Catherine didn't usually go to scenes alone. Grissom didn't like to send her on singles because she was a woman and because she was small and Catherine knew that and resented it sufficiently. She respected Grissom as her boss, however, so Catherine didn't usually go to scenes alone. It was unusual, then, when Grissom came into the break room and gave her a homicide in Henderson alone.
"What's up?" she asked, scanning the sheet.
"Sara is in court and Greg is home sick," he said. "Be careful."
"Always am," she said, heading for the door. She paused, "You don't have to worry about me, Gil."
"Okay," he said. "But still be careful."
The freeway was clear and she drove with her windows down. It was easy enough to find the crime scene in the quiet Henderson neighborhood – she just had to follow the flashing red and blue lights. Brass was already there, waiting for her.
"Just you tonight?" he asked as she slipped on her vest. The white thread on the second 'w' was starting to unravel. She zipped it up and hefted her kit out of the back.
"Yeah," she said. "We're thin tonight."
"Well I was just waiting for you. David pronounced and we're heading back to the station as soon as you give the okay." he said. She nodded and made her way into the modest two-story house. She put her camera over her shoulder and climbed the stairs carefully, trying not to disturb anything. David was still crouched over the body.
"Hi Catherine," he greeted.
"Hi," she said, looking down at the body of a young woman, still a teenager perhaps. "Do we have an id?"
"Her school id card on the desk," he said, pointing with a bloodied glove. "Leia Matthews, a senior. She's been dead about six hours. A neighbor called it in – said the parents were away for the week and the neighbor was supposed to check in every night. She didn't answer the phone or the door so they let themselves in, called the cops." He pointed to a pool of blood below her head. "Blunt force trauma."
"Thanks," she said and crouched to start photographing the scene.
"I'll be downstairs." David said and gathered his things. She didn't bother with a response. She opened the flap of her vest for a pair of tweezers and pulled a hair from the girl's cheek. She dropped it into a small envelope and continued to take pictures. When the floor squeaked behind her, she assumed David had forgotten something or an officer had entered. She didn't look up.
"Don't touch her," a man's voice said. Catherine looked up just in time to see the handle of a gun coming toward her. It connected with her temple and Catherine saw stars. The pain blossomed into unconsciousness.
"How?" Grissom yelled, "The place was swarming with cops, how could anyone get out with her?"
"I don't know, by the time a uniform went up to check on her she was gone," Brass said. "We closed down a mile in every direction, shut down the freeways, the airport, we're doing what we can."
"I hate sending her alone," Grissom said, desolate. They had finally reached the scene and Grissom jumped out of Brass's car before it had come to a complete stop. Ecklie was already there, waiting.
"Gil," he greeted. "We don't need this to be Stokes all over again." Grissom didn't have a response to his dimwitted boss. He couldn't think of Catherine buried alive, he couldn't think of her dead and he couldn't think of her as another publicity nightmare as Ecklie obviously did. Grissom walked past him without acknowledgement.
Catherine woke up several times, but never for long. She woke up once to lean over and vomit and again to find she was being drug from one place to another. The third time she woke, everything was painful and bright. She tried to move and found she was tied to a chair, her hands behind her, her feet apart, each leg tied to a leg of the cold, metal chair. She looked around in the light of a single bulb. She was in a garage, the place smelled of stale oil and there were shelves lined with cardboard boxes labeled "Christmas" and "photographs". A family home, then. Her head throbbed where she had been hit. Her vest was gone, her kit missing. She was freezing in nothing but her tank-top and slacks. She could see the blood down the front of her shirt and realized it was ruined.
There was duct tape over her mouth. She tried to loosen it with her tongue before she realized it was wrapped completely around her head, tangled in her hair. She didn't know if she should cry out (try to, anyway) or keep quiet. Was he planning to kill her? Had he killed Leia Matthews? She had promised Grissom that she would be careful, he would be so disappointed if she were to die. She wondered if anyone knew she was gone, she wondered how much time had passed. She wondered if she would ever see her daughter again. Catherine started to cry.
But no, she needed to remain calm. Panicking would only make things worse. She started to try to move her wrists to rock the chair, to do something. At least she hadn't woken up in a coffin. She tried to remember what had happen. The man who had hit her hadn't sounded old. He'd sounded scared and his voice had cracked in the middle of his threat.
The door to the house opened and Catherine squinted at the bright light and turned her face away. She whimpered.
"Shut up," the voice snapped. "Just shut up." She looked up at him and he didn't look much older than the victim, Leia Matthews. Catherine nodded at him to show him she was trying to cooperate. God, she didn't want to die tonight. In his hand was a small revolver. "I've always wanted to kill a cop."
She shook her head frantically. She wasn't a cop, he shouldn't kill her. The kid didn't care, though. He aimed the revolver at her head, a feral smile on his lips. Catherine closed her eyes.
"Do we have an address?" Warrick asked, ripping the sheet of paper out of the tech's hands. They'd found a partial print on the body and the computer had spit out a match. Joseph Clark, in the system for attempted robbery. The kid wasn't even eighteen yet.
