Day In Day Out by Sharon Bowers

Fandom: Law & Order, NYPD Blue
Rating: R for violence, language, and a description of murder. Still PG-13ish for f/f overtures. I know, I know what is my problem these days? :-)
Summary: A high-profile murder brings Carmichael into the public eye, while her relationship with Kirkendall takes some unexpected turns.
Disclaimers: Don't own 'em. Carmichael belongs (though she might argue the statement) to Dick Wolf and NBC. Kirkendall belongs to Steven Bochco and ABC.
Spoilers: Current seasons on both shows-- particularly NYPD Blue. Beware.
Note: This is the third installment in what I'm coming to think of as the "Days and Nights" series. It picks up about two weeks after "Several Mornings After."
Feedback: Floggings welcomed at

Day In Day Out
Part 2

Abbie was convinced that Hell was nothing but chaos and that she was currently in its depths. Cutting her dawn run short, she arrived at the office well before seven, where the sheer size of the paper mountain covering her desk threatened to send her into a strategic retreat and seriously consider her career options. Instead, she brewed a pot of coffee and hunkered down to wade through it before any more arrived. The Pruitt investigation took precedence over everything-- Diane had brought Stephanie's parents and lover by the office about an hour ago-- but she held no illusions that anyone in the office, especially McCoy, would help take up the slack on her other cases in the meantime.

She hadn't missed the astonished look on Jack's face, or the anger that underlay it, when Schiff had given her point on the investigation into Stephanie Pruitt's murder. No doubt he thought she didn't have what it took to handle such a high-profile case and all its attendant publicity. Truth be told, she was scared to death of screwing up and saying the wrong thing to the press-- but she'd be damned if she'd ask McCoy for help.

It had been like that between them from the very first. Jack would tell Schiff she didn't have enough experience or some such nonsense, and Abbie would get her back up about the insult and bluff her way through whatever it was she wasn't supposed to be able to handle. So far it had worked about ninety-five percent of the time, and her missteps had been minor. Carmichael, however, had no doubt that one day she would have a spectacular screw-up on her hands. Of course, maybe that's what McCoy was waiting for-- her to crash and burn so he could ride in to the rescue and prove he had been right all along.

Then maybe they could have a normal working relationship.

As it was, she was about to pull her hair out trying to figure out how to deal with him. She knew what he wanted-- Jamie Ross. He had made no secret of how much he had wanted her to stay with the DA's office, and how much he resented Schiff's executive privilege in choosing her as Ross' successor. Well, Abbie wasn't Ross-- or heaven help them all, the blessed Claire Kinkaid-- and she wasn't about to twist herself out of shape to be an inferior copy of what Jack really wanted all along. They had settled into a manageable, if not exactly harmonious, routine where she handled most of the investigative footwork and he took care of the courtroom presentations. The situation would have been much more untenable if Cragen at the SVU hadn't taken to calling her in for some of their cases. Those she handled from start to oftentimes bitter finish, and she had even made some friends down there. Her relationships at the SVU and the 15th precinct reminded her that things between McCoy and her didn't have to be the way they were-- but as things stood, she had no way of changing them.

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a flash of rumpled dress shirt and salt-and-pepper hair passing her office. "Speak of the horny toad devil," she muttered, dark head still bent low over her response to a motion for suppression.

The sharp rap on her open door jarred her out of her thoughts, and she glanced up to see that the flash had stopped and was now leaning in the door frame, an unexpectedly pleasant expression on his face.

"Hey Jack, what can I do for you?"

McCoy looked around Carmichael's tiny office at the paper, law books and legal pads scattered all over. "You look kind of busy."

"Yeah, well what can I say? The Xerox machine upchucked in my office last night. I'm coping with it," she replied more sharply than she intended.

McCoy's face closed down. "I guess you are."

Abbie saw the minute twitches in Jack's body, counted to five, and blew out a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Jack. That was uncalled for. Too much coffee, I guess. It's just been a very long morning."

He looked at her closely. "How long have you been here?"

"What's it-- about ten-thirty now? I dunno, about four or five hours?"

"Good Lord, Abbie." Black brows crept skyward, and a hint of a smile teased the creases around his mouth. "No wonder you're cranky."

"Don't you mean crankier-- as in than normal?" she smirked.

"I didn't say that."

"It's okay, I could read it in the thought bubble over your head. Now, let's start over and pick up this conversation from-- Hey Jack, what can I do for you?"

"Actually..." he hesitated. "It should be what can I do for you? What are you working on right now?" Tentatively, he seated himself on the corner of her desk, peering at the upside down legal pad.

"Howertson has made a motion to suppress his client's confession. I'm working on the rebuttal."

"That the B&E where the wife got killed?"

"Ayup. It's gotta be in Judge Chapman's office by five today, and I'm not gonna have any time later this afternoon. It's now or never."

"Why don't you let me handle it?" he offered. "I'm familiar with the case file and can pick up where you left off. I'll have it couriered down to the judge's office as soon as I'm done and copy you on it."

"Jack, it's grunt work."

"I remember. I used to be a grunt. Besides..." he pointed at her, smiling wryly. "Don't you have a press conference in an hour that you should be prepping for?"

Carmichael groaned, letting her head fall back against the cool leather chair and closing her eyes. "Don't remind me. I am not looking forward to this."

"I'm sure you'll do fine," McCoy replied diffidently. "Schiff wouldn't have called it otherwise."

Cracking one eyelid, a dark eye stared at the EADA suspiciously. "Who are you and what have you done with Jack McCoy? Seriously. We both know that you think I have the diplomatic skills of a bull in a china shop."

"Another thought bubble over my head?"

"No, you actually told me that once."

"Oh," he frowned. "When was this?"

"When I called that Mafia consigliere a pig-faced weasel that I was going to enjoy seeing disbarred and thrown in jail one day."

"Ah... we all have our off days."

"I'd be surprised if you thought I ever had anything but an off-day, McCoy," she replied, unable to keep the bitterness out of her voice. She walked a troublesome line every day with her laconic boss, and usually she kept her frustrations well in check. Lately, however, everything-- from her growing relationship with Jill to Stephanie Pruitt's senseless murder to the unexpected spotlight she now found herself in-- had conspired to bring the roiling mass of her emotions to the surface, spitting up old wounds and new hopes randomly, almost faster than she could cope with them.

A heavy silence settled between them. "That was harsh," he finally replied.

"Sorry, I'm just not feeling like I have the confidence of this office behind me."

McCoy stood, gathering the Howertson files along with a couple of others, and tucked them under one arm. "I know that I haven't exactly been supportive of you sometimes-- hell, most of the time. The reasons why are another conversation for another time and place. But don't doubt for a minute when you walk out in front of those reporters that every single person in this office is standing behind you. Including me."

