CSI: Crime Scene Investigation #4: Body of Evidence

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation #4: Body of Evidence

by Max Allan Collins
     
 

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Early one quiet Monday morning, in an empty executive office, assistant Janice Denard begins to prepare for another ordinary day - but instead discovers evidence of horrific crimes, shocking photographs left abandoned in a printer. Now, with the help of the LVPD's computer forensics experts, the CSI team must track through hardware and software, deception and deceit…  See more details below

Overview

Early one quiet Monday morning, in an empty executive office, assistant Janice Denard begins to prepare for another ordinary day - but instead discovers evidence of horrific crimes, shocking photographs left abandoned in a printer. Now, with the help of the LVPD's computer forensics experts, the CSI team must track through hardware and software, deception and deceit to find the perpetrators. But while Willows and Stokes investigate the once well-hidden secrets now revealed in print, Grissom, Brown, and Sidle uncover new and disturbing evidence in a high-profile media case...the brutal murder of the Mayor's long-missing secretary.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743480192
Publisher:
Pocket Books
Publication date:
11/01/2003
Series:
CSI , #4
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
331,497
File size:
369 KB

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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

A sense of frustration rarely registered on the personal radar of Catherine Willows. Frustrating situations were so much a part of the fabric of her life by now that she could have long since gone mad had she let such things get to her. But at the moment, the sensation was registering, all right. In fact, she felt herself growing quietly pissed.

This was the tail end of yet another shift, and she and fellow Las Vegas Metro P.D. crime scene investigator Nick Stokes, who was at the wheel of the Tahoe, had been dispatched to take a 404 call -- unknown trouble -- at a business past the south end of the Strip. Unknown trouble could mean just about anything from petty theft to multiple homicides.

But what it definitely meant was another Monday morning where Mrs. Goodwin, the sitter, would have to get Lindsey up and off to school. Catherine's own childhood had often been spent waiting for her mother to come home, and she had hoped to do better for her own daughter. But she was a woman with many responsibilities. Once again, she would just have to tough it out. And be quietly pissed.

The Newcombe-Gold Advertising Agency, their destination, occupied a two-story, mostly glass building on West Robindale just off Las Vegas Boulevard, a couple miles south of the Mandalay Bay and the unofficial end of the Strip.

Newcombe-Gold had joined the new construction craze hitting that part of the city and even though the agency had been a fixture on the ad scene since the seventies, the building was a recent addition to that expanding urban landscape. Tinted windows gave the building a blackness in the morning sun, imparting a vaguely ominous vibe to Catherine, as she and Nick pulled into the gray-white welcome mat of a concrete parking lot, stretching across the building's blank black facade.

The small lot had room for between twenty and thirty cars, but aside from a dark blue Taurus (which Catherine recognized as a LVMPD detective's unmarked car), two patrol cars, and their own CSI Tahoe, only three other cars took up parking spaces.

Nick Stokes parked the Tahoe in a visitor's space near the front entry and Catherine crawled down while her partner hopped out on his side -- Nick was young enough, she guessed, not to feel the long night they'd just finished.

The tan and brown silk scarf -- a Mother's Day present last year from Lindsey -- flipped momentarily into her face, as if the breeze couldn't resist laying on another guilt pang. Her shoulder-length strawberry blonde hair whipped in the wind and she grimaced, wishing she were home. She stood nearby as Nick opened up the rear doors of the Tahoe.

Tall, muscular in a fashion befitting the ex-jock he was, Nick Stokes smiled over his shoulder at her, for no particular reason. His short black hair barely moved in the wind and the eagerness in his face made him look like a happy puppy. Catherine sometimes wondered if maybe he liked his job a little too much.

"Too early for admen to be at work?" Catherine said, casting her gaze around the mostly empty lot.

"Not even eight yet," Nick said, glancing at his watch. "Big shots'll be at least another hour -- rest should be filtering in, any time."

"What kind of trouble, I wonder," Catherine sighed.

"Unknown trouble," Nick said, a smile in his eyes.

"Don't tease me at the end of shift."

"I would never tease you, Catherine. I have too much respect for you."

"Kiss my..." Catherine began, but she found herself almost smiling -- damn him.

She grabbed the tool-kit-like stainless steel case containing her crime-scene gear, and led the way to the entry. A painfully young-looking patrolman, whose nametag identified him as McDonald, opened the door for her. The uniform man was tall and broad-shouldered, and you could smell recent-police-academy-grad on him like a new car. His brown hair was clipped high and tight and his smile also seemed a little excessive, considering the hour.

"Morning, guys," he said, with a familiarity that didn't negate the fact that neither CSI had ever seen him before.

"Thanks," she said as she entered, making her own smile pleasant enough but of the low-wattage variety.

"What's his problem?" she asked Nick when they were out of earshot.

"Aw, lighten up, Cath. He's chipper, that's all. You know these young guys. They haven't had time to get cynical."

Neither have you, Catherine thought, then said, "Well, I wonder how long it'll take him to stop opening doors for CSIs."

"CSIs that look like you, probably never....You'll make it up to her, you know."

The non sequitur caught Catherine's full attention. "What?"

Nick shrugged, and his smile was tiny, without a trace of smirk. "Lindsey. She's cool. You'll be fine. Let's do our job -- maybe I'll even buy you breakfast, after."

She gave up and smiled at him. "Maybe I'll even let you."

They were in a spacious lobby, and even though the building glass was smoked, sunlight flooded in. Four chairs, three sofas and two tables arrayed with trade journals and newsmagazines dotted the long, narrow area inside the door. In the far corner, a wall-mounted counter held neat little towers of styrofoam cups and a coffee pot that filled the room with the fragrance of fresh-brewed Columbian-blend. Catherine knew that this -- unlike the sludge back at HQ -- would be the first pot of the day.

