Here's the long-awaited sequel to "Keeping Secrets," winner of the first annual Blue Wall award for fiction, in which Detective Mike Logan tries to deal with his grief after the death of his son, Gage.
By Michelle M. Leslie
...Fly, fly, precious one,
Your endless journey has begun,
Take your gentle happiness,
Far too beautiful for this.
Cross over to the other shore,
There is peace forevermore,
But hold this memory, bittersweet,
Until we meet.
...Fly, fly, little wing,
Fly where only angels sing.
Fly away the time is right.
Go now, find the light.
-- Celine Dion
Rain fell heavily on the dark New York City streets. The weatherman had reported that the cold of winter was finally in the past and the warmth of spring was right around the corner bringing with it torrential rain storms. A blast of thunder sounded through the night waking Mike Logan from his restless sleep. His eyes opened wide in the dark; his heart racing quickly in his chest. He heard it again like he did every night in his dreams and every day mixed with the background noises.
But not just any gunshot.
This one changed his life forever.
Thunder sounded again, louder this time, and Logan reached over to look at the clock sitting on the nightstand beside the bed. Three O'clock. Slowly sitting up on the edge of the bed, he wiped his tired eyes and focused them in the dark. He hadn't been able to sleep through the night in over a month. Not since the day he lost part of himself to a bullet.
Stumbling into the kitchen he flipped on the light above the stove and found a bottle of scotch waiting for him on the counter. He hesitated then poured a splash in to the already waiting tumbler. This therapy seemed to be the only thing to get him through the nights lately. He took a sip from the glass, holding the liquor in his mouth and savoring its bitter taste before swallowing. Then quickly refilled the glass and was about to put it to his lips when in the darkness he heard:
"You shouldn't drink; it's bad for you."
Startled, Logan turned around to see a figure step out of the dark and into the low-lit room. He was relieved as he watched his son, Gage, walk over to the refrigerator, open the door and take out a gallon of chocolate milk. "This is better for you," the boy said as he set the jug on the table.
"Gage?" Logan whispered in disbelief as he stepped toward the boy wanting to take him up in his arms. Could it be? Was he really there? He reached out to touch him, but the boy quickly turned away from him and walked to the counter, jumping up on it and opening the cabinet door. It had to be a dream Logan thought as he watched his every move.
Gage was dead.
He was murdered a month ago in the courthouse after testifying against the people who abused him in part of a child sex ring.
He was hallucinating, he thought.
It was the scotch.
He looked at the glass in his hand and, disgusted with himself, put the glass on the table. Gage jumped from the counter top and carried two glasses to the table, set them down and began pouring milk into them. He pushed one of the glasses toward Logan and began drinking from the other, taking a big gulp, then setting the glass back on the table.
"Ahhhhhhh," he said, smacking his lips and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "Don't you want yours?" Logan nodded as he sat at the table and drank half the milk from the glass in front of him. "Feel better?" Gage asked as he sat down adjacent to his father.
"Much," Logan answered. He didn't know what else to do or say. All he could do was stare at his little boy. He missed him so much and couldn't believe that he was actually sitting there in front of him now. He was afraid that if he blinked the boy would disappear from his view.
"What's the matter, dad?" Gage asked.
"I miss you," Logan responded.
"But, I'm right here," Gage said, drinking more of his milk.
"I know," Logan said.
Thunder boomed again outside accompanied by a huge flash of lightening and Logan's attention was distracted for a brief moment, but that was all it took. He sat alone at the table now, staring at the empty chair in which his son had sat just moments before, and the glass of chocolate milk that was almost empty, now sat on the table full to the rim.
Lennie Briscoe rifled through some papers at his desk in Manhattan's 27th precinct, growing impatient as he waited for his partner, Mike Logan, to finally arrive. Since Gage Logan's death Briscoe watched his partner, a once top-notch detective, fall apart at the seams. Many times he tried to talk with him about his loss but Logan was intent on grieving alone. Briscoe worried that if Logan continued to shut everyone out that he would crack. Moreover, he worried how Logan's grief was affecting is job performance.
Logan entered the squad room, two hours late, and headed straight for the coffeepot. He poured himself a steaming cup, took a sip and rubbed his eyes, trying to wipe away the tiredness.
"Rough night?" Briscoe asked as he approached him.
"Aren't they all?" Logan answered taking another sip of coffee and proceeding to his desk to check the message slips that had piled up and waited for Briscoe to clue him in the morning's events.
"We got a lead on Benito Suarez," informed Briscoe.
"What are we waiting for?" Logan said, dropping the message slips onto his desk and turning to leave. Briscoe grabbed his coat and followed his partner out of the room.
Briscoe and Logan sat in their car watching the building across the street form where they were parked on 76th Street for any sign of Benito Suarez, a suspect in the strangulation of an elementary school teacher. Logan rubbed his face and head, yawning as he did, fighting the urge to go to sleep.
"Storm keep you up last night?" Briscoe inquired, knowing that was not the reason Logan was so out of it.
"Among other things," Logan replied.
"You really ought to see someone about this," Briscoe suggested.
"I'm fine," Logan answered.
"You say that everyday, but I know different," Briscoe said, pressing the issue further.
