still not as long as those samples he had."
"Whatever. I want to know where you are at all times."
"I'm not dating you," she snorted, staring him down. "For that matter, I had a scene at the same spot earlier that day. If something actually comes up, I'd be surprised, but do give that to Horatio please. That way he can make sure it doesn't come from there since it was an undercover sex ring." He stomped off again. "Manwhore."
"No one would pay him for it," Ray quipped.
Yelina glared at him. "You didn't pay him, Yelina. It was just momentary bad taste," Frank soothed.
"If you were gonna pay someone they'd be younger and make you laugh," Ray agreed.
"Oh, there's a few good escort services," Catherine offered. "One of them offered to go out with me and make sure I had a fun time at the awards dinner coming up."
"It's mandatory we go but we never get anything," Frank offered. She handed over her invitation and he smirked at that. "Ray, you did get the memo that it's mandatory?"
"What happens if I don't show up?"
"No check for two weeks and you're restricted to the desk," Catherine said, making him shudder. "Sorry, babe."
"Because one of this department is being honored," she said dryly, staring at him. His eyes went wide. "Not you."
"Oh, good." He calmed himself, hand on his chest. "Almost scared me there." He took her invitation from Frank and looked at it then at him. "Sure, I'll go. Monkey suit?"
"Yup. And nice dresses for the ladies. It's a party, guys."
"Gee, that means I have to shave," Catherine said bitterly. Yelina gave her an odd look. "It's not high on my priority list in life, Yelina. Not like Ryan cares."
"My husband nagged if I had any stubble," she said quietly.
"Really? You know, after it gets about an inch long it's softer again," Catherine offered. "Next time, get someone younger and train them."
She shook her head. "I have a son, that's enough training."
"I know some guys I could introduce you to," she offered with a sweet smile. "One's coming down soon."
"Who?" Ray asked, looking adorably confused.
"Remember the guy who was the backup on the chess case?"
"Vecchio, yeah. Why?"
"Him. He's just out of an undercover and they're sending him down here to hide so we're watching over him."
"Okay." He shrugged. "He seemed decent enough if Helena let him watch her cats and so did you." He got back to work. "How long was the hair?"
"From the time you said it looked like a wig."
"Stored maybe," Frank offered.
"Catherine," Eric complained as he came over. "I don't have anything yet."
"Eric, they found my very old hairs at the next scene that afternoon."
"I found them that morning," he admitted. "The rest is still processing. Horatio made sure of it. Did you keep anything on that case?"
"Stetler has the whole report. Let me log back into the house."
"Oh, just go steal it from him," Ray complained, going to do that. He found Stetler and took the reports from his hands, finding the one he needed and handing the rest back. He came back to look at one then snorted and handed it over. "Catherine said he's coming down after an undercover and we're watching over him. He's a good guy from what I heard. Helena and Cat both let him watch their furry babies." He walked off again, ignoring the swearing, handing it to Eric, who grinned. "He has Vecchio's files."
"Charming. Oh, well." She shrugged. "I wonder if he's bringing down the Mounties."
"Oh hell no," Ray said, glaring at her. "Don't wish that on Miami. What're they gonna do? Charm the higher end drug dealers with manners? They're safer up there where some people appreciate the civilization levels." He sat down again, going back to his reports.
"I tried," she said with a shrug, making Yelina snicker. "Ray Vecchio worked with one a lot. He's a nice guy. Very polite. Very clueless. Will stand there and let people walk through the door he's holding forever if he has to. He's a Mountie." She shrugged. "You'd look cute with him, Yelina."
"I don't need to be set up, children. I'm fine and happy with just having a son."
"Honey, sons are great and so are toys, but sometimes you gotta have someone to use as a body pillow," Catherine told her. Eric walked off blushing. "Sorry, didn't realize you had such sensitive ears." She looked at Yelina. "Really."
"I know. It'll be worked out, Catherine."
"Sure." She got back to work on her open cases. Which were mounting faster than she liked. She went back to doing some background checks, which she hadn't had time for during the trials. Until she finally came up with two suspects. It made her giddy. She got up to get something for her blood sugar to feast on and then took the papers with her. "Got a suspect, boss."
"You sure? Horatio said he didn't have anyone for you yet."
"One on my case with Ryan and one on my other case with Speed."
He looked at the reports then shook his head and paged Speed, making him come over with the files. "Always check in case they've ruled your guys out," he reminded her.
"She did, but I did rule her out," he admitted, handing one back. "Male DNA on the bat we found."
"Was it the murder weapon or was he just beaten with it?"
"He was beaten with it but... oh." He nodded. "Sure. Go ahead and ask her. Maybe she did find him. Why do we think so?" She held up another sheet and he groaned, nodding. "That does go against her alibi. Let me know. Maybe we do have a separate cause between the beating and him dying." She smirked and walked out. "She's tired."
"She didn't get home last night. Apparently there was a hostage situation when she and Ray were leaving."
"Wonderful. Anything else I should know?"
"Yeah, apparently we've got a friend of hers from Chicago coming down to be hidden after his undercover. Another Ray?"
"Vecchio," Ray said as he came in. "Decent enough guy, never worked with him personally but she and Helena let him watch their cats and he was one of the better ones at the twenty-seventh."
"Good to know," Frank agreed. "Think he'll cause trouble?"
"That depends on how many mafia guys out in Vegas he left free."
"Oh," he said, wincing. "Why?"
"I heard he was a dead ringer for the other guy," he offered, shrugging a bit. "Not a clue but I may be running and hiding a lot. Supposedly they're sending my ex down here to debrief him for the first few weeks. Fair warning."
"We'll shield you," Speed promised, patting him on the back.
Ray looked at him. "I loved that woman since I was thirteen. We ended up wanting different things." He shrugged. "It happens. I should warn you now and then I do go stalker. Just have Cat smack me around a few times. She might not know yet."
"Thanks, I'll let her know," Frank agreed. Ray walked off. "I guess that's gonna be hard on him."
"Probably," Speed agreed quietly. "Do they think the machines and tests work that fast?"
"I have the feeling they're used to clearing faster because they had to or they got overloaded. With multi-person busts in Vice some months she had a thousand arrests to her credit."
"Even three a scene..." Speed started, then he shuddered. "Poor thing." He walked off, going back to the lab, but he did stop in on Ryan. "We need to make sure Catherine realizes how long it takes us to work our side of cases."
Ryan grinned. "Trying to make you hurry up again?" Speed nodded. "She was complaining about having ten open on her desk."
"She's only got three."
"She's got ten because she brought down some cold ones from up there. Also, she didn't work with the lab up there. She was more observation, wiretapping, things like that. She didn't have to wait on others. A lot of the time she could go cruising and make arrests while out for a gallon of milk. She quipped that every time Helena went out for milk it ended up getting the milk shot and multiple arrests for her too."
Speed walked off shaking his head. "Just educate her, Ryan."
"Sure." He shrugged, he'd try. His woman knew this wasn't Star Trek, nothing happened instantly.
Horatio walked out to where Catherine was finishing up some last of the day paperwork, making her look at him. "You should wait for us to help with the suspects," he said quietly, staring down at her. "The DA's office doesn't always act with rational thought and has been known to jump the gun before all the evidence is processed."
"That can take weeks. People can get away."
"True. Make sure we know when you're bringing in someone."
"I had them take the samples and stuff."
"I was very appreciative of that, Catherine, but you're working faster than the whole lab combined."
"Yeah but I'm supposed to. That's why I'm a detective and you guys get to do the lab work. So you guys can make sure I'm right. Right?"
"Not quite. We like to be a bit more cooperative."
"I know. You're used to having more stress in your job. Slow down. We still solve most cases within a week. But sometimes the evidence does take longer."
"If I waited on it you would've lost the person who watched that one guy die."
"True. Which we don't mind. The other one was like roulette. He's going to recant his statement. Say you frightened him into it." She snickered at that. "I know but he will try."
"We can still hold him for forty-eight, though, right?"
"We can. The Chief is going to complain about the overtime again."
"Can I help?"
"You have plenty of overtime," he chided. She snorted at that. "In the future, let us know so we can help, Catherine. Slow down and give us eight hours to finish the first round of tests." She nodded at that, slumping some. "That's all I wanted."
"Thank you, and some very good work today." He smiled and walked off, looking at the person coming off the elevator. "You would be?"
"Here to meet someone," he said grimly. "Demoranth here?" She stood up. "Ma'am, I'm to hand over my protectee to your care?"
"Sure. Bring him up. He's safe here and it'll feel like home, only with more windows." That got a nod and the Marshal went down to bring up his protected person. She signed off on it and he nodded, heading off once she had his file. She looked at her buddy. "Did you get into my sort of trouble?" she teased.
"Hell yeah. There's still two out there and I could get them but the US attorney's office wouldn't."
She patted him on the cheek. "Ray, dear, Helena's working out in Vegas." His eyes went wide. "I brought the baby brother since Horatio, the redhead over there watching us, couldn't stand her boyfriend."
Ray Vecchio took off his hat and sunglasses to look at him. "I don't mind 'em. They stood up for her better'n most everyone. Didn't work where she was working. They didn't want her to have ta arrest 'em again."
"I did once," Catherine admitted with a grin for him. "So, should we go call Helena and her people?"
"Please. Can I crash at your place until I've got one? They're not going to monitor me, just hide me."
"Sure, with one exception. If I see Stella Kowalski, I'll be jail for assault."
"Okay. Not like I like the bitch." He stared. "Hold on, your little brother is her ex."
"Yeah, he is," she agreed happily. "And she tried to claim I was sleeping with him."
Ray shuddered. "No, that would be one loud relationship. Okay, you done?"
"Nearly. Let me finish this report." She sat down. "The redhead over there is Lieutenant Horatio Caine, head of the dayshift crime lab. And theirs has a damn clue."
"Good. Is she working as many hours as she had been? Helena used to worry about her," he offered shaking his hand. "Detective Second Grade Vecchio, Twenty-seventh in Chicago."
"Welcome to Miami. Can I look over the file so I can brief my lab?"
"Not like I care." He handed it over. "The more the merrier coverin' my ass. Unlike her, I'm used ta backup."
"We do try to get her used to it," he said with a faint smile.
"I know you did and I heard it was very nice how you and Ray took over and freed the hostage."
"Not like I could climb the fire escape in the heels, Horatio."
"Point." He read over the file, then at him. "We can call from my office, Detective. "I have the lab out there in my phonebook."
"Tell her I said hi."
"Sure will." He walked off with him. "So, you guys got 'em both?"
"We did and they've been an asset to the department, even if we do have to get them used to working with others now and then."
"They made Kowalski lone wolf and her too. Kowalski was her trainee for a while."
"I hadn't known that." He let him into his office. "Take the desk if you want." He dialed the number for him. "Nick, I have a Detective Vecchio out here in protective custody. He said he had some information that might be helpful that the US District Attorney's office wasn't going to use." He put him on speaker.
"I love you, Horatio. Vecchio, we heard you were out here but nothing further. Tell me you've got Lagostini, man. Please."
"That's who I was pretending to be, kid."
"Oh, sorry, Nick Stokes, CSI Level Three."
"That's cool. Never worked with you guys back in Chicago."
"That means he's a senior officer on the team," Horatio told him.
"Oh, good. Even better then. Go to the Rampart. My old room had two hiding spots. They wouldn't have searched them. One's inside the mattress. Up near the headboard, in the center. Only one person ever saw me on the floor and I told him I was getting something that fell and grabbed a sock I had stuffed in there to hold it in place. The other one was wrapped tightly inside the trap of the sink."
"Pictures, documents? What're we talking about, Detective?"
"Microfilm. The one in the sink's a digital camera's stick thingy. They'll lead you to where I was doing things and to a few other people they didn't want. Including one on that one chick, Hedre? Her. Also, Junior's mother? If you run into her, just cold cock her once for me, okay? Woman's as shallow as they come. Treats him like he's a slave."
"If I can," he agreed. "Anything else you can help me with?"
"Yeah, if you get into the document box at the bank, don't burn the pictures. You'll want to but I think he was working on the same side."
"Agreed. Thanks, Detective. Can we come down and debrief you too?"
"I'm in Miami."
"Thank you. I'll go do that today." He hung up and went to tell his boss.
Ray leaned back, looking at him. "Thanks for this. I'll try ta keep Stella outta the office."
"That's fine." He smiled a bit. "What were they thinking you should be doing?"
"They didn't care."
"Ah. Well, I'm sure you'll find something. Did they say you couldn't be a detective again?"
"They did say it'd probably be too dangerous and I'm tired of the bloodshed. Way too much violence already in my life, ya know?"
"I do." He smiled a bit, hearing heels coming up the hall. "I believe she changed back." He looked over as Catherine came in. "Feel better?"
"Much. Come on, Ray. Ryan's waiting dinner and knows you're coming."
"Sure." He got up and stretched. "You look nice. Special occasion?"
"We were celebrating winning the last of the lawsuits and got caught with a hostage situation when Ray and I left." She grinned, walking out with him, her bare arms glowing with sweat once they made it outside. Her silk shirt was back in the desk for the next time she needed it. So were her sneakers. She got him into the pimpmobile, ignoring his laugh. She slid in to drive. "A girl's gotta have fun," she teased, backing out and heading home. "Just don't get my cats or the new family down here shot, Ray. Please? They're mostly science geeks and don't really use their guns."
"I won't. Or I'll try not to. Helena's really out there?" She nodded. "I'll have ta call soon." He got comfortable. "So, a boy is waiting dinner?"
"He's one of Horatio's guys and yes I'm dating him. Chocolate adored him within minutes."
"Works for me." They pulled up and parked, letting him get out and look around. "You usually get spies?"
She looked and flashed the person, making him speed off. "Yes." She walked him inside, smirking at his head shake. She pulled out her phone. "I traumatized the putz, Horatio. No, I flashed him." She hung up and let him into the apartment. "I'm home. I brought company. And I gave Stetler a mental issue."
"Flashed him?" Ray taunted. "Hey, Vecchio."
"Kowalski. I'll try to keep your ex away from decent folk. How did you stand her?"
"She was nicer before." They shook hands. "The guy cleaning in the kitchen is Ryan, her boy."
"Hey, Ray Vecchio," he said, shaking his hand.
"Ryan Wolfe. CSI." He smiled. "Go clean up. Catherine, Chocolate was not a happy cat."
"She never is but yay."
"Good point." He nodded at the table. "Go change," he ordered, kissing her. "You're overdressed for veggie lasagna." She went into the bedroom, letting Chocolate out of the cage and closing the bedroom door. Ray got the other one because he had babysat her before and knew her issues. Catherine came out in pink kitty cat jammies, making the guys smile. "The only pink thing you own?" Ryan teased.
"They're clean. I have to do laundry again." She looked at Chocolate, who was very loving. "Yeah, just as long as you behave. Ryan, did you do the litterboxes again?"
"You know I can't stand the things," he complained.
"They didn't like the electric ones."
"I didn't like them either. They're noisy." He went to check and clean the boxes, putting Chocolate into one. "See, I keep them cleaner than you do. Use it." He washed his hands and came out to eat. "Sorry."
"Some people like to clean," Ray said with a shrug, sitting down. He said a quiet grace and dug in when food was offered to him. "So, why are we down here and her there?"
"Same old same old," Ray Kowalski complained. He dished up some veggies and then the lasagna. "Thanks for cooking, Ryan."
"Not an issue. It came from a box." He took it with a smile. "They just got done suing Chicago for the reason they came down."
"One of the Las Vegas CSIs had to come run our lab," Catherine told this new Ray. He looked confused. "You remember hearing about the serial killer?"
"Yeah, and thinking you would've been banging your head somewhere."
"I was, against Chicago again. Horatio gave me my actual grade - and a raise as I found out today, a pay raise, and Ryan."
"You must be a good incentive," Vecchio joked.
"Now and then." He smiled back. "We're like a family down here. If she isn't backed up Horatio will skin someone and so will Frank."
"If I don't," Kowalski agreed. "They promised me no more undercovers and a spot in homicide. The CSIs down here do half the work for us."
"Just remember, it takes us a few hours to process anything," Ryan said patiently. "I know Speed and Eric had that 'I'm not God and omnipotent' look earlier when you guys wanted to jump before the evidence. It takes six hours to do a DNA sample and three to do most trace samples. Each." That got tired sighs and nods. "Thanks, guys. It'll make 'em happier."
"That's fine," Catherine agreed. "But then again I'm down to my cold cases from up there."
"You cleared all three cases?" Ray complained, looking at her. "Crap, I only got two done. That means I've still got three open on my desk."
"Yelina's got about ten so don't worry about it," she soothed, patting his hand.
"When I left, some poor guy got my head-high stack," Vecchio complained.
"We've got computers," Kowalski said dryly. "Almost no physical files."
Vecchio shuddered. "Give me paper any day."
"I find it's a lot faster to get things like phone records," Catherine offered. She yawned. "Sorry, paperwork. We ever find out why my hair was there?"
"He said you'd stop him because you were the only one who ever saw and understood him," Ryan offered. "Horatio asked why so he told him how you had saved him but now he couldn't get past the urges. But at least he was making happy families with people that should've been together."
"As long as I'm in the clear," she decided, yawning again. Ryan gave her a concerned look. "I'm fine."
"Is this a sudden blood sugar nap?"
"Maybe," she admitted, digging in again. "Or it could be the I was up all night nap. Take your pick. Ray, there's a small bed in the spare room you can use until they set you up and things."
"Thanks. Think I could call my ma?"
"I think they might be tracing it if they're after you," Catherine offered. "Call Helena first and have her call your mother."
"Sure." He ate another bite. "So, Ryan, what do you do all day?"
"I run evidence. Figure out what it is. Tell the detectives what it is so they can help us arrest others."
"They go on arrests with us," Catherine said, sounding shocked. "I mean, can you imagine Bethes or his boys on an arrest?"
"I can't imagine them out of the lab," he complained. "Then again I mostly had to deal with ballistics and some minor DNA to see who licked what thing." He shrugged. "I'm more a hunt and smack 'em guy."
"You know, if they'd let you, Jim's old boss could probably use you," Ryan offered. "Jim's like that too."
"Jim can at least do his own reports now," Ray joked. "Blair made him." That got some smirks at that. He looked at him. "Or New York."
"New York's like the mother land," Ray admitted. "You guys got friends there?"
"Yeah, thanks to that serial case," Ryan agreed. "We had to work with people from Cascade, Las Vegas, Sunnydale, New York, DC's NCIS unit, Chicago, and us. Then most of the other detectives came to us."
"Blair needed a life and so did we," Ray Kowalski quipped, stuffing his mouth. Someone knocked on the door. "What!"
Catherine sighed and grabbed her gun, going to answer the door. "I didn't order anything," she said patiently. The man gave the gun a scared look. "What delivery?"
"Um, donuts, ma'am?" He held them out. She took them and he fled.
"Thank you." She checked the cats, glaring at one until she came back inside. Then she shut the door and brought them over. "Stella's in town." She handed them to Ryan. "Hide those before I eat them." Vecchio looked at her. "I'm kinda a bit diabetic," she complained. "It sucks ass. I miss chocolate."
He patted her back. "You can't be kinda diabetic. It's like being kinda pregnant." He grinned. "Shots?"
"Good." He patted her again. "It'll get better. Let your boy wear the weight off you. He seems strong and fun."
"He is but I'm sweating off more than that and it hasn't fully worked yet." She ate another bite. "He tried to take a muffin from me once," she told him.
Vecchio looked at him. "Were you very brave, very stupid, or just cruel?"
"Stupid," he admitted with a sheepish look. "I learned better."
"Good man. We like you more and more." The phone rang and Ray K got up to answer it, bringing back the phone and putting it on speaker.
"Why are you hiding my kitty sitter," Helena complained. "Nick was very confused by my poor beasts. He doesn't understand cats, but Greg did okay."
"Sorry, dear," Ray Vecchio said, smiling at her. "They sent me down here to protect me. And hey, they sent The Stella down to debrief me."
She snorted. "Wonderful. Kick the bitch once for me, 'kay?"
"Sure," Ryan agreed. "Who?"
"My ex," Ray said dryly, smirking at him. "She's a DA."
"I'm so sorry." He patted him on the hand. "It'll be okay. We'll help you heal."
"He is mostly," Catherine assured him. "So, Helena, how's Vegas?"
"All twinkly lights and some dead people but it's mostly okay. The CSI here keep trying to make me slow down."
"Yeah, I got that too," she sighed. "But I cleared three cases today."
"Congrats. I have to have Grissom sign off on mine before I consider them cleared." She blew something. "Oh, Greggy says hi, Cat."
"She said hi back, Greggy." She listened then laughed. "Ray, Greggy and Nick are coming down to debrief you. Greggy needs more sanity from people like him. He's like some love child between her and Sandburg."
"I like Blair but that'd be one hairy baby," Catherine teased. "And not a blond either." She heard Ryan's growl and kissed him. "It'll never happen. He's too much a player for me, Ryan."
"Thank you. Sorry I was having an insecure moment."
She stroked his cheek and smiled, then moved the cat that hopped into his lap. "Eating, you can't help, Blair." She smiled at Ray. "There was a suggestion he go take Jim's place in Cascade."
"Simon would beg," she said fondly. "Probably for but he'd beg." Ray chuckled at that. "You'd love Simon, Ray. Plus he's protective of his people. Bunches of eco terrorists up there. Lots and lots of woods. Rain. No sunshine hardly ever. But lots of work and Jim was working in Major Crimes."
"They wanted to keep me off the force and I can't deal with computers."
"They didn't. A bit higher than we had but the Miami crew had to send someone to take over their labs like we here did to Chicago's."
"I'm sure Bethes was fond of that."
"Honey, he used it to take notes and start to write for grants for what they needed," Helena assured him. "They got Warrick to help even." She sounded like she was smiling. "You know we've all got to show up for the serial killer trials, right?" They all groaned at that. "So maybe we can introduce you to Simon then, Ray. He's a great guy. Very calm but he yells a bit. So it'll be like having a big, snuggly, chocolate Welsh for you."
"I wouldn't care. I can't do the super computerized stuff they've got down here." Kowalski shuddered. "And the little brother apparently agreed.
"They gave him a touch monitor for a few hours," Catherine told him. "It's now in pieces. They learned not to give him too much technology at once."
"Thankfully he's not in the lab," Ryan teased.
Kowalski turned green. "I'd shoot myself in the head if I was. You guys even have flushless toilets down there."
"Of course, germs are spread that way. Even though we are all the sort to wash our hands, it's still safer."
"He cleans the kitty box for me too," Catherine said proudly. "Plus makes the bed."
"Can I borrow your man, Cat?"
"Nope. Mine! If I die I'll see if I can push you two together from the afterlife, but until then he's mine and I'm possessive. Even if I do have to dress him in leather pants and handcuffs." Ryan gave her an odd look. "What? It'd make sure everyone knew you were mine. I'd put a necklace on you to make sure they knew instead of branding you or something."
