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.
SPOILERS: Strap-on, Ryde or Die
After the Fall
Get a load of him, he's so insane
You'd better get your coat, dear
It looks like rain.
- Elton John
Van stood at the observation window, watching with interest as Jill Kistler continued to pace the length of the interrogation room on the other side of the glass. Her lawyer was seated in a chair at the table in the center of the room, eyeing her warily as he tried to convince her to calm down.
"Billie's not gonna be happy," Deaq commented, looking over Van's shoulder.
"Nope," his partner agreed.
"She showed up yet?"
Van shook his head. "No. And I don't think I wanna be around when she does."
"I hear that."
Both men turned to see Billie coming through the door. She hadn't bothered to change clothes yet, and her disheveled appearance caused both men to raise their eyebrows.
"Hey Boss," Deaq greeted.
Billie stopped in front of them, folding her arms across her chest as her eyes moved to glance through the window. With a quick jut of her chin, she asked them, "So, what's the story?"
"We were on her all morning." Van leaned casually against the wall. "She didn't go anywhere near the courthouse."
"Yeah," Deaq chimed in. "She was at a gym downtown. Spoke to a few people there, but other than that, she was just working out."
"You could see her the whole time?" Billie questioned.
"Pretty much," Van answered. The two cops exchanged a look as they waited for Billie's reaction.
"Okay." The brunette turned to leave.
"Whoa, whoa," Deaq started as he reached out and grabbed her forearm. "That's it?"
She regarded him with a bland expression. "Yeah."
Van slowly shook his head as a smile started to spread across his face. "No way," he responded, straightening up and fixing his boss with a suspicious look. "There is no way that you are gonna be satisfied with that."
"Hey guys," Billie responded looking between them. "I didn't expect her to not have an alibi."
"Okay, fine," Deaq said calmly. "But, you can't tell us that you're not just a little bit juiced up right now," he remarked, raking his dark gaze over her bloodied clothing.
The young lieutenant's tone became defensive. "So what?"
Van walked around them, positioning himself with his back against the door as he slowly closed it. "So, we don't want you going in there and getting yourself into trouble."
Billie placed her hands on her hips, looking indignant as she said, "I am not going to get myself into trouble. I am going to interrogate my suspect." She shot Van a pointed look, ".if you'll get out of my way."
"Yo, Billie. Listen up for a minute."
The brunette tore her gaze away from Van and pinned it on her other subordinate, taking note of his serious expression. "What?"
"Look, we know you got a jones on for this chick, alright? So, why don't you just let us talk to her," Deaq advised.
Billie shook her head. "She won't talk to you."
"And you think she's gonna talk to you?" Van interjected. "Besides, with her mouthpiece there, she's not gonna say anything anyway."
"Look, guys, I appreciate your concern, okay? But, I'm gonna go at her my way." She gave Van a warning look and he moved aside, pulling the door open for her.
"Just don't take a swing at her," he cautioned as she walked by him. After she exited the room, he turned to Deaq and said, "She's wound up pretty tight."
"You got that right."
Van sighed, heavily. "So, now what?"
Deaq turned to face the window again. "I told Sara we'd keep an eye on her, so that's what we do."
"I would've liked a little more in the way of details, dude. A cryptic phone call just doesn't cut it, ya know what I mean?"
"She's scared, man. I tried to get her to spill, but all she said was Billie needed someone to watch her back.that there might be some trouble." He folded his arms and looked through the window, waiting for the show to start. "And you know what?" he asked as he glanced at his partner. "I think she's right."
As Billie entered the interrogation room, Jill spun around to face her. "Well, it's about goddamn time you-" her words died as she caught sight of the blood on the lieutenant's clothes.
"Nice to see you, too." Billie gestured toward the empty seat beside Jill's lawyer. "Have a seat."
"I'm assuming you've a good reason for keeping us waiting, Lieutenant."
Billie focused her attention on Jill's attorney, Martin Rosewood. She had seen the man in court a few times over the years, but had never actually met him. He looked to be in his late fifties, and although the thick mop of gray hair on his head made him seem a bit older at first glance, face was smooth and youthful in appearance. He was wearing a very expensive looking black suit with a red tie, and a pair of gold-rimmed glasses, which he pushed up the bridge of his nose as he stared at her, waiting for a response.