"Leave it alone, Lennie," Logan urged. The two men had been partners now for three years and Briscoe knew that when Logan said to "drop it" he meant it. But there was a part of Briscoe that wanted to forget about his partner's rules and smack him upside the head and tell him to get his act together. But he knew he couldn't do that. They didn't have that kind of relationship. Logan's other two partners were like father figures to him, but Briscoe was more an equal, and for Briscoe to try and counsel Logan was out of the question. He knew that the more he pushed him on an issue the more resistant he became to it, and he didn't want that to be the case this time. He didn't want to drive Logan any farther away then he was. He was already too alone in his grief.
"There he is, coming down my side," Logan reported and opened the driver side door, getting out before Briscoe had a chance to reply. Briscoe followed his partner's lead and got out of the car.
Logan crossed the street toward the suspect, while Briscoe walked down the opposite side of the street to come up on Suarez from behind. A drill the pair had performed many times in the past without fail. When Suarez approached, Logan pulled out his revolver, pointed it at him and called out, "Benito Suarez, you're under arrest."
A sly grin flashed upon Surrey's face, "Yeah, you say," he yelled with a thick Spanish accent. At that very moment Logan saw something out of the corner of his eye and he averted his attention away from Suarez to the corner of where he saw a little boy standing, waiting to cross the street. Suarez, noticing Logan's distraction, took the opportunity to attack, rushing him and slamming him against the brick wall and grabbing for his gun.
"Freeze!" Briscoe yelled as he came up on Suarez from behind with his gun drawn. When Suarez realized he was in a no-win situation, he relinquished his grip on Logan's gun and threw his hands up in surrender. Logan, now full of anger, with his adrenaline pumping full force, retaliated against Suarez, slamming him backwards against the wall and holding him there while pressing his forearm against the suspect's throat.
"I ought'a kill you, you dumb son of a bitch," Logan yelled through gritted teeth as he pointed his gun at Surrey's chin.
"Mike!" Briscoe called out, urging his partner to gain control of himself. After a moment's hesitation, Logan released his grip on Suarez and returned his gun to his holster.
"This must be your lucky day," Logan said as he spun the suspect around to face the wall and placed his handcuffs, first on one wrist then the other. "You're under arrest for the murder of Kimberly Wallace. You have the right to remain silent, if you give up that right everything you say can be used against you. Do you understand that?"
"Yeah," Suarez replied.
"Good," Logan said and led him to the car as he continued with the Miranda, looking again toward the corner for the boy he had seen, hoping he would still be standing there, but he was gone.
"You want to explain what that was all about?" Briscoe asked as he sat down at his desk across from Logan in the squad room.
"Nothing," Logan answered without looking up from his typewriter.
"It wasn't 'nothing,'" Briscoe pushed. "You think you saw him again, didn't you?" Logan continued to type without answering. "Look, Mike, you need to talk to someone, you can't go on like this."
"I don't want to talk about it," Logan said.
"Mike, he's dead," Briscoe said gently.
"I know he's dead," Logan shot back finally looking up at his partner. "You don't have to tell me that, Lennie. I know he's dead. I held him in my arms, remember? I saw him die. I know he's dead, all right? So, just drop it."
"I know how you feel..." Briscoe began.
"You know how I feel?" Logan said, hostile, offended by his partner's comment. "You don't know how I feel, you can't possibly. You haven't lost a kid. So don't sit there and tell me you know how I feel, because you don't, all right?"
"Hey, don't take it out on me just because you're feeling a little guilty about what happened to your kid," Briscoe shot back.
"What the hell's that supposed to mean?" Logan asked.
"If you were capable of having a normal relationship, you might have known that you had a kid all those years and none of that stuff would have happened to him and he wouldn't be dead now," Briscoe shouted.
"Oh, yeah? Well if you're such a great father, how come neither of your kids can stand you? Don't tell me I'm not a good father just because you're a screw up as one." Logan shoved his chair away from his desk, stood and walked out of the squad room leaving Briscoe behind to regret the ugly exchange between them.
Captain Donald Cragen, who heard the argument, approached Briscoe's desk.
"I don't know what's going on with him," Briscoe sighed.
"The ground is thawing," Cragen replied, and Briscoe finally understood.
During the winter months the ground in the northern states hardens and burials for people who have died during that time are put off until the spring when the ground becomes soft enough again to dig. Gage may have died a month ago, but for Logan he was still very much alive because he hadn't been able to bury his son. Since spring was here, Gage would soon be buried and Logan would have to say his final good-byes and put his son to rest.
Logan stood over the sink in the men's room splashing water over his face. He was angry at Briscoe's comment. How could anyone possibly understand what he was going through? Gage was his son, no one else's. They didn't love him the way he had. They didn't lose him the way he had, and they didn't feel the loneliness he felt. No one knew about the promise he made to protect him and never let him be hurt again. They didn't know he broke that promise. Only he knew. Gage was killed and Logan felt responsible. He shouldn't have let him testify against those animals who abused him, he thought. He should have taken him far away so that he would be safe. But he didn't. He thought he could keep him safe.
He was wrong.
The door to the men's room opened and in walked Don Cragen. Logan began to dry his face with a paper towel as he watched Cragen in the mirror.
"I don't need a lecture from you, too, Don," Logan said.
