Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters, CBS et al do. I just enjoy writing for the amusement of my readers and myself. So, that said – sit back, relax and enjoy!
The Old Gulch Mine Incident
Grissom finished the paperwork for the drag-behind, deluxe popup tent and hitched it to the bumper of his truck. With a self-satisfied smile, he climbed back in and drove off. He was taking Lindsey into the mountains for her birthday. They'd do some hiking and bug collecting over the long weekend. It was a rare day in which he took time off, but treating his "niece" to something different was worth it. Besides, it gave Catherine and her mother time for themselves. Gil Grissom liked doing things for his friends.
He pulled into Catherine's driveway a little after 9 a.m. that Saturday. He slid out of the truck and went up the walk feeling good about the upcoming weekend. Hardly had he rung the doorbell when Lindsey popped out with her sleeping bag and a huge grin. Lindsey had always wished that she could be closer to her "Uncle" Gil. Secretly, she had a huge crush on him at the same time secretly wishing that he were her Dad, not Eddie. Uncle Gil had never let her down; he was a stabilizing influence in her chaotic life. Mom fought all the time with Grammie. When he was alive, Mom fought nonstop with Dad who would punch and hurt Mom. Lindsey hated that. She would wonder constantly why nobody in her life seemed to get along or even like one another very much. It was most distressing!
Grissom greeted her affectionately, "Where's the rest of your stuff, honey?"
Catherine chimed in, "Hi Gil. Got room for one more?"
Grissom gave a puzzled look, "Sure. Who?"
"Me!" Catherine said as she grabbed a duffle bag tote from the couch.
"I thought you hated camping?" Grissom queried.
"I do… tell you later," she curtly reposted and headed for the truck.
Grissom watched her head for the truck and looked around for more baggage. "This go?" he said and held up another pair of duffle totes.
Once the back of the truck was loaded and seating assignments sorted out, Grissom backed out of the drive and headed out of town, up into the nearby mountains just across the Arizona state line off US 93. The old mining town of Chloride stood just off the highway. It reminded the visitor of the heady old days of gold mining just after the '49ers rush to make their fortunes in San Francisco. Mostly a ghost town of the Old West, Chloride held only a few souls who refused to let the town die after all the gold and people left town for Las Vegas and other parts. A friend of his from school had some land but no cabin on the side of one. He had used it for hunting and camping. Joey had long ago made a gate key for Gil. Catherine had napped in the backseat while Lindsey watched the scenery and asked a few questions. Grissom, as usual, kept his own counsel, speaking only to answer her questions. At last in the early afternoon, the party arrived at the locked gate.
"Lindsey, how about unlocking?" Grissom proffered the key to Lindsey who scooted out and let the truck and trailer through before shutting the gate and returning with the key. Grissom gave her a gentle grin and checked on Catherine's nap. Catherine looked so peaceful curled up against the side post. She had tucked the seatbelt under one arm and tucked her legs up under herself. Grissom bounced slowly over the rutted and potholed dirt road back to the clearing. One could hardly call it a clearing in the woods sense of the word. There were no woods only scrubby brush and thickets of cactus plants. The rains had been generous that season which accounted for more brush and potholes than usual. This was his usual retreat when forced to take vacation time. There was a seasonal spring that offered a fascinating range of flora and fauna, complete with bugs.
He pulled into the clearing and stopped the truck, announcing their arrival. Catherine bleary-eyed nodded herself awake again.
"Good nap?" Grissom smiled.
Still not quite awake, "Not long enough…" she sniffed, "but yeah, it was fine."
It took them an hour to set up the campsite. Lindsey was tasked to find some firewood while Gil and Catherine set things up.
"So," he began.
"So, why am I here?" she finished the thought.
Grissom just looked benignly at her.
"Mom and I were having another knock down, drag out fight about my work and parenting skills. You know, Gil, I do the best I can…" her voice trailed off sadly.
Grissom gave her space and time to think, then called her back, "Catherine…"
She sighed and looked at him. "I don't think I'm a very good Mom," she dejectedly hung her head.
"By whose standards?" he inquired.
"By Mom's; by mine; by yours."
"Since when did my standards come into play?" he wondered.
"I just get the feeling like you don't approve," he began.
"What makes you think that?" he wanted to know.
"Back when you castigated me for going out with the creep I picked up at the bar," she looked in his eyes. "You told me, in effect, that I should stay home and not go out."
"Did I?" he looked back into her eyes.
"Well, yeah, you did," anger was rising in her voice.
Grissom thought about it a moment, "Well, I'm sorry. I was, well, I was afraid for you."
"Well, you sure have a funny way of showing it!" she declared.
