Chapter One

Grissom needed someone to accompany him to a small town nearly four hours north. The problem was that Warrick and Nick were working a triple homicide and Catherine and Greg were investigating a possible kidnapping. That left only Sophia and Sara, and considering that Sophia had left on a four-day break, he had no choice but to alert Sara of their journey. He knew she wasn't looking forward to the thought of it as she stared at him blankly then snatched the paper with the location from his hand and started toward her locker to get her extra clothing she would need for an overnight venture.

Within half an hour, they were in the Denali and heading out of the city, neither saying a word as they sat uncomfortably on their separate sides of the vehicle. After nearly two hours, he suggested they stop at the next rest stop and she agreed with a simple "fine," and fourteen miles down the road he pulled into a diner that had seen much better days. They both visited the restroom with him returning to the dining area moments before her. He chose a table near the corner and looked at the menu that a waitress that could have been named "Flo" but wore a name tag reading "Marg." He wondered how many pieces of gum it would take to make a wad the size that she was chomping in her mouth when Sara approached the table and tried to wait inconspicuously as Marg tried her best to impress Grissom with her feminine wiles. Finally, Sara moved around her.

"Excuse me," she mumbled as she slid into the booth across from Grissom.

"Oh, I'm sorry, honey," Marg said with a distinct south-western accent. "I didn't see a little thing like you standin' there. What can I get for ya?"

Sara looked across the table at Grissom who was still looking at the menu. "What are "you" getting?"

"Coffee and a turkey club." He handed the menu back to Marg, then looked over at Sara.

"I'll take an unsweetened ice tea. Do you have any Splenda?"

"We have Equal. Will that do?"

"Yes. That's fine."

"What can I get ya to eat, sweetie? You look like you could use some meat on those bones."

Sara stared at the woman a moment. "Thanks—Marg. I'll keep that in mind. But, I think I'll just take the iced tea."

"Okay, Sweetie. Whatever floats yer boat."

"Thank you," Sara commented as Marg returned to the cooking area and handed in the order for Grissom's turkey club sandwich.

"She's probably right, ya know," Grissom told her. "You really should get something to eat. We're only halfway there. I don't think this town is known for its fast food joints—so it may be the last meal you'll have tonight."

"No, thank you."

"Suit yourself." He turned his gaze out the window at the desert surrounding them, not wanting to simply sit there and look at her, that was too risky. He had made a habit lately of "not" doing that, for his own salvation. But when he looked back at her, he found her gaze upon him. The fact that it wasn't exactly on his face intrigued him and as he saw what she was looking at, he wondered just what she found so interesting about his hands and forearms. "Something wrong?"

"Hmm?" She looked up at him quickly, a bit of embarrassment in her cheeks. "No, why would there be anything wrong?"

"I just thought there was something on my jacket that I might've rubbed into." When he received a questioning look, he added, "You were staring at my hands and arms."

"No—I. . .," she started as she looked down at her own hands. "I guess I was just deep in thought, that's all."

"Care to talk about it?"

"I don't think the color of my living room walls would be of much interest to you." She smiled slightly then looked back out through the window.

"You're remodeling?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "I was thinking about it. Depends."

"On what?" he asked as Marg poured him a cup of coffee.

"I guess on how long I plan to be here. It's starting to look a little ratty, but there's no sense painting the walls if I won't be staying." She accepted the glass of iced tea that was sat in front of her.

"You're looking around for a new apartment?"

"No," she started slowly, waiting for Marg to deposit his turkey club in front of him, then walk away. "I'm not looking for a new apartment. At least not around here, anyway."

"Then where?" When she didn't answer, he went on. "Sara?"

She shrugged her shoulders and looked out the window again. "I'd rather not talk about it right now."

"You'll let me know when you "are" ready to discuss it, won't you?" He asked a bit snidely. "Information like that might come in handy when I'm assigning cases to the crew and I'm one short."

She looked back at him, her lips quivering in an attempt to control her emotions that were showing plainly on her face. Again, she toyed with her glass of tea.

"You'll be the first one to know," she said quietly, then after a moment of silence, as he was chewing a mouthful of sandwich, she went on. "Why did you assign me to come with you on this case?"

He looked at her as he chewed and eventually swallowed. "Because it's your job."

"I mean—why me? Why not one of the other guys?"

"They were busy. You weren't. Is there a problem? If you're having a problem with this assignment—let me know now, and I'll have someone come and pick you up, and hopefully have a replacement sent by tomorrow."

"Like Sophia?"

Grissom sat a little straighter as he looked at his food. "Sophia isn't in the area. She had a four-day break and went away."

Sara gave a single nod, then moved to get up from the booth. "I'll work the case. I'm not going to have a problem with it."

He watched her move out the door and wait by the truck. He put his sandwich down on his plate, having lost his appetite, and drank some of his coffee. He left some bills on the table to cover the cost of the order then went outside and got into the truck. He knew that the next two hours couldn't pass fast enough for him. At least once they got to the town, they would be busy working, and when they wouldn't be working, they'd be staying in separate rooms at the motel. Until then, he'd have to put up with a long, silent, ride.

Grissom and Sara had been working on finding the remains of a young woman, then processing their evidence, all night and most of the morning. They knew they'd have to continue with the investigation, but at this point, they were both extremely tired and were at a standstill until the lab back in Vegas could gather some information and fax it to them. They were looking at perhaps four hours or more until it would be collected and passed on.

So, in the meantime, they thought some rest and a shower would do them both some good. They drove to the other end of town, more out of the need to have the truck close to them than the need to actually ride as the town was so small they could practically throw a rock from one end to the other. As he looked at the building, he couldn't stop himself from looking off in the distance for a creepy old house on a hill with an old woman sitting at the window. He half-expected Norman Bates to greet him when he pulled open the noisy screen door to the motel office, but was met by an older man who looked about as menacing as a newborn puppy.

"Hi," Grissom said to the man as Sara waited for him outside, on the wooden sidewalk. "I have a reservation for Grissom and Sidle."

The man grunted and pulled a key from behind the counter and handed it to him.

"Number nine," he told him in a gravelly voice as Grissom stood waiting, making the gentleman repeat himself. "I said room nine. It's just out the door and down nine rooms. Kinda easy to figure that one out."

"But there are two of us. I reserved two rooms. Where's the other key?"

"There is no other key. Someone called last night and said they wanted a room for Grissom and Sidle. That's what ya got."

"I "meant" a room for each of us. We'll need another room," he told him but only received a laugh from the man.

"Well, good luck getting one. You're lucky you got that one. This place is completely booked."

"Come on," Grissom said with disbelief. "There aren't even this many people living in the whole town—and you expect me to believe that you got a big crowd of tourists overnight?"

"Yep. Old Man Phillips passed over a few days ago. He's getting quite a send-off, between all his kids and grandkids, and anyone else who thinks they might be in his will. So, like I said, you're lucky there was a room left at all. Take it or leave it."

"Yeah, I'm lucky alright," Grissom grumbled as he started back out of the office, not looking forward to Sara's ire when she found out they had to share a room. "Remind me to thank Old Man Phillips."

"Can't," he called after him as the screen door banged closed behind him. "He's dead!"