"I was muddling over what to wear," she replied flippantly as she turned her attention to Jill, who was still standing beside the table. Billie sat down and folded her arms across her chest, choosing to remain silent until the other woman was seated. After a few tense moments, Jill finally relented and pulled out a chair.
"Where were you this-"
"Are you charging my client with anything?" Rosewood interrupted Billie.
She shot him a look of annoyance. "This is just a little Q & A, Mr. Rosewood."
"My client will not be answering any questions until we know the reason for her being here."
"We're investigating an assault," she informed him.
"Is it Sara?" Jill demanded. The female cop's state of dress was enough to confirm that something bad had happened. "Is she alright?
Billie looked over at her, unimpressed by the look of concern there. "She's alive."
Rosewood noted the tension between the two young women. "I assume we're talking about Sara Matthews?" he asked Billie.
"What happened to her?" Jill asked.
"Someone tried to drive her head through a wall."
"Jesus." Jill got up from her seat and resumed her pacing. She could feel the lieutenant's eyes following her. After a moment, she made eye contact with her. "It wasn't me."
"Jill, don't say a word." Rosewood ordered. "What does this have to do with my client?"
"I'm just trying to establish her whereabouts this morning," Billie answered.
Jill turned away and faced her reflection in the mirror. She could see the lieutenant watching her, and resisted the urge to slam her fist into that image. The fact that she wasn't allowed to see Sara was bad enough, but the very idea that Billie could see her whenever she wanted was more than Jill could bear.
She knew Billie was still using Sara, trying to play one against the other. And now her friend was probably lying in some hospital, thinking Jill had somehow been responsible for this.and hating her for it. She could only hope that Sara knew her better than that, and wouldn't believe the worst. As she contemplated that thought, another unpleasant realization crept into her mind.
It was her. It had to be. The two women had been arguing frequently over the course of the past two days about Jill's intention to skip out before the trial. It had actually been her plan all along. Although in her version of events, which she hadn't shared with her rich benefactor, she would convince Sara to go with her. And then, they would both be free.
But, her lover had other ideas, which included finding a way for Jill to remain in L.A., thus remaining in Felicia's life. And the only way that was going to happen was if Jill somehow got off, hence the expensive lawyer.and now this.
Had she tried to have Sara killed? Jill thought that seemed unlikely. If she had, Sara would be dead, plain and simple. Felicia was never one for doing something half-heartedly, which only left one other possibility.
It was a warning.
If Sara refused to testify, than it would be a fifty-fifty shot over who would take the fall for the shooting. And with Rosewood pulling the strings, it was fairly easy to see who would wind up on top.
"Does she think it was me?" Jill asked quietly.
"She never saw who it was," Billie stated, not really knowing if it were a lie. With any luck, Sara's memory loss would be temporary, and eventually she would be able to give them something to go on. Of course the downside was that if she had managed to see the person's face she could be in more danger than ever if her attacker believed she would identify them.
Jill turned and faced Billie, meeting her steady gaze. "I would never hurt Sara," she said pointedly.
"Where were you at around nine this morning?" Billie asked.
Rosewood spoke up. "We need a moment-"
"I was at the gym," Jill stated softly, her eyes still fixed on the young woman across the table. "You know the one."
Billie ignored her comment as she pushed a pad of paper toward Jill, indicating the pen that lay on top. "Write down the name of the place, what times you were there, and anyone who may have seen you."
"I would prefer to speak to my client first," the attorney interceded. "Privately."
"Fine," Billie answered, standing up from the table. "I'll give you five minutes." She started for the door as she heard Jill speak up.
The brunette kept her hand on the doorknob and did a half turn.
Jill locked eyes with the young lieutenant. "I want to speak with you alone."
"Absolutely not," Rosewood stated firmly.
"You're my lawyer, and I'll do whatever I want," Jill spit out angrily.
The man stood up and pointed a finger at Billie. "This is a violation of her legal rights. She is represented by council, which makes this completely in-"
"Martin!" Jill cut the man off. "Just get the fuck out!" He whirled on her, his own anger now brimming close to the surface. She could see him getting ready to spout all of his pompous legal crap, so she stepped closer to him and leaned in toward his rapidly reddening face. "Now."
Rosewood straightened his shoulders and said flatly, "I'll be right outside." He snatched up his briefcase with an angry tug and headed to the door. Billie pulled it open and took a step back. He stopped in front of her. "If you cross the line, I'll have your badge."
