Title: Killing Time – Chapter 7
Words: 3800 (approximately)
Pairing(s): Grissom/Sara, Sara
Disclaimer: If we can't auction off Grissom, can we auction off Nick?
Summary: Sara has returned to Vegas in a little different capacity… and walked right into a cold case turned serial killing.
Beta Notes: Thank you so much seattlecsifan and moomarie. You two are the best betas in the world… smart, funny, and always willing to read my crap.
X X X
When the alarm went off at five o'clock that morning, Sara batted her hand out, slapped it down on the edge of the nightstand before finally hitting the snooze button on the annoying buzzing alarm clock, and groaned. While she felt rested and had slept quite well, she just wasn't in the mood to move yet, opting to continue breathing into her pillow. Laying face-down on the bed, she used her other hand to reach for her husband. She started really waking up when all she felt were cool sheets on his side of the bed.
As the fog in her brain began to lift, she turned her head and realized he wasn't home yet. Her mind sharpened, and she turned to her side, remembering the events of the previous day – the press conference and the probable identification of Sariah Young.
Brass had clocked her out early, knowing Sara had to meet with the parents of one of the vics, Millicent Barker, the next morning. They were due around nine o'clock at the PD.
Groggily sitting up, she eventually motivated herself to move, and staggered toward the bathroom and a scalding shower. In the kitchen, she poured herself a cup of day old coffee and winced at the bitter, burnt taste, then poured the awful brown liquid into the sink.
By the time she was ready to leave, case files in hand, Sara was ready to make a couple of stops, and aimed her vehicle toward the lab. First, she needed to check in with her husband. While it was typical that they could go days missing each other at home, they did their best to never go twenty four hours without at least seeing each other – even if it meant a road trip to a crime scene just to say 'hi'. It could be a pain to follow the routine, but it was a concession they'd both made to their strange schedules.
Driving toward the LVPD forensics lab, she cranked the radio blaring the local rock station in an attempt to get her blood pounding. There was something about loud music that could rattle the teeth and wake the dead that served as a great tool to get the blood humming. At seven o'clock, she was sitting in her husband's office, wondering where he was. She'd sent him a text message, but knew if he was busy, he might not respond. After waiting fifteen minutes, she decided to take care of the other reason she was at the lab.
She found Nick in the break room, looking like hell and chugging boiling hot coffee like it was Mountain Dew. Leaning against the doorframe, she raised her eyebrows and watched the Texan finish off the last of the steaming liquid before placing the cup in the sink. When he turned around, she caught sight of the dark shadows around his eyes and grinned.
"I do believe you've teased me a time or two about being tired. My turn. You look like crap, Nick," she quipped, and watched his brown eyes sparkle.
"True," he replied, a broad grin gracing his face. "You're a lot of fun to rib, darlin'," he added with a wink. Smiling wide, he half-laughed, "And I know I look like crap." Sara had to grin, because even the collar of his tan button down shirt was skewed in a haphazard manner, leaving him looking rumpled.
Making her way into the room, Sara dropped down onto the couch, while Nick took a seat at the table. Getting down to business she said, "I need all your notes on the desert case. In particular, I need to know everything you know about Millicent Barker."
For a moment she contemplated her upcoming visit with the victim's parents and added, "I'm meeting her parents later this morning and they're going to want some answers. I need to know what I can give them… and what I can't."
"Wait right here," Nick soberly replied. "I've got 'em at my desk."
He wasn't gone twenty seconds, when Grissom walked in the door to the break room and gave her a cocky grin. She laughed when he said, "My wife – the PR liaison for the LVPD."
Taking a seat next to her, he grasped her hand, and squeezed. "I talked to Brass – he's working my double homicide at Lake Mead. He said you did a great job. He also said he kicked you home for some sleep." Dropping his chin, Grissom looked over the top of his glasses in an assessing gaze and smirked, "You slept for a change."
"Yeah, well, you might want to do the same for Nick, because I think he's about to just tip over and we're all going to have to yell 'Timber'," Sara replied, not bothering to hide the grin on her face, and watched Grissom's brows raise. When he began to chew on his cheek, she knew he was contemplating her words. She figured he'd get a full view when the man in question returned with the reports.
Onto a different topic, Sara thoughtfully said, "I saw a couple of news reports, and they went about as expected. The photos were shown; the anchor man or woman made a statement, and the tip line phone number was put up on the screen." Leaning into his arm a bit, she added, "It worked, though. We got a hit on another victim last night. That gives us two. Sariah Young. Her sister is sending us things that may have their mother's DNA on them, so we can do mitochondrial DNA analysis for confirmation."
