DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. No infringement intended.
FEEDBACK: To Demeter94[at]yahoo.de or lachancedo[at]hotmail.com
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Out Of Time
By Demeter & qbeck
"Will you stop looking at your watch?" Claire lightly admonished. "They'll be here."
"I'm starving." Jill whined. "If they don't get here soon, this breakfast is going to turn into lunch."
"They were probably out late." Claire reasoned.
"Who the hell celebrates a one-month anniversary, anyway?" Jill wondered aloud as she flagged down the waitress.
"Desperately in love people who wait years to find true happiness?" Claire flashed Jill her pearly whites.
"Whatever." The attorney rolled her eyes. She didn't mean to begrudge her friends their happiness. Honestly, she was one hundred percent behind this union. After all, it had taken Lindsay and Cindy over a year to finally admit their feelings for each other. If they'd wanted to celebrate their one-week anniversary she would have approved.
Only today something was weighing on her mind. The fact that late Sunday morning signaled the end of the weekend and the fast approaching Monday did not help matters.
"You're ready to order?" The young waitress asked when she finally made it to their table.
"No." Claire interrupted. "We're still waiting for two other people."
"Alright." The young woman shrugged and walked away.
Jill exhaled louder than necessary and leaned back against the booth.
"Why are you so crabby? You usually love lazy Sundays. This can't just be about Linz and Cindy being a few minutes late."
"Almost thirty minutes. And you're right. I'm sorry. It's not about that." Jill sighed. She turned towards the window and started to gaze absentmindedly at the customers coming in and out of the diner. "I'm just dreading the coming week."
"What's going on, honey?" Claire's tone grew worried.
"Do you remember Donnie McNash?"
Claire shook her head.
"Five years ago he shot and killed a cop while holding up a convenience store."
"Oh right, of course." Claire might not have remembered the killer's name but she did remember the case. How could she not. During the autopsy she'd discovered the young officer had been about eight weeks pregnant. "That was your first capital case, wasn't it?"
"Right. He's being executed this Friday."
"And you have to be there." Claire concluded giving Jill a sympathetic smile.
"And I have to be there." She sighed.
At the time the punishment seemed to perfectly fit the crime. Part of her believed it still did, but another part couldn't help feeling like this would just be another senseless death. Killing McNash would not give Neil Simpson his wife and son back. Wanting to forget McNash had ever existed and to avoid his execution, made her feel like hypocrite.
"I'm sorry. I don't want to bring the party down. There's a big chunk of weekend left and we should be focusing on the happy couple. No more thoughts of criminals on death row."
"It's okay, sweetie. I'm sure they'll understand if you're not in the mood for festivities."
As if on cue, Cindy, closely followed by Lindsay, came bouncing in. "Sorry, we're late. Traffic was awful."
Jill's somber expression quickly morphed into a merrier one. "Traffic. Really?" She said teasingly.
Cindy responded by sticking out her tongue.
"Everything okay?" Lindsay asked noticing the serious look on Claire's face.
Jill raised her hand trying to get the waitress' attention once again "Everything is great! C'mon you two sit down. Mimosas are on me."
He'd been lying in wait for a few days now. Studying her schedule, finding out about her habits. He'd seen them chatting and laughing at the diner and he knew exactly what they were celebrating. Watching them, he'd felt the helpless anger rise once more. Why should they enjoy life when he couldn't? Why should they be alive when his brother would be dead in a matter of days?
Sometimes, when those questions took over, there was a curtain of red before his eyes. He wanted to make someone pay, hurt someone. He wouldn't let himself get carried away though, too important were the plans he'd made, the lesson he was going to teach them.
If they could kill someone he loved, so could he.
He watched her standing at the coffee stand with her friend, the cop. He would approach her as soon as she was alone. See if she got the message.
When the inspector's cell rang and she excused herself to head back into the building, Stephen decided it was time to make his move.
"Damn it, I've got to go." Lindsay left her half-finished latte on the counter. She laid a hand on Jill's shoulder, squeezing gently. "I know this is bad, but only a few days, and it will be over."
