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
"So I'd offer you something to drink," Sam began, turning away from the desk where she deposited her things and back to the handsome agent with the silly hair. "But this hotel and my paper aren't much for perks."
"Thank you, I'm fine," he answered politely, moving past pleasantries fairly quickly. "This won't take long."
Being accosted in a dark hallway wasn't Sam's idea of fun, and the resulting intimidation that came from a brooding handsome agent flashing a badge at her didn't give her much patience.
"So?" she asked, head tilting expectantly. "Let's get going then." When he just stared at her, she added, "I've got an article to write."
The corners of his mouth twitched a bit, and then he squinted, glancing down at his phone, as if he was consulting. "I understand you've seen quite a bit of Cindy Thomas during your stay here in San Francisco."
The mention of cute little babysitter drew a frown of recognition. "And that involves the FBI because?"
"It doesn't," he admitted, "At least not directly. But Cindy Thomas is indirectly involved in a case of mine, and I was hoping for your help."
It was a frank, if not surprising statement. "You don't even know me."
"I'm with the FBI," he reminded her. "And thanks to your profession, getting to know you is simply a matter of a search in any database."
Sam considered this. "You know that pot bust was total bullshit."
"I'm sure it was, Ms. McPherson, but quite obviously, I'm not here for something that happened in college. I'm here because a woman's life is in danger, and she has an incredibly thick skull."
In the last few days, only one person she had met warranted that description. "We must be talking about Lindsay Boxer."
His mouth twitched again, the smallest hint of a smile.
Seconds after the brown bag of pungent smelling take-out landed on the floor, Cindy Thomas was already cursing, kneeling down to retrieve it.
Feeling uncharacteristically awkward, Lindsay pulled her hands out of the back pockets of her jeans, and smiled lamely, venturing a helpful, "I can grab something."
"I'm two feet from the door," Cindy snapped, head jerking up long enough for green eyes to flash at her. "I can handle it."
So the little reporter was still the tiniest bit upset.
Head ducking, Lindsay stepped back, allowing Cindy to get to her front door. When the younger woman struggled with her key, her mouth tightened and she stepped forward, reaching for the takeout bag and the laptop.
"Stop being stubborn," she ordered flatly, not even bothering to pretend to ask for permission as she firmly took the items from her friend, curling the computer under her arm.
"What are you doing here?" Cindy asked, filling the silence while struggling to jimmy the key in her lock.
"I got your text," Lindsay answered, and found to some embarrassment, she was actually staring. The staring was new. Infatuation never sat well with Lindsay, and the fact that at the moment she was eyeing her friend like some love-starved idiot, was embarrassing. Flushing, she glanced away, pretending to adjust the Indian food in her hands. "Jacobi and I made the arrest a few hours ago."
"He confessed?" Cindy asked, curiosity overtaking the lingering animosity.
"For a banger, he was pretty green." Crossing her arms, Lindsay allowed a gentle smile, shoulder pressing up against the wall, glancing down to Cindy. "Anyway I thought you'd like to know. We couldn't have gotten him without you."
It was a remarkably generous statement, but clearly Cindy wasn't ready to be buttered up. Her eyes met Lindsay's, lingered, and then glanced away. "Well, that's what I'm here for," Cindy muttered, finally forcing the lock, opening the door with a twist of the knob. "Your own personal Google."
The hurt tone was enough to force Lindsay forward. "Hey." With a warm palm, she breathed out uneasily. "About before. You didn't deserve that."
"No, I didn't," Cindy returned easily, shoulders straightening and offering her friend a frank stare.
At least Cindy was finally growing a pair. "I'm sorry," Lindsay said simply, struggling.
"Did Jill and Claire tell you to come over here?"
The accusation took her by surprise. "What? No. Why?"
"Because there wouldn't be any other reason to have you show up here apologizing unless they guilt tripped you into coming here."
That Cindy actually believed that was depressing.
"Don't worry," Cindy said, misinterpreting her guilty look. "I promised Jill I'd be nice." She headed through the open door. "Are you coming in?"
