A/N hey everybody, this is an idea I've been kicking around for a while now, and just decided to go with. I hope you like it, and if you don't, you're completely entitled. Just don't be mean about it. Any and all comments are appreciated, love on you all! Oh, and for the story's sake, let's just pretend that the FBI aren't experts in forensics? – Solomynne
Disclaimer: nope. Not mine,
- Secret secrets are no fun, secret secrets hurt someone.
It takes a lot to scare me.
It takes even more to surprise me; which is why, even all this time later, just thinking about what happened that night still scares the freaking shit out of me. It was a warm night in the early spring, Grissom and I had gotten a call about a body in the desert. The air had that really sweet, soft smell that I like, the kind that's only around in the warmer seasons. With the blanket of stars above us and a soft breeze playing across my skin, the situation might have even been romantic, had it not been for the fact that we were both crouched next to a rotting corpse. She was a female, brunette, around 24 years old. Someone had called it in anonymously.
I stifled a yawn and checked my watch. Oh good, only seven hours and forty-five minutes left on my shift, assuming no overtime, which is assuming a lot. Grissom glanced at me briefly. "Do you have somewhere to be?"
We both knew damn well that I didn't. Where the Hell else would I go? But I spared the seventeen or whatever muscles it takes to frown and turned my attention back to the corpse. It was too dark for him to have noticed my glare anyway, so I settled with a simple, "No. Not really."
He looked back at me, and I couldn't quite be sure, but in the blue starlight he almost looked concerned. "You've stopped sleeping again, haven't you?"
I looked away from him. He was the only one I ever really talked to about my insomnia. I'm kind of sensitive about it, don't ask me why. Maybe because it's just one more thing I have to add to the old "Sara Sidle's Freakshow Habits" list. It had been getting better for a while, but it had started to get really bad again about a month before. I could feel him waiting for an answer, and I never could bring myself to lie to him, so I nodded quickly as I stared at the ground, still refusing to meet his gaze. I was way too scared that I'd look into those blue eyes and see pity staring back at me.
I breathed out heavily and prayed to God that David would get here so we could start processing the body. He'd gotten lost, as usual, and so Grissom and I had satisfied ourselves by getting as close as we could without touching the body, taking pictures and noting evidence. I could sense Grissom beside me, trying to think of something comforting to say, or just something to fill the silence between us. I spared him the trouble when I noticed something in the dirt by her hair. "Hey, Griss? I think we missed something."
I leaned over him, my breasts accidentally brushing against his knees as I stretched my arm out with my Maglite to get a better look. I felt him tense underneath me and laughed to myself as I knew he was debating whether it would be more awkward to move out from under me or stay put and stick it out. Ignoring his obvious discomfort, I squinted at what looked like a piece of latex, but still being careful not to disturb the body. At this point, basically on my hands and knees, I turned my head toward the victim. It was then I noticed that her eyes were strangely clear. They were a spectacular green, and they lacked all the glassy vacancy that you come to expect with a dead body. "Hey Grissom…." I moved my face closer to hers, my eyes still locked in her unmoving gaze. Until she blinked, that is.
I screamed like I have never screamed before, a scream so high and shrill that to this day I cringe when I think of it. I cringe, but not as badly as I cringe when I think of how I sprang/toppled backwards into Grissom, knocking him down in a very ungraceful, and totally Sara-esque fashion.
Grissom, obviously flabbergasted at the fact that I was lying on top of him, froze for a moment before composing himself enough to lift me partially off of him so he could see my face. I put an arm out, shaking, to hold myself up as he cupped a hand behind my head and forced me to meet his steady gaze. "Are you alright?! What happened??"
My heart was still hammering against my chest, and it took me a moment before I could catch my breath enough to say, "She's alive."
I hate hospitals. I know that everybody says that, but I think I mean it more than most people do. I think I have reason to mean it more. Every time I walk through those emergency doors, and that familiar smell of piss and 409 washes over me, it's like I'm nine years old again. I'm nine years old and I'm lying to some doctor about how I fell and broke my wrist, or I cut myself on a knife, or I walked into a door. It was no different as I walked into Desert Palms with Grissom and Brass, having followed close behind the ambulance carrying the girl. I shook my head, chasing away the memories that were rolling into my mind like a miserable fog. Grissom saw this and gave me his signature "What the hell are you doing, Sara" look, but thankfully said nothing.
