Speed was in heaven. Not literally, but he certainly felt like it. He "spoke" with Horatio almost every day using the magnets. Horatio boutht a few more boxes of letters, and two small magnetic boards - one for the car, and one for the office. Now that the two of them could talk whenever they wanted, Horatio's mood seemed to improve greatly. He was happier, and he never even contemplated the liquor cabinet. At the station, Speed could tell that others had noticed the change. People greeted him brightly, where before, they had steered clear of him. Calleigh, Eric and Alexx stopped looking so worried every time they saw him.
Speed found that he felt better, too. He no longer felt the obsessive need to be within two feet of Horatio each second of the day. He still loved to be close to him, and he always stayed in bed with Horaito until Horatio fell asleep (and sometimes for a couple of hours after that). But when they weren't talking and when he wasn't watching Horatio sleep, he wandered off on his own into different rooms of the house. He watched TV, read books and even took a walks around the backyard now and then.
At work, Speed tagged along with Horatio on most of his cases, but now and then, he hung out in the trace lab to watch some interesting substance being examined, or roamed around the locker rooms and the lunch room, listening to the chit-chat from his former coworkers. No matter how far away he was from Horatio, though, he always seemed to know exactly where Horatio was at any given time, and he was always able to hear his name clearly when Horatio called him.
The first break in their new pattern came early the next week. The case load had been very heavy the week before, and there hadn't been much time for investigating Speed's case. However, they had been able to devote more time in the last couple of days to getting more from the serial number on the faulty weapon. After employing some especially creative methods to get something more useful from the serial number, they were finally able to get enough digits to run a useful search. Calleigh ran the numbers and the other three crowded around to wait for the results.
"Not bad," Calleigh said at last. "Narrowed it down to six." She scrolled down the list, but stopped short on the second to last name.
Calleigh gasped. Speed scowled at the screen. Horatio and Eric bore grim expressions as well. The display was familiar to Speed: six strings of numbers - all probable matches to the partial serial number they had been working on coaxing off the gun. All six numbers matched guns that belonged to people who worked for the department. They'd expected as much. Horatio told Speed that the gun he'd had on his last day alive was definitely police issue. What they hadn't expected to see was one very familiar face. The list ran like this:
Serial No.: 5872029451
Officer Name: Danhurst, Janice
Officer Status: Retired
Weapon Status: Retired
Serial No.: 5872844653
Officer Name: Harris, William
Officer Status: Active Duty
Weapon Status: Active
Serial No.: 5872381158
Officer Name: Melendez, Humberto
Officer Status: Active Duty
Weapon Status: Active
Serial No.: 5872114159
Officer Name: Rutherford, Christopher
Officer Status: Deceased
Weapon Status: Evidence
Serial No.: 5872662450
Officer Name: Stetler, Richard
Officer Status: Active Duty
Weapon Status: Reported Stolen
Serial No.: 5872999657
Officer Name: Werner, Caleb
Officer Status: Active Duty
Weapon Status: Active
Horatio glared at the screen, hands slowly curling into tight fists. Speed began to feel a tingling heat that seemed to be radiating from Horatio's body. Horatio took a deep, slow breath, then started speaking in the slow, measured tones that Speed knew well - Horatio was on the brink of utter rage, struggling hard to hold it in. "Calleigh. Can you tell me when Agent Stetler's weapon was reported stolen?"
Calleigh nodded and clicked a few links. "Oh my God," she said softly. "That's-"
"I see it," Horatio said darkly. Speed saw it, too. The weapon had been reported stolen just three weeks before the start of the kidnapping case that cost him his life. Speed felt the heat coming from Horatio get just a touch warmer. "Calleigh, print that for me, will you? Then I need you to check the retired weapon, and the weapon in evidence."
"Right away," she said.
"Eric, get everything you can on Officers Harris, Werner and Melendez. Discreetly, please," he cautioned. "We don't want to arouse any unwarranted suspicions."
"You got it, H."
Horatio's fists tightened until his knuckles were almost white, and the heat emanating from him became stronger and more charged with energy than ever. "I'm going to have a talk with Rick," he growled.
Horatio took his print-out, stormed out of the lab and made for Rick Stetler's office. Speed followed him, only managing to keep up without trotting because he could move at supernatural speeds. Horatio burst into Stetler's office and slammed the door behind him. Rick looked up sharply. "Horatio! Um..."
"We need to talk," Horatio growled.
"Uh..." Rick looked somewhat nervously at the door, then gestured at one of the chairs in front of his desk. "Sure, Horatio. Why don't you have a seat?"
"I'll stand, thanks," Horatio said. He showed Rick the print-out the detailed report of his weapon. "Care to explain this?"
