All Relevant Evidence - GilShalos1 (2024)

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Well And Truly Dead Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 2: A Match Made In Heaven Chapter Text Chapter 3: Officially Messy Chapter Text Chapter 4: Running Chapter Text Chapter 5: Legally Admissible Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 6: Uncorroborated Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 7: Coffee And Conversation Chapter Text Chapter 8: Time Check Chapter Text Chapter 9: Memorabilia Chapter Text Chapter 10: Late Night News Chapter Text Chapter 11: Dead Cases Chapter Text Chapter 12: Good Behavior Chapter Text Chapter 13: From The Beginning Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 14: The Door Prize Chapter Text Chapter 15: Nostalgia Chapter Text Chapter 16: A Cornucopia Of Suspects Chapter Text Chapter 17: A Personal Matter Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 18: Toast And Conversation Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 19: Going To Extremes Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 20: Detective Work Chapter Text Chapter 21: Danger Money Chapter Text Chapter 22: The Two Dude Defense Chapter Text Chapter 23: Unexpected Chapter Text Chapter 24: Never A Pleasure Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 25: A Cat Of A Certain Color Chapter Text Chapter 26: Making Conversation Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 27: Tea And Conversation Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 28: A Gift Chapter Text Chapter 29: Means Of Communication Chapter Text Chapter 30: Hanging Up Chapter Text Chapter 31: Tablecloths Chapter Text Chapter 32: Running Silent Chapter Text Chapter 33: Loud Noises Chapter Text Chapter 34: Terrible Ideas Chapter Text Chapter 35: A Highway At Night Chapter Text Chapter 36: Rollercoaster Chapter Text Chapter 37: Best Laid Plans Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 38: Saved (?) By The Bell Chapter Text Chapter 39: Front Page News Chapter Text Chapter 40: A Type Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 41: Supposedly Smart People Chapter Text Chapter 42: International Travel Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 43: White Lies and Bluebacks Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 44: Who, What, Where Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 45: Res Ipsa Loquitur Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 46: Means, Motive And Opportunity Chapter Text Chapter 47: Conflict Of Interest Chapter Text Chapter 48: Overreacting Chapter Text Chapter 49: Scheduling Chapter Text Chapter 50: Let's Pretend Chapter Text Chapter 51: Ambush Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 52: Complications Chapter Text Chapter 53: It Will Be Rain Tonight Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 54: Let It Come Down Chapter Text Chapter 55: Justice Beyond The Law Chapter Text Chapter 56: Elements Of The Crime Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 57: Testimony Chapter Text Chapter 58: Friend Of The Court Chapter Text Chapter 59: The Communication Of The Dead Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 60: The Unicorn Chapter Text Chapter 61: Moot Chapter Text Chapter 62: The Perp Walk Chapter Text Chapter 63: A Cat Of A Different Color Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 64: Dinner And Conversation Chapter Text Chapter 65: Learning Experience Chapter Text Chapter 66: Complicated Chapter Text Chapter 67: Don't Thank Me Yet Chapter Text Chapter 68: Worth Every Penny Chapter Text Chapter 69: Paying Attention Chapter Text Chapter 70: Sharing The Driving Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 71: Final Verdict Notes: Chapter Text Notes:

Chapter 1: Well And Truly Dead

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Marty's Marvelous Machines

191 48th Street West

8.15 am Monday 9 July 2007

"Jesus f*cking Christ!" Sal Marcono slammed his fist down on the hood of the car. "Marty, I don't got time for this! I have to pick Lisa up at nine sharp."

Marty Licardo shrugged. "So tell her your car was in the shop."

Sal put his head in his hands. "Lisa is not exactly the kind of woman who listens to excuses. This is my last chance. I had to beg and plead and promise her a new stair-master to even persuade her to get on the plane!"

"How are going to afford a new stair-master?"

"That's tomorrow's problem. Today's problem is picking her up from the airport on time and I need my car! You said you'd have it ready!"

Marty fished around in his pocket and found a packet of cigarettes. "I said I'd have it ready if the parts got here. The parts didn't get here. What do you want me to do?"

"Can't you, I don't know, McGyver it? Chewing gum and string?"

Marty snorted. "Yeah, if you want the engine to blow up on the Parkway while you're taking her home."

"I don't care if the engine blows up ten seconds after she gets in the car. The only thing that matters is that I'm there to meet that plane." Sal thumped the hood of the car again. "C'mon, man, you know what Lisa's like."

Marty lit his cigarette. "I know what she's like since she caught you balls-deep in her sister, yeah."

"Oh, come on, man. It was a moment of weakness. Lisa's the love of my life, you know that. And I gotta pick her up from the airport or that's it, man! Game over."

"Okay, look." Marty dragged on his cigarette and squinted against the smoke. "You can borrow mine, okay."

"Thank you, Marty. You are — you're a prince among men, that's what you are. A prince among men."

"Yeah, yeah." The mechanic led the way to the rear of the lot. "But I tell you, one scratch, Sal — if someone even breathes on my baby wrong at a red light …"

"I promise, I'll take care of it as if it was my own."

"Yeah, that's what I'm afraid of." Marty tossed the keys to Sal. "If anything happens to her, you won't have any reason to care whether or not Lisa agrees to come home again. Let's leave it at that."

Sal winced, and unlocked the door. "I really owe you big time," he said, sliding behind the wheel.

Given he was driving Marty's wheels, and Marty was standing right there watching him, Sal was extra careful as he slid the key into the ignition and turned it. He made a big show of adjusting the mirrors, managed to avoid crunching the gears as he shifted into first, and started to pull out.

The wheels bumped over something, hard. Sal heard Marty yell. Jesus, like it's my fault he left a jack or something under his car. If he stopped to apologize, he ran the risk of Marty taking back the loaner, and he really couldn't be late. Not for Lisa, not on the first day of the rest of their lives.

He didn't look in the rear-view mirror in case Marty was waving for him to come back.

If he had, he might have seen the body.

Marty's Marvelous Machines

191 48th Street West

9 am Monday 9 July 2007

"If it's any consolation," the young man from the Crime Scene Unit said, looking up from the body, "she was well and truly dead when the car went over her. I'd say since ten or eleven last night."

Lennie Briscoe studied the battered form. "You got a cause for me?"

"I count four bullet holes, one in the leg, three in the torso. And that's just to start. Hard to say if one of them would have been fatal by itself but judging from the size of the blood pool, cause of death was exsanguination."

"So she died here?"

"My best guess, detective, is yes. Under the parked car. Either she or someone else lost enough blood to be fatal right about here. And at first glance, those look like tracks from one set of tires, not two. But you know —"

"Yeah, yeah, wait for the prelim. Thanks, kid." Briscoe clapped him on the shoulder and straightened. "You're positive she's not carrying any ID."

"If we find her social tattooed on her ass when we get her back to the lab, I'll be sure and let you know."

Everybody's a comedian. Briscoe didn't mind a little crime-scene humor but he objected to twenty-year olds who still had acne stepping on his schtick.

He looked around. It wasn't the worse crime scene he'd seen, from a detecting perspective, but it wasn't the best, either. The best had been an upscale Manhattan loft, white walls, white carpet, white everything against which every drop of blood, stray hair and speck of dirt had stood out as if outlined in neon.

This was a concrete lot that had seen hundreds of cars dripping oil, brake-fluid, and rust, and which was currently filled with a dozen clunkers whose grazes could be the result of bullet ricochets or of just the normal day-to-day on New York's streets.

Still, once you knew they were there, the bloodstains were easy to find. A smeared trail led to where the body had been found. Briscoe backtracked and found where it started, next to an '88 Buick with a crumpled rear end. There was blood on the Buick, and a thick trail of drops leading up to it. So this was where she fell down. Fell down, and crawled the rest of the way to where she'd tried to hide under the car. Maybe she fell down because she got shot for the second and third and fourth times here. Briscoe signaled to one of the CSU techs to check the area.

The trail of droplets took him all the way to the front of the lot. There was a bloody hand-print there, on the bumper of one of the cars. Good odds that this was where their victim had taken her first bullet. Leg or body, she'd grabbed at the place and then caught her balance against the car.

Which meant she'd been standing right by the pavement when whoever it was had opened up on her.

So why, Briscoe wondered, had she run into the lot?

"Hey, Lennie!" Ed Green had been walking the car-lot's perimeter, looking in trash cans and under the trash that hadn't quite made it to the can, and now he was crouching down and using a pencil to hook something towards him.

"Found a bloody hand-print on a bumper back there," Briscoe said when he reached his partner. "Most likely our victim's, but you never know. We might get lucky."

Green swiveled on his heels and held up the object he'd fished out of the pile of trash: a revolver, delicately held between finger and thumb. "I feel lucky," he said.

Briscoe opened an evidence bag and held it for Green to drop the gun inside. "If your luck is really running, they'll find fingerprints on this back at the lab."

"We could have this wrapped up by —"

"Don't say it!" Briscoe interrupted, but not quite fast enough.

"Lunchtime," Green finished, and raised his eyebrows at Briscoe's groan. "What?"

"You just had to go and jinx us, didn't you?" Briscoe shook his head resignedly. "Haven't I taught you anything?"

27th Precinct

Detectives Squadroom

10:15 am Monday 9 July 2007

The detectives' bull-pen at the 2-7 was nearly empty. Like every year, the summer heat had ushered in the associated summer murder season. Most of the detectives got to sit down at their desks and enjoy the air-conditioning for ten minutes at most before another name was being written up on the murder board in red.

Briscoe paused and wrote Jane Doe in the column that belonged to him and Ed Green.

At least at this time of year they don't stay red for long. He capped the marker and put it back on the ledge. Temperature related homicides generally don't involve a lot of planning.

"Jane Doe," Lieutenant Van Buren read past his shoulder. "Something tells me I'm not going to like what you have to tell me on this one."

Green dropped into his chair, put his feet on his desk and flipped open his notebook. "Female, 20s or 30s, probably Caucasian —"

Van Buren raised her eyebrows. "Probably? How badly was she beaten?"

"She was run over by a car, postmortem. Tire went over her head. Skin tone was light and her hair looked blondish, under the blood, but it'll take the M.E. to be more precise."

"Run over postmortem. So what was the cause of death?"

"Gunshot. Four." Briscoe said, and stepped out into the hall to get a soda from the machine.

"Get me one of those too, Lennie," Van Buren said. "Shot four times and run over, that sort of overkill makes me think about husbands and boyfriends."

As usual, the vending machine ate three sets of coins before Briscoe managed to kick the side and thump the front at just the right moment to shake the can loose. On the plus side, when he tried to get a second can for the Lieutenant, the machine dropped an extra.

"Not saying you're wrong, but the running over was an accident." Briscoe handed one can to Van Buren and put the spare on Green's desk. He opened his own. "I'm thinking she was trying to get away from the shooter and crawled under the car to hide."

"And then died there," Van Buren said.

"No wallet, no handbag, no purse, no cell phone. Not even a house key."

Van Buren popped the top of her drink. "So someone shot this woman, took her wallet and her purse —"

"If she had one," Green interjected.

"She had something, detective, she didn't even have her house-key on her. I'd buy that she left home without her driver's license. I'd even buy that she left without her wallet if she was stepping out to the bodega with a ten in her pocket. But nobody leaves home without a key. So the shooter took her wallet or her purse or both, and then let her crawl away, still alive, for all the shooter knew going to stay alive to identify him. Then he dropped the gun and did a runner."

Briscoe nodded. "About the size of it, from how it looks for now, anyway."

Van Buren shook her head. "Maybe we're looking at a robbery gone wrong."

"Yeah, but I'd guess she ran into the car lot after the first shot, not away down the street," Briscoe said. He shrugged. "Forensics will give us a clearer picture."

"So maybe the shooter was on the street," Van Buren said. "She ran away from him, into the lot, and maybe she dropped her purse. That's what he was after, so he grabbed it and took off. She was too scared and maybe too weak to crawl out and get help, so she bled to death under the car."

"It's a working theory," Green said.

"Why shoot her four times?" Briscoe asked. "Three times in the torso, that's definitely someone trying to kill her. Except he didn't take the time to make sure of her."

Van Buren nodded. "And how that makes sense, I do not know."

"Maybe he couldn't find her," Green suggested. "She was hiding, he knew the longer he spent looking for her the more likely someone might come along …"

"Hey, I used to know a guy down in Baltimore who had a theory," Briscoe said. "Crime makes you stupid."

"It's as good an explanation as any," Van Buren said, turning to go back to her office. "Keep me posted," she tossed back over her shoulder. "And try to find out who she was."

.oOo.

Notes:

"Crime makes you stupid" was a theory proposed by Detective Frank Pembleton in "Homicide: Life On The Streets", who worked with Rey Curtis and Lennie Briscoe in the season 6 cross-over episode "Charm City".

Chapter 2: A Match Made In Heaven

Chapter Text

Office of the Medical Examiner

1 pm Monday 9 July 2007

"You owe me one," Liz Rodgers said. She pulled off her rubber gloves and tossed them into the bin. "I've got corpses backed up halfway down the corridor and a dozen other detectives who are going to pissed if they find out I bumped you to the front of the queue."

"We'll be as silent as the grave," Briscoe promised. "And hey, I've got a couple of tickets to Chicago for next Thursday, if that makes up for it."

Rodgers snorted. "Thanks, but watching criminals get away with it doesn't really do it for me. Any competent ME would have proved Hart was right across the room when she shot him. Didn't they even check for spatter on her clothes? Both reached for the gun, my ass."

Briscoe sighed. Not that he didn't like a little light opera, and he'd sit through the whole Ring Cycle if he got to do it in Liz Rodger's company, but if she could just learn to appreciate musical comedy as well, it would be a match made in heaven. "What about thiscrime?"

Rodgers picked up a clipboard. "This is still preliminary. Looks like she bled to death. Shot five times, the guy on the scene missed a nick to her elbow."

"Any way to tell which shot was first?" Green asked, writing in his notebook.

"Nah. The forensics guys should be able to help you with that one when they get done making little diagrams. Medically, all I can tell you is that there wasn't much time between them and she didn't die right away. In fact, I doubt a single one of those shots would have been fatal in the short term and even all together, she would probably have made it if she'd reached a hospital in time."

Briscoe nodded. "Small caliber?"

"Not especially. I fished out three and sent them up to ballistics. Looked like a .38 to me. The bullet hole in her leg came from the front. The rest came from behind her." Rodgers gestured to the body. "Lividity shows she died on her front, arms folded under her, elbows out." She demonstrated.

"That's not how she was found," Green said.

Briscoe shrugged. "It might have been before the car's axle caught her."

"That's consistent," Rodgers said. "Postmortem abrasions to her back, shoulder and hip could easily have been made that way. And of course the crush injuries to her head and legs are postmortem. Look, you can see the tire tracks. There are some abrasions to her hands and arms and to her knees that were made before death, but not that long. Clotting had begun." Rodgers used a pen to open the body's fingers. "See?"

"Cause?"

"Consistent with crawling over a rough surface. I retrieved some trace and sent it to forensics."

"What odds it'll match the surface of the auto-lot?" Green said.

"Same degree of clotting as the bullet wounds?" Briscoe asked Rodgers.

She nodded. "Allowing for the fact that the bullet wounds were considerably deeper, yeah. Consistent. Now." She picked up her clipboard and consulted it. "The development of lividity and rigor along with liver temp are all consistent with a time of death around ten last night. Say a window of nine to eleven. The state of lividity suggests to me that the body wasn't moved at all until it was discovered this morning."

"So she was shot around ten —"

"Oh, no, detective," Rodgers said. "She died around then. She was shot more than a few minutes before that. Clotting of the grazes and development of bruising indicates as much as an hour."

"Why didn't she try to get help?" Green asked.

Rodgers shrugged. "I can tell you what happened to her, detectives."

"But would she have been able to? How fast would she have passed out?"

"Impossible to say. The effects of adrenaline and shock vary from individual to individual. But I can tell you that muscle tone suggests she was an athletic young woman. Bone suggests an age of 25 to 35. She was a fair-skinned natural blond, which might help you finding an ID."

"Athletic?" Green asked. "Like a jogger?"

Rodgers shook her head. "More like a swimmer. Good upper body musculature. You might want to check the pools in the area."

Briscoe looked down at the body. "It would help if we could show a picture. Do you have any objection to one of the sketch artists coming down and seeing what he can make of her?"

"Just tell him not to get sick on any of my corpses," Rodger said.

Briscoe promised her they'd find one with a strong stomach and he and Green took their leave.

"You know, I saw this show where an artist makes models of what people really look like, using their skulls," Green said as they waited for the elevator. "They did Tutankhamen. He didn't look nothing like his pictures."

"Let's wait to see if her fingerprints pop before we ask the Lieu to blow two months' forensics budget on some guy with a beret," Briscoe arrived. "Let's see how the uniforms are doing with the neighborhood canvas. Maybe we'll get lucky and find an eyewitness."

Green laughed as the elevator arrived. "Man, the day that happens I'm buying a lottery ticket."

"Oh, I've seen it." Briscoe jabbed the button for the ground floor.

"How often?"

"In a quarter century in homicide? I'd say … at least twice."

It wasn't that every homicidal idiot in New York City managed to commit their murders where no-one could see them: in Briscoe's experience, that was usually the exception, especially during the summer. Someone always saw something, even when nobody saw nothing. But usually, they found witnesses because the cops were on the scene before the body had stopped bleeding and the witnesses were still right there. Sometimes, helpfully, they were right there saying Yeah, I saw who did it, it was that asshole down the block, and here's his address.

Those were the cases that barely touched Briscoe's desk before they were on their way to One Hogan Place, and those were the cases where Forensics made a difference. They were the go-to guys when you knew who, and what, and how, and where, and what you really wanted was the kind of proof that would turn a jury into true believers.

When the body had started cooling before the cops got to the scene, however, it was almost always a shoe-leather case.

When they reached Marty's Marvelous Machines, it was clear that the odds were playing out this time. A young uniform whose milky skin and clear blue eyes made her look like she should be milking a goat rather than walking a beat told them that she and her partner had knocked on every door for two blocks and hadn't found anyone who'd seen or heard anything. "Three businesses on either side of the lot before you get to one with a residential walk-up," she explained. "Behind Marty's is a warehouse."

"Still, it was a warm night," Green said. "No-one had their windows open?"

"And waste the air-conditioning?" the officer said. "Welcome to the twenty-first century, Detectives. The weather is what you want it to be, indoors."

"Yeah, and what you've made it, outdoors," Briscoe said.

Green chuckled. "Thank you, Al."

"Hey, I'm just saying. I got grandkids. I don't want them to grow up to a world where the Meatpacking District is a scuba-diving attraction." He looked up and down the street. "Where do you want to start?"

Green looked around. "What do you think she was doing here?"

"Not buying a car, or picking one up, not at that time." Briscoe squinted into the distance. "Maybe one of these shop-fronts is hiding the hot new underground club."

"It was hard to tell with all the blood but she didn't look like she was going clubbing. Jeans, comfortable shoes."

Briscoe shrugged. "Maybe that's what the kids are wearing these days."

Green shook his head, laughing. "No, Lennie, it's not. You know what I wonder? I wonder how she got into the yard. Did Licardo say the gate was unlocked when he got here?"

Briscoe fished out his notepad. "He arrived about eight this morning, unlocked and opened up. He claims Sal Marcono was waiting, desperate to get his car. We'll talk to Marcono as soon as the uniforms find him. He probably doesn't even know yet that he ran over a dead body this morning."

"He must have been in a hell of a hurry. Trying to get away from the scene of the crime?"

"Desperate to get to the airport to meet the love of his life off the overnight from Mexico. And if we're looking for someone with a key, that's not Marcono. Aside from Licardo, there are three employees, Licardo's kid, and the guy who does security."

"And why was Licardo's car here all night?" Green asked.

"I asked him that. He said he had a couple of beers more than he should have watching the game at his local with some friends last night. He took a cab home."

"Do we believe him?"

Briscoe shrugged. "We don't disbelieve him. He's got one low-range DUI already, which is a plausible reason he'd be extra cautious. I got the names and contact details for his friends and the name of the bar. We'll talk to them, but the guy feels okay to me."

"So we're left with how our dead girl ended up inside the lot." Green strolled over and examined the fence and the gate. "Two padlocks, quality chain. Can't see any obvious signs they've been forced. Let's get it all to forensic and see if any prints pop out."

"And let's take a closer look at those other key-holders," Briscoe said. "Someone opened the gate last night."

The three employees alibied out. One had been at his sister's wedding rehearsal dinner, sitting at the main table in front of sixty guests. One had been at the ER with a sick kid. Briscoe made a note to check the hospital CCTV but he was willing to write the guy off as a suspect for now. The third hemmed and hawed and finally gave up the name of his extremely married girlfriend with a plea for them to make sure and talk to her when her husband was at work.

Mickey Licardo's kid was a student at CalTech, full scholarship. Briscoe put in a call to the Pasadena PD to make sure he was there and didn't have an unexplained absence that might have included a coast-to-coast flight. "And ask him where his key to his dad's business is," he finished. "Make sure you sight it, if he has it. And find out who has it, if he doesn't."

"Think he loaned it to a friend?" Green asked as Briscoe put his cell back in his pocket.

Briscoe shrugged. "He's obviously a smart kid. Real smart, full ride to NASA's own incubator. How much fun did the geniuses have at your high school?"

Green nodded. "About enough to make letting the alpha jocks borrow the occasional car from Dad's lot might be a good idea."

"Yeah, well, I hope no, but I fear yes. Even if we get a name, there's no way to tell how many times that key got copied after that. Now, the security firm is —"

Green's cell rang and he fished it out. "Detective Green. Why, hello, Ana. How are you?"

Briscoe rolled his eyes. Ed Green and Ana Cordova.

If he was smart enough to ask her out on a real date, not a trip to Atlantic City to watch him lose money

And if she was stupid enough to say yes

It would be a match made in heaven.

.oOo.

Chapter 3: Officially Messy

Chapter Text

Green snapped his cell closed. "Okay, this case just officially got messy."

"How so?"

"Ana found a fingerprint match for our victim."

"So that's good news. Now we know who she was."

"Yeah. She was Emalia Cooper, 32, New York native. Financial adviser of some kind."

"And?" There was definitely an and, from the look on Green's face.

"Her fingerprints are on file because nine months ago, she was arrested for attempted murder, a shooting. Apparently, they couldn't make the case and they had to let her go."

"Who'd she shoot?" Briscoe asked.

"A cop."

"Oh, brother. Okay. Let's get Officer Edelweiss over there to run down the security guard. Now we know who our victim was, we can start finding out who our victim was."

This time Briscoe drove so Green could balance his notepad on his knee and take notes while he held his phone to his ear. "West 38th, 800 block," he said at one point, and Briscoe nodded and took the next left.

"Okay," Green said at last, dropping his phone into his pocket and flipping back through the pages he'd filled. "We're going to 14/832 West 38th, Cooper's home address. She works at Burne Hawke Rivers Financial Services, offices in midtown."

"Sounds Native American."

"Both Burne and Hawke with an 'e'." Green squinted at his own handwriting. "Roommate at the time of arrest was Chelsea Lee. Interviewed twice after Rivera was shot, didn't know nothing about nothing."

Briscoe leaned on the horn as a car ahead of them turned without indicating. "Moron. Some days I feel like taking a rotation through Traffic. And then I remember my days in Traffic. Tell me about the shooting."

"November 28 last year, over in Greenville where Rivera lives, he was on his way home after picking up some groceries and Cooper shot him. Hit him in the wrist. At close range. We're not talking about Annie Oakley here."

"I always say, if you're going to give a woman reason to shoot you, make sure you pick one who can't hit the side of the barn."

Green chuckled. "Yeah, well, this woman's reason to shoot Rivera was that they'd been an item and he'd broken it off. He ID'd her straight away."

Briscoe raised an eyebrow. "Then how come they couldn't make a case? A cop on the stand saying there's the person who shot me, right there?"

"They never found a weapon, nothing else to place her at the scene, she passed a couple of line-ups with witnesses who were down the street. Then the crime scene guys said that Rivera got shot by someone standing behind him."

"So he didn't see her at all," Briscoe said. "He dumped her, she said something like I'll kill you for this and when someone takes a shot, he jumps to the natural conclusion."

Green shrugged. "Maybe he did. Maybe from the corner of his eye, that can be enough if you know a person."

"Not enough for court, not with a defense attorney jumping down your throat."

"That's what the DA's Office thought, because they nol pros'd it. Goren and Eames over in Major Case still have it open, I don't know how much time they've put into it but I guess they didn't find enough for the DA to start things up again."

"Goren and Eames," Briscoe said. "Well, Eames is good company."

Green laughed. "Yeah, and if someone shot you, Lennie, I'd want Goren primary on the case. Either Emalia Cooper was a criminal mastermind …"

"Or just maybe she didn't do it," Briscoe said, pulling into a parking spot. "Number 832, right? Here we are."

... ...

"Oh, she did it, alright."

Chelsea Lee, Emalia Cooper's former roommate, was calm and dry-eyed, but she was white to the lips and Ed Green made sure to stay close enough to her to catch her if she folded up at the knees. "Is there someone we can call for you?" he asked for the third time.

For the third time, she shook her head. "My parents are in Michigan. My girlfriend is in Ottawa for a conference."

"You know, I'm sure she'd fly back here to be with you at a time like this," Briscoe said.

"No, I'm fine. I haven't seen Em for months and months. She didn't leave me a forwarding address, even for mail. She didn't call. She was paranoid about my phone being tapped." She paused. "Are you sure it's her? Have you checked? Who told you it's her?"

"She was printed when she was booked last November," Green said. "We matched her fingerprints. I'm sorry, but we're sure."

"Why did she move out?" Briscoe asked. "You two have a disagreement?"

Chelsea shook her head. "This address was all over the arrest warrants and the case files. Em couldn't go out the front door without getting 'randomly' stopped for something. They never found anything, but they'd empty her handbag and leave everything on the sidewalk, that sort of thing." She shrugged. "I guess that's what happens when you get away with shooting a cop."

Green leaned forward. "Ms Lee, you told the police last year that you didn't know anything about the shooting. Are you changing your mind about that now?"

"Oh, no, I don't know anything. I didn't see her with a gun, or anything like that. She never told me she was going to do it, or told me that she did it."

"So why are you so sure?" he asked.

"Well, I would have shot the bastard." Chelsea paused. "I wouldn't have just hit him in the wrist, either."

Briscoe frowned. "What did he do that makes you say that? Was he knocking her around, something like that?"

She shook her head. "If he had, she might have been able to get the other cops to do something about it. Even though they're all cops. But how do you go to the police and say, hey, my boyfriend's real mean to me, arrest him?" She shook her head again.

"So you think she shot him because he was mean to her? And then broke up with her?"

"She broke up with him," Chelsea said firmly. "And I know that's true because she asked me to go with her. She met him in a diner, Lulu's, down the block. Public, you know? She told him there."

"And when you say 'mean', what exactly are we talking about?" Green asked. "He criticized her cooking?"

"He killed her cat," Chelsea said. "Marmoset. He was six years old, she got him when she first moved out of home. She loved cats and her mother is allergic. So is John — John Rivera. He was on her and on her to get rid of Marmoset and then one day Marmoset just died."

"Pets die," Green said.

"She took him to the vet and paid for an autopsy. He was poisoned. Rat poison. We didn't have rats, detective, and Marmoset wasn't allowed outside."

Briscoe wrote that down. "So she believed he killed her cat."

"It wasn't just that. At first it was little things — telling her to dress differently. Saying she was stupid. I mean, she went to Yale, and he was a beat cop, for chrissakes." She paused. "No offense."

"None taken," Briscoe said. "Why was she with him at all, if he treated her like that?"

Chelsea shrugged. "He'd lay into her, she'd cry, he'd apologize and convince her it was all her fault in the first place."

"And she started to believe him."

Chelsea nodded. "I didn't help," she admitted in a whisper. "I mean — Em isn't the easiest person in the world. She's pretty, but she can be … intense. She scared a lot of guys away. So when she started telling me that she and John had a fight, or he said something to her, I maybe … I maybe asked her what she'd done this time."

The tears came then, her calm dissolving almost instantly into hysteria.

Briscoe went into the kitchen and came back with a glass of water and a roll of paper towels.

Green went over to the phone in the hall and found a piece of paper tucked under it with the words 'Robin — conference' written on it, along with a phone number with a Canadian dialing prefix.

He made a call, and then a couple more, and then went back into the living room, where Chelsea Lee was sobbing into a paper towel and Briscoe was sitting next to her awkwardly with a hand on her shoulder, prohibited by regulations from giving her the comforting hug she needed. "Ms Lee," Green said, kneeling down next to her. "Robin is on her way to the airport. She's getting the first flight home she can. And your friend Mary Bonardi is on her way over here right now. We'll stay with you until she gets here, okay?"

Chelsea nodded and sobbed some more.

"Ms Lee, I want you to listen to me now," Green said. "You know, I've heard the same sort of story you just told a lot of times over the years. Except usually it doesn't end with the girl kicking the boy to the curb before he lays a hand on her, you get what I mean? These guys are smooth and they're manipulative and sometimes they even get their in-laws onside. When Emalia needed you, you were there for her. And that took guts. I want you to promise me you'll remember that, okay?"

She couldn't hear him now, Green knew, but maybe later, his words would come back to her. Maybe they would help her grieve her friend without the guilt.

Once Mary Bonardi arrived and took Chelsea in her arms, Briscoe and Green excused themselves and headed back to the car.

"So we have an unsolved, but at least we've closed an open case for Major Case," Briscoe said. "That's a feather in our cap."

"Possibly," Green said. He held up his hand and Briscoe tossed him the car keys. Green leaned on the roof of the car. "At least, we know that one of the people who knew Cooper best thought she'd done it, but that's just thought." He propped his chin on his hand. "And why after three weeks?"

Briscoe shrugged. "Maybe there was some contact between them in the meantime. Unwanted contact, on her part. She was scared enough of him to be afraid to break up with him in private and to still want moral support to do it."

"Killing the cat, man. That's cold."

"I'm a dog person, myself," Briscoe said. "But yeah. She got out in time. And maybe just in time."

Green straightened, and unlocked the driver's side door. "And what do you think a guy like that would do if he happened to run into the one who got away?"

"You got it right earlier, Ed." Briscoe waited for Green to lean across and open the passenger door. "This case just officially got messy."

.oOo.

Chapter 4: Running

Chapter Text

27th Precinct

Lieutenant Van Buren's Office, Detectives Squad-room

3pm Monday 9 July 2007

"Emalia Cooper changed her job at about the same time as she changed her address," Green said. He had his notebook out and open, but he didn't need to even glance at it. "Burne Hawke Rivers didn't have any more forwarding details than Chelsea Lee did."

"She was running," Briscoe said to Van Buren around his sandwich. "Detective Cordova is talking to the DMV and the rest of the usual suspects but I'd be surprised if she finds anything."

Van Buren nodded. "Because anything we can use to locate her, she'd have known her police officer ex-boyfriend could have used too. How credible is this roommate of hers?"

"I believe her," Green said. "At least, I believe that she believes herself. And you know …" He shrugged.

Van Buren poked at her salad until she found a slice of tomato. She speared it with her fork. "If she was going to make up a story about Rivera for whatever reason, there's no reason not to go the whole hog. After all this time, what's to disprove it?"

"And not a lot of people would look at the relationship Lee described and see where it was likely to end up." Briscoe shrugged. "Maybe not this year, maybe not next, but eventually."

"If more did, maybe there'd be fewer women in the emergency room and more dirt-bags in the courtroom," Van Buren said. "But nothing the roommate described even rises to Menacing in the third."

"It never does." Green rocked his chair back to balance on two legs. "Until it does, and two guys like us are standing over a body and everyone's telling us they never saw it coming."

"Not always," Van Buren said. "We do better these days, I hope."

"Not this time," Briscoe said.

"How much do you like him for this?" Van Buren asked, finding another slice of tomato.

Briscoe shrugged. "I like him more than anyone else in the frame, but since they all have pretty solid alibis, that's not saying a whole lot."

"We still haven't talked to the security guard," Green said. He let his chair settle back to all fours again. "For all we know, he's a complete squirrel."

"About that," Van Byrne said. She thumbed through the stack of papers in her in-tray. "I put Detective Cordova on verifying those alibis. They all checked out. Including —" She found the piece of paper she was looking for. "Steven Handry, white male, 36 years old, current security industry certifications, permit to carry. His employer says he was on the job all night, checking the sites they monitor. They're sending over their information on his movements — including the GPS they put in all their corporate vehicles. Squirrel or not, if it checks out, he's in the clear."

"So we're back to Rivera," Briscoe said.

"If the roommate's story is true, Officer Rivera is bad news for any woman unfortunate enough to get involved with him," Van Buren said.

"And their cats," Briscoe put in.

"And their cats." Van Buren paused. "The cat bumps him up a grade. With a little imagination, you could construe that as a threat. It's certainly aggravated cruelty to a companion animal, not that there's much we can do about it now. So he's a pig and he's never going to be the poster boy for the ASPCA. But the question of the day is, is he a murderer?"

"He's definitely worth looking at." Briscoe crumpled up the paper-bag from his sandwich and tossed it at the waste paper basket. He missed, and Van Buren gave him a look. Briscoe levered himself out of his chair and bent down to pick it up, stifling a groan at the twinge it gave his back. He placed the rubbish carefully into the basket. "Forget he's a cop, and forget she took a shot at him. We got a dead girl with an ex who shows flags. In any other case, he'd be our first port of call. And the law of averages says, our last."

"If we can place him in the lot …" Green said. "Even in the area."

"Hold off on that for now," Van Buren said. "If that's the way we're going, I need to talk to Danny Ross before we get close to Rivera. And I.A.B. If Rivera used his police accesses to find Cooper, I.A.B are the ones to find it."

"So what, we spin our wheels?" Briscoe asked.

"Emalia Cooper has been somewhere for the past few months. Find out where, and maybe you'll find out why she was at the auto yard last night." Van Buren swiveled her chair and picked up a file. "Maybe someone reported her missing. And if they haven't, I have somewhere else for you to start. The signature on the papers from the DA's Office for the initial arrest?" She offered the folder to Briscoe. "Regan Markham. Maybe she remembers something that isn't in the file."

.oOo.

Chapter 5: Legally Admissible

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Office of the D.A.

10th Floor, One Hogan Place

4pm Monday 9 July 2007

And so, ladies and gentlemen of the jury

Regan Markham stared at the page. And so … what?

Really, what she wanted to say to the jury was Listen. This is a bad guy. His lawyer says it was self-defense. The thing is, this guy already has a sheet as long as my arm for punching, kicking, breaking a bottle over someone’s head. It was maybe all in the heat of the moment but this guy, a hell of a lot of his moments are hot. I know there’s not a lot of evidence to say he’s lying when he says it was self-defense, but look at him. Look at his eyes. He’s a bad guy.

Which was about as legally admissible as the tuna-fish sandwich she’d had for lunch.

So much for Jack ’s faith in my coply instincts.

Thoughts of Jack McCoy didn’t help Regan concentrate on her pitiful draft of a closing address to the jury, not at all.

It’s no good, going home alone after a win, he’d said, and then taken the glass of champagne from her hand and leaned toward her … Months later, and the memory still made her lips tingle, still sparked an aching warmth. The feel of his mouth against hers, his lips warm and firm, was clearer than any mere memory had a right to be.

One indiscretion, in the intoxicating aftermath of a successful conviction, one indiscretion Regan could have made into a sweet memory. The time that Jack McCoy kissed me. A moment they’d shared, that meant nothing, that would go nowhere.

But it hadn’t been one indiscretion. It hadn’t been the time that Jack McCoy had kissed her, but the times. With and without the pretext of mistletoe, with and without the excuse of a courtroom triumph. Regan didn’t want to admit, even to herself, that she could number each and every time. They definitely added up to too many, though. Too many times McCoy had erased all Regan’s common sense with nothing more than a finger tracing her jawline, a hand running over her hip.

Too many for her to dismiss as an accident, as a heat of the moment mistake.

But mistakes, all the same.

A mistake for her to forget that she already knew just where mixing the professional and the personal led: inevitably and inexorably to disaster.

Regan rubbed her temples, trying to fend off the headache that was threatening to set in. Didn’t I learn my lesson with Marco?

But Marco had been comfort and warmth and a few moments to forget the bitter grief that had turned her marriage into a no-man’s land with her and Robbie sniping at each other from their respective trenches. Jack McCoy was … Regan wasn’t sure exactly what Jack McCoy was, but he wasn’t comfortable, not in the slightest. Challenging, exhilarating, occasionally infuriating … charming, irascible, brilliant …

But certainly not comfortable.

Cut loose from the blue line of the police force, Regan had assumed she’d never again experience that combination of friendship and camaraderie, the blend of personal loyalty and shared professional goals, that two cops working together had — if they were lucky.

She’d certainly never expected to find it with Jack McCoy, Manhattan EADA, alpha lawyer of New York. But there had been a string of tough cases that had pushed them both to the edge, and at the end of them, somehow, Jack McCoy had become more than the man Regan worked alongside. He’d become the closest thing she’d had to a partner since she had pressed stop on the remote control of her DVD player, stood up from the couch and walked into the kitchen to stare out of the window at Seattle’s overcast sky and try to work out what she was going to do now she knew that everything she had always believed about herself was false.

She’d endured some of the darkest hours of the predawn night with him — his, hers. He knew her nightmares and had admitted his own. He’d held her as she slept, a simple human comfort she’d never thought to have again —

And he was her boss.

All good reasons for me to know better.

“Regan.” A familiar rasp that, as always, sent her heart to beating a little faster than normal. She looked up to see McCoy, leaning in the doorway of her office as if her thoughts had summoned him. His tie was loosened, his hair in the disarray that said he’d been raking his fingers through it while he was writing, his sleeves were rolled up. And he was not just leaning: Jack McCoy was definitely lounging against the door-frame, giving her the patented Jack McCoy charming-S.O.B grin.

It wasn’t anything that would get either of them in trouble if Arthur Branch had walked out of his office at that moment, but it certainly wasn’t entirely innocent, either.

“Have you got that closing address for me to look over?” he asked.

“Well …” Regan looked down at her pad. “Sort of.”

McCoy came to stand behind her, looking over her shoulder at her pages of scrawled notes. He rested one hand on the back of her chair, a casual, innocuous gesture that brushed his knuckles against Regan’s spine and sent a thrill of heat along her nerves. It might have been inadvertent on his part, although when Regan glanced up at him the faint smile playing about his lips made her suspect that McCoy knew exactly what he was doing and exactly the effect he had on her.

She was sure of it when he murmured, too quietly for anyone passing by her cubicle to hear, “How’s the job hunt going?”

When Regan had said to McCoy that she’d need to find another job if they were going to be more than just friends, she’d truly meant it. But almost two months later, she’d done absolutely nothing about it. She told herself that there were too many cases on her desk, on McCoy’s, for her to leave now. She told herself that it was a bad time for a big change, with Abbie close to her due date and her husband Tom still on deployment in Afghanistan.

All of that was true, but it wasn’t the truth. The truth, Regan had to admit as she tried to find another excuse to give McCoy, was that she had been stalling.

Stalling McCoy, and stalling herself.

So I have a crush on my boss. So I ’ve joined the list of women who find Jack McCoy, alpha lawyer of Manhattan and office Lothario of One Hogan Place, irresistible.

Is that worth throwing everything away?

Throwing away a job I ’m finally starting to be good at, for something that can’t possibly last.

And throwing away something she valued far more. Because what happens when whatever it is between me and Jack runs its course? She wouldn’t exactly be able to walk into Branch’s office and say Since I’m no longer involved with my former boss, I’d like my job back.

No, the evenings spent working late together over case files and Chinese takeout would be gone forever. The glass of scotch at the end of the the day, the shared victories and the common defeats, would all be things of the past.

“Nothing yet,” she said at last.

McCoy leaned forward to turn a page, fingers brushing her hand. “I’m still owed a couple of favors over in Queens,” he said, for the fifteenth or sixteenth time. “If you want me to make a call … or maybe ask around about desks opening up downstairs …”

“I’ll think about it,” Regan temporized, also for the fifteenth or sixteenth time. She cleared her throat. “So, how terrible is my closing argument?”

“In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen,” McCoy read aloud, “there is no evidence to support the defense’s contention that this homicide was in self-defense … this doesn’t even sound like you.”

Regan picked up her pen and clicked it a couple of times. “I know.”

With a final squeeze of her shoulder, McCoy took the seat beside her desk and leaned back in the chair. His long legs stretched across her tiny cubicle, his ring caught the light as he idly thumbed the stack of files on the corner of Regan’s desk. “What’s the problem?”

“This guy is a wrong guy. I know it, you know it, the cops who picked him up know it. But I’m not allowed to tell the jury!”

“Sure you can,” McCoy said. “You won the Molineux hearing. You introduced the prior police reports.”

Regan tossed her pen down onto the desk. “I can tell them he’s been picked up in the past. But how does that go to disproving self-defense?” She spread her hands. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the defendant has previously been involved in bar-brawls. Therefore, he’s guilty of attempted murder.”

McCoy shook his head. “No, no, no. Look. Pretend they’re a witness.”

Regan frowned. “On the stand?”

“At a scene. A reluctant witness.” McCoy stopped fiddling with Regan’s papers, planted his feet, and leaned forward. “They don’t want to get involved. It’s not their business, after all, right? Two guys getting in a beef? Maybe they’re scared to come forward. What would you say to them?”

Regan closed her eyes. “Look,” she said. “Guys like this, they always have an excuse. He started it. I lost my temper. I was just defending myself. I hear it every time. A guy like this, he’s never going to put up his hand and say, yeah, it was my fault, I screwed up. I did something I shouldn’t have. And you know, they get away with it, guys like this. They get away with it because it’s always easier to look the other way, to believe what they tell you, to write it off as faults-on-both-sides. Jack Mario has been getting away with it for a while now. He got away with it right up until a man ended up dead. And it would be easy to look the other way, to believe what he says, this time like all the others. I know it would be. But someone has to stop him. And right now, right here, that someone is you.”

When she opened her eyes again, McCoy was grinning at her. “There you go.”

Regan shook her head. “I still think you should take it. It’s a homicide trial, Jack!”

“It’s a slam dunk.” McCoy held up a hand, listing his points on his fingers, exactly as if Regan was a jury. “The jury’s heard about his fingerprints on the knife. There are eyewitnesses. He fled the scene. He lied to the police. And he’s been sitting in front of the jury all week letting them get a good look at the fact that he as more tattoos than Lydia.”

“So my closing doesn’t even matter.”

McCoy shrugged, “On this case, they’ll convict if you get up and recite Mary had a little lamb. But in that case, the reference to your closing in the Harvard Law Review wouldn’t be as favorable.”

Regan blinked at him. “The Harvard Law Review?”

“Ben Stone is writing an article on the rhetorical approach versus the analytical one. I told him to be in Part 53 tomorrow morning.”

“Oh, that makes me feel so much better!” Regan put her face in her hands.

“Relax, Regan, he’s not a restaurant critic. If you have an off day he’s not going to write a negative review.” McCoy leaned forward and put his hand on her arm. “But if you make the speech you just made to me, you’ll get a favorable mention in his article.”

“Like that matters!”

McCoy glanced out the door, a slow deliberate look at Arthur Branch’s office. “It matters, Regan. And it’ll look good on your resume.”

Regan looked down at her notes and carefully kept her eyes on them as she spoke. “Did you give this case to me because it was an easy-beat?”

“I gave you this case,” McCoy said tartly, “because I have too much on my desk to personally handle a bar-room knifing with thirty witnesses and a Hail Mary affirmative defense entered by a public defender who only talked his client into knocking back a deal because he wants the courtroom practice.” He released her arm and leaned back in his chair. “It’s not a favor, Regan. It’s your job.” He paused. “Don’t let Arthur make you over-think things. Try your cases, do the work, let everything else look after itself.”

Regan’s phone rang, and McCoy rose to his feet as she reached to answer it. “Get out of here early tonight,” he said. “Go for a walk, clear your head, get an early night.”

Regan lifted the receiver. “Markham, please hold on,” she said, and covered the mouth piece with her palm. “I have to do another draft of this,” she said to McCoy.

He shook his head. “You always lean too heavily on your notes, and they always get in between you and the jury. You already know what you want to tell them. When you stand up tomorrow, it’ll be enough. Trust yourself.” He smiled at her doubtful expression. “Or trust me, at least.”

Regan nodded reluctantly, and took her hand from the receiver as McCoy turned to go back to his own office. “Sorry about that,” she said. “How can I help you?”

Lennie Briscoe’s voice was unmistakable. “Hey, counselor, how ya doing?”

Regan grinned. “All the better for hearing from you. I was beginning to think you’d broken up with me, Lennie. You don’t write, you don’t call, you send all your cases to the schmucks on seventh …”

“What can I say, we don’t bother the tenth floor for ‘yeah, I did it, he had it coming’. But I got something for you today.”

“Oh yeah?” Regan flipped to a clean page of her legal pad, pen poised to make notes. “What?”

“One of yours, actually. Emalia Coran. She was arrested late last year and your name is on some of the papers.”

She put her pen down again. “Yeah, I remember. She popped one off at a cop, got him through the wrist if I recall right.”

“You do,” Briscoe said. “Listen, do you mind taking me and Ed over the territory? Seems like it was going great guns until it got handed over to Major Case and then everything fell apart.”

Regan laughed. “Flattery will get you everywhere, Lennie, but I only had that case on my desk for about fifteen minutes and it belong to ADA Carver now. If you’ve turned up something new, you should be talking directly to him.”

“We’ve turned up Emalia Coran,” Briscoe said. “Dead. She’s our vic, Regan, and we’re having a hard time getting a handle on her. She had no ID on her, she moved out of the address she had when she was arrested six months ago with no forwarding, she changed jobs. Maybe there’s something that isn’t in the file, something you didn’t think to write down. Maybe looking over it might jog your memory.”

Regan hesitated. “Lennie, like I said. It barely touched my desk before it was over with Major Case. Ron Carver, or one of his juniors, is really who you should be talking to.”

“How many MisPers do you think ADA Carver’s handled?” Briscoe said, and Regan chuckled at the thought of Carver personally pouring over records at the Department of Motor Vehicles in the search for an elusive defendant. Briscoe pressed his advantage. “She bled to death, Regan, it was a hard way to go. Just give us fifteen minutes, a quick look at the file, see if anything jumps out at you. We’re nowhere on finding this girl, and nowhere on working out how she crossed paths with whoever it was who pumped four bullets into her.”

“Yeah, okay,” Regan said. “In fact, Jack just told me to go home early. I can be at the 2-7 in half an hour?”

“We’ll be here,” Briscoe said.

.oOo.

Notes:

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Chapter 6: Uncorroborated

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The day had been promising to turn hot when Regan had left Abbie’s at seven that morning and as she pushed through the revolving door of One Hogan Place the heat of a late afternoon in midsummer New York hit her like a bucket of warm water in the face.

To hell with the expense and to hell with how long we’ll sit in traffic. Regan hailed a cab and sank into its air-conditioning gratefully.

Even the walk from the curb to the doors of the 27th Precinct left her sweating. She stopped on the landing, searching her pockets for coins for the soda machine.

“Let me,” a voice said.

Regan looked up and saw Anita Van Buren feeding coins into the machine. “Just a co*ke,” she said. “Thanks.”

“Diet?”

“Hell, no. Next you’ll be suggesting caffeine-free.”

Van Buren snorted. She pressed the button, then kicked the side of the machine and slammed her palm against the front. “You’re here to talk to Lennie and Ed?”

“Yeah, the Rivera shooting,” Regan said as the can dropped free. She grabbed it out of the slot. “Whether your new case stays with you guys or goes over, someone’s going to ask me. I’d rather tell Lennie and Ed than Detective Goren.”

Detective Goren, with his unerring instinct for a lie and uncanny ability to uncover a secret. Detective Goren, who Regan was almost certain knew there was something more to tell about that night of blood and gunfire in Seattle P.D.H.Q.

The night a man drew down on her, and she put him in the ground.

“Yeah, well, I’ll give you that,” Van Buren said. She opened the door to the squad-room and gestured for Regan to precede her. “He’s a good cop and he closes a lot of cases, but I wouldn’t say he’d make a comfortable dinner guest.”

Ed Green looked up from the files on his desk and gave Regan a broad smile, raising his hand in greeting. Regan waved back. “I don’t know how much help I can give your guys on this, Anita. I wasn’t involved in the case in any significant way.”

“Anything you can remember that’s not in the files will help,” Van Buren said. “She walked out of her old life and closed the door on it. We’re going to try a public appeal tomorrow, use the mug shot from last year, but you know how that goes.”

“Fifty calls with fifty different names?” Regan suggested wryly.

Van Buren nodded. “And Ed and Lennie spending fifty hours running them all down. And maybe, maybe, one of them will actually be our vic.”

“I’ll see if I can cut it down to twenty-five,” Regan said. She threaded her way through the bull-pen to Briscoe and Green. “Guys.”

Ed Green reached out one long arm and dragged a chair over to the end of his desk. “Good to see you, Counselor. Pull up a pew, and tell us what we don’t know.”

“I said I had half an hour, not half a year,” Regan said, taking the offered seat. Briscoe and Green gave the obligatory chuckle the proforma joke required as she picked up the file and started scanning pages. “Okay, so, what I remember isn’t much. I caught it for about fifteen minutes, before it got kicked over to Major Case. Someone takes a potshot at a shield, it’s serious business.”

“I don’t disagree,” Briscoe said. “Did you think this Emalia Coran did it?”

Regan shrugged. “When the D’s from the 1-7 brought it in, they said she did. Said they had a solid ID and I didn’t ask any more questions.” She turned her chair around to face Briscoe and Green. “Understand, it wasn’t much more than a social call. They didn’t want to spend time getting the office up to speed when and if they got to warrant stage and so they were a little more … previous with the briefing than they would have been if it had been Joe Citizen in the ambulance on the way to Mercy and not Officer Rivera.”

“Rivera works out of the 1-7.”

Regan yanked the ring-pull on her drink. “And did then. Everyone was taking it very personally.”

“Can you tell us why they couldn’t make the case?”

Regan flipped open the case file with her free hand. “Let’s see … eye-witness statements, nil. No weapon recovered. Suspect believed to have purchased a hot gun from one Doobedah Duke — that’s got to be an alias, right?”

“No, it’s the name his mother gave him, if he’s the guy I’m thinking of,” Briscoe said. “He works a corner up in Hamilton Heights. Hadn’t heard he was into guns, though.”

Regan raised an eyebrow. “They have corner boys in Hamilton Heights?”

“Where do you think the college students get their pot?” Briscoe said.

“I’m guessing Mr Duke has a record?”

“Only as long as my arm,” Briscoe said.

“Okay, so, uncorroborated testimony from a career criminal that Ms Coran purchased a weapon of the correct type, which she denied.” Regan turned paged. “Fibers at the scene matching a pair of pants that Ms Coran and half a million other New Yorkers own. Motive — woman scorned. Except Ms Coran and her roommate insisted she’d been the one to break things off with Officer Rivera, which makes shooting him a bit of overkill. She was home reading a book and her roommate was out, so no alibi, but then, no alibi to break, and no witnesses who saw her anywhere else, either. Here we are, interview statement. ‘I didn’t do it. I want my lawyer.’ So we know one thing about Ms Coran.”

“What’s that?” Green asked.

“She was smart.” Regan closed the folder. “She was the prime and only suspect from the start, I remember that. They told me Rivera had ID’d her. They wanted warrants for her home, her workplace, her bank accounts, the whole nine yards. I hung the paper for them and that was that, as far as my involvement went.”

“We’ve been to her home and her workplace, no joy either place.” Green rifled through the pages spread across his desk. “I don’t see anything about her finances here.”

Regan shook her head. “You won’t. Judge McLaughlan said no. Physical search for a weapon or other evidence, okay — that was before Rivera’s ID fell apart — but there was no suggestion of a financial motive or a murder for hire and so McLaughlan wouldn’t authorize a fishing expedition. She banked with …” She closed her eyes and tapped her fingers on the file. “Central Western, I think.”

“They might have a current address,” Briscoe said, making a note. “Maybe they’ll be helpful.”

“Did you try her lawyer? He was some legal aid guy, I don’t remember the name but it’ll be here somewhere …”

Briscoe shook his head. “Hasn’t seen or heard from her since Carver nol pros’d the indictment.”

“Did you have any sense she might be mixed up in something?” Green asked. “Something that might give someone a reason to kill her?”

“Mixed up in something apart from a ten-thirteen?” Regan frowned. “I don’t know, guys. I told you, it wasn’t exactly on my desk long enough to gather dust. I didn’t even handle the line-ups. I saw her once, at arraignment.”

“Still, you must have been interested,” Green said. “I know I would have been.” He caught her gaze, a wealth of meaning in his raised eyebrow. Because I got shot on the job, too, it said. And so did you. “I would have worked it round the clock as long as the file was in my hands.”

“Yeah,” Regan said. “But you know, I had a lot going on at the time.” The case had come across her desk days after Edward Walters had nearly killed her, days before Mike Logan had been shot. “Maybe it was just that I wasn’t doing my job. I’d hate to think so, but it might be true.”

Briscoe was tactful enough to let that lie. “What was you impression of her at the arraignment?”

“Skinny little thing. Maybe borderline anorexic. Very quiet. Her lawyer did all the talking.” Regan turned pages, not really seeing what she was reading. “So how’d she turn up dead?”

“Someone shot her five times last night in an auto yard she had no business being at. She managed to crawl away and hide under a car, and then bled to death.” Briscoe spread his hands. “No witnesses.”

“Suspects?”

“We’re looking at her ex,” Green said.

Regan put the file down. “Rivera?”

Green shrugged. “Her roommate of the time had an interesting story to tell about their relationship. He yelled at her, told her how to dress, then apologized … rinse and repeat.”

Regan raised an eyebrow. “Look what you made me do to you?”

Green nodded. “And he killed her cat.”

“Yeah, okay, well, none of that is going to be admissible, except the cat, if you can prove it.”

“At this point?” Briscoe shook his head. “No. If we can make the case, it won’t be on motive. But if Central Western can tell us where she’s been the last few months, that’ll help.”

Regan dropped the file back on Green’s desk. “Then I’m glad I could be useful. Call if there’s anything else.” She paused, and then took out one of her cards from her briefcase and stretched over Green’s desk for a pen. “Here’s my cell if you can’t reach me at the DA’s Office. If I’m in court.” She held out the card to Briscoe. “Or … some other reason.”

He took it, and tucked it in his shirt pocket. “You did stick it up Arthur Branch, sideways. We’ve been wondering how that worked out for you.”

Regan laughed. “About as well as you might expect,” she said, standing.

“That was stand-up, what you did for Mr McCoy,” Green said, demonstrating that he’d been raised right by getting to his feet as well. “We couldn’t get near it, you understand, but I read the papers. I was proud to know you, Ms Markham, and that’s the truth.”

McCoy had said thank you and Mike Cutter had complimented her cross-examination. Danielle Melnick had told Regan she’d run an excellent case and Sally Bell had raised a glass and said Good job, kid. They were attorneys, experienced trial lawyers one and all, and their praise should have meant the world to her.

But as she made her way out of the 27th Precinct and back into the muggy summer’s evening, Regan couldn’t lie to herself.

None of it had meant as much as a cop who’d only read about the case in the papers calling her stand-up.

.oOo.

Notes:

There’s no canon for Van Buren’s relationship with or opinion of Robert Goren, but in “Charm City”, the “Homicide: Life on the Streets” crossover episode, she has zero time for or patience with Frank Pembleton, whose investigative and interrogation style are like Goren’s.

Chapter 7: Coffee And Conversation

Chapter Text

Supreme Court, Criminal Branch,

100 Centre Street, New York

10 am Tuesday 10 July 2007

Jack McCoy timed his arrival at the courthouse carefully. Too early, and he ran the risk of Regan noticing him slipping through the courtroom doors. The last thing she needs is a case of nerves. Too late, and she’d be on her feet, and the sound of the door might distract her.

He eased open the doors and sidled through just as the defense attorney was winding up his no-doubt passionate appeal to reasonable doubt with a ringing endorsem*nt of his client’s innocence.

Counterproductive, was McCoy’s professional judgment. For one thing, juries rarely responded well to a mixed strategy, which checks-and-balances plus innocence certainly was.

For another, right after that declaration the boy from Legal Aid had to sit down right next to his client, whose neck tattoos and beefy forearms were not exactly what jurors tend to imagine when they thought of innocence.

McCoy folded his arms and propped himself against the rear wall of the courtroom as Regan rose to her feet. “My colleague makes a good argument,” she said conversationally. “That’s his job. Mine too, although at moments like this I tend to feel he’s better at it than I am.” She glanced down at the bar table, turning a few pages in a file. “I haven’t prepared any big dramatic statements for today. I hope you won’t mind if I just tell you what I think.”

One of the jurors shook his head no. McCoy kept his expression sober and appropriately interested, but if he hadn’t been in the courtroom he would have smiled. Gotcha.

Regan took a few steps into the well of the court, stopping far enough from the jury box to allow her to look at each of them in turn as she spoke. “I think that Jack Mario stabbed William Grafton in the stomach, and caused his death. Now, that’s not controversial.”

Most lawyers, McCoy included, preferred to move at least a little when they addressed the jury to open or close their cases. With the courthouse usually too warm or too cool for both comfort and concentration, anything that made the jury less likely to doze off was a useful courtroom tactic. Regan, however, stood still, weight solidly planted, exactly like every police officer ever detailed to crowd control at the Macy’s Thanksgiving’s Day Parade. “There’s no doubt that Jack Mario stabbed William Grafton, and there’s no doubt that’s what caused William Grafton’s death. No doubt, reasonable or otherwise. Jack Mario and his lawyer both agree with me. And I don’t think the defendant went to that bar meaning to kill William Grafton. That’s another place we all agree. If I thought he’d left his house and walked down the street and gone into his local looking for William Grafton in order to kill him, I would have had him charged with murder — murder in the second degree. The defendant says he was just looking for a drink and somewhere to watch the game, and I accept that, I do.”

Regan paused, and put her hands in her pockets. “And then he got into an argument with William Grafton. Again, we all agree on that. There’s no reasonable doubt about that argument.” Regan shrugged. “You’ve heard that Mr Mario tends to get into a lot of arguments. You’ve heard about the argument that left John Watson in hospital. You’ve heard about the argument that broke Cooper Parnell’s jaw, and about the others, too. There’s no reasonable doubt that Mr Mario gets into a lot of arguments that leave other people hurt. And there’s no reasonable doubt that after a couple of minutes of back-and-forth, Mr Mario took a knife from his jacket pocket and stabbed William Grafton. Mr Mario admits he did.”

Regan paused again, tilting her head a little. “Now we get to the bit where I have a lot of doubt. Mr Mario says it was self-defense. That is, now he says it was self-defense — at first he told the police he wasn’t even there. Then he told them he was there, but he was just a by-stander. Finally, he had to admit that he was the one who killed William Grafton. And I have to tell you, when it comes to this claim of self-defense, I am extremely doubtful. If William Grafton weighed 140 pounds soaking wet, I’d be surprised. You’ve heard from eye-witnesses that William Grafton was trying to back away as it happened. You’ve heard he had his hands up, out wide, like this.” Regan demonstrated. “And Jack Mario stabbed him. I don’t know that in the moment, when he pulled out the knife, he did it meaning to kill William Grafton. I gave him the benefit of that reasonable doubt when I had him indicted. But I have absolutely no doubt that he certainly did mean to hurt him. You don’t stick a knife in someone’s stomach if you don’t mean to cause them some serious harm. And whether he meant to kill him or to hurt him, he did kill him. William Grafton is dead.”

She started to walk back toward the bar table, and then paused, and turned back to the jury. “And that, sadly, is also something about which there is absolutely no doubt.”

Regan sat down without looking at at Jack Mario or his lawyer. McCoy glanced around the courtroom and saw Ben Stone scribbling in a notebook.

McCoy waited until the judge had given the jury their instructions and then moved up the aisle. He exchanged a nod and a smile with Stone, and then took a seat in the front row, behind Regan. “Hey.”

She turned. “Jack. What are you doing here?”

“Happened to be passing. Come on. We have time for a coffee before the jury comes back, if we’re quick.”

“Your fifteen-minute rule,” Regan said, referring to McCoy’s firm belief that even in the most clear-cut case, no jury would return a conviction in less than a quarter of an hour because they didn’t want to look like they hadn’t taken the case seriously. “You think they’ll be back that quickly?”

McCoy stood. “I think they’ve already voted and are filling in the rest of the time discussing last night’s episode of C.S.I. Come on. My treat.”

“The soul of generosity,” Regan said dryly. She stepped past the barrier, taking her cell phone from her pocket and switching it back on. It buzzed immediately, and as McCoy led the way from the courtroom she dialed her messages and listened.

She stopped in the corridor. “Jack, I need a rain check.”

“Trouble?”

Regan shook her head. “Briscoe and Green want a little legal pressure on a murder victim’s bank.”

“Next of kin won’t consent?”

“If they had her phone L.U.Ds or her current address, they might be able to find a next of kin. Doer took her handbag or wallet or whatever. D.M.V has an old address and she’s not registered to vote.” Regan shrugged. “Most people update the address the people holding their money have for them long before they get around to the government.”

McCoy nodded. “It’s worth a shot, but you won’t have time to get back to the office and draft a request before your jury’s back. Coffee. And then I’ll write the motion.”

The coffee cart in the foyer was new, and had markedly improved the caffeine options available in the courtroom. McCoy and Regan took their cardboard cups outside and sat in the shade on the ledge at the base of one of the columns. “So tell me about Briscoe and Green’s case,” McCoy said.

Regan leaned back against the column and slipped her feet from her shoes. She wriggled her toes. “Yeah, get this, Jack, it’s Emalia Coran. The girl who shot a cop in the wrist last year?”

McCoy watched Regan curl and uncurl her toes. Her pumps had left a red line across the top of each foot. If he hadn’t had a cup of hot coffee in one hand, he might not have been able to resist the temptation to lift Regan’s feet to his lap and massage away the marks. He fixed his gaze on the wall opposite and cleared his throat. “I remember. The Seventeenth screwed up the case before Captain Ross managed to wrestle it away from them. There wasn’t much Carver could do. We went nol pros to avoid jeopardy attaching.”

“She was found shot dead yesterday morning.” Regan slipped her shoes back on and stretched her legs out. “They ID’d her off the fingerprints on file but apart from that, she’s a ghost.”

“It’s not easy to live off the grid in New York City,” McCoy observed. “She must have an account with Ma Bell or one of her competitors.”

“Feel free to ring Lennie Briscoe and tell him how to do his job,” Regan said. She gave him a sideways grin. “Just give me enough notice to be able to sell tickets.”

McCoy returned her smile. “Only if you split the door with me,” he said. “So I guess Major Case was right. Coran was the shooter, and she dropped out of sight in case we started up the prosecution again.”

“If she was trying to evade arrest, why not leave New York?” Regan asked.

McCoy shrugged. “She’d lived here her whole life. For some people, anything past Wakefield might as well need a passport.”

Regan shook her head. “She was smart, Jack. In the interrogation? She lawyered up before her ass hit the chair.”

“She was smart because she asked for a lawyer? That just means she was a criminal.”

“Except if that was true, we’d have a lot fewer confessions,” Regan pointed out. “She didn’t try to explain, she didn’t engage at all. She just said she didn’t do it and that was it. Everything the cops got about where she said she was, her denial about buying the gun, came via her lawyer.” She sipped her coffee. “Besides, she went to Yale or something. So she knew you could leave the city limits without falling off the edge of the earth.”

“Maybe she had another reason to stay in New York,” McCoy said. “Or maybe it wasn’t the possibility of arrest she was trying to evade.”

“And maybe who-ever it was she was trying to hide from found her.” Regan glanced at her watch. McCoy didn’t need to check the time to know that the fifteen minute rule meant Regan still had seven minutes at least, but he leaned over to look anyway. It gave him an excuse to brush against Regan’s shoulder and watch a little color rise in her cheeks at the contact. He hid a smile when she had to clear her throat before she spoke again. “And Jack — who do women generally go into hiding to get away from?”

“Their exes,” McCoy said.

Regan paused. “I don’t really know this officially, but you should know before it becomes official: that cop she shot at, John Rivera from the 1-7? He was her ex. Apparently, he killed her cat. And it sounds like she kicked him to the curb just in time.”

“Try not to get too many worms on the floor if you open that can,” McCoy said. “Might be a good reason for me to take it now.”

Regan glanced at him, expressionless. “Because the victim was an almost-battered woman?”

“Because prosecuting a cop is about the deepest political quagmire around,” McCoy said. “And now is not the time for you to have your name anywhere near anything sensitive.”

She sighed. “Arthur isn’t going to forget about the fact that I work for you if you manage to keep me out of sight long enough, Jack.”

“Work with me,” McCoy corrected. He drained his cup and crumpled it in his fist as he stood. “And let’s keep his choler to a manageable minimum, okay? You should go in. They’ll be calling you for the verdict in a few.”

Regan shook her head at his confidence, but she finished her own coffee and got to her feet. “I’ll see you back at the office.”

At the office, and only at the office. McCoy watched Regan stride back to the courthouse doors, jacket slung over her shoulder. Her suit had wilted a little in the heat and her blouse stuck to her back. Her hair had frayed loose a little from its knot. At the doors, she glanced back, and grinned when McCoy gave her a thumbs-up. With her eyes narrowed against the glare of the sun on the courthouse steps, she looked less like a lawyer on her way to win a case than like a rancher counting in the herd. Or a pony express rider, heading in to the depot with today's dispatches brought triumphantly through the Badlands.

As McCoy headed down the steps of the courthouse and headed towards Hogan Place, he thought that he should be grateful he was older and wiser these days than he had been the year he’d met Claire Kincaid. A younger Jack McCoy would have done his best to persuade Regan that the fifteen minutes before the jury could reasonably be expected to come back would be best spent in a courthouse case conference room, with the door locked.

Except a younger Jack McCoy would have been confident that he could talk his way out of any consequences for either of them.

And it wouldn’t have been Regan Markham he would have wanted, all those years ago. He would have been setting himself to exercise his charm on someone like Connie Rubirosa, a woman with a razor-sharp legal mind and looks that could stop traffic. If not Connie, then Erica Alden, or perhaps Kathleen Eastman, or Rose Callier.

All those years ago, before he’d been left reeling by more loses than he knew how to stand up under — not just losing Claire, but Toni Ricci, Mary Fitzgerald, Alexandra Cabot, Alex Borgia, finally Mary Firienze. Before he’d found himself slipping off the edge of a cliff that was suddenly closer and steeper than he could ever have imagined.

Before he’d flung out a desperate hand and found it clasped in the firm, kind grip of a woman he’d comprehensively underestimated until that moment.

Regan folds the cloth and wipes McCoy's forehead, her touch impersonal despite the intimacy of the act.

"I'm having a very bad day, Regan," he says, not what he had meant to say but not the biting cruelties that have spilled from his mouth all day either .

Regan's expression doesn't change. McCoy could say anything to her and she would look down at him with the same dispassionate kindness. "I know," she says, and her voice carries a deeper conviction. "I know you are, Jack."

It had taken him months longer to really understand her, to unravel the history Regan slid past with nothing more than My great-grandfather raised me. I was a cop, until I got shot. But it had started that night, the night she’d shown him the side of herself that she put away when she came to the office. The night he’d first met, really met, the woman who’d told him I was a good cop. That's all I ever wanted to be. And now I'm not.

That night, he’d started to know her, and sometime after that, so gradually he couldn’t pinpoint exactly when, he’d come to see the spare loveliness in Regan’s rangy frame and lean features.

But until she finds another job McCoy didn’t want Regan to leave One Hogan Place. He did want, with increasing impatience, to finally have the chance to find where the heat that leapt between them at the slightest casual touch would lead — but he also wanted to know that she’d be in the chair to his right at the bar-table, that she’d be in his office each morning with an armful of files from the day’s arraignments and sensible recommendations on what should be done with the cases, that she’d eat Chinese takeaway across the table from him in the evening with chopsticks in one hand and a pencil in the other as she worked through a stack of files.

There was no reason they couldn’t have both, if Regan could only see it.

If they could keep it from Arthur Branch.

Don’t be that guy, Jack, Adam Schiff had warned him, warned him more than once.

McCoy had the feeling that he’d already had all the warnings Arthur Branch would trouble himself to give.

In fact, Arthur was waiting for McCoy when he got back to Hogan Place, looking over Colleen Petraky’s shoulder at her computer screen. “How was the courthouse, Jack?”

“Still there,” McCoy said blithely.

“I couldn’t help noticing that Ms Markham was in Part 53 this morning.”

McCoy took his mail from Colleen’s hand and shuffled through it. “Yes. It’s the first serious trial she’s handled entirely on her own and I wanted to watch her closing. As is entirely appropriate for me to do, given our respective positions.”

“And how many other ADA’s closing arguments do you make a special trip to see?”

“Off the top of my head?” McCoy shrugged. “Not sure. Colleen, could you get Arthur a list? Just this year, I don’t want to waste too much of your time.”

“Of course, Mr McCoy,” Colleen said, and turned to her computer.

“Don’t bother, Colleen,” Arthur said.

“It’s really no trouble, Mr Branch,” Colleen said.

“I said don’t bother!”

Arthur stalked back to his office and McCoy and Colleen exchanged a look. Be careful, it said, on both sides.

McCoy went into his office and tossed his mail on his desk. There is an increasingly likely probability that I’m going to find myself a defendant again — this time for braining Arthur with his ‘Republican Lawyer of the Year’ award.

He pushed the irony of resenting Arthur’s unjustified suspicions — when they would have been entirely justified if he’d had his way — to the back of his mind, and reached for a warrant pad. I can’t do anything about Arthur, but I can do something about getting Lennie Briscoe and Ed Green access to Emalia Coran’s banking records.

It had been a long time since he’d had to do such a mundane task himself instead of delegating it to his second chair, and McCoy amused himself by finding out just how many precedents he could fit in. He’d reached the last line of the warrant request with an average of two-and-a-half per sentence when a tap on his door made him look up. Jamie Ross stood in the doorway.

McCoy smiled, and rose to his feet, opening his arms. “Jamie. Good to see you.”

She stepped into his embrace and bussed him on the cheek. “You’re looking well, Jack.”

“So are you. How’s Katie? David?”

“Both well.”

McCoy drew back and regarded her at arm’s length. “But?”

Jamie laughed. “I’m that easy to read?”

“Only to me,” McCoy assured her. “Is she in some sort of trouble?”

“No, no, nothing like that.”

McCoy sat down on the couch, and Jamie sat beside him. “Tell me about it.”

“This is …” She shrugged. “Well, I’m not sure it’s anything. I hope it isn’t. It’s Neil.”

McCoy raised his eyebrows. “Surely Katie’s too old for him to be trying another custody fight?”

“Yes, thank God. But you remember what he was like.”

“I remember,” McCoy said. Neil Gorton had dragged Jamie through a bitter custody fight that had eventually forced her to leave the DA’s Office. Not because Gorton had actually wanted sole custody of his daughter, but just because it was a way he could make his ex-wife miserable.

“You know that the divorce wasn’t amicable. He fought for every penny. I thought about spending the next decade chasing him for late alimony payments and it wasn’t an attractive proposition. And he had a point.”

McCoy raised his eyebrows. “That he shouldn’t have to support his own child?”

Jamie shook her head. “That I’d made a voluntary decision to reduce my own earning potential by taking a job here. Oh, I know the law. And I know the principle behind it. But there’s principles, and there’s trying to find a way to have a life that isn’t going to make you crazy with anger and stress.”

“Which Neil counted on.”

“Of course he did,” Jamie said. “So I did the math. I could support us both, but it didn’t leave a lot over. I made a deal. As part of the divorce settlement, I accepted a considerably reduced alimony claim in exchange for Neil setting up an account for Katie and paying into it every month. It was supposed to pay for her college, help her get a start in life.” Jamie gave a wry smile. “I thought Neil would be more generous toward her if he knew I’d never be able to get any benefit from the money. I was right.”

McCoy nodded.

“That was twelve years ago and Katie’s due to start college next year. The problem is, Jack, I’m starting to get the feeling that maybe something’s wrong.”

“Because?”

“Because she got into Harvard and Stanford and UCLA and Neil keeps talking about how great it would be for her to UNY.”

“Not a bad school,” McCoy said. “Local. She could live at home. The tuition fees —”

“Would hardly touch what’s supposed to be in that account for her, and why would Neil care if she wants to spend that money on tuition, on room and board in California? He manages the investments, but he can’t withdraw the money. It’s supposed to be hers, for her to spend, and if she wants to go to Stanford and not keep a nest egg for a deposit on a condo, that’s up to her!”

“Sounds like it’s not the district attorney you need, but a good divorce attorney. Again.”

“If Neil’s been siphoning money off from that account somehow, that’s textbook section 155 point 40.”

McCoy frowned. “Grand larceny in the second degree. Do you want to make a complaint?”

Jamie shook her head. “If that’s what I wanted, I’d be downstairs talking to one of your baby ADAs in Complaints.”

“So.” He stood up. “You want me to look into it, quietly.”

“Nothing underhand, Jack. Just what you’d do if you weren’t sure there was anything to take to a Grand Jury. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe all the history Neil and I have is affecting my judgment. It’s just that something feels off about this, Jack.”

McCoy marked that down for being an ex-wife’s judgment but he had to mark it up just as much for being the instinct of a former ADA. Something off. “Is it a trust? Revocable, irrevocable?”

“A custodial account. Joint trustees, Neil and the financial management corporation.”

“And what do they say? The bank?”

“Jack, if I ask them, and it gets back to Neil, he’ll use it against me with Katie. I’ve done everything I can to keep things — I’ve never said a bad word about him to her, I’ve even lied for him. Told her he couldn’t help being delayed, couldn’t help canceling plans, that it didn’t mean she wasn’t his priority.”

“If Ellen had been that forgiving, Rebecca might still speak to me,” McCoy said. Or at least, be willing to let me have her phone number.

“I didn’t do it for Neil. I did it for Katie. I never wanted her to be caught in the middle of us.” Jamie paused, and then sighed. “But he hasn’t returned the favor. When I won the last ten-round fight in Family Court over custody, he told her it was because I was punishing him. When he canceled the trip to Paris he promised her two years ago, he told her it was because I wouldn’t let her go. If he finds out I’m poking around the account, he’ll use it to make me look like the vengeful ex-wife. Again.”

McCoy nodded slowly. “You’ve brought a possible embezzlement or breach of fiduciary duty to my attention. Without evidence, I have no probable cause for charges or for a Grand Jury investigation. However, it would be remiss of me not to take steps to satisfy myself of the truth of these allegations. Discretely.” He paused. “I’ll need as much information about the account as you can give me. The bank, the account number, details of how it was set up.”

Jamie rose to her feet, taking an envelope from her pocket and holding it out to him. “It’s all here. Thank you, Jack.”

He took it. “Don’t thank me yet, Jamie. If there is anything wrong … you know I won’t be able to let you handle it quietly. Privately.” He gave her a steady look. “Are you ready for the possibility that this could end with criminal charges? Are you ready for the impact that will have on Katie? And on you, Judge Ross?”

Jamie gave him a small smile. “I’m a big girl, Jack. And if Neil is stealing from Katie, it will break her heart, but I think it’s better for her to know.”

McCoy nodded. “Okay,” he said. “Then leave it with me.”

After Jamie had left, he sat down at his desk and considered the best way forward. Yolanda McIntyre was the bureau chief of Fraud these days … bright, dedicated, by the book. And absolutely fearless: the fact that Neil Gorton was involved wouldn’t scare her in the least. McCoy could ask Yolanda to look into it, and be confident that if there was anything to find, she’d find it … eventually, when she worked her way down her rigorously organized list of priorities.

McCoy tapped the envelope Jamie had given him against his blotter. Probably better not escalate it to head-of-bureau level just yet. Who else in Fraud owes, or might like to owe, me a favor?

Inspiration struck, and he reached for the internal telephone directory. Carey, Cessina, Chance Chen, Qiao. He dialed the number. “Qiao. Jack McCoy. Listen, I have something that needs looking in to …”

.oOo.

Chapter 8: Time Check

Chapter Text

Central Western Bank Midtown Branch

9 am Wednesday July 11 2007

"Subpoena," Green said, holding it in front of the bank manager's face.

"I'll have to have our lawyers —"

Green sighed. "Man, if you want to play it that way, okay. But you know, we'll have to shut down your bank while you do."

The manager blinked at him. "Shut down the branch?"

"No, man, shut down thebank. We can't take the risk of something happening to all those electronic records while we wait for your lawyer to get down here. I mean, we're officers of the law, and a judge says we have to get those records, so it would be irresponsible of us to take that risk. Wouldn't it?" Green gave him a wide, white smile, and then looked over his shoulder at Briscoe. "Better call the Fraud Squad, Lennie, they have the expertise to handle something like this."

"You can't —"

Green's smile vanished. "Iwill."

Briscoe already had his cell phone in his hand. He dialed a number and put the phone to his ear. "Yeah, this is Detective Briscoe. We're going to need a full squad, at least ten officers. Address is —"

"Okay!" the bank manager said.

"The time at the tone will be 9.08 am," a mechanical voice said in Briscoe's ear.

"Put a hold on that request," Briscoe told the speaking clock, and hung up the call. "So how about it, Mr Molloy?"

"Fine," Molloy said. He yanked his keyboard toward him and began to type. A moment later the printer whirred. "There."

Green picked up the pages and scanned them. "This seems to be complete, Mr Molloy. Thank you."

"Don't f*cking mention it," the bank manager muttered as the two detectives left.

On the sidewalk, Green handed the papers to Briscoe. "Same address as where we were two days ago."

Briscoe read. "No action on these accounts for, what, four-five months? Last pay check, Burn Hawke Rivers, in March."

"She didn't close these accounts, but she opened new ones somewhere else and used those," Green said.

Briscoe nodded. "Looks like it." He turned the page. "Hey, do you remember the name of her lawyer?"

"The legal aid guy? Martinez something." Green took out his notebook. "Correction, something Martinez. Christoph Martinez."

"Then," Briscoe said, "why do you think our victim wrote a check to Danielle Melnick last February?"

Green raised his eyebrows. "I think that's a question we should maybe put to the lady lawyer herself."

Office of Danielle Melnick

11 am Wednesday July 11 2007

Briscoe had been cross-examined by Danielle Melnick often enough to have a healthy respect for the diminutive attorney.

As she paced back and forth behind her desk, arms folded, he was beginning to feel a little like this was one of those times.

"I don't know what you think I can tell you, Detectives," Danielle Melnick said. "Ms Coran is my client, as you so perspicaciously deduced. I'm sure your keen minds can make the leap to the next inevitable conclusion, a little thing called 'attorney-client privilege'."

"Is this Emalia Coran?" Green asked, holding a color photograph in front of her face.

Melnick paled. "My god. It … could be. She's dead?"

Briscoe rose to his feet and reached over the desk to take the photograph from her unresisting fingers. He placed it face down on her desk. "I apologize for Detective Green, counselor. I'm sorry to tell you that we have fingerprint confirmation. Emalia Coran was found dead two days ago."

Melnick sank into her desk chair. "What happened?"

"We're trying to find out. Counselor, I'm not asking you to tell us anything you shouldn't. But six months ago your client changed her address, her employment, her banking arrangements and it seems increasingly likely, hername. We're trying to find out who killed her and if we could ask her neighbors and co-workers a few questions we might have something to go on." He paused to let her speak. When she didn't, he sighed. "We can get a subpoena. And then you'll fight the subpoena, and maybe you'll win and maybe Jack McCoy will, and I'm sure you'll both enjoy the argument, and meanwhile our trail to whoever shot your client five times and left her to die will be getting even colder than she is."

"Save your address to the jury, Detective," Melnick said. "I'm trying to decide how much I can tell you."

"How about everything?" Green asked.

"How about everything I can, without gettingdisbarred?" she said tartly.

Briscoe nodded. "We can start with that."

"Emalia Corandidchange her name in February this year. Legally. The reason you didn't find any trace of it was that Judge Sciola granted my motion for a silent record."

"That's what they use for witness protection," Green said.

"And battered women, Detective. Ms Coran was fleeing an abusive relationship."

Green flipped open his notebook. "With who?"

Melnick smiled thinly. "Can't you guess, Detective?"

"Officer Rivera," Briscoe said. "I mean, that would be my guess. Based on what her roommate told us. Former roommate."

"I can't comment on that," Melnick said. "I'd make some general comments about the blue wall and the difficulty of making a successful domestic violence complaint against a police officer, but I suspect it would strain your patience." She pulled a pad towards her and began writing. "Emalia Coran became Emily Watson. My assistant will give you the address we have on file for her, although I don't know if it's current. I haven't heard from her since March."

27th Precinct

Detectives Squadroom

2 pm Thursday July 12 2007

"Emily Watson was reported missing by her roommate, Chris Hobbs, yesterday," Lieutenant Cordova said.

"Just yesterday?" Green asked.

"Apparently she was occasionally away overnight. When he didn't see her Monday night or Tuesday morning, it wasn't unusual. He didn't see her Tuesday night but thought she might be working late. It wasn't until he realized yesterday morning that she hadn't been home …"

"Did she have a boyfriend?"

Cordova shook her head. "Not that Hobbs knew."

"Then where did he think she was?"

"Visiting her parents."

"Emalia Coran's parents are both dead," Briscoe said. "And she was an only child."

"So she was lying to her roommate about where she was," Green said.

"I …" Cordova hesitated. "I called him. I thought it would save you guys some time," she hurried to add.

"We're not territorial," Briscoe reassured her. "What did you think?"

"I didn't get the sense he was all that interested," she said. "I mean, he was concerned about her being gone, concerned enough to report it. But he didn't give me the impression they spent evenings watching 'Sex and the City' over a shared bowl of Hagen Daz, you know what I mean? She wouldn't have needed tolieto him. If she didn't want to say where she was going, she could have told himI'll be out.And he would have shrugged."

"Good instincts, Ana," Green said.

Briscoe rolled his eyes, but he was careful to turn so only Green saw it. "So she was doing something she had a reason to lie about. How often was she away overnight?"

"Once or twice a month," Cordova said. "Not the same days, not regular intervals. I checked."

"Preemptive lying, never a good sign," Green said.

"What do you think she was doing?" Cordova asked.

Briscoe shrugged. "Could be she was keeping tabs on Rivera. I mean, she tracked him down to shoot him once already."

"But she ran," Cordova objected. "She went to a lot of trouble to get away from him and make it so he couldn't ever find him. Why go anywhere near him?"

"Maybe he went near her first," Green suggested. "Maybe he found her and she decided on a little preemptive self-defense as well as a few preemptive lies."

The phone on Briscoe's desk shrilled and he picked it up. "Detective Briscoe. Yeah, that's mine. It was? Really? No sh*t. Thanks." He hung up. "Ballistics says the weapon you found matches the bullets Doc Rodgers took out of our vic. But get this — they thinks there's another body on the gun."

"Who?"

"One Janet Shepherd, shot to death six years ago in 186th Lane, near 69th Ave. Currently unsolved."

"I remember that," Cordova said. "She was involved in the KGs — Killer Gurlz, with a 'u' and a 'z'. Guns, drugs, a little local protection racketing. She was a bad girl in a bad line of work who came to bad end. No witnesses, no weapon recovered, about fifty suspects from either inside the KGs or their rivals."

"And you remember this because?" Briscoe asked.

Cordova shrugged. "It wasn't long after I came over here. The case was covered in the daily briefing and someone from patrol made a crack about it being a public service homicide. The LT tore him a new one." She looked down at her feet and admitted, "It stuck in my mind because I'd been about a heartbeat away from saying the same thing. So the case stuck, too."

"So do we think there's a connection between Janet Shepherd and Emalia Coran?"

"Hard to seehow."

"Well, the same person killed them," Cordova said.

Briscoe shook his head. "The same gun killed them. Let's say one of Shepherd's rivals inside her girl gang shot her. You said they were selling guns. Instead of throwing away what's basically cash money, our murderer adds the murder weapon to their merchandise. Someone in this city of eight million buys it. So now we have eight million possible suspects."

"Oh come on, Lennie." Green grinned. "We can rule out the toddlers. And the nuns."

"Don't be so sure," Briscoe said. "I've met some pretty mean nuns."

.oOo.

Chapter 9: Memorabilia

Chapter Text

Red Hook, Brooklyn

11 am Thursday July 12 2007

Knowing that Emalia Coran was also Emily Watson, and having a home address for her, at least gave Briscoe and Green somewhere to start.

A search of her room in the Red Hook apartment she shared with Chris Hobbs turned up bank statements and payslips.

“And not a lot else,” Green said, rifling through the drawers of the IKEA desk. “Gym schedule. Kick-boxing classes circled.”

Briscoe had the wardrobe. “I’ll have to tell Liz she was wrong about the swimming. On second thoughts, you can do that.” Green laughed. “Well, we now know Coran had an interest in railway memorabilia,” Briscoe said, turning to show Green a vintage railway conductor’s hat.

Green raised his eyebrows. “Sure, so someone shot her because she got the Green Flyer confused with the Red Dragon at her weekly train enthusiast’s club meeting.”

“When you’ve been doing this as long as I have, you won’t find that so unlikely,” Briscoe said. “I had one case, little old lady stabbed her nursing home inmate with a knitting needle because he kept getting the words to ‘The Skye Boat Song’ wrong. She said it was ‘onward the sailors cry’ and he kept singing ‘forward the sailors cry’ at choir practice. So she stabbed him in the eye.”

“Well.” Green shrugged. “Scots, right? What can you do? Okay, so Emily Watson worked at Hudson, Merrick and Riddle Financial. Address downtown.” He flipped the pages of his notebook. “Ana found a current driver’s license, this address, no vehicle registered.”

“So no reason at all for her to be at the car yard.”

“She was driving something somewhere.” Green closed the last drawer and straightened. “She changed her name, her job, and her bank. She wouldn’t go to the trouble and risk of getting herself a new license in her new name if she didn’t need to use it.”

“Maybe she borrowed a car from a friend? Hired one?”

Green nodded. “For these mysterious overnight absences.”

“On weeknights, sometimes, right? That’s what Hobbs said. You know, I really wonder if her bosses are going to tell us if she ever left early or came in late. And how tired she was, the day after Hobbs says she was gone all night.”

“You’re thinking she was headed out of town and not just spending the night with a special friend.”

“Driver’s license, preemptive lie … it’s a possibility.”

“Oh, great, so our suspect pool just expanded from the population of the city to the population of the state.”

“Except the toddlers,” Green said, grinning.

Briscoe sighed. “But including the nuns.”

Office of Hudson, Merrick and Riddle Financial Services

West 44th Street, New York

4 pm Thursday 12 July 2007

Hudson, Merrick and Riddle Financial was on the eighth floor of one of Manhattan’s ubiquitous steel-and-glass towers. Emily Watson had worked there for two months, and Briscoe and Green couldn’t find anyone in the firm at all who could tell them more about her than her hair color and her lunch preferences.

“She sounds stand-offish,” Green said to the young woman who’d worked in the next cubicle.

Louise Strouss shook her head. “She was private. A private person. But she was nice. Friendly.”

Green wrote in his notebook. “Could you give me an example or two of how she was nice and friendly?”

“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “Just … you know. If she went for a coffee she asked everybody if they wanted one. And like, one time, she brought in some salt-water taffy and she brought enough for everyone, even the girl on reception. And the janitor. That’s not stand-offish, is it?”

“No it isn’t,” Green said. He exchanged a glance with Briscoe. Salt-water taffy means Atlantic City. “Did she bring taffy in a lot?”

“Just the once,” Strouss said. “Why? Is it important?”

“We don’t know what might be important at this point,” Green said. “Do you think we can take a look at the files she was working on?”

“Oh, I don’t think I should. I mean, it’s confidential, isn’t it?”

“Well, it’s up to you,” Briscoe said, it being his turn to play the bad cop. “I mean, we can go to a judge and get a warrant for this whole place and go through everything. It would take days. Maybe weeks. Do you think your boss would prefer that?”

“Look, we don’t care about the people whose money Emily was managing,” Green said coaxingly. “Their business is their business. Unless it has something to do with Emily getting shot five times and being left to bleed to death. And do you really think Emily would want you keeping the confidentiality of someone who’d do that to her?”

Louise hesitated, pulling on her lower lip, and then turned to her computer. When Green turned the charm dial up to eleven, it usually worked. She pressed a few keys, and the printer on the corner of her desk whirred. “That’s a list of the accounts she was responsible for. I can’t give you any more than that. You’ll have to talk to the account holders yourself if you want details.”

Usually didn’t mean always. Briscoe took the list. “Thanks,” he said. “So these are all, what, rich people?”

Louise shook her head. “Not all of them. Some are trusts. And they’re not really rich. Really rich people have their own personal advisers, usually a bunch of them. These aren’t real-estate magnates or stock-brokers. They’re lawyers and accountants.”

“Look, I understand you can’t tell us anything about the accounts.” Green gave her his best winning smile. “But can you answer a question about Emily? Which of these accounts did she spend a lot of time on?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Louise temporized.

“Sure you do. You worked right next to her, right? I bet it’s just the same here as it is back at our precinct. You know. ‘Hey, Lennie, how’s it going?’ ‘Oh, fine, but if I spend another hour looking at the Costigan case file I’m going to throw myself out the window.’”

Louise smiled a little. “Yeah. Emily spent a lot of time on a couple of her files.” She tweaked the page back out of Briscoe’s grip and studied it. “This one. It’s — I shouldn’t tell you but I’m sure he had nothing to do with it. He’s a retired gentleman, he’s like, ninety in the shade. He’s still active, though, he came in a few times and he’s really sweet. Old fashioned manners, like, he got up every time a woman came in the room even though it took him about a minute and half to do it.”

“I hope his kids or grandkids were nice enough to bring him in,” Green said, smooth as butter.

“Oh, he doesn’t have any family,” Louise said. “It’s super sad. He had two sons, but they were both killed in the Second World War and then his wife killed herself. He said he was leaving all his money to stuff like ‘Thanks USA’ and the USO, because of his sons.”

Scratch one set of possible suspects. “What about the other file?” Briscoe asked.

Louise shrugged. “Just some trust fund. A kid. I think the name was Gordon. Katherine Gordon maybe?”

Green leaned close to read the list over Louise’s shoulder. “Katherine Gorton? That it?”

“Sounds right.”

Once they were back out on the street, Green jammed his hat on his head and sighed.

“We better fill the Lieu in,” Briscoe said. “She’ll have some ideas on where we ought to go from here.”

“Yeah, well, good.” Green fished his keys from his pocket. “Because if it wasn’t the ninety year old or the kid, at this point, I got nothing.”

When they got back to the precinct, Anita Van Buren didn’t look up from her paperwork as Briscoe and Green told her about their morning. “So it’s not the roommate and it’s not work. Motive seems a bust so far. Do you think the Atlantic City connection is anything? Was she a gambler?”

“One visit says no,” Green said. “But we’ll get her picture shown around and see if anyone recognizes it.”

Van Buren nodded. “Anything else from forensics on the gun?”

“No prints.”

“How about the shell casings?”

“C.S.U. haven’t found any.”

“So he or she cleaned up after.” Van Buren folded her arms. “I hate it when they do that. Motive, zero, means, no way to tell who had access —”

“Taking the brass and ditching the gun right there tells us something, though,” Green said. “Shooter knew the gun couldn’t be traced back to them, and knows something about forensics.”

“Everybody with a television knows something about forensics these days,” Van Buren said. “Looks like you’re left with opportunity, gentlemen. Find out who unlocked that auto yard.”

“Onward to Forensics,” Briscoe said. “Maybe they’ve printed the lock by now.”

They had, the two detectives discovered when they got to Forensics, but Julian Beck was shaking his head as he said it.

“I’m sorry I don’t have better news for you, Detectives,” he said. “I did manage to bring up some latents on the padlock and a couple of partials on the chain but they belong to the owner of the yard, the security guard Stephen Handry —”

“Why are his prints on file? He have a record?”

Beck shook his head. “Former federal employee. Used to work for Treasury, apparently. Anyway, his prints, like you’d expect, the owner’s prints, like you’d expect, and some partials that match up to Emalia Coran.”

“So she could have let herself in,” Briscoe said.

“She didn’t lock up after herself, though,” Green said.

“Unless she locked the gate before she got shot,” Briscoe said. “Nothing else? Nothing at all?”

“Smudges. Gloves, I’d say. Likely latex but I couldn’t swear to it.” Beck shrugged. “Sorry, detectives. Like I said, I wish I had better news.”

.oOo.

Chapter 10: Late Night News

Chapter Text

ManhattanYMCA

7 pm Thursday 12 July 2007

Regan retrieved the basketball from under the hoop and walked back to the top of the key. She bounced the ball, set her feet and then raised her arms to —

“You’re dropping your left shoulder too much,” Jack McCoy said behind her.

The shot hit the rim and bounced off. Regan turned to see McCoy standing on the court’s sideline, jacket slung over his shoulder and bag in his hand. She could tell he was on his way home — he’d already changed into jeans and his tie was nowhere in sight. “Told you,” he said.

Regan fetched the ball. “You distracted me.”

He grinned. “Making excuses, Ms Markham?”

“Maybe you and me should play a little one-on-one, Mr McCoy, and we’ll see who needs excuses then.” When he shook his head, it was her turn to grin. “Coward.”

“I’m not dressed for it, for one thing,” McCoy said, looking down at his jeans and then at Regan’s shorts and T-shirt. “And for another … I prefer it when we’re on the same side.”

She tossed the ball to him, a fast snap. He caught it reflexively, his bag and jacket falling to the floor. “That’s because you like to be on the team that’s going to win.”

McCoy weighed the ball on one palm and then lofted it back to her, a high pass Regan had to jump for. “Or because I prefer a fair fight.”

She pivoted and put the ball through the hoop. “Excuses again.”

This time it was McCoy who retrieved it. “Excuses, reasons, they’re both in the eye of the beholder.” He took a few steps back and sank a basket himself.

“Why are you here, if not to play a little ball?”

“I was looking for you on the Coran case. Colleen said you’d be back in an hour, and you’d taken your gym bag.” He passed the ball to her. “So I deduced you’d be here.”

She passed it back. “Emalia Coran, aka Emily Watson. Nothing in her home or work that points to a reason to kill her, Ed and Lennie say.”

McCoy raised the ball, concentrated, and shot. “Two all,” he said as it went clean through the hoop. “So they’re looking at the scene.”

Regan took a long step the side as the ball rolled toward her. “Yeah. Someone must have had access …”

“It’s an unusual place for a woman like that to be at night. If she was taken there, her killer knew it well.” He watched Regan lining up her shot. “Watch the shoulder.”

The basketball hit the rim, circled, and didn’t go in. “Dammit. And if she was there on her own?”

“Then there’s something we don’t know about Ms Coran, or Ms Watson, or whoever she was. And it might be the motive for someone to kill her.” He raised the ball. “If this goes in, it’s 3-2. Rules say I win, best of five.”

“And if I say we’re playing best of seven?”

He grinned at her. “Then I’ll have to sink two more. Or you’ll have to stop dropping your shoulder.”

Regan looked at her watch. “I have to get back to the office. So, okay, best of five.”

“And what do I get if I win?” he asked, narrowing his eyes at the basket.

She shrugged. “I’ll buy you a drink.”

“When, the twelfth of never?” McCoy said, lowering the ball.

Regan put her hands on her hips. “Come on, Jack. We talked about it. You know Arthur’s asked Colleen to get the sign-in sheets from the front desk for the 10th Floor? In case he catches us working late together when the rest of the staff have gone for the night?”

He bounced the ball, once, twice. “I didn’t. But Arthur can’t be everywhere. In a city of eight million people and two million bars, I think we could have a drink together every now and then.” He bounced the ball again. “Unless you’re using Arthur as an excuse to avoid telling me you don’t want to.”

“God, I want to!” Regan burst out. McCoy gave her a long look, and she felt herself blush. “Alright. Sink the basket, and I’ll buy you a drink. Next week, sometime. Somewhere a long way from the office.”

She was both disappointed and relieved when his shot went wide. “Wasn’t meant to be,” she said, fetching the ball and heading for the sidelines where she’d left her gym bag.

“I guess not,” McCoy said quietly.

Regan bent to pick up her bag, and when she turned around, McCoy was gone.

At least the fact that he was gone unusually early for the night meant that Regan could immerse herself in the details of the files in front of her without worrying about making sure there was at least one other ADA somewhere on the 10th floor still at their desk. She was in Part 18 next week, on her own again, another trial that ought to be a slam dunk. People v Grady. Another affirmative defense, this one of mental disease or defect for a car-jacking. Regan had two experts to testify that the defendant, while intellectually challenged, was not intellectually disabled.

But never a trial turn into a battle of the experts, Jack McCoy always said. Regan turned back to the beginning of the file and began to make a list of potential witnesses who might be able to testify from their own observation about Bill Grady’s mental capacity.

It was past midnight when she finished, and the house was dark and quiet when she got home. She crept up the stairs, careful not to wake Abbie, and was tired enough to fall asleep without more than a brief memory of how Jack McCoy had looked, poised with the basketball in his hands, long arms stretched out as the ball flew from his fingers …

The shrill chirp of Regan’s cell phone woke her.

She opened her eyes to complete darkness. That meant the call was an emergency, because calls in the small hours of the morning were always emergencies.

Except when they’re wrong numbers.

She rolled over and reached for her phone, knocked it to the floor and had to fumble around to find it. “’Lo.”

“Ms Markham? It’s Julian Beck. From forensics?”

A forensic emergency? The neon green numbers on her bedside clock told Regan it was two in the morning. “What’s up, Mr Beck?”

“I found something!” he said happily.

Regan sat up, scrubbing her free hand over her face and desperately trying to remember which of the cases currently on her desk had a forensics problem. “You did?”

“On the gun!”

There was nothing for it but to admit ignorance. “Ah, which gun, exactly?”

“The one from the Coran homicide? That’s linked to that old unsolved as well?”

Oh, that gun. “I don’t really have hold of that case, Mr Beck.”

“Well, yeah, but I have a match and I don’t have Detective Briscoe’s number.”

Because Lennie Briscoe is too smart to let anyone but his partner, his lieutenant, and dispatch have his after-hours contact. “Is it urgent?”

“No, but it’s interesting.

“Okay, Mr Beck.” Regan rubbed her face again. “Lay it on me. What have you found?”

“Well, the gun had been wiped down and so had the magazine. But when I disassembled the mechanism I found two prints on the extractor pin. Both are partials but there’s enough of them that when I ran them I pulled up four point matches on both.”

Four points wasn’t enough for court, but it was enough for investigation. “Two people? Who?”

“One person, two digits. Right thumb and right forefinger of one Carl Kolinski.”

“So it’s Kolinski’s gun.”

“He was the last person to give it a really thorough cleaning,” Beck corrected. “And who knows how long ago.”

“Still, it’s a start,” Regan said. “Good work, Beck.” She paused. The last thing she wanted to do was to give Julian Beck the idea that calling her to share his late-night eureka moments was a good idea … but he’d stayed up half the night running prints to try and catch a murderer and besides, she’d always found something endearing in Beck’s eager enthusiasm. “Thanks for the call.”

