DISCLAIMER: "Women's Murder Club" and its characters are the property of James Patterson and 20th Century Fox . This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author.
CHALLENGE: Written for the first International Day of Femslash.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Off The Clock
By John O'Connor
"Yep, the hyoid is fractured."
Lindsay Boxer looked up at her friend, "So the vic was strangled?"
Claire Washburn nodded. "It looks like it. The blood vessels in her eyes are ruptured and the broken bone... Everything points to strangulation except..."
Lindsay narrowed her eyes, "Except what?"
Claire looked at the homicide cop then at the thin, almost emaciated body on the autopsy table. She shook her head and replied, "It's just that... Well, normally when someone is strangled, there are ligature marks or bruising from the hands or... Her throat..." Claire gestured towards the vic's head, "...is clear of all signs of violence. All except the fractured hyoid and the damage to the windpipe."
"Can the hyoid break on its own?" ADA Jill Bernhardt asked. The cop and the ME looked across the room at their friend standing by the double doors, a woman who never had learned the ability to stomach an autopsy. "I mean, she was old..."
"She did have advanced osteoporosis. It's especially common in post-menopausal women," Claire acknowledged.
"Our vic is definitely that," Lindsay observed.
"With osteoporosis, bone density, among other things, is lost and the bones become more brittle. It's why so many older people can break a hip just falling to the floor. But with the hyoid... That's a hard bone to fracture accidentally."
Jill pressed her thought, "But it has happened?"
Claire nodded. "If she collapsed and hit her throat just right or..."
Lindsay interrupted her, "The victim was in bed, apparently asleep. All indications show she had been there for some time before she died." She held up a hand, stopping Jill, "And there was nothing in the immediate vicinity that could've hit her there and caused the damage."
"So it's a homicide," Jill conceded.
"Yeah. A really weird homicide."
"Maybe it was a judo master you know, a martial arts specialist?" Jill suggested.
"So you think the Karate Kid killed her?" Lindsay managed not to add "Wax on, wax off."
"Well, it is a possibility."
With a thoughtful look, Lindsay nodded. It was possible. "Claire?"
"Something thrust into her throat to break her hyoid and crush her windpipe."
"How's Cindy taking it?" Claire asked.
Lindsay shrugged, "Not well. She was pretty broken up about this. The woman was her neighbor after all."
"But she's seen dead bodies. She's on the crime desk after all," Jill interjected.
"She may have a stronger stomach than you, Jill..." Lindsay smiled at her friend as Jill got that annoyed look on her face.
Claire finished the thought, "But this is a lot closer to home for her. All of the cases we've helped Linds on have been strangers to her. To us. She could view them in an abstract way."
"Has anyone checked on her?"
Lindsay nodded, "I called her just before the autopsy. I'll go see her in a little while."
Jill rolled her eyes. When Cindy joined their little impromptu crime-solving club, Lindsay was the most resistant. There were times the cop's attitude was down-right belligerent.
Lindsay saw the look on her friend's face, "Hey! I've gotten better. I accept her now."
"Most of the time..." Claire added.
Jill chuckled, "Yeah, half the time you still treat her like a red-headed step-child."
"I do not!"
"Alright, enough already," Claire spoke up again. "No fighting in my lab. Take it out to the playground like good little girls."
"So, you want me to look in on her?" Jill offered. "If she has to wait for you..."
Lindsay gave her a smartass smile, "Ha-ha. Benson caught this case. Tom..." Lindsay's voice was almost a snarl as she said the name of her ex-husband, Tom Hogan, who also happened to be chief of the SFPD homicide bureau and Lindsay's boss. "In his infinite wisdom, he thought it'd be a good idea if I wasn't involved. Something about my proximity to one of the parties involved."
"Involved?" Jill asked. "Is Cindy a suspect?"
"No. But she was the one who found the vic, hence a witness. And Tom knows she's my uh, my friend."
The other two women shared a discreet look as their friend stumbled over her words.
Rather than mention it, Jill asked, "So, you here at the autopsy That's not involved?"
