Here is the conclusion to this popular story. This first part can be found here.
Black, White and Gray
The following day, McCoy and Ross met with Martin Kitring's defense attorney. The DAs put their plea bargain on the table, and the defense lawyer was delighted to see them being so lenient with his client. McCoy had a reputation in the New York bar for being a ruthless, tempestuous prosecutor who liked to win convictions at all costs. The defense lawyer had expected a long tiresome battle, not a probation sentence. He jumped for the deal.
After the lawyer and his client left, Jack suggested to Jamie that they consider filing charges against the parents for endangering the welfare of a child. Thirteen year old kids should not be screwing around and getting abortions. According to the police reports, the parents had been lackadaisical about the entire business of rearing a child, not giving a flying fuck about what their daughter did. Briscoe had said in his report that the mother found the police's interest in her daughter's activities far more perilous than the activities themselves. The detectives were a threat -- not the eighteen year old boy who was getting the girl pregnant.
Jamie, however much she agreed with the principle of the thing, thought it was one of Jack's more absurd schemes. "So we ought to prosecute the parents of every murderer and rapist because they did a shitty job of raising their kid?"
"We're not prosecuting Martin Kitring's parents," McCoy insisted. "We're prosecuting Eva Solis' parents. They knew what was going on and they didn't do anything about it. She even got a fucking abortion and they didn't find that at all worrisome. It's criminal, Jamie."
Jamie shook her head, exasperated. Just when she thought Jack had finally gotten some sense into his head about a case as opposed to following his modus operandi of prosecuting the hell out of anyone unlucky enough to be on his docket, he pulled a stunt like this. Why, she couldn't say. The Executive Assistant DA was not the bastion of morality and never considered himself so, not like Ben Stone, who had the chutzpah to dance around the same legal-ethical boundaries McCoy did, but had always disillusioned himself by thinking he was striving for some higher moral good. Jack just danced around those boundaries because he could get away with it. He'd admitted as much to her. But in any event, Jack was the last person to make moral judgments, especially ones based loosely on religious morals since the man avoided religion like he avoided the plague. She ground her teeth. Why did Jack McCoy do anything? Because he could, Godammit, and the son of a bitch liked his well-earned reputation.
"I'd just like to see you convince a judge not to dismiss this outright," she snapped.
"If I get the right judge, it'll stick. It fits the statute. Look..." He picked up a hefty copy of the New York Penal Code that was lying on his desk, riffled through its pages until he found what he wanted, and read, "'Section 260.10: A person is guilty of endangering the welfare of a child when he knowingly acts in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a child less than seventeen years old or directs or authorizes such child to engage in an occupation involving a substantial risk of danger to his life or health.' I think letting your thirteen year old have sex with an eighteen year old and get herself pregnant involves a substantial risk to her life or health. The parents obviously knew what she was doing and it seems to me like they encouraged it!" When she did not look impressed, he added, punching his words, "If the girl got pregnant, she wasn't protecting herself, was she? My God, pregnancy is the least of her worries. What about AIDS? If that's not a substantial risk to your life or health, I don't know what is. Plus, who the hell knows what the eighteen year old could have been doing to her. You gotta be sick to want to sleep with a thirteen year old girl."
Jamie folded her arms, tightening her mouth, skeptical. "Just because you can do some verbal contortions and make it fit the law doesn't mean you should do it."
"You don't think what she's doing --"
"Oh, I agree that what she's doing is dangerous. But it's absurd to prosecute her parents. Did you catch the part of that law that said 'knowingly'? I doubt they knowingly put their own daughter at risk."
Jack snorted, contemptuous. He could easily believe that the parents would put their own daughter at risk for God-knows-what STDs and abuse because he'd seen parents do crazier things to their children than that. So had Jamie, and she knew it. Why the hell was she arguing with him, and not even very well? "They knew what was going on." He swallowed hard, forcing down the hot anger that assaulted his senses. "They didn't give a damn. In this day and age, who doesn't know the risks of unprotected sex? If they knew their daughter was messing around with an eighteen year old and they did not actively try to discourage it, that's knowingly enough for me."
Once Jack got it into his head he would prosecute something, no one with any less authority than Adam Schiff could rein him in. If he wanted to be stubborn, fine. "You're basing your entire case on a few ambiguous statements in a police report," Jamie pointed out flatly. No sense in arguing the law itself with him.
He frowned at her, remembering two years ago, when she would have been enthusiastic about prosecuting anything that you could squeeze into a statute book. "What's with you? Do you have to argue with me about every Goddamned thing I do?"
"No, just about your fucked-up priorities, Jack."
