in extremis 
 Ken Goddard's
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IN EXTREMIS

Chapter 2
 

Gil Grissom and Catherine Willows had driven the entire twenty-three miles from the crime lab to the State Highway 95 turn-off leading to the Desert National Wildlife Range in comfortable silence, much like a long-married couple. Grissom was lost in thought about the recent article in Science about domestid beetles that he really disagreed with, but wasn’t quite sure if he wanted to ---

“How often have we done this?” Catherine asked, interrupting her supervisor’s train of thought as she pulled the black GMC Denali up to a stop at the Corn Creek Field Station entrance.

“What? Responded to a scene in the Wildlife Range?” Grissom blinked and then looked over at her quizzically.

“No, taken all six of us out to one scene,” the slender, strawberry blond CSI amended as she lowered her side window and waited for the uniformed U.S. Fish & Wildlife Refuge Officer waiting at the entrance to approach their vehicle. “How often have we done that?”

Grissom looked thoughtful for a moment.

“Here and there, when the situation calls for it. Why do you ask?”

“Do you think it’s a good idea, putting all our eggs into one basket, so to speak?”

There was an argumentative edge to her voice, but Grissom ignored it, smiling as he considered the visual imagery.

“We’re a pretty tough bunch of eggs, all things considered, so I think we can probably still work a scene together without cracking heads,” he said, his eyes twinkling with amusement. “And besides, Brass was pretty insistent.”

“That’s what concerns me, more than anything,” Catherine admitted. “You know how he operates. He never tries to tell us how to do our job. So why ---?”

“Good evening, ma’am, are you the folks from the Las Vegas Crime Lab I’m supposed to meet here?” the uniformed refuge office asked, gesturing with head back at the two other almost identical black GMC Denalis that had pulled in behind Grissom and Willows. The woman’s long blond hair, very youthful features, and deep southern accent seeming jarringly incongruous with the holstered pistol on her hip, the glistening badge on her new down uniform jacket, the four-cell flashlight in her gloved hand, and the surrounding Nevada desert.

“That’s right,” Catherine nodded, holding out her credentials --- and then shielding her eyes irritatedly in an effort to maintain her night vision --- as the young refuge officer focused the glaring beam of her flashlight on her ID case and then Grissom’s. “I’m Senior Investigator Catherine Willows and this is Supervising Investigator Gil Grissom. The CSIs in the other two vehicles are Warrick Brown, Nick Stokes, Sara Sidle and Greg Sanders.”

“Shanna Lakewell, and I’ll take your word for the other investigator’s ID’s,” the youthful officer responded cheerfully as she removed her glove and extended her right hand in a quick handshake. “Mike asked me to wait here and lead you up to the scene,” she added as she put the glove back on and shut off her flashlight. “He’s definitely going to be happy to see you folks up there tonight.”

“Oh, why’s that?” Grissom asked, his curiosity piqued by the sudden edge in the young officer’s voice.

“Things were really pretty tense when I left the scene a few minutes ago,” Lakewell said uneasily, “and I really doubt they’ve improved a whole lot since.”

“You mean things were tense among the investigating officers at the scene?” Grissom pressed.

“Well, I guess I’m not really sure what you mean by ‘investigating officers’,” Lakewell responded hesitantly. “The officers involved in the shooting are pretty upset; but that’s because they want to go looking for some drugs they think a big shot dealer dumped out of his truck somewhere on the Range, and your Captain Brass won’t let them leave the scene.”

Grissom’s thoughts flashed back to his phone conversation with Brass; Grissom had already explained to Catherine and the other members of the graveyard team as they were loading up their crime scene gear into the Denalis that Brass had been extremely brief in his description of the scene:

“A buy-bust investigation has gone bad at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, and I need the entire graveyard team to respond to the location ASAP with all of your shooting scene reconstruction equipment. Yes, that’s what I said, Gil, the entire team … as soon as you can get here.”

And that was all he’d said to Grissom before hanging up. Everything else Lakewell was now revealing was new information to the two senior CSIs.

