Murder at Bardcon - Chicago

by GS Binkley


xxgsb@hotmail.com

© 2003 Binkley

Synopsis: Murder at Bardcon is filled with deception, intrigue, jealousy, murder and sex played out in the high stakes arena of the ultimate fandom as writers and fans converge at the Bard's convention in Chicago. While Cale confronts her haunting past and Lindsey faces her own secret desires, they find love in the midst of all the mayhem.

Sexual Content: F/F partners

Code:

L: Love between two people with kisses, embraces and tender moments.

LS: Love scenes described in more detail, involving scenes of lovemaking.

ES: Explicit love scenes.

· This story is rated: LS

Fiction (Alternative)

Language: Expletives spoken within the character's personality, mood and circumstance.

Acknowledgement: The songs mentioned in this story are 'Let's go to Bed' by No Angels, 'Skin on Skin' by Sarah Connor and 'Unbreakable' by Westlife. All three songs are hugely popular in Germany. And, besides that, they're great.

This is copyrighted material, © 2003 Binkley…all rights reserved. It may be reproduced, duplicated or printed for personal use only. For all other uses, please contact xxgsb@hotmail.com


Chapter Nine

Cale paced the now near empty room like a panther about ready to strike. "Okay. Who would want Linda dead?"

"No one. That's the problem." Kate tapped her teeth with finger. "Everyone loved her… her stories….. except…."

"Except.. Ms. Wellington." Detective Lewis inserted.

"Marty. She didn't do it." Cale threw him a harsh look.

"Her prints on the murder weapon." He reluctantly provided the evidence he needed to arrest her.

Crossing her arms, Cale glared at her old detective friend. "Lindsey was playing with that lantern earlier yesterday when they had lunch. Of course, her fingerprints were on it."

Chris offered another question. "But if it was the murder weapon…."

"It was." Martin insisted. "She smashed the victim upside the head with it."

"Then why were Lindsey's prints the only ones on it?" Chris finished her thought.

Cale's permanent glare found another home. This time directed at Chris. "Be helpful not hurtful."

Shooting both her hands up, Chris backed off. "It was just a question."

"Yes, I handled the lantern." Lindsey sat calmly in the face of the raging storm. "What bothers me most is that someone tried to set me up?"

Detective Lewis took the few short steps to stand before her. "And why would that be?"

"Honestly, detective, I don't know." She looked at Kate. "Maybe we should get back as to why anyone would kill Linda. Kate, you were saying someone didn't like Linda?"

"Oh, not Linda per se… it was her stories. Just the odd bad review from some of the fans." Kate probed her memory for a moment. "Actually, just one that really ripped her stories. We wouldn't even post some of the comments after awhile because they were getting too…. personal."

Cale lunged forward. "Do you remember who?"

"I'd have to ask my partner. She could look it up." Kate turned back to Lindsey. "As a matter of fact, there were some fairly harsh reviews about your stories, too."

"What about mine? Anybody not like my stories?" Chris searched her mind, trying to remember if she had ever seen any bad reviews of her stories on Kate's website.

"They all love your stories… except one and, of course, that one… person." Kate refused to call the obsessed fan what she was. "The one we talked about."

Grabbing her friend's shirt, Cale pulled her close. "This isn't about you."

Chris pushed Cale back. "Hey, maybe whoever killed her was after me. We do sorta look alike."

"You all do." Lindsey said absentmindedly.

"What? What did you just say?" Cale asked harsher than she intended.

"Oh, I don't mean anything bad. Up close you're definitely the most…"

"That's not what I mean." Cale interrupted Lindsey. Actually, it was a concern to her but the investigator in Cale took precedent. "Come here, Chris."

Weary of her friend's motive, Chris hung back. "Are you gonna hit me?"

"Get over here." Cale twisted Chris around. Both women stood with their backs to the trio. "Well, can you tell us apart?"

With Cale's longer hair and standing taller, Lindsey said. "Sure. But from a distance or…."

"Or if it was dark…" Chris finished.

"It was." Kate added.

Detective Lewis cleared his throat. "This is pointless. Her prints are on the murder weapon. She had no alibi and…. "

"And why? Why would I want Linda dead?"

Chris shrugged. "Maybe they wanted me dead. Which brings me back to my original question. Kate, anybody dis my stories… more than what would be usual?"

"This is pointless, folks. I have irrefutable evidence and I don't need a motive. Although juries do love motive." The ignored detective sat still momentarily before he started to count off his fingers. "One, no alibi. Two, I have the murder weapon with her prints… not to mention the business card on the ground with her prints. That puts her at the scene of the crime. Three, opportunity…."

Kate interjected her thoughts regarding another question. "I'd have to check…. there were some. It was getting quite vicious at one point and we put a notice on the website about what we would accept."

Scratching his head, Martin wondered out loud. "I just don't get why the murderer would take the time to drag her body to the fountain."

"What did you say?" Cale practically yelled.

Four sets of eyes beaded down on the detective. "I figure after the victim was hit upside the head rendering her unconscious … why would the murderer smash the light panel…."

"Causing the fountain lights to go out for a minute before the back up power kicked in." Lindsey added innocently.

Cale dropped down on her knees in front of the blonde. "Sweetheart, don't say another word."

"Why?"

The tall dark writer Chris pointed out succinctly. "It could be incriminating.. to you."

Wide eyed, Lindsey looked at Cale then to the detective. "But he's your friend."

Cale's finger hooked the blonde's chin, turning Lindsey's face back to her. "Yes, he is, but he's a cop first."

"How'd you know about that, Ms. Wellington?" The detective in him couldn't suppress the obvious question.

Lindsey opened her mouth but Cale slapped a hand over it before she could answer. "She takes the fifth."

"I could use one about now." Chris said, flippantly.

Speaking through Cale's fingers, Lindsey was adamant. "I have nothing to hide." Cale reluctantly removed her hands. "I didn't kill anyone… except in my story."

"Murder at Fountain Blue." The organizer of the convention supplied.

"Great story." Chris added.

"Yes, that's what I hear. And we'll get back to that." The detective stood. "What about the light panel?"

Cale took Lindsey's hand as the blonde explained. "Danny, the maintenance man…." Lewis quirked a questioning eyebrow. "O'Brien." She watched as he checked the name on his list of hotel employees. "My story took place at a similar hotel and I was just asking him about the fountain lights. He set the lights for me… blue." Lindsey chanced a quick look into Cale's caring eyes. "In the course of our conversation, he told me."

"Why would he tell you that?"

"Maybe he wanted to impress her. I would." Chris offered. When the detective gave a questioning look, the writer concluded. "A pretty woman… talking with me. I'd use anything that might get her attention." It seemed perfectly logical to the dark haired writer.

The detective scooted up a chair in front of Lindsey. "Tell me, Ms. Wellington…"

"Lindsey." The blonde insisted.

"Lindsey. Why did you assume someone was trying to set you up?" The astute detective let the blonde's earlier statement dangle long enough. He wanted an answer.

"I…." Lindsey rubbed her neck behind her ear. "When they…." She referred to Cale, Chris and Kate. "..were getting the other people out, I overheard your …. the blonde cop mention something about the chain around her neck. But then again, that doesn't make any sense because…."

"What chain around the neck?" Frustrated with the lack of information, Cale was on the verge of killing someone herself.

"The fountain lights went dark after the murderer smashed the light panel… then following the trail of blood….we figure she dragged the victim to the fountain. What we don't get is why someone would waste the time to do that and string the chain around her neck. It wasn't what killed her." Puzzled by the events, the detective continued. "She would have eventually bled to death if left alone for long."

"I don't get it. That's not what happened in your story." Cale insisted. "Your victim was killed by the lantern and, yes, she was found in the fountain but that's because they struggled next to it."

"But…." Lindsey hesitated.

"What?" Cale asked Lindsey before suggesting to the detective. "Marty, why don't you take a walk?"

"No. Let him stay."

Not having any inclination to move came Lewis' deadpan response. "Thanks."

"Originally, in my story I had the murderer strangling the victim with part of the chained fence instead of being hit by the lantern." Lindsey explained.

"Anyone know about that alternative scenario?" Kate asked.

Lindsey thought back to when she was writing the story in question. "Rachel."

"Rachel?" That name had Cale's full attention.

"My best friend. She beta reads my stories." Lindsey's answer eased Cale's mind.

"You didn't post it somewhere else first… with that scenario?"

"No…. oh!" Lindsey remembered something. "I had another beta reader for a short time. But to tell you the truth, I don't know whether she had that version or not."

"Who was she?"

"I didn't have her real name…I don't think." Lindsey looked at Kate. "She used to be listed as a beta reader on your site. I don't know if she still is. But, actually, she contacted me and asked about beta reading my stories."

"Give me her addy and I'll check it out." Kate offered.

"Why didn't you use that version?" Chris asked then said. "Sounds like something I would use."

"It was a crime of passion not pre-mediated and I thought that using the chain was just a bit too contrite… too…."

"Sadistic?" Cale asked.

Realization dawned and a knowing smile came to Lindsey's face. "I know who did it." The blonde briefly enlightened the foursome regarding her suspect.

"Okay, now for the hard part. We have to prove it." Cale said. The dark haired ex-detective knew timing was critical if the person Lindsey fingered was the real murderer. Cale debated telling them about the verbal altercation she had with that particular person.

Chapter Ten

Kate Bradshaw made a brief announcement as brunch concluded. "This afternoon we will go on as scheduled with the autograph session for those of you who were not with us yesterday." She drew in a deep breath before continuing. "Then we will conclude with the last workshop."

"Are you crazy?" Still frazzled, Lois shouted.

"I know. But please listen…." Kate was glad she had recruited Terry Lang in this explosive situation.

Standing tall, Terry addressed the group. "Hey, everybody. You know me. We're all sorry about the loss of not only one of the finest bards….."

"Great. She was the best." Lois cried while Shelby hugged her.

"Yes." Terry agreed. "She was also a great friend and person. We will all miss her." She paused a moment out of respect for Linda. "That being said… we need to move on while the police do their job."

Judith stood. "I don't mean to point fingers but…. that detective practically accused Lindsey and, well…." Judith turned to Kate. "Is she still giving the workshop?"

"Yes…. as scheduled." Kate stated succinctly. "I know it may seem out of the ordinary in lieu of Linda's death but no one's been arrested as of yet."

"I agree." Terry concurred. "I didn't know Linda very well but she loved this whole fandom thing. She attended everyone of theses and I think she would want us to move on."

Using the last of her tissue, Shelby dabbed at the tears running from her eyes. "She would. You'll understand if we don't attend though."

Tonya was relieved by Shelby's statement until Lois objected. "Are you kidding? I'm going to make sure her death is avenged…. not sit idly by like some." A hard glare from the short blonde pounded at Shelby.

"I want to know who did this, too. It won't bring her back though." Shelby spat back at her anxious friend.

Being overtaxed herself by the events of late, Tonya summoned her strength and stepped between the two as she spoke to Kate. "It's been trying for all of us. If you'll excuse us." She led both grieving women away.

