Sydney Davis rubbed her temples in an attempt to alleviate the headache that was beginning to build. She glanced around the scene, her emerald eyes taking in the details with calculated professionalism before casually coming to rest on the victim of this latest senseless crime. Her nose unconsciously wrinkled at the cavalcade of odors that permeated the air.
With one glance she surmised that this was a random act of violence brought on by the excessive consumption of alcohol, a conclusion that she drew from the abundance of evidence in the vicinity of the lifeless body. More than half a dozen broken liquour bottles were scattered around the immediate area making it impossible to move with out stepping on some shards of glass.
She walked carefully around the victim, her nostrils reacting to the overpowering, putrid smell that filled the alleyway. It was the stench of booze and urine, and not the sweet scent of blood that made her stomach roil.
She ignored the physical discomforts and stared dispassionately at the victim. He was a black man, probably somewhere in his early fifties, with grey sprinkled in his long unkempt hair and scruffy beard. He was dressed in a red checked shirt, tan work pants and a brown trench coat. The clothes, little more than rags, were stained and wreaked of their own special scent. Nearby on the ground was a battered egg shell coloured hat and a pair of taped up work boots.
"Did you see the game last night?" Sgt. Rob Newlie asked stepping gingerly up to his small blond friend, his aged blue eyes assessing the scene and the distracted look on the detectives face. She glanced at the man, glad he was the senior patrol officer on site. It always made things easier when
the officer in charge was a veteran with lots of experience.
"Yeah, we were there," Sydney nodded her blond head grimly, making no attempt to disguise who she meant by we. It was common knowledge. The Captain's actions during her hospitalization after the shooting had spoken louder then any words could.
"You don't sound like you had much fun," the man mused. They had once been partners and because of that, the Sergeant enjoyed a certain level of intimacy with the small woman that others didn't.
"They were awful," the detective said ignoring the man's unspoken question and keeping the conversation on the game. "They will have to play better if they want to get past the first round of the playoffs."
Truth was, in spite of the closeness they had once shared, Sydney was no longer comfortable discussing anything personal with the man, even though she knew that Robert Newlie was a good friend who would listen compassionately to her problems. In the past she would have confided in him but recently too much had changed.
"Will you be going?"
"Oh yeah," the blond haired detective grunted and the Sgt. laughed. The smaller woman had taken great delight in telling him the story of how she had come into possession of tickets for the remainder of the Sonic's playing season, winning them in a basketball game from Captain Marshall's brother.
"What do you think?" the man directed their attention back to the matter at hand by motioning to the body lying in a puddle of blood in the dirty alley.
"I can almost guarantee that this is the result of a drinking party gone bad," Sydney said succinctly. In the year she had been with the Homicide Unit she had run across more then her share of similar scenes. "What I wouldn't give for a good whodunit, one like they feature on those television murder mystery shows."
"You know what the problem with those are don't you?"
"What?" she asked turning to look at the man.
"It's always the private eye who solves the crime making us look incompetent," the man said with a twinkle in his blue eyes.
"Yeah, I guess you're right," she sighed. "Have your boys found anything out yet?"
"Yeah, the Korean couple who operate the grocery mart down the street recognized him as a regular customer," the older man jerked his thumb in the direction of an middle aged couple that were hovering on the sidewalk just inside the yellow police barricade several meters away. "They said that he came in last night with two other men to buy several bottles of their cheapest crap. They've already given us a detailed description of the men. It seems both are also regulars around the area."
"Good," Sydney nodded pleased with the news. These type of crimes, where the murderers acted without thought or reason, were the easiest to solve. The hard part would be in tracing the man's relatives and informing them of the news. She dug several pairs of latex gloves out of her jacket pocket. "Have one of your boys take them down to the station so get their statements."
The Sergeant nodded and wandered down to the end of the alley where the couple were quietly waiting. Sydney glanced only briefly in their direction before slipping the gloves onto her fingers and dropping to her hunches too begin the rest of the gruesome task, wishing again that she had taken the day off work.
She hadn't felt good that morning but that wasn't anything unusual. She hadn't been feeling well for the last month and though she had said nothing to her lover, Alex had instinctively known and suggested taking a sick day. But she had ignored the idea, determined to prove that she was okay. Sydney knew that it would help if she only talked to her partner about all the feelings that were swirling around inside her head yet she was loathe to do that, afraid of the darkness that it would stir up.
Her heart swelled and her body grew warm as it did every time she thought of the tall, dark haired woman, who had become her friend and lover. There was no doubt in her mind that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with Alexandria Marshall and she was happy to know that the other woman shared those feelings, so she was not about to do or say anything that might jeopardize the relationship. She was determined to be strong and keep the pain inside until she could work it out herself. She took a deep breath and absently brushed a finger across the bare skin along the side of her neck.
It had only been eight weeks since she had been shot, and merely a month since she had been released from hospital. Alex had insisted that it was too early to return to duty but she had been bored and restless at home with nothing to do.
Even now she physically winced as she remembered the intense argument that had ensued over the matter and the aftermath of that heated discussion. Alex had stormed out of the apartment and the next morning Sydney had found her lover sleeping on the couch in the den. That had been the first night they had spent apart since moving in together and sadly there had been others like that.
In the end it had been Alex who had acquiesced and allowed her to return to duty. Sydney had expected certain conditions to go along with the concession yet the Captain had not made any, instead remaining strangely mute on the subject. In hindsight, she wondered if she hadn't been wrong in wanting to return so quickly to active duty.
The problem wasn't her wounds. Though they were still raw and caused her irritation and some pain, they were healed. No, the problem was that she found herself exhausted, short tempered and restless.
Alex had been unerringly supportive, enduring the temperamental outbursts without complaint. Sydney wasn't sure how much more her stoic partner would be able to take before saying she had enough. The thought of the Captain leaving terrified the blonde woman and made her heart
"Sydney?" The blond detective glanced up into the concerned blue eyes of her friend Robert Newlie, briefly unable to mask the pain in her green eyes. "Are you okay?"
It took the small woman a moment to understand that he had asked her a question and she briefly shook her head as if to shake away the cobwebs from her brain, pushing aside thoughts of her partner to concentrate on the poor man whose life had ended so violently in this dank and dirty alley. It was a tough chore for she was more mentally tired then she had ever been.
"Sorry, I was just thinking of my partner for a moment," she admitted sheepishly hoping to cover her brief mental lapse. She noticed the man smile in understanding. "What did you want?'
Captain Alexandria Marshall put the phone back in it's cradle and then leaned back in her chair. Absently she twirled the pen around with her fingers, her eyes automatically scanning the large room outside the office, her blue orbs seeking the one person who held her heart. But Sydney had gone out on a call earlier in the morning and had not yet returned. She knew it was ridiculous to worry yet she couldn't help herself.
It had only been two months since Sydney had been shot and only a week since she had returned to active duty with the Homicide Unit. But it had been a long seven days of worrying every time the younger woman went out on a call. A worry that would continue until she knew her lover was safe.
Alex took a deep breath and expelled it in an attempt to steady her nerves. Sydney would be upset if she knew that she was behaving this way and a smile came unbidden to her lips as she imagined how the smaller woman would react.
She could almost picture the young detective standing there, hands on hips, lips pursed tightly together, as she tried to look intimidating. The only thing it ever succeeded in doing was to bring a smile to her face which would in turn annoy the blond woman even more. Alex allowed the smile to fade from her lips and let her eyes move to the windows as she shifted in her chair.
It was raining as it had been almost all month. Large drops of water splattered against the window, making the grey overcast skies seem even drearier. It was almost the end of April and though spring was officially there, the weather was refusing to cooperate. She shifted her gaze once more to the clock, wondering is she could persuade her lover to leave early that afternoon. It was Friday and they had the whole weekend together.
That thought alone was enough to fill her with anticipation. It had been a difficult time since that fateful day when their worlds had ground to a shattering halt. Even now, more than two months later she could recall in vivid detail the heart stopping moment when she received the call that Sydney had been shot. It was a moment she never wished to experience again.
She sighed. The Aftermath. It was always something to deal with. Physically the blond detective was almost completely recovered with only a few permanent scars as a reminder of what could have been but instead of resuming their natural schedule Sydney had been reluctant to leave the apartment.
It had taken a huge effort on her part to convince the woman the previous evening to attend the Sonic's game. Alex knew something still wasn't right even though the department psycharist had cleared Sydney for active duty. There was something lurking just beneath the surface of her companion and it concerned her to no end.
The weeks following the shooting had been a stressful time and the strain on their relationship had been tremendous. For weeks it had seemed that she could do nothing right in the eyes of her blond haired companion and it had only been the deep love she felt for the smaller woman that had prevented her from giving up and walking away. It would have been so easy to do but at the same time it hadn't been an option.
She was in love with Sydney and it was a love that she had no intention of carelessly throwing away. She had decided to remain supportive until the girl finally worked out what was wrong, hoping that their relationship would grow even deeper as a result of this hardship. Alex blinked, feeling for the first time the moisture in her eyes.
She had never believed it was possible to care for someone as much as she cared for Sydney yet now she knew such an emotion existed. She knew that because of that, she would be willing to sacrifice everything, her career, her very life, and it didn't matter any more if the same emotions weren't returned. She would love Sydney regardless of what the other woman felt towards her.
It was sadly ironic to acknowledge that it had taken her this long to realize what was important in life. She was grateful that she had ignored her inhibitions and proceeded, aware that despite the problems and the pain, the reward was so much greater. The effort made worthwhile by the feelings she experienced. She knew that Sydney loved her and because of that she was determined to be patient until her companion was completely healed both physically and mentally.
The very thought of her lover seemed to conjure up her image and she turned her head instinctively just as the smaller woman walked into the squad room. Alex waited, holding her breath as she did every time until the blonde detective settled her jacket on the back of a chair at her work station and then covered the short distance to the office.
It had become a small ritual, an excuse for them to spend even a few minutes together. Sydney tapped on the door and waited for her lover to call for her to enter. She made every effort not to take advantage just because of their relationship.
"Enter," Alex called, her usual gruff bark muted by the knowledge of who was on the other side of the door. She couldn't prevent the tentative smile that crossed her features, her spirits brightening considerably the minute the blond detective walked into the room. "Hi."
"Hi," Sydney smiled shyly as she slipped into a vacant chair across from the Captain.
"What'd you catch?" Alex tried to appear casual though it was difficult.
"A homeless, middle aged black man bludgeoned to death," the smaller woman rattled off the facts. "There were a lot of broken bottles in the vicinity of the body so I'm guessing that he was drinking with some buddies and a fight broke out once the alcohol started to run out."
"There is a Korean couple, a husband and wife, who own a small grocery store down at the corner of the street. They recognized the man as a regular customer and that they had seen him the previous day with several other vagrants who hang out in the area."
"Yeah, got lucky, they managed to give us fairly accurate descriptions so I've put APB's out on them. More then likely they will turn up in one of the drunk tanks in the next few days. I went through the holding cells before coming back but I didn't recognize anyone with their descriptions."
"Sounds like you covered all the bases," Alex nodded her head, visualizing the scene in her head, pleased that her lover was becoming such an excellent detective.
Before she had a chance to say any more the phone rang and for a few minutes Sydney had the opportunity to watch her lover at work, studying the angular planes of a face she had grown to love more each day.
One of the reason's she had been afraid to move in with Alex was that she worried that living and working together would cause a problem. The anticipated strain of seeing each other too much had never materialized. If anything it had only made her feelings and respect for her companion grow. She enjoyed every moment they were together even if it meant sitting quietly in the room while her lover conversed on the phone. This must be true love, she thought watching intently as a frown burrowed it's way across the taller woman's brow.
Alex barely listened to the person on the other end of the line, her blue eyes slyly searching her younger lover's face. She looks exhausted, she thought to herself as she noticed the tired lines that were etched into the corners of the beautiful green eyes into which she loved to stare. It was to early for her to return to duty, came the next thought, one that had been rattling around in her brain all week as she had covertly observed her companion. But she had been unable to dissuade the determined young woman.
Mentally, she sighed and closed her eyes for a moment as she thought again about the argument they had shared over the matter. It had been hurtful and had only ended in silence with Sydney sleeping in the bedroom and her tossing and turning on the sofa in the den. By morning she had resolved to let the blond detective make her own decision.
Though she had not been in favour of the resolution, she had been less willing to let the impasse between them continue. She loved the younger woman and it had been incredibly painful for her to feel the anger and pain that the blonde woman had radiated during and after their argument. She knew the stubbornness of her companion and had resolved to capitulate rather then let the strain grow. Now, looking across the desk at the blonde detective, she wasn't entirely certain she shouldn't have been more insistent.
"Everything okay?" Sydney asked when the Captain replaced the phone
"Yes," Alex shook her head flashing a brief smile that didn't extend to her eyes.
She would have liked to tell her lover about the phone call but she had to be careful about how much she confided. Separating their working and personal lives was difficult and some times nearly impossible but Alex knew that she had to keep the distinction. Their relationship was common knowledge, so she had to be very particular about what she shared, even though she had complete confidence in Sydney's ability to keep silent.