Jill made a face. "Yeah. Until the next time."
"I'll come with you. And if you want, we'll get drunk afterwards."
"Right." Jill gave her a half-smile and sighed. "So much fun to get wasted with the happy couple making eyes at each other."
Lindsay tried, but she couldn't seem to keep the smile off her face. No matter how dire the reality of their day jobs was at the moment, the thought of Cindy seemed to make it all go away. Jill wished she had an easy solution like that for herself, but the truth was, she hadn't slept in days. It didn't help thinking that the man who was going to be executed come Friday had shot a pregnant cop and kept saying he'd do it again if in the same situation.
"You have to go."
"Sorry. I'll see you later."
Jill picked up her own coffee, watching her friend head up the stairs of the Hall thoughtfully.
She nearly dropped her coffee, a few drops spilling over the rim as she spun around. "Yes?" Futilely, she tried to calm her skittish heart. This case had her on edge. It was silly. The man, early twenties, dressed in jeans and a light blue shirt, didn't seem all that dangerous. Never mind the fact that they were standing in front of a house full of cops.
"Do you remember me?" he asked, giving her a smile, but now there was clearly something off.
He looked faintly familiar, but Jill didn't know where to place him. To have Cindy's eidetic memory...
"You should," he said. "Five years ago, you saw me in court every day."
There was the vision of a skinny teenager, hard to reconcile with the man now standing in front of her, but realization was beginning to dawn on her. "Look," she said, a shiver running down her spine like a foreboding. "I'm really sorry. I wish there was any other solution, but he was caught on the security camera killing the woman. He said he needed the money in order to support both of you, and he would do it again."
"I knew what he said. Every single word," the man hissed. "You'll remember mine, Ms. Bernhardt. After this week is over, you'll never forget me."
"Wait! You can't--"
He just turned and walked away, lost in the crowd only seconds later.
Spooked, Jill stood there for a moment, then she went back in the building, deciding she'd check up on him.
Better be safe than sorry.
"That sounds very much like a threat, Jill." Lindsay shook her head as she chastised her friend for waiting until now to tell them about Donnie McNash's younger brother.
The Club had gathered in Claire's office for a quick lunch and the attorney had used the moment to casually mention Stephen's appearance. She tried to downplay the effect it'd had on her already shaken state.
"I'm gonna have a uni follow you until after the execution." Lindsay started dialing.
"C'mon, Linz! Don't be ridiculous. I'm not going to let you use police resources and waste tax payers' money."
"I would feel much better knowing you have protection."
"Me too," Cindy said. "If you don't want protective detail, how 'bout you come stay with us at Lindsay's for the rest of the week?"
Cindy's invitation caught Lindsay by surprise but the inspector was nonetheless quick to endorse it. "Yeah."
"Right. Three's company. I don't think so."
"You can stay with us." Claire suggested. "You know we love having over."
"Thank you. All of you, really, I appreciate your concern and I love you for it, but it's not necessary. I looked into Stephen McNash and he's not on the grid. I'm sure he's harmless. He was just venting his anger, and I happened to be a convenient target. Imagine the brother who raised you is about to be executed, that has got to make you act irrationally."
Lindsay and Claire silently relented. Cindy, however, jumped to her feet and suddenly announced. "Well, me using the Register's resources to do a little digging into the McNash family history is not using tax payers' money. It's actually me doing my job. So "
"So?" Lindsay smiled up at her.
"So I'll see you later." Cindy bent down and softly kissed her. "I'll call you when I have something." She waived to Claire and Jill and walked out.
The two women smiled at each other, then turned to Lindsay. "We like red on you." The medical examiner said.
Lindsay rolled her eyes.
It took the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening for Cindy to come up with something relevant. Just as Jill had said the guy was off the grid. However, one Google click leading to another, Cindy had found a website hosting different local, up-and-coming artists. Stephen was making stained glass under the pseudonym; Stefano. No wonder he had been hard to track down. His work was pretty remarkable and quite beautiful, but among the innocuous pieces made of random shapes and vivid colors there had been a few depictions Cindy had found very disturbing. She sent Lindsay the link and told her she was on her way back to the Hall.
