DISCLAIMER: Jerry Bruckheimer, CBS and various others own CSI, not me. I just played in their sandpit for a while.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to http://www.crimelab.nl/transcripts.php.
SPOILERS: Based around season four episode 'Butterflied'.
SEQUEL: To Four Characters in Search of a Plot.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Meditations on a Butterfly
I thought I could cope with anything, that I was inured to this life but when I walked into Debbie Marlin's bathroom today I was shaken to the core. For one long horrible moment I really thought that it was her that it was Sara.
I had already got the impression as I walked through her house that I was entering a stage-set. If we found anything it would be because her killer wanted it to be found. Our real hope was that this person's arrogance would lead him to make mistakes. Him an assumption I know. Never assume, Grissom, never assume.
Two different people had dressed this set. The first, I presume, Debbie Marlin herself. Low lighting, candles, a bottle of wine, two wine glasses unused. Roses. She was expecting a lover. Someone she knew, was familiar with. Intimate with. The room was prepared but not over prepared. They knew each other. She did not need to impress him. Her presence was stamped all over this room and the bedroom. She liked the colour red and she was fascinated by butterflies. Interesting.
The second person had sought to erase all evidence of their presence. The carpet had been meticulously vacuumed, brush marks still visible in the pile. As were a set of shoe prints. I made my way carefully along the hall, keeping close to the wall so I did not disturb the shoeprints. Their stageset was not the living room nor the bedroom but the bathroom.
I knew that the body was there, the focus of the killer's stage set, of my crime scene. The rest was set dressing, this was what the killer wanted the world to remember.
The body was in the shower area, in a pool of blood, posed on the black and white checkerboard floor. She was kneeling face down, her knees tucked under her close to her chest, heels under her bottom and her arms positioned precisely to her side and back, her hands resting palm up near her feet. She was fully clothed, a powder pink spaghetti strapped top and blue jeans, low slung enough to reveal the top of her red satin thong and the butterfly tattoo on the small of her back.
Her face was turned towards me and, as I said, for a moment, for one long heartstopping moment I really thought that it was her, that it was Sara and that she was dead. I was frozen, desolate. And all I could think was what was Sara doing in this woman's house? How on earth can she be dead? My Sara. And after that how am I going to tell Catherine?
Then sense reasserted itself. This could not be Sara. Sara was working tonight. I had not spoken to her yet this shift but I had seen her in the evidence lab a few short hours ago. And this woman, this Debbie Marlin had been dead a lot longer than that.
And as I stepped outside I saw her waiting with the rest of the team. I just stared at her for a long moment long enough to get a puzzled look in return. My mind immediately began to catalogue the slight differences between the two women and they were slight. But it was enough. It was not her. It was not my our Sara.
I took a long deep breath and started to give out assignments.
Griss looked almost rattled. And this is a guy who can look most things in the eye without blinking twice. And even while he was talking to the others he kept glancing across at me.
He wants me to walk the perimeter when the crime scene is in the house. I'm not happy and I don't care about showing him. Cat squeezes my hand and I squeeze back. She's as mystified by his behaviour as I am. She'll talk to him, find out what's got him squicking.
It makes me nervous. He makes me nervous. He's looking at me again, glancing in my direction and then looking away again. What the hell is with him tonight?
How bad can it be in there?
I talk to the friend, the girl who found the body. She's being checked out by the medics and looks more than a little shocky. Her name is Kelly McNeil.
"We were supposed to get together yesterday. It was our day off."
"You're a nurse?" She was wearing scrubs under her coat.
"Yeah, both of us. Desert Palm Hospital. We made lunch plans, but she cancelled."
"She give a reason why?"
"Michael," Kelly said. "Michael Clark. She's been seeing him for a month or so. He's a surgical intern. When she didn't show up for work today, I called the house her cell no answer, so I drove by after shift. We have each other's keys so I just let myself in and " She shuddered.
"Did you touch anything inside?" Catherine asked.
"No. I walked in and I saw her and I ran out," Kelly shuddered.
"Kelly Michael is he just a guy or is he somebody special?"
"He was the first guy that Debbie ever blew me off for," Kelly said.
"And did you see him today, at the hospital?" Catherine knew it was a cliché but 'the boyfriend did it' came true too often in her line of work. At the very least they had to look at him.
Kelly shook her head. "No, I figured they were both playing hooky."
Well, what do you know, this detail wasn't just make-work. I might actually have found something. I wonder how Cat's getting on whether she's had chance to figure out what's got Grissom squicking so badly. And what the hell it has to do with me.
I take a sample of the white residue by the back gate, note the location automatically. I'm better than I used to be about things like this. Once I would just have seen it as Gil Grissom playing favourites and Cat sucking up to the boss again. Now I know different. I know better.
Can't pretend that I didn't feel something though. Suppose that makes me human.
Brass is busy interviewing the neighbour who seems to think he knows enough to break the case. Wonder what he has to say about this Michael Clark? He seems to be the type to have an opinion on everyone and everything. I bet he's the official or unofficial neighbourhood watch.
"Black Mercedes, E320, 2004 model, been there about a month. Rolls in at all hours. I'm figuring on call, booty call. That kind of thing," she heard him say as she approached.
"When's the last time you saw the Mercedes?" Brass asked.
"Two days ago, around lunch. And uh, I think he stayed for a little bit of dinner, too."
Brass thanked the guy and walked towards me.
"I got a name might go with the car," I said. "Michael Clark. He's a doctor at Desert Palm. He's been seeing the vic for about a month."
Brass nodded, phoned it in. "See if you can find a 2004 Mercedes Black, registered to a Michael Clark MD. Thanks." He nods to me. "Hey, you got any idea why Grissom's so spooked?"
I shook my head. "Nope. I'm going to try to talk to him though. Sara thinks it's something to do with her."
"Is it?" Brass asked.
"No idea," I grinned. I left him to it and walked into the house.
Grissom was in the bathroom where the body was still in situ. I saw her and I understood. It wasn't her. I knew it wasn't her. But at a first glance, if you weren't expecting it, it could have been her. I knew every detail of that beautiful face, knew how it felt beneath my fingers, my lips as I trailed kisses across her brow, her cheekbones, the strong line of her jaw. The curves of her body, the creaminess of her skin. So close, so like my Sara. But not her.
I knew what had got Grissom so worked up. Everything in its place and a place for everything. This was out of place.
"One thing I can never get over with this job: anything can happen to anyone."
