A/N: Minor spoilers and references to: Caged, PNN, Stalker, Fight Night, and possibly a few other episodes.
Summary: [GSR] Grissom, Brass and Sara investigate the death of a tourist. Something really nice happens to Brass.
WARNING: There are disturbing elements in this story. The "bad guy" seriously invades a woman's privacy, with disastrous results.
Many thanks and huge kudos to my two ace betas - JCR and LordPanzer369. You two rock! And a special thank you to a certain colleague of mine who recently visited Las Vegas and brought me back some very useful information about that fascinating city.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything to do with CSI, nor do I have any connection to the individuals and companies that play a role in its production. I just like to write stories about CSI and it's wonderful characters. Lynne Whitney is my own original character; and believe me, she really is a character. I hope you like her.
"Is there anything else you can tell me?" I was sitting in the office of Captain James Brass, answering questions regarding the mysterious and untimely demise of an old acquaintance of mine. An acquaintance I had not seen in many years, until today when I saw him in the morgue.
"Of course, Captain Brass, I could tell you a great many things. But, regarding our present conversation; I have told you everything I know." I wasn't trying to be a smart ass, really I wasn't; stress always made me take things far too literally. It's a flaw.
I had arrived in Vegas the previous day; it was my first visit to Sin City - better known among my friends and co-workers as "Lost Wages." I had no interest in gambling, none at all. Rather, I had come to experience the desert, and to learn a little local culture and history. I had taken a room at a small off-the-Strip hotel, and I planned to alternate checking out the city's libraries, museums, universities, and historical landmarks with day trips to Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, and Mount Charleston. I even hoped to get in a hike or two. These plans now seemed hopelessly derailed.
I had just returned to my hotel room following an afternoon at the Western States Historical Society when I saw that the message light on the phone was blinking. I called in for the message and was shocked to find it was from the Las Vegas Coroner's Office, requesting a call-back ASAP.
I hesitantly called the number, and made arrangements to meet the coroner at the morgue. Apparently, he had a dead body, and wanted me to confirm the identity. I was frightened and confused because I had no idea whose body I was about to see. I had several friends who vacationed in Vegas once or twice a year, but none had done so recently. Who could it possibly be? And, how had the coroner known to call me?
After presenting myself to the coroner's receptionist, I had a brief wait before a bearded, rotund older man approached me. He greeted me politely, and introduced himself, Dr. Albert Robbins. He ushered me into a small room, where a human form lay on a gurney, hidden beneath a white sheet.
"Are you ready?" he asked quietly.
I replied, "I'm quite willing to cooperate, but since I don't know anybody in Vegas, I'm not at all certain how much help I can give. Yes, I'm ready." In truth, I was dreading this, but had decided to suck it up and get it over with as quickly as possible. He carefully folded the sheet back, revealing only the man's face. At first, I didn't recognize the person, although he did seem somehow familiar. Then, with sudden clarity I knew who it was, and said so, "It's Ian Johnstone. I knew him years ago; at one time, we both lived in a small town in Northwestern Ontario. He was a special constable with the OPP. Sorry, that's the Ontario Provincial Police."
Dr. Robbins covered Ian's face again while nodding. "Thank you, Ms. Whitney. If I may ask, when did you last see him?"
I thought for a moment, "In July, 1985."
Moving towards the door, the coroner stated, "Again, thank you. You have been very helpful." He opened the door, there were two men standing in the corridor; Dr. Robbins' next words were for them, "We have a positive ID, Ian Johnstone, like we thought. I'll let you take it from here." He excused himself, and walked away.
I was left standing there, alone with two strange men who were looking at me with frank curiosity. It is a decided understatement to say I was unnerved. One of them spoke to me, "You're Lynne Whitney?"
"Yes, I am."
He pointed to his badge, "I'm Captain Jim Brass, homicide. This is Gil Grissom from the Las Vegas crime lab. We have some questions for you. Please come with us."
Thus, I soon found myself seated in the handsome captain's office, numbly reciting everything I could recall about Ian, painfully aware that my knowledge was nearly 20 years out-of-date.
"You have nothing more to add?" Captain Brass pressed me.
"That's correct; I have nothing more to add." I paused, then spoke again, "I do have a question, though."
Brass exchanged a glance with Grissom before granting me permission to ask, "As I told you, I barely knew Ian, and it was so long ago. What led Dr. Robbins to me? I mean, how on earth did he even get my name?"
Grissom spoke then for the first time. He opened a file folder, took out a plastic bag that was sealed with wide, red tape, and held it out to me. "Read this," he said. Seeing my reluctance to take the bag, he added, "It's okay; you may touch the bag, just don't break the seal." I took it from him.
The bag contained a laminated card, like a business card. The words printed upon it floored me.
"In the event of an emergency, please contact Lynne Whitney," followed by my current address and phone number, both for my home and my office.
"We found that in his wallet," Grissom was speaking to me, "Are the addresses and phone numbers correct?"
I nodded, too upset to speak.
"What we are trying to figure out is why a man you haven't seen or heard from in two decades would name you as an emergency contact. Any ideas?" Grissom's vivid blue eyes studied me intently.
Finding my voice again, I looked him in the eye and replied, "Mr. Grissom, I assure you I have no idea why Ian had this. Why he named me." I handed the bag back to him. He returned it to the folder, and then showed me a second evidence bag; this time containing a small square of white paper, with a hand written message upon it. Again, he asked me to read it.
It was my name, Lynne, and the name and room number of my hotel here in Vegas.
Grissom pressured me, "This was in his motel room. Did you tell him where you are staying? Did you see him here in Vegas?"
I gave him back the note, and re-established eye contact with him. I needed him to know that I was telling the truth. "No, I did not tell Ian where I'm staying. And, no, I did not see Ian here in Vegas. Today, in the morgue, was the first time I have seen or heard from him since 1985." I couldn't tell if Grissom was convinced; his expression was unreadable.
Captain Brass rejoined the discussion, "Ms. Whitney, where were you last night between the hours of 9:30 PM and 4 AM?"
Startled by the implications of his question, I was slow to respond. "Well, I had a late dinner in my room, room service. It was delivered about 9. I paid cash, including a generous tip. I'm sure the young man who brought me my meal will remember me. After that, I watched TV. Would you like a list of the programs I watched?" I knew that he would likely check out everything I said.
"Maybe later. Did you leave your room at any time?" Brass was very serious.
"Um, yeah. Around midnight, I ran down to the vending machines for a chocolate bar and a pop. I'm sorry, that's Canadian for a candy bar and a soda."
Brass grunted, "Yeah, we know. But, other than that, you stayed in your room all night?"
"Yes, I did. I went to bed around 2, and slept until about 7 this morning."
"Did you have any guests, or make any phone calls? I mean using the room phone, not a cell phone."
"No guests, and one call. I called my daughter, like I do every night. We talked for about 35 minutes, ending just before I ordered my dinner. I don't have a cell phone."
Grissom opened the large case he had brought with him, and removed a few items. "I would like to collect a sample of your hair and your DNA, and take your fingerprints. I don't have a warrant, so it's voluntary. It will be very helpful for our investigation."
This was going from bad to worse. Why did these people need samples from me? What exactly was going on here? Still, I knew that I had done nothing wrong, certainly nothing criminal, so there was probably no harm in cooperating. "For the record, Mr. Grissom, I'm not a criminal, but I will cooperate with you. You may take your samples."
Grissom did just that; he swabbed the inside of my cheek, collected a few strands of hair, and printed me, all 10 fingers. I tried not to notice how gentle his big hands were on my fingers, how pleasant his touch was - even through his gloves. When he was finished, he offered me a moist towelette, to remove the ink from my skin. Then, he politely thanked me.
Brass made some notes, and looked up at me. "Okay, we have enough for now. You're free to go, but don't leave Vegas without clearing it with me first. Not even for day trips." He handed me his card, "If you think of anything else, here's how to reach me."
I needed to know, "Am I a suspect?"
The captain paused, carefully choosing his words, "Not at the moment," he finally admitted.
As I stood up, Grissom opened the door, "I'll walk you out." He glanced over his shoulder at Brass, "Be right back, Jim."
15 hours earlier:
Gil Grissom and Catherine Willows are standing in a motel room. Jim Brass has briefed them, and left them to their work. They have just entered the room, and are familiarizing themselves with the scene. A man lies dead on the floor, with a gunshot wound in his chest, and a pool of blood under and around him. There is a little blood spatter on the walls, the bed, and the other furniture. The shy, bespectacled coroner's assistant is crouching nearby, examining the deceased man; he pauses in his work and smiles a greeting to them. A gun rests on the floor a short distance away from the decedent's outstretched right hand. Looking beyond the corpse, they see that every flat surface is buried under piles of photographs; there are at least two hundred in total. Some of the photos are also speckled with blood, and closer inspection reveals that all the photos are of the same subject - a brunette, grey-eyed, somewhat overweight, middle-aged woman. A wallet is hidden under a scattered stack of the photos; Grissom gingerly opens it and removes an ID card. The man apparently had been a Mountie. He passes this information onto his co-worker as he bags the card, and again picks up the wallet. He finds another card that lists the man's emergency contact information. This card and the wallet are also bagged.
Catherine, meanwhile, has found a slip of plain white notepaper. Written upon it are a woman's name, and the name and room number of a nearby hotel. "Grissom, look at this. It seems he had a friend here."
Grissom reads the note; it's the same name as the emergency contact card. "Bag that. It could be important," he says unnecessarily. "I'll process the bathroom. When David's done, you can continue here."
The bathroom contains personal items that could belong to any man: shampoo, hairbrush and comb, men's deodorant and shaving supplies, toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash. Nothing uniquely feminine, nothing that showed a second person had been in the room. Discarded clothing occupies one corner; it also is entirely masculine. In the bathtub are a few soggy towels. The small trash can contains a used enema kit. Grissom expertly photographs everything, then he methodically bags and tags each item. There is no blood evidence here; Grissom checks everywhere. He finds several fingerprints, and a few stray hairs. In all likelihood, they belong to the victim, or a previous occupant, or even a maid. But, they just might belong to a murderer.
