DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. No infringement intended.
WARNING: Deals with memories of rape, nothing graphic.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Betaed by Cheryl. Thank you!
"If you were raped, and they didn't charge the guy, how would you feel?" (Warren Jacobi, "And The Truth Will (Sometimes) Set You Free")
Jill woke with a start, needing a moment to orient herself in the unfamiliar surroundings. A hospital room. Cindy. Her friend was still sleeping peacefully, so she decided to get up and get herself some coffee. Sleep... was overrated anyway, and she needed some caffeine in her system.
As she stepped outside the room, still lost in thought, she now realized where the feeling of being watched had come from.
The woman was in her early fifties, the reddish tone of her hair definitely not her natural color. She wore a friendly, easy smile, but Jill could easily see the worry beneath. Cindy's mom.
"And you must be Cindy's girlfriend, the cop. The one she's talking about all the time. Thank you for staying with her."
For an awkward moment, Jill just gaped at Mrs. Thomas, then she took the woman's outstretched hand and shook it. "I'm sorry, I -- my name is Jill Bernhardt. I'm a friend."
Mrs. Thomas looked confused, but she gave Jill a slightly mortified smile. "Oh... okay, it's just that I've been so worried since the hospital called me, and -- whatever. I just hope I haven't told a secret or anything. Cindy has always been very open with her friends, so I guess you knew -- so Lindsay's her name, right? Is she here, too?"
"No, she... had to go. On a case."
And damn you, Linds, for making me lie to her. You're just lucky that I'm better at it than your 'girlfriend'.
"Oh. Right. I got the impression that she was very dedicated to her job. You know," Mrs. Thomas smiled, "Cindy always tells a lot between the lines."
"I can imagine."
"I'm sorry, I..."
Jill realized she was still standing in front of the door . She stepped aside to let Mrs. Thomas into the room. "I'll be right back."
By this moment, she was desperate for caffeine. And an explanation from Lindsay.
I've been having the same dream over and over again, since I had to watch her go to the front door of Andy McCarthy's house, knowing there'd be two armed men inside who wouldn't hesitate to kill her in a heartbeat.
They say that you work through issues in dreams. The first night I woke up shaking, my face wet, because I'd seen her crumbling on the stairs, I tried to shrug it off. The dream came back, every night.
And then it came true.
I don't even know where to start in this mess I've created... but sure as hell, I can put up a smile and fool everyone.
Even those I let closer than others... especially those. Pete has left an hour ago, having to prepare for an early work day, or maybe he could just sense that something about me was off. And then there's the little fact he'll be gone in a week anyway - so maybe that's just as well.
I wanted to call him and tell him we'd reschedule, so I could stay with Cindy.
The chance is gone, lost forever.
Because I couldn't; the realization just how fucked up this is keeps slamming into my brain, and I grip the neck of the bottle harder. It's a good wine; Pete and I had opened it tonight, but fortunately didn't really get around to drink it. I have use for it now. I knew the moment he walked out that door that this meltdown would be inevitable.
It's only been a matter of time.
A toast to you, Lindsay, you're a good cop.
I managed to break Kate Hammond; except that it wasn't so hard since she already was broken, pushed too far by a system that should have punished her rapists in the first place.
"The system failed Kate Hammond."
Cindy, again. That's when I had felt the first stirrings, an unease, an ambigious fear of where this might lead, watching Jill and Cindy face off. I couldn't stand it any longer. The feeling had been so profound, I didn't even have time to marvel at how Cindy had instantly calmed at my touch, let me lead her out of the room.
Why can't I get this right? Why can't I stop thinking --
There was this one thing that Kate didn't know. I am not afraid of the dark. I've seen all that the dark has to offer, survived, and if you challenge me, I can put up. That's what happened between us. It's less complicated on the surface: a Homicide case solved. We can all move on.
"What happened that night wasn't because you were drunk or irresponsible." I wonder what I was thinking, saying this, and if it was any consolation for Kate. Drunk or irresponsible. The wine softens the sharp edges of self-reproach only marginally. Drunk. Sad and stupid.
