When court reconvened, Michael called Daryl Whittaker to the witness stand. He walked the bouncer through the events of the evening in question and the man verified what he’d previously stated in his deposition. Rowdy was talking to some fans at a table on the far side of the establishment, far away from the bar where the fight began. At the exact moment the victim was punched, the tennis star had posed for a selfie with Whittaker. The photo with the time stamp was introduced into evidence. The prosecution wasn’t happy, but Whittaker had been on the witness list all along. They hadn’t bothered to call him because he didn’t help their case.
At 3:15 the jury began their deliberations and at 4:50 they returned a verdict of acquittal. John and Ellen left immediately after Rowdy was released. On the courthouse steps, Michael and Rowdy paused to address the reporters gathered there hoping for a sound bite in time for the six o’clock news. Michael didn’t disappoint.
Maggie stood to the side and watched as Michael flashed his signature smile. “We’d like to thank the good folks of the jury for taking seriously their civic duty. A week-long trial isn’t a lot of fun, but they weighed the evidence and did the right thing. My client is grateful for their attention to detail and their sense of justice, and he offers his sincere hopes and prayers for the victim’s speedy recovery.”
God, he’s good, she thought.
Michael shook hands with his client and walked down the steps, stopping to exchange friendly banter with some of the reporters. Maggie held her worn leather case in front of her, gripping it with both hands as she waited for him on the sidewalk.
“Ride with me back to the office,” he said. He waved and a cab pulled to the curb.
As they drove away from the courthouse, Maggie smiled shyly. “Congratulations, Michael.”
He gave a satisfied smile. “Congratulations, nothing, Mags. If you hadn’t brought up Whittaker and the photo, I don’t think the jury would have acquitted. at was good work.”
She felt the flush creep up her neck to her cheeks and she frowned. “You should have had the information. I can’t think how you didn’t get all the documents. I put them in your box, I know I did.”
Michael shook his head. “It’s odd.” He looked out the window, a thoughtful look in his eyes.
After a few minutes, he turned to Maggie. “We have a tradition on the 50th floor. Every time we win a case, everybody meets for drinks at Doc Watson’s. I’m going to finish up at the office and head over. John and Ellen are probably already there. Join us.” His expression was soft, hopeful.
She did, in fact, know about the traditional 50th floor victory gathering. She’d just never been invited. Maggie smiled happily. She couldn’t help it. “That sounds great, actually.”
“Good!” he nodded, settling the matter.
Ellen and John were already at the bar when Michael and Maggie walked into Doc Watson’s. Dan was there as well, along with Stan Hodges and several other 50th floor associates.
“Welcome, gang, this round’s on me,” Michael called.
“You won another one, Michael,” Stan said, hoisting his pint. “Here’s to the best defense money can buy.” Everyone raised their glasses in a toast.
Michael sipped and grinned thoughtfully. “I came close to fucking up,” he admitted. “Maggie came through with the witness we needed.” He gave her the full wattage Michael Rannigan smile. “Here’s to Maggie.”
“To Maggie!” everyone chimed in, as Maggie blushed deeply. John remained silent, his expression inscrutable, but Ellen tossed back her martini and glared at both Maggie and Michael.
Maggie sat on her stool sipping her pint and listening to the group exchanging war stories. She breathed deeply and glanced around. I belong here. I’ve earned this spot, she thought, and she smiled. She realized that in that moment she was immensely happy, much more than working as an escort on devozki.
She watched Michael as he laughed and bullshitted with everyone, stopping once in a while to check his phone or type a text. God, he’s handsome. I know he’s attracted to me...maybe he is.
Absently she trailed her index finger through the condensation on her glass. We shared a moment, more than one actually. Michael looked up and she realized she was staring. Rather than looking away, she smiled warmly. He gave her his best wolfish grin, the one where even his eyes smile, and went back to the story he was telling.
Maybe I’ll invite him to dinner, she thought, the idea causing her stomach to flutter.
Nearer to her, Dan was debating with John about the upcoming World Series when he stopped mid-sentence. “Holy...Where does he find them?” he asked reverently, eyes wide.
