DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. Popular belongs to Ryan Murphy. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The version of Sam used in this story comes from another embarrassingly long Brooke/Sam saga I wrote a while ago called Just a Little Insight. But you donít have to read that to get this. I just used Sam becauseÖ itís Sam. And Carly Pope is hot.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Misty Flores
Fingers curled over red-headed locks, and Lindsay Boxer was in the middle of a rather heated embrace when vibrations, mixed with an obnoxious ring, tingled at her from somewhere on Cindy's floor.
At war with herself, instinct forced her to pull back slightly, dark eyes roving over Cindy's resigned smile, the other woman lifting a palm to cradle her cheek gently.
"Gotta get that?"
She actually hesitated, something that surprised her, before Lindsay closed her eyes and leaned her forehead gently against Cindy's cheek. "Yeah," she breathed, long and slow.
A brief bit of pressure against her cheek; a chaste kiss, and then Lindsay moved, untangling from Cindy and sliding feet from the bed to the floor, taking the sheet with her, looking for the little blinking beacon of light that had to be her phone.
She found it, still attached to the beltloop on her jeans, and after a brief moment where she stalled upon realizing Cindy was now moving too, glanced at the Caller ID.
Flipping open the offending phone, she ignored the obvious sounds of Cindy rustling clothes behind her. "What?"
"It's close to three am. Where the hell are you?"
The accusing tone sent a sudden moment of paranoia through her. Glancing back at the other woman, now tying together a robe at her waist, Lindsay tightened the sheet around her.
"I'm sorry, are you my father?"
Jacobi apparently was in no mood to discuss the nature of their partnership. "We're here at your house."
She stiffened. "What? Who's we?"
"Me and Ashe."
"You and Ashe-"
"There's something we need to show you, so wherever you are, get here. Fast."
The line disconnected, before she could even sputter a reply.
For a second, she stood still, before she rose, dropping the sheet and grabbing her jeans, shaking them out, doing everything she could not to overthink this and wonder why the hell Ashe was with Jacobi and what on earth they could have found that would have had them at her place at three in the morning.
She remembered Cindy, and froze, if only half a second, before glancing back and finding a carefully closed expression, somewhat odd on the usually nakedly honest face.
"I have to go," she said, voice rougher than she intended.
"I know," Cindy said, sitting on the edge of the bed, legs crossed, looking so much more like a woman now than she ever did, with her mussed red hair, and her silky white robe. "I'm doing my very best not to be obnoxiously curious."
The heartfelt admission was enough to melt Lindsay, just a little. She pulled on her shirt, and after a moment of fussing with mismatched holes and a couple missing buttons, she took a precious moment to stride over to the bed and plant a kiss against her lips.
"Next time," she said, when they parted, "We'll plan this better."
A flash of a smile twitched up on full lips, before Cindy carefully pulled the slightly risqué lapels of Lindsay's shirt together. "Next time I'll try not to rip anything."
"Get some sleep. I'll call if I need you. And lock the door behind me."
Cindy nodded, but didn't move, and it made it easier, to straighten and head out of the room, grab hold of her gun and her badge, and leave her behind, for the sake of doing a job that never did seem to end.
"Don't ask," Lindsay warned, the moment she trudged up the driveway to find Jacobi standing on her porch, with a dark scowl on his tired face.
"You were with the reporter, weren't you?"
Lindsay took a look at the FBI Agent waiting just a few feet away, watching her with his squinted, sharp eyes.
"I said don't ask."
"You realize there's a serial killer after you, right?"
"I'm dimly aware of that."
"So it would be nice to know where you are. In case you've been kidnapped." When Jacobi glanced down at her shirt, took note of her missing buttons, she flushed, and zipped up her jacket.
"You found me, I'm fine," she noted dryly. "What's going on?"
"I'm being set up." Ashe stepped forward, and didn't miss the glare that immediately glittered on Lindsay's face.
Neither, apparently, did Jacobi. "It's true," he said, and Lindsay was forced to follow when he nodded toward the Agent, heading in his direction. "I've been following him all night."
Lindsay froze. "You've been following him?"
"Well, just because Tom said you couldn't doesn't mean he said anything like that to me."
The words sunk in, and inappropriate smile glimmered on her face. "I love you."