There's a distinction, isn't there?
It takes me almost a minute to realize that there's somebody knocking on my door.
Not paying attention. Irresponsible.
"It's you. I guess Cindy's parents have arrived."
"Her mother is there, yes."
Jill walks inside, giving me a suspicious look. "I am not interrupting anything, am I?"
I consider her question for a moment. "No," I decide.
She takes a deep breath, then just blurts out, "What's the matter with you, Lindsay? Claire going home to her family, I can understand. What is your excuse, a guy you've known for a week?"
I close my eyes for a moment, snapping them open instantly when the vertigo assails me. "You're out of line, Jill."
"No, I'm not. Cindy... she and I had to clear some things for sure. I didn't mind staying with her, but don't you think you could have spared an hour?"
I remember how she cracked this rather pathetic joke at me, "I'm gone for a day and you're still dating", and there was something about the way she said it, so - lost. Regretfully. Jesus. Cindy had looked about 12 in that bed.
It makes me feel even worse about the stray thoughts that keep invading my mind. She deserves so much better. I prove it again tonight.
"You were always on my case about not dating. Now that I do, you're still not satisfied?"
"At least I realized I was wrong."
"It's... not like that."
Jill sighs, then takes the bottle from me, taking a long swig. I hadn't even noticed I'd carried it with me. "Please enlighten me, Linds, because I have a hard time understanding this."
"There is nothing to understand." And that's the truth. Nothing I can tell her will make any more sense to her or put the pieces together. I wish she'd just leave me alone. There is. Nothing.
"Look, I know how you feel about Cindy--"
"You don't know a thing about it!" I've startled both Jill and myself by yelling at her. I don't want to go there. Today was bad enough. I'll make it through the hangover, if we just don't start talking about Cindy while touching on those dark places I've been to with Kate Hammond. End of the line.
"Whatever. Have the rest of that wine if you want, feel free to use that couch, but there's going to be no more soul striptease tonight. I'm going to bed."
I actually go through with it. The minutes tick by. I want her to come, keep asking, and I don't. Finally, two sets of footsteps, one human, one canine, approach. At least for Martha, the world has righted itself again, as she jumps onto the bed with a heartfelt sigh.
"Linds," Jill says softly. "Today was tough on all of us."
"But you had to arrest her."
"Because she killed somebody. That's how it works."
"And you wish you wouldn't have had to do it."
The touch of her hand on my back is both reassuring and terrifying. Damn her for caring. I don't want to cry. It's pointless. "What I wish, doesn't matter. I don't make the law. If I did--"
But I don't make it to finish the sentence, he wouldn't be out, the pain knifing through me even at the thought just tearing me apart. What the hell -- it's this fucking case. I hate it. I hate Kate Hammond for bringing all of this back to me; and the wrongness of this hurts even more.
Jill leans a little closer just the moment I bolt, wanting to leave, wanting to run from everything, but she won't let me, just pulls me close and holds on. "I am not a fucking good person," I tell her, before all inhibition slips away, erased by too much alcohol, and I just start to sob. It's embarrassing, makes me feel so ashamed on top of all the things I felt ashamed of today. I haven't cried like this in years, and I hate it, though Jill seems less fazed by it than I am.
"You are," she says. "You just tend to forget that you can't save the world all of your own.That's not even possible between the four of us."
"I couldn't even save myself."
The motion of her hand runníng down my back stills abruptly, then returns. It's all that keeps me from falling further apart.
I pull back a little, wipe my face, testing my voice like a bridge of which I don't know yet if it will carry me. Jill's gaze on me is sad, but patient. A whole lot of more patience than I had with Kate Hammond in the interrogation room.
"There was this... really bad case. I had never seen anything like it. The guy was murdering children, all under five. This little girl went missing and we, we caught him, but it was too late."
There are tears glistening in Jill's eyes now. I'm good at making people cry these days.
