DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, Fox does. I'm only
taking them out for a test drive.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story contains some adult situations, so be forewarned.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Strap-on, Ryde or Die, Mighty Blue, Defense/Offense
After the Fall
And I hope that she believes
Yes I wonder if she sees
The killer inside me
- Kevin Griffin
Billie dropped a single piece of paper on the table and leaned over Warren's shoulder. "There it is, Colby. Take a good look." The young lawyer gave no indication that he'd even heard her, keeping his stony gaze fixed on the wall. "This was the proof I needed to link you to Oliver Mason and Cathy McKenzie."
The interrogation room was eerily quiet, the sound of Billie's voice the only thing interrupting the tense silence as she continued her one-sided conversation with the man she'd arrested less than two hours ago.
"You didn't know Ollie Mason, did you?" the lieutenant asked, not bothering to wait for an answer. "He was a hell of a guy. And smart as a whip." She straightened up and folded her arms across her chest. The white tiled room she and Warren were in was devoid of any furnishings, save for the small table and chairs in the center, and the young woman began to walk around them as she spoke.
"When the leak was first discovered, everyone just assumed the hacker was an outsider. But, Ollie didn't take any chances. He made sure if anyone tried to download files by using his computer, they also picked up a little hitchhiker. A virus. It was completely innocuous, mind you, because he didn't want to tip anyone off. But, once the stolen files were uploaded, that little, tiny signature would drop itself into an unsuspecting hard drive and sit there, just waiting to be found."
As she rounded the chair at the opposite end, Billie stopped and turned to face the young man fully. "And guess what we found in your notebook?"
The only acknowledgement Warren gave was to shift his vacant stare to the tabletop. He didn't dare look at her, fearful of that intuitive sense she seemed to turn on him whenever they made eye contact, as though she could somehow read his thoughts.
He'd barely spoken more than a few words to her since she and the other two cops first entered his apartment. One of them, Hayes, had stood next to him, watching him, while the other two moved around his apartment with purpose. It was obvious they already knew what they were searching for, and after less than twenty minutes, the lieutenant read him his rights and took him into custody.
He was still in shock at having been found out so quickly. The details of the shooting were fresh in his mind, and he went over them at least a hundred times during the ride to the station, trying to determine where he'd gone wrong. But, he couldn't imagine where he'd slipped up, or what piece of evidence had led them to his door.
"So, you want to know how I see this whole thing going down?" Billie asked, as the man remained mute. "I think you were the one who approached Cathy McKenzie. You worked her for a while, used her grief and anger over her brother's murder to convince her to help you out. Maybe money was a big factor there, as well. So, Cathy gets next to Ollie figuring she can get what she needs through him, only the security access is more difficult than she expected, and what she really needs is some quality time in his office.without interruption. She invites him back to her place, slips him something to put him out for a while, then goes back and gets the information. However, when she returns, she finds Ollie awake, maybe he's even hip to what's going on. Knowing he'll blow the whistle on her, she kills him." At this point, Billie stopped her meandering as she looked down at Warren, her hands resting on her hips. She leaned in a bit and asked, "How am I doing, so far?" When her suspect didn't bother to respond, she continued to pace.
"Finally, she brings the information to you, tells you what happened, and tries to squeeze you for more cash so she can disappear. But, you decide that you can't just let her up and leave, not when she could implicate you.and you shot her." The brunette sauntered over, her movements slow and casual, until she ended up beside him again. With lightning quickness, she grabbed a fistful of his hair with one hand, and squeezed his jaw tightly with the other, holding his head back as she bent over him and whispered menacingly, "And you paid her to go after Sara, didn't you?" When he tried to look away from her, she pulled even harder, almost knocking him off the chair as she yelled in his face. "Didn't you?!"
Warren could only stare up at her, his ineffectual movements spurring her on as she continued to apply painful pressure to his jaw. He finally made a slight whimpering sound, which seemed to have some effect on the lieutenant, and with an angry shove, she pushed him away and took a step back.
"And don't think I don't know about the others, David," Billie informed him, a feeling of grim satisfaction setting in as she noticed something flickering behind the man's eyes. "You think it was just dumb luck that I found you out?" She began to move her head back and forth, as if pitying him. She pulled out a chair and seated herself next to him, resting one arm against the tabletop as she stared at him for a moment, waiting for him to look at her. His eyes finally found hers again, as she said, "She gave you up, David."
The besieged attorney quickly straightened up and opened his mouth, as if he were about to counter the lieutenant's statement. But, just as quickly, he shut it again and dropped his gaze back to the table.
The brunette sat forward and rested her elbows on her knees as she leaned closer to him. "I know you did all this for her. The attack. the stolen files.Hill's shooting. She got you to do all the dirty work, didn't she? And now, you're sitting here looking at the business end of a needle, and she's sitting in her plush little mansion thinking about how giving you up is going to get me into her bed." The lawyer shot her a quick glance and then looked away.
"She got what she needed, and now, she's cutting her losses. It's time to get rid of you before you drag her down." She tilted her head a bit, trying to make eye contact again. When Warren finally gave her his complete attention, she knew she was beginning to get through to him.
"I know you two have a long history together, and you feel like you need to protect her, but keeping silent is only making things worse." The detective paused briefly before adding, "Felicia gave you to me, David. Doesn't that tell you something?" As the young man turned away from her again she released a heavy sigh and stood up, stopping to push her chair back under the table before heading toward the door. "I'll be sure to call her and thank her for the gift."
Warren's body went rigid at that comment. He'd kept telling himself this was all a ruse, designed to worm a confession out of him, and he was well versed enough in police interrogation tactics to know when he was being worked over. But, given the lieutenant's choice of words, he suddenly had the sinking feeling that there was some inkling of truth to what she said. A twinge of panic began to gnaw at him as she opened the door and started to walk out.
Billie stopped on the threshold and turned back to look at him. The young man's expression was so despondent that she almost felt sorry for him.
"What?" she asked.
A shudder ran through Warren's body as he tried to find his voice, but even taking a simple breath seemed like an impossible endeavor. His chest suddenly felt as though it were being held in a vise. His mouth opened and closed several times, but no words would come.
