"Grissom," he practically barked, making Sara giggle under him. He'd tried to ignore the phone, to let it go to the message machine, but then his cell phone took up the tune as well. The competing rings were distracting enough to interrupt even the most ardent lovemaking.
"Whatcha doin'? Never mind, don't answer that," Brass said, hearing Grissom trying to catch his breath.
"Did you need something?" Grissom growled, his annoyance only fed by Sara's mirth.
"Absolutely. But that's not why I called. Just thought you'd like to know that the warrant came through. In exactly 30 minutes I'm going to Angela Wyeth's house. Now, if you can finish what you're doing and get here in 30 minutes, you're welcome to go along. Notice I didn't say 'come'," Brass said, laughing.
"We'll be there," Grissom said acidly.
"We? You mean there's somebody there with you?" Brass quipped. "I hope I didn't interrupt anything."
"Goodbye, Jim," Grissom snapped, tossing the phone onto the nightstand.
"That wasn't obvious," Sara laughed.
"His timing is impeccable. I swear sometimes that he must have me bugged. Every date I've ever been on, he's interrupted. I could deal with that. But this ..." he said, rolling over to his side to take his weight off of her.
"How long do we have?" Sara asked suggestively, an eyebrow raised.
"Only 30 minutes, and we still have to get cleaned up," he sighed, rolling out of bed.
"We could take a shower together and save time," she laughed.
"We've already established that taking a shower together does not save time!"
"It doesn't necessarily save shower time for two people, but we've demonstrated that it saves time if you want to have sex and also need to take a shower. We could kill two birds with one stone. Unless, of course, you don't want to finish what you started."
Grissom turned on the water to warm it, and they kissed until the room was filled with steam, the condensation joining with their own sweat to coat their bodies. He stepped into the shower and held Sara's hand as she followed him in.
Sara squirted the liquid soap into her hand, running her hands over his chest and shoulders erotically, then reaching around to go down his back as he pulled her into another impassioned kiss as her hands ventured further south.
Pulling back, he took a handful of the soap and embarked on a languid journey beginning at her neck and working his way down, raising goose bumps on her, despite the warmth of the room, the water, her blood, and his hands.
Turning her around slowly, he began to soap her back, drawing slow circles. She giggled slightly as his hands reached her sides, but he didn't linger as he slid them around to her front, pulling her into his body.
Sara leaned her head back against his shoulder as he nuzzled her neck from behind, his slick hands exploring all he could reach. His touch was as light as a feather, with the soap removing even the slightest friction.
The feel of her, her closeness, and the slick foam between them set Grissom on fire, the evidence of his desire seeming to seek her of its own accord. Setting a hand against the shower wall for support, Sara leaned over slightly, her invitation clear to him.
He'd never made love to her without seeing her face. He loved to watch her reactions; it still amazed him that he could arouse her at all, much less to the heights she seemed to reach.
But what he lost in sight he gained in touch, now able to comfortably reach around her to stroke her more erogenous areas as he crossed the threshold. It didn't take long for them to catch up to where they had left off when Brass called.
Grissom's hand joined Sara's on the wall, kissing up next to it, as their ardor began to demand more support and balance, and less foreplay. He still had a free hand to roam her body, and she still had a free hand to help things along.
The warm water pelted his back, adding fuel to the flames of passion that swirled around and between them. His hand dropped to her waist to pull her repeatedly into him, as she began to cry out, his only intent to answer her demands before making his own of her.
Feeling her undulating around him, he held back no longer, pulling her forcefully back as he growled his release, leaning in close to her back as they slowed, trailing kisses up to her neck and ear.
He took the lobe in between his lips for a moment; letting it slide slowly and sensuously out. He softly licked the edge of her ear and she giggled lightly at the tickle.
"I love you," he whispered.
* * * * *
"Twenty-five minutes," Brass said, grinning at his watch as Gil and Sara approached him. "I'm impressed."
