Whenever the episode "Indifference" is shown on A&E it sparks discussion about Mike Logan's childhood. In this story, Dorothy Marley gives us a glimpse at both the relationship between Mike and his dad and the events of Mike's childhood that shaped the man.
Mike poked listlessly at the keyboard of the typewriter, unenthused by the slow progress of the carriage across the space in front of him. He should be looking forward to this. It should have been satisfying to type the name "Joseph J. Krolinsky" across the top of the arrest report. But all he felt was a distant, ambivalent weariness.
Part of it he assessed objectively as simple tiredness, lack of sleep. He'd not slept much last night, not after sitting there with Father Joe in the interrogation room, listening to him talk about his wife, his family .
Mike stared at the report again, then ripped it out of the typewriter and balled it up, sending it sailing into the wastebasket to join the other two reports he'd started, and rejected. He fished another form from his desk, and laboriously rolled it back into the machine.
But it wasn't only that. He was tired of all of it. Tired of this case, tired of this report ... and sick and tired of Joseph Krolinsky's pious face. Mike's hands clenched on top of the keys, his fists balling up as he stared fixedly at the blank sheet, as if willing the words onto the page by force of sheer willpower. Crap. The last thing in the world he wanted to do right now was write about it, write down everything he knew, everything he remembered . . .
"Hey. Hey, Mike."
Mike looked up blankly, focusing on Lennie's face across the cluttered space of their desks. "What?"
Lennie regarded him sympathetically. "Mike, why don't you go home?" he suggested. "I can take care of the paperwork. Just this once," he added.
But Mike shook his head. "No, thanks," he said, turning back to the typewriter. "It's my case, it's my paperwork."
"Mike . . ." Lennie got up, walking around to tear the blank form from the platen. "Mike, please. Do us all a favor. Go home. Get some sleep."
Mike glared up at him, feeling an irrational irritation surge up in him at the order. But the look on Lennie's face made the angry words die, unspoken. He sat, glaring, then pushed himself to his feet and grabbed for his coat. "Fine," he said shortly. "I'll see you tomorrow. First thing."
"Yeah. See you then, Mike."
Logan went straight home. There wasn't really anything else to do. It felt odd, letting himself through the door in the middle of a weekday. He supposed he should take advantage of the time, maybe wash some dishes, do some laundry, clean up the place a bit. Instead, he got a beer from the refrigerator and sat down on the couch, taking a long pull from the bottle as he picked up the remote and switched the TV on. Five minutes of flipping through channels, and he turned the set off again. He thought about getting up, maybe getting a magazine, a book, doing some reading. He turned the TV on again.
The phone woke him hours later, jarring him from a restless, unintended sleep, the sharp chirp of the electronic ringer for once a welcome disruption. He fumbled for the receiver blearily, finally grabbing it up on the fourth ring. "Logan," he said with forced coherence, too foggy with sleep to manage anything more civil.
"Mikey. It's me."
It actually took him a second to recognize the voice. He sat up straight, rubbing the last of the sleep from his eyes. "Dad?"
"Yeah. Did I bother you?"
Mike glanced at the his watch as he ran his fingers through his hair. Nearly seven. Damn. He'd slept the whole afternoon away after all. "No, you didn't bother me," he said, gathering his sleep-fogged thoughts together. "What's the matter?"
He heard his father hesitate a second. "You don't know? Maybe you haven't heard yet. Father Joe--you know, Joe Krolinsky, the priest from the parish when you were a kid--he's been arrested. I'm surprised you didn't hear about it."
Mike felt the bottom drop out of his stomach. "Uh, no," he finally managed to get out. "No, I knew about it, Dad. I--"
"Have you talked to the boys on the case yet?" his father interrupted. "I know you can't pull strings just because he's your old priest. But he must be terribly upset by all this. I'm sure he'd feel better knowing someone was on his side."
"Dad." Mike took a deep breath. "Dad, listen for a second. I know about it. It's my case."
There was a long, stunned silence. "You? Your case, Mikey? My God."
"Yeah." Mike rubbed his eyes tiredly. "Look, Dad, can I come over? I want to talk to you about this, but not over the phone, okay?"
He only hesitated a second. "All right. I'll be here."
