.................................Salvar: to save, to overcome, to preserve, to rescue, to cover, to passSalvarse: to survive, to escape|
At 13, Catherine had not been a natural babysitter. Her personality type was always geared toward more intense, social endeavors. To be honest, small children had annoyed her at that age. In her free time, she had much preferred the joys of roaming clubs, doing nails and necking whichever older boy was her flavor of the week that given day.
If she recalled correctly, the flavor of the week that week had been Harrison DuPree, a high-schooler from up the block.
The idea of playing with toy trucks alongside a kindergartner was less than what she had in mind. Nonetheless, Tam Jared quickly won her over. Or, rather, 'Owen Tommas Jawed,' as he most often introduced himself, quickly won her over. He was a precocious child if ever she saw one.
His personality was exuberant and flamboyant, even as his presentation was, at least for a five-year-old, quite flawless. His auburn hair was combed neatly into rows, and he had a habit that Catherine normally only associated with angsty or ditzy teenage girls -- twirling what little hair he had around his fingers.
Mr. Jared, a close associate of Sam Braun's, had been looking for a babysitter, and Catherine had been a logical choice.
"I is Tammie." Auburn hair gave way to a friendly smile peering up at thirteen-year-old Catherine Flynn. Dark chestnut eyes beamed at her.
She couldn't help but smile back.
Bruce Jared cleared his throat. "We went over this, Owen. Your name is Owen."
"No," said the little boy, scowling. "I is pwaying pwetend wight now. So I is Tammie." He pointed to a worn looking poster. "Wike her."
Mr. Jared rolled his eyes.
"I'll be back at 11," Mr. Jared said, directing his gaze back toward Catherine. "I have a meeting with Sam," he said, as if knowing Catherine, wise beyond her years already, would understand the meaning of this. Catherine nodded.
Mr. Jared shot a last warning stare at the impish five-year-old before walking out the door.
The door shut, and Catherine barely heard the light, quick footsteps darting towards her before she felt a small, warm hand snatch hers, with the small amount of strength it could muster.
She looked down to see a five-megahertz smile, only obstructed by two missing teeth, both to the right, on his top jaw. "Wanna pway?"
He scowled. The teenager tried not to giggle at the adorable little glare that looked as if it were out of some comical Hallmark card.
"My name not Owen. Is Tammie."
"Tammie? So who calls you that?" she asked cautiously, but curiously.
His little scowl deepened and this time Catherine could not resist chuckling.
"Whas so funny?" he asked, attention immediately diverted.
She held back a lighter laugh. "Nothing."
His expression lightened and he beamed up at Catherine once again.
"So what do people normally call you?"
"My fwiend Bobby calls me Tam. Is not Tammie -- he says it is not a girly name, but is not Owen either."
"How come you don't like the name Owen?"
"Is icky," was the only response she got. Catherine stifled another laugh at the simple response. "Awso, Owen is Sam Braun. He owens da ksino."
Catherine chuckled, realizing what the boy meant to say. "You means he owns it?" she asked.
"Isn't dat what I said?"
Catherine chuckled again, resisting the urge to try and explain it to the boy. "So, Tam, what do you want to play?"
"Hmm." He furrowed his brow again. "Kitkat and Baba want to pway."
"Do they?" Catherine asked.
Her question wasn't answered, however, as Tam darted up the stairs. He returned immediately with two worn-looking stuffed animals.
"What ith yaw name?"
"My name?" Catherine asked, leaning down with a grin to speak to the small child.
Tam giggled. "Yeth! Of courth, your name! Baba wasn't asking Kitkat!"
Catherine, once again, couldn't help but smile warmly back. "I'm Catherine."
"Katwin," Tam repeated, nodding in concentration. "Mmkay." He turned to the stuffed animals, bringing a small blue cat out, and almost hitting Catherine in the head with it. "Kitkat, meet Katwin." He turned back to Catherine. "Katwin, meet Kitkat."
"Hi Kitkat," Catherine said, still hunched over to stay on Tam's eye level and smile at the worn, purple stuffed dog now in front of her. One of the dog's ears was falling apart, and his nose had long lost its pinkness. She could tell it was a loved stuffed animal.
She thought she was doing a decent job so far, so Tam's scowl came as unexpected.
"Dat's not Kitkat. Dat's Baba. You hasn't been intwoduked yet."