"Colby, what do you-"
"Are you afraid of her?" Warren asked softly.
The lieutenant held his gaze for a long moment, trying to ascertain whether the question was being asked for his benefit.or hers.
"No," she finally answered.
"You should be." The man's eyes slowly dropped to the floor. "I want a lawyer."
Billie nodded and left the room.
"So, that's that, I guess," Deaq surmised as Billie walked into the adjacent observation room. The detective was standing near the window, his gaze still lingering on their suspect.
"Now that he's lawyered up, we have to concentrate on building a case," Parish added. "We'll need a hell of a lot more evidence to hang on to him."
"There's so much shit going on here I don't even know where to start."
Billie shot Van a quick glance but didn't respond to his remark. "It'll be a while before we'll be able to talk to him again," she informed them. "CSI is checking over his car and his office, along with his apartment. Hopefully, they'll turn up something."
Parish nodded. "Williams already called to say he was on his way over."
"Time for the big press conference," Deaq observed.
The captain grunted in agreement. "I better get out there myself." He headed for the door, catching Billie's eye as he walked by her. "You planning on making a visit to Ralston?"
"Not just yet," she answered. "I have something else I need to take care of first."
"Anything you need from me?"
Billie offered him a tired smile. "No, thanks."
He gave a quick nod and glanced toward the window. "Nice work." After a meaningful glance at the other two men, Parish walked out of the room.
"Well, I guess all we do now is hurry up and wait," Van lamented.
Deaq reached over and put a hand on his partner's shoulder. "You do that, slick. Right now, I have a date with a very soft, neglected." Van's eyes widened as he looked over him.
"Mattress," the detective finished with a broad grin.
"Actually, that sounds like a decent plan."
"Sorry, player," Deaq needled him. "I'm going home alone."
Van smirked. "Funny." Both men looked over at Billie, whose gaze was firmly fixed on the figure in the other room. "You need us for anything else, sir?"
"No." Despite the late hour, the lieutenant was buzzing with pent up energy. "I've gotta split." She turned and started to leave.
She turned to face Van, who was standing there scratching the back of his head. "What?"
"Look, y'all, I'm taking off," Deaq interjected, clearly wanting to get out of the room before Van attempted his apology du jour. The young detective brushed passed his boss and was out the door in a flash.
Billie folded her arms and leaned back against the doorjamb. "What do you want?"
Van avoided her gaze for a moment, finally holding out his hands as he said, "I'm sorry, okay?" He dropped his arms and sighed, heavily. "I was way outta line."
"Yes, you were," Billie quickly agreed. "But, I can appreciate where you were coming from."
Van looked at her, doubtfully. "I just.well, I just wanted to say my peace."
"Okay," the brunette nodded as she jerked her head toward the door behind her. "Go get some sleep."
"Consider me gone." Van started to leave, but stopped just as he passed by her. With their faces only a few inches apart, he gave her a serious look. "Just watch your back, you got that?"
She raised three fingers and saluted. "Aye, aye, captain."
"I'm not kidding, Billie. You don't know what she's capable of."
The lieutenant narrowed her gaze. "Are we talking about Felicia here?"
Van merely shrugged. "Sure. Whatever." He walked out, leaving her standing there alone.
As Billie watched Van disappear around the corner, her eyes drifted back to Colby. Two officers were in the process of removing him from the interrogation room, while two others stood nearby, just in case. Watching the young man's defeated stance, it was hard to imagine him as a cold-blooded killer.
But, that's precisely what he was.
And now, the business of discovery was at hand. Billie already had a list of names, at least a dozen people who fit the criteria given to her by Anthony Pelligrini. She didn't know if they had all fallen victim to Colby. The only way to find that out was to get him talking.
The white room quickly emptied out, and the lights were snapped off, plunging the space on the other side of the glass into darkness, and Billie's thoughts along with it. She stared at the cold, dark partition, vacantly, as her mind spiraled down into the bleakest recesses of her past.
During her years on the job, she'd witnessed plenty of death, even delivered it with her own hand. But, despite the sometimes crippling after effects it could have, she'd been told early on that she'd better learn how to deal with it, and move past it, or else get out of her desired profession. That wasn't always easy, of course, but she managed to find a way to compartmentalize her feelings and keep them from overwhelming her, an absolute necessity if she hoped to make it as a police officer.
But, while it was one thing to be faced with the death of someone you didn't know, it was quite another to lose someone you loved.
Her parents' deaths, although accidental, had left her shaken and hurting beyond belief. It had also left her vulnerable to her own evolving self-destructive tendencies. But, as difficult as that event was for her, it was another death that had left her wounded to her very core.
Just the emotional impact of Alexa's murder had been grueling enough, but the way in which she'd been so brutally executed had given Billie many a sleepless night. The worst of it was wondering what those final seconds had been like for her. Did she know it was coming? Had she seen the face of her killer right at the end?
Unfortunately, Billie was fairly certain the answer to both questions was yes. Alexa told her about Jackson Yu, confided about her fear of being exposed, and what the man would do to her if he ever found out who she really was. And the young detective's premonition had come true.with a vengeance.
When Billie first came through the front door of Alexa's house that day, she'd immediately felt it: The weight of death. It was as if everything surrounding her had been sucked into a vacuum. No air moved. No sound broke the stillness. Only the constant hum of something primal, a current of electricity that charged the air and titillated the nerve endings, as if giving fair warning to the living that death was present, and if you weren't careful, it would get you too.
In the span of less than six hours, Billie had gone from cradling her best friend's lifeless body, to drilling half a dozen bullets into the man who murdered her. It was, without a doubt, the worst day of her life.
While trying to deal with her friend's death, she'd thought long and hard about her own mortality. Her life had certainly been threatened during the course of her work, but in the heat of the moment, there was very little time for contemplation. You had to act, or suffer the consequences. When immersed in such intense situations, Billie always stayed totally in the moment. The outcome was usually the furthest thing from her mind.
Which was exactly why she couldn't stop herself from wondering what it must have been like to be in Alexa's place, knowing that she was about to die, and being helpless to stop it.