"My priorities... Justice is my priority." It hardly seemed that his face could darken more. "I'll bet Abbie Carmichael would prosecute the case if I asked her to." Her eyes flashed, and he wondered if mentioning Carmichael was a mistake. Everyone knew Carmichael wanted a promotion and had the ambition to get one, and everyone knew Jamie often talked about resigning. "And I wish that justice was your priority again. Ever since that damned case against your ex-husband, you've been off in another fucking galaxy, and I am sick and tired of you not focusing on our job here. That's been what? A year, Jamie. Get over it. I need my assistant to give one hundred percent of his or herself. Otherwise, this office doesn't have a chance in fucking hell of --"
"Justice is your priority? Your priority is winning convictions at all costs, and don't say otherwise," she snarled softly, dangerously. Jack stiffened. Winning wasn't always his priority. Sometimes it was, true, but not always. "As for Carmichael," Jamie went on, "She's a good lawyer, but she's not over being goggle-eyed about being in Homicide yet. She probably jumps whenever you or Adam or anybody snaps their fingers. Well, I was never goggle-eyed, and I don't jump. And you know what, maybe that mess concerning my ex-husband last year gave me a new perspective on my priorities. Maybe slaving away for you isn't what life's about, God forbid. Maybe prosecuting some things just because you're creative and you can make anything fit any law isn't justice. Have you ever considered that? Now, I have several briefs to write and a couple motions to prepare."
For a moment, he was speechless and stared at her, his expression something between incredulity and outrage, his eyes wide and mouth half open, like he'd stare at a witness on the stand who'd just recanted her testimony. "So why don't you just go back to being a defense attorney so you can set your own Goddamned hours," he finally sneered. Then added, "I'm still gonna have Briscoe and Curtis investigate that." Just for the sake of proving that he could have Briscoe and Curtis investigate it, in spite of what she said.
"He wants us to investigate what?" Rey Curtis said to Lennie Briscoe and Anita Van Buren, his exasperated gaze flicking from one to the other, seeking their sympathy. Lennie sat on the windowsill, unperturbed as usual, and Van Buren was at her desk, worrying about other paperwork. "Has he lost his mind?"
Lennie shook his head. "Nah. I was more worried about him when he was being so lenient with the kid. When Jack McCoy acts like he's actually thinking through a case, that's when you worry."
Rey shot a helpless look at Van Buren. His partner, he knew, tended to resign himself to McCoy's whims and go along with whatever harebrained scheme the DA wanted, but Van Buren might not be so inclined. Not so. These old justice system hands -- their ethics or lack thereof never ceased to shock Rey.
Van Buren smiled at Rey, unsympathetic towards his moral disquietude, saying, "Just deal, Rey. Judge'll probably dismiss the case anyway. In the meantime, talk to the girl again."
The detectives returned to their desks, Lennie the bastion of equanimity and Rey emanating more fumes than Chernobyl.
"This ain't right," Rey complained, slamming a file folder on the desk for emphasis and giving Lennie an auguring scowl, lightning bolts flashing in his intense dark eyes. "If McCoy wins, the parents'll probably get jail time and what'll the kid get? Nothing! My God, and you're not at all worried about what we're doing to justice?"
"An A misdemeanor? That's a year at most." Lennie shrugged and took a sip of the delightfully hot coffee he'd picked up from a vendor just down the street. It was better than the schlock they had in the precinct.
"Don't tell me the penal law," Rey snarled. "And they probably will get jail time. A couple months. And Kitring still gets that damned probation sentence."
"Try the decaf, Rey."
"And you -- you of all people, you're just going along with this!"
"Why me of all people?" asked Lennie warily, lowering the coffee cup to the desk.
"Oh, come on, Lennie. You know you weren't the world's best parent, and look where your daughter ended up. Think the DA should go after you next? You know, if you hadn't been wasted off your ass for most of her life, maybe she'd still be alive."
As soon as the words shot out of Rey's mouth, he wished to God he could take them back, for Lennie suddenly looked like someone had plunged a knife into his gut.
"You son of a bitch," Lennie growled, swallowing, struggling to keep his voice level. "You don't know when to shut your goddamned mouth, do you?" Before he could submit to the temptation kick Rey's ass from here to Peru, he stood up, whirled around, and stalked out of the room, ignoring the curious looks from the officers in the room who saw him leaving, plunging down a quiet maintenance hallway where very few people ever had any reason to go. Here, he stopped and rested his back against the wall, pressing both hands against his temples so he could feel the veins in his forehead throbbing against his fingers. What was Rey thinking! Rey, who knew what he had been through for the past eight months! Rey, who had supported him -- along with Van Buren and Ross and his old partner Mike Logan and even McCoy -- when he had no family and few other close friends. No, he knew. He knew Rey. Rey wasn't thinking, that was the problem. The young detective was very good at letting things fly out of his mouth before he could think about it. But what damage a thoughtless, throwaway comment could do! A virulent heat, hotter than the fever he'd fought off last week, clawed at him. He could feel the sweat breaking, soaking his shirt so it clung to him, and he trembled as he was torn apart by the visceral anger and hurt that ripped through him, laying devastating waste to his insides, a burning fire, slashing a jagged wound. Something deep inside him screamed in agony, writhing and twisting with such violence that it drowned out his rational thoughts. If it would stop, if he could only find some way to make everything numb so he didn't feel like he was bleeding to death. God, if he could just make the pain go away. Novocain for his burning soul.