"You won't get one," Cragen responded. He knew better than to presume that he knew how Logan felt at losing his son. But even if he couldn't identify with Logan's feeling, he could, however, identify with his own. He was in the courthouse the day Gage was shot. He watched the boy die on the courthouse floor, drowning in his own blood, and he felt his own guilt over the boy's tragic demise.
"Did they tell you when?" Cragen asked.
Logan was puzzled at first, not knowing what Cragen was referring to, but then he realized that Cragen knew he had gotten a call from the mortuary where his son's body was being kept.
"Monday," Logan answered, wiping his face again with the paper towel. "Eleven O'clock."
Cragen nodded and said, "I'd like to be there." Logan nodded in reply. "Look, Mike, this is something that no one should ever have to do. Parents shouldn't bury their children. And I'm not going to tell you that I know how you feel, because I don't, but I do know that you're not alone in this thing. We're all here for you." Logan nodded again but avoided looking at his friend's face. "It might help you to talk about it."
"I thought you said you weren't going to lecture me?" Logan finally said.
"I'm not," Cragen replied. "I'm just letting you know that you've got people who care and want to help."
"Listen, thanks," Logan began, "And I know you mean well, but I don't want anyone's help. I don't want to accept this and I don't want to feel better about it. I just want...I just want to be left alone." He threw the paper towel in the trashcan and walked to the door, opened it then turned to face Cragen again. "I appreciate your concern, Donnie, but I can't let it go, and if it kills me then, so be it." He turned and left the room and the door closed slowly behind him.
Light from a street lamp entered into Logan's dark apartment. He sat alone on the couch as he did every night since his son died. He took a sip from his double scotch and tried to block out the noises coming from the busy street below. He had had enough of that world, all he wanted to do now was sit and think about his son. What would he be doing now? What would they talk about?
He took another drink.
"Did you have a bad day?" Gage asked as he leaned over the back of the couch.
"They're all bad," Logan answered.
Gage climbed over the back of the couch, propping himself up on his knees to face Logan. "Why?"
"People just don't know what they're talking about that's all."
"Did you have another fight with Lennie?"
"I guess you could say that," Logan replied. "They all think they know what's best for me."
"They're your friends," Gage said, "They want to help you."
"Well, they can't," Logan barked, "And I don't want to talk about them anymore." He spoke without thinking and as quick as the boy appeared, he was gone. Vanished again into the dark.
Logan bolted straight up on the couch. He must have fallen asleep without realizing it. Now he awoke to the sound of screaming, loud and close. It was coming from inside the apartment and he jumped to his feet when he realized it was Gage screaming for him.
"Daddy!" The boy screamed. "Daddy, help me!"
Logan ran to the bedroom that had once been his son's, opened the door and peered into the dark room. "Gage?!" he called. The boy cried out again for help and Logan frantically searched the apartment for the source of the heart wrenching sounds. He looked in his bedroom, under the beds and in the closets, but there was no sign of Gage anywhere. "Gage, where are you?!" he called out again.
"Daddy, help me!" Gage screamed.
He seemed so close, Logan could almost feel him. "Where are you?!" Logan's shouts turned to cries and he continued to search desperately for his child. "Gage?!" He ran through the apartment one more time, thinking there was an inch of it he didn't cover the first time, but still no Gage. He knew he had to be there somewhere. But he couldn't find him. All he could hear were his fearful screams. Finally, exasperated and worn out from the fruitless search he collapsed against the wall and slid to the floor, holding his head in his hands and crying helplessly. "I'm sorry," he cried, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
A hand rested gently on Logan's shoulder and he looked up through his tears to see Gage standing over him. He quickly grabbed the boy into his arms and held him tightly, afraid he would disappear again if he loosened his grip.
"I'm sorry, buddy," Logan cried. "I'm sorry I didn't protect you."
"Don't cry, dad." Gage said clinging tightly to his father's neck.
"I promised I wouldn't let anyone hurt you," Logan said, "I broke my promise."
"It's not your fault," Gage comforted.
"I'd give anything to bring you back." Logan said as he kissed the boy on the neck. "Anything."
"I know, dad."
"I'm sorry they hurt you."
"It doesn't hurt anymore," the boy replied.
"I miss you so much," Logan said as he wrapped his arms as tight as he could around the boy's small frame, closed his eyes and tried to choke back his tears. When he re-opened his eyes, his arms were empty and he sat alone on the floor. A chill ran up his spine, he shuddered and cried out in vain for his son to return. He held himself, trying to provide some comfort but it could not be found. He couldn't be comforted. No one could ease his pain. He lay on the cold linoleum and cried like a baby.
Elizabeth Olivet awoke to a ringing phone. Who would be calling her in the middle of the night she wondered as she sat up on her elbow and reached across the bed for the phone. She fumbled with the receiver but finally managed to bring it to her ear. "Hello?" She said groggily. "Mike? What time...?" She strained to read the glowing clock by her bedside. Liz had been working with Mike Logan for six years as a police psychologist. They had a totally professional relationship, working on several cases together where she was asked to diagnose this freak or that. Only once did their relationship take on a more personal tone. Max Greevey, Logan's partner, was shot and killed and Logan had difficulty dealing with the loss. Liz counseled him, at the request of the department, and helped him to accept his partner's death as much as it was possible to accept. But even though Logan struggled with his emotions after Max's death, he never called her at home, and he especially wouldn't have called her at two in the morning unless he was in serious trouble. "O.K. No, it's all right. O.K." She said and hung up the phone. He was coming over and she could tell by the tone of his voice he was desperate.
