Phantom of Hogan Place
By Mary


Nora loved Halloween and she didn't try to hide it. She decorated her office with fake spider webs and her Halloween Looney Toons collection. Every day she handed out candy to her staff in little bags with ghoulish cartoons on them and played little practical jokes on them.
She placed a bowl of wrapped mints on her desk and sat down to finish up her paperwork. It was October 30th and she had much work to do to prepare for the big day. She had planned a costume party for her entire staff on Halloween and had finally decided on her own costume, Aunt Jet from Practical Magic. It had become her favorite movie to watch on Halloween as she waited for the trick or treaters.
"Nora, I need you to sign these," Jack said walking in, and pushed some of her fake spider webs out of his way.
"Hello to you too," she smiled taking the files from him.
"Hi," he looked around her office at her decorations "aren't you a little old for Halloween?"
"Never," she said. "Are you coming to the party?"
"No. I have closing arguments to plan, evidence to look over..."
"Jack, you need to lighten up! Come have fun," she said, almost begging.
"I think I'll pass," he said.
She sighed and signed the papers that he had handed her. The party meant a lot to her, so did Jack, and she wished that he would come. "Here you go," she said handing them back when she was finished.
"Thanks," he said taking a handful of her mints.
"No trick?" she asked.
He nodded "Watch me disappear," he said walking out.
"I'll get you to the party if I have to drag you there myself McCoy!" she called after him.
Nora got up from her desk and walked to Jack's office. "You know, I'm disappointed in you," she said sitting next to him on the couch.
"Why? I'm on a roll, I won ten of my last eleven cases," he put the files she had signed in his filing cabinet beside him.
She shook her head "It's not that."
"Is this about the party?" he asked.
"Yes this is about the party," she mocked. "Do I have to order you to come?"
Jack shook his head "Nora, really, I can't. I have plans all ready."
Nora looked into his eyes "What plans?"
He sat up and looked away from her "I have a date."
"A date?" she asked surprised. "Well, have fun then" she managed a small smile. Inside she wanted to die, thinking about him with someone else. She wished she had the courage to tell him her feelings about him. Every time she tried, she would clam up and make a fool of herself.
"I plan on it," he smiled.
Nora got up from her spot and started for the door "don't do anything I wouldn't do," she said, trying to be cheerful. She walked to her office, shut the door, and curled up on her sofa with a tissue to dry her eyes.
Halloween at Hogan Place was filled with practical jokes and fun. The staff was able to forget about their case load's, the crime and pain that they saw every day, and were able to just enjoy themselves. Nora had recruited several of her staff members to help her decorate the halls for the party. She had found a c.d. of scary noises that she played throughout the day outside her office. It was hard not to concentrate on Jack and his date. She wondered who she was, what she was like. Jack usually told her everything; it wasn't like him not to tell her that he was seeing someone. She had managed to shrug it off and concentrate on the task at hand, the Halloween party.
Most of the staff wore their Halloween costumes the entire day, the ones who had to be in court or out of the office, were planning on changing before the party. Nora went the whole day in her Aunt Jet costume, even through her meeting with the Mayor.
"Nora, is it all right if I head out a little early?" Jack stuck his head in her office.
"Sure, why?" she asked fixing her wig.
"I want to get ready for my date," he walked in and got a close look at her. "Wow, in that outfit, you really look like that Dianne West lady," he said.
"Dianne Wiest?" she asked.
"Yeah, whatever. You two could be twins," he stared at her amazed at the resemblance.
Nora smiled and looked in her mirror. "I look better in this outfit!" she said. "Have a nice date."
"I will. She's a wonderful person, I'm so glad I met her. I don't think she knows how much I like her though," he sighed. "I'm taking her to see Phantom of the Opera."
"That's very romantic. I love that show. Well, if she doesn't realize how lucky she is to have you, then she's not worth it," Nora said.
"Thanks," he smiled. "I'll see you later, have a great Halloween" he said walking out.
"You too," she said. She sunk into her chair, sadly, and pulled out papers that she needed to sign. She knew exactly how Jack felt, she liked him, she loved him, but he barely noticed her as more than a boss or a friend.
Serena walked in with her cat costume hanging over her arm, "Anything else I can do for the party?"
"No...no. I think everything's...perfect," Nora said, trying to be cheerful.
"You okay?" Serena asked.
"Fine. Just tired is all," Nora smiled.
"Okay. I'm going to go change," she laughed. "I can't get over how much you look like Dianne Wiest!" she giggled as she walked out.
Nora sat back and thought about Practical Magic. She remembered the spell that Sally had done about the perfect man, she didn't think he existed, but in the end she found him. Jack was Nora's idea of the perfect man; he had been her secret crush for many years. She wished for a moment that she really was Aunt Jet Owens, maybe then she could cast a spell over Jack and he would fall madly in love with her, like she had fallen for him the first time she laid eyes on him.