"Okay," the smaller woman shrugged, knowing her lover was lying yet not prodding her for details. She had learned to accept that the Captain had to keep things to herself and while at first that knowledge hurt, she had come to understand that it was a fact of their relationship.
"Well, I just popped in to tell you about the case," the blond detective stood up to leave but Alex wasn't ready yet to let her lover go. She sensed there was something going on with her companion. It wasn't in her words as much as her body language. Alex had become apt at reading all the signals. The taller woman glanced at her watch.
"Listen, it's almost noon, are you up for a game?"
Sydney was silent for a long moment as she contemplated the offer. In the past she would have jumped at any opportunity to spend time with her partner yet today she was feeling unusually tired, however one glance at the look on her companions face and she knew her response. It had been a while since they had gotten the chance to play against each other.
"Yeah, I'd like that," she bobbed her head, hoping she appeared convincing.
"Good," Alex stood up and reached for the basketball perched on a shelf behind her. With a flick of her wrist she tossed it at her companion who snatched it easily out of the air. "I just have a brief phone call to make. I'll meet you outside in five minutes."
The blond woman nodded her head, accepting the dismissal and then walked out of the room, closing the door behind. Alex watched the younger woman leave, the smile on her face turning to a frown as she reached for the phone, punching in a number all to familiar.
It was more then ten minutes before the tall, dark haired woman trotted out onto the court in her familiar grey shorts and top with a Sonics basketball shirt overtop. Sydney couldn't help the smile that came over her lips. She had been getting impatient but now that her lover was there her annoyance was forgotten with the thought that the wait was worth every second.
"Let's play ball," Alex grinned eagerly wagging her eyebrows in challenge.
They played for the next hour, trading baskets, and jostling each other for possession. Occasionally a hand would slip to a place that would illicit a yelp from the offended woman. As usual Alex bested her ompanion but the taller woman had to concede that it was getting hard for her to stay on top. The young woman having studied her opponent, could now anticipate many of her moves.
"You're getting good," Alex mused breathlessly as she reached over and affectionately ruffled the smaller woman's hair. "I think it's time we go back and see Aretha and her friend. Maybe this time we could win some money off them."
Sydney smiled, but it was half hearted. The work-out had exhausted her and she felt like all her physical and mental energies were drained. They walked side by side to the change room, neither speaking a word. Though Alex noticed the change she wisely remained mute, and wondered for the hundredth time what she could do to help her partner.
Because the Captain had a meeting at one thirty, she hurried through her shower. She was dressed and ready to go long before her companion. For a moment she watched the younger woman fumble with the buttons on her clean shirt. She could see the frustration in the smaller woman's features and knew that it was because of the detectives fatigue.
"Here let me do that," Alex offered moving to stand in front of the smaller woman and reaching for the buttons.
"I don't need your help, I'm not a baby," Sydney snapped with a burst of anger, slapping at her lovers hands which dropped away. There was a tense silence as the younger woman continued to fumble with the buttons, refusing to meet the other woman's gaze. Finally she gave up, letting her hands drop to her sides in pure frustration.
Alex waited a moment and then quietly reached out and finished the task, fastening the buttons tightly before grasping the smaller woman's shoulders and pulling her into an embrace. Sydney leaned against her companion, burying her face in the other woman's breasts, surrendering to the love and compassion she felt radiating from the taller woman.
She never meant to strike out at her patient lover yet it seemed she was no longer in control of her emotions. She was angry and frustrated because she was at a loss to know the source of her mood swings. She wasn't upset at Alex yet the poor woman was unjustly facing the blunt of her discontent.
"I'm sorry," she mumbled, her words muffled against the other woman's chest. "I don't know where that came from."
"It's all right," Alex accepted the apology as she did every time. She released her grip and pushed the other woman gently away so that she could look into misty green eyes. "Are you okay?"
"I'm tired," Sydney sighed reaching up to wipe the moisture away from her eyes. When she didn't look up, her lover reached out to tip the woman's chin and give her a tender smile.
"Listen, if you're tired, why don't you knock off early?"
"Yeah, I was thinking of taking off early myself," Alex replied between pursed lips. "I have a meeting with the Chief in a few minutes and then the rest of my afternoon is free. If you want to go home now, I'll meet you later."
"I could wait," the blond detective offered. "There's some paperwork I need to get done anyway."
"Okay," Alex smiled, warmed by her lovers words. At that moment there was some noise and she prudently leaned back against the lockers, folding her arms across her chest, and putting distance between them. They were quiet as a uniformed patrolwoman came into the room and went to her locker.
"Chris called and invited us for dinner, are you up for a barbecue?" the Captain said finally breaking the silence.
Sydney bowed her head again. They hadn't really seen anyone in Alex's family since she had gotten out of the hospital.
"I don't know if I'm up to visiting anyone tonight," her words mirrored her thoughts.
"That's okay, I'll call her back and tell her we'll come by another time," the tall woman took the rejection in stride. Her companion hadn't wanted to go anywhere lately so her response was not entirely unexpected.
"No, you go," the blond woman said hesitantly. "Just because I'm not up to going out doesn't mean you shouldn't go. You haven't seen them in a while."
The Captain stared down at her partner, her heart aching. She could feel the smaller woman gently pushing her away and it hurt. She swallowed the lump in her throat.
"What will you do?"
"I'll order in something and watch a movie."
"Are you sure?" Alex was uncertain. She hated the thought of leaving the younger woman alone.
"Yeah, if it's okay, I'd kind of like to be alone tonight," the words were spoken so softly that the taller woman was barely able to hear them.
"It's okay," Alex said with a deep breath and pushed off the wall, barely able to hide the hurt that she was feeling. With several quick strides she was at the door. "I'll come get you when I get back from seeing the Chief."
The small detective nodded and watched as the other woman moved to exit the room. She hated to watch the other woman walk away even if it was only to go to the next room. It gave her an unfamiliar picture of a scene that was haunting too many of her dreams. She knew she had hurt her lover and the pain of that was deep in her heart.
"Alex," she called and the Captain turned and stared at her with a questioning look, her stoic features masking her turbulent emotions. "I love you."
The taller woman was momentarily caught off guard by the admission. She stared for a long moment at the smaller woman, her heart pounding erratically at the tender look on the detectives face.
"I know," she replied softly and with a wave of her hand the taller woman was gone.
All Alex wanted to do was return to her office shut the door and cry her eyes out, yet she was already late for her meeting. So instead she squared her shoulders and took a deep breath to steady her nerves before walking out to where her car was parked.
The meeting with the Chief was brief and afterwards Alex wondered why she had been forced to go all the way down to his office when a simple telephone call could have resolved the matter. She sighed. The Commissioner had become increasingly hostile and uncooperative since the whole incident regarding Sydney's shooting.
The investigation both by the public commission and Internal Affairs had determined that it was a justifiable action and that the detectives had acted appropriately in handling the matter. She hadn't needed to re-enforce the issue of wearing vests to her detectives for they had silently taken up the matter on their own. She was happy to see that Sydney was ready to go once she returned to the station house.
They stopped at a mall near their condo and while Sydney went into the video store, Alex wandered over to the adjoining market to pick up a few items they were running short of and then added a few special treats for her companion. She hated the idea of leaving the blond on her own but it seemed that was what Sydney wanted. She exited the grocer to find the younger detective sitting in the passenger seat of the jeep patiently awaiting her return.
"What movies did you get?" Alex asked breaking the silence that had existed between them from the moment they had left the station house. She nodded to the plastic bag on her companions lap.
"Step-mom with Julia Roberts. Lost in Space with that guy from the television series and Election," came the sombre reply.
"That's an interesting combination," the older woman mouthed with mild surprise. She knew her partner was more inclined to select action films.
"I didn't know what I felt like watching," the smaller woman shrugged, keeping her gaze fixed on the window.
Alex glanced sideways not certain how to respond so she remained silent, turning her attention to the road. Within minutes they were parked in the underground garage and on the elevator up to their fifth floor apartment.
Sydney retreated immediately into the bedroom, pausing on her way to drop the videos in the den while Alex watched from the doorway before taking the bags of groceries and walking through to the kitchen. By the time she was finished putting everything away Sydney had changed into a plain white t-shirt and flannel pyjamas pants and was sitting in the den on the couch scanning through the various television channels looking for something interesting to watch.
The Captain walked through to the bedroom and chucked off her clothes, changing into a pair of grey sweat pants and a long sleeve sweat shirt. She wandered into the den and slumped onto the couch at the far end and focused her attention on the screen. It was an early broadcast of the local news.
Sydney cast a cautious glance at her companion. She knew she should say something yet she didn't know how to explain the way she was feeling. She didn't know herself. She turned her attention back to the television screen aware of the tears that filled her eyes. She hated when the air was tense between them but as she opened her mouth to speak, all words were forestalled by the swift catlike movement of her lover.
Alex popped up out of her seat unable to sit quietly in the tense silence that surrounded them. A nervous energy was running through her body, urging her to reach over and cuddle her young lover but she was uncertain of the reception her actions would receive. Rather than risk rejection she decided to leave.
"I'm going out for a run," she announced and was out of the room before the smaller woman could respond.
Sydney twisted her head and stared at the retreating back, tears misting her eyes as a lump of emotion caught in her throat. There had once been a time when Alex would have invited her along on those runs but lately she had made it a solitary pursuit. It was as if the woman was anxious to be away from her company.
The smaller woman closed her eyes and let her head drop back against the sofa. The less she wanted to hurt Alex the more she seemed to be doing just the opposite. She wanted to tell her lover what was wrong but she didn't want to admit the truth. Instead she kept the pain inside and let the tears flow.
Alex jogged down the path that lead to the beach and then down along the waters edge. It was still raining but she ignored the droplets of water that pounded against her body feeling mother natures cleansing in the shower that got her dripping wet.
She didn't bother to count the miles, running until her breathing became laboured and her muscles screamed in protest. Only then did she turn back and head for home, yet when she reached the cement path that led up from the beach to the street where they lived she stopped jogging and turned to stare out at the grey seas.
Something was bothering her lover, something that Sydney was unwilling to share. She wrapped her arms around her body and hugged herself tightly praying for the strength to hold on to what they had until her partner was able to work it all out.
She had tried to figure out what was bothering the younger woman and when nothing else came to mind she began to think that maybe it was their relationship that was causing the strain. Perhaps them living and working together was what was giving the girl so much stress. She didn't know what else it could be and that was why she was so frightened. The very idea made her horribly depressed and determinedly she dismissed the notion unwilling to allow it to breed in her thoughts. Yet the idea was a seed that took root and caused a fresh torrent of tears to streak down her already damp face.
Sydney was still sitting in front of the television when her partner returned and she only caught a fleeting glance of the taller woman when she came in and walked swiftly down the hallway to their bedroom. She could see that the other woman was soaked to the bone and felt a wave of guilt at being responsible for her being out in the rain.
Alex showered and changed, aware that she had stayed out longer then she had intended. She didn't want to be late for dinner with her brothers family yet she was also dreading the evening, aware that they would be curious as to why she came alone. She did not look forward to the inevitable questions. She climbed out of the shower and hastily towelled herself off, pulling out a clean pair of jeans and a black turtle neck sweater.
"Alex?" the faint voice caught her attention and she glanced up at her lover who was standing in the doorway of their bedroom, casually leaning against the frame.
"What?" she asked with genuine concern. Sydney hesitated, dropping her eyes for a moment.
"Please don't be mad at me," she said in a quiet almost childlike voice that reached out and squeezed the taller woman's heart. Alex was immediately across the room her long fingers under the chin and pushing it up so their eyes could meet.
"I'm not mad at you," she responded in a husky voice. "I know things have been kind of intense lately and it wouldn't do either of us any harm to be by ourselves for an evening."
"Are you sure it's okay?" the smaller woman asked as if uncertain of her lovers response.
"Yeah," Alex nodded and burying her own feelings of trepidation, she stepped forward and embraced the other woman in a tentative grip. She could feel her partner's tension in the stiffness of her body but she held on for a long moment before gently pushing her companion away. "But you owe me for this."
"How?" the blond asked with trembling lips and watched as a gentle smile crossed her lover's lips.
"You gotta know that Kim is going to give me the fifth degree about why you didn't come," Alex teased lightly, reaching up to brush a stray strand of long blonde hair from the smaller woman's face. "You know she looks forward to seeing you."
"Tell her next time," Sydney said.
"I will, as long as you promise me that you will just relax tonight."
"Good, I won't be too late," Alex promised heading for the door with the younger woman trailing closely behind. She bent and lightly brushed her lips across the smaller woman's. "Promise me you won't forget to eat."
"I'll order something as soon as you walk out the door," the blond detective agreed and then with a nod her lover was gone.
Sydney watched her companion leave and the moment the door closed she felt an emptiness in her heart. She turned on her heel and glanced around the place. It seemed so lonely without the taller woman's presence and inexplicably she felt teary.
She wrapped her arms tightly around her waist. She had wanted to be alone tonight yet already she missed Alex. It was a confusing combination and listlessly she wandered into the kitchen. She didn't feel like anything in particular and thought of throwing together a bowl of soup. She paused in doorway, unable to stop the tears from streaming down her face as she spied the neat pile of treats that was carefully stacked on the counter. They were her favourite snacks.
