Mike discovers that Candy is dandy ... but pouring gasoline on a spark's gonna start a major fire.
By Jayne Deaux
Talkin' bout a woman I just can't let go
I need her as my lover like I need another hole in my head
Talkin bout a woman whose name is Candy... she's so fine
Despite what happened later, Mike had to recognize that he had liked her from the start. How could he not? He could so easily empathize with a girl whose mother was a violent nutcase, who had run away from the Catholic school where they'd tried to beat the Bible into her, who was tough because she had to be. It was so easy to like her, and so hard not to, with her quirky sense of humor and fighter's instincts. She was a survivor, not a victim, and Mike had to respect that. The fact that she was drop-dead gorgeous had to enter into it somewhere, he should also acknowledge that, he knew. It had been an effort at times to remind himself that she was barely more than a kid, though she certainly didn't look or act it.
In the weeks that would follow the incident, Mike would look back on how he had handled the situation--handled her--and he would try to see if it was somehow his fault. He talked to Liz Olivet, the police psychiatrist and his friend, at length on the subject. Her insistence that he had done everything possible and couldn't possibly have done any better was a small comfort to him, but vaguely there was that echo of guilt, that ghost of "what if" that followed him. He mentioned this to her once, and she said, "It goes away, Mike." He is still waiting for it to go away.
The girl, Candice Caine--her name more evidence of her mother's cruelty--was brought into the 27th precinct the third and final time she was caught running away from St. Mary's boarding school in midtown. She was waiting for her mother to be located, so she could come pick the girl up. St. Mary's had a three-strikes policy, and they wouldn't accept her back.
"Not a smart move," Detective Carlton of missing persons was saying to her as Mike entered the room, "Now you're gonna have to go to public school. I sure hope you know how to fight, honey."
"Yeah, you keep callin' me honey and you're gonna find out," she snapped back.
Carlton's face twisted into a sneer, and he grabbed her arm roughly, "You got a real smart mouth, you know that?"
"Hey," said Logan, "Take it easy."
Carlton let go of the girl's arm and fixed his glare on Logan. "Something you want in here, detective?"
"We got a Jane Doe in the park. I'm here to look at some dentals."
Carlton's eyes shifted in the direction of the records desk. "Don't let me hold you up."
Logan walked towards the desk, but he kept his eyes on Carlton and the girl. She smiled at him, a relaxed, "hey, you're not an asshole" kind of smile, and Logan appreciated it. After a few minutes, Carlton left the room. Candice--Candy to her friends--got up and sauntered over to where Logan was perched on the edge of a desk, thumbing through a folder.
"Hey," she said, hands stuffed into her jeans pockets. She rolled her shoulders forward and rocked back on her heels. "You got a cigarette?"
"I don't smoke," he said. He almost went on to say something about how she shouldn't either, but he remembered the smile she gave him, and he didn't want to be tossed back into the land of un-cool with assholes like Carlton.
She shrugged and sat on the other edge of the desk. "So what's the story with this girl in the park?" She asked.
Logan looked at her, surprised.
"Well," he said, "We'll be lucky to get an ID on her. She's a white girl, probably about fifteen or so. She looked like she'd been out on the street for a long time--a runaway, possibly a hooker. If anybody filed a report on her, it probably was a long time ago."
"How'd she die?" Her eyes, large and sincere, moved from the open folder in his hand to his face.
"Somebody beat her head in with a rock."
"Man, it's a fucked up world out there," Candy bit off one of her fingernails.
"Yeah," said Logan, putting down the folder he was looking at, "So what makes you in such a rush to get out there?"
Candy laughed mirthlessly. "Well that's more a case of finding the lesser of two evils. At least out there I'd have more maneuverability."
She nodded, looking slightly uncomfortable. Then she put on this surly little smile that Mike saw an eerie resemblance to himself in. "Yeah, some of those nuns can get a little overzealous with that whole 'spare the rod' thing. And some of those priests are just..." She shuddered. "There isn't really any getting away from them on the inside."
"What about your folks?" Mike asked, already knowing the answer. Her story was all too familiar.
"Well, wherever my father is, good luck to him. And my mother..." She shook her head. "Hang around for a bit and you'll get to see her in action."
There can be no exaggerating the manner in which Doreen Caine blew in through the door about twenty minutes later. She could be heard coming down the hall, screaming obscenities at Carlton, at the NYPD, at the school, and most of all at her daughter.
"Shit," Candy had said, a half-second before the door flew open, hopping off the desk and standing straight. Mike, who had completely abandoned his work and had spent the last twenty minutes chatting with Candy, also stood up by reflex.
"Damn it, Candy, I don't know what I'm going to do with you! Are you trying to put me in an early grave? Is that what you're trying to do? To kill me?"
Candy said nothing, but gave her a look that did plenty of talking.
"Don't you look at me like that," snarled Doreen, "You look just like your damn father. And what the fuck is wrong with you? Getting kicked out of the school! Did you know that? Did you know they were kicking you out? Of course you did, you do these things on purpose I swear, you do." She was talking a mile a minute. "Well? What've you got to say for yourself? Answer me!"
"I will if you let me get a word in edgewise, Jesus!"
Doreen hauled of and smacked the girl so hard Mike could almost feel it.
"You watch your language, young miss!" She hissed, "Don't you ever, ever blaspheme!"
A glowing red handprint was forming on Candy's cheek. She clamped her jaw; Mike could see the muscles working beneath the skin. He looked from Candy' reddening face to Doreen's fierce eyes, and across the room to Carlton's smug expression. He wanted to punch Carlton's lights out, the snide bastard.
