The second the alarm's infernal buzzing got underway, Nancy sat up in bed and snapped it off. Her first thought was Trial today, her second was I am going to win, her third (almost as satisfying) was Weekes is going to lose, and her fourth, as she forged the most direct path from her bedroom to the smell of fresh coffee dripping from her timer-set percolator, was I am not going to think about the kiss.
She managed not to think about it at all throughout her morning routine. She showered, dressed in her most lawyerly suit (picked out last night before going to David Kaye's party), and gathered together her meticulously organized notes. She warmed a bran muffin and sliced a banana as she drank her first cup of coffee, black to wake her up. She chewed determinedly as she went over the file she'd accumulated for her client. She looked up all the relevant sections in her well-thumbed Criminal Code, and then let it fall open at Part XXVI, where the spine was broken. She sighed over Extraordinary Remedies, closing her eyes for an instant. Then it was time to go. She had a pre-trial meeting in Judge Fraser's chambers at 9:15. She dumped the rest of the coffee into a travel mug and marched through the living room to the door.
At that point, it was very hard to go on ignoring the fact that Alice was asleep on her couch.
It was a very irritating feeling, as if she was the guest and Alice had every right to go on sleeping here all day if she wanted to. Nancy pulled on her shoes and glared at Alice the whole time. She was still wearing the flowing, flowery dress from the party, and the afghan from the back of the couch wasn't meant to cover anyone so annoyingly tall, so her bare feet and calves were uncovered, and probably cold. Her hair was a mess, and she was frowning slightly in her sleep, the way she did when she was concentrating or had a headache starting just behind her eyes. Nancy kept glaring as she scooped up her keys and opened the door, but Alice went on sleeping, taking no responsibility at all for everything she'd done last night.
Nancy sighed loudly, the kind of sigh meant for other people, to let them know that their behaviour was not acceptable. Alice made some sort of sound, almost a moan, and the fact that before last night Nancy hadn't known how Alice sounded when she moaned and this morning she did was also very, very annoying.
Nancy took two steps across the room, shook Alice's shoulder, and said, "Alice! Wake up!"
Alice blinked, squinting, and then pressed the heel of one hand into her eyes. This time the noise she made was more of a groan, and Nancy did not need to be cataloguing the sounds Alice made while waking up. She shook her again, harder.
"Get up! You have to be in bail court at ten o'clock."
Alice opened her eyes wider. "Oh, God," she said.
"I can't believe you," Nancy said. "I've been a member of the bar for more than a year, and you still have me memorizing your schedule like a--like a secretary!" She thumped her travel mug down on the end table. "Here! Drink this. There's aspirin in the medicine cabinet."
"Nancy--" Alice pushed herself up, still cradling her head. A blush crept up her face, brightening the crease mark from the pillow she'd been lying on sideways.
Nancy softened. "Don't eat anything, you'll probably throw up again." She checked her watch. "Ugh. I'm going to be late. Fine. Take these." She shoved her car keys into Alice's hand. "But if Judge Fraser makes even one comment to me about tardy slips then you are in so much trouble."
"You need to go home to get clothes. And don't even think about staying there and dumping your work on the duty counsel. This is all your fault, you know." She headed for the door.
"Yeah, no kidding," Alice said, dropping her head against the back of the couch. "Nancy, listen, I'm--this isn't--"
Exasperated, Nancy turned back. All this standing around wasn't making her any earlier. "You'd better not be trying to apologise," she said.
"No, of course not," Alice said. "I'm too hung over to be contrite enough."
"I just wanted to say thank you. For, um, taking care of me."
Nancy hitched her files higher in her arms. "That isn't going to get you out of talking about this," she told her.
"Didn't think it would," Alice said dryly.
Nancy nodded decisively and headed out to the nearest subway station.
Judge Fraser was lying in wait for her. "Ms Dao, I consider it a bad sign when Mr. Weekes appears more promptly in my chambers than you do."
Nancy opened her mouth, but Judge Fraser held up a hand and shook his head. "I'm still working on having the death penalty reinstated for people who waste my time, so you're safe for now. It's just something to keep in mind."