Working around David, Catherine continues her examination of the main room; like Grissom, she carefully documents her work with photographs. She discovers an aluminum carrying case in the closet, very similar in size and shape to her own field kit. She cannot open it, though; it has a combination lock - examination of the contents will have to wait until later. The one large suitcase, however, has been left unzipped. Inside is a man's typical vacation wardrobe. Nothing unusual, nothing unexpected. On the desk, under an array of photos, is a laptop computer, with a small, high-quality printer attached; these, too, she collects as evidence. She wants to check the bedding for biological stains, but she pauses. The bedspread was hit with blood spatter; she must deal with this before she can do anything else with the bedding. David has removed the body; she can now start the blood spatter analysis.
Sometime later, Grissom emerges from the bathroom to find Catherine looking out the window, her arms crossed and her eyes focused on something in the parking lot. Knowing that he is now beside her, she speaks without looking at him, "Do you see it, Gil, the car with Saskatchewan plates? Kinda stands out, doesn't it. I'm going to ask the manager who it belongs to. Odds are it's the vic's." Finally, she turns her head and looks at him.
He nods, and smiles at her. Precious little gets past her, and he tells her so. Together, they finish processing the crime scene.
Later, I soaked in a bubble bath and tried to make sense of it all. Ian Johnstone. I hadn't even thought about him in years, but somehow we had both ended up in Vegas at the same time. And now he was dead. He must have been murdered, for why else would Captain Brass be investigating it? I realized that I didn't even know how he had died. I guess I could have asked, but the "conversation" (interrogation?) in the captain's office had been so difficult that the question had simply not occurred to me. It was appalling that I could even be considered a suspect. Oh well, they would soon figure out that I was completely innocent. Innocent? Oh, that's a good one, Lynne, I laughed to myself. What I mean is, they will know I haven't committed any crimes.
Upon leaving the captain's office, I asked Mr. Grissom to direct me to the ladies' room. He complied, and waited as I used the facilities; then he walked me back to my rental car. I thought it unnecessary, but he had his own agenda.
"Ms. Whitney, may I ask you something? It's not officially part of the investigation, just something I'm curious about." I consented to the question, so he continued, "You identify yourself as a library technician, but not a librarian. What's the difference?"
"Basically, it's the difference between a university degree and a college diploma. You see, to be a librarian requires an MLS, a Masters of Library Science degree; whereas to be a library technician requires a diploma from a college or institute of technology. I have the latter, but not the former. I'm trained to do the technical tasks required in a library, such as acquisitions and cataloguing. Of course, a more complete answer would also be more complex, but I've given you a fairly accurate summary."
He seemed satisfied with my explanation.
Slowly, my thoughts settled down, and I felt calmer. I sank deeper into the bath and allowed my thoughts to freely wander. After a while, I found I was thinking about Jim Brass. Oh, shame on me!
"Gil, we already know who he is. We don't need her to make the ID." Doc Robbins had just completed his post-mortem exam of Ian Johnstone. He didn't understand what Grissom was suggesting.
"Al, you're right. Technically, we already have a positive ID. What I'm thinking is that this Lynne Whitney has some connection to the vic. We don't yet know the exact nature of that connection. So, we bring her in here, have her make the ID, and watch her reaction. Use a room with an observation booth and I'll be with Jim behind the mirror. When she's done, Jim and I will ask her our questions. All you have to do is proceed exactly like you do every time someone ID's a body. Just give us time to get out into the hall before she leaves the room. She can't know we're observing her."
Al gave it some thought, and agreed to do it. "Alright, give me her number."
"So, Gil, what've we got, besides two Canadian tourists, one of them a dead Mountie, who knew each other 20 years ago?" Jim Brass was tired, and frustration was starting to build in his soul. That bottle of booze in his desk drawer was calling to him; he ignored it. "We know the guy was shot through the heart, and her name is not only in his wallet, but pictures of her - recent pictures, some of them - are all over his motel room. He knew precisely where she's staying. But, she insists that she hasn't heard from him since '85. What's your take?"
Grissom gathered his thoughts; he had come straight back to Jim's office after walking Lynne to her car. "She may be telling the truth. I'll have my people process her hair, DNA, and prints, but I don't believe we'll find any matches. Otherwise, there's no reason to think that she went anywhere near him or his room during the time they've both been in Vegas. We saw her ID the body, we witnessed her reaction. It took her a minute to even know who he was. Then, she spoke of him in the past tense. She said he was OPP, when we've already confirmed he was an RCMP officer; she apparently didn't know he'd made the switch. We can, and will, verify everything she told us about what she's done in Vegas since her arrival, including her room service and hotel phone records. Of course, we also need to trace the vic's activities, for at least the last 48 hours. You can help with that, and check both of them for priors."
"Yeah, I'll do that. I gotta call Johnstone's CO anyway, let him or her know what's happened here." He paused, frowning and shaking his head, "Damn, I hate making these calls. And when it's a dead cop, well, that's even worse." He looked at Gil, who was deep in thought.
"Oh, I know that look. You have something. So, you gonna share?" Brass asked, not really expecting an answer.
Grissom surprised him by actually speaking, "I just might. Have something, that is. I'll get back to you." He was gone before Brass even took his next breath.
Catherine logged in all the evidence from the Johnstone case. Some of it, like the gun, the photos, the clothing, and bedding, she would deliver to various lab techs for analysis, but the rest of it would be stored in the evidence vault until she had a chance to process it. Grissom should have been helping her, but he had been called away. No matter, eventually she'd get payback. In any case, by the time she was done, her shift would be over. She planned to take Lindsey out for breakfast - a rare treat on a school day - before dropping her off at school. Then, Cath was out of here. She was going to a major-league forensics conference; her next few days would be filled with fun, friends, free food - and, of course, the workshops. This year's line-up of speakers and presenters was the best yet. She was stoked, couldn't wait to get there.
Grissom strode down the CSI building hallways peering into the various labs and rooms as he passed them. He had dropped off Lynne's specimens with the people who would analyze them and was now looking for, but not finding, something - or someone.
"Hey, Griss, need something?" Nick Stokes emerged from the break room as his supervisor swept past the door.
"Nick, where's Sara? I need her." It was a sign of Grissom's intense preoccupation that he failed to notice the double entendre he had just spoken; Nick caught it but wisely let it pass without comment.
"She's probably not back yet." Seeing Grissom's unspoken question, he added, "From the scene you sent her to process."
Grissom blinked. "Oh, yes, of course."
"Anything I can do?" Nick made the offer expecting to be refused. He wasn't disappointed.
"Thanks, Nick, but no. Where're you at with your own case?" Grissom had a way of keeping everyone on task, but it wasn't always appreciated. Getting the point, Nick succinctly gave Grissom an update, then he quickly got back to work.
Arriving back at the lab, Sara Sidle desperately wanted - no, make that desperately needed - a shower. With lemons, a whole bushel of them. As much as she loved her work, sometimes she despised it. Tonight, she loathed it. She and Warrick Brown had been sent to investigate a brawl at an upscale restaurant. It should have been easy enough, but the trail of evidence had lead directly to the back alley - and the dumpster. She lost the coin toss, and had therefore spent an hour digging through putrid, nauseating kitchen trash. She had found a bloody knife - potentially a key piece of evidence - but at the moment, all she cared about was getting the smell of decomposing food scrubbed off of her body. Leaving Warrick to log in the evidence, she made a beeline for the locker room. She had just reached the door when Grissom caught up with her.
"Sara, there you are. I was just about to page you. I need your help with something."
"Can it wait a few minutes? I really need a shower."
"You do? Right now?" He gave no sign that he smelled anything unpleasant.
She wondered, not for the first time, how this extraordinarily brilliant scientist could sometimes be so dense. "Grissom, in case you haven't noticed, I stink. Actually, I reek. I got the privilege of going dumpster-diving, and now I'm going to have a shower. I'll be in your office in 15 minutes."
Grissom watched her enter the locker room, shaking his head. "She didn't smell that bad," he muttered to himself.
True to her word, Sara sailed into Grissom's office exactly 15 minutes later. To her mind, she still smelled horrible, but the quick shower and clean clothing had made a small improvement. "Okay, Boss, here I am. How can I help?"
Looking up at her, trying not to see how very sexy she looked with damp curls framing her face, he told her, "I need you to do some research for me. I need to know where someone has been for the last 20 years. Actually, two someones."
"Two specific someones, or should I just choose at random?" she teased him.
She got a trademark "Grissom Glare" in reply. "The two people are Lynne Whitney and Ian Johnstone. Both are Canadian, and I made some notes to get you started."
She took the paper he was holding out for her, and inquired, "This is the case you and Cath were working. So, she's gone to her conference, and now I get to help you?"
"Yeah, you do. I guess I got lucky, in a manner of speaking," he flirted.
"Are you going to tell me anything else?" She, too, was capable of uttering double entendres.
'No. Read the notes, and take it from there. I'm curious to see what you find, but I don't want to influence your research." She was making it very hard for him to stay focused on the case.
"Piece of cake," she grinned at him.
As Sara made her way to her computer workstation, Warrick called to her. He was about to begin processing the evidence from the restaurant brawl and he asked her if she wanted to help.
"Sorry, Warrick, Grissom put me on something else."
"So, you're ditching me?" His eyes sparkled with mirth.
"Looks like it. Gotta do what the boss wants. I'll help you later if I have time," she replied lightly.
"That's cool; I'm the primary anyway. See ya later."
"Yeah, later." She gave him a little smile.
Several hours and many cups of coffee later, Sara got up and stretched. Her excellent computer skills had given her access to a mother lode of information. "People would die if they knew just how little privacy they really have," she thought. "A person's whole life is right out there on the Internet. You just have to know where to look."
The pattern was crystal clear: Lynne Whitney had left Ontario in July 1985, and had never been back. She and her husband had returned to Calgary, their hometown, and had lived there ever since. Their daughter had been born in 1990, and their divorce had been granted in 1998. Ian Johnstone, on the other hand, had remained in Ontario, until joining the RCMP in 1993. Since then, his postings had taken him all over Canada, except for Alberta. She could find no record of him ever setting foot in Alberta. So, it seemed that Lynne Whitney and Ian Johnstone literally had not been in the same province, let alone the same town, since 1985.
She sorted a stack of printouts, making one pile for Lynne and another for Ian. She then arranged each stack in chronological order. Satisfied, she went to tell Grissom, hoping he would tell her what it all meant.
"I have all this evidence. College records, employment records, utility company records; its all here. What do you mean, I missed something?" Sara was on the verge of anger; she had worked damn hard to get all this, and now he seemed to be dismissing it.