A high counter, reminiscent of a hotel check-in desk, crossed the opposite end of the room, the receptionist's tall chair empty; on top of the desk rested an appointment book and a telephone system that looked to be capable of launching missiles across continents. The wall behind was replete with various awards from the Nevada Advertising Council, the Southwest Advertising Coalition and two awards Catherine recognized as the Oscars of the ad game, Cleos.

To the left of the reception counter, far off to the side, another uniformed officer stood at the aperture of a hall leading into the warren of offices.

Something was in the air besides that Columbian blend.

The pleasantness of the uniformed man on the front door had been replaced by a chilliness that had nothing to do with air conditioning. Catherine wondered if Nick sensed it, and she glanced at him. He too was frowning.

They moved through the room without touching anything. Though they had been dispatched here, the reason for the call had been obscured behind the "Unknown Trouble" tag. Sometimes the term mean just that: the nature of the crime was unknown, possibly because the person who called it in had been vague or hysterical, but troubled and insistent enough to get a response.

Other times, a crime was considered sensitive, and the officer on the scene made a decision not to broadcast its nature over the police band.

Was that the case here?

At any rate, as they made their way over to the second uniformed officer, they did their best to not contaminate anything that might later turn out to be evidence.

So much for a cup of that coffee.

"Detective O'Riley's in the conference room at the end of the hall," the uniform informed them. This officer -- Leary, the nametag said -- was perhaps five years older than the one posted outside, and he was dour where McDonald had been chipper. Maybe five years on the job was all it took.

Catherine thanked him, and they walked the corridor, which was wide and long and lined with framed print ads; at the end, a set of double doors yawned open.

Along the way, the artwork on the walls depicted some of the company's most successful campaigns. She was familiar with all of them. When they got to what appeared to be the conference room, another hallway peeled off to the right.

Through the open door of the conference room, Catherine could see a large ebony table that consumed most of the space, surrounded by charcoal-colored, high-backed chairs. Nothing was marked off as a crime scene, so neither CSI put on rubber gloves, as they approached. When she ducked in the room, with Nick just behind, Catherine saw, crewcut Sergeant O'Riley standing at the far end, hovering over a blonde woman, seated with her head bowed, the thumb and fingers of her left hand rubbing her forehead.

"Ms. Denard," O'Riley said, in his gruff second tenor. Whether this was for identification purposes, for the CSIs, or to get the woman's attention, wasn't quite clear.

In any case, the woman jumped a little, looked up at O'Riley, then her eyes tensed as Catherine and Nick entered deeper into the room, moving to O'Riley's side of the massive table.

"It's all right, Ms. Denard," O'Riley said as he placed one of his hands on her shoulder. "These people are here to help."

The woman seemed to relax, thanks to O'Riley's touch and reassurance.

Catherine had come to revise her feelings about O'Riley, over the years; once she had overheard him dismissing the CSIs as "the nerd squad." But such adversarial days were long gone.

As usual, the detective's suit looked like he had fallen naked from a plane into a clothing store, only to rise and find himself fully if haphazardly dressed.

"Ms. Denard," the sergeant said, "this is Catherine Willows and her partner Nick Stokes from the crime lab."

The woman started to stand, but O'Riley's friendly hand on her shoulder -- coupled with Catherine saying, "No, no, please, that's all right" -- kept her in her seat.

Catherine stuck out her hand and the woman shook it delicately, then repeated the action with Nick as O'Riley said, "This is Janice Denard -- she's Ruben Gold's personal assistant and office manager."

Ms. Denard didn't seem to know what to say, then she finally settled on, "Would either of you like a cup of coffee?"

"No, thanks," Nick said. "We're fine." Catherine nodded her assent to Nick's call.

Denard wore a sleeveless black-and-white polka dot dress that showed off slim, tan shoulders, the high collar -- which Catherine thought should have shortened the appearance of the woman's throat -- instead seeming to elongate it, giving the woman a supple swan neck. A simple silver cross hung on a tiny chain and she wore a slim silver watch on her left wrist, her only other jewelry a silver ring on the fourth finger of her right hand. She was in her early to mid-thirties and beautiful, her wide-set big blue eyes bearing lashes long enough to give Catherine a flash of envy.

"Really," the woman said, unconvincingly, "I'm fine -- it's no trouble, if you change your mind."

Moments later, Catherine and Nick had taken seats on either side of Janice Denard, who began, "I came to work early today."

"Is that unusual?" Catherine asked.

"No. I do that most days -- especially Mondays. I like to have everything up and running...you know, before Mr. Gold comes in."

"What time is that usually?"

"That Mr. Gold comes in? Just before nine."

"And what time do you get here?"

"Between seven and seven-thirty most days, but six-thirty on Mondays."

"And that's when you came in this morning?"

"No. It was more like...six-forty-five. I was running late, because of a traffic accident on Maryland Parkway."

Nick, who was taking notes, asked, "Where do you live, Ms. Denard?"

"East end of Charleston Boulevard. There are some houses at the foot of the mountains...?"

"Yes," Catherine said, thinking, Nice digs for a secretary. "I know those houses. Very nice."

Nick bulled right in, though his tone was gentle. "You are Mr. Gold's secretary, I take it?"

Denard bristled. "Personal assistant to Mr. Gold and office manager. It's an executive position, and I do very well, thank you very much. Not that I see how it pertains to anything."

Catherine's frustration was very much on her radar now; neither O'Riley nor this woman had as yet indicated what kind of situation they were dealing with, so whether or not something "pertained" remained as "unknown" as the "trouble."

"No offense," Nick said, and he shared with the woman the boyish smile that had melted frostier types than Denard. "But you gotta admit, those are really nice houses."

Wouldn't you know it, Denard smiled back at Nick, showing lots of white teeth. Caps? Catherine wondered.

