For disclaimers: see part one
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
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 greyish 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.
As was typical of both their natures they were up early and at the Sheriff's office before the man himself arrived carrying a box of donuts to go along with the fresh pot of coffee that Verna, the administration clerk had made the moment she had arrived. Neither seemed in much hurry and instinctively Sydney put a reassuring hand on her companions thigh, rubbing it gently to sooth her lover, aware of the taller woman's impatience. When Alex decided on a course of action she was anxious to get started.
"Has anything come in from the faxes you sent out yesterday?" the Captain was eager to begin the formal part of the investigation, aware they had a lot of ground to cover and only a short time available.
"I haven't checked the machines," Sheriff Ford advised in his easy manner seemingly oblivious to the tall woman's nervous energy. "Did Verna show you around?"
"No," Sydney piped in before her companion could speak.
"Come on then, I'll give you the grand tour," he opened the counter door and escorted them into the back. "It ain't much but it serves our purposes."
"Sheriff don't you think we could dispense with the tour," Alex cut in. "I mean technically we are on the taxpayers clock."
"A few minutes won't make any difference," the man said eyeing the taller woman critically before turning his attention back to the smaller detective. He gave her a full smile while wondering how it was the two could be friends. The smaller woman seemed so different then the impatient Marshall woman.
The station house was larger then it appeared but very simple in design. There was the main room
where the deputies desks were and a small office behind that which belonged to the Sheriff himself. To the right was a door that lead to the rest of the station. A wide corridor ran down the middle with an assortment of rooms for supplies and interrogation on either side. At the very end were the jail cells, four in total, one designated for females, two for males and one for special lock up.
"They aren't used much," the Sheriff conceded with a smile, "except to house the drunks after a night of partying. It gets more use in summer then any other time. We have no problem with the local's but some of the summer residents are less restrained."
Sydney listened intently while Alex hung back impatiently bidding her time while they could get to the business at hand. She was relieved when the man wound up his tour and led them back to the main room. Even then he dawdled, moving over to the snack table to retrieve a doughnut and a coffee before leading them back into his office. Both women refused his offer for either the snack or the beverage.
Sydney glanced around the room, taking in with one look the certificates on the wall that detailed not only his training and qualifications but also the various awards that he had garnered in his career. She settled into a chair aware that this man was very different then his more ambitious older brother.
She glanced at her partner and saw the edginess in her lover's body. She could tell by the rigid way Alex was sitting in her chair that her companion was about to explode. She glanced at the Sheriff aware that he was relating some story about an incident that had happened not long ago.
"Sheriff, I don't mean too sound rude but if we could get back to the matter at hand," Alex finally lost control of her patience and interrupted. The man stopped and the eyed the woman critically.
"My brother didn't lie about one thing," he said with a hint of sarcasm.
"Oh, and what was that?" the dark haired woman arched an eyebrow questioningly.
"That you were all business," the Sheriff said in a blunt voice and then moved his chair so that he could peer out of the door of his office. "Verna, did anything come in on the fax?"
If Alex was any less of a person she would have felt bad about his comment, but she had long ago learned to take criticism in stride. She watched as the administration clerk rose from her desk and entered the office with a small stack of papers.
"Yeah Sheriff, this just came in," the red haired woman said handing the older man the information before retreating to the front counter where a young man of about thirty who had just entered and was patiently waiting.
Both women waited while the older man perused through the papers, a frown settling over his face. Alex knew then that they would have to change the way they worked. She recognized that things would move at a different pace and that they would have to curb their natural enthusiasm and gear themselves to the Sheriff's pace.
"Anything interesting?" Sydney prodded gently seeing Alex begin to fidget.
"We got a name," Luke said in the a nonchalant tone. "Appears she's some kind of celebrity out of
Canada, though she's an American by birth."
"Who is it?" Alex asked not waiting for her partner to speak. She was anxious to get to work and couldn't understand how the Sheriff could be so relaxed. Briefly she wondered if he understood the significance of what was involved in investigating a murder.
"One Leanne Meyers, an anchor on the six o'clock evening news at a station up in Vancouver, Canada," Luke supplied the information and then tossed one of the faxes across the desk. It was a colour photograph of the woman. Alex collected it and studied the picture intently for a moment before passing it over to her companion.
"What else do they say?"
"Currently married to a former football player, no children, family is all over in Chicago where she was born and raised."
The Sheriff read off the information for the two women but Sydney had stopped listening, her brain only partly registering what was being said as her green eyes focused intently on the photograph. Her heart pounded harshly in her chest and the blood drained from her face.
Oh God, I know her, the words echoed loudly in her head but did not pass through her lips which were firmly pressed together. The woman's features had been bloated by time spent in the water and so she had not immediately recognized the face yesterday, but now staring into this picture she knew the woman.
