Traffic in Las Vegas was always heavy. It was backed up during peak hours around the strip, but in the rain, people acted as if they had never seen water fall from the sky. Cars cut in and out in front of each other, brake lights lined the streets, their red lights illuminating a night that was hard to navigate in. Nick Stokes had no problems driving in this kind of weather; he carefully maneuvered the Tahoe around some of the less cautious drivers. The CSI wore a short sleeved black T-shirt that showed off the ex-jock's well toned arms. His black cap labeled Forensics hid his dark short hair. The squared jaw Texan tried to hide a yawn from his passenger, but wasn't able to completely suppress it.
His partner for the evening was Catherine Willows. The senior CSI looked alert for the lack of hours she had slept in the past three days. Her blonde strawberry hair was pulled back into a pony tail, and her elegant white blouse seemed as if had just been picked up from the dry cleaners, instead of being the same shirt and tan pants she been wearing for over a day.
Catherine glanced at Nick and smiled coyly. "Don't be yawning now, we haven't even arrived at the scene yet."
Nick gave her one his patented smiles that made him so charming to work with. "I'll just get a cup of coffee when we get back to the lab. I'll be fine."
Catherine laughed. "This is our fourth double shift, Nicky. Warrick's been in court all week for two different cases and Grissom and Sara have been pulling overtime on that political case with that murdered councilman. Don't think for a moment that the sludge from the lab is going to keep you going, when I know you've had less shut eye then I have."
Nick's grin widened. "I made Greg promise to save me a cup his special blend. So, it won't be too toxic. Besides, I don't mind covering a little so you can sneak some time in to be with your daughter."
Nick pulled into the sparse parking lot of Gold's Gym. This private health club was a hidden workout haven for the Vegas yuppie population. It was open at very late hours and catered to the professional crowds. Its monthly dues were off the charts, but it was a small facility. It appealed to those who wanted personalized attention.
Both CSI's unloaded their field kits and each sported an umbrella to meet the unflappable Detective Jim Brass in the parking lot. Brass never showed the anxiousness that's usually prevalent in his line of work. He waited patiently for the criminalists under a water logged and battered umbrella, which sad state could only be attributed to him standing in the downpour for quite some time . His gray suit and dark blue tie were liberally spattered with water droplets in an oddly interesting pattern that Nick absently noted. He wiped some of the rain droplets that had beaded around his head, running his hand through his sparse hair.
Catherine nodded to him. "You could have waited for us inside."
Jim shrugged. "Don't really care to be around so many muscle heads." The Detective held open the door for the duo and the three of them entered a lobby.
Two people huddled in the corner whispering to each other. Both of them turned when they saw the police enter.
Brass nodded to a red-haired woman. "Ms. Wilson, this is Catherine Willows and Nick Stokes from the Crime lab." Brass looked over at the CSI's, "Ms. Wilson is the owner of the gym."
Michelle Wilson shook each criminalists' hand. Her grip was strong, which wasn't surprising. She had an athletic build, nice muscles and shapely hips. She worked out obviously, but managed to keep her feminine look. She was wearing a dark green tank top and black sweat pants that hugged her body in all the right ways.
"You want to tell us what happened, Ms. Wilson?" Nick asked.
"It's Michelle." She gave the CSI a small smile as her fierce brown eyes wandered over his face. "I'd just finished working with the books."
"What time was that?" Nick asked ignoring the appraising look she was giving him.
"Um ... around midnight. We're usually quiet around that time, so I was just checking a few things with the accounts. My eyes were kind of burning from staring at them all night." She glanced over at the man who was standing a few inches away from her.
Nick looked up and noted an ox of a man staring at her almost protectively. The CSI thought the brutishly big guy seemed a whole lot smaller when he had first entered the room.
"Anyway, I went around checking in on any guests. I went though the aerobics area, the saunas and then the weight room."
Catherine observed the owner trade glances with her male friend. Michelle took a deep breath and continued. "The lights were out, which was strange. I found the light switch and turned it on and saw Walter on one of the weight benches. At first I thought he was just taking a nap or something, but then I noticed that the bar bell was laying on top of him."
