ATF xover "CSI"
Ezra drove as fast as he dared towards a spot he knew, a quiet out of the way beach. Buck sat silently beside him, staring out of the window. Finally they pulled up in under the trees behind the sand dunes.
"Come on, let's get some fresh air." Deliberately not waiting for a response, Ezra climbed out of the car and, removing his shoes and socks, began to climb the closest sand dune.
After a few moments Buck followed suit. Cresting the dune, they sat down among the sand and long grass and looked out over the sea.
"Have you remembered anything more?"
"No. William Foster, it's not a bad name, don't you think?" He looked over at Ezra.
"It's a fine name."
"But he wasn't wanted was he. William? He was in the way, a stupid brat that ruined her life."
"You are Buck and you are not stupid, you are not in the way and you didn't do anything to ruin anyone's life," Ezra reminded firmly.
"But I did, because of me Ma became a blackmailer and a hooker and my mother ? Well who knows?"
"You listen to me, Buck Wilmington." Ezra moved so that he was kneeling in front of Buck, invading his space. "You were a little kid, you had no power, you had no control, you had no choices. You mother treated you abominably. I have the tape of that session; you should listen to yourself! She put you down, told you were useless. Believe me I know what that's like. You were lucky, you didn't remember it, it didn't poison your every view of yourself. No one has the right to do that. My guess would be that she took you to the river that day, drugged you and abandoned you. She may even have tried to drown you. She doesnt deserve your sympathy. On the other hand, your Ma - Cindy - not much more than a girl, had already lost the ability to be bear a child. She befriended you, she took you in. The things she did, she did out of love. No one made her do it. Do you remember what the doctor in Leesville said?"
"He described you as small for a five year old. Now maybe you were a late developer, maybe you weren't five; maybe you were only four - maybe. But you know what I think?"
Buck duly shook his head.
"I think your biological mother had been neglecting you, you were 'failing to thrive' as they say. Even if she didn't actively try to kill you, she was starving you. Cindy saved you. She lavished on you all the love and care she would have given that lost baby. You made her life complete; she made you the man you are. A good man, a brave man, my friend.
For a long time Buck remained silent. "I'll try to remember that," he finally said.
"It's all I ask."
+ + + + + + +
Wasting no time, they got back on the road to drive the hundred miles to Biloxi. The chances of finding the club 'little' Buck had described were slim at best, but they were seasoned federal agents and if it was findable, they'd find it. Following their successful tactics in Clay Cross, they ate at a small local diner while checking the yellow pages for clubs. And it worked. They found a listing for 'The Wagon Wheel', which sounded as if was exactly what they wanted, in addition they found 'The Golden Wheel', 'Fortunes Wheel' and "The Ships Wheel'.
'The Golden Wheel' turned out to be only seven years old and 'The Ships Wheel' was, and always had been, a cabaret club. Next they visited 'The Wagon Wheel'. The building looked new, but there was a large, old wagon wheel above the door.
"Do you remember anything?" Ezra asked.
"Nope, not a thing." Buck looked critically at the building. "It doesnt look old enough."
"A lot can change in almost thirty years."
The club wasn't open, but there were staff inside. The security guard wasn't much help but he managed to find a cleaner who'd been there for years. She confirmed that the building was only seven years old but it replaced a much older one and that the club had been around since the fifties.
"What about the wheel?" Buck asked.
"Oh that's the original, it's famous around here," she explained.
"Ma'am, is there someone I can talk to who was here, say, about thirty years ago?" Ezra asked.
"Well there's Larry, he owns the place. I mean he's retired now, mostly, but technically he owns it. Back then I guess he was more hands on."
"Where can we find this gentlemen?"
"All I know is, he goes fishing every day."
"Do you know where?"
She shrugged. "I know he owns a yacht, so I guess you could try the marina. If not, come back here after six. Someone in the office will have his address."
"One last thing, what is Larry's full name?"
"Oh, sorry, White, Lawrence White."
+ + + + + + +
The yacht club was reluctant to provide information, until Buck pulled out his badge.
"You know we really have no right to use our badges in this investigation," Ezra commented, as they strolled toward berth 512.
Buck grinned. "If anyone complains we'll just tell them to deal with Chris."
"That's not really playing fair; I love it."
The yacht on berth 512 was called 'The Burlesque' she looked to be about thirty five feet, modern but of indeterminate age. She was prow on to the berth and at the rear there was a blue awning over the cockpit.