Billie gave him a bored expression. "Bite me, Martin." For a split second, she thought the attorney would bust an artery, which under normal circumstances she would have enjoyed immensely. But, with her mind and heart focused elsewhere, she just wanted him to leave. He walked out in a huff and she closed the door behind him. She turned to Jill. "Okay, we're alone."
Jill glanced at the mirror. "Not completely."
"Eyes are a rule," Billie stated firmly. "But, I can get rid of the ears." She walked across the room and touched a panel on the wall, which sprung out to reveal a row of switches. With a flick of her wrist, she turned and faced the taller woman. "Done. Now talk to me."
Deaq held his hands out to his sides and looked at his partner. "What the hell is she doing?"
"I don't know, dude." Van's eyes remained fixed on the two women. "But, I would really like to know what they're talking about in there."
"Hey man, I think we can both figure that one out."
The two men looked at each other and said in unison, "Sara."
"Why the hell weren't you protecting her?" Jill questioned angrily.
Billie could see the barely contained fury on Jill's face, and although she seemed genuinely concerned for Sara, that didn't change the fact that she was the reason things had gotten this far. "Why don't we discuss your homicidal girlfriend?"
Jill's expression softened just a bit. "I never thought." She turned away from Billie and stared at the floor.
The young lieutenant seized her opening. "You never thought what? That Felicia would hire someone to beat the crap out of Sara?"
Jill shot Billie an angry look. "You don't know that. And you're the one that put Sara in this position. You set her up. You knew she'd be so afraid of going to prison that she'd testify against me. And now look what's happened to her." She took a few steps forward, effectively closing some of the distance between them. "If you hadn't fucked her up, this wouldn't have happened."
"Let me buy you a clue, Jill," Billie responded, her own anger and guilt over Sara's attack still churning in her gut. "If you hadn't shot anyone, hell, if you and Sara had.oh, I don't know, opted for a life within the law, then none of this would've happened. Now, I am done listening to your bullshit, so get to the point."
Jill stared at the brunette, her eyes burning with undisguised hatred. She was so close. All she needed was a few precious seconds, just the right move.and no more Billie Chambers. But, instead of giving in to her desire for revenge, she said simply, "I want to see Sara."
Billie folded her arms across her chest. "And I want the person who did this." She looked at Jill, carefully. "So, how do we both get what we want?"
"You think we should go in?"
Deaq shot Van a look. "Are you nuts?"
"Hey, it looks like they might get into it."
"And what are you gonna do about it, get in between `em?" Deaq laughed. "Man, they would kick your skinny little ass."
Van folded his arms across his chest. "They would not," he replied before giving his partner a look of uncertainty. "Would they?"
"You want me to wear a wire?" Jill looked at Billie in disbelief.
"No way," she responded.
"I thought you wanted to help Sara?" Billie questioned.
"I do," Jill answered honestly. "But, unlike you, I am not about to hop into bed with someone and then turn around and throw them to the wolves."
"You mean, the way you've thrown Sara to the wolves?" Billie countered.
"That's not what I'm doing."
Billie raised one eyebrow. "Really?" she asked, nodding her head slowly. "Then why haven't you confessed?"
Jill stared at her. "What?"
"Why haven't you confessed?" Billie repeated. "I mean, if you did, then there would be no reason for Sara to have to testify." She paused for a second, letting the weight of her words sink in. "There'd be no reason for anyone to come after her."
"You got her a deal," Jill reasoned. "She wasn't going to do any time. And I didn't know this was going to happen."
"But, it did," Billie pointed out. "So, why don't you save her and everyone else a lot of trouble and take responsibility for your actions?"
Jill turned away from the Billie's accusatory glare and slumped down into an empty chair. "I can't."
"You mean you won't," the lieutenant corrected her.
"I can't go to prison," Jill spoke softly.
"Then you shouldn't go around shooting people," Billie commented unsympathetically. She rested her hands on the corner of the table, leaning over the young woman as she said, "There's nothing I can do to help you, Jill. You have to pay the price for what you did. But, I can help Sara." She softened her tone a bit. "Or would you rather see her go to prison?"
Jill looked up at the brunette hovering over her. "You're a fucking bitch, you know that?"
Billie straightened up and folded her arms as she said, "I'll take that as a no."
"I'm not wearing a wire," Jill informed her. "But, I'll see if."
