DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. No infringement intended.
SERIES: Second in a series of six loosely related WMC stories.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SEQUEL: To Charge of the Lite Brigade

Hang Fire
By Liz Estrada


Despite their high hopes and expectations, the courtship of Lindsay Boxer and Cindy Thomas wasn't exactly going great guns. The facts were these: their ersatz first date amounted to two kisses in the personal care section of a Costco (one meh and one whoa), and a frustratingly fruitless search for a sexy hat, after which Lindsay was called back to the Hall to tie off a few loose ends on the Margot Dillard case and Cindy went home to start drafting her story.

A promising second date was cut short when an on-call Inspector Boxer rushed from the restaurant – a funky Caribbean joint called Susie's - to the scene of a gruesome murder-suicide, with an intrepid journalist close on her heels. After viewing the carnage wrought by an angry hop head and his trusty twelve-gauge, neither had much of an appetite for jerk chicken and margaritas, so raincheck number two was issued.

By the time they had arranged a third date, it was safe to say both were hoping for better than a cabaret act starring one of Cindy's shockingly untalented Register colleagues. And yet…

"I am soooo sorry for subjecting you to that," Cindy said, for perhaps the ninth time since they reached the privacy of Lindsay's getaway car.

"It's not your fault," Lindsay reassured her, for perhaps the tenth time. "Quit apologizing, already."

"I was misled. I was told she sounded like Diana Krall."

"Diana Krall's pet parrot, maybe," Lindsay snarked. "This is an ex-parrot…"

"Misled!" Cindy insisted. "You get an actual night off and you look so incredible with the dress and the legs and the hair… and I take you to see Diana Krall's parrot."

"You were misled," Lindsay reminded her. "You really like the dress?"

"Are you kidding me? The dress is insanely hot. You look like you should be ruling Monaco. Or at least arresting people in some comparably glamorous principality."

Lindsay beamed proudly; the dress was new. "Thank you."

"You're quite welcome. I'm just sorry I wasted it."

"Jeez. Shut it down, Thomas."

"Never again will I turn out to support the artistic endeavors of my co-workers. I will tell them all the unvarnished truth - they are devoid of talent and should be banned from even the lowliest karaoke bar," the reporter cruelly proclaimed. "I am become Simon Cowell, destroyer of dreams."

"That was just awful. You are the worst parrot I have ever heard," Lindsay snitted, creepily Simon-like. "Paula, wake up. Give the pretty bird some oxy."

Cindy's mouth twitched upward, then she caught herself and shook her head. She wasn't quite ready to let herself off the hook. "I don't understand. Everyone said that Kyla was, like, this captivating torch singer. Were they all lying?"

"Maybe they misspoke," Lindsay gamely suggested. "Was the word torch used in conjunction with the word pitchfork?"

In spite of herself, Cindy finally cracked a smile. "You're determined to make me feel better about this, aren't you? Despite the total ruination of our first for real date-date."

"Look, all I know is that, for the last three hours, I haven't had a single thought about open cases or dead bodies or psycho killers who want to sew my trap shut. For me, that's just shy of a miracle," Lindsay admitted. "I'm having a good time, and it has nothing to do with some lame-ass lounge singer."

On hearing those words, Cindy felt her humiliation kindly slip into remission. She angled herself into the corner where car seat met door, leaned her head back against the window, and took a moment to enjoy one of the finer views San Francisco had to offer: the slow, repeated reveal of Lindsay's profile by the strobing gold of passing streetlights.

Lindsay felt the concentrated attention as an almost physical pressure on her skin. She let it go for several seconds before cutting her eyes sideways and self-consciously asking, "Something wrong?"

"Not a thing." Cindy's voice was more relaxed now, almost dreamy. "Ten-thirty o'clock and all's well."

"But you're staring at me."

"Yes, I know. I can do that now and, when you catch me, I don't need excuses like 'Oh! Lindsay, there's another brine fly in your hair!' or whatever," Cindy blithely confessed. "It's such a load off. There was no way I could stop looking, but I was running out of scapegoat insects."

Lindsay ducked her head slightly; if she blushed, the intermittent darkness kept her secret. "And here I was, blaming my shampoo."

"Mmh." Cindy propped her elbow against the door, cupped her face in her palm. For once, she was content to let someone else have the last actual word, to just sit back and appreciate the astounding felicity of her situation: First night cut short, second date never even got started, third was a total bust… and it still feels good. Nobody's giving up, Cindy happily realized. She wants this to work as much as I do.

Soon they were parked outside Lindsay's building, and both women spent a few nervous moments trying to find the best way to ask Cindy in for a drink.

