The Tenth Justice: Epilogue


Epilogue

Two weeks later, on Saturday night, Ben walked into Lisa’s building. “Nice to see you,” the doorman said enthusiastically.

“You, too,” Ben said, trying not to make eye contact.

“Nice job with that whole thing,” the doorman added. “You’ve become quite the celebrity.”

“Thanks,” Ben said, stepping inside a waiting elevator. Getting out at the fourth floor, Ben went down the hallway to Lisa’s apartment and rang her doorbell.

“Who is it?” Lisa asked, peeking through the eyehole.

“It’s me,” Ben said.

“Wait a minute. Aren’t you that guy I saw on the news? That genius legal clerk who redeemed himself by catching the criminal mastermind?”

“Just open the door,” Ben pleaded.

When Lisa opened the door, Ben saw that most of the cuts on Lisa’s face and hands had fully healed. All that remained were a few thin, pink scars in the places where the glass cut deepest.

“Nice to see you,” she said. As Lisa leaned in to give Ben a kiss, she was surprised when he turned his cheek. “That’s what I get? A peck on the cheek?”

Ben walked inside and sat on Lisa’s couch. “Please don’t start,” he begged.

“What’s wrong?” Lisa asked.

“Nathan’s definitely moving out. He found an apartment, and he’s leaving this week.”

Lisa pulled out her desk chair and sat down. “I don’t know why you’re surprised. He said he was moving out when he got back from Boston.”

“I know,” Ben said, “but I thought he’d get past it. I figured—”

“You figured what?” Lisa interrupted. “That he’d forget about the fact that Ober’s dead? That he’d forgive you for almost getting him killed? That he’d eventually look back and laugh about the whole thing? This was a big deal, Ben. It’s been all over the news for the past two weeks. It’s not something that just goes away.”

“But I can still be upset when he leaves. He’s one of my closest friends, and he won’t talk to me.”

“You should be upset,” Lisa said. “But you should also give him some space. If you’re that close, he may eventually come around.”

“I don’t know,” Ben said. “I really think I’ve lost him.”

“That’s the problem with competitive friendships—they shatter at the slightest impact.”

“I don’t think this impact was slight. This was more like a freight train running over us.”

“Either way, it’s going to take a long time to put back together,” Lisa said. “How is Eric reacting? Is he taking sides?”

“He could care less,” Ben said. “You’ve seen what’s happened to him. He’s in his glory. As far as his boss is concerned, he broke this story wide open.”

“Are you still mad he used your quotes?”

“I’m not thrilled he quoted our private conversation, but what am I going to do? Besides, if it wasn’t for the slant Eric put on the original story, I don’t know if everything would’ve worked out as well. He’s the one who first called me the King of the Court.”

“King of the Court,” Lisa repeated, shuddering. “Is that the stupidest thing you ever heard?”

“It makes me sound noble and honorable,” Ben said, sticking his chest out.

“It makes you sound like an overhyped basketball star.”

“Make fun if you want, but that corny title has served me well. The media loves it.”

“Whatever you say, Your Lordship.”

Smiling, Ben asked, “How’s everything at the Court?”

“It’s fine,” Lisa said. “Same as yesterday. The new clerk sucks. He’s about as exciting as sawdust.”

“He can’t be that bad.”

“Trust me, he’s that bad. I brought him a sesame-seed bagel from the cafeteria last week, and he said he couldn’t eat it because he has a gap in his back teeth. He said the seeds would get caught.”

“I don’t believe it,” Ben said. “And you didn’t kick his ass right there?”

“I’m serious,” Lisa said. “You try and spend the day with someone who’s allergic to cheese. The guy’s a loser.”

“Is he smart?”

“Academically, yeah. He’s brilliant. But he can’t operate in the real world. He wouldn’t recognize a daring thought if it got lodged in his back teeth.”

“If he’s so drab, why’d Hollis pick him?”

“I think it’s because he was so drab. After you, they couldn’t afford another dynamic personality. They needed someone safe. And allergic to cheese.”

“Well, at least he has the job,” Ben said.

“Don’t give me that. Who cares about the job?”

“I care.”

“You of all people should not care. The only reason you worked there was to be in the position you currently occupy. Every clerk wishes they were in your shoes. You’re the talk of the entire town—the center of every legal circle. Wayne and Portnoy offered you another extra ten thousand even though you told their recruiting chair to drop dead. Every damn lawyer in America wishes they had the savvy of Ben Addison. What could you possibly miss about the Court?”

“I miss working with you,” Ben said matter-of-factly.

Surprised by Ben’s comment, Lisa asked, “You really miss me?”

“Of course I miss you,” Ben replied. “I miss you. I miss Ober. I miss his lottery stories. I miss . . .”

Lisa raised an eyebrow. “Ben, Ober’s gone, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.”

“And Nathan’s gone. And Eric’s not worth keeping.”

“I know it’s hard,” Lisa said. “But you have to focus on the future. You’re starting a job at the U.S. Attorney’s Office—filling a position that usually requires at least two years’ experience. You jumped ahead of every damn applicant and got one of the best jobs in D.C. You’re going to be a prosecutor! You’ll be going after guys like Rick full-time. Isn’t that what you told me when you accepted the job? That you were thrilled because you loved to be in the chase? Now you’ll be in the chase every day.”

