DISCLAIMER: the characters aren't mine, they belong to CBS, Jerry Bruckheimer,…, I'm just borrowing them for a while. After I'm done playing with them, I'll put them back, virtually unharmed. Please don't sue, the only thing of value I have are my brain cells and even those are shrinking fast due to non use.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I juggled the seasons a bit to fit my story better. The Donna Marks case takes place in the fourth season, Hank never happened and Eddie, well let's just say he's still alive and kicking. No real spoilers I think. Oh and no animals were harmed, after I splattered them, I always gave them the kiss of life before sending them on their way again.
WARNING: English isn't my mother tongue. There are bound to be spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Please don't start throwing things every time you spot one, you could seriously damage your pc with the multitude you'll encounter.
THANKS: to my beta for all her help.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Letting Go of the Past
By Piranha

Chapter 6

Part 1.

After breakfast, they both plopped down on the couch. "If you're tired and want to go to sleep, just say so and I'll disappear to my bedroom," Sara said.

"No, that's ok. I'm not really tired yet, I'm still a bit wired. I keep seeing that woman laying there, murdered. And then that god awful smell. Do you ever get used to it?" Greg asked.

"No, not really…I mean it does get better after a while, but you never really get used to it. I actually think that's a good thing too. It can't be healthy being confronted with some of the most vile and evil things a man can do and not feel a thing. Becoming numb, almost inhuman. The pain, shock and outrage help you focus, you just do your damnedest to catch the sick bastard. Kids are the worst though. I still can't understand how anyone could lay a finger on a kid… I mean it's a kid, for God's sake, we're supposed to look after them, love and cherish them, they're a gift to be treasured…" Sara stated.

"How do you deal with it? I mean how do you take your mind of it?" he asked.

"Well, it differs from person to person, I guess it depends on your personal tastes. I used to take my mind off it by making a long ride with my Harley, doing some carpentry, … When I have a particularly nasty case and I'm in a desperate need to unwind, I go to a gym to kick the shit out of boxing bag. Richard, a colleague of mine in San Francisco knitted," Sara laughed. "I mean, can you imagine? A bear of a man, 250 pounds, 6foot6, built like a tank and the only thing that relaxed him was knitting kiddie booties…I'm getting a beer, do you want one too?" Sara asked, padding to the kitchen.

"Yeah, thanks."

Opening his can, Greg asked: "so about those photographs. Have you decided yet which ones you're going to put on the wall?"

"No, not yet, I was actually going to do that today, well trying to narrow down the choices at least. Want to help?" she said. When Greg nodded, Sara walked over to her desk and got the photographs out. It was a rather big pile, about a hundred of them, all black and white. They went through them together, Sara telling the story behind some of them. In the end they'd narrowed it down to four photographs. The first one was a big tree being hit by lightning; it showed the brutal and unforgiving force of nature as Sara had managed to capture the exact moment lightning hit. The second one was a young child, grinning directly in the camera, ice cream smeared all over his chin. The third one was a naked woman laying on her side on bright white sheets, leaning against her equally naked lover and kissing her fiercely. You couldn't really see who the woman were – Greg only knew it were Sara and Erin because Sara had told him so – the only thing you could see was that the second woman had her arms wrapped possessively around the first woman's very pregnant belly. The last one showed Erin and Sara sleeping on the beach, Erin on Sara's shoulder with her arm thrown over Sara's belly, both with contented smiles on their faces.

"Can I ask you a question," Greg started, "if it's too personal or anything, you just have to say so and I'll shut up"

"Sure, go ahead" came the reply. "Erm I don't know how to put this exactly, so I'll just go ahead and ask. Has there been anyone since Erin?" When Sara didn't answer immediately, Greg cursed and said: "God, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be so insensitive or blunt, just forget I ever asked, OK?"

"No," she whispered, "there hasn't been anyone else… I was too hung up on Erin to even notice someone else, I still am I suppose… But today something changed… I felt aroused when Catherine gave me a massage…"

"Catherine gave you a massage?" Greg croaked, his eyes nearly popping out of their sockets.

"Uh, yeah, I had a crick in my neck from leaning over the lab table for too long, she tried to rub it out," Sara said embarrassed.

"So what happened after that?" Greg asked, trying to keep the curiosity out of his voice.

"I ran like a frightened child, I leaped out of that chair like it was one fire and ran."

"Why?" he asked on a friendly tone.

"I felt like I was betraying Erin. Stupid I know, but I still felt like that. It was the first time I was touched like that in four years, the first time someone had entered my personal space and I was getting turned on. I enjoyed the feeling for a moment, but then I thought of Erin and just… you know."

Greg took Sara in his arms and whispered: "honey, you can't mourn Erin for the rest of your life you know. You're bound to be attracted to people, even meet someone new eventually. It's only natural. You can't keep living in the past, it's not healthy. I don't mean you have to forget about Erin or that you even have to stop loving her, but you have to be willing to meet new people, you know, go out sometime, even if it's just with friends… Live a little, have some fun…"

"I know," Sara answered, "intellectually I do know all that, but it's just so hard."

"I know," Greg said, "but you're making progress, aren't you? You told me about Erin and Matthew, you're doing carpentry again, you're going out with me on Saturday, … Just take it one day at a time and you know I'm here for you, if you want to talk or just hang around or anything."

"Thanks Greg for everything, you're a lifesaver," Sara said before kissing him on the cheek. "I'm beat, think I'm going to go to bed, night."

"Night, Sara."

Part 2.

Greg woke around four in the afternoon and went to the kitchen, where Sara was busy cooking. She turned over and laughed: "cute boxers Greg" pointing at his Goofy boxers.

He just shrugged and grumbled: "what are you making?"

"You're really not a morning person, are you? I'm making a vegetarian spaghetti. Do you want some? …I'll take that as a yes," she laughed when Greg's growling stomach answered before he could.

"Seems I'm a bit hungry," he admitted sheepishly. "Do I still have time for a shower?"

"Yeah, go ahead, you know where everything is."

After dinner Greg insisted on doing the dishes. He then asked Sara to drop him off at the mall rather than at home - to buy some earplugs, he joked, in case the girlfriend isn't gone tonight. They said their goodbyes and Sara went back home. She vacuumed, put a load of washing in and then decided to work on her bookcase. It was progressing nicely; she had cut all the timber to the right size and was just trying to come up with a motif to carve out off the side frames when she noticed she was going to be late for work. She jumped into her car and sped off, arriving at work in record time.

Grissom wasn't there yet, so Sara decided to check in with Greg, maybe some analysis results had come in. She walked into an empty lab, at least that was she thought until she heard some soft cursing. "Greg, you in here?" she called out. Startled, Greg jumped up, banging his head against the table. "God, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you," she said. "What were you doing on the floor anyway?"

Rubbing his head, Greg stood up and said: "lost my contact lens"

"Do you want me to help you look for it?"

"Nah, I found it already," Greg said, tilting his head backwards and putting the lens in.

"Eeeew," Sara said, "I find that so gross, I could never put that in my own eye, think I'd rather wear glasses."

"To each his own," was his reply, "anyway, I'm glad you popped by. I have something for you. A sort of thank you present for letting me crash on your couch the past two days." He searched in his rucksack and took out a wrapped present.

"Greg, you shouldn't have, I was glad to help. In fact you've more than paid me back by listening to my rambling… Anyway, thank you," Sara said.

"Well, aren't you going to open it?" Grinning like an idiot, Sara ripped the wrapping off, to reveal four wooden frames. "It's for your photographs," he said excitedly. "It's the right size and I think it's the same colour as the book case you're making. Did you know that's a rather unusual colour for teak?" When Sara nodded, he continued: "How's that project moving along? Do you think you could show me how to make a couple of CD racks?"

Unbeknownst to Greg and Sara, Catherine had entered the lab and had heard practically the whole conversation. Stunned she asked Sara: "You know how to make a book case?" Sara turned beet red and just nodded shyly. "Where did you learn to do that?" Catherine asked awe struck.

"It's no big deal really. My granddad was a carpenter and I spent a lot of time with him after school and during the holidays. He taught me some stuff. I just dabble in it to relax," Sara said apologetically, trying to downplay the whole thing.

"Don't be modest, Sara, I think it's a great ability," the older CSI said. When she saw she was embarrassing the younger woman again, she continued: "anyway, I came in here to come and get you. Grissom and the others are waiting in the staff room. You too, Greg."

Part 3.

When the three of them walked into the staff room, Grissom immediately cleared his throat and said: "Nick, a dubious suicide in Cesar's palace. Warrick, you've got a burglary in the mall. The details are on the slip. Greg, you're with Warrick, but if the lab gets backlogged again, I need you here, OK?" Receiving a tiny nod, he continued: "Catherine and Sara, you're still on the Porter case. Brass has the search warrant and said he would meet you there. He'll also update you on what he's found out about your victim through her colleagues. Doc Robbins is doing the autopsy on your victim as we speak. I have another boring meeting with the sheriff and Ecklie, which I'm late for." With that he scrambled his papers together and left the room.

Catherine looked at Sara and said: "you ready?"

