"Could you say that again, Mr. Gold?"
"Of course." She could hear that devil's-grin of his over the phone. Whenever Eli smiled like that it always meant trouble. " Basically, you and Peter need to dress like Hugh Hefner and a Playboy Bunny at his next press conference."
Sitting in her office, Alicia Florrick stared fixedly off into the distance.
When she didn't respond, Eli seemed to take this as implied consent. "I've already got the costumes, you're going to look great. Every newspaper and television station in Cook County and the surrounding area will be on hand, I've made sure of that. With this one move we'll take both Scott-Carr and Childs, bend them over and shove each of their heads up the other's a-!"
Her husband's effusive campaign manager went silent. Alicia rested her elbows on the desk and covered her eyes. In this time, the first-year associate at Lockhart Gardner and Bond managed to decide upon the most salient point to address. It wasn't, 'Are you insane, Mr. Gold?' because Alicia was starting to think she knew the answer to that question already. Nor was it, 'Are you batshit insane, Eli?', also for obvious reasons. Instead, it went something like this:
"Why do we need to do this?"
"Ah! I'm glad you asked! You see, when your husband was doing time in general population, he apparently made quite a few friends amongst some of his fellow guests of the state. And it got me thinking: that right there is an entire segment of the population whom nobody is campaigning towards!"
"Mr. Gold, you do realize that as convicted felons they no longer have the right to vote?"
"What? C'mon, Alicia, don't be ridiculous. " He brusquely dismissed the statement. " I know that very well! I wasn't talking about the inmates, I was talking about their families! Well, the ones who didn't murder their families to get in there, that is."
Alicia had never felt more old than she did right then. She had known her husband's campaign for reelection to state's attorney was experiencing difficulties, but never had the dutiful spouse suspected it had gotten this bad. It was all she could do to keep a grip on the phone and continue to listen.
"You see many of those prisoners have regular communications with their families. And their opinions still hold weight with them! Peter's charm while in the big house was enough to get them interested…"
Alicia resolutely refused to think about what he might be referring to.
"… but we need to make a dramatic push! A solid, incontrovertible show of support for what those jailed men and women like to see in their politicians! They already know Peter's a scumbag like them…"
Again, her brain denied any attempt to follow that particular mental jaunt.
"… so now we give them solid proof that we know what they like to see on TV! Then at the next prison visit they extol the virtues of Candidate Florrick to their loved ones, who go home with their little hillbilly heads all aglow from the experience, and when voting day comes along, WHAM! Comeback from behind, my friend! We catch our opponents with their pants down, smack their sweaty cheeks and proceed to brutally butt-fu…!"
The ice in her voice could have frozen the Indian Ocean during the monsoon season. It even caused the formidable Eli Gold to stop and take note.
Alicia took a deep breath before continuing. "Mr. Gold, if you think for one second I am going to get up on television dressed as a Playboy Bunny then…!"
"Excuse me, Alicia, I think you've misunderstood me. That's not what I had in mind at all!"
She stared warily straight ahead into the bustling law firm right behind her window. "It isn't?"
"No, certainly not! What kind of fool do you take me for? Come on, I know you better than that!"
A faint flicker of hope was beginning to dawn. "Well, that's good, because…"
"Actually, Pete will be the Bunny. You'll be dressed as Heff."
"Yeah, I've already got a new nickname worked out for it. From now on we'll call him 'Peter Cottontail!' You get it? I ran the idea past your husband, he thinks it's great. Actually, he's the one who recommended you join him onstage! See, both of us agree that you look dynamite in a pantsuit, and from there it was a simple jump on over to the next best thing! He already phoned some of his buddies in the joint, and they plotzed! Up in arms at the idea, I heard it caused a riot, even! A happy riot!"
"Speechless, huh? Okay, then, lemme bend your ear on this idea. You know our campaign is hurting for money, so I just thought…"
As luck would have it, at that precise moment, Kalinda Sharma walked by Alicia's office with an assault rifle tucked under her arm.
The dumbstruck lawyer wasn't precisely certain how much time passed after that. She could hear Mr. Gold going on about something, but it wasn't really sinking in. When her overloaded brain at last came back online, all she got was the tail-end of his argument.
"… and that's the plan. What do you think?"
"Whatever," Alicia replied. Then she slammed the phone down and shot out into the hall.
