Disclaimer: None of these sexy characters belong to me. I'm just having a bit of fun with them.
Spoilers: Pretty much everything
Feedback: I live for it…
Archiving: Just ask first.
A/N: A very special thanks to Zigpal, Ivy, and Malea for the beta on this one.
Sara hung up the phone and leaned back. Grissom wanted her to come to Vegas and do a little private digging on one of his crew. She frowned. It wasn't really her thing. You didn't run counter to teammates, even if they weren't yours. Still, she was ready for a move, and Grissom had impressed her when they'd met a few years ago. She stood and started to pace across her small office. She was bored; Sara didn't deal well with that emotion – any emotion, really.
Heading for the door, she strode out into the hall, headed for her supervisor's office. Frankel was, as usual, sitting behind his desk working on the pile of reports. "Hey, Boss? You got a minute?" Sara inquired, leaning against the door frame.
"I'm not going to like this, am I?" he mumbled.
"That depends." Sara smiled, entering the office and closing the door behind her. Dropping into one of the chairs, she propped booted feet on the desk. "I just got a call from an – well, not quite an old friend. He's looking for someone to come in and investigate a problem on his crew. Think I might get a little leave time, you know, in the spirit of cooperation?"
The day shift supervisor sat forward, elbows on the desk, and studied the young brunette in his office. "You leaving us, Sara?"
A small smile quirked one side of her mouth. "You want the truth?"
Frankel's bald head nodded.
"Giving it some serious thought." Sara's left leg started bouncing against the desk. "I'm bored, Frank. I'm not looking to leave, but I need a change, something more challenging than what I've been doing"
"There's an opening for a shift supervisor on graves."
Sara shook her head immediately. "Not looking for more paperwork, Boss." She met his eyes. "I'd like to go to Vegas, help Grissom out. Is it going to be a problem for the leave or do I need to resign?"
The older man frowned, clearly not happy. "Look, Sara, you're one of the best I have. Tell me what I need to do to keep you." He stood and moved around the cluttered desk. "Spill, Sidle. I don't want to hire and train someone new."
Rubbing her hands nervously on her pant legs, Sara considered the question. "You remember that case last month? The gunshot victim from the Marina district?" She waited for some flicker of recognition before continuing. "I did the initial collection. It was routine, from start to finish. Husband cheats on wife, wife finds out, wife shoots husband."
Clearly not understanding her problem, Frankel shrugged. "Yeah. Another solved case for the files."
"Maybe. It was nice to have that much evidence, but I just…" she trailed off. "I'm tired of the usual. I have eight open cases in my box and not one of them is anything more than that case. It's all just connect the dots, but the dots are right together."
"And you think moving to Vegas is going to make crime different? Use your head, kid. They all follow the same pattern. It's just evidence. You aren't in the business of exciting." Dropping tiredly into the chair next to Sara's he muttered, "I can authorize thirty days of leave. You're entitled because you've been here a few years. But, at the end of that leave, I expect you to be back here, with a smile on your face."
Now that the decision was nearly made, Sara hesitated. Did she really want to go to Vegas? The case was a hot one, and she'd be investigating another CSI. That was a guaranteed headache. Warring internally for a minute, she finally nodded. "OK. I'll take that month, Boss. And, I'll be back to torment you for the rest of your unhappy life."
"Tragedy struck early this morning when an on-duty Las Vegas criminalist was brutally gunned down," the blonde newscaster announced, staring earnestly at the camera. Wrapping her arms around herself, Catherine numbly listened as the special report continued. "It was her first night on the job." Yeah, but only because I talked her into staying. She felt Nick come up behind her, his attention on the TV. "The crime lab now faces the daunting task of investigating the shooting of one of their own."
Trying to shove down those lingering feelings of guilt, Catherine spun. Warrick lounged against a low cabinet. "Weren't you supposed to be with her?" she accused.
"I was. I mean, I dropped her off and then went on a coffee run. There was an officer at the scene." His voice was rough, and he wouldn't meet her eyes.
"You left Holly solo? It was her first night." She stared at her colleague in disbelief. What the hell had he been thinking? "A coffee run doesn't take long. Why weren't you there when it happened?"
Shoving off the counter, Warrick shoved his hands deep in his pockets. "I got a call from Grissom about the toenail case. I left and hooked up with him." He raised tormented eyes. "Cat, there was an officer on scene. How could I know…?" A shaking hand rubbed the stubble on his chin. "It was supposed to be an easy print job. Look, I feel bad enough, OK?"
A tense silence developed until Grissom entered the room abruptly. He swept the conference room with a quick glance. Then, voice quiet and flat, he started to lay out the particulars of the case. "Brass assigned Warrick to shadow Holly on a robbery. He left her at the scene. The suspect returned. And Holly was shot."
Catherine marveled at his calm. During the delivery of information, Grissom poured himself a cup of coffee, avoiding any eye contact or questions. Finally, she spoke up. "That's it? That's all we know?" She strode up to the small table in the room and placed both palms on it. "I want this case, Gil. Whatever plans you have for it, get rid of them."
"I can't do that, and you know it," he replied, turning around. "You're already emotionally invested in this case. Nick can work Holly's case. He's the only one of us with no direct contact with her. I want this to all be above board and handled in house. If the Sheriff thinks we have an axe to grind or we're protecting Warrick, he'll call in IA." He handed Nick the assignment card.
