*This chapter contains strong language, eating, reading between the lines and some blood.
15. Recruiter And Recruited
I can't believe you eat that crap. I winked at Carl, my mouth full of toast.
He shrugged and smeared gravy over his second biscuit. "It’s because you don't have taste buds." I don't think someone who eats raw fish has any room to talk. He licked some gravy from his thumb. The circles under his eyes stood out, stark in the fluorescent light.
You're gross. "And you liked sushi the last time we had it, so don't give me that." I signaled the waitress for another cup of tea. "How long do you have?"
He put his hand over his coffee cup when the waitress came back. At least an hour, Lynn's mom is up there now. "How much time do you have?"
"Thanks." I nodded to the waitress when she set a fresh pot of water down. "I have another half hour." So, the great Mrs. Beast? And you're still in the state? I'd eat breakfast in New Jersey. Or somewhere safer. Like Ohio.
He looked sheepishly at his plate. "Yeah, well. She drove in all the way from Yonkers." Besides, Lynn doesn't need me in her hair all the time. Her face had been almost stern when she told him to get out for breakfast.
I felt a twinge of sympathy but it was better he'd gotten out in time. "Let’s hope she needs to drive right back." How's Lynn doing? She has to be calmer now that they're going to let her go home. I crunched through another piece of toast. I'd fallen into bed after I got home the night before and hadn't eaten dinner. I poured water over my third tea bag. Maybe there was enough caffeine in it to keep my eyes open.
Fingers crossed. I don't know how much more family time I can sit through. "Lynn's ok. The doctor put the fear of god into us about the bed rest. He started thinking through all the possible complications if she moved around too much. Now I think she won't dare turn herself over, let alone run around the house," he said with an interior shudder.
A strong flash of Lynn lying in their bed, blood pooled around her waist and legs, surfaced in his mind and made me push away from the table. I swallowed hard to get my toast down. "That won't happen," I said even as I felt a spike of attention from Lee. He held onto Carl's vision and drew it out, made it clear, made Lynn scream. I screwed up my eyes and concentrated on the details of my plate. I could see the eggs and half a piece of bacon through the bloody room. I dug my fingernails into my palms and sharpened my attention on the plate, on what was really happening until the screaming stopped.
When I looked up Carl was gulping from a glass of ice water, his face white. He had his eyes on the window. "Sorry." I stretched my cramped hands and wiped my mouth with my napkin. You should see how the hard-ass patients react. Between the stress, my caseload, and the lack of sleep it hadn't been my worst moment with Lee this week.
Carl set down his water, his hand shook and it made the glass rattle against the table. It's fine. "How is work going anyway? This is a pretty full schedule to start out with."
His eyes were on his plate rather than on me, but I was more than willing to change the subject. "It's not bad. It's only going to last a few more days anyway. We're almost through all the interviews. Then it's back to the dogs." I looked down and took a sip of tea. I wasn't sure how I felt about going back to dog-walking. It was hard to know if I was ready to go back to psychiatry or if I was clinging to something different, something more useful than my last two years of hiding.
I didn't think it was possible but everything about Carl tensed even and then he relaxed and met my eye again. "If there was another job, would you want it?" Profiling, some research, maybe interviews?
I blinked. "Who even knows I'm working?" My tone was harsh with surprise. I don't even know if I can do this. I'm only at The Slope because they're desperate to finish up.
He pushed a piece of sausage around his plate with his fork and shifted in his seat. Gates has his ear to the ground. "You're doing fine now," he added.
My back went tight at the mention of Gates. I hadn't run a contract in a long time, but when Gates had used contractors at the FBI he hadn't been a man to turn down. Not if the contractor wanted to keep their license. My hand went to the lanyard around my neck where my ID and my temporary license hung. "I thought you weren't working for him anymore." I haven't worked in years, Carl. This is a huge leap. I didn't say that a second contract would mean going back to work fulltime. I didn't say that it would be all contract work because I couldn't take patients, all profiling and research and blood that I wasn't ready for. I didn't say that it would be the end of the disability checks that made up half of my income. I didn't have to say any of it because we both knew and it hung in the air between us.
"I only said I'd ask." He shrugged and drained his coffee mug. Can't say I'd mind having you in my corner.