"Is that supposed to be people bleeding on the floor?" Jacobi asked. He and Jill stood behind Lindsay as she scrolled down Stephen McNash's web page from the site Cindy had sent.
"It looks like it, doesn't it?"
Jill stepped closer to the screen. "Can you click on that part?"
Lindsay obliged her.
"Whoa, I'll tell you what it looks like. A crime scene. I think that's Officer Simpson." Jill felt a shiver up and down her spine.
A second later, they were alerted by an incoming email in Lindsay's inbox. The inspector clicked and it revealed a photograph.
"Okay, now that is weird."
They were looking at a medium-size room in the center of which stood a large empty glass tank.
"Who sent you this?" Jacobi asked.
"stefano@francisco_art.org," Lindsay said.
He stood anxiously hidden from view. He'd grown accustomed to their late-night schedules; working until all hours, but now, looking at his watch for what seemed like the hundredth time, he wondered how long they would make him wait. He was working according to their timetable, and in order for his plan to work, there couldn't be any delays. It had to be tonight. Finally, the doors opened and she emerged from the elevator. He watched her walk to her car, and for a second felt sorry for her. The thought vanished quickly though when he reminded himself of his mission.
He waited until her back was to him and then he slowly moved towards her. She resisted for a moment but he held on tightly, making sure the wet cloth covered her mouth and nose. Less than a minute later the redhead stopped fighting and went limp in his arms.
"She's not answering her phone, damn it!" Lindsay snapped her cell phone shut with more force than necessary, making Jill flinch.
"Something might have come up," Claire said, but there was a trace of anxiousness in her voice that she had failed to hide.
"He has art of his brother's crime scene on his website, and he approaches Jill just days before said brother is going to be executed." Lindsay shook her head. "I want to know where he is and what he's doing right now."
Jacobi nodded. "I'll have someone trace that email address."
Lindsay looked from her friends' anxious gazes to the other picture, sent in the email, a shiver skittering down her spine. She had the feeling they were looking at a future crime scene.
"What do you think that tank is for?" Jill asked, her voice small all of a sudden.
"I don't know yet," Lindsay said, grabbing her jacket and keys. Making sure that Cindy was safe was on top of the priority list.
Cindy woke feeling nauseated and with a raging headache on a surface that felt much too hard to be her bed or even her chair at the Register. She moved her fingers carefully only to realize they were touching bare concrete, and her eyes snapped open.
What she saw was a large bare room, mostly dark, and the face of a man swimming into view. When the picture became clear, she shrank back. Cindy knew that man. She'd seen his face many times yesterday. On his web page.
"I see you know who I am," he said matter-of-factly. "Good. So we can move this along finally. Take your clothes off."
She looked at him incredulously, fear just barely making its way through her still clouded mind. And then it hit her. "No."
"You won't need them in there. And I don't want to take the chance that you might try and plug the hoses."
In where? For a moment Cindy wondered if might actually be crazy, but when she turned slowly to follow his gaze, she had to realize that it wasn't the case at all. She was looking at a huge glass tank. The floor was glistening with a thin sheen of water, and there were hoses leading from each corner. For a moment, she nearly forgot her earlier fear. "Sorry, but no. I can't go in there. I'm slightly claustrophobic."
Stephen McNash just shrugged. "Too bad." He reached behind himself and then pointed a gun at her. "Now take off your clothes or I will." Seeing her cringe, he rolled his eyes. "I don't care, you know?"
"Then why are you doing this, Stephen?" Cindy asked desperately. "You're not helping your brother. You can end this now!"
"No, I can't. They are taking someone I love away from me. I'm doing the same. Eye for an eye. So will you fucking do it now," he yelled abruptly, pulling the trigger.
Cindy jumped when the bullet embedded itself in the floor inches from her foot.