Doreen grabbed Candy's arm the way Carlton had, hauled her towards the door. "What the fuck are you looking at?" she snapped at Carlton as she went past.
Candy turned around to look back at Mike. "Goodbye," she said.
Doreen jerked her arm even harder at this, and pulled her through the door. From the hallway, Mike heard her call Candy a tramp. Women like her made him physically sick.
Two weeks later, Mike was coming out of a bodega, having just questioned the owner about a drug dealer who used to frequent the corner, when he spotted Candy across the street. His partner, Phil Cerreta, was beside him.
"He was helpful," Phil was saying sarcastically. "Apparently nobody in this neighborhood knows our friend Rocko."
"Maybe I know somebody who does," Mike said, not taking his eyes off Candy. "C'mon."
Candy was standing on the corner, shivering in the cold--her jacket was thin and it was cold enough to snow outside. She saw them crossing the street and she flashed a smile at him.
"Detective Logan," she said as they approached. "You're about the last person I expected to see down here."
"I was about to say the same thing," Mike grinned. "And you can call me Mike," he added with a friendly wink. He indicted the other man. "This is my partner, Phil Cerreta." Candy took her hand out of her jacket pocket and offered it to him. The two shook hands.
"So, what are you doing down here?" She asked.
"Lookin' for a drug dealer named Rocko, you know him?"
Candy laughed. "Big ugly bastard, spiked hair, always wearing a shirt from his gym?"
"That's our guy," said Phil. "You seen him lately?"
"Yeah, he's a real shit brick. Was down here yesterday; came out of that bodega." She pointed to the building they just exited.
Mike and Phil exchanged a look.
"Do you know where else he hangs out?" Mike asked. Candy bit her lip in a way that told him she did, but she didn't want to end up like that girl in the park they had spoken about when they last met. He leaned in close. "Hey, it's okay, Candy; nobody has to know you told us."
She considered a moment before nodding. "Okay, there's a crack house not too far from here. A couple of blocks."
"Our car's just around the corner," said Phil. "Why don't we go for a ride, you can show us."
She looked back and forth between the two men, a small uncomfortable smile on her face. "I don't..."
"Please." Mike put a hand on her shoulder. "You'd really be doin' us a huge favor. I'll owe you."
They walked around the corner together, and when they reached the car, Phil opened one of the rear doors. Candy stalled.
"C'mon," said Mike, "We can squeeze you in the front, if you'd rather."
Phil drove, Mike sat in the middle, and Candy sat by the door so they could let her out before they reached the crack house. It was a tight fit, and Mike was keenly aware of the warmth of her thigh pressed against his. He kept talking to keep his mind off of it, asking her how she'd been, how she was handling public school, how things were with Doreen. She was casual enough in her response that Mike thought she either didn't notice or wasn't bothered by their proximity, or she was better at hiding it.
"All right," she said after a short while, "let me out on this corner. Go around the bend, it's the first building on the left. Boarded up warehouse."
They let her out of the car, and before she went on her way, Mike put a hand on her arm to stop her. He took out one of his cards.
"Here," he said, "If you need anything, gimme a call, okay?"
"Thanks," she smiled that more relaxed smile of hers, and as she took the card, her finger slid across his. There was no way she didn't notice that. She was halfway down the street before he could react, though, and they had the more pressing matter of Rocko the murdering drug dealer to attend to.
It was six days later when Mike got the first phone call. It was eight-thirty on a Thursday. He was sitting at his desk, sleeves rolled up, tie loosened, disheveled, tired, stomach raw from too much coffee. It had not been a very good day; he was way behind on paperwork, they'd spent the day chasing dead ends on this new case, and he had to prepare to go before the grand jury in two days on account of old Rocko. He had told Phil to go on home, he would finish the paperwork. He was just beginning to regret that decision when the phone rang.
"Homicide," he barked into the phone.
There was a static-y pause. "Detective Logan?" Her voice was wavering and unsure. It took him a moment to place the voice.
"Yeah... I'm sorry to bother you."
"No," he said, leaning back in his chair, "No, it's okay. What's up?"
"I found your card in my jacket pocket. I didn't know who else to call." The sound of sirens wailing in the distance, and the rush of wind could be heard behind her voice.
He sat up in his chair. "Where are you?"
"Outside the bodega where you picked me up before," she said.
"What the hell are you doing out there? I don't even like being out in that neighborhood after dark."
"I had to get out of the apartment ... I don't have anywhere to go." She sounded scared, he realized. She sounded really scared. Something must've happened.
"Okay," he said, standing up and grabbing his leather coat, "Stay put, I'll be right down there."
Fifteen minutes later, his car pulled up to the curb. He reached across and unlocked the door, and she climbed in. He cranked the heater up, and she warmed her hands in front of the vent.
He started to drive, with no real destination in mind.
"You wanna tell me what happened?" Mike asked, stealing a glance at her out of the corner of his eye.
"Doreen's boyfriend," she said. "She went to work, and ten minutes later, he's barging in my door." With shaking hands, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a pack of Marlboro Reds. Ordinarily he didn't let people smoke in the car, but Mike pushed the dash lighter in to charge for her. She was silent while she waited for it to pop out, and when it did, she lit her cigarette and took a long drag.
"Did he... what did he..?" Mike was at a loss. He remembered how he felt when Liz Olivet was raped a few months back, how hard it was to talk to her about her case; and Liz was a grown woman and a trained psychiatrist. This girl in the car beside him, looking ready to break ... he knew her too well to treat her like just another vic, and he didn't know her well enough to talk to her as a friend.
"No," she said, "He tried, but I got away. I racked him in the nuts and I bailed."
"What time does Doreen get off work?"