"Yes, sir," she said, and spent the rest of what should have been her trial preparation time tracking down Weekes.
He was buying a Danish at the concession stand, instead of being anywhere he should be, such as, for instance, the Crown offices. Nancy marched up to him, grabbed his arm, and pulled him away from the counter before he could get his change. He garbled some protest, his mouth full of pastry, and sprayed crumbs alarmingly close to her black suit.
"There is no way Mr. Laurier is going to be convicted," Nancy told him brightly, just to speed the process along to the point where she was already victorious. "You might as well drop the charges."
Nancy rolled her eyes. "Fine. But I just want you to know, I won't go easy on you just because you have cherry filling on your tie."
"You barely have a case with this purse thief," Weekes said, sulkily, pulling out a serviette and brushing at the dollop of bright red goo.
"Alleged," Nancy said.
"Alleged purse thief."
"He was caught red-handed," Weekes said, shaking his head incredulously. "By a Mountie."
"An off-duty Mountie with no jurisdiction," Nancy insisted. "I talked to the Toronto R.C.M.P. branch station. Your Dudley DoRight has a reputation. They shipped him out of the country for being overzealous! They're glad he's posted in Nunavut! Even the people who work with him are terrified of him."
Weekes pouted into his file. "Gee, I have no idea what that's like," he said, under his breath.
Nancy didn't try to pretend she hadn't heard him. "I am not overzealous," she said, grinding her teeth.
"I didn't say--"
"I am an advocate for my clients! Even when they're insane! Especially when they're insane."
"Like Mr. Laurier?"
"Mr. Laurier wants his day in court," Nancy said. "I am helping him to get it. And I am going to win."
Weekes grinned nervously. He had shifty eyes. Nancy hated shifty eyes. "Like you've been doing so far?" he asked.
Nancy clenched her fists, her shoulders tensing. She took a step towards Weekes. His eyes widened and he lifted his hands defensively. "That is not my fault," Nancy gritted out. "I haven't had a good case yet. My clients fire me instead of listening to me. But this time I have an airtight defence."
"Oh, yeah?" Weekes gave a little huffing chuckle and rolled his eyes, more like he was searching for helpful bystanders in case Nancy attacked him than out of sarcasm.
"Yes!" Nancy said triumphantly. "Police misconduct!"
Weekes' mouth dropped open. "It was not!"
"Of course it was!"
"Your client nearly dislocated the complainant's shoulder! The Mountie chased the guy for twenty blocks! They recovered the purse in front of thirty witnesses! His partner saw the whole thing!"
"Yes, his ex-cop ex-partner who has absolutely no motive at all to lie in his defence," Nancy said. "And, twenty blocks? Who does that? What kind of vindictive self-glorifying stunt is that?"
"He was defending a little old lady! A grandmother! With--with fresh-baked cookies and a Chihuahua puppy!"
Across the hall, Alice was striding towards bail court. She looked focused and tense, carrying Nancy's travel mug in one hand, her opposite arm weighed down with files, purse, and briefcase. "Little old ladies are the worst," Nancy muttered.
"What--wait, what does that even mean?"
Probably no one around her could tell that Alice had spent a good portion of last night throwing up most of three bottles of wine. There were circles under her eyes, and curls were dragging free of the clip at the back of her neck. Nancy bit her lip.
"And Chihuahuas are vicious," Nancy added. She prodded Weekes' chest, trying to grab back her enthusiasm for this case. Weekes was an idiot. The Mountie was obviously nuts. Once she made both those points clear in front of the judge, getting Mr. Laurier off the hook would be simple, simple, simple, and she would win. "I'll see you in court," she said, and smiled fiercely at Weekes. He blinked like a bewildered fish and got the hell out of her way. Just like he should.
"Right," Nancy said, squared her shoulders, and hurried after Alice.
