Improbable Cause

Chapter Eight: A Few Moments to Feel

"Don't think I didn't know what your partner was up to," Logan commented to Eames as they walked through the parking garage.

"I notice you didn't stop him."

"I didn't say I disagreed, just that I was on to him. I appreciate what he was doing."

"Falacci's a good detective," Eames commented, "but she lacks tact sometimes." She started to open the driver's side door and then stopped herself. "Sorry, did you want to drive?"

"No, go ahead." He'd never admit it, but he still felt a little shaky. He really hadn't expected Penobscott to press that particular button.

"Look, I'm sorry if this is prying too much," she said as they got into their respective seats, "but are you okay?"

"I will be, and it's not," he replied. "Prying too much, I mean. It's just you and me here, and I know I don't have to explain anything to you. I'm not saying Barek was right to do what she did, although I forgave her and I'm not holding it against her, but the result is that you and Goren both know what's going on with me. Of course, now I'll have to explain the whole thing to Falacci." He swallowed hard. "It shouldn't have hit me as hard as it did. It's not like I've ever heard a callous barb about my mother from someone who had no clue. I was just already sensitized by dealing with that mutt, even secondhand. He'd have a fit if he heard me say this, but he and my mother are a lot alike. People like that think they deserve the world and everything in it, and when they don't get it, they feel like they've been cheated and they blame the other people in their lives. They zero in on which of those people are weaker than them and convince themselves that whoever that person is deserves whatever they feel like dishing out, and from there...well, five women are dead and two injured and traumatized by from there, and that's just this one case."

"I didn't mean to suggest that Margaret deserved any retribution Penobscott took against her for the letter," Eames said softly. "I was just repeating what she told me."

"I know you didn't," he replied, "and I wasn't talking about you specifically. I just get sick of that attitude in the world in general. I mean, I'm sure that letter set Penobscott off, but that doesn't mean that if she hadn't written it, he wouldn't have found something else to set him off. It's like I said, people like that want to take out their anger on someone, so they come up with justifications so they don't have to admit they have a problem. If you knew how long it took me to accept that..." he added under his breath.

Eames heard him regardless and, taking a chance, reached across to gently and briefly squeeze his hand. To her gratification, he didn't push her away. "It's good you did," she told him. "Even if I didn't know you then, I know enough about these kinds of situations to know there's no way in hell it was your fault."

The expression on his face was such that for a moment, she actually thought he might cry. When he spoke, his voice was choked. "Thanks...Alex." His use of her first name was as tentative as her touch had been, waiting, expecting, to be rebuffed. He didn't know her well, after all. He and Bobby had become friends after the incident in the federal prison, but though he liked and admired Alex, he had never had cause to spend much time with her, and certainly not without either Bobby or his partner of the moment being involved as well. It hit him that this was quite probably the first time he'd ever been alone with her.

For her part, she seemed a little uncomfortable with the level of emotion her words had elicited. "I'm sure it's nothing you haven't heard before."

"You'd be surprised," he countered softly. "Of course, the situations in which I've told other people this weren't exactly conducive to a heart-to-heart, but even so - plenty of people have told me they were sorry for what I had to go through, but I can't remember the last time someone actually told me I wasn't responsible for it. And even though I know it, it's still nice to hear sometimes."

"To counter what society says," Eames guessed, her heart nearly breaking for the man next to her. She'd realized shortly after meeting him that Mike Logan was a much deeper, more complicated person than the rumors suggested, but she hadn't realized just how much so. Every time she worked with him it seemed another facet of the man was revealed.

"Yeah," he replied. "People who know me now, know how angry I get at her, don't realize where my head was when I was a kid. And even though I know now that it isn't my fault, it's way too easy to fall back into those thought patterns if I don't watch myself. I'm the guy with the anger issues and I had to - I had to learn to be angry at my mother, how pathetic is that?"

"It's not," she assured him quickly. "First of all, I'm not so sure you actually have anger issues, as you put it. You hit one guy once, unfortunately in a very public setting in front of several news cameras. Other than that - you're passionate about the cases and getting justice for the victims. The best cops are. It's hard to be passionate about this kind of thing, see what we do every day, and not get angry. I don't think what I see in you comes close to the level of a problem."

