Horatio barely moved at the sound of Tripp's voice. "Mmm hmm?"
"Who's the girl?"
"That's um... that is Sandy Willis," Horatio replied.
"Girl from the Everglades," Tripp said.
"She's beautiful," Tripp said after a moment.
"Yes, she is."
There was another short pause. "Listen, I'm gonna go for a burger and a beer," Tripp said. "You wanna go? My nickel."
Horatio sighed slightly and turned his head to the side, still not ready to actually face Tripp. "That sounds good. Could you give me five?"
"Yeah," he said, sounding slightly disappointed that Horatio wouldn't come immediately.
"Okay. I'll see you outside." Horatio waited for a few moments after the door had closed, just to be sure Tripp was away from the office. Then he went back to Sandy's file. He sighed heavily at the sight of the smiling girl. The image was a far cry from the burned, blistered corpse they had recovered from the glades. Reluctantly, Horatio moved Sandy's picture aside and found her mother's phone number. He programmed the number into his phone, then decided to go to a more private place. He just couldn't deliver this kind of news in a room with glass walls.
Once in a more private spot, Horatio sat down and stared at the phone, trying to pull himself together. Finally, he dialed the number. After only a few rings, a woman who sounded like she was around Horatio's age answered. "Hello, Willis residence."
"Is this Sandy's mom?" he asked.
"Yes, I'm Sandy's mother," sounding confused and hopeful at the same time. "What is it that you want?"
"Mrs. Willis, this is um... this is Horatio Caine from Miami PD."
"The police?! Oh my God, did you find Sandy?"
Horatio swallowed. "Yeah," he said.
"Oh no," Mrs. Willis said softly, clearly hearing all she needed to know in his tone. "Oh no no no. Is she...?"
"I'm sorry," Horatio said, bowing his head slightly.
Mrs. Willis gasped, and Horatio could hear her struggling to fight tears. "I... I want to see her," she said, her voice thick and shaky.
"Um... well, you can... you can do that at the mortuary," Horatio told her.
"Yeah," he replied, making a mental note to be sure that he was around to talk her out of it once she came down. She wouldn't want to remember her daughter like that, and she wouldn't be able to forget if she saw Sandy's face. Horatio could hear Mrs. Willis softly crying. He swallowed, struggling against his own tears, and prepared to do something he almost never did, unless he was hunting down a suspect. Lie. "Mrs. Willis, um... I was... I was there, and Sandy... Sandy did not suffer. Okay?"
"Oh, thank God," she said. "She... she wasn't in pain? She went quickly?"
"Right," Horatio said.
She started to say something, but sobs overcame her, and she cried for the next few minutes. Horatio waited for her to calm down enough to speak again. "I'm sorry," she said at last. "Are you there? Did you hang up?"
"No, I... I'm still here," Horatio said softly. "I'm here."
"I'm sorry about that. I just... my..."
"I know," Horatio said. "It's all right. Listen, do you have anyone with you now?"
"No, but my... my husband will be home soon."
"All right, what about a neighbor?"
"Oh. Yes, Betty's next door. I suppose I could..."
"Why don't you do that, Mrs. Willis? You shouldn't be alone right now."
"Okay," she said, sniffling and sounding lost.
"I'll give you my number, as well, okay?" He waited for her to find pen and paper, then gave her his private number. "You can call me at any time, all right? Any time, day or night. Okay?"
"Okay. Thank you, Mr. Caine."
"No problem. You hang in there, Mrs. Willis."
"I'll try," she said. "Thank you."
"Mmmhmm." Horatio disconnected and lowered his head, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Was that Sandy's mother?"
Horatio looked up, startled. Tripp stood in the doorway, looking down at him sympathetically. "Yes it was," Horatio said.
Tripp sighed and looked toward the outer offices. "Look, if you don't want..."
"No, no," Horatio said, getting up. "Let's go." He stood up and headed out of the room. He slowed down when he passed one of the computer research rooms. Maybe just one search. Horatio shook his head, but couldn't bring himself to pick up his pace again.
"The place stays open 'til midnight, Horatio," Tripp said softly. Horatio tried to say he was okay, but no words came out. "Come on," Tripp said, opening the door. "You take New York, I'll take California. We'll meet in the middle."
Horatio just nodded, knowing that Tripp could see the gratitude in his eyes. He took a seat at one of the computers and opened up a search. Slowly, not really daring to hope after ten years of failure, he typed her name. Caine, Kimberly Elizabeth.