"Hello The Burlesque?" Buck called.
The yacht rocked slightly then a man's head, the face shaded by the dark cap he was wearing, appeared around the side of the awning.
"Yes?" he asked.
"Mr Lawrence White?" Ezra asked.
"Yes, what do you want?"
"We'd like to talk to you about your club," Buck explained.
"I'm retired." With that the man disappeared.
"We know," Buck called. "It's the old days we want to talk about, the old club."
The head appeared again. "The old days?"
"Well you better come on board. Mind you take your shoes off first."
Larry White was a small man, shorter than JD, somewhat solidly built, who, when he removed his cap to wipe his brow, was mostly bald, and what hair he had was white. The cap bore the club's emblem - a wagon wheel.
Ezra briefly outlined who and when they were interested in.
Larry shook his head. "Boys, it's a long time ago now, I'm an old man, but I remember Cindy all right. She was something else."
"What's that meant to mean?" Buck demanded.
"She was a looker; had a figure to die for. I mean it, she always topped the bill, the guys loved her. But she was a good person too, even though she wasn't the oldest by any means, she sort of ended up as the den mom, the others went to her with their problems. She even used to help some of them fill out forms and write letters."
"What about the other one, we think her name was Foster, and she had a son, a small dark haired lad," Ezra reminded him.
"Foster, Foster? With a boy you say? Jocelyn? No that's not right, Jo, Jo, Joanna - yes! Joanna Foster, my God I haven't thought about her in a long time."
Clearly the old man was on a roll, so Ezra pressed on. "What about the boy?"
"Buck, beautiful child, had the biggest dark blue eyes you ever saw. I used to let him stay back stage, I think she used to make him up a bed under the stairs. He was never any trouble."
"Can you remember what happened to them, Cindy, Joanna and the boy?" Ezra asked.
White took a deep breath. "Now you're asking. Joanna wasn't the easiest person, she was ambitious. You have to remember back then it was still called 'Stripping' not 'Exotic Dancing'. It was still a tease then, the climax was when the girl took off that final bit of clothing. Now they just take it all of as fast as possible and cavort on a pole." He shook his head. "It's just not the same, I mean they're very athletic, but it's not the art form it was then."
"Um, Sir, you were saying Joanna was ambitious?"
"Oh yes, well I may be remembering this wrong, there were a lot of girls, but I think she left to marry an officer - that was what they all wanted to do then, marry an officer, doctor, lawyer, dentist. Some man with status and a steady income that could give them kind of life the magazines and the TV told them they should want. Two point four children, house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, two cars and a dog - the whole nine yards."
There was clear disdain in his voice.
"What about Cindy, when did she leave?"
White thought about it for a moment. "You know I think they left at about the same time, I remember because it was almost the fourth of July and I was suddenly two girls short. Joanna was no big loss, but Cindy, now she was a gold mine. Yes I remember now, damn that was a nightmare. No idea where they went. I never heard from Joanna again, but I do remember lots of gossip about her and an officer. I remember Cindy called me the night she didn't come in. Told me she was okay, not to worry but she had to leave town, some sort of family emergency. I told her she always had a job with me, but she never came back." He looked up at Ezra. "Is that any help?"
"Would you still have picture of Joanna Foster?" Buck asked.
"You know I probably do, back at the club - have you been there?"
"Yes, we understand that it's not the original building?" Ezra responded.
"No, the old place went up in flames, blessing in disguise." Larry stood up and started to lock up the boat then head for the prow carrying his shoes. The two agents followed him.
"Doesnt sound like a blessing," Buck observed.
"Gave me a year's break, chance to rebuild and change. My kind of place couldn't compete anymore, not with the big shows and the casinos. I didn't want to go into lap dancing, that's just not well it wasn't what I wanted to be doing. Then I saw a new market, so I went for it, I'm making more money now than I ever was with the old place."
"So what kind of place is it now?"
"I though you'd been there?"
"We didn't go in."
"Ah, well it's a gay bar, lots of dancing, drag show three nights a week, karaoke on Tuesdays, pretty boys dancing in g-stings. I'm raking it in! And I tell you what, those boys are a darn sight better behaved than the guys in the old bar, even when they're blind drunk."
They all drove back to the club. "It's bigger, it's safer, it costs less to run, and it makes me more money than the old place, but it doesnt have any heart," Larry lamented nostalgically, as he let them in via the staff entrance. His office turned out to a large room, with a desk a wall of filing cabinets, a sofa, a very expensive recliner and a large TV, not to mention a bank of CCTV monitors showing every part of the club.