"Are you okay Sydney?" Alex asked her voice filled with concern and the blond detective looked up, realizing for the first time that the Sheriff had stopped speaking and that both people were looking at her intently.
"Yeah," she managed to barely say the one word, unable to met her lover's eyes. She glanced at the photograph staring into the beautiful brown eyes of the lovely blond woman. "She looks so different."
"Well, twelve hours in the water will do that," Luke snorted misunderstanding the woman's discomfort, his dark eyes watching her intently for a moment before turning to the other woman and noticing how her own eyes had narrowed.
Alex watched as Sydney hastily put the photograph back on the desk. She was quick to pick up the fact that the smaller woman did not met her gaze and instinctively knew there was something more. Something that Sydney wasn't saying. She decided to wait until they were alone before asking the woman about it.
"Well, now we know where to start looking," Alex said her mind already beginning to work out the necessary details. "I'd say that a talk with her husband was in order."
"Why amn't I gonna like what you're going say next?" the Sheriff asked after a long moment of staring at the woman.
"Because it's gonna cost your tax payers money," Alex said grimly.
"Okay, how much are we talking about?" the man wanted to know.
"The price of two tickets to Vancouver and maybe one or two nights stay in a decent hotel," the Captain replied easily, her mind already busy going over the details.
"Two tickets?" the Sheriff raised his eyebrows.
"Two," Alex was firm. She was not about to run off to another city and leave Sydney behind. "If it helps you save money, you only need to get one room with a double bed, we won't mind sharing."
The man snorted and glanced at the younger woman aware that she had said nothing. It was obvious to the man that there was something going on between the two women but being a gentleman he said nothing.
"When do you want to go?" he asked instead.
"I was thinking we could take the flight out on Wednesday morning."
"Why the wait?" the Sheriff asked with some amusement. He had heard his brother speak of the woman's tenacity.
"Well, if I'm not right, you're going to be faxing the appropriate Canadian authorities that Miss Meyer's was murdered, which will then go out on the wire services and bring to the island a whole hoard of curious press," Alex paused. "You gotta know how they like digging into stories about one of their own. Hell, in a few days we will know more about her personal life then even her mother does."
"Shit, I didn't even think about that," the Sheriff conceded leaning further back in his chair and crossing his bulky arms across his chest. Alex watched the man nibble thoughtfully on his lower lip. Neither noticed that the blond woman suddenly got a shade paler.
"Everything has changed now," Alex reminded. Even though she hated double standards she was forced to admit that they existed. There was disparity in the world. The rich and famous were treated differently.
"Okay hotshot, what do you suggest I do?" the Sheriff grudgingly conceded to the women's superior experience in such matters.
"First, I suggest you hire yourself a real pathologist and get him out here quick, then have the body prepared and ready so that Syd and I will be able to accompany it to Vancouver on Wednesday."
Normally Alex would have suggested that the body be flown to Seattle for the necessary examination but she knew that time and money were to factor into this investigation. It would be more expensive to fly the body to the coroners office in Seattle then to bring the pathologist out to the island.
"That's a tall order," the man raised his eyebrows thoughtfully.
"Perhaps," Alex knew she was pushing but she used all her management skills now to make the man act. "But there is going to be publicity and the scrutiny on this case is going to be high. This woman was a public figure and if what you are saying the husband is high profile there is going to be allot of people pushing you. You better make sure that things are done right because you only have one chance."
Sheriff Ford mulled this over for a minute. He knew the woman was right. She was well versed in how both systems worked. He knew she had experience on high profile cases, that was the reason his brother had so actively pursued her. He remembered the grin on his older siblings face when he had finally gotten the woman away from the Chicago Police Department and when he had named her Captain of the Homicide Unit. The woman came with a large reputation. One on which he would now depend to keep his own in tact.
"Okay," he nodded. "I don't mind admitting that I'm in over my head here so I'm willing to turn this over to you. Do what you have to do but keep me informed and remember my budget isn't the same as what my brother gives you in the big city."
"You'd be surprised how small a budget your brother gives me," Alex said with a grin. "I think when he talks to you he probably lies a little."
The Sheriff laughed knowing that the woman was being honest with him, saying things that he already knew. But he considered his brother an intelligent man, he leaned over and picked up the sheets of faxed paper and handed them across the desk to the taller woman.
"Okay Marshall, do what you have to do and earn your keep?"
"Fair enough," Alex was pleased, she had succeeded in her mission of getting complete control of this case for Sydney and herself. She stood up ready to get going.
"So what's first on your agenda?" the Sheriff wanted to know.
"While you're calling to get a pathologist out here, Sydney and I will be going over to the clothing store and pick up a few things," the tall woman said. "Then we will be going over to the doctor to make certain he doesn't start cutting on the woman."
