Glancing up, I saw Max Brooks being led into the courtroom for his arraignment. Most of the time being in court one could feel the formality of the proceedings, but an arraignment hearing was the exception. It felt so chaotic. The judge never seemed to be in control of the entire courtroom, the gallery was never silent, and the lawyers would still be trying to get a handle on the case or even their client. Sometimes I would walk in feeling quite unprepared as the case had been handed over to us just minutes before.
This wasn’t one of those times. For once I had gotten to properly review the case file before the hearing, even having time to speak at length about it with Mike over the phone the night before. We didn’t talk a lot on the phone usually, but last night there was some baseball special documentary on TV and he didn’t want to stay late and miss it. I joked to him, given how much he relied on his blackberry, that he could record it using Tivo, but he said it was always more fun to watch it live.
The judge banged the gavel to bring us to order. My cell phone buzzed with a text message. It was from Mike, saying, “Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.” I had to bite back a smile. I didn’t know how he knew to time his quotes to me like that. Whenever we had a “normal” day at an arraignment, Mike would send me humorous quotes right before. Of course, one could argue there is no such thing as normal, most of our cases involved murder and it was too easy to get depressed about it. At any rate, I tried not to focus on the morbidity of my job, so any break from my own mind was welcome.
The bailiff was already through with the docket number. The judge asked how Brooks pleaded and of course he said not guilty.
“Your honor,” I began, “we’re asking for remand on the defendant. “
As usual, his lawyer scoffed. “Remand? Your honor, my client has no record and he wants to continue with his education until this nonsense can be straightened out.”
“This so called nonsense is that he severely beat a woman to death in broad daylight after stalking her. We are worried he could transfer that obsession to another unlucky woman on campus.”
His lawyer shook his head, “You say he stalked, others would declare it pursuing affection, which does not prove he murdered her…”
“ENOUGH,” Judge Marcom said, tiredly. We were his eighth case already this morning which bode well in my favor. “Remand it is then.”
As soon as the gavel fell, the chaos resumed. The bailiff led Brooks away while the gallery’s volume increased to their normal roar. As I walked out of the courtroom, I was approached by the defendant’s lawyer.
“We’ve not yet met,” he said smiling. Something about him turned me off, though that happened frequently with defense lawyers. He particularly reminded me of kind of lawyer who would chase an ambulance; the reasons our profession was so loathed.
Shaking his hand, I followed, “Connie Rubirosa. Looking to discuss a plea yet?”
He smiled a very smarmy smile, making my skin crawl. “On the contrary, I wanted to hand off a motion to suppress.”
“What?” I took the paper from him as he walked off, way too confident. This was going to be bad news.
“Motion to suppress search,” Mike repeated as he started to read.
I had already done so on my way back to the office, so I filled in the blanks. “He is alleging the cops should have gotten a search warrant for the dorm room.”
Mike looked up at me, “They didn’t have to, right? Brooks had a roommate, and that kid gave permission. He couldn’t have an expectation of privacy if his roommate had full access to everything.”
I stiffened, knowing he wouldn’t like to hear what I was about to say, “Well, apparently he might not have had full access to everything. I called Lupo and asked him to tell me exactly how it went down.”
Anger was already starting to boil on Mike’s face; I almost could see steam rising from his head. I went on, “It seems Max’s shrine to Melanie along with her possessions was actually in a locked closet of Max’s. Now the roommate knew where Max hid his key so he just gave it to the detectives who turned around and unlocked…”
“DAMMIT!” So much for trying to keep Mike calm. “How many times do we have to go through this?”
He had pulled out his cell phone but I snatched it away. The move startled me as much as it did him but I had to keep Mike on target. There was no point in upsetting Lupo and Bernard for a lapse in judgment.
“Let’s just focus on how we are going to try to keep the search in, okay, Mike? We’ve got until tomorrow.”
He was glaring at the phone but upon glancing up at my face, he softened. Guilt emerged as I realized his feelings for me were giving me more control then I really deserved. I really did hate to take advantage of him in any way, but I’ve seen Mike lose his temper and go off on the cops before and we didn’t have time for that.