Alex knew her so well and was always considerate and it didn't matter how she treated the older woman. Sydney knew that she had hurt her lover by not going with her tonight yet the older woman had still found enough kindness in her heart to purchase the special treats.
She collected the goodies and then pulled a soda out of the refrigerator before wandering back to the den and plunking herself down onto the sofa. She flipped on the VCR and settled in to watch the first of the videos.
Alex mentally prepared herself for the inevitable questions she knew her family would have. It started the moment she rang the doorbell. Kim, her niece, answered the summons with a warm smile before glancing around expectantly.
"Where's Auntie Sydney?" the little girl demanded as the grin changed into a frown.
"Hi to you too," Alex said with a hint of sarcasm and the girl flushed.
"Hello Auntie," Kim had momentarily forgotten her manners. She reached out and hugged the tall woman before repeating her question. "Where's Auntie Sydney?"
"She wasn't feeling good," the older woman replied knowing it was only a partial lie. Sydney hadn't really been herself since the shooting.
"Oh," the girl sounded genuinely disappointed.
"What, I'm not good enough any more?" Alex asked, pretending to be hurt. "It used to be that you were happy enough when I came to visit."
"I am Auntie but you know it's nice to see you and Auntie Sydney together," the little girl tried to explain.
"Yeah, I know sweetheart," she reached out and ruffled the dark curls on the child's head. "Where's your mom and dad?"
"Mom's in the kitchen cooking and Dad's on the patio getting the barbecue going. Mikey and Donald are playing Nintendo in the family room."
"Ahh," Alex nodded knowingly, following the girl into the house and along the corridor towards the kitchen where her sister-in-law was busying chopping up vegetables for a salad.
"Mom, Auntie Alex is here but Auntie Sydney didn't come along," Kim announced as they entered the room.
"You might as well broadcast the news," Alex muttered under her breath, wincing at the way it sounded and then gave her sister-in-law a bland smile. "Hello Chris."
"Hi," the blond woman arched her brow at her sister-in-law before turning away from the island counter to put an empty dish in the sink. "The invitation was for the both of you."
"Sydney wasn't feeling good," Alex wondered how long it would take for her mother to hear about this. As much as she liked her brother and sister-in-law, she knew they were notorious gossips.
"I'm surprised you didn't cancel."
"Yeah well I was going too but she practically kicked me out the door," the taller woman said knowing that it wasn't a complete lie.
"Is everything okay?" Christie was curious for she could see something in the other woman's blue eyes.
Alex glanced at her friend and then at the small child who had plunked herself down at one of the chairs at the kitchen table. Kim seemed interested in a magazine that was lying there.
"I'm not sure," she sighed. She could always trust Chris to be understanding. They had been friends since playing basketball together in college. "Ever since the shooting things have been a little strained. She hasn't wanted to go anywhere or see anyone. She isn't the same person."
"Have you tried talking to her about it?"
"Yeah, but she just clams right up."
"It was a horrible thing to go through," the blond woman reminded quietly.
"I know," Alex was honest. "I've tried to be supportive but I can't do anything until she tells me what's wrong."
"You're not breaking up with Auntie Sydney are you?" a small voice asked from across the room and Alex cursed under her breath wishing she hadn't said anything. A few swift strides had her across the room and on her hunches in front of the little girl.
"Honey, I love Auntie Sydney very much," she was honest. "And I hope that we will be together for a very long time."
"Good, cause I really like her," the child announced.
"So do I."
There was a moment of silence and Christie looked across the room at the pair. She had often thought that Alex would make a good mother and watching the gentle way she handled her daughter that truth was re-enforced. She thought again about what her husband and her had discussed and knew they were making the right decision.
"Kim sweetheart, why don't you go see what your daddy's doing," the blond woman smiled at her daughter. "Tell him Auntie Alex is here."
"Okay mom," the girl agreed happily and jumping to her feet skipped out of the room.
Alex stood up, running a weary hand through her long dark tresses. You owe me big time Sydney, she said to herself as she stood up and walked back over to where the other woman was working.
"Do you need any help?"
"Nope, everything is under control," Christie dismissed the offer and then glanced up towards her friend. "Do you need any help?"
"Yeah, tell me what to do," Alex gave her friend a lopsided grin though there was no amusement in her eyes.
"Be patient," the other woman counseled. "It sounds to me like that Sydney is depressed. The doctors did warn you about this."
"Yeah, the aftermath, but they didn't say it would be so hard."
"They never tell you that part," Christie agreed. "The only thing you can do is continue to be supportive. Let Sydney know that you are there for her. Maybe what you both need is a break, time away from this place. You really haven't had any time for yourselves."
Alex hadn't thought of that but it was certainly an idea worth considering. They hadn't really spent any time together since they had met, their schedules often conflicting. Of course some of the problem had been alleviated by their moving in together but Christie was right. Before she could say anything her brother was there.
"Hey sis, Kim tells me you didn't bring the Kindergarten Cop along," Andrew said as he strolled into the room.
"The Kindergarten Cop."
"Kindergarten Cop?" the tall dark haired woman repeated in confusion.
"Yeah, I had to figure out a nickname for Syd and Shorty seemed to common," the man responded with a lopsided grin. "I was thinking about it at work the other day and the name just popped into my head."
"Maybe you should be thinking more about your work," his sister said uncertain how her companion would react to such a nickname. "Does Dad know you are wasting his valuable time over such trivial pursuits?"
"Probably," Andrew smiled like a little boy and Alex rolled her eyes realizing that no matter how old the man got he would never chance. Sydney you owe me big time, she thought to herself..
It was after ten at night when Alex finally let herself into the condo making certain to be quiet, unwilling to wake her partner if she was sleeping. The place was dark yet she could hear the sound of voices and for a moment her heart beat erratically as all sorts of thoughts raced through her brain. She blushed with embarrassment when she realized with some guilt that it was only the television. For a brief instant she had thought that Sydney had company.
Following the sound she moved to the den and peeked in, intent on joining her lover yet the scene that greeted her caused her heart to tighten and a sad smile to dip across her face. Sydney was lying sprawled out on the sofa while the video continued to roll. Scattered across the coffee table was remnants of her evening, empty soda cans, a half eaten bag of chips and a partially eaten pizza.
Alex absorbed the scene for a moment contemplating what she should do. The bed in their room was much more comfortable but Sydney hadn't been getting much sleep lately and so she was reluctant to disturb the sleeping woman, regardless of how uncomfortable she looked. More then once the younger woman had stayed awake all night.
The taller woman moved quietly across the den, gathering up the debris and putting some sort of semblance back to the room. She flipped off the video and it was while she was waiting for it to finish rewinding that her companion opened bleary eyes.
"You home already?"
"It's late honey," the taller woman said gently. "It's time to go to bed."
"Oh," with that the sleepy woman slowly sat up and Alex helped a somewhat groggy woman to her feet and then down the hall to their room pulling down the sheets so the girl could climb into bed.
Without a word the blond woman seemed to fall asleep and Alex smiled to herself before moving into the bathroom to wash and change into her own pyjamas. She crawled into bed next to her partner. She wanted to draw the woman into her arms but withstood the desire.
"Did you have a good time tonight?" a sleepy voice punctuated the darkness.
"Yes, but everyone, especially Kim, was disappointed you weren't with me," Alex was honest, hesitating for a moment before continuing with her thoughts. "And I missed you. It didn't feel right being there alone."
That had been a revelation. She could remember a time when the idea of visiting her family with anyone had seemed strange but now, to go without Sydney it seemed even stranger. There was a long silence following her confession.
"I missed you too," Sydney admitted in a quiet voice. The loneliness she had felt at the other woman's absence had been incredible. "Don't ever leave me alone again."
"You wanted me to go, you wanted to be alone," the older woman gently reminded turning her head but only seeing the other woman's back.
"I was wrong," the blond whispered hoarsely not turning to look at her companion, afraid she would reveal too much. "Tonight was terrible. I felt so lonely, like before we were together. I didn't like that feeling."
"I don't like us being apart either," Alex sighed, clamping her arms against her breasts to prevent herself from reaching out to the other woman. She had a sudden idea. "Do you feel up to going out sailing tomorrow?"
"Just the two of us?"
"Yeah," the taller woman said. "I thought we could go out towards the San Juan islands. I'd like to show you where my parents have a summer house."
"I'd like that," Sydney nodded her head and yawned.
"You're tired, go to sleep," Alex encouraged, staring at the blond head through the darkness.
"I forgot to tell you, your mother called this evening," Sydney said quietly.
"What did she want?"
"She wants us to come to dinner," the blond woman said with a mumble. "I told her we would be over on Sunday."
"Are you sure?" Alex was anxious.
She knew her lovers relationship with her parents was still tentative even though her folks had been tremendously supportive during the younger woman's hospital stay and convalesces. The taller woman knew it was because of Sydney's own lack of experience in having a family and knowing how to deal with them.
"Yeah, we haven't seen them in a while," the smaller woman mumbled.
"Okay," the Captain was glad, hoping that this was a signal that her companion was trying to get over what was bothering her.
"Goodnight love," Alex said and no longer able to stifle her action, she leaned over to plant a tender kiss on her companions head before burying her face in blond hair and closing her eyes.
Since moving in together the two women had been out on the boat several times and had developed a coordinated routine. Alex had shown Sydney how to handle the rudder, trim the sail and generally run all facets of the boat. Sailing had become an activity the pair found they mutually enjoyed and it often gave them time alone together after a busy week.
Today Alex set the course for the San Juan Islands and hoped that their trip would be uneventful. The sky was clear and the water calm with only a light breeze blowing. After an initial hesitation they settled together at the stern like always, with Sydney nestled between her tall lover's legs and Alex's free arm wrapped tightly around the other woman's chest.
They idly watched the scenery pass, each dwelling in their own thoughts as they sailed up Puget Sound and into Admiralty Inlet towards Lopez Island where the Marshall's summer home was located.
Sydney watched the coast line pass, seeing Mount Baker in the distance rising above the lush green horizon. Eagles soared in endless circles over the shore and the blond woman eagerly gazed out over the water hoping to see something of the Orca whales or porpoises that were so renown in the area.
"Tell me about the Island?" she said turning to her companion hanging on to the arm that was circled around her body. All the young detective knew about the place was that it was a popular get away for locals and a tourist stop for foreigners.
"Before the European settlers came it was home to the Samish and Lummi Indian tribes, " Alex recited the local history of the island where she had spent many summers while growing up. "For a time it was known as 'Guernsey Island' because of its exports of dairy products, but now most of the farms have disappeared, though you'll still see sheep roaming the rolling pastures."
"It sounds like the perfect place for a romantic weekend," the smaller woman commented idly.
"It is, especially if you're into the outdoors," Alex conceded. "My brothers used to bring some of their girlfriends there. It was where Andrew brought Christie to propose."
There was silence as Sydney pondered this revelation. They had been together for almost six months yet there still was so much that she didn't know about her partner.
"Did you bring anyone here?" The blonde detective asked hesitantly. She knew it was a personal question and hoped that her companion would not be angry at her for asking.
"No," the single word came without hesitation. "This was my private sanctuary where I could get away from everyone. It always annoyed the hell out of me when my brothers brought someone out here, I felt like they were invading my privacy."
"You don't have to show me then, we can go some place else," Sydney suggested quietly, not wanting to invade the other woman's privacy.
"No," came the soft, knowing response. "I want to share this with you and only with you."
The smaller woman felt an immense rush of love flow through her body as she contemplated her lover's answer. It made her feel incredibly wonderful to know that she was someone special in this woman's life, realizing that her partners actions often spoke louder then any words could.
An idea suddenly popped into the dark haired woman's head. She knew that Sydney had promised her parents that they would visit the next day but she felt certain that her mother and father would understand.
"Sydney, what would you say about spending the night on the island?"
"What?" the smaller woman was caught off guard by the suggestion.
"I thought that maybe we could spent the night," the Captain repeated.
"But I promised your parents we'd have dinner with them," Sydney reminded with a frown.
"Yeah, I know, but we can see them anytime," Alex said. "I'm not certain when we will have a chance to get here again. I can call them on my cell phone and explain the situation, I'm sure they wouldn't mind. What do you say?"
"Are you sure?" the younger woman seemed indecisive even though the idea was appealing. There really was no reason for them to return that evening.
"Yes," came the firm response.
"Okay," the blond woman smiled and received a tight squeeze for her efforts, seeing the brilliant smile that transformed her lovers normally stoic face.
Alex felt proud and automatically tightened her grip on the younger woman as the blond detective settled back down between her legs. It was moments like this that she lived for.
Sydney leaned against her partner and watched with genuine interest as they neared the island, seeing the steep cliffs that marked the coastline, it's profile interspersed with secluded beaches and coves. She could see the magic and romance of the place.
The Marshall's summer house was located on the western side of the island. It was more then the simple cottage that Sydney had imagined and larger then what most people had for a main residence. It was an imposing place that loomed on the horizon at the top of a cliff.
With casual familiarity Alex manoeuvred the sailboat up against the small pier that jetted out from a narrow stretch of beach. They moored the boat, tying it securely to the dock before heading towards the stone path that was cut into the side of the cliff.