"Ah," Catherine replied, nodding at the blue cat. "It's nice to meet you too, Baba."
Tam replied for Baba. "Baba is gwad to meet you toos, Katwin."
"Well," Catherine said, doing her best imitation of Lily Flynn's classy friends. "I'm pleased to meet you too, Baba."
Catherine smiled. "What's so funny?"
Tam leaned in to whisper into her ear. "Dey wike you too."
"Aw, thanks," Catherine said, smiling yet again. The boy was adorable.
"Dey's my best fwiends."
"Are they? How long have you three been friends?"
"Dat's how long wove and fwiendship aw supposed to be, wight?"
Catherine was taken aback by the comment. She had never quite considered it that way, or that much. In Vegas, love was always fleeting. Even at her age, she could sense a connection between her mother and Sam Braun -- one that had probably used to have been love, but certainly no longer was. The only true love she ever saw was that of money.
From what she had seen, man's -- and woman's -- love of money was unquenchable.
She stared down with mirth at the boy, hoping he retained the ability to truly love.
She wondered if it was even possible in the given day and age. She had seen her mother, and her mother's "friends," and virtually all around her, go through phases of love, romance and friendship, but, in the end, all died out. Even parents' love wore out eventually, as she'd seen in all the fleeing fathers of various friends. Love and friendship meant little to Catherine Flynn, even at thirteen.
Catherine paused for a moment, before forcing a smile at the small, innocent boy staring up at her, searching her face for an answer with an expression far too old for his years. She wouldn't spoil the poor kid's delusions just yet. That was time's job only. Hopefully, he would get a few years more of such delusions before the usual wave of cynicism hit.
He stared back up with a smile, one that had so much friendship and love yet to give to the world that would rush to meet him.
Catherine looked around carefully, grateful that the Lab had been largely deserted. She peered over her shoulder at lab techs immersed in work.
Nick was reviewing a folder of evidence, as he'd been doing for the past hour. Wendy was out on her first proficiency, with Warrick overseeing her work. Wendy was going to be a great CSI; Catherine could tell.
Catherine knew she herself should, hypothetically, still be off the clock. Which meant she had time for what she really needed to do.
All she could see in her mind was the sorrow in Nick's eyes that night and every night after, whenever he dropped his guard. She knew she had to do something, no matter how limited the possibilities, to make it better for him.
The sheriff had already given up on getting Greg closure, but that didn't mean Catherine couldn't try. Even if the scene itself was inaccessible to her, she knew something no one else -- probably not even the Feds -- knew. If she couldn't find Greg's corpse, she could at least find out why he was killed.
Strolling the aisles, she finally found the box. Fortunately for her, the case she had in mind had remained under the watch of LVPD, not the Feds, most likely because of the Jareds' connections to the city and all aspects of the municipal bureaucracy. Reaching through the boxes of cold cases, she pulled out the file. She was relieved that it wasn't ridden with rodent bite marks after all these years.
Jared, Owen "Tam" Thomas; DOD 9/9/1985
Checking around her and hiding the box under her jacket, she hurried home.
Tam Jared had died still believing in love.
Wendy Simms stared down intently at the floorboard.
It was polished, but had clearly been worn down over at least a decade. Its shiny mahogany finish reflected the shadows cast by a dresser and bed, the only other items in the room.
The dresser was also weathered by the years. The second handle, on the right side, was missing. Judging by the cracking wood surrounding the space vacated by the handle, it looked to have been yanked out with force. Wendy took a step closer. She glanced down at the floor. No handle.
Hmmm... where could it be?
She opened the drawer underneath it and found her answer, along with the murder weapon covered in blood.
She carefully bagged both, crossing her fingers that there would be fingerprints on at least one of the items. Her predecessor had taught her the art of superstition. He had said his grandma, Nana Olaf, was a psychic.
Greg. If it weren't for him, she wouldn't even have this job, or at least the opportunity to get it. Without him, there wouldn't have even been a vacancy for the DNA technician spot. The other available job for a CSI had been Sara's -- not for a CSI 1.
She sighed again. How eerie it was that she was replacing Greg yet again. But there was no comparison between the two replacements -- one had been prompted by Greg's departure into the field, the other by his departure into... nowhere.