"Burning the midnight oil?" Tom Hogan looked awkwardly pleasant, as he knocked on Jill's open door.
Pained at the pleasantry, Jill leaned back, arching her spine in an effort to give her tense muscles some relief. "I've got court in the morning. I need to make sure I have a solid case."
"Oh." He nodded politely, looking a bit like a rooster as he did so. "Good luck with that," he said, after a moment of stilted silence.
Not in the mood to the play this game with Lindsay's ex, Jill dropped her pen and fixed him with a frank stare. "What do you want, Tom?"
The man actually shrunk a little, and the sight of it caused a small smile to form on Jill's mouth. "You lawyers," he began, with a reluctant chuckle. "You really do like to get to the point."
"That is what they teach in those expensive law schools."
"It's about Lindsay," he announced, drawing further into the room. "We had a fight today."
"I'm not your marriage counselor, Tom," Jill sighed, suddenly annoyed.
"It's not like that."
"Good, because Lindsay's not your problem anymore."
"You and Claire act as if I stopped caring about her." He seemed insulted by that. "It doesn't work that way, Jill."
"You broke her heart," Jill reminded him, and looked down at her paperwork. She had been battling a grumpy attitude the entire day, and because she ultimately believed she was a good person, and only wanted the best for Lindsay, had put in a call to Cindy; her own way of trying to speed whatever it was that was happening along.
That didn't mean she was ready to deal with Lindsay's actual ex.
"I still care about her," he enunciated, now reaching the end of her desk, features in an angry scowl. "Maybe more than I should."
Exhausted, Jill merely gave his left hand a pointed glance. "The ring on your hand suggests you do otherwise."
"As a friend, Jill. I'm worried, okay? She came into my office and started spouting this defeatist bullshit about not being able to have who she wants-"
Jill's brow furrowed in concern. If Lindsay resorted to spilling her guts to Tom, then things really were getting out of hand.
"And what, Tom?"
"And it worried me, okay?" He tugged on his tie, an erratic gesture. With a flushed face, he turned away, seemingly to get a hold of himself. Jill stayed seated and waited. "Just... tell me you know about whatever the hell it is she's talking about."
If it wasn't for the fact that Tom looked so damn concerned, Jill would have told her good Lieutenant to go to hell. "I know what she's talking about."
Brown eyes fixed on her, and he sighed, turned away for a moment, gathering his thoughts. "So you're on it. You're... helping her."
It was an interesting moment, this sudden bond that was suddenly tangible between her and Tom, tied together by their mutual complicated love for Lindsay.
"Tom, I will help her," she managed, voice rougher than she expected, as emotion suddenly clogged her throat. "I promise."
Fiddling with her phone, Sam McPherson let the words of the agent wash over her.
"So there's a serial killer after Lindsay," she repeated, trying to make sense out of the words. "And you think he's not just targeting her but her friends."
"We've come up with a couple theories," he told her, and Sam felt ill to her stomach, as the images he placed on the bed between them glared up at her.
The dead women, mouth's sewn shut, looking almost peaceful in their mutilated death.
Six months in a war torn country had given Sam more death and destruction than she could ever want in her lifetime, and she felt like a coward because of it. She had been airlifted out of the warzone, t-shirt covered in blood, holding sticky fingers against a gaping chest wound while a uniformed paramedic shouted to her to keep the pressure on while he wrapped up the shattered limb that had once been a leg.
And she had been the lucky one. Soldiers and civilians who had lived with her, confided in her, had had no such luxury.
Murder had always been a senseless crime, but in war, personalities were stripped. People stopped being people, and became only what the other person needed them to be in order to take their life.
Normal men and women became murderers in war, and it was ok.
Brooke had made her go to therapy after her adventures in the Middle East, and staring down at pictures of naked dead women, was probably not something Mr. Thompson would approve of.
"Isn't it a little unprofessional to show these to a reporter?" she asked stiffly, unable to help the suddenly angry tone. "I came here for a Pride parade, not a murder."
Agent Ashe just stared at her, and then continued, as if he hadn't heard her at all. "We think he's recreating fairy tales, and in his mind, he's trying to 'save' these women."
