The Palpable Prosecutor
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Sergeant (Retired) Robert Shepard strolled aimlessly through the market,
looking for something to eat. He kept hoping he'd see an unusual, exotic food,
such as he'd been forced to consume in some far off land. After twenty-five
years in the Army, much of it spent as a Special Forces operator and then Delta
Force, he'd finally been injured badly enough that they had kicked him to the curb
with a medical retirement. He'd been retired for four months now, and was
healed up well enough that retirement was already beginning to grate on his
only people who would offer him work matching his skills were the private
security contractors he'd hated working with as an operator. And, to be
honest, he was tired of sand and dirt and not being able to trust anybody
outside his tightly-knit unit. His skill set wasn't really appropriate for a
normal job, and he wasn't about to become a rent-a-cop at some mall, where the
most dangerous person he'd run into would be a fifteen year old girl who
thought the world owed her whatever she wanted.
that money was a problem. He could live comfortably on his retirement pay. It
wasn't like he'd know what to do with a whole house. And living in the suburbs
just seemed laughable to him. His room in the Highview Hotel, a flophouse,
really, was cheap and just fine. Nobody bothered him. Out on the streets many
people assumed he was homeless. That might have been the result of his limited
wardrobe and the fact that he hadn't shaved or gotten a hair cut since they
kicked him out.
real problem was ... he was bored.
been bored before, of course, plenty of times, in fact. The old saying about
the Army, concerning "hurry up and wait" was as factual and reliable
as the patterns of the sun and moon. But those times of boredom were bearable
because you knew action would come. It might come sooner ... or later ... but
it would come.
though, the boredom he experienced felt like it just might be permanent. His
days of action were over.
so he thought.
minutes after leaving the market, the internal radar that had been fine-tuned
by years of training and field work came alive. The first blip on that radar
was the carriage of a man in the crowd. He was walking in the throng of
people on the street, but not with it. Once his attention was on the
man, Bob saw that his clothing was also out of sync with the people around
him. The coat he was wearing was too long and too heavy for the current
Bob started following the man, and within another minute realized that the man
was following someone else.
for counter surveillance, Bob detected nothing. The man was on his own.
Casually, he closed the distance between them. Within another two or three
minutes he decided that a woman some twenty yards in front of them was the
target. She was wearing a navy blue skirt and jacket, but that was all he
could tell about her, other than that she had her blondish hair up in a bun.
man's body language changed and Bob's radar flared to danger! The way
he was holding his right arm suggested he was armed, and he was speeding up,
closing with the target.
thought about what to do. Being behind the man would give him a tactical
advantage, but he didn't know what kind of weapon was in that right hand.
Whatever it was, though, the guy thought of it as a weapon. If it was a gun,
then there was little Bob could do, other than try to deflect the shot when it
came. But if it was a gun, then the shot could be off before he could reach
the man and do anything about it.
to be in front of the guy, so he could watch the face and eyes, as well as that
thought of a way to disrupt the flow of events, and broke into a run.
past the man, he caught up to the woman and reached to grip her elbow.
said, loudly. "There you are. I thought you were going to meet me
eyes turned on him, but he paid no attention to her face. Instead he was
looking past her at the man following her. He was coming on, now, speeding up.
away from me!" yelped the woman. "I'm not Cindy! Who are you?"
in danger," he said, his voice low. "Move into that store over
away from me!" yelled the frightened woman, again. "I'll call
right ahead," said Bob, who saw that rather than disrupting the man's
plans he had accelerated them. He was coming now at a fast walk and Bob saw
the tip of a knife protruding from the sleeve of his right arm. No doubt he
thought he could use the uproar to let him do whatever he had in mind and then melt
into the crowd.
batted at Bob with her free hand, yelling, "Let go!" and Bob
used her motion to swivel her behind him, bringing him face to face with her
fight, such as it was, was short. To most people watching, it looked like the
two men bumped into each other, at which time one of them tripped and fell
down. Something black clattered behind Bob as he levered the man's right arm,
dislocating the shoulder. There was a grunt of pain and the man's foot lashed
out, hitting Bob's ankle, sending him to the ground, as well.
