DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
All in a day's work
By Kristina K
When Lindsay leaned back against the sofa and then draped her arms over the back of it with an eyebrow arched in an expectant manner, Cindy nervously shrunk back into her own seat feeling even smaller and younger than she actually was in comparison to the woman in whose home she had just broken into. Well, not really broken into, as much as came in uninvited. It actually depended on to whom you were talking to.
"Is this some kind of a condition that you have," Lindsay narrowed her eyes at the younger woman, "this whole breaking and entering behavior that you've been displaying?"
"Um." Cindy stammered, "Technically, I didn't break anything. Your door was open. I knocked..." She did that a lot, Lindsay, Cindy noticed. She arched her eyebrow a lot. "And then when you weren't answering I kind of got worried so I tried the handle. And when I did, it opened."
"It opened." Lindsay repeated and Cindy eagerly nodded to confirm. "Has it ever occurred to you," Oh there it was, the patronizing voice and the narrowing of her eyes. Cindy just hoped she wouldn't start to gesticulate with her hands, because that would mean a whole lot of trouble for the young reporter. "that, maybe, I was busy with something and that I couldn't get to the door right that second? Or is it that you played hooky on the day when they taught about patience in school?" When Cindy's expression turned from blank into one of almost-terror, Lindsay rolled her eyes and gave up on the lecture. She exhaled and sat back in her original position: hands on her thighs, legs wide, lips pursed and eyebrow arched. Cindy always had a thing for women who screamed dominance merely by looking like they were inches from kicking your ass. And Lindsay Boxer looked just like that.
Lindsay exhaled exasperatedly, "What do you want?"
After rummaging through her bag for a moment, Cindy pulled out a manila envelope and showed it to Lindsay. "I wanted to show you these."
Lindsay took the envelope, shook the contents out from it and came face to face with photo printouts. Her expression changed in a second from annoyed to mortified. "Where did you find these?"
"Well, actually, they found me." Lindsay's eyes were about to narrow again so Cindy hurried, "Ifoundtheminmye-mailinboxthismorning."
"These are official police crime scene photos." Lindsay waved the printouts in front of Cindy's face. "You can't just download them off the Internet!"
"I know that." Cindy stated defensively. "I don't know who sent them. I don't know why they were sent. And I certainly don't know where, whoever sent them to me, got them. I just know they were in my inbox. This morning."
Lindsay shook her head, "This is not good. This is so not good."
"It's the "Kiss me not" killer."
Lindsay gave her an annoyed look, "Yes, I know."
"I also heard that the case got pulled from under you by the Feds...?" If the look on the inspector's face hadn't scared her, it would have made her feel all kinds of hot. But it was definitely meant to scare. "It's just what I've heard." Cindy squeaked. And if she shrunk any more into that chair she was sitting in, she would have disappeared.
"We're taking everything," Lindsay announced and then nodded at one of the unis to start packing everything from Cindy's desk.
"Is this really necessary?" Her voice was close to whiny and when she noticed the flat looks from both Lindsay and Jacobi, Cindy knew that no matter what she said, they were gonna strip her desk bare regardless of her deadline on the story about the biggest embezzlement in the history of the city that she was assigned to write. The prankster who had sent her those crime scene photos had to be found, and everything, from her computer to the box of paper clips, was going back to the forensic lab for processing.
"You'll get it all back as soon as we're done." Lindsay reassured Cindy with a small pat on her shoulder. A small consolation for loss of two weeks worth of digging and most probably a huge gaping void on the next day's front page of the Register.
"Yeah." Cindy exhaled dejectedly and then looked up at the inspector with big puppy eyes. "Can you stop by Papa Joe's on your way to the Hall and ask if they need a busgirl, a dish washer or a waitress? I might need a job after my ass gets fired here at the Register."
Lindsay's whole face lit up when she smiled and Cindy couldn't really decide which was her most favorite: the mirthful glint in the dark eyes, the dimples on each side of the inspector's face or the flash of her pearly whites.
"We'll take care of you, kid." Lindsay winked and Cindy decided that the wink was her favorite. "I'll set Jacobi on your editor if he gets pissy about the breach of deadline."
"So what do we do now?"
