Thank you to everyone who read & reviewed the last chapter. The reviews always make my day!
I still own nothing!
As soon as they heard Lindsay start screaming the whole family had ran into the lounge. Eve took Lindsay straight into her arms sitting behind her and holding her tight, stroking Lindsay's hair, calming her with words of reassurance and love. Dave knelt beside Lindsay taking on of her left hand in his fingers automatically finding her calluses again. But her brothers stopped short at the door. Peter, Tony and Jake stood, mouths open in shock at the sight before them. They were Lindsay's older brothers. They were supposed to protect her. They had seen her happy, sad, dressed up and dressed down, running and playing with them full of bravado and strength. Even when she broke her arm in two places after falling out of a tree Lindsay refused help and assistance from anyone, unless she asked for it. She had no problems threatening to hit anyone who dared offer help over the head with her cast. Tony should know, he still had a bump on his head after he was on the wrong end of his sister's wrath and arm cast. Yet here she was before them, broken. Broken into little pieces and as they looked at her, each of their hearts broke for her too. Tears fell and guilt filled them.
Peter was the first to move. He strode across the room with determination to his baby sister. He needed to tell her he loved her. He needed to say sorry. He needed to touch her, to know she really was there and they hadn't lost each other. It seemed so surreal and unbelievable, but his baby sister needed him. Lindsay needed them and if there was one thing the Monroe's excelled at was being a tight, united family who loved each other unconditionally. They had moments of love and hate, of aggravation and pride and he knew they would get through it. They had to do it together because there was no other way.
Peter leant between his parents. He rested his palm on her cheek and whispered in her ear, just loud enough for only Lindsay to hear, as if they were in a conspiracy together, which they had been on many occasions in their past. "Baby sister. I love you. You're not alone and I'm sorry we couldn't protect you. But we will now. Honest. It will be hard but you're not alone. Ever. I love you."
For the first time since the family entered the room, Lindsay moved to look at Peter. She reached out with her right hand, the one her dad wasn't holding and touched Peter's cheek. She didn't speak. She couldn't speak. But she told him 'thank you' in the only way she could. And Peter allowed yet more tears he had been trying to hold in to slip down his cheek.
Once Peter moved, both Jake and Tony walked forward, taking their cues from Peter. Peter stepped back allowing Tony to move forward. He copied his brother, placing his hand on Lindsay's cheek and whispering to her. "You're not alone Shorty. You need to scream, scream. You need to shout, shout. You need a hug, let me know so I can have a shot first for a change, you know, instead of Jake ." He moved back to watch her expression. Lindsay didn't smile but he saw her eyes light up, for the briefest of moments. That was what she needed. She needed to know she was still their sister. To know that there was nothing wrong with her. Tony was always the one who could make her laugh when she was down, who could make her feel better when she was ill. Even Jake wasn't always successful at that. But Tony wasn't going to let her down now, when she needed him most. "I love you trouble." And he placed a kiss timidly on her cheek, before moving so Jake could see and speak to her.
Jake and Lindsay were so similar in personality. Their parents had always said they could be twins, if there wasn't a three years age gap between them. They knew what to say to people and when to say it. They were so intuitive knowing how each other were feeling without saying a word. They were often found working together side by side, usually accompanied by their co-conspirator 'Trouble'. Jake always joked that she was a leech, glued to his side, but if he was honest, he loved it. So many of his friends hated their siblings and fought with them. He couldn't imagine how hard that must have been. But their family was different and in Jake's eyes better. Why wouldn't you want to know and love your sister? The entertainment value alone was priceless and endless, but so was the knowledge that there was always a scapegoat (well occasionally a scapegoat because somehow his mum always knew when it wasn't Lindsay) and someone who always had your back. Lindsay had gotten herself into more than a few scrapes 'saving her brothers good names' as she liked to put it. Jake always thought it was just Lindsay trying to be 'one of the boys' and an embarrassing pain in the butt. But if he was honest, he loved her for it. Even though most of the time he denied it - especially in public or at least in front of his friends. As he stood before her he didn't know what to do. He didn't know what to say. It took all his strength not to run out of the room. What do you say or do to make your baby sister feel better after something like this? He couldn't go beat up the guy who did this. He couldn't take away her pain and words escaped him.
Jake moved closer to Lindsay, almost frozen still, aware that everyone was waiting for him to talk to her. Then quite unexpectedly he felt a small hand reach out for his and lightly pulled at his hand to get his attention. Jake bent down to his sister who spoke to him in a raspy voice, affected by all the crying and screaming she had done in the last few hours. It was so quiet it was almost inaudible.
