DISCLAIMER: Women's Murder Club and its characters are the property of James Patterson, 20th Century Fox Television and ABC. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Lesley Mitchell
As usual, Jill had arrived in good time for her appearance. She had removed from her briefcase the files, folders and other paperwork that pertained to the case in hand and laid them out neatly on the desk. Now, in the final few swirling moments of chaos, while the final few latecomers settled into the remaining seats in the packed courtroom, and the jury shifted in theirs, she found the calm place within herself that she reserved for moments like these, and let the rest of the world met away.
Wrapped in her thoughts, she didn't hear the commotion caused by one person's insistence that the seat in the middle of the front row was where she needed to be, despite it being directly behind her. Nor did she hear her name, the first couple of times it was called. In fact, it wasn't until someone tapped her on the shoulder, causing her not only to jump, but also to catapult a pencil across the room at the stenographer, that she registered that her attention was required elsewhere, at all. Wincing, she waved a hasty apology at the woman, before turning to see who had had the temerity to interrupt her preparation.
"You're wrong," hissed Cindy, her attempt as subtle communications drawing more eyes than if she had spoken normally.
"What? Look, I can't talk..."
"You. Are. Wrong."
Perfectly shaped eyebrows shot up at the clearly enunciated statement, and then fell and drew together, angrily, around a furrowed brow.
"I really don't need this," she said. "There's a judge, who seems to have made it his mission to discredit the DA's office at every turn, about to step through that door. I really don't have time to be playing games with you."
"Jill, please," there was a slightly imploring note to the reporter's voice now. Then there was a pause, and Jill thought she could get back to her preparation. "Hang on, you've got an air tight case, haven't you? Claire matched the tool marks on the bones Lindsay found to this guy, and then you got a warr..."
She stopped. Suddenly realising, at the death glare that now graced Jill's features, that she may have said too much.
"It doesn't matter," she said, desperately aiming for her usual breezy tone. "That wasn't what I meant, anyway. You're still wrong, and I need..."
"No," said Jill, firmly. "Not now, Cindy."
All protests died in the redhead's throat with the bailiff's call.
The opening statements took most of the afternoon, and Judge Andrews called an early halt to proceedings. The following morning, Jill would be expected to begin the process of prosecution. She would call witnesses and cross examining them so that they could explain and provide evidence to support the theory that the defendant had been the one to attack, beat and then finally kill the victim simply, it seemed, for the crime of having looked at him the wrong way. Given the highly conservative personality of the presiding judge, she knew she'd have a fine line to walk, but there had been definite sympathy on the faces of the three women in the jury during her description of the crime. Unfortunately, her colleague in the public defenders office had played his side well, too, and she had seen more than one of the men nod at some of his comments.
She took her time gathering her paperwork, her mind's eye picturing the face of Angus Faulkner's mother as it crumpled in that terrible mixture shock and disbelief when Claire had uncovered his face for her to identify. She understood the feeling; it was similar to the one that had ripped out her guts when she saw Robert laid out in the morgue and a cousin of the one that tore through her heart the night that Luke had walked away from her. Gemma Faulker was not in the room that day, and Jill doubted that she would visit at all. Grief had broken the woman; in the time since the murder, Angus's younger brother, Kenny, a helicopter pilot with the Air Force had been shot down in Afghanistan. Kenny had been evacuated to a VA hospital to recover from his injuries, however, it was near his home on the other side of the country.
A side effect effect of her wool gathering was that the room was almost entirely empty by the time she moved from the desk. She pushed though the little gate that separated the participants from the spectators, walked past the hard benches and out of the oppressive wood panelled room into one of the wide stone corridors of the Hall. Light flooded through the huge windows, and for a second she fantasied about just walking out of the building and catching a cab to the beach to watch the sun sink into the ocean. The day had felt claustrophobic enough already with the last bits of preparation for this case, and dealing with fallout from other cases that she had open, but Cindy's strange interruption to her Zen moment, earlier had just capped it off. She was relieved to find the elevator empty, and used the time it took to carry her towards her department to roll her shoulders in a vain attempt to ease the tensions in them.
Her good luck didn't hold. The elevator doors creaked open at her floor to reveal Denise.
"Jill," she said, flatly. "If you've got a moment..."
"Opening statements went well. I think we've got some definite sympathy opening up with the jury."
"Not to mention," Jill continued hurriedly on, "a case built on solid physical evidence and backed up with reliable eye witness testimony."
"Good. And Andrews?"
Jill was surprised that Denise hadn't already heard. The Hall grapevine was almost the most efficient thing in the building.
"Had a go at our colleague from the PD's office about some of the style of his opening."
Denise nodded. "Good. And you have a strong first witness for tomorrow?"
"Yes. Opening with the responding officer, to set the scene, then calling the ME to describe the extent of Angus's injuries."
Denise nodded again, and, though her face had twisted at Jill's use of the victim's first name, there was something almost like approval in her tone when she once more said, "Good."
There was an awkward pause in which neither woman moved or spoke.
"That wasn't actually what I wanted to speak with you about."
Jill tried hard not to sigh like a petulant teenager being kept from a night out with her friends by an overly talkative parent, however, she did sneak a glance at her watch.