"I thought you were retired?" Buck asked, taking in the office.
"I'm still the owner, the manager runs the place day to day, I just like to keep an eye on things."
Ezra grinned. "Keeping them on their toes?"
"Thats it. You gents take a seat, I'll see if I can track down that picture. I was lucky, the only things that survived the fire were the wheel and most of my old office. The files even survived the sprinklers and the fire hoses. Ironic isn't it? The only thing that survived was an old wooden wheel and a bunch of paper."
"The sprinklers didn't put out the fire?" Buck asked.
Larry snorted in disgust.
"Should have, that's what I paid for, that's what the fire regs say they're meant to do. We were having a drought; water pressure was so low all that came out was a trickle. Fire took hold of the roof, by the time it burnt down it was so hot the water just evaporated. If it had been at night, when we were open." He shook his head ruefully. "I dont even like to think about it. Anyway, I sued the water company. Thats how I built this place, that and the insurance."
"Mr White sir, you are a man after my own heart," Ezra complemented.
"Here you go." White pulled out a file. "I always reckoned I paid for the pictures I should at least get to keep some of them." He rifled through the folder for a moment. "Joanna Foster. Yup she was hot in a trashy kind of way, and Cindy Wilmington, who was just plain hot, in every way." He handed over the pictures.
Buck recognised the one of his mother; she'd used it many times to get work. Passing it to Ezra, he looked at the second picture, at the woman who was very probably his mother. All the evidence pointed to her being inadequate at best, abusive, possibly even a murderess, at worst. A fake blonde with a slight squint looked back at him. What, he wondered, would have become of him in her care?
"Um, can we get copies of these?" Ezra asked.
Larry, who was puzzled by what appeared to be very intense reactions to both pictures, went back to his folder, he'd shown them the large prints he'd used to publicise the shows, but he had smaller versions. Pulling out a 3 x 4 of each picture he offered them these.
"Have these, I have the negatives after all."
Buck put the large picture down, and took the two smaller ones.
Ezra returned the picture he was holding. "Do you have any documentation on them, employment records, social security numbers, anything like that?" he asked.
"I may, no guarantees, why don't you fire up the Xerox, damn thing takes an age to get ready to do anything." He began to rifle through drawers of old files.
Larry eventually found the hand written 'personal information' sheets for both women. With photocopies of these Buck gave White a perfunctory 'good-bye' and left.
Ezra watched him go and then turned back to their host.
"Thank you sir, you have been very generous with your time and very, very helpful in our investigation," Ezra explained as he prepared to leave.
"Well, I'm always happy to help the good guys - you know? Besides, in this game it pays to keep the law on your side."
"I can imagine that it does, and you have indeed been of great assistance. Good-day."
+ + + + + + +
Buck sat in the car and waited for Ezra to join him. The air conditioning made the small place bearable. The two of them sat there, in silence for a long time. Finally Ezra decided he needed to say something.
"What do you want to do now?" he asked quietly.
Buck looked back across the car park at the club. "Go back to Las Vegas," he finally said. "I've got a bad feeling about this Stevens guy. If they find him, I want to be there."
"Very well, we'll need to get some tickets and return the car."
"Do we need to go all the way back to Jackson?" Buck asked, looking over at Ezra.
"No, we can drop it at the airport if we go from New Orleans."
Buck's response was to fire up the ignition. They'd been on the road about twenty minutes before Buck spoke again. Until then the only sound had been Ezra, booking their flights on his cell phone.
"I guess I can do some more research when we get there. Las Vegas. Now I've got her social security number and birthday."
"It shouldn't be too difficult," Ezra agreed.
"I meant I might even be able to find my original birth certificate too, maybe even " his voice tailed off.
"Maybe what?" Ezra asked softly.
"Find out who my father was, I always wondered about him."
"Well you may yet find out, but then again."
"I know, the chances are she didn't know or didn't record it."
Ezra could hear all too well the emotion in his friend's voice.
"I feel I should apologise again, I had no right to interfere, it might have been easier if you had never known."
Buck was so affected by Ezra's words he almost lost control of the car. Once he had it under control he spoke, keeping his voice as even as he could.
"Don't say that. The truth was there, on the page in black and white, sooner or later it was gonna come out. I'd rather hear it from you than some stranger, given enough time I might even have worked it out on my own, then I'd have been out here doing this on my own. You asked me to remember you're my friend, seems to me you need to do the same.