"Yeah, I just have to put those frames in my locker first, but then I'm ready," came the reply.

"OK, I'll wait for you in the car". Catherine watched Sara walk off to the locker room, before heading off to the car herself. While she waited for the younger CSI, she started thinking about how wrong she was about her. She wasn't arrogant or impolite at all, she was incredibly shy and easily embarrassed, especially when attention was drawn to one of her endearing qualities. She was very protective of her friends, helping them out any way she could. She's pretty closed off and doesn't really talk to anyone beyond shoptalk, but Greg seemed to have found a way through her walls. Wonder how he did that? Come to think of it, why did Greg start laughing louder when Sara said Bill's not her type at all? Was there something going on between the two of them perhaps? Catherine immediately dismissed that idea. They just seemed really close friends, no sexual chemistry between them at all. What is it then? Her mental musings were cut short when the car door opened.

Climbing in, Sara said: "sorry I took so long."

"That's quite alright," Catherine answered starting the car.

They were both silent during the short drive to the victim's house. Brass saw them arrive and walked up to them. "Good evening ladies," he stated politely before switching to full business mode, "seems miss Porter here was a bit of a workaholic. Her colleagues said she started work every day at 7 and didn't go home until after nine. She never talked about her personal life and never mentioned a boyfriend or anything. They hardly knew anything about her, except that she had a mother somewhere. We're still trying to track her down. Same story with the neighbours. They hardly knew her. They all said she worked very hard and kept to herself. Again no mention of a boyfriend. She had a maid, a certain miss Rosita Perez, I'm going over to talk to her when I'm done here…. Oh next door neighbour did mention that she liked working in her garden in her rare spare time."

"Damn, that explains the soil traces we found under her nails," Sara muttered.

"Anything else?" Catherine asked Brass.

"No strange people hanging around, no unknown vehicles parked for long times, but that doesn't mean anything. All the neighbours work during the day, so the killer could easily have broken into the house during the day."

"Are there signs then of forced entry?" Sara asked.

"None that I could see, but I didn't really check. Well, I'm off to talk to miss Perez, I'll let you know if I come up with something."

"OK, thanks Jim," Catherine said. Nodding to both CSI's, Brass walked to his car and drove off.

Sara and Catherine searched the house quickly and methodically. There were no traces of forced entry; either the victim let the killer in for some reason or he had his own set of keys. Fingerprinting of the lounge and study revealed two different sets of fingerprints, which would account for the victim and the maid, something they could easily check later at the lab. The lounge was impersonal and sterile. It looked more like a place out of a designer catalogue than a place to relax and kick back in. There were no pictures of loved ones, no personal items. It looked like the victim hardly spent any time in this room. The study didn't any better; still no pictures, only degrees on the wall. Over the fire place they were surprised to find a painting, but then they found out it was there to hide the safe.

Next on the list was the kitchen. The ALS and luminal established it as the primary crime scene: there was a large pool of cleaned up blood on the floor. They gave the kitchen a very thorough search, but came up empty handed. No missing knives, no fingerprints, nothing. Looked like the killer had cleaned up behind him. Getting a bit desperate, they set their hopes on the second floor, but again nothing. No traces of semen on the bed, no used condoms in the paper basket, no diary, no birth control pills. It really seemed that all this woman ever did, was work, sleep and occasionally work in her garden.

Part 4.

Back in the office, Catherine went to chase down the analysis' results, while Sara went to see Doc Robbins. "Fingerprints are the vic's and the maid's, the hairs you found are the vic's. Brass called, according to the maid miss Porter hadn't had a boyfriend in years and never entertained guests. The maid hardly ever saw her, the victim usually had already left for work when she arrived. She did say that the victim mentioned losing her keys a couple of weeks ago," Catherine said dejectedly. "Hope you have some better news?"

"Well, according to the doc, she died of a single stab wound to the heart three days ago. Death would have been instantaneous. Regular kitchen knife was used. The rape kit came back negative, no signs of recent intercourse."

"God, that doesn't help us," Catherine grumbled.

"Now this is where it gets interesting. Tox screen showed large amounts of narcotics in her blood and a tiny puncture mark in her neck. No needle marks or any other clues that she was a regular user. Seems our killer drugged her, which explains the lack of defensive marks. And not all mutilations were by the coyotes. The wound around the finger was way too clean to be caused by coyotes' teeth. According to the doc, the same knife was used to cut the ringfinger off, post mortem. Now the really interesting thing is… when Robbins opened her mouth, he found a bit of paper in it with the word "bonie" on it, you know the Scottish word."

"What?" Catherine said stunned, "this case just gets weirder all the time: the killer leaves no evidence at all, which suggests to me he has a pretty good knowledge of forensic procedures and then he goes and leaves a tiny note with a nonsensical word it. What do you think it means? Is he toying with us, trying to tell us something…?"

"Beats me, maybe it's a reference to the song <<My bonnie is over the ocean>>, I don't know… Just how the hell are we supposed to solve this case? We have virtually no clues to go on, the only thing he does leave behind makes no sense at all… If we don't find something solid soon, we'll have to declare the case unsolved and I just hate it when that happens," Sara said angrily.

"I don't know Sara, I don't know what our next step should be. We still have the mother, Brass is still tracking her down, maybe she'll know something," Catherine replied, but it was clear in her voice that she didn't really believe that herself. She continued: "But even if we don't solve this case, you know it's not your fault, don't you? We can only work with the evidence we're given and in this case, frankly that's zilch. We can only do so much, we can't perform miracles every day," she smiled.

Sara laughed at that and said: "I know, but I feel bad for the victim, you know? I feel like I betrayed them, denied them their peace so to speak."

"Oh Sara," was the only thing Catherine said, putting her arm round Sara's shoulder. How could I ever think you didn't feel, she thought. They continued sitting like that for a while, silently, both deep in thought.

Suddenly Catherine said: "Hey you up for some breakfast with the gang, take your mind of things for a little while?"

"Erm sure, I can't stay long though, I have that bike thing with Greg this afternoon and I'd like to catch some Z's before that."

"Let's go then," Catherine said.

"You go ahead, I'll catch up with you, I'm just going to run the data through VICAP first, you never know."

"Don't be too long though or I'm going to sic the boys on you," Catherine laughed leaving the room. Smiling Sara started up the program and entered all data. Getting bored waiting for results, she thought what the hell, I'll just do it tomorrow.


Part 1.

"So how was it?" Bill asked when Sara stopped right beside him, leaving him in a cloud of dust.

"Really great," she smiled putting her helmet on one of the mirrors, "I knew I missed riding, but I just didn't realise how much until I was out there. And this baby handles like a dream."

"I'm glad you feel that way Sara, because I have a proposition for you. We just found out Karen's pregnant and …"

"Congratulations," Sara interrupted him.

"Thanks," he grinned, "anyway I'm thinking about getting a SUV you know, safety first and all that. What I'm trying to say is, I'm selling my Harley and I wanted to offer you first refusal. So what do you think?" When Sara didn't answer him immediately, Bill launched his sale's pitch: "She's in mint condition, the tyres are still good for at least another 10 000 miles and I only recently replaced the brakes and the chain…"

"How much?" Sara simply asked.

"God, I hadn't even thought that far ahead," he admitted sheepishly. "Erm $3500?" he said hesitantly.

"Deal," was all Sara said.

"Excellent," Bill said, putting his arm round Sara's shoulder, directing her towards the house. "You know, I have a mate who can get you the necessary documents in record time. I'll just give him a call, you'll have the bike transferred to your name within days. All you have to do is get insured and she'll be yours in a couple of days instead of weeks." With that they both disappeared into the house.

Sara had just closed her eyes for a little nap when there was a knock on the door. She knew it couldn't be Greg, she had only dropped him off fifteen minutes ago. If it's another salesman, I'll scream she thought. Opening the door, she was very surprised to see Catherine standing there. "Hey Catherine," she said.

"Hey" was the short reply. They both fell quiet, looking at each other. Sara because she didn't know what Catherine was doing here- in all the years they had worked together, they had never been to each other's house- and Catherine because she couldn't get over how incredibly hot Sara looked. I always knew she was attractive, Catherine thought, but in full leathers she's just plain stunning.

Sara was the first to recover and said: " Erm, sorry, where are my manners, come on in."

"Thanks," the older woman said, "I came over because Grissom called. He's been trying to reach you all day, but you didn't answer your phone or your cell, so he called me in the end. I knew you had that thing with Greg, but I figured you'd be home by now. So here I am." Seeing Sara was looking at her confused, she said: "sorry, I'm not making much sense, am I? Grissom wants us both to come in early, seems like VICAP came up with something. Grissom was contacted by the FBI, they're sending someone over. Seems we've got a serial killer on our hands, 12 victims in L.A. last year, same M.O. I don't know much more than that, that FBI profiler – Sasha Blake I think his name was - would brief us when he got here."

