Author: Ms-Maggs PM
Sara’s birthday is the catalyst for a chain of events that leaves the team members searching for answers to questions both old and new. When forensics can’t provide all the answers where do scientists turn? The gang is all here in many combos. (Complete)Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Chapters: 30 - Words: 101,575 - Reviews: 250 - Favs: 95 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 04-27-05 - Published: 11-28-04 - Status: Complete - id: 2149197
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
By Ms. Maggs
Edited by Joan R.
The whole cast is here…a little something for everyone and a few twists along the way. Starts out light but hang on for the ride.
It was just after two a.m. when Grissom held open the door to Club Rage for Sara. Immediately they were assaulted with the throbbing pulse of the bass and the hedonistic atmosphere.
Turning to Grissom, Sara screamed in his ear, "this is what The Strip would sound like if it were enclosed. Why do people like this?"
"Because they don't know the joy of reading an Entomology book to Mozart?" He motioned to the bar. "The suit over there has to be the manager. Let's inform him we're here to use his Ladies Room." Moving through the rowdy crowd the noise intensified. It was moments like these when Grissom thought deafness wouldn't have been so bad after all. "Mr. Gomez?"
Victor Gomez, a menacing 30-something sporting an eclectic combination of tattoos and bling, downed his glass of whiskey and wiped his lips. Who wants to know?"
At the top of his lungs he replied, "I'm Gil Grissom, this is Sara Sidle, we're with the Las Vegas Crime Lab. We need to take a look in your Ladies' Room."
"Why? Nothing's happened here?" Nervously he scanned the club looking for any blatant illegal activity. "Don't you need a warrant to be here?"
Even louder, "Look a girl…"
Sensing Mr. Gomez would respond better to a woman; Sara tapped Grissom on the shoulder and gestured to let her have a try. Jumping up, she sat on the bar to get a clean shot at Mr. Gomez's ear. "Don't worry Mr. Gomez, there was no crime here." Although she was sure she could find plenty if she tried. "A girl was killed after she left here yesterday and based on what her friend told us, the last thing she did before she left was make a phone call in the Ladies' Room. This is just routine procedure. We need to see if she left anything behind. We'll give you a minute to clear out the room so your guests aren't surprised." Surprised meaning caught with their pants down or needles out.
Gomez winked. "No problem, honey. I'll have one of my girls go in there and clear everyone out."
"Thank you for your cooperation." In one slick move Sara hopped down from the bar and picked up her kit.
Grissom, once he found his voice, shrieked, "What the hell was that?"
"Our new cranky cop, cute cop routine?" Enjoying his vexation, she explained, "look, I just wanted to get us out of this hell hole before our heads crack open. People like us can't handle sustained chaos very long. We're on borrowed time." Without waiting for Grissom she headed toward the back of the club where Mr. Gomez was motioning an all clear. "Thanks, we'll let you know when we're done. Until then, no one enters."
Once inside, Grissom and Sara took a moment to savor the relative quiet and scan the room. From the looks of things it was quite obvious the room hadn't been thoroughly cleaned in days.
"Very nice." Grissom mused as he studied the multitude of toiletries and accessories on the counter. "You could open a drug store with this inventory."
"It's not easy being a girl." Sara sighed as she snapped pictures. "What we have to go through to get a guy's attention…" She could feel his stare on the back of her head. "And even then there's no guarantee he'll give us the time of day."
"One fifteen a.m."
She grinned behind her camera.
"Trash or floor?" He asked while snapping on a fresh set of gloves.
In her best sitcom wife voice she replied, "Would you take out the trash tonight, honey?" And while it wouldn't seem possible to enjoy crawling around in a sticky bathroom she was having a wonderful time.
Rummaging through the first trash can Grissom inquired, "So, Sara…where did you learn that little bar hop maneuver?"
"During the Harvard years…O'Malley's Pub." She answered while crawling under a sink sifting through discarded paper towels. "When you're on a tight budget it helps to get close to the bartenders."
