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A Miracle For Me
The things you do for your friends... Lindsay sighed as the about three-year-old disappeared under a rack with bathrobes again, playing hide-and-seek with her mother. Two teenagers giggled over black lace lingerie, and a young man looked decidedly uncomfortable with the setting. Add to that the false cheer of the Christmas music.
Lindsay was using her lunch break for some last minute gift shopping, and since the sexy garment had been such a success in Claire's case the last time, she had decided to go with something similar again. Lindsay was well aware that she was blessed with amazing friends, so sometimes she worried that she didn't really have much to give back in return. She did pay attention to detail though, something she was good at. She knew what size Claire was wearing, what kind of imported French Vanilla coffee Jill liked, and Cindy... Lindsay sighed again. Truth be told, she tried not to think of Cindy too much, let alone in a room full of sexy underwear, but after her exploits at 'Satin & Dreams' she'd have to get her something too. Maybe she should have taken the afternoon off altogether.
The girl at the cash register, looking barely eighteen, removed the price tag then gave Lindsay a quick onceover. "Um..." she said, "We've got the same in your size over there."
For a split-second, Lindsay contemplated giving her a pissy response, but then she simply smiled and said, "That's fine. It's for a friend."
The young woman blushed scarlet under her make-up. "I see. I'm sorry. Would you like it wrapped?"
Lindsay noted somewhat maliciously that the cashier was flustered, and she didn't feeling any guilty about it. She'd be damned if she let a girl half her age yank her chain about her bra size.
She waited by the counter, checking her watch. She'd make it back just in time for the rest of her shift if she moved Cindy's present to the next day. It didn't matter; they wouldn't meet until the 27th which was traditionally a 'club' day, and before that, she'd have two and a half days off she didn't really need. Lindsay rolled her eyes recalling the conversation with Tom. He thought he was doing her a favor. Well, there was one advantage to it. Normal people tended to get a little crazy during the holidays, so did criminals. This year, she'd escape all of it in favor of some quality time with Martha, some TV and good Scotch. She'd had worse Christmases.
Looking up, Lindsay saw the two men walk into the store, and she frowned, thinking they looked very much out of place.
That was all the time she had before one of them pulled a gun and started firing. "Everybody get down!" the other one yelled, heading for the cash register while his accomplice stayed at the door.
The little girl was still hiding under the rack. Lindsay prayed that she wouldn't make any sudden movements. Somebody screamed, another shot rang out, and from the speakers, 'Jingle Bells' was still blaring.
"Can I help you?"
Startled, Cindy Thomas nearly slipped off where she was sitting on the edge of Lindsay's desk, much to Tom's amusement. There was something remarkable about how she seemed to feel like she belonged here, and with a shake of his head, he realized that he wasn't even surprised about finding her where he did.
"Linds isn't here?" she asked unnecessarily. "I thought she might have time for lunch, but I couldn't reach her on her cell."
"I'm sorry, she went to do some shopping."
The silence between them stretched, becoming a bit awkward after a near minute. Tom noticed, just as he wondered about the significance of her dressing up like that for a mere working lunch with a friend. He did have an idea though, and filed this away as another clue.
"I'll just wait here then," Cindy eventually offered, and he just nodded.
"Have a good day."
He was just to turn around when the call came in, Jacobi heading in his direction only seconds later. "Tom. The hostage situation over at the mall. Lindsay's there."
Over his own alarm at the news, he'd noticed Cindy's reaction. She'd perked up at the notice of a crime in progress, but when Jacobi mentioned the name of his partner, she paled spectacularly. That might have been more of a dead giveaway as to her feelings than any of those little hints.
"Just shut up!" The child was now crying in her mother's arms. It worried Lindsay. These men were obviously dangerous; one of them seeming trigger-happy and nervous, the other, older one eerily calm. They had drawn all the blinds, but never turned off the damn music. The two teenage girls were huddled together, their faces tear-streaked, but they were keeping quiet so far. So did the young man though the fear was evident in his face. The clerk sat up against the wall, staring straight ahead.The mother was intent on calming her daughter. Lindsay studied the woman who was about her own age, for a moment. Their gazes met, a moment of shared resolve.
All of them would get out of here alive.
She wished there was more she could do, but with the two of them, it was too dangerous. She'd have to wait for help from the outside, and the right moment.
