DISCLAIMER: "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and other related entities are owned, trademarked, and copyrighted by Anthony E. Zuiker, Jerry Bruckheimer Television, CBS Worldwide Inc., Alliance Atlantis Corporation, CSI Productions and CBS Productions. This is fanfiction and is written purely for the enjoyment of fans, and the author acknowledges that no profit is made from the writing and/or distribution of said writing.
SPOILERS: 'Lady Heather's Box', 'Crash & Burn' and 'Playing with Fire'.
SERIES: The 'Un'-titled Series - sequel to Unmasked.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Amy Jo
"Control, this is p-3901 requesting emergency assistance. Need an ambulance on Industrial Road, uh, at the aqueduct bridge."
Thankfully the dispatcher doesn't ask for a more specific location, I'm not sure I could tell her anything more than what I already have. I really don't even know where we are, or what the names of the nearest crossroads are.
As soon as I'm off the radio I hear my cell phone ringing. Obviously some of the night crew had their radios on.
"Willows," I answer my cell phone.
"Catherine? Catherine what's wrong?" Gil sounds close to panic himself.
"Gil, calm down." Funny that I should be telling him that given the situation. "Lindsey and Eddie were in an accident and I need an ambulance so someone can look over Lindsey."
"Is she all right? Where's Eddie?"
"I think she's okay. Frightened and exhausted but she doesn't seem to be seriously injured. I just want someone to look over her. I don't know where Eddie is, Gil. But it might not be a bad idea for you to send someone else out here, and probably a detective too."
"You think that's necessary?" He is at least calmer, but I really don't want to talk to him anymore.
"Yeah. Just get some people out here for me. I'm going to check on Lindsey." I tell him. I hang up on him, not giving him a chance to respond or argue.
I grab a jacket to help warm me up and slide in the back and sit next to Lindsey, pulling her over to me so that her head is resting my lap. Her eyes are closed, though her breathing is too rapid for sleep. I run my fingers through her hair, happy to see her safe again. The rain finally stops and we're still sitting in this same position when I notice the flashing lights of the ambulance I requested.
The EMTs are great with Lindsey; asking if it hurts, where it hurts. She's sitting on the ambulance gurney, still bundled up in a blanket when an unmarked car rolls up and Vega steps out. Right behind him is a truck with Sara and shortly after she parks, a tow truck arrives.
The tow truck moves to the break in the fence, maneuvering to pull Eddie's car out of the water canal. It's odd how I'm completely focused on everything Lindsey is saying and the way she is saying it, but at the same time my eyes wander around the scene taking everything in.
Sara parks the truck and moves around to the back, probably needing to get her kit. I wonder why Gil sent Sara out here instead of himself, Nick, or Warrick. I guess it doesn't really matter who is out here, just that someone is here. For some reason, I'm happy that Sara is here, and yet I feel anger at Gil for sending her. I'm not too pleased with all the emotions I seem to be going through.
Sara walks up to the back of the ambulance, smiling weakly at Lindsey and handing her a small paper cup.
"Brought you some hot chocolate kid," She says to Lindsey. "Figured you might want something to warm you up, and sometimes a blanket just isn't enough."
I'm not certain what's going through Sara's mind right now, but I appreciate the soft tone of her voice and her obvious concern for Lindsey. Something warm wraps around my shoulders and I wonder how I didn't notice the blanket in Sara's hand.
"You too," Sara says with a weak smile. "I bought you one of those vanilla soy latte things you seem to like so much. Fresh from your favorite coffee shop."
Sara hands me a much lager paper cup, which I take thankfully. My mind seems to be scattered and unable to really focus, "I usually get these iced."
"No ice in this one. Thought you would rather have something warm, but this was the only thing I can remember you drinking regularly."
I don't know how she knew what I wanted, what I needed, but I'm thankful she did. The coffee and the blanket aren't what I want or need, it was the small reassurance from her that she remembers the little details and that even when there are more important things for her to be thinking about, I'm still somewhere near the top of the list. "Thank you," I tell her quietly.
"Anytime, Cath. Anytime." She speaks softly, so the only person that can hear her is me.
Her hand lingers on mine, a gesture of comfort or reassurance, I'm not sure which. "If you need me, for anything," she puts extra emphasis on 'anything', "I'm going to be right over there, helping the boys get Eddie's car back up here on the road."
