DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Missing Person
Okay. That's it. We are settling this once and for all. I quickly pull to the nearest curb and turn in my seat to face Catherine who is seemingly confused by my actions. Not letting her innocent face deter me from my goal, I say "Catherine, you have been giving me mixed signals ever since you plopped yourself in my lap our first time at the bar. I admit I took advantage of the situation by kissing you, but then you kissed me back. I couldn't get you off my mind and even had an erotic dream about you."
I pause to see if I still have her attention. She seems mesmerized by my commentary so I continue. "At the hotel, I woke completely disoriented thinking you were someone I picked up at a bar. I embarrassed myself to no end by admitting to my occasional flings with women who look like you albeit only after you teased me mercilessly with soft kisses. You admit to an attraction between us and ask to table the discussion until we finish this case."
I stop to give her a chance to counter, but she seems perfectly content listening to me. Not wanting to lose the momentum, I continue "You solve the problem of Nick's poor packing technique by insisting on sitting in the back with me, but instead you sit in the back on me. I was a total wreck by the time we made it back to police headquarters. Your squirming around had me vying for the title of 'Horniest Woman of the Year' award. I'm surprised I didn't have to crawl into the station."
This time I don't give her a chance to draw breath before continuing. "And then we get to the bar. I can understand you once again jumping in my lap. Hell, Max could intimidate King Kong, but I thought I was supposed to be the one to show Max you belonged to me. Before I can do anything, you basically put your tongue down my throat. Not that I'm complaining because I was able to retaliate before it was all said and done."
Catherine starts to reply, but I'm on a roll now. I hold up my hand and say "Let me finish. I am thankful to you for keeping me from breaking my fist on Max's face when she kept calling you Red. Your method did calm me down, but raised a few questions as well. Then we starting talking about the case again and I had resigned myself to put off our talk until later. I thought you had too; however, talking about hot monkey sex even in jest is crossing the line once again. As a matter of fact, I don't even know where the line is because you keep moving it."
I grab Catherine's hand and look directly into her eyes. I want her to hear this next part and take it to heart. "Catherine, I don't want to discuss this anymore during this shift. I want you to think long and hard about what you want when we return to the hotel. If you want to sleep on separate sides of the bed or if you want me to hold you while you sleep, I'm there. If you don't ever want to make love with me in any way, I'll understand. If we ever do make love, I would like the first time to be slow and reverent, but if all I can get is 'hot monkey sex,' then bring it on. Either way I'm going to rock your world."
Without another word, I release her hand and pull away from the curb. She has not said a word nor moved an inch since I began my impassioned speech. It is taking everything I have not to look her way or engage her in conversation. I meant what I said about it being her choice.
We arrive back at the lab and walk directly to Grissom's office. Greg has researched Hodges' holdings and has only found records for his house. He has begun a more extensive look into Ecklie's financials. So far, there are no clues as to Ecklie's whereabouts.
Catherine fills Grissom in on our conversation with Ros and Max. She conveniently leaves out the possessive kiss. I detail our drive by of Hodges house and point out the location of the storage house in the backyard. Grissom is getting worried that we may have to interrogate Hodges. He feels it is too soon without any evidence to back us up.
Greg fills me in on the progress of the case while Catherine and Grissom draw up a rough sketch of Hodges house and neighborhood. Unfortunately, Archie has not found anything in the videos. Well according to Greg, anything of value to the case. Archie told Grissom he didn't think he would ever be able to get all the images out of his head. Greg suggested going to a topless bar every night for a month.
I pitch in and help Greg with the financial statements while Catherine reviews Archie's notes on the videos. Every now and then Catherine gets up and walks around the room shaking her head in disbelief. She said if Archie could view the tapes the least she could do was read his notes.
Warrick and Nick arrive signaling the end of our shift. We fill them in on the latest evidence and research before heading back to the hotel. Catherine has been silent the entire drive. I wonder if she has given any thought to my earlier request. She is probably just thinking about the case.
We walk to the hotel room and I place the key in the slot. I pull the key out and open the door for Catherine to enter. She immediately goes into the bathroom while I sit on the edge of the bed and put my head in my hands. After a few minutes, there is no sign of Catherine. I guess she has decided to ignore the situation hoping it will go away.
I get up, put on my boxers and tank, and crawl into the bed. I may as well try to get some sleep because I don't think she is ever coming out of the bathroom. I move toward the edge and turn on my side. I close my eyes and try to clear my mind.
Hearing the bathroom door open, I remain in place with my back to Catherine. I am not going to force the issue with her anymore. I feel the bed dip as she moves toward the middle. I freeze in place and await her next move.
Catherine places her hand on my shoulder and says "Sara, I've made my decision." I roll over to look her in the eyes. I want to see her face when she tells me of her choice. As I open my eyes, I almost fall backward off the bed. Catherine is sitting against the headboard naked as a jaybird.
Holy shit, what a body! I think I'm going to like this decision of hers. I open my mouth to inform her of just that when she puts her fingers over my lips. I have to stop myself from sucking them into my mouth. Catherine gives me with a slightly embarrassed look which is a bit unusual for a woman who used to be a stripper. She fiddles with the bedspread and says "I want you to hold me while I sleep. I have never slept with someone in the nude without having sex, but I want to feel skin on skin with you."
What? She wants me to hold her naked body next to my naked body all night without having sex? Is she nuts? This was definitely not one of the options. I distinctly said separate sides of the bed, hold her, slow love making, or hot monkey sex. Only the last two involved nudity. I must be in my own living hell or maybe I'm really asleep and dreaming this torture.
I slowly reach up and touch Catherine's hand. Nope, she's real and she's still naked. I start to tell her that I don't think sleeping in the nude is such a great idea when she says "I just want to feel you near. You were right about the attraction. I am very attracted to you, but I think I want more than meaningless hot sex. I want our first time to be special."
