DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters or CSI. I am just letting them out of the box for a while.
SPOILERS: It takes place post-Nesting Dolls and contains spoilers for many other episodes. This story is, at times, quite dark and deals with Sara's childhood abuse.
WARNING: This story deals with the subject of child abuse and its aftermath.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
No Matter How Far You Go
Catherine was checking the oven when she heard the roar of a motorcycle as it pulled up to the front of her house. 'She'd better have a helmet on.'
"Mom, they're here," Lindsey yelled as she headed for the door.
"Easy, Linds. Let them get in the house," Catherine called, but her daughter had already opened the door and was out on the front porch. Catherine moved behind Lindsey and watched the two get off the bike, relieved to see both wearing protective headgear. Catherine watched as Sara's friend removed her helmet and released flowing red curls. Unconsciously, Catherine ran a hand through her own hair.
As the two women walked toward the house, Lindsey ran to greet Sara and wrapped the quiet woman up in a big hug. She saw Sara shoot a surprised look at Jo, who merely smiled and raised her eyebrows. Catherine didn't have time to wonder what the silent communication meant because the three stepped up onto the porch and Sara began the introductions.
"Um..Catherine, Lindsey, this is my friend, Josephine Foster."
"It's just Jo, please," the redhead said as she shook Catherine's hand. "Thank you for including me. I hope it wasn't any trouble."
"No trouble," Catherine said as she released Jo's firm grip. "Come in. Please." Catherine stepped aside to let her guests in the house. As Jo and Lindsey passed, Catherine looked at her colleague and said, "Hey Sara."
"Hi," Sara said quietly as she slipped past Catherine and followed Jo and Lindsey into the house.
"Do you want something to drink?" Lindsey asked her two guests.
Catherine smiled as her daughter played hostess. Lindsey went into the kitchen to get the drinks requested, leaving the three adults in the living room. She noticed Sara shifting uncomfortably and saw Jo watching Sara with a fond smile, causing Catherine to wonder again at the depth of the relationship between the two women. To fill the rapidly lengthening silence, Catherine said, "Dinner should be ready in a few minutes. Why don't I hang up your jackets?"
By the time she took the jackets and put them in the hall closet, Lindsey had returned and was talking a mile a minute. "Have you guys been friends long?"
Jo looked at Sara, letting her answer. "About eighteen years."
"Wow. Did you grow up together?"
Catherine thought she saw a shadow flicker in Sara eyes before the young woman answered, "No, Linds, we met in college."
"So you went to Harvard, too?"
"Yes, ma'am. We were roommates for four years. In fact, if it hadn't been for me, she never would have graduated."
Sara fixed Jo with an incredulous stare. "Excuse me?"
"Come on, Squared. Who coached you through Molecular Biology?"
"Well, if by 'coached' you mean getting me coffee while I studied...."
Both Catherine and Lindsey watched the exchange with a smile, both enjoying the playfulness the two friends displayed.
Lindsey interrupted with a question. "Did you just call Sara, 'squared'?"
"Why, yes, I believe I did," Jo said, throwing a mischievous grin toward Sara, who groaned and dropped her head onto the back of the couch.
"Lots of reasons, really. Sara is very good at math and, since her name is Sara Sidle, I started calling her S squared. Then, later, I just shortened it to squared, but it also stands for --"
"strong and silent, because that's what she always was," Jo finished, heedless of Sara's warning.
While Jo and Lindsey shared a laugh over her nickname, Sara stood and said, "Catherine, please tell me dinner's ready. I can't take much more humiliation."
"You're in luck, Squared," Catherine said with a wink. "Lindsey come help me in the kitchen, please."
After mother and daughter made their way out of the room, Sara shot a mock angry glare at her friend and said, "You suck."
"and she hasn't eaten sushi since," Jo finished with a laugh, causing Lindsey to dissolve into giggles.
Dinner had been filled with laughter, most of which was at Sara's expense. She had taken it all with surprisingly good humor, but did want to put an end to her friend's ribbing, so she said, "I hope you have somewhere else to stay, because I am officially kicking you out of my bed."
"It's Vegas. I'm sure I can figure something out," Jo replied with a laugh. She sobered slightly when she noticed Catherine had suddenly become silent, her face a mask of disappointment. Jo cocked her head in confusion at the change in Catherine's demeanor until she realized how Sara's statement could have been interpreted. 'Interesting.'
"Where do you work, Jo?"
Lindsey's question brought Jo's attention back to the other people at the table. "I work for the FBI."
"In a lab, like Mom and Sara?"
"No, I work for a division called Behavioral Sciences. We look for bad guys who have done the same things over and over again. I put together what's called a profile for the other agents. I try to figure out why the bad guys are doing the things they do and what they might do next. Then I conduct interviews after we catch them to see if I was on the right track."
"Like serial killers and stuff?"
"Yeah," Jo answered slowly, glancing at the other women at the table, wondering how much to reveal to the young girl.
Sara saved Jo from having to continue when she said, "Hey, Lindsey, it's a pretty nice night. Why don't we go check out the stars?"
"Cool. I've been looking at that book you got me. I bet I can pick some out."
"Great. We can have a pop quiz."
"Sara," Lindsey whined as they went out the back door. "I shouldn't have to take a test on Saturday."
Catherine and Jo sat in silence until Jo said, "She's a great kid."
"Thanks," Catherine replied with a smile.
"And I do appreciate you including me. I know you didn't have to."
"It's been great having you here," Catherine said, surprising herself with the truth of the statement. "You know, I think I've learned more about Sara tonight than I have in five years."
Jo nodded and said, "That doesn't surprise me, actually. She's a tough nut to crack, but she's worth it."
"I'm beginning to see that," Catherine said quietly.
Jo watched Catherine play with the remaining food on her plate. She wanted Catherine to know she and Sara were strictly friends, but didn't want to be obvious. The blonde had clearly been disturbed by the thought of Jo in Sara's bed and the profiler didn't want the woman to misread what was going on.
"We don't get together in person nearly often enough, but we are blessed with a friendship that let's us pick up wherever we left off."
"When was the last time you saw each other?" Catherine asked, trying to understand the relationship. Catherine saw a sadness creep into the redhead's eyes as she answered the question.
"Six years ago. My mother passed and Sara came to Asheville to be with the family."
"Thank you. Momma loved Sara to death. She knew Sara craved a connection to family, and she was thrilled to be able to give that to her. She was very protective of Sara. After college, when Sara went back to California, Momma made Sara call her every week just to make sure she was doing alright. I think Momma talked to Sara more than she talked to me."
"She sounds like a great lady."
"Yes, she was." Jo studied Catherine for a few moments before saying, "You know, Catherine, as Sara's friend, I feel like I need to ask you a question."
Catherine blinked in surprise, but said, "OK."
"I think I know the answer, but I still need to ask the question. Are you comfortable with Lindsey being around Sara?"
"Of course I am," Catherine replied. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"Sara seems to think that, because of what's going on with her brother, you might have asked Lindsey to cancel their time together yesterday."
Catherine sighed and said, "I was worried about that. Lindsey wanted to surprise Sara with a gift and conned her aunt into taking her shopping. I didn't even know about it until later that night. I was going to talk to her about it, but then you showed up at the lab. Sara has been great for Lindsey. I would never do that to either of them."
"Good. Sara has a tendency to assume the worst-case scenario. Sara has always expected the worst from people, often with good reason, but she forgets that she doesn't always have to have her guard up. It's part of what makes her hard to get to know."
"She's always kept herself apart. We don't have the greatest history together. It's only because of Lindsey that's started to change."
"I know," Jo said with a wink.
"Does she tell you everything?" Catherine asked with a wry smile.
Catherine looked at Jo for a long moment before deciding to get to the heart of what she wanted to know. "You were lovers?"
"For a time," Jo admitted, pleased that Catherine had finally garnered the courage to ask the question.
"And now, she's enjoying the couch," Jo said, referring to Sara's earlier statement about Jo being in her bed. Seeing a flicker of relief in Catherine's eyes, Jo continued, "We had an amazing four years, but that ship sailed a long time ago, Catherine. You have nothing to fear from me."
"What do you mean?" Catherine asked, a little shocked that a woman she had only known for a few hours could, seemingly, read her so easily.
"I see the way you look at Sara," Jo shrugged. "It's the same way I used to look at her."
Although the denial was at the tip of her tongue, Catherine stopped, knowing it was useless. Accepting that Jo was the only person she knew of that could help her, she asked, "How did you get her to let you in?"
