FINISHED! ...COMPLETED! The nightmare, the bane of my existence is complete …GOD! I thought it would never end. So much for what was supposed to be a simple one-chapter story that posed an idea, that Greg left the lab…it became a monster.
In the eternity I've been writing this thing, I've gotten married, bought a house and, heaven forfend, become vaguely civilised, and all through it this story has been here a companion (or, more likely, a lodestone). I think I'll miss it now that it's gone.
Over the period of writing I've been gifted with several generous, wonderful beta-readers most of whom I scared off into the hills because I am a demanding, bad-tempered bastard (and those are my good points). Anyway, sincere thanks and recognition to Michmak, Emily and Kat, but most of all, to 'tasha, fellow grammar nazi and nag-exemplar, I doubt that without her harpy-like screeches of "Where's the next chapter" I doubt this would have ever been finished.
In writing this fic I've learnt a lot, most especially about myself but more importantly I've had some good laughs.
Finally, to you, the reader, especially those mad bastards who've stuck with this from go to whoa (or should that be woe?) I thank you! Even those who've not liked what I've written, I thank you (especially the slash writer who threatened to stop reading when I diverted too far from canon).
Now it is done, and there is only one thing left to say, NEVER AGAIN. At least not a CSI fic...I don't think I could stand it.
Goodbye. God Bless and as the late, lamented Ronnie Barker would have said: "It's goodnight from him."
to power is not a being, not a becoming, but a pathos –
the most elemental fact from which a becoming and
effecting first emerge
Nietzsche: The Will to Power
Democratic institutions are quarantine arrangements to combat that
pestilence, lust for tyranny: as such they are very useful and very boring.
Nietzsche: The Wanderer and his Shadow
There is not enough love and goodness in the world for us to be
to giveany of it away to imaginary things.
Nietzsche's Human, all too Human
Grissom regarded his colleagues with a resigned air. Of course, such a pose wasn't entirely new, although in this instance, as the subject was himself and his extras-curricular relationships, and not the theoretical and procedural shortcomings of the various CSIs, he felt somewhat exposed – actually, chained out naked on a rock waiting for the dragon to come was more accurate, but that is neither here nor there. The feelings of resignation were also due, in no small part, to the mountain of paper, comprising various files, pieces of evidence and the other accoutrements of the Shakespeare Killer case, that, despite countless hours of work, seemed no smaller than when he had started his review. In fact, the various piles appeared larger than when he started, even with the combined help of Ecklie and Sanders who had joined him in his task. Now, after several hours reading fine print and examining various pieces of evidence through a plethora of magnification devices all three were tired and rapidly approaching a state where focusing their eyes become problematic.
"Coffee, Ecklie? Grissom?"
The pair regarded the younger man with grateful looks, "I assume this is going to be the good stuff from your secret supply and not the rubbish posing as coffee in the break room."
"Sure, Ecklie, it wouldn't be any fun poisoning the pair of you while you're this tired, I wouldn't know if I'd been successful or if you'd simply gone to sleep."
"Actually," noted Grissom, "I'd take it as a mercy if you'd put me out of my misery; either that, or bring me a nice brick wall with my coffee so I have something to bang my head against."
"I'll help," offered Ecklie.
"What?" inquired Grissom, "bring me coffee?"
"No. Bang your head against a wall."
"That's very charitable of you Conrad, although the degree of enthusiasm with which you're extending the offer causes me to harbour some doubts as to the true intent of your motivation, to that end, I'll take the coffee."
"I'm sure you will, Grissom; it's not particularly trusting of you, or, for that matter, particularly brave, but I guess I'll escape with my feelings relatively intact. As to my motivation, well, we must defer to those tasks that the good lord deemed us most worthy of fulfilling. In this instance, Sanders' purpose is to make coffee, mine is to bait you and you, well I'm not too sure about you."
"He appears to be quite good at looking tired and stressed and he does a good line in 'woe is me'," noted Greg, in a very poor attempt at a sotto voce aside
"In that case coffee might not be the best idea; it might add to the melodrama."
Grissom looked mournful, "You wouldn't deny a man coffee would you? That's just cruel and unusual. I'm a good person, I pay my taxes and feed my piranha, the least you can do in return is give me my duly earned coffee."
"Grissom, that was truly pathetic."
Gil smirked, "I know, I was quite proud of it myself."
"When did you last sleep Grissom?" despite the levity of moments past, Greg actually sounded concerned.
"Sometime yesterday? Why do you ask?"
"Because if you were proud of the last comeback, as pathetic as it was, you're more tired that you realise; that last comment wasn't worthy of Nick, let alone you," he looked to Ecklie for support, "maybe you should call it quits for the night and get some rest."
