Channel Surfing

Riley opened the door to the staircase and closed it behind her before leaning against it. Nick had asked for a few minutes alone before he had to come downstairs and have paramedics crawling all over him, not to mention his friends and their questions. She saw two figures at the foot of the stairs, and they saw her too.

“Detective Adams?”

If she didn’t answer, would they leave her alone? “Yeah.” Her voice sounded louder than she’d intended, but flatter as well.

One of the figures began climbing the staircase.

“That’s not helpful,” Riley called. “It’s stuffy enough in here without more people. Move into the office, I’ll talk to you there.”

The person on the stairs stopped, hesitated, then dutifully withdrew. The two at the foot of the stairs exited into the office. Riley slowly descended the steps, an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. She should have felt triumphant, relief, something more positive than what she actually felt. Nick’s words pressed heavily on her mind, and she was torn between believing him, and seeking justice for Link.

When she reached the office, she realized that it was Sara and Warrick who had been at the foot of the stairs. Through the window, she could see Catherine speaking with Brass. Grissom was on the phone, off to the side, as if trying to get as far away from everything as possible. She didn’t blame him. Riley saw no sign of Greg.

“Is he OK?” Sara asked.

“No, he’s not OK,” she couldn’t help but snap. “He’s…” She took a deep breath to calm herself down. “He has the same… wounds. Scar on his face, burn on his chest, ligature marks on the wrists and ankles.”

Warrick nodded, folding his arms. “And his head? Where’s that at?”

“On his neck,” Riley said.

“Greg gave the impression that he was acting… I don’t know,” said Sara.

“It’s nothing,” Riley assured them, though she wasn’t sure it was true. “Just a little Stockholm Syndrome, that’s all. He’s confused. He asked for a minute, to sort things out. Collect himself.”

“Wait…” Warrick began, slowly. “You mean to tell me that he somehow connected with this woman?”

Riley tried to pass it off like it was nothing. “It happens sometimes. And it’s not serious, he knows what she did was wrong, and that he was the victim, he just… understands her.”

“Well, at least someone does,” Sara said. “I still have no idea what the hell that girl was thinking.”

“Me neither…” Riley said quietly, again thinking of Lincoln. She had somehow managed to push him under the surface of her consciousness for the past thirty hours, and now, all of a sudden, here he was again, his body continuously rising unbidden out of the murky depths of her mind, but she kept pushing him back down again, assuring herself that she would deal with him later.

And then, the door behind them opened. Warrick and Sara froze as Nick leaned against the door frame, blinking in the harsh sunlight that streamed through the windows. For a moment, no one knew what to do. Nick walked completely into the office, to the window, where he looked up at the sun and the blue sky. He put his hand flat against the glass.

“Where did they take her?” he asked, to no one in particular.

Sara brought her fist to her chest. “Nick…”

He turned around and looked blankly at her. “Alexa King. Where is she?”

“Booking,” Warrick said, simply. “She’s a serial killer, Nick.”

“I know,” he said. “I really wish everyone would stop telling me that like I’m stupid.” He looked at Riley. “Could you take me there?”

“We’re taking you to a hospital,” Sara insisted.

“I have to see her,” Nick implored. “I have to make sure she’s OK.”

Warrick tried to protest. “Nick, she kidnapped you—”

“Again, Warrick, I’m not stupid. I know who she is. I know what she’s done. I know you all expect me to be traumatized, to hate her, to break down, but I can do all of that later. Right now, I just want to make sure she’s OK.”

Sara couldn’t help but ask, “Nick… Why? Why do you care so much what happens to her?”

Nick made a point to look her in the eye, his gaze unwavering. “Because she let me go, Sara.”

Riley saw them through the window before they even opened the door. But Warrick and Sara were still staring at Nick. The moment the door opened, Riley turned away from them in shame. She didn’t know what she was ashamed of, she only knew she couldn’t look at them.


Nick blinked, then turned his head to look at his parents. His mother wasted no time moving to embrace him. Nick closed his eyes and seemed to relax in her arms. She placed a hand on the back of his head, holding it over her shoulder. Nick opened his eyes and connected his gaze with his father’s. Wordlessly, the judge stepped forward, wrapping his arms around his wife and son, protectively.

“You hate me.” She turned her head to look at Nick, who was still leaning against the door to the bedroom. He was staring at the opposite side of the room where the floor met the wall. “That’s why you won’t look at me.”

This seemed to startle him out of his trance, and he did exactly that. “No, that’s not it.”

