A detailed, thorough investigation, but with a twist...this time for Briscoe.

Third Time's the Charm
By Gwenn McGovern

Laura stood looking out the window of the executive high-rise condo where the publishing company had put her up. The sun was just breaking though the massive concrete pillars that marked New York's famous skyline but it brought no promise of warmth for the day. Before she had arrived in the city, she had thought of New York at the most anonymous place on earth...millions of people all making their best effort to avoid each other and most of them quite happy about it. Nothing removes anonymity, Laura thought, than having someone murdered in the suite next door.
The building was an anthill of NYPD members scurrying from room to room, getting any information they could about the incident. Laura had spoken briefly to a uniformed officer earlier in the morning about what she had seen and heard , and was told that detectives from the 27th Precinct would be in to discuss her story in detail. She took a sip of her orange juice and noticed that despite the hours that had passed, her hands still visibly shook. It was hard to imagine how the policemen could handle the crime scene with such composure. How do you get used to seeing people brutally butchered?
"Maybe third time's a charm, Lennie," said a sarcastic male voice, and she stood to see an officer directing two detectives into the room. "Miss Russell? I'm Detective Logan, this is Detective Briscoe. We understand you saw something?"
Detective Logan was the younger of the two, perhaps late thirties or early forties. He was tall, had a bit of a hooked nose, a shock of dark hair and piercing hazel eyes. Laura was certain that he was well aware of how good looking he was and used it to his advantage when questioning women. He motioned for her to sit and she took her place on the armchair while the detectives sat across from her on the settee.
Detective Briscoe was older, perhaps in his fifties and slightly shorter that Logan. He relaxed into the couch as Logan perched on the edge with a notebook, content to let his partner take charge of the session. Despite the seriousness of the situation, she could tell by the look in his eyes that he was amused by the scene and how Logan handled himself. She liked Briscoe's eyes, the kind of hooded bedroom eyes she had always found appealing. It took her a moment to realize that Detective Logan had asked her a question.
"What? I...I'm sorry. It's been a long night. Forgive me for not paying attention, Detective." Laura was embarrassed at being caught out. She blushed furiously and was sure that Logan must think her either stupid or evasive.
"No problem, Miss Russell, I understand completely." Logan answered with a curt smile and a sideways glance at his partner. "Can you please tell us from the beginning what you heard and saw last night?"
"I was working on the computer; it was about four o'clock am..." Laura began, then decided she had better clarify when both men raised their eyebrows at the time. "I was working on a book; I write mystery fiction. When the ideas come, no matter what time, you gotta get them out."
"Of course. Please go on," urged Logan.
"Anyway, I was concentrating pretty hard on my work when I heard a crash, like something heavy being thrown against the wall. It scared the hell out of me...you don't expect to hear loud noises at that time of the morning.
"I listened for a moment and then there was another crash, this one hard enough to shake the pictures on the wall. I could hear voices too but nothing coherent, just voices. I jumped up from my chair at the second crash and just stood listening."
"Male or female? How many voices?" asked Briscoe.
"At least three voices, all male. One angry voice, one calm voice, the other one pleading, scared..." She shuddered. "I guess he had good reason to be scared, didn't he?" Laura saw that her hands had started shaking again.
"Please continue if you can, Miss Russell. I appreciate how disturbing this must have been for you." Briscoe leaned forward and gave her a warm look.
"The sounds I heard after that were like an injured animal, like someone being tortured but unable to scream out. Then there was one louder muffled cry and nothing. I was afraid to move, I was positive that whoever was in the next room must be able to hear my heart pounding. I stood there for what seemed forever and then I hear the door slam open. I was terrified, but I couldn't help myself. I went over to my door and looked through the peep hole. I could see someone walking down the hallway away from me, and then duck around the corner towards the exit. I don't know what I was thinking next. Perhaps that I should try to help."
"Now we know you aren't from New York, Miss Russell. Here, folks just try to keep their heads down and not see anything if at all possible." Logan gave a grim look.
"No, I'm here from Montana, actually. Doing some re-write work on one of my books for the publisher." She sighed. "This is my big New York adventure."
"What did you do next, Miss Russell?"
"I went into the hallway and saw that the door to Room 1108 was wide open. I peaked around the corner and saw a man on one knee, leaning over someone. There was blood everywhere, the man looked like he was wiping his knife off on the victim's clothes. I gasped and the man looked up at me. I panicked and ran, I knew that he was just behind me. I felt something grab at my housecoat and I turned around, hit out. I don't think he expected it, he lost his balance for a minute and I kept going. I made it in the door and slammed it shut just as he regained his footing. I locked my door and screamed as loudly as I could." Her breathing had gotten faster and faster during the story, and she looked as though she was going to jump up and run. "I went over by the windows and crouched down in the corner. I stayed there until I heard someone identify himself as a police officer. I wouldn't let anyone in, I was too scared. The manager had to come open the door for him."
Laura tried to smile and failed, fighting to regain the composure that she prided herself on. Writing about murder was so easy, it never entered her mind how horrible the reality was. She stood and walked over to the window again, embarrassed about how out of control she was suddenly feeling.
"Do you think that you could identify the men you saw again?" asked Logan, clearly excited about the possibility and grinning at his older partner. It didn't look as though Briscoe shared Logan's enthusiasm. In fact, he was anything but happy.
"Not the first man, no. All I saw was his back, heading down the hallway. But the second one...yes, no doubt. I don't know that I'll ever forget him."
"Miss Russell, we have to ask you to come down to the station and look at some photographs, perhaps describe the suspect to our sketch artist. We'll need to get a formal statement from you there." Detective Briscoe stood, and Logan went over to call in an update to his lieutenant.
"I'll have to call my publishers, let them know what's happening." Just then, Laura caught sight of herself in the mirror. She was still in her night shirt and a pair of jeans she had slipped on when the police arrived. "Can I take a shower, get myself a little cleaned up first?" She crossed her arms over her chest, feeling rather self-conscious about her appearance.
"Of course, we need to talk to a few other people anyway. Fifteen minutes okay?" Briscoe favored her with another smile. As he passed by, he touched her gently on the shoulder. They looked at each other with surprise at the shock that seemed to pass between them.

