How much does Abbie Carmichael know about Jack McCoy's past? And how much does Jack want to share...
"Jack, stop!" Abbie whispered adamantly.
"Mr. McCoy! You're out of order!" Judge Michael Kennerly's exclamation came in concert with the pounding of his gavel. "Not another word, Counselor! Don't force me to hold you in contempt!"
It was a good forty-five seconds into Jack McCoy's uncharacteristic emotional tirade, but it seemed that the angry judge finally had the Executive Assistant District Attorney's attention. At least the judge liked to think it was his gavel that made the difference. Of course, there was also the fact that ADA Abbie Carmichael had come out from behind the prosecutors' table and had placed her hand on her colleague's arm, imploring him to stop. In any event, McCoy had abruptly halted his verbal assault on defendant Christopher Beckman, who sat stunned in the witness chair.
"Your Honor, a moment please?" Carmichael's urgent request echoed throughout the hushed courtroom as she steered her colleague back towards their table. His irritation with McCoy aside, Kennerly wisely sensed that not much else was going to be accomplished in his courtroom this day. Defense attorney Daniel Owens was still on his feet, having objected loudly and repeatedly once McCoy had begun maligning his client; now the man appeared ready to burst a blood vessel -- and Kennerly saw that look -- the one that said all the side-bars in the world were not going to put right the current situation. A glance at the prosecution table didn't brighten prospects any; McCoy looked genuinely out of it, and Carmichael appeared profoundly perplexed. The judge made his decision.
"I'll give you more than that, counselor. This court will stand in recess until 9:00 tomorrow morning. I'll expect attorneys from both sides in my chambers at 8:30. Any explanations, apologies, and/or motions will be entertained at that time. Mr. Beckman, you may step down. Bailiff, please see to the defendant. This court stands adjourned." Kennerly, this time lightly, tapped his gavel. The noise level rose as spectators and jurors alike reacted to what had just transpired. As the jurist opened his chamber door, he glanced back at McCoy, now seated at the prosecution table, head in hands, and couldn't help but think that Adam Schiff's brilliant prosecutor had finally gone over the edge. That, or the DA better have some other darn good explanation tomorrow morning.
Ten minutes later only three people remained in the courtroom, Abbie, Jack, and Detective Lennie Briscoe. McCoy hadn't said a word since being silenced by Judge Kennerly. In fact, he sat just as he had when court adjourned: hunched forward, elbows on the table, hands clasped, his stare fixed on a point just beyond his reach.
Briscoe looked at Carmichael with a raised eyebrow. She understood his muted question. It was the same one she'd been asking herself since McCoy had gone off on the defendant, and was the same one she now put directly to him.
"What the hell was that all about, Jack?"
Silence. McCoy didn't move, but she noticed a perceptible clenching, then unclenching of his jaw.
"Jack? You've gotta help me here, because I really don't understand and I need to. We've gotta go back into Kennerly's chambers tomorrow morning and offer some credible explanation for your little show a few minutes ago, because you know darn good and well Daniel Owens will be asking for a mistrial."
Still nothing from her colleague.
"Jack? Come on. What's the deal...."
"Uh, Counselor," Lennie Briscoe broke in. "Maybe he just needs a couple of minutes. Hey, I for one am impressed as hell that this wasn't one of those run of the mill, boring days in court. Haven't heard that much shouting since Van Buren read my monthly expense account." The wise-cracking detective's attempt to lighten the atmosphere wasn't working on Abbie. Her eyes still on McCoy, she growled back at Briscoe.
"You're not helping, Detective."
"Yeah, well, maybe you're not listening, Ms. Carmichael." Abbie turned abruptly away from McCoy and glared at him.
"What do you mean?"
Taking the attractive ADA gently by the arm, he led her away from Jack and toward the vacated defense table. Sitting on the table, he lowered his voice to a whisper. "What I mean is, I think I may know what set him off...and I think you need to give him a minute."
The intensity of his words and the look in his eyes convinced Abbie that the detective was privy to something she was missing, something shared only by the two men. She sighed and grudgingly whispered, "Okay, Detective. We'll play it your way -- for now." She walked back across the aisle.
Without saying another word, her frustration clearly evident, Abbie began the task of cleaning up the documents and notes that had been scattered about the prosecution table, sweeping them without thought into her briefcase. Briscoe continued to sit on the defense table, watching McCoy, waiting. As Abbie reached for one last sheet of notes, Jack suddenly placed his hand upon hers, stopping her. Turning to face him, she found herself caught in that dark, intense McCoy stare. His brown eyes glistened.
