In honor of the approaching dawn of 2012 and the exciting news that Marcia Clark’s GUILT BY ASSOCIATION is available for a limited time for the low price of 1.99 as an eBook, Marcia has contributed an original Rachel Knight story. What are your resolutions? Tell us in the comments!
“No one ever keeps ‘em, so what’s the point?” I said. I fished a kalamata olive out of the hoers d’oeuvres tray I’d strategically pulled to my end of the bar. The Biltmore bar was sporting a classy set of bar snacks in honor of the holidays, and the hotel had – as usual – outdone itself with a lavishly decorated thirty foot Christmas tree in the lobby.
“It’s symbolic,” Toni replied, taking a healthy sip of her martini. “A commitment to doing better next year.”
I shrugged. “But, better at what? I’m not aiming for sainthood, and what’d I do that was so bad this past year?”
“You really want to go there, Knight?” Bailey finished her martini and held up the empty glass to Drew, the unbelievably sexy head bartender who doubled as Bailey’s boyfriend.
Caution should’ve prevailed, but I’ve never been able to resist a dare. “Yeah, I do.”
The irony wasn’t lost on me that this impulse was itself a prime candidate for a New Year’s Resolution. Bailey, who knew my weakness all too well, shot me an amused look, then nonchalantly opened a pistachio and tossed it into her mouth.
Toni looked at me with disbelief and shook her head.
Drew replaced Bailey’s empty glass with a full one. “Thanks, babe,” she said. “And could you order me a side dish of macaroni and cheese? I feel like some comfort food.”
“Three forks?” he asked.
“Just two,” Toni said. When Drew moved off, she gave me a look of exasperation and pity. “She’s already gotcha, Rachel.”
“Who said I wanted to stop eating off her plate?”
“So you admit you can’t do it,” Bailey said.
“I can totally do it.” It was going to kill me, I knew. I had a habit of living vicariously off Bailey’s plate, and I especially loved the artery-clogging extravaganza she’d ordered, but now I had something to prove. In a show of sheer bravado, I let Drew set the extra fork in front of me. A dicey move, I admit, but I had a point to make and I wanted to do it with dramatic flourish.
Bailey raised an eyebrow. “I’m putting a fin on you caving within three minutes.”
“You’re on. Care to jump in, Tone?”
Toni held up a hand. “Oh hell, no. Not enough money in it to be worth the grief…from either of you.”
I pulled the hoers d’oeuvres tray closer and threw out my own challenge. “And what about you, Detective Keller? Maybe you’d like to resolve to stop betting me?”
Toni chuckled, but quickly looked away when Bailey scowled at her. Our last bet had cost Bailey two rounds of drinks at the Varnish – a speakeasy-style bar that had some of the best mixologists in town. Needless to say, the drinks weren’t cheap.
Bailey gave me a steely look. “Not till we see who wins this one.”
I was tempted to up the bet to ten bucks, but some rational corner of my psyche finally kicked in and made me change the subject. “Hey, Toni, what’s happening with that white-collar case?” I asked.
The Special Trials Unit of the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office, where Toni and I were assigned, didn’t usually handle fraud cases. But this one had mob tentacles that reached into a couple of unsolved murders.
“Ugh, don’t remind me.” Toni drained her martini, her expression glum. “So far, the mob connection hasn’t panned out, and I don’t think it’s going to.”
“Then it’s just–”
Toni nodded. “A straight up paper case.”
We hate those with a blinding passion. From my first days in law school, I knew I was never going to be able to work up a lather over how many zeros you can add after the “3.” Poor Toni was now stuck with a roomful of bank statements and wire transfers, not a dead body in sight. I was about to tell her I’d buy her a double when I saw her look down the bar and hold up her glass. At that same moment, the mouth-watering aroma of melted cheese wafted across the bar. My stomach rumbled ominously. This was going to be a lot harder than I’d thought.
Drew set the dish on the bar in front of Bailey. “Enjoy ladies.”
I plucked another olive from the tray to stave off temptation and tried to avoid watching Bailey, who naturally, was making the most of every forkful. She even had the nerve to close her eyes while she chewed. So obnoxious. For the next few minutes, I did my best to act as though I didn’t notice and tried to distract myself by talking shop with Toni.
And then it occurred to me that there was an easier way to win this bet. I looked down the bar and gave the high sign.
“Another one, Rache?” Drew asked.
“Yep. And you know what? I feel like a little comfort food myself. I’ll have a side order of macaroni and cheese, too.”
When Drew walked off, I turned to Bailey and held out my hand. “I’ll take that fin, now.”
Bailey rewarded me with a grudging congratulatory smile. “For a change, this is one bet I don’t mind losing. So your New Year’s resolution to keep your mitts off my plate starts now?”
“What resolution? Didn’t you hear me? I don’t believe in ‘em. This was a bet, Keller. Pay up.”
Marcia Clark is a former prosecutor for the State of California, County of Los Angeles, in the O.J. Simpson murder case. She is the author of GUILT BY ASSOCIATION, which James Ellroy called a “must read,” the forthcoming GUILT BY DEGREES, which Mulholland Books will publish in May 2012, and is a frequent media commentator on legal issues. Now a Special Correspondent for Entertainment Tonight, Clark provides coverage of high profile trials and contributes a column for The Daily Beast. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.