"Grow up, Brass," Sara quipped.
"A little late for that," he answered. "Okay, on to business. We have a warrant for her house and her SUV, which is being towed here as we speak."
"Good. We'll get to it tonight. Where are we going?" Grissom asked.
Brass handed him a slip with the address and nearest cross-street on it, and they split up, he in his unmarked car, Gil and Sara in one of the new Denalis.
"How come they can afford new SUVs, but we can't get a new GC-mass spec?" Sara asked, shaking her head.
"Don't get me started," Grissom warned.
"Yeah, I've already seen today what happens once you get started on something. You just won't quit until you're finished," she teased.
"I didn't hear any complaints," he returned, keeping his eyes on the road.
"I don't have any complaints."
"That's good to hear," he nodded, turning briefly to smile at her.
The small house looked anything but like the home of a vicious, crazed serial killer. Both the house and the yard were well-maintained, with a garden surrounding the perimeter of the house, extending along both sides of the walkway to the front door.
The ground looked recently worked, with hardy pansies in a variety of vivid colors surrounding the base of evergreen shrubs that were meticulously trimmed. Not a leaf was out of place.
The neighborhood was older, with a few run-down rent houses scattered among aging wood-frame houses, some with the original clapboard exterior, some with vinyl siding.
Angela Wyeth's house stood out, being the most conspicuously maintained, the landscaping converting the atmosphere of the house from 'old' to 'quaint'.
"Are you sure we're at the right place?" Sara asked, pulling the slip towards her from where Grissom had laid it on the console.
"There's Brass's car, so I assume so," Grissom said, parking on the street.
The house was decorated with antiques that had obviously been lovingly restored, each stained the same rich mahogany, with a satin finish unmarred by time or misuse.
The walls were decorated primarily by framed needlepoint creations, each with an aphorism, surrounded by borders of flowers.
A cat lay atop the television, awakened from its nap by the intrusion of the uninvited guests. Its eyes were still droopy from sleep, but followed the criminalists as its tail writhed, occasionally whipping the top of the set.
"She's a cat person?" Sara mused, moving towards the bookshelves. Even a cursory glance revealed that the books had always been treated reverentially, and were placed in alphabetical order by author, a practice that Sara could relate to.
One whole section had photo albums that were numbered. Pulling out the first album and flipping through it, Sara was stunned to see page after page of a slightly younger Grissom at crime scenes.
He was thinner then, his hair less gray, and beardless – looking much like he did when Sara first came to Las Vegas. Forgetting herself, she smiled.
"What are you looking at?" he asked, coming to stand behind her, peering over her shoulder.
"Her scrapbooks. It looks like she's been a fan for quite some time," Sara said, slowly flipping through the album.
"She has more pictures of me at crime scenes than Public Relations does, certainly more than I do," Grissom said, the eeriness of knowing that he had been watched, unaware, beginning to build in him.
"This is creepy," Sara said, pointing to a particular shot. "I have a picture almost just like this that I made at the scene. I could have been standing right next to her, for all I know."
"You made pictures of me at scenes?" Grissom asked softly in her ear, not wanting to be overheard, even though Brass was not in the room, and was already well aware of their relationship anyhow.
"I'll show you my scrapbook someday," she smiled.
"So I had two women stalking me," he quipped.
"Yeah, but you knew I was after you," she shot back.
"I wish I had," he whispered in her ear. "I hoped, but I didn't believe."
"Well, believe it," she said, replacing the book. Skipping ahead, she pulled a volume from the middle of the shelf.
"Oh ... my ... God," she said under her breath, turning the pages quickly.
"I'm going to look in the kitchen," Grissom said hoarsely, turning away from the album of pictures of Sara and her co-workers primarily, but a sprinkling of pictures of her and Hank interspersed.