"Patience. Sara needs to take her time. She's learned to be careful with her heart, but if you keep at it, she'll let you in."
"I've gotten small glimpses, little hints about some things in her past, but she always seems to back away," Catherine said, trying to leave subject open, wanting to know what Jo would reveal.
Jo smiled and shook her head, "Sara's story is hers to tell, Catherine. I will say she's been through a lot. More than one person should have to." Seeing Catherine about to continue her line of questioning, Jo pushed on, "Look, Catherine, I like you. I think you could be good for Sara, that you could be good for each other. Nothing would make me happier than to see her with someone who loves her. To see her happy. But I do need to be clear about one thing," Jo said, leaning in and fixing Catherine with a flinty stare, "If you ever touch her in anger again, you will have me to deal with. Do you understand?"
Remembering the bruises she had left on Sara's back, Catherine wanted to drop her eyes in shame, but she forced herself to maintain eye contact with Jo. "That won't ever happen again."
Jo cocked her head, assessing Catherine's sincerity, before nodding and saying, "Good."
The moment was broken by the noisy entrance of Sara and Lindsey. "Just wait right here. I'll be right back," Lindsey said as she thundered up the stairs.
Noticing the slightly tense air between Jo and Catherine, Sara looked at both women and asked, "Is everything OK in here?"
"Sure. Just a little girl talk," Catherine answered first.
"Yeah," Jo said with a smile. "We're gonna braid each other's hair later."
"She's wants me to paint her toenails, but I've got to draw the line somewhere," Catherine rejoined with a laugh.
"Right..." Sara said as she eyed the two suspiciously.
Any further investigation was postponed when Lindsey reappeared, holding something behind her back. "First, I need to say, I'm sorry. You don't know this, but I lied yesterday on your machine."
"You did?" was Sara's entirely unconvincing reply. Seeing both Catherine and Jo suppress a smile, Sara shot them both a glare of warning.
"But I had a totally good reason. You've really been great, Sara, and yesterday, instead of meeting you, I made Aunt Nancy take me to get you something, so here," Lindsey said, proudly producing a long flat box. "This is for you."
Sara numbly accepted the box, "Lindsey, you didn't have to buy me anything."
"I know, but I wanted to."
"What is it?" Sara asked, looking at Catherine.
"Don't look at me."
"Come on, Squared. It won't explode or anything," Jo said before narrowing her eyes at Lindsey in mock suspicion. "Will it?"
"No," Lindsey said rolling her eyes in exasperation.
Sara slowly opened the box. Her forehead furrowed in confusion as she pulled out the gift. "You got me a sissy bar?"
"Do you like it?"
"I love it, Lindsey. Thank you."
As Sara and Lindsey continued talking about the gift, Catherine leaned over to Jo and whispered, "What's a sissy bar?"
Jo chuckled and said, "It's a bar that attaches to the back of a motorcycle seat and gives the person riding bitch something to hang on to. Lindsey wouldn't, by any chance, be desperate for a ride on a certain motorcycle, would she?"
Catherine groaned before her attention was drawn back to Sara and Lindsey's conversation by the phrase, "Lindsey, this is really expensive."
"Mom, I used my own money and I'm going to do chores for Aunt Nancy to make up the rest. Besides, it's RUDE to talk about how much something cost, remember?"
Recognizing the words she had said to Lindsey on more than one occasion, Catherine leaned back in defeat.
"Say goodnight, Lindsey," Catherine said for the third time.
"No. No buts. It's way past your bedtime," Catherine said firmly. "Now say goodnight to Sara and Jo."
Lindsey walked over to the couch and gave Sara a hug and said dejectedly, "Goodnight, Sara."
"Goodnight, Lindsey. See you Monday? Same time?"
Lindsey perked up immediately and said, "Totally. Can we go to the planetarium again?"
"Sure," Sara said with a smile.
Lindsay turned to Jo and surprised her with a hug as well. "Nice to meet you. You're cool."
Jo laughed and said, "Well, thank you, Lindsey. You're pretty cool yourself."
"Will you come back and tell me more embarrassing stories about Sara?"
"Anytime. I have a million of them," Jo said, waggling her eyebrows at Sara, who let out a long-suffering sigh.
"Come on, kiddo. Let's go."
Jo and Sara watched as mother and daughter walk up the stairs.
"I like her."
"Yeah, Linds is great."
"Her too. But I meant Catherine."
Noticing the gleam in Jo's eye, Sara growled, "Forget it. You're not her type."
"No, I'm not," Jo admitted, "but you sure as hell are."
"Stop fucking with me."
"Sara, I'm serious. And, by the way, I would never joke about something that means so much to you, and shame on you for thinking that I would."
"You're serious?" Sara asked incredulously.
"Don't look at me like I just told you I voted for George Bush. The woman likes you."
"Sure, she likes me. I'm Lindsey's friend," Sara said doubtfully.
"NO. I mean, she LIKES you, jackass, and if you would take step back and really look, you would see things like they are. Not how you think they are."
Sara was saved from having to respond by Catherine's timely return to the room.
"Alright, I want one of you to confess right now."
"Confess to what?" was Jo's confused response, while Sara stared at Catherine with a look of panic.
"How much did that sissy thing cost?"
Hearing the question, Sara relaxed marginally. "Oh. That."
"Yes, that. Fess up, Sidle," Catherine said, the sparkle in her eyes telegraphing her playfulness.
"Well, you know, new -- from a dealer-- I imagine it cost six...." Sara trailed off into an unintelligible mumbling.
"What my verbally challenged friend here is trying to say," Jo jumped in helpfully, enjoying Sara's discomfort, "is that a sissy bar for a Big Dog Ridgeback will usually run you about six hundred dollars."
"Six hundred -- It's a bent piece of metal!!"
"Well, aerodynamically speaking--" Sara tried to say.
"OK, so it's an aerodynamic bent piece of metal --"
"It's not like I asked her to buy it for me!"
"-- and she's still not getting on that bike."
"Girls! Girls! You're both pretty," Jo interceded with a laugh.
Any further discussion was forestalled by a tinny version of 'Dixie' coming from Jo's cell phone. As she glanced at the caller ID, Jo frowned and glanced at her watch, "Excuse me. I'm gonna take this out back."
Catherine and Sara heard Jo answer the phone with a firm 'Foster' as she went into the backyard.
Catherine and Sara sat until Catherine broke the silence. "Jo seems like a good friend."
"She always has been, " Sara said with a fond smile.
Catherine watched Sara fidget slightly. Bolstered by her talk with Jo earlier, Catherine decided to be honest with Sara. "Sara, I'm really glad you came over tonight."
"I'm having a good time."
"You don't have to sound so shocked," Catherine said with a smile.
"I guess, to be honest, I didn't think tonight would still be something you would want to do."
"Why?" Catherine asked, leaning her head against her hand, her elbow on the back of the couch.
"I don't know," Sara said looking at her hands. "I guess I thought that with....everything...and then Lindsey cancelled yesterday, so..." Sara trailed off.
"Well, Lindsey cancelled because she wanted to buy you that insanely expensive piece of metal," Catherine said with a grin.
"Yeah, about that," Sara said with a sigh. "I can return it--"
"No. No, please don't. It would break Lindsey's heart. Besides, I imagine Nancy's looking forward to Lindsey mowing her yard and cleaning her gutters for a few years. Actually, I am rather enjoying trying to picture Nancy in a biker shop. She's more a Bloomie's and Macy's kind of gal."
"Then Big Dog's must have been a shock to her system," Sara said with a laugh.
Catherine joined in the laughter saying, "I'll bet it was. Hey, before I forget. I have something that belongs to you."
Sara watched Catherine crossed to the hall closet. She couldn't help admiring Catherine's graceful form. She quickly averted her eyes as Catherine turned back in Sara's direction. As she heard Catherine coming toward her, Sara risked a glance up at the older woman, surprised to see Catherine holding her custom painted helmet.
"You probably want this back."
"Thanks," Sara said slowly. "Why did you bring it home with you?"
"I thought I might need a hostage."
"So that when you clammed up again, at least I would have a reason to get you over here."
"Oh," Sara said quietly.
"Sara," Catherine began, "about the things that are going on at work. You have nothing to be ashamed of. I know better than anybody that you can't choose your family. None of this is your fault. Everybody has people they would rather they weren't related to."
"It's different. Not everybody has a brother who's a pedophile, Catherine," Sara said through clenched teeth.
