DISCLAIMER: The teleplay was originally written by Melinda Hsu and Sherry Carnes; story by Robert Nathan and Melinda Hsu, aired under the title 'And The Truth Will (Sometimes) Set You Free'.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks go to Ann for the great, insightful beta.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
CHALLENGE: Written for Epic Proportions 2009.

Freedom Is Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Lose
(A Re-Write of Women's Murder Club 1x12)

By Demeter & qbeck


Lingering at the kitchen table wasn't normally one of Lindsay's morning routines, and yet, she'd been sitting there, staring at her breakfast, for quite a significant amount of time. She had a lot on her mind, which in itself wasn't unusual, but on this particular morning, all her thoughts seemed to fit under the same heading of What the hell am I gonna do about this, specifically her current case load, the fact that she and the rest of her colleagues hadn't made any progress in the Kiss-Me-Not serial-killer case, her estranged father's sudden reappearance, and topping the list, Pete Raynor.

They had met about a week ago, had flirted a little and, following her friends' encouragement, she'd gone to talk to him and had awkwardly accepted his dinner invitation. Since then, they'd repeated the ritual once. And now, Lindsay was contemplating or rather obsessing about their upcoming third date. It had seemed obvious to her the last time they'd said goodnight that things couldn't go any further. He was a sweet guy, maybe too sweet, but there were no sparks. And even though she wasn't into him, she didn't want to hurt him by leading him on. Breaking up with Pete was the most sensible thing to do, but how? She was pretty certain that Pete had a different ending in mind for the upcoming evening in question. Would going through with the date be cruel? Finally, Lindsay let out a long, slow breath, turned to the only other pair of ears in the vicinity, and started pouring out some of her heart.

"Do I really need to break up with him in person? We've only been out twice. I'm not saying an email or text message, but wouldn't a simple phone call suffice?" The inspector's Border collie rested her head on the table and whimpered.

"You're right, it has to be in person no matter how difficult and awkward it's gonna be. Thanks for listening, Martha." The dog looked up at her but quickly returned her attentions to the jelly-covered piece of toast going to waste on Lindsay's plate. Ignoring Martha's plea for her food, Lindsay continued her one-sided debate out loud.

"You're the only one I can talk to about this. If I go to Claire, she's gonna be all reasonable and ask me questions I don't have answers to. Jill, she sleeps with anyone that moves and then breaks up with them before the sheets have had a chance to cool off. And Cindy…" At the mention of her young friend's name, her thoughts trailed off and there it was again - something else she had no explanation for, no words to adequately express her confusing thoughts that seemed to constantly revolve around the reporter.

Before she could ponder further, she was literally saved by the bell when her phone chimed in with a text message from her partner.

California Bay College

Athletic Field

Male Victim

By the time Lindsay arrived at the athletic field, the place was already teeming with college students, curious onlookers, and of course, the members of the press.

She met up with Jacobi, and the two of them approached Claire who stood looking down at the victim. The coroner skipped over the small talk and immediately proceeded to fill them in on her preliminary findings.

"Started out a beautiful morning but not for him. Collin Morse, 20, still soaked from the rain. One shot to the chest between midnight and two."

"He jogs at midnight?" Jacobi asked, a slight grimace indicating his displeasure at the thought. He hated running in general, but to run at midnight was insane.

"Field house custodian found him, ID'ed him, said he always ran at midnight. And uh…" The Medical Examiner leaned in closer to the two inspectors and added, "the entry wound has powder burns. Someone put a gun right against this kid's chest and fired."

Lindsay furrowed her brow at her friend's revelation, "That's angry." But then, so was the crowed gathered outside the crime scene perimeter. There were people arguing and yelling all around them. A flash of red caught Lindsay's attention, and she walked over to the police tape when she spotted Cindy standing amongst the disgruntled crowd.

While observing the noisy mob, the reporter had realized just how happy she was that college life was behind her, and she was even happier to see Lindsay heading her way. Although she'd been part of the cheerleading squad who'd pushed the inspector into going out with Pete, Cindy had been disappointed when Lindsay had capitulated. Still, wanting to be supportive, she reluctantly asked her approaching friend about her last date with the contractor.

"Claire says Pete bought you flowers and a fancy dinner." Nah, that didn't sound bitter, not at all.

"Yeah, it's scary. He's too wonderful. It's like he's trying too hard. I..um…I don't know.."

"Ever think you might be worth it, Linz?"

Not wanting to think about the implications of Cindy's statement or how the way she said it made her feel, Lindsay steered the conversation towards the ruckus surrounding them.

"What's going on?"

"The dead guy and one of his friends were accused of rape a couple of months ago," the reporter offered, having already worked the crowd to uncover information that could possibly be directly related to the murder.

"I don't remember the case."

Cindy continued with her findings, "That's because there wasn't one. They were arrested, but the D.A. never filed."

Shaking her head, Lindsay correctly concluded, "So they just walked."

"I guess everyone disagreed about what happened. About whether or not the girl was telling the truth."

As the sound of the voices around them escalated, they both turned to face a group of people getting increasingly aggressive with each other. Even two months after, it seemed people were still disagreeing about the alleged rape.

Lindsay and Jacobi got the identification of the other accused student as well as the name of the alleged rape victim. They decided it was best to go talk to Kate Hammond first.

"If you were raped, and they didn't charge the guy, how would you feel about it?"

Lindsay didn't have to think too hard for an answer to the hypothetical question. "I'd make sure they'd never find the body."

Jacobi gave her a wry grin, thinking that she'd have people in all the right places to help her with that, including her partner. Kate Hammond didn't have anyone. Or did she? If the latter was the case, it was still their job to find out, whether they hated it or not.

The moment they ID'd themselves, the young woman knew right away why they'd come to seek her out. News and gossip traveled fast on campus.

"Please... don't make me talk about that night," she pleaded.

I so wish we didn't have to. For your benefit and mine, Lindsay thought as she glanced around the room, passing a critical eye over its contents.

Kate Hammond's dorm room was nothing out of the ordinary, and still, it felt stifling to Lindsay. If despair had a physical presence, she was quite sure it was manifesting itself in here, and she wondered what that meant for her case.

"We want to hear your side of what happened," she finally said.

"They raped me, that's my side." There was a hint of resignation to Kate's voice, like she had given up on the hope that anyone would truly believe her. "It's the most horrible thing ever. It happens to other people, not you..." She seemed to remember why she was being visited by police officers and returned her focus to the chain of events. "I remember them taking me down the stairs... I remember I didn't want to go, but I was drunk."

Lindsay didn't really want to hear this. Somewhere at the back of her mind, it struck her as weird that she could look into the faces of brutally murdered people – women - and not turn away, feeding on the anger that had kept her going through the years with Kiss Me Not, but here and now, she just felt inadequate, off her game. Usually the victims she dealt with weren't around to tell their stories. And what made the situation worse was that the murder victim this time had been a perpetrator himself.

"I couldn't stop them," Kate concluded her narrative. The words hung in the air, powerful and devastating.

"We understand the District Attorney didn't file charges," Jacobi began cautiously.

Every single thing they'd brought up had to be triggering bad memories for the young woman. Yet, it had to be done. Somebody had to do it, though Lindsay would have been happy with that someone being anyone but her. It was a shame that the rapists had never been brought to trial, and while they might sympathize with Kate, it wasn't why they were here.

"They said I'd have been a bad witness because I was drunk." The girl's attempt at a rueful smile couldn't mask her tears, but it did manage to adequately conceal whether there was any anger hidden underneath the gesture.

Lindsay could understand the DA's logic not to go to trial with a case that couldn't possibly be won, but the implications still left her uneasy. She knew she would have been angry. Very much so, in fact.

"Where were you last night, Kate?" Jacobi ventured further, obviously sensing Lindsay's reluctance with the interview.

"... no! You guys think I killed Collin!" Obviously upset by the thought, Kate jumped up from where she'd been sitting on her bed, putting distance between her and the investigators. Lindsay and Jacobi watched her move away, both wondering if Kate's strong reaction was out of fear or out of guilt.

"We have to ask." Lindsay got up as well and followed the girl. "What happened to you is horrifying, but--" Only there was nothing after 'but.' To Lindsay, there was only horrifying. She really wanted to end this interview, silently telling herself that not wanting to upset Kate any further was the only reason. Her own discomfort just didn't count. And it certainly didn't help that Kate kept trying to explain the events of the alleged rape.

"That night, with Collin and Jay, it's not just about – what happened, or how it happened." Tears began to stream down her face. "It's what you feel, every day, and you wonder if you'll ever stop thinking about it!"

"You will, with the right kind of help." Lindsay hoped it was the right thing to say. She wanted to reassure her, but not sound corny. It wasn't like everything was going to be magically okay, even if Kate hadn't killed Collin. To Lindsay, the girl was still struggling to even acknowledge what had happened. A murder like Morse's required careful planning, possibly more than Kate was capable of at the moment. Hopefully, anyway.

"I'm not glad he's dead. I wanted him alive! I wanted to see Collin pay, something, anything, now I'm not gonna get that chance!... I wanted to sue them, you know."

But that didn't work out either... "I'm sorry that didn't happen." Lindsay shared a look with Jacobi. "Kate, you know we have to ask you this. Where were you last night?"

"At a dorm party, with like a hundred people..." She rolled her eyes a little, like it was hard to understand that life in all its inconsequential details just went on – and that she was still part of it. "I'll write down the names I remember." Kate turned around to face them both again.

"My friends don't treat me the same way as they used to. Even my parents don't. They don't see me anymore – they just see what happened."

Her words perfectly described the full dimension of what had changed in her world and in the world of those who cared for her.

"She said she wanted him alive. Did she?" Jacobi's question sounded neutral, and still, Lindsay didn't want to be held to any possible answer.

"I don't know." It wasn't entirely true. Kate had been denied her choices twice, the night she was raped, and then when the men who'd assaulted her walked free. It could make a person desperate enough to see no option but one.

"Since when do you walk away from a suspect without an opinion?" Her partner easily called her bluff.

"I don't have opinions, I have theories," she defended herself.

"I'm listening."

"One thing I know, whoever shot Collin Morse, is connected to this rape. I want to talk to the other guy she accused, Jay Osborne."

It would have been immensely gratifying to not only nail a rapist, but to find out that he'd killed his partner in crime, too. However, something already told Lindsay that it would have been too good to be true.

"It wasn't rape. Let's be honest. I'm a good-looking guy. I don't have to rape anyone." Such was the modest assessment of Kate Hammond's side of the story by Jay Osborne.

"I think Kate Hammond would disagree," Lindsay said with disgust at his reasoning.

No one ever had to rape anyone, but she kept that thought to herself, knowing he wouldn't get it anyway. Osborne had the good looks of a boy band member, oozing the arrogance of youth. Attractive if you liked the kind, for sure.

He also perfectly fit the profile of the narcissistic rapist, rich spoiled kid who never took no for an answer, because he felt entitled, always and everywhere.

Jay threw the football he was holding at Jacobi, who caught it with a sardonic smile.

"Okay, morning after, she's hungover, feeling a little guilty--"

Lindsay felt more than a little sick already.

"– about some of the choices that she made. That gets around, she cries rape! I don't know what happened."

"What do you think happened?" Lindsay asked him, tilting her head in question.

"Collin is my best friend... I mean, was," he corrected himself at the very last moment. Osborne seemed neither very disturbed about his best friend's death, nor very worried that someone might come after him for the same reason. "No one had a reason to kill him, except--"

He made a dramatic pause, waiting for them to come to the inevitable conclusion.

Kate Hammond.

Lindsay didn't say it out loud though, annoyed by the way Osborne seemed to insinuate they were all on the same side, the proverbial good guys.

"Except everyone who believed Kate's side," she said instead, leaving Mr. Good-Looking to ponder her words.

"If he's that upset about his best friend's death, I don't want to know what he'll do when someone dies he doesn't like. Dance on their graves?"

Lindsay appreciated her partner's attempt at humor and mustered a quick smile for his benefit, but she was still lost in thought. What had happened between the moment it became clear that there would be no trial and the murder itself?

Had Jay and Collin been boasting about getting off free?

There were bound to be more people who would get mad about that, and before Lindsay made her mind up about Kate Hammond as a murder suspect, she wanted to find some of them. She really needed to talk to Jill and Claire, too.


Cindy's editor called out to her as she was walking back to her desk. When he finally caught up to her, he inquired about the morning's headline. "How come I haven't seen an update on the college murder yet?"

"Because I'm still working on the angle," Cindy said, trying not to sound too annoyed.

"What's to work on? Rape victim kills rapist. That's the story!"

"Not yet, it isn't. We still don't know if she killed him." One thing Cindy had always prided herself on was the accuracy of her stories. Story after story, she made sure that all the facts were correct. Occasionally, the facts were tough to handle and hurtful to some, but at least they were true. Not all of her colleagues lived by that creed. They were more of the 'Go to press now, print a retraction later' school of thought. It bugged the hell out of her, but it bugged her even more when that precipitous attitude came from her superiors.

