The Price of Justice 10/14

The Price of Justice
Written November 2005
Rated PG-13
Synopsis: The rape and subsequent murder of a prominent judge leave the squad with no evidence and no suspects.

Disclaimer: The characters within are property of Wolf Films, Universal Television, Studios USA, and other corporations.  No infringement is intended.


Criminal Court of New York City
100 Centre Street
Tuesday, November 30

It was as if the entire city had appeared for the first day of testimony in Martin Leonard’s trial. Weaving through the press that mobbed outside and inside the courthouse had been difficult to begin with but nearly impossible once they had been recognized. Ashland plowed through the crowd, shouting “I’ll make a statement at the end of the day” to the reporters.

The courtroom itself wasn’t much better. Reporters had camped out in the back three rows with their video cameras, microphones and still cameras. Ashland’s motion to keep the courtroom free of the press was denied, as Leonard had passionately requested that the public be allowed to watch the proceedings and witness ‘justice at work’. There was also a closed circuit camera projecting the trial into other areas of the building for those who couldn’t find a seat in the actual courtroom.

Munch and Casey took a place directly behind the bar. He had taken the week off to be with her during the trial, even though she had insisted he use his personal leave to take a much needed vacation. He glanced around the courtroom to see if he could spot any familiar faces. A few chairs to his right was a solemn-looking Carly Summers, dressed in black. He nodded a greeting to her, and she returned the gesture. Sitting behind Leonard’s table was Cynthia Gray and another woman, probably a caretaker.

“Hey.” Elliot sat down in the empty chair beside Casey. “Olivia and Fin went back to answer a call, but I’m going to relieve her after my testimony. Is Ashland still planning on having her go today?”

Casey nodded. “Assuming Leonard doesn’t have any particularly lengthy cross-examinations.”

Like Munch, Elliot had had some reservations about Jeremiah Ashland prosecuting the case against Martin Leonard. He was young and relatively inexperienced. However, as Casey had promised, Ashland’s opening statement was captivating, and he seemed more knowledgable than anyone had given him credit for. Elliot had been called to testify first, and Ashland’s smooth questioning made him feel at ease.

“Now you and your partner, Detective Benson, interviewed Marianne Woodward in her chambers the morning of October eighteenth, is that correct?”

Elliot nodded. “That’s correct.”

“And you filled out a report regarding this discussion?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What did Ms. Woodward tell you?”

Elliot could feel the jury’s eyes on him, anticipating his response. “That on the evening of October seventeenth, upon returning home from dinner with her sister, she was raped.”

“Could you tell the jury the details of that attack?”

“She was in her bedroom, and the perpetrator jumped out of the closet. He gagged her with a washcloth, blindfolded her, tied her to the bedposts, and proceeded to rape her.”

“Did he say anything to her, Detective?”

“According to Ms. Woodward, he quoted a line from The A-Team prior to assaulting her. ‘I love it when a plan comes together.'”

Ashland raised an eyebrow as if this information was somehow new to him. “And then what happened?”

“Her housekeeper, Elena Petrova, came home early which spooked the perpetrator. Ms. Woodward managed to get Ms. Petrova’s attention by banging on the headboard. Ms. Petrova untied her and took her to Mount Sinai.”

“What happened to the perpetrator?”

“He ran off without being spotted.”

“But he was spotted, wasn’t he? By a security camera?”

“That’s correct.”

“Could you identify the perpetrator after reviewing the security tapes?”

“No. He was wearing what looked like a black cape, and his face was hidden by a hat.”

“What happened then?”

In the audience, Casey shivered. Her heart was pounding, her skin was clammy, and she was sure her hands would tremble if she wasn’t digging her fingers into her thigh. Her mind was filled with all of the times she had been alone with Leonard: at the batting cages, at the café down from the courthouse, in chambers. As she saw him now, sitting alone at the defense table with a curious expression on his face, she wondered how many people she knew had actually killed someone.