"Hmmm, FBI, I just hope they're not coming to take over," Sara grumbled. "I'm just going to change. Make yourself at home, there's soda in the fridge. I'll be right back," she said, walking to her bedroom. Don't change on my account, Catherine whispered quietly, staring at Sara's ass. What the hell am I doing, she thought, she's a colleague for God's sake, I can't lust after her like a lovesick teenager. Trying to take her mind out of the gutter (for her own health, the images of what she wanted to do to Sara, getting her a bit too worked up), Catherine decided to take a look around, squashing her overactive hormones with her curiosity. Her eye fell the photographs Sara had just put up that morning.

Before she could ask Sara about them, the younger CSI appeared again and said: "Ready. Do you mind giving me a ride? I'm kinda hungry, I haven't eaten since this morning, that way I could have a sandwich on the way." After being told that wasn't a problem, Sara grabbed her bag and followed Catherine out the door. Soon both women were on their way.

Part 2.

"Ah Catherine, you found her, good," Grissom said absentmindedly when they entered the staff room.

"Yes, she's not an easy woman to track down, but I managed in the end, " she joked, winking at Sara.

"Any news?" Sara asked.

"No, not yet, I'm still waiting for special agent Blake, he should be here any minute now," Grissom said, looking at his watch. Just then there was a confident knock on the door and a young woman came in, saying: "Hi, the girl at the desk said to come here, I'm looking for a certain Grissom. He's expecting me."

"I'm Gil Grissom and you are…?"

"Oh sorry, forgot to introduce myself," the girl laughed, "I'm special agent Blake." When all she got was confused looks, the girl said hesitantly: "the office did call to say I was coming down, didn't they?"

"Yes, they did, we were just expecting a man, that's all. You know with the name Sasha and the fact that most feds are men. But as they say, assumption is the mother of all fuck ups… Hi my name is Sara Sidle, very pleased to meet you," Sara said, shaking the agent's hand.

"Don't worry about it, I get that all the time," the agent laughed looking Sara directly in the eye after giving her a quick once over, "Sasha isn't really a girl's name, don't know what the hell my parents were thinking."

When she thought Blake was checking Sara out a bit too intently, Catherine cleared her throat, causing the agent to shift her gaze to her. "Hi, I'm Catherine Willows," she said curtly. Ooookay Sasha thought, territorial and possessive, seems she and Sara are a bit of an item. Looking back at the stunned and wide-eyed Sara, she adjusted her initial analysis: doesn't seem like Sara knows Catherine has a crush on her. Interesting, she thought. Turning back to Grissom, she said: "Are we waiting for someone else or can I start this meeting?"

"No, I've put Sara and Catherine exclusively on this case, so I'm afraid I can't give you any more CSI's, I need them to cover the other cases. If you need an extra pair of hands, I can offer you Greg, but he's still in training, so probably a bit too inexperienced to handle such a case," Grissom said apologetically.

"That's ok. I'm sure the three of us can manage just fine," she smiled.

Nodding Grissom said to Catherine and Sara: "I've cleared it with the sheriff that you're not on the clock, you can come in when you want, you're not constricted to graveyard shift anymore. For budget reasons or something, you do have to take two days a week off, something about not accumulating too much overtime and the budget being stretched as it is. Anyway, I'll leave you to it then," he said before leaving the room.

Turning back to face Catherine and Sara, who had taken place at the conference table, Sasha said: "well ladies, let's get this show on the road. Fifteen months ago a young woman named Theresa Brown was found murdered on a secluded beach in L.A. She was stabbed once with a big kitchen knife, right through the heart, killing her instantly. She was also missing her ring finger. No evidence of sexual assault, no forensic evidence at the scene, only a bit of paper in her mouth with the word "rose" on it. LAPD found that she was murdered in her own kitchen. Statements from colleagues indicated her keys went missing a couple of weeks before her murder. Having no forensic evidence, no witnesses, no disgruntled boyfriends or exes, in a word having nothing to build a case on, the police was ready to throw in the towel. Then another body turned up: same M.O., same lack of clues, same lack of forensic evidence. After the fourth body, they called us in. Now I work for a tiny, but highly specialised unit within the FBI, specialised in analysing data and composing extensive profiles on both victim and killer. The big difference between my unit and the Behavioural Analysis Units is that we've not only had full police training, but we also have a very good knowledge of criminal law, forensic pathology and evidence gathering. Anyway, despite the very hard work by the local police, he killed eight more times, before going underground about a year ago. No more bodies showed up, until now."

Part 3.

Opening her briefcase, Sasha got a very thick file out, putting it on the table. " Now in this file is everything related to the L.A. killings: autopsy reports, forensic evidence, statements by witnesses, family members, friends and colleagues…. You name it, it's in there. Now this may sound very cold and calculated, but each murder gave my unit more data to go on, enabling us to put together a very thorough profile of the killer. In a nutshell, the killer's male, between 30 and 40, Caucasian, left handed and between five foot six and five foot eight."

"How do you know that?" Catherine asked curiously.

"Points of entry of the knife. He didn't subdue all his victims, some of them were killed standing upright. We calculated the angle of those entrance wounds. The killer is highly educated, either university or autodidact. He knows a lot about forensic evidence, medicine and pathology: he administered just the right amount of narcotic to subdue the victims and the wounds of the severed ring finger are clean and almost surgically precise. If he went to university, I don't think he finished. Either that or he works in a job that's much lower than he's actually qualified for. He lives alone and is very neat. I don't mean he's an obsessive-compulsive cleaner or anything, but his place will be extremely tidy with nothing out of place. He's a smooth talker, he knows how to convince people; I don't mean in the sense of being a pathological liar or even a salesman, it's more like he's in very good control of his emotions, he'd be very good at convincing the police of his innocence. I'm actually convinced he's been interrogated by LAPD for the killings, but that's more a gut feeling than a substantiated guess. He stalks his victims for a long time, knows everything about them: where they work, who their friends are, their habits, …well, you catch my drift, he's obsessed with them. He's been hurt by love, I know everybody is or has been at one point or another, but in his case his marriage proposal has been rejected in favour of the woman's career. This results in a hatred against career woman, he's convinced a woman's place is at home with the kids. It's also the reason why he cuts off their ring finger, to show us what he lost: his potential family. That's why I also think he drives a family car or a SUV; not only because of the family connection, but also because it's big enough to put a body in. He ties their hands and feet together after death with some kind of rope, to transport them better. We haven't figured out what he uses precisely, but it's very soft and hardly leaves marks on the victim's skin. Probably something like silk. I believe he moved here a year ago, to start his preparations. He won't have bought a house, he'll be renting because he knows he'll have to move after this killing spree. He'll live in a nice residential area, get on great with his neighbours and show no evidence of being dysfunctional. Now that was the killer in a nut shell, the profile in the file is much more detailed, but I'll leave that for you to read later, it would take us to far.

Now for the victim, also in a nutshell. All victims were Caucasian brunettes between 30 and 35, all high profile career women, all single with no kids. With single I mean never married, none of them were divorced or widowed. They had virtually no social life: no boyfriend, no hobbies, no interests outside work, they lived to work so to speak. They had few friends, they got on well with their colleagues, but didn't socialise with them. They were all born on the 16th, in L.A. his first victim was born on May 16th, his last on April 16th, he kills them in chronological order. When was your victim born?" she asked. Sara looked through her notes and answered: "May 16th " He's sticking to his M.O. then. He chooses his victim because of their resemblances with his ex, not only in appearance, but also in behaviour: they prefer work to a family. Most of them worked very long hours and were hardly at home, giving him plenty opportunity to go through their house to get to know them better. They all lived in nice and comfortable houses, but they weren't homes if you know what I mean, they weren't lived in. They led a sad life if you ask me. Any questions?"

"Erm yeah, do we know what he means with the bits of paper he leaves behind?" Sara asked.

"Good question, we still don't know what it refers to, it's just words apparently, we haven't been able to make a complete sentence out of it. When we do figure it out, it'll tell us much about the killer, but until then your guess is as good as mine."

"Would you mind giving me the words, I like puzzling, maybe I'll find something?" Sara asked.

"Sure, you got a pen and paper ready? Ok, luve's – thou – June – lass – Rose – melodie – that's – deep – my Dear – dry – in tune – seas and then your word bonie. Any more questions? No? Well, I suggest we call it a night then, I don't know about you two, but I'm beat, I know it's only eight o'clock but it's been a tiring flight and I still have to unpack. How about we meet up tomorrow morning, go through the last killing and then discuss our next steps. That sound Ok to you two?"

"Yeah, sure, how about nine o'clock in my office?" Catherine said.

"Fine with me," Sasha said. Sara just nodded. "Well good night then, see you tomorrow at nine," the agent said, disappearing through the door.

"Seeing it's still early you fancy grabbing a bite to eat before going home?" Catherine asked Sara.

"Sure, if you don't mind dropping me off again afterwards?"

"Nope, let's go."

Chapter 8


They went to a little Italian Catherine knew. As soon as they entered the place, the owner came over to Catherine, kissing her three times on the cheek and saying "Buongiorno Catharina, come sta?"

"I'm doing just fine, Paolo, have you got a table for me and my friend? I know you're pretty busy, but maybe you can squeeze us in somewhere?"

"But off course, follow me, I'll get you the best place in the house, anything for a friend," Paolo said winking and led them to a little secluded booth in the back. Giving them their menu's, he told them drinks were on the house.

