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


Part 56

"It's Thursday. You know what that means?"

I can't help but grin widely when I hear Sara's eager voice behind me. "I do. Where to this time?"

It was two months ago that she and I went out for drinks after determining that Mrs. Lambert had committed suicide and learning of Hank's other girlfriend. Since then, Sara and I have really been trying to reestablish our friendship. Once a week, Thursdays, we head out after shift and grab a meal or a drink, whichever we need more. If one of us has the day off, the one working will call when shift, and the unavoidable overtime, are finished for the day and we'll meet somewhere.

"Egg & I. It's on West Sahara."

Grabbing my purse and shutting my locker I turn to her, "You lead and I'll follow."

And so I find myself following Sara's Tahoe through morning traffic as we head to some obscure restaurant that she's picked for this week's after-shift "date". It's not really a date but I don't really know what else to call it. It's always just the two of us; she never invites any of the guys to come along. I try not to read too much into it that she actually avoids overtime so that we can go on out together.

Sometimes it's hard to not think of these outings as a date, especially days like today when shift has seemed extra long and draining and she comes to find me, sounding so excited about our breakfast. Maybe she's happy that we closed our case after three days, or maybe she's happy that shift ended at a decent hour for us tonight, or maybe she's as happy as I am that we are slowly becoming friends again. Whatever it is, for the spark in her eyes, the smile on her face, and the happiness in her voice, I'll take it.

Sara parks her Tahoe in a small parking lot next to an even smaller restaurant and I pull in next to her. Smiling widely, she waits for me to join her before heading into the restaurant and I can't help but wonder what really has her so happy today. I'd never complain about seeing her smile like this, but a full smile from Sara is so rare that I almost want to take the camera out of my kit and take a picture just so I'll have proof of it. The guys would never believe if I told them.

But if I told the guys, then I would have to explain these little "dates" we go on, and I'm not ready to share that with the guys. Right now it's something just between Sara and I, and I like it that way.

Sara leads me inside and to my surprise what I thought was a small, modest restaurant is actually bustling with activity and looks so full of customers that I'm not sure there's a place for us to sit. A waitress takes note of our arrival and scribbles an order on her pad before walking toward us. Sara holds up two fingers and the waitress simply nods her head in what I assume is an indication for us to follow her. Sara takes the lead again and soon we're sitting at a small table for two in a corner of the restaurant.

The menus are waiting for us at the table and Sara slides one over to me without even bothering to take one for her. Something tells me she's been here before.

"So," I say, breaking the silence, "why this place?"

Sara looks around the lively restaurant, taking in the busy staff and the loudly talkative customers before canting her head and asking me, "Why do you always chose those deli's and café's in the hotels on the strip?"

No longer surprised by the way she likes to answer a question with question it only takes me a brief moment to reply, "Other than the great food?" At her nod, I continue, "I like to watch the people."

"You like to watch the tourists," she corrects me. "You like to watch the tourists and wonder where they come from, where they're going, and what their story is. You wonder about their wives, their husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, children. You wonder what they do for a living and what they do for fun."

Knowing that she's right but not knowing what else to say, I remain silent and hope she'll continue and answer the question I asked. And I'm not disappointed when she answers a minute later.

"I come here, to this place and to the other 'off-strip' places for the same reasons." She smiles again before adding, "And the great food."

"I don't see any tourists here," I say with a quick look around. There are families and single people, businessmen and construction workers, cab drivers, and some casino dealers from the nearby Rio and Gold Coast casinos.

"They aren't the tourists, Cath, I am."

Confused, all I can come up with is, "What?"

"I live here, but not like these people do." She looks around the restaurant again, continuing, "Construction workers, casino dealers, these are people who have lived here probably all of their lives and certainly more than just the few years that I've been here."

"But you're not a tourist. Tourists come and go. You stayed," I point out, suddenly becoming worried. What if that smile means she's leaving? What if she was happy to be leaving a place that she never really felt like she fit in?

"I did stay, yes," she says, which only worries me more.

Why "did stay" and not "am staying"? Maybe I'm being paranoid. I hope Sara says something and it's only me being paranoid. Please let me be paranoid.

"But …"

Oh no. I don't like the sound of that.

"I still feel like a tourist," she finishes and I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding. She gestures toward the full restaurant, "These people are the life and breath of Las Vegas. These people are where the real stories are."

