DISCLAIMER: Rizzoli & Isles and its characters are the property of Tess Gerritsen, Janet Tamaro and TNT television network. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: My intention was to have this fic read as an actual episode. Not sure I managed that. Beta: My eternal thanks to the wonderful Deb for her friendship and her invaluable assistance.
FRAGMENT: girls/ all night long/ might sing of the love between you and the bride/ with violets in her lap
SPOILERS: Very slight references to Episode 3: Sympathy for the Devil and Episode 8: I'm Your Boogie Man.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Lonely Hearts Club
Jane Rizzoli cursed the long line of traffic that stood between her and her latest crime scene. She'd laughed off her mother's advice to steer clear of Interstate 93 and now sat at a complete standstill on the very freeway Angela had warned her to avoid. It was doubtful that even a blaring siren could help her navigate through the sea of cars that stretched out for miles in front of her.
"Maura," Jane growled into her cell in the way of a greeting. She'd snatched the phone from her console just as the funeral dirge had completed its familiar tune. "Whatever you do, don't take 93."
"I know," Maura's knowing tone filtered into Jane's ear. "They're working on the bridge."
"The bridge?" Jane said with a noticeably pained inflection and a perfect matching grimace. Her mother had mentioned something about a bridge, but Jane had tuned Angela out, thinking she'd still been talking about all the dental work Carla Talucci had had recently. It had been the main topic of conversation at dinner when Jane's father had broken his tooth on a piece of biscotti he'd snuck from a batch Angela had made for her church social. She'd sniped that it had served him right and had then launched into a long litany of Carla Talucci's dental woes.
"Yes, the bridge," Maura replied to her friend's purely rhetorical half-question. She paused a beat. "I'm already on scene; where are you?"
Jane could see the bridge looming in the distance as her peripheral vision picked up slight movement beside her. Cars in the adjacent lane were beginning to inch forward, and she put on her blinker and edged the front bumper of her car into the next lane. "Not close enough," she mumbled angrily. A car horn blared and she whipped her head around toward her passenger window. "Hey!" she yelled and grabbed for her detective shield; she held up her credentials and glared at the driver, daring him to honk again. "Asshole," she grumbled as she eased into the lane ahead of the shiny black Lexus and looked for an opening that would move her car another lane to the right. Maura pulled the phone away from her ear and stared at it in confusion, before easing it back to continue her conversation.
"You're on 93, aren't you?" she correctly deduced, after having at first been unsure why Jane would refer to her as the opening at the lower end of the large bowel. "You want me to tell Frost?"
Jane forced her car ahead of a beat-up Chevy truck. "No!" She frantically searched for a sliver of light in-between the cars in the next lane. One more lane and she might be able to take the next exit before she would be forced to go over the bridge and be forever stuck on the long expanse of cement and steel. She flicked the switch on her police lights and smiled smugly as irate drivers suddenly became much more accommodating. "I'll be there in 20," she said confidently. "Why don't you fill me in on what you've found?"
Maura looked down at the victim and frowned. An attractive blonde in her late twenties dressed in what Maura suspected was an original Oleg Cassini bridal gown. The young woman appeared to be posed as if she were readying for a photo shoot, the lace fabric spread out with love and care to accentuate the ornate beadwork and sweetheart neckline. A thin, silk veil had been smoothed and arranged to flow outward from the body and, to complete the serene-like setting, blue violets had been scattered all around the woman with a handful placed loosely in the victim's right hand resting in her lap.
"I'm not sure," Maura replied, not willing to conjure up a guess until she'd had the opportunity to autopsy the body. There was no evidence of blood anywhere no gunshot, no cuts or slashes from a knife, no bruising or other signs that the woman had sustained a beating. The only oddity Maura had found had been a single pin-prick on the victim's neck hidden underneath blonde hair that Maura believed had originally been swept up to further accentuate the gorgeous neckline of the designer gown. The killer had, for some reason, released the thick mane of hair and arranged it just as carefully as the victim's veil.