"Do we believe she was raped?" Her editor asked next.

"Personally, yeah." The reporter elaborated, "She's eighteen; there's no upside for her. Unless she's crazy, which she isn't. I read that interview in the campus paper; she doesn't sound like some pathetic creature who needs attention."

"Don't bring out the feminist guns!" Her boss interrupted.

"What's wrong with being a feminist?" Cindy had to bite her tongue and remind herself that the man she was talking to stood between her and her next paycheck. But remarks like the one he'd just made only reinforced the reporter's convictions. In the 21st century, there was still a need for people who would defend women's rights; there was a need for someone who would stand up for Kate Hammond.

"Um... nothing…" At Cindy's incisive question, the editor backtracked a few steps. "I just want you to be objective about this."

"I've never been anything but. Anyway, the cops interviewed Kate Hammond today; it's all over the Net. There's gonna be protest about why these guys weren't prosecuted…"

"There's the story. The DA's didn't do their job."

"Really?" Cindy asked hesitantly.

"You brought it up. I want this on the website today," her editor ordered as he walked away.

Cindy slumped down into the chair behind her desk and went back over her notes. This story had to be told because there was truth in what her editor had suggested. She knew it, however, that didn't make the telling of it any easier. Her earlier thoughts came back to haunt her: occasionally, the facts were tough to handle, occasionally they were hurtful to some. This time they would be hurtful to one particular person. That made the telling of this particular story a lot harder.

"Really hope this girl didn't do it. It'll make the DA's office look awful," Jill said as she and Lindsay pushed through the morgue doors.

"Then you better cover your ears." Claire pointed to the screen where the X-rays of Collin Morse were displayed. "The bullet travels straight. Now," she walked over to them with a smile that revealed she knew something important they didn't. "If I walk up to you with a gun, what do you do?"

"Take out mine?" Lindsay deadpanned.

They shared a smile. "In this case," Claire continued, "You don't have one. You either run, or involuntarily back away. He didn't do either. Collin definitely knew his attacker."

"So whoever did it," Lindsay picked up, "walked up to him pulled out a gun and shot at very close range --"

"Linz, tell me there's another suspect besides the girl," Jill interrupted her.

"Not yet."

Lindsay's hesitation to make any specific statement hadn't gone unnoticed by Claire. She regarded her friend curiously. "Whoever? You're saying you haven't got any theories here?"

"There's not much to build them on," Lindsay said with a hint of defensiveness.

"I'm asking you a question, and you know it." Sometimes, Claire felt, with cases like this one, that put everyone's ethics to the test, she had the easiest job. The dead didn't lie. "Did the girl kill him?" she asked, the question causing Jill to turn toward Lindsay with an uncomfortable and somewhat imploring look.

Lindsay wasn't any help though.

"Let's hope not," she said, her gaze troubled, before she turned to walk away.

Claire envied neither her friends nor their jobs at the moment. If Kate Hammond had committed a murder in an attempt to achieve justice that the system had denied her, there'd be hell to pay for both of them.

Coming out of the elevator onto her office floor, Jill asked Lindsay to keep the possibility of Kate Hammond being a suspect under wraps. Lindsay assured her friend that she had no intention of revealing Kate Hammond's involvement, no matter what it may be.

The DDA then confirmed that the search warrant hadn't netted them any evidence against Kate, and she hypothesized that once Jacobi confirmed the validity of her alibi they could move on and look for other suspects. In a typical Jill-like fashion, she turned to the inspector and quickly changed the subject.

"How's Pete? Sleep with him yet?"

"Don't be shy or anything," Lindsay returned, trying to pretend she hadn't been taken off guard by the sudden 'attack.'

"Get it over with, you'll feel better."

Lindsay halted her steps, "I don't know."

"What don't you know?"

"I don't think it's working out between us. I'm gonna end it…I just…I don't know how to do it."

Jill smiled and shook her head at her friend's recently acquired, yet familiar pattern. "You just do it."

"Easy for you to say."

"It is. Just like a band-aid - 1, 2, 3 off," Jill offered.

"1, 2, 3, off?" Lindsay repeated.


The two women turned towards the sound of the incomparable scathing tone with which Denise Kwon uttered Jill's name. The Acting DA walked up to them, brandishing a sheet of paper as if it were a weapon.

"Have you seen this? Your pal Cindy's article on the Register's website. Says if Kate Hammond killed the boy, it's because we didn't do our job."

"Probably doesn't say that exactly."

"Really? Read the article!"

Jill took the print-out from Denise and read the headline out loud. "Failure of the Justice System, should they have prosecuted?"

"Cut her off!" Denise ordered, before turning on her heel and marching back in the direction of her office.

"This piece is irresponsible," Jill growled as she and Lindsay made it to her office. "Like some grade B law professor knows how to do my job."

"Actually, he teaches at Stanford," Cindy, who'd been waiting in the office for Jill's return, greeted them. "Hi. I called you for a comment; you never got back to me."

"Paragraph end, you're saying by not prosecuting Collin Morse, this office got him killed." Jill launched at her friend with an unmistakable hint of contempt.

"If", Cindy emphasized, "Kate Hammond pulled the trigger."

"There was no case to prosecute", Jill continued, her voice growing louder. "The rape kit showed no bruising. All we had was a rape counselor who believed she was traumatized."

"And Kate," the reporter rectified. "You had her testimony."

"She would have made a terrible witness. She was drunk and at least a dozen people saw her make out with five guys during that party."

Cindy wasn't buying her explanation, "The system failed Kate Hammond."

Lindsay, who'd been uneasily standing by, interjected, "Cindy, even if that's true, and I'm not saying that it is, it doesn't justify killing the guy."

"You're absolutely right. She should have gone to the police and pressed charges…" Cindy returned sarcastically. Even if the last comment wasn't directed solely at her, Lindsay felt its full stinging effect.

"And really what was she thinking; going down to the basement with two guys and her blouse half off."

Cindy couldn't believe the words that had come from Jill's mouth, "What are you saying? She was asking for it!? That's outrageous!"

"No," Jill lowered her tone and leaned forward. "Of course that's not what I'm saying. But that's exactly how the defense would have made it sound. If I'd have put her on the stand, she would have been destroyed on cross-examination."

"Did you ever stop to think that maybe Kate was willing to take that risk? But you never really gave her the chance. You were too worried about whether or not you could win the case."

"Listen, Cindy I don't have to defend this office to you!" Jill said, once again raising her voice an octave.

"True, you don't, but maybe you should have tried a little harder to defend Kate."

Sensing that things had gone far enough, Lindsay intervened, "Okay, round one over. Let's go." Placing her hand squarely in the middle of Cindy's back, she led the reporter out of Jill's office.

Once a few feet away, Cindy remarked, "She's way overreacting."

"That was fairly strange," Lindsay agreed, glancing back over her shoulder at Jill's office door.

"Kate Hammond is a suspect?"

Lindsay looked at Cindy sympathetically and thought, I really wish I had the right answers for everyone. However, regretfully, all she could offer was, "No comment."

"Good night, Linz."

Embarrassed, Lindsay realized she had been so focused on staring into space she hadn't even heard Tom coming down from his office. He lingered for a moment, and then, when she didn't say anything, spoke. "I know it's hard."

As if her silence hadn't been enough. Sometimes, he just didn't know when to back off.

"They raped her," she said angrily, as if that was an explanation for everything. Maybe it was.

"And maybe she killed one of them in retaliation. If that's the case... you do what you do."

"Don't patronize me, Tom!" she snapped. "I know how to do my job."

Tom held up his hands in defeat. "Didn't mean to suggest otherwise. It's late. Go home. Get some sleep."

When Lindsay glared at him, he grinned. "That's not patronizing. That's an order from your boss."

One, if she was honest, she should probably follow, because no solution for either her or Kate Hammond was going to be found tonight.

The brief talk with Tom hadn't made her feel any better. In fact, when Lindsay headed out of the building and for her car, she was even more frustrated than ever. Normally, when she was stuck like this in an investigation, she'd make a few calls and head for Papa Joe's, and most of the time, she and the girls would find that single opening no one had thought of before. Today, it just wasn't possible.

Claire had been having trouble at home for a while now, so she was busy on that front. Jill and Cindy... professionally, they had clashed badly today, and even if the worst of it could have been defused, it would remain a sensitive subject for a while to come.

She stopped in her quick strides just short of running into someone.

"Whoa. I hope it's not me you're this mad at."

Lindsay had been startled and tried a clever comeback to cover it up. "Not at the moment, actually. What are you still doing here?"

Cindy sighed. "Waiting for you, actually."

"The answer's the same."

That got her an eye roll. "I was thinking about dinner, not an exclusive."

"It's late. I was about to go home."

It was a lame excuse, and they both knew it. The idea of an hour or two away from the job and the case sounded nice, but Lindsay was pretty much at a loss about how to act. Hanging out with Cindy tonight would make it seem like she'd taken her side in the argument over Jill's.

Lindsay didn't want to take anyone's side. Every one of the points Jill had brought up had been valid; the defense lawyer would have traumatized Kate all over again, with losing the case and being painted a liar a likely result.

On the other hand, Cindy's passion reminded her uncomfortably of a time when

she'd felt the same, that justice should be worth every risk, and questions asked later. What had become of that woman?

Cindy looked crestfallen. "Look, I get it you won't talk to me about the case. Hell, I might have even better sources than you have in this. I really understand. But that doesn't mean we can't talk at all, right?"

"I guess not."

Time ticked slowly by as they stood on the sidewalk, silent.

"Cindy... I know what you're thinking. But you've got to realize that this is also a murder case. I'm in Homicide. I have an obligation to every murder victim, even a rapist like Collin Morse."

"That's bullshit," Cindy said with surprising heat. "As a cop, you have an obligation to every victim of a crime."

Trust her to hit where it hurt. Lindsay felt her own anger rise again, and part of her knew she had to end this conversation before things were said that endangered more than their exclusive, professional relationship.

"You know, I love you, but I don't need you, or Tom for that matter, to tell me how to do my job."

Never mind the fact that Tom was somewhat entitled to do exactly that.

"Goodnight, Cindy."

She walked away, leaving a slack-jawed crime reporter behind, liking herself even less than she had an hour ago.

Two hours later, sitting in her apartment, staring at her notes, and pretending to work, Cindy was still stunned. "You know, I love you."

She shook her head to clear Lindsay's words. It definitely wasn't something to focus on now, even though it had caught her off guard just as much as the way their conversation had slipped. How much more of this case could their relationship really take, their professional one and their friendship?

She pushed the uncomfortable thoughts aside and forced herself to concentrate on the papers strewn all over her living room floor in her typical organized chaos.

Her gaze fell on a copy of the campus paper interview Kate had given. Next to it lay a sheet with handwritten notes of everything Jill had said. Somewhat painful to recall those moments, but her eidetic memory helped to jot them down quickly.

Cindy had known what her next step had to be even before Lindsay told her 'no comment.' She, too, was eager to see this case come to an end as well as the Cold War they had somehow gotten themselves into.

Hopefully, she could help with that.

Lindsay hadn't gotten much sleep and promptly overslept, so the last thing she needed were the catcalls and nosy colleagues' inquiries about how her evening had been.

"What was that about?" she asked Jacobi, making no attempt to hide her irritation.

"The guys are running a pool on whether or not you slept with your boyfriend yet," her partner explained matter-of-factly.

"That's incredibly offensive," she said with a trace of humor, but only for his benefit; it was true, he wasn't to blame for their colleagues' stupid ideas. "Wait, you didn't take part, did you?"

"Someone has to step up and act the adult among these kindergarteners. In other words, no."

Lindsay gave him a smile for being the partner she could always count on and shifted her thoughts to their case. "Where are we on the girl's alibi?"

"Kate Hammond went to a dorm party. Easily a hundred people. We found forty-one. All of them saw her. Now, interviews put her there until 2 AM..."

"Forty-one drunk kids is something short of an iron-clad alibi." Lindsay was not convinced.

"Out of the forty-one, eight really matter." Jacobi tossed a few photographs onto the desk. "These were taken from eight kids' cell phones; each of them is a photo of Kate. They were all taken before midnight until just after two, no more than nineteen minutes between any of 'em."

"How far was the party from the track?" Tom, who had joined them, asked.

"Under half a mile."

"That's plenty of time to leave the party, kill him, and get back."

"There's one minor problem," Lindsay interjected, starting to pace. "It was pouring rain, she's not wet in any of those pictures and her hair's the same. She has to walk or drive half a mile. If she drives, there can't be any traffic. She has to shoot him, get back, not get her clothes wet or change into identical clothes, and keep her hair dry, and do it all in nineteen minutes. It's impossible," she concluded, wishing this guesswork was enough to just close the case. Of course, it wasn't.