She put the phone down and flopped back down on the bed.

There was a tap on the door and she raised her head again. “Yeah? Come in.”

Abbie Carmichael opened the door a little and poked her head in. “I heard your phone ring. Good news? Bad news?”

“Good news, but not the fast kind,” Regan said. “Fingerprint match on a murder weapon, may or may not be the last owner. Sorry it woke you.”

“I was up.” Abbie came all the way into the room, hands cradled around her swollen belly. “My bladder is now officially the size of a pea and junior here kicks it every thirty seconds. And I am never being pregnant in summer again. I feel like I haven’t slept a full night in weeks.”

Regan sat up. “When does your maternity leave start?”

“When I put Ahmed Salayek, John Cincato, and all their little friends behind bars for the next 25 years.” Abbie — it was unkind, Regan knew, but there was no other word than waddled at this stage of a pregnancy — waddled over to the bed and sat down on the foot. “I rest my case tomorrow. Today, now. So depending on the defense … maybe a week, maybe two. Once the jury is charged and deliberating, there’s no issue with me being replaced.”

“I hope your closing has plenty about the future of our nation and the safety of our children.”

“Won’t someone think of the children?” Abbie drawled. “Yeah, it will. The only place I’m happy to play the gender card is when I’m dealing to a jury I want to put a piece of sh*t behind bars for the foreseeable future. Convict, ladies and gentlemen of the jury! For the sake of my unborn child, and all the other unborn children!”

“Just pray your waters don’t break,” Regan advised.

“Doctor says I have four weeks and first babies are often late.”

Regan paused. “You know that’s bullsh*t, right? Meant to keep you from turning up at her office or at emergency every time you get gas?”

“I’m pretending that it’s true, Regan, so don’t force me to face reality. Four weeks is plenty soon enough.”

Regan hugged her knees to her chest. “You’re going to do great.”

Abbie looked down at her swollen stomach. “The closer it gets, the more attractive elective Cesarean sounds.”

“Healthy mother, healthy baby, that’s the aim.” Regan shrugged. “Everything else is details. If you want a Cesarean, have one.”

Abbie paused. “I wouldn’t have expected you to say that.”

Regan grinned. “Because I’m such a hippie?”

“Because you’re so … competent.”

“You’re not exactly incompetent yourself, Ms Carmichael.”

Abbie shook her head. “I don’t mean professionally. I mean, if someone left a baby on the doorstep here, I’d be calling children’s services and you’d be … heating up a bottle and improvising diapers out of tea-towels.”

“Sure. I worked patrol for more than ten years.” Regan grinned. “Hell, I delivered two babies, let alone held them while their mother was put in a patrol car or an ambulance. The first two years of it, I had a partner who was twenty years in and he said ‘pick than damn kid up and give him your keys to play with’ and whatdaya know, it worked.”

Abbie raised a skeptical eyebrow. “It just takes practice?”

“It just takes doing what a hundred thousand other people have found works and then repeating it the next time,” Regan said. “And plenty of women have C-sections and their kids and they are just fine. So if that’s what you want, go ahead.”

“And if I’m just scared?” Abbie asked. “Regan, I know a natural birth is best for my baby. All the studies show it. Maybe not by a lot, but how can I not give my child the best possible start?”

“Giving birth is hard,” Regan said. “And painful. It’s fine to be scared. It’s fine to make a decision that you can’t face it. We all have limits. And they’re different for different things. I couldn’t do what you’re doing, with Tom. I’d be crazy, knowing the man I loved was in a war zone on the other side of the world.”

“Who says I’m not crazy?” Abbie said. They both laughed. “Oh, Regan. This would be so much easier if he was here.”

“I know.” Regan held out her hand, and Abbie took it. “But you’ve got me and my experience at baby-wrangling, and Jack when you need someone to get a spider out of the bath. You’re going to be fine, Abbie Carmichael.”

She squeezed Abbie’s fingers, firmly telling herself that her words were true.

.oOo.

Chapter 11: Dead Cases

Chapter Text

Office of the D.A.

10th Floor, One Hogan Place

Friday 13 July 2007

Between Bill Grady’s intellect or lack thereof, Julian Beck’s excitement, and Abbie’s nerves, Regan felt very short of sleep as she took the elevator up to the tenth floor of One Hogan Place the next morning. First order of the day: coffee.

Qiao Chen was in the break-room when Regan reached it. He was staring at the coffee dripping through the filter into the jug with such intensity that Regan guessed he’d had even less sleep than she had.

“Morning,” she said cautiously.

Chen looked up and smiled. “Is it? Already?”

Regan joined him at the counter and added the power of her own gaze to his. Brew faster. “We running a big RICO case?”

Chen shrugged. “Dunno. I haven’t been in Rackets for months. I’m in Fraud, now.”

“Oh, that’s …” A demotion. “I, uh …”

He grinned at her again. “I asked for it, so stop trying to come up with polite condolences.”

“You asked for Fraud?” Chen had always been openly ambitious, angling for the tenth floor and McCoy’s second chair, and willing to cut corners and cut the legs out from under his competition to do it.

“You have no idea how boring Rackets really is, Regan,” Chen said. “Is it ready, do you think?”

Regan looked closely. “No. Still dripping. But why Fraud? I bet you could have got Narcotics the second there’s an opening.” Personally, Regan would rather have done just about anything than spend every day trying to flip low-level dealers to rat out their suppliers and mostly failing, but it had to be more interesting than little old ladies whose dodgy contractors had insisted on payment in advance.

“Remember the Gamsoro case?”

Regan nodded. “Yeah, you guys Al Caponed him.”

“We couldn’t make murder-for-hire, but his tax evasion was an open and shut case,” Chen said. He took the jug off the coffee-maker and filled two cups to the brim. “That was my catch, the taxes. Mostly because listening to the wiretaps of these guys talking about fettuccine is so f*cking boring my mind was wandering to how I’d spend the ten thousand dollars we thought he’d been paid and then I discounted for the tax I’d have to pay …” He shrugged and handed Regan one of the mugs.

She took a scalding sip. “Still, a good idea, however it came.”

“That’s what McCoy said. He called me up here and said I’d earned my way out of Rackets, if I still didn’t enjoy it, and he asked me what I wanted to do. And actually, I really enjoyed chasing Gamsoro’s finances. Some of the dodges these mob accountants use are pretty complicated. So I asked for Fraud. And it’s fun.”

“So you were up all night putting another gangster away for improper book-keeping?”

Chen tested his own coffee, winced, and ran a little cold water into the cup. “Nah, McCoy had some information from a concerned citizen that a trust-fund might be being mismanaged somehow. Everyone involved is a lawyer so McCoy wanted me to look around at what I could find on the public record to see if there were any indicators we could legitimately follow up.”

“Find anything?”

He shrugged. “The SEC 10-Q shows an unusual —” He looked at Regan’s blank face. “Uh. Just that it’s way more active than I’d expect. Mostly, with a trust, you invest, then you invest the returns, and maybe every couple of years you decide to change the strategy and sell one asset class and buy into another.”

“I wouldn’t know.” Regan copied Chen’s example with the cold water and tested the coffee again. This time it was cool enough to drink and she took a gulp. “The only asset class I’ve ever invested in is second-hand cars.”

“Then take it from me. This is more like a day-trader’s account, selling, buying, money going in and out all the time. It makes it really hard to see what’s really what, and that makes me think that maybe …”

Regan nodded. “Maybe what isn’t really what at all.”

“Yeah, but I can’t prove it.” He drained his mug and refilled it. “So back to the salt mines.”

Regan topped up her own mug and followed Chen out the door, still marveling that Fraud could be anyone’s first choice.

“Ms Markham?” Colleen Petraky said as Regan reached her own office. “Mr McCoy and some detectives are in his office. He said for you to go on in when you got here.”

“Thanks, Colleen.” Regan tossed her bag on her chair and headed for McCoy’s closed door.

“Ms Markham, if you have a minute later on, I — I had a question?”

Regan stopped, hand on McCoy’s doorknob. Police in the EADA’s office this early in the day was either a new, high-profile case or a big break in an existing one, and either of those was urgent.

Colleen Petraky, on her third District Attorney, mainstay of the tenth floor since before anyone but Jack McCoy could remember, took priority. “I can make a minute now. What is it?”

Colleen shook her head. “Not that urgent. Later is fine.”

“Okay,” Regan said. “The second I’m free.”

When she opened McCoy’s door she realized that second might not come for quite some time.

McCoy’s office was roomy and comfortable compared to her own tiny cubicle, but it was not roomy enough to comfortably accommodate seven additional people, most of them cops.

One of them Robert Goren.

They all glanced to the door as Regan came in. Briscoe and Green sat at the table on the other side of McCoy’s desk, with Anita Van Buren at its end. Alexandra Eames was perched on the arm of McCoy’s couch, with Goren looming over her by the bookshelf. Ron Carver sat on the couch, beside a middle-aged woman who was the only person in the room Regan couldn’t recognize.

She offered her free hand. “Regan Markham.”

The woman took it in a firm grip. “Captain Halloran, I.A.B.”

Internal Affairs. Regan added one and one and got fifteen. “So we’re looking at Rivera for Coran?”

“What, we already have leaks?” Halloran said.

Regan shook her head. “That’s the only thing that would put all of you in this room at the same time, unless one cop killed another overnight, and there would have been something about that on the news this morning.” She edged past Goren and stood behind McCoy, leaning back against the radiator. “The prints Beck found got you somewhere?”

“Prints?” Van Buren said. She gave Briscoe a look. “You forget something in your report earlier, Detective?”

“The prints on the padlock don’t take us anywhere, like I said,” Briscoe said. “Unless there’s something he forgot to tell me. I called him first thing but he wasn’t in yet.”

“Probably slept through his alarm,” Regan said. “Since he called me at two in the morning to tell me he found a couple of prints on the inside mechanism of the gun. It was —” She closed her eyes and tried to remember. “Sorry. Something starting with K. But he’ll have it, you know Beck.”

“So we have a new suspect,” Carver said. “Who may not be a police officer. This meeting is beginning to look premature, Lieutenant Van Buren.”

“I’m sorry, counselor, but I can’t agree,” Van Buren said.

“Not every murder victim is killed by their current or former spouse,” Carver said.

“No, but the vast majority are killed by someone they knew, and I think that includes Emalia Coran. She had no reason to be in that car yard, and she had no way to access it. To me, that says she was taken there or lured there. The shooter dumped the gun and picked up the shell-casings. None of that says random robbery to me.”

“How about attempted rape?” Carver countered. “He had a gun. He grabbed her on the street and threatened to shoot her if she didn’t go with him. He took her into that car yard because he knew it would be empty and, at the rear of the yard, out of sight of the street or any residential windows. Once there, she tried to escape and he shot her.”

“And left a bleeding witness who he had no way of knowing wouldn’t be able to get help in time?”

Goren was studying the CSU report. “No,” he said. “He didn’t leave her. Look at these footprints.”

Regan got a glimpse of the photo as Goren passed it to McCoy, who studied it a second and then gave it to Carver. Three or four, made in blood, mostly overlapping, same tread — someone shifting their weight as they stood in the same place. The toes of the prints stamped into puddle of blood that had trickled out from under the car as Emalia Coran bled to death.

Carver looked. “What am I looking at?”

Goren leaned past Eames and pointed. “At the front, see how dark and clear they are? And at the back, much lighter and spotty? At the back, that’s from stepping in some of the blood trail as he followed her. At the front, that’s the blood from that pool running under his boots and along the path of least resistance while he stood still.”

“He stood there,” McCoy said softly. “While she was hiding under the car and bleeding to death. The son-of-a-bitch stood there and listened to her die.”

“The question still remains, which son-of-a-bitch,” Carver said.

“Maybe we’ll eliminate Rivera,” Van Buren said. “But we have to look at him. We’d look at anybody else, in a case like this.”

“Eliminate everyone else, first.” Carver stood up. “I’m not taking this case to trial while the defense can still argue that you decided who was guilty and set out to prove it.”

“They’ll argue that anyway,” Briscoe said. “They always do.”

“Not as convincingly as they’d be able to in this case. You’ve got no sightings of Rivera near the scene. You haven’t turned up any witnesses, any CCTV footage. Your motive is entirely based on a long-after-the-fact statement by one person who claims to have heard about some dubious behavior.”

“Not entirely, counselor,” Van Buren said. “Judges don’t grant a sealed change of identity for a gum-ball. Whatever Ms Coran had to say for herself, it convinced her lawyer and a judge.”

“None of which is admissible. Nor, indeed, is the statement by the room-mate.”

“That’s why we need to talk to Rivera,” Eames said. “Ask him where he was at the time.”

“And when he says he was on the other side of town?”

“Then he’s either not our guy or he’s lying about where he was,” Goren said. “And if it’s the latter, we can prove he’s lying.”

Carver raised an eyebrow. “And then he’ll confess?”

“They usually do,” Eames said dryly.

“And when they don’t, we need to have a case we can make without a confession, and this isn’t it. Bring me more.”

“Ron,” McCoy said. “You’re included in this meeting as a courtesy, because of your previous connection to Coran. I haven’t decided yet who will take the first chair on this. In the meantime, it’s on my desk, not yours.” He waited until Carver nodded grudgingly. “Lieutenant Van Buren. I want to know everything about whoever left the fingerprints on the gun that Regan mentioned. And find out if the gun was ever registered to him or her.”

“A gun used in a gang killing?” Briscoe said. “It won’t be.”

“Exactly. Then you can pick him or her up on an unregistered firearm charge. See what they have to say for themselves. It could be those fingerprints belong to our murderer, or it could be they belong to whoever our murderer got the gun from. Either way, it gets us closer. Lieutenant Halloran, I think we’re overdue for a health check on the NYPD’s appropriate use of personal details. I suggest Rivera and his precinct be included in that check. Find out if he or any of his buddies used their access to look for or find Coran.” He paused. “Go back to when she changed her name and moved. It’s possible she made a mistake that let him track her.”

“And us?” Eames asked.

McCoy raised his eyebrows at Van Buren.

“Find a reason to talk to Rivera that isn’t this case,” Van Buren said. “If the DA’s Office can dig out the cases where Rivera was the arresting officer —”

“Regan can do that for you,” McCoy said.

Van Buren nodded. “Good. There’s bound to be something in there that can be turned into a reason for Major Case to need to check some details with him.”

McCoy closed the file. “I’m not as gloomy as Ron about our chances, but he’s right that if we want to put Rivera in the dock, we have to put him at the scene of the crime and we have to put that gun in his hand.”

“Meanwhile he’s dumping the shoes that left those prints and the clothes he was wearing in landfill somewhere,” Briscoe said.

“He’ll have done that already,” Green said. “He did it before we found the body or he won’t do it at all. And DNA won’t help, even if we find his in the yard. He’ll just say he was there looking at cars.”

“Find out if he did that,” Van Buren said. “Show the owner and the other employees some pictures. If he was there two weeks ago scouting the place out and providing an alibi for any DNA we might find, that goes to premeditation.” She paused. “Do it at the station. Get them all in. Ask them again about keys to that lock and see if their answers are any different when they’re in the box being asked if they understand Miranda. And keep working the office angle. Maybe she was stealing from her clients and one of them did it.”

“And which one of those do you want us to do first?” Green asked.

“She was a finance consultant, right?” Regan said. “Accountant or something? Send me the details and I’ll get someone down in Fraud to follow up.”

“Start with the gun,” Van Buren said. “Then the auto yard employees.”

They all filed out. Regan was about to follow them, but paused, and turned back to McCoy. “What happened to keeping me a long way away from this case?”

“Just because I don’t want you signing any arrest warrants doesn’t mean you get to put your feet on your desk and catch up on your reading.” McCoy held the case file out to her. Their fingers brushed as Regan took it. She suspected it was deliberate, was certain it was when she glanced up and saw his sly smile. Then he turned serious. “Are you okay with working on it?”

“Are you?” she countered.

“If Emalia Coran was in the dock, I might be looking to deal it down,” McCoy said. “But she isn’t. The cop she shot will be. So. Are you okay with this case?”

Regan nodded. “Fine.”

He paused, and then looked down at the papers on his desk. “You had some … trouble with Mike Logan’s shooting.”

Trouble was one, extremely tactful, way to put it. “Mike got shot because he was a cop. Rivera got shot because of how he treated his girlfriend. I’m not saying I don’t have any sore spots, Jack. But this case isn’t one of them.”

“Have you talked to Skoda lately?” McCoy asked quietly.

“Last Friday. And I’ll talk to him again this Friday. I’m being good, Jack, and I’m doing good. Stop worrying.”

He looked up, then. “I can’t help it. But I’m glad of your help on this case. All things considered, though … unless this goes in a direction I’m not expecting, I’ll look to the pool for my second chair.”

Regan nodded. “Connie Rubirosa is good,” she said. “And squeaky clean. She could handle the fallout, if there is any, no problem.”

“Good idea,” McCoy said. He paused. “And why is Julian Beck calling you in the middle of the night?”

“It wasn’t a booty call, if that’s what you’re thinking,” Regan said dryly. “I was stupid enough to give him my cell number back when we were trying Lionel Forrest. Beck stayed up half the night finding those prints and he was desperate to tell someone. And then —” She bit her lip, and took the chair across from his desk. “And then Abbie was awake and needed to talk. Jack, listen. I’m going to work late tonight, with my door open, in plain view of Arthur. Go see Abbie.”

He frowned. “Is she alright? Is something wrong?”

Regan shook her head. “Apart from having her first baby while her husband is on the other side of the world, no. Go round and make some suggestions on child-proofing, or something.”

“Regan,” McCoy said with some asperity, “When I was a young father, child-proofing meant locking the liquor cabinet and keeping the poisons above the sink instead of below it.”

“So look up some Mommy blogs,” Regan said. “And then go remind Abbie she’s got more people to lean on than a roommate she’s only known half a year.” The thought of McCoy perusing BabyCenter or NewParent.com made Regan smile.

McCoy gave her a level look that let her know he understood exactly what she found so amusing.

And then, blindsiding her: “I miss you.”

“You see me every day.”

“That’s not what I mean and you know it. I miss you. I miss Abbie.”

“You’ll see her tonight.” It wasn’t enough, though, and Regan knew it. Right now, Abbie Carmichael needed McCoy to be more than just an occasional dinner guest. Regan had no doubt that McCoy himself would have preferred to drop in every day or so, whenever he could carve out an hour of time. “You can just come over anytime, Jack, you know Abbie always —”

McCoy raised his eyebrows. “Glad to see you’re seeing sense.”

She shrugged. “I can always go out somewhere.”

McCoy’s tone was testy. “Regan, as far as I know, being elected District Attorney doesn’t give people a special ESP talent for telling when two ADAs happen to be under the same roof.”

“It’s where being under the same roof would lead,” Regan said. She had a sudden memory of how it had felt to wake up in McCoy’s arms, the long lines of his body firm against hers, so vivid that she couldn’t keep from blushing. Probably not the first time, or the second …but sooner or later. “Maybe I should move out. You shouldn’t not be able to see Abbie because —”

“Oh, you’ll move out, and Abbie’ll be on her own hoping Tom gets home before she goes into labor? No thank you.” He scowled at her. “We can eat a meal together every now and again without the sky falling, Regan. I can have dinner with a woman without ending up in bed with her.”

“Say that a little louder,” Regan said mildly. “I think there might be one or two people down the back of the office who didn’t hear you.”

“You can’t blame me for being insulted that you think I have so little self-control —”

Regan spoke over him, using the steady, level tone that she’d used to break up hundreds of arguments in her years in patrol. “Or you could be flattered that it’s not your self-control I’m worried about.”

McCoy stopped, eyebrows raised, and then the corner of his mouth turned up. “If you put it that way …”

Regan stood up. “Let’s just say I’d like to find another job before I start running the risk of getting fired from this one,” she said. “And speaking of jobs … I have a bunch of old files to call up from the dead case morgue.”

.oOo.

Chapter 12: Good Behavior

Chapter Text

27th Precinct

Detectives Squadroom

9.15 am Friday 13 July 2007

When Briscoe got back to his desk, there was a message from Julian Beck in Ana Cordova’s handwriting. He picked it up. “Carl Kolinski, K-O-L-I-N-S-K-I, Carl with a C. His prints are in the system because he took a guilty plea on a robbery charge ten years ago.”

“Model citizen,” Green said. “Did he use a weapon?”

“Question of the hour,” Briscoe said. “Along with, is he still inside?”

“No,” Cordova said from behind him. “To both questions. I pulled the file for you. He got out three years ago. His parole is served, too.”

Green sat down at his desk and held out a hand for the file. “So maybe he’s gone back to his bad old habits.”

Ana gave it to him, along with a smile. “Maybe, but his parole officer said she thought he had actually turned his life around. The robbery was a first offense, he was eighteen and he was desperate to pay his college tuition.”

Briscoe held out his hands as if weighing the alternatives. “Student loans … robbery. Student loans … robbery.”

“Hey, student loans are robbery,” Green said. “Did she say why he did the four years on a plea deal if he wasn’t armed and he was just a desperate kid?”

“Punched an old man in the face, broke his nose and jaw. He had nothing to offer and his lawyer was, and I quote, ‘one of those twelve year olds from legal aid’. Jack McCoy apparently ate her for breakfast.”

“Oh, yeah.” Briscoe said. “He was lucky not to get talked into volunteering for the death penalty.”

Green looked up from the file. “Did she say if this address is still current, far as she knows? And his workplace?”

Cordova nodded. “She thinks so. He finished his parole three months ago and he’d been living and working at the same places for more than a year at that point.”

“Let’s go,” Briscoe said. “My turn to drive.”

.oOo.

Carl Kolinski did still work in the same place, a self-storage facility over in Jersey. He was helping a couple of women unload boxes from their station-wagon when Briscoe and Green pulled up and the muscles he had on display doing it made it a little easier to understand why a punch in the face had qualified as an aggravating factor a decade earlier.

“I hope he doesn’t run,” Briscoe said as they approached. “It’s too damn hot to chase anyone.”

He didn’t run. He looked at their shields with resignation, and when Green asked him to come downtown for a conversation, his only question was if he had time to call in a replacement to take over his shift.

They gave him that, as a reward for good behavior and his good manners in not running.

Once they had him back at the precinct and in the box, the first words out his mouth were “Maybe I need a lawyer.”

Okay, so maybe Rivera didn’t do it, Briscoe thought. And right now they were tiptoeing along the line of Miranda. If they tripped over the edge, Jack McCoy would tear each of them a new one and that would be a pleasant experience compared to what Lieutenant Van Buren would say.

“Why do you need a lawyer?” Green asked, sitting down beside Kolinski.

“Because I’m in a police station interrogation room.”

“We haven’t even asked you a question. You have a guilty conscience there, Carl.”

Kolinski folded his arms. “No. I haven’t put a foot out of line since they let me out.” Lie, in Briscoe’s opinion. “But you know, that doesn’t always matter when you have a record and the police need to put someone away for something.”

“Is that what happened last time?” Green asked.

“No.” And that was the truth, or Briscoe would eat Green’s hat. “I did that. It was wrong, and I’m sorry, and I did my time for it. I never did anything like that, before or after. But that doesn’t matter, does it? Something goes missing, blame the ex-con.”

“And what’s been going missing?”

Kolinski gave a massive shrug. “Stuff always goes missing at storage places. Sometimes the owner wants the insurance claim. Sometimes they just forget that they lost that set of glasses or whatever in the divorce and think it ought to be there. And yeah, sometimes stuff gets stolen, but not by me.”

“Well, it’s your lucky day, Carl,” Green said. “Because we’re Homicide, and this is Manhattan, and our interest in a missing set of cutlery over in New Jersey is absolutely zero.”

“Homicide?” Kolinski looked from one to the other. “Did Mr Hutter die?”

“Who’s Mr Hutter?”

“The old guy with the newsagency, the one I robbed and punched. They told me I put him in the hospital and I should take the deal because if he died it would be murder. Did he die?”

“I have no idea,” Briscoe said. “This isn’t about Mr Hutter, Carl. It’s about this.” He produced a photo of the gun that had killed Emalia Coran.

Kolinski unfolded his arms and picked it up. “It’s a gun. I don’t have a gun.”

“This gun was used to shoot a woman dead,” Briscoe said. “Your prints are on it. Unless you have something convincing to say to us, I’m going to book you for murder and take the rest of the day off.”

“Oh, come on, man! I never shot anybody!”

Briscoe sipped his coffee. “Convince me, Carl. Make it good.”

“Well, look, when was this woman killed? I was at my girlfriend’s last night. She’ll tell you!”

Briscoe and Green exchanged a glance. A guilty man would have offered an alibi for the actual time of the crime. “Tell me about the gun,” Briscoe said. “Where did you get it?”

“I bought it on the street! From … dammit, I don’t remember her name. Cute little thing. My brother-in-law gave me a number to call if I wanted a piece, no questions asked.”

“And why did you want a piece, Carl?”

“Okay, look. I have a black mark against me, right?”

That was a creative way to describe a guilty plea for robbery with violence, but Briscoe nodded.

“So I got this job. Like, way back. Two years ago. Collecting from vending machines. I was getting myself right, you know? Honest employment. But you know how much cash some of those machines have in them? I got held up three times in a month!”

Green nodded. “So you wanted to be able to defend yourself,” he said. “I can see that.”

“The boss told me to get a gun if I wanted to keep my job, but I couldn’t get a license.”

“So you had to buy a hot piece,” Green said.

“I had no choice!”

“And where is it now?” Briscoe asked.

“Hell if I know, man!” Kolinski flung himself back in his chair and folded his arms. “You should know that without asking me!”

“And why is that, Carl?” Green asked.

“Because it was one of you guys who took it from me!” Carl Kolinski said.

Briscoe and Green exchanged a look. “Why don’t you tell us about that?” Briscoe suggested.

“He asked to see my license,” Kolinski said. “And I, obviously, didn’t have one to show him. He took it off me and said he’d let me off with a warning.”

“What was his name?”

“I don’t know, f*ck! It was years ago.”

“Let’s try where,” Green said. “Where were you when he asked for your license?”

“On my rounds. It was … corner of 9th and 17th.”

Van Buren knocked on the window.

“Okay, we’ll be right back,” Briscoe said. “Try and remember anything else you might know about the gun or the officer who confiscated it.”

He and Green went out to the observation room, where Van Buren and Regan Markham were watching the interrogation.

“Corner of 9th and 17th, that’s squarely inside the Seventeenth Precinct’s patrol area,” Van Buren said. “Someone from the 1-7 confiscated the gun and never wrote any paperwork on it.”

“Probably wanted it for a throw-down,” Briscoe said. He turned to Green. “In the old days, if a cop shot someone they thought was armed but turned out not to be —”

“I know what a throw-down piece is, Lennie,” Green said. “And it wasn’t just used in the old days.” He sighed. “Okay, I vote we put Rivera in a line-up and see if Kolinski can ID him as the guy who took the gun away from him. If he can, we can put the murder weapon in Rivera’s possession. That ought to make ADA Carver happy.”

“And if he can’t, we’ve just provided the defense with a precinct full of alternative suspects,” Regan said.

“That shouldn’t matter so much,” Van Buren said. “Maybe one of Rivera’s buddies did take the gun from Kolinski instead of Rivera himself. Rivera needed a piece and he asked a friend.”

“Then we need the friend,” Regan said. “No line up, but show him some pictures. Full spread. Mix up a whole bunch of 1-7 cops in there and see if he picks Rivera or anyone. Make sure you include cops who’ve transferred — ”

Van Buren folded her arms. “I know how to do my job, counselor.”

“I know,” Regan said. “But Jack McCoy is going to ask me if I reminded you, and when I say ‘yes’ I’d like to be telling him the truth. Getting lied to pisses him off. And he can always tell.”

“Do we think Kolinski is telling the truth?” Briscoe asked.

“He thought we were bringing him in over stolen property. He offered an alibi witness for the wrong night.” Green ticked the points off on his fingers. “And unless he’s psychic, he can’t know that passing the gun along to a police officer from that precinct means something.”

“And he went straight to Hutter when he realized there was a body on the table,” Van Buren said. “He either worked all that out in advance, which makes him the smartest criminal I ever had in the box — and he’s not that smart — or he’s telling the truth. Show him the pictures.”

Kolinski picked out an Officer Gary Burden from the picture array as the officer who’d taken his gun. Van Buren called Halloran at the I.A.B. “This one’s all yours,” she said. “Murder weapon was taken off an unlicensed holder by Gary Burden at the 1-7 and never written up.”

“Can you prove it?” Halloran asked.

“Probably not. But Burden can put the gun in Rivera’s hand. I want to talk to him, but that’s your call.”

Halloran paused. “He wouldn’t be the first police officer to hold on to an untraceable weapon, and it usually leads nowhere good.”

“He’s looking at losing his job and his pension,” Van Buren said. “We’re going to have to give him something if we want him to give us anything.”

“If he flips on any other cops in that house who are appropriating illegal guns, and if he tells you the truth about the murder weapon and it checks out, I.A.B. will give him a black mark and a demotion, but we won’t object to him staying on the force. Administrative assignment, or traffic,” Halloran said. “Unless he shot her himself.”

“We’ll make sure he didn’t before he gets offered anything,” Van Buren said. She hung up. “Ed, you and Lennie get started on our crime scene access problem. Get those people in here and work them until somebody says something useful.”

“And Burden?”

Van Buren lifted the receiver again. “If we’ve got Major Case panting to be part of this, we may as well take advantage.”

.oOo.

Chapter 13: From The Beginning

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Office of the D.A.

10th Floor, One Hogan Place

Friday 13 July 2007

It was nearly midday before Regan finished gathering together the most complete list of Rivera’s arrests she could coax from the computerized records. She sent out a flurry of emails to the ADAs who had the cases that were active and assigned and requested the other files from the Morgue — or, Records and Administration, as it was formally known, one of the places cold cases went to die. She pulled together the information on the financial accounts handled by Emily Watson and emailed it downstairs to Chen.

Then she leaned out of her cubicle door. “Colleen? I’ve got that minute, now. Sorry to keep you waiting.”

“It’s no problem, Ms Markham,” Colleen said. She got up from her desk and came over to Regan. “I know how busy you all are.”

“Sit down,” Regan said, “and tell me your question.”

Colleen began to seat herself in the chair by Regan’s desk, and then hesitated. “Do you mind if we close the door?”

“Go ahead,” Regan said. She kept her face pleasant and neutral, but her mind started racing. What on earth Had Colleen overheard Branch say something? About her and McCoy? About sacking her?

Colleen closed the door, and sat down. She smoothed her skirt over her knees. “I —” she said, and stopped. “Can you promise to keep this between us?”

Okay, strike that last. “I can promise to keep this between us if I can,” Regan said carefully.

“Promise not to tell Mr McCoy, at least,” Colleen said. “Please.”

“I won’t tell Jack,” Regan said. “What is it, Colleen? What’s wrong?”

Colleen picked at a cuticle. “I’m not sure how to start.”

“From the beginning,” Regan said gently, the way McCoy would have coaxed a frightened witness.

“I — I used to be married.” And then, in a flurry of words, “A long time ago, back in the seventies, things were very different then, I know that these days it must sound awful of me, I’d do things differently now if it was happening now but there just wasn’t the same sort of law and the police and —”

Jesus Christ, she’s about to tell me she killed her husband thirty years ago.

Regan kept that thought off her face. Whatever Colleen was about to tell her was a spontaneous utterance in a non-custodial setting and completely admissible at any trial. Good police-work and good prosecution practice dictated that Regan say absolutely nothing and let Colleen talk her way into a charge.

Instead, she cleared her throat. “Colleen. Do you understand that anything you say to me about a crime can be used in court? You don’t have to say anything. You have every right to consult your own lawyer and to have a lawyer present when you —”

Colleen blinked at her. “You’re Mirandizing me? I haven’t done anything! Why are you telling me my rights?”

Regan let out a silent breath of relief. “I was kind of getting the feeling that you were about to tell me that it was Ms Petraky, in the garden, with a hammer.”

“No! Dan’s still alive. That’s the problem!” Colleen said, and burst into tears.

Regan got out of her chair in a hurry and knelt down beside the tiny secretary’s chair. “Alright, alright, it’s alright.” She put her arms around Colleen. “It’s alright, whatever it is, it’ll be alright.”

Colleen sniffed. “We didn’t even have a garden,” she said. “We lived in an apartment.”

“Okay,” Regan said. “You lived in an apartment. And his name is Dan?”

“Daniel James. He used to work here. Then he took a job in Phoenix. I haven’t seen him for nearly thirty years.”

“Why Phoenix?” Regan asked.

Colleen took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “Because he used to hit me, Ms Markham, and Mr McCoy threatened to prosecute him, and then Mr Schiff fixed up a job for him.”

Regan nodded. “So he had to choose. Either go to Arizona or go to trial.”

“I know how it sounds now!” Colleen wailed. “But you don’t understand how things were back then, I would have had to testify against him, at the Grand Jury, at the trial. And even then it would just be me saying it and him saying I was lying and —”

“I understand,” Regan said, and she did. She had spent enough hours as a patrol officer in Seattle trying to persuade battered women and, sometimes, battered men, to lay charges against the person hurting them. She had seen enough cases sent down to the dead files morgue because the only evidence of assault was the word of the victim. McCoy didn’t think he could win the case. Even now, it’d be hard. Thirty years ago … “Jack wanted to keep you safe. Even if he’d convicted your husband, he would have gotten out a few years later. And he’d be here, in New York, and angry, and he’d know where you worked.”

“He’s here in New York now,” Colleen said. “But you can’t tell Mr McCoy. He told Dan if he ever came back he’d find a way to prosecute him and throw him in jail.”

Regan gave Colleen’s shoulders one last squeeze and sat back on her heels, grabbing a pen and a pad of paper from her desk. “How do you know he’s here? Has he contacted you?”

“I saw him. On the street, outside the office, this morning. At least, I think it was him. It might have been him. He’s an old man now.” Colleen paused. “Well, I’m an old woman these days, too.”

“Did he speak to you? Threaten you? Approach you in any way?”

Colleen shook her head. “It might not even have been him. I mean, everyone has a double, somewhere in the world, don’t they? I read that somewhere.”

Regan put her pen down. Nothing to get the cops working on, then. “Some people do look like other people, and it has been thirty years,” Regan said. “Why not tell Jack, though? If it isn’t your husband you saw, it doesn’t matter, and if it is, if he’s come back here to harass you, Jack throwing the book at him sounds like a very good idea.”

“And then everything would come out. You know how it would look, now, what Mr McCoy and Mr Schiff did. In those days, it was just …” Colleen shrugged. “It wasn’t exactly according to the rules but people didn’t think about it the way they do now.”

“Yeah.” Regan bit her lip. “Back in those days, if you’d lived in a country town, and Jack had been the sheriff and Mr Schiff was the mayor, they’d have taken him out the back of the police station, given him a hiding and told him to leave town. These days, that’s police brutality and a guaranteed successful lawsuit.”

She could imagine the front-page headlines if the press found out. Jack McCoy, scourge of Manhattan’s law-breakers and fearless prosecutor of anyone, even judges, who misused their position. Jack McCoy using the threat of a prosecution he hadn’t intended to bring, and the bribe of a job that had been fixed up by a favor, as the stick and carrot to get the husband of a woman he worked with to leave town …

“Okay,” she said. “No Jack. And no prosecution. So this is what we’re going to do. First of all, you’re going to write down your ex-husband’s full name and date of birth for me.” She gave the pad and pen to Colleen. “Then you’re going to phone Serena Southerlyn and you’re going to tell her you need her to represent you to get a Family Court Order of Protection. She doesn’t do much family law but it’s a straightforward application and she’ll do it for you pro bono. You only need to tell her that your husband used to assault you and you never brought charges, but now you’re afraid he’s back. But if you do tell her anything else, it’s fine, because she’ll be bound by confidentiality. I am going to call Abbie Carmichael and start finding out if the man you saw really is your ex-husband or if it’s just a coincidental resemblance.”

Colleen began to write. “And if it was him?”

“Then I am going to find him,” Regan said calmly, “and talk to him and find out why he’s here again, after all these years.”

“You will be careful, won’t you?” Colleen asked anxiously.

Regan smiled, and got to her feet. “I will. You might have heard, I have a couple of friends on the police force. I’m sure at least one of them will be able to find the time to come along.”

When Colleen went back to her desk to call Serena, Regan closed her cubicle door and called the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. “Daniel James, please,” she told the receptionist who answered. If the call went through, Regan would just hang up — and know that James was there and not here, and that would be the end of it.

“I’m sorry, Ms Markham, Mr James has retired. Is it about one of his cases? I can refer you to —”

“No, that’s fine,” Regan said. “It was a personal matter. Do you have a contact for him?”

“A cell phone,” the receptionist in Phoenix said. She gave Regan the number and Regan thanked her and hung up.

There was no point calling the number. Daniel James could be anywhere and the call would go through, from Arizona to Alaska to right down the street. Still, maybe it’ll help Abbie.

She expected Abbie to be in court, but when she called to leave a message, the federal prosecutor picked up on the first ring. “Abbie, it’s Reagan. Court break early for lunch?”

“I might have been a little bit mean to one of the defense witnesses,” Abbie said. “The judge gave him a fifteen minute recess to stop sobbing hysterically. What can I do for you?”

“I have a personal-professional query. One of my co-workers here thinks she might be being stalked by her ex. He’s supposed to be in Arizona but she thinks she saw him on the street.”

“And I assume you’re calling me because there’s some reason she can’t call her local precinct?” Abbie said.

“It’s been thirty years since she saw him, she could be mistaken. I have a name, and a cell. Is there any legal way to find out if he’s in New York? Airline passenger lists, something like that?”

“Sure, you can call the airlines and ask. And they can tell you or not.”

Regan frowned. “Isn’t there a database?”

“There is but I can’t request a name from it unless he’s suspected of something.”

I suspect him of something,” Regan said.

“But without probable cause or you’d be getting a warrant for his L.U.Ds.” Abbie gave a small chuckle. “I know Jack likes to talk as if the Patriot Act makes me Big Brother’s little sister, but I can’t just use the powers of the Federal Government however I want. Unfortunately. Call Rey Curtis. Private detectives do this sort of thing all the time, missing persons, errant spouses.”

Regan sighed. “Thanks, Abbie.”

“And reach out and touch someone in blue. No need for a warrant to locate a cell phone, not in this state. Sorry I couldn’t be more help,” Abbie said. “Oops, got to go. The witness has stopped crying.”

Regan found herself listening to a dial-tone.

She flipped through her address book and found the number she wanted, depressed the cradle and dialed. “Hey, Rey,” she said. “It’s Regan Markham. I have some work for you, if you have time.”

.oOo.

Notes:

The backstory to this strand of the plot is told in 'White Knight'.

Chapter 14: The Door Prize

Chapter Text

Major Case Squadroom

One Police Plaza

2 pm Friday 13 July 2007

“Are we sure he didn’t do it?” Captain Ross asked.

“He was on duty the whole evening.” Eames folded her arms and stared through the glass at Gary Burden and his union representative.

“His partner could be covering for him.”

Goren nodded. “She could, but they attended plenty of calls and he’s the officer of record for a couple of the arrests. If he ducked out, he’d have to get right across town and back and I just don’t see a window for it.”

Carver nodded. “Make him put the gun in Rivera’s hand, or as close to it as he can, or no deal.” He glanced at Regan Markham, standing with her arms folded, staring through the glass at Gary Burden. “I think I have this covered, Ms Markham, although I appreciate the courtesy call.”

“I’m not here as a courtesy, Mr Carver,” Regan said. From the tension in her shoulders and the tight set of her mouth, Eames guessed that was the truth. “Mr McCoy asked me to observe, as he can’t be here himself.”

Carver nodded, grudgingly. “Alright. Detective Goren, Detective Eames? When you’re ready.”

“Thank you,” Eames said neutrally. Not neutrally enough, judging from the sideways look Carver gave her.

Goren was still studying Burden through the glass. “You know, Eames …” he said quietly. “He ought to be ashamed.”

“Got it,” Eames said. “Change-up?”

“I think so,” Goren said thoughtfully.

Their game plan set, Eames opened the door and led the way into the interrogation room.

“I got nothing to say,” Gary Burden said immediately.

“That’s okay,” Eames said, taking the seat opposite him. “I have a lot to say. Right now, your job is to listen.”

“Are you a good listener, Gary?” Goren asked. He took up a pose leaning against the wall, hands in his pockets. “People tell me that’s important, being a good listener. You know, I try, but sometimes I think I’m not hearing the right things.”

Burden looked from one to the other of them, and then settled for Eames, just like he was supposed to. She was the normal one, and Goren was unsettlingly weird, and most people preferred to ignore weird and focus on normal.

“I’d like to know why you’ve hauled Officer Burden in here,” said the other problem in the room, Burden’s union representative.

“And I’d like to tell you,” Eames said. “Former police officer Gary Burden has been taking hot guns off people who shouldn’t have them. Which wouldn’t be a problem, which would be part of his job, except he didn’t happen to file any paperwork or log the guns into evidence.”

“I didn’t —” Burden said.

“Shut up!” the rep said sharply. “What evidence do you have to support that allegation?”

“Eyewitness,” Eames said. “Picked your picture out of an array, straight away. Done and dusted. Say goodbye to your career, former police officer Burden.”

“Except for the door-prize,” Goren said. “Tell him about the door-prize, Eames.”

“Nah, f*ck him,” Eames said. She gathered her papers together. “He doesn’t deserve the door-prize.”

Goren tilted his head to the side. “He doesn’t look that bad to me.”

Eames slammed her hands on the table and erupted to her feet, scattering her papers and photographs. “He’s a f*cking disgrace! He doesn’t deserve to wear the badge!”

“Eames, Eames, Eames.” Goren came across the room, like he was supposed to. “Come on, now. Calm down.”

“f*ck calm!” Eames reached across the table, trying to grab the shield clipped to Burden’s pocket. Goren stretched past her, getting in the way. “Give me that badge! You don’t deserve to wear that badge another f*cking second! My husband died wearing an NYPD shield and you just sh*t all over it!”

Burden edged away from her, as far as his chair would allow. Now the normal one was the crazy one. He was off-balance, Eames could tell. Off balance enough?

“He made a mistake,” Goren said coaxingly. “People do. But maybe he wants to make it right. Do you want to make it right, Gary?”

“Don’t answer —” the rep said quickly.

Goren turned. “You are not his friend,” he said, wonderingly. “Are you? You’re basically a defense lawyer. Except instead of billable hours you have to mark up the number of cops you keep from telling the truth. It doesn’t matter to you what happens to Gary, here, so long as you can say you kept him from talking to us. That’s your KPI, isn’t it —” He leaned across the table, right into the rep, reading his name. “Isn’t it, Mike?”

A quick sideways look, then, from Burden at his union rep. “If I did something wrong,” he said cautiously, “I’d want to make it right.”

“See, Eames?” Goren said

“It’s bullsh*t,” Eames said. “He doesn’t mean it.”

Goren gave her his best earnest look. “He does mean it,” he said.

“I do!” Burden said. “I do mean it!”

“You are such a soft touch,” Eames grumbled.

“I like to see the best in people,” Goren said.

That was almost too much. Eames had to stare hard at her scattered files to keep from laughing out loud. “Okay, look,” she said when she could keep her voice low and hard. “This is a one-time offer. And it’s a good offer, not because it’ll let you keep you job, although it will. Not because it’ll let you keep your pension, although it will. It’s a good offer because it’ll give you the chance to make up for pissing all over everything the NYPD stands for.”

Goren leaned in eagerly. “You just have to tell us who else is involved, Gary, and what happened to the guns.”

“I’m no rat!”

“You’re way past ‘rat’,” Eames said. “co*ckroach. Slug.”

“I —”

The union rep put a hand on Burden’s arm. “Shut up, Gary, and think it through. They don’t have anything. This is a fishing expedition.”

“Oh, we do have something,” Goren said. He picked up one of the photos from the table and slapped it in front of Burden. “We have a dead body. And we have —” Another photo joined the first. “We have a murder weapon that was last seen in Gary’s hand.”

“No! What?”

Goren talked over him. “Now my partner here, she likes you for the murder, Gary.” Eames narrowed her eyes on cue. “I think she’s a little blinded by how much she hates dirty cops. I think you handed that weapon on to someone else. But, you know how it is.” Goren shrugged. “She’s my partner. I have to back her. I mean, what’s to lose? A day, maybe two, searching your house and your locker and talking to your family and to your colleagues and to everybody you ever met, Gary, and then we’ll know, one way or the other.”

“I didn’t kill anyone!” Gary said to Goren, and when Goren shrugged, he leaned forward and said it again to Eames. “I didn’t kill anyone, I’ve never even fired my service revolver, I swear, I had nothing to do with it. I didn’t even mean to take the gun like that! I mean, I meant to do it by the book, but Carl, he was talking about how he was trying to get his life right again, and he meant it, I could tell! So I didn’t take him in, and when I got back to the station I realized if I wrote the gun up by regs I’d have to say who it was I took it off, so I just put it in my locker. It was just the one time, I swear it! I’m not dirty, you have to believe me.”

Innocence rang in his desperate voice, and Eames did believe him. She leaned forward. “What happened to the gun, Gary?”

“I — I can’t say.”

“Oh, come on.” Goren put a hand on his shoulder and leaned in, way too close, smiling just a little bit too much. “We’re a long way past ‘I can’t say’, Gary. Someone used that gun to kill Emalia Coran and if you can’t put the gun in someone else’s hand —”

He stopped. Burden was staring at him, mouth slack with shock. “Emalia? Emalia’s the one who got shot?”

“Yeah,” Goren said slowly. “Emalia’s the one who got shot. So who’d you give the gun to, Gary?”

Gary blinked once, twice. “I gave it to her. I gave it to Emalia.”

.oOo.

Chapter 15: Nostalgia

Chapter Text

Ron Carver closed his eyes and bowed his head, a muscle jumping along his jaw.

“Jesus f*cking Christ on a pogo-stick!” Regan snarled, and slammed her hand against the wall hard enough to make the framed picture of the Commissioner jump and settle back slightly askew. “Shot with her own f*cking gun! Once again we have a suspect pool only slightly smaller than the population of Nebraska.”

“Don’t hold back, Ms Markham,” Carver said. “Tell us how you really feel.”

Inside the interrogation room, Gary Burden was explaining how he’d met Emalia Coran when she was dating John Rivera, and when she’d asked him how to get a gun to protect herself from ‘a guy who was hassling her’, he’d given her the hot gun he’d taken from Kolinski.

“On the bright side,” Captain Ross said, “at least now we know where Coran got the gun she shot Rivera with.”

“Wonderful.” Carver tilted his head back and stared at the ceiling. “I have a prosecutable case against a dead woman, and nothing at all against who-ever killed her.”

“Burden is pretty damn lucky Coran was a lousy shot,” Regan said. “And that she wasn’t an even lousier one. If she’d killed Rivera with the gun she got from Burden, or missed totally and maybe shot a toddler, he’d be looking at very hard time.”

Ross rapped on the viewing window, and Goren and Eames got up from the table. “Write it all down, Gary,” Goren said. “Every detail you can remember. Dates, places.”

Burden nodded and began to write as the two detectives left the room, headed for the observation room.

Eames closed the door behind herself as she entered after Goren. “So we got your confession. Sorry it’s about as much use as an ashtray on a motorcycle.

“Do we still go ahead with a deal?” Carver asked.

Goren shrugged. “Sure. He gave us what he had. Burden made a bad decision but his instincts were good. He knew Kolinski wasn’t a bad guy and he knew Emalia had reason to want to protect herself. Twenty years in Traffic and he might be ready to walk a beat.”

“Fifty years ago what Burden did would have been the gold standard in community policing,” Regan said. “At least as far as getting a hot gun off the street without ruining Kolinski’s second chance.”

“Fifty years ago I would have run the risk of being hanged from a tree if I talked to you in a public place,” Carver said. “You’ll understand if I decline to board the nostalgia train.”

“And I didn’t hear anything in there about Coran needing protection,” Ross said. “She said she was being hassled, so Burden gave her an untraceable gun. That’s stunningly bad judgment. Good instincts would have led him to get her to give a statement, make a complaint. Instead he gave her a gun that she clearly didn’t know how to use and as a result, she’s dead.”

Thirty years in Traffic?” Goren suggested.

Ross turned away from the glass. “I hope he likes white gloves. He’s going to be wearing them the rest of his working life.”

“What do you think?” Goren asked Regan.

Regan moved away from him a little. “What I think is less important than what Jack McCoy is going to think, which is that we still might need Burden’s testimony. There’s a gang body on that gun and defense might argue it was a gang-related killing. In that case, we’ll need to show how it came to be in the auto yard that night.”

“I’ll talk to I.A.B.,” Carver said. “They should be able to find something everyone can live with.”

Goren rubbed his forehead with one finger. “I want to go back to the crime scene. Now we know our guy got her bag away from her before he shot her.”

Eames sighed. “Can we make a city bylaw that all murders in the summer month have to be committed in air-conditioned buildings?”

“Better yet, art galleries,” Goren said, opening the door to the corridor. “And museums.”

“You just like the dirty pictures,” Eames said.

Goren shook his head. “I show you a Rembrandt and all you can say is now there’s a public indecency charge if I ever saw one.”

“I wasn't talking about the naked woman,” Eames said as she followed him into the corridor. “It was the guys watching her I didn't like. Class A perverts, all of them. You know that peeping Toms usually escalate.”

“It’s the story of Susannah and the Elders,” Goren protested.

Eames snorted. “Yeah, well, if they were elderly they were old enough to know better.”

The closing elevator doors cut off whatever Goren said in reply.

Regan had to swallow past a lump in her throat before she could speak. Squad car bullsh*t, universal from coast-to-coast. Not that she and Marco had ever discussed the merits or otherwise of fine art. The plot twists of that week’s TV was more our speed. Back-and-forth in the front seat of a patrol car, filling in the long hours in between something actually happening, Marco ribbing her about her fondness for shows with vampires and zombies, So if the next call-out takes us to a graveyard, I’m relying on you to tell me whether I need my silver bullets or my stakes. Her returning the favor when it came to his favorite cop shows, I hope you’re not getting any tips on procedure from that hot blond with the bed-head and the bedroom eyes. Conversations that could be dropped the instant the radio squawked or one of them saw something out of the car window that warranted a closer look, that could be picked up again just as easily at the next lull, because they went nowhere and meant nothing — nothing except that they were two people who spent more hours together than they did with their own families, who were each other’s first and sometimes only source of help when things went bad.

And they did go bad.

A blast from the air-conditioner made Regan shiver, and she shrugged away the past. “I should get moving,” she said to Carver and Ross. “I’ll let Jack know what Burden said. I’m going to call in on the 2-7 on the way, so I can spread the news there too, if you like?”

“I never say no someone else bearing bad news,” Ross said.

27th Precinct

Detectives Squadroom

4 pm Friday 13 July 2007

Back at the 27th Precinct, Regan walked into controlled chaos. The cage was full of perps waiting on booking. A couple of them were loudly protesting at the delay, but the rest were wisely just enjoying the air-conditioning. The bullpen was crowded, too. At least half-a-dozen desks had the chairs beside them occupied, some by handcuffed arrestees being processed, others by people Regan guessed were citizens making complaints or statements. The hubbub of voices and the clatter of two-fingered typing mingled with the smell of twenty people who’d been out in New York’s summer climate.

God, I miss this. “Lieutenant Van Buren?”

Detective Cordova pointed to the interrogation rooms. Regan nodded thanks and headed in that direction, grabbing a couple of cold sodas from the vending machine on her way to soften the news she was bringing. It took her a couple of tries, but the kick-and-slap she’d seen Van Buren use eventually rattled the cans loose.

She found Van Buren in the viewing room for interrogation three and held out one of the cans.

“Always welcome, counselor,” Van Buren said, taking it.

“How’s it going?”

“The guy in interrogation two, Billy Nguyen, works at Marty’s Tuesdays through Saturdays, thinks he might have seen someone who looked something like Rivera looking at cars two weeks ago. It’s an even split on how he’ll do at a line-up. That’s all, so far.” She popped the soda and took a long drink. “How about you?”

Regan leaned on the wall and watched Briscoe and Green through the glass. “Bad news. Emalia Coran had the gun. Had it for a while, got it from Burden last year. Probably used it to shoot Rivera.”

“Oh, brother.” Van Buren shook her head. “There goes another mediocre career down the tubes. So the gun isn’t going to take us anywhere at all.”

“Except to Marty’s Marvelous Machines, and whatever Emalia Coran was doing there.”

“And why she felt she needed to be armed to do it.”

The door behind Regan burst open. “I’ve got it, ma’am!” Detective Cordova said, breathless. “I know how Coran got in to the yard!”

Van Buren raised her eyebrows. “How?”

“Everybody’s been able to produce their keys. And they’re all alibied. So I thought, either Coran or whoever killed her had to have borrowed a key, or had their own key. To get in, and lock up afterward. So I looked up all the locksmiths within walking distance of the auto yard and of each of the key-holders’ residences and —”

Van Buren visibly ran out of patience. “Not how did you find out, Detective. How did she get in?”

“The security guard Steve Handry got a duplicate cut three months ago,” Cordova said on a breathless rush.

Van Buren turned and rapped sharply on the window. “Good work, Detective. I look forward to reading your report.”

Cordova beamed, and then bolted out the door as if someone had yelled Fire.

“Straight to her desk to start writing it,” Van Buren said with a smile, as Briscoe and Green filed out of the interrogation room. “Were we ever that young, Lennie?”

“You’re still young, ma’am,” Briscoe said, and Van Buren chuckled. She filled the two detectives in on the news about the gun and Cordova’s discovery. “How sure are we about Handry’s alibi?”

Green took out his notebook and flipped pages. “His rounds had him on the other side of the city at the time. He did go by Marty’s, but an hour before and two hours after Coran was likely killed. Not only does his company use his GPS to make sure he’s where he ought to be, but we turned up some CCTV from a couple of banks and a gas station that back him up.” Green shrugged. “Not our guy, LT.”

Van Buren nodded. “Alright. Get back in there and put that key in Coran’s hands. Or her killer’s.” As the two men went back into the interrogation room, she folded her arms. “Counselor, this case is further and further down the rabbit-hole. I’m starting to wonder if Rivera is even our guy. Did Briscoe and Green tell you about Coran’s unexplained absences?”

Regan nodded. “Woman of mystery, out at night with a gun … you think maybe she was into something we don’t know about.”

Van Buren nodded. “And I’m starting to think that’s maybe what got her killed.”

Inside the interrogation room, Briscoe was sitting across from Steven Handry, while Green stood behind him, one hand on his shoulder. Clearly, it was Green’s turn to play the bad cop, and he was turning in a fine performance, leaning in close and snarling in Handry’s ear. “We know you got an extra key for the yard cut, man. The locksmith’s gonna pick you out of a line-up. And who-ever you gave it to, used it to unlock the yard so they could kill Emalia Coran in peace and quiet. That makes you an accessory before the fact, and not telling us about it makes you an accessory after the fact, and neither of those things are good for the next six-to-ten years of your life.”

“Ease up, Ed,” Briscoe said. “This could just be a big misunderstanding. Maybe Steve got the key cut because he lost his.”

“Yeah.” Handry nodded eagerly. “That’s what —”

“Except you’d need to have your key to get another cut, wouldn’t you?” Briscoe said. “No, that can’t be it. But there’s gotta be some other explanation for all this that doesn’t have Steve helping Emalia’s murderer.”

“I didn’t, I never did —”

“Who’d you give the key to?” Green demanded. “No more bullsh*t, man. Who? That’s who killed her, you know. Shot her and stood next to her waiting for her to bleed to death.”

“No!” Handry shouted, half-rising out of his chair. “I did not give a key to whoever killed Emily!”

In the observation room, Van Buren raised her eyebrows. “Emily? No one told him about her new name.”

“He knew her,” Regan said.

Green slammed Handry back down in his seat. “Then who?”

“I gave it to her! To Emily! I gave a key to Emily, okay? I don’t know who killed her. I’d tell you if I did, I swear it! I liked her! She was a nice girl!”

“You gave Emily a key to Marty’s yard?” Green asked. “Now why in the world would you do that?”

“She needed it,” Handry said.

“You know what I think? I think you and she were in business together. I think maybe the occasional car was going missing from Marty’s. I think you gave her the key so she could boost a car or two and give you a kickback and —”

“No! That’s not how it was!”

“And then you quarreled over your cut and you shot her,” Green went on smoothly, as if Handry hadn’t spoken.

“I didn’t!”

“A jury’s going to find that a convincing argument,” Green said. “And me?” He shrugged. “I find it convincing enough to close this case in time to make it to Atlantic City before the tables close.”

“Oh, man!”

“Now, hold on, Ed,” Briscoe said. “I could use the overtime, even if you don’t need it. Why don’t we give Mr Handry the chance to tell us what really happened.” He leaned forward, making eye contact and holding it. “How about it, Mr Handry? If you have an explanation, now’s the time to give it.”

“Oh, sh*t.” Handry put his head in his hands. “I’m going to lose my job, you know.”

“But if you tell us the truth, you won’t have to wait twenty-five to life to look for another one,” Briscoe pointed out.

“Oh, sh*t.” He stopped, and both Briscoe and Green waited. Regan held her breath. “Okay. Okay. I gave her the key. I gave her the key because she needed to take cars from the lot, but she always brought them back, full tank even if they were on fumes when she borrowed them! It didn’t hurt anyone! No-one lost their cars, no-one knew, she was just borrowing them, not stealing, and she didn’t give me a dime!”

“What did she need the cars for, Peter?” Briscoe asked. “Why couldn’t she get her own car? Take a cab?”

“Take a cab to Clayton? And it had to be a different car, each time. They take pictures on the tollways now, you know.”

“Which is only a problem if you’re doing something you don’t want the police to find out about,” Briscoe said. “What was she moving? Drugs? Guns?”

“No! Nothing like that. Nothing criminal. She was moving women. Women and children. She was a conductor on the underground railroad.”

“The Underground Railroad?” Briscoe asked. “What, do we need to expand our suspect list to include Harriet Tubman?”

“I guess that’s where the idea came from,” Handry said. “But it’s not slaves. Emily took women who needed to get away from their husbands or boyfriends to somewhere they could be safe.”

“Where?” Green asked.

“I don’t know, that’s how it works! Look. She was a conductor, she took them from one station to another. Maybe a house, or a motel. The people who run those places, they’re the station-masters. And —”

“Yeah, I remember ninth grade history,” Green said. “Conductors, station-masters, the guys who put in the money are the stockholders. But the Underground Railroad moved people escaping from slavery. Why all the drama and secrecy and stolen cars for women who could just go to the police?”

“Borrowed,” Handry said stubbornly. “Borrowed cars. And that’s who uses the railroad, women who can’t just go to the police. The men — sometimes the women — who they’re running from are the police. Or FBI agents, or decorated army officers, or judges, or —”

“We get the picture,” Briscoe said. “How many women are we talking about? How often did she ‘borrow’ these cars?”

“I don’t know,” Handry said. “Not exactly. That’s not —”

“How it works, yeah. Guess.”

He shrugged. “Maybe two or three times a month?”

Van Buren knocked on the window.

“Okay, stay put, Steve,” Briscoe said, and got up. “Someone will be back in a little bit to take your statement.”

He and Green came out into the observation room.

Briscoe closed the door behind him. “You believe that?” he asked Van Buren.

“I believe he believes it,” she said. “Check with Marty Licardo to see if he’s had any missing cars, and if he’s noticed any cars parked not quite where he left them from time to time. If he says he hasn’t had any stolen, but he has noticed a few moved around, that adds a little bit to Mr Handry’s credibility.”

“It’s a hell of a story.” Briscoe shook his head. “You’d think we would have heard something about this before now.”

Van Buren shrugged. “The real Underground Railroad moved hundreds of thousands of people to freedom under the noses of slave-holders. That’s a hell of story, too.”

“So last year Coran shoots a cop and this year she’s the 21st century’s Martha Coffin Wright?” Briscoe asked.

Van Buren raised her eyebrows at him. “I’m impressed, Lennie.”

Briscoe grinned. “Don’t be. You have to drive past her house on the way to Auburn Correctional Facility. There’s a big sign. And you don’t forget a middle name like ‘Coffin’.”

“Well, we know Danielle Melnick said Rivera was abusive. Coran obviously had enough to say to convince a judge. She gets a new name, a new life, she has a gun, she takes up kick-boxing. She’s safe, but maybe it’s not enough.” Van Buren paused. “You know, when I was about seven, I made my brothers and sisters play Underground Railroad. I was Harriet Tubman taking them to freedom. Which was the kitchen, if I remember right.”

“That’s a charming story, Lieu,” Briscoe said, “and one I’m pretty sure I’ll be bringing up again at the point of maximum embarrassment, but what does smuggling your siblings out of the slave state of the second bedroom have to do with Coran?”

“Everybody wants to be a hero, Lennie.” Van Buren turned to Regan. “And you, counselor, had better go tell Jack McCoy to put William Still on his witness list.”

.oOo.

Chapter 16: A Cornucopia Of Suspects

Chapter Text

Office of the D.A.

10th Floor, One Hogan Place

5 pm Friday 13 July 2007

McCoy’s office door was open when Regan got back to One Hogan Place. She rapped on the door and stuck her head through.

Trap for young players. Arthur Branch was standing in the doorway that led to Colleen’s desk and then the DA’s own office. He frowned at her.

“I’ll come back,” Regan said quickly, but McCoy waved her in.

“Bill Williams had a heart attack,” he said.

“Is he —?” Regan hesitated. Billy Billy had worked at One Hogan Place almost as long as McCoy, if not as prominently.

“A small one. He’ll recover. But it’ll be a while before he’s back at work.” McCoy hefted a stack of files in one hand. “Can you take these on? You should be able to plead at least five on them out. The others, none of the court dates are this month. If there’s a scheduling conflict, the judges ought to be understanding.”

“Of course, Jack.” Regan took the files. “I’m really sorry to hear about Bill. If there’s flowers, I’d like to put in.”

“Talk to Colleen,” Branch said. “She’s organizing something appropriate.”

“Great,” Regan said, and made her escape.

The cases in the stack of files were mostly routine, robbery, assault, manslaughter … one murder. Regan scanned it. Blunt force trauma to the head, hammer identified as murder weapon, defendant’s prints, alibi that turned out to be a total lie, straight-up It wasn’t me defense, no effort at an affirmative defense or lesser included … Teri Courtney, you are going to do many, many years upstate. She paused at the name of counsel appearing. Jessica Sheets.

Regan had never come up against Jessica in court, but she knew her by reputation. The defense attorney was appointed to the 18-B Assigned Counsel Panel, which meant that she represented defendants where Legal Aid had a conflict of interest — like wife-beaters whose wives had themselves sought Legal Aid’s help — but also those particularly high profile cases where Legal Aid or the Public Defender’s Office weren’t considered to have the expertise or the resources to provide adequate representation.

It meant Jessica Sheets got herself in the papers a couple of times a year, and not in a complementary way. The last time had been a front page splash in the Post, an unflattering picture snapped just as Jessica had been about to blink, with the headline Pedos Have Rights Too, She Says.

McCoy had hurled the paper into the wastepaper basket and treated Regan to a particularly inventive stream of invective, which had told her two things. One, keep the New York Post away from Jack McCoy.

And two, Jessica Sheets might be a defense attorney, but she was from the Danielle Melnick and Sally Ball end of the spectrum, not the Bernie Adler end. McCoy would argue with her at every opportunity, beat her every chance he got —

And defend her to the last ditch when necessary.

If Jack McCoy respects her, she’s good. Regan thought about it, and made a note on the file to make sure McCoy gave People v Courtney some personal attention.

She was halfway through the rest of the pile, making notes, before she saw Branch heading for the elevator. Once the doors had closed behind him, she headed back to McCoy’s office.

He was on the phone, but he waved her in. “As pleasant as this is, Vanessa, I have a stack of files on my desk with cases that will actually be a challenge. Put it to your client. Four-to-ten and a recommendation on minimum security. It’s a gift.” Whatever the defense attorney on the other end of the line said, it made McCoy smile. “How did you know? Offer’s good until nine tomorrow morning. Or I’ll see you in court.” He hung up, and raised an eyebrow at Regan. “What have you got?”

Regan sat down on the other side of the desk. “All kinds of bad news.”

She gave him a rundown on the developments of the morning: the gun and the key turning out to be dead-ends, and the incredible story Steve Handry had told about a secret network moving women around the country.

“That’s going to make it a lot harder at trial,” McCoy said.

“I think it makes the victim more sympathetic —” Regan said.

McCoy shook his head. “And detective, did you identify every woman Ms Coran helped leave a violent man? And did you interview every one of those men with a motive to kill Ms Coran, and verify their alibi?”

“A whole new cornucopia of suspects,” Regan said. “Reasonable doubt.”

McCoy raked his fingers through his hair. “Not to mention that while I’ll be arguing that the victim started smuggling women away from their husbands because she knew what they were going through, the defense will say that she was an ideologically-driven obsessed feminist who fantasized the abuse by Rivera to fit her personal agenda. And there goes motive.” He held up one hand. “Before you jump down my throat, that’s what the defense will argue, not what I think.”

“What do you think?” Regan asked.

“I think the police had better find a way to put Officer Rivera at the scene of the crime before anyone starts writing any arrest warrants, that’s what I think. And I think they’d better find out a lot more about this so-called Underground Railroad between now and trial. How did the security guard get involved? How did Emalia Coran get involved? And —” he paused, looking past her at the open doorway. “And I think I’d like to know why Rey Curtis just went into your office.”

“He’s looking in to something for me,” Regan said.

McCoy frowned at her. “You’ve got the whole New York Police Department to do that, Regan, why are you blowing our budget on private detectives? You enjoyed … working with him that much?”

Curtis was far too married for Regan to take that seriously. Besides, she could tell from the corner of his mouth that McCoy was having to work hard to keep a straight face. “It’s not our budget. He’s looking into something for me.”

Both McCoy’s eyebrows went up. “Do I need to know something?”

Regan shook her head. “A friend asked me to look into something. And she asked me to keep it confidential, Jack, so I’d say you definitely need to not know something.” She stood up. “I’ll keep it quick, and then get back to Billy Billy’s files. And to working out how to find the Underground Railroad.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” McCoy said, turning back to his files. “I’ve got an idea on that one.”

She paused at the door. “Which is?”

He didn’t look up, but Regan could see the corner of his mouth turn up in a smug smile. “I’ll ask an old friend. Don’t keep Curtis waiting — he’s on your dime, after all.”

Regan recognized the signs. McCoy had a brilliant idea that he was going to keep to himself a while longer, to ensure maximum effect when he unveiled it. Vain S.O.B, she thought, one part irritation and three parts fond amusem*nt.

When she reached her cubicle, Curtis was standing by her bulletin board, reading her press clippings. He turned and smiled. “You get yourself in the papers a lot.”

“Jack McCoy gets himself in the papers a lot,” Regan said. “I happen to be sitting next to him some of the time when he does.” She shut the door behind her. “How did you go?”

Curtis held her desk chair for her, and when she sat down, took the seat beside her desk. “I’ve found him.”

“Dammit! I was hoping — ” She took a deep breath. “That was quick, Rey, I’m impressed.”

Curtis shrugged. “Once Lennie told me the cell phone was in the city, I called airlines. I told them he was an elderly gentleman, which is true, and that people were concerned about him, which is also true. If they took the implication that he was perhaps a little prone to confusion, that’s on them. And hey, it could even be true. He flew American and he put the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott on his luggage tags.” He paused. “You going to serve papers on him? Or …?”

“He’s an old man, Rey, I’m not going to beat him up and throw him on a bus out of town. I’m going to talk to him and suggest he stay away from his ex-wife.”

“Or else?”

“There might be a little bit of ‘or else’, sure.” It was Regan’s turn to shrug. “He’s not a good guy. He hurt someone and that might have been a long time ago but he’s scaring her now. He might be old, but I don’t feel sorry for him.”

“People can change,” Curtis said. “I’ve seen it. Even criminals. If a murderer can find God in jail and confess to their crime to make amends, anyone can change their ways.”

“That’s fine,” Regan said. “Daniel James can go change them somewhere else.” She took out her checkbook. “How much do I owe you?”

“Never mind that,” Curtis said. “All it took was some phone calls, and I was sitting in a car watching a warehouse that has some excessively mobile inventory while I made them.”

“Multitasking, very modern of you.” Regan stood, and offered her hand. Curtis rose to his feet and took it. “And listen, Rey, if you could not mention this to anyone … especially not to Jack McCoy?”

“I never discuss my client’s business,” Curtis said. “Not even with my wife.”

And that was Regan’s cue to ask about his family, and for him to show her pictures of his kids all the way to the elevator.

Talking to one of Lennie Briscoe’s old partners made Regan think of another cop he’d worked with. She headed back to her cubicle and thumbed through her address book. J, K, L for Logan. She dialed the number and he answered on the second ring.

“Hey, Mike. It’s Regan. I was wondering if you were doing anything tonight.”

“As in, for dinner?” Mike said. Regan could hear the smile in his voice. “Because I hate to tell you, counselor, but I’m spoken for.”

So am I. Except, not really. She and McCoy hadn’t talked about … well, much of anything, really. Quite possibly, as far as he was concerned they were both footloose and fancy-free. Regan put so much effort into avoiding him outside the office that he could be wining and dining a different woman on every evening of the week as far as she knew.

She jerked her mind back to the conversation. “Not dinner. Standing over a fellow called Daniel James who used to knock his wife around and this morning caused her some anxiety by standing at a probably-legal distance and looking at her.”

“I’m in,” Mike said immediately.

“I got to tell you, he’s no spring chicken. Born in 1938. So you’re probably not going to get enough of a workout to be able to skip the gym.” Regan paused. “Also, he’s a lawyer. So —”

“Nothing that’s going to earn the Department a lawsuit. Got it, counselor. I learned my lesson on that one a long time ago.”

“He’s staying at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott.” Regan re-opened the web-page for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and found the personnel directory.

“Does he know you’re coming?” Logan asked.

“No. And I don’t have a room number. We could try the luggage gag?” The luggage gag meant taking a suitcase with a fake airline tag to the hotel and telling reception they were delivering lost luggage for the guest in question. It generally worked best when someone had actually lost their luggage, but even when they hadn’t, curiosity would sometimes prompt them to come down to reception and check it out.

Logan chuckled. “Don’t over-think things, counselor. We just phone reception from outside, ask them to call his room and tell him we have a message from his ex and to meet us in the hotel restaurant in fifteen minutes.”

Who-ever managed Maricopa’s website wasn’t particularly proactive about keeping it up-to-date. Daniel James was still listed as an ADA. Regan selected the head-and-shoulders picture and pressed print. “Why fifteen minutes?”

“So we can watch him go in and wait for him to get settled before we unsettle him. You have done this sort of thing before, haven’t you?”

“Not really,” Regan admitted. “Never was plainclothes.”

“Nothing wrong with blues,” Logan said. “And I oughta know. How would you have handled it, back in the day?”

“Flashed a badge, put on my death-knock face, and told reception we needed to talk to him. They hardly ever ask why.”

“Nice,” Logan said. “But I’m not getting into my dress blues for this, and from the sound of it you want to keep it unofficial. I’ll pick you up at six.”

He was as good as his word. Regan was ready and waiting on the curb outside One Hogan Place when Logan pulled in to a loading zone and honked the horn. She slid into the passenger seat. “Appreciate this.”

He shrugged, pulled out without indicating and gave the driver behind him the finger when they leaned on the horn. “Gina’s on nights this week. So I had a choice between the dubious delights of my own cooking, the mercy of Serena and Megan, or this.”

“How are they? Serena and Megan?”

Logan grinned. “Crazy in love. Gives me diabetes just looking at them.” He paused. “Not because — I don’t want you think that I —”

Regan laughed. “I think that you’re a cynical son-of-a-bitch who sees a future murder charge in every scene of domestic bliss.”

“So you’re an excellent judge of character.”

“Nah, Lennie Briscoe gave me the inside dope. Left up here.”

Logan navigated through the evening traffic and eventually pulled in to the hotel car-park. “You want to call, or me?”

“Better me.” Regan took out her cell. “If they tell him it’s a man calling, he’ll think it’s Jack McCoy and no way he’ll come downstairs.”

She called reception and gave them the message.

“So there’s a little more to this than you told me on the phone,” Logan said when Regan finished the call. “If McCoy’s involved.”

“Dan James worked at One Hogan Place, back in the day,” Regan said. She got out of the car and waited for Logan to join her. “His wife did too. Jack McCoy just about ran him out of town on a rail for what he did to her. And if Jack knew James was back, he’d try it again, and to hell with the consequences.”

Logan nodded. “So you figured you’d handle it for him on the QT. You better hope he doesn’t find out. McCoy’s not a man who likes to be kept in the dark.” He checked his watch as they approached the doors. “He’ll be coming down soon. You want to be bad cop?”

“Which makes you good cop?” Regan said, trying to keep the incredulity out of her voice.

“Nah.” Logan held the door for her. “It makes me the worse cop.”

They didn’t have to wait long before the elevator doors opened and a man stepped out. Regan surreptitiously checked the picture she’d printed out. “That’s him.”

Daniel James would have been a tall man, before age had stooped him. Regan thought of Colleen’s diminutive frame and of how big James would have seemed beside her, thirty years ago and was glad Logan hadn’t asked her to be the good cop in this particular Mutt and Jeff show.

They gave James a minute or two to get a table and then followed him into the dining room.

Regan walked up to his table and pulled out the chair opposite him, sitting down without asking permission. Mike Logan moved around the table and stood behind James.

“Colleen Petraky has a restraining order out against you,” Regan said without preamble.

James started to stand and Logan put a hand on his shoulder. “Sit. Listen.”

“Did Jack McCoy send the two of you?” James asked, sinking back into his chair.

“If Mr McCoy sent us, I’d be holding an arrest warrant and you’d be in cuffs,” Regan said. “You’ve been out of town for nearly thirty years and now you’re back. Why?”

“None of your —”

“I’m making it my business,” Regan said, hard and low. “Leave Colleen alone.”

“I just want to talk to her.”

Logan leaned down. “She doesn’t want to talk you, pal.”

“I’ve changed. It was a long time ago, I —”

“Yeah, yeah.” Regan folded her hands on the table. “Save it for your trial. Listen to me. Colleen doesn’t want to see you, hear from you, or know you’re in the same city. As they say in the classics, make it so.”

It was a good exit line and Regan was pleased with it as she stood up and prepared to stride out.

Until Daniel James ruined it. “I’m dying,” he said.

.oOo.

Chapter 17: A Personal Matter

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Abbie Carmichael's Townhouse

7 pm Friday 13 July 2007

Abbie held the stepladder steady. “I’d usually ask Regan, but the bulb only just blew when I turned the light on this evening.”

McCoy found the catch that opened the light fixture. “I don’t mind.”

“I expected her home by now,” Abbie said, watching as McCoy unscrewed the dead light-bulb. “Is it my imagination, or do you load her up with extra work on the nights you come round here?”

“She loads herself up,” McCoy said, passing the old bulb down to her and accepting the fresh one in exchange. “Arthur dropped a number of not-so-subtle hints about scandal and Regan’s convinced that if we so much as have dinner together, he’ll sack her.”

“Not to put too fine a point on it, but you do have a track record,” Abbie said.

McCoy stopped in the act of fitting in the fresh bulb and looked down at her. “Et tu, Abbie?”

“It was me too, though, Jack, wasn’t it?” She paused. “No, that’s not fair. We weren’t working together by then. But the argument stands. Arthur Branch has — ”

“No right to hold the threat of termination over Regan’s head on the grounds of a personal relationship between two adults,” McCoy snapped, screwing the bulb in with more force than was really necessary.

“So there is a personal relationship,” Abbie said.

“I don’t know what there is.” McCoy snapped the fitting closed and started to climb down the stepladder. “We work well together. Regan’s an asset to the D.A’s Office. She’s talked about finding another job, but I don’t think that’s something either of us wants.”

“So meanwhile, you’re avoiding each other?”

McCoy reached the floor, and flicked the catch on the stepladder. “She’s avoiding me.” He folded the ladder down. “She takes Arthur’s bark for his bite.”

“Or she’s avoiding you because workplaces have codes of conduct for a reason.” Abbie put the dead bulb into the cardboard box that had held the new one, and put it in the cupboard instead of the trash as McCoy folded up the stepladder. He hid a smile. Abbie wouldn’t appreciate him finding pregnancy hormone-related absent-mindedness amusing.

“It’s mutual, Abbie.” He put the stepladder back beneath the stairs. “Whatever it is. I can tell that.”

She closed the cupboard and turned to face him. “You do have plenty of experience to draw on as far as romance in the office is concerned, I’ll give you that. Can you set the table? Dinner will be in five.”

“You cooked?” McCoy asked cautiously.

Abbie snorted. “Like I’d do that to you. Lasagna from Enrico’s. I can work an oven timer.”

Remembering one or two of the meals she’d prepared for him over the years, McCoy had his doubts, but when Abbie carried the lasagna in to the dining room, it was steaming nicely. This wasn’t, after all, going to be one of those evenings when Abbie turned on the timer but forgot to turn on the oven and they ended up eating takeaway from the mediocre Vietnamese place down the street.

Abbie had just cut the first slice when McCoy heard the door open and close.

“Abbie?” Regan called. “Sorry I didn’t call, I had an errand that took —” She reached the door of the dining room and stopped. “Jack. Dammit, I forgot — I’ll go back to the office.”

“Eat first,” Abbie said. “There’s plenty. Whatever you forgot will still be there in an hour.”

“No, I can’t,” Regan said. “I really better go.”

McCoy kept his gaze studiously on his plate, but out of the corner of his eye he could see Abbie give Regan a long level look, and then turn the same look on him. “Sit,” she said to Regan. “Eat. Or I’ll unleash pregnancy hormones on you. I have a fetus and I have a gun. Anything could happen.”

“Abbie, you’re the most even-tempered pregnant woman I’ve ever known,” Regan said, but she went to the sideboard for a plate and cutlery. She put them opposite McCoy, then shrugged out of her jacket, slung it over the back of her chair and sat down.

“I’m saving it up for people who refuse to eat the lasagna I spent three whole minutes opening and putting in the oven.” Abbie put a sizable slice on Regan’s plate. McCoy saw Regan surreptitiously check the temperature in the middle. She glanced up and caught him watching, and her lips twitched when McCoy cast a gaze toward the ceiling.

“Were you down at the 27th Precinct?” McCoy asked, almost able to keep the laughter out of his voice.

Regan shook her head. “Personal matter. This is really good, Abbie. Enrico’s?”

“Why mess with success?” Abbie took another bite, and then put her knife and fork down. “Huge baby, tiny stomach,” she said when McCoy raised an eyebrow. “I have to take it slowly.”

I would have known that, if I’d been here as much as I should have been. And why had he stayed away? Here they were, three adults, colleagues and friends sharing a meal. For all Regan’s caution, it was nothing Arthur could complain about, and nothing that would lead to anything Arthur could complain about —

Regan stretched to reach the salt at the other end of the table, her blouse pulling tight over her lean shoulders, the long line of her arm making McCoy think of a outfielder reaching for a ground ball.

He cleared his throat and shifted in his seat a little. Maybe Regan is right. Maybe it is smarter to keep a little distance between us, for now, anyway. “Personal matter, everything alright?”

“For a friend,” Regan said. “A favor for a friend, still as confidential as it was this afternoon.” She glanced at him, and whatever she saw in his face made her blush and look away quickly. “Did Jack tell you about our case, Abbie? It turns out the victim was involved in some sort of smuggling operation, moving women running from their partners.”

“Calling themselves the Underground Railway,” McCoy said. “Have you heard anything about them?”

Abbie shook her head. “But I can make a couple of calls. There was some talk about a family violence task-force last year. It never got off the ground, but I can find out who was being looked at for it and reach out to them. That’s got to f*ck with your suspect pool.”

“She was shot with her own gun, in a locked yard she had a key to,” Regan said.

Abbie forked up another bite. “Suspects?”

“An ex who was on the way to turning nasty when she kicked him to the curb.”

“Says her room-mate,” McCoy said. “Now, not at the time. And her lawyer, but Danielle has always been a soft touch.”

“And he’s a cop, the ex.” Regan stood. “I’m getting some water. You guys?”

“Thanks,” McCoy said, as Abbie nodded. He turned to watch Regan head through the door to the kitchen, turned back to find Abbie regarding him with narrowed eyes. He raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“I don’t know whether I should leave you two alone together or handcuff myself to Regan as a chaperone,” she said.

“Unless they’ve started issuing attorneys with police equipment in the Southern District,” McCoy said, “your options are limited to door number one.”

“Which you wouldn’t object to in the — ” Abbie bit the sentence off as Regan came back from the kitchen. “Thanks, Regan.”

“No problem,” Regan said, setting the glasses on the table. She slipped back into her seat, dislodging her jacket. When she fished it off the floor, a small shower of coins and bits of paper fell out of the pockets. “Dammit.”

She crouched down and scooped it all up, dumping it on the table. It was typical of Regan, McCoy thought as quarters and Post-Its and parking receipts made a small pile. She was the only woman he knew who seemed to have never developed an instinct for handbags. Instead, she shoved everything into her jacket pockets, spare change, shopping lists, receipts —

And a printed photograph of an elderly man with the name Daniel James beside it.

McCoy reached over the table and plucked the piece of paper out of the pile. Daniel James, Assistant District Attorney, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. Allowing for the passage of nearly thirty years, it was a face McCoy recognized.

A face he never should have needed to see again.

Regan straightened and saw him holding the piece of paper and froze. And he knew.

A friend asked me to look into something, she’d said. And Rey Curtis had come to see her in the office today, and Regan had been out running an errand connected to that personal matter for a friend.

“Why do you have a picture of Dan James?” McCoy demanded, but he already knew the answer, at least in a general sense. Why wasn’t really the question he wanted an answer to. That question was — “Where is he?”

Regan sat back on her heels, looking at him over the edge of the table. “Jack, it’s —”

“Who’s Dan James?” Abbie asked.

McCoy ignored her. He got to his feet. “Where is he?”

“I’m not going to tell you.” Regan stood up as well.

The picture of Dan James crumpled in McCoy’s fist. “Dammit, Regan —”

“What are you going to do if I tell you?” Regan put her hands on her hips. “Issue a warrant for his arrest? Go over there and personally serve it?”

“For starters.”

Regan folded her arms. “I have it handled.”

“You should have damn well told me!” McCoy snapped, leaning over the table to jab his finger in her face.

Instead of retreating, Regan leaned forward as well. “Colleen asked me not to!”

“Well if Rey Curtis could find him, Briscoe and Green will be able to.” McCoy fished his cell phone out of his pocket.

Regan stretched over the table to snatch it from his hand. “If you want to add misuse of your authority to direct police investigations to the story about malicious prosecution —” McCoy tried to take his phone back and Regan tossed it to Abbie. “And bribery that will run across every front page the minute you make telling that story the only way James can keep his freedom, then you can tell me so and I’ll let you make that call.”

“Oh, you’ll let me? You work for me!” McCoy snapped.

“What happened to me working with you?” Regan retorted.

He turned away from her and held out his hand to Abbie. “Give me my phone.”

Abbie folded her arms, McCoy’s phone clutched firmly in her hand. “I don’t work for you or with you and I’ll give you your phone when you tell me what the hell is going on!” She looked at Regan. “Bribery and malicious prosecution?”

“You know me better than that, Abbie!” McCoy said. “I did not —”

“I don’t care what you did and didn’t do,” Regan interrupted. “And neither will the press. You know how it looks, Jack, and how it looks is all that matters!”

“Everything I did was within the letter of the law!” McCoy snapped.

Regan shook her head. “That might have made a difference if Daniel James had sued you back in the Paleolithic era when all this happened, but it’s not going to matter when the court is public opinion and the prosecution is the Times and the Post. Jesus, Jack, wake up! You used exactly this sort of example of the DA threatening charges in order to blackmail people yourself in the Talbert case! The Times will run that closing argument in a sidebar beside the story with the headline ‘Hypocrisy’.”

“I am not a hypocrite!” McCoy flared. “I never threatened Dan James with indictment for anything he hadn’t actually done! As for probable cause, dammit — he beat her black and blue! What’s the matter with you? You should be on my side on this!”

Regan slammed her hands down on the table hard enough to make the plates rattle. “I am! Given the times and the circ*mstances I would have probably done the same thing if I’d been smart enough, but Jesus, get your head out of your ass.”

“Enough!” Abbie said. “One of you tell me what this is about, at least so I know what to tell the neighbors tomorrow when they ask the reason for all the shouting.”

McCoy raked his fingers through his hair and took a deep breath, deliberately letting go of his anger. “Abbie. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize,” she ordered. “Talk.”

Regan leaned on the back of her chair, head bowed a little, as McCoy offered Abbie the piece of paper with the picture of Dan James. “Daniel James was an A.D.A at One Hogan Place, back when I started. Narcotics.” Abbie took the picture and studied it, frowning slightly, as McCoy took his seat again. “His wife was a legal secretary, in Narcotics as well. Colleen James, she was then.” He stopped, had to make a conscious effort to unclench his jaw to continue. “Slipped on the steps at home,” Colleen says, trying to hide the bruise on her face. “He knocked her around. She pretended he didn’t. The usual story. I spent … the better part of a year trying to get her to go to the police. Or family, or friends, or a shelter. Anything. When she got up the courage to walk out the door — you remember the New York Women’s Safety Project?”

Blank looks from both women answered him.

“It’s been rolled up into something bigger now, there’s more money around these days, a bit of federal funding, some state money. Back then it was a couple of university professors, a bunch of students and a half-dozen lawyers doing pro bono when our schedules allowed. Danielle Melnick got me involved.” He paused. “She was one of the women who got it started and you know I’ve always had a weakness for smart, argumentative women.”

Abbie snorted, casting a look at Regan, who suddenly became very busy gathering up the detritus piled beside her plate and shoving it back into her jacket pockets. “So that’s how you and Danielle got started,” Abbie said. “I always wondered.”

McCoy shook his head. “We were in the same Crim Law class, second year of law school. She ran rings around me. I worked my tail off all year and beat her by one mark in the final exam. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself and ready to do some gloating.” He smiled at the memory. “But Danielle just looked me up and down and said that maybe I was worth talking to, after all. When she asked if I was free that Friday night, I thought she was asking me on a date. Instead, we ended up at the 181st Street Community Center, taking notes for Lanie Stieglitz while she walked a woman with hand-prints around her throat through the process of making a police complaint against her boyfriend.”

Regan hung her jacket over the back of her chair again and sat down. “And that was the New York Women’s Safety Project?”

McCoy shook his head. “That was just Lanie. But you know how Danielle loves a cause. The next year, she dragooned a couple of other attorneys into it. She talked a professor in the social work department into giving his students extra credit for helping the clients link up to the services they needed. More students like us doing the work of paralegals and legal secretaries, getting hands on experience in exchange for a little do-gooding. A couple of years after that, she wrangled a donation out of — you’ll appreciate this, Abbie — out of the Mulroneys.”

“Regina Mulroney?” Abbie said incredulously.

McCoy grinned at her tone. “The one and only, and thank god for that. There were some untenanted brownstones in the family’s property portfolio, basically uninhabitable. Danielle got the use of one on the condition the Mulroney’s wouldn’t pay for any of the maintenance.”

Abbie nodded. “So they got the property fixed up and looked after for free and got to look virtuous doing it. Now that does sound like the Regina Mulroney I remember.”

“The rich don’t get rich, or stay rich, by accident,” McCoy said. “Danielle had a small army of tradesmen working on the place.”

“Let me guess,” Regan said. “Fathers and brothers of Elaine Stieglitz’s pro bono clients?”

“And sons,” McCoy said. “And that was the New York Women’s Safety Project. By that time we’d both finished school and passed the bar, and it was us on the other side of the table doing deposition prep and drafting motions.”

He hadn’t talked about it then, and he hadn’t talked about it later. But sitting at a rickety card-table in the backroom of the 181st Street Community Center, doing deposition preparation while the woman on the other side of the table held tight to the hand of whichever social work student had volunteered to support her through the process, he’d heard his own childhood described over and over in faltering, sob-choked voices.

Heard the blame and the shame and the secrets he’d grown up with.

They weren’t words he could bring himself to say, but it had given him perspective, enough distance to the leave the past in the past. At the time, he’d thought that Danielle had asked him to contribute his time because she knew she could talk him into just about anything with a laugh and a smile and a kiss on the cheek.

Now he wondered just what she’d suspected, back then, and in all the years since, when he hadn’t done as good a job of leaving the past in the past as he’d told himself he was.

McCoy picked up his water glass, wishing there was something stronger in it. “So I knew what I was seeing, when the smartest legal secretary in the Narcotics typing pool kept falling down the stairs and walking into doors.” He was careful not to look at either of them — particularly not Regan. Abbie might have guessed just how McCoy had known to suspect those accidents weren’t what they seemed, but Regan knew.

Mike Cutter shaking his head. "It's 2007, Jack, we talk about this —"

That was a we that didn’t include, never had included, McCoy.

He cleared his throat. “Eventually Colleen got up the courage to walk out on him. Danielle knew a sympathetic detective in the 13th precinct. Another one of her collection of useful brothers and fathers and sons. He was always willing to go the extra mile. He took a statement from Colleen that looked better than it was. I wrote up Grand Jury papers that looked stronger than they were. Adam called in a favor, got him a job offer, and Dan James chose exile to Phoenix over a tour of the New York judicial system.”

“You might think that five years in Narcotics means you’re pretty good at playing a jury.” McCoy takes every ounce of the anger he felt every time he saw Colleen flinch when her husband called her name and focuses it into his cold, precise words. “But you can’t be stupid enough not to know that I’m better.” He shoves the notebook across the desk. “Every date. Every bruise. Every icy step, every open cupboard door. You won’t face me in the courtroom, Dan. You’ll face me on the stand. Do you want to find out what I can get past the judge and make sure the jury hears? Do you want to hear what Sally Bell will have to say about you as she closes her case? Because I can hardly wait.”

And Adam Schiff, strolling in the door as if he just happened to be passing. “Maricopa County wants to poach you. I suppose I can live with it. Congratulations.”

Dan James, looking from the job offer Adam had just put in his hand to McCoy’s careful notes of every injury he’d caused his wife, and then at McCoy’s absolutely humorless smile.

“What happened to Colleen James?” Abbie asked.

“She went back to using her maiden name,” McCoy said. “Petraky.”

Abbie blinked. “Colleen Petraky? We’re talking about Colleen Petraky?”

“And now Daniel James is back,” Regan said. “Colleen saw him on the street yesterday morning.”

“She should have told me!” McCoy said, anger flaring again.

Regan folded her arms. “She was worried that you’d go straight to the Grand Jury without passing ‘go’ or even pausing to think.”

McCoy scowled at her. “She’s absolutely right I will —”

“Dial down the macho, Jack,” Abbie said. “Regan’s right. You can’t start dragging him through the courts for a thirty year old unprosecuted offense.”

McCoy shook his head. “I’ll argue that he evaded prosecution and his return to the jurisdiction provides an element of —”

Regan threw up her hands. “He wasn’t exactly a fugitive, Jack. He was sitting at a desk in Phoenix doing the job you got for him. Which is exactly what he’ll say the second you try that argument.” She leaned back in her chair. “I got Colleen to call Serena and take out a restraining order. If he breaches it, we can get him picked up. But I don’t think he will. Me and Mike Logan put the fear of god into him.”

“You still should have told me,” McCoy said truculently.

“Oh, hey, let’s see.” Regan’s voice was very mild. “Colleen asked me not to tell anyone, and especially not you. So I absolutely should have run straight to your office and betrayed her confidence.”

“Especially not me?” McCoy said. “I was the one who —”

“This is about Colleen, Jack!” Abbie pitched her voice to carry. “Regan, what do you think? Could this guy be a danger to her?”

“He’s old and he’s sick,” Regan said. “Dying, apparently.”

“He says he’s sick,” McCoy countered.

“He didn’t look well. And he’s definitely old.” Regan shrugged a little. “I told him about the restraining order and I told him I’d consider giving Colleen his message. That should hold him — ”

McCoy shook his head. “You’re not going to tell her,” he said flatly.

“I’m not going to lie to her, Jack, for chrissakes!”

“So you’ll do his dirty work for him —”

Regan came out of her chair fast enough to send it tumbling to the floor. “Don’t you dare say —”

“Separate corners!” Abbie yelled. She glared at McCoy, then at Regan. “Regan, Jack’s allowed to be upset about this, and you ought to know to make allowances. Jack, Regan did the right thing respecting Colleen’s privacy and her right to make her own decisions, and you are not allowed to be an asshole over it. And both of you, I’m going to bed, so talk about this like grown-ups, using your inside voices.”

She heaved herself out of her chair and waddled out of the room.

“She’s going to be a great mom,” Regan said after a moment.

It wasn’t an apology, but it was a peace offering. McCoy took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “So long as she keeps a current stock of takeout menus on the fridge.”

Regan picked up her chair and sat down. “I couldn’t tell you, Jack.”

“You could have.” He picked up his fork and poked at his now-cold lasagna. “But I take your point about not telling me in the office. Given my reaction.” He forked up a bite of his meal and then put it down again. “Regan, he might look like an old man now, but I watched Colleen come to work with bruises, week after week. Don’t underestimate him. He ran the whole routine on her. She shouldn’t have to revisit that.”

“She has the right to make that decision for herself.” Regan cut her own lasagna in half, then in half again, and again. “I won’t keep it from her, Jack.”

“Then I’m part of that conversation.” He eyed her meal, which was now an amorphous mess of meat and sauce. “Finished?”

Regan put her knife and fork down. “Yeah. I should get —”

“A drink.” McCoy pushed his own plate away, got up and went to the sideboard. “You need a drink.”

Regan ran her fingers through her hair, hard enough to send a shower of hairpins to the floor and to send her hair tumbling over her shoulders. “You’re right. Make it a large one.”

McCoy poured them both a double and brought the glasses back to the table. He set Regan’s in front of her. “I was —”

“Pissed that Colleen talked to me and not to you?” Regan raised an eyebrow at him and then picked up her glass and drained half of it.

“Honestly? Partly, yes.” McCoy sipped his own scotch. “And I swore to her that she’d never see or hear from him again. I was a co*cky son-of-a-bitch in those days.”

Regan chuckled. “In those days?”

“I’ve learned a little since then.” Learned that the law wasn’t always enough to keep people safe. Learned that you could put criminals behind bars, year after year, and still a car could run a red light, a mobster could hire a hit, someone could talk their way past courthouse security and then he was in a car on his way to the hospital, to a safe house with a lake of blood spreading across the floor, to a lane-way with a parked car with blood on the bumper.

“Jack,” Regan said softly, and he blinked the memories away and drained his glass.

“I failed her,” he said tightly. “Like I failed Toni Ricci, and Alex —”

“No.” Regan put her glass down and came around the table. “You do what you can do, Jack. You do what you can do.”

“And it’s never enough.” His glass was empty. He stood up to get a refill. At the same moment Regan put her hand on his shoulder and when he rose to his feet he was almost in her arms.

She could have easily stepped back, but she didn’t. Instead, she turned him to face her, her hands firm and gentle on his shoulders. “It’s enough. Jack. It’s enough.”

And then her arms were around him, and his were around her. The fall of her hair was a spill of rough silk beneath his palm and her body was firm and strong against his. She smelled of sweat and car exhaust and air-freshener, the scent of a New York summer.

“We’ll keep Colleen safe,” she said softly, running her fingers through his hair. “And that means sometimes you, and sometimes me, and sometimes us.”

McCoy ran his hand down the line of her spine and pulled her closer. “But tell me,” he murmured against her hair. “Don’t keep secrets from me.”

His hand skimmed her hip and Regan stiffened in his arms. Still worried about Arthur Branch. Reluctantly, McCoy loosened his embrace, and she pulled away from him.

“Probably time for you to go home,” Regan said. “I saw that Colleen has listed you for a chambers hearing with Judge Sanderson in the morning.” She stepped back and folded her arms. “A Saturday hearing, is that for the Bao case?”

Reluctantly, McCoy made his way to the hall and picked up his bag. “No. It’s Coran.”

Regan frowned. “Coran? Did something happen I don’t know about? Are we moving to arrest Rivera?”

“It’s not about Rivera. It’s about Danielle Melnick.” He grinned at her surprised expression. “I told you I had a few ideas about how to find the Underground Railroad.”

.oOo.

Notes:

The Talbert case is in the episode “Virtue”, episode 8 of season 5.

Chapter 18: Toast And Conversation

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Chambers of Judge Meg Sanderson

8 am Saturday July 14 2007

“Mr McCoy, your office assured me this hearing was vital to an ongoing investigation.” Judge Sanderson glanced up from the peanut butter she was spreading on her toast. “I don’t know if this is a fairy-tale or a wild goose chase, but either way, it’s a waste of my time.”

McCoy had opted for Sanderson over Donald Karan, his two choices for a chambers hearing on a Saturday morning, because Colleen had assured him that Sanderson was more of a morning person than Karan. If that’s the case, I hate to see what Donald Karan is like before breakfast. “Your honor, the victim was involved with an organization that covertly moved people from place to place. This provides motives the police must be able to explore.”

“So explore them,” Judge Sanderson said. She leaned forward and bit into her toast, keeping the crumbs from falling on her blouse.

“This is secret organization, highly compartmentalized. The police are having difficulty identifying even one of Ms Coran’s criminal associates —”

Danielle Melnick interrupted him. “Criminal! Your honor, from Mr McCoy’s description, this is a group of people providing battered women with a way to escape from their abusers. I’d hardly call that criminal.”

“Read the motion again, Danielle,” McCoy said. “Mr Handry said women and children in his statement to the police. I have no doubt at least some of those children were removed from custody arrangements laid out by a court. Custodial interference.”

Danielle rolled her eyes. “A misdemeanor!”

“We have no way of knowing anything about the health and welfare of these children,” McCoy countered.

“You have no probable cause to suspect it’s anything but excellent.”

“She’s right, Mr McCoy,” Sanderson said.

“Mr Handry’s statement indicates they were taken to Clayton, your honor. That’s not just on the state border, it’s on the Canadian border. New York Penal Law 135.50 states that if the intent of a person engaging in custodial interference is to remove the victim permanently from the state —”

“I know the law,” Sanderson said. “I’ll agree that you have probable cause to believe a felony may have been committed by Ms Coran. But I still don’t see what this has to do with your request to penetrate the attorney-client privilege between Ms Coran and her lawyer.”

“Ms Melnick has three decades of history working with women’s organizations in New York,” McCoy said, not mentioning the fact that some of that history was also his. “It’s inconceivable that Ms Coran didn’t discuss this with her. In fact, I believe that Ms Melnick may very well have been the original reason Ms Coran got involved with this ‘Underground Railroad’ in the first place.”

“If she did discuss it with me, she was discussing it with me as my client.” Danielle leaned forward in her chair and put her hand flat on the judge’s desk. “Your honor, a clearer case of privilege couldn’t be found.”

