DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Missing Person
By Ann



I am sitting in the break room with my colleagues awaiting the arrival of our supervisor, Gil Grissom. We are literally on the verge of flipping coins to see who will 'win' the honor of retrieving a very late Grissom when he finally walks in and graces us with his appearance. In a very uncharacteristic Grissom move, he pulls up a chair and sits with us at the table. He opens his mouth to initiate conversation a few times, but he stays mute.

Everyone is looking to Grissom for some sort of clue for his odd behavior. Normally, Grissom and odd behavior are synonymous with each other, but this is beyond strange. After several minutes of silence, Catherine has finally had enough. "Gil, are you going to just sit there imitating a dying fish all night or give us our assignments?"

Nick, Warrick, and Greg put their hand up to their face to hide their huge grins. I remain as stoic as ever not wanting to give Catherine the satisfaction of knowing I enjoyed her snappy one liner as well. Her question does at least garner the attention of Grissom as he sits up and begins to open a file. He immediately launches into a description of a crime we will evidently be processing as a team.

Reading from his notes, Grissom says "The victim dined at Bally's Steakhouse between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. last night. He apparently got into his car and headed north on Las Vegas Boulevard. He did not show up at work today and no one has heard from him. About an hour ago, a patrol found his car abandoned outside of a local bar. He has been officially declared missing and the sheriff has assigned this team to investigate. We will be on the case 24/7 until he is found, so we will need to work out some sort of rotating schedule. All other cases with be assigned to the other shifts."

Outraged, I can no longer hold my tongue. "Are you kidding me? He is using his best team to look for some guy who is probably out cavorting with a hooker? Is this some big wig friend of the sheriff?" Catherine, who normally does not acknowledge much of what I say, jumps in to have her say. "Sara is right, Gil. It's only been 24 hours since this guy's gone missing. He's probably out having a good time somewhere. Can't the sheriff just assign some detective to look into this unless it truly turns into a crime scene?"

Without replying, Grissom pushes the folder in front of Catherine. She reads the file and her eyes become huge. Her only response is "Oh my God." The rest of us trade glances and wait for someone to tell us what is going on. Catherine merely stares at Gil with a shocked expression.

I finally reach over and retrieve the file. I briefly skim through the details until I get to the final line. Having been graced with the gift of eloquent speech, I blurt out "Holy shit. It's Ecklie. And get this, his car was found in front of a gay bar."


Part 1

Nick and Warrick grab the folder to read while Greg joins the speechless Catherine and Grissom with a jaw dropping expression. The doors to the break room slam open and all eyes turn toward the intruder. The sheriff walks over to the table and proceeds to take over our meeting. "Gil, I have booked three rooms at the Holiday Inn Express located around the corner. I want all team members available at a moment's notice. No one is going home until this situation is resolved."

Everyone begins to speak at once protesting this ludicrous notion. Catherine's voice can be heard clearly above the others. "No damn way. I am not leaving Lindsey with my mother until this case is resolved. Hell, we don't even know if we have a case. Conrad probably found some hot stud and is currently playing the role of love slave. If you want us on the case, fine. But I plan to go home during my time off."

The sheriff glares at Catherine and replies "Anyone who is not happy with my directive can tender their resignation effective immediately." Catherine begins to open her mouth, but I stop her with a hand to her arm. Her focus shifts to me and now I'm on the receiving end of her anger. She jerks her arm away and looks back to the sheriff who has been ushered out of the room by Grissom.

Greg laughs and says "Good one, Catherine. I especially liked the bit with the love slave." She turns to Greg and the rest of us hold our collective breath hoping she doesn't skin him alive. Catherine begins to smile and then breaks out in full blown laughter. We join in, grateful for the tension relief.

Grissom returns and motions us to sit back down. We comply and await our fate. He informs us we will need to return home on our initial down time and pack a bag for our hotel stay. The ultimatum from the sheriff is apparently non-negotiable. Grissom says "The sheriff believes Conrad was hijacked from another location and was forced to drive to the bar where he was abducted. He thinks the car was purposely left there to humiliate Conrad." He looks to Catherine as he adds "No more remarks to the sheriff's concerning love slaves."

Disagreeing with the sheriff's theory, I reply "That sounds like a pretty elaborate scheme. I personally don't think anyone could have possibly conceived such a plan. Ecklie more than likely drove to the bar of his own free will. Besides, I think I've seen Ecklie check out Greg's assets a couple of times." Greg turns red as we all fall back into our laughter mode. Grissom finally gets us to settle down and listen while he outlines his plans.

Grissom has developed a rotating schedule involving 8 hour shifts. He has divided us into three teams. I'm teamed with Catherine, Greg with Grissom, and Warrick with Nick. Catherine and I will work the first 8 hours along with Greg and Grissom. Greg and Grissom will pull a double and work the next 8 hours with Warrick and Nick. Warrick and Nick will in turn work a double with Catherine and me. Next, it will be Catherine and I working a double teamed once again with Greg and Grissom. We will repeat the cycle until Ecklie is found.

After fine tuning a few details, Warrick and Nick leave to go pack a few things for their hotel stay. The rest of us will begin our investigation at the bar. Catherine and I head to the locker to pick up our gear and Greg and Grissom will meet us on scene.

As we enter the locker room, Catherine says "What am I going to tell Lindsey? She has plans for me to take her to school in the morning to view her art project along with the other parents. She has been excited all week. Once again I'm going to let her down."

I pause at my locker reflecting on Catherine's problem. Turning to Catherine, I reply "How will the sheriff know if you attend the art show? After all, you are supposed to go home and pack some things and you have to take time to finalize plans with your mother. Why can't you take Lindsey to school and view her artwork and then head back to the hotel? Surely, the sheriff is not going to be watching us as closely when we're not working."

