Most of the characters and situations in this story belong to Alliance Atlantis, CBS, Anthony Zuicker and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. All other characters are my invention, and if you want to mess with them, you have to ask me first. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.
Spoilers: through "Living Doll"
I'm pulling a Tom Daniels (see below) with this one. Please note that I have not read any post-ep fic as yet, so if someone else has come up with this idea, I don't know about it! Many thanks as ever to that gem of betas, Cincoflex, who is being very patient with me and my muse, and a tip of the hat to Ligaras, who was enthusiastic and made me feel better. (grin)
(Truly obscure reference. Don't worry about it.)
Did you know that the '62 Caddy has more trunk space than any car made in the last thirty years?
--Det. Nick Night
She still didn't know why the girl had spoken her name.
On reflection, Sara thought dizzily, it would have been easier for her assailant to merely fire without catching Sara's attention first; as it was, Sara had almost managed to dodge the Taser wires.
But not quite.
She'd never felt pain like that before, but what was worse was the utter helplessness, the slow collapse of her muscles; the calm, satisfied look in the girl's eyes. Sara's perspective had tilted as the paralysis downed her, but those eyes…
And then the deliberate steps forward, and the faint pop of a cap coming off a syringe, and the screaming fear burning in the back of Sara's throat; all washed away by the invading prick of the needle and the inexorable sleep that followed.
It was the nightmare of Nick's kidnapping all over again, except this time she was living it from the inside. Sara woke up in a hard dark space, her hands taped behind her and the roar of an engine in her ears. It didn't take her long to realize that she was in the trunk of a car.
The drug, whatever it was, had left a foul taste in her mouth and a lingering haze in her head, and the Taser shock had cramped muscles she didn't even know she had. But adrenaline was a good counter to some of that, and Sara squirmed and struggled, trying to find the emergency trunk pull by feel.
However, her efforts produced only two things--the knowledge that her feet were bound as well, and the sinking feeling that the car was too old to have a trunk pull. It certainly wasn't her Prius; far too much room and totally dark.
And stinking of exhaust and metal. Sara lay still, trying to figure out who had taken her and why. There were no good answers.
She bit back panic. You aren't hurt yet, and they may make a mistake. She tried to ignore the dismal statistics about abduction victims. If the girl was working alone, Sara might stand a better chance, but she had to assume there were more people involved. Sara chewed her lip in the dark.
We got Nick back, she reminded herself. And this time the whole team will be together.
If, whispered a small dark voice, they even notice. She'd been attacked at her own car, on her way out of the garage. First someone would have to realize that she had even vanished.
And it's not like I left any evidence at the scene. In fact, if she remembered correctly, it would look as though she had just walked away from her own car, unless her attacker had done something to it.
Shit. I'm in deep on this one.
The fumes were making her nauseated, and Sara tried to breathe shallowly, not wanting to be sick in the enclosed space. The image of Grissom rose in her mind's eye, and she gulped, pushing it back. She couldn't afford to think about him just then, couldn't afford the emotion or the thought of what this would do to him.
Controlling her gag reflex took up most of her attention after that, though Sara tried to listen to the sound of the tires in a vague hope of learning where they were going. But the lack of oxygen and the residue of the drug made her sleepy, and she slipped into a sort of daze, staring into the dark and trying not to remember the video feed of Nick's coffin, or the aftermaths of all the lonely murders she'd ever processed.
The sudden bump and halt of the car snapped her out of it, and Sara tensed, waiting for something to happen. The engine shut off, and she strained her ears, but either they were numbed by the long roar or there was nothing to hear.
After a moment came the thump and shudder of the car door opening and closing, and then a mechanical whine, like a piece of machinery. Scraping noises. Another whine.
Finally the hood popped open, and Sara blinked rapidly at the influx of light, little as it was. Filling her lungs with blessedly fresh air, she yelled at the top of them. "HELP!"
Her abductor--who didn't look at all physically imposing--flinched, but didn't seem alarmed. Sara kept screaming. "Help, somebody help me please! Call the police! Help--"
She had to stop to gasp, and realized as she did so that there was no sound--no response, no voices, no noises at all. Her next shout turned to dust in her mouth.