"I'm not really tired. Like, at all," the reporter piped up, taking the initiative. "Would it be okay if I came in for a while?"

Thankful to have that out of the way, Lindsay simply said, "Sure."

After getting sweet Martha settled down with a Dent-a-Bone, Lindsay turned on a few low lights, put some Eva Cassidy on the stereo to balm her sore eardrums, and offered her guest a drink. "I've got water, soda, juice, beer. Some white wine. New bottle of Maker's Mark. What's your pleasure?"

Loitering near the kitchen, Cindy weighed her options and considered what each of them meant. She cocked her head to the side. "I guess that depends."

"On what?"

"Uhh… will I be driving home… tonight?"

Lindsay blinked a few times. Took in the ruddy color of Cindy's cheeks, teeth pinching her bottom lip, the partial retreat of a tilted shoulder. She knew the girl was putting herself on the line, knew the kind of courage it took just to ask that question.

"No." Lindsay smiled and shook her head. "Don't plan on it."

Cindy smiled back, stuttered out a sigh, and clapped her hands together. "Okay, then. Let's crack the wax on that Kentucky nerve tonic."

"My dad's still in Dallas," Lindsay was saying. She swirled her bourbon, took a judicious sip. Sank a little further into the quicksand couch. "And I have a younger sister, Cat, out in Half Moon Bay."

Curled into an egg posture at the opposite end of the sofa, Cindy jotted these new facts into her mental notebook and added a follow-up question. "Are you guys close?"

Lindsay's mouth skewed sideways, her eyes narrowed. "With Cat and me, a little goes a long way. My father and I talk mostly on birthdays and at Christmas." She waited a beat or three, then said, "I haven't been home in a couple of years."

"Since the divorce," Cindy carefully added.

After a moment of marveling once again at how quickly the younger woman intuited things, Lindsay affirmed her guess. "Dad really liked Tom. When he left me… well, I didn't get a lot of sympathy, let's put it that way."

"Your own father pinned the whole thing on you?"

"Well, it was mostly my fault," Lindsay said, shrugging. "Truth be told, I checked out on Tom a long time before he filed those papers."

"You had a lot on your plate back then," Cindy argued.

"Still do," Lindsay stated. She didn't need to say more; Kiss-Me-Not was active again and actively taunting law enforcement, Inspector Boxer in particular. They both knew it, and had agreed to avoid endless parsing of the subject until the FBI's investigation actually turned up something new – then all bets were off.

"My job is my life is my job," Lindsay gloomily sing-songed. "It's become my routine, my pattern. It's comfortable."

"If the routine is so comfortable, then why are you looking to break it?" Cindy asked, obviously referring to the presence of a young, attractive, single redhead - shoeless and drinking hard liquor - on Lindsay's couch on a Friday night.

Instead of answering Because I'm lonely or Because my marriage is finally over, or even Because you're so friggin' adorable and I feel better when I'm with you, Lindsay just looked at her. Looked at Cindy and smiled in a heartbreaking, winsome way that said You already know why, smartass. Now please don't make me talk anymore.

Undoubtedly, Cindy Thomas wanted a specific answer – curiosity was one of her defining characteristics. Since her first spoken "Why?" at the age of eleven months, she had wanted to know everything about everything, and that generalized, all-encompassing inquisitiveness was currently narrowed to a fine beam and focused on Lindsay. She was, however, perceptive enough to realize that The Book of Boxer was neither a reference manual nor a paperback beach read; there were shorthand clues scribbled in margins, bouquets of sub-rosa secrets preserved between the pages, and sniffing them out would take time.

Cindy quickly roughed out an investigation plan: set her drink aside, crawl down the couch, kiss Lindsay until around six Monday morning. Perhaps, somewhere in the intervening fifty-odd hours, the reclusive author might help her interpret a few more passages. Sadly, Cindy had only completed the first stage when her stratagem was foiled by a sudden, insistent knock at Lindsay's door.

"Oh, hooray," she sneered. "Our mandatory interruption has arrived."

Lindsay's head fell back against the sofa. "It's okay. I'm a cop. I'll just shoot 'em and be right back." She parked her drink, rousted herself and stomped toward the door. "Might want to cover your ears."

Cindy snickered, but couldn't shake the feeling that another evening - another chance to nudge this fledgling flirtation out of the nest - was slipping away.

Lindsay checked the door viewer and was puzzled to see her partner, Warren Jacobi, standing in the hallway. He had a phone pressed to his ear and was nervously rubbing the back of his neck. She hurriedly threw open the door and he turned to her, held up a finger as a request for patience.

