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.
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Piece Of My Heart
She closed her eyes, blocking out the sounds in the distance, the feel of the wall against her back, her sole focus on the fingers pleasuring her. Hair tickled her cheek when the other woman leaned forward to kiss her, catching the cry before it could make it past her lips.
Reality came back to her abruptly, and Cindy felt incredibly self-conscious as she pulled her slip back on and righted her skirt again. Her face was burning.
Sam smiled at her gently. "Would you like to go for a drink somewhere?" she asked.
"No. No thanks. I need to go home."
"You're not driving, right?"
Oh, right. The dark-haired woman was a cop. Cindy sure knew how to pick 'em. "What's it to you?" She had nearly asked, but she stopped herself in time, realizing that her irriation wasn't really directed at Sam. "No. My place is just a few minutes away."
The other woman nodded, understanding that she was not invited. Cindy was quite sure that Sam wouldn't nearly be as understanding if she'd known the whole truth. Better to say goodbye before she had a chance to find out.
Having to sleep alone once more seemed like an appropriate punishment.
"Linds! You should see this." Tom sounded too serious to ignore. With a sigh, Lindsay turned away from the door, facing her ex-husband.
"I told you, I'll have the report ready tomorrow. If I don't get a few hours of sleep before writing it, you're not gonna like the result."
"Lindsay." His voice was gentle now, and she was instantly on alert. "The woman over there reported Cindy missing."
"What?" It took a moment for the realization to sink in, but when it did, the questions exploded. "Who is she?" Tom seemed rather uncomfortable now, further setting off alarm bells. Lindsay didn't wait for an answer any longer, but walked over to where Detective Jenkins from Missing Persons was sitting with a brunette woman. And why would a Homicide Detective be part of this interview?
"I tried to call her on the phone to make sure she got home safely," the woman said. "There was a man answering. He said, I quote 'She's in good hands'."
Jenkins frowned. Bradley, a recent addition to the Homicide unit, looked very worried.
"How do you know it wasn't her boyfriend or husband?" Jenkins asked.
The corner of the woman's mouth twitched into a wry smile. "Because? I'm not saying that straight women don't hit the bars every now and then, but I'm pretty sure Cindy isn't one of them. Also, call it a gut feeling. It's helpful when you're working for the police."
"I'm afraid you could be right," Bradley said. "Last week's Jane Doe who was pulled out of the bay? We found her husband. He said he tried her phone, and he got suspicious when another man answered. He said those words 'She's in good hands'."
"Damn," the woman said.
Lindsay felt like the ground had just opened under her feet.
"Can I talk to you for a moment?"
There was some suspicion in the woman's eyes. That's alright, I don't trust you yet, either. "Why? I told your colleagues everything. How much more detail do you possibly need?"
"Come on. There's this new vanilla latte in the vending machine, and I need some caffeine badly. Frankly, you look like you could use some, too."
"That's... very attentive. Thanks, Detective...?"
"Lindsay Boxer," she said, extending her hand. "Cindy is my friend."
Lindsay didn't remember to let go of the paper cup until the heat of the contents was burning her fingers. She wasn't sure if she was more stunned because of what Sam had revealed to her, or because of what remained implied between the lines.
"I'm a little surprised though," she said. "You're a cop. You know that technically, it wouldn't count as a Missing Person case yet if there wasn't the connection to Bradley's case." Possible connection, she corrected herself, but the chill gripped her instantly. "Why were you so worried about her?"
Sam shrugged. "She has that effect?"
Sam gave her a sharp look as if she'd just discovered something she hadn't considered before. Lindsay felt helplessly exposed. Defensive, too. What did this woman know about Cindy anyway? "By which I don't mean she can't take care of herself. Cindy is just"
"Yeah." The other cop's smile was somewhat indulgent.
Lindsay jumped to her feet, discarding the paper cup in the trashcan. "Okay, this is what we're going to do."
"We?" Sam raised a curious eyebrow.
"We're going back to the bar now, you show me exactly where you saw her the last time. We're gonna find her." Lindsay couldn't stand to sit around while time was ticking by, and if she was honest, she couldn't stand the idea of Cindy and Sam... She didn't stop to question. It just wasn't right. But with Cindy's phone in the hands of a man who had most likely killed a woman, her own sensitivities were the least of her priorites.
"Why would Cindy even go to a place like this?" Lindsay didn't care if her question was any legit. She was exhausted, frustrated and scared. "She doesn't even look old enough to be let in!"
Claire's smile couldn't quite hide her own worries for their friend. "Sweetie, Cindy's all grown up. There might be a part of her life that you're not privy to."