You never argue with the jerk with the gun, she remembered Lindsay once saying. Unless you have one of your own, she'd added with a smug grin, making them laugh as they sat around the table at Papa Joe's, winding down after a long day. Thinking of Lindsay made her want to cry. It wasn't fair that this happened when her life had been finally going where she wanted it to be.
With shaking hands, she started pulling up her shirt. It wasn't cold in the building, but already her teeth were lightly clicking together. She took in the glass walls towing above her. If she walked inside, clothes or not, Cindy knew there was nothing she'd be able to do but wait for her death, or rescue.
The girls wouldn't give up on her. Lindsay would find her. She couldn't allow any other thought.
Cindy's car was still parked at the Register. She'd said goodbye to a few colleagues working late as well, but no one had seen her since. She'd called Lindsay only minutes after she'd logged out of the computer at her desk. And then... something.
Lindsay paced the length of the parking garage, on the phone with Jacobi. They were still tracing the location from which the email had been sent. There seemed to be no information about McNash's current whereabouts; the last known address was a college dorm room from years ago.
Lindsay had traced Cindy's steps all the way from her desk down to the parking garage twice. There was nothing, no clue, no hints of a struggle. No blood.
"That's a good sign, right?" Jill claimed.
It's only a sign that he's quick and efficient, Lindsay thought, but she didn't say it aloud.
"Let's get back to the station," she said, casting another worried look at Cindy's little red car Maggie. She'd have the techs go over the place just in case.
Lindsay had the uncanny wish of wanting to rewind her life. Back to a moment when it would have still been in their power to turn things around. When she would have been able to protect Cindy.
That moment was gone.
They were all gathered around her computer now, waiting for her to open the second email by 'Stefano' Stephen McNash. A moment of hesitation, then she clicked on the link opening up a streaming video and let the nightmare begin. He'd want to bargain, she knew, his brother's life against Cindy's.
Her hands clenched into fists at the sight of Cindy in the glass prison, dressed in only bra and panties, up to her ankles in water. She looked frightened but held her head up high.
"Jesus," Jacobi said. In the reflection of the computer monitor, Lindsay could see Jill cover her mouth with her hand.
Like a surreal voiceover, MacNash started to explain. "I know my brother will die. So will she," he said eventually.
"We'll find you first," Lindsay told the disembodied voice, the eerie calm of her words betraying her urge to scream.
Donnie McNash wasn't talking. Well, he wasn't saying anything useful or meaningful in any case. Jill had gone to see him hoping his imminent death might have produced an ounce of humanity in him. No such luck. He went on and on about how he and his brother never got a break and got screwed by the system. Why should he help anybody now?
"Even if I knew what my brother was up I wouldn't tell you."
Listening to his self-pitying rant had made Jill sick to her stomach so when it was clear she would get nothing out of him, she stood up abruptly and left. She'd wasted enough time on this animal. Time Cindy didn't have.
Hurrying to her car, Jill checked her cell phone. One missed call from Denise Kwon. Her boss had promised to talk to a judge and do whatever she could to help but listening to the voice mail the acting DA had left, Jill wasn't hopeful. Another dead end.
"You have to stop watching that." Tom told Claire. He handed the ME a cup of coffee and leaned on the edge of Lindsay's desk. Claire had taken up residence at her friend's desk ever since she and Jacobi had left to follow a lead.
"I keep thinking there's a clue in there somewhere." Claire said as she closed the video.
Earlier Lindsay had received a third video. It was twice as long as the previous one. The movie started with Cindy once again standing in the middle of the tank; no longer defiant. Now, she looked lost and scared. Thirty seconds into the video, her demeanor changed. She appeared startled by something. A moment later, the water level started rising faster. A third corner hose was pumping water into the tank. The video ended with Cindy waist deep frantically banging on the glass.
Claire took another sip of her coffee and sighed. "I just hate feeling so helpless."
"I know." Tom sympathized laying his hand on hers.