“Some of our Metro officers got involved in a shooting on a federal refuge, and Captain Brass won’t let them leave?” Grissom continued to press Lakewell from the front passenger seat, determined to find out as much of what she knew as possible. He was getting an uneasy feeling that reliable info might be difficult to obtain once up on the mountain.

“Well, no sir, not exactly,” Lakewell said, chewing her lip nervously. “In fact, I don’t think that any Metro police officers were involved at all; just Mike --- the supervising refuge officer out here -- a couple of State narcotics officers, and two DEA special agents.”

“DEA agents?” Catherine turned to stare at Grissom. “Brass is holding federal and state agents on a federal facility, and not letting them leave?”

“All of them, and their snitch, too; she was definitely involved in the whole mess,” Lakewell added.

“You’re saying a snitch was involved in this shooting?” Grissom interjected calmly. “Presumably meaning a snitch was allowed to be at a federal-state buy-bust scene armed?”

“I think that’s what happened, but my information is all second-hand … from Mike.” Lakewell nodded her head nervously.

“Mike is your supervisor?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“And he was also involved in the shooting?”

“That’s correct.” The young refuge officer nodded again. “Listen, this is probably none of my business, and I’m brand new to the job so I may be way off base; but if it was up to me, I wouldn’t have let that woman have a sharp pencil in her possession during an arrest situation, much less a Glock … and at least one other pistol that I couldn’t ID. But I really don’t think that’s the major issue up there. In fact, I think the entire situation is a whole lot more complicated than that.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” Grissom said, nodding professorily. “And roughly, how far are we from this complicated situation right now?”

“It’s about ten miles up the Pine Nut Road, which is mostly dirt and a pretty tough climb during the day, and a whole lot more interesting in the dark. Plus, we’ve probably got a serious storm coming in any time now,” Lakewell added, glancing up at the sky, “so you’ll want to be in four-wheel drive and right on my rear the whole way.”

As Officer Lakewell walked back to her official green-and-white-painted truck that was parked a few yards away, Grissom pulled a cell phone out of his vest pocket and thumbed in a multi-dial code.

“Nick, Sara, I’d strongly suggest you switch over to four-wheel drive, have everyone double-check their safety belts and weapons, and then follow us up the road, staying tight on our ---” Grissom glanced over at Catherine, who had her head and eyebrows cocked in an ‘I dare you’ look of anticipation “--- bumper.” As Willows rolled her eyes skyward, he added: “I have a feeling things are about to get interesting.”

 *          *          *

 When the four-vehicle caravan arrived at the turn out point a few minutes later, the scene looked like something out of an early Quentin Tarentino movie.

The shot-up truck --- mired in the sand with four deflated tires and illuminated by two sets of LVPD patrol car headlights --- was the visual centerpiece, and impossible to miss or ignore. The driver’s side portion of the windshield had been shredded. Some cracked, starred, pulverized and bloodied sections of the laminated glass --- held together by the partially ripped and stretched pieces of the internal plastic layer --- dangled loose from the windshield frame, while other like sections lay scattered across the truck’s hood. The headlights, both side windows and the driver’s side portion of the rear cab window had been struck by dozens of projectiles. The sun-faded and rusted front and side panels that might have been painted red twenty years ago were pocked with dozens of apparent bullet and pellet holes. Cubic chunks of tempered glass and irregular-edged paint chips littered the ground.

All said, the ancient vehicle looked like it had been the objective of a head-on assault by a very determined military fire team.

Between the truck and the campsite, and well back from the temporary perimeter line of yellow scene tape that had been set around the truck, two LVPD patrol cars had been carefully placed so that their headlights lit up each side of the truck at forty-five degree angles to the center line.

The campsite, about forty feet from the front of the truck, was illuminated by four hanging propane lanterns, revealing six seated figures --- all wearing greasy jeans and an assortment of dirty and torn winter jackets --- who looked a great deal like disgruntled outlaw bikers. A uniformed LVPD patrol officer stood next to the rock-ringed fire with his gloved hands resting lightly on his heavy belt buckle; a virtually identical officer was standing at the opposite end of the campsite; a third patrol unit with two additional uniforms standing watch outside was parked a little way up the road; and a LVPD patrol sergeant had placed himself in a center position between the two illuminating patrol units and the scene tape where he could keep a casual eye on everyone in general … and, seemingly, the one slouched female figure in particular.

