An Angel/CSI crossover. This story is set immediately before Angel episode 3.01 "Hearthrob", and contains minor spoilers for that episode and for Buffy 6.15 "As You Were". All characters are the intellectual property of their respective creators and production companies; this story may not be sold or distributed on a profit-making basis.Should Have Gone To Vegas...By Marcus L. Rowland
Catherine sighed, saved her report, and picked up the phone. "Willows, CSI."
"Gil here. Got a body for you, room 1267 at the Seven Stars hotel. No obvious cause of death. Warrick and I are still on the treehouse killings, Nick and Sara are on the exploding nun, so you'll have to take it on your own."
"Okay, on it." She stretched, logged off from the computer, picked up a fresh crime scene kit, and went down to get a van. Plenty of time before her shift ended, maybe she could wrap things up quickly. Fat chance...
The radio in the van was set to the news. The big local crime story was the nun, the dead children in the treehouse were last week's story and getting much less attention. Both took a back seat to the impending marriage of a minor rock star, and new shows opening at two casinos. National news like the aftermath of the World Trade Centre was there too, of course, but you had to listen hard for it. You don't emphasise terrorism in a resort city.
The Seven Stars was a small hotel at the low-rent end of respectable, wedged between a service station and a Burger King a few blocks from the main casinos. She'd been there before. Not quite sleazy; the food wasn't good but the rooms were rented by the night, not the hour. A bored bellboy showed her to the elevator, which was clean but needed a lick of paint. A couple of uniforms and a paramedic were waiting outside the room when she reached the twelfth floor, while a detective she'd met a few times talked to a maid. Catherine guessed she'd found the body. She didn't interrupt; she wanted to get her own impressions of the place before anyone bothered her with opinions. One of the uniforms gave her the minimal facts. "Booked in as John Smith at five yesterday morning, said he'd been travelling. Booked the cheapest room in the hotel, paid a week's deposit in cash. Yesterday he put out a 'do not disturb' sign, this afternoon it was gone so Pamela there went in to clean the place and found him. The paramedic says no obvious cause of death, suppose it might be natural. Nobody's touched anything, they say."
The room was dimly lit by a single bedside light, its curtains tightly shut. From the doorway she could see the bathroom and the foot of the bed. There was a small mound of towels dropped on the floor. For the moment she turned her attention to the bathroom, taking a dozen pictures of the floor, walls, and shelves with the digital camera. Not that it looked like anything had happened there; if it wasn't for the tub of hair gel and toothbrush and paste she would have thought that nobody had used it.
She listened, realised the questioning was over, and went out again. "Did you clean the bathroom?" she asked the maid.
"Yes... I must have missed seeing him somehow when I came in, or I wouldn't have started on it. Not that there was much mess, just a couple of damp towels."
"Thanks. Are those the towels on the floor?"
"I dropped them when I saw him."
Catherine shone a halogen light around the entrance. Nothing obvious.... Wait a minute. There was something on the wall and the edge of the door, traces of some sort of crystalline powder glinting there. Concentrated in an area about five to six feet from the floor. A couple of bare patches, one on the door and one on the wall, vaguely hand shaped. She had a mental image of someone standing inside the door, one hand on the door and the other on the wall, with someone else spraying something into his face. Jumping to conclusions already, Grissom wouldn't approve.
Carefully Catherine scraped samples - the powder was purple under the light of the corridor, which didn't sound much like any drug she knew - and made a note to check the door and frame for prints once she'd looked at the body.
Next stop the open wardrobe, at the entrance to the room. A black jacket and a long leather duster. Why on earth would anyone bring something like that to Vegas, even at the end of summer? Playing cowboy? She checked the pockets. Nothing... no, wait, a badly creased card in the inside pocket of the jacket. She took it out and looked. 'Angel Investigations' and an LA phone number and address, with a logo that looked like the outline of a half-dissected rat. No name on it. Nothing to indicate what they investigated, probably some sort of fly-by-night P.I. outfit. She put it in an evidence bag and dropped it into the case.
Time for the bedroom, and Mister Smith. She looked around, with a nagging feeling that she was missing something obvious, but whatever it was seemed to be determined to stay in the back of her mind.
The bedroom was warm, in the eighties. Someone had turned the air-conditioner off. Catherine sniffed cautiously. A body at that temperature for any time... No, nothing. First impression then, not long dead. A couple of battered-looking canvas suitcases in the corner. Clothing stacked neatly on the chair, all blacks and dark greys, a jacket on the arm. Watch on the bedside table, looked like a Rolex or a good fake, set to local time. Mobile phone, cheap, might be worth checking for the numbers it had recently dialled and had in memory. No evidence of a struggle, if anything the place looked too tidy. No marks on the walls or floor. She took some pictures of the room, then turned to the body.
He was lying sprawled on the bed, on top of the covers, with his legs slightly apart. She took out her pocket recorder and began to dictate as she took pictures. "Male Caucasian, early to mid thirties, height about five eleven, say a hundred and eighty pounds. Excellent physical condition. Pale skin, dark hair, used hair gel. Naked, not circumcised." And kind of cute for a corpse, though she wasn't going to say that... Something caught her eye - the faintest trace of a white mark, possibly a scar. She bought the light over for a closer look. Another.. more... "Extensive well-healed scarring on torso and arms. Could be knife wounds, a couple that look like bullet wounds, several burns. Cross-shaped scar on the chest, multiple puncture or burn scars on the chest, abdomen, thighs, arms and the soles of the feet. All very well healed and extremely faint, must be years old." As she spoke she saw more. The last time she'd seen scarring that extensive was on a political refugee from Chile, who'd been tortured over several weeks nearly twenty years earlier. He'd needed crutches to walk. Smith seemed to be in perfect health. Apart from being dead, of course. "No signs of recent wounds or trauma. Hello..." Purple powder again, on the face and shoulders, traces on the pillow. Again the same image crossed her mind - Smith opening the door, and someone blowing the powder into his face. She brushed another sample into a specimen tube, then pushed an electronic thermometer into the mouth.
"Air temperature eighty-four, oral temperature.. also eighty-four. Okay, he's been dead a few hours then. Doesn't smell like it. His core temperature might tell us more." She dug in her case for a long probe and attached it to the thermometer, then moved to insert it. A strong hand grabbed her wrist, and a drowsy voice with an odd accent said "Don't you think we should be introduced first?"
