A/N: Ugh, real life sucks. I actually had most of this chapter done last weekend, but unfortunately my vacation is over so it's back to work and back to rehearsals at the theatre, which left little time for writing. I finally got a chance to sit down and get the last bit of this chapter finished tonight!
I am so glad that there are still people out there reading and (hopefully!) enjoying this story. Thanks to those of you who took the time to leave a quick review, namely RandomTVFan, DebbieKun3, 123montana321, bookworm, laurzz, Izzi Creo, webdlfan, Craftygirl11, tryntee13, mckenzie, and CTI-Jenn. I was so worried about how the last chapter would come across, and your more-than-kind reassurances set my mind at ease. My hat is off to you!
This chapter picks up right where we left off… and once again we get a little heavy.
"Is he okay?" Lindsay asked with no small amount of concern as she watched the bathroom door close behind Antoinette, who had wheeled in a small trolley full of medical supplies.
Mac smiled reassuringly from his seat beside Lindsay's bed. "He'll be fine. Don't you worry. I think you just scared him a little is all."
"I didn't mean to upset everyone," she said quietly.
"I know you didn't," Mac said. "And Danny knows it too. And Stella. We're all just concerned about you, Lindsay."
She raised her eyes, taking in his appearance. "You look tired, Mac," she noted.
He smiled softly, his grey eyes filled with affection for the young Montanan woman who could still be concerned about those around her, even in her current state. "It's been a long couple of days," he admitted tiredly. He frowned when he saw a flicker of remorse cross her face. "But worth every minute if it means we got you back, Lindsay. You're here. You're safe. That's all that really matters. And no one on the team thinks otherwise," he assured her. "Not me, not Hawkes, Adam or Stella. And especially not Danny."
Her lips quirked upward at the mention of Danny's name and her eyes flicked momentarily back to the door. A contemplative expression appeared on her face. The two of them sat in meditative silence for a while, Mac allowing her to quietly process her thoughts. Finally, he cleared his throat to catch her attention.
"Uh, Lindsay," he began gently. "I know there's really no good time for this, but we need to get your statement." She turned to him, her face full of trepidation. "You know how important it is to talk about it while it's still fresh in your mind… as unpleasant as it may be."
Lindsay chewed nervously on her lip. "Can… can I give my statement to Danny?"
Mac sighed and shook his head. "I'm sorry, Lindsay. But no," he said. "He's not working this case anymore. He's a victim here, just like you."
He noticed Lindsay's shoulders stiffen and her chin jutted out defiantly. Apparently she didn't like being referred to as a victim. Mac had to fight the proud smile that threatened to pull at his mouth. Good for you, Lindsay, he thought. Keep fighting. Don't let Delorsio win.
"If you want, I could have Stella come back in," he offered. "Or Flack. Or I could take your statement. Whatever is easiest for you."
Lindsay's gaze fell to her hands folded on her lap. "I, um… I remember him attacking me outside the hospital," she said. "He hit that guard – Anderson, I think his name was. And then he came for me."
Nodding, Mac reached into his pocket to take out his notepad and pen. "That's when you were on the phone with Flack, right?"
She nodded. "He took my phone. He… he hit me and I fell. I fell and hit my head on the car, I think. Or maybe it was the pavement. I don't remember." She picked nervously at her blanket while she talked, her voice starting to shake ever so slightly. "Then he grabbed me and shoved me in the car. He used tape – duct tape, I think – on my hands. And then he tried to get my feet…"
"And?" Mac prompted.
A slow smile spread across her face. "I kicked him." She raised her head, brown eyes determined. "Hard. In the gut."
"Good. Good for you," Mac said, jotting down her words in his book.
"He didn't like that," Lindsay remembered. "H-he told me he'd make me pay. And then… I don't know. It gets really fuzzy after that."
"We found chloroform in his car," Mac told her. "Do you remember that?"
She frowned, thinking. "He put something over my mouth; a cloth or a handkerchief. I remember it smelled sweet. And then I woke up."
"You woke up where?" Mac asked.