The party was a huge success. Almost the entire staff had shown up in costume. Nora had set up a contest for the scariest, funniest, silliest, stupidest, best, worst, and most original costumes. The winners of the contests got goodie bags that she had put together the day before filled with candy, and little Halloween trinkets. She enjoyed mingling among the staff and trying to guess who some of the people were. One of the ADAs had brought in his stereo and worked as the D.J of the party. He was dressed in wild colored clothes and big flashy glasses, he was supposed to be Elton John.
"Any requests, boss?" he asked Nora.
"Play something of yours Elton," she smiled.
"You got it," he said putting on Crocodile Rock.
Nora went to a table in the break room to help Serena pour punch for the people.
"Having fun?" she asked Serena.
"Yeah I am. I never really like Halloween before, but this is great," she said. "How about you?"
Nora grinned, "I'm most excellent," she said imitating the line from Practical Magic.
Serena laughed, "Dianne would be proud!"
Nora looked up at a tall figure, wearing a white mask, like the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera. "Can I help you?" she asked.
He just stood there.
"Great costume," Serena said, "Who are you?"
He didn't answer.
"I...I'm going to take these out to the party," Serena said, a little nervous of the man. She picked up a tray of drinks and carried it out.
Nora stared a moment at the figure, "am I supposed to guess who you are?"
He nodded.
"Hmm," Nora thought. "Are you Michael from the copy room?"
He shook his head.
"Jacob Hathaway?" she asked, referring to one of the janitors.
He shook his head.
"I don't even get a hint?" she asked.
He shook his head again.
Nora studied him; the only thing she had to go on was his height. Most of the men at Hogan Place were taller than she was, so that didn't narrow her search very much. "I honestly have no idea!" she said.
He took her hand and kissed it gently, he held onto it and led her to the dance floor outside.
"I don't dance with strangers," she said looking through the mask at his big brown eyes.
He wrapped his arms around her waist, and she put hers around his neck. Reba McEntire's Forever Love started to play in the background.
Nora felt comfortable with this man; though she didn't recognize him, he seemed familiar.
They danced around the floor through the crowed, Nora never removing her eyes from his. After the song was over he let go of her and kissed her cheek. He bowed to her, turned and started to walk away.
"Don't go! Wait," Nora followed after him, trying not to lose him in the crowed. She pushed through people to the hallway and ran down it, searching for him. Her curiosity was at its peak; she had to know who this Phantom was.
She practically ran down the halls to try and find him, nearly tripping over her dress. She nearly fell when someone grabbed her and pulled her into one of the offices. It happened so fast that she didn't have time to register it. The person that had pulled her inside helped her to a chair. She looked up, frightened. It was the Phantom. He sat across from her. It was Jack's office that he had pulled her in to. The room was filled with lit candles, including two on the desk between them. A dinner was laid out, one of Nora's favorites; Citrus roasted chicken with root vegetables and thyme. Nora looked at him confused "What is all of this?"
He poured two glasses of wine and put one in front of her. "Who are you?" she asked softly. "Please, say something to me," she rested her hands on the edge of the desk.
He reached over and touched her hands. She got the same familiar feeling when he touched her. She reached up for his mask, her heart pounding. He touched her hand when she placed it on his face. Slowly, she lifted the mask from off his face. The candlelight that filled the office fell over Jack McCoy's face.
"Jack!" she said, excited and surprised at the same time.
"Disappointed?" he asked.
"I thought you had a date."
"I do, with the most beautiful, most wonderful woman in the world."
Nora looked around confused, "What?"
"I was talking about you, Nora," he smiled. He held up his mask "The Phantom of the Opera. I remembered it's your favorite musical."
She giggled, "The Phantom of Hogan Place is more like it."
Jack got up from his spot and went to Nora, kneeling beside her. "I wanted to surprise you."
"You did!" she smiled.
He took her hands in his, "Well, are you disappointed?"
She shook her head "Of course I'm not." She put her arms around him.
"Thank God!" he said. "I was so afraid after all of this you'd think I was the biggest schmuck in New York City."
"I would never think that. Never!" she put head on his shoulder.
He held her in his arms, something he'd been longing to do for as long as he'd known her. "Come here," he held her hand and led her to his sofa "Let's have dinner." He carried a plate of the citrus roasted chicken and sat beside her.
"Did you make this yourself?" she asked as he fed her a taste.
"It took twenty three cookbooks to find it. I practiced eight times, this was the best one" he smiled, pleased with his work.
She laughed "It's wonderful. You did a fine job!"
"Not as wonderful as you." He hesitated and they kissed softly.
They took turns feeding each other and when they finished they sat and held each other.
"I thought you didn't like Halloween," she said as they watched the flickering flames of the candles.
"Oh, I love Halloween. That was your trick, this was your treat." He pulled her close and kissed her.
"I love Halloween!" she giggled between kisses.

end


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