DISCLAIMER: I do not own CSI. I am borrowing the characters and promise
not to damage any outfits with blood. Sweat and tears may occur, but can be
washed out with any good cleaning powder.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Corbeau's Alcove
PART THIRTY ONE
"So, where should we go?" I ask Sara as she leans on the horn for a few seconds, waving out the car to Martha as we drive past.
"Let's just find somewhere and go in." Sara suggests.
I must be looking at her a little weirdly because she smiles.
"I'm just not used to you leaving everything up in the air." I say smiling as I recall many dates we went out on. Sara planned everything to the minute detail. I guess it was her way of keeping control in an unpredictable environment.
"I don't know the area that well and, to be honest, when I've walked the streets I haven't really been paying much attention to my surroundings," she says a little sadly.
"Sorry," I say, grabbing her hand and kissing it gently. "But the news today was good right?"
"It was. I just wish I had never needed to hear that kind of news. I wish Ronnie was still here."
"I know baby."
"It's hard to reconcile the happiness I feel now with the sadness over losing her in the first place."
"It is hard," I say agreeing. I only have to look at how angry I was with her for a reference.
"Thank you for being here," she says wiping her eyes with her free hand. I pretend not to notice she's crying, knowing it would only make her embarrassed so I simply run my finger across her knuckles.
"Thank you for allowing me in," I say.
She nods and for the rest of the trip we say nothing.
"Italian?" I suggest as we walk past a small piece of Italy. The chairs are painted with a small Italian flag on top, the tables circular with a red and white checkered table cloth covering them. I can smell the wood fire oven baking and it truly is irresistible.
A bit like Sara in her blue slacks and white v-neck top. God she's a stunning woman. She always feels self conscious but to me it's just one more thing I love about her. A compliment no matter how small seems to be enough from me now. I see her stride extend a little further, her shoulders pull back and when she looks at me there is a glint in her eyes only I know. She's my woman but sometimes I feel like I'm the one being possessed.
I love it.
"Let's go in here," she says smiling when I run my hand down her back as I motion her to walk in front of me. God what a view. Those legs are so lovely. That ass, well that ass is mine and I take great pleasure in knowing that.
Yes, when we're making love I lavish attention on her breasts and of course, her wet core; they are parts of her body I love. However, it's the small things I also can't seem to take my eyes off. The gap between her teeth, her wrists, her back, how strong it looks when she's bending down. I can listen to her voice for days on end and still be aroused and interested with the inflections in the tone.
She didn't let me see her until the lobby. As I came out of the elevator I spotted her and almost asked if room service was enough. I had wondered for a few seconds if it were possible to keep falling in love with the same person with every seconds tick of my watch. It wasn't a physical love, it was in her every movement. It was in the way she looked me up and down with genuine appreciation. It was somewhat lecherous but she tempered it with a warm smile and compliment. I knew I had pleased her visually but I knew that with every slight movement from her opening the door for me to asking about Lindsay I knew she found me interesting beyond how I looked.
"Cath? Where do you want to sit?" Sara asks me, shaking me out of my daze.
"Just here is fine," I motion to the waiter. It's inside but we were somewhat shut off from the noise thanks to a small partition on the left hand side of us.
"I'll return in ten minutes," the waiter says smiling.
"That necklace is truly beautiful," I say reaching over to run my fingers across it. I feel a little shiver in her body as I brush her flesh.
"It was Ronnie's," Sara says, twirling the silver horse pendant around in her fingers. "I thought I'd wear it as a fitting tribute to this day, to her memory."
"I'm sure she'd be proud," I say reaching across the table to grab her hand.
"Anyway, what are we going to eat?" Sara says changing the subject. I could see a few tears threatening to spill.
"Not sure babe, but I know what I want for dessert," I say grinning as she blushes.
"Cath," she says clearing her throat.
I pull my hands away from hers so I can open the menu. I love teasing her.
"How's your pizza?" I ask Sara as I see her staring into her glass of water.
"Mmm? Oh it's good." She says smiling slightly.
"Baby, what's wrong?" I ask gently, not knowing if she'll want to talk about it in a restaurant.
"Memories," she says before taking a bite from her pizza to show me she's okay. I know she's not but I know it's a sign she's not willing to talk about it.
Yet I push on, knowing it could be the wrong thing to do.
"Sara, you look troubled. Come on baby."
She looks at me and I can tell she doesn't want to talk.
"I just want to eat a lovely dinner with you Catherine," she says sighing.
"So do I baby but you're not really here with me." I say.
Sara sighs, pushing her chair out. I can tell she's about to cry, it's been there all evening.
"Sara, maybe we should just go," I say. I try to keep my voice low but I'm a little angry. She's shutting me out again.
"Fine. I'll go pay the bill." She says getting up.
I'm standing outside the tiny restaurant, crying. I'm not sure when the tears started but they aren't stopping. I should have been more supportive, I should have been happy enough to be with her.
"Let's go," Sara says walking past me. I wipe my eyes and follow her. "I'll drop you off outside the hotel," she says to me as she unlocks the car.
"Aren't you coming in?" I ask puzzled.
"I'm going to see Martha."
That knife I thought had been taken out of my heart just went in a little further.
As she dropped me off wishing me a very curt farewell I realised she hadn't even noticed I was visibly crying in the car.
Or perhaps she noticed but didn't care.
PART THIRTY TWO
The hotel room feels like it's smaller. The walls are closing, claustrophobia is setting in. The anger I had when Sara first left has resurfaced. This feels wrong. I shouldn't be shut out.
Did it ever really vanish? Probably not. I always knew it was something we would have to talk about in detail, but I had hoped it would be a discussion in retrospect when we were both home.
Now I'm feeling more alone than when she packed up and left without a word. Now I have the fresh memories of how she smells, how she looks and feels.
There were no messages for me at reception or on my cell so I know she hasn't had Martha force her to ring and explain herself. When she told me she was going to Martha's I thought I would collapse onto the sidewalk. My entire body felt heavy, my vision was blurry; tears falling with no end in sight. I had to hold onto the car to steady my breathing for fear of having some sort of attack.
What had gone wrong so quickly? She was sad and that was to be expected. Then, from nowhere she leaves me at the hotel?
I need to see her.
It took me three hours of a constant to-and-fro between going to bed and going to Martha's. I was mad. I was fuming to be exact. Yet, I also know that she had suffered a lot in her life and I was wary of that. I know she hated pity and I didn't have that for her, I had love. I had my heart and, even if she was trying her best to destroy it piece by piece, it was still hers.