"Ask them not to remove anything from the scene," Jacobi said to whoever was on the line. "I know this isn't our case, just - as a favor – please, let us have a look. Thank you. We're on the way."

Lindsay didn't bother hiding her confusion or her irritation. "What the hell's going on?"

"Oh, nothing much," Jacobi lied, utterly failing to sound casual. "About an hour ago, Jeff Truett broke into a Pacific Heights townhouse and the tenant stabbed him thirteen times in the head and chest. Our friend Jeffrey is severely and sincerely dead."

In the space of a breath, Inspector Boxer's world changed. Her jaw flexed and firmed; her eyes turned to coal.

"Good," she said. "Gimme five minutes."

Lindsay left the door standing open and hurried through the apartment toward her bedroom, unzipping her dress on the way. Jacobi averted his eyes, which ricocheted around the room and eventually hit Cindy Thomas. From her position standing near the couch, Cindy had a clear view of Lindsay trading her evening wear for her de-facto work uniform (jeans and boots and a black henley) and she was distinctly not averting her eyes… at least until she realized Jacobi was glowering in her general direction.

"Hi," she said. Gave a little wave. Tried to look innocent.

He stared at her quietly for what felt like two-thousand years. Cindy swallowed hard and tried to think of him as a scary statue, like one of the stone men of Easter Island, except with a Smith & Wesson and a trenchcoat. It didn't work. His eyes were too focused, too lively; Jacobi's mind was plainly turning high RPMs. He crooked his finger, bidding her closer. To her credit, Cindy barely hesitated before stepping to a confidential distance.

"Has she been drinking?" he asked, the softness of his voice taking Cindy somewhat by surprise.

She shook her head first, then regained her ability to make words. "Not much, really. A glass of champagne with dinner, and half a bourbon," Cindy told him, pointing to the evidence on Lindsay's coffee table. "Why? What's going on?"

"The Register already has someone on scene, so are you asking as a reporter, or as her friend?"

Cindy gritted her teeth, crossed her arms. "Her friend."

Jacobi raised his chin, appraised her coolly. "Listen. You seem like a nice kid, but you're not up to this."

"Excuse me?"

He pointed at Cindy. "Ant." He jerked a thumb toward Lindsay. "Rubber tree plant."

Indignant, confused, and without any real standing to refute his allegation, Cindy only managed a sullen snort.

"Call Claire or Jill," Jacobi advised. "Tell them that Jeff Truett got himself killed tonight."

At the sound of bootheels on hardwood, Jacobi turned away and made for the exit. "I'll be in the car," he called back towards Lindsay.

"Right there," she replied, slipping on her jacket, badge and gun. Out of the bedroom and ready to go in three minutes, not five. She stepped to Cindy, put her hands on the girl's shoulders. "I know I'm saying this a lot, but - "

"We'll pick this up later?" Cindy guessed.

"Yeah. You can stay, if you want, but I don't know how long this'll take. Either way, lock the door behind me," Lindsay breathlessly instructed, brandishing a dark brass Medeco deadbolt key.

"Sure, o - "

Then, without preamble or warning, Lindsay swooped in and kissed her, hard and fast and square on the mouth. "My turn to be sorry," she whispered. And then she turned away and fled the premises, barely slowing as she slapped the key down on the hall table.

Cindy closed her eyes, touched a finger to her lightly scorched lips. Now there's someone who knows how to apologize. She battened down the front hatch and returned to the couch for a hearty belt of Maker's, then whipped out her cell and dialed information. While the phone rang, she turned to the other lady in Lindsay's life and asked, "Is it always like this?"

Martha met Cindy's eyes, whined only once, and resumed chewing her treat.

"I thought so," Cindy agreed. At last, her call was answered. "Hey, I'm sorry to bother you so late, but I've got a question - who the frak is Jeff Truett and why does Lindsay care so much that he's dead?"

The cliques of uniformed officers loosely arrayed (and lackadaisically searching through the shrubbery) in front of Jeff Truett's final crime scene picked up the chatter, pointed and nodded as Inspectors Boxer and Jacobi made the scene.

"… deserved it. He should have been put down years ago…"

"… wouldn't have blamed her if she'd…"

"… I.A. screwed it all up when they started…"

Lindsay tried to shut out their voices, tried to stay focused. Jacobi moved in a little closer, angled in front of her to part the crowds as they mounted the front steps. "This is called 'following your blocker,'" he explained, teasing Lindsay again about her astonishing lack of football savvy.

"Block all you want. I'm still not pattin' you on the butt," Lindsay retorted.