A hand covered hers, and she sighed. John — her strength. He laced his fingers with hers, and she squeezed him tightly. This relationship was perfect for her. He was perfect for her. He provided the right balance of humor and companionship to keep her wanting more. No matter what anyone said, his cynicism disappeared when they were together, and he became the sweetest, most considerate person on the planet. She never knew men like that existed, but here one was, with her.

Elliot was explaining the details of the investigation, all of the steps they took to locate a suspect. Casey knew what was coming next.

“And how did you arrive at the defendant, Martin Leonard, being a suspect?”

“The assistant district attorney who handles our cases, Casey Novak, made that determination.”

“What did she tell you?”

Leonard rose casually from his seat. “I’d like to object, Your Honor. Hearsay.”

“Detective Stabler is testifying to what information is in his reports, which includes Ms. Novak’s statements,” Ashland said.

Judge Petrovsky gave a brief nod. “I’ll allow it. Detective, you may answer the question.”

“Ms. Novak informed us that she had been in Martin Leonard’s chambers to discuss scheduling, and he said, ‘I love it when a plan comes together’.”

Ashland raised his eyebrows again. “Isn’t that what the rapist told Marianne Woodward before he assaulted her?”

“Yes.”

The line of questioning continued with their investigation of Woodward’s murder scene and the discovery of the blood on the fork. They briefly discussed other suspects the police had considered and why they were dismissed. When Elliot stepped down from the witness box, the jury had a complete history of the Woodward rape/murder from the investigator standpoint.

“Why didn’t Leonard cross-examine him?” Munch whispered.

Casey shook her head. It didn’t make much sense; she had picked out one or two points that, if she had been a defense attorney, she would have brought up during cross, but Leonard had simply waved Elliot off without a single question. “I don’t know. He subpoenaed him, so he has the option of calling him as his own witness, but…” What do you have planned?

Libby Shaw, Woodward’s personal physician, was called next. Ashland questioned her regarding the rape kit that she performed after the attack. She explained all of her findings in delicate detail, and Casey was impressed by the woman’s professionalism. Definitely a plaintiff-oriented physician.

Leonard was not as forgiving this time. He stood and approached her with a smug expression on his face. “Let’s run through this again, if we may, Doctor Shaw. Your examination of Marianne Woodward showed…” He began counting off on his fingers. “Bruising?”

“Yes.”

“Tears of the vaginal tissue?”

“Yes.”

“Some vaginal bleeding?”

“Yes.”

He glanced at the jury before facing her directly. “Well, isn’t that possible during all sexual encounters?”

Shaw blinked. “I’m sorry?”

“Are bruises, tears of the vaginal tissue, and vaginal bleeding possible occurrences after any sexual encounter?”

“To an extent, yes.”

“So even consensual sex can create those kinds of injuries?”

“That’s correct.”

To his credit, he kept his expression neutral as he formed his next question. “To a reasonable degree of medical certainty, Doctor, could Marianne Woodward’s injuries have been caused during a consensual sexual encounter?”

“Considering the state her housekeeper found her in–”

“My question is relating to her injuries only, Doctor. Could her injuries have been caused during a consensual sexual encounter? Yes or no?”

“Yes,” she agreed, “but–”

“Thank you, Doctor.”

Ashland rose from his seat. “Redirect, Your Honor?” Petrovsky nodded. “Doctor Shaw, did you find Marianne Woodward to be sincere in her complaints and in her history of what happened that night?”

“Yes. I’ve known her for several years, and I’d never seen her that shaken before.”

“Thank you, Doctor.” Ashland tossed a ‘so there’ glance at Leonard as he sat back down.

Judge Petrovsky checked the clock on the wall. “We will break for lunch now. Court will resume at one-thirty.” She banged her gavel and everyone rose. The jury filed out first, followed by the judge and then the remainder of the courtroom.

Opening statements and two testimonies, and it was almost noon. Casey looked down and realized that she was still holding Munch’s hand, and he hadn’t made any move to let go. She smiled slightly. “You want to get some lunch?”

“Sure,” he replied, “if you think we can eat anywhere without the press.”

Ashland had heard their conversation and turned toward them. “My sister sent lunch for all of us to the office. We can eat there in peace.” He glanced at Leonard, who was halfway out of the courtroom and already grandstanding in front of the press. “And discuss round two.”

