Murder Most Complicated

Cagney and Lacey Fanfiction based on characters created by Barbara Avedon and Barbara Corday. Let me know what you think: siderius@netidea.com.

*** He was a silhouette in the doorway. She feigned sleep - watching through narrowed eyes. It took a long time after the door had closed for her to relax - for the fear to drain away. It took longer to go to sleep.

*** The fighting had stopped. It had reached a crescendo of screaming and breaking dishes and then had stopped. She lay waiting, barely breathing, waiting, wanting it over with. He always came to punish her after the fights.

*** This was the worst. He usually hit her only until she cried. This time he was using the buckle end.

Mother

"Don't hit her in the kidneys, Bill".

Not just the sting of leather on skin, but the sharp, biting pain of metal on bone. This time she begged - terrified - for him to stop. But he kept hitting. Until he scared himself.

** Back of the class. Unable to stop - softly weeping. Her mother had made her wear black leotards on this hot July day to hide the bruises and welts. No one asked. She tried to keep from crying. Become so small that no one would notice her.

*** The bared breast. Three pink cigarette burns.

MOTHER

"He did this to me".

She can't remember what she said in reply. All she can remember is the burns, the tears - the look in her mother's eyes. Feeling responsible for all the pain.

*** She didn't know how he had killed them all. He didn't own a gun. She had promised to keep Jenny clean. She had gotten up early every morning so that her parents wouldn't have to clean up after her dog.

"Don't bother feeding her - I'm getting rid of her tomorrow."

He hadn't. Not like the others. Not yet. She had tried so hard to keep the dog out of trouble. Jenny was her only friend. If she behaved and the dog behaved, maybe she could save her. She lay crying, too afraid to sneak in and get Jenny her food - deeply ashamed of her cowardice. There was so much pain.

*** "I don't make him angry anymore. He'll take it out on you kids. What am I going to do? "

*** The belt buckle gleaming in the light. Jenny barking as he approached the bed. The curses and kicking at the dog.

The shot was so much louder than she had expected. The recoil sent her reeling back in the bed. The belt fell to the ground. He tried to speak. Fell to the ground. She fired again. and again until he had stopped moving - only looking blankly at the ceiling. Soft pink bubbles at his lips. Then the screaming started.

*** Radio

"Shots fired at housing complex at Warden and Dunlop - all units in the area respond"

LACEY

"Unit K-12 responding - on our way"

Detective Lacey turned on the siren and planted the bubble on the roof of the squad car as Sergeant Cagney put the pedal to the floor.

Domestic violence cases were the worst - so unpredictable. People in deep emotional crises resorting to weapons they didn't know how to use. And emotions were so volatile - the intimate enemy becoming the beloved victim when the police intervened. More cops were injured attending to violence in the home than in any other crises.

CAGNEY

Again? I hate this. - It's our third call out to that dump this week.

LACEY

You'd rather answer a domestic uptown - maybe out in Westchester, Chris?

CAGNEY

Don't give me that - you know what I mean.

Chris swings the car around violently to avoid a large truck. Horns blare and Chris responds to a hand gesture with one of her own.

LACEY (one hand gripping the dash board)

It would be nice to get there in one piece, Sergeant.

*** There was silence on the other side of the door. Someone had reported the shooting, but there was no one in the hall as the two detectives ran up to the apartment. Cagney ran up to stand on one side of the door as Lacey took up her position on the other side.

LACEY (as Cagney pounds on the door)

Police! Open the door!

There is no response.

CAGNEY

You in there - this is the police. You have 'til the count of three to open this door or we are coming in! One!

Two uniformed officers arrive and take their positions several feet from the door, crouched and with guns drawn.

CAGNEY

Two!

There is still no response. Chris beckons to one of the uniforms to take up position - ready to kick the door in.

The door swings open. Mary Beth, crouched by the door, finds herself training her gun on the face of a small boy. His solemn eyes meet hers briefly before she grabs him and Chris rushes into the room followed by the two uniforms.