Brass walked over and talked to a nurse with a nametag that said Mabel on it. I didn't think people named their daughters Mabel anymore. The grim detective sauntered back to us, sighing tiredly before informing us that the girl was in a coma.
"Apparently," he began, pinching the bridge of his nose, "she was hit in the back of the head with a blunt object. She must have stopped breathing for a moment or two, or maybe whoever it was that called it in wasn't looking very closely, but she is very much alive."
I thought of her green eyes staring at me pleadingly. "Is she going to wake up?"
Brass shrugged, the seams of his rumpled brown suit stretching. "They don't know, it's too soon to tell. Comas are tricky things, Sara; they're still not even sure how she managed to blink at you when she has been completely unresponsive for the last half hour."
"Well I didn't imagine it," I retorted, feeling defensive. Grissom laid a hand on my arm, and I softened, the warmth in his touch helped to calm me, a little.
"No one's saying you did, Sara. But until she wakes up, all we can do is process the scene." He let go of me but I could still feel the ghost of his hand on my arm.
"Well what about her? Shouldn't one of us stay and process her for evidence?"
Grissom nodded, "You're right. Why don't you stay, find out all you can about the type of weapon that may have been used, maybe see if you can get an ID, and don't forget to do an S.A.E. kit." He had already started towards the door, and it took all my willpower not to call out to him to stop. I didn't want to stay; I didn't want him to leave me there. In fact that was the last thing I wanted to do, and I was angry at myself for being so stupid as to actually suggest that someone stay, knowing that "someone" would be me. Instead, despite all those things, I told him I'd meet him at the crime scene.
Two hours later, and feeling very uncomfortable in my own skin, I practically ran out of the hospital doors, inhaling the early morning air deeply. The first hints of dawn were splashed across the sky in a brilliant display of pinks, purples, and oranges, scattered with a handful of stubborn stars that were too bright to be drowned out just yet. I closed my eyes and leaned against the cool cement wall of the hospital, gathering my thoughts. I hadn't been able to find an ID in the torn remnants of her clothing, but what I did know was that the young woman had been raped, and severely beaten. It's so strange to go over every inch of someone's body, see them at their most vulnerable, and not even know so much as their name.
If I'd thought my insomnia was bad before, I could only imagine how it would be with the new addition of her pale, broken face haunting my dreams. I let out a sigh and pushed off from the wall. Grissom had asked an officer to wait for me outside to give me a ride back to the crime scene, but he was apparently nowhere to be found. I did a once over of the parking lot, keeping an eye out for a black and white; nothing. "Great, that's just fantastic, Officer Shit-For-Brains, leave me stranded at the hospital," I growled to myself, reaching into my pocket for my cellphone. I was about to push the one down on my speed dial, so I could ask Grissom to come and get me, when I felt a heavy hand clamp down on my shoulder.
I shot into the air for the second time that shift, but I'm happy to say that this time I managed not to scream. One point for me. I spun around to see who my attacker was, hand going to my gun by instinct, and came face to face with Officer S-F-B himself. It was all I could do not to attack him. The cop, whose real name was Devlin as it turns out, was a tall, watery-eyed, blonde with a receding hairline and big front teeth. He raised his hands in mock fear and exclaimed, "Whoa, easy there! It wasn't me, I swear!"
His rendition of false fear soon turned to the genuine kind as he saw the ferocious look on my face. He chuckled nervously and mumbled an awkward apology, leading the way to where he'd parked. A very silent car ride later, we pulled up to the perimeter of the scene, the tell-tale yellow tape crisscrossing against the morning sunrise. The scene looked empty, until I saw a tall shadow stand up and wave. I got out of the car without a "thank you" to Officer Devlin, and headed towards Grissom. He held the tape up for me as I ducked under, thanking him with a smile. "Find anything?"
He shook his head with obvious frustration registering on his face, "Not really. How did you make out?"
I ran a hand through my hair and sank down onto the wooden crate he'd been using as a seat, "About the same." He pulled up a crate and sat down next to me. It felt nice to be there with him, sitting together watching the sun come up. It was almost like we might have just been two friends, or two lovers even, chatting about life and enjoying a sunrise. I felt the fiery orange light slowly washing over my face and I closed my eyes to its warmth, drinking it in. I felt Grissom watching me and opened an eye to confirm. I assumed he was waiting for me to go on, so I said, "She was raped."