The overall impression was that of a giant three-dimensional puzzle that desperately needed the attention of a patient and inquisitive mind.

Or, better yet, six patient and inquisitive minds, Grissom thought, an anticipatory smile crossing his face as his slowly sweeping eyes began to absorb relevant details.

One thing he noticed immediately was the fact that none of the six seated figures looked especially pleased by the arrival of the CSIs.

Behind the campsite, some fifty yards away, a pair of helicopters --- one dark, military-looking, and marked only with an aircraft number, and the other clearly identifiable as a LVPD Search and Rescue airship --- sat facing each other with drooping rotor blades, looking like a pair of glaring fighting cocks conserving their energy for the next round. The two overall-uniformed flight crews were standing next to the LVPD chopper, appearing to be sharing coffee and engaging in amiable conversation.

But the focus of Grissom’s and Catherine’s attention, as the six CSIs emerged from their vehicles wearing matching thick black nylon jackets over their vests, was Homicide Captain Jim Brass --- a physically and bureaucratically tough police commander who  the nightshift CSIs trusted to keep them out of trouble whenever possible.

Brass was dressed in his standard winter field garb --- polished boots, pressed jeans and a warm down coat ---  and standing next to a pair of fiftyish-looking men, both of whom were dressed in expensive suits, ties and overcoats that really didn’t match their more rugged-looking desert boots. And the conversation the three of them were having appeared anything but amiable.

As Grissom and Catherine approached Brass and the two visibly angry men, Warrick Brown and Nick Stokes stood side-by-side, arms folded across their chests as they slowly took in the entire scene, while Sara Sidle and Greg Sanders began the less-confrontational task of unloading the crime scene vans.

“This is Gil Grissom and Catherine Willows, the night shift CSI supervisor and deputy supervisor I told you about,” Brass said to the two overcoats. “The other four CSIs over by the vehicles are Brown, Stokes, Sidle and Sanders. Gil, Catherine,” Brass gestured with his head at his apparent adversaries, “this is Assistant Special Agent in Charge William Fairfax, from the DEA’s Los Angeles Division Office, and Lieutenant John Holland from the Nevada Department of Public Safety.”

The two commanders nodded at Grissom and Willows, but neither man made any effort to extend a welcoming hand.

“What we have here,” Brass went on in deliberately controlled voice, “is a questionable shooting scene that I need you and your team to reconstruct.”

Both Fairfax and Holland started to interrupt, but the DEA ASAC --- a formidable looking man with a carefully trimmed grey-flecked beard --- was a half-second quicker off the mark.

“I want to go on record as adamantly objecting to the word ‘questionable’,” Fairfax said flatly, his dark eyes filled with rage. “Three federal and two state officers engaged in a shoot-out with a major drug dealer known to be armed with automatic weapons, and with a long history of violence against law enforcement officers and resisting arrest. He aggressively drove into their campsite, instead of waiting for them to meet him at the road intersection, as planned, and immediately commenced firing on their position. Our team responded in a manner that was both proper and effective. There is no way this shooting scene meets the ‘questionable’ standards defined in the Tri-Lateral Agreement.”

“And I agree with that assessment,” Holland added emphatically. “This is not a questionable shooting, and your officers do not patrol federal refuges. Therefore, as far as I’m concerned, you have no jurisdiction over our officers.”

“Would you like to talk with your captain again?” Brass inquired, holding up his cell phone. “Or your SAC?” he added, turning back to the DEA supervisor.

Both men briefly glanced at each other, but neither responded.

“According to the Tri-Lateral Mutual Assistance Agreement,” Brass explained to Grissom and Catherine, “the questioned-shooting standard is met when one or more primary elements of the underlying investigation are not present at the scene. The undercover investigators here got into a shooting situation, and properly called for Metro back-up. When our responding patrol officers arrived, the UC’s stated they were here to make a purchase of ten kilos of high-grade cocaine from a known-to-be-armed-and-violent drug dealer named Ricardo Paz Lamos. As far as I’m aware, no one has positively identified the body in that truck as Ricardo Paz Lamos, and no one has pointed out so much as a single kilo of anything at this scene.”

