Summary: The team find themselves in the spotlight when a firefighter is brutally executed. They soon discover that nothing is what it seems.
The need to solve the case becomes even more urgent when it soon affects their personal lives.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Title: Below surface
Beta: Emily Blake
Disclaimer: I certainly do NOT own CSI: Miami!
Thank you Emily for helping me out (check out her stories, they're great!). I have however made minor changes to it after I got it back again, so there might still be a mistake here and there but they're totally mine.
It is possible the time line is going to be a bit...eum... strange, since I probably will use both old and new characters. I hope you can live with that!
The fish was about three inches long and thin with an undefinable orange color to its skin. Two sharp black stripes framed its abdomen and brought out its dark, alien fish eyes that were too large for its streamlined body. In all, it was a strange creature with an aura of mysticism around it, but it was possible that the fact where they found the picture – next to a severed arm floating around in an aquarium – added to its reputation.
Standing by the table, the florescent lights stung Natalia's eyes as she tried to see the message behind the picture, but it didn't make any sense to her, and according to the perplexed glances and shrugs among her colleagues, they were as far off as she was.
The murder of a highly respected firefighter last night was, simply stated, screwing their minds up. Nothing seemed to come together and they hadn't been able to distinguish even the slightest motive for why Ed Nashville, a hardworking father of two, would end up in an empty garage about an hour's drive from home, naked and missing both his left foot and his right arm.
According to Alexx's first theory, the leg and the arm had been severed by a couple of clean cuts with a powerful bone saw. Then a hairy right arm, also severed by a clean cut of a bone saw, was found in the aquarium at the fire hall where the victim had been working. All the original inhabitants of the aquarium were found dead in a green drugstore bag next to the aquarium. Instead, someone had left them a drawing of a strange, orange fish.
"Channa Micropeltes, or Giant Snakehead, is a species of the large snakehead family."
All eyes were focused on Eric as he rushed into the lab with his coat open five minutes after everyone else, waving a colorful brochure in his left hand.
"Sorry I'm late, but I spoke to a friend who's into fish. Apparently the Giant Snakehead is a big thing among game fishers in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. He was not a hundred percent sure, but he thinks that the picture portrays a juvenile of the Giant Snakehead."
The new information did little to wash away the confused looks on their faces as they watched in silence when Eric taped up a picture of a beautiful black and white fish on the whiteboard. Its head did actually remind them of a snake's with its withdrawn eyes. In the Snakehead's grownup state, the eye color were more yellow and the pattern more camouflaged. The only hint of the previous color was a slightly reddish stomach.
"It's a powerful fish that feeds mainly on other fish but also likes frogs and flies. Sometimes they even take small birds," Eric said. "The Snakehead lives in lowland rivers and swamps and can crawl up on land if needed. It can get as long as 52 inches with a weight of 44 pounds, and they protect their young aggressively during the first months. There are even reports of attacks on humans."
Valera stuck her head through the door opening.
"Guys? Wow, that's what I call a fish! We might have a problem. The DNA from the arm doesn't match the victim."
She shrugged uncomfortably, brushing a lock of her hair back where it was supposed to be.
"The donor is male but so far I haven't got a match in any of the archives, but I'm running them as we speak," she added.
Ryan placed his head in his arms on the table and gave up a frustrated sigh.
"Ryan," Eric said, nudging him playfully with his shoulder, "don't be sad, you only watch TV on your days off anyway."
"It's better than chasing body parts and flesh-eating fish around town!"
"I didn't say flesh-eating, I said – "
"Eric, we know, they eat birds. And frogs. And... other disgusting things."
Natalia smirked and patted his shoulder.
"I still can't see what it has to do with our case," she said. "The only thing we have to go on is a picture of a fish, a chopped of right arm, and a torso without a right arm. Has anyone talked to Alexx yet about the arm?"
"No, but I'm on it," Calleigh said, abruptly standing and leaving the room.
Natalia shot a questioning look at Eric, who just shook his head.
"I'll see what I can dig up more about the Giant Snakehead and where you can find one around here," Eric said, starting to button his coat over his red shirt.
"Wasn't there an old biker gang named the Snakeheads? I think it sounds familiar," Ryan said.
"Go talk to Frank, I think he butted heads with bikers from all sorts of gangs in his first few years in the department."
Horatio was unwillingly holding a press conference on the stairs, with Miami-Dade Police Department in shiny letters behind him. He squirmed slightly and did his best to straighten his already straight tie.
Thank God she didn't have to be down there, Natalia thought as she watched him from the window.
The amount of reporters was a clear sign of the attention they would have to get used to in this case. Her stomach sank further as she thought of the minimal amount of evidence they had to go on. It was hard to think of someone that had a good reason to kill a guy like Ed, who dedicated his life to save other people's lives. Even a few of his limbs were still missing.
Then there was the arm. To the naked eye, the saw marks looked identical to the marks they'd found on the torso. She didn't want to think of what that could mean. A butchered torso wasn't a thing she saw everyday here, and the knowledge that there could be one more out there made her feel sick.
Time to get back to work. Natalia sighed heavily, trying but not quite able to shake off her uneasy feeling just yet. After all, she did have a green drugstore bag filled with dead fish that awaited her loving attention.
"What a day!" Calleigh stated as they walked together to the parking lot in front of the newly renovated building. Natalia nodded her agreement; the phone had been ringing constantly since long before lunch. With the bath she'd been longing for since leaving bed this morning within her reach, a quiet night at home with a good book seemed like paradise.
"Are you OK?" Natalia asked, unable to hide the concern in her voice. Calleigh walked slowly by her side, bugging her by absent-mindedly playing with her car keys in one hand.
"Yeah, I'm fine."
The reassuring smile never reached her green eyes.
"Wanna talk about it?"
Calleigh shrugged. "No. It's not much to talk about anyway. I'll figure something out, but thanks."
Natalia gave her a quick one-armed hug before taking the few extra steps to her parking spot. Calleigh nodded at her through the windshield before she raced off, making a group of high school boys cheer and wave after her. Natalia emitted short laugh in disbelief. Calleigh. Hopefully she would make it home without getting a ticket. Eric and Ryan had been ruthless in their cheerful but biting comments about her finally doing something less controlled last time she'd earned herself one and she didn't need that kind of attention at the moment.
The long bath was all she could think of as she smoothly maneuvered through the rest of the high school kids on her way home.