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 48

Finding peace was something elusive not simply for the Sara but for the nightshift on the whole, and by proxy the lab techs that worked closely with the young woman. They had all been quite aware of the last few months highs and lows with Sidle. Her accident, the attack and the adoption of her little girl who was by birth her niece - the reunion with her brother and death of a close friend and now the death of an even closer friend.

Grissom turned as always inward. Invoking the right of self recrimination he wallowed however brief in the fact he had let Sara down. He had not simply disappointed her, but failed her. He failed her he knew because of his dedication to the one thing he held closer to his heart: the truth of evidence.

There had not been enough evidence for a warrant at the time Hank made his presence known. At best a restraining order could have been issued. When the first vic came up dead there was evidence enough to issue a warrant for Hank but by then the man had skipped town. Apparently he had gone to Tahiti with his girlfriend, Elaine Alcot. The woman in question was now in jail on counts of accessory to multiple murders and gross torture, even if all she did was aided and abetted Hank Peddigrew to avoid arrest.

The woman was smart enough to lawyer up claiming she had no knowledge of her boyfriend's actions or the heinous crimes he committed. Lindy's death marked the man's return State-side. Once more the man in question was in the wind. If had had survived the crash, there wasn't any evidence to say he hadn't he had gone underground to lick his wounds. With Elaine Alcot in jail he wouldn't be licking them in her bed anytime soon.

Grissom deployed both Warrick and Nick to the theater along with O'Reilly and a few uniforms to question the theater troupe and more importantly gather evidence. Catherine had taken the rest of her shift off to escort a heavily protesting Sara back home. If they wanted a conviction Sara could be no where near the evidence nor reports concerning the murder of her friend, least the Defense claim tampering and evidence manipulation. Sitting at home being idle waiting for the guys to call and say they made an arrest wasn't something Sara could do. Nor did Grissom expect her to do.

"Sara, your friend will need a funeral." The words stung in his mouth even as he spoke them, but they were enough to redirect Sara's attention. Her anger defused by grief. Grissom didn't know if it was a good thing. For her part Catherine looked like she wanted to slap Grissom for his cool detachment. For the fact he could be detached.

The ability to be detached was a skill essential for CSIs—for law enforcement in general. But to be detached when your people needed you the most, it was cold. Grissom didn't pretend to be anything more than he was a scientist. Sara actually respected it and that befuddled Catherine.

Sara let herself be driven home without comment. She even allowed Catherine to phone the local Chinese joint for take out. Nor did she say anything when a Heineken was passed into her hand; she simply stood staring out the larger bay window in the living room. Brown eyes studied without seeing the view of the silent neighborhood as if her gaze could penetrate the night. Her diffused reflection flickered from the passing headlights of cars and dotted specks of streetlamps.

"A pirate wake." Sara said at last.

"Excuse me?" Catherine asked as she came to stand beside her lover.

"Lindy was a pirate through and through, she'd want a pirate wake. She didn't do sad. Booze…" a snort. "Strike that. She'd want rum. Much rum. Songs, pirate ditties even the racier one about the ship whose figurehead was a whore in bed sucking on a dead man's penis." Sara stopped turning a bit of red at the memory of song that Loudon Wainwright had sung on 'Rogues Gallery' CD. The lyrics were horrid, randy and tawdry - they were simply wrong but hell if they weren't funny. The damn song when sung got stuck in an endless-loop in the head. At least the chorus did. "I'm going to put on one hell of a party for her." A true smile tugged at the corners of Sara's lips. "Parrot and eye-patch optional. And there is going to be rum. Much rum."

Catherine shared the smile. "Now that sounds like Lindy. Whatever I can do to help I will. Even if it's just acquiring the rum… much rum."

Lindy Macfarlane might not have done sad, but the same could not be said for the Pirates Troupe of Treasure Island. The Reaper Man had come to harvest one of their own - their captain. It was strange to see a tribute of a half-mast Jolly-Roger flying on the ship-stage. Nick had to grin a little to the tribute of respect being paid to the lost soul.

