Summary: An unusual case causes for a reevaluation of the current status quo. Case File/ GSR
A/N: I want to thank Rouch for all of her help on making this story what it is and CSI4nsicAce for helping me with all that is grammatical.
Spoilers: Season 5, up to King Baby
Disclaimer: I do not own CSI. I am willing to buy the rights to them, but I don't think they'll accept 2.87.
That was all that stood between her and the end of shift. Half an hour and she would be free to go back to her apartment; having successfully avoided seeing Ecklie for the third day in a row. Her plan was to reward herself with a nice long bubble bath.
The vehicle hit a bump, reminding her it was actually thirty minutes and a DB that separated her from her master plan. The call had come in an hour before the shift was over, and for some reason she had been compelled to take the case.
So, instead, Sara Sidle sat in the passenger seat of a LVPD Tahoe, on her way to a 419 out in Blue Diamond. Casting a glance at the man driving, she wished even more that she was on her way to her apartment instead of being with her current partner. There had been a time when she never would have thought that. She looked forward to, and cherished every chance she had to work with him. Those feelings were lost years ago. Sometimes, it felt like a lifetime ago.
Gil Grissom was an enigma Sara was beginning to think she would never unravel. Once upon a time, she had been given a key to the mystery that embodied him. They had been friends. When she moved to this tourist trap it seemed that they slowly had begun the journey to something more intimate. Then, everything had changed. He had become cold and distant. They became nothing more than colleagues. She rarely worked with him, and remembered times when they only spoke when he was giving out assignments.
It had torn her apart.
Then, just as suddenly, their relationship changed again. She wasn't sure why or how, but nothing was the same. It wasn't back to the way they used to be; however, they weren't simply colleagues either. She was unsure what to label this new stage of their relationship.
Sara grimaced as she donned her sunglasses. The sun was beginning to rise and all hope of her bubble bath was beginning to disappear with the darkness. In the distance she spotted a police car and an ambulance in the desert. "Griss," she said, and pointed towards the parked vehicles.
She bit her lip as he maneuvered the SUV off the paved highway and onto the uneven terrain. "Who found the body?" she asked as the Tahoe jostled the two.
"The KLAS helicopter. They were getting ready for morning rush hour," Grissom replied as he parked.
Sara nodded. Leaving the air conditioned car, she stifled a groan as she felt the desert temperature begin to rise. Three minutes past sunrise and the temperature is already rising. Welcome to Nevada. She smiled to herself as she retrieved her kit from the back, and then followed Grissom over to the deputy who was getting out of his car.
"Paramedics pronounced her dead and no one has been near her since. There's no I.D. on her," the deputy said as he motioned beyond the police car. "Coroners on his way."
Sara looked in the direction the deputy pointed; her eyes widened as she took in the scene. A white sheet lay on the desert ground. Long, spiraled, red candles in silver candlesticks were positioned at each corner of the sheet. In the middle of the sheet was a naked woman. Her arms were crossed over her chest and her feet were crossed at the ankles. The chestnut brown hair was splayed behind her head, giving her an almost angelic appearance. Sara noted the white flowers spread across the sheet and the body.
"She looks like she's sleeping," Sara whispered to no one in particular as she retrieved a pair of latex gloves from her kit and put them on.
"The sleeping and the dead are but as pictures," Grissom began, slightly startling her.
She smiled at him. Quoting was always a good sign when working with Grissom. "Tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil," Sara said, continuing the quote he had started. "Shakespeare's Macbeth."
"Very good," Grissom said offering a smile of his own.
The two of them slowly made their way toward the scene. Sara set her kit down and retrieved the camera. "Her wrists have been slit," Grissom said, stopping before the sheet.
"There's no blood," Sara remarked as she captured the images before her. "Posed?"
"It appears so," Grissom pointed towards the right half of sheet. "Single set of visible footprints."
"Could be the paramedics," Sara said as she snapped a picture of them. "Do you want me to?"