After two hours, neither he nor Tripp had found any sign of a girl fitting her adjusted description reported anywhere in the United States. Horatio masked his disappointment, and joined Tripp for their belated burgers and beer. He took extra care to go easy on the beer, knowing that in his frame of mind, it would be very easy to lose control and get completely smashed. He thanked Tripp for the beer, nodded at his friend's advice to "hang in there", and went home. He spent the rest of the night looking at pictures of his daughter, and wishing for the millionth time since the search had officially been deserted that someone could give him the assurance he'd given Deborah Willis. That she'd gone quickly. That she wasn't in pain. Anything.
Horatio stepped out of the Hummer and surveyed the scene. Crime tape already roped off the pertinent area of the park. A few uniformed officers were busy keeping a group of curious children and a few adults from crossing the tape. Horatio could see Alexx crouched near a group of bushes, while Speed snapped pictures. Hagen stepped away from a young woman, and a small boy he'd been questioning and walked over to him.
"Horatio," he said, by way of greeting. "Boy found the body there in the bushes. The woman's his mother. She made the call."
Horatio nodded. "Did they touch anything?"
"Yes, the boy touched the body. Says he tried to shake her to wake her up, but she was cold, and too heavy for him to move. He ran and found his mother. She says she didn't touch anything - just made the call."
"Okay, see if he remembers anything else." Hagen nodded, and Horatio went to check on his M.E. "Alexx," he said as he approached. "What do we have?"
"Adolescent female, possibly fifteen or sixteen years old," she said, sounding sad and disgusted. "Looks like she was raped."
Horatio moved closer so that he could get a full view of the body. The girl was fairly tall and very thin. Her skin was pale and scarred in various places. In addition to the older scars, there were many fresh bruises on her upper body. She wore a short black skirt which had been shoved up around her waist. Her underwear had been pulled down to her knees. Her arms were at her sides, and Horatio could already see dark bruises on her wrists. He sighed sadly. She'd had a hard life, and apparently, an even harder death.
"Looks like she might have been a prostitute," Speed said, snapping a picture of one black, stiletto-heeled shoe that must have been lost in the struggle. Speed picked up the shoe and examined the heel. "Could be blood. Maybe she tried to use it as a weapon."
"Poor thing," Alexx cooed, gently brushing the girl's bright red hair away from her face. "You didn't deserve this, did you honey?" She moved the girl's head slowly, nodding to herself. "Rigor's already passed, so she's been here a while. We didn't find a purse or I.D. so we'll have to run her prints through-" Horatio gasped, and Alexx stopped abruptly. "Horatio? Horatio, are you all right?"
Horatio could only shake his head. He was suddenly short of breath, and he could hear his heartbeat pounding in his ears. He backed slowly away from the body until he could no longer see her face. Then he turned and walked as fast as he could toward the Hummer. He rested his hands on the still-warm hood to steady himself. Head lowered, he struggled to regain his composure, forcing himself to take slow, even breaths. After a few moments, he could hear Hagen and Speed talking behind him.
"... never seen him react that way before," Hagen said.
"Neither have I." There was a pause, and in a moment, Speed was beside him. "H?" he asked hesitantly. "H, what's wrong?"
"I..." Horatio cleared his throat. "I think she's my daughter."
"Kimberly?" he asked, incredulous.
Horatio nodded. "She's been missing for all these years, and now..." He fought to keep his lip from trembling. "Now she's lying dead in those bushes!"
Speed pursed his lips and stared at the ground, clearly uncomfortable in the face of Horatio's misery. "Maybe... maybe it's a different girl," he said hesitantly. "I mean, she has red hair, but that doesn't mean..."
"I know," Horatio said. "But she's around the right age, and she's tall for a girl her age just like my daughter was."
"It's not just that," Horatio interrupted. "Her lip. She has a cleft lip like Kimberly did. It's just not that common, Speed. She... she looks just like the age progression photo of my daughter. I..." Horatio fell silent, hearing the thickness of tears in his voice.
Speed glanced around quickly, then stepped closer to Horatio. He placed a hand on Horatio's arm and squeezed slightly. "I'm sorry, H," he said softly. Horatio nodded, not yet trusting his voice. "Listen," Speed said. "I'm sorry to have to ask you this, but... do you think you'll be okay to work the case?"