O'Reilly had corralled the entire cast and crew into the dining area of the theater so he might address them all at once. It would be an arduous task to question them all but it had to be done. He already had three isolated from the rest - two men and a woman. Or was it a troll, a man and a woman?

"Big and dumb," Nick said out of the side of his mouth to Warrick.

"What?" Warrick had been too preoccupied by opening up his kit so he might examine the deck of the stage to give much attention to his friend and counterpart.

Nick gestured by pointing his chin in the general direction of the massive stage hand to the left of one of the scrawny twig-boy actors. Warrick gave the once over to the big guy but drew his gaze away from the male to the very twitchy young blonde actor in a red tunic and black britches. Either he was guilty as sin or jonesing for some nose candy, or both.

"You take Big and Dumb and I'll go for Twitchy," Warrick said pointing to the male who played Guybrush Threepwood, "when it comes time to question them. For now I say we split up."

"You're grabbing the stage, leaving me behind set?"

"Got it one my man," Warrick cocked a crooked grin leaving Stokes to shake his head and move on to back stage area.

"This is where the real magic is." He said only to himself. He was never into theater himself but when he processed a few he always thought behind the scenes was were all the true action lay and all the dirty little secrets just waiting to be uncovered.

A uniform had been stationed near the fly controls which had been quarantined off from the rest of the theater by the yellow crime-scene tape. "Boyd." He nodded politely to the officer as he passed under the tape.

Finding prints wouldn't pose a problem - plenty to harvest. The problem was isolating those that didn't belong. That meant fingerprinting everyone who was supposed to have access to the fly wires, taking their names down and getting DNA samples to compare to the exemplars. Granted anchors used leather gloves to protect their hands from rope burn and blistering but there would still be cursory checks with bare hands. That means epithelials sloughed off onto the fibers of nylon ropes and tungsten steel cables. Gear casings would have plethora of finger and even shoe prints should someone have dripped and stepped in the lubricant

"Time to get busy-ah." Nick said more to himself than the young African-American cop standing near him. The first thing he did was snap off a few photos of the area, gearbox and fly-controls.

The gear box was a worn wood frame and pulley system as one would see in a proper theater drops. Wood was good for collecting fingerprints even better at soaking up sweat. Dusting the area with powder would be fruitless the wood was too porous and the sweat would counter-affect results. Reagent sprays such as the ninhydrin in hand would react with the chemicals in sweat when heated, even on the porous surface.

It took time but Nick was satisfied with the dozen or so prints he had been able to lift as well as DNA exemplars. He would have to collect Lindy's harness and take a closer look at the fly contraption to do that he needed to talk to the man in charge of the rigging. When he found out who it was he baulked.

Gorilla arms, tree-trunk, legs beer-keg gut made up the form of Jose Manntoski. Standing six inches over six feet, well over three hundred pounds made him a walking talking tank.

He scared the hell out of Nick Stokes but he had lost the paper, scissors rock game and so it was he who had to ask the questions. Besides Warrick argued it had been Nick that processed the fly work so it only made sense for him to ask the man who controlled it.

"Hi, my name is Nick Stokes- CSI. Detective O'Reilly tells me you are in charge of the flying rigs."

"Yes." A simple answer.

"I'd like to ask you questions Mister...er…um…"


"Manntoski. Right." Nick wanted to play 'Friendly CSI-Guy,' but in hearing the man's surname he found himself stymied. "Manntoski? That isn't Spanish."

"Oh you are observant. No should I have a Spanish sir name CSI Stokes?"

"Sorry with the name Jose I thought that…well…."

"I was Latino? Half. Is that going to be a problem for you?"

Nick was taken aback. "No! No of course no why would it?"

"Because you're from Texas." His voice changed into a mocking southern drawl, "Everyone knows men from Texas are card carrying KKK members. Shoot anyone not white, right? Shotgun in a rack mounted on the rear window of your 4x4 pickup truck, beer guzzling red-neck trailer-trash-poacher."

