DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To Demeter94[at]yahoo.de
Lover Of Mine
If it was possible to die from boredom, Lindsay was certain she was in severe danger at the moment. On desk duty until the rest of the week when the doctor would hopefully clear her to go back into the field again, she was stuck with a huge pile of files to go through. Searching for the proverbial needle in the haystick, any hint, any tiny clue of what the killers' victims had in common. So far, she had found none.
At the sound of someone nervously clearing their throat, she looked up, giving the young uniform a smile for the welcome distraction. "Hey. Dana it is, right?" She and her partner had been first at the last crime scene.
The other woman beamed, holding out a paper cup. "Yes. I... We just came back from lunch. I thought you might like this."
Leaning back in her chair, Lindsay enjoyed the small break from her tedious task. "Extra caramel? You know what, Officer, I'm going to recommend you for promotion."
She might have been laying it on just a tad too thick, because Dana blushed. "It's just coffee. I'm sorry, I'm keeping you. I'll go."
Lindsay shrugged. "From this, you can keep me any time," she said, mostly to herself, because the young rookie cop had fled the scene. With a sigh, Lindsay returned to the file she was reading, only to be interrupted once more a few minutes later.
"You're here!" Jill said entirely too happily.
"Where else would I be until Monday?"
"It's a big building. What, Cindy came by and brought coffee but not for me? You're a bad influence on the girl."
"She's not a girl," Lindsay grumbled, but as usual, the thought of Cindy made it hard to keep the smile off her face, and Jill knew it too damn well. "Besides, Cindy didn't bring it."
Jill's eyes went wide. "You've got a not-secret admirer?"
"That's nonsense. Dana just came back from lunch."
"Dana, huh? Does Cindy know?"
"What's there to know? Poor girl puked her guts out at the sight of the body. I talked to her, that's all. Some of those rookies have respect for their elders."
Jill laughed. "Come on, old woman, Claire might have found something. Oh, and Officer Dana," she emphasized, "so likes you more than you think."
"Would you please-- hey!" Lindsay protested as Jill snatched the small chocolate heart that had come with the caramel latte and began to unwrap it.
"Coffee," she said, "is what you bring your grumpy elders. Knowing the exact flavor someone likes and this--" She held up the heart wrapped in red, "Is something for your honey on Valentine's Day."
"You," Lindsay pointed at her, "are just jealous. And don't eat my chocolate."
"I was wondering... Would you mind... Can I ask you a favor?"
For the second time today, Lindsay had the young officer standing at her desk, blushing as she stumbled over her words. Since she was nowhere closer to finding anything that would help with the case and Claire's hunch hadn't panned out, the interruption was once again most welcome. She had half an hour to bridge until Cindy would take her out for dinner, after all.
"Sure, go ahead," Lindsay said. Jill's teasing sprang to mind, but she didn't think there was anything to the theory. Dana was still fresh on the job, and Lindsay was still the only woman in Homicide. So maybe there was a bit of admiration there. She could choose worse role models, Lindsay thought, pleased with herself. Maybe though she'd just taken too many of those pain pills. In any case, this turn of events was a fine compensation for the somewhat embarrassing incident that had put her behind her desk in the first place.
Not that Cindy didn't compensate her in the best ways.
Dana wrang her hands nervously. "This may sound stupid, but... I still have some problems on the firing range. Everything else is fine, but that is something... I thought maybe you could help me with that." She gave a hopeful smile, the blush deepening.
"No problem. I can go with you some time."
"Really? That's... Wow. That's great. I didn't want to ask any of the guys." Taking a deep dreath, the young officer continued, "I was wondering if you had time tonight. I'll buy dinner."
"I'd love to, but I already have a dinner invitation. Would Saturday morning work for you?"
As if on cue, she turned to the door exactly the moment Cindy walked in, Jill with her. Stifling a sigh, Lindsay braced herself for another round of merciless teasing.
"Oh, sure, of course," Dana hurried to say though her disappointment was obvious and her smile forced. "Saturday it is. Thank you so much."
Dana had followed her gaze and sprang to her feet. "I've got to go."
"Good night, Dana."
Lindsay was kind of glad she was gone by the moment Jill and Cindy had actually made it to her desk. No explanations necessary.
"So, about that girl..."
Lindsay groaned and pressed her face into the pillow. "Jill is completely exaggerating. 'That girl' is just looking for some pointers from somebody more experienced, that's all. I wish there had been somebody when I was twenty-three."
"Hearts and chocolate, huh?" Cindy said thoughtfully, her fingers lazily drawing patterns down Lindsay's naked back. "I thought that was my department now."
"It is." Lindsay shivered pleasantly under the gentle touch. Skipping dessert in favor of, well, dessert, had been a good idea. It was still early, just before eight.
"That's good, as I'm not planning to give it up anyime soon. And what was that story you told Jacobi of how you twisted your ankle?"
"What? Slipping on the wet kitchen floor, that's just... Not cool," Lindsay huffed.
Cindy laughed. "I don't get it, but at least they'll forget about it soon once you're back out there. So how else can I help you with that frustration?"
Lindsay turned around a smile spreading on her face when Cindy moved to slowly cover her body with her own. "Is that helping?"
Reaching up, Lindsay brushed back soft red strands from Cindy's face. "It's a start," she whispered breathlessly.
"I need to get up now." Admittedly, with Cindy's warm body still curled around her, Lindsay wasn't much motivated.
Cindy pressed a soft kiss to her neck, not making a move to let go. "Why did you ever agree to meet her on a Saturday morning?"
"Good question." Lindsay sighed. "You're usually asleep at this time. It seemed efficient."
"I'm not asleep now..."
"Alright. Can I come? You keep telling me I should learn how to use a gun."
Lindsay turned to her, pretending to give the idea some serious thought. With a somewhat devilish smile she finally said, "You can. Since I'm already late though, you'd have to share the shower."
"What hardship," Cindy mumbled, but she seemed a lot more motivated to get out of bed.
Dana's face fell when she saw that Lindsay had brought company. There was an awkward moment before Cindy said, "You guys do your thing. I'll go meet Claire and Jill, and afterwards you and I can go shopping. Nice to meet you, Dana."
"You too," Dana said with a clearly more genuine smile.
Lindsay refrained herself from rolling her eyes. This situation was actually getting strange, so she was grateful for Cindy's quick reaction. She bent to kiss her goodbye and whispered, "Thank you. I won't be too long."
Cindy just smiled and then turned to walk away.
Remembering the shared shower, Lindsay thought ruefully that there could have been different ways to spend the Saturday morning. As it was, Monday with work and the gruesome case would come soon. At least she wouldn't be stuck behind towers of files any longer.
"Okay," she said to an expectant-looking Dana. "Let's start. What exactly are your problems?"
Dana cleared her throat nervously. "Okay."
As it turned out, she wasn't that bad after all. Lindsay helped her correct her stance a little. It seemed like Dana was simply a bit lonely, and looking back at her own early days with the SFPD, Lindsay could sympathize. Not everyone was lucky enough to build a cross-discipline girls' network. Also, it had taken years to achieve that from the beginning when it was just her and Claire commiserating about their frustration with the boys' club.
It was also a relief that Dana finally seemed to relax a little. "This was great, thank you!" she said, smiling enthusiastically. "And I know you have other plans later, but since we are done early, can I buy you a drink first?"
Lindsay had the vague feeling that accepting the invitation wasn't a good idea, but the young woman looked at her so hopefully that she relented. "Sure, why not, I'd like a coffee. Though with the impending shopping trip, I might need something stronger."
Dana laughed happily.
"She is beginning to get on my nerves, I admit it." Cindy sighed into her coffee. "Now that I could see it for myself... It seems like lately, she's always around. And she's making those eyes at Lindsay. What?" she asked defensively when Jill cracked up at her words.
"Nothing. I'm just having a bit of a déjà-vu, that's all. Remember that girl stalking her in the bathroom, making indecent proposals from under the stall?"
Cindy blushed furiously. "She didn't tell you!"
"'Course she did. Linds was this close to filing a restraining order, but she didn't because she thought you were just too cute."
"No way," Cindy said torn between being indignant and pleased at the same time. "You're just yanking my chain."
"Well, the second part was obviously true."
Shaking her head at her friends' antics, Claire chimed in, "Honey, Lindsay has only eyes for you. She's just helping out that girl."
Adding more sugar to her coffee, Cindy said, "It's not Lindsay's motives I'm worried about."
"Hey, Boxer. You cheating on your girlfriend now?"
Across the bullpen, Lindsay sent the chuckling Inspector Fong a death glare. Some things were more aggravating than others on a Monday morning. Like annoying colleagues. Like going to a crime scene where a woman had been murdered, her hands cut off. The third in four months, the interval between the last two only thirteen days. She really didn't have the time or patience to indulge in office gossip, especially when it was so blatanly untrue.
"I saw you at the firing range," Fong continued, well aware that half the bullpen was now listening. Even if no one said it aloud, Lindsay assumed that her relationship with Cindy had made for some interesting chit-chat.
"Yeah, so? Sims and I did a little practice. Get your mind out of the gutter, Fong."
"Sims? Practice?" He laughed. "That's funny. You really didn't know, did you?"
"Know what?" she asked, her irritation just growing.
"There's nothing that Sims can't hit. She won prizes when she was a teenager. I wouldn't want to get in the girl's line of fire." There was a hint of admiration to Fong's voice. Far from having an appropriate return ready, Lindsay felt foolish, and annoyed at Dana for lying to her. She'd have to have a good talk with the woman after all.
Next though, she' had to go see Claire in the morgue, getting forensic confirmation of what she already knew: that the same killer had murdered. Oh joy. "Just another manic Monday," she muttered to herself, for the next hour trying to get the tune out of her head.
She recognized her right away. Lindsay hadn't planned to have that confrontation on her off time at Papa Joe's, but if Dana had to follow her even here, then so be it.
"Dana? Do you have a minute?" Her patience was about to come to an end, so she didn't want to drag this out any longer that it had to be.
Dana turned to her with a brilliant smile. "Lindsay! What a coincidence!"
Lindsay rolled her eyes. "No, it's not, and I'd prefer if you didn't tell me another story. Like you did with the 'problems' you had at the shooting range. A colleague saw us. He was wondering who was giving whom lessons, so I checked up on you. Your record is quite remarkable. You're so good it was easy for you to pretend you're not."
