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: This story was supposed to be done for Epic Proportions, but, yeah, missed that deadline. I managed to get it finished though, and so here it is. First shot at writing for this fandom and pairing, so I hope I did them justice.
SPOILERS: All of season one to be safe, but this isn't set around any particular episode.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"Miles, this is wrong."
"Thomas, I'm not discussing this with you again."
The conference room had cleared out quickly, a typical occurrence after Miles' weekly come-to-Jesus meetings. Cindy stayed behind, however, to try and make her argument one last time. The same argument that had been shot down twice before in the meeting. "We're playing into his hands. This is exactly what he wants. The more press we give this guy, the more he's gonna kill."
"It's your job to report the news, or are you forgetting that?"
"This isn't reporting the news," Cindy pressed. "This is feeding a sociopath's ego."
"Sounds like every politician in this city," Miles scoffed.
"Thomas, I don't have time to hold your hand," the editor snapped. "You wanted to play with the big boys well, this is it. Either write the story, or pack your desk."
It would have been easy to walk out, to quit that very second, but something held her back. Whether she liked it or not, she was wrapped up in this, and it was up to her to give Maggie and Beth a voice even if that meant giving their killer his fifteen minutes of fame. "Fine. You'll have it by tonight."
She slammed past him, fuming, her temper only easing up once she spotted Lindsay relaxed at her desk. Lindsay took in the angry twist on the reporter's mouth and got to her feet.
"You look ready to flay someone. Wanna tell me who?"
"My editor," Cindy bit out through gritted teeth. "He doesn't care at all that we're feeding this monster's ego with every story about him. He just wants the inside scoop." She slammed her notebook down, surprising Lindsay with the force of her anger and her swing. "Sonofabitch "
Knowing there was nothing good that could be said, nothing to ease the guilt coursing through the young reporter, she chose to change topics completely. "You're coffee's cold," Lindsay said dryly, handing Cindy the cup of tepid coffee.
Recognizing the maneuver for what it was, Cindy sighed, smiling wanly. "Any chance I can get you to run down and get me a fresh one?" she asked, all coy smile and batting eye-lashes.
This time Lindsay didn't give in. "Not a chance." Sort of. She reached behind a stack of papers on Cindy's desk and pulled out a fresh cup. "I already went down and got you one."
Cindy beamed. "You can be so sweet for being such a pain in the ass."
"I'm going to take that as a compliment." Lindsay grinned cheekily. "So, I've talked with building security and they're aware of the situation. I've got a squad car parked out front. And," she continued, handing over Cindy's cell phone. "We've put a tap on your phone, so if he calls back we can try to trace it."
"So, that's it then," the reporter said pointedly. "There's nothing else you can do here."
She hesitated, her instincts as a friend and lover warring with her instincts as a cop. If she warned Cindy to stay away from Danny it might tip the man off that he'd raised her suspicions, but if she didn't tell Cindy She didn't want to think about what might happen.
In the end, Lindsay pushed her own doubts aside and let the cop win. There was no sense in getting Cindy alarmed before Lindsay knew anything for sure. She'd just tell the undercovers to keep an eye on him until she was sure, as well as keep an eye on Cindy. She wasn't naïve enough to believe that her suspicion of Windsor had nothing to do with her own jealousies. "I don't like leaving you alone."
"Look around, Linz, I'm not really alone," Cindy laughed, motioning to the office full of people. "Now go do your job before Tom yells at you again."
Lindsay opened her mouth, then shut it again. "Claire and Jill have big mouths."
"But they mean well."
There was no momentary questioning of whether she should or shouldn't. Lindsay just leaned in and kissed her lover goodbye. It was only when she pulled back that she realized the world hadn't stopped the way she'd expected it. In fact, no one seemed to have noticed. She leaned in and did it again.
"Is this your way of trying to distract me? Because it's working."
"Don't do anything crazy Lois."
"Wouldn't dream of it Clark."
"Famous last words."
Lindsay punched the last of the information into the computer and hit search, watching impatiently as the little hourglass started to spin, idly wondering why Bill Gates hadn't come up with something more entertaining for people to watch as their computers went to work.
Her original search for Daniel Windsor in the criminal database had yielded nothing useful. Not even a speeding ticket. She'd expanded the search nationwide, and also run a separate search with the new information Jill and Claire had indicated looking for serial murders with posed victims. Considering the amount of information she was trying to access and the variety of sources she was pulling it from, she didn't expect an answer to be returned to her quickly.
Still, she sat and stared at the screen, waiting.
Jill couldn't help but smirk as she walked up to Lindsay's desk to find the police inspector staring at the computer, head propped up in her hands like a twelve year old. "Bored?"
Lindsay's head popped up. "Where's my search warrant?"
Jill shook her head and slid into the chair across from Lindsay. "Sorry, Linz. I did my best."
"Damn it, Jill, I need that search warrant."
"Don't yell at me, it's not my fault the courts have yet to recognize your gut instincts as reliable probable cause for a search warrant," Jill shot back, her tone matching Lindsay's in challenge. The attorney and inspector eyed each other carefully, each holding their ground until Lindsay gave in and flopped back in her chair.
"Just so we're clear - I'm wondering how I'm supposed to get more evidence if the court won't give me a search warrant to obtain more evidence?"
Jill smirked. "I'll bring it up at our next state bar meeting. Have you put a tail on him yet?"
"You think I left Cindy in the building without putting a tail on him? There are two officers in plain clothes posing as office temps. Plus the squad car out front for show. They'll keep an eye on Windsor and Cindy. Not that I told her that of course..."
"Playing it fast and loose with her aren't you?"
"I'm trying to keep her safe," Lindsay argued. "And the less she knows, the safer she is."
"Somehow," Jill smiled knowingly, "I don't think she's going to see it that way."
Cindy stared at the blank screen. She'd written and deleted at least a thousand words of text since Lindsay had left, trying over and over to write about Beth and Maggie's murders, but nothing had come.
It was impossible to concentrate.
Every phone ringing made her jump. Every loud noise, or voice yelling set a chill down her spine as her imagination went into overtime creating what-if scenarios. She felt strung out on her fear and angry that she was afraid at all.
Angry that she'd let her fear show.
She felt childish about her breakdown the night before, foolish that she had un-spooled in front of them all; foolish that she'd let Lindsay see her cracks. But the embarrassment was tempered at least by the knowledge that Lindsay and Claire and Jill hadn't judged her - hadn't thought her too young, or too inexperienced, just unaccustomed, as if it was a right of passage for them all.
She understood it, but it didn't really make her feel much better. She still felt like a green rookie, and that was what really pissed her off. Mostly because a little voice in the back of her mind asked why a woman like Lindsay, so confident, so self-assured, could ever see anything more in a woman like her.
Shoving that thought into a dark corner to brood over later, she made herself focus on the screen, thinking through the words the killer had said, his tone of voice. She'd written down as much of it as she could remember, and now, staring at the words, she tried to find some hidden meaning underneath it all.
What had he meant by saying he was going to make her a star? Make them both immortal?
From what she understood of serial killers, at least the sociopathic ones, they killed for themselves, not others. But this one seemed to be trying to impress her as if he was going to be sole person responsible for getting her a Pulitzer.
It had nothing to do, she knew, with her at all, and everything to do with him. He wanted her attention, he wanted the fame and so far she'd given it to him, in bold black ink above the fold.
He wanted her attention, not because she was important, but because he wanted to be. Beth and Maggie had been a wake up call something to pique her interest personally in the situation, make it about more than a crazy man killing single women. He'd wanted her to get invested in the story, to turn it into a frenzy, to give him the glory he wanted.
Lindsay had her gun, and Claire had her medicine, and Jill had the law, but Cindy had a different weapon in the search for justice she had words and an audience. And she wasn't about to let a madman take those things away from her.
She set her shoulders back, took a deep breath, and started to write.
"Boxer, you got a minute?"
The fact she was literally half-way out the door of the squad room made Lindsay pause to consider what kind of hell she'd be setting herself up for if she ignored Tom's question. Deciding a few minutes was worth the hassle, she motioned for Jacobi to hang on, then high-tailed it up the steps two at a time to Tom's office.
"You need something?" Her tone was even and professional, Jacobi's words still ringing in her head.
"Jacobi says you've got a fresh lead on the Hannigan murder," Tom raised his eyebrows, clearly waiting for her to fill in the rest.
Lindsay took a breath. "I ran into a guy who works with Cindy. He frequents the coffee shop Maggie worked at and he lied to me when I asked whether he knew her. He's a photographer for the paper and lately he's been hitting on the girls in the shop, asking them to model for some gallery show he's putting on. Jacobi checked and Maggie Hannigan had about a hundred-and-fifty bucks in her purse that doesn't correspond to any bank transfers."
"So you think he hired her as his model, and what?"
"I don't know, but I got a weird vibe off this guy. And he doesn't like cops."
Tom smirked. "Maybe he just doesn't like you."
"From where his eyes were looking, he liked me just fine," Lindsay tossed back.
"Yeah," Tom said slowly, regret tingeing his voice, "I bet he did." He took a breath, as if he the extra oxygen in his lungs would make it easier to say what was on his mind. "About yesterday I was out of line."
"No, I shouldn't of-"
"-Damn it, Lindsay, would you just let me apologize," Tom growled, throwing his hands in the air. He took another breath as she waited, this time to cool the surly edge of his temper. "You found out about me and Heather, and you took it in stride I know it bothered you, but you were classy about us getting married, even after that night " He trailed off, trying to give voice to the right words, wondering why it was so hard to let go. "This is the first time that it's been you seeing someone, really seeing someone. I saw the way you were with her, and I know she makes you happy. And that hurts, because it used to be me who made you happy."
He held up his left hand, fingering his wedding ring. "It's not my job to make you happy anymore."
"No," she whispered, acknowledging sadly that this really was the end for them. "It's not."
