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 42

Where to go to first? Lindy or Sam. Of course why should Catherine Willows confront Lindy over something she could not control or for that matter a care why the news of her paternity mattered to Sara's ill-tempered strong-headed lover?

But Sam on the other hand….. Catherine had known the man all her life, he was always part of the equation. He was the reason her mother and father were divorced. He was the reason her father dragged his wife and two daughters up to his old home in Montana to the horse ranch when Catherine was still very young.

Sam was the reason her mother Alice left Boozeman Montana and returned to Las Vegas with two teenaged daughters. Of course it was after Catherine had left home for the first time when she was sixteen. Run away to Seattle with a would-be-rock-star. When she returned her father had kicked her out saying she was just like Lily who was still whoring around with Sam Braun.

Sam was the reason Nancy hadn't stayed in Vegas but left for a time to live with Dad back in Montana. Nancy never liked the idea of the divorce and blamed Braun and Lily or that Sam had always favored Catherine over her when he came prowling like a lust filled tom-cat. Nancy absolutely hated it when Sam stayed the night over claiming it was too late for him to drive home.

Catherine had always had a tight connection to the silver-fox of the casinos. He treated her more like a daughter than her father own did. For some reason she never formed a connection to the man her mother had married. Right now Catherine felt betrayed.

Of course it wasn't until she was in the car that she had recalled the conversation with Lindy. It had happened when Sara was in the hospital nearly two months ago. So much had happened it was easy to forget that Lindy had admitted her linage.

Lindy turned from the monitor looking at Catherine, finding a familiarity in the blue eyes that were nearly a mirror of her own. Shaking off the doppelganger effect, Lindy felt her breath slip from her lungs. "Things were... look Catherine things were bad okay? You want to know things ask Sara. I said too much already."

"Lindy there is nothing wrong with protecting someone you love. I know you love her deeply." It was almost unbearable for Catherine to admit that last bit. Lindy loving Sara... "You two go way back, don't you?"

Lindy shrugged. "Yeah we do. Since like the fourth grade. See my mother... well she came from Vegas and after I was around nine or so when we moved to Tamales Bay out in Cali. My ma's best friend Vivian Verona was killed. Mom suspected it was the jealous boyfriend thing, weird thing Mom and her friend sort of shared the same man. My mother's friend was dangling two boyfriends, Benny Murdock, and Sam Braun; my mom never knew which one did it. Braun could play the field but his ladies better not. Part of the old double standard: no woman that he was with was ever going to be with another man. I, think he had at least seven or so showgirls in his bed besides his wife."

Catherine thought of her mother. To this day Alice still sat at home waiting for Sam Braun's call. Braun! "Wait, wait, wait, Sam Braun is your father?"

Lindy shrugged. "Call it a hole in the condom... look, it's not something I'm all that proud of. He acknowledges me when it suits him or he has the once a decade guilt trip for having a daughter he can't say he has because of his reputation."

"So that's the pops you were speaking of that owes you a favor?" Catherine smirked. "Sorry to disappoint you kid but he's kinda fond of me."

"Oh god don't tell me you were one if his harem girls?" Lindy stared at the older blonde.

"Sam and me!" Catherine burst out laughing. "Oh god no! No he was a 'friend' to my mother. Like since I was young." she made quote marks in the air. "He stayed the night several times because it was too late to drive back home. I knew what was going on. My mother loved him, I think more than my father which was why no doubt they got a divorce. Only Sam wasn't the prince my mother believed him to be. She still waits for him. He's always been in my life. He explains why Mom had a fascination with Vegas."

"Aw gottcha. So you were what an unofficial step-kid?" Lindy gathered.

"I guess. But with no real bennies. Occasionally I got a Christmas gift."

"I am a real kid with no real bennies, either. Sam only has two sons you know. Well one dead, the other in prison. The Braun boys were no treat. Real pricks growing up spoiled brats. They had fun with me, because I was only Pop's daughter behind closed doors." Lindy flashed a half smirk that Catherine knew well, it was exactly the same expression Lindsey gave, the same smirk that people said belonged to Catherine. "He paid for college though, and gave me some cash. Enough that I don't need anything, but not enough where I can't do anything," she frowned not sure that made any sense. "Anyway that's neither here nor there. I am a little maverick for his tastes I think. Not the little princess he wanted. Of course he likes spirit."