"After midnight," Candy said. "She's not gonna believe me, though. I told her he was a creep, but she doesn't want to hear it."
Mike studied her for a moment. He noticed that she was even thinner than the first time they'd met, her bony wrists jutted out from the sleeves of her jacket, her cheeks were just a step above sunken, he was sure that her ribs were probably visible beneath her shirt... she was starting to get on the bad side of skinny.
"Have you eaten?" He asked.
She shook her head.
"Okay," he said, turning the car around, "We're gonna go get some Chinese. You like Chinese?"
She nodded, the color starting to come back to her face.
"All right," he smiled reassuringly at her. "I know a great place. We'll get something to eat, and then I'm taking you down to the station. We're gonna file a complaint, and that asshole--what's his name?"
"That asshole Richard's gonna spend at least one night in jail."
"Doreen's never gonna press charges."
"She doesn't have to. In fact it doesn't matter what she does; your statement is enough to get a warrant."
"Are you sure?" Her brow was furrowed in doubt, but her eyes begged him to tell her it was true.
"Yeah," his smile widened, "I have a couple of friends in the DA's office."
By the time they had finished dinner, Candy had relaxed to the point where she could give Mike more details about what Richard had done to her earlier. He'd forced his way into the room, breaking her doorjamb in the process--that would make good evidence, Mike made a mental note to get a picture of that. Then he had pushed her against he wall and fondled her breasts, and kissed her, and that's when she'd kneed him and made her escape.
It was enough for an arrest. He'd talk to Paul Robinette in the morning and see what kind of conviction they could get. Most likely the SOB would try to deal, and most likely he'd get one. It wouldn't be a total wash, though--Candy was a minor, so he'd have to register as a sex offender, and hopefully he'd get his ass kicked in jail. Mike wouldn't mind taking a few swings at him, himself. He told her all this, and by the time they reached the two-seven, Candy was almost cheerful.
Capt. Cragen was still in his office when they got upstairs. Mike told Candy to wait at his desk, and he knocked on the door.
"Come on in, Mike," Don Cragen said, looking up from his own horrendous stack of paperwork. He glanced out of his office window to the girl sitting at Mike's desk. "Picking 'em awful young, aren't you?"
"Get serious," Mike said, "She's the girl that led us to Rocko."
"Well that's wonderful, Mike, really," Don said, "But what is she doing in here? After 10 o'clock? On a school night?" He added this last part with a look that made Mike uncomfortable.
"I'm picking up her mom's boyfriend on an aggravated assault." He said. "It happened earlier tonight."
"Is she okay?" Don instantly dropped his sarcastic tone. "Does she need to go to a hospital?"
"No," Mike said, "It didn't get that far. She racked the bastard and got the hell out of there."
"Smart kid," Don said, "Good instincts." He stood up and straightened his tie. "What's her name?" He asked, walking to the door of his office.
"Candy Caine?" Don suppressed a smile. "Are you serious?"
"I think my mom wanted me to be a porn-star when I grew up," Candy said from across the otherwise empty room.
Don chuckled, and then crossed to where she sat, taking the chair opposite at Phil's desk. "Hi Candy, my name's Don," he said. "How you doin?"
"I'm okay," she said. She looked at Mike. "Now."
Don nodded, "Good. Tell you what... I'm gonna go ahead and let Mike go bring in the guy now, and I'll take your statement, okay?" He looked at Mike, "Okay?"
"Yeah," said Mike, "Thanks, Don, I appreciate it."
"No problem," he said, "Go get the SOB." To Candy, he said, "Do you want a soda or something?"
Mike headed out the door and down the steps, practically running by time he reached the garage. He hopped in his car, revved up the engine and turned on the radio. "Heroes" by David Bowie was on the classic hits station. He felt a smile of satisfaction growing on his face. What had started as a lousy day was now much brighter; these were the moments when he loved being a cop.
When he reached the address he'd gotten from Candy, he pounded on the door. Please, he thought, please let him put up a little fight; make my day complete. He got his wish.
Richard Dorey answered the door with a beer in his hand and a surly look on his face. He's a walking stereotype, thought Mike.
"Yeah? What do you want?"
"Richard Dorey?" Mike flashed his badge. "You're under arrest for aggravated assault."
Dorey threw the beer can at him and tried to run. He got about four steps from the door before Mike tackled him, knocking his head against the wall. He recited the guy's rights as he slapped the cuffs on him. Dorey started to shout about police brutality. "Shut up," Mike slammed him against the wall again, "You want brutality, I can show you brutality, you worthless piece of crap. Now shut up!"
He glanced down the hallway towards the bedrooms. He could see what must've been Candy's door--the jamb was in splinters.
"You fuckin' freak." He kicked Dorey in the back of his knees, causing the heavy man to fall to the floor. "You like bustin' into young girls' bedrooms? You're gonna be real popular at Riker's." He pulled a disposable camera from his coat pocket and photographed the door.
He pushed the door open and looked around. For a teenage girl's bedroom, it was fairly spartan; there was a bed, desk, and dresser. There were no posters on the wall or personal items on her desk or dresser. It could've been a guest room, for all the personality in it. The only thing that adorned the wall was a simple wooden cross that hung over the bed. There was also a Bible on the nightstand. He picked it up and heard a 'glug.' Opening the cover, he saw that it had been hollowed out to fit a small bottle of scotch, hidden inside.
"And I thought my old lady was a pain in the ass," he said to himself, placing the book carefully back on the nightstand. He glanced around the room, looking for evidence of a struggle, but there wasn't much of anything to have been knocked around, and Candy had said he'd had her pinned up against the wall. There was nothing else for him to see aside from the broken-in door.