"I would hope so."
"You don't understand!" Dana looked devastated. "I'm so sorry."
"I got that. Look, I'm not going to turn you down if you have any questions, or need help with whatever. But I hate to be lied to. Have a good evening, Dana."
The last thing that Lindsay wanted for today was more drama, but she was going to have dinner with the girls here after all. She wasn't going to change plans now. "What is it?"
"Can we sit down? Talk? Just for a few minutes?"
Checking her watch, Lindsay sighed. "Five minutes. I'm serious."
"You've got to understand." Dana cupped the coffee mug in her hands as if warming them on the ceramic. "I probably took this too far, and I'm sorry about that."
Three time's a lucky charm, Lindsay thought somewhat ironically. Did she really mean it?
"I admire you, Lindsay." She looked away quickly, mortified by her confession. "I thought I could do this, make a difference, but sometimes I just want to... quit, you know? At the crime scene, my colleagues laughed about me."
"Yeah, it does." Dana smiled hesitantly. "You were the only one who didn't make me feel like a total failure. You have this great career, and everybody respects you. You're out. Hell, is there anything about you that's not perfect?"
"Whoa!" It was Lindsay's turn to be mortified though she thought she might begin to understand Dan's motivations better. "Believe me, there are many things about me that are not perfect. Besides, from what I learned checking up on you, you have nothing to be worried about regarding your career. It's coming together; it just takes time. As for being out, it's not much of a political statement." Cindy might disagree though. "I just don't see a point in pretending."
There's your role model. Way to go, Boxer. She shook her head at herself. "I want to quit, sometimes."
Dana studied her thoughtfully for a moment. "You're proving my point, Inspector," she said.
"Come on, stop it," Lindsay told her, but the earlier tension had dissolved.
"So we're good?"
"Sure we are."
Dana left about two minutes before Claire arrived, and for some reason she couldn't quite fathom, Lindsay was relieved about that.
"No, you can't come in," Cindy said, appropriately regretfully. "I need to get up really early."
"So what? I can help you with that." Lindsay was quite confident.
"You come in, we'll make love all night, and I'll want to call in sick tomorrow."
Cindy had summed up the situation correctly as they were lingering in the dimly lit hallway. Lindsay had to laugh at the deadpan delivery of the facts, even though the accompanying images sent a warm rush of arousal through her body. It wasn't fair that she'd be sleeping alone tonight just because Cindy had an early conference.
"And that is wrong, how?"
Come to think of it, Lindsay didn't care much for sleeping alone any longer. At all.
Cindy shook her head at her. "I thought you'll have to go in at 7:30. You'll be late, I'll have Tom on my case, no thanks."
"It'll be a row of early days until we catch this guy," Lindsay sighed. "I hate to say it, but you're right." She leaned close to kiss Cindy again. "Goodnight. Sweet dreams."
"Goodnight," Cindy whispered, wrapping her arms tightly around Lindsay for a long moment, before she disappeared into her apartment.
When she woke from vague and unsettling dreams, her apartment was pitch dark. The digits of the clock on the nightstand showed that it was just after 2:30. Cindy sighed, annoyed that the tension wouldn't leave her body. She wished she'd let Lindsay stay, then at least she'd be all warm and relaxed right now.
Turning around, Cindy froze in mid-motion when she heard the noise, her heart starting to hammer. It was coming from the front door. Probably somebody coming home, too drunk to find their own.
She bolted upright in bed when the door sprang open. "Who's there?" There was no answer. Cindy all but jumped out of bed, reaching for the phone on the nightstand when they walked in brazenly, two shadowy fictures wearing ski masks.
"Hey. What are you doing here?" Stupid question, she chided herself.
Cindy didn't have time to scream before the blows started raining.
Each move was happening automatically. From the moment Lindsay had been notified about the 911 call made from Cindy's apartment, she'd focused on getting there as soon as possible, forcing all thoughts of what she could find there out of her mind. Cindy had been able to make the call. She's be okay. She had to. Lindsay's sanity depended on it.
Siren blazing, she cut through the streets of a slowly waking San Francisco, arriving at her destination just the same time as a second squad car did. There was an ambulance parked across the street, and a group of curious onlookers had gathered. Lindsay couldn't spare them a single glance or thought. She ran the rest of the way.
In the doorway of Cindy's bedroom, she halted, near paralyzed by what she saw. The room was in complete disarray, a chair overturned, curtains hanging haphazardly, blood on the wall. Cindy sat curled up in the corner by the bedside table. When the young paramedic gently touched her shoulder, she screamed, finally startling Lindsay into motion. "Let me," she said, crouching down beside Cindy. She still couldn't let emotion get the better of her. Some part of her mind was starting to try and figure out the puzzle. Was this related to any of Cindy's stories? Worse, any of Lindsay's cases? A random attack? "Baby. Look at me. It's okay, I'm here now."
Cindy finally raised eyes at her so full of devastation Lindsay worried for a moment she might not recognize her. "Cindy." Mentally, Lindsay filed away her injuries, the blackened eye, split lip and Lindsay bit her own lip to keep in the expletive. The fingers of Cindy's right hand looked puffy and discolored, at least two of them broken. Deliberately. Lindsay pushed away the cold fury that wanted to take hold of her; she'd deal with it at its time. "Let's get you to the hospital now, shall we?"
Cindy nodded hesitantly. Tears and blood were smeared on her face. Blood on the nightgown. Somebody is going to pay. The certainty was a pressing weight on her chest, making it hard for Lindsay to breathe. "What happened here?" She could barely get the words out around the tightness in her throat.
"There were two," Cindy whispered. She collapsed forward into Lindsay's arms. "Oh God, please, don't leave me."
"I won't," Lindsay promised. "I'll be right behind the ambulance, okay?" The paramedic and the uniformed cops had stayed at a respectful distance, but she could feel the impatience about them. The questions hovering in the room. "Did they...?" she asked in a whisper.
Against her chest, Cindy shook her head, and for a moment, the world swam in the blurry kaleidoskope.
"Lindsay! I just heard. How is she?" Dana came running towards her. "I'm on the morning shift. I wasn't exactly around the corner, but I wanted to see if I could help."
"She's going to be okay," Lindsay said tiredly even though she wasn't entirely convinced of that yet. "I'm going to the hospital."
"Of course. I'll see you at the station then. Put that away, there's nothing to see!" she yelled at two teenagers who were filming with their cell phones.
Dana smiled. "You're welcome."
It was disconcerting how lives could be altered within the span of minutes, Lindsay reflected as she watched the sun rise from Cindy's hospital room. Sure, they'd been lucky. She'd seen victims of severe beatings before, brain-damaged. Dead. You just never thought it could happen to someone you loved.
Cindy lay still in her sedated sleep. The IV line was in her left hand, the right one heavily bandaged, so Lindsay ran her fingers down her arm lightly, in desperate need for the contact.
The door opened, and Jill stepped inside quietly. "Hey. How are you two doing?" she whispered, touching Lindsay's shoulder.
Lindsay gave her smile in acknowledgement, though she was sure it came out rather crooked. "Hanging in there, I guess."
Jill studied Cindy for a moment, her body language clearly communicating that she was horrified. "That doesn't look random," she finally said. "Who the hell would want to hurt her this badly?"
"I don't know yet, but I will find out." Jill nodded, no need to spell it out between them what they knew the other was thinking. And then there'd be hell to pay.
"What about the security in that place? They simply walked in?"
Lindsay shrugged, wincing at the cramping of tense muscles. "Looks that way." She looked up at her friend. "Thanks for telling Tom that I'll be late."
"No problem. Claire will be here in a while; we figured you'd want to see what they found at the apartment. There must be something."
"Yeah." The CSU would go over the place with a fine-toothed comb, invading Cindy's privacy all over again. However, if it helped finding the invaders, it would be worth it. "What did he say?"
Jill smiled grimly. "He said, let's see what we can do to find the bastards."
She would have liked to stay around the whole day, but as it was, the trace would be getting colder by the minute, not to mention the files of three murdered women on her desk. On top of it, the pressing thought that this wouldn't have had to happen. She could have taken Cindy home after they'd met at Papa Joe's, or, like she wanted to, stayed with her.
That choice was gone.
Sitting at her desk, studying the pictures taken at the hospital, Lindsay was terrified for a moment, exhaustion finally catching up with her. It wasn't the worst case scenario, but they had come too damn close.
Again, Lindsay read the report, her eyes catching on the line confirming what Cindy had said. No signs of sexual assault. Not that the actual facts weren't bad enough. She leaned forward, resting her head in her hands for a moment, wishing she could just go somewhere private and cry.
"You're already here. I take it that's a good sign." Lindsay flinched at the light touch to her shoulder, spinning around at the sound of a familiar voice.
Dana set a paper cup and a folder in front of her. "Caffeine. And initial results from the lab. I told them to hurry, not that I had to. Everybody here likes Cindy a lot." Much to her credit, she was all professional now, very much like last night when she'd scolded the teen hobby filmers. "Anyway, I figured you could use both of this."
"Thank you," Lindsay said with a somewhat delayed reaction time.
"I was wondering..." Dana looked worried now.
"Sure. Keep the bad news coming."
The uniformed officer pulled herself a chair and sat across from Lindsay. "I mean, I could be totally wrong, but it was in the report... Her fingers were broken?"
The thought made Lindsay's stomach churn again, and the sweetened coffee had suddenly lost all appeal. "Why?"
"I couldn't help thinking of... the crime scene," Dana said. "You know. Last week."
"The woman's hands were cut off. That's not the same," Lindsay snapped at her, irritation belying a rising fear.
"I know, but the mutilating of hands could be--"
God help her, she was going to mutilate someone soon. Possibly an innocent colleague if she didn't get out of the way in the next few seconds. "Not now, Dana, okay?"
The young woman looked disturbed, but she got up quickly. "That's okay. Just let me know if I can do anything for you."
Just leave me alone.
Looking up to Tom's office, Lindsay made a decision. She hadn't seen him yet today, but she'd go right in and tell him that she wouldn't be good for anything today.
There was somewhere else she had to be.
Cindy had been a little more stable when Lindsay had left earlier, but she wasn't going to take any chances. Lindsay needed to be with her right now.
Because Cindy was the only one who could give them any clues as to the men who had broken into her apartment.
Because Lindsay couldn't stand to be away from her any longer.
