A/N - In this story, we find Steve dealing with the aftermath of being a first responder to a shooting rampage. Mike is concerned that Steve is still bothered by the situation and sends him to Lenny Murchison, the departmental psychiatrist, for evaluation. In doing so, Steve and Lenny meet over lunch. They talk through the events and Steve's feelings. There's a dash of humor, especially at the beginning. In the end, does Lenny help Steve?
Thanks and dedicated to three writing pals who have been reading my stories and providing encouragement - Tanith2011, Hamtor and Streets of Hawaii Five-0. You've been wonderful to indulge as well as provide me with great reading material!
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"Aw c'mon, Mike. I don't need to talk to Lenny. I'm fine," Steve protested as he sat in Mike Stone's office.
"You are my responsibility. I want to make sure that you are well - not only physically, but emotionally," Mike argued.
"But I wasn't physically hurt," the young man commented.
"Aha! So you admit you are struggling emotionally." the older man countered.
"Hey! I didn't say that."
"You don't need to. I can see it. You still aren't yourself," Mike walked over and sat on the corner of his desk just in front of Steve.
He began again in a quieter tone. "Steve, admit it. It was a rough situation. And you were one of the first ones to come upon that crime scene. It was particularly gruesome and when there are young people involved, it makes it that much harder.
"Look, it was tough, no doubt," Steve conceded. "But I don't need to talk to a shrink."
"Lenny is the departmental psychiatrist," Mike said deliberately. "It's his job. Look, you let me do my job, and you let him do his job. Then, we'll let you do yours. Do you understand?"
"What are you saying? I'm benched until I do this?" Steve was incredulous.
"That's what I'm saying, Buddy boy."
"Fine," he said with an air of defiance and a pout. "I'll set some time up."
"No time like the present. It's almost lunch. Why don't you go see if he wants to grab a bite to eat?"
"He's probably busy," Steve mumbled.
"I doubt it. My bet is that having a shrink for a lunch companion is not high on many people's list," Mike smirked.
"What? You just said… Oh, never mind. I'll go see if he's busy and then we'll get this over with."
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Lenny's office was in the same building as the Bureau of Inspectors, but the long hallways made for quite a distance just the same. The walk gave Steve an opportunity to cool down from his conversation with Mike. He was half hoping that Lenny would be in a meeting or with another officer.
When he opened the door to Medical and Psychological Services area, not only was Lenny available, he was standing near the receptionist's desk as if he were waiting for something.
"Why, Steve, what a wonderful surprise," the psychologist commented. "Here to see me?"
Steve looked down and nodded. "Yes, I am."
"Well, come on back and let's get caught up."
"He called you, didn't he? When was it - just a few minutes ago?" Steve felt his blood beginning to boil again.
"I don't know of what or whom you speak," Lenny properly responded.
"Mike called you just now to let you know I was on my way over."
"He most certainly did not. Now, come on back to my office. I know you were in a tough situation a few days back and I've been anticipating this visit. I'm assuming by your comments that Mike sent you."
Lenny ushered the young detective to his office. Pointing to a chair, he directed Steve to sit. "Do you mind if we eat? I'm starving."
Steve watched him pull an assortment of food out of a brown paper bag. Lenny looked a little sheepish. "My wife packed me way too much for lunch. I've got more than enough to go around."
"That's okay, Lenny. I'm not that hungry."
"Okay, let's start with that," Lenny took out his notebook. "You have a loss of appetite." It was not a question, but a statement.
"No, I don't. I just ate two hours ago. I'm fine."
"Two hours ago was mid-morning. Why did you decide to eat then?"
"Because I was running late this morning and ended up grabbing a bagel downstairs. It came with lox, cream cheese and a banana. So I covered the four food groups," Steve deadpanned.
Unfazed, Lenny probed further. "Why were you running late?"
"I was tired."
"Are you having restless nights? Are you feeling depressed and is it impacting your sleep?"
"No, I was on my way out of the station last night when we had a call on another homicide. Mike had already left, so Lee Lessing and I responded. We got back to the station around 1am. I probably made it to bed finally at 2:30 or 3am."
"Why so late?"
"It's not easy to go to sleep right after you've tagged a corpse."
