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Authors: Jeff Mariotte

Brass in Pocket

BOOK: Brass in Pocket
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WELL, WHEN I GOT A HIT,
I RAN IT AGAIN. SAME THING
THE SECOND TIME.”

“Mandy…”

“It belongs to Captain Brass.”

“Jim Brass?”

“He's the only Captain Brass I know. He was in the motel room. The fingerprint was on the doorknob to the bathroom. There was a partial on the nightstand that might be his, but there's not enough of it to get a positive match.”

“You're right,” Catherine said. “That is interesting. Or it might be, anyway. Do me a favor, Mandy. Let's keep this between us for now, okay?”

Mandy cocked her head, obviously surprised by the request. “Sure,” she said. “No problem.”

When she left, Catherine looked at her phone—still in her hand, but almost forgotten.

She should call Jim and ask him about the phone number and the fingerprints.

She should call Nick and tell him not to say anything about the number he'd found to anyone else.

Instead, she left the paperwork unfinished on her desk and hurried to her car. She wouldn't have minded if she'd never had to go back to the Rancho Center Motel, although she was convinced that was a pipe dream. But she hadn't anticipated going back quite so soon.

It was like waking up from a bad dream, then going back to sleep and finding herself stuck inside the same nightmare.

Original novels in the CSI series:

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Double Dealer
Sin City
Cold Burn
Body of Evidence
Grave Matters
Binding Ties
Killing Game
Snake Eyes
In Extremis
Nevada Rose
Headhunter
Serial (graphic novel)

CSI: Miami
Florida Getaway
Heat Wave
Cult Following
Riptide
Harm for the Holidays: Misgivings
Harm for the Holidays: Heart Attack
Cut & Run
Right to Die

CSI: NY
Dead of Winter
Blood on the Sun
Deluge
Four Walls

CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION™

BRASS IN POCKET

a novel

Jeff Mariotte

Based on the hit CBS series “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” produced by CBS PRODUCTIONS, a business unit of CBS Broadcasting Inc.

Executive Producers: Jerry Bruckheimer, Carol Mendelsohn, Anthony E. Zuiker, Ann Donahue, Naren Shankar, Cynthia Chvatal, William Petersen, Jonathan Littman

Series created by: Anthony E. Zuiker

The Sale of this book without its cover is unauthorized. If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that it was reported to the publisher as “unsold and destroyed.” Neither the author nor the publisher has received payment for the sale of this “stripped book.”

Pocket Star Books
A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
www.SimonandSchuster.com

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2009 by CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Entertainment AB Funding LLC. All Rights Reserved.

CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION and related marks, CBS and the CBS Eye Design™ CBS Broadcasting Inc. CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION and all elements and characters thereof. © 2000-2009 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Entertainment AB Funding LLC. All Rights Reserved.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

First Pocket Star Books paperback edition September 2009

POCKET STAR BOOKS and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

For information about special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-866-506-1949 or [email protected]

The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event. For more information or to book an event contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at
www.simonspeakers.com
.

Cover design by David Stevenson

Manufactured in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

ISBN 978-1-4165-4517-0

eISBN 978-1-4391-6477-8

This novel and its author owe enormous
debts to Anthony Zuiker, William Petersen,
Marg Helgenberger, and the rest of the brilliant
CSI cast, crew, writers, and producers, Maryann
and Corinne, Howard and Katie and Ed, and
Dr. D. P. Lyle, MD.

1

T
HE BULLETPROOF WINDOW
was his first clue.

It shouldn't have been, but Brent McCurdy was beat. He had driven most of the way from Denver, snatching a couple of quick naps while his wife Charlene took her turn behind the wheel. They only had a week's vacation, and they wanted to spend that week in Las Vegas, playing slots and craps, watching shows and having fun… not staring at the highway between Vegas and Des Moines. So they powered through, Des Moines to Denver in one stretch and there to Vegas in the next, and by the time they reached the Rancho Center Motel at eight-forty that Friday night, Brent was stick-a-fork-in-it done.

A
VACANCY
sign burned in pink neon, like the legs of a flamingo set afire from within, but the motel office was dark, the door locked. Brent pressed his hands to the glass and stared inside. The place had a threadbare carpet with so many cigarette burns they
looked like part of the pattern, and a scarred Formica counter with a big analog clock on the wall behind it. Had there been anyone inside, that person would have looked out and seen a man who was barely describable, of average height and average weight, with the slightest paunch swelling his dark blue polo shirt. His hair was brown, not long but not exceedingly short. His eyes were brown and unremarkable. In the eleventh grade, Brent's history teacher had recommended that he consider a career in the FBI, because he was a person who could blend in. He had decided against it, and now he managed a chain sporting goods store back in Iowa, and sometimes—but only rarely—regretted that decision.

Brent noticed a window built into the wall, almost like a drive-up window in a fast food joint, that could be accessed from behind the counter. He left the door and walked over to that window, finding thick, bulletproof plastic, scratched and fogged with age, with a little slot at the bottom to shove money or a credit card under and a small metal grate to speak through. A faint light glowed through the window, coming from a hallway he could barely make out. Looking through the Plexiglas was like trying to see through a blizzard. He'd had that experience a few times, which was why he had scheduled his vacation days for summertime. Driving in whiteout conditions didn't make for a relaxing beginning or end of a trip.