Cindy looked groggy from the pain medication, but she was sitting up when Lindsay arrived, greeting her with a smile. "Just the visitor I was hoping for."
"I'm glad." It was almost as if they were whispering, treading carefully, because the ice was thin, and each wrong step could easily pull them back into the horror scenario of last night. They would have to go there eventually, Lindsay knew, but she held back the questions for the moment. Instead, she sat on the bedside, leaning in for a brief, tender kiss. "How are you?"
This close, she could feel that Cindy was trembling. The bruises would fade, broken bones heal, but it would be some time before she would be able to wake up in the middle of the night and not being scared of the nightmare starting all over again.
"Better, I guess." Cindy shrugged.
"When they let you out, you're coming home with me." If was only partly selfish. As long as they didn't know who had broken into the apartment, it could still be dangerous out there.
"I wish that offer would have been made under different circumstances."
There was nothing to say to that. Lindsay just reached out to brush the back of her hand against Cindy's cheek very gently. To her dismay, Cindy began to cry.
"What is it? Should I call the doctor?"
Cindy shook her head. "No, it's... I'm sorry," she said finally, a hint of frustration to her voice, but the tears wouldn't stop.
"It's okay. I'll be here for a while." Her mind was a few steps ahead though; Lindsay thought about Dana's theory. It didn't make sense. The killer, as far as they knew, worked alone. And flashing back to the crime scenes, the dead women, Lindsay couldn't bring herself to think that the same man might have been watching Cindy, invading her home. Violating her. But someone had.
"I thought they were going to kill me," Cindy whispered. "They wouldn't stop."
"I'm sorry." It sounded lame, but at least Lindsay knew Cindy would get what was behind that apology, that she'd never forgive herself for not staying last night. And she wouldn't stop until the perps were found and charged with attempted murder.
"Sorry," she said again when Cindy seemed a little calmer, "but we need access to your computer at the Register. This might have to do with one of your stories." Somehow that was easier to bear than the idea that a man who got off cutting off women's body parts might have been after her.
"Sure. I just thought there was only one person at the moment who's really pissed off with me."
When Lindsay just looked at her quizzically, she clarified, "Officer Sims?"
"Dana? Oh no. She might be a little annoying, but she wouldn't hire some goons and have them beat you up."
"You sure about that?"
"Cindy, she's a cop! That's ridiculous."
The pent-up fear of the past few hours and the exhaustion were getting to her, but somehow Lindsay still realized that Cindy was the wrong person to address with this. "She wouldn't do that," she said, feeling ashamed having raised her voice when all she wanted to do was to rewind to yesterday evening and just take Cindy home with her, so this would have never happened.
"Okay. You must know," Cindy said, but she didn't sound convinced.
Jill had stopped by to keep Cindy company as well. She pulled herself a chair while Lindsay had gone to get some coffee. "Is there anything I can do for you?" she asked seriously. "Other than prosecute those sons of bitches into a dark hole once Lindsay is through with them?"
Cindy hadn't thought that was even possible, but her friend's words made her laugh. "Sounds good to me... But I'm afraid you'll have to find them first to do that. I'm sorry I'm no help."
Jill hesitantly touched her shoulder. "You've helped as much as you can. The rest is up to the cops now; they will find them."
"There is something you can do for me indeed." Cindy felt uncomfortable going behind Lindsay's back on this, but she had tested her girlfriend's reaction, and it hadn't been promising. It wasn't like Lindsay was actually interested in Dana Sims, but she seemed to feel the need to be protective of another woman cop even now. Maybe Cindy was wrong. Maybe nearly getting beaten to death had distorted her perception. She couldn't take a chance. "Would you check up on that Dana girl? She kind of freaks me out."
"Really?" Jill looked surprised. "You don't think she was... She's got a crush on Lindsay. Who can blame her?"
"I'm serious, Jill. Lindsay wouldn't listen to me on this. If anything, prove to me that I was wrong." Cindy realized she was about to cry again. She really wanted to fall asleep and not wake up before all the pain had gone away and Dana Sims had moved out of the state. She wanted to stop being afraid every single damn time Lindsay left the room.
"Okay, sure." Jill's easy acceptance of the issue only made her cry harder. "Hey. I'll take care of it. Can I hug you, or will it hurt?"
It probably would, but at the moment, Cindy could use all the hugs she could get.
The man in the interrogation room didn't seem nervous. He looked around as if taking in his surroundings with interest. There was a small, arrogant smile on his face.
"You think it's him?" Tom asked.
Lindsay pushed herself off the wall. "With or without the confirmation of his DNA on the severed hand we found in his freezer? Hell, yes, it's him." She stood and stared at him for a moment. Just another one of those monsters who thought that every woman he'd ever laid eyes on was his property, that he could decide over their life or death. Was Dana right? Had he touched Cindy?
She didn't want to consider that now. "I bet he can't wait to tell me."
"Go get him," Tom said.
"You might be aware that you don't have so many choices here, so a confession would save both of us a lot of time and trouble."
Daniel Ramon studied her openly. "Hey, what's this? Where's the bad cop?" He grinned. "Then again, maybe you can be very. Bad."
"You know what, that's boring. You keep body parts in your freezer. We got your DNA at the scene. That makes me think this chat is really not necessary."
"Wait!" he called when she turned to go. "You really want to know?"
At the door, Lindsay turned to him. "Know what? I need you to be a little more specific here."
"I used a chainsaw," he said. He could have been talking about the weather with that small talk kind of tone, but he was looking at her intently. Waiting, hoping to get a flinch out of her. It was too late for that. She'd had her moment down in the morgue when Claire confirmed that the victims were aware of what was going on, ligature marks indicating that they'd been tied up. Lindsay didn't flinch. She just wished she could cut this conversation short by simply shooting Ramon, but that wouldn't bring the women back or do anything about the pain they'd endured.
"We know that." Lindsay shrugged. "I could tell you about the exact blade being used, and I'm sure we'll find one exactly like that in your place. Tell me, why the hands?"
The grin stayed in place like a creepy mask. Ramon's pupils were dilated, a reddish hue on his face.
Shooting him might still be an option.
"Because they were whores," he said. "I wouldn't let them touch anyone else."
"You never considered they left you because there was something wrong with you, Daniel? Oh, of course not. Because you were perfect, right?"
Ramon chuckled. "You want proof, Inspector?"
Lindsay planted a smile on her face. "No thanks. I've got all the proof I need to send you all the way to death row."
As if this was a conspiracy between the two of them, he leaned forward to whisper, "Watch it Inspector. You've got beautiful hands."
She was about to simply walk away, but then there was something that kept nagging. This might be the only chance to bring it up. "One more thing, Daniel. You must have done a lot of planning prior to the murders. Did you ever get interrupted? Had to walk away from a scene?"
Lindsay kept the poker face in place even though her heart was about to beat out of her chest. Even knowing that Ramon would go down, any way, the implications of what could have been were unbearable.
"Why are you asking that?" he wondered, seeming confused. "I'd make sure no one would interrupt me. Always."
"What about her?"
"Were you in her apartment two nights ago?"
He shook his head, seeming pleased with the implications of the question. "I've got a copycat already? Wow."
Lindsay was just about to answer that when the door opened and Tom came inside. "Inspector, there's something you should see."
Ramon's thoughtful gaze was following them.
Lindsay had the urge to wash her hands.
Outside the room, there were Jacobi, Wong, Sims and her partner waiting. Jill walked in just the moment Lindsay closed the door behind her and Tom. "I had to check," Lindsay told him somewhat apologetically."
"That's okay, and"
"And you were right to do so." All eyes turned to Dana. Tom frowned. Lindsay caught Jill's amused gaze and stifled a smile. The girl was too eager; she'd get herself into trouble yet. Interrupting the lieutenant of Homicide for no good reason wasn't the best style. "We found this on a sweatshirt of his." She held up the evidence bag for everyone to see, but only Lindsay understood the relevance right away, and it felt like a punch to the gut.
"I'm sorry, Lindsay," Dana said sorrowfully.
Inside the plastic bag there was a long reddish hair.
"We need to wait on the DNA testing," Tom reminded everyone, giving her a pointed look that Dana didn't seem to notice.
"It's a black sweatshirt like the one Cindy had described." There was a hint of defensiveness to Dana's voice.
"Okay," Lindsay said. "Let's go ask him about the partner then."
It was the second time during a supposedly restful nap that she woke crying, the scream choked in her throat. Waking up in Lindsay's bed, in her apartment made it only slightly more bearable. Cindy wiped her face, wondering when she'd stop feeling like a walking bruise. Pardon the bad pun, not like she was doing much walking. Even lying still, there was a hint of pain through the medication-induced haze making her fear that it would be awhile before everything would be back to normal. If ever.
Add to that the fact that Jill hadn't come up with anything but Dana obviously working lots of shifts that would put her close to Lindsay. And that was bad enough. After losing her breakfast at the crime scene, she sure showed a lot of engagement for that case.
Cindy would ask later, after dinner maybe. The case was now closed. Lindsay hadn't said much about it yet, but she had looked so tired that Cindy had decided to postpone the questions.
Lying next to her, still fully clothed, Lindsay seemed to benefit more from the nap she'd suggested.
Seizing a rare moment, Cindy reached out to brush her fingers over her girlfriend's hair, the soft skin of her cheek. She smiled.
"You're mine," she whispered. "I'll never let you go."
Later at the dinner table, Lindsay pulled the chair back for Cindy, waited until she'd sat down and then bent to kiss her neck softly. Cindy smiled unwittingly; the nap had been a good idea after all. She felt rested and less in pain. Even in the chaos of the past few days, there was time for little moments like that.
They had ordered in, making the evening as comfortable as it could be.
Still, Cindy didn't ask. Lindsay was first to approach the subject.
"He confessed," she said. It wasn't so much in the words, but in the way they were said that Cindy could read it must have been bad. She simply waited.
"Dana thought it wasn't a coincidence this case, and the... break-in at your place."
"Dana." Her brighter mood was gone all of a sudden, and so was her appetite. "She's not a detective. And what happened wasn't exactly a break-in."
"I know," Lindsay said placatingly, "but we had to check."
"Check what?" Cindy could hardly hide her irritation, and she didn't care to. "I told you, and I told everybody who asked me that there were two people in my apartment. If it had been Ramon, my fingers wouldn't have been just broken. You would have found them in the fridge!"