Jane gripped her steering wheel tightly. "I'm not asking you for a definitive cause of death, Maura." She could see the exit now, and she darted ahead of a city bus that lagged a car length behind. "Just tell me where the blood is coming from."
Maura bit down on her lip. If she told Jane that there wasn't any blood, then she'd have to tell her friend about the possible injection site she'd found, which would basically come across as probable cause of death. "I've not moved the body yet," she said instead, even though she was almost certain that she wouldn't find any injuries there, either. With the amount of white the victim was wearing, blood from any wound would be evident no matter how the body was situated.
"Oh," Jane replied, automatically assuming that the bullet hole or knife wound wasn't immediately visible to Maura. "Well, I'm off 93 now and should be on scene shortly. Just hold off on turning her over until I get there."
Maura smiled at her small victory. She knew how highly Jane held first impressions of a crime scene, and she had to agree with her friend on this one. Jane really needed to see the scene undisturbed, just as the killer had left it.
"Okay, I'll just wait until you get here. See you in a bit," Maura said, closing her phone and slipping it into her pocket. She glanced around the room and sighed at the nightmare before her: three stall doors, two sinks with a vanity in-between, two paper towel dispensers and a changing station. No telling how many people had been in and out of the room.
"No I.D.? Hasn't someone in this hotel reported a bride missing?" Jane asked as she stared at the victim. She squatted down at the feet of the woman and studied the scene. If the white linoleum were replaced with lush, green
grass, the picture could easily find its way onto the cover of a bridal magazine.
"No," Frost replied in frustration. "I checked with the manager and there are no weddings booked for today. The honeymoon suite is empty, too."
"So," Jane started as she pushed to her feet and scanned the room. "Our victim just happens into this hotel and this restroom. Did anyone see where she came from?"
Frost shook his head back and forth. "No one that I've found, but I did take a quick look at the video." He looked down at his notebook. "The victim made her way down the hallway and into the restroom at 12:30 p.m. There was no one with her and no one followed her, either. The hallway remained clear for another 20 minutes."
Jane glanced over at her partner. "I take it our victim didn't come out of the room, so who was the next person to come in after her?"
"No one until the woman who found the body," Frost stated. "The video shows another woman approaching the door to the restroom about 12:50 p.m., but when she pushed against it, it was locked. She just stared at the door for a couple of minutes and left."
"Locked?" Jane looked over her shoulder at the twist knob on the room's door. "The victim locked the door?" She wrinkled her brow in thought. "Did you check the footage of the hallway before the victim entered?"
Frost nodded. "Yes, I checked the last six hours and everyone in and out has been accounted for. Six hours is a long time to wait for someone and, if our killer wanted to kill just anyone, he or she had plenty of opportunities." He planned to go back further but wanted to wait until he'd returned to the station.
"You're right, six hours is a very long time," Jane said distractedly as she moved her focus to the room's ceiling. She studied each tile and stopped suddenly on a corner tile above the stall furthest from the door. "Unless " she cut off her thought and walked over to the last stall. Pushing it inward, she moved next to the toilet and stepped up on its seat. "This ceiling tile is slightly off its track." She wasn't sure if the move was recent, but it was a possible solution to the puzzle of how someone else could have entered the room without being seen.
Frost stared up at the barely perceptible anomaly and cursed at himself for missing it. Maura picked up on the detective's upset.
"Wow, Jane, you certainly have good eyesight. I never even noticed that," she said in amazement. "Think the killer came in through the ceiling?"
Jane reached up and placed her gloved hands on the edges of the tile. She could easily move it out of the way, if she so desired. Looking down at the tops of the stall, she eased her hands to grip the edges and glanced back up at the ceiling. Anyone with decent upper arm strength could lift himself up and through the tile without any problem. Getting into the room would be a much simpler task.
"Hey, Maura, come here for a second," Jane said as her mind began to work out the possibility of the ceiling as being the entry and exit point.
"What do you need?" Maura asked excitedly. Jane was actually asking for her help in the investigation.
Jane jumped down from the toilet seat and moved out of the stall. "Climb up on the seat and see if you can reach the ceiling." At least they'd be able to have some idea as to the height of the killer.