Billie was jarred from her gruesome thoughts by the shrill ring of her cell phone. She quickly removed it from her pocket, her eyes suddenly fixing on her own reflection. "Chambers."
Catching her own gaze in the darkened glass, the lieutenant's shadowed features looked almost sinister. She quickly turned away, inwardly chastising herself for being so easily spooked. "Speak of the devil."
"And the devil appears," Felicia finished for her.
"So, I guess good news does travel fast," Billie commented.
"This should be quite a feather in your cap, Lieutenant." The blonde's voice dropped to a throaty purr. "You can thank me later."
"How about you come down here now and save me the drive?" A soft chuckle sounded in her ear.
"And spoil your fun, Billie?" the woman mused. "I wouldn't dream of it. I know how you love the hunt."
"He'll talk to me, eventually."
"I very much doubt that," Felicia replied confidently.
Billie leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes for a moment. She knew Felicia was right. Once Colby talked to a lawyer, it was more likely he'd just plea out. There wasn't a single shred of evidence to connect him to Harry Ralston's murder, let alone a series of possible killings that took place almost twenty years ago. And since it appeared that Cathy McKenzie killed a fellow officer just before she was murdered, the fact that she'd been a cop wouldn't carry as much weight anymore. Williams would be open to just about anything that could put this whole mess to bed. Fast.
It was an election year, after all.
"It doesn't matter, Felicia," she finally responded in a soft tone. "None of it matters, because I'm still going to get you."
"You'd better be careful, Billie," Felicia taunted. "People might think you're developing an obsession with me."
"Do you honestly think you'll get away with everything you've done?" Billie asked with genuine curiosity.
"None of us can truly `get away', can we Billie?" Felicia queried. "We reap what we sow."
The lieutenant mulled over that comment before replying, "Don't tell me you believe in karma, Felicia?"
"I believe we all pay for our transgressions, no matter how righteous our motives," she answered cryptically. "But, sometimes, the price is far greater than we expected."
"And now you're waxing philosophical?" the lieutenant noted. "I think that must be a sign."
There was a hint of amusement in Felicia's voice as she asked, "A sign of what, elsker?"
"That the walls are closing in."
"Mmm.perhaps," the blonde conceded. "But, the question is, on whom?"
Billie's eyes snapped open and she pulled the phone away from her ear, knowing that Felicia had ended the call. The woman always had to have the last word.
Well, not this time.
There may not be any evidence to connect her to Colby right now, but Billie just had a feeling in her gut that would change. Something was out there, a mistake just waiting to be uncovered. And even if it were the last thing Billie did on this earth, she would find it, and exploit it.
Felicia Ralston's days were definitely numbered.
Sara paced the floor of Billie's apartment and glanced at her watch every few seconds, willing the time to move faster. It had been nearly two hours since her lover's mysterious phone call, and despite the fact that she hadn't been waiting for more than fifteen minutes, it seemed like an eternity.
The sound of a key turning the lock finally brought a sigh of relief to the young woman as she quickly headed into the hallway. "Thank God, I was going crazy waiting-" Sara immediately stopped speaking as she saw Billie coming through the door.
She wasn't alone.
"Hi," Billie greeted her casually as she stepped forward and planted a firm kiss on Sara's lips. The blonde looked at her, quizzically, noticing the smile firmly affixed to the brunette's face.
"Hi, yourself," she finally responded.
"This is Jarod," the lieutenant offered, gesturing to the man behind her as he closed the door. "He's a friend of mine." She reached out and took Sara's hand, squeezing it firmly. "Jarod, this is Sara."
"Hi." He offered her a boyish grin. "Nice to meet you."
Sara stared at him for a moment, seemingly at a loss for words. Whatever thoughts she'd had about why Billie wanted to meet her had completely vanished as soon as she'd seen her coming in with a guy who looked barely old enough to shave. "Hi," she finally managed to spit out before turning to glare at the brunette, a single, blonde eyebrow raised in question. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"
"Sure," Billie replied as she turned to her companion. "Have a seat. We'll be right back."
"No problem." He lifted a hand and gave them a wave as Sara led Billie through the doorway and headed into the kitchen.
As soon as they were alone, Sara spun around and pointed her finger back toward the hall, as she demanded, "Who is that?"
Billie pulled out a chair for the blonde and gently coaxed her toward it. "Have a seat, Sara. I have something I need to talk to you about."
Sara glanced at the chair, and then at Billie. "Oh, God, this can't be good." She stared at her lover as she lowered herself down. "What's happened?"
The lieutenant grabbed a chair and seated herself in front of Sara, leaning forward and taking her lover's hands in her own. She began to move her thumbs across the soft skin in a soothing, gentle motion, as she fixed the young woman with a steady gaze.
"I arrested Cathy McKenzie's killer tonight."
The blonde stared at her. "Who?"
"Warren Colby," Billie answered. She could see the puzzled look on the young woman's face as she added, "From the D.A.'s office."
Recognition immediately dawned on Sara's pretty face. "The guy I borrowed the pen from," she said softly, looking down at Billie's hands as they continued to brush across her skin, creating warmth with their subtle friction.
"That's right," the lieutenant confirmed. "He was the one who paid her to attack you."
Sara looked up at that. "I thought Felicia was behind it?"
Billie nodded. "She and Warren go way back. Do you remember me telling you about the person from Felicia's past that I was trying to get a line on?"
"Well, he was the one," she explained. "Only, I didn't realize that until today."
"But, how did you-"
"It's a long story," Billie interrupted her. "And I don't have time to explain it all right now."
"Did you arrest Felicia, too?" the blonde asked hopefully.
Billie released a heavy sigh. "No, not yet." She could see Sara's back go rigid. "But, I will, Sara. It's only a matter of time." The lieutenant leaned forward, impulsively, and kissed her lover, trying to offer her own brand of reassurance.
Sara flashed a warm smile in response. "So, what now?" she asked. "And what's that cop here for?"
Billie's eyes widened as she gave her lover an appraising look. "You are good, you know that?"
"You said he was a friend of yours," Sara reasoned. "And judging from how you seem to spend all of your time, he's gotta be either a cop or a criminal." The corner of her lip turned up in a slight smirk as her eyes flicked back toward the doorway. "And that guy just reeks of do- gooder."