With those words Jake broke down and took hold of Lindsay, telling her how much he loved her and how devastated he was at what happened. Peter and Tony who had been stood just behind their parents grabbed hold of their mum and dad and let out their tears. Their tears of grief, devastation, anger, frustration and loss. This is how James and Sarah found the family, holding onto each other so tightly, crying and comforting each other, when they returned into the house.
James reluctantly let the family know of his presence to the family by clearing his throat. "I'm sorry" he started, feeling guilty at interrupting the family unit. "I've um, I've just... well, I'm..."
"Spit it out man!" barked Dave, a small smile crossing his face as he watched his old friend try to work out what to say next. He had never seen James so stuck for words, and it seemed the right thing to do to diffuse some of the emotion in the air. Dave knew the emotion and stress in the family would be with them for a long time, but mocking his friend? Opportunities like this didn't come round that often and as they say, 'you shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth', no matter what situation you were in.
"Seriously Dave, I'm trying to be respectful and you mock me?"
"Look who's talking."
"Shut up and let me talk."
"I didn't stop you, you started spluttering like a girl."
"I did not."
"Now you're both arguing like girls," laughed Eve through her tears, enjoying the display of manly stupidity before her. Even Lindsay managed a small smile as she watched her dad's face turn redder and redder, until it became the colour of a strawberry en route to the shade 'beetroot'.
"Hey, you're blushing like a girl dad!" added Tony, not wanting to miss out on this 'pick on two grown men' moment.
"So is James!" said Peter, pointing at James, as if to make his point.
"Shut up!" grumbled James good naturedly, before tensing up and standing straighter, knowing that he needed to steer the conversation to a more serious topic.
"So what's happening?"
"How is the investigation going?"
"Are you going back to work?"
Eve, Dave and Tony all spoke at the same time, wanting to ask the questions that everyone wanted and needed to know the answers to. Then quite unexpectedly came a small, quiet voice asking,perhaps, the most important and as yet unspoken question of all.
"Did they catch him?" Everyone looked at Lindsay in surprise. They hadn't expected her to speak nor to ask 'that' question. But it didn't mean they all didn't want to know the answer. Eve held onto Lindsay tighter, afraid of Lindsay's response if the answer was no. She could already feel her daughter shaking beneath her and the fear permeating from every cell in her body. Automatically Eve started whispering words of comfort and love as they waited for James to speak again.
"Well, I've just rung the office. There is a lot of evidence. It was a public place and the scene was," he paused, not quite sure how to continue this conversation. He took a deep breath, regained his equilibrium and continued, "the scene was, well, it covered a large area. It may take days to work our way through all the evidence and information before we have more to tell you."
The Monroe's all know where this was leading to - a negative response to Lindsay's question about the suspect still being at large. Lindsay's shaking was now visible to everyone, as the fear and panic within her increased. James watched her and the guilt, the pain building up in him.
"I'm sorry Lindsay. We... we haven't caught him yet." And with that a wail was heard leaving Lindsay's mouth as she took in what James had just told her. The tears started flowing more freely again and both Eve and Dave had to hold on tightly to Lindsay to stop her getting up. They feared her running, and running, and running and losing her. Lindsay often ran and found hiding spots on the ranch when she was mad or needed to clear her head. The problem was this time they honestly weren't sure if she would be able to come back if she left the house. Holding tightly onto her was essential for Lindsay and her parents, so they all knew they were in this together. Suddenly a thought hit Tony like a bomb going off in his head.
"Oh God. If he's still free, will he... will he come looking for Linds? How can we keep her safe?" Tony's voice wavered as he voiced his concerns.
Fortunately Lindsay was in her own world again, trapped by a now paralysing pain. She didn't appear to have heard her brother's question, which James breathed a sigh of relief over.
"We're sending a patrol car over to stay outside the house. Don't argue. Mark is organising it now and this is non-negotiable."
Dave nodded his head in agreement before turning his attention back to his daughter, whose tears and sobs hadn't stopped or slowed down yet.
"Sarah will stay with you, for as long as you need. I've got to get back to the lab but I'll return later to let you know how things are going." James looked back at Lindsay and dread gripped his heart as he said the next words. "At some point, ideally sooner rather than later, we need to talk to Lindsay. We need her to tell us what she knows, what she saw, to help us catch 'him'." The disgust as James said 'him' was picked up by everyone, except Lindsay still lost alone in her world.
