By Laura of Arolos

Rating: Gen
Disclaimer: CSI isn't mine. Please don't sue me.
Summary: Every story has two sides...
Notes: Based around the "Snakes" episode in CSI Season 5. Spoilers for that episode -- in fact this probably won't make much sense if you haven't seen that episode.

The telesales job had only ever been intended to be a temporary thing.

Vincent had never really meant to go into sales. There'd been layoffs at his last company -- hell, there seemed to have been layoffs everywhere. Barely any businesses were hiring and he needed a way to pay the bills. There was the telesales office, and they only asked for a quick interview before they hired you. You could be working within a few days, while all the other jobs he was submitting applications for wouldn't contact him for at least a month yet. It would be something to pay the bills, a stopgap to keep him going while he looked for something better.

He'd never expected to be good at it.

Certainly he got sworn at sometimes, shouted at, called the scum of the earth even. But at other times he could coax people along, persuade them from where they were sitting to move to their purse, to hand over that vital credit card number.

Vincent couldn't remember the last time he'd felt the same kind of adrenalin burst as he got from his first sale. They made a big fuss of you for your first sale -- they did for everyone. Cheering, banging you on the back, putting your name up on the board. He'd done something, achieved something, and felt good. The self-confidence which had been curled up in a corner since he lost his job seemed to suddenly gain a new lease on life. Perhaps it wasn't much of an achievement, but it was something.

As much as drugs or drinking, that kind of high could be addictive. It drove him on from one sale to the next, building him up. It numbed the feeling of rejection when, one by one, the other applications he'd sent were turned down. Some said he wasn't qualified enough, others that he wasn't experienced enough, and some didn't even bother to send a rejection letter. There were simply too few jobs and too many people applying for them.

Eventually he stopped applying for other jobs. The hope each time he applied and then the sting each time he failed was just too much to keep trying. Besides he had a job -- and one he was good at. Wasn't it better to focus on that than the things he couldn't do, the jobs he couldn't get?

But the amount he had to do to gain the validation he needed kept shifting. Before long, he didn't get cheered and patted on the back for getting a couple of sales a week. That was just normal now, people expected him to get that. People expected him to get more.

To do that he had to push where he hadn't before. He would start the beginning of every week cheerfully confident that this week would be easy, everyone would fall into his hands, he'd beat last week's sales no problem.

And by midweek every week, with only one or two sales on the board, he'd be getting desperate. He would argue with people who didn't want to buy, unaccountably angry with them. Stupid people with their stupid cushy jobs with pay that wasn't tied to commission. They dared to lecture him about their stupid No Call list, and tell him to get a proper job. Didn't they understand how lucky they were? That he'd love a proper job, but those didn't seem to exactly be thick on the ground right now? All he was asking them to do was give him one sale, one measly sale, and they wouldn't even give him that.

He lost his temper with one woman after she put the phone down him. He spent most of the rest of the afternoon prank calling her, blocking his number so it couldn't be traced, putting the phone down as soon as she picked up. Maybe it didn't achieve much but it made him feel better. Besides, he was certain she deserved it somehow.

Despite disappointments, he was accomplishing more every week now. It was achieved out of pure desperation, something that seemed to dampen down inconvenient things like morals. He got sales now from people he'd worn down, people he'd downright bullied into agreeing. Sometimes, if he didn't think he'd get caught, he'd sneak phone numbers from other people's desks, steal their sales.

It was excusable, because it was only ever to make that week's target. He was in a bind this week, had to get one or two more sales if he wanted to hit the target. Next week he'd behave himself, next week he wouldn't need that extra sale so badly.

But next week the desperation would be just as bad as last week, and again he'd find himself pushing, coaxing, begging. And then there was Bonnie. Bonnie was a godsend.

She was old, she was lonely, she wanted someone to talk to. And Vincent could provide that, was happy to provide that. Once a week he would call up to have a nice chat with her. He was happy because he got his sale, she was happy because he didn't mind her babbling on as long as by the end of the call she'd given him another sale. As far as he could see it, they both benefited.

You got old people like that sometimes. It was sad, but it was how it was. Dumped into nursing homes, maybe their families didn't visit so much, and maybe he was the only call they had all day. Someone that lonely was glad for anyone to talk to. Sometimes they had friends to talk to, but those friends didn't understand. They grew impatient with tales of grandchildren after they'd heard the same story five times, or gave bad advice, or interrupted.

Vincent didn't interrupt. He was a kindly ear, listening to whatever they wanted to talk about. He listened to Bonnie talk about her dead husband, comforting her, listening to her. He was her friend.

And because he was her friend, at the end of every conversation, without fail, she would buy from him. Because friends do nice things for each other.

For a few weeks, that was all it was. A weekly phone call that made them both happy. But then one week, he needed one more sale -- just one more to hit target! He only had half an hour left, and Bonnie's phone number was right there, so tempting, so easy. She was always so happy to hear from him -- he knew she would be glad if he called now. If it would make her happy, what harm was there in it? She was old, it wasn't like there was anything better for her to spend her money on.

Once you've crossed a boundary once, it's easier to do it again. Soon he was calling her regularly twice a week, then three times, then daily. Then more than that -- twice a day. He told himself that if she'd ever sounded unwelcoming, ever sounded like she wanted him to stop, he would. But she never did.

Encouraged by his success with her, he tried the same strategy with others. There were a lot of lonely old people out there, and many of them would welcome a friendly voice. He targeted old people's homes, and with their help he started rising on the board again. Meeting the weekly target wasn't such a stress anymore, it seemed easier now. Soon he was reaching it easily -- better, he was top of the board.

Not everyone approved of his methods though. He got in a fight once with one of the other salesmen when they got angry because he'd sold to his grandmother. You got that sometimes, indignant grandchildren whose guilty feelings about not keeping in touch with elderly relatives were spurred when they discovered those relatives had been taken advantage of in their absence. They didn't have a leg to stand on in Vincent's view. If they cared so much, they would have been there, looking after their grandmothers, listening to them to themselves. If they looked after their grans properly, none of them would ever be lonely enough to talk to someone like him, to need a telesalist as a friend. They'd failed, and they knew it, so they took it out on him.

Most of them were probably more worried about their inheritance than anything else, anyway.

Usually though they didn't share an office with him. Normally they just called up and ranted over the phone. He got a few bruises out of the office encounter and decided after that to be a bit more careful. Not because he'd been wrong, for he was still certain he had been in the right, just because there were leads out there that didn't result in you getting into a fistfight.

Nothing good lasted forever though. After a while, some of the old people he was using regularly were starting to dry up. Some of them were running out of money, others had anxious relatives who blocked his number so he couldn't call anymore. He needed new leads. Undeterred, he turned back to the place he'd found Bonnie, calling on her closest neighbours, hoping to strike gold again. He was patient and he was persuasive, and eventually he found the sale he was looking for. An elderly gentleman, who sounded just as desperate for company as Bonnie was. He was an easy sell, but didn't have a checking account.

Usually meeting customers in person was something Vincent would never do. You couldn't be too careful; there were some crazy people out there. But this was an old guy -- it wasn't as if he could drive himself to the bank, and the poor guy probably had no-one else to drive him. He was even in a wheelchair when Vincent picked him up -- it was probably the first outing he'd had in months. Vincent was doing him a favour.

He still believed that, or at least that's what he told himself it when he drove the guy to the bank, and he went on believing it as he drove them back. Right up to the point where a bullet tore along the side of Vincent's face, he was telling himself that the old guy probably viewed him as a friend.

He didn't get much time to reflect on the fact he was wrong. The second bullet killed him.