The lieutenant laughed at her comment. "You certainly hit the head of that nail." When Sara looked back at her, Billie sobered up and said softly, "He's here because he's one of the few people I can trust."
"Trust with what?" Sara asked feeling a bit uneasy.
Billie tightened her grip on her lover's hands. "I had a talk with the D.A. tonight, just before I called you. He's decided that it would be in all of our best interests if he dropped the charges against you."
Sara looked at her, disbelievingly. "You're kidding."
The brunette tried to hold back the grin that threatened to spread across her face. "No, I'm not."
"Why would he do that?"
"Because, he had it on good authority that you were prepared to turn yourself in, right after you hooked up with a certain high-profile attorney, who was going to initiate a series of lawsuits against the District Attorney's Office, the Los Angeles Police Department, and Los Angeles County for what happened to you while you were in protective custody as a trial witness in a criminal proceeding. The fact that you were attacked by a police officer, who was paid off by a member of the D.A.'s own legal staff." Billie shrugged her shoulders, casually. "All in all, not the best publicity an elected official could hope for, particularly one who's planning on running for re-election."
"And just who, exactly, was this `good authority'?" Sara questioned, although she already knew the answer.
This time, the lieutenant didn't bother to hide her smile. "Guilty as charged."
Sara squeezed Billie's hands a little tighter. "And?"
"And Jarod is here to take you into custody. A few minutes with Williams and a judge, and all of this running will be over."
Sara frowned. "Why can't you do it?"
"It'll look better this way," the young detective explained. "Trust me."
The blonde suddenly lunged forward and threw her arms around Billie's neck. "With my life," she whispered in her lover's ear, before placing a soft kiss on the young woman's cheek and pulling back just enough to meet her gaze.
Billie stared at Sara, the enormity of that simple declaration somewhat shocking to her given everything that had happened between them. She could almost feel the weight of that responsibility, and it was both amazingly exhilarating.and incredibly frightening. "Sara."
The blonde placed a finger against Billie's lips to silence her. "This makes twice you've saved me from going to jail. And all this time you've been risking everything for me." Sara swallowed hard as she placed her hands on the brunette's face, her voice coming out in a hoarse whisper. "I love you, Billie Chambers."
Billie could feel her emotions welling up, and though she would normally fight to keep them in check, she decided to stop thinking so much and just let herself fall into those endless blue eyes. "I love you, Sara Matthews."
As their lips met, Sara felt a chill run up her spine. Her hands began to move down over Billie's shoulders, fingers spreading out as they trailed down the edge of soft leather, until finally slipping underneath to caress her lover's firm body. She started to press in closer, leaving her chair and settling on her knees as she positioned herself in between Billie's legs.
The lieutenant had to lean forward to maintain contact, her fingers sifting through Sara's silky, blonde locks. She felt her lover's tongue pressing against her lips, and she opened her mouth to the welcomed heat, reveling in the taste of the woman she loved.
The sound of someone clearing their throat reached Billie's ears and she pulled back, reluctantly, before turning to meet Jarod's apologetic look.
"Umm.sorry to interrupt, but I'm on duty in less than two hours," he reminded her. "You know how crabby McNichol gets when people show up late for roll call."
Billie smirked. "Yeah, I remember." She turned to look at Sara, who was just getting to her feet.
The blonde walked over to him and held a hand out. "I'm the one who should apologize," she commented. "I appreciate you helping us out."
Jarod smiled, broadly, as he shook her hand in a firm grip. "My pleasure." He shot Billie a meaningful look. "If it weren't for Billie, I'd probably be doing traffic control in Beverly Hills."
The lieutenant stood up and pointed a finger at him. "Just be careful what you wish for. Rampart isn't exactly a walk in the park."
"That's an understatement," Jarod responded, his expression turning a bit more serious. "My Dad is still pissed off, but he respects my decision."
Sara folded her arms across her chest as she asked casually, "He doesn't like you being a cop?"
"What does he do for a living?" the blonde questioned, noticing the odd look that was exchanged between the two officers. "What?"
Billie leaned in and whispered conspiratorially, "His father is the Deputy Chief of Police."
Sara's eyes widened as she looked back at him. "Really?"
The young cop nodded, sheepishly. "I'm actually thinking of changing my last name from Forsythe to Smith."
"Oh, that's original," Billie teased. "Well, Officer Smith, I think we're ready to get this show on the road." She glanced at Sara. "You all set to go?"
Sara nodded, catching Billie's hand as she started to walk away. "Is there anything special I need to know?"
"No," the lieutenant answered as she threaded their fingers together. "Just tell them the truth about the attack, and play up the whole angle about being afraid of the police to explain why you took off from the hospital. They'll probably go over the details of the plea agreement again, but that'll just be a formality."
The blonde straightened up a bit at that last sentence. "The plea agreement?"
"Yeah," Billie said, giving her a sidelong glance. "It's still valid, so long as the additional charges are dropped." She gave her lover a gentle tug as she turned back to Jarod. "Give me a call when she goes in, okay?" The feel of some resistance caused her to look back over her shoulder. "What's wrong?"
"I told you I wasn't going to testify, Billie," Sara replied with more than a little vehemence.
"That was before Jill jumped bail, Sara," Billie retorted. "Now that she's gone, it doesn't matter. No Jill, no testimony."
"But, what if they find her?" Sara removed her hand from her lover's grasp and folded her arms across her chest. She didn't like being maneuvered, and suddenly, that's exactly what this whole deal felt like. The fact that Billie was the one pulling the strings was bothering her even more, although she couldn't exactly say why.
"Can we please just jump off that bridge when we come to it?" Billie asked in a sharp tone. She was tired and stressed, and the last thing she needed was for Sara to balk at the deal she managed to put together. After thinking the situation nearly hopeless, she'd finally found an out, but her lover's tendency to be uncooperative in regards to her increasingly complicated legal problems, was beginning to wear down the young detective.