Now that the trio was gone, Cindy Townsend spoke up. "Do you really think it's appropriate to continue on?"

"I do." Kate assured the group.

"Come on, guys. There's nothing we can do at this point." Terry tried to reassure the nervous group.

"I'm there." Lori Colter offered her support.

"Me, too." Beth Ann echoed.

Several other women chimed in with their intentions to carry on with the convention while there were a few dissenting voices. "I understand completely and if anyone would like a refund…."

"Are you kidding? I wouldn't miss this for anything." Judith smiled all too eagerly.

Kelly jerked the blonde down. "Shut up, will ya?" Kelly didn't want any more attention on their table than necessary.

************************

Cale poured over the hotel security cameras. With Martin's help, she was able to get the tapes from the main lobby and various hallways throughout the hotel. Cale was pressed for time. She used an educated guess as she narrowed the time frame, looking only at the tapes during that time. If she was wrong, it could mean not only that she would fail a woman she loved again but also Lindsey's life was in jeopardy.

"Here." Chris handed her friend a cup of coffee. "Steady your nerves."

"I'm not nervous."

"Ooookay." The writer sipped her coke.

"Where's Lindsey?"

"In her room. When I left she was calling her friend." Chris pointed to the screen. "Who's that?"

"Me." Came the deadpan reply.

"Looking good." Chris attempted a stab at humor. "Uh oh? And who do we have here?" She said as another figure came in to view on the small screen.

Cale rubbed her fingers along the sides of her temple. "Someone I had a bit of an argument with last night."

Shaking her head, Chris said. "Look at the time. From what you told me that doesn't make sense."

************************

"That doesn't make sense." Rachel argued. "Why would you kill her? It was the other one you….."

"Rachel, stay focused here." Lindsey interrupted her friend. "Do you remember if I ever mentioned the real name of that beta reader when I first started writing my story?"

"Kay something. I think." Rachel offered.

"No… that was a fan."

"Have you looked at your inbox? You save everything." Rachel anxiously twirled in her chair. "Do you need me to fly up?"

"I need you to look at all the notes I sent to you when you beta read my story. Besides, all they have on me right now is my fingerprints on the murder weapon and I don't have an alibi but…." Lindsey said humorlessly, having no reason to say more.

"But you're this close…." Rachel pressed her finger and thumb together even though Lindsey could not see her. "…from a noose around your neck."

"No…. it was Linda in the fountain with a chain around her neck." The ill-fated joked died on her lips. "I don't know what's wrong with me. That wasn't funny."

"Give yourself a break, Lindsey." Rachel's voice turned serious. "I'm sure this whole thing is wearing on your nerves. It's obvious to me that someone wants you to take the fall. I bet their laughing their head off right now."

***********************

Chris let out a roar. "You did what?"

"She swung at me and I slammed her face in the wall."

"No wonder you don't make friends." The writer's eyes returned to the screen.

Cale's eyes never left the screen during the whole conversation.

***********************

Karen frowned at Judith's hysterical laughter. "I thought you were her friend."

"Karen…. I am. I love her stories, too. But don't you get it?" Having a quirky sense of humor, Judith swallowed the last drop of her drink. "She had us all fooled. Who knew she had it in her to actually kill someone. Kelly on the other hand…" A steel grip on her shoulder froze her next words in her throat.

Kelly sat down. "You were saying something…. about me."

***********************

Tippi watched her friend hurriedly pack their bags. "What's the rush? I, for one, want to be around when they nail the murderer. Whoever it is."

"I'm not. Besides, you heard the detective. It was Lindsey. She looked so sweet, too." Cindy shoved the last few garments into the bag knowing when she unpacked they would need a good ironing. "Guess I'll have to cross her off the list for my auction."

"I'm not so sure. I'd like to see how it all plays out." Tippi walked into the bathroom. She peeked out to ask the question that had been on her mind since early that morning. "By the way, where were you last night?"

Cindy came to a sudden stop. Turning to her friend, she said with all the innocence she could muster. "Whatever do you mean?"

************************

Pointing at the screen again, Chris left a chocolate fingerprint. With a mouth full of the candy bar, she asked. "Who's he?"

"Eric Schulte."

Cale pressed the pause button as she joined her friend when they turned in unison to stare at the newcomer.

"My…" The blonde swallowed. "Ex-boyfriend."

"He's…." Cale stuck a finger toward the screen. "… your boyfriend? That guy?"

"Ex-boyfriend… yes." Lindsey stepped up near Cale, placing her hand on the seated woman's shoulder. "Have you come up with anything?"

Chris chomped on her candy bar. "Other than the fact that it was a veeeeery busy night for just everybody." A slanted glance at Cale suggested her friend come clean with Lindsey. "Hey, why don't I go check and see what Kate has come up with?" Leaving Cale and Lindsey alone, Chris waved goodbye.

Chris' not so subtle hint prompted Lindsey to ask. "Is there something you want to tell me?"

"First, how is it that the FBI has your fingerprints on file?"

"That's easy. I work for the federal government. Information technologies… and due to the sensitive work I do, a background check was required…. along with my fingerprints." Lindsey was happy to answer that easy question. "And second?"

"Yeah, second. If that guy is your ex, then why is he here?" Cale didn't like the jealous streak that ran through her but she had to have the answer.

"The reason we broke up was that he was unwilling to make a commitment. Rachel tells me…. he had a change of heart."

Cale pursed her lips. "And your heart? Has it changed?"

"Not about him. No." Lindsey paused only long enough to look at the screen. "He's not what I want."

What do you want? Cale couldn't bring herself to ask this question. Her eyes returned to the screen and she pressed play. "You should know I had a little bit of a run in with him last night."

"What?"

"Yeah, it was him. I didn't know who he was… I thought he had mistaken me for someone else…. accusing me of…..." Cale's voice dropped lower. "Right after the other altercation."

Lindsey leaned back in her chair with a look that demanded more information.

"Listen, we don't have time. I've got all these tapes to go through before…"

Lindsey crossed her arms.

"Okay, okay. Last night, right after you left….."

***********************

"What did the two of you do after we parted last night?" Karen asked, keenly interested in hearing the answer.

Judith shrugged. "I hit the bar."

When both sets of eyes turned to her, Kelly spat. "It's none of your fucking business."

With that Kelly left, prompting Judith to suggest. "She's got something to hide."

"As do you." Karen accused the blonde. "I couldn't sleep so I came back down to get a late night drink." Karen leaned in. "You were no where in sight."

"I took a walk." Judith shot back. "I suppose you have someone to vouch for you the whole night."

Karen swallowed hard.

Chapter Eleven

The stage was set as Lindsey, Cale and Chris walked into the huge room. At the front of the room was a long narrow table and just behind it stood a large white board. Between the table and the side door a TV and VCR was placed on a stand.

The blonde writer took her place in front of the table. "Welcome to 'How to Commit a Murder'." Lindsey greeted the guests to her workshop.

"Perfect murder." Cale corrected her as she sat on the edge of the table, crossing her arm.

"Yes, a perfect murder." Lindsey made the addendum to her speech and smiled sweetly. Her accusing green eyes scanned the crowd slowly as Cale astutely watched the women in the big room for any tell tale signs that would lead them to the real murderer.

Chris brought in the murder weapon and handed the lantern to Lindsey. Then she took up residence on the other side of Lindsey creating a protective barrier for the writer.

"Thank you." Lindsey held the mangled lantern up and studied it for a long moment. "In order to have the perfect murder you would need to be completely exonerated of trails that would lead you to the murder."

Cale stood up to take the lantern from Lindsey. As their fingers touched, she covertly sent a calming smile to the beautiful woman she vowed to protect with her life.

"Then of course you would need an alibi. This is very important. As in many cases the time of death can be hard to pin point." Lindsey walked to the white board and used a blue marker to notate 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. That was the timeframe the coroner had estimated for the time of death for Linda James. She didn't let the group gathered in on that piece of information yet. "Lastly, and to me the most important thing…. but I must admit it's not essential for a conviction…. is the motive for murdering someone."

"We already know all of that." A male voice yelled from the back. Both Cale and Chris scanned the area but with a full capacity in the huge room, they didn't see where the voice came from.

Lindsey returned to her place in front of the table as she continued to address the audience. Sucking in a deep breath, Lindsey steadied her nerves. She had gone over the scenario with Cale, Chris, the detective and Kate several times. Timing was critical. But even more essential was creating a sanctuary illusion where the killer would feel a sense of safety and at the same time they needed to ratchet a slow lingering squeeze on the murderer into making a critical mistake which could give them away. Clamping down on the murderer's desperation and accompanying ego as they built a plausible scenario that would root out the real killer of Linda James. The blonde knew the detective was waiting in the wings to take her to jail just in case their whole plan collapsed.

Cale whispered to Lindsey. "Go on. You're doing great."

With that encouragement, Lindsey continued. "Due to last nights circumstances, I thought I would use that…. situation to show you just how…."

The red eyed Shelby cut her off when she yelled. "Kate! I have to protest. This is ridiculous."

"Let her speak. I'm interested." CrazyBard said, pushing her glasses up off the tip of her nose. "After all, if you have nothing to hide then….." Her words trailed off.

"Yes, let her talk." Lois gave a scathing look at Shelby. "We will either find out who killed Linda or she'll hang herself with her own words." It was a good thing Tonya was situated between the two tension-filled women.

Kate Bradshaw stood up from her chair in the front row to address the audience. "Please… everyone. If you would rather leave then do so. I assure you that you will get a full refund due to the circumstances."

It was an iffy prospect allowing the murderer an escape but Cale's gut feelings was that the murderer would be glued to their seat.

Kate's eyes traveled over the group. They passed from Terry and her small gang of women to Karen, Judith and Kelly, sitting quietly near the center of the room. No one moved. As a matter of fact, you could hear a pin drop. "Lindsey…" She turned back to the writer. "Please go on."

Lindsey smiled, cleared her throat then continued. "Everyone here… including the Chicago police thinks I killed Linda James." The blonde took a brief moment to look at Kate, Chris and finally Cale, knowing that they were the only ones in the room who truly believed in her innocence. Her eyes focused back on the audience. "But that just doesn't make any sense. Let's talk about the murder weapon." Lindsey picked it up. She studied for a few moments before she continued. "Yes, my fingerprints were on it. Saturday afternoon I was admiring it as others were…." Lindsey paused to look at Judith.

Judith froze.

"As a matter of fact, Judith, you took a keen interest in this lantern." Lindsey walked down the aisle a short way and held it out for Judith.

Judith jerked back as if the lantern was a hot poker she did not want to touch. "That's okay."

"But you were very interested in it yesterday. You even said you wanted to steal it." Lindsey spoke directly.

"I… I… was just kidding." Judith stammered. "Besides, I never touched it."

"That's not true." Karen spoke up. "You grabbed the handle before…."

"She took it away." Judith finished, indicating Lindsey.

"Yes, yes, I did." The blonde shook the lantern. "What about now? Do you want it now because all you have to do is touch the very slim handle and you could either wipe the prints away or…."

Cale noticed Shelby leaned her head on her friend's shoulder, using the scarf around Tonya's neck to wipe away an errant tear.