The waitress returns to our table and I realize I haven't even looked at the menu that is still sitting in front of me, untouched. She sets two glasses of water on the table and looks at Sara and then at me, expecting one of us to start with our order. I don't even know what is on the menu, much less what to order.

"Stack of blueberry pancakes for me," Sara says to the waitress, "and a southwest omelet, sausage, dry white toast for her. Two glasses of milk and a carafe of coffee, regular."

I don't know what's more surprising, that Sara ordered for me, or that the waitress didn't even bother to ask me if that was really what I wanted before she walks away from our table, still scribbling.

Noticing my surprised look, Sara explains, "You haven't even looked at your menu and if we didn't order it would have been at least another ten minutes before she came back and thirty on top of that before we got any food."

"And how do you know I want a southwest omelet?" I ask as I look down at the menu to find out what she ordered for me. Reading the ingredients, it does sound rather tasty.

"Because we've been doing this for a couple of months now and I know that you like a little flavor with your breakfast. Regular eggs aren't your style," she grins widely at me.

She's right of course, but that doesn't mean I can't tease her a little bit about it. I pretend to pout, "But what if I wanted french toast or those blueberry pancakes which sound so good?"

"Oh. Well … umm …"

"Don't worry Sidle," I say when she looks nervous and dismayed, "the southwest omelet sounds fabulous." She looks relieved until I try to sounds stern and add, "This time. But I'm taking a bite of those pancakes."


Part 57

Taking small sips of my coffee, I survey the destruction before me. When Sara ordered breakfast, it didn't sound like much, just a stack of pancakes and an omelet. But from the number of plates that were brought out to us and the amount of food still left, I'm almost certain that what she ordered could feed a family of four quite well. And there would still be some to take home.

"You should have warned me," I say, looking over all the food still left over.

"Warned you about what?" Sara asks innocently, the small smile on her lips giving away that she knows exactly what I mean.

"About all this food." I watch as that smile changes into a big grin. "You ordered pancakes, an omelet, sausage and toast. With all this food, we could have brought along Nick and Greg. And maybe even Warrick."

Sara's head is tilted to the side just a little, suggesting a hint of casualness. But her brow is ever so slightly wrinkled, indicating serious thought and the importance of her question. She is still grinning, but the lines around her mouth are tighter, showing the smile is now more forced. In less than thirty seconds, we've gone from joking with each other to something she obviously considers important and if she doesn't say it soon I'm going to develop a nervous twitch or something.

"What about Grissom?" Sara asks.

"What?!" My shock and surprise is obvious as I practically choke on my coffee. I expected some serious, maybe even philosophically deep question, and she asks about having Gil to breakfast with us?

Apparently it was not the reaction she expected but she hides a brief flash of unrecognizable emotion behind dark eyes and pursed lips. "No Grissom then."

"That didn't come out the right way," I say, not sure if I'm referring to my response or to her question. When she remains silent I continue, "It's just that I didn't expect that question."

Great recovery, Catherine, just great.

"You looked so completely serious," I say with a sigh when she continues to look at me silently. "You looked so serious. I didn't expect the next question you asked to be about Gil."

"Why not? You suggested that Nick and Greg and Warrick come to breakfast with us sometime. Why not Gil?" Sara looks hurt and I'm confused about where this conversation has gone.

"Whoa, whoa," I say, putting my hands up in defense of her rapidly changing mood. "I just meant that this place serves enough food that we could have fed everybody. I don't actually want them here."

And apparently that wasn't the right thing to say either. I can see her withdrawing from me with every word. Damn it. Sighing again I say, "Wait. That didn't come out right."

I seem to be doing that a lot this morning. Sara remains mute, clearly waiting for me to say something the right way. Her silent treatment is excruciating.

"Don't get me wrong, I really like the guys," I start. Her expression remains stiff and suddenly I feel nervous. "But I really like that this is just us."

I know that these aren't 'dates'. But the time I spend with Sara when it is just the two of us is special to me. I'm trying to give her time and not be pushy; I think that would scare her away. It's not easy. She withdrew even more when I gave the time she asked for after Eddie's death and I'm still not sure that we're anywhere close to where we were before I blew up in that interrogation room and then criticized the way Sara was handling things. The memory of my atrocious behavior still makes me wince.