"We don't do anything," Lindsay motioned between herself and Cindy. "You go about your business and we," this time she circled with her finger in the general direction of the group of police officers and forensics that were rounded around Cindy's desk, "will do our job. Got it?"
"But-" Cindy barely managed to let out a sound before Lindsay's eyebrow arched in that familiar manner and she knew it was time to be quiet and comply.
"Are you saying there's a leak at the crime scene unit?" Claire frowned and then after a moment, her eyes grew big when she realized: "Or a leak at my office?!"
Jill made a face and took a few steps back, ensuring a few extra feet and a steel slab as a nice and safe distance between Claire and the rage she was about to unleash on Lindsay Boxer and the theory she just revealed.
"All I'm saying is that these photos couldn't just pop up from anywhere-"
"And the medical examiner's office is the obvious place of choice for harboring moles?" Claire finished the sentence for her.
"Would you rather have the Feds swarm over you?"
"Oh don't even go there!"
"Claire..." Lindsay huffed.
"Don't you Claire me. We might be friends but I don't appreciate what you're implying here."
"We're in this together." Jill finally dared to speak. "We were all there when he first hit. We were all there when the last girl was found. And whomever it is that sent Cindy those photos is trying to tell us something. No one is placing blame. We just need to do what we always do: bring our collective minds together and kick this case's ass."
"Yeah, I'mma gonna kick some ass, alright." Claire growled and then pointed a finger at Lindsay. "You pray you get to this punk before I do, because it just might get ugly if I get my hands on 'im first. Messing with my office with my staff " She grumbled.
"Don't whip out your black belt just yet, alright?" Lindsay quipped. "And trust me, the punk won't have a jolly time regardless of who gets their hands on him first. And that's a promise."
The blood-red Saab screeched to a stop and a moment later its headlights turned off. Cindy exited her car and pushed the door closed with her elbow. The file from the top of the pile she was maneuvering in her arms fell to the ground with a splat and she cursed under her breath. Reaching down to pick it up, she pressed the small button on her key and the blinkers flashed orange as the locks on the doors snapped in place.
The underground garage of her apartment building echoed with each step she took, the click-clack of her heels bouncing noisily against the gray walls. Elevator doors opened with a ding and the bright light from the inside of the car made her squint. Careful not to drop any of the files from her hands again, Cindy managed to press the button to her floor.
Her apartment door was on the far end of the hallway where the light bulb had conveniently blew up and she had to dig through her bag blindly in search of the keys to her apartment. It was a second; the feeling of goose bumps crawling up her spine and a shiver going through her body when she realized that there was another body standing next to her, obscured by darkness, silent and lurking. She found the keys and the pepper spray attached to them and just as she was about to use it on the thug behind her, a strong flash of light blinded her.
"Let me help you with that." The voice was unmistakably familiar, but Cindy's heart almost exploded anyway.
"Jesus Christ, Lindsay!" Cindy gasped, the penlight in the inspector's hand providing enough light to illuminate the dark hallway, the apartment's door, the mortified paleness of the young reporter and a cocky smirk on Lindsay's face.
"Not so heroic after all, are ya?"
"Aren't you supposed to be serving and protecting instead of playing scare-your-reporter-friend-senseless-by-lurking-in-the-dark game?"
"I'm off duty, so..." Lindsay shrugged. "Your landlord should fix this light before someone really decides to pounce you from the dark corner."
"Yeah, tell me about it." Cindy deadpanned. She unlocked her door and then shouldered it open.
"Nice diggs." Lindsay followed close behind and then nodded appreciatively when Cindy flicked on the lights. The reporter's apartment was small but warm and colorful, just like its owner was.
"I'd offer you something to drink," Cindy unloaded the files onto the coffee table, "but my fridge is pretty much empty and, also, I'm not sure you deserve any hospitality after this stunt you've just pulled." She stood in the center of the room, her hands on her hips, eyes locked with the dark ones that always made her heart pump blood faster, no matter if she was being scared, happy, tired or simply swept off her feet.
"It's not really a social call, Thomas," Lindsay drawled. "I just came by to tell you that the techs are finished with your computer and you'll be getting it back bright and early tomorrow morning."
"Off the record."
"Isn't it always?"
"I never thought that the noodie pictures were your style. And on the company computer?" Lindsay tsked.