He smiled graciously. "She's a nice girl. Don't screw this up," Tom cautioned seriously before giving her a lopsided grin.
"Why does everyone assume I'm going to-"
"Because you always do," he teased. "Statistics are statistics for a reason."
She winced, hating to have her own words thrown back at her. "Not this time," Lindsay promised.
"Good. Now go solve your case." She gave him a mock-salute and headed out the door. Tom watched her go, waiting until she was out of earshot down the stairs before whispering, "Goodbye Lindsay."
"What are we missing?"
Jacobi snagged a fry off Lindsay's plate and popped it in his mouth. "Forensics?"
"Claire's on the forensics. Lab's running the prints on the money but that's gonna take time."
"We've canvassed twice. I guess a third time wouldn't kill us."
"Might not kill you, but I've got two bad knees that aren't gonna like walking those hills all day," Jacobi grumbled. "but if you think we might find something "
She shrugged. "I'm grasping at straws here. There's a connection, a reason he picked these women, he picked Cindy, but I just can't see it yet."
"Victims?" he listed off. "Let's go back to the beginning and search their apartments and personal effects all over again. Maybe we'll find something new now that we've got more of the puzzle."
"That's not a bad idea."
"Occasionally I do impress even myself," he said drolly, snagging another fry. Lindsay smacked his hand, but not before he managed to pop it into his mouth.
"What about your cholesterol?"
"What about your blood sugar," he countered. "I tell you what I'll give up greasy food when you give up those triple-chocolate, caramel, machiatto-whatevers you drink all the time. Between the caffeine and the sugar I'm surprised you don't vibrate off the chair."
Chagrinned, Lindsay ducked her head with a smile and slid her plate of fries toward her partner. "So evidence locker?"
Jacobi popped another fry in his mouth. "Evidence locker."
Two hours later, and drinking one of her diabetic-coma-inducing coffee drinks, Lindsay pawed through a box of Beth Peterson's books. With the landlord looking to rent out the dead woman's apartment they'd had no choice but to box up everything in Beth's apartment and haul it down to the police storage as potential evidence. Lindsay had already flipped through a box of books to no avail while Jacobi had searched through leftover junk mail and take out menus with no luck. Despite a penchant for Thai food and a love of 19th century American literature, neither of them had found anything pertinent to the investigation.
She picked up another book a romance novel with a half-naked man and woman gracing the cover and murmured, "So you did read the classics too. Good for you." She flipped through it once, her eyes catching on a piece of paper tucked inside the first few pages. She stopped and flipped each page individually until she found the aberration a small receipt tucked in between the pages as a bookmark. Lindsay sighed, but glanced at it anyway, almost choking on her coffee as she read the receipt.
It was from the same coffee shop that Maggie Hannigan worked for.
"Jacobi! I think I've got something."
He dropped the stack of advertisements and walked over, his mouth a wordless twist of possibilities. "Huh."
"We never flashed Beth's picture around the coffee shop."
"Never had a reason to," Jacobi countered. "Until now, we had no reason to think she'd ever walked into that coffee shop before. It's not on her way to work, her apartment it wasn't like this girl had much of a life."
"Look at these books," Lindsay said slowly, the slightest inkling of an idea tickling the back of her mind, bit by bit becoming a full fledged thought. She picked up one of the romance novels it was well worn in, even by paperback standards. She flipped it open and noticed the price written in pencil on the first page. "Look hand written price. She probably bought it used." She grabbed another book, flipping the title page and finding the same thing, and another, and another. "All of these books she bought them all used."
Jacobi watched as Lindsay started to pace, working through the case aloud. "She's a teacher, she doesn't make much money especially for San Francisco so she buys used books. She doesn't go out much. Doesn't socialize. Doesn't have a credit card. Pays cash for everything so she doesn't leave a paper trail doesn't like to spend money she doesn't have "
"She's young, but she's scared," Jacobi added, picking up her train of thought. "After her jerk of a husband, she isn't looking to date. So how do you keep yourself occupied?"
"You go to the one place you can still find entertainment for free," Boxer finished. She dug through another box of books, finding what she was looking for. Triumphantly she held up three books with "San Francisco County Public Library" stamps emblazoned on their title pages. The library's address was printed just beneath the name.
Jacobi glanced at the marks and the dates. "The branch is two blocks from the coffee shop on the other side of the Register." He took another look at the receipt and the check-out dates. "They don't match, but they are both on Saturdays."
"She had a routine," Lindsay sighed, replacing the books. "It wasn't much, but she had a routine. And that was enough for her." Jacobi gave her a knowing look but wisely kept whatever commentary he had to himself. Ignoring the look, she checked her watch and grimaced. "I was going to stop by and check on Cindy. I'll swing through the coffee shop with Beth's picture see if they remember anything."
"I'll check in with the lab on our fingerprints and the database, see if our search popped anything up."
"Oh, hey and see if you can find out if Danny Windsor has a library card."
Jacobi grinned. "About time I got to use the Patriot Act for something fun."
"You're back again? Don't you think you've had enough caffeine for one day?"
Lindsay smiled at the barista as she walked up to the counter. The coffee shop wasn't half as full as it had been that morning, but almost every table was still occupied. "I just couldn't stay away." She pulled out a picture of Beth Peterson and slid it across the counter for Andrea to look at. "You remember her?"
"Sure. Saturday morning regular. One large, non-fat mocha, no-whip cream," Andrea recited from memory. "Comes in about seven-thirty, sits in that corner there by the window with a stack of books and stays a couple of hours while she drinks her coffee." The girl slid the picture back across the counter, her face going pale as she met Lindsay's eyes. "Oh oh, no, don't tell me "
Boxer nodded grimly. "She was killed before Maggie."
"No way This is just this is too much." Tell me about it, Lindsay agreed silently. "I can't handle this."
"Andrea." Lindsay said the girl's name slowly, pulling her focus away from the fear creeping its way up the younger woman's spine and back to the present. It took a moment, but the barista finally met Lindsay's eyes again, her face a grey shade of pale. "I need you to tell me if you've ever seen 'Mr. Sleaze' hanging around her."
That question drew a sharp laugh from the girl and seemed to snap her out of the chaotic turn of her mind trying to process too much death. "Him? In here on a Saturday? Hell, in here at all before nine? Not likely."
Lindsay cursed silently. "So you've never seen him talking to her? Flirting?"
"No. And I work the Saturday shifts. I would have seen him."
"You're sure?" Boxer asked again, not about to let one of their precious few leads falter so easily.
"I'm sure," Andrea confirmed. "I've never seen him in here at the same time as her."
"Do you remember her talking to anyone in here at all? Anything?"
The girl shook her head. "No, I'm sorry. She kept to herself just sat in the corner and read her books. We get a lot of those on Saturday mornings. They all just kind of blends together after a while."
Lindsay sighed and tucked the picture away again. "It's okay. I can't ask you to remember something you had no idea you should be looking for."
Andrea ran a hand roughly across her face. "God, I need a drink."
Lindsay chuckled softly. "You can say that again."
"I, uh, can't offer booze, but anything you want on the house," the barista offered. "You catch this guy, you're never gonna pay for coffee again."
Lindsay checked her watch: it was after five. Cindy would be needing her late afternoon caffeine buzz. "I'm not going to argue against coffee but I'm paying for it. At least until we catch this guy."
Here is my love and anger
These are my gods, these are my scars
Here is my love and anger
My arms are burning, but they're open wide
Pointing out the graveyards
I will be the reaper
If you will be
The keeper of my heart
She took a cursory glance around the newsroom, confirming that the plain-clothes officers were at their stations and hadn't encountered any problems. The officers looked miserable, reduced to filing and making copies, but neither gave her any signal that there had been trouble at the office. Thank God for small favors.
Coffee in hand, she turned the corner, intending to find Cindy hard at work at her desk, but found instead a half-eaten sandwich and an empty workspace. Fighting a momentary flash of panic, Lindsay forced herself to set the coffee down gently and calmly look around. On her second sweep of the newsroom she finally saw a flash of red-hair through the glass of the editor's office window and sighed in relief, both from having found the reporter and from not having a full out panic attack.
She smiled as she watched Cindy gesture wildly toward Miles, obviously making an emphatic point about something, and chuckled to herself. She hadn't had much occasion to see it, but it occurred to her that Cindy probably had a pretty decent temper. And she was giving a good helping of it to her editor. Miles scrubbed his hands across his eyes, obviously giving in. Cindy said something else and walked out, smiling. She saw Lindsay waiting by her desk and hurried her steps.
Lindsay smiled back and held up Cindy's fresh cup of coffee. "Thought you could use this."
"Oh, you know me too well already. It's not fair," Cindy grinned, taking the proffered cup and brushing a kiss across Lindsay's cheek all at the same time. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
The inspector ducked her head, avoiding Cindy's stare. "No reason, just wanted to check in."
"You've checked in every hour by phone," Cindy said slowly, not at all fooled. "What makes this different?"
"There someplace we can talk?"
Worried by Lindsay's uncharacteristic reticence, Cindy led them into the conference room. It wasn't exactly private, with its wall of windows that faced into the newsroom, but it was quiet and they were alone. She waited, silently, while Lindsay paced around until the brunette finally seemed to find the words she was looking for.
"I think we might have a suspect."
"You do? That's great! Who is it?"
"You're not going to like it." Lindsay took a breath. Let it out slowly. "What do you know about Danny?"
The look of shock on Cindy's face would have been almost comical if it hadn't been followed by confusion and sadness and fear. "No Linz, there's no way. Danny's a jerk, but he's not a serial killer."