"I'm sorry, Sara, I didn't mean you missed something, I meant you didn't find anything to show that they saw each other after 1985. Unless they had secret trysts - unlikely since it seems that Ms. Whitney only rarely traveled outside of Calgary after the birth of her daughter - they truly never connected after she left Ontario. This evidence is consistent with her verbal account, at least to a certain degree." He handed her the file folder containing all the case notes and documents. "Here, I can let you see this now." She rapidly scanned the contents, expertly gleaning the facts.
Feeling calmer - in her fatigue, she had simply misunderstood him - she queried, "What about keeping in touch through letters, or email? They might have done that."
"It's possible. But, I don't know how we could investigate that. We're in Vegas, how could we identify letters sent that may have been sent at any time in the last 20 years, and within Canada at that? And as for email, without access to every computer they each may have used, how would we ever know? Ms. Whitney said that there was no contact at all. At this point, we cannot entirely prove or disprove that statement. The best we can say is that we've found no evidence to the contrary." Grissom sighed, and ran his hand through his curly hair, "And none of this even begins to explain why Johnstone had her name in his wallet."
"Or her photos all over his room." She hesitated, thinking. "But, you know, I did miss something, and so did you. He was a cop, right?"
"Actually, a Mountie, but yeah. So?"
"So, he probably had access to all her information." She took a breath and continued, the idea crystallizing as she talked it out, "I mean, I got all this, he could have done the same. I don't know why he had her listed as an emergency contact, but I do know where he got her current information. He just looked it up on the Internet."
She paused, and collected herself. Suddenly, a look of horror appeared on her face; another piece of the puzzle had fallen into place for her. "Sara, what is it?" Grissom asked with alarm.
Without consciously deciding to do so, she reached out and grasped his arm, "Grissom, he was stalking her."
Grissom, looking into Sara's eyes, considered her words, "Okay, maybe - just maybe - he was surveilling her, but stalking? That's a pretty big leap."
She insisted, "No, he was stalking her. I just need to prove it." She was still holding his arm; he made no move to pull away.
"But, Sara, the evidence doesn't support that conclusion."
"Not yet, it doesn't. I gotta go do some more research." She whirled away from him, and was gone.
"Ms. Whitney, I'm Sara Sidle, Las Vegas crime lab. I'd like to ask you some questions regarding your relationship with Ian Johnstone."
I was in my hotel room, reading a local newspaper, when Ms. Sidle knocked; I invited her in and offered her a chair.
"I'll answer your questions, but I already told Captain Brass and Mr. Grissom everything I can remember." I also sat down. "Would you like some coffee? There's some left from my breakfast, it's still fresh."
"No, thanks. I'm fine. Now, when did you first meet Corporal Johnstone?"
"Corporal? I guess he earned a promotion or two, good for him; when I knew him, he was a special constable. But, I first met him in March 1984. It was the day we - my ex-husband and I - arrived in Lansdowne House. Ian was there to meet the plane. It was customary for the OPP to have personnel meet all flights. Ian was among the first people we met there; he just walked over and introduced himself while we waited for our luggage to be unloaded."
"You seem very sure of your dates."
"I have a near-photographic memory. And, I have been thinking about Ian a lot recently, remembering. Ever since I realized it was him in the morgue."
"Why did you fly into the town, why not just drive in?"
"Well, there were two reasons. First of all, we didn't own a vehicle. But, it wouldn't have mattered anyway, because that town is in a remote part of Ontario. It's the Canadian Shield, all rocks, trees, and water. It's actually very beautiful. But, that far north, there are no roads or highways connecting the towns; access is either by air, or by water. Driving in simply isn't an option."
"That's interesting. How well did you know Ian?"
"He became a friend. My husband's and mine. We saw each other socially, visited each other at home, that kind of thing. We enjoyed each other's company; we respected each other. I guess you could even say we liked each other. But, Ian always kept a certain distance; he never let anyone get too close to him."
"Why was that, do you think?"
"I just assumed it was a small town thing. And maybe a cop thing. That town had a population of just over 400 people when we lived there. Most of them had been born and raised there, they had extended families there, and of course they knew everybody. But some of us - my husband, me, the school teachers, and Ian - were outsiders. We weren't related to anyone, we didn't know everyone, and we stood out. I don't mean we were treated badly, we weren't; I only mean that we weren't part of the inner circle. Also, it was like living in a goldfish bowl in some ways, the smallest, most innocent thing could rapidly become the biggest, nastiest rumour. On top of that, Ian was a police officer; he was the law, the authority. He was isolated to a degree, out of necessity. You see, he was highly visible. He had to be very careful with what he did, the choices he made. He could never appear to play favourites, and he could never compromise himself. It was a very precarious position; his behaviour had to be completely beyond reproach, no matter what the situation. Unfortunately, the people may have respected his uniform, but a lot of them never really accepted him, and most never completely trusted him."
"So, was crime a problem there?"
"No, not really. I'm not certain, but I think there were a lot of misdemeanors, but very few serious crimes. I didn't mean to imply that the town was full of criminals. It's just that nobody likes being told their behaviour is inappropriate, especially when the person doing the telling is both a law enforcement officer, and an outsider."
"Okay, what about you? Did you trust him?"
"Me? Yeah, I guess I did trust him. I mean, I had no reason not to. I never broke any laws, so he wasn't going to arrest me. He was a nice guy, doing a difficult and thankless job."
She looked into my eyes, picking up on clues I didn't even know I was giving her, "Did you love him?"
The question caught me off guard, I hesitated a shade too long before answering, "You did love him, didn't you?" she pressed.
I decided to come clean. "I haven't talked about this in years, but yes, I did love him, and yes, he knew it. So did my husband. However, there was no affair. Ian wouldn't admit that he loved me, only that he was attracted to me, but I was married. He and I talked it over and decided that the best thing - rather, the least destructive thing - was to simply walk away from each other. We both had too much to risk - my marriage, his career, and both our reputations. It was hard, and very painful, but we did it. We stopped calling and visiting each other, and we never again allowed ourselves to be alone together. Luckily, my husband soon found a new job, and we moved back to Calgary." I shifted a little in my chair, and repressed the urge to fidget.
"Is your relationship with Ian why you and your husband moved away?"
"It was a factor, but we had other reasons for wanting to move back to the city. Actually, we had been talking about it for a few months. It can be extremely difficult psychologically for a city-bred person to live in a remote, isolated area like that, and we had been doing it for years. My near-miss with Ian made us realize that we needed to get back to the city, the sooner the better. The hardships of the North had lost their charm for us; and we wanted to save our marriage."
"Did you ever have sexual relations with Ian Johnstone. Sorry, but I have to ask."
"No, I did not. I never had sexual relations with Ian." My voice was unsteady; this was an incredibly hard thing to say out loud.
"But you wanted to?" She leaned slightly forward, her eyes showing professional curiosity, and perhaps something more. Something personal.
"I admit I was tempted. But, I behaved myself, and so did Ian. We never even kissed each other." This conversation was becoming very difficult for me; I wasn't in the habit of sharing such private information with anyone, let alone a total stranger. I started to fidget in spite of myself; I picked at a hangnail.
"What can you remember about the last time you saw Ian alive? Your last conversation with him."
I got up, poured myself a cup of coffee, and sat down again as I answered, "It was at the airport. I mean the airstrip; it's too small to be called an airport. He had to be there whenever a plane was coming in or going out, like I mentioned earlier. It was very windy that day, and we wondered if the plane would even make it in. Not even bush planes can fly though everything. We, my husband and I, and Ian waited in the small shelter at the edge of the landing strip. None of us had much to say; it was difficult for all of us. Very awkward. Finally, we heard the plane approaching. It landed, we checked in with the co-pilot, and stowed our luggage. We said good-bye to Ian, and we probably both shook hands with him, just to be polite. We boarded the plane, it took off, and that was that. It was a horrid, extremely turbulent flight south to Thunder Bay, where we spent the night. We continued on to Calgary the following morning." I paused to catch my breath, "That's it. That's the whole sad story. But, if I may ask, what does all this have to with Ian's death? I didn't kill him, so how does your knowing all this help to find out who did?"
"I'm sorry, but I can't discuss that with you. However, I do have permission to tell you that Ian was with the RCMP; since 1993."
"He always wanted to be a Mountie; I'm glad it worked out for him." I stood up again, wanting to end the discussion.
"Yeah, me too." Sara's smile was sincere.
"So, she admits she was in love with Johnstone. Do you really believe that they never had sex?" Grissom was reviewing Sara's interview notes.
"What, you don't think that people can be in love and never consummate it?" Sara knew she was on dangerous ground, but she spoke her mind anyway. "It happens, Grissom. Being in love doesn't always mean getting physical. So, yes, I believe her." She turned away from his intense blue gaze. This conversation was hitting far too close to home.
Grissom also felt the discomfort; he knew exactly what Sara was both saying and not saying. But, he had to stay focused on the case. He tried again, "She didn't tell Brass, or me, about being in love with him. In fact, she implied that they were casual acquaintances at best. She withheld information from us."
"Maybe she was stressed out that day; you and Brass were pretty hard on her, you know. Maybe you guys didn't ask the right questions, or maybe she just felt more comfortable talking to a woman. Whatever. Does it really matter now that she loved him then? Does it help us find out who shot him?"
Pausing, Grissom stared at Sara. Eventually, he sighed, "No, it doesn't. You're right; we need to concentrate on what happened here in Vegas. Somebody shot a Mountie, and we need to find out whom that person is. Keeping that in mind, what do we have?"
Relieved to be back in neutral territory, she rallied, "Doc Robbins retrieved the bullet. Bobby checked it out, and it's a match for the gun found in Ian's motel room. Speaking of which, it was his service piece; Bobby has confirmed that. I have no idea how he got it across the border, but he did. The man was killed with his own weapon." She shuddered slightly, gathered her thoughts, and took a breath before continuing, "Jacquie pulled a couple partial prints from the gun, she's running them now." She flipped through the case file, seeking any new additions. "Oh, and the results are back from Lynne's hair, DNA and prints. They don't match anything found in the motel room, and they aren't in any of the databases. At least the American ones. Haven't checked any Canadian law enforcement databases yet - access issues."