"I don't have-" Cindy started to protest but realized that was exactly the reaction Lindsay wanted from her. "Oh my god, who is twelve years old now, you or I?"
"It's not my fault your buttons are so easy to push, Thomas." Lindsay winked, and just like with a wave of a magic wand, all the grudge Cindy had completely disappeared.
"You just wait!" Cindy playfully waved her finger in Lindsay's face.
"I'll see you later." Lindsay saluted lazily reaching for the door. "And remember," she lingered at the doorstep, "don't talk to and don't take candy from strangers!"
"Out!" Cindy laughed, pushing the other woman into the dark hallway. Lindsay's bright smile was the last thing she saw before the darkness engulfed her tall frame. Slowly closing the door shut, Cindy leaned her forehead against it and inhaled deeply the scent Lindsay Boxer left behind.
A minute later, a loud knock on the other side made her jump and she reached instinctively for the door handle, opening the door to peek outside. There was no one there but the same darkness like the one when she came home, and swearing that she wouldn't fall for the same prank again, Cindy sneered. "Nice try, Boxer. Very funny, ha ha."
That same feeling of goose bumps returned when after a moment of deathly silence she didn't get an answer she expected. Instead, there was a shuffle in the darkness and before she managed to slam the door shut, Cindy saw a figure stepping forward, kicking the door open and pushing her into the apartment. For a brief moment she managed to see his eyes before he covered her face with a piece of drenched gauze. After that, everything went black.
For the fifth time in as many minutes, Lindsay checked her watch. Jill pretended not to notice the fidgety mood her inspector friend was displaying that morning. Jacobi probably messed up her coffee again, or Tom made a quip that didn't sit well with her.
"Just so you'd know," Claire spoke leaning over the gaping torso of a middle-aged man with a bullet wound in the center of his forehead. Not much mystery about the COD there. "Two FBI agents came by the morgue just before the end of business hours." She lifted her head and looked in Lindsay's direction. "You didn't make a report about the photos, did you?" Lindsay blinked at her uninterestingly. "Yeah, I thought so."
"What did you tell 'em?"
Claire shrugged, burying her hands into the dead man's chest. "Well I didn't tell them that you withheld some crucial evidence from the federal agents on the Kiss me not case, if that's what you're asking." She withdrew her hands out and brought out one of the man's organs. She dropped it on the scale and noticed Jill go green, then white as a sheet. "They'll figure it out themselves eventually and then they'll throw your ass in jail for obstruction."
"It's my case." Lindsay growled.
"It's your funeral." Jill muttered, obviously loud enough for her friend to hear and shoot her an angry glare.
Dropping the forceps into the steel dish with a clank, Claire pulled off her gloves and threw them into the trash. "What's wrong with this picture?" She scanned around the morgue with her eyes.
Jill gave her a confused look, as did Lindsay, only little more dejectedly than usually. "Cindy is not here?" Jill offered after a moment.
"Cindy's not here." Claire echoed.
"Cindy's always here." Jill looked at Lindsay accusingly.
"What?" Lindsay barked. "I don't know where she is. She should have been here an hour ago."
"What did you do to her?" Claire inquired with a squint.
"Leave the poor girl alone, Lindsay," Jill whined. "She's scared of you as it is."
"I didn't do anything to her, sheesh!" Pulling her cell phone out of her pocket, Lindsay flipped it open and then punched in a few keys. She pressed it to her ear and waited. "Voicemail," she said, snapping the phone shut. "Her phone has been off the entire morning."
"Maybe she's still mad at you for taking her computer and messing up her hard work on the embezzlement story?" Jill poked jokingly.
"She got her computer back this morning," Lindsay retorted and Jill finally understood why Lindsay was so nervous. There was something wrong. "I'll go by the Register," she announced, "see if she dug out something new on the Williamson case." Not wasting another moment, Lindsay shrugged on her jacket and pushed through the swinging doors.
"What Williamson case?" Claire frowned.
Jill shrugged. "Have no idea."
When she arrived at the Register, the first thing she looked for was the sight of the mass of red hair peaking over the side of Cindy's cubicle, and when she didn't find it, Lindsay extended her step and marched over to the editor's office. Through the glass walls she could see and pretty much hear Cindy's editor unleashing all fury upon some poor intern and when he took a moment to breathe in between two bursts of anger, he noticed Lindsay standing outside his office. He reached for the door and upon opening it his loud grumble became available to the entire staff on the 3rd floor's newsroom.