"I talked to the girl in the coffee shop," Lindsay explained slowly, laying out the information like building blocks. "Danny said he didn't know Maggie, but she says Danny did know Maggie, she says he regularly picked up on her, flirted with her. She also says Danny was known to offer girls jobs to model for him and Maggie was walking around with a hundred and fifty dollars in unexplained cash. We're running the money for prints, and I've almost got enough for a warrant for his phone records, and when I get that, I'd be willing to bet my career there's gonna be a record of him calling your cell phone the same time the killer did. I'm not sure exactly how he fits into Beth's life yet, but if she was as hard up for cash as Maggie was, she might have modeled for his as well. There's a good chance they may have crossed paths somewhere around the coffee shop."
The silence was deafening as Cindy stared Lindsay down, processing everything the woman had just told her. Finally, in a voice too soft in the too quiet room, she asked, "You knew about this earlier didn't you? You suspected him this morning, after you brought me my coffee."
"It was just a hunch."
"You're Lindsay Boxer," Cindy murmured dryly, "Your hunches are the stuff of legends."
"You suspected that Danny was the killer this morning, and you didn't tell me."
"I wanted to wait until I had more information "
Cindy stopped, something not quite adding up. "No wait a sec. You wouldn't have left me here all day in the same office with Danny if you thought " she trailed off, her eyes straining as she looked through the conference room windows, scanning the newsroom. It was obvious once she knew to look for it. The cops were as easy to spot as a virgin at a gay pride parade. "Unbelievable."
Lindsay took a breath and braced for the storm. "Cindy "
"They've been here all day and you didn't tell me."
"It was just a precaution," Lindsay defends, trying to keep her tone soft even as Cindy's ratchets up.
"A precaution? Cops here babysitting me? Not telling me Danny might be a suspect? Damn it, Lindsay, how am I supposed to help you if you won't tell me what's going on."
"I didn't think it would be a big deal-"
"Is this about last night? Because I freaked out a little?"
"What? No," Lindsay countered. "It has nothing to do with that."
"Are you sure, because I thought we were supposed to be working together on this, as a team."
"You're not supposed to be helping me," Lindsay snapped in frustration, "you're supposed to be laying low and staying safe until we catch this guy."
"We," Cindy scoffed. "You mean you-"
"- And if they're lucky, maybe you'll let Jacobi and Claire and Jill help too. But not me."
"That's not fair-"
"None of this is fair Lindsay," Cindy ground out in exasperation. "There isn't a second of this that's been fair. But that doesn't mean you get to shut me out and make decisions for me."
"I'm just trying to keep you safe," Boxer shot back, her tone matching the younger woman's.
"And treating me like a child while you're at it."
"Well, if you'd stop acting like a child, I wouldn't need to treat you like one."
"Go to hell."
Anger made the air thick and stifling in the room, but neither of them seemed to notice it as they stared each other down.
Someone knocked on the door. Cindy bid them entrance, her eyes never leaving Lindsay's. Earl poked his head around the door. "I, uh, have those articles you wanted on previous serial killings in Frisco. I can just leave them on your desk "
"No, I'll take them now," Cindy interrupted, stalking toward the door. "We're done here." She gave Lindsay one last look and left. Earl gave Lindsay a dirty look and followed Cindy out.
Running a hand roughly over her face, Lindsay growled out a string of curses and headed for the elevators.
"I've got good news," Jacobi declared as Lindsay stalked back into the squad room. "Not that you seem to care right now."
"Your search didn't turn up anything for Windsor, but we did get a hit on two similar murders five years ago in Colorado and Montana. Females, mid-twenties, strangulation. Bodies were posed post-mortem in public areas. Cops didn't never had a suspect."
Lindsay flopped into her chair, processing everything as Jacobi rattled off the information. "Do we know Danny Windsor's whereabouts five years ago?"
"I'm put in a request for his records with the IRS, but you know accountants. Out the door at five. I won't have anything till morning."
She rolled her eyes, growling. "God, even when we get a suspect it still does it always have to go badly?"
Jacobi eyed her, not entirely sure she was still talking about the case. "You okay? Why don't you get out of here for a while? Go bother Claire or check up on Cindy again." The dark turn of Lindsay's eyes told Jacobi that wasn't an option right now. He sighed and perched himself on the edge of her desk. "What'd you do?"
"-Uh uh. I know you. Now tell me: what did you do?"
"I got her editor to let two plain-clothes officers pose undercover as office temps."
"And you didn't tell her." It wasn't a question.
"And I didn't tell her," Lindsay admitted quietly, closing her eyes with a wince. She waited for Jacobi to say something scathing something pointed and sharp and perfect to cut her to the core. When nothing was forthcoming, she opened her eyes just enough to find him staring at her. "What? No comment?"
Jacobi snorted. "You already know what I'm gonna say, so why am I gonna waste my breath saying it?"
"No. No, no, no you always seem to know what's best for everyone else. Always know what everyone's going to say. Why should I even bother? It's not like it's gonna make a dent in that thick skull of yours. Never has before, doubt it will now."
It wasn't quite as scathing as she was expecting, but it hurt nonetheless. Mostly because she knew he was right. Damn him.
"Weren't you the one who told me this time it was going to be different?"
"I just " she couldn't even voice the words, the excuses, rolling around her mind. All the tried and true sayings she'd regurgitated again and again when relationships had taken a turn she didn't want, or more likely, she wasn't prepared for.
"Apologize," he urged softly. "She's a good woman. She'll understand."
"She was pretty pissed."
"Well, I'm no authority on women, but I've been told flowers work wonders. And groveling." He grinned, quick and crooked. "Lots of groveling."
He watched Cindy pack her things and stride out of the office, leaving the two undercover officers to stare after her in stupid wonder, unsure of whether to follow and blow their cover, or let her leave unattended. They let her go, but reached for their phones. He smiled. He'd spotted the cops immediately and was mildly disappointed it had taken Cindy so long to notice them as well, but her reaction had more than made up for it.
She'd had a fight with the girlfriend, which was just perfect. She was angry and restless and prone to make a mistake. Tonight would be his chance while she was still angry with the brunette, willing to meet a friend or a source late into the night to spite the inspector. To prove something.
Oh, it was all so perfect. It would be terror when she was taken. Devastation when she was found. And in the end, everyone would know his name.
Claire looked up from stack of files she was signing off on to find Cindy leaning on her doorframe. The look on her face spoke volumes. Wordlessly, Claire grabbed her candy dish and held it out. "Take a seat and tell the doctor your troubles." Cindy smiled, if ever so briefly, and dropped into the chair across from Claire, grabbing a handful of M&Ms on the way. "What'd she do now?"
And so she explained. Cindy went through it all, from Lindsay's suspicions about Danny to the undercover officers she'd placed in the newsroom. Claire sat and listened to it all silently. Finally, Cindy couldn't help but ask, "Is she always like this?"
The answer was immediate and certain. "Yes." Cindy rolled her eyes. "Jill and I have gotten used to it."
"I don't get it... what makes her think she has the right to make decisions that effect my life? Without telling me?"
"Look... you don't know Lindsay's whole story," Claire said, shifting in her chair uncomfortably. She knew Boxer would probably have a few choice words for her, but Cindy needed to understand. "Her mother died when she was young and after everything that happened with her father, he might as well be dead for all the involvement she'll ever have with him again. She's lost the people she loved the most... and don't get me started on Tom. Hell, Cindy, even Jill and I after the Kiss Me Not killer struck the last time even we pulled away a little. The more she thinks she's going to lose someone, the tighter she holds on. And with you..." Claire let out a breath. "You've got her rattled kiddo. I'm not sure she knows what to do with you."
"I have a job to do Claire, and sometimes it's dangerous. Newsflash - so's her job. Should I hire someone to follow her around all day and make sure she doesn't get shot?"
"Nah," Claire smiled, "that's what we have Jacobi for."
Cindy chuckled. "I'm serious... her job is way more dangerous than mine."
"And yet you're the one with a serial killer as the president of your fan club."
"Maybe I overreacted. It's just I'm not totally sure of my place."
"With Lindsay," Cindy agreed. "And with you and Jill and our 'club.' You've been doing this a long time and I can't help but feel like the kid-sister tagging along."
Claire gave her a long, appraising stare. "Do you think that if you don't pull your weight, or do as much to solve cases as Jill or I do, that Lindsay is going to stop caring about you?"
Cindy looked away. "Can't help but wonder what she sees in me, sometimes."
"Oh, Cindy hasn't it occurred to you that maybe you're exactly what Lindsay needs? So you haven't seen a thousand murders that's a good thing. You saw the three of us last night. After a while in these jobs you have to turn off your most basic emotions or you risk letting it overrun your life. Just because the rest of us are jaded doesn't mean you have to be. And don't for a second discount the part you play in all of this. When the justice system screws up, when everything else goes wrong, you tell the truth. And we will always need the truth."
Swallowing hard, Cindy asked quietly, "What should I do?"
"I'm not saying let her off the hook she should have told you - but maybe grade on a curve?"
The reporter smiled. "You're a good friend Claire."
"I do my best."
"So," Cindy said drolly as she settled back into the chair, feeling a little more relaxed, "Since my girlfriend won't do it, why don't you fill me in on what I've missed."
Lindsay took a sip of beer and looked up. Clouds covered the sky, but she could see the lights from the Trans-America Building, and if she tilted her head and squinted just right, she could pretend they were stars. She heard the roof door open and let her shoulders relax, a huff of breath escaping her lips in relief. She looked over her shoulder already knowing who was there; Cindy stared back.
"Jacobi said you were up here."
Lindsay sat her beer down and turned fully to face the redhead. The words, the apology she wanted to give, caught in her throat. The last thing she'd ever wanted to do was hurt Cindy, and yet that was exactly what happened. Just like with Tom. Just like everybody else. "Cindy, I "
"Don't. Just let me talk for once," the redhead head softly. Lindsay took a breath, bracing for the inevitable, and nodded. "I know I'm younger than you are. I know I haven't been doing this as long as you and Claire and Jill. And I know that I manage to get into dangerous situations, even when I'm not trying to. But that doesn't mean I need someone to take care of me. It doesn't mean I need to be protected and coddled like a child. I'm an adult woman, I'm your lover, and you need to start treating me that way."
