You never know who might be watching over you during a late night at the DA's office.....
By Jennifer Micelli
Paperwork. Piles and piles of paperwork. Files on the desk, in boxes next to the desk, in the drawers ... it never stopped in the DA's office, not even for a moment. The young assistant DA made a mental note to donate to the “Save the Rainforest” do-gooder college students next time they came around asking for money.
Serena sighed as she ran her hand through her short blonde hair. She had known that this job would require an immense amount of her time and energy, but she had never even imagined that it would be this ... draining. This was the first night she was completely alone in the office; even Jack had left before her and that had previously been unheard of.
Pulling a folder from the top of the file, she resumed her work. She glanced over at the tiny calendar that had been shoved to the far corner of her desk for the date. October 30th. The night before Halloween. She groaned. The kids in her building loved pulling pranks on this night. She made another mental note to check for shaving cream (and other more harmful substances) before entering her apartment and went back to the case she had been working on.
To her dismay, Serena found the words in front of her swimming around the page. She rubbed her eyes and shook her head, but she still couldn't make sense of them. Looking at her watch, she found that it was approximately 10:30. Fifteen minutes, that's all I need, just ... fifteen ... minutes… she thought as she moved the folder out of the way and gently put her head down on her desk…
Shivering, Serena slowly opened her eyes. Where the hell am I? she wondered. She slowly sat up, recognizing the drab walls of her office around her and remembering her decision to take a quick catnap. A quick glance at her watch told her that it was five past midnight. Damn, I was out for over an hour. Aware that she was still shivering, she picked up the heavy woolen blanket that was lying next to her desk and wrapped it around her. As her sleepiness began to wear off, she finally realized... "I don't keep a blanket in here,” she murmured to herself.
“I figured you would need it, I knew it would get rather chilly in here,” came a voice from behind her.
Serena whirled around and found a woman about her age standing in the corner of the room. “Who are you? How did you get in here? How did you know…”
“Calm down, calm down, I was only looking out for you ... that's what I do, you know.”
Serena was just getting over the shock of finding this strange woman in her office and was quite confused. “What?”
“That’s what I do.”
“No, I heard what you said. I meant, what is it that you do?”
“I take care of Jack's assistants, Serena. If they aren't able to do their jobs, he isn't able to do his, and then what would happen? When his assistants perform their duties well, Jack is happy, and when Jack is happy, everyone benefits from it.”
Serena cocked her head to one side. “How did you know my name?”
The woman smiled at her. “That’s a rather silly question for an assistant district attorney to ask; after all, it's right there for the entire world to see,” she said, gesturing towards the diplomas that served as the small office's only decoration. Serena let out a small sigh. “But that's besides the point,” the woman continued. “I've done my work, I know everything about you, Serena Anne Southerlyn. I know everything from how your mother wanted you to have a less ‘stressful’ career and be more like her to how you tripped up the back stairs to the courthouse on your second day of work and dropped every single file you were carrying.”
Serena had to flinch at that one, yet she was still wary of her new companion. The woman walked over to the opposite wall and, with her back to Serena, started reading the various diplomas and certificates. “Very impressive,” she said.
Without taking her eyes off the woman, Serena slowly slid her hand towards her phone. “Oh, Serena, that's not a good idea,” the woman said without turning around. “Downstairs, Ron is fast asleep, feet up on the desk and everything. Besides, I can be out of here before the end of the first ring. And, since I did promise to look after you, I'll offer you some advice and tell you that you probably won't have a very good reputation around here after calling security for some ‘phantom’ intruder. They'll think you're so stressed you're hallucinating and you'll be gone as soon as they find someone else who can handle the job.”
Serena drew her hand back and wrapped the blanket more tightly around her thin frame. It was deathly cold in the small office. “Who are you?” she asked again.
The woman turned around, a sly smile spreading across her face. “Oh, you'll find out who I am, eventually. They all do. Jaime became quite familiar with me after one particularly messy case, and Abbie soon learned about me as well.”
Serena, still a tad bit unnerved by the stranger in her office, took this opportunity to study the woman, in case something did happen and she had to make a statement. Tallish, chin-length brown hair, dark brown eyes ... and pale, pale skin that had almost no color to it whatsoever. She shivered again.
The woman noticed Serena sizing her up. “How many times do I have to tell you I'm not going to hurt you?” she sighed. “I told you, I'll be looking out for you.” She paused. “However, I did come here tonight to tell you two things.”
Serena did have to admit to herself that she was curious. “And what would those two things be?”