"Ahh." Try as he might he couldn't help but ponder the meaning of close in her answer. It was times like these he questioned his sanity. Could he really be jealous of something that might have happened over a decade ago when he didn't even know Sara? And how could he be jealous at all when she wasn't his girl? Especially since she wasn't his girl because he had turned her down when she asked him out a year ago. For a man of science and logic the conundrum was most troubling.
"I've got something!" Sara jumped up waving a slip of paper. "A note on our vic's stationary. There's an address." Quickly she sealed it in a plastic bag.
Coming up right behind her he examined the find. "Personalized stationary…that's a lucky break."
"An early birthday present, perhaps?" It was a hint for sure.
"That's right, it's your birthday is soon isn't it." Reaching up he pointed to the address on the note, his fingertips just brushing over Sara's hand. One nanosecond of innocent physical contact and his train of thought derailed.
His proximity combined with the feel of his jacket sleeve against her arm activated a familiar flutter in her stomach. Cocking her head she glanced at him from the corner of her eye. "Were you…um….going to say something about the address?"
Turning towards her silky voice he met her quizzical gaze. "Wh..what?"
"You're pointing to the address but you're not saying anything." Their faces were only inches apart and she fought the urge to once and for all eliminate the gap.
"Oh…the address." Clearing his throat while trying to clear his thoughts, he backed away. "Yeah, I recognize it from another case. Belonged to a dealer. Last I heard he was still locked up but prisons are crowded he could have got out or maybe he sublet to a murderous friend."
"Right." She was certain he felt the surge between them. Then again she was certain at least a dozen other times over the past few months and still they never discussed it. Hell, from the day she met him at Berkeley and exchanged smiles she was certain something was there but that was almost six years ago. "I'll phone in the address and get things moving."
"Good." Pointing to the door, he cracked, "I'll go tell your new buddy, Gomez, that he can have his restroom back."
Chuckling, she teased, "Are you going to hop on the bar to tell him?"
After Grissom left the room, Sara shook her head and sighed. Business as usual….flirt--share a moment --deny there was a moment…business as usual. This cycle, like several others in her life, was really starting to wear her down.
Nick and Warrick arrived in the break room at nine p.m. just as Catherine had instructed.
"Looks like we're the first ones here." Nick plopped into a chair and unfurled a laborious yawn. "Man, I really could have used a few more hours of sleep."
Warrick headed straight for the coffee. There was no doubt in his mind that one of Nick's famous hook-up stories was coming. "How many hours did you get?"
"None." Grinning, he eagerly explained, "Remember that girl I told you I met at that ballistics seminar …"
Handing Nick a steaming cup of java he leaned against the wall. "The red head with the legs that never end?"
"That would be her." A self-professed leg man, he hadn't been able to resist. "I'm at The House of Blues and who just happens to be there…"
Greg interrupted the conversation by bursting through the doorway. "Am I late?"
Nick chuckled into his coffee, "Hell no, I was just getting to the good part of my story."
Catherine pushed Greg further into the room, "Hurry up, Sara is right behind me." Quickly she emptied the contents of her brown paper shopping bag on the break table…a pink cardboard cake box, a small gold gift bag tied with a burgundy satin ribbon and a white envelope.
Greg curiously inspected the gift bag. "Pretty small bag." His imagination got the better of him. "Lingerie? Very tiny lingerie? Will she have to try it on to make sure it fits?"
Snatching the bag out of his hands Catherine returned it to the table. "Sorry to disappoint. It's a gift card…for the book store." She had purposely picked a bland gift hoping that Grissom's, whatever it was, would be more exciting. Not that she ever expected to know what he got her. Grissom would give it to Sara in private and she'd never share the details.
Hoisting himself from his chair Nick joined the group. Patting Greg on the back he quipped, "Don't you know by know that Sara would prefer to receive lingerie from someone other than us. You see…oh hey look, it's Sara…"
"Are you talking about me?" Sara quizzed while stepping into the room.
"Surprise!" The group responded a little too late. "Happy Birthday!"
Cracking an appreciative smile, she gushed. "Thanks, guys." She surveyed the room looking for Grissom whom she quickly determined was no where to be found. "Thanks for remembering." Aside from cards from her Insurance Agent and dentist, her co-workers were the only ones who ever acknowledged her birthday. Of course she hid the extent of her gratitude behind a tough façade so they never knew it meant the world to her to know they cared.
