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Permutations

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Benson and Rollins rushed into the courtroom in Westchester where Rollins was set to testify against Shane Firsey, a 21-year-old college student who Rollins had picked up in Manhattan a few weeks back. A 16-year-old who’d snuck into a SoHo club called 911 when her friend, who’d only had one drink, started acting strangely. Firsey, of course, claimed the girl had asked him for recreational drugs.

Rohypnol isn’t recreational, Rollins told him in interrogation.

He was simultaneously charged with rape in New Rochelle, under very similar circumstances, so the DAs of both counties agreed to combine the charges and try Firsey in Westchester.

Benson and Rollins had been stuck between stops on the 1 train for 20 minutes on a humid September morning, and had missed their MetroNorth connection. They arrived only minutes before the trial started.

They met the ADA in the courtroom gallery. “Subway,” Benson explained breathlessly. “This guy’s a serial. You’ve got to get his juvenile records unsealed.”

“Not your jurisdiction, Lieutenant,” the ADA said.

“It’s really not,” Rollins said under her breath, patting Benson’s arm.

Benson and Rollins sat in the gallery. Rollins was the first witness on the schedule for the day; the attorneys had made their opening statements and the prosecution had called three witnesses the day before.

When the judge emerged from his chamber, Benson’s breath caught in her throat. She had to squint a few times to see that the plaque on the judge’s bench read Judge R. Barba. There she was, the man she hadn’t seen in 7, nearly 8 months, in judicial regalia, a robe worn over one of the tailored suits she’d so often see him wear in court when he was a prosecutor.

She hadn’t heard from him at all since that afternoon in February when he told her that because she’d changed his life, he had to leave.

That was the way she’d heard it, at least. That was the way she’d processed it.

He’d grown a beard, closely-shaven and flecked with white like the hair on his head. The Honorable Rafael Barba.

Rafa, she mouthed.

He shot her a look — half-smirk, half-eyeroll, half-smile — because, yes, the way he looked at her for that split second overflowed with connection, with history.

After Rollins’ testimony, they headed back out to the MetroNorth station. “You didn’t want to stay until the end of the trial?” she asked Benson.

“Why would I?”

“Barba.”

“Again, why would I?”

Firsey took a plea deal before the jury could convict him, before his prior convictions could be unsealed. He’d get 3 years maximum.

Benson appeared in Barba’s chambers the next morning. “How could you?” she said, balling her hands up into fists.

“The juvenile records were going to be unsealed and having been a prosecutor for 21 years, I knew that there was only a 50/50 shot of the jury convicting, so I had to accept the plea. Hello, by the way.”

“You and I,” she said, “are done talking.”

He hurried down the hall after her. “Liv,” he said. “Liv, please.”

“You’ve been in New York all this time?”

“Yes,” he said, touching his tongue to his upper lip. “I decided —“

“Noah asks about you.”

“Oh?” His gaze was a little hopeful, a little sad.

“He wonders why you used to come over for dinner once a week but now he doesn’t see you at all anymore. He’s cried about that. He doesn’t understand. He feels like he lost his best friend.”

Barba wrinkled his forehead, fighting the tears welling up in his eyes. “If you want, I can talk to him.”

“No,” Benson said. “He’s six. That’ll only confuse him, upset him more.”

“Liv.” He went to touch her arm. “I should explain —“

“Don’t.”

She turned and walked away, leaving Barba behind so she could deal with the aftermath of this case and pick up whatever new cases landed on her desk.