"Get up," the young woman said, her voice hardly more than a whisper.
She held no weapon, but there didn't seem any point in lying still. Sara levered herself up stiffly into a sitting position, nearly hitting her head on the trunk lid, and saw immediately why the girl hadn't worried about her scream. There was nothing around them but open desert, punctuated by a few scrubby plants.
"What do you want?" Sara asked desperately, pretty certain she wasn't going to like the answer but compelled to ask all the same. "Look, this is not smart--I'm a member of the LVPD, and they're going to have the entire force out looking for me--"
"Out," the girl said in the same soft tone, her eyes darting to Sara's face and away again, and something in them chilled Sara's blood. The cold was an atavistic reaction, instinctive, and brought with it a surge of despair.
This woman was insane.
Sara swallowed. "I, uh, I can't get out with my feet taped."
The girl's left eye twitched, but she evinced no other reaction. Slowly she reached into her jacket pocket and took out a pair of scissors, and bent down to cut through the tape.
As soon as Sara felt the binding give, she shifted her weight, trying to swing her legs up at her abductor's head. But her cramped muscles betrayed her, and the young woman merely stepped back without alarm. "Out," she repeated, staring over Sara's left shoulder.
With her hands taped, and without help, Sara didn't so much as climb out of the trunk as fall out of it, landing heavily on her side on the sandy ground. She bit back an oath, wavering between fear and anger; her nervous system was obviously still jangled from the Taser. It took the girl's hand under her elbow to get her to her feet.
Before she could ask any more questions, Sara was being led around the car almost faster than she could stumble. The vehicle was a barge, the CSI portion of her mind noted absently, dating from a time when steel was king. Trying to break away was out of the question until she could get her legs to work better…
There was another car illuminated by the headlights, but this one was a crumpled mess, tilted up on one side in a peculiar pose. Sara squinted at it, trying to figure out how it could have rolled and stopped like that, but the grip on her elbow dragged her into its shadow before her muzzy mind could work it through.
The ground under their feet was chopped up, as though someone had been digging there. In fact, they were standing in a shallow depression, a scooped-out bowl.
This is weird. Sara's stomach twisted uneasily as she looked at the dented car looming over her. Something is seriously wrong with this picture.
She started to turn to look at her captor, but before she swung around, the agonizing jolt hit her again. Sara felt all her muscles spasm; her breathing locked up and her eyes went dim as she tumbled to the ground, but after a moment her lungs jerked back into life and her sight cleared a little.
Unfortunately, nothing else worked. Her cheek was pressed into the churned sand, fortunately not so deeply that the grains could reach her eye, and she could only watch helplessly as the young woman stepped forward with the scissors.
She was humming under her breath, not on key, as she cut Sara's limp arms free of the tape. Sara felt her ankles seized, and she was dragged backwards a foot or so, her vest riding up. As the woman straightened the vest and stretched out Sara's limp arm, another wave of horror washed through the CSI.
She's posing me. Like I'm a doll, or an exhibit.
And then the clues came together, slowed by the drug but finally linking up. Wendy's passing comment that the Miniature Killer was apparently a woman. The odd angle of the wrecked car.
But I have nothing to do with Ernie Dell--why me?
Sara tried to ask, to protest, but all that came out was a moan. Her lips and tongue weren't back under her control yet. Theories pinwheeled rapidly through her brain, pouncing on the one commonality of foster care, but she still couldn't make sense of it. Why had the killer chosen her? Serial killers didn't break their patterns, they couldn't--
Killer being the operative word. Sara fought to move her unresponsive limbs, frantic, knowing what came next, but all she managed to do was jerk them a little. The girl clucked.
"Don't move, you'll mess it up." She bent and meticulously replaced Sara's arm in its original position.
