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You work it out
As I prepare for bed that night there are two thoughts running through my head. One is that Catherine said, "you work it out," therefore there must be something to work out. Something that she didn't want to tell me directly. The second thought is more of a feeling really - amazement that Catherine was able to see so much about me. I wonder, then, if she'd worked out my secret long ago, or if it had taken my challenge to prompt her to solve the puzzle.
I am a logical person, sometimes embarrassingly so, so I decide on a logical response to her challenge. I lay in bed in my pj's, with a note pad and pen in hand.
Step 1 - Define the question
That's easy, I think. "For what reason would Catherine notice so much about me?"
Step 2 - Formulate hypotheses. What are the possible answers?
Step 3 - What evidence would let me evaluate the validity of these hypotheses.
I bet Catherine didn't use an approach like this. She seems more the intuitive type. Okay, step 2. Hypotheses.
1. Catherine is super-intuitive - she is this observant with everyone.
2. Catherine cheated, she actually knew the truth from Googling my name. She only linked the facts to my behaviour afterwards.
3. Basically the same as hypothese 2, but she found out the truth from illicit checking on law enforcement databases.
4. Catherine isn't that observant. The truth is obvious to everyone I work with.
5. Catherine watches me specifically; reason unknown.
I really hope it's not option 2 or 3, and not just because it would mean Catherine had lied to me, and possibly breached protocal on system access. I hope not because it actually feels good knowing that she made the effort to look beyond the surface with me. I don't want Catherine to have cheated in that.
Step 3, assessing my hypotheses.
How do I test number 1? I can't exactly wander round the office asking if Catherine is super insightful and able to spot secrets in a single glance. The guys would know for sure that something was up.
Number 3 wouldn't be that hard, I could look into the logs on my fathers case. The system keeps tabs on the user ID's of those who access it. Of course that would be as much a breach of protocol as if Catherine had looked it up. It feels wrong.
Number 2 could be checked by hacking into her computed and checking the history, but that would be even more wrong.
I think I'll just have to believe Catherine and trust that hypotheses 2 & 3 are false.
Number 4 could be absurdly easy to test, and yet not so. All I have to do is ask someone else if they know my deepest darkest secrets. God, I hope not. The main challenge is to ask without giving away the reason for asking. Tricky.
Hypothesis number 5 just doesn't seem very likely. Maybe I should leave testing it til last?
I put the pen and pad back in their usual spot by the bed and turn out the light. My last conscious thought before sleep is "Catherine wouldn't tell anyone, would she?"
In the morning I have a toilet revelation. How many times has that happened, sitting with my pants round my ankles when inspiration strikes.
The revelation? I don't need to test # 1, I already know the answer. If Catherine were "super-sleuth" girl then she would have known the truth about so many of our suspects. The kidnapping guy who fooled us, Andrew Melton's spouse abuse.
Okay, 1 theory down, 2 & 3 I'm taking on trust, only 4 & 5 to go.
Towards the end of my shift I'm working with Greg reconstructing shredded documents. We're at the ironing stage, trying to flatten the shreds in preparation for putting the pieces together. It's a pretty mindless task, and I've been listening to Greg babbling for the last 20 minutes about what a great job he's doing. Then I get an idea on how I can test hypothese 4.
"Greg?" I interrupt.
"You're doing fine on cases, don't worry."
"Really?" He looks so thrilled that I feel slightly guilty. It's true, but I'd only said it as a ploy to change the subject. Maybe I should be more supportive of my colleagues. That could wait though, back to my plan.
"Yeah, you really are. Just don't let it go to your head. Hey, this ironing sucks. I have a whole wardrobe full of clothes that deliberately don't need ironing, now look at me. Let's liven things up."
"How?" Suddenly Greg's eyes gleam. "I know! What could be more fun than naked ironing?"
I look him up and down, pausing at waist level. "Doesn't look like it'd be that fun for me." When will he grow out of blushing? It makes him seem such a kid. "Better idea. Let's play a game. Truth or dare?"
Greg holds up the iron. "How many dares can we do while working?"
"Okay, just truth then." I'm figuring that while I do run the risk of him asking embarrassing questions I can also count on his curiousity; there's no way he'd skip asking about my past if he suspects or knows anything.
"Alright, me first!" Great, he's going for it. "Have you ever fantasised about me in the shower?"
"Ew, Greg. No!"
"Oh well, a guy can wish."
"That is so sad. I'm definitely not asking that question back again." I'm struggling to think of questions. "Do you still have your teddy bear?"
