AN: For all pertinent information (disclaimer)… please see chapter 1. My apologies for the majorly long wait on this chapter… I haven't stopped writing and will finish this just so you know - but you may have to be patient. I am very busy at the moment with a whole bunch of stuff. This chapter has been sitting on my computer almost ready for the last 3 months. I simply haven't had time to get to it. Also not beta'd. I have checked it of course, but you know how small stuff can slip by! Thanks for your immense patience. You are all great readers. And thanks so much for the reviews. It's too bad that this is the only place you can see Sara and Grissom these days!
"Hey Brass, what do you got?" Greg Sanders gave the police captain a slight nod and moved up beside the detective. In the distance he could see the sun beginning to break across the mountains and with it came clear blue skies and the looming heat of the day. It looked like it was going to be another scorcher and surprisingly enough felt like it too. The normal desert nightfall had cooled things off, but only marginally. The words "impending heat wave" had been etched across the front of the early morning paper and it looked like Mother Nature was doing her best to live up to that prediction.
There was a coil of exhaustion woven through the detective's words as he pointed to the red mustang a security guard had found hidden behind the 'Screwed Up : tool and die' warehouse. That was a play on words if there ever was one; Jim Brass thought absently, as he rubbed the stubble forming on his chin and started his explanation. "The rent a cop over there thought he'd found a drunk trying to sleep it off, or something, but the blood tipped him off and he gave us a call."
The young CSI nodded in the direction of the car and headed over to it, the captain trailing along behind him. "This looks like it's from your Baker case, and that makes it part of my case, according Grissom."
"Yeah…" The young CSI responded vaguely, his eyes trailing a curious path along the interior of the abandoned vehicle. "Definitely looks like it's the right car." Greg's nose twitched as if to punctuate his thought, and he bent in slightly to peruse the back seat through the darkened windows. Dragging a set of gloves out of his pocket, he slipped them on. "Pretty big mess." Despite the fact that the doors were closed, the smell of iron still permeated the air around the Mustang, and the dried and crusting blood inside the car left little question as to it's recent history.
"Plates have been changed, but the VIN number matches that of the rental company." Brass told him, at the same time accepting a cup of coffee from one of the officers on the scene.
"Smart…changing out the plates bought her a little more time. But then she would have known that being one of us."
"I don't think she's really a part of the human race, Greg, let alone one of us."
Brass' comment brought a grimace to the younger man's face and he bobbed his head in agreement. "Did he touch the car?" Greg nodded towards the dark skinned; uniformed man slouched uncomfortably between two cops a mere 5 feet away.
"He says no, but I would process him anyway."
Another nod, followed up by a squint indicated the former lab rat was trying to prioritize the scene. "Don't let him go. I'm going to process the car first. Catching Alicia or whatever her name is, takes priority. I'll get started here. The sooner we get this done and back to the lab, the better."
"You on your own?" Brass eyed him quizzically.
"Warrick or Nick will be along soon, they can handle the guard." Greg Sanders responded, as he pulled his camera out of the bag, and began taking locators and close ups of the exterior of the car. "Any other leads?"
"Nah." The detective scowled and nodded in the direction of the car. "You're looking at it."
"So she's in the wind…?" It was more of a statement than question and it was left dangling precariously mid-air. If that was the case, it was up to the CSIs to find her; otherwise things did not bode well for the safety of Sara or Catherine.
"For now." Brass did his best to keep the frustration and anger plaguing him out of his voice, but he was unsuccessful. "She doesn't seem to be trying to hide much," he indicated the print smeared steering wheel and door handle. "You got a match on the hair, right?"
Once they'd suspected it was Alicia who'd been involved in the death of Tammy Baker, the detective had been given a full report. Official confirmation hadn't come to him yet, but Brass was more than sure that the whack job Grissom had gotten himself involved with was behind the brutal murder.
"Yeah, just before I left." The young man nodded, at the same time printing the door handle, and then opening the vehicle carefully. "It was hers." He examined the interior, the thick cloying stench of warm blood messing with his olfactory nerves. "I wonder if she's on foot now. She's dumped the car…" He left the comment open ended as he began to document the inner confines of the Mustang.
"I have my guys out scanning the neighborhood, and we're monitoring for any car thefts in a 20 mile radius." The detective informed the younger man. "We'll probably hear soon enough if she nabbed a nearby car. Someone on their way to work will walk out of the house and realize its missing."
