The author has this to say about her first apocrypha-published work: "In the Editor's Notes in the Spring issue of apocrypha, the question was posed, 'Is "Indifference" just about a little girl whose parents abuse her until she dies? Or is it about Mike's unnatural identification with the issue?' This fiction submission is a response to that question, written within the framework of a relationship for Mike that I'm always kinda working on."
By Cindy Gingrich
It was always the same, the part that he remembered. It had been the same for many years. A hot summer night, the air thick, almost dripping with vapor. He could hear her frightened voice, calling for him. He could see her, just ahead of him. He had to get to her, to help her. Save her.
He tried to call out, but the words strangled in his throat. He tried to run, but he couldn't get his legs to work -- they were heavy, as if he was pushing through deep water. He heard her voice again, weaker. Help me. He was losing her. In desperation, he reached out in the dark. His hand touched something warm and wet. Slick. He looked down -- his fingers were covered in red, the bright crimson of blood. His stomach tightening, he raised his head. She was gone.
He woke with a start. God, not again. He looked up at the ceiling fan, swirling above the bed. His heart pounded in his heaving chest. The bedsheets, twisted and damp with sweat, clung to him. He closed his eyes and saw again the scene that had brought him so harshly out of the dream. Shuddering uncontrollably, he looked up again at the fan, spinning, endlessly.
He drew a long slow breath, trying to calm himself. Then he turned to look across the bed at Tess, his wife of five months. Her blonde head was turned toward him, but in the dark, he couldn't tell if he had awakened her. A hand touching his arm was his answer.
He took the hand and squeezed it. "I'm sorry."
"Whatever for?" She said sleepily.
"For waking you."
"Hmmm. No problem."
She knew he had been dreaming, and he knew that she knew. This did not happen infrequently -- if he woke in the middle of the night in a sweat, it was a nightmare. She had learned not to ask about it.
She leaned over and kissed his bare shoulder. "Come over on my side. And get out of those wet things -- I like you better that way anyway." Her voice was teasing.
He smiled to himself. She made it so easy to be taken care of. He reached down to pull off his soaked boxers, and crawled over to her half of the bed. It was dry, and warm from her body. She snuggled against his chest.
"Hmmm. Feels good, Mike."
He ran his hand down the smooth cotton of her nightgown, across her hip and backside, then his fingers moved beneath the nightclothes to caress her skin. He laid his hand against her bare back. "I love you so much."
She smiled and kissed his chest. "I love you, too, Detective. I'm here. I'll always be here."
Teresa Erickson had married Michael Logan four months and 27 days ago. She was not a religious woman, but every single day, she thanked God for him. Their courtship had been short and often difficult, but had yielded a relationship that was intense and very loving. An unhappy first marriage had ended in divorce eight years before they met, and in her solitary life, she had settled into a reasonably satisfied state of self-reliance. She had not known that a man such as Mike, a heart such as Mike's, existed in the world.
She had been a contact on one of his cases -- an obscure means to a potential witness. A chance meeting. She knew that she was not "Mike's type" -- other cops, especially the young single ones, had made a point of detailing to her his numerous female exploits over the years. She was tiny and slim, athletic rather than voluptuous, and she wore her blonde hair short. She was a dietitian, for Pete's sake! "Mike is dating a 'professional woman'?" His cop buddies had laughed. She did not question how he fell for her or why. She was merely thankful. And very happy.
Mike loved Tess more than he could ever explain. He had just turned 40 when they met, and had recently broken off a relationship with a tall, buxom and very vacuous young beauty. He was feeling a bit old that day, and grouchy, and had dreaded the interview with Ms. Erickson. He had left her office surprised, and charmed. He discovered that the world did contain at least one woman that was attractive and intelligent and that, above all, was devoted to him. When asked what he considered the best day of his life, he always replied, "today."
Tess had resisted his desire for marriage at first. The thought of combining the lives of two settled, independent 40-year-olds had intimidated her. She loved Mike with her very fiber, but the need to maintain her own self -- her friends, her goals -- was strong. Tess was more important to Mike than anything else, but being a detective was a life, not a job, and it didn't end when he left the precinct. Their work hours surprisingly helped to strike the delicate balance between individuals and partners. She worked a regular 9:00 to 5:00 schedule, with some evening classes. Mike changed shifts every few weeks, and more often than not, his day ran longer than planned. Cop hours. There were days when they barely saw each other, at least awake. While each missed the other on those days, it made them appreciate the times when schedules matched. Afternoons together, shared evenings, were precious and anticipated.