"I really wish I wasn't a doctor right now."
"What do you mean?"
"I can't help thinking about what she's going through," Claire went on. "You know the symptoms, as hypothermia sets in, even if he claims the water's not cold. Or whether she's going to pass out or drown first, and " Claire stopped then shook her head as if to erase those thoughts from her mind.
"Lindsay and Jacobi are gonna find something." Tom assured her. "And we've still got the IT guys working on the links. Claire, look at me. We'll find her."
The water was rising fast. Cindy moved from one side of the tank to the other hitting the glass as hard as she could, hoping just one small crack would weaken it. Her hands were bruised; she guessed he'd used the thickest material possible. She'd already assessed that even if she took off her remaining clothes there wouldn't be enough fabric to plug the three hoses now pumping water into the tank. Plus, if her tired brain had calculated correctly, the fourth and final hose would be activated soon and then she would be completely submerged within hours.
Cindy tried not to let those defeatist thoughts invade her mind, but rather focus on the fact that Lindsay was out there looking for her. It was hard to do, though. The truth was she trusted no one more than Lindsay, but given the situation, no matter how awesome an investigator her girlfriend was, what she needed was a miracle.
For the fourth time today, Lindsay walked in, badge first, into an art supply store, Jacobi trailing, barely able to keep up with her determined stride. They'd tracked down the administrator of the Francisco_art.org website and she, in turn, had given them a list of suppliers she thought Stephen McNash might have used.
"Ever heard of Stephen McNash, or Stefano? He's a stained glass maker." Lindsay asked the clerk at the counter, flashing her gold shield as her means of identification. Next to her Jacobi held up a photo of McNash.
The clerk looked at it thoughtfully for a moment. "Sure, he comes in once in a while mostly for pewter."
Finally, Lindsay thought. "Do you know where we could find him?"
"Did he do something wrong?"
Lindsay did not want to play twenty questions with this guy. "Yes." She said hoping the truth would work in her favor. "If we don't find him, a woman is going to die." Saying the words aloud felt like knife to her gut. It also had the desired effect on the clerk.
"Let me check the computer. Maybe he had something delivered once."
A few clicks on the keyboard, then he shook his head. "I'm sorry he's not in our system."
"Godammit!" Lindsay cursed.
"Can't you think of anyone else here who might know where he lives?" Jacobi intervened.
The young man frowned. "Maybe. Hold on." He looked around the store until he spotted a co-worker. "Amy!"
"Remember the guy who was looking for plate glass window?"
"Yeah sure. He wanted something bigger then we carry."
"Remember where you sent him?"
Lindsay turned to Jacobi and smiled tentatively, allowing herself to see a glimmer of hope for the first time since the nightmare had started.
The frantic search for McNash came to a jarring halt when the unbelievable happened: the man walked right into the police station. He waived his right to an attorney. They still had no idea where Cindy was, so while Jacobi was checking up on the company that had sold McNash the glass parts to build the tank, Lindsay was more than aware that she held Cindy's life in her hands.
It was up to her.
Stephen McNash seemed more comfortable in the interrogation room than most people. Lindsay assumed it was because he had nothing left to lose. Unlike her. She hadn't slept in days; and she couldn't remember when she'd last eaten. It didn't matter. She had to focus.
"Just give me a few minutes alone with him," she mumbled.
Tom just looked at her, and Lindsay shook her head. "You can trust me. We're too close to risk anything now."
"I'll be watching," he said.
She walked into the room, closing the door and leaning against it, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Good evening, Inspector," he said with a smile. "We meet at last."
"Why don't we stop playing around, Stephen? You've made your point. Tell me where we find her and you can hope not to join your brother."
This wasn't about personal beliefs or politics. Whatever she could do to make him give up the place where he held Cindy, Lindsay would do. It was that simple.
At the mention of his brother, a flash of anger crossed his face. "That's where you're mistaken. I have not made my point yet. DDA Bernhardt is she watching outside?"
Lindsay shrugged, neither denying nor confirming his question.