Ryan got up to get her glucometer, coming over to check her blood sugar. "Eat more, dear, you're a bit low," he said, giving her a kiss. "You're always a bit low when you're thinking those thoughts."
"Oh, I don't know. I could use a few private moments with that thought, Ryan. Where is the trial being held?" Helena asked.
"Denver," they sighed. "Together at least. So we only have to testify once."
"Sure. Vecchio, you coming?"
"If not I'll watch her cats." That got some nods from everyone. "We were all involved?"
"Not me," Helena said happily. "I was only involved in the arrest portion. Thankfully I handed it to Cat when Sandburg called her and she asked to look at the files. Otherwise they'd still be going."
"Sorry, I was undercover again, so I was only there for the arrest. She and an NCIS team were very good together," Ray offered.
Ryan nodded. "The three main labs all pulled together with Abby from NCIS to do most of the work," he told him. "Everything in Chicago got done by Warrick and sent back to Las Vegas for extrapolation. We sent Speed up to Cascade to take over their labs. New York did some. We did a lot of scenes," he complained.
She stroked his hand. "It'll be over soon," she promised. "Then we're back to normal cases."
"True." He smiled at her. "Normal cases mean you can eat lunch with me too."
"It does," she agreed happily. She took the unsubtle hint and started to eat again. "So, Helena, can you get word back to his Ma that he's fine?"
"I can do that in the morning before I hit the sack," she agreed. "Vecchio, you be safe. I'll talk to Simon, see if he'll send you an email or something."
"Send it regular mail. I don't do email."
"Okay, then we'll see if we can get Blair to put you two together this way or something." She was smiling, you could hear it. "So, Denver?"
"Denver," Cat agreed. "Unless they move it to your city. Chicago said they didn't want it there since it was a risk of violence."
"Hey, maybe we can get it moved to Cascade," she teased. "I'd better go before my cell dies. You guys be good and baby Vecchio so he remembers real life and not assignments. Later, guys." She hung up.
Ray switched it off on their end. "What's with Greg?"
"Greg wants to be the next me, without the issues," Catherine said proudly.
"I think he'd be stunning at it," Ryan agreed. "I can't see him being like Horatio and running a department." He ate another bite then chewed slowly. "Then again, Greg has some odd contacts everywhere."
"Everyone knows Greg," she agreed. She called Simon. "Hey, it's Catherine Demoranth."
"Another one?" he demanded. "We had a copycat already."
"No, not that I'm aware of, but if you want to send it down to me I'll look at it."
"We think we know who. We're waiting for someone to do a DNA analysis of some blood. If you're not calling for that... is there a problem with Jim or Blair?"
"No. Not yet. Though I did get to nearly beat his mother the other day. No, we have a detective who is on protective detail. He's just out from an undercover in the mafia."
"Interesting. Is he coming this way?"
"He's the one who backed up Helena so often, Simon," she said dryly. "He's not real technological so we were thinking your department might be a good fit if he wanted to go back to the life. He's a hunt and smack down sort. Worked Violent Crimes in Chicago."
"Interesting," he said, and he was clearly smirking on his end. The sound of a suck and a puff. "Sorry, my evening treat. I wouldn't mind talking to him. We're still trying to do the reports on the computers but I could use another good detective since I can't get two to take Jim's spot and fulfill his arrest quotas."
"He's a good detective," she promised. "They weren't sure it'd be safe."
He snorted. "The closest we get to mafia around here is some Yakuza. And they're not associating again. So it'll be fine. I promise, kids." The sound of another puff on a cigar. "Anything else coming?"
"The trial's presently scheduled for Denver. Florida, Chicago, and DC all didn't want it in their districts due to the violence issues of family members."
"That does make sense. I'll let anyone here who was involved know, just in case. Tell him to get Sandburg on his vid conference system and we'll talk that way." He hung up.
"Sure," she agreed. "Before you ask, Blair had someone out there use a test system from the college with them. Specifically for this case to be solved. It's a microphone and a camera."
"Oh, okay," Vecchio said, shrugging a bit. What did he know about computer stuff. "Anything else good I should hear? Like maybe weddings and things?"
"Not that I'm aware of," Catherine offered. She looked at Ray. "You're not dating, right?"
"I think he meant you, dumbass," he said fondly, smirking at her.
She shook her head. "Not ready for that yet." She shook her head more quickly. "We've only been dating a few months, Ray."
"Oh." He shrugged. "I had ta try. My mother would've been proud of me."
She grinned. "Did you at least get to keep the wardrobe?"
"I did and he spent a good portion of his day talking to people while shopping. So I have better Armani now," he said proudly. "Plus shoes!" They clapped at that. "So, Cascade's where?"
"Washington. By Mt. Rainier," Catherine told him. He still looked clueless. "Few hours from Seattle."
"Oh. Sure. By the volcanoes?" She nodded. "Anything good about it?"
"You should talk to Jim and Blair. Maybe Speed but Speed'll tell you to put a pagan shrine to the sun gods on your table."
He snickered. "So it's the rainy part of the state." They all nodded. "Rain's nice now and then."
"About thirty inches annually plus snow," Ryan told him.
"So they're really rainy." He nodded and dug in again. "This isn't bad for being from a box. His ex made hers with pepperoni and sausage." He paused eating. "Think I could save his son?"
"Depends on how far into the life he is," Catherine pointed out. "You can have Helena watch out for him." That got a nod and he went back to eating. "You can even have first shower tonight." Someone knocked on the door. "I'm eating!" she yelled.
"Good, you didn't all day," Frank yelled back. She got up and went to let him in, past all the cats because they all liked him for some reason. Which was odd because Frank didn't like cats. He walked in and led the person with him in. "She was looking for you."
"That's ADA Kowalski. Stan's ex. Can I hit her?" she asked.
"Um, no. Wouldn't look good, Sergeant." He smirked and handed her over. "So, you're...." he said, looking at the last guy.
"Vecchio," he said with a wave. "We've been talking about some cities where I'd feel a bit more comfortable if I decided to go back to being a cop."
"It's much too dangerous," Stella said firmly. "They wanted to put you in witness protection, Ray."
He looked at her. "Yay." He shrugged. "Not like I can go fishing for the rest of my life. I'd rather be doing something. Besides, I'm not going anywhere near Vegas or any mafia- centers." He wiped his mouth and got up. "Let's take this away from the table, Stella. What did you need to know?"
"First, did you decide that I'm sharing information with Las Vegas?"
"No, I decided I am," he said firmly. She snorted and shook her head. "Yes, I am. They've got people still out there that they can catch. So yeah, I'm givin' 'em stuff."
"That's not right, Ray, and you know it."
"Shut up." She looked stunned. "Anything else? If not, go home."
"She's a bitch because I'm here, Ray," Kowalski said, standing up and kissing Catherine on the forehead. "Call me if you do get to take a shot at her," he whispered, heading out with a nod at Frank.
Ryan looked at Catherine. "You didn't eat lunch?"
"Not like she needs it," Stella sneered.
"Actually, I have to eat since I'm now diabetic," she said, staring at her. The woman backed up. "You're in my house at the moment. Be more polite before I eject you the hard way." She backed off another step. "Ya know what? Frank, can Ray come in tomorrow for debriefing? I'm sure by then the Vegas guys will be down."
"They will be here early tomorrow. We can tape everything for them in case the other case gets tanked," he assured her. "Can I recommend you to a good hotel, ADA Kowalski?" She stomped off. "I'm guessing that's a no." He shook his head. "Stan married that?"
"Yeah. In love with her since they were thirteen," Catherine told him. "Stan wanted kids if his caseload ever straightened out. You notice it never did?" He just nodded at that. "Her ambition versus his job. Doesn't work well." She shrugged. "It happens. We got anything else coming up?"
"Not yet but the Chief is not happy if we have to go to Denver for this case."
"Could be worse, we could be going to Cascade," Ryan said with a grin.
"Ehh, the scary twins would start praying for sun again," he said, shaking his head. "Ray, tomorrow, have one of these yahoos in my precinct drive you in. We've got places without too many windows."
"Welcome." He grinned. "Where are they trying to get you to go?"
"Filling in for Jim."
"Ahhh." He nodded. "Cascade's pretty laid back and a nice city, but a bit too much coffee from what I heard." He shrugged. "Have a good night, and no, Ryan, she didn't eat lunch." He walked out grinning.
"I thought my mother fussed," Ray said dryly, smirking at her.
"They all think they have fussing rights and I'm too nice to tell them to stop it most of the time."
"Sure, I get that." He sat down and dished up more. "Think Stan'll be back?"
"Nope." She got seconds with a wink at Ryan. "We'll try not to keep you up tonight."
"Thanks, Cat." He gave her a knowing look. "I'll play with the cats."
"Just don't yell out Stella's name. Hell, yell out the Mountie's. I thought he'd go well with Yelina, one of our coworkers."
"Don't do that to me," he complained.
"You know, if I remember right, Cascade did have an outpost because the border's only a few hours away," Ryan offered with a bright grin.
"Benny might like that." He dug in even though he was having bad thoughts. "I doubt the new boss would like that."
"Why not? Ellison had an anthropologist following him around to help him," Catherine said dryly.
"Huh. So they'd be used ta someone like Benny. Good ta know." He ate another bite, not wanting to let that thought sit for too long. Otherwise he might get stuck. The couple cleaned up around him and left him eating, which was fine with him. He was used to it at home too. They locked themselves in the bedroom, pissing off the cats, who came to him for attention instead. "Yeah, we love you guys," he promised, reaching down to pet them.
Horatio watched this new lawyer in his territory, deciding within minutes she'd probably end up getting someone dead since she was loud and nagging the poor detective about something in the open. Using his name no less. Not the way he'd hide someone. He looked at Ray, who rolled his eyes. "The Las Vegas criminialists are on their way over," he offered as he joined them. "Did you want to answer all the questions at once?"
"Sure. Better that than an all-day statement going over the same points over and over."
"Of course. We have an unused office that has one window and closed blinds. It's on the monitored and patrolled side of the building." That got a smile and a nod. "I figured it might be a consideration. We don't often run into the Old Worlde mafia here in Miami. The Russians, the South and Central American families, but not usually the oldest of the old families. Except as retirees."
"It's a pretty city when you're ready to retire but I'm not."
"I understand and I can put you on with Simon later." That got a smirk. "Ray told me it had been suggested. Plus Detective Ellison is from there so he can tell you about the department and the city."
"Not a problem, Vecchio. This way." He walked him off and the lawyer shrieked and stomped after them. "As I told him, since you were nagging someone else, I'm putting and the criminalists from Las Vegas into an unused office. One with only one window and it's closed. It's also on the side of the building where the patrol officers are usually found. It's the safest place in the building outside the morgue."
"Does yours play opera?"
"Alexx doesn't prefer music when she does them," he admitted, smirking at him. "But she will mother the whole of my team if I let her."
Ray smiled at that. "That I'm used to. My Ma's an Italian mother from the old school. There's no such thing as a hungry person in her house." That got a smile. "Did word get back to her?"
"Ask Stan. He'd know. I know he called your sister at work." That got a relaxed man and a nod. "It'll be fine, Detective. If they have to, they can follow wherever you end up. After all, leaving them there would mean they'd be excellent as bait," he said when Stella opened her mouth. She shut it with a click of teeth. He checked the room then let them inside, smiling at the two setting up a video camera and tape recorder in there. "This is Level Three CSI Stokes and Level One CSI Sanders from Las Vegas."
"I know the younger one."
"Sir," Greg said, grinning at him. "I can be here or not, whichever you want. If not, I'm going to help Catherine so I can be the her of my generation." Horatio snickered at that. "I can be!"
"They were saying you were like a kid between her and Sandburg," Vecchio admitted. Horatio choked on that image. "Sorry."
"I wouldn't be quite so blond and my grandfather would be really upset if Naomi was his daughter but I wouldn't have minded. Can I, Lieutenant?"
"Go ahead, Greg. If Nick doesn't need you."
"No, he's done." He rolled his eyes. "Grissom said I had to bring him. Something about making him calm down again."
"If we need him on a case I'll set him with Eric," Horatio promised. "Need anything equipment wise from us?"
"No, I think we've got it. Detective, go ahead and take the spot behind the desk. We've got a nice couch and this way you don't have to look like you're watching tennis." He sat down and grabbed the new notebook and pens he had brought in. He clicked on the remotes. "There you go. This is the first interview with Detective Raymond Vecchio, formerly of Chicago's twenty-seventh precinct. In the room is Assistant District Attorney Stella Kowalski and myself, CSI Stokes out of Las Vegas." Horatio smiled and left them alone, closing the door behind him. "Now, Detective, let's start with the basics she probably already knows, just in case it becomes relevant. How did you get into this assignment?"
"Armando Lagostini died and I'm a dead ringer. I was told it was a car accident but later someone said something that countered that. Something about a plan?"
Nick made a note on that, looking at that file. "By our files, someone shot out his tire and it forced his car off the road," he said, looking at him. "The bullet didn't match any in the system. Who approached you?"
"Two FBI agents. I was at my home precinct."
Greg snuck up behind Catherine but Yelina glared at him. "I'm allowed to pounce," he said with a pout. "I'm going to be her in the next generation." Catherine smiled back at him. "So I'm here to learn at your knee, Great One," he offered, sitting beside her with his back against the drawers on her desk. "Teach me?"
"Sure, Greggy. What did you want to know?" Her phone rang. "Demoranth?" She blinked. "Sure, I'm up for that as long as it's not a horrible hike, Speed." She nodded. "I'll be there with Greggy." She hung up and got up, hauling him up. Her gun was put back on and she walked out with him. "We're taking the pimpmobile so people can quit avoiding my parking spot again," she announced. She heard the laugh from one guy but most of the department did ignore her car on purpose. She led him out to it and got him into it, heading off after wherever Speed was. She called him back. "Where am I heading?" She nodded, typing that address into her new map system. The city had let her and Ray borrow one. "Gotcha. It says thirty minutes. No, I'm with Greggy. Because he wants to be me, Speed." She hung up and backed out, heading up there. "Cults or otherwise?"
"That's a good place to start. We don't have one of those and it's an area that does come up now and then." She nodded, smiling at that bit of reasoning. "So, how do you start learning about cults?"
"I started in class. I can give you books and classes to take."
"I'd like that." He gave her arm a hug. "They want me to calm down and be like Nick again."
"I'm so sorry, Greggy. It's okay. Helena will help you."
"She is but Brass agrees with Grissom."
She snorted. "The best CSI are always strong individualists. Just look at Horatio." He smiled and let her go, letting her change corners and head out toward the edge of town. "We're hitting the middle of nowhere. Get into my PDA." He found it in the glovebox and got into it. "Find the file that says 'recommended reading list' and study that. Then start by taking Social Psychology and Group Sociology."
"Okay." He settled in to read what she had ordered him to. "I've seen a few of these at the bookstore."
"I'll print it off when we get back."
"Cool. Thank you."
"Welcome." She smiled at him. "Start thinking about a second degree, Greg. Psych, soc, or anthro. Pick one and think about a dual Ph.D."
"That's a lot of work."
"You probably have enough to get into a Master's program," she offered.
"I have a master's in biochem and genetics."
"Congrats. If you're serious about this, you might as well go for the paperwork. The difference is only a few classes."
"How close are you to a Masters?"
"I'm not sure. I've taken classes here and there for continuing education. I've never went for the expensive papers." She shrugged. "I should probably see."
"You could. What's this I hear you're a sergeant?"
"I was given a rank raise the day after I signed on," she said proudly, making another turn. She paused at the sight of the crime scene hummer, finding it being Ryan. "Does this have to do with Speed's scene?" He shook his head. "Okay." She went on. "Thought I'd check just to make sure." She went on, still heading for the edge of town. "If you go for the expensive paper and you tell your advisor why you're going, you can use whatever of those books you don't get in classes as book reports and things."
"Do you have any of them?"
"I have most of them still. You can borrow and what I don't have Blair might." He smiled at that. "Find what makes you happy, Greg."
"I thought the lab did but I wasn't as happy then."
"Are you happy now?"
"See, I'm not sure. Now and then I am."
"You're never going to be totally happy, Greg. No one is. The lucky humans get twenty or thirty percent happiness."
"I'm at ten at the moment," he admitted, going back to the book list. At the end were class suggestions. "Did you make this out for me?"
"Blair. He was thinking about moving that way."
"With his education it could help," he agreed. He glanced at her. "I'm always upset when I get sent back to the lab."
"Greg, is it that you're being sent back or that you're in the lab?"
"I don't know. I had more fun before," he admitted. "Cute games with results and things."
"I heard. It could be you're not matching well with your department."
"Grissom and the others put up with me."
She snickered. "I feel that way some days." She parked beside the other hummer when her map machine said she was there. "Okay. Now we hike." He turned off the PDA and followed her up the small hill to find Speed and his body inside the tree. "Who called this one in?"
"Two kids who were trying to carve their name. They thought it was a funny knot," Speed told them. "Until blood came out."
They looked at the body. "I'm surprised any blood could."
"It's the bit that's always left in the tissue," he admitted. Catherine spit on her napkin in her pocket and wiped at the 'bark' removing it. "Makeup?"
"Or a very thin coat of bark," she offered, handing it to him. He smiled and put it into a bag with a label. "Sorry about the spit."
"I won't run a DNA sample on it." They let her go talk to the kids while he and Greg got the scene done, waiting for the ME.
Alexx came panting up the hill. "Can't they put the body into a mall or something?" she complained.
"Not this time, Alexx," Greg said with a grin. "I'm down to help Catherine."
"That's fine, Greg. I've heard good things about your work." She looked at the body. "Tell me I don't have to wait while you cut down that tree." Greg cut the ties he had found and Speed cut his, then they moved the body. Then they got to work taking more pictures of the newly exposed areas and bagging the ties. "Uh-huh. Is that makeup?"
"Catherine thinks so."
She sighed and pulled out a wet wipe to wipe at his forehead. "It's got small pieces of bark in it."
"It looks like stage makeup," she called from where she was talking to the teenagers.
"I want to be that smart," Greg told Speed.
"Some of it's experience, Greg. You're still in your rookie year in the field. It'll get better."
"I hope so because half the time I feel like I'm speaking a different language than the other guys on my team."
"Even I get that now and then," Speed promised, giving him a look. "What did you do this time?"
"I have no clue. I had an idea and it worked out and it solved a case and suddenly I'm the bastard stepchild of the lab for some reason. It's not like it included a member of the staff or another cop. I'm stumped and I can't play anymore."
"Sorry. You don't often get to fire nerf rockets in the field."
"No but I did and it solved that case," he told him. Speed moaned and shook his head. "Can I have your boss smack mine around?"
"Sure, ask him." He shrugged. "Horatio makes a decent marriage counselor." Alexx nodded at that. "So, Alexx, got any ideas?"
"Not while he looks like a tree."
"She," Speed said. Alexx shook her head and Speed moved a bit of her clothes, showing the female pubic area. And that she was originally a pretty pale girl with brown hair. "Special processing?"
"Uh-huh. That way we can remove the makeup or bark or whatever." She got the body bundled up and Greg helped the handlers get her down to the van so she could go back to work. By the time she got back to work, Horatio was waiting on her. "Sorry, had to get the tree."
"Tree?" he asked. She pointed at the body and he unzipped it. "Tree. Where was it?"
"Overlook Point. Leaning against a tree. Speed and Catherine got the case with Greg."
"I knew he was going to help her."
She looked at him. "What are they doing to him?"
"I'm not sure what you mean."
"He said he feels like the bastard stepchild again. Apparently something with nerf rockets closed a case? Now they don't like him?"
"I'll talk to him when he gets back, Alexx." He patted her on the back. "Do you have a report on my case?" She handed it over, letting him read through it. "What was it?"
"Choked on this," she said, holding up the bag that was on top of it. He took it to look at. "I have no idea what it is. It's covered in something that could be peanut butter but it's what choked her and then the others came to beat on her."
"So she was dead when they entered her dorm room? They thought it was part of the supposed play they're saying this was all part of?"
"The stabbing and beatings were all postmortem. We've got some brilliant future leaders of the world there, Horatio."
He smiled. "I'm only bothered by the smart ones, Alexx. They try to lie to me." He walked off with the evidence, dropping it in Trace for someone to deal with.
Greg walked back in with Speed, happy and chatting. "So your really think so?"
"I do." He nodded at Nick. "Someone made up our victim to look like a tree."
"Good luck. Where's Catherine?"
"Car. Testing her blood sugar," Greg told him. "It's nearly lunch and she's got to eat. I'm eating with her unless you need me?"
"No, go ahead." Greg smiled and headed off with Speed to log in evidence. Catherine came in. "I need your files on the Pietro homicide two years ago."
"Why was I involved?"
"Because it was a sex rite thingy."
"Oh." She got into her PDA once she was back at her desk, accessing the list. "I don't have it in my index. Was Vecchio certain I was part of that one?"
"He thinks they would have called you because they carved stuff on her."
"Unless it was totally unrecognizable they didn't call from Sex Crimes or Homicide. Symbols yes, words no." He sighed. "You might ask Helena. She went into homicide." He smiled and called her, getting one grumpy woman. She found her lunch and went to the break room to eat with Yelina and Frank. "Am I interrupting?"
"No, come eat," Yelina said, smiling at her. "So, you're sitting the lieutenant's exam in three days?" She moaned and nodded. "Studied the book?"
"It's the same thing as the others," she pointed out.
"Not always," Tripp warned.
"The rest is common sense and codes, Frank."
"True." He dug into his leftovers. "Where's your shadow?"
"I think Greg's going to find he'll be casting shadows soon," she said with a fond smile.
"I meant Wolfe," he teased.
"Working. He was still on a scene when we drove past."
"At least you can make sure he doesn't nag," Yelina said with a smile. Greg peeked in. "Come here, Gregory." He trotted in and she gave him a hug. "There. Now, get something and eat. You need to eat."
"Yes, Yelina." He sat down next to Catherine once he had a sandwich out of the machine, nibbling it. "You really think I'll be casting my own shadow?"
"Cool." He ate another bite. "Bigger than Grissom's?"
"Depends on how well known your shadow becomes."
"Point." He ate another bite. "Do you think I'd like the profiling stuff?"
"Up to you, Greg. I don't read minds."
"True." He ate more heartily, thinking about it. Nick came in and he nodded. "How's it going?"
"Good. The lawyer is not a happy cooperator but it's okay. Anything really good in the machines?" They all pointed at one shelf and he smiled, getting two, taking one back to Ray once they were warm. "Here you go, Detective. It's been a while since breakfast."
"Welcome." He settled in again, checking to make sure the tapes were both off since they were on break. "So, did you work with Helena?" he asked before taking a bite.
Ray nodded while he chewed. "A few times. Both before and after she got her badge back." He smirked. "She running you guys ragged?"
"She's got the idea that machines are instant answer machines. You show it the sample and it spits out an answer without even slide prep." He ate another bite.