"….rely on the fact that it would be hard… impossible really to pull prints from it." Lindsey concluded her assertion. "Now…" She turned back around, walking the short distance to the front of the room. Carefully putting the lantern back on the table. "… there is at least one other person who handled that lantern."

"Not to mentioned the fact that it was left out day and night for anyone to gain easy access." Cale supplied.

Rubbing her hands together, Lindsey continued. "Alibi…. now that's a tricky one. And one that can easily be substantiated by having a cohort in crime. And, yes, once again… I don't have an alibi." She gazed at Cale. "At least not during the whole time frame that Linda was murdered." Lindsey pointed to the times on the white board behind her.

In an unexpected move, Kelly stood up. "Actually you do… I saw you in the lobby walking around the indoor fountain."

This was interesting news to the detective huddled just outside the side door to the left of Cale. The revelation also took several others by surprise.

Lois jumped up. "Why are you trying to protect her? Are you hot for her or something?"

"What time was that?" Cale asked calmly. She wanted to see if Kelly would tell the truth. The security expert was well aware of the time they had their altercation in front of the lobby elevators.

"Shortly after midnight, I think." Her dark eyes held Cale's for a moment before she turned to look at Lois.

With pursed lips, Lois glared at the woman offering the unbelievable partial alibi. "This is just a ruse and you know it."

"Lois!" Cale spoke loudly to get the hysterical woman's attention. "If and I mean if she saw Lindsey it was not for at least another half hour later because that's when I met Kelly near the elevator and we had a …. discussion."

"Well, I didn't look at my watch… it could've been later." Kelly admitted.

"Thank you anyway, Kelly." Lindsey said. "I'm wondering though who else in here has an airtight alibi. Terry, where were you last night?"

This question took Terry completely by surprise. "Hey, folks, wasn't me. I was in bed like a good little girl … and that's the story my wife gets when I get home and I'm sticking to it."

The crowd laughed.

"You mean after you closed the bar last night." A very hung over group member yelled.

Her devout writer friend, Lori Colter spoke up. "I can vouch for her. We share the same room. She was with me the whole time."

"Unless you were in on it to." CrazyBard suggested.

Upset her friend was being accused, the Texan Beth Ann twisted around. "What about you Savannah? You? Do you have an alibi?"

Savannah Miller checked her notes. "After the play, I came back here at 10:42. I stayed in the bar until shortly after one a.m." She looked at Kelly. "And that is accurate I checked my watch then I went to my room and was in bed by 1:29 on the dot."

"My God, she's anal." Kip Reynolds noted.

Cale mentally noted CrazyBard's self-proclaimed whereabouts as it conflicted with the lobby security camera's tapes. There was twenty minutes where you left the bar before going back in. Maybe I can use this bit of information later.

"Not to mention crazy." Cindy Townsend added.

Lindsey took a few steps to her left. "Which brings us to you, Cindy. Where were you last night?"

"At the play along with everyone else.. then I can back here with Tippi. We had a few drinks then went to bed… together."

Tippi looked surprised.

"That's not what I meant. Not together." Cindy was nervous as she tried to exonerate herself, quickly looking at a gray-eyed blonde. "We did go to bed but not together. We share the same room." Frustrated, Cindy nudged her friend to vouch for her.

"Yeah, that's pretty much how it happened." Tippi agreed.

Cale stood up. "What do you mean 'pretty' much how it happened?"

Cindy glared hard at her soon to be ex-friend if Tippi didn't come through for her. "We did exactly as she said." Cindy smiled. "Except when I woke this morning…. " Tippi spared her friend a hasty look. "You were gone… it was almost five when I woke up. I had to go to the bathroom."

"I took an early morning swim." Cindy acknowledged.

A male coughed. "Excuse me, ma'am, but the pool's not open until 7 a.m." Danny O'Brien stated.

All eyes were on Cindy Townsend. "Well, it must have been later… ah… I guess… I think… well, I walked around a bit until then. Yes, that's what I did."

Chris Strauda swung her legs wildly as she sat on the table's edge. "Where'd you walk? Inside the hotel? Lobby area?"

"Yes, that's it." Cindy smiled.

"Cale, maybe we missed something on those security tapes." Chris offered non-chantingly.

"That's an easy fix." Cale snatched a tape from the table and walked toward the TV stand with a VCR hooked up to it. "Shall we see for ourselves?"

"No… no.. you don't have to do that." Cindy practically screamed. "Actually, I remember now. It was outside." She said, all the while praying that there were no cameras covering the outside area.

"Out by the patio?" Lindsey asked.

"Yes, that's it." Cindy agreed all to eagerly.

"Then how did miss Linda's body?" Cale asked, still holding the tape in her hands.

"It was dark…. I wasn't looking over there." Cindy put up a halting hand. "And before you get all over me about it. I was here when they said where they found her body. Everybody was."

"Yes, that's true." Lindsey tapped her lips with a finger. The yellow police barricade tape alone gave away that relevant information. She turned to Cale. "Cale, she's right. Everyone knew that except I wonder…"

Cale smiled. "Why she didn't notice the red water in the fountain… due to the Linda's blood. She was found half in half out of the fountain." This last bit of misleading information Cale used was in an attempt to bait the real killer. Both Chris and Cale surveyed the crowd of women and a few men for anything that would provide them with even the slightest odd reaction.

Judith squirmed in her seat. She hated the sight of blood.

"You're not pinning this on me." Cindy roared. "My prints weren't on the murder weapon. Besides, why would I want Linda James dead?"

"Now that's an interesting question, Cindy." Kate Bradshaw posed that very question. "Why would you?"

"Maybe it's because Linda wouldn't participate with your idea of a dating auction at a Bardcon you wanted to hold." Chris threw out the bone for every one to chew on.

"I wouldn't have asked her. She has a partner." Cindy countered.

"Damn right she does." Shelby yelled, jumping up Tonya held her back.

"Honey, calm down." Tonya tried to soothe her friend.

It was then Lois felt she needed to uphold Linda's reputation. "She would never do that… cheat on her partner like that."

A hush fell over the room. It was never proven but the rumor mill had it that that was exactly what Linda did to her ex-partner Lois. And it was ironic that Lois would be the one to make this hopeful exonerating statement.

"Lois, honey, sit down." Tonya yanked her at partner's arm.

Seizing, Lois muttered loudly. "I will not have anyone disparage Linda's name like that."

Tonya soothed her partner and finally whispered. "We both know she's done that."

Horrible memories flooded Lois' mind as she remembered her own version of how Linda broke it off with her. It was one thing for her to know of Linda's two timing ways but she wasn't about to let others think that about her beloved dead 'lover'. Lois never accepted the idea that they were finished forever. She still had hope. Tears poured from her eyes.

"I think we should take a short break." Lindsey suggested.

***********************

"Whoa! This sure turned out to be one of the better Bardcons." Terry swallowed her early morning shot of whiskey. "And I've been to most of them."

"I can't believe it. Why would anyone want to kill anyone let alone Linda." Beth Ann asked innocently.

"Are all the women from Texas so innocent?" Terry asked.

"Terry, I mean it. They're just stories." Beth Ann said, referring to the suggested motive Lindsey would have to do away with her competition. "It doesn't make sense."

Lori Colter intervened. "I know what you mean, Beth Ann. Let me see if I can explain the reason why. Stories… are like dreams, hopes… they give us something to believe in. They change us. They're a part of us. Yeah, I know, most of the stories we write are about finding our soulmate."

"I got mine." Terry inserted, raising her glass to the woman who inspired her stories.

"In every great story it's all about the relationship…. mostly between two people…. lovers or not. Without that, the relationship…..all you have is maybe a great story idea or excellent writing. But you need that relationship…. the place where all things are created. Where you re-create yourself because of someone else… become someone else because of the love you have for him or her. And when that part of you is threatened…." Lori's words fell silent in an unspoken question.

"It's still not a reason to kill someone." Beth Ann refused to believe that lame explanation.

"Maybe not…. but stories have a way of firing up that passion inside each of us. And passion…. can be a double-edged sword whether you're talking about being in love with someone or passionate about your writing. It makes you do things you never thought you would." Lori took the shot glass from Terry and gulped the liquor down. "I have a feeling this next hour is going to get very interesting."

***********************

The trio marched down the hallway. The tension in the room they just left made them scream for some fresh air and clarity.

"Do you think she really did it?" Judith asked.

"I could ask the same about you." Kelly snapped.

"Oh, really! You're the more likely nutcase that would flip out when Linda or anybody for that matter took any attention away from X. Straud DeNair. Who…. may I say avoids you at all costs. What'd you do kill Linda just to get her attention?" Judith accused the short-fused woman.

"I outta ….."

"What…. kill me?" Judith growled as she backed up. "Karen, you're my witness."

"Would you two just stop it? I've got problems of my own." Karen walked away briskly.

Both combative women took a short reprieve, watching the distressed Karen leave them behind. "What's with her?"

************************

"Come on. Let's just go back to the room and pack." Tonya encouraged the two women she held on to.

"No!" In pursuit of justice, Lois overturned her partner's suggestion. "I'm not moving one inch until I find out who murdered Linda."

"Lois…." Shelby tried hard to control her overtaxed emotions. "There isn't much more we can do. Besides, I don't think I can take it another minute. Finding out about Linda… then the police grilling me over and over again. When did she leave? What was she wearing? Where was she going? Why didn't I report her missing?"

"Why didn't you?" Lois' eyes turned cold.

"I fell to goddamn sleep." Overwhelming guilt plagued her. "And I was half drunk as it was."

"You sure seemed awful frisky when we got back to the hotel. You couldn't wait to get Linda back up in the room." Lois smirked. "What'd you do pass out on her… like usual?"

"You bitch." Shelby glared at Lois.

"Come on, Lois. That was uncalled for." Tonya gripped both women tighter. "Let's just go back upstairs…."

Yanking her arm away, Lois said. "No. I'm going back in there and see that someone hangs for Linda's death."

Watching Lois storm away back to the room, Shelby observed. "You never could handle her…. neither could Linda."

Tonya pulled the scarf closer around her neck and would have protested but Shelby spoke the truth.

***********************

"Why in the world did you tell them I wasn't in my room this morning?" Cindy fumed at her friend's perceived betrayal.

"You weren't." Tippi laconic response didn't satisfy the upset shorthaired women beside her.

Ripping her friend around, Cindy threatened. "I do have an alibi… I'm just to honorable to break my word. And, Tippi, you wanna stay on my good side, I suggest you keep your mouth shut."

Tippi stood still as Cindy walked away in a huff. You have a good side?

************************

Kate walked back in the small room where Lindsey, Cale, Chris and Detective Lewis were discussing their next phase of strategy.

"Do you have it?" Lindsey asked.

"Yep… here." Kate handed them a piece of paper with several different addys.

Lindsey looked it over quietly.

"That one there. I recognize it. She writes to me all the time." Chris acknowledged.

"She's the same one we talked about earlier." Kate informed the writer. "Different addy."

"Looks like I got a stalker." Chris mused.