Maura glanced down at her shoes. "No," she said simply. There was no way she was risking her red Jimmy Choo crocodile pumps slipping into the disgusting toilet water, and there was absolutely no way she was going to
"If you're worried about your shoes, you can take them off," Jane finished Maura's silent thought. She grinned at the fish-out-of-water expression her friend was giving her. "C'mon, it's for research," Jane explained. "We can narrow down the killer's height." She knew exactly how to get to Maura. Her friend was always touting the importance of research.
Maura looked at the toilet seat and then at the paper dispenser. With a slight nod of her head, she moved inside the stall and reached for the end of the paper. Unrolling what seemed to Jane like more than a few feet, Maura tore off the edge and began to layer one side of the seat with neatly folded paper. She smiled in satisfaction as she repeated the procedure for the other side. Frost stifled a laugh and stepped to where he could get a better view.
"Good grief, Maura," Jane complained as she watched her friend pad the seat. "Did you leave any paper on the roll?"
Maura didn't dignify her friend's question with an answer as she focused her full concentration on making sure her bare feet didn't come into contact with any part of the germ-infested seat. She eased out of her right shoe and carefully stepped up on the paper and, using her gloved hand against the wall for balance, she slipped out of her other shoe and lifted her full weight with her right leg. Her left foot fit into place on top of the papered seat and she balanced her weight until she was evenly standing on the lid.
"So?" Jane said impatiently.
"Oh," Maura replied, having been so grateful to have managed to take her stance on the toilet seat without actually touching any part of the seat itself that she almost forgot why she was there in the first place. She reached up and could barely touch the tile with her fingertips. There was no way she would be able to push it out of the way without jumping off the seat and losing her balance.
"Do you think you could grab the tops of the stall and pull yourself up?" Jane asked, figuring someone of Maura's height would have to leverage himself up and onto the top of the stall in order to lift the tile out of the way to escape and, if Maura could accomplish the feat, it drastically increased the odds that a woman could very well be the killer, too.
Maura gripped the tops of the stall and studied the angle of her arm in relation to her grip, but didn't move. "No, the angle is all wrong."
"Try it," Jane encouraged her friend. She wasn't a fan of math and usually just tried things to see if they worked or not.
Maura glanced down at the water just under her feet. "The angle is impossible, Jane. All I would manage to do is slip and land in the water." She looked directly at her friend. "I'd have to thoroughly clean and disinfect the toilet bowl first."
"Maura " Jane said with a sigh just as the restroom door pushed open. Frankie stuck his head inside.
"Um, Jane," he said, frowning slightly at the body of the victim. She looked as if she were sound asleep surrounded by a ring of flowers. "There's a woman at the front desk, and she's looking for her daughter. She was supposed to meet her and a photographer for bridal pictures, but she was delayed by two flat tires and traffic on 93."
Jane started forward but was pulled up short by an almost desperate-sounding plea.
"Jane?" Maura gripped the sides of the stall tightly, suddenly realizing that she'd have to touch the restroom floor with her bare feet in order to get her shoes back on. Jane recognized the look of not-so-neatly disguised panic in Maura's eyes and smiled reassuringly.
"Frost, go ahead with Frankie. I'll be there in a minute." She waited until both men had left before facing her friend. "Yes?" she drew out the single syllable word and grinned.
Maura glanced down at her shoes, both thankfully still standing upright on the floor of the stall. "I need help," she admitted, not daring to move a muscle.
Jane put one hand on her hip and gestured toward the floor with her other. "Just jump down. It's not that far."
"You want me to jump down onto a floor that has no telling how many germs and probably hasn't been cleaned in weeks? On my bare feet?" Maura asked incredulously.
Jane just stared at her friend, her very stubborn friend. If Jane wanted autopsy results anytime soon, it would be in her best interest to get Maura down off that toilet. "Okay," she said grudgingly. "How do we go about this?"
Maura frowned in thought. She hadn't really gotten past the part about getting help.
