DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: After reading the 3rd book from the Women's Murder Club series that is all about Lindsay/Jill love, my Muse decided it was time to put a few things down into a story. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the story will make any sense, but… yeah.
SPOILERS: For Patterson’s 2nd Chance and 3rd Degree books.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Where bad ideas become good ones and then everything falls apart
By Kristina K
When Lindsay first met her, Jill Bernhardt still had long, dirty blonde hair. Perched up on a barstool at Papa Joe's, the young attorney, a brand new addition to the District Attorney's office, absentmindedly twirled the remaining two sips of margarita in her glass. The TV above her head was showing news, and even though it was on mute, one could clearly see they were talking about the scandalous case of the San Francisco's official caught in the middle of a sex crime scandal. The same case Jill Bernhardt was first-chairing after only two weeks at the DA's office. It couldn't get any more trial by fire than it has.
"This seat taken?" A tired voice, low, dark and strangely familiar to Jill's ears, addressed the young attorney and when Jill turned, she met a pair of equally tired and dark eyes. Jill shook her head and the newcomer managed a smile. "Thanks."
She was a Homicide inspector if Jill remembered correctly. Linda. No, Lindsay Boxer. They passed each other in the hallway once or twice the only woman inspector working for the Homicide detail in San Francisco.
"Your case?" Jill's eyes shot up and the inspector nodded at the TV.
"Yes." She breathed out and then knocked back the remains of her drink. The glass was noisily put down against the counter. "Loretta," Jill beckoned the waitress and then pointed at her glass. "'Nother one, please."
"Corona for me." Inspector chimed in and Loretta smiled with a nod. "You did a good job."
Jill pursed her lips, not so much because she really hoped no one would come in, see her, order a drink and strike up a conversation about the hottest topic in the city, but because she really did do a good job, she kicked ass, she exposed the bastard, presented evidence and the guy still walked. She sighed, "Not good enough."
"Lindsay Boxer, Homicide." Inspector offered her hand to Jill. Young attorney sized the woman up for a moment and then accepted the hand.
"Jill Bernhardt, about to get her ass fired from the DA's office."
The first time Jill actually felt connected to someone, it was 9 P.M. on a rainy Wednesday. That evening, Lindsay invited her new friend over for drinks and company. It started off well, with fresh cinnamon rolls, still hot and intoxicatingly aromatic, straight out of the oven, and Sweet Martha's persistent and pleading stare for a piece of Jill's pastry.
"Martha, stop it!" Lindsay commanded making the pup whimper and then, when her owner looked away, Martha took a step closer until her head was resting in Jill's lap.
As the rain stopped, somewhere around half past midnight, they moved to the terrace outside of Lindsay's apartment on Potrero Hill, wrapped themselves in blankets and sipped on red wine. Clouds were clearing up, revealing millions of twinkling stars in the sky, giving the already beautiful night view of the San Francisco Bay an even bigger charm.
"Do you miss it?" Jill whispered. Lindsay raised her brow in question. "Being married."
A small smile tugged on the corner of Lindsay's mouth, "I miss having someone beside me, not so much being married."
"And yet you are single."
"I'm a cop. Not many people understand what comes with the package. Not many people like the package when it gets unwrapped."
Taking a long, slow sip, Jill spoke into her glass. "I understand." She noticed the lack of Lindsay reaction, then added, "And I'd really like to unwrap the package and see what's inside."
Lindsay lowered her head, making her hair fall forward to obscure her face from Jill's view. She was about to say something to Jill when the cell phone in her pocket chirped to life. "Sorry" was all she said before work got in the way.
The evening ended badly, in an alley just off of Montgomery where a body of a young woman was found naked, bruised and cold. Jill excused herself from Lindsay's side and hurried away to spew a bitter mash of cinnamon pastry, red wine and bile the sight of the dead body churned up in her stomach.
Jill missed the look Lindsay got from Claire Washburn, the San Francisco's chief medical examiner when they were first introduced. The three of them were in the second most awful place on Earth, the morgue, just before Dr. Washburn started an autopsy on a dead body currently lying on her slab, therefore, little significant glances, Lindsay's obvious blush and Claire's teasing smirk weren't the things Jill was really focused on at that very moment.
"So, now you're permanently attached to Homicide?" Claire inquired while making an incision down the DB's torso.
"Mhmm." Jill nodded, focusing her eyes on a dot, far away from the sight that was being presented in front of her. Squeamish, Lindsay mouthed to Claire and the medical examiner's lips spread in a wide smile.