He looked up at me from his position kneeling beside Debbie's body. "That's why we're here."
I looked around. "I bet this bathroom was the reason she bought this place." Grissom was still puzzling over something.
"What am I smelling?"
"Cleanser bleach maybe," I guessed. There was blood on the walls and the shower glass. "Arterial spray is neck high. Indicates she was standing when she was attacked." It bothers me still sometimes how clinical and detached I can sound when I say something so horrific. If I close my eyes I can picture almost exactly how this went down. He grabbed her from behind, hooking his arm around her shoulders, ripping the knife violently across her throat. She had bled out, she was so pale. I swallowed convulsively, battened it down again. This was NOT Sara. This was not my love.
Grissom had noticed the same thing. The resemblance was still freaking him slightly but he had managed to put some perspective on it. "Definite lack of lividity," he noted, staring at the body.
Apart from the arterial spray from the fatal cut there was no other blood traces to be seen. "The killer had to get something on him," I said. "Had to be a bloody mess, but there's no footprints, no handprints, no smears."
"She looks like she was placed in this position," Grissom said.
"What's the message?" I asked. A scene set as carefully as this, there had to be a message. Trouble is I don't think we were getting the right one. At least not yet.
Well at least I was in the house now. After cataloguing the contents of the grocery bags in the car Warrick and I were now in the kitchen, checking out her refrigerator. There was another grocery bag on the counter, half full. She had obviously been in the process of putting stuff away when whatever happened happened. At least we had enough clues to work out the beginning of some sort of timeline. She had brought fresh milk with an expiry date eight days from now which meant it had been bought some time within the last two days.
Grissom and Cat were still working on the main site, the bathroom. I had heard their voices earlier but it had been quiet for a while. They haven't moved the body yet.
I wonder if she's got out of him yet what his problem is?
We found blood in all four drains. And bleach. Why? He killed the girl in the shower. Then he washes up in both sinks and in the tub what am I missing?
"The answer is in the drains," Catherine said. She looked at me. It was a dirty job but someone had to do it.
I went to the bathroom door, called out. Seconds later Sara appeared from the kitchen. "What do you need?" she asked.
"I need one of you to get into the foundations and check the drain pipes under the bathroom tub, shower and sinks. Something more than we're seeing went on in here."
"I'll do it now," Sara said, disappearing into the kitchen again.
I ducked back into the bathroom. I deliberately did not look at the body again not wanting to superimpose one face on another. There was a similarity but nothing more, I told myself. Nothing more.
"Sara's taking care of it," I said.
"Got to admire a girl who doesn't mind getting her hands dirty," Catherine said softly. She glanced across at where I was carefully avoiding looking. She could see it too how could she fail not to? And given the nature of their relationship Before I could say anything, she got two bottles of luminal out of the kit and handed one to me. "Let's do it." I nodded.
A few minutes later we had our answer. "He cleaned everywhere but inside the shower," I said. The tiles around us glowed with circular patterned swirls. "But where's all this blood coming from?"
Brass caught up with me. He'd been out to Desert Palms Hospital. I knew that hospitals gave him the creeps. Desert Palms was no exception. Brass didn't like doctors so much either. He had talked about Michael Clark with his supervisor, a Dr Vincent Lurie. Very smooth, very plausible. And, according to Brass, lying through his perfect teeth. Clark had been due to assist him in a surgery that morning but was a no-show. Apparently completely out of character.
"Half these interns come in here so scared, they couldn't carve a turkey. I have to give them scalpels with training wheels."
"Makes you wonder what the good doctor Lurie was capable of carving. Oh, and he mis-spoke at one point. Talked about Clark in the past tense. Caught himself pretty quickly. He also called Clark a real artist, said he had a gift."
"In what way? Are we talking professional jealousy or something more personal?" I asked.
"I asked him if Clark was socially gifted," Brass smiled. "Apparently he turned a lot of nurses' heads but it never interfered with his work."
"Until today," I said.
"Until today," Brass agreed. "Anyway Lurie's pager went off before I could ask him anything else about Clark or Debbie Marlin."
"Pity," I said.
"I don't think Lurie liked Clark that much younger, more talented, better with the ladies maybe with Debbie Marlin in particular. Griss you found anything that might indicate two victims rather than one?"
"Maybe." I told him about the unusual blood smears. "Maybe we are."
Our perp was thorough. There was not a cleaning product left in the house. He had even emptied the trash. We stepped out into the alleyway to check the bins. Grissom noticed that one of the bins further down was attracting the local insectlife. And that was when our case got twice as complicated. As well as the missing rubbish, bloodied towels, scalpel blades and handles, empty bleach containers and other evidence of the clean-up job at our murder scene we found parts of a second body. Lots of parts.
I was the lucky girl who found enough to confirm that our second victim was male. He had been pretty comprehensively carved up, bagged and his body parts distributed in a dozen different trash cans in the general area around Debbie Marlin's house.
Warrick found a face in another bag and we realised that Brass was looking for a ghost. Michael Clark was our second victim.
I found Sara back in the labs filtering the water she had retrieved from the waste pipes under Debbie Marlin's house. She had already had a run in with Greg who had made some off-colour remarks about our victim's lifestyle based on the multiple donor hair samples found in the filter.
"Why is it still okay for men to play the field but not women? Whatever her lifestyle this woman did not deserve what happened to her just because she had multiple partners does not excuse the creep who killed her," Sara frowned.
She still had not seen the vic. She did not know I deliberated whether to warn her or not but I was too chicken. I had no idea how she would take it: whether she would be freaked or fascinated.
"Anyway, so I challenged him instead to find me some usable DNA. No small feat considering that the bleach in the drains had blanched and denatured the DNA in almost all of the samples we've found so far."
"He'll do it for you, Sara," I grinned. "You know he still has a crush on you, right."
She blushed, looked away. "Yeah, I know. I feel bad about using it against him sometimes."
"Don't. You know that Greg loves a challenge." I changed the subject. "Anyway, how are you doing?"
"Okay," she smiled. "Better for seeing you. How did it go with the body recovery?"
"We're pretty sure we got it all. Course, that means that someone's got to do a 3D jigsaw on the pieces. "
"Phillips loves that sort of thing," Sara said.
I pulled a face. "Better him than me. I've got to go see Robbins, get his preliminary findings on Debbie Marlin."
"Okay we'll try and meet up later, okay?"