"I appreciate you saying that, I really do."

"Second of all, I think the only thing in this situation that's pathetic is a parent treating a helpless child that way." She slowly reached over and squeezed his hand again. "You know, my nephew was telling me a few months ago that they had a program at his school to talk to kids about abuse." He'd actually been quite upset, she remembered, wondering how parents could do that kind of thing to their own kids. "Those programs exist because children in situations like the one you were in don't have the perspective to understand that what they're going through is wrong. They have to be taught."

"At first I thought every child's home life was like mine," he admitted. "And then I thought that the reason I got it so much worse was because of my own behavior, that I was a bad kid and I deserved it." He shook his head. "I'm sorry, Eames. I didn't mean to unload on you. For God's sake, I barely know you."

"It's okay, don't apologize. You needed to talk, and I don't have a problem with being the one to listen. If anything, the fact that we barely know each other makes me surprised that you're so willing to open up to me. And I'm - I'm honored."

"You're honored that I used you as a sounding board?"

"It's more than that, and we both know it. I can hear in your voice that this isn't easy for you to talk about. Just - thank you for trusting me."

"You're welcome."

xxxxxxxxx

"You couldn't have put off those calls for an hour to go talk to the victim?" Ross asked a little incredulously as Goren hung up the phone from the last call on the list.

"I could have," Goren replied evenly, "but it was something I needed to do, and it gave me a good excuse. Not to get out of work," he added as Ross gave him another incredulous look. They both knew Goren was one of the hardest-working detectives in the entire department, let alone Major Case. "Logan looked like he needed some air and a change of pace."

Ross nodded now; he had noticed the detective looking less than completely well. "Are you sure sending him to interview a victim was the right way to go about it?"

Goren found himself bristling ever so slightly in defense of his friend. "Logan's not as abrasive as he comes off. He knows when to handle someone with kid gloves and how to do it. It'll be fine."

"What's going on with him?" Falacci asked bluntly, looking over from the next set of desks. "I mean, I could tell he was off, but I have no clue why."

"I can't say," Goren replied.

Falacci let out what might have been a laugh. "Something about a person in your environment that you don't know? That's got to be a first."

"I didn't say I don't know," Goren corrected almost offhandedly. "I can't say. It's Logan's business; I wouldn't feel right telling you. If you want to know, you should ask him."

"Okay, fair enough." Falacci shrugged.

"But, if you do ask him," Goren added out of concern for his friend, "ask him, Falacci. Don't browbeat him. There's more going on here than I think you realize."

xxxxxxxxx

Theresa Braddock was sitting up partway, supported by the adjustable hospital bed. Her eyes locked on Eames. "I was hoping they'd send you," she said in a near whisper. "I - I have to thank you."

"I'm just glad we found you," Eames replied. "If you want to thank someone, you ought to thank Detective Logan here. He's the reason we found you."

She turned her gaze onto the other detective. "Thank you."

He nodded, turning slightly red from the attention. "Do you mind if we ask you a few questions?"

"No, that's okay."

Fifteen minutes later, they had confirmed what they'd already suspected. Theresa Braddock's story lined up with Margaret Pierce's down to the last detail. As they thanked the woman for her time, wished her well in her recovery, and headed back for the parking lot, Logan noticed that Eames looked as shaky as he'd felt less than an hour earlier.

"Hey," he asked after making sure there was no one listening. "What is it?"

"Okay," she said, and he could tell that she was struggling to keep her breathing even, "so sending the one kidnap victim in the squad to interview a kidnap victim might not have been the brightest idea."

Her tone was light but he could hear the pain buried under it. He eyed her in concern. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I think so." She took a few more quick breaths. "As long as I can manage not to throw up..." she added half to herself.

He heard her anyway. "C'mon, sit down." He quickly located a nearby bench and guided her to it. "Put your head on your knees and just breathe for a minute, okay? Just breathe, there you go."