Their conversation was interrupted when Nick walked back into the break room with a stack of files. Handing them over, he gave a huge yawn, and Grissom said, "Go home, Nick. Get some sleep. You're almost maxed out on overtime for the month, and it's not even half through."
As Nick was about to leave, Sara called out to him. When he turned, she gave him a huge grin and said, "Meeks is already pleading out. Getting the photos of the fingerprints on the steering wheel was a stroke of genius, as was providing a photo and video log of the blood traces from his house back to the scene."
Shoving his hands in his pockets, Nick left the lab whistling; obviously in a better mood than just minutes before.
Shaking her head in amusement and smiling wide, Sara discreetly glanced around before giving her husband a peck on the cheek. "I'm due at the PD," she murmured. Sauntering out of the break room, she gave a gentle reminder of, "Tomorrow's date day," and waited for his smiling nod of confirmation. In the back of her mind, she knew there was always a 50:50 chance the date would get cancelled, but they both enjoyed the anticipation of possibilities.
Refocusing herself, she headed to the PD, and mentally prepared herself during the drive. Sara knew the kinds of questions the parents would ask; and she reconciled herself to having to disappoint them with her own lack of information.
X X X
Seated at her bland metal desk, Sara reviewed the meager data provided in the autopsy of Millicent Barker. Her ribs showed what the M.E. suspected were knife wounds, based on the four clear cuts Robbins had found. The knife itself would have been large, but not overly large… probably something akin to a butcher's knife.
Millicent herself had been nineteen at the time of her disappearance. She'd moved away from her home in Wyoming to attend UNLV on a scholarship provided by the Chemistry Department. She'd been just a teenager when she vanished off the face of the earth. Sara remembered it well, as she remembered the parents.
When she was paged to reception, Sara found Larry and Susan Barker sitting in the perpetually uncomfortable LVPD plastic chairs. For a moment, she studied the couple. Susan Barker was small… smaller than Sara remembered, with an aura of fragility about her. Her hand was encompassed by the weather-worn hand of her husband, Larry, and their heads were bent together. Sara remembered the basics of the couple. Susan Barker was a stay-at-home wife and mother, opting to raise her kids rather than put to work her college degree in English. Larry Barker owned an auto repair shop in Cheyenne. Nearly three years ago, they had struck Sara as down-to-earth, straight forward people. They still did, but there was an air of perpetual fatigue about them that had developed over the past few years.
Pulling in a calming breath, Sara stepped towards the couple and saw recognition flicker through the husband's eyes as he stood. Reaching out her hand to Larry Barker, she grasped his rough, calloused fingers and said, "Mr. and Mrs. Barker… thank you for coming all this way." As they stood, Larry Barker murmured, "Detective, please call us Larry and Susan," to which Sara replied, "And please call me Sara." Escorting them down the halls of LVPD, she explained, "I've reserved a conference room if you'll come with me."
Leading them to a small room with nothing but a table and a few chairs, she took a seat and set the file on the table on the rectangular metal table, while everyone sat on another set of LVPD-issued uncomfortable chairs.
Sara pulled out a photo of the clay and plaster re-creation Teri Miller had provided, and placed it in front of the parents before she said, "I remembered your daughter when I saw this. I never forgot her face." Catching each of their gazes in turns, Sara soberly stated, "I never forgot your faces, either. I was a CSI at the time, and I pulled this case, but… the evidence just wasn't there." She remembered them well from their time in Vegas years ago, when their child had gone missing, and Sara could see the extra lines on the couple's faces since she'd last seen them. Some might have been caused by age, but she knew most were the outward effects of long-term pain and worry.
"W-w-what happened?" Susan stammered as quiet tears trickled down her thin, pale cheeks unnoticed. "Who did this?"
Letting out a long silent breath, Sara replied, "Right now, all we have is speculation – that she was stabbed."
Sara watched Larry lean into his wife and he quietly said, "You might want to wait outside, honey. You may not want to hear or see this."
The flash of irritation across the middle-aged woman's face, followed by the angry, "Of course I'm staying. I want… No, I need to know what happened to my baby."
When Larry turned to Sara and nodded hard once, she reached into the folder and pulled out a picture of her remains. Quietly, she asked, "Sir, are you sure you want to see this?"
His rapidly breathed out, "Yes," had her turning over the photos of the young woman's remains.