***

After numerous repetitions of ‘no comment’, Ashland, Munch, and Casey made it to the DA’s office where Elliot and Olivia joined them. Jenny Ashland had prepared a picnic-esque lunch of ham sandwiches and potato salad. They took it to one of the conference rooms and began to eat.

“So what did I miss?” Elliot asked. “Some of us didn’t take sick leave to attend trial.”

“Personal leave,” Munch clarified.

“Uh huh.”

Ashland ignored their banter. He was in trial mode: no jokes, no interruptions. “Elliot’s testimony was very good. It gave the jury a history of the entire case. I am a little concerned that there was no cross-examination.”

Elliot raised his fork and tapped the air with it. “Yeah, what was that about? I expected him to grill me about proper procedure or evidence collection or something.”

“I saw a couple of points he could’ve raised,” Casey said.

“I don’t know why he didn’t examine Elliot,” Ashland admitted, “and that’s a problem.”

“Leonard seemed too laid back for someone on trial for rape and murder,” Munch said. “I watched him during some of the questioning, and he looked almost … amused.”

Olivia shook her head. “Something’s wrong then.”

“It’s his word against the evidence,” Elliot said.

“And the jury’s smart enough to figure that out,” Casey added.

Munch tipped his head to the side to look at Casey. “If he keeps muddying the waters like he did with Doctor Shaw, they may not.”

“I would’ve said the same thing.”

“With more finesse, I’m sure. Leonard is like a bull in a china shop.”

“Still–”

“Whoa, wait a minute.” Elliot held his hands up. “I left after my testimony. What did he do to Doctor Shaw?”

Ashland released a heavy sigh. “He got her to admit that Judge Woodward’s injuries from the rape could’ve been caused by consensual sex.”

Olivia’s eyes widened. “And you allowed that?”

“It’s a valid question. It just happens to help him more than us.”

She shook her head but didn’t argue. “So am I the next witness?”

“I’m going to squeeze ME Warner in when we get back, but you’re after that. It makes more sense anyway. Elliot wrote up most of the rape reports, and you handled the murder ones. I’ll be asking the same questions I did during prep, and if Leonard doesn’t cross examine you, you have nothing to worry about.”

***

Olivia sat in the witness box, keeping her expression pleasant but neutral. Her own testimony went flawlessly, but now Leonard was peering over some documents in preparation for an all-out attack.

So much for having nothing to worry about.

As he had said, Ashland had called Melinda Warner first and asked her about her autopsy report and her view of the scene. She had the most amazing ability to make a murder sound horrific without adding too much gore in her details. The jury was both impressed and disgusted. However, when Leonard stood up for cross, they snapped to attention.

“Doctor Warner, did you get a chance to view Doctor Shaw’s notes from Ms. Woodward’s alleged rape?”

His questions started out innocently, but even Warner knew better. “Yes, I did.”

“And do you have an opinion as to the degree of violence involved in the rape?”

She frowned slightly. “I’m not sure I understand your question.”

“You testified that Marianne Woodward was strangled, most likely into unconsciousness, and then stabbed thirteen times. Does that seem extreme to you?”

“I’ve seen worse.”

“But it wasn’t the thirteenth stab that killed her. Some were done post-mortem. Correct?”

“That’s correct.”

“So Ms. Woodward’s murderer continued to stab her after she was already dead.”

“Correct.”

“Now turning to the rape, Doctor Shaw testified that those injuries were caused by consensual sex.”

“Objection,” Ashland called out. “I believe a review of the transcript would show that Doctor Shaw testified that the rape injuries could have been caused by consensual sex.”

Leonard held up a hand. “I beg your pardon. Doctor Shaw testified that the injuries could have been caused by consensual sex. You saw the report. Do you agree?”

Warner bobbed her head in consideration. “It’s possible.”

“Detective Stabler testified that their squad believed the rapist and the murderer to be the same person. So I ask you, Doctor, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, is the man who so savagely murdered Marianne Woodward the same man who so gently raped her?”

Ashland jumped to his feet amidst the clamoring of the audience and the banging of the gavel. “Objection!”