"I like that we're trying this friendship thing again." I don't have the guts to tell her that I would like to be more than friends again. Choosing my words carefully I smile and say, "I've missed you Sara. I've missed our friendship. I don't want to just be colleagues. I want to be friends." My mind and heart are screaming how much I want to be more than friends, but I'm too chicken to say that.

Sara's tight, forced smile slowly transforms into an honest smile. Just a slight curling of her lips, but it's enough to give me hope that I can salvage what had been a promising Thursday morning until I opened my mouth and apparently said the wrong thing.

"I like that these Thursday outings are just the two of us," I forge ahead before she can say anything. "I like getting to know the real Sara again. I really have missed you, you know."

I swear, I think Sara is blushing under her smile. And it's probably the cutest thing I've ever seen an adult do. Nancy's right; I've really got to just bite the bullet or I will lose her.

"You miss me?" Sara questions hesitantly. For a moment I think she knows exactly what I mean until she covers up the slight showing of emotion by pointing out, "You see me almost every day."

"Seeing Sara Sidle, CSI, every day is very different from seeing Sara Sidle, woman," I say. I know that she's going to ask me what I mean even if she understands when I'm not sure that I do, so I continue without waiting for her to ask. "Sara, you're completely different outside the labs and away from work."

I think I've put my foot in my mouth yet again when she turns her eyes to me, looking wounded. I must be setting a new record as I'm beginning to lose count of how many times I've said the wrong thing this morning.

"Wait, maybe I should try that again," I say with a sigh. Reaching out across remnants of our breakfast, I take her hand in mine, hoping the small connection will help her understand what I'm trying to say even if I use the wrong words. "Sara, you are a sensible and logical woman. You think things through and you analyze them until you're certain you've reached the only logical conclusion. It's part of what makes you great at what you do. You pick everything apart until all that remains is the truth."

She's looking at our hands together and I can see her brow wrinkling. Maybe she's confused at why I'm holding her hand or maybe she's confused about how I can make her sound cold and heartless while tenderly holding her hand and looking at her as if she is my entire universe. Which, at this moment, she is.

"But away from work, you're one of the most amazing women I've ever met." She's about to scoff when I squeeze her hand tighter and continue, "When you let your guard down, you are one of the most deeply caring women I have ever met." I can sense her feeling uncomfortable and smiling broadly, I try to add a little humor, "I can cite specifics if you want."

Sara blushes slightly again as I continue, "Like how you go to see Brenda Collins at least once a week at her new foster home just to check on her, make sure she's okay, and to give her a little stability in her life and someone she knows she can count on." Sara's eyes open wide in surprise as I go on, "And I know that you also go to see Pam Adler at Haven View at least once a month."

Taking a breath, I forge ahead quietly, "And you are almost as protective of Lindsey as I am. You were always considerate of her and her feelings when we dated, so unlike any of the men I've dated. I think Lindsey misses you almost as much as I do."

Sara opens her mouth as if to say something when the irritating sound of a cell phone breaks the moment. I release her hand as we both reach for the offending device. I see the lab's number on my caller I.D. display and can't help but sigh heavily as I know exactly what this means.

"I'm sorry Sara," I say as I reach for my wallet to drop a few bills on the table. Sara doesn't look disappointed at all and I can't tell if that's because she is relieved to get away from this conversation or if she is just as resigned to our work schedules as I am and knows this is unavoidable. "I'm on call today and it looks like I've got a 419."

I hate to leave things like this, but it doesn't look like Sara is going to say anything. Reaching for her hand one more time before I turn to leave I tell her softly, "I miss you Sara."

Sara remains totally silent as I turn to leave the restaurant and head back to the labs cursing the day supervisor for his bad timing.


Part 58

I find myself back at the lab far too soon for my liking. It doesn't help knowing that Sara gets to go home to a nice cozy bed after a long shift and get some rest, something I desperately need but can't seem to find the time for.

One of the day shift crew decided to cut loose and retire and while Ecklie searches for a replacement he has offered up the hours for overachievers, insomniacs, or the desperate. And when there isn't one of those available, he randomly picks someone from either second or third shift to cover. I'm taking the hours on the basis of desperation and in the past few weeks have probably been paired up at least once with every CSI in the building.

