There aren't many fanfic stories that focus on Anita Van Buren. We're pleased to present a story by Blue Wall Award winner Lady V that has our favorite lieutenant in the spotlight. How did the events of the episode "Competence" affect Van Buren? Here's Lady V's answer to that question.
She stood in front of the ATM. She'd just taken her cash and was about to put it in her purse. Then she heard that low menacing voice. "I'll take it all bitch." She whipped her revolver out from inside her blazer, wheeled around and fired. The several shots she fired sounded like thunder in a downpour. When the sound of the gunshots stopped reverberating around the walls of the bank lobby, she let the gun hang down her side and noticed the immobile body of a young man lying in front of her. Blood pooled on the floor near his back. Then suddenly, as if the body had been given a jolt of electricity, the boy bolted upright to his feet. He slowly turned around to face her. He was a dark skinned black, with short curly hair and wide, trusting black eyes. He seemed nearly ethereal. He slowly raised his hand and pointed a finger at her, as if in accusation. He parted his full pink lips and...
Anita jerked herself upright. Her ears felt like there were ten people pounding drums inside of them. For a moment, it seemed as if her very existence was spinning like a dryer out of control. She had no past, no present, nor any future. She just was. Anita hesitantly moved her head from side to side. The place she was in was as dark as a tomb. Suddenly, her nerves started buzzing inside her like angry bees. For all she knew, those boys could be hiding in the shadows, waiting for that perfect moment to strike...
Anita forced herself to take deep breaths. After a few moments, her eyes started to adjust to the darkness of the room. She saw the outline of the dresser just three feet in front of where she was. She turned her head to the left and glanced at the manual alarm clock on the nightstand. She squinted, and saw that the clock read 4:10 AM. Anita then turned her head to her right and noticed her husband sleeping soundlessly next to her. She let out a sigh of relief and relaxed. She was at home. She was with family. She was safe.
Anita then chastised herself for getting so worked up over a dream. She had nothing to fear from those kids anymore. Yet, that dream had seemed so real. She could almost feel the perspiration on her forehead when she whipped out her revolver. She could almost smell the sickly sweet aroma of death. Was this the way people behaved when they experienced a nervous breakdown, when their dreams seemed more like reality than life itself?
Anita laid her head back down on her pillow. Now a melancholy feeling was starting to wash over her, like waves in the ocean. That boy that came back to life in the dream. His name had been James. James Gordon. He could have been her son. He was never supposed to have died. But, no matter. It was too late. Nothing could be done to bring James back. Anita settled into a dreamless sleep.
It wasn't often that Anita had the whole apartment to herself. Between putting in long hours at the precinct and tending to Don and the kids, she often wondered whether she even had a self. Don was at the hardware store, Rick was with his friends and Stephen was at Boy Scouts.
Anita sat immobile on the couch, staring at nothing in particular. She sat that way for quite a while. Now that she finally had some time to herself, she realized that she had no idea what to do with it. Without a planner, she was useless.
Anita rose from the couch and started to wander aimlessly through the apartment. She found herself in her and Don's bedroom. She opened the door to the closet and surveyed its contents. Clothes were jam-packed like the A during rush hour on hangers on the rod. Shoes, shoeboxes, plastic bags, empty videotape boxes and other things Anita couldn't immediately identify were piled haphazardly at the bottom. All that junk needed to be thrown away. She smiled ruefully. Finally, something to do.
As Anita was removing the contents from the closet, she suddenly heard a woman yell. She couldn't make out the words, but she heard a high pitched voice somewhere. Anita stopped removing the junk from the closet and listened to the voice, trying to pinpoint where it was coming from. After a moment, she determined that the voice was coming from the apartment upstairs. Must be those new people that moved up there about two weeks ago. As far as Anita had been able to determine, they were a mother and daughter tandem, the kid looking no older than eight. She'd never gotten into a real conversation with the mother; she only nodded and said hello when she passed her by. The woman seemed pleasant enough. What could have gotten her so agitated that she had to yell like that? One major pet peeve about these old buildings was that they weren't soundproof.