Lindsey gave Cale a guilty look with the mention of that particular word. Cale simply rubbed Lindsey bare arm and smiled reassuringly.

"A cyber stalker… I guess you could say." Kate amended Chris' label.

"That showed up here…. following me everywhere I go."

"Okay… that still doesn't get us anywhere. Marty, where are those pictures of the crime scene?" Cale asked then quickly flipped through them when the detective supplied the requested items.

"Everybody take a good look… every detail." Cale insisted. "And, Marty, can I look at Shelby's statement again?"

"What are we looking for?" Lindsey asked, not really wanting to see the dead body or blood red tinted water in the fountain.

"Anything… everything…" Cale studied the police statement as the rest of them imprinted the pictures in their brain. "When we get back in there, we'll be flying by the seat of our pants…..and even the most minute detail can't escape us."

"Okay. Are we looking for anyone in particular?" Kate asked.

"There's some key points Lindsey will bring out. We'll go over those in a minute…but anything like someone fidgeting. Maybe looks surprised or even shocked while every one else around them are showing an entirely different reaction."

It was then Lindsey's cell phone rang. "Hello, Rachel?" The blonde listened for a few minutes. "You're sure? Okay, thanks, Rach."

Time stood still for a few moments until Cale asked. "Well?"

"I've got another piece of the puzzle but…."

"I know… I know." Cale slumped. "Hopefully, this is just the darkness before the dawn."

"It won't be that easy to prove, huh?" Chris asked.

Cale simply gave a dishearten shrug. "The hard parts gonna be getting a confession."

Completely distraught and running out of time, Lindsey threw out her arms at the detective. "Just cuff me now and send me up the river."

In an effort to break the blonde's dismal gloom, Cale waggled her eyebrows and whispered. "There'll be time enough for that later."

Chapter Twelve

When Cale, Lindsey and Chris walked back into the crowded room for the blonde's workshop 'How to Commit a Murder', the taller woman prayed their plan would work. The woman she loved life depended on it. And Cale would not fail again. Memories flooded her mind of another time when she was unable to save someone that meant a great deal to her at the time. It was like a ghost from the past, haunting her. Memories that she carried on her shoulder every day since that fateful night she left her pregnant lover alone in order to help her partner clean up the ill-fated drug bust. Guilt plagued her every day for leaving her girlfriend. If I had stayed, she would be alive. Cale never forgave herself. It was the reason she walked away from the police force.

With these heavy thoughts still burdening the dark haired woman, they waited patiently for the crowd to quiet down before they initiated the next phase. Cale felt they were on a wild goose chase. Something just doesn't fit. But what? The police statements and pictures of the crime scene played over and over in her head. As typical, Cale began to construct the events of the night methodically in her mind.

When Detective Lewis made his scheduled appearance, the stage was set. "Ms. Wellington, I'm afraid it's time."

Cale rushed to put herself between the detective and the blonde. "I told you she didn't do it." Cale insisted.

"But I did do it." Lindsey admitted.

Stunned silence shook the room. Cale paled at the blonde's admission. She wrapped the blonde into her embrace. "I'll stand by you… no matter what. For better or worse…. I'll be there for you. I'm sure it was self-defense."

God, she's putting on a good show. Chris spared her friend a hasty look before getting back to her job.

"No, it wasn't. It was pre-mediated and…" Lindsey dropped another well-placed misleading piece of bait.

Chris' green eyes surveyed the anxious crowd.

Cale swallowed Lindsey's next words with a kiss, breaking long enough to loudly whisper. "Sweetheart, you have got to shut up."

Mistaking the taller woman's meaning, the astonished blonde pushed Cale back. "What are you going to do arrest me?"

The detective stepped forward. "That's exactly what I'm going to do Ms. Wellington."

The crowd sat in stunned silence as the scene played out in front of them. Many of them wondered what had taken place during the short break. There were a few, however, that delighted with glee that the blonde was about to be taken down for good. Chris made a mental list of those with shocked faces versus the ones holding back a slight victorious smile.

Cale stepped in front of Lindsey. "Marty, you said you've give me more time."

"You ran out of time." Martin said.

"In my book." Lindsey clarified her earlier statement. "It was in my story that I had my character murder someone else."

The chubby Lois rose, pointing an accusing finger. "You're a liar. You killed her. You had it planned all along."

Tonya comforted her partner. "Come on, honey, sit down. Let the police take care of this."

"Detective? If you would allow me just a few moments longer, I have a few questions for certain people." Lindsey implored.

Nodding, the detective took up residence near the side exit door. With crossed arms and a grim look, Lewis gave off the intended perception he wanted the audience to receive, creating the illusion that Lindsey's goose was nearly cooked.

"Motive." Lindsey said simply. Long moments passed before she spoke again, putting nearly everyone in attendance on edge of their seats. "I didn't have any reason to want Linda dead. Why would I?"

"He.." CrazyBard pointed to the detective who was now playing with his handcuffs. "… said it was so you could kill your competition. Everyone wants to be number one."

"Like you, Savannah?" Lindsey quizzed.

For the first time, CrazyBard put her notes down on her lap. She pushed her glasses up with the tip of her pen. "We write totally different stories. She's not my competition."

Kate corrected that misperception. "Actually, as far as my site goes…. there are all types of category of stories in the top ten. The only factor we look at is how many hits a story gets in the given week."

"And even though Lindsey's latest story was a murder mystery… there was a great love story in it so that kinda puts her in competition with Linda." Judith supplied.

"Thank you, Judith. I think." With friends like her I don't need enemies.

"She's right." Lois asserted then yelled. "Kill the competition because you write like shit."

"Really?" Lindsey moved closer to Cale for reassurance before she posed the next question. "You've read my stories?"

"Ha…. that tripe." Lois said.

"Yeah, we only read what Oprah recommends." Tonya offered this comment as a dig to Lindsey and support of her partner.

"So, you haven't read Murder at Fountain Blue either?" The blonde asked.

"Pleeeease… no." Tonya confirmed.

"And you, Shelby? Did you read it?"

Shelby sniffed. "No…. I've read another one of yours but…" Both Tonya and Lois glared at her. "…but not that one."

"Well, then just to stroke my own ego. Could I have a show of hands of just who did read Murder at Fountain Blue?" Lindsey, Cale and Chris were now only interested in a few member of the audience as nearly the entire gathered crowd raised their hands. "That's nice to know."

Karen Watson didn't want to draw attention to herself but she just had to ask. "Lindsey, what difference does that make… who read your story?"

Lindsey leaned on the edge of the table. "Well, you know, Karen, it could make all the difference in the world….." A long pause. "…. that is if I have to spend the rest of my days behind bars….like a bard in a cage." She let out a nervous laugh.

Cale placed a steadying hand on the small of Lindsey's back before she addressed the audience. "Let me re-cap. Linda James was murdered late last night early this morning between the hours of 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. Besides Lindsey there are several of us without alibis. Myself for one. Chris?" Cale spared her friend a quick look. "Was occupied. The others without alibis include Cindy, Judith, Kelly…… and you." Cale stared directly at the surprised dark blonde haired gray-eyed woman. "Karen."

"What? Why would I kill Linda?" Karen protested loudly. "I'm…. I'm the ultimate fan fiction reader… I loved her stories… all of them."

"I didn't ask why…. just stating that you don't have an alibi." Cale noted.

As she desperately searched for brown eyes that would save her, an uneasy feeling fell over Karen. "I…. I… I don't know what to say. But I didn't kill Linda."

"I don't believe you did, Karen. But someone hated her stories…someone wrote nasty, vile comments about them." Lindsey offered.

Shelby collected her unsteady emotions long enough to agree. "That's right… she got some hate mail."

"And did that coincide when her stories were number one on my site?" Kate asked.

"As a matter of fact.. yes." Shelby concurred, as she continued to heave heavily. The fragile woman was precariously near collapse.

"She's not the only one. The fan comments were getting so bad we got to the point where we had to censor the comments we did post." Kate addressed the group. "It was always when a certain few writers who were either in first place or just got knocked out it. After awhile, my partner started to notice a trend."

"What's that got to do with anything?" The tall amicable Terry Lang asked. "There are even people who don't like what I write. Go figure." Terry threw that last comment out to the crowd. "But… to kill someone over it? Kate, with all due respect…."

"It's just that…." Lindsey started. "… it was the same ones over and over again…. some of them were threatening."

Everyone looked at Kate Bradshaw for confirmation. "She's right. The more interesting fact is that who the comments came from…."

Cale crossed her arms. "Isn't that right….. Kelly?"

Somewhat stunned to be pointed out, Kelly scooted around uneasily in her metal chair. "I never threatened anyone. Sure, I wrote a few…. critiques. What's wrong with that?"

"Do you agree Cindy?" Lindsey asked.

"Back to me again? You've got nothing on me." Cindy summoned up all of her confidence that she had covered her tracks. I'm definitely not inviting her to my bardcon.

The female next to her cleared her throat. "I'm afraid they do."

Shocked, Cindy glared at her friend. "You? You sold me out?"

Tippi Sevenson spoke calmly. "It's your own fault. You just had to go and use my addy for some of your scathing comments… and when Kate asked me about it. I told her the truth. She also knows about your other…." Using finger quotes, Tippi continued. "..aliases."

Cindy jumped up. "You're not pinning this on me because…. because I told the truth. I can't help it that most of that crap gets so much undeserved attention. X. Straud DeNair my ass."

"Shut the fuck up about Chris' stories. They're great." Kelly countered, sparing Chris a supportive look.

Ignoring, Chris' irate fan's outburst, Cindy continued. "And Linda's sordid stories? Hell, you can't even call them stories not really … at best they're PWP. " The popular acronym meaning 'plot what plot?'.

Kate spoke up. "There's a lot more my partner pieced together about the others…. not just you Cindy."

"How dare you?" Linda James' ex-lover was livid. Lois jumped up, ready to lunge at the smart mouthed woman who just panned Linda's stories.

"Whoa there." Terry grabbed the enraged woman. "Just simmer down there, Lois. Everyone's got their own opinion about stories. Linda knew that just like we all do."

"Cindy didn't do it." A voice announced from out of the blue.

"Didn't do what, Karen?" Cale asked.

Karen crossed her arms, shielding herself for what she knew she had to do. "Cindy was…. well, she was….." Karen now loathed what took place the night before in a fit of heated passion especially since the woman she was about to provide the very needed alibi for did not come to her defense when she was being accused. "Cindy was with me. After she left the bar with Tippi and went to their room… she slipped out later and we were together all night."

Tippi smacked Cindy upside the head. "I can't believe you. You screw up everything. How would you not speak up when they pointed the finger at Karen. A woman like that…. wasting her time with the likes of you."

Karen's gray eyes turned bright. A woman like …. me?

"Let's get back on track." Cale harnessed the group's attention. "Motive?"

"Who else might have wanted to kill Linda James?" Lindsey tapped her finger to her lips, pretending to ponder the idea.

"An overzealous fan perhaps?" Chris pushed herself off the table. She walked slowly across the room in front of Lindsey. "One that is completely obsessed and maybe wanted to get a certain writer's undivided attention." She stopped in front of Judith. "Now, I'd be the first to admit murder is way overboard but then again…."