"The ring was very distinctive, Detective Kirkendall-- a marquis-cut sapphire with diamond trillions on either side. The band was platinum and torqued in a curve-- there was an inscription inside. It said, 'Always, my love.' Steph... she never took it off." The slight tremble in the woman's voice was the first crack in Lorraine Fitzgerald's quiet composure that the detectives had seen. The devastation she felt, however, was written in the agony clearly visible in bright green eyes and unnaturally pale skin. Lorraine dropped her head, shoulders shaking with suppressed sobs. "I'm sorry," she murmured. "It's just so... unreal."

"I understand, Ms. Fitzgerald. But we need to get someone in here to sketch the ring, do you think you can wait a few minutes while we do that?" Russell asked gently.

Lorraine ran a trembling hand across her eyes, dashing the tears away before they could fall. Her fingers were long and tapered, strong in their presence-- reminding Kirkendall that this woman was a musician, and a highly trained one at that. "There are pictures of it-- we took them for the insurance. My attorney has them. He can have them couriered over if you need them."

"Insurance?" Slumped in the corner and silent until now, Andy stood upright. "How much?"

"The ring was insured for its market value. I believe it was a little over ten thousand dollars."

Andy emitted a low-pitched whistle. "You're telling me that your girlfriend wore a ten thousand dollar ring to a gay bar?"

Cold eyes snapped to the detective's round form, and her spine straightened perceptibly. "It was her wedding band, Detective Sipowicz." She looked pointedly at the plain gold band on Andy's finger. "Do you take yours off at the drop of a hat?"

Exchanging swift glances with Kirkendall, Russell nodded slightly and crossed the room to stand beside Bobby's old partner. "Hey, Andy, you wanna help me see about getting those pictures?" Sipowicz scowled in acknowledgment of the ploy's transparent desperation, but made no protest as they left the room.

As soon as the door quietly closed behind them, Lorraine slumped in her chair in relief. "Is he always that genially bigoted?" she asked.

Kirkendall cracked a wry smile. "Sometimes I think Andy doesn't realize that most people think before they speak. If it's any consolation, I think it was the money part more than the gay part. A ten thousand dollar ring is a little out of a cop's reach."

"Great, as far as he's concerned I've got two strikes again me-- I'm rich and I'm gay. Does that mean the police aren't interested in finding who..." She stumbled over the words, her voice trembling violently. "....Who did this?"

"Whoa... Ms. Fitzgerald. Just calm down." She knelt down in front of the violinist and took the other woman's hands. "Andy may be a bit pigheaded about a lot of things, but he's one of the best detectives I've ever worked with-- and he's just one of the people committed to finding these bastards. You've got me and Detective Russell on your side too. We'll be with you every step of the way. You've already met the district attorney..." The unconscious echo of a smile lit her eyes as she spoke Abbie's name. "... who's going to be handling this case. Believe me, when we find them she's not going to let these perps just walk away. But we need your help. The ring is a good start, we can give pawnshops and such a good heads-up and keep an eye on those who wouldn't care about... where it came from."

Lorraine was still shaky, but seemed reassured by Jill's quietly composed words. "You can do that?"

"Believe me, we will. I need you to answer some more questions for me, though. Okay?"

"What do you need?"

Sensing the steadiness returning to Lorraine's body, Jill returned to the chair she had occupied previously. "Did Steph go clubbing often?"

"No, rarely. Sometimes we'd go with friends for a birthday or something, but we were really both getting too old for that scene." Lorraine shook her head, a sad smile curving her lips. "The smoke in those places gave her a headache, and the music..." She shuddered delicately. "So you can imagine we weren't frequent visitors."

"Any reason why she might have gone out night before last?"

Lorraine rubbed her eyes wearily, and when she returned her gaze to Kirkendall's, the anguish gleamed so brightly that Jill almost flinched. "It's my fault, Detective. I... I talked to her earlier than evening. I always tried to call her before a performance. She said she was so lonely. I had been on tour over two weeks, and she hated it. I did too, but we both knew it really couldn't be helped." Lorraine shrugged helplessly. "Things at work had been really tense for her, with all the first quarter economic reports coming out and the stock market reacting like a yo-yo, so a few of her friends were going out for drinks and to dance off some of their nervous energy. They had invited her, and I... I encouraged her to go." She laughed bitterly. "'Look at some beautiful women,' I said, 'And forget your troubles for a while. I'll be home soon.' And so she did."

"That something she did often?" Kirkendall asked, more to distract Lorraine from her grief than anything.

"What's that?"

"Look at beautiful women?"

"Are you asking me if we were faithful, Detective?" She smiled wanly at Jill. "We had been together eight years, we were going to be together the rest of our lives. A glance and a fantasy never hurt anything."

"But that's all it was?"

"Yes." Her answer was resolute. "From the day we met each other, there was never anyone else. Never any need, really. We... completed each other in a way. Bookends, our friends called us. We were so different, but undeniably a matched pair.

"Don't get me wrong, we had our share of troubles. My parents weren't thrilled about my 'lifestyle choice' and we argued over where to live and whether a not to get a dog-- stupid things, really-- but they were ours. It was a life. Our life. And they've taken that away now."

"Any trouble with gay bashing?"

Lorraine shrugged. "Not really. I think somebody keyed Steph's BMW once because of the rainbow sticker in the window. We were... discreet."

"What does that mean?"

"Just..." She shrugged. "I don't know. We just weren't really, in the life. Neither of us was very big on public displays of affection, but we didn't hide who we were. At Steph's company, they expected me-- and welcomed me, I might add-- at group functions. But I don't think we had been to a pride parade since we were in school. Politics bored me-- so much shouting over so little progress. Steph did some work at a gay youth center, and she loved it. Loved the kids she met. I gave money-- it seems to be the one thing I have in abundance." Lorraine seemed almost eager to talk now, her body's rigid control relaxing, as if putting words to her life with Stephanie made it real and gave her permission to grieve. More than understanding the other woman's need, Jill allowed her to continue, knowing that more often than not trivial details added together to form a portrait of the whole woman. It might help them pinpoint why Stephanie Pruitt had drawn the attention of the monsters who did this.

"Anything in particular?" Kirkendall encouraged.

"Cancer research and awareness programs mostly. AIDS and HIV gets all the publicity, but I read an article once that said lesbians were four times more likely to be at risk for breast and ovarian cancer than straight women. Too many senseless deaths happen because a lot of lesbians work in blue collar jobs and can't get insurance, so they don't get to a doctor until it's too late to do anything. Add to that the difficulty of explaining why you don't contraception or a pregnancy test every time you go to the gynecologist-- and you can understand a lot of the hesitation. Plus, it's the leading cause of death for all women."

