DISCLAIMER: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and other related entities are owned, trademarked, and copyrighted by Anthony E. Zuiker, Jerry Bruckheimer Television, CBS Worldwide Inc., Alliance Atlantis Corporation, CSI Productions and CBS Productions. This is fanfiction and is written purely for the fun and enjoyment of the fans without profits being made what so ever.
WARNING: its going to get dark. Physical and sexual abuse issued are heavily discussed. Rating M for Mature, subject mater is very much on emotional up-setting level but it is nothing we haven't' seen on the show itself or LAO / SVU.
SPOILERS: Season Two, most specifically "You've Got Male"
THANKS: many, many thanks to Lewis for being my beta.
ARCHIVE: Only with the permission of the author.

6 Degrees
By Elizabeth Carter


Chapter 41

The news of course was all over the Nevada-shark-attack case. Every time you opened a news paper it was there in black and white, of course the local and even the three major networks had their own stories on the bizarre event that the public audience had dubbed an X-file. Other murders and smaller crimes had been documented as well but not to the extent of Jaws Vegas style.

Between assisting with processing evidence in the labs from the shark attack and the strange body dump behind Caesar's Palace, Sara had kept busy for the last couple of days. And she had to admit she as enjoying trying to solve the DP from the shark attack.

She hid a smile thinking of a very old skit from Saturday Night Live and Chevy Chase's voice calling out loudly over the 'Jaws' theme music 'LAND SHARK!' just the large foam head gobbled up what ever victim it had been stalking.

The white fibers that had been recovered from under the vic's fingernails had come from something that included a shopping list of possibilities: military issue flight jackets, lab coats and casino uniforms. That was of no true help at all. Far too generic to trace. However if white cotton–polyester blend clothing is recovered from suspects it could put them in the vicinity of the victim and possibly lead to an arrest.

A shark attack, the evidence never lied, but someone was trying to lie through the evidence. Hide a half eaten body in Lake Mead and blame it on the rotor of powerful boat. It happened before, Wendy Barger had been in the water two days, her leg had been lopped off postmortem. Her death of course had all been accidental she had hit her head when she fell trying to pull the rip-cord-starter on the gas-dry outboard motor of her boat. She was dead before momentum and gravity tipped her overboard into the waters of the same Lake Mead in which the shark victim had been discovered. In the case of Wendy Barger the boat chopping up her leg making it look to novice eyes as if an alligator took a chunk out was a complete accident. This Shark-attack-make-it-look-like –a-boating-accident was not. But someone out there wanted everyone to think that.

Sara could already hear Grissom in the background of her mind: "the more the why, the less the how; the more the how, the less the why."

Humming the melody and singing the occasional lyrics to Oingo Boingo's 'No Spill Blood,' Sidle lost herself in the review of the radius of shark bites and denture-moldings. "…what is the law…. No spill blood …..what is the law…. No spill blood….who makes the rules….someone else…." She continued to sing to an audience of one, herself as she correlated Marine biologists who both taught at the Vegas area Universities and had some connection to the Southern Nevada Zoo to the man lying in morgue. She came up with one name that not only taught at WLVU but was also one of the leading research scientists who was responsible for the well-being of the marine life at the very small zoo: Doctor Leopold Karkaroff. Sara took a deep breath at yet another connection to dangerous animals with very sharp teeth, WLVU and professors with foreign names.

It would mean a trip back to WLVU. Someone was spilling a lot of blood, and breaking the rules, someone would be sent to the House of Pain. Because that was the law. Danny Elfman had it in one.

"Still love the singing," Nick announced his presence in the lab by way of a complement. It gained him a smile. He came to stand beside Sara, leaning on the examination table watching her process the evidence of the probable victim's identity. "Word has it that we got ourselves another weird case. Tell me is it true? A shark?"

Sara smirked and nodded. "Vegas Jaws. Doc says it wasn't necessarily Jaws that killed him though. He had a severe pre-mortem head contusion. Deep enough to where he lost a lot of blood from the wound site and a concussion. I'm thinking Jaws wasn't the killer, just an added element in the equation."

"You sound like Grissom," Nick teased.

