[A/N. I know I haven't updated this story in quite a while, but that's basically because I've been working on it and (hopefully) improving it. So I thought I'd also repost the chapters as a few of them have been changed quite dramatically, whereas others have only had a few changes.]
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA.
Taking time off.
"….and so therefore I must acquit the defendant. Case dismissed." The judge's banging of the gravel onto the bench before him actually felt like someone was hitting me with something. In fact it felt so real I almost went to hold up my arms to ward off the blows. It took me a moment to regain my breath.
I couldn't believe that after all my hard work, and the terrible thing that this man had done, a stupid point of law had gotten him off! The police department had apparently illegally obtained evidence, but they hadn't bothered telling us, the DA's, they'd just let us try the case, hoping that their mistake would remain a secret. Unfortunately the defence lawyers didn't miss a trick- the moment they worked out what had happened they let the judge know, and that was that. The case was over and this man was free to walk the streets! If I had of known this from the start then I wouldn't have even bothered trying the case. As it was not only was I annoyed that someone like this could get off on a mere technicality, but I was annoyed that I had wasted so much of my time and energy on something fruitless.
I gathered up my files fuming as the smug prick walked out of the courtroom with his supporters, and his main lawyers. Not caring whether or not they were crushed or bent I shoved my files into my bag almost violently. When I pushed my chair back it fell over making a loud noise in the huge courtroom but I didn't bother correcting it. A few of the defendants supporters were cheering and I half expected them to pick him up and carry him out on their shoulders in a triumphant parade.
Near me sat the defendant and her mother. The young girl was dressed neatly but her pale face and bags under her eyes belied the stress and pain she was under. Her mother didn't look much better. Both were silent, staring at the floor. I wanted to say something to them, but I didn't know what to say. I'd promised them that he wasn't going to get away with this, and he had. And even though it was due to circumstances beyond my control I'd broken my promise to them which felt terrible. I leant over and put a hand on the young girl's arm and she almost jumped out of her seat. Her teary blue eyes looked up at me in fright, and I felt a chill go through me. This man hadn't just physically and sexually abused her, as well as emotionally abusing her, but by walking out of the court meant she would have to deal with what had happened to her, and the knowledge that the person who'd done it was free. Her mother looked up now, and she met my eyes with a slight smile.
"I'm sorry." I practically whispered, my throat constricting and my eyes bright with unshed tears.
"It's not your fault." The mother assured me, but I could tell from her voice that she was near to tears too. "You did a noble job."
"Noble?" I said, noting the bitter edge to my voice, but not able to control it. "What good's noble when it counts for nothing?"
"You couldn't help it." The mother assured me again, her eyes averted from mine. "Thank you."
The young girl smiled weakly too. "Thank you." She repeated, and then she glanced towards the door through which her abuser had just triumphantly exited and blanched.
I couldn't stay there any longer, and I was unable to respond so I just nodded, and then turned and walked away. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that Brodie, who had been part of the defence team, although he was only an up and comer at the moment and therefore not a major part, was staring at me from the defence table as I started past him, my head held high. He stopped gathering things up when I moved past him.
"Alison?" He asked, and he reached out to grab my arm but I shrugged it off angrily.
"Look Ali, I'm sorry." He said.
"What do you have to be sorry for?" I asked. "You did your job- he's free."
"I know, but I also know he shouldn't be." Brodie said, pushing his blonde hair back out of his eyes. This guy had the most amazing green eyes, which was one of the things which attracted me to him in the first place. I had to admit to myself- when I was being honest- that his body didn't hurt either, he worked out religiously, and it showed. I'd met him on the steps of the DA's office where he was on his way to a meeting with one of our members of staff and I was rushing out with a bunch of folders and files not looking where I was going. It was kind of like in the movies when I think about it- us knocking into each other and my folders and files going flying. We'd both hurriedly bent over to pick them up, both apologizing profusely. When the paperwork was safely back in my arms I looked up at him, and into his green eyes. He smiled and told me he was sorry, he was running late for a meeting, and I told him that it was fine, I should have been looking where I was going. He'd gone inside, and I'd left but from that day on there was always something between us. However we worked for different teams, and nothing could ever come of plain old attraction.
"It's a bit late to get ethical isn't it?" I asked sarcastically.
"Sorry," He shrugged nonchalantly. "But you're right, I did my job."
"Congratulations." I said, and I started to walk out of the courtroom, but Brodie, being Brodie, couldn't let well enough alone.
"If it was the other way round and you'd won I'd be a hell of a lot more gracious than you're being." He said, sounding something like a petulant kid who hadn't gotten their own way.
"That's nice to know." I replied. "Of course, had I done my job at least justice would have been done. Damnit Brodie, we both know perfectly well that Jason raped that little girl, that he'd been abusing her for years. And now she's going to grow up into a screwed up kid because of this. Whilst wounds might heal, psychological scars can linger forever."
"You don't know that." Brodie argued, but his eyes told a different story. They flicked towards the young girl and her mother who were now getting up and leaving the courtroom too, with friends and family gathered close to them for comfort.