In no time she had caught up with Kalinda. This wasn't hard, since there was no traffic owing to everyone else in the office either staring in disbelief or flinging themselves out of the way at the sight of the petite woman casually lugging a tremendous firearm through their midst. Slowing upon approach so as not to startle her, Alicia took up step beside her friend.
The caramel-skinned beauty didn't break stride, acknowledging Alicia's presence without bothering to look at her. Kalinda's face was as calm and reserved as ever.
Alicia trailed off after realizing that she hadn't known what precisely to say after that opener. For a while they just walked together through their firm's legal offices. Frightened stares followed their backs.
At the risk of sounding very stupid, Florrick finally pointed at the gun and said, "Kalinda, what's that?"
To her immense relief, the in-house investigator did not respond with a withering look or a scornful comment as one might think. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately however you may look at it, she simply replied, "An M16-A4 assault rifle."
More walking. Alicia was starting to wonder exactly where they might be going.
"I got it from some pals on the police force." Sharma offered this information with as little interest as a lady might volunteer where she bought a new purse.
Could this be something they needed for a case? Alicia couldn't remember any litigation that involved semi-automatic weapons. Not that she was in the know on absolutely every bit of business their law firm had taken on, but certainly something like that would have at least generated gossip around the water cooler.
Suddenly her trusted accomplice drew to a dead halt and turned to face a certain office.
"Stand back for a minute, would you, Alicia?"
She did as asked. One knew better than to cross the mysterious maven even when she wasn't packing all that firepower.
Right then it felt like Alicia's thoughts kicked back into gear from whatever neutral setting they had been operating in. Hey, come to think of it, isn't that the office of the new in-house investigator, what's-his-name, Butch or Brutus or B-
Kalinda threw the safety on her weapon, sighted down the barrel and depressed the trigger.
The M16 perforated the door, blew the glass wall to pieces and sent the whole thing cascading to the floor in a waterfall of pulverized shards. By this point Alicia was on her knees with hands over her head. Vaguely she caught the frightened screams of her coworkers, but it was drowned out by the sound of gunfire.
Before her Kalinda stood braced from the recoil while casually emptying her clip into the room. Wood chips flew as the door fell apart, allowing a clear view of what was happening. Furniture exploded from the high-powered rounds to send stuffing and feathers flying about. The desk split in half with a tremendous crack to cave in under its own weight. A glass coffee table became an empty metal frame in an instant. The desk lamp went spinning into the air like a top to crash into the bookshelf, whose sparsely stocked shelves were soon further denuded, the literary contents reduced to scraps of tissue paper.
Eventually the sound of gunfire ceased. After a few seconds Alicia carefully looked up to see Kalinda examining her handiwork with a critical eye, the gun still smoking in her hands. Then she casually hoisted the weapon up to her shoulder and walked away without a word.
Somehow Alicia found herself rising to follow, eventually catching up. Crossing her arms uncomfortably and casting furtive sidelong glances at her companion, she strove to overcome her shock. The first question that came to mind was simple.
"What was that all about?"
Kalinda merely shrugged. "Can't say, I didn't see anything."
Ah. Of course. Makes perfect sense. Next up…
"Was anybody in there?"
The other brunette soldiered on as cool as ice. "Dunno. That wasn't the point."
"Really?" Alicia glanced back over her shoulder to see many terrified eyes peering from behind doorframes. "Really, Kalinda? Because I thought opening fire with an M16 in a crowded office building didn't have too many different interpretations!"
That tone earned her a single glance from one sharp black eye. "It's no big deal, Alicia. I was just sending a warning."
"Sending a warning. That…" she pointed back to the wreckage behind them, "... was just a warning?"
And finally Kalinda stopped walking. She turned and fixed Alicia with a smile of fixed high-school-yearbook rigidity. It was definitely not meant to offer comfort.
"Trust me, Alicia. If it were anything more, you wouldn't have had to ask."
And that seemed to be all Kalinda had to say on the subject, because she walked away leaving her staring in frank amazement.
Having being given a chance to consider her options, it finally dawned upon Alicia that perhaps she should go and report her understanding of recent events to those not currently in the know. With that, she headed in the direction of the senior partner's offices. Will's was the closest, and naturally it would be a good opportunity to prevent misunderstandings.
As she walked down the deserted corridor, her keen lawyer's eye noted that up ahead there were a lot of bullet holes in the walls as a result of Kalinda's 'message'. Hopefully nobody in back of that room had been caught in the fusillade. Come to think of it, whose workspace was situated behind that…?
When she realized where she was standing, a cold pit of dread settled in her stomach.
