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A case of unintended consquences

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Previously: Don intervened when a robber took a hostage in a deli, only to get stabbed for his troubles.
Mac and Stella identified the perpetrators, but the DA decided to make plea bargains with all concerned. Mac promised Don that he’d keep the file on his case open, but Don just wanted it all to be over. Five months later, Don was back on the job when he was called to the scene of an armed robbery, only to discover that the same perpetrators were involved.
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Mac and Maka sat across from Alicia Stewart and her lawyer for the second time in less than six months. This time however, Alicia was looking considerably less composed than she had been before. Mac knew that she was aware that both her and her sister Emily’s rooms at their parent’s home had been searched the previous day. He knew that she knew that her sister was sitting in another interrogation room with *her* lawyer. What she didn’t know, what she couldn’t know for sure was what forensic evidence Lindsay and Hawkes had collected and processed and was now sitting in the files on the table before them.

“Let’s start with the gun, shall we?” Mac put a photograph on the table between them. “This gun was taken from the body of Nathan White following an attempted armed robbery. Do you recognize it?”

Alicia glanced at her lawyer, who nodded at her. “If you say it’s Nathan’s gun, I’ll have to take your word for it,” she said. “I don’t know anything about guns.”

“You said in your original statement that you didn’t know that Nathan had a gun with him when you went on your ‘date’. Is that correct?”

“Yes,” Alicia nodded, “I would never have gone anywhere with him if I’d known he was armed.”

“So, Nathan never showed the gun to you at any point? Never took it out to brag about it?”

“NO!” snapped Alicia, “I’ve already told you; I didn’t know he had a gun with him.”

“Detective Taylor,” Alicia’s lawyer intervened, “My client has already answered your question.”

Mac ignored him and continued, “So if I were to tell you that I’d found your fingerprints on the gun, what would you say to that?”

A smug look appeared on Alicia’s face as she answered, “I’d say that you were lying to me, trying to coerce a confession.”

Mac nodded, “Yes, you could be right about that. That’s why I’m showing you this forensic report which confirms that your fingerprints were indeed found…on the bullets in the gun.”
A wave of satisfaction came over Mac as he watched the color drain from Alicia’s face. He quickly pressed his advantage. “We’ve also confirmed that this gun was the one taken from one Detective Flack during the course of an earlier armed robbery.” Mac pushed a copy of the report across the table to the lawyer who glanced quickly through it.

“And there’s more,” added Mac. “Yesterday, as you and your lawyer know, we executed a search warrant on your parent’s house. Do you recognize this scarf?” Another photograph was placed on the table.

Alicia shook her head, “No,” she said, her voice so low that Mac and Maka could barely hear her.

“No? Strange, because we found it in *your* dresser.”

“I suppose that a fashion plate like you,” said Maka, “Probably has so many scarves that you forget what some of them look like.”

“We tested the scarf and found traces of gun oil. You see, Detective Flack is very conscientious when it comes to keeping his weapons well maintained. We matched the trace on the scarf to the same brand of gun oil that he used on his service weapon.”

“That’s circumstantial evidence at best,” interrupted the lawyer, “I’m sure that many gun owners use the same brand.”

“Perhaps,” said Mac, “But we also matched a fiber found on the gun to that same scarf.” He pulled another report from the file and shoved it across the table. The lawyer picked it up and scanned through it, glancing uncomfortably at Alicia when he’d finished.

Mac continued speaking, “Let me tell you what I think happened. After you’d stabbed Detective Flack and taken his gun, you returned to Nathan’s house along with your sister. You gave the knife back to Nathan to clean and replace. You probably didn’t realize that the knife had been damaged until it was too late to dispose of it. Or maybe you thought that an empty space in the display case would attract too much attention. Either way, you were likely sure that we’d never find it. But you didn’t tell the others that you still had the gun, you and Emily wanted to keep that for yourselves.”

 

“NO! It wasn’t me!” Alicia’s voice cracked slightly. “I didn’t take the gun…”

“You were just hiding it, were you?” asked Mac, “Holding it for somebody else?”

“Yes,” said Alicia, hastily, “I mean no, I…we just didn’t want to get in trouble…”

“We?” You mean you and Emily?” Mac kept his voice carefully neutral.

