Before there was a Detective Mike, there was an Officer Logan. What might have life have been like if Officer Logan made one fatal mistake? Could he rely on ADA Ben Stone to do the right thing?


Stripped: Superheroes
By Kitteridge

Bam. Whiz. Pow.
That was the sound the comic strips made, the sound of the bad guys getting whomped yet again by the good guys. The great menacing cowled Orange Death (a thinly-veiled Vietnam reference he hadn't gotten when he'd read it as a kid, but wondered for years why his father tossed his favorite comic to the ground and muttered "pinko liberal Commie shit" as he did so) finding his ass getting severely cut down to size by The Silver Heel, or the Masked Avenger, or whoever was in vogue for that minute. These days, the kids play Atari. But he remembers the comic books. These days, all the time. Who knew how close they'd be to real life.
Bam. The gun had made that exact sound when he discharged it; he remembers now he almost expected a little flag to come out instead of a bullet, or like in the comics, a great big jagged balloon filled with oversized red letters spelling out the noise, which would briefly blot out the car that was speeding away. Bam.
No balloon. No flag. Just the bullet he'd been trained to fire in moments of dire circumstance. And when that bullet seared into the retreating car's rear wheel he thought he'd heard the whiz, the hiss and spit of escaping air, immediately superseded by the pow. The pow of metal crunching on metal, car meeting maker, Orange Death running into The Fire Hydrant. Then the long blare of a horn stuck in place, wedged in full blast by the driver's head, which had bent unnaturally when he broke his neck on the steering wheel.
"Which brings us to our current dilemma," Officer Mike Logan whispers to himself, staring at the closed courtroom doors, behind which his future will be decided in a week or so. A passing woman throws him an odd glare and he bites hard on speaking out loud again, particularly if he's going to quote the comics any more, particularly since it seems as if his life has suddenly turned into a bad set of panels in someone else's comic book. The current dilemma, as it stands, right now, is that the one job he knows he can do good, the one thing he has a real ... what did that Sergeant he met in training say it was ... a real aptitude for -- might be shit out the window because of one questionable gunshot.
He leans against the wall opposite the imposing, doors, the same color as the paddle Ma used to pull out when she was in an unusually foul mood, when the potatoes hadn't been washed in time to throw them in the pot, when she discovered his stash of comics under his mattress, when he just looked at her the wrong way. Perfectly appropriate, those doors in front of him. Dark cherry wood. The color of punishment. Leaning further back into the cold marble of the back wall, as if he could meld into it, Mike folds his arms stiffly, the crisp fabric of his just-ironed dress blue shirt straining against his bent arms. He knows he's bigger than when he put the uniform on for the first time nine months ago; he's grown a full inch since then and his arms are thicker from working out. Now is not the time to rip it, and now is not the time to ask for a replacement. Now is the time to realize that he might lose the right to wear it again.
There have been people walking in brisk clipping steps past him for the last twenty minutes, but he knows when the heels toll for himself, and with a short glance down the hallway he catches sight of the assistant district attorney who's been making his life miserable ever since he shot at the car and killed a tire. Which then killed the perp. He's a tall drink of water, this approaching ADA, as Pop might say, balding but probably only a few years older than Mike is. He could wrap his arms around the drink of water and break his ribs if he wanted, but since that's not allowed -- except in the comic books, of course -- he'll have to stand here and take it. Whatever gets dished out, he's gonna have to be civilized.
The meeting is his own idea. Catch the lawyer off-guard. Maybe get it all shoved into a drawer. Still, Mike burns at the ADA with heretofore unused laser vision, but nothing happens. He clears his throat.