Rubbing his hands together over the cake box, Nick eagerly peeled back the lid. "I had quite the workout earlier today and I'm starving."
Slapping his hand away, Catherine reached for the envelope, handing it to Sara. "Can we let her read her card and open her gift first?"
"Shouldn't we wait for Grissom?" Sara asked Catherine while nervously glancing over her shoulder.
"This is just from us so I don't think he'll mind."
"Oh…okay." While Sara pondered the significance of Grissom's lack of participation in the group gift she slipped the card out of the envelope. Happy 34th birthday from the gang. Signed by: Nick, Catherine, Warrick and Greg.
Watching Sara open their gift, Greg couldn't help himself. "Catherine did the shopping. If I had done the shopping it would have been something different. I mean just so you know…I would have picked something more…personal."
"Thanks, Greg but I think the gift card is great. There's a new forensic anthropology text coming out next week and I'll use it for that. Thanks everybody." After another quick glance toward the hallway she announced, "Let's eat cake."
Minutes later, Grissom, his face buried in paperwork, walked through the door.
Licking the chocolate frosting off his fingers, Nick greeted him, "hey, you're just in time for cake."
"Cake?" Grissom looked up from his papers and surveyed the scene, his eyes stopping on Sara and the anticipatory look on her face. "Cake…that's right…it's your birthday."
When she realized his absence was attributed soley to forgetfulness she struggled to hide her disappointment. "Yeah…same time every year."
Greg blurted, "We got her a gift card to the bookstore. I hope you were more creative with your gift."
"My…gift…" With five pairs of eyes fixed bearing down on him he froze.
Tossing his empty cake plate in the trash, Nick grabbed Warrick and Greg by the elbows escorting them out the door. "I just remembered I didn't show you the results of that test from that case with that man who did that thing…"
"What case?" A puzzled Greg inquired as he was halfway out the door.
Baffled, Catherine stood gaping. In order to prevent this exact situation she had made a point of reminding Grissom of Sara's impending birthday multiple times over the past two weeks. "Unbelievable", she mumbled as she followed the guys out of the room shutting the door behind her.
"I'm sorry, Sara," Grissom groveled. "Things have been crazy around here today and I…"
"No problem, I know you're a busy man with bigger priorities." Making a beeline for the door she snapped, "Now if you'll excuse me I'll be in autopsy doing a post-mortem." Under her breath she added, "On my life."
"Sara…" Before he could finish the door closed and he was alone in the room. "I didn't forget your birthday."
As if nothing had happened earlier, Grissom routinely announced the night's casework. "Nick, I need you out at The Flying Aces Motel for a 419. They found a girl in room 204. Take Sara with you. Warrick, I need you out with Catherine following up on the DeMarco case. That's it." In a flash he was out the door and down the hall.
Warrick, thrilled he was spared a night with Sara, couldn't hide his excitement.
Nick, on the other hand, rubbed his temples and groaned. "Just what I needed, a night in the field with the pissed-off birthday girl and the vic had to be a woman…that will set her off even more."
"Hey, good luck with that, man." Warrick peeled off his gloves smiling. "You better wear a coat. Even though it's 90 degrees out, I'm predicting a frosty night for you."
"The hotel manager, Tim Bentley, found her around 8:30p.m." Brass gestured toward the staircase. "The room wasn't registered to her or anyone else. No ID on the vic so right now she's a Jane Doe."
As she mounted the stairs Sara inquired, "What made the manager go to the room if there were no guests?"
"TV was on the fritz and he was bringing a new set." Brass checked his notes. "You'll see the new set broken on the floor in the room. The guy dropped it when he saw the girl. Said he never saw anything so horrible." Holding up the yellow crime tape he waited for Sara and Nick to go through the door before following them.
Sara shook her head as she pulled on her gloves. The girl's body lay under the grungy motel blanket exposing only her cherubic face and long curly blond locks. "Can't be more than 17."