“Alicia,” interrupted her lawyer, “I don’t think you should say anything more until we’ve had a chance to discuss this.” He glared at Mac, “In private.”

“You might want to talk fast,” said Maka. “You see we’ve already spoken to Emily and shown her the same evidence, and she wasn’t too happy about it either.”

Mac continued, “I think that you and Emily have had Detective Flack’s gun in your possession ever since one of you took it from him after you’d stabbed him. I think that you kept it because you knew we didn’t have enough for a search warrant five months ago, and maybe you figured your little gang could get back in action and up the stakes by using a gun rather than a knife. But you didn’t count on your friends deserting you and your little ‘study group’ being disbanded.”

Maka had interviewed the remaining three members of the study group again and each of them had claimed that following their plea agreements that their respective parents had banned them from having anything to do with either Nathan or the Stewart twins again. Tara had also reluctantly confirmed that Nathan hadn’t been the only one whose social life at school had been affected. “Everybody knew that Alicia and Emily were the ringleaders, and nobody wanted to take the chance of being caught up in another of their schemes.” Maka had checked with the school principal and confirmed it to Mac. “The twins got bumped from pretty much every extra-curricular activity going. Prom committee, school newsletter. Nobody wanted their input on anything.”

“You both blamed Nathan for snitching on you and ruining your fun. And you tried to punish him by making sure he was a social outcast at school. But that wasn’t enough for you. You wanted him to suffer. So, you convinced him that if he committed another robbery then you’d let bygones be bygones. But this time, he had to use a gun instead of a knife. And you picked a busy time of day, when you knew there’d likely be plenty of witnesses. My guess is that you planned for him to get caught holding the gun and whatever money he’d manage to get. Maybe you or Emily would call in an anonymous tip, get us to search Nathan’s home and find the gun. Or maybe you planned to have him be caught before he could leave the store. And then you’d just slip away in all the confusion, just like you did before.”

“It wasn’t me!” cried Alicia, “I had nothing to do with any of this. Somebody else must have put Nathan up to it. I’m the victim here.”

“The text messages we retrieved from Nathan’s phone say otherwise.”

“He said he’d deleted them…” Alicia bit back the words but it was too late, and a grim smile appeared on Mac’s face.

“Accessory after the fact to an armed robbery and assault on a police officer,” said Mac, ignoring her protests. “Attempted armed robbery and felony murder. You might want to check with your lawyer just how long a sentence each of those carries. But don’t worry,” he added, almost as an afterthought. “We’ll be charging Emily as well. With luck you might even get adjoining cells.”

“Detective Taylor,” Alicia’s lawyer wasn’t looking too happy. “Surely there must be some ‘agreement’ that can be reached?”

“I’m not making any deals today,” said Mac as he gathered the files together and stood up. “If your client wants to try and reduce her sentence, I’d suggest that she start with a full confession, preferably before her sister does.”

Maka followed Mac outside, “You do know that they probably will be able strike a deal with the DA?” she said cautiously, “Theoretically, if they each accused the other of being the instigator, a jury might consider that reasonable doubt.”

“True,” admitted Mac, “And they could well decide to take their chances in open court. But if they *do* try to make a deal, they’ll still have to admit to a conspiracy charge, and that will mean jail time.”

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Two days later, Mac had a sense of déjà vu as he stood outside the door to Don’s apartment, his hand raised to knock on the door. This time however, he was not surprised when Stella opened the door in response.
“I hope it’s not too late,” said Mac, as Stella stood aside to let him in. “I didn’t want this to wait until morning.”

“Well, you’ve missed dinner,” said Stella, forcing a smile on her face. Not that she was unhappy to see Mac, but she knew he’d been called to the DA’s office earlier that day and it didn’t take a genius to figure out why he was now here. “Come in, Don’s just finishing the dishes.”

Mac followed her into the living room and took a seat opposite the couch where Stella sat down. Don joined her a few seconds later. “Long time no see, Mac,” he said, lightly. “What brings you here?”

“I presume that Stella has been keeping you updated on the progress of the bodega shooting?” Mac said carefully. He watched as Stella’s hand searched out Don’s and squeezed it gently.