Well hell, I did say I would be there if she wanted me to hold her. I just didn't think we would both be naked at the time. She seems to be sincere about wanting a first time, but I have to say looking at her perfect body is making meaningless hot sex sound better and better.
Catherine rises up from the bed and says "Let's just forget it, Sara. I'm sorry if I offended you." She moves toward the dresser and begins to pull out her sleeping gown. I jump from the bed and move toward her. "Catherine, wait. You've got me so flustered I didn't know what to say. To be honest, I'm still not sure what to say. I do know that I am both pleased and flattered you want to be with me. I also think you're right about us taking things slow, but I have to admit my libido is pretty high on the Richter scale right now."
Catherine smiles and says "Nobody but you would compare your sex drive to the magnitude of an earthquake." She moves closer and takes my hand saying "I know what you mean though. When I'm around you, I find myself wanting to constantly touch you. I have never felt this way about anyone else even Eddie. It scares me."
I can't believe we are having this conversation with me standing here clothed and Catherine completely naked. My only option is to balance the scale. I swiftly pull off my tank and boxers. Taking Catherine's hand, I lead us back to the bed.
I gesture for Catherine to get under the covers as I closely follow. We face each other but refrain from touching. I reach forward and stroke her face saying "This is a first for me too. I always get what I need and then leave in the cover of the night. Closeness is something I tend to avoid, but it is something I crave with you."
Catherine grasps my hand in hers and says "I don't want our first time to be in some hotel room. It would feel too much like a one night stand and I've had my share of those. I want to make love with you in my own bed." She squeezes my hand and adds "If we can hold out that long."
I decide right then and there to make Catherine's wish come true even though it will probably kill us both. I answer "I'd like that too. Now let's try to get some sleep." Catherine scoots next to me and places her head on my shoulder. I put my arm around her and draw her near.
The warmth of Catherine's skin is making things extremely difficult for me. I concentrate on keeping my body parts in check. Surprisingly, I fall asleep within minutes.
This time when I awaken I know exactly where I am and who I am with. I glance to the clock and can't believe how long we've slept. I begin to mentally calculate the hours and realize we only have thirty minutes before our next shift.
I slip from Catherine's grasp and head to the bathroom for a very quick shower. I can't believe my body is being so cooperative. Of course, I did promise it a huge reward if I could hold out for Catherine's bed.
I quickly rinse and dry off. After putting on my clothes, I move back to the bed. "Catherine, it's time to wake up. We forgot to set the alarm and we only have twenty minutes until shift. You've still got time for a quick shower."
Catherine opens her eyes and looks at the clock. Rising from the bed, she stretches her gorgeous body. She throws a 'good morning' over her shoulder as she walks into the bathroom. I sit on the edge of the bed trying to push the image of a naked, stretching Catherine into my subconscious so that I can recall it when I have the time to fully enjoy it.
We had to forego eating to arrive at the lab on time. We swing by the break room to grab a cup of coffee before meeting up with Grissom in the far lab. Grissom looks up with a raised eyebrow when we walk in. Why is he looking at us like that? I immediately look down to be sure I am fully dressed.
Yep, I'm all there. I glance at Catherine and note another fully clothed investigator. That's when I realize we are walking so close to each other we may as well be sharing a leg. Kind of like those races where the two contestants tie their inner legs together and run toward the finish line.
Catherine is totally unaware of the scrutiny and does not seem to realize how much we have invaded each other's space. I make it a point to separate and walk toward the far side of the table.
As we take a seat, Grissom immediately begins to fill us in. Hodges apparently went straight home and has not left his house since arriving. He has not ventured into the backyard either. Grissom believes this indicates Ecklie is indeed dead.
Warrick, Nick, and Greg have found no other evidence in the financials or the phone LUDS. Grissom informs us that Ros called about a half hour ago and said she had some information, but she will only tell Catherine and me. She has agreed to meet us at the diner across the street from the bar.
Grissom checks his watch and tells us that we need to be on our way if we're going to be on time for our meeting. He and Greg walk out with us and I concentrate on keeping a fair amount of space between Catherine and me which is a bit difficult since Catherine keeps edging closer and closer. I don't think she is even aware of it.
We arrive at the diner at the scheduled time. At least we will be able to get a meal out of this even if the information doesn't pan out. We walk up to the entrance hand in hand. I don't remember who reached for whom, but it seemed to be an automatic gesture.
I open the door for Catherine and we enter scanning the patrons for Ros. We see her at the back waving frantically to get our attention. She's sitting in the far booth with Max at her side. These two stick out like a sore thumb, but I don't dare tell Ros her wave was not necessary.
I place my hand on Catherine's back as we walk the rest of the way to the booth. I take her hand and assist her into the booth. Ros sits across from us grinning like a cheshire cat. She nudges Max in the side and says "Look at those two, so much in love. You should be ashamed of yourself for coming onto Catherine." Turning back to us, she adds "You two are positively glowing. It looks like you've just taken a boat ride down a river. What kind of trip was it? Slow then fast? Were there stops along the way? Did it end with a smooth glide onto the shore at the end or a plunge down a waterfall?"
Taking my hand, Catherine smiles and answers "We haven't actually left the dock yet, Ros. We're still testing the waters to determine the kind of trip we're interested in." With a surprised tone, Max says "You mean to tell me the two of you haven't had sex yet. You sure couldn't tell by the way you kiss." Ros reaches over and smacks Max on the back of the head.
Max retorts "Ow, quit that you cross-dressing theater queen." Ros sighs and mumbles something about redundancy and reaches over to take Catherine's hand. "Catherine, I think it's wonderful you and Sara are holding out. Too many people jump into the sack right away. I definitely would hold out if I met the right man."