"Oh hey, I aint like that." Nick rebuffed.

"Then why would you make assumptions of someone else? I know you think big guys like me are dumber than a box of rocks in a freezer. I graduated Berkley with a MA in Literature. I don't need you to dumb things down because of my size or because I'm Spanish. And by the way my mother is a New York Supreme Court judge and she's the Latino. Spanish doesn't mean uneducated."

"I'm sorry I offended you Mr. Manntoski." Nick quickly apologized.

Jose looked into the man's eyes and saw true sincerity. "Accepted."

"You know my dad is a judge too."

They shared a knowing smile as children of judges: 'You are my son and you must lead your peers by example. You have a reputation to uphold. You are a supposed to be a pillar of good citizenship in your community, I won't tolerate anything less. The Law is the law and you think you can get away with breaking it because your mother / father holds a gavel? I don't care if your friends think they can break curfew, smoke underage or sneak a beer you will not. That's thirty days grounding and no driving privileges mister. Case dismissed.'

No amount of 'But Mom / Dad…' could ever change their mind. In fact protests and pleas served only to lengthen the sentence of punishment. The only other people who could relate were the kids of preachers and cops. It sucked having to be the good one all the time.

"How does a person with a Masters in Literature become a stunt coordinator for a dinner theater?" Nick decided to make up for the assumptions by appealing to the man's educated side.

"I was never taken seriously because of my size," Jose allowed a small non humorous chuckle out. "I've written several children's books. Been published in journals concerning medieval literature but steady work? No. So I fell back on the other thing I was good at, what put me through college - stunt work. Worked for a few big names, but blew out my knee too many times. You hear the same story in footballers. So I went into theater. Went to Cirque worked there for a number of years. And when some of the acrobats retired from the show I went with them. We came here and started training some of the actors in Cirque style aerial work. Lindy…" A smile tweaked the corners of his mouth. "She took to it quickly, like she was born for it. Wasn't afraid of anything, she loves… loved to fly and bounce around in the air. The more daring the better. I got protective of her, became her anchor. I didn't trust anyone else to hold her."

By this time they were joined by O'Reilly and Warrick. Each having decided it might have been dangerous to leave Stokes alone with the tank with only young Boyd there. They too had made the assumption that Jose wasn't the brightest crayon in the box.

"The day of the accident… gods… I don't even know how I could have missed anything. When she's up I triple check everything."

"So why don't you walk us through the loft? Show us the ropes so to speak." Nick offered providing a buffer between Jose and the others.

"Yeah, okay. It's up this way."

Jose escorted closely by O'Reilly at his flank guided Warrick and Nick into the fly loft. He started to climb but Nick's hand on his arm stopped him, "I'll go first, and you can follow."

Jose blew out a breath of frustration, nodded and allowed for the Texan to take the ladder. Nick was halfway up before Jose started behind him he heard Warrick and the cop… detective murmur argumentatively in low voices.

"Maybe I should just send up Boyd. I don't think that area up there will hold both me and a tank like Jose at the same time." O'Reilly muttered.

Warrick looked up seeing that Jose was nearer to the top. He turned back to the detective and saw how ashen the man's face had become. He snorted at the man's discomfort. "You're afraid."

"It's not that I'm afraid it's just I'm not appreciative of heights." O'Reilly's rose to a defensive pitch.

"Right. After you detective."

"You're a bastard, Brown."

"Not according to my Grandmother."

The gridiron was located just below the roof of the fly loft. It served as a platform to hold some equipment for the pirates' trapeze acts. It was here the tour began.

"Rope and pulley is one of the oldest ways to fly in drop sets and even actors. Back in the day it was hemp, today we use nylon zip wire. It's stronger…" he paused in his explanations on seeing the bored looks of the CSI's. He chided himself for thinking them ignorant of the qualities of rope. "Sorry, I guess you know these things. Um… anyway ah… like I said rope sets are the oldest method of flying. As you can see the pulley is attached to the grid, and the rope is fed through it and tied to the harnesses of our acrobats. They are all counterbalanced by sandbags slightly lighter than the flier so they can perform without having to attach special ropes to lower them or zip them up. We rely more on live anchors on the ground to guide our fliers."