Lindsay flinched at the mental image, but she didn't seem to agree. "We are still waiting for test results. You know, just because you don't like her, it doesn't mean that she's wrong about it."
"I don't like her alright," Cindy confirmed after spending a moment of wondering whether or not she'd heard Lindsay's words correctly. "Why are we even talking about her?"
"Because she's a cop who's been working on this case?" Lindsay said with a hint of impatience.
"Oh, she's on the case. So she is a detective now?"
"Cindy, what the hell is going on here? You're not jealous of her. Right?"
"Don't overestimate yourself. It might be just that I'm sick and in pain. I'll go back to bed. Don't bother," Cindy snapped when Lindsay rose from her chair. "I'd like to be alone now."
When she finally was, regret came crashing down on her. Cindy was struggling to understand what had just happened. The minutes ticked by, but Lindsay didn't come, respecting the wish that Cindy had made crystal clear. Now she wished she hadn't. Her grandmother had used to say many wise things, one of them that you never go to bed still angry with your loved one.
Cindy felt unsettlingly blindsided, because, actually, she and Lindsay didn't fight. Of course they disagreed whole-heartedly on the matter of exactly how far investigative journalism was supposed to go, but in the the brief time they'd been together, that had been about it. In fact, they had a lot in common.
It had been there right from the start. They gravitated towards each other. This situation felt unreal and just not right. Worse, Cindy had no idea how to resolve it, because Dana would be around.
Lying in the dark, she struggled with a decision until it became clear that there was really only one thing to do.
Dana Sims stood leaning against the squad car, obviously waiting for her partner. It hadn't taken long to locate her. Good. Cindy wanted to be back home as soon as possible. As it was, she felt slightly dizzy even after having taken a cab to the station. The conversation ahead wasn't one she was looking forward to, either, but she couldn't see how it could be avoided any longer.
"Dana. Can I have a word?"
Cindy nearly rolled her eyes when the young officer showed the same startled reaction that she generally got from people lately. Yeah, it wasn't pretty.
Dana took off her sunglasses, her features carefully schooled into honest surprise now, but Cindy sensed a wariness about her. "Sure. What brings you here?"
"I think you know."
"Would you like to sit inside for a moment?" Dana asked abrupty. "You don't look so good."
"No, thanks, this won't take long." Actually, she would have liked to sit, and she cursed flat shoes that made her have to look up to the other woman, but showing weakness wasn't an option. Cindy took a deep breath. "I hate to sound like a jealous bitch, but there's really no nice way to say it. Leave Lindsay alone. I mean it."
"Wow." Dana gave a startled laugh, then she shook her head. "You misunderstood something there. Lindsay and I are colleagues. We just have a lot in common, that's all."
"Dana, I'm not stupid."
"Hey! I never said you were." She half turned away. When she faced Cindy again, her eyes were bright. "Look, Lindsay gave me the speech already. I got it the first time. You didn't have to come here."
"Maybe you had to hear it from me," Cindy said not without regret. "I'm sorry."
Again, Dana laughed. "No, you're not, but that's okay. Have a good day, Cindy. See you around."
I'd rather not, Cindy thought, but for the moment, her mission was accomplished. "You too," she said, finally turning her back to the younger woman.
"Do you have a minute?"
"Sure, sweetie. This gentleman isn't going anywhere in the meantime." Claire smiled gently when she realized that the joke was lost on Cindy. "What are you even doing here? I thought the doctor had ordered bed rest at your girlfriend's."
Cindy moaned. "Please, Claire, I need someone to tell me I didn't just do something stupid."
"Okay, this calls for a good strong coffee and some chocolate," Claire decided. "Come with me."
Cindy was grateful to sit down again, but she declined on the chocolate and drink. She felt queasy enough as it was, no need to take any chances. "I just had a talk with Dana Sims," she finally confessed.
Claire sat across from her. "I see. From what I've heard, she gets on everyone's nerves. I guess it was about time. What does Lindsay say?"
"She doesn't know." Cindy leaned forward with a tired sigh and hid her face in her hands. "It's a touchy subject."
"How are you really?" Claire asked, and it was understood that they weren't talking about the Dana situation any longer.
Cindy shrugged and winced. "Terrified? I've been at my apartment to get some things, that was it. I don't know if I can go back there. Lindsay now thinks it was Ramon. If she's wrong about it, then the alternative is that they are still out there. Either way I don't want to think about it. Oh, and if you don't mind I'd like that chocolate after all."
Claire took her hand, squezzing it gently, before she held the jar out to Cindy. "You and Lindsay will be fine," she said reassuringly.
Of course they would be. Cindy believed it if only because she couldn't imagine anything else. It just wouldn't happen right away.
Claire had driven Cindy home and was just back at work, having a hard time to focus with all the worries on her mind when the call came in.
"Thanks for letting me know," she said before hanging up, resisting the urge to sit down. She wasn't really looking forward to the calls she'd have to make now after finding out that the hair found in Ramon's apartment actually belonged to Cindy Thomas.
"I'm so sorry." Lindsay sounded heartbroken, and even though it pretty much reflected her own state of mind, Cindy couldn't ignore her. After the new facts had been revealed, it was another restless night for both of them. Cindy couldn't seem to find a comfortable position. They both couldn't seem to find any sleep.
"Why sorry?" she asked, and if it came out a little bitter, she couldn't help it. "Dana was right. You were."
"Not like I wanted to... But at least it's safe now. He's never going to get out."
"You want me to go back to my apartment?" Cindy asked, feeling the whiplash of her emotions going from crowded to terrified within seconds. She wasn't ready.
"No, of course not. You can stay as long as you want to... I want you to."
"You're sure?" After the past few days, this was not how she had imagined this conversation to go. In the dark, Lindsay turned to her. "I've been sure for a long time," she said softly. "I'd just like us to have another place, one that hasn't had any unwelcome visitors."
It almost seemed like a bad dream now to think of Kiss Me Not and the body he'd left in Lindsay's bed. She had disposed of the bed and made the room a storage area. It had been supposed to be temporary.
"I'd like that." And that was really all that had to be said for the moment. At least the laws of gravity were still in action. Once the boundary of pride and fear had been crossed, they were comfortable again, close, lying in each other's arms.
Maybe, Cindy thought with a smile, Lindsay didn't ever have to find out about her conversation with Dana. They'd move on together, from here to better days.
"Hey, Boxer, come and have a drink with us," she was greeted moments after she'd entered the bar. Jill had been in court all day, tired and frustrated she had asked to go for beers after work. Claire had a family dinner, Cindy was preparing to go back to work, so it would be the two of them. Just one Lindsay had agreed to. She didn't want to leave Cindy alone for too long.
"No thanks, Jeff. I'm waiting for someone," she told the uniformed officer. "What's the occasion?" Funny coincidence, Officer Jeff Kramer was Dana's senior partner. She sat next to him, looking slightly uncomfortable. Lindsay couldn't help the rising irritation for her. Get a grip, girl. Cindy might have been right in that she'd been too protective of the woman.
Kramer gave his younger partner a proud smile. "She's getting the hang of it. Pursued a robber across seven blocks and finally tackled him right into somebody's pool. She's coming after you."
"Come on," Dana protested, red-faced. "It was just someone stealing an elderly lady's purse."
"That's right. And she fell so hard she broke her arm. They guy was brutal; she was that close to becoming a case for her department," he said, looking back at Lindsay. "So. That pretty reporter girlfriend of yours is coming to pick you up?"
"No." Lindsay grinned. "The pretty attorney friend." She ignored Dana's sullen mood and went to get herself a seat further in the back.
It didn't take long for Dana to join her. She sat next to Lindsay without asking. "I made a mess of things, didn't I?" She sighed. "Will you give me a moment to apologize?"
"You did. It's fine." And you're testing my patience. It might not be fair to lay all the blame for the tense past days on her, but Lindsay thought she had cut her quite enough slack. "You heard I'm waiting for someone."
"I'll go away in a minute," Dana promised. "I just wanted to... I wanted you to know I'm not normally that way. She gave another heartfelt sigh. "You never think these things could happen to you, right? Wearing the uniform and all."
"What are you talking about?"
"I've had this boyfriend," Dana said.
In the long pause Lindsay realized that this topic might lead to something she didn't want to hear. Dana pushed up the sleeve if her uniform to show Lindsay the bruise on the inside of her wrist. "Things weren't good lately," she said. "I guess I was looking for an easy way out. Of everything."
"You need to press charges."
Dana shrugged. "I broke up with him two days ago. I think he got it."
"I'm sorry." Lindsay really was. If she'd had that information right from the start, maybe things could have gone differently. Maybe she wouldn't have gotten that call...
"Thanks. I wasn't fishing for sympathy, I just wanted you to understand. Also, I've had a visit from your girlfriend."
"Cindy?" Lindsay asked with honest surprise. Right. How was she expected to react properly when the people that meant most to her kept things like that from her?
"Unless you have another one..." Dana gave her a crooked smile. "Yes, Cindy. That wasn't necessary. I suppose you didn't know."
Oh, Cindy. It seemed very obvious though where she'd made mistakes in the past, and Lindsay wasn't about to continue that now. "If she felt it was for a reason, then I suppose it was. Look, Dana, I know it's kind of awkward for you too. I'm sure we'll run into each other because of a case at some point, but otherwise it's better to keep a little more distance in the future."
"I never wanted you to hate me." Dana's gaze on her was intent, her voice tinged with fear. "You said you'd be there to help me."
"I will if you really need my help. That's not the case now."
"Maybe you're right. Maybe that's not what I need from you." Befor Lindsay had time to figure out the somewhat cryptic statement, Dana leaned forward and kissed her. Lindsay quickly scooted back as much as she had space in between the window sill and the enthusiastic young woman.
Dana just smiled, her cheeks tinged with pink.
"Okay, that's it." Lindsay shook her head. "As you've correctly stated before, I do have a girlfriend. And I love her. End of story."
"You're saying that if she wasn't there, you'd consider it? Us?" Dana asked hopefully.
The situation was starting to feel surreal. If Lindsay didn't answer right away, it was because she was struggling to find the right words to make Dana leave her alone without causing a scene that would embarrass the hell out of both of them. "No, I wouldn't. If Cindy ever left me, I'd move into a convent and wear a nun's habit. Does that answer your question?"