When Susan gasped and sat back in her chair with her eyes closed, her husband reached out, laid his hand on her shoulders, and dropped his head. While she quietly cried, great racking sobs broke through the large man, and he shook violently from it all. Time ticked by slowly as the grieving parents wept over the loss of their beloved child. Trapped in a moment of time, they began to grieve again because most hope they'd held onto for so long was dwindling before them.
Sara had many times heard the platitude, 'The not knowing is the worst' but at that particular moment, she had a hard time believing it.
"What do we need to do?" Larry asked, shaking his head to clear the cobwebs, and sitting upright. A fierce look of determination crossed his face when he sternly stated, "I want them caught. Whoever did this, I want them caught."
Quietly, Sara replied, "I intend to do just that."
X X X
After collecting hair and swab samples from Susan Barker, Sara bid them goodbye on the promise to give them regular updates on the case's progress. Wearily she made her way to her desk and dropped heavily into her chair. It was nearly eleven, and she looked around to see Day shift detectives busy at work. She had two more stops to make before heading home for the rest of the day.
First, she made a trip to the Archives annex of the LVPD, where cold cases were stored, and picked up a couple of boxes, containing the case notes for Sariah Young and Millicent Barker.
Half an hour later, she was walking into the lab, and watching the Day shift workers scurry here and there. She'd almost completely passed Greg's desk before she realized the young CSI sat there, slumped over, staring at his computer screen, and repeatedly hitting the Enter button on the keyboard.
"Busy shift?" she asked, once she stood behind him.
"Yeah," he murmured, his head propped on a fist that was held up by his elbow on the desk. Punching the enter key once more, he sighed, "I'm getting nowhere."
All of a sudden Greg rapidly blinked and looked around. "How late is it?" he asked, peering at Sara as if seeing her for the first time.
"Lunchtime," she replied.
When he frowned and asked, "What are you doing here this late, Sara?" she smiled and held up an evidence bag.
"I've got DNA samples from Susan Barker for comparison against what we believe to be Millicent Barker's skeletal remains," she replied. Stepping back, she watched Greg rise and he walked with her down the hall. "I'm dropping them off with Evan to see if I can convince him to put it at the head of the line," she stated. As Greg nodded and waved on his way toward the locker room, Sara stepped into the DNA lab and smiled at the man therein.
"Hey, Evan… what kind of bribes are you up for today?" she asked, as the young, blond Day shift's DNA tech grinned and held out his hand.
"For you, anything," he answered with a friendly wink and waggle of his brows.
X X X
That night arriving at work, Brass almost immediately handed her an assignment. "We've got a B&E at the Circus Circus." At her upraised eyebrows at being assigned what should have been handled by an on-scene officer, Brass continued, "When it was reported to the hotel's Security, they found blood. An officer is on scene." Handing over the slip, he sighed, "That's about all I know. You'll be acting primary on this and you're solo."
With the call information in her fingers, Sara grabbed her jacket from her chair and headed out.
Walking through the hall on the tenth floor of the hotel section of the casino, it was pretty obvious by the partially open hotel door, and officer standing outside, precisely which room was the scene. The shell-shocked maid, quietly crying into a hand towel, and someone who Sara assumed to be the hotel manager, stood discreetly at the far end of the corridor. The room itself was about halfway down on the left of the softly lit hallway.
Recognizing the police officer, Sara smiled and greeted, "Hey, Lee," as she approached. "What have we got?"
Standing between Sara and the door, Officer Lee Carson, acted a little… unusual. His ebony skin actually looked a bit gray, and she felt a little sorry for the young fresh-faced cop. Sara supposed the young man's current state had to do with the overwhelming stench of iron. He didn't look anywhere but straight down the hall and away from the room when he explained, "The maid keyed into the room to bring extra towels, and found that." Instead of turning to look toward the room, Carson simply stepped out of the way, giving Sara access, and waved his hand toward the room.
As she passed the uniformed cop, Sara caught his eye and said, "Let me take a look, and then I'm going to want to talk to the maid and manager." Taking a deep breath and holding it, she walked into the room. The breath, intended to ward off the overwhelming stench, whooshed out instantly. The first words out of her mouth were, "Well, damn." Immediately glancing down, she realized she simply couldn't go in – she'd leave her footprints in the blood. From what she could see, everything was coated in the thick red liquid. It was splashed across the bed, the floor, the walls… it was on everything.
The window was at the far end of the room. Between the entry way and the curtain covered glass stood a queen size bed. The headboard was on the right side, while a TV lay against the left wall. Nightstands stood on both sides of the bed– each adorned by a small, generically shaded lamp. One of the lamp shades let go of a glopping droplet of blood, and Sara watched the semi-congealed mass fall.