"Start treating you " Lindsay's voice faded. Cindy watched as a flash of something sparked in her eyes. "So we're not breaking up?"
"What?" The squeak that echoed over the rooftop sounded less than mature, but Cindy chose to ignore that. "I mean, what, what made you think we were breaking up?"
"Uh, the part where you told me to go to hell?"
Cindy muttered something that would have made a sailor blush. Lindsay's eyebrows shot up as much in shock as in admiration. "Lindsay, I'm Irish for god's sake. You're lucky I didn't tell you to do something worse!" She sighed in exasperation. "I don't get angry often, but when I do, I vent, I yell, and then about ten minutes later I calm down and can function normally again."
"Well, I'm not entirely sure I was supposed to know that," Lindsay shot back, her tone rising with her own level of exasperation.
Cindy let out a strangled laugh, her shoulders sagging. "We make quite the pair." Lindsay crossed her arms over her chest, her mouth twisted into a firm line that was bordering on a pout. Cindy took a breath and met her eyes, holding them. "You can't always protect me," she began, "and you can't keep me locked up for my own good. Which means you have to trust me. You have to trust that I'll make the right decisions. I know you're afraid that something's going to happen and I'm going to leave you, one way or another, but you have to trust that I'm not going anywhere." She took a step closer and reached up to cup Lindsay's cheek. "Not now. Not ever."
"There's a part of me the cop part that knows what I did today was the right thing to do."
"And the other part?"
The inspector let out a breath she didn't know she was holding and leaned into Cindy's warm hand, resting her forehead against the smaller woman's. "I'm an idiot," she muttered.
"Yeah, but you're my idiot."
Cindy edged closer, leaning up until she brushed Lindsay's lips softly with her own. It was hesitant, fragile, much like the tentative truce they'd managed to mete out, but Lindsay could feel the unwavering steadiness just underneath. She slid her hands around Cindy's waist, tugged her closer, and kissed her again, the heat of the kiss burning away any hesitancy until nothing was left but the solidness beneath.
"Let's get out of here," Lindsay mumbled even as she kissed Cindy again and turned her so that they were pressed against the wall of the roof.
"Mmm, no, can't," Cindy managed to get out in between kisses.
Lindsay pulled away, eyeing her curiously. "Why not?"
Chagrinned, Cindy ducked her head away from Lindsay's stare and reached into her bag. "I talked to Claire and she told me you needed to compare the fingerprints from the money with Danny's fingerprints." She pulled out a plastic baggie with a small black and red card inside. "It's been sitting on my desk for a few days I was supposed to go tonight to the show's opening, but I think this might be a better use for the invitation."
Lindsay's face lit up into the biggest grin Cindy had ever seen. "Way to go Lois."
"Standing over me, Inspector, will in no way make this go any faster."
Lindsay had her share of favorite technicians in the crime lab. Fred Yee was not one of them. Methodical and precise to a fault, he had a certain way of doing things and did not appreciate being asked to do them in any order other than the one he established. There were no 'rush jobs' on his shift only the careful plod from processing one piece of evidence to another in the order they had been logged in.
Which was why Lindsay had recruited a little help.
Jill smiled at the tech warmly. "So, Fred, how long have you been doing this?"
His expression softened, but only slightly. "Six years."
"You must've helped put a lot of bad guys away."
He sat up a little straighter and adjusted his glasses. Lindsay fought a smirk. For Fred, that was practically preening. "My work has been instrumental in several homicide convictions. Most notably-"
The computer beeped as it completed the fingerprint match program. Fred sighed in resignation and turned back to the monitor, adjusting his glasses once more. It only took a matter of seconds, but Lindsay had to resist screaming at him to hurry up. He printed the screen and handed a copy to Lindsay and Jill. "The computer confirms, and I concur. The prints found on the invitation card match those found on the money in Maggie Hannigan's wallet."
"How sure are you?" Lindsay demanded.
Yee barely shifted his eyes to take in her presence before turning back to Jill. "I would testify to a scientific certainty that the prints match."
Jill practically beamed. Fred blushed hard enough to practically turn purple.
Lindsay ignored them both and stared at the print out. "What do you say Jill?"
"Should be enough for probable cause."
"Then let's go wake up a judge."
It took twenty minutes at the phone company to finally find someone capable of bringing up Danny Windsor's call records. The tech, bleary eyed and not at all happy at being disturbed from his nap during the swing shift, pounded harder than necessary on the keyboard as he brought up Windsor's account.
Jill glanced across the room, watching as Cindy checked her voice mail. The redhead clicked her phone shut and ambled back over. "Everything okay?"
"Yeah, I missed a call from Earl at work. I'll call him back later. We have anything yet?"
"Not yet," Jill answered. "But I'm sure the way Jacobi and Lindsay are hovering is making this go a whole lot faster."
"Okay, here we go. This is the time you specified and "
There was a protracted silence as the tech stared at the screen. Jacobi and Lindsay and Jill shared a look.
"And?" Lindsay finally prompted.
The tech gave her a look of his own. "And it looks like there was an incoming call for about five seconds must've been a hang up and then another outgoing call right after for about three minutes."
"The number dialed?"
Lindsay looked over her shoulder and met Cindy's eyes. The reporter sighed in resignation. She'd been hoping there had been a mistake, especially given the fact they hadn't been able to link Danny to Beth Peterson, but now there was no doubt.
"And that," Jill said, "should be enough for an arrest warrant."
"Let's go pick him up."
New York may have been the city that never slept, but San Francisco wasn't exactly a shrinking violet. At two a.m. the converted warehouse in the Castro District that now served as an art gallery was still packed full of people, practically bursting with music and conversation. Against her better judgment Lindsay had let Cindy come along, with the proviso she stay outside of the gallery until they'd actually arrested Windsor. Cindy had balked initially, but given the choice between going, or Lindsay following through on her threat to lock Cindy in a cell until they were sure Windsor was no longer a danger, she really didn't have much choice at all.
Lindsay gave a slight nod to the uniform's as they walked in, watching carefully as they fanned out to cover the exits and control the crowd if necessary. Once in place, Lindsay and Jacobi started making their way through the throngs of people.
Danny was, of course, at the center of the room.
Surrounded by men in too-trendy suits and women in shoes no sane person would ever wear, much less stand in for a protracted amount of time, he gestured toward one of his photographs. At least five feet tall, and equally as wide, it showed in stark black and white a woman tied to a bed arching upward, mouth open, eyes wide in what could have been ecstasy, or, Lindsay feared, in pain. It made Boxer's stomach clench just a little tighter and she knew the faster they arrested Windsor the happier she would be.
"Daniel Windsor." Jacobi's voice cut through the music and conversation like a finely honed knife, drawing the attention of everyone around them.
Danny looked over, clearly annoyed by the interruption. His double-take was almost comical when he saw Lindsay. "Inspector, to what do I owe the pleasure?"
The look on Lindsay's face could have been a smile. Or a sneer. "The pleasure's all mine, Windsor. You're under arrest."
The arrogant smile dropped from his face. "For what?"
"The murders of Beth Peterson and Margaret Hannigan."
"What? Are you kidding me? I didn't kill anybody!" Jacobi reached for Windsor's arm. He jerked it away and quickly found himself slammed down on the nearest table, cuffs snapped on his wrists. "Boy, do not mess with me," Jacobi threatened. He straightened up and yanked Windsor back up. Lindsay gave Jacobi a grin. "What?"
"Nothin' just, you know, not bad for an old man."
Jacobi snorted and started giving Windsor his Miranda rights as they flanked Windsor and escorted him through the crowd. Under other circumstances, they might have called a few reporters to give them the inside scoop, but tonight there was only one reporter waiting. Only one who deserved the exclusive. Cindy snapped her own pictures as Danny was led out of the gallery.
"Cindy! Cindy! Tell her this is a mistake! I didn't kill anybody! I love women, I could never kill one!"
The reported stayed stone-faced as Jacobi pulled Windsor along and shoved him into the back of a police car as people started to rush out of the gallery to watch. Lindsay walked over, easing out of the crowd's way as she casually drew Cindy to the side of the building. She offered up a hesitant smile. "It's over."
"Not yet." Lindsay quirked a brow in question. "I still have an article to write. For once, we might just actually beat the Chronicle to a story."
"Always the intrepid reporter, huh Lois?"
"You know me, Clark," Cindy smiled, "I just can't help myself."
"Put him in interview one," Jacobi ordered as he handed Danny off to a uniform officer in the squad room. The officer grabbed Windsor's arm and hauled him away none too gently.
"That him?" Tom asked as Lindsay and Jacobi stopped by their desks to remove their guns and lock them away in their desks. "He doesn't look like much."
"He isn't much," Lindsay grumbled.
"Criminals don't have to be special to cause a hell of a lot of trouble," Jill countered. Beside her, Claire nodded. The medical examiner had stuck around despite the late hour to watch the show. She'd been around long enough to know there was no better entertainment than watching Jacobi and Lindsay work a suspect. It was poetry in motion.
Claire handed Lindsay a stack of files and pictures. "As requested, autopsy files for both victims."
Lindsay took them gratefully and thumbed through the photos to find the ones she wanted to use. It was an old trick, one seen in just about every police movie, but there was something powerful about confronting a suspect with the evidence of their misdeeds. Making them see the destruction they'd caused. For some, they got a sick pleasure in seeing the photos, in reliving the moment. For most, it made them fold faster than a house of cards. Lindsay had a feeling Windsor would be among the former.
"We ready partner?"
"More than," Jacobi answered. "The faster we get this case closed, the happier I'm gonna be."
"Then let's get to it."
Lindsay and Jacobi had figured out early on as partners that they were the epitome of good cop/bad cop. Lindsay was good with the threats; Jacobi with the reassurances. Together, they made an unparalleled team in the interview room.