A woman is crouched on the floor beside one of two small beds. She is crying and rocking a bloody man in her arms. The window curtains blow gently in the breeze and a spot of sunshine falls near the two on the floor.

Cagney crouches by the man and checks his pulse. She shakes her head at Lacey. All the cops still have their guns drawn, aware that there is still a shooter lose.

CAGNEY (to the woman)

An ambulance is on its way. Where is the shooter Ma'am?

The woman continues her mantra of sobbing, and looks blankly at Chris.

LACEY (crouched by the child, talking to the woman)

The shooter, Ma'am, where is he?

The woman continues rocking but looks towards the fire escape.

Did he have a gun?

The woman stares blankly, rocking, rocking.

CAGNEY (standing abruptly)

Lacey - you take the stairs to the roof. Jaurez stay here. Williams head down to make sure they haven't made it to the street. I'll take the fire escape up.

*** Jenny had given her away. The blonde woman had come around the corner of the skylight with a gun. She had to wait - to keep Jenny safe.

*** Chris swung her gun around one side of the skylight as Lacey came around the other side. Both cops stopped without a word. The gun was shaking violently in the child's hand - she was pointing the barrel at her own head. The dog was sitting at the kid's feet barking at Chris.

CHILD

Please don't hurt her.

Cagney stops. Lacey stays in place quietly behind the child.

CAGNEY (very calmly as she slowly stands)

Hi there. I'm Chris. I'm a cop. I'm not going to hurt anyone. Is this your dog?

The child is watching Chris intently. She is about 12 years old, dressed in jeans, dirty running shoes and a t-shirt. She slowly nods.

CAGNEY

What's her name?

The child doesn't answer. The gun doesn't move.

CAGNEY

I won't hurt your dog. I promise.

The child meets Cagney's eyes. This child doesn't believe in promises.

Lacey has inched quietly forward behind the girl - unnoticed by the child or the dog, both of whom are totally absorbed by Chris.

CAGNEY

Tell you what. I'm going to put my gun away. (she puts her gun in her holster and puts both her hands out again). See? Now, how about you put yours away. I don't want anyone hurt here - OK?

CHILD

There are no tears but her eyes are great pools of grief. Cagney has seen that look before - in much older eyes.

I didn't know it would still hurt so much. I didn't know.

Chris steps forward slowly.

CAGNEY

Give me the gun, OK? The gun won't help, you know. They never do.

The child is staring at Chris: the hand with the gun lowers ever so slightly.

CHILD

You won't hurt Jenny?

CAGNEY

I won't hurt Jenny.

The child slowly lowers the gun. Lacey takes no chances. She grabs the kid from behind and has her on the ground with the cuffs on as Chris runs over to help her partner. They stand the kid on her feet. The dog is lunging and barking at the two cops.

CHILD

(shouting) Jenny, No! Please, don't hurt her!

Lacey tightens her grip as the girl tries to reach the dog.

CAGNEY

I said I wouldn't hurt her and I won't.

Chris crouches down and talks calmly to the dog, reaching her hand out tentatively. The dog allows herself to be picked up, her tail curled beneath her belly, whining softly. The girl calms down as Cagney takes the dog in her arms.

CAGNEY (holding the dog out for the girl to see)

See, Jenny's just fine. Just fine.

*** The child sits at the interview room table. Her hands are still cuffed. She has said nothing since being read her rights and removed from the roof. Someone has lent her an over-sized sweater to stop her shivering. A bored looking lawyer sits on the same side of the table as the child. Lacey is standing, leaning over the table. A manila folder is open on the table. Cagney is standing, leaning against the wall in the corner of the room.

LACEY

Laura. Laura Schuler. We know that's your name. You have a 5yr old brother - Billy. Your mother's name is Flora. Your father's name was Bill.

