Grissom and Nick arrived at their scene almost 20 minutes later. The body had been found in the garden of a small run down property, Nick's stomach tightened when he saw a young couple standing on the broken front porch, a slight breeze gently rocking an empty tire swing that hung beside the front door. He knew before they got as far as Detective Chris Cavalier that their 419 was a kid. His instinct was confirmed moments later as Chris approached them, solemn; head bowed slightly, hands clasped together in a semblance of hands in prayer.
When he spoke his voice was low and held a tone not immediately recognisable.
"Mr Campbell and Miss Tench have confirmed that the body is that of their 9 year old son Michael James Campbell junior. He was found in the garden this morning when Annabel, Miss Tench, went outside to check on the dog, she's expecting a litter of pups. She called for Mike senior who came out, checked for a pulse and then called us in. They have one other son, Jesse, six, he slept through the commotion, he's in his room playing right now."
It was clear from the way he talked that he had instantly felt a rapport with the victim's parents and wanted the matter dealt with in a tactful and unobtrusive manner. Nick noticed Chris had a certain softness in his eyes that hadn't ever been there when he'd worked cases with him before. It made his stomach twist once more; it had to be a pretty bad scene to have broken the usually borderline-hostile attitude of the seasoned detective.
When Grissom spoke Nick struggled to follow what was being said. There was something about this one that had left him instantly unsettled and he couldn't seem to tear his eyes away from the tire swing. Perhaps he was just dog tired, or maybe the swing was a welcome diversion from the sobbing woman who clutched her partner like he was the scotch tape holding her world together. Either way, Grissom's words eventually made it to his brain and he headed towards the side of the house where the garden was. He'd begin processing; Grissom would talk to the parents.
The garden was small, hardly a garden really, any grass that had been there was long since scorched by the hot desert sun, leaving a fine powdery dust to coat the ground. A tall tree cast a deep shadow over the small plot, almost completely hiding the small body from Nick's line of sight. Though it was early morning, the tree seemed intent on casting the scene into darkness. Nick clicked his flashlight on before crouching close to the body. Had it not been for the fact that Nick knew he was dead he would have been forgiven for thinking the boy had simply curled up under the tree for a nap. His skin was pale; Nick knew it would be cold if he touched it. Something he knew he couldn't do until super Dave arrived to clear the scene, but that he felt drawn towards. The boy's eyes were closed and his thumb was close to his mouth, like he might have been sucking on it before he died. His dusty blond hair seemed unkempt, though his clothes and body seemed clean, Nick could smell fabric softener, and it seemed to make his mood sink a little lower. He felt his throat constricting, and waited for the familiar feeling of sadness to settle like a brick in his stomach. Dead kids always did a number on him, but this time it felt worse than it ever had.
The shock this time wasn't that the scene was gruesome, there was no visible blood spatter, no rancid smells. No. The trouble with this scene was that it looked so…normal. There was such a hollow feeling of deception. It almost felt better to see obvious death, bullets at close range, rta's. It felt more fair, though no one would ever try to explain why. Perhaps the silent creep of death was just too unnerving. It was easier to think that you'd hear death when he arrived to shake your hand.
He didn't hear Grissom coming, only looking up when a new shadow was cast over the body.
"Hey Gris, how'd it go with the parents?" He held his voice level, though he felt anything but.
"Miss Tench can hardly form a sentence, doesn't remember when she last saw the victim alive, can't seem to remember very much about very much as it happens. Mike senior doesn't want her questioned anymore, seems a little hostile." Grissom punctuated his findings with a small shrug of his shoulders.
Nick turned to face him," grief does strange things to people."
If Grissom heard him, he didn't show it, instead focusing on his own thoughts at the time.
"So, did you find anything probative?"
"Body looks to be pretty clean, fresh clothes, no sign of any obvious trauma, but we'll have to wait until Dave releases the scene to turn him over...kid looks like he's sleeping." Nick had added his second comment without really meaning too. It was an unconscious reaction. Nick often found himself saying things he probably shouldn't. He was a heart on his sleeve kind of guy.
"He's dead Nick."
Grissom's response was curt, probably unnecessarily so. Nick knew he wasn't sleeping, knew a nine year old kid who should have been out playing wasn't going to wake up again, he didn't need Grissom pointing it out to him. He caught the look Grissom threw his way and silently wondered how long it'd be before he was on the receiving end of another, "don't get emotionally involved," speech from his mentor.
Nick sighed quietly before standing up fully to great Dave who was coming towards them, looking nervous, as he usually did. Dave always had a slightly anxious feel about him, he was still green, eager to please, probably destined to fail. He was a lot like Nick in that respect, though neither man would agree with the assessment or make such a connection themselves.
As it turned out Mikey's whispered death wasn't so quiet as it first appeared. Dave cleared the scene, rolled the body at Grissoms request and started at the deep crimson stain that covered the victims body. Not with a whisper, but with a bang. Nick lifted the kids t-shirt and photographed what appeared at first blush to be an entry wound caused by a small caliber hand gun. The tiny body was littered with numerous bruises of varying size and colour, though no corresponding exit wound was found. It was only after Nick dropped the shirt back over the boys back that he noticed there was no hole in it, the bullet hadn't travelled through the boys clothes into his body. there was no spatter or shell casing immediately evident and it seemed likely that the boy had been redressed and moved.
Grissoms voice remained neutral when he directed Dave to take the body back to the lab, but not to wash it until he arrived. Detective Cavalier was hailed and instructed to have the parents brought to the station for questioning. Something wasn't right. Though Chris was obviously unimpressed with the idea of making the distraught parents feel like criminals he stalked off towards the house muttering under his breath about having a little compassion.
"Nick, go back to the lab, talk to the parents, i'll finish processing the scene here and meet you later to examine the body."
Nick jogged round to the front of the house to catch a ride back to the lab with Chris, he figured Grissom was expecting him to leave him his truck.
The journey was quiet, Chris and Nick had never really seemed to get on, they'd butted heads on a number of occasions, and really had nothing to talk about, or any desire to make any effort to relieve the tension between them. Mike senior and Annabell rode in the back along with their youngest, now their only, son, Jesse. Nick found himself glancing in the rear view mirror. Mike looked out the window, rubbing his still sobbing wife's arm while Jesse kicked at the back of Nicks seat absently. The look in Jesse's eyes troubled Nick, he seemed vacant, though he supposed it wasn't so unusual, the kid had probably just had his first taste of death, bitter at any age, especially so for children. Even so, Nick found it hard to stop looking at the young boy and his eyes remained fixed on him for the remainder of the journey. A fact that didn't go unnoticed by Mike.