This time, however, they didn't even get a chance. "I want a lawyer. Now."
They were a defendant's magic words, and ones that the police inspectors had been hoping wouldn't come until they'd gotten Danny on the ropes and ready to admit to the murders. The fact the photographer invoked them immediately told Lindsay her gut instinct hadn't been wrong. Strictly speaking, they also put him completely off-limits. If they'd been playing by the rules, they would have walked out right then. One look from Jacobi to Boxer confirmed they weren't going to play by the rules.
"That's your right, Mr. Windsor," Jacobi said slowly, in that helpful, non-threatening tone he'd spent a career practicing to perfection, "but at this point, bringing lawyers in would just cause a lot of unnecessary problems. Lawyers make things messy."
"Are you stupid? What part don't you understand? I. Want. A. Lawyer."
Lindsay stepped closer, putting a restraining hand on Jacobi's shoulder before he lost his veneer of good-cop cool. "We'll get you a lawyer then," she smiled thinly. "And let him explain to you all about special circumstance murders and the death penalty. I hear San Quentin has a helluva view."
The threat, so idly passed off, had Windsor hesitating. Lindsay pounced.
"How'd it happen Danny? Did Beth do something to make you mad? Turn down your clever pick up lines?"
"I don't know anyone named Beth."
Lindsay slammed her hand down on the table, more for effect than anything else. "Do not lie to me, Danny. We know Beth was a regular at the coffee shop across from the Register. Is that where you first saw her? We know you used the same library. You crossed paths, Danny don't try to deny it."
"I don't know anyone named Beth!"
"What about Maggie Hannigan," Lindsay asked, circling behind him so that Danny had to twist around to follow her.
Windsor's face paled. "What about her?"
"You lied to me you said you didn't talk to the baristas. Made it sound like they weren't good enough. But I have a witness who says you hit on Maggie all the time. Harassed her. Even offered her money to be your model."
"So what if I did," he asked tightly, jaw set.
Lindsay moved behind him, leaning down until she was level with his face, her voice vicious and arousing all at once. "Your prints on are the money you gave her Danny."
"Paying a girl to be a model isn't a crime," Windsor hissed defiantly. The tone was completely ruined by the look of fear in his eyes.
"No, but if you were the last person to see that girl alive well you can see where we're going with this."
"I want a lawyer," Windsor repeated.
"You're in trouble here, Danny," Jacobi coerced. "You need to be honest with us. Maybe something happened, an argument, and things got out of hand. It's better you tell us that now, in your own words."
"I didn't kill them," the photographer insisted. "I swear to god I didn't."
"Fine," Jacobi agreed, "then give us an alibi. Give me one person who can confirm where you were the nights Beth and Maggie were killed."
In the silence of the interrogation room they could easily hear him grinding his teeth. "I can't."
"Come on Danny-"
"I want a lawyer," Windsor insisted again. "Now."
And with that, they knew they'd pushed as far as they were going to. Lindsay headed for the door as Jacobi assured, "Fine. We'll be back as soon as we get one."
Jill and Tom were waiting for them as soon as they walked out. Jill pounced first. "Playing Russian roulette with a suspect's Fifth Amendment rights is not a good interrogation tactic. If he would have asked for a lawyer one more time I would have walked in and offered him my services."
"Please, Counselor," Tom chided. "They weren't beating him with a rubber hose."
"No, but it's stuff like that that gets my cases kicked on appeal, and it's never the cops who're blamed, it's the D.A.'s."
"You worry too much, Jill. We only went as far as we knew we could go," Lindsay assured.
"The problem is, you always think you can go too far." Jill took a breath and let it out slowly, releasing the rest of her anger. "Okay, no harm done. He didn't incriminate himself, and you guys left eventually what now?"
"Now we call the Public Defender," Tom answered. "Just like Mr. Windsor asked us to."
"And I've got his phone down with the Fred, our friendly tech, to see if there's anything more we can get from it-"
"Where's my client?"
Lindsay and Jill tensed up, recognizing Hansen North's voice a split second before he rounded the corner. Lindsay offered Jill a sympathetic smile, then glanced at Tom, the implication clear. Dealing with ex's in the workplace was absolutely no fun.
"Hello, Hansen. You got here fast. Danny Windsor just asked for an attorney two minutes ago."
North gave Jill the once over, as only ex-lovers could do, then became all business. "I was at Mr. Windsor's gallery opening. After the spectacle San Francisco's finest made, I informed my boss of what had happened and rushed over."
Which meant, Lindsay knew, that he'd also stopped long enough to call all his favorite news outlets as well. She hoped Cindy had had enough time to file her story on the Register's website.
"Your client is in interview one."
"And just why is he here?"
"Homicide," Lindsay answered flatly. "If you can give us an alibi, he can go home. But I doubt you'll be able to do that. Suspects don't ask for lawyers if they've got nothing to hide."
"Thank god the Supreme Court doesn't agree with you," Hansen muttered before entering the interview room.
Lindsay looked at Jill, smirking. "I think he doesn't like me."
"I know he doesn't like you," Jill affirmed.
"Well, that's a shame, we were just getting to know each other."
They'd been watching Windsor and Hansen through the one-way mirror for about ten minutes when the door to the observation room opened. Fred Yee walked in, Danny's phone and a stack of papers with computer code in his hands, for once not ignoring Lindsay. "Inspector? We've got a problem."
"The call didn't come from Windsor's cell phone."
"What'd you mean," Lindsay growled. "I saw the phone records myself. A call was placed from his cell phone to Cindy Thomas-"
"It was a Trojan," the tech explained, cutting her off without hesitation. "Like those e-mail viruses as soon as you open it, it automatically forwards to everyone else in your address book. Danny Windsor has a virus on his phone not hard to do with these new PDA/phones. A number calls in, activates the virus program, and then the phone automatically dials a specific number in the phone's call directory Cindy Thomas. And with call waiting features, it runs in the background, Windsor never would have even known the phone was in use."
Tom cursed creatively.
Jacobi seconded the sentiment. "Somebody's playin' us."
Lindsay shook her head, trying to make sense of it all, panic churning in her gut. If Danny hadn't made the phone call, then who? She turned and slammed her way into the interrogation room, scaring the hell out of Windsor and Hansen.
"One time deal, right here, right now: You give me your alibi, and whatever else it is you're caught up in that you don't want us to know about, I'll forget. No questions asked."
"I want that in writing before he says-"
"Shut up, Hansen," Jill snapped, stepping in behind Lindsay. "You heard her offer. Right here, right now, or we throw him in a cell and let the always impartial criminal justice system work this out," she bluffed.
Danny gave Hansen a look then caved. "I was a with a prostitute," he admitted in a rush. "Most of the girls, they don't like modeling for my work so I have to look other places. The street girls don't mind taking off their clothes, especially since they get paid pretty well for a couple of hours off their feet and off the street."
"Why didn't you just tell us that? There's no law against paying a woman to pose for you."
"There is if she's underage," he added miserably. "I swear to god, I didn't know until after I took her pictures and she starts talking about how she was in her yearbook in junior high school, like, three years ago. I didn't even develop them. I didn't mean to take pictures like that of a kid. I'm not a perv."
Lindsay let that declaration pass without comment. "Maggie Hannigan?"
"She modeled for me, day before you guys found her same time as the other girl. They did some photos together." From his tone and the terrified look on his face, Lindsay could only imagine just what type of 'artistic' photos had been taken. "I paid her and she left. Never saw her again."
"The name of the prostitute and where we can find her."
"All I know is her street name. Destiny Wild. I picked her up in the Tenderloin."
Lindsay turned on her heel and headed for the door, Jill behind her.
"Hey! What about my client?" Hansen protested as they started to shut the door.
"He gets out when we confirm his story," Jill tossed back over her shoulder, the door shutting with a solid thwack.
"I'll head over to Vice," Jacobi said, not even bothering to wait for Lindsay's agreement or argument. "As soon as I find the girl, I'll call." He was gone a moment later.
"What'd you think Linz?" Tom asked.
"Something's wrong it just doesn't make sense," she answered distractedly. If someone were trying to point the blame at Danny there were better ways of doing it especially if they were capable enough to put a Trojan virus on his PDA. No. It didn't make sense everything they'd found had been circumstantial. No hard evidence, but that hadn't bothered her. Hell, she'd made arrests on less than what she had now. Those arrests, however, had always been followed up by her gut feeling about the perp. She hadn't been wrong about Danny, but Lindsay knew she hadn't been right either.
She'd missed something. She just didn't know what.
The others watched in silence as Lindsay grabbed the victim case files and spread them out across her desk, staring at the crime scene photos, the evidence reports, everything they had on the two women.
"Come on come on "
"He picked them for a reason. Why these women? Why not others?"
"They were loners. No one would miss them. It gave him ample time to commit the murders and then hide," Claire offered.
"But he doesn't want to hide," Lindsay countered, working her way through photos, searching each one for something she'd missed. "If he wanted to hide, if he wanted to get away with this he's smart enough to get rid of the bodies. Instead, he delivered them to us in plain sight. No forensics. No clues."
"Except for Maggie's wallet. He left that with the body," Jill offered.
"We assumed he got sloppy," Claire said. "What if he did it on purpose?"
"He knew we didn't have any solid leads after Beth's murder, so he threw us some clues to keep us in the game."
"And the connection to Cindy?" Tom asked. "Is that just part of the game? A coincidence? What?"
"No, not a coincidence," Lindsay mumbled, more to herself than the others. "He picked women Cindy knew to get her attention. To get her involved. He wanted her on this case, he wanted her investigating the deaths. He sent her the pictures, he made the call she told me, he said he was going to make them immortal."
"He wants her attention."
"He wants her to notice him."
Jill and Claire shared a look.
Lindsay looked up, remembering the last of the conversation as Cindy had related it. "He wants her entire life to revolve around him." She turned to Yee, "Is there anything you can tell me about the virus. Where did he get it? When was it downloaded?"