he rolled and came up, the other man did too. Disarmed now, and with an arm
that no longer worked properly, he spun and ran, fleeing into the crowd.
turned to find the woman staring at him as if he were a raving lunatic. He
bent to pick up the knife that had come free when he dislocated the attacker's
shoulder. He recognized it instantly as a Kizlyar Irtish tactical knife, the
kind the Spetsnaz and the KGB preferred. Though they were not rare, he was
still surprised that a street thug in New York would have one. He held it out
to show the woman.
was going to attack you with this," said Bob. "He'd been following
you for a while. Probably after your purse."
demeanor changed almost instantly.
not what he was after. Thank you. You probably saved my life."
problem," said Bob, easily.
did you know he was following me?"
ex Army," he said. "I've had some training and I saw some things
that tipped me off. I thought I could disrupt the attack."
when you accosted me, it was to get into position to do that," she mused.
I'm sorry if I startled you."
you be interested in a job, Mister ...?"
said Bob. "Bob Shepard. I'm not really looking for a job."
Mister Bob Shepard, my name is Lacey Cragg, and, as I said, I don't think that
man was after my purse."
Cragg," said Bob. "I read about you in the paper."
smiled. It wasn't a happy smile. Her face looked pinched.
not surprised," she said. "As I said. You probably saved my life,
and I'd like to hire you to protect me in the future."
don't know," said Bob. He didn't really need a job. But he was
were flowing past them now, and they stood as boulders in a stream, parting the
rushing water, sending it on each side of the obstruction.
think the government would provide you security," said Bob.
asked them to, but there's red tape involved, and the Marshal Service likes to
have a confirmed threat before they act. As you can see, I need protection now,
instead of later."
I said, I'm not really looking for a job," said Bob.
not? You can't be a bum forever."
not a bum!" he said. "I'm retired military."
you look pretty scruffy to me. The point is you know how to handle yourself
and I need somebody to keep me from ending up like the last prosecutor on this
thought he was in an accident, a car crash."
are things the public doesn't know about that," she said. "Will you
at least come with me and let me do a formal interview?"
already offered me the job," he pointed out.
me," she said. "I'm sorry I called you a bum. Let me buy you a cup
of coffee. It's the least I can do."
the hell," he said. "I didn't have anything else on my calendar
sat across the small table from the woman. He had time, now, to look her over.
was in the range of five-seven or so. Her navy suit covered a utilitarian
white blouse, and the overall effect was somewhat mannish. She wore little, if
any, makeup and the skin on her temples and forehead was stretched by the tight
bun her hair was pulled into. She looked plain, but Bob could see the
potential for something much more feminine.
knew only what he'd read about her in the paper, that she was a rising star in
the prosecutorial world, and had replaced the former prosecutor on a big, human
trafficking case when he'd been killed in a car crash. The defendant was
Russian, and his mind made the connection to the Kizlyar knife, now tucked into
the back of his waistline and covered by his shirt. She hadn't wanted to call
the police, saying there was nothing they could do since the man had fled.
former prosecutor died in a car crash, and when they offered his case to me I
thought getting it would be good for my career," she said, sipping her
latte. "Then I was informed that the crash John Rawlins was killed in
wasn't a single car accident, as originally reported. They found evidence that
he was sideswiped, forced off the road. They found the car that did it several
miles away, abandoned. It was stolen, of course. Some argue that it was still
just an accident, but it's also possible John was murdered."
knife that guy had is Russian made," said Bob.
they think going after me will do them any good, I don't know," she said.
"All I'm doing is prosecuting the case. The man they want to kill is
under heavy protection."
can think of a reason they want you out of the way," said Bob.
they want the right prosecutor on the case."
mean one they can bribe," she said.
I'm guessing they can't bribe you."
guessing right," she said, firmly.
try again," said Bob.
is why I need you, protecting me. You saw this guy before he made his move.
And then you stopped him."
was just what I was trained to do."
me more about that," said Lacey. "Your training, I mean."
twenty-five years, Special Forces and then Delta Force. Got to go to exotic
places, meet interesting people and then kill them."
You've killed people?"
do you think your Army does?" he asked, his voice wry.
looked away, obviously uncomfortable.
guess the average person doesn't think much about that."
don't ask them to," said Bob. "All we really want is to be able to do
our job and then go home, like anybody else."