"I guess so." Dana slowly moved her hand towards Lindsay's but stopped herself mid-motion, then she got up. "It just doesn't make me be any less in love with you. I guess I'll live. Bye, Linds."
She was gone just quickly enough to avoid Jill who arrived a couple of minutes later.
"I changed my mind," Lindsay told her. "We can have some drinks at home."
"So I have to deal with the happy couple making eyes at each other? Oh well." Jill sighed dramatically. "At least it's pretty to watch."
Lindsay laughed. "You'll be fine. You can always take this as a good example."
Jill stuck her tongue out at Lindsay. They left giggling, in a much better mood than each of them had been the whole day.
It had been a good idea, Lindsay thought when she watched Jill and Cindy laughing together over something she'd just missed. The tension was slowly vanishing from their home like the nightmares. They thought made her smile. Home. Theirs. It would soon be true. She just didn't want to talk about Dana Sims, ever again.
Catching her gaze, Jill chuckled. "I get it, I should go home now. Unless you'd like me to stay for that..."
"I'm sorry Jill, not this time, okay?" Cindy said with a smile.
"Alright then, girls. I'll hold that thought." She bent to kiss Cindy on the cheek and then embraced her. "Good to have you back."
"I'm glad to be back."
"I'll see you all tomorrow then. Thanks for the beer and have fun." Jill waved at the door.
Lindsay stood in the same spot for a moment, feeling feverish hot not so much from Jill's somewhat saucy insinuation, but from what had just been suggested. Cindy got up and embraced her from behind, just leaning into her for a moment. "So are we going to live up to Jill's expectations?"
"You're... whoa." She jumped a little when Cindy's hand snuck underneath her shirt. "You're not that well yet."
Against her back, Cindy groaned. "I'm well enough for part time work, I'm surely well enough for making out with my girlfriend.
"If you put it that way..." Lindsay stilled her hands for a moment, just reveling in the feeling of being held. The world between them righting itself. She turned around and they kissed, softly, slowly.
Cindy had worn long-sleeved pajamas at night for a while, hiding fading bruises. Even though Lindsay had known what to expect, the reality of how close she'd come to losing Cindy had caught her unguarded.
They'd always been mindful of each other's bodies and needs, but tonight was different yet.
Later that night when Cindy had long falled asleep, Lindsay cried. And maybe that was what she needed to finally leave her part of the nightmare behind.
Cindy was thrilled to return to the Register, if only for a few hours today. She felt mostly ready to take on her life again. Scenes of the horror night at her apartment still ghosted through her dreams. Cindy knew it would probably be that way for a while to come, and she had thought about getting some counseling. She wasn't stuck in that place though, not figuratively, not literally.
She was going to move in with Lindsay for real.
Cindy hummed to herself as she walked to her car, sitting inside and checking her image in the rearview mirror.
Her breath caught in her throat as she desperately tried to make herself believe that the image in the mirror was nothing but her own imagination.
The door was opened on the passenger side, and the woman dressed in black swiftly sat inside, her gun trained on Cindy.
"Drive," Dana Sims said with a sweet smile.
Lindsay sat at her desk with a frustrated groan, barely resisting the urge to kick something. She'd had to come in early for a meeting, no coffee yet, and the next thing she saw was the pretty bouquet of flowers in a small vase. Roses and lilies. Cindy would never think of sending her flowers to the station, knowing how much her colleagues loved gossip and innuendo, so they only could be from one person.
"What can I do to make you leave me the hell alone?" she wondered aloud, opening the tiny envelope.
"Sorry, no can do, Linds," Tom said behind her, making her jump. He was barely hiding his amusement at her reaction.
I'm sorry for yesterday, it said on the card. I'll be keeping my distance from now on. Dana
"What's the matter?" she asked.
"Same as always," he said. "A dead body. If you can spare some time."
"Cindy's not here?"
Lindsay looked up from where she sat crouched beside the body of a young runner who'd been found shot dead behind the college gym. "She's only back part time," she told Claire. "Research, stuff like that. Typing is still going slow."
"Must drive her crazy," Claire mused.
Despite the rather dire setting, Lindsay had to smile. "It does, but we motivate ourselves with moving plans."
"As in moving in together?"
"Yes, indeed." They shared a smile, then went back to business. "So what can you tell me about this young man?"
They had planned this meticulously, just like they had on the night of the beating. Cindy gripped the steering wheel so tightly her knuckles were turning white. She had to, because her hands were trembling so hard she would have likely caused an accident. She understood it now that night had just been a test run for them, and they had gotten away with it.
"You don't think this is going to get you anywhere." Cindy hated that her voice was trembling, too.
"Let me worry about that." Dana's hand holding the gun was steady. "We're almost there. Turn left here."
Cindy did, hardly able to breathe over the rapid beating of her heart. "You let me go now, I won't tell anyone."
Dana snorted. "You're a terrible liar, Cindy. Now stop."
The house stood at the end of a cul-de-sac, the neighborhood surprisingly well off. There was a little park though creating a distance to the next neighbors; with a sinking heart Cindy realized that she wouldn't have the chance to catch anybody's attention. "You park in front of the garage," Dana ordered. "We'll get rid of it later."
The other woman gave her a sympathetic look. "I kind of like it when you beg, but sorry. We can't turn back now."
The man got out of the car and opened the driver's door. "Move," Dana said.
Once out of the car, Cindy made one desperate attempt though she'd known she wouldn't get past him. Dana was there within seconds, and then the butt of the gun connected solidly with the back of her head.
Cindy's legs buckled underneath her; she wasn't out but she would have hit the ground if the man hadn't caught her. He laughed, obviously enjoying the scenario. "You're one crazy bitch, Dana." It sounded a lot like a compliment.
Cindy knew that within the next moments she'd either get sick of pass out. She was kind of grateful when the world started to fade to grey and eventually turned black.
Cindy's car wasn't in its usual spot when Lindsay arrived. She frowned, wondering how Cindy actually defined 'part-time'. Martha greeted her with a pathetic whine. There was a note from the neigbor/dog sitter who said that she'd brought Martha at the scheduled time, but no one had been there.
The answering machine was blinking.
Lindsay stared at the red light for a moment, apprehension rising. No. No one could have that much bad luck. Ramon was behind bars, and the DNA test had proven that he'd been in Cindy's apartment even if he kept denying it.
She finally pressed the button. There was only one message, from Cindy's boss who asked her to notify him if her sick leave was going to be prolonged. That had been eleven hours ago.
Battling with the fear of free falling, Lindsay picked up the phone. She had to keep it together, and she did, even though she was struggling to keep her voice level when requesting an APB on Cindy's car.
The nightmare was familiar. Like she actually had that night, she would crawl to the phone and call 911. Unlike that night, a black hole would suddenly open up underneath her. In falling, she'd wake up next to Lindsay with her heart racing and the fabric of her pajamas sticking to her clammy skin.
This time, the nightmare was real. The headache was about to split her skull, and there was a spot where the hair was sticking to her scalp wetly. The bed Cindy was lying on in the darkened room wasn't familiar. She was tied to it by her wrists and ankles.
A tingling sensation made her flinch, and she tried to get away from it, but was brought up short by the restraints.
Dana, sitting on the edge of the bed, continued to brush her fingers down the inside of Cindy's wrist to where the bandage began. "I hear your fingers are healing quite nicely," she said. "It's peculiar, the sound of bones breaking. Do you remember it?"
"I don't care to," Cindy said honestly. She couldn't help it, the suggestion made was making her tremble, the sensation turning to shakes when Dana wrapped her fingers around Cindy's bandaged ring finger. "What is this supposed to be anyway? Your boyfriend is right in one thing, you are crazy." If there was going to be more pain, she wasn't going to take it quietly.
A quick movement brought back the world of terror and pain Cindy thought she had escaped from. She couldn't hold back the scream, and the nausea was returning with a vengeance, almost making her hope she'd throw up all over Dana. It didn't happen. Her vision faded in and out. She was gasping for breath.
"Too bad," Dana said somewhat absent-mindedly. "I kind of liked it."
"Lindsay's not gonna love you for this." In fact, I hope she's going to shoot you. Cindy closed her eyes, her only escape when Dana reached out and started stroking her cheek gently. "Maybe," she said, "if you aren't so pretty, she won't love you anymore."
"You tried the GPS on her cell?" Jill raised her hands defensively as Lindsay's glare was enough of an answer.
"Well, there's a brilliant idea!"
"It's turned off. Not a chance there."
Jill held up the folder she'd brought with her. "I might have something, but I'm not sure you want to hear it. It's about Dana."
Lindsay sighed. "It's okay. Go on."
Jill sat on the edge of her desk and started leafing through some papers. "Cindy asked me to do this check. I didn't get much, but one phone call lead to another, and this morning, I found something... I would have come by later to tell Cindy."
Lindsay couldn't spare any energy being mad at her lover and friend for going behind her back. If any of this helped finding Cindy, then she didn't mind at all. At the back of her mind though remained the nagging fear that they could be searching in the wrong place. Wasting time. "She's definitely strange. Yesterday she tried to kiss me and then sent flowers to apologize."
Jill frowned. "Sending flowers doesn't sound like someone's backing off. Anyway, it turns out that Dana here once had a juvenile record hat's been expunged years ago. I asked around, and it didn't take much to find out what must have been in it."
"That's scary," Lindsay said sarcastically though she had the bad feeling that she already had an idea.
"Scary is right. It seems like a sixteen-year-old Dana had a crush on one of her High School teachers, a woman named Laura Fisher. It ended with said record and the teacher leaving the school. No luck in locating her yet, but I'm on it. I'm sorry," she added.
"Don't be sorry to me!" Lindsay brushed her off. "Cindy didn't trust her right away. If only I had listened-- it might be too late now."
"Don't you dare say it, or even think it," Claire told her sternly. "Cindy needs you to keep it together, wherever she is right now. And we're gonna find her."
"That's right. I'll see what I can do about finding Fisher. Apparently she lives somewhere in the LA county. As soon as I get hold of her, I'll get her on the next flight."
"I'll go over the evidence of the Ramon case once more," Claire said. "I wonder if it's been tampered with."
Lindsay shared a silent look with her friends, grateful for the determination she read in their gazes, and their support. "I think it's time to bring Dana in."
"No way," Tom said. "You can't arrest another cop on a hunch! So she's jealous of you and Cindy, and annoying as hell, but that doesn't make her a criminal."
"Tom! Just let me talk to her!"