Without thinking, Catherine reached over and plucked it out of the young man's grasp. "No offense, Nick, but this one's mine. Holly came to me and wanted to quit. I talked her into staying. If anyone's responsible for her shooting, it's me." She glared at Grissom, daring him. "It's mine, Gil. If you want me off it, fire me."
I'm not firing anybody," came the measured reply. "I know we're pulling a double and we're all on edge because of Holly. And, as of now, we're shorthanded." Into the sudden silence, he continued, meeting Catherine's angry gaze. "I'm bringing in Sara Sidle to give us a hand."
The name was familiar. Grissom had mentioned her before, Cat remembered. "That friend of yours from San Francisco?" she asked. Her only answer was a small dip of Gil's chin. "This isn't a good time to bring in new faces, Gil," she opined. "New faces poke and prod and ask questions. They don't know the rules, and they get in the way."
"It's Sara or IA, Cat." Gil shrugged. "Like it or not, she's our best option."
Storming passed her coworkers, the redhead tossed over her shoulder, "Perfect. Just what we need – someone sniffing around."
Sara shifted in the small airplane seat and flipped to another page in the report Grissom had faxed her before she left San Francisco. Information was minimal. Some grainy crime scene photos and a summary of the case. Pulling a pen from its resting place on the neck of her T-shirt, she started scribbling notes as the captain blared through the cabin, announcing their arrival at McCarran International Airport.
Once the plane had pulled up to the terminal gate, Sara impatiently waited for the seats to empty. She had a lot to do before arriving at the crime lab. The other CSIs were going to be closed mouthed. That was just standard when people started asking about a case, but Sara had to find a way around that. Grissom expected results, and Sara was too much of a perfectionist to settle for less than the truth. Plucking her suitcases off the belt, she staggered outside and hailed a cab. She had the address of a hotel catering to business travelers. Mentally running over her to do list, she missed the drive through the lights and action of The Strip.
Checking in to the small hotel room, Sara took a quick shower and changed out of her rumpled jeans. She opted for comfort and layers, figuring the blistering heat would turn chill when the sun dropped behind the hills. Dragging on charcoal slacks, lavender shirt, and her favorite green sweater, she ran a hand through her hair and stared at her reflection in the mirror. "OK, Sidle. This is it. Time to prove you are more than just some kid in a lab coat." The reflection had no response, but Sara felt better just hearing the words. She grabbed a large satchel and some supplies and headed out.
As promised, Grissom had left the keys to one of the crime lab vehicles with the front desk of the hotel. The Tahoe was far roomier than anything she'd driven in San Francisco and she enjoyed the stop and go drive to the scene of the crime. Flashing identification at the three deputies at the door, she stepped inside the small dwelling. Casting a jaundiced eye around the room, she noted fingerprint power on all the surfaces and blood stains on the floor near the bed and nightstand. The phone – from the nightstand? - lay on the floor. Since she wasn't officially part of the crime scene unit yet, she didn't go beyond the doorway, but contented herself with merely examining from afar. Satisfied that the photos Grissom had sent her showed her the same as the scene, Sara left again.
Climbing into the Tahoe, Sara flicked open her cell phone and dialed.
"Hey, it's Sara. I'm in town. You wanna get together?" She lunged across the vehicle for her notepad. The brunette scribbled the address her new boss rattled off. "Got it. I'm at the scene now, but I should be there soon." The call ended abruptly when Grissom hung up on her last words. Dropping her phone onto the passenger seat, she closed the vehicle door and turned the ignition and pulled out. She was really racking up the miles today.
The address Grissom had given her was to one of the smaller hotels on the Strip. It looked miniscule next to the towering splendor of its neighbors. As soon as she pulled into the hotel's lot, she saw yellow crime scene tape marking off a large area. A large crowd stood up against the barricade, clapping and cheering raucously. The reason for the stadium-like behavior became evident as she wandered toward the scene. A body hurtled through the air, landing with a thud against the pavement. A man in a black polo shirt with a camera slung around his neck stood watching the bodies fall.
Smiling, Sara waited until the experiment was completed before ducking under the crime scene tape. The man turned around and she realized it was Grissom. He waved to the crowd before snapping shots of each of the dummies. As she approached, she heard him commenting on each dummy, "Norman pushed. Norman jumped. Norman fell."
"Wouldn't you if you were married to Mrs. Roper?" she asked in a loud voice.
"I don't even have to turn around," Grissom said. "Welcome to Las Vegas, Sara." He did turn around then. His eyes were red-rimmed with exhaustion. "You were at the scene?"
"For just a minute. I didn't want to really poke around until the intros were over." Sara hesitated, but asked, "Where do you want me to start?"
"I'm letting you run with this. If you take orders from me, then there's a chance the Sheriff won't believe your findings." He stared through her, troubled. "This is big, Sara. I've got a terrific team, but this is tearing us apart. Anything you need, anything, you've got it. I left an ID and some paperwork for you at the front desk at the lab. Once you sign, you're official. I'll be your contact in the lab. Captain Jim Brass is your contact in the Sheriff's Department."
Sara nodded, making some notes on her pad. "Got it. Before I go, is the girl OK?"
"She's still in surgery," Grissom responded. "She isn't doing well."
The news was unwelcome. If this turned into a murder case…"That's too bad," Sara murmured.
Frustrated, Grissom looked at her. "God, Sara, I have so many unanswered whys."
"The only one why that matters now," the brunette interrupted. "Why did Warrick Brown leave that scene?"