Catherine smiles and says "You're right. There's no way he will know. I'll just stay a little while and no one will be the wiser. Thanks, Sara. That's a great idea." I return her smile as we leave the locker room and walk to the Denali. She even lets me drive without any argument. Maybe I'll be able to stay on her good side during this ordeal.

We meet up with Grissom and Greg at the bar. After a few minutes of discussion, we decide to act as patrons. The clientele may be more open with answering questions if we appear as four busybodies rather than law enforcement. We move to the end of the line and wait our turn to enter.

The four of us pay the cover charge and walk through the doors. The lights are low and the music is deafening. Grissom motions toward the bar area and we in turn follow. Grissom and Greg take a seat on a couple of bar stools and Catherine and I sit on the adjacent stools. A flaming drag queen approaches to take our orders.

She winks at Greg and says "Well, hello sweet cheeks. What can I get you?" Greg blushes and looks to Grissom. Before Grissom can say a word, the bartending queen says "Oops. Sorry. I didn't realize you were taken." Catherine and I almost fall off our stools laughing. That is until we hear "Hold your horses, butch. I'll get to you and your femme in a minute. Right now, I'm talking to this studmeister and his lady."


Part 2

I do believe the very last word that comes to mind when describing Grissom would be 'stud.' To indicate he is actually renowned for his 'studlyness' is totally absurd, but not wanting to ruffle our bartender's feathers I say "Yes, they make a lovely couple don't they, much like another friend of ours and his partner. In fact, the two were supposed to meet us here tonight. He is usually very punctual so we are starting to get a little worried. Gil, why don't you show our hostess Conrad's picture? Maybe she can help us."

In the meantime, Catherine has evidently decided to take her roll of femme seriously. As I motion for Grissom to show 'Queenie' the photo, Catherine sits on my lap and puts her hand on my shoulder as she leans into me. I visibly shiver as my body instantly reacts to her closeness. Catherine gently rubs the nape of my neck as she purrs "What's the matter, baby? Are you cold?"

I look into Catherine's eyes to see amusement in the blue orbs. She is getting way too much enjoyment in making me squirm. Well, two can play at this game. I put my hand on her waist and forcefully pull her even closer. I move in until our lips are almost touching. Hm, very interesting, it seems someone else can shiver as well. I whisper in a voice loud enough to be overhead, "Not anymore, now that I have you to warm me up. I can't wait to get home and start a fire in the bedroom."

I move back just as Catherine has closed her eyes and is leaning forward. When contact is not made, she opens her eyes and turns the most beautiful shade of red. I look over to see both Greg and Grissom staring at us. I resist the urge to reach over and wipe the drool from the corner of Greg's mouth as "Queenie" breaks the moment with a huge guffaw.

Shaking her head, she says "Honey, you are 100% butch and a tease at that. Now, I simply must apologize for my rudeness. My name is Rosalind, Ros for short and who might you be?" We introduce ourselves and Ros gives us each the once over before saying "Let me see this picture of your friend." Grissom hands over Ecklie's photo and she studies it for several minutes before replying "Oh my, this individual is a cheating two-timing whore. He comes in here about three times a week and always leaves with a different hunk of a man each time."

I almost knock Catherine off of my lap and Greg is beyond stunned. Grissom is well, Grissom. Catherine maintains her composure and replies "Oh really, did you happen to notice if he left with anyone last night?" Ros shakes her head and says "I was off last night, but Max was here. Let me go get her." Before she sashays away, she looks over her shoulder and whispers "Her real name is Maxine, but don't you dare tell her I told you."

In a soft voice, I say "I think we're finding out much more information than if we had shown our badges. Let's play this out to see what else we can find out from our bartenders. Ros certainly seems to be a fountain of knowledge. Maybe this Max can be also." The three nod their head in agreement. We sit in silence waiting for the return of Ros and Max.

Grissom and Greg seem to be trying to take in the sights without appearing to be interested. Catherine remains seated on my lap playing with my hair while she too checks out the club scene. I keep my focus behind the bar until I finally see Ros walking back in our direction. That's when I get my first glimpse of Max.

Catherine notices the movement behind the bar and she turns toward the two "ladies." Her eyes widen and she makes an attempt to keep her expression neutral. We are both mesmerized by the sheer size of Max. She has to be at least six foot five and easily weighs two thirty. There is not a single ounce of body fat on her and she appears to be solid as a rock. Her attention is clearly on Catherine as she nears our side of the bar.

From the look in her eyes, I do believe Max is quite taken with Catherine. Catherine seems to notice as well since her grip on me has strengthened considerably. She's got to be out of her mind if she thinks I can protect her against the female version of Conan.

Greg and Grissom look back to the bar and immediately get up and stand behind Catherine and me. What is it with these people? Max can pulverize me into smithereens with only one hand. Catherine leans forward and whispers in my ear "Sara, she's not a woman. She's a mountain. Please don't let her near me."

I turn to tell Catherine that she's on her own when I notice how tightly she is clinging to me and how scared she truly appears to be. Finding my resolve, there's no way I'm going to let Max lay a hand on Catherine. After all, what's a couple of broken bones?

Deciding to stake my claim, I take Catherine's face in my hands and kiss her with everything I've got. If I'm going to be spending time in the ICU, I am definitely getting my reward beforehand.


Part 3

This is the stuff dreams are made up. Catherine's lips are so sweet that kissing her could easily become an addiction. I force myself to pull away so that I can see her reaction. Catherine's eyes are closed and her face is flushed. I lean forward with the intent of capturing her lips once more, but my progress is stopped when I hear Ros' voice.

"Damn, honey. You certainly know how to mark your territory. You've got the attention and admiration of every butch in this building. I believe you've even managed to impress Max here and that's a pretty tall order." I turn toward the duo to see Max sporting a huge grin. Maybe I'm going to get to stay in one piece after all.

