A/N : I really heartily and gratefully thank Danie for the awesome job she's doing with the translation. The chapters are becoming longer now, so don't forget your thanks and encouragements :))
And of course, I thank you all very very much guys for responding so amazingly to this story, and letting me know!! I couldn't be happier :))
Pairing : GSR
Raiting : T
Disclaimer : 'CSI' and all its characters belong to Anthony Zuiker, CBS and Alliance Atlantis. No copyright infringement is intended.
Spoilers : Up to the end of Season 5 (the GSR wasn't canon when I wrote this fic )
SUMMARY : When a new serial killer comes to Vegas, Sara has no choice but to go back to her past… GSR, WIP
Grissom was in a rage. It was a rare emotion for him and when it happened, he felt as though he was boiling from the inside. Of course, it wasn't in his nature to yell or throw things. His anger manifested itself differently, in a stony expression, dark eyes, and a clenched jaw—which was what James and Sofia were presented with when he joined them.
Certain cases got to him, particularly those involving children, but also the ones that touched him personally, the cases that put his people in danger, such as what had happened to Nick last May. After having spent so much time with his staff over the years, they'd become one big family and when one member was threatened, they all were; he was. The fact that it was Sara's life being threatened had turned anger into a slow boiling rage.
Patrick Miller was insane—there was no longer any doubt about that.
He silently communicated what was going on to James who immediately drew Sara into a hug, whispering something only she could hear. Gil quickly shook off the jealousy that pricked his gut every time he saw her in the other man's arm. It really wasn't the time to lose his head over this.
"Let's finish processing," he snapped. "The faster we finish here, the faster we can get back to the lab."
His anger had sharpened his tongue which he immediately regretted when Sara's gave him a confused look. He'd just told her he would protect her, and two minutes later, he was once again cold and distant. He started to say something, but she quickly shook her head.
"I'm fine," she said softly. "Let's get back to work."
She returned to the spot she'd marked off and he did the same, but they didn't find any new evidence. The killer had been careful to leave only what he wanted and their return to the lab had been in silence.
Back at the lab, Gil turned over the blood and hair samples they'd collected from the roof to Mya. All that was left to do was process the bloody print left on the back of the note. The others joined him as he was scanning the print into the computer; Catherine had also arrived and he quickly briefed her on the new developments in the case. She was as stunned as the rest of them.
"Do you think the vic's is in the system?" Sofia asked Grissom as they watched the AFIS monitor scroll.
"If Patrick left the print it's because he knew it would lead somewhere."
The scrolling on the right monitor suddenly stopped; they had a match. All eyes were on the screen as Sara read: "Nicholas Thomson. Arrested for shoplifting at sixteen."
"And coincidentally, he was born on February 4th, 1971," James added.
Gil was already dialing a number on his cell. "Jim, it's Gil. We have an address for a homicide we suspect was committed on Thursday." He gave Brass an address just outside of town, and told him they'd meet him there.
Hanging up he turned to his team. "Sara and MacDouglas, you're coming with me. Catherine and Sofia, you stay on the evidence we collected on the roof." Handing Catherine the note, he added, "And process this."
No one objected and within minutes Gil, Sara, and MacDouglas were in the Tahoe heading out.
In the passenger seat, Sara shook her head, confused. "Something doesn't make sense. If the blood we found on the roof is Jessica's, why did we find her tied up to her bed?"
"Setting the stage," James replied from the back seat. Sara looked at him over her left shoulder. "In my opinion, he killed her on the roof, or at least seriously wounded her there, and then carried her down to her bed bound and gagged."
"He's making it more difficult for himself," remarked Gil whose attention was on his driving but was keeping an ear on the conversation.
"If he's doing this it's because it's important to him. He could have assaulted her in her apartment but he made a point of doing it on the roof," James added.
"He's incorporating habits from our past in his killings," Sara murmured, her voice barely above a whisper.
Gil sensed her distress and hated to see her so upset. The sooner they stopped this madman the better it would be for everyone involved.
"Speaking of the roof," James continued, "I called my colleagues earlier and asked them to go back to the scenes of each murdered woman and look for blood evidence on the roofs. I realize that some of these murders are a few months' old, but it's worth a try…"
Gil was pleased by MacDouglas' initiative. He didn't really like the guy, but he had to admit that he was good at his job. "I agree; it's worth a try," he admitted though without excessive praise.
If he'd been looking at Sara, he would have caught the small smile that touched her lips, as though she'd found the exchange between the two men amusing. But her smile disappeared as she refocused on the case.
"I don't understand how he managed to drag that poor woman up to the roof and then back down when she was probably wounded—or dead—without being noticed."