"You think it's going to be that easy to get a pathologist out here?" the Sheriff was sceptical and Alex cast him a half smile.
"Call Dave Irving in Seattle, tell him I need his expertise out here," the Captain said. "If that doesn't
work call George and tell him what you need and that if he doesn't get someone else out here then you're going to tell the press he's the reason for the delay of information."
"You want me to threaten him?" Luke was startled and amused.
"No, just flex your muscles a little," Alex shrugged.
The Sheriff snorted unable to stop the chuckle that came to his lips. He wondered how his brother managed to control this woman. "If you need anything have Verna draw it from our supplies."
"Will do," the tall woman assured him and then motioned Sydney to follow her out of the room. The Sheriff waited only until they had left the room before picking up the phone.
"Are you okay?" Alex asked when they stepped out of the station house.
"Yeah, sure why shouldn't I be?" the smaller woman answered with a question of her own. She glanced only briefly at her companion uncertain whether her eyes might give her away.
"No," the taller woman sighed, feeling a measure of frustration at the younger woman's lack of communication. She decided to direct the conversation to the topic at hand. "What's your read on
"I don't know," Sydney shrugged still trying to come to terms with the revelation of who the woman was.
"Got any ideas of how you want to work this?"
It was in Alex's nature to automatically take charge but she knew that they were working this case together and so was determined to treat her partner as an equal. She wanted to make sure they were on the same line here.
"I think you're right," she said focusing her attention away from the victim. "We will have to talk to the victims husband as soon as possible."
"Yeah, and then there is the matter of the boat," Alex agreed.
"I think after we talk to Dr. Johnson we should go down to the different piers and find out whether she was on any of the boats that docked in the last few days."
"Good, idea," Alex agreed. "But first I want to go clothes shopping. Three days in a row with these same clothes is beginning to drive me crazy."
This got a partial smile from the smaller woman. The one thing she had learned very quickly once moving in with Alex was her quirk for clean clothes. She didn't think she had ever seen the woman wear an outfit more then once before tossing it into the laundry which made laundry day for the maid an especially long one. They were just about to move off when the Sheriff stepped out of the station.
"I'm glad I caught you," he said.
"Why did something else come in?" Alex wanted to know her attention focused once more on the case.
"Yeah, you might want to run out to Ned Pearson's place," Sheriff Ford said. "Scott Pearson was in here earlier and said that he heard there was a shooting and thought he might be able to help. Oh, and you might want to use one of the patrol cars when you go out. People are bound to take you more seriously if you pull up in a county vehicle rather then that piece of junk your driving."
"Hey, I like that piece of junk," Alex protested but she knew the man was right. Sometimes the only thing that made people talk was the appearance of authority. "We'll pick it up later."
With that she nodded and waved before moving off aware that the man watched them for a long moment before shaking his head and returning inside the building. The smaller woman looked up at her companion curiously.
"You didn't ask the Sheriff where the Pearson's place was?"
"Have you forgotten sweetheart, I spent every summer out here for ten years," Alex smiled indulgently. "I was good friends with Adelaide Pearson. They live only about a mile and a half from the house."
Sydney nodded and fell silent content for the moment to dwell in her own thoughts and musing over the terrible coincidence that occurred. She had tried to hide the more seedy parts of her life from her partner but she knew that she might have to be honest with her lover before she was ready.
They found a decent clothing shop easily enough and then proceeded to spend the next hour picking out what amounted to several pairs of jeans and numerous t-shirts. Once finished they carted their purchases over to the hospital and were fortunate enough to find Dr. Johnson free, though he was just preparing to go on his rounds of the hospital.
"Good morning," he greeted them cheerfully flashing Sydney a smile that lingered a little longer then was necessary. "After yesterday I didn't think I'd see you ladies so soon."
"Ever heard the early bird catches the worm," Alex drawled. "We just came by to tell you to hold off on cutting the body. Seems the victim was a minor celebrity so Sheriff Ford will be flying in a certified pathologist to do the autopsy."
"Oh, okay," the man seemed slightly deflated by the news and Sydney sensed that he had probably thought about the procedure the whole of the last night.
"I'm sure he will probably need your help though," she added and that brought another smile to the man's face.
"Yeah, it's probably the best," he agreed. "Who is the woman by the way?"
"Leanne Meyers," Alex supplied the information. "A news anchor out of Vancouver."
"Now I know why I thought she was familiar," he nodded his head in sudden realization. "I sometimes turn to the Canadian station for news, they have better world coverage then some of the local stations we pull in. Though I can't say that it was easy to recognize her."
"No," Alex agreed. "Anyway, we will need your help, to set up the room. We'll let you know when the
pathologist will be in but expect it to be tomorrow probably late morning."
The doctor nodded and then watched mutely as the two women turned and departed leaving him to continue with his morning rounds, feeling both relieved and disappointed by their news.