Again there is no response from the child. The lawyer looks at his watch. They've been here for an hour and he has better places to be.

LACEY

Your father is dead, Laura. You shot him. If you don't co-operate with us, you may end up in an adult prison. You are in very big trouble here, and we can't help you unless you talk to us.

Laura doesn't respond.

Cagney moves towards the table for the first time. She has been quiet during the interview. The Sergeant has been trying to make sense of the shooting. Putting together the facts: the welts and bruises they found on the child while frisking her; the suicide attempt on the roof; the intense concern for the dog and lack of regard for her own well-being. This wasn't a typical murder. This case was much more complicated.

Cagney sits on the other side of the table from Laura. Chris' arms are folded on the table and she leans forward to talk to the girl.

CAGNEY

Laura.

There is still no response. Chris slowly reaches out to touch the child - raising her chin so that Cagney can look into her face. The girl starts violently-her eyes full of fear.

I won't hurt you Laura. I won't touch you again. Will you talk to me?

Laura is looking at her now. She doesn't answer, but she doesn't lower her eyes again.

Did your father hit you?

Laura has never spoken of the beatings - or the other things. To anyone. Ever. Laura withdraws -refuses to meet Chris' eyes. The interview is over: the lawyer leaves. The uniformed officer takes charge of the girl. Lacey closes the file folder and the two detectives walk from the room.

*** Next morning in the Schuler home.

SCHULER (her eyes red from crying)

He's dead. What am I going to do?

CAGNEY

I know this is hard for you Mrs. Schuler, but your daughter is afraid to speak to anyone. We need to know what happened.

SCHULER

She shot my Bill! (sobbing) Left me here alone with little Billy. What is going to happen to us now?

LACEY

Mrs. Schuler, please. Your neighbours won't say much, but we gather your husband was.abusive. (Lacey is sitting beside Flora Schuler. Now Mary Beth reaches over to touch her hand.) Did he beat you or the children?

SCHULER

(crying, moving her hand away from Lacey).

Bill was a good man. He had a temper, but he never drank and he always came home to me.

CAGNEY (impatiently)

What about the bruises on Laura?

SCHULER

Children need a firm hand. But Bill loved us. (sobbing). She killed him! What am I going to do now? (she has worked herself into a sobbing state, rocking back and forth).

LACEY

Mrs. Schuler, your daughter needs you. She may be tried in adult court, sent to a prison instead of a youth correctional facility unless there are mitigating circumstances. We will have no choice but to charge her with murder. Do you understand what I am saying? Mrs. Schuler, what happened to make Laura kill her father?

SCHULER

Can you help me? I have nowhere to go. Bill took care of everything. What am I going to do?

Cagney turns abruptly to go. Mary Beth stands up to follow. Cagney stops at the door and turns once more to Flora.

CAGNEY

Where is Jenny?

SCHULER

The dog? (incredulously) I can't take care of a dog now. (dismissively) I called the pound two days ago.

*** LACEY

Where are we going? As if I didn't know. Chris, slow down. Please. We will get there on time. Pull over and let me drive. Chris?

There is no answer as Chris keeps on driving and staring straight ahead.

*** ISBECKI

Hey, Cagney! Desperate for a little warmth in your life? (He laughs at his own joke. Chris glares at him but has no time to respond as Samuels enters the squad room.)

SAMUELS

What is this?

LACEY and CAGNEY (simultaneously)

This sir?

A dog, Lieutenant.

SAMUELS

I can see it's a dog, detectives, what is it doing here? In a police station?

LACEY (preparing herself for a lengthy explanation)

Well, sir, you remember the kid-

CAGNEY (interrupting)

She's a witness Lieutenant. In our homicide.

SAMUELS

A witness, Sergeant? I don't want to hear it. It had better not be here tomorrow. Hear me Cagney?

CAGNEY

Absolutely Lieutenant.

Samuels continues on into his office, eyeing the two detectives over his shoulder as he closes the door behind him.