“How are we supposed to positively identify the bastard when his face is no longer recognizable, and his prints aren’t on file?” Holland protested. “Hell, the guy’s been an unknown for five years; no address on record, and apparently he never goes anywhere out in public. We’re lucky to have this one vehicle stop photo.” He held up a crumpled and grainy black-and-white photo in his gloved hand.

“And its standard procedure for dealers making a big sale to conceal their main load some distance away from the buy site until they’ve verified the money and the right players are on site,” Fairfax said heatedly. “You know how it works, Brass. You haven’t been out of the field that long.”

“I do understand how a buy-bust operation is supposed to go down,” the LVPD captain agreed. “But, the presence of illicit drugs is a required element of the deal, no?”

“You bet. And that’s precisely why our investigators need to be out there, looking for those keys,” Fairfax gestured with one gloved hand at the surrounding expanse of darkness, “instead of sitting here on their collective asses having every move they made second-guessed by you and your CSI team.”

“What I also understand,” Brass went on firmly, “is that we have a dead man in a truck who may or may not be your drug dealer, and who may or may not have done anything to justify a sixty-some round barrage of what may or may not have been ‘return fire’.”

Fairfax started say something, but Brass held up a silencing hand.

“I count three missing primary elements in your underlying investigation, Agent Fairfax. And under the Tri-Lateral Mutual Assistance Agreement that our sheriff and your agency directors have all signed and established as standard operating procedure for officer-involved shootings in Clark County,” he reminded pointedly, “the senior officer at the scene with the least number of subordinate officers involved in the shooting shall take control of the scene until a supervising officer with no involved subordinate officers can respond and assume command.  At that point, the scene commander shall immediately conduct a shooting reconstruction to verify the facts of the incident.”

Fairfax looked like he was about to interject something, but then remained silent.

“And since I am aware of no Metro officers involved in this officer-involved shooting, that makes me the scene commander here until relieved by higher authority; which, presumably, would be my boss because both of your supervisors specifically placed your men under my command approximately oh ---” Brass glanced down at his watch, “--- fifteen minutes ago.”

“He didn’t place me under your command,” Fairfax responded bitterly.

“No, he didn’t,” Brass agreed, and neither did your captain,” Brass said to Holland. “Which means you’re both welcome to leave this scene at any time; or you’re welcome to stay, so as long as you don’t screw around with my investigation.”

“I’m staying,” Fairfax remarked.

“Me, too,” Holland added.

“Fine, just stay out of our way … and don’t interfere. I think you have enough problems as it is.”

“I’m glad you’re on our side,” Catherine remarked, giving Brass a wry smile.

“You should see me without the coffee,” Brass responded as he turned to Grissom. “Are you ready?”

“Certainly,” Grissom said as he and Catherine walked over to the six dirty and disheveled figures still sitting around the remains of the campfire, followed by the other four CSIs, Brass, Fairfax and Holland.

“Okay,” Grissom began as he stared down at the visibly-disgruntled figures, “We’ll begin with introductions. I’m Gil Grissom, the night shift CSI supervisor. This is my deputy supervisor, Catherine Willows; and these are CSIs Warrick Brown, Nick Stokes, Sara Sidle, and Greg Sanders. They’re all going to be assisting me in this shooting scene reconstruction. And your names are, and who you work for, starting with you?” He nodded at the relatively clean-cut figure at the far left end of the circle of chairs as Sara Sidle began to take notes.

“Mike Grayson. I’m the supervising refuge officer here at the Desert National Range. You’ll have my complete cooperation in this matter.”

“Thanks, Mike,” Grissom commented, motioning with his head at the next figure.

“Jeremy Myers, detective, Narcotics Unit, Nevada Department of Public Safety. I disagree with the need and specifically the timing of this investigation, but I’ll cooperate.”

“John Boyington, detective, Nevada DPS. I’m Jeremy’s partner, and I agree with everything he just said.”

