pg-13 | references to violence
Gil Grissom found himself wishing he hadn't eaten dinner. As he had been plowing through reports, Catherine had stuck her head into his office to tell him that she and Nick were ordering Chinese. She asked him if he wanted anything, and he had grunted an affirmative reply. After what he thought was a moment, but must have been longer, he glanced up to tell her what he wanted. She was already gone. It didn't matter. After so many years and so many meals together, she knew what he normally got and had ordered it for him.
He was predictable.
As she brought the bag in and sat it on his desk, he realized that if the roles were reversed, he wouldn't have known what to get for her. At the time, he tried to tell himself that was because she was wild and unpredictable, but he wasn't sure that was the truth.
Now that dinner that Catherine had carefully ordered for him threatened to re-emerge from his mouth and stain the dashboard of his car.
In spite of his concern, he wasn't excessively speeding. On a few occasions, he noticed his free foot tapping against the floor and caught Jim giving him an odd look. He stilled his body and focused on the road ahead, trying to maintain a calm visage.
He told Culpepper he could not have Sara.
He told Sara she could not do this.
No one listened.
Culpepper stood by the truck, yelling over the noise to his agents. He was a man who liked being in charge. Grissom could see it in his eyes. He was getting a thrill just from being able to command an operation like this. If he happened to solve the case at the same time, it would be an added bonus. Right now, just being able to order people around was enough. Sara Sidle stood behind him, wearing... something decidedly unlike her.
"...very good chance our assailant will re-frequent this store, looking for his next victim."
It was so easy to say it in those terms. Assailant. Victim. Culpepper made this sound like it was just a game, with assigned positions, defined rules, and easy to identify boundaries. Predictable.
Put a piece of cheese on the trap.
Mouse comes by.
Reaches for the cheese.
Trap kills mouse.
But sometimes the trap failed. And the mouse got away with the cheese.
Life wasn't predictable. And neither were decoy operations.
"This is a pretty flimsy excuse to get your circus up and running, don't you think?"
Sara had such a slender neck.
"Lives are at stake. I'll take flimsy over nothing."
He wouldn't need a very long ligature to encircle her neck.
"This is action for action's sake, Culpepper."
Red marks would be very prominent on the pale skin of her neck.
"You're risking my CSI's life."
She would fight. She would resist. She would be bloody and bruised. He would torture her and beat her and... he really didn't want to think about that.
Culpepper ignored him. He turned to Sara, who was imploring him with her eyes.
"Look, this was my idea. I want to do something before another girl gets killed, and -"
She could be that girl.
"Listen to me, Sara. If we study his past, we can predict his future."
He noticed his voice sounded fraught with worry, and he tried to calm down.
Why wasn't she listening to him?
The shirt was tight. He could see the outline of her bra. Her skirt clung to her thighs. It left nothing to the imagination.
"You've been saying that for weeks. It's taking too long. Someone else is going to die... and you're still going to be figuring it out."
This was not the way. This just... wasn't the way. Why wouldn't she listen to him? Why now was she suddenly questioning everything that he taught her?
"Wish me luck."
And not just because he didn't believe in luck. He wasn't sure what she would consider lucky. She was hoping to be attacked. She was hoping to draw someone's attention.
As much as he wanted to close this case, he hoped she didn't.
Surveillance cameras offer a false sense of security. If he wanted to, he could reach out and easily touch her image. Rub his fingers over the glass, over the little pixels that were combined in a pattern that was supposed to represent her. The black and white and gray dots didn't do her justice. They converted the vibrancy and beauty of Sara Sidle into a dull and lifeless image. If he were to reach out and touch her, all he would encounter would be the glass - inorganic silica. She was in the same room as him and yet she wasn't. She was many, many feet away, and if someone pulled out a knife or a gun and stabbed her or shot her, there would be nothing he could do. He could reach out to her, but all he could touch would be the glass.
She had been walking around the store for an hour and a half now. He wondered if her feet hurt. Her shoes didn't look terribly comfortable. She returned to the spice aisle for about the third time. Glancing to her left, she picked up a bottle off the shelf and pretended to be studying it. Or maybe she was studying it. He couldn't tell.