Max opens her mouth to make a remark, but shuts it when Ros glares at her. We decide to order something to eat and discuss Ros' information over breakfast. Max and Ros order the special, Catherine chooses pancakes and eggs, and I order the vegetarian breakfast. Max looks up and says "What are you some kind of Crunchy dyke?"
Angrily, I answer "What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Catherine places her hand on my leg and I instantly calm with her touch. Once again she has saved me from my own death by Max's hand. She turns to Max and says "Max, I don't take kindly to people who talk rudely to my family. I think you need to apologize to Sara right now." Family? I smile as I realize Catherine's meaning.
Ros laughs and says "Honey, I love your spunk. In Max's defense, she wasn't being rude or derogatory this time. She was referring to Sara's diet. A lesbian who is health conscious or eats healthy is referred to a Granola lesbian or a Crunchy dyke."
Okay, I knew what a Granola lesbian was, but I had never heard the term Crunchy dyke. I turn to Max and say "I don't mind the Granola lesbian label, but please don't call me a Crunchy dyke again." Max puts out her hand and says "Sorry I offended you. I won't do it again. Truce?" I reach over to shake her hand and I don't even grimace when her grip almost breaks my hand. I gently put my hand in my lap when she releases it. I may have to get an x-ray later. The waitress delivers our food as I try eating with my left hand.
Catherine adeptly moves the conversation back to the case. Ros leans forward and asks "I won't have to testify or anything will I?" Catherine assures her we only want her information and we will do our best to keep her name out of the investigation.
Ros glances around before reaching in her purse and pulling out a credit card receipt. She slides it across the table and Catherine moves it to where we both can view it. Let's see what we've got. The total is $23.43 and the date is two weeks ago today. The name on the receipt is John Sanders. The signature is just about illegible. We continue to eat as we discuss the case. Well, they eat while I try to balance food on my fork.
I ask Ros the significance of the receipt and she says "Well, I remember Julie Ann, one of the other bartenders, saying some mousy little man with a bad attitude gave her a hard time a couple of weeks back. She said he was mad because he didn't have enough cash to pay the tab. He wanted to come back the next night and pay the tab, but Julie Ann has gotten in trouble many times for letting customers run a tab for a couple of days."
Ros pauses and takes a sip of her coffee before continuing. "Anyway, the manager had just jumped on Julie Ann that very day so when this guy wanted to pay the next night she said she couldn't let him. Julie Ann said he ranted and raved before he finally pulled out his credit card. That's the receipt."
Catherine asks "How can you be sure this is the one?" Max answers "Julie Ann may be a dumb blonde, but she remembers the name of every person she has ever served. She's like one of those idiot savants when it comes to remembering names. I asked her about the guy and she said she has served him on several occasions."
I move to pull out my phone, but Catherine stops me. "Sara, I've already finished my breakfast. I'll call while you finish yours." Catherine pulls out her cell and walks toward the restroom area for privacy. We can hear the first part of her conversation as she moves away. "Nick, it's Catherine. We think Hodges has an alias. You need to run financials and a background check on a John Sanders. His MasterCard number is . . ."
By the time Catherine returns, I have finished two thirds of my breakfast and I am tired of fighting with my fork. I place my napkin on the table and reach for the bill. Catherine snatches it up and insists on paying the tab for all of us. Ros and Max graciously accept so I don't see the point in arguing. I'll just get the next one. We thank Ros and Max for their help and promise to let them know how everything turns out.
I move to the passenger side of the Denali and get in. Catherine stands outside the vehicle with a puzzled expression on her face. She finally gets in and I hand her the keys and give her a quick kiss. Catherine smiles and starts the engine. I'm going to have to remember this technique the next time I want to distract her.
During our meal, my right hand has swollen significantly. I still can't believe the strength in that woman's hand. I'm just hoping she didn't do it on purpose. Reflexively, I reach for the seatbelt with my left hand before shifting it back to my right to buckle in. Pain immediately accompanies my stupidity. My immediate reaction as always to pain is to blurt out "Fuck!" I quickly pull my injured hand to my middle and cradle it in my left hand. I bite down on my lip to keep from uttering anymore profanities.
Since we haven't made it out of the parking lot yet, Catherine pulls into an open parking space. She undoes her seatbelt and leans toward me in concern. Being a highly skilled investigator, it doesn't take Catherine long to find the source of my problem.
Catherine puts her hand on my arm and says "Shit, Sara. Your hand looks broken. When did you get hurt? Did Max do something to you when I was talking on the phone to Nick? I'm going to get my taser and stun the hell out of her if she did."
My head snaps up at Catherine's words. She furrows her eyebrows and says "She hurt you didn't she?" Catherine scans the parking lot and spots Max and Ros talking a few cars down. She reaches for the door handle to exit the vehicle with a glare I have seen more than once in my lifetime.
Reaching for Catherine with my good hand, I say "Catherine, don't. It was an accident. Let's just get out of here." She turns toward me and her expression turns once again to concern. She reaches out and touches my lip. Pulling her hand away, Catherine says "Your lip is bleeding." I guess I bit down too hard.
Catherine looks at Ros and Max and then looks back to me. Decision made, she buckles back up and puts the car in gear. I finally begin to relax until I hear "We're going to the hospital. Max will have to wait for another day."
Catherine calls Nick to let him know what is going on. We pull up to the emergency room entrance and take full advantage of being in a law enforcement vehicle. Catherine walks around and helps me from the Denali. I try to explain there's nothing wrong with my legs, but I only get a glare in return.
Catherine marches up to the desk, flashes her badge, and asks if the ER chief is available. A few minutes later, a tall slim blonde walks over to the desk. The nurse directs her to Catherine who tells the doctor I was injured while working on a time sensitive case and we both need to get back to the lab as soon as possible. Well, I guess her explanation is mostly true.