"Because of mobility," Nick concluded.

Jose nodded, "Exactly. I fly… ah… I flew Lindy. I was used to her spontaneity which terrified some of the other live anchors. Sometimes she would spin off a few more flips than the script called for, or jump from the masts for the Johnny Depp / Captain Jack Sparrow effect. You had to be ready for anything she might suddenly do. She trusted me completely. She liked to go outside the box occasionally and with me she knew she could. It made her the more popular Queen of the Sea, especially with the kiddies." Jose looked at the gridiron with longing. He swallowed a baseball sized lump in his throat barely managing not to burst out in a great sob. He wiped his eyes with the heels of his hands and swallowed again. "Oh gods I am going to miss that sweet face."

Nick clamped a warm hand on the beefy bicep for he was unable to reach the tank's shoulder. "I'm sorry man."

Jose managed to nod only. "Yeah me too. Um…" he cleared his throat before daring to speak again. "I know how it looks. Rope sets aren't the safest, so we have to constantly check for nicks, cuts and other indications of wear. The whole system is replaced once a month because of how often it's used. Traditional theaters only have to do it once a year but we don't take chances."

"If you don't take chances why is one of your actors dead?" O'Reilly said without malice though it came off as cold and ruthless.

Jose glared at the portly detective; his answer was however directed to Warrick and Nick. "The system was replaced two days ago. It shouldn't have any wear or stressors. I check the lines every shift, and I double check before Lindy climbs into the rig. What happened should NOT have happened, but did happen and I don't know how."

"Who replaces the rigging?" Nick asked.

"Myself and a few others do. I am captain of the alpha team, some of my boys and the captain of beta shift."

"We're going to need names." Again it was O'Reilly speaking.

Jose nodded sullenly. "I don't want to think any of use did this on purpose. I want this bastard nailed if one of the guys did do it."

"Jose, was Hank… well Henry anywhere near the rope set and fly system?"

"Puppy-face?" Jose started to shake his head, but then his brown eyes opened wide. "Damn yeah he was. Richard… the captain of Gamma slit his hand open earlier when he stumbled up on the catwalk. It wasn't serious and Henry worked on him when we were all up here." Jose frowned. "You think puppy-face did this don't you."

"Jose, we're just making a list of who was all present to rule suspects out."

"Plausible deniably, yeah I get it. " Jose frowned. "If that shmuck did my girl in I want him."

"Your girl?" O'Reilly was pick to pick up on the possessiveness in the man's voice.

"Oh no you don't 'detective.' You think I might have been jealous because she was dating and not dating me? Or was a lesbian and didn't want 'meat'? I aint gonna lie to you and say I didn't think she was hot. But I didn't want her for me. Hell I wished she was free I'd set her up with my sister. I even tried to get her to go on a blind date with my sis and Lindy wouldn't have it. Her rule: 'don't date the sisters of your good friends'. Too bad - they would have made a sweet couple."

The Nick couldn't help himself; he had to laugh at the stunned expression on O'Reilly's face.

"I'm a liberal kinda guy detective. And I'd be hypocritical if I did have a gripe against lesbians."

"What?" O'Reilly frowned, blinked and turned red. "Oh. OH!" he cleared his throat. "A big guy like you is what…"

"Homosexual? Yeah I am." Jose shook his head. "What is it with law enforcement dudes and stereotypes. Big is dumb and big is hetero…" he shook his head. "You three need to get with the program or the twenty-first century is going to leave you behind. I hope your skills at finding evidence is far better then your assessment of the human condition." He left the three on gridiron.

By the time the LVPD's finest got down a list of names was waiting for them in the hands of Officer Boyd. "The big guy left this for you." He handed the list to O'Reilly.