"Maybe, but she could have had something set up before she dumped the mustang." Warrick commented as he sauntered up and joined the conversation.
Brass nodded at the new arrival. "Could be, but she's working on her own. That means any other vehicle would have needed to be here before she dumped this one."
"I don't think she had time to be that prepared." Greg called back over his shoulder. "I mean, she's on the run right?"
"Yeah, but she coulda had a plan in place even before she got in this deep. Crazy doesn't mean stupid, and she's been on the run for a few years now, so she knows the game." The detective pointed out.
"She could have cabbed it." Warrick offered.
"That would be too easy, and with the amount of blood in here she's gotta be covered in it. I mean splitting a woman's head open is messy work, but I'm having my people look into it, anyway." Brass' hand swiped absently at the exhaustion blurring his eyes. It had been a while since he'd slept, even longer since he'd showered and shaved.
Greg stood up, labeled his blood sample, and dropped it in his case. "She's on her own. Very easy in Vegas to just disappear, especially if you're just one person. If I were her I woulda, changed my clothes, cleaned up somehow, walked from here to the nearest store, messed with my appearance, and hopped a bus out of town."
"Yeah but she's fucked up, man." Warrick responded, pulling his gloves out of his pocket and snapping them on. "For most people survival takes precedence over everything else. Commit a crime and if the cops are onto you, run as fast as you can and as far as you can, especially if it's murder. But she's out for blood, why else would she stick around?" Squinting at the back bumper and trunk area the tall dark man nodded towards it. "Did you print the back here?
"No, just took the stills." Greg replied, slipping a long dark red hair into a baggy and labeling it.
"Some people are just inherently stupid." Brass sipped his coffee and grimaced. "You know as well as I do not everyone who commits a crime runs. They all think they are going to get away with it."
"I know. But she knows we're onto her, and you said it yourself, she's already on the run. The fact that she's still in Vegas is tells me she wants revenge or satisfaction or something I can't come close to explaining." Pulling out a fingerprint strip, the tall dark man placed it over what looked like two blood smeared prints. "And in my opinion that's what makes her dangerous; she values revenge above her own life."
Greg and Brass just nodded silently knowing full well that he was probably right.
"Can you spell exhausted?" Nick stared at the young woman in the passenger's seat. Her eyes were closed and she was resting her head against the window.
"Can't spell… too tired." She grinned but didn't bother opening her eyes against the low slung sun of a new day.
"I hear you." The Texan pressed his foot against the petal as the signal changed and began a mediocre crawl along an already crowded strip. "Listen, why don't you let me take you home? Shift's over. I can go back and talk to Doc alone. No need for both of us to be there.
One brown eye opened and for a moment Sara silently studied the man seated beside her. The look on her face said it all; there was no way she was going to do that, and he knew it even before he suggested it. It was his barely audible sigh in response to her lack of one, which caused her to smirk. "Nice try pardner…"
"Mmm…" Nick grimaced and slammed his hand on the horn, at the driver in front of him. "I tell you, people in Vegas do not know how to drive!"
"It's the tourists. They're so awestruck they don't watch where there going or what their doing." Sara mumbled not even bothering to open her eyes. "Hey, has there been any news on the father in our case? He should be out of surgery by now."
"He should, but Vartan said he'd give us a call as soon as he knows, maybe it took longer than they expected to patch him up."
"If they could patch him up." Sara intoned softly.
Preferring not to think about it Nick made a quick turn off the strip and started down the road that would take them to the lab. "We should make a trip out to the couple's house as soon as we're done with Doc."
"Yup, and we need to touch base with Vartan, he should have done a background check on the two of them. We are going to need to talk to any family they may have." Sara added with a low groan.
"That should take us until at least noon."
"And you wanted to get rid of me." Sara smirked. Sitting up she gave up on trying to nap and reached into her purse for a gum. "The two of us working together will get it done much faster." She offered one to Nick and then stuck the package back into her purse when he shook his head.
"I would still rather have you go back and get some sleep." The attractive Texan stated honestly.
"We'll both grab some shut eye after we've checked out the couple's place, okay?"
Nick shifted his gaze from the road and stared at her momentarily before pulling into the parking lot and gliding to a stop. "Promise?"
"I suspect by that time we'll both be too tired to argue the point." She smiled unbuckling and stepping out of the vehicle.
Grissom was waiting for them as the entered the morgue. "Dad died on the table half an hour ago. The maternal grandparents are on there way into town to take custody of the infant in the hospital."