Horatio sighed and looked away. It was a fair question - one he knew he would have to answer the moment he saw his daughter's face on a corpse. He closed his eyes and attempted to weigh his own strength. "I can do it," he said at last, turning to Speed with a look of grim determination on his face. "I have to."
Speed nodded, and Horatio knew that he understood the unspoken meaning behind the words. He hadn't been able to save her when she was alive. The least he could do was catch her killer. Speed gave Horatio's arm another squeeze, then turned away and headed back to the scene.
"So what was that all about?" Hagen asked, barely bothering to lower his voice.
"It's nothing," Speed said. "Just gets to you after a while. Especially when they're so young."
Horatio took a few more moments to steel himself, then went back to his crime scene and got to work.
Horatio returned to the station after nearly two hours of painstakingly combing the park for evidence. They'd managed to find a small handbag the same color as the victim's skirt in a trash can several yards away from the body. The bag contained lipstick, eyeliner, a single hotel key, and four condoms. That, coupled with the clothes she'd been wearing, confirmed their suspicions that she was a prostitute, but nothing they'd found brought them any closer to indentifying the perp. Their key to the killer would have to be found on the victim herself.
Horatio stood outside the mortuary, waiting for Alexx to call him in. She was still working on the more gruesome part of the post. Horatio had seen it done before, of course, but he wasn't ready to watch it happen to this particular victim. He waited outside, using the private time to collect himself again. He had to keep the guilt and the grief in check to finish the case, but the more he learned about his victim - his child - the more difficult it became to keep his emotions at bay.
Who knew what had happened to her in the first years she'd been away from him? But whatever trials she had been through had landed her alone in a cheap motel, selling her body to make enough money to live on. And now she was gone. Violently murdered before she'd even reached her eighteenth birthday. And why? Because he'd lost her. He'd let her get taken away. Yes, Julie had been the one taking care of her that day, but if he'd been with them... If only...
Horatio frowned. Stop, he told himself. Pull it together. Do what you can for her now.
"Horatio?" Slightly startled, Horatio looked sharply at Alexx. "I'm ready for you now," she said.
Horatio nodded and followed her into the operating room. He gazed at the body of the victim - Kimberly's body - noting that Alexx seemed to have been even more gentle than usual with her. "What did you find out?" Horatio asked, managing to maintain a steady voice.
"Cause of death was definitely asphyxiation due to manual strangulation. I'm also positive she was raped. There's vaginal bruising, as well as defense wounds on her arms."
"Did you find any physical evidence of the attacker?" he asked.
Alexx nodded. "Semen from the swab, and skin under her fingernails. She fought hard."
"Mmm," Horatio said, nodding. "So we're looking for someone with scratches on the face or arms, at least one puncture wound, and bruises on his own hands from beating her."
"The DNA samples should help," Alexx said. "I was just about to send them down."
"Don't bother," Horatio said. "I'll take them myself. Do we have a reference sample from the victim?"
"All the foreign DNA should be male," Alexx said.
"I know, but I want to rule out the possibility that she fought with anyone else," Horatio said. Alexx shrugged and snipped a single hair from the girl's head. She placed it in a third evidence bag and handed it to Horatio. "Thank you," he said.
Horatio took the samples and made a short stop in a room that was fairly deserted to take a swab of his own DNA. Then he headed for the DNA lab. "Valera."
"I'd like you to run these four samples for me."
"Are these from the girl you found this morning?" she asked.
"These two are," he replied, handing her the appropriate samples.
"I've got the results on the blood Detective Speedle gave me from the victim's shoe."
"Good. There's a high probability that the three will match. These two..." Horatio pursed his lips, and when he spoke again, his voice was slightly softer. "I'd like you to run a comparison between the victim's DNA and this sample. Let me know if there's a relationship."
Horatio cleared his throat. "This... this is of a sensitive nature, so I'd rather no one know about it until I get the results, all right?"
"Thank you." Horatio took the results from the shoe and found Eric.
"Hi. Did you get anything from the victim's fingerprints?"
"Yeah, I did." Eric clicked a few keys, and Horatio saw the mug shot of a very bored looking girl - their victim in her early teens. "Candace Gallagher. She was picked up for shopliftng two years ago in North Florida."
