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 43

It was after typical class-hours so apart from those attending the few evening courses student activity was down to few stragglers heading off to the library, some secret co-ed party or geek-week-gamers with the role-playing, none of them looked twice at Brass as he headed for the Science Building of WLVU. The dour detective had drawn on previous knowledge that Dr. Sterling would be in his office long after duty hours. Without Emily there to pester him into going home at a reasonable hour it was safe to assume the man had forgotten the time and remained cloistered away until his stomach protested for the need of filling.

Brass took it upon himself to initiate the interrogation of the quirky man, if he found anything relevant he'd call his beloved Geek-squad. For now it was up to him to chase the lies, it was after all what detectives did, CSIs scrounged for fragments of truth in the treasure hunt that was evidence gathering. A slim smile etched its way to the corners of the hardened man's lips at the thought of Grissom trying to get evidence from sharks. Brass only hoped Gil was man enough to do the job himself rather than pass the buck to Sara. The kid had had enough of beasts with sharp teeth. The father-side of Brass couldn't help but rear its head in protection of the young woman. Besides she was still harboring shattered ribs despite her brave front, she was in no fit condition to go scuba-diving in a tank to collect anything resembling evidence of Karkaroff's death. Jim had convinced himself his thoughts weren't chauvinistic in the slightest simply parental.

The office of Stirling was something Grissom would ooze over. There were even jars containing picked-whatever-it-was-in-a-former-life, it was plain disgusting to the former New Jersey man, he tried not to make a face as he passed the stuffed raven. That had been mounted on a marble bust of some long forgotten scholar. Shaking his head Brass moved for the man sitting behind a large Edwardian desk that held tipsy piles of papers and files in very real danger of an avalanche.

Flipping his badge open from its leather wallet, Brass introduced himself with his disarming hang-dog smile. "Professor Stirling if we could share a few words. I have a couple of questions I need to ask you."

Dimitri looked up a very puzzled expression etched deep into his face. His eyes bore an absent expression while reading. It always took him a few moments to focus as he pulled himself out of that other world through the labyrinth of printed letters.


Brass was momentarily taken aback by the monosyllable response.

"I'm just here to clarify a few things up." Brass answered. "The nature of your relationship to a Dr. Leopold Karkaroff for starters."

Dimitri looked at Brass as if he were being incredibly stupid, but didn't say a word.

"You were seen arguing with the Doctor at the Mandalay Bay."

"I am well aware of the nature of our discussion Detective."

"Good, then you won't mind enlightening me as to what it, it was about."

Dimitri's brown eyes took on the look of someone with too much rum in their gullet and the need to vent out physical frustration on the nearest flunky with a pool cue. "I called on him to return the money he owes me, so I might hire a very skillful lawyer for Ms Emily."

Brass frowned, that woman Greeson tried to have this man killed and her he was trying to get a high-class lawyer? Battered-spouse syndrome can go two ways, Brass surmised.

"How did he die?" Dimitri questioned with his attention diverted to his pipe as he packed it with the foul-smelling Dunbar tobacco. Blue smoke curled around the detectives head in a wispy wreath as he puffed.

"I never said anything about death."

"Detective," Stirling gave a long suffering sigh. "I may be a bit absent minded at times, but you are a homicide detective not some mere badge one goes to and whinges about harassment over money. You deal in death. You ask about Leopold, ergo detective the man is dead." The pipe clicked in the Englishman's teeth.

For the life of him Brass tried shut the voice in his mind that shouted 'elementary my dear sir…' Suppressing the voice and a snarky smile that went with it, Brass took out the crime scene photos and handed it to Stirling. "He was bludgeoned and then fed to the sharks."

"Death by Sharks? I suppose it shouldn't be that much of a surprise he was killed by them, after all that was his job to work with them, even on occasion swim with them. Not quite right in the head you see, willingly swimming with sharks. They have a right nasty temper."

"We are aware of this, and so are you. You are also aware that blood attracts sharks, what an efficient way to get rid of a body. Too bad Jaws didn't clean his plate because he left half a body."