"I understand that."
"No. You don't."
"Then help me understand, Sara."
"I don't think I can. There's too much."
"And I want to know. Sara, I want to know all of it." Catherine looked into Sara's troubled eyes and said, "Not all at once and not right know, but whatever you want to tell me, whenever you want to tell me."
"Why?" Sara whispered.
Catherine thought about how to answer. She could dodge the question or she could tell the truth. Looking at Sara, Catherine knew she owed the young woman her honesty.
"Because I like you, Sara," Catherine said as she took the young woman's hand. "I want to know you. And I want you to know me."
Sara sat in stunned disbelief, but as she looked into Catherine's eyes she saw nothing but raw truthfulness. "You.....really?
"It could take a while. There's a lot to tell," Sara said as a tear made its way down her cheek.
Catherine reached over and brushed the salty drop away, saying, "I'm patient."
Sara snorted and said with a grin, "Since when?"
Catherine gave Sara a playful nudge with her shoulder. "Ok, well, maybe not patient, but I'm definitely stubborn enough to wait you out."
Sara laughed and said, "That you are."
"It's nice to see you laugh. Somehow I don't think you do that nearly enough."
"Not much to laugh about, I guess."
"Well, we'll have to change that."
Concentrating on the warmth of Catherine's hand, Sara looked up at her and said, "That sounds really good."
The tender moment was broken by the sound of the back door opening as Jo entered the house. When Sara looked at her friend it was clear her mind was elsewhere. "Jo? Everything OK?"
"Hmm?" a distracted Jo asked.
Jo looked at Sara for a moment before saying, "No. I'm alright. How are things in here?" As she asked the question, Jo eyes landed on their joined hands. With a nod to herself and a small grin, she said, "It looks like things are pretty good."
Sara's face flushed as she gently let go of Catherine's hand and cleared her throat. "Yeah."
Jo looked at the two women with regret before saying, "I hate to break this up, but I'm pretty beat."
Catherine stood as she agreed, "It is late. Jo, it was a pleasure meeting you.. I hope we'll see each other soon."
Jo nodded with a forced smile and said, "I'm sure of it. I had a pleasant evening. Thank you." After putting on her jacket, Jo said, "I'm going to wait by the bike," and left.
"Is she OK?"
"I don't know," Sara said, her eyes tracking Jo's progress to the motorcycle.
Catherine ran a hand down Sara's arm and took her hand, saying, "I hope we can do this again."
Sara smiled and said, "Me, too."
Looking at Sara carefully to judge her reaction, Catherine leaned in and gave Sara a soft kiss on the lips. She sighed as she felt Sara's arm slip around her waist and pull their bodies together, deepening the contact.
As the kiss ended, Catherine looked up at Sara, whose eyes were still closed. She reached up and brushed the backs of her fingers against a soft cheek and said, "Goodnight, Sara."
Sara opened her eyes and looked at the woman she had wanted for five years, but never thought she could have. A sense of awe rushed through her before she reluctantly released her hold on Catherine's waist and took a step back.
"Goodnight, Catherine," Sara said as she smiled and walked through the open door.
Sara opened the door to her apartment and put her keys and cell phone on the desk. She watched as Jo crossed to the kitchen and poured a glass of juice. Her friend hadn't said a word since leaving Catherine's house. She was clearly deep in thought about whatever was bothering her, but Sara knew it wouldn't do any good to ask. They were very alike in that way. Jo wouldn't talk until she was ready.
Sara sat on the couch while she waited her friend out. Sara's mind kept going back to that kiss. She knew that single, perfect moment would be engraved in her memory forever. She wondered how long Catherine had wanted the kiss to happen. 'Unless she's the finest actress in the known world, she hasn't had feelings for me long.' Thinking of Catherine's soft mouth against hers, Sara unconsciously brought her fingertips to her lips.
"It was that good, huh?"
Jo's voice brought Sara out of her thoughts and, blushing, she turned to face her friend. "Oh, yeah."
Jo chuckled and said, "Good."
"So, you ready?"
"Yeah," Jo sighed. "There's something we need to talk about."
"It looks like I'm going to be sticking around for a while. I've been called into a case." Jo paused and looked at her friend. "Eric's case."
Confusion and surprise warred on Sara's face. "You don't have jurisdiction."
"Yeah, Sara, we do." Jo's face was lined with regret as she watched her friend put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Sara's stomach clenched when she understood the implications of Jo being called into her brother's case. "There are other girls," she said flatly.
"How many?" she asked more forcefully, trying to keep down the bile that was threatening to rise from her stomach.
"I'll need to look at the case files and confirm it, but I've been told there are fourteen."
Hearing how many girls her brother had brutalized caused Sara to lose her fight with her stomach and she ran into the bathroom.
Jo's heart hurt as she stood outside the door listening to her friend empty her stomach. When the retching stopped, she opened the door and ran a washcloth under cold water before handing it to Sara. She looked into her friend's pale face and said, "I'm sorry, Squared."
Sara nodded as Jo helped her up off the floor and back into the living room. Sara settled on the couch while Jo went to get her a glass of water. When she returned, Jo sat next to Sara and after a moment, took her hand, wondering how to tell Sara everything she needed to tell her.
"Sara, I've been asked to create a profile on Eric. I wouldn't be doing my job if it weren't as complete as possible. There are some things I know about him that I'm going to have to include. Things that you've told me about what happened to the two of you when you were young. I certainly won't mention you directly, but by now most of them know he's your brother. It won't take them long to put things together. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
Sara nodded slowly before saying, "Who will see it? The profile?"
"I can keep that limited to a few people -- me, the lead detective and..."
"Catherine," Sara whispered, closing her eyes.
"No. I will control who gets the information directly from me and I am sure Catherine will help me make sure nothing leaks."
Sara's only response was a slow nod.
"If there was any other way...."
"I know," was Sara's exhausted response.
Jo gave Sara's hand a gentle squeeze and said, "Come on, Sara, let's get you tucked into bed."
Sara let Jo lead her into the bedroom, before realizing where she had been taken. "But where are you --"
Jo cut her off. "There's plenty of room. I don't want you by yourself tonight."
"Don't worry, I promise to be a perfect gentleman," Jo said with a small smile. Sara could only nod as she went to the dresser and changed into her sleepwear.
Dressed in a tank and shorts she joined Jo under the covers, reveling in the comfort and safety her friend's warm body provided. They laid in silence for a time until Sara's hoarse voice cut through the stillness.
"Does Catherine know?"
Jo paused, trying to work out what her friend meant by the question. "About the other victims? I'm sure she does. About me coming in? Probably not. I imagine that will be a unwelcome surprise tomorrow."
"So she knew --," Sara trailed off.
"Yes, Sara. She knew. And she still planted one on you tonight. Don't you worry."
Jo felt Sara nod as the brunette snuggled in closer. Jo closed her eyes, but it was a while before either woman's thoughts quieted enough to allow them to sleep.
Catherine sat at her desk going over the case files that had come in from different parts of the country. Her mind blanched at the enormity of what was in front of her. She had to consciously push back her concerns about how this new information would affect Sara. The kiss they had shared the night before was still foremost in her mind. She let herself slide into the memory of soft lips against hers, Sara's strong arm around her waist, pulling them together, and the warmth of Sara's long body as it connected with hers. The memory resonated so strongly, she knew she would never forget it.
"Daydreaming's bad for you, you know. People can sneak up on you."
Catherine looked up to see Jo leaning against the doorway to her office. Her brow furrowed in confusion as she greeted the tall redhead. "Hi."
Still confused, Catherine looked past Jo, expecting to see Sara. "What are you doing here?"
Jo took a deep breath and entered Catherine's office. "I've been assigned to assist you with your case."
Catherine's confused expression changed to one of surprise and then anger. "No. No way. You are NOT taking my case. What? You think you can waltz in here and --"
"Catherine, if you think I WANT to be here, you're not as smart as I think you are. I'm too close to this mess as it is, but that phone call last night was from my Assistant Director, telling me, in no uncertain terms, that I was assigned to this case, whether I wanted it or not. Now we can stand here and argue, which won't change a damn thing, or we can work together to catch this man and give a few people some peace," Jo said pointedly.
Catherine looked at Jo, understanding that the person who needed peace the most was, unquestionably, Sara. "You think I don't want that? Now more than ever?"