* * * * *
"Considering where I was going to put the thermometer, I guess he was quite understanding," Catherine said two hours later.
"Cataleptic fits? Abnormally low body temperature?" mused Grissom. "Odd he didn't have a medical alert card or bracelet. And downright weird that the paramedic couldn't pick up a heartbeat or ECG."
"What can I say? He was alive, he said that he was okay, he didn't want to sue us, he didn't want to talk about himself past the bare bones of his medical condition, and he wouldn't let the paramedic back into the room. No evidence of anything that concerned CSI. When I left the paramedic was running diagnostics on the ECG, said it must be faulty. It's as good an explanation as any."
"Maybe so, but let's see the pictures."
Catherine pulled the memory card from the camera and downloaded it to Grissom's computer. "Okay. Door frame and door, some sort of powder there. You got samples?"
"Four of the bathroom. You said the maid had cleaned there before she found the body?"
"That's right. Certainly looks clean enough."
"Maybe too clean. The wardrobe. Nothing much there. Find anything in the coat or jacket?"
"Business card for a detective agency in LA. No name on it, so it may have been his, maybe someone he met."
"And you took the details?"
"I've got the card, forgot to give it back to him."
"Okay. Now, let's see the pictures of the bedroom. Okay, a couple of bags. Did you look inside?"
"Didn't get a chance. I was going to go back to them after I finished with the body."
"Notice anything odd about them?"
"See how they're close together in that space between the chair and the TV? There was plenty of room there, why would they be jammed together like that? Now, if there was a third bag that size it would just about fill that empty space. No way to be sure, of course, but it seems possible."
"This from the man who tells everyone not to jump to conclusions."
"Man lying on a bed. What light were you using?"
"No, I hadn't got that far."
"Even so... Really pale skin, almost luminous, can't have been in Vegas for long. Can't have been in the sun at all recently. Maybe an ex-con? Lots of faint scars. Did you see his back? Any scars there?"
"Only a glimpse when he was dressing, I didn't get close enough to see faint scars. There was a tattoo on his right shoulder; black ink, some sort of animal, looked like a cross between a sheep and an ostrich, perched on a letter A with crossed legs."
"Could it be a military unit crest? Or paramilitary? You said he was Irish."
"Nothing I recognised. Looked old, heraldic or something. The accent was more Irish-American than Irish, I think."
"You see anything else odd about these pictures?"
"Not really... though I did have a feeling that there was something that wasn't quite right."
"I think I know what it was. This is the first picture you took from the doorway. Shows the entrance to the room, the foot of the bed, and the wardrobe, which was wide open. See something strange there?"
"Look at the bed reflected in the mirror inside the wardrobe door. You can't see much of it, but if I zoom in here you can just make out a few of the buttons on the padded headboard. Just there, there's a hole where one is missing. What you can't see is our friend Mister Smith."
"So the angle was wrong, I guess."
"Maybe, but take a look at this picture, number seventeen, you took from the foot of the bed. Same headboard, more or less the same angle, but his head is in front of the missing button. The other pictures make it clear that it's the only one that's like that. Time five minutes and twenty seconds after picture one."
"That is a little odd... maybe he moved between the pictures?"
"Not if he was in a cataleptic trance deep enough to fool you and a paramedic."
"So he came round after I took the first picture, and before I took number seventeen."
"If he did, he stayed completely immobile through pictures seventeen to thirty-nine, another five and a half minutes, while you prodded his skin and put a thermometer in his mouth. I couldn't do that, could you?"
"No. Weird... Bearing in mind that we have no evidence of any crime, and all our usual cases to handle, what do you want to do about this?"
"Take that powder down to the lab. I'm going to see if I can get an ID on Mister Smith."
* * * * *
"Where did you get this stuff?" asked Greg the following afternoon, staring at the screen, "Sure as hell it isn't anything I've ever seen before. It's not a single chemical; it's a cocktail of at least a dozen different organics, with some very complex processing to put it all together. I've got haemoglobin in here, seven plant alkaloids, two amino acids I'm not sure of, something that's close to DMSO, and traces of monosodium glutamate and calcium carbonate."
"Haemoglobin? From human blood?" asked Catherine.
"No way to tell. Mammalian, certainly. It's about a third of the mix. It looks like it was mixed thoroughly, almost down to individual molecules, probably in water, heated and cooled repeatedly, filtered, dried into crystals, then crushed to fine dust. The calcium carbonate might come from that if a marble mortar and pestle was used. I think it was exposed to ultra-violet or possibly radiation too, some of the molecules have odd energy levels. I'm not sure I could make this, even if I knew all the ingredients."
"So what does it do?"
“If this oddball molecule here does work like DMSO it would get into your body really fast - it'd be absorbed if you swallowed it or inhaled it, maybe just by sniffing it or touching it. But apart from that, and the negative reaction some people have to MSG, I can't see it doing anything good or bad for you. I'm checking it against the pharmaecopia and narcotics databases, nothing so far but the search is still running. If it's there, it's something really obscure."
"Thanks. Let me know if anything comes up."
"What's this about? Drugs? Murder?" asked Nick, who was making coffee. "Please don't tell me it's more important than the nun, I need those results."
"One of Grissom's hunches," said Catherine. "Don't worry, I'm not trying to grab priority."
"The nun samples are still processing, you'll get them ASAP. But I'll keep the powder search running too," said Greg "Weird stuff..."
Grissom came into the lab as they were talking, logged on to one of the terminals, and called Catherine over. "I ran the pictures through the ID computer and got a match. Here we are..." He showed her a blurry photograph, a man in a leather duster striding through a mall or some other large building. Probably from a security camera. The face was familiar. "Name of Angel, no first name or middle initial on record. The face matches, and he's supposed to have a tattoo on his shoulder."
"Certainly looks like him, and the card in his pocket said 'Angel Investigations,' sounds like he's our man."
"LAPD put out a want on him last year, kidnapping and murder, cancelled it the next day. One prior arrest for harbouring a fugitive, released without charge, several other arrests on various charges, all dropped. No current wants, no charges pending, no convictions. Oh, and no investigator's licence, although he works for a detective agency."
"Works for? I thought it had his name?"
