Disclaimer: Don't own them, don't want to. All rights are solely that of CBS.
A/N: Okay guys, this is my first attempt at writing fanfic, or anything for that matter, so bear with me, and for the love of God, please review! I won't get better without your help, so PLEASE leave some feedback. I hope you enjoy it, and if you don't, well you're entitled. Love on you, -Solomynne.
The smell of death is a funny thing.
It's never how you would expect it to be. At least not how Sara ever expected it to be. A mixture of the metallic smell of blood, and the sickly sweet aroma of rotting flesh, it's a scent that is not easily forgotten. Or easily washed out of clothing for that matter, as she had learned the hard way. (The local drycleaners presently refuses to accept her business) But in her line of work it's something that, although you never get used to, you at least come to expect.
Having been on the job for nearly a decade, Sara had learned to use the stench of a decaying corpse as a valuable tool: the stronger the smell, the longer the shift. Crude, and yet somehow it always seemed to be fairly accurate. And judging by the nearly palpable stench emanating from her latest crime scene, Sara estimated that it was going to be a very long night indeed. Stifling a yawn, she headed towards the dilapidated building where she knew her boss Grissom was waiting for her arrival. It had been her night off, which was a rarity in itself, as she usually found some excuse or other to put in for overtime; but what was even stranger was the fact that she had actually been enjoying herself. Normally, she didn't like to be sedentary for any extended period of time. She found her mind had the tendency to wander places both past and present that she'd rather not be thinking of. Which is one of the reasons she enjoyed working so much, it kept her occupied.
But tonight, quite possibly just from sheer exhaustion, she had ended up on her apartment balcony with a glass of wine, watching the sunset. Norah Jones drifting out through her sliding glass door, and a warm, gentle breeze playing with her dark hair, she closed her amber eyes to the soft pink glow of the setting sun, allowing it to wash over her. She could hear in the distance the never-ending movement of cars and people making their way down the strip, but they may as well have been miles away as far as she was concerned.
That is, until her cell phone woke her like a slap across the face. Nearly spilling her wine, she lunged for the chirruping phone and flipped it open with her thumb.
She knew exactly who it was, she had call display, but for some reason this was just the way she did things. With him, anyway.
"Sara, it's Grissom. Listen, I know it's your night off, but--"
"-It's fine," she cut him off, "Where do you need me?" The last pink embers of the fading sun dancing across her face, she wondered if he would ever call her for a reason other than to ask her to come and help peel some evidence off of a stinking corpse.
"We've got a DB in an abandoned building off Freemont Street."Guess not.
"The one behind the Strato, you know it?"
"I'm sure I'll find it," she replied, upending the remainder of her wine into the potted plant that she'd been meaning to water.
"How soon can you be here?" he asked, his voice expectant.
"Give me half an hour, I need to grab a shower."
There was silence on the end of the line and for a moment, Sara smiled to herself, wondering if maybe, just maybe, he was thinking about what she hoped he was.
"Sounds good, see you then."
Snapping the phone shut with a flip of her wrist, she got up and stretched. Leaning against the balcony, she closed her eyes one last time and drew in a deep breath. Holding it for a beat, she exhaled slowly and turned back into her apartment. Norah Jones was still playing in the background, her smoky voice penetrating the silence:
" The lo-o-o-ng day is o-o-o-o-ver…."
Sighing, Sara flipped the "off" switch on her CD player and headed for the bathroom.
Twenty-nine minutes later, Sara was pulling up to a rotting brown building that, according to the mangled sign out front, used to be a strip joint called "The Red Baron's". Having long ago been abandoned, the vacated club looked like it had been the home to just about every vagrant in Vegas. Sliding out of the driver's seat, Sara reached for her kit and headed inside, eyes already watering from the unmistakable smell of a decomposing body. Spotting Detective Brass in the doorway, she called out, "Hey! What've we got?"
Turning to the familiar sound of her husky voice, the bulldog-faced policeman looked at her with a grim expression. "Jane Doe, looks like she's in her early twenties, tossed in an oil drum and left for the rats. David's with the body now."
Looking to where the young coroner stood with Grissom and another woman, Sara made eye contact with David and smiled, walking over. "So who found the body?"
Grissom, forgoing as she had, any greeting, responded, "There's a soup kitchen three blocks over. Some of the volunteers noticed the smell and called it in."