He flipped through the pages of code, making an excited noise of triumph when he found what he was looking for. "It was downloaded by wireless application, over two weeks ago. Middle of the day on a Thursday."
Lindsay walked over, popping the door open to the interrogation room once more, demanding, "Thursday, two weeks ago where were you?"
Danny stared blankly back at her, mentally clicking through the days. "I was helping Cindy find some pictures I took a few years ago about urban growth protests. She was doing a story on corruption in the planning commission. We spent the whole day in the archives."
"Have you ever lost your phone? Let someone borrow it?"
He scoffed, his arrogance astounding considering his circumstances. "Are you kidding me? That phone cost me three hundred-" He stopped abruptly, eyes going wide. "Wait a minute I I couldn't get the video function to work. Rosa said I should let Earl take a look at it, since he works with computers all the time."
"Earl Henderson. He's the Register's archivist. Hates me, but loves Cindy, and since I was with her
he gave it to me an hour later. Thing worked perfectly after that."
Lindsay felt her stomach drop. "Yeah, I just bet it did."
She slammed the door shut again and ran for her desk.
"You think Henderson set all this up?" Tom asked.
"I don't know, but I won't feel better till we pick him up and confirm Windsor's alibi."
"Henderson probably doesn't know you picked Danny up yet he's probably at home asleep," Claire offered.
Lindsay and Tom shared a look. "I'll go to his house," Tom offered.
"I'm doing a search for him now," Fred called out. "I'll text you with the address."
Tom squeezed Lindsay shoulder. "Be careful."
He grabbed a motioned for a couple of uniforms to follow him then ran out.
"Fred, get me everything you can on Earl Henderson. Jill, I'm gonna need warrants for his home and car, the works." Lindsay reached into her drawer and pulled out her service revolver, checking it once before loading the magazine clip. "Claire - call Jacobi and tell him to meet me at the paper."
"And where do you think you're going?"
Lindsay fixed Claire with a steely glare. "I'm going to go get my girlfriend. And then I'm gonna arrest a serial killer."
"About damn time."
If you're going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you're going to San Francisco
You're gonna meet some gentle people there
He hadn't planned on this. Hadn't expected them to have such blind, unbelievable luck. It just figured that Windsor would piss the police off just enough to flag him as a suspect. He knew as soon as he saw the report posted on The Register's website that it would only be a matter of time before the police followed the trail right back to his door. The phone calls were supposed to have been untraceable an error on his part, and a dear one.
Now his entire time line was off.
There would be no long, slow reveal. No prolonged terror. He only had one shot at immortality now. He stared at the red head, the woman who had held so much promise for him.
Cindy Thomas was supposed to have been his foil, his righteous adversary. She was supposed to have made him infamous in the press made his name the thing of dark legend and nightmare for decades to come.
Now, she would have to serve as his greatest victim. His Legacy.
It wasn't what he would have planned, but for now, it was enough.
He snuck up behind her. The office had emptied out hours before, but the quiet didn't matter. She was too focused on the computer screen in front of her to hear him coming.
He smirked. He hadn't been wrong in choosing her she was on the right track, although he doubted she'd be able to pull it all together. The girls in college had been practice. The women since then had been trial and error, forcing him to move more than once to escape detection.
Beth Peterson and Maggie Hannigan had been genius. Just close enough to her to get her interest, spark that righteous indignation that fueled her, but removed enough not to be obvious.
He placed his hand on her shoulder, relishing the look of surprise, and then recognition that graced her features. The only thing that was better was the look of shock and terrified understanding as he covered her mouth with the chloroform and held tight until she passed out.
It didn't seem possible that after everything two dead bodies, no leads that the case would break that easily. Then again, more than one murderer had been brought to justice after getting pulled over for a broken tail light, so Lindsay wasn't about to argue with luck. She just prayed it would hold out until they reached the newspaper office.
Lindsay tried to keep the panic out of her voice, but that was completely undone as she took the corner too fast, the SUV's wheels screeching as she accelerated through a red light. She hit speed dial again and listened as the call went straight to voice mail. "Fuck." She tried the paper's main line, but no one answered.
She whipped the SUB around a garbage truck, swerving into oncoming traffic and then back into her lane as she floored it through another red light. Her siren screamed through the streets, drowning out all sound, but she felt the phone vibrate in her hand.
"Cindy?! Cindy is that you?"
"No, it's Jill we just put Earl Henderson's name through the NCIC database. His name popped for an investigation into missing co-eds in Montana. The local police could never make a case. I'm waking up a judge right now."
"Get it done Jill."
She snapped her phone shut and gripped the steering wheel harder as she skidded around a corner and popped over a curb. Lindsay vaguely remembered Cindy mentioning the archives, but not the man who ran them. The archives were her place to escape to when she needed a quiet place to think and an invaluable source of research material. It would have been the perfect environment for Henderson to find out all about Cindy, learn her patterns, her habits, and then use those things against her. The inspector slammed her hand against the steering wheel, cursing. "Sonofabitch."
The seatbelt nearly choked her as she slammed on the breaks in front of the Register.
The building security guard nearly fell over in his chair as she burst through the glass doors, flashing her badge and barking orders all at once. "S.F.P.D. - You don't let anyone out of here, you understand?" She ordered, not slowing down as she sprinted for the elevators. "Secure this area until S.F.P.D. gets here!"
The elevator pinged through floor after floor as she watched the numbers tick by. "Come on come on."
Her gut clenched as the doors opened, her hand on her gun.
The main office was eerily quiet. She ran for Cindy's desk, jaw clenched as she spotted the empty desk. "Cindy "
A rustle of movement had her spinning around, gun drawn. "S.F.P.D. show me your hands!"
Miles dropped a full mug of coffee down his front as he threw his hands up. "Don't shoot! Don't shoot!"
Lindsay sucked in a breath and lowered her gun. "Where's Cindy?"
"I thought she was here? She was working on a longer piece for the morning edition. We finally beat those bastards over at the Chronicle for once-"
"She's not here," Lindsay cut off. "Where'd she go? Where would she have gone? Where is everyone?"
"It's the middle of the night, inspector. We barely have enough money to keep the lights on lately, much less a full night staff. When Cindy told me she had a break in the story, I came in to look it over and we uploaded it to website. What's going on?"
Lindsay ignored his question. "Have you seen Earl Henderson?"
why would he
does he have something to do with this?"
"Where are the archives?"
Miles pointed to the stairwell. "Down two floors, it'll take you straight there. Archives are at the end of the hall."
Lindsay didn't need to be told twice. She broke for the door, taking the stairs two at a time. The hallway was dimly lit, only the green light of the emergency exit signs illuminating her way as she cautiously crept toward the door at the end of the hall. She flicked the safety off on her Glock and eased the door open. It was even darker in the archive room than the hallway, but she let the door slip shut anyway.
At the other end of the room she heard a shuffle of noise, a frightened whimper, but she made herself stay calm. To walk slowly through the stacks. She could see the main desk, lit only by a small lamp, and hid in the shadows as long as she could, inching closer and closer.
"Please Earl you don't have to do this please "
"I'm sorry Cindy, but that's where you're wrong. I have to do this. For both of us."
Lindsay took a breath, steadying her nerves, and her gun, then stepped out of the shadows. "Freeze Henderson!"
Earl spun around, one arm wrapped around Cindy, a knife at her throat. There were silk scarves on the chair beside him. "I know you'd come inspector! I've been waiting for you!"
Her instinct was to attack, but years of police training overrode the urge. She had to play this right. One wrong move and Cindy would be dead. And if that happened, Lindsay realized grimly, then she would take Henderson to down in as painful way as possible even if it meant she went down with him.
"Henderson! It's over! This place is gonna be crawling with cops in about a minute and a half! Put the knife down and let her go!"
Cindy whimpered as Earl pressed the knife harder against her throat, drawing blood. "It's not over," he called back with a manic laugh. "It's just beginning!"
Lindsay eased back the hammer on the gun, her vision narrowed to nothing more than Cindy's terrified eyes and Henderson's gleam of anticipation. She'd seen this before, seen the sociopathic madness that fueled killers like Henderson. He was going to kill Cindy no matter what Lindsay did. This was his coup de grace, his infamous legacy.
She moved steadily, circling the desk, letting Henderson get a good look at her and the gun leveled at his head. "It doesn't have to end like this You don't want to kill her." Her words were slow and deliberate, just like the tiny steps she took toward them.
Henderson took a step back, dragging Cindy with him, the knife scraped against her skin, cutting her further.
The terror in Cindy's eyes turned her blood to ice. "It's okay, it's okay," she reassured slowly, halting her steps. She was a good shot, probably the best in the department, but she wasn't stupid enough to think she could make the type of precision shot needed to take Henderson out without either hitting Cindy too, or even worse, missing and giving Henderson enough time to slit the younger woman's throat.
"Do you trust me?" Lindsay asked softly, her eyes never leaving Cindy's. The answering nod was so slight as to be almost imperceptible, but Lindsay saw it. Dropping her shoulders, Lindsay let her posture relax as she lowered her gun. "Okay, Earl. You win."
Henderson smirked. Evading capture, hell, evading suspicion for years had proven he wasn't stupid. "This isn't the movies, Inspector. There isn't going to be some last minute escape. I'm not getting out of here alive. And neither is she."
"I know what you want Earl," Boxer answered, flicking the safety on her gun before lowering it to the ground and letting it drop out of her hand. "I want you to take me instead."
"Shut up," Henderson hissed, pressing the blade deeper.