“Not if the two of you were talking about a future crime,” McCoy said quickly.

Danielle shook her head. “Jack, if I knew a crime was going to be committed, I’d call the police. I’m well aware of the line between zealous defense and criminal facilitation. I learned that lesson. But I’ll make this easy for you.” She turned to face the judge. “Your honor, Emalia Coran never discussed activities of this nature, past, current or future, with me. In fact, I had no contact with her after helping her change her name.”

“You had her new address,” McCoy countered. “No-one else did.”

“I had her new address in case I needed to contact her as her lawyer in regard to the charges that had been laid against her. Prejudice hadn’t attached. But as the D.A’s Office hadn’t made any move to continue, I had no need to contact Ms Coran.”

“That seems to be that, Mr McCoy,” Judge Sanderson said. She wiped her hands on a paper napkin. “Unless you can produce evidence that Ms Melnick is in some way involved in this organization, I am denying your application.” She gave him a level look. “And by evidence, Mr McCoy, I mean you had better be about to charge Ms Melnick for conspiracy to commit. Do I make myself clear?”

“Crystal, your honor,” McCoy said, getting to his feet. “Thank you for your time.”

Once they were in the corridor, Danielle patted his arm. “Don’t feel bad, Jack. I’ve seen you spanked in chambers so often you should consider it practically in private. And you must have known you were on a hiding to nothing before you walked in the door.”

“Did you know about this so-called Underground Railroad?” McCoy demanded. “Are you behind it?”

Danielle laughed, and hooked her hand through his elbow as they moved toward the front door of the courthouse. “It’s very flattering the way you seem to regard me as New York’s resident feminist mastermind. I have a very active practice, Jack, kept that way by your high-and-wide approach to constitutional protections. Where would I find the time?”

“Danielle …” McCoy said.

She shrugged. “I’ve written plenty of checks to organizations that help abused women, from shelters to legal representation to helping them find new homes. None of them called themselves the Underground Railroad. I’d need both hands to count the ones who talked about ‘helping women get away’.”

McCoy held the door for her. “And you didn’t find that suspicious?”

Danielle snorted. “Oh, come off it, Jack. That covers anything from shelters to removal vans. Legal help for family court. Finding a new job. That covers you and me in the back room of the 181st Street Community Center, for that matter.” She looked up at him, head co*cked to one side. “And you might have pretended it was about getting practical experience, but I wasn’t fooled.”

“You weren’t?” McCoy asked slowly.

Danielle shook her head. “Paul Kopell was all about getting experience. That’s why he blew me off in favor of the Abused Women’s Advocacy Coalition. More time in court. He wasn’t interested in drafting the same statement of complaint over and over again.”

“And I was?”

You were trying to get me into bed,” Danielle said. She laughed. “What was the name of that article you wrote for the Law Review? Patriarchy and Penalties?”

“Patriarchy and the Penal Code,” McCoy said. “And yes, I was trying to impress you when I wrote it.”

“You did,” Danielle said.

McCoy raised his eyebrows. “I thought you said I didn’t fool you.”

She grinned up at him. “Anyone can buy a bunch of roses, Jack. Two hundred hours of work on a journal article? A girl likes to feel she’s worth that kind of effort.”

“You were,” McCoy said as they left the portico and stepped into the warm morning sunlight. “You are.”

“But now instead of feminist critiques of the legal system, you give me blue-backs,” Danielle said.

“You know something about this,” McCoy said. “I know you, Danielle, and I know you know something.”

Danielle stopped on the stairs and let McCoy take another few steps, so she could look him in the face despite the difference in their heights. “You don’t honestly think that Emalia was killed by someone she was working with to get women to safety?”

“How about one of their husbands or boyfriends?” McCoy suggested.

“How about her boyfriend?” Danielle shot back.

McCoy shook his head. “He had no way of knowing where she was.”

“So maybe he found her.”

Deliberately, McCoy stepped back up until they were on the same stair again, forcing her to look up at him. “You know what kept me awake last night, Danielle?”

She grinned up at him. “Thinking up new and creative ways to get around the protections our fine criminal justice system gives defendants?”

McCoy refused to smile. “Ms Coran’s only reason to be in that lot was to collect a car for use in transporting a woman who may very well have been in danger of her life. Can you be absolutely certain that woman wasn’t with her? Can you be absolutely certain that woman hadn’t been found by the man she was trying to escape? Followed there? What if Ms Coran was killed because she got in his way, Danielle? What if the reason he left her there was because he’d already gotten what he wanted? Gotten who he wanted.”

Danielle turned away, arms folded, and then turned back. “I’m not telling you any of this,” she said.

McCoy nodded. “Understood.”

“That would never be the arrangement.”

“You knew about it,” McCoy said softly.

“If Ms Coran had told me anything about what she was doing, she never mentioned the car lot and she never mentioned any illegal activity,” Danielle said. “If she told me that she borrowed a vehicle, I had no reason to suspect it wasn’t a perfectly normal arrangement with friends or family.” McCoy raised an eyebrow and Danielle snorted. “Come on, Jack, she was a twenty-something financial services adviser who worked in a bank and had a degree from Yale. I should leap to the conclusion that she was boosting cars?”

“Okay,” McCoy conceded. “But you knew about it, and you knew enough about it to know how it was done.”

“I didn’t know anything about this ‘Underground Railroad’. But —” Danielle held up a finger as McCoy opened his mouth. He closed it again. “But, we had a discussion early in the year. At the time, I thought we were discussing her own situation, and we might well have been. Emalia said that she had felt there was no way for her to get away, because Rivera had the resources of the police department to track her down.”

“He’d lose his job if he tried it.”

“And that would have been a great comfort to Emalia as he beat her head in. She said that she didn’t even feel she could go to friends or family because they might become targets. For police harassment, if not violence. I said that was why there were shelters, and she asked what would happen if he followed her to one. So I explained the way we used to work it with the New York Women’s Safety Project. You remember, Jack. We were always aware that our volunteers might become targets. We had procedures, and I talked about that with Emalia. Never meet a woman at your home or your work or any other place you usually go. Pick her up in a nondescript car in a place her abuser wouldn’t expect her to be, a public place, somewhere you can scream for help if you need to. A hotel lobby. A mall.”

“Danielle …”

“I wasn’t giving her a blueprint, Jack! I wanted her to know that she had other options than taking another pot-shot at Rivera.” She put her hands on her hips. “Despite what you think of me, I don’t actually condone criminal behavior by my clients. She was terrified. She was desperate. I did worry, not just about what might happen to her, but about what she might do.”

McCoy nodded. “Alright.”

“When it comes to this Underground Railroad, Jack, I am honestly not involved. But when it comes to Emalia, I can tell you, if she really was using this mechanic’s yard as a regular source of vehicles, it’s the last place she’d take or meet one of the women she helped.”

“But she told you she was ‘borrowing’ cars,” he pointed out.

“One car. She mentioned borrowing one car, once. It was a passing mention. All she said was that she’d been late to an appointment with me — about her name change — because she’d been helping out someone who needed a lift. And I said that we’d have to put her car registration on the list of things that needed to be changed, and she said not to bother, she didn’t have a car, she’d borrowed one. Okay?”

McCoy had to concede that didn’t exactly rise to the level of probable cause. “Okay.”

Thank you. And before you ask, no, I won’t start ringing my friends and asking them questions for you.” She hitched her handbag strap further up her shoulder and turned to go.

“You should ring one friend,” McCoy said. “Colleen.”

Danielle turned. “Why?”

“Dan James is back in New York.”

“After all this time? Why on earth?”

“He claims to be dying,” McCoy said. Honesty forced him to add, “My A.D.A. said he didn’t look well.”

“Couldn’t happen to a nicer,” Danielle said. “Has he harassed her?”

“Nothing chargeable,” McCoy said. “Regan said Colleen was talking to Serena about a restraining order. She — Colleen — didn’t want me involved. So if you could call her, just to remind her, she’s not in this alone.”

Danielle nodded. “I’ll do that. And, Jack, if there’s a book to be thrown at him, Kristen Torres downstairs from you has a good pitching arm.”

“I’ll remember.” He grinned at her. “Should you be praising prosecutors?”

“Some of you aren’t completely bad,” Danielle said, and then, with a wink and smile, she was off down the steps, arm raised for a cab.

.oOo.

Notes:

In the 2002 episode “Open Season”, Danielle Melnick ignores a judge’s instructions that her client is not allowed to get and receive mail, and unwittingly becomes a conduit for information that leads to a murder. She refuses to break attorney-client privilege, even when arrested and charged as an accessory. McCoy pulls one of his many fast ones to get the client to admit that Danielle had been in ignorance of the true nature of the communication, and saves her from going to prison or being disbarred.

Chapter 19: Going To Extremes

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Office of E.A.D.A. Jack McCoy

10th Floor

One Hogan Place

8.00 am Monday July 16th 2007

“So if Danielle’s involved, we’ve no way to find out,” Regan said. She propped her elbows on the table against McCoy’s desk and rested her chin on her linked hands.

“She’s not involved,” McCoy said. “If she had information and was convinced it was confidential, she would certainly keep that confidence. But she would have told the judge that’s what she was doing. She wouldn’t lie to a judge and flat out say she had no such information.”

Regan stretched across the table to pick up Steve Handry’s statement. “The security guard doesn’t get us much further.”

McCoy leaned back in his chair. “How did he get involved?”

“His job before this one was working security at a shelter. Coran called him a few months ago, but there’s no way to know how she got his number. He uses the same cell phone and he says it was posted behind the front desk at the refuge, in case of an emergency.” She shrugged. “Any of the workers or any of the women who stayed there could have it.”

“So a complete stranger calls him up and asks him to help her take cars from Marty’s and he says okay?”

“He says …” Regan scanned the pages. “Here it is. She just asked about cars, generally. She had some idea about long-stay parking at the airport. He was the one who thought of Marty’s.”

“That’s still a lot of trust on his part.”

“Yeah.” Regan rested her chin on her hand and looked at him. “So maybe we can put down something else we know about Emalia Coran. She was persuasive.

“Or she and Handry have a history he hasn’t told us about, and we haven’t found. Get Briscoe and Green to look into that.”

Regan nodded, and made a note. “Still doesn’t make him a suspect. Alibi’s good.”

His alibi, yeah. Not his possible-but-as-yet-unidentified accomplice.”

“Or hers,” Regan said. “Unidentified, and likely to remain unidentified as long as we can’t find a way into her secret society.”

“Yeah.” McCoy leaned forward. “What do you think the odds are that some of those women came from inter-state?”

“I’d say pretty high,” Regan said. “The original Underground Railroad moved people from Carolina to Canada. Handry talked about women trying to get away from FBI agents — I’d go pretty far if it was me. And — another thing. Clayton. That’s not the sort of place you go to be invisible. It’s the sort of place you go on your way to somewhere else.”

“Across the border. Some of these women had children, according to Handry. Who would be minors.”

“Custodial Interference in the first.” Regan nodded. “Try again to pierce privilege.”

McCoy shook his head. “Not Custodial Interference, I ran that up the flagpole with Sanderson on Saturday. No dice.”

“Then —?”

“If State laws can’t help us, how about Federal ones?”

Regan paused. “The Mann Act? Isn’t that a bit of stretch, Jack? It’s not like Coran was driving them to a brothel —”

“We have no evidence that she wasn’t,” McCoy said. “We have no evidence of her motives except the statement of an admitted co-conspirator. Are you willing to take the word of Peter Handry that Ms Coran had no immoral motives? With the safety of children at stake? Because I’m not.”

Office of Assistant United States AttorneyAbbieCarmichael

TheUnited StatesDepartment of Justice, Southern District of New York

Criminal Division

OneSt.Andrew's Plaza,Manhattan

10: 15 am Monday July 16th 2007

“The jury only went out ten minutes ago,” Abbie said. “I haven’t had time to call anyone for you —”

“That’s not why we’re here,” McCoy said. “I want you to start a federal investigation into this so-called Underground Railroad for people trafficking, and get some wiretap warrants.”

Abbie Carmichael put down her pen. “Jack, you’re reaching. Even more than usual.”

Regan sat silent. Abbie was right, but the two of them ganging up on McCoy would only made him obdurate.

She corrected herself as he said stubbornly, “All I want to do is make sure that any minors Ms Coran transported over state lines are safe.” The two of us ganging up on him would only make him more obdurate.

Abbie threw up her hands. “All you want to do is track down their mothers and interview them about Ms Coran’s contacts and associates.”

McCoy shrugged. “If that was a byproduct, it would be a happy accident.”

Abbie’s raised eyebrows said she was not convinced. “And you expect me to explain to a judge that this Handry is a credible witness when it comes to saying Coran moved women and their children but not when it comes to saying why she did it?”

“Admitting to the criminal enterprise is an admission against penal interest,” McCoy said. “It’s inherently more credible than a self-serving explanation of why. Come on, Abbie. You know you can talk the judge into a warrant.”

“Against who? Coran is dead. Handry is in custody and Coran was the only one of these 21st century wanna-be abolitionists he knew. You want me to apply for a federal wire-tap warrant against every feminist in New York City? That’s not a short list.”

“Not New York City,” McCoy said. “When Handry was justifying the use of the cars —”

“Theft,” Abbie said. “Theft of the cars.”

“His lawyer is going to argue that there was no intent to deprive the owners of the use and enjoyment of their property, and if I find these women safe and well I’m not going to risk putting my back out opposing it. Let’s say use until something tells us otherwise.”

Abbie rolled her eyes. “So what did Handry say?”

“He said Coran needed the cars because she couldn’t exactly take a cab to Clayton.”

“So wiretap warrants for every feminist in Clayton,” Abbie said. “At least it’s likely to be a shorter list, but a judge isn’t going to like it any better. Nor is the political sh*t-storm likely to be any less intense, even if I did find a judge senile enough to authorize it.” She folded her arms across her swollen stomach. “The minute this hits the papers, there are going to be calls to give Coran a posthumous medal. Plenty of people are going to see these people as heroes. I’m surprised you don’t, Jack. I would have thought this is exactly the sort of thing that would appeal to your romantic streak.”

“This isn’t college students teaching remedial English to undocumented kids, Abbie.” McCoy leaned forward in his chair, elbows on his knees. “These people, whoever they are, are operating outside the law.”

“You just made the case that they weren’t breaking any significant part of it,” Abbie said.

“They’re men and women who are taking the first step on the road that leads to vigilantism. How long before one of them decides the best way to keep a woman safe is to put a bullet in the head of her abuser? Coran already took that step on her own behalf last year. It was Officer Rivera’s good luck she was a lousy shot.”

“So they should sit home and write their congressman?”

“I didn’t expect you to be on the other side of this one, Abbie,” McCoy said. “We’ve already seen where we can end up when people decide to go outside the law — with women like Leslie Cooper hiring a hit-man instead of making a police report — and getting away with murder.”

“Consider this a free preview of what Lanie Stieglitz or Danielle Melnick is going to say in court. And I seem to recall you told me Nora warned you against taking Leslie Cooper to trial. Hard cases make bad law, but in our job, weak ones make bad precedents. Not to mention the fact that if Handry is telling the truth, if you get your warrant and if you find some of these conductors and station-masters and if they lead you to some of their passengers, every step of that journey has the potential to put women in danger.” She narrowed her eyes. “You don’t really have a problem with what these people are doing. You’re arguing that you do because you want me to get that warrant.”

“We argue for a living, Abbie. It doesn’t matter if you take one position on Rosario on Monday and a different one on Friday, so long as you win both times.”

“You’re not winning this time.” Abbie put down her pen. “You have to bring me a target for the warrant that’s a little narrower than ‘people who are sympathetic to battered women, upstate New York’. But here’s what I will do. I’ll talk to Homeland Security. If these hypothetical children are being taken into Canada, they’re probably not crossing under their own names. At the very least, they won’t have parental consent letters. And the parent they’re with could very well be using false documentation, too. That is a federal matter and it’s certainly a higher priority for investigation than this Railroad.”

“Thanks, Abbie.” McCoy stood. “Good luck on the jury coming back quickly.”

“Quick or slow, so long as they convict,” Abbie said.

Regan followed McCoy back out into the street. “So we send Briscoe and Green back to the beginning,” she said. She shrugged. “It’s more likely she was killed by either someone she knew or a by stranger, anyway.”

“Everyone is killed by someone they knew or by a stranger, Regan,” McCoy said.

“You know what I mean. She was either killed because she was Emalia Coran or she was randomly in the wrong place at the wrong time. Not because, by some incredible string of coincidences, someone who objected to the Underground Railroad happened to find her and happened to know what she was involved in.” She studied him. “You’re just pursuing the Railroad to satisfy your curiosity.”

“No.”

“Or your ego. If anyone is riding in on a white horse, it should be Jack McCoy, right?”

He shook his head. “These people are playing with fire, Regan. They’re amateurs. How long before we’re looking at a homicide that really is because someone followed a car and found where it was going?”

“That’s also an argument against the existence of shelters,” Regan pointed out. “And against lawyers working for women suing their abusers for divorce and custody of their children.”

“This is do-it-yourself witness protection!”

“I seem to recall you telling me the other night about a do-it-yourself refuge. Staffed by volunteers, funded by donations — ”

“And entirely within the law,” McCoy said stubbornly. “I can’t ignore illegal activity just because you think I should be sympathetic to the motives that prompted it.”

“Which is what this is about,” Regan said as she realized it. “You proving that you’ll prosecute any crime to the full extent of the law and personal feelings be damned. How much time are we going to waste on this, Jack? When can we get back to actually thinking about how to prosecute whoever killed Emalia Coran?”

He turned and strode off toward Hogan Place without answering. In fact, he gave her the silent treatment all the way back to the office. Regan kept her peace and waited for McCoy’s innate sense of fairness to win out over his ego.

It took nearly an hour before he looked up from the files again. “Was Rivera actually beating Coran?” he asked.

Regan reached across his desk for the file. He pushed it towards her and their fingers touched. McCoy held the contact a little longer than he needed to, thumb brushing across her forefinger, with a smile that was part apology …

And part something a lot more dangerous. Regan jerked her hand back as if she’d been electrocuted and covered by hastily flipping the file open. “Well, they did a standard strip-and-search on arrest and recorded no injuries, old or new. But the relationship had ended some weeks previous. By her decision, according to her friends. By his, according to him. The roommate — ” She thumbed through the papers in front of her. “No allegations of anything physical.”

“No wonder Danielle didn’t want to make a cause célèbre out of her client,” McCoy said. “It’s hard to run the battered woman defense when you have no evidence your client was actually battered. Juries might buy a woman waiting until her abuser is asleep before putting a bullet in his head but they tend to baulk at a delay of three weeks. Especially with no evidence of abuse and the fact that she’d already managed to get away from him.”

“Lennie and Ed believe the room-mate,” Regan said. “They said the relationship had all the signs of going somewhere bad.”

“I don’t have to disbelieve the room-mate to think Coran had a screw loose somewhere. I remember a case where the victim offered to pay for his wife to get breast implants. I didn’t have any trouble believing both that he was a pig and that running him over four times with her car was an over-reaction.” He rested his arms on his desk and leaned forward a little. “I think we know a third thing about Emalia Coran.” He listed them on his fingers, his ring catching the light. “She was smart, she was persuasive … and she took things to extremes.”

.oOo.

Notes:

Leslie Cooper was in Equal rights, season 12 episode 18. The case McCoy refers to, where a woman ran her husband over with her car, is one of the cases in "Couples", season 12 episode 23.

Chapter 20: Detective Work

Chapter Text

27th Precinct

Detectives Squadroom

9 am Tuesday July 17 2007

“I’m getting close to moving this case to the back burner,” Lieutenant Van Buren said. “Names are piling up on the board. We haven’t got enough to bring Rivera in or to get a search warrant for his place or his locker.”

“Goren and Eames are still working an angle on that,” Green said. “They’ve got a mountain of files full of cases he worked on and they’re looking for something that gives them a reason to talk to him.”

“Better them than you,” Van Buren said. “They get to pick and choose their workload over at Major. You, on the other hand, are at the mercy of where the body falls, and too many are falling in our neighborhood this month to waste too much more time on this.”

“We can follow up on the financial angle,” Briscoe said. “A.D.A Markham’s got someone looking over the accounts Coran worked on.”

“The Feds are looking into the passport angle on Coran’s railroad activities.” Green loosened his tie a little. “Something could pop there.”

“Yeah, about in time for my retirement party,” Van Buren said, unimpressed. “When I hear my detectives relying on luck to break a case, I know it’s time for them to move on to the next one.”

“One more day, LT,” Green said. He leaned forward, elbows on his knees. “Give us one more day to find another angle.”

“I’ll give you your one more day.” Van Buren held up her finger. “But I’ll also give you the angle you’ll work with it. Find the handbag or purse or whatever it was that Coran was carrying.”

Green spread his hands. “It could be anywhere! Bottom of the Hudson.”

“Then you better pack your swimsuit,” Van Buren said implacably.

“Oh, man,” Green said, but he knew better than to keep arguing.

Briscoe knew better than to argue at all when the Lieutenant had that look on her face. He rose to his feet. “We’re on it.”

Back at their desks, Green was still shaking his head. “What does she think we are, psychics?”

“No, she thinks we’re detectives.” Briscoe thumbed through the stacks on his desk and then saw what he was looking for on his partner’s. “Hand me that map, will you?”

Green handed over the paper map of New York City. “You know they have these on the Internet now?”

“Humor me.” Briscoe opened it out and found their murder site. “Okay, so we know this guy — Rivera or otherwise — knows a bit about police procedure and evidence. He ditched the gun right there and then so he wouldn’t have it on him if he was picked up. He cleaned up his brass. Why would he do that?”

“Maybe she was carrying the gun unloaded,” Green suggested. “He had to load it, and he was worried his prints would be on the shells.”

Briscoe nodded. “So we know he wasn’t wearing gloves, or at least, he took them off to load the gun. He wiped the gun, that’s easy enough to do, but it was simpler to just pick up the shells.”

“And dump them in the nearest sewer grate.” Green paused. “Along with the purse?”

“Uniform looked in all the likely dumpsters and trashcans. And he wouldn’t want to be carrying it for too long. The nearest places are …” Briscoe studied the map. “Here, but there’s a bodega across the street that actually has working cameras and nothing showed on them. Here, but he’d have to have walked past this gas station, and we got nothing on their CCTV either. So here, or here.” He turned, holding the map. “Ana? Can you get New York City Sewer and Water on the phone and find out where something dumped in these two grates would end up?”

Cordova took the map. “Sure, Lennie.”

“And then sweet-talk C.S.U. into going down there and having a look.”

“Lucky them,” she said, wrinkling her nose, and went back to her desk with her map.

“He might have taken it further,” Green said.

“He might have,” Briscoe agreed. “But the further he went, the more options he had, and we’re not going to get the whole sewer system searched in the rest of the day. I think —”

Green’s phone rang, interrupting it. Green picked up the receiver. “Uh-huh, that’s me. Yes, that’s my case. No sh*t? Hold her for us, we’ll be right over.” He hung up the phone and gave Briscoe a wide grin. “So much for not relying on luck. The 12th Precinct just picked up a kid using one of Emalia Coran’s credit cards.” He grabbed the car keys off Briscoe’s desk. “My turn to drive.”

Right over in New York traffic meant forty minutes, but at least the pool car was air-conditioned. Briscoe cranked the cool air up to full as Green pulled out into the street. “You know, when the first cars came into service with air-con, there were fist-fights in the bull-pen over whose turn it was to drive one.”

Green nodded. “I’d cut anyone who tried to put me in something without air on a day like this.”

“Don’t be stupid, Ed. You’re a cop. You wouldn’t cut them.”

Green raised an eyebrow. “No?”

“No self-respecting detective would resort to a knife to settle a disagreement over a pool car. You’d shoot them.”

“I’m going to shoot this guy in the Lexus if he doesn’t decide which of these streets he wants to turn into,” Green said, and sneezed. “Oh, man. Perez has got to stop switching out the air-fresheners in these cars for pineapple.”

When they reached the 12th Precinct, they both discovered that there were worse smells than pineapple.

Nick Falco met them at the door of the bullpen. “Lennie. Ed. How are you?”

“If your guys caught our murderer, we’re doing pretty good,” Green said, returning Falco’s handshake. “How you been?”

“Good. Getting back to normal.”

That was as close to discussing the ramifications of the attempt to frame Falco for murder last year as the unofficial cops’ code of etiquette allowed, and Briscoe cleared his throat. “So what can you tell us about the suspect?”

“Female, claims to be eighteen and so does her criminal history, but she’s on the small side. Corrina Li, street name Coralie. And I have bad news on the murder front. She was picked up for shoplifting on the afternoon of your murder and held overnight. Arraigned in the morning, bailed R.O.R. I confirmed it with the guys downstairs who brought her in, and it’s her, they remembered.”

“But she had our vic’s credit card,” Green said. “So maybe she knows the murderer.”

“Card company says no action on the card since June, so she might not have had it long.” Falco gestured toward the back of the building like a maitre d' showing someone to their table. “Gentlemen, your interrogation room awaits.”

Through the glass, Briscoe could see what Falco had meant about Corrina Li’s size. She might easily have passed for fourteen. She was also probably homeless, by her filthy, ragged clothing and matted hair. “She have a fixed address?” Falco shook his head. “Then how did she get R.O.R?”

Falco shrugged. “She lifted a can of soda and a Popsicle. Not exactly grand larceny.”

Green opened the door to the interrogation room, took one step forward and then backed up fast and closed it. “Oh, my god. What is that?”

“Eau de sewer.” Nick Falco had stayed on the other side of the room when Green had opened the door, and Green gave him a sour look.

“You might have warned us.”

“Oh, yeah, right. And you would have been too busy to come down here and talk to her and would I just send over her statement? No way, my friends. This is your case. You go in there and asphyxiate.” He took a small jar from his pocket. “I did get you this, though.”

Briscoe took the jar. “Vicks.” An old standby against the smell in the morgue when one of Rodger’s bodies was less than fresh. He dabbed it under his nostrils, and handed the jar to Green, who did the same. “You going to watch the window for us?”

“As long as I don’t have to go into that room, I’ll do anything I can to help,” Falco assured them.

The Vicks helped, but it didn’t eliminate the odor that emanated from Corrina Li in waves every time she shifted in her seat. It was the kind of smell that had body, and personality, and was quite possibly visible from space.

Briscoe and Green fought a small, silent battle of wills to see who’d take the seat across from Li and who would get to stand, at a slightly greater distance. Green lost, and sat down. “So, Corrina, has anyone explained your rights to you?”

She nodded. “Didn’t do nothing wrong.”

“Okay, that’s great, we can probably get this cleared up right away, then. But first, you know you don’t have to say anything unless you want to, right? You have the right to have a lawyer here.” He ran through the rest of Miranda. “You understand that?”

“Yeah, I’m not a dummy.”

“Okay, so, you know why you’re here?” A shrug was her only answer. “Because you were using a stolen credit card.”

“I didn’t steal nothing!”

“Well, it wasn’t yours. It belonged to a woman called Emily Watson, who isn’t you. So how did you get it?”

“She gave it to me.”

“When?” Briscoe asked, bad cop on cue.

“This morning.”

“Try again. She’s been dead all week.”

“Oh man!” Li looked at them for the first time since they’d entered the room. “I don’t have nothing to do with anyone getting dead, man! No way. Don’t you be trying to put that on me.”

“We’re not,” Green said. “We’ve already checked your alibi, and we know you didn’t do it. But the thing is, Coralie, we really need to know where you got that credit card.”

“And then you’ll let me go?”

“That’s up to the D.A,” Briscoe said. “But you know, you stop being obstructive and we’ll make sure to tell the lawyers how cooperative you were.”

“Do I need to have a lawyer? Can you get me one from legal aid?”

sh*t. The magic words.

“Yeah, well, you just wait here, and we’ll see what we can do.”

“Do you want a soda?” Green asked, getting up. “Maybe something to eat?”

Li nodded yes to both, and Green promised to be right back with them as he and Briscoe left the room.

The smell followed them out and Falco hastily applied his own Vicks. “You want me to make the call?”

“Nah, I’ll do it,” Briscoe said. “The Coran case has some attention from the D.A’s Office. We might be able to get a hurry up on a deal for her, get her to talk.”

When he told Jack McCoy the situation, the E.A.D.A was indeed willing to deal. “I’ll call Public Defenders and see if I can persuade them to send someone down there A.S.A.P,” McCoy said. “And I’ll send Regan down with authority to deal to probation, so long as you guys are satisfied she didn’t do anything worse than try and use the card. What was she trying to buy on it?”

“What was she trying to use the card for?” Briscoe asked Falco.

He consulted his notebook. “Gym membership. Can you believe it? Why would she want a gym membership?”

“Showers,” Briscoe explained. “Yeah, Jack, she was trying to take out a gym membership. She’s no fixed and I’d guess it’s been a while since she saw running water. Above ground, anyway. She does have a criminal history.” He held out his hand and Falco put the file in it. Briscoe scanned it. “Let’s see … shoplifting, shoplifting, another use of a stolen card, shoplifting, low-level possession … no violence, all violations and misdemeanors. Looks like she’s been on the street about four years.”

“How old did you say she was?” McCoy asked

“She’s eighteen, Jack.”

“Then probation. If the cops who felt her collar kick up about it, point out the likelihood of a homeless woman meeting probation obligations is somewhere between zero and none.”

Falco sent one of the 1-2’s patrol officers out for Li’s burger and soda. When it arrived, Green braved the smell again to take them in to her.

“How can she eat?” Falco marveled as they watched the girl devour the meal in five bites. “I may never eat again.”

“She’s used to it,” Briscoe said. “Listen, do you think you could maybe make a couple of calls? Find a shelter that could take her? This time of year, you might get lucky.”

Falco nodded. “Sure. Anything for my old partner.”

“Not old. Former partner,” Briscoe corrected, and Green chuckled.

The public defender arrived first, predictably young and predictably harassed-looking. “Ms Bell said this was urgent.”

“It is,” Briscoe said. He walked the lawyer over to the window and pointed at Li. “That young lady, your client, was picked up today using the credit card of a dead woman. We’re not looking at her for the murder, she was locked up overnight when it happened. But we really need her to tell us where she got the card.”

“And what does she get in return?”

“Probation,” Regan Markham said from the doorway behind them. She wrinkled her nose. “Jeez, Lennie, you need to get a refund on that deodorant.”

“That’s the delightful aroma of our perp de jour,” Briscoe said. “Falco’s got some Vicks, I strongly suggest you partake before we go in there.”

Falco offered the jar and Regan took it and used it. She gave it to the young public defender and he gingerly dabbed some around his nostrils and then sneezed, eyes watering.

“Under your nose, not in it,” Regan advised. “So, look, Mr …?”

“Fowler.” Fowler offered his hand, and dropped his files. He crouched down to gather them up. “Jason Fowler.”

“Okay, listen, Jason. I am authorized to offer your client probation on the attempted fraud charge, so long as the detectives are satisfied she had no involvement in anything beyond trying to use the card, and so long as the information checks out. She lies, and there’s no deal, and I’ll make sure she does every second of her time. Capiche?”

“Maybe if it’s good information, you should drop the charges altogether,” Fowler said nervously. “It sounds like you really want it.”

“Not going to happen,” Regan said. Her voice softened. “Look through the window, Jason. Is having to report to a trained professional once a week going to be the worst thing that could happen to your client? Or maybe the best?”

Briscoe kept his opinions on the likelihood of the New York City Department of Probation providing effective help to Corrina Li to himself.

Fowler nodded. “Okay. I’ll talk to her.”

He opened the door to the interrogation room and blanched, then gathered himself and went in.

“Why would someone as careful as our perp give Coran’s credit card away?” Regan asked.

“He didn’t,” Briscoe said. “She found it, in the sewer is my guess going by the smell. This morning, or she would have used it earlier.”

“Then why are we dealing?” Regan asked. “Does Jack know that —”

“We’re dealing because anything as small as a credit card would have washed through the screens and not be picked up until the filtration plant,” Green said. “She must have found the whole bag.”

“And she wouldn’t have left it there, so we need her to tell us where she — oh, dammit.” Briscoe took out his cell. “I forgot to tell Cordova to cancel C.S.U’s sewer crawl.”

Green chuckled. “You’ll be buying a couple of rounds of drinks, I guess.”

“Or finding our cases dropped to the end of the queue for a couple of months, yeah.”

Briscoe went out into the corridor to make the call back to the 27th Precinct. By the time he came back, Fowler was back out of the box. “She found a handbag. She’s willing to show you where.”

“Did she keep it?” Green asked.

Fowler nodded. “Yes. She’ll show you where she put it, too. Do we have a deal?”

“When the handbag is in an evidence bag, we have a deal,” Regan said. She took a deep breath, and then reapplied the Vicks. “Alright, gentlemen. Let’s get this over with.”

.oOo.

Chapter 21: Danger Money

Chapter Text

Office of E.A.D.A. Jack McCoy

One Hogan Place.

11 am Tuesday July 17 2007

“We’re on our way to get the handbag now,” Regan said over the phone. “And hey — does the DA’s Office pay hazard pay?”

“Sure,” McCoy said. “It’s exactly the same as regular pay.” Regan laughed and hung up.

McCoy pulled a stack of files toward him and opened the one on the top of the pile. People v Courtney. Regan’s spiky handwriting marched down the margin, recommending an offer of Man Two if the police or the D.A’s investigators couldn’t turn up another witness before trial. McCoy checked the name on the appearance notice. Jessica Sheets. She’d deal, if the price was right.

On the other hand, if Jessica Sheets had allowed her client to enter a plea of not guilty, either the case was weaker than it looked on the face of it —

Or she believes her client really didn’t do it.

He pressed the intercom button on his phone. “Colleen, can you find out if Jessica Sheets is free for a conversation? Face-to-face. Sometime in the next week or so.”

“Dinner?” Colleen asked, tactfully.

McCoy grinned at the phone. “Dinner is fine. So is lunch, my office, or a cup of coffee.” Not a date, Colleen.

He cut the connection before he could be tempted to call Colleen in to his office. He wanted to, wanted to call her in and sit her down and talk to her, tell her that she had nothing to worry about, that he’d make sure Dan never came near her, never again.

But she’d asked Regan specifically not to tell him. He didn’t like it, any more than he’d liked it all those years ago when he’d watched Colleen come to work with bruises, week after week. Then, there’d been nothing he could do until she was ready. Now —

Now she wasn’t terrorized into silence. Now he had to respect her decision.

It was a lot easier to do so knowing Colleen had Regan and Serena on her side.

“Jack.” McCoy looked up to see Arthur Branch in his doorway. “I thought you’d want to know — Bill Williams has been discharged. His wife says he’s doing well.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” McCoy said.

“We won’t have the budget to fill his position until he decides whether or not to retire,” Branch said, wandering over to the couch and sitting down. “That means the rest of you will be covering his cases for a while.”

“Not a problem.” McCoy drew the relevant stack of files toward him. “I’ve assigned the trickiest ones to Regan.”

Branch raised an eyebrow. “Do I hear the hoof-beats of favoritism?”

“You hear practicality,” McCoy snapped. “It means I can keep an eye on them and step in when necessary. Give me a little credit, Arthur! I’ve always put the job before everything else. Ask any of my ex-wives.”

“Now, Jack —”

“My personal life has never interfered with my work!”

“Except that’s not entirely true, is it?”

It wasn’t entirely true. An innocent man had gone to jail and two boys had died because of his relationship with Diana Hawthorne. He’d ignored the damage it would cause to their case against James Smith to bring Claire back as his second chair, against Adam’s direct instruction, because she’d been talking about leaving the D.A’s Office and he would have done anything, said anything, to stop her.

He’d pushed the limits of the law to prosecute those responsible for Toni Ricci’s and Alex Borgia’s deaths. And he’d come close to being disbarred for what he’d done trying to convict the drunk driver who’d come to represent for him the man who’d caused Claire’s death.

Not to mention the prosecutions that he could easily have let slide into the crapper in those first, worst months after losing Claire, if not for Jamie Ross.

McCoy hadn’t earned the reputation of One Hogan Place’s resident junkyard dog by flinching. He met Branch’s gaze steadily. “And unless you have any evidence that my working relationship with Ms Markham is damaging the efficiency of this office — which, may I remind you, is up two percent on last year as far as major felonies is concerned —”

“I’m concerned about the integrity of this office, not its efficiency.”

“I think your concern is politics, not integrity.”

“That’s a hell of an accusation, Jack.”

“This last year hasn’t played well for you, Arthur. It opened with the murder of an A.D.A. and the mid-season featured a grovelling apology by Mike Cutter for prosecuting me. You don’t think you can survive one more scandal.”

“No, Jack.” Branch rose to his feet. “I don’t think you can.”

12th Precinct

11 am Tuesday July 17 2007

There wasn’t room in the patrol car for all of them. Falco rode with the patrol officer who’d arrested Li, Fowler, and Li herself. Regan thanked her lucky stars for dodging that bullet as she got in the back of Briscoe and Green’s pool car.

The smell got in with her. “Oh, Jesus,” Green groaned, and punched up the air-conditioning.

Regan sneezed. “What is that, pineapple?”

“Don’t get him started,” Briscoe warned as he pulled out to follow the blue-and-white.

“This is worse than decomp,” Green said. “I’m going to have to burn these clothes.”

“Lemon,” Regan said.

Briscoe glanced at her in the rear-view mirror. “I thought it was tomato juice.”

“That’s skunks.”

“No, for skunks, you use apple cider vinegar.”

“f*ck this, man,” Green said, and hit the button to lower all four windows. A blast of heat washed into the interior of the car. “Frying has to be better than suffocation.”

Li showed them where she’d found the handbag, and then where she’d stashed it, inside a boarded-up building. Green slipped on a pair of latex gloves and looked inside. “Wallet,” he said, using a pen to lift one flap. “Driver’s license, it’s our girl. Some receipts. Keys. Loose change and —” He looked up, grinning. “Oh, man, Lennie, I have to take a picture of this for the next time the LT gets on me about luck.”

“What have you got?” Briscoe asked. “A signed confession?”

Green reached carefully into the bag and drew out a spent shell, holding it carefully by the ends to avoid smudging any prints on the barrel. “Maybe so, Lennie. Maybe so.”

“We’ll take this straight to forensics,” Briscoe said. “Can we drop you off on the way, counselor?”

Regan shook her head. “No offense, Lennie, but the only way you’re getting me back in that car with you is at gunpoint. I’m going to stop off at home, burn my clothes and shave my head.”

It was a half-hour’s walk to Abbie’s townhouse, which was unpleasant given the heat of the day, but Regan didn’t think it was fair to inflict herself and her smell on any of New York’s cab-drivers — or their subsequent passengers. She carried her attaché-case gingerly, well away from her body. It was her one truly extravagant purchase, all leather, and she was thankful she’d had to good sense to leave it outside the interrogation room.

She was drenched in sweat and had blisters on both heels by the time she reached her destination.

She opened the door. “Abbie? You home?”

Abbie appeared in the kitchen door. “Yeah, my jury — oh, my god, what’s that smell?”

“Defendant,” Regan said succinctly.

Abbie wrinkled her nose. “Were they still alive?”

“Can you get me a garbage bag?” Regan asked, taking off her jacket.

Abbie nodded, and a moment later came back with one. She held it out to Regan at arm’s length and then retreated hastily. “I hope it was worth it.”

“It might get us a conviction on Coran.” Regan shoved her jacket into the bag and began taking off the rest of her clothes. Her shoes joined her jacket in the bag. About to shuck her blouse, she hesitated. “Do you mind turning around?”

Abbie turned her back. “I’ve been in locker rooms, Regan.”

“Yeah.” Regan slipped off her shirt and then her skirt. “I’ve —” She took a breath, made her voice conversational. “I’ve got some scars. I don’t like people seeing them.”

It was Abbie’s turn to take a breath. “I didn’t think. Sorry.”

“It’s fine.” Regan knotted the top of the bag. “I’m going to shower. You’d better put this straight in the trash.”

“I have a dry cleaner who takes danger money,” Abbie said. “He’s handled decomp post-mortem clothes for me. I’ll get you the address.”

She went into the kitchen without turning around, and Regan hurried up the stairs.

She had to wash her hair three times to get rid of the smell, but when she finally turned off the shower, she couldn’t smell anything except shampoo and soap. She grabbed a towel. One thing about police work I don’t miss, decomposing bodies and mid-summer dumpster dives …

It was a lie, and she knew it. There was nothing about police work she didn’t miss.

She couldn’t go back on the force, not here, not anywhere. If she hadn’t known it herself, her partner had made it clear. Take medical retirement, three words on a Post-It stuck to the DVD of CCTV footage from Seattle’s Police Department Headquarters. Take medical retirement.

There might be other options, though, given she might be going to need a new job. Regan dried herself off quickly and went to grab fresh clothes from her room. Probation officer, parole officer If she were Corrina Li’s probation officer, for example, Regan could work to get her into a shelter, to hook her up with the services that could help her with whatever issues had put her on the street in the first place. Rehab. Counseling. Maybe adult education.

It was a nice fantasy and Regan let herself entertain it as she pulled on slacks and a clean shirt. She tucked her hair behind her ears and jogged down the stairs. “Abbie, I’m —”

She stopped dead.

Jack McCoy was in the hall.

.oOo.

Chapter 22: The Two Dude Defense

Chapter Text

Abbie Carmichael’s Townhouse

1 pm Tuesday July 17 2007

Regan came down the stairs, feet bare, hair damp. “Abbie, I’m —”

She stopped dead when she saw McCoy.

She must have just gotten out of the shower. And that wasn’t a safe thought for him to be having. Nor was it a good idea for him to be thinking how different she looked without makeup or doing her hair, not better or worse but different in a way that reminded him of how much more there was to Regan Markham than to most of the A.D.As who vied to fill his second chair. Unadorned, she could have been on her way out the door to a basketball game — or to sink post-holes for a boundary fence.

Imagination supplied a ten-gallon hat and a horse tied to a hitching post outside. I’d be on my way to a two-room courthouse to prosecute cattle-rustlers and stage-coach robbers — she’d be heading out to hunt down an outlaw or two …

McCoy cleared his throat. “Regan. I tried to call — you were obviously, uh —”

“I told you, Corrine Li found Coran’s bag in the sewers,” Regan said, coming down the rest of the stairs with an athletic grace that didn’t do anything for McCoy’s train of thought. “Where she scavenges for things she can use or sell. Her personal hygiene wasn’t the best. You wouldn’t have thanked me for coming straight in to the office.”

McCoy had worked arraignments out of the drunk tank often enough in his early years at the DA’s Office to be able to imagine. “I think the budget can stretch to your dry-cleaning bill. Especially since Lennie Briscoe just called. Forensics found a seven-point match to John Rivera’s right index finger on one of the casings in that handbag.”

“So it was him! But Jack — will seven points be enough?”

“Perhaps not, but add the thirteen points on the vinyl lining and it will be. And there’s DNA on the strap, they’re running it now. If Coran tried to hang on to the bag, there’s a good chance Rivera lost some skin taking it off her. Come on. Major Case is picking him up. They’re using one of those files you found as a pretext, they’ll spring the Coran case on him once he’s in interrogation.”

Surprisingly, she hesitated. “Do you need me there?”

“I want you there. You deserve to be there.” He paused. “Yeah, of course, you don’t have to — you could take the rest of the day, you’ve earned it —”

“Wherever you want me to be is where I am,” Regan said. “Just let me grab my shoes.”

It wasn’t until they were in the cab that McCoy put two and two together. He turned to look at her. “It’s Detective Goren, isn’t it?” The big, brilliant detective from Major Case who had gotten in Regan’s face one night in the office and done what he did best: shake loose everything that was hidden in the shadows.

Maybe he’d done it because Regan had needed to talk about it and he’d sensed that. Maybe he’d sensed a puzzle, and being Robert Goren, hadn’t been able to help himself. McCoy hadn’t been sure then and he wasn’t sure now.

Regan shrugged. “I know he’s good at his job. I don’t have to like him.”

“You’ll never have to work with him much,” McCoy said. “His cases tend to end with confessions and plea bargains.”

“Let’s hope this one does,” Regan said as the cab drew up at One Police Plaza. “Arthur would be a lot happier with a guilty plea than a trial all over the front pages for a month.”

It hadn’t occurred to McCoy how it would look, the two of them arriving together and Regan so obviously straight out of the shower. The sidelong glance he got from the officer on the desk as he checked their I.D.s made him realize what people would assume. Dammit. That would make its way back to Arthur, sooner or later.

Anyone who thinks old women gossip has never spent an evening in a bar with cops.

Regan caught the same glance and colored a little, which wasn’t going to help anything.

“I think you still smell a little of sewer,” McCoy said conversationally, but loudly enough to be overheard.

Regan sniffed at her shirt sleeve. “The glamor of the law. I’ll stay down-wind of everyone.”

That should help a little, McCoy thought as the elevator doors closed out the lobby. He was careful to keep his distance from her when they reached the eighth floor.

Danny Ross, Ron Carver and Jenna Halloran from Internal Affairs were deep in conversation in the corridor, but stopped at the sound of the door.

“Jack,” Carver said. “Ms Markham.” He raised an eyebrow. “Is it casual Friday already?”

“If it was casual Friday, Mr Carver, you wouldn’t need to ask,” Regan said calmly. “Captain Ross, Captain Halloran.”

“Have they brought Rivera in yet?” McCoy asked.

Ross pointed to one of the observation rooms. “About ten minutes ago. They’re taking him through the arrest of Barry Baird to start with. Baird made some noises about excessive force during his interrogation at the time, but never made a formal complaint. We’re pretending that he has a new lawyer who has talked him in to making a big deal of it.”

“Has he been Mirandized?” McCoy asked.

“Non-custodial,” Carver said. “Baird’s allegations weren’t against Rivera, so as far as he knows he’s a witness.”

“He’s going to either walk or call for his P.B.A. lawyer the minute that handbag hits the table,” Halloran said.

“Let’s see what he gives us before that point,” Ross said.

Halloran nodded, and opened the door to the observation room. One by one, they filed in, Regan bringing up the rear.

“Well, okay, thank you very much for coming in,” Eames was saying. “It’s just another bullsh*t complaint but you know how antsy the brass gets these days over stuff like this.”

Rivera nodded. “Sure. Anytime.”

McCoy studied him through the glass. Clean-shaven, dark hair cropped close and starting to recede at the temples already. It was hard to judge his height, sitting down, but McCoy didn’t think he was tall. Strongly built, though, the shoulders and arms of a man who put in some serious time in the gym. Find out which one. Maybe that’s where he crossed Coran’s path again.

“Oh, hey,” Goren said as if it had just occurred to him. He gave a big smile. “We have some good news for you. That psycho bitch who put a bullet in you?”

“What about her?” Rivera said.

Eames closed the folder in front of her. “Someone put a bullet in her.

“Well, that’s — I mean, I didn’t like her any, but I’m sorry she’s dead.”

“You’re a better man than me,” Goren said. “I tend to hold a grudge against people who shoot me.”

Rivera shrugged. “She had some screws loose.”

In the observation room, Regan nodded. “Oh, he did it,” she said softly.

“Because he knew she was dead,” Halloran said.

“That,” Regan said. “And because I did about a hundred death-knocks in my time and I never saw one innocent person go straight to the past tense. He should have said that she has some screws loose.”

“You and Detective Logan should form a club.” Carver’s voice was acid. “You could call it ‘my instincts made me do it’. Detective Wheeler could be a cadet member.”

“Ron doesn’t like hunches,” Ross said to Halloran.

“The moment they become admissible in a court of law, I assure you I will adore them,” Carver said.

Inside the box, Goren and Eames were exchanging stories of crazy exes. “And then there was that guy who thought I killed his goldfish,” Eames said. “He mailed them to me. At work. The smell! Talk about a screw loose.” She turned a little, including Rivera in the conversation. “That the sort of thing you mean?”

“I dunno,” he said, and shrugged. “I just thought she was a bit, you know, needy. Until I broke up with her, and she shot me.”

“You were lucky she was a bad shot,” Goren said.

“If I was luckier you guys would have been able to make the case,” Rivera shot back.

“Yeah, that’s fair,” Eames conceded. “But your boys at the 1-7 didn’t help. Their story about the gun was completely bogus, you know. We know where she got it now.”

Rivera’s gaze went quickly from Eames to Goren and back again. He crossed his arms. “Oh?”

“Yeah, and get this, John, she got it from one of your fellow officers. Right in your house. Told him some story about a guy she was scared of and he slipped her a hot piece he’d taken off a guy in the street.”

“Jeez,” Rivera said. “Glad I’m not in his shoes. I.A.B’ll ream him a new one.”

“Oh yeah.” Eames nodded. “Real stupid play. Still, it’s good to know we can make the case now.”

“Except she’s dead,” Rivera pointed out.

“Yeah, she is dead,” Goren said. He tilted his head to the side. “How did you know that, by the way?”

“You — you told me.”

“No,” Eames said. “No, I don’t think he did. I told you someone shot her. Someone shot you, didn’t they, and you had, what, two weeks off work and a month riding a desk?”

“So why do you think Emalia Coran is dead, John?” Goren asked

Rivera shrugged, and looked away. “I dunno.”

Goren leaned sideway and tilted his head, bringing himself directly into Rivera’s line of sight. “It’s just kind of interesting. That you went straight there.”

“She was a crazy bitch, and crazy bitches get themselves killed,” Rivera said. “It doesn’t mean I had anything to do with it.”

Eames folded her hands on the desk. “Well, then, you won’t mind telling us where you were.”

“I —” Rivera stopped. “When?”

“When she was shot.”

Rivera shifted a bit in his seat. “How would I know when that was?” He rubbed the back of his neck. “You know, I don’t like the way you guys are talking to me. I came down here to help you out, not for this bullsh*t.”

“It was last Monday night, about 9 pm,” Eames said. “Remember where you were?”

“At home,” Rivera said. “Watching the game.”

“By yourself?”

“Yeah, by myself, what is this, you’re asking me for an alibi? f*ck this, I’m out of here.”

He pushed his chair out but Goren had cat-footed it around behind him. For a big man, he could move almost silently when he chose. Rivera jumped as Goren grabbed the back of his chair. “I don’t think you want to do that, John. This is a chance for you to clear this up. You don’t want to miss it.” He gave Rivera a big, unnerving smile. “It’s going to be your only one.”

“I got nothing to clear up, and I am going home.” Rivera shoved him back, and got to his feet.

Goren kept close to him, in his way. “You haven’t seen Emalia since she shot you?”

“No!”

“Not at all?”

“No! I haven’t seen her and I didn’t want to.”

“Then maybe you can explain how your fingerprints got on the shell casings of the bullets that killed her,” Eames said.

“I dunno, maybe I — maybe I —”

McCoy held his breath. Say it, he willed Rivera. Say the lie. Maybe you loaded the gun for her, the gun you didn’t know she had. Maybe she stole the bullets from you when you were together, the bullets that don’t fit any sidearm you own. Maybe, maybe, maybe … The second Rivera started to try and explain himself, they were past the hump and on the downhill run.

“Maybe I want a lawyer,” Rivera said.

“Dammit!” Ross said, hands on his hips. Inside the interrogation room, Eames nodded, and started telling Rivera that not only did he have a right to a lawyer, but he also had the right to remain silent.

“Game’s not over yet,” McCoy said. “Let his P.B.A. lawyer talk to him. See how long you can stretch out getting them in here, let Rivera stew. Then let Goren and Eames lay out the evidence. Call me when they’re done. If his lawyer really has his interests at heart, he’ll recommend a guilty plea in exchange for a sentence recommendation when I offer it.”

“Do we really need to deal?” Carver said. “I know it’s a circ*mstantial case, but so are eighty percent of the cases we try.”

“It’s not that I think we can’t win,” McCoy said. “But I don’t think our broader interests are served by a high profile trial of a bad cop.”

Carver raised an eyebrow. “And by our broader interests you mean Arthur Branch’s interests?” He turned a little toward McCoy, folding his arms. “That’s not like you, Jack. Are you feeling alright?”

“This isn’t about politics, Ron,” McCoy snapped. “Every front page story about a bad apple in the police department erodes the public trust in the other thirty thousand officers who put their lives on the line every day. There are already too many people in this city who see the police as the enemy. I have no problem with prosecuting dirty cops but I’d like to find a way to do it that won’t end up with me prosecuting more cop-killers. Try to see the bigger picture!”

He shoved open the door to the corridor and strode through. Behind him, he heard Carver murmur, “The bigger picture? Who is that and what has he done with the real Jack McCoy?”

Regan caught up with him at the elevator, glanced at his expression and clearly decided that discretion was the better part of valor.

Being humored had never been known to noticeably sweeten McCoy’s disposition. “Well?” he demanded. “Out with it!”

“A recommendation on a killer we’ve got cold?” Regan asked.

The elevator arrived. They got on, and McCoy waited until the door closed before he turned to her. “Do you want to work for Arthur Branch for another five or ten years? Because I don’t!”

“That shouldn’t matter.”

“It’s second degree. I’ll knock two years off the maximum. Twenty-three years isn’t exactly a miscarriage of justice.”

“We could boost it up to first if his intent was to rape her —”

“No evidence of sexual assault, and no witnesses. It wouldn’t fly. I’m not tanking the case to curry favor with Arthur, Regan, but we can get more than one win here! It’s not as if it’s the first A class felony I’ve cut a deal on this week.”

Regan turned to look at the doors, arms folded. “If I didn’t work at One Hogan Place, would you be thinking about offering a deal to Rivera?”

“Yes!” McCoy glared at her. “Not everything is about you, Regan! I don’t know who they’ll put in that office to replace Arthur but the law of averages suggests it’ll be an improvement. Let’s just — find a way to give him what he wants that we can live with until he takes the next step on that golden road he imagines will eventually lead to the Supreme Court, or the Cabinet. Or the White House.”

Regan blinked. “Really?”

“I don’t doubt he’d like to have the chance to try.” The elevator was almost at the lobby, and on impulse, McCoy jabbed the stop button. “Next year’s elections cover both houses of Congress and a double handful of governorships. Arthur would be mad to try to run up here, but Georgia’s been returning Republicans since the turn of the century. If Arthur wants to run next year, he’ll have to establish himself down there, and fairly soon. I don’t care if he wins or loses, but he’s got to have a chance for him to take the chance. If we can put out a couple of fires by doing what we usually do, let’s do it.”

After a moment, Regan nodded. “Okay.”

McCoy took his finger off the button and the elevator lurched into downward movement again. “Besides, I don’t look forward to tap-dancing around the fact that our victim was killed the act of stealing cars for a supposedly altruistic organization with a name that will distract every juror from the actual crime and possibly provide Rivera’s attorney with alternate suspects. His fingerprints might be on the shell-casings but they’re not on the gun. A smart lawyer would admit he was there to harass her and say he panicked when someone else shot her and cleaned up the scene so he wouldn’t be blamed.”

“The two-dude defense,” Regan said.

McCoy nodded. “I didn’t do it, some other dude did it, I don’t know who he was. Works more often than you’d think.”

“That’s depressing.”

The doors opened. McCoy held them and let Regan precede him out. He opened his bag as he followed her and pulled out a search warrant. “Lennie and Ed are sitting on Rivera’s house over in Greenville waiting on this. Run it over to them, stay for the search.”

She took the warrant. “I’ve got Louis Herrara’s deposition at four —”

“I’ll handle it.”

Regan nodded as they left One Police Plaza and stepped out into the damp heat of the afternoon.

McCoy raised his arm to hail a cab. “Have you spoken to Colleen?”

“Haven’t had the chance,” Regan said. “I’ll call her on the ride over.”

“If she tells you Dan’s approached her again, tell me,” McCoy ordered as a cab pulled up in front of him.

Regan drew breath, either to argue or to agree. McCoy didn’t wait to find out which.

.oOo.

Chapter 23: Unexpected

Chapter Text

Regan called Briscoe and Green and told them she was on the way with the warrant, and then she called Colleen.

“Have you …” She paused. “Is there anything you want me to know?”

“No, I’m … I’m fine,” Colleen said.

“No familiar faces in the crowd?”

“Nothing like that, Ms Markham.”

“Good. The Coran case has started to move, it looks like I’ll be out of the office for the rest of the day, but I’ll talk to you tomorrow about where we are, if I don’t see you in the office later on. Okay?”

“Okay,” Colleen said. “Thank you, Ms Markham.”

Regan said goodbye and ended the call, feeling that she’d be more deserving of thanks if she’d persuaded Daniel James to turn around and head straight back to Phoenix.

She sighed, and put her phone away. It should be a good day. She should be on top of the world. They’d got a solid break in the case, they had a suspect under arrest, they had good physical evidence against him. He might not have confessed but one or two of the things he’d said to Goren and Eames — like lying about where he was — would look damning to a jury.

Except we ’re trying not to go before a jury.

McCoy was right — they made deals all the time. Regan herself had made two yesterday, in fact, in dealing with Billy Billy’s case load. Two off the top of Murder Two was hardly a deal at all, when right now in One Hogan Place there’d be A.D.A.s bargaining attempted murder down to aggravated assault, aggravated assault down to assault in the third, assault in the third down to hazing in the first.

And Jack McCoy’s arguments about the strengths and weaknesses of the case against Rivera made sense. He’d been convincing, and clearly convinced, that a deal was in the best interests of the D.A’s Office and the city, and only coincidentally in the interests of keeping Arthur Branch happy.

The problem is, I don ’t always know if he’s arguing what he believes or if he’s believing what he’s arguing.

On a good day, Jack McCoy could convince just about anyone of just about anything.

On a bad day, that included himself.

And Arthur Branch was both the boss that Jack was more and more frequently butting heads with, and a roadblock in the way of Regan and Jack’s … whatever-you-called it.

Relationship seemed a little strong for a few kisses and some suggestive conversation. Romance was a word that went with flowers and violins and walks in the park, not blue-backs and arraignments and case conferences. Affair was maybe closer, with its clandestine overtones, even though neither of them was married, but Regan was reasonably certain you couldn’t say you were having an affair with someone until you’d done a fair bit more than just kiss them a few times.

And they wouldn’t even be doing that in the future unless Regan left her job, or McCoy did, or Arthur Branch did.

And McCoy happened to find a dozen sound arguments why it was legally and ethically right to do exactly what might make it more likely that Branch would be the one to leave.

Regan sighed, and gathered her hair in both hands, lifting it to let the cab’s air-conditioning at her neck. Romance f*cks everything up.

Briscoe and Green had clearly showered and changed at their precinct, for which Regan was profoundly grateful. She showed them the warrant and accept a pair of latex gloves from a C.S.U. technician.

“Come on, man,” Green said, almost hopping from foot-to-foot. “We’ve been lucky all day, I gotta good feeling about this.”

No one was home, so one of the techs knocked out a pane of glass in the door and reached in to open the lock. Briscoe and Green followed them in, Regan bringing up the rear.

“We’re looking for …” She read the warrant. “Clothes he might have been wearing, including shoes, any indication he was stalking her — so that’s anything that indicates he might know where she was — and any and all evidence that might connect him to the crime.”

“Thorough,” Briscoe said approvingly, opening drawers in the kitchen.

“That’s Jack for you.” Regan stuck Rivera’s copy of the warrant to the outside of the front door.

“Got a laptop,” Green said. “Password protect.”

“Bag it for the tech guys at One PP,” Regan said, looking around.

“Ashes in the fireplace,” one of the C.S.U. guys said. “Look fresh.”

“In this weather?” Green crossed to the fireplace and knelt. “Let me look. Paper. Got a couple of pieces here … too small to make anything out. Bag all this up, man, see if the pointy heads in forensics can find anything.”

A tech crawled over the floor, picking up flecks of dirt with tweezers. Regan stepped over him, hoping some of those flecks would turn out to be linked to Marty’s Marvelous Machines.

“No shoes matching the bloody prints,” Briscoe reported from the bedroom.

“So he dumped them,” Green said. “Like he dumped the bag, and the gun.”

“He’s not stupid enough to hold on to anything incriminating,” Briscoe said. “Those clothes could be anywhere.”

“Yeah, but …” Regan turned in a circle. “He could dump the gun at the scene. He could throw the bag in the sewer. But he couldn’t make his way home naked and barefoot, right?”

“We know he owns a car,” Briscoe said. “He drove it in today, they’re crawling over it now but he had a full wash and detail, inside and out. So even if he drove to and from the crime scene …” He shrugged.

“He drove,” Green said with certainty. “He’s a cop. He’d know murder can get messy. Nobody wants to be on the subway covered in blood.”

“You don’t take the subway enough if you think a little thing like that would get noticed,” Briscoe said. He finished checking the hall closet and rose to his feet, groaning a little. “Hey kid, why don’t you get out to the garage and throw some luminol around.”

“Bluestar,” the C.S.U. tech he’d spoken corrected, but she went through the door in the kitchen that connected to the garage. She took out a plastic bottle with a spray nozzle and thoroughly spritzed the floor between the door and the oil stains that showed Rivera’s regular parking place. Briscoe and Green watched, and Regan peered between their shoulders, as the C.S.U. tech took out a U.V. flashlight and switched off the garage light.

“Got something,” she said after a moment. “A lot of smears that are probably bleach.”

“Who cleans their garage floor with bleach?” Briscoe asked.

“Martha Stewart, and murderers,” Green said. “Anything we can use?”

“Something here,” the tech said. “Looks like … a print. Right foot, right where he’d get out of the car.”

“Get a picture. If it matches the crime scene prints …” Green grinned. “Told you it was my lucky day.”

Apart from the footprint, the ashes and the laptop, the search didn’t turn up anything useful. Briscoe ordered all Rivera’s clothes bagged and sent to forensics, on the off-chance there was a fleck of blood small enough to be missed.

“Would you like to call Ana?” he asked Green.

The younger detective grinned. “You know I would.”

“Ask her to find out if any cameras or tolls picked up Rivera’s car on the night in question.”

“He told Goren and Eames he was home watching the game,” Regan said.

“If he was driving around Manhattan murdering Emalia Coran, he’s got to show up somewhere.”

Green nodded, and took out his cell. “Hey, Ana,” he said, and turned his shoulder to the others. “How are you? I know, I know …”

Briscoe and Regan exchanged a look, and then Briscoe took out his own phone. “On the off-chance he dumped them in the trash, I’ll give local uniform the good news that they have the world’s largest mid-summer dumpster dive in their immediate future,” he said.

Regan laughed, and left him to it.

It was a long ride back to Manhattan, and she occupied herself making notes on the files in her attache case. When she reached the 10th floor of One Hogan Place, McCoy’s door was open and his office empty. A glance at her watch told Regan he was probably taking her deposition for her.

She was about to duck into her cubicle when Colleen called out, “Ms Markham!”

Regan stopped. “What is it, Colleen?”

“I can’t interrupt Mr McCoy, but …”

“What is it?” Regan’s mind leapt to Daniel James.

Colleen’s next words set her mind at rest. “Mr Carver called. He said that Officer Rivera’s attorney was on his way over —”

Christ, can Carver not even stall a P.B.A. lawyer? Regan looked at her watch again. Louis Herrara was a critical witness in a grand larceny trial. McCoy wouldn’t be done for another hour, at least. Even the most junior A.D.As knew that interrupting a deposition, breaking the flow of questioning, wasn’t done for anything short of a fire alarm or a bomb threat. “I’ll talk to him.”

“Ms Markham, it’s —”

The elevator doors opened behind her. “Regan,” Neil Gorton’s unctuous voice said. “Always a pleasure.”

.oOo.

Chapter 24: Never A Pleasure

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Well, that explains why Carver failed to stall.

Regan took one deep breath. “Colleen,” she said calmly. “Let Mr McCoy know Mr Gorton is here.”

“Yes, Ms Markham, right away,” Colleen said, and picked up her phone.

Regan turned. “Mr Gorton.”

He smiled at her. “Please. Call me Neil.” He held out his hand.

Regan had no choice but to take it. His palm was slightly moist, and when he released her hand she had to suppress the urge to wipe her hand on her thigh. “Neil. Please call me A.D.A. Markham.”

His smile only widened. “So that’s how it’s going to be? And I so enjoyed our last meeting.”

Regan thought he was probably telling the truth. Gorton had represented Phillip Watts, a man who had beaten his girlfriend to death and then tortured and killed her sister when he feared she’d break his alibi for the earlier murder. He’d used the M.O. of a vicious rapist in an effort to disguise his crime, an M.O. he’d copied from the files in his victim’s briefcase —

Because she’d been an A.D.A. in the Special Victims Bureau.

Her name had Mary Firienze and she had been a colleague and she might one day have been a friend, if Phillip Watts hadn’t left her beaten and bleeding and dying in the garbage room of her apartment.

Watts had got nothing more than three and third, thanks to Neil Gorton, and if Watts had died with a tooth-brush shiv in his stomach only a few months into his sentence, that didn’t make Gorton any less of an asshole as far as Regan was concerned.

Not to mention that Gorton’s firm had ponied up the bail for Edward Walters, the sad*stic rapist whose crimes Watts had copied. Regan had suspected then that Gorton had been hoping Walters would attack another woman and the similarity in the M.O. would provide reasonable doubt for Watts. The fact that the woman he’d attacked had been Regan hadn’t mellowed her attitude toward Neil Gorton any, even if Anita Van Buren had shot Walters dead before he could complete his crime.

Yeah, I just bet you enjoyed our last meeting.

“Mr McCoy will join us shortly.” Regan gestured to McCoy’s office.

Gorton preceded her through the door and strolled across to McCoy’s desk. Regan was confident that McCoy would never leave anything confidential or sensitive lying around open, but when Gorton reached out as if to idly fiddle with a stack of files, Regan cleared her throat. “Please, take a seat, Mr Gorton.”

He shrugged, and sat down — on the couch, not the chair across from McCoy’s desk. That left Regan with the choice of sitting beside him, the thought of which made her skin crawl, or taking the chair herself, which would let Gorton look up her skirt.

She leaned back against the wall instead, crossing her arms. “Are you here on behalf of your client?” she asked.

He grinned. “As hospitable and friendly as the D.A’s Office always is, it’s hard to imagine why I wouldn’t drop by for a social call.” He spread his hands. “I’m not the enemy, Regan. Sorry. A.D.A Markham. The system needs us both.”

He was baiting her and Regan knew it. Nonetheless, she was still opening her mouth to ask him how exactly the system needed a double murderer getting three-and-a-third and a violent rapist getting bailed precisely in the hope he’d commit another horrific crime when McCoy strode through the door. “Neil,” he said.

Gorton rose to his feet and held out his hand. “Jack. Sometimes a pleasure.”

“Not too often, I hope.” McCoy ignored Gorton’s proffered hand. He stalked around his desk. “I understand you’re representing John Rivera, I assume you’re here to talk about a plea.”

“Half right, Jack. My client will be pleading not guilty.”

“You’ve got to be joking.” McCoy dropped into his chair and picked up a file, the picture of a man with only a passing interest in the conversation. “We can put him at the scene and disposing of evidence. Her blood was in his garage.”

Gorton shrugged. “I could run an excellent argument that there’s no way to tell when that blood got there. My client had a previous relationship with the victim. Maybe she had a bloody nose at some point?”

“I look forward to seeing you try,” McCoy said. “And to seeing you try to explain away his fingerprints on the shell-casings of the bullets that killed her.”

“Ah, yes.” Gorton drew a blueback from his briefcase. “That would be a problem. Fortunately, not one that I’ll need to solve.” He handed the paper to Regan. “Notice of my motion to file an affirmative defense.”

Regan looked at it. “Extreme emotional disturbance? You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“I’d never jest about intimate partner violence, A.D.A. Markham, and I’m shocked that you would. My client endured a living hell of threats and abuse during his relationship with Emalia Coran. When he finally got up the courage to end it, she shot him. And she got away with it. He was terrified that she’d finish the job. Seeing her confirmed his fears. He felt he had no choice but to kill her in order to protect himself.”

“No choice but to follow her, ambush her, kill her and dispose of the evidence?” McCoy said. “No judge will allow you to present an E.E.D. defense to a jury.”

“All he knew,” Gorton said, “is that she’d found him, and there was no other way to protect himself. It’s Man One at the very most, Jack.”

McCoy snapped his file closed and dropped it on his desk. “Listen to yourself! He’s a police officer! If Emalia Coran was your client you might have an argument, but you can’t possibly argue that Officer Rivera couldn’t have had her arrested and charged.”

“Could he, Jack?” Gorton spread his hands. “She shot him, and got away with it. And how could he talk about what she’d done to him to his buddies at the police station? A woman who’s the victim of domestic violence is everybody’s favorite these days. She’s a survivor. She’s the toast of the feminist talk circuits. A man beaten by his girlfriend is a joke.”

He was the one —” Regan started.

McCoy lifted his hand and she fell silent. “Even if a judge lets you run that line, you’ll have to put him on the stand.”

“Of course,” Gorton said.

“And don’t imagine for a moment that I won’t oppose this motion.”

“I would expect nothing else.” Gorton gave a sunny smile. “And now, pleasant as this has been, I’m expected elsewhere. See you in chambers, Jack.”

Regan waited until the elevator doors closed, shutting Neil Gorton from sight. She turned back to McCoy. “Neil Gorton?” she said. “How the hell does a patrol officer afford the services of Neil Gorton?”

“Maybe he’s started doing pro bono work for the P.B.A,” McCoy said.

“Or maybe Rivera has more money than he should,” Regan said.

McCoy nodded. “Get Briscoe and Green on it. If Neil gets E.E.D. past a judge, we’ll need to dirty up Rivera any way we can.”

“Won’t he be laughed out of chambers?” Regan asked. “Don’t affirmative defenses have to be reasonable? This is a f*cking joke, Rivera’s playing the victim now!”

“Depends on the judge,” McCoy said. “Reasonableness is in the eye of the beholder. And he might just convince a jury. Neil can tap-dance with the best of them, you’ve seen it yourself.”

She was the one who changed her name and her address and her job,” Regan said. “She was hiding from him.”

“Or hunting him,” McCoy said.

“You don’t believe that!”

“It doesn’t matter what I believe, it matters what Gorton can get the jury to believe. But I think he might have outsmarted himself this time. Even if he pulls it off in chambers, he’s shot himself in the foot. We’d never be able to get the roommate on the stand under normal circ*mstances, but if Gorton’s running E.E.D, Rivera will have to testify.”

Regan nodded. “So we can bring her in. Not as evidence of prior bad acts but as an impeachment witness.” She hesitated. “Jack, maybe I haven’t got enough experience to see it, but why has he come out with this so fast? Why go for E.E.D. when he could run a straight self-defense argument? It was her gun. Say she threatened him, say they struggled, the gun went off …” She shrugged. “That’s an acquittal, not five-to-twenty on Man One.”

“Because Rivera knows that’s not what happened and he doesn’t know what forensics we have to contradict his story.”

“He could still change his plea before the trial starts. They’re not completely incompatible, Gorton could tap-dance the difference. It seems like a rookie error.”

McCoy shook his head. “It isn’t. Neil is a lot of things, many of them unprintable, but he’s not a rookie.”

“So do you think that means there’s something the police missed?” Regan frowned. “At the scene? Something to prove it was straight-up murder?”

“Maybe, but it doesn’t matter. If Gorton goes ahead with this, Rivera has to admit all the elements of the crime. The only question at trial will be why and the only thing we’ll need to do is show the jury that his story about motive is a lie.” He stood up. “Get Emil Skoda in here tomorrow. Ask him to lunch. And get Briscoe and Green re-interviewing everyone who knew Coran at the time she was dating Rivera. Not just the room-mate — former colleagues, gym buddies, tell them to talk to the owner of every bodega she ever bought milk at. If Neil wants to raise domestic abuse, I’ll hang it around Rivera’s neck like an albatross.”

Regan nodded, and headed for the door. McCoy followed her, returning to his deposition. His stride was longer and they reached the doorway at the same time and collided.

It should have been a Three Stooges moment but as McCoy steadied her with a hand under her elbow Regan’s stomach dipped and her heart began to pound. His arm brushed hers, warm contrast to the air-conditioned air and she heard his breath catch. Her own was suddenly unsteady, mouth dry. Another second and she wouldn’t be able to keep herself from leaning toward him and …

He dropped his hand to the small of her back and steered her through the door, taking a step away from her as soon as there was room enough. “Careful, Regan,” he said. “That’s how accidents happen.”

Yes, Regan thought as he strode away. Yes, yes it is.

.oOo.

Notes:

Extreme emotional disturbance is a mental infirmity not rising to the level of insanity at the time of the homicide, typically manifested by a loss of self-control. To succeed on that defense, a defendant must prove that he or she, subjectively, was acting under the influence of such a disturbance and that, objectively, there was a reasonable explanation or excuse for that disturbance. The subjective element of the extreme emotional disturbance defense may be inferred simply from circ*mstances indicative of a loss of control and it may be established without psychiatric evidence.

Chapter 25: A Cat Of A Certain Color

Chapter Text

10th Floor

One Hogan Place

8.30 am Wednesday 18 July 2007

“Colleen,” Regan said, leaning on the edge of the secretary’s desk. “Got a minute?”

Colleen looked up. “About …?” Regan nodded, and Colleen swallowed hard. “Okay,” she said. She followed Regan into Regan’s cubicle but stopped dead when she saw Jack McCoy leaning against Regan’s bookshelf. “Mr McCoy.”

“Regan didn’t tell me,” McCoy said. “But she’s terrible at keeping secrets, for future reference. Come in and close the door.”

Colleen shut the door behind her as Regan sat down at her desk, face flaming.

“I know you have every right to make whatever choices you think are best for you,” McCoy said, studying his feet. He glanced up, giving Colleen the half-smile that she knew so well. “But I don’t want you making choices just because you think they’re best for me. So I’m making myself part of this conversation.”

“I should have told you,” Colleen said. “You deserve —”

“You don’t owe me anything,” McCoy said firmly. “Not a single thing, Colleen.”

“I talked to Daniel James,” Regan said.

Colleen bit her lip. “Why — why is he here? Back in New York?”

Regan paused. “He says he wants to apologize to you. While he still can. He says he’s sick. Dying, actually”

“Oh, god.”

“I’m sure the infirmary at Rikers can find room,” McCoy said, unmoved. “Colleen, you don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to see him. You don’t have to pay any attention to what he’s saying. Do you understand? You don’t owe him the chance to apologize, you don’t owe him anything.”

Colleen shook her head. “But if he’s dying …”

McCoy folded his arms. “If what he really wanted was to apologize, he’d write a letter to be delivered after his death and not come here trying to manipulate you into a confrontation.”

Regan nodded. “I tend to agree, Colleen. Turning up here without warning, that’s not a kind or a considerate thing to do. On the other hand —”

“There is no other hand,” McCoy snapped.

Regan raised her voice to talk over him. “Rey Curtis pointed out that —”

McCoy raised his own. “He doesn’t even know Dan!”

“People can change —”

McCoy glared at Regan. “If you think I’m going to let Curtis’s opinions about someone he’s never met dictate —”

“Stop it!” Colleen cried. “Both of you, stop it!”

There was a silence. “I’m sorry,” Regan said.

McCoy looked unmoved. “Good.”

Regan glared at him. “I meant, I’m sorry, Colleen. Jack’s right, you don’t have to do anything. But I felt you deserved to know what your ex-husband said.”

“I’ll have him picked up,” McCoy said. “I told him thirty years ago that harassing you would be an extension of the same crime. Even if I can’t get a judge to buy it, a few weeks in Rikers waiting for a ruling should encourage him to rethink.”

Regan rolled her eyes almost hard enough to dislocate her neck, but Colleen didn’t need an A.D.A. to tell her what a bad idea that would be. Thirty years sitting outside the District Attorney’s Office teaches you a little about the law — and a lot about politics.

She shook her head. “I don’t want you prosecuting Dan. I won’t cooperate if you do. You helped me, Mr McCoy, and I won’t let you get in trouble for it.”

McCoy scowled. “I’m not afraid of bad publicity —”

“You should be!” Collen snapped at him. “You think Arthur Branch wouldn’t dare fire you? How about if you turned out to have brought the whole office into disrepute? You humiliated Mr Branch, Mr McCoy, and you and Ms Kibre and Mr Cutter might have said all the right things to the reporters but the public aren’t the only people whose opinion matters to Mr Branch’s career. I hear his side of a lot of phone calls, Mr McCoy, and he’s been doing a lot of explaining to a lot of important men. Mr Branch isn’t Mr Schiff. This job is a stepping stone for him! Discrediting you would make it a lot easier for him to take the next step.”

“To what?” McCoy asked, and when she hesitated, “Come on, Colleen. The cat’s out of the bag. Tell us what color it is.”

“The Senate,” she said. “Georgia. He wants to go to Washington.”

“I knew it.” McCoy raked his fingers through his hair. “Well, there’s worse candidates. And better ones.”

“What are you thinking?” Regan asked softly.

“I’m thinking that it might be in both our interests to make Arthur look very good for the next little while,” he said. “And I’m also thinking, Colleen, that you are under no circ*mstances going to let Dan manipulate you into a meeting.”

“If meet with him, he’ll go away,” Colleen said. “Won’t he?”

“Maybe,” McCoy said. “Maybe not. What if he wants to meet with you again after that, and after that, and after that? Rey Curtis notwithstanding, I know what Dan’s like. And you know what he’s like, Colleen, better than anyone.”

“I don’t …” Colleen bit her lip, and looked down at her hands, clenched in her lap. “I don’t want to see him. But if there’s a chance it could make him leave again …”

“If you don’t want to see him, you won’t,” McCoy said. “It’s that simple.”

Regan paused. “What about Skype? It’s like a teleconference with video —”

“I know what Skype is, Ms Markham,” Colleen said.

“I was telling Jack,” Regan said.

“So you mean it’s like the wireless telegraph with moving pictures?” McCoy asked dryly. “How about it, Colleen?”

She’d still have to look at Dan, listen to him, but she wouldn’t have to be in the same room. Colleen nodded. “I could do that,” she said. “It would be better, than meeting him. But do you think he’d agree?”

“If he doesn’t, then you can be certain he’s not genuine,” McCoy said.

Regan nodded. “I’ll call him at his hotel,” she said. “Make it clear to him that it’s the only option.”

“You’d better get to arraignment court first, Ms Markham,” Colleen reminded her.

Regan smiled at her. “Got my files right here,” she said, patting the pile on the corner of her desk.

“Rivera up?” McCoy asked, and when she nodded, “Mind if I come watch?”

“I don’t mind if you take it,” Regan said. “I can’t help feeling Neil Gorton is going to hand me my ass.” She glanced at Colleen. “Sorry, Colleen.”

“You should be,” Colleen said. “Not for the language, but for the sentiment. Mr Gorton is just another sleazy defense attorney, after all, and you are an A.D.A. in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.” She stood up and opened the door. “It’s your job to hand him his ass, Ms Markham.”

“I’ll consider myself told,” Regan said gravely.

Colleen went back to her desk and opened her letters file. She concentrated on triaging Arthur Branch’s correspondence into three piles — standard response, custom response, and the District Attorney’s own in-tray — to avoid thinking about having to talk to Dan, even if only by the computer. From time to time she glanced up to make sure that Regan Markham’s door was still open.

When Regan headed for the elevator, files under her arm, McCoy following her, Colleen noticed that when the elevator arrived, McCoy held the doors for Regan — as he always did, for any woman — and ushered her through them with a hand at the small of her back.

Colleen turned back to her letters, shaking her head. She’d seen him do exactly the same thing with Sally Bell, with Diana Hawthorne, with poor Claire Kincaid. With Abbie Carmichael, in the last few weeks before Ms Carmichael left to work for the US Attorney for the Southern District.

With Casey Novak, for a week or so last year, with Christine Danielson for a while … And with all the others.

It always meant that Jack McCoy was playing with fire. Playing with fire again.

If only he and Sally Bell had lasted. Sally had been smart, and combative — they all were — but she’d never taken McCoy entirely seriously, which in Colleen’s opinion was the best approach. She’d seen the two of them, sometimes, McCoy striding around his office shouting about some point of law or a trial strategy that, right at that moment, was the most important thing in the world to him, and Sally calmly working on her files as McCoy’s rant washed over her. And then she’d look up, and ask him if he was finished, and explain why he was wrong in two or three sentences.

Colleen sighed. Sally Bell had been good for Jack McCoy, but she’d eventually decided that he wasn’t good for her, and that had been that. And then Diana, and what a piece of work she turned out to be. And Claire, poor Claire and all the others, after.

And now Regan Markham. Colleen glanced over her shoulder at Arthur Branch’s office door, firmly closed. If he asks me where she is, I’ll tell him arraignment. And if he asks me where Mr McCoy is, I’ll just say ‘the courthouse’. It’s not a lie.

Not the first time she hadn’t quite lied for Jack McCoy.

And on previous experience, far from the last.

Arraignment Court

9.30 am Wednesday 18 July 2007

“Docket ending 764, People v Daniel Parnell, charges are scheme to defraud in the first degree, grand larceny in the first degree, identity theft in the first degree,” the clerk read.

Judge Janice Goldberg glanced at the paperwork as it was handed to her. “Counsel for the defense?”

“Here, your honor.” Shambala Green strode up the aisle of the court, her braids twisted into a crown that added six inches to her already-impressive height. “Excuse my tardiness— motions hearing in chambers ran longer than expected.”

“Did you win?” Goldberg asked.

“Of course,” Shambala said with a slight smile.

“Then you’re excused. Does you client have a plea for me?”

“I don’t know who they’re talking about!” Parnell said loudly.

“My client pleads not guilty,” Shambala said, putting a soothing hand on Parnell’s arm.

“Who’s ‘your client’?” Parnell asked.

Judge Goldberg regarded him impassively. “Counselor, does Mr Parnell understand the proceedings?”

“My client would preferred to be called …” Shambala leaned toward Parnell and he whispered to her. “Letitia, your honor. For the moment.”

“And would Letitia benefit from a 730 exam?” Goldberg asked.

Shambala inclined her head graciously. “Thank you, your honor.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” the judge said. “People on bail?”

From the prosecutor’s lectern, Qiao Chen said, “People seek remand, your honor. The police have yet to recover the bulk of the money this defendant is charged with stealing. In addition, when apprehended, the defendant was in possession of eight different identity documents in eight different names.”

“My client had no intention of fraud, your honor,” Shambala said. “Those documents reflected my client’s perceived identity at the time they were acquired.”

“I take it Letitia’s not guilty plea will include the words ‘by reason of mental disease or defect’ by the time the trial starts,” Judge Goldberg said dryly.

“Your honor, without engaging with defense’s assertion of a discredited diagnosis,” Chen said smoothly, “the People would like to point out that if any one of the defendant’s personalities should chose to depart the jurisdiction, the others would perforce also fail to appear for trial.”

“Perforce, nice touch,” the judge said. “I don’t hear perforce nearly enough these days. Remand, pending a 730.” She banged her gavel. “Next!”

Regan stepped through the bar and took Chen’s place at the lectern as he gathered his papers. “Nice work,” she murmured to him, and he gave her a quick grin.

“Docket ending 765, People v John Rivera, charge is murder in the second degree,” the clerk read in a loud clear voice, and handed the papers up to Judge Goldberg.

“Neil Gorton for the defense, your honor,” Gorton said, stepping forward to the table as the bailiffs took off Rivera’s handcuffs.

“Assistant District Attorney Markham for the People,” Regan said, not without misgivings.

Judge Goldberg looked over the top of her glasses. “How do you plead, Mr Rivera?”

“Not guilty,” Rivera said.

“I always like to see a defendant upholding tradition,” Goldberg said. “Do the People wish to be heard on bail, Ms Markham?”

“The People request remand,” Regan said. “The defendant pursued his former intimate partner to an isolated location and shot her five times.”

“Officer Rivera is a respected police officer who had previously been wounded by the so-called victim in the case,” Gorton said.

“Mr Rivera was slightly injured in a shooting in which the assailant was never conclusively identified and no charges were brought,” Regan countered. “Ten months ago. Brutally murdering her in a possibly-mistaken belief he was taking revenge certainly loses him my respect.”

“My client has strong ties with the community and will be entering a defense of extreme emotional disturbance. There is no risk of him offending while on —”

Regan talked through him, voice even and pitched to carry. “What Mr Gorton means to say is, Mr Rivera will at best be convicted of manslaughter,” she said. “That being so, there is an increased risk of flight and no disadvantage to the defendant in remand. Whether he does his time at Rikers or Attica, he’ll be doing time.”

“As a police officer, remand is unduly onerous — and dangerous,” Gorton said.

“Fortunately, that’s what protective custody is for,” Judge Goldberg said. She brought her gavel down. “So ordered.”

“What a bitch,” Rivera muttered to Gorton.

“Something to share with the class, Mr Rivera?” the judge asked.

“My client is distressed by the —” Gorton started.

“Your client is remanded, Mr Gorton,” Judge Goldberg said. “And advised to remember when his trial comes around that justice may be blind, but many judges have excellent hearing. Next!”

Regan escaped down the aisle as Rivera was led away. McCoy was leaning against the wall at the back of the courtroom and as she neared him he pushed himself upright and reached out to open the door for her, steering her through with a hand at the small of her back. “Good,” he said.

“I didn’t do anything special,” Regan said.

“You beat Neil Gorton,” McCoy countered with a smile.

Regan glanced over her shoulder to make sure Gorton hadn’t followed them out of the courtroom too closely. “He took a dive, Jack. Why?”

“Probably waiting to revisit bail when he files his omnibus motion.”

Regan frowned. “For what? On what grounds?”

They reached the courthouse doors and McCoy stepped ahead of her to get that door as well. “On all grounds. Neil favors wallpapering as a defense strategy, like most attorneys with big firms and lots of staff.” He steered her through the door and loosened his tie as they left the air-conditioned interior. “Not something you’ve needed to worry about, going up against legal aid. Draw up a list of … say five paralegals, two secretaries, a couple of other A.D.As if you can prise any loose.”

Regan nodded. “Later do? I’ve got People versus Grady in part 18 in …” she checked her watch. “Twenty-five minutes.”

“Sure,” McCoy said. “I’m in chambers before Steinman before lunch, anyway, on this E.E.D. hail Mary of Neil’s. How long do you think Grady will run?”

Regan shrugged. “Not long. He was caught on camera, caught in the car, identified by the victim, and confessed to the police.”

McCoy frowned. “This is your diminished capacity carjacker, isn’t it? Remind me again why he didn’t take a plea?”

“I wouldn’t go low enough. He put a gun to a woman’s head with her five-year old in the back seat. Thank god he let her take the child with her or we’d be talking about a whole other tragedy.” Regan considered reminding McCoy that he’d signed off on her taking Grady to trial when she’d told him the defense’s bottom line. If he’s forgotten, it’ll be the first time that Jack McCoy couldn’t recall the details of any case that crossed his desk. “Grady’s got one prior, non-violent class C, but still. He was willing to plead to robbery in the third with a sentencing recommendation of three years. I was willing to go as low as eight on the top count, but three?”

“Too low,” McCoy agreed. “Is he getting bad advice? Are we going to have to retry this on an incompetent counsel appeal?”

“I don’t know,” Regan admitted. “Do you want me to get a continuance so you can —”

McCoy shook his head. “No, no, get your conviction and let the Appeals Bureau handle any fallout. Just don’t let the trial —”

“Turn into a battle of the experts, I know,” Regan said.

He gave her a quick, sideways smile that made her stomach swoop a little, and touched her arm. “Go get ‘em,” he said, and strode across the street toward the D.A’s Office.

Regan turned back to the courthouse. What was that about? Asking her to go over a case she was sure he could remember just as well now as when she’d briefed him on the arraignment, and the case conference, and Grady’s refusal of a reasonable plea deal, and his affirmative defense of diminished capacity, and the defense’s witness list …

Almost as if

Regan couldn’t help smiling. Almost as if he just wanted to spend a few more minutes talking to me.

“Ms Markham,” Neil Gorton said, coming out of the courthouse doors as she yanked the left leaf open. “Is that smile because you managed to get my client remanded? Enjoy the feeling while it lasts.”

“I intend to,” Regan said as blandly as she could, stepped past him, and headed inside to send a carjacker to jail.

.oOo.

Chapter 26: Making Conversation

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Chambers of Judge Rebecca Steinman

Supreme Court 100 Centre Street

11:30 am Wednesday 18 July 2007

“Your honor is not required to accept this application,” McCoy said.

Gorten leaned back in his chair, ankle crossed on his knee. “My client has a constitutional and well-established right to present a defense.”

“A defense with some basis in fact and law,” McCoy countered. “Your client can’t argue that the Easter Bunny did it and he can’t argue an affirmative defense of mental infirmity without grounds.”

“But what if my client says the Easter Bunny did do it, Jack?” Gorton asked with a lazy smile. “Don’t I have an obligation to respect my client’s wishes?”

“You have an obligation as an officer of the court not to present to the jury facts that you know to be untrue!” McCoy snapped.

Judge Steinman took off her glasses and snapped them closed. “As entertaining as this isn’t, gentlemen,” she said, “why don’t we start from the presumption that everyone in this room passed first year law and work our way forward from there. Both the existence and the limits of an E.E.D. defense are well established by statute. If Officer Rivera’s contention is that his state of mind at the time of the crime is a mitigating factor, the truth or otherwise is a matter for the jury to decide.”

“Not if the contention is unreasonable, unsupportable and prejudicial,” McCoy said. “Courts have routinely denied the affirmative defense of justification or self-defense in cases concerning violence against doctors and clinics performing abortions.”

“And allowed the defense of self-defense to be presented to the jury when the defendant had shot a police officer,” Gorton said. He spread his hands. “None of us would find it reasonable that a black man be able to gun down a member of the N.Y.P.D. and walk free because his explanation was fear of racism, but a jury did.”

“In this case, the argument is more like a white man shooting a cop and wanting to argue that institutional racism provided him with a reason to be in fear of his life!”

“It’s not the seventies any more, Jack,” Gorton said. “We know now that men can be the victims of domestic violence, too.”

“We do,” Judge Steinman said.

“Your honor!” McCoy said. “Emalia Coran was killed in a deserted area where the defendant had no reason to be other than his criminal intent. She had no contact with Officer Rivera for months —”

“Not since she shot him,” Gorton interjected.

“My point, your honor, is this is not someone trapped in a violent relationship. This is a police officer, with the resources of the N.Y.P.D. and the legal system at his disposal if he felt in need of protection. This is a man who went out of his way to encounter the woman he supposedly so feared that he now claims he felt he was forced to kill her! The proposition is absurd.”

Judge Steinman looked at Gorton. “Those are excellent points, counselor. The components of an E.E.D. defense require that there be an objectively reasonable explanation for the defendant’s subjective state of mind.”

“Which is a question for the jury, your honor, because it’s a question of fact.”

“It is,” Steinman said. “I’m going to allow your defense, Mr Gorton. But I warn you, if you fail to meet your burden of proof I will instruct the jury to disregard it in its entirety and convict on the murder charge.”

“I want Officer Rivera made available for an interview with our psychiatrist,” McCoy snapped.

“He’s not pleading insanity, Jack,” Gorton said. “I’m not required to offer any psychiatric evidence.”

McCoy leaned forward in his chair. “If you don’t allow our shrink to talk to him, Neil, I’ll call him as an expert witness and make sure the jury hears —”

Steinman leveled one forefinger at McCoy. “And if you do that, Mr McCoy, you’ll find yourself before the ethics committee so fast your head will spin. Again.” She picked up a folder from her desk and opened it. “There will be no theatrics in my courtroom, gentlemen, and yes, I know exactly who I’m talking to. This trial will be neither the McCoy Circus nor the Gorton Revue. Show yourselves out.”

In the corridor, Gorton put one hand in his pocket and gave McCoy a co*cky grin. “Tough luck, Jack,” he said. “You win some, you lose some. Or in your case, you lose most, you win occasionally.”

McCoy jabbed him in the chest with one finger. “You and I both know exactly what your client is,” he said, unable to keep his fury out of his voice. “He used his position as a police officer to abuse a woman with impunity. He’s a bully with a badge and when you put him on the stand everyone in that courtroom will see it.”

Gorton laughed, and turned away. “Over-confidence was never your best look, Jack, or so Jamie tells me.”

As Gorton sauntered off down the courthouse corridor, McCoy found himself hoping that the report from Qiao Chen that he’d seen in his in-tray yesterday but not gotten to would contain something damning about Gorton.

No. As satisfying as it would be, the real damage would be done to Katie, not to Neil. McCoy couldn’t hope for that.

He took a brief detour to Part 18 to satisfy himself that Regan was handling her expert witnesses. He was surprised to see an elderly Hispanic man on the stand, upright and white-haired, in a suit that hadn’t been new since the Beatles were the latest hot sensation. I didn’t know we had a new shrink on the office list.

Regan was standing by the jury box, carefully positioned so the witness’s natural inclination to look the person asking them questions would have them looking straight at the jury as they spoke. There was a spot by the jury, exactly where she was standing, that McCoy knew was two shades darker than the rest of the well of the court no matter what the cleaning staff tried to do, testament to untold generations of attorneys standing right exactly there. His own shoes had left their share of the marks at that spot, over the years.

“And did there come a time, Mr Hernandez, when you had to let Bill Grady go from his job at your bodega?” Regan asked, and McCoy realized that this was not a new expert witness, after all.

The witness nodded. “Oh, yes, I fired him. I had to.”

“Why was that?”

“He was stealing candy bars. I know, it doesn’t sound like much.” Hernandez shrugged. “But five, ten a day, it adds up.”

“And what, if anything, did Mr Grady say?”

“He said he didn’t know he wasn’t allowed to take them. He played real dumb about it.”

Regan nodded. “And did you believe him?”

Hernandez rolled his eyes. “He was stealing bars I sell for fifty cents and selling them to his friends for forty-five. A dime, yeah, that would be dumb. But forty-five cents? How stupid could he be?”

One of the jurors laughed, and McCoy slipped back out of the courtroom doors, smiling. No fear there of a battle of the experts breaking out. The defense could produce a Nobel laureate to swear Bill Grady had diminished capacity, but the jury would listen to Mr Hernandez the bodega owner.

He strode back to Hogan Place, to find both Emil Skoda and lunch waiting in his office. McCoy gave him the file on Emalia Coran and John Rivera and concentrated on his own meal and his in-tray while Skoda read. There was an envelope labeled Peter HandryCoran case, and he opened it to find a report from the 27th Precinct on Handry’s background. Grew up in Jersey — no connection to Coran there. A number of years in D.C He paused over a reference to a criminal case. People v Henry Chauncey. The name sparked a vague memory. Domestic assault. Not one of mine. Jessica Sheets handed Kelly Gaffney her ass, got the physical evidence suppressed.

Subject was prosecution witness, not involved in incident, he read. Translated from police report-ese, that meant Handry was a good citizen who’d done the right thing by the justice system. He checked the date of the trial. Two years ago. So Handry hadn’t run into Emalia Coran in the courthouse.

He let the paper drop to his desk as Skoda closed the file on Rivera and put it aside. “I don’t see what use I can be to you, Jack.”

McCoy raised his eyebrows. “Because?”

Emil Skoda poked around the bottom of the cardboard box of takeaway Chinese with his chopsticks. “I can’t offer a professional opinion of Rivera’s state of mind if I can’t talk to him. And if you put me on the stand and ask me if it’s possible he’s telling the truth, I’ll have to say yes.”

“Don’t tell me you think he’s telling the truth!” McCoy demanded.

Skoda located the last shrimp and ate it. “God, no. Victims of domestic violence who kill their abusers after they’ve escaped them are incredibly rare. Most are just glad to get away. When they do, there’s a pattern of stalking and harassment that made them believe their life was in danger, usually because their life was in danger.” He picked up the chicken kung pao and started on that. “On the other hand, abusive partners who find and kill their exes are all too common.”

“So you’ll tell the jury that.”

“You’d be better off with a criminologist for that expert testimony.” Skoda chewed and swallowed, and reached for his soda. “Less likely to be asked questions that will bolster the defense case.”

“Such as?”

Skoda shrugged. “In your opinion, Dr Skoda, is it possible that a victim of intimate partner violence might perceive an encounter with their abuser, random or not, as a threat to their life? Well, yes. Is it possible that the defendant, knowing Coran had gotten away with one attempt on his life, might believe there was no help to be had from his fellow police officers? Yes, it’s possible. Is it possible that a man, especially one in a traditionally masculine occupation, might be held back from reporting the crimes against him by a sense of shame?”

“I get the picture,” McCoy said. He dropped his own chopsticks into the empty container of beef chow mein.

“Sorry, Jack.” Skoda inspected the remaining containers with a slightly mournful expression.

“Don’t be, if you can’t help, you can’t help.” McCoy raked his fingers through his hair. “Neil will still have to put Rivera on the stand. The jury will see through him, and the door will be open for me to introduce evidence to impeach him.”

“From what Regan told me on the phone, this guy isn’t impulsive. His behavior toward Coran, at least from the room-mate’s story, was controlling and instrumental. I doubt you’ll be able to get him to blow a gasket in the courtroom.”

“What would you recommend?”

Skoda shrugged a little. “His behavior was most likely an attempt to compensate for a feeling of inferiority. Coran was higher status than him, she probably earned more. Once upon a time a beat cop was a good job and a man who had that job got respect, on the street and in the home.”

“It still is, in some places,” McCoy said.

Skoda nodded. “But Rivera’s world is one where he can’t afford to live in the same area as he works, where every second TV show features a corrupt or incompetent police officer and where the cops are being held accountable for their actions in a way they didn’t used to be. My bet is he feels emasculated. Controlling a smart, beautiful, high-earning woman made him feel more like a man.”

“So I should have a woman A.D.A. handle his questioning,” McCoy said.

Skoda nodded again.“Treat him with contempt, see what shakes loose.”

McCoy paused. “I have another question for you, sort of related. Why would an abusive ex-husband contact the woman he beat?”

“To intimidate and control her,” Skoda said promptly.

“Thirty years later?”

Skoda studied him. “This isn’t hypothetical. Or past tense. Is it?”

“No. His story is that he’s dying and wants to make amends.”

“Maybe he got some help over the years.” Skoda shrugged. “It happens. I wouldn’t suggest this lady meet with him alone, though. Maybe he didn’t get help and a terminal diagnosis turned thirty years’ of brooding into homicidal intent.”

“Regan suggested Skype.”

“Sure. I’d certainly be more comfortable with that. ” He finished his soda. “How is Regan, anyway?”

McCoy blinked. “Aren’t you supposed to be able to tell me that?”

Skoda raised an eyebrow. “No, Jack, I’m actually not supposed to be able to tell you that. I’m not asking for a professional consult. I’m making conversation.”

“Oh.” McCoy started stacking the remains of their lunch together, feeling like an idiot. “She’s fine. She’d be here but she’s over in Part 18 persuading a jury that I was too stupid is not an acceptable affirmative defense to car-jacking.”

“Funny, she told me that she’d be here except having lunch with her boss and her shrink would be too weird,” Skoda said.

“She told you that?” McCoy had to smile. “Of course she did. She’s a straight shooter.”

“Among other things.” Skoda handed him the last container and McCoy turned to drop them all in the wastepaper basket. “So, you tap that yet?”

McCoy dropped them on the floor, instead, scattering grains of rice and scraps of food across the carpet. “What?”