Lindsay had guessed earlier that the police would need to speak to her, but at this moment in time it was too painful. She couldn't speak and say what she saw, what she knew, or describe the killer's eyes, the blood, her friends. She couldn't say it because if she did it would be real. It would have really happened. If she kept it in then maybe, just maybe if she slept and woke she would find it was a dream or more accurately a nightmare? She knew in her heart it wasn't, but there was a tiny bit of wishful thinking that it wasn't real.
The silence was interrupted as a car could be heard pulling up outside the house. James stepped outside to see who it was and, if necessary, check their id's. There was no way he would risk his friends further by not having the best of the best guarding their backs. As he made his was down the steps outside the front door, the two cops got out of the car. James offered them a small smile and walked up to them, shaking their hands.
"I take it Mark filled you in?" Mark had filled the two cops in on everything. What had happened, the aftermath, who was in the house, and, of course, their duties.
Both the policemen nodded the affirmative. Dawid Ostrowski and Brent Hepworth were both dedicated to their jobs. They were long-serving cops, widely respected in the force and most importantly, they were trusted and respected by Mark, James and by the investigation unit. James breathed a sigh of relief knowing the Monroe's would be in good hands for the next twelve hours. James made a mental note to speak to Mark to find another unit to come out tonight and maybe for the next few days.
"We need you to protect Lindsay, the girl who was there in the diner, just in case he, well, you know..." James hesitated not wanting to finish his sentence with 'finish her off', 'kill her' or anything else like that. It was just wrong to think or say anything like that about his friend's daughter. Just plain wrong. Fortunately David and Brent had understood his meaning fully and indicated this to James by nodding in the affirmative.
"Thanks for doing this. We don't know who did the shooting yet. But he was armed and is dangerous. If you see someone you think may be him, take no chances. Death is too good for this bastard, but if you need to, well, take him out."
"We're ready and armed. Don't worry sir; we're going no-where."
"If you need us tomorrow, the day after or for night duty,we're here." Both David and Brent were family men and although this duty meant being away from their own family for longer than they both liked, if it meant keeping a young girl safe, a girl who was only a year younger than one of Brent's children, then it had to be done. They would do their duty for the family, for their job, for their families and all those other families in and around Bozeman who deserved to be kept safe.
"Thank you. I'm going to let them know I'm off. If you need me, I'll be at the lab." James turned to make his way back into the house and let the family know he was leaving. "Oh, you'd better come with me so I can introduce you to the family. I would prefer they knew who was sitting outside their home. Plus stop calling me sir. Makes me feel ancient." James paused a small smile gracing his face. Revenge was sweet. "Do feel free to call Dave, Mr Monroe 'sir' though. He might say to call him by his Christian name but he prefers the respectfulness of 'sir." The two cops nodded before the three of them went into the ranch house and James indicated for them to stay back whilst he looked into the lounge. Lindsay was finally calmer again and appeared to be falling asleep. James couldn't help but notice that even in sleep she looked distressed and troubled. Not that he blamed her. 'Who wouldn't be after something so vicious as this?' James thought ruefully. He got the attention of the family then indicated for the two cops, who had waited patiently and quietly by the front door, to come to meet the Monroe's.
"Brent, David, these are the Monroe's."
Dave stood up and made his way over to the two cops to shake their hands and introduce himself. "Hi, I'm Dave. Thank you so much for doing this. You have no idea how much we appreciate it and maybe, just maybe we will all be able to get a little sleep soon."
"Dave, you don't need to ramble honey," interrupted Eve gently. She could see her husband was nervous, worried, exhausted. They all were. Maybe Dave was right. Maybe they would all be able to get some sleep soon. Lord knows they all were in desperate need of some rest, although how good a rest it would be was to be seen. "Hi, I'm Eve. I'm sorry I can't come over there..."
"Please ma'am, sir, don't apologise. James has filled us in on what has happened and what we need to do. We will be outside and we are fully armed. We won't be leaving your property until someone takes over tonight. Oh, I'm sorry, I should have introduced myself, I'm Dawid Ostrowski and this is Brent Hepworth"
"Ostrowski? Is that Polish in origin?" asked Dave curious as always.
"Yes, my parents emigrated here after the war."
Brent now spoke too. "We are both family men too. We understand the desire to keep your family safe and we intend keeping you safe during the day for however long we are needed here."
"Oh gosh!" said Eve with a start. "What will you do about food and the bathroom? I mean if you are out here all day you can't not eat and drink and..."