It was so weird, to be entering the field under these circumstances. She'd expected it to be a celebration. But this was no cause for celebration. It almost made her second-guess her decision. But, at the same time, she knew Greg wouldn't want her to give up on her dreams because of his death. They hadn't even been that close, but she knew Greg wasn't the kind of guy that would want his death to prompt sadness. Then again, sadness was all it prompted.
It would have been one thing if Greg had died of a heart attack, but the way he had died -- bleeding in the arms of his best friend, as Catherine and the vicious perps looked on, before being dragged out, alone, into the parking lot of the casino and shot, execution style, leaving Nick and Catherine with memories they dared not share -- that was no cause for anything but sorrow.
She willed her thoughts away from Greg, and sighed. She wouldn't need celebration if -- when -- she finished her proficiencies.
She heard a sneeze behind her.
"Eh, thanks. Sure is dusty in here," Warrick said, sniffling.
"You're telling me. I've been in this room for the last hour."
"Hey, that's the job," Warrick said, smiling. "Wouldn't expect anything less from a good CSI --"
"You mean from Greg?"
They both cringed.
"Sorry," she quickly said.
"It's not your fault. No worries. It's rough living up to someone's shadow."
Wendy nodded, thankful to be understood. She'd been living in Greg's shadow for long enough already. Glancing at her watch, she stared back at Warrick. "Don't you have a date?"
Warrick looked at his own watch – or, rather, scowled at it. "Yeah. Maybe."
"Yes," he conceded.
"Shouldn't you be heading out then?"
"And leave you here by yourself? Nuh uh."
Wendy raised an eyebrow. "I don't need protection, or help... I mean -- no offense -- it's just I don't want you to miss your date because I'm taking forever at a crime scene."
"That's sweet, but no. I'm fine. I don't leave rookies at crime scenes by themselves," he replied, adding quietly, "At least not anymore."
Wendy nodded. "Holly Gribbs?"
Wendy had heard through the infamous lab rat grapevine of the move that had almost gotten Warrick fired eight years ago, and the young CSI that had died on the operating table, largely as a result of his mistake.
Warrick nodded back somberly. "Yup." Trying to alleviate the mood, he added, "And you're not even taking forever at this crime scene. Not movin' any faster than the average CSI. This job is about bein' careful, not about rushin' through things. You don't want to miss any evidence."
"Now I'll stop distracting you, as I can see you've got somethin' there," he said, looking down meaningfully.
"Well, yeah. That's good too. But that's easy. I was referring to the hair you were looking at."
The hair. I was looking at... Huh?
Wendy looked down, spotting a thick blond hair blending in somehow with the mahogany floorboards.
"The hair," she said, smiling back at Warrick appreciatively and reaching for her tweezers. "Thanks, Warrick."
"No problem, kiddo."
A ringing phone interrupted their heart-to-heart. Warrick reached into his pocket and stared at the screen of his phone, rolling his eyes. He moved for the closet, opening it and inspecting it, before closing it again.
"What are you doing?"
"I've gotta go take this phone call somewhere else. It's personal."
Wendy nodded, understanding that much. "I meant the closet."
Warrick grunted, knowing that's what she had meant. "Just wanna check before I leave. Double-check. That there's no suspect left here."
"Ah." Though that is what the police that cleared the scene were for...
She watched as Warrick glanced under the small bed in the middle of the room. When he reached for the dresser, Wendy knew he had done enough.
"Warrick." She reached for his hand. "They can't hide in a dresser. It's too small. There are drawers. Unless you can divide yourself into four drawer-sized pieces, or you're small enough to fit into one of those -- in which case you'd be a midget and I think I'd be able to still win a fight with you -- then I don't think I, or you, have anything to worry about."
Warrick released the drawer reluctantly and slapped off his latex gloves, reached for the phone -- which had long past stopped ringing -- and walked out of the room.
Wendy reached for the hair, at last, with the tweezers she'd finally fished out of the kit. Grissom had lent her Sara's old kit until she became a CSI and got her own.
She squinted at the hair as she reached down. She had thought that, if there was anything she'd be prepared for after DNA, it would be picking up pieces of hair with tweezers. Yet the stupid thing fell out of her tweezers.
Stupid resistant blond hair. She'd always hated blonds. Not all blonds. Sofia Curtis, who'd worked on graveyard for a while, had been perfectly pleasant. Then again, she'd been a dirty blonde. Greg had been a blond, but it seemed to be entirely the work of dye. She laughed to herself at the memories of Greg's many hilarious hairstyles.