"I know that you do. I also know that I can help you. This I what I do, Catherine. I deal with serial criminals and I'm very good at it. I just want to use my experience and expertise to help you catch him. This doesn't have to become a jurisdictional pissing contest."
"Who called the FBI in the first place?"
Both women looked toward the door to find the smug face of Conrad Ecklie. Catherine almost growled at the intrusion. "There was no need to do that, Conrad. I have it under control."
"I don't doubt that, Catherine, but Sidle's brother crossed state lines and this case is now multi-jurisdictional. Protocol requires the FBI take the lead on this now. If that's going to be a problem, I can have the case reassigned to day shift. Clear?"
Ecklie nodded and turned to Jo and extended his hand. "Conrad Ecklie. Lab Supervisor."
"Special Agent Josephine Foster," Jo said shaking his hand. Jo's forehead wrinkled in disdain at the weak, clammy handshake she received.
"It's a pleasure to have you in my lab. I look forward to reading your profile."
'I don't think so', Jo thought as she said, "Well, Mr. Ecklie, as a matter of policy, access to Bureau profiles is restricted to those directly involved in the case, but I will see that you get a version of the final report." 'A highly edited version.'
"I'm sure you understand, Agent Foster, that, as the lab supervisor, I am directly involved in all the cases here, so I will need to see the profile."
"Yes, well, as you told Ms. Willows here, the Bureau is now taking the lead in this investigation, so it falls to me to decide who has access to the file."
"I don't know how you expect me to adequately supervise my people without all the information?"
"I guess you'll just have to put your thinking cap on. Now, if you will excuse us, Ms. Willows is going to brief me on the physical findings so far," Jo said as she ushered Ecklie to the door and closed it behind him. "Jackass."
"That was impressive."
"Thanks," Jo said as she dropped onto Catherine's couch.
Catherine studied the woman for a moment before saying, "Does Sara know about this?"
"Yes," Jo said. "I talked to her last night."
"So, she knows about the other girls."
"Is she alright?"
"No," Jo rubbed her eyes in exhaustion. Sara's sleep had been plagued with nightmares, resulting in very little rest for either woman. Jo had forgotten how bad Sara's dreams could get. She had spent most of the night trying to sooth Sara, either in her sleep or back to sleep. Fueled by coffee, she had then spent the morning compiling a profile on her friend's brother.
They sat quietly, each thinking about the woman that was so important to them.
"Catherine, what I told Ecklie is true. Bureau profiles are generally kept to a need-to-know group of people, but that's not why I don't want him to get a hold of it. My profile of Eric will be different. It will contain some information that I am privy to because of my relationship with Sara. I know some things about how he grew up that are essential for putting together a picture of who he is."
"And people will be able to infer things about Sara's past," Catherine finished, realizing how what was written in the profile, and people's response to it, would affect Sara.
"Yes. Normally the profile would be available to your whole team. It's usually helpful, because I never know who will see something and be able to connect it back to the profile. Sometimes the smallest things will become important when the investigator has a context for what they are looking at. But, in this case, I'm not comfortable with having a lot of people see the profile."
"OK," Catherine said, understanding why Jo wanted to proceed this way. Things were difficult enough for Sara. There was no reason to make things harder. "Who needs to see it?"
"Myself, the lead investigator, a Detective Vega, is it?"
"It was, but given the scope of the case, a more senior detective has taken over -- Jim Brass."
"He's a stand up guy?"
Jo nodded, trusting Catherine about Brass. "Good. The third person would normally be the lead criminalist."
"Normally?" Catherine asked, surprised and somewhat offended by the sudden turn the conversation had taken. "You don't trust me?"
"That's not it, Catherine. It doesn't have anything to do with not trusting you. With you and Sara....," Jo paused as her focus seemed to shift inward. After a few moments, she fixed Catherine with a pained stare and said, "These aren't things you should learn from a piece of paper, Catherine. She has the right to tell you in her own time. In her own way."
Catherine sighed, acknowledging the truth of what Jo had said. "I know, but there aren't many choices here. I don't want to hand this off. It's too important to me. It's too important to Sara. When my ex-husband was murdered Sara worked her ass off and I never even so much as thanked her. I need to work this case, Jo."
"OK." Jo reached into her briefcase and pulled out a manila folder. "Take your time with this," she said as she handed the folder to Catherine. "I need to make a run over to the field office and then, when you're ready, we'll have a talk with Brass before we meet with your team."
Several hours later, Jo found Catherine huddled in the corner of the couch in her office, legs pulled into her chest, her head resting on her knees. Quietly, Jo sat near Catherine and touched her head with a gentle hand. Catherine started at the contact, jerking her head up, her tear-stained face looking at Jo. Jo stayed silent allowing Catherine the time she needed to speak.
"I can't even..." Catherine was breathing heavily, unable to utter a complete thought. "She was just a baby....younger than Lindsey....her own parents."
"I pushed her. I hurt her," Catherine said despondently, understanding the true import of what happened in the locker room weeks ago.
"You didn't know."
"God, what she must have been thinking..."
"None of that matters now. Don't get me wrong. When she told me about it, I was ready to come find you. But Sara made it clear that you thought you were protecting Lindsey. She accepted your apology and has closed the book on it. Don't let your guilt get in your way. She's going to need you, Catherine."
Catherine nodded, trying to pull herself together. "Yeah."
"Are you up to bringing Brass in?"
After Catherine's call to Brass, they waited in relative silence. Jo watched Catherine collect her thoughts and put her game face on. She was impressed with Catherine's ability to set aside her personal feelings in favor of the job. Jo had had eighteen years to come to terms with how she felt about what had happened to Sara. Catherine only had a few hours.
"So, when Jim gets here, will we have to lay it all out for him or ." Catherine trailed off. She had barely withstood reading about the horrors of Sara's past. She wouldn't be able to listen to it all said aloud.
"There's no need," Jo said, understanding Catherine's reluctance to hear the details of Sara's childhood recounted. "I dropped by to introduce myself on my way to the field office earlier. I had a word with him and gave him a copy then."
A knock caused both women to look up as Brass opened the door and let himself in. He looked at the women before sitting down on the corner of Catherine's desk. "I've been a cop a lot of years. Thought I'd seen everything. But this...." Brass trailed off, lost in his own thoughts.
From the time she came in to investigate the Holly Gribbs case, he'd watched Sara as she tried to find her place on the night shift. He had known what she was going through at the time. He had never quite been able to fit in with the talented team of investigators, being a cop among science geeks. He had proudly seen her grow into herself over the years, becoming a part of the team, yet always slightly apart, like he had been. So he had kept an eye on her. When he noticed the drinking, he thought she had fallen prey to the demon that plagued so many good law enforcement professionals who had seen too much pain and misery on the job. Now he realized it was so much more than that. He marveled at the strength Sara displayed, not only to have lived through what she did, but to come out the other side with any sense of self intact.
"I just have one question, Foster," he said.
"These people who called themselves parents. Did they get what they had coming to them?"
Jo paused. The events of the last three years in the Sidle home were not included in her profile of Eric Sidle, since he had already left the house. Jo could feel Catherine's eyes on her as well. She, no doubt, also wanted to know the answer to that question. Wanting to preserve a least a little privacy for Sara, Jo could only nod and say, "You could say that."
"Good," Brass said with a nod. "Let's go get this son of a bitch."
A few minutes later, Catherine, Jo and a determined Brass met with Nick and Warrick in the conference room.
"Nick Stokes, Warrick Brown, this is Special Agent Josephine Foster with FBI. She's going to give us a hand with the case."
Nick and Warrick shared a surprised look before shaking hands with Jo.
"It's a pleasure to meet you both. As Catherine said, I've been asked to provide you with assistance on the Sidle case. Since the perpetrator has crossed a number of jurisdictions, it's now a federal matter. But I'm not here poaching. In fact, I am given to understand that it's because of the two of you these crimes were linked together in the first place. So thank you.
"Given the history of multiple crimes in the same city, a few months apart, there is every reason to believe he is still in Vegas. I realize that the tendency would be to think he is hiding out somewhere, laying low, waiting for his next opportunity, but I don't think that's the case here. He will, I think, hide in plain sight. So, Detective Brass, I tend to think he will stick to more populated areas of the city. He is probably staying in one of the larger hotels, where there are a lot of people and he can get lost more easily in the crowd."
"Why wouldn't he go underground? He has to know we are looking for him," Nick asked.