His eyes went down to the desktop and he began rummaging through the files on the case. “It depends on who our judge is. Maybe if we are lucky we’ll get one who is…”
“Judge Misner has been assigned.” That set Mike off into a world of swearing and I decided to let him work it out himself while I sat down at the table to go over the rest of the evidence. Misner was one of the biggest advocates for privacy and even Jack wouldn’t even be able to get him to rule in our favor.
Mike finally calmed down and we went over the case history. I almost smiled at how well I knew him by now. His outbursts of temper were usually short. Jack joked to me about how well I could stand the eruption, but it was honestly easier to deal with than other things, like feelings he would try to hide from me. I never was sure if he was giving me compliments on my work because I deserved it, or because he wanted to see me smile. So if I had a choice, I would choose dealing with a loud, transparent Mike, even if he was angry.
The next day, we were in Judge Misner’s chambers and things were going exactly as we expected they would.
“So let me get this straight,” Marcom said sarcastically, “because my client ‘only’ hid the key in his private desk drawer inside a pencil box marked ‘private’, that it was reasonable to believe he did NOT have an expectation of privacy?”
“People vs Landing states that….” Mike started, but the judge finally had enough.
Holding up his hand, Misner had the look that already told us which way he would side, “Anything in plain sight the cops can use, but grabbing a key that was hidden away to open up a very locked closet is certainly stepping over the bounds here. The contents in the closet are out.”
“Since the closet information is what led the police to arrest my client, I’d like to ask for the case to be dismissed.”
This time Misner shook his head no to Macom. “No, the case can continue. But it would behoove you, Mr. Cutter, to get some more evidence.”
We walked outside, and Mike had remained uncharacteristically quiet. “So, what do we have left?” I asked, knowing the answer.
“Nothing can be ‘very’ locked. It’s either locked or it isn’t.”
I had to bite back a smile; Mike focusing on the language the judge used was actually kind of cute. But it didn’t help us to put Brooks away. “Well, we have the witnessed fight; we actually have enough eye witnesses around campus showing he was following her…”
Mike nodded as we walked down the steps. “We have his constant emails and IMs to her that she wound up blocking that we discovered on her laptop. One in particular has him asking if she was seeing anyone else, which implies he was dangerously delusional about his perceived relationship with her.”
“Right, and then we have him at the scene of the crime before and after.”
Mike paused then, “Right, the wife of the victim’s lover seeing him before Melanie was killed. I really didn’t want to use her.”
“I agree; she actually could have her own reasons for killing Melanie, though if it isn’t Max Brooks, I’ll eat one of those mega cheese chili dogs you love so much.”
Uh oh. A familiar smile crept across Mike’s face. He was looking at me in that nonprofessional way he had. “In order to have one of those dogs, you’d have to go with me to a game.”
For some reason my heart leaped, not the reaction I wanted to his unwelcome words. “Actually, no, I can have it on my own time.”
“Yeah, but I’d have to witness you eating it,” suddenly his look changed and I realized he had gained control again. “Maybe what we should do is have you in a formal setting, out here on the courtroom steps eating it for all to see.”
“We’ve got to go see this woman, Mike. We don’t have time for your idiotic bets.”
He chuckled and we started walking again. “Right, do you have her information with you?”
“Okay, let’s go over there together. Whether we like it or not, she’s going to have to be our star witness. What’s her name again?” He asked as he flagged down a cab.
“Rosalie Floyd.” The cab arrived and we got in together. We had a case to win and a man to put behind bars so I should be relieved we were focusing on that instead of…other things.
The cab ride to Rosalie Floyd’s apartment was unusually quiet for us. Mike never liked long silences and to be honest I wasn’t a fan myself. When the cab left the courthouse, he pulled out his blackberry to check messages and alerts he might have gotten while we were in the judge’s chambers. I was used to it, my boss was certainly addicted to his cell phone and I was always quick to look at my own as well.
I didn’t do that though, using the silence to reflect about Mike’s turning a harmless bet from a game invitation. It was getting harder to keep this professional distance between us. I used to not think twice about going out to drinks with a colleague, even after the disaster of sleeping with Woll, I could relax and have fun socially with male co-workers. If the guy got a little too close, it wasn’t that hard to make things clear. I was never going to get involved again at work.
