DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A fic inspired by the song 'Addicted' by Kelly Clarkson. Thanks, Lyn, for the beta!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
At night, Lindsay once again climbed the steps up to the attic. Ever since she had set up this room, it hadn't ever stopped feeling like a guilty secret to come up here. She wanted to catch this guy, wanted it badly. In fact, she thought there hadn't been any goal in her life in a long time that mattered as much.
She knew him. She knew he wouldn't stop killing, and that was why she couldn't let go.
Lindsay stepped into her very own horror cabinet, opening her mind to the images and dreams of a human animal who had been her most reliable companion for the past five years.
She had to understand him in order to get closer to him.
She had to understand his victims to understand who was most at risk.
Remembering the look on Agent Ashe's face when he had been up here, a wry smile played over her lips. He probably thought she was nuts. It didn't matter. That night they stood around the bathtub with Elaine Lewis' body lying in bloody water, she'd set an ultimatim for herself. Not even the girls knew about it.
If she couldn't make it, to somehow get ahead of him and get to him before he chose another victim to tell them another fairy tale, she'd turn in her badge. There was only so much failure you could live with. If she couldn't be his Nemesis, then she'd have to end it.
But they weren't there yet. Not by a long shot.
Lindsay stared at the photograph of the young woman who had been alive when the killer sewed her mouth shut.
What were those words of yours he wanted to silence?
What was the story he used you to tell?
Lying in bed at night, Lindsay has found that lately, Kiss-Me-Not is not the only one to rob her of her sleep. She tosses and turns in her bed, unable to find a comfortable position, unable to chase the images from her head. She finds it's a whole lot easier to be open-minded when it's not about you - and maybe that's what the whole Tom-fiasco was all about, refusing to acknowledge the obvious.
But even if she could allow herself to dream... Lindsay laughs mirthlessly at the thought. What dreams are left? There was a time when she desperately wanted a life like the one Claire has, when you look at it from the outside. A job that satisfied her, a man to love her, a couple of kids to complete the picture.
To be honest, even Claire, being the rock that she is, has gone through some hard times. She came out stronger.
Sometimes, Lindsay isn't so sure if she's up to follow that ideal. She does a good job, usually, except there's a man out there wanting to shut up women, and he tortures them for hours before he does.
Lindsay wonders if it was him who'd sent Tom running, or the fact that the victims would always come first for her; yes, she brought work home in the evening, and her work, same as his, isn't all happy, smiling children. You'd have thought a fellow cop would understand.
Understanding, though, for that habit of hers to never quit until the end, she has found elsewhere. The girls might fool around and try to set her up for blind dates, but basically, they are the same, women who have given their best in their respective fields and understand, like no man can, that getting where they have arrived is not self-evident. Even if you are clever and determined.
"We are with you," Jill has said, and their support is a great relief. Not because Lindsay's actually afraid for herself - she isn't. What she really is afraid of is to see another woman silenced.
Lying on her back, she stares up at the ceiling, sleep once again eluding her. It is a warm full moon night; she could get up and draw the blinds, but that would make the room feel even more stifling.
Her hand lies on her stomach, and she closes her eyes, allowing herself for once to fantasize someone else's touch, caressing, teasing, finally easing that sweet ache...
No. Not now. Not ever.
This other addiction of hers, Cindy Thomas - it's crazy, Lindsay knows, and she just can't do this, touching herself in the dark, thinking of her. She'd feel silly, or worse, like a stalker. That sweet, open smile, worst liar ever, the look of admiration on her face that is for Lindsay only, never fails to take her breath away, and she worries that it could show.
The worst about it is that it wouldn't probably take much; even if Cindy has never considered straying from the straight route, Lindsay knows she probably would if given a hint. It's not delusions of grandeur on Lindsay's part; it's a simple observation.
She turns again, pressing her face into her pillow with a groan. Why did she ever start to imagine the two of them naked together, kissing, touching, Cindy's auburn hair spilled over the pillow, her body arching up and Lindsay's name on her lips as she came?
It's insanity. Because she knew the first time that the fantasy is all there is for her as long as there's this other demon shadowing her.