Catherine forced herself to the present, her desire for a confrontation too much in the forefront for her to merely ignore it, she was rarely given to interior conflict. There were times when she met conflict and nothing further could be done until it was overcome.

Sam Braun…

Catherine was a bit surprised to find the reason her jaw was hurting was because she had been grinding her teeth together. For a ludicrous moment she was appalled that Braun had cheated on her mother. But then again, Braun was the other man in Alice's life or at least had been. Still in all the years she had known him, Sam never once mentioned Lindy. And that was the conflict.

Willows had always sought to keep her relationships with mother her family and her coworkers straightforward with no game playing. She had always been able to face a problem unblinkingly, whether it was a crime scene she was assigned to solve, or a fellow professional with an attitude, a thought went to her lover over that one, or for that matter, her daughter Lindsey and a school related issue. Now things were not as easily compartmentalized. One was running into the other by series of six degrees.

Even if she was feeling confrontational with Sam Braun about Lindy McBride, she could easily come up with a professional reason to give her an alibi for her visit to the casino baron. After all, his little girl was a painted target for a serial stalker. Despite the case now belonging to Nick and Warrick it was Catherine exclusively of all the CSI's in the City of Sin that could see Braun at a drop of the hat and be welcomed. The man had a soft spot for his 'Mugs'.

Catherine had to bait the hook and see if the old silver casino shark would bite.

Sharks in Las Vegas, there weren't as extinct as one might have thought. Card sharks, pool sharks and loan sharks swam the waters of the strip and off-strip Casinos in abundance. But who would ever think that one would be able to find an oceanic wonderland in the middle of the desert?

Sara had logged on to Google searching for more information on the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef. She discovered that it had been recently accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

It encompassed nearly two million gallons of water and reached depths of twenty-two feet. And it was one of the largest exhibits of its kind next to those on display at Sea-world. The aquarium housed more than 1200 species of aquatic life including sharks, exotic fish, sea turtles and much more.

The Shark Reef's setting was that of an ancient temple, slowly sinking into the ocean. The exhibit started with a look at exotic wildlife, featuring a rare display of five golden crocodiles. There were only about a dozen golden crocodiles left in existence, and those found at the Shark Reef were the only ones in the Western Hemisphere. Also in that portion of the aquarium was a male water monitor, a cousin to the Komodo dragon. Water monitors were carnivorous and could reach sizes of up to eight feet.

The Amazon Predators exhibit offers visitors a glimpse into the aquatic ecosystem of the rainforest. Having adapted to the environment, there were a variety of unique species found in the exhibit. The Silver Arrowana, sometimes called the "monkey fish," captured insects and even birds by leaping completely out of the water. The Red-Tail Catfish possessed an insatiable appetite, and ate, among other things, entire ducks whole. The Arapaima Gigas, the largest fish in the Amazon, was also found in this exhibit and could grow up to fourteen feet in length.

The next stop at the Shark Reef was the piranha exhibit. Despite their deceptively serene appearance, piranhas could be very aggressive. The largest of the four species at the exhibit, the Black Piranha could grow larger than the size of a man's hand and was capable of devouring a hundred-pound animal in less than a minute. The piranhas at the Shark Reef were fed a combination of frozen fish, poultry and beef heart three times a day, as they tended to eat one another when they got hungry.

"If it wasn't a shark that took a chunk out of Karkaroff there are others waiting to queue up to take a bite, crocs and water monitors, piranha… each of them with a mouth filled with vicious teeth and an undiscerning appetite. Bite first, ask questions later." Sara muttered to herself "They could have completely eaten Karkaroff if given the chance. So why drop him in with Jaws? Bigger mouth faster work? Or was the killer expecting communal pot luck? Everyone invited…"

Sara was as voracious in her research as the fish she was reading about were about their food needs. She skimmed past the notes on the second half of the aquarium through the first tunnel, and the variety of aquatic life that surrounded the passerby.

Of course the new mother in her wondered if Janet would enjoy going to the touch pool and pet the Southern Rays, Port Jackson Sharks and Horseshoe Crabs. The young mother thought about her daughter's face in seeing the delights of the tanks filled with an assortment of ocean life, including puffers, eels and a mesmerizing jellyfish display.

That would have to wait until the case ended and she hoped their investigations didn't shut it down. Sara could imagine her child's hand clutching her own as they made the dark and foreboding turn into the heart of the Shark Reef, disguised as a sunken treasure ship. To the hammerhead, zebra, bonehead and black tipped reef and tiger sharks it was paradise.

