The Joker
Rosalinda StMatthew


"Hey, look," Calleigh said, nodding at the tow truck in the parking lot. It was unloading a shiny black H2, similar to the CSI vehicles. "Wonder whose it is..."

Speed snorted not so quietly. "Guess."

"You know?"

"Yeah, and so do you, if you think about it."

Calleigh stopped on the steps of the station, took another look at the car, and turned back to Speed. "Nope, sorry. Not a clue."

"Who usually drives?"

Calleigh shook her head. "Drives when?"

"CALLEIGH. When we all have to go to a scene, who drives?"

Calleigh scrunched up her face and shrugged. "Well, shoot, that could be any of us!" She looked him up and down. "Then again, you don't like to drive that thing too often, and I know Eric only drives if... ohhhhhh."

"Yeah." Speed opened the door for Calleigh and followed her inside.


For once, Horatio was not interested in driving the CSI Hummer. He'd finally gotten the car he'd wanted delivered to him direct from the factory. He managed to get through the day in the company car, and even kept his excitement to himself about his new car. Still, when the sun set, and he was finally set free from the station, everyone in the lab (and a few people from Homicide, and Missing Persons, and everywhere else tapped into the gossip mill) followed him out to see him get into that big, black SUV. The corner of his mouth quirked up when he saw his audience, and he waved as he pulled out of the lot, dimple cutting into his face.

The novelty did not wear off quickly. For several weeks, he found himself being escorted to his car by at least fifteen people. They weren't always the same people, either. Horatio wasn't sure what the fascination was with his new vehicle, but it didn't bother him. Not that he was trying to show off, but it had been a long time since he'd indulged himself in a new toy, so he was going to take whatever joy in it he could.

It also did not seem to matter that sometimes he'd have to pull all-nighters in the streets. Whenever he was ready to go home, there was a willing group of officers to see him off. It was almost embarrassing.

After one such all-nighter, Horatio stopped in his office to put his head down. He didn't think it would look so good for him to go to sleep in the parking lot, but he didn't have the energy to drive attentively. After a while, he shook himself out of his nap, went to the break room to grab a cup of coffee, and headed for his car.

The first thing he noticed was the quietness in the halls as he left the break room. The next thing he noticed was the lack of escort. It was odd because there had been no previous decline in interest the day before. It was so abrupt, just like flipping off a light.

He soon forgot about the lack of audience when he realized that his car was missing. Not only was it not there, but a rusty, dusty, peeling, pitted, leaking old Honda Civic sat in his assigned space. An OLD Civic. The sort that was obviously made for ten year old boys who hadn't had their growth spurts to drive.

Horatio stared at the car for several seconds before turning back to the building. He stalked right up to the desk sergeant, who was staring pointedly at a clipboard in front of her.

"Excuse me."

The sergeant looked up and let a sputtered laugh escape before answering him. "Yes, sir?"

Horatio narrowed his eyes. "What do you know?"

"Sir?"

"You're trying very hard not to laugh, and it isn't working. Where is my car?"

The desk sergeant couldn't hold it in anymore, and burst out laughing. "I - I'm sorry!" She wiped tears from her eyes and tried to regain her composure. "I'm sorry, sir, I don't know where it is. I only know that it's supposed to be safe."

Horatio nodded and turned away. Okay. If that's the way they want to play it, then that's the way we'll play it. He decided to report the vehicle stolen.

He only got as far as Yelina's desk when half the floor cleared. Not that he couldn't hear the muffled laughter. "All right. Who has my car?"

Yelina stood up, wide eyed and innocent. "Did something happen to your car?" Horatio cocked his head to one side, and Yelina cracked. "Look, we don't know where it is, Horatio. We're not even sure who actually took it." She started to laugh. "But I have an idea..."

Horatio was not amused. "Listen to me. I'm tired. I've been up all night. I just want to go home. So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going back to my office and I'm going to finish my coffee. When I finish my coffee, I'm going to go back out to my parking space, where my car will be waiting for me. Okay? I'm going now." He turned and headed for his office, and could swear that he heard people rushing around behind him.


When he thought he'd given the perpetrators enough time to return his vehicle, Horatio headed back out for the parking lot. The Honda was still in his space, but this time, there was a key in the ignition, with a little piece of paper attached to it. Horatio sighed and pulled a latex glove out of his inner jacket pocket. He snapped it on and gingerly pulled on the slightly rusty looking latch. The door creaked open, sagging on its hinges. He reached in and pulled the key out of the ignition, to get a look at the note.

Horatio,

I've had enough of watching you put on a show for the entire department. If you want your damned car back, you know where to get it - and you'd better be prepared to pay for it.

xxoo,

Me

Horatio growled and crumpled the note up. He folded his long body into the ridiculously tiny car, fought with the rusted seat adjusters, and managed to get himself into something resembling a comfortable position. He put the key back in the ignition and turned it -

And nothing happened.

"I do not fucking believe this." He tried giving it a little gas, but the car didn't even try to start. Not so much as a click when he turned the key. After five minutes he gave up and put his head down on the steering wheel.

"Sweet car, Horatio."

Horatio jumped. "I want you to give me my car."

"Nope. Like I said, you'd better be prepared to pay for it. And you can't pay for it here. My girlfriend might see, and that wouldn't look too good. Besides," the joker taunted, "you wouldn't want to ruin your reputation for hating IAB, now would you?"

"I swear, Rick, if I don't get my car back I'm taking it out of your ass."

Rick straightened up and clucked his tongue. "No, no, no, Horatio. You're supposed to stick it in, not take it out. And besides, I thought you were the masochistic one." He smiled sweetly and jingled his keys. "C'mon, I'll give you a lift. If you can stand to be seen getting in my car, that is."

Horatio weighed his options. "I'll take a cab."

Fin


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