"Apparently he founded it then someone called Wyndham-Pryce took over a few months ago. Now Angel works for him. There's a lot more. I called one of my LAPD contacts and asked a few questions. Ever heard of a law firm called Wolfram and Hart?"
"Brass told me about them once," said Catherine, "client list like a Who's Who of the rich and crooked, if you ever hear of them on the case you can be sure the perp is as guilty as hell. This Angel is one of their clients? That'd explain the charges being dropped."
"Not exactly. A few months ago something really strange happened. A dozen or so Wolfram and Hart lawyers were at a wine tasting in an old bomb shelter. Someone locked them in and threw the key away; for some reason they started fighting amongst themselves, by the time they were found there were only two survivors."
"Angel was there?"
"Angel allegedly got mad at them and locked them in the cellar. But there's never been any proof, just rumour."
"Wow. Any idea why?" asked Nick.
"Not a clue. On the positive side, my contact says he's given LAPD a lot of unofficial help, including information that let them catch a couple of serial killers and wrap up some organised crime cases. Some of them were perps Wolfram and Hart were defending. Angel's main contact on the force was a detective called Kate Lockley, but she was fired a few months ago, moved to New York. She's supposed to be a little strange - my guy says she's 'gone Scully', believes in ghosts and aliens, and that this Angel was involved in whatever made her believe that."
"Scully's the one that doesn't believe. It's Mulder that believes,” said Greg.
"I wouldn't know. One other thing; apparently he checked out of his hotel an hour or so after you left, Catherine. No idea where he's gone."
"Great. Okay, let's just recap here," said Catherine. "He's given us a false name, but that isn't illegal since we weren't charging him with anything. He's allegedly committed some crimes, but there's no proof and all charges were dropped. We have no evidence whatever that there is anything going on here beyond someone sleeping unusually soundly and checking out of his room without giving a forwarding address. I'd agree that things do look a little suspicious, but half the people in Vegas are suspicious one way or another. And we do have other work to do."
"Humour me. Catherine, I know you have a lot of reports to complete, but here are the contact details for Lockley, see what you can find out from her. Greg, keep running the analysis of that powder through the computers. Nick, you stay on the nun of course, but try to find time to take a look at these pictures and see if you can spot anything that looks odd. I have a feeling about this one."
Nick, Greg and Catherine exchanged glances, shrugged, and set to work.
* * * * *
"Angel... haven't seen him in a while, why would you want to talk to me about him?"
The voice at the other end of the line sounded cagey. Catherine wondered why. "I ran into him yesterday under rather odd circumstances. When we checked him out your name came up."
"Odd circumstances and Angel. What a surprise." She didn't sound even slightly surprised.
"What can you tell me about him?"
"Tall, dark, and handsome. Fights well. Knows some odd people. Saved my life three or four times, but he's one of the reasons I was kicked off the force. People thought I was cutting him too much slack, maybe I was. Then there was that business with the lawyers..."
"Wolfram and Hart?"
"Are they involved in this? If they're around count your fingers before and after you shake hands. Better yet, don't shake hands."
"We have no reason to believe that they're involved. As I said, we're just a little curious about this Angel, and the name came up."
"Well.. tell me what happened, and I'll tell you what you need to know."
"Need to know? Is this something to do with national security?"
"No. But there are things that I might not want to tell you if he parked on a yellow line, but would tell you if you think he's a mass murderer."
"We've no reason to think he's committed any crime. Briefly, he was found in a hotel room yesterday, the maid and a paramedic thought he was dead. I was called in to examine the room and the body, I'd just started to examine him when he came to and stopped me putting a thermometer up..." Catherine stopped; the voice at the other end of the line was laughing.
"Sorry, that's a vivid image... Okay, you say he was unconscious. Any signs of injury?"
"No, a lot of faint old scars but nothing recent. But the paramedic couldn't even detect a heartbeat."
"Really." Catherine blinked as she realised that there was still no surprise in Lockley's voice. "Any signs that he was drugged or zapped some other way? He said once that someone hit him with a cattle prod that put him down for a while."
"Well, no burn marks. There was some odd purple powder around, but nothing that would knock anybody out so far as we can tell."
"Doesn't sound familiar. Look... if Angel's got problems you probably don't want to get involved in them. The best thing you can do is stay out of the way and leave him to handle them by himself."
"I don't understand."
"Believe me, you don't want to. I told you he saved my life a few times? Most of those times I wouldn't have been in danger if I hadn't gotten in his way, if I hadn't gotten involved in his world."
"His world? Could you be more explicit?"
"I could, but I won't. Let me make a guess - from the way you've been pussyfooting around I'll bet that someone told you that I'm a flake. I know that the word is that I've 'gone Scully.'" She gave the words a sneering intonation.
"Scully is the one that doesn't believe in things. It's Mulder that believes."
"Well, this Scully doesn't believe; this Scully knows. You don't - cherish your ignorance. And stay out of Angel's way." There was a click, followed by the dialling tone. Catherine shrugged, made a few notes, and went back to yesterday's reports. After a few minutes she realised she'd typed the same sentence four times. She saved the file, got her bag, and drove back to the Seven Stars Hotel.
* * * * *
"Two things," said Nick that evening. "First, Greg identified the powder. It wasn't in the Bureau of Narcotics database or the pharmaecopia, but he realised that everything in it could come from natural sources. So he did a search on folk remedies, alchemy, voodoo, that sort of thing. And eventually it popped out. Calynthia powder."
"And what is Calynthia powder?" asked Grissom.
"Well, as far as I can figure out it's a really old spell against demons. Binds them or controls them, something like that. The source is in ancient Greek and worded pretty oddly; you'd need a better translator than I am to get precise details. I found some modern sources, but I'm not sure they're reliable."
"Okay, I can't say I was expecting that. What else?"
"Before I go on, I just want to make one thing quite clear. This isn't someone's idea of a very elaborate joke, is it?"
"I was afraid of that. And there's no possibility that any of your pictures were taken in another room?"
"Of course not."
"Okay. Did there seem to be anything odd about the placement of furniture in that room? The TV in particular? Or the actual shape of the room? Were you using a polarising filter on the camera? Or holding it unusually low or high?"
Catherine shook her head. "No - I was just back there to look for prints. Didn't find any, just unusable smudges. The room is the usual sort of oblong box, roughly square; the TV was in the corner, placed diagonally. And no, I wasn't using filters or holding the camera oddly. What about it?"