It appears Max is indeed impressed with my method of establishing my "relationship" with Catherine. Just in case, I adjust Catherine's position in my lap to protectively pull her even closer. She acquiesces and places her head on my shoulder as I look directly at Max with the most intimidating expression I can muster.

With a deep chuckle, Max says "Now hold on there stud. There's no need to get your feathers ruffled. My momma back in Texas taught me to never go after anyone who's already taken. So you can just simmer down. I'm not after your lady."

Catherine audibly sighs in relief while I continue to possessively hold onto her. After all, I have to maintain the illusion of our relationship and there's no way I am going to pass up the chance to touch Catherine in any way.

I take the lead and introduce the team to Max. Greg and Grissom have moved a bit closer but are still using me as a shield. I wonder if Ros realizes Grissom is not quite the studmeister she described after all.

Taking Ecklie's photo from Grissom, I hand it to Max saying "Do you remember seeing our friend last night?" Max looks down at the photo and replies "I've never seen a mare in season all year long, but this one surely is. The stallions flock to him like flies on a cow paddy. I personally don't see the attraction, but I'm more into fillies myself."

Max hesitates a few moments before continuing "Last night, huh? Let me think. Yes, I remember now. He had a few beers at the bar and then moved over to the far booth. I noticed a rogue had been checking him out, but I don't think the two ever got together. Things got pretty busy and I lost track of him."

Catherine who seems to be regaining her equilibrium asks "What do you mean by a rogue?" Max laughs and answers "Oh, I'm sorry. I have been around horses for most of my life and always assume everyone knows what I'm talking about. A rogue is described as a horse with a bad temper. The guy who was checking out your friend comes in here occasionally and always seems to be mad at the world."

Her answer piques Grissom's curiosity enough to step closer to the bar. He asks "What did this rogue look like?" Max pauses for a moment and replies "I have never really gotten a good look at him. He is very skittish and always stays in the booths. He is kind of small and mousy looking and seems to always have a scowl on his face. I've never actually seen him come in and if he orders something, it's never from me. I guess I may intimidate him a little."

Ya think? Max could intimidate Xena. Hell, look at what she did to the four of us when we first laid eyes on her. I can just imagine how her size would affect some pint-sized man. Maybe he was less intimidated by Ros.

I turn my attention to the drag queen and ask "Ros, did you ever serve this rogue character?" She shakes her head saying "No. I don't believe I have ever noticed him before. I tend to pay attention to the studs and queens, and, of course, the butches and femmes. This guy would have never gained my attention. Sorry."

Staying with our cover story, we each order a beer and continue our visit with Ros and Max. It doesn't appear the two of them can offer any more information concerning the case, but we chat with them awhile longer anyway. I really like these two. I make a mental note to return for a visit when the case is over.

Catherine stays on my lap the entire conversation and when we get up to leave, she takes my hand in hers as we walk out the door. I'm beginning to like this role of protector. Now all I have to do is figure out a way for Catherine to be in need of my services more often.

We hold hands until we reach the Denali. I walk to the driver's side and get in while Catherine and Gil exchange a few words before she moves to the truck. She opens the door and says "Gil wants to talk things over before heading back to the lab. He's afraid the sheriff will be there and want an update. He would like for the four of us to discuss our findings without prying eyes. Drive over to the diner at the corner of 9th and Wilson."

Without saying a word, I put the car in gear. I am startled by Catherine's hand on my arm. I look over to see one of her heart stopping smiles. "Sara, I want to thank you for looking out for me. I was really nervous when Max looked at me with pure lust in her eyes. I had all sorts of scenarios running through my head. The main one was of Max lifting me over the bar and carrying me out the door while I was kicking and screaming. Frankly, it scared the shit out of me. I appreciate the way you took control of the situation."

I smile and pull out of the parking space. I almost run through the red light when Catherine adds "By the way, you sure are one hell of a kisser. Feel free to use the same method to take charge anytime you see fit."


Part 4

The rest of the drive to the diner is silent. My mind is racing with all sorts of scenarios where I can take charge. Catherine fiddles with the radio and finally finds a decent station. The sounds of "Come Away With Me" fills the airwaves. Ms. Jones seems to express my feelings toward Catherine perfectly. Too bad I can't let her know.

I pull up to next to Grissom's Yukon as the last refrain is heard "And I want to wake up with the rain, falling on a tin roof , while I'm safe there in your arms , so all I ask is for you , to come away with me in the night, come away with me."

I sigh, turn off the engine, and step from the vehicle. Catherine exits as well and we walk to the diner both seemingly in deep contemplation. I hold the door for Catherine and we join Grissom and Greg in an isolated booth away from the other patrons.

As we take our seats, Grissom says "Okay, we need to figure out what is going on here. What's your take on this?" Greg blurts out "Ecklie's a closet fag and the sheriff is never going to believe it. Unless….." Grissom cuts Greg off saying "Don't go there Greg. The sheriff and Ecklie are not an item. Um . . . at least I'm pretty sure they are not." Greg starts to answer "I'm just saying ….," but he is cut off by an irritated expression from Grissom.

Catherine and I watch the banter between the two and smile as Grissom cuts Greg off for the last time. Catherine turns to Grissom and says "Gil, Greg's right in his own perplexed way. Ecklie is most definitely leading a double life and the sheriff is not going to want to hear about it. We need to decide what has a bearing on the case and how much information we are going to convey to him."

Deciding to add my own two cents, I say "I agree with Catherine. I think we need to withhold any information concerning the gay bar from the sheriff for now. If the time comes that he needs to know, I'm sure Ros and Max will be able to convince him." I smile as I add "If nothing else, they will sure get his attention."

Greg replies "I want to be in the viewing room if the sheriff meets up with these two. Max will probably make him wet his pants and Ros will make him more nervous than a weiner in a hot dog stand."