"You think Lindsay Boxer needs saving?"
He once again gave her that weird smile. "In a way, don't we all?"
Sighing, Sam glanced away. "Look, Agent Ashe. Whatever you think I'm doing here, this is none of my business. I've had exactly one conversation with Inspector Boxer, and it wasn't exactly pleasant."
"Inspector Boxer doesn't have much in her life, what she does have is a loyal group of friends who care about her." He straightened his shoulders, matter-of-fact. "It was Cindy Thomas' article that our killer picked out, read. Which means he is very much aware of Miss Thomas and her relationship with Inspector Boxer."
"So I could use some help convincing her that this is a matter of some urgency." He plucked his keys from the dresser and put them in his pocket. "At the moment I don't have the proof to justify protecting Boxer's friends. And there's a disturbing sense of complacency because Lindsay Boxer and her friends see me as less of an aid and more of a harasser. "
"Could it be because you're creepy?"
"I find serial killers," he answered simply. "Of course I'm creepy." Stepping forward, his eyes were the darkest shade of brown. "And he's creepier. Talk to Cindy Thomas."
"Because if it comes from Lindsay's boss or partner or myself, Lindsay Boxer will deny it. She doesn't care about herself, but she cares about her friends. If I went to Cindy Thomas directly Boxer would stonewall me. It's better that it came from you."
"Okay, she carries a gun, and unlike 90 percent of the police force, something tells me she's actually used it," Sam snorted. "I don't need another reason for her to hate me."
He glanced back at her, and shrugged. "I'd rather she hate you than she be dead. The killer wants action, McPherson. And he doesn't like being forgotten. And if we're not careful he will remind us he's out there." He glanced down at the files. "I'll leave those with you. And if I see any of this in print, you'll be prosecuted." With that, he nodded. "Good night, Miss McPherson."
There had always been some sort of tension with Lindsay Boxer.
Not that it was necessarily bad. Most of the time, Cindy Thomas cheerfully ignored it. She had to, for the sake of her job and the story. Initially, that meant chasing after the gorgeous Inspector like a puppy, skittering around her and being so damned good at what she did Lindsay Boxer and her remarkable friends had no choice but to acknowledge her.
That they developed a friendship out of a professional relationship had been a pleasant surprise. To be honest, Cindy had no idea just how intimate the relationships would become. It wasn't that she had ever been lonely, exactly. Cindy had never had a problem talking to people, and thank God for that, because her job required being able to relate to everyone, getting people to trust her. She had hundreds of names in her blackberry and her thumb had formed a callous from the scrolling she did sifting through them.
But she had come to see Jill, Claire and Lindsay as more than sources. They were friends, they were family, and the fact that she was standing in her living room being oddly irritated and annoyed that Lindsay was here at all was some kind of refreshing testament to how far they had come.
The hero worship was gone, and in front of her now was an immensely flawed, absolutely gorgeous woman with insecurities and a tendency to ignore her own personal interests by burying herself in the job.
It was an interesting epiphany to have, in between closing her door and putting her stuff in random places.
Lindsay was just a woman. The infatuation had worn off, and what was left behind was the deepest kind of affection. The dangerous kind of affection.
Plunging fingertips into her nape, and massaging lightly, Cindy gathered her resolve and turned to her friend, met brown eyes with a tentative, passive smile.
"Have you eaten? There's enough for two in there."
Realizing she was still holding the bag, Lindsay once again flushed. "Not hungry, thanks."
"Lindsay." Cindy came forward, taking the bag from her friend and heading toward the small kitchenette with it. "If you haven't eaten, you're eating."
Lindsay didn't argue, which was a bit of a surprise, but not one to count her blessings, Cindy merely grabbed two paper plates and a couple of forks.
"Your phone is buzzing."
"When isn't it?" She half-whispered to herself, and moved back to the living room, depositing the food on the coffee table before reaching into her bag once more and pulling out the blackberry.
"What is it?" Lindsay asked, sharp as ever, picking up on the subtle frown on Cindy's face.
