DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and all characters are
property of NBC and Dick Wolf.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: As with several of my stories, you'll see a reference to Liz Donnelly in here. To clarify, that doesn't necessarily place it in an earlier-season timeline. In D.S.'s world, "Loss" either never occurred or has been resolved already, and Liz Donnelly has been promoted to Chief Deputy DA.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Juror No. 6
"Liv!" The ADA was shocked but delighted to see Detective Olivia Benson step quickly into her office and shut the door behind her. Mid-stride as she was (pacing while she dictated into her handheld), Alex fought the urge to simply take two more steps and throw her arms around her friend. Instead, she settled on an astonished "What are you doing here?" As happy as Alex was to see her after nearly two weeks, Olivia shouldn't have risked a visit to the DA's office while she was still undercover.
"Straczinski sent me here to pick up that idiot nephew of his, if you can believe that," Olivia said with a grin. "He's in for an interview with Pederson on a narcotics beef. I figured since I was just downstairs . . . ." She shrugged.
"Well, I'm glad to see you," Alex said. The understatement of the year. There was much more she wanted to say, and she was fairly sure that Olivia knew what it was. Over the months, both had managed to impart in typical indirect fashion that they were attracted to women, but they hadn't crossed the line of admitting that they were attracted to each other. They had scheduled a dinner for this Saturday evening "Just us this time" to celebrate the end of Olivia's undercover assignment, and, Alex suspected, maybe the beginning of something else. They would talk about it then.
It. That was what Alex called her amorphous relationship with the wonder that was Olivia Benson. By this time next week, she hoped to be using a different word, but now was not the time to lay that on Olivia, even if those warm brown eyes were drawing her in. She smiled stupidly, finally realizing that neither of them were saying anything. "So, what's your timetable?" she asked.
"Straczinski got a call last night," Olivia said. "Looks like they're probably coming in Friday." After a moment's pause, she continued casually, "We still on for this weekend?"
It was a loaded question. "I want to," Alex replied cautiously. Was Olivia having second thoughts? "What about you?"
"Yeah. I've kinda been looking forward to it, actually." Olivia drew a finger across the top of the attorney's desk in a lazy S pattern.
God, you're cute.
Leaning back against the desk, the detective shifted her position slightly and her hand came to rest atop the only loose piece of paper on its otherwise orderly surface. She began to shove it aside, but the official seal at the top caught her attention. "What's this?" Skimming the document, she laughed. "Jury duty? You're kidding!"
Alex rolled her eyes. "It's not funny," she said. "I'll be wasting my entire morning on that."
"Just the morning?" Olivia asked. "That's a short trial."
"Pff." Alex waved dismissively at the summons. "I'll get kicked off. They never keep lawyers. I'll be out of there by noon."
"Can't you get Branch to write you a note or something?"
"Unofficially, yes," Alex replied. "But you remember how they tore Medley a new one for that?" One of Branch's more popular lines from his re-election campaign two years earlier ran through her head: "Mayor Giuliani wasn't too busy to perform his public duty, but Tom Medley was?"
"Well, yeah," Olivia said, "but didn't Medley blow it off twice?"
"Oh. Pulled the DA card before, have we?"
"It won't matter anyway," Alex said. "Nobody wants a lawyer on their jury."
"Too bad," Olivia replied. "You might get something juicy."
Alex reached for the notice and pointed to two words. "Commercial Division," she said, sharing Olivia's look of horror. "The only intrigue there would be which lawyer paid more for his suit."
"And how many banks I'd have to rob to buy it," Olivia said. She glanced at her watch. "I'd better go; Junior's probably getting antsy."
Alex was too busy studying the notice to register the comment. Tomorrow was Wednesday. This shouldn't be a problem, but what if . . . . "Maybe I'd better talk to Liz," she said uncertainly.
"Don't," Olivia ordered. "Getting you elected DA is part of my career path. I've got my eye on a cushy job in the DA's office."
Sure you do.
"See you Saturday, then?" Olivia asked as she placed her hand on the doorknob.
"Before then," Alex replied. "I thought I'd go down there for the bust."
"No!" The vehemence of Olivia's outburst startled her. "There's no need for that. They've got a small arsenal in there."
"I won't be the one kicking in the door," the attorney joked. "I'll just be sitting outside in an air conditioned car reading my People magazine."
"I mean it, Alex." Olivia seemed genuinely upset. "Please don't go there. Just wait at the station house, OK?"
The ADA was torn. Maybe she could talk it over with Cragen. "OK," she finally said. "See you when it's over, then."