I flashed my lover a smile stole a quick but no less loving kiss. "Count on it, sweetheart."
Robbins had finished his preliminary assessment and was waiting for me, giving Phillips advice on the positioning of his bags of flesh in relation to one another.
"She's exsanguinated, time of death is anybody's guess. Rigor's past so it's over 24 hours. Deep incised wound of the anterior and lateral neck transecting both carotids and the anterior trachea."
I could not stop looking at her. I could not help seeing her my Sara.
"Cut's clean. Extremely sharp, short instrument."
"A scalpel?" I asked. Clark was a doctor, Debbie a nurse. They would both have relatively easy access to medical equipment.
"That's what I'm thinking."
We left Debbie and walked over to the second table. "Dismembering an adult male with this precision and without cutting through the bone, twelve hours minimum," Robbins said.
"Half a day. That's patience," I mused. I amazed myself sometimes that I could stand and look at a human being reduced to bit parts. That I could contemplate the kind of mindset that could do this to another human being without flinching. When did that happen?
"There's a perverse elegance to this butchery."
Something about the way he said that appalled me. "Oh, I'm not so sure I see it that way. A killer with a knowledge of anatomy whose tool is a scalpel. I think the butcher was a doctor."
Every time I looked at her I saw Sara. Even though I knew that was an illusion, part of me still grieved. I needed clarity.
Even though it was not my usual hour, Lady Heather agreed to receive me. Our arrangement (it was not a relationship she would not permit it to be one) had become one of the mainstays of my life.
This time I gave her pleasure. I would not let her touch me. I did not need that kind of release. I used my mouth on her, fingered her, let her straddle my face.
I don't know how she was with other people, but with me she was always quiet. Oh, she did not hold back, I knew when I had given her pleasure and her reaction was genuine, she was a consummate actress but I think I would know if she were faking it.
Afterwards she lay beside me, stroking her fingers through my chest hair. This was a kind of intimacy that she shared with very few people. She had admitted that to me. "So what's bothering you, Grissom."
"A current case. The victim resembles someone I'm . close to. I can't get past it to see her, to understand the victim and how she lived, why she died."
"The resemblance is physical or more than that?"
"More, I think. I'm ." I sighed. "I'm basing that on my impressions of this person. I know what I see. I can intuit certain things from that but ."
"It's based on your perceptions of this person, this woman. You don't know for certain. It is how you imagine her to be. How you would like her to be. And now this dead woman I'm presuming her death was violent has shaken those perceptions, coloured them. You feel a personal involvement in the case that you are not comfortable with."
I paused, considered, then nodded silently. As usual my Lady Heather was right on the money. She really was the most amazing woman.
"How does Sara feel about the case?"
Oh. "I never said ."
"No, you didn't. But of the two women in your life it is Sara Sidle that you feel protective of. It is Sara that you have an affinity with, a shared mindset. You like to think of her as your female counterpart. Yin to your Yang."
"So what do I do? How do I focus "
"I'm not sure I understand why it is a problem. Use the emotion that this stirs in you. Let it drive you. Give this woman the kind of justice that you would have wanted to give if (God forbid) it had been Sara. Fighting to remain detached might not give you the answers you want professionally or personally."
"Catherine feels it too she must do, I mean, she is in a relationship with Sara, I know she saw it too, she has to, yet she is so focussed, so ."
"Catherine treats her emotional reactions as part of the equation. Sometimes that means she gets too involved in a case especially when it hits close to home "
I remembered the weeks after Eddie Willows, Catherine's ex had died, when Catherine's newly blossomed relationship with Sara had almost withered with her need for revenge for her daughter's father. Again, she was right. "Her emotions drive her, fire her, they don't control her. Why are you so afraid always that your emotions will control you?"
I stared at my reflection in Debbie Marlin's mirror. I saw Debbie Marlin alive. I saw her dead. Butterflies signify transformation. Somehow I don't think this is what she had in mind. I saw Sara Sidle. I saw my Sara. She smiled.
My cell phone rang. I answered it automatically. "Grissom."
Sara. I shuddered. Her image in my mind fractured, split. Now I was not sure who was who. I had to get beyond this, beyond her. But how? There wasn't time. Emotions took time with me, time to develop, time to pass. Time I did not have if I was to solve this case. Perhaps Lady Heather was right. Perhaps I should be embracing the connection instead of trying to remove it from the equation. But I couldn't do that and talk to Sara. Not now. "Sara, uh, listen. I'm in a bad area. I'll call you back."
Grissom still sounded off to me. Again, I couldn't help but think it was something I had done. Even though Cat had assured me that everything was fine.
"I got a skin tag off the bathtub drain pipe," I told him.
"Skin tag? That's great. Uh, give it to Greg."
Hello? How long have I been doing this job now? "Yeah, I did. Hey, do you want me to come over there and give you a hand?" I wasn't that good at reading people face to face but it was ten times better than trying to second guess them over the phone. With Grissom it was even harder. I never knew what he was thinking. Just what I would think if I were Yeah. And for years I thought Catherine hated me.
But I had to admit that something about this case intrigued me, not just the case but my co-workers reactions to it and to me.
"No, I-I'm fine. I'll I'll talk to you back at the lab." He cut the connection.
Yeah, no problem there. I sighed. No problem at all. I went to see how Warrick was doing processing Dr Clark's car. It had turned up at long-term parking at McCarran. We were waiting on security for a copy of the surveillance tape. It had been left at the airport unlocked the quickest way ever to get a car stolen. We were very lucky that Brass had found it first.
We decided that the best plan of attack was to superglue the interior to bring out the prints. A Black dash is not the easiest surface to process otherwise. Black powder on a black dash you see the problem. Or rather you don't. We waited in fairly comfortable silence whilst the fumes filled the car and then settled. Warrick nodded to me and we opened the doors. The passenger seat looked like it had been wiped over, the driver's seat was clean.
"Wipes and swirls. He cleaned everything but the driver's seat," I said.
"Well, he had to drive himself to the airport, right?"
"He put something on the seat."
"Whatever he put, he took it with him," Warrick said, then ducking to check around under the seats he spotted something. A shred of black plastic caught in the seat mechanism. "A black plastic bag maybe. He missed a piece."
We continued the visual check but found nothing else.
"How tall was Clark? Five-nine according to the DMV report?" Warrick sat in the seat to check the adjustment. "Wow. I'm six-two and this is more than enough room for me."
"So whoever was driving this car was way taller than five-nine."