Jacobi managed a thin grin as he kicked up the pace, cutting through clumps of law enforcement personnel until they were at the door of Unit 801. The townhouse layout was standard, with a kitchen to the right of the entrance, a short walk into the living room, then bedrooms to the left and right. The thing that really made this cookie cutter house a home was the presence of Jeff Truett's perforated corpse on the living room carpet. Jacobi peeled off to speak to Lee and Grover, the Inspectors in charge, while Lindsay drifted helplessly toward the body. She needed to see for herself.

White male, thirty-eight years old, Lindsay thought, all the vitals welling up from memory. Six-two, two-forty. Spiky bleached blonde hair. Extensive tattoos. Violent, usually armed. Connected. Smart. Slick… just not quite slick enough this time, huh?

Lindsay logged numerous defensive slashes on his hands and forearms, then tracked the deep stab wounds running from Truett's muscled chest to his once handsome face, now masked in drying blood. The murder weapon, a bone-handled hunting knife, still protruded from Truett's neck. Lindsay squatted down for a closer look and - in a rather bittersweet moment of surprise - she recognized the grip material, the gold-etched serial numbers on the hilt head.

She straightened up as Jacobi appeared beside her. "Ding-dong, the snitch is dead," he chanted.

"Mmm-hmm," she placidly agreed. "You know, I thought I'd be happier."

"Happy might be aiming too high," Jacobi allowed. "I was hoping that seeing him might provide a little peace of mind. One less loony with a grudge against my partner."

Lindsay turned to him and nodded just once, a taciturn sign of gratitude. "Thanks, Warren."

He quietly returned the gesture. "Anytime. Lee and Grover are in the bedroom talking with the killer. Would you care to meet him?"

"I would, indeed," Lindsay confirmed. As Jacobi again stepped up to lead the way, she inconspicuously smacked him on the butt. He glanced back at her, and they traded smirks.

"Knew you couldn't resist the lure of my righteous onion."

"Righteous what?" Lindsay sniggered. "Who even says that?"

"Don't hate," Jacobi warned her, "Just 'cuz you lack enough onion to make a decent Gibson…"

That earned him a harder smack, and convinced him that it wasn't wise to tease his partner about her produce, even in the interest of lightening her mood.

After a very brief phone conversation, Jill was at the door of Lindsay's place within fifteen minutes. Cindy let her in, and they stood in the entryway for several seconds, acclimating to their relative positions.

"So," Jill opened as she shucked her coat, revealing hotsy-totsy, singles-bar-level evening wear. "Third date, huh?"

"Yeah. But not really. More like a first," Cindy explained, bobbling it just a touch. "Something always happens, some interruption. Actually, they've all been work-related."

Jill nodded for a while, gave her eyebrows a workout as she mulled over what she was about to say. "It's always going to be like that. I mean, you're both professionals; work takes precedence over dating. Although, you know, at this point… it's still not too late."


"Going back. To just being friends," Jill clarified. She walked past Cindy into the living room, called back airily: "I mean, you haven't slept with her yet, right?"

Cindy was frozen, a little stunned, and already regretting that she hadn't called Claire instead. Each choice had drawbacks: Claire had a husband and two kids at home, and couldn't jet out the door as easily as footloose Jill… who had just been dumped by her boyfriend and would probably be consoling herself by wrecking Lindsay's bed this weekend if Cindy hadn't darted into the picture.

Stupid move, Gidget, she chided herself. But don't let her swamp you. Stand up and ride the waves.

"What kind of roundheeled tramp do you take me for?" Cindy replied, trying to sound like someone mean and cool. Tallulah Bankhead, maybe. "I could have held out for at least another twenty minutes."

Jill spun around and perched her hands on her hips; her mouth was so wide open that Cindy half expected her jaw to unhinge. She imagined the slinky little blonde D.A. might rear up and strike, swallowing her rival whole like some couture-scaled python. Cindy's relief was enormous when instead, Jill started laughing.

"Such fortitude," the attorney praised, giving a little golf clap of applause. She retreated to the couch, plopped down and finished Lindsay's bourbon in one gulp, which prompted a violent shudder. "Och. How can she drink that stuff? It's like licking a burning oak tree."

Cindy followed soon after, perched on the edge of an adjacent chair, and waited for the other woman to get her bearings.

Jill shut her eyes, pushed the heel of her hand against her forehead. "God, I am such an asshole. Sorry. I'm sorry."

"It's an adjustment," Cindy said, shrugging charitably.

Jill shook her head. "This shouldn't be about me. I love Lindsay. I want her to be happy. And I actually like you!" She threw up her hands, waved them in jittery frustration. "Gaah! I don't know why this bothers me!"