"Okay, all of you," the younger robber barked. "I wanna see some money."
"Don't we all," the young man muttered, and Lindsay bit her lip to stifle the reflexive smile. In fact, this was very bad. If they were going through wallets, they'd find out soon that she was a cop.
Not such a good prospect.
"Hey, look at this."
Lindsay winced as the man went through the contents of her wallet methodically, of course coming up with something she would have liked to keep hidden. "Fuck, the chick's a cop!" he swore. "That means--"
"That means she's carrying a gun," the quiet one said. "Which she is going to hand over right now, am I right? You don't want to see anyone die," he addressed her, just minutely raising his own weapon.
"Whatever you say." No use in taking a risk when backup was certainly already outisde.
"And the backup, too."
"Just this one today. You've been watching too much Law & Order."
Her cheek was stinging from the slap an instant later, reminding her that this one was really the more dangerous one. He moved with surprising speed. His accomplice laughed. "Better not talk back to him, bitch."
They seemed to believe her about the backup weapon though. Good.
The male hostage wore an expensive watch; otherwise, there wasn't much to get off the hostages. Lindsay was wracking her brain. What did these men want? There wasn't a lot of money in the cash register either, compared to, let's say, a jewelry store. Maybe 15 minutes of murdering fame was all, but they had been in here for nearly an hour already.
So much for getting the Christmas shopping done. She shook her head at her own thought. She had to keep it together.
The news had pretty much put everyone's lives on hold. Jill who had been invited for a romantic couple of days in a cabin by the new ADA she was dating, had delayed her flight. Claire had put Ed in charge of all Christmas-related activities at home. Cindy was simply devastated.
"Don't worry," Jill tried to console her. "Lindsay knows how to deal with that kind of situation."
"That's not what I'm worried about." What Cindy had not said, rang just as clearly. Harlan Baker and Bernhard Dryson were escaped felons. They didn't have a whole lot to lose except their freedom on the way to which they had already killed a guard. There was no reason for too much optimism. Still, Jill wanted to believe that today, Christmas Eve, could not end in a horror scenario for them. If that sounded selfish, Jill couldn't bring herself to care. She cast another glance at Cindy who looked very young and frightened. For a lack of anything helpful to day, she just stepped forward and embraced her. Over Cindy's shoulder, she saw her own fear reflected in Claire's face.
They would not let it show.
It wasn't even clear over what they got into the fight, but the quiet one reacted very quickly, shooting his accomplice point blank.
There were screams, and Lindsay could see on the murderer's satisfied expression that he had planned it exactly that way. Get rid of the other one. He wouldn't mind shooting any hostages.
The phone had been ringing several times, but they refused to talk to the negotiator.
Lindsay knew they would come in any moment now, but even so, it might be too late.
The owner of 'Satin & Dreams" rushed inside, hugging the clerk tightly which reminded Lindsay that she still hadn't gotten Claire's present. Or anything for Cindy, for that matter. Strangely detached, she watched the robber's blood seep into the beige woolen carpet, replaying the last few minutes again in her mind. Wondering if she'd acted too soon, as she holstered her gun again.
She turned into the direction of Tom's voice and smiled weakly.
"God, I'm so glad this is over," he said roughly. Lindsay just hoped he wouldn't hug her right here on the crime scene. Or at all.
"Me too," she replied. "I need to go home. I haven't fed Martha all day."
"Hey, wait," Tom called after her when she simply walked away and then pointed into the direction of the ambulance.
"Ah, no." She grimaced. A tickling sensation on her face made her reach up, her hand coming away with red smears, making her wince as the pain suddenly registered with her. Maybe he did have a point.
"Are you really okay?" Claire asked worriedly. "You could always come home with me. Ed and the boys wouldn't mind, on the contrary."
Lindsay squeezed her arm gently. "No thanks." Somehow, the idea of an idyllic Christmas dinner with the Washburn family seemed like a scary prospect; she couldn't handle this right now. All she wanted was to get home to Martha finally, take her out for one last run tonight and then crash.
"I'll leave my cell on," Jill said. "Anytime, Linds, you know that."
"Thanks." She kissed her friend lightly on the cheek. "Have fun in the snow."