"My ex," Denard said, "was a divorce lawyer...but not as good as mine, as it turned out."

Nick gave half a grin and a head nod, and Catherine chuckled politely, thinking, Shark. Then Catherine asked, "So, back on point -- you came in around six-forty-five, and then?"

A shrug. "I went about my routine."

Their silence prompted her to continue.

Denard did: "I shut off the alarm, I went to my office, took off my coat and hung it up, then turned on my computer."

Catherine could almost see the movie Janice Denard seemed to be watching in her own mind, as she retraced her morning.

"While the computer booted, I went through Saturday's mail, which was piled on my desk."

"How did it get there?" O'Riley put in, lurking on the sidelines, on his feet.

Denard blinked at him. "How did what get there?"

"The mail."

"Oh! An intern put it there."

"When?"

"On Saturday."

d

O'Riley frowned, mostly in thought. "You weren't here on Saturday?"

Nodding, Denard said, "In the morning, but I left before the mail came. Most of the staff works Saturday -- "

Catherine put in, "Isn't that unusual?"

"Not in a competitive, deadline-driven business like ours. We're just that busy, and that includes the interns. One of them would've been in charge of making sure the mail was on my desk, before he, or she, left."

Nick asked, "Which intern?"

"I don't know," she said, with another shrug. "I could find that out for you. I can give you a list of all the interns, far as that's concerned."

"If you could."

"But not right now," O'Riley said, with just a little impatience. "Go on with your account, please, Ms. Denard."

She took a breath, and dove back in. "After I went through the mail, and my computer was up, I went online. I checked the e-mails of both myself and Mr. Gold. After that, I checked the fax machine in my office, and then went to the rear office and checked that fax, too. Once I had done that, I went out front and started the coffee."

"You started the coffee?" Catherine asked, sitting forward. "Not one of the interns?"

"The interns'll just be shuffling in about now. I'm here first and starting the coffee is just something I like to do myself. Anyway, after that...that's when I found...found those...things."

Catherine and Nick exchanged glances, and O'Riley said, "Show us, if you would, please."

The woman took a moment to compose herself -- as if preparing to do something very difficult; then, rising, Janice Denard said, "Come with me."

They followed her down the hall into a huge room divided into a colony of cubicles that seemed to be set off in squares of four with perhaps four central squares taking up the bulk of the space. The outside walls of the work area were the glass windows of offices that formed the room's borders.

Except for the framed advertisements, Newcombe-Gold looked to Catherine more like an insurance company than an ad agency, at least until they rounded a corner and she glanced into one of the corner offices and saw a giant slot car setup, and in an adjacent office an array of action figure toys surrounding a work station.

Two doors later, Janice Denard took a right into a spacious office, outfitted in a sleekly modern fashion, accented with splashes of color via framed abstract art. A starship of a desk -- wide, gray and fashioned of an indeterminate substance -- jutted from the left wall at a forty-five degree angle, envelopes and papers in three neat stacks, a mini-missile-launch phone setup roosting nearby; adjacent, a small credenza was home to a computer monitor and printer.

"This is my office," Janice Denard said -- gesturing to file cabinets and chairs as if addressing loyal subjects in passing. Sensing that her little safari group had slowed to take in the impressive surroundings, the personal assistant/office manager paused to make sure they were all keeping up before she led them into Ruben Gold's office.

Nearly a half again as large as Janice's office, Gold's quarters were tan and masculine -- the only wall decorations a trio of framed ad magazines with Gold's picture on the cover; the expansive area was dominated by a mahogany desk for which untold trees had given their lives. A speaker phone capable of defending against any missile attacks the lobby or Ms. Denard might launch perched on one corner, a silver airplane on a C-shaped silver base hovered on the other. Two leather armchairs faced the desk and a massive oxblood leather throne loomed behind it.

A glass cutout in the top of Gold's desk provided the (as yet absent) boss a view of his concealed computer monitor; atop a matching mahogany credenza, behind and to the throne's right lurked a laser printer as well as a row of books between ornate silver bookends -- the credenza likely sheltering the CPU tower.

"Everything seemed fine this morning," Janice said, her manner now detached, business-like, "until I happened to glance at Mr. Gold's printer."

Nick asked, "How did that change things?"

Janice's face screwed up as she pointed toward the printer tray, where Catherine could see a small pile of paper. Walking to the printer, pulling on latex gloves, Catherine asked, "Let's see what got your attention, Ms. Denard...."

And, even as she pulled the sheaf of papers from the tray, Catherine could see what had disgusted Janice Denard.

CSI Willows was not squeamish.

Without a twinge, she had once walked into a room where waited a bloated corpse, undiscovered until the smell alerted a landlord; she had dealt with liquefied human remains, emotionlessly; she had handled disembodied arms, legs, limbs, torsos and heads without a flutter of her stomach.

But revulsion and rage flowed through her now, an immediate response that she had to force back, to retain and maintain her professionalism.

The top sheet was a pornographic picture of a girl about Lindsey's age, being violated by a male adult in his thirties. Catherine closed her eyes, then opened them to glance toward Janice. "You found these in the printer this morning?"

Janice managed a weak nod and backed away a half-step, as if something in Catherine's manner had frightened her.

Catherine placed the top sheet on the desk, with the image up, and Nick's face whitened; his eyes looked unblinkingly, unflinchingly at the image, then looked away.

"Nick," Catherine said, gently.

His gaze came to hers and he nodded a little, and she nodded back. They both had issues with this kind of crime, and they knew it...and they would both stay professional.

Catherine looked at the next image.

It was worse than the first, and on and on they went, nearly a dozen in all, every one featuring a minor, both boys and girls, every one obscene. When no one was looking (she hoped), she brushed the tears from her eyes with her sleeve, and somehow each sheet got laid out on the desk, and when she and her partner were done, each sheet was slipped into an individual transparent plastic evidence bag. Nick collected them all and held them face down in his hands.