She slipped into bail court right behind her. The room was mobbed with lawyers and sureties and court reporters, all on their way to somewhere else or else waiting for the first of the prisoners to be brought up to the dock. David Kaye stood at the Crown's table, surveying the chaos with a very mellow and satisfied smile. It was always a toss-up whether to envy him or hate him, but today Nancy was quite firmly on the hate side of the line. It was his stupid party and his stupid wine and his stupid garden with so many little nooks and crannies that it was probably very difficult not to find yourself in a concealed, compromising position with a colleague.
Kaye caught her glance and tipped her a jaunty wink. Nancy narrowed her eyes at him. She wouldn't be surprised if he'd had the whole place bugged. You couldn't trust a Crown attorney. She'd overheard at least three conversations in the hallway about Zona and Jack Angel--and what was Zona thinking?--if she was thinking at all, which Nancy very much doubted. She hadn't heard her own name in the whispers, yet, but the arrogant tilt of Kaye's head and the way he raised his eyebrows at her across the room wasn't reassuring.
Nancy pushed into the bench behind Alice, stepping past people's knees and forcing two very suspicious-looking individuals to move over to make room for her.
"Alice," she hissed.
"Not now, Nancy," Alice said without turning around.
The bailiff was calling the day's first case. Nancy leaned forward and whispered right into Alice's ear, "You kissed me!"
Alice jumped up. "De Raey, initial A., for the record, Your Honour," she shouted, shoving her way to the front of the courtroom. Judge Kranyek looked up from the paperwork in front of him.
"Ms De Raey. This is a surprise. Last I heard, Mr. Tsin had refused counsel. In Chinese, no less, since he doesn't speak a word of English."
Alice blushed crimson. "Oh, well, I thought--"
"Yes, all right," Kranyek said. "The duty counsel could probably stand the break, seeing as we've just started."
Kaye smirked. "Since I don't believe Ms De Raey has yet had the pleasure of Mr. Tsin's company, perhaps I should read the allegations," he said.
Alice made a face, but Kaye only grinned at her. "Don't let me stop you," she muttered.
"Thank you. Mr. Tsin is charged with..."
Nancy stood and twisted past the two dubious characters into the aisle. She pushed the door open and looked back. Alice was watching her over her shoulder, her eyes wide and dark, not paying the least attention to Kaye's merry recitation. She looked like she'd thrown together the first clothes that could pass for professional and hadn't even touched her make up. It was ridiculous how attractive she was.
Nancy hoped Mr. Tsin turned out to be the most aggravating client in the history of the Toronto Lower Court system.
"Now," Nancy said, resisting the impulse to grab Willy Laurier's lapels and shake him to force him to focus on her, "that's when I'll ask you if you stole the purse from that unfortunate Alzheimer's patient who probably couldn't pick her own son out of a line up."
"Uh-huh," he answered, watching the parade of men dressed in Carmen Miranda hats and fishnet stockings and very little else file past towards plea court. "Why did her son get arrested?"
"He didn't. And that's when you'll say..."
He looked towards her vaguely, and then his gaze drifted away again. "That I'm sorry?"
"No! Never say you're sorry! That implies guilt."
"Okay." Willy nodded a few times. "But I am sorry. Will she be there?"
"The lady that I grabbed the bag from."
"Don't say that," Nancy said. "Yes, she'll be there. You can't talk to her."
"But I want to let her know I won't do it again."
"She doesn't care," Nancy said. She started pacing back and forth, shaping the case in front of her with her hands. "So you say, yes, you took the purse, but then this R.C.M.P. officer attacked you. It was completely unprovoked."
"He convinced me to do restitution, you know."
Nancy whirled around. "What?"
"I got my job back. I'm a bike courier." Willy pointed to the patch on his jacket's shoulder. "I'm going to repay her--"
"No!" Nancy barely stopped herself from stamping her foot. Why did no one listen to her? Why did they all insist on ruining her career? "Tell the judge how he jumped on you in the blind alley."
"Did you know he climbed a building three storeys tall and chased me over the rooftops for five blocks to do that? And he helped me talk to my boss afterwards. He has a wolf."
Nancy stopped short. "The courier service lets your boss keep a wolf? In Toronto?"