"Hello?" Martha's voice called through the door.
"It's Catherine," I said in a voice that was decidedly shaky.
The door unlocked immediately and Martha smiled a sad smile.
"I don't think she wants visitors." Martha says. She stills lets me in.
I want to say something but I'm not sure what. "What's wrong?" Sounds uncaring, insensitive. "I need to speak to her," sounds selfish.
"She's distraught," Martha tells me. "She won't talk to me."
"We were having dinner. It was okay." I say crying.
"It just hits her sometimes, it can be the smallest thing." Martha says patting my hand and handing me a tissue.
"What should I do?" I ask, begging for guidance.
"I can't help you Catherine," Martha says. "It's Sara's battle within herself."
"I love her."
"I know you do honey and that's the difference in her life. After Ronnie she fell apart. She was lost in the world, work consuming her more and more each day. It tore at her insides. She would find joy but it was very sparse. I would talk to her on the phone and she always sounded guarded and almost uninterested. I knew she was interested but it was like she didn't care, like this conversation was just another way to soak up the hours of her life." Martha stops to pour us a cup of tea.
"Catherine, what you have to truly understand is that you changed her. You may not see it, she may not tell you a lot but I can see it. I could hear it in her voice. Her tone was lighter, her optimism returned. At times I could see glimpses of her and Ronnie, the way they used to laugh and enjoy life. She's got that back because of you and your little one."
"I know and I thought I felt that from her when she was in Vegas. Now, now I'm wondering if it was simply a mirage." I admit.
"You came all the way out here, I don't think you really believe that." Martha says smiling slightly.
I run my hand through my hair. I don't think I've had worse posture at anytime in my life than what I've had since this all started.
"I don't know. I want to be here, be her support but I'm feeling so low, I feel like the energy is draining." I say sadly.
"Come on, you're sleeping here tonight." Martha says standing.
"I don't think Sara will like that," I say hesitantly.
"I don't care. You need sleep. Come on." Martha says in a tone that broaches no argument.
As she's setting down the sheets on the bed I hear the toilet flushing. Martha looks at me and says softly, "go."
I almost run out of the room like I'm a child who has been given permission to have another piece of candy.
I knock on the door that has the light shining from under it. I get no answer so I try the door knob. I was expecting it to be locked but it's open so I gently push the door open and announce myself.
"It's me," I whisper.
"No," The voice I hear almost sends me running from the room.
"I don't want to stay long," I promise.
"No, go away." She says forcefully. I hear a venom in her voice that scares me, but I close the door and come closer to her.
"Sara, you are scaring me." I admit.
"We're over Catherine." Still she doesn't look up.
I stop mid stride, the forcefulness of her words effectively acting like a brick wall.
"I can't be with you. I want you to leave. Go home."
Why am I repeating myself?
"Go home. I'm breaking up with you."
I can't feel my heart beating. It has to be beating right? I'm still alive.
"You're breaking up with me?" I gasp, trying to understand why this conversation is making me feel so light-headed.
"I'm really tired, good night." She says, dismissing me. Not even in the times we fought each other at work, before we became lovers, have I heard such contempt in her voice. And it's all directed at me.
I motion to turn, the tone in her voice actually compelling me to do as she asked but something finally clicked back into place and I was able to find my voice.
"No. Tell me why." I order.
"I'm not happy being in a relationship." She says shrugging her shoulders. She still won't make eye contact with me.
"I was here as your friend, you don't want that either?" I ask, a little sarcasm lining my voice.
"I can't take the pressure." She says.
"The pressure? Of unconditional support and love?" I ask, my voice raising.
"I need to just be on my own. Sorry," she says, once again shrugging her shoulders.
I need to keep the anger down because I know it's not going to help this situation.
"You've always been on your own Sara. You lock up your emotions so well, I doubt that even you know how to break the lock. I've tried all I can to help you and now you're just breaking up with me? Don't I get an explanation?"
"I just explained," Sara says.
"That's bullshit." I spit out angrily.
She says nothing.
"Sara Sidle, talk to me!" I yell, grabbing her shoulders.
Mistake! I see real fear in her eyes as I shake her forcefully. I drop my hands but I don't move away from her.
"Sorry," I say weakly. Her eyes did more damage than had her hand slapped my face.
"Get out." She says with such anger and only now does she look straight into my eyes and doesn't back down.
"No Sara, I can't." I say, praying those tears don't fall just yet.
"You told me, if I didn't want you here you'd go." She almost sounds like she's smirking, having my own words of good intention being thrown back at me. "I. Don't. Want. You. Here."
I don't know who this woman is in front of me. It's like she's transformed into another being because I see nothing of the Sara I love. It's quite frightening and I know it'll be an image I'll always remember.
"So get out." Sara says pushing me away. I almost fall backwards but just manage to grab the chair near the bed. She doesn't even offer help or apologise.
This is not my Sara. I can't explain where it went so wrong but as I close the door I realise I'm not even crying.
I think I've had enough. I think my soul has taken all it can.
PART THIRTY THREE
I'm packed. Ticket's been bought. It cost me more than I anticipated but I'm not staying here any longer. I'm starting to recapture that anger I had when she left for the first time and it's pushing me to escape.
I was rude to Martha; I regret that. I'll write her a letter when I get back home, I hope she can forgive my display. She had been so good to me, welcoming me into her house and allowing me to share with her the memories of her beloved daughter. I had slammed the door which caused no structural damage but scared Martha. I brushed past her mumbling my farewells. She had tried running after me but I was gone, the night masking my retreat.
"Can you call me a cab?" I ask the receptionist. She smiles, a part of her job I suppose. I didn't reply in kind.
"One should arrive for you in ten minutes ma'am." She informs me.
No thank you, I just grab my luggage and head outside.
I hope I'm not leaving a trail of 'sorry' notes in my path.
The trip home felt longer than the one to Sara. I was hoping for that feeling you get on the way back home, you know, when the trip always seems to be faster? Not this time. Nancy was meeting me at the airport even though I told her not too. Sisters, they can get away with a lot more at times.
The airport is such a busy place and usually I get caught up in the atmosphere of loved ones meeting up, exchanging embraces and wide smiles. Or I smile as I see a tourist, eyes wide as they search for a landmark or a sign that would help them. They have a wonderful mixture of trepidation and excitement and I often feed off that energy.