"I just thought of something," Sydney broke the solitude as they trudged up the narrow path. "We haven't anything with us."
"No problem, we can take the motorcycle into the village. It's only about five miles from here," Alex said with a smile, thinking that this small get away could turn out better then she anticipated.
"Just how big is this island?' her companion asked curiously, wondering what kind of amenities they would find in town.
"Twenty-nine and a half square miles in area and it has a permanent population of about twenty one hundred people, " the taller woman quoted the statistics that she remembered reading somewhere. "It's a pretty friendly place."
She glanced at her watch and then down at her companion as they reached the top of the cliff. It was almost one in the afternoon and they had not yet eaten lunch. After the early breakfast they had shared, she figured her companion was due a feeding.
"What do you say I give you a quick tour of the place and then we take the bike into town for some food?"
"Sounds like a plan," the blond woman agreed, already feeling her spirits rise. It was a wonder how something as simple as a change of scenery could pull her out of the dark mood that she had been in lately.
"Local legend has it that a whaling Captain once owned this place," Alex related it's history after retrieving the key from the garage. Fortunately her parents had shown enough foresight to keep the electricity turned on year round and all the tall woman needed to do was flip a switch in the garage to restore full power to the house.
"But some of the old timers say it was actually built by the owner of one of the canneries that used to be on the island. Either way it was constructed early in the century and much of the original wood is still in place. When my parents bought it they had it restored to it's original splendour with a few modern conveniences thrown in."
Sydney followed her tall companion up the steps onto a porch, which circled the entire circumference of the house. The front doors were made of oak and opened into an large vestibule with a high vaulted ceiling. Refurnished hardwood covered the floor.
They started the tour on the main floor with the sitting room. The first thing to catch Sydney's eye was the a huge stone fireplace that occupied almost the entire length of one wall. It was flanked on either side by tall French windows which opened onto the porch and looked out towards the sea. Elegant rugs were placed in strategic positions on the floor.
The next room was a den with floor to ceiling shelves which held an abundance of books and journals. There was a large dining room with a sturdy polished wooden table that was big enough to seat at least twenty people. Similarly the kitchen was huge with all the modern conveniences and a separate pantry where a variety of canned goods were stored.
A set of wide stairs with an ornately carved banister in the front entrance led to the second floor which contained five bedrooms. They were all the same in design with the exception of the master suite which had an attached room that had been converted into a small sitting area with a soft couch and chair and a writing desk next to a small window. There were two bathrooms with massive clawed bathtubs and brass plumbing fixtures.
"This place is huge," Sydney murmured not sure what how to describe it.
"Yeah," Alex nodded with a grin. "Though the locals can't decided on who it was that built the place they do agree that he was a rather large man."
"That accounts for all the space," Sydney nodded in understanding. "I can see why you like to retreat here, it's great and the view."
The tall dark haired woman followed her companion through one room and out the French doors that led onto the second floor balcony which like on the main floor surrounded the entire perimeter of the house. She turned her gaze outward, seeing a spectacular view of the ocean. It wasn't hard to remember the incredible sunsets she had witnessed from this place.
"When we were all younger our parents used to bring us up here for the holidays, summer and winter," Alex said revealing a little more of herself. "Christmas used to be special with a large tree set up in the sitting room next to the fireplace. This place has a lot of happy memories."
Sydney was silent trying to imagine what it was like and knowing it must have been wonderful. She could imagine small children running around the hallways which were festooned with holly and other seasonal decorations. It was so different then her own rather dismal memories.
"Come on, I don't know about you but I'm starved," Alex said noticing the frown that was etching its way across her lovers features. She captured her partners hand and drew her back into the house.
They found the small motorbike in the garage and after checking to make sure there was gas in the tank Alex took the drivers seat, though she didn't immediately start the machine noticing the other woman's dubious expression.
"Are you sure you can drive this thing?" Sydney asked eyeing the machine critically. She had been a passenger on many a motorcycle ride with her sister's friends and today considered herself lucky that she was still alive.
"Absolutely, I've had my license for years," Alex assured her companion who continued to look at her doubtfully.
"And your parents drive around the island on this thing when their here?" the smaller woman was suspicious.
"Nope, they usually drive up so they always have their car," Alex chuckled. "Come on it will be fun and I promise to be careful."
"I don't know," the woman was hesitant.
"Come on Syd," the taller woman cajoled with a seductive smile. "It will be fun."
"All right, but if anything happens I'm going to blame you completely," the smaller woman grumbled before climbing on behind her lover, snuggling her body up tightly against her companion and circling the slender waist with her arms.
"Not so tight, I'd like to breath," the dark haired woman glanced back at her companion who loosened her grip.
"Remember if I fall you're going with me," the blond warned and only received a chuckle for her efforts.
Alex kicked started the machine and they were off. As promised the Captain kept the speed down and reluctantly Sydney discarded her nervousness and allowed herself the pleasure of enjoying the experience.
Instead of taking the direct route Alex chose a more circular road that took them through some of the rolling pasture land where the blond detective caught glimpses of sheep and some of the deer that seemed to live in abundance on the island.
She spotted other historic looking farmhouses and some of the ancient canneries that once used to populate the scenery. Occasionally they passed another motorized vehicle and Sydney noticed that the drivers flashed a distinctive wave which she initially mistook for another unfriendly gesture, until she noticed her companion doing the same thing.
"It's a friendly island gesture," Alex chuckled aware how often the gestures had been misinterpreted, raising her voice to be heard over the sound of the motor and the wind.
Finally they reached the village proper and Sydney noticed that it contained all the services and amenities that any normal town had. There was a medical clinic, a Sheriff's office and hardware shop alongside the regular tourist Inn's and restaurants. They parked in front of a place called the Southern Cafe which offered a variety of specials. The place was nearly empty as it was already well past the normal lunch hour.
"Miss Marshall it's good to see you again," a friendly woman appeared at their table almost as soon as they had taken a seat.
"Hi Maggie," Alex greeted the waitress with a easy familiarity that almost made Sydney jealous, and certainly made her wonder if the two shared a past. Alex had said that she had never brought any lovers to the island but she hadn't said if she had shared anything special with someone living here.
"Long time no see," the woman with short dark hair commented, glancing idly at the blond stranger. "Where you been?"
"I've been living in the mid-west for the last number of years and didn't get a chance to get back here often in that time," the dark haired woman explained.
"Well, as you can see nothing much has changed," the stranger laughed. "What can I get for you today?"
Alex glanced across the table at her companion.
"Do you trust me to order?" and received a muted nod before turning her attention back to the woman who though she wore no uniform was obviously the waitress. "We will have a number three and a number five with two large cokes."
The woman nodded before hurrying away leaving the two woman alone once again. Sydney glanced at their surroundings and noted that they were quite ordinary. Finally they came back to rest on her companion who was looking at her with a peculiar expression on her face.
"I know you're dying to ask, so do," Alex said patiently. She had read the expression on her companions face when she was talking to the waitress and instinctively knew her companion's natural curiosity.
"It's none of my business," Sydney said bowing her head, embarrassed by her rush of jealousy. The taller woman sighed.
"Of course it is," Alex replied patiently. "Sydney everything about me is your business. We're partners and there aren't any questions you can't ask me. I've been around but I've never done anything to be ashamed of."
"Maybe not, but I have," the younger woman admitted with a whisper and Alex suddenly understood another area of her lovers personality. They had never really discussed their former relationship's and she had naively thought that it wasn't an issue. She knew now that it was for her companion.
"Sydney whatever you did in the past, is just that, the past," the Captain said in a gentle voice. "I'd be foolish to think that you don't have some history but what's important to me is the present and the future. That's all I care about. Do you understand that?"
"Yeah," Sydney nodded feeling slightly embarrassed.
"Okay," the dark haired woman said with finality. "I love you Sydney and there is nothing that you could have done that would make me feel any less for you then I do now."
The younger woman hoped that was true. She wasn't proud of some of the things she had done and considered herself lucky that she had not suffered any consequences from some of the actions she had taken. She glanced across the table at her companion who was waiting patiently for her to speak.
"So is there anyone on the island who can claim intimate knowledge of you?" she asked with a weak smile in an attempt to lighten the mood.
"The answer is no," the older woman replied sincerely with a slight grin. "There is no one on the island who can claim to have intimate knowledge of me. Some tried but I came here to be alone."
The waitress chose that moment to return with their orders and Sydney was relieved for it provided an opportunity to close this topic of conversation. She stared with genuine interest at the dishes which turned out to be two different kind of seafood salads, which the two women ended up sharing.
After lunch they left the motorcycle parked in front of the cafe and took a quick walking tour through town stopping briefly at the local Mercantile shop to pick up a few supplies for their overnight stay. It was Alex's suggestion for them to pop into the grocery store and purchase some pasta and sauce along with a few vegetables and fruits. Impulsively the taller woman added a bottle of wine to their purchases. One final stop at the bakery and they were ready for the return trip to the summer house.
"How are we going to manage all this?" Sydney asked balancing several of the plastic bags in her hands and motioning to her companions packages.
"Hmm, you could be right," Alex pondered the situation for a minute before a smile broke over her face. She hastily passed her bags across to her companion before sauntering off down the street, calling back over her shoulder. "Wait right there."
"We don't need any more stuff," Sydney called out when she realized where her companion was headed. She watched helplessly as the tall woman disappeared into a shop.
Alex scanned the store shelves with a practiced eye. She spotted what she wanted and hurried down the aisle. It was while she was on her way to the cash register to pay for her purchase that her eye caught sight of something perched on a rack.
She glided over to the display, a smile working it's way across her face. She knew her companion loved music and had raved about a particular artist who now had a number one hit on the charts. She picked up the CD and then several batteries, hoping that the portable player they had at the house was still in working order. Sydney was murmuring to herself and pacing impatiently on the sidewalk by the time her companion emerged from the store carrying a large backpack.
"Hey, that was a good idea," she commented when her partner showed off her purchase, the gift expertly hidden inside one of the pockets.
"I thought so," Alex grinned and then positioned it on the smaller woman's back before packing it snugly with their purchases, managing to cram all of the contents of their bags into the pockets.
"I'm going to fall off the motorcycle," the blond detective complained feeling the weight of the carryall wanting to drop her onto her back.
"Just hang on tightly," Alex grinned before hopping onto the bike and kicking it started. She was careful to help her companion on, waiting until the smaller woman's arms were securely locked around her waist before easing her hand off the clutch.
The ride back to the summer house was uneventful and taken along a different route then the one they had used to reach the village. This road traveled parallel to the coast and afforded them a beautiful view of the sea where they could see numerous sailboats cutting across the water.
"Up for a walk?" Alex asked once they had stowed the groceries in the kitchen.
"Sure," her companion eagerly agreed and minutes later they were strolling along the edge of the cliff admiring the beauty of the nature that surrounded them. Finally they came to a small natural inlet where they carefully picked their way down unto the beach.
"You were so lucky, being able to grow up with this," Sydney sighed revealing her thoughts to her partner who was skipping stones along the water.
"Yeah," Alex didn't deny the truth. "But my parents were always conscious of reminding us how fortunate we were."
"I remember once when I was about eleven, my dad took my sister and me to a beach in Olympia
National Park," the blond woman said. "It was a big occasion because he never took us anywhere."
Even so many years later she could remember the day as if it were yesterday. She had been so excited. It was a Saturday and her father had said it was a special occasion to celebrate all their birthdays. It had been an unusual gesture on the man's part and the result of an unexpected winnings at the track earlier in the week. For one day he had been the father that she had always envisioned having.
"Did you have fun?" Alex asked seeing the distant look in her companion's eyes.
"Yes," the blond woman nodded. "That was the only good memory that I have of us being a family together. Mostly he was too busy or didn't care enough."
"I'm sorry," the older woman said her heart aching for her companion. She walked over and reached her hand out pulling the younger woman to her feet and gently wrapping her in a tight embrace. They stood like that for a long time, savouring the contact. The sun was low in the sky by the time they finally made their way back to the house.
"I'll go and check on the boat if you want you can start dinner," Alex suggested once they reached the porch steps and her companion nodded mutely.
"Don't forget to call your mother," the smaller woman reminded as she watched her companion head down the path that led towards the cliff.
"I'll do that as soon as I get down to the boat," the taller woman agreed, waving before disappearing down the stone steps that were cut into the cliff face.
Alex had considered everything that she needed to make the evening an romantic occasion and she reviewed her plans as she scurried down to the beach. Instead of going to the boat, she hurried along the shore, collecting driftwood for the fire that she hoped to build later in the evening. Only when she was finished setting up everything on the beach did she retrieve the phone from the boat. The call was answered on the third ring.
"Alex?" came the muffled reply. "Where are you honey, your voice sounds funny?"
"I'm calling from Lopez Island," the dark haired woman explained. "I took Sydney sailing and we ended up here."
"That's nice, how is the place?" the woman asked casually.
"Great," Alex said. "Anyway the reason I'm calling is that I know Sydney said we would be over for lunch tomorrow but we won't be able to make it. We decided to spend the night here."
"Oh," the older woman had a hard time disguising the disappointment she felt. "It's been a while since we've seen you. Your father was really looking forward to having dinner with you."