"Maybe because if she started dating some nice guy - instead of some fantastically awesome chick – it wouldn't reflect negatively on you. You wouldn't feel rejected."

"Fortitude and insight," Jill sniffed, adding a professional grade eyeroll. "And modesty. I knew there was a reason I campaigned for you."

"Thank you for your support." Cindy grinned and leaned back in her chair, relaxing somewhat. "Remember to vote early and often."

"Aaaand now that we've rinsed away the soap…" Jill sighed, kicked off her pumps and eased her feet onto the coffee table. "Jeff Truett?"

"Jeff Truett."


"Murdered. Stabbed many times, said Jacobi."

Jill's face stretched into a cold smile. "Well. Better late than never."

"He just went crazy!" Jeff Truett's killer said, recounting his story for the new audience of Boxer and Jacobi.

The man in question, a twitchy twenty-five year old beanpole with the unfortunate name of Hickam Gorshin, claimed that he was staying in the townhouse while his grandmother took a South Pacific cruise, and that he met Jeff Truett while trying to privately sell a handgun from his family's extensive collection – something Mr. Gorshin apparently didn't know was illegal in California.

"I told Jeff three hundred was a joke!" he continued, clutching an ice pack to a shallow cut on his scalp. "That pistol was worth at least a grand!"

"Then Truett tried to forcibly take the gun from you?" Lindsay asked.

"Yes! He threw three bills on the table and started to leave. I grabbed at him and when I didn't let go, he started hitting me with the pistol. I didn't have a choice! He was gonna kill me!"

"See, Boxer?" Inspector Lee interjected. "Open and shut case."

"All wrapped up in a pretty bow," added Grover. "Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy."

"You said that, during the struggle, the pistol went out that open window," Lindsay persisted, still addressing Gorshin, who nodded. "Any luck finding it?" she asked her colleagues.

Grover said without conviction, "The search continues."

Lindsay understood that no one else cared about the truth of Jeff Truett's murder – and she couldn't explain why she cared – but she couldn't stop chasing the idea that this tweaky little stab-happy creep was totally full of crap. His story, convenient as it was, made absolutely no sense at the first, and less as the questions mounted.

"What kind of gun were you selling, Mr. Gorshin?"

"A Colt Python, .357 Magnum," he answered. "Stainless finish, four-inch barrel. Real cherry, too."

"You really know your guns," she said, looking impressed.

"My dad was a collector," Gorshin proudly revealed. "He taught me everything there is to know about firearms. I'm just selling off a few to pay for tuition at San Fran State."

"Hey, I went there!" Lindsay smiled in what she hoped was a disarming way. "Go Hawks!"

He blinked a little. "Yeah. Go Hawks."

"So, Hickam - did your father teach you the difference between a pistol and a revolver?"

Gorshin squinted at her, giggled a little. "Yeah, of course."

"And what kind of gun is the Colt our officers are so diligently searching for?"

He hesitated, opened and shut his mouth a few times. "A revolver."

She suddenly zigged in a new direction, hoping to drag the strung-out fool along with her. "Where's your grandmother, Hickam?"

He gaped at her briefly. "I told you. She's on a cruise."

"To where?"

He hesitated again, started scratching his forearms. Tried to remember the name of someplace tropical. "Curacao?"

"Sounds nice. Only that's not in the South Pacific. Curacao's on the other side of the world, Hickam," Lindsay informed him. "Where's your grandmother?"

"I told you already - "

"All her friends and neighbors say she hadn't mentioned any cruise to them, and she would have mentioned it to them, wouldn't she, Hickam?" Lindsay was lying, but it was legal and she felt like she was bare inches away from a nasty, hidden truth. "Where's the Kimber?" she asked, zigging once more.

Hickam went ghostly pale.

"You used it on her, didn't you? The Kimber pistol, the number match to that ivory-handled knife stuck in Jeff Truett's neck."

"I don't-I don't-I don't know…"

"Then you tried to sell it to Jeff Truett, to get some cash and get shed of a murder weapon. Maybe call SFPD later and report it as stolen."

"Why not just throw it in the bay?" Lee asked

"Shut-up," Jacobi snapped, making himself heard for the first time. Boxer was on a roll and he was in no state to suffer speedbumps.

"Because it's a five-thousand dollar gun," Lindsay informed them. "That'll buy a lot of meth, won't it, Hickam? Plus, if Truett got caught with the gun, and grandma's body turned up with a ballistics match, he'd win the murder one jackpot. Right, Hickam?"

"He deserved it," Grover said bitterly, unwittingly causing Hickam Gorshin to agree with him.

"Yeah, he did," the shaking, gaunt young man confirmed. "Jeff was a piece of shit. He thought he could come in here and lowball me, just hit me and walk out."