A man with long, dark hair, a five o'clock shadow, and a leather jacket spent a few seconds looking her up and down before approaching her.
"Here we go," Culpepper said, setting down his coffee.
It wasn't the guy. Grissom could tell. He was too hairy. Too dirty. Too sloppy looking.
Sara smiled. It looked forced. Even on the screen.
Leather Jacket Guy moved closer to her, their shoulders almost touching. Grissom pursed his lips.
"You know... nutmeg's actually a carcinogen."
"Hallucinogen," Grissom muttered under his breath. Culpepper turned to him, an inquiring look on his face.
"I think you mean hallucinogen." Sara's voice rung out clearly. Leather Jacket Guy tucked his long dark hair behind his ear.
"What did I say?"
"You said carcinogen. A carcinogen causes cancer. A hallucinogen causes hallucinations."
"Oh," he replied. "I really don't know that much about it."
Culpepper nodded to the screen. "Is that true? It's a hallucinogen?"
He opened his mouth to respond, but was cut off by Sara's voice again.
"Nutmeg, from the tree Myristica fragrans. Used as a medicine in Asian cultures. In addition to having hallucinogenic qualities, it was also used as a sedative and was once considered to be an aphrodisiac."
Grissom gestured with one hand to the image of Sara on the screen, giving the FBI agent a small smile tinged with pride.
"Oh," Culpepper said. "Interesting."
Leather Jacket Guy grinned at her. "You sure do know a lot about nutmeg."
"Well, my boyfriend likes to cook."
Grissom tried to mask his surprise. Boyfriend? She has a boyfriend? When did this happen? Next to him, Culpepper made some kind of muted, strangled grunt.
"What is she doing?"
Leather Jacket Guy pointed a finger at Sara and clicked his tongue. "Gotcha." He spun on his heel and left her alone in the spice aisle again.
"What is she doing? That could have been our guy!"
"He's not our guy." Grissom and Sara spoke at the same time, his voice being dry and almost belligerent, hers soft, quiet, and resigned. He watched as she put the nutmeg back on the shelf and picked up another bottle. Culpepper shook his head and wiped a bit of coffee off the rim of his cup.
"Hour and a half. And we got nothing."
Grissom kept his mouth shut, his eyes focused on Sara.
One hour and forty-five minutes in, a cashier called for a clean up in aisle seven.
One hour and fifty two minutes in, an older lady asked her if she worked here.
Two hours and twenty-three minutes in, a man in a business suit flirted with her, telling her she had a nice figure.
Two hours and forty five minutes in, she began reading the labels on the soy milk cartons.
Three hours in, she returned to the spice aisle.
"Three hours expended," Culpepper griped. "Maybe we should re-position over at that Borders book store. Gets a lot of foot traffic in there, according to the field agents."
Grissom held his tongue, intently watching the little image of Sara on the screen. A young man walked past her, checking her out, as several men had done before. He didn't arouse Grissom's suspicion until he doubled back, a more purposeful look on his face.
"Whoa. This guy's coming back."
Culpepper sat up straighter, fixating on the screen. Grissom could feel the butterflies in his stomach again as the stranger approached Sara.
"Do you happen to have a cigarette?" His voice was soft, maybe even a touch anxious.
"Uh, yeah. Actually, I do."
He raised an eyebrow at the screen. When had she started smoking again? He thought she stopped. Did he have to start nagging her to quit again?
The stranger was nervous.
That made Grissom nervous.
"Culpepper," he said apprehensively.
"Let her play."
Like it was a game.
But it wasn't a game.
And he didn't like this creepy guy, standing so close to her, with him so far away.
"Been trying to quit. Don't want to buy a pack."
The guy had very shifty eyes.
"Me too. This is my last pack. But, uh... I say that every week, so..."
The stranger took the cigarette and looked it over. "Non-filtered."
So she hadn't started smoking again. She smoked filtered. He was pretty sure, anyway.
"Women I know... they smoke filtered... you know, those long, skinny cigarettes."