“Then why not?” Alexa asked. “Why don’t you hate me? I hate me.”

“D’you think…” Nick began, pensively, “that if your father had never touched you… Do you still think that you would be this way?”

Alexa blinked at him like a goldfish. She tried to think back to how she used to be before she turned eight. She remembered the games she played with the other children on the playground. She remembered the books she would read. She remembered how her teachers always trusted her to be the line leader because she never strayed from her path. She remembered Alfie, her rabbit, and how much comfort he had brought. She remembered that every secret she told him, she was certain her mother knew. And then, she remembered the day when Alfie had failed her.

“I don’t know,” she answered, honestly, in a whisper. “But I can’t blame him for how I turned out, either. We are the people that we choose to be.”

“But you didn’t choose this,” Nick said.

Alexa pulled her legs up onto the bed and crossed them. “I chose to stalk Dean Rogan. I chose to stop taking my pills. I chose to abduct, torture and kill him.”

“Maybe you chose to stop taking your pills,” Nick said. “But everything else—”

“Everything else was the result of that,” Alexa replied.

Nick took a step towards her. “But look at you now. Look! You’re calm, collected, you know who I am… What?” She was shaking her head through his whole speech.

“It comes and it goes. You should know that by now. I need the pills, to keep on track. I need the pills to stay this way.”

“So we’ll get them,” Nick vowed, falling to his knees by the bed and looking up at her, as if it were a proposal, a promise. “We will, we’ll get the pills, get you on track again.”

She smiled at him, almost as if he was the child and she was the adult. “Nick…” She closed her eyes, and her smile disappeared. “You should go.”

“I can’t leave you like this.”

“I can’t go to prison,” she breathed, “and I can’t kill you. I can’t keep you here. I can’t move forward, I can’t go back.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath through her nose. “I have a gun downstairs. Remember?”

He took her hands in his. “No,” he said, “No. No, Alexa, this happened to me before. I couldn’t save her. At the time… I wasn’t sure I wanted to.”

“And you want to save me?” She sounded touched, but confused.

“I…” He wasn’t sure what to say. “I think I have to save you.”

“Why? Why, after everything I’ve done to you, your family, friends…”

“I think I have to save you to save myself.”

Alexa was quiet. “I can feel it…” she breathed, turning away from Nick on the bed. She put her hands on her stomach. “Bubbling, in there, this fear… desperation… rage. Like a parasite, twisting and slashing. Destruction, I rain destruction, and I feel the storm.”

There was banging from downstairs. Nick looked up. Someone was yelling.

In a second, she went from a resolved woman to a terrified little girl. She hugged her knees to her chest. “Who’s there?”

Nick hushed her as he rose to his feet. He put up his palm to her. “Stay there. I won’t let them hurt you.” He walked over to the door again and placed his ear against the wood, his hand on the metal knob. He waited, straining to hear any sound. Someone was climbing the stairs. In a flash, Nick opened the door. What happened next happened in the span of two seconds. First, he saw Greg, and then he saw Greg fall. In a panic, he lashed out, gripping his friend’s arm and yanking him into the room, where he stumbled. Stumbled, and stared.

Sara and Warrick burst into the garage and saw an officer at the door marked Employees Only. He held up a hand.

“Whoa,” he said. “Sidle, Brown, I have instructions not to let any more people up there until we secure the scene.”

“What is the scene, exactly, Faber?” Warrick said. “At least tell me he’s alive up there.” His voice was level, and normal speaking volume, but his anxiety was reflected in his tense stance. It wasn’t a demand so much as a plea for reassurance.

“From what I hear, he’s alive,” Faber assured the both of them.

Sara’s shoulders fell and she closed her eyes with a sigh. Warrick remained tense.

“Is he hurt?” he asked, his voice becoming a low rumble. “How bad is he?”

Faber offered his hands to them, palms up. “I can’t say. I just got a glimpse of it. Detectives Brass and Adams are up there right now determining if he—”

“Adams?” Sara broke in. “What’s she doing here?”

Faber shrugged. “I’m not sure, ma’am, she was here when we got here.”

“How did he look?” Warrick continued, as if Sara hadn’t said anything. “I mean, was he awake?”

“Warrick…” Sara began slowly. “If Riley Adams is here, then so is—”

“Faber?” Warrick would pay no attention to Sara until he got his answer.

“He looked… fine!” a frazzled Faber replied, withering under Warrick’s gaze. “He was walking around, talking even.”