Finding the window tipped him off to the various signals that hadn't registered at first. Those had been, in fact, broken liquor bottles crunching under
his feet as he walked from his parking place. Those had been used condoms and an empty syringe mixed in with greasy burger wrappers and lipstick-stained cigarette butts up against the curb. And those women he had barely noticed, coming out of a room at the end of the building? Well, back home he didn't see a lot of women in sparkly, low-cut spandex tops and skirts so short they could almost have qualified as belts, swaying with practiced near steadiness on four-inch heels, but that didn't mean he had never seen hookers before. Once in a while on the streets of Des Moines, but on TV, mostly. He had pay cable, after all. He should have known at a glance what they were.

He looked back toward his Ford Escape, a vehicle that had never before seemed so aptly named. Charlene and the kids were still inside, waiting, every bit as tired as he was, if not more so. They just wanted to get checked in and put their heads down on comfortable pillows. Brent had yet to inspect the pillows so he couldn't have testified to their comfort, but there was a young guy emerging into the hot July night from a room five doors down from that bulletproof window, and he wore an expression of such rapturous bliss that Brent guessed he was either high or he had just gone through a profound religious experience.

The Rancho Center Motel didn't seem to lend itself to the latter.

He should have done more thorough online research. The location had been convenient to both the Strip and Fremont Street, and the price was definitely right. But this joint was no family motel.
The pool, surrounded by a chain-link fence out in the middle of the parking lot, didn't even have water in it.

He could tell by a shadow on an inside wall that someone was coming down the interior hallway, toward the bulletproof window. Brent didn't want to have a face-to-face conversation with anyone who worked here. He didn't even care about getting his deposit back. He could call and cancel the reservation later, and he would only lose one night's rent. All he wanted was to flee this dump and find another room somewhere in the city—a room at a place in which he wouldn't feel that his life and the lives of his family members were in danger at every moment.

He turned away from the oncoming shadow and hurried to the Escape. When he opened the door, the dome light came on and Charlene blinked at him and raised a hand to her cheek. “Is everything okay, honey?”

“Nothing's okay,” he said. “We're going somewhere else.”

“Somewhere else? You mean a different motel? Why?”

“Because this place is awful,” he said. Brent Junior and Carnie were sitting up in back, sleepy-eyed but awake, so he didn't want to go into a lot of detail. There was no sense terrifying the kids on their first night in Las Vegas.

“But I wanna go to bed!” Carnie cried. She was only four and hadn't been looking forward to the trip anyway, except for the promise of a swimming
pool at the motel. She shook a stuffed lion at him with animal ferocity. “I'm tired!”

“We're all tired, Carnie.” Brent closed his door and clicked his seat belt into place. “We'll find a better place. It won't take long.”

“But we have reservations here,” Charlene said. “What if there's a convention in town or something and we can't find another place?”

“There's always a convention in Las Vegas, Charlene, but there are something like a million hotel rooms in the city. I read that somewhere.” He was probably exaggerating, but there were a lot of them. He had read the precise number, but if he was any good with numbers he probably wouldn't be making his living with bats and balls and racquets and shoes. “We'll drive around all night if we have to, but we're not staying here.”

“Aren't most of them more expensive than this one? That's what you said, right? This one was a bargain?”

He put the vehicle in reverse and backed out of the space. “So we'll skip the shows, or cut back on meals. I don't care. This place—”

Brent Junior had been about to register an objection of his own, his six-year-old whine already gathering steam, when a loud bang sounded from behind them and silenced the boy. Brent thought it was the sound of a door being slammed. He shoved the SUV into drive and stepped on the gas. The engine's growl nearly drowned out screams from the motel. But then he heard shouting and a sharp report, louder than the first bang, and saw a bright
spark near the pool that must have been a muzzle flash.

“Somebody's shooting!” he shouted. “Call nine-one-one!”

Charlene was already pawing her phone from her purse as the vehicle surged from the parking lot, cutting the angle wrong and bouncing off the curb with two wheels. Brent didn't care.

He just wanted to get gone, while he still could.

“Catherine's in charge.”

Those had been Gil Grissom's last words before leaving the lab for the airport. He was flying off to Washington, D.C., where he would be a featured speaker at a symposium on forensic entomology, after which he would testify before a congressional committee about the necessity of public financing for small city crime labs. As it was, most rural, small town, and small city police forces sent their caseloads to the big city labs, which were already backed up with their own big city crime. The additional workload slowed everything down, a vicious circle that left felonies unsolved and criminals on the streets. Gil would be more comfortable talking about the insects that frequented dead bodies, but his testimony before Congress would be sincere and convincing, and Catherine Willows couldn't help feeling a tickle of associational pride at the knowledge that her boss was helping to make a difference on a national level.

BOOK: Brass in Pocket
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