01 – The Set Up

A Team Effort

While Danny Ocean may have needed eleven, twelve, even thirteen, Gil Grissom only needs five. Although with Vegas being Vegas, these days robbing a casino just might be easier than engineering for Sara to have a whole night off.

“Love is life… And if you miss love, you miss life,” Leo Buscaglia

*******

The Set Up

“Don’t you have somewhere else to be at three in the afternoon?” Catherine Willows asked, popping her head into the layout room where Sara, Ray and Hodges were in the middle of combing through what little effects they’d managed to recover along with a headless, handless and footless torso out in Spring Valley two days before.

“Not really,” replied Hodges who had volunteered to stay late yet again more to avoid having to go home than to help out. “Why,” he began curiously, “you got a hot date?”

Catherine with all her usual good grace only replied, “Just tired of looking at you,” before turning her attention to the others. “That goes for you two. It’s late. Get out of here. Vic’s not going anywhere.”

Which was true. If they didn’t discover something soon, there’d be little choice but to call the case and John Doe 1115 would be kept on ice until if and when any new evidence that might help identify him or his killers came to light.

There’d been a run of such cases lately, open-ended, without any apparent solution let alone resolution. Was frustrating as hell.

So the testy, tired side of Sara, who was in the midst of her sixth double in as many days, was tempted to say, “Why? So you can call us back in in four hours?”

But slightly wiser and more prudent as she presently was, she knew when not to pick a fight, that, and she actually enjoyed being on good terms with her current boss and friend. So without protest or further comment, she simply did as she was told and began to pack up along with the others.

As they were shutting off the lights, Hodges looked to Ray and asked with an almost too practiced casualness, “Got big plans for your nights off?”

But if Hodges was fishing, as Sara reckoned he likely was, Langston wasn’t biting. “Just the usual.”

“Sounds exciting,” she laughed. “I’m almost jealous.”

Ray asked, “Not looking forward to another night with John Doe?”

“I’ve had better dates. And worse,” she reluctantly admitted.

*******

Not long after seven, her cell’s annoyingly insistent peel jarred Sara awake. She groaned, rolled over and without bothering to check the caller ID, barked, “Sidle.”

“Well, it’s nice to know some things don’t change,” came the amused drawl from the other end. “You’re just as bright a ray of sunshine first thing in the evening as ever.”

While there was no mistaking the rancor in Sara’s, “Unlike you, some of us didn’t get to leave work on time,” Nick for whatever reason didn’t seem to take the hint.

“I don’t know how Grissom does it,” he chuckled.

After a rather prolonged mental eye roll, Sara sighed, “He knows better than to wake me up after less than three hours of sleep. And please tell me this isn’t a social call, Nick.”

“419. Springs Preserve. Caretaker discovered the body when checking the grounds after closing.”

“I think I changed my mind about the social call.”

“Too late. Greg and I’ll be out front to pick you up in twenty, Sunshine.”

Considering the curse Sara muttered under her breath as she stumbled out of bed, perhaps it was a good thing Nick had hung up rather quickly after that, especially as technically he did outrank her these days.

*******

Apart from her not so silent padding, the condo was quiet. Almost too quiet with Grissom away in Chiang Mai presenting at the 2011 Global Conference on Entomology until the weekend and Hank still at the sitter’s. Sara hadn’t bothered to pick him up, not for the couple of hours she knew she’d be lucky to be home. With her heading the on-call list for the week, she’d been lucky to make it back to sleep, so Robin was seeing a heck of a lot more of the boxer than Sara was. Besides, Hank disliked having his afternoon nap interrupted even more than Sara did.

Knowing she was definitely going to need the caffeine fix, she put a pot of coffee on to brew while she quickly got dressed. With the guys already on their way, a shower was out of the question. Luckily, she’d grabbed one before she’d gone to bed. So she settled on splashing water on her face in hopes that the cold might help clear her head.

God, she was getting old. Or at least feeling it more than she used to. Being up for days on end was proving a lot harder than it once was.

