There had been no cake, no drinks, no anything at all.
Gil Grissom had always said there wouldn't be -- there one moment, gone the next. That had proven true. One night he'd been there, and the next there had been a letter of resignation, effective immediately, and a forwarding address to Canada.
Who the hell moved to Canada of their own free will after spending over half their life in Vegas?
Only Gil Grissom, Greg guessed.
That didn't make it any less the talk of the lab for years, and it never quieted the feeling of betrayal with which they were all struck. He supposed they shouldn't have felt like that. Gil had always been honest about what he'd do, but he'd hurt them all the same. Cut out their trust in him, broken their hearts.
Never wrote even a damn postcard.
Just up and went, leaving them all behind.
Leaving Greg behind, if he was honest, and just when he thought...
But what he thought and what was real, those were incredibly different things. One night stands on the rebound didn't count for much, no matter how good the sex was or how much Greg had wanted it to be more than just sex. He'd known better. It was probably the reason he'd packed up and moved to BFE.
It was an old wound by now, but he still nursed it. Just sometimes, and not really bitterly. Grissom had been like a... not a miracle, but a one of a kind creature. The sort of person Greg only expected ever to meet once, so strange and hard to predict that the way things had gone shouldn't have surprised him. He hadn't really expected Griss to move in with him or do the domestic thing, or even have wild sex with him once a week.
There were some nights, some murder scenes that brought the memories up for Greg. The moonlight was just right, the smell of decay, and the circumstances strange enough, and he could imagine Grissom standing behind him instead of the very real fact that Grissom was probably sleeping on a bearskin rug with some hot bug-loving Mountie or something.
Maybe he needed to pick up and head north for some hot gay Mountie lovin', too. Had to be better than spending nights hoping he wasn't paired off with Sara. If anybody ever thought his moping was a bitch, obviously they hadn't spent any time with her, or hadn't figured out from whom Grissom was on the rebound.
Sara, Greg thought, did not take rejection well. At all.
"So!" Yeah, he could try for bright. There were three of them there, after all. It wasn't like Nick would let Sara kill him. Probably. "Dead guy in a wall."
"My favorite," Nick deadpanned. It was that tone that told Greg that Nick actually explicitly hated extracting bodies from small spaces, and no one in the lab wondered why.
They just wondered why Catherine kept giving him those cases.
"According to the neighbors," Sara agreed.
"Kind of makes you wonder, you know? How anybody could miss the smell of a dead body in their wall for so long." There had been that one guy who'd bricked the chick up in his chimney, but he'd known about that.
Well. Maybe the neighbors knew, too. Like Greg could say one way or another.
"Maybe someone thought it was a dead animal in the attic. I know my house hasn't been the same since that possum fell into the fireplace." Nick crouched down, running a gloved finger over the mortar between the bricks. "It's a pretty shoddy job, actually. I've seen inmates do it better with toothpaste and toilet paper. Amateur?"
"Yeah, well. Most people bricking up a body aren't exactly professionals," Sara agreed. They could see the white edge of bone through the hole that had been knocked in the wall by the edge of a flying rim knocked off of a heavy old Impala in an accident earlier in the evening. "And I just got my nails done today, too."
Greg was trying hard not to grin when Nick choked on a laugh. "Oh, man, are you kidding me? You're the one with the sledgehammer in the back of her car, ready and raring to go!" It was a good thing, because they were going to need it.
"Besides," Greg decided. "I should be the one bitching. David made me go to the batting range last night." Not that batting had been so bad, not compared to the Dukes of Hazzard con the weekend before that. Hell was John Schneider singing country music while some skinny guy with no ass did weird things on the side stage in the background.
"Because I really want to think about the two of you... doin' anything when I'm trying to get a steady picture." Nick laughed when he said it, though. Nick's sense of humor had come back in the past couple of years, and it was a shame that Griss had missed that, too. Of course, Nick starting to date again, and his subsequent hooking-up with a girl-next door type probably had a lot to do with it.
Greg had always known Nick was going to marry a girl like that. It was sick. Also, unbearably cute in a weird kind of aw shucks way. "Hey. You're lucky I don't start telling you the story about running out of lube and the kid behind the counter at the all-night pharmacy who kept talking about using Carmex."
"Thanks, Greg. I needed that image tonight," Sara grimaced. "On that note, I think I'll go get my sledgehammer. Thanks."
He waited until she was walking off to shout, "You're welcome!"