"Not officially. But I wanted to be able to tell Cindy something." Lindsay looked pointedly at both of her friends. "Not a word to Tom that I was here. Okay?"
Both women nodded.
As she headed for lab exit, Lindsay said, "I'll call you guys. Let you know how Cindy is."
As the big double-doors swooshed shut behind her, her friends looked at each other. Jill finally said what both were thinking, "When do you think she's gonna wise up?"
"Hopefully soon," Claire replied. "Alright Counselor, I have another case outside so..."
"I'm so outta here."
Cindy Thomas was sitting on her old, comfortable couch, staring out at the twilit city beyond her window and absently stroking the fur of the short-haired black cat laying on her lap. She had finally stopped crying but she still felt awful. And a little afraid. If someone could get into Mrs. Packard's apartment and kill her so easily...
A sharp three knocks on the door startled her. Cindy jerked with surprise. The cat, with a little yelp, jumped off her lap.
"Who is it?" Cindy said as she stood behind the door. She glared at the door, angry at herself for hanging a mirror better suited for the bedroom closet door over the peep hole. "You know better, idiot," she grumbled. Realizing she missed the words coming through the door, she repeated, "Who is it?"
This time, loud and clear, the response came, "Lindsay."
Opening the door, Cindy hugged the taller woman, "Oh thank God! I..."
Suddenly realizing how weak she appeared and knowing how much Lindsay despised weakness, she stepped back. "Uh, sorry."
To Cindy's immense surprise, Lindsay kicked the door shut and pulled her into a hug, "It's okay. This is a traumatic time for you."
The tall brunette held the shorter, auburn-haired woman for a long minute then let her go.
"Thanks. I...I've been..."
"My first homicide? I was in uniform. It was a car accident. Drunk driver and a van of kids from a local school. I bawled my eyes out that night."
Cindy smirked, "But you were off-duty right?"
Lindsay smiled, "Yeah. I was off-duty. On-duty? I puked my guts out into the gutter."
Cindy laughed. For the first time that day, she felt like things were going to be okay. Her Lindsay was on the case.
"I'm off-duty now too." Cindy quirked an eyebrow. "My ball-and-chain ex told me to stay away from it. Thanks to you, I'm too close to it." The last was said with a small smile that took most of the sting from the words.
As if realizing they were standing in the near-dark, Lindsay asked, "You forget to pay PG and E?"
Cindy quickly turned on a lamp next to the couch. Sitting on the coffee table with glowing eyes was the black cat that had been on Cindy's lap earlier.
"This is Snowball. He was Mrs. Packard's cat."
The cat came over and wove around Lindsay's legs, purring loudly. "Doesn't seem to mind Martha's scent."
"Very observant Detective. Actually, I don't think she's seen a dog since she was a baby at the Humane Society."
Eyeing the rumpled slipcover. Lindsay sat on the couch. The cat jumped up and began to nuzzle her face. "Affectionate too."
"Snowball doesn't have a mean bone in her body. She's very un-catlike in many ways. Mrs. Packard said she was like having a dog but with the benefit of a litter box."
"You took her in?"
Cindy nodded, "I couldn't let the animal control people get her. She'd..."
"Okay," Lindsay sat up. "I have to ask this. Especially knowing you..."
"I did not break in after the cops left. One of the patrolmen let me take Snowball. He's an animal lover too." At Lindsay's look, Cindy reddened and quickly added, "No. He was just a nice guy who was giving me, and Snowball, a break."
For some weird reason, Lindsay found she was relieved to hear that.
"Want a beer? Some wine?" Cindy asked as she glanced toward the kitchen.
"Uh, beer sounds good. No...wait. I think I'll have some wine."
In a few minutes, Cindy came back with two glasses and an opened bottle of a recent Napa vintage. She smiled as she watched Lindsay stroke the cat.
"Should Martha be jealous?" she joked.
Lindsay chuckled, "No. Me and Martha have this understanding..."
Sitting next to the older woman on the couch, Cindy handed her one of the glasses.
"So what did Claire have to say?"
"Hey, I said I was off this case."