That brought the smile back to Olivia's face. Poking her head out for a quick scan of the hallway, the detective stepped through the door and was on her way toward the stairs. On her way back to Straczinski's.
SVU personnel didn't go undercover very often, for which Alex was thankful. As coolly as she could handle a cranky judge or sleazy defense counsel or perp menacing her from across a table, the attorney had learned the hard way that she could not distance herself when Olivia was at personal physical risk. Alex wasn't stupid; she knew this current assignment was extremely dangerous in spite of Olivia's efforts to downplay it. If caught, the men that her detective was chumming with were all facing the death penalty. Only three more days until she got Olivia back, she reassured herself.
She would be ready to go to Ridenour for a no-knock warrant the minute Olivia "ordered the pizza," a seemingly innocent call to an authentic Italian joint that would set everything in motion. If it hadn't been for that massive cluster fuck by the 22nd a year ago, the ADA would have had her warrant already. But there would be no more no-knocks under Ridenour's watch now without major groveling and evidence less than 24 hours old.
"Can't you get her out of there before they go in?" she had asked the captain yesterday. That was basic common sense, for God's sake.
"And how do you suggest we do that?" Cragen replied.
"I don't know! That's your job."
He nodded calmly. "That's right," he reminded her. "We don't know the layout and we've got to have someone protecting the girls when it goes down. If there was another way, don't you think we would have tried it?"
Duly chastised, the ADA slumped back in her chair. "Of course you would, Don. I'm sorry." She might have felt better if Elliot were here instead of in Virginia with VICAP, but there was plenty of manpower devoted to this thing.
"Everyone's looking out for her, Alex. Don't worry."
Don't worry. She lowered herself to the couch, leaned back, and let her eyes drift shut.
At 10:16 the following morning, a blonde, blue-eyed woman fumed in the corner of the back row of a six-person jury box, drumming the fingers of her right hand against her thigh.
Judge Eileen "I Am the Law" Kirby had shown no sympathy to the ADA's need to be available for her detectives. There were other ADAs, weren't there? Yes, but "No one's irreplaceable, Miss Cabot. I'm sure your colleagues know how to get a warrant."
Then there was the heated conference at the bench. Acoustics in the courtroom were good enough, and the attorney's deep tone just loud enough, that Alex could easily deduce what they were arguing about. "Batson . . . women . . . ." Defense counsel was accusing plaintiff's counsel of striking potential jurors from the panel on the basis of gender. Oh, for Christ's sake. Alex didn't know what irritated her more: that someone would want women on the jury just because his client was a woman, or that someone would strike them for the same reason. Like it mattered in a case like this.
A reason. Any half-assed reason. All the lawyer had to do was throw out a legitimate-sounding explanation for his picks. Alex had certainly managed to come up with something a time or two when she wanted a jury with a certain . . . feel . . . to it. Come on, you idiot . . . Do it or you'll lose your strikes.
Twenty-minutes later, Juror No. 6 sat numbly as the plaintiff's attorney stepped to the lectern to begin his opening statement.
". . . sublease . . . percentage rent . . . gross sales . . . ."
The mid-morning break had given Alex a chance to alert the office to her sudden unavailability, and at a quarter til noon she flagged down a cab to SVU to meet with Cragen and whoever Donnelly was lining up for the Straczinski case. With Judge Kirby's tight schedule, a half-hour debriefing was all Alex could get in, but ADA Rod Holm assured her that it was plenty; he was on top of it.
Alex hoped so. If Holm was half as good as he told everyone, everything would be fine. He was one of a handful of ADAs who let it be known that they considered themselves on a short track to the Big Chair. Whatever competitive emotions that might ordinarily have stirred within Alex were for another day, though. Right now her only concern was Olivia.
Before starting back to 60 Center Street, Alex clipped a text messenger to the stylish belt on her skirt. "Keep me in the loop," she told Munch.
". . . revenues generated . . . commission schedule . . . ."
A mild vibration prompted Alex to glance down at her messenger.
Pizza on its way.
What? Already? Why so early? Had something gone wrong?
Alex hated this. She wanted to be pleading her case to Ridenour, giving the go-ahead to SWAT as soon as they had the judge's okay, waiting in the squad room with Cragen and everyone else until they knew that Olivia was safe.
Soon afterward, a second message appeared. Holm says no no-knock, it read.
"What?" she nearly exclaimed. From what Cragen said, Olivia's cover would likely be blown the instant that cops showed up at the door. Was Holm a fucking idiot? She checked her watch. No break for another fifteen minutes. Damn it! I'll call him, she typed quietly.