It was time to see this thing in person.

"Mandalay Bay Shark Reef: Fifteen-ninety-five for adults, nine-ninety-five for children, children under four free, Nevada residents with proper identification get a discount on the price of admission. Price includes a self-guided audio tour and souvenir photo." Sara read the sign near the reception desk of the hotel lobby.

"Wonder if any of the souvenir photos shows a man being on the main course." Grissom commented woodenly.

Flashing their laminated id-badges, Grissom opened his introduction with a demand to meet with the hotel owner and the shark exhibit's manager. The receptionist had a look on her face that made Sara think she had eaten something rather foul and was retasting it a second time as it went into reverse up her esophagus.

Typical reaction for many a receptionist when they were confronted with the wrong side of a badge. Cops wanting to see the boss was never a good thing.

"A moment please, I'll see if Mr. Schaeffer is available." The woman's voice held a definite edge to it proclaiming she had better things to do than pander to the interfering nosiness of the LVPD. Punching a few buttons on the phone the receptionist then tapped her ear piece that was actually a wireless radio. "Mr. Schaeffer… the police are here to see you." The disdain hadn't left the woman's voice; perhaps a disgruntled employee or today just wasn't her day.

Moments later a tall brown-haired man walked up flashing a boyish grin with his arm raised to shake Grissom's and Sara's hands he was a complete contrast to the woman behind the desk. He was dressed sharply - that gamblers might mistake him for a show-biz guy or even a Mafioso. Casino barons were a little of both.

"Glenn Schaeffer, always at the service of Las Vegas' finest. What can I do for you." The smile was genuine.

"Gil Grissom and this is Sara Sidle, we are criminalists with the Crime Lab. What you can do for us Mr. Schaeffer is answer a few questions and a give us a behind-the-scenes tour of your shark tanks." Grissom opened the manila folder had had been holding at his side and withdrew a photo of Dr. Karkaroff.

Schaeffer did a very good impression of being shocked if he had previous knowledge of the marine biologist's death. "If I didn't know the man, I'd say these where FX-photos of the newest shark-feast flick." His perfectly tanned skin took on a sallow tint.

"What was the nature of your acquaintance with Dr. Leopold Karkaroff?"

"He was a consultant on our shark exhibit, as he was with Blue-Zoo Aquarium and when we founded the new marine exhibits for the Vegas zoo. Good tax-right off that was. He consulted with my team of naturalists here a few times; we even allowed some of his biology classes to come for a behind-the-scene's tour.

The CEO escorted the CSI's through the tunnel of aquatic life, directly into the heart of the Shark Exhibit. Reading about it was one thing, to see it Sara was hard pressed to keep a smile from her face, for in her mind's eyes she saw her daughter running up with hidden bravery to see the sharks.

The whole exhibit was breath taking. It was beautifully set up to give spectators the feeling of being at the ocean floor; onlookers were surrounded by plates of glass on each side, as well as above and below. Just on the other side of the glass were a number of sharks, sea turtles, manta rays, fish and more. Sara could not help but feel a twinge of anxiety and awe as several menacing sand tiger sharks glided by. Especially knowing they were potentially man-eaters.

"This is one of the largest exhibits of its kind in North America; the Shark Reef was constructed with conservation in mind. Only man-made coral is used as it is an endangered species and was developed in association with the Vancouver Aquarium, one of the world's most respected marine facilities." Mr. Schaeffer stated almost by rote. "Even the salt water is manufactured by mixing imported salt with dechlorinated tap water. In addition, two million gallons of water from the Shark Reef are filtered every hour."

"That means finding traces evidence is going to be improbable at best," Grissom mumbled sulking.

Mr. Schaeffer went on as though he had not heard Grissom's words. "Following the themes of education and conservation prevalent throughout the aquarium, the Shark Reef offers a wall exhibit explaining what can be done to preserve natural habitats. There also is a classroom for local school groups featuring an aquarium wall as a backdrop."

At that Sara's ears perked up. So how much trouble would it be to try to arrange a tour for Janet and Lindsey's grade level? Perhaps a few words spoken to Mrs. Fox would be in order.

"The Shark Reef employs a staff of sixteen naturalists to answer questions. In addition, visitors are provided with audio wands detailing each exhibit."

"We're going to have to speak with all sixteen naturalists. Collect DNA samples and investigate the containment tanks and the regular tanks as well." Grissom stated boldly.