There were several empty slots, and Sara assumed they had held the pictures that had been sent to Grissom. The few 'incriminating' pictures of her and Hank angered her – not only because they were an invasion of her privacy, but because they were out of context, appearing to reveal an intimacy that was unwarranted at the time of the picture.
Sara had never really approved of public displays of affection, and Hank knew it, sometimes teasing her by grabbing her or kissing her suddenly, usually earning a harsh glare or even a slap or punch on the arm.
She had often chided him for his juvenile behavior, more often than not getting only a silly grin in reply. She wondered how and why she had tolerated it as long as she did.
Funny, the things you'll put up with when you're lonely. No, not funny – sad.
Putting the album back in its place, she followed the path Grissom had taken, entering the kitchen. It was decorated in old-fashioned kitsch, with copper gelatin molds adorning the walls.
It was immaculate and smelled of disinfectant. A cat was draped lazily on a counter, looking up when she entered, but laying its head down in a moment, its ennui evident.
"Ugh! I don't care how much disinfectant you use, an animal in the kitchen is just disgusting," Sara complained. "Ew! There's cat hair on the counter and on the table. Yuck!"
"They aren't any more filthy or germ-laden than humans," Grissom replied, opening the refrigerator, not surprised to see its contents all labeled and lined up according to its food group or use.
"I wouldn't want a human lying on my food-preparation area, either," she said, opening a door that she found led to the garage. Lawn implements, looking as clean as the day they were purchased, though obviously used, hung from hooks on the walls.
A washer and dryer took up much of one wall of the small garage. Facing them on the other wall was a large chest freezer. Opening it, Sara flinched involuntarily.
"Grissom!" she barked, pushing the heavy door back until it caught on its hinges.
"What?" he asked from the kitchen.
"I found what we're looking for," she said, pulling a bag out of the freezer that contained the front half of a woman's head, the hair matted with blood, ice crystals covering her eyebrows and eyelashes.
"Rachel," Grissom said sadly.
"Rachel?" Sara asked. "I never met her, either, I guess."
"She worked at the pet store where I buy food for my arachnids. We only went out once," he said distantly, as though he was caught up in a memory.
"When was that?" Sara asked, curious.
"Remember the Hanson case?"
"The night Brass called me in on it, the night before you joined the case. I was having dinner with her. Or rather, I was about to have dinner. We never got past the drinks."
"Oh," Sara said unemotionally. He had been distant before that case. When he called her in on it, telling her he needed her, it had been a temporary boost to her ego. They had worked alone and closely – at times very close.
For a few days at least she had thought that he might finally express an interest in seeing her, but it faded away as quickly as it came, leaving her even emptier than before.
Knowing that he had been out with another woman the night before he called her in on the case, especially remembering that he had said that everyone else was busy, seemed to suck the air out of her lungs. She felt foolish for having thought that he called her in because he wanted to be close to her, even if only for a while.
"I'll go check out the rest of the house," she said, her voice failing to hide how dispirited she felt.
"I don't want to do this by myself," he said, reaching out to lightly grab her arm as she passed by him.
"They're your girlfriends. You tag 'em and bag 'em. I need to get out of here," she said, pulling away.
"Sara, they weren't really girlfriends – just a couple of dates. And it was a long time ago. You weren't even here when I dated Charlotte."
"Well, I was here when you dated Rachel."
"You were with Hank at the time," he reminded her.
"God, Grissom! What were we thinking? What were we doing to each other? To ourselves?"
"We were trying to get by, Sara. Or at least I was. Trying to find someone to take my mind off the fact that you wanted someone else more than you wanted me," he answered.
"That wasn't a fact. That's your interpretation. You weren't interested," she said.
"That's your interpretation," he retorted.
They stood motionless and mute next to the open freezer, its icy steam rolling up over the top and falling towards the floor, adding a physical chill to the emotional chill in the room.
The anger in their eyes gave way to hurt, and hurt gave way to resignation. They couldn't change the past, but Angela Wyeth had decreed that they would have to relive it.