Cindy laughed, "Yeah. But what did Claire say?"
"Well, as you know, I spoke to Claire after the...uh "
"You can say autopsy, Lindsay."
Lindsay nodded then explained what she and the other members of their unofficial club had discussed. When she got to Jill's martial arts idea, Cindy chuckled.
"So didja find a Legion flight ring or
"Well, you know with the Karate Kid and everything." Cindy thought for a moment then said, "Oh, you mean the movie " Cindy turned serious again. "So it was murder?"
"Looks like it. Benson's on the case. He's a good cop."
Cindy glanced out at the darkened city. She wrapped her arms around herself, "Still, it feels creepy to know... Worse than when Kiss-Me-Not was out there."
She fell silent. Lindsay resisted an urge to wrap her arms around the younger woman. Instead she simply stated, "I don't think this is a serial."
Finally, after a long silence, Cindy asked, "Even so, do you think this is how San Francisco felt while the Zodiac was running around? You know, how I'm feeling?"
"Hey! I may be older than you but I'm not that old. I wasn't even born when it all started." Seeing Cindy smiled again was Lindsay's reward. "My old man wasn't involved in that case but I remember him talking about it when my parents thought I was asleep. And from what the old-timers told me when I joined the force, it was a pretty tense time. Worse than Kiss-Me-Not.
"But this isn't Zodiac. It's not Kiss-Me-Not," Lindsay continued. "Hell, he's not even a serial," she repeated. Cindy did note how the word 'yet' was not mentioned.
"But why would someone want to kill Mrs. Packard? She was such a sweet " Cindy swore under her breath as she started crying again. Wiping her eyes, she muttered, "I'm sorry "
Lindsay did pull her friend into a hug, whispering to her, "It's alright. Go ahead and cry. It'll help."
Cindy cried against Lindsay's blouse for a minute or so then sat back. "Th thanks. I " She took a deep breath, "I'm sorry for breaking down like this. For being weak "
"You're not weak. You're one of the strongest women I know," Lindsay said. With a small smirk, she added, "Impulsive, rash, a pain in the butt. But "
The two sat back and sipped some more wine. The cat moved onto Lindsay's lap and sat up. She put her forepaws on the detective's shoulder and started a rhythmic massage.
"What the hell ?"
Cindy laughed, "I think she's sweet on you." Lindsay just looked at her in confusion. "You never had a cat. She's kneading you."
"It's a leftover sign of affection from kittenhood. Babies knead their mother to get more milk. As they grow older, it becomes a sign of affection."
"O-oka-ay," Lindsay stretched the word out.
"You can pet her. Snowball loves it when you scratch behind her ears." Lindsay's fingers began to move in the ink-black fur as the cat continued to knead her.
"My brother called it 'making biscuits' whenever one of our cats did that," Cindy added.
"Biscuits, huh?" Lindsay was relieved that Cindy was in somewhat better spirits.
"You wanna tell me about Mrs. Packard? You know, what she was like, how you two met You know." The detective paused, "This is completely off the clock. I'm not asking as a cop but as a friend."
Cindy looked at Lindsay, "You sure?"
Lindsay nodded, "You'll feel better."
"Well, she was the first person I met when I moved in. She came over with a plate of home-made cookies. I didn't have the heart to tell her I hate raisins." They both shared a smile. "She reminded me a lot of my grammy. You know what I mean?" Lindsay nodded. "And like Grammy, she was a teacher "
The younger woman talked for quite a while as the wine bottle was slowly drained. A second came out as did more tears. Snowball had nestled herself the two women, actually snoring slightly.
Later, as the tears flowed once more, Lindsay found herself consoling Cindy. When she felt lips softly brush her chin then her cheek, she didn't pull away. When Cindy kissed her, Lindsay found it was surprisingly nice. When Cindy pulled back, Lindsay was amazed to realize she missed those soft, warm lips on her own.
As if reading the other woman's feelings, Cindy kissed Lindsay again. And again. Each close-mouthed kiss longer than the previous. Finally, Cindy's tongue slipped out and brushed Lindsay's lips. Instinctively, her mouth opened and Cindy slipped in.