"It was late and the neighbors were asleep," offered Grissom. "It's the only explanation that makes sense."
"But there's no evidence of a break-in in this case, or any of the others, right?"
"True," admitted James, "but that suggests that the victims knew Patrick and trusted him enough to let him in."
"You spend too much time with profilers, Jamy… you're starting to sound like them." Sara sighed and looked out the passenger window at the passing scenery.
Gil also thought that James was jumping to several conclusions. However, he'd been working this case for several months which gave him an edge.
They remained silent after that, contemplations turned internally. Soon, they reached their destination. Nicolas Thomson's house was located in a run down housing development; from the outside, the house looked rather small. A cruiser was parked out front; Brass was already there with two uniformed officers, waiting for them.
He joined them as they left the Tahoe. "I decided to wait for you guys before going in. I wouldn't want to compromise your crime scene."
Gil nodded stiffly, unconcerned. Brass was more than familiar with procedures and after he told him that he'd be interviewing neighbors, Grissom went into the house, followed closely by Sara and MacDouglas.
They entered into a dark hallway; a nasty odor greeted them. The stench of death. Their maglites swept the floor, but nothing seemed out of place, which didn't entirely surprise Gil. Based on what they knew of this killer thus far, he doubted they'd find anything other than a dead body…
"You can go straight to the kitchen," MacDouglas said. "That's where he killed him…"
Looking for the kitchen and the likely crime scene, Gil opened the first door on the right. It was a bedroom. He would return to it later.
Sara directed her light to the second door on the left. "This one." Gil raised a quizzical brow and she shrugged. He made his way to the door and turned the handle.
No one heard the faint click as the door opened, but they couldn't miss the stench that greeted them. Grissom's eyes narrowed, his only reaction to the unpleasant odor as his light found the body. The man's head was lying in a pool of blood, and while the CSIs were not surprised to find another victim, they were no less affected by it.
"Shit!" MacDouglas hissed.
Gil looked back at his colleagues. MacDouglas was staring at the body, his jaw clenched; Sara's eyes were closed and her features were frozen in pain. When she opened her eyes and met Gil's gaze, she shook her head lightly, silently letting him know she was okay. Letting out a breath, Gil turned to the body stretched out on the cold kitchen floor and crouched next to the victim as the flash from Sara's camera relentlessly documented the body.
James hadn't moved from the doorway, but his light flitted over the room, suddenly stopping on an electrical cable along one of the walls near the ceiling. His light slowly followed the cable back to the doorway and James entered the room as he continued tracing the black cable's path to a small mechanism mounted on the wall above the door. His stomach clenched. It looked like a trigger—
Quickly, his light followed the cable back to where it originated and disappeared in a glass enclosed case on the wall opposite the door. He quickly crossed the room to take a closer look.
"James? What is it?" asked Sara.
Gil looked up, instantly annoyed at MacDouglas for entering the kitchen without precaution and potentially compromising the crime scene. But one look at the man's face as he examined the contents of the case confirmed that something was seriously wrong. Instinctively, he grabbed Sara's arm as he rose to his feet, dragging her up with him.
James could clearly see the black box behind the glass…the red, digital numbers quickly counting down, and a message. 'SURPRISE!'
"Get out!" he shouted, looking back at his colleagues. "He hid a bomb!"
Grissom could have stayed rooted to the spot in disbelief for a long moment, his muscles turning to atrophy as muscles tended to do in the event of such chilling news, but that didn't happened. His mind whirled in alarm, one voice roaring: Get her out of here, now!
Without a moment's hesitation he tightened his grip on Sara's arm and drew her to the kitchen door pushing her out ahead of him.
6… 5… 4…
They ran down the hallway, Grissom not allowing her to look back to check that James was following. The front door seemed a mile away.
3… 2… 1…
Just as the front door burst open, a terrific blast shook the walls of the house and propelled them violently out into the night. Gil had barely grabbed Sara when the bomb detonated and within a second they were hitting the graveled drive with force, and debris was falling down around them. Gil held Sara tightly, his body covering hers protectively.
He could hear officers yell from a distance, Brass's voice as he rushed toward them; he could also hear Sara's gasps beneath him. She tensed and tried to get up.
"Jamy!" she yelled, trying to break free of Grissom who had already eased his crushing hold on her, but wouldn't release her so she could run back to the blazing house. Jamy!" she cried again, motioning hysterically, trying to slip from his steel grip, managing to raise herself to her knees. "Let me go! God, James! Let me…! Let me…Jamy…"
She was sobbing uncontrollably and Grissom wrapped his arms around her, pulling her back against him as he tried to calm her down and stop her from doing something suicidal.