No, you mustn't go there. Not ever again. Numbing oneself out never made it go away. It just made it worse. No, you had to fight it with every ounce of strength you had to give, and more. Breathe. Get your head back on straight. Breathe. Drag yourself back on your feet. You've fallen to your knees before, and you've gotten back on your feet. Breathe. So piece yourself together and get up, get up, like the tough New York cop you are. Breathe.
For ten minutes, Lennie waited there. He thought his heart was going to pound through his ribs. He focused on breathing, just breathing, until the screaming sensation in his head of metal being dragged along asphalt at sixty miles an hour abated, and he could think straight again. The sensation of raw, screaming nerves being burned didn't go away, though. He walked unsteadily down to Van Buren's office.
"I'm going home early," he told her hoarsely.
Puzzled, she squinted at him, noting that he appeared pale and tremulous. His eyes were red; she could see the sweat shining on his forehead. Clearly he was doing his damnedest to hold himself together, but the shocks of fate have this peculiarity, that however subdued or disciplined your feelings may be, they draw out the human nature from the depths of your soul and compel you to show it outwardly. Lennie hated showing anything outwardly.
What perplexed Van Buren was that not fifteen minutes ago, he'd been fine. "Why's that?" she asked.
"I'm not feeling so good."
She agreed with him -- he didn't look so good. "Something wrong, Detective?"
"No... Yeah... I'm just not feeling so hot. I've been sick all week."
She looked at him doubtfully, knowing that it wasn't whatever virus he still had bothering him, but she let him go. There was little else she could do since she could not argue that seemed okay -- he looked like he'd been whacked on the head by a two-by-four -- and he was not going to divulge whatever was bothering him.
"Take care, Lennie," she said, trying not to look too worried. "And will you be in tomorrow."
"Try getting yourself on some antibiotics," she advised. She didn't know what else to say to him, and she wanted to say something. If she couldn't make any pertinent comments about his discombobulated, dejected countenance, she could at least tell him how to clear his lungs up. "You sound like you got some kinda bronchial infection that's not going away."
He was not feeling up to answering that with a smartass comment and turned around and walked out the door.
After Lennie left, Van Buren wandered over to Rey's desk. Curtis didn't look a hell of a lot better than Briscoe. He was trying to type a supplemental report on a laptop computer, but was failing miserably, like he had too many problems on his mind to focus on what he was writing.
"What the hell's going on, Curtis?" she demanded, placing her hands on her hips and scowling at him.
"What?" he said with a start.
"You look like hell, and Briscoe just came into my office looking like he'd been kicked around, hard, and said he was going home."
"He's been sick all week." Rey replied absently.
"What? And he just got suddenly worse within the last fifteen minutes for no reason?"
"Oh, shit," Rey muttered to the computer.
"What?" Van Buren snarled, her lips twisting in contempt, feeling her temper beginning to broil, knowing, just knowing, that she wasn't going to like what she was going to hear.
"I was pissed off at what McCoy's gonna do -- you know -- go after that girl's parents. I shot off at the mouth to Lennie."
"What did you tell him?"
Rey stared intensely into the computer screen. "I told him... I guess... That if we're making parents responsible for that sort of thing, he ought to be held responsible for his daughter's murder."
Van Buren just stared at him, incredulous that he could be that callous and careless. And to his own partner, no less. "You know, Detective," she said slowly, "If stupidity were an Olympic sport, you'd have more medals than Michael Johnson. What in hell were you thinking?"
"I dunno. I was just pissed off."
"Godammit, Curtis! We just finished putting the pieces back together, and you seem to be doing your damndest to rip them apart again. And it's going to be your problem in a very big way if Briscoe's too much of a wreck to back you up. God, I hope he's resilient, 'cause I don't want to spend another month praying that he doesn't get it into his head to bury his pain in alcohol, nor do I want glue him back together again. I don't think you want to, either."
"He did okay," Rey said. Not once, since a lapse two and half years ago, had Lennie allowed his alcoholism to get the better of him and lure him into a bar. He'd probably survive this.
"Yeah, well, hit him hard enough and he'll stumble down the twelve steps."
Rey nodded, focusing down on the keyboard, kicking himself in the head. Just how stupid and capricious could he be? Apparently Van Buren didn't think there was a limit, the way she was looking at him.
If Lennie Briscoe was anything, he was resilient. He gamely showed up at work the following day, not looking too worse for wear but masking most of what he felt anyway, so you couldn't really tell if something was bothering him. The only indication that anything was wrong was that he was quieter than usual, just enough so anyone who knew him would be vaguely cognizant that something bothered him.
Distrusting his game appearance, Van Buren took him aside in her office, after he and Rey had gone over the details of a case with her.
"I know what happened yesterday. You gonna be okay?" She looked almost motherly.
He nodded. "Yeah... I'll be fine."
"Be honest with me, Lennie. You'd say you were fine if your foot was cut off."
He smiled wryly at that. "I'm being honest. I'm not going to do anything stupid."