Skoda grinned at him. “I try to stay current with the youth of today.”

McCoy bent to gather up as much of the mess as he could. “The last time you were current with the youth of today, Emil, Kerouac was a social drinker.”

“My son keeps me young. Also, I wanted an honest reaction. You were shocked, not guilty, so I take it the answer is no.”

“Not that it’s any of your business,” McCoy said, tossing the last container in the basket and getting to his feet, “but I’m fully complaint with the D.A’s Office Code of Conduct.”

“So it’s serious,” Skoda said. McCoy glared at him, but Skoda was unfazed. “I’ve known you ten years, Jack, and the only time you’ve been compliant with that code of conduct was —”

“Say it,” McCoy ordered harshly when Skoda hesitated. “I won’t fall apart at the mention of her name.”

“I was going to say, when there was someone in your life who mattered to you,” Skoda said.

“Not true,” McCoy said. He moved away from Skoda, putting his desk between them. “Claire died before you ever met me.”

Skoda raised his eyebrows. “I was talking about your most recent ex-wife, but okay.”

“Perhaps I’ve finally learned to stop fishing off the company pier,” McCoy said tartly.

“Have you?” Skoda asked. McCoy was silent, and Skoda smiled a little. “Didn’t think so. Not that it’s any of my business, Jack —”

“You’re right about that!” McCoy snapped.

But,” Skoda said, “as a friend. If you want to keep pretending you see Regan Markham as nothing more than a colleague, you need to work on your poker face.”

“She’s a colleague, and a friend,” McCoy said.

“And she talked you down off a pretty high ledge a couple of months ago,” Skoda said.

“Stop it, Emil,” McCoy barked. “If I want your professional advice, I’ll pay you for it. Stop claiming you’re talking to me as a friend when you’re being a damn shrink!”

Skoda shrugged. “Okay.” He glanced at his watch, and got to his feet. “I’ve got to go, anyway. Late for court.”

McCoy frowned. Which of our cases would that be? He couldn’t think of a single trial in court today that Skoda was consulting on. “For what?”

“People versus Emil Skoda,” Skoda said.

What?” McCoy stared at him, aghast. How could that happen without me knowing about it? What’s the charge? When were you arraigned? Who’s representing you?”

“I don’t really want to talk about it, Jack,” Skoda said.

“At least tell me who you’ve retained,” McCoy insisted. “If they’re no good, I’ve got favors I can call in —”

Skoda shook his head. “I don’t have a lawyer,” he said. “I’m representing myself.”

“You’re going pro se?” McCoy voice rose to a shout. “Are you out of your goddamn mind, Emil?”

“I don’t need your advice, Jack,” Skoda said.

“Clearly, you do,” McCoy retorted. He grabbed his bag. “You can tell me what happened on the way to the courthouse. I’ll tell the prosecuting A.D.A. to apply for a continuance. You just stand there and say what I tell you to, exactly what I tell you to. Once we get the continuance, I’ll call … Jessica Sheets, she’s a damn good defense lawyer and she’ll appear pro bono if I ask her to.”

“Stop,” Skoda said. “I don’t need you to be my lawyer, Jack.”

“I’m not being your damn lawyer, I’m being your friend —” McCoy said, and then stopped. Carefully, he put his bag back down on his desk. “You’re not due in court.”

“No,” Skoda said. He gave a small smile. “It’s not easy keeping your mouth shut when you know you have the professional skills to help out a friend, is it?”

“You duplicitous, manipulative, sneaky son-of-a-bitch,” McCoy said, shaking his head, unable to keep a note of admiration out of his voice.

“Guilty as charged.” Skoda spread his hands and shrugged. “But then, that’s my professional skill-set. And now I really am late, though not for court.” He turned toward the door, and the turned back. “But if you do ever want to grab a beer, shoot the breeze …”

“I have your number,” McCoy said.

.oOo.

Notes:

The legal precedents cited are from “Burn Baby Burn”, episode 6, season 11, and “Dignity”, episode 5, season 20.

Chapter 27: Tea And Conversation

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Abbie Carmichael’s Townhouse

8pm Wednesday July 18 2007

“I’m making tea,” Abbie said. “You want some?”

Regan looked up from the papers she’d spread across Abbie’s dining room table. “Thanks. Unless it’s vanilla.”

Abbie shook her head. “Chamomile.” She turned to the kitchen door and then stopped at the sound of the doorbell. “You expecting someone?”

“No.” Regan got to her feet. “Go into the kitchen.”

“I’m pregnant, not a damsel in distress,” Abbie said, but she stepped back into the kitchen as Regan went to the door.

A look through the peephole showed Jack McCoy in the act of ringing the doorbell a second time.

“It’s Jack,” Regan called over her shoulder as she threw the bolts. She opened the door. “Has something happened?”

McCoy had clearly ridden his motorcycle over, his helmet under his arm and jacket slung over his shoulder. “I missed you at the office,” he said. He moved forward, handing her his helmet. Regan took it as she stepped back to let him in. “Skoda doesn’t think he can be any use as a witness. I wanted to know how Briscoe and Green were going with their interviews.”

Abbie came back out of the kitchen. “Hi, Jack,” she said. “I’m suddenly feeling really tired. I’m going to go lie down. You know where everything is if you want something.”

McCoy glanced at his watch. “Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to —”

“It’s not late,” Abbie said. She gave McCoy a quick hug, and then covered her mouth to hide a yawn. “I just didn’t get much sleep last night. Or any night. And I have to get up at three for Tom’s call. Use the couch if you don’t want to ride home.”

Regan and McCoy stood in silence as Abbie retreated up the stairs.

“We’re starting to develop some bad habits,” Regan said at last, looking down at the motorcycle helmet in her hands. “What happened to only seeing each other at the office?”

“Officer Rivera retained Neil Gorton, that’s what happened,” McCoy said with a certain degree of asperity. “Tell me where we are.”

Regan put the helmet down on the hall table and led the way into the dining room. “I’ve hung some paper on Rivera’s financials, I got Qiao Chen in Fraud to sign it since you didn’t want me to get too close to the case …”

McCoy followed her. “Neil will move for a stay, whether there’s anything to find or not,” he said. “I’ll handle the hearing. In the shark tank with Neil Gorton is no place for water-wings.”

“I still can’t believe Judge Ross was married to him,” Regan said.

“The heart has reasons that reason knows not.” McCoy studied the papers spread across the table, reaching out to turn one a little toward him. His ring caught the light as he ran his fingers lightly across the paper. Regan could remember the way those strong, clever fingers had felt tracing the line of her jaw and her mouth was suddenly dry. “Where are we on witnesses?”

She cleared her throat. “Nothing yet. Whatever happened, Coran kept it to herself, except from her room-mate, as far as Briscoe and Green have been able to tell so far.”

“They usually do,” McCoy said. “It doesn’t help us, though.” He sat down in the chair Regan had been using, picking up another of her pages of notes. “Who’s Marianne Toohey?”

“Former colleague.”

“Anything useful to say?” McCoy asked. He let his jacket drop to the floor and Regan could see the muscles of his shoulders and back through his cotton shirt.

Get a grip, for Chrissakes! “Only that Emalia Coran had an overdeveloped sense of responsibility. Went above and beyond her legal and ethical requirements looking out for the clients whose files she managed.”

“We already knew she took things to excess,” McCoy said.

Goody-two shoes was the way Toohey put it.” She paused. “Do you want a drink? Or …”

“Better not,” McCoy said. “Or I’ll end up having to choose between Abbie’s couch or walking the bike home again.” He glanced at her over his shoulder, the corner of his mouth twitching up. “Don’t let me stop you, though.”

“I won’t.” She went to the sideboard, which had the convenient effect of putting the dining room table between herself and McCoy. Once she’d poured herself a drink and turned around, though, she realized that it also meant she could see his face. And he can see mine. “What else did Skoda say?”

“Apparently he thinks my poker face could use improvement,” McCoy said dryly. “You know Emil. You never know whether you’re going to get the sledgehammer or the Delphic Oracle.” He paused, glanced at her, looked away. “He’s still helping you?”

Regan sipped her drink. “I’m still seeing him, yeah.”

McCoy picked up another page of notes and studied it. “Not what I asked.”

“It’s helping.” She shrugged, and took the chair across from McCoy. “If you’re asking as my boss —”

“I’m not,” McCoy said quietly. “If you want to talk about it … or if you don’t. Up to you.”

“I don’t, really,” Regan said. “If you don’t mind. Not that — it helps to think about it as a … as an injury. Not some shrink bullsh*t. And there’s no point talking about a sprained ankle, is there?”

“No,” McCoy said. He looked up at last with a half-smile. “Except to ask if it still hurts.”

“Only when I laugh,” Regan said, and was rewarded with a chuckle. “But, look, Jack. Doesn’t an E.E.D. defense put the burden on proof on Gorton, not on us? Even if we can’t disprove it, he’s lying, he can’t prove something that didn’t happen.”

“Jury nullification,” McCoy said. “Rivera gets up and cries about how scared he was of Coran. If he sobs prettily enough, he might cry himself right into an acquittal, forget about Man One. We need as much evidence to impeach him as possible. And — ” He paused. “Regan, how scared are you of Arthur, really?”

She made her tone light. “Well, I let you in when you rang the bell, didn’t I?”

“Emil said that having a woman handle Rivera’s cross might be a way to push his buttons and get him to make a mistake. I’d like it to be you. But that means sitting beside me while we prosecute a cop, and with Neil’s defense strategy, that means dragging him and, as far as some people will think, the rest of the N.Y.P.D. through the mud.”

Regan linked her fingers together beneath her chin. “So much for a win-win deal.”

“I recall you didn’t much like the idea anyway,” McCoy said, gaze steady on hers.

“I’d prefer to find a way to make this murder one,” Regan said. “How about ‘cruel and wanton’? He did stand there while she bled to death.”

“With another lawyer I might be tempted to try it as a bluff,” McCoy said, “but Neil would never fall for it. You haven’t answered my question.”

.oOo.

Notes:

The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing” - Blaise Pascal.

Chapter 28: A Gift

Chapter Text

“You haven’t answered my question,” McCoy said.

“Yes, I have,” Regan said. “I told you, wherever you want me to be is where I am.”

There was no flirtation in her voice or coquetry in her expression. Her gaze held his, steady and honest, and McCoy couldn’t look away. “I wish that was true.”

“You want me to take second chair on Rivera to raise the chance Branch will sack me and I’ll go to bed with you?”

“No!” And, dammit, he needed that drink. Leave the bike here and take a cab home. He got to his feet. “I want you in my second chair because you’re the best one for it.”

“There are better lawyers,” Regan said, turning to watch him as he crossed to the sideboard. “Connie Rubirosa. If you’re looking for a woman to push Rivera’s buttons.”

McCoy splashed a generous measure of scotch into a glass. “And if you weren’t available I’d ask her. She’s smart, she’s capable. With a little seasoning she’ll be on the tenth floor. But she never could have got that confession out of Conroy, or out of Timmy McMillan. She’s a fine lawyer, and yes, she might be better than you, but right now, you’re a better fit for my second chair.”

Regan turned in her chair to look at him. “At least, with you to handle the law.”

McCoy leaned back against the sideboard and took a gulp of his drink. “I’d tell you not to twist what I’m saying but you’re proving my point about your prosecutorial instincts. In a couple of years, she’ll probably match you. But for this case, I’m not looking for someone who can replace me in chambers and not for cross. If I was, yes, I’d choose her. And I’d take the cross on Rivera myself. But Emil suggests we have more chance of winning if it’s a woman who takes him on. So I’m asking you.” He looked at her steadily. “Don’t tell me you don’t think you can do it, I’ll know you’re lying.”

Regan gave the ghost of a grin. “And I know how that pisses you off. But, Jack …”

“If it sets your mind at ease, I promise not to so much as share an elevator with you until the case is over.” He gave her a lazy smile, consciously deploying the patented Jack McCoy charm. “After that, all bets are off.”

“That’s not what I was going to say,” Regan said. She looked away, turning her glass between her fingers. “I was going to say, maybe we should get it over with. The … you know.” She blushed a little. “The going to bed.”

McCoy raised his eyebrows. “Get it over with? I’m flattered.”

Regan shrugged, then looked up as the house creaked a little, settling. “Get it out of our systems. Maybe then we can be … normal with each other again.”

“I have to say, that hasn’t been my previous experience,” McCoy said. “But then, I haven’t had a woman refer to sleeping with me as ‘getting it over with’, either, so …”

She snorted. “You’re going to hold that against me, aren’t you?”

“There’s something else I’d prefer to hold against you,” McCoy said with his best roguish grin.

Regan laughed, blushing again. “Don’t make this any harder than it is already, Jack.”

“Too late.”

“Jesus, you can make anything sound dirty!”

“It’s a gift.” He grinned at her and waggled his eyebrows suggestively. “What’s normal, anyway?”

“Normal?”

“You said, maybe we can be normal with each other again. What’s normal?”

Regan shrugged. “Being able to have a case conference without wanting to throw you down on the couch and rip your clothes off.”

And god, the moment she said it he could imagine it, could all but see Regan pushing him backwards onto the couch, her wide, mobile mouth hot against his, her fingers tearing open his shirt … “That image,” he said a little hoarsely, “is not going to make future case conferences easier.”

“Maybe we should …” Regan shrugged, the movement doing things to her body that didn’t help McCoy’s concentration at all. “We haven’t really done anything. I mean, we’ve tiptoed along the line, but we haven’t actually crossed it. I could transfer downstairs again. For a while. Until it wore off. I mean, we’ve been working pretty closely together. That’s probably what it is, in the end.”

“You think how I feel about you is down to proximity?” McCoy asked incredulously. “Because you’re, what? Convenient?”

“You do have a track record, Jack,” Regan said.

“I have a track record of finding intelligent women interesting and attractive,” McCoy snapped. “You make it sound like I just close my eyes and reach out and grab the nearest breast whenever I find myself at a loose end!”

“Keep your voice down!” Regan hissed. “Abbie is trying to sleep!”

“She’s not, she’s eavesdropping from the top of the stairs. I heard the third step down creak.” McCoy raised his voice. “Abbie? Want to come down here and weigh in on this?”

“No, I’m good,” Abbie called back. “Just getting some water. As you were.”

“Oh, god.” Regan buried her face in her hands. “Maybe we should get Danielle and Sally on speaker-phone.”

“I’m sure Abbie is already on top of it,” McCoy said dryly.

“Oh, god,” Regan said again, as Abbie went back upstairs and her bedroom door closed. “Maybe this is a terrible idea.”

“What, getting it over with?” McCoy said.

“You know that’s not what I meant!”

“No. You meant we should go ahead and have what I recall you called a ‘silly fling’.” McCoy shook his head. “I’ve been accused of a lot of things over the years, but never of being silly.”

“No,” Regan said softly. “I can’t imagine you have been.” She looked down, and cleared her throat. “But you can’t deny you have a reputation. Or that it’s at least partly earned.”

McCoy shook his head. “What two adults chose to do is what two adults chose to do! Yes, I’ve had relationships with women I’ve worked with, and with women I haven’t for that matter — I’ve never pretended to be a monk!”

“And maybe I don’t chose to be one more notch on your headboard,” Regan fired back.

“Is that what you think of me?” McCoy put his glass down on the sideboard, , hard enough to rattle the decanters. “I like women. Not as some sort of conquests, as people! I’ve always been honest, and the only women I’ve ever disappointed were the ones I married, and you can condemn me for that but I’m not exactly Robinson Crusoe as far as marrying for the wrong reasons is concerned. I’m not trying to add you to some sort of list, Regan, I find you damn attractive and I enjoy your company and that ought to be enough — don’t tell me you want me to profess undying love!”

“No,” Regan said quietly. “No, I would never expect that.” She shrugged. “I guess I don’t exactly know how to do this. I’m not a sophisticated New Yorker. Where I come from, the zipless f*ck is just a phrase in a novel.”

“A novel you obviously haven’t read,” McCoy retorted.

“Well, no, because I’m from the backwoods and we only check books like that out of the library if they have brown paper covers!” she snapped.

McCoy tossed back the rest of his drink. “If we’re just going to argue, I may as well go.”

“If you get on that damn bike, I’m not coming to the morgue to identify you,” Regan said.

“Not that it’s any of your business, but I was planning to take a cab.” He shook his head. “The only accident I’ve had in twenty years was someone deliberately trying to run me over, so you can quit —”

Regan raised her eyebrows. “Being concerned for your safety?”

McCoy’s irritation faded as he realized that she was simply speaking the truth. “Yeah, okay,” he said. He raked his fingers through his hair, and then dug the key to his motorcycle out of the pocket of his jeans. He offered it to her in apology. “For your peace of mind. I’ll pick it up from you in the morning.”

Regan took it. “I promise not to accidentally lose it overnight,” she said. She shrugged a little. “I saw some bad crashes when I was working Highway.”

McCoy recognized that as her apology. “Make you a deal,” he said. “Stay off my case about the bike day-to-day, and I’ll pay attention when you legitimately think it isn’t safe.”

She thought about it, and then nodded. “Deal,” she said.

“You should let me take you for a spin sometime,” McCoy said. “Prove to you I know what I’m doing.” And a half hour or so with her pressed against me from chin to toe, arms wrapped around my waist

Regan gave a slow smile. “I’m pretty sure, Jack,” she said, “that you know exactly what you’re doing.” She pocketed the key. “No promises. And now, I’d better call you a cab.”

.oOo.

Chapter 29: Means Of Communication

Chapter Text

Regan called a cab for McCoy and went out to the sidewalk to make sure he got into it.

Then she went back inside, threw the deadbolts, and poured herself a double. At least, it was a double if you squinted. Less charitable souls might have called it a triple.

Regan knocked back a substantial gulp and coughed until her eyes watered. Why the hell does everything with Jack McCoy go wrong?

Not everything, she had to admit. Things didn’t go wrong between them in the courtroom, where they coordinated as easily and smoothly as fingers on the same hand. Nor at work more generally, where they traded off taking point in a case conference or in prepping a witness with no more than a glance, a lifted eyebrow.

And things went a little too right between them when he touched her hand, or her arm, to et her attention when she was lost in thought. If she brushed up against him in the corridor, if they reached for the same blueback at the same time, the flush of heat she felt and the way McCoy’s eyes darkened and his breath caught … a little too right for safety’s sake, indeed.

And for some very long hours on some very dark nights, they had been there for each other. Nothing could have felt more right than waking with her head pillowed on McCoy’s shoulder, his arm around her, all her nightmares momentarily silenced. Nothing could have been more right than that McCoy had called her the night he got a little too lost in the dark to find his own way back.

The everything that went wrong, Regan had to admit, was really only the everything that came out of her mouth when she tried to talk to him about …

About where this goes. About what it means. About what happens the morning after the night before.

She knocked back the rest of her drink and poured another, knowing it was a bad idea, knowing she’d pay for it in the morning.

“Regan?” Abbie said from the doorway. “Are you okay?”

Oh, god. Abbie must have heard an earful. “I’m fine.”

Abbie came a little further into the room. She put her hand on the back of the chair McCoy had been sitting in. “Do you want to talk?”

Really don’t.”

“Okay, then.” Regan waited for Abbie to leave, but instead she pulled out the chair and sat down. “I’ll talk. You know, before Jack and I became friends, I had a huge crush on him.”

Like I do, she means. Regan nodded shortly, keeping her gaze on her drink.

“And then … a few things happened. A friend of mine died. Was murdered. Jack went all the way to get a conviction.”

“Toni Ricci,” Regan said, looking up. “I know about what happened. I’m sorry, Abbie.”

Abbie gave her a small smile. “Yeah. It was a rough time. Jack was really good to me. He let me stay on the case, he never pushed me to talk about how I felt, when he caught me crying he pretended he hadn’t seen anything. Took me to dinner to make sure I left the office when all I wanted to do was work and work and work some more. And then one day —”

“One day, one thing led to another, right?” Regan said.

“One day, we were friends. I wasn’t a silly girl with a crush on my boss, I was a woman with a good friend who was there when she needed him.” She shrugged. “And then I took this job, and I was working late on a couple of open cases to get them done before I left, and Jack ordered in Chinese, and we had a drink … and that was the day one thing led to another.”

Regan looked down at her fingers wrapped around her glass. “Okay.”

“It didn’t last long, but it was —”

“No details!” Regan said hastily, face flaming.

“I was going to say, it was fun. It was a couple of friends who were attracted to each other having a good time. And then it stopped, and we were still friends.”

Regan hesitated. “How did it end, between you?”

Abbie shrugged. “I met someone. Not Tom, the guy before Tom. I told Jack I wanted to see if there was something there, and he gave me a kiss on the cheek and told me good luck. And that was it. No hard feelings, either side.”

“Well, that’s great,” Regan said, finishing her drink. “But —”

Abbie leaned forward. “If Jack had made a move on me all those months I thought I was in love with him, and he could have, Regan, I thought I was all grown up and keeping it to myself but I’m pretty sure I was fooling myself about that. It wouldn’t have been fun, then. It would have been heartbreaking and awful and bad for me. And he never did make a move. And if you want to talk about someone being convenient and close-at-hand, that was me, then.”

“So …” Regan sat down at the table, mostly in order to give herself a reason not to look at Abbie as she asked the question she most did, and most didn’t, want answered. “So Jack wants to take me to bed because it wouldn’t mean anything to him?”

“I mean, Jack’s a good guy, Regan.” Abbie leaned over to put her hand on Regan’s arm. “He’s not putting notches on his headboard and he’s careful not to hurt people. He’s not trying to get you into bed to prove he can, or because he likes a challenge, or whatever else you’re thinking. Yes, he has a reputation, and yes, it’s deserved, but … listen, you’re up against Neil Gorton in this case?”

“Ugh.” Regan shuddered. “Yeah. He used to be married to Judge Ross, didn’t he?”

“Hard to believe, I know. Did he grab your ass the first time you met him, too?”

“He tried,” Regan said. “But Jenna from Narcotics gave me the heads-up and I was ready for him.”

“Women talk,” Abbie said. “Women lawyers talk a lot. I’m not one of the card-carrying feminist sisterhood, but there’s something to be said for letting other women know which creeps to look out for.” Regan nodded. “And no-one ever tells the new crop of wide-eyed A.D.A.s or Legal Aid attorneys to look out for Jack McCoy. He and Danielle are friends. Sally Bell dropped everything to help you defend him in May. He’s my best friend, Regan. Is that the worst thing that can happen to you, that it doesn’t work out between you romantically and you end up with Jack McCoy as your best friend?”

“And chief spider catcher.”

Abbie laughed. “And chief spider catcher. That reminds me. There’s a daddy long-legs in the linen closet, I have to remember to move it to the bathroom before the next time he comes over.”

Regan raised her eyebrows. “That’s … possibly unethical.”

“I think he’s getting wise to the blown bulbs.” Abbie shrugged. “And you have to give Jack the chance to get on his white horse, Regan. Or he’ll find his own opportunities and it doesn’t always end well.”

“Yeah.” Regan remembered Ben Strickland. “He … took exception to how a guy was treating me, once. It got pretty awkward.”

“Regan, I can’t tell you what to do. But if you still want to, as you put it, throw him down on the couch and rip his clothes off during case conferences —”

“Oh, god.” Regan covered her face.

“You’re good for him,” Abbie insisted. “And he’s good for you.”

“All we seem to do sometimes is argue.”

Abbie snorted. “All Jack does with anyone is argue, Regan, it’s his primary method of communication. If fighting with him scares you off, run now. But you stand up for yourself pretty well, from what I’ve seen over the past few months. And that hasn’t scared him off either, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

Regan shook her head. “I don’t want to risk my job for something that might only last a couple of months.”

“So keep it on the down-low,” Abbie said, and shrugged. “Be careful. But I doubt Arthur Branch has the D.A’s Investigators pulling CCTV footage to check whether or not you’re going into his building, or he’s coming here.”

“I will never have sex with Jack McCoy under this roof,” Regan said firmly. “It’s weird enough knowing that you and he …”

Abbie raised one sculpted eyebrow. “If you’re going get weird about women who’ve been to bed with Jack McCoy, you’re going to have to, for one thing, give up a career in the law.”

“And still,” Regan said, “it’s so hard to see why I might have doubts.” She paused. “Abbie, if Jack wants to take me to bed because it wouldn’t mean anything to him — what if it meant something to me?”

Abbie was silent for a moment. “Have you told him that?” she asked at last.

Regan nodded. “Sort of. Maybe not in so many words.”

Abbie sighed. “Which means you haven’t.”

“It’s not like it was for you, Abbie!” Regan burst out. “I didn’t find a friend in the man I had a crush on. We were partners — friends — first. And then I …”

“And then you fell in love with him,” Abbie said softly.

Regan shook her head. “No. Not like that. But if I leave my job, or lose my job, and then whatever it is runs its course … what happens, Abbie? We sleep together, two friends having fun, and then he moves on, and I —” Tears threatened, and Regan blinked hard.

Abbie reached over to put a hand on Regan’s wrist. “Tell him that.”

Regan laughed. “I can’t tell Jack I have … have feelings for him! God, can you imagine how hard he’d laugh? Look at me!”

Abbie raised an eyebrow. “Jack seems to like the way you look.”

“Jack hasn’t seen …” Regan flattened one hand on her stomach. “I have … I told you, I have some scars. They’re not real easy to look at.”

“Oh, Regan,” Abbie said sadly.

“So.” Regan shrugged, and stood up to refill her glass. “I’d rather … I’d rather not know what excuses he’d come up with as he zipped up his pants and made his escape.”

.oOo.

Chapter 30: Hanging Up

Chapter Text

Office of the D.A.

10th Floor, One Hogan Place

10 am Thursday 19 July 2007

It took two aspirin and three cups of coffee the next morning before Regan began to feel human again. And thank god Abbie was already awake when Jack came by for his key this morning. McCoy was no doubt a connoisseur of hangovers, and one look at her would have given the game completely away.

She was on her way back to her cubicle with another refill when McCoy called her name.

She stopped, and turned. He was leaning on the door-frame in his office door. “Come in here a minute.”

Regan hesitated, glancing at Branch’s door. It was closed, which meant he was in there. “Jack …”

“I’ll leave the door open,” he said with a lazy smile. “We need to talk.”

Oh, god. Had Abbie called him? Regan didn’t think that was the sort of thing Abbie Carmichael would do, but she couldn’t deny that Abbie was McCoy’s friend first and foremost. She wouldn’t be averse to a little meddling if she thought it was in Jack’s best interest.

Witness last night.

“Sure,” she said, keeping her voice light and casual. McCoy stepped back to let her through the door, but not quite enough for her to avoid brushing against him. Regan felt herself flush and glanced up to see the corner of his mouth turn up. He did that on purpose. “What’s up?”

“Have you talked to Daniel James?”

“No,” Regan had to admit. “Sorry, Jack. Yesterday just got busy and I — I’ll call him now. Colleen said whenever was fine with her, so long as it was during office hours.”

McCoy nodded. “She might not want me there. But I’d like you to be with her. I’d like you to insist.”

Regan nodded. “Yeah, she shouldn’t have to go through it without a friend —”

“Not as a friend,” McCoy interrupted. “As a cop.”

Former cop,” Regan corrected. She wondered if she’d ever get used to saying it, if it would ever not cause her heart to twist a little.

“Your bullsh*t detector still works. You still know how to keep assholes from walking all over you. Don’t let that son-of-a-bitch play any games with her, Regan, don’t let him take so much as an inch.” His mouth set in a hard line. “The worst thing he did wasn’t hitting her. The worst thing he did was making her think he had a right to.”

Regan nodded. “I thought Conference Four? They’ve put webcams in a couple of rooms, now, but Four is the most private.”

McCoy nodded. “Make it for a time I’m here,” he said. “Even if Colleen doesn’t want me in the room. And make sure you tell me when.”

When she went back to her cubicle and called him, Daniel James told her that he had a laptop with a webcam with him and he was willing to make whatever time she chose work. Regan glanced at McCoy’s schedule for the day and picked three in the afternoon, time enough for McCoy to get back from the courthouse after he argued a motion in limine before Judge Valdera and for Regan herself to finish meeting with Judge Cates’s clerk to set a trial date for her Felony Attempt case later in the year.

She waited until Arthur Branch left for his lunch with whichever power-broker he was courting today before she told Colleen.

Colleen paled a little, and nodded. “Thank you.”

“Colleen, Jack wasn’t sure if you’d want him there when you talk to Dan,” Regan said carefully.

“It’s not … not that,” Colleen said. “But I’m worried that — you know. Dan will be angry to see him. Or Mr McCoy will lose his temper. And something will happen to make Dan think that maybe talking to the papers is a good idea.”

“Well, you know, with a webcam, you can only see what the camera points at,” Regan pointed out. “Jack could stand across the room and Dan would never know he was there. And I know that Jack can be …”

“Hasty,” Colleen said, and they shared a smile.

“Hasty,” Regan agreed. “But I’ve never known him lose his temper when it isn’t to his advantage. He’ll stand still and stay nothing if that’s what you want.”

“Okay.” Colleen twisted her hands together. “Okay, then, I’d like him to be there. Will you tell him?”

“Why don’t you tell him?” Regan suggested gently. Someone should get some good out of Abbie’s advice, even if it isn’t me. “I kinda get the feeling he thinks you’re mad at him.”

Colleen’s eyes went wide. “Angry with Mr McCoy? I could never! I’ve just been so worried that he’ll get in trouble because of what he did for me!”

“Go talk to him,” Regan said, and when Colleen left, wheeled her chair back until she could see down the hall to McCoy’s door. She watched Colleen go inside, and a moment later McCoy came to the doorway.

He caught Regan’s gaze, nodded, and closed the door.

Regan ticked two items off her mental to-do list for the day and turned to the next of about eighty.

She’d worked her way through items three through eighteen when the phone on her desk rang.

It was Qiao Chen. “Regan. Just wanted to say thanks for the file, but Mr McCoy had already sent it.” At her pause, he said, “From Hudson, Merrick and Riddle?”

“Oh, right.” The Coran case. “Sorry, I forgot I sent that stuff down to you. Jack dumped a bunch of new files on me, Billy Billy’s stuff.”

“Glad it’s you and not me,” Chen said, and to Regan’s surprise he sounded like he meant it. “This financial adviser, Watson, she was pretty thorough. Do you have a number for her? She might be able to answer some of my questions.”

Regan blinked, and then remembered that Chen would have only heard her refer to the Coran case. “She’s dead, Qiao. She’s our murder victim. That’s why the files are on your desk.”

“sh*t,” Chen said. “Damn. Okay, thanks. I’ll keep working it.”

Regan hung up with the vague sense that either she or Chen had missed something in that conversation but a glance at her watch told her she didn’t have time to worry about it if she wasn’t going to keep Cates’s clerk waiting.

The haggling over dates ran overtime. Regan bolted out of the courthouse doors, dodging sideways to give a wide berth to Neil Gorton in conversation with what was probably another one of his no-doubt guilty clients, a young Asian man with a jail-house tattoo on one arm. The last thing Regan had time for today was another round of baiting by Rivera’s lawyer.

In the end she had to run most of the block from the courthouse to make it in time for Colleen’s conversation, and it really wasn’t the weather for it. Regan was disheveled and sweaty and sure she was bright red in the face by the time the elevator let her out on the tenth floor.

But not late.

Colleen’s desk and McCoy’s office were both empty. Regan headed straight for the conference room.

They were waiting for her. “Sorry,” Regan said. She smoothed her hair back and readjusted a hairpin that had come loose in her rush back from the courthouse and walked Colleen through the way Skype worked. “Do you want me to go through it again?” she asked when she was finished.

Colleen shook her head. “No. We should — we should call him. Not keep him waiting.”

“Keep him waiting as long as you like,” Jack McCoy said from where he was leaning against the wall, behind the computer with its web camera. “Or don’t talk to him at all. It’s up to you, not to him. Not any more.”

Colleen looked at the screen and swallowed hard. “Alright,” she said. “But I’d like to get it over with.”

Regan reached past her and clicked the mouse on the ‘dial’ button. After a moment, the blank white space turned into an image of Daniel James. “Colleen?”

“Yes,” Colleen said. Regan checked the small box at the top of the screen that showed her what James could see. Colleen’s head and shoulders. Regan standing protectively beside her. It didn’t show Colleen’s hands, clenched so tightly on each other in her lap that her knuckles were white.

It didn’t show McCoy leaning against the wall on the other side of the room, scowling thunderously, either.

“I wanted to talk to you alone, Colleen” James said.

“Not going to happen,” Regan said calmly. “And just so we’re all on the same page here, Mr James, if I hear so much as a word I don’t like, my finger is less than an inch from the off-switch. Are we clear?”

“You’ve got the wrong idea —”

Regan pressed the button and the screen went black. Colleen turned to look at her, and Regan smiled. “We’ll call him back,” she said. “When I was in law enforcement, this is what we liked to call a learning opportunity.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s an opportunity for scumbags to learn not to f*ck with us for so much as a millisecond,” Regan said. She switched the computer back on, and when it booted up, dialed James again. When he answered, she leaned close to the camera. “Mr James. This is your second and final chance. If you blow this, you will never get another one. If you want to find out for yourself, feel free to say anything that isn’t an apology to Ms Petraky.”

James opened his mouth, and then closed it. He swallowed hard. “Colleen, I’m sorry,” he said.

“Alright,” Colleen said.

“I was … how I treated you … I shouldn’t have. I want — I need you to forgive me.”

Colleen blinked. “Forgive you?”

“It was a long time ago, I was … I was stupid. I didn’t know how to control my temper. I know I was in the wrong. But it was … Colleen, I’ve changed. I’m not that man any more. I don’t want to … to die without knowing you understand that.”

Regan squeezed Colleen’s shoulder. You don’t have to say anything, that gentle pressure said, just as clearly as McCoy’s silent frown.

Colleen didn’t need their help. “You told me I was stupid,” she said. “I’m not. If I could have gone to law school, I’d be a better lawyer than you. You told me —”

“Colleen —”

She spoke straight over him. “You told me it was my fault. It wasn’t. Not once. None of that was your temper. Making me give you receipts for the groceries wasn’t temper. Finding fault with everything I did wasn’t temper. It was terrorism. Emotional terrorism, and I wish I could have you sent to Guantanamo Bay, Dan, because you deserve it, and worse. What you did to me was unforgivable, and I don’t forgive you for it. I will never forgive you for it. So go away, back to Phoenix, and die there, and I hope it’s painful, Dan. I hope you suffer. Don’t ever try and talk to me or see me again. I have a restraining order, and I will enforce it. Goodbye.”

She grabbed the mouse and clicked the button to terminate the call.

“Colleen,” Regan said respectfully, “you’re a bad-ass.”

Colleen burst into tears.

Regan bent down to put her arms around her but McCoy crossed the room and brushed Regan aside and wrapped Colleen up in an embrace that lifted her out of her chair. “It’s all over,” he said. “It’s all over now. You’re alright. It’s alright.”

Colleen hung on to him. “I’m s-s-sorry!”

“Nothing to be sorry for,” McCoy assured her, holding her tight. “Nothing at all. I’m proud of you. I’m very, very proud of you.”

Colleen snuffled against his shoulder. “Good,” she said, and with a visible effort, pulled herself together, and lifted her head. “Because I’ve already booked myself a spa day on your credit card.”

.oOo.

Chapter 31: Tablecloths

Chapter Text

Office of the D.A.

10th Floor, One Hogan Place

6 pm Thursday 19 July 2007

“How’s your jury?”

Regan put her finger on a police investigator not only testified that a confidential informant to keep from losing her place and looked up from the law report. Jack McCoy was leaning in her cubicle door, one hand grasping the lintel. “Back. They were out for an hour, top count conviction, sentencing next week.”

“Good work,” McCoy said. He smiled at her, a slow smile that started with his eyes and which Regan felt all the way down to her feet. “Can I ask you a favor?”

“You can ask,” she said cautiously.

“Can you take Colleen home? She’s been re-typing the same letter for the last half-an-hour.”

Because she doesn’t want to be outside the building on her own. Just in case.

McCoy didn’t say it. He didn’t need to. Regan nodded and stuck a Post-It to the page so she could pick up where she left off. “Sure. Can I voucher it?”

“Best not.” McCoy took his wallet from his pocket. “I’ll cover it. Maybe you could walk her in, take a look at her security.”

“James is old, he’s sick,” Regan said. “So long as she has windows that lock, she’s got enough security.”

McCoy held out a couple of folded bills. “Then make sure her windows lock. Humor me, Regan.”

“Yeah.” She took the notes. “Of course, Jack. I’ll make sure she’s okay.”

He didn’t let go. “And her local precinct —”

“Already has his picture and description and a notification of the restraining order,” Regan assured him. “Serena took care of it, as soon as the judge issued it.”

“Good.”

Regan tugged at the money, and McCoy finally released it. “She’ll be okay, Jack. She did good today. He didn’t get inside her head.”

“I know.”

She stood up and grabbed her jacket. “So don’t let him get inside yours,” she said, and slipped past him out the door.

Colleen turned out to live in an eighth floor apartment with a doorman and working cameras. She had a peephole and a chain and a bolt as well on her apartment door. She had an alarm. Regan checked every window and found them all equipped with good, solid locks.

About to take her leave, she hesitated. “Do you want me to do a walk-through? Or … I can stay a while, if you’d like.”

Colleen smiled, and to Regan’s surprise, hugged her. “No. I’m okay. Thank you, Ms Markham. For everything.”

“Tomorrow morning, do you want me to swing by, pick you up?”

Colleen shook her head. “I can get the doorman to call me a cab.”

“Wait inside until it comes and get him to put you inside it,” Regan said. “And tomorrow I’ll make sure you get home.”

“You can’t do that every night,” Colleen objected.

“Certainly I can,” Regan said calmly. “And you’d better let me, unless you want Jack to produce his spare motorcycle helmet and insist he take you.” Colleen smiled, just a little, but Regan judged it to be a real smile. “Look, it won’t be for long. Rey Curtis worked his charm on one of the desk clerks at Dan’s hotel. She’ll call him when Dan checks out, and we’ll confirm with the airlines that he’s gone. So just until then, let us take care of you, okay?”

Colleen nodded, and Regan took her leave.

Her cell phone rang while she was in the cab on her way back to Hogan Place. She glanced at the screen before she answered. “Jack. I’m on my way back. She’s got good locks, a doorman, it’s an upstairs apartment —”

“Good,” McCoy said. “Where are you?”

Regan looked out the window, seeking street signs. “Sixth and Ninth, more or less.”

“Tell the cab driver to take you to Chinatown. Silk Road House, you know it?”

She did, although it was outside her usual price range, which generally ran to laminex and paper serviettes. “I’ve got a ton of work,” Regan protested. And having dinner together, in a restaurant that has tablecloths, no less, and which is only a few blocks from the office, is not just personally but professionally unwise.

“This is work,” McCoy said. “Neil Gorton wants to meet. Discuss a plea. He suggested the restaurant.”

Regan sighed. Chaperoned by Neil Gorton. That was seventeen different kinds of wrong. “Fine. Silk Road. I’ll see you there.” She hung up, dropped her phone in her breast pocket, and gave the cab driver new directions.

She spotted McCoy walking up the street toward the restaurant as the cab stopped, and waited for him on the sidewalk. “So what made Gorton suddenly decide to deal?” she asked as he reached her.

McCoy smiled at her, particularly damn charming, damn him. “Fine, thank you, Regan, how are you?”

Regan rolled her eyes. “Don’t try and pretend you’ve ever had any time for small talk, Jack. And this isn’t a social occasion.”

“I’ll consider myself told,” McCoy said, but he opened the door of the restaurant for her and guided her through with a hand at the small of her back. It could have passed for gentlemanly manners.

Regan felt his fingers resting on her back as clearly as if there wasn’t even a scrap of cloth between his hand and her skin. Manners, right.

Silk Road House was a small restaurant, maybe two dozen tables in a long, narrow room. Tablecloths and dim lighting and waiters who spoke in hushed voices. Regan guessed it was the sort of place that had a wine list, too. Romantic was probably the word most people would use to describe it.

Or intimate, Regan thought, a shiver of something she refused to name running along her nerves.

McCoy asked for a table for two. When Regan raised an eyebrow, he grinned at her. “I don’t want Neil to get the idea he’s joining us for dinner. Do you want to spend more time with him than absolutely necessary?”

“Dinner?”

McCoy shrugged. “We have to eat. We’re here. We may as well eat here.”

Regan leaned close to him and lowered her voice. “You are going to get me —”

Her phone rang. McCoy waggled his eyebrows suggestively at her. “Saved by the bell.”

Regan glanced at the screen. “It’s Lennie. I better take it.” She pressed the call button, put the phone to her ear and started for the door. “Lennie, hold on a second.”

Neil Gorton was coming in as she reached the door. Regan gave him her best too-busy-to-say-hello smile and ducked outside.

After a few minutes in the air-conditioned restaurant, the evening air felt even more humid. Regan pulled at the front of her blouse, trying to circulate some air. “Have you got something new for me on Rivera?”

“Maybe,” Briscoe said. “We found the vet where she took her cat after it died. He confirmed the room-mate’s story about poison. And get this, he still has the toxicology, because it’s all computerized these days so nothing gets thrown away. He’s going to email it through to us, and forensics says they can identify not just the poison, but the brand of poison from the chemical compound.”

“That’s great, Lennie.” Regan turned back toward the restaurant and watched Gorton and McCoy talking to each. That’s Jack’s you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me face. I bet Gorton just said he was going to move for a dismissal. First step in the dance. McCoy would counter with an over-egged threat to make it a life-sentence case. Neither of them expected to be taken seriously. “Then we can find out everywhere that sells it.”

“And show Rivera’s picture. I know it’s been a year, but someone might remember.”

Another customer opened the door to the restaurant, obscuring Regan’s view. She stepped sideways. McCoy was making a point, hand raised, as the new customer walked up to the cashier. Talking up the evidence. “We might get lucky, maybe he was careless and bought it somewhere he shops a lot. Hey, did C.S.U. find anything like that at his house?”

“No, but there might be trace,” Briscoe said. “They’re going to —”

Whatever the Crime Scene Unit was going to do, Regan didn’t hear. She couldn’t hear Briscoe’s voice at all, she couldn’t hear anything — because the customer who’d just gone into the restaurant had taken out a gun.

And he was pointing it at Jack McCoy.

.oOo.

Chapter 32: Running Silent

Chapter Text

Regan heard her own voice as if it belonged to someone else, saying calm and clear and fast, “Silk Road House, Bayard and Elizabeth, armed robbery in progress.” She forced herself to look away from the gun, to look at the man who held it. Short dark hair, could be Hispanic, I can’t see at this angle …

“I’m putting you on speaker,” Briscoe said. There was a click and then his voice was suddenly further away. “Give me the address again.”

“Silk Road House, Bayard and Elizabeth, armed robbery in progress. Be advised, one male armed with a handgun, sh*t, Lennie, I gotta go, I gotta call 911 —”

“It’s handled,” Briscoe said firmly. “Listen to me, Regan. Uncle Lennie says you have to stay right there and keep talking to me on the phone. And you know, it’s always wise to do what Uncle Lennie tells you, right? Tell me what you see.”

Ignore the gun. It took an effort of will almost beyond Regan to look away from that lethal piece of metal inches from Jack McCoy’s face. How many times had she heard witnesses say it? I don’t know, I don’t know what the guy looked like, I really only saw the gun.

Lennie Briscoe and whoever else was listening didn’t need to know about the gun. They needed to know what the cops responding would walk into. They needed to know practical things that could save lives.

That might save Jack McCoy’s life.

She ignored the gun. “Restaurant is maybe thirty yards deep, narrow. One door at the front, maybe a service at the back where the kitchen is but I don’t know that. Glass. Windows, doors, all glass. View obscured by writing, menus on the windows, all that sh*t.”

“How many people in there?” Briscoe asked.

“It was pretty full when I was in there.” How full? “Maybe fifteen-twenty tables, eighty percent occupied. I see one guy, one gun, maybe five feet from the front door. He’s pointing the gun at Jack. He was waving it around, maybe to scare off anyone thinking of jumping him, but it’s back on Jack.” She edged closer, ducking to see under the S in Silk. “He’s wearing a black T-shirt, tan pants, cargo.” Something familiar about him, as if Regan might have seen him before. “I can’t see his shoes. He has cropped short dark hair, Asian appearance, maybe five-nine or ten and 190 pounds. I can see a tattoo on his arm, I can’t see what it is. I should go in there!”

“No, honey, you know you shouldn’t.”

Regan clenched her fist on the phone. “Lennie, he’s got a gun at my partner’s head, I have to get in there!”

“Cars are on their way, you should be able to see their lights any second. The Lieu is on the radio with them. She’s listening to you. You need to keep telling us what you see, help us out.”

He was right. God f*cking dammit, he’s right. She hated Lennie Briscoe at that moment, more than she’d ever hated anyone in her life. Briscoe, who was the sort of detective Regan would have wanted to be if she’d ever looked to go plainclothes, who’d been nothing but kind to her, and who was, goddamn him to hell, absolutely right that there was nothing she could do to help McCoy except stand impotently on the pavement and tell the listening cops what she could see. “I think most of the customers and staff have moved to the rear of the restaurant. I could see a couple, not any more.” Regan could see the lights from the police cars now, reflecting off the shop-fronts. No sirens. They would have turned those off a block ago, so as not to to alert the robber. The best outcome would be for him to come out with the money and find himself facing unexpected guns. “The cashier is behind the desk. She’s got the drawer open. She’s putting money in a plastic bag. It’s her, Jack, Neil Gorton, and the perp. He’s still got the gun on Jack. He’s taking the money.”

And there were blue-and-whites and one unmarked with a bubble on the dash pulling up either side of the restaurant, cops spilling out of them, drawing their sidearms. One took Regan’s arm, dragging her ungently away from the restaurant. She resisted and then it dawned on her that every second spent dealing with her was wasted time.

She was just a civilian. She was just a witness.

And she was in the way.

She backed up as far as they told her to and stood, phone still to her ear. “I can’t see anymore,” she told Briscoe. “The cops are here and they made me move back.”

A click, again, this time Briscoe taking the phone off speaker-phone. “They’ll handle it,” he said. “You can leave it to them, honey. They’ve got it.”

“Yeah.” As long as the guy with the gun wasn’t crazy, or cranked up on something. As long as nobody in there said or did anything stupid. Jack wouldn’t. He’s prosecuted enough cases like that to know. Say nothing, give them your wallet, don’t make eye-contact.

Live.

This was New York, not a small town like Carthage upstate. The cops were professional, they were trained, they were experienced. Nothing will go wrong.

Regan closed her eyes. “Are they saying anything on the radio, Lennie?”

“They’re going to take him when he comes out,” Briscoe said. “You know that’s the best and safest way —”

Then someone was yelling go-go-go and the cops were running at the front door of the restaurant and Regan knew that something had gone wrong and the best and safest way was no longer an option. The door banged open hard enough to shatter the glass and send it cascading to the ground in a shower of shards and Regan heard a shout of don’t shoot in a voice she didn’t know —

A single gunshot split the night.

.oOo.

Chapter 33: Loud Noises

Chapter Text

So this is probably it.

It wasn’t the first time Jack McCoy’d had a gun pointed at him, not the first time someone had threatened him or even tried to kill him. He’d been lucky, in the past. The police had reached Harlan Barnes before Harlan Barnes had reached him. Robert Barnes had only seemed to be aiming at him. And Emma Whitford had done her best to run him down, back in January, but only managed to come close.

But eventually luck runs out.

When the gun had come out and he’d been ordered to put his hands up, his first thought had been Just my luck that when I finally get Regan to have dinner with me, the restaurant gets held up. It was doubly ironic, because Neil had suggested they meet over a drink at Disbarred, the defense profession’s favorite co*cktail bar on Lafayette. But that wouldn’t have given McCoy an excuse to have dinner with Regan. He’d congratulated himself on how clever he was when Neil agreed to a change of venue, congratulated himself again when Regan agreed to come. So smart you’ll cut yourself had been one of his mother’s favorite reproaches.

Tonight, it looked like she’d been right.

McCoy’s second thought had been Give him your wallet and let him go. He’d sent away more murderers than he could count whose crimes had started as robberies, right up until someone tried to fight back.

The man holding the gun was Asian, perhaps Korean. Five ten, maybe 180 pounds, McCoy noted, careful to only look at him from the corner of his eye. Still, it was enough to be sure he’d be able to pick him out of a line-up.

Regan was still out on the sidewalk. She would have come in by now if she hadn’t seen the gunman through the glass door or the windows. Which meant must have seen him, which meant she’d be calling 911. The police might be there already, outside.

That was, of course, unless his sense of time had gone skewed. McCoy knew that could happen. Witnesses said an assault had gone on for a quarter hour when CCTV proved it had been less than five minutes. Or they said it all happened so fast, it was only a few seconds when they’d been staring down the barrel of a gun for ten minutes.

Which meant Regan might not be out on the sidewalk calling the police, she might be just about to hang up on Lennie Briscoe and walk straight into an armed hold-up.

Just take the money and go, McCoy willed the robber.

Five ten, maybe 180 pounds, jail-house tattoos

And vaguely familiar.

And then the gunman said “How does it feel to have your life in someone’s hands, Mr McCoy?” and McCoy knew it wasn’t a robbery and it wasn’t random and he knew that, quite probably, his luck had run out.

The barrel of the gun was against his cheek. “Five years! Five years for looking at someone! I never even touched any of those bitches! Five years, just for looking!”

That gave McCoy the context he needed to put a name to the face. Laurence Kuen. Looking — with a camera, up the skirts of women on the subway. And putting the pictures on a subscriber website. Five to seven, back in 2001.

Clearly still pissed about it.

McCoy was surprised to find he didn’t feel scared, although his heart was beating fast enough to suggest that he probably was, somewhere on the other side of the strange calm that enveloped him. Goddammit, I thought I had all the time in the world to persuade Regan to take a chance on me. I should have pulled out all the stops and to hell with Arthur Branch.

“Mr Kuen,” he said, and was surprised again that he didn’t sound scared, either.

“They sent me to Fishkill. Fishkill!” Kuen said. “Do you know what it’s like there, Mr McCoy? Do you? What it’s like to be locked up, day after day, with the sort of people they have there?”

It’s supposed to be a prison, not a holiday camp. Saying that would not help. Nor would his second thought, Locked up with other criminals just like yourself?

Regan would know what to say, but Regan, thank god, was safely outside on the sidewalk. All McCoy could think of was Right now, you’re looking at five-to-twenty five for Robbery in the first. Pull the trigger and you’ll do life.

Which would probably be counterproductive.

Everything seemed to be very clear and distinct, if oddly far away. It was nothing like the confused blur of the few seconds on the courthouse steps when he’d seen Robert Barnes holding a gun and thought for a heart-stopping instant it was aimed at him. Then, there hadn’t been time to think, but as the barrel of the gun pressed painfully hard against his cheek, McCoy didn’t seem to be able to do anything but think.

Thinking, for one thing, that it was profoundly ironic that he made his living by out-talking everyone else and he was about to die because he couldn’t think of the right words to save his life.

Thinking that the pressure of the gun was hard enough to raise a bruise. When they brought Kuen to trial, Liz Rodgers would describe that bruise as perimortem when she took the stand. McCoy hoped that whoever Arthur gave the trial to would know to ask her exactly what that meant. Juries need to hear the plain English. It would probably be Tracey Kibre. She’s good. She’ll get a conviction.

And thinking about the mountain of files on his desk. Instead of his life flashing before his eyes, the way it was supposed to, he thought of depositions due to be taken, witnesses who needed to be prepared for trial. It just had to happen when Billy Billy is out sick. I wonder who Arthur will dump them on.

If he’s smart, it’ll be Mike Cutter.

Hope Mike’s up to it.

I hope he’s smart enough to lean on Regan to get him up to speed.

There was absolutely nothing funny about the situation, but McCoy wished he could find a wisecrack. Something that would make Regan laugh when she heard it. If he could know that his last words would make her laugh, it was almost as good as hearing her laugh, and he found that he wanted, more than anything else, to hear Regan Markham laugh just one more time.

He closed his eyes, trying to ignore the cool touch of metal against his cheekbone. “You were right, Neil,” he said, and if his voice was a little hoarse, at least it was absolutely steady. “We should have gone to Disbarred.

“I’m sorry, Jack,” Neil said.

He wished there was something he could say to stop it from happening, but all he could think was no not now not yet –

And then the door banged open and the glass in it broke and crashed to the ground. Several voices were shouting hands up hands up hands up and someone else yelled don’t shoot —

The gunshot was the loudest sound he’d ever heard and Jack McCoy knew he was dead.

.oOo.

Chapter 34: Terrible Ideas

Chapter Text

“Put it down now. Sir, can you hear me? Put the gun down now. Put it down.”

Whatever the afterlife held, McCoy was quite sure it wasn’t the slightly cracking voice of a very young cop doing his level best to sound calm and authoritative.

He opened his eyes.

What was left of Laurence Kuen was sprawled at his feet, half his head a gory ruin. Neil Gorton was standing beside him, clutching a handgun, still in exactly the same position he’d been in when he’d fired. That meant the gun was now pointed at McCoy. A lot of police revolvers were pointed at Neil.

“Oh my god,” Neil said. “I killed him.” His voice rose, shaking wildly. “I killed him! Oh my god, my god.”

“Put the gun down!” The unformed officer with his service revolver pointed at Neil Gorton couldn’t have been more than twenty. “Put it down!”

“Neil,” McCoy said, and had to clear his throat. “Neil. Lower the gun. The police are getting nervous.”

One of the cops, plainclothes in a T shirt and shorts with her badge hanging around her neck, edged closer. “It’s okay now. Lower the gun. Lower it down. Neil. You’re Neil, right? I’m Jenny. Look at me, Neil. Just look at me.” Slowly, Gorton’s head turned. She smiled at him. “There you go. It’s okay now. You can put the gun down. Okay, Neil? Everything’s okay now.”

She reached out slowly and put her hand over Neil’s, gently urging the barrel of the gun down. Once it was pointing at the floor, she took it from his fingers. McCoy heard the click of the safety going on.

There was an audible intake of breath from several of the cops and the tension in the room ratcheted down a notch.

“I had to.” Gorton sounded stunned. “I had to. He was going to kill you, Jack. I had to.”

“The scene is secure,” a patrol officer said into his radio. “Suspect is deceased. No other injuries.”

“He was going to kill you. He came here to kill you,” Gorton said, over and over. “ He was —”

The plainclothes cop, Jenny, handed the gun to one of the patrol offices and took Gorton by the arm. “Step this way, sir. Just come this way now.”

“He was going to —” Neil fell silent, mouth working. “I’m going to be —”

“Not here, you’re not,” she said quickly, and hauled him away from the body with more haste than gentleness.

McCoy looked down at Kuen as Neil began to cough and retch. He’d seen enough scene of crime photos in three decades of prosecution to have long since lost count. He’d chased down details in the Medical Examiners Office often enough to be able to ask questions about toxicology reports across a body opened for autopsy without losing concentration. Still, it should have been different, looking at a man who’d been alive seconds before, lying sprawled in a widening pool of blood.

It wasn’t. Lawrence Kuen was just as flat and distant as a photograph in a case file. Exit wound, McCoy thought remotely, looking at the hole in the side of his scalp. The entry point won’t be much bigger than a pencil.

Kuen’s gun was lying beside his limp hand. McCoy could recognize it as a revolver, but he’d never had to concern himself about identifying makes and models except to be sure that whatever his witnesses were going to say matched the physical evidence. It looked bigger than the gun Neil had been holding. It looked smaller than it had felt, pressed against his skin.

He was about to fire. That’s why they came in. Because they thought he was about to fire. McCoy had led testimony from police officers on direct about just such circ*mstances as these — he could hear their voices as if they were right there in the restaurant with him. We followed procedure to contain the situation … our goal was to take the suspect when he exited the building … when it became apparent the suspect was about to —

About to fire.

It had very nearly been him on the floor, lying with that particular limp sprawl that only the dead ever had. It had very nearly been his blood spreading dark and red across the tiles.

“Mr McCoy.” From the patience in the young patrol officer’s voice, it wasn’t the first time he’d said it. “Mr McCoy. Can you hear me, Mr McCoy?”

“Of course I can,” he said testily, and then flinched as a bright light flared across the windows.

“It’s just a flash, Mr McCoy,” the officer reassured. “There’s a photographer out there, and when he takes a picture the —”

“I know what flash photography is,” McCoy said. “My A.D.A, Ms Markham. She stepped out to take a call. Where is she?”

The young man hesitated. “I don’t — I don’t have any information on that at this time.”

She was outside. There was only one shot, and that was Neil. And she was outside.

But bullets always went further than anyone would imagine. McCoy had prosecuted a case where a fool using empty bottles for target practice had killed an old lady sitting on her porch half a block away. He’d secured a conviction for the gang enforcer whose shot had missed his target and gone through a wall to shatter the skull of a toddler asleep in her bed.

Bullets could go through flesh and bone and keep going.

Find her,” McCoy snapped.

“I will.” The officer swallowed. “But if you could just — just come with me, sir? Just step this way? C.S.U. needs to get at the body.”

McCoy had to concede that it was reasonable request. He tried to step around the pool of blood and over the body at the same time, but it was more complicated than he’d expected. He found himself standing still, staring at Lawrence Kuen’s slack face.

“Mr McCoy?”

Outside, someone was shouting. No, not shouting. A level voice, pitched to carry, cutting through everything else, steady and even and admitting not even the slightest possibility of argument. “And if you want to stop me you’ll have to arrest me and good luck explaining that to your captain.”

He knew that voice, knew that implacably calm tone. Regan. Regan, outside, and unhurt — or at least, not badly enough hurt to prevent her going toe-to-toe with whichever hapless police officer was trying to keep her outside the scene of the shooting. Step over the body. Step over the body, walk to the door, and go outside to where Regan is. It was easy, or at least, it would be easy, if he could just work out which foot to lift. Left? Right?

It was an impossible dilemma.

The shattered ruin of the front door banged open again and Regan came through at a pace just short of a run, her A.D.A’s badge out and open.

“Ma’am, you can’t —”

McCoy lost the rest of the sentence as Regan’s gaze found his and for just an instant her preternatural calm cracked. She took one deep breath, a gasp he heard despite the murmur of voices and the sirens coming closer down the street. “Jack.”

He wanted to go to her, but Lawrence Kuen’s body was between them and he couldn’t reach her past it —

Regan slipped past the patrol officer reaching for her arm with one neat sideways turn and stepped over Kuen’s body with no more than a glance. She touched McCoy’s cheek with the back of her fingers. “Jack,” she said again, and then took him in her arms.

She was a warm and solid presence in a room gone cold and distant and far too bright. Her fingers dug into his back, her arms firm around him. She held him so closely to her that he could feel her heart hammering in her chest, feel every shuddering breath she took.

McCoy held on to her as tightly as she held him, the knobs of her spine hard beneath his palm.

Then Regan let him go and leaned back a little, taking his face between her hands. “I told you dinner was a terrible idea.”

McCoy laughed, and then stopped at the unfamiliar sharp edge to his voice.

“You’re all right.” She stroked his cheek, her fingers as firm and gentle as her voice. “You’re all right. You’re all right.”

The young patrol officer cleared his throat. “Uh — counselors. The guy from the M.E’s Office needs to get to the body.”

Involuntarily, McCoy started to look down. Regan’s hands on his face stopped him. “Look at me,” she said quietly. “Just at me.”

He let her guide him around the body and out into the street, where E.M.Ts took him from her and made him sit on the tailgate of an ambulance. More reporters had turned up: McCoy could see the floodlights for the TV reporters as well as more star-burst flashes of photographers.

Regan stayed near him as they checked him over. Someone put a foil blanket around his shoulders, and someone else gave him a cup that steamed slightly, even in the warm evening air. “I’m fine,” he said testily. “The other guy got shot.”

“Jack.” Regan’s voice brooked no argument. “You’re in shock. Let them do their thing.”

McCoy raised the cup to his lips and realized his hands were shaking. Shock, he thought distantly, concentrated, and stilled them long to take a sip. Tea, but so milky and sweet it barely tasted like it.

Shock seemed to be an appropriate and yet wholly inadequate word for what he felt. Shock certainly covered a gun in his face, the moment when he’d understood that it was held by a man who had every intention of killing him.

Shock, however, wasn’t enough for the sickening realization that came every minute that he had very nearly not been here, that he had very nearly been a name like all the names he’d said in court over the years, Toni Ricci, Angela DiNuzio, Mary Firienze, Andrew Pleasant, Alexandra Borgia, names that the prosecutor had to say and repeat so that the jury understood that the trial was about real people, real people who couldn’t speak for themselves. Would it have been Kibre, who’d have handled the case? Cutter? Who’d have said his name to the jury over and over again while the defense referred to him as ‘the victim in this case’? Jack McCoy. Homicide victim.

“Don’t think about it, Jack,” Regan said. When he turned to look at her in surprise she was looking at him with impersonal kindness. “It doesn’t help.”

“How did you – ” he started to say, confused. Had he spoken aloud?

“I’ve ridden this roller-coaster,” she said.

Don't think about it. Deliberately, McCoy turned his thoughts away from what had happened and from what had almost happened, towards what would happen. There’d be an investigation, standard procedure for a fatal shooting, even as clear-cut a case of self-defense as this one. Which precinct are we in? He ought to know that, but try as he might, he couldn't bring it to mind. He scrubbed his hand over his face as if he could rub the confusion away, and then realized it didn't matter. How does it feel to have your life in someone’s hands, Mr McCoy?

He knew who I was.

He was here because of who I was.

“Officer,” he said to the nearest patrol officer, “you’d better call Major Case.”

The policewoman raised an eyebrow. “For a botched robbery?”

McCoy shook his head. “It wasn’t a robbery. He knew who I was. He came here to shoot me. Intended murder of an officer of the court.”

The officer took out her notebook. “Can you tell me what happened?”

McCoy glared at her. “And then tell the detectives all over again, and then give a statement at One PP? I’m in court in the morning —”

Regan put her hand on his arm. “This is how it works. If you think about it for a moment, you’ll know that. And you aren’t in court in the morning. We’ll get you a continuance.”

“I’m perfectly able,” McCoy snapped, “to —”

Regan spoke over him, quiet and even. “No, you aren’t, and you need to shut up now and listen to me. Tell the officer what you saw. Then you’ll tell the detectives, and then we’ll go in and you’ll tell it again. Then I’ll take you home, and tomorrow, you won’t go to work. That’s what’s going to happen, Jack, so you might as well get on board with the idea now.”

McCoy frowned at her. “And I have no say in the matter?”

“No,” Regan said, implacable. “So talk to the officer.”

McCoy gave his statement, concentrating on choosing the right words and not on the images they described. He couldn't imagine there’d be any doubt that Neil had acted in the reasonable belief that Lawrence Kuen had been about to use deadly physical force against what the statute termed a third person — in other words, McCoy himself — but just to be sure, McCoy made that clear to the young officer. In case he did end up on the witness stand, he stuck scrupulously to only what he’d seen, but he made sure to get all the right words and phrases in, making sure they’d be in the reports from the very beginning. I recognized him as someone I prosecuted … he addressed me by name … as well as I can recall, his exact words … I had no doubt he was about to shoot me …

He had to admit that he’d closed his eyes in the final moments, that he hadn’t seen the police burst into the restaurant or Neil Gorton fire the fatal shot.

“Does he — Mr Gorton — does he usually carry a weapon?” the policewoman asked.

McCoy gave a tired laugh. “We’re not on those sort of terms, Officer. He certainly wouldn’t be able to carry it into the courthouse or into any meetings at One Hogan Place. Apart from that, I don’t know.”

The police left him alone for a while after that. Regan sat next to him on the tailgate of the ambulance, fingers laced through his, and they watched Neil Gorton being led out of the restaurant and helped into an unmarked car.

“How come he gets to go home and I don’t?” McCoy asked with some asperity.

“He’s not going home,” Regan said. “He shot someone, and the person he shot is dead. He’s going somewhere where they’ll process him for evidence and then he’s going to spend time in a small room with two cops.”

“It’s not a case I’d care to prosecute.”

Regan shrugged a little. “I doubt they’ll even charge him but they have to touch every base.”

McCoy pushed the foil blanket off his shoulders. It shivered and rustled with the tremor in his fingers. “Dammit.”

“That’s adrenaline,” Regan said. “It’ll stop in about half an hour.”

“How do you know?”

“It always did for me.”

“Always?” McCoy turned to look at her. “How many times did you get shot?”

“Twice, like I told you. Twice, actually. Five times, almost.” She smiled at him. “Almost is a lot better than actually, except with almost there’s a lot of paperwork.”

He raised his eyebrows. “No paperwork with actually?”

“Even more, but someone else does it.” She squeezed his hand. “Little bit longer. That’s all.”

Then Mike Logan and Megan Wheeler arrived to talk to him. Regan stood up to make room for them. Her fingers slipped from his and McCoy was unmoored again, in a world more and more unreal, as if he was in the middle of a a film set painted in too-bright colors, peopled by actors talking a little too loudly.

“Jack,” Logan said, sitting down next to him. “You finally annoyed someone into taking a shot at you. That’s a step up from attempted vehicular homicide.”

He was referring to the murder suspect who’d tried to run McCoy down at the beginning of the year. The same woman had put several bullets in Logan himself, and was serving back-to-back life sentences.

“Lawrence Kuen, K-U-E-N. He got five years back in ‘01 …”

McCoy went through the whole story again, Logan and Wheeler both taking notes. The Logan turned to Regan. “You see anything?”

“I saw the man that Jack identified as Kuen through the window, pointing a gun at Jack. I was on the phone to Lennie Briscoe at the time. I told him everything I saw as I saw it —”

Logan nodded. “Yeah, and Ed Green hit the record button as soon as you were on speaker-phone. We listened to it on the car on the way over. You didn’t see the shooting, right?”

Regan shook her head. “They moved me back up the street a ways a while before that. I can’t say anything about what happened once the police arrived.”

“And before? Did you see the guy go in?”

“Yeah, he walked right past me. I wasn’t paying a lot of attention, though. I …” She shook her head again. “I can’t remember anything that I couldn’t swear I was filling in from what I saw through the window. I didn’t see a gun, when he was going in the door. I am sure of that. It would have registered.”

“Was he carrying anything?” Logan asked. “Bag, backpack, anything like that?”

“I don’t know, Mike, I’m sorry.”

Logan nodded. “Okay. You two have to take a ride with us. Sorry about that. But you know, sooner we get this written up and signed the better.”

McCoy nodded resignedly. Police officers had to be sticklers for procedure because delay let defense lawyers claim that errors might have crept into the testimony. “Let’s get it over with.”

He lost a little bit of time during the trip to One Police Plaza, a moment of greyness and then suddenly they were there and getting out of the car. After the warmth of the evening, the air-conditioning inside One PP was glacial enough to make him shiver.

He got in the elevator and as the doors closed their steel surface showed him a distorted picture of himself, startlingly pale, a spray of something across his shoulder and one cheek and into his hair —

He touched it. “What is — is this —”

Regan took his wrist, gently but firmly. “Mike, is there somewhere Jack can clean up before he reads through his statement?”

“Sure,” Logan said. The doors opened on the eighth floor and he pointed down the corridor. “Men’s Room through there.”

“And maybe you might have a clean shirt?” Regan asked.

Logan nodded. “Come with me,” he said. “I’ll have something in my locker.”

.oOo.

Chapter 35: A Highway At Night

Chapter Text

One Police Plaza

8.30 pm Thursday 19 July 2007

Regan slung Logan’s shirt over her shoulder and rapped on the Men’s Room door. “Jack?”

His familiar rasp was unmistakable, even muffled by the door. “Yeah.”

She took it as an invitation and pushed open the door. McCoy had stripped off his shirt and was swiping at the blood that had soaked through it to his undershirt and skin with a wet paper towel. He lifted his head to meet Regan’s gaze in the mirror, and then looked at his own reflection.

“I think this stuff in my hair is his brains,” he said distantly, and then was suddenly all frantic movement, scrubbing the side of his head with the towel, abandoning the effort to cup both hands under the tap and splash water over his head, again and then again, red spiraling down the drain and splashing on the tiled floor.

Regan hung the shirt over the hand-dryer. “Stop it,” she said, taking McCoy by the shoulders and turning him towards her. “It's over. It's over.”

He was shaking, steady tremors that Regan recognized as the last ebbing traces of adrenaline gone sour. “He — and I —”

“Shh,” Regan said, pulling him to her. She wrapped her arms around him, bloodstains and all. “Shh, shhh. It's over. You're okay. We're okay. Shhh.”

“I should have been thinking about Rebecca. About Lisbeth. About my nephew,” he said against her neck. “And I was worrying about the stack of cases on my desk and trying to find the right wisecrack for my last words.”

“Well, you are Jack McCoy,” Regan said reasonably, and felt him laugh a little. “What did you come up with?”

He let her go. “I told Neil that he’d been right, that we should have gone to Debarred.”

Regan co*cked her head and narrowed her eyes, pretending to think. “Passable,” she declared. I knew it. I knew the second we walked in there that it was one more Jack McCoy ploy.

His mouth twitched up, and then he sobered. “What does it say, that I didn’t think about my daughter?”

“Lean over the sink, I’ll clean you up.” She turned him with a hand on his shoulder and he bent forward obediently. Regan ran the tap and began to scoop water over his head. “It says that you still think you’re immortal, which I could have told you, since you ride that damn donor-cycle in New York traffic. It says that you didn’t really believe you were about to die.” The last of the blood swirled away down the drain. Regan cupped one more handful of water and trickled it over McCoy’s head. I baptize thee

Jack McCoy, friend, partner.

And, as she’d known the instant she’d heard the gunshot, in those interminable seconds until Lennie Briscoe’s voice said in her ear he’s alright, they’re saying he’s alright, Abbie was right.

He was her boss, her friend and her partner. And he was Jack McCoy, the man I’ve fallen in love with.

“Stand up,” she said, and when he did, she took a handful of paper towels from the dispenser and blotted the water from his face and neck. When she had finished she tossed the towels in the trash, and turned back to McCoy. His eyes were still closed. She lifted her hand and brushed aside the unruly lock of hair that fell across his forehead.

He opened his eyes at her touch. The dazed confusion was gone. He held her gaze very steadily.

Feeling as if she were no longer in control of her body, as if she were carrying out actions laid down for her long ago by someone else, Regan raised her empty hands and cupped McCoy’s face, then ran her fingers through his hair until her hands met at the nape of his neck. She pulled gently, and he bowed his head obediently. Regan pressed her lips to his forehead, a kiss as much benediction as caress.

When she released him, he didn’t move, but stood before her, head bowed against hers, hands resting on her hips, for a long moment. Then he lifted his head and looked at her, clear and very calm.

“Regan,” he said softly, as if her name were a complete sentence, as if it were all he needed to say. Which was funny, really, because it wasn’t even her name, just the name he knew her by.

“I’m here,” she said.

He leaned forward and pressed his lips to her cheek, hands sliding around to the small of her back. “Regan,” he whispered again, lips and breath brushing her skin, and then ducked his head a little to capture her mouth with his. The kiss was tender, the kind of kiss that went with roses and promises and Regan felt her heart give a painful extra beat at the sweetness of it. She leaned into McCoy, feeling the warmth of his body against hers and the strength of the hands spread against her back.

His arms tightened around her and he kissed her more deeply, one hand sliding down to her backside and the other up to cup her head. “Regan,” he said against her mouth and as if that were the match on the kindling his hands tightened on her with bruising force and he pulled her to him almost savagely, kisses turned insistent, demanding.

Regan felt fever rising in her blood to match the ferocity of McCoy’s embrace. Yes, we are alive, she told him wordlessly with the eagerness with which she returned his fervent kisses, with the strength with which she wrapped her arms about him and held him tightly – held him with all the strength she had, held his strong and fragile body, so warm against hers, so terribly vulnerable to the destructive force of a bullet, a knife, held all the miracle of blood and bone and breath that could be destroyed utterly with a moment’s casual violence. Yes, we are alive.

His fingers bit into her hips as he pulled her against him and then, that not enough, pressed her back into the wall. Regan felt the edge of the hand-dryer digging into her shoulder and the tiles against her spine, knew she’d have bruises tomorrow, welcomed the pain as she knotted her fingers in McCoy’s hair and moved urgently against him. He gasped against her mouth and she kissed him more fiercely, yes, we are alive, the heat building inside her erasing fear, erasing the terrifying realization of mortality, erasing everything except want and now and please.

McCoy wrapped his arms around her and crushed her to him and stopped. Regan took a short, painful breath and waited for him to let her go, to step back. He would look at the floor, instead of at her, she knew. He’d say something inconsequential, something to let time move forward and close up behind this moment as if it had never happened. Or he might apologize.

If he apologized, Regan didn’t think she could stand it.

It took her a moment to realize that he wasn’t letting her go. His hands were still warm on her back, his arms around her, steady and strong. When he did move, it was only to slide one hand up her back to cup the nape of her neck. He pressed his lips to her cheek. She was trembling, her knees almost buckling, and she could feel his heart hammering in his chest.

They stood locked together, Regan didn’t know for how long, long enough for their breathing to return to something closer to normal. She felt like she could have stayed forever in the Men’s Room of Major Case in Jack McCoy’s arms, feeling his breath warm on her cheek, the muscles of his back under her hands.

The knock on the door started them both. “Jack?” Logan called. “We’re ready for you.”

“I’ll be right there,” McCoy called hoarsely.

“Saved by the bell,” Regan whispered.

He kissed her, deeply but with none of the frantic urgency that had possessed them both only a moment before. As her mouth opened beneath his and his arms tightened around her, Regan tasted his kiss like a promise, like a promise kept, and tears started to her eyes.

“The bell isn’t what saved me.” McCoy loosened his grip on her, hands lingering at her hips for a moment before he pulled away and reached for the clean shirt she’d brought him. When he’d pulled it on he turned towards the door, then hesitated and turned back.

“They’re waiting for you,” Regan said.

“When it’s over – ” McCoy said, and stopped.

“When it’s over, I’ll be waiting for you,” Regan promised him.

She stood in the Men’s Room a moment longer after he’d gone, leaning against the cold tiles of the wall. She knew she should be thinking about what had just happened, about what was going to happen next, but she didn’t. She didn’t think about anything. The time for thinking, for pondering and deciding, it seemed to her, was gone. Now there was only moving inexorably forward, like driving a highway at night, the black road rolling under her tires, taking her inevitably to the place she had been going all along.

.oOo.

Chapter 36: Rollercoaster

Chapter Text

One Police Plaza

10 pm Thursday 19 July 2007

Logan and Wheeler made the formal processes as quick and painless as possible. It was a side of police work that McCoy never saw and rarely thought about, dealing with witnesses. Interviewing suspects, yes, that was a part of making the case he paid close attention to, watched in person from time to time, even now. Whatever the defendant said to the arresting officers was almost always important to the case McCoy had to made in the courtroom. And the nuts and bolts of detective work invariably came out on direct as McCoy’s police witnesses walked the jury through the logic that had led to the defendant’s arrest.

Witness statements, however, arrived on his desk as a simple narrative, shorn of questions and comments, and McCoy’s only interest in them was the facts they conveyed. The way the witness told their story on the stand mattered — sometimes it was the one factor that made the difference between conviction and acquittal — but the way they had told it to the police was completely irrelevant.

Now he found himself observing the two detectives with a certain professional curiosity. Mike Logan was casual, leaning back in his chair with one arm flung over the back of it. We all know this is just routine, that pose said. In case McCoy hadn’t gotten the message, Logan prefaced most of his remarks with phrases like Just bear with me and Sorry, just a quick question.

Megan Wheeler, in contrast, was all business: bolt upright in her chair, absolutely still except for the hand holding her pen as she made occasional corrections to the pages she’d typed up while McCoy changed his shirt and washed off Kuen’s blood. She parsed every sentence for possible ambiguities and points of confusion. By the time she was done and McCoy was signing each page of the statement, it was a crystal clear account of the evening.

Even if it does sound like it was written by someone else.

In fact, he realized as he scrawled John J McCoy at the bottom of the last page, it read more like Regan’s drafts of opening and closing statements for trials than anything he’d ever write himself. “Do they teach you to write like this?” he asked Wheeler as he put the pen down.

“We can’t all rise to your standards of eloquence, Jack,” Logan said, smiling.

“At the Academy,” Wheeler said. “Why?”

“It’s … a distinctive style,” McCoy said, striving for a balance between truth and tact.

Wheeler shrugged a little as she checked each page of the statement to make sure McCoy had signed them all. “They teach us to make sure a defense attorney won’t start waving around a copy of a witness statement that got turned over to him on discovery and pointing out all the holes in it to a jury.”

McCoy raised his eyebrows. “I haven’t seen a lawyer try that more than once or twice in thirty years.”

“That’s because of our distinctive style,” Logan said sardonically. He stood up. “I’ll organize a blue-and-white to run you home. I’d offer to take you ourselves, but —”

McCoy nodded, getting up. He picked up his suit jacket from the back of the chair and checked that his tie was still in the pocket where he’d put it when he’d changed his shirt. “You have work to do.”

“That, and the fact that Wheeler insists on driving,” Logan said, opening the door for McCoy. “Takes years off my life every time I get in the car.”

“I have never had an accident —” Wheeler said, and then stopped as Logan mimed casting a fishing line and reeling in a catch.

McCoy was smiling as he stepped into the corridor. Regan was waiting for him, leaning against the wall with her arms folded. Take a picture and call it ‘Cop waiting’.

He stopped in front of her. “You write like a cop,” he said.

Her eyebrows went up. “Is that a polite way of saying badly?”

“Yes.” McCoy gave in to the temptation to put his hand on her shoulder. “But now I know why, I know how to fix it. Mike’s getting someone to take us home. Apparently Detective Wheeler drives —”

Regan nodded. “Like Fernando Alonso on speed, according to both Serena and Rey.” She studied his face. “How are you feeling?”

He shook his head. “I’m fine.” The corners of Regan’s mouth quirked downward, and McCoy insisted, “I am.” It was the truth: his hands had finally stopped shaking sometime during his interview with Logan and Wheeler and the corridor no longer had the odd flat brightness as when he’d arrived at One PP.

“You will be, anyway,” Regan conceded. “Colleen is moving everything off your schedule for tomorrow. Kibre is going to handle getting a continuance on Darley. The Mayor’s media people are handling any press inquiries.”

The press. “Rebecca,” McCoy said. “There were cameras there, reporters. They’ll make a meal of it — she shouldn’t hear about it like that. I don’t even have her phone number, dammit, she won’t let Ellen — ” And why couldn’t Ellen realize that a decision Rebecca made when she was a stubborn, angry eighteen-year-old shouldn’t be allowed to stick? Why can’t Rebecca come to terms with the fact that her parents divorced and just call me?

And why couldn’t I find it in me to be a decent enough husband and father for my grown daughter to at least let me have her damn phone number?

Regan squeezed his arm. “Rebecca is fine, Jack. Colleen called your wife. Your ex-wife. She was still in the office, and Colleen told her what happened, told her you were fine. She told Colleen she’d let Rebecca know.”

“And Lisbeth?” McCoy asked, the sudden anger ebbing as quickly as it had flared. “And — Christ, Abbie!”

“All okay,” Regan said. “Colleen talked to Lisbeth, I called Abbie.” She shrugged a little. “We’ve been playing it down, bystander at a stick-up sort of thing. It’s how all the official statements are running at the moment. I think they want the Mayor and Arthur to stand up together tomorrow morning and give the official line on …” Her voice trailed away.

McCoy nodded. “On someone trying to murder a prosecutor.” Another thought struck him. “Neil’s name will get out. I need to call Jamie. Neil won’t call her — she’ll need to tell Katie before it hits the news.”

“Call her from the car,” Regan suggested, looking past him. “Mike’s either trying to signal that the car is ready or trying to tell me he’s off to milk a cow.”

“Or arrest a cow,” McCoy suggested. “If it belongs to Mrs O’Leary.” Regan looked blank. “Chicago humor.”

She hooked her arm through his and got him moving toward the elevator. “Did Mrs O’Leary’s cow play for the Cubs or something?”

“Given their record, I wouldn’t be surprised.” He let her draw him into the elevator when it arrived. “Mrs O’Leary’s cow was popularly blamed for starting the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. It’s a classic example of anti-Irish prejudice and you’ll eventually hear about that cow from more than one defense attorney trying to convince a jury that their client is the innocent victim of racism.”

Regan pressed the button for the ground floor. “Because the cow was Irish?”

Mrs O’Leary was Irish —” He stopped. Regan was utterly deadpan but there was a tell-tale crinkle at the corners of her eyes.

Mike Logan, cracking jokes about police report writing and Wheeler’s driving. Both of them, in the interview room, everything calculated to keep the witness both relaxed and focused, to build rapport. Building that bridge of empathy that will lead some random citizen unfortunate enough to witness a crime all the way to the witness stand, a fully-subscribed member of the prosecution team.

Exactly as Regan is doing right damn now.

“Stop being a damn cop,” McCoy snapped. “I don’t need you to coddle me or win me over!”

Regan paused. “Remember that night we got a location on Phillip Watts out of Gervits?”

The abrupt change of subject threw him for a second or two, and scrambling after the memory distracted him from his irritation. Regan, blotting blood from a split lip with fingers that tremble. “I took a dive,” she says, and though her voice is steady there’s a tension to it that McCoy has heard a hundred times before, in the voices of witnesses pushed to the limit. To the limit, and beyond it.

“The night you got his location,” McCoy corrected. The doors opened and they stepped out into the lobby.

Regan shrugged. “Potato, Potahto. Remember, we split a pizza and a bottle of wine and you told me about the first time you handled an arraignment before Judge Janice Goldberg. I still can’t believe she was on the bench back then.”

McCoy stepped ahead of Regan to open the door for her. “She’s a New York institution. I’d be willing to bet she was born fifty years old with a gavel in her hand.”

“No takers.” The patrol car was waiting at the curb. One of the uniformed officers got out and opened the passenger door.

McCoy got in as Regan went around to the other side. He waited until she was in the car and fastening her seatbelt. “What does Janice Goldberg have to do with anything?”

“All I remember about that story is that it somehow involved Germaine Greer and it was hilarious. And your perp got R.O.R’d.”

“She’d read that article I wrote and decided to have a little fun with the co*cky young A.D.A,” McCoy said. “I woke up in a cold sweat remembering that for months.”

She turned to look at him. “Then why did you tell the story to me? And why that night?”

He shrugged. “You were shaken up. You needed …” He paused. “A distraction. Dammit. I’m being an asshole again, aren’t I?”

“No,” Regan said gently. “You’re just shaken up.” She reached across the backseat and touched his hand. “Call Jamie.”

McCoy nodded and took out his cell phone, finding Jamie’s number in the contacts directory. He realized as the call went through that he had no idea what time it was, whether or not he’d be waking her up.

Not that late. Jamie answered on the second ring. “Hello, Jack,” she said, her tone far too light for her to have heard what had happened. Her next words confirmed it. “What is it this time, emergency search warrant or 7 am motions hearing?”

“Neither,” he said. “Jamie. Listen, everything’s alright. But there was an … an incident. An armed robbery.” No need to tell her that he’d been the target of a murderer. “I was meeting Neil over a case. Neil shot the man before he could shoot anyone else. He wasn’t hurt, but there were reporters at the scene. I didn’t think you or Katie should hear about it on the news.”

“Neil shot someone?” Jamie said incredulously. “He doesn’t even have a gun!”

“He had a gun tonight,” McCoy said. “I’m a witness, Jamie, so I don’t know, I can’t know, which way the police or the Office will move on this but the guy had a gun to — to someone’s head. I don’t think you need to worry. I think it’s going to be self-defense all the way. But I guess it’s going to be big news tomorrow. I didn’t want you, or Katie, to be ambushed by it.”

“Yeah,” Jamie said slowly. “Thanks. And you were there? Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” he said. “On my way home.”

“By yourself?” Jamie asked, a touch of concern in her voice.

“Two cops and an A.D.A. to make sure I get inside the door,” McCoy said. He didn’t say so there’s no danger of me ending up in a bar. They never talked about the fact that Jamie had seen the worst of his drinking, but he knew she was never entirely convinced he wasn’t still in danger of crawling all the way into a bottle.

“The A.D.A. — your Regan Markham?”

“Yeah,” McCoy said. My Regan Markham, if this night had gone even slightly according to plan.

“Let me talk to her,” Jamie said.

McCoy held the phone out to Regan. “Apparently, it’s for you,” he said.

Regan took the phone and listened for a moment. “I will, Judge Ross,” she said. “Do you want – okay.”

She closed the phone and gave it back to McCoy.

“What did Jamie want?” he asked.

“She told me not to let you sweet-talk me into bed,” Regan said calmly and one of the cops in the front seat choked trying to smother laugher.

McCoy looked at her, sitting serenely beside him in the squad car. He might have been wrong when he accused her of trying to manage him like any witness, but he wasn’t wrong about the calm compassion in her face. It was Regan’s cop face, the one she wore when something called up the woman she’d been on the force.

She hadn’t been wearing it as she came through the door of the restaurant, ignoring everything her training and her experience would have instilled in her about crime scene protocols. When she’d touched him, he’d known for the first time that he was all right. When he’d taken her in his arms, it had been as if in holding her he was holding everything that mattered in his life, keeping all of it safe and whole.

He’d known, seeing that moment’s unguarded, desperate relief on Regan’s face when she saw him, how it was for her – for all her talk about decisions, about being sensible, about working relationships versus silly flings.

He’d realized, holding her, how it was for him.

McCoy wasn’t sure which had surprised him more.

And now she was putting a distance between them. He didn’t want the good cop. There were a dozen officers he knew who could put on that same kindly, impersonal face. He wanted the woman in the car with him to be the woman who’d looked at him as if he was all in the world she wanted to see, the woman whose arms around him had held him with more strength than he’d thought she possessed. He wanted her composure to crack again, as it had when he’d kissed her at One PP, he wanted to see the fierce tenderness she hid beneath it.

He reached out across the backseat of the car and touched her hand. “Should I be pissed with Jamie for giving away my game plan?”

Regan smiled. “Depend on how good a line you got going in sweet-talk,” she said. He ran his fingers across the back of her hand, a slow figure eight, holding her gaze, and saw her lips part a little, her cheeks color.

She turned her hand over and folded her fingers around his, holding him still. “I’m going to order some food,” she said. “You got a preference?”

He shook his head. “I’m not hungry.”

“You will be,” Regan said, calmly confident. She took out her own phone. “Mr Huang’s okay? It’s on the way.”

They stopped at the restaurant, and one of the patrol officers ran inside to pick up the food Regan had ordered. A block later, and the blue-and-white let them out at McCoy’s building. Regan carried the paper bag stacked with takeaway containers in one hand and took McCoy’s arm with the other. He felt himself getting irritated with her all over again. As if I’ve been rendered incapable of reaching my own apartment.

He shook her hand off as they crossed the lobby of the building. “What did Jamie really say to you? On the phone?”

“Not to let you drink too much,” Regan said.

“Then why did you say what you did?” Christ, she’s the one worried about appearances and Arthur Branch. He pushed the call button for the elevator harder than necessary.

“Because if I’d said she told me to make sure you ate something, you would have refused to let me order dinner out of sheer mule-headed stubbornness,” Regan said. “I couldn’t think of anything else. I figured two guys in the bag from the 13th joking about what a player you are was a lot better than having them talking about how you maybe have a drinking problem.”

The elevator arrived. McCoy held the door for Regan and then followed her on. “I don’t have a drinking problem,” he said, pressing the button for his floor.

“I know. I would have noticed.”

“Jamie thinks … I had a problem. I …” McCoy found it suddenly important to make Regan understand. “When Jamie worked with me, I drank more than she thought I should. But I didn’t have a drinking problem. I was …”

“I know,” Regan said again, gently. “You were employing a suboptimal coping strategy.

McCoy paused in the act of stepping off the elevator. “That’s what Liz called it,” he said. “Liz Olivet.”

“I guess it’s standard shrink bullsh*t,” Regan said, “because I was quoting Dr Skoda.” She followed him down the hallway. “I didn’t know you’d seen Dr Olivet.”

“I didn’t,” McCoy said tartly, fishing out his keys. “She saw me. It took me a while to work out that she wasn’t just happening to drop by my office for coffee and a chat once a week.” He realized his hands were shaking again, shaking too badly for him to get the key in the lock.

Regan took them from him matter-of-factly and unlocked the door. “And when you worked it out?”

“I started calling Emil when we needed a consultant psychiatrist.” He followed her through the door. “Liz and I are on speaking terms again now, but it took a few years.” He paused. “She was trying to help, but …” Liz is gentle and kind and so sympathetic that McCoy feels like a dog that she’s found hit by a car at the side of the road. It fills him with anger, an anger that he welcomes because it’s infinitely preferable to everything else he feels these days. Yes, he misses Claire, but he can work his way and drink his way through it. He’s injured, but injuries heal. There is absolutely no reason for Liz to look at him with such aching sadness.

Because if he admits that his loss is of such magnitude as to warrant Liz Olivet looking at him as if he’d just received a terminal diagnosis, so great that a couple of belts of scotch and late nights with the law reports won’t get him past it …

Then he’ll have to admit there’s no way to get past it at all.

The anger and the sense of loss so acute it was a physical pain washed over him again, as sharply as if no time at all had passed.

“You preferred your own suboptimal coping strategies,” Regan said, and McCoy blinked, suddenly unsure if he’d spoken aloud or not.“Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.” Regan kicked the door closed behind them. “Kitchen,” she said. “Food.”

He hung his jacket on one of the hooks by the door. I wonder if the dry-cleaner will be able to get the blood out. “I’m not hungry —”

“You’re white as paper and shaking. You need to eat something before you fall on your face.”

He put his hands in his pockets.“You said that was adrenaline.”

“It was adrenaline, when I said it. Now it’s low blood-sugar. Come into the kitchen and eat something before you fall into a hypoglycemic coma or something and I have to remember whether I’m supposed to pour orange juice up your nose or put your hand in a bowl of warm water.”

He followed her into the kitchen. “The bowl of water is a frat house prank.” Which she very well knows. Ten years in uniform, she could do basic first aid in her sleep. Another distraction, another damn patronizing, manipulative strategy —

“There you go. Better not to cast yourself on my tender-but-not-very-well-informed mercies.” Regan began to unpack the food. “Sit. Eat.”

“I said, I’m not hungry. I’m not a child, Regan, I know whether or not I —” The opened containers released a mingled aroma of Mongolian beef, chow mein and sesame chicken and McCoy’s stomach gave a ferocious growl. He realized that he was more than hungry, he was starving, so ravenous that he was light-headed and weak-kneed. He sat down hastily and grabbed the nearest container.

Regan, sitting opposite him, applied herself to her food with the same eagerness, and for a while the only thing either of them said started with could you pass me the —

The containers were all but empty when McCoy put his chopsticks down and leaned back in his chair. “You were right,” he said.

“I know,” Regan said calmly.

He eyed the last shrimp, but found he was too tired to raise his chopsticks to pick it up. “I’m sorry I —” A yawn surprised him.

“I know,” she said again, just as calmly. “Three down, one to go.”

“What?”

“One ‘S’ is followed by four more,” Regan said. “Shooting followed by shock, shaking, starving and sleep.”

“They teach you that at the Academy?”

She smiled. “I got that from my first partner. Ken Hirata. Twenty year veteran, serving out his last five breaking in rookies. I got almost shot for the first time answering a domestic disturbance with him. I was almost exactly as damn stupid and as damn stubborn as you are, telling him how fine I was while my hands shook so hard I couldn’t even open the door of the patrol car.”

“Tell me —” Another yawn interrupted him. “Tell me about him.”

Regan shrugged a little. “What do you want to know?”

“Anything.” He raised his eyebrows. “I told you about Janice Goldberg R.O.Ring my defendant because I didn’t get her joke about The Female Eunuch. Your turn.”

“I still don’t believe that story,” Regan said. “Goldberg hasn’t given bail under two hundred thou in living memory.”

“It was a weak case. I ended up agreeing to a plea of reckless wounding to avoid an outright acquittal. Your turn, Regan. Tell me a story.”

“Okay.” She began to stack the takeaway containers together. “So, week two on the job, my uniform still had store creases in it, not yet authorized to carry a service weapon, Hirata and me get a call. Reported deceased, check it out. So we roll lights-and-sirens all the way and I’m sh*tting myself.” She got up and carried the takeaway containers to the kitchen trash. “I’d never seen a D.B. I’m wondering if I’m going to faint, or ralph, or disgrace myself in some other way, and meanwhile Hirata has his foot to the floor and he’s telling me about all the floaters and three-week decomps he’s ever seen.” She dropped the containers in the trash and turned, leaning back against the sink. “I’d guess you wouldn’t have ever seen a floater.”

“You’d guess wrong,” McCoy said. His eyes wanted to close, and he forced himself to keep them open. “When I was doing your job, I spent my share of time asking M.Es questions over autopsies.”

“Well, I hadn’t, then, and Hirata made it sound even worse than it is, if you can imagine such a thing. By the time we get there, I’m sure that whatever I’m about to see is going to be unimaginably bad. We go in, there’s a middle-aged lady in the living room saying her husband is dead in the bedroom. It turns out she’s covered him with a sheet. Hirata checks him while I stand near the door trying not to look too closely. He says, yeah, he’s dead, you stay with him while I go call the meat-wagon. So there’s me, in the room alone with this corpse under a sheet, working up my courage to take a look. And just when I take a step forward, suddenly —”

“Suddenly?” McCoy asked when she didn’t go on.

“He sits straight up, and —” Regan held her arms straight out in front of her. “Brains ” she groaned in the best approved horror movie style. “Braaainsss The guy under the sheet was James Killen, one of Hirata’s friends from a different station. The two of them ran the same joke on every one of the rookies. Hirata was the corpse for Killen’s newbies, and vice versa.”

McCoy could remember the picture he’d seen of Regan, on her graduation day, so young, so earnest. “What did you do?”

“I peed my pants.” Regan grinned. “And then I tased his ass. Hirata comes racing back in and Killen is lying on the floor twitching and I’m saying he’s a zombie, he’s a f*cking zombie and Hirata looks at me and says, Reagan, you f*cking idiot, tasers don’t work on the undead, you are off my team for the zombie apocalypse.

McCoy began to laugh. “You tased a zombie.”

“Damn straight.” Regan folded her arms and gave a single, decisive nod. “Seattle PD has firm non-discrimination policies. Male or female, black or white, living or dead, makes no difference to us. We hook ‘em and book ‘em with no regard to race, creed, color — or pulse.”

McCoy shook his head, still chuckling. “What were you supposed to do? What did they expect you to do?”

Regan shrugged. “Run screaming. Which, if he had been a zombie, would have been the smarter play. It also would have given Hirata the chance to video me hauling ass away from the living dead for the enjoyment of the whole squad-room the next day.”

“Rookie hazing,” McCoy said, and Regan nodded. He looked at her, propped against the sink, her arms folded, her long legs crossed at the ankles. He could absolutely believe that if Regan was ever really confronted by the living dead, her first reaction would be to make an arrest. If she had probable cause, of course. “His mistake. Although he was right about the zombie apocalypse.”

She blinked, and then frowned. “I think I’m offended.”

He shook his head. “Regan, if a civilization-ending plague of anything breaks out, you’re going to be among the first to go down, because you’re constitutionally incapable of turning your back on anyone who needs your help.” He fought a yawn. “Witness this evening.”

She looked away. “False pretenses. I …” Her voice trailed away, and she shrugged. “Didn’t want to be on my own, either.” She closed her eyes, a muscle moving along her jaw. “They went in, I heard the shot, it was a minute or so before they said who it was. But you don’t take that kind of chance unless things are going real bad, real fast, and I thought …”

“Regan.” He reached out toward her. “Come here.”

“Sorry.” She pushed herself upright and crossed to him, taking his outstretched hand. “I haven’t had all that terrific an evening, either.”

McCoy tugged her closer, until she was standing by his chair and he could put his free arm around her waist. “And I’ve spent most of it being an asshole.”

She laughed softly, arm circling his shoulders. “All that fight-or-flight has to go somewhere. I’ve seen worse than a bit of irritability.”

Closing his eyes, he leaned against her. “Such as?”

“Well, I know a woman who smacked her boss in the kisser,” Regan said mildly, running her fingers through his hair, and he laughed.

“The circ*mstances were —” He yawned. “Different. You were …” The train of thought eluded him. “It was different.”

“Jack.” Regan’s voice was very soft. “You’re falling asleep.”

“ ’m not,” he murmured.

“Liar,” she said fondly, a laugh in her voice. “You should go to bed.”

He tightened his grip on her. “But then you’ll leave.”

“If you want me to stay, I’ll stay,” Regan assured him. “But you need to lie down, Jack.”

He let her hoist him to his feet. “I want you to stay.” She tried to steer him toward the hall and he resisted. Hands on her waist, he tried to read her expression. It was never easy at the best of times, particularly difficult at the moment since he was tired enough to be seeing double. “Regan. I want you to stay. But what do you want?”

She stepped closer to him and put her hand on his cheek. “I want to stay. I want to be here, with you, and I want to stay. And I also want you to lie down while you’re still conscious.”

He nodded slowly. “I can support that agenda,” he said, with what was meant to be a charming smile, ruined by another uncontrollable yawn.

“Then come on,” she said, and turned him toward the door.

McCoy’s eyes closed on their own accord on the way down the hall and refused to open again. He trusted Regan not to let him walk into the wall and let her guide him. “Bed,” she said, and he felt the mattress against his knees. He started to sit on the edge, lost his balance, and ended up lying on his face on the bed. Shoes, he thought vaguely. I should take off my shoes. Then he felt Regan doing just that.

“Thanks,” he said, or thought he said. He managed to roll over. “Regan. Come here.” He felt the mattress give as she sat down on the edge of the bed, found her arm and tugged her toward him. “Here. Properly.”

Perhaps he was already asleep and dreaming, because Regan gave in to his urging and lay down beside him. “Don’t you mean improperly?” she asked.

McCoy concentrated, and managed to raise his arm to circle her shoulders. “That was certainly my plan for the evening,” he mumbled. And after a detour, things are back on track. Regan was in his bed, they were lying down, his arms were around her. He just needed to rest his eyes a moment longer, and then he would kiss her and —

Sleep hit him like a wave of black velvet and he was out.

.oOo.

Chapter 37: Best Laid Plans

Notes:

NSFW

Chapter Text


Regan felt McCoy’s body go slack, his arm around her shoulders suddenly heavy and loose. The heartbeat beneath her ear slowed.

She eased herself away from him, gently returning his arm to his side, and raised herself on one elbow. The food had brought some color back to his face and had been followed, as she’d known it would be, by the crash. McCoy would sleep like the dead and tomorrow he’d be alright. For a given value of alright.

Almost shot left no marks on the body and far fewer on the psyche than actually shot, but it wasn’t a walk in the park, either.