Grissom was still at the scene. Sara, Warrick and I were in the conference room, going over what we knew so far. Grissom was on the speakerphone.
I summarised what we knew of Debbie Marlin's movements on the day she was killed. "Two days ago, Debbie Marlin is off work. Sometime in the morning she buys groceries."
"Pendales the closest store is in West Charleston," Warrick said.
"Brass talked to the box boy. He remembered her, saw her just before his lunch break at 11.15," Sara said.
"Pendale's is about 20 minutes from her house," I nodded. I knew Griss would be visualising the scene.
"She comes home from the grocery store," he said. We had seen that she had started to take the groceries from her car into the house but had not finished the chore. Something, someone had interrupted her. Michael Clark? Her killer presuming that they were not one and the same. It did seem a little steep to imagine that Michael Clark killed Debbie and then was in turn killed and butchered by an unknown assailant.
"She parks in the driveway and she begins to unload," Grissom continued his visualisation process.
"She took out her perishables first," Warrick said, remembering what he had seen in her kitchen. "She had to go back for second shifts so she probably leaves the front door open."
Sara nodded. "Explains why there was no forced entry."
"Okay, I'm in the hallway," Grissom said. "Walking down towards Debbie Marlin's bedroom."
"She was getting ready for her date," I said. "Lighting candles."
Grissom walked into the bedroom.
"She opened up a bottle of wine. Two glasses," Warrick said.
"Her girlfriend said she was locking down for the afternoon with Michael Clark," I remembered.
"Nosy neighbour puts the Mercedes in the driveway sometime around noon," Sara added.
We were interrupted by Greg who came in with the latest test results.
"Thought you guys would like to know. The hair Sara found is a match to the bags of human tissue. Prints confirm it. It's Michael Clark."
"But can we place him dead at the house?" Grissom's disembodied voice asked. By the change in the acoustics I guessed he was now in the bathroom. "Greg what can you tell us about that hair?"
"Hairs... there were two. Ancillary, maybe arm or leg hair."
"Found in the tub drain," Sara said.
"The bathroom then. The dismemberment "
"There were no prints found on the scalpel blades or handle but the blood's a match to both victims," Greg reported.
"So Michael Clark was dead in the tub," I said. "We just don't know how he got there."
"Well, I KM'd the carpet at the threshold of the bathroom. It's negative for blood."
"So all the violence took place in the bathroom. At least anything that had to do with blood," Sara rested her chin on her fist, her eyes half closed as she worked through the permutations.
"The bathroom is big, but it's not big enough to kill two at the same time," I frowned.
Across the table Sara nodded absently. She had come to the same conclusion.
"She was lighting the candles in the shower. Her back is to the door. He grabs her from behind ." Grissom said. I knew he would be visualising the scene with visceral intensity. "and slits her throat." We could hear him moving around over the speakerphone. "Then he positions her body . So that her face is the first thing the boyfriend sees when he walks in."
"So he takes seconds to kill Debbie," I said, then paused. "So why does he spend so much time cutting up Michael Clark?"
"Most likely because Michael Clark was the real focus of his rage," Grissom said.
"All we have to figure out is why."
I kept thinking that I saw her. Debbie Sara I was not sure which of them was watching me from the shadows in the mirrored surfaces that I passed as I walked the crime scene again and again. They had the same dark, watchful eyes, the same enigmatic smile. What did either of them want from me? What did I have to give?
My shift ended, another shift started. I did not go home. I realised that I had made a pact with this place, with this dead woman, with myself. I would not leave again before we were done. I would not rest until her killer was identified, I would wait until the final secrets were laid bare until the evidence had shown me the full story.
The shift ended. I went home to be with my daughter for a few hours. I had not spoken to Sara again before I left but I had seen her in passing in one of the labs. She knew I was watching her and looked up, smiled that slow sweet smile of hers. I silently indicated that I was heading home and she nodded then turned her attention back to what she was working on.
No promises then. I might see her I might not, depending on where what she was working on took her. I tried to keep my part of the job as nine to five as I could for Lindsey's sake. Sara made no such compromise. She worked longer hours than anyone other than Grissom. Not because the job necessarily demanded it but because she demanded it of herself.
It made the time I spent with her all the sweeter. When Sara was with me, she was with me. Totally. We did not talk about work, we rarely even acknowledged its existence.
It was late. I was in bed, not yet asleep but not awake either. She came in quietly so as not to wake me, standing at the foot of the bed to undress. I watched her through heavy lidded eyes feeling my love for her my need for her swirl and settle deep inside me, the pressure building, the heat rising. Such a lovely slender body my lover had, strong boned, lean yet perfect curves that I loved to trace with the flat of my hand, down her back, over her sweet firm ass, along her smooth thigh, over her hip, momentarily caressing the patch of dark hair over her centre, then continuing over the slight roundness of her belly, up across the strong plane of her ribs, between her small coral tipped breasts. It amazes me how her beauty escapes her notice.
She half turned, saw me watching her, smiled. "Hey, I thought you were sleeping,"
I shook my head. "Not yet," I whispered. "Just enjoying the sights. Remembering how good it feels to touch you. To have you touch me "
She knelt on the bed, her thighs parted, the dark arrowhead of hair pointing the way. I rolled over onto my back as she straddled me, bending forward to kiss me.
"I love you," I whispered.
Her lazy smile widened. "I love you too." I reached for her, letting my hands slide over her body as she nuzzled at me, her hands beginning their own exploration.
I had always thought that Sara Sidle had great hands, even when I was not in love with her. They were longfingered, slender, shapely, graceful, useful. They were hands that could fix a car, that could put things together or take them apart again. Her gestures were deft, economical. Her touch sure, firm, infinitely gentle. I knew that her hands would never willingly hurt me. And combined with her patience, her attention to detail within minutes she had me just about purring which made her smile again.
"My Cat," she whispered. "My beautiful wild-Cat."
We had shifted positions again, her strong arms cradling me as I mouthed and nuzzled at her small sensitive breasts. Her long fingers stroked over my skin, seeking and being granted entrance as I let my thighs fall open. She bent to kiss my hair and I heard her murmur my name and that she loved me.
I glanced up and for a moment I saw another face, not Sara's. And the thought that it might have been her lifeless body we had found posed on those cold tiles shivered through me and I clung even harder to her as her slightly puzzled voice whispered reassurances to me as her deft gentle fingers brought me release.