"He is bold. He takes girls from public areas, playgrounds and parks, where there are a lot of people around and then dumps them in a place where they are sure to be found within hours of the crime. He's making a statement. He knows we're looking for him. He doesn't care. Obviously, he will be under an assumed name. The mother's maiden name is Burnett, so you might try that. What name was the car rented under?"
Warrick answered, "Elliot Stephens.""
Jo nodded. "Then, look for guests with the same initials, either E.S. or E.B. or possibly an inverted version of either of those, S.E or B.E."
"Is it a coincidence he's in the same town his sister works?" Brass asked.
"I've given that some thought and, to be honest, I'm not sure. He left home when Sara was nine and she hasn't seen or heard from him since then, so it seems unlikely he even knows she's here. However, I'm not prepared to rule it out. Although, I tend to think he would have tried to contact her by now, if that were the case, and he hasn't."
"And we're sure about that?" Warrick asked.
"Yes." Both Jo and Catherine answered the question at the same time.
Nick and Warrick shared a confused glance at the synchronized response.
"OK," Nick started, "so, where do we go from here."
"The out-of-state case files I have seen don't include crime scene photos. Are those on the way?"
"Yes, Nick and Warrick are working with Archie to put those together," Catherine said. "When will you be ready to show us something?"
"Another hour," Nick answered.
"Anything else?" Catherine asked.
Receiving negative answers from her team, Catherine stood to leave, but Jo held up her hand indicating everyone should wait.
"There is one thing you should all be prepared for. We know he committed assaults in Tamales Bay, California twenty five years ago," Jo said quickly, hoping no one would ask how she knew that information. "The files we are working from now only go back ten years. Since he's not in CODIS, AFIS or VICAP, we know he wasn't incarcerated, and it is highly unlikely he was dormant for the fifteen years in between. I have the Vegas field office going over cold case files from around the country for that time frame. They'll probably find between fifteen and twenty additional assaults that we can attribute to this man."
Jo watched as a bleak understanding settled in on the group of investigators. "This is going to get a lot bigger than it is now. You should all be ready for that."
Sara was so absorbed in the music coming from her state-of-the-art speakers, she almost missed the sound of knocking. Grabbing the remote, she turned the volume down, padded to her front door and looked through the peephole. When she saw who was on the other side, she closed her eyes and leaned her forehead against the door. She had hoped she would have more time to prepare for this conversation. She took a deep breath and opened the door.
"Hey, Catherine," Sara said, looking over Catherine's shoulder rather than directly at her.
Looking down, she stepped back and said, "Come on in."
Catherine stepped through the door to Sara's apartment for only the second time. She felt just as nervous this time as she had when she had come to apologize to the brunette so many weeks ago. And just as determined.
"I don't have a lot of time," Catherine said, looking at Sara. "I am supposed to meet Jo and the guys in a half an hour."
Sara nodded. "Do you need something or...?"
Catherine took a moment to survey the woman in front of her. Sara's eyes were planted firmly on the ground and her arms were wrapped around her torso as if to fend off whatever she thought was coming next. Now knowing more of Sara's history than she had a right to, Catherine clearly understood Sara's insecurities, her fears and her drive to seek justice for others. She knew she and Sara had a lot they needed to talk about, but also knew that, at this moment, time was against them, so she reassured Sara the only way she knew how.
"Yeah, I do." Stepping forward, she reached out and put a hand on Sara's chin. Tears sprang to her eyes when Sara flinched slightly at the contact. Gently, she drew Sara's head up so she could see her normally vibrant eyes, now wary and resigned. Moving her hand to Sara's hair, Catherine pulled the woman to her and placed a tender kiss on her lips. Pulling back she smiled at Sara before sliding both arms around her waist and enveloped the young woman in a soothing hug, her head resting under Sara's chin.. Feeling Sara begin to tremble in the embrace, Catherine tightened her hold, whispered nonsensical phrases of comfort and felt Sara sigh in response.
Sara was surprised to feel Catherine's lips against her own. She felt the tension drain from her body as Catherine's strong arms wrapped around her body. When the release of adrenaline caused her to shake in relief, she felt Catherine's arms hold her tighter and she fought the tears that welled up in her eyes. Sara sighed, wanting nothing more than to stay in Catherine's grasp for as long as she could.
After several minutes of silent comfort being given and received, Catherine pulled far enough out of the embrace to look at Sara. With regret, she said, "I have to get back to the lab."
Sara gave a disappointed nod, not trusting her voice.
"But I will see you soon, alright?"
Receiving another nod from Sara, Catherine gave her another soft kiss and left.
Hearing the door close, Sara couldn't stop the smile that spread across her face.
When Catherine made it to the A/V lab, Jo, Nick and Warrick were all waiting for her. "Sorry. There was something I needed to do."
Nick and Warrick returned their attention to the screen, but Jo leaned over to Catherine and whispered, "How is she?"
Catherine looked into Jo's understanding eyes and said, "Better."
Jo nodded as she returned her attention to the evidence.
The four had been looking at the photos for twenty minutes, discussing similarities and differences, when Brass came in saying, "I think we got a break."
"What?" Catherine asked the detective.
"A stripper came in to lodge a complaint about being roughed up by a customer. It seems she was giving a private dance, if you know what I mean, and when the guy couldn't get the lead out, he started slapping her around. The description sounded close, so we showed her the driver's license photo and she IDed our guy."
"A stripper?" Jo asked, confused. "How old is she?"
Jo let out a confounded sigh. "That doesn't make any sense."
"She's sure about the ID. You two want to sit in?" he asked Catherine and Jo.
"...and he just went crazy. Look at my face! I'm not going to be able to work for a week."
The raven-haired stripper, Angela, was finishing up her story when Brass, Jo and Catherine arrived in the interview room.
Nodding to the detective in the room, Jo said, "Angela, I'm Josephine Foster, with the FBI." Showing the woman a photo of Eric Sidle, she asked, "Are you sure this is the man who assaulted you?"
"Yeah, that's him. The freak. You'd think he was a virgin or something. When he couldn't get it up, he went nuts. Beat the shit out of me and left."
Jo leaned back in her chair deep in thought.
Catherine took over the questioning, "Did he say anything?"
"Before, during, after?"
"Just the usual stuff to get me in the room. Then that is was my fault he couldn't get hard."
Angela thought for a moment. "Well....after.... I was crying, you know. He said, 'Don't be a fucking crybaby.'"
Jo's head shot up. "What? What did he say to you?"
"'Don't be a fucking crybaby.'"
Catherine watched Jo's focus turn inward for a moment, before she suddenly grabbed her cell phone and rushed out of the room, Catherine and Brass on her heels.
"What's going on?" Catherine asked, but Jo had her phone to her ear, waiting impatiently.
Catherine was cut off by Jo's voice, "Sara. Sara, pick up the phone. Sara!" Cursing, she hung up and turned to Brass. "Send a car to Sara's apartment."
Responding to the urgency in the agent's voice, Brass made a call to the dispatcher and ordered a car to Sara's address.
"Jo, what is going on?" Catherine asked, frightened by the agent's tone.
Jo looked at Catherine and said simply, "That's what he used to say to Sara."
The patrol car and the car Brass was driving, with Catherine and Jo inside, pulled up to Sara's apartment building at the same time. Jo opened the door before the car had come to a complete stop and was hurrying to the entrance, Catherine right behind her. As they started up one of the stairwells, they heard Brass and the uniforms enter behind them.
Taking the stairs two at a time, Jo turned the corner on the third floor to see a familiar face standing outside Sara's door. Drawing her service weapon, Jo pointed it at the intruder and said, "Eric Sidle. Federal Agent. Step away from the door and take your hands out of your pockets."
Glancing over her shoulder to make sure Catherine was behind her, Jo saw Brass and one uniformed officer with their weapons drawn, giving her cover. The other uniform, she assumed, had doubled back to cover the other stairwell. With relief, she also saw Catherine standing behind Brass, out of the line of fire.
Jo slowly advanced toward the suspect, "Show me your hands, Sidle. Show me your hands right now!" Eric Sidle calmly turned to look at the group of officers, smiled and took his hands out of his pockets, keeping them away from his body. As Jo stepped forward, the door to her left opened and a woman stuck her head out, trying to see what was happening. That moment's distraction was all Eric Sidle needed. He ran down the hallway toward the other stairwell.
"Damn it. Ma'am, get back inside and stay there," Jo said to the woman.
Brass and the uniform passed Jo as they gave chase. Brass yelled, "We've got this. Check on Sara."
