DISCLAIMER: CSI and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Murder, Stage Right
By Ann


Walking into the darkened auditorium, Sara squinted toward the dimly lit stage area, noting the elaborate Western set design. The current backdrop sported a dry good store and livery stable, complete with a small stagecoach. So engrossed in her appraisal of the layout, she didn't see nor hear the approach of the LVPD detective.

"Well, howdy, Miss Sara. You're just in time to make the stage if you hurry," Sofia teased, smirking when the brunette jumped at the sound of her voice. She'd noticed Sara's arrival and had called her name, only to be ignored. At first she was miffed at the investigator, but she soon changed her tune when she realized Sara's sole concentration was on the stage.

"Shit, Sofia. Don't sneak up on me like that," the startled brunette requested as she turned towards the detective.

Grinning, the blonde removed the ever present toothpick from her mouth and replied, "Sorry, I just couldn't resist. Now, if you'll come with me, I'll show you what we've got."

Sara nodded, and the two women made their way down to the side steps leading to the stage. Glancing around, the investigator opened her mouth to ask for the location of the body when she noted Sofia peering into one of the windows of the stagecoach. Shrugging her shoulders, the brunette made her way over to the detective.

Pointing into the window, Sofia said, "Here's the victim, Mary Smithers. She's the director of the play, and her assistant, Anna Locke, found her about an hour ago. According to Mrs. Locke, the two were to meet to discuss changes to the final scene of Act II. When Mary didn't show, Anna started to look for her. She saw the stagecoach door opened, and Mary lying on the seat. She immediately called 911."

Sara placed her kit down on the stage floor, asking, "Did she tell you what she touched?"

Nodding, Sofia reported, "She said she stepped in and tried to find a pulse on Mary's wrist. When there wasn't one, she backed out, not touching anything else. The paramedics, on the other hand, are another story."

"Son of a bitch. How many times do those guys have to be told to be careful?" Sara muttered, kneeling down next to her kit and reaching for her gloves.

"I think one of them was new, and before the veteran guy, Hank something or other, could stop him, he'd pretty much touched everything in his reach. He even shut the stagecoach door when Hank told him to back out carefully," Sofia explained, waiting for Sara to blow a gasket.

Instead, only silence greeted the detective, and she looked to find the investigator staring at her gloved hands with an expression that could only be described as sad.

"Sara?" Sofia asked softly; this time she had no intention of spooking the investigator.

"Huh?" Sara replied, and, looking up in a daze, she quickly shook her head as if to ward off some unpleasant memory.

Worried about the brunette, the blonde took at step forward, but Sara suddenly stood and asked, "Did anyone else touch anything?"

Sofia took in the investigator's stance and wisely chose to let Sara get away with changing the subject back to the case at hand. Gesturing toward the stagecoach, she replied, "No, just the door, and I made sure to ask the idiot EMT to go to the station to be fingerprinted so that you could rule him out."

Sara began to dust the door as well as the area surrounding it, revealing dozens and dozens of fingerprints. Sighing, she said, "Thanks, Sofia, but I think the EMT is the least of our worries."

The detective watched the investigator closely, noting that whatever was bothering the brunette a few moments ago seemed to have moved to the back burner; however, knowing Sara's penchant for keeping things bottled up, Sofia made a mental note to ask her about it after shift.

David arrived a few moments later and waited for Sara to complete her perimeter investigation. Once the brunette had collected her last sample, she motioned the assistant coroner over, saying, "I think we can both fit inside the stagecoach, David. Even though the scene's been contaminated by the EMTs, I'd like to see if there's anything I can collect."

Nodding, David stepped inside the small area, right behind the investigator while Sofia stood just outside and watched the two work side by side.

Chuckling, the detective offered, "It's kind of ironic when you think about it."

Taking the bait, David asked, "What do you mean?"

"A stage coach being murdered in a stagecoach," the blonde quipped, receiving laughter from David and a pitiful groan from Sara.

Slowly turning the victim over, Sara ordered, "Wait a minute, David. There's something under her shoulder. Can you hold her for just a second?"

"Sure," David replied, craning his neck to try to see what the investigator had found.

Frowning, Sara held up two yellow-colored feathers, neither appearing to have come from any bird indigenous to the area, or any bird period for that matter.

Pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, David offered, "Those look like they came from a boa."

"Oh, really?" Sara teased, "And how many boas do you have, David?"

"What? None!" David objected, quickly adding, "My sister used to play dress up, and our grandmother was forever buying her different colored boas."

"So you never tried one on?" Sara asked, placing the feathers in an evidence bag and sealing its edge.

Laying the body down gently, David replied absently, "No, I was allergic. Um... I mean, of course not."

Both women chucked aloud as David and Sara continued to look for trace evidence before calling for the removal of the body.

An hour later, Mary Smithers was on her way to the morgue, and Sara was packing her kit to return to the lab and wondering which form she should use to request that the stagecoach be transported back to the garage.

The investigator finally settled on a vehicle removal form, seeing as how the stagecoach was once a mode of transportation. Smiling at the thought of Ecklie reading the invoice, she gathered her kit and rose to leave.

"Hey, Sara. Guess what?" Sofia yelled from stage left as she approached the brunette.

"Damn it, Sofia. What did I tell you about sneaking up on me?" Sara replied, jumping around to face the blonde.

Grinning, Sofia stated, "I didn't sneak up on you. I wasn't anywhere near you."

"Ha ha," Sara countered, and then asked, "Now, what was so important that you had to scare me to death?"

"I talked to Anna Locke about the yellow boa, and she explained that the saloon girl wears a yellow boa as part of her costume. The role just happens to be played by Mary Smithers' ex-girlfriend, who according to Anna, isn't too thrilled with being demoted from lead to a dancehall girl. Uniforms are picking her up now," Sofia explained with a grin.

Glancing back at the stagecoach, Sara surmised, "That might explain why the victim was nude. Her old girlfriend suggested a little role playing in the back of the stagecoach, and the director jumped at the chance. Now, we just need to find out if the actress was trying to seduce her former lover into a better role, or perhaps, she actually planned to kill her from the very beginning."

As the two women headed for the steps, Sofia bumped her hip against Sara's and asked, "What would you say to a little role playing when we get home?"

Grinning, Sara teased, "Depends. Think you can talk the assistant into lending you a couple of boas?"

The blonde immediately stopped and turned to walk in the other direction, leaving Sara standing alone at center stage. Calling back to her lover, Sofia offered, "I think she's still here. I'll meet you back at the station after I've visited the prop room."

Shaking her head, Sara chuckled and headed for the exit. Normally, she would've used this time alone to wonder why Hank had returned to Vegas, but now, she could only focus on the image of her naked lover, wearing only a feathered boa.

Smiling broadly, she walked up the aisle of the auditorium, whispering, "God, I love that woman."

The End

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