"What did I tell you, Lennie? Third time was definitely the pay-off! Two other neighbors hear something but decide that it must be a TV program, and we luck out on an eye witness who saw the perp leaning over the body! It's beautiful!" Logan was on a high, pleased with the outcome. The murder victim was a man on the run, not from the law but from his business partners. Further inquiries revealed that John Wamsley had bilked his buddies out of $2 M before deciding to make a new life for himself and vanishing. Laura Russell had picked the suspect, Marv Greeley, out of a mug book later that same day of the murder. Greeley was a small-time thug who had apparently decided to improve his career options by becoming a hired killer. Too bad he hadn't been better at keeping things quiet. All that remained now was to track down Greeley and tie him to the other suspect and the money behind the operation. Without a doubt, Greeley would turn coat and hand over his employers to save his own ass from a first degree murder charge. Character and loyalty were not his strong suits.
"Still gotta find Greeley, Mike. There are lots of rocks for scum like him to hide under. Having Miss Russell identify him means squat until he's in custody." Lennie Briscoe rubbed his eyes and smoothed back his salt & pepper hair. He had other things on his mind.
"Speaking of the lovely Miss Russell...I must say, Detective Briscoe, that I was wondering if we were going to get anything out of her at all this morning. She seemed kind of distracted, didn't you think so?" Mike had seen the non-verbal exchange between his partner and the author and was determined to give Lennie as bad a time about it as he could. He couldn't keep the grin off his face.
"Well, when you got it, you got it, Mike. Not all women are susceptible to your Irish charms and boyish good looks, you know," kidded Lennie Briscoe. "She must be a lady with taste." He smiled, but the joking seemed pretty half-hearted. Mike stopped grinning and took a serious look at the older detective.
"OK, so what gives? Why the lack of enthusiasm? Talk to me, Lennie."
"He'll come after her, Mike.."
"And then we have him! Geez, relax! You know the drill. She'll have round-the-clock protection until he makes his move." Logan moved to sit on the desk in front of Briscoe. "We've done it a million times, Lennie. It's the classic trap. What makes this different?"
Lennie looked at the younger man, then down and smiled. "Yeah, you're right. Pretty simple stuff. I guess it's just been a long day." He got up and slipped on his overcoat. "I'm going to head out. We'll talk atcha later."
Mike watched him head out of the office, and wondered to himself how the whole thing would play out. He knew already that this case had become personal for Lennie.