She was learning what it meant to love a cop, at least this cop. Bad and good. She struggled with the unrelenting fear of him getting hurt. She hated the constant presence of guns -- in the apartment, on him, on all of them. And Mike could be moody. Sometimes when a case was especially troubling to him, his painful silence made her ache.
One of the good things about life with Logan was sex. For Tess, making love with Mike was like discovering something new and wonderful that you couldn't get enough of. He was an imaginative and thoughtful lover. Giving of himself. She had never before laughed so much in bed, nor felt more satisfied or more desired. Nor had she ever wanted a man so much. She commented to him once on his prowess as a lover, that she had not known how good it could be. He had smiled. "Thank you for what you're saying, but it's not me, don't you see? Sometimes sex is sex. But with you -- this is the first time in my life that I want to please someone else more than I want to please myself. It's so much more than just sex. It's really making love."
Mike felt he had gained the best of both worlds. Tess had taught him a love for the outdoors and much of their time together was spent there. Though he did not agree with her strict vegetarian diet, he had happily become a willing test subject in her cooking experiments. Many of his friendships with other cops had become their friendships. But he also had kept a great deal of his "single life." He watched baseball at will -- at Tess' insistence, actually. Their second date had been a Yankees-Red Sox game. She was a diehard Sox fan and thoroughly enjoyed rooting against Mike's Yankees. And poker -- she never minded if he played. This freedom seemed to annoy many of the other cops, to his delight. He had been the only married man in Ed Green's Official 2-7 Poker Tournament and had been very proud of his second place finish.
For the first months of marriage, she had worried about the "kid thing." There would be no little Logans. She could not have children, nor had she ever had the desire to do so. Mike had not only accepted this, he had concurred. He wanted a wife, he told her, not a woman to bear children for him. His love for her as his partner, a half of their whole, was more apparent to her each day. She stopped worrying.
She had always found outlets for her instincts in this area, and found that her husband did, too. They both were crazy about his sister's three kids, and spent as much time with them as possible. There was her beloved Sam, her mutt -- she swore that he and Mike were more smitten with each other than either of them was with her. Mike had called him "my dog" even before he and Tess had married. And there were her "girls," the eating disorder group that she counseled. Her favorite part of her work. Ten young women, ages 13 to 18. Tess loved them and doted on them. Mike understood and approved, and had been caught up with them as much as he was allowed. They gathered frequently, sometimes dining out or hiking, sometimes just hanging out at their apartment. Often, they left him behind, but sometimes they included him. He enjoyed those times, liked being the only guy.
Mike learned from the young women, and they, from him. He had quickly picked up how sensitive most of them were, how fragile. He had an easy sense of humor, and teased them relentlessly, but carefully. They all found him handsome, and called him Tess' "cop-squeeze" behind his back. It made her laugh. It also pleased her. She felt it was a good thing that they saw that cops were human, and that men were civil. He was a perfect example for them of what a husband could be. Should be. He was strong and also gentle. Intelligent and thoughtful, but occasionally silly. He was tender with her, and proud of her intelligence and accomplishments. It was clear to them that this man adored his wife.
So the Logan-Erickson union was sweet. Life was blissful. Until the Thompson case.
It was a hot, muggy day in late July, and Mike and his partner of many years, Lennie Briscoe, were not eager to start this case. The loss of a child was always tough. They entered the crime scene, abuzz with cops and photographers and forensic technicians. The parents stood to one side with two uniformed officers. Mike gave them a brief look. Robert Thompson was red-faced, and seemed angry. Not sad, angry. His wife, Susan, looked frightened. She also looked quite stoned. A few feet from them, a woman officer held the hand of a young boy, maybe 9 or 10 years old. Mike approached them.
"Their son?" Quietly.
She nodded. "He's terrified. Won't let the parents get close."
Mike knelt and smiled gently at the dirty-faced little boy. "Hey. It's okay," he looked to the officer.
"It's Jeremy," she answered.
"You're safe, Jeremy." He reached out to touch his shoulder, and the boy's eyes widened in fear. Mike pulled back, frowning. A knot started to grow in his stomach.
"Mike --" Lennie motioned to him from where he was kneeling. Patricia Thompson, six years old, the victim, lay awkwardly at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Mike knelt. "It's been a while -- she's stiff -- it must have been hours."