Ray considered it. "Kid, we never used a machine. If we used a machine it was either motive or a weapon." Nick's jaw dropped at that. "Helena's very much a technical person, but that wasn't how Chicago worked. Our lab was lab staff. White coats, glasses. All of it. If we had to see them, we went and paced until they sighed and put our stuff first. Our geeks must've nearly died when they saw yours go into the field. Ours were like mice processing scenes. We stepped on a tail and got a squeaked answer that ended in 'Detective'." He sipped the water he had gotten earlier. "The very fact you guys carry guns, and are expected to use them probably mystified ours. She's used to mechanical geeks who squeaked answers like 'it does this' without a name given for what the machine was. Most of Chicago's detectives aren't interested in what the machine is, it's what it does and 'can it help me clear another file'."
"You're very end zone oriented," Nick offered.
"Exactly. In Violent Crimes, half my time was spent filling in paperwork from the patrol guys. We knew who did it but we had to backtrack to find the evidence to hold them." Nick nodded slowly at that. "About a quarter of all our cases were robberies of some sort. Stickups mostly. We were the catch-all department. If Robbery, homicide, or SVU didn't want it, we got it. Or it was multi-department." He ate another bite and thought. "Almost every scene I went out on had some sort of robbery to it. Most usually with a gun involved. I'd question, we'd get a decent description, the patrol guys would hunt for us. Or we'd hunt if we had time. Our patrol guys did about half their own bookings." That got a nod. "We didn't much deal with our labs except about fingerprints, ballistics, and the occasional DNA sample. Homicide did about the same. Now, don't discount Helena," he warned but he was smirking. "There's no telling what that girl has learned off Lupin's cadre of scientists he's got on retainer. Lupin's not a gadget guy but he does have a good handle on things like latex technology. I'd be really shocked if she hadn't learned anything from them or his chemists."
"He might have one of us too, huh?" Vecchio smirked and nodded at that, stuffing his mouth again. "So she's just impatient?"
"Probably. Violent Crimes and Vice were both packmule departments. That's more Catherine's reason or Ray's. Then again, Kowalski is bouncy and nervous all the time," he admitted. "Helena's probably waiting for the release of the rest of the cases to come her way."
"But we've never babied her or given her the lesser caseload," Nick told him, looking confused. "How many people were in her old department?"
"Probably eight. Last time I remember there were eight. They had singles and working partners, depending on the case. The last year I knew we had a few hundred homicides and about half go through them." He smirked. "She was a bit bored there now and then too."
"So she's just bored?"
"That and you're pokey. Helena's trained to be a woman of action. Sitting at a desk annoys her and she'll stomp off in a horrible temper when you make her sit at her desk. The last time someone made her do it she called Jigen and complained. She made sure he wouldn't come shoot anyone for her." He grinned. "So you're just too lab and thinking oriented. She's action oriented. Give her a door to kick in and she'll do it. She'll complain later about the sore ankles or knees, but she's happier there."
"I've seen that one," he admitted with a grin.
"One last thing. Zenigata and she are great convention buddies and best friends. He introduced her to Japanese style karaoke."
"I've noticed. She was helping us interview some Japanese businessmen who got trick rolled. None of the rest of us could understand what she was saying."
"She doesn't speak Japanese."
Nick sat up. "That's Lupin, isn't it?" Ray grinned. "How can he do that?"
"He's a master of disguise. I know a few times he's gotten so good Catherine couldn't tell even with a grope and a kiss." He ate his last bite while Nick called out there.
"Grissom, it's Nick. No, not a problem, but you might want to talk to Helena tonight and see if it's really her and not Lupin. I have no idea, boss."
Catherine walked in and handed over her phone. "She got kidnaped while she and Jigen were having sex in Paris by one of Lupin's enemies. She'll be back in a few days. That's Fujiko, not Lupin. He sent her as a place holder." She kissed Ray on his expanding forehead then walked off again. "Eat more than that, Ray. Before I use my phone to call your mother."
He snatched her phone and called home. "Ma?" He grinned. "Hi, Ma. I'm fine. No, I'm still in hiding. Right now I'm in Miami but we're working on it. Yup, when they get me settled I'll send for you guys. Thanks, Ma. No, I'm eating lunch. This is .... remember the one I cat sat for with all the books? It's her phone. CE Dalton? Not a clue, Ma. I'll ask. Yeah, we're figuring it out, Ma. Thanks, Ma." He smiled. "Love you too and make Frannie behave. Sure. I'll tell her. Thanks." He hung up and leaned back, more content now. Nick hung up too. "Tell Helena to eat more often. My mother said she was too skinny if she could still fit into the skin tight leathers she wears now and then."
"How do you tell them apart?"
"Helena was never a dick tease. Fujiko is all about the tease and the snatch. What she can get for it. I want her to go after someone like Sam Braun some day," he said smugly. "Just to see who'd win."
"Brass is not happy."
"Helena had nothing to do with it," he promised. "This would've been an executive decision by Lupin. Backed up by Jigen with Goemon countering that it could get her in trouble." He nodded at that. "Still not her fault. Blame Lupin."
"Some days I'd like to smack him."
"I saw him earlier. Unless Wolfe suddenly swaggers?"
"Crap." He hopped up and went to find Horatio, finding him in the lab watching him. "Ray Vecchio thinks that's Lupin."
"It figures." He walked down there, closing the door. Something was handed over and then the 'CSI' walked out, still swaggering. "Lupin." The figure kept going. "I know about Helena."
"She's fine. We just got her two hours ago. She's got a small graze, a few bruises, and the person who did it is very sorry," he assured him with his normal voice. "I can see why Kitten-Kat likes this guy." He giggled and ran off. Nick ran after him but lost him since he wasn't familiar with the building.
Catherine looked up from her paperwork. "Lupin, quit looking like him. Be someone else," she snapped. "No more mind games."
"Fine, take my fun," he pouted, but finished hurrying off when Frank tried to grab him. "I can see why you like him."
"I'm so going to send him someone with herpes for his birthday," Catherine complained, getting back to work. Frank stomped back. "Don't look at me. They were off rescuing Helena from someone who stole her from her nookie in Paris." She waved a hand. "Ryan was with Jessup last I knew. He said it'd be a few more hours before he got done with his scene since it's in such a painful area."
"Hell," he muttered, stomping off. He called Horatio, who went to check and see what he had been doing. He got a report back a few minutes later. "He knows how to process stuff?" he called.
"He's got three chemists, a latex maker, and a few other random scientists on the payroll. It wouldn't surprise me," she called back absently. "Watch for him to hire Greggy. He's the sort he'd like."
Frank dialed Horatio again to complain to him. She walked over and handed over something. "What's this?"
"Off the Lupin Organization website, Frank. Everyone's online these days. Abby found it." She went back to her desk.
He stared so long Horatio came to see why he wasn't answering him verbally. He took the papers and nodded. "I know him. We fired him a few years back. We had wondered where he went." He went to tell Speed. He coughed from the doorway. "Remember Richard?"
"Twerp boy? Yeah. Why?"
"He's working for Lupin the Third."
Speed snatched the paper, looking it over. "I'll be damned."
"That's what I was thinking," he agreed smugly. "They've just rescued Helena." Nick hung up and walked up to him. "That clear things up?"
"It did. At least Fujiko's taking good care of her cats."
"Of course she is," Greg said from behind them. "She's scared to death that Helena is the one person who can break Lupin free of her influence. Helena's the one knot in her plans for world domination. The fact that *Jigen* took up with a cop gave her headaches for years. They've always been at odds but Fujiko knows that if she hurts her cats all bets are off and Fujiko will be on the bottom side of a casket with a black rose in her hand." He grinned at the stunned looks. "You guys didn't know that wasn't Helena?" He giggled at Nick's head shake. "Helena never teases Brass like that, only Sophia. Plus she was talking about the Oktoberfest celebration and this new one hasn't. Plus, hey, bigger chest on Fujiko. I was kinda hoping Lupin would sic her on Braun if Helena asked."
"Vecchio said the same thing," Nick said grimly. "When did you know?"
"The day she got back. Helena fills out those faded blue jeans of hers but not like that. Or that black shirt with the ties up the front. Vastly different measurements." He walked off grinning.
"We hate it when you're smug," Nick called after him.
"No, you hate it when I'm right, Nick. Have for a few months now. Just like with the nerf stuff."
"See, bragging," he complained.
Greg turned to look at him. "I mentioned it for the first time in three weeks. The last time I was going over my testimony in the locker room and you and Warrick called it the same thing. So let me know when I'm allowed to be right and actually solve cases, okay? That way I'm not stepping on yours or Sarah's toes." He walked off again. "I'm going to go back to helping Catherine again."
"Come analyze this paint," Speed called from Trace.
"Sure." He went that way, going to do that for him.
"I swear, Helena's warping him," Nick complained.
Horatio patted him on the back. "Don't make me smack you." Nick looked stunned. "You should be proud that your trainee is good, Nick. That's what he's supposed to be. He's supposed to be good at what he does and solve cases. If you keep putting him down, he won't be able to for Las Vegas any longer."
"You think he'll leave?"
"Chicago's building a whole new lab," Greg called. "So's Cascade. I've got standing offers in Cascade as both sorts of tech and as a field tech in Chicago. The guys in Cascade even liked the games."
"Crap," he muttered, walking off. "I'll get back to the interview in a few minutes, Horatio."
"That's fine, ADA Kowalski hasn't come back yet either." He went to talk to Greg. "It's not very professional to have that discussion in a hallway, Greg. Especially not in a lab you're visiting."
"I'm sorry, Horatio. I snapped and couldn't take it anymore." He looked at him. "It's like I'm the bastard stepchild of their lab. I'm about to move to Cascade."
"They'd miss you."
"I know. You only realize what you have when you don't have it. That's why next week I'm going on sabbatical to Cascade. If my six weeks up there works out, I'm staying. If not, I'll go back to Vegas or Chicago." That got a smile. "Not like they'll care and Cascade is offering tuition reimbursement plus a better salary. Plus a fresh and new lab staff. And hey, I could wear my hair any way I wanted to." Speed nudged him and handed him a card. "What's this?"
"The place I stayed. Cheap and decent."
"Thanks." He tucked it into his wallet with a grin. "Grissom knows I'm going on sabbatical and I'm sure he knows why. The ball's in their court." He got back to work. "She's right, this is textured stage makeup. Like what they use in high school plays."
"What's the texture?"
"Tree bark." He tested a sample he cleaned off with sterile water against the bark they had gathered from the tree. It came back a match. "Interesting."
"Very," Speed agreed. "The spot behind her had been newly hollowed out." He considered it. "Think she's an eco-person or think she was cutting down the tree?"
"I don't know. She's in the right age for one of them." They shared a look. "Let's let Catherine find out her life. If we have an ID?"
"Fingerprints. New licenses have fingerprints now." He printed off her ID. "Go give this to Cat?"
"Sure." He grinned and went to talk to her. He found her napping. "Catherine?" he called quietly. He frowned when she didn't wake up, testing her neck. "Catherine?" He gave her a nudge on the shoulder. She moaned but didn't wake up. "Frank!" He popped out of his cubicle. "Come here? She's not waking up."
He came over after making a phone call. He patted her face and she moaned again. "Find her sugar monitor?" Greg found it and used it for her, making him wince. "Call the paramedics, her sugar's too low," he called. Someone went running to do that while another person got Alexx. She came rushing up. "Her sugar's down at fifty-one," he offered quietly. "She always takes a pill after lunch."
"She's supposed to," she agreed. She came in to check her over, finding her passed out. "Let's get her onto the floor, guys." They did that for her and she checked it again. "It's falling. Do we have any glucose drops or anything?"
Greg used the button on the phone marked 'Ryan'. "Cat's blood sugar plummeted. Does she have glucose drops?" He smiled. "Thanks." He hung up and found them in the drawer he mentioned, handing it over. "Here. It'll melt in her mouth so she won't choke." Alexx smiled at him. "Had a dormmate who was." She put the jelly coated, soft centered fruit juice drop under her tongue and lifted her head up so it wouldn't fall back and choke her. Catherine started to come back around by the time the paramedics got there. "Her blood sugar plummeted."
"It happens to the best of us," the paramedic said, getting down to check it again. He nodded. "Sixty's not bad."
"She was at fifty-two," Alexx said. "I gave her one of these," she said, handing over the bag.
"Those are great. Made locally." He made a note. "Any flavor in case they have to do a breath test?"
"Orange," she said. He nodded and noted it down. "Her medical contact is either Horatio or Ryan Wolfe."
"I have authorization to treat," Ray said as he stomped over. "Ryan doesn't yet. I have forever." He looked at her then got her pills out. "She takes one of those with lunch." That got a nod. "Any idea what she ate?"
"Sandwich," Greg said. "I snatched a few of her chips." That got a nod. "Water."
"That's fine," the paramedics agreed, loading her to take her. "Riding or following, Detective?"
"Riding. If she wakes up suddenly she'll smack the shit outta someone." That got a nod and he went with them. "Later, boss."
"That's fine, let us know," Frank called after him. He helped Alexx up off the floor. "She'll be okay?"
"Just fine. It happens a lot in your first year." She stroked his cheek. "She'll be just fine, Frank."
"Good. Thanks, Greg."
"Not an issue. The glucose drops taste nasty according to my former roommate." Alexx smiled and patted him on the cheek. "Walk you back that way since she can't check the kid's background?"
"Sure, Greggy." She walked him back there, going to leave him at Trace. She went back to the morgue to finish her autopsy and talk to her body.
Greg walked in. "Catherine will have to do it when she comes back."
"Why did she leave?"
"The paramedics said so." Speed tensed up. "Her sugar dropped down to fifty-two. She was rather unconscious."
"Not enough starch at lunch probably. Needed more chips or a soda. I only snitched three."
"No, that wouldn't have mattered." He took that report back. "So she'll have something to do tomorrow. She'll be back tomorrow?"
"She might be back as soon as a few hours from now. When they've got her sugar straightened out and up where it should be. They'll watch her for a few hours then they'll probably send her home."
"Good. Horatio?" He leaned in. "She's okay?"
"She's fine, Speed. It happens. She was starting to go back up when they took her."
"Good." That got a smile. "Anything else?"
"You just want to see the tree," he taunted.
"It is unusual." Greg handed over a picture, making him smile. "It was a good makeup job."
"It was and I just thought of another way. What if she did it to herself to sit up there and catch someone?"
"To make sure she didn't shift too much?"
"We'll see," Speed agreed, turning to the computer to start the background that they could do down there.
"Good work, Greg." He smiled at that. "Nerf rockets?"
"Yeah, someone put a poisoned toothpick on the end of one and shot it at someone. They died and no one could figure out how she got poisoned. We found the small hole that was too big for a needle and too small for a stab wound with a perfectly round bruise behind it that wasn't a very deep bruise."
"Some of the nerf shooters can go pretty hard," Speed agreed.
"This one had been rigged to use pellet rifle compressed air canisters." Speed moaned. "All he had to do was puncture the skin and he did. I'm the one who realized what made a perfect circle like that. It was kinda neat setting up the demonstration on the pig."
"I bet," Speed agreed with a grin. "A bit of playing in the lab."
"Legally without being yelled at more than a 'why are we doing this, Greg' from Grissom," he said proudly. "Then I turned and shot one at Grissom when he said it wasn't going to bruise. Same distance he would've used. An hour later we found the small, perfectly round bruise and he had to agree I had been right. They found the gun under the kid's bed. She had dissed his best friend, who he said deserved the best girls. Instead of him who got all the skanky hos, his words."
Horatio smirked at that. "It's a true friend who will kill for you."
"He's going to claim mental issues but that took some brains. The poison wasn't a common one and it was fast degrading. Something from Central America. Grissom thought it was spider or snake venom but it was a plant venom and we found them too in his room. It took him almost a month to figure out what he was doing."
"What about this case?"
"Earlier we were thinking it was she was an environmental person and someone was making a point. Or she was the one who was cutting into the tree and they put her there to make a point. But it could be that she did the makeup job on herself so she could watch someone. Most people doing it afterward wouldn't do eyelids that deeply. Would they?"
"Probably not and they've had missed spots," Speed agreed. "Or it might have smeared with redressing or dragging. That still wouldn't explain the ties holding her up."
"That could've been to make sure she stayed still. Or in case she slept so she didn't slump."
"Fingerprints didn't find anything on them," Speed noted, considering it. "We need to see what killed her." They nodded and went to the morgue to talk to Alexx.
Horatio shook his head at the picture those two made. It was good that Greg had some confidence in his work. He went to check on Ray and Nick, and still no Stella. He went to talk to the receptionist and the officers on guard duty. Nothing. So he had her paged and still nothing. He went to check her car - the one with the temporary sticker from the rental agency - finding it still in the parking lot. He tried her cellphone and heard it going off in the car. He looked. Her briefcase was inside. That was not a good sign. He looked around and found one guard shrugging at him. "You." The guy grinned. "What happened?"
"Some guy in a van. She was ranting about Vecchio, Lieutenant. How's Catherine?"
"Her blood sugar dropped."
"It happens. Her meds are too strong anyway. They took an atypical day to gauge it." He came over and pointed. "He skidded there and left. Blue panel van, no windows in the back or on the back doors." Horatio nodded. "Sorry, didn't catch the plate. Not that we like her. She accused Cat of sleeping with Stan. On his birthday. When she had slept with her boss the night before." Horatio moaned. "So no, not like we like her. By the way, did Richard always have that ego problem?"
"That's what got him fired."
"I need a better CSI on my team." He walked off humming.
"Do not take a cruiser," he muttered when Lupin passed him by.
"Of course not and this guy's in the closet in the bathroom." He winked.
Horatio went jogging inside to find him, finding him tied up with his undershirt in his mouth like a gag. He called security and sent them after Lupin. He hated that man! He also put out an APB for the blue panel van and ADA Kowalski.
Ray walked up to where Frank was packing up for the end of the day. "Any word on Stella yet?"
"Not yet," he admitted, giving him a look. "We haven't gotten a ransom or anything yet. I checked with Chicago and they haven't either." Ray frowned at that. "I did ask them to send down a case list so we could see if any of them had been released down here." He handed it over. Ray looked it over then starred a few and handed it back. "How far back can you go?"
"Up until we left Chicago," he said grimly. "She's my ex and I hate her, but I don't want her dead, I want 'er back," he complained. "Whenever I was free I stalked her and I paid attention to the papers when I was on the job."
"Then you can hopefully help some." He looked at him. "Horatio has it personally, Ray. Let us do what we do best."
Ray nodded and walked off, going outside to call from his car. He looked at his phone then called. "It's Kowalski, Goemon. Can I be kept in the loop if you guys hear anything about Stella? No, Lupin saw her be snatched." He held his head when the phone was handed over. "Please, just keep me in the loop? I know it's pitiful. I want her back," he complained. He sighed and nodded. "Anything we can do?" He nodded at that, making a mental note. "Thanks, man. No, just let me know if you can. Thanks." He hung up and got out, going to hunt down Greg, finding him with Speed. "Call home. Stella was brought out there." Greg pulled out his phone to do that. "He said to keep Junior out of it."
"I heard," Greg agreed, looking at him. "They're interrogating or otherwise?"
"Interrogating at the moment. She's done some of the mob trials in Chicago as well."
That got some nods from Greg, who walked off to talk to his boss and Brass. "Brass, Greg. Can you get Grissom into this? Because an ADA out of Chicago who's down here questioning Vecchio with Nick and I got snatched from the local precinct. No, her ex is Stan Kowalski. I'm assuming here but since it's his ex he probably begged for a favor from some of Helena's friends. He got told she's out there being interrogated. She had done some of the mob trials out of Chicago. Yeah, Stella Kowalski. About two today. Horatio does. Thanks. Call me and I'll let him know," he promised. "No, Nick did that so I'm helping Speed and getting ready to baby Catherine. Her pills were too strong and she passed out earlier. She's just now come back from the ER and is doing paperwork. Yeah, I'm going with her tonight if Ryan doesn't and even if he does so I can beg dinner. Thanks, Brass." He hung up and turned, finding Ryan there. "Do you mind if I baby her while learning from beside her feet?"
"Not an issue. She won't let me baby her."
Greg grinned. "The secret to that is to make Throttle nag her until she gives up," he said proudly. "He said so."
"Why does he get to nag her into it?"
"Because he's the sort to pick her up and carry her back to bed a few times," he admitted. "He told me she had the flu a few years back and he and Modo spent the whole week carrying her back to bed from trying to go to work. Couldn't stand, couldn't keep anything down for nearly the whole week, but the woman was going to go to work."
Ryan smiled at that. "I knew she was a strong woman. Sure, you can help." He went to talk to Horatio, who glared at Greg, bringing him. "He's going to help me baby my girl.'
"That's fine. Are we certain they moved her?"
"Ray seemed to be."
"Ray found out how?"
"You'd have to ask him what sort of favor he called in but he went outside to call from his car. I'm guessing he probably called one of Helena's friends."
"Thank you." He called Stanley down, glaring at him until he wilted. "Name your source?"
"You have his number?"
"I have his cell number. They're on a plane of some sort at the moment. It was a favor."
"Tell me if they call it in," Horatio ordered. Ray nodded at that. "Did they say who?"
"Someone Vecchio would probably recognize. She was loud and she's handled other mafia cases so they knew they'd send her. It was good for her career even if it did lead to a lot of death threats," he offered quietly. "Greg?"
"I called Brass. He told Grissom and the others. I also reminded him that Vecchio wanted Junior kept out of this."
"Thanks." He punched him on the arm. "Sorry, Horatio, but she's my ex."
"I understand. Next time, let me know, Ray."
"They only took her out an hour ago," he offered. "Lupin told him that they had connections down here they had worked with." That got a smirk. "But I have no idea who."
"I can find them," Horatio assured him, getting a grin back. "Now, go home." Ray nodded, going to go home with Catherine, Ray, and Greg. Horatio went to make notes on what they knew. It would let him pump some of his sources for it as well.
Helena walked into the station, giving everyone a grim look. "I heard I had a replacement?"
"Yes, you did," Brass told her. "Are you all right?"
"I feel like shit," she said plainly, sitting down. "Still. I hate being kidnaped." She looked at him. "Did Fujiko screw too many things up?"
"No, she was actually a great help at one point. We had some Japanese businessmen who were trick rolled."
"Hmm. I could've sympathized with them but she probably got them worse." She nodded at that. "Okay. Anything she solved?"
"Two things and Grissom signed off on them before he knew," he offered with a grin. "He do this often?"
"No. Jigen did say he'd make sure he didn't do it again."
"That'd be nice. Anything else I should know?"
"How did you know?"
"Nick told us."
She giggled, swatting him on the arm. "You'll learn. Who else knew?"
"Greg," Warrick said as he came out. "He said she filled out your clothes more than you did."
"She does. She has tits of doom. She's used them many times on many men," she agreed dryly. "Okay, I'm back, what can I do to help?"
"We have one stolen ADA Kowalski. Stolen from Chicago."
"The Stella finally got what's coming to her? Why should I care?" she asked blandly.
"Because she's still a victim," Brass said firmly. "Even if you don't like her."