Finally, Warrick allowed his body to relax. “What did he say?”

Faber shrugged. “I didn’t catch it all. Brass sent me down here to keep everyone out. It’s a pretty cramped space up there, you know. Metcalfe and Garcia are still there, along with the detectives, not to mention Nick Stokes and your guy.”

Warrick’s brow furrowed in bafflement. “Our guy?”

Sara paled. “Greg,” she breathed. And then she pushed past Faber to the door and threw it open.

“Hey, wait!” Faber cried out.

But even as he did, she stepped back slowly, one step at a time. Faber and Warrick watched as Metcalfe entered the room, followed by a woman in handcuffs, staring at the floor, followed by Garcia. The party was rounded up by Brass in the rear. He paused a moment, locking his eyes with Warrick and Sara in turn, but he didn’t say a word. The woman’s yellow hair fell in sheets on either side of her face, so it was difficult to get a good look at her. Warrick and Sara watched soundlessly as they led her outside. Brass closed the door behind them. He waited a minute before turning to face Sara and Warrick.

Sara saw it first. The way the balls of Warrick’s feet dug into the ground. The way his knees bent ever so slightly, and the way his shoulders lurched forward and she reached out with her hand and her voice.

“Stop it.”

Taking only a single, but driven step towards the door, Warrick halted as if she had lassoed him and looked at her over his shoulder.

“Don’t you know who that—”

“Warrick, I do.”

He shook his head, with a scathing smile. “This isn’t you, Sara Sidle. Time was, I’d have to restrain you from kicking a perp’s ass.”

She looked sharply away from him. “Times change.”

“And why now?”

“Because they do,” Sara snapped. She was fiddling with a silver chain bracelet on her left hand. “There are other things we have to consider.”

“She’s right,” Brass put in. “What would you do to her, anyways? You’re like a dog chasing a car.”

Warrick opened his mouth to argue, when he realized Brass was right. The woman that incited so much loathing in him was a tiny, pale thing. Despite his passion, he probably wouldn’t have been able to hit her without feeling some sort of guilt. He blamed his grandmother for raising him to never hit a person who couldn’t hit back. He grumbled a bit, but calmed down.

“Sara,” Brass said. “Greg is having some trouble dealing with the situation. I don’t think he’s making things better. Riley looked a little overwhelmed. If you could just go up and get Greg, maybe talk to him… He’ll listen to you.”

Chalk white, Sara nodded slowly. “What is he doing here, anyway?”

Brass rolled his eyes. “God, I don’t know. Something about finding Nick’s car on the way back to the lab. Riley was nonspecific. We didn’t exactly have time to trade notes.” He paused. “He was the first one in here. He was the first one to see—”

There was a jarring, continuous screeching from outside, like a banshee. Both Warrick and Sara stiffened, while Brass just spun around and stared out the window.

“What the hell is that?” he demanded, of no one in particular. He whirled around again, facing Sara and Warrick. “All right, you two, wait here, I have to take care of this. Sara?”

She nodded.

“What about me?” Warrick asked.

“When he comes down,” Brass began, “Nick will need you. Just do what you did last time, Warrick, and don’t let him go.” And with that, he was gone.

Sara took a deep breath, then turned to the stairwell, creeping inside. Curiosity urged Warrick to follow. They could make out a figure, sitting on the stairs.

“Greg?” Sara called, her voice hanging like bells in the air.

When Catherine arrived with the others at the crime scene, Sara and Warrick were the first to dart out of the door and into the garage. Catherine hung back with Grissom, almost wary of what they might find inside. She felt as if she should be rushing to the rescue with her friends, but something in her turned to stone, and she felt too heavy to continue beyond getting out of the car and watching. She heard Grissom take a stand beside her and watch the house.

“I would have expected you to rush in with them,” she told him. “Like last time.”

She felt Grissom’s shoulders rise beside her, and then heard him sigh. “There are two detectives and half a dozen officers in there. More bodies would just make it more difficult.”

“Yeah…” Catherine said. “That’s why I didn’t rush in, either.”

They were each quiet a moment.

“Do you think he’ll be OK?” she managed to ask.

“Nick survived twelve hours in a box underground,” Grissom said, his voice devoid of any discernable emotion. “He’s handled unstable individuals on several occasions with admirable sensibility and composure.”

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

“I’m just stating the evidence. Establishing a pattern.”