"The more the how the less the why," Sara vocally quoted her earlier mental ramblings. "But even if Jaws was the killer despite the head-wound someone pulled him out of a salt-water aquarium and put him into Lake Mead. And that's where the 'why' comes in. Why attack a guy in the head, let a shark have lunch and dump the body into fresh water when an easy defense is right there on a silver platter? 'He slipped, hit his head and fell into a shark tank it was an accident.' Let the shark take the fall."

"Well unless like your Cujo, it was a beloved pet. That crackhead jock went ballistic on you when he saw you and recognized you're the one who had to put the dog down. Could be the same in this case," Nick pointed out.

"Yeah, I thought of that," Sara said. "Right now that is the only thing that makes any sense at all. Either way four-nineteen or four-twenty he was having a bad day."

Four-nineteen meant dead body. Four-twenty it was a homicide. It was as Sara said either way the half-eaten doctor was still very dead.

Sara's dark brown eyes rested on the man who had become her brother in all but DNA. The mirth had vanished from her eyes, replaced with detached pain. "Find anything out about Alex?"

Nick bit back the bile forming in his mouth and proceeded to tell the young woman all he had learned with Lady Heather. Keeping out that Hank Peddigrew might have killed Alex simply because she was in Sara's life and he was ridding Sara of the lesbian cancer. The last thing Sidle needed was a good dose of misplaced guilt over some psycho's infatuation.

For a moment there was a lasting silence disturbed only by heavy breaths. "Sar be careful. Peddigrew might be targeting people Alex knew or was friends with. Other… er… lesbians who he might think had an influence in her life. He liked her and she was not for play, if you know what I mean."

Sara nodded

"Like Lady Heather said, the punishment is saved for the victims themselves for being a lesbian, but he isn't doing it to punish her for being a lesbian. He believes she is ill and excuses her actions because of that illness. He wants to 'save.' he is under the delusion she is being saved."

"Only the cure kills them." Sara finished, having no idea that the person Hank was trying to save in his dementia was Sara, herself. Sara was typically pale but her hold on what little color she held drained away. "That means Lindy or myself will be the next or even Lady Heather."

"We have undercover cops already stationed at Lady Heather's in case Hank shows. And Sam Braun for some reason has Lindy under his watch."

"I can answer that in one. He looks out for his own. Lindy is his daughter."

"That little spit-fire is a Braun!" Nick's dark eyebrows hit his hairline. "Get out of here."

Sara shrugged. "I don't think the man believes in wearing 'the glove.' I'd bet there are quite a few of his spawn running around without knowing it. Like Luke and Leia Skywalker, native Las Vegasians better be careful who they kiss or it might be their own sibling."

Nick found himself laughing at the dry humorous comment. In the business of death sometimes the most valuable thing is a moment of levity to ease the tension. In this case it was a desperate need. Knowing that Sara was the target or the motive for Hank's killings weighed Stokes down with an almost unbearable heaviness. Knowing her precocity for independence Nick had convinced Brass and O'Riley to order a covert watch over Sara's home and her new daughter when he had learned that Hank was perhaps hunting his good friend. Sara might protest to the idea of uniforms taking their watch over her, but playing the mom card, Nick hoped it would buy him some leeway with the woman if or rather when she found out. If not for herself than perhaps Sara would comply to the offered protection for her child's sake.

Sara wasn't the only one needing to process collected evidence from under the fingernails of a victim. Following the archetypal rules of Crime Scene Investigation protocols: interview, examine, photograph, sketch and finally process, Catherine had managed to harvest a great deal of information from the scene alone.

The kitchen staff and homeless man who had gone dumpster diving for his evening meal and inadvertently discovered the remains had been interviewed not only by Detective Cyrus Lockwood but by Catherine herself. The kitchen staff including the bussing personnel had not seen anything; of course the restaurant manager denied knowing about a body or a missing girl. Lane Walpole the drunken homeless fellow was of little more help than the kitchen staff. He was far too skittish of a ghost haunting him to be coherent. A night in a holding cell would make him more coherent when his testimony was taken again, but by then his deposition would be cold.

What are the knowns? This had become Catherine's mantra.

