FMD says she had been "Toying with the idea of doing a story from Lennie's point of view," and then caught the Orbach item from apocrypha's last issue ... and so "Officer Down" was born. This is the third and final story in the trilogy which includes Heartbeat and Blizzard.
Detective Lennie Briscoe looked up as his partner Detective Rey Curtis came and stood next to his desk. "No luck, Lennie. I tried again, but it doesn't look like he's going to recover from his memory loss anytime soon."
"As long as it's not catching," said Lennie, picking up his jacket. "Let's go talk to the desk clerk. Maybe he'll remember when Mr. Casanova left the Hampstead."
The phone on his desk rang and Lennie reached for it, tucking the receiver under his ear as he struggled to get his arm into the sleeve at the same time. Blood left his face as he heard the voice at the other end. His heart raced and he felt as if he had aged ten years in as many minutes.
Unaware of Rey's concerned look following him, Lennie pushed open the door to Lieutenant Van Buren's room. "Mike Logan's been shot. They've taken him to St. Catherine's," he said, still reeling from the news.
Anita Van Buren stood up in shock. "How serious is it?"
"Didn't say. Okay if I take the day off? For some reason he's named me next of kin."
"Sure," said Anita. "Give me a call when you know more."
The antiseptic smell and the disembodied voice making announcements over the PA system that characterizes hospitals surrounded Lennie as he hurried down the corridor. There was only one nurse at nurses' station and she was on the phone with someone named Lasko, arguing about misplaced X-rays. Irritated , Lennie tried to get the attention of a man in blue hospital uniform rifling through a cart overflowing with charts.
"I'm Lennie Briscoe. Someone called me about Detective Mike Logan coming in here with a gunshot wound. Can you tell me where he's been taken?"
Without looking up the man mumbled, "Try OR."
Feeling equal degrees of annoyance and impatience, Lennie looked again at the nurse on the phone, but she looked away as if making eye contact would oblige her to give him an answer. A voice behind him asked tentatively, "Did you say Detective Mike Logan?"
Lennie turned around to see a young man with straight blonde hair and a hesitant expression staring at him. He wasn't wearing scrubs, so he was most likely someone from hospital administration. It seemed it wasn't just cops who were coming straight to work after graduating kindergarten.
"Are you his...father?" the young man asked uncertainly.
Lennie frowned at the man's obvious doubt. Why would he want to know that? The answer popped up unbidden ... the policy about releasing bad news only to immediate family. His heart sank. No, he thought, not so soon after Cathy.
He shook his head, holding on to his training in dealing with facts not feelings. "Just a friend, but I was told he named me next of kin."
The confusion on the young man's face cleared. "I'm sorry... I just wondered, you know... the names."
It was Lennie's turn to be confused. "Names?"
"Logan, Briscoe...Irish, Jewish..." the voice trailed off uncertainly.
Lennie looked at the young man with assessing eyes. "You're not from the hospital, are you?"
"Oh, sorry... Detective Dave Keeler." The young man stuck out his hand. "I'm Logan's new partner." He swallowed. "We were on a routine..."
Lennie stopped him. "Whoa there. First, tell me what the doctors said. Where is Mike?"
"They took him into OR. The doctor's say he'll be okay. He was lucky...the bullet went through his shoulder without touching any vital organ."
"Lucky?" said Lennie. "That's one way of putting it."
Keeler went red, then white. Lennie looked at his wretched face and said more kindly, "Why don't we get whatever passes for coffee in this place and you can fill me in."
Slowly, as they waited for someone to bring them news of the surgery, the story tumbled out. Keeler and Logan had been interviewing a beaten and bleeding woman about a complaint of disturbance filed by neighbors, when the husband had returned. He had seen the cops in his house and not knowing that it was a domestic inquiry, had assumed it was an investigation about the stash of drugs he was hiding, and had shot Mike.
"Mike pushed me out of the way," said Keeler, his voice a mixture of guilt and awe. "I...I didn't even see Bertucci reach for the gun."
Lennie looked at Keeler carefully. He often joked about his partner Rey Curtis's youth, but looking at the troubled face in front of him he realized just how young and inexperienced this one really was. "Don't worry about it. It's only a mistake if you don't learn from it."