The door flew open. "Is this the way our civil servants earn their money, Lieutenant?" Billie and Jill both turned to see Felicia Ralston standing in the doorway.
"What the hell are you doing in here?" Billie demanded. She was about to make her way over and forcibly remove the woman when two other figures appeared behind the tall blonde.
"As I told you, Captain, Lieutenant Chambers decided to question my client without representation." Rosewood stepped inside, followed by Parish.
Jill stood up from her seat. "Felicia? What are you doing here?" She didn't dare make eye contact with Billie for fear of giving something away.
"I was told you'd been brought in for questioning, so I was concerned." She shot Billie a venomous look. "And with good reason, I see."
"Who the hell do you-"
"Lieutenant," Parish interrupted. "Can I have a word?" He motioned for her to follow him outside. He could see Billie hesitating, her hostile gaze locked on the Ralston woman. He waited a few seconds before speaking up. "Billie."
The brunette shifted her focus toward him and nodded once before storming from the room. When they reached the end of the hallway, Parish turned to address her.
"What the hell is she doing wandering around here?" Billie barked at him before he could speak. "Don't we have rules?"
"I was just about to ask you the same question," Parish responded calmly. He knew the young lieutenant very well, occasionally allowing her a bit of latitude when she was angry. She was very dedicated to the job.sometimes too dedicated. And even though that was one of the things he most admired about her, he also knew that one day, that single-minded determination would do her in, as it nearly had once before.
"Jill asked to speak with me alone," Billie replied somewhat defensively. "She kicked her lawyer out of there, not me."
"But, you shut off the observation room intercom," he pointed out. "If she had said anything to incriminate herself, you would be the only one who heard it."
"She wasn't about to talk if she thought anyone else was listening," Billie reasoned, still trying to calm down. Seeing Felicia Ralston so soon after Sara's attack rattled her a bit more than she anticipated. The brief feeling of elation she had felt upon getting through to Jill had vanished instantly at the sight of the woman. All Billie could think about after she walked in on them was how much pleasure she would take in wiping that smug look off of the taller woman's face.
Parish narrowed his dark eyes. "Did she give you anything?"
"Not really," Billie replied. "But, I think she might be rethinking her new found friendship." She blew out a frustrated breath. "If I had had more time, I may have been able to get something more."
"Well, Rosewood was good and pissed, Billie. And I don't want a pack of reporters on my doorstep shouting about police misconduct. But, I'll cool him down." Parish placed a hand on her shoulder. "In the meantime, keep your distance from Felicia Ralston, alright?" He glanced back down the hall, watching as the three people emerged from the interrogation room. He turned back to Billie. "Her husband was pretty chummy with Forsythe, and I don't think we want him pushing his way into this one.right?"
Billie held her hand up, ticking off each finger as she spoke. "I have a shooting victim in one hospital, my only witness to said shooting in another hospital, a suspect in both crimes that I can't get a confession out of, and a wealthy, obsessed psycho breathing down my neck, whose late husband used to play golf with the Deputy Chief." With a quick shake of her head she asked, "Did I miss anything?"
"That makes five," Billie muttered miserably as she dropped her hand.
"Actually, we might have something on that," Parish offered.
He lowered his voice. "Oliver Mason is missing."
"Oliver, from the lab?" Billie asked.
Her boss nodded. "He left for lunch over three hours ago and hasn't come back."
"So, when I went to his office looking for him, I found someone else there," he commented. "Cathy McKenzie."
The brunette furrowed her brow at hearing the name. Cathy's brother, Bill, had been one of the patrolmen killed by Cyrus's hit squads during his self-declared war against the LAPD. Billie remembered speaking to her briefly after his funeral. "She works in dispatch, right?"
"Right. When I asked her what she was doing there, she told me she was looking for Oliver," the captain explained. "She seemed nervous and agitated, but I didn't really think anything of it at the time. But, a short while later, when I started asking after him, everyone I spoke with told me he had gone out for lunch." He bowed his head slightly. "Guess who with?"
"Cathy McKenzie," Billie surmised.
"Wait," the lieutenant responded. "You think she's the one?"
"I'm not sure, but we can't reach either one of them now, so I decided to have a couple of cars check out their cribs." He caught sight of an officer coming toward them at a brisk pace. "I guess we're about to find out."
"Captain." They both turned their attention to the approaching officer. He stopped in front of them, giving Billie a quick nod as he said, "We found Mason, sir."