"I'm sorry, Abbie," he stated with a softness she had seldom heard. "I wish I could explain this to you, but..." He shook his head.
"Let's just get out of here, Jack -- as gracefully as we can. I'm sure the press is beyond that door, eagerly awaiting your appearance."
McCoy stood and sighed, unconsciously running a hand through his salt and pepper hair. He looked from Abbie to Briscoe, who immediately bounded from his perch.
"Hey, guys -- you leave this part to me. Rey always says that 'Press dodge' is my speciality."
With that, the trio walked purposefully toward the large courtroom doors, Briscoe in the lead. Met by flashing strobe lights, video cameras and microphones as they entered the busy hallway, Briscoe cut the press feeding frenzy short with a wave of his long arms, his right hand flashing the familiar gold badge of an NYPD detective.
"All right people, back off! The District Attorney's office has no official comment at this time. Show's over! Crawl back under your rocks!" Clearly, he was enjoying himself.
As Briscoe shooed the press contingent to the left of the doors, Abbie and Jack slipped around Briscoe's right and stepped onto a waiting elevator car. Jack held the door for Lennie, who, seeing the opening, backed quickly away from the crowd and hopped aboard. Simultaneously, Jack hit the "close door" button, Abbie pressed "G" and they were instantly on their way toward the parking garage.
"Only thing that's gone right all day," observed Jack dryly. Abbie glanced first at McCoy, then at Briscoe -- and all three broke into tension relieving laughter.
"Yeah, Counselors," observed Briscoe. "Nothing like teamwork."
"Yes, Your Honor, I'm well aware of that." District Attorney Adam Schiff nodded and sighed as he listened to the concerned voice of Judge Kennerly coming from the other end of the receiver. "Thank you for your candidness and concern. Yes, so do I. Goodbye."
Adam replaced the receiver and sighed once more, shaking his head. He pressed his intercom button. The voice of his secretary intoned immediately, "Yes, Mr. Schiff?"
"Tell Ms. Carmichael I'd like to see her right away, please."
"Yes, sir." There was a pause, then she inquired, "Uh, Mr. Schiff?"
"Shall I call Mr. McCoy as well?" Adam could see where this was going. That was the thing about a good administrative assistant -- always anticipating routine.
"No, just Ms. Carmichael, please." Adam pushed the "end" button, cutting off what was sure to be his secretary's puzzled response. He sat back in his leather chair and waited; he knew Abbie wouldn't be long.
She knocked two minutes later.
"Come in." Adam rose from his chair and, as Abbie entered the office, motioned her to one of the two leather captain's chairs in front of his desk. "Have a seat, Ms. Carmichael."
"Are we waiting on Jack?" Adam could see in her face that she knew the answer to her question even as she asked it.
"Not today. I just got off the phone with Judge Kennerly."
"Oh. So you know about this morning." She could see that Schiff had that I've already made up my mind look on his face, but attempted to mount a defense nonetheless. "I'm sure Jack has an explanation for his actions concerning his questioning of Christopher Beckman."
"I'm sure he does, Ms. Carmichael. Wouldn't surprise me in the least. In fact, I'd wager, given the nature of this case -- four counts of 2nd degree murder against an alleged drunken driver -- that I know exactly why Mr. McCoy behaved the way he did. Not like it hasn't happened before. Still doesn't excuse it."
Abbie was at a loss.
"You know, I'm really not getting this. It's like all the people around me have this 'McCoy Information Hotline' and they all seem to understand something I don't." Adam could appreciate her frustration, but easing it was not on his agenda.
"Doesn't matter, Ms. Carmichael. That's for McCoy to tell you, not me. I called you in here to let you know that I'm putting you in charge of the Beckman prosecution. As of now, you're flying this bird alone."
This pronouncement did not ease her anxiety.
"Excuse me?" she swallowed hard. "You're taking Jack McCoy off the case? Your Executive ADA? Just like that? And you expect me to carry on without missing a beat? With all due respect, I don't think I can do that."
"You can; and you will." Adam was on his feet now, signaling that their meeting was at an end. "Judge Kennerly will be expecting some kind of apology to the court in the morning -- and he'd better be satisfied. In the meantime, see what you can do about placating Daniel Owens. He just might back off any motion for a mistrial knowing that McCoy is no longer sitting at our table. Now, get to work."