I wonder if I'll ever get that sense of loving life back now.
Okay, so I sound dramatic, and I'd usually want to slap someone who uttered that line. Or roll my eyes.
Hell, I'd want to do both.
I think I'm just heading into the 'my life is over' portion of my grief. My grief and anger. I obviously know it's not over. I have my beautiful daughter and I love my job. I know Nancy would say my friends and family love me, so I'm one of the lucky ones. I know all that. I just want to wallow for a moment.
"Hey Cath," Nancy greets me with a small smile. She looks a little nervous.
"Thank you for picking me up." I say. Ah, that seemed to calm her.
I interrupt, "don't ask me how I am."
"Okay Cath." Nancy says nodding her head.
We travel to the car park lot with Nancy talking about Lindsay and her own family. I just listen.
"Linds is excited about seeing you," Nancy says. It's an obviously statement but I think she just needed to hear something other than the radio, which I keep changing in a fit of restlessness.
"I didn't tell her anything about Sara." She says.
I almost wish she had. Saves me from having to break my daughter's heart. I know what it feels like, I'd rather not have to see the look in her eyes.
"Oh Cath, I'm sorry."
I just nod and turn the radio station again. I need to find some angst music. I want to wallow.
"Is there a cure for the common heartache. An unknown prescription any loser can take."
Country songs are always a good place to start and there, right away I get one.
"I walk a lonely road, the only one I have ever known. Don't know where it goes but it's home to me and I walk alone. I walk this empty street on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams..."
Okay, I'm getting a little too good at finding songs. Turning the radio off would probably be a good idea.
"Do you want me to come in?" Nancy asks, not getting out of the car.
"I can make it." I say. I want to be bitchy, but I know it'd only make me feel better for a few seconds.
Nancy looks at me like I'm talking about more than walking up the same path I've walked up for a long time. I'm not. To be honest, I'm not capable of thinking in double meanings and philosophical terms right now.
What to do? Unpack. Wash the clothes. Pretty generic but a great place to start. I need to get it all done before Lindsay gets home. I'm not going to call Gil until tomorrow. Hell, I may not call him until all my days are up. Spending time with Linds is looking pretty good to me.
Okay, so clothes are in the machine. Should I go shopping? That's what I'll do next. Take an inventory.
Step by step, that's how things will be for a while. It all seems rudimentary but I need structure right now.
Funny, structure was something Sara loved.
Sara was someone I loved.
PART THIRTY FOUR
I'm struggling to hold onto the defiant mood I was in when I first got home. I was stripping the bed of the sheets Sara picked out for me when I jokingly said I wanted sheets with at least a 1000 thread count. She had chosen the sheets online somewhere with a 1200 thread count. I don't know how much that set her back, she never allowed me to pay for half of it. She seemed to take great joy in being able to spend her money on us.
It made me think of the things she had done for me and for Lindsay. She had the kindest heart and people often took for weakness. She showed her emotions in her giving, in her loyalty.
So now I'm sitting on the bed wrapped in the sheets, crying. Sobs are racking my body with such force I'm struggling to breathe. Good, get it out Catherine, get it out.
Then I can get on with it.
My little girl jumps out of the car, leaving the door open in her wake. I smile as she hugs me.
"Is Sara here?" She asks hopeful.
"How was school?" I ask, avoiding the conversation for now.
"Mom." Lindsay pits me with one of my own stares. Damn, they're effective.
"She's not here." I say picking her up. I wave my thanks to Nancy who waves in return. "Come on, let's go inside."
"Mom, I'm not a baby, you don't have to hold my hand."
But I need her near me.
"Sorry Linds," I say, reluctantly letting her go.
She's looking at me expectantly and I know I have to try to explain where Sara is, and why she isn't here with us.
"Baby, Sara had to stay in North Carolina. I told her I'd come back so you weren't lonely."
"But mom, now Sara's lonely." Lindsay says frowning.
Hey, it's true but it's also her own choice.
"She's got friends there baby, she'll be fine."
"Can I call her later?" Lindsay asks smiling.
She seemed quite happy with that response because she's up off the couch and making herself a snack in the kitchen.
I know I'll have to tell her Sara isn't coming back to live with us, I'm just not sure what words I can use that will save my little one the hurt I'm feeling.
Four more days passed in bliss. I had my daughter with me, we were laughing and talking. It felt perfect and yet that annoying voice of reason kept me from falling into the trap that life was the Brady Bunch. I knew that once I went back to work I'd feel the absence of Sara.
I called Gil when Lindsay was at school today, he didn't act surprised, just simply asked me if I would come in an hour earlier so I could have a meeting with him. I said yes. If I was going to get back into work I needed to be focused.
Lindsay was upset I was going back. She wanted that time with me and I didn't blame her, I wanted it with her also. I sat her down like I've always done, I told her my reason. I told her I needed to get back to work.
She reluctantly agreed. My daughter is prone to fits of tantrums and I suppose I don't blame her but this time she just sulked for a few minutes until she remembered I told her she could call Sara.
"Mom, are you going to say hi?" Lindsay asked handing me the phone. I couldn't say no, not unless I wanted to explain.
"I thought you may have wanted to surprise her." I say weakly.
"Okay!" Lindsay says excited. I feel bad for deceiving her.
I dialed the number and handed her the phone. Only as I saw Lindsay making herself comfortable did I wonder if Sara would answer the phone. We were calling her cell, the number would flash up.
"Hi Sara, it's me." Lindsay says loudly. I guess she's answering the phone after all.
I headed up to my bedroom, I needed to put Sara's things in boxes.
PART THIRTY FIVE
Lindsay finds me in my bedroom and hands me the phone.
"Sara wants to talk to you."
I'm tempted to hang up but Lindsay's looking at me so I take it.
"Hi." The sound of her voice makes my heart rate increase. Damn her.
Lindsay sits on the bed next to me so I try to make nice.
"She's worried. About you. About me." Sara says softly.
"You left in quite a hurry."
"Do you blame me?" I ask, trying to remain calm.
"No. I blame myself."
"Okay, well I'll let you go then." I say.
"Have you told Linds?"
"We'll talk about it later. Linds, say bye to Sara."
"Bye Sara!" Lindsay yells into the receiver.
I hang up, pressing the end call button with all the anger I feel towards her.
"She sounds sad momma."