Then Nick and Greg were a full ten minutes late; utterly unapologetic about it and looking far too rested and being way too exuberant for not yet eight. Nick was driving or what he called driving. Greg had control of the radio and Sara had to sit in the back, none of which helped sweeten her temperament in the least.

Nor did Greg’s query of “Someone wake up on the wrong side of the bed?”

As they took I15 out of town towards Paradise, Sara couldn’t help but half wonder if disposing of one’s overly ebullient co-workers might not be ruled justifiable homicide.

“Either of you going to fill me in before we get there?” she asked after no details were apparently forthcoming.

“419 at Springs Preserve,” replied Nick.

“Yeah, I already got that part.”

“Details are still a little bit sketchy.”

“Wonderful.” Sara was never all that keen on the whole you’ll be briefed when you get there routine.

In a not so suave segue to change the subject, Greg asked, “You ever been out there, Sara?”

While she’d heard of the multi-building museum and educational complex built around the springs that had originally supplied the city with much of its water supply, and although it was located just beyond Vegas’ bright neon lights, she hadn’t had much of a chance to visit in the four years the place had been open.

“Nope,” she answered.

“That surprises me. Sounds like your kind of place.”

“Been a little busy.”

Greg only shrugged at her curtness. “At least it’s a nice night for it.”

Warm, dry, clear and the moon a bright waxing crescent low on the horizon, yep, the perfect night for processing a dead body, Sara rued but didn’t say.

Not entirely looking forward to the prospect, she reached for her kit anyway as they pulled into the empty lot, but was taken aback when the guys made no move to do the same.

“We’re going to sit this one out, aren’t we, Greg?” Nick explained.

While Greg looked slightly crestfallen at this, he only smiled and nodded.

“You mean you’re leaving me here alone with no backup and without clearing the scene first?” she asked, agog at the number of department policies being violated all at once.

“Trust me, it’s clear,” Nick insisted.

To which Greg added a strangely suggestive, “And you won’t be alone.”

“And,” Nick chuckled, “I definitely do not want to supervise this one.”

Sara simply goggled at them, thinking maybe she shouldn’t have been so quick to dismiss Hodges’ earlier passing query as they left the lab that day of “You ever get the feeling something weird is going on?”

“Besides,” Nick said interrupting her musings, “we’ve got another call.”

He held up his phone, which promptly buzzed. That it had and Greg’s, too, in quick succession seemed to come as a bit of a surprise to them both.

As he scanned the message he sighed, “Saved by the page.” Replacing his phone in his case he added, “Gotta run. We’ll… uh… catch you later.”

Great, thought Sara as the two of them drove away. Just Great.

She was almost to the box office when a portly, bored looking security guard leaned out of the door to ask, “You Sara Sidle?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s just through there.” He gestured vaguely down a dimly lit path. “In the Arboretum. Head past the Dr. Green Thumb sign at the Gardens Center, you can’t miss it.”

As she clicked on her Maglight, Sara shook her head, wondering just how many dead bodies they’d had out here for him to be more interested in whatever was playing on his portable television.

Keeping her eyes peeled for the telltale yellow stripe of crime scene tape, she crunched her way along the granite walk only to have her progress blocked by a dark suited figure crouched over something on the ground.

Wow, the night was getting better by the minute.

How she always managed to get stuck with yet another newbie detective whenever she ended up doing Swing coverage she had no clue. Who the heck were they hiring these days? Was Ecklie getting that desperate that they fielded officers who couldn’t be bothered to follow the most simplest and basic of instructions? Who despite all their training still didn’t seem to know better than to keep their hands to themselves until an investigator arrived?

Normally, Sara wasn’t brusque, but she just wasn’t in the mood tonight to deal with cross-contamination issues or all the additional paperwork they entailed. So it was with a tad too much vehemence that she put down her case and asked, “Did you sleep through the part where they said look, don’t touch?”

Except it wasn’t some rookie detective who rose and turned to greet her. It was someone else entirely. Someone as familiar as he was unexpected.

Continued in The Switch

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