Jill winked. "I'm thinking that the most fun will happen elsewhere," she predicted, and they all laughed.
Cindy just stepped forward and embraced her, holding on tight, the most severe threat to Lindsay's composure. She was a heartbeat away from cracking and asking Cindy if she could use a houseguest or two, counting Martha over the holidays. Lindsay aborted the impulse hastily. There was no doubt that Cindy would have someone to spend Christmas with.
"Don't you worry," she said, reluctantly stepping out of the touch. "I'll be fine. I've got to head home now though, because frankly I'm starving, and I'm sure so is poor Martha. I'll see you in three days then. That seemed like an eternity, and the concerned glances cast her way indicated that she wasn't the only one feeling that way.
Lindsay just forced a smile for them and then she turned away from her friends' worried scrutiny and walked to her car.
Two hours later, Martha was happily dozing on the couch after her evening run and dinner. The lack of the latter was what kept Lindsay from doing the same. Her stomach was growling, but she couldn't muster the energy to get up and cook something, let alone go out for grocery shopping.
With the dangerous situation of the day resolved, her energy levels had started crashing, so the doorbell was the most unwelcome sound she could think of. Lindsay considered not opening. Worst case scenario, it was Tom coming over for a pity visit. That had ended badly the last time. Not that she was feeling much like having company other than Martha's and her own. The girls were accounted for, and if it was Tess, her neighbor, she'd just send her away with an excuse.
I almost got killed buying lingerie today. That'd do?
Lindsay considered just waiting it out, but then it rang again, and Martha started barking.
"What the--" She yanked the door open to somebody hiding behind a small fully decorated Christmas tree in a plant pot. Well. Not somebody.
"No," Lindsay said disbelievingly for the lack of anything better to say.
"Would you help me with this?" a red-faced and breathless Cindy asked.
"You did not bring me a tree." Which was a stupid thing to say, because the fact was pretty obvious. Lindsay also knew who was to blame for it, and they'd get a piece of her mind in three days for involving Cindy in their scheme. It was a conspiracy.
"Are you even going to let me in?" Cindy asked, now sounding miserable enough for Lindsay delay those plans swiftly. Then again, maybe it was a bit of an act, because Cindy knew damn well that Lindsay just couldn't resist her.
"Martha will go crazy. We never have a tree." Nobody should say that she didn't try.
"Claire says Martha behaves around hers just fine," Cindy insisted, and then her eyes went wide with the kid caught with her hand in the cookie jar look. Busted.
"Come on in," Lindsay said with a sigh. "I'm sorry you got the babysitter gig. Again."
And somehow she was not, sorry, but Cindy didn't need to know.
They found a place ina corner of the living room. Lindsay had to admit it looked nice, until she flashed back on the shredded branches and broken balls of the one in the lingerie store, 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town' in an endless loop even after the robber was bleeding out on the carpet.
"I'm afraid I can't offer you much," she told Cindy who was now sitting next to Martha, watching Lindsay with a too hopeful expression. "I haven't exactly gotten around to do a lot of shopping today."
"I know. That's why I kind of took care of that too." Cindy gave her a sheepish smile. "It needs just a few minutes in the microwave."
That was the proverbial last straw. "I appreciate what you're trying to do, but don't be too disappointed if it doesn't work." She stepped closer into Cindy's personal space, but her friend didn't budge, so Lindsay knew she'd have to get a little more drastic.
"I killed a man today."
"I know. And I'm sorry you had to do it, so I'll try my best to distract you from all of this for just a little while."
"It's Christmas, for Christ's sake. Don't you have anywhere to go?"
Her words were kind of cruel and she knew it. Cindy's face fell for a brief moment, but then she shook her head. "I'm not leaving you alone tonight. You might as well get used to that idea."
Lindsay knew when she was defeated, even though it felt unsettling that she kind of liked it. "You cook though."
The smile that lit up Cindy's face at that made her guilty conscience even worse.
Aside from the tree, Cindy had fitted all kinds of things into her little red car Maggie. Several small bowls, courtesy of Claire, which held dinner. Not that she'd admit it, but the prospect of food was wonderful, the first real meal today. Cindy had also optimistically brought a change of clothes for herself.
"Sure. Every household has them. And I kind of wanted to kiss you."
