Catherine made breakfast every morning before Lindsey walked to school and so Grissom got used to eating eggs and toast for dinner. They went to bed, woke when Lindsey came home, and went to work. Ecklie's threat had come to this: Catherine and Grissom were pulled into the Under sheriff's office to plead their case and after an hour and a half were given a stern warning on appropriate office conduct.
Things were good for the first year of their marriage, and the second and the third.
One morning, Catherine woke up to Grissom's hand on her breast.
"Good morning to you, too." she said, batting his hand away. But his arm was solid and her push against it did nothing to lesson his grip. "Gil," she said – her voice a wary tone of danger.
"Feel this," he said, taking her hand and putting against her left breast. "Feel this," he insisted.
Lindsey was seventeen when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, eighteen when her mother died, and nineteen when she packed a bag and vowed never to come back to sin city, a place that reeked of loss.
Gil couldn't find his cane. He cursed under his breath, a string of expletives that did little to make him feel better, and less to make his cane appear. He took his time getting out of bed, careful to swing his leg to the ground in a way that wouldn't cause a twinge of pain from his hip all the way up into his teeth. The cane had fallen behind the night stand and he groped for it, his fingers outstretched and grasping. By the time he was standing, leaving heavily on the cane, he was sweating and angry. The doorbell rang a third time and he limped out into the living room in his flannel pajama bottoms and white undershirt with a red, bright face.
He didn't look out of the peep hole before throwing open the door. His heart leaped a moment at what he saw.
"Catherine?" he gasped, squinting into the late morning sunshine that blasted into his darkened living room. But no, it wasn't Catherine standing on the porch. Catherine was dead.
"I didn't have anywhere else to go," she said, pushing her sunglasses up onto her head.
"Lindsey," Gil said. At twenty four, Lindsey hadn't been back to Las Vegas in nearly five years. She'd left angry and alone not long after the funeral. She'd left with a man who was almost twice her age, a man who had promised to take care of her and who had promptly left her in Arizona with seven dollars and nowhere to go. So she'd found another man, and another after that and finally, when the latest man, Peter, had left her eight months pregnant, she'd decided she wanted a better life.
"I'm sorry I didn't call, ever," she said.
"Who is that?" he asked. Lindsey glanced down to the small boy, balanced on her hip, his face pressed into his mother's neck. He was pretending to be asleep, but Lindsey could feel his eyelashes move against her skin. He was just being shy.
"This is Spencer," she said. "Gil, I don't know what to do."
"How old is Spencer?" Gil asked, looking at the sleeping boy with his messy red hair and bare feet.
"Two," she said, wondering if they were going to have to stand on the porch all morning. Gil had been a good-step father to Lindsey, he had, but the loss of her mother had proved to be too much. She had hated sitting in her bedroom listening to Gil cry through the wall every night after her mother was gone. At nineteen, she had felt like she had no family left except for a crazy grandmother, a mobster grandfather, and a criminalist who didn't know how to talk to people who was no family at all. So she had left to find a new family, her own family, and now she was back, looking for forgiveness.
"Well, why don't you come in." he said, finally, looking Lindsey and her son up and down several times. Lindsey was too skinny – she looked like she hadn't had a proper meal in several days. She looked so much like her mother. Gil stepped aside to let Lindsey in.
The house was almost the same. There was a recliner that hadn't been there before, and the collection of bugs that had been banished to the upstairs office had migrated out into the living room over the years, but it was the house in Henderson and Lindsey found she had little to say. Gil shut the door.
"What happened to your leg?" Lindsey asked, shifting her hold on her son who was only getting heavier.
"I got shot in the hip," he said, quietly. She raised her eyebrows.
"Oh," she said. "That's too bad."
"Do you need a place to stay, Lindsey?" he asked, finally. "You and Spencer?"
"Thank you," she said. "We do."
Spencer Willows had big brown eyes and a smattering of freckles across the bridge of his tiny nose that proved his dark red hair was real. He had the oval face of his grandmother and a cleft in his chin that gave his angelic face a hint of masculinity that he would appreciate in his teenage years. Lindsey had arrived with only a large duffel bag for the both of them and had given the last of her money to the taxi driver who had taken them from the greyhound station on Industrial Road to Henderson.
She was in the shower now, and Gil was looking at Spencer who was sitting on the couch with his thumb in his mouth.
"Well," said Gil, "Are you hungry?"
Spencer said nothing.
"It's been a long time since I've seen your mother," Gil said, looking at the young boy who watched him with wide eyes.
Spencer, again, remained silent.
"You can call me Gil," Gil said.
Spencer blinked. Gil rolled his eyes and went into the kitchen.
"Don't move," he called over his shoulder. In a few minutes, he returned with a plastic plate with apple slices on it. "Do you like apples?" He handed to plate to Spencer who looked at it warily. Finally, he took his thumb out of his mouth and replaced it with a piece of apple. Gil smiled to himself and sat next to Spencer on the couch while they waited for Lindsey to reappear. Spencer pointed to Gil's cane.
"That's my cane," Gil said. "They replaced my hip and it helps me walk."
Once Spencer got going, the apple disappeared quickly and the boy looked at him expectantly for more.
"What else do you want?" Gil asked, not expecting any answer. He stood with a grunt, leaning heavily against his cane. He was surprised when Spencer climbed down off the couch and padded unsteadily into the kitchen behind him. Gil smiled at him. "How about peanut butter and jelly?"