The next thing I know, I am being placed in a wheelchair and pushed to x-ray. I think Catherine has picked up on my fear of hospitals as she looks down upon my pale face. Of course, the fact that I have a death grip on her hand may have given her a clue. She gives me a reassuring smile as we make our way down the corridor.
An hour later, I am walking out of the ER with a splint on my hand. Two cracked bones sure hurt like hell. The doctor gave me some pain pills to take every four hours; however, most medication makes me a bit loopy so I'm going to try to hold off until we're done with this double shift.
We arrive at the lab and are met by a very concerned Warrick and Nick. I shrug off the sympathy looks and assure everyone that I'm okay. Nick then displays one of his patented shit eating grins and I immediately know he's found something. The two of them direct us to Grissom's office.
Nick instructs us to take a seat on the couch while he moves the whiteboard forward. Turning it around, I am puzzled by what looks to be a family tree of some kind. Directly in the center is the name John Sanders.
Warrick chuckles and says "You are never going to believe what we discovered." Catherine sits back and replies "Bring it on." Nick laughs and says "Okay, but hold onto your seatbelts. John Sanders is Hodges' real name. David Hodges is the alias. He is from a very affluent family who evidently was not happy with John's sexual preferences. At the age of twenty one, John changed his name to David Hodges and his family was more than happy to assist him. He evidently still keeps in touch with his paternal grandmother because she is the one paying for the credit card and occasionally puts money in the Nevada State Bank account of John Sanders."
Warrick is busting a gut holding something else in, but he is going to let Nick take center stage. Catherine asks "Did you find any land holdings?" Nick smiles and says "Oh, yeah. Mr. Sanders is quite the entrepreneur. He has real estate holdings all over Las Vegas. We have been able to narrow the number of possible places he could be holding Ecklie to ten. Grissom should be here within the hour. He's going to have to pull more people into our little circle."
Nick continues to wear a huge grin as if he's saved the best for last, but it's apparent he's going to milk it for all its worth. The pain is starting to grate on me a bit and I can no longer wait for Nick's big revelation. I blurt out "For God's sake Nick. I know there is still something huge you've been waiting to tell us. Would you just get on with it?" The minute I see the hurt look on Nick's face, I want to take everything back. Catherine reaches over, takes my hand, and soothingly rubs her thumb across the back.
Warrick and Nick zoom in on our joined hands and their eyebrows shoot to the ceiling. Catherine doesn't wait for the questions. She very calmly says "Sara and I are seeing each other. Do either one of you have a problem with that?" Both men's jaws drop as their eyebrows fall. Neither is able to respond so they both shake their heads no. I think Catherine may have just trumped any news Nick had.
Catherine finally lets go of my hand and walks to the whiteboard while Warrick and Nick silently follow her progress. I'm almost afraid to know what is going on in their heads. Catherine points to a name on the board and asks "What the hell is this doing here?"
Nick comes out of his stupor long enough to reply "He's Hodges' great-grandfather." Catherine bursts out laughing and says "Harland Sanders is Hodges' great-grandfather? All this time I thought Hodges resembled a rodent. Now that I know his true heritage, I admit I was wrong. I can definitely see the resemblance to a chicken."
Warrick begins to cluck and Nick bends over in laughter. My brain must be having trouble dealing with this pain because I can't for the life of me put this all together. Catherine plops down beside me still chuckling.
Warrick offers to go get us some coffee while Nick goes to check on a computer printout.
As soon as the two leave, I open my mouth to ask what the significance of all the chicken references is when I catch a clue. How could I possibly forget about Colonel Sanders? During my college years, Kentucky Fried Chicken was one of my weekly takeouts. Now that I'm a vegan, I shudder at the thought.
Catherine reaches over and runs her hand up and down my arm. "Hey, what's the matter? Are you cold?" I shake my head and reply "No, I was just remembering how much chicken I consumed while I was in college. I probably paid for Hodges' education." Catherine laughs and says "Yeah, me too. I probably helped finance Ecklie's kidnapping since Lindsey still loves KFC."
Talk of Ecklie brings our laughter to an abrupt halt. Regardless of what a prick he can be, he is a victim in need of our help. Catherine rises from the couch and pulls me up with her. We walk to the whiteboard to study Hodges' past.
Warrick comes in and delivers our coffee. He also informs us Nick is in the back lab with computer printouts and maps of the area. He needs our help to analyze and cross reference the two. Catherine finishes writing down some notes about Hodges' history before we walk together down the hallway to the lab.
Nick has highlighted the potential warehouse and buildings in which Ecklie could be housed. A couple of them are located in a fairly busy commercial area which moves them down on the list of probable locations. I work on the phone records of John Sanders to try to match numbers up with any of the businesses. It seems Hodges has two phone lines in his home; something that may have been missed if we didn't know about his 'alter ego.'
Wendy sneaks in a little later to warn us that Hodges has arrived early for his next shift. His trace lab is located on the other side of the building, but we still need to be careful. I turn my attention back to the phone LUDS looking for frequently called numbers or any sort of pattern.
Grissom finally arrives with Brass in tow. The sheriff has been filled in on the very basics of the case. He knows Hodges is a suspect, but he has no idea of the relationship between Hodges and Ecklie. He has agreed to supply additional detectives to check out the warehouses and businesses on our short list. Brass is going to coordinate the search and report any findings to Grissom.
Stopping to rest my eyes, I look over to see Nick going over the top ten list with Brass, pointing out the prime locations while Warrick and Catherine are filling Grissom in on all the latest information. Every few minutes, Grissom glances over at me. I really hope Catherine hasn't said anything about 'our relationship.' It would be nice to have actually gone on our first date before announcing to anyone we're seeing each other. Telling Nick and Warrick is one thing, but Grissom is a completely different matter.