I immediately turn my attention to Greg. "And you were so very brave and macho when you first met the two. Ros was totally harmless even at first sight, but every one of you was ready to watch me get my ass kicked when Max first came onto the scene. Two grown men hiding behind two women is not exactly the picture of chivalry."

Catherine adds "You guys couldn't move fast enough to get away from Max. Hiding behind Sara was disgraceful." I look at Catherine with disbelief as she chastises Grissom and Greg. I reply "What about you? You were hanging onto me like a leech. You wanted me to sacrifice myself to keep Max from hitting on you. I could have been killed."

Greg mutters "I'd say you more than survived and Catherine rewarded you in spades. The tongue duel alone should have made up for all of our transgressions." Grissom elbows Greg in the side to get him to shut up. Embarrassed, I leave the table without a word and walk toward the restrooms.

I enter the small restroom and move to the sink. Placing my hands on the sides, I glance in the mirror. I can't believe Greg said those things especially knowing how I feel about Catherine. Damn it, I thought he was my friend. I turn on the tap and lean over to splash water on my face to hide my tears.

I jump when I feel a hand gently rubbing my back, but I keep my face in my hands. I turn off the water and reach for a paper towel when one is handed to me. I wipe off my face as I stall from making eye contact with Catherine. Finally, I throw the towel into the receptacle and look up into her eyes.

Catherine reaches out to take my hand and says "Sara, don't let Greg get to you. He was just embarrassed at the way he and Gil reacted to Max's presence. He didn't mean anything by it. Besides, you did the right thing. Who knows how Max would have acted toward me? I personally think she is a woman who is used to getting her way when she sets her sights on someone. Thank God she believes in the sanctity of relationships."

I nod my head keeping silent. Catherine tightens her grip on my hand and says "C'mon. Let's get out of here. The guys have gone back to the lab. We've decided to stay mute about everything for right now. You and I only have a couple of more hours left on our shift. I think we are both in need to a break right now."

I follow Catherine as she leads me out the door. She doesn't let go of my hand until we reach the SUV. Wordlessly, she puts out her hand and I give her the keys. We both know I'm still too upset to drive. I'm just thankful Catherine seems to be sensitive to my needs since I am not able to verbalize much at the present time.

As we pull into the parking space at CSI headquarters, I have regained a bit of my composure. Catherine gives me a concerned look before we get out and I reassure her with a smile. Together we walk into the lab looking for our two partners in crime.

We find the duo in Grissom's office along with Warrick and Nick as well. Catherine and I are both confused by their presence. Grissom closes the door and says "It's been a long shift for all of us but especially you two. I called Nick and Warrick in a little early to give you a break. I'll expect both of you back here at your scheduled time ready to work a double."

I open my mouth to argue when Catherine puts her hand on my arm. She looks to Grissom and says "That's a good idea, Gil. Thank you for your concern. We'll be back on time fully rested and raring to go." She opens the door and pulls me from the room. Before the door shuts I hear Nick's voice "Now, what's all this talk about mares and stallions and rogues? Sounds like a good old fashioned horse round-up to me." Warrick's laugh can be heard through the closed doors.


Part 5

Catherine and I make our plans as we walk toward the exit. Catherine is going to take her own car and fulfill her mommy duties. She will drive Lindsey to school and stay for the art exhibit and then head over to the hotel. I am going to take the Denali and run home to pack a bag before checking in.

The receptionist stops us on our way out and gives us each a key to our hotel rooms. I guess we've already been checked in. How very efficient of someone. Catherine and I look down at the keys and notice both envelopes read Room 112. Apparently we've been teamed up with rooms as well as shifts. Thank God I don't have to share a room with Greg or Grissom.

As we exit the building, we run smack dab into the sheriff. Jeez, does this guy ever sleep? He immediately asks "Where are you two going? Is there any progress on the case?" Catherine deftly replies "We're currently running a few leads. Gil and the rest of the team are in his office. Sara and I are on our way to the hotel. Find Gil and he can give you a rundown." Catherine turns to me, winks, and says "I'll see you at the hotel." She walks away toward the parking lot.

I step off the curb but am stopped from leaving by another question. "Sidle, why aren't you two riding together? It would save time and money if you did." I quickly answer "We both need to pack our things and Catherine lives in the opposite direction than me. It is easier if we take separate cars." He nods his head in approval and turns toward the building.

I release my lying breath and step toward the SUV. I start the vehicle and turn toward home grateful for the time alone. Arriving at my apartment, I decide to take a quick shower before packing a bag and checking into the hotel. I don't want to dally too long in case the asshole sheriff is somehow keeping tabs on when the rooms are in use.

I arrive at the hotel only an hour after leaving headquarters. Opening the door to Room 112, I reach in and turn on the light. I look into the room and then look back to check the room number. There has to be some sort of mistake. I walk in and sit in a lounge chair as I stare at the bed, the one and only bed.

I pick up the nearby phone and call the front desk. After a short conversation, I hang up and run my fingers through my hair. It seems the hotel is booked solid for the entire week due to back to back conferences. The sheriff was able to reserve the last three rooms, two doubles and one king. I guess he thought Catherine and I were best suited for the king since we're two women.

If he was privy to my feelings and the fact that I was sucking on Catherine's tongue less than three hours ago, he would never have made the erroneous assumption. I can't very well protest the arrangement since Catherine will probably see nothing wrong with the situation either. I swear, if Ecklie comes out of this alive, I am turning him into a gelding. Crap, now I'm channeling Max.

I rise and place my bag on the dresser. I unpack my things leaving half the drawers for Catherine. I hang my pants and shirts and move to check out the bathroom. The toilet and bathtub are located in one area and the sink is in a cordoned off section of the room. Pleased that Catherine and I will have plenty of room to maneuver, I decide it's time to get some rest.

Donning boxers and a tank, I crawl into the far side of the bed. It takes a few minutes to get into a comfortable position. I am not used to having any restrictions when I sleep. I normally go for skin on sheets. I guess I am an au naturel kind of girl. I finally drift off with visions of kissing Catherine floating through my head.