After changing once more in the locker room, I head over to Ecklie's office to find out where my scene is and try to get this double over as soon as I can. If I'm lucky, I can clear the scene with enough time left to catch an hour or two nap before coming back for my own shift.

I find Ecklie in his office, looking for all the world like he has nothing to do but straighten his tie and make sure the pencils on his desk are sharpened to a perfect point. I know that he got to be supervisor by schmoozing the Sheriff and other politics, but he could at least have the decency to work a case or two when things are backed up. One of these days his shift is going to be so over-stressed that we'll come in for graveyard and find him slumped over his desk, stabbed by those perfectly pointed pencils. Prick.

Chuckling unprofessionally at the image I clear my throat to get his attention.

"Ah, Willows, I didn't know you were on call this morning," he says looking smug.

I call bullshit since he knows perfectly well exactly who is on call every day. It's one of his few responsibilities as day shift supervisor. I change the scenario in my head to finding him with his tie so straightened and tight around neck that his face is blue and his eyes bulging out.

Stifling another chuckle, I try to get straight to the point, "What's my assignment Ecklie?"

Ecklie ignores my question and leans forward on his desk, doing his best to look concerned. What he really looks is constipated. "How's Lindsey doing these days, Catherine? I know things are rough right now."

His false concern is nauseating. He knows one of the primary reasons things are rough is because I've been spending too much time working and not enough time raising my daughter. I lie, "She's doing very good Conrad."

Ecklie sits back and laces his fingers together under his chin, looking mightily pleased with himself. "Good," he smiles and his tone turns serious, "because we're a family here Catherine, and I want you to know that if you need anything, you can always come to me."

I feel a shudder down my spine at the lecherous look Ecklie gives me and my urge to get out of here has increased tenfold. "Yeah Conrad," I say with a fake smile, knowing full well he'd have to be the last person left on earth for me turn to for help. And probably not even then. Trying to get this conversation back on track, I quickly add. "You have a DB for me?"

He frowns a little and reaches forward, picking up a slip of paper from his desk and holding it out for me. "Henderson. Husband found dead in the garage. Brown will meet you there," Ecklie says, giving me some hope. He looks disappointed that I don't want to continue our little tête-à-tête, but hands over the slip without another word.

I take the slip and silently leave his office, thankful that at least I'm working with someone that I'm familiar with, someone who is comfortable with the way I work.

Pulling these double shifts has shown me how well all of us on the graveyard shift work together. We've found a rhythm and often don't need to talk to know what needs to be done and who will be doing it. Often the only talk at a graveyard scene is putting the evidence into context and theorizing about what happened or completely unrelated banter.

Working with someone from one of the other shifts always takes longer; there are questions of who will process the body or the perimeter, who will photograph what, where is this or where is that, and dozens of other questions that don't need to be asked after working closely with someone for years. There have been slight arguments over who the lead CSI on a scene is, usually resorting to pulling some sort of rank or seniority.

I remember there was one blonde CSI from dayshift that was particularly abrasive and strutting with superiority who kept talking to herself while working the scene. After that one time I think she specifically requested not to work with me again because despite the numerous doubles and overtime I've been pulling and having worked with a lot of the CSIs more than once, I've never worked another scene with her.

Pulling out of the lab parking lot, I realist that I'll be lucky to catch the tail end of the morning rush and make good time out to Henderson. Pushing the uneasy conversation with Ecklie out of my mind, I try to focus on breakfast with Sara instead.

The conversation took a weird turn and the mood totally changed when we talked about having the guys to breakfast. I was just making a joke about the amount of food we were served and how it could have fed both Sara and I and some of the guys too. But she looked seriously hurt when I said I didn't want Grissom there. I think I backpedaled enough to fix my mistake when I told her that I liked it just being us, but there was something about her reaction to the mention of Grissom that really has me puzzled.

Either I made good time or I didn't realize how wrapped up in my thoughts I was as I turn onto a street in Henderson lined with cop cars. I see a Tahoe parked near the house at the end of the block and I pull up next to it. I see O'Riley talking to a woman who looks a cross between uninterested and angry. From the stiff way he is standing and taking notes I can tell that he is losing his patience and that's not a good sign for the way this case is going to go.

Working my way through the house I open the door to the garage to find one of Doc Robbins' assistants kneeling over a body and Warrick standing nearby taking photos of the body in position before it's moved for the assistant to take the liver temperature and move the body off to the morgue. Warrick nods slightly as I set my case on the floor by the door and take a look at the scene.