"But Mike could have died."
"Hey, this is New York. You take that risk when you get out of bed."
Keeler continued as if he hadn't heard, "I've wanted to be a cop since I was four and my Mom dressed me in a uniform for Trick or Treat. I used to practice giving the Miranda in front of the mirror." He swallowed. "But I never thought...I never thought about what it would be like to say, 'Ten Thirteen, officer down'."
The sound of the door swinging open caught their attention and they both rose to greet the surgeon. "Detective Briscoe?"
"The surgery went well, and Detective Logan should be back on his feet in a few days."
"Can we see him?"
The surgeon shrugged. "We'll keep him sedated for a while so don't get your hopes up about talking to him tonight . It'll be better for him if you let him rest till the pain eases." He turned at the door. "Tell his family the same thing."
Lennie stared after the surgeon.
Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters.
He saw Keeler anxiously looking at him. Lennie said, "You heard the doctor. Go home."
"There's something...I don't know...," began Keeler and trailed off.
Lennie let out a harassed sigh and Keeler blushed to the roots of his hair.
"In the morning we...that is, Logan and me...we were talking about..." He stopped, staring at Lennie as if unsure of what to do next.
Lennie was reminded of a puppy he'd had when he was a child who'd looked at him with the same expression after chewing up his baseball mitt.
"You were talking about...?" he prodded .
"Dr. Olivet." Keeler answered with a rush. "About her going away to Germany...and about...well, you know, about whether he' d gone out with her."
Lennie nodded slowly, his mind racing towards fourth base. "And?" he prompted.
"When...when Logan was shot," continued Keeler. "I mean...when he was lying bleeding, before he blacked out, I swear I heard him whisper, 'Liz, don't go'"
Keeler looked at Lennie beseechingly. "I don't know whether it's important, but I thought maybe....."
Lennie patted his shoulder. "Go home, Keeler."
After Keeler left, Lennie called Anita Van Buren. He told her what the surgeon had said, and then briefly gave her an update about had happened at the Bertucci apartment. For a moment, he debated whether to mention what Keeler had said about Liz Olivet, then decided that it was likely that she had reached her own conclusions years ago like he'd had. When he told her, the answering silence at the other end of the line confirmed it.
He shook his head wryly...Mike and Liz had probably congratulated themselves on the way they had hidden their relationship.
He recalled the first time he'd suspected that there was more than a casual friendship between his new partner and the police psychiatrist. It had been during one of his first cases with Mike - the Jenny Gorham case. Dianne Meade had been the psychiatrist accused of manipulating the victim's mentally unstable fiancé into resorting to murder by holding over him the threat of withdrawing her love and sexual favors. There had been something about the way Liz had reacted to the case that had seemed almost personal. She had reminded Lennie of a boy he'd known when he was growing up who had called him kike in a desperate attempt to hide his own mother's identity. Lennie had wondered about this facet of Liz Olivet, and it had all fallen into place when he had honed in on how Mike and Liz stiffened when they were in the room together. He had concluded that his new partner and the fair doctor were caught in the throes of an affair gone sour. His assumption had firmed when, during idle locker room chitchat, another detective had recalled Mike's personal involvement in Olivet's rape investigation.
However, a few weeks later when they were working on another case, Lennie had been surprised to catch the way Mike and Liz had exchanged glances across the table in Van Buren's room, to all the world just casual colleagues but with a carefully concealed undercurrent of awareness. He had wondered if he'd made a mistake in his earlier reading of the situation when he had received his confirmation. While investigating the murder of a teenager killed in the middle of a busy street, Mike had walked out of Van Buren's room after angrily saying that he didn't believe the victim was shot intentionally. Van Buren had turned to Lennie. "What's with him?"
Lennie had repeated what Mike had told him earlier, "It was a long night."
Van Buren had replied edgily, "Aren't they all?"
Lennie had thought about that, and realized that Mike's prolonged days of "long nights" followed periods of barely held-in-check elation. And that afternoon, when Lennie had seen a pair of distinctive oval shaped silver earrings on the dashboard, all the pieces had fallen into place. He had said to Mike, "If you're meeting your "long night" you may want to return these to her. She has a court appearance tomorrow that she may want to wear them to."