Ecklie nodded, "He's right, Gil, if I started sounding like Stokes I'd want to get some rest." Ecklie paused for a moment, "No, scratch that, if I started to sound like Stokes I'd be thinking about throwing myself off a cliff, but that's beside the point, maybe Sanders is right, maybe a break is the best idea."
Normally Grissom would have felt somewhat annoyed at an intimation, no matter how well intended, that he was in someway subject to the weaknesses endemic to the human species – a species, he readily acknowledged, that could, at times, be defined by its fallibility. He was about to respond that he was fine when a yawn more akin to a gaping chasm tried to make off with the top of his head leaving him no choice but to admit that he was indeed tired.
"Will you go home?" asked Greg, sensing the opportunity to push home this momentary advantage. "Do you want me to call Ms Babylon to come and collect you?"
Maybe it was the thought of being collected from his place of work by his…his whatever the hell she was, that made Grissom balk. Again, the intimations of normal humanity stalked him like a giant stalking thing and he felt enveloped in a cloak of uncertainty.
"No. I want to stay. I will, however, have a break. How do you gentleman feel about accompanying me to my office and we'll attempt some semblance of relaxation."
Despite the fact that the invitation sounded more like an invitation to Royal Garden Party than a simple request for shared company over coffee, Greg and Ecklie agreed, if for no other reason than that they had got Grissom to take a break and such a victory deserved a celebration. Rising from their chairs, the three men moved in companionable silence through the near-deserted hallways of the building towards Grissom's office.
"I'll see you two in a moment," said Greg, as he made to divert towards the lab area.
"Where are you going, Greg?"
"You said you wanted coffee, remember? I have to go and get it from the lab, I mean, it's not like I hide it in your office, Grissom."
"Maybe you should."
"And how would that benefit me?"
"Well, you'd have my eternal gratitude," replied Grissom, in a tone that was pure facetiousness.
"That and fifty cents will get me a cup of…" Greg paused in his recitation of the well-known cliché; "actually, it wouldn't even get me a cup of coffee seeing as how it would now be located in your office."
" I would be more than happy to…"
"…Lend me some of my own coffee, how very generous of you."
Ecklie and Grisson watched as Greg turned on his heel and headed for the lab, "You know, Gil, that boy has come a long way."
"Not really, Conrad."
"How do you mean?"
"I've long since come to the conclusion that he was already there and that it is us, well me, I suppose, who has finally opened my eyes enough to look at the scenery."
"That's all very metaphorical, but noticeably short on tangible information, would you care to translate?"
"Preconception is a dangerous thing, especially when applied to oneself."
"Jesus Gil, have you been secretly sipping the formaldehyde from that damn pig of yours? I mean, can you get any more Delphic?"
Grissom regarded his colleague with amused tolerance and, he silently admitted, companionable good humour, "Okay," he conceded, "it's like this. Greg originally left the lab because he was sick of being taken for granted and, much to my shame, being taken for an idiot solely because he appeared and acted differently. I have, of late, come discover, that not only is Greg far from being an idiot but that I should have known better to judge a book by it's cover."
Ecklie smiled in understanding, "Did you never look at his college transcripts when you hired him?"
Grissom had the grace to look embarrassed, "I never got around to it. Greg was hired when I was at a conference and when I got back we were swamped with work and by the time we managed to get a bit of breathing space it was like he was part of the furniture; a highly competent piece of furniture, so I never bothered."
"I take it you've looked since," noted Ecklie, clearly implying that he was already well aware of the relevant information.
"Oh yes." The shift head visibly winced, "His chemistry and bio-chemistry marks are little short stratospheric; I suppose it's to his credit that he never bothered to put the others in their place when they talked down to him."
"Maybe he should have; some of your staff, as competent as they are, need to be reminded occasionally that they aren't the sole reason for the Earth's orbiting of the sun."
"Maybe so, but I don't really think it's in his nature to do so; either that, or he just gave up caring. Anyway, that's beside the point. Due to our, or, if you like, my lack of attention, we've essentially lost him and now that he has other goals he's pursuing we won't be able to retain his services permanently and that loss of knowledge and ability is the last thing an organisation such as ours needs."
"Well, I was up at LVU several months ago…"
Fifteen minutes later, Greg wandered into Grissom's office, arriving just as the conversation between the two men appeared to be tailing off.
"Why are my ears burning?" he asked, although, from his expression, he didn't appear overly concerned that he appeared to have been the primary topic of conversation.