"Let me go…" she begged through her tears even as she stopped fighting him, finally understanding that he wouldn't release her. She folded over, her forehead coming into contact with the ground; her hands were pressed against her face, muffling her sobs.
Brass was upon them, shouting things that Gil, still shaken, couldn't quite comprehend. He was only aware of the woman in his arms, shaking, more vulnerable than he'd ever seen her, and all he could do was strengthen his hold on her.
She was back in the hospital.
God she hated this place. She visited often because of her work, but this was different. When she had to come for personal reasons, it brought back old memories, old fears… added to her current emotional state …
The waiting room was as depressing as ever. People talked, children cried, and the odor of blood and medication filled the air. Sara was pacing. She was pacing to distract herself, but mostly to hold on to her wits. She was aware that she was still in a state of shock over the explosion. It wasn't even her first time, but she didn't think one ever got used to it.
Her hair was seriously mussed up, in a tangle as though it had just been through a hurricane. There was dust on her face, black soot from the explosion, and bloody scratches from hitting the graveled drive. The tears that had flowed abundantly earlier had left long, clear streaks along their paths. Her clothes were in no better shape, torn, dirty. But she didn't care about her appearance. A cloud had settled over her mind; her legs felt like rags and were shaking, and her ears were still humming. And she was just becoming aware of the throbbing pain in her right shoulder and wrist, which had managed to somewhat clear her head, but she didn't want to have them examined yet.
She was waiting.
She was waiting for a doctor to come tell her how James was doing.
She had thought him dead. In the minutes following the explosion, she'd been sure of it and it had almost destroyed her. Then the fire department and the paramedics came and found James's body, unconscious and terribly banged-up, but alive in the back yard, less than six feet away from the house. Sara hadn't noticed the other door leading to a small garden off the kitchen. James obviously had and managed to escape through it, but not quickly enough. Having been closer to the source of the explosion, the blast had hit him hard and burned him.
It had all happened so quickly that she'd barely been aware at first of the paramedics loading James into the ambulance. Another paramedic had come to see if they were injured and Grissom had to answer for her. The ambulance left and Brass drove them to the hospital in Grissom's Tahoe, judging him unable to drive.
Grissom was in the waiting room as well. He was leaning against a wall, his eyes seemingly closed, but Sara knew better. They were slightly open and attentively following her back and forth movements across the room. His outward appearance wasn't better than Sara's, if not worse since he'd voluntarily exposed his body to the elements when he covered hers. His face was also dark with dust and ashes, and he had an ugly wound on his left cheek; blood had trickled down from the wound to his chin and onto his jacket. He should have had it examined; it most likely required stitches. But he hadn't left Sara's side one second since this terrible tragedy and didn't seem ready to do so.
He was watching over her, like a guardian angel.
If she hadn't been so traumatized, she might have taken the time to think about everything that had happened, everything he'd done for her, and the significance of it. But for now, anxiety was still clenching her stomach too violently to allow her thoughts to move in that direction.
She nervously lifted her hand to drag it through her hair and immediately regretted it when a sharp, burning pain shot through her right shoulder. A small exclamation of pain left her lips as her left arm reflexively gripped her throbbing limb. A bad idea. It only sent a second wave of pain to her shoulder, and her tired body responded accordingly. Her head started spinning and black dots clouded her vision. She felt herself falling, but she never hit the ground. Something had gripped her waist and held her up. She let the dead weight of her body rest against this solid wall that had suddenly appeared in front of her and as the blackness receded and she began to open her eyes she realized that it wasn't a wall at all, but a living, breathing body, and his hands that had gripped her hips.
Lifting her still hazy gaze, her eyes met his concerned blue one.
"Feeling better?" His voice was so soft and caring that she felt her eyes fill with tears. Without saying anything, she closed them and let her head fall heavily to his chest. She could hear his rapid heartbeat, and it soothed her. His hands gentled on her hips, releasing them, and with infinite tenderness and caution, he wrapped his arms around her waist.
He had held on to her an hour ago, but it was nothing compared to this. The first time it had been to protect her, to stop her from doing something stupid. Now, while his arms were equally protective, the way he held her felt different. In the years she had known him, she couldn't remember once having been this close to him. The most they had touched before tonight was when he'd held her hand. No. There was something drastically different about him. It was as though the wall that he had kept erected between them had suddenly crumbled, perhaps not completely, but enough to let her get close to him. And it set off a new wave of emotions in her. The warm comfort of his arms, the sensation of his breath in her hair, the beat of his heart, which was accelerating, and knowing that she was responsible for it, gave the deep love she felt for him new meaning.