"Here, drink this," Liz said as she handed Logan a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
"Thanks," he said taking a sip from the steaming mug. "It's good."
"You didn't come all the way up here to taste my coffee, Logan," she joked, "You want to tell me what this is about?" Logan paced the large Fifth Avenue apartment, studying the pictures that adorned the walls and the many knick-knacks that cluttered the shelves and cabinets. "Mike?" Liz called, feeling a little foolish as she stood there in her tattered blue bathrobe.
"Next week," Logan finally said.
"What's next week?" Liz asked.
"He's going to be buried next week," Logan said keeping his back to her so she could not see the anguish in his face.
"I'm sorry, Mike," Liz said compassionately, "I know this is hard for you."
"Yeah," Logan chuckled, "Hard."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"I can't. I mean, I can't let him go."
Liz took a deep breath. She couldn't imagine what Logan must be feeling at that moment, though she tried. She remembered the first time she had met Gage. He was a terrified little boy, involved in a grisly case of abuse and murder, who had been accused of killing his adoptive father. She was called in on a consult because the family's lawyer stated that the boy was mentally unstable. She knew from the first time she spoke with him that this child was going to attach himself to the hearts of everyone involved in the case, and she was right. She had spoken with him many more times after that, on a professional level and on a personal one. He was a delight. For someone who had been through the horrors that he had, he had an incredible desire to laugh and love. She was drawn to him, as was everyone he came in contact with. She had seen the transformation that Logan had gone through since the boy had entered his life, and she knew how lost he must have felt since he had been gone. "You don't have to," she said.
Logan turned to face her, his eyes wet with tears. He looked at her for some sign of hope that that could really be true, but he knew it couldn't be. "I'm sorry," he said, "This is stupid, I should've never come here. I'm sorry I woke you." He put his mug down on the coffee table in the middle of the room, grabbed his black leather jacket from the arm of the couch and headed for the door.
"Mike, wait," Liz said, taking his arm, "Don't go." A single tear dripped from Logan's eye and slid slowly down his cheek. He looked at her and she could see the desperation and pain in his eyes.
"I don't know what to do," he said. "I don't know how to do this." The tears flowed more freely now and Liz reached out to him, taking him into her arms and holding him tightly as his body trembled. "I want him back," he cried. "I want my son back. It hurts so much."
"I know," Liz whispered in his ear, "I know."
Liz had always been attracted to Mike Logan; his tough demeanor, his wavy dark hair and his droll sense of humor. She never let her feelings for him be known, however, for she knew that an affair between them would jeopardize their working relationship. As he stood there in her arms she felt those feelings rise to the surface of her being. She knew he had come there out of a need to ease his pain, and she didn't want to take advantage of that need, but he was so vulnerable that she could, in a way, have her way with him if she wanted.
But that was not her way. She respected Logan and really did care for him as a friend. She didn't want to do anything that might destroy that friendship. She had never seen him like this before. The Mike Logan she knew was tough and guarded. He never let anyone in far enough to really "know" him. Liz knew that for him to come to her apartment in the middle of the night meant that he was so close to the edge of disaster. She could see he was in agony, beating himself up inside over the death of his son.
She pulled away from him and took a step back, stopping herself from going to a place that she wouldn't want to come back from. She could see the redness in his eyes before he looked away from her and wiped his hands over his face.
"Sorry," Logan said.
"Don't be," Liz replied. "I know you miss him, and you're in pain. You will be for a long time."
"I can't stop thinking about him," Logan said. "I keep seeing him everywhere I go. I hear him screaming for help...I feel so helpless...I can't help him...I think I'm going crazy."
"You're not crazy," Liz insisted. "Your son was killed. It's natural to feel what you're feeling."
"Is it normal to talk to him?" Logan asked, half jokingly. "I mean, carrying on everyday conversations, drinking chocolate milk with him in the middle of the night; Running through an empty apartment chasing screams coming from someone who you know isn't really there? Is that normal?"
Liz didn't know how to respond nor was she sure he wanted her to; So she kept silent, waiting for him to lead her where he wanted to go.
"It's my fault he's dead," Logan finally said. "I never should've let him out of my sight."
"Mike," Liz said softly.
"It's true," he insisted, "If I had been paying more attention, I would have been able to stop it."
"It's not your fault, Mike," Liz urged. "You can't blame yourself."
"Well, who else is there? I mean it's somebody's fault he's dead. An eight-year old isn't just shot everyday for nothing. Somebody has to be responsible," Logan said angrily.
"Someone is, but not you," Liz argued. "There was nothing you could have done that you didn't do."
"I should've been there," Logan said softly, turning away from her. "From the very beginning, I should've been there. Lennie was right. If I had known, if I hadn't been so irresponsible, I would've known that he existed long before...and nothing would have happened to him. Those bastards would have never gotten their hands on him. None of it would have happened."
"You can't think like that, " Liz said. "If you do, you'll destroy yourself. Not knowing about Gage was not your fault. It wasn't something that you could control. And even if you had known, there's no guarantee that he never would have been hurt. Somehow, somewhere. There are no guarantees in life, Logan, you know that."