“Yeah,” said Don, “Well as much as she can, given that you’ve been keeping her out of the loop as well.” He held up his free hand to stop Mac’s response, “It’s okay, I know why it has to be like that.”

“Well, I’m here tonight to update you on everything,” said Mac. He smiled, “It’s good news this time, well, better than the last time.”

Mac hoped that Don would see it the same way. It had taken a few more sessions in interrogation, and a lot of arguing back and forth between both sets of lawyers and the DA’s office, but finally plea agreements had been reached, which if not exactly satisfactory to any party concerned, had at least seen some measure of justice served in Mac’s opinion. Alicia had initially tried to blame James and Tara for the robbery at Wu’s Deli, claiming that they had been the ones who had stabbed Flack and stolen his gun and then given it to Nathan. “I must have taken her scarf by mistake that night,” she’d told Mac.

“And did you also mistakenly handle the bullets as well?” Maka had asked her, sarcastically, before pointing out that they had eyewitness testimony from Flack that had ruled out Tara as his attacker.

Alicia’s lawyer had eventually convinced her to stop digging a hole for herself and she and Emily had both ended up making another plea bargain with the DA’s office.

“They’re going to admit to a charge of conspiracy to commit armed robbery at Wu’s Deli,” Mac told Don and Stella. “And accessories after the fact to an assault on a police officer. In return, the DA isn’t going to prosecute them on a felony murder charge for the bodega robbery. They’ll both be treated as adults and will have to serve at least eight years before they’re eligible for parole.” He hesitated before continuing, “I know it’s not enough, not for what they’ve done, what they put you through…”

“It’s more than we got five months ago,” said Don, quietly. “What about the bodega owner? Is he gonna cop any heat for shooting that Nathan kid?”

Mac hadn’t anticipated that that would be Don’s first question, but he wasn’t entirely surprised, “It’s been deemed self-defense. In other circumstances he’d be called a hero for saving a hostage’s life.”

“Instead, he has to live with shooting a kid who was manipulated by two sociopaths,” said Stella, grimly.

“Nathan made his own choices,” said Mac. “He could have walked away from Alicia and Emily, but instead he went along with them, he took the gun into the bodega.”

“My gun,” said Don. Stella and Mac looked at him.

“This isn’t on you, Don,” said Stella, “You’re not to blame for any of this.”

“If I’d been able to hang onto my gun, they wouldn’t have had it to give to Nathan,” said Don. He took a deep breath before continuing, “But from what you’ve told me, if they hadn’t had my gun, they’d have probably found another weapon and this would all have played out the same way. Maybe the bodega owner would have hesitated to shoot if Nathan had had a knife instead of a gun, maybe not. That’s on him, but all this happens because some spoiled little rich kids wanted to play cops and robbers and picked the robbers’ side. That’s on them. I wish it hadn’t gone down like it did, but there’s nothing I could’ve done to change it.”

Mac stayed for a little while longer, answering all the questions that Stella hadn’t been able to ask him during the course of the investigation. Don had stayed silent for the most part, occasionally asking with a wry smile for Mac to translate something into ‘proper English’.

This time it was Don who escorted Mac to the door when he left. “Don, I’m sorry we didn’t get an admission as to which of the twins was the one who stabbed you,” said Mac, as he had his hand on the door. It was the one thing that was still nagging at him. Mac had tried to get it included in the plea agreements, but both lawyers had shut him down, and the DA hadn’t pushed for it. Probably, thought Mac, he was too concerned about the details of his involvement in the previous plea agreements coming out.

Don shrugged, “Sounds like there’s no way you’d have got either of them to turn on the other and they’re the only ones who’d know for sure.” He frowned as a memory hit him, “The one who at the bodega…” He bit his lip, “There’s no way it’d hold up in court, but I swear she knew who I was. Maybe she remembered me from the deli…maybe her sister told her what I looked like…” He pulled himself together, “Does it really matter now? They’re both going away, at least for a few years. And that wouldn’t have happened without you and your team Mac. I owe you for that.”

“You’d have done the same for me,” said Mac before he left.

Don returned to the living room and sat down on the couch beside Stella. She wrapped her arms around him and held him close. “Now it’s over,” she said gently.

“Yeah,” said Don, feeling as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. “But you and me, Stel, we’re just getting started.”

THE END