Their next stop was the station house where they retrieved a set of keys from Verna and a pair of thin
blue rain coats with crests identifying them as members of the County Sheriff's department. The jackets were old and had seen better days and Sydney eyed her's with trepidation.
"Are you sure we need to wear these?" she asked sceptically.
"Yeah, it will make us more official," Alex advised, though she shared her partners reluctance to wear the communal jacket.
It was different here then in the city where all they had to do was flash their badges. Here they were strangers whose shiny shields meant nothing. If they were going to get anyone to talk with them they had to at least appear official even if it mean wearing a raincoat with patches on the shoulders. Even then Alex wondered whether they would be accepted, after all this was a small community where everyone knew each other and from experience she knew that they were less likely to speak with strangers, regardless of the fact that they wore official uniforms that signified them as members of the Sheriff's department.
Alex glanced up at the sky thankful that the Sheriff had given them the use of one of the departments patrol cars. The sky was overcast and though the air was warm it smelled of rain. In the distance she could actually see the thick clouds of a storm beginning to build.
They put their parcels in the back seat and then climbed into the vehicle. Their first destination was the water front. Armed with the photograph that Alex had taken from the Sheriff they walked around the piers, visiting the various Marine Centers on the island where boats could go to get food, diesel or moorage.
After identifying themselves they took turns asking the proprietors the questions, showing the photograph to the various workers they spoke with. Unfortunately no one had seen the woman and by the time they were finished they had both come to the conclusion that the woman had not visited the island.
"Do you think she could have been on one of the other islands?" Sydney asked as they made their way back to the car.
"It's a possibility," the taller woman conceded thoughtfully. "Or it could be that they didn't make any stops at all." She paused once they reached the vehicle and glanced at the watch on her wrist.
"What do you say we grab a bite to eat before taking this stuff back to the house," Alex suggested. "It looks like a hell of a storm coming in and I want to make sure the boat is moored properly. We could continue on down to the Pearson place after that."
Sydney nodded though she had another idea. "Could we stop at the station first and get Verna to fax the surrounding islands a picture of the woman with a request to the authorities if they could ask around to see if the woman was on any one of those places."
"Good idea," the Captain agreed.
As it was they stopped at the station house first and after explaining what they wanted to the admin clerk and handing her the receipts for their clothing purchases they walked the few blocks to a restaurant for lunch.
"You're awfully quiet," Alex mused once they had placed their order.
"I was just thinking," Sydney said choosing her words carefully. The woman had been unusually quiet all morning and Alex hoped that she hadn't slipped back into the mood that had encompassed her for the last month.
"The victim," the smaller woman admitted picking up her fork and fidgeting it with her fingers. "I was
wondering what kind of life she lead and if she was happy or not."
Those were personal thoughts and ones that as detectives, they rarely allowed themselves to consider. They had to stay focused on their jobs, treating the victims a little less then human to do their tasks effectively. They couldn't allow themselves to get involved for if they did it generally spelled disaster.
"Why?" she was curious, instinct telling her that there was more that the smaller woman wasn't saying. She had learned to read her partner pretty well since moving in together. She had made it her mission to know as much as possible about her lover in order to anticipate her every need and desire.
"I don't know," came the slightly defensive answer and angry green eyes looked up across at her partner. "Don't you ever think about any of the victims of the murders you investigated?"
"I try not too," Alex was honest. "We can't afford to care to much for the victims Syd, if we do we lose perspective and become ineffective."
"But she was a person, who once lived and breathed and ....loved," she said angrily and Alex was silent not certain how to respond to the woman's outburst.
"Yes, but she's dead now and the only way we can truly honour her life is by finding her killer," the Captain agreed softly, her blue eyes narrowing. "What are we talking about here Sydney? Have I done something to upset you?"
"No," the blond detective vigorously shook her head while her brain scrambled to figure out a plausible explanation. She knew she should tell Alex the truth yet she hesitated. "I don't want to talk about it any more."
Those words firmly closed any further conversation and both women were relieved when the waitress
appeared with their food. They ate in relative silence with Sydney casting covert glances at her solemn partner. Alex had told her only a few days earlier that her past meant nothing, but she was uncertain. Alex had said that she had never done anything that she was ashamed of but Sydney couldn't say the same. There were too many things she regretted doing.
The drive back to the house was quiet and without a word Alex retreated down to the boat while Sydney took their purchases into the house and stowed them up in their bedroom. She could have easily waited for the Captain to return but knew that she still felt a sense of comfort in the other woman's presence. Besides she knew that Alex deserved an explanation.
"Do you need any help?" she asked softly walking down to the pier where the boat was tied.