Nick recognized the look building in his partner's eyes. "Sara, why don't you take the camera and let me..." Seeing the victim's clothes on the floor he figured it was going to be a rape case.
"No." Upon taking a step closer she heard an alarm sound in her head. "Wait a minute. Brass…you said the hotel manager dropped the TV because he was horrified. This girl is covered with a blanket, she looks peaceful, there's no bloody carnage showing, why did he...did he cover her?"
"He said he didn't touch a thing. The guy was a wreck when I talked to him I doubt he went anywhere near the body."
On fire, Sara bolted from the room. "Who was first on the scene?" She shouted out to the uniforms. "I want an answer now! Who was first in that room?!"
"I…I was ma'am." The rookie cop stepped forward, a blond All-American type who barely looked old enough to gamble on The Strip. "I'm Officer Barnes. I was…uh…I was the first one in the room."
"Did you place a blanket over the victim?"
Blood pressure rising, she got in his face. "Answer my question, dammit!"
"I couldn't just leave her…"
Outraged she closed in. "Didn't they teach you anything at the academy. You don't tamper with the crime scene EVER! No matter what you see or how you feel!"
Nick rushed over, "Sara calm down."
"No, Nick, I won't calm down!" Without thinking, she batted him away like a fly.
The cop pleaded, "I'm really sorry. She reminded me of my kid sister and I couldn't stand to…"
Raging, she continued to make her point. "What if that was your sister in there? What if an asinine move by a rookie cop destroyed critical evidence and her killer was never caught because of it. How would you like THAT! That body and that crime scene is that girl's last chance for justice. They need to talk to me and I can't help her if you screw up...."
Brass forcefully pulled her away. "Enough, Sara. You made your point. I'll talk to his commanding officer. He'll be reprimanded." Taking her arm he authoritatively whispered, "Walk with me, please."
"I'm really sorry," the cop shouted after her.
"Tell that to the dead girl you son of bitch!" Sara reluctantly walked down the outdoor hallway with Brass.
"I think I better call Grissom and get someone else out here."
"No!" She leaned over the railing. "I just need a minute." Running her fingers through her hair. "I didn't need this tonight. I don't need this ANY night but really not tonight." She started her stress-reducing breathing routine she had been given by her P.E.A.P counselor. 10-9-8…
Brass offered a supportive smile. "I know. Hell of a way to spend your birthday. But yeah, it could be worse, right."
3-2-1. As her heart rate normalized, vulnerability replaced her anger. "Yeah, I'm not the dead girl under the blanket."
"And you're not the one who is going to have to tell the dead girl's parents they won't be celebrating their daughter's next birthday." Brass released a labored sigh. "Happy Birthday, Sara."
Taking a deep breath she righted herself and forced a smile. "Thank you for breaking up my pity party."
"Hey, I've thrown a few for myself over the years. My preferred guest was always a large bottle of whiskey but we've uh…talked about that already. You do remember us talking about that, right? Never a good way to handle stress."
Groaning, she felt the need to explain herself. "I'm not going leave here and booze it up again if that's what you're inferring. I already learned that lesson and moved on." Try as she might for a while the drinking didn't drown out the victim's screams or the echoes of her own from the past.
"Birthdays mess people up. I refer to it as the,'what the hell…another year over and I'm standing in the same place' feeling." A knowing grin broke out on his face. "That feeling can make you do some crazy things."
A curious glint sparkled in her eye. "Sounds like you're speaking from personal experience."
Chuckling, he replied, "I am, but you're still far too young and innocent to hear the stories."
Straightening up, she rubbed her hands together. "Well they say it's better to give than receive so I'm going back in there and giving it my best to bring that girl some justice."
He nodded. "Ah…now you're talking." Walking back toward the hotel room he said, "Bringing down a murdering scumbag elevates my mood every time."
It was almost midnight and Nick was checking the cars in the parking lot of The Flying Aces when Lieutenant Mike Rodgers approached. "Hey, Nick."
"Hey, what's going on? I didn't know you were working this scene."
Nick had met Mike last month in the workout room at the station. Mike's jet black hair and the fact that he had easily out chest-pressed Nick made it seem impossible that the guy was forty-four. After a couple of run-ins with Mike, Nick instantly felt a brotherly rapport.