I felt my mouth hanging open and closed it. "You're working for him." I thought you stopped taking contracts. Lynn banned you.
Carl speared the last piece of sausage with his fork and held it at eye level for a moment. "He's persuasive." His teeth scraped the fork when he put the sausage in his mouth. The pay's good.
There was more to it than that but I let it go as another more disturbing thought occurred to me. "Was this your idea?" Look, taking The Slope job doesn't mean I'm up to speed. I wouldn't be much good to you.
Carl put his hands up. I got the call to ask you in yesterday. "You're not giving yourself enough credit. No one else cracked into Steadman like you did."
I felt panic rise in me, right under my eggs and toast. No one was having any luck at Park Slope. They all seemed to take the information I had gotten from Andrew as a sign of my invincibility, of my skill, of my readiness. Even Carl. They didn't see it for the luck it was. "That was a fluke. Lee finally did something right." I was shredding a piece of toast and forced myself to put it down. I don't think there's another interview that he would help with.
Carl shifted in his seat again. "It's not that kind of job." Trust me when I say you have the goods for this one.
I was wiping the butter off my fingers and froze with the napkin fisted in my hand. "This is about Andrew," I said with certainty. Gates wanted whatever I'd picked up from Andrew, and he wanted it firsthand. My eyes narrowed. Tell me all of it.
He shook his head and his hair fell across his forehead. "Can't." There's a confidentiality agreement in effect.
The panicky feeling was still in my throat, stuck halfway down where I couldn't swallow it away. "While you're assigned to Park Slope?" I demanded. My anger gave me the illusion of control. That's illegal. You can't work a private contract that overlaps a federal case you're already on. It would be just as illegal for me if I agreed.
Carl laughed, his mind bitter. "Not according to my contract," he said. His fingers drummed the tabletop and after a moment he sighed. It's a good contract. They want you because you got to Steadman. They won't try to screw you on the legal side.
He hadn't wanted the contract either, but one way or another he'd been pushed into it. I took a deep breath and leaned back against the padded booth. "And Gates is asking." If he still has most of the contractors in the state under his thumb you're putting me in a corner here.
Carl shook his head and ran a hand through his hair to smooth it back. "You're technically on disability. If the contract looks wrong, if you don't want it…" He paused. Well then, tell the old man to go fuck himself.
I couldn't help smiling. Carl was too afraid of Gates to curse him out loud. And he was right, looking at the contract wasn't the same as signing it. I would have plenty of time to think it over. "I wouldn't be answering to you, would I?" That would be a deal breaker.
Carl looked relieved, but the fine lines of tension around his mouth remained. "He's got a liaison for us." Think of her as the old man's spokesman, and be grateful you don't have to meet with him yourself.
I rubbed my nail back and forth over the ceramic surface of the mug because I knew the sound would make Carl twitch. "I'll take a look at the contract." I better not regret this.
Carl didn't quite smile. He dropped his eyes and rummaged through the pockets of his coat until he came up with a threadbare wallet. He thumbed through a pocket that bulged with battered cards running through names in his head. Towards the back he found what he was looking for--a scuffed gray card with black embossing. He held it near his chest and hesitated before he offered it up. "Call Elise and she'll send the contract to your lawyer." He dropped the card in my hand, careful not to let our fingers touch. There's some overlap. If you take the case you'll start this week.
I closed my eyes instead of rolling them. "Always saving the best for last, asshole." You deserve a morning with your mother-in-law after this.
Carl blinked and shook his head. "No one deserves that," he said, worry building in his mind again.
True enough, I agreed. My eyes shifted around for new topic and I caught the clock over the door. "I'm-"
"Going to be late. Go on." He signaled for the waitress. If he looked relieved that I was going, neither of us mentioned it. I've got this.
"I'll get it next time," I said. I slid out of the booth and pulled my coat on. I paused at the side of the booth and looked down at him, his part was ragged from all the times he'd run his hands through his hair. If there's anything I can do?
He nodded. "I'll let you know." I'm just going to sit down here and have another cup of coffee. Wait Lynn's mom out. Let me know how it goes with the contract?
Will do. I patted his shoulder, ignoring the subtle flinch. "Say hi to Lynn for me."
