By Joan Stephens

Stunned, ashamed, and embarrassed, Catherine stared at the buzzing handset that she held in her hand and then at the beehive of activity that was the District Attorneysí office. She had just finished speaking with a woman who had profusely thanked her for what she and the rest of the staff had done to jail for life the man who had killed her daughter. It had been Catherineís bad luck to take the congratulatory call, and she knew with certainty that she didnít deserve any of the praise that the woman had heaped upon her. It humbled her. She hadnít extended herself in any way to help with the case, and it was with a bitter taste in her mouth that she passed on the womanís praise to the rest of the office staff, many of whom stared at her with a satisfactory smirk on their face when they noted her discomfort. They knew that she didnít merit any of the credit that the woman so lavishly extended to the office.

When she started in the DAís office, her immediate superior, Joe Maxwell, resented the fact that she would be working for him. He considered her a rich dilettante who would dabble in the seamy side of life and then leave when sheíd had enough . . . effectively wasting his time. And to be truthful about it, she hadnít done much to change his mind. She worked the required hours but that was all. She never became emotionally involved with any of the cases assigned to her.

But this night Joe Maxwell got the shock of his life. He noticed a light left on in Chandlerís corner. Grumbling to himself about rich young women with money to burn who wasted the taxpayerís money, he stomped toward her desk. When he rounded the corner into her little alcove, he was surprised to find her hunched over her desk busily scribbling away.

"What are you doing, Chandler, bucking for Brownie points?" he asked, barely masking the sarcasm in his voice.

"No, Joe, Iím doing my job," she answered quietly. Before he could come back with a smart remark, she continued, "I want to apologize to you. I havenít been doing my job since I hired on here. It wonít happen again; I can assure you of that."

Completely taken aback by her confession, he stuttered, "Well . . . uh . . . gee . . . youíve done ok. It takes awhile to settle in."

"Admit it, Joe, I havenít been pulling my weight." Leaning back in her chair, she watched his expression change from confusion to grudging admiration.

He chuckled, "Yeah, youíre right. Sometimes I wanted to boot you right out the door."

"You have no idea how glad I am that you didnít."

Raising an eyebrow, he perched on the corner of her desk. "Why do you say that?"

"Iíve learned that I need to prove something to myself." And to someone else, too.

"Well, it can get pretty hairy, Radcliffe, as you well know."

"I know." She grinned at his use of a nickname for her. He never used nicknames for those he didnít like or respect. "But I will tackle anything you give me. Girl Scoutís honor." And she gave him the Girl Scout salute.

Laughing at her reference to his Brownie crack, they bid each other goodnight. After their little chat, he became her staunchest ally, critic, and defender. Next to Jenny and Nancy, he became her closest friend.

Later, standing on her balcony, she thought that it had been almost eight months since she had seen Vincent. She wanted to see him so desperately. There was so much she had to tell him.