"We have no proof," he argued. "So she had access to the evidence of the Ramon case, and she was in your apartment. The same goes for quite a few other cops around here."
"The juvenile record," Lindsay reminded him impatiently.
"Has been expunged for a reason, I think."
There was a loaded silence for a few moments, moments they both knew counted in kidnapping cases. And there was really not much of a chance that this wasn't connected to what had happened to Cindy earlier. The violent boyfriend Dana had talked about might be for real, but Lindsay doubted the break-up had been.
The thought of Cindy in the hands of the same people who had hurt her this badly was making her sick, with a white-hot rage, and fear.
"Please," she finally said. "I'll take full responsibility. If anything happens, you never knew about this."
"Linds." Tom's regret was obvious, but he didn't have any better plan.
"I can't lose her." Her voice didn't break though the thought was tearing her apart.
He rubbed his forehead wearily. It had been a long day for all of them, and there was no end to it yet. "Okay," he said. "We'll ask her a few questions and then go from there."
There was a manila envelope sitting on her desk that hadn't been there before. Lindsay didn't recognize the handwriting that spelled her name on it, so she donned some gloves before carefully picking it up and examining it. Too flat to be a bomb really.
For a tense moment she thought of possiblities just as worse, then pushed them from her mind. She knew that whatever she'd find inside, it would be some kind of a warning.
Finally opening the envelope, she froze, the world coming to a jarring halt. She couldn't lose it right now, not when everybody was practically waiting for her to do so.
Breathe. It was the momentary imperative. If she could just get enough air into her lungs, she'd eventually be able to speak, move again.
"Oh my God." Claire stood behind her, laying a hand on her shoulder.
Lindsay carefully put the contents back into the envelope, holding back what was on the tip of her tongue, that God wouldn't want to have anything to do with it once she got her hands on the person who had done this.
In the mental scrapbook of her most cherished memories, this would always have a special place. Cindy had made herself memorize every single detail of the evening, so she wouldn't forget a moment of it. Eidetic memory helped.
The images brought back sensations, the scent of the candles, the taste of the deep red wine. They never failed to make her smile.
It had been the end of a big case, the murder of a local politian. Her killer had disliked her constant engagement for women's rights, waited for her in the parking garage one night and shot her in the back. It had been a long, nerve-wracking investigation, but today the verdict had been spoken, a life-long prison sentence without the chance of parole. Maria Delaney's husband and only daughter had come up to them afterwards and thanked each of them.
They had decided that this turn of events calls for more than a few cocktails at Papa Joe's, so Jill had pulled a few strings and gotten them a table at a restaurant where you'd usually have to reserve months in advance if they let you in at all.
It felt a lot different than their usual gatherings. Cindy remembered slipping into the red Donna Karan dress, nervous beyond imagination. She'd had Malcolm, a friend and former source who was a hair stylist, over.
"Why are you so jumpy?" he'd asked, amused. "Big date, huh?"
In the mirror, she rolled her eyes at him. "Is that all you can think about, Mal? I'm just going out with friends."
"Right," he grinned. "Your good friends, and that one special good friend."
Cindy stuck her tongue out at him this time.
The restaurant was seated in a five star hotel, and they had met for drinks in the lobby first, turning quite a few heads. Jill was wearing a midnight blue silk pant suit, the design leaving just enough to the imagination. Claire had chosen a black robe that ended below the knee and was setting off her curves nicely.
Lindsay complained about why they couldn't have chosen a place where people were allowed to wear comfortable clothes. Cindy tried hard to avoid getting caught staring, and she knew she'd fail. The slim white dress was ankle-length, but slitted to almost mid-thigh on one side. High-heeled sandals completed the outfit. And who would have thought that Lindsay had taken the time to paint her toe nails?
"She's speechless, Linds," Jill said gleefully. "I told you that would happen. Cindy has no idea what it looks like inside your closet."
Cindy blushed, Lindsay opened her mouth to protest when the insinuation registered with her, and they all laughed. It was a promising start.
In some ways it was their usual hanging out together if in a different place and very much different clothes, but there was a change in the air. Stealing glances. Their hands touching when they reached for the salt simultaneaously, and neither of them pulling away. Jill and Claire sharing knowing smiles, and neither of them caring.
And all of a sudden, Cindy wasn't nervous anymore, because she knew, it was going to be tonight. The rest would be easy. She'd been right.
Jill and Claire had said their goodbyes. Lindsay and Cindy just stayed in the place by the window, sipping their wine, enjoying each other's company, each of them trying to work up the courage for the next step. When Lindsay suggested calling a cab, what she didn't say was that Cindy would be going home with her, because it was understood.
Waiting for the taxi to arrive, out on the sidewalk, they kissed.
The ride home seemed like the longest ever, but once they had closed the door behind them, time slowed down to a pleasant pace. Finally being together, skin to skin, presented a relief on more levels than Cindy could have ever imagined. No more wondering. The shared fantasy was finally becoming real.
There was no awkward morning after moment. "So you are mine now?" Lindsay asked when they were lying together, on the verge of sleep as most other people in the city were about to start their day. There was a hopeful smile on her face, and just a hint of worried doubt. "I am," Cindy said simply, and that settled the subject.
Those memories could reach even through the pain and fear if Cindy concentrated on them very hard, but they vanished the moment Dana was back, dangling scissors in one hand. Cindy hadn't forgotten about her earlier comment. What am I going to do? Keep quiet or spit in her face?
Dana stroked Cindy's hair lightly, wrapping a long strand around her finger.
Now she understood. "No. Please."
"Don't be silly," Dana chided her. "This won't hurt."
"Don't do this." To Cindy's embarassment, tears were starting to stream down her face. Maybe the fantasy hadn't helped, but made her more vulnerable.
She heard the snipping sound of the scissors three, four times, too tired and dispirited to even turn away. "You wanted Lindsay's attention?" she said. "You'll have it now."
Dana smiled at her while she placed the strands of hair in an envelope. "I know."
Cindy promised herself that the moment she'd have her hands free, she would punch the woman. Hard.
Jeff Kramer was furious. "You can't do this! You're destroying a good cop's career, and if your girlfriend ends up dead, that's on you too."
"Where is she?" Lindsay asked, ignoring the insinuations made. It was all she could do not to think of the gruesome possibilities, and what might have already happened. That, and strands of red hair in an envelope.
Jeff shook his head in frustration. "Give me five minutes."
She didn't say 'thank you', because she knew it wouldn't be appreciated. Actually, Lindsay didn't really care much at the moment. If Dana had some answers, she would get them. Any way.
Dana came all but running to her not much later. "Are there any news on Cindy? God, Lindsay, I'm so sorry. This must be horrible for you!"
"Join me for a moment?" Lindsay pointed to the open door of the interrogation room. She had to resist the urge to shake the younger woman. Even if she turned out to be innocent, and it didn't look that way, Dana's concern was fake. How much else about her was?
Dana sat. Lindsay stood with her back against the wall and waited.
After a few moments, Dana turned to her. "Jeff didn't tell me much. What is this about?"
"This is about you getting one chance to tell me where Cindy is. One chance for you to maybe cut some kind of deal. You miss it it's over." Lindsay snapped her fingers, making Dana flinch slightly.
Dana straightened her shoulders. "I'm really sorry, but this is ridiculous. I don't know where she is... but maybe I was wrong about Ramon after all. Maybe the people who broke into her apartment wanted to finish off the job, make sure she wouldn't remember anything."
The way she was talking like Cindy was already gone made Lindsay want to strangle her. It would be of no use, she thought wryly. "Maybe. And maybe someone was planting the evidence. You were at the scene when his apartment was searched. You were in my apartment. It would have been too easy."
Laughing somewhat nervously, Dana shook her head. "You're overestimating my criminal energy."
"You think? Tell me about Laura Fisher then."
"Who?" Dana said immediately. Her tone was cool and calculating as she continued. "Okay, Lindsay, I see where you're getting at. If you want me to tell all, then we should both be honest."
Dana gave a dramatic sigh. "About that night... I know you're still feeling guilty."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"You think you were taking advantage of me, but I can assure you, that's not what happened. I wanted it too." She smiled sweetly, very much counting in that there were other people witnessing this absurd scene from the other side of the two-way mirror. Like Tom. Like Jill. "And you're also feeling guilty about cheating on Cindy, and now you might not have the chance to apologize to her, but I can't help you with that."
"You're crazy," Lindsay said, really seeing it for the first time. She wanted to yell it, but reined in the impulse. It was exactly what Dana wanted, to get to her, any way she could. She wouldn't give her the satisfaction though she was a bit baffled about how far the woman's delusion reached. "You know this never happened."
"Oh, sure. You cannot admit we had sex practically all night long with your ex-husband-slash-superior and your best friend who is scrambling for something to charge me, listening in. I understand, Linds." She got up to stand in front of Lindsay, close enough so she could whisper. "I don't regret a single moment."
"Be sure to plead insanity in court," Lindsay said. "They're gonna believe you."
"Can I go now? I've got a job to do, you know."
Lindsay hesitated just a moment before stepping away from the door. In passing, Dana touched her hand lightly, her voice dropping to an even lower tone. "Maybe if you come to the locker room with me for a few minutes, then I'll tell you." She winked.
Lindsay smiled back at her. "If you touched her, I'll find out. Don't get comfortable, Dana."
As soon as she was out of her vision, Lindsay leaned back against the wall, bracing herself. The guilt was eating at her alright. For not believing Cindy right away when she'd claimed that there was something strange about Dana.
"So did you put a trace on her?"
Jill looked regretful, Tom's expression Lindsay didn't like at all. "What?"
"On what grounds?" he asked. "She denied everything. We have no proof."
"Laura Fisher has agreed to talk to us," Jill said. "I'll call her back right away, we'll set up a conference call."
Tom was still looking at her in a way that made her defensive. "Everything she said in there was a lie! I didn't sleep with her. How the hell can you even think--"
"It's not what I'm thinking, Linds. If she was involved in anything, it's going to be hell to prove. That's what I'm worried about."
"I can follow her. Make it official once we have something solid."
"No way, Lindsay!"
"Okay." Lindsay raised her hands in mock defense, then she removed her gun from its holster and placed it on the table, together with her badge. "I'll do it with or without those, and you know it. It's up to you."
"You're not going to blackmail me with a Deputy District Attorney in the room, are you?" he asked, exasperated.