"He was arrogant," Lindsay said, "and ignorant. He probably had no idea what it was really worth. Why'd you throw the Colt out the window? It's a nice gun, too."

"Yeah, but… it's worth less money," he blearily explained. "Man, I was dizzy…"

"After hitting yourself in the head?" Lindsay guessed. "You didn't really mean to drop it out the window, did you?"

"Yeah. I mean, no. It's a good gun. Worth a grand, at least."

"Mmm-hmm. Now Hickam, keep in mind that in our brief acquaintance, I've already caught you lying to me four times," Lindsay said, waving four fingers in front of Gorshin's pinwheeling eyes. "Tell me where you hid the Kimber."

"Under the toilet in a plastic bag," Gorshin muttered, near automatically. "Three-hundred dollars. Jeff tried to take it for three bills…"

"Yeah, we get it," Lindsay interrupted. "Now, for god's sake, Hickam, where is your grandmother?"

"In the storage room under the house. Taped up in a big green Rubbermaid bin full of cat litter," Gorshin said matter of factly. "She wouldn't help me, wouldn't let me stay here. I needed somewhere to stay, and she wouldn't let me stay here."

"She wouldn't let you sell your dad's guns."

"No! I don't know why. It's not like she was using them." He gave Lindsay a crooked, half-crazy smile. "You know a lot about guns."

"My daddy taught me, too," Lindsay admitted… and there it was again. That faint stinging sensation she felt after recognizing the murder weapon. It almost made her want to cry; she needed some fresh air and a little privacy, fast. "By the way, it's the Gators, not the Hawks," she said, and turned heel to bolt for the exit.

The rapid turn of events had left Inspectors Lee and Grover nearly catatonic. Warren Jacobi, however, had a few words to share.

"Open and shut case. All wrapped up in a pretty bow," he intoned nastily. "You can probably handle it from here."

"Why did Boxer do that?" Grover demanded. "Truett put her through the mill. He didn't deserve the effort."

"She didn't do it for him, dumbass," Jacobi grumbled as he set off to find his partner.

"Truett was everybody's confidential informant," Jill was explaining, after having helped herself to a bottle of Anchor Steam and a tin of mixed nuts, just to keep her energy up as she related the sorry tale to a rapt Cindy. "He had dirt on everyone from the Triads to the gang bangers to some low-level domestic terrorist cell in Oakland."

"Wait. There are terrorists in Oakland?" Cindy helplessly inquired.

Jill pretended to ignore her. "Every time he got arrested, someone sprung him before he even made booking. Then, a couple of years ago, Truett was Lindsay's lead suspect in a double murder. She dogged him for weeks, piled up evidence… it looked like the case was really coming together. And then, it all went away."

"What all went away?"

"The physical evidence vanished, along with any backing from the department brass. Lindsay was told, in no uncertain terms, to step off and leave Truett alone or face charges of harassment and misconduct. But, Boxer being Boxer - "

Cindy nodded, certain she knew Lindsay well enough to guess how that hands-off edict went over. "She kept pushing."

"Double time. Until the night she was leaving the Hall parking garage and Truett blindsided her. He had a knife. He dragged her into a darkened corner, threatened to cut her up… to rape her… Then he took her service weapon and threw it under a car. Tossed away his knife. He backed away and told Lindsay that if she wanted him so bad, she should come and get him."

Jill took another breather, sipped her beer and shook the tinned nuts around, trying to settle out the peanuts. It took all of Cindy's vaunted fortitude not to grab her by the shoulders and shake out the rest of the story.

"By that point, I don't think she could have stopped herself," Jill picked up. "The parking garage cameras got some very incriminating footage of Inspector Boxer beating a very muscular yet unarmed man into profound unconsciousness."

"How did she manage that?" Cindy inquired. "I know Lindsay's tough, but she's not exactly built like Laila Ali."

"Lindsay's a lot stronger than she looks. Plus, she wrapped her handcuffs around her fist."


"The lady knows how to improvise," Jill said. She paused, licked the salt off her fingers and smiled, as if over some illicit secret. "Anyway. Her job – hell, her freedom - was on the line and, although it killed her soul, she had to stay away from Jeff Truett."

Cindy wasted no time trying to tie up the loose ends. "Okay, two questions: one - is the double murder is still an open case? Two: why was there no footage of Truett attacking Lindsay?"

"Ahh. Yes. You have rooted out the rotten truffle of police involvement. For Lindsay and Jacobi, that was probably the worst part," Jill began. "Per question one - a few days after Lindsay met with her Captain and agreed to let sleeping rats lie, her third tier suspect turned up dead, with enough damning evidence on him to close the case. And, ooh! Fun fact: his body was discovered behind a frame shop."