"Picture fifteen, general view of the room showing the bags and the TV." He clicked icons on the computer, bringing up a 3D model of the room. "That's a twenty-one inch screen, normal curved tube, and as you say placed at an angle of about forty-five degrees. The size of the screen in this picture gives us a fairly accurate idea of your distance from it; we can place you horizontally and vertically by measuring the casing and seeing whether it seems to taper to the left or right, top or bottom. With a margin of say six inches you were about here," he put a figure in position in the model, near the centre of the room "with the camera at your normal eye level."
"Sounds about right."
"OK, taking lines of sight from the camera to the screen, and factoring in the curvature of the screen," He added more lines to the model, diverging from the corners of the TV across the room towards the bed and entrance to the room. "Anything inside this area should have been reflected in the screen. Probably more, I'm being conservative. That includes you, the armchair, the bed, and anyone lying on it. And we can see you quite well, the armchair and bed rather dimly. What we can't see is your man Angel. Unless he moved a lot in the minute or so between this picture and the first of the body, number seventeen, he ought to be in view. With that pale skin he ought to be quite easy to see."
Catherine shook her head, confused. "I don't understand that. I can't have been turned away from him for more than thirty or forty seconds, just looking around the room and taking shots to establish positions."
"That's confirmed by the timing on the photo files,” said Grissom "And you saw no movement at all?"
"I thought he was dead. You don't get moving corpses."
"Anyone got an explanation?" asked Grissom. For the first time Catherine could remember, he seemed a little lost.
"Not one you're going to like." said Nick. "When Greg identified the stuff as Calynthia powder I did a web search on it; narcotic effects, uses, that sort of thing. Not many hits, and all of them were references to demons and vampires. One of them was a site called 'Demons, Demons, Demons', which had its own search engine and database for the supernatural. Here, I'll show you." He opened a web browser, already set to show a web page with a drawing of a snarling demon.
"OK, now if I put in 'Calynthia' I get this description. Summarised, what it's saying is that it makes demons sleepy and suggestible, may also cause temporary amnesia. Basically, the supernatural equivalent of something like Rohypnol. Put in 'Angel' and you get a couple of dozen hits. Most of them are the usual guys with the halos and wings, but near the bottom we've got this." He pointed at a line that read 'Angel (Angelus)', and clicked on the last word. The illustrations on the new page included sketches of a familiar face and an odd tattoo. The room was suddenly very quiet.
"Here we go. What we have here, according to nutjob central, is a two hundred and fifty year old vampire that killed hundreds of people in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was cursed by gypsies and got his soul back, and is now a warrior for good who founded a detective agency that 'helps the helpless'. You guys sure this isn't a joke?"
There was a long pause. "If it is," said Grissom, "It's being played on all of us. We'd better keep this to ourselves for now, and try to figure out what we do about this."
The phone rang. Nick picked up, listened, and said "Okay, I'll tell her. Catherine, you have a visitor asking for you at the desk. A guy named Angel."
* * * * *
If Angel was surprised to see three people in Catherine's office he didn't show it. He just stood at the entrance, as though waiting for the others to leave. Catherine wondered if he needed an invitation, and decided to give him one.
"Come in, Mister Angel." said Catherine. "My colleagues and I have been hoping to speak with you. This is Gil Grissom, he runs CSI, Nick Stokes has been researching you. Do you prefer Angel or Angelus?"
"Angel." He walked in and sat, and seemed to relax when Nick pulled out a mirror and tried to look at him in it. "Okay, you know who I am, what I am. When Kate called me I guessed that you might work it out. Just as well, it saves a lot of explanations. And since you aren't throwing holy water at me or chasing me with crosses or stakes I'm assuming that you know that I'm unusual, even for a vampire."
"How do you do that?" asked Nick, still staring at the mirror.
"Damned if I know. It just goes with the territory, same as the fangs and the sunburn problem. It's a real nuisance when I'm shaving."
"Fangs?" asked Grissom. Angel's face rippled, with a noise like cloth tearing and became a demonic mask for a moment. He opened his mouth for a moment, revealing sharp teeth, then his face rippled again and went back to slightly goofy handsome. Grissom stared and said "That's... fascinating."
"Holy... What was it you wanted?" asked Catherine. Nick just kept looking back and forward between Angel's face and the mirror.
"I need your help, and I think you need mine. Something was stolen from me, and I'd like to get it back before more people get hurt."
"More people?" asked Grissom.
"Nuns, priests, holy people. Good people. According to the papers I read you've already got one dead. Believe me, there'll be more."
"I think you'd better explain." said Grissom, and began to take notes.
"I just got back from Sri Lanka. It was supposed to be a spiritual retreat at a Buddhist monastery, but when I got there some demon monks were terrorising the place. I had to take them out, which was kind of messy, and afterwards the real monks asked me to help with the repairs. I'm a lot stronger than human; it comes in handy when you have to clean up after demons. While we were doing that they found something nasty."
"Ever hear of the Holy Hand Grenade? What the monks found was more of an unholy death ray. It's a rod, about two feet long and two inches thick, made of wood and covered in carving. Seems pretty harmless, if you don't look at the carvings too closely, and for most people it is. Except that if it's pointed at someone who is truly good and you say the right words, or just touch them with it, it rips their soul from their body, destroys the life force that binds the body together so thoroughly that it explodes. It killed the first monk that touched it; none of the others dared go near the thing, so they asked me to get rid of it for them. I had it in my luggage when I got here two nights ago, but somebody stole it from me."
"I think we've seen what it does." said Grissom grimly, "Sister Marie Therese, murdered yesterday morning. Why in the world did you bring it to Las Vegas?"
"Something like that rod, until you know exactly what it is you don't just smash it up or set fire to it or throw it into the sea. I've tried that sort of thing a few times now, more often than not it backfires; the smoke kills everyone it touches, or a tuna swallows the rod and ends up being eaten by the Pope, or a hole opens and snatches your best friend to another dimension, that sort of thing. The carvings show enough that we could work out what it does, but that's about all. In LA there are people who can research it and destroy it safely, or maybe find somewhere safe to bury it. But there didn't seem to be any particular rush about it, and Las Vegas was on the route home, so I thought I'd stop off for a couple of nights and take in some shows. Big mistake."
