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Episode 4 – Aftermath

December 4, 2011

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DISCLAIMERS:      **Please read warning**

This romantic thriller is an original story and all characters are created by me.

All characters depicted, names used, and incidents portrayed in this story are fictitious. No identification with actual persons is intended nor should be inferred. Any resemblance of the characters portrayed to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

WARNING

**This story contains descriptions of an extremely violent murder/crime scene – which includes children – and subsequent suspect interview. There is also a recollection of child abuse included in interview. If you are offended by, or are sensitive to, this sort of content, please do NOT read on**

The registered trademarks mentioned in this story are © of their respective owners. No infringement of their rights is intended, and no profit is gained.

This story depicts a sexual relationship between consenting adult women. If such a story frightens you, you better click on the X in the top right corner of your screen right away.

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I cannot thank my beta-reader, Norsebard, enough. You continue to be very much appreciated.

This is the fourth installment in my series, After Montana. While you don’t need to read the previous episodes to enjoy this story, it will definitely help with some character backgrounds, connections and references.

Comments and/or opinions can be left here or sent to stagefreakmusic@hotmail.com .

Basic edit – December 11 2014

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Chapter 1

Kate Marshall-Carson arrived home mid-afternoon. After saying her farewells to Tony, her driver, she sauntered towards the pretty, whitewashed farmhouse and noticed the perfectly polished, blue Dodge Ram sitting out front. She grinned, knowing her beloved partner had loved the birthday gift so much it had barely seen a day without a clean or a wipe-down. She entered the property and shed her actress façade completely, finally feeling at home when she changed into her favorite comfy clothes. Searching through the house and not finding the person she sought, she donned a warm jacket and headed outside.

Kate stood on the back porch looking out over the farmland she shared with her best friend and wife of almost two years. She watched as Special Agent CJ Carson rode a tall, golden mare across the field, the beast gracefully cantering – almost gliding – through the long grass reeds. Kate had one of those strange deja-vu moments when the vision of her wife astride the horse yelling out a gleeful yeehah in the distance was strikingly familiar to her. She shook it off to focus back on the beautiful woman in the distance, knowing that she and CJ shared something powerful that was beyond their comprehension.

Even from this distance, Kate could see CJ was smiling and she knew her darling spouse felt so free when out in the space around their home, away from the rigorous daily life of her job with the FBI. CJ wore faded-blue jeans, a white shirt under a navy, sleeveless sports jacket, and dark-brown boots that neatly matched the Stetson settled proudly over her long, black hair that was currently tied back in a ponytail.

Kate hummed at the delicious sight and pushed off the pillar she was leaning on to walk down the few steps into their large backyard area. She strolled over to the fence and grinned as CJ got closer and closer to the barn, just off to Kate’s left.

CJ suddenly looked down behind her as the horse dropped into a trot. She laughed, and it was then that Kate noticed Kamali, their devoted German Shepherd, bounding along behind the horse with his tongue practically hanging down to his feet in doggy exhaustion. He continued to prance around Nevada’s hooves as CJ brought the mare to a halt. Kate listened as CJ talked to the panting canine.

“Aww, don’t feel bad. She has much longer legs that you, buddy,” CJ placated, looking at the dog while patting the horse on the neck.

CJ looked radiant, her skin flushed with the exhilaration of the ride combined with the cool Los Angeles air. It was winter – well, as much of a winter as they got in LA – and today was surprisingly chilly due to a crisp wind that blew across the open fields. CJ dismounted, still not noticing that Kate was home early from work as she headed into the barn.

* * * * * *

Kate stood leaning on the fence with her arms wrapped over her chest to hold her jacket closed. The sun was shining and the land around them held a silvery-gold hue making it appear unusual and quite spectacular. She inhaled deeply and closed her eyes, just being still and quiet in this beautiful place and moment. She opened them again when she heard CJ say something in a ridiculously high-pitched voice, and Kamali barking in response. Kate smirked as CJ emerged with the dog in tow and crossed the expanse of dirt-covered ground to get to the backyard. It was then that CJ looked up from playing with the dog and stared slack-jawed at her wife.

“Ahh!” she blurted, “I didn’t know you were home!” She vaulted over the fence and swept Kate into her arms.

“Well hello to you too, hon…” A pair of velvety soft lips silenced Kate while the top of her head pushed the brim of CJ’s Stetson up when they deepened the kiss. Kate couldn’t help but moan into CJ’s mouth in surrender.

When Kate was sufficiently swooning, CJ finished off the kiss and grinned proudly. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your early arrival?”

Kate sighed, trying not to be distracted by the sight of her incredibly gorgeous wife in the hat. “I got my scenes done without too much trouble today. Some others were not so lucky, so I left them with Phil-in-a-very-grumpy-mood, and got the hell outta there. I knew it was your one and only day off and you’ll soon be away too, so I wanted to get home to you.”

“I wish I didn’t have to go, Katie, but they seem to need me on this,” CJ said with another kiss to her wife’s forehead.

“Series of murders, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. I should be away for a few days, but they only want help with the profile. They seem to have hit a brick wall with this one. Maybe a fresh pair of eyes…”

“CJ…don’t get into the killer’s head too much, OK? I mean, I worry about you,” Kate said, hoping her beloved wouldn’t get mad at her coddling.

CJ’s arms tightened around Kate’s back. “I won’t. I’ll come right back to you as soon as I’m done. Promise.”

“And call me when you can, or when you need me?”

“Honey, I’ve been doing this for years. I’ll be OK, but I will call you every day because I want to. And I always need you,” CJ said, tipping Kate’s face up with her finger under her chin. She kissed her reassuringly before they walked into the house.

CJ went upstairs to get rid of the dusty clothes and threw on a warm pair of black sweats and Kate’s UCLA sweater. Shaking out her hair and tilting her head, she looked in the long mirror on the bedroom wall, smiling at how they both had their favorite clothes. CJ loved Kate’s sweater because it was Kate’s, and Kate loved CJ’s Foo Fighters T-shirt because it was CJ’s. “People are strange,” she said to her reflection, and then chuckled as she left the room.

As she passed through the hallway, the phone rang and she lifted the handset from the base unit on her way to the kitchen. “Hello?”

“Oh…uh…is Kate there?”

“Yes. Who’s calling?”

“Oh…it’s Jack, uh, Jack Bannerman,” the actor stuttered.

CJ grinned at his nervousness, remembering the last time she’d encountered the man. “Oh, hello, Jack. This is CJ.”

“Uh yeah, I know. How are you, CJ?” he said politely, trying to inject a carefree tone into his shaky voice.

“I’m fine, thank you. Hold on and I’ll see if Kate’s available,” CJ said before covering the handset with her palm. “It’s Jack. Did you ask him to call?”

“Oh, yeah,” Kate said, wiggling her fingers  until CJ passed her the phone. “I’m organizing the end of season get-together here, remember?”

“Oh God, when is that?”

“Monday. The only night most could make it. You did remember, didn’t you?”

“Um, yeah. Great,” CJ grumbled.

“Hold on, Jack,” Kate said into the phone.

“OK, Kate.”

She covered the phone again and looked at CJ. “You’re supposed to be inviting your colleagues too, especially Jamie.”

“I know, I know. I did.” CJ said somewhat unconvincingly. At Kate’s raised eyebrow, she rolled her eyes. “I did!”

Kate narrowed her eyes and grinned. She walked over to the window seat to talk to Jack. CJ took over the coffee-making while listening to the one-sided conversation. A few minutes later, Kate had hung up the call and she came to CJ’s side and lifted her X-Files mug from the counter.

“So who’s coming to the party from the studios then?” CJ asked, lifting her own mug to her mouth.

Kate frowned. “Where’s your Star Trek mug?”

CJ pouted and put on her best poor soul face. “I was, uh, playing with Kamali in here earlier, and he knocked me off balance. I dropped it and it smashed.”

CJ’s bottom lip was sticking out so far now that Kate couldn’t resist. She reached up and took said lip between her teeth gently and wrapped her lips around it to suck on the soft skin. CJ’s eyes rolled back in her head as they closed and she moaned pleasurably.

Kate let go and began to walk into the living room. “We’d better let Santa know then, huh?” she said over her shoulder, tossing her strawberry-blond hair as she went.

CJ just gaped at her. She was unable to move her legs yet due to the wonderful tingling sensation that shot from her lip to the rest of her body. “That woman is amazing,” she whispered to herself.

Kate’s popped her head around the doorframe. “I heard that,” she said with a mischievous grin.

CJ groaned and followed her spouse to the couch. Once they’d settled next to one another and Kamali had flopped at their feet, CJ turned to Kate. “So? Who’s coming to the party from the studios?” she repeated, trying to shake off the clenching in her groin for a few moments.

“A few people. Most of my colleagues…” Kate said, putting air-quotes around the word, “are a real pain in the ass, so I’ve only invited Jack, Cyn, Sam, Tony, Tina, and a few of the others who aren’t too bad just to make up the numbers. It’s not a big party, honey…just some friends over for a buffet and drinks. Should be fun,” Kate replied persuasively.

“Hmm, OK. I just invited the guys from my office. I’m not saying they’ll all be able to make it. It depends what we have going on, but I’ll make sure Jamie is here.”

“Did you invite Mark?”

“Do you honestly think the Assistant Director would pass up the chance to try to talk you into being an agent?” CJ asked, her eyebrows high to emphasize the question.

Kate laughed. “I guess not. It’ll be nice to see him again. I like that guy.”

CJ nodded and took a slurp of her coffee. “It’s funny. Every time we get a case that’s puzzling us, or Mark wants another opinion, he tries to get me to take the file home to…and I quote…see if you can, uh, figure something out. Honestly, Katie, he thinks you’re a genius.” The comment made Kate snort in disbelief, and CJ grinned at the sound. “He’s right. I agree with him.”

“So why didn’t you bring the files home then?” Kate asked, blushing slightly at the compliment and sipping from her mug.

CJ sighed. “I just don’t want to drag you into my work all the time. It’s kinda depressing.”

“Honey, I told you I’m interested in your work. I’d love to go over cases with you especially if I could maybe help in some way, or you could just bounce ideas off me. Really. Next time, bring ‘em.”

CJ looked at her stunning wife and saw fire and wisdom burning in those intelligent green eyes. “OK.”

“Yeah? No argument?”

“No argument.”

Kate smiled from ear to ear. “Wow. I was all ready for a debate.”

“I can think of other things I’d rather be doing with you right now,” CJ purred after swallowing the last of her coffee.

“Oh? I wonder what that could be.”

“I could give you some clues if you’d like…”

Kate put her empty mug on the coffee table and moved to sit on the edge of the couch. She got up and pulled CJ to her feet, her face asking an unspoken question.

CJ inhaled deeply. “Well it involves my tongue and a certain part of your anatomy…”

Kate felt her stomach clench in glorious anticipation. “Uh-huh. What part of my anatomy?” she said as she pulled CJ up the stairs.

“Oh, it’s a soft, wet, warm, delicious part. I could spend all day tasting it,” CJ husked as they entered the bedroom

Kate whimpered and realized that CJ was already pulling her T-shirt from her body over her head. As her long hair fell back onto her shoulders, CJ’s arms wrapped around her torso from behind and immediately cupped her full breasts.

“Ohh…”

CJ smiled as she felt the welcome heat rush to that spot in the pit of her stomach. She watched over Kate’s shoulder as her pert, pink nipples stiffened at the touch. She loved how Kate reacted to her, and how her own body reacted to that reaction. She was suddenly quite short of breath but she wanted to continue with her verbal foreplay. “I could start with these. Oh but there are so many parts of you I want to taste.” CJ took her hand up to Kate’s mouth. “These lips…this tongue…” she whispered as she slipped her finger into Kate’s mouth, feeling her tongue brush over the tip. “Then maybe this neck…” Her wet finger trailed down over each body part. “Or perhaps this collarbone…” Kate moaned, and CJ felt her weaken in her grasp. “But I can’t take too long over those because I want these in my mouth. These nipples, this flesh…” Her ears absorbed another wanton moan from the woman in her arms. “But we both know where I’ll end up. I want to taste your…thigh. You’ll be crazy by this point, wanting me in that pink, sweet place where I can feast on you until you can’t-”

“God, Ciara! Just do it!” Kate growled. “I’m crazy now!”

Kate spun around and grabbed CJ’s sweater, pulling it vigorously over the taller woman’s head. CJ had to duck down to allow the movement, but before they knew it they were both naked.

Kate flung herself down on the bed. “Get on me…please!”

CJ smiled widely, her eyes alight with passion and mischief combined. She crawled over Kate and noticed how flushed Kate’s face and neck were. She knew her wife was so very ready for her which was just as well, because the thought of doing all the things she had just talked about had sent the delicate flesh between her own legs into an aroused frenzy.

Kate shook her head. “No, not that way. I need to taste you too.”

CJ swung round, and Kate immediately grabbed her buttocks. CJ almost drooled over the glistening skin she could now see was begging for her touch. Kate opened her legs wider and tried to pull CJ’s body down but CJ resisted. She grinned to herself, her nostrils flaring when she heard Kate growl in frustration.

“Ciara, please…I can see how wet you are. I need it now,” Kate demanded.

CJ couldn’t resist anymore and relaxed her legs. The pressure from the strong grip Kate had on her forced her clit right down into Kate’s mouth. The relief Kate felt was evident as her own hips thrust upward at the contact, and CJ needed no encouragement to close the distance, sinking her mouth into Kate’s drenched sex.

They licked in languid strokes and suckled to a gentle beat, their actions synchronizing as they urged one another on. They both knew that this wouldn’t take long. CJ broke the contact she had with Kate’s swollen clit when she felt her orgasm building fast. She inhaled deeply the scent of Kate’s arousal, and as she came she latched onto her spouse again, teasing and sucking on her the way she knew would bring Kate to climax with her.

Kate was there at that point of no return. Her orgasm washed through her entire body so slowly that she was able to savor every single nanosecond. Her body rippled pleasantly as she thrust up harder against CJ’s mouth. She poked out her tongue to lap up every drop of her lover’s essence at the same time. It was such an amazing feeling. So delicious, so mutually satisfying that Kate fleetingly thought how well matched they were. Or was that just because they were truly in love, true soul mates, that it felt so perfect? The thoughts were quickly lost when CJ slowly drew her tongue from the top of Kate’s clit down to her warm core and kissed her sensitive labia before lifting her head.

CJ moved to lie next to Kate top to toe. They were silent for a while, inhaling and exhaling forcefully to bring their breathing back to normal. Kate ran her hand over the top of the thigh next to her, lightly scratching through the dark thatch of hair at the juncture of CJ’s legs.

Finally feeling like she could talk, Kate propped herself up on her elbow. “Hey, did I hurt you there? I thought I felt you flinch a little.”

CJ didn’t move since she was still basking in the wonderful afterglow. “You didn’t hurt me, but I did. I was half way over one of the fences earlier and my foot slipped. I landed on my…” She covered her face with her hands in embarrassment. “I’ve been so clumsy today.”

“Aww, honey, you should’ve told me.”

“Why? So you would be gentler with me? Oh, no. That was way too awesome to be painful. Besides, it’s really not that bad.”

“Let me see,” Kate said. “Open up.”

CJ lifted her head and grinned when she realized Kate was serious. “You wanna check, huh?”

“Definitely”

CJ took in the hooded, green eyes and bit her lip because she knew what Kate’s intentions were. She bent both knees up and let her legs fall open before rising up onto her elbows to watch Kate position herself between CJ’s legs.

Kate tilted her head to examine her patient. She carefully checked the soft, outer lips and the still-swollen clit. With no visual evidence of injury to the tender area, she touched the skin gently and occasionally glanced up at CJ’s face. “Does it hurt here, baby?” she asked, tickling her fingertip down the right side.

CJ swallowed hard. “No…”

“How about here?” Kate said in a low and velvety tone as she trailed her fingertip gently up the other side.

“Mmm. No.”

Kate dipped her head. “How ‘bout here?” she whispered as her tongue met with the soft, sensitive ridge and slid slowly up and down.

“N-n…nuh…no,” CJ finally managed.

Kate raised her head and met CJ’s gaze. “Seems fine to me,” she hummed before licking her lips seductively.

“You’re gonna kill me, aren’t ya?” CJ panted.

“Yeah, but you’ll enjoy every minute of it,” Kate promised as she crawled up her wife’s body. “Every minute.”

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Chapter 2

The next couple of days passed at a steady pace with both women working long hours. Kate was trying to get all her final scenes completed before her scheduled time off, and CJ was finishing up paperwork and various FBI tasks relating to a human trafficking case Agent White had somehow dragged her into.

Clearing her desk and sighing with satisfaction, CJ looked over to Jamie who was typing away on her computer keyboard, her dark-brown eyes scanning the screen as she worked her way through some unending report. “Penfold?” CJ said, utilizing the nickname she had for Jamie and cocking her head to observe her friend.

Jamie grinned but kept her eyes on the screen. “Yeah?”

“You are gonna make it to our little party tonight, aren’t ya?”

Jamie stopped typing and met her eyes. “Yes. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Why?”

“You just look like you have a lot of work to do,” CJ said, nodding to the pile of papers on Jamie’s desk.

“Nothing that can’t wait. It’ll keep me busy while you’re away.” Jamie winked and threw a sultry smile across the room.

CJ raised a curious eyebrow. “Is there something I should know, Jamie?”

“What do you mean?”

CJ could see by the blush creeping up her colleague’s neck that she knew exactly what she meant. “Oh, I’m just sensing that you’re, uh…”

“Yes, I am attracted to you. But don’t worry CJ, I have it under control,” Jamie said as she began to type again.

“Uh, wow, that was direct. OK, good.”

Jamie glanced out the side of her eye. “I figured we should just get it out in the open. I’m sure I’ll get over my crush soon.”

“Jamie…you know I think you’re a beautiful woman, and as it turns out you’re an awesome person too. Who knew?” CJ said, earning her a smirk from her friend, “but I’m simply not on the market and I never want to be.”

“CJ, I get it…and I knew that. It doesn’t stop what I feel though. But you know what?”

“What?”

“I’m so glad we got over our initial problems. I consider you a real friend. Actually, you might be the first I’ve ever had.” Jamie suddenly slumped back in her chair. “Oh God, that sounded pathetic. My first real friend at thirty one years old!”

“It’s not pathetic. Come here,” CJ drawled, getting out of her seat and opening her arms to offer Jamie a hug.

“Is that a mischievous glint in those baby blues, Dangermouse? I’m not sure hugging you is a good idea.”

“Aww, c’mon, we’re both grown-ups. Gimme a damn hug!” CJ pouted like a petulant child.

“Oh, jeez. How can I say no to that?” Jamie got up and walked into CJ’s arms. The instant she felt CJ wrap those strong arms around her, she melted and a little groan escaped her lips by accident. She was suddenly very aware that they were alone, and her heart thumped a little faster as a result. She tried to back away, but CJ held fast to give her a squeeze before releasing her.

When they parted their eyes met, and CJ bit back her giggle. “Lookin’ a little flushed there, Penfold.”

“Uh-huh. No more hugs for me.”

“Well at least ya didn’t smell me,” CJ teased.

“Oh, Christ, gimme strength. Go home before I do something silly,” Jamie said as she waved over her shoulder on her way back to her desk.

CJ was momentarily worried that Jamie was serious, but then she winked at her and smiled widely to let CJ know she was fully in control of her faculties. “OK. I’m outta here. See you around eight?”

“I’ll be there, DM.”

* * * * * *

CJ walked in the front door and heard the sound of Kate shouting at someone. She could only surmise that her wife was on the phone and followed the raised voice toward the kitchen. On entering the room, she spotted Kate with her cell phone stuck to her ear and her free hand running through her hair in what looked like frustration.

“Aaron, I offered to work on tonight. I knew he wasn’t happy with the scene!” Kate practically yelled.

CJ walked over to place her jacket down on the counter, her keys clinking on the surface to alert Kate to her presence. Kate spun round and brought her hand up to make a yapping mouth gesture while rolling her eyes at her ridiculous phone conversation. CJ moved behind her and slipped her arms around her slim waist. She leaned her head against Kate’s blond hair and could hear someone chattering wildly at Kate through the connection.

“Yes, Aaron, I know.”

Kate’s voice had calmed somewhat, and CJ hoped her actions had something to do with it.

“Yes, I’ll come in tomorrow and the next day if you need me to. I’m just irritated that I offered to stay late tonight and was told no. Then you call me up and yell down the phone that I should’ve waited and spoken to you? Phil told me he was done, and now I have to come back in on my vacation time.” Kate took a very deep breath to try to calm her down even more. “All right, Aaron. See you tomorrow.” She hung up the call. “Jerk.”

CJ kissed her on the cheek. “Hi. Crap bosses?”

“Today? Yes,” Kate said, leaning her head back on CJ’s shoulder and sighing. “Mmm, that’s so nice, honey.”

CJ assumed Kate meant the hand that rubbed over her belly in soothing circles, so she continued to do it. “Do you want to cancel the party tonight?” she whispered hopefully.

A chuckle escaped Kate’s tense lips. “You’ll try anything, won’t you?”

CJ shrugged. “Worth a shot.”

Kate turned in her embrace and put the phone down on the counter. She slipped her arms around her wife’s waist and returned the hug with gusto. “How was your day?” she mumbled while still rubbing her face in CJ’s shirt.

“Fine, actually…although Jamie did declare her undying love for me.”

Kate lifted her head and narrowed her eyes. “She did what?” she said with a territorial edge to her tone.

CJ quickly recovered from her weak attempt at humor, knowing it had backfired a little. “Honey, she didn’t say that. Sorry. I was trying to be funny. She just admitted she’s attracted to me.”

“And?” Kate said with fire in her eyes.

“I confirmed to her that I would never be interested, and she said she knew that. It’s all fine.”

“Uh-huh, I bet you did.”

“Hey! You know it’s true.”

Kate frowned at her abrupt reaction and held her head for a moment to regroup. “Sorry. I’m not sure why I got all possessive there. Hmm…” she said, rubbing her chin.

CJ stepped back out of her embrace. “See this,” she said, flailing her hands up and down the length of her entire body, “and these,” she added, putting her hand to her head and then her heart. “They all belong to you and only you. My body, mind, heart and soul…they’re yours. So quit it!” she said forcefully which created that dangerous look in Kate’s eyes, the kind of danger CJ loved. But she knew they just didn’t have time to do it justice. “Nuh-uh, don’t you dare. You can have it later,” she warned.

Kate’s nostrils flared. She could feel the heat suffusing her body and a sudden need to possess her wife. She glanced at the clock. Damn! “OK,” she breathed, “but this better be a very quick party!”

CJ laughed, and Kate grinned shyly as CJ took her into her arms again and kissed her briefly. “I love it when you get all territorial. Makes me feel special,” she teased.

“I’ll give you special later,” Kate purred, leaning on her favorite spot under CJ’s chin.

Minor emotional disaster averted, they sunk into one another for a few long moments before they finally parted and began to organize themselves and the large living room for their guests.

* * * * * *

The long dining table and the kitchen countertops were set with the buffet and various finger foods. The lights were adjusted to set the mood and the drinks were flowing. The large double-doors were open to let space in the kitchen-diner flow into the living room, and the fire was crackling in the hearth. It wasn’t cold as such, but the flames added warmth and atmosphere. The steady beat of the music set a nice backdrop to the continuous conversation that threatened to drown out CJ’s thoughts. Kamali had retreated to the upstairs hallway, and CJ kinda wished she could do the same.

Cyn was snuggled on the couch with Tony, Kate was standing talking to Sam and Tina, and Jack was loitering over by the drinks chatting distractedly with other actor-type people while glancing occasionally at CJ.

Thankfully, her colleagues had just started to arrive and there was finally someone to talk to that wasn’t in showbiz. She had never been so glad to see Jamie in her life. “Hey! Thank God you’re here,” CJ said, dragging her friend through the door.

“Hi. That bad, huh? Here, I brought wine.” Jamie handed the bottle to her friend. “I know you don’t drink but-”

“I might need one tonight. God no, I can’t. I’m leaving for Washington tomorrow,” CJ said as they entered the party zone.

Jamie took in the scene. She scanned the room, her eyes briefly lingering on Jack before moving on to the obvious lovers on the couch, and then resting on a compact redhead who was talking to Kate…on the body of the redhead talking to Kate. “Busy little party so far, huh?”

“Yeah, but you’re the first Bureau person. Where the hell are they?”

“Well I know Ethan can’t make it…something about family commitments. Mikey said he would be here, and Mark told me he’d be here at eight which is…now,” Jamie said after checking her watch.

“I knew about Ethan. I think Alice’s mother is ill so he may have to take care of the girls.”

Jamie looked around the room again and nodded in acknowledgement to Kate when she saw her looking over at them. Jamie felt a little uncomfortable with the stare Kate was pinning on her. “Uh, CJ? Did you tell your wife about, um…”

CJ sought out Kate and tried not to laugh. Only CJ would know that Kate’s glare was completely fake. She could tell that her wife was going to have some fun with Jamie tonight. “Oh, yes, I did. Don’t worry though. I’m sure she won’t beat you too severely.”

“Not funny,” Jamie groaned, shaking her head. “I’ve seen her in action, remember?”

“Aww, come on, that is funny. I’m sure it’ll be an interesting battle to watch.” CJ snickered into her juice glass.

“Good evening, ladies,” Mark said behind them, making CJ snort some juice down her nostrils and Jamie jump out of her skin.

“Jeez, Mark, don’t do that!” CJ said as she tried to recover her dignity.

Mark attempted to conceal his laugh. “Sorry, CJ.”

“Hello, Sir,” Jamie said.

“Oh, Jamie, we’re at a party. I think Mark is fine, don’t you?”

“Uh, yeah. I guess I’m just not used to it…Mark.”

Kate had spotted the assistant director and excused herself from her conversation. She crossed the room while noting Jack’s change of position on the couch. He had been watching her rather closely since he’d arrived, and it was starting to make Kate wonder what he was up to. “Hello, Mark,” she smiled as she approached.

“Hello, Kate. Good to see you again,” Mark said, wrapping her in a hug.

CJ was warmed and slightly amused by Mark’s big smile and genuine embrace. Kate hugged him back and stepped over to link arms with her wife.

“I’m glad you could make it. Both of you,” Kate smiled, shifting her eyes to Jamie.

“Well,” Mark said, “I’m happy to be invited. Gives me another chance to try to lure you into the Bureau.”

Kate laughed heartily, and CJ smiled simply because she loved hearing that full-bodied laugh. Jamie fidgeted and scanned the room again as she tried to avoid any eye contact with Kate, but it didn’t distract Kate from her game in the slightest.

“So, Jamie, see anyone you like?” Kate queried casually. CJ squeezed her wife’s shoulder admonishingly but waited silently to see what the response would be.

“Uh…” Jamie stammered.

Mark frowned a little, wondering what was wrong with his agent, and Jamie fiddled with the sleeve on her blouse.

Kate decided to push it a little more. “Is something wrong, Agent Green? You seem a little…uncomfortable,” she said, licking her teeth and sneering in a threatening manner.

“I…listen, I’m sorry. I should never have said anything. I’m so sorry. Please. I really wouldn’t ever do anything to jeopardize your-”

Kate couldn’t keep up the pretense. Hearing Jamie go into her nervous diatribe was too much for her. She burst into fits of laughter, doubling over and holding her stomach. CJ opened her eyes wide, biting her lips and trying to wait and see how her friend would react before laughing herself.

“Oh! Oh, no way! You-you’re shitting me?” Jamie said with disbelief and not a little relief. “Oh my God, that’s not funny, Kate!”

Kate laughed through her tears, clearly very amused by the little show. “I…” She chuckled. “I’m sorry.” She let out an uncontrollable snort. “I couldn’t resist.”