This guy has converted his garage into his own den, probably an escape from the angry woman outside talking to O'Riley. His set up includes a reclining chair, television with cable, and a mini-fridge. From the amount of aluminum cans littering the space around the chair, I'd guess the mini-fridge was once full of cheap beer but that this guy ingested quite a bit of it before he died.

From the awkward positioning, it looks as if this guy literally fell out his chair. Or was pushed. There's a spilled can of beer inches from his hand, so he was probably drinking whenever this happened. The TV is on a sports channel with the volume muted.

"Apparently you could hear that halfway down the block. Responding officer muted it after he checked the pulse," Warrick says when he looks up from his camera and sees me looking at the TV.

"Replay of the UNLV game in its final minutes. Could be he was watching the beginning of the game and got too rowdy for the wife or neighbors," I say, looking toward the coroner's assistant to see if he's got the body temperature yet.

"Not a bad guess," the assistant says. "Just above 95, he's probably been dead just about three hours. The final report will tell you more."

"COD?" I ask as the assistant repositions the body to prepare him for the trip to the morgue.

"Nothing confirmed," he says with a small smile; we both know he can't confirm cause of death and if even if he could he certainly wouldn't be able to do so at the scene without an autopsy. "He took quite a thump to the head, but offhand it doesn't look like there's enough blood here to be the cause of death. I'd say the blood is postmortem, but happened almost immediately after his heart stopped."

"Thanks," I say with what I hope is a warm smile. The assistant blushes slightly and immediately looks back to the body mumbling something that sounds like 'you're welcome' though I can't quite be sure.

"Cheap beer, loud game, angry wife," Warrick says as the assistant packs up his thermometer and head out to his van to get a body bag and gurney.

Warrick moves around the small garage, taking pictures of the workbench and assorted tools. I like his theory, but it's never as easy as that. Even when it's easy to figure out what happened, it's much harder to gather the evidence the district attorney needs to prosecute beyond a reasonable doubt. There's plenty enough empty beer cans that he could have died of alcohol poisoning. There is also dozens of tools that could have been used, various chemicals, and it's even a possibility that he actually did die of natural causes.

I grab a few bags from my kit and Warrick photographs the location of each can before I bag and tag them. The assistant comes back with a rookie police officer to help him get the body on the gurney just as I'm bagging can number fifteen. With the body gone Warrick moves to take the last of the photos of the scene as I put the last five cans in separate bags.

It's going to be a long day.


Part 59

O'Riley stops in briefly to tell us that the woman I saw him talking to was indeed the wife of our victim. She has priors for spousal abuse and he has suspicions from her behavior that she was involved in her husband's death; after today it will probably take a court order to get her to cooperate with us. After this little revelation Warrick and I decide that we had better bag and tag everything we can before she "inadvertently" destroys any evidence.

It takes a few hours, but Warrick and I have photographed and bagged nearly every single inch in the garage; if it could fit in an evidence bag or container, it is going back to the lab with us. It's hard to discern what might be evidence and what is just miscellaneous garage junk, so everything in sight: chemicals, tools, beer cans, scrap wood, everything we could find room for in evidence bags is now sitting in the back of both of our Tahoes and ready to go back to the lab.

"What do you say we just log this in and call it a day?" Warrick asks as we put the last of the bags in his Tahoe.

"I say that sounds like a great plan," I tell him with a smile. "It's been a long shift and I'm ready to go home."

"No big plans for today?" Warrick tries to ask nonchalantly, but I can tell he's up to something.

Thinking back, I realize that it's been a long time since we've gone out for coffee or a meal after a shift. We used to spend that time forgetting about work and getting to know each other as people not just coworkers. The hours spent together outside of work is really how we became good friends and such good partners when we work a scene together. I've been neglecting my friendship with Warrick and much as I hate to, I'm going to neglect it for one more day. I'm just too tired today to try to explain in thirty minutes or less everything that is happening in my life outside of work, and I can tell from the way he's looking at me that he's worried about me.

His worry turns into a look of hurt when I unlock my Tahoe saying, "My plans include a hot shower and some sleep. I'll see you back at the lab."

Driving back to the lab, I dismiss Warrick's question as something I'll have to deal with later. He's more than just a partner; he's a good friend. I know I could really use his advice and I miss him.