Sara and Nick exchanged sad glances and merely nodded.
The slim brunette was the first to break the relative silence as they all took up residence around the body. "I wonder if Wendy has the results on the hair I found."
"She's backed up." Grissom informed her, his blue eyes asking her what his mouth couldn't. Sara averted her own chocolate orbs, so he continued. "They found the mustang from the Baker case an hour ago. She's processing the blood from that along with some other stuff that's come in. It's got priority." Sara made to argue, but he waved her off, his eyes seeking Nick's. In them, there was a silent request for support. "And don't think this is about you. It's not. While it's important to me that we catch her because of the threat she poses to you, it's also about the fact that Catherine's not safe, and Alicia's already proven that she will kill randomly to get whatever she wants. She's a serious threat to the people of Las Vegas, residents and tourists alike."
Nick nodded, his hand moving to Sara's shoulder. "He's right. I want to catch whoever's responsible in our case, but you know as well as I do, that priority is given to the biggest threat."
The dark haired CSI nodded almost tersely, her manner confirming that while the protocol was something she was well aware of, it wasn't necessarily something she agreed with.
"I made sure she knew your samples are up next, and she's agreed to work overtime until they're done. I would have had the day's tech run them but he's off sick." That issue put to bed; he eyed the two and continued. "Doc got a call out to the alphabet district, but before he left he confirmed COD – fatal gunshot wound. Her body has been cleaned, and any extra trace has been sent up already. There's really not much to tell you, it looks like the shooter didn't come anywhere near mom. Most of the trace will probably come back with a link to the hospital.``
"Why were they leaving at that hour?" Sara's eyes flitted between the two men. "I mean it was in the evening… aren't normal discharges done during the day."
"I asked the nurse the same question. Apparently they had no insurance. Mom had a problem with the delivery so they wanted to keep her the full 24 hours. She gave birth around the same time the evening before so that would bring her up to the 24 hour mark. They were still concerned about her, but the couple had insisted on mom and babies being released as they couldn't afford another day's stay."
"If they'd stayed they'd probably still be alive." Nick muttered. More rhetorical than factual, he hadn't expected a response to his statement from Grissom but got one none the same.
"Actually, that depends on motive." Grissom moved down near the feet of the lifeless young woman laying supine on the cold steel table, and absently tugged the white sheet gathered there, up over her unseeing eyes. "If this was random, then you're probably right, since I suppose any baby would do. But there is always the possibility that this wasn't random. Maybe a vendetta against the couple, old boyfriend, new lover, someone who believed they had a right to the child or children…"
"Yeah but in a scenario like that wouldn't the perpetrator take both children?" Sara looked unconvinced, her eyes turning from the sheet in front her to that man on the other side of the table.
"Maybe he or she ran out of time? Wasn't able to take both children. Got interrupted… There could any number of reasons why."
"We really need to go to their place. Talk to friends, neighbors. Get some background on these two." Nick's dark eyes met a similar pair beside him. "I'll call Vartan, and we'll head over there in about…" He cast a quick glance at his watch and then reached for his phone as it let out a melodic bleep. "Mom…" He muttered surprised, as his family name lit up the screen. Turning to Sara he started walking backwards towards the door. "Gonna go up top, the reception sucks down here… 10 minutes okay…?"
A small smile crossed the young woman's face as she watched her partner practically run out of the room. It was a testament to his family and his loyalty to them that his response was so swift. Had the call been from her own mother, dread would have settled in first then been followed by a quick depression of the disconnect button.
"You should go back to the condo and get some sleep." Grissom's words broke the unease of her thoughts and brought with them a rush of warmth at his concern, and a touch of annoyance.
"I will." She bit back the negative emotion immediately and heaved a small sigh. "As soon as we've gone to see the neighbors, and maybe talk to a few friends."
"I meant now. Nick can take this on his own and if he needs help I'll go with him."
"It's our case Gris. I can't leave him to do all the work."
"I'm involved in it as well and while I agreed to have you back at the lab and let you work this case, I won't hesitate to pull you off if I think you are overdoing it."