Her eyes again met his and she smiled, just a little, to be supportive. He swallowed and nodded, but didn't seem able to summon anything close.

With the photos out of sight, Catherine and Nick turned their attention back to Janice Denard.

"Is this the kind of thing Mr. Gold might be interested in?" Catherine asked. "To your knowledge, I mean?"

"My God, no!" She seemed shocked that Catherine might even suggest such a thing. "There's no way," she continued, looking from one CSI to the other. "He's just...not like that."

"We can talk to him at nine," Nick said. "That's when he'll be in, you said."

Shocked, as if it had slipped her mind, she said, "He's out of town."

"Out of town!" O'Riley blurted. "Where?"

Her shrug was noncommittal, but her words were specific: "He flew to Los Angeles for a trade show that starts this morning. He left last Friday and isn't due back until the end of the week."

Catherine, trying to keep the incredulity from her voice, asked, "And you simply forgot that little detail?"

"No, no, no, of course not....This, this thing that happened...and then you coming...I was taken by surprise, is all."

"If Mr. Gold wasn't coming in," Catherine said tersely, "why did you come in early to prep for him?"

"I didn't -- I just came in at the time I usually do on Monday." She was shaking her head, growing more and more agitated. "If you knew Mr. Gold, you would never dream...." Her voice trailed off.

Nick gestured with the pornographic sheets still in his hand. "You never know who some people really are."

Catherine gave him a quick look, then asked, "Why wouldn't we suspect Mr. Gold?"

"You just wouldn't. He's honest, he has integrity, he works hard. And he's dated a lot of women...mature women. I don't mean old, but women his own age."

O'Riley asked, "How old is Mr. Gold?"

"In his early forties, I guess. I can get you that information, if it's important.

Knowing that dating habits seldom had any real relevance to an interest in child porn, Catherine took the woman in another direction. "Who else has access to Mr. Gold's personal computer?"

Janice shook her head immediately. "No one."

Slowly, Catherine said, "No one has access to Mr. Gold's computer."

"That's right."

"You're his personal assistant."

The blonde risked a frown. "Do I have to tell you, a computer is also personal?"

"Some are more personal than others," Nick said dryly.

"Mr. Gold," Catherine said, letting each word out, one at a time, "is in LA and won't be back for a week...and yet you have no idea who could have printed out these pictures?"

The frown went away and a placating manner accompanied Denard's reply: "What I meant to say was, no one could have used Mr. Gold's PC to print those pictures. We each have our own private passwords, and there's no way anyone could use Mr. Gold's computer, unless he were careless with that password, which I assure you he was not."

Nick perked. "Was he especially careful about his password?"

Defensive now, Denard accused, "You make that sound suspicious! Are you careful about your password, Mr. Stone?"

"Stokes," Nick said.

Catherine could feel this interview starting to slip away from them, and she gave Nick a gently reproving glance, then said, "It is his printer, Ms. Denard."

"Our computers here are networked, linked together so that any of the work stations, or other offices, could have accessed Mr. Gold's printer."

"On purpose, you mean?" Catherine asked.

"Yes...but also by mistake! Just with a wrong keystroke."

Eyes narrowing, Catherine said, "So, we're looking at how many people, who've been in the building since the end of shift last Friday?"

"Nearly everyone. We work six days here most of the time -- Newcombe-Gold is rated number two ad agency in Las Vegas, you know."

Catherine asked, "How many employees?"

"With computer access?"

"Yes."

The woman didn't miss a beat; she knew her office. "Twenty-seven."

Trading dismayed glances with Nick, Catherine said, "Twenty-seven?"

"Plus Mr. Gold, of course, and Mr. Newcombe. Without computer access? There's five interns and half a dozen janitorial staff."

Turning to O'Riley, Catherine said, "We're going to need a search warrant for all the computers, floppies, CDs, everything."

O'Riley sighed, nodded, withdrew his cell phone and punched in numbers, stepping over to the corner of the office for some privacy.

Janice Denard's eyes were wide and she looked as white as Nick had on seeing the pictures. "Oh, no -- please don't say you're -- "

"This is a serious felony," Catherine said, cutting the woman off. Then to Nick, she said: "Call Tomas Nunez, would you? Tell him to get down here ASAP."

"On it," Nick said, hauling out his own cell phone and moving to the corner opposite O'Riley.

Tomas Nunez, the best of several computer gurus the department used part time, would come in to oversee the operation of taking the computers out of Newcombe-Gold. Catherine was about to seriously inconvenience this business, but there was no other way.

"A search warrant means you'll...search the building, right?" Denard asked weakly.

"A warrant means," Catherine replied, "that we'll take everything in, computers, maybe some of the other hardware, and most of the software, and our expert will work on it until we figure out the origin of this material. This isn't an employee logging on to some adult website on his coffee break, Ms. Denard -- this is child pornography. A serious crime."

"Eighty percent of our graphics are computer generated!"

"We don't do this lightly. And we do regret the inconvenience."

O'Riley asked, "Is Mr. Newcombe in town?"

More flustered than angry, Janice glanced at her watch. "Yes, he should be here any minute now."

"Good." O'Riley returned to the cell phone, spoke a few words, then punched the STOP button and faced them. "Warrant'll be here in ten minutes. I got Judge Madsen to issue it."

Catherine, Nick and O'Riley all knew that crimes against children sent Judge Andrew Madsen completely around the bend and he, of all local judges, would act fastest to help them gain possession of the evidence.

"When exactly is Mr. Newcombe due in?" O'Riley asked.

As if on cue, a tall, lantern-jawed man appeared in the doorway, a laptop computer case strapped over his left shoulder. Perhaps fifty, he might have stepped from an ad for his expensively tailored gray suit. He had silver-gray hair and thin, dark eyebrows, and managed to look both confident and confused as he strode into Ruben Gold's office.

