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 44

Pauline Platt, a change girl at Caesar's Palace frequently came back to a particular man who was an adamant slot player Catherine noted as she studied the tapes of the casino's security cameras stationed around her 'territory'. He was a man of some girth, wearing a Dallas Cowboy's football jersey, Levi denim shorts, sports socks and Nike trainers. His hair was but a gray ring around the back of his thick head. Under his red bulbous nose was a bristle-brush mustache. He seemed to be doing quite well that was until the last token in his roll that Pauline had sold him. Up until then he had been winning a few jackpots making almost a thousand dollars a time. This last coin he lost everything, he had racked up five thousand on the machine, and wagered that the last coin would win him the mega pot.

Catherine watched the tapes closely and saw Cowboy fan slam his fists down on the console of the slot machine cursing it and when Pauline came over to see what the trouble was he pushed her away from him, it looked as if he was cursing her out for being a jinx, a cooler of good luck. He was escorted out by security and threatened with black-balling if he didn't calm down.

Catherine leaned back in her office chair and rubbed the bridge of her nose feeling her eyes water from the hours of viewing the surveillance videos as well as a the twinges of a headache creep into the edges of her mind. To her left Archie yawned a bit making a loud 'rrruuummmph' from his throat as if he felt the need to announce his own weariness.

"Running out of go juice?" Catherine teased, "And here I thought you were as diehard as Greggo."

"I am" the young Asian reassured the blonde, "But Greggo runs the lab on high-octane java, and I'm stuck with the lab goo."

"Aw." Catherine patronized him with a mothering sound. "Get me a good solid print from that footage of the Cowboy's Fanboy and I'll buy you a cup of the good stuff."

"It's a date."

"What's a date?" It was Sara who asked the question coming into the visual/audio lab.

Catherine turned to her counterpart and lover a slight wink playing at the corners of her eyes, "Oh Archie's dreaming again. I think its something in the coffee that makes our lab-boys loopy when either you or I step into the room."

Just as the redheaded blonde knew it would, Archie's face started to blush; this to the young man's relief had stopped at his ears and scruff of the neck. Witty comebacks were Greg's forte, Archie felt like a bumbling Ferengi bar-tender trying to court a Klingon female when it came to such play with words. At least he did with either Catherine or Sara. Sara however wasn't as intimidating as her smaller counterpart. He liked Sara because she always made him feel at ease around her, and her slightest smile could warm an igloo in Antarctica.

"Here's your print, Catherine." Archie proclaimed his achievement over the prints of the unknown Cowboys Fanboy.

Catherine snatched them from his hand and smiled. "Great! Thanks Archie, I owe you."

The tech opened and closed his mouth, then rolled his eyes. Well it was a dream thinking of top line coffee from Starbucks rather than having to drink the swill in the breakroom. Pictures of the possible assailant in hand the next order of business for Catherine was to grab Detective Cyrus Lockwood and do a talk and walk with the staff and pit boss at Caesar's Palace. If they got lucky (which occasionally happened in Vegas) Cowboys Fanboy might still be in town and a resident in the hotel.

Leaving the video/audio room the senior female CSI navigated back through the labs a funny feeling resonating in the pit of her stomach. There wasn't much to go on in Pauline's murder but at least Catherine had more than Nick and Warrick had over on their case. And it would likely stay that way until Peddigrew - if it was the EMT - struck again.

Where famine found the men of the Graveyard shift, and drought sought Catherine, Sara feasted upon her own gathered evidence. It was here in the layout room that the brunette spread out the wealth of evidence she had gathered. Jackie had the prints and was checking them against CODIS and running comparisons on the prints Sara had harvested from the suspected weapon.

Mr. Schaeffer had admitted he only knew of the contaminating body in his tanks and ordered the removal. The people responsible for the removal and dumping in Lake Mead were not necessarily the same people responsible for killing Karkaroff. Dr. Vikki most assuredly knew that the corpse of the Russian had been in the tank, she was chief of the casino's exotic veterinarian medicine and zoology department.

Sara listed in her mind the knowns: Karkaroff was bludgeoned to death and had fallen against pipes either by slipping on spilled fish guts and blood or had been pushed and in the struggle with his assailant he had slipped on the blood. All the same he had a grievous head wound.

Second the killer had deposited the body into the shark tank only for it to be discovered by the vet crew. One of them could have been the killer, with Schaeffer - audits of the new security system and the film of the door had revealed only the vet crew had been seen coming and going into the tanks access port. Of course Schaeffer wasn't going to give up the film without court orders, papers which Grissom was right now acquiring.