"Yeah. Carmex as a lubricant. That sounds like a Lady Heather kinda thing." Nick took another few snapshots, and then tried to see if he could pull at the brick. "Brass is looking up the homeowner now..."
"Yeah, well. Hodges thought it was kinda hot," Greg leered, and then knelt down to try and peek inside a little better with his flashlight. Yeah, he was getting nothing much. "I think this is gonna be one of the difficult ones. He must have been here a while. Couple years?"
"Probably. Definitely not going to be a case like that, the woman who got cemented in, with..." The woman who held a gun at Nick's head, yeah, that was pretty hard for Greg to forget even as long ago as that had happened. "Best we can hope is that they were put in here with some ID."
"I'd say nobody's that stupid except for the part where they are." Greg pulled at a brick, too, and got even less give than Nick had. Well. It wasn't like he'd figured on getting more or anything. "See, that's the part that sucks. Just once, you'd think somebody would get smart."
"If they were smart, they wouldn't have killed anyone in the first place, Greggo." It was an overly-drawled deadpan, one of those times that Nick reached towards bad westerns for his accent. It'd be cute if he wasn't straight and Greg wasn't practically married. Okay. If Nick wasn't married, altogether.
"Somebody call for a warrant?"
Yeah, one of these days, Brass was gonna give him a heart attack. The guy was nearly silent on his feet sometimes, and it really wasn't nice to sneak up on a guy dealing with a dead body in a chimney.
"Yeah, we did. And just in time, since Sara's gone for the sledgehammer." Nick shifted to sit back on his haunches, looking up at Brass. Brass was like... a foundation. He was always around, stable and sure (except for that getting shot thing) in ways Grissom never had been.
Maybe he should have shacked up with Brass.
Nah. He loved David, mostly. Mostly. They'd had an off-and-on sort of thing even before Griss had headed for Canada, and if Greg had kept a kind of warm spot for Griss even afterwards, well. It wasn't like he ever planned on letting David know. "We figured we'd let her be the tough guy. Me, I was thinking about getting power tools instead."
"You'll chip something if you do." Brass nodded his head to he chimney. "Guy did a shitty job. And you're gonna shit yourself when I tell you whose house this is." Brass straightened his shirt cuffs, and there was a crooked grin hovering around his mouth.
"We haven't soiled anything just yet," Sara said out of the dark, hefting her sledgehammer with a dangerous hand. "Try us."
Brass held out the warrant to show them, still grinning crookedly. "Detective Vartann."
Greg blinked. "Well. I haven't shit myself, but I'm pretty sure you're shitting us. Seriously? Man. Vartann? I'd have expected... I don't know. Ecklie or something first."
"Go figure, huh?" Brass smacked Nick's shoulder lightly with the warrant, and tucked it into his jacket. "We've got him in for questioning. You guys get to work, and we'll see if this was just a fluke, or what."
Had to be a fluke. Vartann wasn't the kind of guy who'd brick somebody up in his own wall. He'd be more likely to bury somebody in Brass's back yard. "Geeze. Vartann. That's like... That's just..." That was like Brass in a pink tutu, if anybody asked Greg.
"Yeah. I can't see him offing anyone, but you know. We'll see." Jim took a few steps back, and gestured to Sara. "Please, take the first swing. I'm just here to watch. Super Dave's on his way."
"Step back, boys. Let a real woman show you how to go to work," Sara murmured.
"She's all yours," Nick agreed, and got out of the way. Flying brick dust was bad enough. Flying brick chips were a real bitch, so Greg got up with him, moving back from her sturdy swing. She probably spent more time in the gym than he did, which was to say that she actually ever went inside of it because, yeah, working out after a long day of work wasn't appealing. Greg wasn't ever going to be mister muscled hardbody, and why would he want to be when Sara could do it for him?
The first strike shattered the bricks, thudding some onto the body, but mostly it shattered the mortar.
"Yeah. That's a pretty good one," he declared. Encouragement was a good thing when it came to a chick willing to bust down walls for a group of guys. Greg wondered if everybody else felt their balls shrinking into tiny walnuts.
Brass coughed. "Hey. Want a hand with that?"
"No, I've got it." She flashed a toothy smile at them over her shoulder, and took another huge swing that was pretty careful. Again, more mortar crumbled.
"Toothpaste, I'm telling you," Nick muttered.