"You requested it yourself?"
Jill blinked and tentatively shifted her eyes at Claire, "What?"
"Homicide. Working with." Claire explained.
"Then you better get used to the sight of this, girl," Claire nodded at the open chest cavity, "because this is as prettiest as it gets."
"Happy place." Lindsay smiled at Jill, offering her a jar of menthol gel. "And take deep breaths."
Jill nodded eagerly, gave a weak smile and took a big gulp of air, right out of the jar.
"She's cute." Claire said under her breath when Jill wandered out of earshot.
"She's a colleague." Lindsay countered, but halfheartedly.
"Doesn't change the fact that she's cute. Or that you're blushing. Or that she's smitten enough to follow you down here for an autopsy when any second she could topple over from the experience."
"It wouldn't be a good idea." Lindsay fought it.
Claire stood up straight, scratched her chin with the back of her gloved hand and tilted her head in Jill's direction, "Honey, it's the best damn idea I've seen you entertain in a while."
As soon as the door opened Lindsay's jaw fell. She gasped, "Your hair."
Jill's smile was big and bright. She ran her hand through the cropped hair at the back of her head. "It's good, right?"
"It's short." Lindsay's eyes scanned the other woman's new look. "And blonder."
"It's a big change, I know," she said, bouncing towards the living room, motioning Lindsay to follow her. She actually twirled in front of her friend to show off her new appearance. "I think it's good. I think it suits me."
Coming down from the initial shock, Lindsay smiled. "It does, yes."
"No more old Jill, no more squeamish little attorney." She pulled out a little white card and flashed it at Lindsay. "Jill Bernhardt. Deputy. District. Attorney. The one with the highest damn conviction rate you have ever seen!" She announced proudly. "I should put that on the card."
Lindsay snatched the card from Jill's fingers and tucked it into the inside pocket of her jacket. "So are we celebrating or what?"
"Oh." Jill growled with a smile. "We are celebrating alright!" She lifted a bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon and pointed Lindsay to the glasses. "And tonight, I'm pulling out all the stops!"
Lindsay chuckled as she settled two glasses on the coffee table, "That sounds serious."
"It is." Suddenly, Jill's face was serious, too.
She sat next to Lindsay on the couch, cracked open the bourbon, poured it and then offered one glass of it to Lindsay, keeping the other one for herself. "I'm just gonna take one sip of this," and as she said it, she took a sip, then lowered the glass from her lips and cradled it in the palm of her left hand. She continued, "because I don't want you to think I was drunk or otherwise compromised."
"O-kay." Slightly confused, Lindsay squinted at Jill from her side of the couch.
"So. Clear minded. Still sober. Wildly nervous and barely brave, I apologize in advance if this is something that I've misread."
"What?" Lindsay barely uttered the word before Jill leaned in and planted her lips against Lindsay's.
After whole ten seconds of neither of them breathing, Jill moved back in her seat, and, as if nothing happened, she lifted her glass. "Cheers."
"And?" Claire was persistent, Lindsay had to give her that.
"You know me, Claire," Lindsay leaned over the table in their booth at Papa Joe's, her voice hushed. "It's a process."
"Process that involves you, DDA Bernhardt and a certain somethin' somethin'?"
Lindsay scrunched up her nose, "Oh my god, that sounds so dirty."
"I bet it was." Claire snorted.
"Have I lost my mind?"
"A long time ago, honey. But it has nothing to do with the DDA."
"And these get-togethers, The Club it just complicates things, doesn't it?"
"Lindsay," Claire's hand warmly covered Lindsay's, "She's your friend. She's my friend. We all get along. She likes you, you like her. Please don't make me suffer through another game of chicken you always play with prospective suitors."
"This particular situation is highly unprecedented as far as my record shows."
"Seeing you in a relationship with anyone that lasts longer than five minutes could be considered unprecedented on your record."
After a minute of nervous finger tapping against the table's surface, Lindsay exhaled, "So you think it's a good idea?"
Claire's face lit up with the biggest smile, "I think it's a good idea." She squeezed Lindsay's hand in hers. "Heads up, now." She winked when a sight of an engaging blonde showed up at the entrance of Papa Joe's. "This one's a keeper."
Jill tried not to make a sound as she tiptoed over the living room carpet, and when Martha noticed her through the windowpane and lifted her head, Jill pressed an index finger over her lips warning the Border collie not to out her just yet. The moment was too precious and she really wanted to enjoy it for as long as she could. It was now and god knows when again, if ever.