"Detective if you are looking to me to have committed this crime you are wrong." A suffocating silence followed and a breath passed before either spoke.

"Prove it." The two words dropped like a stones in the silence.

"It serves me little good to have killed the man who owed me three hundred and seventy-six thousand pounds… a bit more if converted into American dollars. As I said I need the money to help me pay for legal fees for Miss Emily. With Leopold dead I get nothing. In fact less than nothing, because I wasn't the one to do the deed so I don't gain the satisfaction that the pillock is dead!"

It's funny how one thing can remind you of another.

Hot coffee, photos of a tank filled with sharks and pain-killers can do strange things like bring back fragments of a dream that seemed to have been dreamt ages ago.

Sara took it with a puzzled expression marking her face, she saw only a man swimming. Blonde and blue eyed, his face smiling with pure charm. "I don't see a shark," Sara said.

"Really?" Lindy shrugged. "You sure? They've been patrolling the waters for a while. That one with gold on him, he's the lowest forms of shark."

"How's that?" Sara frowned

"I don't trust him. Never trust a smiling shark. The sharks that charm, cheat. They eat hearts."

Sara studied the swimmer. She recognized him... it was Hank the EMT. She had thought him cute, and she liked the way he looked at her with his blue sparkling eyes. A way in which she wanted another pair of blue eyes to look at her but she knew they never would. The golden hair she would like to run her finger through, because it was like the red-golden mane she wanted to touch but she never would. She could settle for him. "I thought he was nice." Sara felt the need to defend herself.

"Smiling sharks, Sara. You're a California gal you know better."

Sara watched the swimmer and for a moment it was as if he was a werecreature. He morphed from man to beast and back again.

"Shark," Lindy shrugged as if it explained it all.

Sara turned back to the water and Hank was no longer there but a golden shark with blue soulless eyes swam in his stead. Yet in the water there was another swimmer. "He won't change." Sara pointed to the new person swimming about.

"The grey shark, they are even worse than smiling sharks." Lindy shrugged once more.

"Not Grissom."

"Been living in the town De'nial long? Any port in a storm I guess..."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Sara hissed.

"Look at all the flotsam and jetsam around the gray shark, SOS. See it all? Go try and swim with the grey shark and all you get is a quick trip to Davy Jones' locker and a rotten liver. Too much, far too much even for a pirate."

Sara looked through the spyglass once more and saw that the gray shark not Grissom was weaving in and amongst hundreds of kegs of ale. Now looking Sara saw literally thousands of them.

Sharks haunted Sara. They stalked her case and they transformed into the two-legged variety and stalked her friends, and herself. Despite the efforts of her friends and co-workers Sara knew in her bones they same way she knew the days it would be a bad-day when she was a kid, that this two-legged shark hunted her. Sidle knew the gang of CSI's long enough that they would do all they could to catch Pettigrew before he made a move against Sara and now Janet. In fact remaining deliberately silent about the fact Pettigrew was after her had placed a rather hot fire under the other investigators, they were more than desperate to stop him.

Since the team had unwittingly become very much aware of her past they had all become protective of her. She had hated the looks of pity and the looks of curiosity she had gained as a child after her emancipation from her years of torment, but Providence had been kind. No one on Graveyard looked at her. Yes some of the lab-monkeys looked at her with pity, Archie, Billy and even oddly enough Hodges. Thankfully Greg didn't at least not when she was in his presence, he next to Catherine had become seriously protective of her, possibly because he was in on the knowledge that Pettigrew was after her as well as the history of her past suddenly creeping up on her and makings its very ugly presence known.

Throwing those thoughts aside, Sidle concentrated on prospecting the evidence to build the case against Karkaroff's killer. It was a tedious task trying to find human blood in an area that had traces of chum all over it wasn't an easy task. She was beginning to truly hate the stink of fish. Strike that off the menu; yes as a vegetarian she would occasionally slip and eat the odd tuna fish, but going vegan was becoming more and more appealing.

Blood of course could tell a trained investigator a lot of things: cast-off pattern, directionality, directionality angle, direction of flight, impact pattern, transfer/contact pattern, projected blood pattern, and all of it was relative.

