Title: Noose

Author: Kourion

Summary: What do destruction of the innocent and love have in common? Grissom fears them both. G&S - AST

Notes: Several years back, I read the novel Ghost Girl by Torey L. Hayden. This story was borne out of my reflections on the topics discussed within that book.

I dedicate this to Emilia, who loves Vivaldi as much as I do. Somehow, his music seems to fit with the weird imagery that writing this story evoked. But considering how she finds Mozart evil (joking, joking), maybe I should have been listening to Lacrimosa instead? ;)

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SO IT BEGINS

The school stood proud and magnificent. Old, but still very proper, well cared for, and as handsome as any eminent building could ever be.

A sign declared it "Holy Light Junior Academy."

Sara studied the building for a moment, her mind supplying memories of childhood at her religious private school.

Memories flooded her: tiny yellow coloured skirts, braids, baby teeth, scrapped knees from accidents incurred while competing against all the boys at soccer...

Her gap toothed smile, however, was extinguished as she scanned the rest of the surroundings.

There was no grass for the children - only pebbles and asphalt.

No playground equipment like she had seen at Lindsey's school when she had driven Catherine to the public institution one morning (as a well deserved favor).

No...there was nothing playful for the children here. Some swings. But they were rusted now...useless. Their structures couldn't be used any longer. If anything, a child who tried to play on them would likely hurt himself: the swing was now a little hand pincher device.

Instead, the swings hung like strange, malformed nooses. Far too high off the ground - their metallic connections wrapped around the wood beams which held the whole rickety mess together.

It looked dangerous.

Sara caught herself unsure of what to do.

This was one of the reasons why she hadn't become a parent - she would probably have driven anyone under ten years of age nuts. She could be...over-protective of anyone smaller, more...vulnerable.

She now clamored up the steps, with the determination to get through the morning as efficiently and painlessly as possible, and headed for the headmasters office.

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AND MORTALS SCARE

She was met in the hall - by a stern looking woman with graying hair and graying skin.

"Can I help you?"

Sara nodded her head solemnly.

"My name is Sara Sidle. I'm from the LVPD Criminalistics unit. Are you Rebecca Townsend?"

The woman nodded.

"Is there a place where we can go to discuss the matter that I mentioned before, on the phone? Your office perhaps?"

The director of the school did not respond, but merely walked off in the direction she had been coming from before being interrupted by the CSI's presence.

Sara, uncomfortably, jogged up to her - a little nonplussed as to the behavior shift.

"Ms. Townsend?"

No response.

They passed what seemed to be an auditorium. Children sat rigidly in wooden chairs, watching a movie or some other program on a rather huge television.

The image onscreen caught her attention. It was a black and white film. A child - a girl - appeared to be walking alongside a beach or lake. Waves crashed against her feet. The sound had been muted.

"What is this?" Sara was perplexed.

No response.

The character was pale and dirty. A diminutive, soft figure hung from one small, chubby fist. Curly black hair mirrored the child's own - the doll's dress was identical to the girl's.

Sara watched intently. She used to have a very similar doll in her childhood. She had named it Jenny - after her friend who had died when the two of them were five years old from some rare blood disorder. Jenny.

God she had loved that doll! How could she have forgotten? How could she have almost forgotten all about Jenny?

In her defense, the doll was now long gone.

Her father had burnt Lucy-the-moppet in the family's fireplace after Sara had become ill with meningitis.

So many of her toys had been cremated that day - sentenced to death because her parents were so frightened of the ravaging illness and were worried that if Sara recovered, she'd be reinfected if surrounded by old toys.

Instead, they became caught up in the age-old practices that stemmed from the Renaissance times.

And in the process, they had murdered one of Sara's most beloved and cherished friends. A little doll whom she had loved with such surging intensity that her heart felt heavy and cold as the fabric of the heirloom had caught aflame and Lucy had petered out of physical existence.

Leaving only ashes.