"I hope you're not accusing me, Chris." Judith spoke up. "I love your stories but I wouldn't kill for you." She jerked a thumb at Kelly, sitting next to her. "Talk to her."

Kelly glared at Judith. "I hate you. You know that. I just hate you. You are always accusing me of everything."

"Like you don't do it to me." Judith tossed back at Kelly.

"As much as I admire Chris…." Kelly started then hurriedly finished her statement. "I wouldn't kill anyone for that reason."

"I agree." To Kelly's surprise, Cale vouched for her. "I don't think you would kill another writer just so Chris' stories would have a better shot at the number one spot."

"See I told you." She looked at Chris. "I just love your stories. Oh, sure, maybe I went too far panning the other stories… Linda's included. But murder? Please."

"However….." Cale let that word hang in the air for a long time. "….murdering someone else to please yourself is another story."

Sucking in a desperate breath, Kelly asked. "What are you saying?"

Cale purposely wore the same clothes she wore the night before. Turning around, she flipped her long mane a couple of times. Chris followed suit. Eyes throughout the crowd shifted back and forth wondering just what in the hell was going on. When both Cale and Chris turned around, the taller woman asked. "Kelly, from a distance with both are backs to you would you say we could be mistaken for each other?"

Kelly refused to answer.

"Anybody?" Cale threw the question out the audience. "Oh, come on, nearly the same height, color of hair….. bodies about the same."

Daisy Newton admitted. "You do… especially if it was in the dark with that black hair."

Cale twisted around again. "Anyone else I could be mistaken for?"

Shelby wiped her tear filled eyes again. The blurry vision of Cale's backside jolted her. "Linda?"

Placating the sobbing woman, Tonya reassured her. "No, honey, Linda's not here."

"So? The three of you could be twins." Judith grinned at Kelly's gaffe. "That's not enough to kill her."

"You're right." Lindsey agreed. "What if someone mistook Linda for say…. Cale?"

"Mistaken identify? It's plausible." The intelligent Lori Colter then asked. "Then the question would be who would want to kill Cale?"

"And before you mention it again…. yes, I did say something about it." Lindsey hurriedly wanted to exonerate herself so they could get to the next intended victim of suspects. "I may have thought she had been… tormenting me… a little bit. Though it's not reason enough to kill her… like someone else would have."

"Okay, I'll bite." CrazyBard said. "Who wanted tall, dark and……" Her brown eyes ran the length of Cale. "…. sexy dead?"

"A jealous woman perhaps?" Chris inserted.

"Jealous of what…. her? Please." Venom dripped from Kelly's words as she referred to Cale.

"Yes, jealous of me." Cale assured the woman sitting in front of her. "Jealous because you thought I was the only thing standing between you and Chris."

"That's true. You did." The blonde Judith crossed her arms.

No one in the room could dispute the statement as nodding heads agreed.

Lindsey put the fabricated scenario into play. "When we came back from the play, you split from the group."

"So did Judith." Kelly pointed at the woman next to her.

"You saw me go out the back door to the patio and followed me." Cale continued to paint the disturbing picture. "Wanting to take me out because you couldn't have Chris or you heard my good friend was with someone else last night."

"Everyone did know that Debbie Crane came back to the hotel." Karen supplied. "Chris always did have a thing for her."

Surprised, Chris dropped her head slightly at Karen's words. "Please…. does nothing stays a secret for too long in this fandom? Yeah, well… okay…" Chris regrouped her composure before she added the final touches to the set-up underway. Turning to Kelly, she began to build her case. "You saw who you thought was Cale near the fountain and having thought that she drove me to the arms of another woman…." God, I'm good. "….you had words with her and in an enraged state you grabbed the lantern and…"

Cale closely watched several women for their reaction as Chris accused the light haired woman of murder. She whispered something to Lindsey.

Kelly sprung up. "Stop it… just stop it. I didn't kill her. You can ask…." Kelly's brown eyes traveled to the blonde who didn't appear to be willing to provide the needed alibi. Fine bitch. When they start accusing you, I sit by and watch you squirm.

"Is that why when you came back in and saw me in the lobby you were surprised?" Cale quizzed Kelly but kept several others in her field of vision. "That's right… we had an interesting conversation. You do remember that, don't you, Kelly?"

"I don't know what you're getting at."

"Then it was you….. you killed her." Shelby screamed.

Shaking her head, Cale exonerated the woman. "No. I don't think so. Since the killer dragged Linda's body to the fountain, it stands to reason that she would have had some blood on her clothes. She didn't."

"So that brings us back to square one." Crossing her cowboy boot covered feet at the ankles, Terry Lang scratched her head.

"What I want to know is why Shelby didn't report Linda missing earlier that night?" CrazyBard asked. "The first person to find the body was at 6:15."

"How did you know that?" Detective Lewis broke his silence.

Before CrazyBard could answer, a blonde haired man spoke up. "I'm afraid that was me, sir."

"Danny O'Brien. I thought I told you to talk with no one." Martin glared at the young man.

"I couldn't help it. She's got that book she carries everywhere and she won't take no for answer and that's a fact." Danny asserted.

"That's a fact." CrazyBard echoed.

The detective vouched for Shelby, ending CrazyBard's concern. "We're satisfied with the statement Shelby gave us."

"All right already." Cale was losing her patience. Her mind again ran a quick checklist against the other facts and Shelby's statement to the police.

Calming the tall woman with a touch of her hand, Lindsey continued. "Kate? What else did your partner find out?"

"There were really only three people that wrote those nasty comments…. Cindy was one. BigK…."

"Yes, I've heard of her. She wrote Linda several times." Shelby shook her head in despair.

"We figured out that BigK is Kelly." Kate concurred with a nod of her head then turned to another woman sitting close by Shelby. "And…. you….." Kate enunciated clearly. "Lois."

"What do you mean?" Tonya shot back.

"That's right." It was Lindsey's turn. She took a few steps toward the red-faced chubby cheeked blonde.

"How would you know that?" Lois kept her edgy cool façade in check. It was taking all of her energy though.

Cale followed Lindsey down the center aisle as Chris headed off down the far side of the room to come up from behind.

"It's easy…. your addy." Lindsey supplied. "And before you say another word… you're on Kate's website listed as a beta reader."

"So what if I am?" Lois flippantly asked. "I love to read."

"Then there's the fact that you lied about reading my story." Lindsey's green eyes slanted.

"I never read your story. Ha." Lois smirked.

"Oh, but you did. I called my best friend and she dug around in my story notes and… voila… there was your name with that same addy." Lindsey informed the woman slowly losing control.

"So?"

"I'm curious why did you quit?" Lindsey asked.

"I don't have to report to you about my every move." Lois spat.

"But you lied about reading my story." Lindsey accused her.

"What are you hiding?" Cale asked with a threatening and intimidating tone. "Did you kill Linda James?"

"She had the motive." Chris said from behind the trio, laying her accusation on thick. "A spurned lover out for revenge. Makes a great story. An argument ensues in the heat of passion over being jilted."

In defense of the now targeted Lois, Tonya spoke up. "Yeah, she beta read your story for a bit. But the reason she quit was because your story was awful. She didn't want any part of it. Lois didn't care for the way your story was going." Holding on to her fuming lover, she continued. "You must be some sick bitch to have strangled your character with a chain but then again you did just that to Linda, didn't you? And now you're trying to blame everyone else."

"I thought you said you didn't read my story?" Lindsey asked.

"I didn't." Tonya shot back as she continued to soothe her partner.

Overwrought, Lois wept loudly. "I didn't kill her. I loved her."

"Here." Tonya took the scarf off from around her neck, wiping away her lover's tears.

"But the character in my story used a lantern… not a chain around the neck." Lindsey corrected the woman.

"Oh, leave us alone." Tonya didn't notice her slip.

Shelby woke from her hazy state when she watched Tonya care for her partner. "What… where did you…"

"What?" She growled, aggravated from all the unwanted attention.

"She means the scarf in your hand." Cale pointed at it even though it wasn't quite the match she was looking for. "I'm sure she's wondering about now just how you came to having Linda's scarf."

Shocked that she hadn't noticed before, Shelby asked. "Yes, where did you get that?"

Tonya yanked the plush colored scarf from Lois. Thinking quickly, the on the spot woman knew every eye was on her. "I got it from your room. When we came to get you on our way here. It… it was on the floor and I picked it up. I was going to put it on the bed but… Lois wanted to get down here. Right, Lois?"

Sniffling, she agreed. Her eyes were so filled with tears she searched for something to wipe them. "That's true." The weeping woman shifted her angry eyes at Lindsey. "I wanted justice done."

"But…" Shelby started then was suddenly shocked into silence. She took the scarf from Tonya, holding on to it for dear life.

"But what Shelby?" Lindsey prompted.

Tonya wrapped her arm around her lover. Lois leaned in for support, eyes still flooding with tears. "Do you have something I could use?" Sniffling back the tears, Lois searched her lover's pocket for some Kleenex.

"Is that shocked look on your face because Linda was wearing that very scarf when she left your room last night?" Cale asked over the chubby cheeked blonde's loud wailing, which would turn out to be a blessing in disguise. The security expert dropped down in front of the quiet distraught woman. Holding up a picture of Linda's dead body, she asked. "Where's the scarf that you told the police in your report that was around her neck when she left your room?"

"I… I …." Shelby pushed the picture away. Slowly, she turned to Tonya. Staring at the scarf for a long moment, Shelby looked up into Tonya's eyes. "Where did you… how did you?"

"It's not the same one, Shelby." Tonya insisted.

"No, it's not." The suddenly quiet and stunned Lois confirmed her lover's claim. "But this one is….. ."

As Lois held up the pink scarf splattered with tiny dried droplets of blood on it she had just retrieved from her lover's jacket pocket, Shelby gasped in total disbelief and screamed. "Oh, my God, you killed her?"

"Shut up." Tonya wanted to slap her, turning back to Lois. "She has all kinds of these scarves I'm sure you're mistaken. I've seen several of these like this one."

"No, that's not true." Lois fell into a distant memory. "I gave her this scarf. It was an anniversary present. See…. it has the darker pink dragon design on it." Lois backed out of her partner's arms, tears running down her face. "She had that same scarf on at the play last night. I remember because I thought it was awful of her to rub it in at me…. wearing the scarf I gave her…. knowing she was with another woman."

"Lois shut up." Tonya insisted as she tried to grab the fleeting woman.

Lois fled away further until Terry Lang prevented her going anywhere. "Hold up there."

Fuming emotions erupted like a powder keg as Lois spieled out her sad jealous story of a woman scorned. "I loved her. I gave her everything just so she could leave me…. after her success. I did everything for that woman so she could write full time." Glaring at Lindsey, Lois continued on her rampage. "And, yes, I beta read for you just long enough to see what kind of writer you were. If you were any competition for Linda… not that anyone could ever write as well as she could. You're not the only one I beta read for… I even gave Linda story ideas from you so-called wonderfully creative writers. I did it for her…"

Terry held on to the sinking woman.