"She's okay baby. Maybe she was just tired."
"When is she coming home?" Lindsay asks, leaning against my side.
"Didn't you ask her?"
"She didn't answer me." Lindsay said staring at the boxes.
"Maybe she doesn't know." I say shrugging.
"Why do you have all these boxes? Momma?" She asks after I don't answer right away.
Think quick Catherine.
"They are a few things I don't need anymore." I say. It's not the truth but then again, it isn't really a lie either.
I feel really bad that I'm duping my daughter.
"Catherine." Gil greets me with a simple, one word name association.
"So it would seem."
I actually missed this, can you believe it?
"So, what's been happening here?" I ask. Talking about work gets him out of his shell.
"Sit, we'll talk."
Ah, there's the real Gil Grissom.
"Woah!" Warrick exclaims as he sees me casually filling up my coffee mug. I had tried to look nonchalant but this pose was very staged. I wanted people to see the Catherine Willows they know, not the woman who had been through hell recently.
"Hey there," I say taking a sip from my coffee. The third coffee I'd poured since I got in here.
"Damn Cath, we've missed you." He says hugging me.
"How was your break?"
"It was productive." I say.
And emotionally draining.
"Good. So you're back to work?"
"I wouldn't be in here stealing cups of coffee if I wasn't." I joke.
"Ah, it's great to have you back Cath." He kisses my cheek and calls out to Greg. Once he gets his attention he leaves.
It feels pretty good to be back. I was worried. This place was so much of Sara's being. Seems wherever I venture she will be the one who I think of first, I suppose the best thing to do is recognise that and go from there.
Oh yeah, it's that easy alright.
Isn't sarcasm the lowest form of wit? I remember Sara telling me that during one of our numerous arguments.
"Hey, you're back."
I don't place the voice with a name until I turn around. Jesse Cox.
"Willows." She replies grinning. "So, did you get everything sorted out with your soul mate?"
I can't tell if she's joking or not so I decide to play it safe.
"How is it working nights?"
She grins again. That's starting to annoy me.
"It's fine Cath, but don't think I am so easily distracted. I know you're trying to avoid the question."
Yes I am Cox, so get the clue and get lost.
"I've got to go." I say brushing past her.
I can hear her soft chuckling as I turn the corner.
It feels good to be out on a scene again. I feel pretty horrible thinking that considering the poor woman I'm working on has died in suspicious circs.
Gil put me with Nick and even he looked surprised at the pairing. This case I could do on my own, everyone at the meeting knew that. I just shrugged to put everyone else at ease.
"I feel like a newbie," I joked. It broke the tension immediately.
Until Warrick mentioned Sara.
"Oh sorry, I mean, I uh..." he had a few pairs of angry eyes on him. Obviously some kind of pact had been made; no 'Sara' talk.
"Come on Nicky, you can show me where we put our kits," I say smiling.
Nick smiles and pats Warrick on the back as he leaves.
I look back into the room and see Jesse looking at me with a puzzled look on her face.
"... Yeah, so we have all missed you," Brass says in his longest hello I ever heard from him. I gave him a hug and smiled, clearly he was embarrassed at the attention.
"Thanks Jim. It's good to get stuck into work again. Get that old mind of mine ticking over."
"Old? You'll never be old." Jim says smiling. "You'll never look old."
I knew it was a compliment but it stung a little. Thinking of Sara, the way she made me feel younger. The way she would tell me I was beautiful when I doubted it in the darkness.
"Thanks," I mumbled.
Nick waved me over, he had something interesting by the look in his eyes.
"Whatcha got Nick?"
"Here. I think I found half a shoe print. I'm about to move this little shrub, see if it's concealing anymore of it."
I snap a few shots and kneel next to him.
"Branches are snapped, we could get lucky."
"You got any digging tools in your kit Nicky?" I joke.
"No but she had a shed." Nick says grinning.
"I'll stay here, you go find a shovel or something."
I try moving the branches but quickly regret that decision. Unbeknownst to me, the undercarriages of the bush, near the stump most probably, were covered in thorns. I pulled back cursing aloud, as I feel the immediate stinging.
"What?" Jim asks peering around the corner.
"Thorns. Can you grab me a cloth?" I ask. I don't want to move my hands just yet. Blood all over the evidence is not the brightest idea.
Jim comes back and squats next to me.
"Okay, I got one," Nick says. He notices me asks, "what happened?"
"I'm just shaking hands with the thorns," I say gritting my teeth as I feel the fabric pressed against my hands.
"You've just become the crime scene." Nick says winking.
I open the cloth and find there is a considerable amount of blood on my palms and fingers. Nasty little buggers, they were sharp alright and I had to grab a whole handful of them.
"I know." I wince as I stand up. "Shit, great first day back."
"Come on, I'll get you cleaned up, the paramedics should still here."
"No, I'll go back to the lab and start with what we have. Nick, you okay here?"
"Yeah, you go get that looked at."
"Thanks. Hey Jim..."
"You want a lift?" He asks grinning.
"Hop in. If you're a good girl I may even turn on the sirens."
I grin as I think about actually asking him to do it.
"Jesus, what happened?" Greg says seeing the cloth on my hands.
"I had a fight with Nick." I say tersely.
"Gee, who won?" Greg says grinning.
"I'm just going to put some antiseptic on it."
"Want me to do it?" Greg offers.
I'm about to make a silly comment until I see genuine concern for me.
"Okay, meet you in the break room."
I'm running my hands under water when a loud clanking on the table distracts me.
"Greg, I don't need an amputation." I say when I see just how big the First Aid kit is.
"I didn't know what else to bring," he says apologetically.
"That's fine Greg. There should be some antiseptic in there."
Greg pulls a few things out until he finds the small white bottle.
"Okay, now this will sting," I tell him.
"Ah, aren't I supposed to tell you that?" He asks grinning.
PART THIRTY SIX
"Hey Cath," Nick greets me with his usual smile. "Doc Robbins say when he's doing the autopsy?"
"Yeah, an hour or so. It's pretty dead in there..." I groan in simulcast with Nick as I realise my interesting choice of words.
"That's at Saunders' level." Nick says smiling.
I gasp, "don't tell him, he'll think I'm trying to emulate him."
"So, we got the shoe print and considering there were no visible marks on the body and it's reminded me of an interesting seminar on poisons last year ..." Nick frowns, noticing I'm nodding. "Just something here triggered it."