Sara grimaced - displeased that her happy memories had been vanquished by tarnished ones.

Her attention returned once more to the movie.

The doll was now being swung alongside the little brunette - a raggedy Anne variety - when, suddenly, the strange little girl plunged into harmless thing into the waves.

The children in the auditorium remained unfazed as the televised images became ghastly. The doll was fully immersed in the water, and despite the lack of sound, Sara knew that the character was screaming at the toy. Disconnectedly, the onscreen youth's mouth began to open and close in harsh, gasping motions.

The character was drowning the effigy - the effigy, shockingly enough - of herself. The child killing the representative-child.

"What the hell is going on here? What is this?" Sara's voice raised somewhat, and when she looked towards the entryway, she noticed that the director was absent.

In morbid fascination, she continued to watch the screen for another moment or two, trying to figure out what was so familiar about the imagery.

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OF BLACKNESS AND DEATH

She heard the hymns - the sound of high-pitched, young voices - and wandered closer to the choir hall.

Stepping inside, she was taken aback by the extravagant stained-glass hangings and ornate décor. Cherry wood pews lined the rows leading to the organ.

The seated children continued to sing.

Sara ambled towards the front of the room, having caught sight of the director.

"Ms. Townsend! I have some serious concerns - concerns which you will have to remedy quickly if you wish to maintain the decent reputation of this school."

The woman ignored her.

"Ms. TOWNSEND! What the hell was that film all about? What sort of educational production is that? And to show that to children?!"

Cold eyes returned a glare as cool as the words which flowed from the lips.

"Miss Sidle. Children need to become accustomed to loss. The loss of innocence. Of childhood. By exposing them to the program - risqué though it may be - we are helping them to grow."

Sara was flabbergasted. "You are showing six-year-olds a program in which a similarly aged girl attacks a toy replica of herself! That is destructing to the psyche! What is wrong with you people?! This is a supposed to be a Christian establishment - but there is something almost hateful about doing that to children!"

Sara was now incensed. Despite her angered protests, few children seemed to respond, and instead, continued to tunelessly hum out lyrics.

The next words of the mystifying creature before her were no longer cold. They were burning.

"Who said that this was a 'Christian establishment'?"

Sara blinked.

"Excuse me?"

The voice boomed.

"This is not a Christian establishment! It has never been a Christian establishment!"

Anger. Such horrible rage. So frightening in intensity.

Such hatred.

Sara's mind burned as she tried to formulated a response.

"Your school IS a religious institution. It is called "Holy Cross"! Are you saying it is Judaic? That...no...what is going on here?"

The woman's mouth curled into a sneer. Or a growl.

"We are religiously based - yes - but not Christian nor Judaic. If you have not the wherewithal to learn of our purpose, you have no right to be here. You are no longer welcome."

Sara felt strange - perplexed at an intellectual level, panicked gutturally.

Her eyes scanned the room.

Pews? Stained glass - depictions of the slaughter of the lamb? Of the Saints and Angels?

How could it not be-?

Her eyes narrowed into two long slits, and she analyzed the surroundings for a second time.

Stained glass - yes.

Agnus Dei - lamb of God?

But...no...

No.

There were no lambs.

No lambs anywhere.

The beauty of the painting did not belie the subject's speciation as she forced herself to see the second time around.

Oh how she wished she could have been blind.

It was a ram.

The goatish face no longer seemed calming.

Like some horrific puzzle, the pieces were agonizingly put together.

Inverted stars of David, yellow and red, braced the paintings.

They mocked her - sung nosy tunes of hate and dementia - until her face grew pale and her eyes grew wide.

Mrs. Townsend turned to a small child and requested something of the boy.

"Bobby? Can you help us show our guest the light, and the truth, and the way? Who is our God? Who do we give praise to?"

The small boy raised his arms in exaltation.

"Hallelujah Satan!"

The children chanted their praises.