"I was just telling Conrad what you were doing at LVU," replied Grissom.
"Very impressive, Sanders; who knew you were civilised?"
"No one here."
Grissom, smiling, rose from his chair and walked over a cabinet from which he withdrew a very battered looking coffee maker, "I assume you have the relevant equipment."
Greg held up a small bag of ground coffee.
"Excellent." Grissom paused, "What took you so long? The lab's only just down the hall."
"There were people in the lab, I had to wait for them to go. Then I had to grind some beans and then clean the grinder."
"You grind your beans here?"
"Surely you're not suggesting that I let coffee grounds sit for an extended period?"
"Well, why not?"
Greg looked horrified. "You dare to call yourself a scientist, Grissom. The grounds oxidise, it ruins the coffee."
"It's only a cup of coffee, Sanders," noted Ecklie, clearly bemused at the young man's passion.
Greg's mouth worked, but no sound came out.
"I think I broke him."
"No," said Grissom, "I think what you said counts as blasphemy; you've just attacked one of the pillars of his religion."
"Shut up, Grissom," muttered Greg absently, becoming engrossed in the preparation of the sacred beverage, "or you won't get any."
"Shutting up now."
"I can see why you're a shift head." Noted Ecklie, admiringly.
All three men smiled.
From that point on, the conversation decanted into relaxed small talk – insofar as the three men were capable of such under the present conditions.
About an hour passed before the trio decided to return to work; after all, they had agreed to Grissom's contention that they were only taking a break, nevertheless it was patently obvious to Sanders and Ecklie that Grissom had no business returning to work such was his obvious level of fatigue and, more importantly, the frightening resemblance he now bore to a zombie – a highly caffeinated zombie, true, but a zombie nonetheless.
Frustration began to set in almost immediately as fatigue – irrespective of the quality of the coffee - took its inevitable toll on the cognitive faculties of the three; especially Grissom, but also Ecklie, as his recent escape from Hospitraz was continuing to affect him. Greg, while also tired, although not to the same degree as his older colleagues, was suffering more from the effects of nervous anticipation as he considered the incipient arrival of the competition; to that end he found himself idly twirling the small, plastic wrapped bear, the one he had returned to the lab, in his hands. One spin returned the bear to a position where it directly faced the young man and its solemn gaze triggered a spark of something previously not considered by those undertaking the analysis of the case
"You know Grissom, I've just had a thought;" he gestured abstractedly, "would you mind passing me the officers' reports for the apprehension of the suspect at the orphanage."
After a moment of searching or, more accurately, digging, Grissom handed the relevant documents to his younger colleague with a questioning look, "Do you plan of sharing this thought; or shall it be let go, bereft, like an orphan in the wilderness?"
"Hold on," Greg murmured, his eyes scanning the cramped script carefully, searching for that single detail, that single memory that the bear's gaze had prompted. "Do you remember, Grissom, when reading this, how the suspect was found?"
"He was, if I recall the incident to which you are referring, staring as if transfixed, at a small child."
"Correct. However," Greg continued, "I don't think it was the child that he was staring at."
"Then what?" asked Ecklie, who was starting to feel somewhat unloved as the dialogue unconsciously excluded him.
"And I quote from the document: "The child, no older than five or six years, was dressed in simple clothing and was in possession of a small stuffed toy; on closer examination, a bear." Greg held the plastic-wrapped bear beside the report, "I don't think it was the child that stopped him; I think it was the bear."
"You're serious?" Grissom wasn't scoffing, but his gaze was somewhat askance as he examined the unusual suggestion.
"Do you have any better ideas?"
"Well…no…" muttered Grissom, trying not to sound overly defensive. "What do you think Conrad? Is it plausible?"
"The bear? It's not what I would have thought but experience has taught me, as well it should have you Grissom, that we can't make assumptions about these things; anyway, with everything related to this case and its happenings, a small stuffed bear would be one of the least perplexing things we have encountered."
Grissom sighed. "I can't argue with you there." Making a decision he stood "Alright we see if the bear has any effect on our guest; obviously, we'll need a police officer to formalise the interrogation process."
"Tell you what," said Ecklie, "I'm going to leave now, shall I have reception page Brass and have him meet you outside interrogation room one?"
"That would be fine, thanks, Conrad."
"No problem, Gil. G'night Sanders."
It had taken some time but now a measure of awareness had returned; awareness defined not only by a sense of spatial recognition but also awareness in the sense of self that all people retain on an unconscious level.