"I didn't get a chance to look at the body what with managing to contaminate the scene so I'll just wait till Robbin's starts on the autopsy." I say shrugging my shoulders. No point speculating if I have no visual aid.
"Cool. Well I'm off for now. Page me when he's ready?"
"Sure thing Nicky." The flow is there, but the enthusiasm is lacking. Time. It'll take time.
"Catherine, welcome back." Doc Robbins says as he hears me come in.
"So, I've opened her up."
"Nick is thinking poison." Al gives me a look and I shrug, "seminar."
"I'd say that is a pretty much where my report is heading." He stops and then launches into his findings. "The lungs are oedematous and heavy."
I look at the body and the pieces of it in different weigh dishes and the like. It's a perverse kind of feeling, watching as a person is dissected. The things we've had to do to not only the deceased but the living, it astounds me at how much of one persons privacy can be ruined if they are somehow involved in a crime or missing persons case.
"Look at this," Robbins says like he's about to show me a magic trick.
I follow him over to the body.
"Froth?" I ask frowning.
"Air passages are filled with it and the pleural sacs have very little fluid inside."
"Poison then, for sure." Nick says coming in with impeccable timing. "How's the liver?"
"Fatter than usual size."
"You thinking a particular one here Nick?" I ask, letting him take the show.
"Doc?" Nick asks.
"It's a synthetic organic substance," he tells us. "Death will state respiratory paralysis."
"Barbituric Acid?" Nick asks. "I found some urine on the clothing and the chair, it was just tested it for me. No vomiting."
"I've collected urine from the bladder, I can give you a final report that will help you when we're done here."
"Have you had a look at the brain yet?" I ask.
"Not yet, I'm about to if you'd like to stay."
We both stay.
"Great catch on the poison," I tell Nick.
I feel like I've done nothing. I should have caught that poison but I didn't. Maybe I came back with only a quarter of my mind on the job. I didn't even care that Nick was off on his own and I usually hate being out of the loop on my own case.
"Listen Nick, I think this case should be yours. I'm going to ask Gil to get off it. You deserve this."
Nick looks at me in shock.
"Cath, you okay?"
"No, to be honest I'm not." I admit quietly, walking away from him before he can ask anymore questions.
God I'm a mess.
I'm sitting in the locker room when I hear someone approaching. Sitting up a little straighter, to keep up appearances, I wait to see who it is.
"Hey." Warrick says sitting next to me.
"Nick spoke to you." I say, resigned to getting a pep talk.
"I just thought it was his case." I say hoping he'll be off his game and let me get away with it.
"Oh come on Cath," Warrick says obviously not believing I'm okay.
"I think I'm just tired Warrick."
"What's really wrong?"
"Nothing." I say getting up.
"Sorry, but you don't leave here until we chat."
"In the locker room?" I quiz him suspiciously.
"Okay, I get what you mean. I'm taking you out after shift. You need to talk to someone."
"No, Warrick there's nothing to say."
"Catherine, we're going out. My shout."
"Well, in that case, I'm ordering lobster." I joke. I can't resist the warmth his friendship gives me. Even if I can't discuss the real problem, his company is truly treasured.
"It's good to have you back Cath. We've almost got our family here again but you need to be on your game."
"Yeah." I say a little numbly. I don't even get mad when he gives me a tiny lecture.
"So, after shift?"
"After shift." I agree.
I'll have to be at my best to beat his inquisitive mind. I hope I'm up for it.
PART THIRTY SEVEN
We took separate cars to the diner. I needed that little bit of personal space to adjust my mood from one of desperation and loneliness to a false one of happiness with just a tinge of sleep depravation.
I chuckle at my reflection in the mirror. At least the sleep depravation portion of my act won't be hard to fake.
"Hey Cath," Warrick greets me with his usual friendliness, only this time there is a hint of concern in his eyes. I feel bad that he is suffering for me yet I'm in no mood to discuss anything that is remotely near the truth of where my life is at right now. I'll just fake the life I should be living.
He waits until I'm seated before taking his own. Such a gentleman. Maybe, if things had been different, oh hell, we can't second guess life like that. He's too dear to me to even think about 'what if.'
"I got our usual. Do you mind?"
"Well you have already ordered," I joke.
"I don't want to launch right into twenty questions," Warrick starts.
"But you want to know what's wrong." I finish for him. There is no anger in my words, just acknowledgement.
"I know and I told you, it's okay."
"Come on, Cath. We've been through a lot at work, you know you can confide in me." Warrick asks. I'd almost say he was prying too much but when I look up and see the anguish in his eyes I understand. He's hurting for me.
"It's complicated." I say finally. It is Warrick, I don't even know where to start.
"I'd assume so."
"I can't go into it Warrick, I'm sorry."
"Are you having trouble with Lindsay? Is everything okay there?"
"Yes, Of course she has her moments but we all have those right?" I say grinning. Living with a mini version of me is a challenge.
"Are you in trouble, financially?" He asks embarrassed.
Not with that money Sam gave me.
"No, we're okay."
"So it's more personal." He says.
"And you won't tell me." He says flatly.
"I would love to unload it but I made a promise not to discuss it." I say taking a sip from my water.
Warrick studies me, I'm not sure what he's looking for but it makes me shift in my seat.
"Okay. You know if you ever - "
"Yes, I know Warrick."
That conversation was shut down easier than I thought and I'm a little sad that he didn't press more. I am really tempted to tell him everything but still, even in my anger at Sara I can't bring myself to betray her confidence.
"So, how's Cox doing?" I ask Warrick as our food arrives.
"She's okay. She does the job and that's important. We can rely on her."
"She's not trying to play politics?" I ask surprised.
"Oh she is but for the moment without much success. She has aspirations for a higher position within the lab. I still keep hoping Sara will return. We don't even know where she is, we don't even know if she's okay."
"She's a survivor," I say softly.
"She may be Cath but still, she loved it here. She fitted in. Why would she just vanish?"
"I don't know." I say, trying to remain detached.
"It hurts you know, knowing she's gone and we don't know why. I feel like we failed her. I feel that I should have done more to show her there were no hard feelings after she investigated me all those years ago. I should have invited her out more."
"Look, it's not your fault. Sara was a complex character." I say, talking about her like one would discuss someone who is now deceased.
"Still, it burns. We miss her."
So do I, even though I try to convince myself I don't.
"Yeah, well she made her choice." I say a little to vehemently.