A part of Lindsay's mind was amazed at how cliché the whole situation was. The rest was on fire from the sensations of the younger girl teasing and exploring her mouth.
Cindy pulled away, her eyes downcast. "I'm sorry. I didn't I mean I do but "
Lindsay smiled, saying, "Shut up."
And, to keep the younger woman quiet, Lindsay kissed her. A long, passionate, emotion-filled kiss.
The next several hours were a blur of sensations and pleasure to the detective. Images registered to be remembered, and savored, later. Cindy pulling her shirt open and her bra down to suckle. Cindy frantically pulling her jeans off then settling between Lindsay's splayed legs, a happy look on her face like a kid at Christmas. An orgasm-blurred view of Cindy licking her.
Then her first look at Cindy's lovely center. The cute little russet patch above the glistening opening Her first tastes of Cindy's neck, shoulder, breasts and then Salty and wonderful.
And, mixed in, were blurs of color as their clothes were tossed aside in their haste to see the other naked.
The last image of that first time was the reflection of the two lovers in a classic 69 Lindsay saw when she glanced at the mirror across the room.
Later, Cindy stirred, her hair brushing Lindsay's nipple. Lindsay woke up and looked down at the younger woman dozing on her chest. She could feel the warmth of the redhead stretched the length of her body. This was always an awkward time for her. She hated the post-sex nudity and closeness. Even with Tom, she would get up and pull on her sleeping clothes.
But here, for some reason, she felt none of the unease she usually experienced. Lindsay was amazed to find she felt comfortable. Even on this couch with the old slipcover. She felt like she could sleep here all night.
A grumbling followed by Cindy's giggle.
"Hey " Lindsay said.
"Hey you," Cindy replied. Another grumbling sound, "I'm sorry."
Lindsay quirked an eyebrow, "When was the last time you ate?" At Cindy's wicked smile, she quickly added, "I mean food."
"I had a bagel for breakfast. Then '
Lindsay softly stroked her back, "You have anything to eat here?"
"I have some deli corned beef and cheese."
"Sounds good. You have any of that spicy mustard?"
Lindsay smacked Cindy's ass lightly. "Well, get cracking."
Cindy slid off Lindsay and grabbed a shirt off the floor, buttoning the bottom three or four buttons.
"Hey! That's my shirt!" Lindsay protested.
"Wait a minute," Cindy responded. Seconds later a light weight, sky-blue robe sailed over the back of the couch onto Lindsay's head. "Wear that."
Lindsay sat up and pulled the robe on. It barely hung below her ass. Shrugging, she walked into the kitchen. Her apprehension over the shortness of her robe was quickly forgotten when she saw Cindy. The redhead was at the counter, Lindsay's shirt barely covering her shapely posterior.
"Beautiful," Lindsay breathed.
"What?" When Cindy turned, Lindsay's eyes widened when she saw the shirt wasn't even buttoned up to her bust, exposing a lovely expanse of soft, white flesh. Lindsay loved cheesecake.
They sat silently at the small kitchen table, eating the sandwiches and potato chips, sharing a large Arizona Iced Tea.
"Um so "
Cindy smiled, "Yeah."
"So you okay with "
"Yes! Uh, I mean, yeah sure. If you are " Cindy's eyes left Lindsay's face for the first time since they sat down.
"Well, it's just that I mean you were hurting are hurting, and I "
Cindy looked up again. "Believe it or not, Linds, I am a big girl. I can decide who I do or do not sleep with."
"I I know. I just "
Cindy's hand rested on Lindsay's, "Are you sorry?"
"No. Not at all. You?"
Cindy laughed and shook her head, "Hell no! You really don't know how long I've wanted this do you?" Dumbfounded, Lindsay could only shake her head, "You know, for a sharp, miss-nothing cop, you Lindsay, why do you think I worked so hard to get into our informal club?"
"I guess I thought so you could get exclusives. Or something like that."