"Oh. Now that's just rubbing it in," Cindy complained.

"Worser still, the answer to question two – the security camera sweep paths were not exactly common knowledge. Someone helped Truett get into the garage undetected. Someone told him where the blind spots were."

"Someone on the force," Cindy concluded. "Did she ever find out who?"

"Not to my knowledge. Lindsay did get a lot of support from other cops during that time, since no honest cop likes the idea that they could get railroaded just for doing their job. Still… it has to be there, in the back of her mind…"

"Wondering if one of those well-wishers helped Truett get away with murder."

"And to top it off, the guy was such a pig about it," Jill recalled bitterly. "For months after, Lindsay got these anonymous text messages and emails. Threats of torture, rape… just these horrible, violent fantasies, all sent from stolen cell phones. We couldn't trace them back to Truett. And after a while, it just stopped. Like he fell off the face of the earth. I, for one, was hoping he'd been slowly devoured by a three-toothed shark."

"Will a knife-wielding homicidal maniac suffice?" Cindy asked.

Jill shrugged, popped a cashew into her mouth. "In a pinch, I guess."

Jacobi found Lindsay leaning against the trunk of his car, looking lost. He walked toward her and flashed a cheery double thumbs-up. She rolled her eyes, peremptorily refuting his praise.

"Oh, my god," she said. "Worst. Crook. Ever."

"She solves two murders in the time it takes to get Chinese take-out," Jacobi teased, mirroring her casual, lazy lean. "And won't even get credit for it."

"As long as you appreciate the true extent of my brilliance," Lindsay deflected.

"Consider this my daily reminder. So, big brain…"


"That was a good pick up, the bit with the matching knife and gun."

He homed right in on it. Lindsay wasn't even surprised.

"My dad's in a shooting club in Dallas," she explained. "Couple years back, I tried to give him one of those Kimber custom competition sets for his sixtieth birthday."

Jacobi raised his eyebrows. Ready for her to talk. Or not. He was there, regardless.

"He said it was too much… and he returned it. Sent me a check in the mail." Lindsay clicked her tongue, shook her head. The quiet stretched on until Jacobi was sure that was all she had to say on the matter.

He bounced against the bumper until the car rocked, jarring Lindsay out of herself. "I have a birthday coming up," he reminded her. "In case you're looking to overcompensate."

Lindsay chuckled softly. She looked at her partner for a moment like she wanted to hug him, or cry, or do something embarrassing and girly.

Jacobi straightened up and slapped her on the ass, sparing them both any additional awkwardness. "Let's get you home, hot shot. Maybe one of us still has a chance at getting laid tonight."

She froze mid-step; the ensuing blush was so hot and so sudden that Lindsay just closed her eyes and let it wash over her, let it run its course. She smiled through it all, reminded again that despite the occasional paternal gesture, Warren Jacobi was not her father. Jacobi actually liked her, and the feeling was completely mutual.

Minutes before midnight, Jill was slipping into her coat and gathering her purse when Lindsay's keys rattled in the door. She reached out and threw the locks and Lindsay stepped inside, looking only a little surprised to find a two-person welcoming committee.

"Hey," Lindsay managed, looking from Jill to Cindy, who was seated on the kitchen counter and nervously swinging her feet. "What's going on?"

"Jeff Truett," Jill said, with all the noxious shading the name deserved. She put her hands on Lindsay's shoulders. "Are you okay?"

Lindsay flattened her lips into a grimace. "It was kinda anti-climactic, really. After all that grief, all that drama, the sonofabitch gets killed fighting with a retarded meth junkie over some stupid gun."

Jill tilted her head and tried to smile. "Well. One less phantom in the ether."

"I guess." Lindsay tried to smile back, but her eyes kept shifting toward the kitchen.

Though occasionally selfish and intermittently self-destructive, Jill Bernhardt was not dense. She knew that her part in tonight's production was a supporting role, and though conflicted about her loss of standing, she supposed that the show would likely run longer and more smoothly with a fresh-faced ingenue to balance out the darker heroine.

Jill pulled Lindsay into a hug, kissed her quickly on the cheek and whispered, "Love you, Linz." She raised a small, white hand and waved it flag-like at Cindy Thomas, girl reporter, bid them both a good night and gracefully exited the scene.

Once they were alone again, Lindsay and Cindy both found themselves reluctant to move from their respective spots. The silent standoff continued until Lindsay, rocking to-and-fro on her bootheels, finally confessed her fear.