"Somebody used Calynthia powder to knock you out and steal the rod?"
"You've done your homework. The rod, some presents I bought for friends, and most of my laundry."
"I'm surprised they didn't kill you when you were helpless."
"Probably didn't want to risk trying it. Vampires have very good survival instincts, and the effect of Calynthia wears off fast if we're in danger. You saw that yesterday, I was well out of it when you began to examine me, as soon as you started to get too personal I snapped to."
"Exactly what happened?"
"Well, I'd been travelling for a couple of days and I was kind of hungry, so the first thing I did was find somewhere to eat."
"What exactly do you eat? I thought vampires drank blood."
"Yes, but it doesn't have to be human, it's just that most vampires prefer the taste. In LA I buy from a slaughterhouse, but there are alternatives. Most towns you can find a bar that doesn't have mirrors and keeps pig's blood behind the counter. Some places they have human blood too. The local vampires appreciate having a place to relax, usually keeps them from slaughtering the barman. Generally they're neutral ground, places where vampires and other demons and even an occasional human can get together without killing each other."
The CSI team stared at him.
"Did you really think that I'm the only vampire in town? This is a night city, it's full of strangers and it's an easy night drive from LA and handy for other places vampires like to go. When I was through here in the sixties there were at least a dozen resident and lots of visitors, I doubt that there's less now. Just a few months back I ran into one that used to hang with the Rat Pack. They're probably keeping clear of the casinos, there are too many mirrors there for them to feel comfortable, but they're around."
"And killing people?" asked Grissom
"Probably. There are ways for vampires to feed without killing, especially if they can connect to the Goth and SM scenes or make a contact at the blood bank. But they like to kill, like to make more vampires, and they like human blood much more than animal, so probably yes. I doubt that it happens often, not like some places I know, you're smart cops and you'd notice, but it probably happens. They'd be careful, and you won't get much forensic evidence from a vampire kill if they cover the bite-marks. Look for bodies with extensive blood loss that have been mutilated around the neck, a shotgun blast or bad burns will cover it pretty well."
"Not much forensic evidence?" said Catherine, "What about fingerprints?"
"Vampires don't sweat or have oily skin, so we don't leave prints on hard surfaces. You might see them in clay, or if a vampire had bloody hands, but that's about it."
"Getting back to this case..." said Grissom "So you went to one of these vampire bars two nights ago. Where was it?"
"Sorry, no. It wasn't one of the really bad ones, and if you close it down, they'll just find somewhere else. You try to arrest vampires, you're likely to end up dead."
"I'm not sure that I can accept that, but if you don't want us to check the place out, why tell us about it?"
"While I was there I saw someone, human I think, that gave me an odd creepy feeling. Like something walking over my grave."
"And where would that be precisely?" asked Nick, "Don't you have to take a coffin around with you?"
"My grave's in Ireland, the coffin thing's a myth. Unless you're Dracula, of course, but that's a long story."
"I'll bet it is." said Catherine, irritated by the digression. "So, you saw someone who made you feel 'creepy'. Can you describe him?"
"Forties, balding a little, thin. Here's a sketch." He pulled a pad from the pocket of his duster, and showed the investigators a beautifully-drawn sketch of a total stranger. "I got a feeling of power from him... my guess would be a magician, warlock, something of the sort."
"A magician." said Grissom flatly.
"You know I'm a vampire, I've told you about a magical death ray, why should a magician be any harder to accept?"
"Sorry... go on."
"Vampires have keen senses; good hearing, we can see in the dark, and we have a very good sense of smell. He was sitting near the door, when I left the place I picked up his scent. I smelled it in my room yesterday. I can't remember what happened, but I think that he spotted me for what I am and sensed some trace of the magic I'd been handling, tracked me back to the hotel somehow, and decided to see what he could find. The annoying thing is that I've an odd feeling I've seen him before, or smelled him, or maybe I've just seen his picture somewhere, I don't know. I spent last night trying to find him but he covered his tracks well, must have guessed I'd be looking for him. Maybe you have something on him in your records."
"Well, this sketch is a good start; you obviously have a good eye for faces. I'd like you to work with one of our ID technicians to put together a photo-fit picture that the computer can process. Oh, and draw a picture of the rod, it might be useful."
"Okay. Then what?"
"We hope that we find something. Meanwhile try to think who it is. Nick, look after him."
"Okay." Nick got up and went to the door, saying "This way. So, you were saying about Dracula..." as they went out.
Grissom looked at Catherine. She shrugged and said "Welcome to the Twilight Zone."
* * * * *
"Okay," said Nick, "That's three versions of his face I've put through the computer. We've run the age back ten years, I've tried a beard and glasses, nothing's coming out. Looks like your boy never had a criminal record."
"It's odd - I know somehow that you're wrong. I'm not sure how I know, but I know. Damn it - I can remember the Boxer Rebellion as though it was yesterday, why can't I remember this?" Angel looked frustrated and a little angry. Nick remembered how strong he was supposed to be, and tried to cool things down.
"It'd help a lot if you could remember where you encountered the scent; was there any other scent you associate with it, or any person, or a place?"
Angel sat for a moment, deep in memory, then whispered "A room... no, a shop... Buffy."
"And this Buffy is..?"
"A girl. I think I remember now... Let me make a call." He pulled out his mobile and tried a number, listened, then tried another. "Hello? Dawn? Hi, this is Angel. Yes, I'm good. I'm back in the country - no, I don't think I'll be in your neighbourhood any time soon, but I ought to be on my usual number in LA in a few days. Is Giles there, or any of the gang? Not home yet? Okay, maybe you can help, this is kind of urgent. Could you turn the music down?"
There was a pause, then Angel said "That's better, I can hear you now. Listen, I'm trying to remember someone's name, this would be four years ago, I guess you would have been ten or eleven. He was a magician, did something to people's costumes at Halloween, turned them into monsters. Willow and Giles broke the spell but he got away. He attacked Buffy a few weeks later, tried to feed her to a demon. I never really saw him for more than a few seconds, and I'm pretty sure that someone said he's in jail. I just can't remember the details."
Nick blinked as he listened, trying to imagine how monsters and spells and '..tried to feed her to a demon..' could fit into the world he thought he knew.