I found Warrick analysing the contents of the vacuum bag in his usual meticulous fashion Petri dishes marked hair, food, carpet, paper and other set out in front of him. The dust was making him cough.
Even though I had left late I came in early. So did Catherine. She dropped me off at the labs before going back to the scene. Grissom was already there from what Catherine said he had probably never left. Whatever weirdness was coming off this case was affecting Catherine as well. I had never known her to be so needy before. She had clung to me at one point as if she feared she would never see me again. Warrick had also been burning the midnight oil.
"I've been sifting through this trash for about six hours. You coming to rescue me or make fun of me?"
"I am just looking. Relax!" I grinned at him and then pointed to one of his dishes. "What are these white fibres here?"
"They must be from the spare bedroom because all the other carpets are green," Warrick said.
I turned and looked at the schematic we had built up, showing the layout of Debbie Marlin's house. Something about that bothered me. "Spare bedroom wasn't on his entrance or exit path."
"They were near the top of the bag so it must have been one of the last things he vacuumed," Warrick frowned. "I did happen to find this butterfly pendant with some white fibres on it." He pointed it out to me. "It looks like a necklace or a bracelet and it has this link that snaps so I'm thinking signs of a struggle?"
"The killer was in that spare bedroom," I realised.
The next morning I dropped Sara at the lab and went out to Debbie Marlin's house. Grissom still had not been back to base. I found him meticulously GSR testing what appeared to be every inch of the hall carpet.
"Don't tell me you never went home?" I said.
"Okay. I just got started in here. Haven't even gotten to the other rooms yet." Grissom looked at me from his kneeling position.
"You know you lose your edge after sixteen hours. You're into your third shift, I mean, I'm all for overtime, but this is just plain greedy."
"My knees can't take this anymore," he sighed, struggling back to his feet.
"Have you eaten anything?" He looked awful.
"What did you bring?"
I shrugged. "I'll see what's in the fridge." As I went into the kitchen I heard him shout at me.
"We have to replace that, you know."
I made us both a sandwich, got Grissom one of the yogurts from the fridge. I watched him whilst he ate it. I could almost see him recharging himself. It should give him enough to keep him going another few hours, hopefully long enough for him to work out whatever's bothering him. Which isn't the case. All of this is just so he can not think about the real problem.
"Feel better?" I asked. I barely got a nod. He was thinking which as usual involved him editing everything else out.
"Well, now that we fed you, we should probably talk about a shower." That did get his attention. I grinned at him. After one assessing moment he smiled back. "I mean at your place," I clarified. "You need to go home."
"As soon as we find fresh evidence, I promise," he said.
"With fresh eyes you won't miss it," I countered.
"Just talk it through with me, will you? What do we know?"
I sighed. "All right. The bathroom is where things got started candles, oils, steam shower, cleaned up, oiled up, sexed up. I " I paused, watching with a pained expression as Grissom dipped his finger in the peanut butter and stuck it in his mouth. Sometimes he could be just a guy.
"Okay," he said. "Let's go back to the bedroom."
I worked the ASL over the bedsheets whilst Grissom observed. Top sheet was clean so we removed it and started over on the bottom sheet. It was clean too, looked as if it hadn't been slept on. Our girl had changed her sheets for her date. Then Grissom noticed the silk scarf tied to the bedframe on his side and a few seconds later I found its twin on my side.
But who had tied up whom? "I don't mean to embarrass you " I said, lifting the sheet away from the bedframe. "some guys need leverage."
He quirked an eyebrow, looking at the board at the foot of the bed in a new light. "They do?"
I nodded. "I'll dust for prints." Grissom's phone rang again and he answered it. I listened in whilst I dusted the footboard. It was Warrick. Something about fibres from a white carpet. The carpet in this room was green. And a butterfly.
"I haven't checked the spare bedroom," Grissom said, stepping out into the hallway. "Let me look again and I'll call you back." I continued to dust the footboard for prints. If he needed me he would yell.
Butterflies. They were all over the spare bedroom, on pins, pieces of jewellery, on boxes, floating on a set of windchimes. Fabric, wood, silver and gold, glass, enamel There were also a couple of framed photographs of Debbie and Michael. They looked happy.
I checked one of the jewellery boxes and saw bracelets, a pendant with 'Love, Dr T' and more butterfly items. At the bottom was a butterfly pendant.
I turned as Catherine appeared at the doorway holding a print card. "Toe Print" she explained. I nodded. "I'll have Sara compare it against both victims." She looked around the room. "Butterflies, huh."
"She had a collection," I observed.
"Gifts from her gentlemen callers?"
"Warrick found a butterfly charm in the vacuum bag. I think I just found a piece from the same chain in this box. Maybe the killer was taking his gift back, as in leave no trace. Maybe he finally ran out of patience and got sloppy." Carefully I lifted a strand of hair from the shelf. "And this is why I didn't leave."
I saw her. I saw why everyone had been weird around me since this case started. I was taking toe prints to match with the sample Cat had found at the house. I didn't look at her face at first I was concentrating on her feet after all. I just got a general impression, pale skin, dark straight hair, strong, regular features. It was as I moved around to print her other foot that I saw it I saw me This was the face that stared back at me every morning when I looked in the mirror. Everything fell into place. The more I looked the more I noticed slight differences, her lips were slightly fuller, her hair a shade or two lighter, a different pattern of freckles across the bridge of her nose stark against the pallor of her skin. I did not have any siblings, any sisters. But if I had, this might have been her face. I wondered how long she and I had lived in the same city, whether our acquaintances had ever mistaken us for one another on the street. I knew from the contents of her house that we shopped in the same places, we liked the same food, we read the same kind of books. It seemed strange that we had never met.
There were differences of course. She obviously liked men. I liked women. She worked with people, I worked with what they left behind. I stared down at her face for a long, long moment. Not me. Not my life.
We were two very different people, leading two very different lives. We just happened to have the same face.
I finished printing her and packed my stuff away. I did not look at her face again.
I could not settle. I wandered into the locker room, found Catherine in the process of changing her shoes; she'd obviously just got back. We had a 'not at work' pact going but it didn't mean I couldn't touch her. I ran my fingers through her soft blonde hair for a fleeting moment as I passed. "Hey, baby," I whispered.
"Hey yourself," she looked up at me and smiled. And for a second I saw it in her eyes too, the same as I had seen in Grissom's. The momentary fear, then the self-realisation. It wasn't me. It was someone else. We just had the same face. "How are you doing?"