"Never mind, she's not a suspect. Nothing links her to the crime scene; she was never there. Anything else?"
"Archie confirms that many of the photos of Lynne were taken here in Vegas. He has identified several venues. Ian was following her - note, I did not say stalking - and Archie says Johnstone probably used a few different telephoto lenses. He watched her from a distance, and took the photos probably without her ever knowing about it. Creepy."
Grissom was lost in thought. He felt he was missing something. Something important. Something obvious. "Sara, has Jim found anything? He was going to do background checks on them."
"No, not yet. What is it? You look like something's bothering you."
He shrugged, "I'm okay." Suddenly, it hit him, "How did he get here? Did he fly in, or take the bus, maybe?"
Catching his thought, and looking in the case file again, she responded, "That's what we've been missing. He drove himself here. Remember, his motel registration listed his car. Saskatchewan plates, because his last posting was in town called Estevan."
"Yeah, Catherine and I processed the car after we processed the room. It was clean."
"So, you already knew he drove here."
He smiled at her, "Busted. Yeah, I knew. Let's think about it, Sara. Where's a map? How far is it from Estevan, Saskatchewan to Calgary, Alberta?"
Sara didn't need a paper map; she immediately logged on to the Internet and pulled up a map of Western Canada. A few more clicks and she had the answer. "It looks like an easy day's drive. At least, in good weather."
She did the math. "The guy was obsessed with Lynne Whitney. He liked road trips, liked to drive. And, when you drive, there's no record of where you are or when you arrive, like there is when you fly somewhere. Well, there are credit card and ATM records, but that takes a while to trace. Assuming anyone even bothers to try. You know, Johnstone could have been in Calgary any number of times, without anyone realizing it. Still think he wasn't stalking her?" She grinned at him. She had spoken his exact thoughts, and she knew it.
"Perhaps you can convince me. You know what I want, Sara. Show me the evidence." He beamed back at her. In that moment of synchronicity, he could barely keep himself from kissing her. He knew he loved her, and he knew that he would have to do something about it, and soon. Yes, soon, but not right now. He would await the opportune moment.
Sara Sidle knew what her next step would be. She quickly made her way to the evidence vault; all this time on the case, and she had yet to look at the actual evidence. She signed out the entire package, and took it into an empty layout room.
Greg Sanders was on his way to the break room for yet another cup of coffee when he noticed Sara hard at work. He paused in the doorway, not wanting to disturb her but rather just enjoying the view. His crush on Sara was a local legend, but he primarily wanted to be her friend. He decided to bring her a cup of his latest gourmet coffee - he'd make a fresh pot, just for her - when she looked up and saw him there.
"Hey, Greg. Can I do something for you?"
He wanted to say yes, she could run away with him to a tropical island and bear him beautiful, long-legged children - but somehow he didn't think she would go for it. Instead, he just said, "Not tonight. As luck would have it, however, I can do something for you. I'll bring you the best cup of coffee you've ever had."
"Okay, you're on. But, I'll have to drink it in the break room. You know we're not allowed to eat or drink anywhere near evidence. Too much risk of contamination."
Greg blushed, "Yeah, I forgot, sorry. Damn, I'll never become a CSI forgetting basic stuff like that. I'll let you know when it's ready."
He was rewarded with one of her beautiful smiles, and he floated on air the rest of the night.
"Sara, are you aware that the shift ended two hours ago?" Grissom had just returned from a breakfast meeting, and had found her still in the layout room. She had just managed to open the combination lock on the vic's metal case.
"Yeah, I know, I'll go home soon." She lifted the lid, and exclaimed, "Blam! Look at all this!" The case contained what appeared to be very expensive photographic equipment. There was a camera body and also several telephoto lenses, along with all the usual photographer's gadgets. "Archie's gonna wet himself when I let him look at this stuff."
"Well, yes, it is rather impressive. Want some help?" Grissom knew that trying to convince Sara to go home when she was this excited was a lost cause. If she was staying, he was staying, too. "When we're done, maybe we can grab something to eat."
"Yeah, maybe we can. And, yes, I would appreciate some help." Anything to spend time with him, she thought. Both looked down at the open case, which lay flat on the table in front of them.
Greg, who had been walking past the layout room, doubled back when he realized what he had just glimpsed. He entered the room, saying, "Hey guys, that's a Canon EOS 10D digital camera body you have there. Very pricey, but excellent quality; the guy really knew his stuff. And, huge wow, that big lens is a 500 mm. Another hefty price tag."
Noticing that Grissom and Sara were both staring at him, he added, "Photography is yet another of my various and sundry hobbies. Sometimes my dates ask for "special portraits", I'm actually very good." Realizing what he had just implied, he blushed and stammered, "I'm referring to photography. I'm good at photography."
Sara, feeling his embarrassment, simply told him, "Greg, maybe you should take Nicky's advice, 'If you find yourself in a hole, the best thing to do is stop digging'."
Grissom spoke up, "Greg, thank you telling us about this equipment, but the shift is over. Why are you still here?"
Greg, reacting to the thanks from his mentor, was dancing - literally. Grissom's question - when it registered with him - caught him off guard, and he made himself stand still.
"I stayed late, waiting for some tests to run - but they're done now, my reports are filed, and I was just on my way out when I spotted this stuff. The rest you know."
"Well then, Greg, we won't keep you here."
Knowing that he had been dismissed, Greg cheerfully bid Sara and Grissom a fond farewell, and went home.
Grissom turned to Sara, asking, "Shall we?" Together, they carefully photographed the contents before removing anything from the case. Then, they methodically removed and catalogued every item the case held; a detailed examination of each piece would be done later. When the camera case was empty, Sara closed it - without relocking it - and was about to set it aside; but as she picked it up, she heard and felt something shift around inside it. Setting it down again, she opened it again to take a closer look. Using a magnifying glass, she noticed that the molded foam rubber padding was slightly worn in one corner. She felt it with her gloved fingers, and told Grissom, "There seems to be a small latch just under the edge of the padding." She released the latch, and lifted up the padded lining - the hidden compartment opened to reveal a red-covered coil-bound notebook, three CDRW disks, and a pair of panties which were both very worn, and rather large. She looked at Grissom, neither of them had a good feeling about this.
I was starting to feel restless; and homesick - I missed my daughter. My trip to Vegas, my first real vacation in 10 years, was turning out to be a whole lot more stressful than a vacation had any right to be. I wanted to call Jim - oops, I mean Captain Brass - and ask for permission to go home, but something held me back. I couldn't leave yet; I first needed to know about Ian. I needed to know who killed him, and who was going to look after him now. Did he have anyone to give him a proper funeral? Would his family - his brother, perhaps - do anything? I didn't know if he had ever gotten married, or fathered any children. Surely the Mounties would honour one of their own - even if he hadn't died in the line of duty - but what if they didn't, or couldn't? These thoughts distressed me greatly.
My life since leaving Ian had been a good one, at least for the most part. True, it had taken me a while to get over him, but eventually I did recover. My husband and I had gone into marriage counseling, from which we reaped huge benefits, both as individuals and as a couple. My pregnancy and the birth of our daughter were unexpected - though entirely welcome - miracles. We both treasured her. Our eventual divorce, while devastating, had nothing at all to do with Ian. Instead, it happened because my husband grew tired of having us for his family - for whatever reason - and abandoned us, effectively disappearing. His whereabouts have been unknown to me for about five years - assuming he is even still alive.
Ian Johnstone, I did love you, once. Now you are dead, do I love you still? I am mourning you, grieving for you, that much I know. Did I ever really stop loving you, or did I just learn to live without you?
"Brass." He had answered the phone on the second ring.
"Hello, Captain Brass. It's Lynne Whitney. I wonder if I might ask you a question regarding Ian Johnstone."
"Yeah, ask. I'll answer if I can." He sounded curious.
"I wanted to know if anyone, any of his relatives, have offered to escort his remains back to Canada. I'm wondering if anyone is planning a funeral for him." This was difficult for me.
The line was silent for a few seconds. "I don't have that information. It's Dr. Robbins you need to talk to. But ... let me call him and get back to you." He paused, "May I ask why you want to know?" His voice was soft and kind.
"I was his friend, at least at one time I was. Now, I just want to make sure that somebody looks after him. If there is no one else willing to do it, then I will."
"That's a pretty big responsibility."
"I know. A mountain of paperwork, too, I imagine."
He chuckled, "You got that right. Okay, I'll talk to Al, and let you know."
"You're welcome. Oh, and one more thing; we know you had nothing to do with Johnstone's death, the evidence definitely excludes you as a suspect. Sorry if Gil and I were a little hard on you."
"That's okay. I understand that you two were just doing your jobs. And, it's really good to know that I'm not a suspect. Thanks again, and I'll let you go now. Bye."
"Bye, Lynne." He replied warmly.
As they had agreed, Grissom and Sara went to a nearby coffee shop for a quick meal after finishing their work with the camera equipment. Sara felt slightly awkward, but kept reminding herself that there was nothing wrong - or even exceptional - with her being here with Grissom. After all, she had eaten countless meals with Nick and Warrick, and even a few with Greg. It was just two friends sitting at the same table, eating their food. Not a big deal. They talked about the case. Still, it was nice to pass some time with Grissom away from the lab. He was in one of his "be nice to Sara" phases, and while she could never tell when he would start ignoring her again, she decided to enjoy it while it lasted.
Grissom drained his coffee cup, and looked at Sara. The sunlight flowing through the window beside them brought out deep amber highlights in her hair. She was so very beautiful, yet she didn't always seem to know it. There was so much he wanted to tell her; but it seemed he never could. Would the opportune moment ever arrive? He sincerely hoped so. He decided to never ignore her again.
During the next shift, Archie didn't exactly wet himself when shown the digital camera, but he nevertheless was very impressed by it. "Wow, Sara, this is really high-end. The guy spent huge bucks on it."
"That's what Greg said. Please have a look; see if the memory card still has any photos. If so, I want 8x10 prints ASAP."
"Yes, ma'am." he said teasingly. He was very eager to get to work.
While Archie checked out the camera, Sara examined the laptop. She had already dropped off the panties with Greg so he could determine if they had belonged to Lynne.