Lockwood had already secured the scene when Catherine rolled up, and the 'looky-lous' were few and far-between save for some of the casino staff and Walpole. Still Catherine just as Sara and Grissom had with their Jaws case, observed everyone carefully, and noticed the odors which in Willows' case were a rather rank dumpster.

Death was always the next order of business in the profession of a forensic scientist. As always the CSI had to confirm or disconfirm the cause of death. Dumpster vic with the elaborate tattoos, perfectly dyed hair multiple piercings including her navel and clitoris carried abrasions on her breasts and on the small of her back made by what looked like a small hand probably a female during rigorous sex. The glass in the incised wounds was out of place as was the postmortem contusion to the forehead.

Injury to the cervical spine had killed Dumper-girl instantly. She had rough sex, perhaps out-of-hand autoerotic-asphyxia which would explain the petechial hemorrhaging. With the amount of Ecstasy and alcohol in her system she wouldn't have been able to defend herself much less stop the attack that caused the cervical spinal damage.

So the question still remained did she fall or was she pushed? And why was her body dumped behind Caesar's Palace if not to be found? There was a whole desert and more covert places to hide a body than in a dumpster behind one of Vegas busiest casinos.

Pinpointing the entry and egress of the suspect would be easy, either end of the alleyway lead right out into the Strip, of course if person or persons unknown were covered in blood they might have been noticed. However the kitchen door could be accessed if the suspect had an employee's keycard. In that case the casino security records of the door being opened and closed would have a log of time around the vic's dump if the suspect had come out and gone back into the casino.

Catherine had done everything properly while still at Caesar's palace, photographs of the scene, body, and face. Place markers. Photograph markers. Photograph body. Sketch the scene. Search the scene. Examine evidence in detail. Take notes. Tag and bag. Describe and document. It was the same procedure for all violent crimes.

Next came a more difficult problem the same challenge Sara was facing: the need to identify the victim. Catherine and Sara both had estimated cause, manner, and time of deaths in both of their cases. They had obtained exemplars and controls. Each had looked for IDs at the scene, looked for drag marks and noted discrepancies in mortis and body temperature. Notifying the next of kin would have to wait until each body had been positively IDed.

Sara and Grissom developed their own theory of motive for Doctor Leopold Karkaroff's unusual death, either to hide a murder with the shark attack masked as a boating accident or hide an accidental shark attack by a boat.

Catherine's own theory of motive was a little less concrete. All she had was a woman wanting to be noticed had randy sex with another female, was strangled and then pushed or fell out of a window which caused a broken spine resulting in instant death. It was not unlike the deceased Donna Marks in that respect only this time there was no mail ordered male involved. Or was there? The MO was different than Nick and Warrick's case but that didn't mean they were unrelated. Hank Peddigrew was one sick bastard, he could have very well decided to kill another lesbian, just to rid the world of homosexual females.

But that was speculation.

Catherine had to rely upon evidence, knowledge of victim's activities, and appearance of victim's clothing. Once she clearly identified her vic she could then find out if any documents were written by or sent to victim recently. In any case Catherine and the Jaws team had to determine pre-scene activity and health statuses both physical and mental of victims.

Catherine had the easier course, her vic had engaged in sex. What Karkaroff was doing would be a little more trying to unfold. Background and history checks: marital, family, sexual, employment, financial, daily routine, friends, religion, education, criminal history all had to be made for both Karkaroff and Dumpster-girl. Both teams had to obtain leads from who knew the victims. Challenge discrepancies in witness' knowledge of the victims or lack of corroboration with other witnesses. Which would hopeful lead to the order warrants on suspects. And then of course questioning all suspects and making use of evidence during questioning. Willows and Grissom's team just as Nick had done with Lady Heather would use information withheld from public about case to obtain confession and destroy alibis. In the end it would lead to an arrest or a closed case.

"Like Sara, said too bad real life isn't like a TV show. I'd have all the evidence collected, processed and putting the suspect through modern inquisition by the next set of commercial breaks." Catherine let out a soft sigh that was strong enough to fluff her golden-red locks from her face. This was going to take time, a lot of it.