Angel listened again, said "Okay, if I have to. Put him on... Spike, I need a name. Magician, British, Giles knew him, caused trouble a few times... what's it worth? So far one life, probably more, he isn't playing games... Okay, PLEASE tell me his name - happy now? Ethan Rain? R.. A.. Y.. N.. E..? OK, got that." Listening, Nick typed 'Ethan Rayne' into the search engine, added nationality and age in the appropriate fields, and pressed 'Send'.
"Any idea what happened to him?... Oh, yeah, Initiative, Riley's friends. They went out of business, didn't they?... No?... Okay, might be a lead... Yes, all right, THANK YOU... Listen, Rayne's on the loose again. I doubt he'll come your way, he ought to know better, but warn everyone to be on their guard, especially Giles. And if he does show up, let me know. Put Dawn back on, please... Dawn, say 'Hi' to everyone for me, and look out for a package from me in the next few days - assuming I get my luggage back, Rayne stole it. Got to go, there's a cop here trying to find him for me and I think he's getting impatient. Yeah, nice to talk to you too. Bye."
"Okay, you heard most of that. The name is Ethan Rayne, he's British. Anything coming up on your computer?"
"Nothing. Several perps named Rayne, none match your picture or the other details."
"I'm not surprised. My contact says the government had him under wraps, they've probably classified him Top Secret."
"The government? The US government?"
"Your tax dollars at work."
* * * * *
"Let me get this straight." said Grissom, flatly. "The US government was capturing monsters and using them for experiments?"
"They exist, the government took notice and tried to take advantage. They blew it."
"Where exactly was this? Area 51?"
"California. My friends helped kill the demons and rescue the survivors; afterwards the place was destroyed. It was a black operation, very black, there won't be any records now, but remnants of the old organisation are still in business hunting monsters. Anyway they had him, they took him to some sort of special Federal prison, looks like they've erased his records. Since he's in Vegas I'm assuming that he's got away from them."
"Do you have any way of contacting these people?"
"No, I never had much to do with them, but I don't think you need worry about trying to reach them. I've mentioned Rayne in a call to a number that they probably monitor, you've asked about him through your computers. I'd give it a day before they're at your door, less if they've already tracked him to Vegas."
"Great. Just wonderful. Meanwhile what should we do?"
"Circulate the picture, warn everyone that he's armed and dangerous. I doubt that many cops will be in danger from the rod, but he may have other tricks up his sleeve. Trying the picture at hotels and motels might be a good idea, if you can do it without alerting him. One thing... I don't think Rayne knows who I am. I wasn't using my real name at the hotel, as far as he knows I'm just a vampire that turned up with some powerful magic that he wanted to steal. That first time we only met for a few seconds in poor light, and my appearance has changed since then. If he did know he would have realised that I might talk to you, or to the Initiative, so he would have killed me - or stayed well away from me. That's my guess, anyway."
"Okay, maybe so. Any other ideas?"
"I want to hit the streets and take another look for him, see if I can pick up his scent, it isn't midnight yet and I might get lucky."
* * * * *
Catherine finished her shift at four AM and headed home. About halfway there she was overtaken by three identical olive Humvees, with Army plates, driving in convoy with dipped lights. A few minutes later she saw them parked by the road, with armed men in commando uniforms climbing out and fanning out around a motel. Putting two and two together...
She pulled in fifty yards past the Humvees and called in to Grissom, then walked back to the motel. One of the soldiers, a woman, moved to stop her; she held up her badge, identified herself, and asked for her commanding officer. The soldier said a few words into her radio.
Another commando walked out of the motel's office, closely followed by Angel, who was saying "...and you let him have that stuff? What else would he do with it but escape?" The commando didn't look pleased.
"Detective Willows? I understand that Angel has told you something about the situation?"
"Enough to know what's going on. You've lost this man Rayne, we've gained him. Incidentally, do you have some identification?"
"Sorry - Agent Finn, Riley Finn." He didn't show a badge. "Angel can vouch for me."
"He's who he says he is. What he is I don't know, what are they calling your outfit these days?"
"We're a federal anti-terrorist task force. No name as such."
"That's interesting," said Catherine, "Don't you need some paperwork to run an operation in my city?"
"I can assure you that the appropriate federal, state and city officials are aware of our presence. They may not know precisely why we're here, but they are aware of us. Right now they welcome us."
"Okay, who's in the loop in the department? It sounds like we need to co-ordinate."
"It'd be better if you co-ordinated directly with us; Angel has my number. We really do want to keep this low profile."
"I don't have the authority for that. Who's in the loop in the department?" she repeated.
"Since Angel tells me there's been a death, I think it would be Captain Brass, Homicide. I expect you know him."
"Nothing here, sir." said the female commando, listening to a headset radio. "I'll get the men loaded and ready to move out."
"Nice meeting you, Detective Willows." said Finn. "Angel, call me if you find anything."
"Sure, and then you can get another fix on my cell phone," muttered Angel as they drove off. "Never liked that guy."
"Why's that?" asked Catherine, suddenly very aware that she was alone with a vampire on a deserted street.
"Well, part of it was he sort of stole my girl, part of it was he started screwing around on her and left her at a very bad time, and part of it is he's still screwing around on the job, his smell's all over Ms. Schwartzenegger there and her smell's all over him."
"Sort of stole your girl?"
"We'd parted... we still loved each other, we just couldn't be together. Never can be, now."
"Oh?" Catherine wondered at the look of pain in his eyes, guessing at some sort of tragedy.
"Long story. Short version, there are good reasons why I'm not going to tell you about it. Okay?"
"I guess. Need a lift anywhere?"
"No, I'm staying here, just hope Riley and his boy commandos haven't made too much of a mess of my room. Oh, by the way, one thing I should say in justice to the man. He's pretty good at what he does. If we can find Rayne they'll be able to take him."
* * * * *
"Here's a list of the ingredients for Calynthia powder," said Nick next day. "Maybe they were exotic in ancient Greek days, but most of them are things you can find if you visit a delicatessen with a good selection of spices and mushrooms, a florist, that sort of thing."
"But not all?" asked Grissom.
"No. We've got this one ingredient here, Lethe's Bramble. That 'Demons' database says it's the ingredient that affects memory. It grows in the Middle East; it's toxic to sheep and classified as a noxious weed. That means it's illegal to import the plant or seeds into this country without a special permit from the EPA. "
"But you've found someone with a permit in this area?"