I move my attention back to the pages in front of me. My hand is throbbing and the pain is making it more difficult to focus. The telephone numbers keep blurring into one big blob on the page; however, I have been able to pinpoint the majority of the calls to Flagstaff, Arizona.
I cross reference with Nick's research to find the number I have been so painstakingly zeroing in on and charted every single occurrence of belongs to Hodge's paternal grandmother. Groaning, I put my head down on the table and close my eyes.
A few minutes later, someone has walked over and begins to lightly stroke my hair. It had better be Catherine and not one of the guys. I know it's not Grissom unless I have head lice and he's looking to add to his bug collection. I keep my eyes closed and enjoy the attention.
Catherine's voice filters through my bliss. "Sara, Grissom said we can get an early start on our break. I told him about your hand and he's a bit worried about you. He wants us to take advantage of this lull because if the detectives find something, we may be called in at a moment's notice. Greg's here and he will take over your work on the phone records as soon as he returns with his special coffee. He offered to bring you a cup, but I told him you didn't need any more caffeine to keep you awake."
I lift my head and glance around the room. Everyone is involved in some task and no one seems to be paying any attention to Catherine and me. I take her hand and lightly squeeze my thanks for getting us an early reprieve. Besides, it's been a whole hour since I last touched her.
Releasing her hand, I move to stand as Greg enters the room. He makes a beeline for me and immediately asks "Sara, what happened to your hand?" I guess Catherine didn't get around to telling Greg about my injury. I make an attempt to smile through my increasing pain and respond "I got it caught in a vise." Seeing Greg's confused look, Catherine vehemently adds "Amazonian Max broke two bones in Sara's hand when they shook hands. I've been trying to come up with some way to retaliate. Can I count on you to help, Greg?"
Greg hesitates before asking "Max, as in Max from the bar?" Catherine nods her head yes and Greg quickly responds "Um, I . . . um . . . well, good luck with that, Catherine." He immediately turns tail and heads toward Grissom.
Catherine moves to go after Greg, but I stop her by grabbing her hand. She snaps her head back at me in protest, but one look at my pained expression keeps her in place. She pulls me from the room by my 'good' hand and yells for Grissom to call if he needs us.
As we arrive at the Denali, Catherine opens the passenger door for me and walks around to the driver's side. I get in and don't even bother buckling up. I lay my head back on the seat and concentrate on keeping the nausea at bay. I shift my focus to the phone LUDS I left behind for Greg. There has to be something in all those numbers, I just can't figure it out yet.
I make a mad dash for the bathroom as soon as the door to the hotel room is opened. I think I hate throwing up more than anything. Catherine kneels beside me and holds my hair back. When I finish, I lean back on my heels while Catherine wets a washcloth and wipes my face. The coolness of the cloth feels so good against my heated face, having someone to care for me feels even better.
Catherine helps me to my feet and assists me with removing my shoes and pants. I hope the next time she undresses me I will be able to return the favor. I climb into the bed as Catherine retrieves my pain pills and a glass of water. Looking up at her, I say "I really don't think I can keep them down. Besides, I'm not supposed to take them on an empty stomach."
Catherine looks around the room and spies the mini-bar. She walks over and pulls out a bottle of water and some crackers. I immediately protest. "Catherine, put those back. I bet together those two cost ten dollars." She smiles and says "Too bad. The sheriff is footing the bill. Let him worry about it." I reach for the water and crackers.
The snack has helped my nausea somewhat and I agree to take the pills. I sure hope we're not needed in the next 8 hours because there is no way I'll be even close to one hundred percent. Before closing my eyes, I realize what has been bothering me about the phone LUDS. I ask Catherine to call Greg and have him check the phone records from the other end of the conversations to Arizona.
As I begin to drift off, I wonder exactly what lengths Grandmother Sanders would go to help her precious John.
I awaken in an extremely groggy state. It seems the pain medication has really done a number on me. I reach out for Catherine to find the spot next to me empty. I open one eye and slowly scan the room only to find no one here but me. I listen carefully to see if perhaps Catherine is in the bathroom, but I am met with silence. For some reason, the thought of being alone makes me very uneasy.
I manage to open the other eye to assist in seeing the time. The digital readout says 9:00. I notice the light from the window to confirm the a.m. part of the time. Something's not quite right, but I can't put my finger on it at the moment. I look over at the phone and decide to try to find Catherine. As soon as I scoot toward the nightstand, I suddenly realize something is very wrong with the time.
Catherine and I have the down shift from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. I have apparently been sleeping for much longer than two hours which means we somehow missed a shift. How the hell did I miss that and where the hell is Catherine?
I swing my legs over the side of the bed and make a move to stand. My knees almost collapse as I shift my weight forward. I catch myself with my good hand and decide that perhaps the bed is a really good place for me right now.
As I work on getting my bearings back, the door opens and Catherine tiptoes in. Deciding to play possum, I lie still with my eyes closed. Catherine quietly moves toward the bed and climbs in. She scoots next to me and softly caresses my face. I lean into the touch. There's no way I'm continuing this game, not when touching is involved. I open my eyes and look up at Catherine.
She smiles and says "Hey sleepyhead, how are you feeling?" I return her smile and reply "Confused. I woke up and you were gone. I missed you." Catherine leans down and lightly kisses my lips. She pulls back and says "I'm sorry. I didn't think you would wake up while I was gone. I brought you some bagels and coffee."
I slowly sit up against the headboard pleased there is no sign of dizziness or weakness. "Catherine, how did we miss a shift?" She laughs and replies "I was wondering how long it would take you to realize we only worked a single instead of a double. I pitched the idea to Grissom and he went along with it. He was so sure you would never go for it, but I was planning on distracting you if you realized what was going on. I knew how badly you were hurting when you walked out of the lab with me without a word."
I don't know if I'm more upset about being played or because we missed our shift. "I can't believe you would ask Grissom to skip our turn without consulting me. I have always pulled my weight and I could have made it through the shift."