"At his apartment?" Parish questioned.
"No, sir. At Officer McKenzie's apartment."
"He's dead, sir."
"So, you killed him?"
Cathy glared at the man in front of her. "Well, when I got back he was already awake, moving around my apartment, knocking things over. I tried to cover, but he obviously knew I slipped him something. When he tried to leave, I had to stop him." She looked up and sighed heavily. "Things just got out of hand."
"You'll be exposed, now."
"Yeah, well, the whole LAPD can go fuck themselves for all I care." The redhead gave him a serious look. "You owe me."
The man glanced down at the disk he clutched in his gloved, turning it over slowly as he asked, "So, what did you get?"
"Everything," Cathy confirmed. "Chambers has become a bit of an obsession for Hill. The file Internal Affairs has on her is about the size of a goddamn encyclopedia." She smiled faintly, eyeing her ill- gotten gains. "I uploaded his whole damn database."
The man gave her an appreciative look. "Good work."
"Now, how about we talk dollars and cents?" Cathy asked. "I've gotta get the hell outta dodge."
"Right." The man smiled at her as he reached into his suit coat. "I've got exactly what you need." He suddenly produced a gun and pointed it at her.
"Warren, what the hell are you doing?"
Warren Colby's expression changed to one of cool detachment as he pulled the trigger. Cathy's body crumpled to the floor, and he stepped forward, carefully firing two more shots at her prone form. When he was sure she was dead, he dropped the weapon next to her and tucked the disk into his breast pocket.
"No loose ends."
I'll tell you something,
I am a wolf, but I like to wear sheep's clothing.
- Shirley Manson
Sara shifted her body, trying to find a comfortable position as she rolled onto her side and reached for the watch resting on the bedside table. With a slight frown, she realized it was nearly ten o'clock, which meant she had been asleep for over three hours.
The fact that Billie hadn't returned was beginning to concern her, especially since her vivid recollection of her attack. The brief phone call to Deaq had allayed her fears somewhat, but she knew the only thing that would make her feel better was seeing the young woman walk through her hospital room door.
A sound to her right made Sara turn around too quickly, causing a knife like pain in her head, and she brought a hand up to her forehead as her bleary eyes attempted to focus on the source of the noise. She spotted a cascade of dark brown hair draped over the arm of the chair beside her bed. The young woman it belonged to appeared to be sleeping, although Sara couldn't believe she could do so when she looked so uncomfortable. "Billie?" she called out gently.
"Huh?" The brunette lifted her head, slightly, cocking an ear at the sound of her name. A few blinks cleared the fog from her eyes, and she fixed her tired gaze on the blonde. "Sara." Billie sat up slowly, reaching a hand up to work a kink out of her neck. "How are you feeling?"
A faint smile touched the blonde's lips as she replied, "I think I feel better than you look." Her comment elicited a smile from the other woman.
"That's the thanks I get for curling myself into a pretzel just to be by your side," Billie shot back with a wry grin.
"How long have you been here?"
The lieutenant glanced at her watch. "About an hour."
Sara arched her brow. "Long day?"
"The longest." Billie stood up and stretched her arms over her head, the black t-shirt she now sported sliding up to reveal a wide swath of well-toned belly. She had finally managed to find time to grab a shower and a change of clothes before coming back to the hospital, although it hadn't been her intent to end up sleeping in them. But, when she got to Sara's room and found her fast asleep, the lure of the chair had gotten the best of her.
The brunette took a moment to shake off the remnants of her all too brief nap, and sat down on the edge of Sara's bed. She reached into the back pocket of her blue jeans and produced a small photograph, which she handed over to Sara. "Take a look at this."
The blonde took it from her. "Who's this?" she asked as she lifted it up to get a better view in the dim light. She stared at it for a few seconds before recognition finally dawned on her face.
Billie was watching her carefully, waiting to see her reaction. It was exactly what she'd been expecting. "I'm pretty sure that's the woman who attacked you."
Sara's eyes were downcast as she muttered, "I.I didn't really get a good look at her face, but the hair." She felt her body shudder in response to the face staring back at her and immediately held her arm out, indicating for Billie to take back the photograph. "How did you figure it out?"
Billie sighed heavily as she snatched the item from Sara's hand. "Deaq told me that you called him," she revealed as she fixed the blonde with a knowing look. "You remembered everything, didn't you?"