"Does this happen often?"
"Every Thursday like clockwork."
"That's when most of the murders - at least our new cases - occur. I'm not clear why that it is."
"But you are eating and sleeping okay," Lenny paused for a moment to write some notes. "Steve, why do you think Mike sent you down here?"
"I don't know."
"You know, Steve, I can't help you if you don't give me more to work with. Do you think Mike sent you down here so he can 'check the box'?" Lenny asked.
"What do you mean by that?" Steve needed clarification.
"Do you think Mike sent you here only because he felt the need to cover his bases?"
Steve thought for a moment. "No, he's genuinely concerned."
Lenny handed Steve a sandwich and gave him one of the two cans of soda which were on his desk. "What drives that concern?"
"Well, part of it is his nature. He's very protective."
"Yes…and…" Lenny coached.
"And part of it is that I haven't been acting myself since the shootings over on Hudson Street," Steve spoke with a note of concession in his voice.
"That's the one where someone opened fire on a building that housed a physical therapy office and a preschool."
"A deranged someone. He was the boyfriend of one of the victims."
Lenny took a bite of his sandwich. "How was it that you were one of the first responders?"
"I was having lunch near there with one of the guys from SWAT - Pete Miller. I've known Pete for a few years. We were at the academy at the same time and we keep in touch. Anyway, we were eating lunch across the street when we heard gunfire."
"Then what happened?"
"We ran out of the restaurant. I called it in on the radio and then went with Pete to see if we could help."
"Were you armed?"
"Sure. I was just at lunch, but I had my gun and badge with me."
"Pete was too, I would assume?" Lenny asked.
"Yes, Pete was well armed plus he had his walkie talkie with him," Steve smiled faintly. "I don't know why, but he did. I used to think he was a little over the top with his weapons and survival gear, but he sure was prepared. Anyway, at that point, the boyfriend shot a couple of people in front of the building and entered through the front door. The first office was a physical therapy center. He opened up their office door and starting shooting."
"What did you do?"
Steve took a bite of sandwich. "The two people he shot weren't badly injured, so we got them into a storefront and the shopowner called for assistance. Then we went over to the building where he was."
Lenny took notes on not only what Steve was saying to him, but also his body language. For the moment, the young man was calm in his demeanor.
Steve continued. "He shot one of the admitting clerks, whom we later found out was his girlfriend. Then he hit someone else sitting in the waiting room," Steve paused and closed his eyes. Lenny made note of his expression.
"We caught up with him. He knew we were there and I believed we proved to be a distraction."
Lenny nodded. "From what I heard you may have slowed him down and saved some lives. What did you do?"
"Well, he kept turning around and shooting in every direction. There were times when Pete and I had to take cover. The shooter had a bullet proof vest on as well. We figured that he got it in some sort of army surplus store, but wherever he got it, it protected him. I know Pete got a couple of shots off that hit him directly."
"He was probably so far out of his head. He might not have felt even the largest impact. Then what happened?"
"Pete kept after him. I ran to the preschool which was just across the hallway. There were maybe 15 kids and 3 teachers in the room. I know the sight of me scared them to death. They had heard gunshots and here I come in yelling and waving a gun."
"Oh, my. What happened next?"
"I showed them my badge and said I was a cop and quickly explained the situation."
"How did they feel then?"
"Honestly, they were still scared. And the kids were so upset. But the teachers were too. Sometimes I think that people are afraid of cops - considering what's been going on with the riots and demonstrations."
"How does that make you feel?"
"It's unfortunate, but I don't take it personally."
"So then what happened?"
"There was a restroom that was adjacent to the room. The three ladies led the kids in there and I shut the door behind them. I told them to lock the door from the inside and that I'd tell them when it was all clear."
Steve paused for a moment before he continued. "By the time I got back in the hallway, the man shot another woman. Pete had been hit too, but it was a flesh wound. The shooter pointed his gun towards me and for a split second, we were looking at each other eye to eye. My gun was raised - and I don't remembering doing that. I pointed, but then the rest of the SWAT unit burst in."
"Good grief. Okay, how were they able to tell between you and the shooter?"