Grissom shook his head. "Photograph. I'll find out what the paramedics touched and where they went."
Sara nodded and continued. She squatted near the closest candle. Some kind of fiber was attached to the bottom of the candlestick. Quickly taking a photograph, Sara retrieved tweezers and an evidence bag from her vest and removed the fiber and placed it in the bag. Sensing Grissom's presence behind her, she lifted the bag over her head. "It was attached to the candlestick."
"The paramedic walked across the sheet and checked for a pulse at the victim's neck, upon finding none, he left the way he came in," Grissom said.
Sara nodded. "Leave the candlesticks?"
"They seem to be all that's keeping the sheet from moving."
A voice interrupted her thought process, "Dr. Grissom. Sara."
Sara turned slightly and smiled at David. She turned back to her task as the coroner's assistant made his way over to the two of them. She slowly made her way past the second candlestick, careful to keep her distance from the sheet. A smile spread across her face.
"No emergency vehicles have been on this side of the sheet, right?" Sara looked over her shoulder.
Grissom stopped what he was doing and shook his head. "What have you got?"
"Tire tracks." She turned back and began snapping pictures of them. She began to follow the tracks, tracking their path. The first few feet showed the tracks moving away from the sheet, further into the desert, and then they veered off towards the highway. She turned and retraced her steps. "So, someone drives up here, sets up this….display, gets back in the car, backs up and drives away?"
"According to David, she's been dead about three hours," Grissom said.
Sara nodded and watched him squat over the body. "No signs of insects," Grissom continued.
"None? There would be some if she was out here for three hours. Shouldn't there?" Sara asked.
"I would expect to see some blowflies, especially since there are open wounds," Grissom replied. "Tweezers?"
She extracted her tweezers from a vest pocket and handed them to him. Sara watched him extract something from the victim's mouth. "A lily?" she asked. "Made out of Paper?"
"No. Some kind of fabric. Perhaps silk," Grissom said and placed it inside a bag. "A lily in her mouth. Lilies spread across her body."
"Did she kill herself… and then someone placed her out here? Though why go to the trouble of setting up this elaborate display?" Sara asked, looking at the woman. Her eyes moved to the woman's wrists. "One cut on each wrist, straight down along the vein. There are no hesitation marks."
"Not everyone hesitates," Grissom reminded her.
"She couldn't have cut herself out here or we'd have found blood," Sara concluded as she looked for any drop around the victim's body. "There's no visible blood on her or on the sheet."
She turned and removed the ALS from her kit. She slowly moved the light across the sheet and over the woman. "No blood. So, no blood but her wrists are slit. And no insects, which most likely would have been if she had been here for three hours. So, how long was she out here?"
"I think we'll have a better idea once we know the cause of death," Grissom said.
"I'll bag the lilies. We might get lucky and find some fingerprints."
Grissom nodded and handed her tweezers back to her. Sara accepted the tweezers and began collecting the flowers, all thoughts of a bubble bath far from her mind.
Grissom placed the last bag of evidence in the back of the Tahoe. David had left with the body three hours ago, and Grissom dismissed the officer shortly after. "Ready?" he called without turning around.
He heard Sara coming and waited for her to place her kit in. Today had almost reminded him of old times. Almost, but not quite. He watched Sara get into the passenger seat. At some point during the investigation she had put her hair up in a ponytail. She used to look impossibly young when she wore her hair that way. She still looked young, too young, but her eyes were telling him another story. They revealed someone who had endured more than many people. He closed the door and made his way to the driver's side.
Turning the ignition on, he glanced at her before pulling out. She was fidgety, her whole body awake with energy. A few hours ago, on their way here, she had seemed tired, but now there was a new case. Grissom knew that right now, she was contemplating a million scenarios about why the woman was where she was. In her mind pieces of this new puzzle were being jostled around and placed together. She was a brilliant CSI; Ecklie be damned.