Mike was different since he was my boss and we didn’t exactly have the typical boss/employee relationship. How easy it was to remember any number of times he angered me though his professional conduct. We’d disagreed about how to prosecute cases since our first case. It’s not that I hadn’t argued with my superior before, I didn’t always see eye to eye with Jack McCoy while working with him either. However, Mike seemed to know how to really push my buttons and the slightest disagreement could turn into a major argument. Jack had walked in to stop us enough times, always stating he would have to move us further down the hall if it continued.
Mike’s attraction only compounded the issue. I was never sure if his listening to my advice or if when he gave me chances in the courtroom it was because of what I brought to the table physically versus mentally. I wasn’t a vain person, I didn’t even consider myself a real beauty, but Mike made it clear so often it was tough to ignore. I presumed Mike’s obvious attraction for me would have decreased over time but instead he seemed to be showing more interest in me and I wasn’t sure how much further it could go. The Woll case made things far tenser since everyone was aware of those feelings now. It was not just me; Jack and even Woll himself had mentioned it. Now we could hardly even joke together anymore without Mike’s face lighting up. Why couldn’t he let it go? I missed our old interactions such as hanging out after a tough or successful case. Now he was making it harder and harder.
“You’re awfully quiet.” Mike said while texting on his phone.
“I’m tired. It’s already been a long day.”
Wrong thing to say. Mike turned his head, “You okay? I can go speak to Mrs. Floyd by myself if you…”
“No, I’m fine. “ I answered, icily. I stared ahead but out of the corner of my eye I saw him flinch. He was probably mentally cursing himself and again I wondered if things would go back to normal. To think I actually preferred our fights to this.
The cab took us to the front of the building, a very upscale Manhattan residence. It looked like there was a reason that she wanted to look the other way when it came to her husband’s infidelities.
Mike whistled, “Nice. So Melanie’s body was found around the corner right?”
I nodded, “Yeah, there is a dumpster back there. It really didn’t take long for someone to find her.”
The doorman met us and was not thrilled to let people up he wasn’t expecting. After Mike flashed his DA badge, he begrudgingly informed us that Mrs. Floyd was in. We saw that as the elevator doors closed, he was already calling her.
“Nice building,” Mike said. “You get good service here.”
I nodded, mentally readying myself to talk to Mrs. Floyd. She was glad she didn’t have to testify before, so it could be a bit of a battle to get her to do so. We hated to threaten witnesses in order to get them to testify; it always made for a possible hostile witness.
The doors opened straight into the apartment. We walked into a large foyer with a center table and beautiful flowers. We heard a distant “come in” from down the hall as Mrs. Floyd was walking our way to greet us. Mike stepped aside to let me go first.
My first thought on Mrs. Floyd was how striking she was. She was an exceptionally beautiful woman. Her long, wavy blond hair was perfectly fixed as if she had been expecting company. She was dressed in a sweater and pant suit that was tailored to her body. She was probably in her late 30s, but she looked to be in excellent shape. It made me wonder why in the world her husband cheated on her with Melanie; comparatively, the younger woman looked like a girl next to the woman before me.
“Hello, Mrs. Floyd. We spoke briefly on the phone. My name is Connie Rubirosa.” I didn’t wait to introduce Mike; he liked to do that himself. Neither did I turn to look at him; I didn’t want to see Mike ogling her.
“You can call me Rose,” she said without looking at me. She was staring past me, no doubt, to my boss and I had to refrain from rolling my eyes. If she thought that fake charm would work on Mike, she was wrong.
A brief silence followed when Mike didn’t introduce himself. Rose stepped forward, past me and over to Mike. The biggest shock went through me when I heard her say, “It’s great to see you again, Michael.”
Turning, I looked over at Mike, who had turned very pale and had his mouth open. He was honestly speechless, a very jarring sight. Mike still didn’t say anything as she sauntered over to him and I was forced to ask, “You know each other?”
Hearing my voice seemed to break whatever spell he was under. He turned his head to see me, as if he just remembered I was there with him. Nodding, he said in a voice not his, “Yes, I…I do know Rose. I hadn’t realized…”
“Michael and I have lost touch over the years, sadly. He knew me by my maiden name, Garrison. And of course, I always went by Rose; Rosalie being so formal. You look great, Michael.”