Centimeters separated the knife from Cindy's jugular. Lindsay's hands curled into fists, her anger held by a thin thread of control. If he cut it really cut it she would bleed out in mere minutes and there would be nothing Lindsay could do. "Take me instead," she offered again. "That's one hell of a way to go out. Who cares about some third-rate newspaper reporter? You kill an inspector, now that's a legacy. Cop-killers live forever." She took a hesitant step, and then another when Henderson didn't protest. "Every newspaper, every television station. Books will be written. TV movies. Hell, the FBI will probably open up a new course just on you..." Another step, then another. "No one will ever forget your name: Earl Henderson." One more step. Every ounce of her being urged Lindsay to look at Cindy, but she held Henderson's eyes, afraid that even the slightest movement would break the spell. "Take me," Lindsay urged softly, her voice almost seductive as it rolled through the night. "Take me, and no one will ever be able to forget you again."
Henderson smiled, and for just an instant Lindsay could see his charm, see what had lulled Beth and Maggie into trusting this man. Could see why Cindy hadn't doubted him for a second. The shy, intelligent nature that hid a deformed, depraved soul. "I was wrong about you," Henderson breathed. "You aren't stupid. You do understand."
"Better than anyone else."
The world slowed to a fraction of its speed; time stretched like molasses out of a jar.
Henderson loosened his hold on Cindy, his knife hand dropping from her neck as he shoved her away. Cindy screamed as he swung out, the lamp light flashing off the blade as he lunged for Lindsay, but the brunette was prepared.
She'd been expecting it all along.
She took a breath and jumped for him.
The knife tore through her jacket and shirt then skidded off her Kevlar vest to bury itself deep in her unprotected shoulder. Lindsay knocked into him, her momentum spinning them into the desk even as Henderson yanked out the knife and plunged it back down, this time embedding it deep in her thigh.
Blood poured freely down her arm and leg, soaking her clothing and dripping onto. She kicked out, knocking him back, then followed up with a right cross any boxer would have been jealous of. Earl backhanded her hard, then threw himself at her, slamming her into a row of file cabinets and onto the floor. They rolled together, fighting for the upper hand as Henderson swung again the knife again, narrowly missing her face as Lindsay blocked him with her good arm, then kneed him in the groin.
He rolled away, cursing, giving the inspector just enough time to stumble to her feet. Incensed, Henderson dove for her. Trying to side-step, Boxer slipped in a puddle of her own blood, her legs twisting under her as Henderson tackled her to the ground.
She felt the bite of steel pierce her shoulder again, then her hand. She heard him scream in pain as her knee met his stomach and her fist broke his nose. Her vision blurred by shock and blood loss, she fought blindly, not just for her life, but for Cindy's. She flipped him over, knocking the knife loose from his hand before slamming her elbow into his face, but the blow wasn't enough to knock him out and the world started to spin around.
Henderson grabbed a handful of her hair, yanking her back down to the ground, and slammed her head into the concrete floor, once, twice, three times. His hands grabbed her neck, pinning her down as he started to choke the life out of her. The world a blur of colors and lights, her body going cold; she stared up into his eyes, the thin veil he normally kept over his psychotic nature gone, leaving behind nothing but the gaze of a mad man.
And in that instant, Lindsay Boxer knew she was going to die.
She'd come close before, but never had she been literally one breath between the living and dead. It wasn't what she expected. There was no fear, no anger, no running montage of her life, just the picture of one person's face smiling up at her. One person who had become her entire world. "Cindy..."
If the sound of the gunshot surprised her, it shocked the hell out of Henderson even more.
Mouth gaping open, the remnants of a curse trapped his throat, his hands dropped limply to his sides as he stared down at his chest and the circle of red that pooled and grew bigger and bigger by the second. A second shot followed. He jerked back, and lurched to his feet, trying to stumble toward Cindy. He smirked, and stared down at his hands, his chest covered in blood. "I didn't think you had it in you." His eyes met Cindy's held. He lunged for her.
Hands trembling, she fired again. The force of the shot sent Henderson's body sprawling back against the desk. Dead, his body limply slid to the ground.
Cindy dropped the gun, and dropped to her knees, her legs giving out under her as she crawled to Lindsay. Liquid brown eyes gazed up, unfocused, as she fought for breath. "Henderson?"
The tiniest smile fluttered over Lindsay's mouth. "Way to go Lois."
Cindy pressed her hands against Lindsay's leg, her arms, trying to stop the wounds from bleeding. "Don't talk... shh... save your strength." The archive door slammed open as cops flooded the room, throwing on all the lights at once, Jacobi at the forefront screaming orders, but the noise was nothing but static in the background as Cindy cradled Lindsay against her. "Hold on Lindsay hold on."
The inspector reached up, trying for a smile as her blood-stained hand cupped the reporter's cheek. "Guess I'm not Superman, huh?"
Cindy's broken sob was the last thing she heard.
It had taken so long, so very, very long for the ambulance to get to the hospital. Cindy had had to fight the paramedics who tried to keep her from riding with Lindsay until Jacobi had flashed his badge and ordered them to take her along. She didn't remember the trip in the ambulance, or the nurses who tried to pull her into the ER to look at her still bleeding neck. All she could picture was Tom's ashen face as he'd seen Lindsay wheeled into the Emergency Room followed by Jacobi who had looked like he could rip down the Golden Gate with his bare hands.
It had been Jill and Claire who had rushed to Cindy, hugging her tightly, and holding her up as her body started to collapse, the shock finally hitting her. Body functioning on auto-pilot they had walked her through the maze of the E.R. to an empty gurney, ignoring her protests that she was fine. She'd been numb as she recited what had happened, barely noticing the doctor giving her medication or stitching up the cuts on her neck. All she could see was Lindsay's drained and battered body being rolled into the operating room.
Cops lined the hallways of UCSF's emergency department, creating a sea of blue uniforms. Some of them knew Lindsay personally, others just by reputation, but it didn't matter. A cop had been hurt and they'd all come running. Cindy walked through them, her hands, clothing, stained with Lindsay's blood, feeling their accusing stares weigh on her shoulders with each step.
Jill's head snapped up as Cindy entered the waiting room. Claire was on her feet a second later. "What are you doing here? You're supposed to be asleep in the E.R. Where's the officer who was waiting with you?"
"I told him to go," Cindy answered quietly. "They finished stitching me up. I don't need the sedative. I'm fine."
"You are not fine," Claire argued, all but pushing Cindy into the nearest chair. "And what kind of idiot doctor lets you walk out of the E.R. like this?"
"He doesn't actually know I left."
Jill couldn't help but smirk even as Claire glared. At least some things never changed. Placing a restraining hand on Claire's arm to forestall the impending lecture, Jill shook the other woman off, then handed Cindy a cup of hot coffee. "Drink it. It doesn't help, but it'll give you something to do while we wait."
"Have you heard anything?"
Jill shook her head.
"At this point," Claire said cautiously, "no news is good news. You don't want them coming out of the operating room too quickly."
Cindy nodded and curled her hands around the cup of coffee. Maybe it was the shock, or the constant air conditioning in the hospital, but her hands hadn't stopped shaking in hours. Jacobi noticed but didn't say anything. A moment later he draped his jacket around her shoulders. He mumbled something too low for her to hear properly.
"I said: it's not in her to give up. She's got a stack of unsolved cases she keeps in her bottom desk drawer. Pulls 'em out every six months to look them over for new leads. Ruined her marriage and damn near ruined her life chasin' after the Kiss Me Not killer." He listed off traits that most people would have considered borderline committable, but Jacobi rattled them off with something akin to pride. "Lindsay doesn't quit. You just keep thinkin' about that."
Cindy blinked away tears. She leaned over, resting his head on his shoulder and prayed he was right.
She didn't sleep. None of them did. The sun had long been up by the time the surgeon finally pushed the door to the waiting room open with an exhausted sigh. Everyone jumped to their feet despite the fact none of them had slept in almost a day.
"Is her next of kin here?"
Tom started to say something then stopped, his eyes on Cindy. He nodded and said, "She's right here." It was subtle, nothing more than the doctor turning away from him to look at Cindy, but Tom realized with a clarity he'd never had before that Lindsay was no longer his.
"She did well in surgery," the doctor explained, "but she's lost a lot of blood, and knife wounds are especially problematic. Most of them were superficial, but the ones to her shoulder were very deep and there may be some long term nerve damage. In addition, the wounds to her leg severed her femeral artery. She nearly bled out and her blood pressure is dangerously low. She's getting blood transfusions now and the next few hours will be critical."
"When can we see her?"
"I can take you to recovery now, but only for a few minutes. The rest of you can see her once she's settled in a room."
Claire and Jill each squeezed her hand. "You tell her we love her."
Cindy followed the doctor through the white-walled corridors, shivering despite Jacobi's jacket.
She wasn't a stranger to hospitals. When her father had gotten ill, a little over two years before, she'd become intimately acquainted with the sterile white walls and nondescript carpet that made one hospital look just like every other. She'd spent hours at his bedside, watching football and old war movies, keeping him company as he slowly slipped away, a little at a time. Over the months, she came to realize with something akin to epiphany, that most people weren't afraid of hospitals because people died there. People understood death. It was the gray area that the hospital represented that twilight time between life and death where people lingered, their bodies fragile remnants of vitality.
Staring at Lindsay laying in the ICU bed, covered in bandages, Cindy felt that same fear overtake her. There was no sound but the steady beep of the heart monitor resounding like a cannon shot.
She slid into the one uncomfortable chair the hospital provided an unconscious cue for visitors not to stay too long and took Lindsay's hand. White gauze covered fresh stitches where Henderson's knife had grazed her as they fought. An IV line was taped against the back of her hand.
It all seemed so unimaginable. Yesterday morning she'd woken up to the feel of Lindsay's hands softly caressing her back and now
Tears stung her eyes. She blinked them away. She refused to break down; to imagine any scenario where Lindsay didn't pull through. She lifted Lindsay's hand and pressed a kiss to her palm, her fingertips.
"I've been waiting my whole life for you, Lindsay, and I want a hell of a lot longer with you than a couple of days. So you better wake up soon, because patience is not one of my virtues."
