He was late. The waiter, a redheaded, freckled boy of no more than seventeen approached the table with her salad.
"Are you sure your friend's coming?" asked the waiter, setting the bowl in front of her.
"He's coming," she answered shortly, "I'm not in a rush." She decided to hold off eating until Chris arrived. She looked down at her plate. Cherry tomatoes, spring greens, red pepper, purple onion, fresh raspberries, avocado, feta cheese, and chunks of fresh grilled salmon sprinkled with a balsamic vinaigrette. She smiled. Perfect.
"Something funny?" came a voice. She looked up to see Chris standing beside the table. He looked tense, even afraid. Inwardly, she sighed. She didn't want him to fear her.
"Please, have a seat." He took off his black trench coat and hung it on the chair, revealing a sky blue button-down shirt and yellow tie. He looked good, like he had dressed up. Tracey dismissed this thought quickly. Must be my imagination.
"Sorry I'm late," he said as he sat. "Gaffney needed us to check out some financials."
"No problem." The waiter returned.
"Can I get something for you?"
"I recommend their salads," suggested Tracey.
"I don't do salad." Chris turned to the young man. "I'll have the cheeseburger with fries." The waiter left them and Chris leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms defensively. The tension between them was palpable and Tracey was once again pained by the thought that Chris feared her.
"You're going to give yourself a coronary with a diet like that," she said, trying to sound light. He shrugged. She smiled tightly and leaned in, meeting his intense gaze.
"Look, Chris, I didn't invite you here so I could bust your chops." He relaxed slightly, but kept his arms crossed.
"So why did you invite me here? Not to increase my green vegetable intake," he said, trying to joke away the tension. Tracey sighed. She had rehearsed this discussion in her head beforehand but her carefully planned speech fell away. She didn't want to bullshit him.
"Look, Chris. It's clear you don't want to be working here. Everyone knows you spend work hours on the phone asking your old Lieutenant to take you back. Do you want to tell me why that is?" Chris didn't try to deny it but he was more sure than ever that he was about to be fired.
"Does it really matter?"
"It does if it's because of me," Tracey said quietly. Ever since Kelly had suggested her intimidation tactics might be behind Ravell's discontent, Tracey couldn't help but worry she might be right.
Chris looked surprised.
"You?" He shook his head. "I'm sorry if I did anything to make you think that. I mean, I'm not going to lie to you, you can be a bit of a hard ass, but no more than any of my former bosses." He was smiling. She raised her eyebrows and leaned back into her chair, steepling her long fingers.
"So what's the problem?" He paused. Joking was getting him nowhere so he decided to just tell the truth.
"Well, there's the reputation issue. Look at the other investigators on the team. Cops who've been injured so they can't to the job, cops who ought to be retired, and cops with jackets full of red flags. For someone in the prime of his career, you can't blame me for feeling like I took a demotion."
"The way I understand it, you took it for having a bad attitude," Tracey said matter-of-factly. Chris looked taken aback, then a bit hurt.
"Got evidence on that one, or is it just wishful thinking on your part?" he asked, on the defensive again. She smiled.
"Just a lot of rumours, innuendo, and hearsay. So what else, besides the reputation issue?"
"Well, it's harder to make alimony without all those overtime hours." She nodded.
"How long have you been divorced?" she asked, hoping he now understood that this meeting wasn't about firing or reprimanding him, but about rebuilding bridges.
"Six years. My ex and I haven't spoken except through our lawyers for five." He paused, then turned the conversation around.
"What about you? You ever been married?" Tracey shook her head and laughed as if the very idea was ridiculous.
"No. The job always came first. I always thought there'd be time later, but there were just always more murderers."
"There's time," Chris stated. She smiled wryly.
"Thanks." A moment later, the waiter returned with Chris's food. Tracey looked hard at Chris across the table. He sat relaxed back into his chair. She stared into his dark eyes before asking, "Do you think you can live with working for me?" He shrugged, finished chewing.
"Who knows?" he answered, "I might even start to like it."