When he left them, Sara looked over her menu at Catherine, who just said: "they were broken into a couple of years ago, I handled the case and quickly found a trusted friend of the family had done it. Paolo has been grateful ever since."

Just then Paolo appeared again, carrying a tray of drinks. "Have you made your choice?" he asked politely after giving them both their cocktail.

"I'll just have my usual," Catherine laughed, making Paolo grin too.

"I'll have the spaghetti lupara" Sara said.

"Good choice," Paolo said before heading to the kitchen.

Dinner was a pleasant affair; they only briefly discussed the case, mainly telling each other funny stories about their life and other cases. "I mean, can you imagine… a big burly man screaming at the top of his lungs because there was a mouse in the lab," Sara laughed.

"Then what did you do?" Catherine asked with tears in her eyes from laughing.

"Well I tried to catch the little bugger first, but he was too quick, kept running around the lab, making Ron scream even louder. What a sight it must have been, me chasing around the lab trying to catch a tiny mouse, Ron on the table, screaming and taping his trouser legs shut…"

"Why did he do that?"

"Oh, he was afraid the mouse would crawl up his legs and bite him in his you know what" This just made Catherine laugh harder. "Anyway, in the end I had to resolve to violence. I went to my locker and got my squash racket. A couple of good whacks and bye bye mouse. Then Ron had the nerve to ask me to check for a heart beat, to be sure he was really dead. I mean the poor thing was flattened… I just took it by it's tail, dangled it in front of Ron's eyes and said that it looked quite dead to me, but that he could always take it to Doc Battaglio – our pathologist- for a second opinion."

They both laughed. Seeing that they were the last one's in the restaurant, Catherine said: "I think we'd better go now before they throw us out." She gestured at Paolo for the check and when Sara made a move to pay, she said: "No, it's my treat."

"Nonsense," Sara said, "I'll pay, you pay next time. Besides you've been playing my cabbie practically all day, consider dinner your tip."

"Ok, but next time dinner is on me."

Driving home after dropping Sara off, Catherine's thoughts wandered back to her colleague. She wasn't at all how she first thought. She was funny, loyal, trustworthy, considerate, generous, adventurous and still at times adorably shy and insecure. There lay a multitude of emotions and passions hidden within those soulful brown eyes, you just had to know how to look. Catherine was really glad she had asked Sara to join her for dinner, it had given her the opportunity to get to know her. The real Sara, not the reserved and distanced person she became at work. It just seemed that Sara had built an emotional wall around her, only occasionally letting someone see the real her. After getting a glimpse of the real Sara the past few days, Catherine was determined to break down that wall brick by brick. She knew it would probably take a long time, but Sara was worth that. With that thought, she left her car and entered her house.

Part 2.

Sara had woken up early, she wasn't used to sleeping during the night anymore and felt quite awake around five. She showered, dressed and padded into the kitchen to make some coffee. Sitting at the kitchen table, sipping her coffee she contemplated what to do next. What does one do at five thirty on a Sunday morning, she thought. Hmmm, maybe a spot of cleaning. An hour later – all her ironing, washing and cleaning done -, she decided to take a look at the word puzzle. It intrigued her, she couldn't stand not knowing the solution. The same reason she liked algebra so much, she saw it as a riddle she just had to solve, much to her classmates disgust who called her an overachiever and maths nerd. Sara just snorted at that memory. Besides it was still a bit too early to work on her bookcase, she was sure her neighbours wouldn't appreciate her banging her hammer and drilling at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning. Settling down on her favourite leather chair, she scribbled the thirteen words on bits of paper and began shuffling them around. A while later she thought she had found it and flicked on her laptop to check. Surfing to google, she typed in "Robert Burns poems" and quickly found she was looking for, the poem "A red, red Rose" by Rabby Burns.

Thank God Erin was a poem lover, she thought. Really proud of herself that she had solved the puzzle where the FBI had failed, she immediately called Catherine on her cell phone.

"Willows" a very sleepy voice said.

"Fuck, sorry, forgot it 's still early, didn't mean to wake you, sorry about that, erm it's Sara by the way, anyway I called you because I did it, I solved it," Sara rambled enthusiastically.

"Solved what?" came the groggy reply.

"The bits of paper our killer leaves behind. I know what it refers to…" Catherine was suddenly very awake and sat up straight in her bed.

"You do?" she said. "What is it then?"

"The red, red rose by Robert Burns, the Scottish poet," Sara said proudly.

"Never heard of it," Catherine replied a bit embarrassed.

"I only know it because it was Erin's , my… erm a friend of mine in San Francisco, favourite poem. Anyway all the words come from the first two verses."

"Good work Sara, now I don't have to kill you for rudely waking me up on a Sunday morning," Catherine joked.

"Erm yeah, I'm really sorry about that, I was just so glad I found it, I didn't stop to think it was still early. I didn't mean to wake you…" Sara stammered apologetically.

"Hey Sara, it's okay, I was only kidding, I was going to get up soon anyway. You know what, why don't you come over to have breakfast with me and Lindsey? This way you can tell me all about the poem and I can pay you back for dinner yesterday. How about it?" Catherine asked.

"If you're sure, I wouldn't want to impose" Sara started shyly.

"I'm sure," Catherine replied, "in fact could you pick up a carton of milk on the way over? We're out and Lindsey will want her pancakes."

"Okay, can't have Lindsey go without her pancakes. I'll be there in half an hour. Is that okay?" Sara asked.

"Sure, see you then and don't forget the milk or face the wrath of a teenager," Catherine laughed before hitting the end button.

Part 3.

Just when Sara was about to ring the doorbell, Lindsey opened the front door forcefully. "Hey Sara, come on in," she said energetically, "I'm glad you came over for breakfast. Mom's going to make pancakes, they're my favourite. You didn't forget the milk, did you?" the young girl asked, eyeing Sara suspiciously.

"Erm no, I have it right here," Sara answered, lifting the milk cartons a bit higher.

"Ah good, mom's in the kitchen making coffee, come on through," the girl said, grabbing Sara's hand and practically dragging her to the kitchen. " She's here mom, you can start now," she yelled, almost deafening Sara on the spot. Entering the kitchen Lindsey immediately went to sit on her chair, leaving Sara standing awkwardly in the door.

"Hi Sara, I see hurricane Lindsey has struck again," Catherine joked, trying to ease some of Sara's obvious tension. "Do you want a cup of coffee?"

"Yeah, thanks, that would be great," Sara said, putting the milk on the counter. "Can I do anything to help?"

"No, that's okay. I've got everything under control, you just go and sit down and I'll bring the pancakes as soon as they're done." Catherine replied, ushering Sara towards the table.

Taking her coffee with her, Sara obeyed and went to sit down next to Lindsey. "Hey munchkin, so how's school?" she asked.

"It's ok. Some things are pretty cool, others very boring. What were your favourite subjects in school?" the young girl asked curiously.

"Science and maths" Sara sheepishly replied.

"Yuck," Lindsey said, scrunching her nose. "Mine are English and history. What's your favourite colour?"

Laughing at the total change of subject, Sara said "blue".

"Hey, that's my favourite colour too. Uncle Greg said you're a biker chick. Is that true? Does this mean you have a lot of tattoos?"

Sara started laughing. "Greg talked about me behind my back, did he? Think I'm going to have a little chat with him about that. But yes, I've had a couple of motorcycles. I had an old one in high school my granddad gave me and then a Harley when I was living in San Francisco. And I guess I have one now, I just bought Bill's Harley. Do you know who Bill is?" she asked.

The young girl nodded, saying: "yeah, uncle Greg told me all about him. Bill's his brother in law, the big bold one with all the tattoos. He went to school with him. So do you have any, tattoos I mean?"

"Yeah, I've got one," Sara admitted.

"Really?" Lindsey said wide-eyed. "Did it hurt? When did you get it? Where do you have it? Can I see it?"

"Woh, munchkin, slow down before I go into question overload," Sara laughed. "Now to answer your questions. No, I didn't hurt at all. I got it about eight years ago when I was still living in San Francisco and It's on my lower back."

"So can I see it?"

"Persistent little bugger aren't you?" Sara laughed. Looking at Catherine, who gave her a tiny nod, she stood up and pulled up her tank top to reveal a beautiful unicorn.

"Why did you choose that design?" Catherine asked, putting a big stack of pancakes on the table before sitting down.

A warm blush spread over Sara's face. "A friend of mine said I reminded her of a unicorn: mysterious, free spirited and one of a kind."

"Your friend was right," Catherine said," now sit down and dig in, before greedy monster over there eats it all."

Nancy walked in round eight thirty. After introducing herself to Sara, she turned back to Catherine and said: "I'm sorry Cath, but I won't be able to look after Lindsey on Friday. I've got a three day conference in New York. I know you only have the weekend off and this kind of leaves you in a lurch, but I really need to go to New York, my promotion depends on it. Maybe Lindsey can stay at her friend's for the day?" Nancy asked hopefully.

"No, Melissa and her parents are in Barbados for two weeks and Phoebe's visiting her grandparents in California."