The gentle tone was certainly not something that matched the dominant image of Mike Logan, and yet, it didn't seem out of character for the man Alex knew. As she obeyed his gentle directions, she it occurred to her that she knew this man better than ninety-nine percent of the people who probably thought they knew all they needed to know about him.

After a few moments, her nausea subsided and she sat up slowly. "So that whole thing where I just bounced back from the kidnapping like nothing happened - yeah, that was an act."

"If you want to know the truth, I kinda figured." He extended his hand to help her up. "As you probably could figure out considering what we talked about on the way over here, I know a lot about pretending not to be hurting when the truth is the opposite. And because of that, I also know it's damn near impossible to come out of something like that without some level of emotional scarring."

She swallowed hard. "Hey, don't get upset at me for this, okay?"

"For what?"

Without another word, she stepped forward and hugged him.

She'd wanted to hug him for awhile now, from the moment he'd started talking in the car about his awful childhood. Just the thought of how much he must have suffered, not even realizing at first that it was wrong that he had to go through that, was enough to break her heart.

He was momentarily frozen in surprise, but then he slowly raised his own arms around her back. "Is this for you or for me?"

"Which one would make you feel better about the situation?" she replied.

He didn't answer, but he smiled, knowing she'd see as the embrace ended and she stepped back. "C'mon, let's get back. And Eames? I'm driving this time."

She grinned, tossing him the keys.

xxxxxxxxx

"Here." Logan pushed a sheet of paper at his partner.

"What - what is this?"

"Transcript of an interrogation my old partner and I did a couple years ago." When she just stared confusedly, he decided to cut her a break. "It's the answer to the questions I know you want to ask. Just don't freak out on me when you read it, okay?"

"Fair enough."

Her first thought was confusion, wondering if she and Logan were remotely on the same page. But as she read, it became clear to her that they were, and that the answers were far from what she'd expected to hear.

BAREK:By all rights, Johnny, you shouldn't even be here. You were getting along fine in your foster home. Was it your idea to leave? Or was it Dede's? How did she put it, I can't get along without him?

LOGAN: Hey, if you want to vent on your mom, you've got our permission.

JOHHNY FIEST: I got nothing to vent. I'm not angry at her.

BAREK: My partner knows about that kind of anger.

Falacci sucked in a breath. For a moment, she wondered if there wasn't a chance it was just a tactic. But as soon as she had the thought, she knew it was ridiculous. Logan wouldn't have given her the transcript as an answer to her questions if it was just a made-up story used to break a suspect.

BAREK: My partner knows about that kind of anger. His mother used to send him out to buy booze for her. Tell Johnny how she used to thank you. I think he needs to hear it.

LOGAN: Well, after the first drink, it was all hugs and kisses. Then a few drinks later, she'd grab whatever she could and start hitting me. And when she got tired of holding whatever it was she was hitting me with, she'd just go at me with her fists. And the next day, she'd send me back to the liquor store.

Falacci let the paper fall from her fingers, and she couldn't help but stare at her partner where he was leaned back in his chair. "My God."

"So now you know," he said casually. "Like I said, Falacci, don't freak out on me. I didn't give you that because I want a pity party. I'd like to think I know you by now; I could tell you were dying to ask, but trying to be tactful because someone - probably Goren - told you not to charge into the questions headlong. I figured I'd give you the answer and then we could move on and not talk about it. Okay?"

She half-smiled. "Okay."

Logan smiled back, grateful she'd let it go. Despite the fact that they were partners, it had been easier to talk to Eames, and not just because he'd known her longer. Falacci seemed to be permanently set on 'full speed ahead', and that was the last way he wanted this dealt with. "You think Penobscott's going to deal?" he asked, changing the subject.

"He'd be an idiot not to. We got enough evidence on him to convict five times over. How does he think he'd wiggle out of it with a jury?"

"He what?" came Eames' voice from the next desk, loud enough to be heard on the other side of the bullpen. "Okay, thanks for telling me." She hung the phone up and looked from Goren to Logan and Falacci. "That sound you just heard? That was the other shoe. Penobscott's lawyer is requesting a psych eval."

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