The lights dimmed in the biologist observation lab, Sara has used three methods to discover her blood-path ALS, the alterative-light-source was her first method, the ultraviolet light not only picked up fingerprints, trace materials but also human body fluids. She found plenty of all three. Luminol was the next method, but the infusion of fish-blood and chum residue had seriously hampered Sidle's progress. Everything seemed to be glowing. However it was a peculiar blood-pattern on the concrete wall near the priming pumps which could only have been caused by a medium velocity impact or force. Someone-something had taken a beating. This wasn't a bucket of chum that had spilled, this was deliberate.

Using phenolphthalien and swabs Sara was delighted to see that the pink glow on the tip of the swab confirmed the presence of human blood on the testing kit. It wasn't all chum after all. After taking three other samples with fresh baccal swaps for DNA and trace Sara took multiple pictures with the one to one L-ruler.

Her mind replayed the scene:

Karkaroff is arguing with the unknown Perp who starts pushing the Doctor in the chest. Karkaroff pushes back. The Perp now angry body-slams Karkaroff hard enough for the man to trip over a five gallon bucket of chum, the contents spill splashing both men and the floor. The aroma and bits of gutted fish alert the sharks it's feeding time. Karkaroff takes out his cell-phone, he wasn't going to be bullied around, and he's now got evidence of physical assault. Besides he got it in his mind the Perp could very well push him into the feeding tank. The Perp rages when he sees the phone and slams Karkaroff once more this time the doctor skids on fish guts, tries to catch his balance reaches for the Perp and as he tugs on the white labcoat, fibers wedge themselves under his finger nails.

The Perp will have none of it; he jerks away from Karkaroff and pushes him again this time so hard the momentum hurls the doctor back into the pipes used to prime the tanks with circulated and filtered sea-water. Karkaroff hits his head hard against the thick pipes slumps forward and breaks his jaw in his hard landing against the elbow of pipe before hitting the concrete floor. He doesn't move.

The white lab-coat Perp panics when he realizes he's killed the man, hoists Karkaroff fireman style over the feeding tanks and throws the corpse of the doctor in. The smell of the tipped over bucket of chum used to entice the sharks into the feeding tank has worked its magic, the sharks are skimming the surface of the tank; someone had 'rung' the dinner bell. Expecting sides of pork and beef the sharks are a bit confused over the human form meal. However sharks do what sharks do best and start taking chunks out of the bloody man in the tank.

The Perp knows he has to clean the area, the sharks will take care of Karkaroff but the blood on the floor will raise too many questions. Using one of the hoses to clean the surface of the concrete, the Perp flushes the bloody remains of fish guts into the large drain-traps in the floor along with the blood of Karkaroff. No one will notice the difference in the blood in the drains, should they see it. All he has to do is say he tipped over the chum bucket. It was somewhat the truth, enough to be believed. A tipped over chum bucket was not an uncommon occurrence. The Perp left the feeding tanks to rid himself of the blood stained clothing. Once more thinking should anyone see the blood all he had to do was growl over a spilt over chum bucket and indeed he had been splashed by the guts and blood so it was not a lie to say so.

The darkness of the night seeped into the window of the Denali as the CSI parked it one of the stalls Braun had typically ordered left vacant for when his sons or Catherine came to call. Catherine moved with briskness given to only someone with a life-changing mission. She scrutinized the thoughts dominating her mind. Why was she now so angry over Lindy's paternity, more so than she was when she had first discovered it? It was likely a question Braun himself would ask her. And in the end why did it truly matter that Sam had fathered a daughter?

Catherine paused in her step, as it dawned on her the reason was as base as it was simple. Jealousy. Until now Catherine had been the only 'daughter' figure in Sam Braun's life and now she realized the spot light wasn't hers alone. She had to share the dance with another. Only Lindsey had ever been given the queen's portion of anything in Catherine's life, the only other person Willows willingly shared anything with - gave her all to. Only her daughter, never her mother, never her sister, Catherine was too cut-throat, too much the dominant bitch. Now someone-else lurked in the shallows like the shark Catherine herself had been. A New someone who could very well be competition, she was already a pirate.