He nodded again and gave a short wave as I headed for the door.
It felt much colder outside after the heat of the diner. I hurried to the car and dialed the number on the card while I waited for the heater to stop blasting cold air. I'd left the hands-free earpiece on the console and it was cold in my ear. I held my hands over the vents while I waited for it to ring. The air was cool but my hands were clammy. I wiped them on my pants and shifted into reverse. The phone picked up as I was backing out of my spot.
"Elise Atwood." Her voice was light and professional.
I rolled up to the stop sign at the edge of the parking lot and waited for a break in traffic. "This is Maggie Lochlan, Childers gave me your number this morning." Should've said Dr. Lochlan and Agent Childers. Did I forget how to do this? I chastised myself as I gunned it into a gap between a suburban and a chugging minivan and joined the traffic heading for the highway.
"Dr. Lochlan, I'm glad Agent Childers was able to bring you in so quickly."
The calm voice saying doctor and agent grated--it felt like a reprimand. And there was certain amount of presumption in what she said. Do they already have me signed up? "I'm not sure I'm 'in' yet. I have a few questions," I corrected her.
There was a brief pause, and I could hear her breathe into the receiver. "Agent Childers didn't fill you in?" The tone was polite and cautious.
That's Carl's job now? My eyebrows went up as I fought my way over to the on-ramp. "He told me what he could considering his confidentiality agreement." I laid a heavy hand on the horn as a primer-splotched Camaro darted in front of me. I made it onto the highway without getting sideswiped and started digging out change for the tollbooth.
"Of course. What can I elaborate on?" It was clear she hadn't expected the question but after a brief hesitation her reply was smooth.
What did I want to know? Carl couldn't have told me anything. I was stalling. "I'm curious about how this contract won't violate the one I'm on." I rolled my eyes at myself, my hand tight around the quarters in my hand. Great. Why not flat-out accuse them of doing something illegal?
There was a longer pause this time. "If you give me a moment I can pull up the exact wording."
The quick answer surprised me. That's very... compliant. I guess they're not worried about it. "Give me the gist," I said. I knew I'd need my lawyer to translate the full contract. I pulled to a stop and had to lean far out of the window to hand over my change.
"Receipt?" the attendant asked. His eyes ticked over my car and dismissed it as ugly.
I shook my head and he waved me on.
There was a brief rattle of typing over the line. "Ah well, as I understand it you'd be profiling based on information provided by us, so it wouldn't interfere with your current work."
I'd set the tone all wrong with my question and her careful answers left me feeling embarrassed and unprofessional. It wasn’t a good mindset for negotiating a contract. Could be worse. I could've asked about the pay first. "What's the scope of the project? Carl didn't mention a timeline."
"We're looking at two weeks, Class Two hourly, starting this week, with additional time added as required. It should be no less than three weeks, maybe as many as six."
Holy shit. That's almost half my disability for the year. The thought of my disability made my shoulders tense. "Ongoing. I see.” I took a deep breath. "I'd like to have my lawyer take a look at this."
"Of course. If you give me the contact information I can have it sent by noon."
I didn’t let myself pause. "I'm driving right now and I don't remember his number off the top of my head. He's at Greene and Associates-"
How did she know that? My eyes narrowed, wary. I wouldn't have put it past Gates to have a file on me already. "Yes, Henry Greene."
"I'll send it over. Would you also like a copy sent to your house?" she asked with brisk efficiency.
I shook my head; I didn't trust the guards at the front gate not to lose it. "Can you e-mail it?"
"I'd be glad to. Is the address on your registration current?"
I bumped my palm against my forehand. Right, it's all in my registration. Quit being so paranoid. "The Gmail one?"
Traffic was clearing the closer I got to Park Slope. I shifted over another lane and sped up, I had twenty minutes before my first interview. "That would be perfect. When do you need my decision?" I wonder if Henry can look at this today.
"Tomorrow would be best if we want to get you up to speed." For the first time her voice was more than careful, it was almost apologetic.
I smirked, maybe they weren't so sure I'd sign up. "I'll see if I have time to look it over at lunch." That would give me a great excuse to duck Freda.
"If you have any questions you can reach me at this number, or the service will forward you to my cell."