"I'll take care of Jack. You take care of the case." With those words, Adam followed Abbie into the reception area and watched his young ADA, shoulders a bit heavier, walk slowly back toward her office. You'll do fine, young lady, he thought to himself. He turned to his secretary.
"I'll be in Mr. McCoy's office for a while. No interruptions, please."
Before pushing open the door to Jack McCoy's office, Schiff stood quietly and listened. Not a sound came from within. Without a knock, he let himself into the darkened room and found his Executive Assistant District Attorney sprawled on the sofa, sound asleep -- or so it seemed.
"What took you so long, Adam?" McCoy's eyes remained closed as he awaited the older man's response.
"I've assigned Ms. Carmichael the Beckman case."
"Ah, that's what took you so long." He opened his eyes and sat up cautiously. "Headache," he explained matter-of-factly in response to Schiff's inquisitive glance.
"I see. Seems to be contagious this afternoon. About ready to call for the aspirin bottle myself." Adam pulled up a chair and sat across from McCoy.
"Well, I do have this habit of giving them as well as receiving them lately. I suppose Judge Kennerly can attest to that." He tried to smile at his own expense, but the attempt was half-hearted.
"Jack, this has to stop. You know as well as I do that every time some poor slob comes up on a drunken driving charge where lives are lost..."
"Where innocent people are killed, Adam," Jack interrupted.
"Where no pre-meditation...and not even 2nd degree criteria apply, Jack...that you, you get crazy thinking about Claire Kincaid and there is no controlling the great Jack McCoy Indignation and Revenge Parade. You need help. You've gotta come to terms with this self-destructive behavior before it's too late. You're lucky that today's little performance didn't land you in jail. The way His Honor is talking, you may not be out of the woods yet. We'll have to see what kind of repair work Abbie can do on your behalf tomorrow in his chambers. And, while we're on the subject...Don't you think you could at least explain to Ms. Carmichael why you behaved so poorly this morning? If she's going to go to bat for you, you at least owe her that much."
"Adam, I didn't know you were going to throw me off the case, remember? Of course I'll tell her." He leaned back against the soft leather of the sofa and gazed thoughtfully toward the ceiling.
Schiff's intuitive radar perked up at his EADA's calm manner, considering the butt-chewing he'd just been given.
"You've made some kind of decision." It came as a statement of fact, not a question.
"Yes." Jack sat forward again and nodded. "That's why I was lying here -- just me and my headache. Been thinking. I'm not sure what happened to me in that courtroom today, Adam -- and that scares me. Once Beckman took the stand and I saw him sitting there...I don't know...something came over me...just like...bam!" He clapped his hands together. "All of a sudden I'm back in that Intensive Care Unit four years ago, holding Claire's hand, waiting for her to move, to squeeze my hand, make some sound, show some kind of sign that she's coming back to me. Jesus! All I could see was her face; all I could hear was the sound of the machinery that was keeping her alive. In that moment, Christopher Beckman became that son-of-a-bitch who killed Claire, who took her away from me. Honest to God, Adam; I don't even know what I said to him while he was on the witness stand. The next thing I remember, Abbie has her hand on my arm, begging me to stop and I hear Kennerly's gavel smacking down on the bench. Someone would have to read the court transcript back to me for me to know how much damage I caused us.
"So, you're right. I do need help. All I had to do was take a look at both Abbie and Briscoe when we were alone in that courtroom. I saw my own fear reflected in their eyes. It scared the shit out of me.
"Poor Abbie. She didn't have a clue. Briscoe -- he knew. I think he's been right where I am. Just before you walked in here, I was gonna give him a call at the precinct and see if he'd meet me after work. Figured maybe he could give me some idea on how to get past this, how to get beyond Claire. What do you think?"
Adam smiled his sage's smile and nodded.
"I think you should make that call. It's a start. Then I think you should pack up your belongings and get outta here. Go home. No, wait a minute." He raised his hand as he noticed a look of protest on Jack's face. "Before you get that Irish temper rumbling, this isn't a suspension. I am suggesting, Jack, that you take some time to pull yourself together. You're not gonna do that by hanging around here. Too much pressure; too many distractions. By all means, take time to talk to Abbie, but then grab your helmet, hop on your bike and get away from this place. If you don't, then I will suspend you. That, you can count on."