I know she needs to work, but I want her to stay here. To comfort both me and Lindsey. To tell us, even if we already know, that everything will be okay. The emotions playing behind her eyes are difficult to discern, but I want to hold on to those emotions and lose myself in her concern. I've reached a point of exhaustion and I want her to hold on tight to me like I held onto Lindsey in the water. I want her to let me feel her strength and have her tell me everything is going to be all right.
But that will have to come later. She needs to work now if we're going to figure out what happened. "Okay."
I turn back to Lindsey, the EMT is putting some small bandages on her arm; she has a few cuts and a few bruises that are going to look nasty. Vega steps up to the two of us, a brief sympathetic look in my direction and he starts asking Lindsey questions.
The tow truck starts pulling Eddie's car out of the water and Lindsey tells us that some lady with pink hair was driving. She doesn't remember the lady's name and I'm beginning to wonder just what Eddie was thinking. He doesn't seem to have made a single good decision regarding his daughter today.
I know that Eddie means well, that he loves Lindsey just as much as I do. But he takes Lindsey out with his girl of the week and something bad happens. Unfortunately that's typical Eddie behavior.
Eddie apparently wasn't feeling well and was letting this stranger drive them to the hospital. Something happened and the girl got out of the car, and then Eddie got out of the car.
I've been watching Lindsey intently as she tells the story, I'm not sure why. I know she wouldn't lie about something like this, but I keep looking at her as if trying to determine if there's something she's leaving out. Vega says my name questioningly and we step a few feet away from Lindsey, making sure to talk softly so that she can't hear us.
"Is Eddie the kind of guy that would leave his daughter abandoned in the back of a car?"
"Never. Never. No. He loves Lindsey. He'd never do that."
Despite his screw-ups Eddie wouldn't intentionally let anything happen to Lindsey. He may not be the father I wish he was, but he wouldn't let anyone or anything hurt Lindsey. Something more than a car accident happened; I know it. I think Vega knows it too.
The tow truck keeps pulling the car out of the water and the sounds get my attention. Sara is standing by the edge, telling the workers to be very gentle with the car. Whatever evidence we may have of something other than an accident is going to have to come from that car and having the tow truck guys ripping it to pieces before we can get a look at it is not an option.
"Mom?" Lindsey's quiet voice calls out to me. When I turn my attention back to her she asks, "He's dead, isn't he?"
While I may have been thinking the same thing, to hear the words from her is like a slam in the chest. I don't know how to tell her that she's probably right. And if she is, I have no idea how I'm going to tell her when that time comes.
"I don't know baby. I I'm going to go look for him, though. I'm just going to be right over there," I say, pointing to where Sara is standing telling the guys that they've pulled the car out far enough. "I want you to stay here with Detective Vega, okay?"
I shrug the blanket off my shoulders, taking the coffee with me. The coffee has really helped me warm up, and with the jacket and the coffee I'm almost starting to feel hot. Or maybe that's just the gamut of emotions I'm going through.
The rear end of the car is till high in the air and Sara is already looking inside, taking a glance at everything to see if anything stands out. I set my coffee on the ground, giving myself a chance to look at the undercarriage to see if anything noticeable is wrong there. Nothing.
I open the driver's side door and take a quick look. Theirs is debris everywhere. The junk that is usually in Eddie's car now sopping wet and covered with mud and leaves. Across from me Sara is looking at the same things, noticing the bloodstain on the passenger seat and trying to figure out what is debris and what should belong.
Up on the dash is a small vial filled with blue liquid. I reach in and grab it, aware that I'm wearing gloves even though I'm pretty sure any prints would have long been washed away by the water.
Sara sees me reaching and says out loud exactly what I'm thinking as I hold the vial between my fingers, "Drugs."
"Knowing Eddie's taste in women, I'd say that's a good bet."
The bastard was letting some hopped up stranger drive around with my daughter in the car. Logically I know that since we haven't seen any evidence of Eddie's presence nearby he is likely dead. And you really shouldn't speak evil of the dead. But right now I'm a little too pissed off to care.
"Hey Catherine?" Sara's soft voice filters through the haze of my anger. "You want to give me that? You shouldn't be handling evidence, you're not on the case."