Nick and Catherine scribbled notes while Brass just stood waiting for the rest of the tale to unfold. "I went over to the bench and that's when I discovered that the bar bell was over his throat. I checked for a pulse and found none. I called 911 and waited for help to arrive."
Michelle seemed fairly composed for someone who discovered a dead body in her weight room. Nick narrowed his eyes. "And Walter was an employee here?"
"Yeah, he was a personal trainer; worked a lot with free weights and weight training."
"Are all the other workers and guests still here?" Catherine asked.
Detective Brass spoke up. "Yeah, I've interviewed the five that were here. Also, there's Roger, here," Brass pointed at Michelle Wilson's male friend. "There's the assistant instructor, Blair Olsen, and the receptionist, Nancy Brookes."
Nick took a few steps towards the large figure who had been silent for the past few minutes. "You're Roger.....?"
"Sikes. I'm the head workout instructor here." The instructor stood at least 6' 3" and looked like he weighed over 220 pounds. He had a shaved head, a neck that looked too large for his head, and dark blue eyes. He was wearing a white T-shirt that barely covered his well muscled frame and red sweat pants that clung to the tree trunks that served as his legs.
"Where were you this evening?" Nick asked.
"I was busy running around, since I also act as operations manger. I knew Michelle was working on the accounts, so I was the person out and around for most of the night. Then I took a swim in the pool," the man answered.
"What time was that?" Nick questioned.
The bigger man shrugged. "I dunno, maybe around 11. I was walking over to the saunas when Michelle ran out of the weight room and grabbed me. She told me she called an ambulance and I waited with her for help to arrive."
Nick's eyebrows shot up. "When did you get a chance to change clothes?"
"When I was done with my swim," Roger replied, annoyed.
Nick gave him a smile he reserved for people that were unnerving. "You got off work around 11, took a swim... how many laps you think?"
Roger crossed his arms in front of his chest. "What does it matter? Shouldn't you be doing something about finding out why one of our employees is dead?"
"I am, Sir," Nick replied coolly. "So, how many laps?" Nick pressed on.
"I always do thirty," the muscled man replied proudly.
"Always?" Nick echoed, thinking that was a lot of laps in such a short amount of time.
The corner of Roger's mouth twitched. "Yeah, always. Whenever I hit the pool I swim 30. Some of us have an extensive routine to follow to the letter."
Nick kept himself in check by not snorting at such pretensions. Instead he nodded and asked another question. "You waited for the EMT's. You didn't want to check on your coworker yourself?"
Roger's eyes narrowed. "Didn't need to, buddy. If Michelle said he was dead, then he was."
Nick scribbled a few more notes and looked to Catherine to see if he should continue. She shook her head and he turned back to Roger, making a mental note to question him later. "Thanks for your help."
Nick picked up his kit and they followed the owner into the weight room. Catherine went over to the body. The coroner had already pronounced earlier, and had left the barbell on the DB, until the criminalists could examine it.
Catherine began to take photos of the position of the DB on the workout bench. The victim lay on his back, his arms laying limply to his sides. The criminalist noted the amount of weights attached to the dumbbell. He apparently had been trying to lift 350 pounds.
Nick took a few snapshots of the weights, documenting the amount. Catherine glanced up suddenly and noticed that Michelle had followed them into the room. "You can't be in here, Ms. Wilson."
"Oh, I'm sorry."
The owner was about to leave when Nick stood up. "Hey, wait. Do you know the typical amount of free weights he'd bench?"
Michelle brushed a strand of hair out of her face. "His typical refs were 180 to 200 pounds."
Nick nodded, knowing that the victim appeared as if he was trying to bench over a hundred thirty pounds more than his best performance. Suicide, really.
"So, how much do you bench, Mr. Stokes?"
Nick laughed. "Around 160, maybe 180."
The gym owner smiled. "Yeah, I knew you worked out. You belong to a local gym? Because I can assure you we offer a great..."