Attached to the list was Jose Manntoski's business card should they need to contact him for further information. O'Reilly looked at it and sighed. There were a lot of names.

"Tankman said Lindy was the most popular Queen of the Seas. What if this was sabotage and Hank just took the opportunity to snuff her out?" Warrick suggested once he eyed the list.

"The show runs three times a shift. Each show proper is nearly three hours. There is a get to know the pirates thing that lasts about thirty minutes post show and there is a bit of a pre-show that is about forty-five minutes, folks can peruse the gift store, museum and get their pictures taken on a mini-ship and take drinks from the bar." O'Reilly read from his notebook. "If the killer wanted Lindy to be humiliated it gave them forty-five minutes give or take before a show. If she fell she would be humiliated. With her injuries she would have been out of commission but not dead."

"Maybe it wasn't about killing her just putting her out of commission." Nick put in. "That twitchy guy in red looked like he was hiding something. He might have something he wants to get off his shoulders."

"I noticed that too." O'Reilly nodded, slapped his notebook closed and put it in the inside breast pocket of his suit coat. "I'll bring him in."

"Guybrush Threepwood 'Mighty Pirate' Aka Ronnie Gaymer is our man in red." O'Reilly informed Nick and Warrick as well as Grissom, all of whom were standing behind the two way mirror that separated the interrogation and observation rooms. "Stage Manager Vanessa Kinddner is our next person to question."

Nick watched the man in question. His foot was repeatedly bouncing and he was nervously biting his thumbnail. It he wasn't tweaking…he was looking more and more guilty. 'Guybrush Threepwood?' How can he be the one who was responsible? Nick hoped against the odds he wasn't. But every action indicated 'Guybrush Threepwood' had a very guilty conscience.

As soon as O'Reilly and Warrick entered the room he started wailing. "I did it! It's all my fault! I didn't think. I should have known better. Oh god it's my fault."

O'Reilly and Warrick looked at each other before sitting down at the table. Behind the mirror Catherine grimaced and Grissom's eyebrow quirked as if he couldn't quite believe the man's testimony. He'd wait until the evidence came in. It didn't lie, people did.

"Tell us what you did Mr. Gaymer." O'Reilly demanded.

"I said it. I spoke the name and everyone knows you don't say in a theater. I thought..." He was truly blubbering now. "I thought that because it wasn't proper theater it wouldn't matter. I was wrong!"

Warrick looked confused, O'Reilly looked disgusted.

"Ronnie," Warrick soft warm voice calmed the hysterical man. "What did you say?"

"MACBETH!" Ronnie shouted, snapping his head up and removed his hands from the tabletop. "Oh gods I cursed her." He clucked his head down so hard against the table it was astonishing he hadn't concussed himself. His wailing could not be stopped. "I got the male lead and… I was so excited I told Lindy. 'I got it! I got the lead in Macbeth.' "Everyone gasped and stated to cross themselves. Spat and turn in circles three times and rub rabbit feet… you know to un-hex us all but it was too late. Oh God… I cursed her... I cursed her! I didn't mean it."

"He's not our man, 'Rick." O'Reilly's face looked like he had eaten something rather foul and rotten. "When he gets a hold of himself, cut him loose."

The door opened to the observation room, "Want to tell me what the hell is that about?" O'Reilly addressed Grissom knowing the man would have caught the reference to Macbeth and curses. "What the hell does Shakespeare have to do with this case?"

"It's bad luck for any actor to refer to the 'play' Macbeth in a theater. If you're talking about the characters you always use lord or lady. It's said the play is cursed. It's referred to as 'The Scottish play'. Actors world wide are highly superstitious about it, even if they aren't about anything else. It's along the same lines as 'break a leg' rather than wish good luck," answered Grissom.

"So Crying-man really thinks he cursed Lindy?"

Nick nodded, "Makes sense. No wonder he feels guilty. The Cast said he was good friends with Lindy. He blames himself for her accident and death. If he hadn't said the play's name the curse wouldn't have been triggered."