The idea that a homicide or assault can not be committed in public spaces is a fallacy. Murders know no boundaries. From the inside of executive boardrooms to the dark allies or a bus station platform in Vegas no one is truly safe, especially not a young woman, venturing faraway from home. Yes the city can be a very scary place and its just not the criminals that are frightening. It's the bystander's indifference. They had their kids to go home to, they have no time for a murder, the paperwork alone would take up at least two hours.

But most of all as long as it's not a friend or relative, no one really cares. And this girl the second lesbian to fall to the manic was no friend or relative to the bystanders, nor were they interested in resulting the same fate.

There was hope however; APHIS had kicked out an ID to match the fingerprints the blonde-redhead had taken earlier. Dumpster-girl now had a name. Pauline Platt. She was registered with a none-gaming card at surprise, surprise Caesar's Palace as a cocktail waitress.

At least now there was name to the face of the girl whose life had been robbed of her so cruelly. The fullness of Pauline's story yet untold, it was now Catherine's task to unfold its pages and find who it was that had destroyed the young woman's life. Pauline had craved attention; the only problem was she got the wrong sort of attention.

The CSIs of Las Vegas including swing-shift, day-shift and especially night shift had wondered at some point was there something Gil Grissom didn't know. Well Ecklie would attest Grissom knew next to nothing of how to politic your way up the ladder of success, which was in a few short years, Conrad would wager he and not the golden-boy of night-shift would be assistant lab-director. Another item that perhaps eluded Gil Grissom was interpersonal relationships.

He sought truth not lies which was why Grissom was a Crime Scene Investigator and not a detective. A detective chased lies, and people lie. This was why Grissom failed at the social sector he would never understand the need to lie on a more fundamental day to day existence. But he did know his people and he knew the distraction of a most bizarre case of shark attack in a desert was the perfect thing for Sara Sidle to immerse herself in. He was almost tempted to allow her to take the lead on the case, if not for her medical restrictions for another week.

With the month and a half the brunette had suffered it was rather astonishing to know she had come away as psychologically well-balanced as she had. The need to work helped stabilize the young woman as did her new title of mother. That tiny girl had saved Sara's soul without even knowing how she had done so. Sara Sidle… the very name conjured imagines of a dark, brooding young vibrant woman with a clever and sharp intelligence that was near level of Grissom's own, with a bit more honing it would be.

"Meet our killer." Sara plopped a large textbook down opened to a picture of a long grayish shark with white striping along its sides. "The… galeocerdo cuvier… or tiger shark has a grayish brown skin which looks like tiger skin. It grows to about sixteen to twenty feet and frequently attacks swimmers." She gave her boss a quirky smile "Typically when not in an aquarium in a desert city the tiger shark lives in tropical and sub-tropical waters. Did you know that their stomach contents have been found to include crabs, lobsters, stingrays, sea turtles, porpoises, other sharks, human limbs, dogs, tin cans, and beef bones, pieces of metal, burlap bags, garbage and coal?"

Grissom nodded, "The tiger shark is omnivorous. So can I take this little Discovery Channel tour was your way of telling me you identified the tooth we found in the wound?" Grissom took his glasses off and cleaned them with the hem of his customary black shirt.

"We need a professional's opinion of course, but yeah, I'm pretty sure it was Tigger the Tiger shark that got a case of the munchies."

Grissom announced. "I did some checking myself Blue Zoo Aquatics had installed a Sea-World quality aquarium in the man's backyard where an underground pool had once been. And according to their shipping manifests, the professor had also acquired all of his aquatic live stock from the reliable company including sharks."

"Do we know what type?" Sara pressed.

"Their manifests report several epaulette and sharks branded cat-sharks."

"Household sharks. Nice." There was a small sarcastic snort.

Grissom kept his own counsel on the advisability of keeping sharks as pets in a desert city. Besides he had a maggot farm, several species of spiders and he still had a komodo dragon on backorder. There were all sorts of sharks in Vegas why not the true blue species?

"Shall we see a man about a shark?" Grissom rose from behind his desk and shuffled around it to lead the way out of his office and CSI-HQ.

As Sara and Grissom entered the Blue-Zoo Aquarium main office they were welcomed by a square-headed, blunt-featured salesman in a dour storm-gray pinstriped suite. His tie was garish with its hodge-podge coral reef and clownfish print. His faux-gold plated name-badge identified him as Jason Sweeny and a senior sales representative.

