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One blonde eyebrow went up. "Quite a generous offer, Mr. Zerbe," Alex murmured. That was one way to put it. 'Five times my current salary' was another.
"Theo," he insisted. Seated to either side of the Managing Director of Hildebrandt, Olson, and Mitchell were two other members of the firm's Recruiting Committee, both of whom were studying Alexandra Cabot's responses between bites of fine Italian cuisine.
"You'll have half a secretary and half a paralegal to start," Scott Milton chimed in. "When your workload picks up, you can have exclusive assignments."
A secretary who didn't need a spreadsheet to keep her attorneys' calendars straight? A legal assistant whose To Do list was shorter than the Manhattan phone directory? "It all sounds very attractive," Alex admitted. "And I appreciate your persistence. I'll never turn down a free meal at Marzetti's."
It was her favorite restaurant, in fact. Alex had often thought about inviting Olivia here, but she suspected that the detective would choke at the (admittedly outrageous) prices, and Liv would never believe it was within the District Attorney's budget for a working dinner.
The ADA had been here twice now on HOM's nickel. It was flattering to be sought out so diligently, albeit somewhat puzzling. She had never given them any encouragement. Did they just assume that, with enough perseverance, no one could resist an overture from the country's largest law firm?
"I was honest with you when you called," Alex said to Mae Lin, the other woman in the group. "I'm actually rather content in my current position."
"That sense of loyalty is one reason we think you'd be a good fit at Hildebrandt," Lin countered smoothly. "You've been the ADA in a difficult division for more than five years. That's impressive, as is your record."
My record. Yeah, that's what caught your eye. It had not escaped Alex's attention that HOM's first phone call came after her multiple television appearances on the Bradley case. Ironically, that kind of exposure, leading to this kind of result, had been high on Alex's agenda when she first started at SVU. Sound bites of justice were part of her obligation to reassure potential voters er, the People that the D.A.'s office was looking out for them. And if she happened to look good doing it (Alex wasn't entirely oblivious to the blue-eyed-blonde phenomenon), so much the better.
That was then; this was now. As her priorities began to change, Alex gradually wearied of the process. She winced when TV cameras converged on her outside the courthouse after a hard loss, and she was tired of the annoying, sometimes outright disturbing proposals that clogged her voice mail each time her face and name flashed on the screen. The day after Bradley was convicted, Alex activated the speaker phone in her office to let Olivia hear some of them, enjoying the detective's wry commentary.
"Well, that one sounds sincere. Do you have that kind of stamina?"
"Not the way he's describing it," Alex replied. Recognizing that she was about to stray into risky territory, she went ahead anyway. "Do you?"
Olivia focused on the man's voice. "I might for that." More description. "I don't think I could manage that."
"Good; I wouldn't want you to manage that." Alex listened for a while. "I wouldn't mind that."
The look in dark brown eyes was new. Did she know what Alex was doing? "I wouldn't mind that either," Liv said.
Unfortunately for wherever the conversation might have progressed from there, the message ended, and the next came on. "Miss Cabot, this is Theo Zerbe with Hildebrandt, Olson, and Mitchell. We are in the process of adding an experienced trial attorney in our New York office, and we'd like to meet with you. We're talking about a very attractive package for someone with your qualifications."
A few more details and the caller's telephone number followed, but Alex didn't write it down. Reassuring an anxious SVU detective was her top priority now. Holding Olivia's gaze, she pressed the delete code. The mood had been shattered, though; Alex would have to await another opportunity to work on her Olivia Benson project.
"Five years in that position is a long time," Mae Lin continued. "No one would accuse you of"
The sales pitch broke off suddenly, and a combination of surprise, dismay, and horror crossed the other woman's face. From behind her, Alex heard some sort of commotion, and then . . . . My God, what is that smell?
No, please. Please do not let that be
"I'm glad I found you."
With a vague sense of dread, Alex turned around in her chair. "What in the world have you been doing, Olivia?"
"Huh?" The detective was obviously distracted by whatever had led her to track down the ADA. "Oh, just the Clausen warrant. That's what I need to talk to you about. I tried to call is your phone off?"
Ah. Yes. The HOMies had made a point of turning off their cells for the dinner and, after a moment's hesitation, the ADA had thought it might be all right to do the same with hers for a couple of hours. Thus arriveth Detective Benson.
"Does Clausen work in a brewery?"
Olivia seemed confused. "No, the printer, remember?"
Of course Alex remembered. Her SVU detectives had talked about little else for the past week. This one had been especially frustrating. Their first witness had provided some helpful detail, but insisted on anonymity. Without corroborating evidence, the statement of an untested CI had not been enough to get Judge Ellison's signature on a warrant.