For the last few hours work has provided a distraction and enabled me to forget about my conversation with Sara at breakfast earlier. Now without that diversion, my mind slips back to that strange look of hurt in her eyes at the mention of Grissom.

I know that Sara and Gil have some sort of strange connection or friendship that really defies explanation. My mother would say "two peas in a pod". I remember once trying to foster the connection they had and essentially telling Gil to forget the rules about how the boss shouldn't date an employee and go for it. He ordered her a plant and that was all that was as far as he would go. For once, I'm grateful that Gil is too inept to do anything about what is right in front of him. His blindness to what is right in front of him is my blessing.

Once again I arrive at my destination on autopilot without really remembering the drive. There are more cars than usual in the parking lot at the lab and I check the clock, noticing that it's time for shift change. I know my concentration is shot today, but it doesn't feel like Warrick and I were in Henderson long enough for shift to be over already.

I could really use a good solid eight hours of sleep to get me back on my feet, but I know that I'll be extremely lucky to catch three or four hours. If I get home in time, I can have dinner with Lindsey for the first time in two weeks. And then if she hasn't already finished it, I might even be able to help her with her homework. Lately it feels as if I've only been pretending to be a mother to Lindsey and I can tell she feels it too.

I miss spending time with the little girl who would smile when I took her out for ice cream and the girl I watched cartoon movies with until she fell asleep in my lap. The little girl who would chatter incessantly about things I'm 'too old to understand' but she would tell me anyway. The little girl who had a crush on Tommy Lewis and was so embarrassed when she had to kiss him in the school play.

She's getting a little rebellious; raising her voice and doing the opposite of what I tell her. At first I thought it was typical pre-teenager stuff but over the past few weeks her school has called four times about her anger and acting out in class. She's even been fighting with other students. That's not my Lindsey. I've been spending so little time with her that I'm not even sure who my Lindsey is anymore.

I'm startled out of my thoughts when I hear a tap on my window. Turning, I see Warrick with a file folder in one hand and a concerned look in his eyes. Checking the clock again, I realize that I've been sitting in the parking lot, engine running and completely lost in thought for a good ten minutes. Warrick steps back and opens the door for me with his free hand as I turn the keys and kill the engine. "Sorry. Must be more tired today than I realized."

"You pulled in right after me and you've been sitting out here for ten minutes. Is everything alright?"

"Yeah Warrick," I say with a sigh. At least it's not a complete lie when I repeat, "Just really tired today."

"Yeah?" Obviously he knows me to well to be convinced.

"Yeah," I say putting my hand on his shoulder and offering a warm smile to put him at ease. Heading to the back of the truck, I ask, "Help me with this?"

"I'll get this," he offers, "you go on home."

"I've got to go inside anyway, so I might as well lug some of this stuff to the evidence vault," I tell him as I open the doors and reach in for one of the evidence bags. The bag I pull out contains a jar of green fluid; I suspect that it's radiator coolant. Really the only unconfirmed substance at the scene, I want to get this little mason jar of fluid logged in and processed as soon as the lab guys can get to it.

Warrick leads the way inside and toward the evidence vault, asking, "Any guesses on what our mystery liquid is?"

With a teasing smirk I say, "Green liquid found in a garage? Come on Warrick, don't you remember Crime Scene Chem 101? Ethyl glycol."

Chuckling as we reach our destination, Warrick peeks inside and says, "There's no one in the evidence vault. I guess we're still between shifts."

I just want to get home and see my daughter and catch a little sleep. "Yeah, well, we'll log it in tomorrow."

"You know, O'Riley interviewed the victim's wife," Warrick says as we continue walking toward one of the lab rooms.

"Yeah," I mumble, recalling O'Riley had told us of the priors and that she likely would not be allowing us back on the scene without a court order. That's why we spent hours there and bagged everything in sight and why I'm so tired now.

"She said her husband was in the garage drinking and just 'done fell over'." Warrick must have found some time to talk to O'Riley again while I was in the parking lot spacing out, because that is a piece of information that I don't remember O'Riley mentioning.

Placing the mason jar of liquid under the fume hood for safe-keeping I roll my eyes and say, "Oh, the ever popular DFO. Right up there with the 'mysterious dude' defense."