"I guess I could piggyback you to the counter and bring you your shoes," Jane suggested, although she figured Maura wouldn't be too keen on sitting on top of a public restroom vanity, either.
"Or you could slide a shoe on my foot and I could brace myself on your shoulder and slowly lower myself to the floor. Then, I could slip into my other shoe," Maura offered instead. The thought of wrapping her arms and legs around Jane actually made her weak in the knees.
Jane nodded her agreement, grateful that Maura had come up with an alternative plan. She hadn't exactly thought through the logistics when she'd offered to carry her friend across the room. "That would work, too," she said with a smile as she walked into the stall. "So, Cinderella, which shoe would you prefer?"
"Hey, you find anything?" Jane asked as she slipped into a surgical gown and worked her hands into a pair of latex gloves. She peered down at the innocent face of Sharon Collier and shook her head. The woman had had everything going for her - a handsome, successful fiancé, a new job, a new house - and, according to her mother, an abundance of friends. It seemed that everyone loved Sharon and that the victim didn't have an enemy in the world. Apparently, though, Felicia Collier had been mistaken.
Maura looked up with a frown, her eyes appearing even larger behind a pair of protective glasses. "Yes, two pin-pricks, not one." She'd almost missed it, too. The killer had been very meticulous and had used a very fine needle with the first stick, probably a 30 or 31-gauge. He or she had tried to insert the second injection on top of the first but had missed just enough for Maura to ascertain that two separate needles had been used. "I just wish I knew what she was injected with." Maura was certain that someone had injected Sharon Collier with something that would more than likely turn out to be the cause of her death.
"So, it was the injections that killed her," Jane said with a slight rise to her voice, making it more a question than a statement. She could sense her friend's reluctance to come right out and state that some unnamed drug or drugs had killed the victim. It had been the same when Mateus Senna had been murdered, only the flowers surrounding Sharon Collier hadn't been the purple Monk's Hood that had killed Mateus. "Don't suppose violets are poisonous, huh?" Jane kept her tone soft and gentle, taking the sting out of her hope that this case would be easier to solve.
"No," Maura answered bluntly. She locked eyes with Jane. "But I will find the substance that killed her."
Jane just nodded. She had no doubt that Maura would find the cause of death. "We found out why she was at the hotel in her wedding dress."
"Really?" Maura asked interestedly as she gripped her scalpel and prepared to make a Y-incision. She poised her hand above the body and waited for Jane's reply.
"The hotel has a gazebo with a small pond behind it. It's a favorite spot for bridal pictures. Sharon and her photographer had parked by the side exit and walked around the building. That's why no one in the hotel had seen her," Jane said, keeping her focus on Maura. She'd never been skittish in autopsy before, but there was something about this case that unnerved her.
"Did the photographer say why she'd gone inside?" Maura asked as she made her first cut; it was smooth and clean as always. She angled her head and eased her scalpel to the victim's other shoulder.
"She got a phone call and said her good-byes to the photographer. She told him that she'd get back with him next week to view the proofs," Jane replied matter-of-factly. She'd hoped that the phone records would give them the name of the last person to speak to Sharon Collier, but it was rarely that simple. "The call was made from a pre-paid cell."
Maura completed a perfect V and moved the tip of her blade to the point of intersection. "Did the mother have anything useful to add?"
Jane shook her head in frustration. "Just repeated everything we already knew. She'd run over some nails and had two flats. When AAA said it would take them a little while to get there, she called her daughter and said that she'd be delayed. She wanted Sharon to postpone the photos for another day, but Sharon said the day was picture perfect and wanted to go ahead. Mrs. Collier had taken the freeway to try to save on time. She got caught up in traffic and was delayed even longer."
A moment of silence ensued until Jane spoke again. "I just can't figure out why the killer unlocked the door before he crawled out. Why take the chance of being spotted?"
Maura placed the scalpel on the table and reached to peel back the victim's skin. "The last stall is a good distance from the door. Perhaps he thought that anyone who walked in would be too focused on the posed body to pay attention to anything else." Maura looked up at Jane. "It certainly got my attention."