Sara reached out, setting a palm against the warmth of his beard. Grissom pressed slightly against her hand, closing his eyes and breathing out some of the tension that had built in him.
"I'll help," she said, opening her kit to begin making out the case identifiers for the bags.
"Thank you," Grissom said softly, before taking the digital camera from his pocket to start making the photographs that would establish the location of the body parts in her garage.
"So we've got her," Brass said, leaning against the doorframe. He'd started into the garage a few minutes ago, but had stopped just inside the kitchen, knowing that they needed a moment to finish the conversation he'd accidentally overheard.
"So it would appear," Grissom said, taking out each bag and handing it to Sara to set down on the plastic sheeting she'd opened up on the garage floor. She set the case identifier and a photograph ruler down next to each bag, moving it aside as Grissom made the photographs.
"It's over. You're safe now," Brass said to Sara, smiling at her paternally.
"Assuming she stays in jail," Sara answered.
"She'll probably be arraigned tomorrow. Considering all the evidence, there's no way a judge would let her out on bail," Grissom opined.
"It may never get that far. A court-appointed psychiatrist is evaluating her today. If her attorney's any good, he'll plead insanity."
"But she's not insane," Grissom argued. "She's a sociopath, not a psychopath. She knows the difference between right and wrong. She just doesn't care."
"Hey, I'm just telling you what the assistant DA told me," Brass said, his hands held up in surrender.
* * * * *
"We managed to dodge a bullet on this one," Sheriff Atwater said, glaring uncomfortably at Gil and Sara as they sat opposite him in his office.
"How so?" Grissom asked.
"The DA has decided to accept a plea bargain based on Angela Wyeth's psych eval. She'll be remanded to an institution for the criminally insane."
"Why? He had enough evidence to nail her for two murders!" Sara snapped.
"He saw no reason to make a public spectacle of this office, and I'm frankly relieved," Atwater said, leaning back in his chair, pushing his fingers together into a steeple.
"What does he care how our department looks? It would have been quite a feather in his cap, politically," Grissom asked, suspicious.
"Let's just say that you two have a guardian angel, you'll pardon the pun. Considerable pressure was brought to bear on the DA's office to make this go away as quickly and as quietly as possible."
"Who would do that?" Grissom asked, mystified.
"Someone very powerful. I don't know what his connection is to you two, but he made it very clear that there would be consequences if he were disappointed, and a reward if he were pleased."
"A reward?" Sara asked.
"A grant. He's donating $250,000 to upgrade the lab equipment. Get together with Carvallo to let him know your priorities," Atwater said, standing to dismiss them.
"You're done with us?" Grissom asked, incredulous that they hadn't received so much as a reprimand, much less the punitive measures he'd expected.
"Yes. As a condition of this grant, I'm limited on what I can say. But let me be clear that I don't want to have to deal with any personal issues."
"Understood," Grissom said, opening the door.
"What was that all about?" Sara asked, once they were clear of the Sheriff's office.
"I don't know," Grissom said, befuddled. "Who's this guardian angel?" he asked rhetorically.
* * * * *
"Thank you, Sam," Catherine said sincerely, sitting on the comfortable sofa in his office, a Screwdriver sitting on a coaster, the glass's sweat starting to roll down the sides.
"Any time, Mugs," he said, smiling. "Now, are you going to hold up your end of the bargain?"
"I'm a woman of my word. I have the weekend after next off. We'll come out on Saturday, if that suits you," she said.
"Perfect. I'll have a big country breakfast waiting on you. We can go riding. The trees along the trail are starting to turn their fall colors. It'll be a beautiful ride."
"Sounds nice, Sam," Catherine said, though still uncomfortable that she was unable to excise her father from her life.
"I've done things I'm not proud of, Mugs, but one thing I never regretted was you. I'm very proud of what you've done with your life, and how you're raising Lindsey, despite all the problems you've had."
