Never Again
by s.a.

When Jack McCoy was seven years old, he watched Artie Ginnis beat the shit out of Joey Phillips on the playground. He couldn't do anything; they were sixth graders and he was just a scrawny kid in the wrong bathroom at the wrong time.

Joey went home with a black eye and a bruised rib, and Artie got one afternoon detention. Jack was so angry he went back to the bathroom, sat in the stall, and watched his hands shake for five minutes straight.


When Jack McCoy was eighteen, he went to a bar with a couple of his friends. They were looking for girls; he was looking for beer. He walked out to the back to smoke a cigarette and found a girl lying unconscious behind a dumpster.

When the police were called, he answered their questions numbly. He went back home, sat on his bed, and went over every detail in his memory. He couldn't move; his mind was replaying the scene over and over again. He didn't sleep that night.


When Jack McCoy was twenty-one, he applied to law school. On the application, it asked him to write why he wanted to be a laywer in under five hundred words. He answered them in five: "I want to help people."

Of the five schools he applied to, only one accepted him. He went to New York the next year and argued with his professors; came out number 162 in his class of 435. He passed over the internships at the big laws firms to clerk for a judge in the New York City judicial system.


When Jack McCoy was thirty-two, he waved goodbye to his friend Jim as he boarded the train. Twenty-four hours later he got a call from Jim's wife; Jim was dead.

His friend had been shot by a lunatic with a beef against Amtrak, and Jack couldn't do a damned thing about it because it wasn't his jurisdiction. He felt helpless and angry. He went to the bathroom in the Judicial Building, sat down in a stall, and watched his hands shake for an hour.


When Jack McCoy was forty-eight, he looked back on his life. He tried to remember the people he'd prosecuted over the years; the people who deserved what they got, even when they sometimes didn't.

The last case he won was against a kid with a shotgun and too much time to think. Jack couldn't help but see that his defendants kept getting younger, and washed down that thought with half a bottle of whiskey.


When Jack McCoy was sixty-two, they told him to retire.

He had to be escorted from the builing, and even then he kept coming back.


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