"She accused Cat of sleeping with her boy on his birthday. The day after Stella slept with her boss." They all hissed at that. "She destroyed him. So, why do I care?"
"It's about the Vecchio case," Warrick offered.
"Okay, that I care about," she agreed, standing up. "I like my kitty sitter."
"Ryan said they're trying to get him to Cascade," Warrick offered.
She beamed. "He'd rock out there. Where are we going and who has my vest?"
"She had it the last time I saw it, unless it's back in your locker," Brass told her. She nodded, heading that way.
"As for what we have. We have them bringing her here to interrogate her and Vecchio wanted Junior kept out of it," Warrick offered as he followed her.
"He's right. Junior should have the right to a real life. Even if his mother is a shallow bitch. She's actually the picture next to the definition." She walked into the locker room, startling Bobby, their ballistics tech. "Sorry, baby." She kissed him on the cheek and got into her own locker. "Ah, vest. Which family has her, Warrick?"
"Um, we think the one Vecchio was undercover with," he offered.
"Too showy. Even if they would want their honor back it's not practical." She slipped into her vest and grabbed her backup gun, then closed the locker and looked at him. "But that doesn't mean they didn't hire some freelancers. Which means someone should check the Redlight or the Doorstop."
"Redlight got busted by Vice," Bobby told her, grinning. "What about their more genteel bars?" he asked with that hint of southern accent.
She smiled and patted his cheek. "That's why I stare at you in the lab, Bobby." She looked at Warrick. "Well?"
"Not yet. Thanks to your friends we know when she left Miami. We've got about an hour before they land."
"Good deal. Are they going commercial?"
"We don't think so."
"So technically they could land the plane anywhere," she said thoughtfully. "Any preferred strips?"
"A few," he admitted, grinning at her. "We've got people waiting."
"So where do we need me?"
"Right now, we need you to prep for an assault and give us a positive ID when we find her."
"Okay." She walked off after him, shooting Bobby a grin. "Jigen said hi and he's going to send me stuff from the spare closet of junk for you. If you can use it fine, if not, burn it or turn it into desk art, Bobby."
"Thanks." He grinned at that, going back to his lab. He made that note in his log for the day and got back to work on his open case files.
"I'm not a baby and I do not need babied," Catherine called when the door opened and the cats started to howl at the people coming in. They stopped and she looked. "Hey, Ray."
"Catherine. I'm sure you're not a baby. But you do need a bit babied." He kissed her on the cheek. "It's your first collapse this way and we need to baby you a little bit. Just to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Ryan coughed and moved Ray then hugged her. "You scared the hell out of me," he said, nose in her hair. "Please don't do it again and let us fuss?"
"I hate being fussed over."
"Tough. Suck it up. I'm going to fuss as much as any of your past girlfriends ever did when you got sick or injured."
"Um, Ryan, I'm the one who fussed," she said patiently, pulling back to look at him. "Really. Greg, thank you."
"Welcome, but we're still fussing." He grinned sweetly. "Or else I'm calling Throttle." She groaned and shook her head, letting Ryan hug her tighter again. "See, we can fuss nearly as good as the giant guys on motorcycles."
Ray Vecchio looked at him. "You know those menacing mice?"
"Yeah," he agreed, grinning at him. "Throttle gave me a ride once when I was broken down."
"They jumped over my car a few times while I was in pursuit." He looked over as Stan stormed in, slamming the door. "Hey! Watch the furry things!"
"They took Stella ta Vegas," he said, staring him down. Ray hissed and shook his head. "Lupin said so."
"Well, at least they know, right? They'll be looking out for her?" Stan sighed and nodded, sitting down. "So relax and we'll wait on word. Helena's out there, right?"
"She's back today."
"Then she'll handle it and we'll call her later," Catherine pointed out.
Stan brightened a bit at that. "Yeah, she'll rescue her so she can torture her."
"True, she will. The same as I would," she agreed dryly. That got a smile from Ryan. "I would."
"From what Nick said earlier, so would he." He kissed her again and looked at the dish of ice cream she was making. "Sure, we can have that. Do we have enough for the rest of us?"
"I only got two pints."
Ray snorted and headed into the kitchen to get something for dinner. "You two eat ice cream, we'll eat real food. Stan?"
"I'm for the ice cream diet."
"Let me run out for some more," Greg offered, heading off to do that. He even waved at the cops across the street on the way. Then on the way back. He walked back inside. "Did we know we've got watching cops?"
"They think I'm strange," Catherine said dryly. "Or having an orgy with both Ryan and Vecchio here last night." Ray snorted at that, shaking his head. "They probably do." She took the new ice cream and handed it to Stan, who made a better dish and let the other ones have their turn with the ice cream scoop and sauces. She settled down into one corner of the couch, picking up a book to read while she nibbled. Ryan sat next to her, leaning against her side. "I'm fine, Ryan."
"No, you're beautiful."
She looked at him, but she was smiling. "You're sucking up very well."
"Thank you," he offered, looking serious. "You are beautiful. I don't want to lose you to something stupid." She sighed and handed over her ice cream. "That's not what I wanted." He handed it back and kissed her again. "You scared the hell out of me when Greg called." He took another kiss and smiled at her. "We've got to get your meds adjusted. You had a smaller one a few weeks back," he said quietly.
"I see him tomorrow morning." She ate another bite and he grinned. "Yes, you can go."
"Thank you." He called Horatio. "We're going to her doctor in the morning, Horatio. Yeah, to get her meds corrected. Early. What time?"
"Eight-thirty, Horatio. She's having ice cream for dinner." He smiled. "They probably said she had to get it up a bit higher and she's allowed some now and then. Trust me, I'm going to be glued to her all night." He grinned. "Sure, Horatio. Thanks, boss. Of course I will." He hung up. "I'll need to make up the two hours and he said I'll have to be unglued tomorrow morning when we come in." She smiled a bit at that before eating another bite. "He also said he's found out who took her locally, Stan. He and Frank went after them earlier, they're presently playing statue in interrogation." Stan smirked at that. "So we'll have it soon enough."
"Welcome. This is one of the reasons you came to Miami. We're like a family." Ryan smiled and snuck a bite then went back to his own.
"Yours tastes better."
She looked at him. "It's the lure of the forbidden."
He grinned brighter. "Yes, but if I'm a good boy would you let me have some of your sundae later?"
She blinked at him, then snickered. "That's a cute double entendre, Ryan. Sure, you can have all the ice cream you want later."
Ryan grinned and stood up, pulling her into the bedroom with their sundaes.
Ray and Greg both grinned when she shrieked about them being cold a few minutes later.
"I like him for being mildly kinky," Stan offered between bites. "He keeps up well with her. Plus he makes her grin and do silly things, plus mushy stuff like picnics on the beach." He scraped his bowl and looked at the grinning men. "Otherwise I'd complain about the noise."
One of the cats came up and meowed at Vecchio. "What?" He meowed again. "When I'm done, Blair." He meowed some more.
"No begging," Greg ordered, snapping his fingers. The cat quit and came over to get some attention from him. "Good boy." He petted him and let him have his empty bowl, making him a happy cat. The others came running out to mob Ray Vecchio for his and Stan for his. Then Xander stared and hissed at Blair, making him run off so she could have his bowl. Being alpha bitch of the family's herd of cats had its privileges.
Horatio looked up as Ray Vecchio and Nick walked back in. "Another day of questions?"
"Yeah, mostly about anything he might know about the guys who had DA Kowalski," Nick admitted. "She's fine by the way."
"I heard. It's a good job your department did," Horatio agreed, smiling at them. "That office is still empty, boys. How is Catherine?"
"Fine," Ray promised. "She's been drug to the doctors. Ryan nearly had to pull out his handcuffs but she went. He even drove."
"Good." He smiled. "The video camera is still set up, Nick." That got a nod and they headed that way. "Plus we can call Simon later if you want." That got a grin from Vecchio. "I think you'll like Cascade as long as you can put up with the rain and Ellison is in today."
"He's escaping Blair's mother," Nick agreed. "I heard that rant last night when we went out for beers."
Horatio nodded. "We've already seen her here. She told Catherine she needs to be more feminine."
Vecchio snickered. "I'm sure that went over well." He smirked. "Thanks, Lieutenant."
"Not a problem." They went into the office, Nick closing the curtains before Ray could go inside. He went to check on the others in his lab, then his pet homicide detectives. "Frank."
"Morning, Horatio." He grinned at him. "I see Jim's back early from his vacation."
"Naomi's still in town," Jim called.
"When they're done, go talk to Detective Vecchio about your former job, Jim," Horatio ordered. "They think he'd do well to go out there and take over your former spot."
Jim stood up and looked at him. "Excuse me?"
"Catherine and their group think he'd do good out in your former job."
Jim just nodded. "I hope he likes rain but I'll talk to him all he wants about Cascade and the caseload we had." He shrugged. "Can I hide for a long time today? She's even cooking. It'll probably be tofu."
"Work as long as you want," Frank agreed happily, smirking at him. "Just don't let her come back here. Especially not while Catherine's here."
"I can't guarantee it but if you see me running," he offered dryly, sitting down again, making Horatio laugh. "Not kidding, guys."
"Sure, Jim," Frank joked, looking at his friend again. "So."
"So. DA Kowalski is fine. They rescued her in time."
"Good. Stan'll be happy."
"Is he in yet?"
"It's his day off but he might be in later. You know he didn't wanna call."
"I do, Frank. I'm not worried that he did, just what they'll want in return."
"They're used to playing with you guys, Horatio," he pointed out.
"True, I'm hoping it's nothing too horrible." Stan stomped in. "Problems?"
"Nightmares. She called me to complain." He looked at his bosses. "Sorry I had ta call."
"I'm not," Horatio assured him. "It was the right thing to do, Stan." He patted him on the arm. "It's the right thing to do, we only worry what he'll want in return."
"Oh, he knows it won't be anything on my current case list," he promised. "Mostly it'll be someone I knew, a target they can hit, an idea for something, or even me to give them information on someone up there. He'd never ask me for anything down here."
"Good. We like that," Frank agreed.
"A lot. Especially since we've got a number of targets."
Stan smirked at him. "He loves bustin' other bad guys' balls," he reminded him. "If anyone's up for it, it'd be some drug dealer or someone who sells people, someone like a bragger who thinks they're better than them." Horatio smirked at that. "By the way, if the panting, huffing guy in the trenchcoat shows up, he don't know me. He knows Cat a little bit but he's *real* wary about her. He's Helena's buddy though." He grinned and went to his desk, bopping Jim on the back of the head. "Could've used you yesterday when Cat collapsed." Jim gave him a heated look. "Pills were too strong after lunch."
"Crap," he muttered. "She's all right?"
"Fine. They released her a few hours later and she came back to do paperwork. She's at the doc's this morning but we've got to subtly watch her. She'll fuss otherwise."
"I can be subtle," he promised. "Just keep Naomi away from me."
"We'd like that," Stan agreed. "It was bad watching her and Cat go at each other." He sat down and then yelped and hopped up, looking at his seat. "Okay, who put the cold stuff on my chair!" he demanded. No one laughed or said anything. He looked up. Then he looked over at his boss, pointing up. "Something frozen's leaking."
"Okay." Horatio and Frank came over to look, letting him have Catherine's desk for now.
Catherine walked back in with Ryan, grimacing at Frank. "They said I'm a baby."
"You need better doctors," Frank told him. "They reduce the strength?"
"No. They nagged me about my diet."
Frank sighed. "Want a second opinion?"
"Oh, yeah." She nodded. "I called my other doc, the GP, and he said I should reduce it by half probably. Of course I can't split the pills." She smiled. "So bugger off if I go a bit high."
"Sure. We'll watch and handle it if it happens," he agreed. "Just keep better track of it and let us know."
"Good. We'll work it out, Catherine. Jim's back."
"Even better." She walked over to her desk, finding Stan at it. "Yours quit working?"
"Something's dripping icy stuff at my seat." He pointed. She grimaced at the mess on the carpet. He looked at her. "What did he say?"
"I'm stupid and I can't eat properly."
"Smack me if I'm wrong, but wasn't your lunch what you're *supposed* to eat?"
"Yeah. I pointed that out. So did Ryan. He listened to Ryan. He said I still need better diet management. My other doc said I could cut them in half but it's kinda impossible. They're too small." She pulled a chair over. "So, do I have anyone I can threaten yet and take this bad mood out on?"
"Not yet," he sighed. "Then again, aren't you clear?"
"Mostly. One case." She found it and went over it, seeing the post-it note on the top. She called Eric. "Do you have something for me, gorgeous?" He laughed and told her. She pouted. "You did it without me?" She sighed. "Thanks. Give me the information so I can finish my report when I get Stan off my computer. Thank you, Eric." She hung up. "Damn."
Stan laughed. "Want a few of mine?"
"No," she pouted. She looked over at Frank. "I get the next scene," she called.
"Go for it," Frank called back. "Horatio's up."
"Sure." She called him to tell him that. "I'm clear and up. I'm told I'm your pet detective. Let me know." She hung up and got to work on that report since Stan handed over her keyboard. "How long before they fix it?"
"Not a clue," Stan said dryly. Horatio came over to look at them. "What? Not like I can work at my desk."
"True. Catherine, you're clear?" She handed him her last case file, making him moan. "Then perhaps you can help me on a few cold cases?"
She smiled at him. "Okay. It'll keep me from proofreading Stan's reports again." He smiled at that and led her off to go over those files with her. He looked at her and she stopped them once they were alone in the lab. "I've heard nasty rumors, Horatio," she said quietly. "And I want you to know that I've heard that sometimes the necessity principle comes out down here and the guilty get it even when they don't by the rest of us. I don't care if it does happen or not. We're all very aware Stan and I can have ...convenient ethics now and then about such things," she finished quietly. He looked at her. "I got warned by one of the patrol guys in another precinct," she admitted, shifting closer. "If it's true, sometimes it's necessary. If it's not, that's good too. Stan would say the same thing."
He nodded. "There have been some incidences in the past where officers have worked on that principle."
She smiled. "I've known more than a few, Horatio. I'm not talking about the guys who go vigilante. The guys who slip in the middle of a pursuit are who I'm talking about." He nodded at that. "Sometimes, life gets in the way of the good fight," she pointed out. "I've seen it plenty of times. So if it happens around me I'm looking the other way. Stan probably would. I'm letting you know this because he warned me two days ago that it did for you."
"It didn't but I thank you for that."
"Just don't expect me to be one with that sort of slippage. I'm more the 'I'll shoot you if you make me run' sort." He smiled at that. "You're usually really uptight when you work with me so if that's the problem, quit worrying about it. If it's not, let me know. Okay?"
"It's fine, Catherine. It's more where we're still getting used to working with you."
She closed the lab's door. "Horatio, I've had nearly as many undercovers as Stan did. For that matter, I taught Stan when he got his gold shield."
"I heard that recently."
She smiled. "I did a hell of a job, like I did with the others I taught. They're some of the best detectives up there and they're the ones who're making the new rules." She moved closer again. "I also did undercovers that they can't even talk about now," she noted quietly. "Even in that nice suit, two of them were sealed. If I mentioned them they would have shot me." He blinked at that. "There were some that got the city's officers riled up in ways that have never been seen before. I came in at the end of the bad old days, Horatio. During my first year, I joined a group of female officers to protect each other from the men who wanted to keep us down." He leaned on the table. She stared him down. "It was necessary. The Sisterhood protected each other for years. There's not many of us who made it to the point I did. Some left because it got difficult for them. Some left due to family things. A few died. During my rookie year on the streets, I got switched to Vice around six months along due to purely physical considerations. Namely, I had a D-cup." He shook his head quickly at that. "I'm honest. My breasts have made men lose brain cells in the past. I capitalize on that when I have to. I'm not ignoring that fact. I've led people into the station before by having them stare at my cleavage and they never realized it. I consider it great fun."
"It's not exactly regulation."
"Point. It probably did. Especially in Vice." She nodded. "You had problems?"
"No, I had male officers who wanted to prove that females should go home. Especially mouthy, gay ones." He shuddered at that. "Some of them tried to force it. One of them tried to kill me while they had me out on ho stroll one night." He winced. "And I wasn't the only one. So yeah, we had a Sisterhood up there. We protected a lot of officers when they needed it. The same as the other two suits I filed, they were part of them." He nodded at that. "So I, more than most of the people around here, understand how things happen. The same as I realize what necessity really means. I don't practice it."
"Any more?" he asked.
"Mostly. I didn't very much then. It was the benefit of having the scary reputation. There's a reason why they called me the Bitch Queen of Death, Horatio."
He nodded at that. "So if it happens to another person in the lab...."
"If I think it's warranted I'll come to you."
"If you don't?"
"Then I leave that up to your guys. Or girls in that one case."
"She's not likely to have that happen."
"I know. She's very nice most of the time." She gave him a look. "But I've seen some things that reminded me of it with some of the patrol officers. Again, if it's something like being a vigilante, I'm coming to you. Not to Frank, I can't tell where he stands. He's got that same practical streak but I'm not sure he's not a goody-goody at times too. So, I'm going to let you know that the guy who warned me did intentionally trip his person. But he was also an asshole who was making racial cracks."
"I heard about that one," he admitted.
"Good. Then I made the right choice." She smiled at him. "You can count on me for help, Horatio. It's not like I didn't have to help Helena now and then," she pointed out. "Being an Angel of Mercy was one thing. Being the Bitch Queen of Death was sometimes needed."
He nodded. "I understand. Do you think it's going to become a necessity?"
"I hope not." She frowned for a moment then grinned again. "But the rumors from Chicago coming down has helped my scary reputation start down here without me having to wear too much leather or heels to work on my bike." He snickered at that. "By the way, would you like me to set you up with a member of the Sisterhood who retired down here and who wants to drool on you? I'm asking because I heard rumors about you dating the scary detective."
"Yelina and I are not together," he assured her.
She smirked. "Want set up with a five-six redhead who's only about twenty pounds overweight, smart as hell, has a mouth like Stan's, two kids, a former husband who was one of the guys who protected the Sisterhood, and is retired down to computer stuff now?"
"I'll think about it," he promised with a smile. He opened the door. "All right, these cold cases." He pointed at the three boxes he had pulled out. "Two rape homicides and one jewelry heist. If that one's Lupin, tell me."
"He's not the shooting sort," she reminded him dryly. "He's more of the mind fucking sort and then he'll laugh while you pout." He cracked a smirk at that. "They only fire on people who shoot at them."
"I'll keep that in mind." He left her with the cases, going back to his office to consider it. He hadn't heard some very important rumors apparently. He'd have to check on them. Frank and he had come to an understanding but apparently they had more backup if they needed it. He called a contact he had in town, smiling at the cheerful voice. "Kathleen, Horatio Caine. No, actually, I wanted to talk to you about our two new homicide detectives who're from Chicago." He sat up suddenly. "I knew you worked in the State Police up there. You know Kowalski and Demoranth?" He smiled as she gave him a rundown on each one's personality, getting it spot on. "No, I've been hearing rumors coming down after the suit about some undercover things...." She told him about the Sisterhood and he smirked at that. "That is what I'm hearing. No, she did. She was assuring me that she knew the difference between necessity and being a vigilante and that she would tell me if she saw the later." He nodded, making mental notes. "That does work for me. No, she's our newest homicide detective. With Stan, yes."
He smiled at that. "That would be fine. No, she's clear so I've asked her to look over a few cold cases for me. He's working at her desk since his has a leak over it." He smiled. "I'm sure they'd like that. He is passing through but in protection. Why?" He nodded. "Get with them, they could tell you. Thank you, Kathleen. Of course. Just between us." He laughed. "Thank you, Kathleen. Though she did offer to set me up with one of you. Redhead, two children. Computers?" He shivered at that thought. He knew that woman and she was very smart, very quippy, and very beautiful. "Maybe I'll let her then. Thank you. That would be her desk, yes. Have fun with that. Have a good day." He hung up and leaned back. Apparently the rumors he had been told had been understated and what she hadn't been saying had been the important part. He would definitely trust her on the street. Shaky health and all. Especially with that reputation.
The day finally came for them to all gather for the trials, and it had been moved to Cascade so the Miami contingent did get to help Ray Vecchio decide on what to wear for his interview with Simon. Speed even drove him over.
The rest of them decided to stay at the same hotel and have breakfast together. Catherine looked up as Ryan finally made it down to the restaurant, smiling at him. "Sleepy," she teased.
"I hate jetlag." He plopped down next to her and looked at the other one at the table, nodding. "Hey, guys. Tony. No Ziva?"
"Injured," he admitted grimly. "Stupidity." He ate a bite of egg and nodded at Gibbs, shaking his head to tell them not to mention it. That got a smile from Catherine and an understanding nod from Ryan. He finally swallowed. "Is Speed off praying for the sun already?"
"No, he took Vecchio to his interview locally," Catherine offered. "The rest of them must be primping." He laughed at that and Gibbs came back from his phone call. "Everyone okay out there?"
"More or less." He sat down and looked at her. "You're looking better. More rested."
"I get sleep now. It's amazing." Ryan grinned at that. "He's a great helper with that too."
"Good to know," Gibbs said with a small smirk. "How's the blood sugar thing?"
"My doctor's decided I'm an idiot who can't eat properly because he gave me meds that were too strong for me," she told him, taking a sip of juice. "So I'm doing it on my own now."
"It happens," he reminded her. He sipped his coffee, nodding at the New York contingent when they came down. "No Stella?"
"She'll be down in a few. She lost one of her shoes again," Danny said with a grin. "Hey, Gibbs, Tony. Catherine, Ryan. No other guys from Miami?"
"Mostly primping to stay pretty," she assured him. "Speed's driving Vecchio to see Simon so he'll be right back."
"That's cool." He sat down on her other side, giving her a hug. "Ya know when you get tired of him you can come to New York, right?"
"I know, but right now I'm needed in Miami. They're not used to women who break balls." He snickered at that. "Oh, baby, you should see some of the looks my pimpmobile gets," she said with an evil smirk. "They won't even *look* at that side of the lot when I park."
Tony shuddered at the mere mention of her car. "I don't know why, it's charming," Don teased. "Danny sent back pictures of it." He blew a kiss. "Hey, Catherine."
"Hey, Don. Wanna come play in our sandbox?"
"No, Mac would get jealous if I left for sunnier lands." Mac nodded, pouring himself some coffee. Stella came in. "She said they're ignoring her pimpmobile."
"I'm not surprised. Some of the boys down there were really uptight from what I heard."
"Eric won't even ride in it," Ryan joked. He had seen Eric coming in.
"No, I'm not that much a player," he said, smacking Ryan on the back of the head. "Behave."
She looked up at him. "Didn't take you as long as usual to primp, Eric. Decide you were too pretty this morning?"
"I'm more than handsome enough without primping. All I need is a shower and clean clothes," he taunted back with a smirk. "Then again, I'm not the one who wore the bustier her first day on the job either."
"I was comfortable."
"I'm sure you were," he said dryly as he sat down. "Hey, Mac, Don, Danny, Stella. Gibbs, Tony." He grinned at them. "No Abby?"