"Oh well. I didn't hear a word," Jill chimed in. "See you outside, Linds."
She left them to a silent standoff, rank as well as their shared history only adding to the gravity of the moment.
Finally, Tom sighed. "You better be damn careful. I hear she's one of the best shooters around."
Lindsay shrugged. "So am I. Is that all?"
In the doorway, he held her back. She looked down at his hand encircling her wrist, a somewhat inappropriate gesture of attempted comfort.
"Every cop in the city is on the look out for her," Tom said. "We're going to find her, Linds."
Cindy thought that she might not die from anything that the crazy pair was going to do to her after all. Alone in the darkened room, she had with nothing to distract her from the pain the somewhat silly grief she felt about the strands that had fallen victim to the sciccors. It was the thirst though that was beginning to get to her. Feeling dizzy and lightheaded did not help with the orientation, but it couldn't be close to two days already, could it?
Somewhere in her overloaded mind she was still wondering how Dana could manage to pull this off. The building wasn't an abandoned warehouse, it was a simple one-family-unit. Whom did it belong to?
She cringed at the door being opened. It wasn't Dana though, but her friend whose name Cindy had never learned. He came walking into the room, stood in front of the bed for a moment, looking down at her with a smirk. Cindy took a deep breath. "Could you get me some water please?"
The only reason I'm polite is that I know you're getting your ass kicked real soon. But you don't know it yet.
"Sure," he said and walked away again.
Cindy nearly cried with relief.
A few minutes later though it wasn't him who returned to the room, but Dana, holding a glass of water. As much as Cindy had come to hate her, the sight would have made her fall to her knees in gratitude if she'd been able to. The sentiment didn't last long as Dana poured the contents right into her face, making her sputter.
"You wanted some water, bitch!" Dana yelled.
So she was in a bad mood. Anxiously waiting, Cindy wondered what that ever meant. Dana's good moods did never bode well for her either. "Okay, well, thank you then." She couldn't quite keep the ironic tone out of her voice, and Dana stared at her angrily. "You could use a bath too, but I don't have time for this now. I've got to go back to work."
And thank God for that, too.
Dana might have a point there, but Cindy prayed that she'd be able to take that bath at home or at least in the hospital, not with the happy psychopathic couple around.
The image was somewhat grainy, and the tone delayed, but the message came across quite clearly. Laura Fisher was shocked to hear that Dana had begun a career as a police officer.
She shrugged. "She had money behind her, a good lawyer. Her mother used to be married to some Hollywood director."
"What exactly did Dana do back then?" Jill asked asked softly.
Fisher laughed bitterly. "She was a regular stalker, but who would question an angel-faced teenager too much? It started out harmless. I taught Physics and Math, she was a gifted student. She seemed nice at first, just a little shy."
Lindsay stood motionless, with her back against the wall. She should have recognized the signs much earlier.
"She wasn't very popular though. I guess for some time I was one of the few people who were not ignoring or mocking her, so she started bringing me coffee. I asked her to stop when my colleagues warned me. Next were the flowers."
"Why did you leave?" Lindsay cut in. "She was the one accused."
"Right, but she got a slap on the wrist and that was all. I had my family to think about." There were tears in the woman's eyes. "My daughter was two years old them. Dana hung around the house and took pictures she sent to me. I couldn't take that risk."
Aware of Claire watching her worriedly, Lindsay left her place at the wall. "Thank you, Mrs. Fisher. We're going to need you to make a statement. Dana is suspected of assault and kidnapping. This time, she's not going to get away."
Laura Fisher looked doubtful. "Can you promise me that, Inspector?"
"Yes," Lindsay said. "I promise."
She was motivated. Cindy also was in a hell of pain. The cold water had soaked her shirt, and she was still shivering violently, but she was determined to have left this place by the time Dana came back from her work shift.
She'd tried to slip her left hand out of the strap that bound her wrist to the head board. It was going slow, but it couldn't be helped. Cindy couldn't even think of her right hand without triggering the nausea, the sound of breaking bones, and waves of pain, let alone move a finger.
Maybe it was just her desperate imagination, but it seemed like the restraint on the left side was starting to loosen. Just one hand free, and she'd make it.
Cindy only hoped that the pair felt secure enough with her being tied down that they didn't lock the door.
About to leave the room, Lindsay nearly ran into Tom who was opening the door at the same time. "Cindy's car has been found," he said. "License plates were exchanged, but whoever did it was dumb enough to leave the old ones in the trunk." Aware of the anxious looks on him, he added, "No blood, no signs of a struggle."
Lindsay could breathe again.
So far, Dana hadn't done anything but working her shift alongside Kramer, the two of them taking a short lunch break.
It was time to tighten the web.
It might have been minutes, or hours, Cindy couldn't really tell, but fear had been a good incentive, the adrenaline rush even overcoming the merciless throbbing in her skull and her hand.
Freeing her right hand and legs didn't take all that long, and then she sat on the side of the bed, trying to tell herself to move. It wasn't over yet. No time for the luxury to just sit here and have a crying fit.
Cindy stood up and nearly took a header to the floor right away. Stumbling, she made it to the door that indeed wasn't locked. It opened to some kind of gallery, a staircase leading down into a lobby. She could see the front door.
Maybe her car was even still there?
Sweet freedom awaiting her, Cindy was ready for it. There was a phone downstairs too. Now she was getting somewhere. The thought of hearing Lindsay's voice finally was all she needed to be very careful not to fall down those stairs.
It felt like a dream when she finally wrapped shaking fingers around the phone. Maybe 911 first, Lindsay second would be the more sensible solution, Cindy realized.
The world crumbled when she heard the sound of the key in the lock.
The blow nearly sent her into unconsciousness. As it was, the vision of an irate Dana kept waivering. "Did you call anybody?" Dana screamed. "Answer me, damn it!"
"Cool it," the boyfriend said. "We were just in time. No outgoing calls."
She wasn't easily appeased though. "Get up!"
While Cindy would have prefered to be standing up and preferably hit her back, she just couldn't. Breathing seemed to much of an effort. Dana walked around her, leaned down to grab her hair and pulled. "Do it now." It was eerie how the violence seemed to calm her.
How she did it when there was no breath left to scream, Cindy didn't know, but she made it to her feet eventually, if only for the fear to lose a piece of scalp if she didn't.
A cruel smile crossed Dana's pretty features. "I guess it's time for the bathroom now."
Cindy was quite sure she wouldn't be able to enjoy a nice relaxing bath ever again.
The pieces were finally coming together. Fisher's statement had convinced Tom. There were already units on the way to Dana's apartment as techs went over every square inch of Cindy's car.
They should be so lucky to find that Dana's boyfriend had a record.
His last known address was a house owned in the name of Marilyn Meyers, née Sims, Dana's mother. Lindsay remembered the last time she'd switched on the siren on the way to a crime scene involving Cindy, the last time the fear would have rendered her immobile if she'd given it a single thought.
There was no way she could undress herself. There was certainly an inhibition, having two crazy people in the room with her, but mostly physically, she just couldn't do it with every move bringing new pain. "Could you... please?" Cindy wouldn't admit it though. She'd be damned if she'd get naked with said crazy people watching her.
Dana shook her head. "You know what, I don't trust you. You might try something funny. Again."
"One of us stays in here. Would you rather like it to be him?"
Cindy caught the man's smile, realizing that she had no more defenses left. With this last desperate attempt of escape failing, this was it. "You," she whispered.
"I thought so." Dana nodded. "Get her the clothes," she ordered.
When he returned two minutes later with a small pile of clothing, underwear, a T-shirt and shorts, Cindy could only stare.
"That's right," Dana said with evident satisfaction. "I got them from your apartment the first time. Thought you might be more comfortable in your own." She and her boyfriend laughed as if she'd just made a brilliant joke.
Cindy knew she was about to pass out anytime soon, but the scene only got more bizarre.
"Wait," Dana said, her mood shifting abruptly. "Not this one."
Oh God. Cindy knew why. The black undershirt with the lacy neckline wasn't hers, but she knew where Dana had taken it from. She watched with a flash of anger as the other woman drew the soft fabric across her cheek with a smile.
"You're not just crazy, you're also a thief." Speaking hurt, and saying this out loud might bring more pain, but Cindy couldn't help it.
"You have no idea," Dana giggled. "You are so naive! Where did you think Lindsay spent all those nights working long?"
Cindy just shook her head.
"She told me I could keep it. To have part of her with me all the time and remember--"
"Shut up." It sounded more like a plea than like a command, but unfortunately that was the best she could do for now.
"She said that you--"
"Shut the fuck up!" That was better.
Maybe it wasn't rational to think that she had a sliver of a chance in her current condition. Cindy couldn't not try. The guy was gone for the moment, just the two of them now. She'd hear the front door earlier, so maybe she had a little time.
"Or else?" Dana taunted.
Cindy picked up the shreds of her remaining strength and threw herself forward, putting all of her weight into tackling her to the floor. If Dana hit her head on the way down, she wouldn't mind, and if she could get her hands on the damn gun, Cindy would use it.
The man who came walking down the small driveway didn't put up much of a fight, too stunned by the turn of events he obviously hadn't expected. Lindsay gladly left him to the two uniforms who had arrived nearly at the same time as she had.
"Where is she?"
He opened his mouth, but she didn't need that answer from him when the scream convinced her that there was no time to wait for backup. Officer Connolly went with her while her partner stayed with the suspect.
At least she wasn't going to die without having put up a fight. Cindy remembered when Charlie Gifford's stray bullet had hit her; there had been no slide-show like recapture of her life. Maybe she hadn't felt so all alone and helpless then with her friends close, urging her to hang on, with Lindsay holding her hand.
Now, the images kept coming as she kneeled on the cold tiled floor, the only company a madwoman by her side holding a gun to her head. Cindy couldn't be entirely sure if part of it wasn't fantasy of a future she'd never have. She knew something though she'd had the beginning of the career she'd alway been dreaming of.
She'd found someone to love her.
Even if she died today, no one could take that away from her.
"I'm sorry," Dana said. "I didn't mean for things to end this way exactly, but it has to be done."
And all the things you envy me for, you'll never have them, because you're looking at a lifelong prison sentence at best.
"I'll end your pain and mine. We both win."
She was determined, Cindy realized. There was no way she could stop her now, so Dana might as well face the truth.