"Mugs" a voice drifted to her ears over the five notes cheeriness of the lost-machines that inspired people to play their bandit games. "So is this a social or business call?"

"A little of both," Catherine played a bluff, knowing all to well Braun will see her tell. It didn't matter, Catherine could always play Sam but only because he allowed it, as the indulgent father-figure he was. "Your daughter Lindy could be in danger from a serial rapist and killer."

Braun took a step back, he had known that Lindy might be in danger because her room-mate had been murdered, it was the reason he had set some of his men to guard her, even if she were able give them the slip more than a few times. "So you know."

"She told me. In fact she tried to threaten me with her connections when she believed that I was responsible for the injuries of a mutual friend. I told her the threat was impotent because I was very nearly your daughter."

"Lindy rarely used her link to me as a threat or acknowledgment; it must have been someone very dear to her to have caused her to call on my name." Braun's blue eyes sparkled with the fires of wonder. Lindy wasn't a closet case lesbian but she never flaunted her lovers, at least not the way her brothers or by that measure Catherine had. From word-of-mouth from his men, Braun knew that the CSI Sidle woman had spent time in the hospital - something to do with a quarterback pouncing on her, a professor and a dog trying to eat her for dinner. He couldn't help but wonder if the two young women in his live were having a twist with that Sidle woman. He didn't think Sidle was a player; she didn't have the look, sad to admit it though he knew both Catherine and Lindy could be. Just like himself.

Catherine watched the sparkle in Sam's eyes, and she knew than that Braun already knew why Lindy had invoked the power of Braun. "Why are you really here, Mugs?"

"I was…" She sighed, for once in a long time Catherine didn't know what she was. When Nick had reminded her of Lindy's paternity she was angry, but now that dark emotion had evaporated. Angry she had been left out of the "family secret". Angry that Sam hadn't confided in her. All these long years she had never known Sam had a daughter. But why would he have confided in her? The man was a player after all, and all those women he had, surely one of them had to have had a child without his knowledge. The mother of the ill-gotten child thinking their babe better it never knew who their father was.

Once more she tried to find her voice, "In all the years I've known you and your sons you never mentioned you had a daughter."

Sam smiled the smile of a man who had just pulled the record-making jackpot across the green felt table of a poker-table. "And you want to know why she was kept secret, why Lindy's name never came up in conversation?"

Catherine nodded feeling abashed that she had a tinge of jealousy over the slip of a girl. "You must call her Muggsie, there were a few times when I was a kid and you called me that," her face turned into an ironic smile. "Pretty clever on your part though, giving us similar nick-names just in case you slipped and called us the wrong one, you could always excuse your way out of it."

Sam nodded not feeling a shadow of shame he had never told Catherine of the other woman's existence. "If it makes you feel better, I've known you longer as a would-be-daughter than I did my own child. Lindy's mother left when she found out she was pregnant. I knew she was in California living with some hippies and their own parcel of brats. You know your own mother left Vegas for a while with that husband of hers to Montana before she came to her senses and came back home to Vegas with you when you were six."

Catherine shrugged; her life in Montana on the horse-ranch was pretty much a blur, yeah she could ride horse before she could walk, and her father was a third generation horse-rancher but that life meant little to the ex-dancer. For the most part Catherine only remembered Vegas. And Sam. Always Sam. He was the only father-figure in Catherine's life that had any impact on the young woman. Nancy had other reactions; she saw him as competition for her daddy and hated Sam Braun.

"Sam….I don't know why I was angry or the why I reacted like it was a sin to keep Lindy's paternity secret. You both have your reasons and in the end it doesn't matter." Catherine admitted loathing the fact she had in her estimation overreacted and was now embarrassed by it. "Lindy said her mother said she was a show-girl, one of the Copa-girls just like my own mother."

Sam gave a shrug not feeling the need to excuse his addiction to the show-girls of Vegas. His face contorted into a grimace that had nothing to do with his promiscuity. "Mugs, tell me do you know who this man is that killed Lindy's room-mate?"

"You know I can't discuss the cases I work."