Gone was the almost constant susurration in his head. He found the quiet unnerving and yet didn't know why and this frightened him; not, of course, that he could actually identify the sensation as fright so long had he been disassociated from the reality of his humanity. 'Cogito ergo sum' Descartes had written centuries ago, and it may as well have been centuries since he had last thought as himself, as a man, and thus he was not.
In any event, even if he had been able to think he had no memory with which to contextualise anything.
The room in which he was held was relatively non-descript, that is, it held no remarkably distinguishing features unless, of course, one considers the simple existence of four walls and a door a series of features worthy of notice, which, if you ever took the time to listen to Chief Calliope's rants on the latest police budget, you would have done so. Fortunately, or not, the man in question was about as aware of the Chief's identity as he was of his own and therefore the displacement of the room caused little comment.
It was quiet
He found the silence disturbing but couldn't identify the reasons for this. A psychiatrist might have posited that the extended period of intellectual dormancy resulting from his condition that he had experienced had reduced his reasoning centres to little more than atrophied components of an autonomic system; of course that would have meant nothing to the man.
As he fought against the mental inertia that held sway over him the door to the room opened and three men entered. Entropy may have indeed held sway over his being but he was still able to count to three. Of the three men, two were older, and one very obviously younger with what appeared to be some sort of exotic bird nesting in his hair – if the latter thought was somewhat incongruous he couldn't have said why. Again, without knowing why, something drew his attention to the youngest of the three and more specifically to something he held in his hands. At first, the item appeared somewhat indistinct, wrapped, as it was, in plastic.
As the men came closer he was able to identify what the package held; it was a small bear, it was HIS bear.
Then he remembered.
And his heart broke apart.
The sudden collapse of the suspect caused the three men to be momentarily stunned into immobility before training overtook surprise and Brass raced – inasmuch as racing was possible in such a confined space – to the side of the fallen man and felt for a pulse.
Jim Brass shook his head tiredly "Sorry, Gil. No pulse. He's dead."
"But what about the case?"
"Screw the case, Grissom; can you imagine what the press are going to do with this? 'Shakespeare Killer Dies in Police Custody' is going to be a banner headline across every paper in the state; in the country if we're really unlucky."
"But we didn't do anything."
"And who's going to believe that? Especially when considering that one of his last victims was a policeman; the police don't exactly have a stellar reputation when dealing with crimes against their own."
"Come on Brass, this is Las Vegas, not New York."
"All that means is that the police are more likely to push people off the roof of a casino instead of beating them to death in the cells, or having the suspect accidentally drown themselves in a toilet."
"Well, we're alright then as the suspect died in police custody and not from a fall. Q.E.D."
"As arguments go Grissom, that doesn't fill me with any confidence. Anyway, the papers are going to be more upset due to their being unable to acquire their pound of flesh or pint of blood through the sensation of a trial; face it Grissom, we've taken away the media's sport and that leaves us as their sole target." Brass paused to take a breath "can you guess how excited I am by this? Can you guess how even more excited the Chief and the mayor are going to be?"
Grissom shrugged insouciantly, more than anything he could have said this conveyed how very little he cared about the reactions of the mayor and chief of police and that, even if he did care, there wasn't a hell of a lot he could do about it. Just quietly, and completely unofficially, and of course, totally innocently, he would have a word, or maybe two words - which might, just might happen to slip from him in a post-coital haze - with Agatha, she'd know how to handle the media.
"Maybe it's for the best," noted Greg; his voice quiet and subdued.
"How do you mean?" asked Brass, too emotionally drained to inject even a smidgeon of sarcasm into his question.
Greg brandished a folder at the policeman, "Lab results; they were dropped off while you and Grissom were discussing the merits of the public and media reaction to our, well… now, I guess, our corpse."
"Well it's definitely him, and by him I mean the person whose blood evidence was found at the killing of the family and from DNA evidence found at Mister Bates' apartment; probably more than enough for a conviction on at least those five murders."
"Why just those five?"
"You know, as well as anyone at the lab and in the taskforce, that there was no DNA evidence left behind at any of the crime scenes previous to the family killing. Any link made to them would at best be circumstantial and even then weakly circumstantial. You know the DA wouldn't even try to prosecute those cases when the more concrete evidence is enough to put this person away."
Brass shrugged, "True enough. Tell me though, why do you think this," he indicated the corpse "is for the best."
"It's an ending. Proper closure if you like. People can only move on from this; I think that's probably a good thing; at least it's one less thing to make a political football out of."
The two older men regarded silently communicating in a way possible only by those long exposed to each other before Grissom nodded at Greg. "You're probably right; but there's still going to be a godawful mess to clean up."
"True enough." Greg stopped to look at his watch, which had decided to take this opportune moment to beep at him. "Look, sorry, I have to go."