"Linds, I saw you once at a crime scene when I was new at the paper and going around with one of the older, crime-beat writers. I saw you and the rest of San Francisco hell, the rest of the world disappeared.
"Took some time to get into the local news team and then getting a shot at the crime beat. I worked hard to get where I was. I always wanted to be a good reporter and to be taken seriously. I was going to be Frisco's answer to Bob Woodward. When I saw you, I knew City Hall and Fresno were a thing of the past. Crime was it.
"Then I saw you at a crime scene again. And Claire and Jill. I had to get into that little clique. Yeah, sure, I thought it could help me get some inside scoops. But the main reason was to be near you.
"Why do you think I ignored all those barriers you tried to erect, the barbs you threw my way? I was willing to go through all that just to spend time with you. And you know what? Even if this " the redhead glanced towards the living room, " hadn't happened, I would still be happy. Cause you're my friend. And I love that!"
Teasingly, Lindsay asked, "So, if I got dressed and never let you see me naked again ?"
With a smirk, Cindy replied, "Ain't gonna happen, Detective."
"Oh? And how are you going to keep that from happening?"
Cindy took the mustard-covered butter knife, smearing some of the spicy condiment in the brunette's cleavage. Then she leaned over and licked it clean.
"Oh, that'll work," Lindsay moaned.
Licking her lips, Cindy said, "Let's take this to the bedroom." Then she stood, turned and flashed Lindsay a quick shot of her ass.
Lindsay knocked over her chair as she lunged after the smaller woman. She finally tackled her new lover in the bedroom, toppling the two of them onto the bed. There she smothered Cindy's face and neck with soft, wet kisses.
Cindy lay back as the shirt was opened by its owner who then proceeded to kiss every bit of exposed skin she could find.
Sitting back on her heels, she repeated her earlier observation, "Beautiful."
The nude woman smiled, "Thank you. And so are you. So beautiful." Lindsay smiled, warmed by those words more than any compliment she'd heard in years. "Now, loose the robe!"
Lindsay replied dutifully. She felt another rush of warmth and passion when she saw the hungry look in the younger woman's eyes.
Teasingly, Lindsay said, "If we're going to have an intimate relationship, there have to be some rules "
"Fuck the rules!"
With an arched eyebrow, Lindsay crawled onto the bed and settled herself on all fours over the reclining woman.
"C'mere." Cindy's hand reached up and gently moved through the dark mass of hair to caress the back of the detective's neck as she pulled her woman down for a long, deep kiss.
Cindy moaned into Lindsay's mouth as she welcomed the warm weight of Lindsay on top her. The feeling of this warm, naked body lying on her a body she had loved and desired for so long felt so good. So right.
Cindy's hand continued to caress and stroke the short hairs on the back of Lindsay's neck while the other moved down to trace the contours of Lindsay's ass.
As Lindsay caressed Cindy's tongue with her own, she thrilled to the silky softness as she sucked the younger girl into her mouth. Why had she waited so long for this?
Lindsay forced herself to break the kiss as she slid down between Cindy's legs. The wet jewel nestled there glistened in the light coming in from the living room. So lovely so inviting. She didn't resist its siren call any longer.
As Lindsay's tongue stroked her outer labia, Cindy moaned softly. When the woman parted those lips and began to caress her inner core with her tongue, Cindy moaned more loudly. When Lindsay forced her tongue into Cindy, the younger woman groaned quite loudly.
Those moans and groans grew in pitch as Lindsay feasted on her lover. The detective managed to keep her tongue buried in the other woman as she massaged Cindy's nubbin with her nose.
That action turned the noises coming from Cindy's throat into a scream of ecstasy as she climaxed on the cop's beautiful face.
Lindsay crawled up over her woman again. Cindy lay absolutely still, a big smile on her face, her eyes closed tightly and her russet hair was tousled from whipping her head around in the throes of her orgasm.
Lindsay gently brushed a lock of hair off Cindy's face and softly kissed her. Cindy's eyes opened slightly and her mouth opened. The kiss deepened for several long moments.
"Boy, do I taste good!" Cindy declared.