"Up late last night," Gibbs admitted. "She'll be down soon. She's enjoying the lack of sunlight." That got a smile from him and most of the rest of Miami's lab came in. "Guys."
"Gibbs," Horatio said fondly, shaking his hand. "Has Catherine been good?"
"She said they all ignore her car," Tony said with a grin and a wave.
"We do," Horatio assured him. "Because it's very odd to see the baby blue Caddy with the velvet seats and the very loud sound system with a female driving."
She looked down at him. "Women's Lib," she said patiently.
"I'm all for women's liberation but you're in a committed relationship now, Catherine. You shouldn't be flaunting your playgirl lifestyle anymore," Eric teased.
Ryan looked at him. "It's got very comfy seats, Eric. You'd know that if you weren't afraid to be seen in it."
"One of the women I see now and then said she'd tell everyone that I was hitting on your woman if I was seen in it," he defended.
"Anyone can admire her but only I get cuddles," he said happily.
"You're so besotted," Danny taunted.
"I am but I'm happy this way. She even lets me do the dishes and clean the cat boxes."
"Do you have a twin with OCD?" Stella asked. "If so, can I have him?"
"Sorry, an only child."
"Pity." Greg and Warrick walked in. "No Nick?"
"Still asleep," Greg said, kissing her on the cheek then moving to hug Catherine. "I got that book you recommended. It's a good read." He sat down next to Danny, grinning at them. "Hi, everyone."
"Hi, Greg," they all said, smiling at him.
"Hey, Greg, Abby wanted to hear about the Nerf gun case," Tony told him. Warrick moaned. "It's an odd one and she likes those best," he defended.
"Please don't get him started," Warrick complained.
Greg looked at him. "You do know that I'm going on sabbatical, right, Warrick?" He looked stunned. "Yeah, I am, right after this trial actually." He looked at Tony. "I can give her all the facts she wants." That got a smile. "I'm really interested in the poisoning stuff too. That and Catherine's been feeding me books on cults and stuff. It's really fascinating how humans decide to explain things to themselves on a fundamental level."
"It is," Danny agreed. "But I don't need ta hear that over breakfast. Babble in geek later." That got a nod and him punched on the arm. "Thanks." He looked at him. Then down at Catherine. Then back at Greg. "Does this mean you're going to get her car?"
"I'd offer but Ryan said it's got great seats."
Danny smirked at Catherine. "That's one way to prove you've settled down. Let Greg have the pimpmobile."
"If he does, I so want to be there when Grissom sees it for the first time," Warrick said fondly. "Because it scared me."
"Mostly because a woman was driving it," she taunted.
"That and it's baby blue."
"Well, yeah, but I'm not going to need a dark color. I know what I've got and my sort of woman is attracted to the prettier colors." She grinned at him. "Oh, anyone else here meet Blair's mother up close and personal?" A few people raised hands with a groan. "First time I met the woman she snuck up behind me and said I needed to be more feminine." That got some laughs from those who knew.
"She ended up bringing her to her knees and telling her that's where she belonged," Eric agreed. "We all thought she was going to hit her." Blair strolled in. "There he is."
"What? Did Naomi come back again?" He looked around.
"Telling them how I met your mother."
"My mother is known for her strong views but now she's questioning whether or not she needs to take up with a woman." He sat down, looking up at her. "Please don't give her any more ideas."
"Fine. Make her leave me alone."
"Gladly. Jim's still hiding in case she's here." That got a few snickers from Gibbs. "I see you remember my mother." Fornell and Abby walked in, him walking her in with a scowl already in place. "Awww, did you scare someone?" Blair teased.
"No. He said I was going to," she said with a small shrug. She squealed and hugged Greg. "I want to hear about this Nerf case and the poison. It's a neat way of using it."
"Sure." He grinned at her and then at Fornell, then down at Catherine. "If you do want to sell the pimpmobile, I'll gladly finance it for you."
"I'll think about it." Ryan nudged her and whispered, making her shiver. "But it's a gas hog."
"Yes, but think about all the road trips," he reminded her quietly. She gave him a look. "Weekends off that we can talk Stan into kittysitting?"
"I might be able to see that," she admitted, considering it. "Maybe. Or maybe one of the nicer, non-testosterone sports cars." She poured more juice and dug in, noticing everyone was staring at her. "What?"
"Wondering if you were going to eat too," Blair offered. She pointed at her half-full plate. "Good." He went to dig into the buffet, coming back with a very full plate and another muffin for her. "They just put some out."
"Thank you, mother."
"Welcome, dear," he said with a grin. "If I was still coming to the station I'd fuss more often." Jim walked in and Blair grinned. "Did you already go pounce Simon and the guys?"
"We're doing that after they're done for the day," he reminded him. "That way they can prove they do work without me."
"I'm hoping Vecchio doesn't have a first day like I did," Blair offered before taking a bite.
Jim stared at him. "It's still not my fault we had paramilitary terrorists take over the station."
"You had *what*?" Gibbs demanded.
Blair looked down and nodded. "Yeah, we did. A few times really. My first day at the station was one of them. I pretended to be a Vice cop so I could protect Simon's son." That got a groan from Tony. "It's the only way he'd leave me alone about my hair."
"Well, that and he wanted you," Jim said dryly.
"Well, yeah. But then again, who doesn't really want me in that special way?" Blair teased.
Gibbs put his head down with a moan.
"Don't worry, boss, those things happen in Cascade. Be thankful we aren't in the local office out here."
"We get more eco terrorists than wackos with guns," Blair offered. "There weren't too many cases that had military backgrounds."
Gibbs looked down at them. "Let's not involve us in anything like that this time, okay?"
"Sure," Jim agreed. "Be happy to." That got a snicker from Mac and Catherine. "I really would be more than happy not to have to have another car chase here."
"I'm sure Simon would agree since you destroy things," Catherine teased.
"Thankfully that didn't transfer with you, Jim," Horatio said dryly. "Or your records."
"I haven't had to be in pursuit since I got down there, Horatio. I'm so happy!"
"Yeah, it's kinda odd. I realized I haven't had to run anyone over with my bike in months," Catherine agreed. Warrick moaned at that. "Not like I was fast enough to catch him on foot."
"No, you probably weren't. I wasn't either," he agreed. Tony laughed. "She's not kidding. She literally rode someone down and knocked them down with her bike so she could arrest them."
"Rode up beside them and paced them a few times too," she said smugly. "I got a lot of 'what are you doing' looks when I did that." She looked over when someone came in with a shotgun. "Okay, Ellison, you wished to the wrong source. Try the Goddess next time, she's very understanding." She smiled sweetly at the person with the gun. "Dear, are you *supposed* to have that?" she asked in her best imitation of a mother's patient voice. He gave her an odd look. So she pulled her badge. Fornell pulled his. "But, Fornell!"
"Nope, sorry. Feds trump local. We'd get him and send him to a super max for threatening us." He stared at the guy, who backed out and ran off. "Good." He put back his badge, she put back hers, and he got more coffee. "I like it when they run."
"You and me both. It's such a *good* feeling," she agreed happily. "Oooh, someone thoughtfully spread rumors from Chicago down to Miami about me," she said happily. "So I don't have to work as hard to restart my scary rep." She smiled sweetly.
"Unfortunately the idiots who did it got you and Helena confused," Calleigh reminded her from her quiet side of the table. "She's had a few good 'do I look like Helena' rants at some of the rookies."
"They probably deserved it," Horatio said with a small smile. "Was it you who suggested you interrogate the person dying at the scene?"
"Yup. I was more than happy to help that rapist across while doing it too. Unfortunately Eric said I couldn't pull the knife out of his stomach and the paramedics got there before I got more than his accomplices names and an accurate count of how many rapes he had committed."
"She was using a 'confession is good for the dying soul' approach," Eric shared. "It worked. It was a bit harsh though." He gave her a look. She shrugged and sipped some of her juice then went to get more food.
"I've used it in the past," Horatio reminded him.
"Sounds like something I'd do," Don agreed. Danny nodded at that and so did Stella.
Gibbs looked at them. "I have Ziva. She'd nark," he shared.
"And then some, boss," Tony agreed happily, making Abby laugh and nod. "So, think she's with the Director today?"
"I hope not. Where is McGee?"
"Probably still in bed, boss. He felt like crap while we were flying. Someone asked him if he had bird flu," he told the rest of them, cracking most of them up.
"She was six, DiNozzo."
"Yeah but it was still cute." He got smacked for that. "It was."
"It was," Abby agreed, accepting her own head smack for it. "Should I wake him up? I doubt he's on the call list today."
"I'm kind of hoping that they only get to opening statements today," Horatio said.
"Me too. Simon's had a copycat and their leads have been pretty sparse. I was going to go over it for him," Catherine told him.
"That's fine. Let us know," Horatio agreed.
"Not like I'm a big fan of shopping, Horatio. Take the nice girls and go shopping. I'm sure Stella and Calleigh can even help you find something pretty for Frank and Yelina." Jim snickered at that. "Frank said to bring him back something pretty. So I'm either going to kidnap a coed for him or let someone nice go shopping and I'll pay half."
"When Frank said something pretty, I don't think he meant a coed," Horatio noted.
"Sorry, still having problems reading Frank now and then, boss. It's that goody-goody streak in him."
"That southern boy streak?" Warrick teased. "We get that from Nick sometimes."
"No, Nick is one of them," Greg assured him. He scraped his plate and looked at Catherine's then at her. "Eat more meat, dear."
"Are you tracking my cycle?" she demanded.
He nodded. "Yes. You're scarier on it."
"Hey, Helena cuddles," she teased.
"I knew that already. You're still scarier. Eat some more protein, please?" She sighed and went to get some more. Ryan gave him an amused look. "What? It'll make her feel better."
"It might," he agreed. "Why are you keeping track of it?"
"So I don't get bitten this time."
"I only nibbled last time," she complained from the buffet.
"You still drew blood." A few of the other patrons gave him odd looks and he glared. Then he smiled at her when she came back. "Thank you."
"Welcome." She sat down and got back to eating.
Simon strolled in and looked at them. "You've been in my city less than a day, Ellison, and you're already causing trouble?"
"Not me. I'm having breakfast, Simon. They ran him off by being scary people." He pointed at Catherine and Fornell. "He said he'd send him to a super max."
"Works for me," he assured him, sitting down. "By the way, I've already shown Vecchio his desk and sent him on his first case. Speed is down chatting with the lab crew." That got some smiles. "And the trial was delayed by a day because the judge fell and broke her ankle last night going for milk and cookies. She didn't want to give them a chance to appeal for having pain killers in her system."
"The less chance they have for appeal the better," Horatio agreed. "How has Cascade been?"
"Quiet. You took the reason the psychos came. Have they come to Miami?"
"No. Not yet." He smiled. "No more so than usual anyway."
"But it was kinda nice. I had to question a drug dealer yesterday about a scene in the park and he knew who I was," Catherine said proudly, making Simon smile. "Did you bring me anything?"
"I brought you the whole box, Catherine. It's in my office so you can get the good coffee." She smiled at that and finished up, going to do that for him. The others gave her back fond smiles. "So I'm taking it the detective hyping in Miami is working out for you?"
"It's worked out very well," Horatio assured him happily.
"Yeah, but we should pout," Don told him. "You got three killer detectives. We didn't get any of the goodies."
"You can have Greg," Warrick offered.
Greg glared down at him. "You know, I got offered a spot in Chicago."
Warrick clamped his mouth shut at that.
"You got spots offered to you here too," Simon reminded him.
"I'll be there while I'm on sabbatical," Greg agreed. Simon beamed. "I report right after the trial ends, Simon."
"Good. I look forward to seeing you on my scenes. We'll let you train Vecchio in how to deal with CSI."
"He explained that in Chicago it was like mice. He stepped on their tails and got a squeaked, untechnical answer that ended in 'detective'," Greg told him.
"That's what he told me too. That and he's not very technical about things."
"Vecchio is a lot like Stan and I. Chase, hunt, slam against the wall, and handcuff," Jim pointed out. "But maybe he won't break his computer."
"Or his cellphone," Simon teased. He looked at Horatio. "How many has he went through?"
"Three," he moaned.
"They keep giving me these delicate little flip phones with walkie talkie abilities," Jim complained.
"We all carry them, Jim," Horatio reminded him. "At least Eric found your gun."
"Not my fault I got tripped and it fell."
Simon looked at him. "Yes, he was always like that," he shared, patting Horatio on the back. "Sandburg did anything technical."
"He still does," Horatio assured him, making his staff nod. "Though we did meet his mother recently."
"Catherine told me about that," he said smugly.
"She's still considering if she should become a lesbian or not," Blair shared. He saluted him with his coffee cup. "I'm sending her up here. She wanted to see you again, Simon."
"Please don't," he begged.
"She did want to see you," Jim agreed. "We were thinking amtrak since she didn't want to hitchhike this time."
"Which I'm all for," Blair agreed. Simon shuddered. "She did say our auras were still negatively charged from this case and that working with the group had made Jim's frustration level grow. He needed more practice sharing."
Jim looked at the guys from New York. "The next time she's in for a visit, I may come up suddenly for a few weeks and work with you guys."
"You shared just fine, Jim," Mac promised. "But if you have to, we can hide you from your mother-in-law."
"Still not with him that way," Blair said in a sing-song voice.
Greg grinned. "You get that a lot don't you?" he teased.
"All the time and half of it they offer to help me escape the abusive relationship." He went back to drinking his coffee.
"I don't abuse you," Jim snorted.
"I know that, big guy, but they think you're keeping me on too short of a leash."
"Just because you're not dating half the campus...."
"Boys," Simon said, holding up a hand. "Please. The Sandburg Appreciation Society gets upset when they don't get his attention. You know that, Jim. That's when they bring in serial killers. The same as your appreciation society does." He looked at Horatio. "Only watch out for the women Jim dates. Watch out for the guys who like Sandburg."
"Already been noted," he agreed.
"I had a very nice date last month," Blair defended.
"You did but she was a babbling brook of 'like's and 'so's," Jim complained. "Sounded like a teenage girl." He considered it. "Wasn't she a teenage girl?"
"Jim, that was the neighbor's daughter," Blair sighed, holding his forehead. "Not my date. My date was a leggy brunette from the Physics department. We talked quantum and string theories all night." Jim shuddered. Blair looked at Don. "If I asked, would you take Jim home with you? I can make him fit in your suitcase."
"No. He might destroy some of the pretty buildings instead of the slums. Then we'd have to beat him."
Jim grinned at him. "I haven't gotten to destroy a single thing in Miami."
"Thankfully," Horatio agreed.
Simon gave him a serious look. "Yet."
"Don't wish that on me, Simon."
"Can I have Speed if I do?"
"Tough. Speed is mine. I don't allow poaching."
"Yet you fish in others ponds so well," Tony teased. "Can I come if I get tired of the boss?"
Horatio looked at him. "When that happens, call and we'll see." Tony beamed at that until his head rocked with an extra hard slap across the back of it. "Now, Gibbs. You shouldn't abuse your boy."
"Yes I should. He's not allowed to slip his leash."
"Not like you hold the leash, boss."
"I'm going to tighten it on you, DiNozzo. You won't even be able to date soon."
Tony looked at him. "Then I'd either have to date Abby or the director."
"Or Ziva," Abby pointed out.
"No, that's desperation or an undercover thing. I can taunt her about it but I couldn't ever go down on that." He shuddered. Abby patted him on the arm around Gibbs. "Thanks, Abby. So, wanna?"
"You're not old enough for me," she reminded him.
"True." He sighed, then looked at Gibbs. "Looks like I'll have to slip it more often, boss. Either that or start taking night college courses again."
Fornell looked down at Stella. "Or perhaps the beautiful women at the other end of the table?"
"I don't like playboys," Calleigh told him. "I get enough of that from Eric. Thanks though."
"I hear plenty of that from Danny," Stella agreed.
"I don't date like that," Danny complained. "If I did, I'd never make it to work. I don't know what well Delko finds his energy from. Unless maybe he's an incubus and he sucks it from his dates?"
"He's naturally perky," Calleigh told him. "When he's without some for a while he nearly bounces."
"Him and Blair both," Horatio complained, sipping his coffee.
"H!" Eric complained.
"You do, Eric."
"I do not."
"Yes you do, Eric," Horatio insisted. "You are today."
"I got some yesterday." Then he blushed. "Oops."
Stella looked at him. "Are you sure you're not sucking up their energy?"
"I leave them happy and sated but not that way," he taunted back. "You?"
She smirked. "I haven't had to suck a man dry of his energy in a while."
"Can we threaten the next one?" Don begged. "Please?"
"No, Don," she said impatiently.
"That's my fun," Mac reminded them firmly. "Because I get to be more scary than Don does."
"Only in some things," Danny pointed out. "Flack at two in the morning while we're working one of those all nighters? Much more scary than you when you first wake up, Mac."
"I'm not scary when I wake up, Danny. I save scary for later."
"No, you just waking up is plenty scary, Mac," Stella assured him. "You're confused and almost cuddly. It scares the hell outta me." He blushed at that. "It does."
"You're not used to cuddly men?" Eric teased.
"Not like that."
"I pounced Claire a few times," he said dryly. "Feel lucky."
"Ooh, I do. If you ever have to go into hiding with Mac due to a case, give him the coffee *first*."
The others laughed and Ryan shook his head. "No, scary is Vinnie just waking up for those who met him. He'll use you as a teddy bear and go back to sleep if he can."
Greg howled with laughter, giggling into Danny's arm for that. "I'm so telling Throttle you said that."
"Go right ahead. He was there when Vinnie did it to me."
Danny stroked his arm. "Did it scare you?" he teased.
He patted him on the face. "You can't cuddle like him. You're not a python nor are you nearly all fur. I can't cuddle her like that because I'm not mostly a furry python."
"True. Then again I never got the point of cuddling."
"Some day you'll learn," Stella assured him.
"No I won't."
"Yeah, you will," Calleigh promised with a bright grin. "You need to date better women."
He snorted. "Why? Half the city thinks I'm either dating Monroe, Flack, or the bed candy Mac and Stella share."
Mac moaned and put his head down. "They do not."
"Yeah, they do, Mac," Stella admitted.
"I got given suggestions and hints about how I needed to help him with his temper by doin' him more often," Don agreed. Mac glared at them. "I did!"
"Did you get the bondage suggestions too?"
"Only once. Then another officer pointed out he's bouncy and he might hurt himself."
"They make special straps for bouncy people," Greg assured them, making Danny blush. "So, Monroe?"
"No. No, very no." He shuddered. "I like people I can talk to now and then."
Stella giggled. "They'd need a translator between 'em."
"We can't," Don agreed. "I don't understand where she's coming from half the time either."
Mac looked at them. "She's a good CSI."
"If you say so," Don said with a shrug. "I still don't get her when she's babbling about something or at home. Or when she's going off on fake boobs."
"True, that one was a bad rant in front of suspects," Stella agreed, sipping her coffee.
"Why didn't I hear about this?"
"Oh, I used a Gibbs' method of correction on her," Stella said proudly.
"Barked an order or hit her upside the head?" Abby asked.
"Barked an order and hit her upside the head," Stella assured her.
"Fake breasts are bad for you. They're unnatural. Men don't like them. They're ugly," Don mimicked. "Not like I like 'em but that's a woman's decision to get 'em. I just don't date the bad ones."
"I try very hard not to," Danny agreed.
"Amen brother," Greg sighed. "Way too many bad breast jobs in Vegas." Warrick nodded at that. "Oh, Ryan, we saw one of Catherine's exes the other day."
"I'm not really sure. She came up to bug Helena. Helena didn't say why. She walked off muttering about Cat's exes."
"I'll tell her if you don't want to."
"I'm not so sure Helena didn't but she was pouty. She pouted all the way in and then all the way out. So if the pretty blonde girl shows up down there, Helena probably sent her off."
"We can handle exes," Ryan said firmly. "Do we have a name?"
"No, but Helena called her the bitch."
"Probably the one who cheated on her then," Tony said dryly, finishing his coffee and getting up for more. "Boss, refill?"
"Please." He handed over his cup too.
"Oh, if she comes to Miami, we'll be having some discussions," Ryan said with a sweet, gentle, nice guy smile. Eric shuddered and moved his seat. Making Danny do the same. "What?"
"At least you can hide the bodies," Danny offered.
"Very well, thank you."
Horatio looked down at him. "I would hope you wouldn't have to, Mr. Wolfe."
"Me too, beating them so they're barely conscious and then proving to her that you're better for her is a much better alternative in my mind." He gave that same smile to him.
"Tell me if before that should occur, Mr. Wolfe," Horatio said firmly.
"Why? Did you want to watch, boss?"
Eric snickered at that. "He's not the sort, Wolfe. He can't even go to strip clubs and get happy watching them. Speed teased him about needing drugs."
"Speed also got suspended for two days for doing so, Eric. Without pay," Horatio reminded him, just getting a grin back. "As you will when we get home." Eric chuckled at that. "Not kidding. Some of us have self control."
"Yeah, some of us don't get that interested even when they're rubbing 'em in your face," Flack agreed happily. "It's a good thing on the job, Eric. You should learn that sort of self control."
Danny gave him an odd look. "I'll remember that the next time we have to question at a strip club, Flack," he taunted.
"Sure, you do that." He went back to his breakfast, shooting Stella looks.
"Don't look at me. I look to see what they've got that I don't. Professional ones like that get you paid."
"Catherine uses hers as a stupidity weapon," Calleigh offered.
"We've heard stories about her leading guys up into the station without cuffs because they were staring down her shirt," Danny agreed.
Jim and Simon both nodded. "She did," Jim agreed. "While we were working a crossover case. She got one guy inside and into an interrogation room without handcuffs because he was busy staring down her shirt. By the time he realized how bad he was being, he had confessed to running three pros, beating one, and stiffing his girls on their cuts. That sort of thing works well in Vice."
"I need wardrobe help," Stella said, pouting a bit.
Ryan looked down at her. "So does she now and then. Offer, she doesn't like to shop." That got a smile. "Well, except for going for Em."
"I saw her out for Em the other day," Horatio agreed. "How is she adjusting?"
"Just fine. There's trees and she likes the woods. They've got a few therapy dogs who come in and she loves animals. She loves to hug me and play with my hair." That got a smile from Horatio. "Does Frank know?"
"Not that I'm aware of. I know because she asked my opinion on the matter during the hiring phase." He looked at him. "What did she do with the house?"
"Sold it to a civil right's organization." That got a smirk from Warrick. "Catherine's former relatives were Caldwells," Ryan told him. Warrick shuddered at the name. "Exactly. So she sold the old home place to one of the local civil rights groups so they could repaint and have all the fun fixing the tragic history that they wanted."
"Good for her. I know she's not like them."
"No, not in the least," Ryan said happily. "She said her mother wasn't either."
"Good." He smirked at him. "You look happy."
"I am happy. I've got a great woman, a good job, I get to decide what she's wearing tomorrow." That got some laughs. "I do. She lets me play in her clothes since I found the trunk of scary stuff from her past undercovers."