Catherine and Jo ran for Sara's door. Finding it locked and not wanting to waste time, Jo threw her shoulder into the door and forced it open. "Sara! Where are you?"
"Sara!" Catherine yelled, checking the kitchen.
"What the fuck?"
Both women turned at the sound of Sara's voice. At the end of the hall stood a dripping wet Sara, a towel hastily wrapped around her. She looked at the women in shock, her service weapon in her hand. "What are you doing?"
Catherine crossed to Sara and held her by the forearms, her eyes examining Sara's body closely for any injuries. "Are you alright?" she asked looking into confused brown eyes.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Sara said, wanting to calm the near-panicked look on Catherine's face. With a grin, she tried to lighten the mood in the room. "I mean, you two nearly gave me a heart attack, but What's going on?"
Knowing Sara was safe, Jo's residual adrenaline and fear turned to anger. "I've been calling you. Why didn't you answer the damn phone?"
"I was in the shower," Sara replied, Jo's attitude raising her ire.
"For twenty minutes? Jesus Christ, Sara! How many times do I have to tell you, you don't have to drain the hot water heater to be clean?"
"I don't know, could you say it again?"
Catherine stepped between the two friends. "Whoa, alright, back to your corners. Sara, go get dressed. You're making a puddle on the floor. Jo, go check in with Brass." When neither woman moved to end their standoff, Catherine used her 'mom voice'. "Now."
Both women looked remarkably like Lindsey, at about five years old, as they scowled at each other before they turned to do as they were told.
On the street, Jo found no one at the patrol car. Looking to her left, she saw Brass, the two patrolmen and a handcuffed man about a hundred yards away. Taking a calming breath, she waited. When the group reached her, she looked at Eric Sidle, one of the people who had been responsible for her best friend's torment so many years ago. She wanted nothing more than to exercise her own brand of justice right here in the street. Controlling the impulse with some effort, she turned to Brass. "Has he been mirandized?"
"I thought you might want to do the honors."
"Thank you, Jim." Taking a rough hold of Sidle's arm, she pulled him toward the patrol car. "Eric Sidle. You're under arrest for kidnapping, unlawful confinement, assault and battery and sexual assault of a minor. You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right, anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning. Do you understand these rights as I have explained them to you?"
"Good." Jo drew him up to her, bringing them face-to-face. "Because I am going to enjoy sending your miserable ass to prison for the rest of your life." Jo opened the door to the patrol car. He was shoved into the backseat, hitting his head soundly on the way in. "Oh, and watch your head," Jo said as she slammed the door. "I always forget that part."
Brass handed Jo the keys to his car. "I'll go with the uniforms, get him to headquarters for booking and have him in the box in about an hour. Take your time."
"He was in the hall?" Sara asked, trying to process what Catherine had told her about the events of the last half hour.
"Yeah, he was."
"So," Sara said slowly, "he was going to..."
Rather than speaking, Catherine took hold of Sara's hand and brought their joined hands into her lap. They sat quietly as they came to grips with what had almost happened.
A noise brought their attention to the doorway. Jo was standing there looking uncomfortable.
"Sorry about the door."
"You're gonna have to pay for it," Sara said as she stood and approached her friend.
Jo winced and experimentally rotated her right shoulder. "I'm pretty sure I already am. Ow."
"Didn't they teach you to kick near the doorknob at the Academy?"
"I didn't want to mess up my new boots." Jo looked at Sara with beginnings of tears in her eyes, "Are you OK?"
"Yeah, I'm OK," Sara said, pulling Jo into a hug. Sara held her friend as she released a sob. "Sshhh. I'm alright," Sara whispered in her ear, causing Jo to tighten her grip on Sara's waist. "Hey, come on. You're supposed to be a big, bad G-woman. This is just embarrassing." When she heard Jo's laugh, Sara knew her friend was composing herself.
Pulling out of the embrace, Jo smiled through her tears and said, "My adrenaline crash is always a bitch."
Catherine watched the exchange with a curious lack of jealousy. Looking at the two women, she was glad they had each other all these years. With a sad smile, her thoughts drifted to her friend Stephanie, whose murder remained unsolved. Had she lived, Catherine had no doubt they would share as close a relationship as Sara and Jo. Sara's voice brought Catherine back to the present.
"They got him?"
"Yeah. Brass is booking him now. I'll do the interview in about an hour."
"We'll do the interview, Foster."
Jo looked at Catherine and corrected herself with a smile, "Begging your pardon, Ms. Willows, we'll do the interview."
"Then you two should get going."
Catherine crossed to Sara and grasped the bottom of her tank top, fiddling with it. "You'll be alright here?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine," Sara assured Catherine. "I'll be in for my shift in a few hours. That is, if I can figure out how to lock my apartment," she finished with a pointed look at Jo.
Jo rolled her eyes, "There is no gratitude in this world anymore."
As they drove back to CSI headquarters, Jo turned to Catherine and said, "Are you up to doing this interview, Catherine."
Catherine shot Jo an angry glance as she weaved in and out of traffic on the always busy strip, "Why wouldn't I be?"
"You can't make this personal, Catherine."
"What? And it's not personal for you? Please."
"Not in the same way it is for you right now."
"I've been doing this a while. I think I can handle it."
"I need you to keep your head on straight, Catherine. No matter what he says. Or I will send you out," Jo said with finality.
"I'll be fine. Don't worry."
Jo looked at her one last time as they pulled into the lab's parking lot, hoping Catherine could make good on her promise.
Thirty minutes later, Jo and Catherine sat across the table from a smug Eric Sidle. Brass was leaning against the two-way mirror. Having left instructions with the officer outside the door that absolutely no one was to enter the observation room, Jo was satisfied they were safe from prying eyes and ears. The room's surveillance equipment was running, of course, but Jo wanted to preserve as much privacy as possible for Sara, who would inevitably become a topic of discussion as the interview progressed.
"No lawyer?" Brass asked.
"Don't need one."
"A clear and innocent conscience fears nothing, Detective."
Jo spoke up for the first time. "Brushing up on your quotations? Somehow I don't think Elizabeth the First had you in mind."
"The problem is, she actually was innocent. Whereas, we both know you aren't."
"There are some historians who would disagree with you. After all, history is written by the people who win."
"Things ended much better for her than they will for you."
"You don't know how things will end for me yet."
"Yeah, I do."
Catherine shot a confused look at Brass, who seemed no closer to understanding the conversation going on between Jo and Eric Sidle than she was.
"As interesting as this little history lesson is," Catherine interrupted impatiently, "it's not why we're here. Tell me about Karen Thompson."
"The eight year old girl you raped and left for dead," Catherine growled.
"Is that her name? I didn't ask," Sidle said in a bored tone.
"That sounds like a confession, Eric," Brass said from the mirror.
"Karen Elaine Thompson. She likes soccer and Barbie dolls," Catherine said, as she placed a picture of the girl's battered face on the table in front of Sidle. "She's going to be fine. You know, in case you were wondering. Her parents are taking good care of her."
"Tell them they did a nice job with her. She's a good girl. Very obedient," Sidle said, leaning towards Catherine.
Seeing an all too familiar look in Catherine's eye, Brass stepped in. "You were pretty sloppy there, Eric," he said. "You left a lot of evidence behind, semen, skin cells under her fingernails, hairs -- and the DNA on all of those things belongs to you."
"If you say so."
"Actually she says so," Brass said, pointing to Catherine.
"You know what I don't get, though?" Catherine asked.
"Why be so off-the-charts stupid?"
Catherine saw Sidle stiffen. "I'm not stupid."
"Oh, come on, anybody who has ever watched an episode of Law and Order knows to wear a condom. Why didn't you?"
Sidle seemed to think for a moment before saying, "I wanted her to have something to remember me by."
"Well, I'm pretty sure your cellmate in prison will be happy to give you something to remember him by, too," Brass said, leaning into Sidle.
"I think I can hold my own."
"Yeah, you keep thinking that," Jo said as she walked around the table and leaned against it, looking down at Sidle.
"Is that supposed to scare me?" Sidle laughed.
"Short Eyes don't last long in prison," Brass volunteered. "Hell, they don't last long in County Lockup."
"I spent my first eighteen years in a prison. Nothing can be worse than that was."
"So, if only you had June and Ward Cleaver for parents, you wouldn't be a low life?" Brass asked.
"What can I say? I'm a product of my environment."
"Please," Catherine said as she stood suddenly. "Spare us the 'my childhood was so terrible, I can't control myself' bullshit. Your sister went through the same thing and she's not out raping innocent children."