"And I'd do it again… she was the only one I'll ever love." The flood of tears drowned out any further words.

Shelby smacked Tonya across the face. "You killed her. Why?"

"You must have followed me outside…." Lois accused Tonya. "I was… looking for Linda when I saw someone in the parking lot. Turned out to be Kelly."

Stunned, Tonya glared at Shelby but it was Lois' betrayal that put her over the edge. Standing up, Tonya pushed back her metal chair but Chris was behind her to cut off her escape. "Damn, shut up. Bitches! Both of you and Linda's the biggest cheating bitch of all. You both were so gaga over her. Why? Just because she could write? Some two-bit cheap sex book." She spoke directly to Shelby. "If you wouldn't have come between Lois and Linda, this wouldn't of happened. But then again, if you hadn't Lois would never have given me a second look. I don't know whether to thank you or kill you." Glaring eyes turned to Lois. "And you…. you. I loved you. I gave you everything. And you still pined for that bitch."

"So you followed Lois outside and not seeing her you ran into Linda?" Cale prompted the out of control woman, hoping to lead Tonya into a full confession.

"I followed her alright. I knew you were going to be with her. You've been two timing me… cheating behind my back." After accusing her lover, Tonya spared Shelby a quick look. "Didn't know that, did you? But I did. I don't miss a trick."

"That's a lie." Lois barely spoke above a whisper.

"You had it out with her and killed her." Lindsey prompted the loose-tongued woman.

"I killed her alright. She was smug as always. Wanted it both ways." Tonya let out an evil laugh. "No more. She'll never again get the love I deserved."

"I will never love you like I did Linda. She was the love of my life." Lois said.

Tonya lunged toward. "I was fucking faithful to you and you still love that dead bitch more."

Shelby hauled off and hammered Tonya up against her temple. The volatile outburst was short-lived when Chris brought Tonya under control then gave her over to the Detective Lewis. He quickly handcuffed Tonya. "You have the right to remain silent……"

Shelby moved to offer Lois some solace but the chubby cheeked woman spurred her, turning away. Lois walked silently out of the room into a lonely, desperate life, dreaming of the way things could have been.

"Shelby?" Terry Lang took her arm. "Why don't you come with us? Come on." She urged the still shocked woman who seemingly stayed frozen in time. Shelby had not only lost a lover but two friends in one swift blow.

The detective led Tonya away, turning her over to a couple of uniformed police officers. He turned back to Cale and Lindsey. "I'm sorry, Lindsey. All the evidence pointed to …"

"Me. I know. Thank you for giving us a chance to prove my innocence." Lindsey said.

He nodded toward Cale. "I owed her."

Shaking her head, Chris Strauda said. "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."

"Actually… it's 'Heaven hath no rage like love to hatred turned nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.' Wm. Congreve, the Mourning Bride, act 3, scene 8." Lindsey corrected the dark haired writer.

Chris nodded toward Lindsey but spoke to her best friend. "You got your hands full with that one."

Kate and Chris ushered the rest of the lingering group out of the room. "Cubby? See you back in the room?" Chris asked.

"Later." Cale closed a protective arm around Lindsey's shoulder. They clung to each other. No words needed spoken in that bonding of souls moment between two women who stood at the doorstep to a future together.

A lone clap echoed through the large room.

Both women turned to toward the exit door.

"Bravo… or should I say brava?" The man smirked.

Recognizing the blonde man, Lindsey spoke just above a whisper. "Eric?"

Chapter Thirteen

Cale paced the room like a caged tiger.

With her hands propped behind her head as she lounged on her bed, Chris asked. "Why don't you just go over there?"

"I can't. He's there."

"Wouldn't stop me. I'd fight for my woman."

A fierce glare crossed Cale's face and with gritted teeth she explained. "She wanted some time alone."

Chris flipped her wrist up and checked her watch. "She's had ten minutes."

Cale spun around, heading for the door. "Time's up."

Chris flew off the bed. "Atta girl."

Swinging their door open, Cale took three giant steps, landing squarely in front of Lindsey's door. She hesitated only briefly until Chris reached around, turned the knob and pushed her best friend inside. Shrugging, Chris said to herself. "Tomorrow she'll either thank me or kill me."

With faltering steps, Cale stumbled into the blonde's room and heard Eric Schulte make his proposal. "Marry me?" He held the two-caret diamond out in front of the stunned blonde.

Her green eyes were glued to the large engagement ring Eric was offering her until they like a magnet searched out and found a stunned Cale.

With concerted effort, Cale whispered the blonde's name. "Lindsey?"

"Go away. She's busy." Eric yelled.

When Cale remained steadfast, offering imploring blue eyes for some kind of sign from the blonde, Lindsey smiled tightly.

"Do you mind? Give us some privacy here or I'll call security." Eric threatened.

"No need for that." Chris said. "We're in the security business. She's the brain…." Nodding toward Cale, she then flexed her bicep. ".. and I'm the muscle."

Cale took one hesitant step forward and in an attempt to capture a heart she would love forever, she spoke sincerely. "Lindsey…. I love you."

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Then Eric turned to Lindsey. "What the fuck is she talking about?"

Gazing into the bluest eyes on God's green earth, Lindsey smiled at Cale but spoke to Eric. "She loves me."

"This is ridiculous. She's a woman for God's sake."

Chris hooked her arm around the pitiful man. "Well, I can say one thing for you…. you're not stupid."

Glaring at Lindsey, Eric asked in disbelief. "You'd pick her over me?"

"Then again I could be wrong." Chris amended her previous observation. "Why don't you come with me big boy?" She leaned in close to his ear. "The girls just wanna have some fun. And we're not invited to the party." Chris yanked the stunned man out into the hallway.

When he tried to push her away, Chris slammed him up against the wall. "Let me go."

"Oh, I will. But first you gotta be a good boy." Chris purred.

Seeing the intimidating yet sexy look in Chris' green eyes, he stammered. "What? What do you mean by that?"

She grabbed his jacket lapel with both fists and swung him around, pushing him inside her room. Eric broke away from her grip. He backed up with every predatory step Chris took toward him until she pushed him down on the bed. The wicked minded woman pounced on him. "You feel like a strong young man that could have something to offer a woman." Chris' right hand found its way to his crotch.

He flinched when she cupped him. "You? It thought you were… you know, one of them?"

Chris shrugged. "I might consider switching teams… with the right motivation."

Staring up at the woman above him, Eric perused the tempting idea. She's good looking all right. No doubt I could please her.

Chris growled seductively in his ear.

The overheated man nearly lost it until visions of his future danced in his head. A self-proclaimed great looking man who touted himself as being the next senator of his state was waging war over his next decision. Can I risk it?

"What do ya say big boy?" Chris thrust her hips up against him.

His blue eyes flew wide open after that move. He pushed her off of him easily since she offered no resistance. Scurrying off the bed, he straightened his tie and jacket. "I won't say I'm not tempted but….. a bright young man like myself has to think of his future."

Chris laughed hysterically as the scared young man fled. "Too much for ya, huh?" She crawled across the bed and grabbed the telephone. "Front desk? Listen, I'm gonna need the room for another night and by the way, the room straight across the hall from mine…. well, no calls. That's gonna be strictly do not disturb tonight." Imagining what would be going on between her friend and Lindsey next door, Chris sprawled out on the bed. She let out a tense filled sigh. "Vi! Where are you when I need you?"

************************

"You love me?" Lindsey barely asked above a whisper.

Cale propped her hands on her hips, as she nervously looked around the room every place except at the blonde. This wasn't the way she hoped to tell Lindsey. A whole evening of carefully planned romantic seduction was on her mind, an evening that they both would remember.

When Cale refused to meet her eyes, Lindsey started to get scared. Maybe she just said that to get Eric out of the picture? Oh, God, maybe I should give her a way out. And I so wanted it to be her that would rescue my heart. "That was a good one." The blonde let out a counterfeit laugh. "Telling me you loved me just to get rid of Eric. I should… say thanks."

From across the bed, Cale watched Lindsey busy herself as she packed a few clothes in her bag. The blonde carefully folded the dark blue slacks then placed them in the bag. The next item, a shirt, was carelessly tugged away into her bag after being folded haphazardly. The few final items were hastily jammed in the bag as Lindsey became more aggravated by Cale's silence. Only one item was left on the bed, just out of her reach. A pair to panties. Green eyes studied them briefly. Great! I either ask her to give them to me or walk around to the other side or….. Lindsey chose the third option. She reached across the bed in order to retrieve them.

Cale quickly yanked them from just under Lindsey's grasp as the blonde fell on the bed. The taller woman sank down on her knees next to the bed. She was face to face with the blonde. Holding the panties up in the air, Cale asked. "You want these?"

Lindsey propped her hand under her chin. "I did. But you can have them if you want. A little something for helping me."

"Oh, I'll take them." Cale moved closer. "That's not all I want though."

"Tell me, Cale." Lindsey drew in a much-needed breath as the breathtakingly beautiful woman moved even closer. "What else do you want?"

"You." My most precious thing.

Lindsey's eyelids fluttered closed as she turned over, now lying on her back.

Like a panther, Cale crawled on the bed, twisting around until she was propped on her side next to the blonde.

"What are you doing?"

A sexy grin grew on Cale's face. "You said you wanted me in your bed."

Lindsey couldn't help but smile. "I just said that to get your mind off of me saying I wanted to kill you."

"Baby…." Cale ducked down, brushing her lips lightly against the blonde's cheek. "… before the night's through I'm sure I'll think I died and gone to heaven."

"You so sure of yourself?" God, I hope she doesn't stop.

Cale didn't. She continued to nuzzle the blonde. "Mmmmmm…yes." Cale nipped at the blonde's ear. "I might have to call my detective friend first though."

This bit of news concerned Lindsey. "Why?"

"Because…." Cale reached over the blonde's body, taking her left hand and placing it on her own chest. "You stole my heart."

When blue eyes pierced straight into Lindsey's soul, the blonde shuttered from the warm tingling feeling spiraling upward nearing a earth shattering precipice.

Spreading tiny kisses along the blonde cheek and neck, Cale teasingly asked. "You really didn't want to kill me, did you?"

Dizzy from the sweetheart kisses, fueling the raging fire inside, the blonde barely answered. "There was a time or two."

Cale popped her head up. "Really? When?"

Lindsey slid her hand along Cale's side further up till it came to the edge of the older woman's right breast. "When you were on top of the piano showing your …. assets to just every body."

"Only a lucky few get to sample my …. assets." Cale snuck a quick kiss on the lips. God, she tastes good.

"A few?" It wasn't really a question.

Cale knew those green eyes meant business. "Okay. You're the only one that gets to see my… assets."

Lindsey's hand claimed the dark haired woman's breast. "I'll do more than that. I want all of you. I won't accept anything less."

Cale gave Lindsey a surrendering smile. "I'm all yours."

Lindsey pushed up making Cale fall to her back. As the blonde straddled her prey, Cale's hands found their way to Lindsey's shapely hips. "Why does she call you Cubby?"

"That's nothing." Cale dismissed the question.