Mike had ignored him, but the way his hands had clenched the steering wheel had made Lennie sink back in his seat with satisfaction. Another mystery solved. This was, after all, why he had always wanted to be a cop.
After that, Lennie had taken a sly enjoyment in looking for signs to see whether Mike and Liz were currently "on" or "off". It was only on the day Mike had thrown an angry, unprovoked punch at a crooked politician that Lennie had realized that it was unquestionably "off", and that his partner was suffering more than he would ever let on. Lennie had felt uncomfortable, even slightly ashamed, of having treated like a game what had obviously gone deeper than he had suspected.
As Lennie stood in the room hushed save for the whirring of the machines that were linked to the deathly still man on the bed, he remembered his first meeting with his new partner. Mike had made no bones about his resentment about Lennie taking over Phil's place. Over the years, however, the two had forged a deep, affectionate bond that had not wavered in spite of the fact that they rarely saw each other now that Mike was at Staten Island. Unbidden, Keeler's words reverberated in his head. "Are you his...father?" He released a pent up sigh, and stared down at the pale face on the pillow wondering why it was that distance had not affected the way they responded to one another whenever they met, when the same kind of distance stretched out like an insuperable abyss with his own family.
On his way home in the subway, t he day finally caught up with Lennie. He realized that except for that cup of black coffee at the hospital, he hadn't eaten anything since morning. He relaxed his body to move with the motion of the car in an effort to ease the band that was tightening around his forehead. Tiredly, he let his mind become unfocused, a jumble of images and snippets of conversation: Mike suggesting he use Phil Cerreta's desk drawer; "...named you next of kin." ; Cathy's body lying limp and ragged in the dump; "Are you his...father?" Mike's drawn face after Father Joe was indicted; "Logan, Briscoe...Irish, Jewish..."; Mike and Liz carefully avoiding each other's eyes; "Tell his family..."
Mothers and fathers.
Lennie's father had met his mother at the shoe store where he worked. The fact that she was "Bronx Irish", a goyah, never occurred to Leon Briscoe after one look into Emily O'Hara's emerald eyes. Two things happened after this: Leon's father died of a heart attack and Rebecca Briscoe refused to see her son again. The priest who married Leon and Emily agreed to do so only on the condition that Leon gave in writing that their children would be raised Catholic. Lennie thought back to the days of his childhood - lazy summer mornings playing marbles outside his parents' Upper West Side apartment; afternoon walks in Franz Sigel Park; hot dinners after church on Sunday; five-cent bus rides to the zoo with his father; braving the roundabouts with his mother at Coney Island. And hidden within all these images was the subject of his father' s distanced family hovering over them like a castle specter, invisible and silent, but with a marked presence.
When he was nine years old, and the War was finally over, his father had taken Lennie to Rebbeca Briscoe's kosher bakery on 16lst Street. Lennie still remembered how his grandmother's eyes had spilled tears as she had plied him with jam rolls and macaroons. It was after the reconciliation that life took a different turn for Lennie. His cousins lived in New Jersey, and that summer he visited them for his cousin's Bar Mitzvah. Every night at the kitchen table, his uncle's family listened to the radio for news about what was happening at Nuremburg where Nazi leaders were being tried by the Judicial Assembly for war crimes. He heard stories about Jewish refugees trying to get into Palestine and went with his cousins to collect newspapers, selling them to send the money to them.
When he returned to New York, Lennie saw his mother's withdrawn reaction to his holiday stories and learned to keep the increasing dilemma of his identity to himself. His father's family treated him with a wariness even in their acceptance. "Your father's Jewish," his cousin had told him, "You're not Jewish," alluding to the fact that the identity is passed on through the matriarchal line. And, after that summer, his friends at Sunday School looked at him strangely...or maybe it was his own realization that his ancestors were the Pharisees that affected his relationship with them.