"No. The Mountie. The wolf is getting old. He's very worried about him. They were just coming out of the vet clinic when I ran past them with the lady's bag."
Nancy paused, and then said, "He must be crazy."
Willy blinked agreeably. "Probably. But he's very polite about it."
"So that's how we'll get him," Nancy said, rubbing her hands together.
"Bad plan, chickie," Jack Angel called, grinning at her infuriatingly from where he was pressing his card into the jacket pocket of a stoned teenager lolling on a bench.
Nancy scowled at him. It didn't stop him from sauntering across the hall and sticking a hand out to Willy. "Jack Angel," he said. "Is Sarah here steering you wrong?"
"Nancy," Nancy said, inserting herself between Jack and Willy. "And this is a private conference."
Jack glanced around the hallway, milling with bickering families, court officers, and a group of prostitutes who looked ready to set up shop. "Well, excuse me, kiddo. I was passing by, it was kind of hard to miss. What is that, some kind of reverse insanity defence?"
"Nancy," Nancy said.
"Right, right. But trust me, that won't go over in Judge Fraser's courtroom."
"What are you talking about?"
"He doesn't like anything fancy." Jack mugged for Willy again. "He's a simple man. We understand each other."
"I understand," Nancy said, "that you aren't getting anywhere near my case. You're disreputable. You never remember my name. You slept with Alice's sister and then set her up with a con artist!"
"Yeah, Trish was great," Jack said. "I'm sure she's doing fine."
"I don't care if she's fine! Alice doesn't know where she is..."
"Whoa, whoa, pussycat," Jack said. "Not my case, I get it. Let me know how the big man rules, though. And look me up when you need a few tips."
Nancy shoved him around and started pushing him down the hallway. "I will never--"
"And give Alice my best," he said. "She's lucky to have you."
"What?" Nancy shrieked.
"Oh, come on, am I blind?" Jack said. "Don't worry, me and Zona have this thing going, so--"
"No problem. Jack Angel," he called over his shoulder to Willy. "Next time you get in a fix." Chuckling, he went off down the hall, shaking his head. "Reverse insanity, it's original, anyway, I'll give you that."
In a better world, Nancy wouldn't face prosecution for arranging to have Jack Angel strangled in his sleep. Fuming, she turned back to Willy, when Anil appeared in front of her. He grabbed her shoulders, sweating and stammering. "Mr.--Mr. Borelli, have you seen him? Mr. Borelli!"
"Would you get off me?" Nancy pried his fingers off her arms. "What are you doing?"
"His son--in bail court--he's my surety--"
"Can't you keep a better eye on--" Nancy started, but she was talking to empty air. Anil ran off, yelping, "Mr. Borelli! Please, Mr. Borelli!"
"Wow," Willy said, ambling up behind her. "You work with those guys?"
"I hate them all," Nancy muttered.
Willy nodded. "I hear ya. But don't go saying stuff like that out loud, or next thing you know they've sawed through your bike lock and replaced it with the company's. Man, that blows."
Suddenly, Mr. Ryder's choice of a new career made a lot more sense.
"Mr. Weekes," Judge Fraser said, "I'm starting to get impatient. And when I get impatient, I think about sticking Crown attorneys' heads into the home-made guillotine in my chambers."
Weekes' Adam's apple bobbed convulsively. "Uh, you, you don't have a guillotine in your chambers, sir," he said.
"But with all this time we are spending waiting on your witness, I have a feeling that I could build one."
Nancy straightened her spine and smiled triumphantly. This was more like it. Willy was too distracted by the dust motes in the courtroom to speak up, and Weekes' direct examinations were pathetic. Nancy had poked holes in every witness statement. At this rate, she wouldn't even need to risk putting Willy on the stand in his own defence. Every second Weekes' fanatical R.C.M.P. officer was late was a second in her favour.
"He's--I'm sure he's just running late," Weekes said feebly.
The courtroom door opened and two men entered. The first one was scruffy and dressed in a t-shirt and battered jeans. The second was clearly the missing Mountie, in full uniform and holding his Stetson under his arm.