"Guess it depends on the woman."
"Guess it does."
Grissom rolled his eyes. Such brilliant repartee.
"Got a light?"
You couldn't smoke in the store. He wasn't going to light it up right there, was he?
"Do you live around here?"
His voice had a higher pitch to it. He was nervous.
"Maybe. I don't usually give out that kind of information."
"That's probably smart. I wouldn't tell me either."
Too nervous. Grissom didn't think this was the guy.
You're cute? Great pick-up line.
They just kind of stared at each other for a moment, until the stranger's eyes shifted away. Sara followed his gaze and Grissom saw his hand reach towards her.
"Alright. We're on the move. Let's go," Culpepper ordered.
He hesitated for a fraction of a second, wanting to rush to Sara's side, but yet afraid to leave the command center. The surveillance images were his one tangible link to her, and as soon as he left, he would lose that. But he knew he couldn't do anything through the glass, so he drew his gun and bolted.
"Hey." He heard her voice over his earpiece. She sounded more annoyed than anything else. Maybe he was trying to cop a feel or something.
The store didn't seem to be getting any closer. He was running, as fast as he could, but it still seemed so far away. Until finally it was there, right in front of him, up close. The automatic door didn't open for him quickly enough - he almost walked right into them. He had memorized the layout of the store during the past three hours, and he weaved his way through the aisles to the spot where he knew Sara was.
She was hiding next to an end cap. Other agents had already grabbed the perp, causing him to drop his prize.
He was a pickpocket.
Grissom walked over, picking it up off the floor. He could hear Culpepper on the phone, but his attention was on Sara.
She was crushed. Disappointed that this man only wanted to steal her wallet. Disappointed that he didn't want to rape and murder her. Disappointed that she had spent over three hours trying to trap a homicidal maniac and she had failed.
"All right, gentlemen. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I do not believe this is our man."
Grissom rolled his eyes and held up the wallet. "What was your first clue?" he asked sarcastically.
"Murder at the Monaco hotel. Woman found bound in her room. Stripped and strangled. Let's go."
He motioned to his lackeys, and like a bunch of lemmings, they obediently followed him out of the store.
Sara stood in the same spot, the same sad look on her face. She had failed. Another woman was dead. She was devastated.
And Culpepper just left her there.
"He met the profile." Her voice was soft. Defeated. He was still angry. He still felt betrayed. But it killed him to see her like this.
"Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to do nothing."
It didn't seem to comfort her. He hadn't really expected it to. He rested his hand on the small of her back as they walked out of the store, Sara throwing the wallet into her purse in frustration.
"Can I ride with you to the crime scene? I hitched here with Culpepper; my car's back at CSI."
He guided her back to his car, opening the door for her. It wasn't until she was inside that he answered her question.
"It's your night off and you're almost maxed out on overtime. I'll take you back to CSI, but then you're going home."
He shut the door before she could protest. Scanning the small crowd for Jim, he finally spotted him following an agent to his car.
"Yeah. I'm gonna catch a ride with the feds. I'll meet you there."
Sara was silent as the engine turned over. She remained quiet as he pulled out of the parking lot and got on the road. Her shoulders were slumped and her eyes were unfocused as she stared out the window. Her hands sat uselessly in her lap.
He knew her well enough to know she was deep in self-castigation, blaming herself for this latest victim. Angry that she wasn't the one attacked. Maybe angry that she hadn't stuck to analyzing the evidence. Maybe angry that she had wasted so much time on this decoy operation. He refrained from commenting. He couldn't say anything that would make her feel better, and criticism at this point wouldn't bring this latest woman back from the dead.
He parked his car next to hers and pressed the button to unlock her door. She stepped out, the same look of defeat on her face.
"We'll get this guy. We'll get out ahead of him and we'll get him."
She gave him a sad smile. "You've been saying that for weeks. You don't know that. We may never get him."
With that, she shut the door and fished her keys out of her pocket. It was exactly what he would have expected her to say.
She was predictable.
He waited until he saw her taillights turn on before he got out, heading into the building to pick up Catherine.