Sara could see the silent plea in her lover's blue eyes. This entire mess was taking a toll on Billie, in ways neither one of them even understood yet. So, despite her reluctance to give in, just the chance that it would help ease Billie's mind, even for a little while, was enough to persuade her.
"Okay," the blonde replied with a quick nod. "But, if Jill gets caught-"
"I know, I know," Billie held her hands up in surrender. "You won't testify. I get that." She made a sweeping gesture with her hand as she asked, "Can we go now?"
Sara narrowed her eyes at Billie before looking over at the patrolman and flashing him a winning smile. She held her arms out to him and drawled, "Okay, copper, take me in."
Jarod's eyes widened, his gaze moving from the blonde to Billie. "I don't have to cuff her, do I?"
Billie rolled her eyes and grabbed one of Sara's extended arms, pulling her along as she marched out of the kitchen without a word. The blonde looked back over her shoulder and winked at the young cop just before disappearing through the doorway.
Jarod glanced up at the ceiling, shaking his head, slowly. "I am gonna be so late."
The secret to a good life is knowing when you're through.
- Tim Armstrong
"This feels a little weird."
Billie looked up over her menu. "What does?"
"Being in a public place with you," Sara explained.
The lieutenant smirked. "Thanks a lot."
Sara tilted her head and smiled, ruefully. "You know what I mean. The last time we actually went out together was...before," she explained, using her own designated code word to refer to the period of time when Billie was working undercover. She almost winced when she noticed the look of regret that quickly flashed across her lover's face.
"I'm really hoping we can both just forget about all that someday," Billie commented, her gaze dropping back to her menu.
Sara reached over and placed her hand on top of Billie's, squeezing it gently. "Not a chance," she said firmly, catching Billie's eye. "Everything we went through brought us here." She smiled, sweetly, as her foot slipped out of its sandal and began to smooth its way up along the inside of the brunette's leg. "And I definitely like it here."
The lieutenant returned her smile, blue eyes now completely fixed on the blonde as she dropped her menu on the table and leaned in a bit closer. "I'm starting to like it here, myself." She jumped, slightly, almost spilling their water as a set of wiggly toes reached the apex of her legs, and she reached under the table to slip her lover's foot off the front of her seat. "Ah, why don't we focus on lunch first?" Despite her gentle admonishment, her smile was proof that she was enjoying the subtle teasing.
"I'll do my best," Sara sighed as she leaned back in her chair and lifted her own menu to hide her grin.
The outdoor café they were at was alive with activity, people coming and going in rapid succession as the lunchtime crowds flooded the open market. The small fence along the edge of the tables was the only thing separating the restaurant from the busy walkway, and the two women slipped into a comfortable silence, watching as the narrow thoroughfare became increasingly congested with patrons and shoppers alike.
A waiter came and took their order. When he quickly scurried off to the next table, Billie turned to her companion. "So, what's the plan, now that you're a free woman again?"
"Well, since my old digs are history, I guess the first order of business is finding a new place to live," Sara responded.
Between Jill's arrest and Sara fleeing from protective custody, the police had tossed their apartment several times, which left the place a complete wreck. Once Jill jumped bail, the landlord immediately set out to get a court order to have all of the young women's property removed.
Fortunately, Billie had intervened, offering to pay him the back due rent if he allowed her to have everything placed into storage. The man quickly agreed, more than happy to be rid of his two notorious tenants.
"You have some money tucked away?" Billie asked, curiously.
"Yeah, a little." Sara took a sip of water and then set the glass down again before asking, "Would you mind if I stayed at your place for a few days? You know, just until I work something else out?"
Billie knew it was pointless to ask Sara where she'd been staying the past few days, so instead she simply responded, "No, of course not."
The waiter appeared with their food, setting the plates down in front of them and fussing over them for a brief moment. After making sure they were both satisfied, he quickly retreated, leaving them alone again.
Billie looked at Sara, thoughtfully, taking her time as she dropped a napkin onto her lap. "Umm...Sara?"
The blonde glanced up at her, shoving a forkful of lettuce into her mouth. "Mmm?"
"Why don't you just move in with me?"
Sara's eyes widened. "What?" she asked around a mouthful of food, quickly grabbing her napkin and wiping her mouth as she swallowed her bite of salad. "What did you just say?"
Billie blinked at her a few times, a little surprised at having uttered the words aloud. "I said...why don't you move in with me?"
"I...I don't." Sara stammered as she looked at her lover, seemingly stunned by the question.
"Look, I know it seems sudden," Billie interjected. "But, after everything that's happened between us, what are we supposed to do now?" she questioned, her tone sounding a bit defensive. "Date?"
"I'm hardly ever there," the lieutenant pressed on. "It would be practically like living alone. We stayed together in Malibu, and that was good, wasn't it?" Sara gave an affirmative nod. "And, besides, I've kind of gotten used to having you around." She sighed, softly, and looked down at her own food, poking at the plate of pasta with an air of impatience. "I can hardly even sleep when you're not there," she admitted softly, not looking up from her lunch.
Sara couldn't help but smile as she watched the young woman trying to maintain her cool demeanor. "I honestly don't know if you're ready to have me around all the time, Billie."
The lieutenant dropped her fork onto the plate and leveled her gaze at the blonde, any trace of uncertainty now gone. "I'm happy when you're around, Sara...well, most of the time, anyway." Sara merely lifted a brow at that comment, and Billie could see she wasn't explaining herself very well, which certainly wasn't anything new. "I haven't exactly had a lot of happiness in my life, Sara," she said softly. "I can't make you any promises. I have to take everything a day at a time, because I just can't think beyond that. And today, I love you, and I want us to have as much time together as we can."
Sara looked somewhat taken aback. "You say that like you think it won't last."
Billie shook her head, emphatically. "No, I say that like a person who lives their life behind a gun, Sara," she stated with brutal honesty. "I don't know what the future holds. I can't even tell you that when I go to work later I'll ever lay eyes on you again. I won't even bother mincing words here. You know the way things are." The lieutenant reached across the table and clasped Sara's hands as her eyes desperately tried to convey what her words couldn't seem to express. "I feel like I've been given a second chance here, Sara, and I want to take advantage of it."