Then Anita heard the little girl upstairs scream and howl. Her scream sounded like a teakettle letting out steam. What an awful sound. She must have been getting quite a whipping. Anita didn't spank the boys very often, although she wasn't above doing it if either one of them reached her boiling point. She hated to hear kids scream like that. When the girl's cries subsided, Anita went back to the closet and put what she'd just overheard out of her mind. Just a mother disciplining her child, that's all.
What a day! Commissioner Safir took several minutes out of his hectic schedule to call Anita. It wasn't pleasant. He'd called for the express purpose of chewing her out over her squad's inability to catch a media mogul's son's killer. The fact that her detectives were human beings and not machines didn't sit too well with the Commissioner. During times like that, Anita often wondered if people like the Commissioner would be able to get out of the ivory tower long enough to survive in the trenches. Then she'd wonder if she even had to wonder.
She shuffled over to the door of her apartment. Dinner had better be on the stove. She was starving. Just as she was about to put one of her keys into one of the locks, the front door of the brownstone opened and the mother and daughter team from upstairs entered the hallway. The mother looked angry for some reason, but Anita was more focused on the girl. She was taken aback by her appearance. For one thing, there was a purple bruise as big as a half-dollar on her right cheek. Since the girl was relatively light skinned, the bruise really stood out. Also, although the night was chilly, the girl had on only a thin jean jacket for a coat. Lastly, she was about a few meals shy of resembling someone who'd just rescued from a concentration camp.
The girl slowed her steps and turned toward Anita. "Hello", she said in a barely audible voice.
The mother gave Anita an imperceptible nod and then turned to her daughter. "Hurry on upstairs, Tamika."
Tamika seemed in no hurry to go anywhere. In fact, she now was hardly walking at all. Her eyes had the look of someone who'd lived with two centuries worth of pain.
"Tamika, get yo' ass upstairs! Now!"
Tamika bolted to the stairwell and leaped up the flight of stairs. Her mother breezed past Anita and followed up after the girl.
Anita watched the two of them go. She'd gotten a really bad vibe just now. Something between those two just wasn't right. Then she chastised herself for thinking that way. Maybe nothing was wrong between them. It could be they'd just had an argument or something. It was an occupational hazard to think that every uncomfortable situation could be life threatening.
Anita turned back to her apartment door and let herself inside.
James turned around to face Anita. He raised his hand and pointed a finger at her, as if in accusation. He parted his full pink lips and in a low, scratchy voice, said, "Help...me."
Anita was rooted to the floor. In fact, she was barely breathing. Speech had eluded her. She kept staring in horror at the sight before her.
James started to take short, choppy steps toward her. He started to resemble a black Frankenstein. Anita finally had found the strength to move. She started backing away from him. In the process, her speech had returned. "Y-y-you're dead. You're supposed to be dead."
"...I can't help you if you're dead."
Anita's feet suddenly struck a hard surface and she wasn't moving any further. She turned her head only to find that she'd backed into one of the cash machines in the bank lobby. She turned again to see James coming closer...closer...his hand still outstretched, his eyes as wide as saucers, his mouth fully opened...
Anita woke with a start, screaming as she jerked upright in her bed. "'Nita, 'Nita honey, what is it?"
It took a moment for Anita to realize that her husband was by her side and was talking to her, not the black Frankenstein in her nightmare. She started to relax. "It's nothing...just a bad dream, I guess."
"It must have really shook you up. What was it about?"
"I-I don't remember," she lied. Anita felt that she'd remember that nightmare from beyond her grave. She didn't want to burden Don with it. She wasn't sure if he'd understand.
"Well, go back to sleep. Everything's gonna be all right." Don promptly lay back down and was asleep again in seconds. Anita never could go back to sleep.
"Ma, can she come inside and play with my Nintendo?" Stephen asked.
Anita looked up from scrubbing the inside of the oven. Black gook covered the sponge she was wiping with, as well as the yellow glove she wore on her right hand. "Who is this she?"
"Tamika. She live upstairs."
Anita's heart skipped a beat. That Tamika? Before she'd fully thought it over, she answered, "Yes, she can come in."
"Yesssss." Stephen punched the air with his fist for emphasis.
"But...you two had better not make a lot of noise and if you make a mess, you'll clean up after yourselves, hear?"