Grissom smiled. "Preparation?"
"Yep." Greg confirmed. He looked nervously at the older man, "You'll be there?"
"You'll tell the others?"
"Again, of course. Now go; we can tidy up here."
"Okay, thanks Grissom. See you later Brass"
"What was all that about?" inquired Brass as he watched Greg leave the room.
"I'll tell you on the way back to my office; we have reports to write."
No meeting had been arranged, yet they had gathered one-by-one, drawn by what would have appeared to an outsider (or maybe a zoologist) as a herd-based homing instinct. Nor did the group appear to communicate, for no one spoke. Even the normally robust banter that characterised their interactions was absent. Yet it was not an ominous silence, nor one of bitterness or regret, instead it was one of puzzlement as each member of the assembled group tried to figure out why they each held a personalised invitation; more to the point, a personalised invitation from an anonymous source.
So they had come, as they normally did when presented with a particularly new, troubling or insoluble problem, to the person who usually had an answer for everything: Grissom; except Grissom didn't happen to be in his office at that point in time; thus the assembled CSIs – and Brass - waited, in much the same manner as assembled students did when waiting on the pleasure of the headmaster.
Inevitably, it was Catherine, never one happy to sit and stew, who broke the silence.
"So, what is this concert thing?"
"That would be Concert Finale to the Nevada Composition Competition," replied Nick, reading from the invitation.
"Yes, thank you Nick, however, I too can read," came the acerbic response, "what I meant, in a non-literal sense," she took time to glare at the Texan, who, as usual, was completely oblivious to her ire, "was why did we each get one of these, and perhaps more importantly, from whom?"
"The answer to your question, or the latter part thereof, would be Greg." Came the response from the doorway as Grissom entered his office.
"Did he acquire some free tickets?" inquired Sara, "if so, it was nice to him of think of us," she paused, a considering look on her face, "but considering what he listens to I am surprised that he would even have tickets to a classical concert let alone consider inviting us."
For a brief moment, Grissom's expression darkened as he thought back to when Greg had identified the classical music playing in Grissom's office when he came to offer his resignation. Then later, when he ran into Greg at the university and discovered what his former lab technician was studying. If nothing else, his young friend, for in truth that was what Greg had become, had demonstrably reminded Grissom of the error of judging by appearance, and now, at the lab, surrounded by his colleagues and friends - intelligent, talented people - he was once again, reminded of that folly.
"Actually, Sara," amended Grissom, "Greg has tickets because he is one of the finalists."
"Grissom, that's not funny," remarked Catherine; "you shouldn't make fun of Greg like that."
"…And why would I be making fun of Greg?" the older man inquired, "Do you see him here to make fun of?"
"Well no…" She had to acknowledge the truth of that statement. Grissom was never one to stab someone in the back when they had a perfectly good face.
Before Catherine could continue, Grissom continued inexorably, "Is it then that you think Greg is incapable of undertaking something like…for existence… composition…or that, heaven forefend, he might actually be good at it?
Not even Nick would have missed the obviousness of the trap Grissom was laying, but Catherine, almost immobile in disbelief, walked straight into it, "But it's Greg…"
"That wouldn't rank as one of your more cogent arguments, Catherine," noted Brass, "would you like a shovel to dig yourself in deeper?" There was no mistaking the malice in the detective's tone; for as much as he liked the woman, he was also a firm believer in cutting down to size those people whose opinion of themselves transcended the bounds of an acceptably polite reality. It also wasn't in Catherine's favour that Brass held a high opinion of the subject-du-heure
"Oh come on, Brass, Grissom, admit it, Greg is not the sort of person you would expect to be involved in something like this" she gestured for the other CSIs present to add some measure of support to her statement.
"And what, Catherine, would you expect someone like Greg to be involved in?"
Not even Catherine was going there.
"So Catherine," Grissom continued, "in light of your observations, may I assume that you're not coming to the concert?"
The fiery redhead regarded her superior in such a manner as to indicate that his sanity was in question, "Of course I'm coming…it's Greg."
"So, Sanders, how you feeling?"
"Is it too late to run away?"
"I guess not, but I really can't be bothered tracking you down, hog-tying you and dragging you back to face the music."
Greg visibly winced. "That pun was appalling, Rilie, I don't deserve that in my delicate state."
"Harden up boy, it won't be that bad. I mean all that's happening is that your original piece of music is being played in front of several thousand people. Then all you have to do, once the music has finished, is come onstage, in front of said seething mass, to answer a few questions from the conductor before you slink off."
"That's all, huh?"