He blushes. Score one for me. "Ted's on a shelf, not the bed. I'm the sensitive type."
I can't help but laugh, Sensitive isn't the first word that comes to mind when I think of Greg. More like horny teenager.
"My turn again. How old were you when you first kissed a boy?"
Okay, this is a bit embarrassing. "College." Greg stares at me. "Science geek, remember. And the boys at high-school were so juvenile."
"Wow, late bloomer much!"
"Okay," I want to stop him laughing. "Have you ever kissed a boy?"
Greg goes unexpectedly red, and stares intently at the paper strips he's ironing.
"Come on, you have to answer. Besides, a sensitive new-age guy should feel comfortable with his masculinity."
"Okay, yeah, in high school. Spin the bottle, one of the jocks decided to embarrass the science geek. Made me kiss the class clown." He's still looking down at the table for a bit longer, then grins again. "Have you ever kissed a girl?"
"Nope, I was too busy being a nerd to play spin the bottle."
"You've never played spin the bottle?"
I shake my head. Is it really so hard to believe?
There's an evil grin of Greg's face. "Maybe we'll have to add that to the list for the next Christmas party. Who knows, it might stop at Grissom."
"What, I thought you had a thing for Grissom?"
I can't help but laugh. "Any 'thing' I had for Grissom was purely intellectual."
"So you never fantasised about the boss in the shower?"
"No, what is it about you and shower fantasies? And besides, it's my turn to ask a question. You've just asked three."
"Okay, so you've got three now."
I see Catherine walking along the corridor, then pause at the door. "Are you guys having fun there?"
I feel a bit guilty about not paying full attention to the ironing, but Greg doesn't seem worried. "We're playing truth or... truth. Wanna play? I've just discovered that Sara's never played spin the bottle."
"And you still have your teddy bear," I retaliate.
"I think I'd be a bit boring for your game." Catherine says. "My past is pretty much an open book anyway."
"Greg's questions have been leaning more towards which colleagues you fantasise about in the shower."
Catherine starts slightly, "I'd better go, work to do."
Then she's gone. And I'm wondering whether I just imagined a blush on her cheeks as she left.
So, after a fairly long game, which kind of ended up more of a "getting to know you" session, I know two things.
One is that Greg, for all his occasional juvenile machismo, is actually a pretty nice guy.
The other is that he doesn't have a clue about my past. It was a close shave though, if he'd asked when I lost my virginity rather than when I slept with a guy I'm not sure what I would have said. As it was I managed to tell him about my first college boyfriend, a fellow science geek who was normally more interested in textbooks than sex.
So, I think I can remove option 4 from the list. My history isn't obvious to all that meet me.
Which leaves hypothesis 5 Catherine watches me.
Which seems unlikely. Maybe there is another option I haven't considered? But I can't think of more hypotheses. Maybe I need to think more about this one. The watching would just be a fact, it wouldn't explain why.
I revert to my logical type, making a list.
Why would Catherine watch me?
5.1 Someone has asked her to watch me. Who?
5.2 She doesn't trust me, and is waiting for me to fuck up.
5.3 ... ?
How do I work this out? There has to be some kind of evidence. But all I come up with is that if I had someone I trusted I could get them to watch Catherine watching me and see what they thought. Which is a pointless idea, because who would do that?
Nick interrupts my musings.
"Sara, we've got a 416 at a residence in Henderson. You with me?"
I grab my kit and jacket and am on my way out the door when I notice the security cameras and inspiration strikes I don't need a secret someone to watch Catherine, all I need is access to this camera footage. It might cost me a few coffees but I know the night-shift security guy would be happy to do me a favour.
We're nearly at the crime scene when I remember a question that's been niggling at me ever since Catherine told me my life story.
"Can I ask you something? But you can't ask why I want to know."
"You can ask, no guarantee I'll be able to answer."
"Okay, this probably seems a bit weird but... if you had to talk to someone at work, about something private that you didn't want other people to know, who would you talk to?"
"Hypothetical question, right?"
"Catherine, no questions."
I feel a weight lift from my shoulders. "Why Catherine?"
"Well, Grissom's not great with personal stuff. Work issues no problem, but other stuff he tunes out. Greg is the gossip queen. Warrick would tease you about stuff until you regretted ever mentioning it. And, uh..." he glances across at me, his hesitation obvious. "You're kind of like Grissom, but not so dismissive. You're not really approachable. Catherine though; easy to talk to, gives good advice, would never break a confidence."
"You say that as if you've had first hand experience?"
"I do, Catherine knows stuff about me that no-one else needs to know?"