"You'd think it would run," Greg offered. "You know, my cousin Jorgen used to eat toothpaste when we were kids. He brought over one of his dad's Hustlers and tried to get me to look at it, too. We were six," he told them. Nick already knew about hand-me-down family porn. "Said I did it. See, the unfortunate part was that my dad always kept Playboy in the kitchen and there were rules about Gregs touching the Playboys."
"Playboys in the kitchen?" Brass repeated, and Greg could hear him staring at Greg in the tone of his voice. "No wonder you're--"
"Hey, I think you guys can come over and help now!"
"Better get movin'." Nick shifted, reaching to take the sledgehammer. "The Sara has spoken."
"Yeah, Playboys in the kitchen. My folks were always pretty open." Greg shrugged. "Trust me. It was better than the German porn Poppa Olaf kept."
"Your grandfather with the penis garage door opener thing?" Sara made a vague hand gesture, and turned back to the chimney. "Just a real careful swing, Nick. I can see the skull, and we just need a little more space to work. The mortar wasn't mixed right, so it seems like it never really set."
Nick grunted as he swung the sledgehammer again, careful just the way Sara wanted him to be. "Toothpaste," he said again as the bricks crumbled down, down, and...
Decayed bodies always looked the same, in a way. There was a skull, and teeth, and hair. This one had glasses still in place on its face, and that would probably help. But it hadn't been an airtight seal in there, so it looked like at some point there's been a lot of bug activity.
He found himself incredibly grateful for Grissom suddenly, glad that he'd spent enough time with the entomologist that this didn't freak him out complete. "Yeah. Definitely waiting for Dave now."
Nick reached forwards to pull at a few more of the bricks, trying to clear the area now that sledgehammers weren't needed. "Think we'll have a wallet?"
Brass too a step closer, peering. "Huh."
"What?" Greg asked. 'Huh' was a sound that he recognized, and it usually wasn't one he really wanted to hear. 'Huh' implied that there was something weird going on, something that was definitely going to make him jumpy later on.
Brass jerked his chin at the corpse. "I remember those glasses from somewhere. Just not sure where. And if our vic is here with his glasses still on, then I'd bet money there's a wallet. Sloppy work."
"Yeah, well." Nick shrugged. "Most of 'em are, in the end. This guy's been here a while. How long's Vartann lived here, anyway?"
"Uh..." Brass tilted his eyes to the sky for a moment. "Dunno, something like eight years? Nine years? You think the guy's old as that and still has a smell?"
"Nah. Not more than a couple. Hey, didn't Vartann get shot that year? Spent a month in traction because it hit his hip and he spent a while in some kind of physical therapy place?" Greg eyeballed the wall.
"Yeah." Nick twisted, eyeing Sara. "A, that's a damn good alibi if the body matches the time, and B, if someone knew he was going to be gone a month, and happened to kill someone..."
"Hey, uh, can I just declare him dead and you guys can pick for evidence?" Ah, Dave. Dave was right on time, like always. Good guy, Dave. Shame about the in-laws, though.
"He's all yours." Brass waved a hand, offering Dave the opening and the body as a whole. "Have at 'im."
Dave crouched down, flashlight skimming over the face. "Yeah, he's dead. I'll get a body bag." Sometimes that procedure killed Greg, but it had to be done. Everything had to be by the book if they ever found out who'd done it.
"One of these days, he's gonna yell 'We got a live one!' at one of these things, and we're all gonna pass out," Nick grunted, and reached into the wall. "Let me see if I can dig out a wallet."
"Dig," Sara half-agreed. She was peering at the bricks, the glasses, mouth twisted a little, downwards in curiosity. That was two of them now. "You know, Brass, you're right about the glasses. That's really going to bother me..."
"They look like Grissom's," Greg said, the realization hitting him in a snap, and okay, that was... That was really fucking creepy, actually. "Um. Or, you know. Not."
Not, except everybody on the scene turned and looked at him and then looked in that hole, and. Oh.
Oh, god, and Nick fumbled the wallet out of the corpse's pants, flipping decaying leather open. Greg could almost hear Nick's voice cracking before he opened his mouth. "God dammit!"
Greg hadn't puked at his first autopsy, and there was bile rising up in his throat, and he gagged, sharp tears rising because it was in his sinus cavity, and oh, that was just nasty.
Grissom had always said there'd be no cake in the break room when he left.
Greg thought he'd just never figured on getting buried in Vartann's wall.