"Can I help you?" His voice was smooth and disarming and perfect to entice a person into buying something that perhaps they weren't ready to purchase.

Both Gil and Sara flashed their laminated ID badges. "Gil Grissom, Sara Sidle from the Crime Lab, I believe we spoke earlier on the phone about a Doctor Leopold Karkaroff's aquariums." Grissom prompted.

"Yes of course we aid Doctor Karkaroff in maintaining his aquariums. He has several in fact four galleries in the house complete with living reef and his pride and joy including one of our crowning achievements next to the casinos in his former Olympic sized pool. It was completely redone to zoological park specifications. Our professional staff has over twenty years of experience in caring for aquariums. Whatever size aquarium you have our staff can meet the challenge. We have a trained eye for changes in livestock behavior allowing us to diagnose diseases before they affect the entire ecosystem. We ensure the health of your livestock…" Sweeny swung his answer into a hopeful sales pitch.

"Livestock. Tropical fish, invertebrates, coral, live rock am I right?" Grissom took hold of the conversation, directing it in a path he wanted to follow.

"Very many varieties of all, yes sir." Sweeny handed him a full color hundred page brochure. In there is our whole spectrum of livestock, dry goods and aquariums. We are proud to be able to offer some of the finest and healthiest marine aquarium fish brought to our clients from all over the world for the best prices available on the internet. Our fish are carefully selected and inspected by our in-house Marine Biologists for quality specimens that will thrive in your aquarium. In fact Doctor Karkaroff is often on site assisting our biology department.

"Blue Zoo Aquatics actually has a large holding facility on the property where we can take the time to properly evaluate the health and condition of each individual fish prior to shipment. This ensures our clients that their fish will ship well and arrive in great condition for them to enjoy."

Sara smirked again at the sales pitch. It was working too she thought it might be nice for Janet to have some beautiful tropical fish to care for along with her new kitten. Well maybe for her birthday… Pet Supply was more in her price range. "What about sharks?" the young woman asked leafing through the catalog. "Say the epaulette and branded cat-sharks?"

"Sure we carry them." Sweeny commented eagerly as if he was about to land yet another large commission. "Both sharks are common breeds collectors keep. The Vegas whales like to keep them in their boardrooms and such. Caesar's Atlantis has a bunch of them. So does Doctor Karkaroff's aquarium at the zoo. Both breeds are considered some of the best sharks for the home aquarium because of their smaller size compared to many other sharks. They prefer reefs and tide pools and soft sandy bottoms in which to dig in. They also require rock structures to be secure. They love the rockwork Blue Zoo makes because of the artificial caves and ledges prove to be favorite spots for lurking. Like I said, Doctor Karkaroff is one of our better clients." The salesman stated.

"Yes, well he's dead," Grissom said with less tact than the man might have deserved. "He was killed by a shark." He placed a picture of Karkaroff's half eaten body as well as a picture of the shark's tooth next to a scale providing ruler on the counter next to the catalogs.

Sweeny paled, his watery blue eyes wanting to look away from the graphic autopsy photo. "Sorry to hear he passed on. " His paled face nearly turned green. "But none of the sharks he had could do that kind of damage. Sure, like all sharks, epaulette and branded cat-sharks have the possibility of inflicting very painful bites, especially when provoked. Doctor Karkaroff is—er---was a biologist; he knew what he was doing. He knew to take definite care when he cleaned the display tank and fed his fish. Most of the time our staff handled the task however as it was a large monthly project." Jason pointed to the picture of the dead man's gaping torso and missing arm. "Something big did that."

"Next question, you carry large sharks? A tiger shark perhaps?"

Sweeny shook his head. "Not fiscally feasible, even for Vegas. There are a few exceptions like the Casinos but for the private sector, no. Not enough greenbacks to support the transfer of large fish like that. And we haven't dealt with large sharks for a year or so, not since Shark Reef was set up, and we never deal with the private sector for species like that. The DNR and the Fish and Game Department have very strict laws that don't pay to hassle with if you get my drift."