"Hey, what are you doing in there?" Dorey, still on the floor, called after him.
"Collecting enough evidence to nail your ass," Mike said, returning to the room and showing Dorey the disposable camera before slipping it back in his pocket. He grabbed the man by his arm and hauled him to his feet.
"Let's go," he said, half-shoving, half-dragging him out the door.
It hadn't taken him as long as he'd thought to pick up Dorey. He threw him in a holding cell and headed back upstairs to the homicide division. Candy was laughing at something Don had said as he entered the room. When Mike approached, she looked at him as if he were a god.
"You got him?" She asked, almost breathless.
Mike nodded, smiling at her. To Don he said, "I'll talk to Paul first thing tomorrow."
"Yeah," said Don, "Good. I got the statement here, with her signature. This guy could be looking at some serious jail time." Don and Mike both knew that this banter was for Candy's benefit. Richard Dorey would most likely spend a few months in jail, at most. "Meanwhile," he continued, "I'll get somebody on the phone from child welfare. She'll probably have to chill in a group home..."
"Whoa," said Candy, "Hold up. Nobody said anything about a group home earlier."
"It's probably just going to be overnight," Don assured her. "Or, there's the women's shelter."
"Why can't I just go home? My mom gets off work at midnight. That's like an hour and a half, two hours max until she gets home."
"I got a uniform on the door," Mike said, more to Don than to her, "He'll bring her down here when she gets in."
"And in the meantime?" Don asked. "We can't just let her go back there unsupervised."
"Well, you said she's coming here, right?" Candy smiled up at Don, giving him an 'angel-eyes' look that had probably gotten her a lot of what she wanted in her life. "Why can't I just wait here, then?"
Mike considered this. "I've got to be here for the mother anyway," he said. "I can keep an eye on her."
Don looked at his watch, doubtful. "Okay. I can stick around too."
"Don," said Mike, "You were here before I was this morning. Go home."
"It's my responsibility--" Don began to argue, but Mike waved him off.
"Go on. Marge is gonna be just as pissed at me as she is at you if you don't go home."
Candy had stayed quiet during this exchange. When Don relented, she smiled like a cat who'd just had a canary. Neither man apparently noticed.
When Don left, Mike started a pot of coffee. Candy sat in his chair and put her feet up against the side of his desk.
"Hey, I got an idea," Mike said, "We have a TV/VCR thing for watching evidence tapes on around here somewhere..." He poked his head into Cragen's office, and saw the cart with the TV sitting there. He wheeled it out and plugged it in, and they sat side by side watching "Young Frankenstein."
Halfway through the movie, Candy leaned her head against his shoulder. He felt suddenly very uncomfortable, and wanted to say something, but found he couldn't. She'd been through a hell of a night, and this was probably just a comfort thing for her. He didn't want to make her feel bad just because he got all hot and bothered by something as simple as a girl resting her head on his shoulder. He kept silent, trying to concentrate on the movie and not on how he could feel her breathing at his side, or the warmth and pressure of her head on his shoulder, or the smell of her skin and hair. Half of him wanted to push her away, and the other half wanted to wrap his arms around her... He closed his eyes and breathed in a very slow, controlled breath, so soft it was inaudible. Get a grip, Mike, he told himself.
Doreen announced her presence in a familiar string of profanity. Candy bolted upright at the sound of her voice, tense as a jackrabbit in a snake-pit. Mike wondered to himself if keeping child welfare out of the picture had been such a good idea after all, and then he remembered what Candy had said about maneuverability.
He stood and walked to the doorway, greeting Doreen as she came in.
"What the fuck is going on around here? Where's Richard?"
"Mr. Dorey," Mike said, "Is under arrest."
She glared at Candy, and then said to Mike, "What kind of lies has she been tellin' you?"
"What makes you so sure your daughter is lying?" Mike kept his temper in check.
"Every time she opens her filthy mouth it's to put a cock in it or spit a lie out," Doreen snapped. "Richard didn't do anything, and if he did it was because she came on to him."
Mike stared at her in disbelief. He had never wanted to hit a woman so badly in his life.
"Ms. Caine, why don't you and I speak privately?" He gestured towards Cragen's door. Doreen shot Candy a dirty look before stalking into the office. Mike could smell the alcohol on her breath from three feet away.
"Aren't you the same cop that Candy was hanging all over the last time I came down here to pick her up?" She took a pack of cigarettes out of her purse.
"No smoking in here," Mike snapped.
Doreen glared at him as she tossed her cigarettes back into her purse. "You are, aren't you?"
"I was there the last time you picked Candy up at this precinct, yes." Mike said evenly.
"Interesting. And now you're here. Alone. With my daughter. After midnight." She punctuated each statement, looking at him like he was the one who'd broken in Candy's door that night.
"I'm here so child welfare doesn't put her in a home. I'm here because your scum boyfriend attacked her."
"She doesn't look like she's been attacked," Doreen said, "She doesn't look like she needs your ... protection." She dragged the word out as if doing so would somehow change it's meaning, make it dirty.
"She's a tough kid," said Mike, "But then, she has to be, doesn't she?"
"Don't call her a kid," Doreen hissed, "She's not a kid. She's a harlot, that's what she is." She looked disgusted. "She doesn't fool me, and let me tell you something: neither do you! Now I don't know what you got going on with her, or what lies she's told you, but you went too far throwing Richard in jail."
"Do you even care that your daughter was attacked tonight?" Mike couldn't help shouting at her, "Does that even get through to you at all?"
"Don't you raise your voice to me!" A look flashed in her eyes that made Mike think of his own mother. She wanted to hit him. She would if she thought she could get away with it, or if we were anywhere but at the police station, he thought.