Mike gently smoothed back the girl's hair. She was cold. His hand started to tremble. Lennie heard him gag, and looked up to see that his partner had turned pale. He watched his frantic search for a place to be sick. Winced as the sound of retching carried throughout the apartment. Lennie sighed. This was not uncommon, certainly in their division. Some times, for various reasons, it got to you. It had happened to him. But never to Mike, in all of the years they had worked together.
He looked up as he returned. "You okay?"
His partner nodded. He felt cold and clammy in the summer heat. "These people shouldn't be allowed to have kids. The boy's going to Juvenile Services?"
"That's not our decision."
"It's out of our hands."
"Did you see his face? He's scared to death! This is child abuse!"
"There aren't obvious marks on either child. The girl could have fallen down the stairs accidentally."
Lennie had no reply.
The parents were taken to the precinct for questioning. Mike was relentless, his anger at what he had witnessed at the crime scene spilling out. He was adamant that the woman be forced to give blood for a drug screen, and her husband kept refusing for her, insisting that she was not under arrest. The heat was rising in the Interrogation Room. Finally, Anita Van Buren, the precinct commander, had seen enough. She motioned Mike out of the room.
"What is with you?" She said hotly.
He looked at her, his eyes dark with intensity. "It's so clear! Why am I the only one to see this?" He was sweating heavily, and wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Mike. Sit down for a few minutes. Take a break, get some coffee..." The Thompsons were making this nasty enough. She didn't want her detectives adding to the problem.
Eventually, the father was released, uncharged. Mike was not happy about that -- the man seemed too cold-blooded and too hateful to not have had some fault in this crime. But his alibi appeared solid. He had been at work during the time his daughter had died -- it was he who had called the police.
Anyway, it was the mother. Mike knew it. And it had been no accident. After additional questioning, Susan Thompson was finally arrested and charged, and he roughly tightened the handcuffs around her thin wrists. Afterward, he looked smugly at Lennie. "We could have saved a lot of time if you all had listened to me."
"Mike, you gotta gear down on this one a bit."
"The bitch is going to jail. I'm just fine."
He was not just fine. He was surly and short-tempered the rest of the day. Lennie had not seen this in his partner for a very long time. He rarely did such things, but he phoned Tess, at her office. Maybe to warn her, he wasn't sure himself. He asked about Mike's mood that morning, had he been feeling all right? Tess had had no clues to his behavior.
She had an exam in her class that night, and got home late. She found him already in bed, and quietly got herself ready to join him. Her goodnight kiss received only a mumbled reply.
When he came out to the kitchen the next morning, tying his tie, Tess was at the table, drinking coffee. On days that he started at 8:00 a.m., they ate breakfast together. He remembered that she had been as restless as he the night before -- maybe she sensed something. She was reading the front page of the Times. Weird, he thought, she usually had the sports section. He kissed her from behind, leaning over her shoulder to look at the story she was reading. Damn, it had made the front page! He bent closer, scanning the report.
"That isn't how it was," he said softly. She looked up and met his eyes. He nodded. "It's ours."
She searched his face. It was a horrible case -- she understood why he had been upset the day before. "You okay?"
"Yeah. Why?" Silence. She shook her head. "It's on your face, Tess -- what is it?"
"Nothing. You seem...I don't know, a little tense. This case is terrible..."
"Did Lennie talk to you?" More silence. His eyes narrowed slightly. "Teresa."
"He was concerned. He wondered if maybe you weren't feeling well, honest." He didn't answer. She saw the muscle in his jaw tense. "Mike, he knows how I worry about you..."
"You can't be worried every time I have a bad case! You're a cop's wife now. You have to let me deal with it!"
"He was only trying to help. So am I."
"Jesus Christ, I can handle this myself!!" God, it was 6:30 in the morning, and he was swearing at his wife. He wondered if he woke the neighbors. "I'm sorry." No reply. "I'm sorry. It's okay. I'm okay." He looked for affirmation. She finally nodded. They finished breakfast in silence.
Traffic was brutal that morning, and between it and the disagreement with Tess, he was fairly annoyed by the time he arrived at the precinct. He really wanted to get out there this morning, really bad. But Lennie was late. He came rushing in at a quarter past, shaking his head. The last straw. "You're late!" The morning, in total, had now made him quite irritated.
"I see your mood has improved greatly since yesterday." Lennie had fought the same battle on his drive in, and did not appreciate his partner's reprimand.