"Mr. Grissom, I am guessing it was you that solved the strip murders last year. You don't play politics all that well and if you did your name would be known, I know damn sure it wasn't that guy who sounds like someone throwing up a hair ball."

"You mean Conrad Ecklie." Sara supplied the name.

"That's the man, met him some months ago when we had a death with suspicious circs, man won a jackpot , man dies not soon after, no case really man dies of heart attack over stimulation, old fart goes and dies in my casino, leaves me a mountain of paperwork…"

"Is that what this would have been some careless man dies and leaves you with a mountain of paper work?" Grissom retorted.

"The point is… like I said not good with politics are you, look everything in Vegas is cut-throat, and I mean everything, you have it in your own department, Ecklie your rival? … A man dies of a heart attack ok the press will gloss over it but a man dies in a shark tank and I'm shut down… maybe for good, I'm not a fool. Treasure Island has Pirates, Caesar's Palace has Atlantis, then there are the Borg over at MGM Grand, Excalibur has their knights, Circus Circus has tigers, and the Mirage has those magicians with their Elephant Garden and Dolphins. Then there are Ziegfeld Follies… got me? I have the large aggressive sharks, the only large known sharks in the desert! My company is responsible for developing the largest integrated resort complex in the world, The Mandalay Mile. That is our fame. You have to work to win in this town."

"I've always wondered - why sharks?" Sara asked.

"The novelty of it until everyone else decided to join the band. A shark infested oceanic wonder world. Nothing like it in Vegas, not even our pathetic attempt at a zoo can boast such wonders or Caesar's Atlantis. And people like sharks. Deep down every body does because they are something to fear and yet they can't get you because they are behind the glass.

"Sharks that have reps for being man eaters draw the crowds. People go to see Jaws, Deep Blue Sea and all those other monster flicks to see people eaten by a shark, but do they really want to see it? No. They want their blood to be fake, they want their victims to be fake, but they love live sharks and the pretense of danger. I give it to them."

"You had a body in your tanks, Mr. Schaeffer," Sara pointed out. "Easy to stash in that replica pirate's ship and wait for Brutus the Shark to eat his dinner."

"A body in my tanks would contaminate them." Mr. Schaeffer pointed out. "Any foreign objects in the tanks are removed quickly and the tanks undergo heavy filtration while my people insure no harm was done to the sharks. A month ago I had some tweeker vegan vegetarian dump over two thousand live lobsters in my tanks to free them," he flashed a cocky smile, "They were contaminated bodies, and could have harmed my sharks, that nut-job thought he rescued lobsters from some Asian Whale's wedding feast over at the Montecito. 'Big Ed'... Edward Melvin Deline, her owner and I made a deal over the cost, and that screw-up veggie is doing time for contaminating an accredited preserve of American Zoo and Aquarium Association. The five golden crocs give us a lot of Federal protection. As for the lobsters the tweeker dumped, I opened up an all you can eat lobster buffet." The man smiled once more, "Politicking, and playing the game. If a foreign body was in the tank that didn't belong, it would be removed."

"So you admit to body dumping?" Sara asked.

"I didn't touch a body."

"You ordered it dumped."

"I ordered my people to find and dispose of the waste that was contaminating my tanks."

"In Lake Mead?"

"Hard to get competent help" Schaeffer's face contorted into a smug smile, "What waste they found wasn't exactly clear. The report said a foreign body was recovered and disposed of." The smile faded quickly as the man's voice became more concrete. "I don't know how Karkaroff died all I know is that my sharks ate something dead, they didn't kill him."

"How do you know?" This was Grissom.

"Because someone would have heard it. You don't get bitten by my sharks and not scream, someone, any guest would have heard him; this exhibit is open very early and closes very late on the night." Schaeffer turned from Grissom to the more pleasing Sara, as if she and not the silvering Gil had asked the question. "Acoustics my dear and the eye in the sky don't lie, and if he did die by shark there would have been less of him. Sharks love a frenzy that much thrashing around it would have been a blood bath, what you have is shark mistaken identity; it got curious and took a bite out of the body. I'm guessing after Karkaroff died.

"Sharks might be labeled man-eaters but they really don't go for human meat, one shark did that looking at the bite mark in your pretty little photo, its one of my tiger sharks, the maco has a bigger bite and the maco would have taken a bite out of my tiger if they were fighting over a meal. Karkaroff wasn't alive when he was in the tank, don't believe me ask my marine biologists, don't believe them fine go watch the discovery channel or go ask the marine biologists at a zoo or Google for a doc I don't care. What I do care about are the facts. And the facts are my sharks didn't kill Karkaroff."