"Yeah, well, you weren't there. You didn't see the way he looked at me. He wanted me to help him and I couldn't. I couldn't do anything," Logan said wiping another tear from his eye.
"Don't do this to yourself. He didn't blame you. He didn't expect you to be anything but what you were -- a loving father. That's all he wanted from you and you gave him that ," Liz insisted. "He loved you and you loved him. He knew that and that's all that matters."
"Did he?" Logan asked looking directly into her eyes. "Did he know that I loved him? 'Cause I never told him." He looked away abruptly, unable to face her disappointment in him. "I never told him that I was proud of him, or that I was glad he was my son. I never told him anything. How could he have known?"
"You didn't have to say it," Liz said, placing her hand on his shoulder, "You showed him." Logan looked at her, surprised that she was praising his role as a father. "He knew."
"How can you be so sure?"
"It was obvious for anyone who saw the two of you together," Liz said. "He loved you, Mike. He never blamed you for what happened to him. You saved him. You were his hero."
"Some hero," Logan whispered.
"You don't believe me," Liz said, then got up from the he couch and walked to the study. She returned a moment later carrying a leather-bound journal. "Read this," she said as she handed it to him.
Looking puzzled, Logan took the book from her hand and opened the front cover. "Diary of Gage Michael Logan," he read, then looked at her with question in his eyes.
"Christine had him write in it every time he had a session with her. After the shooting...she thought you should have it," Liz offered.
Logan looked back at the book and ran his hand over the page that contained the words his son had written to express his thoughts and feelings, as if by doing so he could actually feel his son's presence. "You read it?" he asked.
Liz felt a little embarrassed at his question. The journal was supposed to be private, for Gage's eyes only. When she had gotten it from his psychiatrist, Dr. Bennett, a couple weeks earlier, she had intended to give it to Logan right away, but something made her keep it. "I don't know why," she started to explain, "I just felt like I had to. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have."
"It's O.K." Logan assured her, "He didn't have any secrets after...it's O.K." He stared at the first page of the book for a moment, not reading just staring at the letters of the words, trying to imagine his son as he wrote all of them. The handwriting was very neat for an eight-year-old's and it was obvious to Logan that his son had taken his time to choose each thought very carefully and that he had worked tediously to make each letter perfect. This was important to him, Logan thought. All of Gage's thoughts and feeling were contained on the pages of this diary; from the day he came to live with Logan until the day he died. Logan wasn't sure he wanted to know what was written on those pages, knowing might make him feel worse than he already did. He closed the book without reading a single page. "I can't. I don't want to know," he said as he tossed the book onto the glass coffee table in front of where he was sitting, and stood up and began pacing the room. "It doesn't matter what he wrote in there. I know the truth. I let him down and nothing anyone says or does is going to change that fact. He didn't know it when he was alive, but he knows it now, that's why he's..."
"What?" Liz asked.
"That's why he's haunting me," Logan said.
"I see him everywhere, Liz. He shows up in the middle of the night; In my dreams. Everywhere I go, he's there."
"It's not real, Mike. It's your mind playing tricks on you. You want him to be there so your mind imagines him there."
"No, it's more than that," Logan insisted. "He's trying to tell me something."
"Like what?' Liz asked.
"I don't know. Something."
"Mike, you've been through an ordeal. You haven't had time to accept it yet."
"Accept it? How can I accept it?" Logan said becoming hostile. "I mean, he was just a kid. He didn't do anything wrong. He didn't deserve this."
"I know," Liz agreed. "It was a tragedy that should have never happened. But it did. And now you have to deal with it. You have to accept it and move on."
"I can't. I'll never accept it," Logan said.
"Acceptance is the only way to heal. We've been through this before, remember?"
"I don't want to heal," Logan said. "I just want to forget. I want to forget everything about him."
Liz couldn't believe what she was hearing. She knew Logan was in pain and confused over his feelings, but she never expected him to say that he didn't want to remember anything about his child. "You don't mean that," she said, hoping it was true. But Logan didn't answer, he just stared out the window into the darkness. "Is that what you really want? To forget he even existed?" She felt a sadness deep inside her and she wasn't sure if she could continue the conversation. Gage Logan was a sweet child. He was bright, energetic; He had a contagious smile that whenever Liz saw him smiling she wanted to smile herself. He had a gift for brightening even the darkest day. How could Logan not want to remember that? "Mike?"
"Of course I don't want to forget him," Logan finally said as he continued to stare out the window. "It just hurts too much to remember and then realize he's gone."
"I know," Liz began, "But if you don't remember him, who will?" Logan turned his head to look at her. "Are you just going to let him fade away so that pretty soon no one will even remember that he existed? Or are you going to make sure that his life, however short it was, meant something? If you don't remember him than his life had no meaning, and neither did his death."
Her words penetrated Logan's mind and wounded his heart. He didn't want to forget his son. He didn't want his life to be meaningless or his death to be in vain. He had been so consumed with grief and his own pain that he hadn't given much thought to his son's immortality. "What am I supposed to do?" he asked, searching for answers that he knew deep inside she couldn't give him. "How am I supposed to do this? How am I supposed to live my life like none of this ever happened?"
"You don't," Liz advised. "You live your life like it did happen, and you deal with it the best you can."