Nick held out his hands, interrupting. "Ms. Wilson, I can' talk about this right now. I've got a job to do. However if you think of anything else, here is my card." Nick handed his infomation over to her.
The owner nodded. "Maybe later." The attractive woman wandered out. Nick noticed Ox Man Sikes in the hallway. He grabbed her arm a little more forcibly than Nick would have liked.The owner yanked her arm out of his grasp and stalked off, Sikes matching her irritated stride.
The CSI returned to the victim and ignored the glances from his partner.
"Enjoying yourself, Nicky?" Catherine teased.
Nick flashed her a smile. "She comes off a bit too heavy."
Catherine had been studing the body, and simply laughed. "She's cute."
Nick said nothing. He walked to the bench sliding on a pair of latex gloves. He looked over at his parnter. "We ready to examine the body?"
Catherine nodded. "You need some help?"
Nick thought about it for a second and shook his head. "It'll be easier if I just lifted it up by myself."
Nick looked behind him to see where he could place the large barbell. Catherine watched him as he went to the head of the bench and flexed his hands. The CSI bent at his kness slightly and then lifted the heavy barbell off the body, keeping it close to his chest. He grit his teeth, his arms flexing with the strain while at the same time exemplified the muscles beneath his tight t-shirt. After a moment he carefuly lowered the heavy object to the floor. Finished, he dug out some finger print powder and set to work.
"Show off," Catherine said chuckling.
Nick smiled as he continued working on the free weights, dusting for prints. "You know, people who work with weights know their limits. You don't press more than your body weight for fast refs, and you only do about 40 or 50 pounds more if you're doing strength training."
Catherine was going over the vic's throat, examining the bruising. "Well, he could have been in a macho streak, lifting more than he could handle. Then wasn't able to keep the excess weight off of him."
"Or, someone came around and pressed the bar down on him. But then the suspect adds weights to make it look like an accident?" Nick shook his head. "No palm prints."
Catherine stood up and looked at the set of weights. "You know, it would take someone in pretty good shape to lift 350 lbs. in the first place."
"We could just narrow it down to anyone that weighs more than 280, " Nick joked.
Both CSI's continued to process the room, but without much success. There were dozens of finger prints that would have to be ID'ed back at the lab. The sparseness of the room didn't leave much for trace evidence, either. There were no signs of a struggle, so Nick went to finger print the light switch to see if the person who had turned off the lights had left their mark.
Catherine packed up her kit. Brass had concluded most of his interviews with the customers, and the trio grouped together to split up the rest of the people to question. Brass went to speak with Nancy Brookes, Catherine would interview the Assistant Instructor, and Nick walked around the lobby trying to a get feel for the people who worked at the facility. The coroner had returned to take the body to the morgue, where the autopsy would hopefully provide a few more clues.
Catherine wandered over to Blair Olsen, another well built person that worked at the club. The Assistant instructor was a shade over 6 feet tall, with a crew cut, and arms that had to be larger than his thighs. He wore a red T-shirt that was too small, and black running shorts.
Catherine looked at the mammoth man and took a deep breath in an effort to hide her fatigue. They still had some hours at the lab to log before going home, just to go back to work early at the beginning of what would be the swing shift instead of the graveyard. "Mr. Olsen, where were you from 10 p.m. to midnight?"
"I had a one on one with a client. Ms. Christy Hines. I'm sure she can vouch for me." The instructor fiddled with his massive hands, his eyes darting around the room.
Catherine wrote down the contact information so she could verify the guest log with the name. "Do you know much about Mr. Davis?"
Blair Olsen clicked his jaw, seemingly annoyed. "Of course I knew Walter well. We all have been friends since high school. We both took jobs here when Michelle and Roger started this gym."
The senior CSI knew to tread lightly, not wanting to lose the interview with high emotion. "I'm sorry Mr. Blair. I know this can be difficult. Do you know what Walter was doing earlier in the evening?"
"No, ma'am. I know he went home a few hours earlier. He works the early shift. I don't even know why he was here."