"No," the tall police woman said sharply and immediately regretted it the instant she saw the hurt expression on the smaller woman's face. She was angry at Sydney for closing her out again and was struggling to keep her emotions in check. When she spoke again it was in a much softer tone. "Everything is just about done."
Sydney was silent for a long moment. She did not take offense to her companions words, sensing that she deserved to be chastised. She glanced out over the seas which were beginning to heave. In the distance the clouds looked dark and ominous.
"Do you think it's going to be a bad storm?" the blond woman asked desperate to ease the tension that existed between them.
"Yeah," Alex nodded, jumping onto the dock when she was completely satisfied that she could do no more.
The boat was in the open and would be subjected to the worst of the storm and the seas when it hit and ideally she would have liked to sail it into town where it would be more secure but she doubted they had time. She had done all she could.
"Come on, let's go visit the Pearson's."
The Pearson residence was much smaller then the Marshall home and occupied year round. In fact Sydney was to learn that Ned Pearson looked after the Marshall place over the winter, checking on the house when no one was in residence. He greeted the tall woman with a broad smile.
"You sure done growed way up there Missy," he said glancing up at her tall firm. "Didn't think you'd get to be so big but I should have known seeing how tall those brothers of yours got."
He was a short man, the same height as Sydney but stout with a rounded belly and browned leathered skin from working most of his life outdoors. He had a baseball cap with an LA Dodgers logo on his grey head and at least a day's growth of beard on his face.
"The family genes," Alex smiled shaking the man's hand. "This is my friend Sydney Davis."
"Nice to meet you Sydney," the man nodded his head cordially at the smaller woman. "Adelaide just mentioned you the other day."
"How is she?" the raven haired woman inquired after her childhood friend.
"Well, you know she married Joel Seaver," he paused as the other woman nodded. "Yeah well the boy got a job up in Spokane and their living there now. Fact is they just had themselves a little girl."
"How many does that make it now?" Alex was politely curious.
"Four, two boys and two girls," the man proclaimed proudly. "She says that's the last of them." He chuckled. "How about you, heard you was engaged?"
"Changed my mind," the Captain said smoothly. "When you talk to Adelaide again tell her I said hi."
"Will do," the man nodded his head and then peered intently at her. "You staying out at the house for a holiday?"
"It started out that way but it appears we're working now," the taller woman said casually. "Sydney and I work for the Homicide Unit in Seattle. We were just down for a weekend visit when this murder happened and Sheriff Ford kind of roped us in to helping out."
"Done heard about that," the man nodded his head seriously. "Talk of the whole island this morning."
"Which is the reason we're here," Alex continued smoothly aware how easily it was to get off the topic when talking to old neighbours. "We got a message from Verna that you heard or saw something."
"Not me, but my boy, Scott," Ned said. "You remember Scott. He was a few years younger then you."
"Yeah," the taller woman nodded. "Is he around?"
"Sure, if you want to wait here I'll just call him," the man said. "He just came back from town."
The two women waited silently by the car while the older man went to fetch his youngest child. Scott was a handsome boy and like his dad, short, but he was lean and without the tattletale signs of age that distinguished the older man.
"Scott you remember Miss Alex Marshall," Ned said to his boy.
"Sure do," the boy's eyes widened in surprise as he crooked his neck to look up at the tall detective.
"Well, she and her friend here are all the way from Seattle where they work for the police department. Their here helping the Sheriff and have come to ask you some questions about what you heard Saturday night."
"Weren't really much, I was out back of the shed when I heard this shot go off," Scott went right into his story without being asked, pointing to a small grey weathered building about a hundred meters from where they stood. "I fell flat on my face half afraid someone was shooting at me, it sounded so close."
"What did you do then?" Sydney prompted gently when the man paused and he looked at her for a minute flushing red.
"Well, I stayed right there, scared that if I got up that someone would take another shot at me but
everything was quiet and then I heard what sounded like the bell on a boat so I picked myself off the ground and wandered over to the cliff. Couldn't see nothing at first but then in the moonlight I saw the shape of a sailboat going past. I thought it was kind of strange because it looked like a pleasure boat and it didn't have no running lights on. I remember thinking that whoever was the pilot was a fool."
"Why?" Sydney couldn't help asking.
"Well, Miss anyone knows that sailing a boat in these waters without a light is damn near close to suicide, there's so much traffic running up and down here that it's dangerous."
"Why did you wait until this morning to report it?"
"Well, that's the thing Miss Marshall.."
"Alex," the taller woman said quietly and the young man smiled.
"Alex," he repeated her name accepting the friendly gesture. "You gotta know how bad this area is for those criminal types. Hell the Coast Guard is always running up and down here chasing after some kind of smuggler. I just thought that the boat being so suspicious and all was maybe one of them drug smugglers and if that was the case I didn't want to get involved. It was only when I heard that a woman had been found murdered that I thought it might be something different."