"Ouch, that sounded harsh." Warrick says frowning.
"All I'm saying is, she made that decision to leave us." I almost said 'leave me' but caught myself in time. "We can't look back and wonder if we could have done more."
"I miss her. Then you went also, well it really felt quite empty in the lab." Warrick admits.
"Well I'm back."
"You are, and it's your turn to pay."
I slap his hand smiling.
"You're a piece of work, Brown! Saying it's your treat and then turning it on me."
"What can I say, I forgot that I was running low on cash. A man's gotta eat." He says, as he pulls out his wallet with every intention of paying.
I laugh my first genuine, no pretense, laugh in what seems like ten years. Suddenly I'm glad I came along.
I drive home feeling a lot more at ease than the last time I was in the car. I actually managed to enjoy myself and for awhile, I wasn't thinking about Sara. It's an indulgence I haven't been able to do no matter how much I try but, in the calm and relaxed companionship of my dear friend, Warrick, it seemed easy.
Of course it's not that easy and I wouldn't dare think I've overcome the feeling of emptiness that is now in my life.
That statement isn't fair on Lindsay. I have her and I feel very blessed that she survived that car accident. She is my life, my blood and she shall forever be that part of me that I can feel proud of.
But, as anyone will tell you, sometimes you need to be loved and appreciated by an adult. It makes me mad that Sara turned out to be less than what I had envisioned. I thought we would grow old together. Yes we had times where I wanted to throttle her as she did with me. The strength of our relationship pulled us back together, a force I could only describe as magnetism.
I feel like I let Lindsay down. She had taken to Sara as her third parent. I would never ask Lindsay to lay Eddie by the wayside; cast him off as he often did with her. Lindsay had always spoken her mind and when she told Sara she was her parent she meant it.
Of course, Sara was taken aback. She cried in my arms as we layed in our bed, overcome with emotion. She had never abused that love and trust Lindsay bestowed upon her. If I couldn't pick her up, Sara was first to offer. When Lindsay was in one of her foul moods, Sara would simply kiss me on the cheek and speak to her. More often that not Lindsay would come and find me, cuddle into me and apologise.
I suppose, when she left without warning she wasn't thinking about being that parent or that lover the Willows family had come to rely on. I know why. Lindsay doesn't but she understands enough to know Sara doesn't hate her. If she hadn't had Eddie as an example in bad parenting she would be mad but she always held Sara upon a pedestal and she's still up there.
The innocence of a child is enviable in situations like this one.
PART THIRTY EIGHT
"Hey sis, you look like sh - " Nancy stops mid sentence grinning bashfully. "Sorry."
Lindsay had dashed for the phone as soon as she came in and didn't hear it so I just wave the apology away.
"She probably hears much worse at school," I comment. Ah the good ol days when 'bloody' was a swear word. Boy, I just showed my age there didn't I?
"So why are you here?" Nancy asks looking at her watch. "Thought you were pulling a double."
"Told Gil to page me if there was anything. I had to get out of there."
"Seeing that place would remind even me of Sara so I'm not sure just how you'll handle it."
"Gee thanks Nancy." My sister isn't very tactful at times. Linds will be the same as she gets older, is she isn't already like that now.
"Hey, you've been consumed by her and this whole drama. You didn't seriously think you could get into work and not think of that woman," Nancy says, her voice daring me to deny it, so I wisely decide not to.
"Had a meal with Warrick. He knows something is up."
"I'm guessing you didn't tell him."
"You'd be right."
"Let some of it out Cath. He knows her too, it could help you at work."
"Look, I know it may sound like it makes sense when you say it that way, but you have to understand, I have this imbedded loyalty to Sara."
"Even after this?" Nancy asked stunned.
"Even after. I'm not going to be petty just so I can perhaps feel better for three or four minutes. One day she may want to return. I don't want her surprised by everyone knowing her personal life."
"But it would only be one man and I doubt he'd tell anyone."
"I just can't Nancy. I can't." I say shaking my head.
"I don't understand but hey, I'm not a lesbian."
I laugh, glad that I'm still able to do it.
"You are such an idiot," I say shaking my head.
"So everyone tells me."
I try not to groan and trust me, it was hard.
"You've got a case with me."
"What is it?"
"DB, residential location."
"Can't people just stop killing each other for a week?" I ask sighing.
"Then I'd be out of a job," Cox says grinning.
I'm not in the mood to talk but she doesn't seem to let that stop her from talking.
"Hey, are you listening?" She asks me as I start the car.
"Not really," I admit, not caring if she takes offense.
"Ouch. Guess things aren't going well in your love life then."
"That's not your business." I say with gritted teeth.
She looks at me, head cocked, as if trying to decide on what to say next.
"I think about that kiss we had."
I'm in hell.
"I'd like to do it again if you're not attached." Cox admits quietly.
I look over to her, wondering if she's playing with me but I think, maybe there is sincerity in her face.
"I'm not interested," I say firmly.
"If you ever are, I'm very interested." Cox says placing her hand on my leg briefly. "But if you're with someone else I'm not going to get involved in that."
"This isn't exactly what I want to be talking about," I say uncomfortable.
"I'm take charge Catherine, I had to let you know before I dropped more signals you obviously aren't seeing."
"I pretty much knew after you slammed your tongue into my throat before I left." I say sarcastically.
"Oh that? Yeah I can be aggressive."
My heart starts beating a little faster remembering the last time I was with Sara. Our breath hot and fast. Our bodies sliding together. It was magic.
"Hey, still with me?" Cox says grinning.
"Yeah. Okay, look let's get to this scene." I say all business.
"Whatever you say Willows," Cox says leaning back, her shirt riding up to expose a small horse tattoo.
Dear God, she has a tattoo. Why am I excited about that?
PART THIRTY NINE
"Hey Jim. What's the news?" I ask, wrapping the camera around my neck.
"Coroner's with him. Thirty three year old sports journalist. Stu Marketwater. Found with a gunshot wound to the chest."
"Gun?" I ask.
"Ha, you're joking right?" Jim says grinning at my optimism.
"Can't hurt to ask," I say looking to Cox. "Let's go. You take the outside, I'm going to have a look at the body."
She just nods. Good, at least she's professional on site.
She's no Sara though.
"Hey David," I greet our coroner as I see the body laying in the kitchen, glass surrounding him.
"He was shot. Pretty messy."
"Time of death?"