"I thought you believed she did it," Tom reminded her, seeming vaguely surprised by her speech.

"I did," she admitted.

"So did I," Jacobi said. "And all I've been thinking is if it turns out she killed him, I understand."

Tom nodded, but didn't say anything.

"Someone laid a hand on my daughter, I'd sure want to go out and shoot him." Jacobi continued.

Obligation, Lindsay thought. To the public, to your family, and what does really count when you're personally involved?

"That raises a very interesting question." Tom crossed his arms over his chest. "Kate Hammond's father was on the news this morning. The parents came to town after the rape accusation. Now, they're here again."

There was only one next logical step.

When asking for Kate Hammond, she'd been greeted by suspicious looks at first, but when she'd introduced herself, Cindy realized she wasn't exactly unknown by these kids.

"Thomas? Hey, you wrote the article," a skinny, blonde girl said. "Said how the DA's office fucked up Kate's case."

Cindy winced at her wording, uncomfortably reminded of subsequent arguments with Jill and Lindsay.

"I'd like to talk to Kate," she said. "Can you tell me where I can find her?"

"I'll show you."

A few feet away from the group, the girl asked, "You're going to write that? About what they did to her?"

"I don't know," Cindy said honestly. "But someone needs to speak up for her, right?"


The girl watched her thoughtfully for a moment and finally introduced herself. "I'm Dina. I'll be waiting for you when you're done."

"Do you own a gun, Mr. Hammond?"

At the sound of Lindsay's voice, Kate's father turned from where he was standing by the window of the couple's hotel room and gave the inspectors a slightly contemptuous look.

"Your neighbors in Phoenix aren't sure when you left town," Jacobi explained.

"No, I don't own a gun. I never have." He turned his back on them again. The mother, sitting on the bed, also chose not to look at them as she spoke.

"You know the death of this young man... brought this back for all of us."

"We understand," Jacobi assured, his tone quiet and comforting enough to put her at ease and keep her talking.

It made Lindsay think of her partner's earlier remark about how far he'd go for his own daughter. They all had someone in their lives for whom they'd blur the lines between wrong and right. Even pull the trigger.

"After the rape..." Mrs. Hammond got up from the bed, her tears seeming to creep into her voice. "Kate couldn't focus on her classes. She lost her boyfriend."

Lindsay couldn't help but remember Kate's interview and noted how similar the body language of mother and daughter was.

Mrs. Hammond took a few receipts from her purse and handed them to Jacobi. "From gas stations along the way," she clarified. "In case you have to check."

"We're talking to anyone who might have an insight into the murder. Kate's boyfriend Charlie Gifford... he was interviewed at the time of the rape?" Lindsay asked.

"Charlie couldn't kill anyone, if that's what you mean!" Mr. Hammond returned to the conversation, intense anger radiating from him. "You are trying hard with this sensitivity, but you know what?" His voice rose. "You're full of it!"

"We're just doing our job, Mr. Hammond," Jacobi said calmly.

"If you were doing your job, those two boys would be in jail."

The worst of it was that he was right.

After one knock and a few seconds, a door was opened.

"Who are you?"

The suspicion was written all over the girl's face, and Cindy couldn't blame her. "Kate Hammond? I'm Cindy Thomas, San Francisco Register. I was hoping we could talk." She let her hand fall to her side when the girl didn't bother to take it.

"Why should I want to talk to you?"

"It's not too late for the truth to come out. That, and--" Cindy took a deep breath, avoiding the girl's gaze for a couple of seconds, enough to be noticed she realized when she looked back at Kate. "I'm not only here in a professional capacity. Can I come in?"

Kate shrugged and took a step back. "I guess."

Cindy felt a flash of anger as she surveyed the room dominated by bookshelves and the usual clutter belonging to a college student. Kate Hammond should have been occupied with classes, papers, her future career, romances, and hanging out with friends.

She shouldn't have to worry if her word would have been enough to put two rapists behind bars or whether it would have mattered if she'd been drunk on the evening they'd violated her or not.

But then again, no one should.

"I thought you wanted to ask some questions," Kate prompted her visitor, the silence becoming uncomfortable for the young woman.

"Are you up to answering questions?"

"Actually you're the first one to ask me that." Kate sighed. "I know you wrote that article on how it was wrong of the DA's office to deny me to go to court. Friends kept it for me. I should probably thank you."

"It's my job."

"I'm not sure if it was a good thing to bring it all up again. I just want to forget. You said you weren't here just because of the job?"

"That's right. I just want you to know that I don't give a damn about how many guys you flirted with that night or how much you had to drink. It's still rape, and they should have gone to prison. Maybe, Jay still will."

"It's over." Kate shook her head, her shoulders slumped.

"I don't believe it is."

Kate stared at her with a mixture of fascination and irritation, and then, unexpectedly, she smiled. "You want some tea?".

Lindsay and Jacobi caught up with Charlie Gifford on campus, walking with him as he made his way to a class.

"I loved Kate," he said. "She was it for me."

With a tiny bit of inappropriate jealousy, Lindsay wondered if she'd ever felt that way about anyone. Maybe it was just that age, when everything seemed possible... then again, Kate and Charlie had been forced to grow up too damn quickly.

"Charlie, you told the original investigators that you were with Kate the night of the rape, that you left her. Why?"

He shook his head as if he still couldn't believe it. "Stupid fight over nothing. I'm getting a place off campus, and Kate was worried I'd get sick of her if we'd lived together. If I'd stayed that night, the rape would have never happened."

"You broke up after that?" Jacobi asked.

Charlie looked at them as if he wondered why they needed any clarification. "It was toxic! She was angry, and I didn't know what to do. I mean, we couldn't even look at each other."

"Where were you two nights ago?" Lindsay asked the inevitable question.

"I was in my room studying," Charlie answered. "Why?" Only seconds passed when he came to the likely conclusion all by himself. "You guys realize what you're doing by accusing Kate and me? You're ruining our lives all over again!"

With that, he turned and walked up the stairs to the building with angry strides.

"We covered every shooting range within a hundred miles; no one recognized Kate or Charlie from their photos. If they got gun savvy, we have no idea how. And Charlie was in his dorm. He swiped his entry card at 9:35, half a dozen people saw him over the next couple of hours," Jacobi explained, looking up from his notes and waiting for the DDA to ask questions.

"You saw the rape file, Charlie feels guilty about leaving Kate at the frat house." Jill was still clinging to the hope that someone other than Kate Hammond could have shot Morse. "If he wanted to kill Collin, he could have done it; he could have found a way to leave his dorm without being seen."

"I don't think so," Lindsay interjected. "Is Charlie emotionally capable of shooting Collin at such close range? No."

"I'm with you," Jacobi took his partner's side. "I don't think the kid has it in him."

"Where does that leave us?" Jill asked the inevitable question, anxious for someone to have an answer that would put an end to the case once and for all.

Lindsay didn't like the obvious answer any better than Jill. "Without a suspect."

Jacobi cast a slightly amused look at something behind his partner's back and said, "Linz, you've got company."

Lindsay spun around, and, at the sight of Pete, instantly planted a smile on her face. She hoped it didn't look as plastic as it felt.

He smiled back somewhat hesitantly.

"Hi," she offered, reminding herself that he wasn't to blame for any of the complications of her case, or the fact that she couldn't seem to pick the right moment to tell him that they weren't working out.

"I... I didn't want to wait until tomorrow to see you, I hope you don't mind."

"It's fine." The smile stayed in place. Lindsay knew she was a terrible actress outside of an interrogation room, but he didn't seem inclined to call her bluff.

"You have time for a small break?" he asked hopefully, obviously meaning more than getting something to eat.

No chance for an easy escape at the moment, Lindsay decided to just go with it.

When Cindy finally left Kate's dorm room, her mind was still reeling from their conversation in which she had gotten so much more than she'd bargained for. There were a lot of things for her to do now, and she couldn't afford to make any mistakes, because nothing less was at stake than her most valued beliefs and the relationships that were most important in all their lives, including Kate's.

"It'll all be just fine," she muttered to herself, her new mantra, as she headed down the stairs, nearly colliding with someone. At this rate, it was going to become a habit.

It was Dina, the girl who wanted to talk to her earlier. What Cindy had learned from Kate had really put her on a very tight schedule, but she didn't want to brush Dina off either.

"You were one the friends who made photos of Kate at the dorm party, right?"

Dina shrugged. "That was a lucky coincidence, but it wasn't why I wanted to talk to you. Listen, I know that the police think Kate did it, but there are a lot more people who believe that there's no place for rapists on this campus."

"I saw people arguing at the crime scene."

"Yeah, but the ones I'm talking about wouldn't draw attention to themselves. The DAs who thought Kate's statement didn't count because she had a few drinks, do you think they know or care that Jay and Collin had a bit of a reputation?"

"Like what?"

"They are all about the score. Do you really think that encompasses just Kate?"

Cindy felt like she was getting dizzy. That, and very angry. "You mean no one ever tried to go to trial before?"

Dina gave her a wry smile. "You saw what happened when Kate tried. Did you ever go to Frat parties when you were in college?"

"Rarely," Cindy admitted.

"They were all bad witnesses. You don't drink, you don't wear make-up, or wear your skirt above your knee if you want to go to court. And guess what, even if you live by all the rules, it won't save you."

"It sucks," Cindy said with emphasis. "You...?"

Dina shook her head. "No, not me, but more than one that I know about. If I was Jay Osborne, I'd start looking over my shoulder. People are angry. Some of them, very much."

There was a clear implied threat in her words. Part of Cindy just wanted to ignore it and see what happened when those people decided to act. Part of her also wished everyone would've just turned their heads the other way and ignored what had happened to Collin Morse, too.

"You said there were other girls. Can you give me names?"

Dina gave her a considering look. "You said you want to help Kate. Let's see if I can trust you. If that's the case, I'll talk to them."

Cindy gave Dina her card before she headed out to her next destination.

"Fair enough. Call me at any time."

"We only have another week. I want to spend as much time with you as possible. Also, I was hoping... "

Lindsay knew what Pete was talking about, and she also knew she didn't want to have this particular talk when they only had a short amount of time before she had to return to her job.

She was saved, ironically, by a very angry Kate Hammond.

"Are you gonna keep bothering my family?"

Kate's sudden appearance was seriously awkward, especially with Pete at her back, but it was still a somewhat welcome distraction for Lindsay.

"I'm sorry that you think we're bothering you, this is a Homicide investigation, Kate. I'm not trying to hurt your family or you."

"You pretend like it bothers you to question my parents when you're just looking to solve your case! Don't you have any shame?" Glaring at Lindsay, she turned and walked away. Lindsay let her go.

The accusation had stung. Right from the start, she hadn't seemed to be able to get a handle on how to deal with Kate. She was failing here, again, and it was something she didn't want anyone to see, not even Pete who would be gone in a matter of days anyway.

"If it's any consolation, that wasn't about you," Pete made an honest attempt at damage control.

Lindsay knew she should have maybe appreciated it, but at the moment, she couldn't really. "I'm not so sure... you know; I usually deal with people who've killed someone out of hate, greed, or for money. That's okay with me... but sometimes, it isn't that black and white, and it makes you wonder what really is the right thing to do."

That was already more than she had wanted to share with him, and inevitably invited a response in kind. Pete was just that attentive, and Lindsay found it slightly unnerving. He shook his head, ready to argue.

"What?" she prompted.

"Linz, I get up every day, and I have to believe I do what I do better than anyone in the world. It's completely crazy," he said with a smile, and she silently agreed with him, though she couldn't really judge.

A cop's world was different. They lived with limitations. Tom had understood that. Even Cindy does.

"And I can't help it," he continued his speech, "But you, you demand perfection of yourself like no one I have ever seen."

"I don't want to be a perfect person," she said, slightly irritated.

"I know you don't want to be a perfect person. You want to be a perfect cop. And even if you were, Linz, you'd still feel bad right now."

Don't go there, Lindsay swallowed her retort, torn between regret about how this was eventually going to end, and relief, because Pete was making it continually easier for her not to feel guilty when the moment to say goodbye finally arrived.

When Tom had walked out on her at a time that she'd desperately been counting on a fellow cop to understand her determination, it had hurt. Badly. Pete, however, was painting her as some kind of struggling hero, and Lindsay didn't like that image any better.

All she wanted to do was her job and do it right. But if 'right' had happened before, as it should have, Morse and Osborne would be behind bars, and she wouldn't have this murder case on her hands.

While the accusations of Kate and her parents had found their mark more than she'd wanted to admit, it had been Cindy's words that had haunted her the most.

"… you have an obligation to every victim of a crime."

Had she really lost sight of that, and when had that happened?

She remembered very well the way Cindy had looked at her, the days after they had just met. Kind of funny that in Cindy's case, she'd never minded the admiration. Hero worship Jill had once called it, and Lindsay had denied it but had secretly been pleased.