She plugged in the laptop and turned it on. Just as she had suspected, it was password-protected. This, while challenging, was basically not a problem. She knew how to hack the password, and soon she had full access to all of Johnstone's files. Opening "Windows Explorer", she began a systematic search of the hard drive. She checked each and every folder, tracing all file paths to their ends. and documenting each step with a screen print. For the most part, there was nothing at all unusual in any of the folders. Then, about 8 levels down, in a sub-folder called "Financial Documents", she found something very probative, very interesting, and very disturbing. It was Ian's diary.
The sudden, shrill ringing of the phone startled me. I answered right away. "Lynne Whitney speaking," I said in my professional voice.
"Hi, Lynne. Jim Brass here. I just got off the phone with Al Robbins, and he says to tell you that Johnstone's brother is on his way here. He's going to look after your friend," he kindly reported.
"That would be Josiah; and I'm very glad that he's doing it," then, worried how that might sound, I added, "I mean, it's better for Ian's family if they look after him themselves."
"It's okay, Lynne, I understand what you mean. Um, did you ever meet this Josiah?"
"No, but Ian talked about him a lot, and once he showed me some pictures. Ian was very proud of his little brother."
"Well, it's been nice talking to you, but ..."
"I know, you gotta go. Thanks, Captain Brass; I really appreciate your help."
"Hey, no problem. And, call me Jim."
"Alright, Jim. Bye now."
"Grissom, you need to see this." Sara stood in the doorway of her supervisor's office.
Grissom finished signing the report he had just read, and looked up. "What is it, Sara?"
She handed him a thick stack of printouts. "I found Johnstone's diary on his laptop and, believe me, it was hard to find. He had it buried real good. I haven't read all of it yet, but these are some of the entries. Please read them, and tell me what you think. I'm taking my break now."
"So, I'll look for you in the break room." They shared a moment of eye contact, and a smile.
"Yeah, you do that."
Stepping through the break room door, Sara could hear the sounds of a video game, and she saw that Nick and Warrick were once again engaged in a virtual battle with each other. She retrieved her lunch from the fridge and sat down at the table, thinking, "Hey, it's the 'Nicky and Ricky Show'."
"Blam! I got you good, man. You are so dead. Game! Over!" Nick gloated as he "killed" Warrick. "Hey, Sara. Haven't seen much of you lately." He joined her at the table.
"Get back here, Stokes, I demand a rematch!" Warrick insisted.
"Later, bro. I'm talking to Sara now."
"Yeah, I can see that. Hey, Sara. How's your new case coming?" He turned off the game and joined the other two at the table.
"It's weird. Dead Mountie stalking a woman who once loved him. As much as I hate to badmouth any law enforcement officer, this guy was a creep. He tracked her for more than two years. Followed her, took pictures." She suddenly stopped talking, and looked alarmed, "Nicky, I'm sorry. I shouldn't discuss this with you." She knew that this case was probably dredging up painful memories of Nigel Crane in Nick's mind; she reached out and squeezed his hand.
Before Nick could respond, Greg came striding into the room, "Sara, I have your results. It's what you thought. That certain item of intimate apparel did in fact belong to Lynne Whitney. The DNA was a perfect match. But, there's more, and it's kinda gross. The dude was a total freakazoid ...", his voice trailed off; he was unsure how much he should say in front of Nick and Warrick.
"It's okay, Greg. Just let me read the report." He handed it to her; she read it and looked disgusted.
"Sara, what's wrong." Nick was concerned. "Now, don't you worry about me; just tell me what's got you so grossed out."
"Every time I think I've seen the worst, something else comes along. Johnstone, the dead Mountie, had somehow acquired a pair of his victim's underwear. Greg's report indicates that Johnstone's semen was also there. He must have used the underwear when he ..."
Nick interrupted her, "Whoa, Sara, you don't have to paint a picture for us. We get it. And, you're right. It's very wrong, what he did. All of what he did." Now he was holding Sara's hand. Warrick and Greg exchanged concerned looks with each other. All three of these men wanted to protect and comfort Sara; they all cared about her, each in his own way.
"Thanks, guys, but I'm okay." Sara had seen the looks of worry on all her friends' faces, and smiled at them. "You guys are the best."
"Is this a private party, or can anyone come in?" Grissom stood in the doorway; he did not look or sound amused.
Sara stood up, still holding Greg's report in one hand. "Greg just brought me this. You told me to show you the evidence - well, here it is." She gave him the report.
"Just to be clear about this, do any of you guys actually work here, or is this merely a social club?" He was looking daggers at the men. They all hurried out of the room, mumbling apologies.
"You know, Grissom, jealousy doesn't become you. Those three are my friends, and that's all they will ever be. You don't need to be so territorial."
He shot her an icy glare, retorted, "I have no idea what you're talking about," and walked away from her; Greg's report hanging from his hand, unread.
"You do so know what I'm talking about, Mr. Alpha-Male," she murmured to herself. Then she shook her head, finished eating her lunch, and went back to work.
Grissom retreated to his office feeling humiliated and extremely foolish. Every time he started making progress with Sara, he blew it. He never meant to, but somehow he just did. "Yeah, I know those guys are just her friends," he thought, "I know she cares about them, as friends. She has something special with each of them. That's Sara; she finds the good in people. She has every right to make friends with people - even other guys. I know all this - and I know none of them are really a threat to me. So, why the hell does it make me so crazy to see her with them? She never looks at them the way she sometimes looks at me, and I don't think she ever will. Why can't I just get over it? Why do I have to be so damn jealous?" The thoughts ran through his head. "And, what's worse, she called me on it. She hates it when I do this. One of these times, she'll decide she's had enough - and then where will I be?" Then, a new thought occurred to him - maybe the opportune moment wouldn't just spontaneously appear, maybe he needed to help it along. Maybe, if Sara knew how he really felt about her, he would stop feeling so insecure. And jealous. So, the thing was to tell her. But, when? And, how? He really needed to think about this.
Back at her computer workstation, Sara knew she could no longer avoid the inevitable; she had to look at the CDRW's she'd found in Johnstone's camera case. Taking a deep breath, she got the first one loaded, and started scrolling through the files. It was every bit as bad as she had thought it would be. The disk was full of photos of Lynne, but with a very big difference. The photos found scattered around the motel room all showed Lynne in public settings - outdoors, shopping malls, etc. - and, of course, fully clothed. These new pictures, however, portrayed Lynne inside what could only to be Lynne's own bedroom and bathroom; and in various degrees of nudity.
She quickly looked through the other two disks, which contained still more nude shots of Lynne. The third disk also held some word processor documents. Opening one, Sara was dismayed to find that it was a very detailed and pornographic account of Lynne's bathing and grooming routines. Other documents, chosen by Sara at random, also proved to be highly sexual renderings of Lynne's daily activities.
"Okay," she told herself, "that's enough for an overview. I gotta tell Griss about this. 'Show me the evidence', he said. You bet I will."
On her way to find Grissom, Sara thought about the diary entries she had read, the clues Johnstone had recorded in them, and the nude photos. She developed a theory about how Johnstone gotten cameras into Lynne's house.
Ian Johnstone sits in his van, parked where he can see her house and watches Lynne Whitney and the brat leave the house and walk the short distance to the bus stop - which he can also see from where he is. He patiently waits until they board their bus, knowing that they will be gone for the day. He walks to their house, carrying a large backpack, and rapidly gains entrance by expertly picking the lock. There is no security system. He closes and relocks the door. Glancing around, learning the layout, he spies a key ring hanging on a hook near the door. The key tab bears the kid's name; looks like she will be locked out after school, the stupid girl. However, this is too good an opportunity to miss. He pockets the key, intending to make a trip to a local hardware store to make his own copy.
He gets to work, there's lots to do. He walks through the house; it's quite small, and old. Likely build in the 1940's, from the look of it. He finds the laundry area, another golden opportunity. He rummages through the hamper, and finds his treasure - her panties, worn but not washed. Today really is his lucky day. He stuffs them into his backpack.
A quick look at the two bedrooms tells him which one is Lynne's; the bathroom is right next door. He installs the video cameras, attaching motion sensors to tell the cameras when to turn on. He works quickly and efficiently, setting up the entire system, and then thoroughly cleans up after himself. He knows forensic evidence, how to manipulate a crime scene. Not that he considers himself a criminal, not at all. He just doesn't want Lynne to have any reason to suspect that anyone has been here. Being here in her house combined with the anticipation of the pictures he is trying to collect arouses him painfully, but he doesn't dare to look after it here. He leaves, and returns to his van. In the back of the van, he does what he so badly needs to do, seeking the relief he knows will be all too temporary - thinking about Lynne the whole time. Then, he gets the new key made, before returning the girl's key to the exact position where he found it.
He wasn't in his office, nor was he in the break room. Wondering where he was hiding this time, Sara was about to start a room-by-room search when she spotted him emerging from the men's room. "Hey, Grissom," she called to him.
He turned toward her, and waited for her to catch up to him. "Sara, have you got a minute? We need to discuss the case."
"My thoughts exactly. Your office?" she suggested, thinking that they had a lot more than the case to discuss.
"As good a place as any." He replied graciously.
As they neared his office door, Grissom gestured for Sara to enter ahead of him. He followed her in and closed the door; they both sat down. "Sara, before we talk about the case, there's something else I need to say," he began. He hesitated, seeking the words, then he plunged in, "I want to apologize for my behavior in the break room. I was out of line. I'm sorry." He both looked and sounded embarrassed.
Surprised, and a little confused, Sara said, "I accept your apology. But, if I may say so, it's not me who really needs it."
"Yeah, I know." Grissom sounded sheepish, "I'll apologize to them, too."
She had the feeling that there was a lot more he wanted to say. "Okay. Is there something else you wanted to talk about?"
His voice was very quiet, "Well, actually, there is. We do need to talk, but I don't want to do it at work. May I see you after work, maybe tomorrow afternoon? I mean, after we both get some sleep." This was a huge step for him; he hoped he didn't appear as scared as he felt.
Knowing any chance of sleeping had just vanished - how could she possibly sleep when she was filled with this kind of anticipation? - she had a different idea, "Maybe we shouldn't wait that long. How about having breakfast together? My place, if we need privacy." This was a risky move; she hoped it wasn't pushy.
He relieved her fears with a smile, "I thought you'd never ask. I would be very pleased to have breakfast with you at your home."
Man, the guy could sure turn on the charm when he wanted to. She smiled back, "Well, then, that's settled. Now, let's talk about the case. Did you read the diary entries?"