"Not exactly. When I checked the EPA database I found that there were only three importers, none of them local, all of them companies that supply ingredients to Chinese herbalists. It comes in as the dried plant or as seeds, irradiated to ensure sterility."
"Which would explain the odd energy levels Greg mentioned?"
"Maybe, I'm not sure but it sounds likely. Anyway, I phoned the nearest supplier and asked about it, they say it's sometimes used as a headache cure. But they told me something else - the stuff is also bought by magic shops, the sort of place that sells crystals, tarot cards, incense, that sort of thing. Accounts for most of their trade in it. Most of their sales on this side of the country are along the coast, LA and Southern California especially, but they knew of four outlets in the city, another just outside the city line. The other suppliers gave me two more shops."
"Good work; I'll get the addresses to Brass, he's got the manpower to check it out. I'm still wondering why the rod hasn't been used again - if Rayne is this big bad-assed magician you'd think he'd want to play with it."
"Angel seemed to think that Rayne likes chaos, not evil as such, maybe he doesn't want to make things too easy for the bad guys," said Nick "Or maybe he's still trying to figure out how to use it properly, our forensics on the murder scene make it look like he actually touched her with it rather than using it at a distance. Must have left him really messed up."
"That's thin, but let's hope it's right. Something like that we might be able to stop before too many people get hurt."
* * * * *
"You're wrong," said Angel that evening, "I've checked with friends who knew him. Rayne likes chaos, likes scaring people, and he wouldn't care if he was giving evil a helping hand. He hurts people then gloats about it. He'd be aiming for maximum carnage, something to make the news. Maybe a convent or a monastery, a church school, something like that. Not necessarily Christian. If he doesn't already know how the rod works it'd slow him down, but my guess is he knows by now, he's waiting for some reason."
"Finn finally came through with some useful photographs," said Catherine, "We've circulated them to all the main religious organisations, if he's seen anywhere near any place of worship we ought to hear about it."
"That's a good start, but I'd be happier if there was some way to lure him into the open." said Grissom. "Finn says that he's got the airport and surface routes out of the city monitored in some way, so Rayne can't get out, what I don't understand is why Finn can't close in on him."
"They're using some sort of spell to locate him, maybe a psychic, and there's too much magic inside the city." said Angel.
"Now you've got me confused again."
"It's simple, really. Every night hundreds of thousands of people gamble here, and all of them want to change the odds. Enough of them have some magical talent that they swamp the place with random power, like static on a radar screen, most of it just cancelling out. Then there are the spells the casinos use to protect themselves from magical cheating, and the spells the real magicians are trying to use to get past the protective spells... What?"
Grissom, Catherine, and Nick were staring at him again. Finally Catherine said "I'm sorry, all this takes a little getting used to. I worked in casinos half my adult life, I don't think I ever saw any signs of magic being used there."
"You wouldn't - the protective magic goes on well behind the scenes, some of it before the buildings are even built. Some of it is in the shapes of the buildings, or the construction of the foundations. You wouldn't believe the spell they cast the night they broke ground on Caesar's Palace. Most of the employees, even most of the management, have no idea, and there are spells to make sure things stay that way. And on the other side magicians know better than to try anything overt inside the casinos, it's all well-hidden, like any other type of cheating."
"Okay, fine. The economy of this city is based on magic. Does this get us anywhere?"
"Damned if I know."
"One thing," said Grissom, "we've found where he bought the ingredients for the Calynthia powder. Little magic shop not far from here. He's been back once since he got the stuff, bought some more supplies. He might be back, I suppose. Here's the list of what he bought."
Angel read it, thought for a minute, then said "Disguise spell, I think. You'd have to concentrate on your appearance while you were using it, but it'd get you past someone with a photo."
"Damn. Back to square one." said Grissom. "What about cameras and mirrors?"
"They'd be affected too, I think. Let me make a call, there's a witch I know who could confirm that."
"A witch?" asked Catherine.
"Yeah, nice kid. You two have a lot in common. For one thing her name's Willow."
"Willows the witch..." mused Nick as Angel dialled.
"Don't even think it," said Catherine flatly. "I can make your life a living hell given suitable provocation."
* * * * *
"Willow confirmed it." said Angel. "It's a powerful spell, but you have to concentrate all the time you use it. Any distraction, try to do anything else, and it starts to slip."
"That's something, I suppose, but it still doesn't tell us his target," said Grissom. "I've got the security camera tape for the shop, it shows Rayne buying that stuff. He's carrying some bags, but I can't tell what they are. Greg is having some stills enhanced."
"Let me see it," said Angel "Maybe I'll spot something you've missed."
The tape was black and white and split into four images, the view from different cameras. One of them showed Rayne at the counter. Angel watched intensely. "That's him, all right. Talkative, isn't he."
"Talkative?" asked Grissom.
"Talking non-stop. Look here... she's going into the back room now, he's still talking to her. Be nice to know what he's saying."
"You're right." He picked up the phone. "Greg, I want the whole of that tape enlarged and enhanced, and call Mrs. Webster in to take a look at it."
"Mrs. Webster?" asked Angel.
"She's a lip reader."
* * * * *
"Well, here he's asking for powdered ram's spleen... eye of newt..." said Mrs. Webster, an elderly lady who seemed totally unphased at being called out in the middle of the night. On screen the clerk went into the back room. "Now he's saying something I can't catch... no, he's humming something, I think." the clerk came back. "Holly berries, and a half-dozen beeswax candles." she went out again. "Still humming.... dum dum di dum di dum di di." Grissom and Angel stared at her. "tum tum ti tum tum, tum tum ti tum tum, get me to the church on time."
"I'm getting married in the morning." said Grissom.
"That's right, Mr. Grissom." said Mrs. Webster. "My Fair Lady."
"A wedding." breathed Angel.
"There must be a couple of hundred churches and chapels in town." said Grissom, gloomily.
"But there's only one that fits the profile," said Catherine "Rayne wants an event with maximum publicity. He wants something so frightening that it'll scare people away. I think he's planning to make a run for it in the confusion. So it has to be seen by thousands, by millions. There's only one wedding coming up that fits the bill. This one." She showed them the evening paper.
* * * * *
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today..."