"Fraser, get it through your skull. All I'm saying is, if you hadn'ta held the door for that headcase who didn't know if he wanted to be in or out, we wouldn't be late," the first one was saying.
"Is what makes the world go 'round, yeah. Come on, Dief," he added, as an overgrown white husky lolloped stiffly through the door.
Wolf, Nancy reminded herself. This was not just a Mountie, it was a crazy, wolf-owning Mountie. He and the other man were still arguing about how long any one person should stand around holding a door open for the sake of politeness. Nancy could practically smell blood in the water.
"I assume that this is the man himself," Judge Fraser said. He eyed Weekes over his glasses. "Mr. Weekes, is your witness going to be joining the proceedings any time soon?"
"Yes, Your Honour," Weekes said. "Corporal Benton Fraser, R.C.M.P., who--"
"Stop right there, Mr. Weekes." Judge Fraser peered across the gallery. "Hey, you!"
Corporal Fraser turned around and immediately went to parade rest, his hat tucked neatly under his elbow.
"Yeah, you, that's right. I'm the judge, and I'm talking, which means you are paying attention. Now." Judge Fraser beckoned the corporal forward with a crook of his fingers. "If I'm not mistaken, we are trying to adjudicate guilt in the matter of the heinous crime of personal assault and petty larceny, which you apparently foiled, which means, God help us all, we need your testimony."
"My apologies for being late, Your Honour," Corporal Fraser. "But you see--
Judge Fraser flapped a hand to stop the explanation. "You were holding the door," he said. No one was better than he was at turning questions into statements about the general dimness of the human race. Nancy rather admired that about him. "While you waited for someone to decide whether to come in or not."
"Mr. Jackson was having a crisis of faith," Corporal Fraser explained. "He was worried that entering the building would mean he was showing support for our current judicial system, which, as he explained to me--"
"I'm familiar with Mr. Jackson's...misgivings," Judge Fraser said. "But that doesn't excuse putting my courtroom behind schedule."
"Yes, sir," the corporal said.
"Right," Judge Fraser said. "Get up on the witness stand. First question. Are you Bob Fraser's kid?"
Benton Fraser, who'd barely started moving towards the stand, stopped short and looked up at Judge Fraser. "Uncle Max?" he asked.
Judge Fraser grimaced and nodded to himself. "No matter how many years you refuse to send Christmas cards, they always track you down," he muttered.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, Fraser. This guy is your uncle?" The man who'd come in with Fraser threw out an arm, pointing at the bench. "For serious? Him? No offence, judge."
"None taken," Judge Fraser said dryly. "And who are you, sir?"
Grinning, he took a seat in the front row of the gallery, next to the wolf, who was nudging the complainant's knee and apparently getting doggie treats in return. "Ray Kowalski, Your Honour," he said.
Weekes, who'd been following the conversation like a ping-pong match, raised a finger. "Also my witness," he said.
"Detective emeritus of the Chicago Police Department," Fraser supplied.
"Fraser, I'm telling you, for the last time, quit calling me emory or whatever."
"It's a perfectly respectable appellation," Fraser said. "It wouldn't do you any harm to learn some Latin, Ray; the legal system is irrevocably based in--"
"Okay, now I know you're just doing that on purpose..."
For a moment, the entire courtroom--even Willy--turned to look at Nancy. It was a good thing, too, because clearly somebody needed to take charge of the entire situation, and it was probably for the best all round if that person was her. Leaning forward on the defence's table, she said, "Judge Fraser, I demand that you recuse yourself immediately! And declare a mistrial!"
Judge Fraser dropped his head into his hands. "Oh, God."
"My client will be completely unable to get a fair trial in this courtroom," Nancy ranted. She knew she was ranting. It was marvellous. "I can't believe that you, Judge Fraser, would sink to such a level as blatant nepotism! My client strongly objects--"
"Ms Dao," Judge Fraser said, leaning forward, "your client is currently communing with a shiny pen."