"Yes, and I agree they demonstrate that he was stalking her. I want to read the rest; I'll take over that part of the investigation, if you like. And, Greg's report - I understand why you were upset. But, don't worry, I'm not saying you're getting too emotionally involved with the case."
"Good, because there's more. I had a peek at the CDRW's. Johnstone hints in his diary that he had cameras in her home, Grissom. He actually took nude pictures of her. Two of the three CDRW's contain nothing but the nudes, the third has photos but also text files - porno he wrote about her, quite probably his sexual fantasies. According to the file creation dates, the porno stuff is fairly recent - within the last 8 or 9 months. I think he was escalating, maybe he would have eventually approached her if he hadn't died."
He thought about it, "Yeah, that's a definite possibility. Of course, we only know what the evidence tells us. And - don't interrupt - the evidence is telling us that he was obsessed with her, and was stalking her." He thought some more, "Sara, do we have a timeline on this?"
"I believe so; the first diary entry is dated a little more than two years ago. It's hard to tell when the earliest photos were shot." She observed the look on his face, "What are you thinking?"
"Jim finally got back to me with their background checks. She, Ms. Whitney, had nothing except a parking ticket about 7 years ago. Otherwise, completely clean. Johnstone's past is a little more complicated. On one hand, he was never arrested. But, his service record was uneven. He had a couple of commendations, but also several reprimands. No civilian complaints against him, but it seems he didn't always follow orders, or do his job as expected."
"So, he was a mediocre cop."
"Yes, so it seems; but what's probably most significant is that the majority of the reprimands were logged in the last 2 years."
"The length of time he'd been watching Lynne Whitney."
"Exactly. But, I have another question: how did he become a stalker? And, why?"
"Perhaps the answer is in his diary. Or, in his red notebook. I haven't gotten to that yet."
"Yes, I'm hoping to find the answer in one of those places." He looked into her eyes, "Sara, I love my work - especially when I get to do it with you."
She was flabbergasted - he actually said that, right out of the blue? "Griss, that just might be the nicest thing you've ever said to me," she replied breathlessly. To herself she added, "At least, it's right up there with, 'Since I met you'."
He checked his watch, "Hey, guess what? It's breakfast time. I believe we have a date."
Feeling almost giddy with joy, she beamed at him, "Yes, I believe we do."
He arrived at her apartment precisely on time. They had agreed to leave the lab at different times, and drive their separate vehicles. It was not meant as a deception so much as protection for their privacy. Both knew they were on the cusp of a new stage in their relationship, and both instinctively wanted to protect whatever it was that was emerging between them.
She answered the door almost before he knocked. The sight of her took his breath away - she had brushed out her hair and changed into a simple sundress that, while modestly covering her, was stunningly sexy. He was, of course, still in the clothes he had been wearing at work. "Sara, do you have any idea how utterly beautiful you are?" he blurted out.
She gave him her biggest smile, "Yeah, I'm starting to get that idea. You see, there's this gorgeous guy with incredible blue eyes who certainly seems to think so." Boldly, she took his hand and led him to her couch, where they both sat down. "So, what do you want to do first?" She let a pregnant pause develop before adding, "Eat or talk." Inside her head was a voice telling her to cool it, lest he think she was trying to seduce him - she silently told the voice to shut up, he was free to think whatever he wanted.
He seemed confused by the choices; apparently his thoughts had been taking a different path, "We should eat first. No, wait, maybe we should talk first. Hey, why can't we do both together?"
"Maybe we can," she giggled; he was so cute when he was flustered, "But, I get to choose the menu. Waffles with strawberries and whipped cream. I have three kinds of fruit juice; apple, orange and cranberry - no vodka, though - and I can make either tea or coffee, if you want."
"Sounds great. But no caffeine for me. I do need to sleep later. And, I'll have you know that only Catherine has vodka with breakfast. I'll have cranberry juice, please." She smiled and got up. "Do you need any help?" he offered.
"I wasn't going to ask, but since you volunteered, you can slice the strawberries. My parents grow them - organically, of course - and my mother sent me a huge quantity yesterday. They really are a treat." While speaking, she had poured a tall glass of cranberry juice for him, and an apple juice for herself. Then, she got him set up to do the berries while she started to make the waffles.
When the food was ready, Sara topped up their juice glasses; and they took their places at her small table. "Sara, this is absolutely delicious. These are the best waffles I've ever had," Grissom stated.
"Thanks, it's my mother's recipe; these waffles are one of her specialties. The guests at the B&B really love them." She was very pleased that he was enjoying her cooking.
He laid down his knife and fork, and reached for her hand. "Sara, I know I haven't always treated you kindly. In fact, there have been times when I've treated you very badly. It's difficult to explain why, except to say it was my extremely misguided attempt to change how I feel about you. I've been such a fool, thinking that I could keep you close with one hand, and push you away with the other. I hope you can forgive me. The truth, Sara, is that I love you deeply. I have for a very long time. Please accept my sincere apology for my past behavior. I promise you, Sara, I'll never treat you badly again."
Tears were forming in her eyes. "Oh, Gil. I don't know what to say. I never expected - I mean, I hoped, I did hope - but for you to say it like that ..." She trailed off, too close to tears to continue. After a second or two, she tried again, "All I can say is - Gil, I love you, too. I always have and always will." Unable to stop them, the tears broke free and ran down her face.
"So, you forgive me?" He asked gently, needing to know.
"Yes, of course I do." She smiled through her tears; his heart almost burst with love to see it.
"Don't cry, my darling." He wiped her face with his own handkerchief. Then, he leaned in and softly kissed her lips. The opportune moment had finally arrived.
Grissom spent the better part of the next shift sitting at Sara's computer reading Johnstone's diary; and viewing the CDRW's. He was seeking the answer to his questions - how and why did this man become a stalker?, and - most importantly - who shot him? It took him longer, perhaps, than was strictly necessary, because every now and then his thoughts drifted. He kept remembering the hours of beautiful love-making that had followed his proclamation to Sara.
He had sent Sara out with Nick to process a smash'n'grab. He had wanted to keep her close, but the criminals of Las Vegas had thwarted those plans. He wondered if Nick would guess Sara's new secret, but with a case to hold his attention, he likely wouldn't notice Sara's glow. Besides, he reluctantly admitted to himself, having Sara close right now would probably prove to be far too distracting.
So, he called upon his vast reserves of self-discipline, and resumed his examination of the Johnstone evidence. The diary contained many entries; at least one a day for more than two years. It was going to take hours to read it all. After a while, the pattern began to emerge. Johnstone had recorded that it was while he had been driving from a small town in British Columbia to Estevan, Saskatchewan - having just been transferred yet again - that he had spotted Lynne walking along a street in Calgary. Even though he had not seen her in many years, he immediately recognized her.
Pausing his reading, Grissom remembered the virtual map Sara had consulted, and he quickly surfed to it. He used the search wizard, entering the name of the town in B.C. (Golden, what history was in that name?) and Estevan. Soon, he saw that the best route - in fact, pretty much the only viable route - between the two was the Trans-Canada Highway, a.k.a. Highway No. 1. It did indeed pass right through Calgary. Next, Grissom called up a detailed map of Calgary, and discovered that within Calgary, Highway No. 1 was actually 16th Avenue North. It ran across the city in an east/west direction. Checking Lynne's home address, Grissom wasn't surprised to find that she lived quite close to the highway. If this was the route Johnstone had taken, he could have easily seen Lynne Whitney. Very easily.
Satisfied on those points, he read more of the diary. Johnstone tended to ramble; the entries were not consistent or coherent. However, Grissom's perseverance eventually paid off. Although disjointed and disorganized, the diary as a whole clearly delineated both Johnstone's growing obsession with Lynne, and his crumbling mental health.
The man had slowly lost his sanity. His diary was a testament to his conviction that Lynne Whitney had never really left him. In his heart, Johnstone knew that she had remained steadfastly faithful to him, despite the years and the physical distance between them. That young girl who followed her around couldn't possibly be her daughter - Lynne would never give herself to another man knowing that Ian was still out there, eagerly awaiting their glorious reunion. No, that girl must be a neighbour, or maybe a niece. But not a daughter, never a daughter. The more Grissom read, the more clear it became - Johnstone was totally delusional, and the object of his delusions was none other than Lynne Whitney.
"Grissom, Sara wanted these prints ASAP, from the Johnstone camera. Should I leave them with you?" Archie wanted to know.
Reaching out to take the offered folder, Grissom said yes. He mumbled a thank you, and began to look at the photos. What he saw baffled him - the pictures clearly showed Lynne Whitney eating a meal - lunch, maybe - with Aaron Pratt, the librarian from the Western States Historical Society. Grissom had met the younger man while investigating a mysterious death at the library a year or two ago. Okay, here were two library people sharing a meal, nothing incriminating - or even particularly interesting - about that. Probably just a professional exchange. Yet, these were the last shots taken by Johnstone before his death; what possible bearing did they have on the case?
He rapidly turned back to the diary, scrolling down to the last entry. Full of misspelled words and fragmented sentences, it was difficult to read. Trying his best, it seemed that the gist of the entry was that he - Johnstone - had seen Lynne with a lover. She had shamelessly flirted and flaunted herself, in a public place and with another man. The proof was in the camera. She, his true love, his angelic goddess, was a lying, cheating whore. She had brazenly thrown herself at this pitiful, weak, man - seducing him right there in the restaurant - and he had the pictures to prove it.
Grissom took a closer look at the photos, trying to see what Johnstone had seen. Lynne's posture, facial expressions, and body language, however, were very professional and simply not consistent with an attempted seduction. In fact, she had only touched Aaron twice; once when shaking hands, and once when briefly placing her hand on his arm.
He read more of the diary entry. Johnstone railed against Lynne for her unfaithfulness. He cursed her harlotry, and vowed to show her the error of her ways. He would make her repent. He knew the perfect way to break her heart, just as she had broken his.
After taking a quick, but necessary, break, Grissom decided to begin reading Johnstone's red notebook. Wearing fresh latex gloves, he retrieved it from the box of evidence, made the needed notation on the chain-of-custody form, broke the seal on the bag that contained it, and laid it on the sterile layout room table. He examined the cover, and found nothing of interest. Opening the notebook, he explored the contents. It was another diary, but it predated the computer diary. In fact, the earliest date in the notebook was September 4, 1985. The entire diary covered the years up until 1998. The entries were sparse and sporadic; there were long periods of time when no entries had been made.
