Not Much of a TV Show
By Lynne Hoffman
The day had been hell. Of course, several days lately, had been like that and there was not much he could do to change that. McCoy slammed his apartment door shut behind him and tossed his briefcase, unceremoniously into the corner. At least, he thought, it was the weekend and he wasn't on-call.
Just because he was home, though, didn't mean his day would automatically improve. And it didn't. His poorly aimed briefcase skittered farther then he'd expected it to and had come to rest, suddenly, against the beveled door of his hall closet. The damage: three cracked slats. He swore, none to silently and proceeded to make himself at home. Kicking the offensive case out of the way he hung his suit jacket up and picked the shattered pieces of the door off the floor so he could shut the closet.
"Cheap crap," he growled sullenly as he plunked the pieces down on top of his bookcase next to his telephone. The light on his answering machine was blinking forlornly and he seriously considered ignoring it until later in the evening. None of his friends would be expecting him home this early, of that he was sure. Probably carpet cleaners too stubborn to just hang up and move on to the next victim. He pushed the button anyway, just in case it was something personal.
The first message was what he'd expected, a telemarketer wanting him to call back 'right away' so he didn't miss-out on their 'new, exciting offer'. He snorted and waited for the next message. A young woman's voice got his attention. It was his daughter Kimberly. She was going away on business trip and wanted to know if he would mind her cat. This drew another snort.
Jazz - the cat from Hell.
Sure, why not. He could bring it to plea meetings with him. It would scare the hell out of most defendants. And some defense attorneys. He stopped the machine and dialed Kim's number. After exchanging complaints about their respective days, he told her he had no problem with her wanting to dump her hellion on him for a few days. When they'd made their arrangements to drop the cat off he hung up the phone temporarily. Ignoring the rest of his messages for the time being he called a take-out food joint. His stomach was starting to rumble and he was in no mood to cook himself dinner.
He thought about Jazz. The ginger-colored cat was fourteen years old and the most cantankerous critter he'd ever known. The odd thing was, the tempestuous beast seemed to like him. He'd given Kim the six-week-old kitten the year she'd turned twelve. A guilt-assuaging gift. Something to keep her company when he couldn't. The kitten had seemed to know, instinctively, that Kimmee needed its attention. The kitten scorned everyone else in the household and it was only due to Kimmee's persistent, tearful pleas that her mother had allowed her to keep the animal in the first place. When it had been his turn to have Kimmee stay with him, the cat had come with her and had taken to him just as easily as it had taken to Kimmee.
Jack laughed tiredly at the thought and made himself comfortable while he waited for his supper to arrive. He hit the 'play' button on his message machine again was surprised to hear the gravelly voice of his assistant, Abbie Carmichael.
"Jack? Just wanted to remind you. That television show I was telling you about is on at 8:00 p.m. tonight. 'Cops in Court'? You said if you remembered in time you might tune it in. Is this an early enough reminder? The time is 6:15 and how the hell did you manage to get out of the office so early?"
This brought a genuine chuckle from Jack. Abbie was an ebullient young woman. She was easy going and not given to pretentious formality. He appreciated her frank approach and her irreverent demeanor. He'd met her steady boyfriend and had been invited to join them, and several others one evening, to help her celebrate her birthday. They'd had a good time, much to his surprise. He'd thought the crowd she hung out with would be too young for him to feel comfortable in. He'd been wrong.
There were no more messages.
Jack pulled off his tie and undid his shirt. There was no need to remain civilized. The delivery boy wasn't gong to give a whit whether or not he was decently dressed. Acknowledging this to himself he yanked the shirttails from his pants completely and with an impatient shrug doffed his shirt completely. Normally he would have changed his clothes before leaving the office but he'd been bound and determined to escape early and, maybe more importantly, his motorcycle was in for a tune-up and he'd been reduced to public transportation.
He went into his room and shed his suit pants. He tugged on his favorite jeans and sauntered out into his living room to await his dinner.
They got his order wrong.
Jack stared glumly into the containers of Chinese take away and hoped that whomever got his meal enjoyed it. He wasn't going to call and complain -- correcting the error would take too long. He'd eat what had been sent. Resolution made, he sat down in front of his television set and turned it on. It had been some time since he'd caught the early news live. Usually he either caught a replay at work or stayed up to watch the late news.