"It took my mother," Kirkendall murmured.

"You see what I mean, then. I can't do a lot with these hands, Detective, except play the violin. But my money can."

"Sounds like you were political enough."

"Not enough to keep my lover from getting killed," she spat scornfully, the first sparks of rage Jill had seen turning inward. "Maybe if I had been standing on the rooftops shouting about hate and what it does-- do you think that would have kept her alive? Maybe whoever did this might have heard me, and thought twice about what he was doing."

"Maybe," Kirkendall agreed. "Most likely not."

"We'll never know, will we?" Lorraine asked bitterly. "Steph and I were so lucky. Don't think I don't know that. Those kids Steph worked with... most of them were fifteen and sixteen years old, some even younger, and had been turned out on the streets by their families. All because of who they loved. My parents didn't understand it-- my loving Steph-- but I was their daughter, they said, and as long as I was happy and she was good to me, that was the best they could hope for.

"I thought we lived an honorable life, Steph and I. But it didn't stop the hate, did it? Not from getting us in the end."

A brief knock at the door interrupted anything Jill might have said, even though she knew nothing could comfort the woman sitting beside her. Russell poked her head though the opening, "Ms. Fitzgerald, your attorney is here. He said he's got the photographs you asked for and would like a moment to speak to you."

Kirkendall took that as her cue to leave, but she stopped beside Lorraine Fitzgerald and placed a tentative hand on her shoulder. "You did live an honorable life," she said softly, before excusing herself and slipping out the door.

Following Russell into the break room, she hesitated awkwardly in the door. Though they had both apologized for the harsh words exchanged the day before, each woman was painfully aware of the tension still hovering between them. Kirkendall itched to tell her partner the whole story-- how meeting Abbie sent her reeling into Don's arms and enmeshed her, willfully ignorant, in his schemes. If her ex was snatched up and started talking, she could be in deeper trouble than anyone currently realized. Something, however-- pride, maybe-- kept her silent. Don hadn't been the one to play her for a fool; in wanting to deny what had happened between her and the attorney, she had played herself. Now, Jill reckoned, she'd have to pay those consequences.

"How's it going?" Diane asked, not turning around. "She give anything else up that might be useful?"

"Nah... it's looking like Stephanie was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. And I think it's finally starting to sink in with her lover."

"She lose it?"

"A little." Wordlessly, Diane handed her partner the first mug of coffee from the freshly brewed pot. It was a peace offering of sorts, and Kirkendall accepted with a grateful smile. "Thanks."

"You should have seen Carmichael with her and the parents this morning. Stephanie's mother was a wreck and her father was screaming bloody murder at Lorraine about how she had gotten his daughter killed with her degenerate lifestyle. I honestly thought the old guy was going to have a stroke. Lorraine just looked like she had been hit by a truck, and I think I smelled liquor on her breath. Abbie poured about a pot of coffee down Lorraine's throat, used up an entire box of Kleenex listening to the mother talk, and told the father if he was only interested in blaming Lorraine instead of the assholes who did this, then he could get right back on the plane to Iowa-- she didn't have time to waste on him. By the time they left the office, the three of them looked like a recruitment poster for P-FLAG. Carmichael even got the parents to appear with her at the press conference this morning. Speaking of which..." Russell snapped on the tiny color TV set up in the corner of the break room. "It should be about time."

WST had already cut away from its regular noon newscast to the press room of the Manhattan District Attorney's office. Carmichael was finishing up her official statement and offered to take a few questions from the press. The television cameras only highlighted the severe planes of Abbie's face, her eyes dramatically dark against her bronze skin and neatly braided hair. Her court clothes, a sharply tailored black suit and white blouse, and implacably professional demeanor sharply complemented the freewheeling leather jacket and up-at-dawn cocksure aggression from the morning before. The cumulative subliminal effect said one thing-- I have the whole package...

Kirkendall found herself smiling at the image of the woman on the screen. Had Abbie been an actress they would have said she had "star quality." Hell, this was New York, they'd probably say that anyway.

"That is one good-looking woman," Medavoy said, startling Kirkendall from her musings. She glanced around to see Sorenson, Sipowicz, and Martinez had joined them as well.

"I'll say," Martinez agreed.

"It's not just the looks, though..." Medavoy began to continue, but was shushed by both Russell and Kirkendall. "Sorry."

Returning her eyes to the screen, she heard Abbie acknowledge a reporter in the front row.

"Christienne Turner from WST..." the reporter introduced herself.

Abbie grinned wryly and half-turned, showing the reporter her back, "See? No cape. They took it away when you blew my secret identity."

Chuckles floated through the room and Turner smiled in acknowledgment of the attorney's good-natured humor, knowing that by leaving her "Batman" crack in the interview footage they ran, the ADA would take a lot of ribbing from her colleagues. "You seem to have survived quite nicely, Ms. Carmichael," she replied complacently. "Has there been any connection established between Ms. Pruitt's murder and the meeting of the NGLCAH?"

"That's part of our on-going investigation, so I can't comment specifically."

"But if someone is targeting members..."

"Stephanie Pruitt was not a member of the NGLCAH nor was she planning on attending any of the meetings. Let's not try to create a situation that isn't there, Ms. Turner." The light glimmering in the attorney's eyes hardened. "I think the crime we have on our hands is pretty horrible enough."

"Ms. Carmichael..." Another reporter drew her attention away from the WST anchor. "Crimes against gays still fall outside the purview of Governor Pitacki's Hate Crimes Legislation. Yet without a doubt Stephanie Pruitt's murder was fueled by hate. What is District Attorney Schiff and the NYPD doing to insure that this guy doesn't slip through the cracks?"

"Well, first of all, I don't think anything about the case can be said 'without a doubt,'" Carmichael replied evenly. "And secondly, the fact that I'm standing up here in front of you should be a pretty good indication that District Attorney Schiff has every intention of aiding the NYPD in catching whomever is responsible and prosecuting them to the fullest extent of the law. He doesn't bring me out here to do dog-and-pony-shows, ladies and gentlemen." A brazen smile crossed her face. "That what we have press officers for."

"You said the 'fullest extent of the law,'" Turner's voice interjected amid the mild laughter. "Does that mean you'll seek the death penalty?"

"That's something to be decided when the party or parties responsible are apprehended and the complete circumstances of the case are understood. To say anything else on the subject would be premature at this point."

"Are you officially calling this a hate crime, Ms. Carmichael?" a slender man with a press pass identifying him as a reporter for the Advocate asked.