The phone rang as she sat at her desk, trying to cross passages from Claire's books with references on the internet. Thank God the taxpayers didn't know what the people who had sworn to protect and serve them, did on their jobs - reading fairy tales. Get a grip, Lindsay.
She answered the phone, about to lay the book back onto the pile when the voice stopped her dead in her tracks.
"Did you like my present, Lindsay?"
"Who are you?" she asked, heart beating faster, as she motioned for Jacobi to set up a trace.
"Oh, come on, you know who I am." His voice was muffled, as if he was speaking through cloth. Definitely male. The department shrink, who Lindsay had consulted for her opinion at one time, had said that she considered Kiss-Me-Not's murders hate crimes against women.
"Do you know who's next? Because I do."
Those words made her grow cold inside. They got it wrong; somehow, she had always suspected that. That picture of her had been a distraction. It wasn't really her he was after.
"Why don't you give me a hint, then?"
He laughed. "No so much ahead in the game as you'd like to be, are you? But let's keep it fair. You found the stories. I found myself a storyteller. See you again, Lindsay. I must hurry, my 60 seconds are up."
At the desk across from her, Jacobi just shook his head, and she swore. "Damn it!"
"It would have been much too easy that way, wouldn't it?"
Lindsay jumped, as Agent Ashe just materialized behind her out of nothing. "Not that I'd mind easy."
He shrugged. "What's the status quo of your club regarding the fairy tales?"
Jacobi raised his eyesbrows. His expression was somewhere between annoyance and amusement.
"It's not a club," she said, irritated. "It's not that easy to break it down. Many fairy tales use similar imagery. We don't have that much time. He'll kill again."
Ashe gave her a meaningful look, and she rose from her chair, shaking her head. "No! This isn't about me. He wants to keep us off track, sending us on a wild goose chase while he's preparing the next kill. It is not about me."
"Even if that's the case, we can't take the risk. Now let's get this to the lab to get it analyzed. Maybe there is something in there."
"All right then."
It took a moment for the realization to sink in. That had been Kiss-Me-Not, talking to her for the first time. He had to feel damn safe to do this. Hopefully, he made a mistake this time. Not very likely that this call took place in a vacuum.
"I found myself a storyteller."
Who the hell had he been talking about?
She's sitting close enough for them to touch when she's talking, using her hands to make a point. Lindsay guiltily enjoys those small brushes with a reality unavailable, until she catches Claire's gaze, then she makes a little more space between her and the whirlwind beside her.
Cindy is a woman of contradictions. She can't tell a lie to save her life, but successfully makes it through the most obscure undercover gigs for a story. Maybe that lack of talent is only with the people she cares for? She might be small and cute, but underneath that exterior, she's a force to reckon with. She stands up for the things she believes in. And while her constant chatter might fool people who don't know her well, Lindsay is well aware of her striking intelligence and vast knowledge.
"That he called you is not a big thing? I'm getting afraid of what you'd call 'big'," Jill says.
"We have nothing yet. Who is that storyteller? What does he mean, and how does this tie to the hints he left at each crime scene?"
Their silence tells Lindsay what she has known all along. With the fairly tale connection, they have raised more questions than were being answered.
"This will sound a little far-fetched, maybe--" Cindy begins somewhat hesitantly.
"Far-fetched is better than nothing. Go ahead," Lindsay tells her.
"Okay; you know some of the books were by Hans Christian Andersen, right? There's a famous museum in Solvang, and 2 years ago was Andersen's 200th birthday."
"As I recall, Solvang is near Santa Barbara." Claire sounds doubtful. "That's not around the corner."
"Yes, but I did a piece on the event for the Register, as they have many visitors even from as far as San Franscisco. So even if Kiss-Me-Not never actually went there, he could have read about it... Lindsay... are you okay?"
She has hardly ever been so far from being okay. Don't they see it? It's too much to be a coincidence. He's taunting the FBI while his real target isn't Lindsay, but -- the storyteller.
"He doesn't want me. He's said it himself, he's going after the storyteller." She's barely getting the words out around the invisible iron hand choking her. "Why the hell didn't you tell us earlier?"
He knew... that he couldn't scare Lindsay with a direct threat against her.
While she's been trying to get into his head, he's done the same to her, and somehow put the pieces together that make up the images of her waking dreams in those long lonely nights.