Sara and Vega want to go back to the lab to speak with Lindsey some more. Sara tells me it is to get her away from the scene. She hasn't been to the lab often, but enough times that it will be a comfort. As for me, well, at least at the lab I can pick up a dry set of clothes.
Sara sets blankets across the backseat of her truck and tells Lindsey and I that she will be driving us back to the lab. I protest for a minute, wondering how my truck will get back, but she tells me she's already given the keys to an officer, and he will drive it back for me.
I sit in the back with Lindsey aware that Sara is keeping a close eye on us in the rearview mirror. Lindsey sits close to me and I wrap my arms around her the best I can in our awkward position. I pull one of the blankets across us, worried that Lindsey might still be cold. The drive back to the lab seems long, seemingly protracted by the silence in the truck. Sara doesn't even have the radio turned on, something she does every time she drives anywhere, even if it's only a five minute drive.
Once at the lab Vega takes Lindsey to one of the little lounge rooms, promising to find her something sweet to snack on while I go change clothes. He doesn't want to put her in of the usual interrogation rooms, they are to stark and uncaring. Kids usually clam up in the interrogation rooms, the unfriendly environment often frightening them.
Sara follows me to the locker room. I'm not sure how to feel about having her keep so close. I know she's concerned but emotionally I'm not sure how well I'm going to be able to handle things. I'm a mess inside now and some part of me wants to push her away.
"Cath?" Sara is sitting on the bench, watching as I dig through my locker for fresh, dry clothes.
"How are you?" Sara's voice waivers. She sounds unsure of what to ask and how I'll respond.
"I'm cold. I'm wet. My hands shake and I can't tell if it's from the cold or from residual fear and adrenaline."
It's not the answer she's looking for and I know that. She wanted to know how I was feeling, how I was dealing with everything that's happened tonight. I appreciate her concern, but I'm not sure that now is a good time to be near me. I'm relieved that Lindsey is okay. I'm beyond pissed at Eddie for what has happened. I'm scared that something even worse has happened to Eddie and this mystery lady friend of his.
"I meant " She's shaking her head, but I interrupt her.
"I know what you meant." There's an edge in my voice that is sharp and cutting. When I turn to face her I can see that my words have indeed hurt her. With a heavy sigh I continue, "I'm just not sure how I am. There's so much going on right now. And I don't just mean outside that door. I mean right here, in me."
I'm pointing to the spot in my chest where my heart would be, except I'm not sure if it has returned there. I still feel that heavy lump in my throat, the one that means if I let them, tears will fall. But I can't look weak, and it's not because of Sara, but because I won't be able to hide that weakness from Lindsey. She needs me to be strong and I can't fail her.
Sara stands and moves close to me, her hand covering mine and pressing lightly into my chest. "I want you to know that whatever is going on in there, I'm here for you. This well I don't know how all of this is going to be for you. It will be hard, I know that much. But I'm here whenever you need me."
"I can't let you be there for me. Not for this." The words are harsh and I wonder what part of me the come from, because that is certainly not what I expected I would say when I opened my mouth. "You're running this case. I can let what's happening with me cloud the case. I can't let you get too involved."
"I already am."
Her voice is soft and so full of emotion that I can't prevent the tears that slip out. I haven't changed yet, still standing in front of my locker in wet clothes. They're not dripping wet anymore, but they are still very damp and clinging to me. I have a fresh set of clothes sitting on the bench, waiting for me to change into them. Instead I find myself wrapped in the strength and security of Sara's arms.
I don't know what's happening and I don't like it. I don't like not having that kind of control. I know that when she holds onto me like this, I never want her to let go. I want to give up that control that seems so precious and simply let someone else take charge and do things for me. But I don't know if I can and everything seems so scary right now.
The tears are falling freely now and I can't seem to make them stop. Everything that's happened in the past hours comes back at hits me all at once. The happiness I felt at the Excalibur earlier tonight. Fighting with Eddie at Lindsey's school. Fear from when I first heard Lindsey's voice on my cell phone. The rush of adrenaline as I tried to find her. Despair when I didn't think I'd be able to save her. Overwhelming relief when I finally had her in my arms again.
