This is the continuation of my first story, Rabbithole and takes place nearly two years later during Season 5 - after 'Going Under' and not long before 'Man Down'. As with the previous story, this began as a Horatio/Calleigh pairing but because of canon, I've reworked it as Eric/Calleigh - sort of. These two are finally getting a clue but it's still going to be a while before anything comes of it. Still, the pursuit of happiness is sometimes about the happiness of pursuit.
All the usual disclaimers - not mine, merely borrowing, promise to put them back.
Eric put his head in the door of Trace and nodded to Ryan before addressing Natalia, "Hey, have you seen Calleigh?"
The brunette looked up from the evidence she was studying and frowned a little, "Not since the Garcia crime scene. Have you tried calling her?" She rolled her eyes at the look on his face. Okay, it wasn't the brightest question. "Is she out of service or is it going to voicemail?"
"It's going to voicemail."
Ryan snorted softly and both Eric and Natalia looked over at him. Natalia spoke first, "What?"
"Nothing," the younger man shook his head, concentrating on the item he was examining.
The other two exchanged looks and Eric came further into the room, "What's going on, Wolfe?"
Ryan scowled as he raised his head, "Probably nothing. It was just something Cooper mentioned."
"What?" Eric did his best to rein in his temper. It wasn't like Calleigh to be out of touch with the lab for any length of time during work hours and he was getting worried. Their jobs could become dangerous at a moment's notice. It was something he always knew but hadn't really dwelt on, at least, not until Calleigh had been forced off the road and into a canal while on her way back from a crime scene. Getting that call from Horatio had scared the hell out of him. Despite their failed relationship, he still cared deeply for the blonde.
The younger man sighed, "Coop saw Calleigh and Jake Berkeley talking in the hallway before she left for the Garcia scene. He said Berkeley looked pretty smug afterwards and then he left about 20 minutes later."
"So?" Natalia looked at Ryan with a slight trace of annoyance. She'd had her share of innuendo while trying to overcome the stigma of being a Fed informant and she genuinely liked her blonde colleague. Horatio and Calleigh had been the first to forgive her transgressions and show support as she trained to become a CSI. What Ryan was obliquely suggesting didn't sit well with her and she didn't have to look at Eric to know his anger was growing.
"So, nothing," Ryan sounded exasperated, "I'm just telling you what Cooper saw, but Calleigh did leave the scene early." He finally turned and glared at Delko, "You know those two have a history together."
"And? This is Calleigh we're talking about. You really think she'd blow off work for Berkeley?" Eric's voice dripped with disdain as he moved closer to Ryan. He didn't much like the detective and it was hard not to transfer those feelings to Wolfe. It was even harder to believe that Calleigh had once been in a relationship with that egotistical jerk.
"No I don't, but where is she then?" Ryan shot back defensively, "I haven't seen Jake all afternoon either."
"All right, you two," Natalia cut in, "This isn't helping." She turned to Eric, "I'm sure there's a perfectly innocent reason for her not answering. Maybe she's interviewing a witness and doesn't want to be interrupted. If her phone is going to voicemail then you can track it with GPS." She swung a sharp look at Ryan before returning her attention to Delko, "Why not figure out where she is before you start jumping to conclusions?"
She stared at Eric until the tension in his shoulders lessened and he dropped his gaze, "Yeah, you're right." Delko shot a glance over at Ryan, "Sorry, man, I didn't mean to bite your head off."
"Yeah, you did but I can't blame you." Ryan relaxed as well, looking a bit sheepish. He knew how Eric worried about the petite blonde. He did, too. In the last couple of months, she'd had two close calls. "Just because Cooper's got an overactive imagination doesn't mean I should've been repeating it."
Natalia resealed the section of bloody shirt she'd been checking back into its evidence envelope and started for the door, "Come on, let's see about tracking the GPS." Eric stared as she breezed past him and headed out of the room. He quickly followed.
Ryan watched them leave and then stared at the table loaded with evidence. "Hey Ryan," he muttered sarcastically, "Would you mind processing all this? No? Great. See you later."
"That can't be right," Eric leaned in to get a better look at the screen.
Cooper raised his hands, "Hey man, GPS locators don't lie. Calleigh's at The Rainbow's End Motel off 56th Street."
"Her phone's there, you mean," Natalia was staring at the screen, too, with an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of her stomach. Bad enough they were literally spying on a teammate but to catch that teammate in an apparently compromising situation was a whole new experience. She glanced over at Eric, "What should we do?"
He looked at her for a long moment, "Nothing." Turning around, he strode out of AV.
Natalia watched him leave and then turned back and pinned Coop with a laser glare, "Not a word, you hear me? Not one word."