Lennie hadn't been able to stop thinking about Laura Russell all day. He chided himself inwardly, trying to convince himself that it was something he should not pursue. There were a lot of reasons to steer clear of any involvement...she was too young, she was a witness in an active investigation, it wouldn't be professional, he was no good for any woman he felt anything for. He knew all that, but still his mind kept conjuring up images of her from that morning.
He got into his apartment and flicked on the light. His place was in a good enough neighborhood, small and comfortable enough. He liked to joke about living in a closet because of his many alimony payments, but the truth was that he liked it. He could have had a bigger place; all three of his ex's had moved on to greener pastures and no longer needed money from him. He still paid child support for the two girls, girls he saw maybe once a year if Gloria could convince them to go see their father. If he had too much space around him, though, he strongly felt the absence of too many things from his life. So he stayed where he was.
Lennie changed into his civvies and heated up something left over from dinner out a few days earlier. He sat back on the couch, tuned in the Ranger's game on TV and ate his supper. It took him a while to realize that he was not really watching and in the end he decided on listening to a Leonard Cohen CD instead. Just needed some background noise for thinking.
He hadn't led the life of a monk since his last divorce; there had been a steady stream of nice but deliberately meaningless girlfriends. Some were just for companionship, some for more carnal release. But eventually all of them seemed to sense that there was no direction in the relationship and they faded away, no regrets or anger on either side. He didn't want to care about anyone. That's when people started getting hurt.
Try as he did, though, he couldn't rationalize away the thought of Laura Russell. The tension he felt around her was physical and emotional all at once. He wasn't happy about the way he felt; he was someone who needed to have control over his life. Lose control and things can get out of hand. You could go falling for someone and destroy their lives in the process. He had been told often enough that he was bad news; he knew it to be true. But the way she had looked at him, the curve of her mouth, her white neck...
She was beautiful, he decided, and as he went into the kitchen to clean up his few dishes, he wished with all his heart that he had never seen her.

Laura pecked away at the computer, trying to get her re-writes done and to get her mind off of the day. She soon discovered, however, that nothing she was typing in was making much sense. The sight of Wamsley's body kept flashing back into the front of her brain, and she finally gave up pretending to work and turned off the lap top. Her heart was no longer in her book. Seeing an actual murder scene and becoming involved in the case robbed her of any creativity she needed. She wasn't sure if she would ever be able to write mysteries again...it had come much too close to home.
The higher-ups at the publishing house had been thrilled beyond words at what had happened, seeing the entire incident as a publicity boon. Although Lt. Van Buren had convinced them to hold off on releasing anything about Laura's involvement until after the case went to trial, they were positively slobbering at the possibilities. "Too bad I just don't care anymore," she thought. The whole exciting experience had been destroyed for her in one fell swoop. Book or not, she now regretted ever coming to New York.
She stood from her chair and stretched, looking around the room. The DA had moved her out of her executive suites and into a somewhat less luxurious hotel, closer to mid-town Manhattan. She was under constant police guard and had been told that there were regular patrols around the building. She felt imprisoned; can't go out and can't run home to Montana.
Laura turned on the TV and clicked from program to program. She caught a brief glimpse of what must have been a news story about the murder but she quickly continued past, not needing another reminder. Finally, she decided that she may as well take a good hot bath and call it a night. She let the officer outside know that she was going to bed, and he wished her a good rest before turning back to his magazine.
She turned on the taps, dumped in some bubble bath and clicked on the radio in the bedroom so she could listen to a soft jazz station. She took off her sweats and underwear, then turned to look at herself critically in the mirror. There were faint circles under her violet eyes, and small wrinkles that she had just recently noticed at the edges of her eyes and mouth. Wasn't thirty-three too young for that? Maybe not, she felt eighty-three tonight. She ran a quick hand through her honey blonde hair and pulled it into an untidy bun. Laura looked at the one long light blonde streak which had escaped the bun and hung down the left side of her face. She guessed that the streak would turn white when she got older, but at least it would be distinctive. She was far from skinny, instead having the generous bosom and hips but tight waist that defined an hour-glass figure. Kind of a Rita Hayworth thing, she thought to herself as she struck a pose and snickered.
It wasn't as if anyone had been around to make any judgments on it recently; it had been two years since she'd been with anyone. Laura tended to take herself and her relationships very seriously; she was open and giving to those few who wanted the same thing, and wasted little or no time on those who didn't. She knew the kind of commitment she sought tended to scare away most men that she had met, but she had no regrets about it. Their loss as far as she was concerned. She turned from the mirror and stepped into the warm, foamy water.
As her muscles began to relax, her mind once again sought an escape from what she had gone through since the wee hours of the day. Not suprisingly, Detective Briscoe was the first thing that came to mind. She smiled to herself remembering him. He had a strong face, she thought, and the laugh lines betrayed a sense of humor. She thought of his lips, his deep voice, his broad shoulders and again, those wonderful eyes. Laura lathered the soap and slowly washed , starting with her neck and arms. She recalled with another blush how she had briefly lost herself in those eyes during the questioning, and then she sighed deeply at the thought of his hand against her shoulder. She had never experienced nor expected that kind of powerful rush from such an innocent touch. Her hands moved down over the rest of her body, working up the suds. She smiled and decided that it was a good thing that Detective Logan was the one she had dealt with the most at the station; she doubted that she would have been able to concentrate on her statement and identification of a suspect otherwise.
As images of Detective Briscoe passed through her mind and her hands drifted over her body, the bath water actually seemed to get hotter. She laughingly realized that if she was to get any sleep at all that night, a nice brisk shower might be a better idea.