"Yeah," Jane said sadly. "Mine, too."
"Find anything yet, hotshot?" Korsak asked as he moved behind Frost and peered over the younger detective's shoulder. Frost had been researching practically non-stop the past couple of days, trying to find a case that matched every aspect of the Collier case, right down to the crime scene location.
"I found a couple of possibilities when I narrowed the search to bridal gowns and flowers found on the scene," he said and pointed toward the computer screen. "About three years ago in Rowlett, Texas, a small town outside of Dallas, a young woman was found dead in a hotel room. She was wearing a wedding gown and was surrounded by daisies."
"Okay, not too bad, just different flowers; what was the cause of death?" Korsak asked, feigning interest. Frost hadn't batted an eyelash at Korsak when the older man had believed that the Boston Strangler was still alive and had picked up where he'd left off and, besides, Frost was starting to grow on him, not that he'd ever let on. He was still smarting that the young detective was Jane's partner instead of him.
"That's the problem," Frost said with a frustrated sigh. The Texas case had been his first hit, and he'd been certain that there had to be a connection to their latest case.
"What's a problem?" Jane asked as she strolled into the room. She raised an eyebrow at Korsak and then turned her attention to her partner.
"I thought I found a connection to a case in Texas, but the woman was killed by a blow to the head. The police report indicates there was a struggle and the victim hit her head on the edge of the nightstand. The killer is still at large."
"What made you think there was a connection?" Jane asked, moving closer to the two men and folding her arms comfortably across her chest. Frost didn't usually make huge leaps.
"Flowers and a bridal gown," Korsak answered before Frost could take a breath. "And the flowers are arranged in a similar fashion, too." He jerked his head toward the screen. "See for yourself."
Jane exhaled tiredly and walked around the desk. Her eyes widened slightly. "Those aren't violets," she pointed out the obvious but leaned closer to the screen anyway. Korsak had been right. The flower placement was identical to the Collier scene, right down to the flowers in the victim's right hand. "What else does the report say?"
Frost spoke from memory. "Victim was the daughter of a Baptist preacher, a real do-gooder, too, always offering a helping hand whenever anyone was in need. The police believe she stopped and offered help to the killer on her way home from her bridal photo shoot. They think it must have been someone just passing through. The killer was never found."
"Photo shoot?" Jane said, suddenly very attentive. She shot Korsak a look. "Frost, see if there's a name of someone we can contact about the case." Odds were the two cases weren't connected, but Jane didn't believe in coincidences, especially one with so many similarities.
Frost nodded his head and maximized the screen. He looked up at Jane. "Should we look at the Miami case, too?"
Jane eased in beside her partner. "There's another one?" She wondered if the FBI would be showing up on her doorstep and the thought actually filled her with dread. She had no desire to play nice with Gabriel Dean. After the agent had left the last time, Jane had forced herself to look deep within and had been surprised to discover that it hadn't been Gabriel that she wanted, after all. "Are there photos?" she asked to move her focus away from an epiphany to end all epiphanies.
"Hang on, let me see," Frost replied as his hands flew across the keyboard. Korsak moved in on the other side and both veteran detectives found themselves leaning closer to the photos that were popping up across the computer screen.
"Looks like violets to me." Korsak was the first to comment on the crime scene photos. The arrangement of flowers was identical to the Rowlett and Collier cases.
"And a wedding dress, too," Jane added softly. "Cause of death?" She held her breath. There didn't seem to be a single mark on the victim in any of the photos.
Frost clicked the mouse a couple of times and quickly scanned the report. "Potassium chloride injected in the victim's neck and," he smiled, "there were high levels of sodium pentothal."
"Bingo," Jane said as she stood to her full height. "Frost, get the number for the Miami detective first. Then we can call Texas."
"The Miami detective felt like there might be more to the story than the family was letting on, but he wasn't able to find out anything beyond the picture perfect fairytale kind of love between the victim and her fiancé. He was going to try to talk to the vic's best friend again and fill her in on this latest development. See if anything new surfaces," Jane said around a mouthful of fried rice. She dug around in her carton for another chopstick-full.
