The Case of the Overwhelmed Lieutenant
Notes: The characters from the show are not mine and the story is! I have long been displeased with the way Lieutenant Anderson was written during season 8. He was far more stressed, short-tempered, and upset with Perry and company. I've had a headcanon for a while that Lieutenant Tragg was badly hurt and Andy became so stressed while trying to take over for him. It seemed to make sense and also fit with Tragg's disappearance. On Sunday I had a dream of a scene that I knew I had to make a fic out of, and this story was born. It takes place between seasons 8 and 9.
Lieutenant Andrew Anderson trudged into his office and shut the door before crossing to his desk and collapsing into the chair. He leaned forward, taking off his hat and rubbing at his temples. The day had been a nightmare, like most of the days since Lieutenant Tragg had been gravely wounded during a shootout with two fleeing criminals. Andy was at his wit's end.
Thank God Tragg was recovering. Those first moments after the shooting had been horrible beyond compare. Andy had not been able to find any signs of life and had been convinced that Tragg had been instantly killed. Only the paramedics had managed to find a very weak pulse, and of course, things had still been very touch-and-go for some time. Tragg was finally, fully on the mend, but although he wanted to keep working at the department, the Captain continued to try to get him to change his mind and consider retirement.
Andy was desperate to grant Tragg's wish. He didn't know what the veteran policeman would do if he were suddenly unable to stay on the force when he still wanted to. Tragg had been a policeman for over thirty years and really had no desire to do anything else. He always said he didn't know what he would do with himself all day if he was sent on his way like some doddering old man and could no longer make a valuable contribution to society.
The Captain had suggested several times that another Lieutenant be transferred in to take over Tragg's duties. But Andy had insisted that he and his squad would handle it for as long as Tragg needed them to, and that was the situation still going on now. If they brought in someone else, Andy was sure, it would mean all the more that Tragg would be replaced permanently and not temporarily. Maybe there was really nothing Andy could do to stop it, but he felt he had to try.
Taking over as the senior—and currently only—Lieutenant in the squad was not easy, however. There was so much more responsibility all at once than Andy was really used to, and there were still cases to work on in addition to his administrative duties. There was even a special taskforce he had helped oversee for a while. And now and then, he found to his horror and dismay that under his direction, the entire squad was making mistakes. Their failure to fully investigate the fire during the Lover's Gamble case would have been a complete disastrous travesty had he not caught it and ordered a complete investigation. And it was only recently that Perry had thoroughly shamed him on the witness stand during the Mischievous Doll case and made him look like an absolute idiot for not realizing that the girl killed in the car crash was not the girl they had believed her to be.
He ran a hand through his hair and leaned on the desk with an elbow. He had a lot less patience for Perry and Paul's law-bending antics lately as well. Maybe he was just furious because of the law-breakers who had nearly murdered Lieutenant Tragg, or maybe it was just his usual feelings coming out more strongly because of it. He had always been less tolerant of law-bending than even Lieutenant Tragg. After all, Tragg had formed an easy-going friendship with Perry and company, while Andy never even wanted to see them in social situations. He just wasn't comfortable with that and didn't want it to look like he was alright with associating with people who bent the law. He didn't know how to balance being a good police officer and having friends who weren't always so good at obeying the law. Tragg had tried to teach him, but well, that was one lesson that just hadn't sunk in.
He looked up with a start at Sergeant Brice's voice. He was so grateful for the Sergeant, really. He had been with the police department a very long time and had been Lieutenant Tragg's friend and sometimes-partner. He did so much to help keep order in the squad and ease what burden he could off of Andy's shoulders. Andy often thought that without Brice there, it would be so much easier for him to snap all the way from the strain.
"What is it, Sergeant?" he asked.
Brice looked reluctant, but he finally came into the office and set a folder down on Andy's desk. "This new case just came in," he announced. "An old man was beat to death in Griffith Park."
Andy stiffened. He flipped open the folder, scanning through the information as his expression and his heart grew darker. The man was older than Tragg, but Andy couldn't help drawing parallels between this outrageous crime and Tragg being viciously shot at and gunned down. He wanted to see justice done.
"Have we picked anyone up?" he asked.
"One man," Brice said slowly. "He was found at the scene of the crime in the process of trying to steal the victim's wallet. He insists he didn't beat the man, but the murder weapon was found in the bushes near him and his fingerprints were on it."