Days passed and Laura decided that regardless of what had happened, she had an obligation to meet with her publishers and finalize some deadline and payment details. Accompanying that was an overwhelming need to get out of the hotel. Logan had warned her that if Greeley and his accomplice had figured out where she was, there was a chance they would use this opportunity to try to get to her. That had scared her at first and then angered her. Who knew when they would catch this creep? There was no way she was hiding the rest of her life away. Arrangements were made for a black and white to pick her up in the morning and escort her into the office. She was ready at eight when the officer knocked on her door and took her down to street level in the freight elevator.
Typical morning traffic in New York was slow but steady, and the police car came to a stop at yet another light. The cops chatted about the previous night's basketball game, and Laura sank back into the rear seat of the car. It would be a relief to get back to work and think about something besides the murder. She pulled out the notes she wanted to go over at the office and was completely taken aback when she heard a loud crack on the passenger window. Looking up in the direction of the noise, she saw Marv Greeley's face looking back at her from a blue Chevy coupe that had pulled up next to them at the intersection! A man in the back seat of the Chevy raised the pistol again and Laura realized that he had shot at her but that the bullet-proof glass had held despite a maze of cracks. She threw herself to the floor of the cruiser and covered her head. Before the second shot came, the passenger door opened behind her and Lennie Briscoe pulled her out onto the pavement, covering her with his body. The shot sounded in the next moment and the glass shattered with the impact. It was then that she heard the sirens and saw from her vantage point as the Chevy kicked up gravel and drove off. Her escorts hadn't even had time to draw their own weapons before the Chevy was around a corner and out of site, with two unmarked cars in pursuit. Logan came running over to check on his partner. "You took a big chance, Lennie. Van Buren's going to burn your butt for that!." He glanced at Laura and smiled grimly. " I'm going to go after them. You stay here, Lennie." He rose to leave, but Briscoe grabbed his arm.
"They're mine, Mike," growled Lennie.
Mike nodded and ran to the detectives' car. He sped off after the squad.
An ambulance arrived to check out possible injuries to Laura or the officers. Although shaken, there was nothing physically wrong with any of them. She was later told that the back seat shooter had tried to run when they were cornered and had fired a shot at an officer. At that point, he was shot several times and pronounced dead at the scene. Greeley had tossed his weapon from the window and surrendered peacefully.

Laura finished making her statement at the station and was driven back to the hotel by an uniformed cop. She was still in shock, finally understanding that what had happened today was exactly what the police were counting on. Greeley had gotten in way over his head and had been willing to kill her and anyone else in the way to try to cover it up. He might roll over on whoever paid him to do the Wamsley killing, but everyone was pretty sure he was never going to see the light of day again after what had happened in the street. During the course of the events at the precinct, Lennie had disappeared into the crowd and she never got a chance to talk to him. Laura wondered if that wasn't exactly what he had in mind. He hadn't spoken the entire time they rode back to the 27th.