"Hallelujah Father! Holy Lucifer!"

Sara screamed uncontrollably until everything went fuzzy and black and she passed away from the chanting and the clapping and the deranged, repulsive singing.

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WE WISH TO ESCAPE

Sara, to her knowledge, had never before screamed in her sleep.

But obviously, she had done just that on this very occasion.

The break room was now buzzing with activity. The entire night shift had been alerted to her panicked state - not to mention several of the technicians.

Even Greg, his face creased with worry and sadness, had heard her painful shouts over top of his raucous tunes and had come to see what was wrong.

Oh dear God. What had she done?

It was Grissom who spoke first. Words authoritarian, and yet no amount of rank pulling could disguise his concern.

Sara sat numbly in her chair - refusing to meet the multiple questioning eyes.

"Would everyone give us a minute alone please?"

They exited quietly, all but Catherine, who seemed to linger a little longer than the rest - her motherly concern making an obvious appearance.

"Catherine?", Grissom now turned to her, "Just - please - give us a moment."

His eyes never left Sara's face.

Even with her avoidant stare she knew this, for his stare was penetrating.

The door shut was a soft click, and then she heard... nothing.

No sighing. No questions. No words of concern or of anything at all.

A chair was pulled out from the Formica table, and he took a seat besides her.

"Do you want to tell me what just happened?"

Sara grimaced. So much for Grissom giving her options.

"Not particularly." She coughed up sputum. She was coming down with something - a cold maybe. Her body lurched as she coughed again.

Grissom folded his hands - seemingly just as nervous as she was as the moment.

"Does this have anything to do with our case?"

Oh. Great.

Just friggin' wonderful.

They get a gang rape, and she has to have nightmares the very next night.

It was incredible - the timing. Could this have happened at a worse time?

She knew what they were thinking. Heck, if she were in their position, she would have thought the exact same thing.

She clenched her hand angrily - mad at her subconscious for putting her in such an awkward position, and met his eyes carefully.

"No."

He didn't seem to believe her.

"No! Damn it Grissom! No - it doesn't have anything to do with that."

And yet, the dubious look remained.

"Stop it! What do you want me to say? That it is about our current case - when it really ISN'T?"

He exhaled. Finally.

She had been waiting for it.

"Would you tell me if that were this case? You have had difficulty with cases of this nature before, Sara."

His words were firm.

"But it ISN'T this case."

Her voice was getting up there, decibel-wise. Of course, she had a dozen other people she wanted to simultaneously convince. That must have been part of it.

Again - that searing look.

"What is it then?"

"A nightmare. Or night terror. I'm not sure. I was in a school."

Had she been talking to Greg or Nicky, they would have laughed at that - the way it sounded. So very anti-Sara-ish. Sara had, after all, loved school. Well, university, certainly. It would have just sounded odd. Those words.

"And?"

Sara inwardly groaned.

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AND TO DROWN IN LOVE

"And I thought I was in a Christian Parochial school. You had sent me there to work a case. Little boy with his throat slit. Ritualistic. Therefore, when we couldn't seem to find any evidence, you told me to talk to family and friends. School chums."

Grissom was staring at her warily now. She KNEW that it sounded scripted.

"And?"

"What do you think? It wasn't a CHRISTIAN school. It just - scared me in a way no dream ever has before. The children were chanting - giving praise to Lucifer."

Her voice had become soft.

Grissom's jaw was clenched.

Was he angry with her?

Yet he spoke.

"Light bearer."

Sara looked up sharply. "What?"

Grissom gave his classic lost-in-thought head cocking.

"Lucifer. The name is translated to mean "light bearer" or "giver of light.""

Oh - and she had known that. She had.

But in her tortured, nightmarish state she hadn't made the connection.

It was so clear now.

No deception.

"Bobby Townsend?"

Grissom nodded, and took Sara's hand. "The results are back - if you want to hear them?"

Sara nodded - mutely.