... will you come to work for me?"
sure the feds will give you a security detail, especially considering what you
told me about the accident and what happened today."
she said. "I'm sure they will. I work with those guys all the time,
though, and they haven't done what you've done. I'm imagining one of them
having been with me today. He'd have been yelling, 'Stop! Federal Agent! Show
me your hands!' or some such thing. But you took action. You took out the
threat. That's the kind of man I want protecting me."
thought about it. She wasn't much to look at, but it was a pretty good bet
that her staff included a bevy of pretty, young interns, or paralegals, or
whatever kind of jobs supported her endeavors. The life he'd led hadn't had
room in it for a girlfriend, much less a wife. There had been women along the
way, once in a while, but most of them were either hookers or female soldiers
on the support side of operations. He was only forty-two, which wasn't too old
to meet a woman and start a family. And working for her might just expose him
to some potential chances to enter the dating game. He hadn't done that since
high school. But how hard could it be? Be charming, tell a few war stories,
get the girl all excited, and see where things went.
can't protect you twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week," he said.
can if you live in," she said. "And when the Marshal detail shows
up, they can take up the slack."
won't like working with me," he said.
I won't like working with them," he said, smiling. "We have different
philosophies about how to handle a threat."
be in charge," she said, firmly.
don't think they'll go for that."
will if I tell them to," she said. "Especially if I tell them I only
need two or three men, to supplement you. A full detail is expensive, and
they'll jump at any chance to keep from having to spend some of that
thought prosecutors got paid squat," he said.
do. While I was in college I had a double major, economics and law. I
understood the stock market and did pretty well."
if you were making money, why'd you end up in law? And being a prosecutor on
top of that?"
adopted. My biological father murdered my biological mother when I was three.
I got put into foster care, and a couple of years later was adopted by the
people I think of as my parents. My biological father went to prison,
but only for a short time because he copped a plea. They could have taken the
case to trial. I've actually seen the case file. It was a slam dunk, but the
prosecutor got lazy and did the easy thing. Or maybe he was overworked. I
don't know. But I've always wanted to put bad people in jail, and keep them
you went to prosecutor school," said Bob.
exactly. After law school I clerked for a judge. That's where I learned about
how to prosecute a case. I was lucky and got in the DOJ honors program. I
helped with some big cases and then got assigned a high profile case of my
own. It was one of those cases they couldn't just decide to drop. I think they
thought it couldn't be won, which is why they gave it to me. If I lost it they
could chalk it up to me being a rookie and it wouldn't soil their reputations.
But I didn't lose it. And I didn't lose the next two cases nobody else wanted
to prosecute either. I hope some day those stuffed shirts will have to answer
will your husband think when you bring a bum home with you?" asked Bob.
then, what will your boyfriend think?"
don't have a boyfriend. "I work 80 hours a week. I have no time in my
life for a man."
know the feeling," said Bob, but he was thinking that, with her
appearance, it wasn't likely men were beating down her door asking for dates in
the first place.
looked at her watch.
need to get to work. What do you say?"
you really want a man intruding on your personal space?"
just any man. You."
will affect your privacy," he warned.
live in a four apartment brownstone," she said. "My apartment has two
bedrooms and the one I sleep in has bars on the windows. You don't need to be
in my bedroom, just in the apartment."
long will this last?" he asked.
during the trial. That shouldn't take more than three or four months, six if
the defense can get their motions to delay through."
thought about it. It might solve his boredom problem. And then there were all
those sweet young things in her office.
the hell," he said. "We actually have something in common."
a product of the foster care program, too. Spent my entire life in it."
happened?" she asked.
have no idea. My earliest memories are of having foster parents. I got bounced
around a lot. Was even adopted once, but that didn't last."
had a problem with authority figures. It's why I went into the service. I
figured four years in the Army beat eighteen months in jail. I'm not
complaining, though. It finally taught me some discipline. The Army's who I
think of as my parents."
you'll do it?"
in," he said. "We orphans have to stick together."