Cindy has paled at the suggestion, but she stays calm. "We can't know for sure. It might be coincidence. But if it isn't -- I couldn't be safer than this, right?"
Claire gives Lindsay a pointed look, but her voice is very gentle, when she says, "You got that right."
Jill nods. "The same goes for each of us."
Cindy's smile is just a little bit forced. "Then I have nothing to be afraid of." But she looks at Lindsay when she says it, making her feel like the weight of responsibility has just doubled.
He caresses her cheek, uses his thumb to wipe away a tear, which is essentially futile, as they just keep streaming down her face against her will. He smiles, tracing his finger down her arm, feels that she is shaking harder.
Admittedly, he had underestimated her, hadn't counted that she would fight back like this, kicking, and screaming, even trying to have a go with her trusty pepper spray. He'd overpowered her by sheer brute force eventually, using it on her as a revenge for his bruised shins. He even washed it out of her eyes, so why doesn't she stop crying?
Maybe, he muses, it's because of the tools he has laid out before her on the table; the chisel, the saw, the hammer. Or is it the book and the dried flowers?
He kneels beside the chair he has tied her to, and leans real close, close enough to smell her fear, then traces his finger over her lips, laughing, when she recoils as his touch.
His hand goes for the first button of her blouse, while the other cups her tear-stained cheek, forcing her to look at him. "Close your eyes," he whispers, "and think of her. This is Lindsay's fantasy, not mine."
She can't believe he's slipped through their fingers like this - again. Lindsay hates herself for it, even though she knows it's all but productive at this moment.
"How could that happen!" She punches the wall, hard enough to bruise her knuckles, and create a pain that'll take her out of the mist of guilt, failure and fear and back to reality.
"Lindsay. Stop it. You couldn't know."
Claire has stepped closer, probably to keep the wall of her office being violated further.
One hell of a lot more is at stake here. It's been an hour, too long, but she can't give up hope. At the same time, the knowledge of what happened to the other victims gets in the way of her thinking clearly, and he knew that, counts on it.
She leans her head against the doorframe for a moment, torn apart by a pain that's far worse than bruised skin.
"There were voices in the background of that phone call. He's so damn bold."
"Hiding in plain sight somewhere," Jill offers.
"Some place that has a lot of books. Or stories."
"We're not talking about one of the - how many? - libraries around here?" Claire wonders, and Lindsay had the same thought, but then it seems crystal clear--
"He dumped Cindy's car, but that was only to make us think she's left the Register. Which I think she never did. Jill - I need a warrant that allows me to shake the place upside down."
"Will do. Not that they'll be happy about it in the middle of production, but--"
They exchange a gaze, wordlessly, 'Who cares?', and Lindsay actually dares a smile. "Let's go get that bastard."
However, she won't leave anything to chance, so she asks Claire to inform Tom so he can do something about the possible library angle.
Before they part, Claire touches her shoulder to turn her around. "Be careful," she says. "And when we have her back, tell her that you love her."
Lindsay doesn't know what to say to this, so she just settles for "See you later," having anticipated Claire shaking her head at her.
They are close enough they can hear her scream.
Agent Ashe gives her a warning look, which wouldn't have been necessary. Only a few heartbeats from facing down the demon, from erasing him from her mind, her life, Lindsay won't be making any mistakes. And Ashe doesn't know it yet, but she means 'erase' literally.
As they're hurrying down the hallway deep in the bowels of the Register building, weapons drawn, it's crystal clear in her mind, what he knew, what she knew all along, when they met, one of them would not survive.
He must have been on one of the upper levels when he made the call - because this part of the building is very remote, where no one would have found him before it was too late. They find that there's a backdoor to this room that used to be an old archive which no one uses any longer.
"Before we go in there, there's something I want you to know," Ashe says.
She doesn't want to hear it. Cindy's voice has been reduced to a desperate whimper, and she can't stand to be out here a moment longer.
"Elaine Lewis was my sister."
Lindsay stares at him incredulously, and he gives her a grim smile. "Let's go get him."
She takes in several things at once. The man standing behind Cindy, a putty knife in his hand he's pressing against her ribcage. The faraway, dissociated look on Cindy's face. The blood on her hands.