"And what kind of explanation did he give for that?" Andy spat, all too aware that his feelings were coming out more than they should. He struggled with himself. He had to rein them in.
Brice gave him a worried look, but simply continued with, "He said he found the weapon next to the body and was so horrified he pitched it into the bushes without thinking."
"And he was also so horrified that he was going to steal a dead man's wallet." Andy's voice dripped with sarcasm now.
"He said he was broke and the money wouldn't do the man any good. He was desperate to have something for his daughter's hospital bills."
"He could have been so desperate that he killed the man for his money." Andy got up, bringing the folder with him. "I want to see him."
"His lawyer's with him right now, Lieutenant." Again Brice hesitated.
Andy frowned. "Well, what is it?" he demanded.
Brice looked down. "His lawyer is Perry Mason," he said at last.
Andy slammed his hand on his desk so hard that Brice jumped. "This is a new low even for Perry," he snarled. "Although I suppose Perry actually believes the man is innocent."
"Probably," Brice said slowly. "It is possible that he's telling the truth. . . ."
"Are there any other likely persons of interest?" Andy shot back.
"Not yet," said Brice.
"This man had motive. He had opportunity. The evidence points to him." Andy stormed towards the door, folder in hand. "I am getting so tired of Perry Mason getting involved in my investigations and pulling his law-bending stunts with me! He made this entire squad look like a laughingstock with that Minerva Minden case!"
Brice chased after him. "Lieutenant, you really need to calm down before you go barging in there," he exclaimed. "The last thing the department needs is for it to look like there's been any impropriety in how a person of interest is treated."
"Oh yes, Perry would be the first to try to pin that on me," Andy retorted. "And he'll probably try to stop his client from answering anything of importance." He stopped near the door and groaned, massaging his temples with the fingers of one hand. "I'm really not in any condition to deal with Perry and his bag of legal tricks right now. Let me know when he leaves, Sergeant. I'll go in then."
"Okay, Lieutenant," Brice nodded. He headed for the door and then paused again, studying his superior in concern. "Are you sure you feel up to dealing with this case at all? I could head up the investigation."
"No," Andy immediately insisted. "I want this case. I want to personally see to it that this murderer is punished for his crime."
Brice hesitated. "It's just that I and the men in the squad are worried about you, Lieutenant. We've all seen what it's doing to you, to try to take over for Lieutenant Tragg while he's out of commission. And I . . . I don't want to see you take on more than you can handle."
"Well, it would help if the squad could conduct a thorough investigation without me needing to hold their hands all the way along," Andy barked without thinking. "The way they handled the fire in New Mexico was outrageous! I had the faith that they had handled it exactly the way it should have been handled, until I looked more closely at their reports combined with the initial report on the fire. And when something goes wrong that badly, it comes back on my head, not theirs! They're supposed to have been taught the proper methods of investigation, but I'm supposed to see that they stick to it!"
Suddenly he was aware that Sergeant Brice was staring at him in shock and further concern. He slumped back into his chair, defeated. "What am I doing here, Sergeant?" he moaned. "I'm trying to fill Lieutenant Tragg's shoes and I just can't. I can't. I'm not even half the policeman he is."
"You haven't even been on the force half as long as he has, Lieutenant," Brice said kindly. "By the time you have the years and the experience that he's had, you'll know a lot better how to handle things. When he was your age, he was a lot different than he is now."
Andy considered that and looked up at him. "Did you know him then?" he asked curiously.
"I was just a young recruit coming on the force then," Brice said. "I was following in my uncle's footsteps. He used to joke that it would be confusing having two Brices at the same precinct. It got even more confusing when I made Sergeant. He was already a seasoned Sergeant by then. And he'd worked with Lieutenant Tragg also."
Andy managed a weak chuckle. "Lieutenant Tragg is a legend, and rightfully so. I feel so inadequate."
"So did he, when his squad made a bad mistake," Brice said. "You try to keep those things from happening, but ultimately there's always that danger since all you have to work with are imperfect people."
"That's true," Andy conceded. "But a good squad can't allow for many mistakes, no matter how imperfect its people are. Lieutenant Tragg managed to keep these people in better shape than I am. What am I doing wrong?"
"I think you're trying too hard to be a second Lieutenant Tragg," Brice told him. "You'll never make it that way. You need to be a Lieutenant Anderson."