"Right, I don't." I said casually. "Look Brodie, I've got to get back to the office. I'll see you round."
"Ali-what is it with this case?" Brodie asked, and the note of concern in his voice angered me rather than touching me.
"What do you mean?" I snapped furiously.
"I mean you're not usually like this. This is a job, we're not meant to get involved." Brodie said.
I knew what he meant, what he was getting at, but he phrased it the wrong way, "You can be such a coldhearted bastard. I've got to get back to the office."
He muttered a goodbye as I hurried from the courtroom. The bright light and heat were a shock after having been in the relatively cool confines of the courthouse. I shielded my eyes from the sun and looked around.
Out the front a bunch of journalists were gathered around the prick and his lawyers and one of them was declaring how wonderful it was to live in a democratic society.
"Democratic my ass." I muttered angrily, and I started down the steps, as far from the media circus as possible. Over the heads of the journalists my exit was not unnoticed. Max Wheeler was what some called a great lawyer, and what others called a slimy prick. I was part of the second group, especially considering Max had dealings with the DA's office on a regular basis, and as assistant DA I often had to deal with him.
Seeing me walking down the stairs Max favored me with a large smile, but I didn't bother acknowledging it. I saw him lean down to someone and tell her something, but by then I was down the stairs and on my way back to the office.
I heard running feet behind me, and gritted my teeth. If it was Brodie I'd probably have to kill him. I didn't want to hear anymore about the damn case. I just wanted to get back to my office and broad about it alone.
"Excuse me? Miss Young?" A woman's voice called and I turned around only to be confronted by a journalist sticking a microphone in my face, and her cameraman peering through the lens at me. "You were the one who tried the case for the DA's department, can we have a comment?"
"No comment." I snapped and began to walk again.
"Did you know that there was illegally obtained evidence when you were preparing for the case?" She asked, flipping her dyed blonde fringe from her face.
"Do you think I would have tried it had I known?" I asked her, wishing they'd leave me alone. Journalists are often the bane of the DA's department especially when we lose a case. Interestingly one of the first cases I worked on when I'd joined the department involved a woman who had murdered her estranged husband, his new girlfriend, and his new girlfriend's daughter. Her defence team used two defences- firstly she was provoked by her husband's leaving her and beginning a new relationship, and secondly that she wasn't in her right mind when the murders occurred. The jury found her not guilty, and I was shocked. I'd heard her interviews, and the interviews of friends and family, and I knew perfectly well she was in her right mind, and she was simply a violent person. Then I'd seen the newspaper reports about how the DA's office hadn't done their job properly and had allowed the release of a woman capable of such extreme violence hadn't assuaged my feelings of doubt. In fact the bad press had affected me to the point that I wondered whether or not I was actually doing the right thing, whether I was even in the right job.
"So then you can't disagree that justice was done?" She asked, her voice sugar sweet disguising the malice underneath. I'd always thought it took a particular breed of person to be a journalist, and she didn't do anything to change my mind.
"What?" I asked incredulous. I stopped and turned around. Usually within the department when we lost a case we didn't comment to the media too much, but this was different. For some reason this case had really gotten to me despite the things I had seen in the four years on the job. My best friend Maxie had noticed my obsession with the case but I had been unable to explain why this one had gotten to me like it did.
"If the evidence was unfair then the only fair thing was for the judge to declare a mistrial." She said, her voice now slightly condescending. "But then you're a lawyer, you know the rules, you know that must be true."
"The judge did what was technically right, yes." I agreed, wondering why the hell I was still standing here when I should have walked away, but unable to go. It was like my feet were glued to the concrete and I was physically unable to move.
"Technically right?" She shook her head. "You've all but agreed justice was done."
"I've agreed to nothing of the sort." I snapped. "Justice was not served for the innocent girl who put up with this man's shit for years before telling anyone. Justice was not served for the mother who felt like she should of known what her boyfriend was doing to her daughter."
The journalist looked delighted at my outburst, and I mentally cursed my unproffesionalism. "So you are bitter then?"
"Bitter?" I shook my head. "You've got to be kidding. Listen-put this on your news. This was bullshit, and the man's nothing but a freak."
And then I stormed off shocked at my own attitude as well as that of the journalist. And knowing that there was no way they wouldn't have this on the news only worried me more. In legal circles in San Francisco I was known as a professional person, one who didn't let things get to me, or if they did, didn't let anyone know, and here I was practically yelling at a journalist.
It was a relief to get back into the department, not only from the hot weather but from everything. As I walked towards my office a colleague was walking in the opposite direction. He glanced at me, and then at his watch. "Early Ali?" He asked.
"Hi Tom, case was dismissed. Evidence obtained illegally." I said dully.
His eyes grew smaller behind his glasses. "You're kidding."
"Nope." I said.
"The boss is going to be ropable. Someone's going to be paying for this one." Tom said shaking his head.
"I certainly hope so. Excuse me Tom, but I've got a few things to do." I said.