The intern flew by Lindsay as fast as he could, leaving her to deal with the very pissed off crime-desk editor.
"Inspector," he said, short of breath. "What can I do for you?"
"I'm looking for Cindy Thomas."
His face turned beet red again, "You and me both!" He prompted her to close the door behind her and then offered her a seat. She declined with a wave of her hand. "She didn't show up for work today, her cell phone is off, she's not answering at home and she owes me a bloody two page spread that was supposed to be in print yesterday!"
"She hasn't called in sick or anything?"
"As far as I'm concerned, Miss Thomas doesn't need to call in anything anymore. She is fired." Lindsay squinted and shoved her hands deep into her pockets. "Now, if there's nothing else I can do for you, inspector, I have some damage control to do. Thank you."
Lindsay arched her eyebrow at him silently; he didn't bother with goodbyes as she went for the door and neither did she when she noticed how his nose got buried into a pile of papers cluttering his desk.
Taking a left turn before the elevator, Lindsay ducked behind the editorial board and then slowly slipped into Cindy's cubicle. As promised, her computer was there, as were the rest of her things, only messily placed all over the desk's surface. The computer was on dozens of desktop icons crowding the screen. Lindsay scanned them with her eyes, looking for something that could spark her interest. Finally, her eyes dropped to the bottom right corner of the screen where a little animated envelope twirled indicating an arrival of new e-mail.
Looking around her quickly to check if anyone could see her, Lindsay clicked on the icon and the reporter's inbox popped open. It was crowded just like the desktop, but the last received message stood out distinctively in bold letters.
Subject: photo session new
Lindsay chewed on her lip for a moment and then opened the e-mail. For a second she was confused by seeing her own name in the letter and then, as her heart started to pick up its pace, she reread the message again.
Dear inspector Boxer,
I hope there are no hard feelings on your part for not contacting you directly, but this seemed like a more interesting way to capture your attention, even though, I am pretty sure I already have all of it, and for many years. I must admit, Inspector, that although your brilliance in handling cases usually astounds me, your helplessness in handling my case is beginning to frustrate me. Therefore, I decided to give you a wee bit of extra incentive.
Lindsay's jaw clenched and her nostrils flared at the content of the letter. With a shaky hand she drove the mouse cursor over the link to the file attached to the letter and clicked on it. It was big and it was a photo. With each revealed pixel, her heart pounded harder and faster in her chest until she, to her horror, recognized the face on the photo and her heart stopped.
It was Cindy, bound and gagged in the corner of some filthy room, unconscious and bleeding from her temple. At the bottom of the photo, in some ridiculously joyous font it read: Greetings from San Francisco's finest serial killer.
"Kiss me not." Lindsay whispered to herself, feeling suddenly cold and feverish at the same time. She sat on the floor of the cubicle and leaned against its wall. Taking a few deep breaths to stop herself from feeling nauseous, she fumbled for her cell phone. When she finally managed to flip it open and press the right speed dial, she breathed into the phone after the line was connected.
"Tom," she choked out. "We have a problem."
If she had a problem with FBI taking over and handling the 'Kiss me not' case before, now she was 100% furious and ready to get into somebody's face because of it. Tom tried to calm her down which only resulted in yet another shouting match, numerous expletives, accusations, mentions of failed marriages and lingering obsessions.
"She is my friend, Tom!" Lindsay's voice was beginning to crack but that didn't stop her from yelling.
Tom only yelled back: "Which is exactly why you should let them handle the case!" Finding no words to rebut him once again, Lindsay growled disconsolately.
Regaining enough composure, Lindsay managed to lower her voice to a reasonable level, "Tom. I was possibly the last person to see her before that son of a bitch took her. I was there and he got to her. He wrote an e-mail for me, because he wants to taunt me. He is the one who is taking this personally, how could I not take it the same way?"
"The Feds have agreed to take you on as a consultant on the case-"
Before he had a chance to finish his thought, Lindsay exploded again: "That bastard is holding my friend! She is in his hands because of me! She is being brutalized because of me! Can't you can't those idiots in cheap suits understand that I don't need to be an errand boy on this case? I need to lead it!"