"I don't understand," Maura said with a slight frown, taking a sip from the beer Jane had insisted that she try with their Chinese cuisine. The ME had been pleasantly surprised how well the alcohol tasted with her spicy Kung Pao chicken. "Why would the family keep something vital from the police? I'd think they would do anything to ensure that their daughter's killer was brought to justice." People confused her most people anyway.
Jane just shrugged and sat back against the end of her couch. "I'd think so, too. Maybe they don't think it's important to the case or maybe the detective's frustration has him seeing something that's not really there. It's happened to me before," she admitted, recalling a number of cases that she'd wanted to solve so badly that she was seeing all kinds of things.
Maura nodded in mock understanding, not really understanding how unproven facts and gut feelings could cloud an investigator's judgment. Facts were facts and evidence was evidence, period. She focused on that particular aspect. "Were you able to discover anything different about the other crime scenes?"
"Not really," Jane replied with a touch of the same frustration she'd just attributed to the Miami detective. "There's the question of why Sharon Collier was murdered in a hotel restroom instead of one of the guest rooms like the Miami victim, and the police there still haven't figured out how the killer was able to secure a room without going through the desk clerk. I'm guessing that he wasn't able to manage such a feat here because the hotel is always so busy. Probably figured security would be much tighter and was afraid risking getting caught on tape."
"Have you contacted the FBI?" Maura asked casually, even though her insides were churning at the prospect. Jane had told her about the kiss she'd shared with Agent Dean and Maura had tried to listen without bias but had found herself jealous just the same. She'd barely been able to suppress a relieved smile when Jane had explained that she'd told the agent that she didn't think 'they' were a good idea.
Jane shook her head. "I suggested the Miami PD contact their local bureau since ours isn't the killer's first." She didn't add anything more; she didn't need to. Both she and Maura knew why she'd passed the buck to the other police department.
"So, that's it then?" Maura asked. "We just hand everything over to the FBI?"
Jane snorted. "Not if I can help it." She gripped a piece of chicken between her chopsticks and eased it into her mouth. Maura watched, silently mesmerized by her friend's easy movements. "I wouldn't mind them doing all the leg work and tying the two murders together. The Texas one, too," Jane said, once she'd washed down her bite of chicken with a swig of beer. "I keep getting stuck on the flowers and why the killer would take the time to carefully arrange them around the victim. Daisies and violets What's their significance in all of this?"
"Daisies represent innocence and purity and are often used as a symbol of beauty," Maura explained, taking Jane's question to be the flowers' literal meanings instead of why the killer used them to 'decorate' the scene. "The daisy's English name was day's eye, referring to the way the flower opens and closes with the sun."
Jane pulled the bottle of beer away from her mouth and stared at her friend in awe. Her mother would say that Maura was a walking, talking encyclopedia and Jane would have to agree. "The Texas police chief said that the victim there was a pillar of goodness." Jane paused in thought. Maybe Maura's idea was worth exploring. "What about violets?
"Blue violets are said to represent watchfulness and faithfulness. They send an 'I'll always be true' message. In fact, when Napoleon married "
"Wait a minute," Jane interrupted Maura before her friend could launch into a history lesson on the Bonapartes. She sat up and placed her half-empty carton of food on the coffee table, but her beer stayed clenched in her hand. "What if she'd not always been true; what if there was an ex somewhere in the past." She flicked through some notes beside her, shaking her head. "No one said anything about any of the victims having a psycho ex-boyfriend."
"What if they didn't know?" Maura suggested, sitting up and mirroring Jane without even realizing it, surprising herself by using the phrase 'what if'.
"You mean like a secret admirer?" Jane asked, her throat nearly closing on her words. She took a quick sip of beer to wash down any implication that she, too, might be guilty of a similar type of behavior.
"More like someone with an unhealthy obsession with the victims," Maura returned easily. There was nothing wrong with a healthy admiration of someone else. She did it all the time, although almost every time it was more of an admiration of a person's physique. There was really only one person she was interested in for more than just her body.