She might come across slightly bipolar, but Lindsay figured that given the events of today, Cindy would cut her some slack, so she leaned close and kissed her on the cheek. "Thank you. I'm sorry for being such a bitch."
"Um, no problem," Cindy muttered, blushing a nice shade of red. "I mean, you weren't... much."
Looking at the small boxes, Lindsay remembered something else. "Oh crap," she said, recalling what plans she'd had before they were harshly interrupted. In all the commotion, she'd never thought of bringing Claire's wrapped and already paid gift home, not that anyone would want a reminder of what happened today. And she'd thought she'd meet Cindy on the 27th.
"I don't even have a gift for you."
There was a long silence, and to her surprise, Cindy's eyes were bright when she looked up at her.
"You have no idea."
Oh well. Lindsay supposed that Cindy's words related to the fact she was pretty lucky to be here, instead of in a hospital. Or worse. She just prefered not to think about it too much. Reaching out, she squeezed Cindy's shoulder gently. "My kitchen is yours, help yourself with whatever you need. I'll set the table."
During dinner, they danced around the subject until Lindsay decided to put both of them out of their misery and keep it on a, for both of them, safe and professional level. "If you want, I could give you some details now. You could take notes and, maybe use my laptop tomorrow."
She held Cindy's gaze for a moment, wondering and worrying that she'd crossed a line suggesting that her friend might stay overnight, but Cindy just smiled and nodded. "That would be perfect."
"Good. Since your real gift will have to wait."
"Come on, don't say that."
"It's not. I got everything I want. You don't have to talk about it now, if you don't want to. It can wait."
"I want to," Lindsay said.
After Cindy had completed her notes, it grew still in the room. Lindsay was surprised to realize that the drama had unfolded in a little over two hours to her, it could have been two minutes just as well as two weeks. She also realized how tired she was. This seemed a good moment to end the evening.
Cindy agreed quietly to her suggestion, so Lindsay went to get her some sheets and a pillow.
She'd thought she'd be ready to crash, but when she finally got to lie down, sleep didn't come easily. It was kind of puzzling; she'd been in more dangouers situations. Then again, hearing about disasters always made you feel worse during the holidays. You let your guard down. Even when your name was Lindsay Boxer. She wondered what the other hostages were doing tonight; if they were able to forget about the image of two people dying. Two people who had been more or less ready to create a bloodbath, but still.
Lindsay hoped that none of them had to be alone tonight.
And then, all of a sudden, even a room away seemed to far.
Shaking her head at herself, she pushed the covers back anyway, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed. Lindsay sat for a moment, pondering the course of the evening. Cindy, bringing her a tree, Christmas dinner and mistletoe.
What did it mean?
What right did she have wanting it to mean anything?
Cindy was a good, trusty friend. The best kind. Lindsay got up and walked across the room, nearly stumbling over Martha who had chosen the threshold for a place to sleep. "Silly girl," Lindsay said, not sure if she meant herself or the dog. Probably both.
In the living room, she stopped cold for a moment. Cindy was crying softly.
The first impulse was to retreat, but that would made her even more of the bitch she'd acted like earlier, so Lindsay walked closer and sat on the edge of the couch. "I knew you were disappointed I didn't get you anything," she tried a half-hearted joke.
"Oh, would you just shut up," Cindy muttered, sitting up, but she was stifling a smile.
It seemed like the most natural thing to lean forward and embrace her, so that was what Lindsay did. "I'm not trying to make fun of you. Today was pretty bad. But it's over now."
Cindy held on for a moment. "You know what's funny? My brilliant idea, dinner and mistletoe, it had really nothing to do with anything that happened today. I've been planning this for a while."
"Yes." Cindy sighed. "Very original with the mistletoe and all. Maybe this was a bad idea, and I shouldn't have bothered you, especially on a day like this."
"But I like you being here... especially on a day like this." They held each other's gaze for a moment, and this time there was no excuse or explanation other than Lindsay really wanted to kiss Cindy too.
She was welcome.
While Cindy slept next to her, Lindsay contemplated her life and its drastic changes. The death and finality that her job and sometimes random situations brought with them, even today. Who would have thought she still had a dream to hold on to, and someone to share it.
They could go anywhere from here.
A miracle for me, she thought, closing her eyes with a smile.
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