Alex nodded, aware that Sydney was hastily scribbling everything down in the small palm pad that she had purchased some where. God, she's always prepared for everything, the Captain thought aware that she tended to rely on her memory which wasn't the best tool.
"Just one more question if you don't mind," Sydney glanced up from her book and looked at the man. "What were you doing out behind the shed so late that night?"
The young man flushed red again and glanced nervously at his father before looking down at his boots. He shifted uncomfortably on his feet.
"I just came home from drinking in town," he confessed sheepishly. "I kinda got sick on myself and was using the water hose at the back of the shed to clean up. Mom would have tanned my hide if I had come into the house looking like that."
Alex had to look down at her own feet to suppress the smile that automatically came to her lips. The Pearson boys, and there were four of them, had always loved to drink and their mother, a rather religious woman had suffered many agonies over their antics. It was strangely comforting to know that in spite of the long time she had been away from the island there were some things that hadn't changed.
"Thanks Scott, we appreciate your help," Alex reached out and shook his hand.
"Anytime," the boy smiled momentarily forgetting his embarrassment as he looked into those brilliant blue eyes that were peering at him. Sydney inwardly sighed aware that the man had fallen for her partner. It happened every time. Hell, it happened every time she looked at her lover when those baby blues were sparkling.
They turned to go but the tall dark haired woman paused and turned back to the younger man. Her face was straight, void of any expression.
"Scott what made you think someone might be shooting at you?"
The man flushed red with embarrassment and looked down at his feet, digging the toe of his scuffed boot into the dirt as he shoved his hands into the front pockets of his faded blue jeans. He glanced up his brown eyes looking guiltily.
"Lucy Sanderson's boyfriend done caught us out behind the bar that night making out," the man admitted looking down at the ground again. "I figured he might be wanting to warning me off."
Alex turned back away unable to suppress the chuckle that erupted from between her lips, thinking it was typical of the young man or one of his brothers. There had been more than once that the boys had been chased by someone carrying a gun.
"So what now boss?" the blond detective asked as they hopped back into the patrol car.
"Well, I think we should go back into town and see if the Sheriff has come up with any new leads," Alex said putting the vehicle in gear.
"You ladies don't waste any time do you," Sheriff Ford greeted them with an amused smile as they walked into the station. He was standing by the counter talking to one of his deputies. "Heard from folks all over town that you've been all around asking questions."
"We're just mindful that we're on taxpayers time," Alex replied innocently and the man chuckled.
"Ladies, I don't believe I've introduced you to Herman Cleats, one of my deputies," Luke motioned to the shy red headed young man who was standing a short distance away. "Herman this is Alex Marshall and Sydney Davis, they're helping us out for a few days with this murder."
"Well, if you need anything don't hesitate to ask," the man said eagerly and if he harboured any resentment that they were doing what essentially should have been his job he didn't show it.
"We won't forget that," Alex assured him turning her attention to the older man. "What's the status of the pathologist?"
"He'll be out tonight," the Sheriff responded chuckling to himself at the memory of earlier events.
He had called the pathologist who had initially been reluctant claiming he couldn't be out for several days. He had then taken the raven haired woman's advice and called his brother. It hadn't been more then fifteen minutes after talking to the Commissioner when the pathologist had returned his call and said he would be on his way immediately. He wondered what his brother had said to the other man but then didn't care, acknowledging only that he had probably used up another one of his favours.
"Did anything else come in while we were out?" Alex wanted to know her mind already moving on to the next problem. The Sheriff knew to what she was referring. he could see that she was an impatient woman, a woman used to getting things done in a hurry. He realized that until now she had shown remarkable patience.
"Nope, but I did get a call from the Sheriff on Orcas Island wondering what the hell was going on," Luke replied. "Didn't tell him much except we were looking for the woman. I figure he'll find out soon enough what's going on and until then we don't need any false leads to bog us down."
"Smart call," Alex said with grudging respect.
"Can't say he'll appreciate it though. We generally try to work together," Sheriff Ford said, glancing from one woman to the other. "Where are you girl's off to now?"
"I thought we'd be calling it a day," Alex said without consulting her partner who looked at her in surprise. The Sheriff raised his eyebrows. "There isn't much more we can do until we talk to the husband and we can't do that until the pathologist makes his report."
The man nodded understanding her logic. "What about the Pearson boy, did he have anything interesting to say?"
"Nope, just heard and saw basically the same thing we did," the tall woman said glancing at Sydney as if to inquire if she was ready to go. She couldn't know how relieved the smaller woman was to know that they were calling it a day. Sydney hoped that they would have an opportunity to talk before going to bed.
It was still to early for dinner so they hopped on the motorbike and headed back to the house. It was fortunate they didn't delay because no sooner had then entered the shelter when the clouds thundered and lightening streaked across the sky. The heavens opened up pouring down in thick sheets of water.