"Miss Sara Sidle?"
Their protective cocoon suddenly burst and reality slipped into place. Sara lifted her head and opened her eyes, turning toward the person who had called her name. She felt a wave of disappointment as Grissom gently released her.
"That's me," she answered the doctor who joined them, frowning as he took in their appearance.
His gaze came to rest on the wound on Grissom's cheek. "Sir, I think you need—"
"How is James?" Sara bluntly interrupted, her concern for her friend back in full force.
Her behavior didn't appear to surprise the doctor who was used to dealing with anxious people. He nodded and smiled, which could only mean one thing: James was going to make it.
"Mr. MacDouglas has suffered third-degree burns to his right leg and several second degree burns, but the majority are superficial, not life threatening. We have treated him and he'll soon be transferred to a private room. Expect him to be here for a week. He's unconscious at the moment, but you'll be able to visit him tomorrow afternoon."
Sara closed her eyes as an enormous weight lifted from her chest. She breathed in relief. James was okay. Once again, without thinking, she lifted her hand to her face, not thinking of her shoulder, but Grissom was right behind her and didn't hesitate to catch her as she grimaced in pain.
"Now that you're reassured," continued the doctor in a most serious tone, "I want you both to get examined and treated."
They didn't argue and soon, they were taken to separate examination rooms.
They took Sara to radiology for x-rays, and as she'd guessed, her shoulder was dislocated. Her wrist was badly sprained and they wrapped it after snapping her shoulder into place, a move that almost made her faint again. A nurse then disinfected and dressed the wounds on her face and hands. With her arm in a sling and her assurances that she would avoid abrupt movements for three days, she was finally released.
Grissom was waiting for her in the main lobby of the hospital. He was on the phone, his back to her. Sara approached him, but unwilling to interrupt his conversation, maintained some distance between them. He finally ended his conversation, and as if sensing her presence, turned in her direction.
Sara's eyes widened in surprise. "Your beard!" she exclaimed and immediately felt herself flush.
He smiled as he joined her, stroking a hand down his uninjured cheek. "They had to shave my left cheek to put in stitches, so I asked them to shave it all off while they were at it. I'm not big on setting trends, and half a beard was a little too innovative for my tastes."
Sara grinned, and without thinking, gently ran a finger down his smoothly-shaven face. "Well, I prefer you without."
They gazes locked and butterflies filled Sara's stomach. But before more could be said, Brass joined them. His expression was serious and he looked worn out, reminding Sara that their problems were far from over. The smile left her lips.
"Glad to see you're both okay," he said before focusing on Grissom. "Nice shave, Gil." And then his tone turned serious. "Things are heating up at the station and the lab. Ecklie's put the entire day and night shifts on the explosion. He's riled up and wants Miller found immediately."
Gil chuckled, shaking his head, not really surprised by Ecklie's reaction. Sara had also suspected that he would now mobilize everybody—as long as he didn't have to join the front lines, of course.
Brass turned to her. "This has turned into a very dangerous situation for you, Sara. You'll need round the clock protection. We're putting an experienced agent outside your building and you're released from duty until we find this guy."
"What! You're taking me off the case? You don't have the authority to—"
"It's on Ecklie's orders, and for your protection."
"My protection, my ass. He's just worried I'm going to risk someone else's life in his precious lab and that's why he wants to distance me from the case."
Brass opened his mouth to answer, but Grissom beat him to it. "I want her to stay at my place."
Sara had already opened her mouth, ready with an indignant reply, but it was shock that kept it open. "What?"
Grissom glanced at her, and then looked at Brass. "She won't be safe at her place. Even with a cop out front, anyone can go into her apartment building. We can't i.d. people at the door. I live in a house, which eliminates that problem."
Sara shook her head, still stunned, but Grissom didn't give her time to object. He grabbed her good wrist, not forcefully but with determination, and stared at her. "And you will stay out of the lab until Patrick is apprehended. Being there is too dangerous; he's too clever. In any event, you're injured and need to heal before you can get back to work."
Sara shook her head again. "No, Grissom, I—"
He pressed a finger across her lips and his gaze bore into hers. "I promised to keep you safe, Sara. Please…let me keep that promise."
When he put it that way, she found herself incapable of further protests. "Okay," she finally murmured. "I'll go to your place."
He held her gaze a moment longer, as though trying to read in her eyes what was going on in her head, but then he turned to Brass who was watching them with interest, and some surprise. "You can go ahead and inform the big boss, Brass. I'm sure he'll be thrilled."