"Three, maybe four hours."
"Is that safety glass?" I ask incredulously. In a kitchen?
"Yeah, he was putting up what looks to be a partition in his kitchen." Jim says coming in behind me.
"All kinds," I say aloud.
I walk around, taking a few shots of the body and the surrounding area. All this glass would be a bitch to collect. I hope we don't need to.
"I want everyone who came in here to leave their boots with Cox. A detailed description of where they walked will also be needed." I tell Jim.
"Why? Its just glass." One of the police officers asks. A newbie obviously.
"Don't let Catherine hear you say that. All evidence is important." Cox says smiling.
"Whatever. Just find the evidence so we can catch the killer." The officer with him muttered, taking off his shoes.
Cox looked at me and rolled her eyes.
A few things catch my attention in the house. The laptop on the small desk next to a black leather chair with an unfinished column was one of the first things. He stopped on 'his agility has been questioned after a series of knee inj...' the little flashing cursor awaiting its next command. He'd obviously been distracted by something. Or someone.
Piles of newspaper clippings also catch my eye. They were neatly placed on the leather couch. Flipping through them I see they are all written by the deceased.
"Seems he was scrap-booking himself." A police officer comments.
"Yeah. Can you get out of my crime scene please?" I ask harshly. It's hard enough at times to find the tiniest bit of evidence. People contaminating my scene don't make it any easier.
"I found a bit of mail here. Hate mail to be exact." Jim says waving a large manila folder at me.
"Other than the usual 'I hate you because you hate my favourite player' writings no not yet. I'll keep looking."
"So, do you know this Marketwater?" I ask.
"I've read his stuff but none of it ever really stayed with me. He hates players who earn millions a season. He's been sued by a few top ranking players for slander but got off. Like any sports writer he's going to get some passionate people writing him."
"Yeah, I remember dating a Lakers fan. He couldn't understand why I wouldn't travel around the place to watch his team play." I say shaking my head remembering that disastrous relationship.
"So, it didn't last?" Jim asks smiling.
I smile and continue onto the next room.
"Hey Catherine? I've collected all the boots and have their individual reports. You want help in here?" Cox asks sticking her head into the bedroom.
"I haven't dusted for prints yet." I say offering the job to her.
"Consider it done."
With that she was gone and I was back to studying for anything that would help. His bedroom was neat. Bookcases of sporting magazines and books covered one wall, a huge plasma television hung, suspended almost in mid-air and he had a few photos sitting above a small double-doored cupboard.
It seems nothing had been stolen. Gil would hate me looking for a motive but looking through it all gave me a sense of knowing the scene as a whole.
"Hey Jim?" I yell from the bathroom.
"Did he have a girlfriend?"
"Not that I know of. I'd have to look into that."
"Okay. I found long black hair in the shower drain."
"I'll check into it." Jim says writing it down.
This job is so glamorous.
"Okay, dusted and lifted. What you got there?" Cox asks sometime later.
"Found some hair in the shower, and he's had some company recently. Used condom in the bin."
"I'm going to get the boys knocking down a bit of the wall to get our bullet out when you're finished." Cox says grinning.
"Let me guess, you're excited about power tools," I say sarcastically.
"Hey, it's not everyday a girl gets to take a wall out."
"Sara loved that kind of stuff," I say. It almost went past me until Cox frowned.
"Sara Sidle? Hey, when is she coming back?"
You're an idiot Catherine. You bring her up and now you have to answer otherwise Cox may find something weird there.
"Yeah, she was a bit butch when it came to power tools and the CSI garage." Cox says grinning. "Damn hot, one time I saw her under the car and she was singing ..."
"So, you done?" I ask hotly. That kind of image would always make me smile but now I'm feeling quite ill.
"Yeah, I'll see you later." Cox says frowning.
I was exhausted. All that bloody safety glass was going to be a pain in the ass to get tagged and bagged. So much so that I decided that it was near impossible for me to collect the shards, so I took numerous photos of where it lay. I did scoop up a bit of it, but it was around the location of the body and the front door. I was hoping the killer had some little shards in their shoes.
I really was close to giving up and letting Cox take the case but then I thought about the bigger picture. A man had been murdered. The killer wasn't supposed to make it easy. Hell, it would be great if the killer just let their DNA all over the place and was a known criminal. Case closed, move on.
No such luck here. I was so meticulous. I loaded it up extremely carefully and drove back to the lab like those old blokes I see on the way to work sometimes, making sure they got the most out of their travels. When did I become so cautious though? Sure, I took all my cases seriously but the way I was acting bordered on plain stupidity.
I knew the answer of course. I was scared of everything right now. Scared I'd mess up and Gil would look down at me, question my ability. I wasn't like the rest of the gang. I was Gil's right hand woman. Yet, at times when I was doubting myself in my private life I needed his gentle approach. Even if he didn't know he was doing it, he helped me.
With Sara gone, well I needed it. I needed it more than ever.
"I hear you got a bitch of a case," Warrick says grinning as I stick a sign up on the door that says 'do no disturb'.
"Want it?" I joke, sharing his smile.
"Actually, funny you might mention it," he says grinning, wiggling gloved hands at me.
"You've been put on it?" I ask, frowning.
"Yeah, seems this dude has a following with a few of the top brass here. We're all hands on deck. Well not all, you only have me and Jesse."
"For a sports writer?" I ask surprised.
"A sports writer who has an uncle or something high up on the force," Warrick adds.
"Ah, now it makes sense." I say grinning. "It's all who you know," I say, enjoying the company of my dear friend.
"Ain't it always?" Warrick jokes. "So, you got some glass."
I grunt my reply.
"Yeah. I've got a few tests running on it, but there's something about it that makes no sense." I voice the concern I'd had since first arriving at the scene.
"To be honest, I don't know. Gut feeling." I say, glad for my sounding board.
"Any luck on the hair?" Warrick asks.
"Can't get that done for a while so for the moment, we're going through the motions."
"So what do you want done with the glass?"
"I'm hoping a serial number will be found, but everyone is busy so I don't see it happening tonight. I've got the larger part dusted for prints but they will also take a while to be done."
"It's one of those shifts." Warrick comments.
"Exactly." I say frustrated.
"Jesse got anything?"
"Not sure but we will meet up soon." I reply, checking my watch.
"You think the bullet was shot through the glass?" Warrick asks. "Through safety glass?"