Horatio nodded and studied her vital information. "Candace" was born the same year as his daughter: 1989. The exact date wasn't right, but Horatio knew that it was common practice for kidnappers to change the birthdates of their victims if they didn't intend to kill them or send them out of the country. "Okay, was she picked up for anything else?"
"No, her record's clean otherwise. Well, according to the system."
"Right. I'd like you to run this through and see if you come up with anything." Horatio gave Eric the DNA results and waited.
"Got a match," Eric said after a while. Soon, there was another mug shot on the screen. Horatio took note of the vitals. The perp was forty-six year old Kenneth Naughton. He was tall and buff - 6'2" and 279 pounds, according to the stats. Quite strong enough to easily overpower an innocent teenaged girl.
"Twenty-five years for... well, well." Horatio raised an eyebrow.
"Four separate counts of rape and aggravated assault?" Eric asked incredulously. "They let this guy out on parole?"
"Fifteen years of good behavior, the parole board let him out and he's back in the game six months later. Only this time, he decided to make sure his victim didn't live to tell the tale. Thank you, Eric. Nice work."
Less than thirty minutes later, Horatio and Speed were pouring over Naughton's case file. "Well, at least he's consistent," Speed said after a while.
"Mmmhmm. All his victims were prostitutes."
"And they were all taken to fairly open areas. The park, the beach. It's almost like he wanted someone to catch him."
"Well, he's about to get his wish. I want some uniforms at these women's houses, in case he tries to visit any of them again. I want you to take Hagen and show Kim- Candace's picture in the park and in the neighboring area."
"Sure, H," Speed said softly. The sympathy in his eyes and voice let Horatio know that his slip had not gone unnoticed. Speed cleared his throat, and when he spoke again, his voice was softer and even more gentle than before. "Have you run a DNA test?"
"Valera's processing it for me. She doesn't know the comparison sample is mine."
Speed nodded. "I'll take a picture of our suspect along, too. Maybe we'll get lucky."
"Good idea," Horatio said. "I'm going to look in on Mr. Naughton's parole officer. Keep me posted, okay?"
Speed nodded and left. Horatio made a few phone calls and within minutes, Officer Joseph Santos was knocking on his office door. "Come in," Horatio called.
The somewhat portly Cuban officer entered, looking inquisitively at Horatio. "You wanted to see me, Lieutenant?"
"Yes, thanks for coming so quickly," Horatio said. "Please, have a seat." Santos nodded and sat down opposite Horatio. "I understand you're Kenneth Naughton's parole officer."
"Yes, that's correct."
"When did you see him last?" Horatio asked.
"I made an unscheduled visit to his job about ten days ago. He was sober, no complaints from his manager. He's scheduled to report to me in two days."
Horatio shook his head. "I don't think he'll be making that appointment."
Santos frowned. "Why not? What happened, Lieutenant?" Horatio opened Naughton's amended file to "Candace's" morgue picture and pushed it across the table. Santos grimaced and sighed heavily. "Who was she?"
"Her name is Candace Gallagher. She was a prostitute. There's evidence she was raped, and her body was found in a park. DNA from blood on her shoe matches Naughton."
"Son of a bitch!" Santos slammed his fist against the desk. "That's his M.O. all right. Dammit! How can I help you catch him?"
Horatio smiled slightly. "I need a home address, work address, and any places he's been known to spend his time."
"No problem," Santos replied, already fishing out cards. He wrote down all the information Horatio requested, muttering all the while about "that dirty, murdering son of a bitch".
Armed with his new information, Horatio snagged a couple of uniforms and headed for Naughton's apartment. Officer Santos called while they were en route to let Horatio know that the warrant for Naughton's arrest was a go, and a search warrant for his apartment was in the works.
They pounded on the apartment door for a few minutes without success. Horatio gleaned from a neighbor that Naughton had left for work three days ago and hadn't been back to his apartment since. Horatio checked at the grocery store where Naughton worked, but his supervisor informed them that Naughton hadn't been to work in three days. "His pink slip's already in the mail."
"All right, thanks for your help." Horatio looked at the list of Naughton's haunts. He'd picked the one he wanted to check first when his telephone rang. He checked the screen then answered. "Speed. You've got something good, I hope?"
"How about the address to the hotel where Candace lived? One of her um... coworkers ID'd her. Says she lived in the same hotel with her and a few other girls who work the streets."
"It gets better," Speed said. "She also recognized the perp. She says he's been hanging around the hotel for the past few days watching the girls."