"If I come over there and somebody's phone rings or someone comes to the door… I swear, I'm gonna scream my damn head off."

Cindy responded by producing her cell phone, turning it off, and removing the battery. She raised an eyebrow, seemingly challenging Lindsay to follow suit.

Which the inspector did, and raised the ante by locking the door and shutting off the entryway lamp. Slow, long strides carried her into the kitchen, to the counter, placed her directly in front of Cindy's stockinged knees. With one hand on each, Lindsay eased them apart and settled her hips against the tiled edge. Took hold of the girl's waist and pulled her forward until they were tucked together, tight as a solved puzzle, with Cindy's calves crossed and locked behind Lindsay's thighs.

Looking down on her, Cindy's face was a revelation; her milk and cinnamon skin flushed pink, her eyes dilated to near perfect black, and her pulse fluttered furiously, visibly, against her throat. Lindsay laid her lips over the spot, opened her mouth and tasted the rhythm with the tip of her tongue.

Cindy's head dropped low; she whimpered a hot breath in Lindsay's ear, and the older woman heard it as a plea for kindness, for careful and immediate attention. She couldn't recall anyone who ever showed her so much so soon, guilelessly revealing how terribly, how nakedly, they wanted her. In that moment, reciprocity became her sole commandment.

She fastened her mouth to Cindy's neck and pulled hard, licking and breathing and pushing heat into her skin. Hooked thumbs under the hem of her skirt, hiked it up and back until Cindy raised her hips to assist. Pulled her closer, tighter, moved against her. All else was instinct, friction, a collision of nerves and silk and button-fly denim, circling and pushing, breathing and falling. The cry trailing to a gasp… the shudder melting to a tremble… limbs unlocking until they merely leaned against each other in a liquid, flashing haze.

She heard Cindy swallow hard, knew words were coming soon. And that was okay.

"Sorry," the girl said thickly. "I didn't mean for that to happen so fast."

Lindsay stroked her cheek, brushed back a hank of auburn hair. "S'okay."

"We're in your kitchen," Cindy protested. "Better settings were available."

"I'm not going anywhere," Lindsay assured her. "We've got time."

Cindy frowned, as if her new lover was totally missing the point. "You only get one first time."

"In the kitchen," Lindsay merrily added. "Then you get a first time in the bedroom, a first time in the living room, bathroom, on the balcony, in the car… so on and so forth."

Though she did try to fight it, Cindy gave in and grinned her approval of the multiple first times concept. Still, there was one sticking point: "On the balcony?"


"I'm not particularly fond of heights," she confessed. "And if I enjoyed showing my boobs to the public at large, I never would have quit The Gold Club." When her stripper quip drew no smile or laugh from Lindsay, she nervously asked, "Are you tired of my jokes already?"

"Naah. I like listening to you." Lindsay reassured her with a sincere grin and a hand rubbing over her back. "I was just thinking about earlier, when you asked me why - "

"Why me? Why now?"

Lindsay nodded, took a few seconds to gather her courage and her words. "See, it takes a knack, a skill, to get people to talk to you. Now, some people, like that Tickle-Me-Elmo idiot I met tonight, they'll start singing if you press the right button. And then… there are people like me."

"Hidden buttons," Cindy contributed, deploying her serious face. "No singing."

Though she wanted nothing more than to grin and laugh and kiss the girl, Lindsay pressed on, certain that the sooner she got this out, the easier it would be.

"I want to do better," she said. "Talking. About things. You shouldn't have to call Jill or Claire to get answers about me. I want you to be able to ask me things, and I want to try to talk… more. Openly. I can do better. Despite how I may sound right now."

"You sound fine, Elmo." Cindy canted her head and sucked a little breath though her teeth. "As much as I applaud your commitment to better communication… you don't want to launch this new verbal escalation thing right now, do you?"

"Right now, Thomas, all I want is for you to shut up and kiss me."

Which Cindy happily did, rendering unto Inspector Boxer a wet, goofy, crackhead kiss with too much tongue and teeth and giggling to be taken seriously. Lindsay fell into it and just let herself be kissed. Let herself be happy. With a surge of giddy energy, she wrapped her arms around Cindy, tugged her off the counter and proceeded off toward parts unknown.

The little redhead yelped her surprise, yet was plainly impressed. She wrapped her legs around Lindsay's waist to make the trip easier. "You know, Jill was right – you are a lot stronger than you look."

"Good god. What exactly were you two talking about while I was off solving multiple murders?"

"Not much. Laila Ali, handcuffs..."


As they bounced along toward the next first time, Cindy ducked in and whispered in Lindsay's ear: "You're about to find out."

The End

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