Jamie wagged her finger in front of CJ’s face when she began to laugh too. “No fair!” she barked, “You’re supposed to have my back.” She slapped her so-called colleague on the shoulder, but CJ could see the humor twinkling in her eyes and knew she wasn’t serious so she continued to laugh.

Mark was completely baffled. “Can someone enlighten me?”

Kate wiped her eyes and nodded to Jamie, effectively telling her that it was up to her to divulge the information to the boss. Jamie cleared her throat. “Well, before I tell you I must say that it will not affect my work in any way.” Mark raised an eyebrow, but Jamie stood tall and continued. “I have a little, uh…crush on CJ,” she admitted cautiously.

“Ah.” Mark replied with a nod. “Well I guess I can…understand that. As long as it doesn’t affect the job, I’m sure I can let you deal with it.”

“No. It won’t, and it hasn’t.”

CJ smiled, knowing that Mark once felt the same about her. “It won’t, Mark. And as you can see, it’s out in the open. Nothing to worry about.”

“That’s easy for you to say. I’m afraid of your wife,” Jamie gasped, looking at Kate who was now fully recovered from her giggles.

Kate grinned. “Aww, you are not! I was just playin’ with ya,” she said, punching Jamie on the arm lightly.

“Uh-huh.”

“Seriously, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be so cruel but it was too good to miss. Hell, who wouldn’t have a crush on her…look at her, she’s totally gorgeous!” Kate said, leaning her head on her wife’s shoulder lovingly.

“Jeez, CJ, how many drinks has your wife had?” Jamie asked while pointing to Kate who was now rubbing her hand up and down CJ’s sleeve.

A slightly red-faced CJ replied. “Would you believe, just two?”

Everyone laughed at her sheepish grin, and once Kate had linked arms with Jamie and dragged her away, CJ and Mark followed. After doing a round of introductions, CJ went to get another glass of grape juice, and on her way back across the room she saw Mikey Ryan standing in the doorway. She went to greet him and did the introductions all over again.

* * * * * *

A couple of hours later, Kate met up with CJ at the kitchen counter for a gossip – after a kiss, of course. Once they’d parted, CJ flicked an unruly strand of hair away from her face and leaned her hip on the edge of the island unit. “So, anything interesting to report?”

“Oh, tons. Let’s see…apart from the fact that everyone except us and Mark are getting slightly drunk? Tony and Cyn are inseparable. It seems pretty serious between them. They’re such an unusual-looking couple but their personalities seem to match well. Tony has really started to come out of his shell recently. Have you noticed that?”

“Yep. How long has he worked for you again?”

“I hired him about a year before I met you. He was quite shy at first.” Kate thought for a moment. “Actually I was pretty quiet and withdrawn too, so maybe he sensed I was…”

“Was what, honey?”

“I wasn’t happy, CJ. It was the actress who smiled a lot, not me. Not in my heart.” She paused to let out a huge sigh. “Anyway, he’s become friendlier since I met you. God, was I really giving out such a cold bitch vibe before? Holy crap.”

“Bitch isn’t the word I’d use, but if you were unhappy, maybe a little lonely, he could’ve responded to that, huh?” CJ suggested, cupping Kate’s cheek in her hand.

Kate slowly nodded. “Yeah.”

CJ wanted to tell Kate how much she had changed her life too but now wasn’t the time. “So what other astute observations have you made tonight, Agent Marshall?”

“Ha-ha. And it’s Carson, if you don’t mind,” Kate said, poking her finger into her wife’s ribs.

“Sorry, Agent Carson. Man, that would get confusing,” CJ said with a snicker.

“I’ll say. Anyway, not too much more gossip. I did notice Mark talking to Jack for a while. I have no idea what they would have in common. Oh, and Jamie…well I’m not certain but I could’ve sworn I saw her checking out Sam!”

“Really?” CJ raised her trademark eyebrow.

“Yep. In fact, look! They’re engrossed in one another right now,” Kate said, pointing across the room.

CJ turned, and there it was. Agent Jamie Green ducking her head down to listen intently to the apparently intriguing words of Samantha Morris. Sam was gazing at her as she spoke, and it sure looked to CJ like a little more than friendly interest. “Who could’ve predicted that?”

“I know, right? I have to say though, they could be a good match. I know Sam can handle her. She’s feisty, ya know,” Kate said, sipping on her glass of soda.

“Just like you, huh?” CJ replied, earning her a slap on the buttocks. She turned back to face Kate and chuckled. “Well our matchmaking plan backfired but maybe not all the way. Looks promising…”

“Yep.” Kate nodded thoughtfully. “What do you think Jack is up to? He’s being awfully pleasant, but I dunno, he’s watching us a lot!”

“I’m not sure myself. I haven’t paid any attention to him. Didn’t wanna end up threatening him at our party.” CJ snorted.

“That would not be good,” Kate groaned as she saw Mark coming toward them to refill his glass at their improvised bar. Kate started chatting with him, but CJ remained a neutral but interested party as Mark and Kate sparred over her joining the Bureau some day.

* * * * * *

Somewhere across the living room

Jamie was deep in conversation with her new-found friend whom she had to admit was turning her on by simply talking. She studied Sam’s very full lips, her hazel-gray-green eyes – she couldn’t settle on one color – and the way Sam curled her mouth when she said the word studio. She was just about to jump in with a story about her younger life when she noticed Sam beginning to squirm, crossing her legs and wiggling slightly.

“Time for a pee break?” Jamie offered.

Sam barked out a laugh. “Yes, but I was just so engrossed in our talk that I didn’t want to leave.”

“As much as I don’t want you to go either, I think it’d be preferable to you leaving a stain on the rug.”

“Eww,” Sam said, scrunching up her face. “Hold that, will ya? I’ll be right back,” she said added quickly as she handed her glass to Jamie before running off.

Jamie slowly shook her head and smiled. She looked around the room as she sipped from her own glass and saw that Jack was headed straight for her. She’d heard various comments from CJ about him, and it served to counteract the handsome, well-groomed appearance of the man. Ugh, she thought as she plastered a smile on her face.

“Well, hello there. I haven’t had the chance to talk with you yet,” Jack drawled in his usual slimy manner.

Jamie almost rolled her eyes but decided she could be polite…for now. “Hi, I’m Jamie. You must be Jack?”

“Why, yes. You recognize me?” he said with a grin while he framed his face with his hands.

“Um, sorry, no. I just heard CJ introduce you earlier.”

“Ah. And why haven’t I seen you around the lot? I wouldn’t miss a stunning actress like you.”

Jamie realized that Jack had paid about as little attention to their introduction as she had. He clearly hadn’t caught the fact that she actually worked with CJ. She had noted his attentiveness toward her two friends earlier in the evening and decided to play along with his conversation for now. “I guess you didn’t look hard enough,” she said, throwing him a fake smile.

“Well I noticed you have a little thing for CJ and her wife,” Jack said, narrowing his eyes curiously.

“Me? No. They are attractive, though. It’s hard not to notice that.”

“Aww c’mon, I saw the looks. You like CJ.”

“Is that a problem? Is she on your hit list?”

“What? You think I’m some kind of predator?” Jack asked, placing a hand on his heart in mock hurt.

Jamie laughed heartily. “Oh, come on. I’ve seen your type a thousand times. Seriously, is she just part of the hunt?”

Jack thought about it and seemed to get serious for a moment. “Well to be honest, I do want her but it’s a…a lust thing. She’s just so delicious I can’t not want her. But Kate…”

His facial expression changed, and Jamie hid her shock. She thought she had him pegged, but did he actually want Kate for more than sex? Nah, surely not, she mused but figured it might be wise to check. “You, uh, want Kate?”

“Hmm. You want CJ. I want Kate…and CJ,” he muttered.

“Hah! I think you just want whatever you can get your hands on.”

“You offerin’?” Jack slurred.

“Sorry, man. No way.”

Jack’s grumbling voice faded away when Jamie spotted Sam returning. Her eyes and her attention were now fixed on the redhead as she crossed the room, stopping to hug Kate on her way past a crowd of people.

Sam exchanged a few words with Kate and continued on her way, heading straight toward Jamie. Seeing Jack standing there with a shit-eating grin on his face, Sam faltered. Jamie saw the change in her eyes. She looked worried? Jamie signaled to her new friend to come over to her by holding a glass in the air and nodding. Jamie felt pleasantly warmed by the look of relief on Sam’s face.

“Sorry I took so long. I’m such a social butterfly,” Sam said nervously.

“No problem. Jack was just keeping me company while you were gone,” Jamie replied, glaring at Jack and leaning heavily on the last word.

Jack surprisingly took the hint and jutted his chin out. “Oh, right, well…I think I’ll go talk to, uh, what’s ‘er name,” he stammered, pointing to the room in general and strutting away.

“Oh, and Jack?” Jamie shouted after him.

“Yes?”

“I’m not in showbiz,” she said cheerfully. She watched his face as he processed the words. When his broad shoulders slumped and he walked away, she knew he had figured it out.

“What was all that about?” Sam asked.

“You know, I’m not entirely sure. I think he was trying to hatch a plan to split CJ and Kate up,” Jamie said, taking a sip of wine.

“That’s mine, honey,” Sam laughed.

“Oh! Sorry, here. Take it before I finish it,” Jamie said shyly, liking the endearment.

Sam shook her head and took the glass. “Doesn’t he know that a meteor couldn’t split those two up?”

Jamie laughed out loud, and Sam watched her. She was a little confused by her reaction to this tall, beautiful federal agent. The seemingly-straight producer hadn’t contemplated being with a woman before, but now…now she wasn’t sure. She decided to stay right here and talk as much as she could with Jamie. Maybe if she spent more time with her, she’d figure it all out.

* * * * * *

As the evening progressed, CJ was almost shocked to find that she was enjoying herself. It could have been Kate’s current musical selection that had livened things up, or the copious amounts of alcohol that most of the others were consuming, but she found she was laughing and smiling a whole lot. After Sam and Kate had somewhat-painfully performed their rendition of an Alanis Morrisette song, leaning on one another for moral and physical support, most people had started to dance around in the living room.

CJ watched with a smirk as Tony and Cyn boogied – yes, boogied – to a fast-paced Anastacia number. She giggled when Tony tried to pull off a particularly daring move and fell on his ass, much to the amusement of Cyn, and Kate who had just left the improvised dance floor and was heading CJ’s way.

“Hey baby, are you having fun?” CJ asked her jolly wife.

“Yep. I saw you laughing just then. Are you enjoying yourself too?” Kate said, dabbing down her sweaty brow with a napkin.

“Actually I am. You look like you could use a break from dancing, though…”

“Yeah.”

CJ noticed that Kate didn’t actually seem too inebriated and nodded proudly. She never expected Kate to abstain. Just because CJ didn’t see the appeal in alcohol didn’t mean Kate couldn’t have a drink, but she was happy that – as they were the hostesses of this night – her wife was still standing upright. She chuckled inwardly at her thoughts. I love her any old way.

Kate spun around to watch her friends having fun. It had turned out so much better than she’d thought and she realized it was because they had kept it small. It had definitely been a good night. Even Jack was up dancing with Tina. Mark sat on the arm on one of the couches but was clapping along as they all goaded Tony into doing the limbo under an improvised limbo bar made out of a broom from the kitchen closet. Kate laughed out loud when he fell on his ass yet again. She heard CJ laugh behind her and then felt two arms sliding around her waist from behind. CJ’s chin rested on her shoulder as their guests started dancing again.

Kelly Clarkson’s song Gone came on the stereo, and Cyn bounced over to turn up the volume. CJ began to sway her hips to the beat, and Kate didn’t dare say anything since she knew her wife didn’t dance. Well not in front of an audience anyway. Kate decided to encourage CJ a little so she covered CJ’s hands as they rested on her abdomen and swayed in time to her wife’s movements.

CJ spoke into her ear. “I definitely can’t sing this one to you and mean it.”

Kate nodded, knowing exactly what she meant. The song was all about leaving one another, about a broken love, but it didn’t stop Kate from shivering in CJ’s arms when she began to sing some of the words, breathing sensuously into her ear.

With her crotch still moving against Kate’s behind, CJ tightened her arms around her wife and proceeded to nibble on her neck. Kate was quite surprised at CJ’s public show of affection. Glancing around and seeing that nobody was paying attention anyway, she enjoyed the moment and melted into the touch. When another Kelly Clarkson song started, Kate could barely remain standing when CJ sang it in perfect tune into her ear.

“Is this a dream? If it is, please don’t wake me from this high. I’d become comfortably numb, until you opened up my eyes…to what it’s like, when everything’s right, I can’t believe. You found me when no one else was lookin’. How did you know just where I would be?”

Kate closed her eyes as the sensations took over her body and soul. The velvety voice vibrating against her ear, CJ’s hands softly gripping her swaying body in a loving and arousing embrace, the melodious music, the small amount of alcohol she’d consumed buzzing through her, and her wife’s breath tickling past her hair. All of it served to help her get lost in the moment.

“…The ups and the downs and you still didn’t leave. I guess that you saw what nobody could see. The good and the bad and the things in between…you found me.”

Kate was gasping now. CJ could tell from the rise and fall of her wife’s chest, and she thought it might be a good idea to stop before she had to drag Kate upstairs and make love to her that very second. She kissed Kate’s creamy soft neck and stopped her rhythmic movements. Kate continued to sway against her with her eyes closed, and CJ grinned as she removed one arm to lift her glass from the nearby counter.

Kate finally stopped and turned around. “That was incredible.”

“Too incredible. I’m, uh, a little wet…”

“A little? I’m drenched here!” Kate confessed.

“Oh, please don’t make me think of that…not here and not yet. We have to get rid of this lot first,” CJ said, spreading her hand out to the small crowd in the room.

“You started it. All of it, missy,” Kate retorted as she poked her finger between CJ’s breasts.

CJ just smiled at her fiery wife and pondered what would happen once their guests did leave. As if her thoughts had been voiced out loud, Jack approached them, veering slightly off course and muttering curses at a piece of furniture.

“Hi, l-ladies. My car is here…sooo I’ll bid you adieu. Great parting…no, partly…no, party,” he slurred. He leaned forward clumsily, possibly trying to kiss Kate, but lost his balance until CJ’s strong arm settled on his shoulder to help him regain his equilibrium. Jack took the contact as a warning and put his hands in the air. “Don’t shoot occifer. I don’t did it!”

CJ bit back her laugh, but Kate just shook her head and put her hand up to Jack’s other shoulder. “It’s all right Jack,” she soothed, “Thanks for coming and I’ll see you tomorrow, OK?” She ushered him toward the front door with CJ on her tail.

“Tomorrow?” Jack said between belches.

“Yes. Aaron wants us back in, remember?”

“Oh yeah, that dimwit.”

“Yes. That’s right,” Kate agreed while trying not to smirk at his accurate assessment.

As Jack fell into his limo, the two women waved him off before heading back indoors. People slowly started to leave soon after, and CJ was kind of relieved even though she had ended up having fun.

* * * * * *

It was now after midnight and most of the guests had gone within the space of an hour leaving Tony, Cyn, and Jamie who sat on the couch with an unusual pout on her face. Sam had left with some colleagues, and Jamie was wondering if she should’ve asked for her number. They’d had such a wonderful time together with their easy conversations, and lots of laughter and subtle touches throughout the evening.

CJ went over to sit on the coffee table facing Jamie. “Hey, Penfold, what’s up?”

Jamie looked up slowly. “Nothing. I had a great time, CJ.”

“Uh-huh, I can see that. Must be why you’re sulking now. You like her, don’t you?”

“Who?” Jamie asked innocently. At CJ’s curled eyebrow and sideways grin, she surrendered easily. “Yeah, I really do. She could be the one to crush the crush, DM.”

CJ grasped at her chest in mock pain. “Oh! Oh no! Please don’t leave me!” Jamie just shook her head and threw a bunch of chips at her from a nearby bowl. “Hey, I’ll have to clear that up…”

“Did you just assault my wife?” Kate said, now standing over them with her hands on her hips. Jamie stuck her tongue out at her in a show of bravado…and fun. Kate grinned at her in response. “So you’re not scared of me anymore?” she asked as she sat down next to Jamie.

“No.” Jamie got awfully serious, possibly due to the alcohol she’d consumed. “You do know I would never…”

“I know,” Kate said, leaning over to hug her. “But that doesn’t mean I’ll let this Sam thing go. I’ll be happy if she can keep you busy.”

Jamie released her reluctantly. “I was that obvious, huh?”

“You were both that obvious,” Kate said. “Are you seeing her again?”

“Uh…I didn’t get her number.”

“What? Oh for goodness sake, Jamie,” Kate screeched.

Jamie winced. “What?”

Kate heard CJ chuckle from the table and looked over to her. “What you laughin’ at? She didn’t even get her number. Well I’m gonna fix that tomorrow. I can play cupid!”

“Oh, Kate,” Jamie begged. “Please don’t embarrass her…or me. I mean, uh, if you could be not so direct about it.”

Kate laughed out loud. “Of course I’ll be discreet. She’s my best friend at work and I’m sure she’ll ask me about you anyway. The two of you were practically in each other’s laps.”

CJ barked out a laugh, which caused Jamie to giggle into her hands. Kate just smiled smugly and got up from the couch, finally letting go of Jamie’s hand which she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. CJ and Jamie waved at Tony and Cyn as Kate escorted them out front.

“Hey,” CJ said, catching Jamie’s attention. “She seems pretty cool about everything. That hug said it all.”

“She has every reason to be cool about it, CJ. I can see what you two have…tonight more than ever. Both of you are so in love and you trust one another. That’s pretty darn cool,” Jamie said, smiling solemnly.

“You’ll find that soon.”

“Who knows…maybe. And if I do find it, I gotta try and not fuck it up,” Jamie said with a sigh.

Kate came skipping back into the living room whistling the song from earlier slightly off key. CJ bit back her smile, as did Jamie.

“There’s another car coming up the drive, Jamie. I guess it’s yours,” Kate said, breaking momentarily from her tune.

“Thanks, Kate.”

* * * * * *

After seeing Jamie out to her waiting cab, CJ returned to find Kate standing with her hands behind her back leaning on the island counter in the kitchen. She held a long chip-stick between her lips in a cigarette-like fashion and winked at her wife. CJ narrowed her eyes and stalked across the room, immediately leaning her body against Kate’s. Kate was ready for a revival of their earlier encounter. CJ could tell by the look in those slightly glazed green orbs which also held the invitation she now accepted eagerly.

Grabbing Kate’s butt with both hands, CJ dipped her head and wrapped her lips around the offered chip, effectively kissing Kate as she did so. Kate moaned as they bit the salty snack in half, and after crunching and swallowing quickly their tongues instantly met in a sensuous dance.

“Take me to bed,” Kate purred once they’d parted. CJ glanced around them at the mess and drew her brows together making Kate smile. “I’ll get it tomorrow after work, honey. I have more important things to do to you before you leave in the morning.”

CJ didn’t speak. She took Kate’s hand and pulled her through the house as she did various necessary tasks with Kate following and randomly chuckling in her merriment. Once in the bedroom, CJ stood back and looked at her wife.

“I like this shirt on you,” she said, unbuttoning the shirt. “But I like it better off you.”

“Mmm, cheesy line, but it works.”

“I think anything would work with you right now. You’re practically licking me with your eyes,” CJ said, her breath catching at the thought.

“Anything would work as long as you’re the one saying it.”

“Yeah…that,” CJ husked as Kate nibbled her exposed collarbone. Her hands were still unbuttoning the shirt but she could feel her concentration waning. “Katie, let’s undress and get into bed. I can’t think…”

They undressed one another in a flash and bundled onto the bed, one naked body wrapped around the other one. They teased one another with kisses and touches. CJ sucked Kate’s nipple into her mouth as she covered the smaller body with her own.

Kate was breathless, her entire being crying out for what only CJ could give her. “Ciara…”

CJ knew it was a request but she decided to let Kate dictate what they would do. “What do you want, baby?” she gasped, leaving one breast only to find the other as quickly as possible and take it into her warm mouth.

Kate’s hands were tangled in CJ’s long, dark hair and kneading her scalp, her fingers matching the rhythm of the suckling feeling on her breast. CJ opened her eyes thinking Kate wasn’t going to answer her question and she found her lover watching her: watching her hungry lips that surrounded Kate’s hard nipple, watching CJ’s body as it slid over her own, and watching the blue eyes that now pierced through to her very core.

“I…I want…” Kate couldn’t verbalize, so she grabbed CJ’s upper arms and pulled her up to her face. As she kissed CJ deeply, she wrapped her hands around her thighs and moved her until she was straddling Kate’s mound.

“Oh, yeah, I know what…you want,” CJ panted. She rose up above Kate and licked her lips so slowly Kate thought she might die if she waited any longer. Slipping her hand between them, CJ spread the swollen skin at her own sex and held the pose to let Kate see the tender clit that was so ready for their joining.

“Oh,” Kate whispered, opening her legs wide.

CJ lowered herself onto Kate with her fingers still in place and used them to open Kate even wider. She almost collapsed at the intense sensation of their contact. As she slipped her hand carefully from their wet folds, she brought it to her mouth and sucked the fingers. Kate let out a strangled sound that came from somewhere deep in her throat, and CJ started to slowly thrust in response. Both were so aroused that it didn’t take long for CJ to climax, the delicious friction just too much for her to hold back from. Kate was so close as CJ’s essence flooded her clit and continued to trickle downwards. It was almost enough to bring Kate to orgasm. Almost.

As CJ was recovering, she saw the concentration on Kate’s face. She continued to move back and forth over Kate’s clit while she reached around behind her to barely enter Kate with one finger. But that was all it took, and CJ smiled as Kate screamed out and promptly came, her green eyes popping open to watch CJ as she drove her through it. CJ was still moving over her, and Kate grabbed her wife’s breasts, almost climaxing again at the sight of those perfect dark nipples peeking out from between her fingers, and the tanned, athletic body that still writhed on top of her.

They both halted their motion at the same time and panted harshly, still staring at one another and still very intimately connected. CJ loved it when they kept eye contact. It made it so incredibly intense sometimes.

Moments later, she lowered her body onto Kate’s and kissed her soundly. “You OK?”

“Better than OK. I love you, Ciara.”

“I love you too, my beautiful Katie.”

Still in the embrace, CJ rolled them onto their sides and pulled the covers up around them. They were soon lulled into sleep. Kate’s almost immediate light snore made CJ smile before she succumbed, lying nose to nose with Kate in a warm, sated bundle.

.

Chapter 3

After CJ had called her from the airport the next day, Kate focused on getting her scenes done and tried not to miss her wife too much. It never worked of course, but being so busy did distract her slightly and the days began to pass.

When she was at home she cleaned the house while listening to Kelly Clarkson loudly on the stereo, took care of their animals, and called her family to check on what was happening in their lives. She missed CJ like crazy but Kate had to content herself with the fact that CJ was keeping in touch, so she just had to hear her voice, imagine her lips forming the words, and those blue eyes piercing into hers. She laughed at herself missing CJ so much. “Ah, what the heck. I’m in love,” she mumbled, shrugging her shoulders.

* * * * * *

Even after shooting for three days there were still a few takes to get. Jack was off his game again, and Kate wanted to shake him and scream to get him back to the smooth-talking, super-ego-driven Jack. Although, his prima-donna attitude was the reason they were running over schedule. He was a conundrum. That was for sure.

As she stood waiting for another reset, her phone vibrated in her pocket and she wondered who would be calling her cell while she was at work. She saw the name on the screen and answered immediately. “Hey, you!”

“Hi, Katie. I hope I didn’t catch you at a bad time?” CJ said smoothly.

Kate closed her eyes briefly, the sound of her wife’s voice a balm on her soul. “It’s never a bad time for you to call, honey. How’s it going over there?”

“Ugh. It’s a horrid case, and I’m glad it’s not mine. I’ll tell you about it when I get home but like I said last night, I’m not convinced the killer’s a male. Anyway I don’t want to talk about that. I’m still on schedule to leave early tomorrow.”

“Great. I might be in here again in the morning, but hopefully not all day. I really need my time off to start now.”

“I bet. I’ll try to grab a couple of days off soon and spend them in your arms, OK?” CJ smiled into the phone.

“Oh I hope so, honey. Are you OK? I mean, with the case and everything?”

“Yes. Calling you every day sure did help. My work life disgusts me sometimes but knowing I have you…it sure keeps me feeling alive.”

“God, I miss you.”

“Ditto, Katie. I gotta go. See you tomorrow,” CJ said reluctantly. “I love you.”

“I love you too. Bye, CJ.”

“Bye.”

* * * * * *

This is my last day…this is my last day… Kate chanted in her head over and over as she arrived at the studios on the fourth day of her supposed leave. They got a lot done in the first three hours, and then things slowed again. She hated it when directors got conflicting ideas in their heads and wanted to re-shoot everything. It would have gotten frustrating for Kate but her impending time-off and the fact that CJ would be home today kept her giddiness at a surprisingly high level. She went looking for Sam, knowing her friend would be expecting to see her soon.

As she skipped across the lot, she waved to some colleagues and threw a polite hello to others she didn’t know so well. She pulled her collar together, noticing the coolness in the air. December in Los Angeles wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but it was strangely chilly again today. They’d had a quiet Thanksgiving last month, but Kate wondered if CJ would like to try a family Christmas. The problem was, CJ’s job was very unpredictable and the family was spread out over quite a few states. There was also the sad fact that CJ’s mother had died near Christmas, meaning she hadn’t really celebrated one in years. Maybe I’ll talk to her about planning a proper Christmas get-together next year, Kate thought as she headed for a set of double doors.

She entered studio 7-C and spotted her ex-executive producer standing on set with a clipboard in one arm, the other gesticulating wildly as she spoke to someone. Sam’s face held a grumbling frown as she barked out a list of items she needed to the young runner who frantically scribbled down her instructions. Once he left, Kate headed toward her stressed-out friend.

As she approached she studied Sam and noted the pronounced features that, while on their own might not be considered particularly attractive, together made up a very pretty face. Her deep-auburn hair came to rest on her shoulders in a bob-style cut and it almost matched the dusky lipstick color on her voluptuous lips.

Kate shook her head, never having noticed her friend that way before. She wasn’t romantically interested of course, but she did want to ask Sam why she was still single and perhaps get some details on what she thought of Jamie while she was at it.

“Hey,” Kate said with a toothy smile as she placed her hand on the shoulder that was level with her own. “Having a bad day, Sam?”

“Oh, hi, Kate. Yes! But I’m mighty glad to see you. Are we still on for lunch?”

“Of course, but it looks like you’re busy. Can you spare the time?” Kate said sympathetically.

“Are you kidding? We just sent the cast off for a full lunch break. They were all over the place today. Outtakes city this morning.” Sam sighed and rubbed her forehead.

“C’mon,” Kate said, taking her hand, “I’m hungry. I need to eat.”

“That’s the best offer I’ve had all day.”

Both women looked at one another for a second, simultaneously realizing the innuendo behind their words, and they broke into fits of giggles as they walked out of the studio doors.

* * * * * *

Over in the cafeteria, Kate snagged a ready-made salad that she knew she’d like as she had it quite often, and caught up with Sam so that her friend could pay since it was her turn.

“Hey, you want any sauces?” Sam asked Kate as the cashier processed the items.

“Nah. This salad has dressing with it,” Kate replied, sniffing an orange then putting it on her tray.

Once they were seated they began to munch on their food. Kate watched closely as Sam chewed on a piece of pasta, and it didn’t go unnoticed by Sam.

Sam narrowed her eyes, but Kate continued to stare so she put her fork down on the tabletop. “What? Do I have a booger?”

Kate laughed and almost spat her lettuce across the table. She coughed and cleared her throat after swallowing the mouthful. “No. I was just appreciating you,” she said with a wink.

Sam waved her finger in front of her face. “I know you don’t be appreciatin’ me that way, sista,” she said, sliding her head from side to side in some kind of Whoopi Goldberg imitation.

