2010-07-26: Counsel



and ???

Date: July 25-26th, 2010


"Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't." — Erica Jong


Maggie's Apartment

New York City

* * *


Water pours down and drowns out the sights and sounds of the world outside. The loud stream of hot water assaults Maggie as she turns in the slightly dim curtained area of the shower to face its source. It's meant to be cleansing, water; yet the purification of the body isn't mimicked in the mind. She tries to help the process — maybe she forces it too much; her eyes close, and she tries to let the water flow peacefully.

Tries being the key word; there's no peace tonight for this particular overworked detective.

She runs fingers through her slicked back hair, an elbow leaning into the ceramic tile, bracing her there, hand to head.

Emotion gets the best of everyone sometimes — for Maggie, it gets the best of her here in this little hideaway. Every feature that's defined by the shine of the water becomes marked by anger, by frustration. Her eyes shut harder against the shower water and her other palm slams against the wall. Against all the more figurative walls she keeps coming up against. Or the ones she keeps trying to break down.

Long fingers spread against the tile only drag themselves slowly inward, scraping, sliding against the wet tile. Maggie's head follows her hand a moment later, though it doesn't slam so harshly, but leans there, resting ineffectively. Her angry expression degenerates into something a little more vulnerable, lips pressing and thinning, sucking in air and avoiding drops of water. Breathe in, breathe out.

Abruptly the water is shut off and she drags the back of her hand under her nose. Her back is turned to the shower.

* * *


Studiously, Maggie rifles through the satchel that contains many of the things she totes around on a daily basis, a purse and then some, too heavy and too rough-and-tumble to be called such. It would be more suited to a week long hike through the jungle wilderness than the wilds of fashionable New York.

The worn leather bag lays between her feet, her arms stretched down between her knees as she turns over one thing then the other, searching the organized mess within. Around her, her colorful apartment. A comfortable couch. Morning light — though not much of it. The curtains are snugly shut, an illusion of separation from the city beyond.

A small book of soft-colored recycled paper — an address book or date planner — is found at last. Its contents are her goal, but caught in her hand as well is a cell phone.

Meanwhile, the detective's day-to-day phone still lays strewn on the coffee table in front of her along with her detective's shield, a cup of coffee, and a couple of books.

Her original find is set aside on the couch cushion while she considers this phone — not oft-used but familiar regardless — nestled against the concave of her palm. It's reflective, her downward gaze at it — thoughtful — not urgent, as it suddenly becomes the second she turns it over and espies a determinedly flashing red light. A reminder: you have a message!

Maggie dials into the voicemail feature — wary, unsure, not even knowing if it works and not knowing what she's about to hear — and leans ahead, elbows on her knees, as she brings it to her ear.

Eventually, a voice more familiar that the automated woman guiding Maggie through the voicemail system rewards her wait.

"Hello, Powers."

It's not surprise that brings Maggie's hand up to the loose collar of her blouse; not surprise, because it couldn't be anyone else calling this number.

"As I'm recording this, you're growing suspicious of the operation. As you're listening to this, you're wondering how this message didn't get to you before now. But that's not the point. The point is that… Larson is going to jump me in, oh, several more seconds, and the phone's part of the plan. You're part of the plan, too, Powers. And for that — I apologize. But it'll all be over soon .. It always is. If it makes a difference after this, you know what, even if not — remember … I believe in you."

A hand swipes along her forehead, past a strand of hair not caught in her ponytail — the same hand sprawls across her mouth and stays there as she stays, motionless, for some time. Eyes close.

You have no new messages. To erase this message, press 7. To reply to it, press 8. To listen to your message again, press 9…


* * *

This time it's the cordless home phone. Maggie is nestled on cushions with her back against the arm of the couch, knees bent up in a cozy position not befitting of her serious, focused expression. She has her address book open against the denim of her thighs, the same fingers that pin it there seeking out a particular line on the page. She checks her opposite wrist for the time before dialing. Eleven digits.

There's a long wait.

Then: a small, fond smile, when she hears someone on the other end. On the rumble of an answer, a cue that she's reached the right person after all, she replies, "Hi, stranger."

A deep voice fills the line in earnest. "This had better— Powers? This wouldn't be Maggie…" Brisk, almost curt on first impression; but this isn't Maggie's first impression of this man. She can hear the more peaceable tones behind the gruff voice as he goes on: "It's been a dog's age."

"I know…" she says with a soft-toned note of apology. "I know. I kind of disappeared."

"I said it that Sunday by the church, and I have no compunctions against saying it again: I believe you did what you had to do. The past is, as they say, the past, and no one's business but your own. How is the big city?"

"Two years, I'm supposed to be used to it by now." Not exactly an answer. "How's retirement treating you?"

"I've never been so bored in my life; it's great."

"I have a hard time picturing you not on the job, Forrester."

"I have a hard time picturing you wondering, at— " A brief pause. " — nine o'clock in the morning on a Monday, how I'm enjoying my retirement."

"No … you're right. And I hope I'm not bothering you — during your retirement — but I called because…" Maggie pauses herself for a much longer spell. On her couch, she shifts and sits more properly forward, feet planting on the floor. She reaches out on a gentle spur-of-the-moment thought and touches the store-bought phone and her badge on the coffee table simultaneously with her fingertips. It's the cup of coffee that gets lifted, in the end. "…I have this case… and…" she trails off. "I guess I'd like your opinion. Advice, if you will."

"And here I thought you'd forgotten about an old man and his wisdom."

Maggie sits back, a nostalgic smile flickering at the corners of her mouth. Her answer comes low, serious — quiet, but no less decisive.

"You never forget a partner," she says. "Not the ones who're worth the trouble."


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