This sounds familiar. "What happened? She guessed your deepest darkest secrets?"
Nick looks at me quizically. "Guessed? Hell no. There was just a time when I needed to talk to someone. She asked the right questions. Plus, you know, she'd fight tooth and nail for any of the guys on our team."
"Any of you guys, sure. I don't think she'd bother if it were my arse on the line. She still thinks of me as the intruder who investigated her buddy Warwick."
"No way Sara, you've got that all wrong. I admit, there was a time when she resented you, but I think that's long past. And lets face it, at the time you were looking into Warrick he had a problem. We all knew that. It was just instinct to protect him from someone we considered an outsider. That was years ago, there's water under all our bridges since then. I've heard Catherine defend you when one of the day shift techs was slanging you."
Yeah, really." As we've been speaking we've pulled up outside a nice looking suburban house. "Now lets check out this scene."
It's not until the next day that I'm able to put my latest plan into action. It's a quiet shift, and we've all been reviewing evidence on old cases; between cases I have slipped away to security, and coerced the guard into letting me watch some of the surveillance tapes from the last few days.
I have to admit that I am still puzzled by Catherine's challenge. And as I watched the tapes I became more puzzled, because it became increasing clear that Catherine did watch me. She'd turn and look after me when I walked past, or if I was talking with a colleague she'd slow down as she walked past. None of this helped me work out why she would watch me.
The most peculiar thing that I see on the tapes is that often, after walking past me, Catherine would have a little smile on her face.
I've been puzzling away at this for days. There haven't been any more lists of hypotheses and tests, because I honestly can't think of any logical reason to explain her surveillance of me, or the way it makes her smile.
Then I find another note:
Does this mean you've given up?
I'm too stubborn to admit that I can't work it out, so pretend that I'm still "working" her puzzle.
Would you like a progess report?
Breakfast tomorrow, same place as before.
Wonder how this'll pan out.
This breakfast is like an eery reflection of the first we're even sitting at the same table as last time. This time however we've ordered actual food, and we even start eating before Catherine starts the conversation.
"So, Sara, did you work it out?"
She seems different this morning, though I can't quite work out why. I arrived before her, and wondered for a while if she'd make it at all. When she did I get here I noticed that she'd changed shirts. Also, she's been watching me intently since she ordered.
I pull my "Catherine" file from my bag and put it on the table.
"I'm not quite there yet, but I'm definitely getting there." I'm bluffing, yes I've gotten somewhere with my investigation, but I'm stuck now.
"Alright," Catherine leant back. "What have you got?"
I pull out my list of hypotheses. "I came up with a few theories."
"Theories," She's grinning now, and I'm not quite sure why. "Okay, fill me in."
"They're all on the list," I turn it round so she can see, "I eliminated the ones where you actually found out from some other source because I trust your word. The others were eliminated by observation or by sneaky conversation with work-mates."
"Sneaky conversation?" The grin has gotten bigger, which I would have thought was impossible. "Such as your truth or truth game with Greg?"
"So, did he ever find out who you fantasise about in the shower?"
"Catherine, what makes you think I'm the shower fantasy type? Look at my disastrous romantic history, add the fact that, Hank aside, I may as well have been a nun since I moved to this town. My showers are actually about getting clean."
"Okay, let's not get diverted." She looks a little disappointed.
"Alright, well to cut a long story short, I've worked out that you seem to watch me. Apparently a lot more closely than I ever noticed. I can't work out why though."
"You can't work it out?"
"Well I thought that would be obvious. Otherwise I'd probably be gloating!"
"Do you want some clues?"
"That might help."
"Okay, let's see." I can practically see the gears turning in her head as she thinks about what to say. "How about, I'm the only person in the lab who noticed when you got a haircut? Or, sometimes we get on great, then other times I snap your head off for no apparent reason."
This isn't helping me at all, and it must show.
"Didn't you ever get teased by some boy at school, then when you told your mom she said it meant he liked you?"
"My mother? I don't think so." I can see the moment she realises what she's said. "Catherine, you're then only person in the state of Nevada who knows how unlikely it is my mother would say something like that. Hell, you're the only person since I left Tamales Bay."
"I'm sorry," she reaches for my hand. "I didn't think. It seems like that's just one of those things that mothers around the world say to their kids. A ritual of growing up."
I squeeze her hand. "I missed a lot of those 'rituals'. At age thirteen I discovered that screaming, yelling and broken bones weren't actually normal. But I think it was a bit too late by then. You know, my school report cards, I always got such great marks for science and math. But I always got unsatisfactory or needs improvement for social skills. I'm sure a psychologist would have a field day, diagnose borderline sociopathy and blame my childhood."