Kate sighed dramatically. “God, I hate it when you do that. Must you do impersonations?”

“Says the actress,” Sam jibed. “And you don’t really hate it, but I knew you’d say that anyway,” she added smugly. “So seriously, what did you mean?”

“About appreciating you?” When she got a nod, Kate went on. “I appreciate you because you have been, and still are, a great friend to me. That’s kinda rare in this business, what with all the ass-kissers, catfights, and everything else that goes on. But you…you’re a true friend. Thank you.”

Sam’s eyebrows crawled up her forehead as she felt her emotion rising. “How sweet are you?” she said while blinking back a tear.

“So sweet you may get a cavity, but I’m serious, Sam. You’re an amazing woman. How come you’re still single?”

Sam blew out a muffled laugh but reached across to cover Kate’s hand with her own briefly. “Well I suppose I just haven’t found the right person yet. You’re lucky, Kate. You found Miss Right. Oh, she’s away right now, isn’t she? How are you coping?”

Kate narrowed her eyes, sensing that she was being teased ever so slightly. “I’m coping just fine, thanks.”

“OK. I just know how you two get when you’re separated.”

Kate sighed dreamily. “Yeah. She should be back today and she’s probably in her office by now. I miss her like crazy. Satisfied?”

“Yes.” Sam smiled and filled her fork again.

“You spent a lot of time with Jamie the other night,” Kate said nonchalantly as she glanced up catch Sam’s reaction.

Sam nearly choked on her food. “Uh-huh.”

“You like her?”

“Uh-huh.”

“I think you’d make a great couple, and she seems to like you too.”

“You do? She does?” Sam squeaked.

“Yeah.”

“I’ll be honest and say I never even thought about it before, Kate. Even with you being my friend and having an amazing marriage with a woman, I never considered it for me…until now.”

“And?”

“She’s gorgeous. Too gorgeous for little old me,” Sam mumbled.

“Uh, I hate to tell you, but you’re gorgeous too. And that’s coming from me and Jamie,” Kate said seriously. “Up until I met CJ, I had never contemplated it either. I mean, sure, women were beautiful and attractive to me but I never thought about acting on thoughts like that until it overwhelmed me in CJ’s presence. Sometimes it just takes one person…the person…to make you realize what you really want.”

“Wise words, my friend, and I do like her. I’m just a little scared,” Sam said, patting Kate’s hand on the table.

“Well, after you left the party Jamie was pouting so much I thought she might trip over her lip. She told CJ she wanted to ask for your number.”

“She did?”

“Yes, but don’t tell her I told you that unless it all turns out great, then I’ll take the credit,” Kate said wearing an evil grin.

“Uh-huh. So…could you pass my number on to her?”

“That was my next question. And yes, of course I could. I’m sure you’ll hear from her pretty darn fast too. She won’t be able to resist that fiery red hair.”

“Oh, ha-ha-ha,” Sam said as she threw her napkin at Kate and then proceeded to stuff a large scoop of potato salad into her mouth.

Kate just grinned at her as they continued with the rest of their lunch, accompanied by some shoptalk. Little did they know that Jack Bannerman had been observing their interaction from across the cafeteria with a devious, trouble-making smile on his face.

* * * * * *

CJ sat at her desk writing up some final paperwork on the profile she had assisted with in Washington. She had flown out there, given them some help and her expert opinion a series of gruesome murders, and flown back in the space of four days. Getting in to LAX at eight in the morning, she hadn’t managed to catch Kate before she’d left for the studios. CJ had grabbed a quick shower and a coffee before hurrying into the office, arriving there at eleven thirty. A couple of hours later, she’d made a decent dent in her workload. She stretched out her back and yawned just as Assistant Director Mark Mulroney walked in the door. He seemed tense and as he looked at his watch he muttered something CJ couldn’t decipher. Jamie and Ethan looked up and mimicked CJ’s expectant look.

Mark exhaled forcefully. “Right. I want all of you downstairs in the parking garage in five minutes. Call Ryan in. We’ll need him too. We have a kidnapping slash multiple-murder to attend. Here’s the address,” he barked out, throwing a piece of paper on the desk and leaving as quickly as he came in.

CJ was a little startled by his abruptness but began to organize the team. As she grabbed her voice recorder, she automatically checked on her colleagues. “Ethan, grab that bag,” she said, pointing to the nearby cabinet. “Jamie, do you have the camera?”

“Yeah, CJ. Got it,” Jamie replied as she slammed her desk drawer shut. She got to her feet quickly and shot out the door with her colleagues.

All three walked down the corridor, Ethan on his cell phone to Mikey Ryan, and CJ and Jamie talking quietly to one another.

“He wants us all on this?” Jamie asked.

“Seems like it,” CJ replied in a low voice.

“Is that normal for you guys?”

“For us guys…and no, it’s not normal. There’s something he’s not telling us. We’re not usually on the scene for a kidnapping. Yes, it’s a murder too but the cops would deal with that. There’s definitely something else.”

“Well the address is in Bel Air. I guess that’s a priority for starters,” Jamie murmured, reading from the page in her hand. “Charles Davenport.”

“Davenport?” CJ repeated.

“Yeah. Charles Davenport, an international banker, married with kids…two from a previous…” Jamie trailed off.

CJ turned to her as they stood in the elevator. “Kids,” she said quietly. Silence surrounded her as they descended to the parking garage There go my days off, she thought morosely.

Mark was standing beside a dark sedan waiting for them. “Are we all set?”

Ethan spoke up. “Yes, Sir. Ryan will meet us at the scene.”

“OK. Green, Carson, take a separate car and we’ll meet you there. Matthews, you’re with me.”

* * * * * *

On arrival at the Davenport residence, CJ scanned the gardens and exterior of the house as they drove up from the electric gates. She noted the surrounding wall to the property, and while it was not impossible to scale said wall, this area had an ever-present security patrol that would surely have caught someone climbing over it. She nodded to herself, filing that information away for later.

“My God,” Jamie gasped, “this place must be worth about forty million.”

“And the rest,” CJ added. “You ready?”

Jamie nodded and turned to grab the bag from the back seat. They had followed Mark on the way there and his car was just ahead of them in the makeshift parking lot the house’s courtyard had become. The gardens had been taped off and a few cops in white forensic coveralls slowly searched the grounds. Stepping out of the car, CJ looked around her, noticing the amount of police and experts from the various departments, both in and out of the house. VIP treatment, she thought with disgust. She knew that the “average” family murder wouldn’t get this much attention and it made her a little sick at the thought.

They all entered the house after flashing their IDs.

Mark looked around at the various people and walked over to a nearby Lieutenant. “AD Mulroney, FBI,” he said to the well-built cop. “What do we have?”

The Lieutenant sighed and shook Mark’s hand. “Lieutenant Dickson. It ain’t pretty, Assistant Director. If you take about three steps to your left there, you’ll see Mr. Davenport. The two other bodies are upstairs.” Dickson pursed his lips and nodded toward CJ and Jamie. “FBI’s getting better lookin’ huh?” He winked at Mark who grimaced at his words.

CJ glared at Dickson. “Seriously?” she said in a low voice.

He put his hands up. “Sorry. It’s been a long day.”

CJ just snarled at him before she and Jamie took those three steps to their left, leaving Mulroney talking to the Lieutenant. Neither CJ nor Jamie made known the stomach-churning feelings they felt inside when they saw the body, and they walked together towards the taped-off area below it.

Charles Davenport had been displayed, hanging from the ornate, cast iron railing that curved up the grand staircase. His body was hanging from the upper landing section of the railing and was reminiscent of a crucifixion.

CJ analyzed everything she could see. She stood shoulder to shoulder with Jamie and she knew her colleague was doing the same.

Davenport was secured to the railing around his neck, his legs dangling below the floor-line and his hands bent into the curled metal to keep them in place. A long scarf was stretched like a banner from hand to hand across his chest, neatly tied to his fingers. His bare stomach was gauged out leaving a dark and bloody hole in his torso. There was so much blood it was impossible to tell how deep it went. His blood and some of his flesh had fallen onto the plush carpet below to make a very large stain inside the cordoned area.

“This would be part of the “something else” we talked about before. What do you see, Agent?” CJ said in a low, steady voice.

“He’s killed before,” Jamie replied in the same tone.

CJ knew what she was talking about and nodded. “He enjoyed displaying the body. Look how neatly he’s tied the tassels around each finger. And the scarf has been positioned so precisely.”

“He cut the body after he hung him, though,” Jamie said, maintaining a cool, detached attitude as was necessary at these scenes.

“I agree, but what makes you say that? I’m just curious…” CJ spoke quietly, trying to ignore the stench of the slowly stagnating blood.

“Look at the surrounding cuts. They’re so uneven and untidy, leading me to believe he was standing on one of the top steps while he reached over to try to carve the guy post-mortem…and post-positioning. Also, the pieces of flesh on the carpet.”

“Yes, but why make all that work for himself?”

Watching the way CJ scratched through her dark hair in thought, Jamie knew the question didn’t require an answer right now. They walked carefully through the entire lower level of the home. It was overtly luxurious and spotless. The kitchen, living areas, downstairs bathroom, sauna, library, and the dining room were all seemingly untouched except for the cops who were working quietly in every room looking for clues. CJ and Jamie walked into the study and were greeted by a different sight. Papers were strewn all over the desk and floor, and a couple of drawers had been busted open. The drawers must have been locked to require so much force to penetrate them. It looked like someone had been searching for something. The first thing to cross CJ’s mind was that Davenport had been in some trouble – maybe criminal activity – but she didn’t voice the thought since she had no evidence yet. Apart from that, nothing looked unusual.

They headed for the bottom of the staircase, noticing Mark was still standing in the hallway talking with Ethan about the body. CJ nodded almost imperceptibly in approval as she watched Mark talk Ethan through what was probably his first gruesome murder scene.

Just as Jamie put her foot on the bottom step, she saw an officer coming down the stairs. He stopped briefly in front of them and nodded up towards Charles Davenport.

“Ransom demand at the top of the stairs, two bodies in the second bedroom on the right,” he said as he rushed past them, obviously seeing the badges they had pinned to their lapels.

CJ looked at Jamie, and after a nod to one another they ascended the stairs, keeping to the right of yet more tape that spanned the entire length of the iron railing. The ransom demand was pretty obvious once they reached the top. Large letters were scrawled across the wall in blood.

$10 million or they die.

I’ll call you.

The first thing that swam though CJ’s mind was slight puzzlement. “They” were already dead. It was assumed that he had taken the wife as a hostage, but was there more to this? She hadn’t had a chance to look at the initial file due to her being the driver on their way here. “I’ll be right back,” she said as she turned to head down to the car.

“Agent Carson,” Jamie called to maintain their professional roles at the crime scene.

CJ stopped at the top of the stairs. “Yes?”

“I think the killer has the wife and two other kids, if that’s what you were gonna check…”

CJ came back to stand next to her colleague. “How do you know?”

Jamie spotted a family photo on a table in the upper hallway. “The file said four kids, two from a previous marriage, and I’m assuming that’s a family shot,” she said, pointing to the picture.

CJ nodded as they went to look at the photo encased in an expensive-looking frame. Crouching down, she viewed the idyllic scene. Charles Davenport was sitting with his wife, two sons, and two daughters around a big table adorned with brightly-colored plates of food. It looked like a birthday celebration, and CJ couldn’t believe the smiling man in the photo was the same man who now hung dead not fifteen feet away from her.

“Let’s go,” she said as she headed for the second bedroom.

As they walked through the door they saw two officers standing guard in front of a closet door. The room was decorated in colorful children’s wallpaper which was now partially covered in blood spatter. Was the father killed in here trying to protect his children? CJ’s gut was heaving from the horrid anticipation of what she might see. The officers saw the women approach and stepped aside slightly, leaving the contents of the closet open to view.

On the floor, just inside the doors, lay two boys.

CJ and Jamie maintained their professional exterior but their eyes said it all. It was a devastating sight. The two small bodies had been shot. They looked like they could have been asleep were it not for the one visible, bloody wound.

CJ kept her emotions at bay by going into full-blown agent mode. She cocked her head to the officer on her right. “Who are they?” she croaked, then coughed to clear her throat.

“Uh.” He flipped open his notebook. “On the right is Simon Davenport, ten years old…on the left, Craig Davenport, seven years old. Both shot and placed in here post-mortem, we believe.”

CJ nodded slowly. “Thanks.”

As much as she didn’t want to do it, she had to look the bodies over. Things just didn’t add up for CJ. The father was carefully placed and quite dramatically displayed. It must have taken the killer a reasonable amount of time to do all that, and a lot of brute strength would be needed to lift Mr. Davenport into position. Yet here were the two sons, shot and stuffed into a closet. It seemed hurried and sloppy in comparison.

CJ looked more closely while emphatically separating herself from the fact that she was looking at two dead children. She pulled a latex glove from her pocket and snapped it on. Tugging on the little football top slightly, she could see the hidden wound on Craig’s body. “Only one gunshot wound each?” she asked the same offcier.

“Yes, ma’am.”

She brought her un-gloved hand to her mouth but quickly changed her pose to rubbing her chin in thought. In truth, she wanted to throw up.

Jamie crouched down next to her, her face a tight and rigid mask. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“That it doesn’t make sense?” CJ whispered.

“Yeah.”

“It’s like the killer wasn’t expecting to deal with two kids…”

“That’s what I get from it. The father is arranged as if this guy is an experienced serial killer, but these,” Jamie said, gesturing toward the boys, “are not.”

“We’ll talk at the office, OK?”

“Sure.”

CJ stood up and turned to the officer again. “No nanny or housekeeper at home when this happened?”

He shook his head. “No. Just the father and two boys from what we can tell. No staff at all.”

“Who called it in?”

“Their regular mailman found the door open when he tried to deliver a package. He’s been delivering mail here for the past twenty years and had the code to the gates.”

“Is he a suspect?”

“I don’t think so, ma’am. He’s sixty-two years old and almost had a heart attack when he found Davenport. He called 911 immediately from the phone downstairs. He also said he wants to help in any way,” the cop replied, checking his notebook for any other details. “He called the deceased Charlie, so I think he knew the family. Thankfully, he didn’t go upstairs and see the boys.”

“OK, thanks,” CJ replied as Jamie stood beside her and noted the information down.

Both agents continued with their investigation of the crime scenes, getting as much information as they could and taking the photographs they needed. CJ knew the crime scene photographer would get all the official shots, but they never took pictures of the things she needed to help her profile the killer. It was a quirk very personal to her, to help her create the murderer in her mind. When they were done, they met Mark in the hallway where the relevant people were beginning to try and remove Charles Davenport from the railings.

“You OK, Agents?”

“Yes, Sir, but I have a lot of questions…and a lot of work to do,” CJ replied thoughtfully.

Jamie nodded in agreement, and Mark looked at them approvingly. He was very proud of his small team.

“I sent Matthews and Ryan out to canvass the area. We need as much information on this family as we can get. I want us all to meet back at the office, and before this thing touches paper, I need us to discuss everything we’ve learned today. Agent Carson, I need you leading on this, but the whole team will be available to help you.”

CJ nodded and turned to look at the banker’s body. “What do you think of the scarf, Sir? Why did the killer take the time to tie it on there?” she asked, wanting to hear her boss’s take on it.

“Not sure,” Mark replied thoughtfully. “Whose scarf it is could be significant.”

“Good point. But still, some things don’t add up. Hopefully forensics will turn something up…and I need to do some digging.”

* * * * * *

Sitting at her desk a few hours later, CJ held her forehead in her left hand and tapped on the smooth surface with a pen in the other. As she scribbled out her thoughts, a mug full of coffee was placed next to her, and she grunted a thank you of sorts to Jamie.

With a small grin on her face, Jamie sat down on the opposite side of CJ’s desk and leaned forward on her elbows. “Want to brainstorm?”

Without moving her head, CJ lifted her eyes to look at her colleague. “I think so. I’m not making sense on paper. It’ll help when Ethan and Mikey get back though. I bet they found out a thing or two,” she said, finally moving from her pose to take a slurp of her hot beverage.

“OK. What were your thoughts when you saw Charles Davenport?”

“When we went up those stairs, I got confused as to why there was a ransom. The way his body was displayed suggests a serial killer at first…a very experienced serial killer, so the ransom didn’t quite fit. But if he’s as prolific as I suspect he is, how the hell is he still out there doing it?”

Jamie could see the frustration and a tinge of anger in CJ’s eyes. “If he’s as you suspect, he knows how to get away with it. I think we need to look through unsolved cases.”

“Already on it. That’s what I was talkin’ to Neeson about earlier. He’s looking them all up and sending them to me…checking for any matching MO’s or markers.”

“Great. So, the positioning of Davenport’s body. I’m thinking-”

Mark walked in, effectively silencing Jamie mid-sentence. He pulled up a chair and joined the women around CJ’s desk. “Ethan and Mikey are five minutes out. Once they get here we can get started on putting all this together. Hideous crime scene, huh?” he said, following it with a deep sigh.

“Worst one I’ve seen so far, Sir,” Jamie replied.

CJ picked up the phone handset and dialed a number. “I’m just gonna let Kate know I’ll be late tonight,” she said, by way of explanation.

A few rings later, Kate answered her cell phone. “Hello?”

“Hi, Katie, it’s me.”

“Hey. I have your office number stored but I wanted to be sure. Hi, honey. I miss you so bad. How are you?” Kate asked, feeling quite excited to hear CJ’s voice.

“I miss you too…” At this point, CJ knew it was a bad day at the office when Jamie didn’t even look up to tease her. “I’m sorry I didn’t call earlier. I figured you’d be busy on set, then we got a really bad case this afternoon. I’m gonna be late tonight. Sorry, Katie.”

“It’s OK. I got your text this morning. I’ll be up when you get home though. I love you.”

CJ knew that Kate could sense her mood. Her wife was so in tune with her, it bewildered her at times. “Thanks, Katie, but I might be really late. You don’t need to wait up.”

“I’ll see you later then. Please be careful, CJ.”

“Always. Oh, and I love you too…a lot. Bye, Katie,” CJ whispered into the handset, receiving a genuine smile from Mark.

“Bye.”

CJ hung up the phone and sighed. Jamie and Mark remained silent, looking as drained by the day’s events as she felt. A few moments later, Ethan and Mikey came in and headed straight for the coffee machine. Once they settled round CJ’s desk, they all began organizing their notes.

“OK,” Mark prompted. “What do we have?”

Ethan put his finger in the air since he was mid-coffee-gulp, and after he swallowed it he looked at Mark. “We spoke to the neighbor…a Mrs. Angela Ward…and found out a ton of information. She pretty much knew the Davenport schedule for the day because she went to a preschoolers play-date with Mrs. Sheila Davenport and the girls. The two daughters, Shannon and Lucy, are four and two years old respectively. She says that when Sheila left this morning around ten, Charles was left at home on his own.”

Ethan flipped the page in his notebook. “She says he had a conference call and would probably be in his home office for that. Anyway, she told us the boys were visiting their father as he and his first wife have joint custody, and they come to stay with him sometimes. The boys have a karate class on a Saturday morning, so that’s where they should have been. She thinks the karate takes place over at the local sports center.” He paused again and drew an asterisk at that part of the page. “I’ll check out that lead first. I want to know why the boys were home.” He chewed on the end of his pen while the other agents waited patiently. “Angela also says that Sheila told her the pest control guy was coming over again as they seemed to have an infestation problem. Angela showed some confusion there…might be worth looking into the pest control firm.”

CJ was forming a mental image of the whole scenario in her head. What Ethan was saying made sense. For some reason, the boys had come home early. Mrs. Davenport wouldn’t have known about their presence and so wouldn’t have told her friend about that. It didn’t explain why the killer was so haphazard about their murders though.

“Anything else?” Mark asked Ethan.

“Not yet, but I did say to Angela that I’d be back. She was quite distraught. What do you guys think?”

Jamie waved her hand in the air before she spoke up. “CJ and I were trying to figure out why the father was so carefully presented and the boys were hidden away. It just doesn’t add up. And also, why did the killer not just hold the whole family to ransom in the house if he only wanted money? I’m working on a theory, but I need more facts first.”

The others nodded in agreement, and after a quick look over the various information they had already, they began to discuss Mr. Davenport. After exchanging their opinions on the state of the body, silence descended for a moment.

“What’s bothering me,” CJ said, “is that it looks like the killer didn’t expect the boys to be home, meaning he wasn’t watching the house or he would’ve known they’d returned. It’s like he knew…or was told that Davenport would be alone. And where was the staff? People who have money and houses like that would surely at least have a maid. What also bothers me is did the killer take Mrs. Davenport from the house? Did she return home after the play-date? We still have no clue how he came to have her as a hostage, and why he killed the boys but not the girls.”

CJ paused to scratch her head and gather her thoughts. “There’s no sign of a struggle or a disturbance other than the obvious murder scenes and in the office, which is another thing. When I saw the state of the desk I immediately thought somebody was searching for something, but was there some criminal activity going on? Was Mr. Davenport in some kind of trouble? And…” CJ paused again, and everyone remained poised to hear what else she had to say. “You know what bothers me the most?” she looked up at the focused faces waiting for what bothered her the most. “How the killer got in to the property undetected. Did you see the height of the walls and those gates? There was no smashed window, no forced entry, and there are patrol cars driving around that neighborhood all the time. We saw three security vehicles on our way in.”

“We did too. I wonder if Mr. Davenport knew his killer,” Ethan said.

Mark nodded beside him as he tapped a pencil against his bottom lip. “What we need to do is get as much investigation done as possible into the Davenports while we wait for the killer to contact the police. I told them to call me immediately when he does. When that happens,” he said turning to Ethan, “I want you and Mikey to go to the Incident Room and remain there. I need you to report back to me at regular intervals.”

“Yes, Sir,” both men said in unison.

“I’ll chase up the forensics and autopsy teams tomorrow, Sir,” Mikey added.

“Good.”

“Um…”

The sound came from CJ, and Mark looked at her questioningly. “Yes?”

“Sir, I should be the one on the phone with this guy. Maybe then I could get a sense of what’s really going on with him.”

“Well the cops say they have everything set up and they expect him to call the police, not the FBI. If the killer calls here, you’ll deal with it. If he calls the cops, they’ll have to take the initial contact. Unfortunately we have to wait. He’s gonna call us, remember? We have no idea who this killer is right now. Hopefully he left some DNA at the scene. I know we’ll figure it out, guys. I have complete confidence in you all.”

“Thanks,” CJ said for the group.

Jamie looked at CJ and realized that her friend had been awake since the previous morning. “CJ, do you want me to take shift tonight? You could get some sleep.”

CJ looked at Mark before she formulated an answer.

“Good idea,” Mark said, knowing CJ would try to stay on the case. “You’ve been going since yesterday, CJ. I need you alert and fresh, and until this guy calls us and maybe gives us a fix on his location, we can’t go after him. We can handle it for now, so go home and get some shut-eye. That’s an order.”

“I’ll finish up my report and go home this evening. I need to find out some stuff first, or I won’t be able to sleep anyway.”

“Fair enough. Come see me before you leave,” Mark said as he got up from his chair.

After the AD left, the agents all got their heads down and wrote up their reports, organizing the information they had collected individually. Once they had done that, it would be merged into one file.

CJ couldn’t get the images of the boys out of her head. She was trying to get into the mind of this killer, but it kept pulling her back to how this guy could shoot two children in cold blood. She had dealt with more than a few serial killers in her time with the FBI – and plenty of crime scenes, some of them extremely grotesque and bloody – but dealing with children at a murder scene was very upsetting, and it affected her more than she’d thought it would. She forced herself to focus back on her report and hoped this killer could be brought to justice sooner rather than later.

.

Chapter 4

CJ rubbed her tired eyes as she got out of her truck and entered the darkened house. Kamali lifted his head sleepily, recognizing his owner’s vehicle and footfalls as she came in.

“Hey boy,” she whispered.

He flopped back down on his bed, and CJ headed for the kitchen. Opening the fridge, she narrowed her eyes at the harsh light from within. She popped the lid off the milk carton and took a few gulps, realizing that Kate always hated when she did it but she was dog-tired and didn’t want to waste time or energy finding a glass.

Rubbing her eyes again, she crossed the hallway and headed for the stairs. Her mind was still whizzing, trying to figure out what was in the killer’s head and what his motive was…if he had even one. They all have one, she said to herself as she absently lifted one foot in front of the other. She had checked with the security firm, and after a few hours of them passing her around to various people, she found out that nobody had seen Mrs. Davenport since she had left that morning. So did the killer take her from the street before she returned home? Was he lying in wait? Was he just in it for the killing and the power? Maybe he was in it for money, so why not take the boys as hostages too? Why kill them? And why did he not kill the girls? More to the point, where were the girls? She was still deep in thought when she walked into the bedroom and suddenly looked up from the floor when she realized there was a light on.

“Hey, you,” Kate said from the bed, putting down her book.

CJ paused for a moment, as if trying to return from the dark place her mind was heading to. “Hey. Why are you still up? It’s…” CJ looked at her watch, “one thirty!” Her not working late plan had backfired when she found some information she just had to follow up on.

“I know, but I also know your day was really rough and I wanted to be here for you.”

“Oh, Katie,” CJ said as she stumbled forward to the bed and sat down.

Kate immediately moved to her side to wrap her arms around her wife’s neck. CJ remained tense and didn’t return the hug which made Kate worry about the shifting moods. “What’s wrong, CJ?”

“I…I need to wash. Don’t touch me yet,” CJ replied as she moved away again.

Kate was a little hurt and confused. “CJ…please talk to me.”

CJ turned around on her way to the en suite. She saw Kate’s pained expression, and closed her eyes while she formulated a softer response. “I will. Just let me clean today off me, OK?”

“OK,” Kate said quietly.

CJ disappeared into the bathroom, and Kate soon heard the water falling from the showerhead. She was a little concerned. CJ had never had to “clean the day off” her before.

“Musta been a really bad day,” Kate muttered. She got up and drew back the covers to prepare the bed for their return. She moved her book to the nightstand and went into the en suite to pee. She didn’t say anything to CJ who was now standing under the hot water, facing the tiled wall, but once she’d finished she paused before flushing the toilet.

“CJ, could you, uh, flush this before you come to bed?” Kate asked since she didn’t want to affect the water temperature.

Inside the shower cubicle, CJ smiled briefly and then frowned at the fact she’d smiled. “How do you do that?”

“Huh?”

“Nothing. Yes, I’ll flush.”

Kate left the room wondering if her wife was losing her mind. She sat on the edge of the bed and pulled at her bottom lip as she thought furiously of a way to help CJ talk about her day. That’s how CJ found her when she eventually emerged from the bathroom, completely naked, hair dried and her skin flushed pink from the steaming water.

Kate didn’t look up, and CJ knew that her wife would be worried about her strange behavior. She watched Kate as she sat there pensively, her eyes fixed on the carpet and her toes wriggling unconsciously into the deep pile. Kate was wearing her favorite T-shirt and a pair of soft, girlie shorts. She looked absolutely adorable. CJ knew that the inside matched the outside. Kate was an incredible woman, and CJ wondered how she had ever managed to do her job without the support of this beautiful soul in her life. She crossed the space between them, and Kate looked up to almost choke at the sight before her.

“C’mon,” CJ said, “bedtime.”

Kate stood up in front of her. She wanted and needed to feel CJ’s skin on hers so she removed her clothes before climbing into the bed. CJ followed, and once they were settled she scooped Kate into her arms and reveled in the feel of Kate’s heart beating next to her own. Just holding Kate brought her back to herself a little, and for a split second she forgot the horrifying crime scene. She closed her eyes for a second, and it came flooding back, the boys faces seemingly printed onto her eyelids. She tensed in response to the vision and the relaxing feeling vanished.