These days, she was hardly someone Cindy could admire any longer. Somehow, Lindsay missed that.

"I'm sorry, I've got to go back," she told Pete, her thoughts centering on how she'd managed to disappoint Cindy.

She never gave a second thought to disappointing Pete.

When Lindsay finally arrived back at the bullpen, Jacobi had something to distract her with, something she hoped would be good news. He waved a DVD at her, explaining, "A couple of our inspectors down in evidence went through the DVDs that we found when we searched Collin's room."

"Don't tell me they taped themselves raping Kate." As much as she hoped for something, anything, that would help them prove Kate's side of the story and find a suspect who wasn't her, this was worrisome. It could mean files on the internet for everyone to see, and it wasn't something she wouldn't have put past Morse and Osborne to do.

"Not that damning, but almost," Jacobi said as they walked up the stairs to Tom's office.

Moments later, Lindsay got to see firsthand what Jacobi had meant when they met up with Tom and Jill to watch the confiscated DVD.

The recorded video showed the two men trying to get their stories straight for their respective statements, even arguing about it. There was an edge to Jay's voice as he corrected Collin.

"They're practicing testimony for the civil suit. They're practicing how to lie!" Lindsay could hardly believe the boldness of the two students.

"You've got to get this right!" Jay Osborne insisted, pointing a finger at the now deceased Morse. "If we lose this case, we're finished. Me, you, our parents. They're gonna clean us out."

Jacobi explained his theory on how they had recorded their performance in order to study their mistakes, to be better prepared when the actual performance would take place, but unfortunately, Tom wasn't convinced the evidence proved their guilt.

"I do see how they lied about the rape, but that still doesn't really prove anything."

"It proves they raped her and were afraid of making mistakes in court!" Lindsay could barely hide her irritation.

"For you and me," Tom agreed. "But it's not enough for a jury." Jacobi just nodded his head, sharing the same opinion as his boss.

Lindsay turned to Jill, hoping to get some support from her friend. She had been

just as desperate to prove that Kate hadn't shot Collin.

"But you heard what Jay Osborne said. He was afraid his life would be ruined, he was afraid that Collin would blow it on the witness stand. That's a motive for murder. Jill?" She turned to the DDA with an expectant look. "Okay. So it isn't evidence of murder, but it's evidence they raped her. Is it enough to pick up Jay and scare him?"

Jill just kept staring at the screen, mesmerized, as if the images were still flickering across it.


Jolted out of her reverie, Jill shook her head. "No," she said regretfully. "No, it's not enough."

Without another word, she turned and left the room, leaving the others to ponder what was going on.

"What the hell was that?" Tom asked.

Lindsay had no answer for him, but she was determined to find out.

It had begun to get chilly, but that wasn't the only reason why Jill sat on Lindsay's porch steps, arms wrapped around her middle, hugging herself tightly. She was more than happy to see Lindsay walking toward her.

"I owe your neighbors an apology," she told her friend wistfully. "Martha barked for half an hour when I got here."

Lindsay smiled, walking closer unhurriedly. "Why did you run out on us?" she asked, leaning her tall frame against the banister.

"You know why I snapped at Cindy? It's not her I'm angry at, it's me." Somehow it was a relief to finally say it out loud.

Lindsay sat down beside her. "Talk about it," she suggested.

It was all the incentive Jill needed. A deep-seated guilt had been weighing on her since Cindy and Lindsay had left her office the other day. "Two months ago..." She took a deep breath. "The DA's weekly conference, we decide which cases go to Grand Jury. Kate Hammond's case came up. Consensus was there was no point in going to trial. I said... nothing. " She'd been uneasy at the time, but looking back at it now, she could barely believe herself. Diffusion of responsibility. It even applied to a roomful of attorneys.

"The case was un-winnable based on what you knew at the time."

It was true, but still it wasn't a consolation for either of them.

"I forgot she was this little girl, who got drunk and didn't know what she was getting into."

"You were doing your job," Lindsay reminded her, but she didn't meet Jill's eyes this time. There was no secret between them that she had some ghosts of her own with this particular case. Putting the bad guys behind bars; it was their job, and yet sometimes, it remained a high-held, unreachable ideal.

"She wanted to testify," Jill continued. "How many women want to face their attackers? I should have stood up for Kate Hammond's right to a day in court. We owed her that." It was still true what she'd told Cindy earlier. To testify would have been extremely difficult for Kate, but they could have prepared her for that.

"I made a mistake. I will do anything I can to fix it."

Cindy's accusation had struck hard, and Jill wasn't the only one who felt the impact. There had been a time, earlier in their friendship, when she and Lindsay had both been more like the young reporter, idealistic, or perhaps less jaded. Maybe it was time to remember.

Lindsay answered Jill's regretful smile with one of her own. "We will. Start with calling Cindy, and when you're done, hand me the phone. I don't think she's too taken with either of us right now."

The moment Jill fished her cell phone out of her purse, it rang. "Speak of the devil," she murmured. "I guess that's fate telling me not to put it off any longer."

Lindsay pushed to her feet and started up the stairs. "I'll be inside, before Martha starts barking again."

Jill just nodded and turned her attention to her caller. "Cindy. Look, this is probably abrupt, but... I wanted to call you, too. I'm really sorry. I was out of line."

On the other end of the line, Cindy sighed. "Thanks. And I just might forgive you, but Jill, I really need a favor, from you and Lindsay, actually. It's about Kate."

What Cindy had to tell her made the regret Jill had been feeling even more profound and painful, but at the same time, she welcomed the options the new information would open up for them. "I'm at Lindsay's, why don't you come over? I have some ideas how we could proceed." She planned to call Claire, too. It had been too damn long since they'd last conspired together.

After all, Jay Osborne shouldn't think they had all forgotten about him.

Lindsay paced, back and forth, across her living room, rubbing her hands together while she talked. "Okay, how are we going to do this?"

It was a reassuringly familiar sight for Cindy, and knowing that Jill wasn't mad at her anymore helped a lot, too. She was more relaxed than she'd been in a while.

"First of all, we need that search warrant for Osborne's room. I'm going to see the judge first thing in the morning," said Jill, outlining their initial move.

Lindsay nodded in agreement. "That should give us some hints as to what happened that night to corroborate Kate's story."

"I'm going to go over Collin's autopsy report again and see if there's anything that might help prove her side of the story," Claire added.

"Cindy, are you sure that she'll come?"

Cindy almost jumped at Lindsay's words that had been directed at her, and she breathed a sigh of relief, feeling good to be let into the fold again. It was probably as much of an apology as she was going to get from Lindsay, but for the moment, it was enough.

"Yes, I'm sure. This is weighing heavily on her, she needs closure."

"Okay." Lindsay gave her a quick smile, and then turned back to Jill. "Will Denise give us any grief about this?"

"Not if we have a lawyer for Kate who'll outline all the dire alternatives for the DA's office if she doesn't go with a deal. I think I might have someone in mind."

Lindsay rolled her eyes at her, but she grinned.

"What?" Jill smiled mischievously. "You have to admit that, for this kind of situation, he's perfect."

"I'm sure he has his qualities," Lindsay drawled, and Jill stuck out her tongue at her.

"Ladies, can we get back to the case for a moment?" Claire admonished.

"The moment I hear from you," Lindsay continued feeling somewhat chastised, "Jacobi and I will be on that kid's doorstep; he'll never knew what will hit him. We also need to take a look at the things that were found in Morse's dorm room again, maybe we missed something. By the way," she said after a pause. "Nice work, Lois Lane."

Cindy needed no further reassurance that she'd been accepted back into the club.

"Counselor, what are you doing here at six in the morning?" the judge asked interestedly.

"I need a warrant signed, Judge," Jill explained, "and you're always in early." The talk with Lindsay and the subsequent 'club meeting' had made it clear what they, or rather, what she needed to do. She only hoped it wasn't too late, as they'd need to depend on several other people now, beginning with the woman standing in front of her.

Judge Burke took a look at the folder Jill had handed her and frowned. "Jay Osborne. The Hammond rape. Search warrant?" She looked up at Jill who was waiting anxiously. "You really have probable cause for murder?"

"This one time, if you could do me a favor? I admit it's a stretch. We might get slammed on appeal," Jill said honestly, holding out a pen to the judge.

"Let them try," Judge Burke answered as she took the pen and swept it boldly across the bottom of the warrant the warrant. "I hate rapists."

Jill breathed a sigh of relief. Her part had gone well, now it was Lindsay and Jacobi's turn.

Jay Osborne had tried to play it cool even when a search warrant had been thrust in his face, but he'd seemed to finally understand that the two police officers weren't his friends. In his usual cocky style, he'd attempted to let the two of them know of his sudden revelation, and it soon became apparent that he didn't know when to keep his mouth shut.

"Did you know those latex gloves dry out your skin? You can always tell a person's age by the way that their hands look."

"Yeah, well you can also tell somebody's IQ by what comes out of their mouth."

Lindsay turned to Jacobi and rolled her eyes. "What's his problem again?" She would have been amused at the kid's obvious attempts at insults at she didn't really give a damn about, but on the other hand, each of his lame lines had shown his general attitude towards women all too clearly. He had driven one of them to commit murder.

Jacobi shrugged. "I think he was trying to appeal to your vanity, which makes me wonder what he needs to distract us from?"

She turned to Jay again, wearing a smile she hoped would show him exactly where he could put his advice. "Jay, a question. Collin never came home from running that night. His room's right next door, you didn't notice anything?"

"I was asleep. You guys must be really desperate for suspects if you think that I shot him."

Lindsay didn't even try to hide her amusement. At least he hadn't tried to keep up the Mr. Nice Guy act. He faltered even more when he saw what Jacobi was doing.

"Hey, hey, hey! These are my meds!" His voice rose with each word, but he forced himself to control his temper. "For asthma," he told Jacobi who was slipping the small bottle into an evidence bag.

"Breathe deep," was the inspector's quick answer, and Lindsay hid a grin behind her hand.

"You've got to leave me my meds!" Jay insisted, clearly upset.

Lindsay patted his arm, before they headed out. "There's a drugstore around the corner." It was nice to see him lose his cool for a change, and hopefully, the search would turn up just the evidence they needed to make him even more uncomfortable.

Cindy didn't waste any time answering her phone when she saw Dina's number on the caller ID.

"I've talked to some people, also Kate," Dina said. "She seems to trust you... so I guess I can, too. Can we meet?"

Cindy checked her watch and calculated how much time she would have until she was due to meet her friends back at the Hall.

"Sure we can. Just tell me where."

"Jay's ticket stubs. First class air fare, Ski lift tickets, Aspen and Vail."

Jacobi sounded slightly jealous.

"Alibi for time of death?" Jill asked anxiously.

"He was asleep, that's why he didn't realize Collin was missing." The tone of Lindsay's voice showed exactly what she thought of his so-called alibi.

"Interesting," Jacobi said. "The only things he got excited about were his meds." He opened the tiny bottle, frowning at its design. "What kinds of asthma meds need an eye dropper?"

Jill and Lindsay shared a secret look. Before they hadn't met with Kate, they wouldn't share with anyone outside the 'club' that this search warrant had nothing to do with Jay as a murder suspect, but proving him to be the rapist he was.

"Odorless... and clear."

Lindsay stared at the nondescript bottle for a moment, her suspicion taking shape.

"Let's get this to Claire right now," she said. When no one moved, she added with a sweet smile, "Warren, could you...?"

With a sigh of the long-suffering, Jacobi shook his head and headed off on his mission, allowing for Lindsay and Jill to talk more openly between themselves.

Jill watched with interest as Lindsay systematically sifted through the items taken from Osborne's room.

"Denise will not be amused, but I, for one, feel much better than I did last night," Jill confessed. "Tomorrow, we'll get to close one case and re-open another. I'd say we've accomplished quite a bit."

"We have indeed..." Lindsay let her words trail off, looking thoughtfully as she flipped through some folders of Osborne's college papers.

"So what else are you looking for?"

"I don't know. For now, my hope is that Claire will confirm what we both think is in that bottle."

Jill nodded, her attention shifting to a term paper that lay on a nearby desk. "An A-student, huh? What a shame."

Lindsay picked up the paper in question and frowned when a folded sheet slipped out from between the pages and sailed to the floor.

They shared a quizzical look before Lindsay went to retrieve it, carefully unfolding it with her still gloved hands. Her eyes widened. "Whoa."

Lindsay held the page up for her to see, and Jill voiced the thought they both shared. "Kate might have shot Collin, but it seems she's not the only one who had a reason."

It was a simple computer printout, seven words spread across the page in big, bolded letters.

The Crime: Serial Rape

The Verdict: Death

"Good news," Claire greeted Cindy and Lindsay as they joined her in her office. "There was some residue gun powder on Morse's right hand. It makes it easier when you know what to look for."

For a moment, everyone's relief was nearly palpable.