"Psychology?" Catherine looks me in the eye and raises one eyebrow. "Are you branching out Sidle, I thought it was strictly forensics texts in your spare time?" She's trying to lighten the mood, and I appreciate her effort.
"You know, during that Tammy Felton case, or Melissa Marlowe, when the psychologist was talking about her childhood and saying it could have made her psychopathic, it made me think about myself. Made me wonder whether maybe I could be as bad as she is? So I read some books. Didn't get any answers though."
I'm not really sure what's gotten into me, I'd normally never say something like this.
"Sara, you are nothing like that woman. Sure, your past may make it harder for you to relate to people sometimes. But do you know the difference between you and her?"
I'm slowly shaking my head, because I can't see any difference.
"You keep reaching out to people. You care, sometimes too much. You see things you don't understand, and you reach out to them, strive to comprehend. Those things would make a sociopath angry, not curious."
Dare I believe her? Is the answer really so simple? I know that I'll need time to think about this, so I change the subject.
"This conversation is supposed to be about you, not me."
"So, you're saying that if someone's mean to you it means they like you?"
"It can do.
"You like me?"
She looks less certain now, and she swallows before answering. "Uh huh."
"You mean, like me, or like like me."
"I probably shouldn't be saying this, it's probably workplace harrassment or something."
"We're not in the work place right now."
"Yeah, I know." She's looking down now, fiddling with the crust from her toast. "Sara, I didn't really mean to tell you this. I was kind of being a smart arse when I made that comment about you working it out. I certainly wasn't planning on making you feel uncomfortable or anything."
"Catherine, are you babbling? You didn't answer my question."
She's gone kind of red. Actually, bright red. I just want her to explain herself, because right now I'm not sure what she's saying.
"Okay, here goes." She drops the toast crust, sets her hand on the edge of the table, then looks up and meets my eye. "When you first arrived I resented you. You know that, I think. Maybe I started watching you then, but I thought it was to pick up on mistakes and show you up. But, somewhere along the line I realised that you weren't a smart alec, you were just smart; and very caring, although you tried to hide that; and funny, and beautiful. Suddenly I wasn't looking for mistakes, I was watching because I wanted to, and then I guess I was maybe checking you out..."
She's stopped now, but she's still looking at me.
After nearly a minute her eyes drop back to the table, then she moves to stand up and leave. "I'm sorry Sara, I shouldn't have said anything. I just..."
I grab her hand, forcing her to stay. "Wait, I'm trying to think." She hesitates, but doesn't try to move further away. "You think I'm beautiful?"
"Yes," is the sheepish response.
"You need your eyes checked."
"You need a mirror."
The tension seems to have eased a little.
"Should I go?" Catherine asks.
"No, don't," I suddenly realise that I'm still holding her wrist, and let go quickly. Catherine sits back down. "I wasn't expecting what you said. I'm still... processing. But, you're not gay, are you?"
Catherine laughs. "If I only knew! I've been thinking about that for a while, ever since I worked out about you. And I don't know. I mean, I've been with a few girls when I younger. Back when I was a dancer flirting with other girls in front of clients got us great tips, and sometimes that tension spilled over. But it was never serious, and that seems like a lifetime ago. I never really thought about it until now."
I'm still trying to get this through my head. Catherine likes me. Catherine thinks I'm beautiful. Catherine...
"You've been checking me out?"
"Oops. I was hoping you hadn't heard that." She's gone red again. How did I never know she blushed like this?
"What part were you checking out?" I'm in interrogation mode now. "Is that why you were smiling?"
"How do you know if I was smiling?"
"Just answer the question."
"Fine. Mostly your legs and your butt. They were the only bits I could look at without you noticing."
"Hang on, do you peep when I'm changing in the locker room?"
"No! Definitely not! That would be an abuse of trust."
"But checking me out in the foyer isn't?"
"Totally different situation."
Actually, I can see her point. Perving on someone who's fully clothed is different than checking them out while they're getting changed.
"So," Catherine is looking a bit more comfortable now. "Have you ever checked me out?"
I'm shocked. "Of course not!"
"Really? Close your eyes."
"Okay." I close my eyes, wondering what she's going to do. Wondering why she'd think I'd check her out.
"Keep your eyes closed, then describe me."
This is easy.
