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.
Jill's papers went flying up in the air as a red-haired torpedo charged past her down the corridor of the Hall of Justice. Jill nearly went flying as well, but luckily she had been practicing wearing high heels since she was four and broke into her mother's closet, and she managed to regain her balance after only throwing one hand flat against the glass wall.
"Oh, my god!"
Feet planted, Jill spun and glared furiously at the girl down the hall. She was cringing and holding her hands up as if they would protect her from the verbal onslaught that was sure to come.
"Christ, Cindy! That was my case!"
"I'm so, so sorry." Cindy hurried back up the hall and dropped to her knees, piling papers together haphazardly. Jill leaned back against the wall and rested her hand on her forehead.
"And now we all know the reason Lindsey doesn't bring Martha to work." Jill rolled her eyes and looked down on the journalist, whose face was close to matching her hair in color. "What was it, Cin? See a squirrel?"
They locked eyes. Jill arched an eyebrow and Cindy looked away, embarrassed. Her shoulders stiffened as she picked up the papers, no longer enthusiastically or carefully, and Jill sighed. Why couldn't she just not be mean for once?
Cindy stood up stiffly and held out the file, various papers sticking out at awkward angles. Ouch, she was pissed. Jill took the file and tried to shuffle the papers back into semblance of order. She had definitely crossed the line somewhere. Time to make amends.
"So, where were you running to with that fire licking your heels?" Jill offered an awkward smile, but Cindy didn't return it.
"I was looking for you."
"Well You found me?"
Cindy still wouldn't meet her eyes. What was up with this? She couldn't be that offended at being compared to a dog. Everyone loved Martha, right? Well, except for Jill herself, who didn't technically dislike Martha. She was just a dog, and Jill was generally uncomfortable around dogs, even big floppy ones like Lindsay's.
"It was nothing." Cindy turned and started walking away down the hall. Jill dropped her hands and clenched her fists in desperation. She thought they were over this! They were friends now again now. Why did it have to be so hard? She didn't want it to be hard, not with Cindy.
Jill cursed silently and started jogging down the hall in the direction Cindy had gone.
She ended up in the ME's office without catching her up and stuck her head in, seeing Claire at her desk surrounded by an avalanche of paper.
"Hey, Claire? Has Cindy been by this way?"
Claire glanced up and seemed to assess the entire situation with just one mom-look. She frowned. "She was here a few minutes ago. She said she was going to look for you." She paused and added in a somewhat accusatory tone, "She didn't find you?"
Jill avoided her eyes. "Do you know why she was coming to look for me?"
"Her article just came out. You know, the op-ed that's she's been working on for weeks?"
Jill felt her heart sink in her chest.
"Lindsay's out on a case, and I have quarterly reports," she gestured to the paper, "So she was going to see if you wanted to get a celebratory drink."
Jill winced. Good job, she congratulated herself, way to stomp all over someone's moment. She huffed, to cover her guilt. "Jeez, doesn't she have any friends her own age?"
It seemed that Claire had moved at the speed of light, for in a blink of an eye she was up from her desk and right in front of Jill, sticking her finger in her chest.
"Now listen here! We are that girl's friends. Did you see anyone else in the hospital when she had been shot? Were you pushing her off on those other friends when she was languishing in pain and hooked up to all those machines? I don't remember that. But if you're going to treat her like this when she's having a good day, maybe you don't deserve to have her as a friend."
Claire seemed to be quivering with fury. Jill looked away and dropped her head into her hand. Claire was way too talented with the guilt trip, but she wasn't thirteen anymore, and she wasn't going to let it show that it affected her.
"Look. Do you do you have any idea where she's gone?" She gestured vaguely with the file in her hand. "She just sort of fled."
Claire walked away, still eyeing her suspiciously. "I haven't seen her. But she did seem to want that drink."
"Okay." Jill headed towards the exit.
"Are you," Jill paused and turned around. "Are you leaving? You don't have your briefcase or anything."
Jill looked down at herself, then set the file in her hand down on a counter that was probably used to hold intestines, or other things she didn't want to think about and smiled at Claire. "Mind if I leave that there?"