As always, even in sleep, the lines of McCoy’s mouth and the set of his jaw were still firm. He looked, to all appearances, as if he’d merely closed his eyes for a moment to concentrate as he listened to a witness’s testimony and might at any moment leap to his feet with an objection. The only clear sign that he was asleep was his hands. They were usually never still, fiddling with a pen or a page in a file, lifting as he ran his fingers through his hair, reaching for a law book or the bottle of scotch in his bottom drawer. Now they lay limp, one curled on his chest, the other open by his side.

He was so deeply asleep that he didn’t even stir as she unbuckled his belt and drew it off, and then took off his watch.

Regan curled up beside him and watched the slow rise and fall of his chest. Her own eyes insisted on closing and —

Go-go-go and glass shatters and —

She jerked herself away from the memory, heart pounding. A highway at night. Black road, white line, disappearing under the wheels of my car. Concentrating on the image, she felt her pulse begin to slow.

It ’s over. It’s done. It happened, and now it’s over.

A stab of guilt, then. If only I’d seen that Kuen had a gun on the way in to the restaurant, I would have … would have done something, would have stopped it before it started, should have stopped it before it started

Which was ridiculous, and Regan knew it. If she imagined saying that to Emil Skoda, she could all but see his eyebrows go up, see the skeptical twist to his mouth. What, they hand out X-Ray vision with those D.A. badges these days?

Regan rolled over onto her back and stared at the ceiling. You didn’t see the gun because he didn’t have it out. Maybe in his waistband, at the front, under that loose T-shirt. You only saw him from the back as he went in. Maybe if you’d been watching him come up the street toward you, you would have spotted something in the way he walked and realized he was carrying, but you were looking in the window.

Except she must have seen Kuen on the street, because there’d been that vague sense of recognition when she watched him through the window, once she’d been able to drag her attention away from the gun he was pointing at McCoy. Regan closed her eyes and tried to bring the street back into focus. I stepped out of the restaurant, started talking to Lennie. I turned around, turned to the right. Had she seen Kuen walking toward her as she turned? She tried to find his face in the crowded sidewalk —

Reflected heat blasting up off the courthouse steps as she hurries through the doors, changing course to avoid running into Neil Gorton, who is talking to —

Talking to Lawrence Kuen.

Regan let out a slow breath and rolled over to look at McCoy again. She hadn’t seen Kuen on the sidewalk at all. She hadn’t seen him, except from behind, before he went into the restaurant and took out the gun. There had been absolutely no way for her to know — there had been absolutely nothing she could have done.

It happened, and it’s over. It’s done.

After a moment she reached out and laid her hand gently over McCoy’s heart. Counting its slow and steady beats, she followed McCoy into sleep.

When she woke, she could still feel his heartbeat beneath her hand. She drifted at the edge of dreams for a moment, his body warm and strong against her, the collar of his shirt digging into her cheek …

She opened her eyes. She was not lying beside McCoy, at a decent distance. Instead, they lay spooned together on his bed, both fully clothed, her body curled around his, her arm around him and her hand clasped in both his where it rested against his chest.

Memory returned in a rush.

Oh, sh*t, she thought. Yesterday

Yesterday she had not exactly been thinking clearly, that was all there was to it. She’d congratulated herself on knowing exactly the trajectory McCoy’s reaction would take, on being there for him, on being a good partner — and not for a moment taken into account that he wasn’t the only one off balance.

When she’d gotten through the door into the restaurant and seen that McCoy was alright … when he’d held her and said her name as if it was the only word in the world he needed to know …

She’d forgotten every good reason to keep things between them from getting even more complicated. A train of reasons that started at making sure I keep my job and ended with making sure I don’t ruin what we already have, and stopped at all stations in between.

And she hadn’t wanted to remember that someone who’d just thought they were seconds from death might do or say things that they might not really mean. Or that they might mean at the moment they said them, and only at that moment.

Time for cooler heads to prevail. She’d made this mistake before, and it was a mistake, as the results had proved. We were both a little wound up, she’d say to McCoy when he woke. That’s all it was. It doesn’t mean we should take it further.

When he woke. She could have until he woke, her cheek against his shoulder, feeling the muscle and bone of his side beneath her arm and his fingers wrapped around hers. A moment, that’s all. More than that lay in the realm of things she did not deserve and could not have, and so she would not want them.

Lie to other people as you need to, her Gran-Da had said. She could hear his voice, creaking with age. But lie to yourself, you deserve what you get.

I might not deserve them, I might not be able to have them but she did want them. She wanted more than this, more than a moment holding him in her arms. The bittersweet pain of it was an ache that drowned out even the sweet warmth of McCoy’s body against hers.

She felt him wake, heard the slight shift of his breathing and felt waking tension in the hands that held hers. She started to slip her fingers free, beginning to move away to a safer distance.

McCoy’s grip tightened and he rolled onto his back as she edged away. “Regan.”

He had her hand firmly captured and Regan gave up trying to pull away for the moment. “Jack.” She heard the way her voice lingered over his name and felt her cheeks burn. “Sleep well?”

He smiled. “I can’t remember, so I must have. You?”

“Yeah, fine. So, I — we should —”

“I think I owe you an apology,” he said, and Regan’s eyes stung with tears.

“No, no, no,” she said quickly. “It was — the stress, the situation, I shouldn’t have taken advantage of —”

His eyebrows lifted and he freed one hand to touch the collar of his shirt, and then the sleeve of her blouse. “Evidence suggests that nobody’s been taking advantage of anyone, Regan. Despite my best intentions. Or my worst ones, I suppose.”

“It’s fine,” Regan said. “It’s fine. Really.”

He turned to face her and reached out to tuck a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “I’d like to make amends.”

Despite all her resolutions, Regan couldn’t help turning her head a little toward his touch. “Buy me breakfast.”

His finger brushed her cheek. “Will that be sufficient reparations for … what was it you pretended Jamie said? Sweet talking you into bed?”

She snorted. “You didn’t sweet talk me anywhere. You wanted me to stay, I wanted to stay, so here we are.”

“Here we are,” McCoy agreed. He reached out and laid his hand along her jaw, running his thumb gently over her lips – once, twice, a third time. “In bed. Together.” The corner of his mouth turned up and a glint of wicked humor lit his eyes. “How convenient.”

Regan knew she should pull away but his touch, so gentle, so sure, seemed to have short-circuited her brain. “Jack …”

“Tell me I’m wrong,” he murmured, sliding his hand along her jaw to cup her neck.

“I can’t,” Regan admitted.

He drew her closer. “Tell me you want us to stop here.”

“I don’t,” she whispered.

His lips brushed hers, the slightest of contacts, a long moment in which she could feel his breath against her skin more strongly than she could feel his mouth against hers. When finally he leaned closer and his lips met hers completely Regan heard herself make a noise of mingled relief and pleasure that even she couldn’t tell was a sob or a moan. McCoy deepened the kiss, exploring her mouth, his hands on her shoulder-blades now, tracing slow circles, his touch burning her nerves.

Then his fingers moved down her spine and she stiffened. The first ugly lump of exit wound scar tissue was just below her rib cage, and her summer blouse was light and thin. Another inch or two and he’ll feel it, and then ...

McCoy’s hand stopped, moved back up to her shoulder, and Regan relaxed again into the delicious sensations of his lips, his tongue, his body against hers as he pulled her closer.

Then he drew back a little. “Regan.”

“Yes,” she said breathlessly. Yes, please, yes.

His fingers crept lower again, past the point where he’d stopped before, and Regan tensed. “That’s not yes,” McCoy said softly. “That’s no.”

“I —” She could still feel his hand, warm and strong, through the thin fabric of her blouse, which meant he hadn’t reached the first of the thick, nerveless scars yet, but another inch and he would, another inch and he’d feel … Regan pulled away from him. “Jack!”

He let her go, instantly. “It’s alright.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, sitting up and edging away from him. “I’m sorry, Jack, I’m sorry —”

“It’s alright,” McCoy said again.

Regan shook her head. “It isn’t. I — ” And she was going to start crying in another moment, which was just the damn cherry on the cake. She looked away before McCoy could see the tears in her eyes, pretending to scratch an itch on her cheek so he couldn’t see her lips tremble. “I should have told you. Long ago. Before things ever got this far. I haven’t been fair to you. I should have told you —”

He sat up as well. “I know you got shot. And I know you have some scars.”

Startled, she looked back at him, and found him watching her steadily. Of course, he’d guessed. Whenever we have living victims, we make sure the jury sees the scars. McCoy knew what bullets could do to living flesh, and he’d read at least some of the newspaper stories about the shooting that had ended Regan’s career as a police officer. He guessed. He thinks he knows. “It’s … I’m not very pretty, under these fancy clothes, Jack. Not easy to look at.”

I like looking at you,” McCoy said.

Regan closed her eyes. “That’s because you don’t know.”

“I know,” he said. “I know, and I won’t look, until you want me to.”

She shook her head. “You don’t know. It’s not — It’s worse than you could — It’s not, I’m not — easy to look at.”

“I do know, actually,” he said calmly. He moved a little closer to her. “You showed me – that night you’d been drinking with Ed and Lennie. Remember? The Whitford conviction? You turned up at my apartment?”

Regan stared at him. He was smiling a little, but she could tell he meant what he said. “Oh god,” she said. “I was that drunk? I don’t remember doing that. I know I slept it off in your spare room. Oh, god. I was that drunk?”

“Tequila’s a good look for you,” McCoy said, grinning now.

Regan covered her face with her hands. “Oh, god,” she groaned.

He touched her arm, ran his fingers gently from wrist to elbow. “You took off your shirt and gave me a good look. Did a little dance. Sang me a song about ‘three in the belly and one in the chest’.”

“Makes a girl long for a bullet-proof vest?” McCoy was unquestionably telling the truth. Regan had come up with that one herself, sometime between the fourth and the sixth month she’d spent in hospital, staring at the ceiling and trying to find a way to turn what had happened to her into one more war-story. No way Jack would know that if I hadn’t told him. “God, Jack, I’m so sorry.”

He edged even closer to her and took her hand. “For getting drunk? I seem to recall you’re not the only one in this room who’s had one or two or five too many, on occasion.”

“For …” Regan shook her head. “For making you see that. Making you see …”

“Making me see Regan Markham?” He put his fingers beneath her chin and turned her face toward him. “I seem to recall doing my sadly-unsuccessful best to get you out of your clothes on a few occasions since then. Presuming they survived a Molineux hearing …” Regan snorted, and McCoy smiled at her. “What are those prior bad acts evidence of, A.D.A. Markham?”

She hesitated. “That you … that you don’t … mind?”

“I think the jury might be encouraged to reach a conclusion a little bit stronger than don’t mind.” His arms slid around her waist and he drew her closer, and then into his lap. “Once all the available evidence was considered.”

Regan felt herself blush at just how evident the available evidence was. McCoy’s lips grazed her neck and then brushed the hollow of her throat. “Jack …”

McCoy stopped there. He straightened and brushed her lips with his. “I realized the next day you didn’t remember. I was trying to think of a tactful way of saying I’ve seen you half-naked and then Arthur read us both the riot act and you decided to never talk to me outside the office again.”

“I don't seem to be doing so well with that at the moment,” Regan said ruefully.

“Thank god.” McCoy’s tone was so comically fervent that Regan couldn't help smiling. He smiled back. “That's better. So how are we going to do this? Clothes on, lights off? Maybe —” He leered suggestively. “You could blindfold me?”

“Is that what you …” She hesitated, trying to find a sophisticated New Yorker way of asking — of asking Jack McCoy, of all people, if he liked a bit of kink in the bedroom.

“I'd rather be able to see you,” McCoy said.

Regan shook her head. “I don't want … it's all very well for you to say that you don't mind, but …” She bit her lip. “Guys have said that before. And then I see the look on their face, and …”

“What are you most afraid of?” he asked. “What I’ll see? Or what you will?”

“Both,” she whispered against his mouth.

“Then close your eyes,” he whispered back.

McCoy slid his hand up her back to her neck, cradling her head. Her eyes drifted shut as his lips moved softly against hers, her head spinning as warmth flowed through her in response to his touch. She felt his fingers deft on the buttons of her blouse, unfastening them one by one. Then he stopped, waiting.

He’s seen. He’s already seen. Regan forced herself to raise her hands. Keeping her eyes tightly shut, she drew her blouse open a little and then, before she could lose her courage, yanked it open, letting it slip from her shoulders.

McCoy’s lips left hers and she felt him lean back a little and knew he was looking down at her.

He was silent for a long moment. Regan squeezed her eyes shut, both wanting and not wanting to see the expression on his face.

He touched the unmarked skin above her hip gently and then she felt his fingers move from smooth, tender skin to thick, nerveless scar tissue and flinched a little.

McCoy stopped. “Did I hurt you?” he asked.

“No,” she assured him quickly.

His hand began to move again, tracing the long narrow line left by a surgeon’s scalpel, circling the star-shaped lump left by a bullet. “Does it hurt?” he asked, a note she couldn’t identify in his voice. Regan tried to tell whether it was curiosity or revulsion – neither of them good options – but she couldn’t. She could hear the tension at the edges of his voice, though, feel it in his fingers despite the gentleness of his touch.

“In places,” she said. “The muscles – didn’t knit right. And some nerve damage.”

He ran his hand over her stomach again. “Does it hurt to touch?”

She shook her head without opening her eyes. “It’s like – some places I can’t really feel. Some spots are extra sensitive. And I put my back out more easily than an eighty-year old grandmother does. That’s pretty much all.”

McCoy drew her forward to lean against his chest. Regan felt his hands run slowly over her back and knew he was looking at the scars of the exit wounds, three ugly knots, each the size of a child’s fist.

“What happened to the fourth bullet?” he asked.

“They took it out on the table,” Regan said.

He wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly for a moment. “You say it so casually,” he said. “Like you say – sure, Jack, I got hit real hard.” For a moment she heard her own west-coast burr in his voice. “I thought I knew what you meant by that.”

She still couldn’t tell what it was that she could hear in his voice and she risked opening her eyes, turning a little in his arms so she could see his face. His hands on her were gentle but his mouth was set.

“He nearly killed you,” McCoy said, and she at last recognized the edge to his voice. Anger.

Her world shifted and resettled in a new pattern. She reached up and laid her hand against his cheek, his morning stubble rough beneath her fingers. “He didn’t, though.”

He turned his head a little and kissed the palm of her hand. “Thank you.”

Regan frowned. “For what?”

“Letting me see you.” She felt him smile. “Sober, this time.”

“I still can't believe I sang you that damn song.”

He laughed, his breath tickling her palm. “Don't forget the dancing. Tequila seems to be your truth serum. Or your kryptonite.”

“Never drinking it again,” Regan said firmly as McCoy ran his hand down her spine. His fingers brushed one of the places where the nerves had re-knit in a way that wasn’t quite right and she jumped.

“That hurt?” he asked immediately.

“No, no,” she reassured him. “Just sensitive.”

“Sensitive?” He found the spot again. “Sensitive as in ticklish?”

“Yes,” she said, wriggling away from his fingers.

“Really?” McCoy raised his eyebrows. “That spot there? Ticklish?”

“Yes, stop it — Jack!” She squirmed, starting to giggle despite herself. “You know I know three different ways to incapacitate a man with my bare hands — ah — no — stop it!”

“Any of them work while you’re doubled up with laughter? Now I know what you’ve been so touchy about,” he said, grinning wolfishly. “Now I know your weakness, Ms Markham.”

“Is that it?” Regan said. “I’m a freak-show and all you care about is finding out I’m ticklish?

“No-one’s ever excused me of not having my priorities straight,” McCoy said. He evaded her attempt to seize his hand and tickled her again. “Actually, that’s not true. I get accused of not having my priorities straight once a week.”

Regan grabbed his face between her hands and kissed him fiercely, the kiss lopsided because she couldn’t stop smiling. When she let him go McCoy gave her a crooked grin, running his hand slowly over her stomach. “That’s the first time you’ve ever kissed me. You know, rewarding me like that is no way to teach me not to tickle you.”

“How quickly he forgets,” Regan said. “I recall an incident with mistletoe, and another in Abbie’s kitchen, and —”

McCoy shook his head. “I kissed you. Although I do recall your enthusiastic cooperation. But you do have some catching up to do before we’re even. Now.” He pulled her back down to the bed with him. “Where were we?” He frowned in pretended concentration. “As I recall, I was trying to get your shirt off … I seem to have managed that.” His hand moved from her waist to cup her breast, thumb teasing her nipple to aching hardness. Regan caught her breath, sparks shooting along her nerves. I can’t believe I forgot how good that feels … He lowered his head to her other breast and she moaned to feel his lips and tongue, his unshaven cheek against her skin. His knee nudged hers apart and as he leaned into her, Regan could feel the reassuring proof that his desire was as genuine as hers.

Robbie had always been a gentleman about making sure Regan enjoyed herself as much as he did, but his manners had nothing on McCoy’s. His leisurely attentions continued until she was panting for breath, his every touch stoking the heat building inside her. Every shift of his weight was delicious, frustrating friction. Surely he must realize I’m ready by now. She realized she had her fingers clenched in his hair, holding his head to her breast, and forced herself to release him, but he didn’t take the opportunity to pull away. She felt his teeth, a scrape on the edge of pain, immediately soothed by his tongue, and arched into his touch, beyond ready, rising closer and closer to the edge of release. “God — Jack — god!”

“You like that,” he murmured against her skin, words she felt as much as heard.

“Yes — I —”

The phone rang.

.oOo.

Chapter 38: Saved (?) By The Bell

Chapter Text

The phone rang.

“Ignore it,” McCoy said. He teased Regan with his teeth again and heard her moan. “The machine will get it.”

“Uh-huh,” she agreed breathlessly, and he smiled, allowing himself to feel a certain smug satisfaction. When Regan had frozen, rigid in his arms, at the merest chance he might discover her scars, McCoy had considered the possibility that it would take more patient days or weeks of winning her trust before she’d let him see her, touch her, as he’d been longing to do for months.

But he had thirty years experience finding the right keys to unlock a witness or defendant’s reluctance, and he knew Regan Markham, knew that she might talk about a red convertible but she’d never buy a vehicle without side airbags, knew that her fierce prosecutorial instincts were tempered by a pragmatic compassion to those whose lives had been lived on the downside of advantage —

Knew that if he could make her laugh, the battle was more than halfway won.

And now she was sprawled beneath him, self-consciousness forgotten, one hand clutching his shoulder and the other fisted in the coverlet. As the answering machine clicked on, McCoy raised his head from her breast to look at her. Regan’s eyes were closed, a frown of intense concentration on her face.

He kissed her, tracing her lips with his tongue. “Relax,” he whispered. “Let it happen. Let go.”

She groaned, back arching. “Jack — I — please!

And Arthur Branch’s voice came out of the answering machine. “Jack, if you’re there, pick up. I’m standing up with the mayor and the chief of police in an hour and —”

“Dammit!” McCoy rolled over and reached for the phone. He lifted the receiver and the machine went silent. “Arthur.”

“Sorry to wake you, Jack,” Branch said. “The police have concluded the Kuen shooting was in self-defense within the meaning of the statute and they’re ready to close the book. There’s a press conference scheduled at nine to try and draw a line under the overnight media speculation. It would be helpful if you were there — if you’re up to it, of course.”

Up, yes, but not exactly for a press conference. Probably not wise to say that to Arthur. “I’ll be there,” McCoy said instead. He listened to Branch’s platitudes for another moment, and interrupted when it seemed likely the District Attorney was about to start telling him another one of his stories about his childhood with a not-so-hidden message. “I’d better get moving, Arthur, or I’ll be late.”

He hung up the phone and turned back to Regan. She was sitting up, one arm crossed across her breasts as she shook out her blouse with her other hand. Dammit. “Regan …”

“I know,” she said. “You have to go.” She gave him a small smile. “You’d better have a shower, and shave.”

“A very cold shower,” McCoy said wryly, and won a smile from her. He sat down and took her shirt from her, turning it right-side out and holding it for her as if it were a coat. “If my bike wasn’t still in the office car park we’d have a little more time, but it’s either the subway or a cab, and at this time of day …”

Regan slipped her arms through the sleeves of her shirt and turned. She brushed her fingers through his hair and then leaned forward to kiss him firmly on the mouth. “As much as you make me lose track of all good sense,” she said, “there is nothing that will make me sorry that this is one morning you won’t be riding that damn thing.”

He smiled, and felt her lips curve against his own as she did, too. “You wouldn’t be Regan Markham if there was.”

She linked her hands together behind his neck and deepened the kiss for a moment, and then pulled away. “Go. Shave, shower, go stand next to the brass and look appropriately serious.”

“Will you be here when I get back?”

“I’m going to go in to the office for a little bit.”

McCoy frowned. She canceled my day but didn’t think to cancel her own? “What have you got on?”

“Nothing.” She let him go and started buttoning her blouse. “Today was a file day, anyway. But I thought I could ask around a little, see where they are with Neil Gorton.”

“You’re a witness, Regan, even if not to much. You can’t touch it.”

“I wouldn’t. I just want to know … I want to know that they’re not going to go ahead with any charges.” She felt around beside the bed and found her shoes. “He saved your life, Jack. I’d feel better if I knew he wasn’t going to catch any sh*t over it.”

McCoy stood up, and opened the wardrobe. He hunted out a clean shirt, trying to keep his mind focused on the conversation and not on how Regan had looked, flushed and panting beneath him, the sounds she’d made, the friction of her lean body against his … He took a deep breath. “Developing a soft spot for Neil Gorton, of all people?”

“Maybe.” Regan said. “I hope he’s doing okay. Shooting someone — it’s not an easy thing to carry, especially if it’s someone you know.”

McCoy turned to look at her. “Someone you know?”

Regan was putting on her shoes and spoke more to the floor than to him. “Yeah. That guy, Kuen, he was a client or something.”

“What makes you say that?”

She straightened. “I thought he seemed familiar at the time, and then late last night I remembered why. I saw him on the courthouse steps yesterday, talking to Gorton.” Regan paused. “To Neil. He asked me to call him that and I should get used to it, I guess. All things considered.”

McCoy took a step toward her, shirt forgotten. “You saw Neil Gorton and Lawrence Kuen talking to each other yesterday? At the courthouse.”

“Yeah.” She blinked at him. “Why?”

“They never gave any sign of knowing each other in the restaurant.”

“It wasn’t exactly a social occasion,” Regan pointed out sensibly.

McCoy shook his head. “What would you do, if someone you knew was pointing a gun at somebody else? Just stand there?”

“I’m not Go— Not Neil. So he froze. Most people would.”

“Maybe he did freeze,” McCoy said slowly. “But Kuen never looked at him, either. And another thing, Regan — how did he know I was going to be there? I didn’t know I was going to be there, until half an hour before. Then Neil rang, and he wanted to meet, and he suggested Debarred, and I thought of Silk Road.” He looked down. “And yes, before you say it, I did have ulterior motives.”

Regan snorted. “Knew it.” She shrugged. “Maybe he followed you from Hogan Place.”

“Maybe,” McCoy said. He reached for his phone and found a number. “Mike. It’s Jack McCoy. Yeah, fine. Listen —”

It sounded thin, even to McCoy, as he laid it out. One man seen talking to another man. Last-minute dinner plans.

“Yeah, I’ll tell her,” McCoy said, and ended the call. Her turned to look at Regan. “You need to go in to One PP and give a statement. Soon as possible, Mike said.”

.oOo.

Chapter 39: Front Page News

Chapter Text

One Police Plaza

9 am, Friday July 20 2007

Regan hurried through the doors of One Police Plaza, switching her phone to silent as she did. She’d stopped off at Abbie’s, she was clean and showered and wearing fresh clothes. There was no possible way anyone could tell that just an hour before she’d been half-naked in Jack McCoy’s bed, that his lips had been —

“So, you and Jack McCoy, eh?” Mike Logan said, falling into step beside her.

Regan felt her face flame. “What? No! What makes you think that?”

He grinned down at her. “When I told Jack you needed to come in, he said I’ll tell her. Not I’ll call her, or I’ll let her know, but I’ll tell her. It took you almost an hour to get down here and some of that time you spent having a shower, I can still smell your shampoo. You’re blushing hard enough to be seen from space. Also —” He took the newspaper from beneath his arm and shook it open.

Regan took it as they got on the elevator. The front page picture was a shot of the restaurant last night, and right there in the middle, her with her arms around Jack McCoy. “sh*t.” Nothing actually happened. Technically. You haven’t actually done anything wrong.

The Bill Clinton defense. A bit of fooling around.

If Arthur Branch’s phone call had been five minutes later, Regan was quite certain that wouldn’t be the truth.

And the front-page picture she was looking at certainly made it look as if it wasn’t.

Logan took the newspaper back. He shrugged. “Sometimes you need someone to hang on to, counselor. I’ve been there.”

“I bet you weren’t front-page f*cking news, though,” Regan said glumly.

Logan gave her a comical leer. “My f*cking has never been front-page news, no — although it deserves to be.”

Regan laughed despite herself. “Not going to touch that.” Logan opened his mouth and Regan knew the next words out of his mouth would be something like Is that what you said last night? She raised a warning finger. “Resist the urge, Mike.”

“What’s your boss going to say?” he said instead.

Regan sighed, and rubbed her face. “He’s going to say, well, Ms Markham, it was nice knowing you.”

“Just deny, deny, deny,” Logan said. The doors opened and he held them for her. “Wheeler’s set up in interrogation two. This way.”

Regan did not have a lot to tell them. “I couldn’t hear what they were saying. I was actually trying to avoid Mr Gorton. He’s opposing counsel in a case —”

Megan Wheeler nodded. “John Rivera. We know.”

Regan shrugged. “So it was … right after five to three, I looked at my watch when I left chambers, I was late. I came out of the doors, I saw Mr Gorton and a man I didn’t recognize at the time talking together and I went the other way.”

“But now you’re able to identify him?”

“I saw the same man later that evening. At the Silk Road House. He was the man who threatened Mr McCoy with a gun.”

“And you’re positive of that?” Logan asked. “You didn’t say anything at the time.”

“I didn’t remember until late last night. He looked familiar when I saw him at the restaurant but I couldn’t place where.”

“You know how this is going to sound,” Wheeler said. “You and Jack McCoy are up against Neil Gorton in court. You’ve got a motive to incriminate him, and this is an extremely convenient recollection.”

I’m not lying! Regan suppressed the flare of temper with a deep breath. She locked her hands together on the table and reminded herself that Megan Wheeler was just doing her job. “There are other defense lawyers just as good as Neil Gorton. I don’t gain anything by this.”

“Except maybe revenge.” Wheeler flipped open the folder in front of her. “He beat you and Mr McCoy like a drum last year, didn’t he? People against Phillip Watts?”

“His client took a plea. That’s not getting beat, that’s a win.”

“Three and a third for murdering a friend of yours?”

“I wasn’t happy about it,” Regan said. “No-one would have been. And before you ask, yes, I do hold Neil Gorton responsible for getting his firm to bail Edward Walters, and yes, Walters did attack me while he was on that bail. But I saw what I saw. If I was lying to make Gorton look bad, wouldn’t I tell you that I heard what they were saying? That it was incriminating?”

“Maybe you’re smart,” Wheeler said.

“Too smart to lie to Major Case,” Regan countered.

Logan leaned forward. “You need to be absolutely sure,” he warned her. “You know, memory is a tricky thing. You’re sure you’re not mixing two different people together in your head?”

It was a fair question. Regan closed her eyes, trying to see the courthouse steps again. “The man I saw talking to Neil Gorton yesterday was wearing a blue shirt, a T-shirt, not the black one I saw at the restaurant. He was Asian, short black hair. He had a tattoo on his right arm, just above the elbow. It was … a snake, jail-house, not professional work.” She opened her eyes. “I saw at the restaurant that he had a tattoo but I couldn’t see what it was. If they had me on tape at the 2-7 like you said, you’ll hear me say that. He fell on that side, I couldn’t see it at all when I went inside. So if Kuen has that tattoo, then I must have seen it at courthouse, which means I must have seen him.”

Logan pushed his notebook and pen across the table to her. “Can you draw it?”

Regan nodded, and began to sketch.

“What sort of motive would Neil Gorton have to try and have Jack McCoy killed?” Wheeler asked.

Regan shrugged. “I dunno. The same motive that I have to be lying, I guess. Wanting him out of the way for the Rivera trial? Not happy with the plea agreement in Watts?” She shook her head. “I know, it’s implausible. I can’t explain it. All I know is that I saw what I saw.”

Wheeler closed her file. “Well,” she said. “Then I guess it’s up to us to figure it out.”

.oOo.

Megan Wheeler waited at her desk while Logan walked Regan Markham out. When he came back, she swung her chair around and put her feet on her desk. “So.”

Logan dropped into his own chair. “So.”

“It sounds pretty crazy, Mike.”

“Yeah.” He rolled his shoulders. “Where are we on CCTV?”

Wheeler stretched out her arm and tapped her keyboard, waking the monitor from sleep. A fresh email from Homeland Security blinked at her. “It’s here. The official stuff, anyway.”

“Miracles of modern policing,” Logan said, getting up to come and look over her shoulder as Wheeler dropped her feet to the floor. “Back in my day, we had to go out and collect every tape.”

“It’s still your day, Mike.” Wheeler found the video player in her start menu and started loading the files into it. “It’s just not so early in the morning any more. Noon. Maybe early afternoon. Here we go.”

Six separate camera streams opened up in two rows of three. “Can you sync them up?” Logan asked.

“That’s what I’m doing.” Wheeler squinted at the time stamps, tapped keys. “Okay. What time are we looking for?”

Logan consulted his notebook. “Regan’s phone showed the call from Lennie at 6.48. She said she and Jack had just walked into the restaurant, which they did as soon as he arrived. It’s a five minute walk, at most.”

“So 6.43, take it back ten minutes in case he ran into someone and stopped to talk … There.”

They had three different views of the front door of One Hogan Place. Wheeler scanned each of them, looking for a figure in a dark shirt and light-colored pants. “There.” She hit stop.

Logan leaned forward. “Blow it up.”

She did, and swore. “Not him. That guy’s too thin.”

They kept watching. After a few more minutes the unmistakable figure of Jack McCoy strode out of the doors, lifted a hand to wave at someone on the steps, turned left and headed off down the street. The cameras showed him reach the park, cross the road, and then he was gone.

Wheeler let the videos play on a little way to be sure. “No-one following.”

One of the cameras in the park picked McCoy up, walking fast, no-one behind him.

“Kuen still could have picked him up in the park,” Logan said. “Closer to the other side.”

“Except to do that, he’d have to know Mr McCoy was going to be in the park,” Wheeler said. “Wouldn’t he?”

“Lucky guess,” Logan said. “Or not the first time. Maybe he’s been hanging out, watching from the park, for weeks. Saw a chance, took it.”

“The chance would be to shoot Mr McCoy in the park.” Wheeler turned her chair to look up at him. “A lot easier, and a lot safer, than a busy restaurant in Chinatown. We need to pull the L.U.Ds on all Gorton’s phones and every phone that Kuen had access to. We need to — ”

“We need,” Logan said firmly, “to talk to the Captain.”

.oOo.

Chapter 40: A Type

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

City Hall

City Hall Park

9 am Friday July 20, 2007

McCoy was nothing but window-dressing for the press conference. With the mayor, the Police Commissioner, the Chief of Department, the Chief of Detectives, and Arthur Branch all competing to get their sound-bites out, even if any reporter had wanted to ask McCoy a question, they wouldn’t have stood a chance. He stood in the background, a prop, the victim in this case, while they each took it in turns to talk about a blow aimed at the heart of our justice system and our great institutions. There was a bit about McCoy’s own dedication and outstanding record, too, but not much. He had to work hard to smother a wry smile that would be completely inappropriate for the situation. None of them want to give up the spotlight any more than they absolutely have to.

And then, once the cameras were packed up and the reporters gone, McCoy had to put up with them all expressing their shock and outrage to him personally. Personally, but in oddly impersonal terms. Do I sound like that, when I’m talking to victims, to relatives? He nodded in the right places, thanked them for the sentiments, refused Arthur’s offer of a ride back to the office in the D.A’s town-car. The heat of the day was already growing oppressive but it was only a few blocks to walk back to Hogan Place, and today, McCoy found he preferred a humid New York summer day to sharing an air-conditioned car with Arthur Branch.

He considered, then rejected, buying a newspaper. God knows what a meal the media’s making of this, but I don’t want to. He got a coffee, instead, and sat in the park at the end of Hogan Place to drink it. When he’d finished it, he checked his watch. Regan would be done at One Police Plaza soon … it wouldn’t take her long to go through the basic fact that she’d seen Neil Gorton talking to Lawrence Kuen.

If she did. When she’d said so, this morning, it hadn’t occurred to McCoy that she might be mistaken. The whole chain of circ*mstantial evidence had fallen into place in his head. Now, in the warm morning sunlight, watching a squirrel frisk around the base of a tree, it seemed less like a chain and more a gossamer thread of coincidence. How much could Regan even have seen of Kuen, through the window of the restaurant? How closely did she look at the man she saw talking to Neil, when she was running late and hurrying and trying to avoid a man she dislikes?

This is Neil Gorton, after all. Jamie ’s ex-husband. An asshole and a snake, but a murderer?

And if he had something to do with Kuen happening to turn up at that restaurant, why would he then save my life?

None of it sounded very plausible. Not now normal blood-supply to my brain has resumed. He tossed his empty cup in the trash and headed for the office. Regan would almost certainly be on her way there as soon as she was finished talking to Logan and Wheeler, and he could ask her then just how certain she was that it really was Kuen she saw on the courthouse steps.

And she’ll probably say ‘not very’. McCoy showed his badge to the guard at the desk, even though the man was already greeting him by name. And then tell me that paranoia and conspiracy theories are the next stage in a post almost-shot reaction. He got into the elevator and pressed the button for the tenth floor. At which point she’ll suggest I go home again … which would give him an excuse to suggest she go with him. And then

And then was probably not something he should think about in the office, not if he wanted to avoid the sort of embarrassment more common to teenage boys.

“Mr McCoy!” Colleen leapt up from her desk as he stepped out of the elevator. “I didn’t expect you in today. Are you — how are you?”

“Fine,” he assured her. “I’m fine. Do you know how Tracey went?”

“Court adjourned until Monday,” Colleen assured him. “Would you like her to come up and fill you in?”

McCoy thought about it. “No,” he said at last. “Let her secretary know I’d appreciate a call, when it’s convenient.”

Colleen nodded. “And will you be wanting lunch?”

“Not sure,” McCoy said. “I might not be in that long.” He turned toward his office, then turned back. “Colleen — Regan told me last night about the arrangements you made. The calls. Thanks for taking care of things.”

“Of course,” she said.

“Did you have to come back in to the office?” And she would have, he knew, despite the fact that she’d been nervous about traveling on her own to get home.

Colleen smiled. “No. I have one of those new-fangled electronic organizers now. I had all the contact details I needed.”

He nodded. “Good. If Regan isn’t around, later, I’ll arrange for someone else to see you home.”

“You don’t need to —”

“I do and I will,” McCoy said, cutting her off. “Until a certain party leaves Manhattan.”

She followed him into his office and closed the door behind her. “Mr McCoy —”

“Don’t argue, Colleen,” he said, then softened the harsh edge he could hear in his voice with a smile. “Please.”

“I wasn’t going to.” She clasped her hands together, twisting her fingers nervously. “Mr McCoy. When I spoke to Mrs McCoy, I mean Mrs O’Malley …”

“Ellen does have a type, doesn’t she?” McCoy said lightly, and Colleen relaxed a little. “Mick lawyers.”

Colleen nodded. “I hear he’s very nice.”

McCoy raised his eyebrows. “How did you hear that? From Ellen?”

“No. Do you remember Erin Hartigan, she used to work in the Narcotics typing pool with me? Red hair, very unfortunate freckles?”

“I do indeed,” McCoy said. Somewhere in between Ellen and Sally Bell, he’d spent several enjoyable evenings working out just which constellations those freckles could be joined up to make.

“We have lunch every now and then. She’s been working at Mitcheson, Michaels and O’Malley for quite a few years now. She says Mr O’Malley is very nice. Not, um. Inappropriately or anything.”

Not like you, Mr McCoy, she meant by that. He smiled. “That’s good to know.” My daughter’s stepfather — the man she calls Daddy — is very nice. It stung, but it was good to know.

“Anyway, Mrs O’Malley said — and I don’t think she would have if she hadn’t meant me to tell you, Mrs O’Malley has always been very careful with her words — she said Miss McCoy is …”

His mind finished the sentence. Sick. Hurt. In some sort of trouble. “Is what?” he demanded. “Is what, Colleen?”

“Getting married, Mr McCoy. Next spring.”

Thank god. He closed his eyes for a moment. “Well, good for her. I hope she’s happy.” Later, he knew, he’d feel the pain of knowing his only daughter hadn’t told him, probably hadn’t wanted him to know, about her impending wedding, but right at that moment all he could think was thank god. She’s alright, thank god.

Colleen hesitated. “I could find out where, and when, if you’d like, Mr McCoy. Or — where she’s registered? If you wanted to …”

He shook his head. “I’m not going to ruin her day by turning up uninvited. She won’t even want to see my name on a gift card.”

“I’m so sorry, Mr McCoy,” Colleen said softly. “She doesn’t know you at all.”

He managed a rueful smile. “That’s on me, isn’t it?”

Colleen shook her head. “Not just on you, Mr McCoy. And I meant, if she knew you, she’d want you there.”

Loyal Colleen Petraky, always stoutly on his side, no matter how much he might actually be at fault. “That’s kind of you to say, Colleen, but not necessarily truthful.”

“I’m not being kind,” she said firmly. “And I am being truthful. We’ve known each other a long time, Mr McCoy. I’ve known you a long time. I’m not saying you’re perfect —” McCoy had to laugh at that, and Colleen smiled a little. “But you’re not so terrible, either. I’ll find out where Miss McCoy’s registered for gifts. After all, you can always put someone else’s name on the card.”

After Colleen had gone back to her desk, McCoy sank into his chair and turned it to face the window. Rebecca, getting married.

He stared at the strips of sky visible through the blinds. God, I hope her fiancé turns out to be better at marriage than I was.

He hadn’t been the best possible husband, far from it, but Colleen’s kindness was at least partly true — he hadn’t been the worst possible husband, either. He’d worked too much, he hadn’t made either Ellen or Rebecca the priority they deserved to be … But that was the extent of my sins. He hadn’t been unfaithful to Ellen, in fact, he’d never been unfaithful to any woman. McCoy was well aware of the rumors that occasionally had him juggling as many as four or five illicit liaisons at a time. I don’t know where they think I find the time. And in truth, he liked and enjoyed the women he took to bed far too much to be interested in anyone else while it lasted, whether it lasted a few weeks or five years.

There was a certain irony in the fact that he’d stayed on good terms with so many of his former, or sometimes, lovers, and yet each of his marriages had ended in bitter acrimony or frozen silence.

I never really knew what I was doing, being married, Regan had told him once, and McCoy was forced to agree.

Still. Jamie had worked hard to keep Neil Gorton in Katie’s life, and if there was ever a husband who deserved his ex-wife’s enmity, it was Neil. He’d cheated on Jamie, and how any man could even think about another woman with Jamie Ross waiting for him at home is beyond me. Neil had made Jamie’s life hell during the divorce, and after it — and through it all, Jamie had kept the details from Katie, taken the blame when Neil let their daughter down, put Katie’s relationship with her father ahead of Jamie’s own, entirely justified, feelings.

I might not have known what I was doing, but I did my best, insufficient though it was.

When Katie gets married, she won ’t keep it from Neil. She’ll probably ask him to walk her down the aisle.

McCoy scrubbed his hand over his face and turned his chair around to face his desk again. Thoughts of Neil and Katie reminded him that he was almost sure there was an internal mail envelope addressed to him in Qiao Chen’s handwriting, buried somewhere in his in-tray. He thumbed through the files, looking for the tell-tale dark yellow corner. Brief on discovery in the Martin case … advisory note from Identity Fraud on seeking co-operation from social media providers … petition circulated by the junior A.D.As in Traffic seeking their own break-room … Nothing from Chen, nothing from Fraud at all.

McCoy frowned. He was sure he’d seen it. When? Not yesterday. He could remember thinking, yesterday morning, that he’d get the business of Colleen and Dan out of the way before he looked at Chen’s report. Let’s deal with one ex-husband at a time, had been his exact thought. So Wednesday. Wednesday had started with the chambers hearing before Judge Steinman, and McCoy could remember hoping for a brief, unworthy moment that Chen’s report would contain something damning.

It had to be Tuesday, when he’d seen it. Closing his eyes, McCoy could remember Colleen coming in to his office with a yellow envelope in her hand, could remember glancing at it and seeing Katie Gorton - Trust - Q Chen written on it, right before he had to hurry to get to the Herrara deposition that Regan had been going to take …

The Herrara deposition, that he’d had to leave halfway through when Regan very sensibly decided that taking on Neil Gorton single-handed was well above her pay-grade.

f*ck. He raked his fingers through his hair. Would Neil really steal a document from the D.A.’s Office?

Without a doubt. Oh, he’d have some explanation about how it fell into his briefcase, and he’d probably even believe it himself.

Is that why he told Kuen where —

McCoy shook his head sharply. Gorton and Kuen had nothing to do with each other, he’d already reasoned that through this morning. A resemblance between Lawrence Kuen and someone Gorton was defending, or for that matter a private investigator or an expert witness connected to one of his cases, that was all the foundation for the castle of suspicion McCoy had built this morning. Gorton didn’t even have any connection with Lawrence Kuen. He hadn’t represented him in his trial. That I would remember.

What am I imagining him doing, seeking out everyone I ever convicted and asking them, one by one, to shoot me, until he got a taker?

Kuen’s lawyer had been a young public defender, with an ill-fitting suit and an earring. Jerry Something. Betton? Bretton?

McCoy got up and went to the bookshelf, searching for the right law report. December 2000, January-February 2001 … no, later. Serena was working for me by then. He tried September-October 2001, flipped to the index. People versus Lawrence Kuen, there we go.

He found the case and ran his finger down the page until he reached Counsel appearing.

Gerard Bresson.

He tossed the law report on the couch and sat back down, turning to the computer. He called up the website for the New York State Unified Court System. Attorney Search. G Bresson.

Currently registered, city of New York. McCoy clicked the name.

Gerard Wilson Bresson, Gorton & Steinhartas, 79 West 53nd Street, New York, New York.

McCoy stared at the words for a moment. It still didn’t have to mean anything. Maybe Kuen went to see his old lawyer. Maybe he has new charges pending, and he looked up his old lawyer, and he maybe met Neil at the office when he went in to see him, and then he saw Neil at the courthouse and said hello.

And then completely coincidentally happened to come in to the very restaurant where I was meeting Neil.

“I’m surprised to see you here, Jack,” Arthur Branch said behind him. “I thought you’d be at home.”

McCoy turned. “I’m fine. It was the other guy who got shot.”

For some reason, Branch looked taken aback. He tapped the newspaper he was holding again the side of his leg. “I know you’re fine. I’m glad you’re fine, but that’s not exactly what I’m talking about.”

McCoy frowned. “What, then?”

Branch thrust the paper at him. “Well?” he demanded. “What do you have to say for yourself?”

McCoy took it. Justice At Gunpoint! the headline screamed, although since the paper was the Times it screamed it in restrained, tasteful, 16-point type. Beneath it, a picture of an interior of a restaurant shot from the street, the figures inside lit by the overhead lights, in such sharp contrast to the darkened exterior that they almost might have been on a floodlit stage. McCoy’s appreciation of art was a little rusty, but he could understand why the picture had made the front page. Three uniformed cops, stark and dark against the washed white light, stood in a huddle on the left, the difference in their heights making a line that drew the eye —

To two figures locked together. A man with his arms wrapped around a woman’s waist, fingers spread against her back in a grip so tight the tendons of his hands stood out even at a distance, his dark head against her shoulder. Her back was to the camera but the strength of her embrace showed in the outline of muscles beneath her blouse. Her fingers were tangled in the hair of the man she held, and her head, turned a little to the side, revealed a face lit with a tenderness more luminous than the lamps.

Looking at it, McCoy could again feel Regan’s rangy body against his, her heart beating so hard and fast he could feel it against his own chest, her arms tight around him as if she could protect him from anything, even from gunfire, if only she held him close enough.

But she knows, better than anyone, how untrue that is. Four star-shaped scars across her stomach and chest where bullets had torn into her, three larger knots of white tissue on her back where three of them had punched their way out. Straight white lines and pockmarks where the surgeons had cut her and cut her again to save her life, to dig out that one lethal lump of metal that Regan spoke about so casually. They took it out on the table.

And God, he’d been so preoccupied with himself last night that he’d never thought about how it must have been for her, hearing that shot. Even when she’d told him directly he’d hardly taken it in. I heard the shot … I thought …

For a supposedly smart man, McCoy felt like a rolled-gold idiot right at that moment.

And he had Arthur Branch to deal with before he could so much as call Regan and make sure she was alright.

He let the paper drop to his desk. “I had just had a gun to my face, Arthur. A little latitude for a moment of affection between two colleagues isn’t out of the —”

Branch picked the paper up and shoved it at him. “Read the story!”

He scanned it. EADA Jack McCoy, whose previous relationships … Diana Hawthorne, who suppressed evidence to advance McCoy’s career … Sally Bell, now of the Public Defender’s Office …public trust in the operation of the District Attorney’s Office … questions to be asked about …

McCoy flung it down. “There is nothing here but a rehash of old stories and unsubstantiated allegations.”

“So you’re telling me that the reporter who just called me and asked for my comment on the fact that Ms Markham was seen leaving your home this morning in the same clothes that she’s wearing in that picture was lying?”

“She escorted me home once I’d given my statement! It was late. I do have a spare room, Arthur!” Righteous indignation made his voice sharp. The fact that Regan had spent the night in his bed, that he’d had every intention of doing just what Branch suspected, that if Branch had called ten minutes later that morning he would have — all that was irrelevant. What was relevant was that nothing improper had actually happened, at least, for certain definitions of improper that McCoy was sure he could convincingly argue before any relevant court.

He frowned at Branch, defying the D.A. to call him a liar.

Branch shook his head. “Jack, I might be just a simple country lawyer, but where I come from, two people looking like that —” He pointed at the newspaper. “Would be on their way to the church before the ink dried on the marriage license.”

“Shotgun weddings on the strength of a hug.” Hug was perhaps stretching it, for that passionate embrace. “When you say where I come from, Arthur, are you referring to the nineteenth century?”

“A woman doesn’t look like that because she’s planning to sleep in a man’s spare room. And a man doesn’t hold a woman like that because he’s planning to let her. Now I warned you, and I warned her. I won’t tolerate conduct that brings this office into disrepute. Either Ms Markham can pack up her desk for a transfer downstairs at the very least, or you —”

“I want to arrest Neil Gorton for murder,” McCoy interrupted, only knowing he was going to say it when he heard the words.

Branch’s eyebrows climbed towards his receding hairline. “Neil Gorton? The fellow who saved your life?”

“That bit I haven’t figured out,” McCoy admitted.

“Wait a minute, what are we talking about? You want to arrest Gorton for murder because of last night?”

“Lawrence Kuen was a client of a lawyer who works at his firm. Regan saw them talking together at the courthouse yesterday. Kuen made it clear he was there to kill me and the only people who knew I’d be there were Regan, and Neil.”

Branch shook his head. “Then why did he shoot Kuen?”

“I don’t know,” McCoy admitted again.

“And the witness to this conversation was Regan Markham? Whose credibility would take a rapid nosedive if I sacked her?” Branch stuck his hands in his pocket. “That’s extremely convenient, Jack.”

McCoy got to his feet. “It’s also the truth, Arthur. She’s giving a statement at One PP right now.”

“This all sounds mighty far-fetched to me,” Branch said.

“I know how it sounds!” McCoy rubbed the back of his neck. “Arthur, right before the police burst in, Neil told me he was sorry. Sorry for what?”

“Sorry you were about to get your head blown off?” Branch shrugged. “Sorry he arranged to meet you and inadvertently put you in the wrong place at the wrong time?”

“Could be,” McCoy conceded.

Branch shook his head. “Jack, Neil Gorton has been practicing law in this city for decades. Sharp practices might be his stock in trade but he’s a lawyer, not a gangster.”

“He wouldn’t be the first defense attorney whose clients rubbed off on him.” McCoy reached for a law report, one he could find without needing to look. He slammed it down on the desk in front of Branch. “Paul Kopell was before your time, but you must have heard of him.”

“I have,” Branch said, making no move to pick up the volume. “And I also know that whatever he did, he didn’t commission a murder.”

“Is it really so far from bribing to juror to shooting a prosecutor?” McCoy asked. He leaned forward. “Both are attacks on the justice system. If Paul Kopell could persuade himself that there was nothing wrong with listening to his clients plan a murder and keeping his mouth shut, why couldn’t Neil Gorton talk himself into believing there was nothing wrong with telling a client where I happened to be?”

“First he’s conspiring to commit, now it’s criminal facilitation.” Branch picked up the newspaper again, glanced at it, and tossed it in the wastepaper basket by McCoy’s desk. “You know what he’ll say? That Kuen told him he wanted to thank you for giving him the short sharp shock he needed to get his life straight and Neil was as surprised as anyone to see the gun.”

“Maybe you should represent him, Arthur.”

“A first year law student could represent him and get the case thrown out at arraignment!”

“And if Mike Logan finds something?”

“Then he’ll take it to Ron Carver and Ron’ll bring it to me and we’ll make a decision based on the strength of the evidence. Now go home, Jack.” Branch turned to the door, then paused on the threshold and turned back. “And try to avoid any more indiscretions while you’re at it.”

.oOo.

Notes:

Mark Paul Kopell featured in the season 5 episode “House Counsel”. He was an old college classmate of Jack McCoy’s who represented a mobster. McCoy discovered that Kopell passed information about jurors to his clients to facilitate their bribery, and charged and convicted him.

When I worked out my own Jack McCoy timeline back around Season 16, there was less canon evidence available than there is now. Once The Powers That Be dropped the information that he and Ellen divorced in 1991, the references Diana Hawthorn made in the 1996 episode 'Trophy' make it clear that McCoy's affair with her occurred during his marriage. I have decided to stick with my original ideas, rather than try and retcon my own stories. I hope readers will forgive me.

Chapter 41: Supposedly Smart People

Chapter Text

27th Precinct

11 am Friday July 20, 2007

Anita Van Buren punched numbers into her calculator. Clearance rate be damned, all the brass want to see are statistics. And it doesn’t matter if the clearance only blips up because a body drops on the first of one month instead of the thirty-first of the previous, I still have to report to One PP and assume the position for the ceremonial spanking.

“Lieutenant Van Buren?”

Van Buren looked up to see Regan Markham at her door. “Counselor. Come in. How are you holding up?”

Regan took a seat. “Doing fine.”

Studying her, Van Buren wondered it if it was true. She’d heard the strain cracking Regan’s voice the night before, Lennie, he’s got a gun at my partner’s head —

Not McCoy, not even Jack. My partner.

Van Buren would have seen to it that anyone in her house who’d had to watch that would earn a mandatory sit-down with a department shrink, but Regan Markham was neither her responsibility nor her problem. “Good. And Jack McCoy?”

“Jack’s why I’m here,” Regan said. “I … he … this is going to sound crazy.”

Van Buren raised an eyebrow. “None of my business.”

Regan went scarlet. “God, not that!”

Van Buren had to work hard not to roll her eyes. Two supposedly smart people, who spend their entire working lives around prosecutors and investigators and detectives, around people whose professional expertise is reading people and observing things. And still thinking they can look at each other like those two look at each other and nobody is going to notice.

I don’t know if crime makes people stupid, but sex certainly does.

“Look.” Regan leaned forward. “I saw Neil Gorton talking to the shooter, to Kuen. Yesterday afternoon. And Jack says no-one but Neil and me knew he was going to be at that restaurant.”

Van Buren raised an eyebrow. “You need to be talking to Major Case.”

“Have done,” Regan assured her. “And you, know, it might be nothing. But I was wondering … can you maybe reach out to Jack’s local precinct, maybe get them to drive by a little more often?”

“That’d be the 11th Precinct. I don’t know the captain but I went through the academy with one of their detectives.” Van Buren rested her elbows on her desk and leaned forward. “Counselor, are you sure you know what you’re saying, here?”

“That maybe Neil Gorton tried to set Jack up to get shot? Yeah. And I know it sounds crazy, and I’ve just been over at One PP listening to Mike and Megan tell me how crazy it sounds. So.” She shrugged. “Thing is, if it’s one ex-con with a grudge, well, he’s dead. And it’s done. But if it’s not …”

“If it’s not, your Mr Gorton is at home right now thinking about how sooner or later Jack McCoy is going to start wondering how that con happened to walk into that particular restaurant that night.” Van Buren nodded. “Does he know you saw him? Talking to Kuen?”

“I don’t think so, I was doing my best to avoid him.”

“Take a little bit of extra care, anyway,” Van Buren advised. She picked up the phone. “And I shouldn’t need to tell you that there needs to be a tall wall between you and anyone working this case.”

“But if I asked you, as a witness, what was happening?”

Van Buren gave Regan a level look. “The investigation is continuing. No charges have been laid at this time.”

“Thank you.” Regan got to her feet.

“You’re welcome,” Van Buren said as she dialed, and then into the receiver. “Kelly Fraser, how are you? Listen, I need a favor on the down-low …”

.oOo.

As she left the 27th Precinct Regan remembered her phone was on silent and took it out of her pocket. Eight missed calls.

All from Jack McCoy’s number.

She stopped dead on the pavement, ignoring a curse from the pedestrian who almost walked into her, and hit return call without wasting time checking for messages.

He answered on the first ring. “Regan. You okay?”

She made her voice calm and even despite the incipient panic that was making her pulse race. “I’m fine, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” McCoy said, sounding surprised. “I didn’t think you’d be so long at One PP, I wanted to make sure you were alright.”

“Nothing’s wrong?” Regan asked.

He hesitated and Regan had time to run through everything from I’m feeling a little under the weather to there’s another crazed defendant holding me at gunpoint, her stomach twisting with fear, before McCoy said, “Well, apart from the fact that there’s a photograph of the two of us in today’s Times that has Arthur on the warpath.”

He’s alright. He’s alright. The hot summer sun was too bright, the traffic too loud. He’s alright. The sidewalk beneath her feet was heaving like the deck of the Staten Island ferry. He’s alright.

“Hey, are you okay?” someone a very long way away said. “Ma’am? Hey, officer! Officer, over here!”

She was sitting on the ground, one palm stinging, people bending over her. “Regan?” McCoy’s voice was sharp over the phone she still had clamped to her ear. “Regan!”

“Jack,” she said, or tried to.

“Regan, what the hell is going on?” he demanded, and the irritation in his voice made her laugh. If there’s one thing Jack McCoy absolutely can’t stand, it’s being kept in the dark. “Regan, talk to me. Talk to me!”

The phone was taken from her hand and she looked up to see Lennie Briscoe kneeling beside her. “Hello?” he said into the phone, and then held the cell phone away from his ear a little. “Jack? It’s Lennie. She’s — no, she’s — well, I’d tell you, Jack, if you’d stop talking long enough to let me.” He winced, and held the phone a little further away from his ear. “Get her up,” he said to someone over the top of Regan’s head, and she found herself hoisted to her feet by the strong arms of two patrol officers. Briscoe said into the phone, “Just a missed breakfast, probably — a couple of decades experience, that’s what — well, we’ll follow standard — yeah, the 2-7.” He took the phone away from his ear and looked at it. “Nice talking to you too, Jack.”

“He’s alright,” Regan said.

“He’s pissed.” Briscoe tucked her phone back in her jacket pocket. “Let’s get you inside and get some food into you. I’ve seen corpses with more color in their cheeks.”

“Did you tase them?” Regan asked, and began to laugh again at his bemused expression. And then, suddenly, she was crying, sobbing in huge gulping gasps that felt as if they were tearing her chest open. The patrol officers half-carried her up the last few steps to the doors and straight through the secure door that led to the rest of the precinct.

As soon as it closed behind them Briscoe took her from them and wrapped her in an embrace that smelt of tobacco and Old Spice. “It’s okay, honey, Uncle Lennie is here,” he said. “Everything is okay. The bad guy is dead. He’s extremely dead. Everybody is safe.”

“I kn-know,” Regan managed to choke out.

“Hell of a thing to happen,” Briscoe said. “That’s all there is to it, it’s a hell of thing to happen. Come on, now. Sit down with me and have a cup of coffee.”

She let him lead her to the small room usually used for victims or relatives to wait — the exact same room where she would have been brought the night before if that gunshot had been Lawrence Kuen firing and not Neil Gorton, if she’d been — if McCoy had been —

“Regan, honey, don’t think about it,” Briscoe said. “It doesn’t help.”

She took a deep breath and held it, then another, and accepted a cup of milky-sweet squad-room coffee from a uniformed officer. “I know. God. I’m sorry, Lennie, what a f*cking rookie thing to do.”

“Cut yourself some slack,” Briscoe said, keeping one hand on her shoulder.

Regan sipped her coffee. “I had a bunch of missed calls from Jack and my mind went to all sorts of bad places, and I f*cking know better, dammit, and I still let myself act like a damn civilian.” Briscoe opened his mouth and Regan shook her head at him. “I know, I know, I am a damn civilian these days, but I should be smarter than that.”

He shrugged. “I had a patrolman go face first into a corpse two weeks ago, and he’s had fifteen years in. The heat doesn’t help. Were you coming in or going out?”

“Going out.” Regan finished her coffee. “Stopped in to see your Lieutenant about —” God, even I think it sounds crazy. “Some stuff. Hey, you get anywhere with the cat yet?”

“C.S.U is back in Rivera’s house right now. They’ve got a computer with a nose now, you know that? Can pick up traces of all sorts of things, so maybe we’ll be lucky.”

Regan nodded. “We’ll still be lucky to get it in — unless I can find away to bring it in to impeach Rivera.”

“Rather you than me,” Briscoe said. “I looked into law school once, you know. Doing it nights. It didn’t look so hard, when I testified.” He chuckled, rubbing her shoulder. “But it turns out there’s a lot of other stuff too.”

“I know,” Regan said. “Most of which I don’t, and will never, need. Bankruptcy law? The rule against perpetuities?”

“I don’t know how you stuck it out,” Briscoe said.

Regan shrugged. “I didn’t have a lot else to do, in the end. I started out doing it nights, and then … I had some time off after I … well, I had some time off, and it filled in the time.” Night classes at community college had been an interest, a way to fill evenings left empty and blank by the wreckage of her marriage. When it was made clear to her there was no place for her on the force, it had become the possibility of a new career. Classes fitted in between doctor’s appointments, between physiotherapy, between extra surgeries. Memorizing precedents and principles a desperately needed distraction from thinking about either her future or her past. She shook her head slightly, dislodging the memories, and made her voice light. “Even the rule against perpetuities is better than staring at the wall.”

“What, you didn’t have a TV?” Briscoe said, and Regan laughed.

A raised voice in the public area made them both turn their heads. A moment later the door opened again and the patrolwoman who’d brought Regan the coffee stuck her head through. “Mr McCoy from the D.A’s Office is looking for you, Detective Briscoe. Do you want me to tell him to wait for you upstairs?”

Briscoe shook his head. “Tell him where we are,” he said. “I don’t think it’s actually me he’s here to see.”

The patrolwoman nodded, and turned away. “Mr McCoy, sir? Detective Briscoe is just through here.”

McCoy was frowning as he came through the door, motorcycle helmet under one arm. “What the hell happened?” he asked brusquely.

Briscoe stood up. “She had a little dizzy spell,” he said. “It’s the heat.”

McCoy studied Regan’s face. “You’re alright?” Without waiting for an answer, he asked Briscoe, “Has a paramedic seen her?”

“I’m fine, Jack,” Regan said. “I just needed to sit down and have a cup of coffee. Which I’ve done.” Briscoe and McCoy were both tall men, and with both of them on their feet they loomed over her. Regan stood up as well and McCoy put out his free hand as if to steady her, then let it drop to his side when it was clear she didn’t need it.

“You’re sure you’re alright?” he asked in a more reasonable tone.

“I’m embarrassed,” Regan said. “But apart from that, I’m fine. You didn’t need to run over here.”

“I was leaving for the day anyway,” McCoy said, which was at least partly untrue because although his tie and jacket were missing, he was in his suit pants and not his jeans. “If you’re sure you don’t need to get checked out, I’ll give you a ride home — to Abbie’s, I mean.”

Regan looked pointedly at his motorcycle helmet, eyebrows raised. “There will be ice-skating in hell before that happens.”

His mouth turned up at one corner. “Then I’ll buy you breakfast. Lennie, Marionette still where it used to be?”

Briscoe raised his eyebrows. “Jesus, Jack, that’s going back a while. It closed two years ago.”

McCoy shook his head. “Shame. Their coffee always made felony call-outs at two in the morning a little bit more bearable. What happened?”

Briscoe shrugged. “Marion moved back home, Maryland, I think. Her dad was sick. The place is a vintage clothes store now. But go half a block further up, other side of the road, place called Limehouse does an all-day English breakfast that will harden your arteries for you.”

“Sounds perfect,” McCoy said blithely, and steered Regan out of the station with a hand at the small of her back.

.oOo.

Chapter 42: International Travel

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

On the pavement, Regan stopped. “Should we … ah, did you see the papers today?”

McCoy gave her a quick smile. “Arthur showed me, if you’re talking about the Times. Don’t worry about it.” His motorcycle was parked carelessly, and somewhat illegally, at the curb and he took out his key and put it in the ignition.

“Don’t worry about it?” Regan put her hands on her hips. “What did Arthur say?”

“Something about a shotgun wedding,” McCoy said, and grinned as Regan’s mouth fell open. “Or you taking a transfer downstairs. Apparently some so-called journalist was waiting outside my place this morning, no doubt in the hope of ambushing me into saying something that would give him the jump on his competition.”

“He saw me leaving, didn’t he?” Regan said numbly.

“I told you, don’t worry about it. I took care of it.” Brakes on the bike off, McCoy propped his helmet on the handlebars and began to wheel it along the sidewalk.

Regan kept pace. “How, exactly, did you take care of it?”

“I pointed out to Arthur that an embrace between two colleagues who’d just been caught up in a shooting was hardly unheard of. I told him that you’d seen me home after I gave my statement, which is true, and that I have a perfectly serviceable spare room, which is also true.”

“Perfectly serviceable might be a matter of opinion,” Regan said, thinking of the stacks of papers and books that usually covered every available surface in that room, including the bed and most of the floor. When she’d stayed with McCoy for a few nights last winter, it had taken them both nearly fifteen minutes to clear a path to the bed and uncover it.

“A matter of opinion means an arguable case,” McCoy said. “If Arthur asks you about it, just say the same thing.”

“It’s not exactly the truth, though, is it?” Regan objected.

“I don’t believe either of us have a duty to disclose, as far as Arthur’s concerned,” McCoy said. “Anyway, I doubt he’ll raise it. I distracted him with the idea of arresting Neil Gorton. Limehouse, did Lennie say? This is it.”

Arresting Gorton?” Regan said. “What did Mike and Megan say?”

McCoy put the kickstand down and locked the motorcycle. “Nothing, yet,” he said, picking up his helmet. “Come on. I’m hungry, and you’re still a little gray around the gills, and this is a longer conversation than we can have on the sidewalk.”

Regan followed him inside the diner. Diner? Or are they called something different in England? All she really knew about England was that they had pubs and a Queen.

And barristers, with wigs. McCoy took a seat in a booth and Regan slid in opposite him.

“Wigs?” he asked, and Regan realized she’d spoken aloud.

“Just trying to remember what I know about England,” she said, as the waitress brought them menus.

“The Old Bailey,” McCoy said. “The Tower of London. You’ve never been?”

Regan shook her head. “Never had a passport.” She looked up at the waitress. “Full breakfast, please. And coffee. And orange juice.”

“Same for me,” McCoy said. The waitress wrote it down, took their menus and departed. McCoy folded his hands on the table and leaned forward. “You’ve never been outside the States?”

Regan shrugged. “Canada. Does that count?”

He smiled. “The Canadians I’ve met certainly think so. Did you enjoy it? Canada?”

“Well, I was in pursuit of a Failure To Appear last seen in Bellingham who made a break for the border, and I caught him in Surrey, so yeah. I enjoyed it plenty.”

The smile broadened to a grin. “That’s it? Your international travel is limited to hot pursuit?”

“There’s a lot of America I haven’t seen yet,” Regan said a little defensively.

“Hence your road-trip,” McCoy said, nodding.

“No.” Their food arrived and Regan waited while the waitress put the plates down. She sipped her orange juice. “You were right about that. A convertible is an invitation to a high dependency care unit.”

He shrugged, picking up his knife and fork. “So get an S.U.V.”

“Are we going to talk about this idea of arresting Neil Gorton?” Regan asked, trying to identify the dark brown slices of something on her plate. She prodded one cautiously with her fork.

“Black pudding,” McCoy said, watching her.

“And what’s that when it’s at home with its mother?” Regan asked suspiciously.

“Blood sausage.”

“Okay, no.” Regan pushed the slices to one side and concentrated on the bacon and eggs. “What did Arthur say when you told him you wanted to arrest Gorton?”

McCoy grinned at her. “He told me to wait for Major Case to make a determination. Which I intend to, but Arthur knows that on the off-chance I might be right, you’ll be a witness against Neil and anything that looks like a demotion would damage your credibility.”

“And what happens if there’s nothing, no case to make? Or if there is, after?”

“I’ll think of something else.” McCoy shrugged. “He’s leaving, remember? I can stall him for a few months.”

“One long series of holding patterns?” Regan said skeptically. For some reason the cook had put baked beans on the eggs, which was odd, but edible.

“Not that long,” McCoy pointed out. His plate was nearly empty, and he used a piece of toast to soak up the last of his eggs. “Don’t take Arthur so seriously, Regan.”

“He fired Serena,” she pointed out. “He could fire me. He doesn’t even need to give a reason.”

McCoy leaned back in his seat and reached for his coffee cup. “Serena Southerlyn was a good prosecutor when she started working with me, but she changed. Arthur felt her politics and her personal feelings were getting in the way of her doing her job.”

“And were they?” Regan asked.

“She refused to work on a couple of motions with me when I could I have used her help,” McCoy said with a note of defiance, “so yes, I’d say they were.”

Serena, who had worked as tirelessly as anyone on McCoy’s defense in May, refusing to help him when it had been not just her friend but also her boss asking? It didn’t seem terribly likely to Regan. “And what were those motions?” she asked.

She knew it was the right question when McCoy looked away. “One of them,” he said deliberately, after a pause, “was before the Appeal Court in Albany to have same-sex marriage declared illegal in New York. And I won, too.”

Regan put her knife and fork down. “And you’re surprised she wouldn’t help? Did you know she was a lesbian when you asked her to help you get their Honors to declare her a second class citizen?”

McCoy shook his head. “That had nothing to do with it. It should have had nothing to do with it, for her. We needed to pierce spousal privilege to convict a murderer. That was the only way I had to do it. That’s the job, Regan, I’m surprised you can’t see that.” He glared at her. “Would you have refused to do your job if I asked you to help me prepare for a motion like that?”

The attorney doth protest too much, methinks. And Jack McCoy has always believed that attack is the best form of defense. “No, but I might object if you asked me to help you prepare to ask the Supreme Court to, say, take away my right to vote.”

“That’s a straw-man,” McCoy said testily. “I thought I taught you better than that. Women’s suffrage is established by the 19th Amendment. Gay marriage is neither a constitutional right nor settled by the court. It’s a question still open to legal argument, and no lawyer should refuse to take a case because of personal considerations.”

“Rule 1.7 A one,” Regan countered. “No reasonable lawyer would argue that there wasn’t a significant risk that Serena’s professional judgment would be adversely affected by her personal interests.”

“If you go down that road, you’re calling the professional abilities of all gay lawyers into question. Not to mention gay judges. Do you really want to see the sexual preferences of candidates for the bench become a qualifying question? Because that’s what you’re arguing for.” He leaned forward. “What’s next? Female lawyers can’t defend accused rapists, female judges can’t preside over their trials?”

Regan refused to lean back. “Now who’s pulling out the straw man? A better argument would be a dedicated pro-choice activist representing someone charged with shooting an abortion doctor. And you know that’s a ready-made cause for appeal on conviction. If you were prosecuting a case like that, you’d be in the judge’s chambers with a motion to disqualify counsel so fast your feet wouldn’t touch the floor between One Hogan Place and Centre Street.”

“Yes, because it’s my job to win the case!” McCoy jabbed his forefinger at her. “And it should have been Serena’s job, and her only concern, and it wasn’t.”

Regan folded her arms on the table and leaned forward. “And you really had to ask her,” she said, even and deliberate, right in his face. “There wasn’t a single other person in Hogan Place you could think of who could help you prepare that motion.”

“She was my assistant.” McCoy’s voice was low and intense, his gaze hard on hers. “It was her job to help me. Not just when she felt like it.”

“So you made sure to find a test she’d either pass or fail.”

McCoy flung himself back in his seat. “Jesus, Regan! You make it sound like some Machiavellian scheme —”

Regan shook her head. “No, Jack, just seizing an opportunity. To see whether Serena was a hundred percent on your side. Or not.”

It was a low, dirty blow, and Regan knew it — using the doubts he’d once admitted about his own motivations regarding Diana Hawthorne, regarding Claire Kincaid. McCoy shook his head, mouth set in a scornful half-smile, and looked away from her, staring out the window. After a moment he shook his head again and turned back to her. “I can’t believe you’d accuse me of setting Serena up to be fired.”

The look on his face made Regan want to say I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it, of course you didn’t. She pressed her lips together hard until the urge passed. “Is that the thing you can’t believe?” she said instead. “Really, Jack?”

He opened his mouth, leaning forward, about to go on the attack, and Regan forced herself to sit still, solid, impassive. She looked him right in the eye, unflinching. Really, Jack?

“Goddammit!” McCoy’s hand came down hard on the table, rattling the crockery, and he flung himself back in his seat again. “Goddammit, Regan —”

“You never thought Arthur would sack her,” she said, because this was the point where you made excuses for guy you had in the hot-seat. I can see how it happened … nobody would blame you for … it’s completely understandable. “You just wanted to know.”

“She surprised me,” McCoy said, looking hard at his empty plate. “I never expected her to say no.” He raked his fingers through his hair. “And she did, and I argued with Arthur about her keeping her job, but I didn’t go to the mat. Dammit. Dammit, Regan!”

“If it helps,” Regan said, “Serena told me not to tell you or Arthur, but she said she’s a lot happier now than she was in the D.A’s Office.”

He shook his head. “It doesn’t help. Accidentally doing good is no excuse.” He paused, and looked at her. “So what’s your white line? The principle that’ll make you walk away?”

Regan shrugged a little. “Walk away? Nothing. But I don’t know how zealous I’d be about helping you overturn Roe v Wade. Or gun control laws.”

McCoy smiled a little. “I can’t see myself —”

Regan interrupted him. “A doctor who performs abortions murders his business partner,” she said. “There’s a problem with the evidence — bad search, whatever. You’ve no chance of conviction. But there’s all the proof you need that he terminates pregnancies. There’s a couple of new justices on the Supreme Court, making a majority just itching to take away a woman’s right to choose. Are you really telling me you wouldn’t ride that horse as far as it would take you to put a murderer in jail?”

“Yes, I am!” McCoy said indignantly. “Yes, I’ve prosecuted people for crimes I could convict them on when there was no way to win a higher count charge, in order to put them away, but I’ve never tried to get someone sent to jail for acting within the law!”

“So you’d let a murderer get away with it?” Regan said.

“It wouldn’t be the first time I haven’t been able to prosecute a guilty man or woman,” McCoy pointed out. “There’s a stack of files on my bookshelf, you’ve seen them, you’ve added a couple, waiting for new evidence.” He shrugged a little. “Or for the higher courts to decide on questions of admissibility.”

“Or for you to come up with a creative way to get around questions of admissibility,” Regan said.

“Now you’re channeling Danielle Melnick.” McCoy shook his head. “It’s how the system works, Regan. It’s the only reason the system works. We test the law to its limits with all our ability. That’s how the limits are found.”

“Except we pick the judges to get the rulings we want —”

“So does the defense. The legal system isn’t a machine — it’s made up of men and women who have their own biases, their own prejudices, who are doing the best they can, even when that best is limited. That’s why it’s adversarial — so the biases cancel each other out in the contest.”

“Yeah, I passed Legal Theory 101,” Regan said. Only just, true, but I did pass.

“Then what’s your problem?” McCoy asked tartly.

“It’s not always a fair fight, is it?” Regan shrugged. “You can’t pretend that most of the lawyers you come up against are in your weight class.”

“And you can’t pretend that I spend my time knocking down easy-beat public defenders, either!” He folded his arms and leaned forward, elbows on the table. “I’ve taken on, and beaten, the best corporate lawyers the gun manufacturers of America can buy. I’ve prosecuted the most powerful people in this city, I’ve gone toe-to-toe with foreign governments —”

Regan forced herself to ignore the way the pose pulled McCoy’s shirt tight across his shoulders, the forearms bared by his rolled-up sleeves. “And beaten them, on the whole,” she pointed out.

McCoy shrugged. “I don’t always win,” he said. “But it’s my job to try. Where there’s a crime, I’ll prosecute it. Where there’s a law, I’ll enforce it. And where there’s a victim, I’ll speak for that victim. The only way I can do that is to win the case in front of me.”

“By any means necessary?” Regan asked.

He shook his head. “By any means possible. I don’t deny I crossed the line a time or two in the past, but I’ve learned that lesson.” He frowned a little. “I thought we were on the same page on this, Regan. Locking up the bad guys.”

“I’m happy to send the bad guys to jail,” Regan said. “I don’t know how I feel about the unintended consequences, though. About Serena not being able to marry Megan, if they want, for example.”

“That’s not on me,” McCoy said sharply. “That law was flawed and if I hadn’t proved it, someone else would have.” He paused. “And it’s not always simple, or an easy choice, Regan, but it’s my job to make that choice. You think I shouldn’t have argued that case before their Honors in Albany? What would you think of me if I’d given a murderer a walk because I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of my gay friends?” When she hesitated, he leaned further forward, pressing his advantage. “You think I shouldn’t have put Serena in that position, but you’re wrong about the dilemma she faced. She didn’t have to chose between being on my side and her rights. She had to chose between letting a murderer get away with murder on the one hand, and her personal feelings on the other.”

“Alright,” Regan conceded. “I wouldn’t be okay with you letting someone get away with a crime, if there was anything you could do.”

Thank you,” McCoy said, and grinned at her, good humor fully restored now he’d won the argument.

But you can’t deny that you have an unfair advantage.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Running prosecutions on a shoestring? A half-a-dozen paralegals to go toe-to-toe with some of the biggest firms in the city?”

Regan shook her head. “Money doesn’t buy competence.”

He paused, and then gave her a roguish smile. “I think I’m flattered,” he said. “You’re saying the system’s broken because I can’t help winning any case I take on.”

“And with great power comes great responsibility,” Regan said.

McCoy raised his eyebrows. “More Buffy?”

“Spiderman,” Regan said. “Don’t you know anything?”

He grinned. “Apparently not. I wasn’t aware I was a legal superhero, either.”

Regan snorted. “You’ve defeated double jeopardy, habeas corpus, legal and medical privilege, expectations of privacy … did I miss anything?”

“Maybe by the end of the year I’ll be able to add Neil Gorton to that list,” McCoy said.

“I thought that was a holding action,” Regan said. “To fend off Arthur.”

McCoy shook his head. “I looked up People v Kuen. His lawyer was a public defender called Gerard Bresson. Guess where Mr Bresson works now? Gorton and Steinhartas, that’s where.”

“That just makes it more likely it was an innocent conversation,” Regan said.

“How sure are you it was Lawrence Kuen you saw?”

“One hundred percent,” Regan said.

“On the stand?” McCoy asked. “You saw him for maybe a few seconds, at a distance. You were in a hurry, distracted. Can you really be certain it was him?”

“Yes,” Regan said. “And I can maybe prove it a little more, too. I saw his tattoo when he was talking to Neil. I noticed it because it was jail-house artwork. That’s why I clocked Kuen more than I might have, otherwise, because it registered that he was an ex-con. I wasn’t in a position to see it last night at the restaurant. I drew what I saw for Mike and Megan, if it matches what’s on Kuen’s arm in the morgue …” She shrugged.

McCoy nodded slowly. “That’ll stand up in court,” he said. He leaned forward again, forearms flat on the table. “I think Neil took a file from my in-tray the other day. One that might give him a reason to want me out of commission.”

Regan shook her head. “I never left him alone in your office, Jack, you know I wouldn’t do that.”

“Are you sure?”

Stung, she nodded. “Of course I’m sure. I walked him in, and —” Oh, sh*t.

“What?” McCoy asked. “And what?”

Regan closed her eyes. “Jack, I’m sorry. He went over to your desk. I got him away from it and sitting down, I knew you wouldn’t leave anything lying open, I never thought that — Jack, f*ck, I’m sorry.”

“Regan.” His hand covered hers, warm and strong. She opened her eyes and saw nothing but warmth in his eyes, rather than the condemnation she knew she deserved. “You’re right, I wouldn’t leave anything confidential on my desk, any more than you would. You weren’t to know —”

“If you’re right about Gorton, I almost got you killed!” she burst out. “I was careless and stupid and I almost got you killed!”

McCoy’s fingers tightened around hers. “If I’m right, there’s no way you or anyone could have predicted what happened. As Arthur pointed out to me, he’s a lawyer, and not even a mob lawyer. And you don’t really believe I’m right, so stop beating yourself up over it.”

“I came down her after One PP to ask Lieutenant Van Buren to have a little more visible police presence in your street,” Regan admitted. “So I believe you at least that much.”

“Regan, we’re sitting here in plain view without a cop in sight. If Arthur believed I was right I’d have a protection detail, like last time. If Anita believed I was right there’d be a couple of uniforms in the next booth. And if you believed I was right, the next booth would hold Ed and Lennie or Mike and Megan or whoever else you could call in a favor from.” He raked his fingers through his hair with the hand not holding hers. “So is this where you tell me that you’ve ridden this roller-coaster before, again?”

Regan shook her head. She turned her hand over beneath his and squeezed his fingers. “No. This is where I tell you that we’re both witnesses, and we need to leave this to the police and to whoever ends up tasked with it in the office.”

McCoy smiled slowly. “That would leave both of us at a loose end this afternoon, Ms Markham,” he said, his thumb running gently across the back of her hand. “Any suggestions on how we could fill the time?”

His smile widened as Regan felt herself blush. “I think I should put in an appearance at the office,” she said. “If you’re not going back in. It might help to dispel any ideas that Arthur’s gotten into his head.”

McCoy raised his eyebrows. “You blush like that when he asks you about last night, it’ll cement them.”

“I was concerned about your well-being after the shooting.” Regan shrugged. “I made sure you got home, it was late, you have a spare room. Isn’t that what you told me to say?”

“Now try it without looking guilty,” McCoy suggested.

Regan looked away, staring at her coffee cup. You’ve testified on the stand plenty of times, she reminded herself. You never let a defense attorney get under your skin then, and they always tried.

She looked back at McCoy and held his gaze. “I was concerned about your well-being after the shooting,” she said calmly. “I made sure you got home. It was late. You have a spare room.”

He nodded. “Better. You were pretending I was counsel for the defense?”

Regan blinked. “How could you tell?”

“I’ve watched more than one cop on the stand, Regan,” McCoy said. “I know how it looks when I see it.”

“Well, I’m not under oath,” Regan said a little defensively.

“And you’re not lying,” McCoy pointed out.

“I think it’s what’s Catholics call a sin of omission,” Regan said.

“Is that how you felt about it when you lied to a suspect, on the force? How you feel now, when you do the same thing to a defendant?” McCoy asked.

Regan shook her head. “Of course not,” she said. “That’s been upheld, time and again, as a legitimate tactic. But this is different, isn’t it? Tricking a guilty man into thinking the evidence against him is stronger that it is? That’s one thing. Misleading Arthur to avoid getting into trouble …” She shrugged.

“So if the Supreme Court had said it was okay, you’d be fine with it?” he teased. “What happened to your doubts about the rigged system?”

“Finding a loophole to put a criminal behind bars, I’m okay with. Finding a loophole to serve my own interests? Not so much.”

McCoy was silent a moment. “Is this your tactful way of telling me you’re calling a halt?”

Every ounce of good sense Regan had ever been able to lay claim to told her to nod, to say Yes, I think that’s the best idea. There were a thousand good reasons, reasons she’d rehearsed to herself over and over again for months now.

But the heart has reasons that reason knows not, McCoy had said, explaining Judge Ross and Neil Gorton.

“I think it’s a little late to do that,” she said, instead.

“Then you’ll have dinner with me?” he asked, smiling.

Regan nodded. “After I make sure Colleen gets home. Where?”

“Same place as last night.”

Regan frowned. “I don’t think it’ll be open again yet, and —”

McCoy shook his head. “The same place we had dinner last night, in the end. My place. Call when you’re on the way and I’ll order in. Chinese alright?” Regan hesitated, and he shrugged a little. “Just dinner, if that’s what you want. I’d rather not spend the meal with you looking over your shoulder for Arthur Branch or anyone who knows him, that’s all.” He gave her the patented Jack McCoy charming S.O.B smile. “We’ll eat. And talk. And I’ll call you a cab, if you want.”

“Alright,” Regan said softly. “If I want a cab, I’ll ask you to call me one.” She slipped her hand free from his and dug her wallet out of her pocket. “And now, I’d better get to Hogan Place.”

.oOo.

Notes:

New York State Unified Court System Rules of Professional Conduct state in Rule 1.7 (a) (2) that a lawyer shall not represent a client if a reasonable lawyer would conclude that there is a significant risk that the lawyer’s professional judgment on behalf of a client will be adversely affected by the lawyer’s own financial, business, property or other personal interests.

McCoy’s line “Where there’s a crime, I’ll prosecute it. Where there’s a law, I’ll enforce it. And where there’s a victim, I’ll speak for that victim” is from “Illegal”, episode 8 of season 18

Chapter 43: White Lies and Bluebacks

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

10th Floor

One Hogan Place

3 pm Friday July 20, 2007

“Regan Markham?”

Regan looked up to see a young black man in a suit at her cubicle door. “Yes?”

He held out a stack of papers. “Enjoy,” he said.

Regan took them and glanced at the top sheet. Motion to exclude evidence in the matter of the People versus John Rivera. Under it was a motion to suppress statements, in the matter of the People versus John Rivera, and a motion to introduce evidence in the same case.

Introduce? She read that one in more detail. Of course, the shooting last year. Part of his affirmative defense.

McCoy had been right. Gorton was out to drown them in motions. Regan sighed, and pinched the bridge of her nose.

“That looks like trouble,” Serena Southerlyn’s familiar voice said from the doorway.

Regan let the papers drop to her desk and turned her chair. “It is,” she said. “Or work, anyway. How are you, Serena?”

“How are you?” Serena asked, taking the seat by Regan’s desk. “And how’s Jack? He said he was alright and he sounded alright on the phone, but how is he really?”

“I’m fine, he’s fine —”

“Serena,” Arthur Branch said from the doorway, a little uncomfortably.

“Arthur,” Serena acknowledged, frost in her voice.

What is this, Times Square? Regan thought as Branch stepped into her cubicle instead of moving off down the corridor to his own office.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, ladies,” he said, “but I need a word with Regan. Privately.”

“Of course,” Serena said. She rose gracefully to her feet. “Regan, I’d wait, but I’m due in chambers in fifteen minutes. I just called in to thank you. I know it must have been an inconvenience, but when Megan called me to say Jack had been involved in a shooting …” She shook her head. “I know he likes to think he’s as tough as old boot leather, but I also know I shook for ten hours straight after that incident in the drug store, and I had a bullet-proof vest on and all I was facing was a knife.” She patted Regan’s arm. “Thank you for humoring me, and making sure he got home.”

It was lucky that Serena was between Branch and Regan, because Regan was sure that if the D.A. had been able to see her face, he would have known instantly what a fantasy Serena was spinning. She managed to close her mouth and compose her expression. “It was really no problem,” she said mildly. “I was concerned for him myself. I had a gun in my face a couple of times when I was in uniform and I know how it can affect you, afterward.”

“Still. I owe you one,” Serena said. “Come over for dinner one night soon.”

“I will,” Regan promised. With one cool nod to Branch, Serena took her leave, and Regan looked up at Branch. “You needed a word?”

He frowned, and hesitated, and finally gestured at the pile of blue-backs on her desk. “Those all the same case?”

Regan nodded. “People v Rivera. This is my first experience of what I understand is called ‘wallpapering’.”

“Neil Gorton’s representing him?” Branch asked, and when she nodded, “Has Jack shared his wild ideas about Neil with you?”

“Yes, and I’ve given a statement to Detectives Logan and Wheeler at Major Case.”

“And what do you think?” Branch asked. “Not the loyal assistant’s party line. Your honest opinion.”

“I honestly don’t know,” Regan admitted. “Killing a prosecutor, any prosecutor, is stupid or insane, and Gorton’s neither. On the other hand, he did know Kuen at least well enough to talk to him, and it was a last minute plan for him to meet Jack there to talk about a plea. And …” She leafed through the stack of blue-backs. “This isn’t the product of one morning’s work. Why did Gorton tell Jack he wanted to talk about a plea when he had a dozen junior lawyers beavering away on these?”

Branch nodded slowly. “His client’s position as far as a plea bargain went would be a lot stronger if even a few of those were upheld.”

Regan folded her arms. “I was a beat cop, not a detective, but I did the investigative course at the Academy and I spent plenty of time listening to brown-wrapper cops deciding which way to go on a case while I stood around in the rain keeping looky-loos away.” She shrugged. “I don’t know if Jack’s right, but I’d bet all the hours it’s going to take us to prepare for these motions in limine that Major Case are at least looking in to it.”

“If that’s the case, should Jack still be prosecuting Rivera?” Branch asked. He pulled the chair by her desk out a little and sat down. “Whether there’s anything there or not, any conviction would be vulnerable to appeal on the grounds of prosecutorial bias if these suspicions of his got out.”

Regan snorted. “Good luck to anyone trying to make the argument that Jack needs personal animus toward a defense attorney to go balls-to-the-wall to get a conviction,” she said, forgetting for a second who she was talking to. “Uh, that is —”

“You know, when I was a young fellow, there was a boy at my school we were all jealous of,” Branch said. Regan suppressed the urge to sigh, and put an attentive expression on her face. “We were jealous of him because of his brother, quite a few years older than we were. Billy, his name was. Billy Johnson. He was a pilot in the United States Air Force. A fighter pilot, too. A real hero. Flew Sabres in Korea.” Branch shook his head, smiling. “When he came back, we couldn’t get enough of his stories. That was the first time I ever heard anyone use that particular phrase. You can imagine, as an eleven or twelve-year-old boy, I found it irresistible. I found every opportunity to use it.” He raised his eyebrows. “Until I used it at the dinner table and my mother washed my mouth out with soap.”

Regan nodded. “There’s a time and a place,” she said. “Message received —”

Branch shook his head. “When Billy heard about it, he came over to see my mother. In uniform, with his medals. He sat down with her and explained that in a jet-fighter, there are two important levers. The throttle and the joystick. The throttle controls the speed of the place, the joystick points the nose up or down. He told her that they each have a knob on the end. If you push both levers forward as far as they’ll go, until the balls on the ends of them hit the firewall between the co*ckpit and the engine, the plane goes into a full speed dive. Straight at the enemy, no chance to change your mind.”

“And then you’re going balls to the wall,” Regan said. “I never knew that.”

Branch stood up. “Things aren’t always how they seem,” he said, turning to the door. “Usually, the obvious explanation is the right one. But not always.”

.oOo.

Notes:

There are a lot of different versions of the origin of ‘balls to the wall’, including ones that date the expression to nineteenth century steam engines, but it was used by pilots in the Korean and Vietnam wars as Arthur Branch describes.

In DR1-102, episode 13 of season 12, a suspect holding a hostage demands a lawyer. Serena volunteers to go in and persuade him to surrender, later running the risk of disbarment when the Ethics Committee considers whether she represented herself to the suspect as ‘a’ lawyer or as his lawyer.

Chapter 44: Who, What, Where

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Apartment of Jack McCoy

7 pm Friday 20 July 2007

Things aren’t always how they seem, Regan thought, the remains of a Chinese takeaway meal spread across the table in front of her, watching Jack McCoy finish his glass of wine. Usually, the obvious explanation is the right one. But not always.

By the time she’d seen Colleen safely inside her building and taken the taxi on to McCoy’s, Regan’s stomach had been a riot of butterflies. From one moment to the next, she hadn’t been sure if they were the result anticipation or anxiety. All very well for Jack to say ‘just dinner’. He knows as well as I do it’s never ‘just’ anything, between us. It’s not even ‘just going through a doorway together’ or ‘just reaching for a law report’. It’s certainly not going to be ‘just dinner’.

And this wasn’t some chance encounter, wasn’t a moment when circ*mstances threw them into each other’s company and the chemistry between them temporarily overrode common sense.

As she rode the elevator up to McCoy’s floor, Regan had known she was making a deliberate decision, clear-headed, no excuses. A bad decision, a mistake that she knew was a mistake even as she was making it. Stupid, stupid, stupid

She’d been halfway to turning around and fleeing back down the hall to the elevator —

Until McCoy had opened the door to her knock and stood there, one hand on the door and the other braced on the jamb, all casual animal grace like the way he sprawled on the couch in his office, and all Regan’s thoughts of mistakes had fled right out of her head.

And so here I am.

McCoy had been as good as his word: they’d eaten Chinese takeaway, they’d shared most of a bottle of wine, and they’d talked. Not about Rivera, or Gorton, or any of the cases they were trying, but actual conversation like normal people who didn’t spend twelve-to-eighteen hours a day obsessing about the minutiae of legal precedents. He was reading a compilation of the letters between John Adams and his wife, Abigail, which he thought she’d enjoy. Regan confessed that she’d been working her way through the true story behind Moby Dick for over a year. McCoy preferred the Beatles and the Clash to her own favorites of the Cowboy Junkies and Sarah McLachlan, but they reached an agreement on fusion jazz and the Boss. Neither of them had managed to see a movie in the past year, although McCoy regretted missing a British film about the abolition of the slave trade and Regan was sorry not to have seen 28 Weeks Later.

“I have low-brow tastes,” she said, a little embarrassed.

McCoy shrugged. “The first one was entertaining,” he said, and grinned at the look on her face. “I took my nephew. He was at that age when it was best to arrange to spend time with him in circ*mstances where the fact that his main form of communication was grunting didn’t matter.”

“A teenager, then,” Regan said dryly.

McCoy nodded. “Then. A man, now. A father, in fact. Of a beautiful little girl.”

A beautiful little girl. Regan’s throat swelled and she blinked hard. When her vision cleared, she could see McCoy looking at her with a slight frown. She shook her head, swallowed past the lump in her throat. “I don’t know if I have any nephews or nieces, yet, myself.”

“You’re not in touch with your … brother? Sister?”

“Brothers. Two. And no.” She managed a smile. “Not since I hooked and booked Andy, the youngest, on a D.U.I. my third year in uniform. They decided I was on the other side.”

“You couldn’t have let your partner do it?” McCoy asked.

“Marco wasn’t there. I decided to try and do Thanksgiving dinner like normal people do, you know? Invite them and whichever women they were keeping company with that week, do a turkey, all of it. End of the evening, Andy was fully lit up and about to get behind the wheel.” She shrugged. “The only way I could stop him was with handcuffs, and once they were out and on …”

McCoy nodded. “So you arrested him.”

“There’s a good chance I saved his life,” Regan said. “Or the life of someone else on the road that night. Or both.”

“Do you need me to tell you that you did the right thing?” McCoy asked. “Because you did.”

Regan shook her head. “I know I did the right thing. I knew it when I was doing it. You know, he would have forgiven me if I’d decked him. That would have just been normal back-and-forth, in his world. But he, and Mick — my older brother — they figured that being in blue, I should work the system for them. They didn’t understand …” She shrugged. “What Gran-Da gave me, that made me able to be in the system, it changed me. In ways they couldn’t even imagine.”

“But you feel guilty, nonetheless,” McCoy said softly.

She raised her eyebrows at him, and made her voice light. “You’re too good at that, Jack.”

He shook his head. “You told me. After we got back from Carthage. Your family had one chance, you said, and you got it.”

“I did. And why me? Gran-Da would have preferred a boy.” She smiled. “You should have seen him trying to explain menstruation to me. Maybe he picked me on the basis of age. Maybe Mick was too old, and Andy was too young.”

“Maybe he was a good judge of character,” McCoy said. “You ever think of that?”

“He wasn’t, though,” Regan said. “Because —” The words were right there, trying to force their way out of her mouth. She bit down on them hard, washed them back down her throat with the rest of the wine in her glass, and grasped desperately for a change of subject. “So, did you ask Serena to lie to Arthur for me?”

McCoy’s eyebrows went up. “No. Why?”

Regan refilled her wineglass. “She turned up in my office to ask how you were, and then spontaneously told Arthur that the reason I came home with you last night was because she asked me to make sure you were alright. Headed him right off at the pass.”

He shook his head. “I spoke to her,” he said. “To —” He gave a wry smile. “Try not to look smug. To apologize a little.”

Regan grinned. “No wonder she was worried about you.”

“I have no problem apologizing,” McCoy protested. “On the rare, the very rare, occasions when I’m wrong.”

“And did you tell her Arthur might be on the warpath?” Regan asked.

“I asked her if she’d ever looked into suing the D.A’s Office over Branch firing her. And when she said yes, I asked her for the name of the lawyer she’d consulted.”

“I’m not sure how much good it would do me, if Arthur pink-slipped me,” Regan said. “Since, given she didn’t sue —”

McCoy shook his head. “Her lawyer —” He put down his empty glass and started searching his pockets. “I’ve got his name here somewhere.” Producing a folded piece of paper, he read, “Leonard Hillman. He told her she had a strong case, high probability of winning. And I know he has a good reputation, a lot more wins than loses. He doesn’t take cases just for the hell of it.”

“But Serena never took it any further,” Regan pointed out.

“Her choice, not her lawyer’s advice.” McCoy stretched out one long arm for the wine bottle and poured the last of it into his glass. “She said she didn’t want to put me in an awkward position.” He raised his glass and regarded Regan over the rim. “The point is, you should talk to him, if there comes a time you need to. More relevantly to this conversation, Serena’s as smart as they come. She obviously put two and two together, the photo she saw this morning —”

“Serena and the rest of the damn city,” Regan muttered.

“Only that part of it that can puzzle out words of more than two syllables,” McCoy said. “Put that picture together with me asking Serena for the name of a lawyer who specializes in suing employers …” He shrugged. “She jumped to the obvious conclusion. And I doubt Serena needs much encouragement to take the opportunity to spike Arthur’s guns.”

“I’m not sure how I feel about that,” Regan admitted.

McCoy set his glass down, and leaned forward, pushing aside a couple of empty cartons to lean his arms on the table. “Then how about, you got the man who killed her girlfriend to confess and take a plea, you made sure the man harassing her was arrested, and you introduced her to her current girlfriend, who she’s very happy with, on all the evidence. She might conceivably feel that she owes you one.”

“I feel a little better about, from that perspective.” Regan sipped her wine. “It headed Arthur off at the pass, anyway. He ended up talking about Rivera, and Gorton. Asking me if I thought you might be more zealous against Rivera because you think Gorton set up that robbery.”

McCoy raised an eyebrow. “And what did you say?”

Regan smiled. “That you’d do everything legal to convict a killer whoever the defense lawyer was.”

“Damn right,” McCoy agreed.

“And he told me one of his little stories. With a moral.”

McCoy’s lips quirked up. “Rather you than me. I miss Adam. He skipped the stories and just stuck the moral straight between your ribs, like a stiletto.” He tilted his glass a little one side, then the other. “He can be a cantankerous old coot, but you’d like him. He’d like you. So what was Arthur’s moral? Don’t get photographed with your arms around your boss?”

Regan shook her head. “Look beyond obvious explanations,” she said. “Maybe he was trying to tell me he was giving me a pass on last night.”

“He’s not that subtle,” McCoy said acerbically. “You were talking about Gorton? He was telling you that I’m imagining things. Which you halfway believe, already.” He paused, and took a long swallow of wine. “Which I halfway believe, already.”

Regan shrugged. “Then let’s take his advice. Let’s look beyond obvious explanations.” She dug in the pockets of the jacket she’d hung over the back of her chair until she found a pen, and smoothed the paper bag the takeaway had arrived in out on the table. “What do we actually know?”

“We’ve got two out of three elements of the crime,” McCoy said. He listed them on his fingers. “One, means. Neil knows Kuen. Two, opportunity. He knew I’d be at that restaurant. All we need is motive — that file he might have taken — ”

Regan shook her head. “We don’t need to worry about motive.”

“A wise man once said to me, without motive, you can’t convince a jury that water's wet.”

“Jack, I never thought I’d say this, but stop thinking like a lawyer. There’s no jury in the room and there’s no jury on the horizon. Stop looking for facts to support your argument and talk to me about what the facts actually are. What do we know?”

McCoy paused. “We know Neil knows Kuen.”

“Right.” She wrote it down.

“We know he told Kuen where —”

“We don’t,” Regan said. “He could have followed you, he could have been there by complete coincidence. It happens.” She paused. “But we do know that Gorton and Kuen pretended not to recognize each other.”

“A good defense attorney —”

“Would argue that there might be any one of a dozen explanations for that, I know. But we’re not getting ready for court. You were there, you’re the witness, and your perception was that they didn’t give any sign of knowing each other, when we know they did. Why is a problem for later.” She wrote that down. “Plus if it was innocent, if Gorton just froze or something, then when you told Mike about me seeing Kuen, he wouldn’t have wanted me to come in. If it was innocent, the minute they told Gorton who he’d shot, he would have said That’s unbelievable, I was just talking to him this afternoon. And the next thing we know is that Gorton shot Kuen.”

“Saving my life,” McCoy said.

“That’s speculation. We don’t know why anything, Jack. Stick to who and what. Gorton shot Kuen.”

“Who and what and when,” McCoy said. “He shot him after the cops were in there, guns drawn.”

Regan nodded. “That’s right, he did. There was only one shot, and it was after they breached the door.”

“Why didn’t the cops shoot him?” McCoy stopped. “Sorry. That’s a why.”

“But what happened, exactly?” Regan asked. “I couldn’t see.”

“My eyes were closed,” McCoy said ruefully. “I didn’t want to see it coming.” He frowned a little, gaze distant. “I heard the police telling Kuen to get his hands up and I heard someone say don’t shoot.”

“So did I. And then the shot.”

“Gorton shot Kuen, but we don’t know he was aiming at him.”

“You think he meant to shoot me?” He shivered suddenly.

Regan put down her pen and got up. She went to stand behind him, resting her hands on his shoulders. “He didn’t. That’s all that matters.”

McCoy covered her fingers with his own and leaned back against her. “Kuen was between us. When I opened my eyes, Neil was pointing the gun at me. So he couldn’t have been trying to shoot me, when he fired.”