"Now, what you found," she continued, "was definitely Gamma-Hydroxybutyric, GHB, date rape drug of choice. "Gas chromatography on the left." She pointed at a sheet showing the results of the test. "The liquid you found in Jay Osborne's room, on the right, pharmaceutical GHB."

"They look close, but not exact," Lindsay observed.

"Why would there be a difference?" Cindy asked.

"Jay's was homemade," Claire explained. "Could have whipped it up in a chem lab." It was that easy. They were college students, for Christ's sake, she thought. Cold blooded criminals and they thought nothing of it.

Cindy had the final piece of the puzzle. "Collin Morse was a Chemical Engineering Major."

"They doped her. They drugged her so she wouldn't resist. No wonder there wasn't any bruising." Lindsay sounded frustrated, angry, and somewhat resigned.

"Linz... there was no GHB in the blood sample from Kate Hammond's rape kit."

"Those boys made it, they used it."

"I'll test it again," Claire announced. "Anything else of importance you found? See, I actually don't believe they operated with small samples. It doesn't look like a first attempt to me."

"What exactly makes you think that?"

Claire could tell that Lindsay probably had her own theory but wanted to hear Claire's first. "Okay, here's what we know. Kate would have been tested for GHB, but not this kind. They planned it and went to the trouble to make this special brand. I'd doubt that they'd intended to only use it once. "

"I know." Lindsay sighed. "And someone else has figured it out, too." She unfolded a piece of paper for Claire and Cindy to read. "They must have raped more girls, and someone knew it. Makes me wish they had acted before Kate did. I wonder why we didn't know of any other cases."

"Those girls were afraid to go to the police, and afraid to turn to the DA's office," Claire said gently.

"I know. It would really help though if we knew who they were."

Into the heavy silence, Cindy finally spoke. "I've got names."

Following up on what Cindy had found out from Dina would have to wait until after their meeting with Kate. They young woman was on time, climbing inside the car on the passenger's side. She froze when she realized she and Cindy were not alone.

"Wait, what are they doing here? You set me up!"

Cindy cringed at the disbelief in Kate's voice, the hurt and betrayal. She also had a bad déjà-vu of the time Jamie Galvan had jumped up from that bench and run, but not before punching Lindsay.

"I want to help you," she said softly. "But I can't do it alone."

"And all your talk about how you believe in choices?" Kate glared at Cindy and moved to open the door. "Oh, I am so out of here."

"No, please, hear us out!"

"Don't touch me," Kate snapped when Cindy held her back with a hand on her arm.

It was the defining moment, everything balanced on the jagged edge of a knife. If Kate bolted now, she'd jinx all the chances Cindy had worked so hard to make available to her. Just as close to tears as the younger woman was, Cindy couldn't afford to let her upset show. She hadn't missed the questioning gaze Jill and Lindsay had exchanged in the backseat, and wondered if perhaps her two friends were getting the wrong idea about her involvement in the case, that it was based on personal experience, rather than a reporter's curiosity, and more than that, her beliefs. She'd have to clarify her intentions at some point, but now was so not the time.

"Don't run," she pleaded. "You can trust us."

Kate snorted. "The police and the DA? Give me a single damn reason why I should."

For long seconds, there was a loaded silence in the confines of the car as Kate's demand seemed to hover weightlessly in the still air.

"We made a mistake," Jill said quietly, her regret profound and believable. Cindy breathed a sigh of relief and welcomed the DDA's next words. "We want to make it right, and I believe we can, if you work with us."

"You told them?" she asked Cindy, her expression filled with disbelief.

"About the night you were raped." Lindsay's voice was soft, seductive almost. "You were drugged. Collin and Jay gave you GHB."

It was truly scary, Cindy thought, how naturally Lindsay had stepped in to begin her unofficial interrogation. If she wanted a confession, she'd get one. Her tone, her expression, her dark caring eyes... everything about her was just too impossible to resist, and Cindy wondered if perhaps she should have warned Kate.

The girl cleared her throat. "But they tested me for that."

"The GHB they gave you didn't show up, but we know they gave it to you. So, honey, what happened wasn't because you were drunk or irresponsible. You were just unconscious." Lindsay's words were soft-spoken, empathetic enough, and they seemed to have an effect on Kate.

However, in the driver's seat, Cindy gripped the steering wheel in a white-knuckled grip, resisting the impulse to bang her head against it. She knew Lindsay to be a woman with strong ethics; she had refused to give up on Kiss-Me-Not's victims when everyone else had, after all. But, of all people, Cindy couldn't bear to hear this particular conjecture from her.

There were no semantics or subtleties when it came to rape. As much as Cindy admired, cared about, whatever it really was she felt for Lindsay, one day she'd have to tell her and set her straight.

Lindsay had come around for the most part, understanding that Kate needed their protection more than a dead man who'd possibly been a serial rapist - but there was a part of it she didn't seem to understand yet. There was a dilemma for each of them, no denying.

Kate had made a wrong choice, but only after the right one had been denied to her. It wasn't a good moment to bring it up, granted, but she still believed in every word of her article. Even people she loved made mistakes every now and then, and this one had been fatal. It was on all of them to redeem it.

It had taken only a moment for Kate's composure to break.

"You wouldn't have believed me! They thought I wanted this to happen! That night on the track, Collin, when he saw the gun, he laughed at me. Hey Kate, you're into kinky games, aren't you? It was a joke to him."

She took a shaky breath. "He pointed the gun at himself, saying I was a coward and that I'd only ask for what I wanted when I was drunk."

Cindy studied the reflection of Jill and Lindsay in the rear-view mirror, their emotions just barely under the surface. It helped to distract herself from the overwhelming anger and sadness she felt.

"I really wanted to... kill him, for a moment."

"But then you couldn't do it," Lindsay concluded

Kate shrugged resignedly. "I just wanted him to shut up, you know? But then I realized that I would pay for it, he'd be the victim. The next thing I knew, the gun had gone off. I remember it was so loud, like an explosion. I panicked."

There was a heavy silence for a couple of minutes as everyone absorbed the confession and decided how to proceed.

"What's going to happen to me?" Kate finally asked, tears glistening in her eyes.

Cindy had to turn away.

"I'm going to have to clear it with my boss," Jill explained. "You turn yourself in, there's the possibility for a plea bargain, which likely means five years in a minimum security prison."

At that, Cindy drew a painful breath, even though she'd known about the likelihood of prison beforehand. Kate, on the other hand, was silent.

"Most likely, you'll be out on parole after 18 months."

"And Jay? Is he going to get off scott-free?" There was a jadedness to Kate's voice that was painful to hear from a woman of her age.

Jill smiled grimly.

"Not likely," Lindsay said with a hint of triumph, and that was a bit more familiar. "I'm only waiting for the warrant to come through. Let's just say you won't have to worry about him for a long time to come."

For the first time, Kate turned around to the two women in the backseat and gave a hesitant smile.

Her whispered 'thank you' was for Cindy only though.

When Jill arrived outside the office, the door was open, so she rapped on its frame. The occupant's back was to her, and he was talking on his BlueTooth. The knock on the hardwood facing forced Hanson North to turn around. The sight of the Deputy District Attorney brought a huge smile to his face, and he waved her in. Without missing one word of his conversation, he motioned Jill to take a seat.

"There's no deal to be made here, Craig. My client is innocent. That search was completely illegal."

Even if the accusation wasn't true, Jill thought, if anyone could bring a judge to believe it, it was Hanson North. Although they worked opposite sides of the courtroom, part of her admired his passion and devotion to his clients. Having faced off with him several times, she had experienced firsthand the lengths he could go to save his client, and that was precisely why she'd come to seek his help.

While Jill was convinced she could never argue his side of a case; for the system to work, she believed every defendant deserved the best representation. She needed that now. Kate needed that. And after what had just transpired between herself, her fellow club members, and Kate Hammond, she was hardly in a position to judge anyone's ethical conduct.

"That's right. We'll see you in court!" North ended his call and sat down in his chair, facing his guest.

Before he could say anything, Jill chimed in with a teasing remark. "So, still doing your part to help lower the prison population one criminal at a time?"

"You know, Counselor, I'm always happy to see you even if you only come around to insult me and my clients. To what to do I owe the honor of your visit?"

"I need a favor," she went right to the point.

North leaned back and linked his hands behind his head. "I figured as much. I still haven't collected on the last favor I did for you."

'Well your girlfriend got drunk and destroyed my relationship, so I think we're even,' Jill thought, ignoring his weak attempt at flirtatious banter. "This case is right up your alley, Hanson. This girl really needs your help"

"I'm listening."

"It concerns Kate Hammond and the Bay College shooting."

The public defender perked up at the mention of the case. "Your reporter friend didn't mince words about how your office handled the case."

"Yeah, well, we're all trying to make amends." Still remorseful, Jill didn't want to linger too long on the subject of the article and the ensuing fight with Cindy. "Kate is going to confess to the shooting, and she needs a good lawyer."

"How do you know she's going to confess?" he asked apprehensively.

"Never mind how I know. There's also evidence corroborating the fact that there was a struggle and the gun went off. She didn't go there to kill him." Jill's tone turned extremely serious. "Hanson, I need you to get her a deal. Use whatever threat necessary. Media, expert witness, lawsuits. I'm going to help you with Denise as best I can, but I need you to push hard."

Grasping the gravity of the situation, North looked right into the blonde's eyes, "You took a big risk coming here. You really feel awful for this girl, don't you?"

Jill knew his question was rhetorical, and if it wasn't, it should have been. "Will you do it?" she pleaded.

"Of course."

"Thank you, she's going to call you." Jill stood up and gave him a small, hesitant smile,and then headed for the door. Before exiting, she turned in his direction, "And Hanson, I was never here, right?"

"If you were, I never saw you," he assured her.

"Hi, Cindy."

Dina closed the door behind them, giving Lindsay the once-over.

"Hi. Dina, meet Inspector Boxer."

"Nice to meet you," Dina said just with a tiny hint of irony. To Cindy, she added, "I'm trusting you here. Don't mess up."

Following the young girl along the hallway, Cindy still marveled at the fact that Lindsay had agreed to go along with the reporter's pace. Sure, these were Cindy's contacts in the first place, and Lindsay certainly had something to make up for, but still it made Cindy ridiculously happy. She wouldn't be able to thoroughly enjoy it, however, until they'd managed to right a wrong and, of course, her nervousness had finally subsided.

Dina led them to a room comfortably furnished with couches, a TV set, a worn coffee table, and a foosball table that had seen better days. Carrie and Iris were waiting for them there.

Again, introductions were made.

"Thank you for talking to us," Cindy began. "And we apologize for bringing it all up again, but it will help make the case against Jay stronger."

"I understand you haven't talked to the police before. We want to make sure Jay pays for what he has done," Lindsay added.

"You're too damn late!" Iris was furious. "Look, I came here because Dina said it would do some good, but honestly, I'm not convinced of it."

Dina just stood, leaning against the doorframe, watching the scenario play out.

"We know what he did to Kate." Lindsay's voice dropped to a low, soothing timbre, and even now, Cindy could not ignore her reaction to it as a warm, pleasant shiver made its way down her spine. 'Silly', she silently chastised her body's response as Lindsay continued to work her magic on the two co-eds.

"But his attorney is going to paint him as the victim. If we can prove that he and Collin planned to rape women on campus on a regular basis, he's going to have one hell of a hard time doing that."

"I guess you want to hear about it?" Carrie asked anxiously.

"I'm sorry, but yes, I need to hear what happened."

"You're going to put our names into your story?" Iris turned her attention to Cindy. She was still very doubtful about getting involved.

Cindy shook her head. "No. I'm just going to say that there were two more accusations besides Kate's, and that's the truth."

"Why don't we get this over with as quickly as possible?" Dina interjected, pushing away from the door and moving toward her two friends to offer her support. It seemed to be just the impetus Iris needed:

"I feel like such a fool," she said dejectedly. "He's a good-looking guy... and he can be charming. I even wanted to go on that date with him."

"Sometimes, people like him are only handsome on the outside. The inside is a completely different story-

It wasn't meant to sound patronizing as Lindsay had seen her fair share of Jay Osbornes throughout her career. Iris' nod showed her that she understood.

Lindsay remembered Jay's words and how they made her want to punch him. "I don't have to rape anyone." She would make certain that those words came back to bite him in the ass.

The two women's unfolding stories resembled Kate's to a T. The picture they'd painted was a depressing one. Jay and Collin had their little poison ready and had sought out girls who'd seemed isolated, like Kate after the fight with her boyfriend. They'd specifically looked for female students who, they'd known, would have a difficult stance in court.

"Because society still sucks that much." Cindy had sat quietly by and listened to the familiar scenarios outlined by Iris and Carrie but hadn't been able to hold her tongue any longer.

In another situation, Lindsay would have been amused how well Cindy blended in with these college students. It wasn't a matter of age though, she admitted to herself. Few people were immune to the patented Cindy Thomas charm. She should know.