“Marcus Jackson, special agent, DEA. Far as I’m concerned, this whole deal is pure bullshit. I’ll leave it at that.”

“Chris Tallfeather, special agent, DEA, ditto.”

Grissom turned to face the last figure, a sallow-cheeked woman who could have been in her early twenties or thirties; with acne-scarred features, bleached-blond hair tied back in a loose ponytail, and a pair of large blood-stained bandages on the right side of her face --- covering her cheek and ear --- and who had remained slouched down in the camping chair, staring down at the ground the entire time. “And you are?” he inquired.

“Jane.” She directed the comment to the expanse of sand between her boots.

“Do you have a last name, Jane?”

“Smith.”

Grissom cocked his head curiously, started to say something, and then shrugged.

“What happened to your face, Jane?”

“I got shot,” the young woman muttered.

“You were wounded here, at this location, this evening?”

“Yes.”

“Who shot at you?”

“He did.” She gestured with her head in the direction of the illuminated truck.

“You’re saying the individual in that truck, presumably a man named Ricardo Paz Lamos, shot at you?”

“Yeah, sure,” the woman mumbled, her head turned away from the CSI.

Grissom turned to face the other seated men.

“Did any of you specifically see this incident?”

The five seated men all looked at each other and then shrugged and shook their heads.

Nobody saw her get shot?” Grissom asked in a voice tinged with incredulity.

“I heard her yell ‘Oh shit, he’s here!’ right when the truck arrived on the scene, and then I heard her scream like she was in pain right after I started shooting at the tires. Or, at least, it sounded like Jane screaming; but I can’t say for sure because I was behind that big rock over there, taking a leak,” Grayson finally said, pointing to a large irregular boulder that was about five feet high and ten feet long. “Now that I think about it, I never actually saw her during the shooting … not until were all came out of our barricade positions and approached the truck.”

“And no one else heard or saw Jane at the time she was shot?” Grissom continued to press.

“I definitely heard her yell that Paz Lomas was coming, and then heard her scream, right after the shooting started; and I think I might have seen her fall backwards out of the corner of my eye --- just the top of her head, and only for a split second,” Detective Boyington spoke up. “She’d gone behind that big rock over there, to take a leak too, right after Mike headed over to the guy’s side.” He pointed to a larger boulder off to his left, in front of the right-truck-side-illuminating patrol car, that was approximately five-to-seven feet tall and at least fifteen feet long.

“Is that correct, Jane? You were over by that rock when the shooting started?” Grissom asked.

“Yeah, that’s right.” She nodded sullenly, her eyes still focused on the ground.

“She was pretty much obscured by the boulder,” Boyington went on, “which was the whole idea of picking a big one, I guess. That’s all I can testify to, as far as her shooting or being shot at. I’d already fired two rounds at the truck headlights --- and maybe at least one at the carburetor by then --- trying to stop the damned thing from running us over.”

“So you’re not sure about the timing of your shots, before or after you heard Jane scream?”

Boyington thought for a moment.

“No,” he finally said, shaking his head, “I’m really not sure about the sequence. The headlights were in directly my eyes, so I know I fired at them first. Right after that, things got pretty hairy.”

“I’m sure they did,” Grissom nodded. “Did anybody else see Jane fall backwards?” He looked around at the rest of the seated group.

Myers, Jackson, and Tallfeather all shook their heads.

“Okay, now that we’ve more or less resolved that,” Grissom said, turning his attention back to the snitch, “who do you work for, Jane?”

“I’m free-lance; I don’t work for anybody. These guys twisted me so I’d help them nail Ricardo.” She was still staring at the ground, but she gestured with her head at the two DEA agents and possibly the two State narcs; Grissom really couldn’t tell.

“So you’d define yourself as an independent party, not affiliated with any law enforcement agency?”

“That’s right.” Smith’s head snapped up, her eyes widening in defiance. “I’m not a government employee and I really don’t want to be here. So what happens if I refuse to cooperate?”

Grissom glanced over at Jim Brass, who shrugged, and then went on matter-of-factly: “We would take you into custody as either a material witness to a shooting, or as a suspect in that shooting.”

“So I can’t leave whenever I want?”