"Yes, Ma." Stephen bolted to the door of the apartment and opened it. Tamika took small steps as she entered, as though she expected snakes or monsters to shoot up through the floor and grab her. Anita abandoned the oven and stepped into the living room to get a closer look at Tamika. The ugly, purple bruise on her face was gone. That was good. The girl wore a Rugrats T-shirt, faded jeans and sneakers that were ripped apart at the toes. Anita noticed something else. On Tamika's throat, she saw a burn mark as long as a pencil. Due to the placement of the scar, it almost looked as if Tamika had been choked.
There was a long silence. Then Anita said, "Stephen, where are your manners?"
"Oh...I forgot...Tamika, this is my mom. Ma, this is Tamika."
There was another pause. "...Looks like you got a nasty burn on your throat, there. How'd you get that?"
Tamika looked everywhere but at Anita. It was as if she wanted to escape. "...I...I fell."
Anita doubted that she could have gotten something like that from a mere fall, but she let the remark go. She didn't want to frighten the girl.
Stephen piped up. "Let's go." He and Tamika then went to his and Rick's bedroom and Anita went to finish cleaning the oven.
She was even more convinced that something wasn't kosher with the girl. That nasty burn...did her mother do that to her? As much as she didn't want to admit it, she had to consider the possibility. She'd investigated enough child abuse cases in order to know the signs. And Tamika was showing some of the signs.
Although Anita had been trained to act and report suspected cases of child abuse; it can still be difficult to bring about charges. The mother could throw a fit and/or threaten a lawsuit. And it could all turn out to be a misunderstanding and nothing could be wrong at all. Anita could just imagine what kinds of questions the IAB and Children's Services would ask her if her suspicions turned out to be unfounded. Can't you tell the difference between normal parental discipline and abuse? Or You've been a cop for many years. Why did you wait so long to report your suspicions? The questions and the snide comments she endured from the IAB after the shooting at the ATM were enough to last her a lifetime. Some people had implicitly believed the incident at that ATM was proof that a woman of color couldn't cut it. Yet if a white and male officer had done the same thing, hardly anyone at the job would have thought him incompetent. Hell, he might have been praised.
All Anita knew was that she never wanted her decisions to be questioned again. She was a lieutenant, for God's sake. She shouldn't have to prove anything to anybody. And yet...was her indecision about how to handle Tamika's situation an admission that maybe she thought her critics at the job were right?
Anita didn't know. She decided to give it awhile before she did anything definite. She prayed that another child wouldn't be lost because of another bad decision.
Anita stood outside the interrogation room, speakers on full blast. Standing by the one way mirror, she could see Detective Mike Logan and Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy questioning the suspect, Joe Krolinsky. He was accused of conspiracy, bribery and sexual abuse. Even though the guy was a former priest, there was nothing holy about him. He had an air of creepiness that surrounded him like a shroud. Anita would've been particularly happy if they were able to make the charges stick against him.
Mike Logan came out of the room first, followed by McCoy. They both wound up standing next to Anita.
Logan spoke first. "The son of a bitch is lucky I didn't smack him."
"So were we," said McCoy.
Anita said, "There's people like him in every neighborhood. Could be the little league coach, your kid's favorite teacher...it's too bad they don't glow in the dark."
Inside the room, Krolinsky's attorney came to the mirror and tapped on the glass. McCoy and Logan went back inside. As Anita watched the rest of the proceedings, she kept going over in her mind her statement about pedophiles glowing in the dark. She wished those possible child abusers like Tamika's mother could also glow in the dark, so that Tamika could look happier and her anxiety would end. At least once a week in her apartment, Anita would hear the mother screaming, things breaking against the wall and Tamika howl with pain. One day last weekend, after hearing those familiar sounds, Stephen had asked,
"Ma, how come Tamika and her mother are screaming like that?"
All Anita could think of to say was, "Sometimes when people have disagreements, they scream, is all."
"Yeah, but it sounds like Tamika's getting' hurt real bad."
Anita didn't reply to that. She couldn't burden Stephen with her suspicions. She wanted to try to protect him from as many evil things in the world as she could. A few minutes later, he tried to see Tamika, but her mother had told him that she couldn't play because she wasn't feeling well and sent him back home. They both knew it was a lie. Anita felt as if she were on a tightrope and she tried to keep herself from snapping, as she felt a child's life could depend on her ability to keep herself together.
