The Good Fight
The sound of her cell phone ringing woke Alicia Florick from a sound sleep. She reached for the phone on the nightstand and saw from the caller ID that it was Will. "Will?" she said, trying to keep the sleepiness out of her voice. "What's happened?"
"I need to see you," Will said. The words were from the familiar verbiage they used to maintain their clandestine affair, but his tone was tight and urgent in a way that wasn't lustful or seductive.
Alicia sat up on the bed. "Is something wrong?" she asked.
"I need to talk to you," Will said.
"OK, talk," Alicia said. She had a really bad feeling that whatever it was he wanted to say wasn't going to be something she wanted to hear.
"Not like this," Will said. "I need to tell you in person."
"It's the middle of the night," Alicia said. "I have the Monroe case in the morning, and my kids…"
"I know," Will said. There was silence for a moment and then he said, "Please, Alicia."
Alicia closed her eyes, took in a breath and released it. She hadn't heard him use that word, not like that, with earnestness and sincerity, in a long time. "OK," she said. "Where?"
"My place," Will said. "Thank you."
They both hung up, and Alicia got out of bed and dressed quickly in a navy pants suit with a light blue blouse beneath the jacket. She threw on a pair of shoes, a superficial coating of makeup, tossed her phone in her purse, and opened her bedroom door.
Alicia found her son standing in the hallway. "Zach, what are you doing up?" she asked quietly, trying not to wake Grace as well.
"I heard the phone ring," Zach said. "Is something wrong? Is it Dad?"
"No," Alicia said, herding him back toward his room. "It's just work," she said.
"This late?" Zach said.
"Clients have problems all hours of the day and night," Alicia said. At the doorway of his room she said, "Go back to sleep. I should be back in an hour; I don't think this will take long. You have that test today, right? You need your sleep."
"OK," Zach said, although he didn't seem entirely convinced by her story. Alicia grabbed her keys and left the apartment, trying not to think of the reasons that Will would insist on seeing her in the middle of the night.
"Thank you for coming," Will said when he opened the door dressed in a t-shirt and jeans. Alicia didn't say anything in response, just walked past him. "I know this is an awkward…"
"I'm here," Alicia said. "So talk. I need to get back to my kids."
Will closed the door. He stood there looking at her for a moment, having second thoughts about whether this was the right thing to do. But he knew that was why he had decided to do it this way, because if he waited any longer he would never do it. "I'm being investigated," he said. He figured that was the worst of it, so he threw that one out first.
"Investigated?" Alicia said. "For what?"
"Judicial impropriety," Will said. He walked over to the table where he had left a half-drained glass of scotch. "The state's attorney's office is investigating an allegation that I've gotten judges involved in gambling so that I could use their debts against them to influence their decisions. It's a very complex scheme." He took a swallow of the scotch and closed his eyes while it burned a path down his throat. When Alicia didn't speak he opened his eyes; he couldn't read the look on her face. She was a good lawyer that way, as well as a lot of others.
"And?" she said finally.
"It's BS," Will said, "but it isn't going to go away."
"Because of Peter," Alicia said.
"Because of us," Will said. He emptied the glass and set it down. "I talked to Peter a couple of weeks ago," he said. "It's personal. That's all it is. I thought they were going after me to get to a client, but that isn't the case. It's just personal."
Alicia went over to the black sofa in the middle of the room, in front of the large TV and stereo and next to the windows that looked out over an amazing view of Chicago, and sat down. "You talked to Peter about this a couple weeks ago," she said.
"I thought it was something I could handle," Will said.
"And you thought you wouldn't tell me – and then you would just lie to my face when I asked if you saw him," Alicia said. "Does that sum it up?"
"I didn't see a reason to discuss it," Will said. "They were trying to dig around in something that was already dead and buried…"
"Something else?" Alicia said.
"A gambling debt of mine," Will said. "I covered it in a way I shouldn't have, but it turned out all right. It was years and years ago. It wasn't anything they could get me with."
"But this is," Alicia said.
Will shook his head. "I don't know," he said. "If they get people to say things – pressure people – they might be able to work it."
"And have you disbarred," Alicia said. "Destroy the firm." She put her hands over her face for a moment, then lowered them. "Does Diane know?" she asked.
"Yes," Will said. "Wendy Scott Carr is the special prosecutor, and she talked to Diane." He hesitated a moment and then let the other shoe drop, "Diane also knows about us."
"She seems to have suspicions," Alicia said.
"She knows," Will said. "She thinks that if we end it the SA's office will back off me, and it will save the firm. She told me to end it." He walked over to the sofa and sat down close to Alicia. She was so beautiful; part of him wanted to just grab her and kiss her and pretend that all of this wasn't happening. It hurt to see how she looked at him when she finally brought her gaze to his. He wanted to hold her and tell her to forget about it. He wanted to tell her that he loved her, more than he had expected to or even wanted. But he knew he had to wait and let her have her say now that he had finished his.
"Is that why you called me?" Alicia asked. "Is that what this is, you ending it?"
"You wanted this," Alicia said. "You pushed for it. And now when things are difficult for you, now you want to break it off and save yourself." She stood up. "You know I thought you were a better man than Peter, Will, but you are just the same. You use people and you hurt people, and underneath it all your only concern is yourself."
Will stood up. "That isn't true," he said. "I've been agonizing over…"
"I'm sure you have," Alicia said. "It sure would be hard to give up the no-strings booty calls just to pull your ass out of the fire." She took a step away, but Will grabbed her arm. "Let me go, Will. It's over."
"That isn't what I want," Will said. "None of this is what I wanted." He let go of her. "I thought when you and I, when we got together it would be something different than this. It wasn't about no-strings booty calls. I wanted the strings."
"It doesn't matter anymore," Alicia said.
"Yes, it does," Will said. "I'm worried about what the investigation will lead to. Hell, I'm damn scared. If they take me down, if they use this to destroy the firm…"
"Just do what you need to do, Will," Alicia said. "Save the firm."
"That isn't what I need," Will said.
Alicia turned and looked at him. "This thing between us isn't going to work," she said. "Maybe it's for the best that…"
"Peter wins?" Will said. "It's for the best that Peter wins again? That he uses some trumped up charge to take me out of this?"
"You've already said that he won't give up, and you can't fight it…"
"I can't fight it alone," Will said. "He'll destroy me, everything I am and everything I've built. If I'm alone in this I can't do it. That's why I called you…I asked you to come here…because I want you to fight with me."
Alicia said nothing, just stood there no more than a foot away from him, looking in his eyes in silence. Then finally she said, "I don't know, Will. I don't know if I can do that." She turned away then and left without another word.