Ben Stone tries to come to grips with the way he did his job, and does some deep soul-searching in the process.
Ben Stone carefully adjusted his tie. His eyes never wavered, taking in his reflection in the bathroom mirror as he finished dressing. The lines around his eyes, the receding hair, the growing paunch, the increasing tiredness of age...he squared his shoulders, pushing away the threatening depression. He was taking back control over his life today; the depression had no place in it, now. He met his own eyes in the mirror not fearlessly, but with resignation. Fear has no hold on a man who knows the depths of his own soul, he thought to himself. And he knew, better than any other man could, the depths of his own soul.
Executive Assistant District Attorney Ben Stone. He missed it, being the EADA, New York, Hogan Place, Claire and Paul and Adam and the whole game. He realized he was scowling, thinking of his old office, and the people now there. Consciously he relaxed his expression. It didn't matter now, he reminded himself. He had looked in a mirror then, too. He hadn't liked what he'd seen, hadn't liked what that office had done to him. Let McCoy have it, he thought. Look what the job had done to him. That's what awaited McCoy, who burned with too much energy to slow down and see it...see the way it ate you from the inside out, took your morals and your righteousness and your confidence in justice and twisted them until all you had left inside was a burning sense of your own importance in the system, how you had to do everything you could to win your cases, or someone would walk, would get away with murder, literally, and it was in your hands to see to it that they could never do it again. And you did it, you did everything you could.
He had done everything he could, in the end, not to serve justice, but to win; because he had been convinced that those two things were one and the same. If it was his fight, it was for justice. Because that's who he was; he was the EADA. He prosecuted criminals. That's what he did. Among them, people who killed other people, or contributed to their deaths.
His gaze wavered, but he forced his eyes quickly back to the mirror. In the end, he had finally realized the truth, had finally seen what the job had done to him. He was a kinder, more compassionate man than the ADA who had replaced him, he reflected, with a greater sense of justice...and those last few years, he had pushed himself mercilessly to stay in that office. He knew who would replace him, should he begin to slip, and he had begun to feel like an aging horse with a younger stallion circling for the challenge, the sharp-shod kill. He feared for the office should someone less ethical than he take the position, and he had fought tooth and nail to keep it, to keep someone with his sense of morals in place...and in the end, it hadn't mattered. Anne Madsen was just as dead. He wondered briefly if his replacement would have pushed her quite so hard to testify, but he shoved the thought away as he had his depression. Of course McCoy would have. The job would have made him.
When Anne Madsen had been killed, that's when he had seen. Had seen what the office had made him become. How had he been blinded to the truth for so long? His ethics were his pride; his morals, his compass through life. When had the pressure to win intermixed with, supplanted, the desire to serve justice? And why did it take the death of an innocent woman to make him see?
He'd left Hogan Place in a stupor, really, though for the first time in years he was finally seeing himself clearly. And now, half a decade later, he had at last come upon his solution.
He had been warped by the office, the cases, the intense daily struggle to protect the citizens of New York and punish the criminals. He had been duped into believing that the ends justified the means. His ethics had always been right: murder deserved punishment. How best to untwist the coiled beast within his soul than to return to that original truth, that had become his original sin? He could redeem himself, he could once more separate the pursuit of courtroom justice from the performance of justice. All he had to do was live up to his own moral code. Murder deserved punishment.
He shook out the pill bottles and emptied them all into the palm of his hand. He tried to imagine his successor ten years from now, doing the same thing; somehow, he couldn't. Pills didn't seem McCoy's style. He gulped them down, wondering if it would feel like a lethal injection would feel, if the past years away from his office had been his death row. And now he carried out his own sentence. How the mighty are fallen, he thought suddenly, but he could no longer place the quote. He sat down on the bathroom floor, waiting, and wondering with his last clear thought if perhaps it wasn't the job itself that had changed him; perhaps it had been some failing of his own, a shortsightedness of both means and ends that had led to Anne Madsen's death, a failing that perhaps his successor wasn't necessarily doomed to repeat. His eyelids began to flutter and fall and he surrendered to the pull of unconsciousness, realizing that now, when his perception was at its clearest, he could no longer afford to look in that mirror.