Mike's father still lived on the East Side, not so terribly far from where Mike had grown up, in a rent-controlled tenement maybe two blocks away from Mike's old foot patrol. Mike's brothers and sister had tried to get the old man to move for years, each of them offering him a place in their own homes, but he'd have none of it. So long as he could live on his own, so long as he could afford his rent and his bills, he'd stay where he'd lived all his life.
He greeted Mike at the door, shaking hands firmly with him. At nearly sixty, Jim Logan was still tall and hale, his thick hair streaked silver, the bright blue eyes as sharp and brilliant as ever. Mike and his brothers were all eerily like him, in family pictures looking like a series of tall, dark-haired clones. Except for the eyes. As a kid, Mike had wished like anything that he'd had eyes like his father's, bright and blue, like a summer sky. Instead, he'd inherited the muddy, indeterminate gray of his mother. Changeable as the weather, the kind of eyes that no one ever really remembered. And, ironically, his only distinguishing feature in the Logan clan. He'd been jealous as hell when the other boys had been born, all of them being granted the privilege of that dazzling gaze, while he and Katy were left with their mother's legacy. There was some kind of message there, surely. 'Yeah,' he thought bitterly, 'that God has a hell of a sense of irony.'
"Come on in," Jim said, shutting the door behind him, gesturing him to the kitchen table. "You want a drink?" he offered, reaching into the cupboard for the whiskey bottle without waiting for an answer.
"Yeah, sure." Anything to put off the inevitable. Mike watched as he poured a careful two fingers' worth into two glasses, and then brought glasses and bottle both to the table for them. Mike had slept through his dinnertime, hadn't felt like stopping for anything on the way, and the whiskey burned a neat path down to his empty stomach, spreading a rapid, soothing warmth through him. He set the glass down, and across the table his dad did the same.
"So," he said at last. "You wanted to tell me about this business with Father Joe."
"Yeah. I guess so."
He shook his head. "I don't understand, Mike. Why'd you arrest him?"
Mike suppressed a twinge of annoyance. "For the usual reason, Dad. Because the son of a bitch is guilty."
"Guilty of what?" His father made an exasperated noise. "Patting a kid on the behind? Sitting some little girl on his knee to read a story?"
"He's guilty of thirty years of molesting children," Mike said roughly. He felt it, felt the anger boiling up in him, the same damn frustration he'd felt even then, knowing that he couldn't tell, that he wouldn't be believed. Well, he wasn't a kid anymore, and this time someone was going to know the truth. "Starting with Billy Marino, Frankie McGill, Cam Zully, and a lot of others. And that's only what we know so far."
He saw him flinch at Billy's name, saw the other names hit him, like arrows driving home. Mike felt a twinge of satisfaction as he saw the knowledge there in his face, satisfaction mixed with guilt.
"My, God." Jim slumped back in his chair, staring in shock at him from across the table. "Billy? And Frankie? He--" He couldn't finish, closing his eyes as Mike slowly nodded. "Good Lord. A priest." His eyes snapped open, and he sat up. "You knew about this? Even then?"
Mike nodded again. "Yeah," he said softly. "I knew."
For a moment, he thought about just leaving it there. Say that he knew about it, and that was all. It was twenty-five years ago, ancient history. He'd spent all this time trying to forget it, trying to pretend it never happened. And for a split second, he wished with all his heart that he could go on forgetting about it. But he knew he couldn't. "I knew," he began again, "because I was one of those kids, too."
He wanted to say more, but he choked on the words, swallowing them, and suddenly wishing very much that there was still whiskey in his glass. Well, the bottle was still right there. He reached for it, pouring himself another generous double and tossing it back, aware of his father's eyes on him, pleading, begging him to say no, that it wasn't true. He wished he could.
"Mikey," Jim said quietly. "Oh, Mikey. Please, no."
Mike could only shake his head. "It's true," he said.
Jim stared at him for a long time. "No." He turned away, waving a hand, brushing the words away. "No, I don't believe it. You were just a kid, Mike. How could you remember?"
Mike swallowed. "Because I was there. You think I can't remember? Is that what you're saying? That I made it up? That I'm lying?" He leaned forward, trying to catch his father's eyes. "Look at me, Dad," he said softly. "You look at me, and you tell me it's a lie."