"Well, the pat answer is that all murders are hate crimes, sir. Certainly this woman's constitutional rights were violated with extreme prejudice. Her sexual orientation is irrelevant to me.

"That said, however, I am very aware of some of the recent tensions between the gay community and the police and district attorney's office. The investigating detectives and I are making every effort to ease those tensions-- but quite frankly, I'm no politician and attitudes have no place in a criminal investigation. Stephanie Pruitt's partner and family are being treated with the respect and consideration that their loss demands. Beyond that I really can't comment."

A few more questions were shouted at Carmichael, but she waved them off. "I'm sorry, but I really can't take any more questions. As we have more relevant information to pass on, we'll be sure to keep you apprised. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your time and attention."

The detectives watched Carmichael deftly guide the Pruitts through the microphones and cameras shoved in their faces, protecting them with a gentle hand on Mrs. Pruitt's arm and a muttered, "I really can't comment on anything else" to all other questions. The show over, everyone filed out of the break room, leaving Kirkendall and Russell alone once more. "That was something," Diane said, a speculative look on her face as she studied her partner.

"It sure was. But if we don't get these guys... That performance is gonna leave her way out there."

"Well, I've never known Abbie to do anything half-heartedly. She either went all the way or she didn't go. It's just her nature."

"Yeah... I've noticed," Jill agreed absently, a sudden idea popping into her head. "Hey, you mind if I pass on our lunch plans today? I've got a couple of errands to run."

Russell frowned, then shook her head. "Not at all. Something important?"

"Nah, just some... thing... I need to do." She gave Diane's hand a brief squeeze. "Anybody tell you that you're a great partner?"

The question visibly surprised Russell, who ducked her head to cover the flush that warmed her cheeks. Compliments were few and far between for the partners, and the unexpected praise dissipated the remaining tension between them. "Not lately."

"Then they've been an idiot. Thanks, Diane, for everything. I don't know what I'd do without you."

Finding the District Attorney's office was easy. Finding Abbie Carmichael in the mountain of paper that littered her cramped office was not. Jill was way past second thoughts about bringing lunch to the harried ADA-- she was on her third, fourth, and fifth rounds. Her original goal was to bring Abbie some of Mae's home cooking, but she couldn't remember where the diner was, and after half an hour of looking for it, she gave up-- thinking that for a cop she had been paying precious little attention to anything that night except the woman beside her. She settled for a Chinese restaurant closer to Carmichael's Manhattan office. Then there was the whole issue of did Abbie like Chinese, and if she did, what would she eat? In the end she got about four little cartons of chicken cooked in various permutations and a lot of rice. She had even had them throw in a couple of eggrolls and some fortune cookies.

Now she stood tentatively in the other woman's doorway, wondering if she had made the right decision. The back of Abbie's desk chair was facing Jill, the top of the attorney's dark head barely visible as she slouched down in the chair, speaking intently into the phone. "No. No. No. Yes. I don't care how you do it, Jimmy, just push it to the top of the ME's 'to do' list. He does have one, doesn't he? I need to know what kind of knives were used, so if the perps bought them someplace other than the Wal-Mart I can start looking for them. What do you mean, what's Wal-Mart? Jesus, Jimmy. Just do it. Okay?" She slapped the phone back into its cradle without looking up and spun around, dropping her head on the desk and banging it gently on the papers piled there. "Damn Yankees," she muttered.

"We aren't all that bad," Jill replied, a wry smile drifting across her face.

Carmichael's head jerked up so quickly, Kirkendall winced, fearing whiplash. "Jill... uh... I... uh... hey there?" The greeting was more of a question than anything else, but the startled pleasure in the other woman's face at the blond detective's arrival was unmistakable.

"Relax, Rebel, this Yankee comes in peace. And bearing gifts." She hefted the lunch bags. "I saw your press conference and guessed you'd been so busy that you probably skipped lunch. I hope you like Chinese."

The delighted smile that creased Abbie's features confirmed for Jill that she had done the right thing. "As long as it's not one of those Ho-Hos from the vending machine, I'll eat it. I think those things are older than I am." Jill watched with admiration as Carmichael rose from her chair with the lithe grace of a young animal and crossed the room to stand in front of her. "You are a goddess among women, Jill Kirkendall. This smells terrific, and I am starving." Gently she took the bags from the detective's hands and motioned with her head at the small couch against the opposite wall. "You mind eating in here? We take this to the cafeteria and a pack of wild dogs masquerading as attorneys will attack us. If you'll just toss all that stuff on the table there onto the floor, I'll run get us a couple of cans of soda. You want diet or regular?"


"Not a problem. I'll be right back." She grinned happily at Kirkendall and ducked out of her office, leaving the other woman a chance to glance surreptitiously around Carmichael's second home.

There weren't a lot of knickknacks or doodads scattered around the office. A Lady Longhorns pennant hung discreetly in the corner, along with a coat rack with a black cowboy hat perched crookedly on top of it. Her undergraduate and law school degrees hung in a suitable place of honor behind Carmichael's desk, but the only framed photo in the room was a picture of a rather disheveled and happily bare-chested Troy Aikman with his arm thrown around Abbie's shoulders. In the snapshot, wearing Aikman's Cowboys jersey and a faded pair of jeans, Abbie grinned cockily back into the camera's lens.

"Don't let the picture fool you," Abbie murmured softly into Jill's ear. "We were both perfect gentlemen that night."

Caught red-handed in her survey, Jill could only shrug sheepishly. "Sorry."

Carmichael grinned her discomfort away and handed her a cold soda. "Don't worry about it. Come on let's eat before it gets cold."

"So..." Jill began, when they had parceled out the food on the paper plates the attorney had snagged from the cafeteria. "... If you were both perfect gentlemen that night, why do you have the picture framed and in your office?"

"Because it throws people off kilter." Abbie shrugged. "And it makes me smile," she grinned. "It was a helluva barbecue."

"So you used to go out with Troy Aikman?"

"No! I actually don't really know him that well. A buddy of mine from UT is an offensive lineman with the Cowboys now. He invited me to this little thing, where I think there was more booze than food-- and somehow that picture got taken. Nothing happened, and I haven't ever seen him again."

Kirkendall let out a low whistle. "Some fast company you're keeping."

"Not really," Carmichael disagreed blithely. "We're all a bunch of good old boys, when you get right down to it. Texas is just a small town spread over a hell of a lot of acreage."

The unthinking statement was another brushstroke added to the portrait of Abbie Carmichael beginning to form in Jill's mind. "It reminds you of home, doesn't it?"

The attorney's eyes dropped to her plate of moo goo gai pan, and she suddenly seemed far too interested in rolling all the baby corns to one side. "They're my favorites," she said to Jill, aware of Kirkendall's eyes upon her, but not raising her own glance to meet them. "So I save those for last."