"I'll keep that in mind," I said, distracted by a little red car with a huge spoiler between me and my exit.
"Is there anything else I can do for you, Dr. Lochlan?"
I frowned, weren't we done? What else is there? "I think we're good. I'll try to get back to you tomorrow." I hung up and took the earpiece out. The light at the end of the ramp was green and I pulled through it heading North on Route 9.
Breakfast and the phone call turned out to be the most interesting part of my day. There was nothing to get out of my first four interviews. The last guy wasn't aware I was in the room. I worked with him as long as I could stand it and broke for lunch around three. There was an office off the break room with a computer so I hid in there with my bag from the deli and checked my e-mail.
As promised the contract was in my inbox. It was pretty standard. At least the parts I understood. I skimmed all thirty pages between bites of corned beef and coleslaw. I was wiping mustard off my fingers when my phone rang. I glanced at the caller ID and grinned to myself. Great timing. "I was wondering how long it would take you to call."
"Are you sure you're ready for this, Margaret?"
Henry and mom were the only two that ever called me Margaret. It was almost homey. Right to the point as usual. "Maybe. I just read through it. What do you think?"
He sighed into the phone. "It's airtight—toes the line with the Park Slope contract, but tight." His disapproval was clear.
After a morning full of aggravation it rubbed me the wrong way. "So can I sign it without ending up in court?" Let's get the lecture over with.
There was a pause and a sigh over the line. "You are going to sign it?"
I pushed my first defensive reaction down and shrugged. "The pay is good," I hedged. Why is everyone rushing? I haven't even decided yet.
"You'll have to come by so we can notarize it." A longer rattling sigh echoed in my ear.
I picked at what was left of the coleslaw with my fork. I had expected more fight than that. I had expected a fight last week and he reviewed my contract for Park Slope. Henry had always been more dubious about me returning to work than I was. "I don't get out of here until six." He'll probably nail me when I get there.
"I'll be here late, I'm in court Monday," he said.
I nodded. Always so testy before court. "I'll stop by after; bring dinner."
"Sesame chicken, no onions," he said immediately.
"Got it. See you tonight," I agreed and closed the phone. I rubbed the bridge of my nose with my fingers. He was going to make me argue for the contract and I wasn't even sure I wanted it.
I heard a tap at the door but Freda popped her head in before I could answer. "You're just getting lunch?" How many did you get through?
I shrugged and logged out of my e-mail. They have pretty good sandwiches at that deli in town. "A few. You?" I gathered up the mess from my lunch and stuffed it in the bag.
She eased into the room and shut the door behind her. She leaned against it with her hands in her pockets. "We're making some progress," she said with a nonchalant shrug. You should make sure you get your breaks in. We got anyone who saw anything. No point in rushing now.
Are you handling me? Don't you think I can take care of myself? "The faster we get done the faster we can get out of here," I said and dropped the deli bag into the trashcan next to the desk.
Freda frowned, arms crossed over her chest. That's not fair. "I'm not trying to handle you," she insisted. "I'm just-"
"Worried about me, I know." Everyone is. I scrubbed my face with my hand. "It's been a long day and it's not over." I moved towards the door. Instead of shifting to the side she stepped towards me.
She touched my arm, above the end of my sleeve. "I don't want to see you push yourself too hard." Her fingers shifted back and forth over the smooth material of my sweater. If it's too much you could do something else.
My laugh was harsh and I could feel Freda flinch but she didn't move her hand from my arm. "You're saying this now? You've been trying to get me back in here for years." Having second thoughts? I put my hand over hers, not quite touching the skin. Rattled and reckless, I wanted her real opinion.
After a second's hesitation she reached out and squeezed my hand between both of hers.
There was a burst of frustration, there was worry, and with my eyes closed I saw myself as she saw me. I was pale. My mouth was tight, I looked tired, and older. Much older than her memory of me. Deeper than that, under the frustration, there was concern. She wanted to take care of me. There were all her plans for how she would fix things, the details of how she would help, unraveling into my mind.
I jerked my hand away. "Don't.” I retreated back to the desk.
She held her hands up. "I just want to help." You shouldn't be alone.