Lindsay was gnawing on her lip, her eyes faraway. "I-in a room," she whispered. "In a… a dirty, dark room. It was… He cuffed me to the radiator. I couldn't move. I couldn't get away…"
She broke off and Mac could see the panic rising in her. "Hey, hey. It's okay Lindsay. It's okay," he soothed. He wanted to reach out, to put a calming hand on her, but he was loathe to touch her, lest she recoil from him again. "We can stop if you want to take a break."
Lindsay swallowed hard but shook her head. "No. No, I want to get it out. I don't want… I can't stop or I won't want to start again."
Nodding, Mac held his pen poised above his pad. "Whenever you're ready."
She took a deep breath. "He came in and he hit me. He punched me in the stomach for kicking him in the car. And he kept… he kept hitting me. But I-I couldn't… I couldn't get away." Tears began to trickle down her cheeks, but she continued. "He knew who I was. He talked about what happened in Montana… in the diner." She began twisting the edge of her blanket between her fingers. "He said he was going to use me to get to Danny," she said. "He'd been following him… he saw Danny come to my apartment the other night. H-he started to… to touch himself. And he told me… he told me he was gonna show me a good time."
She wiped at her nose with the back of her hand. "He ripped my shirt… a-and he started to… to touch me."
"Where, Lindsay? Where did he touch you?" Mac asked, squeezing his pen nearly hard enough to snap it in half.
She looked away, focusing on the floor. "My breasts. H-he pinched me… he told me I was too old for him, but he was still gonna t-take me because beggars can't be choosers."
Mac closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, trying as hard as he could to swallow the swell of anger than had risen inside of him. He breathed deeply, trying to calm the torrent of emotions raging within. "Lindsay, I'm so sorry." It seemed so feeble, but what else could he say? "What happened next? Do you remember?"
She nodded, still refusing to meet his gaze. "I threw up on him," she replied, her voice barely above a whisper. "And he… he got so mad. He got so mad! H-he kicked me. And then he grabbed my hair…" She raised her hand to her head, wincing as she remembered the pain. "And then…"
"And then?" Mac urged. "Lindsay? And then?"
"I woke up. And it was so dark." Her tears were flowing freely now, her breath coming in rasping gasps as her panic began to rise exponentially. "I-I couldn't… it was so small and dark… and I could hear him sh-shovelling dirt on top of me and I couldn't get out… I couldn't get away…"
"Lindsay, we can stop… just… that's enough," Mac said, concerned as her breathing became more and more irregular.
But she wasn't listening. Eyes wide open, she was trapped once again inside that box. Her fingers scratched against an unseen obstacle in front of her. "He was gonna kill everyone… h-he wanted me to hear… just like in the diner," she gasped. "And then it was dark and I couldn't hear anything. I-I couldn't hear and I c-couldn't see… and I couldn't stop it! I couldn't stop him!"
"Shh… Lindsay. Lindsay!" Casting aside his notepad, Mac grabbed her shoulders, giving her a hard shake, hoping to bring her back to reality. "Lindsay!"
She tensed in his arms, her eyes wide with fear. Panting hard, she blinked, her eyes seeming to focus, her surroundings registering in her mind.
"No, Lindsay. It's Mac," he said before he realized that her eyes were focused over his shoulder. He turned to see Danny standing in the bathroom doorway, his expression unreadable.
"Danny!" Lindsay cried out, her hands reaching for him.
As fast as he could, Danny shuffled the short distance to her bed, sitting carefully on the edge of her mattress and pulling her into his arms. "Shh… it's okay, Linds. It's okay, baby. I gotcha. You're okay. Nobody's gonna hurt you anymore, okay?"
Lindsay continued to sob in his embrace, her whole body trembling. Danny looked over at Mac who had pushed his chair back from the bed, his hands shaking as he picked up his notepad and pen, returning them to his pocket.
"What happened, Mac?" Danny asked, continuing to try and soothe the distraught woman in his arms.
"She was giving her statement and she just…" Mac shook his head. "She said she was okay, but then…" He shrugged his shoulders helplessly. "I'm sorry. I didn't know. I thought that it would help, getting it off her chest…"
Danny nodded. "I think it usually does," he said. "But this… I don't know." He sighed, pressing a tender kiss to Lindsay's shoulder. Her sobs had lessened but she still clutched desperately to Danny, her body still shaking. "Did… did she say… does she remember if… if he…"
Mac shook his head. "No. She doesn't remember."