"Yes; and do try and sound vaguely intelligent when you're being asked questions, it would be exceptionally bad form for you to come off sounding like an idiot." The young woman gave Greg, who looked like Bambi after he'd found that his mother had been drawn to face Godzilla in the world boxing champs, a measuring look, "on second thought, how about you shoot for coherent and hope for the best?"
"Thanks for the vote of confidence." He grinned wryly, "although I have to admit, you're probably right, as long as I don't stand there and go 'eep' I'll be fairly happy. Also, for some strange reason, I gave all my complimentary tickets to the people from the lab so it's not like I'll have to deal with a credibility issue with at least one section of the audience."
Rilie wasn't entirely sure if Greg was joking.
"I thought you kept that masochistic streak of yours for the bedroom."
"True, but it wouldn't do for me to appear on stage in a leather g-string and a studded collar."
"It wouldn't do for you to turn up in the bedroom looking like that either, I'd hate to think how your performance would be affected if I collapsed in hysterics."
"That's not what your godmother says."
"You leave Heather out of this."
"Why? She was just full of useful advice when I dropped her complimentary ticket off."
"I thought you said you'd given them to the lab staff."
"I did, except for those tickets that I didn't."
"Whom have to seated her next to?"
Greg grinned evilly, "Who do you think?"
"That's a horrible thing to do to Grissom, especially seeing as he's being taken advantage of by that miniature viper who's cunningly disguised as a reporter."
"Nah, I wouldn't do that to Grissom, anyway, it would appear that Babylon's been good for him."
"What? Is she putting him in touch with his feelings?"
Greg shrugged, "God knows, although I'd be fairly certain she's putting him in touch with something. I didn't really want to ask as with Grissom you never know the precise degree of candour with which he's going to answer your question; I believe he's of the opinion that that passes for a managerial technique. Anyway, to answer your question, I'm putting Heather next to Nick."
"That's just plain unkind, Greg."
"I know, but I'm sure Heather will cope; she might even teach him something."
"I hardly think she's going to chain him to a wall in the middle of the auditorium."
"You never know, and if I'm lucky it will distract people from the music."
Rilie considered her godmother and found that she had to agree; social propriety and the necessity to teach someone an appropriate lesson were never things to necessarily intersect in Heather's worldview, and if they did it was generally considered a perfect opportunity to provide polite society with an object lesson in moral relativism.
"You may be right, but while my godmother may have a different perspective on what constitutes 'appropriate' it must be noted that she also has exquisite manners and as such she would never be so rude, or so gauche, as to interrupt your moment in the spotlight."
"Do you think she would if I asked nicely?"
"Actually, Greg, I'm pretty sure Heather would do pretty much anything for you if you asked nicely, I'm given to understand, through various sources…"
"Various sources?" Greg inquired.
"Oh all right," groused Rilie, "Heather has told me directly that she thinks you're good for me; something about being a civilising influence."
"Christ, I'm just a lab tech and a sometime music student, not Francis of Assisi."
"What are you implying, Sanders?" Rilie's tone was low and dangerous.
"Nothing," he said, backing away, "now how about we go get ready?"
The CSIs, dressed in their various interpretations of 'to impress', arrived outside the auditorium in ones and two. Sara looked elegant, yet refined and Nick had managed not to look like he'd just ridden in from the set of Bonanza. Catherine too, was elegantly attired but with an additional layer of slink that could never in a million years hope to be pulled off by Sara; the big surprise, however, was Jim Brass, whom had discarded his regular disguise of an unmade bed and appeared quite dapper in a dark grey suit.
"Well don't you clean up nice."
"Why don't you try that again Catherine, this time without the side order of snide."
"Whatever do you mean, Brass?"
The old policeman sighed resignedly and skewered the strawberry-blonde with a razor-edged glare. "Really? All right, here it is plain and simple. Yes Catherine, you're attractive; now get over it. Just because the rest of us haven't been graced with physical attributes that continue to defy gravity, despite our advancing age, doesn't imply a lack of couture-based knowledge, or for that matter how to match our socks with our underwear and ties, or whatever."
Catherine was taken slightly aback. "Really, Brass, I simply meant you looked nice; and you must admit, the occasions in which we see you clad like a civilised member of society are few and far between."
"Not helping yourself, Cath," noted Nick, while Sara quietly remarked to Brass that Catherine could try for the other foot before the others arrived if she made a special effort.
Brass, however, raised his hand in apology, while Catherine and her superior attitudes annoyed him on occasion he knew she meant nothing by her remark "It's okay. Sorry Catherine, I'm a bit on edge."