"I don't care!" Nancy said. "I'm still right. Legally, this whole situation is dubious at best, and--"
"All right, Ms Dao." Judge Fraser looked at his watch and glared at Weekes for emphasis. "Since it's almost time for me to get my lunch, I'm calling a recess to consider the defence's motion."
"That's all, Mr. Weekes. Hang on to your witnesses this time, and don't go letting them get trapped in doorways." He stood up. Nancy dragged Willy up by his armpit when everyone else stood as well. "And, so that you're aware, Ms Dao," he added, "if my lunch gets interrupted by spurious legal arguments, I get very cranky."
"Court is in recess," the bailiff said, and there was a general shuffling towards the doors.
Willy didn't notice. Nancy sighed and wondered what her chances were that when court resumed, he'd still be sitting here. Fraser's wolf pushed through the gate from the gallery and nosed Willy's knee. He started, then looked down and grinned. "Hey, Diefenbaker," he said, scratching behind his ears. "How's it going?"
The wolf whined and sat on his haunches, watching Willy's face. He seemed civilized enough. Nancy sighed. "You're probably just as crazy as they are," she said, waving at Corporal Fraser and his partner. The wolf eyed her in a wistful sort of way that seemed to say that he was the only sane one out of the three of them. "Nobody ever appreciates the voice of reason," Nancy told him. "Don't let them get you down."
"Man, Fraser," Ray was saying, "every time I figure that's it, that's the sum total of weirdness I'm gonna see from one guy, you pull another secret relative out of your hat."
"I haven't seen Uncle Max since before my mother died, Ray. He and my father had something of a falling out. I certainly didn't expect him to be presiding over this case." Fraser glanced over at Nancy and held the gate open for her. Diefenbaker followed at her heels. "Excuse me, Ms Dao," he said. "But I was wondering if Wilfred explained his plan to reimburse Mrs. Beaumont?"
Nancy lifted her chin. "You talked him into that! You've nearly convinced him that he should plead guilty, after you were the one who chased him for twenty blocks!"
"I apologize for that," Fraser said. "I'm afraid age is catching up with me."
Ray snorted. "He used to catch 'em after ten blocks, tops."
Nancy stared at him. She thought about asking, and then decided that she really, truly, did not want to know. "I'm not going to advise Mr. Laurier to plead," she said. They started out of the courtroom, and Fraser once again made certain to hold the door. Ray rolled his eyes.
"Okay, so you see what happens," he said. "We are stuck here, Fraser. That is just great. That is greatness. Because we are supposed to be on vacation here, if I'm remembering right."
"You aren't enjoying yourself." Fraser turned wounded blue eyes on Ray.
"I did not say that, I did not say that!" Ray waved his arms around, pushing the suggestion away. "'Like the good old days', Fraser, does not mean that the days we are currently in right now suck. It means, hey, buddy, days off, remember what those are like? I did not say, 'Hey, Fraser, you know what a couple of old fogies like us really need to get back to? Chasing pickpockets all over the goddamn city and then getting our asses dragged into court, 'cause that's what I really miss.'"
Fraser nodded. "I'm sorry, Ray. I'm certain we'll be finished here soon."
Ray shrugged, then grinned suddenly. "The way I see it is, when you're done being a witness, it won't be just me knowing what a freak you are. So as long as we make the Leafs game tonight, I really could not care."
Nancy raked her eyes over the two of them. They were being entirely too cutesy with each other. "If he's American, how did you become partners?"
"Oh, you did not just ask him that," Ray muttered. "Go to it, Frase." He strode off ahead of them to catch up to Willy and Diefenbaker.
Fraser turned to Nancy, his hands clasped loosely behind his back, smiling pleasantly. "I first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of my father..."
Nancy burst into Alice's office. She wasn't going to be put off. She wasn't going to let this go. She wasn't going to listen to even one more Inuit story that was somehow a metaphor for her entire life. "Everyone in this building is crazy," she said, with every ounce of conviction she possessed, which was a lot more than most people had.
Alice looked up mildly from her paperwork and a cucumber sandwich. "You noticed that, did you?" If she was still nervous about where this conversation might be headed, she didn't show it.