Third Dimitri Stirling was yet again involved but with the Russian owing him money and quite a lot of it, it was unlikely that the professor would have killed his debtor. But it was still motive for a fight, a man desperate to free a woman he cared for (despite she had conspired to torment him) if Karkaroff was unwilling to pay. Desperate to have the money Dimitri might have grabbed the other man and thus a fight broke out ending with an accidental death. Dimitri having been treed by a crack addicted mongrel dog might have though of another beast with devil's teeth. Get rid of the body via shark.

Sara felt something buzz on her hip, automatically she looked down at the pager clipped to her belt and gave a quirk of an eyebrow at the text-message on the display screen. 'Look up.' Wrinkling her brow as she did she found Catherine on the threshold of the door leaning her weight against its frame. "He-ey." Sara breathed a deep sigh of joy and relief. The sort of relief that comes when seeing the person you love after having missed them for a time.

"Hey yourself, babe." Catherine said by way of salutation before she walked into the room proper. "Fancy grabbing something to eat?"

Sara shook her head, 'Not hungry."

"Not even for fish? I know a place that serves great shark-fin soup."

"Funny. You're a laugh riot, Alice." Sara threw one of Grissom's lines to the redhead. "Vegetarian remember?"

"Yeah but fish….."

"Still a living creature. Vegetarian doesn't mean just no red-meat and pork. Poultry and fish are out too,"

Catherine smiled a lover's smile of understanding. "So you truly went all the way. No dairy and eggs either?"

Sara shrugged. "Working on it, found I like soymilk and stuff. I want to make sure Janet gets all her vitamins and calcium so I buy whole milk for her but I mainly stick to soymilk."

Catherine wrinkled her nose in such a way that for a moment it was as if Lindsey had possessed her mother. "Eww. No thanks. Tried it once, tastes like chalk." Now close enough to touch Sara the older woman placed a hand upon her arm and ran it along her back before withdrawing it. "Despite the fact I've seen you everyday, I've missed you."

Sara's lips pulled back into the charming gapped-tooth grin, "I know the feeling. Strange I never actually thought I would feel like that again. It's been a long time since I had someone I loved; I missed even if we see each other daily. Or even if in the next room…." There was a blush that found itself settling upon the woman's face. "Think I'm foolishly sentimental?" her voice dropped to a hesitant whisper.

"Not at all Sara," Catherine reached out and touched her lover's arm once more, "it's a good thing." Had it not been deeply unprofessional as they were at work, she would have kissed the taller woman. But she conveyed the want all the same in her blue eyes. The desire to Catherine's relief and pleasure was equally returned in the chocolate gaze of the woman she had come to love. "When we get home, I'm going to make you breathless." Catherine whispered to Sara so quietly that Sidle had to strain to hear. Catherine gave a wink before she nudged her lover ever so gently as not to bring any discomfort to the still healing ribs. "So let's go grab a bite."

Sara smirked and her growling stomach was a testament she was indeed famished. "I just finished logging in my evidence and everything else is waiting to be processed, fingerprints, DNA. Too bad life isn't as quick as Law and Order where they have the evidence within six minutes of the commercial break."

"Yeah thirty minutes, six hours a day…..more…" Catherine added, "You'd think the way shows portray forensics it happens with in a day or so and wham bam you have your man."

"Or shark."

Catherine snickered, "So how is your case there Shark-girl?"

"Found what looks like the scene of struggle and the plausible events that led up to Karkaroff becoming fish bait. The thing is the body dump could be unrelated in due course to the death of the good doctor. Hotel manager already copped to ordering the 'debris' from the tank to be removed, and it looks like the vet-crew did just that the removed the body and dumped it into Lake Meade hoping it would look like a boating accident all to save the reputation of the Casino and the lives of the sharks. The murder could have been a separate thing."

"Don't let Grissom hear you hypothesizing over the case without evidence to support you," Catherine warned. "Theory isn't evidence."

"I know," Sara answered without being defensive. "But from what I already gathered in the way of evidence and testaments of the vets and the Hotel President like I said had ordered the 'debris' removal. They are linked but not entirely cause and effect. I think the body-dump from the evidence is effect due to cause. Brass has Dimitri Stirling sitting on ice. He was seen both by an eye-witness and the eye-in-the-sky fighting with Karkaroff hours before the doctor shows up dead."

"Now that's odd," Catherine commented." The chances of him showing up when there is yet another dead body and he is inescapably linked to this one just as he was with the last."

"Six degrees of separation lay between him and that little girl. I wonder how many degrees separate him from Karkaroff's murder?"

"Apparently not many."

"Maybe he has the Jessica Fletcher syndrome, people just happen to die in his vicinity."

"I doubt a jury will buy that defense," Catherine replied.

"Who said it was a defense?"