"You could have warned me," Sara replied, her eyes straying to the picture in Billie's hand. There was a hint of anger in her voice.
"I'm sorry." Billie held the photograph up, her eyes lingering on Cathy's image. "Given the fact that Cathy was a cop, I thought you might be too scared to tell me the truth."
"Cathy?" Sara questioned. "You know her?"
"No, not really," she answered, shaking her head. "I only met her once.at her brother's funeral."
"Was he a cop, too?"
"Yeah." Billie tucked the picture back into her pocket. "A while back, there was this guy who was gunning for cops, and he hired out some people to take out as many as they could." She ran a hand through her hair, fixing her hardened gaze on the floor. Sara studied the brunette quietly, waiting for her to continue. After a few moments of silence, she asked, "How many were killed?"
"Jesus." Sara straightened up a bit as she reached over and touched Billie's arm. "Did you get the guy?"
"Yeah," Billie responded. The truth was, she wouldn't have minded a chance to pop a few more shots into Cyrus. Unfortunately, you could only kill someone once.
"So why do you think she came after me?"
"My guess is money. We're still following the trail she left, so it'll be a while before we have all the answers," she responded. "If we ever do."
Billie sat forward and reached for Sara's hand, giving it a firm squeeze. "You don't have to worry about her anymore. She's dead, Sara."
"They found her body at a warehouse down on Jesse Street. She was shot three times in the chest."
Sara put a hand to her head. "None of this makes any sense."
"And it keeps getting more complicated. It turned out that Cathy was the one breaking into the LAPD mainframe. Apparently, she was getting access through Ollie Mason, the departmental supervisor. We found him at her apartment earlier today with a knife in his chest."
"Jesus," Sara breathed.
"After I found that out, I spoke with one of the guards at the courthouse, who told me he remembered checking her in this morning. Obviously, that was too much of a coincidence." She rubbed her tired eyes with her thumb and index finger. "I just wish we had found all of this out a bit sooner." Maybe then, Ollie wouldn't be dead, she thought to herself.
"What the hell does all of this have to do with me and Jill? I mean, I know we shot that woman and everything, but-"
Sara stopped. "What?"
"The woman Jill shot," Billie stated, putting emphasis on the name of Sara's partner in crime. "Her name is Inez."
"Oh." The blonde began to study her hands, unable to look Billie in the eye. It was obvious from the woman's tone that there was still some unfinished business between them over that incident. "I only meant that.we robbed some houses. That's it. So where is all of this other stuff coming from?"
"I think the answer to that question is Felicia Ralston," Billie answered. "But, I don't really think she was the one who killed Cathy." She paused to consider what she knew of the woman, before adding, "It just doesn't seem like her style."
Two blonde eyebrows shot up at that comment. "You think you know her that well, huh?"
"I know the type," Billie replied.
"So, that just leaves two questions," Sara reasoned. "Who shot Cathy and why?"
"She uploaded some confidential information this afternoon, which I'm sure she was planning on passing off to someone else. My guess is, once she gave it to them, they killed her. After murdering Ollie, it was a given that her days with the LAPD were over, and I'm sure the last thing they wanted was for her to get caught and spill her guts."
Sara released a sigh of frustration. "That still leaves the `who'."
"Let me worry about that," Billie replied as she gave Sara's hand a final squeeze and got to her feet. "You need to get some rest." She felt Sara's hand tightening on hers as she attempted to let go. "What is it?"
The blonde eyed her warily, knowing what she was about to say would be difficult for the young lieutenant to hear. She had been mulling over a course of action for most of the day, and now that her attacker was dead, and it looked as though Billie would be okay, she made her decision. She took a deep breath, releasing it slowly as she said, "I've decided not to testify."
Billie stared at her. "What?"
"Look, Billie, I've given it a lot of thought and.I just can't go through with it."
The brunette sat down again and said softly, "You don't have to be afraid, Sara. I won't let anyone hurt you again."
"That's not it." She could see the other woman's body tensing.
"Then, what?" Billie's tone sharpened. "You're suddenly feeling some sense of loyalty to your so-called friend?"
"She's not the only one to blame, here."
A pair of dark eyebrows shot up at that statement. "Is that so? Did you both pull the trigger?"
"You know what I mean."