Glancing up, Cindy's sighed. "Sam." There was that look on Lindsay's face, as her features stiffened and she turned away.
"You two are getting awful close, aren't you?"
In a moment of girly weakness, Cindy considered letting the farce go on, encouraging whatever affair she and Sam were having in Lindsay's head for the sole purpose of seeing what kind of reaction that would incite.
The idea was dismissed a half second after she thought it. Lindsay was a friend, and quite honestly, despite her youth, the whole thing smacked of too much romantic comedy mischief.
There wasn't time for that. She pressed the 'ignore' button, and let the call go to voicemail.
"She has a girlfriend, Lindsay." Dropping the phone back in her bag, Cindy gave her friend a resigned shrug, crossing her arms as Lindsay glanced up, met her eyes with a startled expression. "A fiercely committed girlfriend who is more like a partner, and they're completely, disgustingly in love. She won't shut up about her."
Lindsay continued to stare at her.
"So " She sighed, unsure how to even begin to voice what had not yet been discussed. "Whatever you're thinking? You can stop it. I don't know if it's jealousy or whatever- and I don't want to know," she continued quickly, when Lindsay visibly shuddered, turning away, "But if that's what it is, there's nothing to be jealous about." Lindsay pressed her lips together, but gave her nothing, and suddenly afraid that she had just jumped a really embarrassing gun, Cindy felt her cheeks flush. "And if it's not jealousy, then please let's not mention this ever again."
"We're getting too good at that, don't you think?"
The question was baffling. "Good at what?"
"Not talking about things," Lindsay answered, in that sultry gravely voice that always got her, right in the pit of her stomach. Brown eyes were clear and unwavering. "I owe you an explanation about what happened that night."
That night. "Lindsay, I'm trying very hard to pretend that night didn't happen."
Lindsay looked almost hurt at the thought. "Why?"
"Because I'm a little mortified," Cindy answered reluctantly. "And we all have moments of weakness. I understand if you needed some release."
"Cindy, starting what we started and not being able to finish doesn't really qualify as 'release' to me," Lindsay answered, unable to help a small smile.
"Yeah," she breathed, "Me neither. But if I think about it too long, I might put more meaning into it than what it meant, and that might drive me insane. Because you obviously regret what happened, and I'd rather we not make things any more awkward-"
"You're right. I do regret it."
Okay, ouch. "Right, so for the sake of me and our friendship, can we not talk about how much you regret it and pretend it never happened?"
"I don't want to do that either."
"You're really just not giving me any sort of break tonight, are you?" Cindy snapped, suddenly irritated.
"Cindy, stop talking and jumping to conclusions, and allow me to apologize for being a bad friend." Coming forward, Lindsay was now dangerously close, looking somewhat amused and sexy as hell as she stopped a foot away from her, dark eyes magnetically bright. "I don't deal well with romantic feelings and whatever this is it came at a really bad time for it."
In an effort to shield herself, Cindy crossed her arms, a literal attempt to close her already open heart. "Picking at scabs, Lindsay. Picking at scabs."
Dark, intelligent eyes darted down to the enfolded arms, and deliberately, slender fingers rose up to clasp over forearms, warm touches pulling apart the arms and placing them gently at Cindy's sides.
"Here's the truth," Lindsay began, words softer and gentler than she had ever heard before. "I like you. I'm attracted to you." The statement produced a gasp that Cindy wasn't ready for, and it left her dizzy. Unable to stay focused on the beautiful face looking so intently at her, her eyes went to the floor. A finger caught her chin, and forced her back up. "That night, I was drunk and I let that attraction get the better of me. I didn't expect to feel these things, Cindy, and quite frankly, they scare the shit out of me, because even if I knew how to handle it, I can't risk getting involved with anyone. Not right now."
It took a moment to process that, all that suddenly chatty Lindsay was saying to her.
"So " she mused, heart thumping as she sucked in a long breath, trying to keep herself calm. "You're basically telling me, that you're into me, but rather than allow me to be a friend and perhaps something more than that, you'd rather give me blue balls and let me leave you to deal with a killer on your own."