Next up had been a young woman who was both cooperative and willing to give her name (which, of course, was the only way to get consideration on her possession charges). Her information, though, was nearly two months old. Too stale, Ellison decided. So are you, Alex thought irritably. Her detectives handled the news fairly well; after only five minutes or so of imputing various intellectual and/or sexual shortcomings to the judge, they moved on to coordinating a round-the-clock stakeout. It wasn't the underage-girls-for-hire operation that SVU was hoping to expose, but a steady stream of something plausibly resembling drug traffic had finally gotten them a warrant.
"Should I assume that you stopped at a bar on the way here, then?" Alex followed up.
"Oh, that." The detective got it now. "Clausen decided that launching beer bottles at us from his doorway might lessen our desire to toss his place. Asswipe must have had half a dozen six packs crammed into that fridge."
By now, the Assistant District Attorney was beginning to perceive another, even more pungent aroma emanating from her SVU detective. Before she could decide whether to ask what the hell that was, Olivia took a step closer to her. Normally, Alex had no objections when the beautiful brunette invaded her personal space, but oh, God. Her eyes were watering. No wonder the maitre de looked as though someone had just asked for catsup.
"We hit paydirt, Alex," Liv reported excitedly. "Client rosters, appointment books, photo albums with girls sorted by ages, the whole shebang. All in these little plastic compartments in fertilizer barrels in his garden. Ha!" she laughed. "Like we wouldn't look there."
The detective's giddiness was amusing. 'Adorable' wasn't always the word that came to mind when Liv was hyper about something the ADA had been on the receiving end of a few rants in her day but tonight it was just plain cute. Olivia was either more tired than Alex had realized, or she really, really disliked Daniel Clausen.
To Alex's amazement, a couple of blood droplets began trailing down from Olivia's nose. She rose quickly and dabbed her napkin against the detective's face.
"Whatoh, hell; I thought that'd stopped," Olivia said. She pressed the cloth against her nostril.
"Did you forget to duck?"
"Right." The detective rolled her eyes. "I've got my knee in Clausen's back and I'm about to cuff him when some uni comes barreling around the corner. Knocks us both over. Next thing I know, Clausen's whacking me in the face with a shoe." Olivia grinned, still on a high from their hard earned success. "It was great. Fin shows up, and he's all, 'You want some shoe, Motherfucker?'" Suddenly, she seemed to think better of finishing her narrative. "Anyway, Alex, what I wanted to"
Blue eyes narrowed suspiciously. "What did Fin do?"
"He subdued the suspect," Olivia replied. "Anyway, we found a pile of documents tying Ebert Richards to this operation. Receipts, e-mails, wire transfers through December. We need warrants on Richards before he hears about the bust."
Ebert Richards. Three, maybe four lawyers at every hearing. At least half a dozen motions by next week to suppress every piece of evidence her detectives found or thought about finding. Long, late nights at the office, dipping wooden chopsticks into takeaway boxes.
Alex reached into the pocket of her purse for her cell phone, and was soon translating Olivia's information to a sympathetic Judge Kazlowski. "Thank you, Your Honor. I'll have the paperwork out as quickly as I can." She hung up. "Go get him."
"Yes, ma'am." With a happy little salute, Olivia turned and headed for the door.
"Olivia," Alex yelled after her. "Call me when you're done."
The detective was gone, but her essence still lingered, the ADA noticed. She brought the wine glass to her lips, wafting it in front of her insulted nasal passages. That scented candle on her bedstand would finally get some use tonight.
"Is that the kind of thing you have to deal with on a regular basis?"
'That'? Alex decided that Milton had not just referred to Olivia Benson as 'that'. He must have meant the urgency, having to call judges at home, that kind of thing. "Warrants are very time sensitive," she explained.
"That's another advantage of civil practice," Ling said. "There's plenty to keep you busy, but there aren't really that many true emergencies." She held out her hands. "And that's what associates are for."
"Most of your clientele would be upper echelon," Milton added. "You won't have anyone showing up in your office covered in beer and manure."
No question about it, Detective Benson had been filthy, bedraggled, and pretty much disgusting. But higher-class clientele? There was no such thing.
"My salary as an ADA isn't in your league," Alex said. "And the working conditions could be better." She envisioned herself at 2:30 in the morning, listening groggily to a breakdown on the Richards arrest.
By Olivia Benson.
Alex smiled to herself. "But you just can't beat the intangibles . . . ."
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