"Tell her Lady Heather remembers her and said hi," Greg offered.
"Sure, I can do that." He grinned at him. "Learning from her too?"
"No, Helena and I had to talk to her because one of her girls got into trouble. Helena quipped about not seeing something like that since Mistress Siren had been around and Lady Heather looked stunned. She told her she knew Catherine and that I was learning off her so we chatted for a good long time that night while getting information on that young lady of hers." He smirked. "She thinks I'm doing very good and it's a good idea."
"Good," Ryan agreed. "You're more than welcome to pop down and worship at her feet if you want."
"I never had to do that when I was in Vice," Jim complained.
"Be thankful," Blair said dryly. "You'd look horrible in leather high heels and a whip, Jim." Jim moaned and shook his head.
"He did go undercover with some bikers," Simon offered. "Leather jacket and pants now and then."
Horatio looked at Jim. "I'll let Frank know in case it comes up."
"Please don't," he moaned. "They made me really fast, Horatio."
"We can work on that," Eric promised. "I'm sure Catherine already knows some."
"Yup but I don't go with her when she goes there. It's for stress relief," Ryan said fondly. Everyone stared at him. "I think it's an S&M club but I'm not wanting to know. I did hear she made a really good domme."
"She did from what I heard too," Warrick told him. "The guys in Chicago wanted to know if she was going to come out of the closet for it finally when we had to beat those patrol officers messing up the scenes. Said something about rumors of a birthday party that got busted?"
"Yeah, Helena told me about that. She apparently was the entertainment and gave birthday and other bad boy spankings," Greg told him. Warrick shuddered. "He loved it, wanted her to go back for his next important one according to Helena."
"Now we know who to send the next time we have to go into one of those clubs," Calleigh said happily, smiling down at her coworkers. "Because I don't want it to be me."
"I don't worry about going into S&M clubs," Stella told her. "They're usually very polite to me. It's the other sex clubs I don't like going into." Don nodded at that and so did Danny. "Last time it was like I had to have bodyguards with the two chuckleheads."
"Sheldon's current case is in one," Mac said blandly. "He took Monroe."
Stella gaped. "Oh, Mac, that's mean," Danny complained.
"Which one?" Don asked. "I know Scagnetti got one in one of the slimier places in the city." Mac nodded. "Ooooh, poor Monroe. Her first one and it's at Temple." Stella shuddered at that. So did Horatio. "Heard of it while you were with us?" he teased.
"My old patrol route was down there," Horatio said fondly, smirking at him.
"Ah, then you know," Don agreed. He called Sheldon. "My man. Is she all right? Mac just told us you two were with Scagnetti's case." He winced and hissed. "Mac, she went off on one of the people about having sex while she was trying to question him. Got tossed by a bouncer. Sheldon sent her back with the evidence they had to keep the peace."
"I'll call home tonight," he said patiently. "Remind him it could be worse. It could be one of the underground clubs."
"Eww," Stella told him, taking the phone. "Sheldon, are you handling it okay? No, we're off today so you can call if you need moral support. Tell her that there's worse in our city and it's something she's got to get used to. We get a few a year. I had one I had to have bodyguards at because they thought I was the buffet. Sure, call if you need me. No, this is Don's phone. Mine's in my bag. I'll get it after breakfast." She listened then nodded. "Yeah, that's going to take time to separate out the DNA profiles. What was the COD?" She winced. "Any indication of what? Swab the throat, Sheldon. Seriously. Swab the throat. Trust me." She smiled. "Welcome. Sure, we're here for however long it takes us to get through with our parts. Thanks, man." She hung up. "Choked with a blunt object."
"Swabbing would tell you what sort," Don agreed, taking his phone back. "Poor guy. Isn't this his first one at one?" Mac sighed and nodded. "Well, they've got an experienced detective with them so it'll be fine." That got another nod and a slight grin. "Trial by fire, Mac?"
"Yup. It was them or me."
"I let Eric have those," Horatio agreed.
"Yeah, but thankfully we haven't had one in a while," Eric agreed happily.
"Which means you just jinxed it and we'll have one when we get back," Ryan pointed out.
"I'm dragging you instead of Speed this time," he said dryly.
"I've never been on one. It'll be a learning experience," he agreed. Everyone stared at him. "It will be."
Greg nodded. "It is."
"You still need to learn to control those impulses," Warrick warned him.
"Greg," he growled. Greg stared down there. Warrick eased up. "Fine. We'll work on it when you get back."
"You won't get too many of those here," Simon offered. "Only a few brothels run by the Yakuza in the area."
"Great," Greg agreed happily. "I could stand that." He stared down at Stella. "We should figure out where we're going today so we can coordinate cars and things."
"Didn't rent one?" Stella teased.
"I did so. I know Catherine didn't."
"She did, I didn't," Ryan told him. "I figured I'd take one of the city tours they offer."
"I was going to ask Speed to show me around," Eric offered. Horatio nodded at that. "H?"
"Mac and I were planning on relaxing without the pressure of paperwork and cases."
"I booked us spa time," he agreed.
Simon smiled. "Good men. Have fun with that. I'll send Catherine back once I've picked her brains." He got up. "Behave in my city, Jim. You too, Sandburg."
"I'm going to go visit people on campus," he said innocently.
"We'll listen for hostage situations," Simon assured him, heading out.
"I'm not that bad," Blair pouted.
"Not any more," Horatio agreed dryly. "Go play, children." They splintered off once they finished their breakfasts, only Don staying to eat more. "Hungry?"
"Yup. Didn't get dinner last night. My mother was complaining and making sure I packed rain stuff." He went back for more then came back to eat.
Mac and Horatio shared a look and they went to the spa next to the hotel. It was nice and relaxing, what they needed. Especially since Tony was helping the ladies shop so he could pick up women. And Eric had been talking about clubbing tonight with Speed and whoever wanted to go.
Catherine came out of the shower her second morning and looked at the closet, then at Ryan, who was fussing with his shirt. "It's fine."
"It's not fine, it's wrinkled." He finished smoothing it out and came over to look at what he had packed, then looked at her. "Why do almost none of your skirts fall at your knee?"
"That way I don't have to shave." She pointed at the mass of black fabric. "That's one of my favorites."
"Then wear it and a pretty belt you can clip your badge to," he offered, kissing her on the cheek. He went to put on his jacket after lint rolling it for cat fur. Catherine's dress somehow only had to have a few plucked out. "How does it do that?"
"Kitty fur doesn't stick to it," she said smugly. "It wicks all spilled liquids to my skin instead of staining too. Plus it doesn't wrinkle no matter how I ball it up." He groaned but nodded, watching as she put on underwear and then the dress. Then a silver chain belt. "Yes, I know I look like some pagan high priestess."
"Well, I wasn't going to say that. I was going to say that Naomi wouldn't have said a thing if you had been wearing that."
"I can't run after people in it." She slid into her flats and put her badge on her belt, then ran her fingers through her damp hair. She shrugged and looked at him. "I'm done."
He smiled. "I like that you're a natural woman." He stole another kiss and walked out with her, heading down to the dining room once again. Horatio gave them appraising looks. "It's her favorite outfit."
"I can see why." He smiled at her. It wasn't professional wear but it was pretty and comfortable looking. Better than Ryan looked really. Stella and Calleigh came down in pantsuits and he nodded at them. The other guys trickled in wearing more formal gear. All but Abby, who came down in a black dress and squealed over Catherine's black dress.
"I love that! What is that?" She checked the tag then tucked it back in. "I've got to remember that stuff. It looks comfortable!"
"Plus it doesn't wrinkle or kitty fur easily," Catherine said proudly. "My whole wardrobe is slowly moving into this." Abby beamed at that and sat down on her other side. "Plus, it hides any weight shifts you have over the day." That got a happy nod. "And hey, I don't have to shave with skirts this long."
"Then you're one up on me," Stella sighed. "I get a nagging voice in the back of my head when I don't shave."
"I gave up on listening to the voice of societal expectations. If Ryan wants me shaved that much, he can shave me and upkeep it." Stella blinked at that. "Really."
"That's the rule except for special stuff," Ryan agreed. "Speaking of special times.... The dinner?" She moaned. "Wear something pretty?"
"I have one just like this in red," she offered.
"No, wear something pretty, Catherine. Something good and special so I can show you off." He smoothed down a piece of hair. "Please? For me?" She caved and nodded. He smiled. "I found something really pretty yesterday. Top like your favorite bustier and then a skirt that was stretch velvet. It's cream colored."
"Show me it later," she sighed. He kissed her again. "I'll cave this time."
"I've got to rent a tux," he offered.
She shuddered. "Glad I don't have to do that this year."
He smiled and kissed her again. "Eat something before I get too happy and embarrass myself?" She blushed but went to get breakfast from the buffet, making the others smile. "I would." The others traipsed up there to get their own food.
Tony strolled in looking handsome in his expensive suit. He looked at Catherine and whistled. "I like that stuff. You look very pretty today." He kissed her on the cheek and added more bacon to her plate, getting his own to start filling it.
"Mine and I am jealous, DiNozzo," Ryan noted patiently.
"I can flirt with her. You said others could flirt."
"He's having a chest thumping day."
"Ah." He smirked. "I don't get that possessive about my women."
"That's because you have a bigger harem then Eric does," she said with a pinch to his arm. She went back to her seat while he smoothed out the small wrinkle and finished getting his own breakfast. Eric pouted at her. "You do. If Tony comes down you'll have to share."
"No I won't."
"Yes you will. Unless he brings half of DC's women," Gibbs said dryly. "Then some senators might get mad since he was seeing their mistress for a few weeks."
"Not like she told me, boss," he said patiently, taking his seat next to Abby. That way his boss couldn't hit him this time. Greg wandered in looking tired. "Just now getting up?" he teased.
"Yup but I've got an hour before court to do my hair and figure out which suit I'm wearing today."
"Wear the black pants and the new plum shirt," Stella ordered.
"Okay, that solved that problem." He sat down to eat breakfast. He'd need it later. Warrick strolled in looking well dressed. He grunted at him since his mouth was full.
"Remember, no showing off your unique style," Warrick ordered.
"Bite me," Greg said once his mouth was clear. "I'm doing my hair this morning." He got back down to eating and drinking coffee, weathering the shocked looks. He finally got done and went to get dressed, coming down twenty minutes later with his hair gelled into gentle, small spikes and his clothes neatly worn. "Horatio, do I look all right?"
He looked and nodded. "You look fine, Greg. Your hair's not too outrageous. It's fashionable at the moment." Greg smiled at that. "Will it stand up to the rain?"
"It will." He grinned at Speed when he came in looking scruffy, as usual, but in dress clothes. "Coffee?"
"No, I'm good," he agreed, looking at him. "Cute hair."
"Thanks." He sat down and dug into the plate Eric slid down for him. "And to you to, mother."
"Alexx said you had to eat," he teased.
"You're not Blair."
Blair looked over and smirked. "I put on the hash browns so you could have something fattening."
"Even better. Thanks, mom." He dug in, and those who were done went to brush their teeth and things so they could go. He rode over with the last group, going through the metal detector right after Catherine.
"My sidearm's on my thigh," she noted. They gave her a look. "It'd drag the belt in the wrong way. I shouldn't have to pull it here." That got a few nods and she hiked up the side of her dress to remove it so they could check it and hand it back. They noted her badge and she headed up to the court room.
"That dress is great," Speed said, catching up to her. "You can't even tell."
"I know," she said proudly. "The other benefit of it." That got a grin from him and they walked in together. She nodded at the prosecutor, who sighed in relief. They had a whole section of the courtroom and she ended up between Horatio and Speed. "Gee, I'm surrounded by pretty people," she teased, cracking Tony, who was in front of her, up. "I am."
"You definitely are," Horatio agreed. He looked at her. "You have your sidearm on you?"
"On my thigh. Another beauty of this fabric, Horatio." She smiled sweetly and he chuckled. The rest of them came in and the killers were led in. She stared at them, watching them. "Someone's been in solitary."
"Huh?" Speed asked quietly.
"They're not moving wrong. If they were in gen pop they'd have been hurt by now for being such arrogant assholes. Beaten probably. They're not bruised or moving wrong. They've been in seclusion."
"There was an incident their first night," a male said from behind them.
She looked back. "You are?"
"Marshal Ryan Carruthers, ma'am."
"Sergeant," Horatio reminded her.
"Sorry, Sergeant," she said with a small grin. "Catherine Demoranth."
"Ah, the cult expert." He shook her hand. "Newly promoted?"
"When I transferred departments but it still hasn't sunk in yet."
"Congratulations, Sergeant." He grinned at her. "I know Fornell's said some decent things about you."
"I can't stand many feds but he pulled his own weight," she agreed. That got a smile. "Plus he backed away from me when I started to snap orders. I like that."
"Us too. He's a bastard to the rest of us." The judge hopped in and they stopped talking, standing up when she approached the bench.
"All rise." The killers had to be pulled up by their attorneys. "The Honorable Judge Prestinia Kerns presiding."
"Sit," the judge ordered once she had. "I see we're ready to proceed with this case?" Both sides nodded. "Then let's start the opening statements," she ordered. The US Attorney got up to start his case but one of the killers started to laugh. "You, shut up or I'll have you removed to a solitary room with a video system so you can watch what's going on. I'm not going to allow anything to interrupt this trial." He stopped and glared. "Thank you. Proceed, counselor."
"Thank you, Your Honor. It's a fairly open and shut case. Our two young men here are serial killers. They found a set of old cult rituals in some books at college. They decided to revive the cult. In doing so they killed seventy-four people between them in multiple cities. There had been a third one but he decided to set himself on fire when he was caught. These two deluded young men worked in six cities to create their kills. We tracked them using the rituals they used, a lot of forensic evidence that is very solid, and a lot of teamwork between some very good departments. At the end, one was caught with a newly killed victim and one was caught with one he was in the process of killing. We took this case from Miami's jurisdiction because it is a Federal matter since it did take place in six cities across this country. Plus due to some judicial misconduct that was later rectified by my office. We have our experts here, all the evidence, and we caught them with their last victims. We had offered them a deal for testimony but they didn't want their lives in jail." He sat down.
"To the point, thank you." She looked at the other attorneys. "Your turn."
"Your Honor, our clients are clearly innocent," the lead defense attorney stated, standing up. "This case was built on guesses and some easily created links that could mean at least ten other suspects instead of our clients. Neither of our clients believe that they have any firm evidence linking them to these heinous crimes. They were an easy target because of their alternate beliefs. We believe that the real killers are still out there and I do have proof that there's still activity on that front."
The US Attorney stood up again. "To interject, we have heard about the copycat and are presently working on it, Your Honor. Our expert spent yesterday looking at what they had. I'll be calling her second."
"That's acceptable." She looked at him. "Go ahead and finish."
"My clients are being picked on due to their alternate faiths. The departments involved have had multiple problems with that in the past." The US Attorney gave him an odd look. "They have," he defended.
"Not saying a word." He made a note however.
"Please finish, counselor," the judge ordered patiently.
"Thank you. My clients can't plead no knowledge because they are part of the same faith, that has never been in doubt by anyone, but they are not the ones who did these terrible killings." He sat down.
"Okay then." The judge looked at him. "Your witnesses are here?" He nodded. "Proceed with your first one."
"First I'd like to call Lieutenant Horatio Caine, head of Miami-Dade PD's felony crime lab." Horatio got up and walked up there, getting sworn in and sitting down. "Lieutenant, how many bodies did it take before you realized the pattern?"
"Before we realized a pattern? Two. Before we realized the significance of the pattern? Six. By that time we had formed a cooperative arrangement since we had heard New York and Cascade had similar killings. We compared our evidence and found it was the same killer."
"How did you decide that?"
"Each person does certain things that are uniquely theirs. In this case, the cut marks, the way they drew the symbols, the methodology, and the similarity of victims all pointed at one killer. It was Professor Sandburg who figured out it had religious overtones and got another Detective involved since she had a greater understanding of some cult matters. That included the other three cities since they had a similar but not exact pattern going."
"I see. So you came to Cascade for that first meeting?"
"With the pattern we had seen so far we supposed the next one was in Cascade. We were hoping to get the killer when he dumped the next one or as near to it as we could. That way perhaps we could find a kill site if we couldn't catch him immediately."
"Interesting. During that meeting, it was Professor Sandburg who saw the religious overtones?"
"He's an Anthropologist and it sparked some memories of a ritual he'd heard or seen in the past. He conferred with others who deal in the same areas so we could get a better profile of our killers and see if there was any part of the ritual we could trace to stop them faster."
"How many bodies ended up in Miami?"
"Nineteen. We had originally missed some because the rituals they were using included a few different methods of killing."
"I see. How long after that meeting did you have a profile?"
"Three days. Detective Demoranth had access to the University of Chicago's cult, occult, and paranormal collection. She had heard of it in one of her own anthropology classes and found it in that collection. She pulled the preliminary information, which included the kill cycle and methodology. Plus included things like preparation materials, which was one of the primary ways we did track them."
"I see. So you did the lab work basically?"
"And oversaw the scenes in Miami, correct."
"What other parts did Miami have to play?"
"I sent the CSIs I picked to handle this case to the other cities to help with the new kills so we could all get the same information. I ended up sending one of my people up to Cascade permanently due to a problem with their lab. He ran it for them while he was here according to what reports I got."
"I had heard that there was some evidence tampering and withholding. You'd have to ask the people presently over the lab to see if any charges were laid. I did protest strongly when the allegations came to me and that's why Detective Speedle was sent up."
"Okay. So you sent a CSI to the other cities in your trio of cities?"
"The ritual used triangles. Our triangle was New York, Cascade, and Miami. Triangle two was Chicago, DC, and Las Vegas. Triangle three was New Orleans, Montreal, and Sunnydale, California. The third triangle's killer was the who set himself on fire when he was caught in Sunnydale."
"Okay. So in your triangle you lent personnel?"
"Not to triangle two?"
"They had the Las Vegas lab, which is tied about evenly with ours in Federal statistics and capabilities. Plus they had the NCIS lab available to them. We shared information between the two triangles but with different killers it was decided each triangle should focus on their killer and just trade information back and forth."
"It took how many more bodies to catch them after you started to share information?"
"Ten across the triangles."
"Because the majority of the evidence wasn't concrete things like DNA. We did have some minor fingerprints but we had to correlate it with who bought certain items, who had flown when and where. Within three bodies we had the list of suspects narrowed down to ten or less in each area. It was the final weeding out that took the longest. Having to make sure we have them on every single facet. We had planned on catching them with the tenth's victim in that case to stop him then."
"So you knew after nine and you planned on doing it then why?"
"We technically had an idea after eight but final, definitive proof came during the killing of the ninth one. The tenth came during an eclipse, which was counter to the ritual so we had the best chance of catching them then. By that time it was too late for our triangle's ninth victim and the one in Chicago they weren't able to find their kill site from what I was told."
"Okay. So you knew the eclipse was going to give you an easier spot to catch him?"
"That is correct. We did try to do it sooner but it didn't work out that way."
"I understand. Now, the discrepancy in victim numbers?"
"The ritual included a few ways of killing victims. There was the main ritual and then there were killings with sexual overtones that were written into the ritual itself. Plus another set meant for a slightly different purpose. You'd have to ask the people who worked on that end, I was never quite clear on their significance."
"Understood. So you originally underestimated how many kills?"
"We had. Once Detective Demoranth figured out the ritual we went back to correlate the others involved."
"How? Could you have slipped in a few they didn't commit?"
"No. The rituals were very specific about what they could and could not do to their victims. Also how to prepare them and themselves."
"So, no chance of it?"
"No. Each triangle did have a doubtful one on one of the female killings. That was solved and the problem was fixed with comparison of the knife cuts and the method of killing."
"Okay. Who caught your triangle's killer?"
"Detective Ellison and the locals. He was caught in Cascade with the victim he had just killed. They thought he was going in to kill him."
"Good. So they found him *with* the new body?"
"As I understand from the tapes they made, he was draining the person's blood from them when they found him. Detective Speedle taped all the crime scenes to spread to the other labs working as necessary. Detective Ellison also found another kill scene but it was long after he had dumped the body and hadn't planned on going back to that one."
"Did we ever find the other kill scenes?"
"Most of them in Miami and Cascade. You'd have to ask someone from New York about theirs. I wasn't informed of how many they found after the fact."
"Thank you, Lieutenant. Your witness."
"Lieutenant, there's no chance that firmer evidence might exist?"
"They didn't bleed on the bodies, sleep with the bodies, spit on the bodies, or rub themselves against them. We did get some partial fingerprints we matched later. Your clients were fairly smart. They used latex gloves where they could. They did most rituals nude as I understand it. When they dumped the bodies, they wore clothes they burned later on."
"So, most of what you have is the ritual and fitting them into it?"
"There were things they had to have due to the ritual. We correlated using that mostly. Though we did still find them with their last victims."
"We'll come back to that point later. What sort of things?"
"Special soaps, blades, statues of their God, access to the information and the original statue, not the copy here in Cascade. Plus knowledge and personality traits that were shown during the cycle. Part of the ritual was to help them get rid of a personality trait that annoyed their God."
"So... You tracked them through soap and personality traits?"
"No, we tracked them through the purchase of the very hard to find soap. The traveling they did. The cemetery dirt they needed to use. The metal purchases so they could make their ritual blades since they had to make them by hand. The personality traits were what weeded down our suspect lists and the travel was the defining factor."
"I see." He nodded at that. "So you couldn't have made a mistake?"
"Because you can match on some of them but no one else matched on *all* the strata we looked at."
"Oh. I see. So it's the matter of all of that, not just one?"
"Then how do you account for having to narrow it down to two at the end?"
"In the end, travel was the last one that weeded out the list. The first, the purchases for what they'd need for the ritual itself, made the suspect list. We weeded it down based on who had bought more things. Things like the metal weren't found easily. We found that later. Then we went to interview suspects. That narrowed the list down further and then the final section of the list was the travel since those lists were extremely hard to get. Otherwise it would have made the original list shorter."
"Traveling in that pattern, on the correct dates. The one in our triangle was responsible for forty-two kills. The other one apparently they're not charging him as much?"
The US Attorney stood up. "We thought it overkill. My boss said that the others were iffy in her mind and wanted me to hold off on those charges until a later date. With them included there were ninety-six if I remember right."
"Ninety-four," Catherine called.
"Ninety-four, I stand corrected by Detective Demoranth." He smiled. "Even with the ritual my boss decided that one set needed a closer look because she thinks there's a chance that the copycat may have done it and she wants more proof first."
"That's fine. Seventy-four is still a lot," the judge agreed. "Thank you for that clarification of the discrepancy." She looked at the lawyer. "Proceed."
"If I may ask which ones?" Horatio asked.
"The others built in. Not the female ones. The odd ones associated." Catherine got up and handed him something. "Thank you, Detective."
"Sergeant." She went back to her seat.
Horatio smiled at that. Then he looked at the other lawyer. "I'm ready if you are."
"I have no further questions for this man," he noted.