“When I came in there,” Regan said slowly, “I had to step over the body to get to you. He was between you and the door. So the cops had a clear shot. But someone said don’t shoot. One of them?”

McCoy shook his head. “I don’t know.”

She slipped one hand from under his and ran her fingers through his hair. “If he was a witness on the stand?”

“I thought you told me to stop thinking like a lawyer.” He closed his eyes and tilted his head back into her touch. “Let’s stop talking about this and go to bed.”

“Let’s talk about this, and then go to bed,” Regan countered.

McCoy smiled. “No cab?”

“You know very well that was never on the agenda,” she said.

“Then come here for a minute.” He turned in his chair, slipping his arms around her waist.

Regan let him draw her into his lap. She linked her hands behind his neck. “Was it one of the cops who said not to shoot?”

“I thought you told me that thinking about it wouldn’t help.” McCoy hooked one finger in the neck of her blouse and tugged. “Closer.”

She leaned her forehead against his. “Thinking about what didn’t happen doesn’t help. But what did happen? I’ve got a file as thick as my thumb in Emil Skoda’s office to prove that not thinking about that doesn’t help at all.”

McCoy ran his hand up her back to cup her head. “Will you please stop talking and kiss me?” he said. Regan could hear the edge to his voice, and judged it was partly feigned impatience. Only partly. There was a tension in the muscles of his neck that she recognized, his body betraying the effort he was putting into looking away from memory. She tilted her head a little and pressed her lips to his, hoping she wouldn’t disappoint him. His mouth opened against hers and he pulled her closer against him. Tentatively, Regan stroked his tongue with her own, gaining confidence at his murmur of pleasure.

“You’re alive,” she whispered against his lips. “You’re alright. It’s over. Okay?”

McCoy closed his eyes. “The door opened.” Regan could remember that for herself, shattering glass and booted feet crunching through it and knowing something had gone absolutely, badly, wrong. “The police came in. They were shouting —” hands up hands up hands up. McCoy swallowed hard. “They were shouting for Kuen to get his hands up. And then —”

Don’t shoot, and a gunshot that stops Regan’s heart as efficiently as if it had been fired straight into her chest.

McCoy opened his eyes. “And then Larry Kuen called out don’t shoot and Neil shot him.”

.oOo.

Notes:

The wise man with the saying about motive and juries is, of course, Adam Schiff.

Chapter 45: Res Ipsa Loquitur

Notes:

NSFW

Chapter Text

“He was trying to surrender,” Regan said. “He was trying to surrender when Gorton shot him.”

McCoy shook his head, but not in disagreement. “Neil will argue that what he perceived was Lawrence Kuen about to use deadly physical force. God, I even laid the groundwork for him in my statement.”

“But if you’re right, and Gorton did tell Kuen how to find you, knowing that Kuen would try and kill you …” Regan said.

“Section 125.27, subsection one - five. Witness to a crime committed on a prior occasion, death caused to prevent testimony. If we can persuade the judge that the conspiracy to commit should be considered as a separate crime, concluded before Kuen walking into the restaurant, it’s Murder One.” McCoy’s arms tightened around her. “Jesus, Jamie. And Katie. I could be wrong, Regan. I hope I’m wrong.”

“The cops who came in through the door must have heard Kuen trying to surrender,” Regan said. “They would have gone in because they thought he was about to shoot. No reason to hold fire unless something changed their minds.” She shrugged. “So there’s an argument to be made that the crime was concluded before Gorton pulled the trigger, even if only by a second or two.”

“No jury would buy it,” McCoy said. “All Neil has to say is it all happened so fast.

“And how will he explain to the jury that he knew Kuen and never said so?” Regan said skeptically.

“Fifteen expert witnesses to support his contention that all he really looked at was the gun.” McCoy shook his head again. “And it could even be true. Jesus, Regan, this is insane! Neil soliciting the murder of a prosecutor because he found out I was looking into a little irregularity in his finances?”

She ran her fingers through his hair. “I don’t know. I don’t know him.”

McCoy turned his head a little, into her touch. “I don’t know him well, either, but I know he’s smart, and that would be incredibly stupid.” He smiled a little, eyes heavy-lidded. “You know what else I know?”

“What?” Regan asked, her voice husky at the look on his face.

“I have my arms around an amazing woman and I’m talking about the details of the homicide statute.” His hand slid down over her hip, down her thigh to the hem of her skirt and Regan’s breath caught as his fingers reached bare skin. McCoy’s smile widened. “That suggests I need to re-evaluate my priorities.” He leaned forward and pressed a kiss to the hollow of her throat. “Unless you’ve changed your mind, and I should call you that cab.”

“No cab,” Regan said, as McCoy’s mouth moved up the column of her neck to just beneath her ear. “I haven’t changed my mind.”

“But?” he murmured against her skin.

“A little nervous,” she admitted breathlessly, and cringed a little at the thought of what he’d think of that confession — at how different she must be to the confident, sophisticated New York women he must usually take to bed.

He sat up a little and looked at her, and she was relieved to see he wasn’t laughing at her. “Then just come and lie down with me,” he said softly. “That’s all. You’ve done that before.”

When she nodded, he lifted her off his lap and stood. Taking her hand, he led her down the hallway to the bedroom. Matter-of-factly, he sat down on the edge of the bed and began to take off his shoes. Regan sat down on the other side of the mattress and slipped off her own.

McCoy took off his watch and ring and put them on the bedside table, and lay down, gaze steady on her face, waiting.

Regan took a deep breath and lay down as well, a decorous distance away. McCoy smiled and reached out his hand toward her, and Regan took it. For a moment neither of them spoke.

McCoy raised Regan’s hand to his lips. It could have been a courtly, old-fashioned gesture, but there was nothing courtly about the lingering kiss he pressed to her knuckles, to the slow caress of his thumb against her palm, to the lazy smile that curved his lips. She found herself leaning closer to him, her other hand flat against his chest. McCoy unfolded her fingers and kissed her palm, holding her gaze, and then covered the hand that lay against his chest with his own, tracing a slow pattern on the back of her hand, then her wrist, her arm …

She was in his arms without thinking about it, feeling the muscles of his back firm beneath her hands as he raised himself on one elbow and bent down to capture her mouth with his own. His hand skimmed over her back, reached her hip and slid further down, to the hem of her skirt, then beneath it. Regan fumbled with the buttons of his shirt, got them free and pulled it open. She pulled up his undershirt enough to press her hands against his stomach, sighing to finally feel his skin. As his hand moved slowly upwards, pushing her skirt higher, she slipped her arms around him and held tight against the tingling warmth spreading from his touch.

“Still nervous?” he asked hoarsely.

“Don’t stop,” she gasped in answer. “Jack, please —”

He kissed her again, tongue teasing hers, and Regan moaned as his hand finally reached his goal, his touch sending sparks along her nerves. To her surprise, his fingers began to tease her with the same subtle rhythm as his tongue. The combination made her head spin, the heat within her rapidly rising from a simmer to a boil. She arched her back to press harder against his fingers and he increased the pressure. In a moment she was gasping, and then the tension within her tipped over the point of no return. “God, Jack!” she cried against his mouth, and then let go of the world as her release exploded within her.

As the waves of sensation ebbed she opened her eyes to see McCoy looking down at her, smiling a little smugly.

“God, Jack,” she sighed again. He frowned.

“Is that disappointment I hear?”

She shook her head quickly. “No, I just – I’m selfish. I wanted it to last longer.”

She pulled him back down to her, doing her best to return the intoxicating kisses he had given her, reaching down between them. She stopped as she felt his lips curve in a smile.

“Are you laughing at me?” she demanded, pulling back to look at him.

“No,” McCoy said. The color was high in his cheeks. Regan raised her hand to trace the line of his mouth and his eyes darkened. She was relieved to see him respond to her. It had occurred to her to worry that the office Lothario would find her limited small-town erotic repertoire less than irresistible. Pressed against her, McCoy offered ample evidence that wasn’t the case.

She ran her fingers through his hair, fingernails lightly scratching his scalp, and felt him twitch against her. “God, Regan,” he whispered, lowering his head to kiss her neck.

Then he caught her hand and pinned it above her head. “Not laughing,” he said, voice a little muffled as he trailed kisses up her throat to her jaw. “Just guessing you married your first real boyfriend.”

“Yes,” she said, then gasped as his teeth grazed her skin. “Why?”

“Inexperience and monogamy – not always a match made in heaven,” McCoy said. He released her hands and slid further down the bed. He pushed her skirt above her hips and drew off her panties. Regan sighed in pleasure as he kissed the inside of her leg, her thigh, and then he reached his target and she heard herself make a noise she hadn’t known she was capable of. Her mind went blank of everything but the exquisite torment of his lips and tongue. Waves of pleasure washed over her, an irresistible surge and ebb and surge again that had her moaning his name as her fingers dug into the mattress beneath her. The waves grew larger and stronger and a fierce urgency seized her until at last the final wave broke over her with the force of a tsunami.

“Oh my god, oh my god,” she murmured, unable to summon coherent thought. Fabric rustled, and she opened her eyes to see McCoy stripping off his jeans and boxers. Any remaining doubts that he found her desirable vanished at the sight of the impressive evidence of his arousal.

He pulled open the bedside drawer and produced a condom.

“Let me,” Regan said, holding out her hand. When he gave it to her, she took her time rolling it over him, stroking, teasing, until he muttered an expletive and covered her hands with his own.

“I — can’t —” he gasped.

She pulled him down to her, reaching to guide him to her, lifting her hips to meet him. As they joined she gasped and heard McCoy gasp as well, a single wordless cry from two mouths.

For a moment they were still, gazes locked, savoring the sensation of being finally, completely, together. Then McCoy groaned, and began to move, slowly and then with increasing urgency. Regan felt herself again rising towards completion as McCoy’s rhythm became uneven, his breathing ragged. She teetered on the edge of release, feeling McCoy approach his own fulfillment, but could not quite fall.

McCoy opened his eyes, and looked down at her. “Regan,” he said hoarsely. The sound of his voice, ragged with desire, saying her name, pushed her over the edge. She cried out his name in return, feeling him falling with her, blind and deaf, knowing nothing in the world except McCoy’s body against hers, his back beneath her hands, his breath against the hollow of her throat.

As their breathing began to slow, McCoy moved to roll over beside her but Regan tightened her arms around him and drew him down to her. “I won’t break,” she murmured, enjoying feeling his weight on her. McCoy sighed and relaxed against her. He rested his head against her shoulder and Regan ran her fingers through his hair.

Pinned beneath him, pressed against him head to toe, Regan felt at last that her body was more than something that hurt and failed her. More, she felt that all the fragments her life had divided into, all the pieces of who she was and who she had been had come together, sliding into each other and settling into a new shape, a new wholeness. Eventually she would have to get up from the bed and then, she knew, this sense of peace would be stripped away by reality. Not yet, though. Later there would be time to wonder again whether she’d ever be the woman she’d thought she was, whether she’d been changed or she’d been broken by what she’d seen and what she’d done.

For this moment, for now, she was the woman in this bed, with this man, and that was all she needed to know. That was enough.

McCoy sighed again, and rolled over to lie beside her, stripping off the condom and tossing it towards the wastepaper basket. Regan murmured a protest and he slipped his arm beneath her shoulders and gathered her to him.

“Don’t want to suffocate you,” he said softly.

“Mmmmm,” Regan said. She rested her head on his chest. “I should say something complimentary,” she said drowsily, “but I seem to have lost most of my higher brain functions.”

He chuckled. “Res ipsa loquitur,” he said. His fingers traced a small circle on her shoulder blade. Regan sighed, feeling him caress her skin, feeling him caress her.

“Latin,” she said. “You can think in Latin. I’m having trouble thinking in English.”

I’m having trouble thinking in English, that’s why I’m reverting to Latin.”

“Lawyers,” she said, and felt another chuckle rumble through his chest. “I guess it’s time for you to make that call to the Queens D.A’s Office.”

“Or I could wait until Arthur leaves,” McCoy said. “Who knows what sort of attitude a new District Attorney would have?”

If he leaves,” Regan said.

“You’re a ray of sunshine,” McCoy said.

She shrugged a little, forcing him to move his hand from her shoulder. “Sorry, but it is my job,” she said tartly.

“Or mine. Arthur made it clear that was also an option. I could resign in protest.” McCoy paused. “That would make him look bad. Maybe even bad enough that someone might beat him at the next elections.”

“In protest over what? The perfectly reasonable expectation that you comply with the office code of conduct?”

McCoy shook his head. “Over his unreasonable treatment of you. If anyone’s in the wrong here, it’s me. I’m your senior in the office. The code of conduct is supposed to protect you, not punish you. Arthur has the right to fire me, but not to hold my breach of the code against you.

“Resigning in protest over the treatment of your girlfriend,” Regan said dryly. “That’d play well in the press. And make you so much more employable in the future.”

“I haven’t had a girlfriend since I was in college,” McCoy said.

Regan shrugged uncomfortably. “Well, your … whatever.”

He leaned back a little, grinning at her. “You’re blushing. Say it.”

“The person you’re, uh … having, um …”

“Christ, you sound like you’re in court.” For a moment his voice took on her own West Coast burr. “Mr McCoy, can you identify the person with whom you have been having sexual relations?”

Regan put her hands over her face. “God, Jack!”

His hand ran down her back and found the place that made her squirm. “Say you’re my lover, or I’ll tickle you.”

“You wouldn’t dare — oh!” She wriggled away from him. “Stop it, Jack!”

He didn’t. “Say it, Regan. Out loud. Lover.”

“Your lover!”

He relented. “Was that so hard to say?”

“It sounds … I don’t know. Blunt.” Unmistakable. Explicit.

His fingers crept over her skin again. “Lover,” he said. “You’re my lover. And I’m yours.” He leaned forward and gave her a lingering kiss. “And now I’m going to make love to you until you forget to worry about your job.”

Regan’s breath caught. Lover. Make love.

Just a euphemism. Just a meaningless euphemism. Love was Valentine’s Day and roses, love was candlelit dinners and walks in the park and eventually a ring and a wedding dress. And then a two bedroom house in the suburbs and fights over who spent more at Walmart. That wasn’t Jack McCoy. Jack McCoy was law reports and depositions and Chinese takeaway and sex so good it made her forget her own name.

“Lover,” he whispered coaxingly, fingers running up the inside of her thigh. He lowered his head and kissed her breast, beside the bullet scar, and then pressed his lips to the scar itself. “Lover.”

“Yes,” Regan agreed breathlessly as his fingers moved higher. Yes.

I ’m your lover.

Even if you ’re not really mine.

And then she forgot about euphemisms and complications and her job because there was no room in the world for anything but the heat rising inside her and the hands touching her and the voice saying her name.

.oOo.

Chapter 46: Means, Motive And Opportunity

Chapter Text

“I am in the wrong,” McCoy murmured, sometime later. “You do work for me.”

Regan turned her head to look at him. “And overwhelmed my judgment with your higher position on the pay grade?”

He smiled sleepily, without opening his eyes. “Dazzled you with my moderate earning power.”

“You didn’t take advantage of me, if that’s what you’re worried about.” She paused. “At least, you didn’t take advantage of our respective positions.”

His eyes opened and he turned to meet her gaze. “But in other ways?”

“You took advantage of the fact that I find you irresistible,” Regan said. “And you knew you were doing it.”

The corner of his mouth quirked up. “I did. In my defense, I couldn’t help it.” He laced his fingers through hers. “I find you irresistible, too, apparently. I did try.”

“Me too,” she said softly.

“I’m glad we both have terrible will-power.”

“Me too.” She sighed, and then yawned. “Sorry.”

He gathered her closer to him. “Have I been keeping you up, Ms Markham?”

“I’m not the one who’s been up,” she said dryly, and then blushed at her own audacity.

McCoy chuckled. “See?” he said. “It gets easier as you go along. Two or three months with me, and you’ll be moving on to double entendres.”

She leaned against his shoulder again. “Yeah, and then I’ll make the rookie error of cracking one in the office and when I turn around Arthur will be standing there doing his best Donald Trump impression. You’re fired!”

“That’s the beauty of it. You just look innocent and pretend he’s the one with the dirty —” The hand stroking her hair stilled. “Say that again.”

“You’re fired?”

“Before that.”

She raised her head. “I’ll be in the office —” Regan paused at the intent concentration on his face and rewound the conversation in her head. “I’ll make the rookie error of cracking one in the —”

Rookie error. That’s what you said about Neil going straight to E.E.D. without even a pit-stop at self-defense.”

“Yeah, and you pointed out that Neil Gorton is no rookie —”

“He isn’t.” McCoy slipped his arm from beneath her head, gently but quickly, and sat up. “So why did he do that?”

Regan frowned. “Because it’s the best trial strategy?”

He grabbed his pants and began to pull them on. “That’s what I thought. Neil’s a damn good lawyer. I assumed that he had a good reason.”

Regan sat up as well. “And now?”

McCoy stood up, fastening his belt, and went to the closet. He pulled out a shirt and began to put it on. “What happened when he filed that motion? What did he make us do?”

Being naked when McCoy was, that was one thing. Regan was starting to get used to it, not least because it meant he was touching her, even just to stroke her back as they talked.

Being naked when he was dressed, she realized, was completely different. And extremely uncomfortable.

She got up and found her blouse. “Well, we started concentrating on discrediting his theory to the jury. The history between Cooper and Rivera, the witnesses to —”

“Exactly.” McCoy walked back and forth in front of her, gesturing as if she was a jury. “Because he admitted the crime. Because the directions to the jury would concentrate on whether or not they believed the affirmative defense. There’s a reason why they’re hard cases for defense lawyers to win, Regan, it’s because it reverses the onus of proof.” At her look of confusion, he leveled one forefinger at her. “And what did we not do, Regan? We didn’t start looking for a different motive for the crime.”

“But we know his motive. Rivera was borderline abusive toward her, she left him, he found her, stalked her, killed her for leaving him.”

“Did he?” McCoy asked. He sat down on the edge of the bed and picked up his shoes. “Did he really? How did he find her? Neil said it was because she was following him and he saw her on the street. Do you believe that?”

Regan shook her head. “No.”

“Then how? I.A.B haven’t found anything, no searches for either of her identities run out of that precinct.” He finished putting on his shoes and straightened. “How did he know where she was?”

“Someone told him,” Regan said slowly.

McCoy nodded. “Someone told him. Someone who knew who Emily Watson really was. Someone who wanted her dead.”

She frowned. “Does that take us back to the Underground Railway?”

“Maybe,” McCoy said, standing up. “Or maybe to something else. Come on. You can call Briscoe and Green when we get there.”

She followed him down the hall. “Get where?”

“The office,” McCoy said. He picked up his motorcycle helmet from beside the hall table, and then hefted the one beside it and tossed it to Regan.

She caught it reflexively. “Jack …”

He grinned at her. “Time for your very first ride on the donor-cycle, Ms Markham.”

Regan tossed it back. “I’ll take a cab, and meet you there.”

McCoy beat her to the office. Regan would have bet folding money that he’d cut a few of the rules of the road a little fine to do it. Hard to cut a fine pose as a rebel with a cause if you can’t beat a yellow cab in New York traffic.

She refused to mention it, and ignored his smug smile as he pushed a stack of paper towards her. “Rivera’s L.U.Ds.”

“Cops didn’t go through them?” Regan asked as she sat down at the table by his desk.

“Not looking for Neil Gorton. Get started, as soon as you’ve called Briscoe and Green.”

“I’m not doing that until the sun has been up for at least fifteen minutes,” Regan said. “What are they going to do at this hour of the night? Start knocking on doors? That’ll make the witnesses cooperative.”

McCoy looked up from the papers spread across his desk. “If you want to go home …”

She glared at him. “If I wanted to go home, I’m perfectly able to call myself a cab.”

“I was just asking,” he said.

“No, you weren’t,” she said levelly. “You were just questioning my dedication. Or my judgment. Or my obedience. Or all three. Which you wouldn’t have done two days ago, so cut it the f*ck out.”

“I wasn’t —” Regan gave him a long, steady look, and McCoy closed his mouth. “Okay. Sorry.”

“Alright, then.” She leaned her elbows on the table and kept reading.

.oOo.

McCoy watched Regan reading for a moment, running her capped pen down the page to make sure she didn’t miss a line, level brows drawn together in concentration. She didn’t look like the sort of woman who’d blush at a dirty joke. She looked like the kind of woman who’d make one.

She looked up again and caught him watching her. She raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“I was just wondering how you managed in a squad-room if you can’t say lover without blushing.”

Regan set her pen down. “The suspect and the victim were lovers. Jane Doe’s husband claims they had a good marriage, but we’ve established that she had at least three lovers. Although John Doe claimed he and the deceased were lovers, we’ve found no indication of any intimate relationship between them.”

“And what are we?” McCoy asked.

And there was the blush, scorching her cheeks. She looked away. “Lovers,” she muttered.

Then she looked back, and her gaze was steady despite how high the color was in her cheeks. “At home. Not in the office. You won’t treat me any differently at work. Clear?”

“Crystal,” McCoy assured her. “You find anything there?”

She shook her head, closed the file and reached for another. “You?”

“No. Do you think it’s possible Neil Gorton is somehow involved with this Underground Railroad?”

“No. His ex, maybe.” She turned a page. “I really find it hard to believe they were ever married.”

“They have a daughter to prove it.” He paused. “And they’d both do anything for her. Regan, what if Katie is somehow mixed up with this group? If they’re moving women and children across the Canadian border with false papers … if Neil thought I was going uncover it …”

“So maybe we should give Abbie Katie Ross’s name.”

“Katie Gorton,” he corrected absently. “Maybe we should.”

Regan went absolutely still. “Katie. That’s short for Katherine?”

“Yes,” McCoy said. “Why?”

She started pawing through the files. “Katherine Gorton. Everyone stopped looking once the handbag turned up.”

He stood up and came around to stand beside her. “What are you looking for?”

“These financial files … I sent them down to Chen to look over. And he said something funny. He said ‘thanks, but Jack McCoy already gave me a copy’. Did you send anything from the Coran case down to him?”

“No.”

“He said he was looking into something for you, some maybe funny business with a trust. Was that a favor for a friend you were doing?”

“Above board.”

“Was it Jamie Ross?”

His gaze sharpened. “Why?”

She held up the page. “Was it about her daughter, Katherine Gorton?”

He took the paper from her. “This is Katie’s trust. I was wrong. Neil didn’t take the papers. Although I don’t know how I mixed it up with the Coran case.”

“You didn’t,” Regan said. “It’s here because the financial adviser managing it at Hudson, Merrick and Riddle was Emily Watson. Emalia Coran.”

“Jesus Christ.” He stared at the page. “Jesus Christ, Regan.”

Regan turned in her chair to look up at him. “Which means Gorton’s still not in the clear on taking that report from your in-tray.”

McCoy shook his head. “That’s not what it means.” Put it together, he willed her. You’ve got all the pieces. “Who killed Emalia Coran?”

A small upright line appeared between her brows. “John Rivera.”

Put it together, Regan. “Who represents John Rivera?”

“Neil Gorton,” she said slowly. “Neil Gorton, who you’re looking at for maybe playing around with his daughter’s money in ways he shouldn’t.” McCoy nodded, and she went on, “Money in a trust managed by the firm Emalia Coran worked for, under her new name.” McCoy nodded again. “Everyone said that Coran was incredibly conscientious. Even Chen said so. He wanted her number to ask her about the file … I didn’t put two and two together, I didn’t realize he had the file for a completely different reason.”

“Incredibly conscientious.” McCoy pushed the papers spread out across the table around until he found the photograph he was looking for, a head-and-shoulders of Emalia Coran, smiling at the camera. He held it up for Regan to see. “Prone to taking things to extremes. Or, you could say, to going the extra mile.”

There was always a point in any case that crossed his desk when the victim became real to him, not just a name to tell the jury but a unique miracle of flesh-and-blood, someone who loved and hated and who was loved and hated in return. McCoy turned the photo to look at it again and felt the loss of Emalia Coran from the world as a small, keen ache for the first time. Not a name on the page, but a smart young woman with no speed other than full ahead. Sometimes a virtue, sometimes a flaw, something she might have grown out of. If she’d had the chance.

“Incredibly conscientious,” he said again. “If there was something wrong with that trust, she would have found it. And she wouldn’t have been talked out of taking action.”

“And she did find something wrong,” Regan said. “Didn’t she? You know, it doesn’t make any sense for someone like Neil Gorton to run the risk of twenty to twenty-five to avoid a penny-ante financial malfeasance charge. But that’s not the problem he’s got, is it?”

McCoy shook his head. “No.”

“Because with the trust and Coran’s murder both on your desk …” Regan’s voice trailed away.

“Only a matter of time before I put two and two together,” McCoy said. “And that answers the question of how a patrolman can afford Neil Gorton, doesn’t it? Because he solved a problem for him.”

“Means, motive, and opportunity,” Regan said. “Gorton knew Lawrence Kuen. He knew where you’d be.”

“And he had one a hell of motive.” He looked at the photo again, at that intense young woman who would never mellow with age. “You were right, and you were wrong, Regan. She wasn’t killed by a random stranger, but she wasn’t killed because she was Emalia Coran, either. She was killed because she was Emily Watson.” Carefully, he laid the photograph back down on the file. “Call Briscoe and Green. And Logan and Wheeler. Wake them up. This can’t wait for sunrise.”

Regan nodded, and reached for the phone.

.oOo.

Chapter 47: Conflict Of Interest

Chapter Text

Office District Attorney Arthur Branch

10th floor, One Hogan Place

3 pm Saturday 21st July 2007

“This had better be good, Jack,” Arthur Branch warned, closing the door of his office behind him. “Bobby is in town and it’s not often I get to spend the afternoon with my grandkids.” He paused, and looked at the assorted cops and lawyers standing awkwardly around the room. “I see it’s quite the party.”

“You know Captain Ross from Major Case,” McCoy said, and Ross stepped forward, hand outstretched. “Captain Halloran, Internal Affairs. ADA Chen from Fraud.”

“Mr Branch, sir,” Chen said.

“And Ron, I see,” Branch said, shaking offered hands. He hung his jacket on the coat rack. “I take it from your presence that this isn’t just the over-vivid imagination of my EADA?”

“No, sir, we don’t believe it is.” Ross said.

“And a — I hesitate to say ‘highly respected’ in regard to Neil Gorton — a well-known member of the New York Bar really did conspire to have Jack killed?”

“It’s a line of inquiry I’d like to pursue.”

“Don’t beat around the bush, Captain.” Branch sank into his chair and linked his hands together on his desk. “Do you think he did it, or not?”

“I think the evidence suggests he has some questions to answer,” Ross said. “But there there are some political and legal issues that need to be resolved before Major Case can progress the investigation in the way we feel would be most appropriate.”

Branch raised his eyebrows. “Which are?”

“Arthur, it seems likely Neil Gorton was also involved in Emalia Coran’s murder,” McCoy said.

“Don’t you have a suspect in custody for that? A police officer, no less?” Branch looked at Ross. “And isn’t that a case being run out of the 27th Precinct?”

“Not anymore,” McCoy said. “There is a suspect in custody for Coran’s murder. And Neil Gorton is representing him. And quite possibly, hired him.” He gestured to Chen, who leapt forward.

“Mr Branch. Sir. Some years ago, Mr Gorton set up a trust for his daughter. Who is also Judge Ross’s daughter.”

Branch nodded. “Katie, I know.”

“It wasn’t exactly voluntary. As part of the divorce settlement with Judge Ross, he was to contribute a percentage of his income each year until Miss Gorton reached the age of 21. She can draw on it from the age of 18, however, with the permission of one parent.”

Branch leaned forward and fixed Chen with a look. “Get to the meat of the matter, Mr Chen. How does this relate to Coran?”

“She was managing the trust and she found out Mr Gorton was stealing money from his daughter,” Chen said on a single breath.

“You have proof of this?”

“No, sir,” Chen said, a little despairingly. “It’s well hidden. Lots of asset transfers, except too many of the purchases are of debt. Look. Let’s say you owe the bank a million dollars for your … home or business or whatever. You’ve got the million dollars and the bank has your promise to pay it back.”

“I might be just a simple country lawyer, Mr Chen, but I think I understand the way mortgages work.”

“Okay.” Chen’s voice squeaked up half a register. “Now let’s say I buy that debt from your bank. Now you have a million dollars and you owe me a million dollars, not the bank.” Branch opened his mouth and Chen went on desperately, “But, but! If I buy that debt with someone else’s money! Then if you default I don’t care! Especially if you give me, say, ten percent!”

“But this other person whose money you used can foreclose on my house,” Branch said.

“House, maybe. But business? Not if you’ve stripped the assets, transferred them to a shell company and declared bankruptcy,” Chen said.

“But you don’t have any evidence of this?”

“Arthur, there’s a thousand ways a law firm can disguise dodgy incomings,” McCoy said. “Service fees. Billable hours that weren’t actually worked.”

“We can run down the purchases,” Chen said. “But at least some of them are legit. And each one has to be tracked through half-a-dozen companies, that all have their own balance sheets, and annual reports, and that’s just if they’re properly listed, if they aren’t —”

Branch lifted a hand. “I get the picture. Go downstairs, call your Bureau head, tell him to get his butt into the office. Tell him to call me when he gets here. And then start writing up a brief for the Feds. If we don’t know where the money is going to or coming from, we have reason to suspect it might be part of a laundering operation. Or corporate fraud. Or straight out embezzlement. You know all the right words. Make a federal case out of it.”

“Yes, sir!” Chen said, and fled.

Branch leaned back in his chair, rubbing his chin. “So your theory is, Coran found out that Gorton was stealing from the trust, and he got Rivera to kill her?”

“He may simply have wound Rivera up and pointed him in the right direction,” Ross said. “We still don’t know how he connected the two together.”

“Well, get on that!” Branch said. “If you can’t tell a jury that Neil knew about their history, it won’t matter what else you say. Captain Halloran. I presume you’re here in connection with Officer Rivera?”

She took a step forward to the center of the room. “We haven’t identified any financial transactions between Rivera and Gorton. No unexplained payments to Rivera at all.”

“Neil Gorton’s time isn’t cheap,” Branch said.

Halloran nodded. “A services worth charge,” she said. “But we’ll keep looking.”

“And what about this shooting?” Branch said.

“Sir, we haven’t found any proof that Gorton alerted Kuen to Mr McCoy’s location,” Ross said. “But if they used a couple of burner phones, we won’t, without a number to pull LUDs on. We have looked at all available CCTV footage from the entire area and we’re positive that Kuen didn’t follow Mr McCoy to the restaurant. In fact, we have him coming out of the subway two blocks away in the opposite direction. Time suggests he went straight to the restaurant.”

Branch frowned. “If they were working together, why did Gorton shoot him?”

Ross shrugged. “Panic? Suddenly it dawned on him what he’d done and he couldn’t go through with it?”

“I’m almost certain I heard Kuen say don’t shoot,” McCoy said. He glanced at Ross. “Police statements support that. It’s possible Neil thought he was about to surrender. I think Neil Gorton knew I was looking into Katie’s trust. Jamie Ross has suspicions, and she raised them with me. Mr Chen’s preliminary report was on my desk when Neil came as Rivera’s attorney. If he was involved in Coran’s murder, and this trust was the motive …”

Branch nodded. “Then sooner or later you would have put two and two together and Mr Gorton wouldn’t be facing a larceny charge, he’d be looking at murder one. So are you here looking for my approval for an arrest warrant? Don’t let me stop you. Let the chips fall where they may.”

Especially since Neil Gorton’s rich friends and connections are mostly in show-business, and would be more likely to donate to Arthur’s opponents. “No,” McCoy said. “Not yet. The connection to Kuen is nothing stronger than the name of a law-firm and a conversation, content unknown. And to get him for Coran, we need Rivera.”

“He killed a woman in cold blood,” Branch said. “I hope you’re not thinking of offering him Man Two.”

McCoy shook his head. “Not a chance. Murder two, sentence recommendation, protective custody. I’d go as low as Man One if he did the maximum. But I can’t offer it to him, Arthur. He has a counsel of record and it’s Neil Gorton, who is exactly who we’d be offering him the deal to flip on. I can’t talk to him without Neil there or there’s a good chance everything he says will be ruled inadmissible.”

“You can’t talk to him at all,” Ron Carver said from where he’d been silently observing. “You’re a witness in the Kuen shooting. If your theory of motive is right, that’s connected to the Coran case by a common aim — concealing a single theft. You can’t prosecute him.”

“I have no intention of prosecuting him,” McCoy said. “But if I withdraw from the case now, Neil will know why. He’ll know we’ve put the pieces together on Kuen and he’ll know we’ve linked that to Coran, and that that’s the reason why I can’t continue the case.”

“We’ll tell him you need some time off to recover,” Branch said.

“And he’ll see through that in a heartbeat!” McCoy put his hand on the back of the visitor’s chair and leaned forward. “In case you’ve forgotten, Arthur, Rivera is not the only case on my desk. Is Neil going to believe I’m too fragile to negotiate a plea agreement when I’ve spent the day in court cross-examining a child killer?”

“We can reassign —” Carver started.

“To who?” McCoy demanded. “Maybe Billy Billy can handle them from his hospital bed!”

“You just don’t want Gorton to think you’re weak,” Branch said.

“Damn right I don’t, for someone like Gorton weakness is blood in the water.”

“We could manufacture a scheduling conflict,” Carver suggested.

“No trial date’s been set,” McCoy snapped.

Branch folded his arms. “So what do you suggest we do?”

“I get a chambers hearing, first thing Monday,” McCoy said. “I present the judge with the fact of the trust, not the suspected fraud. That’s a conflict.”

“Not without evidence of wrongdoing,” Carver said.

“I’m not going to suggest Gorton had a motive to kill Coran. I’m going to suggest he has the motive to tank the defense of the man who killed the woman who took such painstaking care of his daughter’s money.” McCoy began to list the points of his argument on his fingers. “We have statements from her coworkers about how conscientious she was. Neil was active in the management of that trust. Emalia Coran was an attractive, intelligent young woman. How can a man who had a close working relationship with the victim provide zealous representation to the man who admits he killed her?”

“And you think a judge will believe that Neil Gorton, of all people, would let personal feelings get in the way of winning a case?” Branch asked.

McCoy shook his head. “It doesn’t matter what the judge believes. All it matters is that the possibility of reversible error is held clearly before his or her honor’s nose. Neil is removed as counsel of record, and as soon as Rivera has a new lawyer, Ron, he’s all yours.”

“And if Gorton sees through you?” Carver asked. “Isn’t that exactly the same outcome as if we do this by the book?”

“How about if we push all of it down the road?” Ross said. “Work the fraud. See what the FBI can find. If Gorton wants to negotiate a plea for Rivera, spin it out. You have to talk to Mr Branch, you have to think about it. Make a counter offer. Be out when he calls.”

“And you should move into a hotel,” Branch said. “As should Mr Chen, if you’re right, and Gorton saw a report he’d prepared.”

“Which is exactly the reason not to delay,” McCoy said. “How long until I crossed paths with someone in the hotel lobby who recognized me and word got out? Neil has to know the only reason you’d dig into the budget would be an on-going threat. He’ll realize immediately we know Kuen wasn’t in that restaurant by chance. And what about Jamie? She brought her suspicions about Katie’s trust to me in the first place. What if she says something that lets Neil know that?”

“I’ll call Judge Ross,” Branch said. McCoy opened his mouth. “No, Jack. I’ll talk to her, District Attorney to Judge. If either of you end up on a witness stand, I don’t want any suggestion you colluded. Don’t worry, I’ll give her your regards.” He ran his hand over his head. “Ron’s right. These cases are a lot stronger together. And you’re right, Jack, we have to hit him hard and fast and keep him off balance. So how about we split the difference? Get a chambers hearing for Monday. Monday evening. Jack, we’ll send Tracey to court again on Monday morning to ask for another continuance on — what is it, Darley?” McCoy nodded. “Tell the judge, and tell Neil Gorton, the meeting is for Jack to withdraw from the case. Then, when you get in there, tell the judge why. All of it. Have Mr Chen there, or someone else from Fraud, have Ms Markham there, Ron, you’ll have someone available from Major Case who can talk about the investigation. Hit him with everything we’ve got. Shake him loose from Rivera.”

“And if the judge doesn’t play along?” Carver asked.

“How about it, Jack?” Branch asked. “Can you pull it off?”

“The trust, the fraud, the connection to Coran,” McCoy said. “The link to Kuen through Gorton’s firm, the fact that Gorton knew where we’d planned to meet … and Regan Markham witnessing a conversation between the two of them on the very same day to tie it together. I can make the case. It’s certainly a stronger bet than trying to persuade the judge Neil’s planning to tank.” He shrugged. “It’s worth a roll of the dice.”

“And if you fail, Mr McCoy?” Ross asked. “What happens to my investigation then?”

“At the very least, the judge will have to hold an in camera hearing into the allegations,” McCoy said. “I’ll argue that any hearing will be incomplete if John Rivera’s testimony is excluded, and that he can’t give that testimony free and unimpeded if he’s represented by a lawyer who is a co-conspirator. The judge will have to order new counsel for Rivera, at least for the purpose of the hearings.”

“But you don’t know what Rivera will say,” Carver pointed out.

“That’s why you’ll be seeing the judge on Monday evening, not Monday morning,” Branch said. “Get Mr Gorton removed as counsel, and you’ll have until the courtroom doors open on Tuesday to find out what Mr Rivera will say.”

“Just don’t bring him over from Rikers too early,” McCoy warned. “I’ll need to say that he isn’t available to the judge, if I’m asked.”

Carver nodded slowly. “So long as we can get a P.B.A. lawyer in at short notice.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Branch said. “I play golf with their Senior V.P.”

.oOo.

Chapter 48: Overreacting

Chapter Text

Ocean View Hotel

New Jersey

7 pm Saturday 21st July 2007

“Well, this is cozy,” Abbie said, setting her suitcase down. “I see the D.A’s Office is still springing for two star accommodation.”

“It’s not that bad,” McCoy said. He opened the wardrobe door. “Look, there’s a robe. You don’t get a robe for less than three stars.”

“And if I spread that robe out, its arms would touch both the walls.” Abbie sat down on the bed and bounced experimentally. “At least the mattress is good. But Jack, I really think you’re over-reacting.”

He sat down beside her. “Regan is the only person who can put Neil Gorton in the company of Lawrence Kuen. And Regan has been living in your house all year. I don’t want somebody to come looking for her and find you.” He took her hand. “Regan, Qiao and I are all on this floor. There’s security in the lobby and in the corridor. Humor me, at least until tomorrow night.”

“And if you lose tomorrow?”

McCoy stood up. “I don’t plan to. But if it takes a few days, it takes a few days. I had a gun to my head, Abbie, I’m not over-reacting!”

“That’s not what I mean.” Abbie ran her hand over the coverlet. She shrugged. “I’m on maternity leave. Tom calls my mobile, which means I’m not any more separated from my family than I usually am, thanks to the U.S. Army. What I meant was, what’s your strategy?”

“I’ll have withdrawn from the case. It’ll be Ron Carver’s strategy.”

Abbie snorted. “Yeah, right. And what will Ron Carver’s strategy be?”

“If Neil somehow manages to persuade the judge to let him remain as Rivera’s counsel, without even appointing a temporary attorney for the purpose of interviewing Rivera about the possibility of a joint criminal enterprise, then I’ll have to pierce privilege.” He grinned at her. “Piece of cake. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again. Don’t worry, Abbie. You’ll be in your own home by the end of the week. And Neil Gorton will be under arrest.”

“I still can’t believe it.” McCoy opened his mouth, and Abbie said quickly, “I don’t mean I don’t believe it. It’s just … he’s not a mobster, or a gangster. He’s not even a mob lawyer.”

“He represents murderers, Abbie. He gets them off.”

“So does Danielle,” she pointed out. “So does Sally. Do you think they’d be capable of killing someone?”

He sat down next to her again, and took her hand. “Everyone is capable of killing someone, Abbie. Depending on the circ*mstances.”

“I don’t mean self-defense.”

McCoy shook his head. “Neither do I. We’ve both worked death sentence cases, haven’t we?”

“That’s not the same thing.”

“I don’t think so either, but I know a few people who’d say it was.”

“Well,” Abbie said, “if Gorton was behind that gun to your head, I’d like to strap him to a gurney personally. So yeah, everyone can kill somebody, I guess.”

McCoy laughed, and put his arm around her shoulders. “There’s the Abbie Carmichael I remember.”

She leaned against him. “You’re not allowed to let anything happen to you. My baby needs a godfather.”

“A —” McCoy cleared his throat. “I’m honored, Abbie, but I’m not sure I can promise to —”

“Sure you can. I don’t care what church you do or don’t make sure little Carmichael-Cassidy is raised in. If any. And don’t worry, if something happens to Tom and me, his sister is all lined up for the actual child-raising part of the deal. But I am relying on you, Jack McCoy, to look after my baby the way you look after me. Light-bulbs. Spiders. Sage advice.”

McCoy nodded, her hair tickling his cheek. “I can do that.”

“Be the guy he or she can call if the night goes wrong and they’re stranded without cab-fare in a sketchy neighborhood.”

“I was planning on being that guy anyway,” McCoy said

Abbie laughed. “Try not to be the guy who calls and tells them they have thirty minutes to pack a suitcase because there’s a possible danger to their life.”

“That’s been … not more than three times. Well, four. And this is the first time you’ve been involved.” He paused. “I’m sorry about this, Abbie, but if I started trying to second guess which prosecutions would —”

“I know.” She patted his knee. “And this might be the first time I’ve had to spend a night picking from a room-service menu because of your job, but I’ve had a few credible threats myself over the years. It comes with the territory. The only thing to do is be careful, and not back down.” She patted his knee again. “You’d better go. Don’t keep Regan waiting.”

“I — she — I doubt she’s waiting for me.”

“Oh, please.” Abbie thumped his shoulder. “I saw the picture in the papers. Everybody saw the picture in the papers. And Regan’s done the walk of shame up my front steps two days in a row.”

“Neither of us have anything to be ashamed of,” McCoy snapped.

Abbie rolled her eyes. “It’s an expression, Jack! And frankly, it’s about time. She’s been pining for you something awful.”

He shook his head. “Regan Markham doesn’t pine.”

Abbie gave a breath of a laugh. “I don’t mean she’s filling the margins of depositions with Mrs Regan McCoy decorated with hearts and flowers. But you’re more to her than the charming devil she works with.” She laced her fingers through his. “Listen, Jack. We both know you could have been very bad for me. No, don’t interrupt. I know we both pretended that I wasn’t ever in love with you, but I was. And you knew it. And you were so careful. I never thanked you for that, so thank you.”

“Abbie …” He squeezed her hand. “You had a crush on your boss. I knew it wasn’t serious.”

“It would have been serious if you’d taken advantage of it. And Regan’s not playing around. You could hurt her. If you don’t know that, you need to.”

“I’m not playing around either,” McCoy said. “God knows I’m amenable to a good time that doesn’t mean anything else, but Regan …” He shrugged. “I don’t know what it is, Abbie, but I know it’s not nothing.”

She gave him a little push. “Then go see her.”

“There’s agents from the Governor’s security detail in the hall. Neither of us needs the grief from Arthur when they report me going into Regan’s room.”

“They can’t do that. If everyone under threat had to sneak away from their protection for a little hanky-panky, they might as well not be there. They’ll protect your privacy as if you enjoyed privilege.”

And, in fact, apart from one quick look to make sure that he wasn’t a stranger with no reason to be on that floor, the two large young men in suits in the corridor ignored McCoy as he went to Regan’s door and tapped gently. “Regan?”

She didn’t answer and he frowned, and tried the handle of the door.

It opened, and he stepped through. “Regan?”

The light was on, and the TV flickered in the corner of the room, although the sound was off. He took a step inside and saw one bare calf outstretched, slender ankle, narrow foot. He took a step further, past the corner of the hotel room’s laughably short entranceway, and could see Regan sprawled out on the bed wearing only a T-shirt and panties, utterly and completely asleep. She hadn’t even stayed awake long enough to crawl under the covers.

McCoy ran a hand over his face, his eyes gritty with fatigue. I should leave her to sleep. Tomorrow and Monday would be spent in the office, buried in law reports and journals, preparing for Monday evening’s chamber’s hearing. He’d wanted — just to talk to her for a while, to feel her arms around him, to run through the arguments he’d need to make with someone who he didn’t need to persuade and didn’t feel he should reassure. But that would be selfish. I should leave her to sleep.

He found the remote control and turned the TV off, and then took the blanket folded at the foot of the bed and spread it over Regan.

She stirred. “Mmm?”

“Go back to sleep,” he told her softly.

Her eyes opened. “Jack?”

“Yeah.” He sat down on the edge of the bed. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to wake you.”

“I wanted —” She yawned. “Wanted you to. Abbie okay?”

“She’s fine.”

“Okay.” She rolled over onto her back. “Are you going back to your own room?”

“Would you rather I did?”

Regan shook her head. “No. But I’m too tired to fool around.”

“Thank god,” McCoy said, and she laughed.

He stripped off his shirt and jeans as Regan crawled under the covers, and then joined her. With her head on his shoulder, his arms around her, he felt the long day sloughing off him. “I’m going to have to use People v Kopell as the centerpiece on Monday.”

“You’re not worried about Farese v. Scherer?”

“No. In that case, the actions of the attorneys were within the scope of the privileged relationship. Whether Emalia Coran’s murder was the result of a conspiracy or part of a joint criminal enterprise, there’s no question it’s outside any normal attorney-client relationship.”

“Which are you going to argue, conspiracy or J.C.E?”

“I’m not sure yet. Probably conspiracy. There’s no suggestion Rivera was involved in the fraud which the murder was intended to conceal. Or I might go for straight up murder-for-hire, with Neil’s expensive legal services as the fee.” Regan was silent a moment. “You’re falling asleep.”

“’M not. I was just thinking about the requirement for a prior agreement.”

“The facts imply there was one. The judge doesn’t need to believe in its existence, just that there’s enough probable cause to hold a hearing to find out.”

“Mmm. I’d be happier if we knew how they got together on it.” She shifted a little, settling more comfortably against him, one hand on his chest. “I mean, if you want someone killed, you don’t stop the nearest patrol officer.”

“No,” McCoy said slowly. “No, you don’t. And I very much doubt they move in the same social circles.”

Regan traced circles on his chest with one finger. “I wonder …”

“If you keep that up, I’m going to stop being glad you’re too tired,” McCoy warned her.

She chuckled, and flattened her hand over his heart. “I was just thinking about the last time we were up against Neil Gorton.”

We. He smiled, and covered her hand with his own. “Phillip Watts.”

“Yeah. The whole thing started because of a chance encounter in a courthouse corridor, remember?”

“Yeah, I —” He dumped her off his shoulder and sat up, feeling for his cell phone on the beside table. He found a familiar number and dialed.

Danielle Melnick’s voice asked him if he knew what time it was.

“I know what time it is, Danielle. When did you take over as Emalia Coran’s attorney?”

Regan sat up and leaned against his back, arms around his waist. McCoy held the phone away from his ear a little so she could hear Danielle’s answer.

“She got in touch with me the day after she was arraigned.”

“And what did you do for her?” McCoy asked.

Danielle sighed. “Jack. Privilege survives the death of the client, which I know you know. We’ve been through this, remember?”

“Not specifically. Generally. Which appearance, and when? Danielle, I can run through the records but this is faster.”

“You know,” she said, and there was a laugh in her voice, “when a man calls me late at night, I generally hope it’s for something a little more fun.”

McCoy smiled. “Now, Danielle, what could be more fun than discussing old criminal charges?”

“The sad thing is, I think you believe that. Okay. I got her bail, her public defender had rolled over because the alleged victim was a police officer but the lack of evidence persuaded Morris Torledsky for one-fifty thou. I argued a couple of exclusions in limine, won one, lost one.”

“Was she there for them? Coran?”

“No.”

“Was she in the courthouse at all, apart from the arraignment and bail hearing?”

“No.”

“Dammit!” McCoy said. The last time Neil Gorton handled an arraignment or a bail hearing personally was probably back when Ben Stone sat in my chair. “Thanks, Danielle.”

And then Danielle said, “And to give her testimony to Anne Sciola when she changed her name, of course.”

.oOo.

Chapter 49: Scheduling

Chapter Text

10th Floor, One Hogan Place

8 am Sunday 22nd July 2007

Regan rubbed her eyes as the elevator ground upwards toward the tenth floor. She’d slept so heavily that she hadn’t even been aware McCoy had left until she woke up alone in her bed. Rolling over, she’d found a plate of toast and a cooling cup of coffee on the bedside table and a note in McCoy’s legible but irregular handwriting. You slept through room service, it said. Meet me downstairs when you’re ready.

She’d bolted the toast, washed it down with lukewarm coffee and flung herself in the shower before hurrying downstairs to find McCoy reading the newspaper in the lobby, alertly watched by a couple of large young gentlemen. The suits and ties on a Sunday morning, she might have dismissed as church best, but their jackets were cut looser than was the current style and even so, couldn’t quite disguise the tell-tale bulges of shoulder holsters.

Regan had approached Jack slowly, giving the protection detail plenty of time to see and recognize her. McCoy had looked up as she reached him, and given her a sunny, uncomplicated smile, as if there weren’t two armed men standing by to prevent a possible second attempt on his life.

“Ready?” he’d said, tossing the paper aside and getting to his feet.

One advantage of the protection detail was that there was no waiting for cabs, negotiating public transport — and McCoy had no opportunity to ride his motorcycle. They’d sped into Manhattan in a big black SUV, McCoy talking work all the way — would Jessica Sheets agree to recommend a plea deal to Teri Courtney, whether Billy Billy’s cases were slotted into the schedules of other prosecutors yet. It was as if the night before, the week before, hadn’t happened.

You told him not to treat you any differently at work, Regan had reminded herself as she followed him up the front steps of One Hogan Place, the protection detail flanking them. You should be pleased he took you at your word.

She told herself firmly that she was pleased as McCoy went straight to Colleen’s desk when they reached the tenth floor. Colleen was not at work, of course, but McCoy sat down at her desk and logged into her computer. “Courthouse schedule will be here somewhere …”

“Does she know you know her password?” Regan asked, looking at the screen over his shoulder.

He flashed her a grin. “Colleen knows my credit card number, my banking details, the name of every woman I’ve ever taken to dinner, and since she picks up my dry-cleaning, probably my inseam measurement. A password seems a fair exchange. Here it is.”

Regan scanned the courthouse schedule. “Judge Anne Sciola, in camera hearings, room 219, 111 Center Street, April 16, ten until two. That’s the only one that month.” She paused. “Would it take four hours for her to listen to evidence on sealing a change-of-name record?”

“No, but it would take four hours for her to hear ten or twelve,” McCoy said. “That’d be why there’s only one listed each month. And why Neil Gorton might have been there.”

“Why would he be?”

“Part of his firm’s practice is entertainment law. What’s the bet he has a client who never wants anyone to ever know that his original name was Algernon Bumfluff or something similar?”

Regan rested her chin on her palm. “Pretty frivolous reason to get the record sealed. Usually the courts feel that the public interest lies in people not being able to conceal their identities, unless there’s an over-riding issue like personal danger.”

“Which is why Neil would have handled it personally.”

“But we’ve got no way to find out,” Regan said.

“A lawyer’s client list isn’t confidential,” McCoy reminded her. “His or her communications with them might be privileged, but their identity isn’t.”

“He’s not going to just tell us for the asking. And he’ll know why we’re asking.”

He won’t,” McCoy said, reaching for Colleen’s phone and dialing. “Anne. Jack McCoy. How are you? And Betty?”

His tone was warm and personal. Regan listened to him exchanging pleasantries that spoke of a long and affectionate association. She wondered what Anne Sciola looked like, if she was tall and long-legged like Abbie and Casey, or little and fierce like Danielle and Sally. She ran her fingers through her hair. Dollars to donuts she’s gorgeous, though.

“Well, I’d be delighted,” McCoy said, grinning. “I really would.” He made a note on one of Colleen’s Post-It notes. “I’ll give the date to Colleen first thing tomorrow to make sure she keeps that weekend free for me. Listen, Anne, I really rang to pick your brains. Last April, your confidential change-of-names. One of them turned up as the victim of a homicide a couple of weeks ago. Uh-huh, Emalia Coran. Yeah. Yeah, that’s what we think, too. Listen, can you remember if Neil Gorton was representing anyone before you that day? No, no, no, I don’t care who. Just if he was there.”

Regan held her breath. McCoy looked up from the doodles he’d been making around whatever he’d written down and gave her a wide, triumphant grin. “Could you write that down and maybe get Betty to witness and seal it and send it across to my office first thing? Thanks, Anne. See you on the —” He checked his notes. “Twenty-fifth.”

He cradled the phone. “He was there. That’s how he and Rivera came in contact. Neil knew that Emily Watson was really Emalia Coran and when she got to be a problem, he went looking for someone to help him solve it. Oh, and — ” he tossed the stack of Post-Its across to her. “Better put the twenty-fifth of September in your diary.”

“Why?” Regan asked.

“Because Anne and Betty want me at their civil union ceremony and I’m certainly not going alone.” Her face must have betrayed her, because McCoy raised an eyebrow. “I haven’t slept with every woman ever admitted to the New York Bar, Regan.”

Regan felt herself flush. “I just — you sounded like you two were close. On the phone.”

He stood up and led the way into his office. “We are. I’ve known her for more than twenty years. I’ve known Betty longer. She’s my daughter’s godmother and she’s done a better job of it than I’ve done as a father.” He stretched, and took a law report from the bookshelf, setting it on the table. “People v Sciffol. The judge ruled on coincidence rising to the level of probable cause. It’s bracketed with caveats, find me a way around them.”

“Okay,” Regan said. She pulled the book toward her and took a deep breath.

And got to work.

.oOo.

Chapter 50: Let's Pretend

Chapter Text

Arraignment Court

9.30 am Monday 23 July 2007

“Docket number 26341, People versus Regina Lindsay, charge is attempted murder in the first degree.” Judge Goldberg’s clerk read from his sheet in a well-practiced rapid-fire chant, then handed it up to the bench.

Judge Janice Goldberg barely looked at it. “How does the defendant plead?”

“I should have killed him!” Regina Lindsay said loudly, while her lawyer tried to hush her. “And I would have, if the coward hadn’t run. That bastard! How come he’s at home and I’m here, huh? After what he did to me?”

“I take it that’s a guilty plea?” Goldberg asked dryly.

“My client enters the affirmative defense of justification,” the public defender said.

“Don’t we all.” Judge Goldberg glanced at Regan. “Do the People wish to be heard on bail?”

“The People request remand, you honor,” Regan said. “The defendant stabbed the victim three times —”

“You would have done the same!” Lindsay interrupted. “You would have stabbed him four times! Five!”

“And shows no remorse,” Regan went on smoothly. She was well-practiced in the arraignment court by now and had needed only a quick glance at the files to grasp the cases she’d be handling for McCoy.

Which is just as well, because I didn’t have much time for more than a quick glance. She and McCoy had been in the office most of the day and into the night, preparing for the arguments he’d make before Judge Steinman this evening over a table littered with papers and eventually, empty takeaway containers and coffee mugs. It had been absurdly late by the time their escorts delivered them back to the hotel.

But, as it turned out, not too late for us to find the opportunity to break the office code of conduct a little more thoroughly.

And again that morning, after the alarm had woken them both.

As a result, Regan was flying by the seat of her pants even more so than was usual in Arraignment Court.

Fortunately Regina Lindsay was giving her plenty of help. “Why should I be sorry?” she asked the world at large. “You wouldn’t be sorry! Why should I be sorry?”

“That question is outside the purview of this court,” Judge Goldberg said. “Although I have to admit to a certain curiosity. Defendant is remanded. Next item on the menu?”

The clerk stepped forward again as Regina Lindsay was led away. “Docket number 26342, People versus Enrico Rodriguez, larceny in the second degree, theft in the first degree, murder in the first degree.”

“Way to bury the lede, Harvey,” Goldberg said. “Plea?”

“Not guilty, your honor,” Rodriguez said.

“What a surprise. People on bail?”

“The People oppose bail,” Regan said. “The defendant brutally murdered the owner of a —”

“You had me at brutally murdered. Remand. Next!”

Regan turned to the next page of her file and the clerk recited, “Docket number 26343, People versus Annalise DeMarco, larceny in the first degree.”

Another legal aid lawyer, this one older and more seasoned.“My client pleads not guilty, your honor. She’s the mother of two young children —”

Goldberg raised her eyebrows at Regan, who said, “People ask for one hundred thousand, your honor.”

“You’re a soft touch, counselor,” Goldberg said. “Two hundred thousand, all cash. Next!”

“Docket number 26343, People versus John Doe, illegal possession of a firearm —”

Reading John Doe on her list, Regan had expected the defendant to be homeless, but as he stepped forward, the handcuffs on his wrists clinking gently, she saw he was clean-shaven, and reasonably well dressed if you took into account the night he’d spent in custody.

And then he shouted “I don’t recognize the jurisdiction of this court!”

Ah, there we go. That explained the John Doe moniker and it also explained why he’d spent the night in the Tombs and not just been given a notice to appear, even though it was a minor weapons charge.

“Some days, neither do I,” Judge Goldberg said. “Do you have a lawyer, Mr Doe?”

“You have no right to —”

“I’ll take that as a no.” Goldberg peered around the courtroom and Regan suppressed a smile as the defense lawyers there to represent various clients all became very busy with their files. She was almost certain she saw one portly gentleman trying to hide behind a bailiff. “Ms Sheets. Congratulations on your new client.”

Jessica Sheets stopped trying to pack up her papers and get out the door. “Thank you, your honor,” she said resignedly, and came up to the bar table.

“And how does your client plead?” Goldberg asked.

“She doesn’t represent me!” John Doe shouted. “None of you have the right to represent me! That’s democracy!”

“I’ll go with not guilty, you honor,” Jessica said.

“She doesn’t speak for me!” John Doe lunged toward Jessica and she stepped back quickly as the bailiffs seized him and held him firmly.

Goldberg raised her voice to be heard above the scuffle. “So entered. Save your breath, A.D.A. Markham. Remand ordered pending a 730 evaluation.”

John Doe was dragged out, shouting “This is an example of the fascist state —”

That was the last of Regan’s cases for the day. She bundled her files under her arm and headed for the door as Jessica Sheets did the same. Regan reached it first. She hauled the heavy left panel open and held it for Jessica to go through. “That should be a fun trial,” she said.

Jessica shook her head. “He’ll pass the 730 exam, because political opinions aren’t a mental illness, even when they’re crazy ones.” She turned sideways to let a couple of well-dressed men stride down the center of the corridor. “He’ll spend a couple of months in Rikers while the police turn his life upside down looking for an email or a blog post or a conversation in a bar where he called for the overthrow of the government.” They reached the stairs and started down them. “Then your boss will threaten him with a federal terrorism charge if he doesn’t take a plea for … oh, let’s see, intimidation and harassment, eighteen months? And then we’ll all go home. Except for Mr Doe.”

“How do you know he’s called for the overthrow of the government?” Regan asked as they pushed through the courthouse doors and out into the muggy morning.

Jessica laughed. “These guys, Regan, they always call for the overthrow of the government. I’ll argue first amendment rights, Jack will wheel out his best Oliver Wendell Holmes impression, the judge will look at my defendant and see Timothy McVeigh and err on the side of caution.”

“And if your client wants his day in court?”

“Then we all get to play pro se do-si-do.” Jessica stopped at a food cart and handed over a bill. “Coffee?”

“Thanks.” Regan took the offered cup. “You could ask to be relieved as counsel of record. Make a case that he tried to assault you, intimidate — ”

Jessica laughed. “Mr Doe is a puss*cat compared to some of my defendants. I’m just pissed that I’m going to have to waste hours of my life listening to him rant about the United Nations and how alternate side-of-the-street parking is a global conspiracy. Is Jack back at work? I saw Kibre heading in to Part 62 again this morning.”

“At work, but not in court today,” Regan said, a little cautiously, as they reached Hogan Place. She is a defense attorney, after all.

“I’ll come up with you, then.” She followed Regan through the doors, digging in her handbag for her ID as Regan showed her badge to the guard on the desk. “See if that message he left me was an offer of a plea deal or a plea larceny.”

Regan pressed the button for the elevator. “On?”

“Teri Courtney. Allegedly hit her best friend in the head with —”

“I know the case. Her prints on the hammer, victim’s blood on the head of it … I’d keep your hand on your wallet for this one, Jessica. That way Jack’ll only walk off with your watch.”

When the elevator let them out on the tenth floor, Regan followed Jessica into Jack’s office, curious to see what McCoy would offer, and Jessica accept, in the matter of People versus Courtney.

Then McCoy looked up from the file he was reading as he sprawled on his couch and smiled from ear to ear at the sight of Jessica Sheets and Regan realized she might be intruding. They know each other, probably have done for years.

And she’s slim and smart and glamorous — just McCoy’s type.

Regan backed toward the door. “I’ll, uh —”

“Stay, Regan, you’ve done the prep on Courtney,” McCoy said. He moved his legs a little to make room and Jessica sat down on the edge of the couch. “How the hell are you, Jessica?”

She raised an eyebrow high enough to make Mr Spock jealous. “Well, nobody pointed a gun at me last week, so I’m guessing better than you.”

McCoy smiled. “Could have been worse. Could have been a Chambers hearing before Judge Dietrich.”

Jessica wrinkled her nose. “Philosophical objections to deodorant ought to be against the law. And in July, it ought to earn a hate-crime enhancement.”

“Write your congressman,” McCoy suggested. “So. Man One, sentencing recommendation?”

“Not a chance, Jack. I have an innocent client. Assault Three, probation.”

McCoy raised his eyebrows and sat up a little. “A woman is dead, Jessica. Even you have to realize that warrants more than a slap on the wrist.”

“Not if my client didn’t do it.”

“She’s willing to plead. That doesn’t say didn’t do it to me.”

“She’s done two months on remand already. She’ll do four to six more before she even sees the inside of a courtroom. She’ll accept a plea if it means she can go home. No allocution.”

McCoy shook his head. “You know I can’t do that, Jessica. If you really believe your client isn’t guilty, take it to trial.”

“Her fingerprints on the murder weapon,” Regan said. “She was seen arguing, arguing heatedly, with the victim, in the hours before the murder. Which she lied about to the police. She gave a false alibi, and unless you’ve got a blue-back in your pocket, she hasn’t provided an alternative one. In what world does that add up to not guilty?”

“What if it was her hammer?” Jessica said. “Of course her fingerprints would be on it.”

“She told the police she’d never seen it before,” Regan said.

“Which was stupid, but stupidity isn’t a crime.”

“Nor is it a defense,” McCoy said.

“Look.” Jessica stood up and paced toward the window. “Can we play let’s pretend for a minute?”

“Sure. I love let’s pretend,” McCoy said. “Let’s pretend I have forensic evidence tying your client to the crime. Let’s pretend she lied about where she was, lied about having a motive —”

“Disagreements don’t necessarily lead to homicide,” Jessica said. “Let’s pretend a woman has a secret. A secret she’ll do almost anything to protect.”

“Including kill?” Regan said.

Jessica shook her head. “Including refuse to tell the truth about where she was that Sunday night, even if that would provide an alibi for a crime she was charged with.”

“Then I’d say that woman needs a lawyer to explain the facts of life to her,” McCoy said. “No secret is worth doing fifteen to twenty-five upstate.”

“Maybe she has a touching faith in the criminal justice system,” Jessica said. “Maybe she doesn’t think even Hang ‘em High McCoy can convict her of a crime she didn’t commit.”

“She can tell the jury all about it,” McCoy said.

“I can’t put her on the stand!” Jessica said.

“Telling me that letting your client give her alibi would be suborning perjury is no way to convince me she’s not guilty.” McCoy swung his legs off the couch and sat up, resting his elbows on his knees.

“What if I’m convinced she won’t give her alibi?” Jessica sat down next to McCoy.

“That’s a pretty big secret if she’s willing to perjure herself to keep it,” Regan said.

“Haven’t you ever had something you’d keep secret, no matter what?” Jessica asked, and Regan blinked. Man draws down on you

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll concede that point. I hope this secret doesn’t involve any unsolved homicides.”

“Jessica wouldn’t do that,” McCoy said. He rubbed the back of his neck. “She’s married, isn’t she, Teri Courtney?”

“Stop fishing, Jack,” Jessica said sharply. “I’m not going to play confirm or deny with you on this. Just take my word for it that it has nothing to do with any criminal matter. There is absolutely no wriggle room for me on this one as far as privilege is concerned.”

“Then I don’t see what you think I can do,” McCoy said.

“Let’s pretend my client lied about the argument and the hammer because she thought the police would think she was the murderer if they knew about them. Let’s pretend my client has an alibi she refuses to allow me to disclose. Let’s pretend she really isn’t guilty.”

McCoy shook his head. “I can’t give probation on a homicide no matter how hard we pretend.”

Regan hesitated. “But,” she said at last, “the police could look a little harder. Couldn’t they, Jack?”

McCoy twisted to look at her over his shoulder, eyebrows up. “Going soft on me?”

She shrugged. “I once had a guy tell me at the scene of a two-vehicle fatal that he’d never seen the other driver before in his life. Turned out they were brothers. Everyone figured brother one had run brother two off the road on purpose, because of the lie, right up until crash investigation proved the dead brother was at fault. It happens. People say dumb stuff when they think they’re going to get into trouble. And — if Teri Courtney didn’t do it, someone else did, and they’re still on the street.”

McCoy nodded slowly. “Then find out,” he said to Regan.

Jessica smiled. “Thanks, Jack. I knew you had a heart in there somewhere.”

“With probable cause engraved on one side and the rules of evidence on the other. If your client is playing you, Jessica, I’m going to nail her to the wall, you know that.”

“I’d expect nothing less,” Jessica said. She picked up her briefcase. “I’ll call you about Mr Doe once I’ve had a chance to talk to him,” she said to Regan.

Regan nodded, and shook Jessica’s hand. When the other lawyer had left, she turned to McCoy. “You think she’s telling the truth?”

“Jessica? Always. But she has been taken in by clients before. Occupational hazard of having a bleeding heart.” He shrugged. “On the other hand, this wouldn’t the first time a client tied their lawyer’s hands, even at the risk of conviction.” He raised an eyebrow. “As we both know.”

“I’ll call the 3-1,” Regan said. “Tell the detectives who worked the case that we have some questions.”

“Don’t expect thanks,” McCoy said dryly, and turned back to preparing for the evening’s motions hearing.

.oOo.

Chapter 51: Ambush

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Supreme Court, Criminal Branch,

100 Centre Street, New York

6 pm Monday 23 July 2007

McCoy pulled open the door of the courthouse and held it for Regan to go through.

“Show-time,” Regan said softly as she passed him.

McCoy followed her, trying to think of any detail that might have escaped him. The presence of Detectives Goren and Eames had persuaded the agents assigned to the protection detail this evening not to provide an escort to the courthouse. Muscular young men in suits with earpieces would be an unmistakable sign we know Lawrence Kuen wasn’t just a random ex-con with a random grudge. They were waiting a floor up from Judge Steinman’s chambers, ready to come down once the ambush was sprung.

He’d prepared Qiao Chen and Regan Markham himself, that afternoon. He had the details of every possible precedent filed in his head. He had the facts at his fingertips, and he knew Ron Carver was similarly prepared.

Show-time. The familiar fizzing of energy along his nerves, like a sprinter waiting for the gun. A hard case, a good argument, high stakes everything he loved about his job, whether in the courtroom or in chambers.

They hadn’t been waiting long outside Judge Rebecca Steinman’s chambers when Neil Gorton strode down the courthouse corridor toward them. “Ron! Lovely to see you. I take it I’m to have the pleasure of cleaning your clock again.”

Carver shook the offered hand. “So you’ve had a mid-life career change to watchmaking? Congratulations. Do you know A.D.A. Chen? I like to choose my own second chair.” Every word of which was true, even if the whole of it was misleading.

“Tough luck, Ms Markham,” Gorton said sympathetically to Regan as he shook Chen’s hand. “Jack, I was sorry to hear you’re …” He made the pause a little too meaningful. “I guess that sort of thing would shake most people up.”

“But not you,” McCoy said.

Gorton grinned urbanely, and shot his cuffs. “I guess I just bounce back a little quicker than you.”

Let’s see how quickly and how high you bounce after the fall you’re about to take.

The judge’s chambers’ door opened, sparing McCoy from finding any more small talk, which was lucky, because what he really wanted to say to Neil Gorton was I know what you’ve done and I’m going to hang you by the scrotum in Battery Park for it.

Judge Steinman raised her eyebrows as Regan Markham and Qiao Chen followed McCoy and Ron Carver into her chambers. “Quite a crowd for a substitution of counsel. Take a seat, counselors, if you can find one.”

McCoy was already moving to the chair directly in front of the judge’s desk, slightly to his left. Rebecca Steinman was left handed, which meant that when she made notes she brought that shoulder forward and turned a little to the right. McCoy shifted the chair slightly as he sat down, putting himself directly in what would be Steinman’s line of sight every time she looked up from her note pad.

Gorton had tried for the same chair as well but had been a little too slow. He settled for the one next to McCoy, as Carver brought another chair from the wall and set it beside McCoy’s. Regan and Chen elected to stand.

“Mr McCoy,” Judge Steinman said. “First of all let me say how glad I am you escaped injury last week. My courtroom would be a lot less colorful without you.”

“Thank you, your honor,” McCoy said. “When my life flashed before my eyes, all twenty-seven of the contempt citations you’ve given me over the years featured prominently.”

She smiled. “It’s always nice to make an impression. Now, you’re here because you want to withdraw from the Rivera trial? Substituting Mr Carver?”

“That’s right, your honor.”

“We don’t even have a trial date yet. Are you sure that you don’t want to take some time and see if you feel fit to continue?”

“Your honor,” Gorton said quickly. “Defense has no objection to this substitution.” He glanced at his watch. “And given the hour, since this has become a mere formality …”

“Not so fast, Neil,” McCoy snapped, and Steinman’s gaze sharpened. “Your honor, I’m not seeking to withdraw as counsel for the prosecution because I feel unfit to continue. I must withdraw, because I’ve become a witness. Before I do, here is my motion to have Mr Gorton removed as Mr Rivera’s counsel of record.”

Gorton half-turned in his chair and lowered his voice. “I don’t know what you think you’re doing, Jack, but I guarantee you it’ll end with you before the ethics committee.”

“That territory is familiar to me, Neil. It doesn’t scare me.”

“In what way are you a witness to the murder of Emalia Coran, Mr McCoy?” Judge Steinman asked.

“I am a witness to another element of what has become evident is a broader and more complex crime, your honor. To Mr Gorton’s conspiracy to have me killed and his murder of his co-conspirator, Lawrence Kuen.”

“That’s preposterous,” Gorton said, but he stayed seated and McCoy assessed the outrage and surprise in his voice to both be feigned. He at least half saw this coming.

He has something up his sleeve.

“I’m inclined to agree, Mr Gorton,” Judge Steinman said. “However, I’m required to inquire. What evidence do you have for this allegation, Mr McCoy? Are there charges pending? Is a Grand Jury empaneled? What possible motive do you attribute to Mr Gorton for this alleged crime? And how do you propose it’s connected — what’s this ‘broader’ crime?”

“Your honor,” Gorton said. “Mr McCoy has had a traumatic and distressing experience. I respect him as an opponent. Please don’t let him humiliate himself like this.”

“I’m distressed to have discovered that an officer of this court has engaged in such nefarious behavior,” McCoy snapped. “Your honor, I can answer all your questions, if you’ll allow me to present my case?” She nodded. “Your honor, the D.A’s Office has uncovered evidence that Mr Gorton has been engaged in financial fraud, the illicit removal of funds from a trust set up as part of his divorce settlement. Mr Chen?”

Chen stepped forward. “We’ve identified five suspect transactions, your honor, so far, which cost Miss Katherine Gorton tens of thousands of dollars. I have a list here.”

Steinman took the list and scanned it. “And these are suspect how?”

“All resulted in a loss to the trust and were to the ultimate benefit of associates, clients, or former clients, of Mr Gorton.”

Steinman looked over her glasses at Gorton. “Well?”

He spread his hands. “I take an active role in managing my daughter’s money, which has seen her trust fund perform well above market average over the years. But nothing in finance is guaranteed. High reward only comes from high risk. And as your honor knows, I have a large and active practice and a wide social circle. I would imagine that nearly every investment I might make would involve someone known to me in some way or another.”

“Are you moving to charge Mr Gorton on this alleged fraud, Mr McCoy?” the judge asked. “Because if not, I can’t give any weight to these allegations.”

“We are not yet ready to proceed on the fraud charges,” McCoy said. “But these potential charges are not the reason for this motions hearing. They provide context for the much more serious matters of murder, conspiracy, and murder-for-hire, matters which necessitate our moving immediately, for the sake of public safety.”

Gorton threw up his hands. “First I’m an embezzler, now I’m a murderer!”

Judge Steinman held up her hand. “Mr Gorton. Save the dramatics. Go on, Mr McCoy.”

McCoy leaned forward in his chair. “Ms Emalia Coran had responsibility for Ms Gorton’s trust at Hudson, Merrick and Riddle, where she worked. It’s the People’s contention that a diligent performance of her duties would have revealed these suspect transactions. We have affidavits from colleagues attesting to Ms Coran’s zealousness.”

“You’ve admitted you don’t have sufficient evidence that these transactions are suspect,” the judge said.

“Mr Gorton’s subsequent conduct establishes that concealing these transactions was important to him, important enough to kill. Your honor must —” Steinman lifted one finger and McCoy corrected himself. “Your honor can consider them in that context. Ms Coran had a previous relationship with John Rivera —”

“She shot him,” Gorton said.

“And Mr Gorton was aware that she had changed her name to Emily Watson.” McCoy raised a hand and Regan put Anne Sciola’s affidavit in it. “An affidavit from Judge Sciola attesting to Mr Gorton’s presence in the courtroom on the relevant day.” He leaned forward to offer it to the judge. “John Rivera subsequently located Ms Coran and killed her. He’s entered the affirmative defense of E.E.D, your honor, the fact of the killing is not in question. Mr Gorton now represents Officer Rivera, apparently pro bono. The people assert that Mr Rivera killed Ms Coran at the behest of Mr Gorton and is receiving legal services in payment.”

“Or he killed her in a state of extreme emotional disturbance and I happen to be his lawyer!” Gorton said.

“Mr Gorton became aware that I was looking into his daughter’s trust,” McCoy said. “He was observed in conversation with Lawrence Kuen. Mr Gorton arranged to meet me at the Silk Road House restaurant. He was one of two people who knew where I’d be. Shortly after I arrived, Mr Kuen put a gun to my head.”

Steinman raised an eyebrow. “Observed in conversation?”

Regan stepped forward. “By me, your honor.” She held out a folder. “My affidavit.”

“Oh, so not exactly a reliable and disinterested witness,” Gorton scoffed, as the judge took it.

“Regan Markham is an officer of this court!” McCoy snapped. “She’s an employee of the District Attorney’s Office with an outstanding record —”

“And your girlfriend,” Gorton cut in. “We’ve all read the papers.”

And there it is. “Innuendo and insinuations by the gutter press are hardly relevant!”

Gorton shook his head sadly. “It wouldn’t be the first time one of your lovers lied for you, Jack. Diana Hawthorne withheld exculpatory evidence and sent an innocent man to jail for you.”

“Without my knowledge and most certainly not at my request!” McCoy retorted. “She admitted that and pled guilty to criminal facilitation in the fourth degree. As you very well know.”

“And how do you know that Regan Markham isn’t lying now, without your knowledge?” Gorton spread his hands. “Come on, Jack. She wants to please you. And how better than getting the man who’s handed you your ass in court on more than one occasion tossed off this case?”

“Your honor! Nothing adverse is known about Ms Markham’s honesty! Mr Gorton is merely trying to confuse the issue with unsubstantiated allegations —”

“Well, actually, Jack, that’s not quite true. That bit about nothing adverse.” Gorton reached down beside his chair and took a folder out of his briefcase. “I’m sorry to have to do this, Jack, I really am. And I won’t, if you withdraw these allegations.”

“I withdraw nothing,” McCoy said.

“On your own head be it,” Gorton said. “Or on Ms Markham’s head. Your honor. I have here a sworn statement from Detective Marco Durham of the Seattle Police Department —”

McCoy heard Regan’s gasp, but he didn’t dare look away from Gorton and the judge. Neil knew. He knew she saw him. He must have seen her too.

And he came prepared. Prepared with something more than just allegations about an improper relationship.

“—as well as a certified electronic copy of CCTV footage from inside Seattle Police Department Headquarters. Detective Durham has admitted that a little over four years ago he falsified evidence by planting a gun near the hand of the unarmed victim of a police shooting, to make a cold-blooded execution look like self-defense. The officer who committed that murder was a woman called Elish Reagan —” Behind them, the door banged. Gorton cast a casual glance back over his shoulder. “Who has just left the room with some haste. She now goes by the name of Regan Markham, the so-called witness on whom Mr McCoy would have your honor rely. The video footage substantiates the allegation, your honor.”

There was absolutely no possibility McCoy could do what he wanted to do, which was leap from his chair and go after Regan. He couldn’t even take a moment to think through what Gorton had just said. He was in chambers, he was in front of a judge, and he was on, and that was the only thing that could be allowed to matter. “Your honor, while I have no personal knowledge of this, it’s self-evident that any offenses Detective Durham has admitted to or alleged are a matter for King County. They have had opportunity to pursue them at any time in the last few years and have declined to do so. The crimes Neil Gorton committed are in this jurisdiction —”

“Your A.D.A fled the jurisdiction and changed her name, no wonder King County hasn’t been able to —”

A crucial tool in McCoy’s arsenal of attorney tricks was the ability to raise his voice to a volume that drowned out anyone else, and he used it now, speaking straight over Gorton. “For the court’s information, Markham is her family name. Ms Markham lived for a number of years with an elderly relative with the surname Markham. Taking his name after his death is a natural gesture of familial devotion and affection.”

“Or the action of a woman wanting to evade attention,” Gorton said.

“Not everybody loves the limelight, Mr Gorton,” McCoy snapped.

“Leaving that to one side for the moment,” the judge said, “I still haven’t seen anything that rises above unsubstantiated allegations, Mr McCoy.”

“And you won’t, your honor,” Gorton said. “This transparent ploy to deprive my client of his constitutional right to counsel in the middle of a trial —”

McCoy shook his head. “Officer Rivera is the only one who can testify as to the extent of his conspiracy with Mr Gorton. The police can’t question Officer Rivera about this conspiracy in the presence of the man he conspired with!”

Judge Steinman looked over her glasses. “That is an evident conflict of interest, Mr Gorton.”

“Based on a farrago of —”

“Based on facts.” McCoy began to list them on his fingers. “One, my office has begun an investigation into your financial affairs. Two, Emalia Coran, or Emily Watson as she became, managed those affairs. Emalia Coran was shot dead by one of your clients and another client of your firm tried to shoot me.”

“Whereupon I saved your life,” Gorton countered. “Hardly the action of a man who wanted you dead. Your honor, this is all conjecture, and nothing more. Officer Rivera was not my client at the time his panic and terror —”

“Rein it in, Mr Gorton. No jury here,” the judge warned.

“At the time Ms Coran died. As for the second incident, I am a defense lawyer. Oftentimes, I defend people accused of crimes. As do my colleagues at my firm. One of them did, in fact, represent Mr Kuen. Unsuccessfully. Mr McCoy sent him to Attica for five-to-seven. It seems Mr Kuen held a grudge. He’s not the first. Mr McCoy will have to admit that I was at that restaurant because I wanted to discuss the possibility of a plea for Officer Rivera. I arranged to meet him there. The fact that Mr Kuen independently followed Mr McCoy to the restaurant? Coincidence.”

“Your honor, People v Sciffol. Judge Naughton ruled that a series of events could be considered to rise above mere coincidence if the probability —”

Judge Steinman waved a hand. “Yes, yes, was sufficiently unlikely. That applies to what the defense may present to a jury, Mr McCoy.”

McCoy leaned forward. “Which by implication defines what a court must be allowed to consider, including in determining motions such as these. Your honor, taken individually, any one of these events could be random, but taken together they provide the motive, means, and opportunity for Mr Gorton’s conspiracies with Lawrence Kuen and more importantly, John Rivera.”

Gorton threw up his hands. “My so-called motive is an alleged fraud that you can’t offer any proof of, because it didn’t happen. My so-called opportunity is a conversation that your second chair claims to have witnessed. Put her on the stand about it, Jack, let’s hear all about Seattle. Let’s see how credible a witness she is then.”

“He’s right, Mr McCoy,” the judge said. “I don’t see anything here that rises to probable cause.”

“Mr Gorton can’t use the fact that he’s put a roadblock in the way of the police investigation into his criminal acts to argue that the roadblock ought to remain!”

Judge Steinman paused a long moment, and McCoy held his breath. “I agree,” she said at last, taking off her glasses. “These are very serious allegations. However they are supported only by the unverified allegation of a witness whose credibility has just been called into very serious question.”

“Your honor, Detective Durham is here and ready to testify in person,” Gorton said.

Judge Steinman folded up her glasses with a snap. “Almost as if you were expecting Mr McCoy’s allegations, Mr Gorton. And I find it curious that you haven’t previously mentioned that you had a professional relationship with your client’s victim.”

Gorton spread his hands. “I had no idea. Despite Mr McCoy’s allegations, I didn’t know that Emily Watson had changed her name. I’ve only ever heard the victim in this case referred to as Emalia Coran.”

“Your honor,” McCoy said. “If you intend to consider seriously these outrageous —” Steinman raised one finger. “These untested and untestable allegations against Ms Markham in weighing her credibility, the People should be given a chance to prepare.”

“Like the chance you gave me tonight?” Gorton countered.

“And yet, you’re prepared,” McCoy shot back. “Almost as if you you knew exactly what you were suspected of.”

“Knock it off, gentlemen!” Steinman glared at them. “Tomorrow morning. In camera. I’ll hear from both of you, from Detective Durham, from Ms Markham, and from Officer Rivera. Mr Carver, I take it you’ll be representing the People. Mr Gorton, I suggest you retain counsel.”

McCoy reached out to put his hand on the edge of Steinman’s desk. “Your honor, Officer Rivera requires independent counsel. He can’t give honest and unforced testimony about any conspiracy with Mr Gorton if his only source of legal —”

“Yes, yes,” Steinman said. “Officer Rivera is to be provided with counsel other than Mr Gorton, if he chooses to avail himself of it.” She leaned forward. “And let me tell you, gentlemen, I don’t know who I’m going to throw the book at, but I guarantee, I’ll be throwing it at someone.”

“Your honor,” McCoy said, “if you intend to consider the video footage Mr Gorton referred to —”

“Discovery doesn’t apply, Jack,” Gorton said. “Besides, Detective Durham tells me Ms Markham already has a copy. Oh — don’t tell me she didn’t tell you about it?” He picked up his briefcase and stood. “Always so disillusioning when you learn a woman’s deceiving you, isn’t it?”

“If you think,” McCoy said, low and even, “that I will let you traduce Regan Markham’s reputation —”

“You can stop me,” Gorton said, just as quietly. “Two words, Jack. Nolle prosequi. All this can stop.”

“I won’t let you or your client walk.”

Gorton shrugged, and smiled. “Then I’ll see you — and Ms Markham — in court.”

.oOo.

Notes:

Judge Rebecca Steinman appeared in a number of Law & Order episodes. She was played by Susan Blommaert, who also plays Mr Kaplan in “The Blacklist”.

Chapter 52: Complications

Chapter Text

Supreme Court, Criminal Branch,

100 Centre Street, New York

6.40 pm Monday 23 July 2007

Alexandra Eames looked at her watch. “If they don’t hurry it up in there, we won’t make Rikers before lock-down and then we won’t get to talk to Rivera until the morning.”

“I’m pretty sure Neil Gorton is counting on that,” Goren said absently, studying the only other person loitering in the corridor outside Judge Steinman’s chambers, a tall man in a suit that Eames had immediately identified as a fellow cop.

Eames looked up at him. “Why didn’t you point that out, I don’t know, an hour ago?”

Goren shrugged. “We’ll have time,” he said, and wandered away.

Okay, Bobby. Eames followed him as he strolled over to the other cop, making sure to leave enough distance to let Goren do whatever he was going to do, paying closer attention to the stranger now he had Goren’s attention. Late thirties or early forties, six foot even, solid build, dark hair. Hispanic? Maybe Native American, at least in part. Never had to watch what he ate when he was younger and his bad habits are just beginning to show.

“Hey,” Goren said. “I — uh — that’s nicotine gum, isn’t it? That you’re chewing?” When the cop nodded, Goren ducked his head a little. “I couldn’t, uh — beg you for a piece, could I? I’m dying here.”

“Sure.” The cop took a packet of Nicotonel from his pocket and offered it to Goren.

Goren took it, popped out a piece, and — Eames couldn’t see it but she was sure — palmed it as he put his hand to his mouth. “Thanks. What I really want is a cigarette, but the second I go out for one, they’re bound to call me in. I’m Bobby, by the way. Bobby Goren.”

“Marco Durham,” the cop said, taking the packet back. “You ought to just quit, you know. Using the gum to cut down’ll just backfire on you.”

Goren laughed. “Sounds like the voice of experience. Uh — this is Alex, my partner. She’ll be right on board with you about the quitting.”

“Uh-huh,” Eames said. “You have no idea how bad the car smells.”

“For me, it was my kids,” Durham said. “On my back about it. And all that stuff about cot death.”

“Hey,” Goren said, as if it had just occurred to him, “you’re on the job, too, aren’t you?”

Durham nodded. “Seattle P.D.”

Goren nodded. “Oh, hey, long way.”

“We have one of your fugitives?” Eames chimed in.

“No, I —” Durham stopped. “I’m sorry, guys, I probably shouldn’t talk about it. I might have to talk to the judge, and I don’t know the rules here.”

“Sure,” Goren said, nodding. “Sure. The judge in there? We’re here for that too. Cooling our heels. It never changes, does it?”

That got the first flicker of a smile from the grim Seattle cop. “No, it never does. At least you’re getting overtime —”

The chambers’ door banged open and Regan Markham came out, almost at a run. She took two fast strides toward the door and then, just as Eames was moving to intercept her and ask her what the hell was going on in there, she saw the three of them and stopped dead.

Durham took a step toward her, and then stopped. “Ellie.”

“You’re here,” Regan said flatly.

“Ellie, I had to tell him, I’m sorry, I had —”

“It’s fine.” Same flat tone. “You told the truth. It’s the right thing to do.”

“Ellie —”

“I have to go,” Regan said, pivoted on her heel and started for the other staircase, breaking into a run.

Durham took a step after her.

“Me,” Eames said to Goren, sotto voce, and headed after Regan as Goren took Durham by the arm. She could hear him saying something about when women get like that as she reached the stairs, and snorted to herself. Bobby playing the bro card. She was willing to bet folding money that the only woman who Goren spent enough time with to be able to pass comment on her behavior was herself, and like that was not something Eames ever got.

She jogged down the stairs. Regan Markham was taller than Eames, and she was in a hurry, but she was dressed for the office and Eames was dressed to chase down fleeing perps, because it was a day with a ‘Y’ in it. She caught up with Regan at the doors. “Regan —”

“I have to go —” Regan said desperately, yanking open the door.

Eames took her arm. “No, you don’t. What you need to do is calm down.”

“Let me —”

“I’m not letting you run off in a state like this.” Eames put a little come on, let me do my job in her voice. “Any more than you would let me, or anyone right? I need to be sure you’re alright. Come on, don’t make me stand in front of my captain and say Well, sir, you see Those sentences never end well.”

Regan didn’t let go of the door, but she stopped moving, as Eames had known she would. Goren might be renowned for playing suspects like violins, but Eames knew cops, and whatever job Regan Markham might do these days, she was a cop to her toenails. “Who’s that guy upstairs?” she asked. “What’s going on?”

“He’s my partner,” Regan said. “And you should ask your partner. He knows. I don’t know how, but he knew the first time he asked me, back in January.”

Eames blinked as it came together in her head. A story about a shooting in Seattle, and Goren going at an A.D.A like she was a suspect. Don’t you wonder about the other gun? he’d asked Eames later, and she’d told him no crusades. One of Goren’s hunches that was more about his insatiable curiosity about puzzles than their job.

She should have remembered when Megan Wheeler had dropped a file on her desk and said Regan Markham saw something interesting last Thursday.

Should have remembered that Regan Markham had a Bobby Goren question mark over her head.

“This about the throw-down at the Seattle P.D.H.Q. shooting,” she said, not making it a question. “He was the one who dropped it for you.”

“Yeah,” Regan said. “And he just told Neil Gorton all about it. So figure out how to make your case without my testimony, Detective, because right now my credibility’s worth used toilet paper.”

“Why did you do it?”

“Lie?” Regan asked. “I didn’t. It was all over by the time I woke up three months later, the inquiry, the rest of it.”

“Why did you shoot him?” Eames asked.

Regan looked away from her, far, far away if the expression on her face is anything to go by. “Detective,” she said distantly, “I really wish I knew.”

She yanked at the door, and this time Eames let her go. Short of arresting Regan, it was the only option. Chances Gorton will try something? It looked like he’d already tried it, upstairs. Eames retraced her steps back up the staircase, not for the first time wishing she had legs as long as Goren’s and could take stairs two at a time without noticing.

He and Durham were about as far from each other as it was possible to be and still be in the same corridor. Durham was leaning against the wall, arms folded, staring at the floor. Goren had settled down on one of the benches, hands in his pockets.

Eames sat down next to him. “Well?”

“I think he’s worked out I don’t smoke,” Goren said with a lift of his chin at Durham.

“We’ve got bigger problems, Bobby,” Eames said. “Durham was the one who —”

“Dropped the gun to cover for Elish Reagan,” Goren said, nodding. “He was her partner, Eames, he was always the one who did it.”

“And now he’s told Gorton and there’s nothing to connect Gorton and Kuen if the judge decides Markham isn’t credible. This whole thing is a house of cards, Bobby, you can’t pull one out and expect the rest to hold up.”

He took his hands from his pockets and leaned forward, elbows on his knees. “We have a couple of things going for us. First, if we flip Rivera, the link to Kuen won’t matter.”

“And second?”

Goren shrugged a little. “He’s lying. So there’s that.”

“He’s a defense lawyer. He’s breathing. Of course he’s lying.”

“No, no, no, not Gorton. No. Detective Marco Durham is lying.”

Eames frowned. “Why would he? And why would Markham confirm it?”

“Maybe because they were sleeping together,” Goren suggested. “I hear that can … complicate things.”

Eames frowned. “How do you know they were sleeping together?”

Goren shrugged. “Because he just blew her whole life up and she said It’s fine.”

“That’s it? That’s what you’ve got?”

He gave her a sideways smile. “I pushed her on it last winter, and you remember how she was about it?”

“Angry,” Eames said.

“Defensive. Scared.” Goren shrugged again. “Him, she went straight to making excuses. I think she’s made a lot of excuses for Detective Durham. He’s got kids, and he lives with them, if he can’t hide his smoking from them. At least one of them is eight or nine, that’s when schools start pushing the anti-smoking message hard and kids start giving their parents grief. And one’s under six months.”

Eames nodded. “Cot death, right. So he was married or whatever when he and Markham worked together. And still married now.”

“And he was married when she developed that reflex of forgiving him for throwing her under the bus.” Goren shook his head a little, traced one eyebrow with his forefinger. “Men do that a lot when they’re having an affair. Throw the other woman under the bus.”

“Sure I love you, baby, but I have to stand you up to go buy groceries so wifey doesn’t suspect?” Goren nodded, and Eames snorted. “I’d say on available evidence that the thrill is definitely gone.”

“Yeah,” Goren said. He leaned his head on his hand and watched Marco Durham up the other end of the corridor. “He’s crossed the country just specifically to damage her. And as soon as Carver comes out and tells us what we already know, we can go find out just exactly why.”

.oOo.

Chapter 53: It Will Be Rain Tonight

Notes:

BANQUO: It will be rain tonight.
FIRST MURDERER: Let it come down.

Macbeth Act 3 Scene 3

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Neil Gorton strode away down the corridor, taking the arm of a tall man loitering there and steering him away. Marco Durham, no doubt. As little as McCoy liked letting anyone have the last word, let alone Neil Gorton, right now he had far more important things to deal with.

Such as where the hell is Regan?

Not waiting in the corridor, that much was clear.

Carver was filling Detectives Goren and Eames in on the grenade Gorton had thrown.

Eames nodded. “We got that much from Ms Markham before she tore on out of here.”

“And you let her go?” McCoy snapped. “With a possible threat to her life?”

She gave him a level look. “Since I don’t carry blank material witness warrants in my pocket and I didn’t see any evidence of a crime, yeah. I talked to her long enough to be sure she wasn’t about to sleepwalk into traffic, and I let her go.”

“And exactly how could you tell that, Detective?” McCoy demanded.

“I could tell,” Eames said. “You want us to go find her?”

McCoy unbuttoned his collar and loosened his tie with a savage yank. “Given that she’s a witness against a man doesn’t draw the line at murder-for-hire —”

“This is actually my call, Jack,” Carver reminded him. “You’re a witness now. You’ve withdrawn.”

“Then make the damn call, Ron!”

The marble floor and walls picked up his shout and amplified it. Both Goren and Eames found other things to look at. Carver remained impassive, although a muscle tightened along his jaw. Only Chen stared at McCoy in outright shock.

“Detectives,” Carver said with careful deliberation. “Since it’s now too late to bring Rivera over from Rikers, go back to One PP. Locate Ms Markham. If you need a material witness warrant to assist you in doing so, let me know. And then concentrate on Detective Durham. It is imperative that I am able to discredit him tomorrow, even if I can’t disprove his allegations.”

“You will disprove them,” McCoy said. “Neil Gorton just called an A.D.A. a murderer and a fugitive from justice in exactly that many words. It can’t be allowed to stand!”

“Are you concerned for the reputation of the office, Jack?” Carver asked mildly. “Or do you have more personal motives?”

“If you’re suggesting —” McCoy started to say.

Carver raised his voice a little. “I’m suggesting that you let me do my job. We have until tomorrow morning, and I have to make a decision about prioritizing my detectives’ time. It’s going to be a lot easier to find some mud to throw at Detective Durham than it would be to re-investigate a mass shooting that happened more than four years ago on the other side of the country. Gorton said that Ms Markham has a copy of that video footage. Instead of shouting at me, I suggest you locate it and find out just what we’re going to see in court tomorrow.”

“I will,” McCoy said shortly. “And I’ll rehabilitate your witness while I’m at it.”

He turned away from them and strode down the corridor.

Chen followed him. “Mr McCoy. Mr McCoy!”

“I don’t have time, Qiao,” McCoy snapped, yanking his cell phone from his pocket.

“Then tell me how to help, sir,” Chen said. “Let me help.”

McCoy held up a hand as he found Regan’s number and pressed the call button. Chen fell silent.

“This is Regan Markham. I can’t take your call,” Regan’s voice told him. “So leave a message and a number I can call you back on, and I'll do that as soon as I can.”

“Regan, it’s Jack. I don’t believe a word of it. Call me. As soon as you get this, call me.” He ended the call. “Get back to the hotel,” he told Chen. “When Regan turns up there, call me straight away.”

“Yes, sir, Mr McCoy,” Chen said. He took a step toward the door, stopped. “What Mr Gorton said …”

“Was a lie,” McCoy said flatly. I don’t believe a word of it. I know Regan, and I know she’s incapable of something like that.

Except as he’d told Abbie, everyone is capable of killing, under the right circ*mstances. Or the wrong ones, might be a better way to put it.

And the one time they’d talked about that night in Seattle, the one time he’d asked her about the man she’d killed, Regan had looked at him with eyes as cold as a winter sky and said When a man draws down on you, you put him in the ground.

“I know,” Chen said, and when McCoy looked at him, “When A.D.A Firienze was attacked, the blogs were all over it. You took me off the trial, so I … I had time to read them.” He swallowed hard. “Some of them were almost transcripts. One even got hold of that video of her … of her, after. If there was proof, CCTV footage, that a cop shot an unarmed suspect? No way that stayed quiet all this time. Not in this day and age. I’ll go back to the hotel, sir. But if you think of anything else I can do …”

“There is,” McCoy said, deciding. “Call Colleen on the way to the hotel. I spoke to …’ He closed his eyes for a moment, searching for the name. “David Cohen in King County last year. He had a lot of good things to say about Regan. I doubt he’d have been so complimentary if he’d had a question mark over her integrity, and if there’s anyone in Seattle who’d know if there was, it’d be the man who sits in the equivalent of my chair. Get his number from Colleen, call him, tell him what’s going on and find out what he knows about that shooting.”

“Yes, sir, right away,” Chen said, and went.

McCoy found Abbie’s number in his phone’s address list and pressed call. “Abbie, listen. Has Regan come back there yet?”

“Not that I know,” Abbie said. “What’s wrong? What happened?”

“Get the hotel staff to let you into her room,” McCoy said,

“Why?” Abbie asked.

“You’re looking for a DVD. I don’t know how it’ll be labeled. It’ll have a video file on it, CCTV footage. I need that DVD, Abbie.”

He heard fabric rustle, the sound of a door. “Jack, are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

“I don’t have time to explain, Abbie, I’m sorry, Gorton threw a curve ball. I need to break into your house.”

“You —”

“Abbie, please. If the DVD isn’t in Regan’s room at the hotel, it’s at your place. Call me if you find it, but if you don’t, I need to look for it.”

There was a long silence. “I don’t know what’s going on,” Abbie said at last, “and I’ll take your word for it that there isn’t time to explain. But Jack, you will explain. Harold Boyd one up from me has my spare key. I’ll call him and tell him to give it to you.”

McCoy thanked her, and hung up.

His protection detail arrived from upstairs. “You seem to have misplaced a witness,” McCoy pointed out acerbically, ignoring the fact that they’d been upstairs because he hadn’t wanted to taking any chance of alerting Gorton. “Regan Markham. I suggest you work with the police to find her.”

“We’ve been informed. But first we have to take you back to the hotel, Mr McCoy.”

He shook his head. “I have to get to West 90th.”

“Then that’s where we’re going, too,” the agent said. “I’m not telling my boss we misplaced two witnesses, sir.”

I’m not in danger, not now Neil knows the whole D.A’s Office knows about —”

Firm shake of the head. “Until I hear it from my boss, we protect you.”

A waste of time, when Regan was who-knew-where and in who-knew-what state of mind. “Would the N.Y.P.D. be an acceptable substitute?”

The agent considered, and then nodded.

“Fine,” McCoy said, heading for the door. “I’ll call someone from the car. They’ll meet us there.”

When he strode out of the courthouse, the humidity in the night air robbed him of breath for a moment. He could smell rain in the air as he hurried down the steps to the S.U.V parked in what was normally a no-standing zone. It will be rain tonight.

One of the agents opened the door of the car for him and McCoy got in, trying to remember where he’d heard those words. A defendant, probably, with limited English.

No. Not a defendant. Decades, centuries ago, in Central Park, his arm around Ellen’s shoulders, watching the inevitable, inexorable horror of Banquo’s last moments.