"Yes, I know," the Captain sighed. "But we really needed to get away for awhile and this seemed like the perfect opportunity."
"Oh?" the older woman said unable to mask the concern and hope that flooded her body. "Are you and Sydney having trouble?"
"No," Alex wanted to dispel any rumours her mother may have heard, aware that Christie and Andrew had probably said something about her lone visit to their home. She knew that while Marie grudgingly accepted the relationship she still held out hope that Alex would some day change her mind.
She could have told her mother it was a forlorn hope but instinctively she knew that would be a lie. If she lost Sydney she didn't think she would ever want to become involved again, certainly not with another woman. In Sydney she had found her perfect mate, the other half to her soul and if she lost the smaller woman under any circumstances she would not try to recreate the relationship aware that it would only result in disappointment.
"I'll call you next week," the younger woman promised.
"Okay," Marie sighed. "Oh, I forgot to ask you when is Sydney's birthday?"
"June 7th," came the automatic reply. The date was already planted in the Captain's head. "Why?"
"Well, it's just nice to know," the other woman replied. "Are you going to have a party for her?"
"Certainly," Alex responded, "but I think I have plenty of time to do the planning."
"Yes, okay, then have a good time and we'll see you next weekend some time," the older woman said before ringing off.
Alex shook her head and returned the cell phone to the boat before retreating back up the cliff towards the house. She quietly peeked into the kitchen to see that Sydney was still busy chopping up vegetables for a salad and so stole back into the living room to complete the surprise she had planned. Only once it was complete did she join her companion.
"Where do you want to eat?" Sydney asked when the taller woman joined her in the kitchen. The food was ready and the smaller woman was just ladling it into the various bowls.
"How about the sitting room?" Alex suggested hiding her smile. "The dining room is to large and the kitchen to impersonal."
"Okay, if you're sure," the blond woman wasn't as certain. All she could think about was the beautiful furniture and the possibility of them accidentally spilling some tomato sauce on the carpet. "Promise me that you won't yell if I spill something on the rug."
"Just don't worry about it," the older woman said grabbing a bowl in each hand and leading the way into the living room.
Sydney followed her companion from the kitchen down the hallway into the sitting room. It wasn't until she actually entered the room did she realized what her companion had been up too while she was fixing dinner. She paused to take it all in.
The furniture had been moved around to make room in front of the fireplace for the coffee table which was elegantly dressed with a fancy red cloth and two place settings that included crystal wine glasses and polished silverware. A burning candle sat in the middle of the table.
The lights had been turned down and the kindling in the fireplace lit, giving the room a soft romantic glow, with the flames of the fire filling the room with a pleasant warmth.
"This is beautiful," she managed to whisper and Alex smiled rushing over to retrieve the bowls from her lover's hands.
"I'm glad you like it," the tall woman said indicating the cushions she had placed around the table. There was the soft sounds of classical music coming from the stereo. "Come sit down and let's eat."
The meal was delicious for Sydney was an excellent cook and Alex kept the conversation light and casual. It had been such a long time since they had spent any intimate time together and she didn't want to do anything that might spoil the mood that was encompassing them both. For the first time in over a month she saw that her companion was beginning to relax, to release the worries that she carried silently inside herself.
"Come on," the taller woman said once they had finished eating. She grabbed the small box of desserts and then snatched the smaller woman's hand. They stopped to put on their coats before grabbing her hand once again and dragging her out of the house.
It was late evening and the sun was just beginning to set by the time they reached the beach at the base of the cliffs. The evening was warm enough with only a slight breeze rippling the smooth ocean water causing the boat to bob gently in the surf.
"This is beautiful," Sydney sighed settling down on the sand.
She watched quietly as her companion expertly lit the bundle of wood that had been collected and stacked into a neat pile on the beach by an oversize log that had washed unto shore. When she had that done she didn't immediately join her friend, instead she sauntered over to the water retrieving the bottle of wine she had earlier set in the ocean to chill.
"I'm sorry I forgot about glasses," the tall woman said sheepishly as she uncorked the bottle before handing it to her companion. Only when she was satisfied did Alex settle down on the sand behind her partner against the log. Sydney leaned back between her lovers legs nestling comfortably into the taller woman's embrace.
"No problem," the blond detective smiled and took a sip from the bottle before handing it back to her companion.
The Captain took a sip savouring the delightful taste of the liquid as it travelled down her throat and into her belly. She reached over to the small box that contained the dessert, a dozen chocolate bonbon's covered with coconut. Extracting one from the dish she held it out to the smaller woman who neatly snapped it out of her fingers.
They sat there silently sharing the wine and the dessert, and savouring the moment as they watched the fiery ball in the sky dip into the ocean and then disappear in a montage of colours that were brilliantly splashed across the heavens.
For a moment there was complete silence with only the gentle crackle of the burning wood breaking the unearthly calm as the waves rolled in whispers unto the shore. It was a time of indescribable peace and for a moment Sydney closed her eyes and savoured it all, the peace, the beauty and the love that she felt in the arms that were wrapped around her body. It was more peace then she had felt in a long time.
Alex felt the tension leave her companion as the woman slumped against her body and she wrapped her arms more tightly around her companion. It had been a long time, not since before the shooting, that she had felt her companion this relaxed.
They sat there until the last of the light faded and they were surrounded by darkness except for the glow of the fire that burned next to them warming them against the impending night chill. They turned their heads to the heavens and stared up, watching as the stars slowly, almost hesitantly poked there heads out of the black dome. They stared out at the sea and occasionally a boat, it's deck festooned in light trailed across the horizon.
"Thank you," Sydney sighed revelling in the beauty that surrounded them.
"I wish I could take credit for any of this but it's all mother natures doing," Alex chuckled and bent her head to nuzzle the smaller woman's neck.
"I don't mean that," the blond gave an exaggerated sigh. "I mean this. The fire, the wine, just bringing me here."
"I thought we could use the time alone," Alex confided seriously, hesitating for a moment before plunging forward, deciding it was time for her to speak up. "I know it's been a rough go for you over the last few months."
"And for you," the smaller detective added softly. "You've had to put up with me. Thanks for being there, you don't know how much that means to me, even though I don't say it."
"Yeah," the taller woman grunted slightly embarrassed. "There have been times when I don't know what the hell I was doing."
"Everything right," Sydney said and then fell silent. Alex was quiet for a moment though now that the subject was out there she didn't want to leave it until everything had been settled.
"Sydney, you know you can talk to me about anything right?" she said with a deep breath, expelling it in a rush afraid she would lose her courage to speak.
"Yeah," the smaller woman nodded her head but said nothing more and Alex was at a loss of where to go next.
It had seemed that the smaller woman was finally opening up to her but now she could feel the tension creep back into the woman. She was way out of her league for sensitive chats but she took another deep breath and prodded forward. She loved this woman too much to give up and she had the awful feeling that if she stopped now then there would be no going back.
"Is everything going okay with the psychologist?"
The question remained unanswered which was in itself the answer. Inwardly Alex groaned. She didn't want to know that her partner had stopped seeing the doctor. She willed herself to control her reaction.
"When did you stop going?" she asked surprised how calm her voice sounded.
"Just after I left the hospital," Sydney admitted reluctantly, glad that they weren't facing each other for she wouldn't be able to bare seeing the disappointment on the older woman's face.
"Why?" it was the only question Alex could ask. Sydney shrugged.
"I didn't feel comfortable talking to him, answering the questions he asked," came the admission and then the quiet truth. "Besides I didn't want it to go on my record."
"Oh baby," shit, Alex suddenly understood something she knew she should have realized before. In one swift motion she twisted their bodies around so that they were facing each other. She grabbed her companion's hands and folded them between her own.
She hated the macho world in which they worked. The world with hidden undertones that suggested anyone not strong enough to deal with their problems or pain alone were somehow a lesser human being. She had seen it too often in her career, too many lives wasted because of people refusing to seek help, worried that it might somehow tarnish their image and be noted permanently in their record, preventing the promotions that might come their way. She had seen so many lives and families ruined by this pride. Fortunately it was changing, albeit not quick enough.
"You don't have to be worried about your career," she tried to make the younger woman understand. "Counselling isn't frowned upon like it used to be, in fact many police forces now make it mandatory for their officers in cases like yours. God, Sydney you were shot, you could've died. If that's what's messed you up it's understandable."
Sydney was silent as tears pooled in her green eyes. She loved Alex so much and knew the older woman was trying her hardest to make things right, but she couldn't forget about what she did. The Captain somehow sensed the truth and gently reached out and combed an errant strand of hair behind the girl's ear.
"But there's something else bothering you isn't there?" the dark haired woman said astutely, knowing her companion well enough to know the truth.
Sydney wasn't able to stop herself from cringing. Her lover was too astute. A single tear rolled down her cheek and tenderly the dark haired woman reached up to brush it away. The blond woman lifted teary eyes, the insecure part of herself telling her to remain quiet but her heart urging her to confess all, telling her it would be okay.
She had wanted to confide in her lover for such a long time. She wanted Alex to fix it and make it all better, even if it meant risking the loss of her forever. She couldn't go on this way. They couldn't keep going on this way. She took a deep unsteady breath, her limbs trembling and not from the cold that was creeping into the air.
"I love her, but I never wanted to be like her," Sydney confessed in a quiet voice, tears streaming down her face. "When I saw her kill that innocent man, I was sick and I swore I would be different. It was so horrible, the blood and the realization that a life had been needlessly ended. I joined the police force to protect people and what happens, I become just like her."
Alex sat very still listening to her companion, her brain confused and trying to sort out her lovers jumbled words. Finally it hit her and slowly she began to gain an understanding into the complicity of her lover's thinking and the reason behind her pain. The realization caused an incredible pain in her own heart.
"Oh baby, you aren't anything like Anne," Alex said softly gently brushing the tears away.
"I killed a man!" came the angry dispute.
"Who was trying to kill you," the Captain corrected softly. "There is a huge difference between the two."
"I didn't give him a chance to surrender," Sydney barked.
"He didn't give you the chance to ask him," the dark haired woman reminded. They had investigated the shooting thoroughly and it had been unanimously concluded that Sydney had acted correctly in discharging her weapon. "If you hadn't killed him, he would have killed you and Norm and Roy. Sydney the man was a murderer, he killed a helpless little boy for his own gratification."
"It still doesn't make what I did right," the girl insisted and for an instant Alex didn't know what to say. She stared at her companion seeing the raw pain and anguish in the green eyes.
"Killing another human being is never right," she finally said choosing her words carefully. "However, sometimes it's a painful necessity. What you did was the hardest and yet the bravest thing a police officer ever has to do and nothing is going to take away that feeling of guilt until you accept that under the circumstances you had no other choice." There was a pause and the taller woman's voice became firmer.
"And don't for one minute compare yourself too your sister. You are a strong, intelligent woman who acts with her moral conscious. Those were all things that she never exercised when she killed that police officer in cold blood.
"Sydney, you have the kindest, gentlest heart I know but if my words don't convince you then think about how you feel. If you were as cold blooded as your sister would you be feeling this way now? Would you be tearing yourself apart like this? Is that what Anne did?"
No, the blond detective thought remembering the look of coldness and contempt that was on her sisters face as she slew the helpless man. No, not even at the trial when she had first seen the victims family. No, it wasn't until years later that her older sister had expressed any type of remorse or conscience over what she had done.
Sydney looked up at her lover and swallowed. She had expected to see condemnation and perhaps disgust but it wasn't there. All she saw was a gentle warmth, compassion and a deep abiding love. Her heart ached as did her arms with the need to hold and touch the other woman, yet the insecure part of herself still needed reassuring and it was if the other woman understood that as well.
She hiccupped as tears continued to flow and gently the tall woman scooped her companion into her arms and held on, embracing her tightly and wishing she could will her lover's pain away. But she couldn't so she did the only thing she knew how. She hung on, giving the woman comfort and solace.
"I love you Sydney, how could you ever think that what happened would change the way I feel for you. What's between us is not a fleeting thing for me, it's forever," Alex was shocked by the younger woman's revelation. She felt panic stricken as another thought occurred to her making her voice strangled. "Have I ever done anything to make you feel like that?"
"No," Sydney was honest and ashamed now that she had drawn the conclusion about her lover. "But I wanted to be perfect for you."
"I don't expect you to be perfect, I love who you are not who you think I want you to be," Alex's expression reflected her pain and horror at the idea that her companion had been afraid of her reaction. "Why would you think such a thing?"
"Because I didn't want to lose you," the blond detective confessed.
"Oh baby," the dark haired woman smiled quietly. "I wish there was some way I could make you understand how much I love you," there was a pause as the older woman lifted the woman's chin so their eyes could meet.
"Sydney, you are my life, you make me happier then I believed it was possible to be. For the first time in my life I feel complete. You can't imagine how terrified I was when I learned you had been shot. It was as if my whole world had been shattered. You are everything to me," her voice trembled over the next thoughts. "If you had died...I don't know how I would have survived." There was another pause. "Believe me Sydney when I say I love you with all my heart and there will never be anyone to replace you."
There was silence as those heart felt word's were allowed to sink in. Sydney felt a warmth fill her heart as she contemplated these revelations.