"Actually," said Denise, suddenly and unexpectedly, "it can wait until tomorrow. Good night, Jill."
This time Jill was unable to contain her sigh of relief as she watched her constantly unpredictable boss turn and walk away.
"Oh, by the way," Denise tossed over her shoulder, and Jill felt the tension in her shoulders ramp up painfully again. "You really need to stop flaunting your relationship with the press. Perhaps you could start by telling your little redheaded girlfriend that hanging around your office isn't the done thing?"
And with that parting shot, she was gone.
Sure enough, when she reached her office, Cindy was leaning by the door scribbling away into one of her ever present notebooks.
"Did you have to hang around like a lovesick teenager?" asked Jill.
She was concentrated on unlocking the door and thus missed the blush that rushed across Cindy's expressive features.
"I mean," she continued, ushering the reporter through the door ahead of her, and closing it firmly behind her, "couldn't you have gone and bothered Lindsay? Or Claire? I'm sure she could have found you some thing gross to watch or even just sat you in her office with some candy."
"I'm not six, you know?" said Cindy, dropping her bag and moving to stand opposite Jill, across the wide expanse of the lawyer's desk.
"No, I know," was the distracted reply. "You're at least, what, twelve?"
The explosive irritated noise that erupted from Cindy was more than enough to cause Jill to look up and return her full attention to the woman before her.
"Look, you can't hang around the DA's office. You just can't. Denise..."
"Denise totally hates my guts, I know, and she isn't overly partial to yours, either... or, maybe, she likes them more than she's prepared to admit."
Jill gave her an unreadable smile.
"Anyway, about earlier... I'm..." She hesitated for a second and then the words came out in a tumbling rush. "I just wanted to say I'm sorry. I hadn't noticed the time and how soon it was to the beginning of the trial and, you know, I'd never do anything to jeopardise our friendship... don't you?"
"No, no. I got that bit."
"I know... I know that I talk too much. And that sometimes stuff slips out that shouldn't when I start babbling and..."
Jill smiled up at the nervous young woman. "Stop. Please."
"It's just that I really wanted to talk to you and I had to do it when I could."
Jill's expression turned puzzled. "Sit down," she said, reaching into the bottom drawer of her desk and extracting a bottle of pale amber liquid and a pair of glasses.
The smoky aroma of the liquor caught at the back of her throat when Jill handed her a glass, and she winced at the almost acrid tang in the complex flavour that caressed and battered her taste buds in equal parts.
Jill was smiling that impenetrable smile again, when she looked back.
"So, what was it you needed to say... that's good Scotch. I don't like to waste it."
"You're wrong," said Cindy, softly and deadly serious.
Jill nodded. "I got that bit," she offered, equally seriously.
"You think I'm twelve. You think I'm a kid. You think I hero worship with Lindsay. You think Claire should mother me.
This time Jill stayed silent. Cindy's accusations hit home.
"I'm a woman. I've not been a child in a long time. I know my own mind.
"Yes, Lindsay's cool. I know you've got your own issues around that. You guys have been friends for a long time. More, I think, maybe.
"Claire is fantastic, and together, and I love that she's taken me under her wing and into her family. I hadn't realised how much I'd missed that.
"But you... you brush me off. Over and over again. You call me names and treat me like a kid hanging around with the older, cooler kids. And then you do stuff like calling me when Lindsay needed help with FBI guy..."
She sighed, and sipped at her whisky, surprised by the change in the flavour now the liquor had been warmed by her hands clutching at the glass like a life preserver.
Jill remained silent, sensing that this wasn't quite all of what Cindy had wanted to say.
"You're wrong about me. But you don't want to hear it."
"Tell me anyway."
"You think I want Lindsay. You think that I've let hero worship spill over into some teenage crush. But you also think I don't see you. You're acting like a schoolboy with his first crush; pulling my hair and calling me names, anything to get my attention as long as you're not seeming to try.
"But the thing is... I'd already seen you."
Now it was Jill's turn to be flustered. She gulped at her Scotch, then choked as the strong alcohol went the wrong way.
When she recovered she found Cindy had moved to her side, and she was holding firmly on to one of her hands, while the other ran soothingly up and down her spine.
"I've seen you," continued Cindy, very softly, now, not looking at Jill. "I've seen you happy, sad, scared, nauseous, determined. I've seen you being awesome, being petty, being a good friend, being a hopeless case.
"I've see all this, and still..." She took a very deep breath and looked up, capturing and holding the other woman's eyes. "It's you. I want you."
There was a very long pause, and neither woman dared look away from the other.
Jill stood and pulled Cindy with her by the hand that still connected them. Then she smiled, that full, radiant, slightly smug smile that warmed Cindy to her toes in a way the alcohol hadn't managed.
The light flooding the room had become golden, and she remembered her early thought.
Leaving everything as it was, she dragged the startled Cindy towards the door.
Cindy managed to stop them at the door.
"What? You want formality?"
Jill dropped Cindy's hand and ducked her head, allowing her hair to slide forward over her eyes. Looking up bashfully though her lashes, she said, "I really like you. You know, likelike. Would you like to come to the beach with me?"
"God, were you like this as a kid?"
"Honestly?" asked Jill, pushing back her hair, suddenly serious again.
"No. I was much, much worse."
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