Alex busied herself getting a fire going in the sitting room. The one thing she had always loved as a child was sitting in front of a fire on a rainy day. She was also mindful that there was the slightest chance that the storm might affect the electricity.
No sooner did she have those thoughts then the lights went out, leaving her in the glow of the flames of the fire she had built. It wasn't late yet the thick clouds and rain had made the sky dark but not so dark that she couldn't find her way around the house. She wasn't as certain about her partner and she left the sitting room and went in search of the smaller woman.
She found Sydney on the balcony standing in the open windows, protected from the downpour by the overhang of the roof. She was watching the storm in fascination, mesmerised by the flash of light as it illuminated the sky.
"It seems so much more beautiful out here," she murmured aware immediately of her lovers presence.
"Yes, it does," Alex agreed stepping up behind her companion and wrapping her arms around the smaller woman's waist, as she rested her chin on the blond head.
"In the city it seems so different, as if the magnificent and brilliance of it all is muted. But here it seems so wild and untamed, so powerful," the younger woman continued to muse. "Thank you."
"For what?" Alex was surprised.
"For bringing me here," the blond detective said quietly.
"Well, it started out as a good idea," the taller woman sighed. "I'm sorry to have gotten you mixed up in this. If I had known that something like this would be keeping us here I wouldn't have suggested we stay the night."
"But I'm glad you did," the younger woman shook her head in disagreement. "In spite of everything this is wonderful. We get a chance to work together as ourselves without having to worry what someone might say and we get to be together twenty-four hours a day."
"I thought that might be driving you crazy," Alex chuckled nervously.
"No," the smaller woman shifted in her embrace so that she could look up into those pale blue eyes that she loved so much. "I'm sorry I'm being so difficult."
"Yeah well I figure you must have a good reason," came the nonchalant reply. Alex didn't want to push the woman afraid that she might shut down again.
"Actually, Alex, there is something I have to tell you," Sydney said the thought making her shiver.
"Oh honey your cold," Alex misinterpreted the trembling and hastily moved her inside the house. "Let's go downstairs. I have a fire going in the sitting room."
The blond woman bobbed her head not eager to proceed with this conversation. She allowed her companion to lead her back through the house and down to the sitting room where the fire was roaring. Alex had moved the furniture to give them room to sit in front of the fireplace.
"Wait here, I'll only be a few minutes," Alex said and disappeared into the kitchen returning a few minutes later with two mugs of hot chocolate with a handful of small marshmallows on top. She handed her companion one of the cups before settling down onto the rug next to her partner.
"A toast," the woman said lifting her mug. "To the love of my life, the woman I hope to wake up to for the rest of my life."
Sydney smiled weakly at the toast, staring into her cup and unable to meet her companions gaze. She sipped the cocoa nervously fingering the handle of the cup as she thoughtfully pondered how she could broach the subject that she needed to discuss with her lover. Alex sensed that something was bothering her companion aware that her partner had not responded to her toast.
"Is everything okay Sydney?"
The smaller woman shrugged not certain she was ready to talk. "What do you plan on doing once we get to Vancouver?"
"Probably check in with the local authorities and advise them of what we're working on," Alex answered thoughtfully. "Then I thought that we should probably visit with the husband. I think once we talk to him we will have a pretty good idea where to go."
"I think it might be a little more complicated then that," the blond detective said with a deep breath.
"Why?" for some reason the muscles in the dark haired woman's stomach clenched painfully.
"That morning I pulled the woman out of the water I remember vaguely thinking that she looked familiar," Sydney began in a quiet voice her green eyes staring into the fire in front of them. She could feel Alex's comforting presence beside her in the gentle warmth of her shoulder as their arms brushed together. "It wasn't until I saw the photograph this morning that I knew for certain."
"You know her?" the taller woman was barely able to keep her voice steady fearing what she was about to hear.
"In a manner of speaking," the blond woman said. "The weekend before I joined your squad last fall I went up to Vancouver for a little rest and relaxation. I had once gone out with someone from the city and was familiar with the club scene. That weekend I went out to party and I met a woman."
She paused but her companion respectfully remained quiet. "I picked her up at one of the bars, it was something I did on a regular basis, pick up a stranger, for the sole purpose of sex. In hindsight I realize it was a pretty shallow existence but it served it's purpose and was without commitment which was something I never wanted from anyone....not until I met you."
The blond detective paused thinking how incredibly hard it was to talk about this facet of her life. A part that was meaningless and empty, a behaviour she now deeply regretted. She was unable to look at her companion afraid she might see something that would break her heart.
"Anyway getting back to the original point, I picked her up and took her back to my hotel room. I never knew she was married, she never said anything. She wanted to pursue the relationship but I wasn't interested. I didn't know who she really was until this morning when I saw her press photograph."