"Greg found evidence that the mother killed her son. She had religiously fanatical ideas, yes, but we were able to link Ecstasy use to the night of his death as well. She had an overdose - which caused some sort of break. She became convinced that her six year old son was, well, Lucifer incarnate."

"What?"

"I didn't see it at all Sara. No one did. Except for you. It's like you saw through her - and you saw the truth. At a time when an Episcopalian family was mourning their son's tragic murder - at a time when we had strangely little evidence - it's like you knew."

Grissom's head cocked to the side and he observed her for a moment.

Sara closed her eyes. "I knew because she told me. She said that with Bobby's death, she had died too. That she wanted to die. That she had already died."

Grissom's brow furrowed.

"She knew what she had done. She had killed her child - the best part of her, in some warped sense - the only innocent part of her that was left. He was so small and she was so big. He was so quiet and she - so loud. If she wanted to take his life, she could easily do so. She had taken his life in fear of evil - and now, she is left with only self-hatred. A need to kill that part of herself."

Rubbing his hands against his spotted white lab jacket, he rose, glancing momentarily to the wall as he did so. Her words were tinged with some flavor - some emotive quality. Perhaps, they had meaning. Perhaps they were symbolic.

More than likely, he would never know.

"Shift's over. I hadn't realized. I'm sorry."

A needless apology - a fact of which he should have been aware.

Her shift never ended.

Even in sleep, the cases continued to plague her.

He now helped Sara rise; her back stiff and sore from laying on her side for so long. She needed to right her position - get her balance again.

Pausing to hold the steel rimmed door, he queried, "I wonder how anyone could be so fearful of something so helpless? Or of someone? He had no defensive capabilities. He certainly had no oppressive ones."

Sara caught the door, closing it gently behind her, while Grissom turned the lock it with his skeleton key.

"We fear that which we don't understand, and we ultimately fear that which we need. We fear death because we don't understand death - but we also fear death because we need love. Fire and relentless pain and brimstone and eternal death. How could any loving God create such a place of misery for his children?"

By this point, they had reached Grissom's Tahoe. Grissom, intrigued by the conversation, opened the passenger side door for her - simply wishing to prolong the event, while Sara, distractedly, buckled up her seat belt.

"Aha. And now you've isolated the problem. You've unearthed the roots and cause of Satanism."

Sara grinned, "Oh really? I've explained 2,000 years of religious theory in our 10-minute conversation?"

Grissom laughed a real laugh. A rare laugh, his mind replaying her earlier words.

"We fear what we love, hmm?"

Sara become flustered. "I - I didn't say that. You've taken it out of context!"

"Oh - really? How so?"

She smirked. "I said we fear what we need. Or, at some basic level, we fear our attachments, because we fear losing that which we are attached to."

"And one is not attached to love?"

His words were spoken clearly - without the artifice of fake humor or flirtation.

"Not necessarily."

"One does not NEED love?"

Sara scanned the road now. The Las Vegas freeway markers were suddenly very fascinating.

"I don't know. I don't know if one needs love."

Grissom smiled his cryptic smile.

"If one didn't need love, then one wouldn't fear pain. If love equates with bliss, and bliss with Heaven, then Hell is the opposite state, wouldn't you say? Then Hell is the absence of love. And you fear Hell, Sara. Everyone does."

A lump had formed in her throat.

"Well then, I guess I fear love."

She couldn't look at him. Not yet.

He took a breath, adding, "I guess I fear it too."

They had managed - somehow - to reach their diner. The nightshift group's place for early morning breakfasts or late night suppers.

However one wanted to look at it.

Grissom let his fingers run along the leather seam of the steering wheel before turning off the vehicle's engine.

Giving a shy smile, he voiced, "I hope you don't fear flapjacks? Because I think that's just what we need right now."

Sara laughed a real laugh. A rare laugh.

Good memories now vanquishing bad.

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fin