Greeley was sitting in the interrogation room, trying to look nonchalant and failing miserably. It was clear that he never thought things would come to this. He had tunnel vision when it came to setting up operations, and neither the brains nor the expertise to really consider possible consequences. He decided against a lawyer, they were all in it together anyway. He was willing to take a chance on working something out himself.
Logan and Briscoe entered the room together while Jack McCoy, Claire Kincaid and Lt. Van Buren observed from behind the one way glass. Lennie stood with his arms crossed at the side of the table where Greeley sat and glared daggers at the man. Mike sat down in front of him and spoke quietly.
"Well, Marv, it's hard to know where to begin. Let's start with the murder of Mr. Wamsley, shall we? As you may know, we have an eye witness placing you at the scene of the crime. Unlucky for you that she has such a mind for detail, isn't it? Now Marv, we both know that you don't have the brains God gave a turnip..."
"Fuck you. I got into a high security building without being detected, didn't I? And I found out where your precious witness was staying too!" Marv was shoveling the bravado and hoping that the cops didn't notice that twitch in his hands.
"Oh yeah, you were brilliant, shit head," added Lennie, stepping forward. "You make more noise during your hit than a brass band in a monastery. Just had to get your jollies, though, didn't you? Couldn't just kill the guy, had to kick the hell out of him and stab him twenty times first before you offed him. Then you decide to stand over your victim and beat your chest for a while. That kind of IQ, Greeley, hard to imagine you're not over at New York University getting your Ph.D.!"
"How much did you get for the hit, Marv? Did you give these guys a bargain basement price? Did they know they were dealing with a stupid amateur? Hey Lennie, I guess it really is true - you get what you pay for." Logan leaned back and laughed at Greeley.
"Forget it, Mike. This one hasn't the brains to pull his butt out of the flames. He's a big time guy, you know. Maybe it was just for fun, maybe no one else was involved at all." It was all Briscoe could do to keep up the banter. There was nothing he wanted more than to smash Greeley's face into the table until his skull cracked open.
Greeley looked defensive. "Yeah, well...what kind of deal would I get if I spilled all I know? I mean, I just did the dirty work, none of the planning. Hell, the guy who paid me is the one who got me into the building in the first place."
"I can't really say, Marv. The DA is going to have to make those decisions. But if you decide to cooperate fully, I'm sure that they will see their way to giving you some kind of break on this charge. What do you have to say?" Logan pulled out a tape recorder.
Greeley broke down and gave them every detail they could have asked for. One of the former business partners, Stewart Miller, had a nasty temper and an unwillingness to wait for legal justice against Wamsley. He had contacted Greeley through some unscrupulous past associates and had paid him and his accomplice, Don Lasko,Ê$5 000 for the hit. The three men had met in Central Park to exchange details and cash, and Miller had provided a card key for the back door of the executive building. It had been sheer coincidence that Miller found where Wamsley was hiding at all. Mr. Miller kept a mistress on the side and had rented her a suite in that very complex. He had spotted Wamsley getting onto the elevator one day and had his mistress shadow him until she saw him go into Room 1108.ÊThe rest was easy.
"Marv, we appreciate your honesty. And in keeping with that same spirit, I just want to let you know something. First of all, you found our witness because we wanted you to. We realized that you were just dense enough to make a play for her out in broad daylight. You didn't wonder why we moved in so fast? We were on you from the beginning, asshole!
"Secondly, you might plead out on the first charge, but you're going to twist in the wind for the attempted murder of the witness, not to mention being an accomplice in the attempted killing of some of New York's finest. The lady is going to put you away forever, man."
Logan had a smug look on his face as he stood. He picked up his notepad and was walking towards the door with Lennie when Greeley hissed out from his anger and humiliation.
"My only regret is not catching her and cutting out that bitch's eyes. Too bad Donny didn't have enough fire power to blow her brains out today!"
Lennie whipped around and dragging Greeley from his chair, threw his against the wall.. He held him there with one hand and hammered his fist into Greeley's face repeatedly. Greeley was too startled even to defend himself and was covered with blood by the time Logan and McCoy could pull him off. The detective was in a white rage, screaming at him, "You fucking piece of garbage! You're nothing! No one means anything to you! You don't understand anything!" It was all that Mike and Jack could do to drag him out of the room. Outside in the observation hall, Lt. Van Buren and Claire just looked at each other in disbelief at the reaction of the senior detective. Lennie was always to one who could be relied on to keep a cool head in pressure situations. What could have set him off like that?
Once out of Greeley's presence, Lennie seemed to deflate and sat down on the floor with his head in his hands. Mike whispered briefly with the others and then pulled Lennie up.
"Come on, buddy. Let's get the hell out of here. You get to have the afternoon off." He took his partner back to Van Buren's office until he could pull himself together. After a while, Lennie convinced Mike that he was all right and just wanted to go home. Mike gave him a ride and returned to the station to explain as best he could Briscoe's loss of control.