Sometime later, I wake from a very erotic dream. Completely disoriented, I immediately notice the red head lying on top of me. Shit, I must have picked up another Catherine look alike and fallen asleep in her bed. Wow, this one could be Catherine's twin. I wouldn't mind having another go with her, but I hate the morning after encounters. Maybe I can just slip out of bed and be on my way.

As I slide my leg to the side, the red head tightens her grip on me. Leaning down, I swiftly capture her lips. She moans into my mouth as I slowly ease away. I whisper "Sorry, baby. I've got to run. Duty calls." I pull away from her and almost make my escape when I hear "Huh? Sara? What's going on?"

I immediately freeze on the edge of the bed as the past twenty four hours of memories rush into my addled brain. I turn around and look directly into the blue eyes of the real Catherine Willows. I am sooo screwed.


Part 6

I open my mouth to calmly explain why I just had my tongue in her mouth for a repeat performance, but my nervousness takes center stage. "Oh, my God. Catherine, I am so sorry. I thought it was your look alike… I mean… I thought it was someone else…someone that was not you…um, I was confused and didn't know where I was. Please forgive me."

During my very poor attempt to explain my actions away, Catherine's expressions go from confusion to shock to amusement. I am so glad I am able to provide comic relief for her. If I wasn't scared shitless of what she is going to say, I would tell her exactly what I think of her smirk. However, for the time being, I think it's in my best interest to stay silent.

We sit and stare at each other for what seems like an eternity before Catherine says "Sara, I'm going to need to ask you a few questions and I want you to be totally honest with me. Can you do that?" Maintaining my vow of silence, I nod my head in assent. If it works for the monks, maybe it will work for me.

Catherine sits up and leans back against the headboard while saying "From the way you're acting and the things you've said, you are either gay or bisexual. Is that correct?" I once again nod. Catherine smiles and says "Okay, which one are you?"

Crap, what do those monks do when nodding isn't sufficient? I can't very well put up one finger for gay and two for bisexual because then this would turn into a game of charades. Oh what the hell, she already knows it's one of the two so I may as well come clean. I look Catherine directly in the eyes and say "I'm gay."

Catherine softly asks "Why haven't you said anything to anyone? Did you think we would treat you differently?" I answer "Greg knows and you would have treated me differently. Look how everyone has reacted to Ecklie."

Laughing, Catherine replies "Sara, it's not because he's gay. It's just that none of us want to imagine anyone having sex with Ecklie, male or female. That's way up there on the 'ewww' chart." She adds "Haven't you noticed how Ecklie always struts around and flirts with the women in the lab? You've got to admit it is kind of funny knowing that all this time he was really lusting after the guys."

I finally relax and laugh along with Catherine. I personally thought the situation was funny because Ecklie seems like one big homophobe. Frankly, I hadn't noticed how he always put extra effort into appearing to be heterosexual.

I move from the edge of the bed and sit next to Catherine against the headboard. I can't believe she didn't kick my ass out the door much less that she is speaking civilly to me. I think I may survive this encounter after all.

We sit in silence for several minutes before Catherine reaches over and intertwines our fingers. I swallow to keep from choking and look down at our hands. I stare at them without blinking until the two blends into one. Catherine lightly squeezes and says "Sara, I need to ask you one more question."

Shit, I knew it was too good to be true. Why can't she leave well enough alone? Can't she just let us enjoy this new friendship we seem to have forged? I continue to look at our hands and reply "What is it?"

Catherine pauses for a moment before asking "What did you mean when you said you thought I was my look alike?" I close my eyes as I try to come up with a tactful and succinct way of telling Catherine that I occasionally sleep around and mostly choose women who look like her. She will think I'm obsessed with her which I obviously am now that I think about it. More than likely, she will never speak to me again or maybe even have me moved to another shift.

Okay, Sidle, think. I stall as I run different answers through my head. I could go with the truth. I dream of her and want her so badly I go to the nearest gay bar and pick up a short, red headed woman with preferably blue eyes. I take her back to her place, have hot monkey sex, and then slink away in the middle of the night. No, no, no, wrong answer. How about I am attracted to red heads with blue eyes? No, too vague.

Catherine has evidently become impatient with my lack of answers. She is no longer patiently sitting beside me holding my hand. Instead, she has straddled my legs and has placed both hands on my face. My eyes pop open as I watch her face move closer and closer until she lightly kisses me.

I lean forward to apply more pressure, but I am stopped by her hand on my chest. In between butterfly kisses, Catherine says "Answer my question, Sara." I shake my head and push forward against her hand. She pushes back and asks "Do you want me to kiss you?"

Is she nuts? What kind of question is that? I lean in once again and hear "Oh, no. If you want a kiss, you have to answer my question." I move to shake my head once more when she begins to suck on my bottom lip. Pulling away, she repeats her actions with my top lip. Releasing it, she says "Sara?"

My libido has taken over all brain activity as I blurt out "I pick up girls who look like you. In my mind, I imagine it's you I'm with as I fuck them until they scream."


Part 7

Stunned, Catherine removes the pressure from my chest and leans back on her hands while continuing to straddle my legs. My brain has finally caught up with my mouth as I realize what I have so crudely confessed to. Son of a bitch, I can't believe I said those things aloud, but Catherine had me so hot and bothered and wait a damn minute . . .

Has Catherine come up with a new interrogation technique or is there some attraction between us? Her method would have suspects confessing to all sorts of crimes probably even some they didn't commit. I certainly sang like a canary, a big fat foul mouthed one.

As a result of my graphic explanation, I have accomplished something I never thought I was capable of. I have made Catherine Willows speechless. Seconds turn into minutes without a word from either of us.