Mike steamed a moment, then, "How dare you phone Tess about yesterday!" His voice was low, but heated. Lennie said nothing. "She doesn't need to know what happens here!"
"I was concerned."
"For her or for me? I'm fine, and I don't need or want you meddling in my affairs!" The volume had risen.
"Mike --" Quietly. Lennie was shaking his head. The whole room was watching them, in silence.
Then, from across the room, "You two -- in here." Van Buren was beckoning, an annoyed look on her face.
Mike's temper continued to rise on the way to her office. "This isn't my fault!"
"Mike. Have a seat." He did. She looked at him, frowning. He was flushed.
"Lennie, you first."
He sighed, resigned. "I was out of line." He was not sorry that he had done what he did, for Tess' sake, but he understood Mike's anger. This was stuff that stayed in the precinct. "I phoned Teresa yesterday. I told her that Mike seemed overly agitated at the interrogation. I told her about the situation at the Thompson place."
Mike shot him a nasty look. Now Van Buren would know about that, too. "So you lost your breakfast, Mike. It was ugly, a child was killed." He redirected the anger her way. "A uniformed told me, not Lennie. It happens." Silence. "So you want to tell me your side of this?"
"Why does everyone think there's something wrong with me!"
"Cause you're yelling at everybody. I'm thinking about putting Profaci on this with Lennie."
"No!" He stood.
"Sit down." Nothing. "Mike!"
He did. He took a deep breath. "I want to help put this woman away, okay? That's all." Then quietly, "I'm okay."
She nodded finally and Lennie gratefully escaped into the squad room. Mike stood up, to follow.
"Mike, just a minute."
He turned, sighing. Christ, more lecture. But she was smiling slightly. His anger cooled.
"Look, I'm sorry."
"Apology accepted. You fighting with your new bride over this case, too?" This was personal, more so than she would usually get with her officers, but she knew and liked Tess, and was grateful for the calm that had overtaken Mike since their marriage. He was not offended by the question.
He shook his head slightly. "She doesn't understand what it's like for me as a cop. She still worries so damn much."
"But she does understand. It took me a while to understand that my husband has to worry. And longer to let him do so." He was silent. "Go on. And try not to piss Lennie off again today, okay?"
Mike left the office and walked across the room to pour two cups of coffee. He gave one to his partner, with a sheepish smile.
"Thanks. Look, Mike --"
"No, Lennie, I'm sorry. It's all right that you told her. And she didn't want to confess, I forced it out. She just gets too worked up sometimes." Lennie shook his head, amazed. Who was worked up?
The notice for Patricia Thompson's funeral was in the newspaper the next morning, and when Mike came out to breakfast in his best dark suit and a somber tie, she knew that he and Lennie must be attending. A shame, she thought. He looked so handsome in that suit, and he almost always wore it for sad occasions.
"Good morning." He bent and kissed her tenderly, a hand entwined in her hair. They had not talked about the case since the tense discussion the morning before, but she knew he must be dreading this today.
They ate breakfast quietly. Sam came up and nudged Mike's hand and he stroked the dog's head mindlessly. Sam sometimes seemed to understand him better than she. He finished his coffee and got up to leave, turning back at the apartment door. "I shouldn't be late tonight." She nodded. His dark eyes were tired.
She took his hands and squeezed them, kissed them. "I love you, Detective."
He gathered her to his chest tightly. "What would I do without you?" He kissed her forehead, then lifted her chin and kissed her mouth.
"Hurry home tonight."
The arraignment for Susan Thompson was scheduled for early on the same morning as the funeral. The public defender had pushed for this, hoping that the judge would sympathetically allow a low bail, and free the mother for her child's funeral. A judgment of $75,000 cash bail said otherwise, and Susan Thompson was accompanied to the funeral by two uniformed officers.
Lennie hated funerals, but they were sometimes a good place for gathering information. He and Mike had worked together for so long that no talk between them was necessary at such things, and they usually managed to keep a discreet distance from the families.
They arrived early. The parents were together at the front of the small chamber, the assigned officers a polite distance behind them.
"Lennie, I need a minute, I have to --" Mike motioned toward the casket. Lennie nodded. Mike occasionally had these surges of religion. Something he himself rarely felt. He watched him kneel and cross himself, then stand for a moment, looking at the young girl. He saw the father approach him.
"What the hell are you doing here?" His voice was low, but harsh.