In September 1948, when he entered fifth grade, Israel had already been recognized as a State, but he still had not come to terms with whether he was Catholic or Jewish. On the first day of school, his teacher had announced "This term, we will study American history, and you will find out how lucky you are to live in this great country." In those classes that year, Lennie discovered that he could choose to be something more than Catholic or Jewish...he could be American. Unfortunately, the people around him did not learn the same lesson. They still tried to put him in a box. He recalled the case in which the defense attorney, unaware of his Catholic upbringing, had insinuated that he had covered up facts in an investigation to protect a Jewish suspect.
"Logan, Briscoe...Irish, Jewish..."
For years Lennie hadn't thought about the impasse that had weighed down his childhood, and now as he walked out of the subway station feeling more hung over than when he had floated in whiskey, he wished he hadn't thought about it this night.
The next evening when he saw Anita Van Buren and Elizabeth Olivet stride down towards the nurses' station, Lennie dredged up a smile. It seemed the Lieutenant had decided to follow up on what Keeler had reported without any nudging from him.
"How is he?" asked Anita.
"Asleep. I wish I could have whatever they've given him."
"Maybe you should go home, Lennie," said Anita. "You've had a rough twenty-four hours."
He nodded. Anita continued, "I'll just have a quick look in at him, and I'll give you a ride."
He nodded again. He looked at the woman next to her with concern as he noted her pale face. Quietly, he asked Liz, "You okay?"
She nodded without saying anything, but as they walked behind Anita, she asked hesitantly. "Lennie, you spoke to the partner, didn't you?"
Lennie stopped, forcing her to stop as well.
She swallowed and asked, "What did he say?"
Lennie looked at her for a long moment, wondering whether she was even aware that he r usual lucidity had deserted her. He asked gently, "What did Mike say?"
"Keeler wasn't in any shape to make a clear statement when I spoke to him, but he swears he heard Mike say your name before he blacked out. They had been talking about you earlier in the day..."
"Talking about me?" she interrupted, clearly astonished.
"That's what Keeler said," confirmed Lennie. "So apparently when Mike said 'Liz, don't go', Keeler knew who he meant."
His voice softened as he looked at her strained face. "Don't knock yourself."
He started walking towards a door further down the corridor, when it opened and Anita came out. "He's out like a light, though I guess that's the best for him right now," she said. "Why don' t you have a quick look at him, Liz, then I'll take you home as well."
Lennie was surprised to see affection glimmer in Liz's eyes at Anita's words, and she included him in her look as she said, "I think I'll just stay a while. I'll see you both tomorrow."
Once again, Lennie became abruptly aware that he had no idea who Liz was. Or, for that matter, did he really know Mike. And what did he know about his own daughters? He hadn't known when Cathy had slipped through the cracks and fallen into the unsavory underworld of addiction and drug peddling. And what about his younger daughter Julia? He couldn't recall the last time he has spoken to her.
As Anita steered the car out of the parking garage, Lennie sank into the whirlpool of emotions that had been churning in his mind since the night before.
"Thinking of Claire?" asked Anita.
Lennie looked at her, surprised by her question. "You mean because of the hospital?" He shook his head. "Actually I was thinking of Mike putting my name as next of kin. Makes you wonder about families."
He looked straight ahead as they stopped at a traffic light, recalling the alarm that had surged through him in the one awful moment when he had thought Keeler wanted to know if he was Mike's father in order to break the news of Mike's death. He said slowly, "I never thought of him as a son, but when I was waiting for the doctor to come out of the operating room, he may as well have been."
Lennie's mind went back to the question that had been at the back of his mind ever since the surgeon had mentioned Mike's family. "But I'm still not blood. So, where are they?" He grimaced. "And will someone ask the same question when I'm waiting for the angels."
Anita did not reply to his question, but asked one of her own. "Do you think Mike ever forgave his mother?"
Lennie shrugged. "Can't say. His mother didn't feature as one of the top ten topics of casual conversation between us." He gave her an astute glance. "What brought that up?"
"Just what you said about family," hedged Anita. "It couldn't have been easy for her, knowing that her son disliked her."
Lennie frowned, recalling his own rather remote relationship with his daughters. He thought about his own parents...trying to do their best to give him a sense of belonging, and growing frailer because they knew they had failed him in that. He thought about Mike's mother, who had failed her son as well.
"There's nothing easy about being a parent," he said slowly. "But in Mike' s case I think she hurt him more than he hurt her, probably more than even she ever realized."