I hug my knees to my chest, anything to create some distance for the ending of this story. "That night, I got drunk. In an - irresponsible way." I'm almost choking on that word. I can't stand to look at her any longer. "I knew him, because he went to the same gym. And we'd met in the break room. So he--" I take a deep breath, as there doesn't seem enough air in the room to get these last words out. "He offered to take me home, even made a joke about how he'd put me to bed, so I wouldn't hurt myself. I thought he'd go... but he didn't."
Jill lays her hand over mine, the warmth of the touch making me realize that I'm shaking. I never wanted to tell. Not even Claire knows. But maybe it's the price to pay for 'being a good cop' today.
"Linds, but you know there is no difference, right? He had no right, no matter if drugs were involved or not. It doesn't matter. It's still rape."
Don't be stupid, Lindsay. A good-looking guy like me? No one will believe you. You were drunk.
"What was the girl thinking?" I ask, sadly, to no one in particular. Her earlier words.
"You know I said these things, because I'd acted like a coward. That was all there is. If you think about it, consent is something really easy to define. There is no gray area." She makes the connection a second later. "You said the break room? Please tell me the scum isn't working in the same building?"
"He used to," I say, feeling utterly drained, and not just a little sick.
It's remarkable how the body stores away memories. It's beyond stupid that tonight, I did the best I could to bring them all up again. There's a reason why I don't get really drunk usually.
Every possible line has been crossed tonight, so what's one more.
"I did that, you know, walk up to him, my hand on my gun, and he was like 'what, you're going to shoot me?' He laughed at me. God, Jill, I'm such a hypocrite."
"No, you aren't," she says softly. "I'm glad you didn't go that far though. I hate to think I could have never met you, become friends."
"A friend who asked you to do something that could have sent your career and life down the drain."
She shrugs, smiles, though her eyes are still bright. "We saved a life that way. Speaking of which, you should still talk to Cindy. She probably won't admit it, but she was really sad that you left so soon."
I just look away. There's only so much truth I can take at once. "I just don't want her to get hurt." Which is certainly pathetic, considering Cindy is in the hospital, recovering from a gunshot wound, but it's the most honest I can get.
"Why would it hurt her letting her know that you care?" Jill asks, slightly puzzled.
Right. I am not making too much sense. "Because I can't... Not the way she wants me to."
"So you're really happy with Pete?"
I bite my lip, let the seconds tick by too long for the answer to mean anything when I say, "I think so."
"You're in love with Cindy, and not admitting it will, in the end, cause more damage. Isn't it time to end all that hurt?"
I cast her a doubtful look. "Since when have you become the voice of reason? I thought that was Claire's part. I dated a woman once, you know. Smart, cute, a few years younger... the shrink said it was a dysfunctional way of working through what happened."
"But by now you know that the shrink was a jerk?"
The laughter rises from somewhere inside my chest that has felt too tight ever since I started on that bottle, and I can't stop until literally everything hurts. That's right, he was a jerk. But at that time, I was stupid enough to believe him, to raise enough doubt to walk out on her, throw away the one good thing that had happened in my life, so good I could easily make myself believe I didn't deserve it. And that realization is so hard to face.
"I screwed up, didn't I?" The laughter is gone, and in its wake, more annoying tears.
"Briefly, yes," Jill says honestly. "But Cindy will understand. In fact, you'd have to work really hard at finding something she wouldn't forgive you." For a moment, she just studies me silently, and then adds, "It wasn't your fault, Linds. It never was."
"I made choices. Kate Hammond never had--"
"No. There Is. No. Difference."
Theoretically, I know all this. Emotionally, it's just hard to keep up. "I wish I could make it up to her somehow. She'll need a real good lawyer. I think I should... I don't know, do something."
"We'll see about that. After you've gotten some sleep."
Being as exhausted as I am, I don't put up any protest when she pushes gently, eases me down and then spoons up behind me.
"I'll be here."
"Thank you." I close my eyes, and there's no vertigo this time. Maybe I actually can sleep.
"And get it through your thick skull, Lindsay Boxer, you are a good person."
I don't know if I should laugh or cry at this, or even believe it, but this will be the first time that the nightmare doesn't come back. Maybe these dreams were going to tell me something after all.
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