Ignoring O'Riley and the CSIs, he demanded of Denard, "What's going on here?"

"Mr. Newcombe," she said, taking a tentative step toward her boss. "I...I...found something...terrible, this morning, and I'm afraid...."

O'Riley stepped between the man and woman, his badge coming up into Newcombe's face. "I'm Detective Sergeant O'Riley, Mr. Newcombe. You are Mr. Newcombe? These are crime scene investigators I called over -- Catherine Willows and Nick Stokes."

"Crime scene..." Wheeling slowly, the polished Newcombe seemed finally to realize the CSIs were in the room. He repeated what he'd said, upon entering, but the words came out soft, even apologetic: "What's going on here?" Then, as an afterthought, he stuck out his hand and said, "Ian Newcombe, Sergeant, sorry."

O'Riley gave the man's hand a cursory shake and said, "Ms. Denard discovered something in Mr. Gold's printer this morning, and was exactly right in calling us."

"Something in a printer serious enough to call the police?" Newcombe said, his bewildered look travelling from O'Riley back to Janice.

Nick stepped forward and tossed one of the evidence bags onto the desk -- image up. Newcombe eyed it from a distance, glanced at the officers, then -- as if approaching a dangerous beast -- took a few steps closer, moving past O'Riley, and finally braving to pick up the bag for a better look....

"Oh...my...God...."

"I take it," O'Riley said, matter of fact, "you've never seen these before?"

The adman dropped the bag onto the desk as if it were on fire, the laptop clunking against his hip as he involuntarily stepped back.

Nick spread the rest of the evidence bags out on the desk, like a terrible (if winning) hand of cards.

Newcombe glanced from picture to picture, his eyes never resting on one photo longer than a second, his mouth falling open in appalled shock, hands balling into fists then uncoiling and balling again.

"I have frankly never seen anything like this," he said, the calm in his voice obviously forced, his tone cold, almost mechanical. "One...hears of such things. These are...," he searched for the word, "...revolting."

But O'Riley was still in charge, saying to the ad exec, "You have no idea how they could have gotten here?"

"None," Newcombe said. "I...I don't recognize any of these children, either...if that helps at all."

Catherine said, "So you're as surprised as Mr. Denard to find these photos in Mr. Gold's printer?"

"Absolutely....How could that have happened?"

"That's what we have to find out," Nick said.

"But your company will be inconvenienced," Catherine said. "You can speak to your lawyers if you like, of course, but we'll have a warrant shortly and -- "

He held up a hand in a "stop" motion. "Anything we can do to help, we'll do."

"I'm relieved to hear you say that, Mr. Newcombe, because we're going to have to confiscate every computer in this facility."

Newcombe's shock seemed to congeal on his face, then something new appeared in his eyes: alarm. "What?"

O'Riley's face was as expressionless as a block of granite. "Ms. Willows is correct. We're going to take along everything these criminalists consider to be evidence, so we can trace the source of the pornography."

"That's what I was trying to tell you, Mr. Newcombe," Janice said, appearing at the executive's side, looking up at him pitifully. "They're planning to shut us down."

The adman stood a little straighter. "Oh, they are, are they? Well, maybe I will call my attorneys, at that."

"You said you'd do anything to help," Catherine reminded him.

"Not shut down the source of income for thirty people," he said, eyes intense. "Not if I have anything to say about it."

Actually, Catherine thought, twenty-nine, but she said, "Sir," with a smile that at least pretended to be friendly, "that's just it: you don't. Have anything to say about it, I mean."

A uniformed officer walked in with a folded sheaf of papers and handed them to O'Riley.

"Thanks," the detective said, as the uniform turned and left the room. O'Riley gave the warrant a cursory read, then handed the papers to Newcombe.

The adman was on his cell phone before he was done with the first page.

"Is that your lawyer?" Catherine asked, helpfully.

"You can rest assured it is."

"That would be the attorney who handles all your business affairs?"

"Yes, and why is that of any concern to you?"

"It isn't -- but it might be to you. This is a criminal matter and your attorney probably hasn't studied in that area since law school."

O'Riley got into it, saying to the exec: "But, hey -- yammer at the guy all you want, if it'll make you feel better...and for, what? Five hundred bucks an hour?...He'll get back to you and consult with a real criminal attorney and then finally they'll tell you what I'm about to tell you...for free."

Newcombe looked pissed, but he said into the phone, "Just a moment, Wayne," then said to O'Riley, "And what legal advice can you share with me?"

O'Riley shrugged. "That you can't do shit."

The adman growled into the phone, "Wayne, I'll call you back from my office," and started to leave.

Catherine called out: "There's another thing your attorney can tell you, Mr. Newcombe!"

The executive halted in the doorway, looked over his shoulder at her, glaring.

"It's that if you do try to fight this," she said, "it could cause you far more harm than being shut down for a day or two."

Newcombe's eyes tightened, but there was no hostility in his tone as he said: "What kind of trouble?"

Catherine approached him, her manner calm, professional. "Let's explore the path that doesn't come with trouble. Let's say you don't stand in our way, we take your equipment, and find the kiddie porn source. Then, when the case makes the news -- and trust me, it will make the news -- we praise you and your agency in all the media for helping us ferret out this dangerous individual."

Newcombe cocked his head, skeptically.

"Or," Nick said, an edge in his voice, "not."

The executive came back into the room, put himself at the center of Catherine, O'Riley and Nick. "How long do you think we'll be shut down?"

Catherine said, "A few days, if we're lucky. You might want to call your insurance company -- you may be able to file a lost time claim."

Newcombe nodded. "Our coverage may include something for this, at that. What else can we do to help you?"

O'Riley pulled out a pad. "Tell us about this trade show your partner's attending."

"The aaay miss buddy show?"

