The characters and setting belong to CBS and people who are definitely not me; I'm just borrowing them for a little while. No harm, no foul. Anna Bradley, Ruthie Mayhew and Vincent Cook are my inventions; you're welcome to borrow them, but asking me first would be nice.
In the same universe as my two other stories, Learning to Fly and Red Rain, this is set about three weeks beyond the end of Red Rain - though no direct spoilers for that story.
With many, MANY thank yous to procrastin8or951 for the help and beta'ing
"The new Anna Bradley's out!"
Greg's exclamation echoed through the hallways of the crime lab long before he was actually apparent. Sitting in the break room trying to get on top her paperwork for once, Sara couldn't help but roll her eyes. Given what they did for a living, she really couldn't understand Greg's enthusiasm for reading Anna Bradley's novels. She did have to admit that the author knew how to tell a good story and the forensics were surprisingly accurate, but reading about serial killers after spending all day trying to catch them really didn't appeal to her. And what was worse, when a new book came out it tended to be all Greg could talk about.
"What's it called?" asked Archie.
"Burden of Proof." Greg was getting closer to the break room. "I'm about half way through."
"Can I borrow when you're done?"
"Sure." Greg was now in the break room doorway. "Hey Sara - new Anna Bradley." And he exhibited the newly minted hardback book.
Sara took one look at the cover and scoffed. "I'm sorry. No CSI is going to attend a scene dressed like that. I mean, bending over in a skirt that short? No thanks."
Greg pouted as he headed for the couch. "Not even if I asked you nicely?"
Sara pinged a rubber band in his general direction. "No."
"No what?" asked Warrick, who had followed Greg in.
"No I will not process a scene in a mini skirt," said Sara.
"Ah." Warrick frowned as he sat down next to Greg. "Who said you should?"
"No I didn't," said Greg. "I just asked if she'd ever consider bending over in a miniskirt - hey!" he added as Sara pinged another rubber band in his direction.
"You're lucky that's all she's doing," said Warrick severely. "Why would you even think that was a good question to ask?"
"Sara was complaining about the cover of Anna Bradley's new book."
"Oh - is that out?" Warrick looked interested.
"Not you as well!" Sara groaned.
"Tina reads them," he explained. "They're not bad."
Sara shook her head. "I really don't get the attraction."
"Have you tried them?" asked Greg. "Or are you judging the book by its cover which, by the way, I doubt the author got to pick."
"I did try one of her books when I was living in San Francisco - the book company did some sort of promotion and the lab got a couple of free copies. And I'm not saying her books are bad," she added, "just that with what we see day in and day out, I can't see why you'd want to read about fictional versions."
"Ruthie Mayhew is a babe," said Greg.
"Now who's judging the book by the cover?"
"She's got you there, Greg," said Warrick. "Now hand it over - I want to see if I need to pick this up on my way home."
To Sara's amusement, Warrick twitched the book out of Greg's grasp earning a sharp, "Hey! Watch my place!" from the younger man.
Turning it over so that he could look at the book's blurb, Warrick read out, "When an Elvis impersonator drops dead half way through a wedding ceremony, it's up to Ruthie Mayhew and her team of investigators to find out why." He paused. "Sara didn't you and Nick have a case with a dead Elvis?"
"No, dead Alien, buried by Elvis," said Sara. She shook her head. "You know you've worked some weird cases when you can say that with a straight face."
Warrick grinned. "Vegas, baby. The place where weird is a way of life." He turned to the front of the book and started leafing through the pages.
"Mind my place," said Greg. "What are you looking for, anyway?"
"The dedication," said Warrick. "I want to see if she's finally had to repeat a family member."
"Huh?" Sara blinked. "What do you mean?"
"This woman must have a family like Nick's," Warrick explained. "She's written nearly thirty books and every single one's dedicated to someone in her family - so far, no repeats."
"Must be something in the Texas water," said Greg.
Looking round, Sara realised that Nick must have walked in just in time to overhear Greg's comment. "You don't want to know," said Sara.
"Just about big families," said Greg. "I mean, you've got how many sisters?"
"Five, and one brother," Nick answered, making for the coffee pot. "Why?"
"Well Warrick was telling us about how Anna Bradley must have a family of the same sort of size as yours - nearly thirty books and no repeat dedications - and since she's also originally from Texas I just thought...well, you know."
Neither Greg nor Warrick seemed to notice there was anything odd about Nick's reply, but to Sara's ears that single word sounded decidedly sheepish and, come to think, was the back of his neck just a touch pinker than normal? Sara's eyes narrowed, but before she could pursue it, Warrick exclaimed, "Damn! Book twenty-nine and still no repeat."
Sara turned her attention back to Warrick. "Do you have all the dedications memorised or something?"
"Or something," said Warrick.