Wendy chided herself for her rather fickle, and definitely superficial, prejudice. She hadn't hated blonds until her boyfriend during her freshman year of college had cheated on her with a blonde. Lacey, Lindsay... something like that, Wendy thought, struggling for the name. She had just called her "Bimbo Barbie" as she threw a thong at the girl and slammed the door.
Wendy grimaced at the unfortunate memory. Remembering the task at hand, she hoped that Warrick's love life was going better than hers.
I guess not, she thought with a sad smirk. Focusing in on any sign from a
nearby room as to how Warrick's phone call was going, she could make out the sound of arguing.
"Come on, Amy! I told you I couldn't promise. ... No -- no. That's what I said. I said my work was likely to get in the way. ... I can't just leave a crime scene! ... Amy," he said, sounding as if he were trying to calm down. "I told you when we started dating that my schedule is. Defined. By. My. Job. I can't change that. When I've got a case, I've got a case. ... Sorry. ... Fine. ... I guess it's gotta be this way. ... Bye, Amy. ... Okay, I won't be callin' ya again. ... Yes, this is goodbye."
Wendy's guilt grew with every word, and she wasn't sure whether to be relieved or not when the conversation ended. She prayed something would get better in that conversation. She didn't want her slowness at the crime scene to be the cause of Warrick breaking up with his girlfriend. Fortunately, her prayers were answered.
"Fine. I'll be there. ... Yeah. I'll check with Cath. ... No -- no! Cath and I are just --" Warrick heaved a frustrated sigh. "I'm calling my female colleague, who is going to come take over for me at the scene. She's one of my coworkers, and you need to deal with it."
Wendy could tell Warrick had had this conversation before. He and Catherine had always been close -- there were always rumors going around about the two of them -- and she could understand why Warrick's girlfriend would see Catherine as a major threat. The redhead was a former stripper, and still had the body, but way more charm.
She could hear Warrick hanging up, and got back to work as he headed back down the hallway. He didn't seem to notice the little progress she'd made since his exit.
"I'm gonna call Cath and see if she can cover for me here."
Warrick raised his eyebrows in frustration, as if trying to clear his head. "Yup."
"You could also ask Nick. I'm pretty sure he's already finished his case."
Of course he has, Warrick thought, almost in awe. In the last month, Nick barely seemed to leave the lab. His clearance rate was pushing into uncharted waters of success. On the other hand, though, he wasn't the person Warrick would have mentoring Wendy. All the sleep deprivation seemed to have deprived Nick of all social skills.
Wendy nodded. "You sure you don't want to leave now?"
"Nah. I'll wait for Cath to get here," he said as he reached for his phone again.
Catherine tried not to roll her eyes at the repetitive interrogations.
"How's school going?"
"How old are you now?"
"I remember when you were still in diapers!"
"My, my, what a pretty girl you're growing into!" That one, of course, had come from one of Sam's more drunk Christmas party guests. If Sam had heard the comment, that particular guest would have been out of the house in an instant.
Nonetheless, the most amusing had been the cheek-pinching ex-showgirl. Showgirl make-up had always been extreme, which was one of the many reasons it was unwise to keep up the showgirl act years later, when one's hands and eyes weren't quite as steady and discerning. Bertha Torrence was very much an example of this. Her eyebrows -- a dull scarlet which contrasted sharply with her hair, which was now dyed platinum -- were drawn on shakily, with drops and rises like a graph.
She leaned up to pinch Catherine's cheeks, a gesture Cath found particularly ironic, given the height difference and the connotations belied in the age-old act of cheek-pinching. Nonetheless, Catherine took it with grace, poise and a humorous smile.
That was, of course, the moment that Tam interceded. "Aw, come on, Bertie. Leave poor Cath alone!" His smile was so winsome and his bubbly personality so inherently genuine that even Bertha couldn't take offense.
"Okay then," she replied sheepishly. "I'll leave Lily's girl" -- as she always called Catherine -- "to enjoy the company of you silly young folks."
"Well, I'm only one young folk. And Cath's gettin' up there, ya know?"
Bertha couldn't help but laugh as Cath herself rolled her eyes. "Thanks Tam."
"No problem," he replied, smile still intact as they walked away. He reached up to pat her head. "You know, Bertie's a pretty cool lady."
"Is she now?"
"You should hear her stories."
"Sure," Catherine said, still unimpressed.