"That's nuts."

"No. That's show-biz." Grissom shrugged. "Nick and Warrick you two are right about your suspicions of motive and opportunity. We might want to ask him if any of the other female pirates had a grudge against Lindy's success. We know Hank Peddigrew was there and in the ambulance but we don't know if he is the one who sabotaged her rig or took advantage of the situation."

"I found epithelials on the controls of the fly set and rope box. A lot of finger prints. It's going to be rough fishing out the ones that belong there from our perp. Jose Manntoski the captain of the alpha-team's stunts and fly team gave me a list of everyone who should have access to the rigs. He also reminded me that anyone could have access to it as its in the open."

"The guilty person's argument," O'Reilly said. Years of experiences on the force even without the nerd-squad told him only their guilty would point out anyone else could have done it. It was the whole 'not me' defense children world wide used when confronted with authority over some infraction against household rules. Funny how perps and children used the same defense to get out of trouble.

"No." Nick shook his head. "I think more of vigilante's desire. He wanted to know if anyone mucked around with his gear that had no right. He was livid that this was a deliberate attack and the 'swine' is still amongst their number pretending to mourn the loss of their own. He wanted to know who he could trust anymore. The man had an almost paternal love for Lindy. I think Papa Bear wants blood."

Papa Bear was indeed out for blood. He was very very angry. Very powerful. He wasn't Jose Manntoski. Las Vegas was once Mob ruled. It is said it is still so to this day though not as open as it once was. Now it was more covert but no less as influential or potent. Sam Braun knew how to get things done. If you wanted something done right, get the right person. It helps to call in markers. Braun wanted covert, for that he went to a covert specialist. One who did covert for the Government back in the day and was as hardcore as any wise guy or worse. He was retired-CIA, and he still had all their toys.

Ed Deline President of Operations at the Montecito had been expecting this call. His sources had told him about Braun's daughter. He also knew his old 'friend' would not be content with the mere police handing 'justice.'

Vengeance was something both men understood. They also understood the need to pay debts. And this was a big one. Ed flipped his cell phone on at the second ring. "Sam."


"I heard. I'm sorry." If it had been Delinda the old CIA hand didn't know what he would do save go mad with grief and anger. Sam was going to put a second child in the grave. That was no way for a father to live. "No father should have to bury their children."

"Some other father will be burying his child, Ed. You know what I need you to do. I'm calling it in."

"I expected as much. What do you think I can do your own people can't?" Ed was more than curious as to what prompted Braun to call in his marker. Hell, Sam Braun had a couple of former Black ops types in his back pocket. Granted the men were rogues but they were an efficient strike team. Apparently this was more than a hunt and kill.

"You have certain surveillance equipment and access that would land you in prison but doesn't because you're CIA."


"You still have your connection with Homeland Security, which is why they let you keep your toys. You're an extra pair of eyes for international terrorists and sympathizers trying to laundry money through the casinos. I need this, Ed. A messenger is in your lobby now with the Intel my people found. Ed, if it was Delinda not Lindy on the slab you'd do all you could and cross a few lines to make her killer, her rapist pay. I want this man found."

"Finding him won't be difficult. Once found?"

"What do you think, Ed?"

"Right. Consider it done ol 'friend.' By the way this will cover all the markers. After this we're done."

"That's fine. All of them. Just get the job done Deline." There was dead silence after that.

Deline snapped shut the cover of his cell phone and slipped it back onto his belt.

"Danny, Mike" Ed found the pair walking the pits of the Casino on their way to the Surveillance room. "Time to go to work."

"Boss?" Danny's young face looked very perplexed "By 'going to work' you mean not here?" he pointed to the floor of the casino.

"We need to find someone."

"Then what?" this came from Mike.

"You don't need to know." The finality of that statement gripped both men's attention. They knew they could not press their boss for more information… a retired marine heard the tone of a CO in there. One that had orders but it was top secret. 'Just do your job, don't ask questions. Don't look for more INTEL then you're told because if it comes up to the wire you can be called innocent of any transgression of the law. It meant whatever Ed Deline was going to do could book him a room on the Green Mile if he was caught.