Deciding to bite the bullet, I make an attempt to apologize for the second time in a very short span. "Catherine, I know you probably will not want to have anything to do with me after my vulgar confession. I never intended for you to find out about my attraction to you, but I couldn't lie to you. I sincerely apologize for the manner in which I answered your question. I promise you I will be the consummate professional while we work together. When this case is over, I will ask to be moved to one of the other shifts."

Catherine continues to stare at me as the alarm clock goes off signaling one hour until we need to return to the lab. Desperately needing some time away from Catherine's scrutiny, I say "We need to get ready for shift. Why don't I take the shower first? You can follow when I finish and then we can grab a bite on the way to the lab."

I pull my legs free from Catherine and slide to the edge of the bed. As I begin to rise, she grabs my wrist and seemingly comes out of her stupor. "Sara, wait. I don't want you to be embarrassed or worried about anything. You just surprised me with your frankness. I don't want you to ask for a transfer. This is as much my fault as yours. I was the one teasing you. We obviously share some sort of mutual attraction. When we get through with this case, I think we should sit down and talk. Right now, let's try to concentrate on our next shift."

With a simple okay, I retreat to the bathroom. Closing the door, I lean back against it in an attempt to regain my equilibrium. Taking a few cleansing breaths, I push away and turn on the shower.

My thoughts stay with Catherine. Attraction? Well, she did climb into my lap at the bar and she most definitely sat astride me and peppered me with teasing kisses to get a confession. I've never seen her use that tactic on anyone else. Maybe there is some truth to her words, but I'm not going to get my hopes up. I'm going to follow Catherine's suggestion and concentrate on the case instead.

We arrive at the lab with ten minutes to spare. Grissom and the gang are in the far lab going over their latest findings. As Catherine and I walk in, Grissom fills us in. The four of them have been to Ecklie's house and gone over it with a fine tooth comb. Ecklie's prints were the only ones found anywhere in the house. The place was immaculate and highly organized.

Luckily, Nick did get a hit on a house listed in the name of Ecklie's deceased mother. There is no record of the house ever being rented or leased to another party. Grissom wants the four of us to drive to the remote location and see if we can find anything. The sheriff has obtained a warrant to search the premises using whatever means necessary.

We decide to ride together with Warrick and Nick taking the front. I lean against the back seat and close my eyes. Maybe I can get a nap in before we get to the house. I peak over at Catherine to see she has the same idea. Nick finds a country western station and we all groan in protest.

Warrick wakes us up as we pull into the driveway. The yard is meticulous and the house has definitely been maintained. The mailbox at the end of the sidewalk is stenciled with the name Stubing. Nick reads the data sheet and says "Ecklie's dad died when he was fourteen and his mother remarried. The step dad was a retired naval captain."

I immediately reply "You've got to be kidding me. Ecklie's mom married Captain Stubing. I hope we aren't getting ready to embark on 'The Love Boat.' Please tell me his name isn't Merrill."

Nick laughs and replies "No. His name was George; but get this, his mother's name was Julie. There are no other children listed, so no chance of a Gopher." Catherine joins in and adds "Well, Ecklie is a bit of a rodent. Does that count?"

Chuckling, we follow Warrick up the walk. He pulls out the key found at Ecklie's marked 'Mother.' The door opens and we step across the threshold to find the house in perfect order. There are plastic covers on the furniture, but everything else looks to be in its original place.

Nick and Warrick decide to take the upstairs leaving Catherine and me to the lower level.

We check out the kitchen and den area as well as the study. There doesn't seem to be any clue or evidence relating to the case. Catherine walks toward the far wall and puts her hands on her hips saying "Sara, something seems off over here. I can't seem to put my finger on it."

I walk over and look around. I notice a slightly worn path from the front door straight to this wall. I go over to my kit and pick up the set of plans Nick printed out. The plan shows this wall to be the rear exterior of the house, but the house seems to extend further out. I begin to knock around on the wall and find several locations that seem hollow.

While I study the wall, Catherine checks out the fireplace area. She loses her footing and grabs hold of an ornate handle to keep from falling. As she releases it, the wall slides inward to reveal a hidden room. Catherine and I stare at each other in disbelief before turning on our flashlights. We enter the room cautiously with Catherine in the lead.

I find a wall switch just inside the opening and flip it on. My mouth drops open as I take in the equipment in the room. There are chains on the wall and some sort of wooden cross. Whips and floggers are hung on hooks along with leather straps and what appear to be chaps, bridles, reins, and bits. It looks like Max wasn't too far off with her mares and stallions descriptions.

Catherine moves to the left side of the room and calls me over when she locates a TV and VCR setup. I walk to the wall to find a floor to ceiling storage compartment filled with VCR tapes. Each is marked with dates and names. The dates begin with June of last year. I pick up the initial tape and place it in the VCR.

Catherine and I stand in front of the TV as the tape begins to play. An empty view of this room is the first video seen. Just as I get ready to fast forward, a voice from off camera can be heard. "C'mon. It will be fun. Things are too vanilla right now. I want more action. We can do this together." A second voice chimes in with "We don't need to do this. I am perfectly happy with our sex life as it is. I am not going to participate in this perverted lifestyle."

Catherine and I are both mesmerized. Neither of the speakers can be seen. The first voice definitely belongs to Ecklie and the second sounds a bit familiar. As I am running possibilities through my head, Ecklie appears on screen saying "It's not perverted. You need to live a little. I had this room specially built for both of us, but if you don't want to partake in the activities, fine. I'll just bring home someone for myself."

The second man moves closer to Ecklie but is still out of view. He is close enough to cast a shadow on the floor so maybe Archie can determine his height and build. The two men continue their argument as Ecklie holds his ground. As Ecklie steps toward the man to move off camera, the unknown person grabs hold of Ecklie and pushes him backwards saying "Conrad, if you do this, so help me you will regret it. I love you and I will not stand for this." Ecklie reaches out and grapples with the man. For a brief moment, the man is facing the camera.