It will be rain tonight.

McCoy was startled from memory by the car door closing. He tried Regan again, and got the same recorded message. “Regan, dammit! Call me.”

It wasn’t true. It couldn’t be true, not of Regan —

Man draws down on you, you put him in the ground.

“Goddammit!” McCoy ignored the startled glances from the agents in front of the car and dialed again. “Anita. Glad I caught you.”

“Only just,” Anita Van Buren said.

“Anita, I have a problem and I need to borrow a couple of warm bodies for the evening.”

She sighed. “Jack, you have fifty investigators in the D.As Office and I have a board full of red names —”

“It’s not that kind of problem. Gorton — Anita, I don’t want to get into it, but take my word for it, the babysitters Arthur Branch got me have more important work to be doing. They seem to feel I need someone to keep me out of trouble. Can you lend me a couple of people from your precinct or not?”

“Not without paperwork, you know that.”

McCoy closed his eyes. “Unofficially, then. Anita. How long have we known each other?”

“Since you prepped me as a witness on the Carrera shooting in … must have been ‘89. Back when I was undercover.”

“Twenty years,” McCoy said. “Have I ever asked you for —”

Eighteen years, and only every other week,” Van Buren said.

Anita.” McCoy heard the ragged note in his voice at the same time as he realized he was holding his cell phone hard enough to hurt.

She paused. “I’ll see if Ed and Lennie have any plans for the evening.”

“I owe you,” McCoy said.

“You’ll owe Lennie and Ed,” Van Buren said, and hung up.

By the time McCoy had gotten the spare key from the neighbor, Briscoe and Green had arrived. Thunder rumbled along the horizon as McCoy sent his protection detail away and filled the two detectives in on the evening’s developments. It will be rain tonight. He shook his head sharply to drive out the thought, working out which key went into which of Abbie’s three locks.

Inside, McCoy took the stairs two at a time, Green behind him. Briscoe hung back, his phone to his ear. McCoy flicked on the light in Regan’s room and paused. Where would she keep it?

“You take the dresser,” Green said. “I’ll do the wardrobe.”

The dresser drawers were almost empty. The few days’ clothes Regan had packed for the hotel had left little behind. McCoy rifled through T-shirts, looked under a pair of jeans. “Nothing.”

“Mike says Regan’s phone is switched off,” Briscoe said as he reached the top of the stairs. “If she turns it on, they’ll at least know what cell tower she’s near.”

“Got something,” Green said. He turned from the wardrobe, holding a battered shoe-box, many times repaired with duct tape. He took off the lid. “Uh — you want to look through this? There’s letters, photos — personal stuff.”

“You do it,” McCoy said. Regan would find that less invasive, when she found out.

Green nodded. He set the shoe-box down on the bed and started to go through the contents. After a moment he gave a low whistle. “You know she — ”

“Don’t tell me,” McCoy interrupted. “If she wants me to know something, she can tell me. If she doesn’t …”

“She’s a witness, Jack.” Briscoe said from where he was leaning against the door. “Or are there new rules for trial preparation that I don’t know about?”

“She’s entitled to her privacy,” McCoy said, but he knew it wasn’t true even as the words left his mouth. He scrubbed his hand over his face. “Dammit. Tell me if there’s anything that Neil might use against her.”

“Got it,” Green said, turning with a DVD in a clear case in his hand.

McCoy took it. It was unmarked, unremarkable, except for the Post-It note on the front. Take medical retirement, it said in unfamiliar hand-writing. “I’ve got to see what’s on it.” Abbie would have taken her laptop to the hotel … “The office,” he said.

“Try downstairs first,” Green said. “If it was copied a couple of years ago, it might be a straight disk-to-disk burn. Any DVD player will play it.”

They went downstairs. Abbie wasn’t much of a television watcher, but she had a small set in the corner of the living room for the news and, being Abbie, she’d bought one with a DVD player built in. McCoy switched it on and put the DVD in the slot. About to press play, he stopped. “Ed. You might not want to watch this. If I’m right, it shows police officers being shot.”

“I’m okay,” Green said.

McCoy nodded, and started the DVD. He found himself looking at a wide-shot of what could have been any open-plan office, except most of the people in it were wearing uniforms. It was in color, but there was no sound.

McCoy was almost glad of it when the first muzzle-flashes blazed across the scene and the first bodies fell. He could hear Regan’s voice, low and hoarse, Robbie's screaming 'Ellie, Ellie, help me, Ellie' and I can't help him and all I want is for him to shut up because I can't stand it, I can't f*cking stand it, and then he makes a sound that might be my name

“Jesus,” Briscoe muttered, as the shooter came into shot and paused to fire directly into the face of one of the injured officers.

All three men jumped as a crack of thunder overhead announced the arrival of the storm, rain beginning to hammer down on the roof. Green glanced upward, taking his hand from his gun. “It’s coming down out there.”

“Let it come down,” McCoy said, leaning closer to the screen. “There she is.” Regan, younger and in uniform but still recognizable, moving forward in a left-handed Weaver Stance. McCoy winced as she staggered and half-fell against a desk, leaving a wide smear of red. Hit real hard, she said. He’d seen the scars. He didn’t want to think about the wounds they represented, but he forced himself to keep watching as, on the DVD, Regan pushed herself upright again and stumbled forward.

“Why doesn’t she just shoot the f*cker?” Green asked.

“She can’t,” McCoy said grimly. “A stray shot blew out her elbow a while before this happened. That’s why she was there in the first place. Desk duty.”

The gunman dropped his weapon and raised his hands. “Looks like he doesn’t know that, though,” Briscoe said.

“No.” McCoy as Regan staggered forward, gun wavering, leaving a red trail on the carpet behind her. To the accompaniment of another long roll of thunder and rain pounding on the roof, she stumbled to within five feet of Frank Tourmetti.

And shot him in the head at almost point-blank range.

McCoy ran the recording back and watched it again, watched Regan stagger up to Tourmetti and pull the trigger. The gunman went down barely a second before Regan herself dropped her gun and crashed to the floor.

“I didn’t see his hand move,” McCoy said. “Did either of you?”

“Not me,” Green said.

“Me either,” Briscoe said.

McCoy shook his head. “So the official account of the shooting, that he was going for a weapon …” That was what had been in the newspaper stories he’d read on-line. Reaching for a second weapon.

The recording ended. “Well, at least they don’t have this former partner of hers dropping a gun on tape,” Green said.

“His admission that he did is an admission against penal interest,” McCoy said. “It’s inherently credible.”

“It’s not as if she shot someone just walking down the street, Jack,” Briscoe pointed out. “That guy killed a bunch of cops and tried to kill her. She was shot all to hell.”

“It would be almost impossible to get a conviction. Showing this to a jury? They’d watch Tourmetti shoot an injured police officer in the head and want to give Regan a medal. Which might be why King Country decided to let it go,” McCoy said. He ran the recording back again and watched the last few seconds. “Man draws down on you,” Regan says, and her voice is very steady and her eyes are colder than cold, “You put him in the ground.” “But we can’t. Regan is the only witness to Gorton’s conversation with the man he hired to kill me and he’s going to use this to destroy her credibility.”

“And what does she say about it?” Green asked.

“I wish I knew,” McCoy said tersely. “She hasn’t answered her phone. She hasn’t called me back. She hasn’t gone back to the hotel. Since she clearly hasn’t come here, I don’t know where she’d be.” On a bus to Wichita is one bad answer to that particular question.

“Let me try Mike again,” Briscoe said. “She might have turned her cell on.”

“Run that back again,” Green said. “Just at the end there.” He leaned in as McCoy did so, squinting at the screen.

“Do you see something? Another weapon?”

“Not a weapon.” Green leaned in even closer. “He said something, right before she shot him. I can’t get it … but it definitely wasn’t I surrender.

McCoy ejected the DVD. “Take it,” he said. “The Department has translators for the Deaf, right? You’ve got to be able to find someone who can lipread. Maybe it’s exculpatory, somehow.”

Green nodded, took the DVD, and turned to the door.

Right as Regan Markham, drenched to the skin, walked through it.

.oOo.

Notes:

In the real world, Shakespeare in the Park did not perform Macbeth before 2006. There’s certainly no canon to suggest McCoy has any interest in theater, but since Sam Waterston appeared in a number of productions of Shakespeare in the Park in the 1960s and 1970s, I couldn’t resist …

Chapter 54: Let It Come Down

Chapter Text

Regan stopped dead in the doorway to Abbie’s living room. I should have known Jack would be here. If she'd thought about it, she would have known — because where else would Jack McCoy be, when a key witness’s credibility was in question, but getting answers?

McCoy, and Lennie Briscoe, and Ed Green. That was just about everybody whose opinion mattered to her these days, all in the room with her.

And Green was holding a DVD in a case. It could have been anything, it could have been Abbie's holiday snaps or an installation disk for a word processing program, except Regan could see the Post-It note stuck to it, the one with those three damning words in Marco’s handwriting.

So now they know. And soon Anita Van Buren will know, and Mike Logan, and Megan Wheeler … Serena will know, Abbie will know …

White lighting flashed outside the window, bright enough to cast the faces of the three men in sharp relief for an instant, followed by a roll of thunder that went on and on.

“What are you doing here?” McCoy asked. It took Regan a moment to make sense of the question. What are you doing here was not the question he should be asking her. What have you done? maybe. Or who are you, really?

She pointed at the DVD that Green held. “I came to get that. Carver will need to see it before Gorton shows the judge.”

McCoy looked at his watch. “Did you come via Schenectady?”

“I walked.”

“Walked,” he said flatly. “Without your protection. And why the hell aren’t you answering your phone?”

“Yes, without my protection,” Regan said. “I think we all already know exactly how Gorton’s going to take care of any testimony I might be able to give against him. He’s not going to take the risk of trying anything criminal, not when he doesn’t need to. And I needed a minute.”

McCoy scowled at her. “You needed a minute. And why? To think about how you were going to explain letting Neil Gorton ambush me?”

“I think we’re going to leave you guys to it,” Briscoe said, putting a hand on Green’s shoulder and turning him toward the door. “We’ll be outside in case Gorton gets any ideas.”

“Stay,” Regan said. “Lennie, Ed — stay. Jack’s not the only one I owe an explanation. And an apology”

“Honey, you don’t owe us anything,” Briscoe said.

“Call in,” McCoy said to the two detectives, “Tell Major Case that Regan’s here and they can call off the dogs.”

“Will do,” Green said, and stepped past Regan into the hall. “You want me to fetch you a towel, counselor?”

A towel. Regan realized that the cold trickling down the back of her neck was water from her sodden hair, that her clothes were as drenched as if she’d showered in them. “Thank you.”

“So what’s your explanation?” McCoy demanded. “What’s the real story here, Regan?”

“Did you watch that DVD, or just search my room for it?” Regan asked.

“Ed Green searched, and yes. I watched it.”

Regan folded her arms. “Then you don’t need to ask.” Green came back in to the living room. He had a towel from Abbie’s bathroom in one hand and he offered it to Regan. She took it, and said, “I’m sorry. To all of you.”

“You should be,” McCoy snapped. “Jesus Christ, Regan! You know enough about witness prep, or you should know enough about witness prep, not to let me get ambushed like that! If you’d told me, I would have been able to —”

“To what?” Regan asked. “To erase history?” She looked at the towel in her hands, trying to work out what to do with it. After a moment she patted her arms with it, water oozing from her jacket.

“Are you telling me,” McCoy said, low and rapid, “that what Durham said was true?”

“You watched the video,” she said. “You know it’s true.”

“Frank Tourmettiwas unarmed when you shot him, and Mr Durham dropped his hold-out piece at the scene to cover it up.”

“Yeah.”

“You know, that CCTV footage, there’s more than one way to look at it,” Briscoe said. “You had just been shot. It’s been known to affect the judgment.”

Green raised his eyebrows. “You got that right,” he muttered.

McCoy’s phone buzzed. He dug it from his pocket, glanced at the screen, and silenced the call. “Why didn’t you tell me any of this before now? Why am I only hearing about it from Neil Gorton, of all people?”

Regan stared at him. Why didn’t I tell you? Jesus Christ. Jack McCoy would work day and night to close the cell doors on someone who’d done what Regan had done, in his own jurisdiction. And he wonders why I didn’t tell him? “Because I thought you’d never know,” she said finally. “I’m sorry. I lied. To all of you, at least, I didn’t tell you the truth. I let you think better of me than I deserve. I thought I could … turn a new page. Get a fresh start.” She shrugged a little. “I should have known, there’s never any such thing.”

Briscoe cleared his throat. “Regan, honey, I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that neither Ed or me has said anything about any of your rights. And —” he shot a hard look at Green. “Neither of us going to.”

Green shrugged. “And you’re in a room with two detectives and a district attorney,” he said. “Sure feels like it might be custodial to me.”

Regan’s eyes stung and her vision blurred with tears. She scratched at her cheekbone to hide the quiver in her lips. Even knowing what she’d done, they had her back. It was almost like being inside the blue wall again, like she’d been —

When Marco had my back.

“You guys hungry?” she said when she could be confident she could speak with her voice shaking. “There’s probably something in the fridge I can heat up.”

“No.” McCoy had a tone he used for recalcitrant witnesses and stubborn defendants and he used it now. “None of us is hungry. We’re going to talk about this and we’re going to do it now.”

“I could eat,” Briscoe said, with a glance at McCoy. “Come on. Let’s see what we can find.”

He followed her into the kitchen, Green behind him, McCoy bringing up the rear.

“I’m not going to stop asking, and Ron Carver isn’t going to stop needing to know, because you stall, Regan,” McCoy said testily.

“Cool your jets, Jack,” Briscoe said. “No-one thinks well on an empty stomach.” He opened the fridge and surveyed its contents. “No offense, Regan, but you girls keep a pretty lean cupboard, here. Just about the only things that aren’t in a takeaway container are potatoes, and a block of cheese.”

“Neither of us are much good in the kitchen,” Regan said. “There’s some Indian that should still be okay —”

“Why don’t you find me a potato peeler,” Briscoe said, “and a sharp knife, and a cheese grater, and a cutting board, and a couple of bowls.”

“I’m not sure we really have the time to —” McCoy started to say.

Green put a hand on his shoulder, leaned close and said something Regan couldn’t hear, and McCoy subsided.

Regan found the things Briscoe had asked for and set them on the counter. “You want to peel or slice?” he asked her.

“Slice,” Regan said. “Gran-Da always said I take too much off when I peel.”

Briscoe nodded. “There’s an art to it.” He pulled two stools over to the counter and sat on one of them. Putting the knife and the cutting board in front of Regan, he picked up a potato and began to peel it. “You did this a lot with the old man, I’m guessing.”

“Had to pull my weight, right from the start,” Regan said, taking the peeled potato.

“Paper thin slices,” Briscoe said, and Regan nodded and began to cut. She had done this a lot with her great-grandfather, every night for almost ten years: peeling carrots, shelling peas, cutting, chopping, drying the dishes after dinner while Gran-Da washed them. They’d eaten at the kitchen table, too, even though the house had a dining room. The dining room was for company, which they never had. The kitchen was where they lived, where all the important conversations happened.

She realized as she picked up the second potato that she’d come in here for precisely that reason. The kitchen was a place where you could say things that you couldn’t say anywhere else, at any other time, while your eyes and hands were busy and the person you were talking to was just as occupied.

“There was just the two of us,” she said. “He had his way of doing things, and he wasn’t going to change it. One week I thought dinner was pizza when my father had managed to find a day’s work and Cheetos in front of the TV if he hadn’t. The next it was sitting down at the table at six sharp each evening to meat and three vegetables. Up at six in the morning to make time for chores and a proper breakfast before he drove me to the school bus, and I think the only time he let me stay home sick I had a broken leg. And that was just two days. The third I was back on the bus with my cast and my crutches.”

“Sounds like he was hard on you,” Green said, putting a stool on the other side of the counter and sitting down.

“He was a hard man,” Regan said. “Not hard on me, particularly. Just hard. He used to tell me about how it was for him in the old days. Him and his partner, Mick. Working the back-roads. He was old enough to have been a cop during Prohibition, you know? He used to tell me that you’re never beat until you quit, but the second you quit, you’ve lost. Give up and you’re gone, he used to say.”

Briscoe nodded. “Sound advice,” he said. He glanced at McCoy. “Pull up a pew, Jack. Grate some of that cheese.”

Regan couldn’t look away from the tricky task of cutting potatoes into exactly even slices, but she heard another stool scrape on the floor. “I was peeling potatoes the first time Gran-Da told me you couldn’t let a man live after he’d tried to kill you once already,” she told the cutting board. “He said, if a man draws down on you, you put him in the ground. Then or later. And you’re taking too much away with the peel, girl.”

“Is that what happened?” Briscoe asked. “That night?”

“I could hear his voice.” God, she could hear it still, scratchy and creaking with age. Give up and you’re gone, girl. Give up and you’re gone. “I was hurting, I was bleeding, I was listening to people I knew dying and I was scared.” She stopped. “And those are all excuses. I had ten years in, I was a grown woman who’d been in more than one hairy situation, and all I could think to do was ask a dead old man for advice.”

“I wanted my mom,” Green said quietly. “Last thing I remember was wanting my mom. The sensible thing would have been to want an ambulance, because god only knows what my mom could have done for me at that point, but that’s the thought that was going through my head.”

Regan took the next potato and turned it over and over in her hands. “I was thinking that if you give up, you’re gone,” she said. “And I was thinking, if a man draws down on you, you put him in the ground.”

“I think a lawyer could make a pretty good case that remembering your grandfather’s advice doesn’t exactly rise to the level of intent,” Briscoe said, and at McCoy’s surprised look, “I might have only done one semester at Brooklyn Law School, Jack, but I’ve listened to you and just about every other A.D.A. in One Hogan Place explain the elements of the crime to me like I’m a ten-year-old over the past twenty years. And I’ve been in a courtroom once or twice over the years, too.”

McCoy shook his head. “If this was about charges, I’d agree. But Regan, you’re going to have to give a lot more detail to Ron Carver, and then again to the judge. Without your account of seeing Gorton and Kuen together, everything falls apart like the house of cards it is. There is no way Judge Steinman is going to rule a challenge to your credibility as a witness out of order.”

Regan sliced up another potato. “Isn’t the credibility of a witness a matter for a jury to decide? United States v. Welsh held that there’s a distinction between probative and credible — ”

“Which would be relevant, if Ron Carver was asking Judge Steinman to admit your testimony at trial, but as far as this motion in limine is concerned, her honor is the trier of fact as well as of law. The question is whether there is sufficient probable cause to believe that an indictment against Neil would be sustained with the addition of potential accomplice testimony from Rivera. Whether or not Steinman believes your account becomes pertinent.”

“And that’s why I only did the one semester,” Briscoe said. “Ed, see if you can find a big frying pan anywhere.”

“Cupboard to the left of the stove,” Regan said. She picked up the last potato and began to cut it up. “It doesn’t really matter what my account is, does it? Gorton’s going to show that CCTV footage and everyone in the courtroom, including the judge, is going to see a bad cop, a cold-blooded killer.”

At the edge of her vision, she could see McCoy shake his head. “No. Not cold-blooded. No-one could watch that footage and say cold-blooded.”

“Just a killer then.” Regan watched Briscoe start to arrange the sliced potatoes in the saucepan. “That should make tomorrow’s hearing go just fine.”

McCoy leaned forward a little. “Regan, you have to tell me what happened.”

“You’ve seen the video. Now you know exactly as much as I do.”

“Tell me what happened. The judge is going to ask, Regan. And I couldn’t stop Ron asking you for the details so he can be prepared, even if I tried. Which I won’t. Neil Gorton is going to get away with murder if tomorrow goes badly.”

There was nothing else for Regan to do with her hands. She set the knife down carefully. “I know,” she said. With one finger, she turned the knife to line up precisely with the edge of chopping board. “I guess this is my test, isn’t it, Jack?” Will I be like Serena, and take the risk of letting a murderer walk because the personal price is too high?

Or will I be like Jack McCoy, and do everything possible to win the case in front of me, no matter the cost?

“Maybe it’s mine,” McCoy said quietly, and Regan looked up to see him watching her steadily. “I draw your attention to the incident in question,” he said, voice level, matter-of-fact, the exact tone he used when eliciting testimony from a prosecution witness. “Please describe, in your own words, what happened.”

If the question had come from Jack McCoy, her friend and her boss and her partner and yes, her lover, Regan couldn’t have answered, wouldn’t have known how to begin to answer. Could never have found a way to tell him the truths that would turn every one of those things into the past tense.

But it was E.A.D.A. John James McCoy asking her, asking as a prosecutor with a police witness in the box.

Regan could still remember the first trial she’d ever had to give evidence at, when an ordinary stop-and-search had turned up a gun and a confession. David Cohen had prepared her for that one. Don’t editorialize. Don’t speculate. Say exactly what happened, as far as you know from your own observation. Keep it matter-of-fact. Don’t give the defense any chance to suggest you were angry, or scared, or anything other than a professional peace officer doing exactly what you were supposed to.

“At that time, I was assigned to the Narcotics Abatement Squad at Seattle Police Department Headquarters as a public liaison officer,” Regan said, not thinking about anything except the details. “I was working the late shift. Essentially, my job was to answer any phone calls that came during the evening reporting drug activity, determine if they needed an immediate police response or not, and catch up on paperwork generated during the day. I worked on the second floor. At approximately 9.45 pm, while I was in the ladies’ washroom on that floor, I heard gunfire.” Regan kept her voice calm and even, thinking about the white line of a road at night, rolling towards her and vanishing under the wheels of her car. “I left the washroom.”

“What did you observe?” McCoy asked.

Regan watched Briscoe layering grated cheese and sliced potatoes in the frying pan as if her life depended on being able to repeat the recipe later. “There is a short corridor on the second floor where the washrooms are located. At the end of that corridor, I could see a man lying prone. I recognized him as Detective Mickey Farrell. When I approached him I could see that he was gravely injured. His service weapon was lying on the floor.” She didn’t think about Mickey’s eyes going fixed and glazed, didn’t think about the fact that she’d had to reach across his dead body to take his gun. Say exactly what happened, as far as you know from your own observation. Keep it matter-of-fact. “Before I could assist him, he died. I picked up his gun.”

“What, if anything, did you do after you picked up the gun?” McCoy asked.

Regan took a deep breath. “I went around the corner of the corridor into the bull-pen.”

“What was your purpose, at that time?”

“To get to a phone. Call 911, call back-up, call Tactical Response — anyone. Everyone.”

McCoy kept up the same familiar rhythm. “And what, if anything, happened then?”

“I saw a man I recognized as a janitor who worked in the building firing a semi-automatic weapon indiscriminately. I later learned that his name was Frank Tourmetti. I also later learned that the weapon he was using had been illegally modified to make it fully automatic. I instructed him to drop the gun.” She paused. “He turned toward me and he didn’t lower the gun.”

“Can you be absolutely certain he was aware you were a police officer?”

“Yes,” Regan said steadily. “I identified myself, I was in uniform, and we were in a part of the police station that was not open to the public.”

“How did you identify yourself?”

“I said Police, police, drop it, drop it, you f*cker,” Regan said dryly, and heard Briscoe laugh where he stood at the stove.

“And what, if anything, did Mr Tourmetti do then?”

“He shot me,” Regan said, flat and even. “Four times.”

“And after that?”

“His gun jammed. He dropped it to the floor and he put his hands over his head.”

“And what, if anything, did you do then?”

Regan shook her head a little. “I moved toward him in order to take him into custody.”

McCoy paused, and when he spoke again his voice was a little sharper. His cross-examination voice. “Did you call for help?”

“No.”

“Why not? Didn’t you state that calling for help was the reason you moved out into the room?”

She shrugged a little. “I don’t know why I didn’t.”

“Was it because you’d already formed the intent to execute Mr Tourmetti and didn’t want anyone getting in the way?”

“No.” She made it a strong, clear denial, without anger, without heat. It helped that it was the truth. “At no time did I plan to kill Mr Tourmetti. I sought to arrest him. I’m not going to tell you that my decisions were the correct ones. They weren’t. For one thing, there were police officers on the floor above me, at least some of them with service weapons. I could have used the internal phone system to alert them to the fact that the suspect was disarmed. I could have called 911 and they would have relayed the same message. I could have remembered that those officers upstairs would have heard the gunfire and might even then have been ready to assist me. I could have kept my distance, held Mr Tourmetti at gunpoint, and waited. All of those would have been better decisions than the one I made.”

“Why didn’t you do any of those things?”

“I didn’t think of them. I was a police officer, Mr Tourmetti had just committed a crime, and it was my job to take him into custody.”

“And what happened then?”

“I got about five feet from Tourmetti.” She met his gaze. “And I shot him in the head.”

Why?”

“I wish to god I knew,” Regan said flatly.

Chapter 55: Justice Beyond The Law

Chapter Text

“I wish to god I knew,” Regan said flatly, and McCoy stared at her.

You’ve seen the video, she’d said to him. Now you know exactly as much as I do.

“You can’t remember,” McCoy said aloud as the realization came to him. “Then there could be a dozen explanations! Maybe your hand spasmed. Maybe, given what sort of shape you were in, you honestly thought he was armed. Maybe —”

“Maybe I decided to kill the man who’d killed my husband and my friends and who’d killed me.” Regan looked away, at the kitchen window that showed nothing but the dark outside. “I don’t know what I was thinking right at that second but I know what I was thinking as I crossed that room. I was thinking about Gran-Da, I could hear his voice. Give up and you’re gone. I stayed on my feet because he was telling me give up and you’re gone.” She paused. “And if a man draws down on you, you put him in the ground.”

McCoy shook his head. “You don’t know that. You can’t know for certain —”

Regan closed her eyes. “Ed,” she said quietly. “You watched the DVD?”

“I did,” he said. “Doesn’t show nothing about what was in your head, though, counselor. Your boss is right about that.”

She opened her eyes and when she spoke, her voice had the calm, clear precision McCoy was used to hearing from her in the courtroom. “Detective, when N.Y.P.D officers are instructed in firearms handling and marksmanship, where are they trained to aim, when holding a suspect at gunpoint?”

Green shook his head, but he answered, “At the torso.”

“And on the CCTV footage you’ve seen this evening, did you observe where Officer Elish Reagan was aiming her weapon as she approached Mr Tourmetti?”

“The angle of the camera —”

Regan cut him off. “Answer the question, Detective.”

Green paused, and shook his head again. “At Mr Tourmetti’s chest. Center mass.”

“Then can you explain, Detective, how it is that Officer Reagan came to shoot Mr Tourmetti in the head?”

“Maybe the fact that she’d just been shot four times foxed her aim,” Briscoe said. He took the frying pan from the heat, held a plate over it and turned it over. When he removed the pan, a pile of crisp, golden potato slices oozing cheese sat on the plate. He put it on the counter between Regan and McCoy. “Why don’t you stop trying to talk yourself into taking the blame, and find some cutlery?”

Regan dug out forks from a drawer and distributed them. “Lennie …”

“Sit,” Briscoe said, pointing at her stool. “Eat. You haven’t got the sense to come in out of the rain at the moment, literally, as you’ve demonstrated. I watched that tape too, and I saw a cop in a hell of a tough situation who let off a round for reasons none of us will ever know.” He forked up a mouthful of food and blew on it. “You know, when I was maybe three weeks into my gold shield, I caught a case where one cop killed another cop. First guy was narcotics, undercover, and he got blow. Ended up in a run-and-gun with three guys all out to end him. He hears a noise behind him, spins around and fires. Double-taps the twenty-two year-old patrol officer coming to his assistance.”

“I remember that,” McCoy said. He tried the potatoes, and found them surprisingly good. “No charges, in the end. Lennie, this is pretty impressive.”

“I got it from Julia Childs,” Briscoe said, and shrugged when all three of them stared at him. “Sort of. Her recipe starts with ‘always plant your potatoes in March’. I tend to begin at ‘do you have cheese in the fridge’. And yeah, no charges, but the guy left the force after that. He’d done some stuff wrong — not identifying his target, for one thing.”

“It’s always on your mind,” Green said. “Whether you come up on an officer-needs, or you’re calling in a 10-13 yourself, you always have to wonder if you’re going to startle someone in a lethal manner.” He shrugged a little, spearing a potato slice. “Or get startled.”

“You know it,” Regan said.

Briscoe shrugged as well. “You don’t want it to happen, you train so it doesn’t happen, but still, sometimes someone lets off a round on instinct. And Regan, honey, you know, if one of those cops you talked about being on the other floors of the building, if one of them had come into the room and you’d shot at them? Maybe even hit them? Nobody, not even you, would call it anything but a god-awful tragic mistake in a god-awful situation.”

Regan put her fork down. “Except that’s not what happened, Lennie. Is it?”

“Here’s what’s going to happen,” McCoy said. “You're going to go in to Major Case, and you're going to tell Ron what happened, without any of the speculation.” Ron Carver had a reputation for being by-the-book. McCoy suspected years working with Detective Goren might’ve loosened some of the pages in that book from their binding, but he had no desire to find out by testing the matter when Regan’s reputation would be at stake. And he only worked with Regan for a few weeks. Less. He won’t know, as I know, that whatever she thinks, whatever she says, she is not capable of of this. “And tomorrow, when Neil Gorton asks you, you're going to do exactly the same.” He paused as a thought came to him. “Was there a Board of Inquiry over the shooting?”

“About three,” Regan said.

“And did you know Durham dropped a gun when you testified?”

Regan shook her head. “I didn't testify. I was still in hospital with tubes down my throat. When I woke up, I was a hero. The inquiry was done. I didn’t know Marco dropped a gun for me, not until he told me later. I don’t —” She stopped, biting her lip, and then scratched her right cheekbone with her left forefinger. “I don’t know if I would have done the same for him, and that’s the truth. He was a better partner to me than I think I could have been for him. He was a better partner than me, all round.”

“He’s not being a very good partner to you now,” Briscoe observed, and Green muttered something that sounded like you got that right.

“He’s telling the truth.” Regan shrugged. “I guess he feels he has to get it off his chest.”

“He was lying then, or maybe he’s lying now,” Green said. “You think of that?”

Regan frowned. “Why would he —”

“That’s what I’ll put the judge,” McCoy said, then corrected himself. “What Ron will put to the judge. You didn’t lie to that inquiry in Seattle. You weren’t even there. But he did. Either he lied under oath then, or he’s lying now, weighed against the testimony of a witness who hadn’t committed perjury.”

Regan slammed her hand down on the counter. “He covered for his partner! Jesus, Jack! That’s what you do, you have your partner’s back!”

“Would you?” McCoy asked Briscoe, and then turned to Green. “Or you, Ed?”

“I’m not going to say I wouldn’t try to see my partner’s point of view, counselor,” Green said, and shrugged. “But if I found any cop full of holes and a dead shooter, I wouldn’t think I needed to lie. Story tells itself.”

“There’s a lot of difference between looking at things a certain way, on the one hand, and dropping a gun by the hand of some poor dead shmuck and taking the cell-phone out of it, on the other,” Briscoe said. “If Ed shot somebody and there wasn’t a gun, I’d know that I needed to look harder to find it.” He shrugged. “And you know that, Jack. You were there for the ride when Van Buren shot that kid. If I’d been going to plant a gun, that would’ve been the time to do it.”

“So you’re both better cops than I was,” Regan said. “If Marco lied, he lied to protect me. If he covered for a murderer? Jack, I’m the murderer.”

McCoy shook his head. “I don’t believe it.”

“I do.”

“You told me that a partner believes in you when you can’t believe in yourself, didn’t you?”

“Yeah.” Her eyes filled with tears. “And that’s the thing, Jack. My partner saw it. Marco threw down that gun and he told me to get myself off the force because he could see it in me. Which means it was there.”

“What about what I see in you?” McCoy demanded.

Regan shook her head. “You’re a lawyer, Jack, not —”

“I might not be a police officer,” McCoy said tartly, “but I’ve looked enough killers in the eye to know what I’m seeing when I see it. Do you have a problem with the death penalty?”

“What has that got to do —”

“Answer the question!” McCoy demanded. “Do you have a problem with the death penalty?”

“No, I don’t! Some people forfeit the right to life, and a sentence set out by law, carried out after a fair trial —”

“But you had a problem with what happened to Phillip Watts.”

“That might have been justice, but it wasn’t law, and I don’t see—”

“I didn’t consider it an optimal outcome,” McCoy said. “But he made his bed and he got to lie in it. But you, Regan, you had trouble with it, even though you knew what he did to Mary Firienze. Because how did you put it? You took an oath to forge justice out of the operation of the law. I cannot believe you are capable of … of an extra-judicial execution. I don’t care what your great-grandfather said, and when and where you remembered it. We don’t always learn the lessons those terrible old men who shape our lives try to teach. Thank god.”

“That’s a nice idea,” Regan said. “But I’m on tape doing just that.”

McCoy shook his head. “There’s another explanation,” he said firmly. “There has to be another explanation.”

Regan sighed, and ran her fingers through her hair, still damp from the rain. “You can’t possibly know that.”

“I can,” McCoy said. “I know it the way that way Lennie would know that if Ed said he fired at an armed suspect, then there had to be a gun somewhere. Because I know you.” He paused. “It’s why you left Seattle, isn’t it? This. Not because you got hurt.”

“I was going to go back,” Regan said. “The doctors — they said with luck, with hard work, I might never be what I was but I could probably get to where I could pass a physical. I was going to have the surgery on my arm, do the rehab — get back on the street. I went full-time at law school to fill the days while I waited. Then I saw that video. I saw myself shoot an unarmed man in the head, and don’t tell me it was a hand spasm. You’re not a cop, so you didn’t see it, but Ed did. I was holding that gun center mass all the way across that room, just like I was supposed to, and when I got up to Tourmetti I lowered it. I lowered my gun and then I lifted it up and shot him. That’s what’s on the tape, Jack, and even you can’t lawyer it away.”

“You tell the judge tomorrow the exact truth.” McCoy leaned forward, emphasizing each point with a stab on his forefinger. “You had four bullet holes in you, you were bleeding just about to death, you have no recollection of firing. The gun went off. No one can say why. You might have meant to fire a warning shot, it might have been an accident!”

Regan shook her head. “You’re starting to sound more like Danielle Melnick than Jack McCoy. And you know it doesn’t matter, too. In a criminal trial, with me as the defendant?” She shrugged. “Sure. E.E.D. Accident. Justifiable homicide. But tomorrow? Judge Steinman is going to watch that footage and see me executing an unarmed man, she’s going to listen to a Seattle Detective and my partner tell her I’m a wrong cop, and she’s going to discount everything I say.”

“It might not get that far,” McCoy said. “After you ran out on us, Steinman ordered that Rivera be given the option of new counsel. By the time we get into the courtroom, Carver could have a confession in his pocket.”

“Then why are we even talking about it?” Regan countered. “Why are you guys here, searching my room?”

“Because you’re a witness, and if you do need to take the stand —” McCoy’s phone buzzed again and he glanced at the screen. Chen. “I have to take this,” he said.

“Yeah,” Regan said. “Saved by the bell.”

.oOo.

Chapter 56: Elements Of The Crime

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“Qiao,” McCoy said. “Did you reach David Cohen?”

“Yes, sir,” the young lawyer said. “And … I’m sorry, Mr McCoy. He said he wasn’t surprised to hear Detective Durham dropped a gun at the scene of that shooting.”

McCoy closed his eyes. Dammit. “So there was a question at the time.”

“Tourmetti bought the semi-automatic he used legally. They couldn’t connect the handgun that was by his hand to him in any way. It didn’t have his fingerprints on it, at all.” Chen paused. “I’m really sorry, Mr McCoy. Mr Cohen said he thought from the start that it wasn’t his gun.”

“Did he happen to mention why he didn’t pursue it?” Probably too much to ask Qiao Chen to question the integrity of a senior prosecutor in another jurisdiction to his face. “Never mind. I’ll call him myself.”

“You might be able to catch him,” Chen said doubtfully. “But probably not.”

“Why not?”

“He was heading straight for the airport as soon as he got off the phone, Mr McCoy. To catch the red-eye. He said to tell you he’d see you tomorrow morning.”

And dammit again. Just what the case against Gorton needed, a prosecutor from another jurisdiction arriving with an arrest warrant and pending charges against a witness.

And what if he’s here for Regan, as well as Durham?

McCoy ended the call and looked at Regan, standing now with her back to him, arms folded so tightly the ligaments of her neck and shoulders stood out clearly, even in the low light. “David Cohen’s coming to New York.”

She nodded, once.

“You know him.”

“Yeah.” Regan had to stop and clear her throat. “Yeah. He’s a good guy. Goes the extra mile to put the bad guys away.” She turned to face him then. “Kinda like you, actually.”

McCoy ran his fingers through his hair and then kneaded the back of his neck. “Lennie, Ed, if you can drop me at the office, and take Regan on to One PP?”

“You know that the only way to fight the extradition request Dave will have in his pocket is to charge me with something here,” Regan said gently.

“Alabama versus Engler,” McCoy said.

Regan frowned. “That upholds extradition.”

McCoy nodded. “And enumerates the strictly limited circ*mstances that justify denial. Come on.”

She let him steer her toward the door. “If I have to answer for what I’ve done, then I have to answer.”

McCoy shook his head. “Unless you can tell me what you’ve done, all you have to answer for is what David Cohen can prove.”

In the car, the rain pounding on the roof and turning the windscreen into a river despite the wipers, McCoy reached over the seat and took Regan’s hand.

“You said to me once,” McCoy said, “that you were glad your great-grandfather died before you left the force. Because you didn’t want him to know what was on that tape?”

She shook her head. “I’m sure he did the same. Or he wouldn’t have told me. It wasn’t abstract philosophy, Jack, Gran-Da had no time for any of that sh*t. It was rules to handle situations the job throws at you, based on his own experience. Justifiable had a more flexible definition back in his day. I’m sure there are a few bodies in pauper’s graves in Washington State with the bullet holes from his service revolver in the back of the skull. He would have had no problem with what’s on that tape. He would have given me an attagirl for it.”

McCoy frowned. “Then why?”

“Because he never had to know I wasn’t strong enough to stand up under it! He did what had to be done, and he kept on doing what had to be done, and me? I didn’t. I looked at the woman on that tape and I couldn’t make any sense of who I was and what I’d done, and I couldn’t go back, I —” She fell silent, shaking her head. “I know it sounds crazy.”

A restaurant, candlelight and exposed brick, flutes of champagne in front of both of them, Regan’s suitcase at her feet.

"You couldn't tell me you were afraid you'd turned into your father because you were ashamed you hadn't turned into your father," she says, gaze steady and calm. “Makes perfect sense to me.”

“Not crazy,” McCoy said. “It sounds human, Regan.”

She shook her head and turned away, looking out the window at the rain cascading down the windows.

The detectives drove them back downtown. McCoy got out at One Hogan Place and Green walked him in while Briscoe waited with Regan in the car. In his office, he yanked down a half-dozen books from the shelf, and was deep in extradition law when knuckles rapped on his office door.

He looked up to see Detective Eames in the doorway. She raised her eyebrows. “Burning the midnight oil, counselor?”

McCoy looked at his watch. “Literally so, it seems. I hope you have good news for me.” He glanced over her shoulder. “Where’s Detective Goren?”

“Bobby’s having a Bobby moment,” Eames said. She came into the room and hitched a hip on the table by his desk. “He’s convinced Detective Durham is lying. Which means he is lying, and Bobby’s staring at the wall back at One PP trying to work it out.”

McCoy put down his pen and leaned back in his chair, looking up at her. “Lying about the gun?”

She shook her head. “No. He definitely threw down that gun. And I’ve seen that CCTV footage, it corroborates what he says.”

“Then he’s lying about what?”

Eames shrugged. “That’s why Bobby is staring at the wall. I’m on a take-away run and I have to get back and, I don’t know, add the power of my gaze to his, but I thought I should fill you in on what we’ve learned so far.”

McCoy nodded. “I’m all ears.”

“First off, our lipreader couldn’t get much off that video. It’s too far away and too fuzzy. He said he was sure that Tourmetti called Ms Markham a bitch, but not what else he said before she shot him.”

“Bad language doesn’t get us to justification.” McCoy raked his fingers through his hair, and then scrubbed his hands over his face. “Dammit.”

“If it did, the world might not be a better place, but it’d certainly be a more polite one,” Eames said. “But, better news, Megan Wheeler found a civil lawsuit in Washington State. Marco Durham is suing the health insurance company the city uses for city employees.”

“He’s sick?” McCoy asked.

“His daughter is. Leukemia. They’ve run through every treatment insurance will cover. Durham is suing them to try and get them to cover a treatment that the company classifies as ‘experimental’.”

McCoy picked up his pen and turned it between his fingers. “Gorton bought him.”

Eames nodded. “That’s my guess.”

“I don’t suppose you have any proof of a financial transaction?”

“Gorton’s not stupid,” Eames said. “Durham won’t see any money until all this is done. But you can ask him about it tomorrow if he takes the stand. And he’ll have to take the stand unless Gorton rolls over and plays dead on these allegations.” She paused. “There’s something else. Mike Logan … he said maybe you and Ms Markham have something going on?”

“It wouldn’t be any of your business even if it was true,” McCoy said. “Or Mike Logan’s.”

“Believe me, counselor, nobody could have less interest in your private life than I do,” Eames said. “But when Megan found out about the daughter, I rang Durham’s home in Seattle. His wife answered. She had a lot to say about Elish Reagan.”

“Good or bad?”

Eames pursed her lips. “What sort of opinions do women usually have about the women their husbands sleep with?”

“You’re sure about this?” McCoy asked slowly.

Eames nodded.

Sleeping together. He risked his job for her, that’s more than sleeping together. He was in love with her.

And she defended him tonight, after he betrayed her to Gorton. “I guess he feels he has to get it off his chest,” she said.

She’s still in love with him.

McCoy told himself he was living in a glass house himself when it came to throwing stones. How many women did I take to bed when the truth was, all I wanted was Claire? It still stung, though he knew it had no right to.

He turned away, picking up a law report at random. “You’re not helping my case, Detective. You’re making Durham’s offense more sympathetic and his character more credible.”

Eames shrugged. “Just telling you what we know. Markham was in with Carver for a couple of hours before he sent her home. I heard you found her. What did she say about that shooting?”

“She can’t remember the moment she fired the shot,” McCoy said. “I’m going to tell the judge — Ron should tell the judge — that there’s no way to know her intent, given she doesn’t know it herself. No conclusions can be drawn as to her character.”

Eames nodded. “Which certainly explains why you’re in your office at midnight.”

“The senior Prosecutor in Trials from King County, Seattle, got on an overnight flight to New York when he heard about Durham’s allegations. If he has an indictment in his pocket —”

“That’s not going to look good to the judge.”

McCoy pinched the bridge of his nose. “The things that won’t look good to the judge, Detective Eames, are beginning to make a very long list.”

… …. …

He was still turning the items on that list over in his mind as he sat in the first row of the public gallery in the courtroom the next morning.

It was far from the first trial McCoy had watched from the gallery. Usually, he kept to the back of the room, because usually, he was there to keep an eye on a particular case and reassure himself the A.D.A. handling didn’t need advice. From time to time, he’d drop in purely for the pleasure of watching a colleague work — and because there was always something he could learn, whether it was a turn of phrase that got the jury’s attention focused where it should be or a novel approach to constructing a summation.

McCoy had been in the gallery, too, for Diana Hawthorne’s trial, once he’d given his own testimony. Diana Hawthorne’s trial … it had felt like his trial at the time, his reputation at stake and nothing he could do about it.

Just as it felt today as if Regan was going to be the one on trial, even though the hearing was to produce evidence against Neil Gorton.

Except McCoy had had Claire Kincaid to defend him, through her prosecution of Diana. Today, he couldn’t do a thing to help Regan. It would be up to Ron Carver.

Ron’s good, McCoy told himself again. Brilliant, even. But did he have enough recent courtroom experience for this? Major Case is good for an attorney’s record, these days, with the number of confessions and pleas they produce. But how many times this year has Ron been in a courtroom except when a defendant allocutes?

Not being at the bar table made the courtroom look wrong, the perspectives out of kilter. The witness stand was too far away, the empty jury box not quite where McCoy expected to see it.

One row’s difference and it could be the width of the Grand Canyon.

McCoy leaned forward, touching Carver on the shoulder. “Ron,” he whispered. “Any word on Rivera?”

“Not since the last time you asked, no,” Carver said. “Tracey will call if he takes the deal, Jack.”

Dammit. McCoy had watched the interview room at One PP through the observation window for nearly an hour, earlier that morning. John Rivera had a P.B.A lawyer to protect his rights and an offer of fifteen years for Manslaughter on the table, but the only words out of his mouth had been ‘I want my real lawyer’.

He has faith in Neil Gorton’s ability to get him a nickel at the worst and a walk at the best. He won’t talk until he understands that Neil’s definitely not going to be there for him when he faces the jury. So much for my fond hopes that we’d be done here before we even began.

Beside Carver, Connie Rubirosa gave McCoy a sympathetic smile. He was glad to see her in the second chair for this hearing, but at that moment, sympathy was a little more than he could tolerably bear. He managed a friendly nod, and turned away, ostensibly to the courtroom doors.

Just in time to see Regan slip through them. Her expression was calm, composed, but there were blue shadows beneath her eyes. She looked like she’d had little more sleep than McCoy himself had had, and he’d had at most four hours on his office couch.

She glanced around the courtroom, clearly looking for an empty seat, and McCoy raised his hand a little. The movement caught her attention. When their gazes met, he motioned with his head to the empty place behind him.

Regan hesitated, but that wasn’t the worst thing.

The worst thing was that she looked surprised.

He raised his eyebrows, deliberately giving her the look he used on assistants who were arguing beyond the point of devil’s advocacy and into the territory of annoyance. Quit arguing, the look said, and get your ass over here

She did, and he moved up a little to make more room for her. “How are you?”

One level look, eyebrows slightly lifted. How do you think? “Fine,” she said.

“All rise, Supreme Court part 52, in camera hearing, Her Honor Judge Rebecca Steinman presiding.”

They rose to their feet with the rest.

McCoy tried to tell himself that at least Regan looked calm, but the truth was, she looked resigned. For the first time, he felt as if he really understood how Regan herself had felt when McCoy was on trial for his freedom and his reputation.

Although resignation to whatever might come was a pale shadow of his own attempts at legal self-immolation when he’d thought he really was guilty.

“Counsel, approach,” Steinman said, and Carver and Gorton moved up to the bench. McCoy tried to work out what they were saying. Not much. Rebecca Steinman was doing all the talking, glaring at each lawyer in turn.

McCoy put his hand over Regan’s. “Regan,” he said softly. “Worst comes to the worst. I’ll bust you out of the prison van and we’ll go on the lam.”

It took a couple of heartbeats, but a hint of humor lit her eyes. “Cowboy hat and six-guns?”

McCoy shook his head. “Not my style. I’ll have to get a Tommy gun to go with my fedora.”

“Jack, I’m sorry,” she said. “About everything. About not being who you thought I was, about —”

He squeezed her hand. “I know everything about you that I need to know. You told me that once, remember?”

“I recall I also socked you in the kisser that day, so perhaps my judgment wasn’t the best.”

“Potato, potahto,” McCoy said, and managed to make her smile. “Just tell the truth, and let Ron take care of Gorton and his witness.

“And Dave?” She glanced over her shoulder, as if expecting David Cohen to walk through the courtroom doors any moment.

“I’ll handle David Cohen,” McCoy said. “He might be a big wheel in Seattle, Ms Markham, but this is my town.”

Judge Steinman banged her gavel down. “Counsel, step back. I advise everyone, as I’d just advised counsel, that I will tolerate no theatrics in this courtroom. This is not a trial. Counsel are well aware, and if they know what’s good for them will remember, that the purpose of this hearing is to determine whether probable cause exists. The People will present their case. I will allow Mr Gorton to challenge the People’s evidence. I will make whatever additional inquiries of the witnesses I feel warranted. And I warn everyone that I woke up this morning feeling a contempt citation coming on. Don’t test me. Mr Carver, get on with it.”

Carver called Qiao Chen first. McCoy appreciated the strategy behind the decision: unlike the head of Fraud, Chen had never appeared before Steinman. His evidence was factual, rather than a legal argument, and he was the most familiar with Katherine Gorton’s trust.

And he did a good job, far better than he’d done in chambers the night before. Clear, concise answers, straight-forward language, specific examples in support of the case. Gorton failed to shake him on either substance or detail.

“Carver must have spent hours working with him last night,” McCoy murmured to Regan.

The corner of her mouth quirked up. “Abbie did.”

Chen could do nothing about Gorton’s over-arching argument that each and every suspect transaction could be explained by bad luck and coincidence. With an indictment, they’d be able to get a warrant to look at all Gorton’s finances — and those of his firm. For now, they had to work with what they had, or they’d never get the evidence to get that indictment.

Carver called Coran’s co-workers next, for half-an-hour of testimony about her diligence. Gorton contented himself with pointing out that Coran’s competence only provided a motive if malfeasance in his management of the trust was established. The phrase a castle in the air featured prominently.

Gorton contended that he’d left Judge Sciola’s courtroom before Emalia Coran’s petition had been heard, and he had two associates from his firm to tell the judge that. Steinman listened, and raised an eyebrow.

“Who’d perjure themselves for Neil Gorton?” Regan asked McCoy in an undertone.

“How good is your memory of an ordinary day in the office two months ago?” McCoy shook his head. “If I was telling you I was sure I’d come straight back to the office from voir dire, instead of checking on the progress of a grand jury?”

“I’d ask Colleen,” Regan said. “You don’t take a detour to the Men’s room without letting her know where you can be reached.”

“That,” McCoy said, “is an excellent point.” He wrote quickly on the legal pad in his lap and passed the note forward to Carver.

Carver read it, and rose to his feet. “Your honor, at this time, I’d like to ask for a subpoena for Mr Gorton’s calender and schedule, as kept by his secretary, executive assistant or equivalent.”

Steinman nodded. “Granted. Mr Gorton, you’ll make them available this afternoon.”

“If such records exist, of course I’ll —”

Steinman gave him a level look over her glasses. “You bill in eight minute increments, Mr Gorton. If those records don’t exist, I’m not the only one who’s going to have questions.”

“Of course, your honor,” Gorton said. “I’ll instruct my firm —”

“Don’t trouble yourself,” Carver said smoothly. He turned and raised and eyebrow at Mike Logan, who nodded and got to his feet. “The detectives will instruct them on your behalf.”

“Do you have anything else, Mr Carver? I recall a promise to produce a co-conspirator.”

“Your honor, at this time, I’d like to move to the second element of this crime, the attempt to murder Mr McCoy.”

Gorton was on his feet. “Since the People have failed to establish probable cause on the first element, which Mr Carver claimed provided the key element of motive for the second element, I move for —”

“You can move as far as you like, Mr Gorton,” the judge said. “There’s no jury here. Sit down. Mr Carver?”

“At this time, I’d like to present testimony from Ms Regan Markham.”

McCoy gave Regan’s hand one final squeeze as she rose to her feet, and then all he could do is watch as she moved into the well of the court.

She took the stand.

Judge Steinman took off her glasses and gave Regan a level look. “Your name is Regan Markham?”

“That’s my legal name, your honor.” Regan’s voice was steady. “The name on my birth certificate is Elish Marie Reagan.” She spelled it out for the court reporter. “My mother’s maiden name was Markham and for a period of time when I was young I lived with her grandfather, William Markham. The records are in Washington State, but they’re public and available if you wish to see them.”

“That’s fine,” Steinman said.

Regan was a good witness. McCoy was unsurprised: police officers got used to testifying in court. She told Steinman, in response to Carver’s questions, exactly what she’d seen and no more. Neil Gorton, on the courthouse steps, with a man she later saw with a gun in the Silk Road House restaurant.

Gorton rose to his feet. He turned a little as he buttoned up his jacket, catching McCoy’s eye. He raised an eyebrow, and mouthed Last chance.

McCoy shook his head slightly. Not even if I could, Neil.

.oOo.

Notes:

I know I’m playing fast and loose with court procedure here. For one thing, having witnesses in the courtroom before they testify is a big no-no. However, I didn’t want to write several chapters of people waiting in the corridor while everything happened off-stage.

Under the rules of evidence, it’s permissible for a lawyer to introduce evidence that might tend to impact their witness’s credibility, in order to show the matter in a more positive light and take the sting out of it as far as the jury is concerned. These circ*mstances are limited, and as far as I know cannot be used to bolster credibility unless the witness’s credibility has already been attacked. To be on the safe side, I decided not to have Carver raise the elephant in the room on direct.

Chapter 57: Testimony

Chapter Text

One of Gorton’s assistants wheeled a television on a stand from the side of the courtroom.

“Ms Markham,” Gorton said. “You’re sure you saw me on the courthouse steps?”

“I am,” Regan said. Her voice was calm. She darted one glance at the TV and then returned her attention to Gorton.

“And you’re certain you saw Lawrence Kuen? Did you tell the police at the scene that you recognized him?”

“I am certain I saw him on the courthouse steps. I did not tell the police at the scene that I had seen him with you earlier in the day.”

“No, you didn’t tell them until the next day.” Gorton paused. “Until after Mr McCoy had the opportunity to coach you. That is what he was doing when you spent the night at the apartment, wasn’t it? Coaching you?”

Carver was on his feet. “Objection.”

Steinman leaned forward. “Ms Markham, did Mr McCoy prompt your recollection?”

“No, your honor,” Regan said.

“Did you discuss it with him?” Steinman asked.

“We discussed a number of things about the shooting,” Regan said. “It was a subject on both our minds, as your honor can understand. Specifically, as far as my recognition of Lawrence Kuen was concerned, the topic was opened when I expressed concern for Mr Gorton’s state of mind, given he had shot someone known to him. Mr McCoy was surprised to know that I had observed previous contact between Mr Gorton and Mr Kuen and immediately contacted the detectives at Major Case.”

“Well, I thank you for your concern for my mental state,” Gorton said. “Unwarranted though it is. Did you know Frank Tourmetti before you shot him in the head after he surrendered to you?”

“Objection, your honor,” Carver said. His voice was even, urbane. This is so ridiculous it doesn’t even deserve my outrage, that tone said. “Facts not in evidence, counsel is testifying, and the subject of Mr Gorton’s question is not material —”

“Witnesses credibility, your honor,” Gorton said. “I have an offer of proof —”

“I’ve already told you both I’ll consider these allegations,” Judge Steinman said, “in so far as they have a bearing on Ms Markham’s credibility. But I’m not interested in hearing counsel testify, Mr Gorton. Move along.”

“Yes, your honor,” Gorton said, with a humility that rang patently false to McCoy. “At this time, I’d like to show the court the CCTV footage of the incident in question.” He nodded to his assistant, who picked up the remote and pressed play.

The footage was cued up to start at the moment Regan stood opposite Tourmetti as he stood with his hands raised, as McCoy had expected. Gorton wants the judge to see the killing, but not the heroism. Carver can play the whole thing back on redirect, but by then the damage may well be done.

Regan fired. Tourmetti fell. The recording stopped.

“Is that you, Ms Markham?” Gorton asked.

If McCoy had been at the bar table, he would have on his feet, making some objection to the question on a nonsense ground such as that’s evident to all of us, your honor. Judge Steinman would inevitably sit him down again, but breaking the flow of questions in cross-examination could be a lifeline to a witness who was struggling.

But he wasn’t at the bar table, he was in the gallery, and all he could do was keep his gaze steady on Regan’s face so if she looked at him she’d be able to take whatever comfort she could find in his silent support.

“Yes,” Regan said calmly. “The female uniformed officer shown in that CCTV footage is me.”

Gorton raised his eyebrows in theatrical surprise, but McCoy thought he also looked slightly taken aback. Gorton’s strategy was predicated on the expectation she’d fall apart, McCoy realized.

“That was you,” Gorton said. “You, shooting an unarmed man who’d surrendered to you.”

“Who had raised his hands,” Regan corrected, without heat. McCoy kept the frown off his face, but he knew Regan had made a mistake. Don’t split hairs, he willed her.

Dammit. I should have prepared her to testify myself, and not left it to Ron Carver.

“Oh, who had raised his hands,” Gorton said. “Ms Markham — or would you prefer Officer Reagan?”

Carver rose to his feet. Finally. “Your honor, this was dealt with on direct. Ms Markham changed her name legally, for understandable reasons of familial loyalty. I request your honor to instruct Mr Gorton to do Ms Markham the courtesy of referring to her appropriately.”

Gorton spread his hand. “An innocent question, your honor.”

“And if you ask it twice, I’ll hold you in contempt,” Judge Steinman said, unmoved. “Move along.”

“Yes, your honor.” Gorton paced across the well of the court. “Ms Markham, you shot an unarmed man who had raised his hands. What do you normally understand by someone raising their hands?”

“It’s generally a gesture offered by someone indicating they don’t intend to take any hostile action,” Regan said.

“So he had surrendered.”

“He’d raised his hands,” Regan said calmly.

“Ms Markham, are you insisting on this distinction so you won’t have to admit you shot a man after he’d surrendered to you?” Gorton asked.

“I’m insisting on the distinction because Mr Tourmetti shot me four times after I identified myself as a police office,” Regan said, steadily but too rapidly for Gorton to get in an I withdraw. “And dropped his gun and raised his hands only after it jammed. You can see all that on the CCTV, too, Mr Gorton, if you rewind it to the beginning.”

Well done, McCoy thought. It hadn’t been a mistake after all. He wondered if she and Carver had planned that, the evening before, as McCoy had poured over the law books looking for loopholes in extradition law.

Judge Steinman looked at Regan over the top of her glasses. “Four times?”

“Yes, your honor.”

Carver rose to his feet. “Your honor, I have here a copy of a medical report on the injuries sustained by Officer Elish Reagan, now known as Regan Markham, in the incident in question, faxed to my office from Ballard Hospital in Seattle this morning. Ms Markham has informed me she waives medical privilege.”

“I’ll stipulate that Ms Markham was shot,” Gorton said quickly.

Carver walked toward the bench as if Gorton hadn’t spoken. “Your honor may find the additional details enlightening.” He handed Judge Steinman the file.

“I’ve had no notice of this document, your honor,” Gorton protested. “It hasn’t been provided to me —”

As Judge Steinman opened the file and flipped through it, Connie lifted a file from the bar table and held it out. “Your copy, Mr Gorton,” she said.

And,” Gorton went on, “the proper time for Mr Carver to introduce any evidence is not during my cross-examination.”

The judge looked up from the pages in front of her. McCoy knew, in a general sense, what they contained. He’d seen the scars the wounds that must be described in those documents. I heard she coded twice in the ambulance and twice more on the table, David Cohen had told him over the phone. Six months in intensive care. First three of them in a coma.

The details Regan made light of with I got hit real hard.

“This is not a trial,” Judge Steinman said tartly. “And while I have no intention of accepting the allegations against you untested, Mr Gorton, I also intend to give my full attention to all the relevant evidence. You have raised this specific incident as evidence of Ms Markham’s lack of credibility as a witness against you. I have given you some latitude, taking into consideration the serious consequences of the action I will be forced to make if I find Ms Markham’s testimony to be credible.”

“Thank you, your honor,” Gorton said unctuously.

“Don’t thank me yet, I’m not finished,” the judge said. “You will now come to the point of your challenge to Ms Markham’s credibility, Mr Gorton. Just as this is not a trial, I am not a jury, and I am not swayed by either sentiment or shock. Get to it, Mr Gorton, or sit down.”

“Your honor,” Gorton said. He waited while Carver resumed his seat, and then turned to Regan. “Did you admit to your superior officers that you’d executed a suspect after he surrendered to you? To prosecutors? Or did you conceal your crime, change your name, move to the other side of the country —”

“None of that is true,” Regan said firmly and evenly. “Mr Tourmetti did not surrender to me. I concealed nothing. I answered every question I was asked, honestly.”

“But you did change your name and move to the other side of the country,” Gorton said.

Carver half rose. “Your honor, objection, Ms Markham has already explained — ”

“Sustained,” Judge Steinman said. “You’ll write me a check for $500 before the end of the day, Mr Gorton. And if moving to New York is evidence of consciousness of guilt, counselor, our courts are going to be very busy.”

McCoy looked down a moment to make sure the judge didn’t see his smile. Someone in your firm deserves sacking, Neil, he thought, if their prep didn’t include the information that Rebecca Steinman moved to New York when she was about the age Regan is now.

“Do you deny you shot an unarmed man while his hands were raised?” Gorton demanded.

“That’s certainly what the CCTV footage shows.”

“A police officer, sworn to uphold the law, taking the law into your own hands. Ignoring the law. Putting yourself above the law to play judge, jury —”

“Objection.” Carver rose to his feet without haste. “Does counsel have a question for the witness?”

Gorton paused. “Isn’t it a fact, Ms Markham, that you’re willing to break the law when it suits you?”

“No,” Regan said.

“Oh, is it within the laws of Washington State for the police to execute suspects?” Gorton asked, voice dripping sarcasm.

“Of course not.” For the first time, Regan’s voice had an edge. McCoy could tell Gorton was beginning to get to her. Shut him down, Ron, he willed Carver.

“But in this case, any means were justified? Against someone you’ve been persuaded is a criminal? I suppose I’m lucky you’re just perjuring yourself this time, Ms Markham, at least I’m alive!”

Objection!

McCoy realized he was on his feet, and that his voice and Carver’s had rung out in unison.

Judge Steinman put her glasses back on and gave McCoy her best you’re-about-to-be-in-contempt-counselor look, as Carver turned and raised an eyebrow.

McCoy cleared his throat. “I apologize, your honor. Force of habit.” He sat down.

Behind McCoy, the courtroom doors opened. He hoped it was Logan returning with Gorton’s calender, proving he was lying, but couldn’t spare enough attention from Regan to check.

Gorton smirked. “Mr McCoy probably shouts objection in his sleep. Does he, Ms Markham?”

Judge Steinman’s gavel banged down. “After fifteen years on the bench, Mr Gorton, you can assume I’m entirely fluent in innuendo and insinuation. Move on.”

“Your honor, if Ms Markham is fabricating her testimony either at the request of, or to benefit, her paramour, that is surely —”

Steinman raised her hand to silence him, and turned to Regan. “Ms Markham, did Mr McCoy discuss your testimony here today with you?”

“Yes, your honor,” Regan said. “He told me to tell the truth, the exact truth. In relation to both seeing Mr Gorton and Mr Kuen together, and to the questions about Seattle which Mr Gorton prefigured yesterday evening.”

Gorton shook his head as if in disbelief. “That would be a change of pace for you, wouldn’t it, Ms Markham? I mean, you didn’t tell the Seattle Police Department the truth about shooting an unarmed man. You didn’t tell King County prosecutors.”

“Objection,” Carver said. “Counsel is testifying.”

“I’ll rephrase,” Gorton said. “Isn’t it true, Ms Markham, that you didn’t tell the Seattle Police Department the truth about shooting an unarmed man? Isn’t it true that you didn’t tell King County prosecutors?”

“I was in a medically induced coma for some months, Mr Gorton,” Regan said. “The inquiries, the investigation, they concluded before I regained consciousness.”

“But you never contradicted their findings, did you? You never told anyone what happened?”

Regan gripped the railing around the witness stand. “No.”

“Well, why don’t you tell us now?” Gorton asked.

“Because I don’t remember.” Regan’s voice cracked a little.

“How convenient,” Gorton said. “Your memory is good enough to be absolutely certain about who I was talking to when you saw me for maybe three seconds in passing, but you’ve completely forgotten shooting an unarmed man?”

“I hadn’t been recently shot when I saw you talking to Mr Kuen,” Regan retorted. Don’t, McCoy willed her. Don’t let him draw you into sparring with him. Don’t engage with him on the ground he chooses.

Gorton smiled. “You don’t like me very much, do you, Ms Markham?”

She raised her eyebrows. “Whatever gave you that impression?”

“Just a feeling. It’s because I represented the man who was responsible for the death of a friend of yours, isn’t it? In fact, you bear quite the grudge against me, don’t you?”

“You did your job,” Regan said. “I did mine. Your client went to jail.”

“Where he died,” Gorton said. “Bad things happen to people who cross you, don’t they? Frank Tourmetti shot you, and ended up dead. Phillip Watts assaulted your friend, and ended up dead. And I defended Phillip Watts and here we all are today.”

“Is there a question, counselor?” Regan snapped. “Or just a string of unsubstantiated allegations?”

“Ms Markham, control yourself,” Judge Steinman said. “Mr Gorton, ask your question.”

“You’ll do anything to get even with people who you think have wronged you, won’t you?” Gorton asked.

“No,” Regan said, hard and flat.

“Whether it’s a bullet through the skull or a bit of creative perjury?”

Regan had both hands gripping the railing around the witness stand, hard enough to turn her knuckles white. “I’m not lying!”

McCoy leaned forward and touched Carver’s shoulder. “Get her a break.”

Carver leaned back in his chair and turned his head slightly to answer. “She doesn’t need one.”

“Dammit, Ron, get her a break!” McCoy ordered.

“You lied by omission about your shooting of Frank Tourmetti, and you’re lying now about me,” Gorton said. “Aren’t you, Ms Markham?”

“Objection,” Carver said. “Asked and answered.”

“Sustained,” Judge Steinman said. “Either find some new ground to break, Mr Gorton, or sit down.”

“Your honor,” Gorton acknowledged. “Ms Markham, you’re an accomplished liar, aren’t you?”

Carver rose again. “Objection, counsel has failed to lay any foundation —”

“Withdrawn,” Gorton said quickly. “Lying is part of your job, isn’t it, Ms Markham? Deception?”

“Under certain circ*mstances,” Regan said tightly. “Not under oath.”

“And part of your nature, given you’ve been living under an assumed identity —”

“Your honor.” Carver got to his feet, buttoning his jacket. “Once again, the matter of Ms Markham’s legal and open change of name is not in question, and is not evidence of anything other than her admirable devotion to family tradition.”

“Withdrawn,” Gorton said again. “Why did you resign from the Seattle Police Department, Ms Markham?”

“I didn’t resign,” Regan said. “I took medical retirement.”

“And why was that?” Gorton asked.

“I’d been shot four times,” Regan said.

Gorton paced toward her. “Isn’t it a fact that your decision was motivated by guilt over your unlawful killing of Mr Tourmetti?”

And there it is. Decades of practice, by now adding up to entire years of his life spent in courtrooms, made it possible for McCoy to keep his expression of interested concentration intact, but his mind was racing. Regan said something to Durham, all those years ago, something Durham has repeated to Neil. Gorton’s badgering hadn’t been a desperate attempt to smear Regan in Judge Steinman’s eyes by implication, but a deliberate strategy to wear down her defenses before raising the crucial point.

And dammit, Ron doesn’t know. McCoy had himself to blame for that. Tell Ron what happened, without any of the speculation, he’d instructed Regan last night. He’d been thinking that the CCTV footage was damning enough, and that he had never worked closely enough with Carver to know if his defense of Regan against the questions that footage raised would be compromised if he heard her own doubts.

A mistake, and quite possibly a lethal error for the case to have Gorton excluded as Rivera’s counsel.

McCoy leaned forward as Regan hesitated, and then opened her mouth. “Stop him,” he said urgently to Carver. “For the love of god, Ron — don’t let her answer that question.”

Carver rose promptly. “Objection, your honor, Mr Gorton has not established that the killing was unlawful, and Ms Markham has testified she doesn’t recall the exact circ*mstances. The foundation of the question is unsound.”

“Ms Markham was, at the time, an experienced police officer,” Gorton countered. “I make an offer of proof that she had access to this footage. Her interpretation of it, as an expert, is relevant to her character, which is relevant to the credibility of this hearing.”

“That’s an unwarranted stretch, your honor,” Carver said. “Mr Gorton seeks to use Ms Markham as an expert witness — to impeach herself as a character witness. It’s a transparent attempt to continue to badger the witness about this tragic and distressing incident.”

Gorton shook his head. “If Ms Markham, on viewing that footage, realized that her execution of Mr Tourmetti was unjustified and unlawful, and did not advise the authorities, that goes directly to the question of honesty and thus, credibility.”

“Except there can have been no question in Ms Markham’s mind, or the mind of anyone, that this footage had been available to the inquiries into both the murder of four police officers and the shooting of Mr Tourmetti.” Carver spread his hands. “Knowing that it had been studied and examined by experts and considered as part of those inquiries, why would Ms Markham feel any need to draw it to their attention again?

“We can speculate, your honor,” Gorton said, “or I can simply ask Ms Markham.”

“Mr Gorton seeks to further badger and browbeat this witness,” Carver said.

“I merely seek to get at the truth,” Gorton retorted.

“By making the same allegation, thinly disguised as a question, as many times as you can get away with?”

“I’m still here, counselors,” Judge Steinman said acerbically. “Mr Carver, I find your characterization of Mr Gorton’s questions to be apt. However, I accept Mr Gorton’s argument that this point, now he has finally reached it, is central to Ms Markham’s honesty and thus, credibility.”

“Thank you, your —”

Steinman held up her hand. “So I intend to split the baby. I’ll inquire, and you, counselors, will both sit down.”

“Your honor, the question has been extensively canvassed already —” Carver began.

“I said sit down, and I meant it,” the judge said. “Any attorney still on their feet in five seconds will be taking home a contempt citation as a door-prize. That will make it your second for the day, Mr Gorton.”

The two lawyers took their seats with alacrity. McCoy kept his gaze on Regan. She was staring at her hands, still clenched on the railing. Look up, he willed her. Look at me.

When he himself had been on trial for his reputation, his job, his freedom, Regan had refused to accept his own conviction that he might very well be guilty. When she — and Serena Southerlyn and Sally Bell and Danielle Melnick — had uncovered the incontrovertible proof of his innocence, Regan had asked him, if you couldn't trust your own judgment, why didn't you trust mine?

Trust my judgment, he urged her silently now. Not your own.

We've worked together. We've eaten together. We've slept in the same bed. We've conspired to have a man killed together. We've seen each other on the edge, and covered for each other. You're my colleague, and my friend, and my lover.

I know everything about you that I need to know.

Trust me in this. Trust me.

“Ms Markham,” Judge Steinman said. “To your knowledge, was this CCTV footage part of the evidence considered by the inquiry into your shooting of Mr Frank Tourmetti?”

Behind McCoy, a man’s voice said, “It was.” McCoy turned to see a tall, thin man standing in the aisle of the courtroom, clutching a briefcase and an armful of papers. He had a halo of wiry brown hair, and his beaky nose and slightly stooped posture gave the impression of a crane about to pounce on a fish flitting about its feet. “It was, and Officer Reagan knew it was, because I was the one who told her so, when she called to ask me if I’d seen it. And your honor, I’d like to be heard on this matter. Actually, I think I need to be heard on this matter. Because, justice. And so on.”

Steinman peered at him through her glasses. “And who are you?”

“Oh! Yes, of course.” Cohen gave her a wide, slightly mad grin. “David Cohen. King County Prosecutors Office. Seattle. Trials. I’m, uh, well, I think I’m sort of Mr McCoy. In a smaller pool.”

“Just what I need, two of you,” Steinman said acidly. “What are you doing here, Mr Cohen?”

Amicus curiae. If it helps, I’m admitted to the New York Bar,” Cohen said. “As well as the Alabama Bar, and the California Bar, and the Alaska Bar — I’m sure you don’t care about those, although there’s an interesting story about Alaska — I have my certificate here somewhere —”

He started fumbling through his briefcase, dropped it, and scattered papers down the aisle. He dropped to his knees to gather them up.

“This is a motion hearing, Mr Cohen,” Steinman said. “It is not an appropriate venue to file an amicus curiae brief.”

Cohen looked up from the papers he was bundling into his arms. “Justice always needs friends, your honor,” he said earnestly.

“And why are you here?”

Gorton rose to his feet. “Your honor. If Mr Cohen is who he says he is, he still has no —”

Cohen shifted his papers to one side and fumbled in his pocket. He produced a leather billfold and flipped it open to show a shield. “Proof of life!” he declared triumphantly.

Gorton rolled his eyes slightly. “Still has no standing in the matter before you today. Even if Mr Cohen can establish that he is admitted to practice in this state, a motion for leave to file must be made at least ten days prior —”

“Unless the brief is filed on behalf of the United States Government, an agency of the — sorry, your honor, I’ll cut to the chase — or on behalf of a city, county, town or similar entity when submitted by its authorized law officer. Dawson v Omaha, your honor. Confirmed in Fergus and the State of Arizona against Diego and others. I’m the authorized law officer of a similar entity. And I have written …” He began thumbing through his papers. “A brief. On the plane. It’s here somewhere.”

“Mr Cohen, why are you here?” Judge Steinman asked testily.

“The D.A’s Office here called me,” Cohen said, still searching for his brief. “Said there was a question of what happened at the Seattle P.D.H.Q shooting a few years back? That was mine, your honor. There were, oh, so many inquiries and investigations. I mean, when someone shoots four police officers inside H.Q, questions get asked, am I right? I am right. So I thought it might help if I came to answer your questions. About what happened.” He located the file he was looking for and flourished it triumphantly. “I knew I had it!”

Steinman took off her glasses again and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Mr Cohen. What exactly is your purpose here? Are you here with an indictment? A request for extradition?”

“God, no!” Cohen said.

“Then why are you here?”

“Because Elish Reagan shot Frank Tourmetti in self defense, and I understand that some doubt has been raised about that.”

“Mr Cohen, the court has seen CCTV footage that clearly shows —”

“The CCTV footage, uh-huh,” Cohen said, nodding vigorously. “But have you heard the 911 call?”

.oOo.

Chapter 58: Friend Of The Court

Chapter Text

What 911 call?

“Ms Markham, you can step down,” Judge Steinman said. “Ms Markham?”

The words reached Regan slowly, as if she was underwater, as if they were as hard to parse and translate as whale-song. The 911 call. What 911 call?

“Ms Markham, are you alright?” the judge asked, frowning.

“Yes, your honor.” Her own voice sounded like a stranger’s. She wondered if it sounded normal to everyone else, lost a couple of seconds of time considering it. The 911 call. Why had Marco Durham never mentioned any 911 call? “Could I have some water?”

Steinman nodded and gestured to an usher. A glass of water appeared in front of Regan. She took it and sipped, not because she was truly thirsty, but because it bought her a minute. Who called 911? When?

Why did Marco never tell me there was something besides that CCTV footage?

“Ma’am,” the usher said, and Regan looked up to meet a calm, kind gaze. She knew that expression, knew it from the inside out: professional compassion, without judgment.

The usher held out his hand, and Regan took it, let him help her up from the chair in the witness stand. She forced her legs to hold her, forced herself to walk steadily. She wouldn’t give Neil Gorton the satisfaction of seeing her stagger. That’s something I could do, she thought, as the usher guided her across the well of the court to the bar. A court usher. There’s a job that fits my skill-set.

David Cohen was standing in the aisle, clutching his papers and his briefcase to his chest. What 911 call? Regan asked him silently as their eyes met.

“Ellie,” Cohen said, which made no sense to Regan, because that wasn’t her name, not any more.

Then, proving he hadn’t changed in the years since she’d left Seattle, the papers he clutched escaped his grip and cascaded to the floor, and he swore and knelt to gather them up.

The usher opened the gate for Regan and as she stepped through, McCoy rose from his seat in the first row. He held out his hand and Regan took it, not thinking about the fact that they were in a courtroom crowded with witnesses, not thinking about anything except that the ground beneath her feet was no longer solid and McCoy’s grip was warm and strong and his gaze was steady on her face.

“Need some air?” he asked her quietly.

Regan shook her head. McCoy sat down again, drawing her with him. He kept a firm grip on her hand and put his other arm around her waist. “I’m going to be a court usher,” she told him.

“Better not,” McCoy said. “I’d never offer any plea deals if going to trial meant spending the day looking at you.”

A painful bubble of laughter caught in her chest. McCoy’s fingers tightened around hers. “It’s over,” he said. “You got through.”

Regan shook her head. “A 911 call? What 911 call?”

McCoy’s body shifted against hers as he turned to look over her head. “I don’t know, but it’ll be alright. Trust me.” His arm tightened around her waist. “Trust me, Regan. Trust me.”

We all need to trust somebody, she’d told him once. She’d meant it as much a reproach as anything else, but it was true.

“Okay,” she said, and gave in to his embrace, leaning against him.

At the bar table, Connie Rubirosa turned around in her seat and leaned over the bar. “Do you know anything about this?” she whispered to Regan. When Regan shook her head, Connie turned back to Carver, leaning close to talk in an undertone. Regan caught the word adjournment.

“Ellie,” Cohen said again. Regan turned and realized he was standing directly beside her in the aisle of the court. She had to tilt her head right back to be able to look at him. He’s still absurdly tall. Which was an idiotic thought, because he was hardly likely to have shrunk in her absence.

“Dave,” she said, and tried to choose from the questions spinning through her mind. What are you doing here, if not to extradite me? What 911 call? What did you mean, self-defense?

“Mr Cohen,” Judge Steinman said before Regan could get even one of those questions out. “If you have an amicus curiae brief, bring it up here, along with your credentials.”

“Yes, your honor,” Cohen said. He stepped past the bar and dumped his armload of papers on the bar table in front of Carver. Regan couldn’t see Carver’s face, but she could imagine his reaction to that, and had to fight a sudden urge to giggle.

“I’ll, uh, sort these out for you,” Connie said as Cohen found the relevant papers in the pile. She drew the stack toward her and started to neaten it up.

“Thank you,” Cohen said. “That’s really very kind of you.”

“Mr Cohen,” the judge reminded him.

“Yes, of course, your honor.” Cohen strode to the front of the courtroom with the long, slightly awkward strides that had always made Regan think of someone walking on stilts. He handed Steinman several documents. “I apologize for the handwriting, your honor. We had some turbulence.”

Steinman scrutinized the papers. “Apparently quite severe turbulence. Am I reading this correctly? You cite Wallace versus United States?”

Cohen nodded energetically. “Yes, your honor.”

She set the brief down. “Mr Cohen, that case is more than one hundred years old and has been comprehensively superseded by statute in every jurisdiction, including this one.”

Regan glanced at McCoy and saw he was frowning slightly. Dave knows what he’s doing, she wanted to tell him, although, truthfully, she hadn’t known enough about the law back in the days when she’d seen David Cohen at work to known if it was true. He always won a lot, at least. And he made it look easy. So easy that Regan herself had been able to imagine herself in his shoes.

A smile tugged at her lips. If I’d known how much work it really takes, I’d never have dared.

“I know, your honor,” Cohen was saying. “But if you’ll turn to page four, paragraph three, you’ll see that in this case, Wallace v U.S. supports admissibility of evidence of threats, not the relevance of those threats to the question of self-defense.”

“Relevant evidence is admissible evidence, Mr Cohen,” Steinman said. “At least in this jurisdiction, and if it’s different in Washington State you people need to have a word with your legislature.”

“Apparent versus explicit, your honor,” Cohen said humbly. “Not yet resolved by either the New York state legislature or the courts. I’m sure it’s just an oversight.”

McCoy leaned closer to Regan. “What are you thinking?” he murmured.

“That when I watched Dave at this back in Seattle, I thought he was just pulling random statements out of his ass,” she replied in the same low tone. Glancing at McCoy, she saw his gaze fixed on Cohen, the same slight frown on his face that she’d seen before. “What are you thinking?”

“That he must be lethal on cross,” McCoy said, and Regan realized that the frown wasn’t disapproval, but concentration. Not on the law, which he must know as well or better than Dave does, but on how Dave argues the law.

One expert watching another at work, with intent professional appreciation.

She squeezed McCoy’s hand. “His wife’s in the Washington State Assembly. You’d never persuade him to move.”

He glanced down at her then, eyebrows up. “I’m that transparent?” When she hesitated, he smiled. “I’d rather not know.”

Steinman was leafing through the pages of Cohen’s brief. “What are these attached materials referred to on page —” She peered at the page. “Seven?”

“Page nine, your honor, I’m sorry, the turbulence was very bad. I have materials to present to the court which have a direct bearing on — well, I hesitate to say on the credibility of Officer Reagan —” He paused. “I apologize, your honor, the credibility of Ms Markham. But they have a direct bearing on the allegations that Mr, uh, Gorton has been trying to make about the shooting of Frank Tourmetti — I was listening at the back of the court, your honor.”

Gorton rose to his feet. “I renew my objection to this highly irregular intervention, your honor.”

“Noted,” Steinman said. “And overruled. You opened this door, Mr Gorton. What materials do you want to present to the court, Mr Cohen?”

Cohen dug around in his jacket pocket, and produced a plastic bag. From her seat, Regan could see the evidence tags on it, and what looked like a flash drive inside. “An audio file, your honor. Of a 911 call placed from one of the phones in the Narcotics and Community bullpen on the second floor of the Seattle Police Department Headquarters at 9.47 pm on Tuesday, August 20th, 2002. I have the chain of custody documents, your honor, if you …?”

Steinman nodded. Cohen turned back to the bar table as Connie leafed through the pile of papers he’d left. By the time he reached it, she was holding out the custody sheet.

“Thank you,” Cohen said to her. “I don’t suppose you want a job in Seattle, do you?”

“Mr Cohen,” Steinman warned.

“Sorry, yes, your honor.” He strode back to the bench to give her the document.

The judge studied it. “I’m prepared to admit this material,” she said. “We’ll take a fifteen minute recess for the court officers to locate appropriate equipment.”

“Thank you, your honor,” Cohen said.

As Judge Steinman rose to her feet, Cohen headed back to the bar table. He held out his hand to Carver. “Dave Cohen. Assistant Chief Deputy Prosecutor, Trials, King County. Which you know.”

Carver rose, and shook Cohen’s hand. He was a tall man, but he still had to look up a little. “Assistant District Attorney Ron Carver. I’m pleased to make your acquaintance, although I would have appreciated a little notice of your intention to appear.”

“I told the fellow who called me that I’d be on the first available flight,” Cohen said.

“He was of the impression you’d be bringing an extradition request, not an amicus curiae brief,” Carver said.

“Then that’s entirely my fault, and I do apologize for not making myself clear on the phone,” Cohen said. He turned to Connie. “Thank you for taking care of my papers. I dropped my briefcase getting out the cab, and it came open. And …” He gave her a sweet, slightly daft, smile. “And I’d like you to believe that I’m not normally such a shambles, but then I’d be misleading you, as Ellie — Ms Markham — could tell you.”

He looked past Carver and winked at Regan, and for a moment the years fell away and she was eating pizza in the King County Prosecutor’s Office while Cohen, who was supposed to be drilling her for her Legal Principles 101 exam, strode around his tiny office explaining the difference between probable cause and reasonable suspicion, punctuating his lecture with wild gestures with his own slice of pizza, showering anchovies and olives across the litter of papers covering his desk.

He’d been touchingly delighted when she’d confided in him that she was taking pre-law courses at a community college, generous in his offer to help her study. And every exam I passed was despite his help and not because of it.

“Mr Cohen, we have fifteen minutes,” Carver said. “I suggest we talk. Let’s avoid any more surprises, shall we?”

Case Conference Room 5

Supreme Court, Criminal Branch,

100 Centre Street, New York

11 am Tuesday 24 July 2007

McCoy opened the door to the conference room and guided Regan through. Her color was better than it had been when she’d first stepped down from the witness stand, but he wished they had more than a fifteen minute adjournment and that it wasn’t necessary to spend it with Carver, Connie and David Cohen. The last thing she needs right now. He wanted to take her downstairs, buy her a coffee and talk about People v Courtney and the rest of their cases until Regan remembered that she was a Manhattan A.D.A and that everything that had happened to her in Seattle was in the distant past. He wanted to tell her his best war stories and recount some of Adam Schiff’s pithy epigrams until he found something that would make her laugh.

But there was a motion before the judge and a hearing to get back to, and so instead, McCoy drew out a chair at the conference table for Regan, and took the one beside her once she’d seated herself. He rested his arm along the back of her chair, as close to a protective embrace as he could safely get, given the circ*mstances.

The other three followed them in. David Cohen took a seat opposite Regan. Connie sat at the end of the table, and Carver elected to stand.

“Ellie,” Cohen said. “I’m sorry. I had no idea — you never wanted to talk about it, and then you stopped returning my calls, and then you moved, and I had no idea, no idea —”

“I don’t know what you think you know, Mr Cohen,” McCoy said, “but I suggest you start with the evidence you intend to present to the court. A 911 call?”

“One of the officers in the bullpen managed to hit the speaker-phone button and dial 911 before he … before he collapsed,” Cohen said.

“Who?” Regan asked between white lips.

“It was Robbie. Ellie, I’m sorry, I can’t tell you how sorry —”

“Is he … is he on the tape?” Regan asked.

“Robbie?” Carver asked.

Connie turned and said quietly to him, “There’s an Officer Robert Gunderson on the list of the dead. He was her husband.”

“He’s on the tape,” Cohen said gently.

Regan closed her eyes. “He was only there because I asked him.”

“I know,” Cohen said.

“He wouldn’t sign the divorce papers and I asked him to come in during my shift,” she said in the same soft monotone. “I thought I could talk to him, persuade him.”

Cohen winced. “I know, Ellie.”

She opened her eyes. “I’m Regan,” she said in the same dull, quiet voice. “Regan Markham. Elish Reagan is gone. She didn’t make it out of that room.”

“What’s on the tape, Mr Cohen?” McCoy deliberately made his voice matter-of-fact, with an edge of impatience, forcing Cohen’s attention away from Regan. “Something in addition to the CCTV footage which we’ve all seen, I presume?”

“Oh, yes,” Cohen said. “A great deal more.”

.oOo.

Chapter 59: The Communication Of The Dead

Notes:

“The communication of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of living.” – T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Motion Hearing

Supreme Court, Criminal Branch,

100 Centre Street, New York

11:20 am Tuesday 24 July 2007

A great deal more, David Cohen had said, and gone on to give details, but no words could convey the impact of the recording that was now playing in the courtroom.

Not David Cohen’s words, not even Regan’s, the one time she’d talked about it. Robbie's screaming 'Ellie, Ellie, help me, Ellie' and I can't help him and all I want is for him toshut upbecause I can't stand it, I can't f*cking stand it, and then he makes a sound that might be my name and that's the last thing he says and I'mrelieved, I'm so f*ckingrelieved, because at last he's quiet.

McCoy had understood, on an intellectual level, what she meant. After all, every case that crossed his desk had a victim, either living or dead, and every victim had loved ones trying to puzzle their way through a maze of shock and grief and guilt. He had seen every possible combination of anger and blame and self-reproach over the years, tangled in a thousand unpredictable ways.

But as those screams echoed around the courtroom, for the first time McCoy could feel what Regan had meant on a visceral level. Stop, he willed that long-dead young man on the tape. Just stop. For god’s sake, stop!

It didn’t. It went on, and on, unbearably. There had been words in it, at first, god, Ellie, help me, help me!

Then just screaming, agonized. Terrified.

McCoy tried to imagine what it would be like to hear Claire’s voice, here, now, like this. If she’d been conscious after the accident, if she’d called for help, if he had to hear her in pain and afraid and about to die.

I couldn’t bear it.

But Regan had borne it, at the time, and in every nightmare since, and now she sat beside McCoy, hands clenched in her lap, gaze straight ahead as once again, she listened to her husband die.

He put his hand over hers. “Regan. Look at me.”

He was relieved to discover that, wherever she had gone in her head, it wasn’t so far away that she couldn’t hear his voice. She turned her head slowly, her gaze searching his face.

It’s alright, he wanted to say, except it wasn’t alright at all. It’s over was just as untrue, with a man screaming his life out in the courtroom. I’m here was both ridiculously obvious and utterly inaccurate, because McCoy might be sitting so close to Regan that he could feel the warmth of her body through the fabric of his suit, but wherever the recording had sent her was somewhere he could never go.

“Regan,” he said again, and she freed one hand from his grip and laid it on his chest.

The screaming stopped at last, with one last choking gurgle, but the silence after it was almost worse, a silence broken only by the sound of someone coughing. A thick, burbling cough, a whimper of pain. Regan.

Three in the belly, one in the chest, makes a girl long for a bullet proof vest.

Her voice on the tape was an agonized croak, unrecognizable. “Hands. Up. Keep … keep …” Another liquid, gurgling cough. “Kick it … here. The gun. Kick … it …”

And then a laugh, a man’s laugh. “Or what, bitch?”

“Kick … the gun … away. Pick up … the cuffs. By your … by your … left. Foot. Pick. Up.” A long pause. The sound of Regan fighting for breath. And then, hard and even and fast, on one short breath, “Do it or I will shoot.”

“f*cking try. I’m bulletproof today, bitch, unlike you. So f*cking shoot me. You might even knock me down. I’ll come up shooting. I hope you live long enough to know when I put a bullet in your head. You think they’re coming to save you? I blocked the doors. Nobody is coming, bitch. It’s you and me, and I —”

A single gunshot.

Regan tore herself free of McCoy’s grip and bolted to her feet, hand clamped over her mouth, one sob forcing its way past her fingers.

Judge Steinman raised her hand, and the court officer turned off the recording. “Ms Markham, take your seat,” she said, and then paused. “Or a bailiff can assist you outside, if you’d prefer.”

Regan took a deep, shuddering breath, and lowered her hand. “He had a vest,” she said. She turned and scanned the courtroom, gaze settling on Marco Durham. “I couldn’t cuff him. I couldn’t have held him much longer. He wouldn’t put his weapon out of reach. I had no other option to stop him killing everybody still alive in that room.”

“Ms Markham,” the judge said again.

McCoy put his hand on Regan’s arm. She gave in to his urging and sank back into her seat.

“Your honor, in addition, I have here —” Cohen held out his hand and Connie put a folder into it. “Reports and photographic evidence from the crime scene, verifying that Mr Tourmetti was indeed wearing a bulletproof vest under his janitorial coveralls. I understand Detective Durham has admitted tampering with the evidence, by placing a weapon in Mr Tourmetti’s hand. A .32 caliber pistol was found by scene of crime officers. However, the finding of the Board of Inquiry into the shooting of Mr Tourmetti — which I also have here, your honor — did not rely on that handgun to reach its finding that Officer Reagan’s use of deadly force was justified.” Cohen turned back to the body of the court room. “Ellie, I’m so sorry,” he said, ignoring the judge, ignoring Carver and Gorton and everyone else in the room. “I had no idea — I just didn’t want you to ever have to hear that. Again. If I’d known what you thought, I would have played that recording for you years ago.”

Regan nodded once.

Alexandra Eames had told McCoy that Detective Goren was sure Durham was lying, and Goren had been right. Lying yesterday — and lying back then.

That had been Marco Durham’s handwriting on the Post-It note, Take medical retirement, stuck to a DVD of CCTV footage without context, shoved into Regan’s hand by the man she trusted to know the deepest truths about herself. Who had to have known about that audio recording. Who had to have known there was more to the story than one frozen frame of Regan shooting a man in the head.

Cohen offered the files to the judge. “Further, your honor, if I may make another remark?”

“You may, if it’s relevant.”

Cohen shrugged slightly. “Since this hearing appears to have become about the character and credibility of Elish Reagan Markham, I think my opinion as a senior prosecutor in King County is relevant, your honor.”

“Go ahead,” the judge said, scanning the file.

“Officer Reagan had a spotless record and a high reputation for professionalism, integrity, and competence. No complaint was ever made, let alone upheld, about her conduct. She was widely respected by her peers and by those of us who worked in the Prosecutor’s Office. If she says she saw something, your honor, it happened.”

“Thank you, Mr Cohen,” the judge said. “Mr Gorton. Were you aware of this recording?”

“Your honor, no,” Gorton said quickly. “I was not.”

“I’m glad to hear it, Mr Gorton. Because if you had been, and still persisted with your effort to use this incident to cast doubt on Ms Markham’s credibility as a witness, I’d be referring you to the ethics committee under EC 7-26.”

“My witness, Detective Durham, never mentioned —”

“And I’m sure you were very careful not to ask,” Judge Steinman said. “I think everybody here could use a break. We’ll recess for lunch, and Mr Carver, when we come back, I want to hear from Officer Rivera.”

The moment the judge left the courtroom, McCoy saw Marco Durham heading for the doors. I wouldn’t stick around either, if I were him. Carver was already on his cell-phone, doubtless trying to find out from Kibre how things stood with Rivera. Cohen pushed through the bar and stopped in the aisle beside Regan.

“Are you alright?” he asked Regan.

As if she could possibly be alright, after that, McCoy thought. “Let’s get out of here,” he said to her.

“Don’t be an idiot,” Regan said gently. “If the judge wants Rivera on the stand after lunch, Ron is going to need all the help he can get.”

She was right. McCoy could tell himself that Ron Carver was a highly talented prosecutor, and he could tell himself that he was a witness now, and nothing more, as far as Neil Gorton was concerned, but there was no way he could walk out of the courtroom and leave the fate of this motion entirely in someone else’s hands, at the mercy of someone else’s professional abilities and judgment.

You choose that damn job over everything, Ellen had said. Even me. Even your own daughter!

Except it hadn’t been a choice then, just as it wasn’t now. It was who he was.

Regan was pale, but she was composed, which made the choice that was no choice at all easier for McCoy to live with. “I won’t be long,” he said, knowing as he said it that it was probably a lie.

“Win the f*cking case, Jack,” Regan said. “Worry about where the chips fell afterward. Or —” She shook her head a little. “Or all this was for nothing.”

“Can you show me where to get a decent lunch in this big city of yours, Ellie?” Cohen asked. “I’m starved.”

His gaze met McCoy’s over Regan’s head, and he gave a slight nod. I’ll look after her, that nod said.

McCoy returned it, and stood. “Greek Isles,” he said, squeezing Regan’s shoulder. “I’ll join you there, if I can.”

She nodded, and he stepped past her into the aisle. Neil Gorton was making his own exit, and for a man whose strategy had just spectacularly backfired on him, he didn’t look sufficiently concerned for McCoy’s peace of mind.

“Ron,” he said, as Carver ended the call. “News?”

Carver looked past him for a moment, no doubt checking that Gorton and his assisting attorneys were out of earshot. “None good,” he said. “Goren and Eames have been working Rivera all morning, Tracey Kibre’s offered Manslaughter One and Rivera’s P.B.A lawyer recommended it to him, but he won’t bite.”

“Why would he?” McCoy said. “I expect Neil has held out the promise of a walk via jury nullification. If that fails, he can still hope for the E.E.D defense to succeed and get him Man One — exactly the incentive we’re holding out for his co-operation.” He shrugged. “And I don’t doubt there’s been the mention of some money, too, down the line.”

“You can’t be thinking of going any lower, Jack.” Carver shook his head. “Whether we’re right about Neil Gorton or not, John Rivera killed a woman. The only question is why.”

“I know,” McCoy said. “He does real time, even with all the co-operation in the world.” He paused. “The problem is the P.B.A lawyer.”

“He’s recommending the deal,” Carver pointed out.

“How much weight would you give the advice of someone whose work generally involves bargaining down excessive force complaints?” McCoy asked. “Compared to one of the most prominent defense lawyers in New York?” He took out his cell phone and found the number he was looking for. “Sally. Jack — well, yes, actually. I do need a favor.”

.oOo.

Notes:

EC 7-26 is section of the New York Lawyer's Code of Professional Responsibility covering the use of fraudulent, false, or perjured testimony or evidence when a lawyer knows, or should know, that it’s untrue.

Chapter 60: The Unicorn

Chapter Text

One Police Plaza

12:30 pm Tuesday 24 July 2007

God damn Jack McCoy to hell, Sally Bell thought as the elevator at One Police Plaza ground slowly upward. And god damn me for letting him sweet-talk me into this.

Not new thoughts, either of them, although in recent years she’d more often thought God damn Jack McCoy to hell and god damn that idiot judge for falling for his arguments.

Today, though, the idiot wasn’t some moron in a robe who thought Brady ought to be regarded as more of a suggestion than a binding precedent.

Today, the idiot is me.

The elevator doors opened and Sally stalked out. Tracey Kibre was waiting in the Major Case corridor. “I’m not talking to you until I talk to my client,” Sally said to her without breaking stride, and then rounded the corner and came face-to-face with Jack McCoy. “And I’m not talking to you at all.”

Tracey Kibre stepped into the middle of the corridor, forcing Sally to stop. “Ms Bell, there are some aspects of this case you need to be aware of —”

Sally raised one hand, cutting her off. “There are some things I’d like you both to be aware of. We have trial rotations at my office for exactly the same reason they have them at yours. Over-worked attorneys can’t give multiple cases the attention they deserve. When you called me, Jack, did it occur to you that I might already have files up the ying-yang and no desire to drop everything just to pull your chestnuts out of the fire?”

“It’s your client’s chestnuts in the fire, Sally,” McCoy said. “We have solid physical evidence linking Officer Rivera to the crime. His previous lawyer entered a plea of diminished responsibility on the grounds of E.E.D. It’s the People’s contention that Officer Rivera in fact carried out the crime at the behest of his previous lawyer. He can help himself, but he has a limited window of opportunity to do so.”

“Tic f*cking toc, I know,” Sally said. “I’m not here to help you make your case. I’ll act in the best interests of my client.”

McCoy nodded. “That’s exactly why I called you. Your problem is that your client doesn’t seem to understand what his interests are.”

“Give me the file,” Sally said. “And wait here.”

She opened the door to the interview room and went in, closing it firmly behind her.

Two men sat at the table. “Which of you is John Rivera?” she asked.

“I am,” the stockier of the two said. “And who the f*ck are you?”

Sally sat down without waiting for an invitation. “I’m Sally Bell from the Public Defenders’ Office. For the purpose of this meeting, I’m also your lawyer.” She set her briefcase on the table and opened it. “Here’s my identification, in case you’re wondering if I’m actually an A.D.A. or a cop trying to trick you.”

“I have a lawyer,” Rivera said. He jerked his thumb at the other man. “And not this bozo, either. A real lawyer.”

Sally nodded. “Neil Gorton, I know. He’s good. And smart.” She flipped open the file McCoy had given her. “Too smart to try running a flyer like E.E.D. past a jury on this evidence. Unless his client absolutely insisted, and even then, a smart attorney would do their best to talk them out of it. So there’s the first thing I want you to think about, John. Did you suggest E.E.D to Mr Gorton? Or did he suggest it to you?”

Rivera said nothing, but a slight frown drew his eyebrows together.

“That’s an affirmative defense, which means it’s something the defense has to prove. Not just suggest, not imply, not the usual smoke and mirrors. Do you know what percentage of murderers get off by claiming extreme emotional disturbance? Here’s a tip: it rounds to zero. And even then, all it does is knock the charge down to Manslaughter One. That’s five to twenty-five, and without a sentencing recommendation — which you won’t get if you go to trial — you’ll do the twenty-five.”

Rivera shrugged. “A jury won’t convict me. Not when I tell them what she was like.”

Sally raised her eyebrows. “Jury nullification? That’s the unicorn of the criminal justice system, John. I’ve seen it happen twice in all the years I’ve been practicing. Did Mr Gorton tell you he could guarantee a walk, if you just kept your mouth shut and said what he told you to?”

Rivera’s frown deepened, and Sally knew the shot had gone home.