He looked thoroughly confused and I opened the other eye to look at him full on. "…who was?" he asked.
My mouth dropped open in exasperation, "the victim!"
"Oh! Of course, how – is she going to be okay?" he stuttered his way through the sentence looking visibly out of sorts. I eyed him suspiciously for a moment and then decided to let it go.
"They don't know yet, I gave them my number to call me with any news. So you didn't find anything at all?" I asked, changing the subject to something a little more hopeful
He removed his glasses and rested his arms on his knees. It was then that I noticed how tired he looked, and I realized that maybe I wasn't the only one who was having a rough time as of late. I emerged from my thoughts in time to hear him say, "Some questionable footprints and that piece of latex you found are the only things worth mentioning."
I patted his knee gently in an effort to comfort him, wanting to be able to do more but knowing I shouldn't. He gave me a crooked smile and rested his hand on top of my own. "Let's not give up on this just yet. We still haven't run her prints or DNA; we may just identify Our Lady of the Desert after all."
I laughed softly at his optimism, and I felt him squeeze my hand ever so slightly. I had learned long before not to question, or read too far into these kinds of moments between Grissom and I, but rather to just enjoy them. So, watching the sunrise with Grissom's hand in mine, that is exactly what I did.
"Ah! I dropped my spoonie!" Greg exclaimed as the spoon he'd been stirring his coffee with clattered to the floor. Grissom look up at him with a raised eyebrow, and Greg flushed. "I've…been babysitting my niece over the weekend. It seems a few of her choice vocab words have worked their way into my own."
"Okay Greg," was his short reply, before he buried his nose back into his crossword.
I was seated next to Grissom in the break room, a cup of chamomile in one hand, and a trashy gossip magazine in the other. We'd decided to take a much-deserved break after doing some backed-up paperwork of Grissom's while we waited for a hit on our mystery girl. Now, as I sat ready to dive into the lives of Britney and K-fed, Hodges hung by his fingertips on the doorframe with a print-out in his hand and a smug look on his face.
I put my tea down with a sigh. "Who?"
"Your mystery victim, her prints were on file for petty theft back in the early nineties. Her name's Jennifer Kostuik, I've got her address listed right here." He waggled the paper in front of his face like you would a milk bone to a dog, and then handed it to Grissom silently when he got no response.
"Good work, Hodges," said Greg, in an effort to be friendly.
The lab rat's eyes narrowed at his would-be nemesis. "So what, you get to act like my superior now?"
Greg looked taken-aback, "No, I was just--"
"Well let me assure you I don't need your recognition," Hodges interrupted.
"Thank you, David, this is very helpful," Grissom chimed in dismissively. Hodges' face melted into a worshipping smile. He nodded graciously and turned on his heel without a word, giving Greg and I a chance to roll our eyes at each other.
"It looks like we'll be making a trip to Summerlin," Grissom said softly, removing his glasses, "to visit the home of Ms. Kostuik."
"Well before you go on vacation," came Jim Brass's gravelly voice from the door, "I'm going to need to talk to you, Gil." Grissom raised his eyebrows and stood in curiosity, and Brass then fixed his gaze on me, jabbing a stubby finger in my direction, "You too."
I stood to leave, my curiosity also piqued, and Greg sat up in his seat, "Hey Brass, what about me?"
"Take five Greg, you've earned it," came the short reply as Brass led the way out of the break room.
The blue light of the meeting room cast our faces into shadow as we entered. A man in a charcoal business suit sat, back straight, with both palms flat on the metal table. He looked up as we entered, his black eyes hard and glittering, but made no move to stand, or even smile. I immediately took a great disliking to him; he made me so uneasy I wanted to grab Grissom's hand for comfort. He looked down his nose at us, his smooth, clean-shaven face and black, slicked hair only adding to his sinister demeanor. Grissom and I seated ourselves directly across from him, and I began to wonder if perhaps we were in trouble for something. I started to get a bit panic-y for a moment, my mind racing through the past few weeks to see if I could come up with something that would be worth getting into trouble for. I couldn't remember having pissed off Ecklie recently, but I didn't rule it out. I never rule that out, the man is entirely too sensitive.