"Funny way of showing it," he muttered. "Anyway - Ashe was locked up the entire time after you arrested him, right?"
She nodded, eyes shifting between Ashe and Jacobi, initially unsure where this was going. "Of course."
"So when would I have the time to slip the knife that stabbed Samantha McPherson back into my backseat?"
She inhaled sharply, mind suddenly swimming. "What?"
"Take a look," Jacobi offered. "I'm waiting on forensics to go over his car with a fine tooth comb."
Grabbing the flashlight Jacobi handed out, Lindsay shone the beam of light into the backseat of Ashe's car.
"I got in my car; first thing I saw when I looked in the rearview mirror was that incriminating present."
A glittering knife gleamed in a bloodstained puddle.
"Dammit," she breathed, unable to look away.
"He was there," Jacobi confirmed. "Either at the crimescene or at the precinct."
The flashlight snapped off, and she turned, trying hard to keep an even breath. "Did we ever leave the car alone?"
"Could have." Jacobi mused, shoving large hands into his pocket. "You saw the crime scene. It was ridiculous. Everyone was so focused on Ashe the car was dismissed when we were done searching it."
"And we were so busy pinning this on Agent Shady here, we didn't think to search the witnesses. Just question them." The error of their judgment was astounding. Lindsay's eyes shut in sudden frustration. "DAMMIT. He's playing with us. The bastard is so fucking cocky that he's playing with us."
"There's options," Ashe said, breaking into the sudden tense silence. "Witnesses reports, right? The unis. And your reporter friend, Cindy Thomas, she interviewed a ton of them-"
"No." Her tone was low, but powerful. Jacobi's eyes narrowed but she ignored the inferred meaning. "I'm serious."
"I mean it, Jacobi." Her shoulders straightened, her eyes glittered. "I'm standing firm on this. Cindy is my source and I will get those notes from her, but you will NOT talk to her. Especially you." The glare that she sent to John Ashe was especially scathing. "You involved one reporter and you almost got her killed. I'm not putting Cindy anywhere near this investigation or you."
The accusation did its work. While Ashe's expression didn't change, there existed an almost angry energy now, as his arms crossed and his stance became defensive. "I had a conversation with a reporter. You appear to be SLEEPING with one. Who marks the bigger X?"
"You did more than have a conversation with her. You sought her out. You gave her the casefile, you stalked her at the Gay Pride Parade!"
"I'm trying to catch a serial killer!" he insisted angrily. "And I warned you something like this would happen. And I wasn't the only one at that bar, Miss Boxer. What were you doing there?"
"Supporting a friend," she answered angrily.
"So that's in your job description?"
"Stalking reporters is in yours?"
"Catching the bad guy is. And I'm good at my job."
"Yeah, you were so great at your job you led an innocent girl into a dark alley and got a knife stuck in her gut-"
"Okay, enough." A tired and cranky glower from Jacobi separated them both, as the Inspector stood between them. "I'm too damn old to be playing Playground Supervisor for you two."
"I don't trust him."
"That's obvious," he barked back, face flushed with anger. "And quite frankly, neither do I. But this guy is out there, and he's gunning for both of you now, so it makes sense to work together. We're not gonna do that, with you two pissing all over each other. Get over yourselves, and let's THINK."
Sucking in a long, frustrated breath, Lindsay turned away from the car, palm pressed angrily against her face.
After another moment, she could finally breath, allow Jacobi's sensible words (and why the hell was he always sensible) flow through her.
"Did you call Tom?" she managed, biting down on her question.
"Of course I called the Lieutenant," Jacobi answered snidely.
"Good," she said, and took a breath. "Then I'll be right back."
"Where are you going?"
"I need to change," she said, with a glare that warned not to ask why. "And I gotta let my dog out. Wait here."
After three hours of sleep, an awkwardly worded text message from Lindsay, and a longer phone call from a crabby sounding Jill alerted Cindy Thomas to the major find that occurred during the time she had been busy exploring Lindsay Boxer.
The news was completely sobering, and probably not the most romantic way she had ever been woken up after a night of hot sex.
Still, Cindy Thomas was well aware of the romance crushing reality that came with Lindsay Boxer. There was still a serial killer after the woman she was very much in like with (it was too soon for any other L words, and even if she felt she might very well lean that way, to even think of even trying to use that now made her feel like a blushing fourteen year old), and Lindsay was always going to be Lindsay.