"I'll hold you to that. You gotta talk to Eva Solis today. You up for that? I could send someone else --"
"Yes," he insisted, folding his arms across his chest, looking at her imperiously; a healthy, genuine Lennie Briscoe glare that made you wish you were wearing Kevlar from head to foot. "I'm fine. You know Rey as well as I do. He's not known for his tact nor impulse control. He's the guy who told me three and a half years ago, 'you were a good cop, but you fell into the bottle. You climbed back out, and, well, the jury's still out...'" He coughed harshly, then continued, "If I were to take half of what he said to heart, I'd be certifiable by now."
"The jury's still out?" repeated Van Buren dryly. "That's cute. Anyway, you seem to have taken it pretty hard yesterday."
He met her piercing dark eyes with his own unwavering brown ones. "Well, yeah. Who wouldn't?"
"Okay. Guess I'll take your word for it." She could see he wasn't giving her a choice but to take his word for it. However wounded he'd been yesterday, he was as impeccable as granite today. There wasn't a way she could argue with him. Stubborn. She shook her head. Men. She hadn't met one in her entire life who would freely admit that his foot was cut off.
Lennie had told Van Buren the truth -- he really was fine and he blew Rey's callous jab off as Rey being Rey -- but he wanted to avoid Rey as much as possible today anyway. The nerves were still raw and ringing, he still ached inside, and he felt exhausted, as if he'd been run over by a train. He had to be steel, but he felt like he might shatter if someone said the wrong thing at the wrong moment.
He was mostly successful at avoiding Rey, doing work that didn't require his partner's assistance, until he had to interview Eva Solis at 3pm that day.
Outside of one of the precinct's interview rooms, Rey apologized to Lennie, making himself sustain eye contact and squirming every minute under Lennie's skeptical brown eyes. Lennie listened to Rey's contrite apology, head tilted cynically to one side, wondering how much of it Rey meant, and even if Rey meant every word, Lennie bleakly enjoyed making him feel guilty.
Eva Solis and her mother showed up five minutes late, according to Rey who kept time assiduously, escorted by two uniformed officers.
"It'll help us if we talk to your daughter alone," Rey said to Eva's mother, relieved to be confronting an uncooperative victim instead of apologizing to his cantankerous unsympathetic partner who didn't look like he bought a word Rey said.
Mara Solis frowned, dubious of Rey's request, and glanced at the disagreeable looking interview room, with its gray brick walls, its single steel gray table, and its dull green chairs bolted firmly into the floor.
"I don't understand why you're doing this, Detectives," she said.
"Can we speak to Eva alone for a few minutes?" cajoled Rey. "It'll be fine." Mara still held out, so Rey added, "I understand. I have kids myself. Three of 'em."
When all else failed, use the "fellow parent" trick. Mara relented.
The detectives sent her out with the uniforms to have coffee and a chat with Van Buren while they gently took Eva into the room. The girl stood still, petrified, her eyes flicking from one cop to the other.
"We just need to clear up a few things," Lennie told her, attempting to look benign. Now that he had something to do, he shoved his problems to the back of his head, where they shouldn't nag him. That was a coping strategy, like all his other fine coping strategies, that had never worked well in the past and didn't work well now. To hell with it. All he had to do was focus his mind on the job at hand and he'd feel better, temporarily. Dragging information out of reluctant witnesses, this was something he was damned good at doing.
"Like what?" Eva answered sullenly. "Like so what? He was eighteen and I'm thirteen. His lawyer said we wouldn't ever be able to see each other again."
"Your mother, she seemed to know about this. When did you tell her?"
"Like it matters."
"Did she ever talk to you about this? What did she tell you?" Lennie gripped the back of the chair he stood behind, so he wouldn't rub his eyes. It was not good interrogation technique to look as lousy as you felt.
"Like it matters."
The conversation didn't go too far beyond preteen petulance for a while -- the girl wasn't too cooperative, but the bastion of self-control she was not. After running round in circles under the detectives' persistent questions, she finally lost her temper, throwing a thirteen year old fit.
Standing, she kicked the chair, which was bolted in so it didn't go very far, and squealed, "Don't you get it! You fucked everything up! He broke up with me! He broke my things!"
That last excited utterance jarred all the alarm bells in Lennie's head. He exchanged a knowing, concerned glance with Rey, who also saw it, and said, "whoa, whoa, whoa. He broke your things?"
She nodded rigorously.
"Like what type of things?"
"Like it matters."
"It matters," Rey said. "What did he break?"
"Just like a few things I gave him, okay?"
Rey leaned over and whispered into Lennie's ear, "Think Olivet was wrong?"
He grimaced and whispered, "Dispo hearing on this is tomorrow. We gotta talk to McCoy now if we think..."