Catherine immediately sits up and gets off the bed. "Sara, you were in so much pain that it made you physically ill. There is no way you would have been able to make another eight hours. Even if you did manage to gut it out, you would have been useless. Now just get over this guilty feeling and enjoy the next six hours."
I open my mouth to reply and suddenly realize that I don't want to fight with Catherine. She was looking out for me and I should be grateful. I look over at her and notice her stance. She is in her classic 'fighting mode' with her weight evenly distributed, hands on her hips, and a facial expression of stone. I think it's time to throw her for a loop.
I take on the most pleasant expression I can muster and say "You're right, Catherine. I never would have lasted another hour much less eight. Thank you for being there for me and taking care of me. No one has ever looked out for my well being before."
Expecting a negative statement, Catherine begins to reply "Now you listen to me, Sara Sidle, I was only . . . what?" I smile and repeat my previous statement. Catherine walks back to the bed and sits on the edge. She takes my hand and responds "You're welcome. And you better get used to me looking out for you. I'm going to be there for you from now on."
As I prepare to tell Catherine how much she means to me, her cell rings from across the room. She moves over to answer. "Willows . . . what . . . Flagstaff? . . . where . . . when . . . okay we'll meet you at the lab in two hours." Catherine closes her phone and shakes her head.
She turns to me and says "Greg took your advice and tracked several calls from Hodges' grandmother to a private mental institution about 25 miles from Flagstaff. Grissom has spoken with the head of the institution and a man fitting Ecklie's description was admitted three nights ago. He was heavily sedated and has been kept that way since. The patient has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder."
Frowning, I ask "Doesn't one have to actually have a personality to be diagnosed with a disorder?"
Catherine smirks at my question and replies "Yes, but in this case Ecklie was brought in drugged so I'm sure the doctors had no idea he was a robot. We'll find out more as soon as we get to Flagstaff."
Catherine begins to pull things from the dresser and pack them in our bags. I watch her with a confused expression for several minutes before asking "What do you mean when we get to Flagstaff?"
Catherine walks over and once again sits next to me on the bed, a position I am growing quite fond of. She explains "Grissom wants me, you, and Greg to fly down to Flagstaff and then rent a car to drive to the institution. We are to ask to see the patient to determine if, in fact, he is Ecklie. If it is Ecklie, Gil doesn't want us to 'extract' him just yet. We will need to interview the chief of staff to determine how Ecklie became a patient."
She pauses for my brain to process the information before continuing. "Gil, Warrick, and Nick are staying here to try to link Hodges directly to the kidnapping. The sheriff has actually agreed to keep Ecklie at the institution a little longer. We will need to get our information quickly before the sheriff gets impatient. As long as Ecklie is kept on 'ice,' all the players should have their guard down enough for us to be able to identify them."
Catherine takes my hand and begins to pull me from the bed. "C'mon, Sara. Go get in the shower and I'll pack our things. Greg will be here in about thirty minutes to pick us up to go to the airport. Maybe the shower will jump start your brain."
Groggily, I allow myself to be pulled to my feet and Catherine gives me a push toward the bathroom. I hold my splinted hand up and ask "How am I going to shower with this thing on?" Catherine reaches out and gently removes the problem. I smile and head toward the shower.
Thirty minutes later, we have loaded Greg's car and are headed to the airport. We pass through security and walk toward our assigned gate. The shower has done wonders for my thinking abilities. I have actually contributed coherent sentences to Greg and Catherine's conversation on the way over.
I look down at my ticket to see 4A. I ask Catherine for her seat number and she responds "4B." I raise my eyebrow to Greg. He reads out "2A." How did we manage first class seats? Before I can voice my question, Catherine says "Grissom tricked the sheriff into thinking the flight was almost full and the remaining seats were in first class. Grissom told the sheriff it was imperative that we get on this flight. The sheriff agreed." I make a mental note to thank Grissom later.
As we are boarding the plane, Catherine leans forward and whispers in my ear "Hey, Sara. I remember hearing about you telling Gil you were a member of the mile high club. Think we should renew your membership?" I trip and fall into the back of Greg. Catherine quickly reaches out and pulls me back into her body to keep me from hitting the floor.
She holds me just a fraction too long as Greg looks at us in total confusion. I step away from Catherine and say "Thanks, Catherine. I appreciate you keeping me from landing on my ass." Catherine mumbles "I certainly wasn't going to sit back and watch you break one of your best assets." I turn red and move to our seat.
The flight attendant stops by and asks if we would like some wine. I start to answer yes when I remember the pain medication that is probably still in my system. I opt for a coke and Catherine does the same.
I look out the window and watch the luggage being loaded into the lower part of the plane. I don't know if I should alert Catherine to my fear of flying or if I should just suck it up and keep my terror to myself. Little does she know the only reason I'm a member of the mile high club is because it was the only thing my partner could come up with to keep my mind and, of course, my body occupied.
Deciding to stay silent about my problem, I try my breathing exercises. I've found that when I concentrate on the simple action of inhaling and exhaling, my body will relax. Counting the number of times I inhale and exhale keeps my mind busy as well.
The seatbelt sign comes on as the captain begins his spiel of the current weather conditions, time of flight, blah, blah, blah. As we begin to taxi to the runway, I clinch the seat with my one good hand. I flex the other one just to be on the safe side.
The takeoff and touchdown actually scare me. The rest of the trip is easier to trick the mind because the flight is usually smooth. As we pull onto the runway, my breathing becomes more erratic. I close my eyes and concentrate. Inhale. .. exhale . . . inhale . . . exhale. . .
Catherine has evidently become aware of my small problem as she takes my hand in hers. Now I have something else to concentrate on, not breaking her hand by squeezing too hard.