What she got last night, was about romantic as it would ever get.
As it was, it was quite possibly the most romantic night she had ever had.
And then there was a text message, and a phone call, and a by-her-standards choppy article about a stabbing that she knew her editor would hate and immediately chop down further. Sappy sentiment was driven away in favor of resolve, and Cindy Thomas dutifully drank her green tea and thanked God she was young as she showered, dressed, and headed out to the hospital, the first stop of many, on the beginning of a very long day.
It was six am in the morning, and Claire was in the middle of the very stressful job of getting her kids off to school, when her cell phone rang. Naturally, it was Lindsay, and naturally, Claire was asked to do something that was not technically in her job description.
Things like that made her job way more interesting than the average Medical Examiner, and it was just another level of trust in her that made Claire realize just how much she cherished and appreciated Lindsay Boxer.
Coincidentally, it was also a hard reminder of just how scared she was of losing the sometimes self-sabotaging Inspector, who, from the sound of things, hadn't slept a wink all night, and whose gravelly voice dripped with the type of excitement that only came in the twenty-fifth hour, where there were no other reserves but that of pure adrenaline and instinct.
Jill Bernhardt, however, seemed to actually be dragging the dainty feet shod in those professional heels.
"So how much sleep did you get?"
Claire's smile for Jill was more sympathetic than it should have been for eight a.m. in the morning, but only a Medical Examiner would look beyond the meticulously applied make up to see tell-tale bags under the eyes of the pale-skinned lawyer.
The other woman winced in response, reaching into her purse to pull out the designer sunglasses, and slipping them on as she met Claire at the entrance of the hospital. "Not enough. After we were done last night Denise still wanted to bond."
"Ah " Claire considered the imagery that scenario presented, and remembered a very drunken Acting District Attorney line-dancing at a wedding, just a few weeks back. "Denise and alcohol is never a good scenario."
"Actually " Jill's steps slowed, and she turned lightly on her heel, lost in thought. "I'm glad we did it. I've spent so much time resenting Denise, I never really got to know her. To see another side of her was almost inspiring. She's actually not the devil."
Claire clucked in disappointment. "Are you saying we're not going to be able to trash your boss anymore? Because I kinda have fun with that."
"Don't go too far," the other woman quipped. "We've got a long way to go yet. But it is nice to know that Denise doesn't have a big ole knife aimed at my back anymore."
"Bad example," they heard, and Claire turned to discover the red-headed member of their circle coming up behind them, wearing a rather sober expression. "Considering the state of things."
Jill sighed, removing her sunglasses now that they were in the pristine hallways of the medical facility. "Good point." She glanced quickly at Claire. "Did you see the knife?"
"Got a good look at it from a picture Lindsay sent on her way over," Claire nodded. "It's a big boy. Jagged Edge Blade knife. Five dollars online."
"Meaning they sell them anywhere and anyone can buy one," Jill breathed, wincing at the description. "God. Never one break." Her eyes opened. "I'm guessing no prints either?"
"Aside from the positive ID of Ms. McPherson's blood? It's clean." Claire sighed. "But does that surprise you?"
"Of course it doesn't."
"Are we still considering Ashe a suspect?" Cindy interjected, moving between them to start them walking down the corridor. "Or has he been regulated to shady asshole?"
"I think the jury's still out on that," Jill answered, but flashed a quick glance at Claire. Cindy had that look on her face, which meant she knew something.
Claire once again found her steps slowing. "Why?" she asked immediately. "What'd you find."
Lips pressed together, Cindy seemed to hesitate, before glancing around her and lowering her voice. "On my way over I called Sam's contact at the FBI."
"You got Sam's contact to talk to you?"
"It wasn't easy," she said immediately. "Brooke gave me the okay to go through Sam's sidekick and I found his number. When he found out that Sam had been stabbed "
"He wasn't happy."
"Sometimes law enforcement has a weak spot for the plucky Girl Fridays."
The quip caused a smirk from Claire. How true that was.
"So he had information?" Jill asked, a trifle bit impatient.
"Not about Kiss-Me-Not, but man did he spill the beans about Ashe. Did Denise tell you why Ashe was transferred to the Kiss-Me-Not case, and why it was kept so hush-hush?"