"Eddie?" she said.

"God no. It's not his weekend and besides, I know he's out of town this week, doing some business he said. Probably something illegal and shady, knowing him. Anyway, he's out too."

"Well, Greg then?" Nancy proposed.

"No, I know for a fact that Greg's working Thursday and Friday night, he was complaining that he'd miss an Evanescence concert or something, so he's out too." Catherine said, running out of options fast.

"Erm, I'm sorry to eavesdrop, but if you want, I can look after Lindsey," Sara said. "Only if you want me to of course, I mean I know I haven't looked after her before, but…"

"You wouldn't mind?" Catherine asked.

"No, not at all," Sara said. "I was planning on taking off Friday anyway, Bill's dropping Matilda off."

"Matilda?" Catherine asked confused.

"Erm Yeah, the name I gave the Harley. It's a thing I do, I named my car too," Sara said, blushing furiously. "Anyway I only have to be home until around ten, then I can take Lindsey swimming or something."

"Well, I'm okay with that, but we'd better ask Lynds. What do you think Lindsey? Want to stay at Sara's on Friday, while I work?" Catherine asked her daughter. Nodding eagerly, the young girl only said "that's cool." " Guess that's settled then," Catherine said. "Thanks Sara, you're a lifesaver." Saying their goodbyes to Nancy and Lindsey, the two woman set off to meet agent Blake.

Chapter 9

Part 1.

"Good morning and sorry I'm a bit late," agent Blake said, walking into Catherine's office.

"That's quite alright, we've only just arrived ourselves. You want a coffee agent Blake?" Catherine asked.

"Sasha and yes please". After being handed her cup, she said: "I thought we could start by discussing the Porter case and then have a brainstorm on our next steps, if that's ok with you two?" Both Catherine and Sara nodded. "So who's going to tell me about Jennifer Porter?" Sasha asked.

Looking at Sara, Catherine cleared her throat and started talking. "Guess that would be me then," she laughed. "Erm, ok, Jennifer Porter was found murdered in the Las Vegas desert. There were some mutilations, but most were caused by hungry coyotes. The killer only cut off her ring finger. She was stabbed once, right through the heart and died instantly. We didn't find any useful evidence at the scene: the soil beneath her finger nails was from when she planted some flowers in her garden and the hairs we found were the victim's. She did have some lacerations on hands and feet, most likely caused by rope burn after death. So he tied her up with something. Because the rope burn wasn't really severe, we also thought it was most probably caused by something soft like silk, but we couldn't tell if anything silky was missing from the victim's wardrobe. The post-mortem showed she had been drugged, there was a high amount of narcotic in her bloodstream, enough to incapacitate her. Doc found a tiny puncture wound in her neck, but we didn't find any needles in the house. She wasn't raped. Her keys went missing a couple of weeks prior to the murder and there weren't any signs of forced entry, so we think the murderer stalked her and stole her keys. Now for the victim, her name was Jennifer Porter, born in Las Vegas on the 16th of May 1970. Brunette, five foot four, slim, brown eyes. She worked in a bank in the loans and mergers division. She wasn't married and didn't have a boyfriend. She hardly had any friends and even her closest colleagues hardly knew anything about her. Seems all she did was work. She had an elderly mother, but she couldn't really tell us anything. When Brass finally tracked her down, it appeared she was in a very posh home, being treated for Alzheimer's dementia. She was already in the last stage and didn't even know who Brass was talking about when he asked about her daughter. So that was another dead end. And that's all I can tell you about the case."

"Ok, Sasha said, "so the killer hasn't changed his M.O. and still goes for the same kind of victim. This means we can expect another body next week, unless we can stop him. Any ideas ladies?"

"Erm can I ask a question? Sara asked. "Were all the L.A. victims born and raised in L.A., because our victim was from Las Vegas and had never left town. Maybe the killer goes for native citizens?"

"Very good question" Sasha said, " but no. all the victims did live in L.A., but they came from all over the country. So he'll go for someone currently living in Las Vegas, which is good news in a way: at least we know he won't go for a tourist, which reduces the potential victims considerably."

"I think we should do two things," Catherine said," one, somehow make a list of potential victims. Maybe we could protect them or at least warn them. And two, the most obvious one off course, trying to identify the killer. Now I know he doesn't leave behind any clues, but there have to be other ways to narrow the search down. Going to every realtor in Vegas and putting together a list of ex-Californian renters, contacting garages and rental car companies to see who recently bought or hired an SUV, calling up companies to see if the hired ex-Californians within the last year… I don't know, maybe if we cross reference those lists we could narrow the list down a bit. I know it's a hell of a job, but I don't think there's anything else we can do. We have no forensic means to identify him."

"I agree," agent Blake said, "for the moment it's the only way to go. It's Sunday today, so governmental agencies, real estate agents and garages will be closed. There's nothing we can do today, why don't we go home and start tomorrow morning?" Looking at Sara, she said: "So how did you go with the word puzzle? Any luck?"

"Oh, I think I found it" Sara said shyly.

"You did?" Sasha said agog.

"Well, I'm not a 100% sure but it seems like all the words come from the poem "A red, red rose" by Robert Burns."

"I'll check with my division and let you know tomorrow if that gives us any extra information about the killer. See you tomorrow at nine" With that the agent left Catherine's office.

"Think she's a bit miffed you stole her thunder" Catherine laughed.

"Yeah, seems that way," Sara grinned, "anyway I'm going too, think I'll work on my bookcase some more, it will give me time to clear my thoughts and maybe I'll come up with some more ways to narrow down that list of yours. Bye"

Part 2.

For the next two days the three of them were busy gathering all kinds of data. Sara buried herself in the county records office, while Catherine and Sasha called all real estate agents, rental services and garages that were in the yellow pages. It was a gigantic task: not only did they have to charm their way into getting the information they wanted, the data they gathered was staggering. After only a day they had to ask Greg to join their little task force, they needed someone to put all the data into the computer.

Sara was in luck, there was a young man working at the county record office, who quickly agreed to help her when she flashed him her famous gap toothed smile. The first thing they did, was pull up a list of potential victims. They were able to narrow the list down a bit by entering a couple of parameters: female residents of Las Vegas, born on the 16th, born between 1964 and 1979, working and unmarried. The list counted around 400 names and browsing through it, Sara was very surprised to find her own name on it. She knew she could still narrow the list down considerably by phoning the women. A few simple questions would tell her whether the woman were single, if they had any kids and if they were brunettes. Then they did the same for the killer list and came up with 1200 names: all male Californians between 30 and 40 who moved to Las Vegas between 15 and 6 months ago. Cross referencing should narrow that list down too. Nothing more to do at the records office, Sara decided to return to the station. It was only four, maybe she could start calling up a couple of women.

When Sara entered the room, Greg was sighing heavily. "Hey Greg, what's up?" she asked.

"Have you seen the size of the gigantic pile that Catherine just casually dumped here? And I still have to enter that other pile into the computer. It just never ends." Greg whined.

Sara started laughing. "I'm afraid I have some bad news Greg," she said, "after you entered all that data, you'll have to cross reference it with this list. Don't worry about it, it's only 30 pages long."

"What?" he yelled. "I always knew you had a sadistic streak in you Sidle. You just wait, I'll get my own back."

"Don't worry Greg, I'll make it up to you. How about a beer after work? I'll even let you beat me at pool if that makes you feel any better," Sara laughed.

"A beer sounds good, but I'll have you know I'm a first class pool player. No need to hold back, I'll whoop your ass." He said.

Sara just laughed and said: "we'll just see about that, bigger men have tried and failed. How about a little wager? Best out of three and the loser pays for dinner?"

"You're on, Sidle and keep you cheque book ready. You'll be paying for lobster".

Looking at her watch, Sara said: "ready to call it a day? The rest will keep until tomorrow."

"Sure, just let me grab my coat." Greg said eagerly.

Just then Catherine entered the room. "Hey Catherine, Sara said, "we're going for a beer, want to join us?"

"I'd love to after the day I've had, but we can't, she said, "Brass just called, we've got another body."

At the crime scene, the four of them quickly got out of the SUV and walked over to Brass. After introducing agent Blake, Catherine asked him who discovered the body.

"That elderly couple of there, they were walking their dog. When the dog started howling and didn't come back when they called out several times, they went into those thick bushes over there to check it out, immediately stumbling upon the body. The man said he watches cop shows, so he knows what to do. He only touched her to check for a pulse and immediately called 911 when he felt how cold she was. He didn't touch her otherwise. The call came in at 16.29 h according to the logs."

"Do we know who she is yet? Sara asked.

"No, we wanted to preserve the crime scene as much as possible, so we didn't touch her handbag. There are footprints though, well two pairs of footprints and a pair of paw prints to be exact. Probably the couple's, but I'll leave that for you guys to confirm. I have a couple of guys checking the road for tyre tracks. It rained all yesterday evening and night, so maybe if he dumped the body yesterday, he left a nice clean tyre track behind. Give me a yell when you've established I.D., I'll organise a warrant for her house immediately."