Catherine and Riley watched the scene on monitors in the TV control van next to the church, trying to stay out of the way of the technicians and producer. "How the hell did Angel persuade him to let us do this?" whispered Catherine.
"Apparently he once removed a curse that was killing the band's drummers," replied Riley. "Nigel was grateful."
"Known Angel long?" asked Catherine.
"Met him a year or so ago. There was a girl..."
"Angel said something."
"I'll bet he didn't tell you the full story," Riley whispered grimly. "Did he mention where he loses his soul and starts killing people if they get together again?"
"Kind of glossed over that part. Where is he hiding, anyway?"
"I'm not sure, he's somewhere in the church. Went in last night."
"I thought that vampires couldn't go near crosses. Is it because he has a soul?"
"It's mostly a myth - fortunately a lot of them believe it. Crosses and holy water burn them, but if they don't actually touch them they don't get hurt. Wait a minute.... There, camera five."
The picture showed the gallery of the church, rows of seats in front of bright stained-glass windows, with white statues in niches between the windows. Most of the seats were filled with the sort of people Catherine expected to see at a rock-star's wedding; burned-out looking hippies, Goths, punks, rockers. The small nattily dressed man in the third row, now getting to his feet, didn't look anything out of the ordinary, maybe a celebrity tailor or a florist. Until his face started to change...
"All units, all units, target identified. Gallery, man in third row left starting to stand. Move!"
Rayne was pulling something from under his jacket. On another camera Catherine could see ushers, Riley's men, trying to get into position for taser shots. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion, and she somehow knew that they were going to be too late.
Behind the seats something was moving. Impossibly, one of the statues, a figure wearing a monk's cowl and cloak, was turning and throwing something - a spear or a trident - no, a crucifix on a long pole. Dust flew from its hands and face, and Catherine thought she could see wisps of smoke. The cross flew with blurring speed, hitting Rayne in the shoulder and slamming him forward to sprawl into the second row. A fight started, and one of the rockers grabbed the rod from Rayne and hit him with it. By the time the ushers reached Rayne he was more than ready to be arrested.
* * * * *
"How did you do that?" asked Catherine a couple of hours later, back at CSI headquarters.
"I got there before dawn, moved the real statue to a store room, and took its place. Then I just stayed still until you saw Rayne."
"For seven hours?" asked Grissom.
"I'm dead, remember. Immobility comes easy."
"But vampires can't stand sunlight. You were right next to a window."
"In a deep recess, not in front of it. I wasn't in direct sunlight there, and the cloak and hood and the sun-block and plaster of Paris I put on my hands and face gave me just enough protection. Of course I had to move quickly once it had cracked off, but I didn't have to go far - it was only fifty feet or so to the storeroom. Then Riley's men got me out under a blanket."
"How did you hold the crucifix?" asked Catherine.
"It was on a pole, I made sure that I only touched the pole. It was a strain, but Rayne was alert for a vampire, I wanted to be sure he wouldn't spot me. I'm just sorry I had to use a cross disrespectfully."
"I think you can say it was justified by the circumstances."
Nick said "We were lucky that the rod didn't hurt anyone."
"Rayne didn't think it through. You just don't find many saints at a show-business wedding. It's possible that there were a couple of people there that were genuinely virtuous, but what are the odds he would point it at them? Even the preacher... well, let's just say that he was the best that they could hire, and that the fee didn't go to charity. Love of money is the root of all evil. The hard part was making sure that there weren't going to be any children there, they might have been at risk, but Nigel was very good about arranging for a crèche. Fortunately they hadn't planned to have a choir."
"What about the rod?" asked Catherine.
"Riley Finn has it, one of his men snagged it while they were arresting Rayne and breaking up the fight. He ought to be bringing it along soon, they're just checking Rayne's motel."
"Which brings us to Rayne." said Grissom quietly.
"There's no way you can convict him,” said Angel, flatly. "You'd be laughed out of court if you tried. Even if you could, he's a powerful enough magician to get out of any ordinary prison. Anyway, I doubt that Finn will give you the opportunity. Rayne isn't going to go free, you can count on that."
Finn came in as they were talking. "Rayne is going to be joining one of our field teams, with a couple of powerful shamen to keep him under control. We'll see how he likes being on the receiving end of magic for a change."
"Field team? What the hell does that mean?" asked Nick.
"A few months in the nastiest jungle in South America fighting demons, then maybe a trip to sunny Bosnia, or Afghanistan if we ever get clearance to operate there. After that I'm sure we can find other things to do with him. Believe me, he's not going to be enjoying himself."
"And the rod?" asked Catherine.
"Here. Although I'm not sure that I should be giving it to a vampire."
"I don't think you need worry too much," said Angel, examining it. "The wood's split, must have happened when that rocker hit Rayne with it, and nothing catastrophic happened. That means that we can get rid of it by destroying it, and I'm willing to bet you have a really good incinerator somewhere here. Burn it, pulverise the ashes and wash them away."
"No problem, we have to dispose of hazardous waste all the time,” said Grissom. "Feels like we're destroying evidence, but I can see why it's necessary."
"Now about the other stuff in this bag," said Riley, "I take it you have a permit to export antiquities from Sri Lanka, and the jewellery appears to be modern, but would you mind telling me what the hell you're doing with a shrunken head..."
* * * * *
"Well, I suppose that's over." Catherine said later that evening. "It feels really strange, knowing that there's all this weirdness going on in Las Vegas. Things we never even suspected. Magic, vampires, wizards, shamen and demons."
"Well, we know now,” said Grissom. "The question is, what do we do about it?"
"Damned if I know. I suppose call for help if we need it, I got Angel's number and Brass knows how to reach Finn and his men. It's not a problem we run into every day."
"Sounds about right. After all, we've got a budget for consultants, might as well use it."
"Where is Angel anyway?" asked Nick.
"He hit the road for LA as soon as the sun set, said he wanted to get back to normality," said Catherine.
"In LA? Oh well, I suppose it depends on your definition of normality," said Nick.
"He promised he'd try to stay out of our hair if he visited Vegas again. I hope he does."
"Hope he visits, or hope he stays out of our hair?" asked Nick
"Work it out for yourself."
"Okay, we've closed one case, we still have others," said Grissom, "Now about the treehouse killings, did you hear anything from Springfield PD about that Simpson kid..?"