Leaning over to get a better look at the contents of the barrel, Sara asked, "Any idea how long she's been here?" David looked up from his hunched position over the oil drum and Sara got a glimpse of a small body, curled into an unnatural position, face turned upwards. Pleading. Her skin was waxy and sallow. Sara had seen it before. Too long in a confined space and the body began to turn…soupy.
"Hard to say," replied David, bringing her back to the question. "She was sealed in here pretty tight. I'll know more once we get her back to the morgue."
Turning her attention to the woman standing to the left of Grissom, Sara was about to introduce herself when she noted the look on the woman's face. She had turned a ghostly white, pressing her lips together in an obvious effort to keep herself from throwing up. Grissom, not noticing that his young charge was on the verge of introducing her dinner to his favorite pair of Doc Martins, turned to Sara. "Sara, this is Joslyn Grace. Joslyn, this is Sara Sidle, the one you'll be working with. Joslyn's training to be a CSI over at LVU, and she's been chosen as the candidate for the new apprenticeship program. She'll be shadowing you for a while."
Ignoring her irritation at Grissom throwing this at her without any warning, and not taking her eyes off the girl who had begun to sway on her feet, she asked, "Apprenticeship program?"
"Yeah, it's a way for forensic students to get hands-on training, really allow themselves an in-depth look at what they'll be getting themselves into. Joslyn here was ranked top in her class at Yale, and relocated to LVU this semester."
"Well, I think it's best if Joslyn and I 'relocate' ourselves outside for a moment so she can get some fresh air," she said quickly, putting a hand out to steady the girl and guiding her outside. The cool night air brushed their skin. Joslyn, out of Grissom's earshot, finally allowed herself to let out a choking cough. Leaning against the crumbling wood for support, she drew in great gulps of air. Sara placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder, "It's okay, just take a slow, deep breath. You don't want to start hyperventilating, okay?" Joslyn complied, slowly drawing in a deep breath of air and holding it, looking to Sara as if to say, "Now what?"
Half amused, and half pitying, Sara let out a soft laugh and said, "Okay, let it out."
Joslyn expended the breath and leaned her head back against the wall. Closing her eyes, she spoke for the first time, in a voice that was deeper than Sara had expected. "Wow. That was embarrassing. They ought to take away my position in this program and give it to someone with a stronger stomach."
Sara smiled, taking the opportunity to survey the young woman. She was short, maybe 5 4' at the most, with dirty blonde hair that fell just past her shoulders. Her almond shaped eyes were a green that Sara had been able to see sparkling, even in the darkness. She had a small, pointed nose that gave her an almost elfin look. It was hard to judge her age, but Sara estimated that she couldn't be much older than 23. Normally, she would have been annoyed at learning she had to baby-sit some rookie; after all she already had Sanders to deal with. But for some reason, as she watched Joslyn leaning against the wall, her breathing slowly becoming more even, she couldn't help but remember how scared she had been at her first crime scene, and she began to feel some empathy towards the girl.
Sensing she should say something reassuring, Sara searched the depths of her memory banks for something appropriate to the situation. She had never been very good at comforting people, mostly because in her line of work she tends to be meeting people on the worst day of their lives. Giving an "I'm sorry for your loss" to a woman who had just lost her child always sounded so stupid to her. Empty words. She was so sick of them.
"Don't be embarrassed, it happens to everyone at their first scene, honestly. And the fact that this is the worst decomp I've seen in years can't have helped much." The girl opened her eyes and looked at Sara, giving her a weak smile. Sara gave her her own signature gap-toothed one back and leaned against the wall beside her. "And don't worry about Grissom docking you marks on your evaluation for it, he doesn't work like that."
Watching Sara as the moonlight reflected against her pale skin, Joslyn seemed to come to the conclusion that she was going to like working with her. She turned her eyes back to the night sky and asked, "So how does he work then?"
Sara was silent for a moment, trying to find the right words, and then realized that she didn't have them. "That's a very good question." A siren wailed in the distance.
"So he's complicated?" she asked, looking back to the tall brunette.
"Oh yes. Just when you think you have him figured out…" Sara stopped, realizing she was probably revealing more than she should. Joslyn, noting her hesitation, tactfully lightened the mood. "Yeah, I figured he was a different sort when the first words he said to me were 'Nice to meet you, may I take a pint of your blood?'"