“Talk to me, please, honey,” Kate whispered, tightening her hold around CJ’s torso.

“I don’t think I can.”

“Why not?”

“I…it was so awful. I don’t want you to hear-”

“CJ, please tell me about your day. I can handle it. You know I can,” Kate pleaded.

“It was a triple murder, honey. Not something you want to have described to you.”

“I don’t mind you describing anything to me if it helps you to relax a little.”

CJ sighed. “I’m not going to win this one, am I?”

“When do you ever win?”

“Good point. Are you sure you want me to talk about this?” CJ asked, giving her determined wife a final chance to opt out.

“Yes. Tell me.”

“OK. Like I said, it was a triple murder. A banker and…”

CJ fell silent already, and Kate had to prompt her to continue. “And…?”

“His two sons.”

Kate lifted her head to look at CJ in the dim illumination. “How old?”

CJ knew Kate would pick up on everything so she decided not to mess around. “Seven and ten years old.”

“Oh no.” A few tears sprang to Kate’s eyes.

“See? This is why I didn’t want to-”

“Don’t, CJ. I want to know. I need to share these things with you. For better or worse, remember? This is the worse. Tell me more and maybe I can help somehow.”

CJ thought back to the bank robbery they had been caught up in a few months back and remembered what happened when she tried to cut Kate off from her to do her job. That thought seemed to open the floodgates, and CJ told her everything that had happened, only leaving out the really graphic details. Kate held it together, as CJ knew she would, but by the end of it they were both shedding tears, although CJ suspected Kate’s tears were partly for what she had gone through while processing the crime scene.

Sniffing loudly, Kate moved out of CJ’s embrace and went to the bathroom, returning almost immediately with a long piece of toilet paper that she tore in half. She handed one piece to CJ and climbed back in the bed.

Snuggling up beside her again, Kate stifled a yawn. “You must be so tired. Can you try and get some sleep now?”

“With you around, yes.”

“Will you wake me if you can’t sleep? Please?”

“OK,” CJ said quietly and she enveloped Kate in her arms. She reached over to turn off the light and felt Kate tighten her hold.

“I really missed you, you know,” Kate whispered.

“I missed you too. It’s been a busy week and as soon as I file this case, I’m taking some time off. Maybe we could actually spend a whole day together.”

“Yeah, it’s been pretty hectic recently. Just stay close to me, CJ.”

CJ knew exactly what Kate meant. “I will, Katie. I promise.”

* * * * * *

It was so noisy. The wind was blowing hard through her long hair as she moved quickly through the trees. Suddenly she was at a precipice and lightning bolts passed close to her head as the ground fell away from her feet. She was falling. She looked to her right, and CJ was falling with her. Fear filled her body until she couldn’t focus anymore. An instant later, she was lying on the sand and she couldn’t move. The sounds of the ocean crashed over her mind. CJ stood over her wailing and crying.

“I’m not dead, CJ,” she shouted. But it was no use. Her voice was only inside her head, and CJ couldn’t hear her. The pain on CJ’s features ripped Kate’s heart from her chest.

Kate woke up in a sweat, her heart thumping so fast she thought she might pass out again. Reaching over automatically to search for her wife, she found nothing but cold sheets. She opened her eyes and a flood of unshed tears ran down her face and onto her pillow. “Well that’s new,” she mumbled to herself.

She sat up and rubbed her eyes, noting from the clock on the nightstand that it was ten in the morning. She hadn’t had nightmares for a long time and she couldn’t remember a single one since she’d met CJ. Kate sat to ponder it for a few minutes before deciding that it was probably down to CJ’s case and that fact that Kate was worried about her drifting away from while trying to solve it.

She sighed heavily and shuffled into the bathroom. After turning on the shower, she dealt with a couple of biological necessities before looking at her reflection in the mirror. “Ugh. I’m so glad I have some time off…finally,” she grumbled, pulling at the dark circles under her eyes that were usually covered in makeup. Once she was adequately clothes and had consumed a light breakfast, she took Kamali out for a walk, and then fed, groomed and pampered the horses.

A couple of hours later she sat in the house drinking tea while pondering her dream. She couldn’t shake the distraught expression on CJ’s face and the fact that she herself had been paralyzed. It was an unsettling vision and had felt so real, but she put it down to feeling so helpless when CJ had to attend horrid crime scenes and she couldn’t be there to support her. She supposed that, even if she was an agent and somehow could be there, it wouldn’t be any easier anyway. They’d both be feeling the effects of such a difficult job. She stopped her musings when she reached the bottom of her mug. Sighing heavily, she got up and walked over to the window seat in the kitchen, snagging her cell phone on her way. After receiving a text message back from CJ saying she was available to talk, she dialed the familiar number of CJ’s Bureau extension.

* * * * * *

CJ stood waiting for the machine to dispense her coffee. On her way back to her desk, she saw Jamie getting up to answer the ringing phone on her desk. “I’ll get it, Jamie. Here, take your coffee,” she said, handing a mug to her colleague. “I’ll bet it’s Kate on the phone anyway.”

“Thanks, CJ,” Jamie said, settling back into her seat and sipping on her bitter drink.

CJ slumped down at her desk and picked up the phone. “Special Agent Carson.”

“Hi, honey.”

“Hi, Katie. What are you up to today?”

“Not much at the moment. Just thinking of you, so I thought I’d see how you were coping.”

“I’m OK. We’re waiting for a second call from the killer.”

“He called today?” Kate asked, feeling the need to know everything in order to help somehow.

CJ looked up from her desk to double-check only Jamie was present in the room and the door was closed. “Yeah. He only called to let the cops know that he has Mrs. Davenport and the two daughters. He cut off pretty quick before they could trace the call…told them he’d call back with the details of his demands.”

“Damn,” Kate said, “he seems to know what he’s doing where calling the cops is concerned, huh? I was thinking about what you told me last night, and something doesn’t feel right about this.”

Despite everything, CJ smiled. “Oh, Agent Carson? Care to elaborate?”

“Quit that. I’m not an agent,” Kate muttered.

“Tiny formality. You have an agent’s brain,” CJ said, still curious about Kate’s feelings on the case. She hadn’t told her about her own suspicions, just the facts about the crime. “What feels weird about it, Katie?”

“I’m not sure. It’s just a feeling. Could you, uh, bring the case file home?” Kate asked hopefully.

CJ bit back her initial protective response. “I could if I actually get home in the next few days.”

“Well I’d like to look at it but it’s up to you. Just please call me if you need me, or if you need a little distraction for a few minutes, OK?”

“Of course I will.”

“Have you had lunch yet?” Kate said, concerned that CJ would just work and consume coffee all day.

“Uh, no, I haven’t had time to eat yet.”

“Please try and have something, CJ. Take care of yourself or I’ll have to come do it for you.”

“Yes, dear.”

“I’m serious. Please?”

“OK,” CJ said in surrender. “I will. I gotta go, Katie. I’ll get home as soon as I can.”

“OK. I love you. Talk to you later.”

“Love you too. Bye.” CJ hung up the phone and turned to Jamie who was wagging her finger back and forth.

“Listen to her, CJ. She knows what she’s talking about.”

“Oh, you be quiet. You don’t have to side with her. She can’t hear you,” CJ grumbled.

“That’s not why I said it. I’m serious. I had this case once that took over so much I forgot to make time to eat. I almost passed out while driving. Your body needs fuel while working these things. The hours pass without you noticing it,” Jamie chastised.

“Who are you? My mother?” CJ said, flinching because she never usually mentioned her mother to people.

Jamie caught the flinch and saw the pain flashing in CJ’s eyes. Even though she wasn’t sure why it happened, she softened her voice. “Hey, I care about you, remember? Did you even eat breakfast this morning?”

CJ dropped her head. “No. I couldn’t sleep and eventually got up at five. I wasn’t hungry before I left.”

Jamie let the conversation drop, sensing stress and sadness warring within her friend. CJ got up a short time later to go to the restrooms, and Jamie got straight on the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Kate?”

“Yes?”

“It’s Jamie. I need to be real quick. Could you come over to our office and bring a lunch for CJ?” she asked, knowing she was meddling but not caring in the slightest.

“Uh, yes, you read my mind. I’m on my way out the door. Is she all right?”

“Well, yes but she didn’t have breakfast, and I’m grassing her in because I care about her.”

“Is she really coping, Jamie? She says she is, but I’m not so sure,” Kate said. She was worried that CJ was trying to protect her from everything as usual.

“She’s coping, Kate, but her mood is hit and miss here at the office. She lights up every time she talks about you so it would be good for her if you popped in with a sandwich or something.”

“OK. I’ll leave now. I’ll bring you something too. I bet you didn’t eat either.”

Jamie winced. “Uh, no, but at least I had breakfast.”

“Uh-huh. I’ll see you both soon. Bye.”

“Bye, Kate,” Jamie said and hung up the call just in time as CJ came back through the door.

CJ sat down at her desk and got back to work, and Jamie took note of the permanent little frown on her friend’s brow. She knew that, even though CJ could cope with a lot, she’d do it a lot better if she would fully accept her wife’s support.

Well, I can act as go-between to make sure she does, Jamie plotted silently.

She knew CJ got into the killer’s mind. She knew that’s why this particular agent was one of the best in the Bureau, especially at profiling murderers. CJ had already decided that the scarf the killer had used was most likely significant to something from his past. It had nothing to do with Davenport. When CJ had called Neeson about searching for files, she had told him the scarf would be a common factor in possible previous murders, and she’d been right. Four more unsolved cases had appeared, and all of them had the scarf in the same formation, displayed like a declaration over the body although the body positioning was different each time. Jamie had come to realize she had to trust CJ’s judgment because even though she had been with the Bureau for years, she could still learn a thing or two from her work partner’s intellect and natural ability to profile some of the craziest people in the world. She just wondered how much damage CJ’s getting so close to the mind of this killer could do…and at what cost.

* * * * * *

Approximately fifty minutes later, Kate arrived at the FBI’s Los Angeles field office and hoped that CJ hadn’t been called away for anything in the meantime. As she approached the security guard, he stood up and smiled at her.

“Hello, ma’am. How can I help you?”

Not wanting to alert CJ to her presence and allow her to prepare a fake façade for her wife, she decided to ask for Mark. “Hi there, I’d like to see Assistant Director Mark Mulroney. Could you call him?”

“OK. Who should I say is here?”

“Kate Carson.”

“Hold on please,” the guard said, checking his extension list and dialing.

A few minutes later, Kate was headed through the corridors with a visitor’s pass on her jacket. Mark had told the guard to let her in straight away and said he would meet up with her in CJ’s office. When she got to the office, the door was open and she could see both women working away at their desks. CJ was on the phone, holding her head with her free hand. Kate thought she looked drained, and CJ’s dark eyebrows were crinkled with tension. Jamie looked up and smiled silently as Kate walked in the door.

CJ was still listening to the person on the other end of the phone and was now pinching the bridge of her nose with her thumb and forefinger, her eyes squeezed shut as if she had a headache. When she opened them again, she lifted her head and saw Kate standing there. CJ’s face completely changed, lighting up with some kind of hope and relief, although the tight lines between her eyebrows remained. Kate could now see she was incredibly tired and pale already, and it worried her greatly.

CJ smiled and raised her hand in a tiny wave, then pointed to the phone. Kate nodded before moving toward Jamie to give the agent her lunch.

“Hey,” she whispered to Jamie, “I hope you like chicken Caesar salad?”

“Love it. Thanks, Kate.”

Kate put the salad and a decent coffee down on Jamie’s desk, and she accepted it gratefully, taking the lid off the cup and savoring it with a deep inhalation. The office coffee machine just didn’t compare.

CJ finally finished her call and turned to the two blondes, her face full of questions.

“Hi,” Kate said, as she walked over to place a quick kiss on CJ’s forehead. Putting the food down on the desk, she pulled up a chair. “Eat some lunch. No argument.”

CJ just looked at her, then to Jamie, and then back at Kate again. “Is that an order, Assistant Director Carson?” she deadpanned.

“Yes. And thank you for the promotion,” Kate said, munching on her salad. “Tuck in…” she added around her mouthful of greens.

CJ looked baffled but did as she was told. Kate glanced up at the wall behind the office door and froze mid-munch. The wall was covered in the photos from the crime scene and her face contorted a little. CJ noticed her expression and sighed.

“Sorry, Katie. If I’d known you were going to be here, I would’ve covered that.”

“No. I don’t want you to cover it. It just caught me off guard. I don’t want you to cover or hide anything from me, CJ, no matter how horrid it is,” Kate stated emphatically, looking at CJ and conveying so much with the intense look. “Anything, OK?”

CJ was stunned at how much information her wife had just communicated to her. She knew what Kate meant on every level but could she do it? It was so hard to let anyone into her mind when she was on a case like this. Of course, she had never had anyone care so much about her before either. “I’ll try.”

“That’s all I ask. Now let’s eat our lunch.”

Jamie was observing all this and knew without a doubt that CJ would be fine if she just stayed close to her strong wife. She was quite astounded by the power Kate had over CJ but she also knew that Kate would never abuse that power. Jamie had never seen a relationship like the one playing itself out in front of her right now. It was almost a communication beyond comprehension. Yes, Kate would keep the darkness from taking hold. Jamie was sure of it. But she also knew that most of the pressure was on CJ as she was leading this investigation, and she was aware that her friend was sensitive under that cool, tough, professional exterior. She decided that she’d keep a close eye on CJ’s mood when Kate wasn’t around. Because that’s what friends do.

* * * * * *

All three women finished eating and sipped their coffees quietly until Mark popped his head around the doorframe and smiled when he saw that he hadn’t missed Kate’s visit.

“Hello, agents,” he smiled at Kate and looked at his team with one of those sympathetic head-tilts.

“Hi, Mark. Thanks for letting me in,” Kate said with a corresponding all-knowing smile.

“Of course I’d let you in. Have you come to sign up?” he replied with a hopeful wink.

Kate snorted. “Not officially, no.”

“Shame. CJ, can’t you talk her into it?”

CJ shook her head. “That’s your job, Sir. But it’ll be a tough one since she’s stubborn as a mule.”

Kate pursed her lips and decided that comment deserved a slap on the shoulder, which she proceeded to give to CJ. Mark smiled again, but Kate could see the strain. She could see it on all three faces and wished she could help somehow.

As if he had read her mind, Mark turned to the wall behind him. “Do we have anything new on this?” he asked, spinning back around to face his team.

CJ nodded. “Yes, Sir, but um…” she paused and stole a glimpse at Kate.

“Spit it out, agent,” Mark said, knowing what her problem was.

CJ received a warning look from Kate and decided she’d better just get on with it. “I was checking up on the staff situation at the Davenport residence. Apparently the nanny was the one who took the boys to their karate class, but she was told to go home after that by Mrs. Davenport since she usually doesn’t work weekends. The maid should have been at the house. We haven’t tracked her down yet,” CJ said, noticing her wife getting comfy on a nearby chair.

To her surprise, Mark closed the door and sat down too. “Have you let Kate look at this yet?”

“Um…” CJ frowned.

“It’s OK, CJ,” Kate responded. “Mark, I’d like to look at it. I actually asked CJ today and I think she almost gave in, but I know it’s really none of my business and she’s also trying to protect me.” Kate expected CJ to be angry at what she’d said but when she looked at her, CJ just continued to stare at her desk. She looked so lost. Kate knew she was in there somewhere, but she could feel her getting further away with every passing hour.

“Well you can see the horrifying facts on this wall. Maybe you could, you know, see what you come up with?” Mark suggested.

“I’d like to help,” Kate said quietly.

CJ suddenly broke from her daze and put her hand on Kate’s arm. Kate was concerned about her spouse’s changes in mood when she saw CJ smiling at her.

“I have a strong suspicion about something relating to this case. It’s just a gut feeling at this point. I’d like to see if that’s what you were talking about on the phone. You know, you said something didn’t feel right? Maybe you could tell me what that is once you look over this,” CJ said, pushing the file over to Kate who nodded and took it from the desktop.

Mark said his good-byes and closed the door firmly behind him when he left, not wanting to acknowledge the fact that he liked having his non-FBI federal agent around. He supposed he could get in some serious trouble for allowing Kate into the office, but she was such an intelligent mind and he was able to explain it away to anyone by saying that she was CJ’s wife and had just popped in for a visit. But what was more important was that he trusted Kate more than some of the other agents in the building. That sad thought followed him all the way back to his office.

As Kate flicked through the information, she almost cried at the description of the crime scenes. She got to the part about the pest controller being called that morning. CJ had added information about previous visits from the firm, and Kate stopped to turn back a few pages to the statement from the neighbor.

She brought her hand up to her bottom lip and squeezed it as she thought. Then she stood up and went to the wall of photos. She looked at Charles Davenport’s body, and then at the boys. A tear sprung to her eye automatically but she wasn’t crying. It was just so heartbreaking. The facts played heavily on Kate’s mind. From the small drops of blood found on the carpets, it seemed Charles had indeed made his way into his son’s room to try to protect him and his brother, even after he had been shot once. Kate could only imagine the panic and fear going through the father and his sons. She blinked away the moisture and gathered her thoughts into some kind of order. “CJ?”

“Yeah?”

“Could you come over here for a second?” Kate asked quietly.

CJ got up from her desk and walked over to stand next to her wife. “You OK?”

“Yes, honey. I wanted to know if you found out who called the pest control firm each time.”

“I’m not sure yet. They’re pulling the phone records for me. Why?” CJ said, watching Kate closely.

“I think Mrs. Davenport is involved.”

Stated so plainly, CJ just stared at Kate and knew that they were seeing the same indicators. “Why do you say that?”

Jamie had heard what Kate said and joined them at the wall of photos.

“Let me think for a second,” Kate sighed and began to tap her finger on her chin. “I looked over everything…the security at the house, the pest control being called, and the fact that there was no break in. Then I looked at this statement from Angela Ward. She seems to think they have a regular infestation, like it’s been going on for a long time. Then…” She paused and looked up at the wall, “The way the father is hung like the killer was proud of it, but the boys were almost an afterthought…” Kate faltered when she looked at the photos again.

CJ put her hand on Kate’s shoulder. She felt so much love for Kate, but she couldn’t seem to show it right now. There was too much horror here, and she couldn’t divide the nightmares in her head or let them seep into her personal life. She realized then that she was separating herself from Kate again, but she didn’t know how to do this any other way. “Go on,” was all she could say.

“Well, you guys said that you believed the killer wasn’t expecting the two boys to be there and that’s why they were so carelessly killed in comparison, right?”

Jamie saw CJ struggling – with what, she didn’t know – so she answered for her. “Yes, Kate.”

“So Mrs. Davenport would have thought the boys were at their class and that the nanny was off duty. The boys left for the class at nine thirty according to this,” she said, shaking the file slightly, “and Sheila left at ten o’clock. But the boys came back at 11am because they shut down the sports center due to a burst water main. I just keep thinking Sheila told the killer that her husband would be there alone and gave the guy access to the house too. If she was the one calling the pest control all the time, maybe she was having an affair with someone there. Maybe Charles had found out? And I bet she told the maid to take the day off too.”

Jamie stood with her mouth slightly agape, but CJ just nodded thoughtfully while they all processed the likelihood of that scenario.

Jamie was the first to break the silence. “I had thought Sheila was involved, what with the lack of any evidence of her abduction, but I never considered her having an affair with the killer.”

CJ agreed with them both. “I thought she was involved too. I think she planned to have her husband killed for insurance money. Your theory is definitely sound, Katie. I’m guessing Charles would’ve had a prenuptial agreement drawn up before they married. Maybe she just wants his money and her affair.”

Kate noted the monotone voice and the faraway look in CJ’s unusually dull eyes, but she was continuing to call her Katie so somehow Kate knew her wife was still with her…for now. “That could also be why he didn’t kill the girls. Maybe he has his family with him,” she said as she watched CJ closely.

“Even though I think he’s definitely killed before, I don’t think he wanted to kill the kids. I’ve requested medical records for the two daughters. You really do think like an agent, Katie.”

Kate sighed at CJ’s expressionless face and squeezed her arm in acknowledgement.

Jamie stood there nodding and thinking until her head suddenly sprung to attention. “If we think this guy is an experienced killer…in fact, we pretty much know he’s killed before…do you think Sheila knows that?”

CJ shook her head. “The file for the first murder that matches this killer’s MO was six years ago, the last one, two years ago. She may not know. Killers like this hide their work very well. He could just be the pest control guy she was fucking. She gets pregnant and for some reason, continues to have the affair. She decides to off her husband and figures her lover has the personality and the balls to do it. But Katie could be right. The girls could be his. I hope we get DNA from the scene.”

Kate worried a little more with every moment that passed. CJ was using derogatory language. Of course, maybe she talked like that at work, but Kate seriously doubted it. CJ was so articulate and certainly never needed profanity to express herself in the past. Kate wasn’t sure what else to do other than what she was currently doing: staying as emotionally close to her spouse as she could.

Mikey came back from his investigations, and Kate took that as her cue to leave. Hugging CJ briefly, they said their farewells before Kate scuttled out the door. As she walked out to her car she decided to go home and think of something to settle CJ when she arrived at the house later on, something quiet and peaceful where Kate could take her away from her dark thoughts and worries. It would be impossible to remove them completely right now but if Kate could somehow help her wife to relax just a little then she’d do it.

As Tony drove her home, she thought of just the thing.

.

Chapter 5

It was the middle of the night when CJ’s truck finally pulled up outside the house. Seeing the building in complete darkness, she hung her hands from the steering wheel and dropped her head in exhaustion and defeat. She was sickened by the case, and they had found out from the forensics team that the killer left DNA on Craig Davenport’s body. It had made CJ think that the man had been disturbed by murdering children, but he had still done it.

They had a name for him now. Steven Coburn was on file for various small-time violent offenses like bar brawls, and assault and battery, but he had moved on to a more serious attack when he attempted to kill a man one night in Georgia, which was where most of his priors had taken place. CJ had his file now, but it was old. The picture of him was ten years old. Coburn had managed to skip bail on the last charge and had never been seen since. CJ guessed he’d been murdering his victims since then – all male victims – and she just didn’t know where to look for him…not yet, anyway. She and Jamie had been checking out his last known addresses for most of the day and had come up with nothing.

CJ broke from her thoughts and noticed she was crying silently. She didn’t know how to stop it and suddenly jumped when a figure walked toward her truck in the darkness. She narrowed her eyes when Kate opened the door, and the interior light came on to reflect in CJ’s unshed tears. Kate didn’t say a word but her eyes seemed the biggest and greenest CJ had ever seen them. She noticed Kate was wearing warm clothing and had a small bag over her shoulder, a flashlight in her hand, and a pair of sweat pants and a large coat flung over her arm. CJ was puzzled but still she did not speak. Kate took her hand and gently pulled her from the vehicle. CJ didn’t resist when she was led away from the house but she did wonder where Kate was going in the middle of the night. Still, the words would not fall from her lips so she followed in silence, curious to see what would happen.

As they walked across the field, CJ noticed the stars and a thin slice of moon in the dark sky. She shivered and inhaled deeply as she continued to be led over the rough terrain in her blouse and work pants. She lifted her face in the air as she walked, and for a split second everything came into sharp focus and clarity. The horrid case disappeared and the feeling of relief brought tears to her eyes. When she came back from that moment of calm, she lowered her head to find Kate had stopped walking and was standing by a small campfire just waiting for someone to spark it to life. Next to it were two thick sleeping-bags that were zipped together to make one large one with two pillows tucked inside.

Kate – still silent – knelt down and lit the fire with a match, setting the bag down as she did so. She took out some sandwiches, a small thermos, and two mugs. When she placed a little container on the ground with some left over chip-sticks in it, CJ almost smiled. They had bought way too much food for that party and were still wading through it.

Kate sat on the sleeping-bags and looked up to CJ’s face. “Put on these sweats. They’ll be more comfy,” she said in a quiet and loving tone.

“We’re sleeping out here?” CJ asked with her eyebrows hitched up under her bangs.

“No,” Kate replied. “We’re just going to spend some time here. I hope you’ll eat a little, and we can be quiet or talk. It’s up to you. Will you stay here with me for a while?”

CJ crouched down, leaning her elbows on her thighs. “Yes. I will.” She took the coat and pulled it over her blouse, then quickly changed into the sweats. She knelt down next to Kate. “How do you do it?” she asked, her eyes showing some wonder and confusion.

“Do what?”

“This. How do you do this? Make me feel so loved…so…” CJ choked on her words and the tears threatened again.

Kate didn’t want CJ to get bogged down in emotion and kept her tone light and soft. “Here. Sit down and eat this. You love chicken mayo,” she said as she scooted closer to her wife with the thermos between her legs. “I brought peppermint tea. I figured maybe you’d had enough coffee today.”

“Thank you, Katie,” CJ whispered.

“Thank you for being here with me. I know you’re struggling to stay with me, CJ. Just know I’m here, OK?”

“Oh, honey, I haven’t left you in any way. But this stuff in my head…”

“I know,” Kate soothed. “I know. We won’t talk about it tonight. Just eat now, and then lie here with me for a while.”

CJ took a bite of her sandwich and found she desperately wanted more. Her appetite returned with a vengeance and she scoffed three of them accompanied by some salty chip-sticks. After they’d had some tea, she lowered her body down on the sleeping-bag, noticing the fire crackling and burning bright off to her left side. She looked at Kate and opened her arms, inviting her to join her.

Kate was overjoyed to see CJ smile and offer to hug her. She had felt so distant over the last few days, having the case in Washington to deal with and then drifting further and further away as this new murder progressed. Kate didn’t take it for granted that it would all be OK now. She was smarter than that. But for now she would gladly accept the invitation and she snuggled down beside her beloved spouse.

As CJ lay there on the quilted blanket with Kate’s head tucked into her favorite place under her chin, she looked up at the sky and couldn’t believe how beautiful it was this night. “Katie?”

“Yes?”

“Did you rearrange the stars for me tonight too?”

A small chuckle escaped Kate’s lips. “No, but I decided that those ones over there look like a frying pan,” she said, pointing up at a specific constellation.

“A frying pan?” CJ barked. “Oh, I don’t think so. It’s a turtle. See his head sticking out of his shell?”

“Are you crazy?” Kate replied, slapping down the hand that CJ had pointed up into the darkness.

“Nope. You are. It’s definitely a turtle.”

“Frying pan.”

“Turtle!”

“Frying pan!”

“Turt-”

Kate’s firm hand silenced CJ as it came down over her mouth. She brought her face close to CJ’s and whispered. “It’s. A. Frying. Pan.”

CJ bit her bottom lip as the hand moved away. Turtle, she mouthed silently. Her heart melted when Kate smiled at her. “I love you, Katie.”

“I know. I love you too,” Kate whispered, kissing CJ on the cheek. “C’mon, let’s get inside this. I just want to hold you for a while.”

They slipped inside the warm sleeping-bag, and CJ bent her knees to scoot down. She knew Kate wanted to wrap around her and so she rested her head on Kate’s shoulder as two protective arms coiled around her body. CJ felt so very warm and comfortable and she knew she couldn’t control it when she felt herself falling asleep. What she didn’t know was that this had been Kate’s plan all along.

* * * * * *

Kate lay under the stars cradling her beautiful, exhausted wife in her arms. She had figured that when CJ got home she’d come into the house and lay in bed in the dark, tossing and turning, and not able to sleep. Kate had decided to take the predictability out of CJ’s night by doing something different, and it seemed her plan was a roaring success. CJ snored lightly at her shoulder, and she was content to lie there awake and hold her as she slumbered.

Three hours later, she began to think that maybe she hadn’t thought this the whole way through. She had to wake CJ and get back to the house soon in order for her to get ready for work. CJ still slept in the same position, and Kate was glad that she at least had a few solid hours of rest.