And now, the security of being held in the arms of someone who means so much to me. The contrast of the strength and the gentleness with which she is doing so is unraveling me. I never thought it would be her that I wanted to hold me like this, to take my fears and tell me that everything will be okay. But it feels so right. I don't want her to let go, even though I know she must.
Despite the fact that I know she has things to be doing right now, she doesn't let go. She just holds me as my body shakes from the force of my tears. She doesn't even attempt to pull away until I've pushed slightly. I can't bring myself to look her in the eye. I don't want her to see the complete vulnerability I feel.
Her hand reaches up and cups my cheek, pulling my face upward. My eyes are closed and I feel her thumb as it traces the path of the tears I shed. The gentle touch threatens to undo the control I've only just regained. That lump is still in my throat and I'm having problems breathing again as I hold back more tears. When I don't open my eyes I can almost sense the confusion she feels, but she seems to shake it off as I feel the soft press of lips against mine. I've barely had a chance to notice the brief kiss before it is gone.
I feel the loss of her presence and open my eyes just in time to see her pulling a fresh shirt on. I'm sure the one she was wearing is now damp with my tears and from having her pressed so close to me. She looks at me wanting to say something, but not sure what and I simply nod my head. And then she is gone.
Knowing that uninterrupted moments in the locker room are hard to come by, I change into dry clothes quickly. I take a few deep breaths, trying my best to calm down before I go out and face Lindsey. She needs to believe I'm strong and I know I look anything but.
Part of me is convinced that I shouldn't even be here right now, that I should just take Lindsey home and wait to hear something form Sara or Vega. The other part of me, the part of me that is on the job 24/7 knows that Sara and Vega need to talk to Lindsey now before she starts to forget the small details. At this point it's hard to tell what details will be important, and they need to know everything they can before she forgets.
Both Vega and Sara are with Lindsey in one of the lounge rooms when I search them out. I'm glad they don't want to do this in an interrogation room, Lindsey looks much more comfortable in here, with what I assume is another mug of hot chocolate in front of her. Vega waits until I've settled in a chair near Lindsey before he starts asking anything that might help us figure out what's going on.
"So, after your recital where did your dad take you?"
Lindsey is quick to respond. "Leatherby's. He got me a banana split."
I bet she mentioned something to Eddie about wanting that sundae.
Vega tries all the normal techniques you use when interviewing children. Talk softly, make sure they know they aren't in any trouble, and try to find common ground. "I like whipped cream on mine."
I'm too impatient for that. "Did he have anything to drink? Did he have a beer? A glass of wine?"
I'm focused on Lindsey and her answers, but I do notice that Vega takes a second to glance my way clearly disapproving. I wonder if he doesn't approve of my taking the lead in questioning or my presence over all.
While Vega jots down notes, Sara asks, "So it was just the two of you?"
Sara speaks softly and there's emotion lingering behind the words that I'm not sure I've heard from her before. I appreciate the concern that Sara and Vega are showing, I know there's an extra bit of care because Lindsey is my daughter, but I really wish they'd just go ahead and ask the questions that need to be asked. Dancing around the important stuff like this isn't going to help us figure out what's going on.
Lindsey looks at me before simply nodding in response to Sara's question and Vega takes his turn.
"This lady you were telling us about the one who was driving the one with the pink hair. Where did you meet her?"
At least now we're starting to get to the good stuff.
"I don't know." Lindsey answers.
"You remember, Lindsey. Just think about it." I interrupt again.
A whole bunch of looks pass between Vega, Sara, and I. Vega and Sara both look at me, Vega in irritation and Sara in concern that quickly turns to irritation. Neither of them is happy with me right now, and I just don't care. This strange lady is the key to what happened tonight. I know and they know it. But avoiding the important questions isn't going to get me the answers I need.
Sara's patience is wearing thin and I can tell by the way I look at her and her eyes slide shut.
"I fell asleep in the car, and I woke up when we stopped." Lindsey tells us.
Well that's not too surprising considering how late it would have been. Vega asks if it was at a house and Lindsey tells him it was a building. Sara asks if it was an apartment building or maybe an office building. Lindsey tells them both that she doesn't know.
"Well why did you stop there?" I ask.
Lindsey is quiet for a minute, remembering. "Daddy said he had a meeting. He told me to stay in the car and keep the doors locked."