"You are of course quite correct, if I can continue to be of help, I will."
"I know. Damn, listen to us will you? We're turning into a damn Hallmark movie! Find something on the radio to cheer us up!"
Ezra smiled as he flicked on the radio and searched for a station they could both enjoy. He found one playing 'California Dreaming'; they both sang along.
They had sung along to three more songs when Buck reached out and flicked off the radio.
"How do you alter a birth certificate?" he asked. "You said it was expertly done?"
"It was. On white paper like that it's not that hard. I'm not an expert you understand. But I believe to do a simple job like that, changing an eight to a three, you use bleach. That's what I saw, close up you can just see that the edges of the three arent as crisp as they should be and the paper is a fractionally lighter shade were the ink had been bleached out. But it requires a huge amount of skill and experience to only remove that little bit of ink and not leach into the rest of the number or destroy the paper."
"Ma and Joanna left just before the fourth of July and the birth was registered on the eleventh, so "
"So she didn't waste much time."
"Right!" With that Buck executed a perfect U-turn and started back for Biloxi.
"What are you doing?"
"My mother was no master forger, so what are the chances that she was going to ever meet one and get him, or her, to work for her? Answer none, yet she got that birth certificate as soon as she possibly could. Now we know why she did it - right?"
"She needed proof that you were hers, she needed papers to get you into school, mostly she needed a social security number." It suddenly dawned on Ezra what must have happened. "Of course - social security number! Once she had that, she would probably never have to produce that certificate again. All you had to do to get a number for a child was produce a birth certificate. In those days, before computerisation, they weren't going to go all the way to Alexandria and check the original, they'd just take the copy they were shown."
"Right, and once she had that, a genuine social security card, she could get me Medicare, get me into school, driver's licence, it got me into the army, college."
"It made Buck Wilmington a real person. Chances are William Foster was never issued with one, since he didn't go to school, as far as the government is concerned, he doesn't exist."
"She knew she wasn't going to be able to get one for a kid of five. I mean I know you can, but it's a lot of hassle, lots of questions; so she gets a regular birth certificate and since five years is too big a discrepancy to hide, she must have already known how to get it altered. And who did she know who could have helped her find a forger?"
Larry had returned to his boat, which was where they found him.
"White!" Buck shouted, climbing on the boat, not bothering to ask permission or take his shoes off.
"What the hell!" By the time White had realised who it was and what was going on, Buck was in the cockpit and in his face.
"I want the truth. All of it!" he demanded.
"I told you what I remembered, it was a very long time ago. Now get the hell off my boat."
Buck didn't move.
"Mr White sir, you would be well advised to relinquish any further information you may have - for your own safety," Ezra advised lazily.
Larry swallowed as he looked from Ezra, then back to the truly dangerous looking man before him.
"What I told you, it was true, all of it, it's just "
"Just what?" Buck demanded.
"Cindy called me, about a month after she left."
"She wanted me to get Morty to do a job for her, said she could pay him."
"And just who or what is a Morty?" Ezra asked.
"Morty Roux, he was a customer, a regular. See Morty was an artist, he painted the sea, the lighthouse, boats, that kind of thing, if he sold more than three pictures a year he was happy, but he always had money. It doesnt pay to ask too many questions, so I didn't, until "
"Until what?" Buck prompted.
"I caught him try to pass a fake twenty. It was a good one; chances were he's done it before. Anyway, I pulled him in to my office and told him if I ever caught him again he'd be banned and I'd turn him over to the cops, no second chances."
"She knew about this?"
He nodded. "She overheard the whole thing."
"So what was this job she wanted done?"
"I honestly don't know. Morty agreed to the job, Cindy sent me a letter containing a package - the job, plus the money. I just handed it over, he returned it and I posted it back to her. She called me a few days later and told me to pay him."
"Where did you post it?" Ezra asked.
"Post office box in Texas, that's all I remember."
"You're telling me you didn't look inside that package, that she trusted you with the money?"
"Why wouldn't she trust me? I looked after my girls, I didn't take advantage of them, I treated them fair especially her."
Buck pounced on that. "What does that mean?"
"Cindy was different, she wasn't interested in the house, husband, kids and happy-ever after all the others seemed to want. In fact, if you ask me, she didn't trust men who wanted to marry her, and there were plenty of them. I guess if you looked like she did, then most men who pay you attention are only after one thing."