Leaning down, Lindsey kissed the woman below her. Engaging in a sweet and innocent dance with their tongues, the couple shared and explored what the other was willing to offer. The blonde was the first to break free in search of a needed breath. She then sprayed soft kisses along Cale's jaw line until she stopped near the older woman's ear. "I want to know all your secrets."

"First, you tell me something. By any chance does LG stand for… lover girl?" Cale asked before she let out a small laugh.

Inhaling the scent of the woman below her, Lindsey nearly lost consciousness. The blonde moaned in delight.

"Sweetheart?"

Regaining some sense and sensibility after that heady aroma of sexuality invaded her senses Lindsey finally found her voice. "Gray…. Lindsey Gray. It's my mom's maiden name."

Cale reached up capturing the enticing lips above her. Before claiming them, she said. "Lindsey Gray Wellington…your world will never be gray if I have any say about it."

"With you in it… they'll always be blue skies." Soft lips touched velvety ones. The couple spent an inordinate amount of time basking in the tender touches of loved shared with each stroke, lick and taste of the woman in her arms.

When the blonde suddenly lifted herself off of Cale, the older woman whimpered, grabbing for Lindsey. "Come back here you."

"Hold on.. please." Lindsey shifted from one hip to the next, sticking out a pouting lip in order to secure a short furlough from Cale's grasp. "Rachel gave this to me." Lindsey hit the play button on the hotel's CD player. Turning back around as the music began to fill the room, the blonde crawled up the tall woman's shapely body.

As the song 'Unbreakable' filled the room, Cale ran her hands up along the blonde's outer sides, coming to rest on the Lindsey's backside.

Even knowing that her signing voice paled next to Cale's, the blonde summoned her courage and softly sang the lyrics. "Took my hand…."

Cale reached for the blonde's hand and they intertwined their fingers together.

"….touched my heart… hold me close... " Cale pulled the blonde tighter as Lindsey continued to sing. "..you're always be there… by my side…."

"Thank you." The music continued to play as Cale temporarily arrested the blonde's lips with her own. Each falling deeper in love with every soft gentle kiss exchanged. When they both came up for a fresh breath of air, Cale smiled.

Seeing the beautiful smile, Lindsey joined again with the lyrics. "…. and whenever you smile I can hardly believe that you're mine…." The blonde stole another quick kiss before continuing. "..this love is unbreakable, it's unmistakable, the feeling my heart just can deny….this love is untouchable…."

"God, I love you so much." Cale declared. Long moments passed as the taller woman willed all the love she had for the blonde through her desperate kisses.

"…cause together we are strong… in my arms that's where you belong…."

"Always." Cale vowed as the tears welled in her eyes. "Always."

The power and passion in Lindsey's next kiss blew Cale away. Now, conquered, Cale barely whispered. "Are you trying to kill me?"

"Nah… strangling you crossed my mind a time or two. You do have a lovely neck." Lindsey teased the woman below her as she sucked on said neck.

"Oh, sweetheart, there are better ways to die." Cale waggled her eyebrows seductively. "In your arms for one thing."

"I don't like that look in your eyes." The blonde swallowed hard from the piercing blue infiltrating her entire being.

"You put it there." Cale smiled, oozing a very heady sexual scent, she threw out the challenge. "So you're the one that's gonna have to do something about it."

"I'm sure I have what it takes to satisfy that fire in your eyes."

"Gimme, gimme." Breaching barriers of clothes, Cale's hands roamed freely across the blonde's body. "Please." Cale used pouting lips of her own. I'm not above begging.

Shrugging first, Lindsey recounted Cale's earlier words to her. "Well, only a lucky few get to sample my… assets."

The tall woman's hand moved precariously onward and upward. Her fingertips slid up along Lindsey's side coming to rest just under the curve of the blonde's ample breast. A slow, sexy smile brushed across the dark haired woman's face. "Just call me lucky."

As Cale's hand cupped Lindsey's breast, the blonde whispered. "I love you."

The taller woman reversed their positions. Cale lifted up to take in the beauty of her soon to be lover. Beneath the surface, lust raged but there was more welling up inside the dark haired woman. Love. Total and complete love. Never before in her dreams had Cale felt so much emotion. The love she held for Lindsey vibrated through her every cell. The overwhelming feelings she had flowed from her heart through the ripples in time and she knew this kind of love was forever.

"Kiss me." Cale complied eagerly with the blonde's request. Their bodies moved in tandem against each other. Their natural rhythm entered into unspoken negotiations as they offered up their very souls to each other.

What started as a slow lingering kiss swelled into a very passionate and all consuming embrace as their tongues fought for dominance. Yet, in an unspoken agreed compromise both women succumb to the other. There would be no master in this relationship. They were equals in every way.

The fire burning just beneath the surface prompted Cale to demand. "Baby, I.. need… " Her hands clawed at Lindsey's clothes. "I have to feel you." The woman was in a hot frenzy, ready to explode.

Lindsey quickly complied, shedding her top as Cale's nimble fingers released the snaps of the blonde's jeans. Cale sat back on her knees, desperately yanking them from Lindsey's body.

"You, too. I need to feel you." Even as this would be the first time Lindsey was with a woman, she felt no hesitation or doubt about what she wanted. The woman now hastily undressing before her was all she would ever want or need. "God, you are beautiful."

"Uh…uh… " Cale slid her hands up Lindsey's legs, stopping at the thong green panties. "We don't need these, do we?"

"Get them off." Lindsey demanded.

In the blink of an eye, they were gone, exposing the gorgeous sight Cale knew would soon be hers. "You're beautiful." Laying her naked body fully up against the blonde, Cale's eyelids drowned in the delicious feeling of skin on skin. A deep satisfied moan emitted from her core. God, this is what I need a beautiful woman beneath me.

Lindsey's hands held Cale in place as the dark haired woman kissed her deeply. Soon, Cale broke free from the enticing lips of her lover only to travel down the blonde's neck.

The blonde moaned. "Cale…. please."

"What? Tell me what you want." Cale asked as soft kisses followed a path to Lindsey's breast. Her tongue snaked out and claimed the hardened nipple, sucking greedily.

"That… I want that." Lindsey begged. She wanted more but was so dizzy with overwhelming emotions, creating a pool of wetness between her legs that Lindsey was unable to verbalize all she craved.

However, her experienced lover would not leave Lindsey in a lurch. She read the demands of the woman's body beneath her. Cale tugged on Lindsey's excited nipple with her teeth.

"God! Cale… oh, God…." Lindsey drew in a startled abbreviated breath.

Heated kisses and roaming hands brought on a fevered pitch in each woman's body until they were edging near a frantic and uncontrollable explosion. Cale spread her legs. "Lift your leg, baby." When Lindsey did, Cale squeezed her lover's thigh tightly. The older woman promptly placed her thigh hard against the blonde's apex.

What started at first as slow, lingering thrusts against each other quickly spiraled into an amazing enflamed intimate dance. Grinding their hips against each other, they shared a passionate ride to the heavens, exploding among the stars when the raging fire inside burst into climatic flames as they came together in a reunion of souls.

Cale flipped over on her back, pulling Lindsey with her. Her in dark lover's arms, Lindsey would never be away from home again. The coolness of the air against their overheated bodies sprinkled tiny drops of dew on them as each woman sucked in calming, desperate breaths from the glorious high they shared. They were one. Together at last. Two daredevil hearts that decided to take a chance on love and won.

Chapter Fourteen

After a long, lazy loving morning, Lindsey and Cale surrendered their precious time alone to the insistent knock at the door. "Don't move. I'm sure I know who it is."

Cale slid from under the warm covers and loving arms of her woman then headed for the door until a voice stopped her. "Cale?"

The dark haired woman turned around. "What?"

"I thought I was the only one that would get to see your assets. As lovely as they are." Lindsey's lust filled eyes roamed over her lover's naked body.

"Oh, yeah, right." Cale searched for something suitable. Lindsey pointed at a shiny forest green robe. Cale quickly covered herself. It barely wrapped around her and stopped just past her backside. "This okay?"

"Just don't bend over." Lindsey laughed.

"Funny." Cale grabbed the doorknob. Meeting the uninvited person she expected to see, she barked. "What'd you want?"

Chris' eyes traversed the long lean figure in front of her. "Same thing you got last night. A little piece of paradise." Chris pushed past Cale. "Hey, Lindsey." She dropped down on the bed next to the blonde and took a drink of her soda. "How bout breakfast before we leave?"

"Morning, Chris." Lindsey pulled the covers up tightly over her naked body.

"Oh, don't mind me. I won't look." Chris winked.

"Don't you believe her." Cale yanked her friend up from the bed, taking the now vacant seat. Lindsey crawled up behind Cale and kissed her neck. Soon Cale's lips found willing lips and locked in a passionate kiss.

Chris pulled up a hard chair and said. "This is better than breakfast. Go on. Don't mind me." Suddenly, a pillow smacked her across her face. "Hey. While you two were in here doing I don't know what….. well, I do know but I'm too much of a gentleman….."

"Chris!"

Chris pouted as she jerked her thumb over her shoulder. "I was over there all alone. Didn't even have Vi to keep me company."

Lindsey snuggled up against Cale's back. "Who's Vi?"

Chris pretended not to hear the question while Cale cleared her throat before she replied when anyone asked that particular question. "Ms. Brader."

Chris practically spit out the sip of soda she took.

Lindsey allowed a brief moment to pass before she said. "That's an interesting name. "Vi Brader."

To both women's credit, they held out as long as they could before erupting in a full belly laugh. It was then lighting struck and it dawned on the blonde that she had been set up. Clamoring from her kneeling position on the bed, Lindsey bolted up. Standing, she pounded both women with every available pillow. "Out… both of you."

Ducking from the flying pillows and a few other objects Lindsey threw, Cale tried to reason with her lover. "Honey?" She ducked again. "Baby? I was just kidding." A fuzzy slipper popped her in the head. "Sweetheart? Now you don't have to get violent."

Chris was no help, shielding herself behind Cale.

"I could kill both of you." Fumed Lindsey.

Chris peeked around her bodyguard. "Can you at least wait till the next Bardcon?"

Lindsey jammed an arm straight toward the door. "Out!"

The two desperate women scurried out quickly.

************************

After Lindsey finalized packing, she called her best friend. "Hey, Rach. You won't believe everything that's happened to me this weekend."

"Oh, I don't know. I have a fair idea. I can hear in your voice the smile on your face. Anyone I know?" Rachel was happy for her friend.

"Not yet." Lindsey unconsciously smoothed the bedspread. "You'll get to meet her soon. She's driving me home."

"Home?"

"Yes, home. I'm moving back home."

"Great. You can stay with me until you get a place of your own."

"Uhhh…. I …. we …. well, I already have a place to go." Lindsey said. "Of course, I'll have to quit my job and clear out the apartment."

"It's really over between you and Eric?"

Thoughts of Cale in her bed the night before swirled in her mind. "It is soooooo over."

"Good to hear." Rachel said before she cautioned her friend. "Though I just don't want you to move too fast."