"Okay . Good," I said. "I just printed Debbie Marlin." Catherine's eyes widened, she nodded. She knew it had to have been the first time I'd seen the vic. I wondered why she had not warned me. But at least I understood a little more why she had clung to me so fiercely last night.
"Oh." She felt guilty for not warning me in advance. It was no big deal.
"Yeah. You seen Grissom?"
"He's still at the crime scene."
"Well, I eliminated both victims from the print you pulled off the bed,"
Catherine nodded. "Well, we know she was fishing off the company pier." There was a long moment of not entirely comfortable silence between us. "So, you saw Debbie," she asked at last.
"Yeah," I guess I was still processing it. I didn't know what else to say. But I knew Cat would not let me off that easily. She never did.
"Yeah, I compared her toe prints," I said, avoiding the issue one more time.
"If I didn't know better, I'd think that was you on that table," Catherine stared at me, her blue eyes wide, serious. Scared. I'd seen the same look the night before when she clung on to me so tightly. Only now I understood.
"I didn't really look at her face," I lied. How long had I stood there, staring down at her? I felt a flash of anger run through me. Was this how it was going to be with everyone today? The next couple of days. What could I say to her, to all of them? All of them? Hello, not me on the slab, okay? Okay?
Not okay I didn't want this case to mess up just because everyone was squicking that the vic looked like me. Or I looked like her. Whichever.
I couldn't talk about this now. Perhaps not ever. Not even to Cat. "When you see Grissom, will you tell him?"
I moved to go past her towards my own locker. Her fingers trailed softly across my forearm letting me know that she was there, that she cared. Her touch burned, warmed me. But I did not respond. I wanted to but the words lodged in my throat. I went to my locker, fussed around inside it for a couple of minutes. When I turned to look, Cat had gone.
Sara's reaction or lack of reaction continued to bother me. But I didn't have time to deal with it or her now. Once the case was done, then my love and I would have a long talk. And she would talk to me about it.
Grissom told me to head out to Desert Palm Hospital, check the rest of the staff well at least the male contingent - against the partial footprint we had from Debbie's bed. As usual we got the usual range of attitude. A few even thought that this was an appropriate moment to hit on me. Assholes.
"Good thing you caught me early in the shift," one of them quipped as he stepped on the card.
"Yeah, lucky for me," I flashed back. "I think I could probably tell who pulled a double."
The next up was another doctor, already dressed in scrubs. I checked his ID. Howard Tripton. He was not a happy man.
"Listen, I've got a patient waiting in pre-op,"
"We'll have you out in a minute. We appreciate you providing your prints voluntarily," Brass said smoothly.
"Well, there's probably a little bit of a lot of us in Debbie's house," he said.
Nice guy. I handed his card up to Jacqui who was manually checking against our index print from the scene.
"Oh, we'll know soon enough," Jacqui said. We exchanged glances. She thought this guy was a prince as well.
One of the senior doctors, Lurie, walked over to Brass. "You understand, right? The police aren't the only ones with a code of honour. Now, some of these men are married and if this gets out..."
"Nothing gets out unless it needs to get out," Brass stared up at the tall man. Behind us Jacqui finished her first check.
"Got a match," she said. Brass and I went to look. Lurie made as if to follow but Brass glared at him and he backed off.
It was my friend Tripton. Brass smiled. "I'm afraid your patient in pre-op is going to have to wait a little while longer."
Tripton admitted to having sex with Debbie. She led him on, apparently. Came on to him. Showed him her tattoo. He was the victim. A prince, as I said.
"All right, well, let's talk about what's not open to interpretation. Yours were the only prints found in the house," I said.
"Michael Clark was on your rotation he was on your surgical team the day he was killed. You called in sick. Surgery was cancelled. Freed him up to be with Debbie who also had the day off. What luck." Brass stared at the doctor who shifted uneasily.
"My son had a ball game. My daughter was at a swim meet. My wife was at a conference and the surgery was elective. Not a stretch."
"Your wife know about you and Debbie?" Brass asked.
"No," Tripton said.
Brass smiled. "She asked for sex, right? She also asked for the bracelet too, huh?"
My cue. I put the bag with the butterfly charms on the table. Tripton shook his head.
"No, but I gave it to her. This one." He pointed to one of the charms. "She loved butterflies. Uh, I figured if I gave something special to her, she'd give something special to me."
"Hmmm. So it was a long-term relationship?" Brass smirked.
The partial footprint may well have been Tripton's but the hair sample from the spare bedroom was not his. It was covered in an oily residue which Greg identified as rogaine and propecia, a supposed cure for male pattern baldness.
I met Catherine in the corridor. "The prodigal CSI returns. You get any sleep?" she asked.
"Not yet," I replied.
"Brass had to let Dr Tripton go. The old sex alibi. Too bad he didn't leave a toe print on a scalpel blade."
"You get a take on him?" I asked.
She shrugged. "Balloon head, but credible, like most adulterers."
"Is he going bald?"
"Grey hair?" I asked.
"He's a lefty." She gave me one of her looks wanting to know what I knew that she did not.
Robbins had completed the 3D jigsaw puzzle that was Michael Clark's body.
"Okay, keep in mind, this is just a theory. It's a hot button issue among forensic pathologists "
"What's the consensus?" I asked.
"Most doctors say its impossible to prove handedness based on the wounds inflicted on a victim."
"Forget hard science," I said. "What's your hypothesis?"
"Based on micro-incisions and hesitation marks, the victim was lying face up when he was killed. Take a look at the right knee." They examined the body part. "See . The cut on the cartilage of the right distal femur has slight angulations from the uh left distal to the right proximal, which suggests the killer was left-handed. This angulation is consistent with cuts made to the acetabulum and to the wrist, but bear in mind, it's not going to be admissible in court."
"I don't care about court. My mind's on a left-handed, propecia-using surgeon who's probably on staff at Desert Palm," I said.
So Greg and I and the ALS went to Desert Palms and started to examine the heads of all the older doctors. We had them all lined up in a room. And what do you know, we found a match.
Dr Vincent Lurie.
Grissom needed to stay in the place he was in until he solved the case, so I could not talk to him about this. And for obvious reasons I could not talk to Sara. It was no surprise to me whose door I ended up knocking on after I had gone home to spend a little time with Linds before she went to bed.
She never ever looked surprised to see me. Pleased, yes. Surprised no. She smiled, her hazel eyes lighting up. "Catherine, a pleasure as always."