"That was a lame introduction."
Catherine paused her walking to look at him, curiously. "What would the appropriate one be?"
The response was not a sentence, or even a word, but an enthusiastic, warm hug. "Catherine! It's so awesome to see you!" The smile in his eyes was real.
"You too, kid."
He chuckled. "I won't take offense at that." He grabbed her hand, walking faster, no direction clearly in mind. "But how's it been?! How are you?! I haven't seen you in wayy too long!"
His enthusiasm, not for the first or last time, lit up Catherine's face. "Pretty darn good. You?"
"Hey now. That's not an answer. But fine," he said, rolling his eyes. "I'll go first."
They headed upstairs, away from the adults. "Life. is. good," he said, eyes rolling off into blissful day dreams.
Catherine watched happily as he railed away about the latest project he was working on in art class, and how much he hated gym class, and how his best friends, Gracie and Marta, were going with him to a Frankie Valli concert that he was really excited for. Coming from anyone else, the words and ideas leaving his mouth could easily have turned into a weary list. But, coming out of Tam's, they were a gleeful procession.
His head bobbed up and down, his smile so excited and open. He always reminded Catherine of an eager, lovable puppy dog.
He calmed down briefly. Catherine jabbed sarcastically. "Is that all?"
"Nope," he responded, smile lighting up. He was already dashing down to the stairs in excitement. "But I want to go check out that gingerbread palace downstairs."
He nodded eagerly.
"Well, that make sense. Sam Braun never does anything halfway."
He nodded. "This party is amazing."
"Or at least the food." Catherine paused for a moment, thinking. "Or, rather, in the words of my mother, 'Sam Braun neva' did nothin' halfway."
Tam cracked up at the imitation. "Man, Lily really does sound like that."
"Lily, eh? Since when are you calling my mother by her first name?"
Tam furrowed his brows. "What am I supposed to call her?" He broke out into a smile. "Probably not mother.”
Catherine rolled her eyes. "No. I don't know. I haven't given it quite that much thought."
Tam merely laughed again.
"Hey Cath. It's me --"
"Weren't you supposed to be on that date tonight?"
He was always astonished that she kept such good track of things. "Yeah, that's actually what this is about --"
Catherine sighed, but not with annoyance, more just acknowledgement of the situation she had pretty much known would be inevitable. "I'll be over in twenty."
"Thanks. I owe you one."
"Consider it payback for helpin' me out with Nicky earlier today."
"That was just a debt to Nick."
"Well, then consider it payback for something."
Warrick chuckled, his mind rolling over the many times they had covered for each other in the last few years. "Sure. See ya there -- err, here."
Catherine chuckled back. "Yep. See ya soon."
Catherine had just gotten home when she got the call. She was just glad that she had time to put the ziti in first. She had wanted to make her famous Turkey a la Tangiers that night -- it was a good comfort food, and it reminded her of the good old days. It was also a nice treat for Lindsey. But she knew she wasn't going to hold up Warrick's date any longer over a batch of turkey, even if it was with that Amy girl.
Catherine didn't know why she disliked Amy, though her brief interactions with the young woman reminded her too much of Warrick's ex-wife, affectionately dubbed "Yoko" by Greg. "Yoko" really was the nicest name that could have been applied to Tina Brown.
Catherine could feel Amy's suspicious look when they'd met, and she knew that those who were most suspicious of their significant others cheating tended to be the most likely to do it themselves.
And she didn't want to see one of her best friends get his heart broken again. Her other 'best friend' -- if adults could really apply such terms -- Gil Grissom, had already been abandoned by the love of his life, and she wasn't going to see Warrick suffer similarly. Catherine was a tough, strong and independent woman, and she'd been forced on many an occasion to devote her energy to looking after herself solely, but she couldn't help but be protective of her best friends, especially Warrick. Despite his tough exterior -- which she thought spoke more of his years of poker experience than his actual personality -- he was a sensitive soul, and she didn't want to see him go through the ringer again.
Hell, she thought. Enough of this team is already there. Certainly Nicky... and probably Gil to a lesser extent. And then there's Sara, not even a part of the team anymore... And Greg.