As we head toward the sign-out sheet at the front desk to officially call it a day, he continues the shop talk and asks, "You thinking poison?"

"I wouldn't be surprised. Wife had two priors for spousal abuse. Seems pretty straight up to me."

"Well, that would be nice; an easy case."

"Yeah." I couldn't agree more.

"These double-ups are killing me." I'm beginning to think Warrick is keeping this conversation going with a specific purpose in mind.

I nod, "Although I'll take it when I can get it." Signing the logbook with a small sigh I say, "These nannies do not work cheap."

Warrick takes one last look at the case file before handing it to the clerk behind the reception desk and asks, "Yeah, how is Lindsey by the way?"

We walk back toward the parking lot and I want to say not good at all and that I don't know how to deal with her, but instead I just sigh and explain part of the problem, "She got caught fighting at school."

"Lindsey? Fighting?" Warrick seems surprised, and I have to admit, I was too when the school called.

Lindsey fighting just doesn't fit with the Lindsey who was the princess in the school play only months ago. The school tells me that they have set up a time during the school day for some kind of psychologist to come in and talk to Lindsey. I tried to get details on who this person was, but the secretary at the school said that she doesn't know who the psychologist is since they aren't school staff; apparently it's an outside psychologist that Lindsey seems to be really comfortable talking with.

And, of course, they can't discuss what Lindsey and this psychologist talk about. Not like I don't have a good idea anyway. She lost her dad and now I'm working more than ever and barely have time to be with her when she needs me. I know she needs me now and I just feel so stretched and pulled between Lindsey and work and this thing with Sara that I don't seem to have the time or energy to be there for her. I'm a horrible mother.

"Ah, she lost her dad, you know. She's just having a hard time," I tell him, carefully avoiding saying anything about the problems Lindsey is having with her mom too.

"Uh Cath?"

I turn to look at Warrick and he seems nervous, like he's unsure of how to say something and I'm reminded again that I've neglected our friendship. Months ago, he wouldn't have hesitated to say whatever was on his mind. He would have carefully found a way to say it without being outright blunt, but he wouldn't have been so nervous to talk openly with his good friend. I seem to be neglecting a lot of people lately.

"Have you thought of taking her to talk to someone?"

Sighing, I tell him, "The school set something up for her."

"Who is it?" Warrick asks as we near my car.

"Actually I don't know." At Warrick's surprised look I explain, "I didn't know anything about it until last week. And I've been pulling overtime and doubles so much lately that I haven't had a chance to talk to someone at the school who can actually give me useful information."

"Maybe when you get home you can …" Warrick trails off as he checks his watch and realizes that it's late enough now that no one will be at the school. With a small frown he continues, "Well, maybe tomorrow."

With another tired sigh, I say, "That's what the last month has been, Warrick. A series of 'maybe tomorrow's. Maybe tomorrow I'll have time to see Lindsey. Maybe tomorrow I'll have time to call her school. Maybe tomorrow Lindsey will stop this little rebellion."

Maybe tomorrow I'll wake up and everything will be okay again.


Part 60

"Mom," Lindsey says, shaking my shoulder to wake me from some much needed sleep. This had better be good. "Mom, get up. Mr. Grissom is on the phone."


My daughter thrusts the phone into my hands before stomping out of the room. Apparently she's still mad at me for not letting her stay over at a friend's on a school night. At least she's talking to me now, even if it is just to wake me up because I've got to go to work.

I think I mumble a greeting into the phone, already headed toward my closet to pull out some clothes. Glancing at the clock on my nightstand, I notice that my normal shift would start in only three hours. Gil knows that I've been pulling a lot of doubles lately and if he's calling me in early I can only guess that I'm going to be in for a long night.


"Yeah Gil?" I force myself to sound more awake than I really am, but that doesn't stop me from sounding irritated at the unwelcome wakeup call.

"I need you here now."

I don't even have the chance to ask what's going on before I hear the telltale click of Gil hanging up on me. I hate when he does that. I hate it even more when I'm not fully awake. Saying a sarcastic "goodbye" into the now dead phone, I set the phone down and head to the bathroom for a quick shower.

Minutes later, feeling much more awake, I dress quickly and grab the phone to call Lindsey's nanny to babysit for the night. Jen surprises me by telling me that she is on her way over and that she'll be at my place in less than two minutes.