That works. The ADA stops a few feet from him and blinks twice, shifting a sheaf of papers from one arm to the other. "Officer Logan." He strides forward in two loping steps. "Ben Stone."
Mike hesitates just long enough to seem belligerent, then offers his hand. "Hey."
"Did we have a meeting scheduled?"
"Nope," says Mike. "But I wanted to talk."
Ben gazes coolly at him. "You're new, aren't you."
Mike sizes him up, and realizes he was wrong. The ADA has about ten years on him. He's ancient, he's history. And he's wearing suspenders Mike knows even his majorly out-of-touch Pop wouldn't've gone near. Suddenly, Mike feels okay about this. Ben Stone's condescending, with his perfectly smooth, eloquent words, but he's no Orange Death. "Nope. Been on the beat nine months. Almost ten."
A thin smile crosses Ben's lips. "Right." He glances into his folders. "We should probably speak in my office. Where's your PBA lawyer?"
Mike shrugs. "Haven't met him yet."
Ben squints at his notes, and Mike wonders how come he doesn't just put on glasses if he needs them to read. "Well, then you and I shouldn't really talk. Have a sit down with your lawyer, work it out with him, and set up a meeting with my office. You and me and the EADA, that's how it's supposed to be done." He raises his head again. "Was there something else?"
Mike takes a deep breath. "You're killin' me, you know it."
"Excuse me?"
"I didn't mean for him to die. He was gonna run down some kids. I had to stop the car."
Ben Stone shifts from one leg to the next and Mike grows annoyed, thinking the ADA is just acting bored. But then Ben breathes a short sigh and Mike realizes something else: He is grossly uncomfortable with the situation. He can't say things he wants to say. He's constrained. Mike has him in an invisible lasso. "Officer Logan --"
"Call me Mike, hey?"
"Officer Logan," Ben emphasizes, "this is really inappropriate. I'm not your friend in this. We're on opposite teams here. Internal Affairs made its ruling, and we have to play this out according to procedure."
"Procedure my ass," Mike bursts out, then closes his eyes. Not the right way to go. "Sorry. Look. I'm a good cop, I'm real good. I'm gettin' railroaded here."
Ben studies him, and for a moment Mike wonders what he sees. Doesn't matter, Mike feels a slight thread of hope here. The lawyer opens his folder again and flips to some of the back pages. Blinks. Time draws out and Mike figures it'll be the '90s before he finally speaks again. "Why approach me, Officer Logan."
Mike shuffles his feet. "Just made sense to."
"No. It makes no sense. You and I could both get in trouble."
"Cops talk," Mike says finally. "I hear you're not in it for the percentages."
"I want to win cases," Ben says evenly.
Mike watches him. He knows, same as Ben Stone knows, it isn't about winning. It's about making sure the kids in the street don't get run down. At least, that's what the Sergeant who liked Mike so much in training told him. "Go talk to Stone," Max Greevey advised his protégé when Internal Affairs issued its ruling. "You be straight up with him, you can fight this. He's one of the good guys."
But to Mike, Ben doesn't look like any Silver Heel or Masked Avenger.
"You need to talk to your lawyer to get it cleared up," says Ben after a long silence. "If it goes to trial, anything you say to me --"
"Can and will be used against me," Mike sneers. "Gimme a break. I know Miranda. I know the rules. But you gotta know, it wasn't my fault."
Ben swallows once, Adam's apple bobbing reflexively. Then he nods, a quick, almost unseen affirmation. "I'm nobody, Officer Logan. I can't help you."
"But you'll try," says Mike.
Ben sighs, and his perfect diction slips. "Yeah. Schiff ... he'll know what to do."
Mike tries not to react. "Thanks."
At that, Ben stands up straighter than before, and squares his shoulders. "And now, I really have to go into that Grand Jury room. Find your lawyer."
"It's my job," Mike reminds him, trying to put a check on the pleading tone in his voice.
"It's mine, too," says Ben, and turns on his heel, opening the punishment doors, letting them close softly behind him.
Mike waits a moment, then holds up a cocked finger, aiming it at the Grand Jury room, and makes a soft whiffling sound. "Bang. Whiz. Pow."
And then he goes to track down his lawyer.
end

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