Jack McCoy walked out of Adam Schiff's office at ten p.m., worn after a thirty minute conference with Adam and an obnoxious prosecutor from Georgia, filled with envenomed contempt towards extradition laws, the moron legislators who draft them, and the idiot judges who interpret them, and looking desperately for a cup of coffee because he was exhausted and had more Second Circuit Appeals Court decisions to slog through tonight. He trudged to the break room, where he found Jamie Ross babying the copy machine and Lennie Briscoe sitting on a table with a cup of coffee, nursing his caffeine addiction and gossiping with her.
Jamie was telling Lennie, between colorful curses directed at the copy machine, "The NYDAC conference? Hell, it's more of a three-day party. Last year Abbie Carmichael went to every bar in Albany, got so freakin' drunk. Sylvia and I had to follow her around and keep her out of trouble, otherwise lord knows where she would have ended up. She ended up picking up a DA from Kings County. Guy was sleazier than most of the criminals he prosecuted. You'd have had to be three sheets to the wind to see any appeal in him."
"Oh, you let her go off with this sleazebag?"
"He was an improvement over the local drunks."
"For a one night stand? I don't think it makes a big difference who it is."
Jamie snorted. "If you had seen some of these guys, you would have interrogated them for something before you slept with them." She was on her knees, struggling to open a compartment on the bottom of the recalcitrant copy machine. "Oh, fuck. Lennie, could you get this thing open?"
Lennie cocked an eyebrow, giving her his characteristic bemused quirky smile, carefully set his coffee mug on the table, climbed off the table and joined Jamie on his knees on the floor to wrench open the offending compartment. "I'm sure I would have." He resumed his seat on the table, surveyed his handiwork with the copier, and added, "I hope I didn't make it worse. Technology and me don't get along."
Jack, who had gone unnoticed so far, cleared his throat and said icily, "I can't imagine that Detective Briscoe is here to catch up on the gossip or fix the copy machine."
Lennie stood up, saying, "I'm afraid not. We need to talk."
Both prosecutors eyed him warily. His expression had changed from wry amusement at Jamie's anecdote to dark foreboding faster than a pressured Mafia defendant could change stories.
"We talked to Eva Solis again," he explained.
"About the parents, right?" Jack asked, looking into the detective's hard brown eyes and seeing that they were ever so slightly bloodshot. That startled him, to see Briscoe looking anything less than a tough, impenetrable New York City cop.
"Right. She was uncooperative, at best. Didn't say a damned useful thing." Lennie's voice didn't betray his face, though. It was as calm and steady as the Hudson River on a clear day.
"And?" Jack waited for the other shoe to drop. If that was all the bad news Briscoe had, he would not have bothered to show up at the DA's office at ten o'clock at night.
"Rey and I think we may have been wrong about that relationship."
"What are you talking about, Detective?"
"The girl said Kitring 'broke her things,' Counselor. I don't know about you, but that raises my hackles."
"What--" Jack began, feeling his own hackles rising.
"This kid is obviously capable of violence," Lennie answered, his tone tinted with sarcasm. He thought it should be obvious to McCoy what he was thinking.
"And you think my sentence is too lenient," Jack said, exasperated. "And you came to this conclusion when?"
"Two weeks ago. I like waiting until the last minute, Counselor." The detective rolled his eyes. "What do you think? This afternoon, when we talked to the kid."
Jack whirled around, infuriated, his Irish temper sizzling, pacing off away from Jamie and Lennie towards the window. He stopped, staring down at clot of lights outside, hot blood pounding in his ears.
"We've got the dispo hearing tomorrow," he exploded. "I cannot go tell the judge and defense lawyer 'well, our cops think he should have a harsher sentence.'"
"Oh, like we're not qualified to make a judgment call like that."
"Olivet said she didn't think there was any violence or coercion, and she's more qualified than you to make that judgment call."
"Olivet's not infallible."
"And you are, Detective?"
"You bet, Counselor."
Jack scowled, his iron black eyes burning, glaring rancorously into Lennie's cold brown eyes. Sparks might have flown between their steely gazes.
"Look," Lennie said in more sincere tone, "Olivet didn't hear the kid today. Curtis and I did--"
"Is Curtis in full agreement with you on this one?" Jack inquired dryly, remembering an occasion almost a year ago when Briscoe said one thing about a case while Curtis said exactly the opposite, testified for the defense, and Jack had to summarily beat the crap out of his own cop on cross-examination, shoot his credibility to hell, or else lose the case (he won it).
Lennie shot him a swift, sharp glare, remembering the same case, and replied, "Yeah. Where were you at Kennan's meeting? Didn't you hear him bitchin'?"
"Yes or no, Detective."
"Oh, please. 'Yes' is the answer, but you really don't have to pretend you're in a courtroom here."
McCoy ignored that and strode back across the room towards Briscoe and Ross, his head held high, his spine stiff, supercilious as ever. But Lennie didn't so much as blink. It took a lot to impress the old homicide cop, and Jack's irascibility wasn't near enough to even make him flick an eyelash.
"I made a deal with the defense," he snapped. "I can't renege on my plea bargains or this office loses all its credibility."
"You got new facts," Lennie said.
"No, I got your unqualified presumption that's totally inadmissible because last time I looked, you were a homicide cop, not a shrink."