"Well, read it out, then," said Greg. "Or hand the book over and let me read it."
"I have to admit," said Sara, "you've got me curious."
Warrick chuckled. "What about you, Nick - you want to hear this?"
Now Sara was sure there was something up. And this time, Warrick was in on it, to judge by his grin, which was getting wider by the second. A glance back towards Nick confirmed the presence of a blush across the back of his neck. The fact that he was steadfastly facing the coffee machine also suggested that the last thing he wanted to do was meet anyone's gaze.
"Now I'm really curious," said Sara, looking back to Warrick.
"For my baby brother," Warrick read out, "who always reminds me that truth is stranger than fiction. No aliens were harmed in the writing of this book, but I did do for Elvis."
Sara choked. "Oh my God." She turned her head to look at Nick. In so far as a back could express a desire to be anywhere but present in the room, his was doing just that. "Nick? You want to add anything to that?"
"But you've been holdin' out on us!" Greg whined.
"Holding out over what?" asked Catherine as she entered the break room.
"Anna Bradley," said Greg.
"Ooh, is her new book out?"
"We have a copy right here," said Warrick holding it out for Catherine to admire and incidentally showing her the dedication.
"We do? I think you mean I do," muttered Greg.
"Still not sure what that has to do with-- Oh, I see." A smirk crossed her face. "Greg's right - you have been holding out on us."
"Hey - does this mean Ruthie Mayhew's based on you?" Greg asked.
"On any of us?"
"Can't be," said Catherine. "The Ruthie Mayhew books have been going longer than Nicky's been in Vegas. Although," she added, "I do now have my suspicions about who Ruthie's trace tech might be based on. I knew five hundred cat hair samples sounded familiar."
"Five hundred cat hair samples?" Sara winced. "Ouch."
"So the Ruthie Mayhew books should really be considered the adventures of Nick Stokes, Ace Lab Rat?" asked Greg.
"Really shouldn't," said Nick, finally pouring himself a cup of coffee. "Anna published the first Ruthie story while I was still in college."
"Maybe," said Greg. "But Vincent Cook doesn't show up until the fifth book."
"What, have you memorised them?"
"I'm a geek," said Greg, as if that explained everything.
Nick sighed. "No, Vincent Cook is not based on me. If he's based on anyone it'll be someone in the Nebraska State lab. Who, before anyone asks, are the people she consults over the science. Not me."
"But you have contributed some stuff," said Catherine.
"Only five hundred cat hairs and, apparently, Elvis." Nick sounded bemused by that last.
"Apparently Elvis?" In the doorway of the break room, Grissom looked puckishly amused. "Should I ask?"
"Anna Bradley's Nick's sister," said Greg.
"I knew that," said Grissom. "You didn't?" Then, apparently oblivious of the electric effect that statement had had on three of the room's occupants, he proceeded to hand out assignment slips and in short order, Sara found herself heading for the Tangiers in the company of a still visibly embarrassed Nick.
"So why did Grissom know and we didn't?" she asked.
"Because she needed some help with bugs for her next book - the one that's due out in May, not the one Greg's got. Anna asked me if I'd ask Gris if he'd be willing to help out, which meant explaining why a best selling novelist was asking some lowly CSI to get involved."
"I'm still not sure I see why this is such a big deal."
"You mean apart from knowing that at least two thirds of the lab are fans of hers and once this gets all the way round the place I'm going to be dealing with people asking me to get her to sign their books?"
"Apart from that," said Sara with a grin. "And, you know, I'm actually surprised Greg didn't already ask."
Nick sighed. "Warrick isn't quite right with what he said about the dedications. There is a repeat now. The other one's in the first Ruthie Mayhew book and it will answer your question - and that's all I'm saying."
With her curiosity raised to near fever-pitch, Sara wanted to press for a better answer. Unfortunately, as they'd arrived at the Tangiers, where an agitated looking Vega was waiting for them, she had to swallow back her questions and focus on the scene.
A couple of days later, while browsing in Borders, Nick's cryptic remarks came back to her and she found herself drifting towards a section of the store she normally avoided like the plague. Behind the large display of pristine editions of 'Burden of Proof', Sara found the rest of the Ruthie Mayhew novels and, after a small search, tracked down the first title in the series. She debated it for a moment, then added it to the couple of psychology textbooks she'd already picked out.
Twenty minutes later, books purchased, she settled down in the cafe with a tall latte and cracked open 'Living For Death'. A couple of pages in, after the acknowledgements and before the title page, she found the dedication, which read: For Parker - there's more to law than a courtroom. Find your own path.
Sara stared at the dedication. It was almost as cryptic as Nick's comment. And then it hit her. Ruthie Mayhew wasn't based on Nick - but who said Nick hadn't found a little inspiration from Ruthie?