“No, you can’t leave until we release you,” Grissom affirmed.

Jane Smith emitted a long, exasperated sigh and went back to staring at whatever interested her on the ground.

“Okay,” Grissom said, “now that we’ve got that out of the way, the next thing we need to do is collect your gloves, swab your hands for gunshot residues, collect all of your weapons, and then take elimination sets of your fingerprints. We’ll collect your boots and clothing back at the station.”

“You’re going to disarm these men, here, in the field?” Fairfax interjected from the far side of the campsite, sounding incredulous.

“That’s right, Grissom said, turning to face the DEA commander. “Standard procedure is to collect all firearms that may have been involved in the questioned shooting at the onset of the investigation. That means all firearms in their possession, including any and all backup weapons,” the CSI supervisor added. “You understand why, I assume?”

“I understand the reasoning; but why here, and why now?” Fairfax demanded. “You know drug dealers don’t operate alone; especially out here in the middle of nowhere. For all we know, Ricardo could have a half-dozen of his people out there watching us right now.”

“Even if Mr. Lamos’ men are still out there, which I seriously doubt,” Brass snapped, “and they see us collecting your agent’s weapons, they will also observe that this scene is protected by an additional twelve armed law enforcement officers; which doesn’t include the armed helicopter crews, and assumes that both you and Holland are carrying. I make that out to be two-to-one odds in our favor at the very start, not counting our advantage of our night-vision-equipped air cover; and, of course, all of the rapid-responding backup we’d need from Metro and the local military folks if it ever came to that.”

Fairfax looked like he was about to say something, but then thought better of it.

“That ought to be more than enough firepower to deal with a handful of Ricardo’s men, in the unlikely event they really are out there, and really are stupid enough to approach this campsite. But I can’t think of a single logical reason why they would, because their drugs don’t seem to be here, and no one’s going to pay them to retrieve the dead body of their boss under fire,” Brass added.

“Yeah, but don’t forget, half of our armed twelve are CSI,” Holland protested.

Grissom’s team all looked at each other with knowing grins. They all qualified more-or-less regularly with their weapons, and were accustomed to the dismissive “science geek” comments they occasionally ran into with some of the more badge-heavy cops. It had long since become the equivalent of splattered water across a duck’s back.

“If things get out of control, we’ll try not to hurt anyone,” Grissom smiled pleasantly as Brass motioned for Fairfax and Holland to back away from the area. “Now then, here’s how we’re going to work it. One at a time, each of you is going to stand up and walk over to CSIs Sidle and Sanders, who will take your gloves and then swab both of your hands for gunshot residues. Then ---”

“What’s the point of that? We’ve all admitted to firing our weapons.” Detective Jeremy Myers pointed out.

“Reconstruction of a shooting scene requires a great deal of basic information that has to be collected as close to the actual time of the shooting as possible,” Grissom explained. “Since we don’t know what will later turn out to be meaningful, in terms of our analysis, we routinely collect a great deal of evidence, much of which is never used.”

“Okay, fine,” Myers nodded, making a dismissive gesture with his hand. “I said I’d cooperate.”

“Which we do appreciate,” Grissom acknowledged. “Then,” he continued on, “you’ll move over to CSIs Brown and Stokes who will collect your weapons and ammunition, provide you with an evidence receipt for your records, and take your elimination prints.” Grissom looked down at the still slouching Jane Smith, and smiled patiently. “Starting with you, miss.”

Smith reluctantly rose to her feet.

“Now please walk over to CSIs Sidle and Sanders, give them your gloves, and then hold out your hands.”

The young woman shuffled over to Sidle and Sanders, who were waiting with plastic-gloved hands, a pair of manila envelopes, and a gunshot residue collection kit. She held out her hands and glared at Sidle as the alert and wary CSI carefully removed her insulated gloves and placed them into the individually-marked manila envelopes; and then continued to watch sullenly as the two CSIs gently tapped sticky-taped discs against the dirty palms and the backs of her hands, while Catherine methodically photographed the process.

“See, nothing to it,” Sanders said, offering up one of his patented charm-enriched smile; but got only a brief, dismissive snort in return.