The old Seagull acoustic was slightly out of tune and Lindsay may have even been a bit out of shape, but still, when her fingers strummed on the strings, to Jill it sounded divine. She didn't recognize the tune, but it was something slow, melancholic and it made her want to close her eyes, remain in that very spot forever shoulder propped against the doorjamb at the exit to the terrace and listen.
"Stop lurking and get out here." Lindsay's low voice startled Jill and she slightly jumped, caught off guard.
With an apologetic look on her face she came out of her hiding place behind Lindsay's back and stepped onto the terrace. "I didn't want to break your concentration." Jill explained. To her pleasure, Lindsay never stopped playing, even though she was giving Jill a cheeky look over. A slide of Lindsay's finger pads against strings made a squealing sound as she switched the chords, and then fingers gripped tighter and tugged stronger, giving the melody some extra twang.
"Just a thought of you breaks my concentration." Lindsay gave her a lazy smile and Jill swallowed. This is going to be so hard.
"I didn't expect you here, tonight," Lindsay said softly over the tune. "I thought you said you had a thing."
Jill nodded, "I did. It ended early. I wanted to stop by and see you." She wanted to give Lindsay a smile, but she failed half way through it. Instantly, Lindsay's fingers froze and silence cut between them.
"What's the matter, Jill?" Lindsay moved the guitar from her lap and sat up straight. "Honey," she extended her arm to Jill and Jill took it. Lindsay tugged her closer and, two hesitant steps later, Jill settled comfortably atop Lindsay's knees.
"May I just " Jill asked, pushing the dark hair off of Lindsay's face, tracing the outline of her eyebrows and down her cheekbones, until her thumbs settled against Lindsay's lips.
"Please." Enchanted, Lindsay breathed out and then pulled Jill closer until they kissed. Slow, thorough, lazy and with more feeling than ever before. Lindsay wrapped her arms around Jill's frame, holding her tightly against herself until she felt dampness against her face and realized Jill was crying. She moved away, wide-eyed. "Jill ?"
A long beat went by until: "I've met someone," Jill said with her eyes still closed, unable to actually face Lindsay, look her in the eyes as she confessed to why she was really there. She whispered on, "Luke. He's a doctor."
"You're dumping me." Lindsay exhaled, a little less shocked or even mad than Jill expected her to be.
"I am not dumping you," Jill finally opened her eyes.
Lindsay's eyes darkened, and not in that good, mischievous way, "So you want me on the side."
"You know this was never meant to survive."
Shifting in her seat, Lindsay gave Jill a clear indication that she should find a more suitable place to sit in. "There's beer in the cooler," Lindsay nodded to the side as Jill stood up. "Grab one for me?"
Jill dipped her hand into the half thawed ice and pulled out two beer cans. She cracked one open, setting it next to Lindsay and then she sat in the adjacent chair before cracking open her beer.
Lindsay took a long swig before she reached over to take the guitar again. Setting her fingers against the neck, finding the right chords, she strummed the strings once more.
"Do you mind if I stay, listen to you play a little longer?" Jill asked quietly, blinking back the tears.
"Sure Jill," Lindsay said unresponsively, "do whatever you want."
Lindsay's attention only slightly swerved when a petite but extremely uncontainable young reporter came into picture. With her extra inches of height on the reporter, Lindsay condescendingly scoffed at just about anything Cindy Thomas said, suggested or carried out. Until she noticed how helpful that same talent to evade, persuade and wheedle out was when something needed to be done in a less than legal way to which Lindsay was particularly bound to, seeing how she was a law enforcement officer.
"So this means I'm in the club?" The tiny redhead chirped and Jill rolled her eyes, Lindsay bit her tongue and Claire tried not to laugh. "I'm in The Club."
"She's so in love with you." Jill breathed out and a cloud of mist formed in front of her face when her hot breath and cold air collided. Lindsay just shrugged and unlocked the car. "And you are eating it up!" She accused, unable to hide her amusement at the inspector's nonchalance over the matter.
"What do you want me to say?"
"Will you do something about it?" Jill pushed the car door Lindsay just opened for her to close.
"Why would I?"
"Because she worships the ground you walk upon and you could so use a distraction from all the grisliness that's been surrounding you?"
"I thought I had you for that."
Flirtier than she had been in months, Jill smiled. "Is that all I am, a distraction?"
"You're Jill." Lindsay said and opened the car door again. "And Cindy is far from ever being Jill."