He nodded and I went into my office. It's only a fairly small office, but it has a huge window which looks out over San Francisco bay, and that makes it seem bigger. I've decorated the office walls with photographs of various animals, and there is usually a fresh vase of flowers sitting somewhere. My bookcase looks like a complete mess, but I know where things are and can usually put my hands on what I'm looking for pretty fast. My desk was covered with files and paper, but it is usually only like that when I'm in the middle of a case. Generally I'm a fairly neat sort of person. I sat down behind my desk, and put my head in my hands. In four years I had never done anything like what I'd just done, and I didn't know why I'd done it. I kicked off my heels and massaged my feet and then with a sigh, I picked up my phone and called Maxie at the department store where she was manager.
"I lost the case." I said dismally. Even though the judge's banging of the gravel had made it official until this moment I half thought it was a mistake, maybe even a dream. Saying the words out loud now made it real, and I actually felt sick.
"What? Already? How?" Maxie asked confused.
"The bloody cops didn't get permission to tap the prick's phones, and somehow Mark Wheeler and his team found that out." I said, leaning back in my chair.
"So he just got let off?" Maxie asked angrily.
"Yeah." I said. "So now he's free to go and do it to some other little girl and ruin her life too."
"Did you speak to Brodie after the case? Did he tell you how they found out about the cops stuff up?" Maxie asked.
"I didn't really speak to him much." I said. "And that thought didn't cross my mind, but when I see him next I might make a point of asking him. I don't know Maxie, why is it I always fall for the wrong men?"
"Fall for the wrong men?" Maxie asked, laughing. "Are you admitting it then Ali?"
"I'm admitting nothing." I said sighing. "But let me tell you after this I don't know that I can see someone like that."
"Someone who was doing his job?" Maxie asked. "Just because you could never work as a defence lawyer doesn't mean some people can't. Isn't the point of a trial to get a fair hearing, and to be defended?"
"Oh shut up." I said grumpily, knowing she was right. I picked up a pencil and began to doodle on the writing pad sitting by my phone.
She just laughed.
"So then after the trial I'm walking back to the office when this journalist comes and asks me about justice being done? I think Max Wheeler put her up to it. Instead of walking off like usual I got into an argument with her about how this wasn't justice, and that it was bullshit and the guy was a freak."
Maxie was shocked. "Max Wheeler, I'm ashamed to share the same name as that man." She said disdainfully. I could imagine the look of utter disgust on her face. "But you said that to her?"
"Sure did, and you can bet it'll be on the news and everyone's going to be thinking about how Alison Young stuffed up, how she's bitter about losing a case….goodbye to The Dream." I said.
"I don't know about that Ali." Maxie argued. "That's perhaps being a bit melodramatic. Just because you're passionate about your work doesn't mean your not judge material."
"Well we'll see tomorrow when everyone's seen it." I said. "Anyway, I've got to go. I want to finish a bit of paperwork and then go home and soak in a bath with a good book."
"And I'm guessing that book won't involve law?" Maxie asked.
"Damn straight it won't." I said with a laugh.
"You're probably right skipping watching yourself on the television tonight though." Maxie said, and there was a laughing tone in her voice. I could imagine only too well the look on her face as she spoke.
"And why is that?" I asked.
"Well they reckon the television adds a few pounds don't they? Then the next thing I know I'm going to have to put up with you going through a fat crisis." Maxie said.
I laughed. "See you later Maxie."
"Bye Ali." She replied, and we both hung up.
I felt slightly better after having talked to Maxie- she always managed to lift my spirits somewhat. She's probably the toughest person I know. Short, with dark skin and dark hair she gives the impression of being little miss innocent, but I know her better. Maxie knows what she wants and she goes after it with reckless abandon, be it a job, or be it the latest in her string of "Mr. Rights." Most importantly she's always been there for me, as long as I've known her. And to top it all off she's probably the funniest person I know. She has me in stitches with her jokes and impressions more often than I can say.
I stared at the unopened book sitting next to me, but I didn't reach over and pick it up. That would have required energy I didn't have. Despite my comment to Maxie earlier I'd gone home, fed my dog, eaten a sandwich for dinner and then sat down on my couch and got to thinking about the case. I couldn't put my finger on why the whole thing bothered me so much- there were things I'd seen which were much worse, like the mother who tortured and then killed her infant child claiming she was suffering postnatal depression. But for some reason this case had really gotten to me, and losing it in particular. Maybe it was the fact that I had spent so much time, invested so much of myself in the case, that to have it abruptly stopped was more than I could handle. Feeling exhausted beyond belief I got up and went to bed. For the first time ever I wished it were the weekend so I could have a break. As I was drifting off to sleep my phone rang, but I couldn't be bothered reaching over to answer it and let the machine pick it up.
"Ali, its Brodie, are you there?" Brodie's voice came through the machine. "Look I know you're mad at me and I've been thinking about it, and I don't really think it's fair. I'm just doing my job, and I don't get all shitty when you win a case over me do I? For some reason you've taken this case to heart, and I don't know why. We really should talk about this Ali. Please call me."
The machine clicked off. "Sure," I said out loud. "I'll call you- when pigs fly."