Get cleaned up and come see me in my office." She got into her purse and
pulled a card out, which she handed to him.
cleaned up?" he asked.
just want you to look presentable," she said. "I don't mind the
beard, but it needs to be trimmed. And get a haircut. Do you own any
can get a couple. But they'll make me stand out, and they're harder to conceal
a weapon under. Speaking of which, this is New York City. I'll need a gun to
protect you. How do I go about that?"
take care of all of that," she said. "You just get some clothes to
work in. Where do you live?"
renting cheap digs," he said, carelessly. "I can move out any
you have a cell?"
it to me."
was all business now as she put her number in his phone, and his in hers. She
handed his back to him.
at my office by six this evening. You can take up your duties when I go
it, boss," he said, grinning.
Miss Cragg in public," she said, sternly.
stood up to leave.
in private you can call me Lacey. Thank you for being there today."
that she turned and was gone.
finished his coffee and then asked the cashier where a man could buy a suit.
York City is a place like no other. For the right money, a man can get three
suits custom made and delivered in three days. Getting the permits necessary
to carry a concealed pistol, on the other hand, could take months. Lacey cut
through that bureaucracy with startling speed, though, and by the time he found
the place he wanted to make his suits, he was able to be fitted wearing the
Jackass shoulder holster, containing the Sig Sauer P229 he would wear under
them. The tailor didn't blink an eye at having to account for the weapon.
kept the Kizlyar and was even able to find a sheath that was a reasonable fit
for it in an Army/Navy store in the Bronx. He wore that strapped on the inside
of his right ankle.
days were spent cooling his heels at Lacey's office, which had exactly zero
cute young women dying to meet a retired Delta Force operator. If she knew she
wasn't going anywhere, he was allowed to go do whatever errands he needed to
do. If she had court, he accompanied her there and back. When she went home
he spent the evening with her, unless she was working at home, in which case he
watched TV, or read. He'd always carried a paperback book with him in the
Army, but they were usually whatever happened to be available. Now he could
choose what author he wanted to read, and which books he was interested in.
stark, frumpy appearance, when they had first met, was no accident. As he
spent more and more time with her it became obvious that she intentionally
chose clothes that were intended to mute her femininity and cover her body,
rather than display it. He was curious about that. It seemed a little
femininity might serve her in court, but she obviously didn't think so. Even
at home, she kept her body securely draped, mostly in work clothes, though he
did see her in a pair of thick, cotton pants that were gray, and a black
relationship was complicated, at the same time casual, but remote. They spoke
to each other with the familiarity of people who live together, but there was
no intimacy in that talk. They often ate separately, preparing their own meals
whenever they were hungry. At other times one or the other might decide to
call in a takeout order, and ask the other if he or she wanted anything. In
those situations, they ate together. She had no dining room table. Meals were
taken either at the minuscule table in the tiny kitchen, or sitting on the
couch or chairs in the living room.
trial proceeded, if that's the correct word at all, with agonizing lethargy.
He usually sat in the gallery on court days, and to him it was like watching a
box turtle intent on circling the high school track at the same time a marathon
was being conducted. The turtle kept pulling his head back into his shell,
waiting until it was safe to take another step. Then, hesitantly, the head
would peep out, only to slide back inside when another runner's foot stomped
language of the court baffled him. The accused wasn't even present as the
lawyers danced and sparred, arguing about this or that aspect of the case. The
defense would ask that something be excluded or suppressed. The judge would
disappear into his chambers for a while and then come out and give his answer.
If it went the way of the defense, then the next agonizingly slow step would be
attempted. If it went against the defense, as often as not, they would demand
more time to prepare for the actual trial date, which Lacey didn't seem to be
able to predict for him.
still doing pretrial motions," she'd explained to him one night.
"Then we'll have to select a jury. That could take months. If I could
just put my witnesses on the stand and be done with it, it would only take a
then something happened that changed their relationship.
was asleep in his room when he heard her fearful scream. With pistol in hand,
he was out of bed like a shot. He slept only in boxers, but that was the last
thing on his mind as he charged out of his door and through hers. She hadn't
locked it, so he didn't have to put his shoulder into it and break it down.
was dark, but he knew that the night light she left on in the hallway would
silhouette him to any attacker, so he went down and rolled into the darkness,
coming up on one knee, arms outstretched, two pounds of force on a three pound
trigger. His arms swept back and forth in the dark, looking for movement.