“You’re getting bad advice, John,” she said. “Right now there’s an A.D.A. in the corridor looking for a deal. Not because she’s not sure about making her case, but because you can give her something she wants. Most of my clients would be dancing around the room singing Hallelujah to be in your position, but you won’t even talk to her.”

Rivera paused. “I’m not putting myself in the jackpot for a Murder One charge,” he said at last. “I’m not that stupid.”

Sally nodded. “Did Mr Gorton tell you that? Did he also tell you that anything you say during a discussion of a possible deal is inadmissible against you?”

“That’s what you say. Why should I trust you? Why should I trust you, instead of my real lawyer?”

Sally leaned forward. “Because, John, there’s no danger of me going to jail, whatever you say.”

He picked up her I.D. from the table. “You’re really with Legal Aid, or whatever?”

Sally nodded. “And representing myself as your lawyer when I’m not would get me disbarred. As well as getting anything you say from here on thrown out of every court in the country.”

“Yeah, I know,” Rivera said. “I’m not stupid.” He dropped her I.D. “Fine. I’ll listen to the lady.”

… … …

“Not to question the great Jack McCoy,” Eames said as she leaned against the wall and waited for any news from inside the box or from Bobby Goren, wherever he went. “But are we really sure we want to be up against Sally Bell when Rivera comes to trial?”

McCoy smiled a little. “The object is not to go to trial, detective. Sally breathes fire and eats A.D.A.s for breakfast, but she’s a realist. She’ll deal.”

“Or pick up Gorton’s E.E.D claim and run with it,” Eames said sourly.

Tracey Kibre shook her head. “That buys him five to twenty five at the best.”

“It’s not in Rivera’s best interest,” McCoy said. “And if there’s one thing that Sally Bell will die in a ditch for, it’s her client’s best interest.”

The elevator doors opened and they both turned. Detective Goren, slightly breathless, strode out, carrying a bag blazoned with the logo of a sporting goods store. “I need … coffee grounds. And a marker, and a camera.” They stared at him. “Come on!” Goren said urgently. “Coffee, a marker, and a camera. And whatever’s in the break-room trash.”

Kibre sighed. “I see the Goren show is back in town.”

“Seven year run, no sign of closing,” Eames said, grabbing a camera from Wheeler’s desk and following Goren toward the break-room. “Broadway’s producers should be so lucky.”

Goren had swept everything off the break-room table with little regard for the mess. Eames stepped over spilled sugar and broken cookies. “What do you need?”

He ripped open the bag and pulled out a shoe-box. When he tipped it upside down, a pair of Converse All-Stars fell out. “These have to look worn …”

“Give them here.” Eames caught them when he tossed them to her, and turned to the microwave. “Thirty seconds ought to do it. I can’t manage fading, though.”

“We’ll put them on the side,” Goren said. “The most important thing is that he sees the soles, anyway.”

The microwave binged, and Eames juggled the slightly-too-warm sneakers out, checking that the bubbles in the rubber around the soles would pass for natural aging. “So we found these during the canvas?”

Goren nodded, starting to color in the sole of one of the sneakers. “At the dump. Oh, and some CCTV footage of Rivera wearing them on the night in question.” He glanced up at her and grinned. “He used his credit card to pay for gas. He doesn’t need to know their cameras were out of order. Do you think these need more red?”

Eames studied the shoe. “A little. Maybe I’m missing the point here, Bobby, but Rivera already knows we can put him at the scene of the crime. A pair of shoes isn’t going to disprove E.E.D.”

“I know.” Goren rubbed some coffee grounds on the shoes, carefully. “The shoes aren’t the point.”

Eames raised her eyebrows. “And the point is?”

“We found a pair of shoes that had been sent to landfill.” Goren arranged the shoes on the table and then pulled a chair over. He took the camera and climbed up on the chair, lining up the shot carefully. “Who knows what else we’ll turn up if we keep looking?”

“Like maybe a pre-paid cell-phone.”

“Exactly.” Goren took another photo and studied the result in the viewer on the back of the digital camera. He offered it to Eames. “What do you think?”

“Looks like evidence to me,” Eames said.

He climbed down off the chair. “I’ll just print these out.”

Five minutes later they were in the interview room. Eames and Tracey Kibre sat opposite Rivera and Sally Bell. Goren stood behind them, and the P.B.A. lawyer was at the end of the table, looking like he’d rather be anywhere than here.

Eames opened her folder and took out a photograph, flipping it across the table to land in front of Rivera.

“Your buddies at the 1-7 told us that you always wore Converse All-Stars off duty. That piqued our interest, since we didn’t find any in your locker or in your house. And also because it matched the bloody footprint we found at Marty’s Marvelous Machines. We told our search teams out at Fresh Kills to keep an eye out.” She held the photo up. “One pair Converse All-Stars sneakers, your color, your size. And what looks like blood on the soles.”

Goren plucked the photograph from her hand and pretended to study it, shaking his head slightly, although Eames knew he’d actually taken it to prevent Rivera taking too close or too long a look. “Here’s the thing, John,” he said. “We don’t really care about the shoes. I mean, tying you to the crime? Sure. That’s always nice. But you put yourself at the scene already when your lawyer basically said yeah, he did it, but he was upset at the time.”

“I’ve yet to see a murderer who wasn’t upset about something,” Eames said. “Money, love … a parking ticket.” She leaned forward. “How far apart did you ditch the shoes and the phone, John? How many blocks? Two? Four? Ten?”

“Thirty houses to a block,” Goren said. “Thirty trash cans. By now our guys at the dump have worked their way through one or two block’s worth of garbage in all directions from those shoes. They’re going to keep going until they find what they need.”

Rivera’s gaze flicked to him, and Eames hid a smile. Bobby was right. “We know there’s something there to find, John,” she said. “A cell phone, maybe. A phone number on a piece of paper. Something that connects Neil Gorton to the crime you committed. Me, I’m eager to get out there. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than finding the evidence that will send both you and that slimy son-of-a-bitch down for twenty-five to life.” She shrugged. “My partner, though, he’s the fastidious sort.” Goren nodded on cue. Eames didn’t need to look at him to know he’d put on a rueful expression, the very picture of a man acknowledging his flaws. “ And I don’t really enjoy listening to him bitching and moaning for hours on end. So we’re giving you this one chance to help yourself by helping us.”

“You two should consider taking this show on the road,” Sally Bell said. “I bet they’d love it in Peoria.”

“This is the time, John,” Goren said, leaning over Rivera. “The time to help us. The time to help yourself. The time to stop helping Neil Gorten. Because, you know, John, he was never helping you.”

Rivera’s gaze flicked to Eames, then back to Goren. And then —

Got him. “What do you want? And what do I get?”

“Tell us what happened,” Tracey Kibre said. “I’ll take your co-operation into account.”

“Nice try,” Sally said. “My client says nothing until there’s a concrete offer on the table. We’ll consider Man Two, three to five, protective custody.” She looked toward the one-way glass and raised her voice. “And if you want him on the stand this afternoon, Jack, you’d better hurry.”

.oOo.

Chapter 61: Moot

Chapter Text

Supreme Court, Criminal Branch,

100 Centre Street, New York

1 pm Tuesday 24 July 2007

Jack McCoy yanked open the doors of the courthouse and strode through, looking around for Regan. He hadn’t made it to the restaurant before the end of the lunch break after all. A brief phone-call to give her the good news about Rivera had reassured him that she was alright, but he wanted to see her, nonetheless. For one thing, Regan would appreciate the fine line the Major Case detectives had walked in deceiving Rivera without putting Tracey Kibre in the position of lying to Sally Bell, far more than Tracey herself had.

And, if McCoy was honest with himself, he wanted to see Regan for no reason other than to see her. Whether she was alright after the morning’s revelations, or not; whether he had news to share with her, or not: he wanted to see her.

Regan was not in the foyer, or on the stairs, or in the corridor upstairs when McCoy reached it. Someone else was, though. Marco Durham, leaning against the wall outside the courtroom.

The only reason for him to still be in the courthouse was because Neil Gorton had insisted, which meant …

He’s thinking of putting Durham on the stand.

That final question to Regan, that was no lucky shot in the dark. She said something to Durham at the time, and Gorton’s going to try and get it in.

“Detective Durham, a word,” McCoy snapped, jerking his chin toward an empty conference room.

“I’m not sure I should be talking to you —” Durham started.

“It’s not going to involve Miranda, Detective Durham. I’m a witness here, like you.”

Durham hesitated, and then moved slowly into the conference room. McCoy followed him and shut the door hard. “You have some explaining to do, detective.”

“Mr Gorton called me. I — I felt I had to tell the truth.”

“I know about your daughter. How much money did Neil Gorton promise you? Just you and me in here, detective, you may as well be honest.”

“What would you do?” Durham burst out. “She’s my daughter!”

“I don’t know how far I’d go to save my daughter’s life,” McCoy said. “But that’s irrelevant. Neil Gorton wasn’t offering you any money when you lied all those years ago.”

“That night?” Durham threw up his hands. “I got in there, it was f*cking chaos, you can’t imagine. Bodies everywhere, blood — the E.M.Ts were working on Ellie and that piece-of-sh*t was dead just across from her and his hands were empty. You know how it would have played! Jesus f*cking Christ, you know how often I heard her tell me about her grandfather, the best cop who ever lived? How he told her to put anyone who drew down on her under ground? So I dropped my hold-out piece, just to protect her. I was her partner, what was I supposed to do?”

“Obey the law!” McCoy snapped. “You’re a police officer, for god’s sake! Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

“It means I don’t sit behind a desk splitting hairs for a living, counselor.” Durham leaned closer, clearly trying to use his height and size to intimidate McCoy. “I did what I thought was the right thing. I saved Ellie’s ass with the brass and I made sure a trigger-happy cop left —”

McCoy leaned in as well, leveling a finger at Durham. “If you’re telling me you didn’t know about the recording of that 911 call, detective, be careful. You have a choice between the truth, and a perjury conviction.”

“You’d never —”

“Just watch me!” McCoy blazed. “You’re in my city now, detective, and unless you want to enjoy the hospitality of New York’s fine correctional institutions, you’ll stop lying and you’ll do it now!”

“Alright!” Durham raised his hands a little, sketching a gesture of surrender. He turned away. “Alright. I knew about the tape, okay?”

“Then why keep silent?” McCoy demanded.

“I knew Mr Gorton wouldn’t want to hear —”

McCoy shook his head. “I’m not talking about Neil Gorton, I’m talking about Regan Markham. You must have known the outcome of the inquiry, and yet you said nothing! Worse than that — you put that DVD in her hand and you let her think it was the whole story.”

“You don’t know how things were between us —” Durham fell silent, bracing his hands on the back of one of the chairs at the conference table.

“I know about your past relationship with Ms Markham,” McCoy said. “That explains why you’d take the risk of tampering with evidence but it makes your subsequent conduct even more inexplicable. And inexcusable.”

“I was trying to save my marriage!” Durham burst out. “Ellie, she and Robbie were going south — I let her cry on my shoulder and one thing led to another and —” He stopped. “My wife found out. I had to find a way — I couldn’t be around her.”

“You let her torch her career and burn down everything she valued about herself rather than taking a transfer?”

“She spent six months in the hospital, Robbie was dead, they pinned a Medal of Valor on her chest and she was talking about coming back to work as soon as she got medical clearance.” Durham rocked the chair he was leaning on, hard enough for the legs to bang down on the tiles floor. McCoy knew that move, too, had watched enough police interrogations to recognize a classic bad cop about to lose his temper pose.

You’ll have to do better than that to intimidate John McCoy’s son, detective. “And you wanted to stop her,” McCoy said.

“What do I say to people, I don’t want to work with my old partner now she’s a f*cking hero? You’re not a cop, Mr McCoy, you don’t know how that would have played. I did what I had to do, to protect myself, and my family.”

McCoy didn’t even have to try to find the hard, merciless tone he used for plea bargains with the most reprehensible defendants. “From your own bad decisions and lack of self-control.”

Durham shook his head. “Don’t give me that. Mr Gorton told me that you’re doing exactly what I did, so you can take that phony righteous indignation and your moral high horse and —”

“Small difference, I’m not married,” McCoy rapped out.

She was, when we started up. She was just as culpable as I was, for all you’re getting on your white horse and riding to her defense —”

“No, Detective Durham, she wasn’t,” McCoy said. “When you turned up here to sell your perjured testimony without even the courtesy of a phone call to her, she told me that it must be because of your conscience. She believes the best about you, even now. You believed the worst about her. You were able to lie to her because she trusted you, her partner. You never deserved —”

The chair went skittering across the floor and Durham’s hands landed hard on the table. “No-one could live up to Ellie’s f*cking expectations of what a partner should be! f*ck, those damn stories, her f*cking Gran-Da, drop everything for your partner, back up your partner no matter what, always believe in them — no f*cking cop in the world can have the kind of faith in the people he works with that Ellie expected.” Durham spun away, raised a fist as if to hammer it against the wall and then stopped. “I believed she was capable of making a mistake. Isn’t everyone?”

You certainly are,” McCoy said. “You should know that if Neil puts you on the stand today, Detective Durham, you’ll be asked about your daughter’s medical condition, your problems with her medical insurance, and your financial situation. You’ll be asked about your knowledge of that 911 recording. I strongly suggest you come clean.”

“Oh, because confession is good for the soul?” Durham said scornfully.

“Your soul is subject to a jurisdiction well and truly outside my purview,” McCoy said. “But believe me, it will certainly be good for your chances of getting on the plane back to Seattle as a free man.”

He left Durham to think about it and stalked back into the corridor.

“Intimidating a witness, Jack?” Gorton asked. “How unlike you.”

“Spare me, Neil,” McCoy snapped. “Your last chance blew up in your face this morning. Once John Rivera takes the stand, you’ll be lucky if Steinman doesn’t order you into custody pending indictment then and there.”

Gorton shrugged. “This vendetta of yours is getting tiresome. Whatever paranoid fantasies you might have developed as a result of shock, I know that there’s nothing John Rivera can say that will incriminate me. Unless you’re so far gone you’re willing to suborn perjury.”

I’m not the one who got a judicial caution on the subject,” McCoy pointed out. Over Gorton’s shoulder, he saw Regan and David Cohen coming up the stairs. “Think over your position, Neil. Be realistic.”

Regan held out a paper bag to McCoy as he approached. “Lunch,” she said. “Gyros.”

“Thank you.” McCoy took it and opened it. The smell of grilled meat made him suddenly aware of how hungry he was. “Detectives Goren and Eames are signing John Rivera over to court custody downstairs right now. If he tells Judge Steinman what he told Tracey Kibre, Gorton will be removed as Rivera’s counsel of record by the end of the day.” He took a bite of the sandwich.

“Can he corroborate it at all?” Cohen asked, and at McCoy’s glance, “We were talking about the case over lunch.”

McCoy swallowed. “There’s a cell-phone,” he said. “Somewhere out at Fresh Kills, but now we have the number, the L.U.Ds will tell the story.”

Regan shook her head. “No way Gorton used his own phone.”

“No, but once we have the number of the phone he did use, we’ll subpoena the provider and find out who sold it and when.” McCoy bolted the last of his lunch and crumpled the bag. “Maybe the store owner will remember who bought it. Maybe there’ll even be CCTV. That’s a problem for trial, anyway. Let’s win today first, so we can get to trial.”

They went into the courtroom and took their seats. Once the judge had also arrived, and Rivera was on the stand and sworn in, Ron Carver got right to the point.

“Officer Rivera,” he said. “Did you kill Emalia Coran, also known as Emily Watson?”

Rivera nodded. “Yeah, I did.”

“How did you come to do that?”

“This lawyer called me,” Rivera said. “At work. He said he wanted to have a private conversation and I should buy a phone for cash and call a number he gave me.”

“Did there come a time when you knew the name of the man who called you?” Carver asked.

“Sure.” Rivera pointed at Neil Gorton. “That’s him, right there.”

Carver turned. “Neil Gorton. And did you buy that phone and call that number?”

“I did. He told me where Em Coran was working, that she was using a different name.” Rivera shrugged. “She was laughing about how she got away with shooting me, making jokes to him about it. I guess she thought a defense lawyer would appreciate the humor. About how I was such a useless cop I couldn’t even arrest the woman who tried to put a bullet in my brain.”

“Mr Gorton told you that?” Carver asked.

Rivera nodded. “He said he didn’t think anyone should be able to get away with treating a cop like that. You know. After 9-11, and all.”

“Did Mr Gorton say anything else?”

“He said she was the kind of woman who could be a problem for everyone she met.”

Carver paced slowly across the well of the court. “And what did you understand by that?”

“That she was a problem for him, as well.”

“And what, if anything, did Mr Gorton say after that?”

“He said he would bet a lot of people would be glad if she wasn’t around, making a nuisance of herself.”

“Anything else?”

“He told me that if I ever needed a lawyer, I should call him.”

Carver stopped, resting one hand on the bar table. “And what, if anything, did you do then?”

“I went to where he told me she worked. And he was right, it was her. I followed her when she left. She went to this car yard and she unlocked the gate. I couldn’t see what business she had there, so I told her to stop. She started yelling at me. I knew she had a gun, because she already shot me with it once. I took her bag off her and there was a gun in it. She was saying she was going to finish me.” Rivera shrugged. “So I shot her.”

“And then what did you do?”

Another shrug. “I got rid of the evidence and I called Mr Gorton.”

“And what, if anything, did he say?”

“He told me to keep my mouth shut and to call him again if they took me in for it.”

“No further questions, your honor,” Carver said, and sat down.

Gorton got to his feet. “Did I ever ask you to kill Emalia Coran?”

“No,” Rivera said. “And I didn’t mean to, either.”

Gorton spread his hands. “Ever offer you any money?”

“No.”

“Ever ask you to do anything? Anything at all?”

“No.”

“Thank you.” Gorton turned toward the bar table, and then turned back. McCoy recognized the classic trial attorney’s something just occurred to me move. “Oh, one more thing. Did the District Attorney offer you anything in exchange for your testimony here today?”

“Yeah,” Rivera said. “I get protective custody in jail, Man One. Ten years.”

“Not bad for a confessed murderer,” Gorton said. “No —”

“A lot better than the twenty-five years you had me lined up for, you son-of-a-bitch!” Rivera snarled at Gorton.

Judge Steinman looked at Rivera over the top of her glasses. “Mr Rivera, do you still wish Mr Gorton to be your counsel?”

Rivera glared at Gorton. “No f*cking way!”

“Take Mr Rivera downstairs,” Judge Steinman said. “These proceedings are now moot. Is Mr Rivera’s current attorney present?”

Sally Bell rose to her feet. “Your honor.”

“Ms Bell. I assume I’ll be hearing from you and the D.A’s Office about either a plea agreement or a trial date?”

“Yes, your honor.”

“I look forward to it. Mr Gorton, any further communication you have with Mr Rivera will not be covered by privilege. Mr Cohen, since the crime Detective Durham has admitted to occurred in your jurisdiction, I leave it to King County to decide how to proceed. Court adjourned.”

.oOo.

Chapter 62: The Perp Walk

Chapter Text

Supreme Court, Criminal Branch,

100 Centre Street, New York

2 pm Tuesday 24 July 2007

Eames slipped out the courtroom doors. “They’re coming out,” she said.

Logan held out a clenched fist. “Rock-paper-scissors says Wheeler and me get the collar.”

“Give it up,” Eames advised. “I lost to Bobby two thousand, three hundred and seventeen times straight before I quit playing.”

“There’s a simple principle to winning,” Goren said. He gave Eames a sly, sideways smile. “Besides, you’re always rock.”

She snorted. “That’s because gun isn’t an option.”

Wheeler dug in her pocket and pulled out a quarter. “Toss for it, then.”

“Let’s all do it,” Logan suggested. “One each limb.”

“Wheeler,” Goren said. “And me.”

Eames raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

“Because you and Logan have the ceremonial eye-f*ck down cold,” Goren said. “No offense, Wheeler.”

“None taken,” Wheeler assured him. “I use a picture of your partner to practice in the mirror, but I know I have a long way to go.” She stood up, and took her handcuffs from her belt. “I’ll charge, you Miranda?”

“You do both,” Goren said, moving with her to the center of the corridor as Neil Gorton came toward them.

Wheeler raised her eyebrows. “Generous.”

He gave her a half-smile. “Your voice is a higher register. It’s going to reflect more off all this marble, carry all the way to the elevator.”

“You ever meet an angle you couldn’t work?” Wheeler asked. “Don’t answer that.” She raised her voice and held her cuffs up for everyone to see. “Neil Gorton, you are under arrest for the unlawful discharge of a firearm in a public place. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney …”

She and Goren led him out past everyone, including Logan and Eames, who stood with their arms folded, regarding Gorton with identical dead-eyed stares that could have been entered into the N.Y.P.D eye-f*ck hall of fame.

Major Case Squad-room

One Police Plaza

3.30 pm Tuesday 24 July 2007

“Jack McCoy, fancy seeing you here!” Randy Dworkin said. “I mean that ironically, of course. I know it can be hard to tell with me, because of my —” He pointed at his face and gave McCoy his profile. “Boyish charm.”

McCoy shook the hand Dworkin offered. “Work’s been so slow you have to take clients like Neil Gorton?”

“You know I can never pass up the chance to go up against you, Jack. You’re like Mount Everest to defense attorneys. The irresistible challenge.”

McCoy raised his eyebrows. “I’d say that I hope you packed your oxygen bottle, but you’re up against Ron Carver on this one.”

“Oh, the Matterhorn!” Dworkin grinned. “Just as much fun as Everest, but a lot closer to European tailoring. But come on, Jack. Discharge of a firearm? He discharged it into a man’s head in front of you and half-a-dozen N.P.Y.D. You’d be charging murder, except the entire world knows it was self-defense. And, unless they’ve been doing something up in Albany that nobody told me about, self-defense is just as much a defense to unlawful discharge. This is a …” Dworkin twirled an imaginary mustache. “A cunning ruse, isn’t it? Something to do with all those allegations being thrown about in a courtroom earlier today?”

“I’m sure the detectives will tell your client all about it,” McCoy said. “If you’d like to be part of that conversation, you might like to go through that door over there.”

“Playing coy, eh?” Dworkin tapped the side of his nose knowingly. “I understand. And hey! I’ve always liked magical mystery tours.”

McCoy smiled. “Then you’d better get on board the bus.”

Dworkin flashed him another grin, and turned to the door. Hand on the doorknob, he paused, and turned back, expression serious for once. “Jack, I know this isn’t the time. But then, it’s never the time, is it? It never should be the time, really. For what happened to Ms Borgia.”

“No,” McCoy said. “It should never be the time.”

“I didn’t come to the memorial service,” Dworkin said. “I wanted to, but it seemed like it was an intrusion.”

“She would have understood,” McCoy said.

Dworkin shook his head. “I doubt it. She thought I was a clown.”

“That’s because you made her laugh, Randy,” McCoy said. “That’s not a bad thing to remember, making Alex Borgia laugh. When all this is over, we’ll raise a glass to her.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” Dworkin said. “But now, another victory over the system awaits!”

He went into the interview room, and McCoy went into observation to watch what Goren and Eames and Ron Carver would make of Randolph J Dworkin, Esquire.

Regan was already watching through the glass, arms folded. “He any good?” she asked.

McCoy closed the door behind him, and went to stand beside her, sliding an arm around her waist. “He’s very good.”

“What did I say about being at work?” Regan said, but she leaned against him.

“Are you alright to be here?” he asked. “The protection detail will drive you back to the hotel, if you want.”

“I’m okay.” She paused. “A little bit light-headed. I kind of feel like …”

“Like the ground you thought you were standing on turned out not to be solid, after all?”

She shook her head, her hair tickling his cheek. “The opposite. Like I’ve been keeping my balance on quicksand for two years and suddenly it turned into solid rock.” She straightened a little, and McCoy let her go. “Now let’s be at work, since we’re at work.”

“Is it April Fool’s Day?” Dworkin asked inside the interrogation room. “Are we having it more than once a year, now? Have you really just arrested my client on a charge of saving your boss’s life?” He lowered his voice and leaned toward Carver. “Does Jack know how much you dislike him?”

Carver regarded him impassively. “Mr Dworkin. There are additional questions for your client to answer.”

“Oh, false arrest! Delightful! I do enjoy a good civil suit, especially one with a multi-million dollar tag-line.”

“John Rivera talked, Neil,” Eames said. “He was actually very informative. Would you like to read his statement?” She pushed the pages across the desk.

Gorton pushed them back. “Lies.”

“You don’t even know what he said,” Goren said. “But you’re so sure it’s lies.”

“I’m not an idiot, detective. Although you might be. I know what he said in the courtroom, I was there. Jack McCoy showed his hand. I know what he’s up to. The only question is, how long will the rest of you let yourselves be used as cats-paws in this crazed vendetta of his?”

“Is that really the direction you want to go, counselor?” Carver asked.

“I’d like to confer with my client,” Dworkin said.

“It’s alright, Randy,” Gorton said.

“You should listen to your lawyer, Neil,” Goren said. “He’s, uh, here to make sure we don’t trick you. To look out for your interests.”

Gorten snorted. “I don’t need protection from the feeble strategies of the D.A’s Office.”

“Neil —” Dworkin said. He scratched his temple with one finger. “Really. Zip it.”

“I have nothing to hide,” Gorten said. “I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m beginning to think saving Jack McCoy’s life was an error of judgment, but it certainly wasn’t a crime.”

“About that. When did you buy the gun you used to shoot Lawrence Kuen, Neil?” Eames asked.

Dworkin raised a finger. “Legal, licensed gun. Check the permits.”

“Do you usually carry your gun around?” Goren asked.

“I got the gun a month or so ago. I received some threats.”

“Hard to imagine why,” Eames muttered.

“And that attitude, detective, is why I didn’t report them. I purchased an entirely legal firearm and began carrying it when I was out and about at night.”

“Moving on,” Dworkin said. “Do you have any actual, I don’t know, evidence? Charges? Balloon animals?”

Carver raised an eyebrow. “Balloon animals?”

“I love balloon animals,” Dworkin said. “Don’t you? I tried to learn to make them, but I always end up with a handful of scraps and a lot of hot air. Sort of like your case.”

“John Rivera’s statement isn’t hot air,” Carver said. “Read it, Mr Dworkin. He confesses to the murder of Emalia Coran at the behest of Mr Gorton.”

“And you gave him a deal on the killing he committed in exchange for telling you what he knew you wanted to hear!” Gorton leaned back and folded his arms. “I can’t, for the obvious reasons of privilege, tell you what my client told me, but I assure you, I’d consider it unethical to enter an affirmative plea if my client had informed me he hadn’t committed the acts charged.”

Dworkin was reading Rivera’s statement. He glanced up. “So my client was sympathetic toward Officer Rivera. A police officer shot? I’m sure a jury would be very sympathetic, too.”

“You told him she was making fun of him,” Goren said. He chuckled, and shook his head. “That was pretty smart. I mean, it doesn’t sound like you were telling him to kill her, but to a man like Rivera …”

“He also gave us the number of the burner phone you told him to buy,” Eames said. “And the number of the burner you used.”

Gorton shrugged. “Unsubstantiated allegation. Even if your theory was correct, which it isn’t, all you’ d have would be uncorroborated accomplice testimony. An anonymous phone, paid for in cash — I presume, having no actual knowledge. I was not the person using that phone, whatever he says.”

“Funny that that number was also used to call Lawrence Kuen about twenty minutes before he pointed a gun at Jack McCoy,” Eames said.

“An admitted criminal and a convicted criminal have a common associate,” Gorton said. “I’m shocked.”

“Especially since you’re the common associate. Give it up, Neil,” Goren said. “Rivera identified you.”

Eames nodded. “Pointed right at you in court.”

“If, and I say if, I gave any information to John Rivera …” Dworkin opened his mouth, and Gorton shook his head at him. “It’s fine, Randy. If I gave any information to Officer Rivera, it was purely to enable him to protect himself. I believed what he’d told me about Emalia Coran’s behavior.” He spread his hands. “Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was Rivera’s victim, too.”

“I think we’re done here,” Dworkin said.

“Oh, it’s fine,” Gorton said.

Dworkin scratched his temple with one finger. “No, Neil, actually, I think we are done. Detectives. I’d like to talk to my client.”

“I’m getting the feeling that Mr Gorton might like to revoke,” Carver said.

In the observation room, McCoy swore. Gorton’s eyes widened a little as he realized his danger. “No, actually,” he said. “I don’t.”

“I pushed him too fast,” Carver said a few minutes later, joining McCoy and Regan in the observation room. Goren and Eames followed him.

“That’s why we like to leave interviews to the professionals,” Eames said.

McCoy shook his head. “Don’t beat yourself up, Ron. If Neil started saying anything actually incriminating, Randy Dworkin would do anything up to and including leaping onto the table and breaking into ‘Don’t cry for me, Argentina’ to shut him up.”

“Now I’m tempted to go back in there,” Goren said.

Eames folded her arms. “I’m not.”

“A jury will see through him,” Regan said.

Carver shook his head. “Maybe not. I’ve seen him in court.”

“Charge him,” McCoy said. “The junior reporters assigned to cover arraignments won’t touch the floor tomorrow morning in their race to file a story. Maybe a bit of press coverage will shake loose a few recollections out there.”

“And if it doesn’t?” Carver asked.

McCoy looked at him. “Then it’ll be time to break out the big guns.”

.oOo.

Chapter 63: A Cat Of A Different Color

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Office of the District Attorney

10th Floor, One Hogan Place

6 pm Tuesday 24 July 2007

“And the case is strong enough to survive indictment?” Arthur Branch asked.

McCoy nodded. “Now Rivera’s cooperating, it’s a slam dunk. As far as the indictment is concerned, anyway. Trial could be a cat of a different color.”

Branch poured scotch into two glasses. “Juries don’t always like co-conspirator testimony.”

“I know.” McCoy accepted the glass Branch offered him. “And in this case, it’s the word of a self-confessed killer against a lawyer with no criminal record. That’s if we can corroborate. If we can’t, it’s nothing but accomplice testimony, and even if we can convince the jury, it doesn’t meet the standard of the statute.”

“On the bright side, it’s the word of a New York police officer against a lawyer who gets killers off for a living,” Branch pointed out.

“That’s certainly the way I’ll put it in court.” McCoy sank down onto the couch, and leaned his head back. He hadn’t felt his almost-sleepless night in the courthouse or the police station, but the day was over now, and an undertow of fatigue was beginning to pull at him.

“You mean, the way Ron Carver will put it in court,” Branch said.

McCoy nodded. “Yeah.”

“And Gorton’s lawyer will bring up all the history between the two of you, and paint the jury a vivid picture of a man blinded by hatred, spurred on by the ex-wife’s desire for revenge, pursuing a vendetta.”

“I can defend everything I’ve done,” McCoy said.

“The ability to split hairs on the rules has served you well before the ethics committee, Jack, but you know very well it won’t convince a jury.” Branch settled into the armchair across from the couch. “That plea bargain with Rivera will look like purchasing his testimony, to them.”

McCoy sipped his scotch. “That’s a hurdle a lot of prosecutions have to clear, and usually do.”

Branch nodded. “Usually. Honest opinion, Jack — what are Ron’s chances at trial? On the evidence the police have now, not the evidence you’re all hoping they find.”

“Fifty-fifty?” McCoy shrugged. “The jury won’t like Neil, but they’ll love Randy. The same phone was used to call Rivera and Kuen, but unless we can put that phone in Neil’s hands, it comes down again to how credible the jury finds Rivera. Everything we would have used to impeach Rivera during his trial, Randy will use against him in this one.” He tilted his glass, watching the amber liquid in it reflect the light. “On the plus side, juries have a much lower tolerance for coincidence than judges do. Regan puts Kuen with Gorton, Gorton knew where I was going to be when no-one else did — and a jury will find Regan credible.”

“And how is Ms Markham doing?”

McCoy shrugged a little. “Neil is a son-of-a-bitch and he did his best to take her apart. She said she was fine, but …” He shrugged again. “I honestly don’t know.”

Branch studied his drink. “Maybe a rotation through something with less pressure might do her some good.”

No, was McCoy’s immediate reaction. Regan belonged in the chair to his right at the bar table, in the cubicle down the hall. But I can’t honestly say I’m sure she’s fine. Her calm this afternoon could have been a woman capable of handling the curve-ball she’d been thrown. It could have been shock, too.

He nodded. “I’ll put it to her. Make a strong suggestion.”

“And my strong suggestion to you is to keep your personal life off the front pages of the Post and the Times.” Branch finished his drink. “Dworkin will use any impropriety between the two of you against her when she testifies against Gorton, you know that.”

“How many times do we have to have this conversation, Arthur?” McCoy said testily. “I don’t know what you think you know, but —”

“I don’t know anything,” Branch said. “For which you should be grateful. I certainly am. Because if I knew anything, beyond the fact that certain reptiles of the press are trying to make a four-course meal out of innuendo and implication, I would have to do something about it.”

McCoy lifted a hand wearily. “Message received. Again.”

“I don’t think it is. Jack, you think I’m the enemy. But you’re your own worst enemy. You’re busy resenting the hell out of me. That’s fine. But I have only so much political capital in the bank. I’ve dipped into that account again and again on your behalf. You’ve taken on congressmen, judges, Jackie Scott, the Hagen family, the Keeners — ”

“Rapists, murderers, and child abusers,” McCoy said.

“The Chinese government, and the Catholic Church. And I’ve backed you every time.”

“I go where the evidence of the crime takes me, Arthur.”

Branch nodded. “I know. Without fear or favor. And that’s why I’ve been willing to wear the political cost. But the result is, Jack, you’ve made a lot of powerful enemies and very few powerful friends, and I don’t have any favors in the bank with those enemies to persuade them to look the other way while you and your office romances get special treatment. I won’t enjoy coming down on you and Regan Markham like a ton of bricks, but when it’s my integrity on the line, I’ll be forced to.”

McCoy raised his eyebrows. “I think you’d enjoy it more than you think.”

“Possibly,” Branch admitted, getting to his feet. “You always have been a self-righteous S.O.B.”

McCoy stood as well. “It’s been a long few days. I’m going to call it a night.”

“The agents assessing the threat to you and Mr Chen and Ms Markham tell me you can all go home,” Branch said. “Now they have the number of that anonymous cell phone Gorton’s been using, they know he hasn’t been calling any other helpful felons. He’ll spend the night in custody and the F.B.I. have warrants for every phone, computer, and bank account he has access to.”

McCoy nodded. “Good to know. I’ll tell the others.”

“Keep your eyes open anyway. Be smart, Jack.”

McCoy couldn’t help a rueful smile as he left Branch’s office. Watching Arthur Branch talk himself into the position of genial boss giving avuncular advice would have been amusing, if McCoy himself hadn’t been on the receiving end.

Honesty forced him to admit there was some truth to what Branch had said. More than three decades in the District Attorney’s Office and more than ten years in his current position had seen him prosecute quite a few of New York’s great and good. Sometimes he’d lost, more often he’d been successful, but either way, the rich and powerful tended to hold grudges against those who dragged them through the criminal courts.

It’s possible Arthur really is in what Lanie Stieglitz calls God's little acre — east of the rock and west of the hard place.

And probable that Branch wasn’t altogether unhappy about occupying that particular piece of real estate.

His protective detail was waiting at the elevator. McCoy pressed the call button. “I’m told I can go home?”

One of the agents nodded. “We’re still on the clock until eight, though. We’ll take you back to the hotel to collect your belongings and transport you to your domicile.”

Your domicile. McCoy was too tired to laugh. “Just a hint, one professional to another,” he said as they all filed into the elevator. “In case you’re ever on the stand. Most people call them ‘homes’.”

“If I’m ever on the stand, sir,” the agent said very seriously, “it will be because I’ve failed in my duty. So I don’t plan to ever be on the stand. But I’ll bear it in mind.”

The trip back to the hotel took far too long in the evening rush hour. McCoy closed his eyes and let his head rest back against the seat. “Any word from your colleagues about my colleagues?”

“They’ve been returned to their … homes.”

Dammit. He wanted to see for himself that Regan was alright. He wanted to see Regan, period. Whether she wanted to talk, or not, whether he could persuade her to go to bed with him, or not … he just wanted to see her, to hold her, to know that this interminable, exhausting day was over for both of them.

He took out his phone.

Regan answered on the first ring. “Jack. How’d it go with Arthur?”

“A qualified atta-boy,” he told her, and smiled to hear her laugh. “He’s justifiably concerned about the weakness of the case as far as trial goes. Randy Dworkin is good, Regan. He’s never beaten me but he wins a lot more often than he loses.”

“Carver’s good,” Regan said.

“He is good, and he’s good with juries, better than I am from time to time,” McCoy said. “He’s also exactly the wrong attorney to put up against Dworkin. Gravitas doesn’t play well against the class clown everybody likes.”

“How did you beat him?”

“Outrage,” McCoy said. “Dworkin’s schtick works by making the jury sympathetic toward the defense and by obfuscating the victims and the nature of the crime. I held the victims in front of the jury and forced them to look.” He paused, and chuckled. “Also, there was the time I blackmailed his client into taking a plea.”

“There’s time to substitute counsel,” Regan said. “Carver won’t like it, though.”

“No, he won’t,” McCoy said. “And I don’t know who I’d put in. Tracey Kibre will look like a bully when Dworkin goes in to his song and dance routine. Christine Danielson maybe? Mike Cutter might be able to pull off the outrage, for that matter, and he’s the most competitive attorney I’ve ever met.”

“Apart from you,” Regan said dryly, and McCoy laughed.

“I’d put you in if you weren’t a witness,” he said.

“Me?” Regan said, sounding startled.

“Sure. I’d have to put someone in your second chair who could handle Dworkin on the law, but in the courtroom, this trial is going to come down to who the jury likes most. Dworkin’s charming, but you talk to the jury like every cop who ever helped them fill in the paperwork on their stolen vehicle report so the insurance payout wouldn’t get held up. Juries like Randy Dworkin, but they trust you.” He paused. “How’s Abbie?”

“Fine. Taking a nap.”

“And Regan — you’re doing okay?”

“A little shaky,” she admitted. “Mostly just tired. It’s … a little unreal. What David said. What Marco did. I keep thinking about the first time I saw that footage, how it felt. What I thought it made me. And I … I thought Marco was doing me a favor. Giving me the nod, like a good partner should.”

“He was never a good partner to you,” McCoy said.

“I screwed up his life pretty good for him,” Regan said. “I made my share of mistakes. We got involved a little bit, romantically. My marriage was falling apart and I was spending so much time with Marco … I was lonely, I guess. I didn’t think about the consequences for him.”

“You mean, you were vulnerable, and he took advantage of you,” McCoy corrected, and then heard what he’d said. Is that really so different from what I’ve done?

Yes. For one thing, I don’t have a wife. Or was that just a self-serving excuse?

“I’m taking Dave out to dinner,” Regan said. “Before his flight. Want to join us?”

“Three’s a crowd,” McCoy said.

“Well, okay,” Regan said matter-of-factly. “I’ll tell Dave he has to forage for his own food.”

McCoy chuckled. “I know you don’t mean that,” he said. “The two of you probably have a lot of catching up to do.”

“Yeah, and war stories are boring when everyone at the table knows every word,” Regan said. “I know Dave would like the chance to ask you about a few of your higher profile cases.” She paused. “And Jack, I could really use a buffer.”

“A buffer?” McCoy asked, puzzled. He hadn’t picked up that kind of interest in Regan from David Cohen. “What, you think he’s going to —”

“Want to talk about today,” Regan said, cutting him off. “About what happened back then, about Marco and Robbie — I barely held him off over lunch by going through every damn detail of the case against Gorton. He’s a lovely, kind man, and I absolutely can’t spend a couple of hours in meaningful conversation with him tonight, so will you please — I’ll beg, Jack, if it will help. I will.”

“I’ll be there,” he said, remembering how unbearable Liz Olivet’s conviction that he needed to talk had been in the months after Claire’s death.

“Thank you,” Regan said. “La Sirene, half past seven.”

“Half past seven,” McCoy repeated. He ended the call, and after a moment’s thought, dialed another number. “Colleen? How are you getting home?”

“I’m getting a ride with Ms Rubirosa,” Colleen said. “Ms Markham arranged it.”

“Good,” McCoy said. “That’s good. Listen, before you go, could you look a few things up for me? I’m looking for any high-profile cases David Cohen’s handled in Seattle recently. Something I might have read about.”

“I’ve found three,” Colleen said calmly.

“I’m not going to ask how you knew I’d want to know,” McCoy said. “I’ll assume it’s another example of your extraordinary telepathic powers.”

Colleen laughed. “Ms Markham asked me to find a nice restaurant someone from out-of-town would like, and to make the reservation for three people.”

“So, an example of your extraordinary deductive powers, then,” McCoy said. “What were the trials?”

She gave him the names and the salient details and McCoy committed them to memory as he got out of the car at the hotel and headed inside to pack his few belongings. No better way to derail a workaholic attorney’s conversation than asking about his work.

.oOo.

Notes:

The Lanie Stieglitz quote is actually from something she said to Ben Stone in “Point of View”, episode 9 of season 3

Chapter 64: Dinner And Conversation

Chapter Text

La Sirene Restaurant

8 pm Tuesday 24 July 2007

Jack McCoy could be a charming S.O.B when he chose, and he was choosing to be so tonight. For once, though, he wasn’t exercising his charm in Regan’s direction. Instead, despite the fatigue that Regan could see in the shadows beneath his eyes and in the slight slump to his shoulders, he was exerting himself to be the perfect dinner companion, keeping the conversation flowing, steering it from cases in Seattle he’d read about to old trials of his own without allowing for any lull or pause that might give David Cohen the chance raise any topics of his own.

“And then my assistant at the time, Abbie Carmichael, typed up a letter on letterhead from the Houston D.A’s Office and we told Bergstrom we were dropping the charges against him so as not to delay his extradition to a death penalty state,” McCoy said. “He confessed to a murder we couldn’t link him to in any way just to prove to Abbie that she didn’t have any say in his fate.”

“Smart,” Cohen said, nodding. “She must be a hell of a poker player. Does she still work for you?”

McCoy shook his head. “Southern District, now. I expect to see her name on a list of judicial appointments before too many more years go by.”

Regan raised her eyebrows. “Abbie? No chance. The first time the law required her to rule for the defense, she’d blow a gasket.”

“She’s mellowed,” McCoy protested.

“Jesus Christ, what was she like before?” Regan said, incredulous, and he laughed.

“Well, she used to accuse me of being a bleeding heart,” he said. “How about you, David? I read about your prosecution of Raymond Jenkins. Fifteen years for deprivation of liberty? What is that, a class C out there? How did you swing that?”

“I stacked it with the theft of the car involved and an unrelated indecent liberties offense,” Cohen said. “You see —”

And he was off along the highways and down the byways of the plea deal he’d negotiated, while McCoy listened with interest and made appropriately appreciative remarks — and made it possible for Regan to sit quietly and enjoy her food and let the conversation wash over her.

He has to be as exhausted as I am. McCoy had been up most of the night preparing to fight any attempt to extradite her, so Ron Carver could concentrate on preparing for the testimony he’d have to lead in the courtroom. He’d been in the courtroom all morning, worked through the lunch-break to make sure Rivera testified, and then gone back to One Hogan Place after Neil Gorton was charged to make personally sure that every aspect of the next morning’s arraignment was under control.

But despite all that, because she’d asked him, he was here, as vividly on as he ever was in a courtroom, controlling the conversation as deftly as he could control a cross-examination. And probably using as much energy and concentration as a cross-examination takes, as well.

He does love that white horse.

McCoy glanced at her and caught her watching him. He raised an eyebrow in silent query, warm concern in his eyes. Regan smiled, and nodded slightly. I’m okay. McCoy put his hand on her knee beneath the table and kept it there, his touch reassuring rather than suggestive.

By the time Cohen had to catch his cab to the airport, McCoy had left him absolutely no opportunity to ask Regan how she was feeling, how she was coping, no opportunity to raise any personal topic of conversation at all. They walked him out, put him in the taxi and waved as it pulled away.

Then McCoy let out a long breath, shoulders slumping, and closed his eyes for a moment.

Regan put her arms around his waist and kissed him lightly on the lips. “Thank you,” she said, because I love you was too gauche and small-town. The evening was refreshingly cool after the overnight storm, cool enough for the warmth of his body against hers to be comfortable — and comforting.

He didn’t open his eyes, but his arms came around her and he smiled. “Is the day over yet?” he asked, comically plaintive. “Please say yes.”

“Yes,” Regan said. “Thank god.”

His smile widened, and he opened his eyes. “Then can I offer you a nightcap?”

“On two conditions,” she said.

“Yes,” McCoy said promptly.

Regan laughed. “You don’t know what they are.”

“I don’t care.” His arms around her tightened a little. “I want my couch, and I want a scotch, and I want to share them both with you. The rest is details. Now can we please get a cab?”

“Yes, we can get a cab,” Regan said. She pulled away from his embrace and raised a hand to flag one down.

McCoy hardly spoke during the ride to his apartment building, in fact, Regan suspected that he fell asleep once or twice. He roused himself when the taxi pulled up, though, scrubbing a hand over his face and insisting on paying the fare when Regan started searching her pockets for her wallet.

In the elevator, he turned to her. “What are your conditions? For the nightcap?”

“You’ve already agreed,” Regan reminded him.

“I know, I’m just wondering what I agreed to.”

The elevator doors opened and Regan followed McCoy down the corridor. “One, that it be here or at Abbie’s, so if I fall asleep in my scotch no-one will know.”

He dug out his keys and unlocked the door. “Condition one, met. Condition two?”

“That you don’t start asking me how I am,” Regan said.

McCoy paused in the act of taking off his suit jacket, and then shrugged out of it and hung it carelessly on one of the hooks by the door. “Since I’ve already agreed, fine.” He loosened his tie. “But in that case, I have a condition of my own.” He raised his eyebrows. “Or you can sit and watch me drink my scotch.”

“What condition?” Regan asked cautiously.

Instead of answering, he went into the living room. Regan watched from the doorway as he picked up two glasses from among the litter of paper on his desk, and set them on the coffee table. “I want a promise,” he said, and dropped exhaustedly onto the couch. He patted the couch cushion next to him. “Come here.”

“First, show me the scotch,” Regan said, and McCoy chuckled, and felt around beside the couch to produce a mostly-full bottle.

“Offer of proof,” he said.

She sat down next to him as he splashed a generous measure into both glasses. He handed her one, picked up the other, and leaned back, stretching his free arm along the back of the couch and putting his feet on the coffee table. “Alright, what promise?” she asked.

“You don’t want to talk to me about it, and that’s fine. I’ll take your word for it that you’re alright. But I want you to promise me that if you’re not alright, you’ll tell Emil. Or Abbie, or Lennie Briscoe, or anyone, I don’t care. Whoever you want.”

Regan sipped her drink. “Okay,” she said.

McCoy rolled his head to look at her. “I mean it, Regan. Don’t let the water get up to your chin again.”

“Okay,” Regan said again, and McCoy smiled. His arm slipped from the back of the couch to circle her shoulders.

“Then come here,” he said, tugging her towards him. “And drink your scotch.” She settled against him, head on his shoulder, and felt him sigh. “That’s better.”

“How did you know?” Regan asked. “About the 911 tape?”

“I didn’t,” McCoy said.

She raised her head a little to look at him. “But you knew there was something.”

He shook his head without lifting it from the back of the couch. “No.”

“You watched that CCTV footage. That would be enough to get me indicted, here in Manhattan, if the case came across your desk.”

“It might have gotten you invited to a conversation,” McCoy said. “But not to a Grand Jury.”

“Because we’re —” She hesitated.

McCoy’s hand slid down her back. “Say it.”

“Lovers,” Regan blurted out, cheeks burning, and he chuckled. “Not that I don’t appreciate your faith in me, Jack, but —”

“Not faith,” he said, fingers tracing the line of her spine. “You remember the Fantarri case?”

Regan shook her head. “Must have been before my time.”

“Before your time, I guess. It was a particularly brutal murder. The victim was found in his own home, one hand cut off, injuries all over him. The police looked at it as a hit, maybe Cartel. Someone really sending a message.” He shrugged a little. “Until they found Fantarri’s car, upside down and scrap metal five blocks from his house, and his hand inside, and the blood trail leading from the car to his front door. He’d crawled out of the wreck and walked home, and put himself to bed, where he bled to death. Verdict — death by misadventure. That alone is reason enough not to rush to the Grand Jury based off that footage, the basic medical fact that the amount of blood you’d lost must have been profoundly disorienting.” His hand skimmed one of the lumps of scar tissue on her back. “Not only wouldn’t I have any confidence I could get an indictment under those circ*mstances, I couldn’t in all conscience argue that one would be justified. I couldn’t have satisfied myself that you had the capacity to form the requisite intent.”

“We’re supposed to be trained to get it right, no matter what,” Regan said. “Shot or not. Blood loss or not.”

“Nobody trains for that, Regan, except maybe the Tom Cassidys of the world,” McCoy said. “You were a patrol officer, not a Ranger or a Navy Seal.”

She had to admit that he had a point. She could remember how darkness had hazed the edges of her vision, the long tunnel with Tourmetti at the other end of it, the struggle to hold on to the idea of what she was supposed to do. “Alright,” she conceded. “One reason. That it might have been an error of judgment and not an intentional homicide.”

“Then there was the original inquiry.” She felt him pull a hairpin free from her French knot. “They might have covered for you, of course. But Qiao Chen pointed out to me how hard it is to keep cover-ups secrets in this day and age.” Another pin came free. “If someone in New York had a video recording of a bad shoot, how long before it would playing on the nightly news?”

“About thirty minutes,” Regan said.

McCoy nodded. “If the Department had been covering for you, someone would have felt the prickle of conscience or of avarice, and slipped a copy of that footage to a reporter. No way that stays local, not with color pictures. The scandal would have even reached New York. But it didn’t, so I had to believe there was more to know.”

“A pretty thin thread,” Regan said. “Absence of evidence doesn’t mean evidence of absence.”

McCoy smiled, and as the last of the pins came loose from her hair, ran his fingers through the strands. “I think I’ve made that argument myself in front of a few judges on motions to dismiss.” He was silent a moment, hand settling on the nape of her neck. “Regan, how were you so certain that Keri Dyson was lying? And don’t tell me it was because you know me. You’re too good a prosecutor for me to think you’d fall into that trap.”

“It was because I know you,” Regan protested. “I’ve seen you drunk off your ass, Jack. Drunk off your ass, and furious with me, and you didn’t raise a hand. And drunk off your ass, and hitting on me, and making jokes when I shut you down. I’ll believe people can behave unexpectedly when they’re drunk, but a charming drunk turning into a nasty drunk overnight?”

The corner of McCoy’s mouth turned up. “You think I’m charming?”

“You know very well I think you’re charming,” Regan said. “When you want to be.”

“You’re not,” McCoy said.

“Thanks very much,” Regan said dryly.

“You know what I mean,” McCoy said, setting his empty glass down on the arm of the couch. “You’re fishing for a compliment.”

Then give it to me. Regan kept the words firmly behind her teeth. “I know I can’t compete with the —”

McCoy turned, leaning over her, and silenced her with a kiss. He took his time, coaxing her lips open, tasting her mouth, teasing her tongue with his own. He shifted position, his knee pressing hers apart, weight over her and against her. By the time he broke the kiss, Regan was breathing hard. “You’re too honest to be charming,” McCoy said in a low voice as intimate as his kiss had been. “You’re exactly who you are, no matter what.”

Regan struggled to pull her scattered thoughts together. “Who I am is someone who whaled on that asshole harassing Serena. I hit that kid, the one at the scene when Mike got shot. I —”

“And if you’d punched Tourmetti, that’d be relevant,” McCoy said. “I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate the fact that your impulse control has improved —” Regan couldn’t help laughing at the way he phrased it, and McCoy grinned down at her. “And if this had been about Tourmetti taking a bad slip-and-fall during arrest, I might have had doubts. But what that footage showed?” He shook his head. “I knew there had to be more to it than that.”

She raised her hand and brushed aside the lock of hair that always tended to fall across his forehead by the end of the day. “Thank you.”

“You were the one who told me that we all have to trust somebody.” He turned his head slightly, following her touch. Regan repeated the gesture, and his eyes closed. “Regan, I didn’t invite you back here to take advantage of you, but you keep doing that and I’m going to start getting ideas.”

Regan shifted beneath him, arching her back a little. “Feels like you might already have a few.”

“I’ll admit to motive,” McCoy said, and then caught his breath as Regan moved again. “Not to intent.” He lowered his head to kiss her neck.

“I could make a case for reckless endangerment.” She hooked one leg around his and pressed closer, smiling as he moved in counterpoint. “Although it feels like that intent is firming up nicely, so I might take a chance on the top count.”

McCoy gave a low laugh and surprised Regan by rolling over, drawing her with him until she was half-sprawled across his lap. “This sort of top count?” One hand settled on her breast and the other found the hem of her skirt.

“Definitely something I can work with,” Regan agreed as he pushed her skirt higher. “We should maybe go into the bedroom.”

“But I like the view here,” McCoy said with a lazy smile, and Regan felt herself blush. He chuckled. “And you were doing so well with the innuendo. I like looking at you, Regan, you may as well get used to it. I like looking at you, I like listening to you, I like —” His hand moved up her thigh and skimmed her panties. “Touching you. All of it.” His touch firmed, and she gasped. “Is that good?”

Regan nodded. “You know it is,” she said unsteadily as the tingling warmth of his touch shifted to an urgent ache.

He changed the rhythm. “How about like this? Tell me what you like. What you want.”

“I … that’s …” Her cheeks burned.

“Regan,” McCoy coaxed.

“Like before,” she blurted. “A little harder — yes.” And then, involuntarily, as he complied, “Yes, god, yes — oh, god!” A keen pang of pleasure made her shiver, then another, and then she was shaking and gasping in his arms as a final sharp twist of release overwhelmed her. “Oh, god, Jack.”

McCoy drew her down to rest against his chest, running his fingers through her hair. “Better?”

She relaxed into his embrace. “Better than better,” she mumbled, and he laughed softly. “This …” She hesitated, then admitted. “This feels good, too.”

“I’m glad,” McCoy said, “because I like it. I like falling asleep with you, too. And waking up with you. Will you stay the night?”

Regan raised her head. “You’re planning on us falling asleep?”

He waggled his eyebrows at her, comically lascivious. “Eventually.”

.oOo.

Chapter 65: Learning Experience

Chapter Text

Arraignment Court

9.30 am Wednesday 25 July 2007

“Docket number 312 872. People versus Neil Gorton, two charges felony murder, one charge felony attempted murder.”

Judge Janice Goldberg raised an eyebrow. “Did I hear that right?”

“I share your amazement, your honor,” Randy Dworkin said. “My client pleads not guilty, by the way.”

“I’d expect nothing less. Do the People wish to be heard on bail?”

“People request remand, your honor,” Connie Rubirosa said. “Mr Gorton commissioned the murder of Emalia Coran, also known as Emily Watson. He further commissioned an attempt of the life of E.A.D.A. Jack McCoy, during which he murdered his co-conspirator. Remand with special administrative measures is warranted.”

Dworkin wagged a finger at her. “My client has no criminal record. Zero, zip, nil, nada. He’s a respected member of the New York Bar in good standing, he has strong ties to the community —”

“He’s facing a top count charge for murders committed to cover up another crime,” Connie interrupted. “The likelihood that Mr Gorton will offend further in an attempt to —”

“And oh, if only my client had been convicted of any of those offenses instead of just accused of them, Ms Rubirosa’s argument might have some merit.”

“The defendant has been identified by a co-conspirator —”

“In exchange for a very generous plea bargain. Apart from that extremely convenient I.D, which incidentally amounts to uncorroborated accomplice testimony, the People’s case is nothing but a collection of coincidence.”

“We regard them as circ*mstances, your honor, as in circ*mstantial evidence.”

“And you can tell the trial judge and jury all about it,” Judge Goldberg said. “They’ll care. I don’t.”

Connie glared at Dworkin. “Mr Gorton has considerable resources, wide contacts in the criminal fraternity —”

Dworkin spread his arms wide. “So do I, your honor, I’m a defense attorney. Want to clap me in jail?”

“Don’t tempt me,” Judge Goldberg said. “Bail is set at one million. Defendant will surrender his passport. Any contact with convicted criminals will be a violation.” She raised her gavel.

Gorton leaned forward. “Your honor, that means I’ll have to withdraw from trials already in progress and —”

“Life’s a bitch, Mr Gorton,” Judge Goldberg said. “And then you’re arraigned by one. Next!”

Connie gathered her papers and left the well of the court as the clerk started in on docket number 312 873.

“One million dollars!” Dworkin said, catching her up. “That should put you on Jack McCoy’s Christmas card list.”

“What do you want, Mr Dworkin?” Connie asked.

“Would dinner be out of the question?” He gave her a hopeful smile, and then looked crestfallen. “I see from your face that it is. How about breakfast, then?”

“How about a sexual harassment complaint?” Connie snapped.

“I meant now, not tomorrow, but I’m flattered that you think of me that way,” Dworkin said. He produced a blue-back from his pocket. “Just a little light reading for you to enjoy over your ham and eggs. Omnibus motion to suppress, exclude and dismiss. Officer Rivera’s identification was in no way properly conducted, under the circ*mstances he can’t possibly be able to render an objective identification now, which means his testimony is out, everything the stems from that testimony is the fruit of the poisonous tree and is also out, and alas for you and hooray for me, that means you have no case. Enjoy.”

Connie opened the motion and began reading as Dworkin strode off. She followed more slowly, eyes on the page, and almost walked straight into Jack McCoy in the courthouse corridor.

He took the pages from her. “Dworkin’s moving to suppress Rivera’s statements?”

“Yes, how did you know?”

“It’s what I’d do, if I had the poor taste to be representing Neil Gorton.” He scanned the first page, and gave the blue-back back to her. “Don’t worry about it. Identification by confrontation may not be the gold standard, but Rivera and Gorton had a prior relationship. The fact that he must have known who to point out is irrelevant, since he already knew who he was pointing at.”

Connie shoved Dworkin’s motion into her briefcase. “Then why did he file it? And why are you here, hovering around the arraignment court?”

“He filed it because that’s what good defense attorneys do, they throw everything against the wall and hope some of it sticks. You’ll get used to it when you’re in major felonies. And I’m not hovering.”

When you’re in major felonies. Connie hugged those words to herself, careful not to let any glee show on her face. “Then why are you here?”

“I have a meeting downstairs,” McCoy said. “One you might as well come along to.”

Connie followed him along the corridor. “Meeting with who?”

“Neil Gorton.”

She stopped dead. “Jack, you can’t! You’re a witness —”

I’m not meeting with Neil Gorton.” He turned to face her. “Judge Ross is. Come on.”

He strode off again and Connie had to lengthen her stride to catch up. “Judge Ross? Isn’t that ex parte? Is she —”

McCoy jabbed the button for the elevator at the end of the corridor. “She’s not his trial judge. She’s his ex-wife.” The elevator arrived and he held the doors for her. “And she’s a stickler for ethics, so stop fretting. It’s a private meeting between former husband and former wife, not between defendant and judge.”

The elevator jolted and started downward. “If it’s a private meeting, why are we going to it?”

“Neil’s in custody while they process his bail. What do you remember about Maryland v. King?”

“Reduced expectation of privacy for non-privileged communications when in a custodial situation,” Connie said, nodding.

“And Neil hasn’t enjoyed marital privilege with Jamie for quite some time. I’m going to it because I’m hoping to make a deal that will see Neil serve real time and prevent him tap-dancing his way to an acquittal on what is a largely circ*mstantial case, with a key plank of it being currently uncorroborated accomplice testimony. You’re going to it because you’re second chairing the case and sooner or later you’ll be making deals like this for yourself. May as well start learning how now.”

The elevator doors opened and Connie followed McCoy out. “Then shouldn’t Ron Carver be here?”

McCoy gave her a sideways glance, a slight smile. “Ron doesn’t approve.”

Connie stopped dead. “Jack. I have to work with him.”

“Don’t worry.” He put his hand under her elbow and got her moving again. “He’ll blame me.”

Connie did her best to ignore the firm, warm hand beneath her arm. Jack McCoy had a reputation for being dangerous to the judgment of his female co-workers, and that was a complication she didn’t need in her working life. Not again. “Ron doesn’t approve of the deal?”

McCoy shook his head. “He’s happy with the deal. He’s not crazy about my tactics.”

“Is Judge Ross going to try to get him to say something incriminating?”

“No, Neil’s too smart for that, and he knows the rules as well as I do. He won’t say anything that we can use against him.”

“Then what’s she going to do?”

They reached a closed door, and McCoy reached for the handle. “Appeal to his better nature,” he said, put a warning finger to his lips, and opened it.

It led to the officers’ station at one end of the long corridor of holding cells. It was set up to give the corrections officers a clear view of the cells, but from where McCoy stopped, near the door, the wall obscured one side of the block. Connie tiptoed over to stand beside him, trying not to let her heels make any noise on the tiled floor.

From somewhere out of sight, Judge Jamie Ross said, “Hello, Neil.”

“Jamie,” Gorton said. “Come to gloat? It took you and Jack McCoy long enough, but you finally got your revenge.”

“One count of murder-for-hire, one of felony murder in the first degree, and one of attempted murder for hire.” Jamie’s light voice was even. She might have been giving directions to a jury. “That’s three life sentences. Do you really think I’m gloating over the prospect of Katie spending the rest of her life talking to you once a week through the glass of the visiting room in Attica?” Connie heard Jamie take a few steps, and then she burst out, “How could you, Neil? Never mind the law. Never mind that it was wrong. Never mind that an innocent woman died. How could you do this to Katie?”

“Katie —”

“Is going to have to live with the knowledge that her father is a murderer. She loves you, Neil. She loves you because I’ve lied to her for you for a decade. When you were too busy to see her school play, or watch her ball game.” Connie wanted to cover her ears as Jamie’s voice picked up in both tempo and volume. This is too personal. I shouldn’t be hearing this, not about a judge. She glanced at McCoy. His gaze was on the floor, his head slightly co*cked to listen. His eyes were hooded and his mouth was set in a grim line. “When you canceled holidays because you had the chance to jump on a high-profile case. When you didn’t call. When you forgot her birthday, Neil, and I told her you’d called when she was in the shower and that you’d had to go back into the courtroom. It’s actually been easier the less you were around, because she knows you well enough to spot the lie in your eyes.”

“You’re a saint. Is that what you want? Saint Jamie, leaving my firm because your ethical standards were so much higher than the rest of us. Leaving the D.A’s Office because even they weren’t good enough. Ruling like Solomon on the bench.”

“I’m not a saint, Neil. I love my daughter. I’d do anything for her.”

“So would I, you know,” Gorton said. “I know you don’t believe it. But so would I.”

“Then take a plea,” Jamie said, almost begging. “Offer Jack something. You’ll have to do time, but not life.”

“I can beat this, Jamie,” Gorton said. “Katie will know I’m innocent.”

“No,” Jamie said. “If you beat this, it will be because the jury doesn’t know you well enough to know when you’re lying. But I do. And Katie does. I’ll bring her to every day of the trial, Neil. You’ll have to testify. And when you do, I’ll make sure she’s sitting there, watching you lie and lie and lie.”

“You wouldn’t —”

I will. I’ll explain every sentence of the trial to her. I’ll make sure she understands that you arranged the murder of an innocent woman and took the life of a man. And the one thing she’ll never forgive you for, Neil, I’ll make sure she understands that you did it all to cover up the fact that you were stealing from her —”

“I was not stealing from her!” Gorton shouted. “They were supposed to be good investments, dammit, Jamie! People have been making a fortune leveraging debt, why shouldn’t Katie get the benefit too? I just needed a little bit of time to make the money back!”

There was a long silence. When Jamie finally spoke, her voice was almost inaudible. “Oh, Neil.”

“That is not an admission of anything,” Gorton said. He raised his voice. “You hear that, Jack? I know you’re there.”

McCoy took a slow step forward and stood framed in the C.O. station’s window. “Hello, Neil.”

“Shame on you, Jamie, being party to this,” Gorton said.

“No, Neil,” Jamie said. “Shame on you.”

“So, Jack,” Gorton said. “What’s the offer you and her honor have cooked up for me?”

“That depends on what you have to say,” McCoy said.

Gorton laughed. “Oh, no you don’t,” he said. “I’m not an idiot.”

“Your lawyer isn’t here. You haven’t waived. Nothing you say to me is admissible,” McCoy said.

“Not if you take the stand,” Gorton said. “You think I’ve forgotten you’re a witness and not opposing counsel?”

“In which case, your attorney will point out that as Executive Assistant District Attorney I can hardly expect you to consider me a private citizen for the purposes of a conversation held while you’re in custody,” McCoy pointed out. “Statements made by a suspect who has invoked the right to counsel, to the police or their agents, are inadmissible if counsel is not present.”

“And then you’ll point out that my former wife, Judge Ross of the high ethics and pure morals, is the last person who could possibly be considered to be working on behalf of the police.”

“Then I’ll leave,” Jamie said. “I don’t think I want to hear this, anyway.”

Connie heard her footsteps coming rapidly toward the exit and a moment later Jamie rounded the corner. Connie gave her a small smile and a half-wave. She must hate knowing I heard all that. Then, as the judge brushed past her, Connie saw the tears standing in her eyes.

The door closed behind Jamie. “Alright, Neil,” McCoy said. He moved out of the guards’ station and paced slowly toward Gorton’s cell. “Cards on the table. Let’s say I accept that the financial losses were mismanagement rather than malfeasance. That’s a federal matter now, but I’ll talk to the U.S. Attorney. That still leaves two deaths. The same phone was used to call John Rivera before he killed Coran, and Lawrence Kuen before he came to that restaurant to kill me. It’s only a matter of time until the police find out just where that phone was sold. And then who it was sold to. Once they put that phone in your hands, it’s all over. Randy Dworkin can dance very fast, but even he can’t tap dance on quicksand.”

Gorton was still out of Connie’s line-of-sight, but she saw his hands as he stood up and grasped the bars of his cell. “Then why are you even talking to me? Don’t believe you can beat me in court?”

“I’ve done it before,” McCoy said. “I think I have a better than average chance of doing it again. But a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. That’s my incentive. Yours is avoiding a long, drawn-out trial in which every aspect of your behavior and your character will be hashed out over and over again, in the courtroom, in the papers, on the news and the talk-shows …”

“No such thing as bad publicity.”

McCoy’s voice was harsh. “Katie might not be so sanguine.”

Gorton was silent a moment. “That’s low, Jack.”

“Katie might not like you serving three life-sentences, either. Consecutively. Do you really want to roll the dice on that, Neil?”

“If I had a client sitting here, I would never advise him to take a deal on this.”

“That’s because if you had a client sitting here, you’d be going home at the end of the day. Win, lose or draw.”

“You don’t have the authority to deal.”

“Ron Carver does,” McCoy countered.

“And he’ll do what you tell him.”

“If it’s reasonable. There’s no way you’re getting out of this without jail time. Disbarment is a given.”

Gorton laughed a little. “You need to work on your sales pitch, Jack.”

“Two people are dead.” McCoy’s voice dropped to a quiet implacability. “I won’t insult your intelligence by pretending I’d offer probation, or that Ron Carver would accept it, or that Arthur would allow it, or that any judge in the state would permit it.”

“That was not supposed to happen. That was not supposed to happen. No intent, no crime. No crime, no time.”

McCoy raised his eyebrows. “What was supposed to happen?”

“Look, I got jammed up. I admit that, okay?” Gorton said. “I admit that. I made some unwise decisions, some decisions that in retrospect might be seen as unwise, with Katie’s money. Emily Watson, she wouldn’t leave well enough alone.”

“And you knew she was Emalia Coran,” McCoy prompted. “And you knew her ex-boyfriend, a police officer, might be induced to harm her.”

“I knew she was scared of him, that’s what she told Sciola. She changed her name and her job because of it. And she would have done it again, and her nose would have been out of my business. That’s all. That’s all that was supposed to happen.”

McCoy’s measured words fell like stones. “You wound up a man with a history of domestic abuse and aimed him directly at a woman he held a grudge against. You might as well have aimed a loaded gun at her. And what about Lawrence Kuen?”

“I did know he held a grudge against you, but I had no idea he had a gun. I thought he was planning to give you a hiding. You’d take some time off work… sh*t, Jack. I just needed more time. It wasn’t personal.”

“You brought a gun to the restaurant,” McCoy pointed out.

“I had the gun because I have been getting threats. That’s the truth. And I couldn’t let him shoot you,” Gorton said. “If he had, you know, I’d have got away with it. All of it. He was about to pull the trigger and the police would have blown him away half-a-second later. But I just … I couldn’t let him.”

“That’d be a pretty story if it was true,” McCoy said, unmoved. “But what you really mean is, you couldn’t take the chance he’d surrender and you wouldn’t have the opportunity to murder your accomplice and make it look like self defense.”

“That is not true,” Gorton insisted. “Not true.”

“Do you want to find out what a jury thinks is true?” McCoy paused as if waiting for an answer, but none came. “First Degree Reckless Endangerment, five years, for Emalia Coran. Conspiracy in the third for the planned assault on me. Five years. Man Two for Lawrence Kuen. Ten years. Served consecutively.”

“Concurrently.”

Consecutively.”

“Minimum security.”

McCoy shook his head. “Medium.”

“What if I could give you something?” Gorton said. “About someone else?”

“You can’t buy your way out of this with your clients’ secrets. You know the DA’s Office could never act on anything you told us —”

Not a client,” Gorton said. “Look. I had a P.I. follow Coran a few times, I was hoping she’d do something I could hold over her.”

“And did she?” McCoy asked.

“No, but one Sunday night she met with one of your other defendants. Girl called Teri Courtney? One of my associates is on the 18-B panel and I saw her name on the list. My P.I. said their meeting was cloak-and-dagger, changing cars, the whole nine yards. They met up with another woman. I’ve got pictures of the three of them. They were up to something. That’s got to be worth something!”

McCoy paused. “A strong recommendation that your time is served in a downstate facility. Somewhere driving distance from the city.”

“Jesus, Jack! Twenty years, when I didn’t actually do anything!”

“Going,” McCoy said implacably. “Going …”

“Alright!” Gorton said. “Al-f*cking-dammit-right!”

“I’ll tell Ron Carver and Randy Dworkin you’re ready for a conversation,” McCoy said, and turned away from the cell.

Connie waited where she was until McCoy reached her, and then opened the door to the corridor. He held it for her, and followed her out. “So what did you learn, A.D.A. Rubirosa?”

“A lot of things about Judge Ross that make me hope I’m not in front of her as an attorney for a long time,” Connie said ruefully. “That was uncomfortable.”

McCoy frowned at her. “Over the past thirty years, I’ve prosecuted judges, colleagues, and friends. I ordered a wiretap on my oldest friend and wrote the warrant for her arrest. Discomfort is part of the job, Connie, get used to it. What did you learn?”

Connie paused, thinking. “Time pressure. At the end, you pushed him to take the deal, here and now. No time to think.”

McCoy nodded. “Ticking clock.”

“And would you have walked away, if he hadn’t taken the deal?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” he said firmly. “There’s a time and a place for a bluff, but never put an offer on the table if you’re not willing to walk away from it.”

“Know when to hold them, know when to fold them?” Connie said.

McCoy nodded again. “What else did you learn in there?”

Connie shrugged. “Apart from the fact that Neil Gorton isn’t big on taking personal responsibility for his actions? Uh — you wouldn’t make him an offer until he told you his side of it.”

“I’ve been burnt before,” McCoy said. “All deals are conditional. Or else you find yourself offering Custodial Interference for accomplice testimony to someone who then tells you they pulled the trigger. Sometimes you have to put the deal on the table before they’ll talk, but always make it conditional on what they tell you. The object is to make a deal, not to get yourself fleeced. What else?”

Connie thought for a moment. “It wasn’t the evidence that pushed him over the edge. It was his daughter. You all but threatened him with the harm the publicity of a trial would cause her. Is that ethical?”

McCoy shrugged. “You use what leverage you have, Connie. I’ve threatened to expose extra-marital affairs, to put secret lovers on the stand in open court, to charge family members as co-conspirators. Pointing out to Neil the inevitable publicity a trial like this would generate is just stating a fact.”

“It still feels …” She hesitated. “Like I need a shower.”

“That part of it never goes away,” McCoy said. “But he’ll do twenty years. Even if we convicted him, he might have got away with fifteen on lesser included. You know what this means for you, of course?”

“For me?”

McCoy grinned at her. “Neil Gorton’s going to spend the next twenty years trading legal advice for jail-house favors. I hope you like the appeals court, Connie, we’re all going to be spending a lot of time in it in the future.”

.oOo.

Chapter 66: Complicated

Chapter Text

10th Floor,

District Attorney’s Office

One Hogan Place

10:30 am Wednesday 25 July 2007

“Regan.” Jack McCoy leaned in the door of her cubicle. “We’ve got —”

Her cell phone rang. She glanced at the screen, saw Rey Curtis, and held up one finger to stop McCoy. He fell silent as Regan pressed answer and raised the phone to her ear. “Rey. Good news, bad news?”

“Bad news for Daniel James,” Curtis said. “He was admitted to Mercy General last night, died early this morning. I haven’t seen the death certificate, but my source says it’ll read liver failure.”

Regan sighed, and closed her eyes. “I can’t say I’m sorry.”

“I know,” Curtis said. “I can’t say I blame you.” He paused. “Maybe he did change. I’ll light a candle for him, on the off-chance.”

It was Regan’s turn to pause. “Light two,” she said at last. “On the off-chance.”

She ended the call, and turned to McCoy. “Dan James is dead.”

“Good,” McCoy said instantly, and then, “You’re sure?”

Regan shrugged. “Rey Curtis’s word.”

“Good enough for me.” McCoy turned to look along the corridor toward Colleen’s desk. “Can you tell Colleen?”

Regan nodded. “I’ll tell her. Your office. Get a box of Kleenex and a glass of water ready.”

The corner of his mouth turned up. “Yes, ma’am.”

Regan stood up. “You want me to do the death knock because I’ve got experience, don’t —”

McCoy raised his hands a little. “Kleenex and water, got it.”

Regan gave him a minute or two as a head start, and then went to Colleen’s desk. There was an expression for the death knock: grave without being lugubrious, solemn without being sad. She put it on. “Colleen. Can I talk to you for a minute, in Jack’s office?”

Colleen looked up, eyes wide. She swallowed hard, and put a hand to her throat. “Is something … has Dan … is he here?”

“No,” Regan said. “He’s not here. I just need to talk to you for a minute.”

Colleen nodded, set the phone on her desk to message mode, and stood up. Regan walked her through the side door into McCoy’s office, and closed it behind her. McCoy had already closed the main door into the bullpen, and shut the blinds. Regan saw Colleen take all that and McCoy’s grave expression in. “What’s …”

“Please, sit down,” Regan said, not making it a question. She took Colleen’s arm and drew her to the couch. When Colleen sat down, Regan sat beside her. Given the circ*mstances, better to skip the standard ‘I’m sorry to tell you …’ “Colleen, Daniel James is dead.”

Colleen stared at her. “What?”

“Daniel James is dead,” Regan said again, in the same even, patient voice. “He was taken to hospital last night. He died early this morning.”

“He’s dead?” Colleen asked.

“Yes.” Regan gave McCoy a look, and he brought the box of tissues and the glass of water to the couch and sat down on Colleen’s other side. “He’s dead.”

“I should be sorry,” Colleen said. “If he’s dead, I should be sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Regan said.

“But I was married to him!” Colleen cried. “I should be sorry, I should —” She began to cry. Regan judged the tears to be relief and guilt rather grief.

She put her hand on Colleen’s shoulder as McCoy offered the tissues. “Is there someone we can call for you?”

Colleen shook her head. She took a tissue and sniffled into it. “Maybe he changed.”

“Maybe he should have changed the day he married you,” McCoy said acerbically, and Colleen sobbed harder.

Regan glared at McCoy over Colleen’s bowed head. Not helping. “It’s okay,” she said again, rubbing Colleen’s shoulder. “Are you sure there’s not someone we can call? Your sister?”

In Regan’s experience, practical questions always helped people get a hold of themselves, and Colleen was no exception. She gulped down a sob, and blew her nose. “She lives over in Hoboken. It’s too far to come.” She grabbed another tissue. “And anyway, I have too much to do today —”

“Jack can explain to Arthur,” Regan said.

Colleen shook her head. “No. I don’t want to go home and just — I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine.”

“Okay,” Regan said. “Let’s compromise. I’ll call your sister, and when she gets here, you take an early lunch and spend some time with her, and if you feel like you want to come back to work afterward, you do. And if not, you go home. How about that?” When Colleen hesitated, Regan put a little humor in her voice. “You know if you don’t agree, Jack is going to get some crazy idea about taking you over to her in Hoboken on the back of his motorcycle.”

Colleen gave a snuffle of laughter, and nodded acquiescence. “Her number is in my address book. Mary Callaghan.”

“Good,” Regan said. “Now, you just sit here until you feel ready to go back to your desk. I’m going to make that phone call, and Jack’s going to have a word with Arthur.”

“Does he have to know?” Colleen asked.

“Just that you’ve had a death in the family,” McCoy said. He offered Colleen the glass of water and she took it. “I’ll tell him you don’t want to talk about it.”

Regan caught his eye and rose to her feet. McCoy put his hand on Colleen’s shoulder for a moment, and then followed suit.

They went out into the hall, McCoy frowning. “She should be singing the hallelujah chorus, not crying for the son-of-a-bitch,” he said.

“Inside, she is,” Regan said. “That’s why she’s crying.”

He shook his head slightly, and knocked on Arthur Branch’s office door.

Regan found Colleen’s sister’s phone number and called it. The words here were familiar, too. There’s nothing wrong, first and important reassurance so the person on the other end of the phone could even hear what she said next over the drumbeat of panic. Your sister Colleen has had some unexpected news. Not ‘bad news’, not for a relative or friend unrelated to the deceased. Her former husband Daniel James has passed away. Not the blunt ‘dead’ or ‘has died’ that it was best to use when breaking the news to the most immediately bereaved, so there was no possibility of confusion or deliberate misunderstanding. Is it possible for you to come and be with her?

Mary Callaghan assured Regan that it was of course possible and that she’d be there as quickly as traffic would allow.

Regan cradled the phone. Thank you, Ken Hirata. He’d written out the sentences for her and made her memorize them in her first week on the job, had drilled her in the patrol car. Which words to use, how you always got them to sit down first. Give them a glass of water, never break any kind of shocking news to someone holding a hot drink. Never offer advice or commentary. Make them focus on answerable questions. You’re not a grief counselor, he’d insisted. Nothing you can think to say is going to make them feel any better, and it’s probably just going to make things worse.

Within a month she’d done her first notification, an easy one, an old lady whose next of kin was a cousin she hadn’t spoken to in fifteen years. Hirata had made her repeat what she was going to say in the car on the way over, again and again. By the time she was in the room, she was word-perfect. You did okay, Hirata had said when they were back in the patrol car on the way to the next job. Regan would learn over the time they worked together that you did okay was Ken Hirata’s highest praise. You did okay. The best gift you can give someone at a time like this is your respect and their dignity.

Regan looked in the door of McCoy’s office to make sure Colleen was alright. The executive secretary was sniffing a little, but she wasn’t really crying. Instead of going in, Regan went back to her cubicle and sat down at her desk.

Your respect, and their dignity. One of the many things Ken Hirata had taught her, along with how to soothe a crying baby and how to write an arrest report. Small things, details, was how she’d seen them at the time, twenty years old and certain that old Bill Markham had taught her everything she needed to know about being a cop.

But her great-grandfather would have put a bullet in Frank Tourmetti without even trying to get the cuffs on him, and try as she might, Regan hadn’t been able to see that as anything but wrong.

I wasn’t just the cop Gran-Da made me. I was the cop Ken Hirata made me, too.

And I was the cop I made myself.

McCoy’s voice startled her from her thoughts. “Regan?”

She turned. “Colleen’s okay,” she said. “Just … give a few moments to pull herself together in private.”

He nodded, and stepped into the cubicle, closing the door behind him. Regan thought about what Arthur Branch would say about that and thought about telling McCoy to open the door again, but the blinds were open, so she let it go. “What’s up?” she asked instead.

McCoy looked down at the floor, and then glanced at her from beneath his brows. “You think Colleen started crying because she’s glad Dan’s dead?”

Regan nodded. “Glad, guilty, relieved.”

He took the seat beside her desk, elbows on his knees, still looking at the floor. “I —” He stopped and shook his head. “I didn’t shed a tear for my old man. My mother, though, she cried a veritable ocean.” He shook his head again. “After what he did, to all of us, to mourn him.”

Her great-grandfather would have told McCoy not to dwell on the past. Ken Hirata would have advised Regan to stick to pro formas. I’m sorry for your loss. It must have been a difficult time.

But those three sentences were the closest Jack McCoy had ever come to saying out loud what she knew to be the truth of the house he’d grown up with, and he hadn’t been able to bring himself to look her in the eye as he spoke.

“Life is complicated,” she said, and reached out to put her hand over his.

McCoy looked up at her touch. “That from one of your movies?” he asked dryly, and Regan saw the shield of wry humor slipping back into place.

She shook her head. “Hard won experience.” McCoy unclasped his hands and let Regan lace her fingers through his. “I don’t know what your mother was thinking back then, Jack. But you might feel better if you can bring yourself to give her the benefit of the doubt.”

“I don’t know if I can do that,” he said quietly.

“And if the case came across your desk?” Regan asked.

He paused, mouth tightening, and looked away. For a moment Regan thought she’d pushed him too far. Dammit, Hirata always told me, nothing you can think to say is going to make them feel any better, and it’s probably just going to make things worse.

Then McCoy looked back at her, eyebrows up. He gave a small smile. “I’d think that she was his victim too. Life’s complicated.” He let go of her hand. “And it’s going to get more complicated for both of us if Arthur catches me in here with the door closed.”

“What were you going to tell me?” Regan asked as McCoy stood up and opened the door again. “Before Rey called?”

He turned, leaning against the door-frame. “That Neil took the deal.”

Regan blinked. “He did?”

McCoy nodded. “Ron and Randy Dworkin are wrapping it up —” He looked at his watch. “Right about now. He’ll do twenty years.”

“Twenty? How did you get him to go for that?” Regan paused. “On the case we have now … Jack, maybe it’s a mistake. There must be something he thinks we can find —”

McCoy shook his head. “That’s not why. Jamie Ross talked him into it.”

“That’s what you meant by the big guns,” Regan said.

“Neil took the deal to protect Katie from the publicity,” McCoy said. “And to protect himself from her finding out the details of what he’s done.”

Regan raised her eyebrows. “How did you know he’d go for it?”

“Fathers who disappoint their daughters,” McCoy said. “I know the territory.”

.oOo.

Chapter 67: Don't Thank Me Yet

Chapter Text

Trial Part 39

Supreme Court, Criminal Branch,

100 Centre Street, New York

Friday July 27, 2007

Jack McCoy sat in the public gallery, just behind Ron Carver the prosecution table, and listened to Neil Gorton tell his story to Judge Lisa Pongracic.

Jamie had kept her promise. Neither she nor Katie were in the courtroom. McCoy wondered what Neil and Jamie had told her. She was too old, now, for Daddy has to go away for a while to satisfy her.

For Katie and Jamie’s sake, McCoy hoped that Neil had been able to do what he himself never had: tell his daughter I was wrong, I made a mistake, I’m sorry.

By the time McCoy had understood that a lawyer’s tricks of persuasion and assertion were the very last things an angry teenage girl needed from her father, it had been too late.

If Gorton had been able to accept responsibility and admit guilt to his daughter, he certainly wasn’t keen to do so to the court. Even allocuting to crimes he’d pled guilty to, he was doing his best to spin everything as a series of unfortunate accident for which he shouldn’t be blamed.

It wasn’t supposed to happen … How many times had he heard defendants say those words? I thought … I meant … I never expected …

McCoy wasn’t sure just how much or how little he believed Neil, but in the end, it didn’t matter. Two people were dead, and a cop was going to jail, and Neil had set it all in motion. Neil might think that saying he’d never foreseen the outcome cast him in a better light, but all he was doing was betraying a self-obsession so monstrous that the lives and safety of others were nothing more than means to his own ends.

He glanced back at the courtroom doors. He’d expected to see Regan here, to see the final full stop on a case that had, in a way, started last year when two detectives from the 17th Precinct had rapped on Regan’s cubicle door and put a pile of search warrant requests in front of her for every aspect of Emalia Coran’s life.

He’d been stuck in an executive staff meeting until after nine the previous evening and Regan had gone home to Abbie’s — as much as McCoy had missed hearing the soft whisper of her breath as he drifted into sleep, he was glad to know that Abbie wasn’t on her own, too.

But he had been sure he’d see Regan in the courthouse, and she was nowhere in sight.

He’d make time to catch Regan at the office later today, put Branch’s suggestion to her that she move to appeals or something else with a slightly slower pace. And if I’m no longer her direct supervisor, Arthur will have a lot less to complain about.

Of course, Regan would be entitled to be furious with him at what was, effectively, a demotion from a highly-prized and hotly-contested desk in major felonies.

But if Colleen’s right — and she usually is when it comes to the rumor mill — Billy Billy is looking at private practice. That frees up a first chair on my floor … which frees up the chair of who-ever takes it … A whole round of musical chairs, up and down the building, and if McCoy could make it work, it might very well open up an opportunity that would be a promotion for Regan.

At last Gorton sat down. Carver rose to his feet. “The People are satisfied that the defendant has met the terms of the plea agreement.”

Judge Lisa Pongracic nodded. “Then in accordance with the plea agreement, I sentence the defendant to not less than twenty and not more than twenty five years incarceration at a facility to be determined by the Department of Corrections.”

Neil Gorton didn’t once look toward the public gallery as he was led away.

“Good work,” McCoy said to Carver as the prosecutor gathered his papers up from the bar table and started to put them in his briefcase.

“Yes, I carry water for the great Jack McCoy very well,” Carver said. “I could have got that plea agreement, you know. Without your help.”

McCoy shook his head. “Ron, I couldn’t have gotten that plea out of Gorton without Jamie’s help.”

“Talking the father of your child into twenty years jail time,” Carver said slowly. “Not something many women would do. It seems that once Jack McCoy’s second chair, always Jack McCoy’s second chair.”

McCoy stepped past the bar as Carver picked up his briefcase. “She didn’t do it for me, Ron. She did it for Katie. She’d do anything for Katie. And so would Neil. Including twenty years in jail.”

“Including two murders-for-hire,” Carver said. “I could have won at trial, you know.”

“I know,” McCoy said. “The detectives could have turned up more evidence, found sufficient corroboration. You could have won the jury over. Neil could have been egotistical enough to take the stand. But you’ve made enough deals to know the value in certainty, and there were more victims to consider than the ones listed in the indictment. I’m sorry I stepped on your toes, Ron, but I won’t apologize for getting the right result.”

“And the right result always just happens to be one that you want,” Carver said evenly. “The nameplate on your desk says you don’t owe me an apology. And I’m certainly not foolish enough to expect one.”

“Counselors,” Judge Pongracic said. “Do you have additional business for the court or just not have anywhere else to be?”

“Nothing from me, your honor,” Carver said. He stepped back past the bar and started for the door.

McCoy opened his bag and drew out his papers. He set them on the bar table. “Your honor, may I be heard on People v Courtney?”

Pongracic frowned. “That’s not set down until …” Her clerk whispered to her. “October.”

“I have a motion for the court. I apologize for the lack of formal notice, but I understand counsel for the defense will waive.”

“And is counsel for the defense here?” Pongracic asked.

Jessica Sheets rose to her feet in the public gallery. “Jessica Sheets, your honor, appearing for Teri Courtney.”

“Come up here, then,” Judge Pongracic said. “What’s all this about?”

“Your honor, new evidence has been brought to our attention that makes it unlikely a prosecution against Teri Courtney will be successful,” McCoy said, and Jessica did as the judge instructed. “Therefore, the People move for a dismissal of charges against the defendant and ask that you order her immediate release from custody.”

Pongracic rested her chin on her hand. “I can see why you expect defense to waive notice. How about it, Ms Sheets?”

Jessica smiled. “Delighted to, your honor.”

“Color me unsurprised. What’s this new evidence?”

McCoy spread his hands. “An unrelated party brought to the attention of the District Attorney’s Office a photograph of Ms Courtney taken at a time and place that made it impossible for her to have committed the offense charged.”

Pongracic frowned. “I don’t recall an alibi notice.”

“Your honor,” Jessica said, “My client instructed me to put the People’s case to proof. My hands were tied.”

“Now I’m curious about this photograph,” the judge said. “Relax, Ms Sheets, I have no reason to require it to be produced. Charges dismissed, without prejudice, and defendant to be released. Anything else you’d like to clear off my docket while you’re here, Mr McCoy?”

McCoy shook his head. “I’m afraid that’s all, your honor.”

“Pity. Court adjourned.”

“Thanks, Jack,” Jessica said as they both stepped back past the bar.

“Don’t thank me yet,” McCoy said. “Come on. I need to talk to you.”

He found an empty conference room, ushered her in, and shut the door behind them. She perched on the edge of the table. “What’s this about?”

McCoy set his attache case down on the table and took out the photograph Neil Gorton’s private investigator had turned over to the D.A’s Office late the day before. “This photo was taken by a private investigator following Emalia Coran,” he said, offering it to her. “It’s your client’s sheer dumb luck he was following her on the night she met with Teri Courtney, the night the murder of which your client is accused took place.”

Jessica took the photograph. “Yes, that’s definitely Teri.”

McCoy leaned closer to her. “This is your client, Teri Courtney,” he said, pointing to one of the figures in the photo. “This is my victim, Emalia Coran. And this third woman, I can’t identify, but I’d bet a year’s salary that if I could, I’d find a record under her name of hospital admissions for slips, and falls, and walking into open doors. Different hospitals, because she wouldn’t have gone to the same doctor, the same emergency room, more than once. Even if she wasn’t too ashamed of what was happening behind closed doors in her own home, her husband would never have allowed it.”

Jessica lowered the photograph. “That’s a sad but all-too-familiar story.”

“There’s more,” McCoy said, in the tone he used in the interview room at Rikers to set out the evidence against a defendant. “You represented Henry Chauncey two years ago. Peter Handry was a witness in that trial. He approached you afterward, didn’t he? Asked you something like how you could live with yourself? Not long after that he took a job providing security at a battered women’s shelter. Did you suggest that to him? Did you keep his contact details?”

Jessica shrugged. “Maybe. It was two years ago.”

McCoy shook his head. “I’m not going to ask you to violate privilege —”

Her eyebrows went up, almost to her hairline. “Well, that’s good, because —”

“I’m going to tell you a story, and you’re going to decide what you’re going to do about it. I know, Jess.”

He hadn’t known, he’d only had a strong suspicion, but Jessica’s sudden stillness told him he was right.

“There is an organization,” McCoy said precisely, “whose membership is secret, even to other members. It calls itself ‘the Underground Railroad’. It operates without legal sanction and, at times, outside the law. Its purpose is the relocation of women, and children, who are — or who claim to be — fleeing violent and abusive partners or former partners. Teri Courtney is a member. That’s why she refused to give her alibi — because she was meeting another member of this organization and she’d rather go to jail than betray her co-conspirators.”

Jessica folded her arms. “How about, rather than risk another woman’s safety?”

“You’re not representing Teri Courtney because you drew her in the 18-B rotation, Jess,” McCoy said. “You’re representing her because you’re part of the same conspiracy. Did you tell her to keep silent?”

“I begged her to tell the police!” Jessica burst out, rising to her feet. “God, Jack, what do you think I am?” She turned away, shaking her head. “I’m not sure I want to hear the answer to that.”

“I think you’re putting yourself and other well-intentioned people in danger and that you, at least, ought to know better.”

She whirled back. “Spend a week in my shoes and talk about what I ought to know. Better yet, spend a year. A year would be about enough time to find yourself counsel of record for a wife-beater whose charges you got dismissed, now charged with murdering that very same wife. A year would be about enough time to lose count of the number of times you made a jury believe a woman was lying about her injuries in order to get a better divorce settlement. A year —” Her voice cracked. “Ought to know better, you ought to know b-better, Jack, you ought t-to know what I know —” She turned her back on him, hands over her mouth, shoulders shaking.

“Jessica.” McCoy put his hand on her shoulder. She shrugged it off. “If you want to lock these bastards up, come and work for me. Door’s always open. But you have to stop this so-called Underground Railroad. You’re breaking the law, Jess. There’s a Homeland Security investigation into false documentation. Multiple felonies have been committed. I’m not suggesting by you personally, but that’s not going to matter when the Feds work out that you’re the one behind the whole thing.”

She shook her head. “I’m not.”

“You could never second chair for anyone, Jess. Don’t expect me to believe you’ve learned how at this late date.”

“So what now?” Jessica turned and glared at him, the effect undone by the tears trickling down her cheeks. “You’re going to turn me in?”

McCoy shook his head. “As far as you’re concerned, I have nothing but unverified suspicions. As far as your client is concerned, I have nothing but a photograph of her with a woman I know was involved in this organization and another woman yet to be identified. Lucky for her, the photograph is time-and-date stamped for the approximate time of the murder she was charged with. I took steps to investigate this ‘Railroad’ when it first came to my attention and exhausted all legal and prosecutorial avenues. I won’t take it further, on the condition that you do two things.”

“Shut down the Railroad,” Jessica said.

“That’s the first, yes.”

“And the second?”

“Get yourself off the 18-B Assigned Counsel Panel. You’ve had enough.”

She glared at him. “I am not some fragile flower who can’t —”

McCoy shook his head. “You’ve had enough, Jess. If you were one of mine, I’d pull you from the trial pool and put you on appeals preparation for six months. There’s no shame in it. Everybody has their limit.”

She gave a bitter laugh. “Except Jack McCoy, who takes a licking and keeps on ticking, right?”

“I nearly blew a prosecution last year,” McCoy said. “The victim was one of our A.D.As. Mary Firienze. I was past my limit and I couldn’t see it.”

Jessica was silent a moment. “So what happened?”

“Fortunately I had friends who weren’t quite as blind as I was. They could see I was making bad decisions. Just as I can see that you’re making bad decisions, now. As your friend, Jess — you need a break.”

“I’m not —” Her voice wavered. She raised her hand, finger stabbing down for emphasis. “I am not. I’m just —”

“Tired,” McCoy said.

She nodded, mouth working. “Tired,” she managed to say.

He put his hand on her shoulder again, and this time she didn’t shrug it off. “There’s someone I know you might find it helpful to talk to. Her name is Elizabeth Olivet.”

“The D.A’s shrink? Do you talk to her?”

“I’d rather walk into traffic,” McCoy said honestly, and surprised her into a snuffle of laughter. “But I think you’d like her. It’s like —” Regan’s words came back to him. It helps to think about it as an injury. Not some shrink bullsh*t. “If you were a major league pitcher and you started to feel some pain in your throwing arm, you’d get it looked at, right?”

Jessica sniffed hard. “God, what is it with men and sports metaphors?”

“When it comes to the criminal law, Jess, you’re one of the few who can throw a hundred miles an hour, right over the plate. Make sure you keep that throwing arm in good shape. Our league can’t afford to lose you.”

.oOo.

Chapter 68: Worth Every Penny

Chapter Text

Abbie Carmichael’s Townhouse

8.30 am Friday July 27, 2007

“Abbie?” Regan tapped on Abbie’s bedroom door, and then checked her watch again. Long past the time she should have left for the courthouse, if she wanted to watch Neil Gorton allocute. But Abbie had been late coming down to breakfast, and then later, and now it was more than an hour and half later than Regan usually saw her in the mornings. She tapped on the door again. “Abbie? Are you okay?”

She waited, counting a slow ten, but no answer came. “Abbie, I’m coming in.”

When she pushed open the door, she could see Abbie curled up on the bed, burrowed under the covers despite the warmth of the day. “Abbie?”

“Go away,” Abbie groaned. “Go away.”

“I can’t, until I’m sure you’re alright.” Regan put on her best calm and reasonable tone, the one for panicked car-accident victims who could smell the petrol spilling out of the ruptured fuel tank. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m —” Abbie stopped for a moment, panting. “Fine. Just go away.”

Regan crossed to the bed and sat down on the edge. She could see part of Abbie’s face, shiny with sweat. “It’s probably a bit warm for an eiderdown,” she said.

Abbie clutched the quilt more tightly around her neck. “Go —” Her face twisted, her mouth opened silently, and she curled up more tightly, the tendons on her neck standing out like cords.

Regan waited until Abbie was breathing more evenly. “What time did the contractions start?” she asked.

“It’s false labor,” Abbie said stubbornly.

“I don’t think so.”

“It’s not your goddamn body — ah!”

If that’s more than five minutes apart, I’m the Queen of Sheba. “Abbie, it’s time to go to the hospital.”

“I’m not having the baby. I’m not having the baby without Tom!”

“I don’t think there’s really any choice about it,” Regan said. She pulled back the covers. “Come on. You —” The sheet and mattress under Abbie were sodden. And cool, which meant it had been quite a while since her waters had broken.

Abbie heaved herself up on her elbows. “I am not having this baby!” she panted, wild-eyed. “Not without my husband! Do you understand?”

Regan reached for the bedside phone. “I understand that I’m calling an ambulance.”

An ambulance, and Tom Cassidy.

And then Jack McCoy.

… … …

Courthouse

100 Centre Street

McCoy put Jessica Sheets into a cab and watched it pull away. He hoped she’d call Liz Olivet, or call somebody. A shrink, a mentor, a friend …

He had no idea if Jessica even had any friends, at least, the sort of friends you could kill a bottle of scotch with and talk about nothing until the secrets started spilling out. Once, Claire Kincaid had been that friend for Jessica. Jessica had been the only one to know, actually know and not just suspect, the truth about Claire’s relationship with McCoy. She’d even come to dinner, more than once or twice, at McCoy’s apartment, and McCoy had gone to bed long before the two women had done talking, had fallen asleep listening to them laughing together in the kitchen over jokes he’d been entirely sure he didn’t want to understand.

If he’d been a better man, he would have stepped into the void Claire’s death must have left in Jessica’s life. Her best friend, her college room-mate And he’d tried, a couple of times, but every time they met for a drink or shared a meal there was a ghost at the table that they could both see and neither of them could see past.

They’d stayed friendly. They’d had the occasional cup of coffee together. They’d seen each other as cases and trials brought them together. They’d been at the same table at fundraisers for causes they both supported. He’d even tried to set her up with Serena, although that hadn’t lasted. McCoy been there for Jessica when he’d known to be — during Mark Bruner’s trial, for one — but apart from that?

They’d been friendly, but not friends, and he’d never seen just how badly Jessica had needed a friend.

And what would Claire say about that? What would Regan say, with her maxims about what you did for the people you owed loyalty to? Back up your partner. Save them from their own mistakes. Stand shoulder to shoulder with them. Don't leave them out on their own.

He’d do better by Jessica Sheets in the future, McCoy resolved as he headed back to Hogan Place. For Claire, but more importantly, for Jessica herself.

He turned his cell phone back on as he crossed the street and it buzzed immediately.