That stuck a chord with Buck, his Ma always had a somewhat cynical attitude to the traditional family unit.
"Yeah, that was true right enough, she didn't trust men," he commented. "Thanks, again, for your help. I'm glad you were there for here when she needed someone."
Larry looked up at Buck. "Just who are you?"
"I'm Buck Wilmington." With that Buck turned and headed off the boat.
Larry stood there, a look of utter confusion on his face. Ezra patted him on the back as he passed him, following Buck off the boat. "Don't worry, you'll work it out."
+ + + + + + +
Henry Stevens was located working for the company fitting out the new casino, all the carpenters were asked for a DNA sample and all supplied one. While they waited for the results, the police kept him under surveillance. The DNA linked Stevens to all the three latest killings. He was arrested at his apartment and brought in for questioning.
"What have you found?" Grissom asked Greg as he came into the lab.
"The murder weapon." He held up a slim chisel. "Blood from all three victims."
Grissom raised an eyebrow, as he took the clear bag containing the weapon. "What about Cindy Wilmington?"
"Well it was a long shot. Thanks."
+ + + + + + +
"Mr Grissom?" Gil turned to find Buck Wilmington, who, despite the clean clothes and fresh shave, was looking somewhat the worse for wear. Just behind Buck was another man, who, since Gil didn't recognise him and he was wearing a visitors badge, he assumed had to be Standish, the man Nick had spoken to on the phone.
"Welcome back and thank you for the information."
"You got him?" Buck asked.
"Yes and before you ask, yes he did it, well the last three at least. His DNA matches samples we gathered at the crime scenes and from the victims. Their blood was all over one of his chisels."
"What about Ma?"
Gil shook his head. "Sorry, we've got nothing to link him with her killing, other than circumstantial evidence."
"Can I see him?"
Grissom hesitated, Buck Wilmington was an ex army, ex cop, Federal Agent, he should have the control to face his mother's killer and not jeopardise the case or his own career. On the other hand, he was a big man, no doubt trained to kill. If he lost control he could do a great deal of damage in a very short time. Gil's feeling of unease wasn't helped when he saw the look of concern on Standishs face.
"You may observe," he finally conceded.
+ + + + + + +
Stevens looked a lot like his brother, thin and angular. He sat in the interrogation room, feigning indifference, apparently relaxed as he slouched in the chair. Yet the foot that rested across his knee twitched maniacally, flicking up and down at a frantic pace, and every now and again he'd lift his eyes to the uniformed officer standing beside the door then across at the wide mirror that took up most of one wall.
Buck and Ezra, behind the mirror, watched Grissom enter, still carrying the chisel in a clear evidence bag. With him was the dour looking man in a suit, who had been introduced to them just minutes earlier as Jim Brass. The uniformed officer left.
"Mr Stevens," Grissom began. "This is the chisel we took from your tool box."
"Yeah, so?" As soon as he spoke the thick Mississippi accent was clear. "What of it?"
"There is blood on it."
"So, I cut myself sometimes, its part of the job." To illustrate his point he held up a finger, the tip of which was encased in a grimy Band-Aid that looked like it was at least a week old.
"It isn't your blood, its the blood of Mary-Jo Edmonds, Gail Simmons and Lucia Delmarco. They were all murdered with this chisel."
"You can't prove that its mine, I leave my tool box open all day, anyone could have put that chisel in there," Stevens protested.
"You identified it as yours," Grissom reminded.
"It's a common brand, one chisel looks a lot like the next."
"Well that is possible I guess," Brass began, "but they found your finger prints all over the chisel."
"And we found your epithilials - your DNA - at the crime scenes, we even found Bubinga wood," Grissom explained.
"You're guilty as hell Stevens. You hired them, you had sex and then you rammed a chisel into their chest, drove it up their breastbone and into their throat. We're not here to get a confession, we know you did it and we know you killed Cindy Wilmington, just before you were sent to prison." Brass sat back, staring at the men before him with a look of cold, clinical, professional detachment, that didn't quite hide his disdain.
"I want a lawyer," Stevens demanded.
"You'll get one, first tell us about Cindy."
"Cynthia Wilmington, AKA Cindy. You and she had a relationship just before you went to into the army," Grissom reminded.
"Never heard of her," Stevens sneered. He was guilty and they knew it, but he saw no reason to make it easy for them.