The plane begins to pick up speed and so does my respiration. I think the pain medication must be exacerbating my fear. I can almost feel my heart beat out of my chest.
As I reach the pinnacle of my nervousness, I feel soft lips caressing mine and I open my mouth to allow Catherine's tongue. We continue our passionate kiss until we are interrupted by the flight attendant grinning and asking if we need anything.
Catherine squeezes my hand and replies "I'm quite happy now, maybe later." The attendant winks and moves on down the aisle. I take the time to look around and notice Catherine and I are isolated from the others. There is no one across from us, in front of us, or behind us.
I look out the window to see that we are airborne. Shocked, I turn to a very smug Catherine. She says "I noticed you were a little nervous about the takeoff so I thought I would calm you down some. Wait until you see what I have in mind for the landing."
Halfway into the flight, I begin to replay Catherine's words about the landing. Surely she doesn't mean for us to both reapply for membership in the mile high club. I definitely don't want our first time to be in some aircraft or because Catherine is trying to get me to forget about my fear of flying.
I turn my head toward Catherine and find her napping in what appears to be a very uncomfortable position. I reach over and gently lift her head and place it on my shoulder. She smiles in her sleep as she assumes her new position.
The attendant comes by several more times during the course of the flight to check on us. Judging from the smile she gives both of us, I'd say she was definitely family. She has even teasingly asked Catherine if she would mind administering her treatment on other passengers who were nervous about flying. Catherine smiled and told her I was a special case.
As the seatbelt sign comes back on, the pilot once again begins his weather forecast. Only this time, it's the conditions at Flagstaff. Catherine helps me with my seatbelt and takes hold of my hand. I nervously await her method of taking my mind off the landing.
The plane begins its descent and I lightly squeeze Catherine's hand. She leans over and looks out the window for the land below. I close my eyes and pray for a quick end to the trip. Inhale . . . exhale . . . inhale . . . exhale . . .
Feeling the change in pressure and my stomach, I clinch Catherine's hand more tightly. Once again, my lips are taken captive by Catherine as I am kissed stupid. We almost taxi all the way to the gate before I figure out where I am. Damn that woman can kiss!
We pull into the gate and come to a complete stop. I turn to Catherine and say "Don't get me wrong your kisses are to die for, but you had me expecting something else." Catherine laughs and responds "I never intended to do anything more, but you've got to admit the anticipation of more made you forget about the middle part of the trip. You were perfectly calm the entire flight."
Well, crap. Catherine planned the whole thing. She certainly got my mind off the fact I was in a plane. I was too busy trying to figure out what she had in store for me. She's good, she's very good. I'm definitely going to have to be on my toes at all times when I'm with her.
We finally deplane and move toward the luggage area. Luckily, ours are the first pieces of luggage on the carousel. Greg pulls each bag off and we head toward the rental cars. Catherine walks to the counter while Greg and I wait by the doors. Smiling, Catherine turns and holds up a set of keys.
Dr. Johnson, the head of the institution, has agreed to meet us at 8:00 p.m. We have about 4 hours to kill so Catherine suggests we check into the hotel and then grab a quick bite to eat. Greg offers to drive and Catherine takes shotgun. Fine with me, I'm a bit tired from the plane trip. Trying to keep one's nerves intact is exhausting.
Greg and Catherine move to the hotel registration desk while I sit in a lounge chair watching both our luggage and the guests walking in and out of the entrance. People watching is the one activitity we all invariably do, even if it's a subconscious activity. I like to try to guess everything from age to occupation, not that I'll ever find out if I'm right.
Greg brings me out of my musing by pretending to 'steal' his piece of luggage from my watchful eye. Reflexively, I put my leg out and Greg is just able to stop before going ass over teakettle. He glares back at me as if the whole thing was my fault. Hell, he started it.
Catherine walks over, calmly picks up our bags, and heads toward the elevator. After a few steps, she turns and says "C'mon, children. Let's go find our rooms." Pouting, Greg and I follow.
We arrive at Room 214 first. Opening the door, Catherine and I both smile as we spot a king size bed. Greg moves into the room and places his things on the bed. Turning he says "This must be mine. I'm sure your room will have a couple of doubles. If not, you can room with me, Sara."
Catherine snaps "Not even in your dreams, Sanders. Now, if you'll excuse us, we'll be heading to OUR room. Be ready to leave in an hour." Catherine turns on her heel and moves down the hall. Grinning, I follow.
Stopping in front of Room 232, Catherine places the key in the door. From the expression on our faces, it is clear what we are both hoping for. She slowly pushes the door inward and peers into the room. I step around her to peek in as well.
Okay, let's see. Bathroom, chair, TV, and bed, not beds but bed. Smiling, we both enter the room. Catherine instructs me to rest for a few minutes while she unpacks. I climb into the center of the bed and stack the pillows behind my head. Perfect, I now have an unobstructed view of the entire room.
I watch Catherine move around the room putting things into drawers, hanging clothes to get the wrinkles out, and walking back and forth to the bathroom with our toiletries. As much as I enjoy people watching, I think Catherine watching has moved to the top of my list.
She has always walked with a certain air of confidence, but I am just now noticing the definite swing of her hips as she strolls around the room. When she bends over to place some clothing in the bottom drawer, my eyes zoom in on her perfect ass.
Mesmerized, I stare at the round globes for several minutes before I realize she is watching me in the mirror. I instantly turn red as our eyes meet in the mirror. Catherine stands and makes her way over to the side of the bed.
Smiling, she says "Why Sara, I never figured you for an ass woman."
Oh, if Catherine only knew. When I'm around her, I vacillate from a leg woman to a breast woman to an ass woman. Hell, I would think that would classify me as an all-around kind of girl. I love everything about her both physically and mentally and . . . holy shit!