Nancy narrowed her eyes. Probably Alice would be fine with letting their relationship slip right back into its comfortable groove of squabbling over clients by day and hanging out together way too much even for good friends in their off hours. "Yes," she said. "And I'm worried, Alice. That's a huge generalization. If everyone here is crazy, that includes me."
"Yes," Alice said, wide-eyed and nodding slowly. "That had occurred to me."
Nancy leaned both hands on the front of Alice's desk, doing her best to loom over her. "All right, fine. I can accept that. I'm crazy. Get up."
Alice was halfway to her feet before she even paused to object. "Nancy--"
Nancy stopped her question very simply, by taking two steps around the edge of Alice's desk and kissing her. So there, she thought. And then, because Alice wasn't moving away, so there.
Last night, in David Kaye's garden, Alice had tasted of red wine and the tray of hors d'oeuvres she'd hoarded for most of the night. She'd caught Nancy by surprise; one moment leaning back against a vine-covered wall while Nancy told her exactly how much she'd regret this tomorrow, and the next, leaning forward and finding Nancy's chin with one hand, her lips warm and her breath warm with alcohol and spices.
Nancy had been off-balance and out-manoeuvred. She'd lost control in the first second, and after that it was hard to keep in mind why she'd wanted it. Later, with Alice draped bonelessly across her passenger seat as she drove them both back to her apartment, she'd remembered. Alice rarely drank, and what if this was why?
Fine. If last night was an accident, then this was a test case. Nancy wasn't finding anything at all wrong with it, except that it was much less messy, and this time she had pretty much figured out where she wanted her hands and how she should tilt her head. With practice, she believed, they could probably get even better at this. Perseverance, really, was all it took to be the best.
When Nancy had figured out all the details to her satisfaction, she thought about ending the kiss; but Alice seemed to agree that things were going well, so Nancy indulged her. At last, it seemed to end on its own, quite naturally.
"So there," Nancy said as they drew apart, just to be clear about the matter. She tried to be very subtle about slowing her gasps down to a more normal breathing rate. "Now we're even."
"I'm pretty sure I still win," Alice said. She still looked a little dazed.
"What? I was way better than you were! I was sober, for one thing..."
"It was a moral victory," Alice said, sitting down and leaning back in her chair. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes sparkled, and she smiled challengingly.
"Well, we'll see about that," Nancy started.
"Um, Nancy?" Ronnie said from the door.
Nancy spun around. "What?"
"Uh, I don't mean to interrupt you girls, but Judge Fraser's secretary just called. You're due back in court."
"Oh," Nancy said.
Alice slapped her on the leg. "You left the door open," she said. "I definitely win. At least last night nobody saw--"
"Oh, honey," Ronnie said, "it's so sweet that you believe that."
"What?" Alice's chair shot to its upright position. "Who?"
"Well," Ronnie said, thinking hard, "I heard it from Tamara Rogan, who heard it from--"
"Okay, okay, enough," Alice said. "I don't want to know."
Nancy sighed. "I can't believe you made me late for Judge Fraser twice in one day," she said.
"I'll make it up to you," Alice offered, raising an eyebrow.
"Good," Nancy said, "because I demand a rematch."
"Yeah, legal ethics require me to consider it," Judge Fraser said. "But if anyone here seriously thinks that I'm going to let myself be biased because my brother managed to spawn, then they would be very much reassured by the events of Thanksgiving, 1956 Let's just say...words were exchanged. Reputations were called into question." He eyed Nancy repressively. She smiled back in as friendly a way as she knew how. He didn't seem reassured by that in the least. "So, if there are no more disruptions, we are going to go on with this trial," he said. "Mr. Weekes, you may call your witness."
Nancy sat back in her chair, clasping her hands in front of her. She didn't care if Judge Fraser called in the ventriloquist clown doll from his chambers to testify. Alice was meeting her after the trial was finished, in the bar across the street.
"And so you followed Mr. Laurier," Weekes was saying.