My mind was still whirling when the man began to speak, his voice, soft and predatory, making my skin prick, "Mr. Grissom, Ms. Sidle, I need your help."
Grissom raised an eyebrow and bluntly spoke, "Who are you, exactly?"
The man smiled briefly, if you could call it smiling, it was more creepy than anything. His thin lips stretched mirthlessly across his even white teeth for a moment, before sliding back into the perma-frown he seemed to have going on. "My apologies sir, I assumed Captain Brass would have made the necessary introductions already. It appears I was mistaken."
Brass' face remained stony, and he said nothing in response save for a barely perceptible snort that I think only I heard.
The suit held out his well-manicured hand for Grissom, and then me. I very reluctantly grasped his cold fingers, and it took all of my willpower to not yank back my own. His grip was ferocious, as though he were trying to get across to me that the strength of his hand was only the beginning; that if he wanted, he could crush me as easily as the fingers he was crushing now. I locked eyes with him and refused to blink, let him break all my fingers, I wasn't going to back down for this jerk.
After several seconds too many he let go of my hand, but his dark eyes remained burning into mine like a never-ending flame. Grissom, sensing the tension, cleared his throat quietly, reminding whoever it was that was trying to swallow me whole in his gaze that he had still yet to introduce himself. The man blinked three times, rapidly, and the trance was broken. I let out the breath I didn't know I had been holding, and wiped my hand off on my pant leg under the table. I gave Grissom a grateful look and forced myself not to lunge over the arm of my chair and kiss him in gratitude.
"My name is Jeffery Palmer, I'm with the FBI." I immediately felt Grissom's hackles rising at the mention of the feds. He'd had some bad experiences in the past, and he seemed reluctant to make any further attempts at working with them. "I have reason to believe that the young woman you found today is the latest victim of a serial killer that the FBI has tagged as 'Trash Can Man'. We call him that because of his preference for wrapping his victims in trash bags and throwing them in dumpsters."
"An excellent reference to Stephen King's The Stand also," mused Grissom. "The only problem is Jennifer Kostuik wasn't found in either of those things. She hadn't been wrapped in anything, and we found her in the desert."
Agent Palmer leaned forward, his elbows resting on the table, "I believe that Trash was interrupted by someone, or something, which is why Ms. Kostuik is still alive. Had he been given enough time, I assure you she would have turned up in a back alley somewhere."
Grissom removed his glasses, "What makes you so sure of that?"
"That, I'm afraid, is on a need-to-know basis only, Mr. Grissom," replied Palmer, leaning back in his chair.
"Well if you want us to be able to help you," I retorted, "we're going to 'need to know'. Everything." Palmer's eyes flicked to me once more, and I sincerely began to regret saying anything, but I knew I was right, so I pressed on, "You can't expect us to catch this guy if we're going in blind." I could see Grissom nodding in agreement out of the corner of my eye, but I kept my eyes on Palmer.
"When I asked for your help, Ms. Sidle, that's not exactly what I had in mind."
Grissom and I looked at each other in confusion, Grissom asking, "Well if you don't want us for our forensic expertise, what exactly is it that we can do for you?" Right then, I knew that this wasn't going to be any regular case. It was as though Grissom's words rang with a foreboding fullness that could only mean trouble.
Palmer smiled his crooked smile once more and began, "I need you to go undercover for me." Grissom and I stared at him as though he were a lamp that had just started talking. "I see you're confused, allow me to explain. Ms. Sidle fits Trash Can's profile for his desired victims perfectly—"
"Let me stop you right there," Grissom said, standing. "We've been down this road before with the Feds, and this time you won't be going over my head. Sara is NOT going to be your prey for this sicko, so you can find some other lamb for the slaughter, because I won't allow it to happen again."
Palmer stood as well, and I found myself staring up at them, looking from one to the other as they tried to decide my fate for me. Palmer raised his hands in defense, "Now you didn't even hear me out, just let me give you my proposal."
"Why waste your time?" Grissom answered harshly, "You can't have her." Hearing him say that made me angry and turned on at the same time, if that's even possible. Who was he to be "giving" me to anyone? Then again it was nice to have him standing up for me.