"Paying respects to your daughter." He looked at Robert Thompson. There was hate in the man's eyes. There was no grief. Mike looked at the mother, a few feet away. No tears. No sorrow. He felt a bit nauseous. "I'm sorry for your loss --"
He returned to Lennie, who had been joined by Abbie Carmichael, from the District Attorney's office. He nodded a hello to her, then shook his head. "Those two are cold. No tears cried over this." He pushed the thought out of his mind. "How did the arraignment go?"
"Seventy-five thousand dollars cash. Jack wanted more, but Danielle Melnick played today's funeral and the mourning mother perfectly."
"Melnick? What happened to the public defender?"
"Good question. Someone has stepped forward to pay for Susan Thompson's defense. Worries me a bit -- maybe they have $75,000 cash, too. That's why I'm here, looking for some well-dressed benefactors."
"She can't make bail," Mike said uneasily.
"Let's hope not."
The three of them sat down for the service, watching quietly, making mental notes. Mike was happy to get through it without feeling that he personally was heading straight to hell. He hated funerals.
Lennie and Abbie begged off, but Mike drove out to the cemetery for the interment. He sighed. He knew this cemetery, too well. He stayed after the service, walking, until he came to a small granite marker, a child's grave.
Meghan Marie Logan
Born January 15, 1964
Died July 9, 1970
He smiled sadly. He and Colleen had called their baby sister Meg -- Meghan was too grown-up sounding. He knelt and fingered the raised letters on the granite. She had been only six when it happened, her big brother only ten. Tears filled his eyes and he shook his head, trying to shake the thoughts away. He could not go back there, not today.
That night, the dreams started.
When the alarm went off, she was alone in the big double bed. She could hear the shower running in the bathroom. She sighed, wondering if he had slept at all after the nightmare. She laid still a few moments, listening to the water running, watching the fan above her head spinning. The water stopped. She crawled out of bed and pulled on a long pink silk robe. A gift from him.
She bent down to scratch Sam's ears, then went into the bathroom. Mike had progressed to shaving, and stood at the sink with a towel around his waist. "Hi," she kissed his warm back. He smelled of sandalwood soap.
"Hey," he turned and smiled. "I couldn't sleep. I decided to get up and get going." She nodded, waiting until he finished with the razor. As he wiped the last remnants of soap from his chin, she put her arms around him from behind. He turned, still smiling, and kissed her. He ran his hands through her hair, then lifted her face to his.
"Don't be worrying, okay?" She nodded. She kissed his chest and laid her head against it, and he hugged her tightly.
They talked quietly over breakfast, then he started getting ready to leave. He pulled on his suit jacket, and she stood to walk him to the door. Something about the tumbled way she looked made him smile, and he took the ties to her robe and undid them. His fingers traced a gentle line around the curve of her breast. She smiled, not expecting this from him this morning. "What doyou want?" He grinned, and slid the robe back off her shoulders, then followed with the thin straps of her nightgown. It slid across her hips to the floor. He gave her a slow, approving once-over. A bigger grin. He reached to gather her to him, but she had knelt, hands at his belt.
"Tess, you'll make me late," he said with a laugh. But his suit pants had already fallen to the floor. She slid her fingers along the sides of his boxers, teasing them down, kissing him on each hipbone. Then slowly she scratched her fingernail down the line of hair running from his navel. His body answered her call. He felt her firm fingers close around him, and her warm mouth. "Please make me late." He stroked her hair, then took hold of the table behind him to steady himself. God, she was good at this. He closed his eyes, enjoying the increasingly intense surge brought about by his wife's efforts. Till she finished, he was panting, happily spent.
"You're becoming a wild woman."
She laughed, and kissed his thigh. Then carefully dressed him and got to her feet. He leaned over and kissed her mouth, then both breasts. He ran his hands down her naked body, across her backside, between her legs.
"Officer, you'll never get to the precinct."
"We can save it, for later." He looked her in the eye, weighing the possibilities. "I'll be sitting at my desk all day, thinking about where your hands are right now." Hmmm. He liked that. He grinned, and kissed her again, nodding.
"Deal." She smiled and pushed him toward the door. He turned. "You know, I love you in that outfit." And he was gone.
She got in the shower, still smiling from the morning's quick exchange. But soon the sense of uneasiness that had been hanging over her returned. Something wasn't right. Mike had been his usual self that morning. His body had certainly reacted normally, and he had initiated the tryst, maybe to show her that things were okay. She didn't understand. Lennie's concern, the dream. Maybe it was nothing.
