Disclaimer: I don't own anything.
Spoilers: If it has aired, it is game.
A/N: I received much encouragement and help from she-who-shall-remain-nameless. Thanks!
Castles In The Air
I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.
Louisa May Alcott
She walked alongside Grissom, down the hall and to an evidence room where Greg had been cataloguing the contents from a missing woman's purse. Shannon Carmichael was a curator at the natural history museum; she had moved to Las Vegas from Philadelphia a few years ago to head up a department in the museum. Sara glanced at her dossier. Shannon was thirty-five. She lived alone. A graduate of Tufts University, she put herself through school by working part time at Fenway Park. Sara had seen Grissom give an involuntary smile at this when Brass gave them the rundown on Shannon. What's she got that I don't? Sara asked herself. Maybe if I go missing…
"Sara, did you hear me?"
She turned to look at Grissom as they reached the evidence room. "What?"
"I said we'll probably have to go interview her boss again."
"Fine. Sounds good."
He gave her an odd look and then addressed Greg, who was leaning over a well-lit table with Shannon's purse sitting on top and intently surfing the internet on his little laptop.
"I paged you guys twenty minutes ago," he told them.
Grissom narrowed his eyes at the young CSI. "I hope the site you're on is case-related."
Greg rolled his eyes and picked up a sheet of paper with one of his gloved hands. "I found this in Shannon's purse. She recently updated her résumé."
"I thought she just got a promotion. Why would she be looking for a new job?" Grissom said, confused.
Greg shrugged. "Maybe she got tired of Vegas. It's not exactly for everybody."
Grissom and Sara studied Shannon's résumé. It was impressive -- a year at Sorbonne, a PhD in history. It was obvious she dedicated her life to her work, to bettering herself. All of her accomplishments were on that page.
"There was, uh, nothing else special in her purse," he said, rifling through the things on the table. "Hair brush, lipstick -- nice color -- no wallet or keys. No day planner or PDA, either."
"Possible robbery," Grissom observed to Sara as they took time to comb over the processed evidence.
"Emily, Emma, Madison, Olivia," Greg said under his breath as he scrolled down the screen of his laptop.
"Uh…excuse me?" Sara asked.
"I'm on a site that has top baby names." Greg pursed his lips as he perused the list.
Grissom raised his brows. "Are you…congratulations in order?" he asked with a half-horrified look on his face.
"Oh, no," the young man answered quickly, chuckling. "Just thinking. I hit the big 3-0 last year. Gettin' on in years. Gotta start thinking about, you know, marriage and kids…the whole shebang. Huh. Gregory is apparently not in the top ten."
"That just makes you more original, Greg," Sara told him, laughing a little at the concerned look on his face.
"You're right. I'll make a mental note not to name my kids any names on this list," he said, cheering up. "Unique is better. What do you think of Cicero Sanders? Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?"
"O…kay," Grissom said. "Call Brass and have him start working on that warrant." He turned to look at Sara. "Let's go to the museum."
Sara smiled at Greg. "Have fun, Daddy-O."
They walked to the parking lot and Sara found herself laughing.
"What's so funny?"
She shook her head. "Just…the idea of Greg as someone's father."
"The urge to procreate is as old as human beings themselves," Grissom noted, shrugging his shoulders as they got into the car.
Sara didn't agree. She didn't dare say so, but she did not believe that the urge to have children was in any way a universal human trait. She was terrified of having children. The very idea of another human being looking to her for nurturing and guidance made her heart beat and her head ache. Sara knew nothing about children, had learned nothing from her mother, save for perhaps not killing a spouse while a child watched. Kids needed more than she had to give.
She sat quietly in the passenger's seat while Grissom drove them to the museum. "Shannon's boss has no alibi," he told her.
"He's the one who reported her missing," Sara reminded him. "And we have no time of abduction. No ransom note. No body. The guy says he was at work and home and nothing else. No evidence we have says anything to the contrary."
"Well, apparently he knew her best," Grissom surmised as he pulled into the museum parking lot. "He has to have some insight into her state of mind at the time of her disappearance."
"Maybe they were having an affair," Sara said as she got out of the car. Grissom was still for a moment before he followed suit.
Once in the museum, Sara drew in a breath. All museums smelled the same way. It was a good smell, a distinct one. She always liked walking though them, seeing the beautiful and interesting things on the wall and imagining herself as part of them. They stopped at a large display case of butterflies.
"You know," Grissom began, "on its annual fall migration to Mexico, the monarch butterfly uses the angle of sunlight to navigate its way."
He continued to talk of the polarization of light and the intricacies of the butterfly's brain, but Sara barely heard every other word. A group of schoolchildren ambled by, walking in two straight lines, obviously on a class trip. A wisp of white-blonde hair caught her eye. It was longer, more straggly than Sara remembered. The girl was small for her age, thin. She'd be about nine now, Sara guessed.
She turned her head, as if she knew that Sara had been watching her. Their gazes met and the CSI felt her heart stop. Little Brenda's eyes were still haunted. Her classmates fidgeted as the docent calmly described the display of water buffalo. But Brenda remained still. Her pale face seemed to glow in the golden light of the museum and Sara shuddered. She was a ghost from her past, a reminder of her childhood.
"…And so that's how they compensate for the time of day."
Sara looked up at Grissom as he finished his mini-lecture.
"Are you okay, Sara? You seem…out of it."
"I'm fine," she assured him before turning her head back to the buffalo. The children were gone.
"Let's, uh…go talk to Shannon Carmichael's boss," Grissom said, ushering Sara down the hall.
They met with Ned Meyers in his office. He eagerly answered the CSI's questions about his missing employee and her work habits. He seemed genuinely worried, but Sara knew that criminals were sometimes proficient actors.
"Did you know Shannon was thinking about having a baby?" she asked.
Meyers widened his eyes. "With whom?"
Sara shook her head, unwilling to go into details. "She was just…contemplating motherhood."
Shannon's boss looked deflated. "I…didn't know that."
Sara raised her brows. "Was that a subject you would have discussed with Miss Carmichael?"
Meyers shook his head. "Uh…no. It's just…well, it's a surprise, that's all."
They left the museum learning little. It was almost noon and both CSIs were well into dayshift by the time Grissom dropped Sara off in the LVPD parking lot so she could take her car home. She mumbled her goodbye and walked in the direction of her car. Once in the driver's seat, Sara sat staring at her cell phone. She could still see Brenda's young face, her big eyes staring back at her. Nine-years-old. Maybe ten. The once pristine bob haircut was replaced with longer strands of hair that needed a trim. Her clothes looked worn and old. Hand-me-downs, Sara assumed. The kind that got passed down to you when a foster sibling grew out of them. Sara knew that well.
She squeezed her eyes shut and gave in to impulse. Sara dialed for directory assistance and got the number for Child Services. Using her city credentials, she was able to finagle some information about the little girl.
"Has something come up with regards to the murder of Brenda's parents?" the social worker asked.
Sara explained the situation and her concern for the little girl.
"Brenda is in a group home right now," the social worker told her. "I have her file in front of me. She hasn't responded well to the two families we placed her with early on."
"Oh," was all Sara said. She knew about that, about other families. Some could be great, she acknowledged. But some…were not.
"We have a mentoring program that pairs some of our children with adults. If you'd be interested in that…"
"I don't think…um, no," Sara said. "I was just…I just wanted to check up on Brenda. To make sure she was alright."
Sara hung up the phone and stared at it in her lap. She cursed, picked it up, and hit redial. "Hi…where do I sign up?"