"Why that?" The detective in her couldn't refrain from pressing the subject. "Why did you pick something so.... impersonal... to remind you of home?"

Carmichael glared irritably at her tormentor and sat her plate down abruptly on the low coffee table. "Did you really come all the way over here to grill me on my choice of mementos? Because, if so, we both have better things to do."

"Waitaminute..." Kirkendall placed a tentative hand on the other woman's arm, as if to steady herself in the rapidly shifting conversational terrain. "Where did that come from?"

The attorney shrugged the touch off and retreated to her desk as if seeking shelter. "Thanks for lunch, Kirkendall, but I have a lot of work to do. I'm sure you can see yourself out."

Bewildered, Jill searched for some hint of the tenderness she had heard in Abbie's voice only a few hours before, finding only the implacable professional veneer Carmichael had offered the reporters in the press conference. "Abbie... I..." She shook her head. "I'm sorry if I..." Throwing up her hands she decided to try starting all over again. "I didn't come here to interrogate you or make you angry."

"Then why did you?" Suspicion inflected Carmichael's usual drawl, sharpening the edges of her vowels.

"Would you believe to make sure that you had something besides a stale Ho-Ho for lunch?"

Abbie's snort of laughter eased the worst of the tension between them, and Kirkendall took the opportunity to move closer to the other woman, perching on the edge of Carmichael's desk. "Honest?"

"Really. And..." She hesitated briefly. "To say thank you."

"Thank you?"

"For last night," Jill elaborated. "We don't really know each other at all... I don't know why I needed you, your voice... But I reached out... and you were there for me. "

The declaration hung gently in the air for a moment, and the faint traces of a smile curved along Abbie's mouth. "Well... ah... I guess I was just returning the favor." Blazingly intense eyes focused unwaveringly on Kirkendall, leaving heated trails of awareness in their wake as she rose to stand only inches from Jill. "A couple of weeks ago a total stranger told me that I looked like I needed to be held... and that she wanted to be the one to do it." A hesitant hand brushed the bright cap of Jill's hair, settling an errant lock back into place. "I suppose you could call us even now. But I'll have to owe you for lunch."

"Dinner," Jill blurted, her senses distracted and sent into unwitting overload by trying to determine if the slightly raw, spicy scent emanating from Carmichael's skin was natural to the woman, or something she could stop by Macy's and pick up. Either way, it was definitely something she wanted to investigate further.

"Dinner?" the attorney echoed, the question a quiet burr in her throat.

"You could ask me to dinner."

Abbie leaned back, gathering Kirkendall's gaze with her own. "What are you saying?"

"I'm not really sure," she replied on unsteady breath. "And I'll be the first one to admit that. Not to mention my life's a mess right now, but..."

"But?" Abbie prompted unnecessarily.

"I like the way I feel when I'm with you."

"That's nice to hear." Gentle worry flickered across Carmichael's brow. "But I'm not interested in being some experiment."

"Believe me, I'm not an experimental girl. It's not like I've never been hit on by a woman, Abbie," Kirkendall replied dryly.

"Hey, I never hit on you," she protested with a smile.

"Oh yeah, what would you call it?"

"You're the one who told those guys we were together."

"So I started it?" Kirkendall retorted, liking the teasing lilt in Abbie's voice.

"I think that would be a fairly accurate assessment of the situation. Be that as it may, I'll be happy to take the rap for it," Carmichael offered gallantly. "So, Detective Kirkendall, what do you say? Will you go out with me?"

"Took you long enough to ask."

"Haven't you ever heard the saying, 'Getting there is half the fun?'"

Kirkendall rolled her eyes. "I have a feeling I'll be hearing a lot more often from now on." They shared a moment of relaxed peace-- the first either woman had found all day-- and Jill found her hand naturally searching for Abbie's, entwining their fingers. The length and supple shape of the attorney's fingers unaccountably reminded her of Lorraine Fitzgerald's delicate hands pressed to her face in grief.

Was the love that she and Stephanie had shared any different from any other young, devoted couple? Her mind wandered to the truest example of committed love and passion she had ever seen-- Diane and Bobby Simone. The memory of her own love for Don was tainted by his crimes-- his unwavering self-centeredness and his deceit. Never in her life had Jill Kirkendall been more vividly aware of the things she had let slip away-- whether out of fear, practicality, or some sense of not deserving the extraordinary. Her desire to be accepted had quashed any rebellious impulses in her youth, her love of Don had destroyed any birthing friendships she might have found, and her boys-- they were the two regrets she had never had in her whole life-- but they undeniably chained her to the past, to her feelings for a man who thought nothing of using them and her love to manipulate her into helping achieve his dubious goals.

Now, in front of her, was one of the most gifted people she had ever met-- passionate in her devotion to justice, cloaking an unspoken pain behind shadowed eyes. Jill knew she was standing on the brink of something important in her life, a crossroads she wasn't sure she was ready to face-- but years of pain and not a little heartache had taught her that she didn't get to pick and choose her opportunities.

A part of her mind was screaming that her behavior was completely unacceptable, her actions totally unprofessional, her desire... out of bounds... but still she found herself leaning towards the dark-haired apparition in front of her, reaching out to stroke the velvety skin of her cheeks, smiling as she saw Abbie respond.

Their mouths met only briefly, lips barely having a chance to brush together before the phone jangled a startling interference call.

They stared at each other in astonishment, breathing slightly ragged, until Abbie snatched up the phone.

"Carmichael," she snapped.

"Abs, it's Diane. Something's broken on the Pruitt case. We got the ring..."

From behind the two-way mirror in the interrogation room, Abbie studied the man they suspected of killing Stephanie Pruitt. He wasn't particularly tall or strong-looking-- indeed there wasn't anything distinctive about him. Blond hair dirty with grease hung limply in his face, and the skin on his cheeks was pockmarked and scarred. His right foot beat a steady tattoo on the floor, and Carmichael was willing to bet he was coming down hard and fast from something. "How'd we collar up on him?"

"Dumb asshole didn't even realize how valuable the ring was. Thought it was silver. Gave it up to the dealer for a half a grand." Andy snorted at the never-ending stupidity of street skels.

"And the dealer was just an upstanding citizen?" she asked skeptically.

"He runs a shop that's usually pretty clean, but has been known to accept a questionable item or two. Ten minutes after the skel leaves, the radio-cars show up with the pictures from Fitzgerald's lawyer. Didn't take him ten seconds to recognize the ring. When he saw you on that press thing, he put two and two together and realized he'd never be able to move the thing."

"What's he want?"

"Some consideration from the DA's office on a couple of charges pending."