Her expression was earnest, but I couldn't stop the laugh that bubbled up. I made a strangled sound clearing my throat. "You think I'm ever alone now?" I asked. No one can help me with that.
The mention of Lee brought the expected response. Wariness, that spike of underlying fear. She made a face knowing that I had picked up on her reaction. If you didn't push- Her expression softened. "Let me take you to dinner after we finish up."
I shook my head. "I'm meeting with my lawyer." We'll do lunch tomorrow. But more than that, I don't know.
Her lips twitched in a brief smile and she dropped her hands. "I get it. I'll take lunch." She turned, and paused with her hand on the doorknob. Try to get out of here on time tonight. If you need any help-
"I'll ask." Thanks, I added.
She nodded and left, closing the door behind her.
I knew she wasn't going to give up at lunch. It would take more than saying no. She wouldn't stop until she got her own taste of Lee. There weren't many people who could stand up to that. Except Henry, I reminded myself. He'd had to block, but he'd stayed with me through some of the worst Lee had to offer. I found myself looking forward to the end of the day.
I managed to get through two more patients before six. We were still coming up empty, and were less surprised every time. I signed out at 6:05pm and called my order in to the Chinese place near Henry's office. The food was ready by the time I got there. The short drive from the restaurant to the office building was filled with the smell of sweet sauces and fried eggrolls. It was a familiar mix, or at least it had been. Back in the days when Henry lived in his office and I spent most of my time camping out there too.
Thinking back I realized that the last time I brought Henry Chinese was the night before the sentencing. Killing time because we knew we wouldn't sleep. He was keyed up knowing the course of his career was on the line. The senior partners wanted to push him into trial work if he won. Back then he wasn't sure that was what he wanted.
Neither of us was sure what we wanted. If Lee had gotten off, Henry would have gone back to contract work. I still would’ve gone back to my parent's house, only my nightmares would have been about Lee echoing the orderlies at Park Slope. But Lee didn't get off. He got the chair, Henry got his trial work, and I got to witness the execution.
And have nightmares about that instead. I selected a parking spot near the lobby doors. I sat in the car with my hands on the steering wheel. I was honest with myself--I felt a vicious twist of pleasure when I thought about Lee being dead. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. There was no point storming into Henry's office with a head full of Lee. We were going to get the lecture out of the way, have dinner, talk contracts, and catch up.
I nodded to myself and grabbed the takeout bags, making a dash to the lobby doors. The lobby was cool but a hell of a lot warmer than it was outside. The security guard in front of the bank of elevators had been watching me since I got out of the car and had his head cocked to one side. Isn't she in a hurry?
"I'm here to see Henry Greene," I told him and set the bags on the counter so I could sign in. I hope he told them I was coming this time.
The guard nodded and poked his finger at the takeout bags. "He called down. Said you'd be coming with dinner. He's up on seven." I’ve never been to 168. I wonder if it's any good.
"Thanks," I said and picked up the bags. "They make pretty good sesame chicken," I told him as I pushed the button for the elevator.
I could feel the guard's eyes on me. Must be one of those path lawyers, he decided before going back to his magazine.
The interior of the elevator was light wood and brass, airy and dignified. The door opened on a dim reception area. I ducked around the receptionist's desk, following the faint light at the end of the hall.
I could hear the clatter of keys as I approach the only office I could see with lights on.
... where did Judy put that deposition? It was right here.
I nudged the door open with my shoulder. In four years nothing had changed. It was the same thick gray carpet, the same floor to ceiling shelves filled with leather bound books and the same dark head bent over the computer, typing with two fingers, the tip of his tongue poking out between his teeth. "Still looks like a legal library blew up in here." I remembered the Fanta. When Henry looked up I tossed the bottle in his direction.
He caught it in one hand. "Good to see the short term memory is hanging in there." Set it here. I'll clear a space. He cleared a corner of the desk with one hand and held the drink to his mouth with the other.
I stepped into the room and set both bags on the desk with a rattle of plastic. I found myself scratching at my wrist before I realized the pins and needles feeling wasn't coming from my skin. I took a step back from the desk. "Henry." Stop it.
He jumped and almost spilled his soda on the keyboard. It's reflex. "Sorry."