Kate had stayed awake. Perhaps it was the combination of her recent nightmare and the fact that she wanted to watch over her spouse that had kept her from sleeping. She wasn’t sure. She just knew that she had watched every twinkling star in the sky for the past few hours.

CJ began to stir. “Hmm.”

Kate tightened her hold. “Hey, sleepy head.”

A low mumble emanated from CJ’s mouth. “What time?”

“It’s around six, honey. Are you OK?”

“Hmmph…yeah.” CJ’s eyes cracked open. “Wow, we’re still outside, huh?” she slurred sleepily.

“Yep. I couldn’t carry you home.”

“The size of me? Not a chance, Katie.” CJ rubbed her face as a wide yawn forced its way out. “Thank you for letting me sleep.”

“It was part of my plan. I know you didn’t sleep last night and you didn’t wake me like I asked, either,” Kate said, flicking her fingertip over the end of CJ’s nose.

“Sorry. It’s hard for me to drag you into all this. I would feel so guilty if you had nightmares because of my case.”

“I’m having nightmares because you’ve not dragged me into it.”

CJ propped herself up on her elbow. “What?”

“Hey, it’s OK. It was just one bad dream and I think I was feeling you drifting away from me. I know it’s hard, CJ, but please let me in. I’ll be better going through it with you than without you. Don’t you see?”

“I’m startin’ to…”

“OK. Let’s get up and head back to the house. How does a hot shower sound before breakfast?”

“Sounds great. Will you wash my back?” CJ asked before placing a delicate kiss on Kate’s cheek.

Kate knew her wife wasn’t in the mood for anything more and she had to be honest about the fact that she wasn’t either. It was highly unusual for them both but this was the first time they’d gone through this side of CJ’s work persona together and it was a learning experience for both of them. Still, she was glad of the offer to shower with her beloved. “Of course I will.”

“Good call, choosing a grassy patch to lie on, Katie.”

“Yeah. I thought it might save our old bones.”

CJ smiled wanly as they got up and gathered their things, making sure the fire was completely out before heading back to the house. They had their hot shower, and Kate washed CJ thoroughly before they headed downstairs for a light breakfast. CJ left for work soon after, and Kate began planning her day. She’d have to keep herself occupied to stop her thinking about the case all day. She fleetingly wondered if she should join the FBI after all.

* * * * * *

Mark was in CJ’s office when she arrived talking with Mikey and Ethan. When they saw her walk in, Ethan waved her over to him.

“CJ, come listen to this.”

“Listen to what?”

Mark answered for him. “Before you hear the recording of the second call from the killer, I want to say that I chose not to get you back in any earlier. He called the LAPD at five this morning. This guy is definitely quite smart to call when he thinks nobody will expect it.”

“You should’ve brought me in, Sir,” CJ muttered.

“Perhaps, but it was my decision to make. And anyway, it would have served no purpose. He will only speak with the officer he spoke to on the first occasion. I want to give them the chance to end it before we step in completely. So…we now have recordings of both calls, and I want you to analyze them.”

CJ dulled down the hot temper she could feel rising. She knew it was due to stress and lack of sleep, even though Kate’s little plan last night had gone some way to rejuvenating her. “OK. I’ll grab a coffee and get started,” she said rather coldly as she stomped off toward the coffee machine.

“No need,” Ethan said, “Jamie’s on her way with the good stuff.”

Mikey nodded at CJ as she made a U-turn. “We ordered you a latte. Is that OK?”

“Perfect,” CJ replied.

Mark left and headed down the corridor. He was a little concerned about CJ’s behavior. He knew how she acted during these cases as he’d seen it before, but her mood was more unpredictable this time. He supposed it was because she couldn’t just head down into that horrid, dark place where the killer’s thoughts merged with her own. She had Kate to think about. Mark wasn’t entirely sure that was a good thing right now since she seemed to be so conflicted. He vowed to himself that he would keep checking in with Kate. He seemed to have a strange friendship with his agent’s wife, and he was sure Kate wouldn’t mind if he offered his support.

* * * * * *

CJ listened to the recordings of both calls from the killer slash kidnapper. The first call had been very brief, but she noted the melodic ring to the voice on the line and the use of some strange words. She replayed the second one, noting the word cleansing used a few times throughout. The killer also wanted his ten million dollars on Sunday, and his chosen location for the drop was a churchyard. He wanted it in cash and delivered in a car so that he could drive away. CJ was slightly puzzled by that one but promised herself she would figure it out.

As the hours ticked by CJ found herself alone in the office. Jamie and Ethan had gone out to follow up on a few leads, and Mikey had a half-day off for a family funeral. CJ had the calls playing on a loop and was sitting with the office blinds closed and only a couple of lights on while she tried to figure this killer out. This is what she did when she went in for the capture. This guy was a serial killer. He had at least four previous victims, CJ was sure of that. The MO’s were all too similar. She had ruled out any kind of copycat for the current crime because tiny details like the way he tied the scarf tassels to the bodies would never be made public. All the victims were male, which made CJ think it had something to do with his father or perhaps a male ex-lover. She needed to do even more digging.

CJ listened to the second call again. Sheila Davenport could be heard in the background screaming and pleading for help. She turned the volume up and listened again. She remained skeptical about the screams. Sheila could be making a good show of the kidnapping. CJ didn’t usually think of victims this way, but something about this made her sure that Mrs. Davenport was in on the whole thing. She just hoped that whatever was going on, the two young girls were not present while their mother screamed and wailed.

* * * * * *

Kate stepped out of her Mercedes. Tony had a few days off since she was not going to work, and she had enjoyed her drive over to the FBI field office. She wasn’t going in this time. She just wanted to drop off a package to Mark. She had called him earlier and asked if he could go with her to the café down the street from CJ’s office. He had been glad to oblige.

Mark met her at the front door of the Bureau building. “Hello, Kate,” he said warmly.

“Hi, Mark. Shall we go?”

“Yes. I don’t have long but I wouldn’t miss out on a coffee with you.”

Kate smiled at him as they walked along the sidewalk. They soon entered the coffee shop and ordered their drinks before finding a seat at the counter that ran along the front window.

“I want to thank you for helping me, Mark.”

Mark swallowed his sip of coffee and sighed. “I’m just a little worried about her, Kate. I called Washington…private call, of course…because I was concerned that she’s slipped so fast this time. And I think I can understand it now.”

“Oh?” Kate said worriedly.

“Yes.” Mark lowered his voice and leaned in, as did Kate. “She’s been like this before on a couple of cases but never this quickly. Her old partner said she really starts to feel what the killer has done, almost thinks like him, and even though she would never act on those dark thoughts, the very fact that she delves so deep is what makes her an incredible agent. Thing is…” he paused and bit his lips. Should he tell Kate about this or not? Yes, he should because CJ would find it too difficult to tell Kate herself. “Thing is, Kate…CJ was in Germantown once trying to stop a hostage taker. She was right there with him on the street. She tried to talk him down. He had a baby held in front of him as his hostage and…he flipped out and shot the infant right in front of her.” Mark saw Kate’s pained expression, and he covered her hand to comfort her. “She shot and killed the guy right after that because he started firing his gun at bystanders. She didn’t get over that for a long time, so maybe the fact that the two kids in this case were shot is making her worse?”

Kate felt so much pain for CJ and the evils she’d dealt with. She wondered how a person ever gets over seeing so much death. “That would do it,” she said solemnly.

“But look how strong she really is, Kate. She still does her job, she survives anyway, even with that dark side to deal with. And she has you. What more could she need?”

“I’m trying to be there for her, Mark, I really am. But I still feel some distance, even when…” Kate faltered, wondering why she spoke so freely to this kind man who just happened to be her wife’s boss. “Even when she’s holding me, I still feel she’s not letting me in.”

“Don’t give up,” was all he said in reply.

Kate looked up from the mug in front of her. “Oh, I won’t. I won’t ever.”

“Good, because this is partly why she found it so hard to have a relationship in the past,” he said, patting her hand again. “I need to get back. Sorry, Kate.”

Kate took to heart what he just said but didn’t respond to it. “I’ll walk you back along. And could you give her the box?”

“Of course…”

“Let me grab the hot food and coffee to add to it,” Kate said over her shoulder, heading for the cashier.

Mark just smiled.

* * * * * *

Mark walked along the corridor to CJ’s office carrying the small box under his arm and a cup holder full of coffees for the agents in his other hand. As he walked through the door, he realized CJ was alone in the darkened room. He knew this was part of the process for her but he never expected it during the day. “Hello, CJ.”

“Sir…”

“These are for you,” he said, placing the items on the desk.

“Uh…thank you.”

“They’re not from me. Do you have anything new?”

“Not yet, Sir. Ethan and Jamie are still out, and I’m getting somewhere with the profile now. I’m building on his background and childhood. I’ll let you know when I have something concrete.”

“OK. Good work. Come find me if you need me,” Mark said quickly and exited the room before CJ could query his statement.

CJ stared blankly at the closed door for a few moments while pondering the words, and then turned her attention to the desk. She popped the lid from a coffee cup and took a sip before opening the box. A tiny card sat on top of the contents. It was only about two inches high and had a picture on the front of her and Kate when they were in New York. Kate was raised up behind CJ as they stood at the viewing platform on the Empire State building, and Kate was making large ears shapes on CJ’s head with her hands.

CJ didn’t smile but her eyes seemed to melt a little because the box was from her thoughtful wife. She opened the card and read the very brief message inside.

Stay close to me.

Love you. K.

CJ felt tears stinging the back of her eyes and was a little shocked by them. She never cried at work. What on earth was Kate thinking? Or maybe that was her point…to throw a curve ball at CJ to make her realize she was still alive and so very loved.

God, I love her, CJ mused. She dug into the food supplies, realizing that it had distracted her brain from the horrors of the case for a few seconds. She had felt a spark of normal life for a moment, and it was a nice feeling before the darkness smothered it again.

She ate some of the warm, tuna-filled ciabatta bread and then popped a few chocolate raisins in her mouth to accompany the rest of her coffee. Once she was satisfied, she got up and opened the blinds and as she walked back to her desk, she wondered if it was the little gesture from Kate that had lifted her frowning eyebrows. She sat down again, still thinking about it when Ethan and Jamie walked in.

“Here. Kate sent us coffees,” CJ said, pointing to the cups and lowering her head to get on with her work.

“Tell your wife, thanks,” Jamie replied. “Hey, how’s it going?”

CJ didn’t reply at first until she belatedly realized someone had spoken to her. She raised her head again. “Sorry, what?”

“How’s it going?” Jamie repeated.

“Oh. OK, I think. I’ll tell you guys what I have once I’m done.”

“Great.”

* * * * * *

Kate drove through the gates into the studio lot. She had called Sam to see if she was free, feeling the need for a little support and some distraction from worrying about CJ. Once she’d parked the Mercedes, she strolled across to the cafeteria and found her friend inside. After a brief hug, they grabbed two drinks and sat down.

Sam could see the stress on Kate’s face as soon as she walked in. “So tell me how you are. Honestly, Kate, you look like hell.”

“Gee, thanks, Sam. You’re a real pal.”

“I’d just thought I’d start with a bang so you don’t bullshit me. Come on…spit it out.”

“I can’t give you too many details but our special agents have a really, really horrid case right now,” Kate said glumly.

“How bad is it?”

“Triple murder.”

“Oh, God, that’s awful,” Sam said, wondering how they managed to do the job at all.

“You don’t know the half of it, and unfortunately I can’t tell you either.”

“How’s CJ doing?”

“Not great. I mean, she’s coping. She always does, but it’s a toughie, you know? She has to get into the killer’s head. It’s how she does her job so well.”

“And you’re not happy about that?” Sam asked, honestly wanting to understand.

“It’s nothing to do with happy. I’m worried about her. I absolutely know she can handle it but she’s very distant. I can manage to grab her back for a moment here and there, but she slips away again.” Kate began to feel emotional and stopped talking, sipping at her coffee to stifle her tears.

Sam covered her hand on the tabletop. “Hey. I’m here if you need me. Want me to come over tonight for a while…keep you company?”

“I’m not sure, Sam. I don’t know when CJ will be home. She just sent me a text message to thank me for sending lunch to her. She also said she wasn’t sure she’d get home tonight. Can I give you a call later if I need you?”

“Sure. Anytime, honey.” Sam decided to change the subject and not ask Kate about Jamie, which was what she wanted to do. They continued to eat their lunch with some easy conversation. Kate appreciated the break but her mind was still on her wife.

* * * * * *

A few hours later, CJ stretched her painful neck and looked up to see what her colleagues were doing. She hadn’t spoken more than a few words since they came in earlier and she wondered if she had inadvertently missed anything they’d said. Her phone rang and she thought it would be something work-related so she sighed deeply before answering. “Special Agent Carson…”

“CJ Carson?”

“Yes?”

“I do believe your wife is having an affair,” the rough male voice whispered on the line.

“What? Who is this?”

“None of your concern, but she’s fucking her little redhead friend right now…”

The line went dead and CJ frowned, her heart thumping at the unexpected words. Her first thought was that it was a load of nonsense, a prank call. Then in her current state of mind, she began to run the idea around. The little redhead was Sam, right? But Sam liked Jamie. Kate was feeling the emotional distance between her and CJ right now, and maybe turned to Sam…

CJ literally slapped her own cheek. Jesus. I know Kate would never! What the hell am I thinking? But still, that call was not what she needed to hear right now. She had enough on her mind without horrid thoughts like Kate leaving her or cheating on her running around in her head. She looked across the room to find her colleagues watching her with severely worried looks on their faces. “Sorry…just had to slap myself awake,” she lied.

“Ah,” Jamie responded, not believing it for a second. “Who was on the phone?”

“Nobody. Didn’t leave a name.”

Jamie eyed her skeptically and thought that perhaps she really couldn’t help her friend after all.

* * * * * *

CJ got back to work for another few hours, trying desperately to get the ridiculous image of Kate and Sam out of her mind. She knew it couldn’t be true but her head was so messed up right now and it was an added dark thought she just didn’t need.

Jamie got up for a drink of water. On her return, she sat in the chair across from CJ. “Are you ready to tell us your thoughts yet?”

CJ rubbed her eyes. “I guess so. I think I’ve figured out a way to find this guy but it’s all based on my theories regarding his profile.”

“That’s good enough for me. Let’s hear it.”

“OK, here’s what I’m thinking,” CJ said, hunching over her desk which was covered in papers and photographs. “I think the scarf is a significant marker stemming way back to Coburn’s childhood. I’ve looked over these earlier murders and the scarf is always pristine. He’s flattened it out and tied it so delicately to the bodies in some way…to Mr. Davenport at his fingers. The fact that the scarf is flat and stretched so perfectly placed makes me think it’s a symbol of freedom for this killer…which leads me to believe that he has some past experience with being tied up against his will. Also, the use of the word cleansing in the calls…it’s like he is trying to free himself by freeing his victims, or freeing himself by killing his father, seeing him in his victims. And it’s possibly as obvious as his father tying him up with a scarf to beat him when he was a child.”

“Why his father?” Jamie asked, already knowing the answer.

“Male victims. They’re always male and always older than him, except for the boys whom he didn’t expect to deal with anyway.” CJ paused before she asked her question. “If Coburn sees his abusive father every time he kills, where do you think he would look for some relief or comfort?”

Mikey and Jamie both spoke at the same time. “His mother.”

“It’s a definite possibility,” CJ replied, still staring at her desk. “It says here she died seven years ago. It seems to tie in with the timeframe. The murders we know about started just after that. This is just a theory but it all seems pretty coincidental if it’s not true.”

“I’ll look into it,” Mikey said, getting to his feet. “Do you have the mother’s name there?”

CJ flipped through her papers to find the right one. “Gale Coburn. Her maiden name was Phillips,” she said as she handed Mikey the paper. When he left the room, CJ sighed. She knew she wasn’t going home until she found a way to locate this guy. She was on a mission now. She looked at her watch and shook her head when she saw it was almost eight thirty. Sending a text message to her wife and getting an instant response, she lifted the phone and dialed home.

“Hello?”

“Hi. It’s me.”

“CJ? Hi. Are you OK?”

CJ tried not to give any indication to Kate that she was freaking out slightly. “Yeah. I’m fine. What did you do today?”

“Not much. Swung by the studios for a coffee with Sam…”

At those words, CJ’s stomach lurched and she hated herself for even reacting to a stupid anonymous call. “Sorry Kate, I missed end of that. What did you say?”

“I said, I went home and tried to keep myself busy…did some Taekwondo. Are you sure you’re all right, honey?”

“Yes. Sorry. Just a long day and it’s not over yet,” CJ tried to say convincingly as she pressed her temples with thumb and forefinger.

“Oh. Will you be able to come home?”

“I don’t know. I hope so.”

“OK,” Kate said quietly. “I love you, CJ.”

CJ wanted to cry but had to swallow it back. “I love you too. See you soon. Bye, Katie.”

“Bye.”

CJ hung up the phone knowing in her heart that Kate would never cheat on her. She stared at the pile of work on her desk for a few moments until Jamie walked over and sat on the chair in front of her.

“Mikey called up from downstairs. He found an address still listed for the now-deceased Gale Coburn right here in the city.”

CJ looked up, slightly concerned that she couldn’t even remember hearing the phone ringing. How could she really be concentrating on this case if she was shutting out her colleagues? But the thing that worried her more was that she was shutting out Kate too.

Mikey walked in a second later and came over to stand in front of the two women. “We missed it this first time around because his mother married again. Gale Foster owns the apartment, previously Gale Coburn…and she didn’t have a will. Steven Coburn is her only living relative,” he said, placing the information on the desktop.

“We’d better let Mark know and get out there then,” CJ said, standing up and grabbing her gun and jacket.

* * * * * *

Kate paced the floor for a few moments after hanging up her call to CJ. Kamali watched her, no doubt wondering why his human was acting so strangely.

“Something’s wrong,” she muttered to herself. “She’s further away than she was earlier but it’s different. Shit. I just don’t know what else to do.” She walked to the living area, trying to convince herself not to panic. “We’ll be fine. Yeah, I’ll make sure of it. I’m worrying for nothing. If anyone can get through these crappy times, we can.”

After Kate had put herself through a strenuous workout in the gym, she had a shower and sat in bed with a good book, trying to keep herself from wondering what CJ was doing. She dozed off just after midnight.

A few hours later, Kate stirred, but she didn’t know what had awakened her. She reached out sleepily, hoping to find her spouse beside her, and felt nothing but an empty bed. She looked at the clock on the nightstand, noting the time at three AM. A slight panic filled her body as she swung her legs out of the quilt. She turned on the bedside lamp before she got up, an unsettling feeling lying in the pit of her stomach. Carefully descending the staircase in the semi-darkness, she rubbed her eyes as she came to stand just inside the front door. She switched on the porch lights and saw CJ’s truck outside. The panic left her only to be replaced by confusion.

Kate crossed the living area, heading for the kitchen in search of her wife. Not finding CJ in there, she came back into the hallway and noticed a glow escaping from underneath the closed door to the study. She slowly turned the doorknob. She figured CJ had probably fallen asleep, and once she was inside the room she squinted to focus her tired eyes in the low light.

CJ was sitting on the couch partially dressed and leaning back on the cushions with her left arm covering her eyes. Kate immediately noticed the bottle of vodka and the empty glass on the table, and her slight panic returned. The only time Kate had seen her wife really drink alcohol was at two weddings, and even then it was only one or two glasses of champagne. The next things Kate noticed were CJ’s gun and holster and her work pants lying on the floor. Kate’s eye trailed up CJ’s long, bare legs to find her right hand was moving slowly inside her black panties.

Kate blinked, and at that moment CJ began gasping out her wife’s name with every breath, her breasts heaving underneath the blouse that was unbuttoned down to her navel. Arousal and apprehension warred within Kate as she crossed the distance between them, her eyes never leaving CJ.

“Katie…Katie…Katie,” CJ gasped, breathing faster and faster in time with her hand’s movement.

“I’m here, Ciara,” Kate whispered.

The instant the words left Kate’s lips, CJ froze. Her arm remained across her face but her right hand stilled, she held her breath, and a deep flush began at her neck and crept up over her cheeks. Then a single tear trickled down her face from under the elevated arm. Kate silently straddled CJ’s thighs, effectively covering CJ’s right hand with her sex, and leaned forward until she was close to the troubled agent’s face.

“Why did you stop?”

CJ’s response was a simple release of the breath she was holding and a few more tears rolling down her cheeks.

Kate felt her heart pounding. “Ciara, why?”

“I…I’m embarrassed.”

Kate frowned since she knew that they had masturbated in front of one another before and it had certainly never embarrassed either one of them. She kissed the underside of CJ’s forearm. “Don’t ever be embarrassed about your needs, baby. Not with me…ever. Do you hear me?”

CJ swallowed hard and uncovered her face to expose her sad, tear-filled eyes. “I hear you.”

Kate lifted her hand to rub away the droplets on CJ’s cheek. “Why are you embarrassed? Tell me…”

The love and anxiety combined in the stormy, green eyes above her were so evident to CJ, and she felt bad for causing the stress. “I…I feel disgusted…disgusted with myself for drinking. I downed four straight vodkas as soon as I got home. I just wanted to forget, or to feel something different…feel good…just for a while. I needed…release and I didn’t want to wake you. I would feel like I was using you, Katie, and I can’t do that. I can’t…”

CJ’s bottom lip was trembling and Kate couldn’t stand to see her strong wife in such a state. She closed the distance before CJ could start crying, swallowing any sound as she kissed her. It was full of love and possessiveness which was just what CJ needed, and as she pulled her hand from between their bodies she wrapped her arms around Kate’s back to hold her close until Kate pulled away a little.

“Why didn’t you come to me, Ciara?”

“I told you. I was disgusted with myself.”

“Honey, please stop beating yourself up. You’re not a machine. I know you’re a strong, intelligent woman, but you’re also a kind and sensitive woman with such depth it astounds me sometimes. Even you can’t cope perfectly every second of every day,” Kate said, wiping yet more fresh tears from CJ’s cheeks.

“How…you. God, Katie, I think…”

“Don’t think,” Kate suggested. “Not right now. I know what you need, and you’re not using me if I want it too.” She sat upright and removed her T-shirt in one smooth movement over her head.

CJ’s gaze fell on the perfect breasts in front of her, her eyes instantly darkening with desire. Kate leaned in to kiss her, and CJ let out a heartfelt moan. Kate slipped her tongue into CJ’s warm mouth, tasting the vodka mingled with CJ’s own sweet flavor.

“Put your hand back down there, baby,” Kate whispered against CJ’s skin.

Something between a growl and a squeal rose up from CJ’s throat as Kate repositioned herself on one of her thighs, allowing CJ to open her legs wider.

“I…”

Kate licked her wife’s ear and whispered, “What?”

“I need. I want…”

Kate lifted her head and looked at CJ’s beautiful, tear-stained face. She slowly and provocatively licked her lips, and CJ’s eyes rolled back in her head. Kate slid to her knees on the floor between CJ’s legs, her breast rubbing over the wet panties as she moved down. CJ almost climaxed then, but forced her eyes open to look at her spouse.

Kate was staring at the thin piece of material that covered CJ’s drenched sex. Lifting her eyes to meet CJ’s, she removed the panties, slowly revealing the dark patch of soft hair and the alluring flesh beneath. CJ was unbelievably aroused and felt about ready to explode, and Kate knew it.

Still locked onto CJ’s gaze with her eyes, Kate lowered her mouth to her center. She poked her tongue out to taste the essence that flowed so freely. CJ’s entire body convulsed as she pushed herself towards Kate. When she gripped Kate’s head gently and curled her long fingers around strands of hair, Kate knew she was about to climax.

CJ whimpered through each and every breath she took, and when Kate began flicking her tongue back and forth quickly over her clit, she screamed as she came, her orgasm ripping through her in wave after glorious wave. Seconds later, she was suddenly silent as her body continued to twitch in the afterglow. Kate kissed on and around CJ’s clit before she looked up and saw CJ was crying, but somehow she knew she should continue. CJ’s head fell back onto the couch cushion. Her tears still silently streamed down her cheeks and neck.

“Ciara, look at me,” Kate said, her voice husky with desire. When CJ glanced down at her, she smiled. “I want you to do what you were doing when I came in.”

CJ swallowed hard again. She couldn’t speak but slowly did as she was asked. As her hand grazed over her own clit, Kate watched from mere inches away. She licked her lips, still tasting what CJ was now touching. She brought her hand up and let two fingers join CJ’s.

CJ gasped loudly as they both began a dance through the copious wetness and her stomach clenched when Kate’s fingers left her own and slipped lower. Kate slowly penetrated her while watching their movements closely. The thought of Kate watching everything only served to make CJ even wetter.

Kate was aching with arousal, but this was all for CJ so she tried to concentrate on that. She watched as CJ’s finger rubbed back and forth over her own sex, moving faster and faster as her excitement grew. Kate kept rhythm with her, and felt the tip of CJ’s finger meet her palm as she thrust in and out of her body. From the sounds CJ was making, Kate knew she was still crying, but when CJ’s silky inner muscles began gripping at Kate’s fingers, her movements became frantic. The resulting orgasm flooded Kate’s hand and she couldn’t resist any longer. She moved in to let her tongue take what she really wanted.

“Katie. Oh, Katie…”

Kate lapped up every drop, bringing CJ to climax for a third time. At just the right moment she stilled her tongue, maintaining a light pressure on the very swollen clit to feel it pulsing beneath her. CJ tried to catch her breath, and Kate reached up to take her hand to ground her. CJ grabbed it and held tight as Kate kissed her spent body before resting her head on CJ’s stomach.

“It’s OK, Ciara. Try to relax,” Kate said as she rubbed her thumb over the back of CJ’s hand and kissed the soft skin on her belly.

“I’m…thank you, Katie.”

Kate rose up to look at her. “You’re very welcome. Now come to bed with me.”

* * * * * *

Once they were curled up under the quilt, CJ lay watching her wife in the near darkness. Kate was facing her, a few strands of her blond hair falling onto the beautiful skin at her cheek.

“What are you looking at?” Kate said even though her eyes were closed.

“I’m just…always so amazed by you,” CJ whispered.

Kate opened her eyes. “Me?”

“Yes, you. How the hell did I get so lucky?”

“We both got lucky, honey. You are incredible, you know.”

“I don’t feel too incredible right now.”

Kate snuggled a little closer. “I know. And I know how much strength you possess, but I recently realized how very strong you are.”

“What do you mean?”

“Promise you won’t get mad?” Kate said quietly.

“Why would I get mad?” CJ said, hearing Kate sigh at her answering a question with a question even though Kate had just done the same thing. CJ almost smiled at that. “OK, I promise. Now tell me what you mean.”

“I know why this case is getting to you so much.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I know about the…baby in the Germantown shooting.”

“Oh.” CJ’s breath caught. “How…how did you find out about that?”

“I spoke to Mark. I’m sorry, CJ, but I was so worried about you.”

“Why are you sorry? I’m sorry I never told you about it, but it’s just so…”

“I know,” Kate whispered, moving even closer and feeling CJ respond by doing the same. It encouraged Kate no end and she continued her plea. “Please let me be here for you, honey. I told you I want to understand everything, and what I’m starting to realize is that if you need me to leave you alone…like, go away…while you concentrate on a case like this, then I’ll do it. It’ll be tough for me, but I’ll do it if it’s what you want.”

CJ remained silent for a few seconds which felt like years to Kate. “No,” she finally stated, shaking her head emphatically. “No. I don’t want you to go away. It’s been really difficult to work this case and try to appear happy and normal around you, but you have to know, Katie, I am happy with you and always will be. When something like this happens, I…I succumb to the other side of me, the side that can pry into this guy’s mind. The killer, I mean. I guess I don’t know how to let both sides of me exist in harmony.”