"I thought you said he was clean."

"I also said he was known to accept a questionable item or two."

Carmichael nodded grimly. "If this is our boy, I think something can be arranged."

"I figured."

A muted click signaled the arrival of a third party in the small room, and Carmichael smiled briefly in greeting as Lt. Fancy joined them. "Mind if I watch?"

"Perp's name is Danny Rinaldi, sheet's pretty long," Sipowicz offered. "Mostly petty crap-- auto theft, possession of stolen property, robbery..."

"Anything violent?"

"Nah, L-T, the guy's a pus..." He caught Carmichael out of the corner of his eye and shrugged awkwardly. "Well, you know."

"That's quite all right, Detective. I'm very well-aware of what a pussy is." Carmichael arched a sardonic brow in his direction. "So what're the odds that this guy is just a middleman and not involved in the murder at all?"

"Possible, but I don't think so. You know that cartoon with the big dog and the little dog and the little dog is always running around going 'What are we going to do now, Spike?' That guy's the little dog."

"So who's Spike?"

Tap tap tap tap tap... The sound of a booted heel striking the floor in rapid rhythm echoed in the silent room.

Tap tap tap tap tap... "Can I get a smoke?"

Russell and Kirkendall exchanged glances and silently continued to stare at Danny Rinaldi.

Tap tap tap tap tap... "Huh? Can I?"

Russell slid further down in her seat, her posture aggressive, glaring at the man opposite her. Kirkendall remained casual, waiting for the next move.

Tap tap tap tap tap... "Hey! Don't you guys speak English?"

Russell pulled a cigarette from the pack of Luckies in her blazer pocket and placed it between her lips. Striking a match and bringing the flame close to the tobacco, she inhaled deeply. The sound of burning paper filled the room briefly.

"Can I have one?" he asked eagerly.

Russell exhaled a plume of smoke in Rinaldi's face before stubbing the cigarette out on the metal table. "No."

"Aw man!" Rinaldi pushed his chair violently away from the table with his handcuffed wrists. Diane was on him almost before his chair slid to a stop.

"Don't piss me off, Danny," she hissed, grabbing him by the collar and shoving the chair back to the table. "Today is not the day for it."

"Come on! Then what's the deal? Why am I here?" he whined.

Russell leaned hard on one shoulder. "We just want to have a little chat. That's all?"

Bloodshot brown eyes darted from the enraged woman on his right to the calmly relaxed Kirkendall across from him. "About what?" he asked, his eyes waveringly coming to rest on Jill.

"About this." The plastic evidence bag containing Stephanie Pruitt's wedding band skittered to a halt in front of Rinaldi. His eyes widened in surprise, but he managed an unconvincing shrug.

"Dunno what that is."

Gripping the back of his head, Russell pushed him hard towards the bag, stopping his nose inches from the bag. "Wrong answer, Danny. We've got you on the fucking surveillance tape in the pawnshop."

"Diane." Kirkendall's voice was husky with warning. "Let him take a minute. Maybe he didn't get a good look at it."

Behind Rinaldi's head, Russell winked and nodded, backing off and folding her arms across her chest. Her voice, however, remained sharp and angry. "That's all I was doing, Jill. Letting him take a closer look." They had vetoed the idea of Sipowicz working this with them, thinking that two women might provoke the perps into losing their cool. Andy was their back-up plan, in case the perps, needed a friendly male voice.

"So, Danny..." Kirkendall's voice was light, almost conversational. "Tell us where you got the ring."

"Yeah, yeah... well..." Every muscle in Rinaldi's body seemed to be twitching, and absently Kirkendall wondered how he managed not to vibrate out of the chair. "It was, like, my grandmothers. But she's, like you know, dead now. So I figured she wouldn't be needin' it anymore."

Russell's arms jerked, as if to grab Rinaldi once more, but a minute shake of Jill's head stopped her.

"Family heirloom, huh?"

"Yeah yeah. An..." He stumbled over the word. "Heirloom. Yeah. That's right."

"So you must come from a pretty rich family," Jill remarked. "How'd you end up in a shithole like the one we found you in?"

"Wha-- what do you mean?"

"I mean, Danny..." Kirkendall leaned forward and scooped up the ring, dangling it in his face. "That this ring which-- like the schmuck you are-- you pawned for half a g, is really worth ten grand. I'm trying to be very patient with you, but I'm kinda in a bind here."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah, Danny. Because I've got a murder on my hands. A really nasty, ugly murder. And, you see, this ring-- the one that belonged to your grandmother-- well, the woman who was murdered last night had one exactly like it. Even the inscription was the same."

Rinaldi's already pallid face took on a deathly cast. "R-r-eally?"

"Yeah. Really." She pointed at the mirror across from them. "And I've got a District Attorney behind that glass who was all over television this morning telling every reporter in sight that the NYPD and the DA's office weren't going to rest before they cleared this case. So she's very interested in these proceedings."

"Sh-sh-she is?"

"Here's what I got, Danny. I've got a dead woman-- brutally murdered, butchered even. I've got a ring that she never took off-- missing. And I've got you-- pawning a ring that looks just like the one she always wore. Right now, the DA is adding one plus one plus one-- and you know what she's coming up with?"


Russell leaned in close to his ear. "You, a gurney, and a needle. It's called lethal injection."

Rinaldi's body jerked spasmodically. "No! You gotta... that's not... no!"

Kirkendall spread her hands wide. "If that's not the way it was, Danny, you gotta say something now. If there's something in our addition that's wrong, tell us. Maybe we can help you. The DA, though, she's ridin' us hard. If you're all we got..." She shook her head sorrowfully. "Then we're gonna give you to her."

"Davie!" he practically shouted. "It was Davie! You gotta find him. He's... he's..."

Russell circled around him, intently capturing his eyes with her own. "Talk to us, Danny. Tell us what Davie did."

Rinaldi brought his hands to his face, pressing the heel of his palms into his eyes. "Oh man... can I have a cigarette?"

Silently Russell tossed him the pack and the lighter. They waited while he fumbled with the implements, the cuffs on his wrists impeding the process. Finally, however, the cigarette was in his mouth, and he sucked on it greedily-- as if it were giving him strength for the story to come.

"We were just hangin' you know? At this corner store not too far from Christopher Street, when this chick blows in to buy a pack of smokes. Oh man... she was hot, little black skirt, bright red top. Not like the usual bulldykes you see around there, with their noses all pierced up and shit."

"So you knew you were in a gay neighborhood?" Jill interjected.

"We ain't fags or nothing," he objected hotly. "Davie's really built, you know-- so the fags, they chat him up, tryin to get over on him. When they're not looking, I lift their wallets. Sometimes, though, he gets pissed off if they try to cop a feel."