This diary was much more readable than the computer entries; it was even eloquent at times. The content, however, was what Grissom really needed to know. So, he started to read.
It quickly became clear that this diary was also all about Lynne Whitney. Johnstone told about how hard it was for him to get over her. He had loved her, even if he had denied it to her. The months passed, then the years, but still he couldn't move on. He still loved her. He spoke of dating other women, only to realize that he couldn't love them. He would never love another woman as long as he loved Lynne. And, he would always love Lynne.
In later entries, Johnstone added complaints about his failed career, his many transfers, to his thoughts about Lynne. He speculated endlessly about where she might be, what she might look like now, whether she was still married. He fantasized about someday finding her, someday finally being able to give his love to her in all its fullness.
Grissom finished reading, and returned the notebook to its evidence bag, which he then resealed. One thought had surfaced in his mind during the reading - Johnstone had not loved the real Lynne Whitney. Instead, he had loved a fantasy; his cleverly constructed, idealized version of Lynne Whitney, based on nothing more than a wish and a memory.
Sara returned from the smash'n'grab shortly after Grissom had finished reading the notebook. He knew she would want to know what he had found, but he wished he didn't have to tell her. As he sat still, pondering all he had read, Sara appeared in the doorway.
"Hey, Griss, it was a solve-in-one-nighter. The criminal genius dropped his wallet, complete with driver's license, on his way out of the store. Of course, Nicky and I will still process the other evidence we collected, just to make sure that his lawyer can't get him off on a technicality. So, how was your evening?"
He looked at her, urgently wanting to kiss her. Later, he told himself. They had plans for another breakfast date, this time at his condo. They might even get around to actually eating, eventually, but not before satisfying other equally primal needs.
Distracting himself from his own thoughts, he reluctantly filled her in on the Johnstone case. "Sara, I know who shot Ian Johnstone. He did."
"Suicide? You're sure?" She wasn't questioning his conclusion as much as she was inviting him to explain it to her. He painted her a picture with words.
Ian Johnstone has just returned to his motel room after witnessing Lynne Whitney and Aaron Pratt eating lunch together. He fully believes that Lynne is his lover - in every possible way - and that her lunch with Aaron is undeniable proof of a torrid affair between the two of them. His anger consumes him; this betrayal is unbearable. The pain washes over him in unstoppable waves. But, he has work to do. He has a plan, and must follow through with it, completing each step in the proper sequence. Only then will he be able to take the final step, the step that will reveal to Lynne the depth of his heartfelt devotion to her.
He begins. He carefully packs away his camera and lenses, first making certain that his special collection of CDRW's is safe within the secret compartment. He lovingly caresses her panties one last time; as he does so, he remembers making his tributes to her. He knows the evidence of his love is still there on the silky fabric; and he briefly contemplates making a final offering - but, no. That's not part of the plan. Quickly, he closes and locks the camera case, returning it to its proper place in the closet.
He enters the bathroom. He uses the enema kit he bought on his way back here. He wants this event to be as clean as possible, no point in leaving behind a disgusting, stinking mess for Lynne to find. Likewise, he empties his bladder. He shaves, and cleans his teeth. Next comes the shower; after which he clothes himself entirely in clean apparel.
At last he is prepared. Only one more thing to do. He finds his gun in his suitcase. And the bullets. He slowly fills the magazine, pushing each bullet down firmly with the ball of his thumb. The full magazine slides easily into the correct position in the gun, a strong click confirms it. He pauses to consider exactly where in the room he wants to do this. Gun in his right hand, he circles the room, taking a long last look at his portrait collection. Lynne, you beautiful temptress, you heavenly seductress. You evil, whoring, betraying bitch. You will learn, and you will weep for me. Just as I have done for you.
He chooses his spot, standing in the centre of the room, near the bed; the bed Lynne could have, should have, shared with him, if only ... If only.
He raises the gun, and places the muzzle against his sternum, right over his heart. He hesitates only slightly, then he pulls the trigger. He falls dead, the recoil swinging his hand away from his chest. The gun, released from his grip, comes to rest a little distance from his hand. He has completed the final step of his plan. Now Lynne will feel his pain.
Grissom finished his description of Ian Johnstone's suicide. He was looking into Sara's eyes; at some point during his narrative, her hand had found its way into his. It was indiscreet, given that anyone could see them through the glass walls, but he decided that he would not be the one to break the contact.
Sara was very still and quiet, pondering Grissom's words. "I guess I'm not really surprised. None of the evidence indicated murder. But, it's so ugly; he killed himself because she couldn't live up to his fantasies of her. His delusions. Of course, she doesn't even know. I don't think she knows about any of this; that he was stalking her." She glanced down, and saw that they were still holding hands; it brought a fleeting smile to her lips. She gently pulled her hand away - no point pushing her luck - and returned her gaze to his handsome face. "How much should we tell Lynne? How much does she need to know?"
He sighed; he didn't know the answer. Eventually, he said, "I think we should tell her as little as possible. I'll arrange for Jim to bring her here, and we can answer whatever questions she may ask. We'll tell her the truth, just maybe not all of it. Let's try to keep the more disturbing facts to ourselves."
"Yeah, I agree. Only, I want to tell her. You and Brass can be there, but I think she should hear it from a woman."
"My thoughts exactly." He smiled at her, thinking that a compassionate and empathetic woman like Sara would handle the situation far better than he ever would. He glanced around, to see if anyone was lurking nearby. Seeing no one, he leaned close to Sara, and whispered in her ear, "You have no idea how much I want to kiss you right now."
Blushing slightly, she whispered back, "It can't be more than I want to kiss you." Then, before could react, she stood up and walked away. "So, call Brass. I'll be in the DNA lab. I haven't flirted with Greg yet today." She grinned at him, and left him there. He laughed; he knew she was only teasing him. Wasn't she?
He called Brass.
So, there I was, sitting in Jim's office again. Grissom and Sara were there, too. Sara spoke of Ian, telling me that his death was a suicide. I wanted to know how they knew that; she patiently explained that it's what the evidence indicated. The evidence proved that Ian was alone in the room at the time of his death, his prints were on the gun he used, only his blood, his hair, and his DNA were present.
"But, why? Can the evidence explain why he did it? His motive?" A few tears spilled from my eyes, and rolled unheeded down my cheeks. From the corner of my eye, I saw Jim gently push a box of tissues towards me. I took one.
Sara shot a glance at Grissom, then one at Jim, before responding, "Lynne, we think we know why he did it. He was unstable mentally, and he believed that he and a certain woman were deeply in love with each other - when in fact, he was stalking her. He apparently was delusional. He saw her in a restaurant with another man, and it drove him over the edge."
Her voice, and her eyes, gave her away; I could tell that she was trying to protect me from something unpleasant. I believe I saw something similar in Grissom's face. In Jim's face, in his eyes, I thought I could see both concern and deep compassion. I'm much more intuitive than people sometimes realize.
"You mean me, don't you? I had lunch with a librarian named Aaron Pratt the day I got here, but it was strictly professional. He and I met at a library conference a while back, and we keep in touch. Aaron is autistic; he likes me because I understand how to communicate with him, because I respect him. I have a niece with autism. The next day, I spent the whole afternoon with Aaron at his library." Suddenly, the reality of the situation struck me, "Ian was there at the restaurant, wasn't he? He followed me, and saw me with Aaron. But, how do you know about that? What evidence do you have?"
I was looking at Sara, but it was Jim who answered, "Lynne, this is disturbing, but Ian took pictures of you. Lots of pictures. Pictures of you and Aaron. That's our evidence." He spoke quietly, kindly, leaning towards me. "But, it's over now. He's not gonna stalk you any more. You have privacy again." He looked into my eyes as he spoke, and I recognized his concern, his sincerity. It would be all too easy to believe that he cared about me. But then, maybe he cared about all victims; maybe he was that fortunate career cop who hadn't lost the goodness of his humanity to the horrors of his job. In any case, I was grateful that he was treating me with such dignity.
"Is there anything else you want to ask us?" Sara quietly inquired.
"Oh, probably. But, I'm not really good at thinking up questions in a stressful situation. Tell you what, Sara, if I find I have more questions, I'll call you. How does 3 AM sound?" She looked confused, like she was trying to figure out if I was serious or not. I rescued her, "Hey, I'm only kidding, Sara. I don't call people in the middle of the night. I email them instead." I wasn't crying any more, I'd do that later, in private. Right now, I was smiling as I teased Sara.
Sara grinned back at me. I didn't dare glance at Jim; he was suddenly coughing into his handkerchief - or was he stifling a laugh?
"Well, if that's everything, I'll be going now. Gil, thank you. I'm pleased to have met you." I shook his hand. He seemed rather surprised that I had called him by his first name; I had the impression that not very many people did that. I turned back to Sara, and shook her hand, too. "You, too, Sara. Thanks, and it's nice to know you." They both said good-bye to me. That left Jim.
As I opened my mouth to speak to him, he smiled and jumped in with, "I'll walk you to your car."
I said the first thing that entered my head, "I'd like that, Jim."
As we stepped in to the hallway, I could sense Grissom and Sara looking at each other, both confused by my behaviour. I wasn't a typical victim, but then, I wasn't a typical anything. Sometimes people don't know how to take me, but I'm used to that.
Once we were by ourselves in the parking lot, Jim spoke, "I gotta tell you, Lynne, that was priceless. The way you got a rise out of Sara back there; that was funny." His eyes twinkled with suppressed laughter. Seeing them in the sunlight like this, I realized how blue they were. How very beautiful.
"Glad you thought so. And, I'm glad she's not mad. We needed something to break the tension in there, and she gave me the perfect opening."
"Well, it certainly worked. Although, I'm not sure Grissom got it."
"No, he didn't. He is a man of mystery, isn't he?"
"Oh, yeah, you said it. He can't figure you out either, and it's probably gonna bother him for a long time."
We approached my car. Jim took the keys from my hand, brushing his fingers against mine in the process. "Here, let me get that for you, Lynne." He opened the door, but I paused before getting in. I held out my hand for him to shake; he did, but we didn't release the grip right away.
"Jim, thank you. You've been very helpful these last few days. I'm glad I met you, even though it was under less-than-ideal circumstances." I smiled at him.