The glass partition separating Will's suite from the rest of the surroundings was no longer evident, allowing her to step right in without bothering with the door. Standing in that once cozy and desirable office, it was evident that hardly anything had managed to survive. The windows were broken, the trappings and law books were riddled with holes. In fact, the only thing that wasn't damaged seemed to be…
He was sitting in a chair with his feet propped on the desk. Her boss appeared to be frozen in the act of throwing his cherished baseball up in the air. This selfsame object now lay in his lap with a very prominent hole blown through it. Hands up near his face to catch the collector's item, his gaze remained rooted to one spot on the ceiling. She might have thought he was dead were it not for the sweat dripping in rivulets down his cheeks.
"Will?" Alicia asked again as she edged over to him. "Are you… all right?"
After a few seconds he finally blinked. Those wide frightened eyes slowly made the circuit of the room until they connected with hers.
"Is it over?" he rasped from deep in his throat.
His longtime friend gave a slow nod. She looked around. It appeared as if every bullet had missed him. Considering how the rest of his office was vaporized, that was pretty damn lucky.
"Well," she finally decided, "I guess I'll go… call the custodian."
"Yeah," Will gasped without moving a muscle. "Yeah, good call. Thanks, Alicia!"
"Y'know, we should do dinner sometimes!"
Normally she would have been glad to take him up on the offer, but considering that he had apparently lost the ability to move, at this time it held no appeal for her.
"Sure, Will. Later, I promise."
"Great. Well, I should let you get back to work. I'll be here if anyone needs me!" He then resumed keeping very, very still.
"Right." And with that she went out the way she came in.
The light on Will's phone blinked, and his personal assistant's voice came through. "Mr. Gardner, you asked me to remind you that you're having lunch with the Chicago Cubs manager today."
"Thank you, uhhh... personal assistant."
"Oh, and your girlfriend called to let you know if you fall in love with her she's breaking up with you." There was a meaningful pause on the other end. "That makes eighteen times she's done that this week, sir. May I recommend that you just tell her you love her already? Because I'm quitting if I have to put up with this for much longer."
"Could you do it for me? I have bad luck with that type of thing."
"Goodbye, sir." And the line went dead.
When the knock came at the door of her apartment that night, Alicia answered immediately, having been expecting company regarding today's fiasco. It was rather surprising it had taken the police this long to approach her.
What she had not been expecting was to see Eli Gold in a stocking cap holding two huge duffel bags stuffed with cash.
"Hey, Alicia! Hurry up and close the door!" he declared brightly as he invited himself in. She found herself awkwardly holding one of the duffel bags in that same moment. "Thanks for agreeing to stash the money here. It'll take me a few days to get it really working for us!"
"W-what?" she stammered.
"Mom?" Her two children came walking into the foyer. Eli pulled off his stocking cap and beamed at them.
"Hey, kids! It's your Uncle Eli! Here, hold onto this for me, will you?" He then flung the remaining duffel bag over to Zack, who collapsed backwards under its weight. After this Eli pulled a very large shiny pistol from his pocket and handed it to Grace. "Hide this somewhere, okay? Good girl!" While the family remained stunned by his entrance the smooth-talking shark quickly headed over to the windows and shut the blinds. Peering out between the slats, he announced, "I think I lost them. Man, what a ride!" Eli turned and wiped his forehead with a laugh. "Who would've thought bank cops could drive that hot?"
Alicia looked down at the money bag, then up at Eli in horror. "You ROBBED a BANK?"
"I told you, the coffers are dry! Don't worry, nobody got hurt! Peter's ditching the wheels right now…"
"PETER was in on this?"
"…. And then we'll just have to devise a way to pin it all on Childs! Shouldn't be too hard. At any rate, Alicia," and he walked up to her and gripped her shoulders, "the important thing is that you're a good wife, and soon Peter will be fighting crime as State's Attorney again. God, I love America!"
He promptly flopped on her couch and fell asleep.
In the ensuing silence, the sound of sirens approaching was all too clear. And it was then that Alicia decided she should pour herself a drink.
When the police broke down the door, they were greeted by Hugh Hefner and a Playboy Bunny. The picture in the next day's paper of them being led away in handcuffs created a storm of support in the prison inmate populace, and a few months later, with Kalinda's help (she charmed her way out of it, of course), not only were the Florricks completely cleared of all charges, but Peter won the election by a landslide!
Any information as to the whereabouts of Eli Gold would be greatly appreciated by the authorities.