"That's not very helpful," Logan grinned.
"I know, " Liz agreed "But it's all you can do. And with every day that goes by, the less it will hurt."
"Is that a guarantee?"
"No. But that's what Gage would want. He wouldn't want you to beat yourself up and stop living your life because he's gone. If you don't do it for yourself, at least do it for him."
Logan nodded in reply. He knew deep down she was right, but it was a lot harder to do than to say. Gage hadn't been in his life very long, only six short months, but in that time he had grown very attached to the boy and it was as if he had known him his entire life. There was a huge void in his life now, one that he thought would never be filled again, and a hole in his heart that would never completely heal. "I know," he said "But it's not that easy."
"I know, that's why you have to let your friends help you," Liz said. "They'll give you the strength to go on."
"They don't understand," Logan said. "No one knows how I feel, or what it's like."
"They understand more than you think," Liz suggested. "You have to give them a chance." Logan nodded, thinking about all that she had said, but still not feeling any comfort from it. "There is, at least, one other person who knows what you're going through." Logan looked at her, confused. "His mother."
"Shannon?" Logan said with a chuckle. "She didn't want anything to do with him when he was alive. She only saw him once and that was.... No, she doesn't know what this feels like."
"What does it feel like?" Olivet questioned, trying to get him to let go of his emotions.
"It feels like hell," Logan began, "Like my insides have been ripped out. It's like that feeling you get when the wind has been knocked out of you. You're in a daze; you see everything that's going on around you, but you can't think of anything, except the fact that you can't breathe, but you have to breathe because if you don't, you're going to die. But part of you doesn't want to. I don't know, I can't explain it. All I know is, I had a son, who was smart and brave. Who liked to play basketball and eat peanut butter and potato chip sandwiches. Who I loved, but never got the chance to tell, and now it's too late because he's gone. And now I'm never going to get that chance. And I'm afraid that he's never going to know how much I loved him and how much I miss him."
"It's never too late to tell someone you love them." Liz said. "To just say the words. To feel them. I think it will help you. And I think it will help Gage to hear them. Maybe it'll help him find peace; Help him to go where he needs to go. Maybe he's waiting for you to say it."
As Logan drove the 12 miles back from Liz's apartment to his own, he tried to drown out the words that kept repeating themselves over and over inside his head. "Maybe he's waiting for you to say it," Liz had said. Was she right? Were Gage's appearances somehow a plea to his father to say the words he had wanted to hear but never had? And if the words were never spoken would his son be doomed to wander the path between this life and the next wondering if he was ever really loved? He kept thinking about the diary wondering if all the answers to his questions could be found there.
He pulled the car to the curb, shut off the ignition and just sat looking at the journal that lay beside him in the passenger's seat. He hesitated, then slowly reached over and picked up the book, bringing it to rest on the steering wheel in front of him. Carefully, he opened the cover of the book and again just stared at the words written there. Across the top in big bold letters was written: Gage Michael Logan. He read the words aloud, smiling proudly to himself and saying, "That's my son." Slowly he read the words contained on the next thirty pages. As he read, he realized that there was still a lot about his son that he didn't know, and that crushed him. The diary revealed detailed descriptions of the abuse the boy had endured, details that Logan was never open to hearing about. He regretted that fact now, thinking that maybe he had again let his son down. The more recent entries, those written in the days just prior to Gage's murder, revealed a lighter side of the boy and the words like "dad, family and home" comforted him in a small way as Gage reflected on his new life. On the last page, in the entry dated the day before Gage's death, was a poem. Logan assumed it was a poem that Gage had found that had some special meaning to him, but as he read, he realized the poem was about him and it was written by his son. In it was the assurance Logan needed.
Before You Came Along
My father is very tall.
He seeks out justice for one and all.
He works very hard and his days are long.
It was a lot easier for him before I came along.
He has a big heart and strong hands, too.
And if you ever hurt me, killing you is what he'd do.
He has a genuine smile and makes the ladies feel like they belong.
Yeah, it was a lot easier for him before I came along.
My dad is a cop and you know what that means,
He takes a lot of guff and gets paid beans.
His job is dangerous and the time he's gone is long.
I'm sure it was easier before I came along.
I've only known my dad a short while,
And he has it rough having me for a child.
But I got lucky with him for a dad,
I only wish I could tell him that I'm very glad.
When I grow up I want to be like him.
Right by my side he has been.
I'll grow up happy and tall and strong.
Boy, am I glad that he came along.
There's only one thing that I can't do,
And that's tell my dad "I love you."
I think he knows it and wouldn't be wrong,
I never had to say it before he came along.
So, Dad, if you read this I want you to know,
You're my friend and my hero wherever you go.
Don't ever wonder if my love for you is strong,
Cause I thank God every day that you came along.
There it was in black and white. Confirmation that he had made a difference in his son's life, not that any of that mattered now. But in a way, Logan felt somehow comforted by the words. He only wished that he could give his son that same comfort in return. Then he remembered what Liz had said; It's never too late. Maybe he still had a chance to be the father he always wanted to be and say the words he was never able to say. That's what Gage was waiting for, why he couldn't move on. He was waiting to hear what he had never heard before -- that he was loved.