Which, all things considered, Lindsay thought was a pretty good thing, because if she was in this much pain, it meant she had to still be alive.
She blinked slowly, letting her eyes adjust to the light. Groggy, a plethora of drugs pumping through her system, although not quite enough, her eyes roamed the sterile, white room, finally landing on Jacobi's rumpled and unshaven form. He looked terrible. She couldn't have been happier.
The old cop jerked up from his newspaper, giving Boxer the once-over before smirking. "Look who's talking." The smirk spread into a smile as he leaned over and pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead. "You ever scare me like that again, and I'll kick the shit out of you," he threatened, eyes wet.
"S'was just a scratch," she slurred, smiling sloppily at him. "Should'a seen the other guy." The comment triggered a memory in her drug-addled brain. She reached for Jacobi with her good hand, grabbing his jacket as he backed away with surprising strength for a woman just barely off her death bed. "Henderson?"
"Dead," Jacobi assured. "Saw it for myself. That girlfriend of yours is a pretty good shot."
She swallowed thickly, trying to clear away the cobwebs. "Cindy?"
"Just stepped out to get some coffee. Hasn't left your side," Jacobi smiled. "You better be careful, that one is as stubborn as you are."
The inspector sighed contentedly. "I know."
The door eased open as Cindy backed her way into the room, carrying two cups of coffee and a bag of food. "Jacobi, they didn't have any donuts in the cafeteria, so I grabbed you a bagel " The bag of bagels dropped to the floor, nearly followed by the coffee as Cindy's eyes landed on Lindsay's conscious form. Jacobi swooped the cups out of the reporter's hands a moment before disaster.
Lindsay grinned, ignoring the protest from her split lip. "Hey darlin'."
Cindy took a short breath, and then another, relief flooding through her, washing everything away but the sight of Lindsay smiling up at her. She sidestepped Jacobi who had the grace to take the coffee and silently retreat to the hall.
"Are you in pain?"
Cindy's watery smile held for a moment before she took the last few steps and leaned down, burying her face against Lindsay's chest as she started to cry. Lindsay wrapped her good arm around Cindy's shoulders, and made no attempt to stop her own tears. They'd come within a breath a literal breath of losing each other and there were no words capable of expressing what they'd risked, what they'd done to save each other.
And so, since there were no words, they held on for all they were worth, and for once, it was enough.
Jill eased the door to the hospital room open and grinned, motioning for Claire to look in as well. Claire couldn't help the small "awww" that escaped as she took in the sight of Cindy and Lindsay curled up together on the hospital bed, the redhead fast asleep and tucked into the corner of Lindsay's good shoulder.
The brunette shifted on the bed, smiling as she spotted her best friends lingering in the doorway, and waved them in.
"Aren't you supposed to be the one resting?" Jill teased.
"You ever tried getting any rest in a hospital?" Lindsay shot back.
Claire grinned and set down the bag of magazines and ice cream she'd managed to smuggle passed the nurses. "Seems to be working for her. Maybe it's the company?"
"Are you saying I'm boring?" Lindsay chuckled.
"After the last few days? Definitely not boring."
Cindy stirred, eyes blinking open as she caught sight of Jill and Claire standing at the edge of the bed smirking down at her. She blushed furiously and eased off of Lindsay. "Hey guys."
Jill and Claire tried not to laugh. It didn't work. "Have a nice nap?"
Cindy managed a half-hearted glare, but didn't answer. She sat up, but made no move to put more than a few inches between her and Lindsay. "What's in the bags?"
"Every trashy magazine the gift shop had to offer, plus some Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream."
"You two are angels," Lindsay sighed.
Cindy scoffed. "More like devils."
"Just for that, no ice cream for you."
"Hey, come on "
Jill relented and handed the reporter an open pint and spoon. Lindsay eased up straighter in the bed and dug in with her own spoon. "So who's going to tell me how this thing ended?"
Cindy looked up, meeting Claire and Jill's curious gazes. She knew she'd done the right thing on the roof, but she still hadn't come to terms with the fact she'd killed someone. Even someone as evil as Henderson had been. The legacy he always wanted, it seemed, would manage to live on in at least one person.
Jill cleared her throat and started. "We searched Henderson's apartment and found Beth Peterson's purse and Maggie's bicycle. He kept them as trophies. He also kept a diary he'd been watching Cindy since she was hired at the Register, planning this out like a chess match. First it was Beth: he saw her at community center with Cindy and did a background check. He figured out who she was and knew we'd think it was her ex-husband. She made a perfect target. Maggie was next. Closer to Cindy, but not someone that people would miss. It gave him plenty of time to kill her and ditch the body."
"He'd done this before," Claire continued. "In Colorado and Montana that we know of so far, we're still running his updated profile through NCIC. And since he's been working for newspapers all his life, he knew exactly what steps the police would take and anticipated them. He was going to beat you at your own game."
"But he didn't plan on you getting jealous of Danny," Cindy added wryly.
"Henderson saw the article Cindy posted when you picked up Danny and got spooked. He knew we'd find the phone virus, and he knew it would get traced back to the server in archives room, which is where he uploaded it from. That's why he went after Cindy. I guess he figured if he was going to go out, he wanted to go out big."
"All of this just to be famous?"
"Not famous," Jill said. "Infamous."
"In a way, it makes sense," Cindy said. "He spent the better part of his life collecting and cataloging the news. Keeping track of what happened to other people. I guess he finally just got tired of being ignored."
"And he picked victims who were just as ostracized as he was. Ironic."
"So is all this going into an exclusive?" Lindsay teased, snagging another bite of ice cream.
"Not from me," Cindy answered.
"Every other paper is going to be writing about this for weeks. You've got the inside scoop."
"Which is exactly the way he wanted it. I'm not going to help sensationalize what happened."
"Your editor isn't going to like that very much."
"He'll get over it."
Lindsay leaned over, kissing Cindy on the cheek. "Way to go Lois."
Jill and Claire shared a look. "You think we need nicknames too?" Jill asked Claire, grinning shamelessly at the other two.
"Okay," Claire agreed grudgingly, grinning as well, "but that doesn't mean I'm sleeping with you. Matlock."
I passed the cemetery; walk my dog down there
I read the names in stone and say a silent prayer
When I get home you're cooking supper on the stove
And the greatest gift of life is to know love
I don't know where it all begins
And I don't know where it all will end
We're better off for all that we let in
Lindsay heard the front door open and close as she poured a glass of wine. A few seconds later Martha came trotting into the kitchen, immediately nosing into Lindsay's hand. "Hey girl. How was your walk, huh?"
"Someone likes squirrels," Cindy answered for the dog, smiling dryly at Lindsay. "You could have warned me about that."
"What fun would that have been?" Lindsay teased as she straightened up and handed Cindy the glass of wine.
"Something smells good."
"That would be dinner."
"You cooked? Should I call poison control?"
"It's take out wise-ass," Lindsay smirked, leaning in to brush a quick kiss across Cindy's lips. "Now come eat, I'm starving."
"Table or couch?"
"Table. For once I'd actually like to be able to enjoy a meal with my girlfriend."
Cindy smiled warmly and sat down at the small kitchen table, eagerly accepting the plate of take-out risotto Lindsay handed her. The entire scene was so completely domestic - the dinner, the table, the dog - it almost made her laugh.
"The Chronicle called again - they upped the offer."
"What are you now, my girlfriend or my agent?"
"I can't be both?"
"The gun is a little intimidating at meetings."
Lindsay smirked, imagining that scene, then took a bite of her pasta. "So what are you going to tell them?"
Earl Henderson had been right about one thing: Cindy had won a Pulitzer. It wasn't, however, for a story about him. She'd held firm to her position that the less about Earl Henderson written the better, and Miles had reluctantly agreed, especially once he realized that her name and his newspaper were being mentioned repeatedly by his competitors, both print and television.
So while San Francisco had recovered from the tragedy, and Lindsay had recovered from her injuries, Cindy had followed up on the last tip Maggie had given her about the city's pension fund. It had led to mismanaged investments, closed door deals, and dirty politicians. Her story garnered more attention and subsequent coverage than Henderson could ever have hoped to get. The job offers had come in from everywhere after that: Chicago, New York, Boston. But the most persistent had been from the Register's competition. It would have been an unparalleled career move for the young reporter, something Lindsay would have been in favor of if Cindy wanted it, but Cindy had continually turned down the job. The newspaper editors, undeterred, had just kept upping the offer.
"Answer me one question, and we'll never talk about it again," the inspector offered. Cindy considered it for a moment and then nodded. "Are you doing this out of some misplaced loyalty to Beth and Maggie?"
The answer was immediate and definitive. "No." She took a breath, her eyes steadfastly meeting Lindsay's. "This is for me. It would be too easy to walk away from all of this and never think about it again. Every day I walk into that newsroom and I'm forced to think about the cast-offs, the people on the street we just walk by every day, never really noticing. Maybe if someone had paid more attention to Maggie and Beth, maybe if we all just paid a little more attention to each other, we could stop things like this from happening. It's too easy to forget, and I can't let anyone else forget either."
Lindsay leaned across the table and kissed her softly. "How did I get so lucky to find you?"
"I was just thinking the same thing," Cindy murmured, kissing her again.
Suddenly dinner was the last thing on either of their minds.
Until the phone started to ring.
Cindy pulled away but Lindsay tugged her back. "Leave it."
"But what if it's-"
"-leave it," Lindsay mock-ordered, kissing her again.
Lindsay's phone stopped ringing just in time for Cindy's to start. Lindsay pulled away with a growl. "Just once I'd like to spend an uninterrupted weekend with my girlfriend. Just once."
"Come on," Cindy cajoled, pulling Lindsay reluctantly to her feet. "You've got a job to do, Superman."
"So do you, Lois."
Cindy smiled and grabbed her notebook and bag. "We all do."
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