It was understandable since Mike was a transfer from Dallas PD, an eighteen year veteran of the force. He had moved back to Vegas, his birthplace, after his wife's death a year ago.He had shared a few beers and a few stories at The San Remo only days ago and Nick considered him to have excellent buddy potential.
Mike leaned against the nearest car. "So tell me what happened with your co-worker and my rookie. Whatever she said, the kid is messed up. He wants to turn in his badge to go work security at the mall."
"Sara will be happy to know that." Nick chuckled. "Your guy screwed up on the wrong night with the wrong CSI." Catching a glimpse of Sara across the parking lot he pointed. "There she is. Sara Sidle. She's a great girl but she doesn't have much tolerance for procedural slip-ups; especially not tonight."
With raised eyebrows he watched her working the scene. "Nice looking. Married? Has a boyfriend?"
Choking on his own laughter Nick replied, "No!"
"Then what's her story, man?"
"Sara is…she's really into her work. She doesn't allow herself much time for fun. Today is her birthday and she's just got some stuff on her mind. You know women; they always have to analyze their life on their birthdays. She's hurting a little because she was waiting for a Hallmark greeting that didn't pan out, you know what I mean?" He studied Mike's gaze. "Why? Are you thinking of asking her out?"
"I…oh…I have to have ten years on her, do you think…"
Nick chuckled at the moment of insecurity. "Trust me. She likes older guys." Cupping his mouth with his hands he shouted, "hey, Sara, over here." He knew she wouldn't say yes but figured being hit on would boost her bruised ego.
With the weight of the world on her shoulders, Sara trudged over to Nick. "What?"
"I want to introduce you to Lt. Mike Rodgers, a friend of mine and…Officer Barnes, supervisor."
Sara ignited. "I hope you got that punk's badge. No one messes with my crime scene!"
Nick lowered his gaze thinking…what a way to make a first impression…bite the guys head off. Much to his surprise Mike remained calm.
"Ms. Sidle I completely understand your frustration and Officer Barnes will be reprimanded. We'll put him back behind a desk until he can comprehend the serious nature of your work." Softly, he smiled. "I on the other hand do understand the importance of your job and thank you for your dedication. Without people like you nailing the bad guys, there would be a lot more creeps out there."
His sensitivity diffusing her anger, Sara relaxed her stance.
Mike slipped a little closer. "I was wondering…you see I'm pretty new in town …maybe some time you would like to grab a cup of coffee and talk about the job. It's hard not having anyone to discuss things with after a long night at work and… " Shaking his head he lightly laughed, "I'm a little rusty at this forgive me. My wife…she died a little over a year ago and I haven't really asked anyone out in a while."
Staring into his empathetic brown eyes she replied, "Sure, I'll have coffee with you." She couldn't believe the words were coming from her mouth. Her head throbbed and her stomach churned, all she wanted to do was work this case until the sick bastard responsible for Jane Doe's death was hauled in. If she could have taken back the words…but it was too late. "9 a.m. at the breakfast shop around the corner from the station but I'll just be taking a break so I won't be able to stay very long."
"No problem." Mike, pleased with his success, winked. "I'll see you then. Good luck with the case."
Once Mike was out of range Sara barked at Nick whose mouth was hanging open. "What?"
"I'm just shocked you said yes."
Shoving his hands in his pockets he asked, "Do you REALLY want me to answer that?" He waited, hoping she would say yes so it would finally be out in the open instead of being the ignored elephant in the room.
Burying her face in her hands she groaned. "No…no, don't answer." Hearing it out loud would only confirm how pathetic her behavior had been all these years. They all knew how she felt about Grissom and they all watched him shut her out time and time again.
Nick did the next best thing. "Hey Sara, Mike may not be a genius but from what I can tell he seems like a good guy; someone who could appreciate you. Hell, it's just coffee. See where it goes. And if he turns out to be an ass you can blame me for introducing you."
Inhaling the crisp night air she turned to face the motel. Although the coroner had just finished removing the poor girl's body her work here wasn't done.