"Does this have anything to do with the messenger from the Rampart?" Mike asked.

Danny looked to his counterpart and shook his head. The guy was MIT engineer but he wasn't military. Sometimes he didn't get it. Big Ed Deline was protecting them by deliberately keeping them in the dark about the 'job.' "Don't worry Ed we'll do whatever you need us to do."

"I know that. I also can't have you talking to the others about anything. I don't want their curiousity especially Delinda's provoked. Don't act as if you've got something to hide, I won't tolerate mistakes. Just get the job done, boys."

Sara had cried out her tears. A bruised heart, a broken spirit would have been intolerable if not for the presence of Catherine and little Janet. Even Lindsey was a surprising comfort to Sara's heartache over Lindy's death.

The girls were understandably upset that the Pirate Queen Lindy was gone. Yet they were able to take the news with a child's ability to cope with the unpleasantness of life. Or in this case, death. Both had asked Catherine if it was as in the Johnny Depp's movies the East Indian Trading company, King George's Red Coats or Davy Jones that did in Lindy. Sometimes the lines between reality and make-believe became blurred when you're only seven.

After all the Borg were in Las Vegas and in space as was Darth Vader and the Klingons and of course there were Stargates on other planets so why not a pirate killed by a Red Coat and sent to Davy Jones' Locker?

Neither Sara nor Catherine had openly told the facts about a rogue medic being the killer. They didn't want to terrorize the children in to thinking if they ever needed to ride in an ambulance or see someone they love in one that they would be killed by the EMT. Catherine learned last year not to say 'put to sleep' as a euphemism for death because after that Lindsey had been terrified to go to bed in fear she was going to die. Instead Lindy the Pirate Queen had been involved in an incident and she died. Sometimes death happens.

"For everyone that parts one stands above ground." Sara said to the children as they sat in the living room drinking hot cocoa or in the case of the adults, coffee and whiskey.

"We stand above ground to remember Lindy, right Mommy?" Janet sagely asked.

The question gained her a smile. "Indeed we do. You guys barely knew Lindy, but I've known her since I was your age. She is… was very dear to me. And I am going to remember her the way she would have wanted to. I'm going to give her a big pirate party. Lindy didn't like sadness when there didn't need to be any. Death is sad but Lindy was someone liked to break the rules if she could get away with it."

"That's why she was a pirate." Lindsey stated. "So we're breaking the rules about sad funerals with a party?" the child smirked. "I think she would have liked this idea."

"Can we come?" Janet asked eagerly. "Or is it only grown ups?"

"The others who Lindy worked with had kids too so they will be there as well. So yes if you want you join." Brown eyes cut a glance to an older set of blue. "Of course Lindsey you have to get permission from your mom."

Catherine nodded. "It won't be like a birthday party girls. There won't be games to play or a birthday cake and presents. There will be tears, and yes laughter because people will remember funny things Lindy said or did. And then sadness because she won't be there to do them any more or say things anymore. It's called a wake. It's a gathering of a loved one's friends and family to remember the dead. Lindy's will have grown ups drinking booze and probably swearing and as I said a lot of tears even if they are laughing. If you still want to come you can. I suspect there will be a room for the children. But it's not a fun time thing; I want you to realize that."

Lindsey didn't want to go to a party were games and cake wasn't the focus. She had never been to any other kind of party. True she had had sleepovers and been to her friend's slumber parties. Sleepovers were fun and there were games but no cake and no presents and you could only have three friends at the most to stay over, but there was still plenty of fun to be had. You did get to play games, and giggle and do makeovers and make fun of the pesky boys at school because they weren't there to push you down. Suddenly going to a wake didn't seem all that fun, even if there were going to be pirates there.