Jane scrambled for her cell that was hidden underneath empty bags of take-out. "A best friend would notice something like that," she said as she punched the number for her partner. "Frost," she greeted abruptly and shot a glance at Maura. "Find Sharon Collier's best friend and ask her to come down to the station. We need to have another chat with her."
A quick chat, a couple of phone calls, and a few coffees later, Jane strolled into the interview room to see a nervous brunette sitting uncomfortably in the chair. "Good afternoon, Ms. Miller; thanks for coming in," she started. "I'm Detective Rizzoli and this is my partner, Detective Frost," she said, gesturing to Frost who'd stepped into the room behind her and closed the door. "We just have a few questions for you."
"Detective? For a few parking tickets?" Anita Miller asked in surprise. Her level of unease skyrocketed. "The police officer said that I just had to come here and pay my fees. He didn't say anything about any questions."
And he wouldn't, either, Jane thought. After Emily Jones, Sharon Collier's best friend, had confided in Jane about Sharon's secret past. Jane had promised Frankie a steak dinner if he could talk Ms. Miller into coming down to the station.
"It's procedure when a ticket remains unpaid for more than a year and, besides the one you received recently for parking in a hotel loading zone, there's one that dates back to 2008 and another from last year," Jane lied and slipped into the chair across from the woman. She laid a manila folder down on the table and smiled. "Would you mind standing?"
"What?" Anita shot a confused look at Frost, who just shrugged. She turned her attention back on Jane. "Why?"
"Just curious," Jane said. "You look kind of tall for a personal trainer. All the ones I've seen have been shorter than me." She knew it was a lame statement, but she hoped it would put the other woman at ease or at least keep her guessing.
Anita relaxed marginally. "Yeah, I guess that's true for the most part," she agreed. The detective seemed friendly enough. "I'm just under 6'1" in my bare feet."
Jane whistled. "That is tall." She leaned across the table and lowered her voice. "I've always wanted to be six foot. It would give me more of an edge around here." She winked and Anita grinned in understanding. Her height had always been intimidating, to say the least.
"It's certainly helped," Anita replied easily. Her gaydar began to ping big time.
"I bet it really helped when you had to push that tile out of the way to lift yourself up on the restroom stall so that you could crawl up into the ceiling after you killed Sharon Collier," Jane said evenly as she opened the folder and began to spread out the crime scene photos. Anita wasn't able to suppress a surprised gasp.
"I didn't kill anyone!" she exclaimed loudly, her eyes glued to the photo of Sharon appearing to be sleeping peacefully, a blanket of blue violets spread around her.
"But you knew Sharon Collier, didn't you?" Jane prodded, taking advantage of the suspect's shock to glean as much information as possible before she clammed up and demanded a lawyer.
"Yes," Anita said softly. "She was one of my clients."
Jane lowered her tone, too, hoping to keep the suspect talking. "How long had you been working with her?"
"A year and two months," Anita spoke from memory. With as many clients as Anita Miller had, the other woman should have had to refer to a calendar to have answered the question. She moved her focus to Sharon's face. The beautiful blonde truly did appear as if she were sleeping.
Jane quickly checked her notes to confirm the suspect's statement and then reached into the folder to remove a photo she'd purposely left hidden. Turning it around to face the suspect, she watched Anita's reaction closely. "Ever seen this woman?"
Anita had to tear her gaze away from Sharon's sleeping face to light on a picture that was eerily similar to the photo of Sharon and the surrounding flowers. The only difference was the face of the person wearing an almost identical bridal gown. She swallowed hard and shook her head. This couldn't be happening.
Jane pressed forward. "Isn't this the woman you killed in Miami?" she asked as she pointed at the body in the center of vivid blue violets. "You killed her because she was too afraid to go against her family's strong religious beliefs and admit to a relationship with you. And then Sharon does the same, because she was afraid of her father and what he might do. You killed them both because they were too weak to admit that they preferred the company of women."