"Then do it," she said. "Lindsay loves me. If you kill me now, that's going to be my last thought."
"Yours and hers."
Both Cindy and Dana jumped at the sound of Lindsay's voice, if for different reasons, Cindy suspected. She closed her eyes for her moment, tears warm on her face, well aware of the fact that she wasn't safe yet. From somewhere deep inside though, Cindy found calm. She was no longer alone.
"Lindsay!" Dana smiled happily. "You finally came. We've been waiting for you."
"Good. Now put away that gun and let her go. It's over." Lindsay kept her voice level, her hands steady. She had a clear shot. That was all to focus on for the moment.
Dana shook her head, her eyes starting to fill with tears. "No, I can't! Don't you understand? We can finally be free!" She pressed the gun harder to Cindy's temple, leaning closer to her.
Lindsay winced, but didn't rise to the bait. "Don't." From now, it would be a matter of seconds, determining if she was too far gone to argue with.
"I love you, Lindsay," Dana rambled on.
Lindsay dared a quick look into Cindy's eyes, seeing the trust that was there, an unspoken message passing between them. "Put it down, Dana. Now!"
"No." Dana shook her head. "Not now, when we can finally be together," she said.
The sound of the shot ringing out seemed deafening in the confines of the bathroom. Cindy had thrown herself to the ground, but she was screaming like she couldn't stop.
Dana looked at the growing stain on her shirt like in surprise, staggering. Her finger twitched on the trigger, and Lindsay fired again, splashes of red against the white tiles as Dana collapsed, while at the same moment, the bathtub overflowed.
That's why there are women on the force, Lindsay thought wearily as she crouched next to Cindy. Multitasking. Dana was still alive. She'd checked, kicked the gun out of her hand and sent Connolly to get the paramedics in. Almost as an afterthought, she reached over and turned off the water, not so much to preserve any evidence, but because the sound was getting on her nerves.
Cindy was quiet now, but she looked ready to pass out. Words wouldn't come. Feeling the need to do something, Lindsay gently helped her into a sitting position, checking for injuries beyond the obvious. When Cindy leaned into her and started to cry, she just held her very carefully until the room became crowded by more people.
Dana had been semi-conscious when she'd been carried out of the house, recognizing Jill who passed the gurney at this moment. She would have spit venom if she'd been able too. Leaning close, Jill told her, "You get well soon. Because there'll be a lot for me to charge you with."
The woman in the white lab coat seemed familiar. Dr. Ramirez had recognized her, too. "There I'd hoped I wouldn't see you again here so soon," she said with a shake of her head.
"Tell me about it," Lindsay said tiredly. "Give me the verdict, Doc?"
The other woman sat next to her, but instead of comforted, Lindsay felt crowded and uncomfortable. "Cindy is going to be okay, right? She might have a concussion and be in pain, but she-- God." She took a deep breath. "I'm not sure I can stand to hear what you have to say right now."
"I understand," Dr. Ramirez said softly. "And we do expect her to make a fully recovery. There are no signs of a concussion, fortunately. The only thing that worries me a little is her right hand. Those fingers were broken twice within a short amount of time. She might lose some flexibility there."
"Like you said, she'll be in pain. And we're only talking about the physical side for now."
Lindsay nodded, unsure whether she should be relieved or scared or both. They were silent for a moment.
"Do you want to hear about Officer Sims, too?"
This moment, the door opened, and Claire came inside. "I'm sorry to interrupt. Are there any news yet?"
"In a minute. And thanks, Doc. I don't think that's necesseary now," Lindsay said, then she followed Claire outside.
In the hallway, she tried to start explaining. Fortunately, Claire understood without words and simply drew her into the embrace she'd needed so badly.
She was floating. For a moment, Cindy was afraid she could be dead, but then she figured that dead people probably didn't have nightmares about being drowned in a bathtub by some crazy stalker. Her heartbeat sped up and she struggled to open her eyes.
The soft touch to her arm alerted her of Lindsay's presence before her vision could.
"Hey," Cindy croaked, hoping it would translate into everything she meant to say and couldn't, at the moment. I'm so glad you're here. And: You look terrible, why don't you go home and get some sleep? On second thought, no, please, stay.
Lindsay just smiled, never letting go of her hand, which told Cindy that the message had probably been understood. All of it.
They'd get through this too. If only she'd been able to turn off the movie running in the back of her mind, images of her ordeal... wait.
There was the flash of a memory, the cold brush of scissors against the skin of her cheek. She had to have dreamed that, right? Talk about adding insult to injury... if only she hadn't been this doped up still. Cindy was grateful for the absence of pain, but it was just so damn difficult to make her self clear. "M-mirror?"
Lindsay looked a bit startled at that which couldn't be good. "Not right now," she said. "There's time."
Just how bad is it?
It might be weird to give this so much importance when she'd nearly ended up dead just hours ago, but then again Cindy wasn't thinking too clearly at the moment. "Now."
Lindsay didn't put up any more protest, just found her a small make up mirror and held it out to her. "We'll have your hairdresser buddy over and he's gonna fix it." That was probably meant to be reassuring, but it didn't quite have that effect on Cindy. She didn't want to need to be fixed.
"They had to cut a little here in the hospital too, because you needed stitches... Cindy," she said helplessly, closing the mirror with a snapping sound, reaching out, hesitating. With Cindy's right hand in the bandage, and the IV needle stuck in her left, there weren't many options left.
Cindy couldn't help it, the tears just kept falling beyond her control. Technically, she knew that all of this, including her less than desirable looks would be only temporary, but the knowledge didn't do a thing for her. The humiliation had settled deep in her body and mind, and how long it would stay there, she had no idea.
Lindsay finally laid her hand lightly against Cindy's cheek. "Don't be so sad," she pleaded. "It's going to be okay." Where she took that certainty from, Cindy had no idea, but she leaned into the touch, because right now it was all she could do.
"It was all his idea!" Dana's face was pale and tear-streaked, still, Jill couldn't muster a lot of sympathy for the young woman. "I couldn't stop him! I never wanted things to get this bad, but I was so scared of him!"
Dana's mother stood to the right, her lawyer to the left. "Do you really have to bother my child now? Hasn't she been through enough?"
Jill chose not to answer. She wasn't quite sure what could possibly be a fair punishment for a person who held a gun to someone's head with the intent to kill them, but she was certain that Dana should be brought to trial and held responsible for her actions.
"She will never walk again!" Dana's mother emphasized.
"Why don't we take a break?" Jill suggested. After all, there were only so many lies a person could stand to hear, and besides, there was someone else she needed to check on.
In her time with the SFPD, Officer Dana Sims had seen dead bodies before. It was everybody's least favorite part of the job, but you couldn't entirely avoid it. She'd thought she made her peace with it. That resolve lasted until the moment she and her parter Jeff Kramer walked into the tastefully furnished bedroom where the white sheet underneath the woman's hands were soaked in blood.
While Jeff called it in, Dana took a closer look and shrank back in shock as the realization kicked in: the dead woman's hands weren't attached to her body any longer. She took a deep breath which turned out to be a big mistake as she become only more aware of the overpowering smell of blood.
"Dana?" Jeff asked sharply. "Sims, you gettin' sick, then get the hell out of here!"
So she did, barely making it outside and far enough to be what would be outside the taped area. More squad cars had arrived, the place that had been so eerily quiet now starting to swarm with cops. She heard laughter.
"Someone's losing her dinner." "Maybe the girl should have tried for secretary first."
It wasn't fair. She'd seen enough men blanch at an accident site. What had her so upset was the blatantly displayed act of violence; someone had wanted to present the woman exactly this way, for them to find her. The memory brought on the nausea once more. Dana hated to be the center of everybody's amusement, but she hated herself even more.
When there seemed nothing left in her stomach, she wiped her mouth and decided to go to the car and find something to get rid of the taste of blood. Even the thought of going back in made her insides cramp.
"Hey. You okay?"
"What's it to you?" The snappish response was on the tip of Dana's tongue as she straightened, but she held it back, feeling a lot worse all of a sudden. Of course she knew Homicide Inspector Lindsay Boxer. Who didn't? Since closing the Kiss Me Not case, she was kind of a legend in the department. She was the last person Dana would have liked to witness this moment.
"I'm fine," she said defensively.
"No sane person would be fine after seeing this. It's pretty bad in there."
Dana hesitated for a moment, not quite sure if she trusted the inspector's words. Or if she even wanted to. If she'd been a mean bitch about it, maybe Dana would have felt a little less embarrassed. "You didn't throw up though."
"Don't worry about it," Lindsay said. "It doesn't make you a bad cop when you give a damn. The first time I saw a scene like that, I had nightmares for a week."
"If you're saying this just to make me feel better... well it worked."
They laughed, and Lindsay continued, "Good. Now get back to work, Officer...?"
"Sims. Dana Sims."
"I'm Lindsay. See you around."
Dana watched her walk away with a smile.
Oh, I know who you are. You'll see me around, Lindsay Boxer.
One year later
It was a beautiful morning. Lindsay stepped out onto the porch, greeting the first rays of sunlight, enjoying the quiet of the moment. It was too early for mail yet, but somehow she felt the need to check anyway. Just like she'd suspected, there was an envelope with what was probably a card inside.
You thought it would be a surprise, didn't you?
Lindsay went back into the house, lost in thought and memory as she collected everything she needed and then sat on the steps of the porch, finally opening the red envelope. Expensive paper. The card inside would be just as exclusive. 'This is your day'. Heart, roses, champagne, the image lacking no cliché. I hope that on this special day, you'll think of me. I will always love you.
The card wasn't signed. It didn't have to be. If you had money behind you, many things were possible, even if you were a criminal in a wheelchair. That money couldn't buy freedom though. Or love.
"Just like Laura said."
Cindy's hair was still damp from the shower. She carried two mugs with the coffee still steaming in them, setting them down on the wooden planks before she sat next to Lindsay, wrapping her arms around her. They stayed silent for a few moments before Lindsay reached for the lighter and ashtray she'd brought earlier.
The importance of rituals; Cindy's counselor had talked about that in one of the sessions Lindsay had joined her.
Cindy held up the card while Lindsay lit the upper corner of it, and then tossed it into the ashtray. The flame grew and then wilted as the paper crumbled, turning to ashes. There was a nice symbolism in having the mocking words extinguished by something that was stronger.
"Happy Birthday," Cindy whispered.
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