Lindsey is still mad at me, Gil was more abrupt than usual, and Jen appears to have psychic abilities now. With less than three hours of sleep, my day is definitely not off to a good start.

"Lindsey?" I call out as I leave the bedroom, surprised that for once I can't hear her stereo blaring the latest teen pop sensation throughout the house. Lately she's taken to turning up her stereo obnoxiously loud when she's mad at me, probably hoping that I'll give in to whatever she wants at the moment just to stop the noise so that I can get some sleep. I guess she hasn't yet figured out that despite her best efforts to assault my ears with out of tune teen pop whining, I have learned tune out that so-called music and get some rest.

"Downstairs," she yells, letting me know where to find her.

At the bottom of the stairs, I find her slumped on the couch looking bored and flipping through the television stations.

"Lindsey I …"

"Got to go to work," she finishes for me. "I know."

"How did you know?" I ask, coming around the couch to sit next to her until Jen gets here.

"Mr. Grissom called." Lindsey says in that 'duh mom' tone that I'm beginning to hate. "And besides, it's all over the news," To demonstrate she turns to one of the local news stations. I can't tell exactly what is happening, and the commentary from the reporter is only telling me the obvious.

There are police cars, fire engines, and ambulances parked haphazardly in the CSI lot. Normally seeing the rescue cars in our lot isn't a big deal, but then again, they are never in our lot with their lights flashing and rescue personnel running around like this. I can't see what is happening and the reporter doesn't have any helpful information.

No wonder Gil was so abrupt. I need to get there now.

"Lindsey?" I question, looking between the television and my daughter. I'm already halfway to the door before she bothers to lift her head up and look at me. "Jen will be here really soon, but I've got to go right now. Be good until she gets here, okay?"

The door shuts behind me and I don't hear Lindsey's response, if she ever bothered to give one. I don't hear any news of what is happening at the lab on the radio despite the fact that I'm stabbing at the buttons so hard that it feels like they might break off.

The road to the lab is blocked off by some patrol officers and just a little farther up the road I can see a hazmat van. That's not good at all.

I dig around in the center console for me CSI badge when I see one of the officers step directly in my path to keep me from moving forward. He steps to the side of my truck as I come to a stop.

"Can't go through ma'am," he says politely.

"CSI," I say as I hold my ID out for him to inspect. "Hazmat?"

Officer Polite hands my ID back to me and waves to his buddy that I get to pass, answering, "I don't know ma'am. I was just told not to let anyone in."

"Thanks," I say, already putting the truck in gear and heading slowly up to the lab. If hazmat is here, whatever is going on up there is bad, very bad. The lab has a lot of chemicals that are very dangerous if not used properly. I've been thinking non-stop since I left the house about what could have happened at the lab, but I never thought of something involving hazmat. This is definitely bad.

I clip my badge onto my jeans and park the truck out on the road so that it's out of the way of any departing ambulances or fire engines. Or any incoming hazardous materials vans.

Outside the lab is chaos. Bewildered techs wandering around with uneasy steps and dazed looks of shock; firemen are running in and out of the lab in full gear; EMTs shouting to each other over the dull roar of diesel engines. Such a scene has never taken place here. We might be accustomed to dealing with such pandemonium, but not here in this place. The lab was always a safe refuge.

Walking slowly closer to the lab, I watch as more firemen come out of the building followed by some EMTs pushing a gurney. It's someone lying on his side; blonde-streaked hair in styled disarray. Oh shit. That's Greg.

What the hell happened here?

Stunned I stop and look for Gil as the ambulance with Greg pulls away. I know Gil will be here, I just have to find him amidst the crowd of lab and rescue personnel. Turning I don't find Gil, but I do find Sara. Oh no. No, no, no.

She looks as stunned as everyone else as she sits slumped on the curb, her left hand cradled in her lap. She's hurt; I see scratches on her face and from the way she isn't moving her hand, that must be injured too. She doesn't see me as I quickly move toward her. But I'm not as quick as Gil, who seems to have appeared from nowhere.

I stop dead in my tracks again when Gil squats down and gently turns Sara's hand in his. Sara is still in shock as she looks up to him. Gil calls out to an EMT as my heart sinks to my stomach and it becomes impossible to breathe.

This can't be happening. She can't have just looked at him like that. No, no, no.

Part 61

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