Spencer nodded and Gil took this as a good sign. He made three sandwiches, one for Lindsey. They ate them together. Spencer got purple jelly everywhere. Gil had put a phonebook on the chair so Spencer could see his plate on the wooden table. Finally, Lindsey appeared.
"My bedroom is still the same," she said, quietly. "Even all the clothes are in the closet."
"I thought you might come home one day," Gil said. "And now you have."
"Look at Spencer, what a mess." she said, her voice a little shaky.
"He was hungry," Gil said. "We made you a sandwich."
"Thank you, he loves PB and J. Spencer is always hungry." she said.
"You used to love these sandwiches too, when you were little." Gil said.
"Yeah," she said, sitting down. She had braided her hair into two long braids on either side of her head and the straggled down her back. Gil remembered them dancing in the wind, remembered Catherine putting a towel around her daughter's shoulders in the middle of the kitchen and snipping the ends of her blonde hair so it grew thick and strong. He remembered Warrick grabbing on to her braids and steering her around the yard like a pony, he laughter in shrieks and protests.
Now, it hurt to look at her.
"What will you do? Are you planning to stay for a while?" he asked.
"Spence and I will go as soon as I get a job and land on my feet," she said, hurried.
"Lindsey, stay forever, that isn't what I meant. I'm just wondering what you are going to do," he assured her.
"Oh, well, I bet the French Palace is hiring," she joked uneasily. She still remembered being 12-years-old, caught hitchhiking, her mother saying "Fighting? Hitchhiking? What's next?" and her young self mumbling, "Stripping…" And her mother's face had fallen in the same way that Gil's was falling now.
"Waitress, maybe. I have experience with that," She was going to ask Sam Braun for a job if he would see her – he had always been kind to her mother. "What about you? Still working nights?"
"Not with this hip," he said. "Retired with disability,"
"Who shot you?" Lindsey asked, pulling Spencer into her lap so she could wipe his face with her napkin.
"Someone who is in jail now," Gil said, looking away out the window. "It was nearly two years ago now."
"I thought about coming home lots of times," she said. "Things change when a kid comes along."
"Do you ever think about going back to school?" he asked.
"Not really," she said.
"You were always very smart," he said.
"I still am smart," she said. "I'm just trying to do things right for Spence. Mom was always so put together, always made my lunch and got me new clothes when my old ones didn't fit anymore. I want to be like that for him." she paused. "I've been thinking about mom a lot lately."
"She loved you so much, Lindsey. I love you, too, you know." Gil said. Lindsey rested her chin on top of her son's head.
"Mama," Spencer said. Tears rolled down her face.
So they went to see Catherine. She'd been cremated because it was more economically sound, but she had a marker in a wall and Gil went once a month or so. Gil showed Spencer a picture of Catherine and Lindsey, when Lindsey was nine or ten.
"This is your grandma. She would have loved you a lot." Gil said. Spencer touched the glass on top of the photo and laughed. "Wasn't she pretty?" Gil said, his voice soft and strained.
"Yeah," Spencer whispered.
"Yeah," Gil agreed.
They got into the car after Gil had gone out to buy a car seat and they went to visit Catherine. Lindsey was quiet in the passenger's seat behind a cheap pair of sunglasses. Her hand gripped the arm rest until her knuckles turned white. In the back, Spencer made a plastic dinosaur dance across his lap.
When they got there, they were a somber trio, and Lindsey put down Spencer to trace her fingers over the letters that spell out her mother's name. Catherine Grissom – Beloved Mother and Wife.
Spencer stood with his hand clenched into his mother's skirt.
"I was angry at her for leaving us. I still am." Lindsey said, picking up Spencer once more.
"It was a hard year," Gil said. "I mean, I was a grown man when I lost my mother but you were a girl still and had already lost both."
"I had you," Lindsey said. "I wasn't even yours; you didn't have to keep me. I almost thought you would send me away."
"Is that why you left? Because you thought I didn't want you?" Gil asked.
"No. Yes. Maybe," she said. "It hurts to be here."
"We can go," Gil said. "Say goodbye to Grandma, Spencer,"
"Bye!" Spencer shrieked; he waved hard.
"You could go to school," Gil said again, one day a few weeks after Lindsey had come home. "You can apply on-line most anywhere. WLVU, maybe."
"I'm too old," she said, tying her apron around her thin waist. She worked at the Rampart and no one mentioned Sam Braun.
"No you aren't, your mother did it." he said.
"Well let me pick up a coke habit so I can be more like mom," she snapped. "I have to go to work."
She kissed her son goodbye and left Gil sitting in the quiet living room, his hip aching.
When she came home, later, he was still awake watching baseball on the television.
"She would hate to be called Grandma," Lindsey said, sitting next to him on the couch, tiredly.
"I think she would make the exception." Gil said.
"I'm sorry we both left you," she said. "I'm sorry we couldn't be what you needed."
"It's all in the past now," he said, waving his hand dismissively.
"I guess so," she said. He kept a tiny icebox by the sofa and pulled out a can of beer for her. She took it, flipped the tab open and slurped at the foam. "Where's that application?" she asked.
"What will you study?" he asked, smiling slightly.
"Dead people, probably." she said, kicking off her shoes and putting her feet on the coffee table. "How to catch the people who killed them."
"The evidence always tells the story, Lindsey." he said.
"Rule number one?" she asked.
"Exactly," he said.
"Will you teach me?" she asked, a little girl again. In the other room, Spencer started to cry. He'd been wetting the bed, lately, and woke up crying, cold and sticky. She stood up.
"I'll teach you." he said, but she was already down the hall.