"Sure you have." Grissom sat back, folding his arms across his chest. "You were in Sin City, the pleasure capital of America, hedonism on tap. So you booked yourself a hooker, little did you know it was going to be your ex girlfriend. You had sex, then there was some kind of argument, about what I don't know, but you ended up killing her. And you know what?"
"It was a thrill. That night was the single most intense moment in you life since the war. Back in Vietnam you were in the infantry - a grunt - you were at the sharp end, living on the edge. Then you came back home and went back to carpentry. That's some change in pace isn't it? I dont think you meant to, you certainly didn't plan to, but it happened and it gave you a buzz didn't it? It got you high. It was like being back in the jungle wasn't it? That's why, when you got out of jail, you came right back here and you recreated that night. But the buzz didn't last did it? So you had to do it again, and again."
Stevens just stared at the two men. "They pay you to do this? Come up with stories?"
+ + + + + + +
Behind the glass Buck had a flash of insight, one of those moments of clarity that you can't explain, when everything drops into place.
"Keep him here, don't let them end the interview," he instructed Ezra even as he headed for the door.
"Pardon? Where are you going?"
"Just keep him here, I'll be as quick as I can."
Buck ran down the corridor, headed back to the CSI labs.
"Stokes!" he called, spotting Nick near the door.
"Oh hi," Nick spun around, recognising Buck and smiling.
"I need something, something my mother would have had on her, I didn't get it back, so - with any luck - it's still with the evidence."
To his credit, Nick didn't stop to ask what was going on. "Well the evidence box is still here, let's take a look."
Nick removed the sturdy cardboard box from the locked cupboard. "Well, this is it."
Buck took a deep breath and removed the lid. Clothes, shoes and her purse. That was what he wanted. He forced himself to concentrate on his goal and not be distracted by the flood of memories that the bag produced. In the slim wallet containing her driver's licence and credit cards were two pictures, one of him on his seventeenth birthday and one of him with Cindy, aged about ten. That was what he wanted.
"I need to borrow this," he told Nick, holding up the wallet.
"You need to sign for it."
"No time, come with me."
Then, before Nick could react, Buck was headed back to the interrogation room. He knocked and walked in, not waiting for a response.
+ + + + + + +
"Howdy boys!" Buck greeted cheerfully, dropping down into the only empty chair. "Mind if I join you?"
Grissom and Brass looked uneasy but nodded.
"Um, who are you?" Stevens asked. He turned to the two Las Vegas officers. "Who's he?"
"I'm the Fed, and I've been doing some research into your relationship with Cynthia Wilmington." Buck pulled Stevens attention back on to him.
"I told, them." Stevens pointed angrily at Grissom and Brass. "I never head of the woman."
Buck was on his feet again; he paced just to the side of Stevens.
"Sure you have Harry, you met her in Clay Cross, a dirt poor, dirt road, one horse town in Mississippi. That's where you went to school, isn't it? Where you grew up, where you learned carpentry in your daddy's factory and where you and Cindy had a relationship just before you joined the army. Then you met her again, right here in Vegas and you happened to see this."
Pausing, Buck pulled out the wallet and tossed it down on to the table in front of Stevens, opened up, so that both pictures were visible.
"I don't know how, but you knew something about her having a baby. When you saw this you assumed this boy was yours, you challenged her about him."
Stevens looked at the pictures, there was a slight change in his body language, a hint that Buck had struck a chord.
"This is what you argued about, isn't it?"
Stevens made no response.
"You thought she was carrying your child when she left and never told you," Buck challenged.
To their credit, Grissom and Brass kept quiet, letting Buck lead, trusting whatever insight he'd had into their suspect.
"So what happened? What did she tell you that made you snap?"
Grissom watched Buck as he paced again, never had he seen anyone look so much like a caged lion, there was a power there that he just hoped Buck had the control to keep in check. Stevens was feeling it too; he all but flinched every time Buck came close to him.
"Did she tell you he wasn't yours? Did she tell you the baby she had been carrying back then wasn't yours either. Or " Buck stopped and leaned over the table to confront Stevens face to face. "Did she tell you the truth. That this boy wasn't your son, couldn't be, because shed had an abortion, that she'd killed the baby. Your baby."
"Bitch," Stevens spat out. "She deserved to die."
Buck began to pace again.
"So tell us, tell us that happened." Grissom took over the questioning.
Relieved that the infinitely less threatening Las Vegas officer seemed to be back in charge, Stevens began to talk. Why shouldn't he? He had nothing to lose and they should know why he did it. He had had a good reason after all, she had deserved to die.