"Why on earth would you be? You look good."
"Not for me, you twit, for Greg."
Catherine ceded the point, "True, I understand; but you do look good nonetheless."
"Every old dog retains a few tricks, Catherine, no matter how old they might be," he paused, considering, "how else do you think they managed to become old?" The sometime detective paused to check his watch. "Where're Grissom and Warrick?"
"Warrick was tidying a few things up back at the lab but he called me just before I arrived to say he was on his way; I don't know about Grissom though," said Nick
"I wouldn't worry," said Sara "here he, sorry, they," she corrected herself, "come now."
"They?" asked the young Texan.
"It would appear," stated Brass, in a bland tone, "that Grissom has brought company; the redoubtable Ms Babylon."
"I wonder what he sees in her?" murmured Catherine, not counting on the fact that years of journalistic training, essentially consisting of eavesdropping, had granted Agatha the auditory abilities of a bat.
"Let's see" began Agatha, as she and Grissom stopped before the others, "I'm attractive, intelligent, funny and a stimulating conversationalist and" she continued, gifting Catherine, and her dress, an extremely measuring glance, "I'm a world-class fuck; what's your excuse?"
Grissom, to several people's surprise didn't appear even slightly abashed at his companion's comment; instead the glint in his eyes clearly indicated his amusement. Brass, for his part, was equally amused, especially in consideration of another mumbled Sidle comment to the effect of 'look, both feet!'
Before hostilities could commence, Nick interposed himself into the conversation to note that he'd just received a text from Warrick to say that he was caught in traffic and that the others should go in without him and that he'd see them inside.
By general agreement, and to stop any moves by Catherine to scratch Agatha's eyes out, the group began to move towards the auditorium. Conversation descended into the realm of banal pleasantry and one-word response as the party sought, in the manner of drug-addled dodgems, to navigate their way towards the seats allocated to them, doing their best not to trip over wilful children – obviously dragged to the event by proud parents intent on making the little wretches watch their hated older sibling's special moment - fat matrons dressed in a fashion so as to make them appear much like a Hawaiian-shirted road island and short, elderly men coutured with the intent of making them appear influential (and not so much like an overweight penguin).
Eventually, they reached their seats and found, much to their surprise, Warrick, already seated, with an insufferably smug look on his face.
"I thought you were stuck in traffic," said Sara.
"Oops," replied Warrick, not looking particularly sorry at all.
"All right, smartarse, just how long have you been sitting here?"
The dark-skinned man, his expression amused, looked at his watch, shrugged, then turned to the person, two seats over, who presently had her back turned to the group.
"Excuse me, Lady Heather? How long have we been here?"
The exotically lush woman turned to the group with a smile that was decidedly feline, and almost predatory in its composition. "About a half hour, after all, one likes to be on time for such prestigious events."
Catherine, who was already having an evening of monumental gaucherie, couldn't help herself from glaring at the woman she had, on previous encounters, viewed to some degree as a rival. "How did you get a ticket?" she demanded.
"Tickets have been available for some time, but in this instance I was given one by Greg."
The idea that Greg might have some form of relationship with Lady Heather rendered Catherine silent; it didn't, however, stop Grissom asking the question that was very obviously on the tip of his colleague's – and everyone else's for that matter – mind; although, to be fair to Grissom, he was motivated solely by polite curiosity instead of fears for the potential safety of the lab tech should he have fallen under the influence of a person of such ill-repute. "How do you know Greg?"
Heather smiled at her former liaison, "Rilie's my god-daughter," which was more than good enough for Grissom, who, smiling amiably at the woman, took his seat.
As everyone followed suit, Nick looked around quickly to place where he was seated. Such, perhaps, is the nature of musical chairs, and the punishment for moving too slowly, for it became readily apparent that the only open chair – clearly not by coincidence if he had been privy the thoughts of Greg – was by Lady Heather.
Nick had never actually met the woman but he'd heard enough stories to make him wary, very wary. Deciding that reality couldn't be that bad – she was certainly attractive enough – and that he ought to be fairly safe in a crowded auditorium, he moved to sit.
Lady Heather turned to watch his careful progress, amusedly taking note of the nervous darting of his eyes; this was going to be fun.
"So, Mister Sanders, are you ready?"
The professor gifted the younger man with a slightly bemused look, "Ready for things to change."
"Change? How so, it's only a concert."
"Ah yes, only a concert; the thing is that this concert is the first public performance of anything you have composed…"
"…That's not entirely true," interjected Greg, "I remember how my variations on Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star were warmly received when the were played at my school's Christmas show…"
Maybe Mueller felt somewhat sorry for the younger man, either that or she was showing unusual restraint for one whose normal responses tended to be issued through clenched teeth "…And precisely how old were you at that time, Mister Sanders?"