Alex waited for more but the silence that followed told her there wasn't anything more to come. She stared at the fire crackling in the grate thoughtfully.
"I'm sorry," Sydney finished lamely misinterpreting her companions silence. "It must sound pretty disgusting to you."
"Why do you think that?" the dark haired woman asked sharply, startled by her friend's assumption.
"Because it was pretty shallow behaviour."
"You have nothing to apologize for," Alex said immediately not wanting her companion to feel ashamed. "I have already told you that there is nothing about your past that could frighten me away." She paused. "Why did you think I would be upset?"
"Because it happened after we met," Sydney couldn't look at her lover's face.
"Yes, but we weren't involved," Alex reminded softly.
"I think we've been involved since the very first moment we met," came the quiet rejoinder.
That was something the taller woman couldn't deny. For her it had been one look and she had known what and who she wanted. However, it had taken her companion a little longer to draw the same conclusion even though she had experienced the same connection. She would never hold what happened in the interim against her lover. She said as much.
"I don't know how you can be so understanding," Sydney said still uncertain.
"Why shouldn't I be?" Alex wanted to know. "Have you forgotten how badly I treated you after we first started going out?"
"We weren't really going out," the smaller woman corrected. "Besides I understood that you had to take your position into consideration."
"It's the same difference," the other woman argued. "You forgave me and gave me a second chance. Why wouldn't I do the same for you?"
Sydney shrugged. She didn't have an answer for that so she remained silent unable to look at her companion still uncertain of her feelings. She felt the warmth of a strong arm as it wound it's way around her shoulders.
"I love you Sydney," Alex whispered, "and though I know our lives are not always going to be perfect I want to spend the rest of it with you. It doesn't matter to me what you did in the past."
"You don't know how happy that makes me feel," the smaller woman confided. "I never thought I would find someone like you, someone who accepted me and everything I was."
"You're a incredible woman Sydney, and I thank God every day that I have the opportunity to know and love you."
"You're too good for me," Sydney murmured burying her face in her companions shoulder.
"No, I only hope I'm good enough for you," came the solemn whisper.
They talked some more as the storm and the darkness enveloped them in an intimate atmosphere that was conducive to revealing confidences. Sydney spoke more of her past though Alex was astute enough to realize what she didn't say. Later they had taken the candles that Alex had thoughtfully placed by the fireplace and went in search of some food.
Because the stove was electric and the power was out they had to settle for cold cuts and salad which they ate in front of the fire which Alex kept going from the pile of wood stacked in the garage. Because of the chill in the air, brought on by the storm, they decided to sleep in the living room in front of the fire. They collected bedding from their room and then nestled down in each others arms.
"Alex, does your family ever spend Christmas out here any more?" Sydney asked curiously comforted by the warm arms that were wrapped around her. She was mentally exhausted yet strangely refreshed by the revelations she had made that evening.
"No," the taller woman replied.
"It became to difficult," Alex explained. "Once my brothers started getting jobs and getting married it just wasn't practical any more so the tradition just sort of died."
"That's a shame," Sydney murmured thinking how wonderful it must have been.
"Yeah," the dark haired woman agreed. "But it happens when families grow up. I wish you could have been with us this last Christmas when everyone was home, it won't be the same this year."
"Christmas rotates in our family," Alex explained. "One year the whole family is home for Christmas and the next year they are at their in-laws. For instance, Christie's family lives in Southern California, Lawrence and Mimi go to Florida and Charles and his wife visit her family in Texas, so they will be going there for the holiday season."
"That must make it lonely for your parents," Sydney said absently.
"Yeah, I guess," Alex had never thought about it. "Generally on those off years they take a vacation some place warm like Hawaii or they went to Tahiti one year."
"What do you do?" the smaller woman was suddenly concerned for her friend.
"I worked," the taller woman smiled sensing her lover's concern. She reached up and gently stroked the blond woman's hair. "And just so we clear it up now, you are definitely not working over the holiday season this year. I have plans for us being together this Christmas and not at work."
"Okay," the blond detective agreed without argument. The thought of spending the holidays with her lover was a happy one. Then another thought occurred to her. She twisted her body around so that she could look at her lover. "Do you think we could spend Christmas here?"
Alex looked at the earnest expression on the smaller woman's face and she knew that she would not deny the woman whatever she wanted.
"Absolutely," she responded.
"Maybe, your parents will join us," the younger woman offered hesitantly.
"They might have already made plans but I'll ask them," Alex agreed realizing that her companion had a very good idea. She leaned forward and dropped a kiss on her lovers lips. "Come on now, let's get some sleep, I suspect tomorrow will be a very busy day."
"I love you." the smaller woman said before snuggling down and closing her eyes.
continued in part three
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