Laura had slept the afternoon away. The pressure that she had been under was finally gone and whatever happened with the case now, she had started to feel like a person again. It was far from over; Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy had asked her to remain in New York until she could testify. He told her that Greeley had implicated another party, they were fast tracking the trial and expected that it would be over within the month. But at least that psycho Greeley was locked up and she had nothing to fear from him again.
She heard a knock at the door and walked over. As she swung it open, she saw the officer was still posted outside (ongoing VIP treatment for the star witness, she mused) and beside him stood Lennie Briscoe. He looked ill at ease, disheveled and almost lost. "Please come in, Detective," she asked, and stepped aside for him.
Briscoe walked into the room and stood uncomfortably with his suit coat folded over his arms. "I just wanted to check on you...we kind of lost track of each other at the station." He gave her a weak smile.
"I'm glad you came. I never got the chance to thank you. You took a huge risk for me, I can't believe what kind of courage that took." Laura motioned to the couch, and took an armchair for herself.
"All in a day's work, ma'am. Glad to be of service." Lennie quipped, but Laura didn't smile.
"You don't need to be flip for me...you make it sound like less than it was. Don't throw my gratitude back at me like that!" Laura was suddenly angry and walked over to the wet bar for a glass of water.
"Look, I'm sorry. That's just the way I handle things sometimes." Briscoe looked down at his hands, unsure of what else to say to her. "Maybe I should just go...you must be at your wit's end after everything that has happened. Get yourself some rest." He stood and started back towards the door.
"No, please. I would really like it if you'd stay. I'm sorry for snapping...sometimes that's the way I handle things. I take everything very seriously." She smiled at him. "Can I fix you a drink, Detective? The DA was kind enough to stock the bar in my hotel prison."
"Thank you, no...the last time I had a drink, it took me seven years to stop." Lennie hung his coat over the back of the couch and sat down again. He looked so tired, she thought. She abandoned the bar, and he watched her as she moved nervously around the room.
"Did you get in trouble with Lt. Van Buren? Is she upset?" asked Laura, trying to make small talk while she struggled for what she really wanted to say.
"Nah, far as the brass at City Hall is concerned, I'm was a big hero today. Department looks good so she does too. I might have to face up to a few other indiscretions, but the Lieutenant understands that I made a judgment call. It'll smooth over." Lennie stood again, looking at her. He seemed unsure of what to do next but then walked slowly towards her.
Just like the night of the murder, Laura's heart started beating so loudly that she was sure it must be audible. He got closer and she swallowed hard. The sparks that had flown between them just a few days before filled the room and she couldn't seem to break away from his gaze. Lennie stood just inches away, looking down into those violet eyes, the thought of which had kept him awake through the past several nights. He had never been caught up in so strong a wave of desire, not with anyone. It scared the hell out of him but he couldn't fight it anymore.
It seemed forever that they stood there like that. Then Lennie reached out with his hand and ran one finger down the pale streak in her hair. His hand moved to the back of her neck and drew her closer still. So slowly, he bent and kissed her softly, taking in her scent. Laura's hands reached up behind his shoulders and pulled him tightly to her, returning the kiss harder. Her hands moved around front to stroke his chest and neck and to loosen his tie. She pulled back and looked up at him.
"You are all that I have been thinking about through everything that has happened," she whispered, her voice husky. Lennie did not reply but kissed her again, touching her lips lightly. She pulled back and took his hand, leading him to the bedroom. The last thing she wanted was to be disturbed, not now...
She closed the door and came back to him with her lips open and waiting. As they kissed with a new sense of urgency, she pulled off his tie and opened the buttons to his shirt. Laura pushed him down onto the bed and straddling him, ran her fingers through the curly dark chest hair. She found what she wanted and leaned over to suck and tease his nipples with her tongue. She heard him groan in pleasure and felt him harden, straining against her. When he could stand it no longer, he reached up, grabbed her wrists and flipped her over. He opened her blouse, undid her bra and gently explored her pink-brown nipples with his mouth. She let out small sighs that urged him on, and it was a matter of seconds until they were both skin to skin, their clothes laying in untidy piles around the bed.
He took his time, nuzzling her neck and ears, kissing her eyelids and chin, and she breathed in his musky smell. Laura could hardly stand the wait, all she wanted was to feel him inside of her. "Now!" she begged, but still he kissed and stroked, moving slowly over her body. He wanted to savor each aspect of her, not wanting this part to end quite yet. She reached down between his legs and felt him shudder at her touch, pulsing against her hand. "Please!" she whispered, and he entered her with such force that she gasped in shock. He knew how to pace himself, not letting her get too far ahead of him. They rocked with ever increasing intensity, riding the waves higher and higher. When they finally came it was together, and Laura had to bite her lip to keep from crying out.
They laid entwined for a long time, not speaking. Laura gradually dozed off again, listening to his heart beat. Lennie held her close and knew that even the very thought of losing her would kill him.