"It does as long as we sit back and accept it," Dina said cryptically. Filing that away, Lindsay was nevertheless slightly distracted by the brightness of Cindy's eyes.

Every now and then, she had wondered if Cindy's involvement in the case spoke of more than youthful idealism or simple firm beliefs. The thought always left her with a cold fear that was hard to push aside. As usual, now was not the time to delve further into these thoughts. She'd remember to later though.

"Do the names Carrie Sheldon and Iris Whitman ring a bell?"

Jay sat at the table, not yet realizing in how much trouble he really was. Lindsay had no doubt that the high-priced lawyer would bail him out, but he'd definitely spend the night in holding before that could happen. A very good prospect for her to shoot for, and Cindy's findings had just made her current position a whole lot better. She stood, leaning comfortably against the wall.

"I see you've been studying up on my dating history. Is it that interesting to you?" Jay smirked. "I'm sorry, I don't date older women."

As serious as the situation was, Lindsay could swear that Jacobi's cough was really meant to cover up a grin.

"I can see that, Jay. You don't like it when they talk back, do you? You like them best unconscious."

His lips curled into a disdainful sneer that made him not so attractive all of a sudden. "You can't prove anything."

"Why don't you let me worry about that?" She smiled back at him before pressing on. "You might have been careful about covering up your tracks, but your buddy Collin surely wasn't. He bragged about that little GHB lab of yours."

Jay paled visibly, but he won his composure back quickly. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"How many more, Jay?" Lindsay sat on the edge of the table, leaning closer into his personal space. "We found your makeshift lab. How many more girls did you drug and rape?"

"It was all Collin's idea!"

"And how convenient that he's dead now, right?"

"Hey! He was my friend!"

"So that's why you're everything on him now. I understand. Too bad GHB was found in your room." It was extremely satisfying to Lindsay to watch the arrogant Osborne finally squirm.

"Tell me, Jay. Raping young women on a regular basis, that's bound to make some people angry. Don't you ever feel like looking over your shoulder?"

"Hey! Are you threatening me? Did you hear that?" He turned to Jacobi, who shrugged, again barely concealing his amusement. "Hey, come on, is this supposed to be some kind of good cop/bad cop thing? You guys must think I'm pretty dumb."

"Trust me, you don't want to see her bad side," Jacobi murmured.

" 'The crime: Serial rape, The Verdict: Death'." Lindsay tossed the threatening note, now encased in an evidence bag, onto the table. "That didn't frighten you?"

"The GHB was Collin's. I didn't even know what it was," Jay said, emphasizing each word as if he were speaking to a child.

There was absolutely nothing attractive about him now, Lindsay thought. Good looks be damned. If he behaved like that all the time, no woman in her right mind would date him.

"Asthma meds, right?" Jacobi chimed in.

"I didn't know what they were when he gave them to me. Later, I had a suspicion. I didn't want you to take them since I knew you guys would have no qualms about ruining Collin's good name even if he was dead."

"What's to ruin?" Lindsay asked, shaking her head. Kate Hammond accusing her of the same had left its mark. Hearing it from Jay Osborne was more than a bit ridiculous. "You have no idea who sent you that message?"

He shrugged. "There are some crazy folks on campus, that's for sure."

Lindsay let the silence hang between them for a few moment, and then she finally asked, "So Carrie and Iris, they were crazy, too?"

"Ms. Kwon!"

Denise turned around at the sound of her part-time-lover's familiar voice.

"Hanson North, where've been hiding yourself? Let me get my purse and we can garb an early lunch."

"I'm afraid this isn't a social call, Denise. I'm here to discuss my client."

"Oh? Who's your client?"

"Kate Hammond."

With a sweep of her hand, the acting DA gestured the attorney toward her office. Suddenly, her appetite was gone.

A floor below, Lindsay and Jill were silently sipping coffee in the bullpen break room. Both of them aware of what was transpiring in Denise's office, they were awaiting Kate and her parents' arrival.

"God I hope this works." Jill wished it for Kate and, shamefully, she wished it for herself as well, hoping to allay the unrelenting guilt that continued to plague her.

"You and me both."

"You're completely out of your mind if you think I'm going to agree to this! And even if I do, no judge is going to buy it."

"They will if you pitch it right."

Sitting behind her desk, Denise was growing increasingly frustrated with the man across from her.

"I'm going to get laughed out of every courtroom in this building. And by the way, Hanson, how the hell did you get here so fast? The ink is barely dry on the arrest warrant."

"That's not important, Denise. The important thing is that my client is feeling remorseful. And even after everything she's been through and how she was treated by your office…" Denise tried to interrupt, but North forged ahead. "…she still wants to do the right thing and turn herself in."

"I can't offer manslaughter, and you know it. She went after Collin Morse with a gun. That's intent."

"She was traumatized, Denise. Those guys were taunting her. She didn't go there to kill him; she just wanted to scare him. I've got expert witnesses lining up to testify pro bono on her behalf. Add that to the gun powder residue found on Morse's hands…you're going to lose this one. Denise. Not only in court but in the media and public opinion. Think of what that'll do to your career."

"You people think I'm just this ruthless bitch who'll do anything to climb the ladder." Denise said shaking her head in disbelief. "I won't compromise my principles."

"You may not be ruthless, but this is me you're talking to. I know you, and I know you're ambitious, and you hate to lose. Most of all, I know you wouldn't do anything to jeopardize the DA's office. If you take this to court…well… you think it's a media circus now? Just wait."

Feeling defeated, the acting DA sighed and leaned back in her chair. She didn't want to compromise, but, furthermore, she didn't want to put her office, and admittedly herself, under more media and public scrutiny. Reluctantly and resignedly, she began to put the wheels in motion.

Behind the two-way mirror Denise watched Kate Hammond, flanked by her attorney and her parents, give Inspector Boxer her confession.

"Where did you get the gun, Kate?" Lindsay's voice was mellow and reassuring.

"Charlie got it for me. For protection." Feeling the law was on her side for the first time since the rape, Kate proceeded with confidence. "They were taunting me, Jay and Collin. Every time I would run into them on campus they would give me these looks and make lewd suggestions. I didn't feel safe anywhere. And then they sent me something." She hesitated for a moment.

"What did they send you?"

"A Valentine that said 'You will always be in our hearts forever.'" Kate's voice faltered a little, and she fought back tears. "I just lost it. I got so scared. I thought they would try to come after me again. I just wanted them to leave me alone."

"What happened then?"

"I knew Collin ran most nights, so I went to the track to confront him, to get him to back off."

"Why'd you bring the gun?"

"Like I said before, the gun was for protection. He'd already raped me once. But I also wanted to scare him."

"So you didn't go there to kill him," Lindsay added for her, but mostly for Denise's benefit.

"No. But he wasn't scared. He got even more arrogant and started calling me names and telling me things they did to me that night." Kate could no longer hold back her tears. "Then he said I didn't have the guts to shoot him, and he started daring me to do it. I was shaking, and I began to lower the gun, but he grabbed my hand and put the gun against his chest. He was laughing and telling me to pull the trigger. I tried to pull my arm away, but he was holding on too tight. The next thing I knew, the gun had gone off."

The three friends watched as the youngest member of their group walked up the few steps that led to the gaggle of reporters assembled to hear accused rapist Jay Osborne's press conference. As predicted, after spending a night in holding, he had been let out on bail. Even though a solid case had been mounted against him, Jay's bravado was unaffected.

His attorney came out fighting, describing his client's arrest as a travesty of Justice. He depicted the police department as reckless and likened their actions to a witch hunt. Jay spoke to the media next and expressed pity for Kate Hammond and sorrow at his friend's death, words that sounded hollow and insincere to Cindy. The reporter was ready with her heated question, and when Osborne's lawyer signaled the journalists that they were ready to take questions, Cindy was the first to speak up.

"Cindy Thomas, San Francisco Register. Mr. Osborne, how do you respond to the campus rumors that other girls are now coming forward to accuse you and Collin Morse of rape?"

The question was all the other members of the press needed jumped on Cindy's information and started firing follow-up questions at Jay. The latter was dumbstruck, his attorney answered for him.

"We don't respond to rumors, Ms. Thomas."

Cindy hadn't expected that they would, but her question had had the desired effect. The information was out there for everyone now.

His back was to him, but the young man could still sense the arrogance displayed on Osborne's face as he stood in front of the press, like he was a victim of injustice. Charlie had heard Jay's words before; how he and his friends didn't rape Kate Hammond, how she had willingly consented to the sexual encounter, that it was just morning–after regrets on her part which had led her to fabricate the rape story, and that she should be the one being interrogated by the cops, not him, especially not on the day he was burying his best friend…

"We didn't do anything wrong!" Jay and Collin's words resounded in Charlie's head. He knew all the rumors around campus. Collin and Jay had reputations, and the longer Charlie listened to Jay speak to the media, the angrier he got. Tightening his grip on the metal in his hand, he slowly moved away from the column he'd taken cover behind and darted towards Jay. As if his body had been taken over by a foreign avenging force, Charlie drew his weapon forward and started firing indiscriminately in Jay Osborn's direction.

"You raped her, you son of a bitch!!!" Charlie's words rang out over the crowd, accompanied by the repeated sounds of bullets escaping his handgun.

Amidst the cries and screams coming from people scurrying for safety, Lindsay started climbing the steps two at a time, reached Charlie, and body-slammed him to the ground. She wrestled the gun out of his hand, and when Jacobi joined her, together, they restrained and cuffed him.

Lindsay's attention was quickly drawn away from the shooter when a desperate-sounding Claire cried out for her. Her eyes immediately focused on the small frame lying on the concrete and the red liquid oozing from the young person's chest.

Screaming the reporter's name, Lindsay ran down the steps faster than she'd made it up a just few seconds before. She called for medical assistance, kneeled down beside her friend,

and took Cindy's hand in hers. With her voice cracking, Lindsay offered words of comfort.

"Cindy, honey, can you hear me? Cindy? Just hang on, ok? Help is on the way."

She looked to Claire for reassurance, but the medical examiner couldn't offer any. As she was applying pressure to Cindy's wound, her other hand was feeling an alarmingly decreasing pulse. She couldn't hide her fears from Lindsay.

Outside the Hall of Justice, the scene was chaotic. Jay Osborne, no longer the center of the media's attention, was being ushered away as reporters now scrambled to get the new breaking story to their editors and producers. On one side of the steps that led to the Hall's front doors, a little girl watched as a uniformed officer tried tirelessly to revive her father, while on the other side; a grey-haired woman was being cared for by a paramedic. An ambulance, lights flashing and siren blaring, eased away from the curb and sped away from the scene, on its way to the hospital with another unfortunate bystander.

Directly behind the vacated parking space, Lindsay, Claire and Jill looked on helplessly as Cindy's gurney was loaded into a second ambulance.

"I'm riding with her," informed Lindsay, climbing into the back and settling in beside Cindy before the EMT could protest.

"We'll meet you there," Jill shouted over the pandemonium that surrounded them.

The EMT knew there was no time to argue protocol and procedure with the determined inspector, so she silently conceded and climbed on-board the ambulance, calling out their destination to Claire and Jill, before closing the doors and giving her partner the all-clear.

Inside the ambulance, Lindsay blocked out every sound around her: the traffic, the siren, even the EMT taking Cindy's vitals signs and communicating them to the ER. She pushed Jay Osborne and Kate Hammond out of her mind. She erased Pete Raynor's name and decisions that needed to be made. There was room for only one thought in her head; a sentence that soon became her mantra, "Please, be alright. Please, be alright." The phrase played on a continuous loop the entire ride, a ride during which she held on tightly to Cindy's hand, Cindy's very cold hand, letting go only when they arrived at the hospital and the gurney was taken over by the ER staff and rolled into a restricted area. Lindsay just stood there, completely helpless, and watched through the small windows, until Cindy disappeared from view. "Please, be alright."

In the waiting room outside the OR, Lindsay leaned her shoulder against a large paned window, staring aimlessly into the darkening sky. A few feet away, Jill and Claire struggled to offer each other support.

"You know what's strange?" Jill quietly asked Claire.

"What honey?"

"I keep thinking that…. seven months ago I had no clue who Cindy Thomas was. And now…I…um…can't imagine…"

"You can't imagine not having her in your life?" Claire finished for her.

"Exactly." Jill blinked and a single tear ran down her cheek.

"I don't think that's strange." Claire went on, "It's not how long you've known someone that matters, but how much of a difference it makes having them in your life."

Jill smiled gratefully at Claire and then her smile turned into soft laughter.

"What?" Claire asked, wanting to be let in on the joke.

"I was just remembering one of the first Club meetings"

"What about it?"

"Just how she went from annoying the hell out of me to impressing me in sixty seconds. "

"Do you mean that time when she said she went to seven biker bars," Claire guessed, the corners of her mouth lifting into a slight smile.

"Yeah, she was so fearless. Or maybe she just was just too.."