Grissom looked at the ground considering what to say next, "When Lindsey gets…when she finds trouble, don't you get mad at her?"
"Yes, but that's different!" she retorted.
"Sure, I'm her Mom and you're not my Dad," she thrust out her jaw defiantly.
"Maybe not, but I am your friend. I care about what happens to you, Catherine. I care very much," Grissom began. "Maybe I am not very articulate when it comes to saying so, but I do care."
His heartfelt explanation took the wind out of her anger, "Well, okay. Just don't treat me like a kid," she tried to rekindle the irritation.
"Okay," he agreed.
Catherine finished unpacking Lindsey's and her stuff then looked at Grissom, "Are we good?"
Grissom smiled shyly, "Of course we are."
"Gil, I wouldn't know…" Catherine began but broke off when she saw Lindsey returning.
"Where do you want this stuff?" asked the girl.
Grissom motioned to a former fire pit, "Over here."
Lindsey dumped the wood in an unruly pile outside the fire circle. Then she began to arrange it as Grissom selected some to prepare the fire for the night.
"Gil, where do you want the cooler?" Catherine asked.
"Let's leave it in the back of the truck for now. I want to look around for predators before leaving it out," Grissom replied.
"Uncle Gil, what kind of predators?" Lindsey wanted to know.
Grissom gave a wicked smile and wiggled his fingers around, "All kinds of creepy crawlers," he chuckled and went on more seriously after Lindsey gave a gasp and then laugh, "mountain lions are known to be in the neighborhood as well as smaller predatory cats. We've also got coyotes in the area and who knows what else."
Catherine's nose wrinkled. She was no longer sure that she preferred the buggy outdoors to a big fight at home with her mother.
"How will we know, Uncle Gil?"
Grissom looked sternly at her, "We'll look for their tracks, Lindsey. When we find them, we will discover how fresh the tracks are and in which direction they head. That way we'll know if we have to keep two eyes peeled instead of just one."
"We can know all that from footprints?" the child wondered.
Grissom nodded confidently. Catherine just shook her head in disbelief. She preferred the two-legged variety of predators. That was her element. She knew what to do with them. The great outdoors was still a mystery, a frightening one at that, for her. Yet, Grissom's quiet confidence gave her less room to worry than if she'd been out here on her own. She had long relied on his constancy and friendship as an anchor. She knew that deep inside each of them, there was a love and abiding affection that nothing could destroy. At that moment, her mind flirted with what it might be like to kiss him or make love with him. She dismissed that idea as silly and continued to put things into the popup. She was relieved that their spat over her indiscretion was more or less resolved. She hated it when they fought. She could fight with practically anyone else, but to fight with Gil was to be avoided.
The afternoon flew by as they "moved into" their campsite. Grissom had taken Lindsey to find animal footprints. Indeed he had shown her the difference between cat tracks and coyote tracks. They had found some mule deer tracks leading toward and away from the seasonal spring. Lindsey was fascinated by the numbers of animals they had followed.
"Uncle Gil, I thought the desert did not have much living in it except cactuses," she remarked as they made their way back to the campsite.
"Cacti. And yes, there are lots and lots of animals out here. We just don't see many because of the heat. They come out at night. We'll hear them tonight when the sun goes down," Grissom responded matter-of-factly. Lindsey reached up and held his hand. Grissom felt her hand slip into his and looked down and smiled at her.
Catherine looked up to find them returning and grinned widely, "So big game hunters, whaddya find?"
Proudly, Lindsey began to rattle off the snake trails, predators, and deer tracks they'd found. Grissom smiled quietly to himself.
When Lindsey was finished, he added, "Most of the tracks were from earlier in the season. It looks like the deer have moved into higher elevations for the summer and haven't come back down yet…"
Lindsey broke in, "And that means that they took their predators with them!"
Grissom nodded with a smile in her direction. Catherine was amazed at how Grissom handled Lindsey. He was like the Pied Piper with the child who was growing up far too quickly. She wanted to ask how he did that, but now was not the time.
"So what would you two like for dinner: hot dogs or hot dogs?" Catherine grinned.
"Hot dogs and s'mores!" Lindsey declared triumphantly.
The night air was cool, jacket cool. Lindsey was more acutely aware of how a desert worked now that she was actually out in it. The city lights blocked the stars and the watered lawns put enough humidity into the air that the chill was also blocked. Away from the city, in the heart of nature, Lindsey finally discovered the life of the desert. An owl hooted while coyotes howled in the distance. Grissom seemed perfectly at home with it, the girl thought. Catherine put up with it, trying not to show any distress. If Gil could do this, then so could she.
"Come on, ladies," Grissom commanded gently. "Let's go for a walk on the wild side."