When she returned to the office, Tracey felt relaxed, even light-hearted. She had just settled down into some paperwork when Kelly appeared in the doorway, carrying a file folder. She was wearing her grey sweater with the bow on the front, the one that made her look like a Catholic schoolgirl all over again. Tracey figured they must make quite a team: angel and devil, good cop and bad cop. Kelly handed her the file.
"Here's the brief for Judge Anderlee. Thought you might want to take a look before I send it over." Tracey shook her head.
"I trust your work, Kelly," she said, opening and glancing over the file nonetheless. While she perused its contents, Kelly asked, "So what did you say to Ravell anyway? I've never seen him so friendly." Tracey looked up from the folder.
"He was planning to watch the game on Sunday with Hector," she said as an example.
"Is that abnormal?" Tracey inquired.
"Never happened before, according to Hector, and I think he might have just asked me out on a date." Tracey's eyes widened.
"Chris? What did he say?" she demanded.
"Something along the lines of 'Kelly, I'm going out for coffee, would you like to come?' I'm not sure he meant anything by it," Kelly stated defensively, feeling like she'd said something she shouldn't have.
"Would you have wanted him to?" Tracey asked incredulously. She couldn't help but picture Chris and Kelly in a relationship. God, he'd run right over her. She'd never be able to stand up for herself. A fresh-faced idealist like Kelly didn't belong with a cynicist like Chris. Tracey knew she'd wanted Chris to feel more at home in the DA's office, but she'd never wanted him to start taking advantage of her ADAs.
Kelly shrugged, "I don't know. He seems nice enough."
"Nice?" Tracey scoffed. "Nice? Are you forgetting that he lied to us about what Tolbert told him? He's a jerk, Kelly. You deserve better than him." Kelly was a bit surprised by Tracey's reaction.
"Okay," Kelly said, "And I won't tell him you said that." She turned to leave, but Tracey stopped her.
"Wait," she said. Kelly turned. "What did you say to him?"
"That I had to give you this folder but maybe some other time, does it matter?" Kelly looked nervous. Tracey softened.
"I'm sorry," she said, "I just wanted to make sure you weren't going to get hurt." Kelly relaxed.
"It's okay. You're probably right."
When Kelly had left, Tracey sighed. She'd made a mistake, playing the prosecutor in her friendships again. And she knew she shouldn't have said those things about Chris, especially after her resolutions to give him a second chance.
Maybe he really will change, she thought.
"Didn't I tell you you were paranoid about being fired?" Hector said to Chris later when they were sitting at their desks.
"Yup. Tracey just wanted to…I don't know, talk about stuff...work." He didn't tell Hector about the other things they'd discussed: divorce, marriage, family, growing up. At one point in their lunch, while they were waiting for the bill, Chris had leaned across the table and asked, "Kibre. Is that a…I mean are you…?" He couldn't quite say it.
"A Red Sea pedestrian? Guilty as charged."
"My mother would love you," he laughed. Tracey smiled knowingly.
"Always pestering you to bring home a nice Jewish girl?"
"You've met her?" he joked. Then the bill came. Tracey pulled two twenties out of her wallet and left them on the table. She stood up and reached for her red coat.
"I can pay for mine," Chris offered. She shook her head and grinned.
"Well," Hector said, "For what it's worth, I'm glad you're sticking around."
"Thanks," replied Chris sincerely. He looked up to see that Hector had turned to the doorway and was looking out, a puzzled look on his face. Chris followed his sight line in time to see District Attorney Arthur Branch lumbering down the hall past their office.
"What do you suppose he wants?" Chris asked. Hector shook his head.
"Don't know, but it looks like he's headed to see Kibre." Chris stood up and grabbed his coat off the back of his chair. Pulling it on, he said, "I'm going to go see if Karen Davis can pick Kettlewell out of a photo array. Want to come?" Just then, Hector's cell phone rang. He checked his caller ID, then waved Chris away.
"No. I have to take this. I'll see you when you're done, okay?" Hector's manner was distracted.
"Sure," Chris replied, but Hector had already answered his phone.