Logan hurried up the steps of his apartment building and quickly unlocked the door to his residence. He had a feeling that Gage would still be there waiting for him to come home. The apartment was quiet and dim, the shades still having been drawn from the night before. He closed the door quietly behind him and slowly began walking through the apartment, being extra quiet in his steps and listening for any faint sounds, as he removed his jacket and tossed it over the back of the couch on his way into the kitchen.
"Gage?" he said almost whispering, afraid if he spoke too loudly he would scare the boy away.
"Where have you been?" came the voice from behind him, "I've been waiting."
Logan turned quickly with a big grin on is face and went to the boy immediately, sweeping him up and wrapping his arms tightly around him. "I'm so glad you're here," he said, kissing the boy's head.
"I was getting worried," Gage said. "I didn't think you were coming back."
"I'm here," Logan responded. "I'm here."
"I came to say good-bye," Gage said.
Logan, not expecting to hear those words, released his grasp and placed the boy on the floor, kneeling in front of him. "What did you say?"
"I have to go," Gage said sadly.
"What do you mean?" Logan asked.
"I have to go," the boy repeated. "Max says it's time."
"Max?" Logan asked in disbelief, remembering his partner fondly.
"He's been taking care of me. But he says I have to go now, that I can't stay here anymore," Gage said.
"You can't go, not yet, not now," Logan replied.
Gage nodded his head, "He says it's time."
"No. I need more time. Tell him I need more time," Logan began, but Gage shook his head. "There's so much I have to tell you that I never got a chance to. I'd thought there would always be time but.... You can't go yet."
"I have to," Gage said through his tears. "They won't let me stay."
Logan grabbed the boy into his arms, his own tears beginning to build in his eyes. "I won't let you go."
"I love you, daddy," Gage cried. "I love you."
All the restraint Logan had built up was gone. Tears burst from his eyes and his heart cringed with the thought that once he said the words he had come there to say that he would never see his son again. He couldn't bare it. He didn't want to let him go. No matter how selfish it was of him he didn't want to say those words, thinking if he never said them the boy wouldn't leave. He felt Gage try to pull away from him, but he held on tighter, "Don't go," he cried, "Not yet."
"I have to," Gage replied.
It occurred to Logan at that very moment that maybe Gage was going to leave whether or not he heard those words, and he decided he couldn't let him go without hearing them. "I love you," he said. "I love you so much." Logan felt the boy's body relax in his arms, almost as if he was relieved.
The words were like a revelation to him, revealing a feeling that he had never known. "Thank you," Gage whispered. The years of waiting and wondering were over and he could finally have peace.
"I love you," Logan whispered again, "And I'm so proud of you. Do you know that? Tell me that you know that."
"I know," the boy whispered.
Gage stepped away from his father and looked into his face. "Everything's going to be all right now," he said, wiping a tear from his father's cheek and Logan nodded in reply. "I have something for you." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a silver chain with a tiny figure dangling at the end. "It's my crucifix. I want you to have it," Gage said, taking Logan's hand and placing the cross into it, then slowly folding his father's fingers around it with his own. "Carry this with you where ever you go," he said, "And you'll never be alone."
Logan looked at the small hand wrapped around his own, "I'll treasure it," he said, taking his son's hand into his, "Always." Then looking into his son's face, he saw him smile, still trying to be brave.
"Don't forget about me, OK?" the boy said, tears building up in his eyes.
"I could never forget you," Logan said. "Never."
Gage fell into his father's arms once more, wrapping his arms as tight around his father's neck as he could. "I'll always be here when you need me. I'll be here waiting."
"I love you, honey," Logan said. "Don't ever forget that."
"I love you, too, daddy," Gage cried.
Logan squeezed the boy in his arms and inhaled deeply, taking in the smell of bubble gum, peanut butter and Johnson's Baby Shampoo that was his son. He shut his eyes trying to imprint this final memory into his brain: the sights, the sounds, the smells. He wanted to remember all of it. When he opened his eyes it was over.
Gage was gone.
This time he knew it would be for good.
The sun shone brightly on this, the first day of Spring. The crowd that had gathered to say good-bye to the child they had known for only a short time had long since left his eternal resting place. Colorful flower arrangements, left behind as reminders that here lay a blossoming, beautiful, and loving child, covered the newly surfaced grave site. As the gentle breeze blew, it caught several flower petals and carried them away, off into the distance, separating themselves from the group of flowers to which they had once belonged, much like the child had been carried away from his family to be taken on an endless journey to God knows where.
As she stood there watching the petals fly off into the wind she thought she heard someone call out to her. It was as faint as a whisper but she swore it sounded like someone calling, "Mommy." She looked around for a child, who may have been visiting the cemetery with their family, but she saw no one. No one at all. She dismissed the sound as a figment of her imagination.
She turned her thoughts back to the child whose body now lay under the cold soil in front of her. Her child. The child she gave up and wanted no part of. The child she never knew and now never would. She remembered back to the night he was born; how she held him in her arms and he slept without making a sound. How she had given him away in secret so her strict Catholic family would never find out about him. How that even eight years later she still could not acknowledge that he lived. How ironic it seemed to her now that here she stood acknowledging his death.
A single tear developed in her eye but she wiped it away quickly dismissing even its existence. It was easy for her now to deny the truth if anyone were to ever find out that she had a child. He was gone now, wiped away like her tear, never to be seen again.