"What does he do when he gets pissed off?"

Rinaldi shrugged. "He beats the shit out of them. I just grab the stuff and run, usually. I don't stick around for that part."

"So this chick blows into the store?" Russell prompted.

"Yeah, yeah... she's buying some girly cigarettes. Some menthol shit. And Davie tries to strike up a conversation. Nothing disrespectful at all."

"And what does she do?"

"Gives him this tight-assed smile and blows him off big-time. Says he's not her type.

"And then David says, 'Don't knock it till you've tried it.'

"And then she says, 'I already have.' Then she points at some fag who'd been eyeing us and says, 'Maybe you should too. You'd probably enjoy it more than I did.'"

Kirkendall arched a brow. "Meaning that Davie should find himself a man."

"Yeah, I guess. Davie's face got all red and he called her a dyke. She looks down her nose at him and says it took him long enough to figure it out. Then she blows out of there."

"What did you and Davie do then?"

"Everybody was laughin' at us, so we headed out of the store. Caught sight of her about a block ahead of us. Couldn't miss that red shirt even in the streetlights. Davie tugs at my arm and says let's follow her. There are all kinds of dyke and fag bars around there, so it wasn't real hard to figure out where she's headed. So we circle around to this back alley. Don't ask me how Davie knew it was there, 'cause I don't know. And sure enough in a few minutes, she comes strolling down the sidewalk."

"Wasn't there anyone else around?"

"Just a few people. Here and there. Nobody's payin' any attention. Most of them are either drunk, stoned, horny or on their way to getting drunk, stoned, or laid. So when Davie steps out in front of her, nobody pays much mind. If there was even anybody there.

"Right away she gets all defensive, like 'Get the fuck away from me, you asshole.' And Davie says she shouldn't use language like that. It ain't right. He just wants to talk, he says. Come on, talk to me. Let's go talk. He keeps saying it over and over. And he's got this look in his eye.

"She wasn't no idiot... she's trying to back away without him noticing it, but all the time he's herding her towards the alley. Until she's in the middle of this dark alley and there's nowhere to go.

"Where were you in all this?"

He shrugged. "Just watching. But when she's in the alley, he tells me to grab her-- keep her from screaming."

"So you do?"

"I usually do what Davie tells me."

"Why's that?"

"Cause I seen what happens to people when they don't. 'Sides, I just figured he was gonna slap her around a little. I mean, she didn't have any call to get all nasty on him back at the store. He was just making conversation."

"So you're holding her?"

"Yeah, I've got one hand over her mouth and the other around her waist. And she is struggling like a motherfucker."

"Not an unusual reaction to being pulled into a dark alley by two stranger men," Kirkendall remarked dryly.

"I can't see anything, 'cept Davie's shadow. But he's talking to her the whole time, telling her that she needs to mind her manners and that she shouldn't talk back to people who were just trying to be nice. But his voice is all growly and shit, and it's startin' to scare me too. Then outta nowhere-- bam!-- I see his blade comin up and going down."

"How'd you see his knife if it was so dark?"

"Just cause there weren't no lights in the alley don't mean there weren't outside. I saw the flash off the blade."

"What did you do?"

"Nothing." He shrugged. "I mean, I dropped her. She was tryin' to scream, but there were just these really gross gurgles comin' out of her mouth, and I didn't want to get blood on me."

"So Davie just stabbed her."

"Over and over again. All the time he's talkin' about teaching her respect, and minding her manners. And didn't dykes have any manners. It was some weird shit, let me tell you. I'm freaking out, saying like 'Davie, come on let's get outta here.' I was afraid somebody would see us. It was pretty loud, what with us being between two bars and all, so I don't think anybody could have heard us, but who the fuck knew when two fags might be comin out there for a quick fuck. You know?

"So finally she's not moving and he's on his knees just stabbing stabbing stabbing. And then he just stops. And I hear him. He's like 'You gotta do her too, Danny.' I'm like, no the fuck I don't you crazy motherfucker, but you don't talk to Davie like that. So I was just like, 'Davie, I think we should leave.' And he's like, 'No no, you gotta do her too, that way it'll be just as much me as you.' Like I don't know it's already as much me as him." Rinaldi shook his head. "Fuck me, if I didn't."

"You stabbed her too?" Kirkendall's tone was cutting.

"She was already dead, man. That chick was definitely dead."

"But you stabbed her too?" Louder now.

"I'm telling you she was already dead."

"You sonofabitch..." Jill was around the table in a heartbeat, yanking the man from his chair-- one hand on his throat the other tangled in his shirt. "You fucking stabbed her and you think it's all right because she was already dead.... And for no other reason than she dissed you...?"

Russell's eyes were wide with shock at the enraged expression on her partner's face. Nothing ever pushed Kirkendall over the edge, but something was very visibly coming undone in front of her eyes. "Ease down," she murmured to her partner, placing her hand over Jill's. "Ease down. We got him."

Bonelessly, Jill let Rinaldi slump back to his chair. The small man was trembling uncontrollably now as he regarded the women with more than a little fear. A disgusted expression on her face, Kirkendall tossed a legal pad and pencil in front of him. "You want any hope of saving yourself, you give us Davie's full name and address. Then you write down everything that happened like you told us. And don't fucking forget to say you're sorry. All right, asshole?"

Moments later, Abbie and Diane found her in the ladies room, retching violently. As the heaves finally subsided, she leaned wearily against the cold tile floor, tears running down her face. Wordlessly, Abbie slipped to the ground beside her, gathering the other woman in her arms and not bothering to check the tears that flowed from her own eyes.

"Davie turned out to be easy to find. And he's got a violent rap sheet about a mile long. Unfortunately most of his victims were too afraid or embarrassed to press charges. When they picked him up he seemed almost cocky about the whole thing. Wanted to know if he could be on 'Maury Povich.' I think he's the most cheerful sociopath I've ever met." Abbie snorted angrily and leaned back in her chair.

The day had exhausted her in more ways than one, and she'd had no time or space to collect herself as she had moved from moment to moment. Lunch was a vague memory and her morning run only a faint impression on her brain cells. Her heart ached for the senselessness of Stephanie's death, and she'd been unable to look Lorraine Fitzgerald in the eye when Lorraine had asked her why Davie and Danny had killed her lover.

The only concrete feeling left from the hours passed was of holding Jill in her arms on the unforgiving bathroom floor. Carmichael had watched Kirkendall play a flawless good cop to Russell's bad cop, but she had seen the growing rage in Jill's eyes as Danny blithely recounted Stephanie's impertinence-- and the price it had cost her. She felt Jill snap a moment before the blond detective had risen and grabbed Danny by the throat-- felt her own rage and fury echoed in Kirkendall's every movement.