There shouldn’t be a pattern at all, she thought to herself. Silence fell over them again. Catherine looked down at her black dress shoes, then back up at the building. Feeling Grissom breathing steadily beside her was a comfort for which she could never fully express her gratitude. She wrapped her arms around herself, rubbing her forearms as she felt a chill standing under the hot Las Vegas sun, even as a bead of sweat rolled down behind her ear.

She decided to address the proverbial elephant in the room. “You know… if he’s… alive…” She hated that it was necessary to add that qualification. “Whoever comes out of that place, no matter what… It won’t be Nick. Not the Nick that we knew.”

Grissom didn’t respond right away. He took his time, choosing his words. “No,” he admitted. “Not right now. Not yet. It never is, is it?”

“Do you remember Nigel Crane?” Catherine inquired. “The look on Nick’s face, after we arrested him? I’d never seen that look in his eyes before.”

“And I remember his expression, when Warrick swiped away the dirt from that glass coffin,” Grissom explained. “Yes, Catherine. I remember all of that.”

“How has he not gone crazy?” Catherine breathed, astounded. “And I know we’re both thinking it. Is this it, the final straw, and the back breaks?”

“He always comes back to us, Catherine,” Grissom continued, as if she hadn’t said anything. “The Nick that we know. He always does.”

It occurred to Catherine that Nick’s therapist probably saw him more than his friends did. But Grissom was right. However he did it, whatever happened, Nick always managed to find a way to come back to them. Maybe this time would be no different than before.

Just as the thought scurried across the surface of her mind, the door to the garage opened and a pair of officers exited escorting a woman in handcuffs between them. Catherine stiffened. She instinctively reached out and squeezed Grissom’s hand. For his part, his back was rigid like a granite cliff face and he stood taller than normal. Both pairs of eyes followed the woman to the cop car. Catherine couldn’t stand it. Finally, she uprooted her feet from the ground and stomped over, her hand slipping out of Grissom’s grip. By the time she got to the cop car, Officer Metcalfe was about to shut the door on the prisoner. She put a hand on his shoulder and the look in her eyes told him to step aside. Wordlessly, he obliged. There was an unspoken understanding between law enforcement agents. When one of their own was involved, certain favors were granted under the table, and no one ever spoke of them again.

She crouched down beside the criminal in the car, who was staring at the black wire barrier between the two front seats. She didn’t seem to notice that Catherine was there, but Catherine knew that Alexa King wasn’t deaf. So she spoke.

“I don’t know who you are,” she said, “and I don’t know what wires are crossed in your brain, or what childhood trauma you have. I’m sure your story is very tragic, and worthy of sympathy. I’m sure, if I’d heard it last week, I might have even cared. But I don’t.”

Slowly, Alexa’s head turned, but the rest of her body faced forward. She looked at Catherine with porcelain eyes.

Catherine didn’t waver. “What matters to me is the trail of carnage you have left in your wake as you worked through your issues. What matters to me, Ms. King, is Nick Stokes. And so help me God, if he doesn’t come back from this, then neither will you. Do you understand?”

She blinked her wide, doe-like eyes at Catherine for a moment, before turning to face forward again. Catherine felt something in her gut sizzle. She lashed out and latched onto Alexa’s arm, her fingers digging into the skin.

“I don’t care how crazy you are, answer me!” she demanded in a hiss.

Alexa screamed. It was shrill and piercing, and Catherine knew that the whole neighborhood must have heard it, but Metcalfe, who was standing by the door and resolutely looking straight ahead of him like a soldier on duty, didn’t move. Catherine was grateful for his stoicism. Alexa began wriggling in her seat, pausing in her relentless shrieks only to take deep breaths and continue her aural onslaught. She was writhing in Catherine’s grip, turning her head from side to side, trying to move her cuffed hands and finding that she couldn’t. She kicked the back of the passenger’s seat and banged her head back against her own seat. Catherine somehow managed to grip her other shoulder, and she slapped the girl so hard across the face, she managed to silence the siren.

Alexa blinked at her, panting like a dog, her face pale. Her whole body shook with her breathing, and for a moment, Catherine wondered if she was hyperventilating. And then, her breathing slowed, and her eyes refocused. The wild in them was chased away, and she tilted her head to the side, as if seeing Catherine for the first time. And then, her lids grew heavy, and she fell limp.

Catherine wasn’t entirely sure what had just happened. If it wasn’t for Alexa’s chest rising up and down, Catherine might have thought she had just dropped dead. She straightened and pulled herself away from the car. Metcalfe glanced at her and their eyes met for an instant. Her lips were parted, her expression almost guilty, but Metcalfe just nodded at her with tight lips and an understanding gaze.