The passion did not continue that night. He brought dinner home, and they watched the Yankees, a common evening. He had dozed by the sixth inning, and she prodded his sleepy body to bed.
Things started calmly the next morning at the precinct. Mike and Lennie were sorting through leads on the case -- relatives, friends, neighbors. Near noon, a very annoyed Lt. Van Buren came out of her office and approached Lennie, alone at the partners' joint desks. "How's Mike's head today?" They both looked across the room at him.
Lennie shrugged. "Seems fine. Why?"
"Susan Thompson made bail."
"Some relatives kicked in the cash. McCoy is not happy."
"What's up?" The noise had attracted him. He seemed in a good mood.
"The Thompson case -- the mother made bail."
The mood changed quickly. "What the hell is going on?"
"It was $75,000. The DA's office never thought they'd come up with the cash."
"Jesus Christ, it'll happen all over again!" He was furious. Both hands were in fists.
"We'll be watching this time." Lennie took his arm and was angrily shaken off.
"Mike." No response. "Mike." He looked at Van Buren. "Let's have a little talk."
Damn, damn! He followed her to her office. She closed the door behind him. "Look, I don't have the time today to talk to you about your inappropriate behavior around here lately."
"So don't do it!"
"Maybe it would help if you sat down with Liz --"
"I don't need to see Olivet! I'm not crazy! I'm right about this -- why are we fucking around with this woman?" Silence. Not the exact words he had wanted to use with her.
"Why don't you take it easy this afternoon? Profaci can cover with Lennie for the rest of the shift. You're off the weekend anyway." Thank God, she thought.
"Don't take me off this case!"
"I want you to take a break, that's all."
"I don't need a break!" The more calming she tried to be, the angrier he became. Her patience was wearing thin.
"Mike. Go home. You're too close to this." He started to argue, but she raised her hand, silencing him. "No discussion."
He stormed out of the office, glared at Lennie, and gathered his things. His partner looked at him, questioningly. "Don't talk to me, Lennie, not now." Lennie watched him leave. Van Buren was by his desk again.
"Is he gonna lose it on this one?"
"I can't tell. He's taking it way too personal, and I have no idea why."
"I've left a message with Liz Olivet."
"I doubt that he'll talk with her. He's sure he's right on all of this." Van Buren nodded. Looked at Briscoe. "Yeah, yeah, I'm keeping an eye on him."
Mike spent the afternoon on his own stake-out, across the street from the Thompsons' apartment building. He was damned if he was going to let something else happen! The scanner in his car crackled constantly, but never told him what he was waiting to hear. He phoned Tess, saying he'd be late, and also told her that he unexpectedly had to work the next day. It was their first free weekend in a long time, and the disappointment in her voice made him regret the lie, but he told himself that this was more important. There would be other weekends.
She waited up that night for him. She shouldn't have. He barely acknowledged her, too absorbed in his obsession. Her Mike had disappeared. She sighed. Sometimes his moods made her crazy. When she woke the next morning, he was already gone.
It was late afternoon on Saturday and he sat again in the spot that he had occupied the night before. He was already jittery and his fourth cup of coffee wasn't helping. Come on, come on! Then he heard it, his scanner rewarding his persistence. "Domestic dispute, 405 Reynolds Avenue, Apartment B." The Thompson apartment.. He answered the dispatcher, then ran as fast as his legs could take him across the street and up the stairs, gun drawn. He pounded on the door, yelling out his identity. Robert Thompson was quick to answer. The son, Jeremy, was frightened, but unharmed. Mike was cuffing the mother when two uniformed cops arrived. "My collar," he announced. He felt like he was high.
No one at the precinct questioned Mike's involvement on his day off, they were just happy for the quick arrest. Susan Thompson was returned to the Bedford Prison for Women.
It was Sunday morning, clear and warm, and he was still on top of the world. She and Mike were driving to Colleen's, to spend the day and celebrate his niece's birthday. He had come home the previous night, charged up by the arrest, and ravenous for her. The lovemaking had been intense -- she had finally called him off, laughing, her body tired and sore. Looking at him now and thinking about it still made her warm. But the contrast to the night before, of his having barely noticed her, was disquieting. The extremes were too much, even for him.