"As do we, sir, so if your sharks didn't kill him…" Sara smiled, she of course knew the sharks didn't kill Karkaroff, "mind telling us who had a grudge against the good doctor enough to kill him and make it look like death by shark?"

"Don't know, but I do know I had Karkaroff escorted to his room because he was drunk and got into it with another geek. The nerd was some other Russian… Dimitri Silver… no, Sterling yes that was it Dimitri Sterling."

Sara's dark eyes grew larger at the name-dropping. Somehow it didn't surprise her. Of course, big animal-sharp teeth why wouldn't the absent minded professor be involved?

Grissom merely lifted an eyebrow as he pinned Sara with a look that said: 'you're going to talk to the man'.

It was Sara not Grissom who spoke. "We can have that lead checked, for now I want you to call all of your naturalists together, they are going to be questioned, DNA taken and you are going to grant us full access to the tanks. If you do not comply, I'll have a judge who will order you shut down pending the results of the investigation. I'm fairly certain that the ASPEA might be interested in the treatment of five highly endangered golden crocodiles and their environment as well as the school of sharks being fed human meat." Sara calmly stated, meeting Schaeffer's brown eyes defiantly.

"I'll see that you're not disturbed." The words were growled out begrudgingly.

Apparently one of the CSI's knew how to play the game.

"Oh and we'll start the DNA extractions with you." Sara reached into the velcro pocket of her vest and with drew a box that held a swab. "Pretend you're a shark and open wide." She flashed a full gapped tooth grin holding up the swab to swipe the interior of the manager's cheek.

Schaeffer's eyes twinkled as he complied. "Follow me." He led the CSI past a security door that needed his ID badge to open and into a short cement-block hallway. There at the end of the hall was a three inch thick metal door. It had no handle or other means of easy ingress. Instead there was a palm-reader and a punch-code keypad lock. Even if you had the combination for the keypad, you still needed the correct hand print in order to open the security door.

Both CSIs took note of the cameras over looking the door way as well. Both smiled.

"I had the door installed after the incident with the kid and the lobsters. I wasn't going to chance contamination."

What that told the criminalists that it had to be an inside job.

"We'll need to see the records of who has access to the area as well as all video recordings of the past during Dr. Karkaroff's visits and when he was last here. The last three weeks."

"Get a court order and I have no problem complying Mr. Grissom. However I and my staff will voluntarily give you our DNA and fingerprints."

Six woman and ten men queued up as if waiting for a military inspection to commence. It wasn't far from the truth. They were the shark Reef team of naturalists and it was a sure bet that one of them knew about the dumping of Karkaroff before he was extracted from the tank. One of them had to have known something about it, it was only a process of elimination. Sara gathered sixteen swabs to take samples from the inside of their cheeks as she had with the Schaeffer.

Grissom with the aid of two uniforms Nissen and Collier had set an assembly line of finger-printing. It was a lengthier process because if you have never been finger printed you had a tendency keep your hands and thus fingers stiff. More than a few times the three men had to command their suspect to relax.

"Is this some kind of violation of our privacy?" a thin waif of a woman asked as Grissom held her hand to take her prints. "I thought you people needed some kind of court order."

"Get your info from those shows you watch, Vikki? "One of her male counterparts snidely commented.

She didn't answer him with anything more than an eye roll however she seemed to be waiting for Grissom to answer her.

"Process of elimination so we can rule you out as a suspect. Miss…"

"Doctor." The woman named Vikki corrected not attempting to hide the dissidence in her voice.

"Pardon me," Grissom disarmed her, "PhD in marine biology?"

The young doctor shook her head, "Exotic veterinarian medicine and zoology, but it's still a viable area of medicine." Dr. Vikki became defensive. She must have met more than a few people who were not impressed with her status as a vet.

"Veterinarians go to school longer than human medical doctors; it is a worthy area of medicine." Grissom answered truthfully. "And to answer your question, yes a court order is needed unless you voluntarily give samples of DNA and fingerprints. Because you have already volunteered to give your palm print for the security scanner, and a criminal background check including fingerprinting, I don't necessarily need one as you complied with the casino to do the same thing."

"Why not use those records then?"

"Not viable for court." Grissom stated. "We need clean copies."

Dr. Vikki had nothing more to say on the matter.

Part 43

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