"I'm sorry I didn't think to call ahead," I said. "But "
"Come in. I was just about to make some tea. Join me." She took my hand in hers, led me into her domain. Even though our relationship was no longer sexual, Lady Heather and I had remained good friends. I did not see her as often as I used to but we kept in touch. I knew Grissom was still seeing her but we never discussed that. An unspoken agreement.
We talked of this and that as she made the tea and brought it into her conservatory.
"Actually, I was almost expecting you to stop by."
I set down my cup. "You know."
"Grissom stopped by last night. He needed to work through some things. How is Sara doing?"
"She saw the vic for the first time an hour or two ago. I think no, I know it threw her a little. No one had told her, I mean " I shrugged. "How could you put it? Hey, Sara, the funniest thing - the dead girl we brought in, the one lying on the slab in the mortuary. She looks just like you just like you," I closed my eyes, suddenly cold. "So she's quiet."
"From what I've seen of her, Sara deals with things in her own way," Lady Heather said. "As do you. Don't force her into talking about her reaction before she's ready, Catherine. Being forced to contemplate your own mortality in that way is a deep mystery. It can take you many ways. Every now and then I get a client who wants to take things to the absolute edge. Usually we say no. Even with every safeguard in place, that kind of stunt can still go wrong. She may just shrug it off, see it is as a weird coincidence, nothing more than smoke and mirrors. She may take more from it. But its her choice. But if you want to talk more about it about anything either of you - I'm here."
"Thank you, Heather," I smiled.
The enigmatic woman smiled back. "So I take it that things are good between the two of you."
"Very good," I said. "Sara is well, everything I could have asked for in a partner. And Linds adores her."
"There's half the battle won right there," Lady Heather grinned. "When I think back on how Zoey acted up around my significant others over the years of either sex. Don't get me wrong, my daughter is a sweet kid but some times she could be a royal pain in the ass."
"Sara is Lindsey's hero. Has been since the first day they met," I said. "She was such a great support to both of us after Eddie was killed."
"She has come to mean a great deal to you," Lady Heather observed.
"Yes, she has."
I cannot help but regret that Catherine Willows is no longer my lover. At the same time I cannot help but rejoice that she has found someone like Sara Sidle to share her life with. They are good for each other. They support, complement each other but do not seek to change each other. What change has occurred has been a natural shifting, an accommodation. After years spent alone such things are bound to occur even in a partnership of equals such as Catherine and Sara enjoy.
I teased them once about the nature of their relationship. Catherine is such an effortless dominatrix. She is used to commanding obedience not only through her beauty but through her sheer presence, her force of character. And it is such a benign servitude. There is little or no malice in her.
And Sara. A mercurial. Switching from one role to another as the situation, the company requires. It is not a studied thing again, with her it is completely natural. She is not a butterfly. They seek attention, crave the eyes of others upon them. Sara is happiest when no one notices her, when she has matched herself to her surroundings, her company. She does not realise that a spirit and intelligence like hers will always stand out.
They are lucky to have found each other. So lucky.
Part of me wishes that I could find someone like that. But I know I never will. I have my 'significant others', my 'regulars'. But no one person fulfils everything I need from a partner, a lover. Catherine spoke to a part of me, Grissom speaks to another part. And Sara
An opportunity that never came to fruition.
It is the ultimate narcissism I know. But I have thought about it now and again over the years. What if the person I need in my life, the person to fulfil all my needs is another me.
Apparently if we had asked him about the propecia, Lurie would have told us he used it. And that he was far from unique in that. Brass pointed out that if we added his height and his left-handedness into the equation "We think that Debbie Marlin and Michael Clark were killed by a surgeon who is left-handed and we know of only two left-handed surgeons at Desert Palms: Dr Tripton, who has an alibi, and you."
"Well, if you're going to make accusations," Lurie blustered. "You should really do your homework. Howard and I are the only lefties on staff. But Dr Randolph, who has privileges at the hospital, he's also a lefty. We play tennis every Wednesday. He's got a heck of a backhand. If you want me to name more names, I could, but you don't want me to do your job for you do you?"
His lawyer broke in. "Gentlemen . We're here as a courtesy, so if you're quite through wasting our time, I think that the doctor would like to get back to the business of saving lives."
"Not so fast," Brass said. "Is this a link from a bracelet you gave Debbie?"
Lurie examined it for a moment. "It looks like it. Where's the rest of it?"
"This link was vacuumed from the floor of the spare bedroom after the murder. The other link was in her jewellery box. The funny thing is that all the bracelets from the other guys she slept with are intact." Brass stared at him. Lurie stared right back.
"Well, all I can tell you is when I gave it to her, it was in one piece." Lurie turned to confer with his lawyer for a moment.
"Do you have any other evidence?" The lawyer asked.
"No we don't," I said.
"We might not have any other evidence, but we have a theory," Brass said.
"That's not admissible in court," the Lawyer countered.
"Oh, no no, it's worth a listen," Lurie said indulgently. The good doctor's ego was showing, I thought.
Brass stood up, walked over to Lurie. "We think you killed Debbie Marlin because she rejected you. And Michael Clark paid the price."
Lurie just smiled. His lawyer stood up. "Well thank you for your time and your theories, but you said it yourself: you don't have a case."
That's when I did it. I stopped Lurie from leaving. "It's sad, isn't it doc? Guys like us. Couple of middle-aged men who've allowed their work to consume their lives." He did not look at me but I could tell he was listening. "The only time we ever touch people is when we're wearing latex gloves." Now he turned to look at me. "We wake up one day and realise that for fifty years we haven't really lived at all. But then all of a sudden we get a second chance."
I had him. Trouble is, I was no longer sure who I was describing, him or me, Sara or Debbie. Catherine, Lady Heather . When the hell did my life get so complicated?
"Somebody young and beautiful shows up. Somebody we care about. She offers us a new life with her but we have a big decision to make, right? Because we have to risk everything we've worked for in order to have her." The sense of loss that stole over me was so extreme, so poignant. "I couldn't do it "
I stared at him. He stared back. And I knew. He did it. He killed Debbie Marlin. He posed her body for Michael Clark to find and then he butchered his rival. "But you did. You risked it all and she showed you a wonderful life, didn't she? But then she took it away and gave it to somebody else " Sara. Sara and Catherine. Catherine and Lady Heather. Lady Heather and me. Me and Sara? A final link never made, never consummated. But I had thought about it. And so had she. I knew. I saw it in her eyes sometimes when I caught her watching me. Those cool dark eyes of hers. She had thought about us together as well. Before Catherine. Since Catherine. It was just one of those things. A road not taken. But it did not stop you wondering about the journey. " and you were lost."