Doreen turned and stormed out of the office, making a beeline for Candy. She grabbed the girl by the wrist and headed for the door.
"Don't you dare--" he heard her say, "--say goodbye to him."
Two days later, Candy called Mike at work again. This time, it was only to say thank you, and let him know that Richard Dorey was going to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
"The DA was worried that just my complaint might not be convincing enough," Candy said, "Even with the pictures of the door. But then Doreen swore out a complaint against him too. They said it would look better if we both did."
"What made her change her mind?" Mike asked, remembering the ugly things Doreen had said about her daughter a few nights before.
"She found out he was stealing money from her." Candy was laying on her bed as she spoke into the phone. Mike could hear when she rolled over. He tried not to picture her there, which might've been easier if he hadn't gone into her room.
"Well," Mike sighed, "At least he'll be doing time. Probably a few months."
"That's what the DA said," Candy rolled over again.
Mike rubbed his forehead and massaged the bridge of his nose, as if he could rub out mental images that way. "Well, that's a relief anyway. How's Doreen treating you?"
"No worse," Candy said, "No better." She rolled over again, back onto her stomach, Mike imagined. "Listen, I wanted to thank you for staying with me the other night. I really do appreciate it."
"No problem," said Mike.
"Maybe I could make it up to you sometime," she said.
Mike bolted upright in his chair. That wasn't his imagination. That sounded like a come on.
"You know, if you're ever looking for anybody in my neighborhood again." She finished. "Anyway you know where to find me."
"Uh, yeah, I'll keep that in--"
"Okay. Look, I hate to cut this short, but I've got to meet somebody in like ten minutes. Thanks again, Mike."
She hung up. Mike replaced the phone in its cradle slowly. Was it his imagination? Wishful thinking on his part? He hadn't thought so, especially when she'd stroked her finger against his as he handed her his card, or when she leaned against him during the movie... He couldn't accept that he was imagining these things, but at the same time Candy had been through so much already that he hated to think he was subjecting her to anything more, if only in his mind. Was it possible that he was reading into something that wasn't there? He was definitely getting mixed signals from her, he decided.
Except you shouldn't be getting any signals from her at all, he thought. She's just a damn kid.
The following Monday, Mike got another phone call. It wasn't Candy calling; it was the attending nurse at the hospital where she was being treated for a broken wrist, courtesy of Doreen. She wouldn't tell them her name or anything about herself, but one of the nurses had fished his card out of her pocket.
"I gotta go," Mike said to Phil as he hung up the phone, "Candy's got a broken arm."
"Mikey, just a minute," Phil put a hand on his arm to stop him, "This girl isn't your daughter, or your niece, and she certainly isn't your girlfriend."
"Yeah," Mike tried to laugh, "I'm aware of that."
Phil tried again. "When are you going to let child welfare step in?"
"Look, Candy's sixteen--she's almost old enough to move out on her own, and she's definitely old enough to take care of herself. Putting her in a group home isn't gonna do her any good."
"You think she'd have any broken bones if she was in a group home?" Phil stared at him, point blank.
Mike didn't answer. Instead, he said, "I'm taking the rest of the day."
Phil watched him go, a look of deep concern clouding his usually jovial features.
Candy's arm was in a sling, but there was no cast.
"The wrist was dislocated," said the doctor, as he and Mike walked towards her. She was sitting in a row of plastic chairs at the far wall of the ER. "It looked like she'd been hit with a cane or a stick--maybe a curtain rod--from the bruising. We also noticed several bruises on her upper arms."
"Her mother knocks her around pretty bad," Mike said.
The doctor stopped walking, and stopped Mike. "What are you going to do about it?"
"I'm putting in a call to child welfare," Mike sighed, "They should have her out of that house by the end of the day."
Candy was strangely silent on the car ride home. She kept her eyes on the windshield ahead of her. She would answer his direct questions, but only to say 'yes' or 'no.' It was more than just the broken arm; it almost seemed as if she were upset with him. Finally, as they were nearing the street where she lived, Mike asked her outright what was the matter.
"I heard what you said to the doctor about calling child welfare," she answered.
"Candy," Mike said, "You can't tell me you want to stay with Doreen."
"Of course not," Candy said, "But I've been in those places before. They're worse than the school. Girls fight, try to kick your ass for no reason other than to prove how tough they are, they steal your stuff, you have no privacy... And how many of those girls do you think get into college?"
Mike hadn't even considered that Candy was thinking of college.
"They don't give financial aid to people who list their address as a teen crisis center." She said. "So Doreen fucked up my childhood. Okay, fine. So she's a pain in the ass to live with now. Also fine. But I'm not gonna let her ruin my future, too." She shook her head. "No, I have a better chance of getting out if I stay where I am."
They were in front of her building, and he had pulled the car to a stop. She turned to him and seized his arm with her good hand.
"You have to forget about calling child services. Please." The intensity in her eyes was almost frightening.
"Candy, she broke your arm."
"Dislocated. It will heal. Please, promise me!"
Her stare was unwavering. He buckled under it.
"Okay," he said, "On one condition: If she hurts you again, I'm pulling you out of there."
Her eyes softened. "Mike," said. That was all--just his name. It was the way she'd said it, so full of sorrow and affection, that caught him.
She got out of the car quickly, and was already inside her building before Mike could say anything. She had a knack for making quick exits.
Mike pulled away from the curb. He turned it over and over in his mind, trying to figure out what was going on with him and this girl. He liked her; he had to admit that much. Hell, maybe in a few years--that was acceptable, wasn't it?