Maggie and the others followed his gaze to a knock-out blonde who’d just entered the bar. Her perfect golden layers hung past her shoulders and even from where she sat, Maggie could see the extravagant false lashes framing her large blue eyes.
The thing that drew the attention of everyone in the room, however, was the dress she was wearing. Crafted in slinky fuchsia, the loose cowl halter hung open to her navel revealing the inner curves of her enormous breasts. The skin-tight skirt was barely long enough to cover her ass. Maggie wondered how she could sit without flashing everyone a free shot of South Virginia.
“Pretty sure that one was a centerfold a couple of months ago,” John commented quietly.
The woman strolled up to Michael. “There you are. I didn’t think I’d ever find you.” She kissed him sensuously.
“I texted you the directions,” he said laughing. “It’s not that hard to find. Everyone, this is Kimberley.” He gestured vaguely with his right hand. “Kimberley, everyone.”
He slugged back the remainder of his pint and stood, taking his jacket and slinging it over his shoulder. “Folks, it’s been a pleasure, but we have to run. Good work everybody, have a nice weekend.”
Maggie watched the scene unfold, fighting madly to keep her face neutral while inside, her heart was pounding.
Michael placed his hand on Kimberley’s bare back and they headed toward the door, but he stopped beside Maggie. “You were great today, Mags,” he said quietly. “I’m really happy you’re on my team.”
He smiled again with his eyes, that look that melted her to the core, but she forced a smile. Clearing her throat to move the lump that had formed there, she answered him. “Thanks, boss. See you Monday.” Maggie tried to breathe as she watched the pair walk away.
“He always does that, you know.” Startled, Maggie turned to find that Dan had wandered o and Ellen had taken his seat.
“Does what?” Maggie asked, aiming for nonchalant.
“Every time Michael wins a case he calls one of his girlfriends for a victory fuck.” Ellen stared at her without blinking. “He has them on a rotating basis, sort of a stable of blondes.”
She smirked at Maggie. “They’re always blonde. Always. I can’t think he’d ever settle for a redhead.”
“I’m not sure what you’re insinuating,” Maggie responded, returning the bold stare, “but I work for Michael. What he does in his personal life is none of my business. Or yours, for that matter.”
“I heard about you last weekend. I heard that you were with Michael at that party. Don’t think for a second that you mean anything at all to him.”
Maggie stood and gathered her bag and her coat. “What I find incomprehensible is why you find my personal business so interesting.”
She said her goodbyes to the table before making her way out into the cool October evening. Out on the sidewalk she breathed deeply, working to stave o the tears she’d be damned if she’d show.
She dialed Ben’s number and rapid-fired him as soon as he answered. “Oh, God, Ben, I have so much to talk to you about. It was a great day and a horrible day all rolled into one. Wanna get a pizza and come over?”
“Whoa, Flynn, what’s up? Are you okay?” he asked.
“I just need to decompress. You won’t believe how this day went. We finished the case in court, and then...”
“I’m on a date, Flynn.”
His words stopped her cold. “Oh, shit! Ben, I’m so sorry, I didn’t even think...” Maggie apologized. “Never mind, we can talk later.” Her voice broke slightly and she hated that it did, but she’d held herself together for as long as she could.
“Are you crying?” Ben asked.
Maggie took another deep breath and replied calmly, “No, I’m fine. I’m sorry I interrupted you. Call me tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay, sweetie, I love you,” Ben said.
“I love you, too. Have fun,” she said, disconnecting.
Once safely ensconced in the comfortable solitude of her apartment, Maggie poured herself some wine and ran a hot bath. With her glass of wine and the warm glow of the candles she’d lit, Maggie sank into the warm water and sobbed, releasing all the pent-up emotions not only from that day, but from the confusion she’d felt all week long. Deep down she knew Ellen was right, and it pissed her off, made her feel foolish. Their kiss had meant nothing to Michael.
She considered calling Casey but realized she didn’t have the energy. She finished the bottle of wine and drifted off into dreamless sleep.