Catherine returned to Grissom’s side as Metcalfe closed the door and climbed into the passenger’s seat of the cop car.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” Grissom said. They watched as Brass exited the building and shrugged his shoulders at the pair of them.

Catherine looked up at the man next to her and saw that he was smiling.

Alexa sat at the table, looking from one of the strange men in front of her to the next. Her eyes were wide and red, her face pasty and splotched with dried saline. She didn’t remember how she’d gotten there; she only knew that she was here now. The last thing she remembered was sitting on the bed, speaking with her father. Who were these men that held her now, and what had they done with Louis?

“I don’t understand…” she whispered. “Why won’t you let me see my father?”

The men exchanged looks. “Ms. King, do you know where we are?”

She looked around. “In a room. It’s cold and gray and not very pretty. Where’s my daddy?”

“Ms. King, I’m Jim Brass,” one of the men said. “We have a doctor on her way to examine you. After that, you will be taken to a holding cell. Do you know why?”

She shook her head and tried to shrug. That’s when she felt the chains. She looked down and realized that her hands were bound by metal. Was this another game her father was playing?

“I just want my daddy,” Alexa said, quietly.

“Alexa, your father is dead,” the one called Brass said, slowly, but his words were sharp.

She shook her head. “I don’t believe you. I just saw him. Just… just saw him.”

“You think you saw him,” the other one explained. “But that wasn’t him, Alexa.”

“I don’t understand…” She looked from one to the other. “I just saw him. If he’s dead, it’s because you killed him.” She pounded her chained fists on the table. “Where’s my daddy? I want my daddy!”

“Whoa, OK…” Brass said. He looked at the other. “Gil?”

The one called Gil nodded and rose to his feet. He went to the door and stepped outside a moment. Alexa watched, her head tilted curiously, trying to figure out where that door led. A moment later, it opened again, and Gil was back… followed by her.

Alexa leapt to her feet and kicked the chair back, shrieking. “No!

“Why did you do that?!” Nick demanded, his hands flat against the viewing window. “She hates her mother!”

“Nicky, please,” Catherine said in soothing tones. “Step back from the glass.”

He did, reluctantly, but he began pacing the floor. “This is stupid. You shouldn’t have done that, she’s going to hurt herself.”

“She’s handcuffed,” Catherine said. “What harm can she—”

There was a crash and Nick’s head spun on his neck to see that somehow, Alexa had managed to overturn the table. Grissom and Brass were with her trying to restrain her, and two officers ran into the room to help. Alexa was spitting and biting furiously while her mother just stood there and watched.

“I told you, you don’t know what she’s capable of,” Nick said, gesturing at the glass. “You’ll never get her back now— Please, just let me talk to her?”

A cold voice from the corner said, “Since when did you become the expert on crazy?”

Nick closed his eyes and turned to look at his friend. “Greg…”

“The psychologist said it would be best if she saw her mother,” Greg continued. “Why do you know better than a trained professional?”

“Because I know her,” Nick returned through gritted teeth. “She’s like a busted TV set, her channels keep flipping. But you gotta know which buttons to push.”

“Why is he even here, anyway?” Greg demanded, this time addressing his question to Catherine.

Somehow, the blonde managed to remain cool and collected. “He’s promised to get all checked out after we’re done with this,” she explained, evenly.

Greg stepped forward. “You put on a shirt,” he said, “but just because I can’t see them doesn’t mean I don’t remember those bandages. You really need to see a doctor about—”

“Alexa fixed it,” Nick insisted. “She took pretty good care of me— stitched the cut on my cheek, wrapped the burn on my chest—”

“Jesus Christ, are you kidding?” Greg exploded. “She’s the one that slashed and burned you in the first place, and you’re complimenting her nursing skills?”

“Greg, settle down,” Catherine ordered. She turned to the other man. “Nick…” She chewed on her lip and looked into the interrogation room, where Brass was screaming for a sedative. She knew just the one to give him. “Go talk to her.”

Greg gaped. “What?”

But Nick was already gone.

Nick opened the door to the interview room. Alexa’s wails were far more piercing in here than they had been over the speaker. Her mother saw him first. She stared at him like he was something alien. And then, she said one word, only one word, and it was so quiet, Nick couldn’t even hear it over the commotion. But he saw her lips move.