The two women stared at each other across the table, their hands linked together as all the noise around them seemed to fade into the background. Everything was moving so fast. Their romance was still so new, yet they felt so certain about their feelings for one another. Both had experienced loss, and knew first hand how fleeting life could be. Individually, they had known their share of heartache, and valiantly stared down the worst that life could throw at them.
Or so they thought.
"I hosey the left side of the bed," Sara announced, flashing a smile.
"Hey, you know I sleep on the left side," Billie argued, playfully, squeezing Sara's hands firmly, before picking up her fork and starting into her lunch again.
"You won't be doing much sleeping with me around," the blonde shot back, wrinkling her nose at her lover as she skewered a piece of tomato and popped it into her mouth, triumphantly.
Billie shook her head and laughed. "God, what did I just get myself into?"
The older woman was rushing up the expansive staircase in search of her employer. Felicia's shouting could be heard from quite a distance, and the servant had been in the process of putting out some flower arrangements when the alarming outburst caused her to drop the vase she was carrying. Without a second thought, she left the shattered remains where they were and began her frantic search.
As she came to the upper landing, Felicia suddenly leaned over the railing in a near panic. She glared down at her and gestured, impatiently. "Come up here, immediately!"
Sophia quickly complied, and found herself standing at the end of the main hallway, watching with rising concern as the tall blonde paced the length of the Persian rug beneath their feet.
Felicia suddenly whirled on her. "Did you escort Lieutenant Chambers out yesterday?"
"Yes, Madam," the servant replied. "Just as you requested."
"And you never left her alone? Not even for a minute?"
The woman made an exasperated sound and stormed down the hallway, quickly disappearing into the master bedroom. Sophia dutifully followed, her concern as to the cause of Felicia's distress growing with each passing second.
"May I be of some-" Sophia's voice faltered as she entered the bedroom. The room was in a complete shambles.
Felicia turned as the woman came in behind her. "Are you absolutely certain that the lieutenant never had an opportunity to come into this part of the house?"
The dark-haired woman stared wide-eyed at the destruction. "Yes, I. Madam, should I phone the police?"
"What?" Felicia followed her gaze. "No, no, Sophia," she said, waving her hand at the woman, impatiently. "I did this."
"May I ask why?"
"I'm looking for something," the blonde answered as her eyes moved, frantically, over the ruined contents of her dresser drawers. "And it's imperative that I find it."
"Perhaps I could help you look for it?" Sophia offered in her most calming tone.
"No," Felicia stated firmly. "It won't do any good." With a heavy sigh, she turned a piercing gaze at the older woman. "Someone has taken it."
Sophia could see the stirrings of panic continuing to grow behind the woman's dark eyes. "Are you sure you wouldn't like me to call the police, Madam. I'm assuming it was something of value, which means there may be more items missing, as well."
Felicia strode forward, stopping directly in front of her employee. The blonde's agitated manner and superior height would have intimidated most people, but Sophia didn't seem the least bit put off by it. "Oh, it was definitely something of value," she declared through gritted teeth. "Great value. But, only to the right person." She shook her head again. "No, I'll have to address this issue personally."
"Is that wise, Madam? There are other ways to pursue a matter such as this." The suggestion seemed innocuous, but there was an undertone of something hard and cold in the older woman's tone that only Felicia could recognize. Sophia had been in her service long enough to know that people of great wealth could often do things others could not.
The blonde's hands began to shake as she stood there, and she curled her fists, clenching them, tightly, in an effort to bring her temper under control. "I will handle this my own way," she said slowly.
"Very well, Madam." Sophia took a step back and cast another look at the cluttered room. "I'll have Rosalie tidy up right away." She waited for her employer to acknowledge her statement.
Felicia closed her eyes and nodded. "That would be fine, Sophia." A strange calmness came over her, and she glanced down at her hands, uncurling her fingers to see the blood her fingernails had drawn as they dug into her skin. A hand reached out and clasped her wrist, gently coaxing her toward the bathroom.
"We need to take care of this first, Madam."
The blonde followed, dutifully, like a wayward child, allowing the older woman to lead her to a chair in front of the vanity, where Sophia went about cleaning the self-inflicted wounds. She worked swiftly and efficiently, occasionally stealing a glance at the younger woman, as though waiting for some kind of reaction from her.
"I've made a critical error." Felicia's voice was barely audible as she finally shifted her gaze to meet the other woman's eyes.
Sophia could see that her charge needed some reassurance. "I'm sure you'll be able to rectify it, Madam," she stated, succinctly.
"Rest assured, I most certainly will."
The two young lovers strolled, hand in hand, as they made their way to the red Corvette parked at the curb. Neither seemed in any great hurry to part company, and when they reached the car, they lingered for several minutes, oblivious to everything but each other.
Billie leaned against the passenger door and slipped a hand around Sara's narrow waist, pulling her closer as she said, "We should take a ride and pick up some of your things."
The blonde looked at her, pensively. "Are you sure about this, Billie?"
"Yes," the brunette replied without hesitation. "My idea, remember?"
Sara nodded and lifted a hand to lightly caress the young woman's cheek. "Right." She closed her eyes just as a pair of lips brushed the corner of her mouth, the gentle kiss a promise of better things to come.
It seemed as though everything was beginning to fall into place for Sara. Her legal troubles were over, at least for the time being, and she and Billie would now have the time to explore their complex relationship. And though it was true that moving in together would only serve to make things even more complicated, she had to admit that she was definitely looking forward to the challenge.
The only thing still troubling her was Billie's case. With the arrest of Warren Colby, it seemed as though the worst of it was over, but the fact that Felicia remained free and clear continued to plague her thoughts.
The wealthy woman had an obsession with her lover, and though Billie was very much aware of it, she didn't appear to be the least bit concerned. Of course, she was probably just downplaying it for her lover's benefit, but that only made Sara worry even more.
Felicia had already tried to come between them by using those pictures, and she'd almost succeeded. The temptation to just disappear completely had occurred to Sara when she first left the warehouse that day, the pain of her lover's betrayal so acute. Thankfully, she'd had the good sense to give Billie the chance to tell her side of the story.