McCoy, having heard his boss out, sighed and nodded his head.
"How long, Adam?"
"As long as it takes. You be the judge -- and let me know." Both men were on their feet and Adam reached out with his right hand, placing it firmly on McCoy's shoulder. "Let's get one thing straight, Jack. I need you back in this office. So go -- get rid of your demons, or at least get 'em leashed -- then get your behind back here as soon as is humanly possible."
"Thank you, Adam. I will -- on all counts." McCoy smiled.
"Take care, my friend," said Schiff over his shoulder, leaving the office as quietly as he had entered.
For a long moment, McCoy stared at the closed door, thinking about how much he treasured his friendship with the often gruff, always demanding, but greatly respected District Attorney. Another thought brought him back to unfinished business.
He found her where he expected to find her -- furiously working away at her desk in that cramped little office she'd been assigned when she'd first come to work for him. Having changed into a more comfortable wardrobe of sweater and blue jeans, his leather coat draped over one arm, McCoy softly entered and stood just inside the doorway, watching his assistant as she poured over her notes on the Beckman case. She was oblivious to his presence.
"Didn't think you'd take replacing me so seriously." Abbie jumped, startled at the sound of his voice.
"God, Jack! You about scared me to death! I, uh...well...I just thought I'd better get up to speed on what to do when I meet with defense counsel in Kennerly's chambers tomorrow morning." She paused, seeming a bit uncomfortable. "Adam really threw me a curve and I...well...I feel miserable about this whole thing, you know?"
"You okay?" The concern in her voice touched him.
"Not really. But I will be. Adam insists. How about you? You okay?"
"Yeah...I guess. Scared."
"You'll do fine."
There was a moment of electric silence between them. She sat behind her desk, looking up, her eyes never leaving his. He still stood close to the door, his dark eyes riveted, likewise, on hers. Smiling, Jack sighed and broke the silence.
"Abbie, do you mind if I sit? I have some explaining to do."
She motioned him to a chair and for the next hour he sat across from her desk, baring his soul to this woman he had known for only a year; told her about the special woman he had known for two, about how she had captured his heart in a way he'd never thought possible; about how he had loved her...and how he had tragically lost her. He told her about the nightmare he'd been living ever since the day she had been taken from him, how some days were far worse than others -- like this morning -- and about how it was time to let someone else help him put the nightmares to rest. And when he was finished, when all his words were spent, once again, they sat, gazing at each other in silence.
This time, it was Abbie who spoke first.
"For trusting me enough to tell me; for making some sense out of the Jack McCoy I saw in that courtroom this morning. I was scared, Jack. I'd never seen you like that before...and I sure didn't like what I was seeing. What you've told me -- well, it puts things in perspective. Now I know why Briscoe said what he did to me earlier ...you know...when we were in the courtroom."
"What was that?"
"He told me he understood where you were -- and that I just needed to give you time. He's been there, too, hasn't he? Didn't Curtis tell me that Briscoe had lost a daughter? Some drug related thing, right?"
"Well, now I understand that he did know what you were going through. I'm glad I listened to him -- even though, at the time, I thought he was pulling one of those male things."
This amused McCoy. He smiled.
"Oh, yeah, you know -- something like, 'Only we men know what's best for one another' -- crap like that."
Jack laughed. "Oh, I see. Now I really am worried about your taking my place. How can I be sure you won't get so comfortable that this mere male will find it impossible to get his job back?"
"Well, I always did say my Longhorn pennant would look great on your wall." She smiled.
"Don't use permanent glue, Abbie. You'll be disappointed."
"Tape, McCoy. And you can tear it down the moment you walk back through the door. I promise."
He stood, towering over her, then reached his hand across the desk and helped her to her feet. He leaned towards her and lightly kissed her left cheek. A small gesture; yet, the significance of it was not lost on Abbie. She blushed. Jack quickly filed this away for future reference.
"I'll be in touch, Abbie. Give my regards to Judge Kennerly tomorrow. I have no doubt that you'll represent us well. Oh, and don't forget...."
"Keep Adam happy; win."
"I'll do my best, McCoy. Get back here soon, you hear?" She playfully jabbed his arm.
"Will do. You take care."
As he closed her door and started down the deserted hallway he thought to himself, I can do this. There are reasons for me to do this. I'm needed here. I have people who care about me here. And there was one last reason he couldn't get out of his mind: She blushed.