Also on her mind was a conversation that she had had on Saturday with Colleen. Mike's sister had called to remind them about the birthday, and had innocently asked how things were going. At Tess' hesitation, she had laughed. "I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to pry. I love Mike dearly, but he can be a real pain in the ass."
Tess haltingly told her about his mood swings, about her talk with his partner.
"Hmmm. That's not really like him. Maybe...it's close to...well, it's Grace's birthday, so it's close to the time of year that we lost Meg."
"Your sister?" A long pause. "I didn't know, I'm sorry..." She let it go, not wanting to push.
"Tess, I'm sorry. Mike's never told you this? We had a little sister, Meghan, a half-sister, really. What a dear. She died as a child, at six. Mike was ten, I was nine." There was another pause. "That could be the problem, Tess. He's always brooded about it. He took it real hard when it happened, blamed himself." Tess felt herself break out in a sweat at the words. "He might not have told you because it was so horrible for him. Not the best time of our young lives."
"Colleen, if I can ask -- this is so rude --"
"You could not be rude."
"How did it happen?"
"An accident, a fall. She fell down a flight of stairs."
Oh God. Tess' stomach was churning. "I'm sorry, Colleen."
"Tess, it was 30 years ago. I try to look ahead, not back."
Her mind returned to the present. She looked across the front seat at him. "Hey?"
"Liz Olivet's been calling for you."
"Yeah," he looked over, shaking his head. "Van Buren's doing. I was kinda irritable this past week."
"Will you call her?"
"I'm fine, honey. It was this case, it was just getting to me a bit. It's settled now, I don't need to talk with her." Silence. "Okay?"
"Okay. I was thinking that I might talk with her."
"Was I that bad last night?" He grinned, and she had to laugh.
"You were crazy, you know that."
"You don't like crazy?"
"I like that crazy."
He had diffused her concern. He reached across to rub her arm, and she patted his leg. "So I'm gonna call her, okay?"
"Okay. And take that hand away or we'll never get to Colleen's."
They had a wonderful time at the birthday party. She and Mike thoroughly enjoyed his sister's family, and the feelings were mutual. She watched him, happy and seemingly at ease, and wondered if her fears were unwarranted. She soon found out that they were not.
The afternoon was waning, and they had started to think about heading home. The kids had been questioning their mother about her birthday parties as a child, and had found an old photo album. She could tell that Mike was becoming unnerved by what he was hearing from them. He was retrieving his car keys when Grace said, "Mom, is this Aunt Meg when she was a little girl? She looks so much like Uncle Mike!"
Mike froze, and looked at his sister. Colleen turned to answer her daughter's question, then looked back at her brother, frowning slightly. "How come you've never told Tess about her?"
He looked at his wife, surprised. "You know about this?"
Colleen answered. "I told her, yesterday. We were just talking and it came up." They both saw the flicker of anger in his eyes. "Hey, it's not a big deal."
He nodded silently. "We gotta get goin'." He went around to the others and said their goodbyes. Colleen hugged her sister-in-law.
"I'm sorry, I had no idea how much this would upset him."
"Hey, I know that expression. You call me if you need to, okay?"
Tess nodded and smiled to reassure her, knowing full well that the ride home would not be pleasant. Mike returned and let his sister hug him.
"Get that look off your face!" It was teasing and serious, both.
"It's nothing..." He paused, collecting his thoughts. "Don't worry about it." He took Tess' hand and they left.
They were only a few blocks from the house when he started in on her. "Exactly what the fuck is going on with you!"
"Look, we drive or we fight."
He looked at her angrily. "I'm quite capable of talking to you and driving."
"No, you're not. And you're not talking, you're yelling."
"I can take care of my own problems. I don't need your help and I don't want it!"
"Stop the car." He did not. The anger was spreading to her. "Stop the car, right now!"
She rarely used that tone. He pulled over. It was a fairly secluded street -- they could argue in peace here.
"I talked with Colleen yesterday. She asked about you, and I told her that you seemed moodier than usual. She told me about Meg."
"It's not your business!"
"Not my business? I'm your wife. But you don't want anyone to care about you, do you?"
"You don't need to know everything about me, every little bad thing that's ever happened! Between you and Colleen and Lennie ---"
"Look, I know that there are things in this case that are close to your own life. I can understand how it would bother you."
"I know that the Thompson girl died in almost the same way as Meg. I know that there's another child, a boy, the same age that you were at that time..."
He looked at her incredulously. She hated that look, that smirk. "You're so God damned smart! Maybe you should be the detective!"