"She doesn't know, Sam. She has no idea you're my father. I'd like to keep it that way."
"Would it be so bad?" he asked, smiling, yet with sadness in his eyes.
"I don't want her to know that her grandfather is a killer, and that one uncle is a dead dope addict and the other is in prison for murdering him. It's not a family line to be proud of."
"She'll find out sooner or later, and she'll know you lied to her," Sam warned.
"If she asks, I'll tell her the truth. But until then, you're just an old friend of the family."
"One day, maybe sooner than I'd like, this will all be yours and hers," he said, opening his arms expansively.
"And what would we do with a casino?" Catherine asked, shaking her head.
"Hire someone to run it. You know the good managers. You'll never have to worry about money again. Hell, you wouldn't have to worry about it now if you weren't so damned stubborn!"
"I come by it honestly," she said, raising an eyebrow at him.
"I've made my mistakes, I'll grant you. But I'm trying to make it up to you, sugar. Let an old man die in peace."
"You'll never die. You'll pay off St. Peter first," Catherine quipped.
"No. I've learned that there are some things money can't buy," Sam Braun said, smiling wistfully at his daughter.
"That's what I've been trying to tell you all along," Catherine rejoined.
"Well, I've got to get back to work," Braun said, rising. "But I'm glad I could help out your friends. And I look forward to you and Lindsey coming to see me."
"Bye, Sam," Catherine said, feeling torn between kissing him on the cheek as she'd done hundreds of times, and turning on her heel to leave without acknowledging the closeness they used to share.
"Bye, Mugs," he said, holding the door for her. "I love you."
Catherine froze at the door for a moment, ensnared by three simple words. Though she had to admit that she felt the same despite everything, she couldn't bring herself to say it, turning instead to leave her father standing alone in his office.
* * * * *
"I love you," Sara said, her finger tracing Gil's lips, then lightly caressing the skin between them and his beard.
"Why?" he asked, squinting at her slightly, his lips pursing in contemplation.
"Why does anyone love anyone?" she asked, shrugging lightly in his arms.
"If you figure that one out, you could write a best-seller and make a fortune," Grissom answered.
"I love you because you're you," she said, answering as best she could.
"What do I need to change to keep you from leaving me?" he asked seriously, his voice wavering slightly at the last two words.
"Nothing. You don't need to change anything for me. I fell in love with you just the way you are. All I ask is that you try to trust me. I know it's hard for you. I really do."
"I trust you more than I trust anyone else," he said in his defense.
"That's not saying much," Sara laughed.
"I've been trusting you with my life for several years."
"We all have to trust each other with our lives. It's part of the job," she argued gently.
"I'm trusting you with my heart. Does that count?" he asked.
"Yes, that counts," she said, leaning over him for a kiss. She began to rise, but he pulled her back down, rolling them over in the bed so that he was leaning over her instead, his lips still entangled with hers.
"I still can't believe you're really here," he said, running his hand down from her face, over her breast, and down her body to her thigh and back up.
"Every time I go to sleep, I'm afraid I'm going to wake up alone, that it was all just a dream, like the dreams I've been having for years. I would be so happy, until I woke up. It was hard to get through the day, seeing you, knowing that my reality was so different from my dreams."
"Me, too," she said simply, reaching up to run her fingers down his beard until her thumb reached his mouth, its caress cut short when he kissed it and pulled it into his lips.
"You make me feel young again," he said raggedly, dipping down time and again to taste her face and her neck, before trailing kisses down her body.
"You make me feel alive again," she returned, reaching out to run her fingers through the curls of his head as he gently pressed against the inside of her thighs, opening her up to the journey of his lips and tongue.
* * * * *
Angela Wyeth stared around the common room, noting the behavior of each of the other "guests" the facility housed. Degenerates – the whole lot of them! It was galling to be forced to share their company, but it was all a means to an end.
You have to take the bitter with the sweet. And revenge is sweet.