Anita was trapped. She'd backed into one of the cash machines in the bank lobby while at the same time, James was coming ever closer toward her. When he was less than a foot away, he stopped. His hand was still outstretched and he looked at her plaintively, as if he were begging. Anita felt like she'd just run in the New York City Marathon-her heart was pounding and she was breathing in short gasps. Her brain felt as though it were covered in fog. Her insides felt as though they were melting and were pooling on the floor by her feet. What did this boy want? Did he want to rape her? Kill her? She couldn't remember a time when she'd been more afraid.
At first, Anita wasn't even sure if she'd heard James; her mental and physical state being as jangled as it was. She closed her eyes and willed him to disappear. When she opened them again, she found his eyes boring into hers.
Suddenly, the fog lifted from her brain and she was able to let his plea register. She was still afraid, but she wanted to try to make sense of what was happening here. "...I.I don't know what you mean."
The thought came to her as clear as the sky. The boy wasn't looking to harm her. He was looking for redemption.
"Look...I'm sorry...really...I didn't know you were innocent until it was too late."
Now Anita was confused. "Save who?"
"...I can't save you now. You're dead. It shouldn't be that way, but it is. I can't bring you back to life."
James starting shaking his head from side to side. Then his head shook faster...then faster...like a pendulum...then it shook even faster...like a whirling dervish...Anita began to scream...
"Ma, you know what happened to Tamika?" Stephen asked.
Anita considered the question. It had been a few days since she'd noticed any screams coming from the apartment above, but that didn't mean anything, since she was sure it wouldn't be long before everything erupted again.
"What do you mean?"
"She's been absent from school for a whole week. Is she sick?"
Come to think of it, it had been a while since Anita had seen Tamika last, looking as bruised and unkempt as ever. Did something happen to her? Anita didn't want to consider the possibility.
"I don't know, honey. It's possible."
"Hope she's well enough to go with us to the Bronx Zoo in two weeks. It'll be fun."
Anita had to smile. Their class was going on a field trip to the Bronx Zoo. Stephen welcomed any excuse to get out of doing any schoolwork.
A few more days went by and Tamika was still among the missing. Anita became even more convinced that something serious had happened to her. Was her concern coming too late? She decided to start taking matters into her own hands. Shortly after work one night, she paid her upstairs neighbor a surprise visit. When Tamika's mother answered the door, she looked at Anita with wariness and suspicion.
"What do you want?"
Anita hesitated. She couldn't exactly come out and say that she suspected that this woman was abusing her daughter, now could she? She decided a harmless, non-threatening reason was best. "...I...I was wondering if you had any eggs. It's for this cake I'm baking. I didn't have time to go to the store to get any."
The woman stood still for a moment, with a thoughtful look on her face. Anita could swear she could imagine seeing the woman's thoughts churning in her mind, like homemade ice cream. After a moment, she said, "Hold on," and closed her door.
Anita waited for what seemed like an eternity before the woman returned to the door. This time, she held three eggs in one hand. "Are these enough?"
Anita took the eggs. "They're enough. Thank you...you know, I never did get your name."
"...It's Kim...Kim Foster."
"Well, I'm Anita. Know something else?"
"...My son and your daughter are in the same class at school and he says that she hasn't been there in a while. We're just wondering if everything's all right with her."
Kim suddenly stiffened and her eyes turned into slivers of ice. "Tamika's got chicken pox. It ain't nothing serious."
"Well, we were just wondering, that's all. I'm glad it's nothing serious."
Kim started to fidget. "I gotta go. I got something on the stove," and faster than Anita could blink her eye, the door was slammed shut and she was alone.
If all Tamika had was the chicken pox, why was Kim getting so angry and defensive like that? Anita could feel the anger bubbling up inside her. She wanted answers. She banged on the door, to no avail. After a few minutes, she gave up and started down the staircase to her apartment. Anita was tired of being cautious. She wanted something done and done now.