Probably had a meeting with the woman that wears the perfume I smelled earlier. My patience is all too thin and if it wasn't showing before, it certainly is now. Not only did Eddie leave Lindsey in the car after the accident, but apparently before too.
"You mean he left you in the car alone .." There is enough venom in my voice to get a response from Sara.
I glance at Sara before Lindsey continues, "Mom. Mom, it's okay. I said I could take care of myself. I told him I could stay in the car. Just don't be mad at him. He didn't do anything wrong."
Maybe not anything wrong yet. I don't know what he was thinking, and I'm pretty sure I never will. Maybe he was only planning on being out of the car for a few minutes. But a lot can happen in a few minutes. If anything, tonight has shown that very clearly.
Sara intervenes when my frustration and impatience reaches a breaking point. "It's okay, Lindsey. Nobody is mat at anybody."
Not exactly true. Right now I think I'm mad at everybody. I never realized how difficult being on this side of an investigation is. How much it wears you down and steps on every last raw nerve.
Sara gets up from her side of the table and moves behind Lindsey asking me, "Can I talk to you for a second?"
I look at her as I get up and walk out of the room, the look that clearly says 'don't talk to me now'. I push my way out the door, knowing that both Lindsey and Sara are staring at me, and probably Vega too. I know that Lindsey won't understand my behavior, and that I'm going to have a lot of explaining to do with her. Hopefully I won't have to have that same discussion with Sara.
Lindsey is calm, but she doesn't know the same Eddie that I do. She knows Eddie as the weekend father that he is. The good guy two days every other week. He gets on her good side; never telling her no, buying her whatever she wants, basically being the opposite of himself every time he sees her.
I know the real Eddie. The Eddie that is an asshole; the Eddie that can be abusive. Not physically, but he made every effort to continually make me feel like I was a lesser person. That he was so much better than me and I was lucky to have him. Truth is he was the start of all my problems. I met him at a bad time in my life and he took advantage of that. At first I thought it was all in good fun, but when I got pregnant and cleaned up my act I realized the kind of person he really was.
I don't know if I'm angry with him or myself. I should have known better then. I should know better now. But he's Lindsey's father and I can't deny either of them the right to have that relationship. Lindsey deserves and needs a father. And whatever his bad qualities he's a good father for her. God help me, part of me still loves that man for the way he treats Lindsey and the good things he can do and be for her.
And the pull of my emotions between everyone is dragging me down. Lindsey deserves everything I can be now. A mother, a friend, a protector. And I feel like I failed her in all those aspects when I let her go with her father tonight. I knew I should have taken her to Nancy's tonight. I just knew it, damn it.
Outside the room I pace and try to calm my breathing. I keep telling myself to calm down, to act like an adult for this instead of a pissed of teenager or something. It's not working.
I turn to watch the questioning again. I can't go back in that room. I think if I did Sara would throw me out. And if I were her, I would probably do the same thing. Lindsey keeps glancing out the door, watching me and looking at me as she answers. I can't hear what she's saying but I do know that whatever it is would do nothing to calm my anger.
I know Lindsey isn't lying, I've taught her better than that. She's giving the details that Sara and Vega need, but I think she might just be leaving out the things she doesn't want me to know. The things that might make me even more angry at her father. The way she keeps looking at me tells me that the questions she's answering now are ones with answers that Lindsey thinks will hurt me.
My phone rings and I turn away from the door. The number on the caller ID isn't familiar, but the list of people that have this phone number is short; coworkers and others in the department and family for emergencies. I know it's not Nancy, and that it's not someone from the lab. Which immediately makes me think it's someone calling about Eddie. Logically I have no reason to know that he is already dead. But I do.
And when the anonymous voice on the other end of the phone tells me my only response is "Yeah."
Why does it hurt so much? I'm not in love with the man anymore and yet I feel the loss so acutely that it really does feel like my heart is breaking at the news. My chest tightens and tears threaten to fall again. It shouldn't feel like this. Three seconds ago I was pissed at him and now I'm ready to cry that he's dead.
How am I going to tell Lindsey? I think she already knows, but actually telling her is going to be difficult.
I turn back to the room and watch Lindsey. My little girl, my angel, is going to grow up without a father and I have to tell her. She turns to look at me and in that moment I know that she can tell.