“Withdrawn.” Leonard smiled. “I have no further questions.”

His question had incensed Olivia, and even though it was withdrawn, the implication was burned into the minds of the jurors. Gentle rape — two words that didn’t even belong in the same sentence, much less the same breath. If Leonard’s intent was to get the world to hate him, it was working like a charm.

Olivia’s own testimony had helped her focus on the case at hand and not Leonard’s blatant disrespect. But as Leonard approached her for cross, like a shark heading toward a bleeding swimmer, she had a feeling that she’d be struggling to keep her head above water.

“Detective Benson,” Leonard began with his usual air of amusement, “I have had the opportunity to view all of your reports filed in conjunction with the investigation into the rape and murder of Marianne Woodward, and there are a few statements made by you that I find particularly interesting.” He handed her a copy of one of her reports that had been marked as a trial exhibit. “This has already been entered into evidence. It is an addendum report to one filed by your partner, Detective Stabler. It is dated October twenty-sixth. Could you read the highlighted portion for the jury please?”

There was only one addendum report she had filed regarding the Woodward case, and when she accepted the paper, her fears were confirmed. Not this… Her lips trembled, and she wanted to voice an objection of her own.

“Detective?” he prompted.

She wished he’d wipe that damn smirk off his face. She caught Casey’s eye and saw the confusion that laid there. Olivia cleared her throat. “‘I think a serious investigation into Martin Leonard would be premature. Casey Novak’s assertion that he raped Marianne Woodward is purely circumstantial with no basis in fact, although’–”

“Just the highlighted part, Detective.”

…although we can’t dismiss Leonard as a suspect at this stage. His strategy was becoming clear. Cast enough doubt on himself and the jury would acquit him. She wasn’t going to let that happen.

“So you had doubts about Ms. Novak’s accusation that I had raped Marianne Woodward.”

“No,” she replied.

Leonard frowned at her. “But didn’t you just say her assertion ‘is purely circumstantial with no basis in fact’?”

“That was taken out of context.”

“It means you either believed her or you didn’t. So which is it?”

She looked into the audience again. Casey’s expression had turned neutral. “We never dismiss potential suspects without a full investigation.”

“Did you believe Ms. Novak’s accusation? Yes or no, Detective.”

“If I had been in her situation, I would have been suspicious of you as well. So yes, I believed her.”

He stared at her for a moment, and she held his gaze. Not the answer you expected, was it? “Did you launch a full investigation into your next suspect, Daniel Groth?”

“Yes, we did.”

“And why did you determine that he didn’t rape or kill Marianne Woodward?”

“You mean aside from the fact that it was your DNA we found at the scene?”

Leonard chuckled, a response she hadn’t anticipated. “Yes, aside from that.”

“He had an alibi.”

“Who?”

“His step-brother, Alex Dumas.”

“Did you follow up on this alibi? Check to make sure they were where they said they were, if there were any witnesses, those types of things?”

“They said they were together, watching a movie.”

“Did you ask them what movie, what channel?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

Her chest tightened. “We had no reason to believe either of them were lying.”

“Then would it surprise you, Detective, if I told you that Daniel Groth doesn’t have a step-brother?”

The soft gasps from the spectators sounded like a full-scale marching band in her ears. Judge Petrovsky banged her gavel anyway, and the whispers died down.

Leonard took a few steps toward the jury then back toward the witness box. He folded his hands in front of him, not even attempting to hide the smile that curved his lips upward. “Why were you so quick to believe his alibi, Detective?”

Munch and Casey were frowning at her, and Ashland was leaning halfway across the table in anticipation. Olivia wet her lips carefully.

“Why didn’t you follow up on Daniel Groth’s alibi?”

She swallowed, but it did nothing to moisten her throat. Elliot was back at the precinct, but she wished he was in the courtroom. She hadn’t included Groth’s homosexuality in her report. But how did Leonard know about that? If she didn’t say it, would he?

With a sigh, he turned to Petrovsky. “Your Honor, please compel the witness to answer the question.”

“Detective Benson, please answer the question.”