When Anita got there, she went straight to her bedroom. She went to her dresser, opened one of the drawers and fished around in it until she found the pamphlet that had the 800 number for reporting child abuse on it. She closed the dresser, went to the phone on her nightstand and called the number. After she hung up, Anita sat on the bed and stewed. She knew Children's Services could take a while to investigate the case, but at least she'd gotten the ball rolling and somewhere was made aware.
Two nights later, Anita was watching TV in her bedroom when she heard a screech like no other she'd ever heard before. It sounded like a car outside that had its brakes jammed and was swerving to avoid hitting something, but that noise was not coming from outside. It was coming from upstairs.
Then Anita heard a loud thud. Then things got relatively quiet. It seemed almost surreal. Tamika.
Anita went to the nightstand next to the bed and pulled open the top drawer. She took out a gray box from it and undid its lock. She opened the box and withdrew her revolver and a round of shells. She loaded the gun, closed the box, returned it inside the drawer and slid it shut. She'd be damned if another child were going to die due to her negligence. She then picked up her badge from the nightstand and put it in her jeans pocket.
Anita went over to the cordless phone of top her nightstand and dialed her precinct. After the conversation finished, she headed out of the room, toward the door leading out of the apartment.
Don and the kids were watching the Knick game on the TV in the living room. Anita was nearly out of the room when Don happened to look up.
"Anita, what the hell are you doing?"
"I'm going to check something out. I'll be right back."
"What's going on, Ma?" Stephen started to rise from his seat on the couch.
"Stay there, Stephen! It could get dangerous. I'll be back."
Don reached over with his hand and pulled Stephen down in his seat.
"You heard your mother. Stay here."
Anita opened the door leading out of the apartment and crept upstairs. She put her ear to the door of Kim and Tamika's apartment. Her hand holding the gun was behind her back. It was quieter than a monastery in there. Maybe this was a mistake.
But I heard something not ten minutes ago! Tamika's hurt. I know it.
Anita's professional duty overcame her personal misgivings. She bammed on the door.
"Who is it?" Kim's shrill voice called from inside.
"Con Ed, checking a gas leak."
After a moment, the door opened. Anita straightened up, drew her gun up over her head and charged into the apartment.
"What tha' fuck-"
"I said, where's Tamika?"
"What tha' fuck you care, lady?"
Anita whipped out her badge from her jeans pocket. "I'm a police officer. Now, I heard someone scream from my room downstairs not ten minutes ago and I knew the scream came from up here. Someone got hurt real bad. It's my job to check it out."
"Lady, you got some fucking nerve coming up here like this."
Anita started to walk through the apartment, her gun still drawn up high over her head. It was laid out in the same manner as hers, but this one was in bad shape. Dirty dishes overflowed in the sink in the kitchen. Newspapers, magazines and dirty clothes were strewn all over the furniture and the floor in the living room, making it look like a tornado had hit it. Since Anita had no search warrant, she couldn't look under any nooks and crannies, but could only search what was in plain sight. She headed for one of the bedrooms. She opened the door and gasped.
Tamika was lying face down along the far wall, an ugly red gash dotting her forehead. A nightstand was askew on Tamika's left. Anita turned to look behind her. Kim stood with a scowl on her face.
Anita put the gun down at her side and began the usual refrain. "You're under arrest. Anything you say will be used against you in a court of law-"
"I ain't did nothing, bitch."
Anita ignored her and continued to Mirandize her. Some uniforms had started to enter the apartment. One of them handcuffed Kim and others began to secure the scene. It all soon became a blur. Anita notified her family as to where she'd be. The paramedics arrived and started to secure Tamika to a stretcher. Anita then rode in a squad car with some uniforms and a livid Kim. When they all arrived at the precinct, Anita booked her, then filled out some paperwork. She couldn't get Tamika out of her mind. That poor baby. She prayed that her help hadn't come too late.
Just as she was about to head home, Mike Logan stuck his head in the doorway of her office.
"She's alive," he said.
She saw the immobile body of a young boy lying face down in front of her. She drew her gun down by her side and crept up to him. She knew he was dead by the stillness of the lobby. When she was standing next to him, the boy suddenly rolled over, as if he had gotten a sudden jolt of electricity. She gasped.
"Thank...you," he croaked.
She was taken aback. "For what?"
"...For...putting...things...right." The boy closed his eyes. He'd finally been set free.