I immediately hit pause as Catherine and I move closer to the TV. We are both frozen in place as the face of David Hodges fills the screen.


Part 8

Catherine is the first to speak. "Hodges?" I chime in with "Hodges and Ecklie?" We look at each other and with matching grimaces respond "Yuck." Nick and Warrick enter the room and look around in obvious shock. Nick asks "What is all this horse tack doing in here?" Warrick raises an eyebrow and Nick visibly shutters saying "Ewwww. Please tell me there's a pony in here somewhere."

Catherine answers "No, but Sara and I have found a suspect in the form of weasel." I play the video for Warrick and Nick while Catherine phones the lab and talks to Wendy. She tells Catherine that Hodges is working a double and is in the trace lab. He must have begun the shift with Catherine and me, so he should be in the lab for the next 12 hours. Wendy is going to keep an eye on him and let us know if he disappears for any length of time.

We decide to process the room and confiscate the tapes. Warrick has arranged for Archie to meet him in the AV lab to begin reviewing the tapes as soon as we return. Poor Archie, he has no idea what he is in for. Maybe he can wear a full body condom while watching the tapes or perhaps Grissom can set up a portable shower in the viewing room.

As we fingerprint and swab different pieces of equipment, Nick asks "Hey Warrick, did you tell Archie the subject of the tapes?" Warrick chuckles and replies "No way, man. He would have never agreed to watch Ecklie get it on with other men. Now, if it was one of these two ladies with other women, I would have told him directly. He would have owed me big time."

Catherine and I look at each other and both turn bright red. I'll have to figure some way to get back at Warrick for putting those images of Catherine in my head. At the moment I am just trying to get through checking for DNA on all these pieces of 'equipment.' I made sure to double glove before I began.

With four of us working, we finish the room in two hours. Nick has spent the last 45 minutes loading the tapes into the Denali. We gather all the samples and our kits and begin the trek to the SUV. Catherine and I place our equipment in the back alongside Nick and Warrick's. As soon as we move to the doors of the vehicle, I realize we have a problem.

Nick has stacked the excess tapes in the back seat on the entire left side and most of the middle section. This leaves a very small space for one person to fit in much less two. Warrick broaches the obvious subject first. "Nick, you do realize there are four of us. You took up almost the entire back seat with video tapes." Nick smiles and replies "I thought Catherine could sit on my lap on the way back."

Catherine gives Nick a very sultry smile and says "Nice plan, Nicky. I appreciate the offer, but I think I'd rather scrunch up in the back with Sara." I look at Catherine and then look at the vacant space in the back seat. It is getting smaller and smaller by the minute. Catherine and I are about to get up close and personal for the thirty minute ride back to the lab.

I smile and try to hide my discomfort as I climb into the back area first. Catherine steps in and sits next to me or should I say almost on top of me. I lean back and close my eyes. After a few minutes of adjustments, Catherine has found the perfect spot. She is now completely sitting sideways in my lap looking out the window. She has one hand on the back of Nick's seat and the other resting on the seat directly behind my head.

Warrick starts the car and we begin the trip back discussing all the different ways to handle Hodges. Catherine thinks we should keep everything to ourselves for the time being and see if Hodges tips his hand. We all admit that Hodges is extremely bright and has probably been very careful in his planning.

Catherine puts in a call to update Grissom and to ask how we should proceed. Grissom informs us to drive to police headquarters instead of the lab. He wants Archie to view the tapes away from the lab. Grissom next asks if we sealed the hidden room when we left. Confused, Catherine responds in the affirmative.

Since there will only be a little over an hour left in Warrick and Nick's shift, Grissom and Greg are going to meet us at headquarters to begin their next shift. Catherine closes her phone and the four of us continue our debate as to how to proceed. I don't dare point out that we will probably follow Grissom's lead regardless of our opinion.

The last fifteen minutes of the ride have become a living hell for me. For some reason, Catherine has become more active as she discusses the case. Add in a rough road and I have a squirming Catherine pressing against some very interesting places. I just hope I am able to walk when we finally reach our destination.

We drive to the back of police headquarters and are greeted by Brass, Greg, and Grissom. Catherine steps out first and I hesitate a few moments before making the attempt to disembark. I close my eyes and force myself to step from the vehicle.

Catherine is watching my movements carefully. She asks "Sara, are you okay? I didn't hurt you did I?" I refrain from asking her to define hurt. Instead I reply, "No, I'm fine. I'm just a little stiff." Actually, I'm more than stiff if you get my drift.

Brass signals for a few patrolmen to help bring the tapes inside; however, we leave all the fingerprint and DNA evidence in the Denali. Greg is going to take it to headquarters and get Wendy to help process the evidence away from Hodges' area. The rest of us enter the station and move to a nearby conference room.

Grissom and Brass have been very busy while we were on our way in. The two have decided to keep all information from both the sheriff and any other non-essential CSI personnel. They want Hodges to think we processed both houses and found nothing. He will more than likely relax and make some sort of mistake.

Brass, Warrick, and Nick believe Hodges has probably murdered Ecklie and has disposed of the body. Grissom, Catherine, and I think he is holding Ecklie captive somewhere. Brass is going to put a tail on him the second he finishes his shift. Our job is to try to bury him in evidence.

Grissom wants Catherine and me to go back to the gay bar with a picture of Hodges. We are to interview Max, Ros, and any patron who might have seen Hodges. Any evidence linking Hodges to the bar will only strengthen our case.

Catherine and I take Grissom's Yukon and drive to the bar. As we are walking toward the entrance, Catherine says "Sara, I know I apologized for teasing you in the hotel room and I do not intend to put you in that situation again unless it is absolutely necessary. I am warning you ahead of time, if Max comes onto me, I am jumping back into your lap. You have my permission to show her exactly who I belong to."