Lurie looked away. His lawyer looked uncomfortable. How much did he really know about his client? "You were lost, and so you took her life," I said quietly. "And then he came in like he owned the place, owned her. Your rival, younger, better looking, a talented surgeon, going places. Not like you. Not you. You killed them both and now you have nothing."
Lurie stared at him. "I'm still here."
I stared back. "Are you?"
After he was led away I stared at my reflection in the mirrored wall for a moment or two, centering myself again. I couldn't continue like this. I had to make peace with myself. And for me expiation only came in one of two ways a visit to Lady Heather or a night on the rollercoasters, my own private zen.
Something made me glance inside the observation room as I passed. I had not expected anyone to be there least of all Sara. Our eyes met. We didn't say anything. She looked sad, slightly disappointed, and then her lips quirked in a half smile. I was forgiven. And for the first time in days I saw her for her. The shade of Debbie Marlin lifted and was gone.
I watched from the observation room. I watched him through the glass. I heard every word he said. About Lurie. About Debbie Marlin. About him. About me. I heard every word he said that he would never say to me. About missed opportunities and regret. About daring to live. About loss. I wanted to step away to step back from this but I could not. We never were, never will be. I have Cat now, my beautiful Cat who loves me as much if not more than I love her.
I love her. There is no doubt in my mind, no hesitation. No sense of having 'settled'. This is how it is meant to be.
I looked over the evidence again, the pictures from the scene, from her house. Butterflies. On her clothes, her jewellery, tattooed on her body. I had a fascination with butterflies once. When I was about eight. I grew out of it. I learnt to make my own way in the world, not to rely on others. Perhaps it was a move that Debbie Marlin had never made. Perhaps in rejecting Lurie for Clark it was the first time she had not done the easy thing. And she had died for it. But then butterflies get to dance in the sun for such a short time.
Grissom passed the door, saw me standing there. He knew. I could see it in his face. He knew I had heard everything. I looked at him. I tried to let him know that I understood. That I didn't think any less of him. But neither of us are that good at reading emotions sometimes. So I don't know what he saw, really. He went away.
Cat still had evidence to process. I told her I would pick up Linds, take her for a burger, make sure she did her homework. I told my love not to work late. She laughed at that. She had cause to say it to me so often.
My Cat got home a little after seven. She looked tired, tense. This case had been hard on her though she would never admit it. I drew her a bath. Lindsey was in her room finishing her homework. I joined my lover, indulged myself washing that beautiful body, slowly drawing the sponge across that soft pale gold skin, pausing every now and then to kiss and nuzzle a sweet spot.
Later we dried each other off, dressed in our lounging around clothes and said goodnight to Lindsey. The hug and kiss she gave me was almost as fierce as that she had given her mother. She was a good kid. I fixed us both a mug of coffee and we retired to our room to vegetate in front of the TV. I fell asleep half way through the movie of the week.
The next day we had a new case to puzzle over. I still got the odd look now and then from one of my co-workers but nothing more was said about any resemblance. Cat still seemed restive though. And I was having nightmares.
After a second restless night Cat offered to make breakfast so I could snatch a few extra minutes in bed. I couldn't rest though: sleep was just not my friend. It happened sometimes. A couple of days and it would pass. I wandered into the kitchen and watched her make pancakes.
"I went to see Lady Heather," Cat said suddenly.
I still did not understand what fascination that woman held for Catherine. Or Grissom for that matter. Rumour was that he was seeing her. I hadn't heard the same thing said about Catherine. She had told me it was over between them before we ever truly got together. And I had no reason to doubt her. No reason beyond my own stupid insecurities.
They both seemed to use her as an unofficial counselling service. They talked through with her cases that were unsettling to them in some way. Not about the cases themselves, that would be against protocol but about their reactions to them. How they felt.
I'd never seen the point before. But the last two nights I'd dreamt about the Debbie Marlin case. And on the first night it was Lurie who had killed me and then Michael Clark, pretty much as we had walked it through in the incident room.
The second night was much worse. The second night Grissom killed me, posed my dead body in the shower as Debbie Marlin had been posed. And then he waited for Catherine. And even though I was dead I could still see and hear everything. I had to watch as Grissom took Cat from behind, the long bladed scalpel cutting deep across her throat as it had cut across mine, her weakening struggles as he held her smaller frame against his as she bled out, laying her limp body in the bath tub as he started to cut her up.
I woke up screaming, Catherine wrapped around me, soothing me, reassuring me. I just held onto her, holding her so tightly afraid that she might just dissolve into air.
"Did she help?" I heard myself ask.
Cat nodded. "Yeah, she did. I know Griss talked to her as well. That last case you know how it got to him, right."
"I know," I said. For the first time I told her what I had overheard in the observation room.
"He cares for you, Sara. Very deeply. We both do." Catherine came over to where I was sitting and straddled my legs, her breasts pressed against mine.
"Aren't you afraid of that, worried by that?" I asked. I could not bring myself to say the word jealous, invoke the concept of trust. We had both been betrayed too many times before. "You know how I used to feel "
Her soft lips pressed against mine. "Yes, I know. Sara my love, where are you right now?"
I got it. "Here, with you."
"And where will you be tomorrow, the day after?"
"Here, with you."
"He's a good man. And his caring for you means that he will always look after you. And I know he cares for me as well. And he accepts us as us. He would never do anything that might jeopardise that. So no, I'm not worried that you have feelings for Gil. You are both extraordinary people. It's only natural "
"I suppose I could say the same for you and Lady H." I said, my fingers stroking her cheek, cupping it in my palm. "I know I didn't make a good impression the last time we met..."
"She asks after you every time I see her," Cat said. "Come with me "
I told Catherine Willows to conquer what she desired. And here she was with the object, subject and consummation of her desires. Sara Sidle.
"I'm sorry," I said, holding out my hand. "I think I behaved rather badly the last time we met."
She took it, matched the strength of my grip as we assessed each other again. "It's okay. I wasn't exactly predisposed to be friendly towards you. But things change."
"Yes they do," I smiled. "That's the nature of the world. Now, can I get you ladies some tea."
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