A worried look came into the woman's dark eyes. “Serena, you should know by now that Jack's one of the best EADAs to ever work in this office. He loves what he does and refuses to let anything stand in the way of it.” She frowned. “But sometimes he needs to be reminded that there is life outside these offices. Urge him to take a break if you think he needs it. If he looks especially worn out in the evening, persuade him to go home. If you're ever really concerned, talk to Nora, she'll help you out. The bottom line is: don't let him work himself to death. Heaven knows that the world still needs him here.”
Serena agreed. “When I first found out that I was being assigned to work with the famous Jack McCoy, I was ecstatic. I knew that I would be able to learn so much from him, things that no law textbook could ever teach me. I do realize how crucial he is to the affairs of this office and I'll do whatever I can to help him.”
The woman nodded. “And I'm sure you'll do just fine. You wouldn't have been assigned to him if it was thought you were incompetent in any way.”
“Well, it's nice to know someone's on my side.” Serena began to relax a little. “What's the second thing?” she asked.
The expression on the woman's face visibly changed. Serena couldn't tell if she was sad, angry, or just generally upset. “You yourself called him ‘the famous Jack McCoy’. I assume you've heard about his reputation, and I'm not talking about his work in the courtroom.”
Serena raised an eyebrow. “Are you referring to the rumors about his previous assistants? You couldn't possibly think that I…”
The woman crossed the room so she was standing directly in front of Serena, a move that was more than slightly intimidating. “There hasn't been a new ‘rumor’ in about five years, and things are going to stay that way,” she said, looking down at the wide-eyed attorney. “I promise you, Serena, if you lay a hand on him, you will regret it.”
Serena was speechless. The woman held her gaze for another silent moment before taking a step back and smiling. “But I'm sure that won't be a problem. I'm sure a young ambitious ADA like you has much better things to do than socialize with her middle-aged boss.” A different look came into the woman's eyes for just a moment, but again, Serena couldn't interpret it.
The sound of heavy footsteps came from down the hallway. Serena quickly stood up, dropping the blanket from around her shoulders, and stuck her head out the door.
The young security guard seemed as surprised as she was. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you, I had no idea anyone was still here.”
Serena was almost glad for the distraction. “It's okay, I'll be leaving in a few minutes.”
“There's no rush, I was just making my rounds. Just let me know if you need anything.” He nodded a farewell to her and continued on his way.
Serena stepped back inside her office and closed the door. “I guess he…” she trailed off upon realizing that her strange visitor was gone. “Impossible…” she softly said to herself.
Letting out a long sigh, she turned to face the paperwork that still cluttered her desk. “This can definitely wait until tomorrow,” she said out loud, in an effort to break the maddening silence of the small office. As she straightened up the files, she caught sight of the blanket that lay crumpled on the floor where she had dropped it. She now realized that the temperature of the room had returned to its normal state. Picking up the blanket, she studied it for a moment or two, and then, shaking her head, folded it neatly and placed it under her desk.
Serena gathered her belongings together and reached into her purse for her car keys. As she was groping for them, her hand felt something that hadn't been in there that morning. Curious, she looked inside and pulled out a handful of napkins. Written on the top one, in a very neat script, was “You might want to wipe off the doorknob before entering your apartment.”
She stiffened with uneasiness, but eventually relaxed. It couldn't hurt to have someone watching out for her, she decided ... whoever she was. Grabbing the rest of her things, she switched off the light and left the office.
“A murder two conviction, my faith in the judicial system has suddenly been renewed,” Jack said, smiling at his young assistant as they stood outside the back entrance of the courthouse, wisely avoiding the media circus on the opposite side of the building.
Serena returned the smile. “We had a strong case, Jack. The jury didn't have much of a choice.”
“Serena, by now you know as well as I do that juries don't always come to the right conclusion, regardless of the evidence we put in front of them.” He ran a hand through his graying hair. “But that doesn't matter now.”
She nodded in agreement. “We won today, that should keep us satisfied until, well, the next big case that goes to trial.”
Jack's grin grew even wider. “It's nice to see that you haven't become completely disillusioned by this job yet.” He looked down at his watch. “Let's go get some dinner to celebrate, my treat.”
Before Serena could even open her mouth to respond, a sudden cold wind sent a chill throughout her entire body. “I'd better not,” she said. “I have a lot of things to do back at my apartment.” Turning around, she left without giving Jack a chance to reply.
He watched her leave, letting out a soft sigh. His destination would now be one of the local bars; most likely, he would stay well into the night. As he made his way down the steps of the courthouse, another gust of wind made him shiver and wrap his coat more tightly around his body. “Maybe I'd better just head home…” he mumbled to himself.