For a moment, he didn't think Jim could. He shook his head, staring at the wall, until finally he couldn't ignore Mike any longer. He slid his eyes to him, searching Mike's face. One look was enough. Jim looked away again quickly, and stood up, pacing to the sink, wiping his hand down his face. "Oh, my God." He let his hands fall, clenching his fists helplessly at his sides. "That son of a bitch," he said softly. "That hypocrite, lying, son of a bitch--"
Mike was on his feet the moment the glass shattered, grabbing his father's hand when he would have thrown a second glass, forcing him to drop it in the sink, where it broke anyway. "Dad! Don't. Come on."
Jim twisted away from him, stalking back to the table. "That son of a bitch," he muttered. He slumped down in the chair again, burying his head in his hands. Slowly, Mike sat down across from him again, ignoring the glass crunching underfoot. He watched his dad sit there, taking in deep breaths, until he finally raised his eyes again.
"Why the hell didn't you tell me?"
That was a question Mike had asked himself, more times than he cared to remember. Over and over, replaying those days in his mind, thinking, now, how easy it would have been to say it, to tell someone what was happening. But it wasn't that easy. "I was just a kid," he finally said. "You were always saying what a good man he was. How wonderful it was that he took the time to be with us kids."
Jim's jaw clenched. "I was grateful," he spat out. "I was grateful for that bastard, for him taking time for you, because I--" He shut his mouth, his lips working for moment. He pressed his hand to his mouth. "I feel like I want to throw up. That bastard. "
Mike dropped his eyes. "You didn't know," he said, the words heavy and reluctant in his mouth. "I didn't want you to know."
"For the love of God, why?"
That spurred him, jolted him into a brief flare of anger. "Why do you think? I knew it was wrong, I knew it was a sin. I was ashamed," he finally admitted, and swallowed the traitor break in his voice. "I was ashamed that I'd let him--" He stumbled for a second, skirting the abyss, then recovered himself. "That I hadn't been able to protect myself. That I'd let it happen."
"Mike, I was your father. I was supposed to protect you. I wish you'd remembered that."
For a long time, Mike couldn't even speak. He looked at him, looked into those brilliant, piercing eyes as if he'd never seen them before. "You didn't protect me from her," he heard himself say, as if his voice were coming from a great distance. "You never saved me from that. How was I supposed to know that you'd protect me from anything else?"
Jim looked shocked. "You mean your mother? I did protect you!" he protested, nearly shouting.
Mike had to laugh. It hurt his throat, bitter and harsh, and he bit it back. "Yeah," he said. "Yeah, you stopped her. When you were there. And what do you think happened when you weren't there?"
For a second, he thought he was going to deny it. Mike could see the lie in his eyes, saw the excuses, the protestations forming on his lips. But then he slumped back in his chair, wiping his mouth again. For the first time, he looked like an old man. "Mike, she's been dead for ten years. How long are you going to hate her?"
Mike looked away. "It doesn't go away, Dad," he finally said. "It didn't go away when she was alive, and now . . . " He shook his head, and forced himself to look up into his father's face again. "I can sit here," he said, choosing his words slowly, trying to say it right. "And I can talk to you." He swallowed. "And I can get mad at you for everything you let happen to me when I was a kid--" Jim opened his mouth, his face darkening in anger, but Mike overrode him, raising his voice to drown him out. "--but I can't do that to a dead body in a coffin." Jim shut up, and Mike cleared his throat, going on. "I know," he said softly, and felt a smile quirk at his mouth. "I tried."
He would have gone on, but something stopped him, a memory, or just his father's face. He could see Jim's throat working, could almost track the struggle within him by the emotions that passed over his face. Finally, Jim leaned forward, wiping his hands over his hair. "Mike," he said quietly, "I don't know what to say. I could say that I didn't know. And that would be true." He drew in a deep breath. "But it would be more true to say that I didn't want to know." He sat up, his fingers still tangled in his hair, until he pushed them slowly through the thick mass, combing it back from his face in a rumpled wave. "I don't know what to say," he said again. "Maybe it was my fault."
Mike grimaced. "It wasn't your fault," he said impatiently. "I mean, you did what you had to do, right? I know that. I knew that then."
But Jim was shaking his head. "I was nineteen when you were born, Mikey," he said. "I was a kid myself, what did I know? And then came Katy, and Tommy, and Matt, and Jimmy, Jr. . . . It's not an excuse. It's just a reason. I was working double shifts, triple shifts, trying to keep food on the table. I did the best I could."