"Okay, that's because he's looking for another victim. I'm going down there right now. Go back to the lab and put a rush on those samples if Valera hasn't already finished them."
Horatio disconnected and glanced at the uniformed officers. "Follow me." He got into the Hummer, flicked on the siren and sped toward the address Speed had given him. When he was a few blocks away, he turned the siren off, grateful that his escort was observant enough to immediately follow suit. He didn't want to scare Naughton away, should he be lingering around the hotel when they arrived.
In a few moments, they pulled up to a small, seedy looking motel that seemed unwholesome even in the bright afternoon sunlight. Horatio immediately noticed two people arguing near the parking lot entrance. A tall, broad-shouldered man held a scantily-clad woman tightly by the arm. Horatio stepped out of the car and moved toward them, motioning for the uniforms to do the same.
"Let go of me, you jerk!" the woman cried.
"Come on, honey, you know you want to come with me."
"Piss off! I saw you leave with Candi and I haven't seen her since! You'll be lucky if I don't call the cops, you freak!"
The man growled and slammed his fist into the woman's face. "You aren't calling the police on anybody, bitch!"
The blow was all the cops needed to galvanize them into action. In less than three seconds, the perp was face down on the ground, his arms pulled painfully behind his back. Horatio reached them a moment later and crouched down so that he could see the criminal's face. "Fortunately for us, Kenny," he said with a grin, "she won't have to." He looked up at the other officers. "Put him in the car, gentlemen."
Horatio stood and turned to see if the woman Naughton had hit was okay, but she was already ducking into one of the farther rooms. Horatio shook his head and went back to the car. Speed called while he was on his way back to the station. "I got the results from Valera," he announced. "The skin Alexx found under Candace's fingernails and the semen from the rape kit were both ositive matches to Naughton."
"Okay, thank you," Horatio said. "I'm on my way back, so can you have the report ready for me when I get there?"
No problem. You got him already?"
"Mmm-hmm. Right in plain sight, propositioning another girl."
"I couldn't agree more. See you when I get back."
Horatio hung up and broke the speed limit - sirens blazing - to get back as quickly as possible. The more he thought about what Naughton had done, and the fact that he obviously planned to do it again, the more furious he became. When he finally made it back to the station, he was so enraged that he could barely keep from attacking Naughton then and there. "Take him to an interview room," he said, glaring. Inside, Speed was waiting by the front desk with the paperwork Horatio had requested. "Bring it with you," Horatio said, already moving toward the interview room.
Speed nodded and followed him without a word. Horatio was sure Speed could tell the kind of mood he was in. In fact, everyone seemed to notice, clearing out of his way quickly as he moved through the halls. Naughton was already in Interview Room One when Horatio arrived. He dismissed the officers and glared down at Naughton. Naughton glared back at them belligerently. "What are you punks picking me up for? Punching a stupid whore?"
"Prostitutes deserve whatever they get, is that it, Kenny," Horatio said in a low tone. "Where'd you get those scratches on your face?"
"Cat scratched me."
"Really? Are you sure Candace didn't scratch you while you were attacking her?" Horatio pushed Candace's morgue photo over to Naughton. "You remember Candace, don't you, Kenny? You know, the girl you raped and murdered a couple of days ago?"
"Whoa, hey, I didn't rape and murder nobody!" Naughton said. "I never seen her before in my life."
"Then why was your semen inside of her?" Speed asked.
Naughton looked at the picture again. "Oh, yeah," he said broadly. "I remember her now. I picked her up a couple of days ago and we had a little action. But it wasn't rape, and I didn't kill her."
"There was bruising on her that definitely proves she was raped."
"Maybe she liked it a little rough," Naughton said with a cocky smile. "Maybe somebody else raped her after she left me. You can't prove I did anything to her."
"Well that was an idiotic thing to say to a pair of CSI's," Horatio said. "Take off your shirt."
"Take off your shirt," he said again, more forcefully. Looking perplexed, Naughton complied. Horatio pointed to the white patch on Naughton's shoulder. "Kenneth, if I removed that bandage, would I find a puncture wound about the size of a dime, and roughly an inch deep?"
"So this is a picture of Candace's left shoe. See that blue color right there?" Naughton glared. "That's blood, Kenneth. Your blood. Your DNA was under her fingernails, which proves those scratches came from her. You attacked her, you raped her, but I'll bet you didn't expect her to fight back so hard, did you? Is that why you killed her?"