Now Jack McCoy was standing in front of her, wanting a full recounting of the day's activity, when all she wanted to do was surrender her weary bones to a hot bath and stiff shot of Jack Daniels. If she were being completely honest with herself, she'd admit that she wanted Jill's arms around her as well, but Abbie-- quite frankly-- was in no mood for honesty at this moment in time, and the tentative dance she and Jill were doing left no room for lingering embraces.

"The club owners both confirmed that the last of the streetlights in the alley had been broken a few days ago, and they hadn't gotten around to replacing any of them," she continued, not wanting to dwell on where her private thoughts were currently residing.

"What about the ring, why'd Rinaldi take that and nothing else?"

"Turns out it was a complete accident. He didn't intend to take anything, but apparently the ring slipped off in the struggle and fell near Stephanie's body. Rinaldi was in such a hurry to leave that he tripped and fell, literally landed almost on top of it. He saw it..."

"And picked it up."

"Yeah. He had no idea how much it was worth. He was just looking for enough cash to score his next fix."

"And Davie Wolters?"

"Davie's supreme stupidity is surpassed only by his arrogance. Once they had him in custody, the cops had trouble shutting him up long enough to Mirandize him. I don't think even F. Lee Bailey could stop the needle on this one," she finished, not bothering to look at her rumpled and jeans-clad boss.

McCoy slumped gracelessly into the chair opposite her. "You going for the death penalty?" he asked tonelessly.

Too tonelessly. Abbie cracked a suspicious eyelid and glared at her boss. "I don't have time for your hippie love crap, Jack. A woman is dead because these men didn't like her tone of voice."

"Because a man didn't like her tone of voice," he corrected gently.

"Oh forgive me, I forgot that Danny Rinaldi was just a gutless wonder who could only stab Stephanie Pruitt after she was dead. There's such a fine distinction. He held her down."

"True. And I'm sure you wouldn't have any trouble getting twelve jurors to agree with you."

"But?" she asked skeptically.

McCoy held up both hands. "But nothing. I understand why you identify with this woman. You're both bright, intelligent and beautiful women who have a brilliant future ahead of you. And in Stephanie Pruitt's case, that was taken away. I'm only asking you if you think justice will be served if these two men die."

Carmichael rubbed a weary hand over her eyes, vaguely thankful for the invention of no-run mascara. "I don't think there's any justice to be found in this case. Do I think Stephanie Pruitt would have wanted these men killed in her name? I don't know. But how can I ask her lover to help feed, clothe and house these men for the rest of their lives in prison?"

"Maybe you just say the words, Abbie. Find out what Lorraine Fitzgerald wants. What the Pruitts want. Don't take the entire burden on your shoulders. You don't have to."

"Don't I?"

McCoy smiled sadly. "Adam played a video tape for me the other day-- of a young college student arguing a debate in front of the Supreme Court. That student said, 'Capital punishment gives us the God-like power of life and death... and yet He says, "Thou shalt not murder..." Capital punishment isn't about justice, it's about vengeance... and that belongs to no man... only God.'" Abbie eyes went wide as she recognized the quote and wondered where Schiff had gotten a tape of the debate. "Ask the Pruitts what they think justice is. And Lorraine Fitzgerald. Then ask yourself."


"And this is Christienne Turner and you're watching New York Now. With me is Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael. Ms. Carmichael surprised many in the city's legal community when she announced that the DA's office would not be seeking the death penalty against David Wolters and Daniel Rinaldi in the brutal murder of Stephanie Pruitt just a little over a week ago. Can you explain why such a decision was made and who was involved?"

Abbie shifted comfortably in her chair, crossing her legs at the knee. Schiff had strong-armed her into doing this show, saying that the press rarely ever covered it when they did something right, he was going to be damned if they let this opportunity pass them bad. Jack had only beamed at her discomfiture, as if to say, I told you so... As a result, she was here, and he was probably going to laugh his ass off when the show aired Sunday. "A number of factors went into the decision, Ms. Turner. First and foremost were the wishes of Ms. Pruitt's lover and her parents."

"Which were?"

"Stephanie Pruitt was a remarkable young woman. She was devoted to her partner, committed to her job, and passionate about helping her community. I spent a long time talking with Lorraine Fitzgerald--"

"Ms. Pruitt's partner..."

"About who Steph was, and what she would have wanted." The two women had spent long hours talking, sharing stories, laughing, and crying. Now there was a bond between the two, and Abbie had even talked Lorraine into taking Stephanie's old seat on the board of the Youth Center. "Lorraine told me that one of Stephanie's role models was Harvey Milk, how she had seen a documentary about his life and that it had really affected her desire to make her community a better place."

"Harvey Milk was the San Francisco city supervisor assassinated in 1978," Turner supplied for her less-than-informed television audience.

"When Harvey was assassinated, the gay community responded not with violence, but with a candlelight vigil that joined an entire city-- gay and straight-- and lined them up and down the city streets, as far as the eye could see. They mourned the loss of this remarkable man, of the light he shone on his community, and the changes he could have brought about. They didn't react with violence, they didn't clamor for vengeance-- they simply mourned. And asked for justice. A justice, I might add, they didn't get."

"And justice in this case?"

"It isn't murdering her murderers. That's showing as much hatred and contempt for these men as they showed for Stephanie. Lorraine didn't want their blood on her hands or mine-- or on Stephanie's memory. She said that Stephanie wanted to contribute to her community, not take away from it. Killing these men in her name, Lorraine said, was wrong."

"And do you agree with this decision?"

"I'm a public servant, Ms. Turner," Abbie attempted to deflect the question.

"That's not what I asked." The look in Turner's eyes said that she wasn't about to let this issue go.

"As a District Attorney, I agree with Lorraine's decision. I think it was the right one. I hope those two have a lot of years left to contemplate their crimes. They've both agreed to a plea bargain that will put them behind bars without parole for the rest of their lives."

"And as an individual?"

Abbie dropped her eyes, staring at her steepled fingers. "I'm not sure I could have shown as much grace and mercy as Lorraine and the Pruitts," she admitted softly. "I'm not sure if I had lost... a lover... that I wouldn't want to put a bullet through the head of each man responsible." She lifted her chin and met Christienne Turner's eyes once more. "But my job as a public servant is to serve justice. And I'm confident in this case-- justice was, indeed, served."

Turner paused a moment, letting the camera linger on the firm cut of Carmichael's jaw and the resolute tone of her voice. Then she wrapped up, instinctively knowing that nothing more needed to be said. "This is Christienne Turner for WST news. Good day."


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