Nancy leaped to her feet. She might be happy, but she was still intent on her case. "How did the corporal know what direction my client went?" she asked.
"Go ahead, Mr. Weekes," Judge Fraser said, with a dangerous smirk. "Ask him how he knew which way the purse thief went."
"Alleged purse thief," Nancy muttered, mostly for form's sake.
Fraser turned wide blue eyes on her. He looked so innocent it was sickening. She glared at him. He'd chased Willy Laurier twenty blocks in order to convince him to return the complainant's purse, he'd helped him to get his job back, and he'd even co-signed a lease on a new bike for the guy. In real life, that should equate him with a sucker who was going to get conned out of all he owned, if Willy had any imagination at all. Instead he just seemed grateful for the opportunity.
"All right, sir," Weekes said. "How did you know which way the purse thief went?"
Ray groaned and banged his forehead softly on the gallery rail.
Fraser opened his mouth, but Judge Fraser interrupted. "You licked something, didn't you?"
"The prevailing winds being south-southeast, due to the lake effect, of course I needed a more immediate--"
Judge Fraser stared at him. "You licked something."
"Well, yes, Your Honour. The suspect had just run through the produce section of an organic farmers' market..."
"Mud," Ray said, raising his head off his arms. "All right? Satisfied? He tasted mud that fell off the guy's shoe."
Fraser nodded. "It's somewhat of an oversimplification..."
"Good," Judge Fraser said. "I like simple. Continue, Mr. Weekes."
"Uh, right. Corporal...?"
Fraser continued with his statement, about how he'd climbed a fire escape and leapt from building to building to follow Willy. On a regular cross, Nancy would have torn that part of his story apart. He was crazy. No one in the courtroom, not even Weekes, was disputing that. But Mrs. Beaumont had gotten her bag back, and Willy had offered to do restitution.
Nancy was reasonably certain that Fraser talked to people who weren't there. He definitely talked to his wolf, although he'd explained that Dief was deaf. Still, he was probably the most persuasive person on the planet. His plan was probably the best for Willy, even if it did mean--in the most technical way possible--that he'd have to plead guilty and Nancy wouldn't, when you got right down to it, win.
"Your witness," Weekes said.
And, last but not least, he'd managed to let her know that kissing Alice wouldn't be the end of the world--that these things had a way of working out. He'd been telling a story about caribou at the time, but he'd been watching Ray, and Nancy got the message. If he was right about that, then maybe he wasn't as crazy as he seemed.
Nancy glared at Fraser. He stared back serenely. "All right, fine," she said, and stood up to begin her cross.
The bar was packed with court officers doing shots and roaring with laughter. Nancy skirted her way around them and found Alice at a back table, sitting with Jack Angel. Nancy swept up to them, ready to defend Alice's honour, only to find that Anil lay stretched out on the bench between them, shirtless and drunk out of his mind. He appeared to be singing a rousing round of "Rubber Duckie" to himself.
"Hey, watch it, Sarah," Jack said. "I'm watching the show." He leaned sideways to look around her. "Those boys, they really know how to tie one on."
"Oh, I'm sorry, Jake," Nancy said brightly. "Am I interrupting?"
"No, not at all," Jack said, letting the name pass and offering his most devilish grin. "We were just consoling the kid, here."
"Alice, are you ready to go?" Nancy asked.
"Oh, God, yes," Alice said. She yanked her jacket out from underneath Anil, where he lay giggling to himself and waving his arms out of time with the music. "Please, please get me out of here."
"Hey, wait a minute," Jack said. "So, how'd the trial go...Nancy?"
"Judge Fraser agreed that the witness was completely out of his mind," Nancy told him. "Utterly insane. My client agreed to restitution and conditional discharge."
Jack raised his eyebrows. "Well, now, that I didn't expect."
Nancy nodded sympathetically. "I know. You thought I was going to lose. I guess you were wrong."
Jack chuckled scornfully "Whatever you say, chickie."
Alice grabbed Nancy's arm and held her back from rearranging Jack Angel's features. "Come on, Nancy. What about that rematch you promised me?"