Naughton glared and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "I want to talk to a lawyer."
Horatio chuckled. "That's fine, Kenny. But a lawyer isn't going to be able to help you. Fifth offense, culminating in murder? I think you'll be lucky if you get life in prison, wouldn't you say so, Timothy?"
"I'm voting for the death penalty."
Horatio smiled at Naughton and turned away. "Let me get you a phone."
"She... she was just a whore!" Naughton sputtered. "She was a criminal!"
Horatio whirled around and glared at Naughton, getting mere inches from the man's face. "She was also a fifteen year old girl, and she was somebody's daughter, you filthy son of a bitch!" he hissed. "And I am going to personally see to it that you never spend a single day in peace for the rest of your life for taking her life away from her."
Horatio stormed out of the room, knowing that he needed to get away from Naughton before he did something illegal. "Get some paperwork started on him, please," he said to one of the arresting officers.
Horatio kept walking until he found a fairly private spot to stop and get himself together. "Are you all right?"
Horatio looked up and managed a small smile for Speed. "I'll be fine," he said softly.
Speed nodded. "You um... you want me to come over later and keep you company?"
"That would be nice," Horatio said. He stood there and just breathed for a while, focusing on the third button of Speed's shirt. When Horatio felt calm enough, he and Speed went back to oversee Naughton's processing. After all the paperwork on the criminal was successfully completed, they headed back toward the CSI offices to do more paperwork on the evidence.
As they passed the DNA lab, Valera trotted out. "Lieutenant? I have those... oh." She stopped, glancing at Speed, looking mildly embarrassed.
"It's all right, Valera. You can tell me now."
"Oh. Okay. I ran the samples you gave me, and there's no relationship between the two."
Horatio involuntarily took a step back and looked down at the floor, suddenly unwilling to make eye contact. "Um... you're..." He cleared his throat. "You're sure about that?"
"Yes, sir," Valera replied. "I checked it twice just to make sure." She held out the file and Horatio took it, hands feeling cold and distant from the rest of him. He frowned at the file and cleared his throat again. "Was it crucial to the case, Lieutenant?" Valera asked.
"Um... no. No, it wasn't. Thank you, Valera."
"You're welcome, sir."
Horatio took a few steps away, waiting for Valera to go back into the lab. Then, he looked up at Speed. The detective was watching him with deep concern in his eyes. "You okay?" Speed asked.
"I um... I don't think so, Speed. I'm... Do me a favor. Take this and try to find Candace's parents for me, please."
"Sure," Speed said softly, taking the file from him. "I can ask Eric and Calleigh to finish up with the evidence if you want."
"That would be great, thank you."
Speed nodded, still watching Horatio closely. "What are you going to do now?"
"I'm..." Horatio swallowed, trying to gain control of his voice. "I'm going to look for my daughter."
Horatio sat down at the computer and sighed heavily. He felt sick, as if a hole had been ripped into his gut. He'd worked on Candace's case as hard as he would on any other, but this time... this time he had been working for his daughter. He'd been saving her from becoming the victim of an unsolved murder. He'd been bringing her justice in death, as he hadn't been able to in life. And now, all of that was for nothing. He was glad to have been able to help serve justice for someone else's child, but it didn't stop the hurt he felt at knowing that the girl he'd been fighting for was not his own.
The feeling of certainty - of knowing where Kimberly was, and what had happened to her - was gone. He was right back where he started - not knowing where she was, whether she was alive or dead, whether or not she was in pain. It was like losing her all over again.
Horatio spent over three hours performing an exhausting online search in every relevant database the lab had access to, as well as a few not-so-obvious ones. As usual, he was met with failure at each and every turn. Finally, thoroughly depressed, he shut down the computers and headed home. Horatio heard the clink of Speed's keys when he was about half way through his box of pictures. He patted the spot beside him on the couch, and Speed sat down, putting an arm around his waist. Horatio sighed and leaned against him, grateful that at least he would have a shoulder to catch his tears tonight.
Several weeks later, Horatio sat in front of a drawer in the morgue, gazing at the name tag of yet another lost girl. Ashley Anders. No. The name was wrong. She wasn't the heady, oversexed porn star the name represented. She was David Sosenko's daughter, Kathleen. She was loved and missed by someone besides hundreds of adult movie-watchers, and for better reasons.
