It isn't necessary to have read the previous Stripped installments (Superheroes; Uptown), but it can't hurt. Here, Kitt continues her self-contained chapters series with a young Officer Logan and his girlfriend and partner Maggie -- and ADA Ben Stone, all tied up in a shooting gone bad. For this installment, she adds, "It looks confusing, but try to have some patience. Imagine all of this happening at the same time, yet coming to the same conclusion. Somehow."
Stripped: Animal Shelter
"What do you know about Officer Mike Logan," asks Assistant District Attorney Ben Stone, shouldering up the sandstone wall.
pats the end of a Marlboro against the pack a few times like tapping his
foot. The city behind the two of them races by in beeps and herky-jerky
scrapes and shoes on pavement and voices, and deep beneath their shoes
runs the screeching subway, but right here there is quiet. Late afternoon
sun glints on his signet ring.
Sergeant Max Greevey grinds against his cigar, which has gone out. Then, "Doesn't matter what I think, Stone."
Ben scrapes a match on the courthouse wall and offers it to the cop. They inhale, exhale, the smoke rising thoughtfully above their heads. "Mean. He has a mean look to him."
"Maybe he is."
"Don't you know? You sent him to me."
"Hmm," said Max, chewing.
"That testimony yesterday -- what she said --" Ben stamped down on it; he couldn't get into specifics. "Just made me think twice."
Max shifted the cigar as if making a decision. "Had a dog once. Bit a neighbor kid. Got 'im real good, too, chewed up the little shithead's calf." He leans over his considerable stomach and taps his knee, then his shin, cigar clamped between a curled forefinger. "Eighteen stitches."
Ben forgets his cigarette. Ashes tumble, smoke in reverse. He waits. He's trying to learn to wait, but patience doesn't become him. He wants action. Max is a study of inaction most of the time, but Ben waits for him because he likes the cop. He has learned to wait for others -- his boss, the district attorney, for one -- because he is scared of him, scared his promotion won't come through, scared if he fucks up this upcoming Phillip Swann case he's going to get sent down to narcotics or sex crimes. The last few months have been quite the roadbump in his prosecutorial life. So he waits for his boss, a man of four words if Ben is lucky, because he has to. But Max he respects.
Nothing. "That's nice, Max. Our cat was called Tiger."
"Pipe down, I ain't done," Max squints.
Ben has a meeting in ten minutes. A motion for dismissal with a judge who has a terminal case of pomposity, and who invariably can be found in and out of the men's room all day. That's where Ben corners him for warrants when he's desperate. God knows what's wrong with that man's digestive system. He belched once and the room smelled like death covered in cheese. But the judge won't wait. Ben knows that.
He takes a long drag from the cigarette, then kills it against the wall.
Mike leaves Maggie at the subway, a little jealous as she trots up the
steps into the precinct. He's on a suspension for that not-so-little incident
uptown. Paid. That's a good thing. Mike isn't sure how he'd make rent otherwise.
But for now he's persona non grata inside there. At least, that's
how he feels.
long last, Max speaks.
"Hadda put the mutt down, 'course. Can't let an animal like that go running around, chewing off people's legs. We let her run loose, anywhere she wanted. Our property, neighbor's property. She loved this space over by some old tool shed. Would curl up in the sun in the back and sleep for hours. Anyhow, we let her out, it was our fault, but the dog was the one who got it between the eyes. Pop took her out back and used his service rifle, just whistled once between the teeth and she turned with that dumb tongue lolling out. After she died I stuck it back in."
"Is Officer Logan a dog, Max?"
"Now, now, counselor. That's not a very kind thing to say."
He isn't certain why he clicks with the older, experienced cop. They don't have all that much in common but the Irish background, and Max's mother was German altogether. But Ben recalls having dealt with Greevey on one of his first solo cases, remembers the then-officer leading him through the most basic question and answer for trial prep, pointing out that he doesn't fudge the details to make a case, but if the case dies on the details he might be able to see it in a different shade of gray. He gave Ben pointers the lawyer has used ever since. For the first time Ben wonders if Max hasn't done the same for Officer Logan. But why this one rookie? What makes him so damned special?
"So," Max continues, "the dog's gone. Didn't even have a name, hardly was ours she wasn't home so often. Ate scraps. Mom gave her strudel. Loved that stuff, the powdered sugar, all of it. She'd got smacked around pretty bad before she adopted us. Only had one eye. One ear was shorter than the other. But she was good people."
"Until she went and mauled some kid for no reason."
Max tsk'ed. "You oughta know better than that."
Ben felt his temper growing as short as his time. "Better than what, Max."
"Don't assume facts not in evidence."