Andy sank back against the seat. "I guess that could be it," he said slowly. "But honestly, I don't seem to be able to succeed when I'm trying to be myself, either. Perry made me look like a fool in the Minerva Minden case. I don't like that he's so talented at solving seemingly open-and-shut cases when he has no shame about bending the law to do it. Doesn't that ever bother you, Sergeant?"
"I don't really like that he bends the law, Lieutenant," Brice said slowly. "But I'm glad that he's able to expose the real murderers and keep innocent people from going to prison."
"Oh, of course I am too," Andy said grudgingly. "I just don't believe that bending the law should be the only way to do that. We should be able to do it while working completely within the law. Bending the law is a weak and easy way out." His eyes flashed. "Although I don't like how many rights and privileges the law grants to persons of interest these days. Sometimes it's almost impossible to get anywhere because of all those blasted rules and regulations. I realize it's to protect the wrongfully accused, but it helps the guilty as well. And Perry certainly seems to be all for those rights."
"He's a defense lawyer," Brice said. "You kind of have to expect that from them."
"I just don't understand how or why Lieutenant Tragg felt so comfortable befriending him," Andy said. "Or you, for that matter. I'm not comfortable with it at all. I am getting sick and tired of always finding him poking into police business. And I know he's going to be underfoot all over the place in this new murder case. Even if the man is guilty, Perry will try to block us at every turn." He stood. "I don't want to see that happen. Do you understand, Sergeant?"
"I understand," Brice nodded with some uncertainty. "I'm just not sure how we're going to stop him without him saying we're trying to cover something up."
"Oh yes, he always has some trick up his sleeve like that," Andy said in disgust.
Brice hesitated again. "I know that you can't stand his investigations or his beliefs, Lieutenant, but . . . well, I think you're just making yourself miserable by being so dead-set against him. It's been even worse since you tried to take over for Lieutenant Tragg. And I think that maybe on this one thing, you'd feel a lot better if you took his approach on how to deal with Perry."
"So I should be myself, but not on one of the main problem issues?" Andy retorted. "That makes very little sense. But I should have known that you would also feel like being more permissive is the best way to co-exist with him. I hate to think how this squad would be run if you were in charge."
He did not miss the hurt in Brice's eyes. "It's just that the department has to do things that aren't as pleasant sometimes," he said. "It's like how the district attorney's office has to make plea deals. That's not something Mr. Burger relishes doing, but sometimes he has to in order to get someone off the streets or learn information about an even more dangerous criminal. And I think in the case of Perry Mason, you have to let him investigate too. If it's just that he questions a witness first or examines a crime scene first, is it really that you're worried he'll mess it up . . . or is it just that you're worried about your pride if he makes it there before the police do?"
"It's not about pride!" Andy snapped. After taking a moment to mull it over, he said, "At least, it's not about personal pride. It's about the entire department and what will look good or bad for it. If we're constantly shown up by a lawyer and his pet private eye, how will the people have confidence in their police force at all?"
"I think that both the police department and Perry should be more worried about finding the truth instead of being 'shown up' by each other," Brice said. "But sometimes the police department acts like getting shown up is the worst thing that could happen to it. I don't agree with that, Lieutenant, and I'd rather work with Perry than against him. That doesn't mean I condone any kind of law-bending; it just means I have a different way of thinking out how to get to the truth we mutually want."
"Yes, I guess you do," Andy nodded. "And maybe you have a point. But on this case, I don't want any interference from Perry and his crew. I don't want him trying to paint a sob story for this man and make the public feel sorry for him. He was going to become a thief, and for all I know, he already became a murderer."
"What if he really is innocent?" Brice asked. "What then?"
"Then we'll make sure the real murderer is unearthed instead," Andy said. "It doesn't mean we need Perry to sensationalize the story any more than the press already will. That's the last thing I need or want."
Brice nodded. "Alright, Lieutenant." He headed for the door. "I'll let you know when Perry leaves."
"Thank you, Sergeant." Andy watched him go, frowning to himself. He hadn't wanted to hurt Brice, his staunchest ally in this whole mess. But he found he didn't agree with the Sergeant's point-of-view. They hadn't ever really talked before on how they felt about Perry's interference in their cases.
He sighed, running a hand into his hair. Apparently he really would be standing alone on this case, if his opinion persisted even after speaking with the thief. But he would stand alone if he had to; this was definitely a case he was going to see to its bitter end.