"Grissom!" Warrick shouted, rushing out of the lab. "Let's go."
Grissom appeared, jogging after Warrick.
Warrick looked at Grissom; the look of blind panic on his boss's face had been there since Catherine had gone missing.
"Griss, what happens if…"
"Don't," Grissom snapped.
When the shot didn't come, Catherine opened her eyes. The gun in her face was shaking and there was clear unease on the face of her would-be killer. Leia Matthews hadn't died of a gunshot wound; he'd just bludgeoned her to death. Shooting someone was much harder than an ill-fated blow. Catherine pleaded with him with her eyes. Please, she thought, Please, I have a daughter.
She heard the sirens in the distance before he did. She was listening hard for them and he probably only heard the blood rushing in his ears, the adrenalin in his veins. He lowered the gun and took a step forward.
"I didn't mean to kill her." he said, sounding small. "I just wanted her to go out with me." He reached out to touch Catherine's face. She flinched and tried to move her head away. He let his sweaty fingers trace the shape of her jaw and float down her neck. Come on, Gil, she thought. Suddenly, the boy became aware of the commotion outside. His eyes hardened and he made his hand into a fist. He hit her head wound hard and she went under once more.
When she opened her eyes, everything was slow and blurred. She saw her attacker on his knees, she saw the pulsating glow of the lights from the police cruisers, she saw Grissom come into her view. She realized that she was out of the chair and on a gurney, being rolled. Grissom was walking with her.
"Catherine," he said. She saw his lips move but she couldn't hear his voice. She closed her eyes and opened them again. This time he was sitting beside her in the ambulance, his hand in her limp one. She had a mask over her mouth and all the oxygen was making her dizzy. When she opened her eyes again, Grissom was asleep in a chair and she heard the rhythmic beating of a heart monitor. She rolled her head to look around the room. It's muted colors and antiseptic smell screamed hospital but she couldn't really remember what happened exactly. In a matching chair on the other side of her bed was Lindsey, also sleeping. She pulled the oxygen mask off of her face and her mouth felt foreign and dry.
"Linds," she whispered but her voice was raspy and the effort made the dull ache in her head acute and sharp. She groaned. "Lindsey," she said again, despite the pain. Her daughter sat up sleepily, her hair flat on one side.
"Mom!" she cried, shooting out of the chair. Grissom woke up too, and rushed over.
"Catherine," he breathed. He reached across her where there was a beige remote and he hit the button repeatedly for the nurse. "How do you feel?"
"I don't know," she said. She looked at Lindsey. "I'm fine," she decided, hoping to soothe her daughter's worried expression. A nurse came in and smiled to see her patient awake.
"Ms. Willows," she greeted. "Good to see you awake," She picked up the chart and checked the monitors and wrote a few notes. "I'll have the doctor come in shortly."
"What happened, now?" she asked Grissom, the details were all a little foggy.
"You went to a crime scene and you got hit in the head," Grissom said, glancing at Lindsey. "Lindsey, why don't you run down to the cafeteria and find Warrick." She nodded and left the room, aware that she was being sent away.
"That bad?" Catherine asked.
"You went to a scene, Joseph Clark had been hiding in the attic. He came down through access in the victim's closet, knocked you out, and snuck you out the back. You were only a few blocks away when we found you," he explained, struggling to keep his voice clinical.
"In a garage," she said, remembering.
"Yes," he said.
"He just snuck up on me," she said.
"You should know that he resisted arrest and that Brass shot him." Grissom told her.
"Is he dead?"
"Yes," He assured her. "Catherine, I'm so sorry."
"Things like this happen. You couldn't have done anything, it wasn't your fault." she said. Grissom nodded but he still looked ashamed. Warrick came in with Lindsey and they didn't talk about it anymore. Catherine was released two days later with gauze still over her stitches and a prescription to take care of her persistent migraines. Lindsey wanted to be the one to push her mother's wheelchair to the doors and Grissom had offered to drive them home. Lily had offered but Catherine had sent her fretting and ultimately helpless mother away.
Catherine stood as the nurse took her wheelchair back inside.
"Ahh, free at last," she said, taking a deep breath and sliding her dark sunglasses on.
"Stay here, I'll get the car," Grissom said, rushing into the parking lot.
"You don't have to!" Catherine called after him but it was in vain.
"Just let him, Mom. He feels terrible about it." Lindsey said, sitting on the round, concrete edge of a planter.
"It wasn't his fault," she said again.
"It wouldn't kill you to let Mr. Grissom be nice to you." she shot back. "He trips all over him self around you and you don't even notice."
"What?" Catherine asked, turning to look over the rims of her sunglasses at her daughter.
"He likes you, Mom." she said, exasperated. Catherine opened her mouth to refute her daughter's claim but Grissom's Tahoe appeared in front of them. He jumped out to open Catherine's door for her. Lindsey rolled her eyes as if to say 'I told you so' and clambered into the back seat. Catherine climbed in and buckled her seat belt. Grissom happily drove them home.