Cagney rocks back and forth on her heels. She looks over at Lacey and smiles. Lacey smiles weakly back over her coffee cup.

*** The dog is sleeping on a blanket by Cagney's and Lacey's desks.

LACEY

We have only her bruises as evidence, Chris, and the neighbours will only hint at abuse. No one at her school admits to seeing anything - not one of them got involved. Child Welfare says the boy shows no signs of abuse. Her own mother won't testify on her behalf. And she refuses to talk.

No response from her partner, who continues to read the open file in front of her.

LACEY

Chris, she murdered her father. Even if we can bring in abuse as a factor, she is going to go to prison for a long time. There's nothing you can do about that. It was too late once she pulled that trigger.

(Mary Beth pauses and then persists when Chris doesn't answer.)

Chris. This one is really tough. I feel for her too. But you may be getting too involved in this case.

Chris looks up at Mary Beth.

CAGNEY

We have to get her to talk, Mary Beth. I think the dog will do it.

LACEY

You're going to use her dog to get her to talk? Chris, you'd better be sure we're right or we may not be doing this kid a favour.

*** CAGNEY (bends to put a bowl of dog kibbles on the floor. Jenny comes over and starts eating).

Cut the lecture, Keeler. Are you going to help or not? Or isn't this case "worthy" enough?

DAVID

Hey, Sergeant. Last time I heard you were all for stricter penalties for juvenile offenders. Hang 'em high Cagney! What makes this one "worthy" of your attentions, Chris?

Chris and David had known each other for only a month. Cagney was not comfortable going out with a knee-jerk liberal - and an ACLU lawyer at that. Chris drove David wild with her law and order attitude and her reluctance to admit that few issues were black and white. Otherwise they were crazy about each other.

CAGNEY

Haven't you been listening to me at all? (She throws up her hands and walks to the counter and pours herself another scotch. She raises the bottle to David.)

Want more?

He shakes his head and moves over to sit at the counter across from her.

CAGNEY (gets ice from the fridge, takes a breathe and starts again)

David, our only option is to charge her with murder. Then my job is over. (pauses for quite some time. David waits for her to continue.)

The kid needs help. She won't get it in prison. Maybe in a youth correctional facility - if she's lucky.

(softly as she pokes at the ice in the glass) I don't think she has ever had anyone on her side, David. She doesn't expect any better from the world.

DAVID (nodding towards the dog)

And the dog?

CAGNEY

Her own mother put the dog in the pound. (pauses) Her own mother. I promised nothing would happen to the dog. God knows what I'll do with her, but I won't let her get hurt.

(Looking at her drink) Laura was the only adult in that household.

(Looking up at him impatiently) Well?

DAVID

Of course I'll represent her. Taking on bleeding heart causes is expected of me - remember?

(leaning over the counter and touching her nose)

Besides, I'd do anything for New York's Finest.

Chris snorts and then grins at him. The conversation turns to more. intimate topics.

***

HARVEY

Chris with a dog? (laughs)

He looks over at Mary Beth and sees that she isn't laughing.

What is it Babe? (he leans over in bed and kisses her on the forehead).

LACEY

Harv, there are times when I've wanted to hit our kids. I did slap Harvey once.

HARVEY

Mary Beth. There's no comparison. You would never wound, or scar your children. (softly) Or leave them to face the world alone so early in life.

LACEY

Her father was a cruel bastard and that woman was never equipped to be a mother. That poor child. She took on all the responsibility for that sick family. I don't know if anyone can reach her now. What a waste, Harv. What a terrible waste.

*** Tires on wet pavement make a lonely sound - especially late at night. Chris pulls her collar up and waits for Jenny to finish sniffing another tree. Chris sits on a bench in the park beneath a street lamp and Jenny hops up beside her.

CAGNEY

Too bad you can't talk. Laura could use a friendly witness right now.

