by Angela Shortt
Friday, 7:45 PM, Llanview Police Station. I'm no good around here, he thought. He straightened out all of his files, dumped out all of excess junk that had collected in his desk drawers from previous cases, answered all of his department emails and made all of his call backs. After washing his coffee pot in the break room, which brought a long stare from Marcie as he walked past, he decided that he had wasted enough time around the station. Antonio was gone for the night. His brother was doing a double at the hospital. And she hadn't called.
"Night, Marcie," he muttered as he walked briskly past her again.
"Uh, yeah, good night..." Marcie watched John's back as made his way through the maze of desks and police officers. "to you too, Lieutenant. Sheesh. Talk about weird!" She shook her head and went back putting together a file folder.
He decided to take a walk through Angel's Square before heading for his room and a nice cool shower, before settling in for another night of pizza, beer and the Pirates on cable. The sun was quickly setting, the night air sweltering, and little rivulets of sweat were beginning to drip down his back. He left his jacket in his room that morning, and he was thankful that he had the foresight to do that. August nights could be unbearable at times.
Evangeline. He stopped when he saw her, aware that his pulse had almost instantly started racing. She was sitting on the bench under the statue of the Angel, legs crossed, still dressed in her usual courtroom attire--a dark gray blazer, an off-white silk blouse and a gray skirt. There were a few things different this time, however. The blazer was opened and the blouse was unbuttoned so that the top of her black lace bra was showing. The blouse, which was usually neatly tucked under the skirt, was partially hanging out from the waist. She was wearing a pair of Nike tennis shoes instead of the customary high heels. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail, with little wisps of hair sticking to her face, which was wet from the humidity. She sat quietly, looking rather sad and lost in thought. John watched her from a distance, wondering if he could find the right words to say to her. After a minute, she pulled out a small baguette of French bread and began breaking off little pieces, then throwing them to the gathering swarm of pigeons. He came closer, but remained out of her line of sight.
"You know what you get when you do that?"
Evangeline jumped, and quickly turned around to look at him standing a few feet away, grinning.
"Oh my God! Don't do that!"
He laughed, then walked over to where she was sitting. A few birds took to flight as he approached, causing her to smile at him with that warm glow that he had come to love.
"You scared the birds."
"They'll be back. They're like cops; they love a free meal. Besides, you didn't answer my question."
"What question?" Her eyes were shining at the prospect of another mental jousting session with him.
"You know what you get when you do that?"
"Feed the birds."
"Fat pigeons!" He laughed at her completely puzzled expression. "A line from Mary Poppins. The movie. Don't tell me you've never seen it."
"Oh, you didn't tell me we're playing movie trivia!"
"That's right; I didn't. My bad."
"Okay, I have one for you."
"C'mon, I'm ready." He sat down next to her and looked deep into her eyes, enjoying how they sparkled with excitement.
"Don't open the door!"
"M. Night Shymalan. Signs."
"Friday the 13th, Parts 1, 2, 3, 4...."
"Not even close."
"Okay, this has to be it. The Exorcist."
"No, but I'll give you a hint."
"So now I'm a charity case! That's just great; I feel real good now!" He unbuttoned his shirt, then rolled up his sleeves while smiling at her. She giggled, reminding him of a girl he once had liked during grammar school. She used to giggle like that in class, and he would burn with deep red embarrassment, thinking she was laughing at him. But he knew there was no such intent with Evangeline. She was enjoying herself, which was a far cry from what she was doing when he first approached her.
"All right, here's the hint. We're surrounded by them."
"Come on, Lieutenant, you're the Chief of Detectives!"
"And that clue stunk!"
"You're impossible! Alfred Hitchcock, The Birds!"
"C'mon! It's not there! I've seen that movie at least a thousand times!"
"Yes, it is. Twenty dollars, put up or shut up."
He whistled, pretending to wipe his brow. "The lady's playing rough! Thirty, and winner pays for the video."
"Oh, you think you have me, huh? Forty, and LOSER pays!"
He laughed and shook his head. "Never try to put one over a lawyer. I'll have to remember that." He reached over and gently pulled her close. "It's nice to see you smile. You weren't doing that a few minutes ago."
She fell quiet for a moment. "No, I wasn't."
"You wanna talk about it?"
She watched the pigeons for a minute, collecting her thoughts. When she began speaking again, her voice was soft and distant.
"I got a call today from a friend that I met in law school. She's out in San Francisco, working for the public defenders office. Well, at least she was. She quit today."
He chuckled, but stopped when he saw how serious she was. "Sorry, but I don't see a problem. A lot of PDs get burned out after a few years of defending serial killers and dope dealers. Then they move on to play house with the real bad guys in the corporate world."
She sighed, then looked at him. "John, please. I know it's hard to be sympathetic to someone who defends criminals, but...." Her eyes were pleading with him. "I just need you to listen."
"All right. I'm yours."