Lennie stiffened his back. "How astute of you. Those three years of law school were good for something after all--"
"Knock it off, Detective," Jack growled. Briscoe seemed to be out for blood tonight. His tone was harsher, his attitude sharper -- he wasn't being his usual sardonic self. Something was bothering him.
"Come on, Counselor. Just how stupid do I look -- wait, don't answer that -- but I wasn't saying that I was going to testify to this. What I've been trying to say, when you shut up long enough for me to get a word in edgewise, is that maybe you should have Olivet re-examine this kid, maybe redo the psychosexual eval, and maybe she'll reach a different conclusion. Hell, maybe get Skoda to examine him, get a second opinion, but for whatever it's worth, I'm telling you that we need to re-evaluate the Goddamned case."
"Get Olivet to redo the psychosexual eval. That'll go over real well with the defense lawyer and Judge Hale."
"Get Olivet to say she was wrong the first time," Jamie interjected. "That'll go over even better."
"Another county heard from," Lennie muttered under his breath.
"Dispo's tomorrow," Jack repeated. "Even if I thought you had a valid point--"
"I think he might have a valid point," Jamie said at the same time Lennie protested,
"Sixteen years of homicide investigations and you don't think I have a valid point?" He looked at Jamie. Might have a valid point. All lawyers were the same. Hedging everything. Even when they supported you.
"Maybe you do, but whether you do or not, dispo's tomorrow," Jack sighed, suddenly feeling very tired, "It's now almost ten-thirty at night and unless someone important -- the defendant say, or me -- drops dead, it's way the fuck too late to change anything."
"Fine," Lennie said, gazing at the city lights outside the window, frustrated because he knew he was right -- every instinct he had was exhorting vehement warnings to him about the kid -- but he also knew McCoy was right. The prosecutor couldn't make a habit of rescinding his pleas. Dammit, dammit, dammit.
Groaning, Jack dug his fingers into his aching temples. He didn't need this now. Turning his back to Lennie and Jamie, he resumed staring at the flickering lights outside the window, finding them oddly soothing.
Once he felt reasonably calm, meaning he wasn't feeling ready to sign the orders to execute anyone just yet -- maybe later, but not now -- he pushed through the ominous silence, trying to placate the detective and encourage him to leave so he could read his court rulings and go to bed. "One of the terms and conditions of the sentence is a 'no contact' order. If he contacts the girl, he's up shit's creek without an outboard."
"It'll just be too bad if she gets the crap beaten out of her before we can ship him upstream to Attica," Lennie shot back.
There was no good answer to that, other than the obvious wiseass, "life in the NYC criminal justice system is tough" remark that burned in Jack's throat, but he refrained from saying it. Briscoe was going for the jugular tonight for some reason. Normally Lennie had a longer fuse than Jack -- the prosecutor was notorious for his hot temper -- unless someone punched the wrong buttons. Of course, even in his good moods, Lennie was always acerbic, but when he lost it, he could make an atom bomb look mild. Tonight, Jack sensed a certain edginess in the old detective, sensed that he might blow up at the slightest provocation, and had the good sense to not want to provoke him. Otherwise, they might spend all night arguing with one another. Neither one of them had time for that.
It was Jamie who finally spoke, weary of being at the office, wearier of her contentious colleagues, and eager to go home to see her daughter. "Whatever this kid may be, I don't think he's a killer."
"If I had a dollar for every time someone said that to me, I wouldn't be here," remarked Lennie.
"Having a late-night party, I see," said a gruff voice near the door. The two DAs and the cop startled -- they'd been so engrossed in their conversation that they'd not seen nor heard District Attorney Adam Schiff enter. He'd been listening in for ten minutes now, leaning against the doorway, amused at the way McCoy and Briscoe failed to communicate -- as far as Schiff could tell, one could be speaking Finnish, the other Hebrew, and the conversation would be running head first into the same brick wall it was slamming into now. None of it was anything Schiff hadn't seen before. When Briscoe's and McCoy's interests coincided, as they most often did as a police detective and a prosecutor, they communicated on exactly the same frequency and got along fabulously. But as soon as their interests diverged, they could argue about the color of charcoal. One thought like a cop, the other like a lawyer, and neither one of them could figure out how to see the law from the other's perspective. It never failed to amaze Adam that between them, they had more than forty years of experience with the justice system, and still, on their bad days, they talked right past one another. It was better than watching the Marx Brothers.
This, he could see, was one of those nights where his DA and the detective would argue until dawn if no one stopped them.
"Why don't you all go home?" he said. "It's late."
Like three teenagers caught past curfew, they stood up, casting petulant glares at one another, uncomfortable because they'd not come to a single conclusion, and they'd been caught red-handed at it.
A pager's shrill call interrupted the silence. Everyone grabbed his or her beeper.
"It's me," Lennie said, studying the number on the luminescent beeper screen at his hip. "Phone?"