"Mike," she'd said, and he'd liked the way she said it. He'd liked the way she'd smiled at him when they first met, and the way she'd put her head on his shoulder during the movie--his discomfort had come from him not wanting to like it.
What harm was there in that, he asked himself. As long as he didn't act on it, or let her act on it, surely that was all that mattered.
If that was true, why did he have this feeling in the pit of his stomach?
Mike was on his third date with Andrea Lewis, a paralegal in the DAs office he'd been chasing for a few months. She'd finally relented to coffee, and then dinner, and now here they were again, eating dinner at Mike's favorite Chinese restaurant.
He liked Andrea; she was pretty and could hold a conversation, but she had this attention thing that set off a few alarm bells--like she wanted his sympathy. He didn't like that. She probably would sleep with him that night, he thought, so he temporarily disregarded the red flags.
While she was talking about the details of a brief she had typed up that morning, Mike's attention started to wander. His gaze passed over the chintzy dragon decorations and paper lanterns, over the cashier's stand near the front door, before resting on the table where he and Candy had been sitting the night he'd brought her there.
He quickly glanced back down at his plate, not wanting to kick up any memories. It had been nearly a month since he'd picked her up at the hospital, and she hadn't called him again. In a way he was glad--he finally acknowledged to himself he was attracted to her, and knew he shouldn't be around her--but in a way, he wasn't. The last thing he'd said to her was that he'd see that she was put into a girls' home if her mother hit her again. That had been almost a month ago, and he found it extremely hard to believe that in all that time Doreen hadn't lain a hand on her.
"Mike?" Andrea was peering at him over her food. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," he said, "Fine."
"Something on your mind?"
"No," he shrugged, giving her a smile. "I was just thinking about a case I had a while back."
"Wanna talk about it?"
Mike shook his head. "Nothing to talk about, really."
Andrea smiled at him uneasily, wondering if all cops were that evasive, or if it was just him.
As they were heading out of the restaurant later, Mike saw a familiar face coming out of the liquor store across the street. He paused just long enough for Andrea take notice.
"Somebody you know?" She asked, following his gaze.
"Unfortunately," Mike said.
That was when Doreen looked up and saw him. She had been lighting a cigarette, and when she saw him, she dropped the match on the ground and stamped it with her shoe before walking across the street.
"Detective Mike," she said, her breath reeking of alcohol. "What a surprise. Is this your date?" She turned her glare on Andrea, who shrank back against him. "Isn't she a little old for you?"
"Break any more of your daughter's bones lately?" He couldn't help himself; he had to push some buttons on this bitch. What he really wanted to do was take a swing at her.
"Not ever since she got a cop boyfriend," Doreen shot back, "I wouldn't dare."
"You sick bitch," Mike started to walk away.
"Who the hell do you think you are?" Doreen got in his face. "You can't talk to me like that!"
"I'll talk to you anyway I want," Mike didn't back down. "I'm off duty, and I don't give a damn."
"You don't scare me." Doreen growled. "I'll tell your captain you been fuckin' a sixteen year old girl--or do they not count that either if you do it 'off duty'?"
Mike broke away from her and just kept walking. Andrea stuck to his side. When they had gotten a good distance away from Doreen, she stopped him.
"What was that about?"
Mike shook his head. "She's a nutcase." He explained about how he knew Candy, and that she'd helped him and Phil catch Rocko. He neglected to mention the incident with Dorey, or picking her up from the hospital.
"What a psycho," Andrea said when he finished. "I hope the girl is okay."
"Yeah," Mike said, looking down the street after Doreen. "Me too."
The following morning, Saturday, Mike found himself parked up the street from the bodega in Candy's neighborhood. He had a bad feeling after Doreen had accosted him on the street, and it only worsened as the night wore on. He had said goodnight to Andrea soon after, without intention of calling her again. It was a decision he would've made eventually anyway, and he hadn't been in the mood for any more drama.
In the morning, he had come down there hoping to catch a glimpse of Candy. He had decided that if it looked like Doreen had been smacking her around, he was going to call child services, period.
He didn't have very long to wait; within the hour, Candy appeared on the street. She was wearing dark glasses even though the day was overcast. She walked quickly and kept her head down as she slipped into the bodega.
Mike climbed out of his car and walked in after her. She was standing over a rack of magazines when he walked in, her back facing him.
She turned around and smiled. "What are you doing here?"
Without a word he reached out and took the glasses off her face. To his surprise, they weren't concealing a shiner. She stared up at him with wide, unmarred eyes.
He didn't know what to say. She took her glasses back and slid them onto her head.
"Hangover," she said by way of explanation.
"I was kind of worried about you," he admitted. "I ran into Doreen last night."
"I know. She told me. Drunk bitch--I hope she didn't ruin your date."
Mike studied her carefully. She had a knack for making ambiguous statements like that, and he had trouble reading her without reading what he wanted to see into her words. She looked okay, though. He had been so set on calling child welfare if she had been hurt that he hadn't even prepared for the contingent that she was unharmed.
"Yeah," she smiled, "I'm fine."
"I should go." He turned and started to walk away. There was way too much tension between them. It was thick in the air; he sure as hell felt it, and he'd be willing to bet that she felt it too.
Walk away, he thought, just walk away and don't look back.
He paused, and turned to look at her. Hell yes, she felt it, too. One look at her face now and he could see that she'd felt it all along, just like he had. He turned away from her and walked out the door.
He slammed his car door shut after climbing in, closed his eyes, and leaned his head back in a long exhale. A second later he jerked his head up in surprise as the passenger door opened, and Candy climbed into the seat next to him.
He opened his mouth to tell her to leave, but she pressed hers into it in an almost frantic kiss.