Nick looked at her, meeting her for the first time, and feeling like he should say something, anything. But then he remembered Alexa, who was on the floor being pinned down by an officer, and he called out to her. “Lexa!”

And just like that, she stopped. Stopped biting, stopped kicking, stopped shrieking. She tilted her head back, trying to see, and she said, in the smallest of voices, “Daddy?”

Grissom and Brass were staring at him. “Nick, you shouldn’t be here…” Brass said, his tone hinting at reprimand.

Nick didn’t look at him. Instead, he went to Alexa’s side. “Please, can you get off her?” he said to the officer. Slowly, he did, and Alexa sat up, crossing her legs as she did so, looking at Nick with adulation.

“Oh, Daddy, they said you were dead!” She tried to hug him, but Nick caught her bound hands and laid them in her lap again. “I didn’t believe them, though. I knew they were lying.” She shot daggers at Joanna. “They work for her.”

“No, sweetheart, they don’t,” Nick said, his voice shaking. “Lexa…”

She was watching him as if he could do no wrong. “Yes, Daddy?”

His tongue shot out and licked his lips. “There’s something very important that I have to tell you, OK? And you have to listen. Can you do that for me, darlin’?”

Alexa nodded, quickly. “Of course, Daddy, I’m listening.”

“You trust me, don’t you Lexa?”

“With every cell that I have in me.”

Nick felt a pang in his chest. Those were the words he had used when describing his own love for his parents. Alexa must have internalized them.

“Good, Alexa. Good.” He looked at Brass and Grissom, as well as Joanna and the officers. “Alexa, I’m going to have to go away for a while.”

She cocked her head and blinked like a fawn. “Where are you going?”

He inhaled a trembling breath. “I’m going somewhere so that I can be a better person. For you.”

“But you’re already perfect, Daddy.”

“I know that you think that. But I’m not, darlin’, I’m not. And… you’re going to have to go away for a while, too. Just a little while.”

She withdrew from him ever so slightly. “Where am I going?”

“Alexa…” He swallowed. “Because of something that a mean old monster did to you many years ago, you did some things. Some bad things. Do you know what I’m talking about, sweetheart?”

Her expression changed. It wasn’t drastic, and it wasn’t quick, but a shadow fell over it, and suddenly her eyes held a different hue. “Yes, Daddy, I know.”

“Well… well, because of these things that you did. You’re gonna have to go away.” He looked up at Brass. “To a hospital. They’re going to make you better, sweetheart.”

“But I was just looking for you, Daddy,” she said, almost desperately. “I just wanted to find you again. So that I could show you what you did to me.”

Nick couldn’t keep the tremor from his voice. “I know… But you’ve hurt a lot of people. And it’s time that you realize that. It’s time, Alexa, that you remember who you are. And who I am.”

Her eyes turned to glass. She reminded Nick of a porcelain doll that had fallen under the bed. Her face was smudged and puffy, but there was still something timelessly beautiful about those deep forest eyes. Slowly, she turned her head, looking at each person in the room in turn. She stopped when she saw her mother.


The woman had black streaks from the edges of her eyes. She nodded. “Hello, baby girl.”

“Joanna…” Alexa breathed. “Joanna, Joanna… Mamma. Mamma, why didn’t you get my message, Mamma?”

Joanna seemed confused. “What message, baby?”

“The first time…” Alexa said. “The first time he ever… he touched me. You said, I could tell Alfie anything and then he would tell you and you would know, you’d know, Mamma… Mamma, why didn’t you know?”

“Oh, my sweet baby girl…” Joanna sobbed. She ran to her daughter and kneeled down, gathering her up in her arms.

Nick rose to his feet as they sat there on the floor, together. He watched them a long time before he felt someone else’s eyes on him. He tried to meet Grissom’s stony gaze, but found it too difficult. “I’m sorry…” he said. “But she needed to see me.”

“You’re right,” Grissom said. “She did.”

Nick looked at the mirror. He wondered if Greg had seen that. He knew that he needed to talk to him. And that he had a promise to Catherine to keep. He walked briskly to the door, when he heard a tiny sound. Like the coo of a dove.

“Thank you…”

He stopped and looked over his shoulder. Joanna still held Alexa, but the young girl’s eyes were open and focused on Nick. She looked at Brass.

“Do I need… a lawyer?”

Brass held his breath. “It wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

Alexa nodded. “OK.” She looked at Nick again. “Really. Thank you. Thank you, Nick.”

The lump in his throat prohibited him from responding. There was nothing left for him to do. So he just left.

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