“And I’m still thrilled about that,” Ben agreed. “Considering everything I went through, I could be in a lot worse shape. But I can’t help it. I miss them.”

“You still have me,” Lisa said.

“I know,” Ben said warmly. “And that’s the luckiest thing that’s happened to me.”

“I’ll tell you why you’re lucky,” Lisa said. “You’re lucky I never told anyone who really designed the ‘secret Addison plan.’”

Ben laughed. “Don’t bring that up now.”

“I’m serious,” Lisa said. “You know I was the one who thought up that entire—”

“I know,” Ben interrupted. “You came up with the plan. You were the one who said to go to the marshals. You were the one who said it was my only hope. You were the one who said we should replace the executives. You were the one who said to isolate the criminal records. . . .”

“I was the one who said you should be proactive.”

“Absolutely,” Ben agreed. “You were the aggressive one. You had the idea. I was cocky about Grinnell, and you’re the one who wound up saving my ass.”

“Yet we had to share the credit,” Lisa said.

“Are you going to bring this up every time we get together?” Ben asked.

“Pretty much.”

“I never said I designed the plan,” Ben pleaded. “All I said was that I wrote it up for DeRosa.”

“Based on my idea.”

“Based on your idea,” Ben repeated. “I told them that. What else do you want me to say?”

“I want you to say: Lisa deserves all the credit—I’m just her meek and lowly servant.”

“Y’know, there are worse things than sharing the spotlight. I mean, it’s not like you’ve been completely ignored.”

“I have too been ignored.”

“How many job offers did you receive this week? A dozen?”

“Fourteen, actually. And The New York Times is doing a profile that runs next Sunday. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel slighted. The way I see it, you shouldn’t have opened your mouth in the first place.”

Ben grabbed a nearby pillow and whipped it at Lisa’s head. “Don’t give me that! Eric was the one who screwed up—he was the one who gave both of us credit for designing it. And when the rest of the press picked up on it—”

“You couldn’t deny it.”

“I tried to deny it,” Ben laughed. “But at that point it was too late. The King of the Court was born.”

“Don’t say those words in front of me,” Lisa warned.

“If it makes you feel better, you can call me Sovereign.”

“I should call you Court Jester.”

“Fine, call me Jester. Whatever makes you happy,” Ben said. “But if you have to know the truth, I really am sorry. And grateful.”

“I know you are. I just want you to learn your lesson.” Pleased to see Ben smiling, Lisa said, “Y’know, I like you much better when you’re happy.”

“Me, too,” Ben said. “The way I see it, though, there are two types of people in this world . . .”

“Don’t start,” Lisa begged.

“I’m serious. There are two types of people in this world: winners and losers.”

“Let me guess which one you are.”

“In this situation, I’m both,” Ben explained. “That’s the only way to look at it.”

Lisa paused for a moment. “That’s fair. I’ll agree with that.”

“Thank you,” Ben said.

Lisa jumped from her seat and walked toward the couch. “Now that we’ve heard your wonderful analysis, can we get out of here? You said we’d have fun tonight.”

“I don’t want to have fun,” Ben said with a smile. “I’d rather stay in.”

“So you want to have a different kind of fun?” she asked, sitting down next to him.

“No,” Ben said, pulling away. “I just want to sit here and mope. Trust me, it’ll be tons of fun.”

“Moping is not an option. Get it out of your mind.”

“Is sulking an option? Because I can just as easily sulk if I can’t mope.”

“You’re not doing either.” Slowly, Lisa moved closer to Ben on the couch.

“Then what are we going to do? Pout? Brood? Fret?”

“Let me put it to you this way,” Lisa said. “In my mind, there are two types of people in this world: those who will sleep with me, and those who won’t.”

“Relax. I’m not in the mood.”

“Don’t give me that. You said when everything calmed down—”

“It hasn’t calmed down yet,” Ben said. “Besides, who says I’d even want to sleep with you?”

“Oh, that’s funny,” Lisa said. “But that game doesn’t work anymore. I saw you crying when Rick was slapping me around. You were worried about me.”

“Those tears had nothing to do with you. They were tears of anger. They were angry, hateful tears.”

“Sure they were,” Lisa said, inching closer to Ben.

“I’m serious,” Ben said. “Anyway, I can’t do it now. I have a lot on my mind. You saw me before—I’m depressed.”

“You’re not depressed.”

“I am depressed. And it’s going to take me a long time to get over it.”

“How long?” Lisa asked.

“A very long time. A long, long time.”

“So when are we going to fool around?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe never.”

“Ben—” Lisa warned.

“Fine. You talked me into it. But I want you to know I’m not going to like it.”

“You’ll like it.”

“Fine. I’ll like it. But the moment we’re done, this relationship is over. I’ve had enough of this nonsense.”

“Whatever you say,” Lisa agreed. She kissed Ben’s neck. “You’re in control.”


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