Jack pointed in the direction of his office and Lennie disappeared to answer whoever had beeped him at ten-thirty p.m. Curious, for a call this late could only mean that there was some homicide or other in the Two-seven's jurisdiction, Jack and Jamie waited. Schiff didn't care. He wanted to go home. He bid his two lawyers goodnight, gathered his jacket and hat that made him look like a Mafia hitman, and went towards the door, opposite the direction Briscoe had gone.
Five minutes after Adam left, Lennie returned, saying, "I got a call... 17th and Broadway..." He felt relieved. Any kind of homicide at ten-thirty p.m. was an improvement over staying at the DA's office, arguing circles with Jack McCoy all night.
"You'd better go then," Jamie suggested.
"Keep us updated," Jack said "And I'm not going to change that dispo. I can't. Sorry," he added when Lennie tossed him a reproachful glare.
Jack McCoy strode out of the courthouse, looking around for Jamie, who had had four hearings before him, one of which was a first appearance for Eva Solis' parents, and then she had split. The courthouse on a Friday was a nuthouse. The Friday docket was different from the docket on any other day of the week in that there were no set trials or motion hearings or anything like that. It was usually an amalgam of random disposition hearings, sentencing hearings (except for capital case ones), violation hearings, revocation hearings, bond hearings, arraignments, and a few motion hearings that the clerk of the court couldn't squeeze in on any other day of the week. Since your docket always said your hearing was at nine am, for example, but so was everyone else's, you could very well be waiting until ten for your case to come up. It made for cranky lawyers, defense attorneys and prosecutors alike.
Jack wished Jamie hadn't taken off from the courthouse, hell bent for election, as soon as her four hearings were over. Fuming, he wandered around the courthouse's rotunda for fifteen minutes while court was recessing. Several paralegals, law clerks, and young lawyers scurried out of his way when they saw his surly expression and even some experienced-looking attorneys found subtle excuses to avoid him. He didn't find Jamie, so he stalked back into the courtroom, annoyed at Ross and worried about the Kitring case's disposition hearing. What Lennie had said to him last night bothered him. Briscoe had been a cop for more than half his life -- he knew what he was looking at. He was also one of the most solid police officers Jack knew, not one to spook at shadows. If he was spooking at something, it was probably something worth noticing.
But Jack detested the idea of withdrawing his plea bargain. The judge and defense lawyer would be pissed, and this was a judge who'd never liked him anyway. It would be a black eye for the DA's office and his reputation if he made a habit of withdrawing pleas at dispo hearings. Already, this year, he'd done that. He didn't want to do it again.
If he didn't fuss about the hearing, his reputation would remain unscathed, and maybe everyone would be better off. Jack knew the statistics. If Martin Kitring was not a criminal now, any incarceration would solve that problem. Anyway, like he'd told Briscoe last night, his sentencing recommendations carried stipulations that the boy have no contact with Eva Solis. If the kid contacted her, he would violate the terms of his probation, and Jack could throw the book at him. Lennie could also be wrong. Experienced as he was, he wasn't infallible. He'd also been under a lot of stress during the past eight months, so his judgment could very well be a little skewed.
The disposition hearing took about five minutes to complete. Afterwards, Jack wandered outside and found Jamie sitting on the courthouse steps, holding several case files across her knees and chatting with another ADA. Why in hell was she out here? The day was one of those cold wet days, where a fine mist settles over the city and pierces whatever you're wearing, chilling you to the bone. No one in their right mind remains outside if they can help it.
"Well?" he demanded imperiously, folding his arms across his chest.
She looked up at him with that impervious gaze that women must learn as young girls, the gaze they give to you when they know that they are right and you are wrong and you'd damn better well know it too.
Right now, she was in no mood to talk to him, not after she'd had to put up with a judge, in not one but two hearings, hassling her because of decisions Jack McCoy made. One was an admissibility hearing for a murder case where he had encouraged Briscoe and Curtis to sidestep a warrant in order to get themselves some probable cause for a warrant; and the other was the case against Eva Solis' parents. How did Jack always manage to do the wrong thing? Being male just was not excuse enough.
But he wasn't going to go away unless she talked to him. His ragged leather jacket didn't seem to be doing much against the cold -- he looked wretched -- but he was going to stare at her like that all day if he thought he had to, and to hell with the weather. Anyway, she needed to give him a sizeable piece of her mind to chew on. She explained, "Judge Rivera says to me, 'this is McCoy's idea, isn't it?' I told him, 'well, yes it is.' He then says, 'I guessed as much, because it's clever, but his verbal contortions with the statute don't work this time. It's not quite clever enough to give you any probable cause worth bothering about, nor is it clever enough be amusing to me as you fumble around with sustaining the charges, so I'm dismissing those charges right now.'"
"Dammit," Jack said, but he had no heart in it. He really didn't care anymore about prosecuting the parents. It didn't seem tremendously important or necessary, it would probably be dismissed anyway somewhere along the process, and it wasn't a worthwhile case to pursue, not compared to his other homicide cases. In the end, it might do more harm than good.