"Mr. Grissom, please. Just allow me to finish." Palmer gestured for Grissom to sit back down, and after a moment, he did. "Now I've read up on both of you, I'm well aware of Ms. Sidle's previous adventures with the FBI, and I'm also aware of the terrible outcome, but this is different. We have managed to hone in on Trashy's location to one specific neighborhood in Summerlin. Now, what I need to catch him is a pair of non-civilians with forensic training to pose as a couple moving into the area and case the neighborhood." Grissom and I stared at him in bewilderment. "Ms. Sidle would be ideal because, as she fits the description of someone who would attract Trash, she may be able to draw him out. But I promise that neither of you would be in any danger."
"And why is it that your own officers can't do this?" I asked quietly, "I mean, isn't this the exact kind of thing that the FBI trains for? Surveillance?"
"Yes, normally you would be correct, but as I said, your forensic expertise would be invaluable to us in this case. Once we're able to track this guy down, I need you to be able to collect any evidence surrounding his property that could be used to convict him, so far we have next to nothing. But I need you to be able to do it in an inconspicuous way, meaning that if he's seen you around the neighborhood he'll be less likely to be suspicious of you sniffing around his house."
"And how are we going to 'track him down'?" asked Grissom, still obviously very against the idea.
"Well, go for walks around the neighborhood together, go grocery shopping, take your dog to the park, just allow yourselves to be seen. I'm sure Trash is always on the lookout for his latest victim, and I believe that he does have contact with them before he attacks them. There never seem to be very many defense wounds, which leads me to believe that his victims trust him. I'm going to have some of my guys following you around, they'll be keeping track of anyone who approaches you and fits the profile."
I looked at Grissom to see how he was feeling about all this, but his expression was unreadable. I wasn't sure how I felt about it. It was exciting to get to be a part of a big operation like this, but living with Grissom, pretending to be lovers….that's just rubbing salt in the wound.
"There's one other thing," continued Palmer, his dark eyes flashing, "I've already spoken to your supervisor Ecklie about this. He's given me the go-ahead."
"Meaning what?" scoffed Grissom, "You can't exactly drag us to Summerlin by our hair. You can't force us to do this."
"No, not at all," came Palmer's reply, his voice dangerously soft. "But Ecklie can make things a little more difficult for you around here. I understand you've just gotten your team back, Mr. Grissom." He raised an eyebrow, "It would be a shame if you lost them again."
Grissom stood up so quickly his chair flipped backwards, knocking into the wall. "Come on Sara, we're out of here," he said to me without looking at Palmer. I was so startled at the events of the last few minutes it took me a moment to react, so Grissom impatiently grabbed my arm and pulled me out of my chair, leading me out of the room.
I thought he would stop once we got back to the break room, but he didn't slow down, or even let go of my arm. Instead, he quickened his pace, deaf to my protests of "Ow! Hey, lemme go!" and "where the Hell are we going?" He didn't stop until we were out the front doors, across the parking lot, and standing outside of his Denali. He unlocked the doors and motioned for me to get in. I was so confused at this point I just decided to go for it. I slid into the pleather seat and closed the door behind me, waiting for him to do the same. I reached behind me to buckle up, when I felt his hand on my shoulder, "Don't bother, Sara, we're not going anywhere."
"What?" I asked, "Grissom…"
"I just had to get out of there for a moment, to gather my wits. And to cool off so I didn't punch that Palmer jerk in the face."
I smiled. "He's not exactly a candidate for a congeniality award, is he?" Grissom's mouth twitched into a half smile. I sighed and leaned back in the seat, closing my eyes. "So what do you think of all this?"
He followed suit and leaned back in his chair. "What do you think?"
I opened my eyes and looked at him. "I think I would hate to see the team spilt up again."
He sighed, his blue eyes staring out the windshield, and then into my own. "I think I agree with you there. It doesn't look like he's giving us much of a choice, does it?"
"Look," I started, leaning up on an elbow, "Just because this guy is an asshole doesn't mean that the case he's working isn't important. If there are women being murdered, let's let that be the reason that we agree to do this. Not because we were scared into it. Besides, I make a pretty good roommate."
He smiled at the steering wheel and then turned to me, "So we're really going to do this? The "Nerd Squad" doing a stint as undercover agents?"
I laughed, "I guess so. Only the real undercovers will be watching us."
He looked at me for a long time, and then turned to stare out the window again, speaking softly to his reflection, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"
"What does that mean?" I asked, watching the image of him in the window.
He looked up and the reflection of his eyes met mine. "Who will watch the watchers?"