"She didn't listen. I don't care for any kind of deal. I tried every petition possible, I always got turned down. I'm done with bargaining. You killed my brother. You can go for the death penalty for me, too, but hers comes first."
Pushing the fear further down, Lindsay said quietly, "You are going to tell me. Neither of us is leaving this room until you do."
And when he does, it might be too late. She suppressed the shiver.
"You think you can make me?" he asked contemptuously. "Think again."
Lindsay walked around the table to stand behind him. "I would have tried to help you, if there had been the sliver of a doubt. There isn't. You're brother was caught on tape shooting a pregnant woman. A cop who tried to save people's lives in there. He could have given himself up, but he didn't. He shot her point blank. Did you know what he said to her?"
McNash remained silent.
"He called her a bitch. 'You won't stop me, bitch'. Then he pulled the trigger."
"He was trying to support the two of us!"
"Yeah, right. I bet they told him on the unemployment line that that RobbersInc. were hiring. Good choice of career." Lindsay knew she was generalizing, but that moment, she didn't care. Cindy would have, but she wasn't here. She was about to drown in a glass coffin.
"You want to punish someone?" She leaned over his shoulder, close, but he didn't flinch. "Why her? What is her crime? Come on, tell me," she continued, raising her voice with each word. "What has she done that could possibly compete with murdering a pregnant woman?"
"It's nothing personal," McNash said. "Not against her anyway. It's because she matters to you."
Her hand stung from the slap, but it was nothing compared to the other pain. "Nothing personal, Stephen," Lindsay said, wondering why Tom hadn't come rushing into the room yet. Maybe he was just as sick of McNash as she was.
The man in question rubbed his burning cheek, but seemed unfazed otherwise. "Water's rising, huh?"
Lindsay wanted to hit him harder, but she reined the impulse, knowing it wouldn't accomplish anything.
At that moment, the door sprang open. "Linz, come on, get out of here."
She stared at Tom incredulously. "What? Tom, I can't--"
"We know where she is," he cut her off. "The glass dealer came through. We don't need him anymore."
Lindsay spun around when McNash started to laugh. "What's so funny?" she snapped.
"You guys are." He cast a pointed look at his watch, smiling. "You'll never get there in time. The last hose just opened."
Siren blazing, Lindsay cut through every intersection barely avoiding other cars. McNash's words resonated in her ears. We will get there in time, she answered them, stepping on the gas. Save for the sun she noticed was rising on the horizon, the scenery around her became a total blur. Lindsay then realized a week had passed since she and Cindy celebrated their one-month anniversary. She was accustomed to life suddenly changing with out warning; a case being taken away, divorce papers being served, but never had a change been so brutal. From bliss to despair in under a week. The accelerator touched the floor.
She swerved to avoid a truck backing out and then swore at the oncoming traffic before steering back into the right lane.
"Jesus Christ, Boxer!" Jacobi shouted. "Are you trying to kill us? We can't save Cindy if we get there dead!"
Lindsay slammed on the breaks nearly sending her partner flying through the windshield.
"Sorry I screamed at you partner, but shit, I almost wet myself."
She cut off the engine and turned to him. "We're here."
Before Jacobi could respond, Lindsay was out of the car and running towards the warehouse.
She wouldn't be able to do this much longer. Cindy couldn't actually tell how long it at been, but she'd almost used up all of her energy and resolve to hold herself afloat near the small air holes drilled in the tank's lid. Undoubtedly, McNash had not wanted for Cindy to run out of air until he'd decided. The water was now practically up to the rim and the space which had given Cindy her remaining breaths, was quickly disappearing.
In a last desperate attempt, Cindy braced her back against one side of the tank, placed her feet flat on the lid and pushed as hard as her weakened body could, essentially letting all the air out of her lungs.
"This is not how I'm fucking going to die!" Cindy's words came out distorted by the water. She tried to cough, but her throat closed off. Panic-stricken, she instinctively started for the surface, but there was no surface to swim to. Her chest felt like it was on fire. It hurt like hell.