"We have both said two completely different things."
"And they're both completely true." Cindy felt suddenly sad. Not for herself, but for Lindsay, and her fucked up, Romeo-And-Juliet inspired world where she couldn't just be free to fall into an attraction, maybe even fall in love, because there was actual murder as a possible repercussion. "You know? Maybe you're right."
Lindsay's brow quirked. She hadn't been expecting that. "Right about what?"
"Maybe it's better to just push me away," Cindy answered flatly. "Because I can't help how I feel, Lindsay. I adore you, and now that I know you might possibly feel that way about me, it's going to be really hard not to want to be there for you. And that is what you wanted, right? You wanted to push me away so you wouldn't have to deal with me?"
"That's not what I wanted."
"Then what did you want?"
Lindsay was staring down at her, looking at her face with an expression that, in the sudden tangible tension, became an obvious expression of longing. A dark gaze moved from her face down to her lips, and God, it was so obvious what Lindsay wanted.
A shudder of helpless arousal passed up her spine. It would be so easy, to reach up, grab hold of the sides of Lindsay's face and plunder thin lips with utter abandon.
But nothing had changed, and if she did that, there was every chance they would end up in a mimic of what happened before, which had helped no one and just made everything more complicated.
"God, this is so utterly fucked up," she breathed, and crossed her arms again, trying to strengthen her weakened resolve.
That seemed to alleviate the tension somewhat, as Lindsay seemed to snap out of whatever lust-induced haze she had drifted into. Her slow lean forward had turned into a straightening jerk. "God," Cindy heard, and nearly laughed raggedly in response.
"What about you figure it out?" she began, breathless and taking in deep breaths. "And then-"
She trailed off when the soft touch of Lindsay's palm pressed against her chin. "How about we catch a killer?" Lindsay asked thickly. "And then we figure it out together?"
It was a goal. At the very least, a glimmer of hope that something would come of all this confusion.
It wasn't going to help getting involved with an incredibly messed up Inspector.
"I'm not going to stop wanting to be there for you," she answered simply, unable to stop herself from keening into Lindsay's touch. "Not just because I'm your friend, but because I care about you. A few random bitch outs aren't going to stop me."
At the very least, there was the smallest hint of a smile on the previously troubled face. "I've learned from previous experience that not much can."
Green eyes locked with brown.
"I guess we have that in common."
For the longest second of Cindy's life, Lindsay didn't move away. She simply stared, as if frozen in place.
Then the hand dropped, and dizzy Cindy found she could actually taken in a breath, as Lindsay stepped back.
"I should go," Lindsay began, a pregnant pause later. "Martha's waiting for me."
Shakily, Cindy nodded.
Offering her a small smile, Lindsay paused, hesitating. "You and me we're good, right?"
It was that tiny bit of insecurity that made Cindy feel like a lovesick fool. "Yeah," she managed, one hand bracing against the dresser for support. "We're good."
"See you tomorrow?"
"See you tomorrow," she responded, a little too chipper, and stayed in one place as she watched Lindsay toss her one last smile before opening her door.
Breathing in deeply, she closed her eyes.
Her phone buzzed again.
In need of a distraction, Cindy reached for it. Once again, it was Sam.
"For someone I've just met," she began as she answered it. "You're disturbingly needy."
"Listen, how much do you know about Agent Ashe?" Sam's question was immediately.
The question threw her. "FBI Agent Ashe?" Befuddled, her mind cleared, focused. "Wait, how do you even know him?"
"He came to see me, Cindy. And you know what? He really creeped me out."
"He came to see you? Why?"
"I'm still trying to figure it out, but the guy is twisted. How long have you known him?"
"Not long," she answered, suddenly troubled. "He came to see you?" she asked again.
"I know, right? And he started spouting all this stuff about this Kiss-Me-Not killer and Inspector Boxer."
"He left a casefile, Cindy. It was shady."
"Wait, why would he do that?"
"He wanted me to 'prod' you guys or something. I don't know, but when he left I called a friend in the FBI. We really need to talk."
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