Frowning, Jill shook her head. "I don't think she was told."
Proudly, Cindy crossed her arms, looking almost giddy with the information she was parceling out. "John Ashe had a girlfriend."
"That was the big news?" Jill looked annoyed.
Cindy's eyes swiveled to her. "It was Elaine Louis."
The name had a morbidly familiar ring. "Third victim, Elaine Louis?"
Cindy nodded slowly. "Yep."
Claire remembered the details of the woman's death. "She didn't fit the pattern," she breathed, eyes widening in recognition. "She was the one that wasn't from the Bay Area."
"And now Kiss-Me-Not is still trying to frame Ashe." Cindy shrugged. "Maybe our guy isn't just after Lindsay."
Jill's lips pursed, already lost in thought. "If that's true, then why put him on the case? That's unethical."
"Apparently he's made a very good case to his superiors," Cindy continued. "Initially his plea to get put on the case was rejected, but as we all know, that changed."
"Have you told Lindsay yet?"
Cindy flushed oddly, scratching lightly at her nape as she averted her eyes. The action was distracting. "I left her a message on her voicemail."
Lindsay lowered her phone, the message from Cindy that she had news making it hard not to immediately dial.
At the moment, however, she had company.
"I hope you know what you're doing."
John Ashe didn't look at her as he spoke, preferring instead to stare out of the passenger side of her vehicle, watching the traffic as it passed them by.
Lindsay Boxer's fingers preemptively tightened around the steering wheel, forcing herself to keep her attention on the road. "Ashe, not now."
"If not now, then when?" Through the corner of her eye, she could see a glimpse of the handsome profile, now aimed in her direction. "I warned you about getting that girl involved."
That girl. Lindsay's jaw tightened, her teeth grinding in her frustration, suddenly very annoyed with herself for promising Jacobi she would not harm this man. "Ashe, I'm warning you-"
"Do you think you're in any position to love someone? Right now? With this guy after you?"
A black Buick cut them off. Lindsay slammed her booted heel on the brake, and brought her hand down on the horn. "Asshole!" she spit, smacking her palm against the wheel in a sudden loss of self control. "Idiots."
The sudden release of her vented emotion didn't help, and she found herself inhaling deeply, a futile attempt to calm her speeding pulse. "Listen to me," she said, words lower, darker than before. "You stay away from her. You don't touch Cindy Thomas."
"I'm not the one who's endangering her."
"I can take care of her." Even as she said it, the sentence sounded meaningless.
"Because you're so good at taking care of yourself?"
Her vision was blurry, and she sucked in an angry breath. "Ashe-"
"No. You listen to me. You can't protect her. You may think you can, but you can't. Whatever relief you're getting from her right now, no matter what she tells you, it'll be nothing compared to the devastation you're going to feel when you get word that she's got her lips sewn shut and her guts torn out."
In a flash, she was there, in Cindy's bed, in Cindy's arms, embracing the younger girl, feeling broken and somehow put together, by a simple touch and the sweet, sweet press of soft lips against her own.
"Shut up. That's not what's going to happen."
He was quiet, too quiet. When Lindsay got herself under enough control to look, he was back to looking at the traffic, expression closed to her.
"Like I said," he added lightly. "I hope you know what you're doing."
"I'm not sure this is what I meant by 'Get some rest, Ms. McPherson."
Doctor Morris, Sam's handsome ER resident, smiled kindly at her from the entrance of her hospital room.
Sheepish, Sam winced slightly for his benefit, pushing the laptop delicately off her lap.
"I'm neurotically afraid of boredom. I can't help it."
He removed his wire rimmed glasses, and picked up the chart hooked on her desk. "Went off the morphine, I see."
"I requested it," she confirmed, glancing down at the sheets of papers that now littered her standard hospital bed. "This thing hurts like a bitch but at least I don't feel like I'm drowning in nightmares."
He glanced up, grimaced in sympathy. "So this is your anti-drug?" He glanced at the gruesome images of crime scene deaths and murdered woman. "Sounds a little morbid."
Delicately, Sam exhaled, allowing herself a moment of remorse as her eyes followed the way Dr. Morris traced the sewn lips of Melissa Paquin.