Jill was interrupted by Lindsay's sharp tone as the inspector drew near where her two friends were sitting.

"What are you doing?!" Looking directly at Jill, her question came out a little harsher than she'd intended.

The attorney was startled by the sudden attack. "We're just talking about, Cindy."

"Well stop it! You're talking like she's already gone."

"Lindsay!" Claire chided. "I know you're scared. So are we, but that's no reason to take it out on us."

Lindsay sighed sadly. "You're right I'm sorry." And she truly was. In fact, the moment the words had come out of her mouth she had been. But this waiting was frustrating the hell out of her. She tried to soothe her aching head by lightly rubbing her temples with the pads of her fingers. "What is taking so damn long!? It's been hours. They should have told us something by now."

Claire stood up and squeezed her friend's arm gently. "Why don't you have a seat? I'll go see if I can find someone who'll give us an update."

Thankful at both Claire's gesture and her offer, Lindsay nodded and sat down next to Jill. She immediately turned toward her friend somewhat embarrassed by her earlier actions.

"I'm sorry I snapped at you."

"It's okay, Linz. We're all stressed out."

"No, Claire's right. That's not an excuse." Lindsay eased back in her chair and started moving her head from side to side, rubbing her neck vigorously.

"When's the last time you had a good night sleep?" Jill asked with concern.

"I sleep enough," Lindsay answered unconvincingly as she concentrated her massaging efforts on a particularly sore muscle.

"Have you heard anything else from Marty?"

"No, not a peep. Just as well as I have nothing to say to him."

"What about Pete?"

Lindsay grimaced, realizing she had yet to cancel her date with the man. "I don't wanna talk about him either."

"That's what I thought."

Lindsay sat up straighter and looked over at Jill. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"You tell me, Linz"

"I wish I could, but I have no idea what you're talking about."

"I'm talking about the way you're reacting to Cindy's shooting." Jill paused and watched as Lindsay regarded her as if she'd suddenly sprouted antennas and had turned green, but before the inspector could say anything, she continued her train of thought. "The last time I saw you this worried was about four years ago when we were all waiting to hear if Tom was one of the cops injured in that Meth Lab explosion."

"Okay, yeah I'm worried. Cindy's my friend, and I'm scared for her. Just like I would be for you or Claire," Lindsay conceded, hoping it would put a stop to their conversation. Unfortunately for her, Jill had more to share.

"See, I think it's more than that. I think you're scared for you."

"You know what, Jill? You might as well be speaking Japanese, 'cause I don't understand a word you're saying."

"I'm saying I think your feelings for Cindy go deeper than friendship."

Lindsay's expression grew even more puzzled, "What, you mean like sisterly?"

Jill didn't answer, and the two women kept looking at each other until, finally, Lindsay seemed to put two and two together. "Oh my God," she shouted and then lowered her voice when a couple of people, sitting across from them, frowned in her direction. "Are you saying I have…romantic feelings for Cindy?"

Jill shrugged, "Well… yeah."

"Okay," Lindsay scoffed. "We need to get you to the psych ward 'cause you've gone insane."

"Fine! But before you get nurse Ratched and get me committed, do me a favor? "

Lindsay reluctantly agreed. "Okay, what?"

"Be a cop. Look at the evidence and think about it."

If possible, Lindsay's frown deepened as she contemplated Jill's suggestion. What evidence? What was her friend talking about? So Pete didn't rock her world. That didn't mean anything. He just wasn't her type. She was picky; she'd told Jill that before, and so what if she'd spent a few Saturday nights with Cindy watching DVD's and talking about books. That's what friends did. Didn't they? And besides, Lindsay didn't care what Jill thought, she would react exactly the same way if it were Jill or Claire lying in the OR, fighting for their lives. Cindy was her friend. She was young, and she had her whole life ahead of her. Of course Lindsay didn't want her to die.

Right then, those two words in the same sentence – Cindy and die – sent a chill through her that froze her bones to the marrow. The thought of never seeing the reporter again, of never hearing Cindy's voice as she rambled on excuses for being where she wasn't supposed to be, twisted Lindsay's guts. The thought of never again being close enough to inhale her sweet scent (when had she noticed Cindy's scent?), of never looking into her big brown eyes as they grew bigger and darker with excitement the closer they got to breaking a case enlightened her. If Cindy left her, there would be a hole in her life that could never be filled. The evidence Jill spoke of began to mount.

The saying was true. When death loomed, you saw your life flash before your eyes; even if it wasn't your own life. From the moment she realized Cindy had been shot, the past seven months played in her mind's eye like a highlight reel. Her first meeting with the redhead, cocktails at the diner, the day of Tom's wedding, and all the times she arrived at the station to find the reporter waiting at her desk or waiting to be let out of a holding cell. The scenes had been running in her head since she'd first sprinted down the steps of the Hall.

Lindsay buried her face in her hands and exhaled audibly, "Oh God!" She felt Jill's hand gently run up and down her back, but the comforting gesture did little to soothe her.

Lindsay turned to her friend and whispered through soft sobs, "I can't lose her."

"I know," Jill offered sincerely. Cindy just had to pull through for all of their sakes.

"She's out of surgery!"

The two women turned towards the sound of Claire's voice and stood up simultaneously. They hadn't spoken another word since Lindsay's revelation of just how much she cared for Cindy.

"It went well. The doctor'll be out in a moment to tell us more," said Claire, her expression one of sheer relief.

The three friends shared a group hug, and when they pulled out of the embrace, Lindsay wiped her eyes quickly, the move not escaping Claire's notice. She looked suspiciously at both of them, but Jill smiled and winked at her, and with that, the medical examiner understood that she'd be brought up to speed momentarily.


Almost as one, the three women turned to see a forty-something year old man dressed in blue scrubs coming towards them.

"Yes," Claire extended her right hand in his direction, and the man took it.

"I'm Dr. Moreland. Your friend is going to be fine. The bullet missed her lung and lodged in the intestine. She lost a lot of blood, but I expect a full recovery. She should be up and around in about a week."

"Can we see her?" Jill asked, voicing the question each of them had.

"Not right now. She's still in recovery, and we'll move her to ICU in a little while. Anyway, she'll be out most of the night."

"You're giving her morphine," Claire concluded with a nod of her head.


"Good." Claire figured Cindy would feel the pain soon enough.

"Why don't you ladies go home? You can see her tomorrow."

"Thank you, Doctor." Claire shook his hand once again, and Jill gave him a smile. Moreland just nodded and left.

Lindsay made a mental note to ask Claire what the Doctor had said because she hadn't heard a thing after the word "fine."

As soon as she crossed the threshold of her apartment door, the exhausted, but relieved inspector was welcomed home by a very happy and eager Martha. Lindsay bent down to hug and kiss her furry companion and to tell her the good news about Cindy. When she rose back up to her full height, she noticed the blinking red light, indicating a message. She pushed the button and listened to the first of three messages –"Hey, it's Pete. I heard about your friend. I hope she's okay. I hope you're okay. Call me." The other two messages were similar, but Lindsay didn't bother listening to them. She deleted each after the first word. She knew she had to call him, just not tonight. Grabbing the leash from the hook next to the door she whistled for Martha. She really needed a good long run to clear her confusing thoughts.

The next morning, the elder club members were back at the hospital. According to the nursing staff, Cindy had had a very restful night, her vital signs were good, and she would be waking up in a few hours. Outside the ICU, looking through the Plexiglas window, the three friends stood, side by side, reminding each other of the fortunate outcome. Their contemplation was abruptly halted by the chirping of Lindsay's cell phone.


"I'm on my way," the inspector said after listening for only a few seconds. Without taking her eyes off Cindy, she informed the other women of her news. "Apparently Charlie got a lawyer and has information to share. Call me if there's any change." After receiving assurances from Claire and Jill that they would indeed call, Lindsay pulled her focus from the still form lying on the ICU bed and walked away.

"You shot the father of a two year-old girl. They had nothing to do with this, but because of you, that girl watched her Daddy die. You put two other completely innocent people in the hospital."

Charlie flinched hard, which filled Lindsay with a perverse kind of satisfaction. She'd once understood where his anger had come from, his rage about what had happened to his girlfriend and the attackers getting off free. Now, with one onlooker dead, three other people barely hanging on, and one of them being Cindy, Lindsay was not in a sympathetic mood.

She leaned closer to him, moving in for the kill. "You shot and almost killed somebody I care about." She paused dramatically. "Do you really think I need another confession from you?"

"I shot Collin," Charlie insisted stubbornly.

"No, you didn't," Lindsay opposed wearily. "Kate confessed yesterday."

"What?" He jumped up, his eyes wild. Driven too far, maybe. His thoughts centered on Kate. She, at least, hadn't harmed anyone innocent. That was what made her different from him. In the end, she'd made a choice after all. Charlie, on the other hand, had just stopped caring. "That's not right! You gonna put her in jail?"

"Kate had the courage to tell the truth. Look what you've done."

Not even Charlie's lawyer had an answer to Lindsay's truthful statement, and he wisely remained silent.

"I'm not the only one, though," Charlie continued.

"We get that. We have statements from two other women besides Kate whom Jay and Collin had drugged and raped."

"That's not what I mean. I tried to keep Kate from going to see Collin, taking the gun... because I knew someone else was going to take care of him."

Lindsay exchanged a quizzical look with Jacobi who shrugged. Even Charlie's lawyer seemed clueless, but he pounced on the opportunity. "But there's got to be something you can do for my client before he tells you," he said, giving Charlie a

pointed look to keep silent until some sort of deal had been made.

Gritting her teeth, Lindsay tried to consider her options and not slide back into the bottomless fear she'd felt earlier, Cindy's life practically bleeding away under her hands. She remembered Claire's terrified gaze. If Claire had showed it so clearly, then she had no other alternative than to feel the fear herself. Claire rarely showed such emotion when she was 'under the gun,' and that's precisely where they had been… under the gun.

Still, she had a job to do.

"Let's see if what you've got is of any worth. I can't promise you anything."

"I understand. Yes, I'm waiting for your fax." A second after Claire had hung up, she was already punching in numbers again.

Lindsay sounded tired. Neither of them had gotten any real sleep last night as evidenced by the inspector's abrupt tone. "What is it? I've got to get back to my friendly conversation with Gifford in a minute."

"This you'll want to know," Claire said, not irritated with her friend's curt answer. She'd never distract Lindsay from an interrogation unless she had something really good. This was really, really good.

"Charlie Gifford fired the gun three times."

"We know that already. It's the exact number of the people he hit." In spite of the business-like, impatient tone, her voice was catching just a little.

"CSI found four bullets. One of them did not hit anyone; it embedded itself in the concrete inches from where Osborne stood."

There was silence for a moment. "The note that was sent to Jay..."

"I was thinking of that, too. What are we gonna do about it?"

"Charlie claims he knows something about a certain group on campus, but he won't talk unless he gets a deal out of it."

"Might be worth a shot--" Claire winced at her own wording, before Lindsay cut her off.

"He shot Cindy!"

"I know that, Honey. I was there, too."

"I'm sorry. It's just, this guy knows he's a lousy shot, and he willingly risks other people getting hurt. That kills any sympathy for him pretty quickly. I want him to get what's coming to him."

"And that group, don't you want to know more about them?"

"Believe me, I do. As soon as this mess here is cleaned up, and I know Cindy's going to be okay. I mean, the doctor said..." She stumbled slightly on her words. "I'll have to see for myself, you know?"

Claire had to smile. "I know. Don't let him play you. With Cindy's contacts, I think we're good anyway. And Linz? She will be okay."

"Thank you." Lindsay hung up very quickly and stared down at the phone, Claire's words still resonating in her ears. She will be okay. They were comforting, but the thought of what a few centimeters could have meant continued to haunt her.

"Inspector Boxer!"

Lindsay lifted her head to see Denise approaching her desk. She didn't look very happy either.

"I hear Charlie Gifford might have information on a vigilante group operating on the Bay College campus. I want you to get it."

A little rattled Lindsay tried to protest. "He won't give it up without a deal and…"

"Promising a deal shouldn't be a problem for you, Inspector. We've been trying to build a case against these people for months. If he's got something that will help us, I want it." Satisfied that her orders would be carried out, the acting DA turned on her high heels and walked away.

Lindsay was more than annoyed. She suspected that Denise's request was not arbitrary and that the attorney had taken a perverse pleasure in making her feel like she was betraying Cindy. She couldn't help thinking it was some kind of retribution.

"I lost a whole day. I don't remember a thing," Cindy complained to the three relieved people standing by her bed. Her throat still hurt from having been intubated, and she was still quite groggy from the pain medication.

"You're on pain meds; you won't remember this either," a somewhat amused Claire answered.

Still able to remember a few events from the last couple of days, Cindy inquired about Kate.

"We're still waiting to hear from the judge," Jill summed up, figuring it would be pointless to go into detail if she'd only have to repeat the information again when Cindy was more coherent.