O'Riley squinted; it wasn't the most intelligent expression Catherine had ever seen on a face. "Pardon?" O'Riley asked.

The exec spelled it out: "The AAAA-MIS-BUDDY show."

The detective looked at the CSIs, his eyebrows raised in confusion; the spelling bee hadn't helped any of them, both Catherine and Nick shaking their heads.

Newcombe turned on a smile normally reserved for clients -- its wattage lower than your average Strip marquee, but just barely.

"Sorry," he said, "too much time with ad people. The American Association of Advertising Agencies, AAAA, has a Member Information Services section, the MIS, and they are using the trade show that starts this morning. He left last Friday and isn't due back until the end of the week."

Catherine, trying to keep the incredulity from her voice, asked, "And you simply forgot that little detail?"

"No, no, no, of course not....This, this thing that happened...and then you coming...I was taken by surprise, is all."

"If Mr. Gold wasn't coming in," Catherine said tersely, "why did you come in early to prep for him?"

"I didn't -- I just came in at the time I usually do on Monday." She was shaking her head, growing more and more agitated. "If you knew Mr. Gold, you would never dream...." Her voice trailed off.

Nick gestured with the pornographic sheets still in his hand. "You never know who some people really are."

Catherine gave him a quick look, then asked, "Why wouldn't we suspect Mr. Gold?"

"You just wouldn't. He's honest, he has integrity, he works hard. And he's dated a lot of women...mature women. I don't mean old, but women his own age."

O'Riley asked, "How old is Mr. Gold?"

"In his early forties, I guess. I can get you that information, if it's important.

Knowing that dating habits seldom had any real relevance to an interest in child porn, Catherine took the woman in another direction. "Who else has access to Mr. Gold's personal computer?"

Janice shook her head immediately. "No one."

Slowly, Catherine said, "No one has access to Mr. Gold's computer."

"That's right."

"You're his personal assistant."

The blonde risked a frown. "Do I have to tell you, a computer is also personal?"

"Some are more personal than others," Nick said dryly.

"Mr. Gold," Catherine said, letting each word out, one at a time, "is in LA and won't be back for a week...and yet you have no idea who could have printed out these pictures?"

The frown went away and a placating manner accompanied Denard's reply: "What I meant to say was, no one could have used Mr. Gold's PC to print those pictures. We each have our own private passwords, and there's no way anyone could use Mr. Gold's computer, unless he were careless with that password, which I assure you he was not."

Nick perked. "Was he especially careful about his password?"

Defensive now, Denard accused, "You make that sound suspicious! Are you careful about your password, Mr. Stone?"

"Stokes," Nick said.

Catherine could feel this interview starting to slip away from them, and she gave Nick a gently reproving glance, then said, "It is his printer, Ms. Denard."

"Our computers here are networked, linked together so that any of the work stations, or other offices, could have accessed Mr. Gold's printer."

"On purpose, you mean?" Catherine asked.

"Yes...but also by mistake! Just with a wrong keystroke."

Eyes narrowing, Catherine said, "So, we're looking at how many people, who've been in the building since the end of shift last Friday?"

"Nearly everyone. We work six days here most of the time -- Newcombe-Gold is rated number two ad agency in Las Vegas, you know."

Catherine asked, "How many employees?"

"With computer access?"

"Yes."

The woman didn't miss a beat; she knew her office. "Twenty-seven."

Trading dismayed glances with Nick, Catherine said, "Twenty-seven?"

"Plus Mr. Gold, of course, and Mr. Newcombe. Without computer access? There's five interns and half a dozen janitorial staff."

Turning to O'Riley, Catherine said, "We're going to need a search warrant for all the computers, floppies, CDs, everything."

O'Riley sighed, nodded, withdrew his cell phone and punched in numbers, stepping over to the corner of the office for some privacy.

Janice Denard's eyes were wide and she looked as white as Nick had on seeing the pictures. "Oh, no -- please don't say you're -- "

"This is a serious felony," Catherine said, cutting the woman off. Then to Nick, she said: "Call Tomas Nunez, would you? Tell him to get down here ASAP."

"On it," Nick said, hauling out his own cell phone and moving to the corner opposite O'Riley.

Tomas Nunez, the best of several computer gurus the department used part time, would come in to oversee the operation of taking the computers out of Newcombe-Gold. Catherine was about to seriously inconvenience this business, but there was no other way.

"A search warrant means you'll...search the building, right?" Denard asked weakly.

"A warrant means," Catherine replied, "that we'll take everything in, computers, maybe some of the other hardware, and most of the software, and our expert will work on it until we figure out the origin of this material. This isn't an employee logging on to some adult website on his coffee break, Ms. Denard -- this is child pornography. A serious crime."

"Eighty percent of our graphics are computer generated!"

"We don't do this lightly. And we do regret the inconvenience."

O'Riley asked, "Is Mr. Newcombe in town?"

More flustered than angry, Janice glanced at her watch. "Yes, he should be here any minute now."

"Good." O'Riley returned to the cell phone, spoke a few words, then punched the STOP button and faced them. "Warrant'll be here in ten minutes. I got Judge Madsen to issue it."

Catherine, Nick and O'Riley all knew that crimes against children sent Judge Andrew Madsen completely around the bend and he, of all local judges, would act fastest to help them gain possession of the evidence.

"When exactly is Mr. Newcombe due in?" O'Riley asked.

As if on cue, a tall, lantern-jawed man appeared in the doorway, a laptop computer case strapped over his left shoulder. Perhaps fifty, he might have stepped from an ad for his expensively tailored gray suit. He had silver-gray hair and thin, dark eyebrows, and managed to look both confident and confused as he strode into Ruben Gold's office.

Ignoring O'Riley and the CSIs, he demanded of Denard, "What's going on here?"