"You sure about that?"
Jo quickly stepped into Catherine's path as she took a step toward Sidle.
"Catherine," Jo said, fixing Catherine with a stare that held both warning and understanding.
Inwardly cursing herself for bringing Sara into the conversation, Catherine quickly backed down and moved to the corner of the room, putting as much distance between herself and Sidle as the small space would allow.
Sidle let out a disgusted snort. "Saint Sara. Overcoming her tragic past and fighting for truth, justice and the American way."
Jo shrugged. "Well, Eric. She does have a point. The two of you grew up in the same house. And yet, you made very different choices."
"She had it easy."
"Then you've got a fucked up definition of easy."
Eric Sidle cocked his head and looked at Jo. "You're the girlfriend. The one in Boston."
Only Jo's extensive training allowed her to mask her surprise. Glancing at the other people in the room, she saw Catherine's brow furrow in concern at the comment. If Brass reacted to either the news of Sara's sexuality or her and Sara's prior relationship, Jo couldn't tell. He had his cop mask firmly in place. Refocusing on Sidle, she asked, "How do you know that?"
"What kind of big brother would I be if I didn't keep an eye on my little sister?" Sidle said, smiling. "That was a nice apartment. View of the river, right?"
"Yes," Jo answered, keeping her voice neutral, although her stomach was churning.
"Pretty pricey, though. We both know Sara didn't have two nickels to rub together. Did your daddy pay for that?" Sidle asked in a condescending tone.
Jo decided to play along, wondering where this conversation would lead and hoping to push a few of Sidle's buttons along the way. "My parents were very kind to us, yes. They loved me. And Sara. They wanted what was best for us. That's what parents do."
Jo watched a cloud pass in front of Sidle's eyes for just a moment before he recovered. "They loved YOU, maybe. Sara was just along for the ride. They would have done the same for whatever piece of ass you brought home."
Jo saw Catherine's body tense out of the corner of her eye. "Actually, my folks were very discriminating. Sara was the first one Mama ever let past the front porch. She said she knew from one look that Sara had a good heart."
Sidle snorted. "Then she's stupid. That bitch is nothing but trouble. Always was. She lets you think you're in it together, but she'll turn on you in a New York minute."
"She turned on you?"
"When it got her off the hot seat, yeah."
"What hot seat?"
"She was always reading those stupid books, even though they told her not to. No matter how many times they thumped her, the stupid bitch kept at it and when they were about to give it to her, like she knew she deserved, she would tell them about my stash, or my porn or whatever."
"So they would leave her alone?"
"Yeah. She sent them my way just to save her sorry ass." Sidle leaned back and smiled, "But I put a stop to that."
"How?" Jo asked, narrowing her eyes.
"I made sure she knew she would get worse from me later."
"I gave her lessons she wasn't gonna learn in her precious books."
"She wasn't learning enough already?" Jo asked, feeling her control begin to slip.
"I guess not. Every time Laura found one of those damn books Sara hid everywhere, hell would break loose. If we were lucky it was just Matt, Laura and a beat down. If they were really tired of Sara's shit, they invited friends to party."
"So all of that was Sara's fault?"
"She never got anything she didn't deserve. All she had to do to get along was do what she was told. She couldn't even do that."
"Maybe she was just looking for something, the smallest thing, to get her through. You had your pot, your porn. She had her books."
"It wasn't getting her anything but fucked."
"It got her to Harvard."
"And then you got to fuck her."
In the blink of an eye, Sidle was off his feet and against the wall, pinned there by Jo's forearm against his neck. "Watch your mouth, you miserable shit." Jo looked into Sidle's eyes as he struggled to breath. Eyes that were so like her friend's eyes, yet so different. She was a fraction away from crushing his larynx. Everything in her was screaming to take vengeance against this man on behalf of her friend. Only the knowledge that Sara wouldn't want this brand of justice brought her back from the precipice over which she was hovering. Slowly, she eased the pressure off Sidle's neck, allowing him to catch his breath. She grabbed the back of his orange jumpsuit and roughly forced him back in his chair.
As she regained control of her own breathing, Jo spared a glance at both Brass and Catherine, noting that neither of them had moved a muscle. Nor did they seem the least disturbed by what had just happened. If anything, they looked as though they had wanted to do it themselves.
Backing away, Jo took a moment to reign in her anger before saying, "So, when you were old enough, you got the hell out of that house."
"As fast as I could."
"You left her alone with them."
"Well, I had nine 'quality' years alone with them before she was born. I figured she should have the same. Fair's fair."
Jo looked at Sidle, feeling the pieces begin to fall into place. "Except, she didn't stay nine years, did she? She was only there another three."
Sidle said nothing. He only clenched his jaw and stared straight ahead.
Jo looked at the ceiling as Sidle's motives started to become clear to her. "And what's fair about that?" she continued. "She had it easy, right? And you've been making other girls pay for it ever since. Girls that look just like Sara did. Little gangly brunettes, all arms and legs, reminding you of her."
"It wasn't fair."
"But you couldn't make her pay for it, could you?"
Brass leaned in and asked, "Is that why you followed her to Boston? Why you were at her apartment tonight? Some schoolyard game of evens?"
"Is it a crime to pay a visit to your sister?" Sidle asked.
"That depends on what you plan to do when you get there," Brass said.
"I just wanted to get....reacquainted. It's been a long time."
"Not long enough," Catherine growled.
Seeing that Catherine was about to explode, touched her lightly on the shoulder as she said, "That's what the stripper was about."
"The stripper. She was a little test for yourself, to see if you could still get it up with anyone over the age of twelve."
Sidle was silent.
"I guess you flunked," Brass said.
"No, I didn't!"
Catherine raised her eyebrows as she sat back down and said, "That's not how she tells it."
"She's a fucking liar."
"It's a shame, too," Jo said. "She was just your type. Brunette, tall. Fifteen years younger, she would have been perfect. But that's not what you needed, was it? You needed a woman. To see if you could finish what you had planned. You wanted to know that when you got to Sara's, you'd be able to do what needed to be done. But you couldn't do it, could you? That's why you beat her up. Because you couldn't give her a little something to remember you by."
"She'll remember me anyway. And if you hadn't gotten in my way, so would Sara," Sidle hissed.
Catherine stood suddenly, put her hands on the table and leaned into Sidle. "You are not getting anywhere near her ever again."
"Really. You are going to prison and I am going to personally see to it you never see the light of day again. You're going to spend the rest of your, hopefully short, life being everybody's favorite girlfriend. I promise you, what happened in your past, will seem like an East Hampton clambake compared to your very near future."
Catherine saw the doubt and fear in Sidle's eyes as he shakily said, "They'll put me in solitary."
"Not unless someone recommends it," Brass said, still reclining by the two-way mirror. "And, I've got to say, you're not giving any of us much of a reason to do that."
Sidle thought for a moment before saying, "I can tell you about the others."
"We already know about the thirteen other girls. You're going down for those too," Brass said.
"Thirteen?" he said, shaking his head. "I thought you would be more thorough than that."
"Thorough?" Jo asked. "So there are more?"
"Sure," he shrugged.
"Not nearly enough."
"If you tell us, things will go easier for you," Brass said.
"Things have never been easy for me."
"I know," Jo said.
"You don't know shit," Sidle said, furiously considering his options. "If I talk about the others, all of them, you'll tell them to put me in solitary or protective custody or something?"
"I'll think about it."
Sidle looked at Jo, and then Catherine, a moment before leaning back in his chair.
"I'll talk. But only to my sister. Only to Sara. Alone."
With Sidle on his way back to a holding cell with Brass, Jo and Catherine sat in the interrogation room in silence. Jo rubbed her eyes, exhausted. A look at Catherine revealed an expression Jo could only describe as haunted. After a few more minutes of silence, Catherine spoke up, "What was that you said about keeping your head on straight and not making it personal. No matter what he said?"
"Yeah, well," Jo said with a small grin. "I was talking about you, not me."
"That was a nice move, by the way. If the FBI thing doesn't work out, you could always have a career with The Ladies of Wrestling."
"Nah, my tits aren't big enough."
Catherine joined Jo in a small laugh before silence descended on the duo once again.
Finally Catherine let out a sigh. "We already have enough to put him away for the rest of his life. Do we need to know about all the girls?"
"It's not just about sending him to prison, Catherine. Those girls and their families need to know we caught him," Jo said wearily.