"My friend was the socially conscientious one back in law school. She really wanted to make a difference; help the people who couldn't help themselves. I did too, but...I was a little more pragmatic. I knew that I had student loans that needed to be paid off." She smiled ruefully before continuing. "She was a lot like me in school, though. She studied a lot, got on the deans' list, graduated with honors. She went to work for a nonprofit in San Francisco after graduation, and I...well, you know what I did."
"Yeah. Evangeline Williamson, the champion of truth, justice and the winning way." He grinned as she gave him a nudge with her elbow, and a little laugh.
"Anyway, she left the nonprofit to work for the public defender's office a couple of years ago. She had a success rate pretty much like mine, which is amazing considering her caseload and the amount of time she was given to prepare a case. A lot of people in the San Francisco D.A.'s office hated to see her across the court room."
John looked at her intently. "Well, I'll be damned!"
"I detect a note of awe and humility from the Invincible One."
"Okay, I'll stop. Go on."
"Last year, she got this high profile case. Triple homicide, gang-related. A young mother and her two children were executed in retaliation for an earlier hit on a rival gang. The mother was only 20 years old, and she had an infant boy and a two year old girl. She wasn't in the rival gang, but she was a member's sister."
John suddenly felt sick. He had seen this story played out too many times before. He stared at the pigeons, scrambling for the last of the bread crumbs. He remembered one of his FBI superiors, a huge barrel-chested man with bright red hair, coming to his side as they surveyed the crime scene with guns drawn. He was a rookie back then, and he had almost tripped over the bullet-riddled bodies of two fifteen year old boys in a dark Atlantic City alley. They were the casualties of an ongoing war between two powerful drug lords.
"Makes you wonder, doesn't it, Johnny?" The chief put a stick of Doublemint in his mouth, then offered a piece to John, who refused it. "Wrong place at the wrong time, or was it worth it?" He clapped his hand on John's shoulder. "Don't let it get to you. You'll never last if you do."
"You okay?" Evangeline's worried voice brought his attention back to the present. "You don't look so good all of the sudden."
"Yeah, I'm fine. I just...well, it's just that I've seen that kind of thing too many times. It's never easy."
"I'm sure. I mean...John, if this is a little too close to home...."
"It's all right. I'm a cop, remember? Nothing I can't handle."
"All right." She studied his face for a moment, looking for signs of tension. He stared at the ground, trying to remain as neutral as possible while he listened. "My friend got the trigger man off. The judge had to declare a mistrial because the police had mishandled the evidence."
John felt his stomach churn, and he shifted uneasily on the bench. He had seen completely guilty homicidal maniacs go free on technicalities, too.
"Unfortunately, the story gets worse. My friend had no way of knowing this at the time, but her client was a real sociopath. He became obsessed with getting revenge against the D.A., and yesterday he shot him. Five times at close range, in the courthouse parking lot." She took a deep breath as if she were in pain. "I knew him. Great guy, a star law student at Princeton who wanted to be a judge one day. We all met one year during spring break in Florida, and we partied. I was there when he met his wife. Now she's his widow, and pregnant with their first child. So my friend is feeling horribly sick right now. She kept asking me, what do I do? How do I go on from here? What do I tell his wife? I don't know what to say to her, John. I know it's not her fault; she was doing her job. But I can't help it. I'm feeling sick and disgusted myself."
The tears began rolling from her eyes, and he pulled her closer, wrapping an arm around her shoulder.
"What am I doing? Is this what winning at all costs means? My friend thought she was doing the right thing, and someone died as the result. A good, honorable man with a family!" She looked at him through tear streaked eyes. "Was this a warning for me? I know that sounds silly, but I can't help but think...this could happen to me, too." She covered her face with her hands and sobbed into his shoulder.
John carefully lifted her chin up, and wiped away the tears. "You don't have a crystal ball, Evangeline. No one really knows the future, and if we did, we'd probably spend most of our lives trying to avoid it. These things do happen. I've seen my share of them. And I've learned that all I can do is my job to the best of my ability. Things don't always turn out right, but that's not up to us to decide. We just do what we do and hope for the best." He let her cry it out as he rubbed her shoulder and gently kissed her forehead. Several minutes passed; the pigeons flew off. Evangeline quieted, then placed her hand on his leg.
"No, don't say it. I don't get philosophical very often. You better enjoy it while you can."
She gave him a shy, but grateful smile.
"No charge, Counselor. At least not this time. Next time, it's by the hour."
"Which reminds me...."
"Awww, and I thought you'd forget."
"Hitchcock. The video store is still open, you know."
"Hey, can't a guy get some food first?"
"All right, I could use a salad."
"Rabbit food? No, I'm talkin' pepperoni supreme and beer."
"Compromise. We'll split a salad and a pizza."
"I keep forgetting. Never argue with a lawyer." He helped her stand up, and they began walking away. Suddenly, Evangeline stopped.
"Mary Poppins, John?"
He looked around to see if anyone heard her. "Keep it down. You'll ruin my rep." They both laughed as they left the square.
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