"You seriously don't think some people are jinxed? Like they carry a curse around with them like some sort of black widow thing? Sara, that is about as valid as spontaneous human combustion. Or a scuba diver picked out of the water by a fire-copter scoop to put out forest fires. Urban myths, Babe, nothing more"

The brunette shrugged. "Half the fun is disproving the myth."

"Or proving it."

"There is that."

"You watch Myth-Busters don't you."

"What of it?" Sara smiled. "It's entertaining."

"You know I love ya right?" Catherine smiled warmly, shaking her head. "Crazy kid."

Sara tilted her head blushing slightly to the affirmation. "Love ya too girl. Now feed me."

Lunch was a short affair. Both ladies got paged back to HQ; one because a suspect was ready for questioning and the other the identity of a suspect was discovered. Quick bites from deli sandwiches out of the take out bags and coffee from a styrofoam cup made for a meal.

"As I have exasperatingly telling the detective here, I didn't kill Leopold. I needed the money to acquire an excellent solicitor for Emily."

"You want to save the woman who conspired to kill you?" Sara prodded.

"Her actions are a direct result of my mismanaging the relationship I shared with her and ignoring her feelings for me."

Sara wasn't so forgiving, even if she was tempted by a passing thought of dismissing Emily's actions in the events that led up to this moment, the hitch in the brunette's ribcage gave a good indication why she shouldn't.

"So you care for her?" It was Brass speaking now. "Love even?"

Dimitri only arched a dark eyebrow that seemed to say 'well duh', in an educated sort of way. "She needs a good defense something that her pay scale won't allow her access to. Even mine will not be broad enough. Thus I called in…what is it they say here… my marker." Dimitri drummed the tips on the flat of the table top with nervous fingers in the manner of a smoker long kept from their nicotine fix.

"This is how I see it going down," Brass said. "You go see Karkaroff and find him in the feeding arena of the shark tanks. You start demanding the money he owes you…….."

Brass's mental reconstruction was close to Sara's own imagined one.

Karkaroff is arguing with the Dimitri who starts pushing the Russian in the chest. Karkaroff pushes back, Dimitri then pushes Karkaroff hard enough for the man to trip over a five gallon bucket of chum, the contents spill splashing both men and the floor. Dimitri rages, the stink of blood riles not only his ire but the lust in sharks.

The monstrous fish thrash in the tanks, recognizing the smell they associate with feeding time.

Dimitri pushes Karkaroff once more this time both doctors skid on fish guts, Leopold tries to catch his balance reaches for Dimitri and as he tugs on the white labcoat the professor was wearing, fibers wedge themselves under his finger nails.

Dimitri reacts by wrenching 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.

Panicking with the knowledge Karkaroff is dead Dimitri lugs the body over to the sharks and dumps him in to the water, watching as the sharks tear at the limbs and torso of the Russian. The only thing left was to clean up the muck left by the toppled over chum-bucket.

"After you cleaned up the lab you left. We already know you were in the Casino the last day anyone saw Karkaroff alive. There is no denying it; I want to know where you went afterwards," Brass ordered.

Dimitri ran a hand over his face. "Since the incident on campus I've been under scrutiny by the Dean of my College and the Board of Education. Killing Leopold isn't in my best interest in many respects. This whole affair is a malediction upon me. "

"Yeah and I'm sure Dr. Karkaroff didn't feel very happy about dying either," Brass shot back.

Sara spoke in an almost counter measure to Brass's comment. She leaned forward focusing on Dimitri.

"If you're innocent, we'll prove it. But if you're guilty…" His eyes met hers. "…we'll prove that too."

"I'm not concerned," he said.

But he sure as hell looked it.

The shadows of the night melted into the blue and purple flush of morning. Before Janet came into her life, Sara would have opted to stay in the labs to finish any paperwork on her case or plodded home, turned on the police scanner, some Bjork and zoned out on the latest forensic journal. Now life had taken a 180' degree turn and a new person filled the woman's life, a person Sara loved fully without ever realizing when it had happened.

By the time Sara arrived at Nancy's to pick up her daughter the sky was kissed with the pink of dawn. Unlike Catherine who was content with allowing her sister drop Lindsey off at school; Sara wanted to fill the girl's life up with her presence as much as possible. Yes, Nancy could have dropped the child off at school in the next four hours but Sara had made the decision to be there for Janet in the mornings when work allowed for it. Besides Sidle had to prove not only to herself, the child but to social services she was a fit parental figure. And that meant being there for her newly adopted daughter when ever she could.

Besides, seeing Janet's cherub face was an excellent way to exorcize the visions of a shark eviscerating a dead body. No wonder Catherine sometimes made a bee-line for Lindsey after grueling days or stress-fill hours of lab work, a child could be the perfect winding down experience or the proof that it was all worth something in the end of it all.

Janet Sidle had become that figure for her new mother.

Part 45

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