A/N: This story begins shortly after Brenda goes to work for the DA's office.
Fritz woke up first and rolled over to look at his wife. She had peeled off the covers sometime during the night and he lay there appreciating the beauty in the curve of her back and hips and her shimmering, long blonde hair deliciously tangled around her neck and shoulders. She was perfectly framed against the background of the green sheets and he thought even Degas and Monet would find the sight of her inspiring. But she was ever so much more than a beautiful body.
What did I ever do to deserve such a wonderful woman? he asked himself. He thought about all they'd been through in their relationship, about all the conflicts and heartaches. They had both paid a heavy price for their careers and for choosing each other. But, as he looked at his wife, he realized that it was a small price to pay for the happiness they had finally achieved. It was corny, he knew, but corny or not, he wished he could give her the sun, moon and stars. And as he looked at her, his desire grew until he could stand it no longer. He kissed her shoulder and she stirred so he continued feathering kisses down her back until she rolled over and his lips found hers. Then he continued kissing down her body until her intensity matched his. This was their heaven. They were both sure of it.
Brenda picked up the stack of progress reports and statistical analyses and left the monthly Community Safety Resources Committee meeting and walked back to her office. She hated those COSARC meetings. Since the LAPD, the Sheriff's Office, the DA's Office and the Public Defender's Office were all headed by powerful men who all had different roles to play, they were always in opposition to one another. They spent most of their time maintaining a facade of working together but in reality, working to protect their own positions. While Brenda knew that these meetings should be a good thing, her experience told her that if they continued the current pattern, someone in the mix was going to get short-changed. That was usually the victim and that was simply unacceptable to Brenda. The head of each department was, after all, a political animal and interested in protecting his own turf more than the victims of violent crime. She had no patience and even less respect for that attitude.
As she entered her office, her irritation lifted as she focused her attention on her own work, something that she felt would actually serve the people of Los Angeles. Her secretary Linda handed her a pile of telephone messages. She could put most of them off for a couple of hours but the message from DDA Grainger said it was urgent. She handed most of the stack of meeting materials to Linda for filing and walked into her office, sank into her chair and dialed DDA Grainger's extension.
She was relieved when Mrs. Grainger didn't answer so she was able to get away with a brief voice mail message before diving into the work building up in her In Basket. Brenda wanted to finish reviewing and responding to everything and get out of the office without taking any work home. She and Fritz had a dinner date that evening so it was important that she leave work on time.
About an hour later, Linda opened her door and asked her if she wanted her to pick up something for lunch. Brenda, anticipating a delicious dinner, asked for a salad with low fat ranch dressing and a Diet Coke and withdrew a $20 bill from her purse. As she handed it to Linda she smiled and said, "Thank you, Linda. I don't know what I would do without you."
Brenda was eating her salad with one hand and turning pages in a case file with the other when Linda buzzed her again saying that DDA Grainger had asked to meet with her.
"Can you give her an appointment for tomorrow mornin'?"
"She's insisting on meeting with you this afternoon, Chief Johnson."
"Of course she is," Brenda sighed.
Marian Grainger was a plump, gray haired whirlwind who had a reputation for making or breaking the rules whenever she felt Justice would be served. Her knowledge of the law was probably the best in the DA's Office and she never violated it, but her toes were well acquainted with the legally drawn lines.
She was a sixty something career DDA who had always made it clear that her issues were more important than anyone else's. While she almost never lost a case, her success was just as often based on the fact that she evaluated the defendants carefully and was not opposed to striking rather generous deals. She would even withdraw the charges unless she was convinced in her own mind that the suspect was guilty as charged and beyond redemption. But despite her paradoxical soft spot for some defendants, she had the earned reputation of a tough litigator. Other attorneys and even some judges walked a wide circle around her.
"Ok. Give her a 3:00 appointment. And if she comes early just have her wait," she said and turned back to her files.
Promptly at 3:00 Linda buzzed Brenda and said that DDA Grainger was there for her appointment so Brenda threw her salad container and her Diet Coke cup into her waste basket and greeted Mrs. Grainger as she entered her office.