"If you don't deal with large sharks like the tiger shark 'for the private sector' where did the good Doctor Karkaroff acquire one?" Sara asked.

"There are a lot of illegal handlers of rare species out there. Not that we use them!" Jason was quick to point out. "Best bet I'd try Google." his eyes never quite meeting Sara's intense inspection. "Or you could try the zoo. Doctor Karkaroff asked us to set up an aquarium there too and we helped him stock it with most of the marine life. But I've been at his place several times; he doesn't even have a tiger shark. And believe me he's the type who would brag about something like that."

Leaving the Blue Zoo Aquarium warehouse, Sara snorted. "Well that was a bust."

The zoo was fifteen minutes northwest of the Las Vegas Strip; it once held only mammals, birds including annoying peacocks and chickens that followed you around everywhere begging for food and reptiles with every species of venomous reptile native to Southern Nevada. It was as the sales representative said, Leopold Karkaroff had funded the aquarium addition to the park, the only problem was that the zoo had no sharks larger than those Karkaroff had in his own aquarium; hence they were not responsible for half-way eating the professor. When he was attacked it wasn't at the zoo or his home.

The zoo was out, the casinos in.

Several casinos contained aquariums, to be exact Blue Zoo Aquariums, aquariums with some more extensive than others. Large sharks it seemed despite Jason Sweeny's words to the contrary were indeed very fiscally feasible. Never underestimate the power to entertain the masses with vicious creatures and pretend danger. The roll call of casino aquariums went on and on. There was the Mirage Aquarium, Caesar's Palace had the Atlantis Aquarium and of course the ever famous Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. But dolphins didn't eat humans. Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay was last on the plausible list of suspects.

Shark Reef the best bet CSI had to go on. Not only did they have several hammerhead, zebra, bonehead and black tipped reef sharks they also had a tiger shark, perhaps the only one of its kind in Las Vegas. The brochures even stated kill an hour or two at Shark Reef. Something was killed alright but it wasn't time.

Catherine found Nick in the break room stealthily pilfering some of Greg's more expensive brews of coffee. Thinking he was alone, allowed himself to indulge in the extravagance of forty-dollar-a-pound coffee. He nearly choked on the steaming cup when Catherine chuckled behind his back.

"You look like the poster-boy for a Starbucks' commercial."

"Good to the last drop." Stokes easily flipped back. "Want a cup?"

"Sounds good." Catherine agreed watching the young man pour her a cup, tear open a packet of artificial sweetener and handed her a stir straw and now filled styrofoam cup. Just as Nick had before her, Catherine savored the scent before indulging the beverage.

"Catherine," Nick started. "Um... How's Sara doing?"

The blonde-red head's expression was one of puzzlement.

"I mean really how is she doing? Here she throws herself into work, as if she's trying to deny the last week, hell the last couple of months haven't happened."

Catherine knew at once where her co-worker's line of questioning lead. Leave it to Nick Stokes the true humanitarian of Night-shift to inquire after the heart of one of their own. "She's coping." Catherine answered. "That's it. Coping. I think having a new daughter is helping her."

"Having her new daughter is what put her in the position she is now. Sara would have bounced back after her attack, slowly but she would have bounced. What happened with that prick that calls himself her brother… and her friend… I'm worried."

Catherine's blue eyes clouded over with her own turmoil centering around the woman she now called lover. True they had never made full physical love but they had made love. Little touches, looks of adoration, concern and warmth. Looks of love and desire. Warmth of heart and soul… touches of love and protection. It was intensely intimate even if it wasn't fully physical.

Catherine was a deeply physical woman; a few score of boyfriends, one night stands and quick-lays of would be suitors had sometimes left her wanting more. The fact she had the more with Sara without the full physical was beyond wonder. This was something above her past lust-driven-possible rule-breaking relationships. For along time Catherine had never felt this free with a lover. This relationship she shared with Sara wasn't a quick-fix for her libido and bored social life and the need to have more than being a CSI and mother.

Sara Sidle was a gift and Catherine wasn't going to squander it nor take it for granted. If she did it would only destroy the beauty of Sara's soul. Sara had given into idea of fulfillment with hesitant baby-steps and Catherine wasn't going to abuse the trust or love Sara was offering.