Jim looked at him levelly. "But you still wish I'd done better by you. Right?"
"No!" Mike forced himself to calm down. "I didn't say that," he said, more quietly. "You made sure we *had* food on the table, that we had a roof over our heads and clothes on our back. Not every kid in the neighborhood could say that. You took care of us, Dad."
"I didn't take very good care of you, Mike."
"That wasn't your fault," Mike insisted.
"The hell it wasn't!" Jim pushed himself back again, pacing to the window and back, his shoes snapping the bits of forgotten glass on the tiles. "So what else was going on behind my back? What else didn't I see, huh?"
It took a long time for Mike to swallow the anger. "I'm not here to absolve you, Dad," he said quietly. "You want to blame yourself, fine. I won't do it for you."
Jim looked at him for a long time. "Is that true, Mikey? You don't blame me for what she did?" He swallowed. "For what Father Joe . . . did?" He hesitated, and Mike saw the question behind his eyes. And he willed his own to beg him not to ask. Not yet.
"I don't blame you," he said truthfully. "I just wish . . ." Mike shook his head, not sure what exactly he did wish. "I wish things had maybe been a little different. That's all."
To his surprise, Jim actually gave a wry smile. "That's all," he repeated. "Yeah. Yeah, I know all about that."
"And what would you have done different?"
For a minute, Mike thought he wouldn't answer. Then Jim shrugged, admitting, "I don't know. Maybe not married so young." He paused. "Maybe waited to have kids." He shook his head. "But that's the problem. I wouldn't change anything that would mean not having you, Mike, or any of your brothers and sisters." He smiled. "Only maybe not so young."
Mike made a face, and looked away. "Well. No danger of that with me, I guess."
Jim didn't say anything for a moment. "No. I guess not." He looked away. "God," he said softly. "All these years. I always wondered, you know."
Mike looked up sharply, and felt a chill hit his belly, churning the whiskey in his stomach. "Wondered what?" He didn't answer. Mike leaned forward, bracing his arms against the edge of the table. "Wondered what, Dad?"
"About you," he finally said, softly. "About why you were the way you were."
"What do you mean?" Mike asked, feeling his gut clench again, the thrill of fear rippling through him as he studied his father's face. "What way?"
"You were so angry, Mike." And Mike relaxed, the tension fading. But the relief was soured by an odd feeling of disappointment. His father went on quietly. "When you were a teenager. You walked around with your hands in fists, and you used them. And then you stopped being angry, and you started . . ." He gestured mutely. "You know."
Mike didn't pretend to misunderstand. After all the years of lectures, it would have been pointless to say he didn't remember. "Dating," he euphemized.
"Tomcatting," his father corrected, with a snap of irritation. "Every week a different girl. Like you had something to prove."
Yeah. Trying to prove that sex was no big deal. Trying to prove that it wasn't important, that it was merely a casual satisfaction of his body's needs. Because, if sex was meaningless, then what had happened to him, what Father Joe had done, became meaningless, too. Sex was insignificant. Therefore, so was Father Joe. Simple. And for nearly twenty-five years, it had worked. But he didn't say any of that to his father. "I know the lecture," he said instead. "I heard it enough when I was a teenager, all right?"
"Yeah," Jim acknowledged with a wry grin. "You sure did. And you're not a teenager anymore, are you?" He sighed wearily, waving a hand at him. "And look at you," he said quietly. "Thirty-seven years old. No wife. No kids."
"Thanks for pointing that out, Dad." Mike was surprised at how much bitterness slipped through. He shut his mouth, afraid to say more, afraid that his voice would crack. Christ. First Father Joe, going on and on about his family, his kids. Saying Mike should be happy for him. 'Yeah, sure. Thanks, Father Joe. No, I don't have a family. Oh, you do? Wonderful. Then I guess that makes it all right for you to have screwed up my life when I was twelve years old.'
"I didn't mean it like that," Jim said after a moment, his voice gruff with the apology that he'd never voice. "I was talking about that bastard Father Joe." His jaw worked again. "Son of a bitch." He rose abruptly, and turned towards the little hall that ran to the back of the apartment. "I'll be right back," he said quickly, and strode down the hall.
Left alone, Mike got to his own feet and walked into the little living area, fists shoved in his pockets while he stared blankly at the wall in front of him. Even Dad. But could he blame him, when Mike had the same thoughts himself? Thinking that everything he'd done, everything he'd accomplished, meant nothing. Not without a family. Not without kids. And Father Joe had taken that away.