“I know and I understand that now, which is why I would offer to back off-”

“No. I don’t want that. You have no idea what all those little things you’ve done over the past few days have meant to me…especially tonight. You took me from shame and guilt about wanting to feel good, to being loved and cherished and knowing it was OK to need to feel good. You’re so…so…beyond amazing.”

“I love you so much, CJ, so much. I hate to see you upset in any way, but don’t ever feel disgusted with yourself for having a human need or a perceived weakness. Not in your line of work…and never in front of me.”

CJ nodded slightly against Kate’s hair. “OK.” She drew back and stared into Kate’s eyes. “I love you more than the words I love you can ever express.”

“Ditto,” Kate said, feeling absurdly pleased at the words. “So do you want to talk about what happened today at work? Is there anything you want to report to your wife?”

“Well…we found an address for the killer, but he wasn’t there. We posed as door-to-door salespeople so he wouldn’t know the FBI had tracked him down. Jamie and Agent White are staking the place out right now, and I’ll take over with Ethan tomorrow. I’m feeling a little more confident that we’ll catch him soon.”

“That’s great, honey. Well, as great as this situation can be.”

CJ breathed deeply and squeezed Kate tighter. “We’ll be fine, right? Me and you?”

“Always. Don’t ever worry about that.”

“I won’t, but I did get a very weird and anonymous call earlier,” CJ said thoughtfully.

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Some guy called my office and told me you were having an affair with Sam.” At the sudden tension in Kate’s body, CJ raised her hand. “Let me finish. As I said, an anonymous call, but now that I’m calmer and have thought it through, I’m guessing it was Jack.”

“Jack? Hmm. Just one question though…did you believe it?”

“Not in my heart, Katie, but my mind almost took off on a bunch of what if scenarios.”

“Oh, CJ, you don’t honestly think I’d ever…”

“No, I don’t, and I actually slapped myself on the face right there in the office. I’m pretty sure my colleagues think I’ve lost my mind.”

Kate bit her lips, feeling like she had to laugh to release the tension but she wasn’t sure it was appropriate. Then CJ snorted out a laugh, and Kate had no choice but to let go. They held onto one another, laughing and crying at the same time.

When they ran out of energy, CJ wrapped herself around Kate feeling like she’d returned to normality for a while. It felt great. It seemed like forever since she had felt this way, when in truth it had been less than a week. It was something she couldn’t even contemplate feeling a few hours before. She shook her head in awe of Kate’s amazing powers. She kissed Kate and tasted the saltiness of her tears. She also felt the smile on Kate’s face. She loved it when her wife smiled as they kissed.

CJ proceeded to make love to Kate over and over again, savoring every touch, every kiss, and feeling a warmth return that had been pushed away by the coldness of her work. Much later on, they fell asleep wrapped so tightly around one another that it was difficult to tell if they were one woman or two.

.

Chapter 6

CJ awoke early the next morning with a new sense of inner strength. Nobody had called during the night, which was a plus, and it meant Jamie and Agent White must still be sitting out there on the stakeout. CJ opened her eyes and slowly realized that the warm body of her wife was missing from the bed. She got up to go to the bathroom and could suddenly smell the delicious scent of bacon wafting up from downstairs.

“Oh, she is better than perfect,” CJ said groggily to her reflection in the mirror. “I, on the other hand, am not. What is with these suitcases under my eyes?” She shook her head and washed her tired face with cold water to try and shock herself awake. A few moments later she threw on a robe and headed downstairs. Her shower could wait. Food was calling.

Kate stood pouring some mix into the waffle maker. She turned around when Kamali jumped up from his bed to greet CJ. “Morning, CJ. I knew the smell would wake you.”

“Good morning,” CJ said as she slipped her arms around Kate’s waist from behind and placed a kiss her neck. “I think maybe it was you leaving the bed that woke me.”

Kate shivered pleasantly. “Yeah, right. I know you can’t resist some bacon.”

“I can’t resist you…but maybe the smell did help to wake my unconscious brain,” CJ admitted.

“Go, sit. You still have an hour before you need to leave right?”

CJ looked at the clock and yawned widely. It was seven thirty. She’d had roughly two hours sleep. “Yeah. I need to pop into the office before I go relieve Green and White.” She barked out a laugh. “Oh God, I didn’t even notice that before.”

Kate grinned and was secretly overjoyed to see the regular CJ peeking out from under all the stress. “I hope you catch this guy soon. It will be a relief for us both when you can try to put this horrible mess behind you.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s been tough, huh. I’m sorry I didn’t cope so well with everything, Katie.”

“We both had to learn this time. There will be a lot of firsts for us, and we’ll make it through them together. Just remember I’m tough and I can deal with anything.” Kate winked as she put the cooked breakfast in front of her spouse.

“Oh, I know. Believe me, I know. Last night…God, Katie, you were so incredible. Thank you for that…and for this,” CJ replied, pointing to her plate.

“You’re welcome, and uh, thank you for last night too,” Kate said, blushing and remembering what CJ had been like in bed.

CJ grinned. “I guess I got hungry.”

Kate raised her eyebrows. “Very hungry…ravenous, I’d say.”

“Uh-huh.”

Kate saw the sparkle start to reappear in CJ’s blue eyes. She smiled as she sat down to tuck into her meal. “Oh,” she blurted around a mouthful of egg, “I forgot to tell you. I have an appointment with a director at the studios today. He wants to talk to me about a little producing job.”

“That’s great, Katie. What is it? The job, I mean…”

“It’s a short independent film. It sounds quite interesting and won’t take up too much time. I need to check my contract but I think it’ll be OK.”

“Cool. When are they making it?”

“Not scheduled for another couple of months, so I’ll just go and see what’s what,” Kate mumbled before sucking down a slurp of her juice.

“Can’t hurt,” CJ said, grinning at her wife’s voracious appetite.

They smiled at one another and continued their breakfast, sitting close together while discussing this and that. When Kate suddenly remembered the call that CJ had spoken about, she turned to her and lowered her eyebrows.

“Did you say last night that you thought it might have been Jack who called you?”

“What? Oh, yesterday? I didn’t recognize the voice but yeah, maybe he tried to disguise it. He’s the only one I could think of with a motive and easy access to you.”

“He sounds like your next case, honey,” Kate said pensively. “But if I find out it was him, I’m gonna kick his-”

“No, you won’t. Once I’ve dealt with this case, we’ll figure it out together.”

“Yes but CJ, he didn’t know you were in the middle of a nightmare at work. That call could have sent you over the edge. It was very cruel.”

“If it was him, he obviously doesn’t have a clue how much we love and trust each other. He was just shit-stirring,” CJ said, getting up to retrieve the waffles.

Kate sighed. “True. OK, we’ll figure it out later.”

“That’s my girl.”

“Yes. I am.”

* * * * * *

CJ entered the FBI building. Walking along the corridor toward her office, she was almost knocked over by a crowd of agents hurrying past her. People were filing in and out the door when she arrived, and as soon as she saw Mark she headed straight for him.

“Oh, CJ!” he exclaimed. “We got him.”

“What? The killer?”

“Yes, yes, just now. We need to go to LA County General.”

“Oh, God, why?” CJ said, praying there were no agents down.

“Coburn was shot in the leg by Ethan. Jamie has concussion.”

“What happened? Why was Ethan there?” CJ asked in confusion as they hurried down the corridor and stepped into the elevator.

“Ethan was with the backup team who went out early this morning. He wanted some overtime and I granted it easily. About an hour ago, Coburn arrived at the apartment, and once he was inside the front door our agents moved in along with the backup team. Jamie was first through the door, and Coburn went crazy…whacked her over the head with a golf club. She fired a shot,” he continued, starting the engine of the sedan and driving the car out of the parking garage with a screech of its tires, “but the bullet didn’t hit anything. Jamie was most likely disoriented and in pain, and Ethan shot the guy to incapacitate him.”

“Wow,” CJ said, worrying about her friend but still damn thankful that they’d got Coburn.

“Yep. If you hadn’t worked through that profile, we might not have looked into his deceased mother so much, and in turn wouldn’t have found that address. Well done, CJ.”

“Thank you, Sir, but it’s my job and I think the others deserve more of a well-done than I do.”

“Nonsense. You all do great work. I think the Bureau will definitely keep our little experimental team going. And the others will get their fair share of recognition. Don’t you worry about that. Now all we have to do is find Mrs. Davenport and the girls.”

CJ sighed. Yeah, that’s all we have to do now, she thought silently.

* * * * * *

Kate strolled through the doors at the Olympian Studio offices. She was meeting with John Thorpe, a writer and director of various short independent movies that had received mixed but mostly positive reviews. He’d had some kooky ideas in the past, and Kate was interested to see what he would come up with this time. She found him in one of the empty meeting rooms, just like they’d arranged.

“Hello, Miss Marshall. Great to see you…”

Kate noted his tweed jacket and old-fashioned slacks. He sported a slightly unkempt haircut and a pair of bright-blue, stylish glasses. “Hello, Mr. Thorpe. Nice to meet you,” she said politely.

“Please, call me John.”

“OK, John. As long as you call me Kate.”

“That’s a deal. Please, sit down. Would you like anything to drink?” he offered.

“No, thanks. So tell me about this short film,” Kate requested as she tucked her hair behind her ear.

“Well, I know from Phil Romaine that you expressed an interest in directing or producing. I have full control of this shoot since it’s my concept. I was hoping to find a producer who was fresh to the whole thing. I think you might be just the person.”

“I would certainly be interested in turning my hand to something other than acting. What’s your idea?”

Kate soon found out from their conversation that he wanted to write and direct a short film with a pretty small budget. He told her he hoped she’d consider doing it for the experience and a small fee.

John’s idea was to recreate an incident from Baltimore where an FBI agent was involved in a hostage situation in a convenience store. The hostage-taker thought he was an alien from another planet and had severe mental health issues. The negotiator managed to take him down without harming anyone by breaking the number one rule – don’t get sucked into his delusion. John thought this would make a quirky short film, but Kate wasn’t sure about being involved, although she clearly had a huge interest in the subject matter.

“It’s actually based on real life events,” John concluded.

“It certainly sounds interesting, if not a little strange. But I like strange. It gives it an edge. Can I have a think about it and get back to you?”

“Sure. Here’s my card,” John said, following Kate’s lead and getting up from his seat.

“I’ll be in touch,” Kate replied. She shook his hand and said her farewells before heading out into the lot. She wanted to tell CJ about this one. It sounded like an X-File, but John had said it was real. Kate giggled to herself as she got into her car and left for home.

* * * * * *

When CJ and Mark arrived at LA County General there was an unmarked Bureau van outside and quite a few police cars. Walking into the ER, she was surprised to see a few agents holding onto a cuffed man with a bloody pant leg. Through the hole in the center of the bloodstain, she could see white bandaging and knew this was Steven Coburn. She eyed the man as she turned to Mark. “Is that him? He looks so different from his pictures.”

“Yes. They were pretty old pictures though. I guess he’s been released. I’ll find out if you go check where Jamie is. I’ll meet you back at triage,” Mark said, pointing to a meeting place near the entrance to the secured areas.

“Right.”

About ten minutes later, CJ had found out that Jamie was being kept in for observation, and Coburn had been released as the gunshot had only caused a straightforward flesh wound to his thigh. When she got back to triage, Mark strutted toward her still talking on his cell phone. He snapped it shut and popped it in his jacket pocket.

“OK. They’re taking him to the cells. I told them I want you and me to question him first. We’ll go and check on Agent Green then head back.”

“Sounds like a plan. They’ve moved her to a room on the first floor. It’s this way,” CJ said, pointing along a nearby corridor. She walked into Jamie’s room to find her sitting up in bed with a grumpy look on her face. CJ gave her a sympathetic smile and reached over to hug her friend. “How you doing?”

“Ugh. I want out of here. I have a tough skull so I’ll be fine,” Jamie complained.

Mark flicked through her chart. “It says here you have a pretty nasty concussion and some serious bruising on your head.”

CJ stood over Jamie. “Let me see. Where was it, Jamie?”

“Here.” Jamie put her finger on her hair, and CJ gently parted the strands.

She saw a very dark area where the bruising was worst, and stood back to look at Jamie seriously. “The skin’s almost black. Best to let them keep an eye on you tonight. I don’t want anything happening to you, Penfold.”

Mark noted the nickname and shook his head in amazement at how his team seemed to bond so well. “We’ll go back and question your prisoner, Agent Green. Get some rest and someone will come pick you up tomorrow. And well done,” he added, sending her a small nod.

“Thanks, Sir.”

CJ and Mark left, and Jamie dropped her shoulders in defeat. She was already bored with her hospital stay. She picked up a magazine that the nurse had left and began to read about the biggest human baby in the world. Ugh, she grumbled to herself.

* * * * * *

Kate disconnected the call on her cell phone. She was happy that CJ sounded much more like herself and so glad that they had arrested Coburn. CJ had asked her a little favor, and she dialed another number to see what she could do about it.

“Morris.”

“Hi, Sam, it’s Kate.”

“Oh hi, Kate, sorry. I thought you were the grumpy production assistant I just shouted at. How are you?”

“I’m fine actually, but someone else needs you,” Kate said as she tried to hold back her chuckle.

“Oh? Who needs me?” Sam asked.

“Well now, I don’t want you to worry…but Jamie is in hospital with concussion.”

“Oh, God! Is she OK?”

“Sam, I said I don’t want you to worry. She’s absolutely fine. They’re just keeping her in for observation but she’s already getting grumpy because she doesn’t want to be there. I was wondering if-”

“Oh, Kate, would you go with me?” Sam interrupted, already thinking about how to get off work.

“Uh, I could. Don’t you want to go yourself?”

“Oh, no. I’ll be nervous as hell. Just this one time, come with me, OK?”

“All right, and you can give her your number ‘cause I didn’t get a chance yet.”

Sam sighed as her nerves started to take over at the thought. “I need to get some things finished here first. They’ll take a couple of hours, and I’ll need to come back afterwards too. Ugh.”

“I’ll pick you up and drop you back at the studios. How does one o’clock sound?”

“Great, Kate. Thanks. See you then,” Sam replied with relief.

“Bye, Sam.”

When Sam hung up the phone she was surprised at how giddy she was at the prospect of seeing Jamie, and how worried she was that Jamie was injured. She knew she had to see her and walked briskly back to her office to organize a way to escape for a few hours.

* * * * * *

As Sam and Kate approached Jamie’s room, a nurse came out the door shaking her head.

Kate seized the opportunity for get some information. “Excuse me. How has Miss Green been doing?”

The nurse twirled around on her heels. “I’m sorry, who are you?”

“We’re friends of Jamie’s. Is she OK?” Kate asked, hoping they’d be able to get in to see her when it wasn’t official visiting hours.

“She’s fine. But…” The nurse frowned. “Aren’t you Kate Marshall?”

Kate tried not to blush. “Yes, I am.”

“Oh, goodness, I’m a fan of yours. I love the show!”

“Thank you. I’m glad you like it.”

The nurse tried not to gush. “When you slapped that guy on the face last week…great acting!”

“Well I actually did slap him,” Kate admitted, remembering back to when they’d filmed the scene. She really did slap Jack hard on his cheek.

The nurse laughed. “Well, you two go on in, and please try to cheer Miss Green up?”

“Of course,” Kate said.

Sam nervously followed Kate into the room, and Jamie looked up when she sensed the new arrivals. When her eyes landed on Sam, a look of excitement laced with mild horror crossed her face.

“What’s wrong, Jamie?” Kate asked.

“Uh, hi. I wasn’t expecting anyone. I must look a fright,” Jamie mumbled as she ran her fingers carefully through her unruly hair.

“You look amazing,” Sam said shyly.

Jamie gazed at her for a moment, unsure of how to respond. “Oh,” she finally said. “Please sit down.”

Kate was highly amused by her two friends, and she took the seat furthest from Jamie’s bed to leave the closer one for Sam. Sam sat down and could barely take her eyes off Jamie. After about sixty seconds of utter silence, Kate wondered if either of them was ever going to speak.

“So how are you coping?” Kate said while waving in front of Jamie’s face.

“I’m not. I need to get out of here. I’m going nuts and I know CJ and the guys will be so busy.”

“They’ll manage. You took a pretty nasty blow to the head so you can’t be too careful,” Kate warned.

“Yeah, yeah, and I’ve had a few headaches so I guess I need to rest a little,” Jamie replied. She looked at Sam again. “Are you OK?”

Sam blinked when she realized Jamie was talking directly to her. “Oh…yes, fine. How did you hurt yourself?”

“Crazy killer came at me with a golf club,” Jamie grumbled.

“Oh, God, that’s awful.”

“All part of the job, I guess. Does that bother you?”

“Of course not. I think you agents are incredible. It’s just…well…”

“What, Sam?” Kate said, seeing the concern in her friend’s eyes and trying to get her to show her hand.

“It’s just that…I don’t like to see that sort of thing. You know, you getting hurt,” she said, pointing to Jamie’s head.

“I’ll be fine. I have a solid skull.”

“Yeah,” Kate interjected. “She has a thick skull.”

“Hey!” Jamie threw a plastic cup at Kate.

“What? You do,” Kate said, picking up the cup. “And anyway, it doesn’t matter what think.” She wiggled an eyebrow and signaled toward Sam with her thumb.

Sam eyed Kate before she turned her attention back to Jamie. She was about to say something else when she noticed Jamie’s expression had completely changed. Her eyes were so dark they were almost black, and Sam was locked in by her gaze.

Kate watched with interest and waited to see who would speak first. She bit her lips to make sure she remained silent. It was now or never, but who would break the silence. She eventually gave up and rolled her eyes. She cleared her throat and snapped her fingers in front of Jamie who finally blinked and spoke. It wasn’t quite what Kate had intended though.

“Uh…so, I guess CJ sent you guys over here, huh?”

Kate threw her hands up in the air. “Oh, for goodness sake you two, exchange numbers, will ya?” she blurted. The other two women looked at one another and burst into laughter. “What?” Kate said. “It’s like being back in frickin’ high school. God…” She threw her hands up in the air again and went to talk to the nurse.

Jamie held her head as her laughter died down. She wouldn’t be laughing again until she was healed.

“Cool your jets, Kate.” Sam chuckled as Kate stormed out of the room. She turned back to Jamie and, feeling slightly bold for a moment, she asked the question. “Jamie, may I have your number?”

Jamie looked at her fondly. “You definitely may. I had a great time at the party. So much I was meaning to ask you but we never had time before you left.”

“I know. I can’t believe the time flew by so fast. It was a lot of fun.”

“Yes. It was nice. I’m so glad I transferred to California.”

“I’m kinda glad too,” Sam said, trying not to blush.

“So do you want to join me for coffee one day? Maybe I could pop by the studios.”

“I’d love that. I can’t believe you want to,” Sam blurted.

“I can’t believe you’re single,” Jamie replied smoothly.

Sam blushed furiously just as Kate blustered back into the room pretending to cover her eyes with her hand.

“Is it safe to enter?”

“Oh, ha-ha,” Jamie said sarcastically.

Kate smiled. “So I just spoke with the nurse. They’ll let you out later tonight if you have someone to look after you for the next forty-eight hours. Seems your skull is tough after all. So you can stay with me and CJ.”

“But…” Jamie began to protest.

“It’s either that or stay in here longer.”

Jamie immediately nodded. “I’ll stay with you guys.”

Kate grinned and sat back down. Both she and Sam stayed for another half-hour. Kate tried not to speak too much to facilitate the potential blossoming romance between her friends. When it was time to leave, Kate told Jamie she’d be back to pick her up later. Jamie was just beginning to realize that she had found a friend in Kate as well as CJ. It was a new experience for her since she’d had no true friends in the past. Now it seemed she had many.

* * * * * *

Special Agent Carson and Assistant Director Mulroney entered the interrogation room near the holding cells intent on finding out where Mrs. Davenport and the two girls were being held, if they were indeed being held at all. They went through all the initial interview questions and the declaration stating they were recording the whole thing. Then the questions about Charles Davenport began.

After finding out that the killer had intended on murdering Davenport all along – something he had quite happily admitted to – their understanding of the body’s placement was something that had to be clarified. If they could get him to explain or describe how and why he had done it – including the scarf’s significance – they could definitely link him to the other past murders with similar MO’s.

CJ’s poker face was set and her eyes were like ice as she listened to Coburn talk in a melodious tone about his “conquest”.

“It was art,” he said in a quiet, superiority-laden voice.

“Art?” CJ echoed, the bile churning around in her stomach.

“Yes. See…I had to shoot him. He would never have succumbed to his fate with any grace. Shooting him was not in my plan, but he walked in on me in the study. So the marks had to be removed and that was why he was cleansed. Cutting him cleansed him.”

CJ rubbed her forehead and heard Mulroney swallowing forcefully beside her. She looked back up at this disgustingly-proud killer. “What about the scarf? Why do you use one in every murder?”

“You’re assuming I did more than one, Agent.”

CJ looked at the forensic file in a deliberate and calm fashion. “Didn’t you?”

“Well, yes, and we can discuss my other conquests later. I must admit, you are a piece of work yourself. You finally caught me, although I’m not sure yet if you’re worthy of my praise,” Coburn sneered with fake politeness.

“Just answer the question,” CJ said steadily.

“My loving father used to tie me to a vertical pipe in our freezing basement when I was a bad little boy. He’d use a scarf to secure my hands onto the pipe behind my back, and then he’d close the door and lock it. It would be tied so tight and the pipe would be as cold as ice, so I’d have burns sometimes when my skin grafted onto it. I would be left in complete darkness until he decided to return. I’d be there for hours, sometimes overnight. He’d beat me there too, while I was unable to defend myself. So you see, Agent, I’m a perfect candidate for the typical serial killer profile. Classic, don’t you think?” When neither agent replied, he decided to continue his story. “Anyway, that coupled with the fact that mother was a fastidious clean freak…not a spot on her house or her child, or you’d get a whipping or hidden cigarette burn…I’m really not surprised I can’t stand to see a bullet hole or two.”

CJ wanted to put one of her suspicions to rest. “Did you kill your father?”

Coburn looked a little startled. “Why would you ask me that? Haven’t you linked me to the earlier cases?”

“We may not have reports for everyone you’ve cleansed.”

“Indeed.” Coburn was silent for a moment making CJ think she may have lost his sickening cooperation, but he soon looked her in the eye to make his next admission. “He was the first, but you haven’t found him yet.”

CJ nodded, knowing she had his psychological profile just about right. Mark sat next to his agent, realizing that he should never underestimate Special Agent Carson. She could see things that he couldn’t see.

“Do you want us to find him?” CJ asked.

“Well I don’t want to leave him out there all alone, now that you’ve caught me.”

“Why do you care?”

“Oh, I don’t really, but I hate to leave a mess,” Coburn said, flicking a piece of lint off the table’s surface.

“When did you kill him?”

“Like I said, he was the first…right after mother died, I got rid of him.”

“Why wait that long?” CJ probed.

“Mother had a huge amount of control over me. Silly, I know, but that’s just how it was. When she died that control was lost. Don’t I sound like a psychotherapist?” Coburn smirked at her but was secretly annoyed that he couldn’t rattle her.

CJ held back disgust and anger while under his smug scrutiny. She could honestly say she hated the man. “All of that doesn’t explain why you killed two innocent boys. You didn’t cleanse them. Why?”

“Oh, Agent, I didn’t want to kill the boys. When Superdaddy was trying to protect his darling sons, one of them was shot by accident. I didn’t know they were there at first, and I couldn’t leave one little boy to watch his Daddy and his brother die, could I? That would just be cruel.”

CJ was getting too angry. She felt like she may explode and she leaned into Mark to whisper to him. They called two officers into the room and took a brief break. CJ paced the corridor outside the room, the muscles in her jaw clenching along with her fists.

“Do you want someone else to continue this?” Mark asked.

“Absolutely not. I just needed a moment. He is a hideous nutcase,” she said jarringly.

“An intelligent and sick hideous nutcase,” Mark agreed.

CJ and Mark returned to the interrogation a short time later, and CJ knew she had to get the full picture of what Coburn had done. As much as she didn’t want to hear his sickening story, she needed to in order to write her report and testify in court. “Why was there so much blood in the child’s bedroom?” she asked.

Coburn eyed her. “Don’t you have experts for that kind of thing?” When both agents remained quiet, he shrugged and decided to describe it in detail, going on to tell them that once he’d shot the other boy he’d discarded them in the closet. Then he’d shot the father to finish him off before starting to cleanse him.

“There were no blood trails from the bedroom…not enough for you to drag Davenport through the hallway. How did you move him?”

“I’m strong. I lifted him over my shoulder.”

After you cleansed him?” CJ inquired in disbelief.

“Yes, I had to burn my clothes. Such filth,” Coburn replied with distaste.

“But you cut Mr. Davenport while he was on the railing too?” Mark broke in.

“Yes. I’d lifted his shirt when I was positioning him. I saw another bullet hole. So irritating,” Coburn said while picking at his fingernails.

“So how many other’s did you cleanse in this way?”

“I don’t know. I lost count a few years back. If I tell you where you can find the information, will you credit my cooperation by cutting me a deal?”

CJ sighed. “The FBI won’t cut a deal with a serial killer,” she said, hatching a plan in her head to get the information nonetheless.

“Oh.” Coburn stared at the tabletop for a few seconds. “How many potential cases have you linked to me?”

“Quite a few.” CJ wanted to make him an offer and, knowing he was proud of his work, she thought it just might persuade him. “How about you tell us where we can get the information about your work, and I will personally write a paper all about you, cataloging your cleansings for all time? It will be available for everyone to read. I may even let you have some input.”

Coburn looked thoughtful and quite excited by the proposition. CJ had to hold back her intense displeasure, but she hoped she had read him correctly. He wanted to be known for everything he had done – now that he had been caught – and she figured he’d be glad of the attention. This is why she had to speak face to face with the killer…to understand and read his body language, his eyes, and even his sentence construction and the inflection in his voice. It all told a story.

“I think I’d like that. I might as well go out in a blaze of glory. You may put your cases to rest, Agent. I kept information and trophies from all my conquests at my mother’s summerhouse. The house is in her husband’s name,” Coburn said before dropping his gaze to the table again.

“We’ll need an address,” CJ said, poised with her pen to paper.

Coburn nodded. “I’ll give you that. It’s up at Big Bear Lake. That’s where Sheila and the girls are too. They might not be home though.”

At those words, CJ’s stomach flipped over. “Might not be home? Where would they be?”

“I don’t know. Sometimes she goes out shopping.”

“So they’re not hostages?”

“Oh, no,” Coburn said quietly, suddenly seeming remorseful.

“Steve, you must tell us what Sheila has to do with this. And are the girls OK?”

Coburn looked up, his eyes taking on a whole new expression. “They’re fine.”

CJ and Mark looked at one another, almost as if they had thought the same thought at the same time.

“Steve,” Mark said in a low voice. “What’s wrong?”

Coburn shifted his gaze again. “What will happen to the girls after you arrest their mother?”

CJ decided to push a little. “Why do you care, Steve?”

“Because…they’re mine.”

CJ had to make a quick decision. She knew the kids were not his. The DNA information she’d found did not match up. The girls were not Davenport’s or Coburn’s. “They’re not, Steve. She deceived you.” Rather than the shocked or violent response she was expecting, she watched as Coburn sat silently as if he had suspected as much.

CJ continued to get every piece of information she could from Steven Coburn who was now deflated and had certainly came down from any high he may have been experiencing. She found out about the location he had chosen for the money drop. It turned out to be as simple as the timing for a church service where there would be a lot of people around and it would be easier for Coburn to slip past them. She had to admit she had been looking for something a little more complex. Guess I can’t be right all the time.

* * * * * *

Much later that day, Mark and CJ headed back to their building where Mikey and Ethan met them at Mark’s office.

“How did it go?” Ethan asked tentatively.