Lacey was sobbing, but it didn't sound like she was struggling, so he stayed
he heard nothing for fifteen seconds, he called out softly.
she gasped. "Something touched me!"
don't know! Something touched my face." She sobbed quietly.
anybody in bed with you?" he asked.
Of course not!"
outrage sounded completely genuine, so he stood.
going to turn on the light, now," he said.
she replied meekly. At least she wasn't sniveling anymore.
went to the open doorway and reached for the switch. He shielded his eyes with
his forearm, and flipped the switch. Light flooded the room. Almost instantly
he saw movement near the ceiling and looked through squinted eyes to see a bat
fluttering around in panic.
a bat," he said, conversationally.
get it out, get it out, get it out!" she squealed.
“Lacey, it’s just a bat. It’s not going to hurt you.”
“I don’t like bats,” she said.
the first time he looked at her. She was under the covers. He was reminded of
the Kilroy graphic that he’d seen in dozens of
places all over the world, a little line drawing of the eyes, nose and forehead
above a line. To either side of that were fingers that made the line into the
top of a wall. The words “Kilroy was here” were usually beneath the peeking head. That’s what she looked like now, except that Kilroy was
always bald, and Lacey had a mass of honey blond tousled hair framing her face.
“Well that bat doesn’t much like you, either,” he said. “Look at the poor thing. It’s frantic to get away from you.”
“I don’t care. Catch it. Get it out of here.”
“I can’t catch it by myself,” he said. “You’re going to have to help me.”
“I can’t do that! What if it bit me? It probably has rabies or something!”
“It looks like a brown bat,” said Bob, squinting at the frantic little mammal, still fluttering this way and that. “They eat mosquitoes, not prosecutors.”
“Hah - hah,” she said, pushing the covers down, fractionally.
“If we get towels, you can herd it towards me and I can net it,” said Bob.
“I don’t like this, Bob,” she moaned.
“Do you want the bat gone?”
“Then get up and help me catch it.”
She dithered, but only for a few seconds, before throwing the covers aside and
standing up. This threw the bat into a tizzy as the air pressure in the room
went temporarily crazy and a new obstruction appeared in the little bat’s radar. It dipped and flew in an arc past Bob. It
looked like it was heading right for Lacey and she shrieked, ducking. But it
flew harmlessly past her. She ran for the shelter of Bob’s arms and hugged him as if he were the last life ring
on the Titanic.
arm went around her instinctively, and he was distracted by both the warmth of
her body against his, and the feel of something firm, yet soft in his hand.
With a start he realized that soft, firm thing was her left breast, and he slid
his hand to her side. She didn’t seem to have noticed, though, as she tried to bury her face in his shoulder and look for the
bat at the same time.
“He’s more scared of you than you are of him,” said Bob, soothingly.
“That’s what they always say about the bear that eats you,” she moaned.
get a towel or something to wave around and drive him towards me," said
ran into her bathroom and emerged with two bath towels.
hope you know what you're doing," she said, tossing him a towel.
minutes later, after the two of them scampered all over the room, Bob lunged
and captured the animal in his towel.
right back," he said.
took the bundle to the front door and laid it on the stoop, unfolding it so the
little bat could orient itself and fly off.
found Lacey sitting on the side of her bed, just breathing and combing out her
long hair with her fingers.
better," he said.
took in her old fashioned cotton nightgown. It covered her body entirely, but
could not camouflage what was under it. The woman who, before this, always
appeared to have A cup breasts had suddenly grown a pair of Ds. They trembled
gently under the white cotton as her hands continued to bring some order back
to her hair.
hair was also interesting. It fell past her shoulders at least eight inches,
thick and shiny looking. It wasn't a brash, white kind of blond. It was more
the kind that has a little red and a little brown in it, that makes it look
deep and rich.
suppress your femininity intentionally," he said.
looked up at him.
really none of your business," she said, her voice level.