"And the murder case...." Jamie continued, with such ferocity that he startled out of his contemplation. "Rivera was just pissed off. Said he couldn't believe law enforcement would go so low. Too bad you didn't listen to your cops -- well, Curtis anyway -- and me when we told you that was a bad idea --"
"But did we get the evidence in?"
"Yes, we got it, but you know how much it sucks having to catch shit for your lousy decisions?"
"So we got it. So what?"
"So what? You don't get it, do you?" She tightened her hands on the case files she was holding, trying to keep them from his throat.
He had the nerve to look at her questioningly, as if he did not understand. And he went on. "How many times have we been through this? I do what I have to do. Otherwise, we'd never win a damned conviction. If we don't prosecute with the same zeal that defense lawyers are supposed to represent their clients with, we don't stand a chance. That's how the system is. You want a better way, show me a better legal system--"
"Don't lecture me," she snarled and stared past Jack down the courthouse steps, radiating anger and contempt.
Lennie Briscoe jogged up the courthouse steps. Jamie pretended to not see him -- he could be as bad as McCoy and had been the EADA's willing partner in crime for that search warrant business. When he saw her and Jack, he hesitated and said a few words to a detective coming down the stairs, probably thinking it prudent to avoid arguing district attorneys.
Jack shrugged. His back was to the steps and he didn't see Lennie at all. "Well, there you have it." The heat seemed to have gone out of voice and his eyes were cold enough to freeze liquid hydrogen. "If you resign now, there are other capable prosecutors in the office to take your place." He said that with dispassionate equanimity, the serene, stately lawyer in a courtroom (he rarely ever was). Whatever she did, he would like her to think he didn't give a damn. No sense in letting her see that he cared. She was one of the best DAs in the office, and he didn't want to lose her. But if she was going to start haranguing him for his methods, it was more effort than it was worth encouraging her to stay. Sometimes, Jack thought, you had to interpret the letter of the law loosely, but follow the spirit of it. You had to bend the rules sometimes, never break them -- that could get you into hot water up to your ears -- but bend them just enough to serve justice, if the situation called for it. Jamie seemed to have forgotten that. It was impossible to work with someone who looked askance at everything that didn't follow the strict letter of the law and who balked at bending the rules.
Biting her lip, Jamie just gazed down at the traffic and watched Lennie out of the corner of her eye as he slowly climbed up the steps, concerned because Jack hadn't given her the tongue-lashing she'd expected, nor had he explosively turned on his heel and stalked off to the other end of the courthouse. That only meant he was going to give someone an even more virulent tongue-lashing later. Her thoughts halted when Lennie caught her eye, winced at what he saw there, and called Jack's name. Startled, Jack turned around.
Lennie leaned his shoulder against one of the stone columns, gauging the prosecutors and debating whether it was prudent to talk to them now or wait until they weren't so likely to bite his head off. A "no-knock" entry into a roomful of armed homicide suspects seemed a more inviting prospect.
"Detective," Jack said, anticipating what the detective wanted. "Is this about that thing last night? If so, I..."
"No, not that thing. The other thing."
"Oh, the other thing. Is that..."
"It's fine? You mean there's nothing..."
"Absolutely. We checked it out."
"Everything. Ballistics, fingerprints, whole nine yards..."
"Everything. You know better than..."
"I know you'd do a thorough investigation. So for sure, we won't be prosecuting..."
"No, you won't." With that, Lennie turned on his heel and jogged back down the steps, before someone could rake him over the fire for nothing he'd done yet. He recognized the envenomed, ill-tempered look in Jack's black eyes, and Jamie looked like she was about ready to chew a hole through one of the courthouse's concrete columns.
Two weeks after the Kitring case closed-out, when prosecutors and police alike had forgotten about it, Lennie and Rey were called to a homicide just down the street from the apartment of Eva Solis and her mother, on 103rd and Amsterdam, although the detectives didn't even think about that when they drove their unmarked car through the circle of blue and white police cars surrounding the crime scene. The body was in a trash bag, on the side of the road. A pair of mounted police officers had been riding by on their rounds when one of the horses, a young mare, started spooking and throwing a fit at a benign looking trash bag. The horse was young, but she'd seen thousands of trash bags on the side of the road, just like this one. The other horse, an older experienced gelding, had continued to walk obediently forward, but he'd stared at the offending bag, nostrils flared, snorting at the thing. The cops had dismounted, curious as to what had been upsetting the horses, dug surreptitiously through the bags, and found a dead body.
Lennie began interviewing the mounted police officers while Rey walked up to the body. When he saw its battered face, he stopped dead, exclaiming, "Oh, my God."
A CSU tech taking pictures of the crime scene gave him a perplexed glance, puzzled that the homicide cop seemed so surprised by a body. The body was beaten up a fair bit, but it wasn't shockingly horrific.
"Lennie!" Rey called. "Come and see this!"
"What?" Lennie asked, joining Curtis, then glancing at the body. "Oh, fuck," he said glumly. "Guess we know who to talk to first."