“Well,” Mark said, sighing, “Here’s the bare bones of it. Coburn was the lover of Sheila Davenport, apparently for about four years. She didn’t know of his past, and he had tried to make a living as a pest controller. He eventually admitted to having six victims…two of which we haven’t found yet, and one of them being his father…plus the Davenport murders. Sheila told him the girls were his but she’d had many lovers it seems. Charles had found out about a couple of them and so their prenuptial agreement would take effect. In the case of their pending divorce, she’d get nothing. She wanted his money and decided to stage a housebreaking and murder, with her and the girls being taken as hostages.”

Mark stopped and hung his head low so CJ decided to take over. She cleared her throat and sat up straighter in her chair. “According to Coburn, Sheila had organized the break-in but didn’t know the boys had come home early. She only expected her husband to be killed, and when she was freed from her so-called abductor, she could claim the insurance money. Coburn hasn’t told her about the boys yet. He’s not remorseful about their deaths but he isn’t proud either. So obviously Mrs. Davenport wasn’t a hostage and possibly stood to gain from the ransom too. Pure and utter greed…and it seems, seriously bad judgment in her choice of boyfriend…cost those two boys their lives. And their father.”

“Wow,” Ethan said, shaking his head. “I just cannot comprehend how her mind was working.”

“There’s a lot more work to do, and we have an address where Sheila and the girls are staying. I think we should stake it out…catch her unawares. There’s less chance of any resistance that way and less chance of scaring the kids. Might be an idea to go in late evening when the girls are asleep,” CJ said confidently.

“Agreed,” Mark replied. “Where is it? San Bernardino County?”

“Yeah. Who do you want me to take?”

“I’ll let you know. All three of you will go with me and whoever else I decide on.”

Taking that as a dismissal of sorts, CJ got to her feet. “I’ll write all this up and hand it in to you once I’m done, Sir.”

“Thanks, CJ.”

Ethan and Mikey followed her out of the office and went to get the coffees in for the few hours of paperwork they had coming.

* * * * * *

Driving through the gates toward the house, Kate glanced over at Jamie who had been very quiet since they left the hospital. She stopped the Mercedes in front of the porch and turned off the engine. “You OK, Jamie?”

“Yes. Slight headache but fine, thanks,” Jamie said with a reassuring smile.

“I’ll make you something decent to eat, and you can get settled in the guest room.”

“Kate?”

“Yeah?”

“Are you sure it’s all right for me to stay here?”

“Oh, Jamie, it’s honestly fine. At least this way, Sam and I can keep an eye on you.”

“You mean CJ?”

“No. I mean Sam. I bet she finds a ridiculously obscure reason to visit me in the next two days,” Kate said, grinning as she got out of the car. She went round to grab Jamie’s bag out of the trunk and headed up the porch steps behind her temporary patient. Once they were in the hallway, Kamali trotted over to them and sniffed at Jamie before wagging his tail and lying down at her feet.

“I think you’ve made another friend,” Kate said before she headed for the bottom of the stairs. “I’ll go and start our late dinner if you go get settled. Third door on your left at the top of the stairs,” she added as she handed the overnight bag to Jamie.

“Thanks, Kate.” Jamie took her bag and ascended the stairs, feeling strangely comfortable in this welcoming home. The house was spacious but homey, and Jamie absorbed the atmosphere as she stopped to look at the Navajo painting on the upper landing before heading down the hall.

Arriving outside the third door, she looked ahead of her to the one that was open at the end on the hallway. The lights were switched off, but she could see a little from the illumination on the porch outside. It was CJ and Kate’s bedroom. She bit her lips and stretched out her neck to see a little more. It had a distinctively native feel to the décor and was warm and luxurious in its fabrics. The bed was half covered in a patchwork quilt of sorts – again Native in its pattern – and a nearby couch displayed a faux-fur throw with ease. Very nice, Jamie thought. With what little she could see, she decided it was perfect for the couple. She shook her head and smiled as she entered the guestroom.

* * * * * *

Kate strolled into her bedroom to get changed. After she switched on the bedside lamps, she threw on her sweats and a shirt before leaving. She bumped into Jamie when she walked back into the hall. “Hey. Nice PJ’s,” she said, grinning at the hedgehog pattern on the tough federal agent’s sleepwear.

“Oh, uh, thanks. Is this OK?” Jamie asked, flapping her brushed cotton top with her hand.

“Yes, of course. Just make yourself at home. Dinner is in the wok. How does a light stir-fry sound?”

“Ooh, sounds amazing. I didn’t eat anything today at the hospital,” Jamie said as they walked downstairs.

“No wonder. It’s not the most appetizing,” Kate sympathized.

“Your house is beautiful, by the way.”

“Thanks. We like it.”

“Did you hear from CJ?”

“Yeah, she called. They’ve gone to arrest Sheila Davenport. She won’t be home ‘til late, I guess,” Kate replied, heading to the stove to stir the food.

Jamie sat down at the dining table. “I wish I could be there to help.”

“I’m sure they’ll manage. You just rest for a day or so, and quit stressing,” Kate ordered.

“Yes, boss.”

Kate laughed, and not long afterwards they sat together and devoured their meal. Jamie felt very much at ease as Kate smiled at her warmly and laughed at her crappy jokes. Jamie didn’t fully understand anyone being so nice to her. She decided that changing her ways was a great thing after all.

Gotta grow up sometime…and now’s the time, she mused as she sat on the couch that evening watching some TV and sipping on her coffee.

* * * * * *

It was dark at Big Bear Lake. The agents had already posed as salespeople again and they were now sitting in the car watching the house since Sheila had failed to answer the door. She’d arrived a couple of hours ago with the two girls in tow, so they knew she was in there. Now they waited, thinking it would be better if the girls were in bed. There would be less risk of them seeing any nastiness if things went wrong. CJ thought Big Bear Lake was beautiful on the way in, but now that they were in the middle of it, it just looked like any other street. She blew a gust of air from her mouth and grabbed her cooling coffee cup from its holder.

Mark sighed. “What do you think? Another hour?”

“Yep. Sounds about right. It all seems quiet at the house.” CJ lifted the radio from the dashboard. “Carson to Matthews, over.”

“Matthews here. Go ahead, over.”

“It’s a go in one hour unless we contact you before that. Keep your team awake.” CJ grinned briefly when she heard Ethan try to cover up his laugh.

“Roger that, Agent Carson. Matthews, out.”

CJ pressed the transmit button on the handset again. “Everyone else remain on standby unless we call you. Carson, out.”

The next hour was going to be a long one.

* * * * * *

At nine o’clock, Mark gave the instruction to move in. CJ, Ethan and two other agents walked quietly up the path to the front door unnoticed. Once they’d knocked, Sheila Davenport answered, completely oblivious to what was about to occur.

“Mrs. Sheila Davenport?” Ethan said.

The woman nodded before she could wonder who was asking. Ethan flashed his badge, and Sheila’s face suddenly paled in shock. Ethan and CJ quickly took an arm each and held Sheila since she looked like she was about to flee out a back door. CJ was glad to find that the children were nowhere to be seen and assumed they were indeed in bed.

“Sheila Davenport, you are under arrest for your involvement in the murders of Charles Davenport, and Craig and Simon Davenport…”

At the mention of the boy’s names, Sheila’s face instantly contorted in horror and tears flooded from her eyes. “No!” she screamed.

Ethan read Sheila her rights even as she continued to wail and protest. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do, can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?”

Sheila collapsed to her knees. Ethan repeated the last question, and she nodded as the two agents lifted her back to her feet.

“Where are the girls, Sheila?” CJ said, standing in front of her to get her to focus. Sheila weakly nodded towards a door behind CJ, and she looked round. “This door?” After another nod, CJ turned to Ethan who was holding Sheila along with Agent Kerr. “Keep her here. I need to go get the kids.”

Ethan nodded, and CJ entered the bedroom carefully, putting on a bedside light and finding two small girls huddled together in the center of the bed. CJ crouched down so she didn’t look so intimidating and smiled at the two small faces.

“Hi, you must be Shannon,” she said to the larger girl.

Shannon nodded and sniffed while wiping her eyes.

“Don’t be afraid, OK? My name’s CJ.”

“Did you come to take us home?”

“I wish I could, Shannon, but we have to go to my office first. I’m an FBI agent. Do you know what that is?”

“No.”

“Well it’s kind of like a police officer. You know what that is, right?” CJ inquired gently.

“Uh-huh.”

“Is this your little sister?” CJ asked, pointing to the cute infant who was attached to Shannon’s side.

“Yes. Her name’s Lucy,” Shannon said, still a little tearful at the scary people in the living room. “Is he a policeman too?” she asked, pointing to Mark who now stood in the doorway holding two jackets for the girls to wear.

“That’s right. We’re here to take care of you now,” CJ said. “Do you think you could be brave and come with us?”

Shannon didn’t respond at first, and CJ was worried until the girl spoke up again. “The man said Mommy would get taken away. Are we going with Mommy?”

“What man?”

“The man…uncle Steve.”

CJ hid her disgust. “What did uncle Steve tell you, Shannon?”

“He said…he said that if we were bad, Mommy would get taken away. Were me and Lucy bad?”

“Oh, no, you weren’t bad. But Mommy did something silly and she needs to go away for a while. Listen to me, Shannnon. I need you to be brave. For Lucy…and for me, OK? Can you do that? You can ask me any questions you want to in the car.”

“Is it a police car?”

“Kinda like a police car, yes. It has blue and red lights, but you can’t see them until I switch them on. I can show you if you want.”

“OK. I…I can be brave.”

CJ smiled and her heart melted at this little girl who was the spitting image of her at that age. “I’m so proud of you, Shannon. Let’s get some warm clothes for you and maybe a favorite toy?”

“Lucy needs Barney. This is him,” Shannon said, picking up a nearby bear.

“Well, hello Barney. And what about you, Shannon?”

“I’m a big girl but I….” Shannon seemed to look around the room searching for something.

“Are you looking for this?” CJ said, grabbing a plush toy from the floor that seemed to have fallen from the bed when the girls awoke.

“Piglet!” Shannon cried as she took the toy into her arms. “This is Piglet.” She nodded to reaffirm that fact to CJ.

“Well hello, Piglet. I used to have one of these too, when I was much younger.”

“When you were little?”

“Yes.”

“Can we go now? I don’t like this house.”

“Of course we can,” CJ said softly, stretching her arms toward Lucy whom she was amazed to find, reached out for her.

CJ lifted Lucy into her arms and took Shannon’s hand. Holding her emotions tightly inside, she walked towards Mark who signaled to Ethan to leave with Sheila since the girls were definitely all right with CJ. CJ took Shannon and Lucy outside and into her sedan. She sat in the backseat with them both, and Mark got in the front.

“Are you girls OK?” he asked as he turned around and smiled at the huddle in the back seat.

“Yes. Girls, this is Mark. He’s my boss.”

“At work?” Shannon asked while she pulled at Piglet’s ear.

“That’s right.”

“Is that where we’re going now?”

“Yes, right after Mark shows us the flashing lights. Ready, Mark?”

“Yep,” Mark replied lightly before he pressed the relevant switch.

Shannon and Lucy stretched their heads around when the lights on the back parcel shelf began to flash in a fast, strobe-like fashion. Little Lucy clapped her hands, and Shannon had a look of excitement on her young, guarded face. CJ wondered if they had been affected by everything that had happened so far. She knew they would no doubt miss their mother once things had calmed down.

Mark briefly talked with the backup team on the radio, making sure they’d secure the house after they searched it. Once he was satisfied that his instructions would be carried out, he pulled away from the curb.

As they headed back to the office, CJ was amazed at the two children who were now curled around her waist. She didn’t expect the feelings she was experiencing having them so close, and a fleeting thought swept through her mind. I could get used to this.

* * * * * *

Jamie yawned widely and scratched her fingers through her hair. “Ouch!”

“Careful, Jamie,” Kate said from beside her.

“Damn. I forgot about it for a while. Actually, that’s good. Thanks, Kate.”

“Well you must have been enjoying my movie then.”

“I really did. You’re very talented. I’ll need to try to catch that series you’re in now.”

Kate was a little bashful. “Thanks. You can watch it any time. We, uh, have the DVDs of the first season.”

Jamie grinned. “Cool. I’ll come over and watch them sometime,” she said but was rudely interrupted by a yawn. “Bedtime for me, I think.”

“If you need anything at all gimme a shout, OK?”

“Thanks, Kate. Goodnight.”

“Night.” Kate checked the clock. It was eleven thirty and she wondered how much longer CJ would be working. She tried not to think about it too much because ultimately she would start to worry about her. After she cleared up the dinner dishes and let the dog out one last time, she flopped back onto the couch and flicked through the TV channels, but her heavy eyes dropped shut just as she’d settled on a show.

.

Chapter 7

With Steven Coburn and Sheila Davenport in custody, the federal agents filed into Mark’s office. He sat at his desk looking as exhausted as they all felt.

“Agents, come on in and take a load off in more ways than one.”

Ethan slumped into the nearby couch, and even though there was another free chair, CJ remained standing and stretched out her six-foot frame.

A long yawn pushed its way out as she lowered her arms. “Sorry, Sir,” she said sheepishly when she noticed Mark watching her with a small smirk on his face.

“No apology necessary, CJ. I know you’re all tired and I’m incredibly happy with how fast you guys turned this around. You’ve all worked your butts off, including Jamie. How is she, by the way?”

CJ recalled her phone call to Kate earlier. Jamie was practically jumping out of her skin when Kate had gone to the hospital to pick her up. With a grin to the assistant director, she said, “She got released today under the proviso that she wouldn’t be alone for the next forty-eight hours, so Kate went to pick her up. She’s staying with us for a day or so.”

“Excellent. What’s the latest on our captures?”

CJ scratched two fingers across her forehead. “They’re holding Sheila Davenport in custody until her arraignment. She’s a mess after her emotional outburst at the house and her initial interview wasn’t very clear. We didn’t get much out of her. I have a feeling she’ll be in prison for a long time for this, though,” she said as she sat on the edge of the boss’s desk.

CJ knew Ethan would be thinking about his own kids through this whole thing, and as if reading her thoughts, he asked, “What about the girls now?”

“I checked. They’re upstairs with the two agents from the CARD team. Not sure how they’ll handle it over the holiday season. Sheila’s estranged sister gets temporary custody but she’s from Boulder, Colorado, and they’re still trying to track her down.”

“They brought the Rapid Deployment team in?” Ethan asked curiously.

“They’ve been in the whole time. Seems they were keeping an eye on the investigation from afar because there was no evidence of abduction except a vague note on the wall and an unconvincing call. They let us lead.”

Mark sat in his usual pose with his elbows on the desk and fingers pointed to the sky. He rested his chin on his thumbs as his agents waited for him to speak. “Can you go up to see the girls off, CJ? You seemed to make a connection with Shannon at the scene. In fact, they seemed to love you.”

CJ tried not to blush. “Sure. When are social services coming to get them?”

“They should be here soon, I suspect.”

“Right. I’ll head up now then,” CJ said as she got up to leave.

Mark watched as Ethan excused himself and followed CJ out of the office. He was glad to see CJ was almost back to normal. He shook his head since he’d never cared so much for his employees in his life. “What a great team,” he muttered to himself.

* * * * * *

In the room upstairs, the two girls were playing near a box full of plastic toys. When Shannon saw CJ come through the door, she sprang to her feet. “CJ!”

“Hey! Whatcha doin’ huh?”

“Playing. Come see,” Shannon said, taking CJ’s giant hand in her own and pulling her across the room.

CJ looked over at the two agents who were supervising the children and got two smiles in return. As she sat down on the floor with her legs out in front of her, Lucy climbed into her lap, still hugging Barney the bear.

“Hey, Lucy,” CJ said quietly, hugging the infant and kissing her dark hair.

“Look, CJ. There’s Nemo!” Shannon said excitedly.

“So it is. And he winds up too. Watch this.” CJ took the plastic fish from Shannon and wound it up, watching the girl squeal with delight as the fins flapped back and forth on the toy.

CJ sat with the girls for fifteen minutes, occasionally laughing at Shannon’s sudden changes in conversation and feeling her heart beating hard in her chest. She truly hoped that Shannon and Lucy’s new guardian would take good care of their precious souls.

When two women from social services arrived, CJ’s face fell. She quickly hid her sadness and focused on her new friends. “Shannon? Come here, sweetheart,” she requested, patting her left knee. Shannon came to sit on her and turned her head to see CJ’s face. CJ smiled reassuringly at her. “It’s time to go with these two ladies but I want to give you something before you leave, OK?” At the girl’s nod, CJ took her card from her pocket. “Now I want you to be a brave big girl and stay strong. Take care of Lucy…and Barney and Piglet. This card has my phone number on it.”

Shannon took the card and looked at it frowning. CJ waited for her to say something but Shannon just continued to look at the tiny writing on the card. She could see the girl was curious and intelligent.

“If you need me for anything, even just to tell me how Piglet is doing, you can call me on this number. Get a grown-up to help you if you want. OK?” Shannon nodded mutely, her face taking on a worried look. CJ hugged her tightly. “You’ll be fine, Shannon.” She released the girl and repositioned Lucy, giving her a little squeeze in a goodbye of sorts. “Ready?” she asked with an exaggerated, toothy smile. Getting no verbal response, she popped the card in Shannon’s jacket pocket and took a deep breath before handing the girls over.

Once they had left, CJ stared at the empty doorway for a few moments not really noticing the other agents leaving. Her heart felt shredded by what these two children would go through now. She told herself that she would check with social services in a few days – even if she was off work – to make sure Shannon and Lucy had gotten home safely…wherever home was going to be.

* * * * * *

At two AM, CJ sat in her truck in front of her house with her hands on the steering wheel and her head hung low. She thought back to the recent night when she had done the exact same thing, feeling so incredibly dark and lonely and obsessing about the case. She hadn’t been alone, of course, but that’s how she’d felt in her mind. She was glad it was over, and she was more than glad she had Kate in her life. She took a deep breath and opened the door, noting the crisp air hitting her skin. “Chilly,” she muttered as she walked up the porch steps.

Inside, she dropped her jacket and keys in the usual place and noticed the fluttering light from the TV in the living room. Walking through the door, she saw Kate sleeping curled up on the couch with the remote still in her hand. CJ smiled as she went to her. After a few seconds of just watching Kate, she bent down to kiss her cheek.

“Mmphh…jus’ come back, seej…” Kate mumbled in her sleep.

CJ knelt down beside her. “I’m here, honey. I never left.”

Kate didn’t awaken, still mumbling something CJ couldn’t understand. She turned off the TV and slipped one arm under Kate’s head and one under her knees, scooping her up to cradle her easily. Kate’s hands automatically slid around her neck which made CJ smile again as she started walking towards the stairs.

“CJ?”

“I sure hope so,” CJ responded as she went up the stairs.

“Are you OK?” Kate asked sleepily.

“Yep.”

“Why are you carrying me?” she continued to mumble as they entered the bedroom.

“Because I love you…and you were sleeping…and because I can.” CJ grinned as she deposited Kate on the bed. Her smile widened at the dazed and bewildered look on Kate’s face. She left her sitting there to get her bearings and wandered off into the en suite. Kate soon followed even though she was still slightly zombie-like.

Kate headed to the toilet seat, and CJ grinned at the way she was completely on automatic pilot. Once they were done they both fell into bed, Kate’s arms immediately sliding round CJ’s body.

“Did you get her?” Kate slurred.

CJ knew she was talking about Sheila Davenport. “Yes, honey. We found her and the girls at the house in San Bernardino County.”

“Where are the girls now?”

“With social services until Sheila’s sister comes to get them,” CJ said solemnly.

Kate sensed her wife’s mood and looked up, suddenly a lot more awake. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

After letting out a long sigh, CJ tightened her hold on Kate. “They are such sweet kids, Katie, and they seemed to love me. I spent some time with them. Just made me realize how much I’m gonna love our kids when we have them.”

“Aww. Tell me everything that happened tonight?”

CJ lay wrapped around Kate and told her how the entire thing had played out. Kate smiled adoringly as CJ talked about her interaction with the girls, and what she hoped would become of them. When CJ said she just wanted them to be happy, Kate’s heart melted.

“You are so damn sweet.”

“I really am,” CJ retorted as she swiped her finger down the tip of Kate’s nose.

“You’ll make a great mom. That was such a good idea you had to give them your number, CJ. I bet it made Shannon feel a little better.”

“I hope so. C’mon, let’s get some rest. Oh, and I bet you’ll be the best mom ever.”

“We’ll both be great.” Kate kissed her and even though she was tired, she still felt the pounding of her heart and the heat suffusing her body at the touch of CJ’s lips. “Mmm,” she said in a whisper as she pulled back from CJ’s face. “We can’t do that. Jamie’s next door.”

“Uh-huh, and I’m exhausted anyway. Just hold me, Katie.”

“Gladly.”

And with that, both women dozed off, CJ’s mind calmed by Kate’s love and attention once more.

* * * * * *

The next morning CJ paused half way down the staircase to listen to the giggling coming from the kitchen. “I detect two blondes,” she said to herself before she laughed out loud at the irony of the stereotype in this case. The two blondes in her kitchen right now were two of the most intelligent women she’d ever known.

“Hey, Legs, get in here,” a familiar voice shouted after hearing CJ’s laugh.

CJ grinned and slid her robe up her leg. She wrapped the bare limb around the doorframe, leaving no clothing visible to the two women in the kitchen. She ran her hand up and down the naked thigh and pointed her toes out straight ahead of her, wiggling her foot before cocking her head to the side to see the response. She found Kate and Jamie with very wide eyes, staring at her with their mouths open. Kate had a huge smile on her face but Jamie looked like she might have an aneurysm, and CJ thought she may have overdone it a little.

“Good morning, ladies,” she said innocently.

“Uh,” Jamie grunted.

Kate laughed. “I think Jamie just had a heart attack, honey. Please don’t do that again.”

CJ slipped her arms around Kate and kissed her briefly, eyeing Jamie as she headed for the coffeepot. “Sorry, Penfold. You OK today?”

Jamie shook her head to erase her lurid train of thought. “I’m fine…and I agree with Kate. Don’t do that again.”

“I thought your little redhead was gonna crush the crush?”

“We’ve barely gotten started yet. Gimme some time, will ya?” Jamie grumbled.

CJ stood behind the stool Jamie was perched on. “Let me check your head. Stay still.” She gently moved her friend’s hair, and Kate saw Jamie close her eyes.

“CJ, you’re torturing her. Quit it.”

“I am not. And it looks fine…not as black as before. Thick skull indeed.”

“Smart-ass,” Jamie said with a pout.

“Yep. That’s me.”

Kate slurped from her mug while she tapped on CJ’s shoulder with the other hand. “How come you’re so chipper this morning?”

CJ’s face twisted into a strange expression as she pretended to think about it. “I have the most amazing wife in the world. I have some great friends, a good job, and a solved case. I’d say that counts for some of it.”

Jamie pretended to gag. “I’m gonna barf.”

“Hah. Just you wait ‘til you fall in love. You’ll see…” CJ assured, crossing her arms over her chest and leaving Jamie lost for a response.

They settled down around the island unit and had breakfast together as they engaged in chitchat and some FBI talk. CJ gave Jamie a rundown of everything that had happened after she’d gone into hospital.

“Are you going in today?” Jamie asked. She was really bummed that she had not been there to help with the stakeout and arrest of Sheila Davenport.

CJ nodded. “Yeah. Just to tie up some loose ends. Should only be a few hours.”

“Can I come with…?”

“Nope. You’re supposed to rest. Doctor’s orders,” CJ said, wagging her finger for emphasis.

Before Jamie could protest someone rang the doorbell and Kate went to answer it. She came back into the kitchen with her eyebrow raised. She tried to hold back the smile that was bursting to get out. “Well look who I found.”

Sam followed her into the room and showed practically every one of her teeth in a cheesy grin. “Hey, all.” Seeing all three women in pajamas, she looked down at her own body. “Hmm, I feel a little overdressed.”

Jamie swallowed the food she had in her mouth and just about passed out. All she could think was that she looked a fright…again. Aww crap.

CJ grinned. “Hi, Sam. What brings you here?” she asked even as she leaned in towards Kate who was back next to her. “Like we don’t know,” she whispered to her wife who laughed before trying to compose herself once more.

“What?” Sam said, amused at Kate’s struggle but refusing to let them know she was totally here to see Jamie. “I’m here with your mail. You said Tony had a few days off so I thought I’d deliver them for you since I had the day off too.”

Kate nodded, biting her lips to stop the giggles she could feel bubbling up inside. “Um, right.”

“It’s true,” Sam pouted.

Jamie smiled. “I believe you.”

CJ laughed. “You would, Sap!” After a piece of bacon flew past CJ’s head, she decided to shut up for a second or two. A black haze in the shape of Kamali rocketed through the room to vacuum up the piece of bacon quite efficiently before disappearing again.

“How are you, Jamie?” Sam asked shyly.

“I’m fine, but once again you caught me on a bad hair day.”

Sam shook her head. “You look great,” she replied, giving Jamie a look of such desire that she blushed.

Kate and CJ watched from the sidelines like two monkeys perched on a branch. They were highly amused at the interaction but tried very hard not to show it.

After a few intensely silent moments CJ pursed her lips, glanced at Kate who just shrugged in response, and then decided to stand up and break the awkwardness. “Well I have to get ready for work…unfortunately. Sam, help yourself to breakfast, but perhaps just the food for now though. Give Jamie a chance to heal.” She ran out the door quickly, hearing Kate laughing loudly behind her and imagining the bright-red faces of the other two.

* * * * * *

After CJ left, Kate finished her second mug of coffee and excused herself from the kitchen, leaving Sam and Jamie to chat in private. She got dressed and was just about to go out with the dog when the phone rang. She picked up the extension in the upper hallway. “Hello?”

“Oh, hi, sweetheart. How are you?”

“Hey, Dad, I’m fine. It’s good to hear from you.”

“I just wanted to check up on you both. Last time we spoke you said CJ had a bad case. How is she?”

“Yeah, it did get tough for a while but it’s pretty much cleared up now. We’re absolutely fine,” Kate said, smiling at her father’s compassionate nature.

“That’s good, Katie.”

“How are you and your husband doing?” Kate said with a grin.

“Oh! Ha-ha! That still sounds funny to me. Oh, Jeffrey’s fine. We’re just busy-busy-busy on the run up to Christmas. What are you guys doing this year?”

“Not sure yet. CJ will be off work as of tomorrow. I think just a quiet one for us this year, but I was thinking about trying to plan a family Christmas next year.”

Eddie almost squeaked. “Oh! Fabulous idea, honey, just great! Well you two have a lovely Christmas, and I’ll call you when it comes, OK?”

“Sure. You and Jeffrey have a great Christmas too. I love you both.”

“Oh, we love you both so much. Speak soon, sweetheart,” he concluded, making kissing noises down the phone.

“Bye, Dad.” Kate hung up and chuckled to herself. She imagined Jeffrey dressed in his Santa suit on Christmas day. He always played seasonal songs on the piano while their customers ate at the restaurant. She smiled at the thought of her dad having someone so close to him who was committed to the business but even more committed to their personal relationship. She knew both Eddie and Jeffrey had a blast during the Holiday season which was why she thought CJ might go for a laughter-filled family Christmas with them all coming to the house. With her decision to talk with CJ about it made, she went in search of Kamali.

* * * * * *

CJ knocked on the door and waited for a reply. She was supposed to be at home by now but she had lost track of time.

“Come in,” Mark shouted from inside his office.

She pushed open the door and popped her head in. “Hello, Sir.”

“CJ, why are you still here? It’s two o’clock!”

“Uh, I just finished up the last of the paperwork,” she replied, walking toward him and handing a copy of her report to Mark.

“Ah, thank you. Anything else to report?”