"Fine." Tom said calmly. He stretched his neck and smoothed his tie. "You obviously can't be a team player on this and it is now officially out of my hands. I'm sorry, Linz."
"What?" Lindsay squinted at him but didn't get a reply. Tom just turned around and exited his office. Lindsay immediately took after him.
Passing by two Federal agents, Tom slowly nodded: "She's all yours."
Just as she managed to get in step with her Lieutenant, Lindsay was stopped by someone's hand on her shoulder. "Inspector Boxer," the burly FBI agent took a firm grip on her upper arm. "I'll have to ask you to come with me."
Before she could say anything else, she got dragged into the interrogation room, with the door shut and locked behind her.
"She is going to wring his neck when she gets out of that room." Claire stood next to Jill behind the one-way glass, watching Lindsay pace furiously around the small interview room.
Jill wrinkled her nose, "Wouldn't you?"
"I'm thinking about doing it as we speak."
The door to the interview room opened and Tom entered, only to be completely ignored by his beyond furious inspector.
"The techs located the IP address, it's local." He said. "She's still in San Francisco. They are narrowing the area and we should have a location soon." Tom came closer to her, trying to get her to look at him. She tugged her arm away from his touch. "I know this is hell for you, Lindsay, but it's for the best. The guy finally made a mistake, he gave us the where and when. It's only a matter of time now."
Lindsay finally turned, letting Tom see her eyes devoid of anger, but filled with tears. She clenched her jaw so violently that he could hear the gritting of her teeth. "If anything happens to her, Tom..." She shook her head.
"I know." He reached once again to hug her but she still refused.
"God knows what she's going through right now. God knows what he's doing to her." She wailed, "You've seen the bodies of those poor women. You know what he's capable of!"
"We'll get the bastard this time, Linz." His eyes were stern and fixed on her. He wasn't saying it just to make her feel better. "We'll get him."
"Then let me out of this room and let me do my job!" She demanded.
Just as he opened his mouth to disappoint her, the interview door flew open making the Venetian blinds on it rattle loudly.
"Lieutenant!" One of the police officers burst in, "They've got a hit. The docks."
In a second, Lindsay exchanged a look with Tom, daring him to stop her from leaving. He let out an exasperated sigh and moved to the side to let her pass. She didn't miss a beat, but ran out of the interview room and to her desk. From the top drawer she pulled out her service weapon and clipped it onto her hip, right next to her badge. She didn't bother with pulling her jacket on.
A group of half a dozen black-and-whites and several more armed cars filled with special task force officers silently glided towards the San Francisco port's storage units. The old management building was marked for tearing down and it was obviously a perfect hiding place for any shady business type who needed a secluded, but easily accessible place.
Jacobi was behind the wheel and, for the first time, Lindsay was grateful for it because she was too nervous to do anything but bite her lip and play out worst-case scenarios in her head. If anything happens to her. If anything happens to her, Tom...
The file of cars rolled to a stop in front of the abandoned building and armed officers started to jump out almost instantly. Dressed in dark outfits, shielded by Kevlars, helmets, protective glasses and armed with automatic rifles, the special task force dispersed around the perimeter and slowly started to infiltrate the building. Lindsay got out of the car before Jacobi could stop her, and, making sure her holster is at her hip and her Kevlar tight around her upper body, she ran after the special task force officers, disregarding the FBI agent's angry waves and attempts to stop her.
She was alone in the dark hallway stairwell that led up to the second floor and beyond. She held the butt of her gun with a ferocious grip, both barrel and a small battery torch pointed straight ahead. The sound of her heart thumping in her chest and the hum of her breathing were the only sounds disturbing the silence. Through the busted doorways on each side of her, Lindsay could see rays of lights fixed on the STF's rifles and they moved as steadily as she was.
When she reached the second floor, after scanning every hole in the wall, every door jamb or possible passage, she heard a commotion on the floor beneath her; the shouting of her colleagues, busting down doors and then few shots being fired. Lindsay turned on her heels and ran back down the stairs, taking three at the time, and slid to a halt in the wide hallway from where the commotion originated.
"We got a live one!" Someone shouted, "Get the medic!"