I wanted to say that Mike also preferred to be informal so she clearly didn’t know him that well anymore. But I didn’t. I watched as Mike stammered and averted his eyes, like he was afraid to look at her. I had never seen him afraid of anything in my life. What the hell was going on?
“I hate to ask this, because it’s such a wonderful joy to see you again, but what are you doing here? Is it about that mess with that whore my husband was sleeping with?”
Clearly Mike was in no condition to answer so I did. “Yes, I’m afraid the case has taken a negative turn. We’re going to need your testimony after all.”
Finally, she turned to me again, I had wondered if she would ever take her eyes off of Mike. Coldly, she asked, “Really? I thought you had the case all sewn up. They did find her jewelry and such in that boy’s possession didn’t they?”
“His dorm room,” Mike coughed up. He sounded a little more like himself but not much. “Unfortunately that isn’t going to be allowed and we are going to have to tie him to the scene. Here. At the scene here. Not here, outside. Down there. Where she was there. I mean found. I mean dead.”
I would have hit him if I was closer. She laughed at Mike’s stammering like it was endearing, which changed my desire to hit him to a desire to hit her instead. “Oh, Michael. You are too cute for words. I knew you had become a district attorney. You’re doing well, I understand.”
“You know that?” He asked. I had to look away then. I thought I might throw up if I witnessed anymore with my eyes. I had seen Mike be attracted to other women before, hell; he was even played once by that reporter. But nothing came close to the sight before me and I had no idea what to do.
“Of course, I do, Michael. Where we left things…well, I will always have a warm and fond place for you in my heart.”
Turning I saw she stepped closer to him and placed her hand in his. Again, he remained silent so I took the initiative. My intention was to sound commanding but instead it just sounded haughty, “Are you going to agree to testify or not?”
She looked at me with an odd smile on her face. “Ms. Rubirosa, was it? Yes. I will testify. I’d do anything to help Michael.”
She was back to looking at him again. Walking over to them, I stood on the other side of Mike, “Glad to hear it. We will be in contact later on, maybe a couple of weeks.”
Mike let her hand go, much to my relief. I couldn’t see his face but his normal voice returned. “Yes, Rose. We’ll call you later. There is a lot to do and go over and we can schedule that for a more convenient time.”
We started towards the elevator. Rose followed, insisting she could make time for us now but I wanted to get Mike the hell out of there and regroup. Their former whatever-it-was changed everything.
Luckily Mike saw it too and told her they would be in touch. As the doors closed, Rose said, “Oh, I really do hope so.” Again the urge to hit her welled up inside me. This day was just getting better and better.
Now that we were safely out of her presence, I turned to Mike. “What the hell happened up there?”
“Didn’t you listen?” He said matter-of-factly. “Rose and I knew each other before.”
My mouth gaped open. Before I could retort the doors opened and he stepped out. I followed him. “Mike, wait. We need to talk about this.”
The doorman already had a cab waiting for us; maybe Rose called down to let him know we were leaving. I barely noticed; I needed Mike to listen. I started to get in but realized Mike wasn’t joining me. “What are you doing?”
Pulling out a twenty he handed it to me. “Use this for your fare. I need to walk back to the office.”
“Walk? It’s too far to…”
“Then I’ll take the subway. I just need some fresh air.” He wasn’t looking at me which was really scaring me.
“Well, let me get out. I’ll walk with you and…”
He quickly cut me off. “No. I need some time to myself. Alone. I just need that, okay, Connie? Please?”
The way he said please…I wanted to insist on accompanying him, but that please got to me. He sounded so different, almost sad. Finally his eyes met mine and I could swear there was a touch of a tear there. He stood up then and left me in the cab. I watched as Mike walked down the street. It took awhile before I realized the cabbie was asking where to take me.
I told him the address but kept my eyes on Mike. I didn’t know what to think. I knew I did need to figure out what this meant for the case. But instead, my thoughts were on Mike and what it meant for him now that Rose Floyd was back in his life.