"Yeah," she agreed with a conflicted rasp. "But I'm alive, and they're not. It's kinda my mission now to make sure I find out why, and see if I can keep this guy from doing anything else."
His mouth twitched, and he offered her another smile. "Good luck with that. I'll stick with saving lives my own way." He kept skimming the chart. "Where's your sister?"
The technically correct but oh-so-wrong summation of Brooke resulted in a sharp glance from Sam. "Step-sister," she corrected. "Girlfriend. I made her go downstairs and get some food. She's been up all night doing all this."
It was unusual that he didn't expand on that, but Sam attributed it mostly to the fact that it was early, and he seemed more interested in her chart.
"You're a lucky girl, McPherson," he said again, and set the chart back on the edge of the bed. "I'll check up on you in a bit." Once again, his eyes lingered on the bed. "Charles Perrault?" he asked, surprised. "Interesting reading."
With that, he shrugged, and headed out the door.
Brooke McQueen was semi-out of breath, and had nearly scalded herself with bad coffee when she finally caught up to the red-headed reporter, discussing intimately with the two other woman just outside of Sam's door. She turned and immediately recognized her, eyebrows lifting.
"Hey. How's the patient?"
"Awake and off her morphine, and therefore, constantly complaining and annoying." While Brooke remembered the blonde, she didn't recognize the kind-faced older woman staring down at her. "I'm Brooke."
"Claire," the woman said warmly, taking her hand and giving it a gentle shake. "I'm pleased to meet you. Sorry it's under these conditions."
Glancing at the open hospital door, Brooke allowed herself one steadying breath. "Yeah. Me too. I'm glad you're here, though."
"Right," Cindy said, suddenly all business. "You said you had something."
The fact that she seemed so focused was a relief. "I do," Brooke said, shooting her a grateful glance. "I have a ton of somethings. Your fairytales? You weren't off. Those crime scene photos were telling a story. But they're morals. Lessons."
"He's teaching us a lesson?" Jill interjected, colored eyes narrowing at the thought.
"The man you're looking for is basing his fairytales off of Charles Perrault. Do you know him?"
Cindy alone nodded, but she seemed to scavenging her brain for the information. "French storyteller."
"The founder of the Fairytale," Brooke agreed. "Born to an upper class bourgeois family in Paris in 1628."
"Why is that important?"
"Because the guy liked morals," Brooke said heatedly. "That's how Sam and I figured it out." At the mention of her girlfriend, she began to walk, leading the other woman towards Sam's room. "You remember 'Little Red Riding Hood'?"
"Sure," Jill said, hands in her pockets. "The wolf dresses up as the Grandmother, and tries to eat Little Red Riding Hood."
"And then the huntsman comes in and saves the day," Claire finished. "We've all heard it."
A bittersweet expression stretched across Brooke's face, as she shook her head slowly. "Not in Perrault's version. He wanted to teach a lesson. There is no hunter. So what happens to the little girl who is foolish enough to trust a stranger? Little Red Riding Hood gets eaten by the Big Bad Wolf. Some even say it's an analogy for rape."
She paused, letting that sink in, before she moved quickly into Sam's room, offering her lover a tired but energized smile as she nodded to her. "Sam."
"Hey," Sam said, already looking behind her at their sudden guests. "It's suddenly crowded."
"Glad to see you awake," Cindy said. "You remember Jill and Claire."
Brooke didn't wait for the usual pleasantries. "Let's show them."
Sam blinked, but nodded. "Okay." Immediately, she swiveled the laptop she was holding until they could see the monitor. "Based on the crime scenes and what we know about the ladies, here's what we've figured out, according to Perrault's work. Sam McPherson?" she pointed to herself. "Little Red Riding Hood. Obviously." She grimaced, and Brooke laid a gentle arm on her shoulder. "Elaine? Sleeping Beauty. The fun version where she survives only to have her evil stepmother try to eat her and her kids. Melissa Paquin - Blue Beard, as in the evil husband who gives her an old key and in that closet she finds the remains of all his dead wives. Sara Rice? Donkey Skin, the girl who didn't want to get married and was forced to wear the skin of a dead animal for most of her life."
Brooke didn't wait for the curious trio to ask about the obscure fairytales. "There's one more. The most important." Taking a moment, she sucked in a steadying breath, and continued. "Lindsay Boxer is a perfect fit for Griselda."
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