Sara had faced death more often than many people, in her life, and it wasn't something she liked to dwell on, but at that particular moment getting her head blown off with a shotgun seemed infinitely more attractive than being crushed by a car. Which was apparently what the woman had in mind. Sara panted against the sand, straining, but she couldn't even get her toes to wiggle now. Drool ran from the corner of her mouth where her lips were parted. "Nnnggghgh…"
Her abductor was humming again. She vanished from Sara's line of sight, and Sara felt her pulse racing faster and faster. She found herself praying that the car would kill her quickly, that whoever found her wouldn't be nightshift--
--That, whatever else happened--
Don't let Gil see me afterwards.
All the wasted time, all the opportunities they were never going to get built up behind her eyes until they spilled over onto her cheeks. I finally got what I wanted, I was finally happy--for once--please--
I don't want to die now!
Metal groaned. Sara couldn't tense, but another pulse of adrenaline ran through her. She couldn't see the car above her either, but she knew it was coming.
Fast, please, do it fast--
Horror built as she heard the whine of the motor again and the staccato creak of the car. It wasn't toppling over; it was being lowered.
The crush would be slow.
The harsh brightness of the working car's headlights was slowly occluded by the mass of metal tipping down over her. Panic squeezed her throat, and lightning shocks of pain ran through her abused nerves.
Slow as a setting sun, the wreck settled over her, pressing down onto her back and legs, squeezing her into the sand. Weight turned to pain, accenting her terror.
Consciousness vanished, flattened into nothingness.
He kept swallowing against the lump in his throat, but nothing made it go away. Grissom stood in the observation room, one hand pressed against the glass, as Brass made a go of interrogating Natalie. No bleach was in evidence, but judging from Jim's rigid posture, he wasn't far from making good on his half-serious threat.
Grissom didn't think it would work, though. Sara's kidnapper was gone into some dark crevice of her own mind, humming and rocking a little in her chair, paying no attention at all to the furious police captain. Grissom suspected that she was in the midst of a psychotic episode; he wasn't sure she was even aware of her surroundings.
His people were going over the contents of Natalie's home with furious, laser-guided speed, looking for any hint of where she might have taken the missing CSI. Grissom knew that the miniature of the scene awaited him back at the lab, and under any other circumstances he would have flown back to it to tear it apart for clues, but he somehow couldn't bring himself to leave just yet.
He kept hoping desperately that Brass would get through to Natalie.
Grissom took a deep breath, and another, reaching for control. He couldn't panic, he couldn't break down, no matter how high the pressure built inside his chest. Sara needed him to be calm now, to be the perfect CSI.
She was depending on him.
He did his best to ignore the agonized voice that asked silently what would happen if that weren't enough. He tried to control his galloping pulse, the urge to burst into the interrogation room and shake the vacant-eyed woman until she told him where Sara was.
The one scrap of hope he had was the motor running the miniature. Sara was alive.
She had to be.
Beyond the glass, Brass slammed his hands on the table in frustrated rage; Natalie didn't even flinch.
Turning on his heel, Grissom left.
He never did remember the drive back to the lab. Sara's face hung in the forefront of his mind, the small vulnerable smile that he was pretty sure was only for him, and that was all he saw until he passed through the lab's doors. The place was hushed, voices kept low, and people glanced at him and quickly away as he strode in.
Judy still sat at her desk, her eyes red and a little puffy; she'd already tried to apologize once for letting Natalie into his office. But Grissom hadn't had the time or patience to absolve her, even though it wasn't her fault, and he had no time now either. He went directly to Trace.
"Well?" he snapped as he crossed the threshold, and Hodges' head snapped up from his microscope.
"Nothing new, boss," the tech said, his usual sycophantic manner subdued. "All the samples so far show nothing different than the previous miniatures."
"What about that sand?" There was a chance, just a chance, that the grains glued to the miniature's floor were unique in some way.
Hodges shook his head. "Sorry. It's local, definitely, but it could be from anywhere around here."
Grissom's jaw tightened. "Keep looking," he ordered, and left without hearing Hodges' anxious acknowledgment.
The miniature was now in one of the layout rooms, half-dismantled for samples, and Grissom gathered up his most powerful magnifying glass and a number of other tools.
There were answers. There had to be.
He would find them.
See Chapter 2