"Thank you. Please stay available, Lieutenant."
"I will be, Your Honor." He nodded politely and got down.
"I call Sergeant Catherine Demoranth to the stand," the US Attorney said. She got up and walked up there, taking her oath. "Catherine, may I call you that?"
"When did you get promoted?"
"When I moved to Miami."
"Can you answer to the allegations that this is against them because of their religion? Also, would you please answer which one you are?"
"I am Pagan. Somewhere between Wiccan and Buddhist normally in thought. I tend toward the new Druidic ways." She shifted to cross her legs. "As for their religion being the basis of their arrest? If they're part of the faith then they would have participated in the homicides. The homicides were for the whole cult."
"Your Honor," the other lawyer complained. "That's a prejudicial term."
"Actually, in the Social Sciences and Psychology, a cult is any small religion that has less than a hundred members or is not a major splinter of a mainstream faith," she informed him. "It is the technical term for a small religious group. Christianity started the same way and was considered the same during the early days." He gaped. "That is the technical term. I can call the local library if you want a reference book on that."
"That's fine," the judge agreed. "It is the accepted term?"
"It is," she agreed calmly. "The same as my own would be thought that way."
"As I was saying, the whole cult would have participated in some way to bring back their God, which was the aim of this ritual. The ones called to do the killings would have been very specifically chosen and the rest would have done their own things to aid them, like buying them the metal and teaching them how to form the blades if they had that knowledge, plus using their usual killing methods during orgies to keep their God's strength up."
"There's a lot of information on this cult for it being so old," the US Attorney noted.
"There is. There's also a very old organization in England that studies cults and the occult. It came from their sources. Mostly from the Middle Ages. From what I found it was someone's research topic for after hours fun."
"The name of this organization?"
"Usually called the Watchers. They're a bunch of harmless researchers who've been around forever studying myths, mythology, and cults. They also have one very large library on vampires from what I'm told."
"Ah. So they did the research?"
"Why were their books at the University of Chicago?" the Judge asked.
"Because one of their people had been teaching there. Apparently he had some differences and he left his personal collection to the library out there. He had been one of my anthropology teachers for some rituals classes. He went over this one vaguely. That's why I recognized it somewhat when Professor Sandburg called me for my help in identifying it."
"Interesting." She waved a hand. "Go ahead."
"Just to blow the wind out of their sails beforehand, please give the court some general information on this cult?" the attorney asked.
"They're all male. Females, deaf men, and impotent men were forbidden from participating. The cult's main thesis of belief was that their God was stuck in this statue after a battle with his brother for control of a section of the planet. The brother ate people and souls. Their God won control but during the battle he took on his statue's form because his own body had been injured. Hence him being trapped but he trapped his brother beneath the statue's hind end since it was in a seated position. The cult's main goal was to honor their God, free him from his prison, and make sure the brother stayed in his proper place." She looked around. "Can I get some water?" The bailiff handed her a glass. "Thank you." She smiled at him and took a few sips, then put it beside her on the floor.
"One of the ways that they celebrated their God was to bring in virgins, debauch them on the main altar, share them every which way they could so that everyone got some of them, then kill them so their permanently renewed to virginity spirits could enter the statue and serve their God as handmaidens and objects of sexual gratification." The attorney gaped. "The studies over the centuries differed on whether they were drugged, went willingly because they were unmarriable, given to them due to that fact, or kidnaped and used." She took another drink. "Any male who could no longer perform or for some reason went deaf were killed and fed to the brother below the temple as a meal. They did take in outsiders but they had to prove their devotion by following the rituals to the letter for at least a year or else they were sacrificed as well."
"So, no females?"
"Females were seen as an object to be used, tossed away, or killed. Not as a living, sentient being. They were thought to be less than the ox that pulled your plow by this group. In one reference the author had the suggestion that they were thought of like trees, unintelligent and unable to do more than be used."
"Would someone have volunteered for that?" the Judge asked.
"Back then, if you weren't marriageable material you were usually outcast to live shunned," she explained. "Those who were infertile, disliked for whatever reason or deformity, the ones no one wanted were sent away so they couldn't be a burden on the family. Some of them ended up slaves, some of them ended up sold, some of them ended up sacrificed to various gods. It's a harsh lesson but back then a woman's place was bearing babies, planting in the fields, and doing what she was supposed to do. If she couldn't then she was a drain on her natal family."
"So they got rid of them?"
"Indeed. Like the female infanticide you see in male dominant cultures presently in the Asiatic areas and other areas. Women have less worth and if they can't marry to expand the family's holdings and bring in new blood then they weren't worth it." She took another drink. "It's an unfortunate part of patriarchy in the world's thought processes."
"So some may have went willingly?"
"Some may have to spare their families. The same as some widows in India went to suti willingly, some were dragged, and some were drugged."
"Okay. I can understand that part," she agreed, looking at the attorney, then back at her. "How long ago was this cult around?"
"Approximately four centuries before Hammurabi came to power, Your Honor. It was a small Fertile Crescent cult based in, if I remember right, what today is considered to be Sudan. It was never a populous cult but it was one of the stronger ones because no one wanted to deal with them. They had a nasty habit of feeding their God's brother anyone who tried to take them over or kill them."
"Hence the interest for ancient studies," she decided.
"Probably, yes, Your Honor."
"Okay. That solves the question I had. Proceed?"
The attorney smiled at her. "You found the full ritual in the books?"
"I did. It was well laid out. Cycles for timing, how, the marks on them, that they had to give up a personality quirk came from a later reference book that was found with a member of that organization in Sunnydale. The preliminary was the ritual itself. That it was all male. How they were doing it, what they needed to use, who they were picking and when it was a random 'pick anyone' kill."
"Some of them were those?"
"Yes. It was seen as a mark of the God accepting their offerings of blood to free him if they found the right victim at that time."
"So, like the old paintings they saw the halo that looked like a pie plate behind their heads?"
She smiled. "Or they glowed. Or they suddenly ran into them at the right moment. You'd have to ask them that. I'm not sure how they chose those."
"That's fine." He smiled. "Professor Sandburg called you?"
"He did. During that meeting in Cascade. He knew I was Chicago's cult and occult specialist and I dealt with a lot of odd information. Since my BA is in Anthropology we had talked a few times at conventions and when I had to come out to work on a case that crossed over."
"So you were a regular detective?"
"No, I was the Goddess in Vice," she said dryly. "Other than that, yes."
He snorted. "I heard about that suit."
"Basically, I was on call in Chicago for any cult or occult case as a reference. I got called out of bed to look at bodies with things carved in them, rituals that might have happened, anytime there was a hint of anything occult going on. I also gave a lot of relativity lectures to the detectives in Chicago about other faiths being just as valid as a way of life. Not that they always listened but I did give them repeatedly."
"Was there anyone on the suspect list you were hesitant about?"
"Apparently triangle one ended up with a lot of followers of Crowley on their list. On ours it came down to a final two and I do believe CSI Sanders was the one who weeded it down to the final ones. I was a bit ill at the time with my newly found diabetes." She took another drink.
"Who worked on the scenes in Chicago?"
"I did. When he called I knew a friend of mine had something similar and I wanted to compare. She brought a few boxes of various kills since she was in Homicide. She was one of the few who didn't call me at the hint of ritual. She dumped the cases on me with her boss's approval and went back to the normal homicides. I found the correlation between the two and then the ritual in the library. We put together a profile by phone and presented it three days later. Blair, Professor Sandburg, presented it to Cascade and emailed it to the others in his triangle. I went to brief Las Vegas, then NCIS in DC since they'd have to be part of it and I knew them. A few of the cases had been in their specialist area and since they were Federal level agents they could take over other ones if necessary. They got their very tolerable FBI liaison involved and he took it over for Metro DC and any other agencies that were involved, leaving it with the smaller investigative team with very good forensic backup. Apparently most of the agencies in DC simply hand that team in NCIS their investigation since they're so good."
"What about your forensics in Chicago?"
"After discussion between our lab, NCIS's lab tech, and Las Vegas's crew who were involved, it was decided that Chicago's lab needed the help. Our teams aren't oriented the same way Las Vegas's were so they sent me a tech, Warrick Brown, to work with me. He processed the scenes with me and sent what needed to be sent back to Las Vegas or to Abby in DC."
"So, like Lieutenant Caine said about Cascade's lab, they had to take one over?"
"Warrick didn't have to take over. Chicago's lab was a bit behind. Las Vegas and Miami are top labs in the country, right behind the FBI's own labs. They also have different means and ways of working. Las Vegas and Miami's labs all go out and actually help us hunt down criminals. Chicago's lab was oriented more toward analysis. They were horrified that Warrick expected to question suspects, go into the field as an investigative force on the team, and did carry a gun."
"So they let him have it?"
"I was told to basically go work from home in my pajamas. Warrick got my guest room to save Las Vegas some money. He played with my cats for stress relief."
That got a smile. "So, each triangle sent their findings back to the labs that had the best processing capabilities?"
"As far as I know. I wasn't involved in that end. Ask Warrick. I did the research and the chasing down stuff. I did the briefings. I did not do the forensics. I'm a girl who kicks in doors, not looks in microscopes."
"All right. I can understand that. But you did get all of Chicago's scenes?"
"Were you working other ones?"
"Because, as Lieutenant Caine noted, crime didn't stop and I had other consults in my speciality plus some annoyances that managed to do a drug deal in front of me and things. Also because our Vice department was critically understaffed I worked between scenes while I researched in my off hours. There wasn't a choice."
"Do you think it would have gotten them sooner if you hadn't?"
"I can't say. I think if Chicago had punished the officers who blatantly destroyed a few crime scenes the first time it might've gone faster."
"Why did they?" the attorney asked.
"Because it was an affront to their religion. They did it three times before they were kept away from the scenes. That was nearly the end of it by then. A few others got messed up before we had correlated, back when Helena had it. I'm not sure if it was the same people or not."
"That's fine." He considered her. "Have you heard about this copycat?"
"I spent yesterday going over it with Simon's people. They have a forensic bit of evidence there and I showed them what we searched for. At this moment I can't be sure if it was a copycat or someone trying to finish their ritual to raise their God. We never found another cult member but that doesn't mean there wasn't one."
"Point. Do you think it's a copy cat?"
"I don't know. A lot of it was put into the press up front with the first case. The symbols and things. They're infectious and pernicious little pests that get onto scenes to take pictures even when you don't want them to. At this point, I can't say for sure. The victim did fit the profile at that point. It would've been the last kill of this triangle so if he moves onto the next one we'll know for sure."
"The triangles have ends?"
"The ritual planned for so many kills per triangle. Then the three killers would get together and kill the killer from triangle two as a pivot point to move to triangle four, where they would work together through that one and triangle five, the last few bodies laid at the statue's feet so he could soak up the worthy blood and use it to transmute the statue from bronze back into flesh and heal his original body with it."
"I have a timeline of the ritual," he announced, using the screens. "Where did we stop it?"
She got up and looked, then pointed. "If I can read your tiny handwriting, here. The copycat or continuer would have done this one," she said, pointing at another one. "So if someone took over triangle two, Chicago would be getting one tonight and then he would be killed next month on the moon dark." She sat down again. "I do know Lieutenant Caine did brief the cities we figured were in triangle four during the beginning days, just in case."
"So you would expect a call?"
"I think they'd call him not me personally."
"Fine. How did you figure out the other triangles?"
"Oh, there was a figure included." It was held up. "That one. It was part of the reference material. We put it over a map once we knew the distances they were using for triangle one."
"I'd like to enter both of these into evidence, Your Honor."
"Accepted as one and two," she agreed, marking that down. "May I see that closer?" It was handed over. "It's laid over a map?"
"It was. Triangle four is the blue one from the reference works I saw. That was Dallas, Detroit, and Baltimore. Triangle five was San Diego, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and a smallish city just over the Canadian border. I did alert the Mounties about the ones in Montreal in triangle three since we had an embassy in Chicago. I handed over all my information, including that so it could be passed onto them as well."
"Thank you." She handed it back.
"Catherine, were you aware that one of them had been killed in DC last month?" he asked.
"I hadn't. No one had told me that there was a similar killing in DC. I helped Simon with his when it was came up. I'll gladly look over the evidence to see if it was taken over by someone."
"I'll release you to do that and we'll break for lunch. Where is the evidence?" the judge asked.
"I've had it shipped to Captain Banks' office this morning, Your Honor," he said. "I figured she would need it and it would help him as well. There's about four tapes of the scene and body."
"It'll take me a few hours," Catherine offered.
"Then we'll reconvene at one. If you can't get back in time...."
"I'll call one of my teammates and let them tell you." She walked out, heading off to find this out. Because if they had people restarting it someone was going to get her foot up their ass.
The judge banged her gavel. "Let's break for lunch. If she can't make it back in time we'll come back to her and go to your next witness. That way any new evidence has time to make it to both sides." That got nods. "Dismissed for lunch." They filed out together. She shuddered. She didn't like the thought of them continuing.
Catherine got the phone call while she was staring at the video. "Demoranth." She listened and frowned. "Forty more minutes. I've got to work up a quick report for Fornell. No, definitely someone new taking over triangle two. The one here they found and he confessed he wanted the old ones blamed for his boyfriends death. No, someone's trying. I don't know yet. I think they're trying to cast doubt but I don't think it'll work and I think we'll be able to find him. He's sloppier. Less thought going into it. Also, his sun positioning is off. Forty minutes to finish and type that then travel time, Horatio." She hung up and went back to making her notes. Because this might be enough for reasonable doubt.
Horatio hung up. "She's got about forty minutes of worth left," he told the prosecutor. "Plus travel time."
"Someone is trying to continue triangle two but she said there's strong differences. The one locally she said was a copycat and Captain Banks had it, Your Honor. She'll come in with a short report for Deputy Director Fornell."
"I'd like a copy as well."
"I'm sure she wouldn't mind if they copied it for you," he assured her.
"Thank you, Lieutenant. Is your next witness a short one?"
"No, Your Honor, my next witness would be CSI Sanders, which was one of the other researchers involved. It might be just as long as Sergeant Demoranth's would be."
She looked at Greg, who smiled at her and waved. Then at the other side. "I'll leave it up to you since it's probably only going to be an hour."
"I'd rather wait. That way we can go over the new information as well."
"That's fine. Then we'll recess until she's here." She banged her gavel and went back to her ice pack in her office.
Horatio looked at the others. "Greg?" He looked over. "Less cheerful, Greg."
"It's all right. She did say that Simon did have the copycat. Something about wanting to blame his ex's death on them."
"I'm sure that'll be in her report," Mac sighed. "What about the new one?"
"In DC, he took over triangle two. She did say he wasn't as cohesive. More sloppy."
"So hopefully easier to catch," Don offered.
Horatio nodded. "Hopefully." They heard a scuffle outside and looked back to the door but no one came in, even though someone started to scream. The bailiff went to check but walked off shaking his head. "Upset spouse?" That got a nod and a small smile. He got up and went to talk to the prosecutor. "Was he removed or simply suspended?"
"Suspended pending review of his decisions. It seems that some allegations of bribery and things were leveled against him," he said blandly, smirking at him. "You did what?"
"Nearly caught him for homicide."
"Ah. No wonder. I still like her point that finding things in books is a valid way of doing things, even though he didn't think it was."
"Me as well." He clapped him on the back. "She'll have the proof we need to dissuade that the new ones were done by the old ones."
"I hope so."
"I know so. She called him sloppy."
That got a smile. "Good." He pulled out his phone to check his mail while Horatio and the others got together to talk quietly in their corner. Catherine finally came storming in and he stopped her. "The judge wanted a copy of the report too."
"Sure." She handed it to him. "Copy that for Fornell and Gibbs too please." That got a nod. "It's not the same person."
"Are you sure?"
She pulled pictures out of her briefcase. "The original from the press releases in Cascade and DC. The ones from the copycat in Cascade and the continuer in DC." He smiled at the obvious differences. "No way it's the same guy and the width of the images are really thin. So either he has tiny fingers, they used a stick, or it's a girl." The bailiff came back with the copies and she smiled. "Thanks, dear." She walked back to Fornell. "Continuer." He groaned. "Easier caught this time. Including some DNA left." She walked back up to the stand when the judge came back in. "I'm back."
"May I have a copy?" One was handed over by the bailiff. "Thank you." She flipped through it while Catherine refilled her water and sat back down. "So there's no chance it's a mistake on one of the earlier ones?"
"No similarities and I called up one of the lab techs to make sure via the same way we did before. Cut depth and pattern, figure drawing/handwriting, and exactness of nature. These two did it very exactly. The copycat here in town has already confessed and is being arraigned tonight. The continuer in DC is going to be more easily caught. He's sloppy and he left hair."
"Then I'm more than satisfied by the short break. Are we ready to continue?"
"I'm basically done with her, Your Honor," the prosecutor offered. "If we need her, I want her able to come back."
"The Chief in Miami knew I'd have to be here longer than everyone else," Catherine assured him.
"Thank you," the judge agreed. "Your turn, counselor," she said to the lead Defense attorney.
"Sergeant, how did you get your rank raise?"
"Apparently the Chief in Miami decided I deserved it when he saw my full file. I only found out about it recently when he wanted me to take the lieutenant's exam within the next year or so."
"I see.... That's a bit abrupt, don't you think?"
She shrugged. "I'm perfectly happy on my desk job. He said I'm not getting off my desk and he likes me in homicide. I said I'd take it when it came up but I know I'm not on the top of the list for promotion. That'll put me in line for a later raise."
"Oh." He blinked a few times. "Then the next time the exam is given...."
"If someone bests the top score from those waiting they get it. If not, the waiting person in front does."
"What was your score?"
"I'll write and let you know."
"You don't have it back yet?"
"Probably mailed sometime this week."
"Oh." He considered it then stared at her. "You are... diabetic?"
"Newly. Within the last year. It has no impact on my job except now and then I get a bit dizzy. Once I've had my blood sugar plummet due to my medication. I was in the office at that point."
"Then it's endangering you on the streets?"
"You just said....."
"I take it at lunch, counselor. I eat lunch at the station whenever possible so I'm not tempted to have ice cream for it," she said facetiously, glaring at him, head slightly tipped to the side. "My diet has no impact on how I do on the streets and I'm quite sure that all the officers routinely around me know I'm diabetic since I announced it in case it does become a problem during the middle of a scene on one of the outrageously hot days Miami seems to have six months out of the year. The same as my superiors have both went over what to do in case my blood sugar is low or high and we do conveniently have ME's in the building or on the scene usually since I am in homicide." He went puce at that. "My health is fairly decent considering I spent seventeen years on the force already."
"Seventeen years?" he gaped.
"Yes, sparky, seventeen years," she said patiently.
The judge coughed. "Even if he is annoying, please remain respectful."
"Sorry, Your Honor. I'll try harder."
"Thank you, Sergeant." She looked at the counselor. "How is this relevant?"
"She was one of the main people on this case."
"Yes, I went to do the research, look at the dead bodies, correlated information that the labs gave me, and then questioned people. It's not like I was in the lab processing evidence. That's Warrick. I'm not that tanned. Nor am I that tall or male. That would be the nice guy in the back row." She pointed. "He's one of the lead evidence people, mostly from the scenes themselves. He's the one shipped things they couldn't process in Chicago to Las Vegas. I took pictures, I researched, and I correlated. That was my part of this. I'm a profiler."
"You have the certification?"
"I do." He looked stunned and so did Horatio she noticed. "My BA in Anthropology was originally good enough. I took the continuing education classes, passed the Quantico tests when they came to me about formal certification. Yes, I am. I tend to take a different track since my background is in cultures and not the human psyche but I am fully qualified as a profiler. I could go work for the FBI but I don't like them." He went pale at that. "Therefore, between that and my emphasis and past history with cults and occult matters, I was the best researcher Blair could've pulled out of thin air. He knew that; that's why he called me." She shifted and sipped her water. "If it had been something less cult related he would have went to a different source. Blair has a lot of contacts he can call on."
"What about Mr. Sanders?"
"CSI Sanders? Greg had other contacts that helped some, but he correlated on the Vegas team. He's the guy who took what Blair and I put out and put it together for the CSI working on the scenes out there. He also came up with some very good ideas that helped a whole lot. I'm training him as my protege now." She saw Greg beam at her for that.
"What are his qualifications to do this work?"
"A masters in genetics if I remember right. That means he's more than good enough to do research and correlate information against the suspect lists."
"I see. The involvement of federal agents?"
"Necessary. Washington DC is alphabet and agency soup. Going to one meant that they would either take it over, which this team has done in the past, or set up their own cooperative exchange. I knew limited things about this team before I got there but I did know that one of the cases was theirs. That their team was lauded as good investigators, very thorough. That they had a lab that they could count on for being professional and just as good as any of the others, that they had worked with the FBI before. Which meant that if the FBI tried to take cases from the other agencies they could work with them. Since NCIS is military oriented the FBI can't take theirs without a lot of grief and cooperation. I knew I'd be working with them and they could handle it on their end since they had the experience integrating into the snafu cheese out there."
"Sorry, impolite term for the problems that you get when you have six agencies doing the same job claiming jurisdiction. I went to the best one I could and let them handle it."
"Knowing that they'd be taking over?"
"Figuring they would. No one can take a case from NCIS but JAG. JAG clearly wasn't going to. Going to NCIS, who are very good investigators, meant that they would have the case well in hand and if they had to brief other agencies they could. When I got there I found out I knew the team leader because we had worked some minor cooperation in the past when I had arrested some of his boys while he had been being an MP. Plus I heard they tend to get territorial and take cases when it goes multi-agency. That means a faster resolution and easier cooperation between the other four cities."
"Four. Sunnydale wasn't cooperating. Neither was New Orleans."
"It's a small town and they didn't know what to do. So we let Deputy Director Fornell handle that town and what they needed to do. They're where we caught the killer for that triangle."
"I see." He considered it for a moment. "It sounds like you made an arbitrary decision to go to a federal agency instead of a local one."
"Locals would've had it stolen by the FBI. Why brief people six different times and waste time? With going to NCIS, I briefed once, they briefed anyone who needed it, and they shared information. Plus we had access to their lab tech, who is highly thought of within CSI and lab tech circles. It was the best possible move I could've made. Going to the FBI would've meant a lot of paperwork and hassle just to see someone and we didn't have time for that. People were dying."
"No need to be snide."
"No, if I was being snide I would've named them," Catherine assured him blandly, staring him down again.
"What are your qualifications for doing this sort of research?"
"I can read?" she suggested.
"That was snide," the judge noted dryly.
"It's true." She shrugged, looking at her. "It was all in the books. Beyond having a Latin TA come help us with a few pages, that's how we got the information. From books. We can give them the book list if they don't have it, Your Honor. It's not like we went to surf the internet for it or pulled it out of thin air."
"True. Please correct your answer more tolerantly."
"Okay, my qualifications are my BA in Anthropology. About ten years worth of work in this particular emphasis. I have to discount times I was undercover and otherwise unavailable or nothing happened. Also all my continuing education credits and my certification as a profiler. Which reminds me, I think I have to renew that soon." She made a note on her PDA then looked at him again. "Sorry, I make notes."