"Is this the reason you haven't gone to see your sister?" Alex wanted to know and the woman nodded, glancing down at her hands which were folded on her lap.
"I'm so ashamed," Sydney confessed, to exhausted emotionally to hide anything else from her partner. "I'm afraid of what she'll say."
"Don't be," the Captain tried to be reassuring, gathering the smaller woman into her arms. "I think she will surprise you."
They stayed like that for a long time, savouring the stillness between them. Sydney was filled with relief. If she was honest she would have told her lover about her fear of loving someone, and the innate sense that if she did something wrong that love would disappear. Wasn't that the reason her mother had gone away never to return? Or the reason why her father had treated them the way he did before he too had disappeared?
"Is there anything else?" Alex asked perceptively guessing that there was still more stuff buried in her younger companion.
"No," Sydney shook her head. There were other fears still chasing themselves around her brain but she was exhausted and reluctant to dwell further into a subject that caused her so much pain. There were fears that she had. Worries that she was reluctant to express out of fear of how her lover would react.
Alex had been supportive and had said all the right things, but the tall dark haired woman was more then just her partner and friend. She was also her boss and some of the things that still bothered Sydney were things that her boss couldn't know.
The Captain sensed that her companion had not bared all and it hurt that Sydney did not yet trust her completely. However, she considered it a victory that the girl had opened up as much as she did. When it came to confessions, the smaller woman was generally reluctant to tell all so she decided to let the subject drop.
"Hey, I think it's pretty late, and I don't know about you but I'm bushed. Want to go to bed?" Alex asked breaking the silence.
The small woman nodded her head silently allowing the taller woman to help her to her feet. They were just about to leave the beach when a shattering shot pierced the inky blackness of the night. It was followed by a distinctive plop that was odd enough for the environment to make them pause and stare into the surrounding darkness.
"Alex, what was that?" Sydney unconsciously grasped the hand of her companion who was standing beside her.
"I don't know," the taller woman said with a frown and walked casually towards the waters edge, cocking her ear to the wind and listening. But there was only the soft, soothing sounds of mother nature.
"That sounded close," the blond detective said unable to prevent the shudder that went through her body. Alex felt the tremor and glanced down at her companion her arm going around the smaller woman's shoulders in a reassuring gesture.
"Nah," she disagreed lightly, casting her partner a smile before turning her eyes out to the sea.
The moon was out now casting silvery shafts of light upon the earth and shimmering against the waves which were starting to pick up strength as the evening wind grew stronger. She could see nothing out of the ordinary.
"Probably some kids out hunting deer," she said seeking a reasonable explanation. It wasn't unusual for the locals to do some night hunting even though it was forbidden by the law. Night poaching had become popular among some of the tourists who visited the island. More then one city businessman had been caught taking to bag a deer at night.
"But it sounded so close," Sydney wasn't buying the explanation.
"That's because of the water and the calmness of the night. It has a tendency to amplify sound. I'd say whoever was doing the shooting is probably five or six miles away."
"Do you think we should call the local police?" her partner prodded and an unconscious smile crossed the taller woman's lips as she thought of the local sheriff, a man who had retained that position for going on nearly twenty years now.
"I don't think he would appreciate being called out over this," she decided, not uncertain her companion wasn't right. "Besides we can't tell where the shot came from and more then likely whoever was doing it will be long gone before the local authorities even get out of bed."
"That isn't very complimentary of the local sheriff," Sydney remarked eyeing her tall lover.
"I know the man. He's a good guy but there isn't really much crime on the island, and nothing serious, and I know he wouldn't appreciate being called out for something like this. But if it makes you happy we'll swing by his office in the morning before we leave and make out a report."
That seemed to satisfy the smaller woman but for some reason Sydney was unable to shake the uneasy feeling that had settled in her gut. She shook it off as nervousness. Small things had upset her since the shooting and she guessed that the sound of gunfire was the reason for her mood. She determinedly dismissed it turning her face to follow the gaze of her lover. They stood silently for a moment staring out at the blackened sea and feeling the gentle caress of the wind against their faces. The boat, tied along the pier bobbed contentedly in the surf.
"Come on, let's put this fire out and get back up to the house," Alex could feel the tension, absent in her lover for the past few hours, begin to flood back into her frame. "I don't know about you but I'm exhausted."
Sydney nodded and helped dump sand on the fire that was reduced to little more then a few glowing ashes. Alex held out her hand which she immediately accepted and together they climbed the stairs to the top of the cliff. The tall woman cast one last glance over the sea, their vantage point and the brilliant moonlight giving them a clear view of the sea. In the distance she could barely make out the siholette of a sail boat, larger than her own.
For a minute she thought it was sitting silently, anchored for the night, but then she noticed that it was moving quietly through the darkness, like a creature stealing through the shadows. It was odd that the boat was not using any of it's running lights and mentally she made a note, reminding herself that they would pay the local sheriff a visit before leaving in the morning.
"Thanks Alex," Sydney said once they were comfortably settled in bed. They had selected one of the larger bedrooms with the windows facing the sea and were now snuggled up in each others arms, leaving one of the windows open slightly to allow the fresh air entry.
"For what sweetheart?" Alex asked brushing her lips across the blonde's forehead.
"For bringing me here," the smaller woman sighed snuggling tighter into the arms that circled her waist. She buried her face in the warm chest that was offered. "I had a wonderful day."
"Maybe we can do it again sometime soon," the dark haired woman suggested hopefully. "When we have more time."
"Like when is that?" Sydney asked unable to keep the hint of sarcasm out of her voice.
"Oh, I don't know," the taller woman shrugged. "We both have some vacation time coming."
"It would be nice," the blond detective agreed, her eyes closed so that Alex staring silently down at her for a long moment.
She thought of what Christie had said the previous evening and then about the hours they had spent alone together that afternoon. It had been a wonderful day, one of so very few that they had been able to spend together without work interfering. She had been mulling the thought over ever since her sister-in-law had suggested it and now she thought it would be the perfect time to voice her ideas. She stared out the open window at the brilliance of the moon.
"Sydney have you given any thought to taking holidays?" the dark haired woman asked thoughtfully and for a long while silence greeted her words so that she thought her companion was already asleep. She looked down to see a pair of sparkling green eyes looking at her.
"I just had a month off," the smaller woman reminded quietly.
"That was sick leave," the Captain said. "That wasn't a vacation."
Sydney moved away putting a little distance between them, propping her head up with one hand so that she could gaze fully into her lovers face. Alex rolled onto her back and stared up at the ceiling for a long moment, her hands folded primly over her stomach. She felt the intensity of her companions look and turned onto her side, mimicking her lovers position.
"Do you want to take a vacation Alex?" the younger woman asked wondering what was going on in her lover's head.
"Well," the dark haired woman sighed. "It's just that we really haven't taken any time to be alone together. Even when you were off for that month I had to work and you were busy with physical therapy. I guess I just want to spend time alone with you, someplace where we can be alone."
Absently the taller woman reached over and traced her fingertips over the light, red scars that were like tiny pock marks on her lover's slender neck. The marks had faded in the last month but they would always be there, a reminder of the tragedy that had nearly taken the woman away forever. It was hard to believe that such tiny injuries could be so deadly in nature.
Sydney was silent, intensely conscious of her lover's fingers as they caressed the marks. In the beginning she had flinched when the older woman had touched them but now she knew that her partner did it with loving concern and not morbid fascination.
She looked away from the intense blue orbs and plucked at the bedsheets while she pondered her lovers thoughts. The idea of spending time alone with Alex like they had done today was very appealing. Their intimate talk had relieved her of a burden that had been becoming almost impossible to bear. She glanced up meeting her companions gaze and realized she needed more of this time together. As difficult as the past few months had been on her, she knew they were just as tough on her stoic lover.
"Do you want to take a vacation Alex?" she repeated her question.
"Yes," was the simple affirming answer.
"When do you want to leave?"
"I think we should try to get away as soon as possible. I think we need this," came the quiet reply. The younger woman did not dispute that claim. She looked across at her partner, chewing on her lower lip.
"Where do you want to go?" Sydney asked and she could see her companion was seriously considering the options.
"I don't know," the other woman shrugged. "Where would you like to go?"
"I think you know," the blond woman smiled sheepishly and felt her free hand being taken by her lover. Their fingers laced together.
"I would love to take you to the Medditterrean," Alex said softly with regret in her voice, "but I don't think we will be able to get that much time off."
"But we'd be able to get two weeks," Sydney said hopefully.
"Yeah, but when we go there I want two months not two weeks," Alex said reaching out with her other hand and stroking strands of blond hair off the girl's brow. "Is there any place else you'd like to go?"
"I've never been anywhere," the blond woman admitted.
"Well, then think about it," the dark haired woman smiled. "We don't have to decide tonight."
Sydney nodded and lay her head back down on the pillow her eyes never leaving her lover's face.
"Do you really think we will be able to get the time off?" was the blonde's next question.
"Yeah," the taller woman nodded her head. "You have plenty of holiday time saved up and when I came to the Seattle Police department I negotiated to have my holiday time with the Chicago Police Department carried over. By my estimate we both can easily take two weeks off without any questions."
By her estimate that still left them each with more then six weeks of vacation time still owing. But she had plans for those weeks. She wanted to make certain all the appropriate arrangements had been made and everything was in place. But they couldn't wait and they needed a holiday now. She reached out and caressed her lover's cheek.
"Do you want to take a vacation with me?"
"Let's see," the blond thoughtfully tapped her chin with a finger, her lips pursed tightly together. "Stay in Seattle in the rain and work, or go on holiday with the most gorgeous woman I know? Tough decision."
"You brat," the Captain scolded leaning forward to brush her lips over the giggling woman's mouth. It had been so long since they had playfully teased each other like this. She had missed this intimate interaction. "How soon can you go?"
"That dependents, how fast can you push through the paperwork?" the young detective asked impishly.
"Just watch how fast," Alex grinned.
It was late in the morning when Alex was finally rousted from her sleep. For a long time she lay basking in the warmth of the sunshine that poured through the open windows and the heat of the body that lay snuggled in her embrace. It had been months since she had slept so soundly and she credited it to the woman who now lay sleeping in her arms.
She turned blue orbs on the younger woman, tracing tenderly the lines of the blond woman's features. It had been as long since her companion had spent a night without restlessly moving around the bed and Alex knew that their talk the previous evening had gone a long way to easing the burdens that had settled it's weight upon the other woman.
She swallowed compulsively as she remembered Sydney's confessions. She had never imagined that her companion had been embraced with the fear that her actions had made her like her sister Anne, a resident of the state's penal system for killing an on-duty policeman. It was a concept that she had never even considered, the idea alone making her own gut wrench in agony. Sydney was everything that Anne was not.
She took a deep breath, and because she couldn't help herself, she reached over and combed several strands of blond hair off her companion's face. The smaller woman stirred at the attention but remained asleep and for that Alex was grateful.
The Captain knew that last night was only the beginning. Sydney had finally voiced her fears and that was the start of the healing process. It was up to her now to make sure that it was continued and now knowing the source of the problem she would better be able to help the other woman. One of the first things she would insist once they returned to Seattle was that the younger detective continue her visits to the psychologist.
Though she had been forced to discharge her weapon on several occasions, she had never taken a life and though she wasn't exactly certain what her partner was going through she knew it was a traumatic experience. Unless it was dealt with promptly, the younger detective would be affected by the incident for the rest of her life. Alex was committed to the task of not letting that happen.
"Hey, why the frown?"
A gentle voice suddenly cut through her thoughts and Alex looked down at the woman in her arms to see a pair of cloudy green eyes staring up at her pensively. She smiled, pushing aside her thoughts.
"No, reason," she smiled tenderly. "Good morning."
"Did you have a good sleep?"
"Yes," the blond head bobbed and for a moment the green eyes closed as the woman snuggled more deeply into her lover's embrace. "I haven't slept this good in weeks."
"It's the fresh air," Alex said with a catch in her throat and the eyes opened again to peer at her intently.
"It was more then the fresh air," came the solemn response. "I think it had to do more with clearing the air."
"Yes, I think it did," the Captain agreed and there was a short silence. "I suppose we should get moving."
"Do we have too?" came the plaintive response, as one small hand crept up under the cotton shirt that the older woman had worn to bed. It came to a rest comfortably around a soft breast. Alex took a deep breath. It had been a long time since they had made love. Not since before Sydney had entered the hospital. She look down into her companion's eyes.
"Not if there's something else you had in mind," the taller woman said and a slight smile curved the smaller woman's lips.
"There are a lot of different things that come to mind," Sydney replied and then leaned forward to place a kiss on her lover's neck. That was followed by another caress on her chin and finally a long passionate embrace of their lips.
What followed was a long intimate time together as both women reaffirmed their love for one another. Tender kisses were followed by gentle caresses, which stoked the love that they shared and accumulated in a flare of passionate love making. Afterwards they snuggled in each other's arms, watching as the sun rose in the sky, neither willing to end this intimate time together.
"We better get a move on," Alex said reluctantly releasing her companion to struggle out of bed. She had no desire to leave the comfort of her lover's embrace but knew that if they didn't get moving now it would be dark before they got back to Seattle and she didn't feel like navigating the Strait at night.