"You come any closer, I put this right through her heart," he threatens.
"Backup is already here. It doesn't make a difference for you; you won't get out of here anyway."
He grins, pressing the knife just a little bit closer so there's a red line when he takes it away. "It does make a difference for you, though, doesn't it?"
It's strange, with all the time she's spent with him, because of him, Lindsay thought she should know him, but he isn't familiar. His eyes, though, are just as she has expected. Very clear, not a trace of madness in them. He knows exactly what he has done, and he has enjoyed every minute of it.
"You move, and I'll put a bullet through your brain. That's still getting off easy, considering."
"Face the truth, you'll never get rid of me. You'll think of me every time you look at her."
Lindsay shrugs nonchalantly, though those words make her fear what exactly happened in that hour. "I'll manage. The thought of you dead is a good thought."
"But you won't go through with it, right? You dreamed of it, but you won't just kill me."
"Maybe I will." Ashe has appeared from the other side. The killer has not expected this, Lindsay can tell. He really thought she'd come here alone. He is distracted for a moment, and as he looks around, she takes she shot.
The wire cut deep enough into her skin to draw blood. He has broken her hand.
Lindsay stops in her grisly resumé, because the red-hot anger that overcomes her at the realization threatens to be too much. Instead, she gently strokes the hair from Cindy's face, wanting to hold her, but not daring to. "Everything's going to be okay. He's gone."
Cindy doesn't answer, just leans into the touch instinctively, shock still protecting body and mind from an overwhelming reality.
Lindsay prays that he wasn't right saying that the beast wouldn't let go of them even in death.
That night, she tears down the images in her attic. Years of her life, reduced to paper and dust. Will she be able to rise from the ashes? Nothing is decided yet.
Martha's wise eyes follow her as she brings down the filled garbage bags from the attic. "It's okay, girl," she tells her. "We're just getting rid of the ghosts."
Maybe she should burn all this stuff - then again, Lindsay isn't superstitious. She prefers to believe in herself and her ability to find that one mistake they all make, sooner or later... even Kiss-Me-Not.
Lindsay also believes firmly that Cindy will be strong enough to recover from the trauma she's suffered at his hands. In a moment, she'll go back to the hospital, knowing Claire and Jill will be there; they'll all do anything possible to get her through this.
But first, Lindsay sits in the middle of her now eerily empty attic, struggling with the relief that it's finally over against the rage that he had to hurt someone she loves.
When the sting of tears gets too obvious to be ignored, Lindsay wipes her face and gets up to climb down the steps again. Martha will stay at the neighbor's again, so Lindsay can be at the hospital, and she isn't above using her badge to get access, should somebody dare to give her the 'just family' speech.
It's family of the heart.
"I knew all the time that you'd find me, before he--" Cindy breaks off the sentence and makes another attempt. "I just knew it." That's when reality hits home, of what happened, and of all the other horrible possibilities, the weight of it breaking her down.
Holding her this time, Lindsay thinks of what Claire has told her down at the office. Maybe she should. Just not tonight. When Cindy will be herself again, able to make decisions, maybe then Lindsay will tell her that she can hardly imagine a life without her anymore.
Into the silence, Cindy asks, "He said it was your fantasy. What did he mean?"
The next time there's a full moon illuminating her bedroom, Cindy sleeps next to her.
The periods between the nightmares get longer, for which Lindsay is grateful. She had to tell the truth, and it's probably right to say it was a big step forward for the two of them. They keep a night light on - and Cindy's getting some counseling, because at the moment, going to the Register is incredibly hard for her.
Taking it one step at a time.
Lindsay dreams of a time when she'll be able to touch Cindy without having her flinch, of their first kiss, of their first night together other than sleeping side by side, or, if it was a good day, in each other's arms.
There will be more good days.
One addiction of hers, Lindsay has conquered.
The other, she doesn't want to let go, not ever, for the rest of her life.
"I love you," she whispers in the dark, laying her hand lightly over Cindy's, her heart nearly skipping a beat when her fingers curl around Lindsay's, instinctively, trusting.
Lindsay closes her eyes with a smile on her face.
Finally, she can sleep.
Return to Women's Murder Club Fiction
Return to Main Page