Cooper raised his hands in surrender along with a 'who me?' look. Natalia gave him one more glare and then, with a frustrated sigh, hurried after Delko. She caught up with him halfway down the corridor, "I'm coming with you."
Eric shot her a jaundiced look, "What makes you think I'm going anywhere?"
She rolled her eyes, "Because this is Calleigh and Calleigh doesn't do stuff like this." She hesitated for a second or two, "Should we tell Horatio?"
He shook his head, scowling, "No, not until we know what's going on." Natalia nodded silently and neither of them said anything else as they walked out to one of the department Hummers. Eric didn't even want to entertain the notion that Cooper had been right and that Jake and Calleigh were having an illicit rendezvous during their shift but there was always the possibility. He firmly quashed the feeling of jealousy. He had no right. Hell, he'd actually been the first one to get into another relationship. Eric had turned to Natalia. It was easy to do. She was beautiful, intelligent, warm - and definitely not blonde. They had kept it out of the office but it hadn't lasted that long. The pregnancy scare had put some distance between them and then Eric had stuck his foot in it, causing a complete break. He'd felt bad about it but also a bit relieved. Every time he was with Natalia, there was that niggling little sense of uneasiness - like he was doing something wrong.
Then Jake Berkeley had appeared on the scene and it turned out that he and Calleigh had been an item back at the Police Academy. The detective's smug arrogance was annoying as hell and it was all Eric could do to keep his mouth shut when that SOB set about trying to win Calleigh back. That the jerk seemed to be having some success was just mind-boggling. Despite that, Eric couldn't believe that Calleigh, as professional as she was, would jeopardize her reputation for a worktime quickie with Berkeley. If, however, it was true, he wasn't about to compound the problem by making Horatio aware of it.
Once they'd been driving for a few minutes, Natalia glanced over at Eric, "Mind if I ask a question?"
He managed a ghost of a smile, "Depends on the question."
Natalia smiled as well and then grew serious, "You, Ryan, even H - I don't understand why all of you are so... well, protective of Calleigh. I mean, it doesn't seem like she needs it. That woman's one of the most competent, professional people I've ever met."
Eric didn't say anything at first. Finally, he said softly, "We nearly lost her. I don't want to go through that again."
"You mean when she wound up in the canal?" Natalia looked confused. It had been a scary situation but Calleigh had seemed unaffected by it, not even taking the rest of the day off. No doubt about it, that soft-spoken little Southern woman was tough as nails.
"Not that," Eric shook his head before glancing over at the brunette, "Remember the Hennessey murders?"
She stared at him, clearly trying to remember, "That was a couple of years ago, right? I was in DC at the time. Rich society couple murdered by her lover and he turned out to be a serial killer? You guys caught him."
"But not before he nearly killed Calleigh - twice," Eric's expression was grim. "We were at a dead end and Calleigh and I went back to reprocess the house. I was upstairs while she worked the downstairs scene in the study. What we didn't know was that the killer had come back looking for incriminating evidence. There was a secret panic room off the study and that SOB was there, watching us. Calleigh found what he wanted, hidden in the study. He snuck up on her, shoved a knife in her back and stole it. She was in the hospital for nearly a week and a half."
Natalia's eyes were round with surprise. "Dear god," she said faintly.
"It got worse. He became fixated on her. When Alexx was taking her home after she was released from the hospital, he killed the officer escorting them and abducted them both. Calleigh jumped the guy and Alexx got away but was shot in the process. He didn't bother following up, thank god. I don't think he really cared one way or the other about Alexx, he wanted Calleigh. He was going to 'reprogram' her - using electrical shock. He had this floating nightmare of a boat rigged up and was on his way to Haiti when we finally caught up with him. By then, he'd had her for three or four hours. He was messing with her head while he tortured her. I don't know exactly what he was trying, she still won't talk about it, but he did a helluva number on her. I know she wasn't expecting to be rescued." Eric stopped talking and concentrated on his driving, his hands clenched so tightly on the steering wheel that the knuckles were white.
He jumped a little when Natalia laid a hand on his forearm. "Hey, you did rescue her. Stop beating yourself up about it."
Eric took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, "Yeah, well, it wasn't enough. She's different." He flashed a quick smile at her, "You didn't know Calleigh before. She used to smile a lot more."
"These things take time," Natalia said gently before settling back in her seat. Her ex had taught her about pain and fear. She wondered what it would have been like if she'd also been convinced there was no escape. Suppressing a shudder, she looked at the GPS, "We're almost there." Eric nodded quietly.
They pulled into the parking lot of The Rainbow's End a few minutes later. "Damn," Natalia said, looking at the shabby, run-down building, "No self-respecting leprechaun would be found here."