“I can’t,” she said.

Petrovsky looked down from her lofty position. “Detective, if you don’t answer the question, I will have to hold you in comtempt of court.”

Ashland was staring at her, clearly exasperated. Munch and Casey both looked concerned. Even Carly Summers’s scowl had been replaced by confusion. Olivia shook her head.

“Very well,” Petrovsky said. “Bailiff, please escort Detective Benson from the courtroom. We’ll take a ten minute recess at this time.”

***

“She’s where?” Elliot pulled the receiver away from his ear and looked at it for a moment before putting it back. “In jail?”

On the other end, Casey sighed. “She refused to answer a question about Daniel Groth, so Judge Petrovsky held her in contempt. This is a big deal. What the hell was so secretive that she would do that?

“Get her out of there, Casey.”

I can’t, Elliot. Don’t you get it? Petrovsky slapped her with both civil and criminal contempt. She can pay a fine for the criminal charge, but civil isn’t like that. The only way out of there is to purge herself of contempt. To answer the question.

He exhaled. “Cragen’s not gonna like this.”

Cragen may be the least of her problems. Ashland’s about to have a heart attack. He went down to the holding cell to try to talk her out of it.

“He’s wasting his breath.”

Then you talk to her. Elliot, we’re like lambs going out to the slaughter.

“Okay, okay. I’ll go down there, but I can’t promise anything.” He hung up the phone and rubbed his forehead. “Dammit, Liv.”

***

Olivia stared at the ceiling of her holding cell, fingers tapping out a nameless tune on the wall. It was late, probably after midnight. She’d had numerous visitors: Ashland, Elliot, Casey, even Cragen. They hadn’t changed her mind.

Leonard’s DNA matched the blood from the fork. The cat hairs in Woodward’s bed matched those belonging to Cynthia Gray’s cat. Leonard raped and killed Woodward. His line of questioning was meant to cast doubt on his guilt, regardless of the evidence. It only took one. One juror could change the entire outcome of the case, and he was trying his best to find one.

The officer on duty came by and unlocked the door to her cell. “You’re free to go, Detective. You can pick up your things on your way out.”

“What?” She sat up and swung her legs off the bed. “Who–” Daniel Groth appeared beside the officer, an annoyed expression on his face.

“You did a very stupid thing, Detective Benson.” His frown gave way to a small smile. “And I thank you for that.”

When they were out of the building, she grabbed his forearm and turned him toward her. “How did you manage this?”

“News report said you’d been jailed for contempt. Then Alex told me what question you had refused to answer.” Groth shook his head. “I know Lena Petrovsky pretty well, so I called her up in the middle of the night, and I told her the truth.”

“About you and Alex?”

“Yeah.”

“And she let me out?”

“Well, yes and no. You still have to purge yourself, but she’ll allow it in camera.”

“What about posting bond?”

“It’s been taken care of.” When she offered to reimburse him, he waved his hand in dismissal. “If I had been forthcoming about my sexual orientation back when Annie accused me of rape, this may not have happened. But thank you for trusting me. You’ve renewed my faith in the NYPD, Detective Benson.”

***

“So you were with Ms. Novak when she was attacked by the defendant, is that correct?”

Munch nodded. “That’s correct.”

“And where were you?”

“I was in her home office, asleep.”

“You weren’t sleeping in the same bed as her?”

“I wasn’t even sleeping in the same room as her.”

“What is your relationship with Ms. Novak?”

He caught Casey’s eye and considered the possible responses. “We’re co-workers, friends.”

“You’re not involved in a sexual relationship with her?”

“No.”

“Oh, come on, Detective. She’s brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and she likes you back. What more do you need?”

Munch tried his best to keep a straight face but laughter won out. “He’s not going to ask me that, is he?”

“I don’t think Ashland thinks that highly of me,” Casey replied, sitting on the edge of her desk. They’d met early Wednesday morning to prepare for Munch’s testimony which was scheduled to go before lunch. Ashland was hoping to redeem the case — and his reputation with it — and he demanded that everyone answer every question regardless of the consequences. She’d been grilling him for probably longer than his testimony would last, and the tediousness was wearing on both of them. “Better answer the question, Detective.”