"I saw the picture. I only found out she was pregnant after I joined the army. Her best friend wrote to me, told me Cindy was having morning sickness and she though I should know. I wrote to her - Cindy - but she never replied. I tried to get home, but the army wouldn't give me compassionate leave on the basis of a schoolgirl's suspicions. When I got home, she'd gone. All I wanted was a chance to know my boy. I asked her, I pleaded but she kept saying he wasn't mine. So I asked her where my baby was, eventually she told me, she'd got rid of it, had an abortion. She murdered my child."
"So you killed her?"
"Yeah! We were fighting, I dont remember how it happened, but suddenly I found my chisel in my hand and I stuck her with it. An eye for an eye, that's what the bible says, a life for a life."
"Except the baby she aborted probably wasn't yours at all," Buck cut in again. "Not unless you raped her?"
"I never did!"
"Then it wasn't yours. She would never have aborted a baby unless she had no other choice."
"What the hell are you talking about? Just how would you know what she'd do?" Stevens accused angrily.
"I know, because that's me." Buck's hand slammed down on the table beside the pictures. "Me and my mother - you murdering bastard! She loved me and she loved life and she would never have killed that baby unless she had a damn good reason! You fucking bastard!"
Buck was right in the man's face now and he reacted by pushing his chair away and standing up.
"You killed the most beautiful, kind and loving woman in the whole word." Buck advanced on Stevens who backed away.
There was something going on, some hidden agenda that Gil couldn't quite fathom, he could see it in Wilmington's eyes, in his body language, yet he couldn't work out what it was. Beside him he could feel the tension in Brass, and knew the experienced detective was trying to work out how much leeway to give Wilmington.
Stevens, fear now evident every faltering backwards step, had all but circled the table with Buck looming over him. And then it happened, Stevens moved just far enough to be beneath the CCTV camera recording the interview and Buck pounced! In no more than a heart beat Buck launched himself at his mother's killer. Taking hold of the man's shirt he propelled him backwards, pinning him up against the wall.
"I should slit you open right here like you did her!" he growled into his victims ear, so close and so quiet that no microphone could have picked it up.
Even as Grissom and Brass were pulling him away, Buck was letting go of the man. However much he wanted to beat the wretch to a bloody pulp, it wasn't worth his career; his mother wouldn't want that.
"He can't do that!" Stevens protested.
"Can't do what?" Brass asked.
"That! He can't touch me, I got rights."
"I didn't see anything that infringed on your rights."
"He hit me!"
"No he didn't," Grissom commented.
"You tripped, he stopped you falling."
"I but "
Brass went to the door and called the uniformed officer back in to take the suspect away for processing.
+ + + + + + +
Take as much time as you need," Gil told Ezra quietly as he left the room.
"Hi," Ezra said quietly.
Ezra sat down on the table, facing Buck, he didn't want to crowd him. "Stop that."
Buck lifted his eyes from the floor, puzzled. "Stop what?"
"Blaming yourself. Yes, he turned aggressive and killed her when he saw the picture of you and your mother, but that doesnt make it your fault. It was no-ones fault but his.
Buck nodded his acceptance of this, his logical brain told him it was true, but deep in his gut he still wasn't convinced.
"He killed her and it wasn't even his kid," he observed sadly.
"You're sure about that?"
Buck nodded. "I know my mother, no way she aborted a child without a real good reason. I just have this feeling about her father." Ezra nodded, he'd had the same feeling. "I'll never know for sure, but I just feel it."
"You're a good investigator, you have good instincts."
Buck shrugged. "This state has the death penalty."
"Lethal injection," Ezra confirmed.
Ezra had no way to know if this was a good or bad thing to Buck. From what he could remember, he always had the feeling Buck wasn't in favour of the death penalty. If his feelings had changed, he gave no indication.
Buck took a deep breath, raking his hands through his thick hair. "I don't know what to do. I keep thinking there is something I should be doing, something missing, but I don't know what it is."
"We don't need to do anything more to bring your mother's killer to justice. He killed her, he admitted that. The forensic evidence against him for the last three killings is overwhelming. He is going to be convicted, and in all likelihood he'll receive the death penalty. You are still you. You are Buck Wilmington. William Foster is dead; he died the day his mother took him to the river for a picnic. What happened that day? Who knows? Maybe he fell asleep, maybe he was drugged, maybe he was abandoned, maybe he got lost, maybe someone tried to kill him - we'll never know. But little Buck somehow came into the care of Cindy Wilmington - the only friend he had - and she made him her son and she loved him and cared for him and they made each other happy. And you are still my friend."