"No, Sara. I really don't." Billie pulled her hand free and held her arms out in a gesture of helplessness. "You want to give me the whole spiel about guilt? About what you could have done, but didn't? Because, I've already heard all of this." She dropped her arms and sighed, heavily. "You were scared, Sara. But," she stated emphatically, ".you did not shoot anyone."
"I wonder if you'd be so understanding if Inez had died?" Sara asked softly.
Billie just stood there. She had no response to that. What Sara was implying was probably true. If Inez had died that day, her feelings would probably be quite different. In fact, everything would be different.including her relationship with the woman in front of her.
Which was what, exactly? Billie didn't really have an answer to that question, either. She was loath to admit it, but there was a part of her that was appalled at what Sara had done. It was true that Jill had been the one who pulled the trigger, and the blonde had no control over that whatsoever. But, afterwards, when Inez lay there dying, the two women had simply taken the money and walked out, leaving her there to bleed to death, struggling to stay alive until someone came along and found her.
The lieutenant knew she had rationalized Sara's participation in the whole thing by telling herself that the young woman was merely an observer to the shooting. But, she could no longer ignore what was now staring her in the face. She'd been lying to herself all along. The simple truth was that she needed to believe that Sara was inherently good, because it made it easier for Billie to justify how she felt about her. From the moment she had walked into the bathroom at the courthouse this morning, momentarily seized by the thought that Sara was dead, she had realized it
She was in love.
She didn't want to be, but there it was. And now, knowing that fact and hearing Sara's proclamation was like a kick to the stomach.
"I wish I could change what I've done, but I can't," Sara told her.
Billie's tone was cool and detached as she seamlessly slipped on her professional façade. "If you back out of this deal, Williams will make sure you go to prison."
"So, that's it?" Billie pinned her with an angry look. "You're just throwing away your only chance at freedom? And for what, Sara? For Jill? For some twisted sense of right and wrong?" She leaned in close to the blonde. "You're willing to throw your whole life away to prove that you're a decent person?"
Sara looked into Billie's eyes, seeing the pain she was causing her. She shouldn't have done this. Telling Billie had been a mistake, but Sara needed for her to understand the reason for what she was about to do. "You would end up hating me, Billie."
The brunette's eyes flew open in astonishment. "This is about me?" She shook her head, vigorously, as she straightened up. "No.no way. If you want to prove something to me, then do the right thing. Help me put away the woman that shot Inez."
"And what will that prove?" Sara retorted. "That all I do is betray the people I care about."
"What about me, Sara?" Billie's voice dropped to a near whisper. "What about us? If you do this." The echo of Billie's ultimatum hung in the air like a thick fog. There was a brief moment of tense silence. Finally, Sara's soft voice broke the oppressive quiet.
"You're better off without me and you know it."
"You don't get to decide what's best for me." The young brunette grabbed her leather jacket from the back of the chair, tossing it casually over her shoulder as she lifted a finger and pointed it at Sara. "No one does." She turned away from the blonde and walked out of the room, never once bothering to look back.
Sara sat quietly, watching the door as it slowly closed behind the young woman. She laid her head back against the pillow and closed her eyes. That was not the way she wanted to end things with Billie. She wasn't sure why she told her about her decision not to testify.
...considering she wasn't even planning on sticking around.
Billie strolled into the barroom and headed directly for the bar on the far wall. She slid onto a stool and took a moment to eye the bartender, who was bent over the cooler behind the bar, rummaging for something near the bottom. Judging from the foul language emitting from the open lid, she surmised that the endeavor was proving unsuccessful.
"You kiss your mother with that mouth?" Billie called out.
"Why don't you kiss-" The bartender's retort died on her lips when she glanced up and caught sight of the brunette sitting on the other side. "Billie?" A look of surprise was immediately replaced by a warm smile. "Well, holy shit. I haven't seen you since."
"Since I gave up hanging in sleazy bars," the brunette replied with a smirk.
"Hey," the bartender said indignantly. "It's not sleazy. Just somewhat small and dark." She quirked her eyebrow. "Kinda like you."
"That's the nicest thing anybody's said to me all day." Billie's smile broadened. "How are you, Sharon?"
The woman blew away an errant strand of black hair from in front of her face. "A sight better than you, from the look of things." She shot Billie a look of concern as she went to work pouring the young woman a drink. Although the bartender hadn't seen Billie in a long time, she could still tell when it was time to talk straight, and when it was time for chitchat. After taking note of the woman's demeanor, Sharon decided to start off with the basic bullshitting session. "You still driving that beautiful piece of machinery?"