It was the last thing Lindsay wanted to hear right now. "So you knew that she was hooking up with women on Friday nights?" she asked sharply, frustration getting the better of her before she realized that she was out of line. With Claire. With Cindy. She knew nothing. Meanwhile, Bradley had given her insight in the course of his investigation. It wasn't pretty. Claire didn't have much reassurance to give her.
"I knew she liked women, yes. It wasn't that hard to figure out."
Really? So why didn't I know?
"It's San Francisco, for Christ's sake," Lindsay said with an anger she couldn't quite explain to herself. "She could have dated women more safely."
"Well," Jill said, sharing a meaninful look with Claire. "You can discuss that with her once she's home safely."
Lindsay had nothing to add to that.
Even before the blinding headache registered with her, Cindy was aware of the shakes wracking her body, badly, making her teeth click together. She struggled to open her eyes only to slowly realize that they already were open. She was in complete darkness, couldn't even see her fingers when she held them up to her face. Cindy touched her fingertips against her temple, feeling a sticky dampness. Oh my God. She took a few slow measured breaths to overcome the instant nausea, trying to remember what had happened.
There was the sound of her cell phone ringing. Cagney & Lacey. Jill had teased her about it. There was a man's voice. 'She's in safe hands'.
Cindy shifted slightly, wincing at the feel of bare concrete against her skin. 'Punishment' had gotten a whole new, horrible meaning. She forced back the sob that was rising inside when she realized that there were no clothes on her.
There had to be a way out.
What did a forty-two year old suburban mom have in common with Cindy Thomas? Michelle Simpson's grief-stricken husband didn't have any answers for them. He only knew Cindy's name from the newspaper. He had never heard the man's voice before.
It might have been sheer desperation, but Lindsay thought it was worth following up the idea anyway. She asked him for a picture of Michelle.
"Claire wanted to go over the autopsy results again," she told Jill outside the Simpsons' house. "You and I are going on a date."
Jill gave her a quizzical look as if she was worried Lindsay could have lost her mind. Maybe she wasn't so far from it, but she'd find Cindy first.
"Whatever you say."
The bartender studied first Jill, then Lindsay for a moment before she gave a slightly regretful sigh. "How can I help you, girls?"
"Do you know this woman?"
"Honey, a lot of women come here." The bartender smirked. "I'm afraid I can't remember them all."
"I hope you remember this one. She was murdered."
The smile was instantly gone from the woman's face as she accepted the picture Lindsay handed her. "Oh my God. That's Micky. She used to hang around on Fridays."
"Picking up women?"
That earned her a scolding look. "You're thinking that gives some bigot fucker the right to kill her?"
"Of course not." The warning glance that Jill send her told Lindsay clearly that her growing impatience was audible in her voice. At the moment, she actually couldn't care less if the woman considered her a judgmental bitch. She needed a hint, any hint, as to where Cindy was. "We think that somebody might have been watching her. So if you can remember anything unusal, somebody hanging around who doesn't belong"
The bartender frowned. "Except for the usual? I don't think so. There's this group sending people over lately, offering help to get back on the 'right' path. Annoying, but seemed harmless. You don't think...?"
Lindsay and Jill exchanged a look.
"They had someone come here every night?"
"Yep. In a couple of hours, you'll probably find them here. We've filed a complaint, but it's still in limbo."
"I think," Lindsay said, "We should talk to these people, soon."
"Inspector, this is about helping people," Alan Leighton said. "If you just let me explain..."
"Yeah, right," Lindsay said impatiently. "We're only interested if you were being this gracious on the nights of the 12th and the 28th this month."
"I am not a suspect, am I?" the thirty-ish man asked with indignation. "We are not murderers!"
"Yeah, just harmless bigots," Lindsay muttered to herself. That earned her a raised eyebrow from Jacobi. She just couldn't help it. After having leafed through the group's publications, Lindsay's patience had been cut even shorter. "One of the women you were trying to 'help' is dead, another is missing. You must be paying a lot of attention to the people in that club, so did you see them talking to anyone else? Anything unusual?"
"Other than Larry? No."
Jacobi laid a hand on her shoulder, anticipating her move to shake the possible witness. "Who is Larry?" he asked calmly.
The man looked alarmed now. "I don't know him all that much! He was with us for a little while, but... I was one of those who voted for him to leave! I think he wasn't ready to do God's work..."
Lindsay curled her fingers into a fist tightly enough to make her fingernails press into the skin of her palm. "Why would you think that?"