"Look Cath, what I'm about to tell you, has to remain for now between us. Brass knows but he's always been Sara's guardian-wanna-be-dad. But I have your word, just us?

Catherine nodded unsure of what Faustian deal she had just agreed to.

Taking a deep breath, Nick once more related what he had learned at Lady Heather's including telling the blonde that Sara knew a fraction of the information. What he hadn't told the brunette and was relaying to Willows was how Sara fit into the matrix of Pettigrew's derangements.

"Are you sure this is where the evidence is telling you and you're not leading the evidence to where you think it should go?" Catherine didn't want to believe that an EMT had an unhealthy fixation on Sara, more over decided to start removing the lesbian influences of her life from her, so she might be 'saved' and become a straight woman. His straight woman.

"The more the why, the less the how; the more the how, the less the why," Nick quoted.

"Channeling Grissom, now?"

"Doesn't everyone?" The half-ass attempt to joke lay moldy between them. "O'Riley says there is still no sign of Peddigrew. He wants Sara and I doubt he left Vegas. He's underground someplace. It's a matter of catching him before he tries again to rid her of the 'lesbian cancer,' or worse tries for Sara."

Catherine remained mute. She thought of what Peddigrew thought of as the lesbian cancer. Two names cropped up in her mind. Lindy and Catherine herself. "You made a good call in not telling Sara. With everything she's been through she doesn't need this added weight. You know she will take guilt that isn't hers because this bastard thinks he wants her and he's killing her friends because of it."

Nick nodded grimly, "God I can't image the kind of life Sara had, now this… I know what it feels like to be stalked, it's terrifying, Catherine. You jump at sounds you imagine, shadows you think you see. It makes you feel less human and detached from everything you think you know is safe."

Catherine placed a warm hand on the young man's shoulder. Nigel Crane had invaded Nick's life, killed a woman dressed her up like Nick's old prom-date who had blown him off in some sort of twisted vendetta. An innocent was killed in Nick's name. The guilt would stay with him forever regardless of the fact Crane was the one who was truly guilty. That Guilt if he could spare Sara from it he would. The terror knowing he was being stalked even after the fact was a fear he would vanquish from Sara.

Catherine, Warrick and Brass understood it. Even O'Riley understood Stokes' motives for wanting to protect Sara from the looming darkness. "Brass ordered a watch set up for you and Sara. But she said Lindy would refuse and in fact she did, said her father was going to take care of it."

"Her father?" Catherine's eyebrows arched. She slammed down her styrofoam cup of half drunk coffee, causing it to splash over the sides and onto the counter.

"Yeah didn't Sara tell you? Apparently that little Pirate Queen is a Braun." Nick smirked at a pun only he understood. "Braun - pirate a bit redundant don't you think?"

"Wait a minute," Catherine held up a hand pausing Nicks' joviality. "Lindy McBride is a Braun as in Sam Braun?"

Nick shrugged, "Yeah. Why? What difference doesn't it make?"

"Um…" Catherine started to back out of the break room. "Nick, I have to go. Personal." She would say no more and Nick could ask nothing more she was gone before he was even able to ask what the problem was.

Shaking his head he dumped the abandoned cup into the trash and wiped up the slopped brew of coffee from the counter's surface before he to left the room only to come face to face with a much stymied Warrick Brown.

"Hey I just saw Catherine tear out of here, something wrong with Lindsey? Sara?" Warrick asked pointing a thumb over his broad shoulder.

Nick shook his head looking just as puzzled. "She got her panties in a knot because I told her that Sara's buddy Lindy is Sam Braun's daughter."

"She and Sam are pretty tight. He's been apart of her life forever."

"So what she's peeved because he didn't tell her about one of his kids? Come on Catherine has to know the man sleeps around I'm sure he's got a few kids he doesn't even know about."

Warrick found himself agreeing to his comrade. "It's all about six degrees of separation man. Weird. Sara who we met because of Grissom has a close friend who is a Braun who is linked to Catherine, who is one of us and dating Sara—who is also one of us because of Grissom."

Neither need speak of the degrees of separation it was from Sara to the killer of lesbians to her friends. Neither man wanted to.

Part 42

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