Sara tamped down the anger burning in her chest, knowing full well that he probably wanted her to go off on him at this point, just so he could send her home. Forcing a pained smile she did her best to remind herself that he was only concerned about her well being then responded with a false lightness. "I will. Promise. But it'll be a hell of a lot faster if I help him. This isn't your only case. You have several on the go. If I head back to the condo now I won't be able to sleep. This will be on my mind." The last comment was an outright lie. She could probably sleep standing up with very little effort. "Give us an hour or so and then we'll all pack it in, Okay?" She looked at the dark circles beneath his eyes. He too was suffering from sleep deprivation. "But that means you as well…"
Grissom grimaced and nodded, his hand unconsciously moving to the small of her back as the two of them turned to leave the lab. "One hour Ms. Sidle." He rumbled. His words were a warning, but at the same time she could feel the concern woven through them.
"You've got a deal Dr. Grissom."
"Not a great neighborhood." The comment fell casually from Nicks lips as the two CSI's scanned the small cul de sac.
"Working class." She'd seen many over the years and had actually lived in several. Most of the homes on the street were probably rentals, since they appeared to be poorly maintained. In fact, Jonas' small one story was the only one on the block that looked like there had been some effort applied to its appearance. A small amount of xeriscaping in the yard and a fresh coat of paint on the front door was a testament to someone trying to make it a home.
"So everything's okay?" Sara glanced the man standing on the front porch next to her, before allowing her eyes to wander down the other side of the street. For entire ride over, Nick had been on the phone, a series of grunts, and "yes mom's" punctuating his side of the conversation.
"Well that depends on who you ask." Nick grinned, his hand drawing a set of keys from an evidence bag. "Mom's ecstatic; we've never had triplets in the family. My sister is too tired to think and it's only just begun and my brother in law, well…they were expecting two babies not three, so shock doesn't come close to describing it." A slight guffaw escaped him. "Serves them right for trying for a third now it'll be another 5 years before they can get a good night's sleep.." Slipping the key into the lock he flipped it sideways and pushed the door open when he heard the telltale click.
"That's mean…" Sara couldn't help but laugh, as she began to move around the small space. It was tidy, and though most of the furniture seemed to be mismatched and likely from a thrift shop, it felt like someone had tried to make a nice space.
"No it's honest." Nick replied, grabbing the unopened mail from the mailbox and placed it on the table. "They were hoping for a boy, but now they have 5 girls. That's what you get for tempting fate."
"Ah… King Henry the 8th syndrome." Sara commented mildly.
"In spades. John's a fisherman; hunter and sports fanatic who believes a woman's place is in the home." Picking up a small framed photo from the end table he studied the happy couple before placing it back almost reverently. "He wanted a boy so he could do all those things with a son."
"Then I guess he'll have to take one of the girls instead." Sara put in as she made her way into the kitchen.
"Not likely, he'll just spend even more time with his buddies, and leave my sister home alone with the kids." There was a note of tempered anger in his voice, drawing a curious look from Sara.
Grabbing a stack of bills of the counter, the slim brunette sifted through it. "Sounds like you disapprove."
"Hell yeah…" He perused the small living space and then headed into the brightly painted room at the end of it, his explanation trailing behind him. "Part of being a family is doing things together. It's okay to go out every now and then to hang with the guys, or go on a fishing trip, but there's such a thing as too much, and he passed that line long ago."
"How long have they been married?"
Sara's voice sounded distant as Nick wandered the tiny yellow baby's room. Picking up a stuffed giraffe he read the nameplate still attached to it. "To my precious grandbabies…Welcome!" The handwriting was almost childlike and spoke of someone who likely had difficulty with basic motor skills. "Seven years."
"That's a pretty good run." There was a grin in her voice, as she began to sort through a small stack of papers on a nearby desk. "Your sister must be pretty tolerant."
"Yeah…" Nick shuffled from the baby's room to the master bedroom. "She's a pushover. Now my oldest sister woulda kicked his ass out a long time ago, but Jules has always been one to buy into the 'you made your bed, now you lie in it' analogy."
Sara grimaced. "Some people are very much a product of their environment…" she mumbled absently, then at once she realizing what she'd said, the slim brunette turned an apology perched on her lips.
Nick was already waving it off as he finished a quick visual examination of the couple's room and moved towards his partner. "You are absolutely right. That was my parents' favorite saying."
"But I take it you don't abide by it?" Dropping the stack she opened one of the desk drawers and pulled out another pile of papers; this one larger.
Reaching over the tall Texan grabbed half of the pile and began flipping through them. "Well I'm all for accepting responsibility, but that doesn't mean you have to drown in a situation and live with it forever just because you are paying your dues. There has to be a midline somewhere. Right?" Knitting his brows together he perused the document in his hand and scanned a little further down the page.