Glancing up, she noted that the blood hadn't managed to make it all the way to the ceiling, but there were some prominent splatter patterns near the bed. A couple of walls sported what looked to be Jackson Pollock-esque artwork in red.
"Well…." She stated, unsure of what could be said. Eventually, she reached out with a gloved hand and closed the door. Approaching Carson, she said, "Keep the area secure. I need to talk to the maid and the manager." Sara frowned when she added, "We need to know who was staying in this room."
X X X
At one point, Sara relieved Carson, when the 'kid' started gagging. While he rushed down the hall and hurled into a trash can placed discreetly near the elevator doors, Sara shook her head. She'd met the young cop on a couple of other occasions. He came across as a clean-cut (literally, with a nearly shaved head), all-American kind of guy that was doing the job because he felt it was his duty to help people. He was also very, very green, and he couldn't have been over twenty two or twenty three years old.
Watching him numbly walk back up the hall with a sallow pained look on his face, Sara picked up her cell when it began to buzz in her pants pocket. A two minute conversation had her heaving out a sigh.
"Carson," she said, hanging up, a frown settling over her face. "It looks like we're going to be here for awhile. They're working to clear a CSI from a triple murder in north east Vegas." Since they didn't have a body, Sara's case had been dropped to the bottom of the heap. Without a kit, Sara couldn't approach the scene without risking contamination. So, Carson and Sara just leaned against the wall outside the room, with Carson on guard duty while Sara began to work up mental murder boards on her only confirmed open homicide case – the desert victims.
In the end, it had taken two mind-numbing hours of questioning and waiting before a CSI arrived. By that time, Sara had accomplished two things. First, she'd run through her serial case three times in her mind; and second, she'd concretely decided Officer Carson's endurance was something to be admired. While he casually leaned, she was about to rip off the head of the first person to show, because the one thing Sara Sidle had little of was patience when it came to a case. She was so wrapped up in this thought she didn't even hear the elevator ding.
"It's killing you, isn't it," Catherine laughed, sauntering down the hall with her case in her hand, and openly admiring the frown on the annoyed detective's face. "You're just itching to get into that room and collect evidence." Sara felt the tension seep away and couldn't stop the grin when Catherine smirked, "Aren't you."
Smiling broadly, Sara said, "Not on your life. I think once you take a look at this, you won't want to work it, either." Her point was proved when Catherine laid her hand flat on the door and gently pushed it open. The whooshing huff of breath that escaped the blonde CSI's lips had Sara happily chirping, "This is going to take you forever."
"Now… care to hear about who is staying in this room?" Sara asked, and received, a look from Catherine.
"This room was reserved under the name of Ruth Atkins," Sara began. "She's down here with her husband, Frank for a fun-filled weekend of gambling, dining, and cooking. Apparently there's a chef's competition here this weekend, and Ruth Atkins is a finalist." Glancing through her notes, she added, "They don't have a car service or reservation listed as part of the package they purchased, so I'm hoping you'll find something to indicate method of transportation." Flipping her notebook closed, Sara blew out a slow, audible breath and said, "All we know is that the people in this room are from Seattle, their room was untouched when the maid serviced it yesterday, and something went seriously wrong in there." As an after-thought, she added, "The manager sent up a request for all surveillance tapes in and around the casino and hotel for the last 36 hours. And the scene was found by a maid bringing up extra towels."
For a moment, Sara just waited. After being a CSI for so long, and working with the same people for years, Sara knew how each person on graveyard operated. With Catherine, it was get a quick overview of the entire scene before moving, and then start methodically moving through each section of the room. Pulling on a pair of booties, she made her way into the room, and Sara watched her start taking pictures. Occasionally, Catherine would stop, take note of something in her mind or on her clip board, photograph it, and move on.
"Well, if this is human," Catherine finally stated, "then there's a body somewhere."
Then the night took a turn. After watching Catherine move around the room for nearly thirty minutes, Sara realized she wasn't accomplishing anything useful and said, "I'm going to leave you in the capable hands of Officer Carson for the time being. I'm heading back to the PD to start making some phone calls to contacts in Seattle."
She hadn't even turned to leave, when Catherine's head whipped up from beside the bed, and she loudly queried, "Hey Sara?"
Turning to look, Sara slowly let out a breath and said, "Well, that's something."
Catherine held up a finger… and it wasn't hers.