"Thank you for seeing me this afternoon, Chief Johnson," Mrs. Grainger said as Brenda invited her to take a seat. "Taking a late lunch at your desk today? I used to do that but now that I'm getting older I find I function better if I skip lunch," she said cheerily.
"You're welcome, Mrs. Grainger. What can I do for you this afternoon?" Brenda asked, deliberately ignoring the small talk. She didn't want to be rude. She just didn't have the time for an extended meeting with anyone.
"The LAPD is investigating a murder case. The victim is a minister's wife who was stabbed 38 times with a butcher knife. They have arrested the couple's only child, their fourteen year old daughter." As she spoke she handed Brenda a series of very gory crime scene photos. While Brenda examined them Mrs. Grainger continued, "The daughter, Emily Solis, made the 911 call and confessed to the murder. And because she confessed to planning the murder in advance, Chief Taylor is pushing me to offer a plea agreement of life without parole."
"And you don't agree?"
"Initially her attorney, Ben Stroud, recommended a plea of insanity. But now he is making an excellent case for a plea of innocence."
"I see. Are you gonna want Investigations to arrange for the appropriate evaluations?"
"No. We've already begun the exams."
"Wait a minute. You've already begun the exams before we've officially gotten the case?"
"Yes. Everyone agreed it was important to start the evals as soon as possible due to Emily's age and the circumstances."
"Who is 'everyone'?"
"Chief Taylor, Emily's attorney and myself."
"DDA Grainger, you do realize that Investigations has to sign off on those evals before they can be authorized."
"Yes, but I thought an exception was in order…"
"I see," Brenda interrupted, her annoyance evident in her voice. "I hope you realize that I'll have to take this to DA Corning in order to get authorization to pay for them."
"I don't think he'll see a problem," Marian replied evenly.
"What is the problem, then?"
"The evaluations are not finished yet and they're not going well so Chief Taylor is insisting on making the plea deal. Apparently he wants the case closed as soon as possible because they're overloaded."
Brenda remembered that kind of pressure but she didn't want to focus on that. "What is the basis for Mr. Stroud's position?"
"Emily spends a great deal of time talking to people who are not there. The matrons at Juvie confirmed this to me."
"Are we talkin' multiple personality disorder, or schizophrenia?"
"I don't know. The psychiatrist and psychologist both say they need more time with her. She's been in counseling for a couple of years, but with a ministerial counselor. Before the murder she'd never been seen by a psychiatrist. And the only psychologist who had seen her was a school psychologist."
"All right. Anythin' there?"
"The school psychologist didn't diagnose her but he did urge her parents to take her to a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, their follow through was limited to the ministerial counselor."
"Well, it certainly sounds like she needs to be evaluated. But you said she's already undergoin' evaluations, so why is this so pressin'?"
"The psychologist believes that she might not be the murderer. He says that she's unfocused, highly delusional and that one of her possible voices describes what he believes is Emily's reaction to coming home from school and finding her mother's body and the bloody crime scene. He believes she has internalized what she discovered and that she might not actually have committed the crime."
"I've dealt with Mr. Stroud before and I know he is capable of presentin' evidence to that effect in court, Mrs. Grainger. But tell me what would have motivated Emily to kill her mother?"
"Her parents had forbidden her to see her boyfriend again because he doesn't share their religious beliefs."
"Well, that's a classic motivator for a teenager. But what can Investigations do?"
"I would like you to investigate this case, Chief Johnson. You had such a high success rate when you were in charge of Major Crimes and..."
"Mrs. Grainger, I can't do that. My job description does not extend to takin' over open LAPD cases. Besides, if I were to try to investigate this case Chief Pope would raise holy hell with Steve and he would raise hell with me."
"I hear that Chief Taylor has asked Sharon Raydor to get involved in some unknown capacity. I have nothing against the work that she has done but she's still new and, let's face it, she just doesn't have your particular skills."