But, the contents of those photographs, and the connotation behind them remained, the vivid images they projected still weighing heavily on her mind. The way Felicia had spoken about Billie left little doubt that she had a twisted fixation on the young lieutenant, and despite the suppression of one threat, Sara couldn't help but feel that there was an even greater danger still lurking out there.
"Earth to Sara?"
The blonde looked somewhat startled. "What?"
Billie frowned as she studied Sara's face for a moment. "Are you okay?"
"Sure," she replied, immediately shrugging off the unpleasant thoughts. "I'm just a little tired." The flash of a smile and another soft kiss seemed to assuage both of their concerns, and Sara pressed the length of her body against Billie, effectively pinning her to the car. "Why don't we go home first?"
The lieutenant smiled. "I figured you'd be dying to get all of your clothes back."
"Right now," Sara confessed, her hand slipping under the hem of Billie's shirt to tease the soft flesh with her fingertips. "The only clothes I'm interested in are yours."
Billie felt the hypnotic pull of Sara's seductive gaze, while the touch on her back caused tiny shivers to shoot up her spine. She was suddenly very aware of their public surroundings and straightened up, still holding her lover in a casual embrace as she dangled the car keys in front of her face. "Want to drive?"
Sara's eyes widened, dramatically. "Are you kidding?" She quickly snatched the keys from Billie's hand before the woman could change her mind. "I figured, after the last time I drove it." With a quick shake of her head, she took a step back and commented, "Sometimes, I feel like I'm walking in a minefield." As she started to turn away, Billie caught her arm.
"We'll get beyond it, Sara," Billie said softly. "That much I can-" The sound of her cell phone interrupted them. She turned and grabbed her phone from her purse. "Chambers."
Sara watched her lover's subtle transformation, the thoughtful young woman she was kissing only a moment ago now giving way to the hardened police lieutenant. She clasped the brunette's hand and squeezed it, but it was clear that the caller now had Billie's complete and undivided attention.
"Yeah, okay. I'm on my way." Billie lowered the phone, her thoughts still focused on the call. The gentle tug on her hand caused her to look up, and she smiled apologetically. "Sorry, but I have to go to work."
"I figured," Sara replied. "What's going on?"
"Hill's awake," the lieutenant informed her. "I need to talk to him."
The two women got in the car and Sara quickly pulled out into traffic. After several minutes of heavy silence, she shot a look at Billie out of the corner of her eye and asked, "What's on your mind?"
The brunette leaned her head back and turned to her. "I have to come up with a clear motive."
Sara tightened her grip on the wheel. There was no doubt in her mind exactly what the reason was for Hill's shooting. She was about to say as much when Billie spoke up again.
"It'll be impossible to prove that Felicia put Colby up to it, unless I can find something to connect them."
"I knew she did it for you," Sara said quietly.
Billie was still studying Sara's profile and could see the look of concern in that furrowed brow. She considered saying something to allay her lover's fears, but there didn't seem to be any point. As always, the former thief's instincts were dead on, and the more attuned she was to what was going on, the better prepared she would be if something were to happen.
Now that Hill was awake, Billie was desperately hoping he would have some kind of information to share. Just the thought of having to explain to him about Felicia's role in his shooting was giving her a headache.
"You never did tell me how you found out about Colby," Sara commented, trying to draw the lieutenant out of her characteristic brooding.
"It was his statement," Billie explained. "When I saw his full name typed out at the bottom...I just knew. It took me a few hours to do some digging, but I found enough to convince Williams to get a search warrant."
Sara gave her a confused look. "His full name?"
"Warren is his middle name. I never knew his first name was David. And by coincidence, the person I've been trying to locate was also named David."
"But, what made you think he was the killer?"
Billie paused a few beats before finally admitting, "Felicia told me."
Sara suddenly swerved the car to the right and came to a stop, completely ignoring the horn blasts and shouts of the drivers who were now being forced to go around her. She yanked on the brake and spun around to face her lover. "Felicia told you?"
The blonde sat there and stared at her in shock. "She told you the name of the killer?" she repeated, as if still trying to comprehend the idea. "When?"
A pair of blue eyes narrowed in suspicion. "So, you were just making small talk when, suddenly, Felicia decides to give up her accomplice... just like that," Sara replied with a snap of her fingers. "Why would she do that when she could end up being implicated herself?" There was no denying the accusation in the young woman's tone.
"Because it suited her purpose, I suppose," Billie replied matter-of- factly. She could see her lover becoming increasingly agitated and suddenly wished she'd said nothing about Felicia's confession.
"And what purpose would that be?" Sara demanded to know.
Billie could feel those old, familiar defenses going up like so many bricks in a wall. "What's with the third degree, Sara?"
The blonde's jaw worked, furiously, as she pinned Billie with an angry look. "Because, I want to know what the hell is going on. You're keeping things from me." She quickly held a hand up. "And don't give me that excuse about protecting me, or how it's a part of your job. I'm not stupid, Billie. There's something going on between the two of you, and its time you let me in on it."
"I want to get her for what she did, Sara," Billie spoke softly.
There was something in the young woman's blue eyes; a wound that cut so deep Sara couldn't understand how she'd managed to overlook it up until now. Her expression softened as she reached over and took Billie's hand. "I know you lost a lot in that house, Billie, but you need to try and keep your objectivity."
The lieutenant frowned and dropped her gaze. "Look, can we talk about this later? I really need to get to the hospital, and we still have to drop you off at the apartment first."
The apartment. Not `home'. That distinction wasn't lost on Sara. "Okay," she relented, turning away from Billie as she eased the car back into the busy traffic. "But, we're not done with this yet."
"Don't I know it," the lieutenant mumbled to herself.
Warren sat and stared at the paper on the table. His lawyer reached over and picked it up, speaking a few words with two of the detectives present, but the young man paid them no attention. He could feel the eyes of the officers behind him boring a hole in his back. He knew how they felt about cop killers, and he was thankful that he hadn't been left alone with them for too long. Fortunately, he wouldn't need to be concerned about that for much longer.
It was done.
When he told Ilsa he would take care of everything, this wasn't exactly what he'd had in mind, but he knew now it was for the best. All of the details were there. The only thing he wasn't certain of is whether or not they would believe him.