He wished he hadn't bothered. All he expected was more bad news and he wasn't disappointed. He knew where a couple of their next cases might be coming from. There was an interesting twist to a case he and Abbie were prosecuting. He made a mental note to make some calls when he was through eating, to check on the reliability of the report and it's implications. Abbie would likely call him, as well, if she happened to catch the same news report. And, so too, would the defendant's counsel. Jack stabbed his fork viscously into the container on his knee and snorted. He flicked off the television.
To hell with it.
He called the reporter, though he expected to be told the woman wasn't going to give up her source. He was right. He called the office on the off chance that Abbie was still there. She was. He told her the gist of what he'd just heard and gave her instruction to have the story investigated. She promised him she'd get right on it and he hung up again, slightly guiltily. Abbie had sounded a little miffed that he was calling her from home with a list of things to do, but then again, she was his assistant. He broke into an easy grin.
Ah, the perks of being the boss. He leaned back in his easy chair and propped his feet up on his coffee table. He pushed his arms up in the air in a full body stretch. He could get used to this being home early. He laconically got up and made his way to his liquor cabinet. He didn't keep much in it these days but tonight he just felt like treating himself to a drink. He reached for a bottle of scotch and changed his mind. Maybe some bourbon. Again he stilled his hand. He stared, uncertain, at the few remaining bottles. Almost all of them were next to empty. There was a bottle of lemon gin, more or less full, tucked into the corner. He fished it out and glared at it like it had personally offended him. He snatched it out of the cupboard and taking it by the neck took it into his kitchen. He roughly twisted off the cap and poured its contents down the drain.
Why the hell did it still hurt so much? Why did something so simple as a bottle of booze bring it all roaring back? He knew. He just didn't want to think about it. But he couldn't help it. He still missed her. And it was booze that had brought an abrupt end to their relationship.
He went back to the cupboard and shut it. He didn't feel like a drink anymore. at least not a drink of alcohol. He went into his kitchen and turned on his kettle. Coffee would do just fine. He leaned back against the clutter counter top and folded his arms across his chest. He closed his eyes and blinked trying to force the memory into retreat.
Jack. I'm just not satisfied with my position anymore.
I'm not about to tell you what to do. You're a big girl, Claire. You have to make up your own mind.
I want to quit.
But she hadn't.
They'd had that discussion half a dozen times before it happened. He never truly knew why she stuck it out. He liked her. She liked him. They flirted openly and she'd suggested, in a mad moment of inspiration, that they take a vacation together. A suggestion that had led to dinner and a foolish, spontaneous kiss. She hadn't smacked him in indignation as he thought she might, in fact she had blushed. They had gone back to one of their places, he no longer remembered whose, and spent a remarkable intimate evening without actually being intimate. It had been fun and rejuvenating. It was nice to know she found him attractive and would be willing to pursue a relationship if things between them had been just a little less complicated.
But Claire had a reputation to rebuild. She'd already made one foolish mistake and had been caught. Jack had made a few of his own. One former assistant had been so infatuated with him and he with her that the woman had ended up ruining her career over a misguided attempt impress him. When a relationship he'd had with another former assistant went south, she had joined a defense firm and now regularly opposed him. By the time Jack had asked to have Claire assigned to him, neither of them was interested in a relationship that was anything more than platonic. Even, Jack admitted, if that relationship included a healthy abundance of outrageous flirting.
Jack looked up at the sound of his kettle whistling and added the boiling water to the coffee crystals he'd already put in his mug. His mug. It had his name on it. It was a gift from Claire. For some reason, he couldn't seem to get her out of his mind tonight. Everything he did brought back a painful memory. He wondered why.
He took his coffee back out to he living room and picked up the newspaper. Skimming over the front page he suddenly realized why memories of Claire were plaguing him. It had been two years since that night. Two years since his world had been twisted and torn and shredded.
Survivor's guilt was a powerful thing. It lingered and wove its talons deep into your soul. It made you sweat when it was cold. It gave you chills when it was hot. It kept you awake when you were so bone tired, on a normal night, the fire alarm wouldn't wake you. It knocked you out cold when you knew you had to be up at the break of dawn.