"Mr. Newcombe," she said, taking a tentative step toward her boss. "I...I...found something...terrible, this morning, and I'm afraid...."

O'Riley stepped between the man and woman, his badge coming up into Newcombe's face. "I'm Detective Sergeant O'Riley, Mr. Newcombe. You are Mr. Newcombe? These are crime scene investigators I called over -- Catherine Willows and Nick Stokes."

"Crime scene..." Wheeling slowly, the polished Newcombe seemed finally to realize the CSIs were in the room. He repeated what he'd said, upon entering, but the words came out soft, even apologetic: "What's going on here?" Then, as an afterthought, he stuck out his hand and said, "Ian Newcombe, Sergeant, sorry."

O'Riley gave the man's hand a cursory shake and said, "Ms. Denard discovered something in Mr. Gold's printer this morning, and was exactly right in calling us."

"Something in a printer serious enough to call the police?" Newcombe said, his bewildered look travelling from O'Riley back to Janice.

Nick stepped forward and tossed one of the evidence bags onto the desk -- image up. Newcombe eyed it from a distance, glanced at the officers, then -- as if approaching a dangerous beast -- took a few steps closer, moving past O'Riley, and finally braving to pick up the bag for a better look....

"Oh...my...God...."

"I take it," O'Riley said, matter of fact, "you've never seen these before?"

The adman dropped the bag onto the desk as if it were on fire, the laptop clunking against his hip as he involuntarily stepped back.

Nick spread the rest of the evidence bags out on the desk, like a terrible (if winning) hand of cards.

Newcombe glanced from picture to picture, his eyes never resting on one photo longer than a second, his mouth falling open in appalled shock, hands balling into fists then uncoiling and balling again.

"I have frankly never seen anything like this," he said, the calm in his voice obviously forced, his tone cold, almost mechanical. "One...hears of such things. These are...," he searched for the word, "...revolting."

But O'Riley was still in charge, saying to the ad exec, "You have no idea how they could have gotten here?"

"None," Newcombe said. "I...I don't recognize any of these children, either...if that helps at all."

Catherine said, "So you're as surprised as Mr. Denard to find these photos in Mr. Gold's printer?"

"Absolutely....How could that have happened?"

"That's what we have to find out," Nick said.

"But your company will be inconvenienced," Catherine said. "You can speak to your lawyers if you like, of course, but we'll have a warrant shortly and -- "

He held up a hand in a "stop" motion. "Anything we can do to help, we'll do."

"I'm relieved to hear you say that, Mr. Newcombe, because we're going to have to confiscate every computer in this facility."

Newcombe's shock seemed to congeal on his face, then something new appeared in his eyes: alarm. "What?"

O'Riley's face was as expressionless as a block of granite. "Ms. Willows is correct. We're going to take along everything these criminalists consider to be evidence, so we can trace the source of the pornography."

"That's what I was trying to tell you, Mr. Newcombe," Janice said, appearing at the executive's side, looking up at him pitifully. "They're planning to shut us down."

The adman stood a little straighter. "Oh, they are, are they? Well, maybe I will call my attorneys, at that."

"You said you'd do anything to help," Catherine reminded him.

"Not shut down the source of income for thirty people," he said, eyes intense. "Not if I have anything to say about it."

Actually, Catherine thought, twenty-nine, but she said, "Sir," with a smile that at least pretended to be friendly, "that's just it: you don't. Have anything to say about it, I mean."

A uniformed officer walked in with a folded sheaf of papers and handed them to O'Riley.

"Thanks," the detective said, as the uniform turned and left the room. O'Riley gave the warrant a cursory read, then handed the papers to Newcombe.

The adman was on his cell phone before he was done with the first page.

"Is that your lawyer?" Catherine asked, helpfully.

"You can rest assured it is."

"That would be the attorney who handles all your business affairs?"

"Yes, and why is that of any concern to you?"

"It isn't -- but it might be to you. This is a criminal matter and your attorney probably hasn't studied in that area since law school."

O'Riley got into it, saying to the exec: "But, hey -- yammer at the guy all you want, if it'll make you feel better...and for, what? Five hundred bucks an hour?...He'll get back to you and consult with a real criminal attorney and then finally they'll tell you what I'm about to tell you...for free."

Newcombe looked pissed, but he said into the phone, "Just a moment, Wayne," then said to O'Riley, "And what legal advice can you share with me?"

O'Riley shrugged. "That you can't do shit."

The adman growled into the phone, "Wayne, I'll call you back from my office," and started to leave.

Catherine called out: "There's another thing your attorney can tell you, Mr. Newcombe!"

The executive halted in the doorway, looked over his shoulder at her, glaring.

"It's that if you do try to fight this," she said, "it could cause you far more harm than being shut down for a day or two."

Newcombe's eyes tightened, but there was no hostility in his tone as he said: "What kind of trouble?"

Catherine approached him, her manner calm, professional. "Let's explore the path that doesn't come with trouble. Let's say you don't stand in our way, we take your equipment, and find the kiddie porn source. Then, when the case makes the news -- and trust me, it will make the news -- we praise you and your agency in all the media for helping us ferret out this dangerous individual."

Newcombe cocked his head, skeptically.

0 "Or," Nick said, an edge in his voice, "not."

The executive came back into the room, put himself at the center of Catherine, O'Riley and Nick. "How long do you think we'll be shut down?"

Catherine said, "A few days, if we're lucky. You might want to call your insurance company -- you may be able to file a lost time claim."

Newcombe nodded. "Our coverage may include something for this, at that. What else can we do to help you?"

O'Riley pulled out a pad. "Tell us about this trade show your partner's attending."

"The aaay miss buddy show?"

O'Riley squinted; it wasn't the most intelligent expression Catherine had ever seen on a face. "Pardon?" O'Riley asked.

The exec spelled it out: "The AAAA-MIS-BUDDY show."