" . . . full value of customer contracts . . . actual profit derived . . . ."
Nine minutes until the scheduled break. Four.
"It has to be no-knock, Rod!" she yelled into her cell phone. "What is your problem?"
"Come on, Alex, you can't get a no-knock these days," Holm replied. "Especially from Ridenour."
"Yes, you can!" she said. "You just have to lay it out for him."
"Look, I haven't asked for a no-knock since Spruill," Holm said. "They're not worth the risk."
"Have you actually had an officer inside since then?" You moron! "They have guns. They have potential hostages. This is classic no-knock."
"Do you know how much they paid Spruill's estate?"
"Of course I do," Alex snapped. Who didn't? An elderly woman frightened into a fatal heart attack by a bungled no-knock had been front-page Post fodder for weeks. "But here's some news," she continued. "We know this is the right address. Our information isn't from a CI it's from an experienced NYPD detective and it's red hot. You do see the difference, don't you?"
"I see the difference; I just don't see the need," Holm said. "They mucked the ADA over for months in that case. I don't need that kind of shit on my record."
"You don't need a dead police officer, either. Olivia Benson is in there, damn it!" What could she say to convince this weasel? "Rod, we implemented the new civilian review board guidelines. Captain Cragen signed off"
"Right before we even got all of Benson's information," the other attorney countered. "It's a sham."
Alex slammed the back of her head against the wall. "Have you said that to his face?" She was out of options here. "I'm calling Ridenour myself," she announced. She could deal with Donnelly questioning her interference later, if she did. Alex couldn't imagine Liz backing Holm's gutless play on this.
"I've already faxed him the affidavit," Holm said.
You stupid son of a bitch. A bailiff gestured impatiently to her, and Alex realized that the other jurors were lined up to go back. "One minute," she pleaded silently, holding up a finger, but the officer walked toward her with a shake of his head. Inflexible, just like the judge he worked for. Shit. "Holm, fix it!" she shouted. "I swear to God, if something happens to her Fine, I'm ready." She shook the bailiff's hand from her arm.
Inside the courtroom, long minutes crept by as another accountant took the stand, this time with blow ups of half a dozen spreadsheets.
". . . payments to a third party . . . ."
Come on, come on! The messenger lay motionless on Alex's thigh. She checked it again, and then her watch. 3:14. They should have been in the house by now. What's happening? she sent.
She struck out trying to get an update during the next break. Why weren't her detectives answering their cells? No Holm, either. Where were they? Could they still be waiting for Ridenour?
"Miss Cabot." The bailiff's sudden appearance startled her out of her musings. "The Court would like to have a word with you before trial resumes."
Uh oh. This probably wasn't good. Her premonition was correct: Counsel for both parties and a pissed-off jurist glared disapprovingly at her.
"Miss Cabot," Kirby said without preamble, "the Court has received a report that you're not paying attention to the testimony in this case, and that you've been engaging in text messaging during the trial."
That told her who the tattletale was: it had to be that dried-up retired bank teller seated next to her, who had sniffed more than once at Alex about not taking lightly the honor of serving on a jury.
"I take this accusation seriously," Kirby continued. "I informed you during jury selection that no one was above the law, and that law includes the obligation of jury duty. If anything, you should be held to a higher standard as one of The People's representatives."
"Without an alternate juror I don't see much choice here, Your Honor, except to suggest a mistrial," one of the suits declared. "It's no different than having a juror sleeping or absent."
Alex exploded. She would have had another few minutes to try to find out what was happening with Olivia if they hadn't cut short her break with this shit.
"Your client, Mr. Hudson, has leased its property at 214 Floral Road to the East Coast Fashion Center since 1975," she said to the lawyer. "In 1991, East Coast subleased to ITC Commercial, who began operating a cellular phone business there in 1998. In addition to monthly rent, ITC contracted to pay your client 5 percent of its annual gross sales above $500,000. When customers buy a phone from ITC, they sign up with Northeastern Wireless, who bills them directly for the service and then pays ITC a commission plus a residual fee. Your client believes that 'gross sales' should include all payments to Northeastern, which would mean additional rent last year of $11,428.00. His accountant" she jerked a thumb at the other suit "says the industry standard is to exclude the third-party payments and include only the commissions, and that the correct figure would only be $9,887.00 in any event."
She paused, then decided to plunge ahead. Damn Kirby or anyone else.