Lindsey took his hand while Catherine walked a little behind them. That was until the coyote called out. She made haste and caught up with them. The full moon and dancing stars hardly necessitated a flashlight. Nevertheless, both CSIs carried the lights with them without even thinking about it.
Grissom approached a large flat rock near the streambed. Bending down, he lit the flashlight. Lindsey happily overturned the rock to find several things under it! A large scorpion waved its tail in the light's beam. The sight of it surprised Lindsey who immediately dropped the stone back on its back with a whumpf. Grissom was surprised by Lindsey's reaction. As he started to flip the rock back to expose the scorpion, Lindsey objected. Reluctantly, Grissom complied. They walked on. Lindsey had brought out her own flashlight; it was pink and purple with swirls. She skipped forward on the pathway.
"Don't go far," called out her mother.
"She'll be okay," reassured Grissom with a smile.
Catherine relaxed a little, "You come here often?"
Grissom gave half a nod, "Yeah, every now and again."
He could not help noticing how lovely Catherine looked. There was a certain appeal of danger in his friend that was oh-so seductive. Still, he could not let himself be overcome by it. It must be the moon… He just smiled at her; she smiled back with a wink.
"Look, look, Uncle Gil!" shouted Lindsey up the path.
Grissom's reverie was broken as he began to jog her way. Without warning, he found himself falling. He vaguely remembered hearing the timbers crunch and give way beneath his feet. He even vaguely remembered shouting for help to Catherine! He was now fully aware that he'd fallen though a long abandoned mineshaft. He found himself in a crumpled heap about 15-20 feet down in the bowels of the earth. He spat the dirt out of his mouth and shouted upward.
"Catherine, be careful!"
"Gil, Gil!" he heard overhead.
"I'm okay; I'm okay," he hollered back. Well, he was sort of okay. He had to stop and take inventory. His back was screaming evil things at him. His left ankle suddenly sent major pain messages to his brain. He recalled Joey having told him years ago that there was an old mine on the property somewhere. There were no maps of it, no assay reports, just old rumors of the Old Gulch Mine, which had never produced much gold or anything. It had been abandoned back in the 1930s as the Depression had set in with a vengeance. The former miner had died working the Hoover Dam project. Grissom figured he'd just found the Old Gulch Mine the hard way – with his body.
He saw flashlight beams sweeping the sky above his position. The beam danced on the side of the mineshaft he was in. Catherine's voice was comforting.
"Gil, Gil, where are you?"
"Right here," he called back, again trying to stand. That ankle just was not going to have any part of that.
Her flashlight caught him, "There you are," she exclaimed.
"Yep, here I are," he teased back. "Now, Catherine, you be careful. I think I've found an old mineshaft. I don't want you falling in next."
"What do you want me to do?"
"I think I really messed up my ankle. I think I need you to pull the truck up and maybe pull me up on a rope in the back," he responded.
"What about calling 9-1-1? I'm not so sure about the rope trick," she countered.
"You can try, but I think we're too far out for cell coverage. The closest town with a fire department or police, for that matter, is Kingman. That's a good two hours away from here. Plus you don't really know your way around, do you? Chloride has nothing except a few old geezers who raise a few head of livestock," he informed her. "And you know how far it is to get home."
Catherine sat down by the edge of the hole Grissom's body had made. He heard it first. The old planks creaked once then gave way. Catherine found herself next to Grissom in the shaft. He tried again to stand but found crawling was less painful.
"Catherine, Catherine!" he called her name.
She shook her head and spat the dust out of her mouth.
She sat up, "Grissom?"
He stroked her face with his hand, "Right here. You hurt?"
She stopped a moment to consider, "No, I think I'm okay."
She stood to test that theory. Sure enough, she was okay. However, the hole was much too high for either of them to climb out. By this time, Lindsey had reached the ever-larger hole in the earth.
"Get back, Lindsey," commanded Grissom. "You have got to stay away from the edge. It's too unstable and could collapse on you. Go back to the truck and wait there until morning."
"What about you guys?" she began to whimper.
"Don't worry about us," Grissom called back up. "We're okay for now."
"What's your plan?" Catherine wanted to know.
Grissom took a deep breath, "We'll find the entrance and walk out. Simple enough."
Catherine gave him a double take, "And your ankle?"
"There is plenty of stuff here to make a splint with, so that's what we'll do," Grissom replied.
"Lindsey, I want you to go to the truck and bring back something I can pad Uncle Gil's splint with," Catherine directed Lindsey.
"Mom?" Lindsey was now in heavy heaving.
