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The two small kids playing on the front lawn stopped in their activity to regard me curiously. I smiled at them and walked up the stairs to the front door, briefly taking in the cozy porch with the rocking chair and the beautiful flower arrangement. Then I rang the bell.
Heidi Meyer opened the door to me, her eyes widening when she saw me. "Lieutenant Boxer," she greeted me, a hint of fear to her voice. "I take it this is no social visit--" Her gaze flickered over to the children. "Is this about...?"
"No." I lowered my voice, because this was for her ears only. "Pete is dead."
Confusion and relief warred in her pretty features. "Oh. That's a good thing then. I guess. He's not going to kill anyone else."
"True. This isn't about Pete though. Heidi, can I come in?" I asked. I knew she was uncomfortable for reason other than memories of her late husband, who also had been a psychopath serial killer holding San Francisco hostage.
"Of course." She opened the door a fraction wider, just enough to let me in, her body language that of a woman who had to learn to look over her shoulder. The inside of the house surprised me though. Warm colors, comfortable furniture, lots of light. It looked peaceful. I hated myself for having to disturb this peace, but I had no choice.
"Can I offer you something?" she asked.
"No, thanks." We sat down in the living room, Heidi nervously wringing her hands in her lap. "I need to talk to Sarah."
The instant alarm in her eyes was unmistakable. "Why?"
"I'd like to know myself. Lieutenant."
Sarah Wells leaned against the doorway to the kitchen, a wry smile on her face. Tall and lean as I remembered her, dark hair in a ponytail, she looked at ease.
She knew. They both did, so I didn't see any point in delaying the inevitable.
"Look," I said, "we know you were Hello Kitty." The famous jewel thief, never caught, had been nicknamed by Cindy.
Sarah sat beside Heidi, taking her hand. "So? You came to arrest me after two years?"
"I'm not interested in arresting you. You gave back most of the merchandise, you changed your life... As far as I'm concerned, there's no further rehabilitation that prison could offer you."
She nodded. Heidi looked ready to cry. "Then why are you here?" Sarah asked.
"I need your help," I told her. "There's a thief out there who's actually killing this time. He's murdered two women so far, and he's giving us clues related to special items he steals."
"That's pretty vague."
"That's all we have. You are the closest I have to an expert, and I'm sure you are interested in catching a killer in your... what used to be your ranks."
Sarah considered the offer. "How do I know this is not a trap?"
"You have my word. You'd be a consultant to the task force."
"Sounds like a job."
Heidi stood up abruptly and turned to the window, the tense set of her shoulders a dead giveaway of what she thought about the idea. Sarah followed her and, very gently, embraced her lover from behind. She brushed a strand of soft-looking red hair aside to press a kiss to her neck.
I wanted to turn away, feeling like an intruder to this intimate moment, yet I couldn't. I was intrigued and uncomfortable at the same time about these two women who took so much pride in their love.
It was silly. Sarah and Heidi were both survivors of abusive relationships, managed to build a new life from the ashes, together. Why would I feel... jealous of them? Get a grip, Boxer. I had a man who loved me. I had the best friends in the world. And soon, I'd be having something... more.
"How soon do you need me to start?" Sarah startled me out of my reverie.
"I'll have someone pick you up tomorrow."
"We owe you," Sarah said. "I guess it's time to pay back the favor."
"Thank you." I recalled when we decided to put Heidi and her kids into the witness protection program. She had insisted on taking Sarah with her even when knowing about her lover's past. She didn't care about the risks.
I wondered if Joe and I had that kind of love, to overcome all obstacles. "I'll see you tomorrow then."
I waved to the kids as I walked back to my car. That small voice from inside nagging again. See, two women can do it, too. Love each other. Be a family. Raise kids.
Unbidden, a vision of Cindy sprang to mind. Cindy Thomas, thorn in my side, a fantasy denied from the moment I met her. One of my best friends, who's like a kid sister to me. Or at least it's what I kept telling myself.
I drove back to the city, to do my job, to go home to the man I love. Tonight, I'd tell him about the baby. I had a lot in my life to feel lucky for.
And still, thinking of Sarah Wells and Heidi Meyer, a hint of something undeniable remained.
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