Looking down at a very weak, vulnerable-looking patient and wishing she could just stay with her through the night, Lindsay announced that it was time she took care of something she had been putting off long enough.

"You're going see Pete?" Jill deduced, just able to keep a smile under wraps.

"Yeah, I promised him an answer before he left, and his plane's taking off early tomorrow."

"What are you going to tell him?" A barely audible Cindy asked.

"That it can't work. That I'm not feeling what he's feeling and that it won't change. It just wasn't meant to be that's all." Lindsay turned her full attention to Cindy. "But before I go, are you sure you're okay? I don't wanna leave you if you're…."

"Linz, I'm fine." The redhead smiled at her. "And you're procrastinating. Besides, my mom's on her way, and I'll probably be asleep when she gets here."

"Okay then, if you're sure. I'll see you later." Lindsay squeezed Cindy's hand, looked one last time at her friends with a silent plea for luck and exited the room.

With Cindy slowly drifting off, Claire decided it was time for her to take her leave as well. She bent down and kissed Cindy's forehead, "You get some rest, I'll be back tomorrow. I love you, kiddo."

"Love you, too," Cindy said, stifling a yawn.

After Claire departed, Jill moved closer to Cindy's bed, "Would you mind if I stayed until your mom gets here? Or you fall asleep, whichever comes first?"

"Thanks, I'd like that."

Jill sat down on the edge of the bed. Though they'd managed to resolve their differences and had worked together to bring a rapist to justice, plus bring peace of mind for Kate Hammond, both women wanted reassurance that their friendship hadn't suffered long term damage.

"I'm sorry I implied you didn't do your job," Cindy told Jill, meaning every word of her apology.

"Don't worry about it." Jill shifted on the bed. "And I was wrong to take my frustration out on you."

"It's okay, water under the bridge." Cindy offered a slight smile to emphasize her words.

"So we're good?"

"Totally." This time Cindy couldn't keep from yawning. Jill just smiled at her and waited. A few seconds later, the reporter was out like a light.

After Cindy's mom had arrived, Jill made herself scarce and headed back to the Hall, having every intention of going over some neglected files. Once she was sitting at her desk, however, all she could do was stare at the pages and try to connect the words into coherent sentences. The past few days had taken a toll on her. Between almost losing a friend and being reminded of her failure with Kate Hammond, she'd become emotionally drained. She would have been better off at home. She could have gone to bed and forgotten all about the last week under the weight of her comforter. She would also have avoided her boss. She didn't hear Denise knock, but she looked up, startled, at the sound of her name.


"Jesus, Denise! Scare a person why don't you?"

"I'm going to need the Waldman deposition by noon tomorrow."

"You'll have it."

Denise stood in the doorway, looking like she had more on her mind than trial preparation. Jill opened her mouth to say something, but her boss spoke first.

"How's Thomas?"

"She's going to pull through. She was very lucky."

"Good to know. You're very lucky to have such close friends."

Jill smiled in silent agreement.

"It's going to be very helpful when you're out of a job." Denise folded her arms across her chest and actually smiled.

"What!?" Jill got whiplash from the sudden change in topic.

"Orchestrating the way this whole case went down."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"You don't?"

Jill shook her head.

"You have no idea how Hanson North found out that Kate Hammond was going to confess or how he was able to get a judge to assign him the case? Or how he and Ms. Hammond just happened to know about the gunpowder residue on Morse's hand when I'd just found 10 minutes before she turned herself in?" Jill attempted to cut in, but Denise pressed on. "If you no longer have any regard for the DA's office and would like to go work for the other side that can be easily arranged."

"I have no such desire, Denise, and you know it. I did nothing wrong."

"Well, I guess that's a matter of opinion because I think tipping off a murder suspect is grounds for suspension, at the very least." Denise shook her head, and Jill recognized the disdain in her eyes but, also, perhaps, a hint of disappointment. "You and your conspiring coven think you're above regulations and procedures."

Jill couldn't find words to refute Denise's accusation, not that there were any to be found. She knew she and her friends had been walking a fine line, and she also knew Denise would eventually figure out what they'd done. She'd just hoped it wouldn't be this quickly.

"Come on, Denise! Do you really think that girl deserved to spend the next 25 years of her life in prison? She'll be punished. Her record is going to follow her for the rest of her life."

"You know very well that's not the point! It's about the law, and the evidence we have. It's not about how we feel. It's never about how we feel."

"Isn't it?" Jill questioned "We didn't prosecute Morse and Osborne because we didn't feel we could win the case. Don't tell me it's just about the law! And what about the deal you got Charlie Gifford? Do you really expect me to believe you only did it to get information on an on-going investigation and that it had nothing to do with wanting to get back at me?"

"Why would I want to get back at you? You did nothing wrong." Denise's sarcasm was cutting. "The rules exist for a reason. You can't just ignore them when it suits your purpose. This is your second warning, Jill. If you ever pull something like this again you'll be lucky if you can find a job rubber-stamping marriage licenses."

"You can't do that!" Jill protested.

"I assure I can. You work for me remember?"

"I work for the people of California."

Angrier than she'd been when she'd first arrived, Denise turned away and stepped out of Jill's office. "Thin ice, Bernhardt!" She walked off with her parting words hanging in the air.

Jill leaned back in her chair and rubbed her neck. She would have been better off going straight home from the hospital. She didn't want to lose her job, she loved it. But she also had no regrets about the decisions she'd made. She knew she could sleep well and with a clear conscience. With a clear conscience anyway. She didn't know how well she could sleep on a park bench.

Spotting her cell phone on her desk, she picked it up and hit speed-dial 1.

"Hey," her voice was low. "How did it go? Band-Aid off?" She received an affirmative answer from the other end. "Could you use a drink?....I'll be right over. Oh and Linz? While I'm there, we can think of the best way for you to ask Cindy out."

Before Lindsay could respond, Jill had ended the call.

Lindsay quietly entered Cindy's hospital room, slowly picked up one of the chairs, and moved it closer to the bed. Looking at Cindy's still form, she was reminded that she'd been doing too much of that lately; seeing the redhead's lifeless body and being helpless to do anything. First, on the steps of the Hall of Justice, and second, in the ICU where her friend had been hooked up to all kinds of machines and monitors. It had been one hell of a week.

But now, watching Cindy sleep and seeing her breathe with a little more ease than the night before, Lindsay was tempted into closing her eyes and being rocked into slumber by the soothing sound of Cindy's respirations.

"Sleeping on the job?"

"Hey there, Pancake, I hope I didn't wake you?"

Cindy chuckled at the use of her newly earned nickname. "Ha, these days it's more like Swiss cheese. And I wasn't really sleeping, kinda pretending." She winced, although she was on pain medication, laughing still hurt. She tried hard not to show it but, Lindsay saw the discomfort in her eyes and grimaced. Cindy tried to lighten the situation.

"Too soon for Swiss cheese and colander jokes?"

"Maybe give it another week?" Lindsay suggested. "And why were you pretending to sleep?"

"I wanted my mother to go to my apartment. Get some rest herself."

"She stayed here all night?" Lindsay assumed.

"Yes. Plus she's been driving me crazy about going home with her while I recoup. I told her I would be fine here." Cindy fidgeted a little bit, trying to get comfortable, while wrapped in less than…well whatever the lower thread count was for the sheets the hospital offered.

"Listen, if you want, I'll talk to her. Make sure she knows there're plenty of people around here who will be very happy to volunteer their medical assistance."

"People?" Cindy queried.

"Yeah, the entire Washburn clan for one, and Jill.


Lindsay swore she heard disappointment in Cindy's response. So, she added another name to the list of "people" who would extend their services. "And …you know…me."

"You? What about work?"

"I could easily take off work a couple of days. I don't know how many I've got saved up, but I'm sure it's a lot."

"You would do that for me?" Cindy was touched by Lindsay's admission but gratitude was not all she was feeling.

"Of course," Lindsay said honestly. I think I would do just about anything for you, she thought to herself.

After a few awkward seconds of silence, Cindy decided to veer off into safer, more familiar territory. "So Linz, did you find anything out about that note from Jay's things?"

Lindsay just shook her head and laughed. Even in a drug-induced state, Cindy could not turn off her inquiring mind.

"Yes. We got some information. Charlie knew about the group. He tried to enlist, but they rejected him. They call themselves Licentia Alecto.

Lindsay noticed the excitement in Cindy's eyes. "Oh wow, Alecto that's a creature from Greek mythology whose role was to punish moral crimes and…and Licentia, if I remember my Latin, it can mean license. Oh my God! These people are giving themselves license to punish. If you get me my laptop, I can do research on them…"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa hold on there. You are not getting your laptop."

"But I can help…." Cindy tried to protest, but Lindsay was firm.

"You just had major surgery and aren't in any shape to do anything but rest. And don't worry the case is not going anywhere. There will be plenty of time for research."

Cindy sighed and unwillingly agreed. She could not be more eager to get back to her life.

She continued her struggle to get comfortable in the hospital bed, pulling at the sheets and blankets too far one way, then too far the other. She squirmed and tugged at her hospital nightgown letting out tiny breaths of exasperation.

Lindsay would have let the amusing display go on longer if she hadn't known that those kinds of movements would potentially be painful to someone recovering from surgery.

"Need a hand there, Thomas?"

"It's this damned hospital gown. Keeps bunching up and these sheets are itchy and my pillow is too hot…and …yes, please." Cindy finally said. "My mom is gonna bring me adequate sleepwear and my own pillow when she comes back this afternoon, but right now it's this or nothing."

Lindsay stood up and moved to Cindy's side. She pulled down the blankets and the sheets so she could first straighten the gown. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she reached for the lumpy-looking pillow. "I'm going to flip your pillow; it'll be cooler. Do you think you can sit up?"

Cindy tried but had no luck. Lindsay moved a little closer, leaned over, and gently slipped her arm around the younger woman's back. With Lindsay's assistance, Cindy was able to sit up a little more easily, and as a direct result of the hospital gown not being tied properly, most of Cindy's back had been exposed. Lindsay's hand stilled on warm, soft skin and felt a quiver underneath her palm.

"I'm sorry; my hand is cold."

"No, it's fine." Cindy's voice was a low whisper.

"Just lean on me while I fix your pillow."

Cindy's weakened body rested on Lindsay's, her head falling on her friend's shoulder. Cindy wrapped one arm around Lindsay's waist for leverage, and Lindsay could feel Cindy's hot breath on her neck. She swallowed hard, mentally kicking herself for being so obvious. Through the flimsy fabric of the hospital gown, Lindsay could feel all of Cindy pressing against her. She could also feel the bandage covering her wound, but chose not to dwell on that fact, focusing instead on the strong heartbeat behind it.

With her free hand, Lindsay flipped the pillow over and hit it a couple of times. Her hand then joined the other on Cindy's back as the reporter's grip around Lindsay tightened.

"I'm just going to close the back of your gown a little. Okay?"

"K," said Cindy so softly Lindsay barely heard the response.

She reached for the strings on either side of the opening, her fingers skimming along Cindy's spine producing another shiver. With shaky hands, Lindsay loosely tied the small cords. "Okay, that should do it." Her words came out much huskier than she'd intended.

Cindy finally loosened her hold, and with one hand still on Cindy's back and the other on her upper arm, Lindsay eased the other woman down on her bed, their cheeks grazing each other when Cindy lifted her head from Lindsay shoulder. Both women swallowed audibly, and their eyes locked for a few seconds as Lindsay eased Cindy closer to the mattress. Once the reporter was fully supine, Lindsay slowly extricated her hand from under her friend. Standing, she pulled the covers up over Cindy.

"There you go. Is that better?"

"Much. Thank you."

But something had happened. Both women were fully aware of it, but neither one of them knew what to do about it. A part of Lindsay speculated that the medicine might have had an influence on Cindy's reaction. A part of Cindy thought Lindsay might be feeling sorry for her and that she shouldn't interpret what she'd seen in the inspector as more than concern. Still something had definitely happened.

Wanting to break the palpable silence that had taken up residence in the room, Cindy inquired about Lindsay's night.

"So, um…" she cleared her throat. "How did it go with Pete?"

"It went. Right now he's probably somewhere over the Pacific."

"I'm sorry." Cindy sounded less than sincere.

"You are?"

"I mean. I'm sorry you had to go through that. Breaking up is never fun. Even if you haven't been dating a long time."

"It was nothing compared to what I've been through this week."

They smiled knowingly at each other. Then once again, Cindy felt fatigue sneaking up on her and hid a yawn with the back of her hand.

"You should try to close your eyes for a while," Lindsay suggested, watching as weary eyelids began to droop.

"I think I will." The words had barely left Cindy's lips when sleep overtook her body. Lindsay watched her drift off and felt the urge to join the young woman in Dreamland. She would be here when the reporter woke up, and eventually, they would talk.

And this would be one talk she actually looked forward to having.

The End

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