Getting Back On
"I know, L-T. It just seems strange. I mean, it just happened, and we're back at work like nothing's changed. Just strikes me as disrespectful, that's all," Rey Curtis said. It was a late evening at the 27th precinct, as usual.
"Rey, there is nothing else that we can do. Bad things happen. We move on. We come back and do our jobs. I need you to get your head back into this. It's been a bad week. Whatever's bothering you, take care of it."
"Yeah. Don't worry. I'm going to deal with it tonight. When I get home."
"Fine. Good night, Detective. Oh, if Lennie's still here, will you send him in please?"
The Latino cop left, and Lt. Anita Van Buren sat alone in her office. It was a small room, made more cramped by the reports, faxes, and files that had accumulated on every available surface over the last few days. The paper work represented her stewardship over a little chunk of New York City civilization -- or what passed for civilization in New York - and the squad commander didn't feel like dealing with any of it.
What a week. Rey's right. How do we get back on?
The trouble had started a few days earlier -- the execution, the moping detectives -- all on top of the typical desperate struggle to enforce some semblance of peace.
And, of course, there was that 2 a.m. phone call. When Van Buren got a call that late, she could usually count on something bad.
I should have made her come get a drink with me. One drink. A half hour. Could have made all the difference...
A knock at her high-quality-NYPD-issue-door interrupted her musing.
"Hey, L-T, Rey said you wanted to see me?" Lennie Briscoe asked as he leaned in on the doorframe.
Van Buren studied her bulldog detective. She noticed the stiffness in his stance. The accident that crushed Claire Kincaid's skull only gave Briscoe a sore back. For him, the worst damage from the evening had been the hangover.
He looks tired. Ha! We all look tired. I don't want to do this . . . I just want to go home and kiss my boys.
"Come in, Detective Briscoe," she said. "And close the door behind you." The mildly curious look on his face disappeared at her last comment. A closed door as Van-Buren-speak for 'I don't want the whole world to hear me chew you out.'
"Sit down, Lennie."
"Lennie, I know that the last few days have been . . . difficult. But I need to know what happened."
He stalled. "Happened? I thought you knew. We got hit by a drunk driver."
"No kidding, Lennie. That's not what I'm asking, and you know it. Why was she driving you home?"
Oh, that was smooth, Anita. Remind him that if he hadn't been drunk, she'd still be alive. Next time you want to get his attention, be subtler. Just stab him with a knife.
"I had a couple of drinks. She offered to drive me home. That's all." The detective was deeply engrossed with the wall somewhere beyond Van Buren's left shoulder.
"That's all? Detective Briscoe, what we're you thinking? Do you even remember how many 'couple drinks' you had?" The lieutenant struggled to keep her voice even.
"Gee, officer," Briscoe said. "I didn't know I was doing anything illegal. I'm over 21, honest. I've got my ID around here somewhere..."
"Can it, Lennie. I'm not in the mood. So I'm gonna ask again: what happened?"
The detective met her eyes and shrugged. "Bad day," he said.
Anita sighed and rubbed her temples. The headache that had been threatening all afternoon was throbbing to the surface.
"OK, Briscoe, I'm going to be blunt. You're a good cop and one of the best investigators I've ever met, but you fell off the wagon, hard. I don't know what happened. It must have been pretty rotten, but frankly, I don't care. I don't have the time, patience, or resources to cover for a drunken detective.
"You're too good to do this to yourself again. But more importantly, Rey Curtis is too good for a partner that may or may not be able to back him up. I am not going to explain to Mrs. Curtis that her husband is dead because you were having a 'bad day.'"
Briscoe resumed his scrutiny of the wall.
"So, Lennie, this is what we're going to do. You are going to get back on the wagon. I want you back at AA meetings. And we're going to have a chat every few days. You are not going to mess up again, Detective, 'cause you don't get another chance. Do you understand?"
"Yes, ma'am," he said. She hadn't seen him this pale since he'd had a pastrami and rye ten minutes before a bloody infanticide call.
Van Buren sighed again.
"Sorry, Lennie, but I needed you to know where I stand on this. Good night, Detective. Go home."
He rose a bit unsteadily and headed for the door.
"Lennie?" Her question stopped him. "How's the back?"
"Better, ma'am," he said to the door.
"It's been some week, hasn't it? Everything's all messed up. How do we get back on track after a week like this?" she asked.
Briscoe turned toward her and passed his hands over his face. He took a breath to say something, then paused and shook is head.
"'Night, L-T," he said. "See you tomorrow."