"Well, thank you, Mrs. Grainger. But I simply cannot conduct a second investigation, especially on an open LAPD case. But I'll tell you what we can do. We can discuss this with DA Corning and see what he has to say." She picked up the phone and asked to meet with her boss. "All right, thank you, sir." Hanging up the phone she turned back to DDA Grainger and said "He'll see us tomorrow mornin' at 11:30."
"Thank you, Chief Johnson," Mrs. Grainger replied and got up to leave Brenda's office.
"Oh, please leave the file, if you don't mind. I'd like to read it first thin' tomorrow mornin'. Thank you."
Brenda and Fritz were having dinner with Jerry and Annette Oakes at The Onyx. Fritz had been urging Brenda to socialize more with his co-workers so the two couples had gone out to dinner several times. While the whole social scene was still awkward for Brenda, she really liked Annette. But she was suspicious that Jerry still held the official FBI opinion that she was demon possessed. Even though she wasn't as comfortable with him, she had to admit that lately he seemed to be more relaxed around her so she, in turn, responded by relaxing more around him. Fritz enjoyed watching Brenda's and Annette's relationship grow and was hopeful that his wife would come to enjoy an occasional night out with other couples as much as he did.
And Fritz certainly enjoyed The Onyx. He appreciated the fact that the owner had resisted the urge to pack the tables too close together once the positive reviews started drawing more and more patrons. He especially loved their prime rib and the anticipation of that gastronomic delight had been causing his mouth to water all day. Brenda loved their filet of sole but it was their desserts that she had been anticipating. Actually, she always wished she could just order the entire dessert menu. But it wasn't the array of sweets that was capturing her attention tonight, and it wasn't the soft strains of the jazz band playing, either.
The Oakes had just returned from a luxury Hawaiian cruise and they were brimming with excitement, telling wonderful stories about beautiful places. But it was the photographs they shared that had Brenda and Fritz positively drooling.
"I've been to Hawaii before but I've never taken a cruise and I didn't see all of these places. I would do anythin' to take a cruise like this," Brenda sighed.
Fritz agreed but said, "We're saving for a house so we can't afford anything like this right now."
When Jerry saw Brenda nodding in agreement he said, "That's the best part. It was free. And you don't have to choose Hawaii. There are several destinations you can choose from."
"They even paid for our airfare to Hawaii. Of course we had to pay for everything we did at the different ports of call but all our food and entertainment on board the ship was free," Annette interjected.
Jerry agreed. "It was easily the best and the cheapest vacation we've ever taken."
"Free? How did you get it for free?" Brenda was definitely intrigued.
"I have a friend who works for Onsite Research Associates," Annette explained. "She basically writes research surveys for various marketing consultants and study institutions who want to learn more about human behavior, functioning, that kind of thing. Well anyway, she told me about a survey she had written for a behavioral science research consortium about the sexual practices of people over forty." Annette saw Brenda visibly backing up so she added, "Now, I'm not saying that the questions were easy to answer but it was completely anonymous so it wasn't that horrible. And the reward was definitely worth it."
Fritz's voice was loaded with skepticism. "Why would any legitimate group offer something so expensive in return for just a survey?"
"They tried to get participation with lesser incentives but people over forty are just not that eager to share their sexual experiences. Several millions of federal dollars as well as future government contracts were at stake so they felt they needed to up the ante. They went searching for a commercial partner who could benefit from the results of the research and the travel industry was a good fit," Jerry explained. "They're basically using unsold cabins and the ships are sailing anyway. And I'm sure they figure that they're building future business."
"I guess that makes sense. Middle aged and older people have the time and money for travel," Fritz agreed and added, "If the cruises were offered by the travel industry they wouldn't even cost that much."
"And younger people don't need the incentive to share their personal sexual histories. Good grief, you can get it straight from Instagram and Tumblr!" Jerry added. When he saw Brenda smile at that he continued, "They needed a larger sample so they extended the survey. It's still open. You and Brenda should look into it," he urged Fritz.
"Oh, I don't think we..." Brenda was getting embarrassed just thinking about it but she was interrupted by Annette.