"What's to explain? The gun was stolen, I reported it, it's still missing."
"The serial number on this gun, Rick, shares five of ten numbers in common with the serial number of the gun that caused Detective Speedle's death. You reported it stolen less than a month before Speed was killed."
"Wha..." Rick looked genuinely shocked. "Wait a minute. Is... is that why you came here, Horatio? To accuse me of murder? You think I planted that gun on Detective Speedle to get him killed? "
"Maybe you didn't mean for him to die. Maybe just shake him up, or get him kicked off the force for being caught on duty with a dirty weapon a second time. I don't know, Rick. But what I do know is that you have serious problems with me, and you have a habit of taking out your personal issues on my CSIs. I just think the timing of your alleged theft makes for a very interesting coincidence, don't you?"
"And that's all it is," Rick cried, rising from his seat. "A coincidence! Look, I know we've had our differences, but I can't believe you would accuse me of something like this. You know, Horatio, you may hate what I do, but I am not a murderer! Yes, I'll admit it. I've let my personal feelings for you cloud my judgment professionally a few times. But Horatio, I am telling you right now, I would never endanger an officer's life. Never."
Horatio and Rick stared at each other for several moments. Speed could feel the tension in the room, as if it were something palpable. After a while, it died down slightly, and Horatio spoke again. "Since you're so certain, you won't mind if I search your office and your home, will you?"
"Horatio, you can't perform a search without a warrant, and you aren't going to be able to get one on that kind of speculation."
"I can search without a warrant if I have your permission, Rick. And I'm sure you're anxious to help me clear up this case as quickly as possible, aren't you?"
Rick sighed, and pressed a hand to his temple. "All right, Horatio. But this office is full of confidential documents, so I'm not going to leave the room."
"Fair enough." Horatio pulled a pair of latex gloves out of his pocket, snapped themon and started a thorough search of the room.
"What exactly are you hoping to find, anyway?" Rick asked.
"Speedle's weapon, of course," Horatio said.
"Why would I keep something like that here?"
"Hiding in plain sight? I don't know. That's why I plan to search your house as well." Rick sighed and Horatio resumed searching, conceding when Rick insisted on removing certain files himself before Horatio checked out the file and desk drawers. When Horatio finished searching, he followed Rick out to their cars and they headed for Rick's address. Horatio performed an exhaustive search of Rick's house, and the grounds around it. Speed looked around as well, though he didn't hold out much hope of finding anything. According to Horatio, it had been over four months since Speed had died. More than enough time for the responsible party to get rid of the evidence.
By the time they finished searching, Speed was frustrated and despondent. As he'd expected, they'd found nothing that could link Stetler to the crime. Horatio put his gloves away and sighed. "Can't find anything?" Stetler asked.
"As a matter of fact, no," Horatio said. "Not surprising. It's been months."
"Tell me about when your gun was stolen," Horatio interrupted.
"Sure. Look, why don't you come over here and have a seat."
Horatio nodded, and they went into Stetler's living room. Speed accidentally brushed against Rick when he moved past him to take a seat, and Rick shuddered. He rubbed the arm Speed had brushed against, looking perplexed. "Do you feel cold at all?" Rick asked.
"No I don't. The robbery, Rick?"
"Right. Okay, it happened while I was out of town on a short leave. I had my service pistol with me, but I don't like to go around armed when I'm not on duty. I keep the gun in the glove compartment of my car whenever I take time off."
"All right," Horatio said when Rick paused.
"I was out with... um..." Rick rubbed the back of his head. "Um... I took Yelina to see a show, and on the way to dinner afterward, I was car-jacked."
"Yelina never mentioned that to me," Horatio said frowning.
"She didn't want to worry you with it. She knows how protective you are, and she figured you'd be angry with me for putting her in danger. Anyway, two young men held us up, told us to get out of the car. If I'd moved for the gun, I'm sure we'd have both been shot." Horatio nodded his agreement. "They took what cash we had, stole our phones, my watch and Yelina's jewelry, then let us go. I reported the incident immediately and filed a full police report the moment we got back to Miami."
"Was the car ever found?" Horatio asked.
Rick nodded. "It was in surprisingly good condition. Sold to some hapless couple who claimed they had no idea the car was stolen. They were picked up right here in Miami by a couple of eager-beaver patrol cops. I think you know one of them. Wolfe, is it? He called me when - "
Speed gasped, and Horatio frowned and cocked his head. "What?"
"What?" Rick asked, perplexed. "What did I say?"
"Did you just say Wolfe?"
Rick nodded. "Yeah, Officer Ryan Wolfe. He and his partner were the ones who found the car. They called me when-" Horatio stood up abruptly and headed for the door. "Where are you going?" Rick asked.