Horatio made a new tag for her, slid it into the slot on her drawer. He had just enough time to bid her rest in peace, and consider doing another hopeless search for Kimberly before his phone chirped at him. He sighed and looked at the message. Another case. Another heartache.
Alexx was already at the scene, inspecting the body underneath the pier. He was about to ask what her findings were when his telephone chimed yet again. Frowning, he and the other members of his team pulled out their phones and checked messages. "You have got to be kiddin' me," Calleigh said, tiredness bringing out her accent even more than usual.
"Shots were fired," Horatio said. "Calleigh, Speed, come with me. Eric, you stay here and help Alexx please."
"Sure, H. Or should I say, 'sir'?"
Horatio smiled slightly, glad that at least someone could bring a little humor to this otherwise dismal day. "Keep me posted." Eric nodded, and Horatio led Calleigh and Speed back along the beach to the vehicle.
He drove quickly to the site of their new crime scene - a quiet, not-quite middle class neighborhood. The place looked completely innocuous, except for the crime tape strung across the front gate, and the unmarked, yet unmistakable Town Car in front of the house. Horatio parked, and Tripp met him half way to the house. "Beautiful Saturday morning, eh, Horatio?" he said by way of greeting.
"Indeed. I thought Hagen was covering the weekend."
"Yeah, well, you know how that goes." He jerked his head toward the house. "Robert and Samantha Hamilton. Got names from their IDs. Both have multiple gunshot wounds to the torso, and the house is a wreck. Responding officers called it a home invasion, but I saw a lot of valuable stuff still in the house. With so many shots fired, it seemed more like a crime of passion to me."
"Maybe it was both," Horatio said, stepping into the house. The living room was, indeed, a shambles. Almost every single piece of furniture had been overturned. All the cushions on chairs and sofas had been slashed and gutted, leaving large amounts of white fluff lying around the floor. Speed started snapping photos of the room, and Tripp headed toward the kitchen.
"Couple was killed in here."
Horatio and Calleigh followed Tripp into the kitchen. "Oh my dear Lord!" Calleigh exclaimed. Horatio understood her sentiment completely. The kitchen was also a mess - cabinets emptied, furniture upturned, and two dead bodies sprawled on the floor in pools of drying blood. At least as distressing as the bodies (especially to Calleigh, Horatio knew) was the bullet spray. There were so many bullet holes in the walls and furniture around each body that Horatio was sure an automatic weapon had been used on the victims.
"Witnesses?" Horatio asked.
"None. Neighbor heard a racket, figured it was the TV, and turned his up louder. Called it in as an afterthought when his show was over."
"Right," Horatio said, frowning.
"Wow." Speed had come in and was staring at the room with wide eyes. "My condolences," he said to Calleigh.
"Very funny, Tim." Calleigh followed Speed while he snapped his pictures, gathering bullets after they had been photographed.
Horatio scanned the room again, picturing the scene as it might have happened. "Point of entry is pretty clear," he said, nodding toward the screen door hanging by one hinge. "So the shooter burst in through here, took Robert out at the table, then Samantha over by the sink." Horatio stepped closer to the man's body and crouched down. "Has the M.E. been here?" he asked.
Tripp nodded. "Must have had a hot date though. Took one look at them, pronounced them dead and high-tailed it out of here. Guess he figured C.O.D. was pretty obvious."
Horatio scanned the body and frowned. "Well, this is interesting."
"What is it?" Tripp asked.
"Rob here has a single tap to the temple, right behind the hairline."
"That is interesting, especially since the M.E. never mentioned it." Tripp inspected the other victim. "Wife has one too. Right above the left ear."
"Yes, same spot as her husband. So," he said, standing up. "Multiple shots from an automatic, and a single, close range shot to the head. Judging from the precision, a different gun was used, probably a hand-gun. And that says to me one thing."
"This was a professional job," Tripp said, sounding surprised.
"I don't get it. They weren't rich, and from what the neighbors said, they were quiet and kept to themselves. Why would anyone put a hit out on them?"
"That is what we have to find out," Horatio said. "Speed, can you get a shot of this please?" Speed came over and snapped several pictures of the body. Horatio was about to ask him to take pictures of the woman's body when he heard a soft thud coming from above. "What was that?"
"I don't know," Tripp said softly. "Those officers assured me the house was secure."