"You should check it out. Look, I'm not saying the survey is easy. It's very personal and very intrusive. But you are identified only by a number. You never have to give your name."
Fritz's interest level was rising. "If we were interested, what would we have to do?" As soon as he asked the question he saw both astonishment and horror on Brenda's face.
Jerry saw it too so he just focused on Fritz. "The first thing to do is to call an 800 number. They'll ask for some demographic information over the phone. If you qualify, and I don't know why you wouldn't, they call you back in a couple of days and give you a serial number and a date and time for the interview. I think we've still got the phone number if you think you'd be interested."
"That's kind of you but..." Brenda said.
"Sure, thanks," Fritz said at the same time. Seeing the daggers Brenda was throwing at him, he turned to her and explained, "It wouldn't hurt to just check it out."
Annette saw Brenda's face starting to get red and she wasn't sure if it was from embarrassment or anger at Fritz so she quickly added, "The information they get from the phone call isn't bad at all. Fritz can take care of it if you like."
"Tell her about the interview," Jerry suggested.
"Ok. Some of it was very detailed and you have to agree up front to answer every question truthfully. But you never see the person asking the questions and she never sees you. It's kind of like a confessional booth situation. I was interviewed by a woman and Jerry was interviewed separately by a man. After the first few minutes it wasn't bad at all."
"How long does the interview last?" Fritz asked. He was clearly intrigued and Brenda was appalled.
"About an hour," Jerry replied.
Brenda was agitated and groaned audibly. She was as much agitated by Fritz's interest as by the subject matter.
"Just think about it," Annette said to her as the couples said good night. "It was a fabulous, low cost vacation and we couldn't have afforded it any other way. I know you'd love it as much as we did."
Driving home, Annette and Jerry discussed the evening. "Did you catch Brenda's body language?" When Jerry nodded Annette continued, "She seemed so repressed and embarrassed. I wonder if they even have a sex life."
"I don't know. Fritz doesn't talk about it but he doesn't seem to be repressed or frustrated to me."
"Well, if they do, I bet it's just once a year, in the missionary position, and in the dark," she commented dryly.
Also on the way home Brenda asked, "Fritzi, are you really interested in doin' this?"
"Honey, how else can we afford a fabulous vacation like that?"
"Well, we can't. But I could never answer those kinds of questions."
"Haven't you ever had to listen to people give explicit sexual details when you were doing an investigation?"
"Yes, of course. But I wasn't the one answerin' the questions."
"But asking the questions was just part of your job, right? Didn't you forget about it the minute you went on to the next case?"
"You'd just be a number. The person asking the questions isn't really interested in you. She'll just be doing her job, gathering information."
"You really want to do this, don't you?"
"I'd like us to make the call, yes. Look, I don't want to force you to do something you don't want to do. But if I were to make the call and you were to listen in, we'd have more information in making our decision. I don't want us to pass up the opportunity of a lifetime without learning as much as we can."
"I don't know," Brenda was definitely not convinced.
"You could just listen in on the extension. I would do all the talking."
Brenda was frustrated. She saw how much Fritz wanted to pursue this. "Why do you want to do this so badly?"
"Because I've never taken a cruise before. And it sounded like the vacation I've always wished I could give you."
"Oh, honey! I don't need a fancy vacation to be happy." Brenda's heart was beginning to melt.
"I love it that you're not high maintenance. But I still wish that that I could give you everything you deserve," Fritz admitted. "And you've had such a horrible year. I think this cruise would be good for both of us."
This got to Brenda and she sighed, "All right. I'll think about it." She saw Fritz smile so she quickly added, "But no makin' the phone call unless I say ok. And no makin' it without me listenin' in."
"Thank you," Fritz gave her hand a squeeze, "I promise, but you have to promise me to give the idea serious consideration."
"I promise too," Brenda sighed.
"Just think about the cruise, ok?"
Brenda didn't reply. She was trying to decide which was worse: completing the survey or once again disappointing Fritz.
To Be Continued…