"Danny?" Lindsay's voice was small, tremulous.
Danny gently cupped her face in his hands, stroking the tears from her cheeks with the pads of his thumbs. "Yeah, Linds. I'm here."
"I'm so tired," she whispered.
"I know. I know you are."
Her face crumpled, fresh tears falling. "I can't close my eyes," she whispered, clearly terrified. "I can't… h-he's there. I feel like he's… he's waiting for me."
"Oh, baby," Danny murmured, pulling her close once again. "Oh, sweetheart."
Mac stood there feeling completely helpless as he watched Danny tenderly rock back and forth, whispering words of comfort into Lindsay's ear. He could see her eyes, wide and unfocused as she slowly came out of her nightmare. Shaking his head, Mac marveled at the deep connection of trust and – it was evident to him now – love between his two detectives. Within moments, Lindsay had calmed herself, sitting up and dabbing at her moist eyes with a tissue.
"You okay?" Danny asked, blue eyes brimming with worry.
Lindsay nodded. "Can I have some water?"
"I'll get it," Mac offered. He headed to the bathroom where Antoinette was still cleaning up after Danny's outburst, wiping his blood from the floor and the sink. She glanced up at him when he grabbed a small paper cup from the dispenser beside the shattered mirror.
"Everything alright, Detective?" she asked, placing her hands on her knees and pushing herself to her feet.
"Yeah. It's fine. It's just…" He sighed, reaching for the tap and filling the cup with water. "This is a tough one."
She smiled sympathetically, tossing her soiled rags in the laundry hamper. "Trauma of any kind is never easy," she replied knowledgeably. "Believe me; every time I think I've seen it all, something new comes along and knocks the wind right out of my sails. But," she continued, taking a thoughtful glance at the besotted couple in the other room, "As bad as it seems now, Lindsay seems to me to be a real fighter. And Danny too. They'll get through this."
"I hope so," Mac replied. "I really do."
With that, he returned to Lindsay's bedside and she gulped her drink thirstily. She set the cup aside and gave him a small smile of thanks. His phone beeped and he withdrew it from his pocket, flipping it open and reading the text message he'd just received.
"Well," he began, after typing in a quick reply, "If you two will be alright on your own for a while, I have to get going. That was Adam; he and Hawkes have just returned with our evidence from the Valhalla site, so…" He smiled at the pair of them. "If you need me for anything, you can give me a call. Anytime."
"Thanks Mac," Danny said. "We will."
"Take care, Lindsay," Mac said, gathering his jacket and pulling it on. "And keep an eye on Danny for me, will you?"
She managed an almost genuine smile for him. "No problem there, Mac. He's not going anywhere."
Mac gently patted Danny's shoulder before turning, casting a final backward glance at them before he left the room, holding the door open for Antoinette to follow before closing it softly behind him.
Alone at last, Lindsay turned to Danny, her brown eyes taking in his appearance. She placed a tentative hand on his cheek, turning his face so she could get a better look at the lacerations she'd noticed when he first emerged from the bathroom. She drew her bottom lip between her teeth, worrying the sensitive skin as realization dawned.
"I did that," she breathed, horrified. "I… I'm so sorry."
"It's nothing, Linds. Don't worry about it," Danny replied. "The nurse said it was just superficial. It looks a lot worse than it is."
She turned away, ashamed of herself and her lack of control. "I thought you were him," she whispered, hating herself for having such a pitiful explanation. Her eyes fell upon his battered hand and she felt another wave of guilt rising inside of her. "Did I do that too?"
"No. That was all me," Danny answered. "But you should see the other guy," he chuckled.
"It's not funny, Danny! You're hurt and it's my fault!" Lindsay cried, anger flashing in her eyes.
"Hey!" Danny shot back, taking her chin in his hands and forcing her to look at him. "Don't you dare say that," he growled. "Don't even think it. There is one person to blame for all of this and it ain't you, Lindsay."