"OK, thanks Jim," Catherine said. "You know, four people to cover a tiny crime scene is a bit over the top, we'd only get in each other's way. I'll just check her purse for I.D. and then we'll split up. I'll cover the dumping scene with Sasha, Sara you cover the victim's house with Greg."

"Sure, but how do Greg and I get back? We all came in the same car?" Sara asked.

"Damn, didn't think of that, … just ask Brass to drop you off at the lab or something. OK?"

"Yeah, Ok." Sara said. "Do you want me to take some pictures of the victim and the scene before you grab the purse?"

Yep, good idea," Catherine said, snapping on her gloves. When Sara had finished snapping her pictures, Catherine made her way over to the victim, very careful not to step in any footprints or destroy any other possible evidence. "OK, name is Sylvia Stewart, 34 Crescent lane, born 16th of June 1972.

"Come on Greg, we're off the search the house" Sara said, "we'll see you two back at the lab later."

"What do you want me to do?" Sasha asked.

"Why don't you concentrate on the footprints and I'll work the victim here. It's probably best if you take a print of the elderly couple's shoes first. The woman looks likes she's in shock. If you do them first, they can go home. It appears Brass is finished talking with them." Catherine replied.

Sasha, very glad she didn't have to check the body, agreed and walked off. Left on her own, Catherine methodically worked the corpse. First she checked for the killer's usual characteristics: faint ligature marks, missing ring finger and tiny puncture wound to the neck. All present and accounted for, she thought. The victim was fully clothed and didn't seem to be raped, but that was something Doc Robbins had to confirm. Although she knew Sara had already taken some pictures, Catherine took some more, just to be on the safe side. She took some scrapings from under the nails before carefully bagging the hands. Catherine knew the body couldn't be taken away just yet, not only was Sasha still busy casting the footprints and checking for other prints, Catherine still had to check around the victim for evidence. She found a vast amount of rubbish, but still bagged the lot dutifully. Most of it had probably been laying there for months, perhaps even years, but there was still a chance the killer had left something behind, you never knew. When she was finished, she looked around for Sasha. Spotting her chatting with a cop, she called out" it's okay guys, you can take her away now," before walking over to Sasha. "Did you find any tyre tracks?" she asked the cop.

"No, only ours, he must have dumped her before it started raining."

Thanking the cop, she reminded herself to check when it had started raining and said to Sasha: "Come on, nothing more we can do here, let's get back to the lab."

Part 3.

On their way back to the lab, Sasha suddenly asked: "so tell me about you and Sara."

"What are you talking about? There's no me and Sara, we're just colleagues." Catherine stammered.

"Don't give me that, it's a load of rubbish and you know it. I've seen the way you look at her, you have feelings for her. Tell me, I'll just pester you until you do, so you might as well get it over with." the agent urged.

Knowing the agent well enough to realise she'd do just that, Catherine relented. Maybe talking about it with a virtual stranger might help clear things in my mind, she thought. "I don't really know how I feel about Sara," she started, "I'm so confused. Sara started working here about four years ago. She was called in by Grissom to investigate our own team, it's a very long story and not really relevant. Anyway I hated her, I saw her as an intruder and I have to admit, I wasn't very nice to her. I thought she was an arrogant, stuck up and overachieving bitch, an automaton without emotions. And she didn't really seem to want to change that opinion. All she seemed to live for was work, she hardly ever joined us outside work, only talked shop, never told us anything about her personal life… As you can imagine, we didn't have the best working relationship. We argued, yelled, insulted each other. Well that's not really true, looking back I realise I did most of that, she just took it and never said a word. Anyway my perception of her and the way I treated her didn't really change until recently. I don't know what happened, what made me change my opinion of her, but suddenly I began to see her in a totally different life. I got to know the real Sara – not the one I made her out to be- and I liked what I saw. She isn't at all like I thought she was. She's kind, modest, loyal, trustworthy, shy… the list just goes on. My opinion of her changed radically and so did the way I feel about her. I discovered I wanted to get to know Sara better, solve the enigma she is. I realised that I didn't hate her at all and that scares me. Even when I thought I hated her, I was attracted to her, but now… I think I could grow to love her, maybe I already do, I don't know … and that scares me. I'm not scared of having a relationship with a woman, that's never been a hang up for me, but scared that she's straight, scared that she'll laugh in my face when I tell her, scared I'll ruin our budding and fragile friendship. So I'd rather not rock the boat and settle for her friendship. After a slight pause, she asked: "what do you think?"

"What do I think?" Sasha repeated, pondering the question. "I think Sara is a very shy and private person, she's a lot harder to read than you are. She has built an emotional wall around her to protect herself for some reason. I think she's been hurt badly in the past and simply doesn't want to live through that pain again, so she keeps everyone at a distance. Letting someone in would only lead to more pain and anguish in her eyes. Only when she completely trusts someone, she'll let them in. I think she's beginning to trust you, otherwise she would never have taken up your dinner offer or offered to babysit. Do I think she's gay? I don't know, how can you tell? But for some reason, I can't really put my finger on it, I think she is. Do I think she'll laugh in your face when you tell her you're attracted to her? No, she won't, she's not like that. She'd never deliberately hurt someone. She has too much respect for you and your feelings to humiliate you like that. Maybe she would behave awkwardly around you for a while, trying to get her head wrapped round the thought, but she'd never stop being your friend. She'd be embarrassed as hell, but she'd never laugh at you. If she didn't feel the same way, she'd let you know straight away, fretting all the same that she had hurt you. Do I think she loves you? I wouldn't know. What I do know is that when Sara loves someone, she loves them completely. She may appear to be an ice queen, but I think she's a volcano just waiting to erupt. Also she won't run away at the first spot of trouble, she believes in for better and for worse so she'd constantly work at her relationship. She'd be completely devoted and faithful to her partner. Sure, she's a loner and would probably need some space and time on her own sometimes to brood or just to think things through, but essentially she's a very participating partner. Do I think you should take your chance and tell her? Hell yes, you have much more to gain than to lose. Do I think you should tell her now? No, I think you need to figure out exactly how you feel about her first. That would be only fair, not only towards yourself, but especially towards Sara. You'd hurt her immensely if you were to say you love her only to retract it later on. It takes a lot of courage for Sara to lower her emotional walls enough to let someone in, betraying her feelings by saying you've made a mistake, that you didn't love her after all would simply crush her. Besides at the moment, I don't think she's ready for a romantic relationship. There's something holding her back, I don't know what it is, some inner demons she's got to fight, but I feel she's working on that. Do I think she'd take the first step when she feels she's ready? Most probably. From the moment she's sure of her feelings, she just goes for it. So my advice to you is to figure out how you really feel about her and to be patient. Give her time to make up her mind, to fight her inner demons,… Once she's sure, she'll come to you. Don't rush her, if she feels threatened, she'll retreat into herself and block you out forever. So just be patient, figure out how you feel, let her know and then just wait."

Part 4.

Meanwhile right across town, Greg and Sara were just finishing up their search of the house and found it to be almost a carbon copy of Sara's previous house search. They established the kitchen as the crime scene, but not a single knife was missing. They went through the whole kitchen with a toothcomb, but found not a single shred of forensic evidence they could use. Only one set of fingerprints throughout the whole house, no evidence of a boyfriend, no evidence of sexual activity. The only time they did feel hopeful was when Greg found some syringes, but their hope was quickly squashed when it appeared the victim was a diabetic. Still they bagged the syringes to send them off for analysis. No sign of forced entry, no footprints in the mud. They had turned the house upside down and nothing.

When Brass saw the dejected look on their faces, he knew better than to ask if they'd found anything. He just said: "I've talked to almost every neighbour in the street, seems nobody really knew her. They didn't know whether she had a boyfriend, if she still had family,… She was a total stranger to most of them, they didn't even recognise her name. Nobody saw anything suspicious yesterday: no strangers lurking around nor any unknown cars parked here for a long time. Most of the neighbours were at work or stayed inside because of the bad weather. I still have to talk to Mr. Robinson, her next door neighbour, but it seems he too makes very long hours. Hang on, that could be him," Brass said pointing to the Porsche that came roaring down the street to park right next to them. "Mr. Robinson?" Brass asked. Receiving a tiny nod, he continued: "My name's Brass and I'm with the police, these are Sara Sidle and Greg Sanders, they are crime scene investigators. We'd like to ask you some questions, if we may."

"I'd like to see some identification first" came the curt reply.

"Certainly," Brass said, flashing him his police badge, "now we'd like to ask you some questions about Miss Stewart." Receiving a blank stare, he clarified "your next door neighbour?".

"Oh, sorry, never knew her name. I'm afraid I hardly know anything about her, is she in some kind of trouble?"

"She's been murdered." Greg said bluntly, earning him a stern look by both Sara and Brass.

"My God, that's terrible, off course I'll answer your questions, but as I've said, I hardly knew her. We never really talked to each other, we only greeted each other when we happened to leave for work at the same time." Mr. Robinson said in an apologetic tone.

"Did she have a boyfriend, family members that came to visit?"

"I can't really answer that question, I don't really know, I'm hardly at home myself. I never saw someone, but…"

Interrupting him, Sara asked him if he was home yesterday.