"Eve, don't worry about that. I'm staying with you so I will be sorting out meals and drinks for the police but also for you guys, so stop worrying now." Sarah had just entered the lounge and was gentle yet firm with her words. Eve was always wanting people to feel welcome and at home whenever they were out in the ranch. If she was honest the thought of cooking for her own family was too much, let alone the cops, and she couldn't hold in the sigh of relief she felt when Sarah said she was taking over. It meant that she could be with her daughter all the time, which she had a feeling would be pretty much every minute of every day for the foreseeable future.
James took over. "OK guys, I hate to do this but I need to get back to the lab now. I shall be in touch in a few hours, depending upon what happens. If you need anything just call. That goes for you Dave, Eve, even you boys," he said, indicating Peter, Jake and Tony. "You need anything just call. Even if it is shopping or other necessities. I possibly won't get stuff myself, we all know how useless I am with shopping!" Everyone in the room let out a laugh. Even the two cops who had heard of the time James tried to buy some shopping when his wife was ill. She had suggested buying some ready meals. Unfortunately for Sarah it hadn't occurred to her in her ill health, that for James ready meals meant anything prepared by Sarah and not a meal you threw in the microwave to heat up so you didn't have to actually cook. So instead of buying readymade macaroni and cheese he tried to work out the ingredients that were required and managed to get virtually nothing useable and was then cursed out by his very sick wife when he returned home. His name was mud at home for days and Mark saw fit to let this story do the rounds around the station. 'Who needed friends when you had Mark as a friend' James would grumble. So now whenever he was asked to pick something up from the shops, maybe once or twice a year, Sarah would bypass her husband altogether and ring the secretary and ask her if she would be able to go out of her way and buy what was needed. Julie, the secretary liked Sarah and her boss, but her boss in a bad mood for being a raving idiot and his wife relegating him to the sofa for an undisclosed length of time was best avoided if at all possible. So for everyone's benefit she helped out Sarah in emergencies. James figured that today would class as one of those emergencies.
Eve suddenly remembered that was almost out of milk and other essentials. "James, do you mind if I do a list of things we need now? I'm sorry to ask but I was due to go shopping today, and I obviously can't leave Lindsay, you know, whilst she's like, well, you know after what happened, but we really do need some stuff and if it is too much of an inconvenience then that's ok I can try to get out later and..."
Sarah walked over to her friend and put her arms round her. "James is going to start driving back to the lab now so he can help them with the evidence. You and I are going to have something to eat and drink, along with everyone else of course. Then we will sit down and write a list together and we can make sure you don't forget anything. Once it's done I will ring Julie to see if she can get it for us. OK?"
Eve tried to work out what Sarah was saying but suddenly she found her mind going foggy with exhaustion. So she just agreed, hoping it was the right answer. "OK."
"Right guys, I will come back out later. Probably not till sometime after six or seven but I will be in touch." Dave went to shake his friend's hand, only to be pulled into a hug by James. "Don't worry Dave, we're not going to rest until he's behind bars. OK?"
Dave couldn't speak as a few more tears spilled out of his eyes and so he just nodded. "OK. You go look after your family and get some sleep now. I'll go see what's what."
The two men separated. James walked over to Eve and kissed her on the cheek, before shaking hands and briefly hugging each of the three male Monroe children. He looked down at Lindsay who was sleeping. Not an entirely restful sleep judging by her non-stop wriggling and the grimace that was on her face. "We're going to get him kid," he whispered before turning and grabbing his wife's hand on the way out.
"Brent. David." He nodded at the two cops. "You need backup call. Someone will be here ASAP. OK?"
"Yes sir," they both replied before asking Dave to show them round the property to help them get their bearings and work out how best to monitor the house and nearby buildings. The three men left via the front door as Dave started explaining everything they needed to know.
James took Sarah outside to the car. Before getting in he spoke to her. "Look after our friends and the cops. Please honey?"
Sarah could hear James voice starting to break with emotion and exhaustion. She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek. "I'll make sure everyone is OK. Well, physically anyway."
She gave her husband a small smile, and was rewarded by him placing his hands on her cheeks and gave her a kiss. "Thankyou."
And with that he turned to say goodbye to the Monroe's. As he left the house again he gave a small wave to Sarah, a nod to the two cops and he drove, foot to the floor on the accelerator pedal and he tried to get the rage to leave his body.