Her heart broke a little bit every time she thought of Greg, but even more when she thought of Nick. From her own personal experiences, she couldn't help but believe that the person left behind had it the worst. Even with all the suffering Greg had done in his last day -- And there was a lot of that -- she still sympathized more with Nick. There were few examples of excruciation that compared to waking up knowing that the person you loved was dead. And she knew she hadn't loved Eddie the way Nick loved Greg. Hell, we were divorced when he died, she sighed. She really couldn't even imagine Nick's pain. What a nightmare.
She shook her head, finishing pouring the ziti into the boiling water and making her way back into the living room.
"Hey Linds!" She didn't even wait for a response. "Make sure to turn off the ziti when the timer goes off. Okay?"
A muffled noise from the teen crouched over the computer, doing what Cath could only hope was homework, sufficed for a yes.
Her trip out the door was interrupted by a question. "Something to do with Warrick?"
"Yep," Catherine yelled back as she propped open the door.
Checking her watch, she sighed with relief. She was still on schedule to be there within the twenty minutes promised.
She hurried out the door, checking her slick ponytail only briefly in the mirror.
Tam answered the door himself. Catherine barely had time to speak before she was embraced in a hug. She was surprised to feel almost dwarfed by the quickly growing boy.
"All right." His tone immediately fell. "I can't believe I still need a babysitter," he said, rolling his eyes sheepishly.
Catherine chuckled. "Aww. You don't want me here?" she teased, in a babying voice.
"Please," he replied, rolling his eyes again. "But not that I mind your company of course. You're my favorite babysitter." He cringed on the last word.
"I'm your only babysitter, last I checked."
Tam glanced around, as if trying to hide something.
"You've been replacing me?! You had another, different babysitter, other than your favorite, Catherine Flynn?!" She feigned hurt, and he cracked quickly, joining in on the laughter.
"Okay," he said, raising an eyebrow and taking a forced, overdone air of seriousness. "Can we at least cut the whole 'babysitter' thing?"
"I've always wanted a sister." The genuineness in his eyes and words was apparent.
Catherine smiled. "Sounds good, kid."
Tam beamed back. "Sounds good to me too... sis," he said, pulling up a chair for Catherine, then himself, in the Jareds' expansive living room.
"So how's it goin'... bro?” she asked awkwardly.
"Okay, so maybe that doesn't work quite as well," he said with a sheepish grin.
She nodded, falling back quickly into their laughing ways.
"Gender roles are stupid anyways."
The words were loaded, and would have told Catherine 90 percent of the story had she not figured it out years ago on her own.
Catherine sensed the change in tone. "So... what's up?"
He shook his head.
"Tam," Catherine said, kneeling down, trying to connect with his lowered gaze. "I'll accept you no matter what. Anyone who really loves you will."
Tam gave her a suspicious glance, clearly doubting her words.
"What? You really think I'd hate you because you're gay?"
Tam flinched at the last word. He looked at Catherine, straight on this time, with a grave, sorrowful look in his eyes.
"Tam, talk to me."
"Anyone who really loves me?"
Catherine stared, puzzled. "Yes."
"So..." His voice began to waver, and Catherine could see the tears ready to leak out. "Dad just doesn't really..." His voice grew higher, almost squeaking. "He doesn't really love me?"
For one of the few times in her life, Catherine Flynn had absolutely no idea what to say.
Arriving at the car, Catherine grabbed the box, rushing back into the house and placing her find -- Tam Jared's case file -- under the bed.
Author's Note: So... why is Tam important? You'll find out later. The flashbacks from the hostage situation will continue and Tam's significance will be explained. Thanks for your patience! I promise that once everything comes together, it will be worth it :)
One thing- there's a line that's somewhat repeated by Catherine, but in reference to two different characters. I'm fairly certain that it's actually the same line, verbatim. One line is a flashback to the casino heist and the other is in a flashback with Tam. Props to anyone who can figure it out. There is a reason that I put that particular line in both places, as those characters are connected, in a way. There will be a few other repeated lines over the course of the story, particularly in flashbacks, all with similar intent.
What did you guys think of Tam? Does Cath seem in-character so far? Do you think the language could be improved? Let me know :)
Thanks again to the reviewers, as well as to everyone who put the story on alert. Muchos muchos thanks to LaughableBlackStorm, who has put up with the 50,000-word document I sent her to beta.
P.S. Walk your fingers over to that wonderful little button and tell me what ya' think! Reviews are a writer's crack. Without them, we're forced to pick up other hobbies. Like juggling geese (anyone for a Firefly reference?) or, God forbid, leading productive lives.