They thought she was delusional. The idea was preposterous, of course, but it was also their undoing. They had wanted to try her for murder – as if killing those sluts was a crime. But knowing how evil the Whore was, she didn't put it above her to plant evidence that could convict her.
Especially now that the Bastard had joined in the charade. Oh, he had deceived me, but he couldn't fool me. I know what you are now, Gil Grissom. I thought I was saving you, when in fact you were in league with the Whore to trap me.
Instead of taking that chance, she agreed to plead to an insanity defense. Insane! Wyeth kept her anger in check. This wasn't the time nor the place to vent. She had an image to maintain.
If they wanted her to be delusional, she'd be delusional. It was so easy to give the answers necessary to the psychiatrists. They were so transparent. The deluded heard things, saw things that didn't exist. So she told them all about the plans she and Gil had made for their honeymoon to Jamaica, the number of children they wanted, who they would be named after.
It was all nonsense, of course. They had never actually planned that far ahead, and they had planned on saving money by having their honeymoon in Las Vegas.
Except you were using me all along, weren't you, Bastard! I can't believe I fell for your scheme – I was blinded by love. Never again. You made a mistake by making me your enemy.
You and your whore can go on fornicating like animals, and forget all about me. Out of sight, out of mind. But I'll never forget. Never.
None of them could believe she had actually dispatched the two whores. That wasn't surprising; people were always underestimating her. They thought she was too delicate to take on, let alone triumph, over such evil.
But triumph she had, and triumph she would.
You can lock me away, but you can't defeat me. I'm too smart for you. I can turn your games against you. Ha! Me, insane? Never! The very idea is silly.
Wyeth began a slow, steady rocking in her chair. She wasn't sure if it was a sign of delusional behavior, but it hadn't raised any alarms among the staff. So, every day, she sat in the hideous common room, watching the drivel that passed for news on the television set.
It was a waste really, but it gave her what she needed: a time reference. With it, she was able to deduce the schedule of the facility. Every day, about an hour before her medication was due, she started the gentle rocking. After "taking" her medication, she'd wait about 20 minutes before she slowed her rocking, finally ending it a few minutes later.
So far, so good. She stared at the television intently, using the clock on the bottom of the screen to verify her observations: how long it took each orderly to pass out pills, how soon to the next meal, how long before they were sent back to their rooms.
She smiled kindly at the orderly who eventually brought her daily medication, chatting amiably as she took the paper cup of pills and glass of water. Flashing him a polite smile, she daintily removed her chewing gum before downing the pills, finishing off the glass of water for good measure.
Once the orderly was out of sight, she'd put the gum back in her mouth. It was a vile habit that reminded her of cows chewing their cud, but one that she forced herself to endure. After she had the gum loosened again, she used her tongue to work the pills into the rubbery material.
Accomplishing her mission, she worked the drug-infested gum back under her tongue, continuing to work her jaws as if she was still chewing the substance. When she had her bathroom break, she would flush the entire thing away.
In 45 minutes, lunch would be brought in. As she crossed the common room, the Angel of Death sat in a different chair. Before every meal, she changed positions to get another view of the doorway. So far, she'd observed that the hallways had too many locked doorways. A direct escape didn't seem possible.
Still, when they took her to "therapy" after lunch, she counted out the orderly's paces between all the different hallways, creating a mental map of the facility.
Each day, she was wheeled into a room to talk to an overworked psychologist. So far, she evaded answering his questions, seeing what angle he was taking. Soon, she'd have enough information to begin testing answers.
It would take time, but she'd soon be able to convince them that Angela Wyeth was insane.
I know where you live, Bastard. You and the Whore will die for this. I'll make each of you watch the other's agony for days.
Smiling slyly, the Angel of Death began to slow her rocking down, keeping a silent count to time her reactions. She could beat them at this game.
They planned on locking her away, going on with their shallow existences as if she didn't exist.
Remember one thing, Bastard: The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.