I agree," he said. "It's just nice to know there's a woman under all
that tough exterior."
wasn't acting so tough when that bat was flying around," she muttered.
the contrary, I know how frightened you were. It took a lot of moxie to
overcome that fear and help me catch the poor little guy."
late," she said. "Thank you for being so prompt."
gave a little bow.
what you hired me to do," he said.
started to leave and she called out, "Wait!"
back he saw her pointing to his pistol, which was lying on the bed beside her.
A fold in the covers had hidden it during the mad rush to catch the intruder.
he said. He went to get it and sensed her unease at being so close to the
weapon. "What training have you had in firearms?"
None. I don't like guns."
need to get over that too. Whenever the Russians make another play, you may
need to be armed yourself."
preposterous. Why do you think I hired you?"
you'll recall, there was an intruder in here with you for a few minutes before
I got here."
told you, I don't like guns."
gun is only a tool, like a fork, or a vacuum cleaner, or a curling iron. It
can be very useful in certain situations. And when it isn't being used it just
sits there. The only gun that can hurt you is the one in the hand of a human
see," she said.
took that to be his dismissal. Carrying the Sig in his right hand, he left the
room and went back to his own sleeping quarters.
lay in bed, staring up into the darkness. She wasn't sleepy. It wasn't the
excitement of the bat that made her restless. Rather it was the man who caught
the bat. She'd tried not to stare, but she could count the number of men she'd
seen in just a pair of boxer shorts on one finger. His body fairly rippled
with muscles. He had muscles on his muscles. And the scars! They
were everywhere! On his back, his arms. She'd seen those little puckered
scars in some of her cases. They were bullet wounds. And there had to be a
dozen of the things. There were others too, but she hadn't been able to see
them well. She remembered a long one on his right thigh, in the back. It
looked like he'd been used as practice for doctors to stitch a man up. And yet
he was graceful and calm, even in the midst of excitement.
hoped he hadn't seen her staring at him, almost unable to put her eyes anywhere
else. And he'd looked at her too! He'd even commented on it. He had noticed
her as a woman. But he hadn't leered, or made suggestions. He'd treated her
like a lady. Except his eyes had shown interest too, very stark and clear
been binding her breasts since she was thirteen, when they started to grow out
of control, and all the boys stared at them. Her breasts were all tangled up in
her mind with the feelings she started having about then too. Ugly, nasty feelings,
the kind her mother had warned her about over and over again. It had made her
so nervous and embarrassed that she'd done anything she could to hide the
horrid things. Her mother had helped, showing her how to wind the strips of
cloth tightly around her bra-encased breasts.
was her hair. She loved it, loved combing it and brushing it and even washing
it. But that hair drew a man's gaze just like her breasts did. So, when she
wasn't alone in her room, she wound it into a tight bun and pinned it firmly
eschewed makeup for the same reasons, so that men would look at other women,
instead of her. And it had worked all these years. She hadn't been asked out
on a date since college. She'd put all her energy into her studies, and then
law school. Clerking for a judge after that gave her no time for men and, by
then, she had no idea how to go about finding one anyway. Vaguely, she knew it
was all right, at this age, to find a husband and procreate. But the thought
of that was terrifying ... almost nauseating.
was a vague, unformed ache deep inside her that she had interpreted as wanting
a family, like those she worked with had. A husband. A child. But being a
spinster was easier. That's what her mother would have called it. Spinster.
was the first man she could remember seeing in just those ridiculous loose,
striped shorts. Something had moved around under the cloth, there in the
front. She knew what that was, of course. She wasn't stupid. But she'd never
seen one. Not a real one. Her father had pulled her hand against the front of
his pants one night, while he was tucking her in. Then he'd burst into tears
and fled the room. He hadn't touched her after that, not even to give her a
hug when she left for college.
mind kept going back to the dark skin on Bob's body. It wasn't pale like her
own, but something that looked permanently tanned.
all those scars! He must have been in such pain!
then, did she want to touch them? Stroke them? Run her hands across them?
felt that traitorous itch between her legs, the one her mother had warned her
about so many times. It demanded to be touched.
to touch it meant risking madness. Her mother had told her that, too.
knew people dismissed that as hogwash, old wives tales.
she'd seen what people would do to each other. She had defended them, and
she was quite sure all those animals had masturbated frequently.
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