"Well said." Sara grinned at the man beside her.
"You know what my sister's problem is?" Nick asked flipping to the second page of the document. When the slim brunette didn't answer, he continued. "At some point in her life someone managed to convince her that she wasn't as good as everyone else. Then she became a door mat for a guy named John."
The subtext of the conversation wasn't lost on Sara. Turning she threw a stern look his way. "I'm not a door mat for Grissom."
"Nope… no you're not. But you come close to it sometimes, and you have to admit that there are times you seem to value yourself a little less than those around you." When Sara's eyes shifted from his Nick dropped the paper in his hand and touched her lightly on the chin to redirect her dark orbs back to him. "You need to know that's not the case, princess. K?"
A sad grin lit up the young woman's face and she nodded. "Point taken, partner."
"Good." Nick's eyes lit up and he tapped the paper he'd just set aside. "This may just be what we're looking for."
Sara leaned in to examine the document. "Ex-boyfriend claiming paternity…"
The dark haired man flipped a few pages in, and pointed at the letterhead. "An angry ex-boyfriend by the looks of it."
"Restraining order… someone's got a temper." Sara grabbed the rest of the pile she'd been going through and flipped through it rapidly before returning it and the rest of Nick's pile back to the drawer.
"Whatta ya say we had this over to Vartan and finally grab a few winks?"
Sara stifled a small yawn. "Sounds like a plan!"
"You got a VW bug?" Nick slipped his sunglasses on and stared at the car nestled beside his in the lab's parking lot.
Sara shrugged and grinned at the little red convertible. "Whenever I look at it I am overcome by this incredible urge to paint big black polka dots on it."
A tired guffaw was stifled by a yawn. "Jimmy does have a sense of humor."
Pulling the keys from her purse, Sara squinted in the mid morning sun. "Your friend told me that it was the only one they had available on such short notice."
"Yeah, his agency is small but he's pretty busy, even off season." Slinging his bag over his shoulder, he moved towards his truck and popped the trunk. "When is your insurance company going to let you get a new one?"
"They have no choice but to settle for full market value, so I can go to the dealership whenever, but we've been a bit busy."
Another yawn escaped the exhausted Texan as he slammed the back hood closed. "You know, if you want I can take you when this is all over. I'm friends with a few of the dealers in town; I can probably get you a good deal on whatever you want."
A toothy grin spread across the slim brunette's face. "Thanks. That sounds like a plan." Slipping the key in the lock Sara waited for the click, pulled the door open and tossed her purse onto the passenger's seat. "Well I guess I'll see you at the condo..."
Nick bit his lip and let his eyes settle on a palm tree at the end of the parking lot. "Uh... yeah... I'm gonna go to my place this morning just to check things out... they 're mid repair and I want to see what's up."
Sara squinted at him speculatively for a moment and nodded slowly, uncertain as to why her chest felt heavy. "Okay... well that shouldn't take too long. If you want I can grab a light lunch and we can have it before bed..."
A lump rose in his throat at the thought, but he swallowed it down and forced a smile.
"Sugar britches, you need to get some sleep, and I may be held up there waiting for the contractor to show. So go home, go to bed...and I'll see you later."
Sara nodded. "Okay..." Climbing into the car she rolled the window down to let some of the stiflingly hot air out.
Nick was about to slip into his own driver's seat, when he caught an almost lost look on Sara's face. "Hey… Gris is headed back to the condo too… right?"
A nod followed by a small smile graced the young CSI's face. "Yeah, he said he had to finish up a report and would meet us there in about 30 minutes."
"You want me to come and stay with you until he gets there…?"
Sara shook her head. It wasn't that she was concerned about being alone, at all. It was being alone with Grissom without a buffer that was causing her trepidation. Their private interactions had been becoming increasingly more intimate and she could feel her resolve weakening. "I'll be fine, Nick. I don't need a babysitter."
Nick pursed his lips and nodded. "I know… I just thought you might not want to be alone."
"I'm good. Go do what you have to do before they add on some extra bedrooms or something. Besides you are never going to get any sleep if don`t leave now."
The Texan tossed her a tired smile. "`k buttercup, I`ll see you when you get up, then...`` Climbing into the car he watched as she pulled out of the parking lot, and then followed loosely behind her... He`d go to his place. But he would make sure she got home first...
to be continued...