"Yes I was, I wasn't supposed to be, but my toilet backed up so I had to call a plumber. I waited all day for him, but the bastard never showed. He didn't even have the common decency to call and cancel. Anyway I left around five, I still had a meeting downtown."

"Did you see something suspicious yesterday, maybe a stranger hanging around, a salesman knocking on the door, anything out of the ordinary?"

"No, not really I stayed indoor most of the time. When I left there was a carpetter getting into his SUV, but that's about all."

Feeling they were getting somewhere, Sara asked: "how did you know he was a carpetter?"

"He was coming from Miss Stewart's house – that's her name right? - with a big carpet over his shoulder. I just assumed she was redecorating or something. I tried to say hello to him, but he just ignored me and got into his car. Was in a bit of a hurry too, he sped off hitting that trash can over there. Didn't even stop to put it back."

"What did he look like?" Brass asked.

"Oh God, you think he's the killer? I really didn't pay him that much attention, I only got a glimpse of him. Erm let me see, he was wearing a black baseball cap, sunglasses and an green overall. He was about 5foot 7 and had dark hair, I saw the back of his head when he was getting into the car. He had some very dirty trainers on,… erm what else?."

When Mr. Robinson didn't say anything else, Brass said: "Any distinguishing marks, like a tattoo, a beard or birthmarks?"

"Not that I could see, but like I said, I only got a glimpse of him."

"How about the car?"

"A SUV, I'm not sure about the make, either Toyota or Mitsubishi , metallic grey, Nevada number plate, I'm sure there was an E or an F in it, but I didn't get the rest…"

"So he hit that trash can over there, huh?" Sara asked.

"Yeah, took off with screeching tyres and hit the can. I had to put it back, I didn't want anybody to hit it during the night, the lights aren't very good here."

"Thank you very much, Mr. Robinson," Brass said, "you've been a great help. Could you drop by the police station tomorrow and sign a statement, it wouldn't take too long."

"Sure, no problem, I just hope you catch him. I might not have known my neighbour, but she didn't deserve to die like that," he said before walking towards his house.

Turning back to Greg and Sara, Brass said: "finally something to go on. What are you going to do about that trash can?"

"We're going to take it with us to the lab," she said. "Come on, Greg, give me a hand." Putting their gloves back on, they went over to the trash can. Seeing tiny bits and pieces of hard plastic laying round the trash can, Sarah bent down and picked them up. Looking at the fragments more closely, she thought it to be from a head light or something, another possible clue. Putting some pieces in an evidence bag, she then helped Greg carry the trash can to the SUV. Together they secured it into the SUV and took off for the lab.

Chapter 10


When Greg and Sara arrived at the lab, Catherine and Sasha were already there, sending off their evidence for analysis. They talked briefly about their findings and although they were all pretty euphoric about the witness statement and the trash can, they knew it was still far too early to draw any conclusions. They still had a long to go. They agreed to hold an informal meeting the next day at noon. This way they could wait for the post mortem and the analysis results and it would give Catherine and Sara the time to thoroughly investigate the trash can. Besides it was getting very late and they were all tired. After bidding their goodbyes, they made their way home.

The next day Sara was the first to clock in. Humming a cheery tune, she made her way to the locker room. She was still rummaging through her locker when Catherine walked in.

"Hey Sara," she said, "You're bright and early." Sara just stared at her mesmerised, her eyes eagerly drinking in the vision before her. Feeling that old familiar feeling of desire stir in her stomach, she just croaked "Hey".

"Are you okay?" Catherine asked. "You sound a bit funny."

Finally able to drag her wandering eyes away from Catherine, she slammed her locker shut and said: "Yeah, I'm fine, just a frog caught in my throat. Erm I'll be right there, I'll just have a smoke first."

"Okay I'll go and set everything up," Catherine said, walking out of the locker room. Watching her leave, Sara let out a deep sigh and sat down on the bench. She didn't really want a cigarette, she just needed an emotional time out. She didn't understand what was happening to her. She had been working with Catherine for four years and had felt nothing, now the mere sight of her fuelled her dormant desire. Was her body telling her to start dating again? She couldn't really believe that. She had been around Sasha and had felt nothing, no sudden rush of desire, no fluttering butterflies in her stomach. And Sasha was a stunner, she looked like she could easily win a beauty contest. So that wasn't it. Maybe her body was telling her to date Catherine? She let her mind ponder on that thought. It's true that Catherine is exactly her type: blonde, blue eyed, a bit older than her, strong and assertive. She had always found her very attractive, but was she attracted to her? Recent evidence would suggest she is, but should she act on it? Was she even ready for it? Knowing her time out was drawing to an end and that Catherine could come looking for her any minute now, Sara decided to leave the soul searching for another time. Right now the case was more important, I can figure out these confusing and mixed up feelings later, she thought. Slipping on her professional mask, she left the locker room and went in search of Catherine.

Finding all the big labs taken by Ecklie and his team, Sara headed for the smallest lab or the dungeon as they lovingly nicknamed it. She found Catherine with her back to the door, singing along with the radio. As the older woman seemed totally oblivious to her presence, Sara took a moment to silently observe her. She looks adorable, Sara mused, singing the lyrics to the Macarena totally out of key and even doing some of the moves. Suppressing yet another jolt of desire, she cleared her throat before venturing in further. Startled Catherine turned around, her cheeks burning bright red with embarrassment. "I hate that song you know," she said," once you've heard it, it stays with you for days, making you do the stupidest things."

"I know what you mean," Sarah laughed, "I have that with the Supremes. Every time I hear one of their songs, I just start singing. It doesn't matter I sound like a bunch of horny cats in the middle of mating season, I just have to sing along."

Feeling a bit better about being caught in an embarrassing situation by Sara, Catherine said: "let's get started." They thoroughly investigated the trash can: scraping off every bit of paint they could find and sending it off for further analysis, dusting the bin for fingerprints and lifting a couple of dozen different sets and finally rummaging through the rubbish within.

"Sometimes I really hate this job," Sara stated, desperately trying to open the tiny window in the room to get a gulp of fresh air. The stench coming from the rubbish was enormous and the small size of the room just made matters worse. After a lot of fumbling and cursing, she finally got it open and walked back to the table. They carefully sifted through the rubbish, occasionally wincing when another waft of rot permeated the air. Suddenly Catherine spotted something interesting.

"Hey Sara, did the victim's syringes look like this?" she asked, holding it between two fingers.

"No, they didn't," she said. "It could be the killer's. Let's check it for fingerprints." They carefully dusted the syringe, but found none. " Let's take it to Greg," Sara said, "maybe he can find out what was in it."

"Good idea." Catherine said. They walked over to Catherine's office, where Greg was busy feeding the computer the data Sasha was gathering. "Hey Greg, we need your help" she said, "could you find out what was in here?"

"No problem, is it ok to touch it?"

"Yeah, we already dusted it for prints."

Taking the syringe, Greg went to his lab, saying "this won't take long." Fifteen minutes later, he came back and said: "there are trace amounts of a very strong narcotic in there, Benzy-something."

"Looks like it could be the killer's," Sara said. "Maybe we can find out who has access to this type of syringe. It's not like any syringe I've ever seen. Is there a manufacturer's name on there ?"

"I can't really see, we'll need a magnifying glass" Catherine said. Opening a rather full and disorganised drawer of her desk, she got one out and began peering through it. "Medicompany, Florida" she said.

"I'll search the internet," Sara replied. Surfing to the company's website, she found out it was a 2P13 syringe. "It doesn't really say exactly what a 2P13 is used for, we'll have to call them." After being put on hold several times and explaining more than once what she was calling for, Sara finally put the phone down. "God, I hate that awful music they put you through" she said.

"Guess we should be grateful it wasn't the Supremes" Catherine deadpanned.

"Or the Macarena" Sara grinned. "Anyway, it seems that syringe is mostly used by mental hospitals and homes for the elderly. They're faxing me a list of buyers in the Las Vegas area. Maybe our killer works for one of them?"

"That would be consistent with his profile, the file said there was a good chance he worked in the medical sector." Catherine said. "We can check them out after the meeting." Looking at her watch, she asked: "want to grab something to eat first?" When Sara nodded, they both set off for the nearby diner.


Biting in her sandwich, Catherine said: "tell me something about yourself, something I don't know yet, maybe about your youth." Seeing the puzzled look on Sara's face, she added: "I'd like to get to know you better, maybe you could tell me about your grandfather?"

Unable to resist the pleading in Catherine's eyes – God, she had always been a sucker for blue eyes-, Sara said: "My granddad. He was my hero when I was a kid and my best friend as an adult. You see, I grew up in Tamales Bay California, the only child of a couple of hippies. My parents had a little B & B, so things were a little hectic and chaotic at my place: a constant ebb and flow of guest, my parents trying to accommodate them as best they could and in their own peculiar way. They were always very busy. Don't get me wrong, I always knew my parents loved me, but they didn't really have time for me, so I stayed at my grandparents most of the time. Compared to my free spirited and very laid back parents, they were very conservative, but they were just the breath of fresh air I needed. They gave structure to my life and I loved them for it. Every day after school I went over, my gran busy in the kitchen cooking, my granddad in his shed fixing something. Although he was already retired, people kept asking him to do some odd jobs or to make them a piece of furniture. He was a carpenter and a cabinet maker and a damn good one too. He didn't believe in mass produced furniture, he still did it the old fashioned way, you knowing making it from scratch. He put his love and soul in every piece he made. I just loved watching him, watch those big sturdy hands make the most delicate and beautiful pieces. And than the smell of sawdust and wax. I still find it very relaxing.