I stand outside the lounge, debating whether or not this is the time and place to tell Lindsey. Maybe I should just take her home. No, not home. Maybe we can go to Nancy's. If I take her home, eventually she's going to fall asleep and I'm going to be surrounded by silence. I'm going to need to do something, and sitting at home in silence is not it.
I take a few deep breaths and open the door. The sound seems to get everyone's attention and three pairs of eyes are all focused on me. Sara instantly recognizes the look on my face; it's the one we all have when we have when we need tell someone that a loved one died. Sara turns to look at Vega and the pair leave Lindsey and I in the room alone.
"Lindsey, honey " I move to the floor next to her chair, squatting so that we're at the same eye level.
"He's dead, isn't he?" She repeats her words from earlier tonight.
I sigh heavily. She's much to young to have to say those words. "Yeah, honey, he is."
She wraps her neck in my arms, buries her head in my shoulder and cries. I hold back my own tears, trying my best to be strong for her.
For what seems like forever, I hold her there. She gets uncomfortable in the chair and I change our positions so that I'm sitting cross-legged on the floor with her in my lap, her legs wrapped around my torso.
After some time I feel a weight on my shoulder. I turn my head to look and standing behind me is Sara. I don't know how to interpret the look on her face, a mixture of sadness and relief.
She lowers herself to the floor next to me and whispers in my ear. "He just arrived. He's downstairs if you want to see him."
I don't know if I can go down there. Not now. Not with Lindsey still here. I need to take her to Nancy's first. She doesn't need to be around to see what happens when I finally get a look at Eddie. I don't know what my reaction will be and that's not something I want to expose Lindsey too.
Sara leaves the room just as quietly as she entered.
"Lindsey, honey?" She say anything, her grip my neck strengthens. "Lindsey, baby, we need to go now."
Lindsey says something, but her response is muffled between sobs in the fabric of my blouse. She doesn't seem ready to go, but I know that we need to leave soon. Whatever other questions Sara and Vega might have for her can wait. Lindsey has to be exhausted and she needs to get some rest.
She isn't willing to move and even though it's difficult I manage to stand up while still keeping her clutched in my arms. She holds on tight as we walk through the lab and out to my car. We get a few strange looks from people we pass in the hallway and it would seem that the gossip didn't spread through the building as fast as normal tonight.
I set Lindsey in the backseat of my car, though it takes quite a bit of convincing to get her to let go of me. She lays down in the backseat and I don't have the heart to tell her to sit up and buckle in. I'm breaking my own rule, but I think I'll just drive extra-cautious and avoid the well-traveled roads.
Lindsey has fallen asleep by the time I pull out of the parking lot. The drive to Nancy's takes twice as long as it normally would, but she needs to sleep and I'm not taking the quick route like I normally would.
I try to be as quiet as possible when we get to Nancy's, but by the time I reach the door it is being held open by my sister. There's a question in her eyes, but I tilt my head in the direction of Lindsey's guest room and Nancy nods before walking toward the kitchen. I carefully carry Lindsey to the guest room and lay her down in bed, pulling the covers up to her chin. I watch her sleep peacefully for a minute before joining Nancy.
"How's the little one?" Nancy asks quietly.
I see the kettle on the stove, and two mugs on the counter. The ritual of talking over mugs of hot chocolate is continuing. I do notice that she seems to be well prepared tonight with a new package of marshmallows and lots of hot chocolate mix.
"Exhausted. She's had a very long day." Am I really up to talking about this now? Is there any way it can wait?
"Tell me about it?" Nancy senses my indecision and slides a mug of steaming hot chocolate under my nose.
"We went out to dinner with Sara." Even now the memory makes me smile. "We ate at the Sherwood Forrest in Excalibur. We watched a little bit of the tournament."
"That all sounds good." I wait for the 'but' I hear lingering in her voice. "But that doesn't explain why you are here."
"Her play was tonight," I tell her. Nancy already knew this, but I'm going to have to start somewhere and the play seems to be where things started sliding downhill. "Eddie was late. He didn't show up until nearly the very end."
"And you argued?"
She knows our relationship so well.
"Sort of." At her questioning look I continue, "Eddie was late, didn't show up until right before the kiss scene. And when he did he reeked of perfume."