“I don’t think so. Coburn and Davenport are being held in custody until their court dates. No chance of bail. I checked with social services, and they’ve located Sheila’s sister. She’s coming to Los Angeles to stay with a friend until she finds out what’s happening with Sheila. It could be a long wait for her,” CJ said with a sigh.

“Yes. She only has temporary custody. Not sure how that works but I hope the girls will be OK.”

“Me too, Sir.”

“Well…go home, CJ. Take two weeks off. I have someone on standby to cover your absence over the holiday season. You deserve a break.” He sensed CJ was getting an argumentative reply prepared so he waved a warning finger in the air. “No argument. That’s an order.”

CJ stared at him for a few seconds. She decided there was no room for maneuver this time. “OK…on one condition.”

“And what’s that?”

“That you come over for dinner tonight, just as a thank you for your support,” CJ said amicably. She saw him narrow his eyes a little. “Sir, you deserve some praise too. You’re a good boss, and that’s kinda rare.”

Mark laughed, knowing CJ never said anything with an ulterior motive in mind. “Thank you, CJ. I suppose I could. Yes. What time were you thinking?”

“Shoot for eight thirty?”

“Fine. I’ll see you then.”

“Good! See you later, Sir.”

“Later, CJ.”

* * * * * *

CJ, Kate and Jamie sat on the couch sipping from their mugs as they chatted. Kate had made herself comfortable with her back leaning against the end cushion and her feet on CJ’s lap. Once the FBI talk was done, Kate remembered about her meeting with John and decided to ask the two agents what they thought.

“Hey, I wanted to tell you about that producing job,” she said, nudging CJ’s thigh gently with her foot.

“Oh, yeah, how did that go?” CJ asked.

“Well wait ‘til you hear this. He wants to do a short film about a real life federal agent.”

CJ laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding? Really?”

“Yep. Some case about a hostage-taker who thought he was an alien or something similar.”

Jamie raised her dark-blonde eyebrow. “Aliens?”

“Well,” Kate said, scratching her cheek, “he said it was a real case. Some guy in a convenience store who was certain he was either an alien or abducted by aliens. It sounds like something out of the X-Files but he said it was true…” She stopped talking when she saw CJ frowning. “What?”

“Where was this?” CJ asked.

“He said Baltimore, I think.”

“Uh-huh,” CJ said, nodding slowly. “I know of it.”

“You do?”

“Yep.”

“Oh God, it was you, wasn’t it?” Kate gasped.

Jamie leaned forward to assess CJ’s face, but CJ just grinned. “Was it?”

“Now wouldn’t that be hilarious if it was? No, it wasn’t me, but it was my partner, Billy Sharp.”

“Really?” Kate squeaked.

“Wow, talk about coincidences,” Jamie piped in.

“Are you gonna do the film, Katie?” CJ asked.

“I’d like to. Would you have a problem with me doing it?”

CJ shook her head. “Nah. I could even help if I have the time. I can contact Billy for you. Does John want any FBI input or is he just going by reports?”

“I’ll ask him next time I see him. Go figure.”

“I know. We seem to have these freaky things happen quite a lot, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“I can’t give him actual details but I can certainly assist him in making it look like the real deal.”

Kate nodded. “I’ll let him know.”

Jamie leaned back to relax as they continued to chat about more mundane topics. An hour later, she was starting to feel a little dizzy. She devoured a light snack in the kitchen before deciding to head upstairs for a nap.

“Want me to wake you later?” CJ asked.

“No. If I manage to sleep all night then I obviously need it.”

“OK, but you don’t look so good so I’ll be checking in on you. Make sure you cover your lady parts,” CJ said, grinning.

Jamie just shook her head. “Oh, I will, Dangermouse. Good night, you two.”

“Night,” Kate and CJ shouted in unison.

* * * * * *

When the Assistant Director arrived, they quickly settled down to their meal. After the initial conversation that inevitably turned to the murder case, Mark sat quietly for a moment seemingly to make a decision in his head. He finally nodding to himself and broke the comfortable silence that had descended around them.

“You know what I find quite amazing about you, CJ?” Mark said while accepting a piece of bread from the basket that Kate held out.

“What?” CJ quipped, trying not to blush at Mark’s words.

“That the two things you are best at where work is concerned are two things that require two completely different minds. Wow, that was a lot of twos,” he said before he grinned at CJ’s blush.

“What do you mean, Mark?” Kate asked.

“Well, CJ is a top class negotiator which requires a huge amount of detachment from her subject. You have to have a lot of self-control which she has in abundance, but you also have to avoid, at all costs, being emotionally involved with what’s happening. Also, you have to be a very good listener and to acknowledge the perspective and viewpoint of the other person without necessarily agreeing or disagreeing with it. It takes detachment…a lot of detachment. And yet…”

CJ and Kate watched Mark spreading butter on his bread as he raved on. “The other thing you’re incredible at is serial killer profiling and I think we can all agree that you cannot stay detached from that to do the amazing job you just did with Coburn. You need to get into their minds…to think like they think. It’s quite a skill.” He finally looked up from his task to see CJ’s face now flaming, and Kate grinning goofily at her.

CJ took a deep breath and tried her best to graciously accept the praise. “Thank you, Mark, but I didn’t exactly stay detached from a couple of negotiations I’ve been involved with.”

Mark nodded. “Those were extenuating circumstances, CJ. Nobody can predict how they’d react when loved ones are involved. I’d imagine the ones with Kate were particularly frightening for you. Even I know that. But they don’t happen every day, do they?”

“No, thankfully,” CJ replied, frowning. “Although, you’re right…there have been two different situations with Kate.”

Kate covered CJ’s hand on the table and smiled. “Well when you consider how we met I’m not surprised. I’m grateful that’s all over now, as well as this case. I hope you’re giving her some time off now, Mark?”

“I’m forcing her to take some time off, Kate…at least two weeks. And I know you’re off work right now so she’s much more likely to take it. She did coerce me into dinner tonight, though.” Mark winked at Kate since he could see CJ glaring at him out the side of his eye.

“Um, hello? I am here, ya know?” CJ grumbled.

Mark laughed out loud, and CJ looked over to Kate who grinned in that mischievous way that CJ couldn’t resist. CJ held her grouchy expression for mere seconds before she gave in and laughed. With a long-suffering shake of her head, she lifted her glass and took a hearty swig of her favorite grape juice.

* * * * * *

When Mark left that night, Kate and CJ sat on the porch steps and looked out into the darkness, watching the red taillights of his car disappear out the gates in the distance. The stars twinkled above them and an equine snort could be heard somewhere behind the house. It was so comforting, so quiet, and Kate turned her head to complete the bliss with CJ’s peaceful face providing a visual treat.

“How are you feeling, CJ? Better?”

“I feel much better, Katie. I know I keep saying thank you…but thank you…for your support, for your love, and for everything else you give to me. I’m grateful every day for you and I’m never letting you go. I hope you realize that,” CJ said as a stray tear ran down her cheek.

Kate saw it and smiled, knowing her partner was returning to her. “You don’t need to thank me, honey. I don’t ever want to be anywhere else. You’re all I need. I should thank you for letting me love you and for everything you give to me too,” she whispered as she reached up to wipe the tear away.

CJ turned to her and took joined their hands. “Bedtime, I think. I need to thank you another way.”

Kate’s eyes darkened as she allowed her tall, beautiful wife to lead her into their home and over toward the staircase. “I’m sure there’s more I need to thank you for too…for the rest of the night.”

“You’ll need to be quiet, though.”

Kate stifled her laugh. “Me? I think you’re the one who’ll need to pipe down.”

CJ stopped halfway up the stairs and turned to her. “How about the study? And there’s a lock on the door too.”

“You really think I can’t be quiet?”

CJ grinned menacingly. “Maybe you can, but with you on top of me I’ll have no choice but to make lots of wonderful noises.”

The image created in Kate’s mind was too much and she dragged CJ to the study before closing and locking the door behind them. “So I’m on top?” she purred as she pushed CJ up against the door and nibbled on her neck.

“Any…anything…you want. Ohh…”

.

Chapter 9

“You ready?”

Kate nodded vigorously and held her faux-fur collar tight against her neck. CJ opened the door and they ran out of the rental office toward the black Jeep Wrangler that was waiting for them.

After putting their bags – and a box that CJ wouldn’t let Kate open – in the back, they jumped inside. Kate started the engine and turned up the heat, her teeth chattering with the low temperatures. It was now December twenty-second, and so far Kate hadn’t mentioned the significant date. They were in Montana, en-route to their cabin for a quiet Christmas, and she was happy that CJ was in good spirits.

CJ leaned over to give Kate a quick kiss. “Cold nose,” she said once they’d parted.

“Uh-huh. Let’s get moving. I can’t wait to see Charlie. Oh! Did you call Dad?”

“Yes. I let him know we’d be out of contact and wished them a Merry Christmas. Told him we’d call at New Year,” CJ said, looking for some good music for the trip.

“Excellent.”

The four-wheel drive Jeep pulled out of the lot and they were soon on the road. They both sang along with the music, CJ occasionally laughing at Kate’s loud and slightly off-tune singing. But it didn’t stop them. They were having too much fun. They stopped in Missoula for supplies before finally arriving at the Sheriff’s parking lot in Alberton. As they walked inside they saw Charlie’s deputy sitting behind the counter.

“Psst…Jonathan,” CJ whispered.

Jonathan looked up and smiled at his visitors. “CJ, Kate, hello…”

“Hi,” Kate answered quietly. “How are you, Jonathan?”

“I’m good, Kate. And how are you both?”

CJ smiled. “We’re good. Right, Katie?”

“Absolutely.”

“Where’s Charlie?” CJ asked as she looked around the office.

Jonathan chuckled. “He’s in the bathroom. How did you know he was here?”

“I can smell the cigars and his truck is out front.”

“Go hide and I’ll set him up for you.” Jonathan pointed to a nearby closet door, and Kate and CJ quickly slipped behind the counter to hide inside.

As the door closed the darkness surrounded them. “Ooh, baby,” CJ whispered.

Kate slapped the hand that slid up her butt cheek. “Quit it, Carson. Shh!”

CJ giggled silently as she leaned her breasts on the back of Kate’s shoulders and got another slap for her trouble. The mischief stopped when they heard Jonathan talking to Charlie, telling him that they had to hurry up and help two damsels in distress out on the road. Out-of-towners, too. Jonathan opened the closet door and Charlie turned to get his coat.

“Ahh! FBI! Kate!”

“Hey, Charlie,” Kate said as she opened her arms to hug the man. The Sheriff squeezed the living daylights out of her and then turned to CJ who winked at him.

Kate caught the sly look from Charlie, too. What was that about?

“Hey, man. How’s my favorite Sheriff?” CJ drawled, pulling the stout man into her arms.

“Fine, just fine. I haven’t seen you since your honeymoon. How’s married life?”

“It’s the best, Charlie. I have the best wife,” CJ said bashfully.

Kate pretended to disagree. “See…I’d disagree because have the best wife.”

“Aww, shucks.” CJ flashed a toothy smile at her before she turned back to Charlie. “So, wanna catch me and the wife up on all your gossip over a coffee?”

Kate slapped CJ’s butt and sat down beside Jonathan on the edge of the desk. Their conversation covered various topics and lasted for quite some time until the two women were ready to go up the mountain trail. Kate held her arms out toward Charlie when she saw him heading to the CB receiver unit on the shelf.

Charlie laughed. “I’ll carry it out to the car for you, Kate.”

“Such a gentleman,” she retorted cheerfully.

She and CJ said their farewells and drove off toward the cabin. Half way up the trail, Kate stopped the car and tugged on CJ’s sleeve. “Look, honey.”

CJ leaned forward to look past Kate’s head and see the four deer standing stalk-still in the forest. All four stared at the vehicle for a few seconds before deeming it a threat and scampering off into the trees. “Beautiful, huh?”

Kate nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah. I can’t believe how much I love it up here.”

“Well, I’m glad you do.”

Not long after, Kate drove the car into the tiny yard and parked it neatly next to the shed. CJ turned to Kate hoping that she hadn’t spotted the twinkly lights hanging under the roofline at the front door.

“Keep the engine running to keep you warm and wait here, will you?”

“Why?”

“I can’t tell you. Please…wait here?” CJ pleaded while convincingly batting her eyelashes.

Kate scrunched her face and smiled, highly amused by CJ’s antics. “OK.”

“Great…be right back.” CJ jumped out of the car, her feet crunching on the frosty ground of the little front yard. She grabbed the box from the back seat, and Kate narrowed her eyes as CJ entered the cabin. A few moments later, a rather excited-looking CJ skipped over to the shed and grabbed the ladders. Quickly setting up the solar panels and a few other necessities, she closed the shed up and went back indoors. Kate was puzzled but still she waited. Finally, CJ came back out the door and lifted their bags from the rear of the vehicle. She dumped them inside the cabin and came to the driver’s door, opening it and waving her arm to allow Kate to exit.

“Can I get out now?”

“You may, my love.” CJ walked behind Kate as they went through the cabin’s front door.

Kate stopped abruptly just inside when she saw what CJ had done. The living area was beautifully illuminated by two lamps, about thirty candles, and a beautiful Christmas tree full of gently-twinkling lights. The fire was roaring in the hearth, two Christmas stockings hung from the mantel, warm blankets were strewn on the large couch, and Kate’s mouth was now hanging open. CJ looked at her face to see her huge smile and her tears falling from wide eyes full of wonder. Kate looked totally surprised and overwhelmed, just like CJ had hoped. She slipped her arm around Kate’s shoulder, nudging her forward a little to close and lock the door behind them.

“You…you did all this?” Kate asked quietly.

“Well I had a little help from the Sheriff,” CJ said as she leaned down to kiss Kate’s hair. “I love you, Katie. I just wanted to surprise you. You’ve been incredible to me, and I want to celebrate the holidays with you this year.”

“Oh, CJ, it’s perfect…so perfect. I love you so much,” Kate gasped. She looked around the room again and noticed the brightly-wrapped gifts under the tree. “That’s what was in the box?”

CJ chuckled. “Of course…”

“Oh this is so great. I have your gifts in my bag. We can add them. Oh, honey…” Kate was lost for words as more happy tears flowed from her sparkling eyes.

CJ came to stand in front of her and hugged her tightly. She ducked her head to capture Kate’s lips with her own. Their kiss deepened, and Kate melted further into CJ’s arms. CJ lifted her up around her torso, and Kate automatically wrapped both legs around her waist. It was definitely the signal CJ was looking for and she walked over to the fireplace to lower Kate onto the big rug in front of the dancing flames. She hovered over her on her hands and knees, her blue eyes darkening with desire. Kate’s rapid pulse was visible under the creamy skin of her neck, and CJ couldn’t resist. She grinned and licked her lips. Kate raised her chin to give her complete access, and as CJ’s mouth met her neck she gasped and felt the heat pool rapidly between her legs.

They undressed one another, tossing the garments toward the couch and not really caring where they landed before they continued to light a fire all of their very own. Kate’s thigh rose up between CJ’s legs, and CJ instinctually began a slow thrusting movement against it.

Kate was in heaven as she felt her wife’s arousal painted slick on her skin. CJ’s swollen sex glided smoothly back and forth and she pushed herself harder onto Kate as her climax took hold. CJ broke their kiss to gasp for air. She was slightly caught off-guard by how turned on she was and how quickly. And she couldn’t stop it. Her orgasm shot through her body as Kate’s hands grasped her breasts and rasped over her hard, sensitive nipples.

“Katie…oh God, yes!”

Kate watched CJ’s face as she came. It was so beautiful, and when CJ opened those blue eyes, Kate could see the desire still residing within.

CJ gradually recovered and licked her lips dry from panting so hard. “I think…it’s my turn to watch you…play with yourself.”

Kate’s stomach clenched at the words and she grinned at the thought of CJ watching her. “You gonna help me?”

“Oh, yes,” CJ said, sliding down Kate’s body to get into position. She grabbed Kate’s buttocks then slipped a nearby cushion underneath her to raise her up to a perfect height. Kate moaned as CJ kissed over her abdomen, the feather-light touches creating a plethora of goose bumps on her skin.

“Touch yourself for me, baby,” CJ husked.

“Mmm…” Kate did as she was asked, trailing her fingers through her own wetness.

CJ watched the hand as its fingers slid through the seductive body-part right in front of her face. She watched Kate’s engorged clit as she manipulated it gently.

“Oh, yeah…” CJ whispered as she drooled at the sight before her. She wrapped her arms around the outside of Kate’s thighs when her rhythm became faster and harder.

Kate was quickly edging towards her climax, the thought of CJ watching everything closely setting her alight with desire. CJ waited for the perfect moment, and when it came – just before Kate’s orgasm – she curled her tongue and entered Kate with it. Kate screamed as her hand movements now became erratic as she climaxed hard.

CJ continued to thrust her tongue in and out of her, feeling Kate’s muscles contract around her. Her eyes rolled back under the lids in ecstasy as she savored every last drop of Kate’s release. Kate was panting hard, trying to recover from the intense feeling as her body twitched from the occasional aftershock. CJ didn’t want to move from the warm place inside her lover but when Kate’s finger left her own clit and tickled down the side of CJ’s nose, she opened her eyes to find Kate watching her.

Kate just smiled since she still didn’t feel able to speak. After a few deep breaths, she cleared her throat. “You gonna stay…there forever?”

CJ grinned – well, as much as she could grin with her tongue trapped inside her wife – and pulled the muscle out slowly. Another aftershock swept through Kate at the movement and she moaned languidly.

CJ licked her lips in response. “You taste so incredible, Katie. Let me share it with you,” she said as she crawled up Kate’s body to kiss her deeply.

When CJ pulled back, Kate opened her eyes again and smiled. “Not bad.”

“Mmm, it’s the best.”

Kate giggled and lay back down taking CJ with her. “The best, huh? Let’s see what I could find to compare it to…”

* * * * * *

They spent the next couple of days relaxing, eating, watching movies, playing games, and making love…lots of making love. CJ was relentless, and Kate was happy to accept any and all advances and initiate quite a few of her own too. It was like they were regaining something that wasn’t lost but had been overwhelmed by the horrid murders that took CJ to those dark places where she couldn’t let herself feel good. Now in CJ’s mind Kate was her savior, the person who brought her back from that place much quicker than she had ever returned before, and during that week where CJ had felt lost, Kate had kept a strong link somehow even when CJ hadn’t been able to focus on it.

As they both sat on the couch in front of the roaring fire, they decided they were bored with Pictionary and modified it to something that was nothing like Pictionary at all really. Kate drew a strange line or shape, and CJ had to make it into something that made sense and vice versa. Most of the images CJ had ended up drawing were body parts, and Kate found it highly amusing when CJ deemed it necessary to point out those body parts by probing Kate with her tongue.

“Quit licking me for a minute. I’m gonna end up so wet I’ll prune!” Kate said as she swiped CJ’s hand away. The hand insisted on lifting her sweater and she lost the will to protest when CJ licked the underside of her breast.

CJ nipped at the skin before she sat up looking all innocent. “So distract me then…talk to me about something to keep me occupied.”

“Well let’s see,” Kate pondered, tapping her finger on her forehead for emphasis. “Oh, did you check up on the girls before you left?”

“Yeah, they’re with their aunt, although they didn’t even know they had an aunt. I hope they’re OK.”

“You really liked them, didn’t you?”

CJ smiled wanly. “Heck, yeah. They were so sweet and so curious about life and everything else…so innocent among all that crap going on around them.”

Kate watched CJ closely as she spoke the heartfelt words. “You really are a beautiful soul, CJ. I love you so much.”

CJ pulled her into her arms again. “Ditto, Katie, more than I can ever express.”

Kate barely let out her chuckle. “Well you’ve been expressing it just fine for the last few days.”

“Yeah, I have been kinda hungry. I can’t help it. You’re just too delicious,” CJ said, licking her lips and then pretending to resist Kate’s neck. Apparently, the lure was too strong and she latched on.

“Oh, no you don’t. I need food and a bath…and you can join me for both.”

“Sounds like an acceptable alternative plan. Are we staying up after midnight? We could open one gift each then save the rest for the morning,” CJ said hopefully.

“Whatever you want, CJ. I’m just so glad you feel like you want to do Christmas this year,” Kate said sweetly.

“I told you when we met that it was time for things to change around here. I meant it, and I think it’s about time. Figured I’d start small…”

“Wow, when we met…that was three years ago. Time sure has flown,” Kate murmured.

“It was, and it has…and I love you more every day. How can something so horrid turn into the best thing that ever happened to me?” CJ said, but then frowned because that sounded wrong. “Sorry, Katie, I didn’t mean you getting-”

Kate silenced CJ by pressing two fingers against her full lips. “I know what you meant, and what freaks me out is that I can’t ever regret what happened to me because it led me to you. I love you more every day too. Aren’t we lucky?”

CJ smiled. “Yes.” She stole another kiss.

A few moments of contemplation later, Kate’s stomach growled to indicate it really was time for dinner. A light meal was prepared, and after they’d eaten they filled the tub to soak for an hour in the hot, bubbly water. CJ made sure she washed every millimeter of Kate’s body thoroughly. Of course, Kate just had to return the gesture and paid very close attention to CJ’s entire body too.

CJ left Kate trimming her nails in the bathroom and went to bank the fire. She moved around the room putting out any lights and candles, and checked out front before re-locking the door. They’d had a light sprinkling of snow but it was nothing compared to the storm of a few years ago. CJ’s mind drifted back to that time again and she shook her head, telling herself that they were OK now. They were happy, together, and safe. She strolled into the bedroom while shedding her robe and sat naked on the edge of the bed.

She watched Kate walk through the door and remove her own thick robe, dropping it onto the floor as she approached. Kate stood in front of her, and CJ wrapped her arms around Kate’s buttocks, leaning her ear against her stomach. Kate held CJ’s head to her, wondering what she was thinking as she continued to rub her cheek on the smooth skin at her belly.

“You OK, honey?”

“Yes. I’m just enjoying you. I always enjoy you.”

“Like a dessert?”

CJ laughed. “Better than any dessert I’ve ever had.”

Guiding her nude wife onto the bed, CJ turned out the light leaving only the sensual glow of the candles on the nightstand. She kissed her way up the soft skin on Kate’s calf, passing the inside of her knee and came to her inner thigh. She stopped over Kate’s only remaining scar. She had healed well otherwise, and even the marks on her back had all but disappeared. CJ lovingly kissed and licked the scar, paying special attention to the skin that had been so brutally injured in the past. She opened her eyes and was a little puzzled when Kate chuckled between her gasped breaths.

CJ paused and lifted her head. “Why are you laughing?”

“I just love how you only do that when we’re here.”

“Do what?”

“You only stop that long to kiss my scar when we’re here at the cabin…and you make that little noise too.”

CJ felt a little self-conscious. “I make a noise?”

“Yeah, it’s so cute. It’s like you’re…remembering.”

CJ crawled up Kate’s body until her face was less than an inch from Kate’s. “I’ll never forget it, Katie, but I guess maybe I do try to heal that memory while we’re up here. Sorry.”

“Oh, God, don’t apologize. I love it when you do it. I shouldn’t have said anything…”

“No. It’s OK. But I won’t stop doing it.”

“Good!”

“May I continue now?” CJ requested with her dark eyebrow raised.

Kate nodded. “I really wish you would.”

.

Epilogue

Kate sat on the sumptuous couch looking through the book CJ had gotten her for Christmas – among other things. They had exchanged the remainder of the gifts yesterday and eaten a delicious festive meal. CJ had brought Christmas crackers which they had pulled to reveal the usual tacky but quirky gifts inside, and Kate now sported a hideous, plastic necklace that CJ had made her wear after Kate had forced her to keep a paper hat on her head all day long. Kate smiled at how fun yesterday had been.

“Best Christmas ever…so far,” she affirmed, nodding to herself.

She suddenly heard a rumbling above her and realized that CJ had been out chopping wood for about twenty minutes. She frowned and got up, grabbing the empty mugs from the coffee table – including CJ’s new Star Trek mug – and took them to the sink. She snagged her coat from the hook, stuffed her feet into her boots, and went outside in search of her spouse. “CJ?”

“I’m up here. Come join me,” replied a voice from the roof.

Kate went around the cabin and climbed the ladder. “What are you doing?”

“Just sitting…I never really noticed the view from up here. I’m usually too busy clearing snow to appreciate it.”

Kate sat next to her on the gently sloping roof. “Wow, it really is beautiful…and so clear today. You can see for miles.”

“Yeah,” CJ said, putting her arm around Kate’s shoulder.

“I love that you put a Christmas tree outside too, honey.”

CJ grinned. “I called Charlie with a list of tasks, and he was happy to do it for us.”

“I doubt we’ll get to build a snowman this time, though,” Kate said, looking at the sky.

“Yeah. It’s kinda like a sprinkle of powder this year so far. Probably best since we don’t have weeks this time.”

Kate smiled and took a lungful of cold air in through her nostrils. “Thinking about anything in particular?”

“Hmm, not really.”

“You were thinking about the girls, weren’t you?”

CJ turned to her. “Are you psychic?”

“No. I just know you very well. You’re worried about them,” Kate replied with certainty.

“Yeah, I guess I am. I just hope their aunt truly wants them. You know Shannon looked just like me when I was little?”

“She must be beautiful then. I bet they both are.” Kate paused for a moment. “You thought about bringing them home, didn’t you?”

“OK, now you’re just freaking me out.”

“I just know how I would’ve felt, honey, and I know you have a big heart. Why don’t you check up on them when we get back?”

“Yeah, I will. Thanks, Katie.”

A loud snort distracted both women, and they looked down to the yard to find a huge moose puffing out his noisy breaths next to the Jeep. It seemed to watch them as they sat on the roof looking down upon it.

“I wonder if that’s the same one I saw just before I found you,” CJ said absently.

“You saw a moose when you found me?”

“Well I think it was the day before…right here at the cabin. I opened the door and he was standing about a foot in front of me.”

Kate laughed, making the moose look up at them again. “That must have been a surprise.”

“Yeah. He just snorted kinda like that one just did and went into the forest in search of food, but it was funny.”

They watched as the large beast stretched to scratch his ear with his back foot and sauntered away, puffing out clouds into the cold afternoon air as he went. CJ and Kate sat and admired the view for a few moments longer before they climbed down and snuck indoors with a pile of wood each.

“Cold out there, huh?” Kate said as she threw off her coat.

“Yep. It’s always chilly up here in winter.”

“So what do you want to do for our last couple of days?” Kate asked with a slight grin playing on her lips.

CJ pretended to think about it. “I don’t really care as long as you’re doing it with me,” she said, taking her beloved wife into her arms.

“How about we stoke the fire together,” Kate teased.

“Oh…you mean the actual fire?”

“That first…then who knows?”

CJ watched as Kate wiggled her eyebrows in a cheeky seductive invitation. “Oh, yeah,” she moaned as she released Kate and ran over to throw some wood on the fire. She whizzed back to Kate and slipped her arms around her once again. “OK, first one’s done. What other fire would you like me to stoke?”

Kate laughed and dragged CJ into the bedroom where she knew she was definitely about to burn…in a very, very good way.

.

The End…

©2016 StageFreak Productions

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7 comments

  1. another great story. As an ex cop I love your detail about the cases and adore CJ and Kate. Can’y wait to read the next one
    Rob


  2. I’ve been reading the storys for a while now and I’m really (I mean REALLY) loving it. I’m dying to get to Episode 7, but at the same time I really don’t want it to end. I hope theres more after that even if not a CJ and Kate’s story.


    • I’ve started episode 8 but it will be a while. Don’t worry… I dont see CJ and Kate stopping any time soon 😉 Glad you are enjoying them, Vicky.


  3. Oh look at my old comment. Here I am reading it all over again years later. Still my favorite series ❤


    • Hah! Glad you can read it over and over and still enjoy it 🙂



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