"At what cost?" Catherine asked. "You really want to put Sara in the same room with that monster? You're supposed to be her friend!"
"I am being her friend. Right now, I may be the only one in the room who is. What do you think Sara's going to say when she finds out we could have gotten more out of him -- given more families peace, but didn't?"
"Why does she have to know?" Catherine asked, reaching.
"I'm not going to lie to her, Catherine."
"Really?" Catherine said sarcastically. "So you are going to tell her that her psychopath brother has raped and beaten God know how many girls, because they happened to look like her. And that he is doing this because she was only tortured by her parents for an extra three years instead of nine. So, if she had just hung in there for the other six years, none of this would even be happening."
"Of course not," Jo said through clenched teeth, "but she deserves the opportunity to do this."
Catherine sighed and put her head in her hands, "I don't even want her in the same building with him. She's been through enough."
"Neither do I, Catherine. Maybe she'll decide not to do it, but she has to be told what's going on."
"I know. I just don't want him to hurt her again."
"I understand that. I really do. I have loved Sara in one way or another for half my life. She is the best friend I have in this world. Everything I am is telling me to keep her the hell away from that man, but I know that she needs to do this." Jo stood and ran her hands through her hair. "Catherine, this is bigger than Sara getting hurt again. She has been running from this her whole life, but no matter how far she ran it was still in her heart -- in her soul. This is her chance to face it. She needs to do this, for her own sake, not for anyone else's. She needs to be able to look him in the eye and know that she is different than he is. She needs to know that no matter what has happened in her past, her future is not determined by any of it."
Catherine sat for a few minutes, thinking about what Jo said. She knew Sara would want to do it, not caring how it might damage her, for the sake of those little girls. She also knew Jo was right. If Sara was going to be able to put her past behind her, she would have to face it and the only thing Catherine could do was be there for Sara when it was over.
"I need to find Sara and talk to her," Jo said as she gathered her things.
"No," Catherine said softly. "Let me. Please."
Jo looked at Catherine for a moment before nodding her head in agreement.
Catherine found Sara bending over a microscope in her usual layout room. She took a moment to admire the young woman's lithe body. A body, that she now knew, had been through so much abuse. She marveled at the woman who had lived through the same things as the despicable, hateful man she had just spent an hour with, yet still managed to maintain her goodness and humanity. Thinking of what she knew of Sara's childhood, if you could even call it that, made Catherine's chest ache for the little girl who seemed to find her only solace in the pages of a book. Even that small pleasure, her parents tried to deny her -- punish her for.
Looking at the woman that had, quite unexpectedly, come to mean so much to her, Catherine realized that she wanted, more than anything, to give Sara what she had been denied for so many years -- a sense of safety and love. She took a few steps forward and cleared her throat, not wanting to startle Sara. Catherine saw her lift her head at the soft intrusion and pivot in her chair.
A tentative smile graced Sara's features when she saw Catherine. "Hi."
"Are you guys done?" Sara asked, shifting restlessly in her chair.
"For now," Catherine responded, not wanting to begin the conversation they needed to have. "What are you working on?"
Sara's brow furrowed in confusion at the change of subject, but answered, "Um...some paint scrapings from a hit and run Sofia pulled last night."
Sara shook her head. "Not really."
Catherine nodded, her mind racing, trying to find a way to talk to Sara about her brother's demand.
"Um.." Sara started awkwardly. "I tried to slip in and listen, but Officer Kendall stopped me. He said not even the President himself was allowed into the observation room."
"Yeah, Jo was pretty explicit about that. Something about Kendall spending the rest of his career as a school resource officer if he let anyone in to watch."
"She -- we all -- wanted to make sure we gave you as much privacy as we could."
"I appreciate that." Sara watched as Catherine battled with herself about something. There was clearly something Catherine was trying to say, but didn't know how. Sara hoped it had something to do with the case, but her deep-seeded self-doubt made her suspect it was more personal. She could only imagine what her brother might have said during the interrogation, but hoped that, whatever he said, Catherine wouldn't decide to stop what was happening between them. "Why don't you just tell me?"
"Whatever it is you're trying not to tell me," Sara said sadly.
Catherine sighed, sat down on the stool next to Sara and took her hand. Finding it to be ice cold, she began to slowly rub it between her own, hoping to bring some circulation back to the appendage. The movement also allowed her to ground herself in a physical connection with Sara.
"Sara, Jo told you about the other cases? The other girls that Nick and Warrick found?"
"Yeah." Sara lowered her eyes and tried to pull her hand back, but Catherine only tightened her grip, not wanting to give up the tactile comfort.
"Well, according to your brother there are more than that." Catherine watched Sara's jaw clench at the news.
"How many more?" Sara asked in a small voice.
"He won't say."
"Are you going to interview him again tomorrow?"
"No. He made it very clear that he wouldn't tell me, Jo, or Brass anything else."
"He has to, Catherine. Those girls, whoever they are, and their families need to know who is responsible for what happened to them."
"I know." Catherine paused and took a deep breath. "He said he would only tell one person."
Sara slowly raised her head and looked at Catherine as she realized what the older woman was about to say.
"He'll only tell you, Sara."
Sara closed her eyes. Her mind reeled with the implications of what she had been told. The last thing in life she wanted to do was sit at a table with her brother as he recounted his crimes, in what she was sure would be, excruciating detail. He would also, she knew, take this opportunity to hurt her as much as he could with shared memories of their younger life She was sure she couldn't listen to that. She was equally sure she didn't want anyone else to hear it either.
But could she deny those little girls and their families the small comfort of knowing their attacker had been caught and would be punished? Isn't that what she had spent most of her adult life trying to do? Give victims as much peace as possible?
"Who would be there? You and Jo? Brass?"
"No. He wants to see you alone," Catherine said.
Sara stood quickly, pulling her hand from the warmth of Catherine's touch, and walked to the other side of the room. She fought to control the fear that surged through her at the thought of being alone in a room with her brother. She wrapped her long arms around herself and focused on controlling her breathing. In the twenty-five years that had passed since she had seen Eric, his was one of the faces that figured prominently in her nightmares. She had woken up in a cold sweat more often than she could count with his face in her mind, his voice in her ear, his smell in her nostrils.
Not wanting Sara to close herself off again, Catherine followed Sara and gently unfolded her arms, reclaiming both the young woman's hands. "Sara, I want you to really think about this. He could be lying about these other girls. This could be just an excuse to get to you. To hurt you."
Sara looked down at their joined hands, distracted for a moment by the thought that they fit together so well, before looking into the depth of Catherine's eyes. "Do you think he's lying?"
Catherine shook her head and answered honestly. "No."
Sara nodded distractedly to herself. "Then I have to do it."
"You don't have to do anything."
"Yes, I do, Catherine. How am I supposed to live with myself knowing that I could have helped those families, but didn't?"
"I don't know, but you also have to take care of yourself," Catherine said softly. "And, frankly from what I saw tonight, I don't want you anywhere near him. I don't want him to have a chance to hurt you again."
"He'll be restrained, right?"
"Then he won't have that chance."
"I'm not just talking about physically, Sara. He's going to try to get into your head. You need to be sure that you're ready for that."
"I am," Sara said, looking at the floor.
"Sara?" Catherine laid a gentle hand under Sara's chin and drew her face up, allowing Catherine to look into her eyes.
"I will be."
Catherine nodded, reluctantly accepting Sara's decision. Slowly, she brought Sara's palm up to mouth and placed a tender kiss there. "Just remember, I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to be right here, for as long as you want me to be."
Catherine drew Sara into an embrace, not caring that they were at work. They stayed that way for a little while, each taking comfort in the other's presence, until Sara pulled back with a small grin. "I'd better get back to work. And you need to get Lindsey. Besides, if Greg walked in right now, he might have a heart attack."
Catherine chuckled and said, "Well, we wouldn't want that." Catherine paused for a moment, deciding to take the step that would put a name to the relationship she and Sara were developing. "Although, you're going to break his heart anyway."
"What do you mean?"
"When he finds out you're unavailable. Otherwise engaged. Off the market," Catherine said breezily.
Sara looked at Catherine with wide eyes. "I am?"
"If you want to be," Catherine responded, looking directly at Sara, so there would be no mistaking what she meant.
Sara brought her hands to Catherine's face and gently caressed her cheeks. "I'd like that. I'd like that very much."
Catherine breathed a sigh of relief and said, "So would I."
Return to C.S.I. Fiction
Return to Main Page