“In all honesty, Counselor, I can’t remember the question. But I do have the perfect answer.”

“Oh yeah? What’s that?”

He had intended for it to be a soft kiss, one to show his affection and a view of things to come, but then his hands were in her hair and her arms were around his waist, and his original plan fizzled from memory. He could taste a mixture of butter and coffee from their quiet breakfast as he explored her mouth. His heart thudded against his rib cage as if it was trying to escape. Why was it that, everytime he was with her, logic and reasoning seemed to fall to the wayside? Moreover, why did he care? When he finally pulled back, he saw a look in her eyes that he hadn’t seen in … well, entirely too long.

She laughed a little then gave him that smile again. “That was, uh … yeah.”

“Good answer?”

“The People rest.”

He lazily traced his finger along her hairline. “So what’s the verdict? Does the jury decide in our favor?”

“I think…” Casey pressed her palms flat against his chest and met his gaze. “I think this could be the last case you’ll ever have to try.”

The door to her office swung open, and Ashland’s familiar sigh disrupted the silence. “This doesn’t look like trial prep.”

“Just practicing my diversion tactic,” Munch said. “I plan on kissing Leonard in the middle of cross.”

“Well, that’ll certainly get us more press attention than we need. Olivia was all over the news last night and this morning. She was sprung from jail in the middle of the night.”

“She was?” Casey asked. “By whom?”

“I figured it was one of you strong-arming Petrovsky until I read the log. It was Daniel Groth. And that, my friends, looks pretty suspicious. In fact, we’ve got a hearing regarding it in about fifteen minutes.”

Munch resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Whatever Olivia did or didn’t do, it’s a dead issue now. She’s out of jail.”

“Don’t you get it? Olivia made it look like we have something to hide. Leonard is laughing at us because his plan is working. We need to turn this around and fast.” Ashland continued to glare. “Now — are you ready for your testimony, or were you too busy practicing your big diversion tactic?”

Casey held up both hands and stood between the two of them. “We don’t have time for this. Jay, you’d better get to your hearing.” She looked at him, and he scoffed before leaving her office. “And you–”

“I’m sorry,” Munch said unconvincingly, “but he’s so–”

“Right,” she replied. “He’s so right. We’re losing favor with the jury. Jay couldn’t even comment to the press yesterday because all they wanted to talk about was Olivia’s arrest. Whatever she was hiding, Leonard knew — and it wasn’t that Groth didn’t have a step-brother. He’s pushing the limits because he can. He’s the most dangerous type of criminal: one with a deep understanding of the law and how to circumvent it. Don’t underestimate him.”

***

“Please state your name for the record.”

“John Munch.”

Every trial where Munch had been called to testify was roughly the same. Same types of questions, same answers, with a little twist depending on the facts. It was easy. Today, however, he wondered if all the other times he’d testified was to prepare him for this day. The questions were still the same, his answers the same, but Leonard’s wolfish expression as he scribbled down notes was unsettling.

“Tell us about the night of October thirtieth, Detective. In your statement, you said that you were at Casey Novak’s apartment, correct?”

He turned his attention back to Ashland. “That’s correct.”

“What were you doing?”

“I had brought over some Halloween-themed movies to watch while she handed out candy to the trick-or-treaters. We watched those and then went to sleep. Separately.”

“Where were you sleeping in relation to Ms. Novak?”

“Across the hall in her home office. She was in her bedroom.”

Ashland looked at his hands for a moment. Munch wondered if he had his questions written on his palm. “What is your relationship with Ms. Novak, Detective?”

“We work together. We see each other casually outside of work.” He tried to make it sound nonchalant but was sure he had failed when he saw Casey cover her smile with her hand.

“So why did you spend the night at her apartment?”

“She had a broken lock on a window which had been repaired. It was closed before my arrival, but when as I was leaving, it was open again, so I offered to stay.”

Ashland began to pace slowly in front of him. “According to your statement, you were asleep when you heard Ms. Novak yell. Could you explain to the jury the circumstances surrounding this?”