A few more shots echoed and everyone ducked down to dodge any passing bullets. The torches on the STF's rifles threw erratic beams all over the place, like some crazy light show. Lindsay picked herself up from the floor and gluing herself to the side wall, quickly slid towards the small storage place within the building that now stood wide open with its big gaping mouth filled with darkness.
One of the officers got to the door before her and illuminated the inside of the storage place. On a small, grubby mattress, a curled up body lay motionless. The clothes were rumpled and torn; hair messed up and matted together. Lindsay suppressed a whimper as she holstered her weapon and pushed past the officer to kneel by Cindy's side. The commotion was still happening outside, the sirens started to wail and the officer lighting the space stepped closer to shine the light a little brighter.
"Is she alright?" He asked.
Turning Cindy so she could see her, and moving the hair from her face, Lindsay sniffled, "She's got some cuts and bruises. She's hypothermic and unconscious."
"The EMTs are on the way."
Lindsay nodded faintly and then pulled Cindy closer to her and into a tight embrace until the medical assistance arrived.
Showing the nurse on call her badge in passing, Lindsay rounded the corner and took long strides down the corridor. She stopped in the doorway of the room 241, taking a minute to observe the young redhead as she clumsily tried to type against the laptop keyboard.
"It wouldn't kill you to lay off the job for one day."
Cindy looked up and smiled. "Excuse me, could you repeat that? I couldn't hear you over the noise of the kettle calling the pot black."
"You always find new ways to annoy me, don't you Lois?" Lindsay joked as she entered the hospital room and then settled herself in the chair next to Cindy's bed.
"Someone's gotta tone down that ever inflating ego of yours. Might as well be me."
Her eyes suddenly growing serious, Lindsay reached and placed her hand over Cindy's. "How are you feeling?"
"Alive." Cindy managed a small smile. "Better." When they first got her out of that place, she was completely battered. After two days in the recovery, the color in her cheeks was back, the smile on her chaffed lips and that childish glint in her eyes. "I've heard that he managed to get away."
Lindsay tightened her jaw. If she were the lead officer on the case, that bastard would have been dead instead of in the wind. "I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry, too. I've also heard that you got in trouble over me."
"You wanted to save me." Cindy smiled that adoring smile she only seemed to use when inspector Boxer was around. Lindsay gently patted the back of her hand. "Thank you for that." And after a beat: "My hero!" Lindsay laughed at the younger woman's girlishness.
"Does this mean I can count on you to bail my ass every time I get into trouble?"
"Oh there'll be no more trouble for you, Thomas." Lindsay pointed a finger at her. "After this I'm not letting you out of my sight!"
"Even if it means moving you to a new accommodation in one of the squad room's more prominent cells, yes." Lindsay's cell phone chirped to life and she flipped it open to check the incoming message. "It's Claire. She found something on the DB from the case we're working. I gotta run."
"You'll be okay?"
Cindy nodded towards the door beyond which a sleeve of the police uniform could be seen. "Officer Mill will keep me company." And then she lowered her voice, "I feel like a celebrity with the security and all."
"Are you kidding?" Lindsay smiled on her way out of the chair. "You're the famous crime-desk reporter of San Francisco Register. You're a star!" She winked.
"Lindsay." Cindy grabbed on the inspector's hand as she stood up and went for the door.
"You know how they say that life is short and you shouldn't pass up on opportunities 'cause you could miss all your chances?"
Pulling Lindsay in closer, Cindy propped herself a bit higher against the pillows, "Promise you won't kick my ass?" Lindsay only blinked at her confusedly. "If I do this?" With one quick tug on Lindsay's lapel, Cindy brought their faces close enough for their lips to meet.
"Nice move, Thomas," Lindsay smiled when Cindy broke the kiss. "Nice move."
Cindy's lips stretched in a cheeky grin, "There's more where that came from."
"Don't push it." Lindsay smoothed her jacket. She lowered her voice with a wink. "At least not in public."
The young reporter opened her laptop as soon as inspector Boxer was out the door. She started a new document and slowly typed all the details of her rescue for the new story.
With a smile hovering on her lips, Cindy remembered the inspector's vigor and determination to find her. It all made her fall for Lindsay Boxer even more. But the wink, the wink was definitely Cindy's favorite.
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