"Well, Lynne, I was just doing my job. But, it's still nice to be appreciated." He smiled back. "It's just too bad your vacation got trashed like it did. I know you had plans for your time here, but a lot of them didn't work out."
I released his hand, and got into my car. "Yeah, it's too bad. I guess I'll just have to come back and try again another time. Bye, Jim. Take care of yourself."
"Bye yourself. And, I always do. You take care, too." He said it like he really meant it.
I drove away thinking I wouldn't see him again.
The phone was ringing as I emerged from a relaxing bubble bath. (It's what I do when I'm stressed out.) I quickly answered it.
"Hey, Lynne, it's Jim. How are you?" I was very glad to hear from him again.
"Hello, Jim. To tell you the truth, I've been a lot better. I want to go home; I miss my daughter, and I'm needed back at work. Not to mention this suicide thing is a real downer." Actually, I was very upset about the suicide; but I deal with things in my own way.
"Yeah, I can relate, that's a hell of a lot to deal with," he sighed, "Well, then, you'll be happy to know that you're free to leave Vegas whenever you want. I forgot to mention that when we spoke to you earlier."
"Thanks, Jim, that is good news. I'll have to re-book my flight, though." I was happy, and yet not.
"You do that." He paused, there seemed to be something else he wanted to say. "Say, Lynne, I was wondering - since your vacation got so royally screwed up, would you like someone who knows the city to show you the sights - maybe take you to a few of the nicer spots, and buy you a really good dinner?" He seemed almost shy.
"Oh, I think I could be persuaded. Do you happen to know anybody who would want to do all that for me?" Okay, I was flirting with him. I liked the man.
"Yeah, I think I know a guy. He's got the night off, how soon can you be ready?" He still hadn't directly told me that he wanted to go out with me.
"How soon can this "mystery date" get here? Oh, and how dressed-up do I need to be?" I already knew exactly what I wanted to wear.
"How 'bout an hour. And, this is Vegas, Baby - you can get as dressed-up as you want," he lightly replied.
"Okay, Jim. I'll see you in an hour." I hoped he could hear my smile.
"Yeah, Lynne. See you soon." He knew I'd seen right through his charade; he wanted me to.
I quickly arranged my flight for the following afternoon, dashed off a call to my daughter, and hurriedly prepared for my date.
"It's dead, Jim." We were seated at an excellent table in the Bellagio's 'Prime Steakhouse' and I had noticed that Jim, who had ordered his steak well done, was casting dubious glances at my medium-rare beef. "I'm enjoying my steak, even if it is still pink in the middle."
He smiled, and graciously stated, "To each her own. But, I could never eat meat that's still bleeding."
Jim had taken me on a tour of Vegas before bringing me to this outstanding restaurant. I had to admit, this city had so much more to offer than just gambling. He offered to take me to my choice of shows, but I politely declined, explaining that what I really wanted was a chance to just talk to him, to get better acquainted with him.
I sipped my wine. "How long have you been living in Vegas?"
"It's coming up to 20 years. I'm originally from New Jersey. My ex-wife is still there, and my daughter recently went back after a few years out here." I caught a vibe of profound sadness as he mentioned his daughter; but this wasn't the time to ask him about it.
"Yeah, I thought I heard an eastern seaboard accent, just a hint. As for me, I'm a rather rare species. Like Vegas, Calgary is a boom-town. People like me who were born and raised there are kinda hard to find. Oh, I have a couple of friends who also grew up there, but if you ask most Calgarians where they're from, you hear a lot of "Saskatchewan" or "British Columbia" or "Newfoundland." Then there are the true immigrants, lots from Asia, Africa, and South America as well as Europe. It makes Calgary a very interesting place to live."
"I'll bet. But, you lived in Ontario for a while. Why'd you go back west?"
"I also lived in the Arctic. But, when it was time to stop wandering, Calgary was where we wanted to be. It's where our roots were."
Okay, this conversation needed an injection of levity. "Hey, Jim, I want to ask you something. In the average week, how many donuts does a cop really eat?"
He shot me a look of astonished amusement. "Oh, you wanna go there, do you? How about - how many times does a library technician shush people? Or, where's your frumpy dress and severe hair bun?"
We continued like this, teasing each other about the stereotypes of our professions. One thing we had in common, one thing we truly enjoyed about each other was that we both had the same kind of sense of humour. We were a pair of weisenhiemers, wise acres, smart asses - choose a term; but we made each other laugh, and that was very good.
Jim and I stood on the observation deck of the Stratosphere, enjoying the marvelous view of Las Vegas. We stood close together, our hands almost, but not quite, touching. The evening had been enchanting, the food magnificent, and the company delightful. I was very pleased and grateful that something good had finally developed from this sad, disappointing vacation. At the very least, I had made a new friend.
"Jim, I've had a wonderful time tonight; and I don't mean that to be as clichéd as it sounded. I've truly enjoyed spending time with you like this."
"That's good, Lynne. I've had a good time, too." He lapsed into silence.
"What's wrong, Jim?" He seemed sad suddenly.
He turned to look at me, but it took him a few moments to answer, "You want to know what's wrong? Okay, I'll tell you. Tomorrow, you are going to board a plane and fly away from here. Away from me. That's what's wrong." He spoke very matter-of-factly, but I could feel the emotion under his words. "You gotta know, Lynne, it's been a very long time since I even considered dating anyone. But, you - you're different. I could fall for you, and I mean fall hard. And, you need to go home. I mean, I understand it, but I don't gotta like it."
Here we were, two people over 40, both alone for far too long, bravely facing an emotional moment of truth. I don't mean that we were desperate in any way. I mean that we were genuinely attracted to each other and knew better than to play games with each other. We both recognized that we were being offered a rare opportunity. Still, Jim's blunt honesty was something of a surprise; I owed him the same in return.
I spoke plainly, hoping it wouldn't scare him, "Jim, you're right. I don't live here, and I do need to go home. I have responsibilities. But, truthfully, you've been the only bright spot in this whole sorry, messed-up vacation. When I get on that plane tomorrow, I'll be leaving Vegas. But, Jim, I'm not leaving you, not if you don't want me to. I know long distance relationships are tricky, but I'm willing to give it a try, if you are. You know, not to sound like a tourist brochure, but there are daily non-stop flights between Vegas and Calgary. If we plan ahead, we can get in on seat sales, so it doesn't have to be horrendously expensive. And, with email and instant messaging, not to mention the good old-fashioned telephone, we won't be that far apart. Because I could also fall for you. It's been a long time for me, too."
Jim took both my hands in his, "Lynne, my dear, you took the words right out of my mouth. And, now I'm the one who sounds clichéd." Before I could say anything else, he pulled me into his arms, and gently kissed me.
Then, pulling back just enough to look at me, but still holding me, he suggested, "So, how 'bout we blow this popsicle stand? Feel like a night-cap?"
"Indeed, I do. And, I know the perfect place for it." I smiled at him.
"Yeah, and where's that?" He sounded doubtful.
"My hotel room." I answered him boldly. He responded with a big grin; he didn't refuse.
Jim drove me to the airport in time for my flight. We had not actually been apart from each other since he had picked me up the previous evening. What happened that night is something I'll never forget, Jim was so ... well, yummy; but that's all I plan to share on that topic.
We walked arm-in-arm as far as the security checkpoint. Without a ticket, he wasn't permitted to escort me to the departure lounge. We had to make do, and although we were in public, where he could be recognized, we tenderly kissed each other good-bye. Parting from him was hard, but we already had plans to see each other again. He was going to arrange to use some of his many vacation days; he was coming to visit me. My very own Jersey-bred, Vegas cop boyfriend, was going to come to Calgary, in a few weeks. Yeah, picture that.
Yes, I know that Jim and I were probably rushing things, but we saw no reason to slow down. It would either work, or it wouldn't, no matter how slowly we took it. And, it was working, very well. True, I had two or three days when the reality of Ian's suicide - and the reason for it - made me very blue; but, I got over it. One morning, having a cup of coffee with my work friends while flipping through the newspaper; I read an obituary for someone I had dated in high school. He had died of cancer. Thinking about it, I realized that my grief for my high school sweetheart felt pretty much the same as my grief for Ian. In the final analysis, both were people from my past - they were part of who I was, and I did feel sad about their deaths - but they had no power to influence my present or my future. I said a silent farewell to both of them, and put away my grief. I turned to happier thoughts. Jim Brass was my present and my future; he deserved my undivided loyalty, along with everything else I could give him.
I arrived at the airport just as Jim's flight was landing. I waited near the "International Arrivals" gate; as close as I could get. I would have a bit of a wait, as Jim would have to collect his luggage and then clear Canada Customs before being released into the main arrivals area. Slowly at first, the people from his flight starting coming through the glass doors. At last, I saw him, pushing a luggage cart, and my face lit up with joy. I saw him scan the crowd, looking for me. His face showed a little worry, like he was afraid I wouldn't be there. Then, our eyes met, his face lit up, and he hurried to close the distance between us.
He came right up to me, and without uttering a single word, he caught me in a strong hug and kissed me. Afterwards, I quoted the old line to him, "Are you glad to see me, or is that a pickle in your pocket?"
Without missing a beat, he replied with, "It's a pickle in my pocket. I always take my own pickles when I travel, didn't you know that? Just in case I can't find any good ones locally." He couldn't keep a straight face when he said it; he was just so happy.
"Okay, smart ass." I laughed. We stood there, holding each other, just enjoying the sight, the proximity, of each other.
"What? You misquote Mae West, giving me such an irresistible opening, and I'm the smart ass?" he teased me. Then, "Hey, Lynne, I'm very glad to see you. I missed you, Babe. I missed you a lot." He caressed my face as he said it.
"Oh, Jim. Honey, I missed you, too. C'mon, I'll take you home. I want to know more about that pickle in your pocket, the very thought intrigues me. And, Jim ..." I let my voice trail away.
"Yes?" he asked expectantly.
"Welcome to Canada."
A/N: I mean absolutely no offense to the OPP, the RCMP, or any other law enforcement agency. The valiant men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting and serving the rest of us have my total respect and gratitude. Likewise, I mean no disrespect to people with autism. I have mentioned Aaron Pratt in this story because he's a librarian; his autism simply makes him more interesting. This story is purely fictional; although I did once live in Lansdowne House, Ontario.