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Doing my job is the only thing I can do now not to lose it. I can't think of Cindy who's in emergency surgery now. She was alive when they got her into the ambulance. No calls on my cell phone. Claire promised to call right away if anything changes.
Meanwhile we find the car that's been parked in front of the apartment building minutes before the blast. Cindy's elderly neighbor, Mrs. Greene, had to be rushed to the hospital because of smoke inhalation, but she had identified the vehicle.
I find the check in the glove compartment, pick it up with suddenly trembling fingers.
I read the name on the check, and I grow all cold inside.
When I let the door bang shut behind me, the woman barely flinches. If anything, she looks bored. I take a moment to rein in the mix of emotions, anger, fear, disbelief. The powers that be have spoken; I'm not going to do this interrogation and it's probably a wise decision, but I'm going to have this moment with her.
There's something I need to know.
She finally meets my gaze. Up close, she looks tired, dispirited, but I can't care.
"Cindy nearly died. Your name was on a check that paid the man who set the bomb. I want to know why."
Yuki shakes her head. "You don't get it, do you?"
"What are you talking about?" This woman who I thought to be a friend has become a total stranger. It's making my head hurt. She's right in one thing, I don't get it.
"You might have gone to prison if it hadn't been for me," she points out. "But did you show me any gratitude?"
I'm so baffled by her accusation that even the simmering rage I feel retreats to the background. "But I tried to help your career. I introduced you to the girls." And what a big mistake that was, I think guiltily. If I hadn't done it, Cindy wouldn't be in the hospital fighting for her life. It makes me want to cry, but of course there's no place for this right now.
"Right." Yuki snorts. "As if I ever had a chance against the immortal Jill Bernhardt." She sure knows how to turn the knife, bringing up Jill's name.
"Because you were jealous of Jill, you paid a hitman to kill Cindy? That doesn't make any sense. Why hurt her?"
The nonchalant act is gone, replaced by another. Tears are glistening in her eyes. I don't believe them.
"I did everything," she says. "Everything to be close to you. I even changed to the DA's office--"
"Because you wanted to help putting the bad guys away!" Her self-pity is getting on my nerves. The impulse to shake her, getting stronger.
"You never accepted me," Yuki accuses. "Jill is some kind of ideal I'll never live up to. And Cindy the bitch sleeps with your partner--" She keeps yelling even after I slap her, "knowing that you are attracted to him, and you still love her!"
I can't stand this any longer.
"Lindsay wait!" she calls after me, and at the door, I turn. The ruthlessness is back in her eyes. "You wanted to know why? Fine. I finally would have had you all to myself."
It's in the hospital when I'm ready to lose it. She's lying still, looking small in the midst of all those tubes and machinery keeping her alive. There are cuts on her face from the window shattering, bandages covering her arms.
There's something utterly scary about a silent Cindy Thomas.
The vision of her behind the glass of the ICU room blurs. "Don't you leave me." I can't go through this again. "Don't you dare leave me!" What have we done, angering the Gods by being too good when we formed this group? And Yuki. All this time I had no idea. I press my hand against my face, wanting to stop the torrent of tears, but it's to late. To late to unsee.
I don't want to get married. I don't want to date my young attractive partner.
All I want is a chance to start over again.
All I really need is for her to live. Silently, I make a deal with the same Gods I cursed a moment before.
It's a long time before we sit around our usual table at Suzie's again, back to three, talking life, love and murder. Claire sure has her hands full at home with her little girl; listening to her stories, I study Cindy who's sitting across from me.
She nearly didn't bounce back this time, months of physiotherapy, pain, hassles on the job. There was just never a moment to bring up The Question. I could give her exclusives that no journalist in the city would get, but I couldn't burden her with my own misgivings. Joe and I quietly went separate ways. They aren't going to ask, or prod.
"Why do I have the feeling you're not listening to me?" Claire gently admonishes. "You two want me to get the check while you go get a room?"
"What the--" My face is burning, but Cindy meets my gaze with a smile.
"That might be a little premature," she says. "I'd rather go there once I have a little more flexibility back... you know."
I choke on my drink while Claire cracks up, but for once I feel that we succeeded, that the stagnation of the past few years is really over.
For the first time, I feel like Jill is smiling on us from heaven.
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