"Safety glass is designed to protect, designed to stay together. There had to be one hell of a forceful impact for the glass to break, but I'm not seeing anything that indicates it yet." I admit. "At least the police can stop paging me." I add.
"Took their boots," I elaborate. "They weren't pleased."
"They messin' about in your scene?" Warrick teases.
"Damn straight." I reply, grinning.
"I've missed you." Warrick says, still smiling.
"I've missed you, missed this," I say, waving my hand around the room.
"Okay, so who has the hate mail?" Warrick asks, back on topic once more.
"Jim is having a look. Anything out of the ordinary he'll send our way."
"Guess he'd get a lot."
"Guess so. Seems he pissed off a few star players." I remark.
"Yeah. I remember one report he did on a basketball player, Todd Ringer. Ruined his career, or so Ringer insists."
That gets my interest peaked.
"Ringer was having sex with his coaches daughter. She was seventeen and according to Marketwater, was pregnant."
"And she had an abortion?" I ask. That kind of story happens all too often in the 'realm of celebrity'.
"No, carried it and then gave it up for adoption. To this day both sides insist Ringer was not the father."
"So how did that ruin his career?"
"Ringer was sacked for an offense, unrelated to that."
"Unrelated? Yeah right."
"Exactly." Warrick agrees. "He lost endorsements, was not one of the high draft picks and just kind of disappeared."
"But shouldn't Marketwater have stuck to the sporting element and not delved into Ringer's personal life?" I ask, as Warrick grins. "I know, asking too much."
"Yeah. In sport, the line is blurred. In the eyes of many fans, sportsmen and women are celebrities." Warrick replies.
"I guess they'd be a few more stories like that in Marketwater's life then."
"Yeah. Without a doubt."
"I'll let Brass know. Thanks Warrick."
"Hey, didn't you date a Lakers fan once?"
"I did, yeah."
"Well that's how a lot of people see their sports. It wouldn't surprise me to see a few restraining orders out on Las Vegas citizens." Warrick suggests.
"Yeah. I'll see what Jim comes up with. Thanks for this chat Warrick," I say patting his arm.
"No probs Cath." He says winking before leaving the room.
"You know, safety glass was originally designed in 1903 when Edouard Benedictus dropped a flask that had previously held cellulose nitrate. It evaporated, and a thin coating of plastic developed on the interior. It wasn't met with much excitement until it was used during World War One when the glass was designed for gas masks. Too expensive for most."
"Thanks Gil." I say before anyone else can remark. "But how does that help us now?"
He doesn't answer, knowing I'm teasing.
"Brass spoke to the neighbours. Seems there was a girlfriend in the picture, she's coming into the station tomorrow," Cox says. "Her name is Mikayla Allen."
"Neighbours spot anything suspicious?" Warrick asks.
"It's a busy street, and most people were at work. We may have a witness if Brass can get somewhere with the elderly woman who lives a few houses down. She said something about work being done on the wires, but can't find the notification slip. She did invite Brass and his officers in for tea cake though." Cox said smiling.
"How'd the killer get into the house?" Grissom asks.
"No sign of forced entry. I did a perimeter search but found nothing suspicious. His yard backs onto another house so there was no opportunity to jump the fence." Cox replies.
"Hey, sorry to interrupt," Nick says, poking his head round the door. "Cath, this is for you."
I stand, taking the sheet of paper.
"Thanks Nick," I say smiling as he nods in reply. Turning back to the group I say, "tempered safety glass."
"That was fast." Cox remarks.
"After talking with Warrick, I put in a call to someone I know and he came in to take a look at the glass I removed from the kitchen." I say shrugging. I too couldn't believe how quick he was at answering my call, but I knew I'd owe him big.
"So what does that mean for us?" Cox asks.
"You have somewhere to start," Grissom says, standing up. We all know it means the meeting is over.
Once he leaves, Cox offers to make me a coffee.
"Catherine, I'm enjoying working with you." She says, handing me a mug.
"I'll take the interview with the girlfriend tomorrow," I respond.
"I'd like to sit in." She replies, sitting next to me.
"We'll see?" Cox repeats.
"Yeah, we may have other leads to follow." I try to end the conversation there, but Cox refuses to let up.
"I want to be in on it Catherine."
"I'm in charge Cox, if you're needed elsewhere, that's where you'll be."
"Is this because of ..." she stops, knowing her question doesn't need to be completed. That cocky smile says it all.
"You think I'd let an unwanted advance jeopardize a case?" I ask angrily.
"No, but I do think you think it necessary to create distance." Cox says, touching my thigh.
"Get your hand off me." I almost yell, but manage to rein in my temper.
"Look Willows, I want to be a part of this case. I don't want to sit on the sidelines." Cox says, moving away from me.
"So you're a glory girl?"
Cox smiles and shakes her head.
"I just like to be where the action is."
As a sexual woman, I certainly got the double meaning in that statement.
"You'll be where I tell you." I say, standing. "Now if you'll excuse me."
I try not to run out of the room, knowing she's watching me. I can't believe I'm being played at my own game here.
"Hey Linds." I kiss my daughter's forehead, grinning as she wipes the place I kissed.
"Aunt Nancy called you," she says, not looking up from whatever book it is she's currently obsessed with.
I decided to stay a while longer at work this morning, hoping to get a few things done, but Gil caught me and ordered me to spend the afternoon with Lindsay. It was one order I was happy to take.
I pour myself a glass of wine and dial Nancy's number.
"Hey sis, what's up?"
"Cath, hey there."
There's something in Nancy's voice that worries me.
"Is everyone alright?" I ask, frightened.
"Yeah. We're all fine here. Cath, can I come over?" Nancy asks.
"You need to ask?" I say grinning despite my concern for whatever it was she had to tell me.
"Thanks Cath. I'll be over soon."
She hangs up before I can try and squeeze some information out of her.
"Linds honey? Aunt Nancy is coming over soon."
"Cool." Is all I hear before she leaves for her bedroom.
"Hey Cath," Nancy greets me with a kiss on the cheek.
"Everyone is okay right?" I ask again. I don't like her demeanor.
"Yeah, we're all okay." She says firmly, as if to reassure me.
"So what is it? Need me to get rid of a few speeding tickets?" I joke lamely, my voice clearly betraying how nervous she is making me feel.
"I got a call today." Nancy says, gladly taking the glass of water I poured for her.
"Yeah? Who?" I ask.
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