Chris wasn't normally a night wanderer, but when David had left Jenny had sat in front of Chris with an expectant look that wasn't difficult to interpret. Cagney would much rather have stayed in bed.

The park was quiet tonight, a soft drizzle falling, leaving beads of water on the shrubs. Chris sat lost in her own thoughts.

He had a knife in his hands and two friends with an attitude.

"Giving me your money would be a really good idea, lady.- unless of course you would like to play first." (He grabs his crotch in an obscene gesture.)

Cagney already had her hand inside her jacket and on her gun when Jenny sprang into action. The little dog recognized what a threat meant and how to deal with it. Making a lot of noise came naturally. The three hoods found themselves facing not only an armed cop - but also a frenzied little buzz saw that moved in for a snap and was gone before they could even aim a kick.

CAGNEY

You might want to keep those pants on, gentlemen. - She's trained to maim.

They were gone - in three different directions - almost before the incident began. Cagney could have laughed. She was smiling. She bent down to pet the dog.

CAGNEY

Well, you're not Rin Tin Tin, but that attitude will get you far, Jenny.

*** The Interview room at he 14th precinct next morning.

Laura is in the room, sitting at the table with David Keeler at her side. Mary Beth is on the other side of the table. Laura has said nothing. The door opens and Cagney enters with Jenny. Laura jumps up and rushes to the dog, hugging her and crying.

LAURA

Jenny, Jenny.

CAGNEY

I told you I wouldn't hurt her. She's fine. She eats a lot, though. She doesn't seem to like Crunchy Critters.

LAURA

(Sniffling and still clinging to the dog) Purina. She eats Purina and sometimes I give her an egg for a treat. She needs a brushing.

CAGNEY (contritely)

Sorry. I don't know much about dogs. You'll have to let me know what kind of brush.

LAURA

The bristle kind. She has soft skin.

Jenny, I've missed you so much.

KEELER

Laura. You understand that I am your lawyer? That I am on your side no matter what you did or did not do?

Laura looks up from the dog and nods.

KEELER

These two women are the police. They need to know what happened. I am here to make sure you say nothing that will get you into further trouble. They need to know some things so they can decide how to charge you. OK? Laura?

The girl looks at them all and slowly nods her head. She continues to hold the dog tightly. She knows better than to ask for help. But maybe this time was different. Maybe.

The questions are obviously traumatic for the girl but Laura says enough to confirm the detectives' suspicions. There was indeed abuse - extreme abuse. The child acted to protect her dog, her mother, her brother and herself - in that order. The detectives had seen abuse before but Cagney listened in horror and Lacey could barely hold back the tears. Laura trusted no one to touch her- emotionally or physically. The world was a hostile place where she could trust only herself and Jenny.

Now it was up to the legal system to determine her fate. And up to one dedicated lawyer to protect her from that same system.

*** Six months later.

They leave the prison. The last barred doors slam shut, leaving them alone in the sunshine. There is a soft breeze blowing in from the water: gulls wheel in a brilliant blue sky. Cagney stops and sits on a bench in the courtyard. She is holding back strong emotions. The law and order reputation of the judge would remain unsullied. Laura would be 23 years old before she was released - time with good behaviour.

Lacey sits quietly beside her partner as Cagney composes herself.

LACEY (looking off at the water by the prison).

Don't break your heart Chris.

Lacey almost says "We did all we could" but she knows how hollow that sounds.

CAGNEY

She thinks she belongs here, Mary Beth. She thinks she deserves this.

LACEY

(still looking off into the horizon) It might take a lifetime to change that, Chris.

The two women sit, lost in their own thoughts. Laura had talked little about the sentence, accepting the judgment. She had asked only that they look after Jenny. There would be appeals. Maybe she would be moved to a youth correctional facility. But she would be in prison for the rest of her youth - and well into adulthood. And the only people who cared were her lawyer, two cops and one small dog.

***