Lynne Hoffman says that her story was "...inspired jointly by the episode 'Cruel and Unusual' and a previous challenge." We say great -- it's nice to know someone's reading our archived issues!

By Lynne Hoffman

The kid was brought in on the night shift. The charges were attempted theft. He appeared to be higher than a kite and had been mumbling about the time. He'd tried to check the time on a stranger's watch and he had frightened the couple. They had reported him to a passing cruiser. After he had been placed in the holding cell, fear began to overcome him and he began to hit his head against the rear wall. Mike noticed him as soon as he walked into the squad room. He took a second look and tried to dismiss the youth but he couldn't. The boy reminded him of Cathy. Not in any specific way exactly, just in a vaguely familiar way but still, it was enough that it made it impossible for him to turn his back on the boy and get down to business. As the boy's aggressive behavior began to increase, Mike decided to enter the cage and try and calm him down.
He didn't know what he was letting himself in for.
The boy went ballistic. Mike grabbed him around the upper body, pinning the youth's arms to his sides. He called out for assistance and both his partner Lennie Briscoe, and another detective, Tony Profaci, entered 'The Cage' to assist him. Suddenly, before either man could reach him, the boy went limp in Mike's arms and Mike lowered him to the ground. Tony knelt at the boy's side and felt for a pulse. He couldn't find one.
Mike stepped backward in shock and asked if the boy was all right. In equal dismay, Tony looked up at Mike and said, "I think the kid's dead."
After the confusion died down and I.A.D. had grilled the hapless Mike, Tony and Lennie had discovered that the boy had died of a stroke. A stroke, the Medical Examiner explained, he was predisposed to having due to previous damage he had suffered to his carotid artery. While Mike felt immense relief at learning he hadn't played a direct role in the boy's death he still felt terrible at having had such a front row seat.
He couldn't get the vision of his niece out of his mind. She was mentally handicapped as well. 'Retarded', he flippantly remarked to Lennie one day as they had discussed a different suspect's strange behavior.
Her unpredictable behavior drove Mike crazy and he joked about it to cover the fact that he felt inadequate when it came to dealing with her. He loved his sister Carole, she had comforted him when he was a scared and hurting kid. Watching her struggle with her handicapped daughter and believing there was nothing he could to help her hurt more than he cared to admit. And scared him. What if one of his kids turned out that way? Made him think twice about getting married and starting a family, that was for sure.
Having watched the boy's behavior in the squad room and seen the methods employed to try and modify that behavior he felt sickened. Lt. Van Buren had put him on desk duty until the final findings regarding the boy's death had come in. Once he was back in the field and learning more about some of the obstacles handicapped children were faced with he wished he was still behind the desk. He called his sister on the phone after the trial was over.
"You know, I'm sorry Carole. I never realized what a struggle it was for you to have to try and deal with Cathy by yourself. I've got the week-end off. Do you need a break? Maybe I could come over and keep and eye on her for you so you could go out for a couple of hours, huh? What do you think?"
"Michael," she replied reproachfully, "Do you have any idea what you're suggesting? You'll come here and keep an eye on Cathy for me?" Carole sounded incredulous and felt very skeptical. She appreciated his offer but was also smart enough to know that no matter how genuine it was, Mike would never last two hours with Cathy. For all his masculine power and the physical toughness it took for him to be a cop in Manhattan, he simply wasn't emotionally strong enough to handle her.
"Yeah. Yeah, I do."
"No. No you don't. Tell you what, though. Cathy and I have a support system that gives me a respite worker so I can get out of the apartment twice a month and do something for and by, myself. The thing is, I'm alone all the time Mike. Time by myself isn't what I need. What I need is someone to come and spend time with me, not Cathy. If you want to give me a hand with something, come over and help me ease my loneliness. I could arrange some respite care this week-end. You could treat me to dinner and a movie. Wouldn't that be easier than having to deal with Cathy?"
"Yeah," Mike admitted reluctantly, both relieved and disappointed.
"My, my. You're easy to persuade. You must be between girlfriends." There was gentle teasing in Carole's tone. Something that didn't escape Mike.
"That's beside the point. Carole, listen. No problem with taking you out to dinner and/or to a movie but I'd also like to try and understand Cathy a little better, too. What do you think? Is there hope for me?"
"I love you baby brother. There's more hope for you than there is for her father."
"He's no father, Carole." Mike said with more disgust seeping into his voice than he had intended. Carole's husband had deserted her when their daughter's disability had been diagnosed. He had decreed that his family didn't produce Retardates. The fact that there hadn't been any in the Logan family until Cathy had arrived hadn't had any bearing on his decision. He walked out and never looked back. Carole had been struggling to raise Cathy, alone, ever since.
"I know." Carole agreed softly.
"Make whatever arrangements you need to, Carole. I'll give you my whole day."
"Maybe you'll meet someone between then and now... "
"Who'll have to wait 'til my next week-end off or some other time. Carole, I give you my word... "
"I know, Mike. I know. I'm sorry, I'm just so tired. Your offer couldn't have come at a better time. Thank you."
"You're welcome. Let me know what you want to do. O.K.?"
"Yes. You're absolutely sure?"
"Are you trying to wear me down? Quit asking."
Carole laughed, something she didn't do too frequently these days. When Cathy was little she'd been easier to handle. Now she was an adolescent. A difficult time in any parent and child relationship. Mike's offer truly couldn't have come at a better time.
"Saturday or Sunday? Which day is for me?"
"Doesn't matter to me, Sis. Take your pick. Both if you want."
"Oh, no. Not both, but I'll take a rain check on the second day. You can owe it to me," the merriment in Carole's voice was evident, "I'll talk to my worker and call you back. It will depend on her availability, too."
"Whatever. Talk to you then. If I'm not in, leave me a message on my answering machine."
"Will do. Good-bye, Mike." 'And thanks,' she whispered silently.
"Good-bye, Carole." Mike hung up and sat back in his chair.
He closed his eyes and felt a tear trickle down his cheek. How could he have misjudged his sister's needs so badly? He'd have to do better. He would do better. He promised himself, and her, in his heart that he wouldn't let her down. Ever again.
As he did so he suddenly felt as though he had matured.
He wasn't simply Det. Mike Logan, N.Y.P.D. or Carole's little brother anymore. He was Cathy's Uncle Mike, and if he ever wanted to ensure she continued to receive first class care, he had to do his part in enabling Carole to continue providing that care.
There was no goddamned way he was ever going to permit Cathy to be admitted to an institution like the one he and Lennie had just investigated. No goddamned way.


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