Slowly, she started to sink back down. To add insult to injury she didn't even see her life flash before her eyes. What a rip off she thought. She would have loved to relive last Saturday.
The thought of Lindsay made her smile. Cindy closed her eyes, the blinding light faded away and she felt kind of peaceful.
When she got to the door it was naturally padlocked. Undeterred by this obstacle Lindsay took out her gun and shot it. She slid the door open and ran in.
"Cindy!" Lindsay knew yelling her girlfriend's name was futile, but she just had to do it.
She rounded a stack of boxes and there it was; bigger than it had appeared in the videos. As if floating in mid air, and smaller than she'd ever looked, there was Cindy.
Gauging the size of it, Lindsay quickly concluded that in no way could she climb on top to open the lid. She started to look around furiously for something, anything to break the glass. She grabbed the first metal rod she could find.
Lindsay swung it back and then forcefully made contact with the glass panel. It cracked but didn't break.
"Come on! Break!" Lindsay cried as she struck the tank again.
This time it shattered. The water poured out like tidal wave sweeping Lindsay in its path. Lindsay wasn't down for long, though. She immediately scrambled to her knees and crawled to Cindy. There were shards of glass all over the floor. Lindsay hadn't thought about the additional damage she could have caused. There hadn't been time. When she got close enough she could see blood. She held her breath, but fortunately it came from superficial cuts on Cindy's arms and legs.
Lindsay put her ear to Cindy's chest. "Okay, baby, that's good. Now you have to breathe for me."
Lindsay gently wiped Cindy's face and then started mouth-to-mouth. "C'mon, Cindy. You can do this. You can come back to me. I want us to annoy Jill some more and celebrate our two-month anniversary and then our two-and half-month anniversary." She tried hard to keep the threatening tears at bay while she breathed more life into her girlfriend's body.
Finally there was moving and coughing. Lindsay helped her up so she could spit out the water. Cindy became agitated, but Lindsay held her. "It's okay, I got you. You gonna be okay." Lindsay hoped she wasn't making false promises. Cindy was awake but exactly how much of Cindy was there? Lindsay had no idea how long she'd been deprived of oxygen.
Cindy was looking up at her, but Lindsay couldn't tell what she was seeing.
One month and a week.
It had been a rocky night for both of them.
Lindsay would have liked to claim that sheer determination, maybe desperation was the reason nobody could keep her away, but the simple truth was probably that she had no more energy to spare. Once Cindy had been moved into a regular room, Lindsay had been allowed to stay and a cot had been moved in. Claire had brought her some clothes for the night and the next day.
She was exhausted, but sleep hadn't come easily. Despite medication, Cindy had been sleeping restlessly. She was having nightmares, jerking awake flailing at random intervals.
Not that Lindsay had reason to complain about anything. In the brief moments Cindy had been fully awake, she'd been aware of her surroundings. They were lucky. The doctor had said that a span of a minute might have made a difference. The realization made her eyes burn even now.
The day was almost dawning when she woke again after having nodded off for a few minutes. Lindsay was pretty sure she could tell what the nightmare was about. She reached over to ease Cindy awake gently.
"You're still here," Cindy whispered as if that was some kind of a miracle.
Lindsay smiled though the pressure behind her eyes had just gotten stronger. "You thought I'd be gone by the second month? Not likely. I'm afraid you're stuck with me now."
"Good," Cindy simply said. Her gaze fell on the empty space between them, and then she looked up at Lindsay hopefully. Mindful of the IV line, Lindsay lay beside her and gathered her as close as she dared. "Is that okay?" Against her chest, Cindy nodded. "I knew you'd come," she mumbled. "Even when the water--" Her words trailed off. Neither of them needed any more of that imagery.
Lindsay didn't know how to answer that, so she simply took Cindy's hand. There were a lot of 'what-if' scenarios of past and future nightmares to dwell on, but for the moment, she chose not to. "I love you," she said as if that explained everything.
Come to think of it, it actually did.
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