"Sounds like they were wrong." Gun already drawn, Horatio moved toward the stairs at the back of the kitchen and started up. Speed was with him in a second, minus camera, his own gun drawn and ready. Calleigh and Tripp brought up the rear. They moved softly but quickly up the stairs. Horatio held up two fingers and pointed down the hall. Calleigh and Tripp went to the farther rooms and Horatio led Speed to the first door across from the stairs.
Horatio opened the door, and immediately knew what sound he had heard. A window opening. He ran to the window and looked out. A thin figure with long black hair - possibly a teenaged girl - was struggling to climb down a drainpipe. "Stop!" Horatio called out. The person let out a high-pitched yelp and let go of the pipe. She landed in a bush below, rolled off and started to run. "Speed, we've got a runner. We've got a runner!" Horatio followed Speed down the stairs and out the kitchen door.
"I see her," Speed said, picking up his pace. Horatio followed for a second, then ran back and got the car. By the time he had it started, their runner had made her way to a neighbor's yard. She hopped over a short fence and peeled down the sidewalk. Speed wasn't far behind. "Stop!" he yelled. "Stop, police!!" The girl only ran faster, speeding down the sidewalk with the urgency of someone running for her life.
She started to gain distance on Speed, and Horatio moved a little ahead of the chase and jerked the Hummer into a driveway in the girl's path. Moving too fast to stop in time, the girl slammed into the hood. She pushed off immediately and tried to get into a neighbor's yard, but couldn't make it fast enough. Speed grabbed her and pulled her away from the fence. The girl screamed and struggled fiercely, but with Horatio's help, they had her on the ground in only a few seconds. The girl stopped struggling immediately. "I don't have it, I don't have it," she sobbed, trembling violently under their hands. "Oh God," she whimpered. "Oh God, don't kill me."
"Just calm down, okay?" Speed said, easing up a little on his grip. He reached down toward his belt and the girl cringed, clearly thinking Speed was going for his gun. Speed pulled out his badge and held it in front of her face. "See? We're cops. We're here to help."
The girl stared at the badge for a few moments, and her body relaxed slightly. She lowered her head to the ground and continued to cry. "Let her up, Speed," Horatio said. Speed moved away, and Horatio helped her to sit up. He brushed her hair away from her face, smiling slightly at the sight of her cleft lip. They always reminded him of Kimberly. He pulled out his handkerchief and gently dabbed at her face. "All right, sweetheart," he said softly. "You're safe now. All right? You're safe."
The girl nodded slightly, looking unconvinced. Then she gasped, and her eyes grew wide. Horatio frowned slightly, puzzled by her behavior. She was grinning now, and her breaths were coming more quickly. "It's you," she said at last, voice filled with wonder.
Horatio glanced at Speed, then looked back at the excited girl. "Umm..."
"The angel in my dreams. It's really you, I can't believe it!" Suddenly, the girl vaulted into Horatio, knocking him off balance, and squeezing him in a tight embrace.
Horatio stared at Speed with wide eyes. Speed looked equally shocked. He shrugged and shook his head at Horatio as if to say, "Your guess is as good as mine."
"Um... sweetheart?" Horatio said.
"Yes?" she asked brightly, not loosening her grip in the least.
"How is it that you know me?"
"I'm not sure," she said. "I feel like I've known you all my life. And I see you in my dreams all the time." She pulled back and fixed him with a confused, slightly hurt expression. "Don't... don't you know me?"
Horatio stared at the girl's face, and his jaw dropped. "K- Kimberly?" he breathed.
The girl grinned and squeezed him in another tight hug. "I knew it! You always call me by my real name in the dreams."
Horatio's eyed widened, and he struggled to keep his breathing normal. "Speed," he said hoarsely.
Speed gaped at them, eyes wide and jaw practically on his chest. "Yeah, H," he whispered.
"Can you take this please?" He held out the handkerchief he'd used to wipe Kimberly's tears. Speed took it gingerly, knowing already what Horatio wanted it for. Horatio wrapped his arms around Kimberly and held her tightly, burying his face in her hair. She squeezed him tighter and he struggled to hold back tears. He was almost afraid to believe she was his, remembering his pain when he'd discovered the truth about Candace. But how could she not be his child when she remembered his face? She knew him, even if she didn't remember why. Horatio sighed and shoved back his fears, determined to enjoy his first hug with his daughter in over ten years.