"I need to look into a few things," Horatio answered.
"Like what? What are you thinking, Horatio?"
Horatio stopped and turned to face Stetler. "Believe me, Rick. When I have something conclusive, you will be the first to know."
Horatio jumped into the Hummer and had the motor running before he'd even shut the door. "Speed?" Speed touched Horatio's shoulder, and he shuddered slightly. "Good." Horatio peeled away, leaving streaks of smoking rubber behind him. "It better not be him," he growled. "I trusted him!" Horatio flipped on the siren and sped back to the station. He headed immediately toward the evidence lockers. Calleigh met him half way."I was just going to call you," she said, surprised.
"Walk with me. What did you find out?"
"Well, both Rutherford's gun and Danhurst's are where they belong, so we can rule out those weapons."
"And the others?" Horatio asked.
"Eric went down to talk to Officer Melendez just a few minutes ago."
"He checks out." Speed glanced back to see Eric trotting to catch up with them. "Melendez had his gun with him, H," he said. "Serial numbers matched. I got in touch with Harris and Werner by phone, and they read me the right serial numbers."
"That leaves Stetler's gun," Calleigh said.
"Which he reported stolen in a car-jacking incident," Horatio said. "The car was found by Officer Ryan Wolfe and his partner."
Calleigh and Eric both stopped in their tracks. "Ryan?" Calleigh cried. "But he's... we... how can that be?"
"We don't know anything for sure yet," Horatio said. "One step at a time. Let's check the police report for any alterations on the inventory list and talk to the other officer involved. We need something - anything that can tell us more about what happened."
Calleigh tracked down Wolfe's former partner while Horatio, Eric and Speed read over the police reports. The original inventory report was logged by Ryan's partner, Officer Derek White. His inventory included, among other things, a .45 caliber pistol. Wolfe's inventory report made no mention of a firearm. Horatio and Eric both stared at the two documents in grim silence. Speed could feel that tingling heat emanating from Horatio again, and a similar heat coming from Eric.
"This means..." Eric stopped, his jaw setting tightly, fist clenching.
Just then, Calleigh entered the room. "What is it?" she asked, clearly sensing the tension in the room. Horaito gestured at the two inventory reports. Calleigh studied the reports, and her face grew stony. Speed felt her furious energy added to that of the others.
"What I don't understand," Eric said at last, "is why he would leave the original report in the file."
"I can explain that," Calleigh said. "Officer White told me that he was called away by a family emergency before he could submit his paperwork. Apparently, Wolfe offered to finish up for him. White left in such a hurry that he took all his papers with him. He turned in his inventory report when he got back to work, three days later."
"They probably just added his report to the file without checking," Horatio said. "And why would they when the case was closed?"
There was a long pause, while everyone took in the enormity of what they'd just discovered. "My God," Calleigh breathed. "He's... he's been fooling us this whole time!"
"Lying to our faces," Eric spat.
Horatio shook his head. "He had the means, and the opportunity. Access to Rick's gun, free reign of the station, including locker rooms."
"And he had motive," Calleigh said. "He told me once that he'd always dreamed of being the one to build a case against a suspect and actually make it stick. He wanted the chance to be the perfect CSI."
"With Speed out of the way, he'd have the perfect opportunity, wouldn't he?" Horatio took a deep breath and lowered his head. "Damn."
"But why us?" Eric asked in disgust. "Why kill Speed? Why couldn't he just apply like a normal person?"
"Desperate?" Calleigh asked. "Impatient? He might not have meant for Speed to die at all. Maybe he just meant to plant the dirty gun, expose him somehow and get him fired. Maybe he'd applied and been rejected before, and he wanted a faster way in. When we hired him, we were so rushed by my father's case that we didn't do an exstensive background check. We just..." She glanced hesitantly at Horatio. "We just trusted that the preliminary background screenings would be enough."
Horatio stared down at the files spread out on the examination table for several moments, his fists clenched tightly, his entire body tense. Speed knew he must feel horrible. Horatio would have had the final say in hiring anyone, and Speed wished there was some way he could tell him not to blame himself. He brushed his hand across Horatio's cheek. Horatio looked at Speed. He'd gotten to be an expert at looking Speed almost directly in the eyes over the last several days. His gaze was full of sorrow and regret - as close to an apology as he could get without arousing the suspicion of his coworkers.
"Calleigh," he said at last, his voice low and determined. "Did Mr. Wolfe happen to tell you where he was spending his vacation?"
"Home," Calleigh replied. "He said he'd probably just be staying home this time around."
Horatio nodded. "Well. We're about to cut Mr. Wolfe's vacation short."