"Come on, Linds. I'm okay. Uncle Gil's messed up his ankle. Now we are going to walk back to the mine entrance and meet you at the truck. But to do that, we've got to put something on Uncle Gil's ankle. I want some padding. Hurry, but be careful!" her mother directed.
"Your light still work?" asked Grissom.
"Hang on," she tried it, "yes. I'm good. And yours?"
He fumbled near where he fell in. Grissom shook his head, "Shine your light over here. Can't find it."
When Catherine swung the beam over toward Grissom, she saw a nasty, bloody cut over his left eye.
"Gil! You're cut!" she exclaimed.
He shook his head, "I'm okay, Catherine," he insisted. "I need to find my light."
By the time they uncovered his flashlight, Lindsey had returned with some tee shirts. She dropped them through the hole, "Here are some spare batteries I found, too."
"Good girl!" praised her mother. "Now head back to camp and wait for us."
"Are you sure?" she wanted to know.
"Very sure," was Grissom's terse reply.
Catherine cobbled together a makeshift splint for Grissom.
"Are you certain this is a good idea? How about I walk back and then go into town and get your real help?" she offered.
"I'll be fine," he reassured her. "Help me up."
He was not very steady on his feet, but he was at least up on them. Now which way was out?
"How do you know that we can even get out of here?" Catherine wanted to know.
"We'll go up until we can't go any further and see what that brings," Grissom indicated.
"Okay, so which was is up?"
Grissom thought about it a moment.
"Catherine, hold your light steady. I'm going to toss some dust into the air and see which way it blows. We'll head in the opposite direction, presuming that the wind is coming from the entrance," he described.
Dust did give them a starting direction. As the night wore on, Grissom's ankle and head began to throb with pain. Catherine made him rest every few hundred feet. She was worried that he might have a concussion. She had not gotten a good look at his pupils, not that he'd let her. After two hours, Catherine found herself holding Grissom up more and more.
"We'd better find the out soon, 'cause you're getting heavy," she joked.
"Look, Catherine, park me here and you go for help," he told her.
"Nope. You're coming with me, Gil. So don't even go there," was her reply.
Grissom smiled to himself. He did love that woman: her courage, her commitment, her determination, her spirit, her spunk. He knew that she'd never leave him, but offering her freedom from his nearly dead weight had to be said. A few more hours found them at the shaft's entrance. It was semi-boarded over. Grissom was exhausted from the climb and did not have the strength to help Catherine pull down the boards to let them out. Instead, he sat down in the dirt and waited for her to finish making a hole big enough for them to extricate themselves.
That done, they made their way out into the open desert floor. The Milky Way glowed overhead. Catherine had Grissom sit down on some rocks that made up part of the entrance to the mine. She could barely make out the forbidding sign that told trespassers of their fate if caught.
"Why did they call it the Old Gulch Mine, Gil?" she wondered as she gave Grissom the once over before hiking back to the camp.
"We're about to find out," he teased. "Now, let me up, you old mother hen."
As he stood, he momentarily lost his balance and fell toward Catherine. They were closer than they'd been in a long time. The stars were intoxicating, he thought. She felt her inmost parts stirring.
"Must be the moonlight," he murmured as he gently stroked her face, running his fingers up through her hair.
She made the next move, pulling him closer. "No, it's you and me," she whispered as she kissed his lips.
Grissom was not quite sure what to do next. He knew what he wanted to do, "This is a mistake, but what the hell…" he kissed her even more deeply.
"You said this is a mistake," Catherine got out after the most delicious kiss she'd had in some time.
"Well, we work together and I'm back to being your supervisor again. It's called fraternization and conflict of interest," he intoned nearly drowning in her being.
"Ummm," Catherine sighed. "You want to take it back?"
"Never," Grissom chuckled. He kissed her again, "I don't think there is a going back, not now anyhow."
"How long?" asked Catherine in between kisses.
He began to hobble toward the camp, "Dunno. Long, long time," he softly said.
Catherine tucked herself under his side to help him back.
"There it is," Grissom commented, "the gulch for which this mine is named."
Before them was a cavity in the earth four feet wide and ten feet deep.
"How are we going to get over that?" Catherine wanted to know.
"We go around," Grissom replied, directing her eastward. "It's not as far as it looks."
"Okay, what next?"
He stopped and looked down into her eyes. He took a deep breath, "We've crossed one chasm tonight, I guess we'll cross another as well. Just don't let Ecklie know a thing until we've figured out all the moving parts."
Catherine's lip curled with disgust, "Ecklie… I should have stayed on Swing Shift. We would not have a problem now."
Grissom flicked his eyebrows, "Yes, but we might not have let go of the old boundaries either."
"Yes, and they were such comfortable boundaries," she agreed as she kissed him again.
They held each other close before limping back to camp.