But, that didn't really matter.
The most important thing is that he'd protected her. He knew she doubted him. She thought of him as weak. And maybe he was. Certainly all those years ago he'd felt like a coward. When Ilsa tried to teach him how to overcome his fears, he'd always ended up crying like a baby, pleading with her to stop, and knowing that when she finally did, he would gladly seek out someone else, always so desperate to pass on that pain.
Not this time. This time, he would take it. He would be the one to suffer. He would prove to her that he could be strong, face his fear. and defeat it.
Two pairs of hands grabbed him roughly from under his arms and lifted him out of the chair. Warren kept his eyes downcast, not wanting to incite some imagined threat so the officers would have an excuse to beat on him.
As they escorted him out of the room, he found himself wondering what Ilsa's reaction would be when she found out what he'd done. Would she be angry with him? Would she understand the reasons why? He could only hope that she knew how much he cared for her and, despite his actions, he would forever be the one person she could always count on.
Her one and only.
Billie pushed the door open and entered Hill's hospital room, trying to keep her footsteps quiet in case he was asleep. She approached the bed, her eyes taking a moment to scan the assortment of wires and tubes going in and out of various body parts.
An imperceptible shudder coursed through her as she stood next to his still form. She'd always hated hospitals, particularly after the death of her parents. Her father had been a very strong person, and he'd lasted for more than twelve hours after the crash, his mind refusing to give up despite the irreparable damage his body had suffered. She'd made it to the emergency room with just enough time to watch him in the throes of death, and those few horrific moments would forever be her last memory of him.
"Did I die and go to hell?"
The lieutenant looked down at the sound of Hill's weak, raspy voice. He hadn't moved at all, but his eyes were open and looking over at her. "Well, you didn't die," she informed him with a smirk. "But, as for the `go to hell' part."
"Feel free to turn up the I.V. at any time, Billie," he croaked. "Deliberate unconsciousness suddenly appeals to me."
"I see the bullet didn't take out your rapier wit," she said dryly.
"I think that's about the only thing it didn't take out." He tilted his head a bit in an effort to face her and blinked his eyes a few times. "After I get out of here, I may decide to forgo the glasses completely. You're a little less scary when you're out of focus." His comment elicited a smile from the young woman standing beside his bed.
"So, you always go to the office in a vest?"
"I do now."
She nodded at the gravity of that simple statement. "I assume you know we made an arrest?"
"Colby...I heard. I still don't get it. And, more importantly, how did you know it was him?"
"Long story," the brunette answered.
Hill lifted his eyebrows. Even that small movement took a Herculean effort. "I've got nothing better to do."
"What do you know about McKenzie's shooting?" she asked, deflecting his question with one of her own.
"Nothing," Hill replied. "Colby called me and told me he had some information about the case, but that there was another cop involved and he was too afraid to come forward. I pressed him on it, and eventually he agreed to meet with me."
"He set you up."
"I realize." Hill's face scrunched up in pain. "Uhh."
Billie looked at him with concern. "Do you want me to get someone in here?"
"No." He took a few calming breaths, waiting for the intense discomfort to pass. "They're already pumping too much into me. I can barely think straight."
"You need to rest."
"Gee, Billie, I didn't know you cared."
"I didn't say I did."
He glanced over at her. "Tell me what this has to do with you."
"It turns out that Colby is an old friend of Felicia Ralston's."
"Quite a coincidence," Hill commented.
"Also, by coincidence, Felicia Ralston is friends with Elizabeth Forsythe."
"And we were supposed to have a meeting with her husband this morning," the man added.
"Follow the bouncing ball," Billie confirmed.
Hill coughed a bit, wincing, as he placed a hand on his stomach. "It... seems that...all roads lead to you." He closed his eyes and began to breathe deeply through his nose. After several minutes of relative silence, he turned to look at her again. "I guess the message she's trying to send here is `Don't mess with Billie'."
"I haven't been able to come up with any evidence to connect her to this yet," the lieutenant admitted.
"What about Colby?"
"I think I have something to add on that one." Billie and Roland both turned to see Bob Parish standing a few feet away.
"You really have to fill me in on how you do that," Hill commented.
"Why?" the captain asked. "You think it'll help you dodge a few bullets?"
"I think I've already done pretty well on that score."
Billie could read Bob Parish like a book, and she knew immediately that something was very wrong. "What's happened?"
The burly man looked at her. "This is gonna be one of those good news, bad news things."
"Good news, first," Hill responded quickly. "I could use it."
"Colby signed a confession," Parish told them. "He admitted to shooting Officer McKenzie." He gave Hill a meaningful look. "And you."
"Why?" Hill questioned.
"Well, there's a long story about him and McKenzie having an affair, her anger at the department's handling of her brother's murder, and her plot to avenge his death." Parish regarded Billie as he added, "He claims that she stole the information on you because it was your investigation."
"Then, why didn't he shoot Billie, instead of me?" Hill demanded as Billie rolled her eyes.
"Because, you hindered the investigation," the captain answered. "And you locked Billie up for killing the man that killed her brother." He let Hill chew on that unpleasant little reminder for a moment.
"If they were lovers, then why did he shoot Cathy?" Billie asked.
"Self-defense," Bob answered simply. "She was so freaked out over Mason's death that she panicked and threatened him, too, so he shot her. He claims that he was so overwrought about her death that he decided to finish what she'd started...because he loved her, and he thought he owed it to her."
"That is total bullshit, Bob," Billie interjected. "And what about the attack on Sara Matthews? Or the car bomb? How did he explain all of that?"
"He didn't. The responsibility for those incidents is being left on Kistler's doorstep."
"But, we know all of these things are tied together, and we know who the common denominator is. All I need is a little time, and I'll get the truth from him," she stated angrily.
Parish sighed, heavily, and stuffed his hands into his pockets. "Well, now, that brings me to the bad news." He could feel the weight of Billie's gaze and he gave her his full attention.
Hill looked between them, suddenly feeling as though they no longer knew he was even in the room. "What?" he asked in exasperation.
"Colby hung himself in his cell twenty minutes ago."
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