"He turned his gun on them, but I kept my gun fixed on him. Plus Pete was yelling. I didn't know then, but he later told me that he was instructing them on which one of us was the shooter. But the SWAT unit blew him away in seconds."
"That was scary - then what?"
"I went back to the preschool. I could hear the kids crying in the restroom. The teachers were upset too. I told them it was all over and to unlock the door. They were hesitant, but I could hear the latch. The older teacher finally came out and then they came out one by one."
"So you stayed at the preschool?"
"No, I went back to check on Pete and the other victims - he was still over in the physical therapy office."
Lenny nodded. "That's where the tragedy really was. Two people dead and another four injured."
"It was awful," Steve looked down sadly. "One of the dead was a pregnant woman. Including the unborn child, that's three dead." Again, Steve looked down and was close to being despondent.
"How long did you stay?" Lenny asked.
"In the office? Until the victims were removed. One of the injured needed assistance - I was applying pressure to the gunshot wound until the ambulance and paramedics got there. Then I went over and stayed with Pete."
"It must have been chaos. I heard there were no shortage of emergency vehicles at the scene."
"On top of that, there were concerned parents who were starting to arrive to pick up the preschool kids. I was grateful that none of those kids were injured," Steve commented.
"I think we have you and Pete to thank for that."
"I don't know. I had no time to think about what I was doing. I was just reacting." Steve was pensive. "It happened so quickly. I mean within thirty minutes, the whole ordeal was over and the victims were already being transported. The news trucks were already there too. Captain Olsen arrived with Mike around that time, too."
"Mike told me that he was listening in on the police scanner on the way down to the crime scene. He also knew that you were the one that called it in," Lenny said.
"I'm sure he was frightened for me."
"That he was."
Lenny and Steve were quiet for a moment.
"Steve, you told me what happened and I've also read the police reports. Everything you did was right. And I'm sure you've been told that what you and Pete did saved lives."
"What is it then? What aren't you telling me?"
Steve shrugged his shoulders and said nothing.
"Okay, let me ask you this: is there something else? Is there something that you keep thinking about - something that you are replaying in your head?"
Steve raised his eyes and looked at Lenny.
"Yes. I guess there is. The one scene that I replay in my head is when I went back to the physical therapy office and saw the carnage. Blood everywhere. But it was the pregnant woman in the waiting room. She was obviously very far along in her pregnancy…."
"She was there for her husband. He had been taking therapy after hurting his leg in a fall. But she was waiting for him apparently just reading a magazine…."
"The shooter killed her on the spot. The magazine was on the floor and she was covered in blood. One shot killed her, the baby and all her husband ever dreamed of having. Never in my life have I felt so helpless and useless."
"This wasn't your fault, Steve."
"I know. It was just the sight of her. I'll never forget that. And then when the husband came out from the back therapy rooms and saw her. The loss - you could just see the life drain out of him."
"I'm sorry, Steve."
"Thank you," he paused. "But that's it, Lenny. That's why I'm not myself and why Mike sent me down here. I replay that scene - running back into the waiting room, seeing that poor woman and then watching her husband find her like that. I replay it over and over again. I wonder what would have happened if we could have been faster."
"The people in that office were lucky you were there at all."
"Yeah, I guess," he looked down. "Like I said, Lenny. That's it. That's all I can say. There's no easy answer for this."
Lenny agreed. "No, I'm afraid there's not. Let me ask you something."
"Did it help to talk about it?"
"I thought so. Look Steve, time will be your best friend here. But there's something else you need to remember. Don't let this stay pent up. I'd like to see you weekly for the next four weeks. And if you need to talk beyond that, my door is open."
"And talk to Mike. He cares…deeply. You know that, right?"
"Yes. I know he does," Steve sighed. "I've been very short with him these last few days. I need to apologize."
"I can tell you that he doesn't want an apology. He just wants you to be okay. So talk to him, got it?"
"Got it." Steve began to leave Lenny's office.
"Thanks," he looked down. "It did help. Am I clear to go to work?"
"As long as we keep talking, yes."
Steve offered a sad smile. "We will. Oh, and tell your wife the sandwich was good. Does she often pack for two?"
"Only when a concerned friend calls me the night before."