Grissom's knuckles tightened their grip on the wheel as his thoughts turned to the current Assistant Director of CSI. He didn't know exactly what Sara had said to Ecklie when he had taken her into his office, but if the rumors that erupted throughout CSI were true it was a pretty clear how Ecklie had excelled to his current position. Sara probably hadn't said the most politically correct thing, but then, Sara had never adhered to the politics. Another way she was becoming like him for Grissom to add to his list.
"I'll bring the evidence to trace and then meet you at the morgue?" Sara asked bringing him away from his thoughts.
"No," Grissom said. He watched some of her enthusiasm dissipate and knew he had spoken too abruptly. "We'll bring the evidence to trace and then we're done. The morgue was backed up this evening, Sara. I doubt they were able to clear out all of those bodies in the last four hours. They aren't going to get to our Jane Doe until probably this evening. And the rest of the evidence can wait until shift starts again."
She opened her mouth to speak and then seemed to think better of it. Grissom glanced at the clock. "It's 10:18. We'll probably get back to the lab by eleven. That'll give you exactly eleven hours before you need to be back for the start of shift," Grissom continued.
"I suppose I could use that time to sleep," Sara said wryly.
"I hear that's helpful," Grissom smirked.
A comfortable silence engulfed the car as he drove down the highway. In the distance, the desert was disappearing and signs of civilization were beginning to bloom. He watched Sara shift in her seat again and wondered if she would be able to calm down enough to sleep. It had been a few weeks since the incident with Ecklie and her revelation about her past to him. She seemed fine when she came back to work. She actually looked refreshed and was at the top of her game. Maybe she was beginning to work through some of her issues. Grissom hoped she was.
"How is everything?" he asked, silently cursing his tongue for breaking the comfortable silence. He could feel her gaze on him, but he had to keep his eyes on the road now that they were not the only car occupying it.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
He should have known she wouldn't answer the question easily. "I…" he said, stopping to formulate what he wanted to say.
"I'm fine, Grissom," she said, relieving him of having to complete his thoughts.
Grissom frowned. He hated when she did that. "Have you given any thought to seeing a counselor again?"
He heard her little sigh and knew this wasn't going to be an easy conversation. "Yeah," Sara answered.
He cast a quick look at her. She was looking out the window. Was she going to elaborate her answer? Or was she now answering monosyllabically?
"I've seen counselors. They don't help. I'm fine." She finally answered with an air of futility.
Grissom took in her words and didn't agree with them. By all appearances she seemed fine now, but something in the back of his mind was telling him that she really wasn't.
"Listen, Grissom, really, I am fine. That… incident with Ecklie and Catherine, it won't happen again. There were just a lot of things going on in my mind. I just need to work on keeping my professional stuff away from my personal stuff," Sara said. "I suppose I should have listened when you said I needed to have a diversion."
"Oh?" This was intriguing.
"Yeah. I started working at the woman's center on Tuesdays," Sara said.
Another work related diversion. He wondered if she still listened to the scanner. Though, he hadn't remembered seeing it when he was at her apartment. Grissom groaned inside his mind. "What do you do?" he asked.
He saw her stare at him, a look of you really want to know? plastered on her face. "What ever is needed. I listen," Sara said. "And I let them know their rights and what they can do. Lately, they've had me working with the kids. Which is weird because me and kids are not a great combination."
"You do fine with kids," Grissom said.
"Grissom, I'm terrible with kids," Sara rolled her eyes. "All they really need is someone in the room with the kids, when their moms are talking with other workers. They say it's so the kids won't get traumatized from all that their parents say. They don't realize that the kids already are."
Pulling into the crime lab's parking lot, Grissom struggled for something to say, but as usual when dealing with Sara, the words never came. He watched her unbuckle her seatbelt and open the door. "Sara…"
He watched her hesitate and turn to look at him. Grissom opened his mouth to speak but he still couldn't seem to formulate his thoughts into words. He watched her give him a forced smile before she closed the door. He silently cursed himself as he unbuckled and then helped her retrieve the evidence.