Jill didn't know if she said anything else, because she was already out the door.
The nearest bar was an ugly corporate sports bar, with clusters of televisions playing the Niner's game at an insufferable volume. She scanned the bar for red hair but didn't see any, evaded a goose from a drunken sports fan and ducked out again. She spun on the sidewalk, looking for anywhere promising.
An Irish pub was on the corner, McConnell's or something. Jill started down the sidewalk and before she knew it she was running. She pulled up outside of the pub, breathing hard from the exertion and pushed open the door. There she was, at the end of the bar, and was that Guinness?
Suddenly Jill couldn't remember why she had been so desperate as to run after Cindy. What had she been thinking? That she'd say: I'm sorry for comparing you to Martha, now let's have that drink. And what was so bad about what she'd said, anyways? Just because Cindy was feeling touchy didn't mean she had to apologize for everything that she might have said in a slightly too harsh tone.
A man went up to Cindy and she glanced up, some of her thick hair tumbling from her shoulder. Jill froze and watched as Cindy responded to the man, shaking her head. She shouldn't be alone. Jill stepped forward and touched her shoulder. Cindy turned, surprise written on her face, with a little fear. Jill hadn't thought that an unexpected touch might come across as a tag team pickup. But the fear in Cindy's eyes was quickly replaced by something else, and then her gaze slid away. Jill squeezed Cindy's shoulder more tightly. She didn't want her to look away. She wanted those limpid brown eyes on her although she could barely stand it.
"What are you doing here?"
Jill winced at the coldness in her voice. "I heard you had something to celebrate."
Cindy still wasn't looking at her. Jill thought about taking hold of her face and forcing her to look at her, see the sincere apology that she couldn't bring herself to say.
"As if you'd want to spend time with someone like me."
It was a mumble, but Jill heard it perfectly well. Now she wanted to shake her.
"Maybe I do." She couldn't keep the archness out of her voice and didn't really try. If Cindy was too much of a wimp to deal with her as she was, well it wasn't her problem. Jill never lied about her own faults and she never pretended that she would change them for someone else's comfort.
"Don't you have a case?" Cindy's voice was dismissive, and it was starting to piss Jill off.
"It's not until Monday, and somehow I'm not really in the mood to reorganize paper that I've been through thirty times in the past two days."
"I'm sure there's something else you could be doing that's much more interesting than being here. It's not like anyone has time worth wasting on me." And that was the familiar Cindy, huffy and self-righteous, and self-deprecating at the same time. And those were her eyes, hot and angry and focused straight on her.
Jill grinned and leaned across the bar, waving at the bartender. "Guinness for me too," she said, then glanced at Cindy. "You want to grab a booth?"
Cindy was staring at her, blank bewilderment in her eyes. Her hand was limply resting on the bar and impulsively Jill reached out and took it. It was warm and slightly damp, and suddenly Jill was afraid that she wouldn't be able to let go. She picked up Cindy's drink and tugged her off the stool and towards a booth in the quieter part of the bar. Cindy's face was red and she kept glancing between her trapped hand and Jill's inscrutable expression. Then they were sitting and Jill took a speculative sip of Cindy's beer.
"Woah!" Jill touched her mouth. "You've got some liquor in there!"
Cindy turned even redder and looked away.
"Did he card you?" Jill asked with a chuckle.
"No," Cindy grumbled. "Some people don't think I look twelve."
Jill grinned, resting her chin on her hand. "I would say sixteen. But then I never had a problem with doing someone younger."
Cindy's eyes widened and the red drained from her face, but she didn't let go of Jill's hand. Jill bit her lip, trying to restrain her smile.
"So I heard you had an article out today?"
It took Cindy a few minutes to put together an answer, but she pulled it off eventually, and the conversation took care of itself after that. When Cindy was up getting a second round, Jill glanced out at the darkening street and wondered if her case file was going to be locked in the ME's office all weekend. She'd get Claire to open it up if it came to that. Cindy was back, her hair bouncing on her shoulders as she jabbered on about martinis with Baileys? Jill smiled lazily, not paying attention. It was fine, she decided. Chasing Cindy was the right thing to do.
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