"Nope," Billie answered as Sharon placed a glass in front of her. "I traded it in." She lifted the drink to her lips, closing her eyes as the cool liquid slipped across her tongue and burned a trail of fire down her throat. She winced, slightly, forgetting how bad the vodka was in this place. When she felt like she could speak again, she cleared her throat and said, "For a Mercedes."
Sharon whistled appreciatively. "Well, we are moving up in the world." She watched Billie for a moment, observing the way her eyes remained fixed on the napkin beneath her glass, while her hand fiddled with one corner. "So, what brings you by? It's been a couple of years, Billie."
The young woman shrugged. "I was in the neighborhood."
"Chambers, you were never in this neighborhood."
"Maybe I just liked the cute bartender then." Billie glanced up and smiled.
"Hmm.if that were true, I'd do you right on this bar." Sharon's gaze shifted to look over Billie's shoulder. "God, you always were a magnet."
The lieutenant straightened up at that comment. "What?"
Billie turned her head and found herself face to face with a very attractive young woman.with blonde hair. Didn't that figure. "Uhh." Boy, she was still smooth.
The girl greeted her with a winning smile. "Hi."
"I've never seen you here before," she commented.
Billie nearly groaned aloud. "I.I haven't been here in a while."
"Old stomping grounds?"
"You could say that," the brunette replied, as her eyes remained focused on the young woman's startling green eyes. Probably tinted contacts.but at least they weren't blue.
"I'm Ally." The girl offered her hand to the brunette, who clasped it firmly.
Sara finished cleaning up, tossing the towel aside as she checked her appearance in the mirror. She had managed to conceal some of the bandage on her forehead with her hair, but she knew it would never pass a close inspection. Hopefully, if everything went well, no one would have the chance to get a good look at her.
She grabbed the hospital scrubs one of the nurses gave her after she'd complained about not wanting to wear a flimsy gown, and put them on, taking extra care as she pulled the top on over her arm. It seemed as though her whole body ached, but she'd needed to keep a clear head, so she opted to pocket her pain medication during the last go around. She cursed the fact that she had no sneakers, and was stuck having to wear a pair of hospital booties. Fortunately, the pant legs on her scrubs were a bit long, so no one would probably even notice.
Her heart was racing in anticipation of what she was about to do, and she took a few deep breaths as she tried to calm herself. Although there was something almost thrilling about the idea of escaping police custody, she knew she was going to have to hurt someone, and that was beginning to nag at her conscience.
"God," she mumbled to herself. "Billie, what have you done to me?"
She strapped on her watch and reached under the pillow, pulling out the gun Billie had given her. The irony of using it on one of Billie's own people was not lost on Sara. The two officers standing outside of her room were there to protect her, but in order for her to leave, she would have to put them out of commission.
Sara tucked the weapon into her waistband and glanced at her watch. It was almost one o'clock in the morning, which meant that a nurse would be in to check on her at any time, so if she was going to do this, it was now or never. She pinned her gaze on the door.
Billie laughed in spite of herself. "No, I'm not."
Ally reached over and placed her hand on the brunette's arm. "You're really a cop?" She leaned in close, her tone almost conspiratorial. "That's so cliché."
Billie's eyes drifted down to the young woman's hand, her voice sounding somewhat distracted. "So says the hairdresser."
"Am I making you uncomfortable?" Ally waited for Billie to make eye contact, before motioning to her hand.
The lieutenant didn't know if it was the liquor, the late hour, the beautiful young woman, or her tattered emotions talking when she replied, "No, not at all." She closed the small distance between them and whispered softly, "I'm not really in a good place right now, Ally. And the truth of it is, if you had blue eyes, I'd be putty in your hands."
The blonde flashed her most seductive smile. "Would it count if I told you that I wish I did?"
Billie knew that she needed to back off before things went too far, but she couldn't seem to convince her body to respond to her commands. Her eyes fixed on the young woman's lips as she felt herself moving forward, guided by the warm, gentle touch of fingertips under her chin.
The kiss was soft, dreamy, and Billie noted with some disappointment, all too brief. As she opened her eyes, she couldn't stop herself from wishing that it were someone else's face she would see staring back at her.
Ally looked at the brunette with hooded eyes. "What are we going to do now?"
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