As the stations fly by he feels his life pass before him, going backwards. He's lost in his head, stuck on that side street and backing up. One year ago. Five years ago, ten. Back to Ma and Dad. Back to school, by the time he was speeding by Central Park he's eating mash and crying over a tooth coming in.
Up went the ball, down into the kid's glove. Sweet spot, solid. The kid went back to the game. But where did the perp go? Mike took a hard, ragged breath. An engine started up right where he'd lost sight of things. He strode in the general direction. An arm reached out of a gold El Dorado and backhanded him the finger. Mike raised his piece. "Step out of the vehicle," he shouted over the din of the muffler. "Come out slowly, with your hands up."
The parking lights came on, a red flash, then off. The car jerked into the street like a beached whale. A surge of cold heat flooded Mike's system and he knew, sure as shit, that the perp was paying zero attention to the six ball-playing kids. He was about to take his leave, so long, farewell, Auf Weidersein and all that, see you in the next world. Mike pointed his weapon at the car, realizing he could ricochet if he shot the vehicle, and continued his cautious cross step, closer, closer.
"Stop, Mike," Maggie's voice threaded to him, filtered as if through cheesecloth. "It's over."
She was in another galaxy. Otherwise she'd have seen that the car had unbeached itself and was arcing into a straight position. Three more seconds, he would hit high speed and they'd lose him. And in the way were those kids. Mike refused to let him. He gripped the handle of the gun and lowered it a hair, pointing at the muffler.
Squeeze. And --
He's here. The Bronx. The stop. His lawyer.
Out of the subway the late afternoon sun makes him squint, and he's back in the here and now. Mike stops hard at the corner and two teenagers nearly bowl into him. They mouth obscenities but avoid confrontation because of the uniform. Mike takes a heavy, poisonous breath and turns down a side street, leaning up against a brick wall. His chest tightens. He feels ready to pass out. It's all clear now. He fired. The car stopped. The man broke his neck.
"I killed him," Mike whispers.
But the suspect got away.
you know, I really appreciate these Oracle sessions, but I have this thing
called a schedule," Ben gives up on figuring out what the portly cop is
getting at. "Would you mind if we picked this up later? I can get you a
beer at Flaherty's."
Max eyes him, takes a healthy suck on the cigar. Shrugs. "It's your dime. You asked."
Ben flicks his gaze at his watch. He's a minute late right at this second. He gathers up his briefcase, about to offer farewells and condolences. "It's just --"
"The kid was sixteen. The dog found him in the shed. He was -- attacking my sister." Max stares across the courthouse steps, out into Police Plaza. He lets that sit. They both know what he means. Then, "At least, we figure that's what it was. Louisa didn't say nothin' about it for two weeks. By that time the stitches were in and the dog was dead. But it turned out the kid's leg got eaten up about a half hour after Louie came home and she and Ma went to the doctor. So we figured it out. Later. After."
His head feels too light for his body; his eyes float in too much water. Ben's head feels knocked in. Damnit. He doesn't want this, he has a motion to suppress and all he wanted to hear about was if Logan was good people, not Max's damned sainted dog and his poor violated sister. Ben's heart feels as mauled as the rapist's leg and he just wants to sit down and stare into space for an hour or two right now. Instead, he has to shove all of it down and keep it there. Tonight he'll go home and if Janice will listen he'll tell her this horror story that was dumped on him. But Janice won't listen. She won't be there to listen. Tonight's her aerobics class. Melissa has Girl Scouts. He'll be alone. The gaping maw of his life, like a mouth, stands before him wide and he can't see the bottom. It's so dark. He's got this heavy, heavy thing to carry now and no one to help.
He has no voice.
"Well," says Max. "You got your thing. I probably oughta get to my thing. We all have lots of things to go get to." He puts out the cigar but keeps it in his mouth, starts towards Police Plaza in a slow, shuffling gait.
Ben half-turns but his feet are locked to the ground. He feels old. And he knows that he is alone. "I'm sorry, Max."
"Not for a dog, I hope." Max keeps walking.
"No," says Ben, fumbling for the right thing -- any right thing -- to say. "Just sorry in general."
"Don't be. Happened a long time ago." Max stops, shadowed under the tall eaves of the building. "Way I figure it, nobody's leg has to get chewed off when a warning bark'll do. Make sure you got all the facts in evidence first. Just think about it."
And Ben understands.
PBA lawyer, Grimaldi or Stickney or Scalia or one of the names on the door
is talking and the words blow across Mike's hair. It doesn't really matter,
in the end. He shot at the wheel of a car and killed a man and the perp,
hiding in the bushes, made a swift and hasty retreat. He's still out there,
too. Mike peers in every deli just to see if he's there, shoplifting another
box of Ho-Hos. A box of Hostess and two oranges. That was the booty. That
was it. Maggie took care of one of 'em, and Mike fucked up on the other.