"Okay," Sydney sighed and then jumped out of bed and made a dash for the bathroom as her taller companion leisurely stretched out her lanky frame. "I have dibs on the shower."
Alex chuckled at her partner but made no move to follow. Instead she pulled her shirt back on and wandered down to the kitchen where she poured water into the kettle and then set it on the stove to boil. She idly glanced out the window, pleased to see that it was another clear morning. Hopefully it would be smooth sailing back to the city.
Momentarily her thoughts lapsed back to the previous evening. It had been wonderful, the hours they had spent together on the beach, talking and holding each other in their arms. The only thing that had marred the night was the shot. The memory made her pause.
She had not lied to Sydney. The shot had probably sounded a lot nearer then it had actually been, it's sound carried like a echo across the water. The most probable explanation was the one she had given her companion. Tourists as well as locals hunted the wild deer that roamed the island and generally no one complained. She assumed that was what they heard. She had no more time to speculate on the matter as her companion choose that moment to come wandering into the kitchen already showered and dressed.
"Your turn," Sydney said cheerfully, feeling better then she had in several months. She glanced around the kitchen expectantly. "Did you start breakfast?"
"I put water on for tea," the dark haired woman said hopefully and the smaller woman shook her head in mock indignation.
"Go have a shower," she grabbed her partner and pushed her towards the door.
By the time Alex returned fifteen minutes later the kitchen was filled with the delicious smell of eggs and bacon with pancakes on the grille. The small table in the kitchen had been set.
"Pancakes?" Alex asked wondering how her friend had managed to concoct such a feast on the few supplies they had purchased the previous day in town.
"Initiative," came the impish response from the blond detective.
The meal was wonderful and it quickly disappeared under the hunger of both women. They sat for a few minutes allowing the food to settle before cleaning up, leaving the place as tidy as when they had arrived, ready for the next time someone came for a visit.
"I wish I had brought my camera," Sydney said wistfully once they had locked up the house. Alex was about to fetch the motorbike from the garage for their trip into town. "I would love to have pictures of this place."
"We'll be back," the dark haired woman assured her companion. It was a promise that she had every intention of keeping.
"I know, but it's never the same as the first time you see it," the blond sighed, closing her eyes and inhaling a deep breath, savouring the fresh air with the tangy smell of the sea and salt in its breath.
"Come to think of it there might be one on the boat," Alex said thoughtfully remembering something she had forgotten until now. "Mother gave me a camera for a birthday once. Told me it was good for scuba diving, it could take pictures above and below the water. I think it might still be on board in one of the cupboards."
"What about film?" Sydney asked suddenly hopeful.
"We could pick some up in town," the dark haired woman decided. "Why don't you go down and find it while I finish closing up the house?"
"Deal," Sydney said and without another word was off trotting across the lawn towards the cliffs. She bounded down the steps and across the beach onto the pier where the boat was tied. She jumped onto the bow and then ducked into the cabin. It took only a few minutes of searching before she gleefully located the instrument in question. She examined it thoroughly and though there was film in the cartridge she guessed that it was probably to old to be effective.
"I hope you didn't have anything on here that you didn't want to keep," she giggled as she tucked the camera under her arm and made her way back out on deck .
She was about to jump off the boat when something caught her attention. It was a bit of colour in an otherwise sea of dark green and bobbing in between the boat and under the short pier. It could be a rag, or a piece of clothing lost overboard, she thought even as her gut clenched tightly in anticipation. There was something that instinctively told her trained mind that it was something more then either of those things.
Unwilling to fish it out with her hand, she picked up an oar that was fastened to the side of the boat and then gently prodded the object. It was apparent very quickly that it was a pink shirt, belonging to a woman whose body was still fastened inside.
Her throat tightened and the scream that threatened to force it's way out never came. She was to much of a professional to let that happen. She had seen so much carnage to react the normal way most people did but still it was nerve racking.
Alex glanced impatiently down towards the cliff. Sydney had been gone for more then twenty minutes and she was beginning to grow impatient. She had just begun to move in that direction when the girl appeared. She was about to call out, make some remark about the blonde's tardiness when she noticed that the younger woman's features were unusually pale.
"Sydney are you all right?" she hurried across the distance separating them, her voice filled with concern.
"There's a body," the blond woman managed to stutter and then took a deep breath, reminding herself that she was a detective in a homicide unit. Though she was used to viewing dead bodies it was a whole another matter in discovering one when least expecting it. "There's a body down on the beach by the boat."
Alex looked intently at her companion, her dark eyes searching the younger woman's face for a minute as if looking to see if this was some kind of joke. She could tell that it wasn't and without another word she stalked passed her partner and down the steps to the beach.
Sydney had been right. It was a body, and though the features were bloated, it wasn't enough for them not to discern that it was of a woman. It was obvious to Alex's experienced eye that the woman hadn't been in the water more then twelve hours.
"Did she drown?" Sydney asked quietly glancing over her partner shoulders as she bent to examine the body which the blond woman had dragged from the water but not inspected, instinctively knowing that the person was long past needing help.
"I don't think so," the taller woman said softly, taking care to ease the body over not willing to disturb any evidence the victim might contain. Briefly flashes of the previous evening and the shot flashed through her brain. She had seen enough drowning in her tenure to know that this was not the case.
"My cellphone in on the boat, can you get it for me?" she asked of her companion who immediately hurried off to do her bidding. Already the Captain's clinical mind had clicked into place as the details of what needed to be done flashed like a list in front of her eyes. The detective was back almost immediately with the communications instrument.
"Damn," the older woman cursed when she noticed that the battery was dead. She had forgotten to put it in it's charger the previous evening, distracted by other matters. She looked up at her friend apologetically. "I'm going to have to take the bike into town. Do you think you could stay here until I return?"
She hated asking her friend to stand guard over the body yet she could think of nothing else. The phone in the house was only connected when her parents were in residence. Someone would have to make the trip into town to notify the Sheriff.
"I'll go," Sydney offered placing her hand on her partner's shoulder.
"But you don't know how to drive the bike," the older woman's heart went out to her companion who cast her a wan smile.
"Actually I do," was the answer that shocked the taller woman.
"Why didn't you say something?" Alex was curious.
"Cause I kind of liked riding on the back," came the embarrassed response as a flush rose up over the girl's features. "I like holding you."
"You brat," the dark haired woman let out a deep breath rising to her feet. "Come on, I'll show you how it works."
Less then ten minutes later Sydney was ready to go and Alex looked at her with trepidation. She knew the blond detective was a capable woman yet after everything that happened she was reluctant to leave her alone. She knew that despite the nature of their job and the crimes they had been exposed to in working homicide, it was always something of a shock to discover a body, a victim of crime.
"Take care," she whispered leaning over and kissing her companion. "And if you have any problems tell them I sent you."
"I'll be back ASAP," Sydney smiled and then released the clutch setting the motorbike in motion. She did not look back to see Alex wave.
It had been a long time since she had driven one of these machines and so concentrated on the road and the vehicle. She had been taught to drive motorcycles by her sister's friends. It had been a part of her initiation and she had been proud when she had finally gotten good enough to actually get her licence. But in the intervening years she hadn't had much opportunity to exercise those skills. She thought now that perhaps that would change.
Unlike the previous day, Sydney did not notice the scenery, intent only on the mission which was bringing her hurrying into town that morning. Briefly she allowed herself to think about the sound of gunfire that they had heard the previous night and sadly she thought that they probably had been unsuspecting witnesses to the woman's murder.
It was easy to find the Sheriff's office and she parked the bike outside before rushing up the steps. For a moment she thought the place was deserted but then noticed a lone woman, dressed in civilian clothes, sitting at a desk behind the front counter.
"Excuse me, is the Sheriff in?" she cleared her throat to get the other woman's attention. The red haired woman glanced up.
"Is there something I can do for you?" the woman asked not bothering to move.
"My name is Sydney Davis and I am a member of the Seattle Police department," the blond said digging her badge out of her pocket. That was one thing she never went anywhere without. She carried it more then she did her gun. She flashed the badge for the woman to see. "I've come to report a murder."
The simple assertion caught the woman by surprise and she looked at the small blond woman as if she were staring at a crazy woman. Sydney felt a sense of exasperation begin to rise.
"May I speak to the Sheriff please," she insisted stirring the woman into motion. The red headed woman rose and then walked over to the back of the office to an enclosed space with a window where a lone man was working.
Sydney could not hear what was being said but she saw the man glance up and out the window, pinning her with an intent gaze before hoisting his rather bulky frame out of his chair and ambling slowly across the room to where she was standing. He fixed her with stern gaze, his brown eyes roaming with curiosity over her slender frame. It was not an insolent gaze but one of curious interest.
"Hello little lady, Verna tells me here that you want to report a murder," the man said in a friendly voice.
"Yes," Sydney nodded, noticing the brown uniform and the markings that identified him as the Sheriff. "My name is Sydney Davis and I work in the Homicide Unit of the Seattle Police Department. I'm here on Lopez Island with my friend Alexandria Marshall. This morning we found a body in the water by the pier where our boat was docked."
The man's eyes narrowed intently as he listened to her story. He had heard of Alexandria Marshall. He knew the whole Marshall family. If they said something was wrong then something had to be wrong. He turned to the red haired woman.
"Call Morton and Fred to meet me down at the Marshall place. You might want to notify Dr. Johnson," he instructed the woman before turning his attention back to the small stranger. "Now Missy let's take a ride back out to the Marshall place."
Several hours later Alex stood back from the scene, her arm loosely draped over her smaller companion's shoulders as they watched as the local authorities went about their business. She glanced up at the sky. It was the middle of the afternoon and the clear day had begun too turn hazy. She guessed by the look of the horizon that in a few hours the sky would be cloudy. She wondered how late it would be before they would have a chance to leave, predicting a late night for the both of them.
"Well ladies it appears you were right," the Sheriff announced as he moved over to where they were standing apart from the rest of the activity. Besides the three police officers, there was a doctor and an assistant from the medical clinic, and two paramedics from the local fire hall. They were finally wrapping up the victim in the body bag that one of the paramedics had produced.
"What have you got?" Alex asked leaving her arm slung across her partners shoulder.
"Won't know until the doctor has a better peek but it looks like she was shot," the man said in a heavy voice as he watched the ambulance attendants carry the body off towards the steps. "My guess was that she was dead when she hit the water. It will be a few days before the doc can confirm that."
Alex nodded, and both women remained silent as they watched the party climb the steps up the cliff. She glanced at the rotund man, aware that he was studying them with interest. There was an odd expression on his face that gave the taller woman some concern.
"Is something wrong?" she voiced her thoughts out loud.
"Nope, I'll just need you both to come back to the station and fill out your statements," the Sheriff said and then noticed the frown that etched itself across the taller woman who towered over his respectable five foot ten inch frame.
Both women nodded aware that this was routine procedure. They accepted the Sheriff's offer to drive them into town and sat silently in the cruiser throughout the entire journey. Alex was sharp enough to notice the curious glances that the man was stealing in their direction from the rear view mirror.
This time the station house was a buzz of activity and the two women followed the Sheriff into a room at the back of the front office. By the certificates and articles on the wall, they guessed that this was the man's office.
"We have to get back to Seattle, tonight," Alex said when he motioned them to sit down.
"Do you now?" the man chuckled with raised eyebrows as he settled into the chair behind the desk.
"Yes, we are both scheduled to work tomorrow morning at eight," the Captain replied, her eyes narrowing.
"Yes, I suppose you do," the rotund man nodded his head and then glanced at them sharply, noticing that neither woman had taken a seat. He also noted the protective way the taller woman had her arm draped over the smaller woman's shoulders. "If I'm not correct Miss, you said you were with the Seattle Police Department, the Homicide Unit."
"Yes," Sydney nodded her head, an uneasy feeling beginning to settle in her gut. She felt the arm across her shoulders tighten.
"What do you want Sheriff?" Alex got directly to the point, sensing that the man wanted to say something yet was uncertain how to go about it. The grey haired man fixed her with a pointed gaze.
"Well, to be honest Miss Marshall, I have a bit of a problem," the man had carefully thought this out during the drive into town. "Kyle and Judy, a couple of my deputies were married last weekend and are presently on their honeymoon in Hawaii, so I'm a little short handed. Thought it would be all right for them to go not quite being tourist season."
"This is not in our jurisdiction," the Captain said instinctively guessing to what the man was alluding.
"I know," the man nodded his head.
"And like I said Sheriff, we are both scheduled to be at work tomorrow."
"I know that too," the man paused and eyed her intently. "Truth is Miss Marshall we ain't had any murders out here in going on twenty years. I could use some expert help."
Silence greeted his admission and for a brief moment a pair of green and blue eyes met in silent contemplation. Alex knew how difficult it was for this man to ask for assistance. It was not in any law enforcement officials nature to admit that they were incapable of solving any crime to which they were handed. But both women understood his problem. Without experience he was at a loss in even beginning to try to solve the case.
"We are out of our jurisdiction," Alex reminded softly.
"I could deputize you," the man replied solving the matter.
"And our own jobs?"