"So he was with someone else when he should have been with you." An insight I'm not ready to put too much thought into.
"We didn't really argue, not like we usually do. But voices were raised and Lindsey left the stage crying. We ruined it, and she told us so."
The marshmallows have melted into goo on the top of my hot chocolate. I take a sip and it burns my tongue.
"And then for some reason she decided to go home with Eddie tonight?"
"Right. Except they didn't go home. He took her out for ice cream. She had wanted some since dinner, but I told her that since she didn't finish her dinner she couldn't have any. And then they went somewhere else."
I'm still figuring things out in my head; going over the details, trying to put the pieces together. I grab the spoon Nancy set down earlier and twirl it in the chocolate, watching as the swirling liquid drowns the melted marshmallows.
"Where did they go?"
"I don't know. Lindsey doesn't know. She fell asleep in the car and when she woke up they were at a building. She doesn't know where, she doesn't know what type of building it was."
I suppose my little narrative isn't making a lot of sense to her. She still looks confused and I wonder if maybe I should have just told her right away that Eddie is dead. But that would probably have led to confusion as well, just a different type of confusion.
I bit the bullet, "Eddie's dead."
Nancy's eyes go wide in shock and it's a long few minutes before she says anything. "How?"
"Right now, I'm not sure. They found him a little while ago. He's in the morgue now, but I needed to bring Lindsey here before I could go down there. I'm going to need her stay for a little while."
There are things I need to figure out first. Most of them being the emotions I'm running through.
"She can stay here as long as you need her too." There's another but in her voice. "But she's going to need you. She's going to want to talk to you, not me. It's going to be you she wants to see when she wakes up."
"I know. But I have to "
"Yeah. You need to do your own thing for a little while. Just don't get so wrapped in avoiding the reality of what happened that you neglect her."
"I won't. I couldn't. It's just that I need to get things figured out before I can really be there for her. She doesn't need to see me lose it. She needs me to be strong for her. I can't do that until I get some answers."
The hole is small. It's hard to think something so small could end the life of someone I know. The shot wasn't very close range; there doesn't appear to be the marks of a gun barrel shoved in his skin, no powder burns, nothing but a small, dark hole. It's not even messy with blood.
I've done this a thousand times and yet this is the first. I've seen dead bodies on scene, I've seen dead bodies on this table, I've seen dead bodies after Doc has started his work, and I've seen them after he has finished. None of that prepares me for looking at Eddie on this cold, steel table.
Even now the tears I thought I would cry don't come.
"Catherine, you can't say goodbye in an autopsy room," I hear Doc Robbins say as he watches me looking at Eddie.
He's wrong. I can say goodbye in here. Because I'm not saying goodbye to Eddie the man, but goodbye to what Eddie represented.
Eddie was the man that made me feel special. At a time in my life when I was near hitting rock-bottom he was there to make me feel like I was on top of the world. Okay, so most of that was really probably the mass quantities of drugs I was consuming, but at the time I thought it was him. He didn't say any cheesy come-ons or try to win me over by flashing money. The only thing he did was listen. And that meant a lot to me then. Turned out the only time he was any good at listening was when he was drunk, high, or trying to get laid.
Eddie was the man that gave me Lindsey, the best thing he ever did. Things were a little rough at first, Eddie didn't like the change in lifestyle that I forced us into when I was pregnant. There was no more drinking, no more drugs, no more nights on the town that lasted two or three days. When I cleaned up, I forced him to do the same. But one look into Lindsey's brilliant blue eyes and even he said it was worth it.
He lapsed back into his old self after a few years and things went downhill quick. I tried to hold out, to raise my daughter with her two parents living in the same house, to give her something I didn't have; a father. When he started flaunting his womanizing and drove me deeper and deeper into debt with his half-brained get rich quick schemes, I made him leave.
He was going to be the father that intimidated all of her boyfriends, the proud papa at her graduations. He was the man that was going to walk Lindsey down the aisle and give her away when she got married; the grandfather of her children.
Now he can't be any of those things. He can't be the man I wanted him to be, he can't be the man Lindsey needed him to be. He may have been her father, but Lindsey deserved so much better than the man I see now.
When I leave the autopsy room I feel the eyes of Doc following me out. I'm sure he's wondering what I'm thinking, why I was here. If he asked, I'm not sure it could explain it to him. If I tried, I know he wouldn't understand.