The two women laughed, both faces showing mirroring sets of dimples. Grissom stepped outside and broke the moment, "Sorry to interrupt the fun, but if we're all feeling okay out here, there's a crime scene to process." Sara rolled her eyes at Joslyn, missing the smug look Grissom had gotten on his face as he turned back inside. He had known as soon as he met Joslyn in her interview that the two of them would get along, which was one of the reasons he'd assigned them to each other. It was nice to see that they were already getting to know one another. It was even nicer to hear Sara laughing, even if it was about him.
Sara stopped before going through the door and said, "Remember, breathe through your mouth. It makes all the difference." Joslyn nodded, and armed with this new bit of information, squared her shoulders and walked back inside.
Sara, looking around for the first time saw a dilapidated stage in the center of the room. A pole lay across it, that she could only guess was at one time for the dancers. The red curtains that had hung at the entrance and exits of the stage were piled on the floor, most likely having been used as a makeshift bed. The only remnants of any tables and chairs were a few moldy bits of wood strewn around, most of them charred like they had been used for firewood. The barrel that held the victim had been stashed in the shadowy corner of the room, out of sight and out of mind, no doubt. If only it worked like that.
David had the barrel on a dolly, and inclined his head to Sara as he wheeled it outside. She casually waved a hand in his direction and continued looking around. David smiled to himself. He wasn't offended by her dismissive goodbye, knowing that she was just being Sara, just "working the scene."
Sara shivered as she continued to survey her surroundings. The whole place had this ominous feel to it, like walking through a carnival that was closed for the off-season, or sitting in movie theatre after everyone had left. It held the emotions of all the people that had been there. It gave the dark, empty feeling of a place that was once bustling with life, and was now a hollow shell. She could practically hear the echoes of drunken catcalls being shouted as the thumping beat of the music reverberated against the walls.
"Hey Sara, come check this out!" the sound of Joslyn's voice was a welcome relief from the dark images in Sara's mind. Smiling inwardly at Joslyn's excitement, she made her way to where the young CSI was kneeling, over to the left side of the empty stage.
Looking up at Sara, Joslyn moved aside to show a silver shining object crumpled on the ground. "It's a necklace," she stated as Sara kneeled beside her to get a better look. "A broken necklace. And look, there's blood caught in the chain." Calling Grissom over so he could snap a picture, Sara waited until he'd finished before scooping up the necklace, letting it hang on her long fingers. It glittered dully from beneath a layer of dirt, and hanging from it dangled a small pendant: an oval shaped silver disc that had a deep pink stone set into it.
"Good find, Joslyn, I think we'll be getting some DNA off of this," she said, turning to Joslyn's beaming face. "Well, you found it, you get to bag it. Make sure it's labeled correctly and sealed tight," she said, handing the evidence over to her, letting it spill from her fingers into Joslyn's palm. Tilting her face upwards, she spoke to Grissom, "What else have we found? Anything probative?"
Grissom held a hand out to help her up, and holding onto her slender wrist for a beat longer than was necessary, he replied, "Well I found some shoeprints over near the barrel, and some bloody smears on the wall, but they looked old. They could just as easily have been from a bar fight. Judging by the lack of evidence, and the absence of any signs of a struggle, I'm starting to think that this was just the dumpsite. The actual murder must've taken place somewhere else. I'm hoping the barrel will be able to tell us where."
"Well I'll head back to the lab, see what I can get off of it," she said, bending down to pick up her kit.
"Alright, I'll meet you there. Take Joslyn with you, introduce her to everyone at the lab," he said over his shoulder as he walked back to where the caste for his shoeprints was drying.
"Okay," she called back. Joslyn stood up beside her, and carefully watched Sara watching Grissom walk away. Looking to Grissom, his gray hair shining in the moonlight that had slipped in from the window, she understood the attraction.
Not wanting to break the reverie, she quietly stood there until Sara realized she was waiting. Even in the dark, dusty light of the abandoned club, she could see the pink tinge in Sara's cheeks. "Ready to go?" said Sara, a little louder than her normal tone.
"All set." The two women walked out of the crumbling building and headed for Sara's car. Noting the look on the faces of the officers as they walked past, Sara turned to Joslyn and muttered, "I think it would be a good idea to stop by the grocery store on the way to the lab."
"What for?" asked Joslyn, raising an eyebrow.
"Lemons. Lots of lemons."
To be continued…if you think it's worth it at all. Thanks so much for reading! –Sol.