"Perhaps, I could talk too your Commissioner, I think he owes me a favour or two," the man chuckled his belly rumbling with some private joke. "Besides, you being witnesses and all, I don't think it's a good idea for you to leave the island until I've had a chance to question you a bit more thoroughly. Could take a couple of days."
Sydney glanced up at her companion but couldn't read anything in her expression. She could understand what they were saying but she sensed that there was something being spoken that was between the lines.
"I'll have to give the Commissioner a call," Alex was non-committal and the man smiled blandly.
"No, you just write up your statements while I call George," the man said with final authority motioning to where the red headed civilian was standing by the door. "Verna can help get you the necessary forms."
"George?" Sydney mouthed the word to her partner after they were seated at a desk in the outer office. Alex smiled blandly.
"Yeah, the Sheriff and Commissioner Ford are brothers," Alex said and the smaller woman suddenly understood.
While they filled out the necessary paperwork the Sheriff got on the phone to Seattle. Neither woman could hear what was being said but there was raised voices until finally the rotund man came out of his office.
"Miss Marshall, I think the Commissioner would like a word with you."
The dark haired woman nodded and stood up stretching her limbs before moving casually across the room and into the Sheriff's office where she picked up the phone.
"Hi, George," Alex chirped cheerfully into the cradle.
"What the hell's going on there Alex?"
"There was a murder," the tall haired woman began to explain.
"I know that much," the man barked from the other end. "But what has it got to do with you?"
"Well, we appear to be witnesses," Alex replied patiently.
"We?" the Commissioner mouthed the word though he already knew what the answer was.
"Detective Sydney Davis and myself," the dark haired woman answered calmly picturing in her head the grimace that was on the older man's face. "We were up here on an overnight visit and were on our way back to the city this morning when Sydney plucked a body out of the water off the beach."
"How does that make you witnesses?" the Commissioner wanted to know.
"Last night we were on the beach when we heard a shot fired," the Captain explained. "The theory is that the woman was on board a boat when she was killed and dumped overboard."
There was silence as the man on the other end of the phone digested this information. The excuse was flimsy at best and both parties knew that yet George did owe his brother a favour or two and by his estimation he could be without his Captain and detective for a few days. It would be one less favour he owed his sibling.
"He's short on staff, George," Alex could hear the indecision in the silence over the phone. "And you gotta know that his staff doesn't have any experience in this sort of crime."
"Oh hell, I'll give you the week, and that's it," the man finally barked. "Get that sorry ass of a brother of mine back on the phone."
Alex chuckled quietly and motioned for the Sheriff handing the phone back to the man before returning to where Sydney was sitting and waiting for her. The smaller woman looked at her expectantly.
"Well, sweetheart, I hope you didn't have any urgent plans for this week."
"It seems we will be here longer then expected. The Commissioner has agreed to lend us to the Sheriff for the week," Alex sighed. "Are you up for a longer stay?"
"I think I could handle that," the blond detective smiled and then it disappeared. "But what are we going to do about clothes?"
"Good question," the older woman answered.
"The mercantile shop down the street has some pretty good clothes," the Sheriff interrupted as he strolled up to them. "Get what you need and just give Verna the receipts. She'll see that you're reimbursed. Can't have you going without."
"You know George is going to make you pay for this," Alex reminded the man with a hint of a smile and the man chuckled, his belly rumbling once more.
"Don't I know it," he said with his humour had subsided. "So I hope you girl's are worth it. I know you both work in the big city but I have to answer to the tax payers here."
"Well, then we'll just have to make sure your money's well spent," Sydney promised.
"I think you will," the man bobbed his head glancing at his watch. "It's late already, not much more you can do today, I suggest we get an early start on this tomorrow morning."
"Any idea on who the victim was?" Alex asked casually.
"No, though she looked kind of familiar," the Sheriff said scratching the side of his head. "The doctor won't be able to give us anything until Tuesday at the earliest and it will be longer then that before he gets any results from any tests he runs. They get sent to labs in Seattle."
"Who will be doing the autopsy?" Alex wanted to know.
"Dr. Johnson, he's a good man," the Sheriff said.
"But he's not a pathologist," the Captain reminded.
"No, but I don't reckon the county would spring for the expense of hiring an expert to come out," the local man was honest. "If it were a local it would be a different story but ..."
The man left the rest unsaid and once again Alex was confronted with the reality of the politics of their jobs. It sickened her sometimes that they were only partially able to carry out the duties of their jobs, constrained by the weight of having to be elected to their positions. It was the one thing she hated about her job.
"Anyway, I did manage to take a set of prints off her hands before the doc took her away," Luke Ford continued when neither woman spoke. "I've already sent them off for identification along with a photo but I don't expect any word back until tomorrow at the earliest."
"Okay," the tall woman slowly stood up stretching her frame as she looked down at her companion and held out her hand to help the smaller woman to her feet. "We'll see you tomorrow Sheriff."
"You will at that," the man waved before retreating back into his office. They paused on the steps outside the station house.
"We're not going back to the house are we?" Sydney asked quietly eyeing her companion thoughtfully.
"Not right away. I'd like to pop around to the clinic and speak with the doctor before we grab some dinner. I expect all the clothing shops are closed by now," she said glancing at the dimming sky. As she had predicted it had grown cloudy.
"Sounds like a plan," the smaller woman agreed and leaving the motorbike parked in front of the station house, they strolled down the main street in the direction of the medical clinic.
Dr. Johnson was still at the hospital, busy with an evening emergency, though they were informed by the nurse on duty that it wasn't serious. They waited patiently and Sydney marvelled at the relaxed atmosphere that seemed to prevail through the clinic. It was so different then the frenetic pace that was found in most of the cities emergency rooms.
Terry Johnson was a slender man with longish brown hair and friendly brown eyes that peered out from behind dark framed glasses. He was perhaps in his late thirties and had at one time been a physician at a practice in Spokane before he had answered an inquiry in a local medical journal.
He was an easy going man who liked the laid back atmosphere of the island finding that it suited his personality. He didn't mind that the summer influx of tourists sometimes kept him running until late hours in the evening. Every way he looked at it this job was perfect despite it's minor detractors.
"Good evening ladies, how might I help you?" he greeted them with a friendly smile, his eyes taking in their appearance with one appreciative glance. It was seldom he got to see two such beautiful women together at one time.
"My name is Alex Marshall and this is Sydney Davis," the Captain took the lead and her smaller partner was quite comfortable in merely observing the conversation.
"Yeah, you found the body this afternoon," the doctor nodded, remembering them from earlier.
"Yeah, we are also Detectives from the Homicide Unit in Seattle and Sheriff Ford has asked us to help him out on this."
The man nodded in understanding. "How can I help you?"
"We were just wondering if you had a chance to take a look at the body yet?"
"The Sheriff told me that I wouldn't have to give a report until a few days," the man responded slightly defensively, the smile on his face wavering.
"Yeah, but you look like a smart guy, one who wouldn't be able to ignore a little curiosity," Alex smiled in that way that seemed to charm anyone who it was directed at. It worked for the doctor who was smiling once again.
"You're right," the doctor chuckled. "I had a brief chance to look at the body before Timmy Edmonds came in here with his cut hand."
"Do you mind if we have a peek?" the taller woman asked and the man shrugged before leading them through the clinic to the basement where the body was temporarily stored. He lifted the white sheet that had been placed over the body and Sydney winced unconsciously from the sight that greeted them shifting her eyes almost immediately away from the victim those features were distorted and grayish in colour.
"While you were taking a peek at the woman, you didn't happen to see anything interesting did you?" Alex continued in her charming voice.
"Yeah, the woman was definitely shot in the stomach at close range with a rifle of some sort," the man said matter of factly.
"Are you sure it wasn't a small handgun?" the Captain inquired curiously.
"Nope, I did my residency in the ER at San Francisco General and I saw plenty of gunshot wounds come in the door," the man said with amusement. "By the time I left I was pretty good at naming the weapon used."
"Any chance that this might have been accidental?"
"Not in my opinion," the doctor shook his head. "There's not much need for that type of weapon around here besides by the initial inspection I would say that she didn't die immediately."
"Are you saying she drowned?" Sydney spoke for the first time her eyebrows shooting up unconsciously.
"I won't know for certain until I've had a thorough check and the Sheriff will probably be flying in a real pathologist to check it out to do the autopsy but from the brief look I had at the wound itself wasn't enough to kill her. It probably was enough to incapacitate her enough to render her helpless."
Alex was thoughtful for a minute. In her mind there was no question that the woman was murdered. She thought back to the previous evening and her glimpse of the sailboat plying stealthy through the night.
"You don't happen to recognize her do you?"
"She's not a local," the doctor was certain, "but I have the distinct impression that she's familiar. She might have been a patient of mine once."
"Okay," the Captain nodded, having asked enough questions for now, she turned and looked at her companion indicating it was time for them to leave. She paused and glanced back at the doctor.
"Oh, by the way unless the Sheriff changes his mind you will be doing the autopsy by yourself."
"Shit, I haven't the experience," Terry moaned seeing all sorts of complications in that one statement.
"You'll soon get it," she said philosophically. "Give the Sheriff a shout before you start cutting the body I'd like to be here when you do it."
"All right," the man agreed seemingly dazed by the idea that he would be responsible for determining the cause of this anonymous woman's demise.
"He's right," Sydney said quietly once they had existed the clinic and were walking through town towards one of the restaurants. "He's probably never done an autopsy before, he won't know what to look for."
"No," Alex agreed solemnly. "Which is why I have every intention of being there with him to ensure he doesn't miss anything."
"Will you know what to look for?" Sydney couldn't help scrunching her nose at the idea.
"I hope so," the Captain sighed feeling the weight of responsibility settle on her shoulders. "But I've probably witnessed enough autopsies to be able to help out."
Sydney nodded realizing that she had been fortunate in that circumstance. In spite of the amount of murders she had investigated, she had not yet had to sit through more then one autopsy and then she merely scribbled notes that the coroner was speaking. She hadn't been forced to look at the body and when she did it was always with one eye closed. She knew that wouldn't be the case with her partner who because of her natural curiosity would probably have poked around a few bodies on her own.
They had a quiet dinner at one of the nearby restaurants. They were content to mull over their own thoughts while they enjoyed a meal that was made all the more delicious by the fact that both women were starved, not having eaten anything since breakfast.
"We should stop at the grocery mart and pick up some food," Sydney spoke her thoughts out loud when they prepared to leave the restaurant and Alex couldn't help the smile that came to her lips. She could trust her partner to think about the small details like food and clothing while she wouldn't think about such things until the need arose.
After purchasing enough supplies to tide them over for the next couple of days, they headed back to summer house. It was dark and Sydney clung tightly to the bags and her lover as they sped along the narrow roads in dim light of the early evening. Neither of them expected to be back at the house for another night. After putting the few purchases in the refrigerator they decided to retire. It was still early but the day had taken an unexpected toll on them.
"What sweetheart?" Alex asked joining her companion on the balcony outside their bedroom. They had changed into the t-shirts they were using as bedclothes and Sydney had wandered outside while her lover was in the washroom. The night was dark for the sky was overcast and the scent of rain was heavy in the air.
"You know that shot we heard was the one that killed her," Sydney said.
"Yeah," Alex nodded quietly and stared into the distance instinctively knowing where her lover's thoughts were headed.
"If what the doctor said was true.."
"No Sydney," the taller woman interrupted softly. "There was nothing we could have done. The woman may have been alive when she fell into the water but regardless we didn't know what was going on and even if we had, there was no way we would have been able to find her in the dark."
"But....," the smaller woman began to protest.
"No," the dark haired woman was firm and Sydney knew that the discussion was closed.
"I was just thinking how terrible it all is.." Sydney said quietly welcoming the warm body that was pressed up against her back and the strong arms that wrapped themselves around her waist. "The waste of life, the senselessness of it. This is such a beautiful place. Have there ever been any other murders on the island?'
"A few," Alex reached back into her memory. "I think a barroom brawl broke out one summer when I was about ten, between a tourist and a local. The tourist ended up stabbing the guy to death. Then there were a couple way back when the canneries were busy. There used to be big gambling games between some of the employees who used to gamble their whole paycheck. I think there was one or two incidents then, but mostly the island has been a wonderfully safe haven."
"Will this change that?"
"I hope not," Alex conceded, "though I'm certain it will be talked about for awhile. My guess is that she wasn't a local and the island just happened to be an opportune place."
Alex didn't know what else to say. She agreed with her companion. It was a senseless, waste of human life. But it wasn't their job to dwell on that. It was their job to find the motive behind the killing. There was a long silence again as both women basked into the warmth that their bodies spread to one another.
"Hey, I think it's bed time," the taller woman whispered in her companions ear and Sydney bobbed her head silently.
Alex lay in bed that night awake long after her partner had fallen asleep in her arms. She gently combed strands of blond hair off of the woman's face. She had wanted this weekend to be perfect and it had been until this morning. Briefly she wished that the body had stayed out on the ocean for a couple of more hours, until they had left, then this weekend and this place and their memories of it wouldn't have been spoiled. She wanted so much to take some of the horror of their jobs out of their lives if only briefly.
Well, I will have to try harder, she thought to herself closing her eyes and giving herself up to the warmth that was creeping into her body.
Continued in Chapter 4