I just used the "L" word; I need to lie down. Oh wait, I already am and the object of my desire is walking straight toward me with a very sexy grin. Inhale . . . exhale . . . inhale . . . exhale . . .
Catherine's expression changes from saucy to concern as she nears the bed. "Sara, are you okay? You're white as a sheet. Is it your hand?" I open my mouth to tell her the truth when my brain kicks in saying 'Don't, Sara. It's too soon.' Instead I answer, "I think the plane ride has gotten to me. I'm feeling a little faint."
Catherine walks over to the bathroom and returns with a cool washcloth. She gently wipes my face and strokes my hair. If this didn't feel so good, I might feel guilty about lying. Besides, I really do feel ill, I only lied about the cause not the effect. I finally fall asleep to Catherine's gentle ministrations.
I awaken to a soft voice in my ear. "Sara, wake up. We need to meet Greg and go get something to eat. C'mon now, wake up." I smile and turn toward my angel's voice. Opening my eyes, I find Catherine kneeling on the bed with one foot still on the floor.
She smiles and says "Would you rather stay here and rest? Greg and I can meet with the doctor and bring you something back to eat. You still look a little pale." Yawning and stretching, I reply "No. I want to hear what the doctor has to say. Let me just splash some water on my face." She reaches out her hand and pulls me toward the edge.
I sit up and try to get my bearings. Damn, I'm groggy. I certainly can't blame it on my medication since I haven't taken any in awhile. I don't know if it's from the plane trip or the realization of being in love with Catherine. I'm thinking it must be a combination of the two.
We stop at an Italian restaurant a couple of blocks from the hotel. My appetite has returned in full force. I order the eggplant parmesan and Catherine and Greg choose lasagna. We discuss our upcoming meeting throughout the meal as I find myself fidgeting almost the entire time. Greg forced his way next to me in the booth and I have had to sit across from Catherine the entire meal. I have gotten so used to her being right next to me that I think I may be suffering from 'Catherine withdrawal' symptoms.
Arriving at the institution at precisely 7:45 p.m., we are cleared to enter the hospital grounds and given explicit directions as to where we can park. Catherine takes the lead as we enter the main entrance. Looking around, I note we are a far cry from the last institution I visited. I visibly shudder as I recall my near brush with death at the hands of Adam Trent. The uneasiness passes the second Catherine moves closer. It's as if she has a sixth sense.
A security guard questions our presence and asks for our credentials. After a ten minute delay, the three of us make our way to the office of Dr. Vincent Johnson. I am still a bit nervous walking the halls of the hospital, but with Greg and Catherine flanking my sides, I feel much safer.
We are met on the fifth floor by Dr. Johnson where introductions are made. He escorts us to a nearby conference room and offers us refreshments. Catherine declines and immediately begins to ask questions. "Dr. Johnson, would it be possible for us to see the patient in question? We have been extremely worried about our colleague."
Dr. Johnson shakes his head and replies "Ms. Willows, I am sorry for bringing you out here on a wild goose chase. I have been able to review the patient's history after talking to Mr. Grissom and have found this patient could not possibly be Mr. Ecklie." Catherine gives him one of 'dangerous' smiles and asks "Could you please elaborate?"
The doctor pulls out a file and says "This individual was admitted by one of our most prestigious doctors, Dr. Moreau. All papers are in order and the admission was agreed upon by the patient's grandmother who also happens to be on the hospital's board of directors. The patient in question is none other than her grandson, John."
It looks like granny is willing to go a very long distance for Hodges. I wonder just how much information Dr. Johnson imparted to Dr. Moreau. Speaking of the good doctor, I hope he isn't anything like H. G. Well's Dr. Moreau. That damned story gave me the creeps. Even the most recent adaptation which focuses on the altering of DNA, as opposed to vivisection, makes my skin crawl.
After a short lull in the conversation, Catherine asks about Dr. Moreau. Dr. Johnson beams with pride as he discusses his prize pupil. It seems Dr. Moreau graduated at the top of both his undergraduate and medical school class at Harvard University.
Catherine glances over at me at the mention of Harvard. I shrug my shoulders and continue listening to Dr. Johnson's spiel of the merits of his colleague. He goes on to tell us how proud his grandmother Elizabeth is of him.
As he winds down, something is niggling at the back of my brain. Slowly, I begin to dissect each facet of the conversation. I wait until he is clearly finished with his thought before I ask "You speak as if you know Dr. Moreau's grandmother very well. Is she a family friend?"
Dr. Johnson smiles and says "Elizabeth? Well, of course she's a family friend." His smile falters as he continues "I feel so very sorry for her. Can you imagine what it would be like to have one grandson treating another for a mental illness? It's so sad."
Well, I'll be damned. No wonder it was so easy to get Ecklie into this place. Having a grandmother as a member of the board and a cousin as one of the top doctors, this was a cake walk. Now we just have to figure out how to prove their involvement in Hodges' scheme. Plus we really need to be sure Ecklie is in fact present in the facility. That's going to be the tricky part.
As I am contemplating various reasons for us to see John Sanders, Catherine decides to turn on the charm. She walks closer to Dr. Johnson and places her hand on her arm. "Dr. Johnson, do you think we could have a tour of your facility? I truly believe this has to be one of the top institutions in the country. I think the three of us would greatly benefit from seeing how your hospital operates."
He smiles at Catherine and puts out his arm for her to take. She loops her arm in his as the two leave the conference room. Greg turns to follow but stops when he realizes I have not moved. "Sara, come on. We need to take advantage of being able to look around. Catherine has found the perfect way to get a tour." He turns back and leaves the room.
What the hell does Catherine think she's doing? She has that guy drooling all over her. He almost tripped when he got a good look at her cleavage when they walked out of the room. If he knows what is good for him, he'll keep his eyes to himself because those babies are mine. Pouting, I hurry to catch up.
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