Mueller sighed, "Very well, other than that, no doubt, meritorious occasion this will be the first public performance of your work; that changes a person."
"Mozart was composing at five," Greg mused, as he drifted off into a consideration of the temporally challenged composer in apparent ignorance of the professor's somewhat philosophic commentary and increasing, if wholly in character, aggravation.
"You'll be decomposing immediately if you don't start paying attention," snapped the professor confirming that, even on her – apparent - best behaviour, her patience could only be stretched so far.
Greg, pulled abruptly back from his historically inclined considerations, and not being completely bereft of sense, a state engendered through long exposure to the tidal mood swings that epitomised the personalities at the lab, decided that paying attention was probably in his best interests.
"Your pardon, Professor Mueller," he stressed her title to reinforce his apparent contrition, "you were saying?"
"I was saying that the first public performance of your music will change you; for good or bad I do not know; either way, you should be prepared for it this change."
"How do you mean, 'it changes' people."
Professor Mueller regarded the young man with a thoughtful expression, "For some, it is the realisation of a dream and a confirmation of something that has always lain within, for others, like myself" she added with only the vaguest hint of recrimination and bitterness for it was obviously a wound long acknowledged and, if not accepted, at least healed in some measure, "it confirms that while there may indeed be competence, and perhaps some measure of talent, it is not a talent that will set the world alight; it is a bitter thing to learn."
"…And what happens to those people? I mean, those people who have to face that disappointment"
Mueller laughed, somewhat ruefully "Obviously, some accept it, I mean, what else can you do?" she shrugged theatrically "the truth is inevitably the truth whether you like it or not. Of course, there are those that deny this harshest of truths and continue to fight against it, usually to their detriment." She shook her head sadly, unconsciously lapsing into the transliterative syntax of her native tongue "Many good people, I have seen, fall victim to this; the truth welcomed was not, it is such a waste. You Mister Sanders, I think, shall not fall."
"Because I have talent?"
"Perhaps; but do not get ahead of yourself. I do not think, Mister Sanders, no matter what happens, that you will fall because you have already seen too much. That as important as the music might be you know that there are always other avenues, other paths." Again, the professor shrugged. "Perhaps that helps your music, I do not know. Anyhow, I hear they are now ready for you," she stepped back and gestured him towards the wings, "go. And Mister Sanders?"
The conductor turned to face the auditorium; his somewhat reserved professional mien undercut somewhat by the exhilaration for the music that shone from every pore of his being.
"Our next piece comes to us from a student entered into the masters programme at the University of Las Vegas. Gregory Sanders has composed a piece of music that is at once stark and atonal, yet at the same time haunting and somewhat romantic." The conductor paused, clearly considering his choice of words carefully, "Of the pieces that myself, and the orchestra, have rehearsed this past week, this composition has perhaps been the most divisive in terms of the response it has engendered amongst us; personally, I have found it to be challenging and thought-provoking if not more than a little melancholy; ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: D.O.A: A Concerto for the Dead and Dying, by Gregory Sanders."
Turning to face the orchestra, the conductor raised his baton and with a nod and a firm sweep of his hand began.
A single, mournful note from a lone oboe echoed through the auditorium.
The conductor was correct. As Greg watched from the wings he could see the conflicting emotions on the faces of the audience. Some were clearly alienated and their displeasure evident in their very posture. Others, clearly enraptured by the music, scarcely seemed to breathe, so caught up were they in the ebb and flow of the minor chords waxing and waning in counterpoint to a slowly building crescendo that was at once melancholy and yearning. For Greg, the music evoked a spiritual allegory, that of breaking free; at least that was how he had envisioned it at the time of writing surrounded as he was by the rictus-like images of cruelty and pain evoked by the bodies in the morgue. Doc Robbins had intimated to him on occasion that sometimes he felt that death was a release for some people, for at least when you died you were, in some sense, free. In a way, Greg too had broken free, and his return to music was, in some way, a return to life – or, at least a return to being alive; not, of course, that he would have put it in those terms, for Greg it was enough that he was happy.
The young man's reverie was broken, not by the end of the music, but by the echoing silence that followed the final note. Oh well, he thought, better go out and face the lions. Then a single person started clapping, then another and soon it was not a crescendo of music washing over him but a crescendo of appreciation. Through this, the conductor's voice cut; "Ladies and Gentlemen, the composer, Gregory Sanders."
And Greg stepped into the light.