"Female, Caucasian, slim build, 5'6", fair complexion, tendency towards freckles. Shoulder length strawberry blonde hair, blonde highlights, blue eyes, right handed. Slightly angular jaw, high cheek bones, narrow straight nose..."
"Other distinguishing features? Tattoos, scars?"
I think. "Birth mark, left outer thigh, a cluster of dark spots."
"See, you're busted!"
I open my eyes. "What do you mean?"
"Sara, how often have you seen me in shorts? Maybe once or twice? I don't wear short skirts. How do you know about the birthmark?"
How do I know? "I'm a trained observer. You wore shorts in the desert relay, and I think once in the lab. Plus maybe I've seen you getting changed a time or two. Not that I actually remember, but how else would I know?"
"Maybe you were checking me out?"
This is getting weird.
"Um, if you'd stayed around when Greg invited you to play truth you'd have known that I've never even kissed a girl."
"It's okay," Catherine gets up again. "I don't expect anything of you, and I won't mention this again."
"Wait, you don't get to say what you said then walk out."
She sits again.
"Catherine, I already told you I don't relate well to people. That's pretty much applied to all my relationships. Huh, relationships. A few dates, longest I've gone out with someone was a few months. He wrote me a letter to break it off, said he couldn't feel a connection. I actually didn't notice he'd stopped ringing until I got the letter, I was too caught up in my work. Oh, then there was Hank, and you saw how well that went. So when I say I've never kissed a woman, well I've never had a real relationship with a man either. I don't know if I'm cut out for relationships."
"Don't be so harsh on yourself." Catherine hurries to reassure me. "Just because I've had relationships doesn't mean they've been any good. The only good thing to come out of any of them was Lindsay."
"Let me finish." I'm looking at Catherine, trying to decide what I should say. And now she's looking straight back at me, her eyes meeting mine. Blue eyes. I knew they were blue, but I've never really looked into them before. I'm not sure why, but looking into her eyes is making me smile.
Suddenly I decide.
"Catherine, no-one has ever noticed the things about me that you do. I've never really talked with anyone like this before either. I think you're intelligent, and beautiful. Maybe I shouldn't worry about whether you're male or female, just who you are. There's no guarantees, but I'd have to be pretty stupid if I chose not to spend time with someone I admire just because they're female."
"You admire me?" Catherine is smiling now.
"Yes, I admire you. Have done since the first day we met, when you admitted that you had no idea what 'bling bling' was. I could never have done that."
Her smile just got bigger, and I find myself grinning like an idiot too.
"So," she says softly. "What now?"
"Don't ask me, you're the experienced one. What would you normally do if you liked someone."
"Hmm, not the best question." She looks a bit sheepish. "I'm prone to ignoring guys. Let them do the chasing. If I'm in the mood we'll go out a few times. Then give them the cold shoulder after."
"I'm just being honest here."
This may be a bit too much honesty for me to deal with.
"Sara, I wouldn't do that with you. I already feel like I know you better than anyone I've been with, even Eddie and we were married for a few years."
Okay, I'm feeling a bit better now. But still a little hesitant.
"What now?" I ask.
"Er, well maybe you'd go out with me sometime soon? Dinner and a movie?"
This I can handle. Catherine on the other had looks like she's terrified I'll change my mind.
"Is tomorrow too soon? Or we could make it this weekend?" She still looks nervous.
"Tomorrow is good. Maybe not straight from work though."
We're back to smiles, and I realise that I'm really enjoying this.
"Alright, I could pick you up, maybe an hour or so after shift? That'll give me time to have a shower. Never know what state we'll be in by the end of a shift."
"It's a date."
More smiles, from both sides of the table, then Catherine looks at her watch.
"Shit, I've got to go, I promised Nancy I'd look after Jeremy today so she could catch up with friends."
"That's cool. I need to sleep anyway, I've been working too hard."
We walk to the car-park in comfortable silence, and Catherine walks me to my car. I buckle in, and wind down the window to say good bye.
"So," I'm actually a little nervous again. "I'll see you tomorrow then?"
"Absolutely." Catherine rests her elbows on the window sill, looking at me.
Her eyes are so blue, like the sky just before dawn. Then I find my gaze drawn down to her lips, which are smiling. Catherine leans further in, her eyes moving between my lips and eyes, then she hesitates when her lips are a few inches from mine.
I move in that last tiny distance, and touch my lips gently to hers. They are so soft, warm and inviting. But I pull back after a few seconds.
Catherine is flushed, but smiling as she watches me drive away. For the whole trip home my mind is filled with one thought. I'm going on a date tomorrow. With Catherine Willows.
Who would have thought?
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