She had been talked to yelled at, actually by all three of her friends for always having to be the hero. For chasing down suspects without backup. For running into buildings that had just been blown up and were still on fire. For working too hard and not eating, sleeping or having a life.
And taking a bullet didn't do much for Lindsay's credit as far as her friends were concerned.
"Where do you think you're going?" Jill looked up from the file she'd been pretending to read during her turn of babysitting Lindsay, when the other woman stood up from the couch and was suddenly on the move.
Lindsay, in turn, lifted her hand sheepishly, "Miss, may I please use the bathroom?" She grinned at Jill, "I have to pee."
Jill lowered the file onto her lap, "D'ya need any help with that?"
"I've just been shot, Jill. I don't think I'm much for the frolic in the bathroom at this point in time."
"Help with buttons zippers that's the kind of help I had in mind."
Lindsay gave her a smile, "I'll manage, thanks."
"Actually, I've been thinking," Jill appeared at the bathroom door a few minutes later as Lindsay was washing her hands. She could see the other woman's face in the reflection in the mirror. "That was a really close call "
"Jill, don't." Lindsay shook her head.
"No, hear me out." Jill took the towel from Lindsay's hands when she dried them off and then placed it on its hanger. "I don't know what I would have done if that bullet ended up a little higher, if you hadn't made it."
"But I have-"
"Just," Jill put her hand over Lindsay's mouth, "promise me, no more heroes. No more Lindsay, the one woman army."
It took Lindsay a beat to nod, not to actually promise out loud, and Jill noticed that, but to silently agree to something, didn't matter what, as long as she understood what Jill had asked.
Cindy was on a date, Claire was with her family; a well deserved break from everything and she didn't want to intrude, and all her calls to Lindsay seemed to go to voicemail, so after the third message, Jill gave up.
It was after one in the morning when her phone finally rang and she jumped at the shrill sound of it.
"Hi, it's me," Lindsay breathed into the phone and Jill felt a sudden relief at the sound of her voice. "We caught a break in the case. I was in Portland. Everything okay?"
"Luke," Jill said, and then stopped, afraid that her voice would break and that's the last thing she wanted to happen. "He picked up his stuff this afternoon. It's over."
"I'm sorry," Jill laughed into the phone, "it's just, I came home and all of his stuff was gone. I just needed to tell someone, say it out loud."
"Have you called Claire, Cindy ?"
"No, I wanted to call you first. My buddy."
"Do you need me to come over? I'll come over."
"No. Nono." Jill refused. "It's late. I'm tired, I'm sure you are, too. I'll just go to sleep. We'll talk tomorrow."
Lindsay could hear Jill smile on the other end of the line. "I'm sure, Linz," she said. "Tomorrow."
Lindsay's Explorer screeched to a stop at the driveway of the house the latest message from the madmen holding the entire city of San Francisco hostage had left in Cindy's e-mail inbox, describing it as the newest possible crime scene.
Already wired from the lack of sleep, imminent threat that hung over everyone's heads, and the fact that she still hadn't heard from Jill after her fallout with Luke two days ago, Lindsay jumped out of the car and took a beeline for the house. Claire was right behind her.
Uniformed officer guarding the scene couldn't tell her anything more besides the fact that it was a single victim, second floor, third door to the right. Lindsay thanked him, silently grateful that it was only one victim this time. The count had gone up to fourteen over the past seven days and at the pace it was going, it could only get worse if they didn't put an end to it soon.
CSU was already there when she badged her way into the abandoned apartment, and as soon as the locals saw her, they waved her over. The body was lying on the floor, covered with a white tarp.
"What do you know?" She prompted the resident detective.
"Looks like a gun shot to the back of the head," he said, "close range. Execution style."
"'Tis our guy?" Lindsay bounced on the balls of her feet. She eyed the body. A single victim, covered with a white tarp.
"Just like the bastard said it would be." He handed the note to Lindsay.
Lindsay snapped a glove onto her hand and took the offered piece of paper. Claire read over her shoulder.
You were warned, the message began. The following text was pretty much similar to the other messages they found at other crime scenes, so the familiar signature at the end of it surprised neither Lindsay nor Claire.
The writing on the bottom of the page in a distinct bold lettering, however did.
Return this to the Hall Of Justice, it said.
It was a second, a heartbeat the glance between Claire and Lindsay the same horrific thought pinged in both their heads, simultaneously.
Pushing past the CSUs, Lindsay cleared her way to the body. She fell on her knees and, at the same moment she pulled back the tarp, she felt as if she herself was dying.
It was Jill.
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