I had the best time when I was with them. My gran always fussing over me, my granddad always teaching me new things. He taught me to drive in their back yard and wasn't even mad when I crashed his battered old truck into a tree. He just said he had to explain the concept of brakes a bit better. When he found out I was fascinated by motorcycles, he went and bought an old army one at a junkyard sale. We did it up together, you know taking it apart and putting it back together piece by piece. My gran was dead set again it, she thought it was too dangerous, that I was to crash for sure. But he just told her I was like him, that I liked speed and a bit of danger. It seemed he used to have one himself when he was younger and I think he was enjoying it vicariously through me. Anyway, in the end my gran caved in and bought me a leather jacket and a pair of leather pants. To look the part, she said. I still have that jacket.

They died when I was 21. My gran died peacefully in her sleep, my granddad followed her a couple of days later. I'm convinced he died of a broken heart, he simply couldn't live without her, couldn't imagine life without her. They left me a letter, essentially saying they were proud of me and that no matter where I was and what I was doing, they would always be looking out for me. They asked me to scatter their ashes in the garden they loved so much. So I did. I loved my grandparents. They taught me about love and respect and I can only hope that one day I'll find a love like theirs" – mentally adding <<again>>.

Part 3.

Round one o'clock the four investigators were sitting in Catherine's office, ready to kick-start their informal meeting. Taking the lead, agent Blake cleared her throat and said: "okay, let's get started. I thought we could resume what we have so far and then maybe kick a few ideas around on how to proceed, see what further steps to take. Everybody okay with that?" The three others grumbled something in agreement.

Catherine stood up and walked over to the little board they had going. "Okay," she said, tapping on the picture of the latest victim. "Sylvia Stewart, 32, born on the 16th of June 1972. Found murdered and dumped in some bushes. Single stab wound to the heart. According to the toxicology report, she's been subdued. Faint ligature marks on wrists and ankles, ring finger cut off, the word "sweetly" on a bit of paper in her mouth. Doc Robbins found no signs of struggle and the rape kit came back negative. I took some scraping from under the fingernails, but it turned out to be common dirt. You know the stuff that accumulates under the nails during the day. Anyway, Doc Robbins says she's been murdered between 15 and 17 hours on Tuesday, which fits in perfectly with the neighbour's statement and the weather report. It rained quite heavily on Tuesday night, but we didn't find any tyre tracks, so he must have dumped her before it started raining. I checked the weather reports and it started raining around six. He killed her and immediately after being seen by the neighbour, he dumped her. We found a couple of footprints, but they belonged to the elderly couple that found the body. And that's all for the dumping scene and the victim."

"Well, Greg and I went through her house with a fine toothcomb. We established the kitchen as the crime scene, but other than that, we found nothing. Only a couple of syringes that belonged to the victim, she had diabetes and had to inject insulin on a daily basis. Then Brass dug up the next door neighbour, who gave us quite a lot of information. He had seen someone – presumably our killer- leave the victim's house around five. Now, he was carrying a large piece of carpet over his shoulder. I think he kills them, rolls them in the carpet and takes them to his car. It's brilliant when you come to think of it. All the neighbours see is someone carrying a carpet in and out of the house, they'd never suspect there's a body hidden in it. What I find strange is that we haven't found any carpet fibres on the victims. So maybe he wraps them up in something else first. The neighbour also caught a glimpse of the killer and confirmed our estimated height; he thought him to be around five foot seven. He had dark hair, but no distinguishing marks like a tattoo or a beard. He was able to give us a description of the car: a metallic grey SUV, possibly a Toyota or a Mitsubishi. Now this morning Greg showed the neighbour pictures of the 17 types of said SUV's. Mr. Robinson was positive it was a Toyota Sequoia R5 he saw. Analysis of the plastic fragments and paint just came in, confirming Mr. Robinson's statement. Our killer drives a Toyota Sequoia R5, silver sky metallic paint with paint scratches and broken head light on the right front side. Police are looking out for the car and garages have been instructed to notify us when a car matching that description comes in for repairs. The car has a Nevada number plate with an E or an F in it. Greg is running a check on the car and the plate, but it appears grey is the most popular version. Last year alone 10 000 of them were sold. So that's going to take a while. Now for the trash can. Catherine found a syringe in it, no fingerprints but with trace amounts of a narcotic. It's quite an unusual syringe, only used in homes and mental institutions. So either the killer works for one of them or he burgled one. Either way, he has easy access to the syringes, maybe even the narcotic. I asked the manufacturing company to send me a list of buyers in the Las Vegas area. They faxed me a list of thirty addresses, two mental institutions, all the others are homes for the elderly or the disabled. We're going to have to visit each and every one of them. Catherine and I will can make head start on that after the meeting."

"Okay," Sasha said. "Greg, how are you doing on the list of potential victims and killers?"

"Well, I have managed to narrow the victim's list down to 120 names so far, but I still have to call about a hundred more women. So that looks promising. The killer's list is something else. I'm currently running a check on the car: all cars getting a Nevada license plate in the last 15 months and cross referencing that with make, type and number plate letters. I think I'll have a list by tomorrow. Then I still have to cross reference Sara's list from the county record's office with Catherine's list of renters. So I'm going to be busy for a while longer."

"Thanks Greg," Sasha said. "Now, we have a lot more than before: we know what car he drives, how he gets the body out virtually unnoticed, the type of syringe he uses and that he has dark hair. He's getting sloppy. He's been noticed by the neighbour for one. Granted, Robinson was home unexpected, but still… He panicked when the neighbour talked to him, hitting the trash can and providing us with some vital clues. In my opinion as a criminal profiler and psychologist, he's destabilising and rapidly. The clues he left behind are going to eat at him, making him doubt himself. He'll feel the need to reaffirm his superiority, so I wouldn't be surprised he kills sooner than expected. Probably during the weekend or Monday at the latest. Any ideas what extra steps we should take to nail him? Other than visiting the institutions and keep working on our list I mean?

The four of them thought about it for a while, but nothing came to mind. They ended their briefing and went back to work: Greg and Sasha working on the lists, Catherine and Sara visiting the institutions.

Part 4.

Later that afternoon Catherine and Sara were on their way back from their last visit of the day. They'd visited the two mental institutions on the list, but came back empty handed. The personnel departments had been helpful enough, but neither of them had hired any new staff in the past fifteen moths. Both institutions were adamant they weren't missing syringes or narcotics. Catherine and Sara weren't really disappointed, they still had 28 places to go, something was bound to turn up eventually.

"So you're getting Matilda tomorrow, huh?" Catherine asked. "I bet you're excited."

"Yes, I am" Sara beamed. "It's my first bike in four years and I really missed riding."

"Why are you so fascinated by motorcycles?" the older woman asked.

"God, maybe a gene I inherited from my granddad?" she joked. "I don't know really. Looking back I've always been more fascinated by bikes than cars. I mean cars are ok, but you don't get as much pleasure out of them. You see, riding a Harley is a totally different experience. I get a huge kick out of it. Off course there's the element of speed and that little bit of danger, but it's more than that. I don't know how to describe it really: the wind in your hair, totally exposed to the elements, a roaring engine beneath you…I feel like… well queen of the road in my case."

"It sounds like quite an experience. I bet you can't wait to take her out for a drive?" Catherine asked.

"Well, I've got to work on Saturday, but I'm taking her out on Sunday. Greg and I are planning to make a day out of it. Would you believe he's never been on a bike? I mean his brother in law Bill has got to be the biggest bike freak in Nevada and Greg's never even been on one, let alone ridden one."

"Why is Bill selling his Harley if he's such a freak?"

" Greg's sister is pregnant. Can you imagine, Greg an uncle?" Sara laughed. "Mind you, I'll bet he'll be good at it too: he's patient, compassionate and most importantly, he can play with children all day long. Speaking of kids, when are you dropping Lindsey off tomorrow? Just so I'd be up and about by then?"

"Round seven thirty if that's okay with you," Catherine said.

"Yeah, that's just fine. I mean to ask you, is it okay if I make something vegetarian for lunch or would you rather have I give Lindsey something with meat?" Sara asked.

"You don't have to go to too much trouble, just give her a sandwich or something. I'll fix us something after work. I'll pick her up round 18h, okay?"

"Sure, you know what? Why don't you and Lindsey stay for supper? I'll make sure it's ready by the time you get off work? What do you think?" Sara asked.

"You don't have to go to so much trouble" Catherine replied.

"No trouble at all," Sara said. "I insist, besides it would be a welcome change to have some company. I hate making dinner for one.

"Ok, if you're sure, then we'd love to."

With that, they arrived back at the lab and went home.

Chapter 11

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