They drove the next few blocks in silence and Lennie's mind drifted to his daughter Julia. Did she think he had failed her? He knew Cathy had believed that. Perhaps, that was what had pained him the most about her death, and still throbbed like an unhealed wound. He had never had the chance to prove otherwise.
He was brought out of his reverie by Anita asking, "How long have you known about Mike and Liz?"
Lennie's mouth quirked. He had been wondering whether she would bring that up. "Almost as long as I've known him, but he didn't tell me himself if that's what you mean."
"You mean you guessed?" Lennie heard the surprise in her voice.
"Hey, part of being a cop is keeping your eyes open and reading the signs." Lennie looked at her questioningly. "This is one of those times when I get to play cop and read the signs. Something bothering you, Lieutenant?"
He saw her grip tighten on the steering wheel, and it was with obvious reluctance that she said, "The neighborhood patrol brought Ric home from a party on Friday...and you don't need to be a Police Commissioner to know what was helping the party swing."
Lennie whistled under his breath. He knew that the Lieutenant had many enemies in the Department because she was not afraid to speak her mind, loudly and often. There would be many who would rake in the chance to see her fall from grace.
"Tell me about it. Can you imagine what the newspapers would make of it if they got hold of the story?" She sighed. "But that's not what bothers me, Lennie. He won't talk to me. He told his father that he didn't have anything to drink, and that he called home but...but..." Anita's voice tapered off.
"...but you weren't there," finished Lennie. "So now you' re torn between guilt at not being there when he needed you and more guilt for not reading the signs. Bad mother and a bad cop."
"It was Don' s bowling night and my night to be home, but I got delayed over the Samuel deposition. I know I haven' t always been there for the boys Lennie, but I thought they understood why I was away, that they were proud of the fact that their mother was a cop." He could tell that she was trying to control the anguish in her voice. "But that night he wouldn't even look at me. It was as if I was a stranger."
Lennie now understood why she had asked about Mike' s mother. He frowned. There were times when he felt the Lieutenant expected too much from the men and women who worked under her, and he was sure she held up those standards at home too, but he would never have equated her with the likes of Mike's mother...a woman who had been too immersed in her own feelings to be concerned with anyone else's. The physical scars she had inflicted on her son had healed a long time ago, but the emotional wounds still remained.
He thought too of his own mother. As a young man he had known she had loved him...but he had been unable to forgive her for not understanding his need to explore his father's roots, and for making him feel guilty about not wholeheartedly embracing her faith. Older and wiser, and now a father himself, Lennie understood how fragile the parent-child relationship could be and how fraught with pitfalls . He wished he could go back in time with what he knew now...maybe he would have been a kinder, gentler son.
But that was the past. It was the present that counted.
Lennie turned in his seat. "Seems to me that you're giving yourself such a hard time, you aren't seeing the picture clearly."
"Meaning, take a young boy who thinks of his mother as Serpico and Supermom rolled into one and does his best to live up to her expectations of him. Throw in a situation that is less than Church on Sundays and Captain of the Basketball Team. How do you think he's going to feel?"
She said slowly, "Ashamed."
Lennie nodded. "Maybe even scared that his mother will be so disappointed she won't love him anymore."
She was silent for a while and from the stunned look on her face Lennie could tell that she hadn't pictured this scenario herself. She murmured something under her breath.
"Sorry. Missed that."
"Just something Don said last night." She repeated the words aloud. " 'If you love him, tell him so.' "
"Good advice," agreed Lennie. "But, like vitamins, how many people take it even though you know it's good for you?"
He added gently, "Ready for some more good advice?"
Anita looked at him expectantly.
"Don't wait for the "right" moment...things tend to get left that way."
He was still thinking about his words as he climbed the dimly lit stairs to his apartment. He could hear the sounds of gun fire and police sirens coming from his neighbor's apartment. It seemed that tonight at least Rob Petrocelli had won the never-ending skirmishes with his wife about what to watch on TV since she preferred shows about families like Judging Amy or Providence.
There it was again.
Sons and daughters.
As soon as he put down the keys, Lennie dialed the unfamiliar number.
"Hello, Julia," he said. "It's Dad."