The halls of the lab seem ultra-quiet tonight. Almost as if the noise has died down to allow me time and enough silence to think. And that is the last thing I want.
"Hi. Uh " Gil says as I walk up to him.
If I don't change his train of thought back to work, we're likely to have a very awkward moment where Gil actually tries to express emotion. I don't know who would find it more painful, him or me.
"Croix Richards and Trey Buchman. Same profession, same employer, same cause of death." I may have been distracted tonight, but I've been paying enough attention to the ongoing cases to at least get this far. I'm hoping he can pick up the rest of the conversation, because at this point this is all I know.
"Yeah. Insulin poisoning."
Thanks for the elaboration Gil. "Not your typical male M.O. Lady Heather a suspect?"
This could be touchy with whatever that thing is that Gil has going with Lady Heather. I never really thought of him as one to really be into that kind of thing, but even I can't deny the appeal of Lady Heather the person. Lady Heather the dominatrix mystifies me sometimes, but her insights are very accurate.
"I can't rule anybody out. Catherine " Oh, here comes the awkward moment. "I'm sorry about Eddie and your daughter. If, if you'd like to take some time off or "
He remembers to call Eddie by name but forgets Lindsey. I take a deep breath and let it out, of everyone here I need him to believe me the most or I'll be forced off the job for a while. I'll have too much time on my hands then. "I'm okay. Lindsey's we're okay."
I'm not sure how Lindsey's doing. Is she awake and crying? Is she having nightmares? Is she awake and as unemotional as I seem to be? I walk away from Gil before he quotes some random Shakespearean nonsense about human emotion.
Nick and Warrick are waiting in one of the a/v labs and when I walk in they both offer condolences, the usual male stuff about offers to help Lindsey and I. I'm tempted to tell one of them to work Eddie's case with Sara, that that would be the kind of help we could use. The sooner the closure the better. Instead I ask them to catch Gil and I up on the case.
Nick and Warrick have the credit cards used to access Lady Heather's online dominion scrolling on the video screen. It's a small bit of relief to know all the credit cards belong to women; we see unusual things every day around here but that would just be a little too odd for me.
Warrick specifically pulls up local area credit cards as we discuss the likelihood of our killer being from the area. The screen fills up with driver's license photos but my attention is diverted when I see Sara walk past with a lab tech.
Searching my memory for the name of the girl I come up with nothing. But I do remember that she's the girl that works with chemicals and drugs. They must have figured out what that blue stuff in the vial was. I'm tempted to follow them and ask what it was, but Gil gets my attention focused back on the case at hand.
"You know we found a dark hair in Trey Buchman's hotel room at The Sphere."
Gil says the words in my direction, possibly noticing my lack of attention, but it's Warrick that responds, "I'll exclude everyone with light hair."
Gil recognizes one of the driver's licenses and apparently so does Warrick. "Huh. Rebecca McCormick. 235 Desert Ranch Road. 'First time', my ass."
It definitely seems like Gil and Warrick have met Ms. McCormick before. I really should have hunted down Warrick or Nick earlier and gotten more details on this case. I feel a little lost.
Gil and I leave the boys at the lab and head out to the McCormick place on Desert Ranch Road. We're let inside by some miscellaneous house staff member and asked to wait for the McCormick's. We're told they will be with us shortly.
I sit on some little bench, at least I assume it's a bench since it's padded, on the other hand maybe it's some funky piece of art. The McCormick's seem to have a minimalist, yet eclectic taste in decoration. I unclip my phone from my belt, needing something to do with my hands. I'm starting to get fidgety and jumpy. Maybe it's lack of rest, maybe it's the uncertainty running through my mind about what's happening with Eddie's case.
I want to call Nancy and check on Lindsey. See how's she doing. I know I'm going to have to explain to her why I wasn't there when she woke up. Why I didn't take her home and be there with her for this. But I'm not certain that Lindsey would understand my need to be active right now, to keep going and not let this get to me.
I also want to call Sara. Part of me wants to check up on the case. See how things are going and what leads she might have. But mostly I want to call her just to hear her voice. To maybe talk to her and have her tell me that I'm not going crazy, that maybe the confusion and anger I'm feeling are normal.
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