And he kissed her back. Every voice of reason in his head told him not to, but instinct took over. He reached up with his hand and touched her hair, caressed her cheek. When she pulled back from him, her breath was ragged.
They sat there for a moment, just looking at each other. In his mind, Mike was trying to make sense out of what happened, to find his voice again and tell her ... tell her what? This was wrong and he knew it, but how could he chastise her? He wasn't exactly blameless.
Before he could say anything, she had sprung open the door again and dashed down the street. She rounded a corner and disappeared before he could even open his door to go after her.
"Are you out of your mind?" Phil Cerreta paced his living room. Mike sat on his couch, a cup of coffee in his hands. Phil's wife had taken the kids out shopping, and it was just the two of them in the house.
"I don't know how it happened, Phil." Mike said, wrapping his hands tighter around the mug. "It just did."
"Mike, she is sixteen years old," Phil sat down in a chair across from him. "That's criminal."
"I know," Mike said, "I wasn't gonna let it go any further than that. Hell, I didn't even mean to kiss her."
"I thought you said she kissed you."
"She did! Phil..." Mike put his cup down on the coffee table. "I don't know what to do about this. She's in a bad environment, I don't want to send her into a worse one, and now on top of everything else this happens."
"What do you want me to do, Mikey?" Phil asked gently.
Mike rested his chin on his fist and bit his lip. "I don't know."
"Do you want me to call child welfare?"
"She said she'd rather be where she is--she can at least get away from her mother." He leaned back into the couch cushions and let out a long breath. "I got too involved in this. I should've stayed away."
"And now?" Phil prompted.
"Now I'm too involved to walk away. I know that woman's not going to stop smacking her around. I know it's just a matter of time."
"You've got to, Mike," Phil said. "You've got to keep away from her no matter what happens, do you understand that?" Phil stood up again. "If she calls, you hang up. If you see her on the street, you walk the other way. And for Pete's sake, stay the hell out of her neighborhood."
"I can't just turn my back."
"You damn well better," Phil said, "You said she's better off where she is, she can take care of herself there. I think that's screwed up, but probably true--so you've got to disappear from the picture and let her take care of herself."
It was five o'clock in the evening when Mike got the last phone call from Candy. Actually, it was a call to his beeper, and when he dialed the number it was a payphone. He was still at Phil's house, having been invited to stay for dinner, and when he heard her voice on the line he nearly dropped the phone.
Phil, standing on the other side of the room, heard this and made a motion for him to cut the conversation short. He would have, but for what Candy said next.
"She saw us."
"Doreen," she said, her voice strained, "She was on the street this morning, she followed me to he bodega. She saw us."
Mike sank into a chair. If it hadn't been there he probably would've gone to the floor. "What happened when you got home?"
"We got in this huge fight, and I tried to leave ... she pushed me at the top of the stairs, and..." Candy choked up.
"Jesus," Mike said. His heart was pounding in his chest. "Where are you now?"
"I'm in the diner a few blocks down from my building." She gave him the address.
"Okay, stay there."
Phil had insisted upon coming with him, and Mike hadn't argued. Even though the advice came too late, he was glad he'd decided to let Phil in on what was going on. It was good to have someone in his corner he could trust.
Candy was sitting at a booth towards the back of the diner, a cup of coffee growing cold in her hands. She had cleaned herself up a bit, but her lip was swollen and split and she had a gash in her forehead that was going to require more serious attention than the Band-Aid that was covering it.
She glanced nervously at Phil as the two men sat down.
"It's okay," Mike said, "You can talk in front of Phil."
She looked back at him, fighting tears. "I'm sorry," she said.
Phil looked at Mike, who was clearly uncomfortable. He felt more sympathy than anything else. Candy certainly didn't look or act like a little girl, Mike wasn't impervious--these things happened. Not for the first time, Phil thanked the powers that be that he wasn't a young man anymore.
"Don't worry about that right now," Mike said, "Just tell us what happened."
"Doreen followed me this morning. She was on the street when you came out of the bodega. She saw me get into your car." She tapped her fingers against the coffee cup, "She saw everything that happened. She was waiting for me when I got home."
"Did you go straight home?" Phil asked.
She shook her head. "First I went around the corner to smoke a cigarette, and then I walked to the park. I stay out of the house all day, pretty much. I got home about a half hour before I called you." She looked down at the table. "Like I said, she was waiting for me. She was cooking some eggs. That's how I could tell she was pissed off. She fries things." Candy shook her head. "Anyway she told me what she saw, and that she was going to tell your boss."
Mike let out a breath he hadn't been aware he was holding.
"I told her nobody was going to listen to her; everybody knows what a drunk she is. 'You're drunk right now' I told her. She said she probably wasn't the only one who had seen us, and she'd find somebody who could back her up. That's when I tried to leave and she pushed me."
"Okay," said Mike, "It's gonna be okay."
"How much trouble would you get in if she did tell?" The grim faces on the two men was all the answer she needed. "I can say it wasn't his fault," Candy said to Phil, "I'm the one who got in his car." He didn't answer her. She sank back, wincing as her back touched the seat. "But that won't matter, will it?"
"What matters now," Phil said, "Is getting you to a doctor so we can get you all checked out. The rest we'll deal with later."
Candy sat in the back seat this time. She stared out the window with an expressionless face. Mike sat in the passenger seat, and kept stealing glances at her in the rear-view mirror. He felt like shit.
As they came up on the corner of Candy's street, a squad car whizzed past, sire's wailing. A fire-truck came barreling after it. Mike thought he saw something in Candy's eyes, but it was gone before it could register.
"Phil," he said, "Let's see what's going on."