"That's not a denial."

"It's my answer Sam. It's enough that she and…" Catherine was about to admit the danger Sara was in but stopped short of mentioning her lover's name, "other women could be in danger," she said instead.

Warrick sculled through the halls of the labs feeling rather adrift since he had finished his investigation in record time. Perhaps this was because there was very little to investigate. Grissom had said that his case would be easy and it was. The B and E in Henderson had been indeed effortless. Turned out the son… a Ronald Bryee aged nineteen had come home from college and his parents had gone away for a week to visit the mother of the wife who was in hospital undergoing her fourth by-pass. Ronald had been locked out of the house so resorted to an old trick when he had often forgotten his key at home. Being a latch-key child one would think the boy capable of remembering such a small thing as to always carry his key. The old trick had been nip into the garage collected a ladder and steal into the house via the small window in the attic. New neighbors had not been around to know to ignore a Ronald's roofway access into his house and had called the Bryee's alerting then that their house was being lived in by some hooligan-squatter.

The Bryee's under the belief their son was studying hard at University had no idea their son had come home. Lockwood had handled the case and called CSI only because Ronald wasn't in the house when it was stormed by the LVPD. The Bryee's had come home to discover that their 'rainy-day' money and some of the antiques had been pilfered. This had caused some dismay in the couple.

Warrick, by following the chain of evidence had unveiled Ron's access, and the reasons why the money and golden candlesticks and silver snuff boxes had gone missing. Ron had debts. Debts that came not with bad credit attached to one's name but broken knees caused by sledgehammers and so Ron had taken measures into his own hands and tried to make it look like the house had been truly broken into. Mr. Bryee wasn't going to press charges against his own son on the condition his son went to boot-camp. Not the boot-camp one sends disobedient children but the Marines. Warrick wagered that the 'Leathernecks' of Pendleton would beat out the forgetfulness and gambling habits of the lad.

Still there was the Montague case, and Warrick brightened up now that he was free to work it. Then the smile faltered at the sight of Sara moving into the drying-room her favorite lab. A bitter taste filled his mouth at the thought of just how close this was to them all.

With a heady sigh he turned from the hall that would lead him to Sara for lab that contained Nick, who looked up once the taller man entered, flashed a slight smile of welcome before speaking. "Two days and you're done?"

"Kid stole from the cookie jar and got caught and sent off to be a soldier so he can do the same thing in some other country." Warrick explained. "So where are we?"

Nick explained that he had not achieved more than he had a few days ago, in fact he was more than frustrated about the prospect. At least Catherine's case wasn't connected. They both replayed the words Lady Heather had told them about Pettigrew.

"We might be looking at the wrong man. We don't have concrete evidence against him. It's all circumstantial but he fits so nicely." Warrick said.

At that moment both of them gave a thought to Conrad Ecklie who would have thought it good enough and would have named the missing EMH guilty. It's just the pieces fit so perfectly. The problem was that Pettigrew had slipped off the grid. No activity on his credit or debit cards. An APB On the 'Missing Persons' turned up zilch. And no one showed up at his apartment, that didn't belong in the complex which was a small population. Even his car was still in its parking space. Friends and co-workers had denied contact, of course both CSI and O'Riley assumed these people were lying but at the moment could do nothing more until it was proved otherwise.

Catherine strode in her easy fluid gate into Archie's lab with a small smile on her lips, one could almost label that smile as hopeful. "What do you have for me, Archie?" She put a hand on his shoulder, gave it a squeeze before she sat next to him.

He seemed to swell with an unspoken pride all the lab-rates did whenever the former stripper gave them a bit of flirty attention. "You'll like this. Your vic was working the slots with her push cart of coins, you can see it." The Asian pointed with his chin. The young brunette Pauline Platt was milling around her 'territory' exchanging bills for coin and tokens stopping to chat-up the males hoping should they make a hit on the slots they would tip her healthfully. Anyone living in Vegas who had anything to do with the casinos (which almost seemed everyone but of course that was an exaggeration) knew that the coin-girls made most of their lives by the tips they made much like the service trade.

Part 44

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