Eric scowled as he got out of the Hummer, "I don't think Calleigh will be either." That knot in his stomach he'd been harboring grew a little bit more.
They walked into the office and a large, overweight man looked up from his paper, "$39.95 per day for a double or you can rent by the hour. Ten bucks." He leered openly at Natalia, "First hour's free if I get a turn, too."
Natalia glanced away while Eric frowned. He pulled his shield off his belt and shoved it forward, "Miami-Dade PD, asshole. I'm looking for a Calleigh Duquesne."
The man dropped his paper and raised his hands, "Hey man, take it easy. I was just kidding."
Eric tapped the counter, "Calleigh Duquesne."
Delko waited impatiently as the man heaved himself up and made his way to the counter. He flipped through a battered, dog-eared book and then frowned at Eric, "How the hell do you spell that?" He continued at look at the pages as Eric spelled it out and then pointed at a spot, "Ha, yeah, there she is, Room 149." He spun the book around for the two CSIs to see, "Checked in a couple of hours ago, paid cash."
Eric gestured at him, "Come on, we'll need your passkey."
Nervous, the man pulled out a ring of keys, "Yeah, yeah, sure. Listen, if this is some whore, I don't know nothing about it."
"Shut up," Delko growled, "Take us to the room." He refused to look at Natalia. At this point, he wasn't sure which would be worse - barging in on Calleigh under these circumstances or finding out she wasn't there.
The man led them nearly to the end of the building and pointed at a door, "This is it." The curtains were drawn tight while a small window air conditioner labored nosily.
Eric held out his hand, "Give me the key and step back." He passed it over to Natalia while drawing his sidearm, "Open the door and then move out of the way." She nodded once, her features taut. He brought up the pistol, taking a two-handed grip, bracing himself and nodded sharply to Natalia, "Go." Crouching down, she quietly unlocked the door and pushed it partly open before flattening herself against the side of the building. Eric shoved it open the rest of the way, yelling, "MIami-Dade Police! Don't move!"
A woman screamed, immediately followed by a man's bellow, "What the hell - ?"
Eric moved further into the room, feeling curiously relieved. It wasn't Calleigh or Jake. A skinny, wispy-haired redhead was holding the sheet up to her chin while a middle-aged man stared at him, "Swear to God, Officer, she told me she was 21!"
"Shut up!" Eric snapped, his anxiety returning full-force. "Where are your cellphones?"
Mystified, the couple exchanged glances. The man pointed at a pile of clothes, "Back pocket of my pants." The girl nodded towards a chair, "In my purse."
Eric kept his service weapon trained on the two while Natalia collected the phones. She held up the one from the purse, her expression grim, "This is it."
Delko gestured at the man, "You, get your clothes and get out of here." He waited until the man had bolted from the room before turning his attention back to the girl, "Where'd you get the phone?"
He shook his head, "That phone belongs to a missing police officer. Try again."
"I found it," she insisted.
"Fine, you're under arrest. Get dressed." Eric lowered his pistol towards the floor but kept it out. He watched impassively as Natalia handed clothes to the girl, his mind racing. Where the hell was Calleigh? He didn't think he could go through this again. They'd managed to maintain their friendship and that had meant more to Eric than he could have possibly imagined. It had been tough at first after their break-up - if you could call it that, seeing how they'd barely gotten started, but the tension had gradually eased. If nothing else, Calleigh had become a lot more open with him. Knowing the walls that she kept up, it was warming to know he was one of the few allowed inside. He had her complete trust. Eric knew just how hard that was to come by.
The girl found her voice again as Natalia put the handcuffs on her, "You can't arrest me! I didn't do anything!"
"Sure you didn't - you just happened use that officer's name when you checked in." Eric moved a step closer, "If anything has happened to Officer Duquesne, you're the one we're going to blame. You might want to think about that while you're sitting in holding." He looked over at Natalia as he holstered his pistol and pulled out his cellphone, "Call for a radio car to take her in. Now it's time to call Horatio."
It was nearly 5:00 before Eric and Natalia finally left the seedy, little motel. Horatio had taken the news calmly but Eric had the feeling all hell would be breaking loose soon. They were halfway to the lab when Horatio called back. Eric put it on speaker, "Yeah, H?"
There was a slight pause and then Horatio's voice came crackling over, "We've tracked the Hummer Calleigh was driving to an abandoned warehouse complex near the 'Glades. Frank and I are on our way now." He rattled off an address.
"Got it. We'll be there soon." Eric glanced at Natalia for a second, "H? Any contact with Calleigh?"
The pause was a little longer, "Negative. The Hummer stopped transmitting about two hours ago." Eric swallowed heavily and neither he nor Natalia said another word until they reached the scene.