"What are you doing here?" A voice came from behind her breaking the silence and intruding on her time with her child.
Startled, she turned toward the voice. "Mike," she said, uneasiness in her voice, "I didn't think anyone would still be here."
"I couldn't stay away," Logan said.
"Neither could I...for some reason," Shannon said, looking back at the small grave. "I tried all day to avoid coming here but...I just had to come."
She looked back at Logan and saw him looking at the single red rose she carried in her hand. "I didn't know what to bring," she began, embarrassingly trying to hide the rose and gesturing to all the other flowers that lay about. "I guess it doesn't seem like much when you look at all the others. He had a lot of people who cared about him. I can see that."
Logan nodded. "They loved him."
"Good. That's good," Shannon said quietly. She stepped forward and knelt down, placing the rose on the ground with the other flowers, briefly touching the grassy mound gently with her hand. She stood and turned back to Logan, "I'm glad he had you, Mike. I know what I did was a terrible thing and if I had it to do again I..."
"Don't," Logan said. "You can't change what's in the past."
"I know," Shannon said, nodding and looking back to the tiny grave. "I just can't help but wonder if...if I hadn't given him up. If I had kept him, and raised him, what would it have been like?"
Logan looked away, he knew she wanted to be comforted and released from any guilt that she might have been feeling, and he didn't have it in him to give her any absolution.
"I know you blame me. I blame myself. But you have to know that this isn't what I wanted," Shannon said.
"What did you want?" Logan asked.
"I don't know, but it wasn't this. If it was, then I never would have had him at all," Shannon said.
Again Logan looked away from her unable to even consider that possibility at this point in time, although part of him couldn't help realize that Gage's never being born would have meant that he wouldn't be going through this pain right now.
"You're lucky, Mike," Shannon began. "You got to know him before it was too late." Logan looked back at her, puzzled about what she was trying to say. Was she telling him now that she wished she had been part of her son's life? If that was it, he didn't think he wanted to hear it. It was too late. She made her choice and now she had to live with her decision for the rest of her life.
"I know I don't have any right to ask but..." Shannon said.
"You're right, you don't." Logan said with anger in his voice. "I know what you're going to say and you can stop right there. You had a chance to be part of Gage's life and you blew it. He would ask about you all the time; Where you were; How come you didn't want to see him, and I had to lie to him so he wouldn't think that even his own mother didn't want him. I had to look at his face every time he saw other kids with their mothers and know that he was hoping someday he'd have a mother who cared about him. You want me to feel sorry for you, but I don't. I feel sorry for him, because he wanted you and you were never there."
"Stop," Shannon said, tears building in her eyes. "Stop."
Logan, once he remembered where he was and why, backed off and turned away from her. He didn't come here to fight; this wasn't the time or the place. Thinking about it now he couldn't remember why he had come back to the cemetery. The Cerettas house, where people had gathered after the burial, had become claustrophobic for him and he had to get away and get some air. He had gotten in his car and began driving, somehow ending up back at the cemetery almost like he was being directed there by some other force. Finding Shannon there was something he didn't expect either. A will other than her own had brought her to this place for a reason as well.
He knew that Gage wanted to know his mother. Ever since he had known him the boy asked about her and he had been hurt by her disownment. Was it fair for Logan to now push her away when what his son finally wanted had come to pass? Maybe this was the only way his son would get to know his mother, and maybe this was the only way Shannon would get to know her son. He wanted her to know him. She should have known him. That's the way it should have been.
He turned back toward her but she was no longer there. He saw she had made her way down the hill and was walking quickly toward her car. He ran down the hill after her, calling out for her to stop, and once reaching her, grabbed her arm to stop her from getting into her car.
"Wait," Logan said. "I'm sorry," he began, noticing the tears that streamed her cheeks. "I didn't mean what I said. "I'm sorry."
"You have every right to hate me, and you're right, I have only myself to blame. I never should have come here; It was a mistake."
She tried to get in her car once more and he stopped her, taking her by the arms.
"Please, just let me go," Shannon said.
"Do you really want to know him?" Logan asked.
"It's too late," Shannon argued, "He's gone."
"It's never too late," Logan comforted, remembering it was those words that helped him deal with his own grief only days before. Shannon looked up into his eyes, hopefully, and he knew it was the right thing to do. "Here, look," he began as he took his wallet from his back pocket, opened it and removed a small photograph of their son and handed it to her. "This was taken a couple months ago. We went ice fishing with Phil Ceretta, my ex-partner. We were freezing our asses off and not having much luck catching anything. We were just about to call it quits when Gage starts yelling, 'I got one, I got one.' So here he's got this 10 pound bass and right after he pulls it out of the water he wants to let it go," Logan said, smiling as he retold the story with joy. "Phil made him wait until after he took this picture. He said he needed something for proof or no one would believe us when we came back empty handed."
"You have a lot of memories," Shannon said, looking up from the picture.
Logan nodded. "Yea, but they're better when you have someone to share them with."
"Will you tell me more?" Shannon asked.
"I'll buy you a cup of coffee." Logan said. He realized at that moment that the greatest gift he could give his son now was to share his life with the people who cared about him, and that included his mother. It was the only way to insure that his son's life would go on, even if it was only in the memories that he left behind.