Phil turned the car around and followed the fire-truck, which came to a stop on the street in front of the tenement hall where Candy and her mother lived. Thick black smoke was pouring out of three of the windows on the top floor. Mike recognized it as Candy's apartment.
"Stay here," he said as he unbuckled his seat belt.
He and Phil got out of the car and walked up to the burning building, flashing their badges at the uniform cop that was keeping the gathering crowd at bay. There was already another truck that had been the initial response, and an ambulance as well. A stretcher was being loaded into the back with a black body bag zipped up on top.
"What's going on, Detectives? We haven't called you boys yet." The chief said as they approached.
"We were in the neighborhood," Mike said, choosing not to mention the girl in his backseat just yet. He nodded in the direction of the building. "What does it look like here?"
"Kitchen fire goes awry," said the man, "Looks like she left the burner on, and the curtains caught. Who the hell puts curtains over a gas stove?" He shook his head. "Anyway the neighbors all say she was a drunk. Looks like passed out in the middle of cookin' dinner." He wiped his sweaty brow. "Of course, your people are gonna want to go over it, too, but it looks like a simple accident to me. The neighbors say she has a daughter, we're trying to locate her--"
"We've got her," said Phil. He looked at Mike. "She's a friend of the family."
"Oh," said the chief. "Oh... did you know uh..." He motioned toward he ambulance.
"Yeah," Mike said. "You're probably right about the cause of death. She was a real boozer."
He walked back in the direction of the car, but stopped and leaned against the fire-truck on the side out of Candy's view from the car. That flash in Candy's eyes... she knew whose house the fire-trucks were heading for. With the realization, he felt a wave of nausea wash over him, and he had to fight to keep from retching.
"Mikey?" Phil put a hand on his shoulder, "Are you all right?"
"Fine," he said. He straightened up. "Let's get Candy to the hospital."
Mike couldn't look at Candy when he got back into the car. Phil took it upon himself to tell her that her mother was dead, and she responded with a believable reaction to the news. She made no attempt to cry, or express shock. She went silent. That was smart.
At the hospital, the doctor cleaned the wound on Candy's forehead and put a butterfly bandage on it. Mike stayed in the exam room with her while Phil got on the phone to sort things out and call child services. When the doctor finished, he also left the room. Mike found himself alone with Candy and very uncomfortable.
He knew she had done it. He knew. He had been looking at everything she'd said to him since that last phone call in a different light. How much of it was true, and how much was a carefully lain story? She had crossed a line, and because of it he had started to feel something close to contempt for her.
"Mike," she was looking at the floor, but when he looked at her she lifted her head to meet his eyes. She chose her words carefully. "What's going to happen to me now?"
The look in her eyes told him she was asking a slightly different question, but she knew that voicing it could be interpreted as an admission of guilt. It showed that she didn't trust him. That was a good thing; on the road she was headed she wouldn't be able to trust anyone but herself. Damn, she was smart.
He looked at her, a girl of sixteen. He remembered sixteen--he wasn't that damn old. She shouldn't have to be as tough or as smart as she was, and the real shame was that she'd been forced to grow up that fast. He looked into her eyes. There was still some vulnerability there, although he suspected he was the only one who would see that.
"Phil's calling child services," he said at last, "You'll have to go to a group home for a little while. That's unavoidable now."
"I know," she said. She looked at him as if she wanted to say something else, but she didn't. Mike felt a sudden ache in his heart. His impulse was to grab her and hold her as close as he could, as if he could shield her from the world she was heading in to. He would later tell this to Liz Olivet, and only to her, secure in the knowledge of doctor/patient confidentiality. Liz would assure him, as she had about most of the things he told her about Candy, that it was perfectly natural to feel that way.
"Candy," he said after a moment, "You're going to be okay now. But you have to be careful."
She stared at him, eyes welling up with tears. He knew it would be a tremendous relief for her to tell someone else what she's done, to share her secret. He kept talking, so that she wouldn't.
"You can probably have a good life, if you stay out of trouble. Drinking, running away--all that minor league shit can bring you down now, so you better just stay clean." He looked straight into her eyes. "Do you understand?"
She nodded yes, but she shaking all over, on the verge of breaking down.
Mike turned and walked out. He met Phil in the hall, coming back from the phone.
"How is she?"
"I think it's starting to sink in about her mom," Mike said. "She's crying now."
Phil shook his head. "No matter how badly their parents mistreat them..."
"Yeah," said Mike.
In his sessions with Doctor Olivet, Mike often expresses guilt, not so much over Doreen's death, but that Candy had done it because she felt she had to. He couldn't convince himself that he wasn't somehow responsible for that. Liz asked once if he had been so sure that Candy had killed her mother, why didn't he tried to build the case?
"Out of what?" he asked her, "I'm the only one who saw that look on her face when the fire-truck went by. I might've been able to convince Phil, or you..." He shook his head, "But there just wasn't enough evidence."
"So," Liz said, "Are you feeling guilty because you think you were responsible, or because you think you let her get away with it?"
"Yes." Mike said.
Mike did see Candy one time after that; Manhattan's a small island, as someone had once remarked to him. He was walking through the university library, looking for a possible witness who worked there part time, when he turned the corner and saw her. She was sitting at a table back among the stacks, poring over some text. As he neared her, she looked up, and a small smile of faint recognition came to her lips. Then she placed where she knew him from, and ducked her head back down, visibly willing him not to speak to her.
He obliged her by walking on by, but their brief exchange had not escaped the notice of his then partner, Lennie Briscoe.
"Friend of yours?" Lennie asked him, a suggestive tone in his voice.
"Not at all," said Mike.