"No!" Anita jumped up from her chair and Frost took a step forward. "I loved Sharon! I didn't want to kill her, but she forced me to." She sunk back down into her chair, tears streaming down her cheeks. "She chose her family over me. She chose him!"
Jane moved in for the kill. "And Pedra Gonzales? Did she do the same?"
Anita shook her head back and forth. "I didn't kill that other woman. I just liked the photo and I used the idea."
Jane glanced over her shoulder and gave Frost a surprised look. "You liked the photo?" she asked out loud and turned her full attention back on Sharon Collier's killer. "Where did you see it?"
"On a website," Anita said as she wiped her cheeks with the backs of her hands. She was relieved this was all over. She hadn't realized how much the guilt would tear at her. "I thought if I joined an online group I could talk to other woman who'd had the same heartbreak I'd had and it would help to ease my pain, but they were all so bitter. I guess I got caught up in it all."
"An online group of killers?" Jane asked, no traces of her usual sarcasm bleeding into her tone. "You're kidding."
"They're not all killers," Anita replied as if that made a difference. "Just the offshoots of the community."
Jane wasn't able to keep her sarcasm at bay. "Like a Lesbian Murder Club?"
"Lonely Hearts Club," Anita said, hanging her head in shame. "It's called Lonely Hearts Club."
"Women killers?" Angela asked, her voice scaling an octave. She kneaded the pizza dough a little more forcibly. "You're kidding, right?"
Jane shook her head sadly as she grated a chunk of Parmesan cheese. "I wish I were. So far, five murders have been uncovered, but only three have the same M. O. as ours."
Maura watched mother and daughter at work and sipped her wine. "But the Texas murder was significantly different," she pointed out and hoped Jane hadn't been referring to a completely different murder.
"It wasn't supposed to be," Jane replied, using the tips of her fingers to scrape cheese from the inside of the grater. "The victim tried to run away and tripped on her bridal gown. She hit her head on the nightstand and died instantly. So, technically, it wasn't murder."
Angela punched her first into the middle of the dough. "Oh, so just because the poor woman died trying to save herself, it's not murder? That's not right, Jane." She tsked under her breath and glared at her daughter as if it were somehow Jane's fault that the laws were sometimes flawed.
"Hey, I don't make the rules, Ma," Jane said in her defense, having felt the infamous Rizzoli eyes staring a hole through her back. "They were able to arrest the woman for posting photos of the crime scene on the website and they're trying to find evidence to prove intent to kill."
"Oh big woo," Angela muttered as she flipped the dough over. She punched it extra hard for good measure. "It's all just so senseless and could have been so easily prevented."
Jane crossed the room to the sink and turned on the water. She held the grater underneath a stream of hot water. "No one had any reason to suspect such a group existed and none of the victim's families ever believed any of the spurned women could possibly be killers. It's really just blind luck that Anita Miller chose to copycat every aspect of the Miami murder."
"I'm not talking about discovering the group, Jane. I'm talking about those women's parents. They could've prevented their deaths."
Jane glanced over her shoulder at Maura in question and received a slight shrug for an answer. "What do you mean, Ma? They were just as much in the dark as we were."
"Those girls are dead because they were afraid," Angela said with a tired sigh. "It's just so sad. They might all be alive today if their parents had just accepted them for who they really were."
Jane dropped the grater in the sink and whipped around to face her mother. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Angela was constantly harping at Jane about her chosen profession.
"What?" Angela said defensively before Jane could accuse her of being a hypocrite or perhaps something much worse. "You think because you're gay that I don't love you anymore?" She gave Maura a sweet smile and a quick wink and returned her focus on the pizza dough, her mind churning ninety to nothing.
Jane's chin dropped to her chest, and Maura grinned around the rim of her glass. Angela Rizzoli certainly knew how to shock her daughter.
Maura glanced at Jane just as Jane glanced at her, their eyes caught and a blush crept up Jane's neck and settled lightly over her cheekbones.
Angela chuckled quietly. Maybe, just maybe, Jane would get a clue, and there'd soon be two less lonely hearts in the world.
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