"Well it's not you either," she replied, her tone gentler now. She hadn't missed the guilt that had lingered in his eyes since they'd first been reunited. She took his bandaged hand between hers, raising it to her lips and pressing a kiss to his scarred knuckles. "None of this is your fault either, Danny. And I know you… I can see it in you, building up inside. I don't regret anything that happened between us. And I can't bear the thought of blaming yourself."
Danny closed his eyes, leaning forward and resting his forehead against hers. "That's easier said than done, Lindsay," he confessed.
"If I can do it, so can you," she encouraged. "Please, Danny. This isn't going to work between us if we're starting off with regrets. Let it go. It's not your fault."
Danny swallowed hard. He knew she was right. But there was so much he wished he'd done differently. If he'd only been faster, stronger… if he'd had more self-control; if he'd been able to resist the glimmer of happiness that had dangled so tantalizingly in front of him in the beautiful form of Lindsay Monroe… But then again, who was to say how things would have unfolded had their relationship not progressed as it had? It could have been a lot worse. He could have died never knowing the exquisite bliss of her body moving as one with his, her sweet kisses. He would have missed the way she was looking at him now, her warm gaze filled with love; love for him, of all people.
"Okay," he whispered in response. "Okay."
Hey eyes searched his and she nodded her head, satisfied. "Good," she said. She pecked him lightly on the lips. "Now, if I make room for you, will you get up on this bed properly and hold me?" she asked, beginning to shuffle over on the mattress before he'd even had a chance to respond.
She looked up at him, her expression pleading. "I need you, Danny," she said quietly. "I feel better when you're here; when you're close. I feel almost… safe."
Danny smiled sadly, reaching out to gently stroke her cheek. "I can hardly argue with that, can I?" he replied.
He wedged himself onto the small bed beside Lindsay, leaning back against her mountain of pillows and waiting until she'd settled herself comfortably – well, as comfortably as possible given the size of the bed – before he wrapped her carefully in his arms, holding her close and burrowing his face into her hair until he heard her breathing slow and deepen. Until she slept.
"Alright, you guys," Mac said, walking into the conference room at the lab. "I want answers. And I want them now." He pulled out a chair and sat down at the long table, his expression somber. "What've we got?"
He looked around the room, his eyes taking in the downcast and exhausted faces of his team. He sighed and leaned back in his chair, scrubbing his hands tiredly over his face. "Look, I know we're all tired, okay? And I know that this case is eating away at all of us. It's personal this time and that makes this one that much harder. But Lindsay… she needs us. She's having nightmares about something that she's not even sure happened. For better or for worse, she needs our answers. And Danny too. So please… just take a moment, pull yourselves together and lets get on with it."
Heads nodded around the table.
"Stella? Why don't you start… you've been over the results of Lindsay's SAE kit with the nurse. What did you two find?"
Stella cleared her throat, reaching for the closed file on the desk in front of her. She took a deep breath before flipping it open and handing out a report to Hawkes, Adam and Mac.
"Um… well, we all know the basics already. She was attacked, beaten… there are pictures there of some of her injuries." Four pairs of eyes filled with pain as they took in the disturbing images of Lindsay's torso, her legs, hands and feet. "There are more pictures of other injuries of her breasts and… other intimate places, but in the interest of preserving her privacy, I've got the only copies in my file."
"Okay," Mac said, placing the pictures face down in front of him before picking up the forensic nurse's report. "Aside from the pictures, what did you find?"
"There, um…" She cleared her throat, taking a sip of water before continuing. "There were no traces of semen either on or… or in the victim's body," she said haltingly, and Mac noticed that she chose to refer to Lindsay as 'the victim' as opposed to by name, distancing herself from the case. "But, um… there was some evidence of recent sexual activity; namely some minor vaginal bruising. Now, the nurse did state in her report that this was inconclusive; it could easily have been sustained during normal, consensual sexual intercourse and that it appeared to have occurred several days prior judging by the healing that had already taken place." She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, clearly uneasy at discussing such intimate details of the sex life of her friend and colleague. "She also noted here that the angle and depth of the bruising supports her professional opinion that this was consensual sex, and that if it had been an act of sexual violence, there would have been evidence of… of tearing and other trauma."