The trials of murder for Stewart Miller and attempted murder for Greeley finally began. Remembering the night of the murder and subsequent events shook her badly, but with Lennie's support she got through it. Laura's testimony was strong and her descriptions of the original crime scene and the attempt on her life convinced the jury that neither Greeley nor Stewart should see freedom again for a very long time. Greeley had taken the Murder Two plea; even though as an accomplice he could not testify in court against Miller, much of what was said in his statement was backed up by other witnesses including Miller's mistress. Greeley was also found guilty on two counts of Attempted Murder. He was sentenced to Twenty to Life on each count, no eligibility for parole until he turned ninety. Miller got a First Degree conviction and was sent away for Twenty-five to Life, no parole. She and Lennie went out and celebrated with dinner and club sodas at a nice Italian place, as far away from the courthouse as possible.

There were no charges or disciplinary action stemming from the confrontation between Briscoe and Greeley. Marv Greeley had been far too worried about the DA's influence in sentencing to make any noise about it. Lt. Van Buren had pulled Briscoe onto the carpet for his actions and made him swear that should he have a personal involvement in any future cases, he would request reassignment. He was genuinely contrite and Van Buren didn't have the heart to put him through any more. She told him that it was good to see him happy, then brusquely dismissed him.
Mike had worried about how Lennie would react to working again and had been surprised that his partner seemed back to old form right away. Okay, perhaps a little less cynical than before, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. The support that Logan had given Briscoe during the tough times brought them closer as partners and friends, made them more effective as a team.
Something else that surprised Mike was that he was more than a little envious of what Lennie had found. After all, he thought, how many people could truly say that they loved each other at first sight?

It was a Sunday morning, probably her favorite time of the whole week. Sundays were a special haven of quiet, even in New York. She had risen early that morning, leaving Lennie to sleep and made herself some coffee. She sat looking out his window at the orange glow sneaking around the apartment buildings and thought about what she was going to do.
It was hard to believe that the trials were over and that there was a life outside of police stations, attorney's offices and stifling hotel rooms. Her parents were calling every couple of days, wondering when she was going to come back to Montana. Her bosses at the community college where she taught writing were wanting to know when they could expect her back at work. The publishing company wanted to know when they could expect a new book. She had a life a thousand miles away, but it no longer seemed real to her.
Laura went back into the bedroom and knelt down by Lennie's side of the bed. She watched his chest gently rise and fall, and had to admit that in a few short weeks she could not possibly hope for better than what she had before her. Mike had secretly told her about the incident between Lennie and Greeley, and it only served to confirm the depths of the feelings that Lennie had for her. Everything back home in Montana was a sure thing, but her heart told her that now was time to take a chance on the only thing that really mattered.
She laid down beside her protector, her love and kissed him awake. He smiled and turned to wrap his arms around her. She in turn reached under the covers to caress him. He grinned at her deviously and grabbed her hands, pulling them up over her head.
"Never satisfied, huh? I'm not young anymore, you know. You keep this up, it could do me in!"
Laura arched her neck to kiss him gently and whispered to him, "I can't think of a better way to go!"


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