Catherine raised her eyebrow. "Is it possible he came back here to workout?"
Blair laughed, the only emotion he had displayed besides his forced cooperation. "Nah, why would he? I mean he gets all his training in during the day, plus all the classes he teaches then. Have no clue why he'd be lifting weights in the middle of the night."
"Thank you for your help." Catherine wrote down a few notes and went searching for her partner.
Nick had finished scoping out the waiting area, trying to soak in some sense of the place. He was going to go find Catherine when he noticed a small commotion in the lobby. Intrigued he wandered over to see Michelle and Sikes talking to another person who was trying to enter the gym.
Roger Sikes tried to block that path of a stocky guy out the door, who was having none of the overbearing man.
"Look, Bob, things are fine here. Why don't you just roll on back to your home and we'll fill you in all details in the morning."
Nick glanced at Bob. He was a short guy... maybe 5'5, with balding hair. He wore eyeglasses and had a very round head. The striking thing about Bob was that his arms looked larger than his thighs. Nick chuckled to himself: the guy kind looked a little like a pit bull. With his disproportional upper half, buying clothes for his unusual size must have been a challenge.
He was speaking in a soft voice as the CSI approached. "I-I was just driving around and saw all the police lights. I was just making sure everything was all right."
"Look, Bobby Boy, no one needs physical therapy tonight. You can come and hassle our customers tomorrow, but for right now, get out of here." Roger Sikes appeared to be a man of little patience.
Michelle struggled to restrain her overbearing manager, pulling him away from the smaller man.
Nick decided this was his cue to let his presence be known as he approached the trio. "I'm Nick Stokes with the crime lab. I'm sorry sir, this is a crime scene and we can't let you enter the premises."
Bob looked at Nick, obviously never hearing his approach. "Crime scene? What's going on here?"
Roger glared at the CSI. "We can take care of our own business. I think we're capable of handling our employees." He turned back to the smaller man. "Go home, Bob."
Bob looked at Michelle, as if trying to determine that she approved her manager's harsh words.
The owner placed her hand on his shoulder. "It's okay. I'll tell you about it in the morning, I promise."
Reluctantly the compact man turned and left as Michelle strutted over to Nick's side, despite the obvious daggers that Roger Sikes shot at her behind her back. Nick for his part didn't want the attention of the owner. He was always flattered when he caught the eye of an attractive woman, but he was plain exhausted and didn't really want the headache of dealing with a flirtatious witness with an obviously overly jealous boyfriend.
Michelle gave the criminalist a gleaming smile. "So, Nick, now maybe we can talk a little. Do you belong to a gym?"
Nick noticed the use of his first name and looked at the floor, a gesture he affected when he didn't want to take the time to discuss a topic he wasn't in the mood for. "Yes, Ms. Wilson, I do."
Roger had now moved next to the owner's side, like some some guard dog.
"I'm sure if you gave this gym a chance, you'd really learn to like it. It's the least I can do for trying to figure out what happened here."
"Ms. Wilson, I have a contract with a place near my townhouse. Real convenient for when I get off work. Your place seems to offer a lot of wonderful services, but I'm fine where I am," Nick tried to reason with her. He felt very drained all of a sudden and longed for the activity of the lab, or maybe even the comfort of his bed.
Roger huffed. "I'm sure it's better that way, Mr. Stokes. We're kind of a specialized place, for people who are really serious about their bodies."
Nick wasn't about to be baited by ox-man. "I have my own program that I follow just fine."
"I'm sure you do. What, you hit the weight room, every once in a while? Like to take a dip in the pool when it's summer time? I deal with you washed up ex-college athletes all the time," Roger sneered as he looked over the criminalist with disdain.
Nick shook his head; he wasn't going to get into a macho verbal battle with an insecure exercise instructor. "Mr. Sikes, a man died tonight in your weight room. I'm a little too busy to discuss my workout routine."