She stared. Her face felt hot. She said softly, "It's making you crazy."
"No, you're making me crazy!"
Her hand went to the door handle and she opened the door. He reached over and grabbed her arm. "What are you doing?"
"Let go! I'll get myself home." He kept his grip. "Let go!"
"I don't want you out there alone."
"You think because I married you that I don't need to know how to take care of myself?" She said it softly, but nastily. He released her, and she got out, slamming the door. He watched her walk away. He was stunned.
She found a taxi, and eventually found her way to the apartment of Ann, her best friend, who was keeping Sam that day. Ann was sympathetic, though she adored Mike. She offered her arms to Tess for a good cry, then took her out for a drink to calm her.
Mike was frantic when Tess didn't return to the apartment within a few hours. He phoned Ann and left a terse message, which was retrieved when the women returned.
"Tess, Mike phoned. He sounded worried."
"He knows you're here, right?"
"He doesn't have a clue about many things, including where his wife is at the moment."
Ann frowned. "That's cruel. He gets scared too, you know."
"No," she laughed, humorlessly, "nothing scares Mike."
"Do you love this man, Teresa?"
Ann watched her friend's jaw stiffen stubbornly, but then she said, "You know I do."
"Then don't make him suffer. There's the phone."
She didn't know what to expect when she got back to the apartment. When she opened the door, he looked up from his seat at the kitchen table. The only light was from above the sink, and it threw his face in shadow. She saw an empty glass on the table, next to a bottle of Bushmills. Sam squirmed in her arms and she let him down. He ran to his bed.
Mike stood. "Are you all right?" He said softly.
"Yes. I was with Ann the whole time." She was unsure, she was ready to continue fighting if need be.
"I was out of my mind, Tess. I thought something terrible had happened." His voice was heavy with emotion.
There was a long pause. Then finally she said, "That's how I've been feeling lately."
More silence, then he nodded. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I yelled at you. I'm sorry I'm a cop."
"Mike," she shook her head. She only now realized that he was more hurt than anything by her actions. She went up and took both of his hands.
"Don't do this again, please."
"I didn't mean to hurt you. I didn't." He nodded, but he didn't believe her. She didn't believe herself. "I love you. I want you to be a cop. I know how much it means to you." He answered by pulling her close. She held him, feeling his quick breathing grow slow. They stood a long time in the near dark apartment, silently.
"Come on, let's go to bed. Early day tomorrow." They quietly and wearily climbed into bed. He drew himself tight up against her back, an arm around her. Neither was ready for sleep.
"Why didn't you come right home?"
"Because I was angry at you."
"Okay. But I called --"
"We went out. Ann played your message when we got back and said you sounded upset. She insisted I call you."
"Thank you for doing that." He kissed her shoulder. She pulled his arm tighter around her. "I thought it was the police calling, I swear. Then I thought, but I'm the police, how can this happen to me?"
"I'm sorry. If it helps, Ann chewed me out pretty well."
"She's a good friend." He hugged her. "Do you want to hear about Meg?"
"Yes." She paused. "I know this isn't easy for you."
"I should have told you before. Meg was a sweet little thing. My mother's child by another man, an affair. Didn't sit too well with the old man, as you can imagine." He paused, thinking of how to continue. "One day, there was some argument, me and my mother, at the top of the front stairs. I can't remember what it was about, I can just remember getting smacked. Meg had been in her room, and heard us. She was crying, and was trying to get to me. She stumbled, and fell down the stairs. She was just a little girl. The fall broke her neck." He said this very slowly and carefully.
Tess turned into his chest, which was heaving. "I'm sorry."
"I could have prevented it. I could see what was happening. I always protected the girls, always."
"You were only a boy."
"It was my fault."
"It was so many years ago, but I can see it so clearly. And you were right -- the Thompson case is so damn close." There was a long silence as they both let their thoughts run on this.
She felt him kiss her throat. It was an oft-used invitation of his, to make love. She felt a surge of tenderness, and of sadness. For Mike, sex was intertwined with all of his emotions. It was for celebration. Relaxation. Reconciliation. And now, after the events of the day, he was hurt and scared, and asking forgiveness, and making love would let him again feel safe and secure. And loved. She stroked his cheek, and kissed him.
"Teresa, don't ever leave me."
She frowned in the dark. He had never spoken like this before. "I won't." She drew his body to hers. "I love you. I will always love you."