A shrug was Leighton's answer. "He had things to deal with... His wife had left him. For another woman. That's why he had sought us out, but frankly, he was a little too harsh, scaring people away. You don't have much of a chance to change the world from the inside of a prison cell."
"You don't say."
"So he was out, but he kept hanging around at times."
"Did he ever talk about his wife, what she's doing now?" Lindsay asked. She had a bad feeling about the fate of this woman.
"Just once. He said she was in good hands now... strange, since she hadn't come back to him. What kind of wife is she--"
"Do you have an address?" Lindsay interrupted.
"I'll give it to you, all right! Can I go now?"
"No problem," Jacobi said. "Thanks for your help."
Leighton wasn't yet at the door when Lindsay couldn't hold back her assessment any longer, "Can you believe this guy? He's such a"
"Wait, just one more thing," Jacobi called after the man, surprising her. "You better not go to the club tonight."
"Why?" The man's eyes widened. "Is it still dangerous?"
"That complaint that's been filed against your group..." Lindsay could tell that he was barely hiding a grin. "I hear it's come through. Have a good day, Mr. Leighton."
The uniforms who arrived first at Larry Keller's house found a man banging angrily against a door in his basement. The old-fashioned key wouldn't turn in the hole because it had been stuffed with fabric and dirt, desperate measures of a woman who, as she couldn't get out of her prison, had found a way to keep the man who'd locked her in, out of it.
When they finally managed to get the door open, they found her on the other side, cowering in the corner, shaking. Her fingers were bleeding. She wore what looked like a tunic made from rough fabric, and nothing else.
"Don't take her!" Larry Keller yelled. "You can't have her! She's mine!"
When she arrived at the scene, Cindy had already been taken to the hospital. Lindsay wandered around the musty-smelling basement for a moment, careful not to disturb the techs' work. It was cold in here, a chill seeping deep into one's bones. Cold damp stone, a bit of straw. And a metal door with a small window that had bars built into it.
Michelle, maybe other women, had died in here. Cindy almost had. Lindsay took a step backwards into a darker corner, where nobody would see how the weight of realization was nearly crushing her. She wiped her face quickly when Jacobi appeared. "We've got it covered here," he said. "Go."
Lindsay stopped cold in the doorway when she saw Sam sitting in the visitor's chair. She didn't walk away though, instead stood and watched as Sam leaned forward to touch Cindy's cheek lightly. Cindy smiled.
"I was thinking..." She said. "Maybe we could go for dinner some time?"
Her hopeful tone was breaking more than one heart, as it seemed.
"I'm sorry," Sam said quietly. "I'm going back to Glasgow tomorrow."
"Oh." Cindy, brave as always, kept the smile in place. "Okay."
Lindsay wondered if she had the right to be relieved at the prospect of having Sam Murray out of the picture. It wasn't like she had done a whole lot helpful herself.
"Thank you, though," Cindy added. "I guess I owe you my life. If you hadn't gone to the police..."
Then what, you think we would have just forgotten about you? This was clearly the moment to leave, but as Lindsay slowly turned the handle, the two other occupants of the room became aware of her presence.
"Lindsay," Sam greeted her, the woman's expression carefully neutral. "I was just about to go."
Lindsay just nodded, not in the mood for exchanging niceties, especially when Sam kissed Cindy goodbye. "Is it okay to call sometimes, make sure you're okay?"
"Of course," Cindy said. Lindsay did not voice her opinion.
Sam got up, squeezed Cindy's hand once more and then left without any further word.
It wasn't until then that Lindsay dared to move closer, take a closer look at her friend who nearly got killed, and inside herself, the realization of what she'd almost lost.
"I'm sorry, I'm late, I...Had to go to the scene." She cringed. First of all, at the term, then at how lame this excuse had to sound. Lindsay found herself unable to explain how she'd had to do this, face Cindy's prison of those past horrible hours.
"It's okay." Cindy regarded her intently. "Don't do this, Linds."
"What? No." She shook her head. "Let's not"
"None of this was your fault. This was just... random bad luck."
Lindsay chuckled though there was another emotion much closer to the surface. "You've got a lot of random bad luck."
"Yeah." Cindy sighed. "I didn't think Sam was going home that soon. Just my luck when I... And I really don't know why I'm telling you this, but I..." When her voice broke on the last word, Lindsay hesitated for a split-second, not knowing if an embrace would be welcome to a woman who'd endured what Cindy had been through. The next, Cindy was in her arms, and then there were no more questions.
"I'm not going anywhere," Lindsay said.
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