"And while I've been sitting here listening to this pissing match about money that was long ago eaten up by attorney fees, one of my detectives has been waiting for us to come get her out of an undercover operation that kidnaps young girls from the Philippines and transports them to Florida, where they are raped and killed within days." She turned her attention to Judge Kirby. "I've been listening, Your Honor. I just haven't given much of a damn. But if that were enough to declare a mistrial, this trial would never have made it past Day Two anyway."
As her monologue ended, she felt the slight vibration of her pager and unclipped it from her belt to read the message from John Munch.
2 dead. Olivia shot. St. Joe's.
Alex closed her eyes. After a moment, she walked up to the bench and handed the device to the judge, who read the words silently.
"The motion for a mistrial is denied," Kirby said. "And as it's almost 3:30, the court will be in recess for the rest of the afternoon." That was as near to an apology as she would get, Alex figured, but it was close enough.
Skipping the formal adjournment, Alex sprinted for the elevator that would take her to the ground floor. As she passed Petrovsky's courtroom, she realized two steps later who it was that she had just seen the door closing behind. She pivoted, strode back to the courtroom, and yanked open the door.
There he was.
Dodging lawyers chatting in the aisle with clients and worried families in the chaos that was Arraignments, Alex made her way to the prosecution table.
"Good afternoon, Miss Cabot," Judge Petrovsky greeted her as she arrived at the table. "Will you be joining"
Alex drew back her right hand and slapped Holm across the face. "Stay away from my detectives," she said coldly. Dismissing him further from her thoughts, she stormed back up the aisle. A path cleared for the raging ADA all the way to the exit.
"Guess not," Petrovsky mused.
From the back seat of a checkered cab, Alex watched another intersection fly by. The skillful driver was certainly earning his $20 incentive to be as "efficient" as possible in getting the ADA to St. Joseph's Hospital.
When they screeched into the Emergency Room drive-through, Alex tossed the driver three twenties and disappeared through the wide sliding-glass doors. It took a rare flash of her ADA's badge, but she was soon following a red line until it intersected with a green line which diverged into a yellow line. When the yellow led her around yet another corner, Alex spied Olivia at a med station halfway down the hall, laughing at something John Munch had just said to her. Alex's stride faltered for a moment as she reacted to the sight of a living, breathing Olivia, but then she made a beeline for the group.
The detective was joking with her colleagues while a technician finished bandaged her upper left arm. "Alex," Olivia uttered, apparently surprised to see her. She shot a frustrated look at Munch. "I told you not to bother her with this," she said.
"Not to bother me?" Alex repeated, incredulous.
Raising his palms, Munch backed out of the confrontation.
"Come on, Skinny Ass," Fin said. "My treat at the soda machine. Catch you later, Liv."
"Do you know what's in soda?" Munch replied. "It's widely known that the federal government suppressed a study by the University of Utah two years ago that concluded . . . ." The two men wandered out of earshot.
"You told him not to bother me?" Alex said again.
"I just meant that it's no big deal, Alex," Olivia laughed nervously, pointing to her arm. "I'm fine. I didn't want you to worry."
The technician was gone now, and the women were alone. "I should have done this yesterday," Alex said. She moved forward and slid both arms around Olivia, holding her close. Olivia's uninjured arm arced around her waist.
"Yeah," Olivia agreed softly when Alex let go a long moment later. "You should have." She nodded toward the side exit. "You wanna get out of here? I didn't get any lunch."
"What about that pizza you ordered?"
"Turned out to be a front for the cops." Olivia grinned. "You can't trust anyone these days."
Alex smiled back at her. "Well, OK, then. But nothing elaborate. You need to get some rest, and I need to get some work done tomorrow morning before I head down to the Commercial Division at nine."
"Oh, yeah," Olivia smirked. "You enjoying your civic duty?"
The detective was enjoying her misery a little too much, Alex decided. "It's not that bad," she said with a shrug. "A porn studio says the defendant breached its contract by using inferior processing chemicals, so about 50 rolls of girl-on-girl shots came out too dark to use in its magazine. We wasted most of today just looking at blowups of the stupid things, but I can't see anything wrong with them. They're clear as a bell."
Brown eyes stared at her. "You're kidding."
"I just hope we don't have to go through every damn roll," Alex continued. "You'll be off tomorrow; why don't you come down and we'll have lunch?"
"I'll be there at nine," Olivia said quickly.
For the first time, Juror No. 6 was looking forward to a lengthy discourse on third-party commission schedules and gross sales percentage rents. That would teach Olivia Benson not to bother her.
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