"Yes you do," Lindsay agreed as she lay next to Cindy and pulled the smaller woman to her.
They lay together for a while as Cindy's pulse returned to a calmer state. Then she chuckled. "Come up here, Detective."
Eager to obey, Lindsay crawled up and settled over Cindy's face. Looking into the reporter's wide eyes, she laughed until she was pulled down so her mound melded around Cindy's mouth.
Before long, the oral pleasures Cindy was giving her made Lindsay fall forward to lean against the headboard as her entire body shook in rapture.
Lindsay had only been asleep for a short time when she was awakened by someone pushing against her face. Over and over. Her sleep-fogged brain noted that Cindy's sleeping form was still spooned up against her, the younger woman's breasts cushiony soft against Lindsay's bare back.
Just as she opened her eyes, fear lanced through her. The killer! The killer was here in Cindy's room.
When her eyes opened, she started to laugh. Laying on her side, facing Lindsay, was the little cat, Snowball. She was busily kneading the cop's face with a wide-eyed innocent look on her furry face and a deep purr.
As Lindsay moved her head, the cat's paws slipped under her chin and began the kneading actions on her throat. The rhythmic pressure caused a partial blockage of Lindsay's windpipe and that was all it took.
Sitting upright, she yelled, "That's it!"
Snowball let out a loud squeal and jumped over Lindsay, landing on Cindy.
"Huh? Wha'? Lindsay...?" the sleepy form next to her muttered.
"Cindy, I know who killed your friend!"
Suddenly Cindy was sitting straight up, her bare breasts bathed in the moonlight coming through the skylight. "Who?"
With a big smile, Lindsay held up the cat, "Snowball."
"What?!? Are you nuts? What... How could... You're nuts! Little Snowball? What makes you How can you "
Placing her free hand over the reporter's mouth, Lindsay said, "Hush. It's Snowball. She was just kneading me and her paws started to push against my windpipe. I'm sure the pressure is enough to break an older woman's hyoid. Especially if she was suffering from osteoporosis."
"Oh...poor Snowball..." Cindy cooed as she took the squirming bundle of fur in her arms. Gently stroking the cat, she muttered, "You didn't mean to do it. You were just letting your mom know how much you love her..."
Lindsay burst Benson's bubble when she managed to solve the crime in less than twenty-four hours. Tom Hogan was more than a little irritated that Lindsay had become involved with the case.
"What involved? I was helping a friend," Lindsay countered. "Can I help it if my deductive skills are so good?"
She managed to keep from hemming and hawing too much when asked how she determined the cat was the culprit. She finally gave the credit to Cindy far easier than coming out in the squad room.
Jill and Claire managed not to laugh at Lindsay's discomfort they had managed to read between the lines and knew how Lindsay solved the case. And in what state of dress or undress. Tom was too preoccupied to notice any of that.
At any rate, Claire's acceptance of the COD was sufficient for Tom to close the case.
Lindsay went with Cindy to Mrs. Packard's funeral. She held the smaller woman's hand during the church service and had her arm around Cindy for support at the graveside service.
There were more in attendance than Cindy expected but she learned how beloved Mrs. Packard had been when she had been a teacher.
When they returned to Cindy's apartment after the wake, Lindsay was pleasantly surprised she didn't have to do much comforting. The number of students, young and old, who came to pay their respects had buoyed Cindy's spirits.
She only cried for a short time in bed that night. Fortunately the woman she loved was there for her.
And so ended the case of the felonious feline. The killer cat was not incarcerated but placed under house arrest. Said house was Cindy's apartment.
Snowball didn't seem to mind. She had plenty of love and attention. With two women to cuddle, she often insinuated herself the middle of the lovers and got plenty of pettings and scratches.
Until bedtime. Lindsay made a point of making the cat sleep outside the bedroom any night she stayed over. As the number of those nights increased, 'poor' Snowball got used to sleeping in a multitude of other locations in the apartment - even the cool bathtub during the heat of the summer.
And when Lindsay finally let Cindy move in with her, Snowball found a new playmate to the women's amusement and Sweet Martha's bemusement.
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