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Small Favors Among Friends
It was meant to be a favor for Cindy. It nearly got both of them killed.
Lindsay keeps stealing glances at her while Tom is talking to her and she pretends she's listening. She knows how this is bad for her career and at the moment, she couldn't care less. She knows he's just looking out for her and somewhere, in a far corner of her mind, she appreciates it. It's just that she can't think of... anything right now. Except for one thing.
She leaves Tom standing at the entrance, walking over to where Cindy sits on a crate while the paramedic is tending to her. Illuminated by flashlight, her skin looks ghostly white. Except for the dark red line crossing her neck from one side to the other, not deep, meant to scare. It did its job.
"Hey," she says for the lack of anything better, crouching in front of her friend. Cindy's mouth twitches in a weak smile, but her reaction is delayed, like from someone in shock. Which she clearly is, Lindsay thinks as she reaches out to touch her ice cold hands, holding them in hers for a moment.
The gesture is supposed to express what she can't find the words for. We made it. It's going to be alright.
Cindy is still looking kind of lost.
They all know that Cindy Thomas has a penchant for getting herself into trouble. That's why Lindsay tries her best to keep her out of it, or so she tells herself. It's not supposed to be troublesome in any way when she picks up Cindy at the Register that day; they're on their way to meet Jill and Claire for the usual girl & shop talk.
Sadie is one of Lindsay's most reliable informants, so when she calls to say that she's got information on the latest murder case, a young woman found in a ditch with her throat slit and her left ring finger removed, Lindsay knows Sadie doesn't mean to idly chat.
"Is it okay if I bring a friend?" she asks, and Cindy's eyes widen with surprise and pleasure.
It's a practical throught; in that area she'd rather take Cindy with her than make her stay in the car, but still. Lindsay does not deny that she likes being the reason for Cindy beaming like this. Helping out a friend, helping with her career, nothing wrong with that. It's the story she likes to tell herself.
"Thank you," Cindy says happily.
"Let's see what she has before you thank me," Lindsay brushes her off. "It might be nothing."
When they enter the warehouse, Cindy wrinkles her nose. "What is that smell?" she asks, anxiously enough to tell Lindsay that she can already guess. Lindsay knows, and her hand goes to her weapon immediately.
"You stay right behind me," she says, her tone allowing no discussion. Not that Cindy looks like she'd argue.
It's a nightmare even before it actually turns into one. This is police business. She is not supposed to drag a civilian into this.
They find her sitting up against the wall, eyes unseeing, the front of her dress stained with blood still bubbling from the gaping wound in her neck. Sadie's left ring finger is missing.
Behind her, Lindsay can hear Cindy gasp, and she feels horrible, because Sadie might have been asking too many questions in the wrong places, and because she's now adding one more entry in the library of Cindy's nightmares.
She picks up her phone to call it in, her mind processing the facts at a frenzied pace. Someone had made Sadie call her and then killed her. That someone had Lindsay's number.
It's when she hears the scream.
"You let her go. She has nothing to do with this," she tells him calmly. Make no mistake, I'm the one who's going to put a bullet into your brain if you don't. It's false bravado though and he knows it.
Lindsay knows him. He's twenty-seven, got a clear record and an alibi. He was interviewed as a witness regarding the latest murder. He presses the knife against Cindy's neck.
"But she does," he says, smiling. He's not crazy or disturbed. He knows exactly what he is doing and enjoying it. "You wanted to know me. Now you will. But you need to give me your gun. Now."
There's a split-second of not hesitating, but she's frozen with the gravity of the decision, then she carefully places the gun on the ground in front of her. The blade has already broken the skin.
"Come and get it," she says, her voice steady, belying the suffocating fear. Not for herself.
He looks indecisive.
Lindsay tries not to think too hard of the moments that followed and everything that could have gone worse. She did a decent job fooling him for a moment, the struggle brief and desperate. "You should have killed me when you had the chance," he tells her later when the uniforms are leading him away, laughing like mad, only she still doesn't think he is. "I'll come back for you. I'll come back for her."
Tom follows her gaze. "He's never going to get out again," he says. "God, Lindsay, what happened here?"
She has a hard time explaining, but soon she will have to, give a statement, write a report.
"You take the time that you need." This isn't her boss talking, which is worrisome in itself. He squeezes her shoulder gently, making her flinch with the sudden, unexpected pain. While her mind is a little fuzzy on the details, her body sure remembers the encounter with the concrete wall.
"I will.. I have to..." She rakes a shaky hand through her hair, annoyed with herself.
"It's okay," he says. We'll find out which hospital they brought her to. I'll drive you."
"I can drive."
He raises a skeptical eyebrow. "Right. That wasn't a suggestion, Inspector."
Lindsay rolls her eyes at him, but doesn't object. At the doors, she turns and looks back into the wide space wondering when today there was that point of no return that she'd missed.
She can't find any.
In the hospital, Lindsay finds Cindy sitting up, busy scribbling notes. "What are you doing?" She pries the pen from her hand gently. "You're supposed to rest."
Cindy shrugs. "At least that way it wasn't all for nothing, right?"
It's like a moment frozen in time, when they look at each other and she couldn't let go even if she wanted to. It wasn't for nothing, because we're still here.
When Cindy leans into her embrace, Lindsay thinks she's shaking, but she soon realizes it's really her.
"Don't." Cindy's voice is a tired strained whisper. "It wasn't your fault."
Technically, she knows, but it's not much of a help. If she didn't like having Cindy around all the time that much, maybe none of this would have happened. She'll never know.
Add to that all those emotions she could never bring herself to face and sure as hell won't now. There are going to be consequences. Job-related and otherwise.
In the future, Lindsay vows, she'll think twice about any favors like that.
In the aftermath of this mess, she's going to have to work a lot harder to deny her motivation for them.
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