Gradually, he became aware that the wall he was staring at was covered in pictures. Family pictures, and he almost turned away. Right there in front of him, there was Katy's wedding. Wonderful. Katy's wedding, Tom's wedding, Jimmy's wedding, Matt's wedding . . . and Mike's promotion ceremony. A clue? Mike shook his head, turning aside to the rest of the photographs.
This was better. His father, in uniform. His grandparents. His mother, holding a baby. Holding him.
"She was beautiful."
Mike didn't look over his shoulder. "Yeah," he said presently. "She was." There was no sense in denying that, anyway.
"She wanted to go to college. She'd been accepted to some place upstate." He sighed softly. "I don't even remember where, now. She never went."
"Because of me," Mike finished bitterly. "I know. I only heard that about a thousand times a day, Dad."
Jim was silent. "Mike, what I'm trying to say is . . . it wasn't your fault. If it was anyone's, it was mine. But I wasn't there to take the blame." He paused again. "And I'm sorry."
Mike closed his eyes. "Yeah," he said quietly, his throat suddenly tight. "Yeah, me, too, Dad." He stayed where he was, staring at the picture, not moving even when he felt his father touch his shoulder, soft, tentative. His hand settled there, squeezed, and Mike finally turned.
Jim's eyes were bright, too bright, but there were no tears in his face, or his voice. Only regret. "Mike," he said again. "I'm sorry." And he stepped forward to put his arms around him.
They embraced there for a long moment, standing in the living room with the pictures of four generations of Logans looking on. Mike could feel the solid warmth of his father's body against him, an old childhood comfort that he barely remembered, that was rarely given. But he took it for what it was worth now, closing his eyes for a moment and letting himself be held, letting himself hold in return.
It didn't last long. They parted as suddenly as they had come together, separating with a few wordless pats on biceps and forearms. But when Mike would have pulled away, Jim's hand lingered on his arm, holding them there for a moment longer, making him stand still under his father's bright blue gaze. He looked at him, troubled again, and searched Mike's for a long, probing minute. And finally, he spoke.
"Mike, is there anything else you want to tell me? Anything," he went on, quickly. "All these years, the things I never knew . . . if you want to tell me, now's the time."
For a moment, Mike had a hard time swallowing. "Dad . . ." he began, then stopped. The words pushed at him, building in his gut, a floodtide of confession that would be so, so easy to let out. But the flood stuck in his throat, twenty years of denial more powerful than five minutes of sudden sympathy. Did his father really want to know? Did he want to know the real truth about what had happened? The truth about Mike and his best friend Billy Marino? The truth about the girls he *didn't* go out with? The real truth, Mike thought with a bitter, sickening chill, about why there'd been no wife, no marriage . . . no kids. He looked into his father's eyes, and for a second, the impulse to say it, to pour it all out, was almost overwhelming.
"Thanks," he said at last, nearly choking on the single syllable, knowing that he sounded strained. And seeing, now, the knowledge in his father's eyes, knowing now that he wasn't fooled for a second. Probably never had been fooled. "I'll remember," Mike promised, and Jim finally nodded.
"Anything, Mikey," he said quietly, one last try. "I mean that."
It was all he could do to nod. "I know," he got out. It was easier now, the pain in his chest subsiding with each word, each phrase steering him farther away from the abyss. "Thanks." He turned away from the disappointment in his father's eyes, looking around for his coat, and his gloves, busying himself with putting them on until he was finally ready to face his father again.
Jim took a deep breath, a smile fixing on his features as Mike turned to him. "Thanks for coming over. And for telling me about Father Joe." His face darkened. "I'll be sure the word gets around." Mike drew breath to speak, but Jim held up a hand. "Discreetly," he assured him with a wry grimace. "I know all about open investigations."
It was Mike's turn to look abashed. "Sure," he said. "But forget I told you any other names, okay?"
"Forgotten." Jim gripped his shoulder lightly. "You take care, Mike. Be careful."
"I will, Dad. Promise." Mike made a short, aborted movement with his arms, lifting them fractionally, then killed the gesture before it was made. He put his hands in his pockets instead. Back to the old habits, the brief moment of empathy gone, the cascade of confidences stopped.
Just in time.