Part 9

I almost stumble as Catherine's remarks once again throw me off balance. As I walk toward the entrance, I am finding myself hoping and praying Max gives her a reason to jump me. Who knew I would be mentally thanking Hodges of all people for the opportunity to kiss Catherine yet again?

I open the door to the establishment and usher Catherine inside. Ros is once again behind the bar and there is no sign of Max, damn it. We take our places on the stools and wait to be noticed. Ros is none too happy with the patron she is currently serving. Her voice carries over toward our area. "Listen here you cheap floozy. I have been serving you drinks for over a year now and giving you all sorts of advice on how to be the best queen you can be and you still don't give me a decent tip. I think it's time for you to find another bartender or better yet, another bar."

Ros flips her hair over her shoulder and walks away. She immediately brightens up when she sees us on the other side of the bar. "Hey look who's back, my two new lady friends. Where are your counterparts? The one with the beard has some real potential."

I can't help but ask "What kind of potential?" Ros steps closer and says "He's a real cutie and so quiet. I bet he's wild in the bedroom. His type usually is." I try to keep my mind from imagining Grissom in the bedroom much less being sexual in any way.

Catherine gets things back on track saying "Ros, we need for you to look at this picture and tell us if you've ever seen this man before." Ros gives us the once over before replying "What's with all the pictures and questions? I don't think it's because you are worried about your friend from earlier. Tell Ros what's going on."

Catherine smiles and says "Sara and I work for the Las Vegas Crime Lab and we are investigating the disappearance of the individual we talked to you about yesterday. I apologize for our deception, but we were afraid you might not have been so free with your information if you thought we were with law enforcement."

Looking deeply hurt, Ros replies "Shame on you for tricking me into thinking you really liked me. I would have been just as cooperative if you had told the truth. You know Max isn't going to be very happy about this either."

Trying to smooth her feathers, I answer "Ros, we meant no harm. We do enjoy your company. It's just that we didn't think you would like us if you thought we only wanted information from you. Please forgive us."

She puts her hand on her chest and sighs. "Honey, you are going to owe me later, but for right now, I guess I can forgive you." Catherine and I both relax on our stools until we hear a booming voice directly behind us. "So you two were just pretending to be a couple. I'm certainly not upset about the news since it means I'll have a shot at you, Red."

We swivel in our seats to find Max standing within two feet of us. As promised, Catherine immediately jumps into my lap and grabs hold. I almost fall from the stool from the force, but I am able to keep us upright. It would be almost comical if Catherine wasn't shaking in her boots.

I pull Catherine closer as I say "Not everything was an act. Catherine and I are very much in love with each other." Max snorts and replies "It looks to me like you are more her protector than her lover. I think you're still role playing."

Catherine turns to me and cups my face with her hands. Looking into my eyes, she leans forward and initiates a kiss, a very passionate kiss. The tables have definitely turned as Catherine is the one showing Max who belongs to whom. I do have to admit there is nothing quite like a hot opened mouthed kiss to get the possession point across.

I move my hands to Catherine's hips as she surges even closer to me. Tongue hockey has now officially become my favorite sport especially if Catherine is the one passing the 'puck.' We are both breathing very heavily when Catherine finally pulls away and leans her forehead against mine. Neither of us is able to utter a word as we are both too overwhelmed with emotion.

Max breaks the perfect moment by saying "Hot damn, now that's a kiss. I thought you two were going to get it on right here. There is no way you could fake that kind of passion. Sorry if I offended you, Red."

I break my focus from Max to keep from punching her in the face. If she calls Catherine Red one more time, I won't be able to be held accountable for my actions. Catherine must realize my discomfort as she slowly rubs her hand up and down my back. On second thought, I think I'll be staying right here for awhile. Good thing too because Max would probably kill me.

Looking toward Ros, I smile when I see her fanning herself. She returns my smile and says "Sweetie, that was some kind of hot. I thought you two were going to combust right there on my stool. If you could have kept it going a little longer, I could have charged admission and made a fortune."

We sit and chat with the two for awhile longer before returning to the case at hand. Max identifies Hodges as the rogue she had described earlier. Neither Ros nor Max remembers Ecklie and Hodges ever coming in together or talking to each other for that matter. Catherine gives Ros her card and asks her to call if either one of them remembers anything of significance. We promise to stop by and visit after the case is closed.

As Catherine and I leave the bar, my cell goes off. Catherine checks hers and shakes her head when she realizes the battery is dead. Grissom wants us to drive by Hodges on the way back to see if anything looks suspicious from the outside. He hasn't been able to secure a search warrant since Hodges isn't officially a suspect on paper. Grissom still feels we should keep our suspicions amongst our 'family' for now.

As we drive toward Hodges's house, we try to come up with different locations where Hodges may have Ecklie. Surely, Grissom has searched all properties owned or rented by Hodges, but we decide to check into it when we return to the lab.

Catherine leans back against the headrest and closes her eyes. I sneak occasional peaks in her direction so I can admire her beauty without her knowledge. I'm not sure what is going on between us, but I know I have to be patient and wait for Catherine to decide when it's time to talk.

I quietly sigh and focus on the road. As we get closer to the address, I begin to drive more slowly. We both take in the neighborhood looking for anything that may be out of place or unusual. Hodges' house looks much like Ecklie's from the outside, meticulous and well kept. Catherine notices a storage house in the backyard, but we can't see much from the street. I make a mental note to check it out first if we get a search warrant.

I turn the corner and start back in the direction of the lab. I glance at my watch to discover there are only four more hours left in our double shift. Maybe I'll be able to get a little sleep during our down time. Just thinking about time off makes me break into a yawn.

Catherine turns to me and says "Tired? I can imagine. We didn't get much sleep during our last break. I can't wait to stretch out on that king size bed." Catherine pauses and then adds "Just think how good we would sleep if we finally gave into this attraction and had hot monkey sex."

Part 10

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