The detective looked at the CSIs, his eyebrows raised in confusion; the spelling bee hadn't helped any of them, both Catherine and Nick shaking their heads.

Newcombe turned on a smile normally reserved for clients -- its wattage lower than your average Strip marquee, but just barely.

"Sorry," he said, "too much time with ad people. The American Association of Advertising Agencies, AAAA, has a Member Information Services section, the MIS, and they are using the trade show in LA to introduce their Business Demographics and Data for You or BUDDY system."

O'Riley tried to write all that down, but it was clear he was struggling. So Nick asked, "And that's where Mr. Gold is now?"

"Yeah, since Friday."

Turning to Janice, Nick asked "You said he flew out, Ms. Denard -- what airline?"

"Airline?" she asked, confused for a moment, then she said, "Oh, I'm sorry -- Mr. Gold didn't use any airline: he flew himself."

Catherine nodded toward the silver airplane on the desk. "So he's a pilot?"

"Yes," Newcombe said. "As am I. The company owns the plane, but we both use it. At our own discretion."

Tomas Nunez strolled in.

The computer geek looked more like a refugee from a Southwestern biker gang than the best computer analyst in the state. Tall and rangy, his long, black hair slicked straight back, Nunez had a leathery brown, pockmarked face, a stringy black mustache, and deep-set eyes as brown as they were cold. He wore a black leather vest, black jeans and a black promo T-shirt for an album by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs.

Newcombe and Janice Denard eyed him like they thought he'd blown in to rob the place.

Nunez smiled, displaying even, white teeth, startlingly so against his dark complexion. "Hola, Catherine -- Nick, you rang? Lucky for all of us I was close by -- over at Mandalay Bay, catching breakfast."

Catherine brought him up to speed, including showing him the pornographic printouts. He betrayed no emotion, which Catherine envied.

"You want all the computers processed?" he asked.

"Yes, Tomas -- every last one."

He clapped once. "All right. Gonna need a trout with a Polaroid -- maybe two."

Catherine nodded. Newcombe and Janice looked at each other as if Nunez's English was outer-space lingo. Catherine did not bother to explain that a "trout" was one of those uniformed officers who stood around at crime scenes, gawking more than helping, generally with their mouths hanging open -- like a trout. One would be pressed into duty, taking photos of all the computers and where they sat, the wiring hooked to each one, and -- if Nunez demanded it -- pictures of devices they were hooked to, as well.

Before any of the computers could be processed, that photographic record had to be made.

"We're going to need more hands," Nick sighed, "and a Ryder truck."

O'Riley held up a hand for silence -- he was already making the call.

Nunez approached Newcombe; the adman backed up half a step.

"Might as well start with yours," Nunez said.

Newcombe bristled and his hand tightened around the strap of his laptop bag. "Now, I'm sorry, but there I'm just going to have to draw the line. This is my personal computer from home!"

"Warrant specifies every computer on the premises," Nunez said. "That's a computer, these are the premises."

Newcombe tried to stare down the computer expert, and -- though the tactic may have worked for Newcombe in the business world -- with the likes of Nunez, the cause was a lost one. The geek just stared back deadpan, hand held out, until Newcombe finally laid the bag in it.

"Gracias," Nunez said. Turning to Nick, he said, "Nicky, can you get the pictures of this one -- be real thorough, man -- and pull it out while Catherine and I take care of the rest."

"No problem, Tomas."

"Gracias."

Officer Leary came in then, a Polaroid camera in his hands, his mouth yawning open, waiting for Nunez's hook.

"Hope you got a shitload of film," Nunez said.

Leary's expression turned confused, but the uniform had the good sense to tag after Nunez when the computer expert waltzed out of Gold's office and into Denard's.

Catherine followed and watched as Nunez had the officer take photos of the keyboard, the front of the computer tower, then the back to match the wiring and finally, Janice Denard's Zip drive and printer.

"Let's get crackin' on the others," Nunez said to Catherine. "I'll unhook hers, afterwards." He looked at Leary. "You got the idea now?"

Leary nodded. "No sweat."

"Not in this air conditioning," Nunez said. "Like Gary Gilmore said, let's do it."

Leary, Nunez and Catherine walked into the warren of cubicles, filled with workers now, and Nunez put his fingers in his mouth and whistled long and loud. Heads popped up from almost every station and, when he had their attention, Nunez raised his voice loud enough that Catherine figured they could probably hear him out in the parking lot.

"Las Vegas Metro P.D.," he called. "This building is now officially a crime scene. Please file out of the room and into the lobby without touching your computers. If I see so much as a keystroke, I'm breaking fingers."

Although several of the workers tried to ask what was going on, Nunez shushed them and herded them all into the lobby. Catherine watched carefully and no one had ducked back into a cubicle before marching out.

"That's it," Nunez said, in the lobby. "Thank you for your cooperation. Mr. Newcombe will be out shortly to explain to you what's going on."

When the last of the employees was in the hallway, Nunez turned to Catherine.

"Shall we get to work?"

"Tomas, my boss would admire your people skills."

Catherine joined Nick, who was still shooting photos in Gold's office.

"How are you doing, Nicky?"

He looked at her and forced a little smile. "Good. Good."

She touched his shoulder. "It's not easy for me, either....Think I'll take a rain check on breakfast."

He nodded, his mouth twitched, and he got back to work.

Copyright © 2003 by CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Alliance Atlantis Productions, Inc. CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Alliance Atlantis Productions, Inc. are the authors of this program for the purposes of copyrights and other laws.

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Meet the Author

Max Allan Collins is a New York Times bestselling author of original mysteries, a Shamus award winner and an experienced author of movie adaptions and tie-in novels. His graphic novel Road to Perdition has been made into a major motion picture by Tom Hank’s production company. He is also the author of the tie-in novel series based on the original CSI.

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