"Thank you," Buck finally he whispered.
"Nothing to thank me for," Ezra managed to say.
+ + + + + + +
Stevens appeared before the arraignment judge and was remanded into custody on four counts of murder. Three days after that, with all the evidence logged, Cindy Wilmington could finally be re-interred. Buck stood beside her original grave, with the original head stone he'd purchased when he came out of the army. It was a typical Las Vegas day hot and dry, the sun beating down out of a clear blue sky.
"Well Ma, you're home again, the sun's shining. I got you some carnations, I remember you like those. Sorry you were disturbed, but it was in a good cause."
He had been standing, but, as he placed the flowers on the grave, he sat down cross-legged beside the newly turned soil.
"I know now, I know, well I guess not all of it, but some of what happened. I know what you did for me, how much you gave up. I know who I am; I'm your son, that's all I have ever been." He stood up. "Bye Ma, I love you."
Ezra sat up as soon as he saw Buck walking back toward him.
"All right?" he asked.
Buck smiled, a genuine 'Buck' smile. "Yes, it's over."
A hesitant smile came over Ezra's face. "What?" Buck asked.
"I think we need to go back to the car."
"Ezra? What's going on?"
Ezra turned toward the gate. "I need to show you something." He looked back over his shoulder. "Trust me?"
Once they were sitting in the air-conditioned rental car, Ezra pulled a folder out of the glove box.
"I did some research on your behalf, one arrived yesterday by courier, the others I received by e-mail."
Ezra pulled the first document out and handed it over. It proved to be Joanna Foster's birth certificate, she was born in New York, her father had been a fireman, and judging by the dates, she was only sixteen or so when Buck was born.
"She was a long way from home," Buck commented.
Ezra pulled the other two documents out. One was a birth certificate for William Matthew Foster.
"Texas! Lubbock, Texas? Oh my God."
Ezra tried not to laugh. "Sorry."
"That damn, scrawny assed Texan is never gonna let this go. Ah hell! He's gonna expect me to support the fucking Cowboys."
"Um," Ezra said, clear warning in his voice.
"That may not be the only thing he's not going to let go, check out your father's middle name."
Buck hadn't registered that there was a name listed for his father; he'd just assumed it would be blank.
"Oh. My. God!"
"Oh fuck. Are you sure this is "
Ezra pointed to the box marked 'Occupation', which was filled in as 'deceased'. Then he handed Buck the third document. It was a death certificate issued in Winslow Arizona. Buck read it carefully. It told him of the death of one Matthew Foster, a seventeen year old ranch hand, killed instantly when his horse was spooked by a snake and threw him, breaking his neck. His listed second name, just as it was on Buck's real birth certificate, was Two Feathers.
"Hum," Buck commented.
"That is one way to look at it."
"Or even, as JD would say, awesome." Buck turned and looked at Ezra, head slightly on one side. "Winslow? Navajo you reckon?"
"That would be most likely."
"Says here his father's name was Raymond Evans and his Ma's maiden name was Bel-Hso."
"You will notice that under race it is marked MR, possibly for 'mixed race'? One could surmise that Matthew Foster was Native American on his mother's side." Ezra paused for a moment. "It occurs to me that Mr Tanner is very proud of his Native American inheritance."
"Well now he ain't gonna be the only one. Vin's only one eighth Comanche, looks to me like I'm a quarter Navajo."
"You can form a war party," Ezra commented dryly, pleased to see Buck suppressing his laughter in response to the comment.
"It's wierd." Buck turned his attention back to the piece of paper in his hand. "I never had a father, never knew his name or anything about him and now, after all these years, here he is, in my hands. A seventeen year old, half Navajo ranch hand, who was killed before I was even born. Poor guy, he didn't have much of a life did he?" He took a deep breath and let it go slowly; finally he looked over at Ezra and smiled. "Guess that's were I get my dark hair from."
"Quite likely, one might then surmise Joanne " Ezra was most careful not to call her 'your mother'. " was the one with the blue eyes."
Buck took a moment to think about that. Then he looked back down at the pieces of paper in his hands. "I think I found what was missing," he finally said.
Ezra smiled, but he didn't try to comment. "Shall we go home?"
"Home, damn that sounds good. Feels like I've been away forever."
With that Buck started the car and pulled out of the cemetery car park, heading for the airport.