Janet too started to rethink her wish to go to the wake-thingy. But she didn't want her mommy to be left alone. Mommy would need Sara-tiger to help her with the sad times. And mommy might need a Janet-cuddle as well. Catherine was nice and she loved mommy but it wasn't the same. Sometimes you needed something smaller than you to cuddle. Janet had Sara-tiger and Mommy would have Janet.

"I'll be there for you, Mommy." Janet said as she crawled up into her mother's lap. She took one of the long fingered hands into her both of hers and laced her fingers along those of her mothers. "Sara-tiger will be there for you too," she added.

Sara hugged her little girl tightly. "Thank you baby. But if you really don't want to go, it's okay. You can still be there for me when I come home. I don't think you will enjoy it. I'd much rather have a cuddle with you later, okay?"

Janet relaxed knowing that she didn't have to go to the wake - though she didn't quite understand why she felt relieved she was not expected to go. "Will Lindy be okay with me not going to her wake?"

Sara nodded. "I know she would have been fine with it."

"Janet you're dumb. Live people don't have wakes it's only for dead people." Lindsey rolled her eyes. Janet could be super smart but sometimes she was so very stupid. The little girl could do math easy-peasy, reading no problem. People… every day regular stuff now there was were Janet got flummoxed. Janet didn't even know how to get her way with other people, especially the dumb boys who were ever so easy to manipulate with only a smile.

Catherine cleared her throat in the way only a mother could. With that small noise of disprovable was like a lecture on etiquette from the principal. But scarier. A mother who could regularly clear her throat could rule the world. Everyone was conditioned to heed that sound of mother's disproval. It was the sound that made you cringe at night.

"Sorry." Lindsey quickly amended. She was acquitted with a slight nod from her mom. Another bullet dodged.

Janet shrugged it off. She had grown used to her best friend's snide comments. It was just the way Lindsey was. She was still Janet's best friend. Mommy said sometimes those you care about can cloud their hearts with a fog that makes them think only about themselves and they forget words are like knives and cut deeper. Janet didn't have to take Lindsey's comments but she shouldn't retaliate either. She only had to tell Lindsey she was being rude. Lindsey would forget about the self-fog and remember how to be a friend.

Janet sometimes just sighed and thought 'whatever'. Sometimes the snarky comments just made Lindsey look foolish. Janet was still going to be Lindsey's friend. Lindsey needed someone to hold her back, because sometimes her friend didn't know when to quit. Janet figured Miss Catherine was the same way which was why sometimes she needed mommy there to stop her from going too far. And sometimes you need a friend like that to watch over you because even if they say snarky things, they will defend you to the bitter end. Lindsey did at school even against the other popular girls. Lindsey was their leader, and she made them accept Janet into the fold.

"Miss Catherine?" Janet asked in a firm voice. "If I don't go with Mommy to the wake, you will watch over her right." It wasn't so much as a question as an expectation.

"Count on it, little one." Catherine's eyes met those of her lovers in a fixed stare of affection. "I always watch over her."

"That's okay then." Janet gave her stamp of approval. "I don't want mommy to be alone."

"She won't be."

Sara ginned at her beloved and child's conversation at the proclamation promised. Never alone, abandoned. Even if she were to die as Lindy had, Sara had the love of a woman of children to hold onto as death came for her.

Did Lindy know love? Had Lindy thought of her 'blood-sister' as she lay dying clinging to that last visage of affection before the cold sleep of death came over her? Or has the young pirate queen felt abandoned?

Sara had sometimes thought Lindy as being stupidly optimistic. It probably came as a great shock to her that she was dead. She might have even argued with the Reaper Man over the state of death she had found herself in. 'I'm not going to be Dead, no matter what you say.' She would cock her head to one side, grin madly and stand as Peter-Pan. 'Pirate.' The grin would become a smirk. 'It means I don't have to follow the rules. Though being 'dead sounds like an awfully big adventure.' What the hell, why not?' then she would be dead.

Sara knew academically that was not how it had happened but it made Lindy's death bearable to think of it if it was so.

Part 49

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