“As you said, I was asleep. I heard her make a loud … grunt, I suppose would be the best description. The kind of sound you hear players make during a tennis match before they swing. At the time, I wasn’t sure what was happening, so I came out of the office. Her bedroom door was open, and she wasn’t inside. I continued through her apartment where I found her being attacked. I withdrew my weapon and aimed. Then I turned on the light and told whoever it was to get off of her.”

“And who was it that was attacking Ms. Novak?”

“The defendant and pseudo-attorney, Martin Leonard.”

Even Ashland had trouble biting back a chuckle at that comment. “What happened after that?”

“I made an arrest and had him taken to the station for questioning.”

“Thank you, Detective. Your witness.”

Leonard began his thoughtful approach, a movement which he had perfected since yesterday. Munch wouldn’t have been surprised if he practiced in front of a mirror. “Detective Munch … a window? You spent the night with Ms. Novak because of an open window?”

“Well, this is New York City.”

“So she was afraid?”

“Concerned would be more appropriate.”

He cracked a grin. “Well, did you look under her bed or in her closet?”

“No, the boogeyman was still across the hall at his cousin’s apartment at the time.” Casey shot him a warning look. He hoped that the quick return glance conveyed his frustration.

“Tell me, Detective, is it customary to spend the night at the residences of citizens who are concerned about an open window?”

“I didn’t spend the night at a detective. I did it as a friend.”

“Just a friend? Or has your relationship progressed to a different stage?”

“As a friend,” Munch repeated.

“Still, you had your weapon. I distinctly remember it being pointed at my head. Do you often carry your weapon with you when you’re off duty?”

“I had been at work prior to going to Ms. Novak’s apartment,” he explained. “I didn’t go home in between.”

“But you did have time to go to the video store.”

“It’s on the way.”

“Okay.” Leonard paused for a moment, looking at the ground. “Are you having sex with Ms. Novak?”

“Objection,” Ashland called. “Asked and answered.”

“I didn’t ask that,” Leonard said. “I asked if their relationship had progressed beyond the ‘friend’ stage. Sex is an entirely different situation. You can have sex with friends, lovers, prostitutes.”

Objection!” Ashland’s face turned bright red. “Your Honor, I demand a new trial. The jury has been–”

“That’s preposterous,” Leonard said over him. “I was merely saying–”

“–beyond the scope of questioning–”

“–not implying that Ms. Novak–”

“–unsubstantiated allegations–”

“–a little absurd that I would even refer–”

“–calling an officer of the court–”

“–a prostitute!” Their simultaneous shout was accented by a loud bang from Petrovsky’s gavel. Half of the audience and all of the jurors jumped in their seats.

“Counselors, my chambers, now.” Petrovsky stood ramrod straight and, with a flurry of her robes, led Ashland and Leonard to the private door in the back of the courtroom. When they were gone, the room erupted into a cacophony. Several reporters ran to their counterparts outside, a few others furiously dialed their editors on their cell phones, and one broke into their regular programming with a live report.

Munch remained in the witness box but looked at Casey. Her eyes were so wide that he could see the white around her irises, but otherwise she seemed fine, even calm. A hollow feeling settled deep in his chest. She was anything but fine, and he knew it. And it was all his fault.

Petrovsky appeared a few moments later, though she looked even more furious than she did when they left. Ashland and Leonard followed obediently, tails tucked between their legs. She sat behind the bench and sighed. “The jury will disregard all stated objections and we will continue with the last question posed to the witness. Miss Reporter, please read back Mr. Leonard’s question.”

The court reporter rolled back her tape. “Question: Are you having sex with Ms. Novak?”

Munch glared at Leonard. “Answer: No.”

***

“Ms. Novak, can we get a statement?”

“Ms. Novak, how do you feel about being called a prostitute?”

“Ms. Novak–”

Casey blinked rapidly as she was assaulted by a barrage of flash bulbs and questions. Ashland grabbed her arm and pulled her through the crowd, shoving people out of the way. Munch trailed behind them silently.

Ashland’s grip seemed to tighten on her, but he didn’t say anything until the three of them were in her office. Then he released her, and his light blue eyes turned dark and angry. “We are going to lose this trial. You realize that, don’t you?”