The days merged into one after the shooting. The first few days Eve had spent almost glued to Lindsay's side. Lindsay found it so hard to be alone, the fear of the shooter still being at large. Even when she was in a less than restful sleep Lindsay knew when her mother was leaving the room and would wake in a panic calling for her. She would cling on to her mother's hand as if it were her only lifeline, fighting for breath, trying to stop herself falling under the water, or rather blood as it often was in her dreams, and drowning. The only time Eve was able to leave Lindsay's side was when she fell into a very deep slumber. Even then it would only be for a few minutes as Lindsay's sleep was frequently disturbed by nightmares, reliving the shooting over and over and over, each scenario slightly different and ending in Lindsay staring into the eyes of the killer. The sound of the gun being fired was the time when Lindsay would awake with a start. Sometime it would be screams, sometimes the fear would leave Lindsay paralysed in her bed or on the sofa in the lounge on the few times she left her room. The sweat would be dripping off Lindsay all over her body she would sit shaking until her mum's gentle words and touch would calm her down and bring her back round to reality. Sometimes it took a few minutes to calm her daughter down, but other days would have Eve trying for an hour or more. It was hard, draining, but she never wavered in her need to comfort and relax her daughter.
It was hard for Lindsay, but it was also hard for the family to see her so fragile and broken. Lindsay had been fearless and 'one of the boys' since before she could walk and talk. She had helped her dad in the ranch, been in more trouble than she would ever admit to, as well as participating in some activities that she would never tell her parents or her pastor, and she had been the baby of the family. Lindsay was loved and nurtured by her parents and her brothers, but never spoilt. Now she was nothing like the carefree teenager she had been. For the most part Lindsay was unaware of her father or brothers. They tried to get through to her but she had locked herself away in an impenetrable room, access only allowed when she was feeling stronger - which was, sadly, hardly any of the time. Her brothers had spent many an hour talking about Lindsay and what had happened to her. They tried to come up with tactics to help 'cheer her up', even though they were fully aware that she wouldn't get over this any time soon. They made up stories; found the old family photos that should never be seen in the light of day, except under the influence of large quantities of alcohol; they remembered and reminisced about all the times each of them had gotten into trouble; they found old films and programmes that they were fairly sure had been made only to make fun at due to their lack of storylines or taste; they sat with her, well, they sat in the same room. How near depended upon how safe Lindsay felt that particular day. They were her brothers. And they loved her.
And they missed her.
As Lindsay withdrew more and more each day, there were times when even her mother's arms and words didn't reach her. It was as though she was surrounded by the ivory tower her dad had threatened her with when she first mentioned a liking for the opposite sex - and not in a 'friend' way. Had Lindsay been out with her friends, talking about boys and dates and when they would hold hands and kiss them, building a tower would have been perfect. That way her dad and brothers would have made sure that the only genuine and 'nice' boy to get through would be her future husband – if they decided they would ever be happy for her to get married. The problem was the invisible tower Lindsay had built up around herself was even more impenetrable than the one they were ready to construct. The only entrance and exit was invisible to the naked eye and only Lindsay could work it. In the meantime the only thing her family could do was sit and watch as she spent each day sleeping, reacting to the nightmares or staring into space, tears falling down her face, as she remembered that her friends were never going to call her or stay over in her room, or be there when she returned to school. For the first time in her life Lindsay felt alone. She was empty and had no hope for the future, not that she could see that far ahead. She could barely see the next minute, let alone the next day, week, month or even year. They didn't exist in Lindsay's mind.
The shooting had happened at the beginning of the summer holidays. Normally the summer was a carefree time. Much of it spent outdoors, basking in the nature of Montana. On and near the ranch there were many great places to play or hide or jump and explore. Sadly in the Monroe house this year there was still an air of worry and danger knowing the killer had yet to be caught. James had kept the family up to date with the investigation and told them fairly regularly that they had yet to identify the shooter. As time went on they could only presume that the shooter had long moved on from Bozeman and that Lindsay wasn't in immediate danger anymore. The police presence that had been there for the first few days after the shooting had left, leaving the family feeling vulnerable and open to attack, but with time they all settled into some sort of normality whilst maintaining vigilence whilst out and about on the lands. It didn't reassure the family though, well, not that first year, although after the first anniversary of the shooting they started to believe the shooter had left the area.
On that first anniversary James reassured them that they wouldn't stop working to find the killer- ever, but it meant and looked like there would always be a black cloud hanging over the family and especially Lindsay.
And as always, thank you Brina for nagging me for quite a while to get writing and posting again! And for reading the edited versions time and time again! I might just get some more new stuff written for you, sometime this year! *running hugs girly*