He'd insisted they witness the execution. He'd implied that he thought she was over-reacting, that her feelings were invalid. He'd been the one that hadn't handled it any better than she had. He was the one who'd drunk himself into oblivion that afternoon and expected her to pick up the pieces when he paged her to come and take him home. Instead of waiting for her, he'd left the bar and made his own way home. He'd been safe and sound, asleep in his own bed while she was fighting a losing battle for her life in St. Vincent's ER. And that was why he was here and she wasn't.
It was his fault.
He took a large, burning gulp of his coffee, hoping the scorch of it as it slid down his throat might change his focus. It didn't . He set the cup down in front of him and decided that a shower might help. Not a cold shower but a steaming hot one. One that would cleanse him thoroughly. He sat there, still, contemplating his decision and the way his life had carried on since that day.
He'd had two more assistants foisted upon him. Two women. Two very different women. Different from each other and different from Claire. Adam had chosen them. The first, Jamie Ross, was a former defense attorney in her late thirties. She'd stayed for two years and though she was not a bad attorney, they had never warmed up to each other the same way he and Claire had. He was glad of that. He wasn't ready to open himself up to someone else at all. Eventually, they started grating on each other's nerves and when she quit better care for her young daughter Jack couldn't honestly say he was sorry to see her walk out the door. After she'd left, Adam had surprised him by handing over another young woman for him to train. The woman he was now working with.
A tall, willowy Texan who'd cut her teeth in law prosecuting narcotic cases. She was young, almost too young, in Jack's opinion, to be an assistant district attorney but he soon realized that Claire had been any older when she'd first joined the office. He was aging but his assistants weren't. He was stuck in a time warp!
He laughed at the irony of it. His life sounded like a soap opera. And that was what Abbie had suggested he watch tonight. Some drippy cop and court show set in New York. The police Captain was having an affair with one of his detectives, the senior A. D. A. was more interested in trying to gain political points than in actually trying to gain a conviction in her latest case. Jack checked his watch.
He snapped on the television and decided to shower when the show was over. He watched, transfixed for about fifteen minutes. Such drivel. He started to laugh. If he'd ever behaved the way the A. D. A. in the show was being portrayed he'd have been canned. He thought of the police captains he'd known. Cragen, Hoolihan, Conroy. He doubted either of them would ever even consider having an affair with one of his underlings. And his opinion didn't change if he applied it to a woman. He couldn't imagine Lieutenant Van Buren getting a little on the side from Briscoe or Curtis or any of the other men under her supervision. He laughed again at the very thought. And he kept right on laughing through most of the rest of the show.
When it was over, his phone rang.
"Jack? Did you catch the show?" Abbie sounded breathless and hoarse as she posed the question to him.
"Yes. Thanks for insisting I watch it. It was hilarious."
"Hilarious?" Abbie sounded confused.
Abbie was quiet. "I didn't get a chance to see this episode. I was too busy to watch it myself. I thought it was good the first time I saw it. They've brought in some spectacular writers for the new season. It's touted as 'very realistic'."
"Who is the writer? I missed the opening credits."
"I've heard of him. I thought he did drama, not comedy. And if what I saw tonight was supposed to be realistic, he should try following me around for a few weeks. Maybe he'd get a better feel of what's realistic."
Abbie laughed, "C'mon Jack. Things aren't that bad. Are they? You're home, relaxing, watching TV just who out there in television land do you think would believe that? Don't you know we're all supposed to be working 'til midnight... "
"Or jetting off to Aruba or somewhere similar." Jack replied, "I tell you Abbie I don't think Balcer would want to make a show out of my life."
"Maybe not. It is pretty mundane, boring, no babes in bikinis hanging around watching you with big... "
"Puppy-dog eyes. I was going to say 'big puppy-dog eyes'. My you have a one-track mind." Abbie was laughing on the other end of the line.
"All right, so Balcer wouldn't stand a chance of success if he wrote an episode based on my life. That's very nice to know." Jack laughed at his own expense.
"By the way Jack. About that lead you wanted me to look into... "
And it was back to the business of putting bad guys away as they discussed the progress Abbie had made after the news show.