“I’m willing to go along with this part,” Smith whispered with a dangerous edge to her voice, “but I’m not giving up my guns as long as Ricardo’s still out there.”

“What did you say?” Catherine Willows asked, cocking her head curiously.

“I said I’m not going to give up my guns, because Ricardo could still be out there,” Jane Smith snarled, glaring her adrenaline-widened eyes at the CSI.

“No, you said ‘is’ out there, not ‘could be,’” Catherine corrected. “That implies you don’t think the dead man in that truck is Ricardo Lamos. Right?”

“I … I do think that’s Ricardo in the truck, or at least I hope it is. But I’m not giving up my guns until I know for sure, so you can just forget ---.”

Smith made the mistake of jabbing her bare finger into the center of Catherine’s chest.

Grissom saw Catherine look down at the finger pressed deep into her Kevlar-filled vest in disbelief, and then back up at the wide-eyed snitch. In a single smooth motion, she grabbed Smith’s offending wrist with her right hand, twisted it around, and then wrist-locked the stunned young woman to her knees.

“You don’t get to do that,” Catherine said emphatically.

Jane Smith erupted. She first tried to fight her way out of the wristlock. And when that didn’t work, she furiously slashed her booted foot at Catherine’s leg.

An instant later, Smith found herself being slammed face-and-solar-plexus-forward against the left front panel of the nearby LVPD patrol vehicle by Warrick and Nick. Before the stunned snitch could recover her breath, Warrick had her hands handcuffed behind her back while Nick and Catherine quickly and methodically searched her for weapons.

“And, no, we don’t care if you’re a woman, so don’t push your luck,” Nick advised calmly as the enraged snitch started to bring her foot back up again … and then hesitated when the smiling CSI reached over and took a controlling grip on the center handcuff links as Warrick stepped back out of the way.

“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?!” a voice in the background protested.

“Two pistols --- a hip-holstered 9mm Glock, and a hammerless snub-nosed .38 Smith & Wesson from her right jacket pocket --- two extra magazines for the Glock, and a pair of speed-loaders for the Smith, left and right jacket pockets. Nice,” Warrick reported, ignoring the voice as Catherine and Nick first handed him the discovered armaments, then pulled the door of the patrol car open and strapped the still-cursing Smith into the rear seat.

“I said, what do you think you’re doing?” Fairfax repeated, starting toward the three CSIs and then hesitating when Jim Brass stepped in his way.

“They’re arresting her, for assault on a law enforcement officer; that’s what they’re doing.”

“But she’s ---”

“Ms. Smith is a material witness in a questioned shooting, and also under arrest. And if anyone else would like to join her in custody, this would be an excellent time to speak up.” Brass looked around at the other seated officers, but only received wicked glares from the four federal and state narcs. Mike Grayson, the supervising Fish & Wildlife refuge officer, looked stunned.

“And speaking of interfering,” Brass went on, turning his attention to Fairfax and Holland, “you were concerned about the possibility of Ricardo Paz Lomas’ men being in the area, and making a timely search for the missing drugs. This might be a good time for the two of you to make a general search of the area with your helicopter; and I’m guessing our Search and Rescue team would be more than happy to help.”

Fairfax and Holland looked at each other, and then at their seated investigators.

“I’m sure your men have a far better understanding of their rights, and the general shooting reconstruction process, than Miss Smith,” Brass added. “I don’t expect any further difficulties. But, if something should come up,” he held up his cell phone again, “I’ll give you a call, and you can be back here within minutes.”

“Come on, let’s go see what we can find out there,” Holland said after a moment, grabbing Fairfax’s arm and pulling the still-reluctant ASAC toward the make-shift landing zone.

Grissom waited until the agitated commanders were climbing into the dark-painted helicopter, and the blades of both airships were starting to rev up, before turning his attention back to the five seated law enforcement officers.

“Now then,” the CSI supervisor went on as if nothing especially interesting had happened yet, which was pretty much the way he saw it, “while the rest of you continue the process of handing over your gloves and weapons, Investigator Willows and I are going to examine the vehicle that appears to have been the center of so much attention around here.”