Lindsey smiled. "Too late. It's the real thing and I'm already in hyper speed. And loving every minute of it. By the way, how's Randy?" Thinking that her friend and boyfriend might have made up.

"Seems I don't have the healing touch. He ran home to momma. Apparently, she's a better nurse than I am."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. You already knew over the last six months Randy and I had been drifting apart. You were the one that said it was just a matter of time." Rachel acknowledged.

"No, I said it was a matter of trust." Lindsey corrected her friend. "You caught him in several lies. It's his loss."

Shaking off the last remnants of her failed relationship, Rachel said. "Well, bring her by when you get in town. I can't wait to meet her. Make sure she's good enough for you."

"She is." Lindsey assured her friend. "And…. well, she has this kinda goofy friend. And I want you to be nice. Okay?"

"What kind of goofy friend?" Rachel's brown eyes grew concerned.

************************

The trio walked out onto the patio with bags in hand. It was a warm sunny April day in Chicago. The fountain had been cleaned and filled with crystal clear water. The fantasy like atmosphere beckoned the new arrivals to the hotel as if saying 'welcome to paradise'. Had it not been for the knowledge that someone was killed at this very hotel, Lindsey would have said the place was idyllic…. a safe harbor for all of its guests. She knew better.

Terry Lang called to the trio. "Hey, Chris. Get over here." Lori Colter was sitting at the patio table beside her. "You leaving so soon?"

Chris slapped hands with Terry. "Yeah, we're heading out. Thought you'd be gone by now."

"We waited around for Shelby. She had a few details to take care of before….. Well, she's gonna stay with us for a while…. until the funeral." Terry said.

"How's Lois?" Lindsey asked.

Lori Colter fielded that question. "No one knows. She checked out yesterday and we haven't heard a word. Thought you might know."

"Fraid not." Chris said.

"Kip and Daisy left yesterday along with Beth Ann. We took her to the airport." Terry said.

"Anybody see Karen? I wanted to say goodbye." Lindsey said.

Lori smiled. "Last I seen of her…. she left with Tippi Sevenson as they were walking out….. hand in hand."

This brought a delighted smile to Lindsey's face. "I'm glad. What about Judith?"

"Or Kelly… anyone see her?" Chris asked.

"Nope." Terry shook her head.

Cale grunted. "She probably hooked up with Cindy. That'd be a pair." Cale noticed CrazyBard sitting at a nearby patio table. "She still taking notes?"

"As a matter of fact, I am." Savannah Miller pushed her glasses up. "And I have a few things to clear up if you don't mind…. for my story."

The group shrugged.

"First, how did you know Tonya killed Lindsey?" CrazyBard asked with pen ready.

"We didn't." Lindsey declared. "We went into the workshop on a wing and a prayer. It was Cale though that connected the incriminating pieces of the puzzle."

Cale was slightly embarrassed from the accolades her lover laid at her feet. "We all played our part." The taller woman circled a protective arm around Lindsey. "At first, we thought it was Kelly."

"For a second there, I was wondering if you really thought I did it." Terry confessed her concern.

"No… we were fishing in the dark trying to construct a plausible scenario where several people started to feel the pressure." Lindsey admitted.

"We looked for any signs … hoping the murderer would tip their hand." Cale added.

"Like Kelly. She seemed like a good candidate. Kate and I figured out that she was writing those whacked out reviews about Linda's stories not to mention others. And then we found out that she had written Linda, too. She proved to be a little crazy…." Chris spared CrazyBard a glance. "Sorry. Anyway, we figured she really was after Cale and in the dark mistook Linda for my friend."

"Tonya admitted how she knew about your alternative story line… the chain around the neck thing. She must have read Lois' copy of it. But… what about the light panel? How would she know about that?" CrazyBard wanted every piece in its proper place.

"Marty… Detective Lewis found out that Lois worked here about six months back and….." Cale started.

"Turns out she worked in the maintenance department." Lindsey inserted. "Our guess is that Lois mentioned it to Tonya."

"And they had spent a weekend here….. some kind of anniversary and Lois wanted the fountain lights in her favorite color." Cale informed them.

"Don't tell me… pink." Lori Colter guessed correctly.

"Yeah, the same color of the special scarf she gave Linda." Chris confirmed. "Apparently, Tonya had the scarf with her after she hit Linda in the head… maybe she tried to use it wipe away her prints. We don't know…. but we do think she was going to put it back in Linda's room… when they went pick up Shelby and didn't get the chance."

"And the final nail in her coffin was when the police discovered her bloody clothes in her packed bag." Cale zip-locked the incriminating evidence.

"Then that's it. She had no alibi, a handy weapon, motive and when opportunity knocked…. she stepped in. Thank you." CrazyBard slapped her notebook closed and grabbed her backpack before she headed off toward the parking lot.

Shaking her head, Chris commented. "There goes one crazy bard."

"Yep, I'd say one with a sure fire number one story in that notebook of hers." Lindsey predicted.

"Can you believe it, Cale?" Chris nudged her friend. "She stole the story you were telling me on the way up here. Except for a few details here and there…. well, maybe more just than a few. Actually, your stories haven't been quite up to par lately." Nodding at the retreating bard. "Do you think she'll let me co-write it?"

Terry laughed. "You'll do anything to be number one."

"Nah, just wanna keep your butt off the charts." Chris retorted.

"Lindsey, it was very nice to meet you." Terry shook her hand. "Tell me, are you going to be at the next Bard convention?"

Looking at Cale who shrugged. "I plan on it."

"Great. I won't miss it. And, next time, I'll bring my wife." Terry grinned. "She loves a good murder…..story, that is."

************************

When the trio arrived at Cale's BMW X5, they threw the bags in the back then the dark haired woman opened the passenger door for Lindsey.

"Thank you." The blonde crawled up in to the SUV and kissed Cale as a reward.

Stunned, Chris jacked her hands on her hips. "What's with this?"

Cale nodded toward the backseat as she started around to the driver's side.

Chris crawled in the back. "What? You get a girlfriend and I'm relegated to the back seat?" The dark haired writer fell back against the seat and folded her arms, pouting. "It doesn't figure. It should be me… leaving with a girl on my arm instead you get lucky."

Cale and Lindsey shared a secret smile. "What about Debbie?"

Chris heaved a heavy sigh. "Well, Lindsey, you know, she was just after my body all along."

Cale had to rib her friend. "Guess you don't like it when the tables are turned, huh?"

"What do you mean by that crack?"

Cale shifted the SUV in drive. "You're the original love 'em and leave 'em gal… you tell me."

"And you call yourself my friend?" Chris pretended to be miffed.

Lindsey turned around in her seat as Cale pulled out of the parking lot for their long eight-hour drive back home. "Chris?

"Huh?"

"You've never had a long term relationship?" Lindsey asked.

"Of course, I have." Chris insisted, spying her friend's smirking reflection in the rearview mirror. "And I don't mean Vi either." The pouting woman crossed her arms.

"Cale, stop it." Lindsey ordered.

"What? I didn't say anything." Cale played innocent.

"She just needs to find the right woman." Lindsey insisted.

"Yeah, the right woman." Chris stared intently at Lindsey.

"Oh, no. She's mine." Cale declared.

"I was just going to ask if she had a friend." Chris said innocently. "I'm a sucker for blondes though."

"Well….." Lindsey started. "As a matter of fact, my best friend is a blonde."

Very interested, Chris sat erect. "What color eyes?"

"Brown."

"Oh, my God. Where does she live?"

"Same city you do." Lindsey replied.

Chris beat her hand against her chest and asked. "Be still my heart." She thought for a brief moment. "Cale? Stop at the next gas station?"

Glancing at the gas gauge that indicated a full tank, Cale asked. "What is it with you and gas stations?"

"I need to bring something when we meet her."

"No, you don't." Lindsey insisted.

Chris shook her head vehemently as she scooted up in her seat between the two women in front. "I can't come empty handed."

"Sure you can." Cale laughed. "You do it all the time."

Chris whacked her friend upside the head then asked Lindsey. "Are you sure you want to get hooked up with her? She's nothing but trouble."

Lindsey smiled sweetly at Cale, reaching over to intertwine their hands together. "I'm sure."

Feeling dejected, Chris flopped back in her seat. She looked everywhere in order to avoid the two smitten lovers in the front seat when her green eyes brightened. Reaching down, she retrieved the objects she had spied. "Hey! Look what I found?" Chris held up the red piece of licorice and half eaten candy bar.

Cale spared a quick look, as did Lindsey. What they saw was Chris happily chomping on the sweet items. Cale's blue eyes returned to Lindsey and she asked. "Guess you didn't know when you hitched up with me that you inherited a kid?"

Lindsey leaned over offering her lover a kiss. "I love kids." She settled back in her own seat before she said. "Matter of fact, I want lots of them."

Still holding on to Lindsey's hand, Cale blue eyes widen then she gulped. Uh oh.

Smacking away on the licorice stick, Chris scooted forward and said before she let out a laugh. "You look pale, Cale."

"Oh, baby." Lindsey ran her hand along her lover's cheek.

Cale pulled her SUV to the side of the road, wanting to prove to the blonde that she wouldn't be afraid of anything Lindsey wanted. "Come here." She leaned her head down and kissed Lindsey deeply, consuming the woman with her lips and exploring tongue.

"Come on you two. Give it up." Chris pulled herself forward. Now only inches away from the embraced women, she asked. "You want me to drive?"

Nothing could distract the lovers. Cale finally gave her heart to the only woman who shared her soul. As far Lindsey right before she left, Kate Bradshaw handed her a publishing contract for her story. Her dream had come true but it was her secret desire that had been fulfilled in the arms of the woman presently consuming her very soul.

"I love you, Cubby." Lindsey professed.

Cale pursed her lips and offered a perplexed glare at Chris.

Chris shot up her hand and said. "Don't look at me."

With lips just a whisper away, Cale asked Lindsey. "Are you sure you want to move in with me?"

"Where you go, I go." Lindsey assured Cale.

Smiling, Cale gave her woman a quick kiss then shifted the SUV in gear before easing back onto the road. When she least expected it, Lindsey revealed a secret Chris had shared with her when she said. "Ursula."

"Goddamn it, Chris. What are you doing telling secrets? Can't you keep your mouth shut?" Cale was only playing at being upset over her friend revealing that long held furtive name. Besides family, Chris was the only one Cale had finally relented and shared her middle name.

"Hey, it's her fault. She was relentless. Tell me, could you deny her anything?" Chris defended her loose lips.

Shifting blue eyes into loving green ones, Cale simply admitted the truth before her. "No. No, I couldn't."

Lindsey ran her hand along her lover's thigh. "I'm gonna hold you to that."

"Baby, anything. Just name it."

The End

Thank you for taking the time to read this story. Feedback is greatly appreciated at xxgsb@hotmail.com

Pop Quiz? How many actual classic/Uber story titles are woven into this story?

Note: I have in mind a sequel for these characters…. and I think when Chris meets up with Rachel…. it could get interesting.

This is copyrighted material, © 2003 Binkley…all rights reserved. It may be reproduced, duplicated or printed for personal use only. For all other uses, please contact xxgsb@hotmail.com


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