Casey scowled. “Get over yourself, Jay.”

“I never should have agreed to take this.”

“Because it’s making you look bad? Rape and murder cases aren’t about the attorney, they aren’t about who looks better in court or who has the better closing argument. They’re about the victim. You’re here to see that justice is brought to Marianne Woodward. If you can’t handle that, then you don’t deserve to be here.”

He stood in front of her and spoke in a low, clipped voice. “You can keep this job, Novak. I don’t want it. But this is my case. If you want to make a fool of yourself in open court at the expense of him,” he stabbed a finger in Munch’s direction, “do it on your own time. I, personally, am tired of looking like a babysitter who can’t control the kids.”

“Asshole,” she muttered when he was gone.

“He’s right, you know?”

She frowned at him. “If you think we’re going to lose this case, then–”

“No. About us. I don’t think we should see each other, Casey.”

She felt like she had been kicked in the stomach, that all the wind had been knocked out of her and she couldn’t breathe. Hot tears stung her eyes, a mixture of anger and despair. “So that’s it then?” she demanded. “Leonard picks at your reputation, calls your girlfriend a whore, and you go running. I thought you didn’t care about what other people think.”

“Dammit, Casey, I don’t care about my reputation; I care about yours!” He sucked in a breath, saw her blatant expression of surprise, and realized once again what a blind, lovesick fool he was. “As I sat up there, listening to Leonard berate you, I realized that I wanted to do two things. First, I wanted to hold you. And second, I wanted to kill him.” He half-smiled. “Not sure I could get my hands around his neck though. It’s roughly the same diameter as his head.” She didn’t even blink, and he sighed. “Look, I just think that if we lay low for a while, nobody will even remember and we can … pick up where we left off.”

“John, I’ll admit I was a little surprised when Leonard said that. It was tactless, but it was deliberate. He knew it would create a stir. But I’ve been called worse — in court and out. His was a roundabout comment. We all knew the intent, but he never came out and said it directly about me.”

“But the implication–”

“–was just that. An implication. The jury was told to disregard it, so it won’t have any bearing on their decision.”

“You can’t just rewind their brains and make them forget.”

“Oh, I hope they don’t. Because when this is all over, they’ll know that he was grasping at nothing in an attempt to make himself look good.” She grew quiet for a moment. “But I can’t do it without you. I don’t want to do it without you.”

“And I don’t want to do it without you either, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to control myself during your examination.”

“I’ll be fine.” She wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. “We’ll be fine.”

He detected a slight hesitation in her voice, and fear squeezed at him. He was going to lose her if he didn’t say something. “Casey.” She looked up. “I’m not very good at this, but I’m going to try so just … wait until I’m finished.” Her brow quirked, but she nodded. “I’ve told you about my past. My list of exes is longer than most guys’ rap sheets. Those women, they just didn’t get it. Didn’t get me. You do. I don’t know why. I don’t know if I ever will. But for the first time in a long time, I’m…”

“Happy,” she said softly.

“Terrified,” he corrected. “I’m terrified. I don’t want to screw this up.” He kissed her forehead. “And yes, I’m happy.”

“If it’s any consolation, I’m scared, too. I didn’t expect this or plan this, and I never thought I’d date anyone from the squad.”

A puzzled look appeared but quickly gave way to something akin to glee. “So … we’re dating.”

She laughed. “What do you think?” Before he could ask another question, she pulled him into a kiss. “Look, John, if you want our relationship to work, there’s only one thing you have to do and that’s try.”

He tried not to smile, but she was making it difficult. “I will if you will.”

She drew an X over her heart with her finger. “Promise.”

“Me, too.” He kissed her cheek as he pulled away. “I’ll go get us some lunch, okay?”

“Sure.” He was halfway out the door when she called his name, and he turned around. She looked serious all of the sudden, and he braced himself out of habit. “I don’t know if I ever thanked you for that night when Leonard attacked me. You saved my life.”

“No, Casey,” he said with a faint smile. “You saved mine.”

End of part ten

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