The room was silent for a moment, each member of the team taking time to absorb this information. "Um… so, are we saying that she wasn't… that h-he didn't…?" Adam stammered, fidgeting nervously with the pen in his hand.
Hawkes placed a hand on Adam's shoulder. "We're saying that so far, there isn't any evidence to conclusively say either way," he explained. "Now, what Stella is saying fits with what Adam and I found at the scene…" He opened his own file and began flipping through the pages within. "We went over that room – the one where you found her purse and her cuffs," he said. "We found traces of semen on the mattress, but they were older… not recent enough to have occurred within the past few days. There were other bodily fluids on the mattress, but none of them came back as a match to um… to Lindsay."
"No?" Mac asked, feeling the slightest bit of relief beginning to surge through him.
"No," Hawkes affirmed. "In fact, the only thing from Lindsay we found were a few hairs, both from her head as well as... um, her pubic… area."
Mac pursed his lips, his brow furrowed. "So, the semen… could he have used a condom?"
Adam shrugged his shoulders. "I don't think so," he said. "Me and Hawkes… we tore that room apart and didn't find anything, so then we searched the building from top to bottom – no discarded condoms, no wrappers. I checked the toilet – the plumbing was never hooked up, so he couldn't have flushed it."
"But I did find traces of semen on the inside of Delorsio's pants," Hawkes said, flipping through his notes. "Yeah… but it was weird. Just like the samples on the mattress, the sample was very small and the strange thing is that the sperm count we found in all the samples was very, very low."
"What are you saying, Hawkes?" Stella asked, leaning forward in her chair.
"I… I think that Eric Delorsio was impotent."
"Excuse me?" Stella said, shock evident on her face. "H-how can a rapist be… I mean… what?"
Hawkes shrugged. "Impotency or as it's known medically – Erectile Dysfunction – can manifest itself in several different ways," he explained. "In some men, an erection is impossible or sporadic at best. In others, they can achieve an erection. They just can't maintain it long enough to… well, you know."
"And would this explain the small sample size you found in Delorsio's pants and on the mattress?" Mac asked. Hawkes nodded.
"If he could get it up and keep it up… he wouldn't have been able to produce much ejaculate. It's consistent with what we found at the scene and on his clothes."
"B-but Flack said… outside the building when he shot Delorsio… he was talking about…" Adam grimaced, "Um… 'finishing off' the girls Vanzella raped all those years ago."
Hawkes looked thoughtful. "Well, impotency isn't common in young men. In fact, it's quite rare, so it's possible he was telling the truth. But remember, they never found a trace of him on those victims and the only link between him and them was that he was caught burying their bodies. And even if he did… help -" Hawkes grimaced at his poor choice of wording, "- Vanzella back then, all those years in prison…" He shrugged. "There's not a simple, single known cause for impotency. It can happen for a variety of reasons."
"Interesting," Mac mused. "So… we've got a self-proclaimed rapist who appears to be impotent and no evidence that he ever actually raped anyone…"
"Well…" Stella hesitantly interrupted. Mac, Hawkes and Adam looked at her.
"What is it, Stella?"
"It's just that we're defining rape in a very narrow way. Rape isn't necessarily just the act of forced vaginal penetration by the penis."
"Stella…" Mac's tone suggested that he wasn't in the mood to play guessing games. "What are you trying to say?"
Stella took a deep breath and let it out slowly, collecting herself. "When… when the nurse was doing her examination, she found…" She paused, biting her lip. "She found a piece of torn fingernail in Lindsay's pubic hair. I ran it for DNA as soon as I got back to the lab. It was a match to Eric Delorsio."
Like I said, a little heavy. I will remind you all again that I'm no forensic expert, nor do I know much about the medical field. That's just me and a little bit of good ol' fashioned interweb research. So there will probably be errors.
That being said, what did we think? I hope you are still looking forward to more from this one, as we're not done yet. Next chapter, I'm hoping we get back to seeing a bit of our not-so-favourite baddie.
Until next time!