He blinked. "Why do you make notes?"
"So I can't forget. I do all my reports for cases from here too. My PDA is like my teddybear. It goes everywhere with me."
He just nodded. "I reserve the right to call her back."
"Granted already," the judge agreed. "Dismissed, Sergeant."
"Thank you, Your Honor. At your service." She got down and took her water with her back to her seat between Horatio and Speed. She sent an email to Fornell's box for him to check that for her. He could probably walk down a hall and do it. He glared back at her. She shrugged. He rolled his eyes but nodded. She smiled at Horatio. "What?" she asked quietly while the prosecutor got Greg sworn in.
"I did. I'm hoping it's not expired."
"I'll keep that in mind as well, Catherine."
She nudged him with an elbow and leaned closer. "Aren't I the best hire you've ever had?" she teased. He nodded, smirking at her. She relaxed and listened to her protege.
"My proper title is Officer or CSI. You can use my name however," Greg offered.
"All right, Greg, thank you for clearing that up. You correlated data for Sergeant Demoranth and Professor Sandburg?"
"I did. I also used some college contacts to get a bit of filling in when people wanted to know more about where her sources got information from and to help me weed down the suspect list."
"All right. How did you do that?"
"One of the people I knew in college went to work in the Watcher's library and another got a research grant off them for a mythology project."
"I see." He nodded. "Any other contacts?"
"Only personal ones. Mutual friends as I found out. People who helped Warrick watch over her when she got sick or hit in the head one night."
"That's fine then." He looked at his files. "You weeded down the list of suspects to the last two?"
"I did. Mine turned out to be the guy from triangle three. The two remaining ones were weeded down at NCIS by Agent McGee for the other two triangles based on what we already had and what I did."
"How did you do that?"
"At that point, travel information and personality."
"Anything that would've hinted at his suicide?"
"Not really. Then again I'm not a trained profiler yet."
"I am learning as much as I can from Catherine about cults and things. It's an area that does come in handy some days."
"That's understandable. What level CSI are you?"
"One. I've been out of my training period now for about six months. Before that I spent five years doing DNA for the same lab and minor helping around the labs. By the way, she was wrong. I have a double Masters - Genetics and Chemistry."
"Thank you for correcting that." He smiled. "So you're fairly good at the work?"
"I would say so. I know I have a lot left to learn, hence me sucking at Catherine's brain now and then, but then again all good CSI never quit learning."
"That's fine. Sometimes a fresher perspective is the most help." He smiled. "Now, you weeded down that final list how?"
"It came down to three names and I was wary about one so I kept discounting him. There was an underlying problem that we later found out discluded him. He had been through gender reassignment surgery and that would've discluded his involvement in that cult from what Catherine found out and what I read." That got a nod for him to go on. "The last two I did a deeper background on them and came up with the one who had all the right accesses and travel patterns. The other one was a traveling salesman who was of a nature religion and had bought some of the same things but not all of them. Again, a close match but not exact."
"So once you had the travel information it snapped for you?"
"Basically, yes. Those two did have a lot of travel times in common but not perfectly matching. They had even shared flights in the past."
"Could that be the person doing DC?" he suggested.
"No. He died a few weeks later in a car crash."
"Not a problem. I worked his scene too." He shrugged. "It happens to normal people."
"Very true." He stared at him. "When new sources of information came to light from Sunnydale, you went to Chicago to help with the new research?"
"I did. I read a few languages and my boss thought it'd be easier since I was doing that part anyway. Plus Nick wouldn't have put up with her cats." That got a small smile. "He can't stand cats. Not quite allergic but he doesn't like them after a few cases involving them."
"Again, that happens to normal people."
"It does. He's also the higher rated CSI so sending the new guy out left less of a gap since I usually work doubles still and he doesn't."
"Even more reasonable. What did you find out in this new research?"
"That they had to physically know where the statue is, that they had to touch, and in some sources it mentioned fellatio of the statue. That they had to go back to it every year. Catherine was looking as a researcher. The rest of us who came up looked at CSI for the smaller clues. It also explained the significance of sun position on the symbols and small details that we hadn't had before to round out the picture more." He yawned. "Sorry." He finished with a shiver. "Sorry about that."
That got another smile. "That's fine, CSI Sanders. Now, when you got to her house, she was doing what?"
"Napping. Her blood sugar was a bit off at that point. She had already done her part and Warrick was looking over a friend's shoulder while he took care of him. Warrick got us the books she brought back and let us do whatever we needed to. That research party was myself, CSI Messer from New York, Special Agent DiNozzo from NCIS, and CSI Wolfe from Miami."
"Interesting. So that's how those two met?"
"I would assume so. Her cats liked him."
"Interesting. Back to the research part. Did anyone else there read Latin?"
"I believe CSI Wolfe read it enough to get the majority of it. I also read Norwegian and some of the more ancient dialects from that area. My grandfather taught me. One of the books was in that."
"Interesting. So you were actually doing the work there?"
"We were all doing the work. Some were in Middle Ages English. Some were recopied in a more modern script. One of them was a review of the old research into a new format about another trial revival of their God back in the late eighteen hundreds. I took what I knew and did that. The others did the same over pizzas."
"On duty? No."
"Thank you. Just making sure."
"Warrick would've beaten us if any of us suggested it," he said blandly. "He's one of the ones training me in Las Vegas."
"Who else did you send information to?"
"Abby at NCIS and I talked a lot. By the time I was doing that, Catherine and Blair had fallen back to investigative roles so I handled the information exchanges now and then between New York, Abby, and the others. I was the yellow light in the flow to make sure everyone got everything."
"That's good. What about on scenes out there?"
"After the first few, Grissom didn't want me working the scene due to some unethical defense lawyer trying to say something about my inexperience in the field. He set me on the research side about the symbols and things. Then Catherine showed up and gave me all that I needed so I took over briefing and information duties since I already had a lot of that worked up. Nick did most of the scenes by himself."
"Is he here?"
"He had a conflicting trial today. He'll be back tonight. It was a sudden call for a sentencing hearing."
"I think that's all I have for you."
Greg smiled at the other guy. "Your turn I guess."
"You have what sort of degrees?"
"Masters in Chemistry and Genetics."
"Then you did what for Las Vegas?"
"DNA for five years. My last year I spent time doing some of my mandatory field classes at the local university so I would be eligible for a field position and I begged and bothered Grissom until he gave me a trial. His own words by the way." The man looked stunned. "What?"
"You're not the sort we'd expect on this case."
"Why? Because my IQ's 198 or because I've got dual Masters degrees?" He shrugged. "Catherine suggested I get a third one in one of the social sciences if I truly want to follow her into doing cults and those areas. Plus go for my dual Ph.D." The man looked stunned. "A good CSI never stops learning. We've got to keep up with what the criminals know and then some."
"I... Um, I don't have anything. Does my colleague?" he asked.
She stood up and looked at him. "Your contacts, did you use them?"
"Not really. To talk to a few mutual friends of ours. To answer questions about the organization that originally did the research. Nothing more than that."
"Yet you mentioned them."
"I was asked."
"Why what?" He gave her a look. "Can you please clarify that question?"
"You're that smart and don't know what I'm asking?" she taunted.
He snorted. "Counselor, I'm trying to decide if you meant why was I part of the team, why was I doing some of the research, why was I talking to our mutual friends, or why I had to answer questions about the original organization who did the research. Pick one, please, and I'll gladly answer it for you."
"I don't like your attitude."
"I'm still being very pleasant," he assured her with a sweet smile. "All I asked for was a clarification of which why you wanted."
"Why were you even on this case?"
"Because I got called to the original scene. And then the second one. It makes no sense to send out multiple CSI to a serial scene when you have multiple other crimes going on in the same city that they have to handle. It becomes snafu cheese like it is in DC when that happens. So I was on the original scene and then got ordered into the research side."
"You are very young."
"I wouldn't call twenty-nine *very* young."
"You graduated with two masters and spent five years in the lab already?"
"Yeah. I went a few years early to college and stayed year round. I graduated right before my seventeenth birthday, went to college that summer, and stayed in college until I finished."
"You didn't have anything else to do?"
"I dated plenty, I did a lot of the parties in college, I did everything I wanted to there. I just wanted to get all my education out of the way so I could get into the real world and do what I wanted to do. That was practical of me. It also means I didn't have large housing or boredom gaps in the summer." She glared at him. "Those are the times when people do things that require them not going back to school," he pointed out at her continued glaring.
The judge coughed. "I believe this is going off topic again," she noted.
"I don't believe his credentials, Your Honor. I'd like them proved."
Greg pulled out his wallet and handed the bailiff a few cards. "I got mini-diplomas from my school. I've had to answer this one before." She stared at them then at him, making him smile. "See, I did graduate an accredited institution. Unless you're going to say my undergrad at Stamford isn't one."
She handed them back. "No further questions."
"Thank you, CSI Sanders, you're released. Be aware we can call you back," the judge said plainly.
"As you need me, Your Honor." He got down and headed back to his seat, giving Warrick a shrug when he sat down. He noticed the two defense lawyers whispering behind their clients and nodded at that for his benefit, getting a nod. They'd be going after the investigative end.
"The prosecution calls Special Agent DiNozzo," the US Attorney stated.
"He'll be right back. He had to sneak out for a call from their director with Gibbs," Fornell offered, shifting some. "She has bad timing, Your Honor."
"I'll make sure to let others know." She banged her gavel. "Let's take a ten minute recess?" That got some nods and she went back to her new ice pack. Her foot was throbbing and now so was her head.
Catherine went to visit the little girl's room, stopping next to Gibbs. "Tony just got called."
"He's in the head. I'll tell him. We in recess?"
"Ten minute." She finished her trek to change her tampon and went back, finding Tony back in his spot. "You got called."
"I heard." He smiled back at her. "You all right?"
"It happens." He patted her on the hand. "We'll be fine. Not like they can impugn anything we did, Catherine. It's all solid." Gibbs came back. "She seeing reason?"
"Welcome," Fornell called.
He looked back at them. "She forgot you were testifying out here not on vacation." He rolled his eyes. "Catherine, your certification runs out next year. You filed for a provisional extension?"
"They said you did. You have to take it by February of next year."
"Okay. I can do that. Thank you."
"Welcome." He turned back around when the judge came back. He stood up. "Your Honor, my supervisor wanted a quick question answered." She waved a hand. "Are we holding court on Saturday? I'm supposed to teleconference into a discussion if not."
"We are. With my broken foot we had to take the day off yesterday so we'll go Saturday instead. Are there any other conflicts?" No one said anything. "Counselors?"
"Not a problem and I can have him done hopefully by early that morning," their prosecutor assured her.
"Even better. Let's get back with it. I believe you called Special Agent DiNozzo?"
"I did." Tony got up and walked up there.
Catherine got called back on the third day, finding someone there with Horatio. "What's going on?"
"The not you came up from Miami," he said blandly.
"Really? Huh." She walked closer. "What test did you use to prove it?"
"Your sister's middle name."
"Dorothy." Horatio smiled at that. "Mom's favorite movie," she said dryly. "I'm kinda glad I didn't get named Toto." The woman gaped. "So, who are you?" She started to stutter. "Besides wearing my clothes."
"We're shipping her back for the breaking and entering, Catherine."
"Good, I want that back." He nodded, leading her out. She took her seat on the stand. "Sorry about her. She broke in and wanted desperately to be me. Lieutenant Caine has one of his own who's shown up on crime scenes to stand around and look cute or bark orders."
That got a snicker from Tony. "We have them on file and there's a Federal warrant out for his, Catherine."
"Thank you." She looked at the judge. "I know I'm still under oath. Are we ready?"
"We are." She looked at the lawyers. "Are you?"
"I am," the secondary defense lawyer said. "Sergeant Demoranth, would you care to tell us about this recent suit against Chicago?"
"It wasn't sealed but it has nothing to do with this. It had to do with them believing I'm an incarnation of the Goddess and therefore able to do the work of eight people." She gaped. "If you had read anything on it, you would have seen that I filed it over unreasonable hours, them holding back my promotions because I knew some of what had happened back when I was a rookie and the bad old days were going on, and the fact that I knew about an undercover another officer went through that nearly got her killed multiple times by people in the department and out. That is also the reason I don't like most federal agents and decided to let NCIS decide which FBI agent they wanted to work with."
"Was that one of the reasons you got handed the case from Detective Nichols?"
"She knew if it was branching into other cities there was a strong chance of FBI involvement and due to her undercover at that time she can't stand them. They provoke homicidal tendencies in her thanks to how they ran her and nearly got her killed multiple times, plus tried to screw her over ever getting out of it." The woman blinked a few times. "They wouldn't let her leave," she said plainly. "After ten years of doing it." The judge coughed. "Sorry. That was the reason behind another trial."
"Yes, and in that one it said that you had helped her."
"I did. A few times. In Vice, we sometimes went after the same person. She was still an officer working undercover and got some of who I needed to roll over so I got higher contacts and arrests. Plus I watched her back a number of times when she needed it. A few of us did."
"And the criminal element you both hung with?"
"Who? Her boyfriend? He supported her when her own department hung her out to dry and tried to kill her. When they handed her to the FBI because they couldn't kill her. When the FBI tried to kill her and others." The woman went pale. "So yes, she's dating a well known thief. She's always made sure her department is aware of that and keeps her off any investigation. Plus her boyfriend's an *international* *thief* and she works Homicide. It keeps her out of anything that might be compromising."
"You go to them for information?"
"No, not often. Every now and then I get a head's up. Lupin the Third hates drugs and dealers. I dealt with a lot of them in Vice."
"And this Zenigata person?" she said, mispronouncing his name.
"Inspector Zenigata of Interpol?" she asked. "Does the court reporter need me to spell that?" The judge looked and shook her head when her reporter did. She looked at the lawyer again. "*Inspector* Zenigata has been chasing Lupin for decades now. He and Helena are convention buddies. They've teamed up on cases together as well. Both when she was undercover and not. They're friends outside the mutual people they know. He's confused by her but he knows about her undercover history and decided it was reasonable since they protected her when the government tried to have her killed for being alive after nine years and wanting out."
"Can you prove that allegation?"
Catherine stood up and took off her shirt, turning around. "That very pale scar on my back, under my right shoulder blade was done by a sniper who mistook me for her. He got me while I was out riding my motorcycle one afternoon. The one below it was his second shot. They have inferior snipers." She turned back around and exposed her stomach. "The scar on the left is where I was taken hostage by her supposed contact within the bureau and used to bring her back in so they could set a trap for her. I got that rescuing myself so she wouldn't get killed for me." She rebuttoned her shirt and sat back down to the stunned silence. "Yes, we can prove it. We have multiple methods of proof. Including some statements that were sealed during that trial. Now, what was your question again?"
"You know criminals."
"I know many of them that I've put away and those that I've not managed to get enough evidence on or slimy defense attorneys got off after I caught them. Do I know Lupin and his gang? Somewhat. I've met them socially. Helena's a friend. I appreciate the hell out of them taking care of her when she needed it and I appreciate it more because Jigen loves her in spite of her job. The same as she does him in spite of his job. I was even a bit jealous there for a bit until I met my boy."
"You're seeing someone?"
"CSI Wolfe. It's one of the reasons I went to Miami instead of New York, Cascade, or Las Vegas. Are you through trying to impugn my character now? I've got a facial in twenty minutes I'd like to get to. The sun's doing horrible things to my face."
"That was snide," the judge said dryly.
"Sorry, Your Honor, but she did deserve it that time. I'll gladly pay any contempt fine you deem fit."
"No, this time you'll have a warning. Next time you'll have a fine." She looked at the lawyer. "Do you have any questions that would truly question her character as a detective?"
"She knows criminals!"
"Of course I do. How do you think I worked Vice and undercover? You have to get to know them to get to the inner circle so you can bust them as well as the street guys. Because busting a street dealer or a hooker on the street means that there's another three ready to take his place. Busting the supplier means that it's a longer wait for someone to fill in." The lawyer gaped. "If I may ask, when did you graduate law school?"
The judge gave her a look. "Sergeant."
"Fair question. She's huffing like a first year law student." She stood up. "Are we done?"
"Does the prosecution have any rebuttals?"
"No, she did just fine without me, Your Honor. Happy facial, Sergeant."
"Thank you, snookums." She walked past him and patted him on the head. "Don't ask, I can't remember names." She opened the door and walked out shaking her head. She passed by Gibbs. "Do I know criminals?"
"Isn't that how you did your job?" he asked.
"Yup. She's huffing like a first year law student."
"Goodie." He walked back in. "I was called back?"
"You were, Special Agent Gibbs. Please retake the stand and try to be less snide than the last one."
"If I can. I'm not known for being nice and happy." He walked back up there and sat down again, handing over Catherine's purse. "She'll come looking for that in a few." The bailiff handed it to the prosecutor. "I know I'm still under oath," he told the judge. She smiled and nodded. "What more can I tell you about the investigation?"
"You have three reprimands for excessive force during investigations," the lawyer noted.
He shrugged. "Sometimes you have to be. All three were cleared with an investigative panel. One of them was a BS charge and she removed it when I offered her the chance to take it that far." He crossed his feet. "By the way, I have three complaints, not three reprimands. Reprimands would've meant the investigative panel would've taken punitive action against me. Since my record is spotless, that didn't happen."
She looked at her fellow attorney, who waved a hand. She glared at him again. "You're not known for being able to work with other agencies."
"I don't have time to play around while someone figures out who does what paperwork. If I do that, people doing bad things get away and families are left grieving and unsatisfied. So yes, I do. Most of the time they hand them over without question. One less case on their desks. Those that demand to stay in the loop we let them work with us."
"You don't work with them?"
"Our lab is one of the best in DC. Our clearance times and statistics are better than most agencies in DC and out. They work with us."
"I see. You seem very hostile."
"That's because I doubt you have intelligence."
"Because I'm female?"
"No, because you're huffy, grandstanding, and wasting the courts and my time doing this petty stuff. You'd also be wasting the US Attorney's office's money putting us up; otherwise we'd be back solving crimes and catching bad people who do bad things." She sat down suddenly. "Sorry, I'm realistic." He looked at the judge. "After I'm released, will you need myself, DiNozzo, or McGee back? If not, we've got to head back to DC and go back to work. We can be back within a day if you need us to."
"Ask the prosecutor."
He shook his head. "I shouldn't have need of any of you again, Gibbs. Does my esteemed colleague have any further questions because I don't."
"I'm not wasting the court's time."
Gibbs gave her the scathing glare he gave rookie agents and people just out of basic training. "You're trying to get him a lesser sentence than his life. You were offered a deal, any smart lawyer would've made their client take it in this circumstance. Seventy-four murders with another twenty waiting in the wings to be charged with? He's not going to get less than life. With a trial he'll be lucky if he doesn't get the death penalty, Counselor Benairis."
"I never introduced myself to you," she sneered.
"I'm a trained investigator, how hard is it to read the pre-trial motions?" he countered. She stared in horror. "Now, is there anything else? If not, I probably have a murder waiting on me at home."
"Go," the judge agreed after a moment of silence. He nodded politely and left, taking Catherine's purse with him since she hadn't come back yet. "Does the US Attorney's office have any further witnesses?"
"No, Y our Honor, I think we pretty well went over everyone. I'm pretty sure I covered everything possible."
"Thank you. It's the Defense's turn to call rebuttal witnesses." They conferred and shook their heads. "You don't have any?"
"We can't find the CSI who was supposed to testify for us," the lead attorney admitted. "He's somewhere on a scene at the moment."
"I can have them find him if you want," the prosecutor offered blandly, one foot waving where it was crossed over his knee. "Then again, I never got a witness list from you."
The judge stared at them. "We'll recess for the night. I'll expect you to have witnesses tomorrow or else I'll ask for closing arguments." She banged her gavel and hopped back to her office to take something for her headache. Gibbs had been right, they were stalling and hoping for leniency, which was not her forte.
Catherine came off the plane, smiling at Speed since he was there to meet her. "Greg's doing very well in the lab up there. They got him down to his normally cocky self within an hour of meeting each other. Grissom's got a hard sell to keep him." She smiled. "Only the one bag, still. Are my kitties all right?" she asked when he hadn't said anything.
"Guilty on seventy-four counts of murder in the first degree. Death sentence." He smirked at that. "They used their right of statement to say someone else would take over where they left off and would get their God free." She moved some of her hair off her ear. "I need a trim."
"You can do that tonight," he promised, leading her down to the baggage area. "Ryan said that you've got a doctor's appointment tomorrow as well. Since you're not on call until Sunday."
"I love the boss," she said happily.
"I'm hoping platonically."
"Of course. Ryan would never put up with me having to have two men." He laughed at that, having to lean against a wall to hold himself up. "He wouldn't." She smiled and went to get her bag, letting him catch up. She looked at him. "Why the extra security since I left a car in long term?"
"A death threat from the not-you."
"Charming. Can I have my clothes back yet?"
"We handed them over once we were done with them," he promised. "Ryan had them sent to the dry cleaners and went to see your sister last night for you." She smiled at that. "He said to tell you he told her you were out catching bad, mean, grumpy guys who wanted to hurt bunny rabbits?"
"She likes animals."
"She was shot while mom was carrying her, Speed."
"Understood." He led her out to her car, which he had moved. "I already checked it for bombs and things."
"You're very handy," she teased, pinching him on the cheek. She got in to drive. "Am I dropping you somewhere?"
"Tough. Sorry but tough. Horatio said so."
She shook her head but drove home and parked, heading upstairs. "Mommy's home, furry things," she called, opening the door to find her place empty of cats. "Speedle!"
"They're at Stan's," he said quickly, dialing him. "She's home." He hung up and put her on the couch. "They're fine. Your landlord wanted to come spray for bugs so we moved them two days ago." She relaxed at that and her babies were carried in a few minutes later by him and Ryan. "See?" She nodded, petting the meowing, begging darlings who loved her. He sat down looking relieved. "Hey, Ryan, she needs a haircut tomorrow too."
"That's fine, we can do that after her doctor checks her over."
"Why does he want to?"
"You didn't call to get your new pill prescription."
"I told him they're too strong for me." She shrugged and got back to petting them, making sure they knew she was home to stay. It was a good feeling. Ryan snuggled beside her, letting Chocolate have his lap since she loved him. She leaned against Ryan's side, earning a smile from him. "You two, go away. I know I'm adorable but he's mine so I can be adorable with him and then spank him horribly later on." They blushed and went to wait in the car so they could watch their place. She looked at Ryan. "Think we can have sex without upsetting the furry things?"
"Probably not but I'm all for a good cuddle."
"So am I but I've missed sex. Especially since it's not like I've been slammed against a wall recently."
He gave her a fond look. "What makes you think I can't? I carry you to bed now and then." She snorted. He put the cats onto the couch and hauled her up, then picked her up properly, letting her legs go around his waist while he walked her into the bedroom and had her against the wall. His thighs would be cramping in the morning but oh well. If that's what she wanted as a welcome home present....