The itch of the block died down to tickle in my mind, annoying, but bearable. He had every right to be cautious. "Don't worry about it." I dropped into his plush visitors chair and started unpacking one of the bags. Looks like you're keeping busy.
He didn't touch the other bag until my hands were clear of the desk. "Very. I'm adjunct counsel to the DA again." He made a 'what can you do' gesture with his chopsticks. Looks like you're busy too.
The seal on my water bottle gave way with the faint crack. I didn't look at him until I had taken a sip. "You don't think I should do it." I know it's not going to be easy-
"Easy? Margaret you could end up in court for-" he paused, searching for the right words, "having an episode during an interview." Why put yourself in that position?
My eyebrows went up. It was a hell of a thing to mention now. I stalled and put the perfect amount of rice and chicken on my fork. "You didn't seem worried about it last week when you signed off on the Park Slope contract," I said. I chewed and met his eye. What's the real problem?
As a lawyer Henry had perfected stalling. He gave his complete attention to downing half his bottle of soda, the prickling itch of his block surging forward again. You can't go back after this. "Thinking of starting another practice?"
I smiled and there was a dark quality to it. "Is that what you're worried about? I'm never going to do sessions again. You know that." I'll have to keep up with contract work, I thought as though maybe it was that simple.
Henry let out a huff of air. "Well you have a good name for it," he admitted. All the cops seem to remember you.
I speared of piece of pineapple with my fork and waved at him. "They might expect me to show up in a straitjacket." I've got the housesitting. On a Class Two pay scale I can make it on that and profiling.
Lo mein noodles slipped off his chopsticks as he paused with them halfway to his mouth. "If you have steady work," he reminded me. That contract doesn't clear you for the year.
I pushed a piece of chicken around my plate, my head cocked to one side. "You used to tell me to drop the practice, that I could live off contracts." I would only need three or four to make the year. Freda's already hinting at more work, maybe even a department position.
His thick eyebrows lowered over his eyes. "She wanted you back to work years ago." You think Freda's looking out for you? Henry never made a secret of what he thought of her.
I set my fork down and sat back in the chair. "I think everyone's looking out for me Henry. Mom, Dad, Carl, Freda, you, even Robin." Everyone's got an opinion. Work, don't work, more therapy, come home, take your time, no pressure. My back teeth set and I had to work to keep my voice down. "Maybe I need some pressure."
His jaw worked and then he nodded. Maybe. "I can't represent you anymore," he said.
I stared at him. The prickling itch of his block increased and I had to block in return to keep from twitching in my seat. "Because you don't do contract work now?" I asked in confusion. Henry you've been my lawyer since my first contract. That's what? 12 years?
His face burned red but he didn't look away. "We did it fine by mail, but," he swallowed hard, "I can't do this anymore." He gestured between us. I took you to the State Supreme Court-
And now you want Lee to go away. It hurt, but I understood. Who wouldn't want to get away from Lee if they could? "That's fair. I can find someone else," I said as evenly as I could.
Henry shifted in his seat. "Brian is doing contracts now, just down the hall." He does good work.
I took a long sip of water, feeling betrayed but pushing it down. Brian your old intern? With the Hawaiian ties? "He's a lawyer?" I asked with genuine surprise.
"Yeah, can you believe he went through with it?" He's good and I'll be here if he gets tangled up.
"That's comforting," I said and poked at my last piece of chicken. You weren't going to tell me this over the phone were you?
Henry managed a laugh. "I never break up with a woman over the phone." Anymore.
I had to smile. "Good. After this long together it would be a shame to miss out on these awkward moments." I can't keep your talents to myself anyway-you have real cases now.
His face relaxed into its trademark smirk. "We know whose fault that is. You had to make me respectable." I never get any vacation time now, he told me and downed the last of his Fanta.
I passed him the second one, deciding to stick with water. "Don't forget famous. I made you famous too." So, do I still get those ugly pictures of you and your dogs at Christmas?
His eyes flicked to the picture of the dogs on his desk. "As long as I have dogs and a camera," he assured me, his expression relieved. Let's finish this and I'll call one of the interns in to witness your signature.
"Sounds good." And it did sound good, for him. After four years and another hour, one of us could get rid of Lee.