Michelle Wilson either wanted to stir the pot, or was just clueless about her employee's obvious jealous streak. She lightly ran her hands over the CSI's forearms, then started towards his upper arms. "To get this kind of muscle tone, I'd say you go to the gym about four or five times a week." The owner stepped closer and peered at Nick's face and studied his neck and his chest. "I bet you follow a strict diet as well."
Not comfortable with her closeness or the position she was putting him in, Nick stepped back a comfortable distance from her. "Ms. Wilson, my life outside this investigation isn't relevant here. If I have any other questions, I'll be sure to let you know."
Nick's eyes went wide with disbelief when she again closed the distance between them. His face flushed slightly in embarrassment over such a strong advance. Michelle placed her hand on his shoulder and spoke to him in a sultry tone. "Do I make you uncomfortable, Nick?"
Maintaining his professionalism and containing his irritation, Nick pulled her hand off his shoulder. "Do not do this," he said sternly.
The gym owners' expression changed from seductive to flustered at his turn down. "Well, your loss, Mr. CSI." She stormed off.
Nick sighed and shook his head. Sometimes he could never understand the behavior of some women.
Her overbearing employee, however, remained, and Ox Man grabbed Nick's arm forcibly. "She's out of your league cowboy. I'll tell you one thing, don't you ever touch her again."
It took every bit of effort to keep his anger in check. Roger Sikes' grip was of course unnecessarily tight. Nick glared at the instructor, keeping his voice calm and collected. The tone he used was authoritative as well as slightly raised. "Mr. Sikes, you will let go of my arm now, before this becomes an incident that you will regret."
Roger Sikes squeezed harder, his voice menacing, "Yeah? What are you going to do? Arrest me?"
"No, I will."
Roger released his grip just as Nick was about to lose his self control. Both men turned to see Jim Brass only a few steps away. The detective's expression was stern and he looked like he just needed an excuse to load muscleman into the patrol car. Catherine was next to him, her expression more alarmed than surprised.
Roger Sikes whispered, "You always need another person to get you out of jam?"
Nick was about to get in the other man's face when he felt a calming hand on his arm. Catherine looked at him, shaking her head, and Nick knew she was warning him to back down. This situation was going to stay under control. She guided him to another corner of the room.
Jim Brass, however, had no trouble confronting the instructor. "You don't ever lay a hand on any police officer or member of the Las Vegas Crime lab, you got it buddy?"
Roger nodded, his face still slightly red from his temper. Just in case the bull headed one didn't get the message, Jim leaned closer. "Do not ever threaten a CSI or interfere with this investigation, or you'll find yourself hauled downtown so fast your head will spin."
The instructor's face got a hue redder, his answer clipped. "Yes, detective." The instructor lumbered out of the lobby.
Instead of sticking around, Jim walked outside, leaving the CSI's alone in the lobby.
Catherine Willows knew that her partner would never instigate an argument with a witness or potential suspect. However, the testosterone of this place was at an all time high and she wanted to put a lid on things before things got out of hand.
"What was all that about?" she asked.
Nick faced her, biting his bottom lip. "Gym owner got a little too touchy feely and I stopped her from making any more advances. The Ox got over zealous and let his overblown ego get in the way."
Catherine locked eyes with her partner. "You kept your cool, Nicky. I know that. I just wanted to know what got stud boy all riled up."
Nick let out a small laugh. "I'm just irresistible towards women, I guess."
Catherine rolled her eyes.
"Seriously though, guy's just got a short fuse. I would have handled it fine."
The senior CSI smiled at the younger man. "I trust that you would." She touched his arm. "He leave a mark?"
Tired of it being an issue, Nick shrugged the attention away. "I don't think so. Let's just get back to the lab. We still have the last part of what's looking to be a long night."
Catherine studied Nick. The lines around his eyes were a bit more pronounced and he had dark circles overshadowing them. It was time to get things rolling on this case, so both of them could get some much needed sleep. "Yeah, I think that's a good idea."
Summary: Egos, testosterone, murder oh my . A dead body at a local gym spirals out of control for Nick and Catherine. This is a friendship story featuring apperances from the rest of the team. Focus is on Nick.