The Black Thorn

Black Thorn

A Cagney and Lacey fan fiction based on characters created by Barbara Avedon and Barbara Corday. I wrote this fanfic for the enjoyment of those who still miss these characters, or characters like them, on TV. I would appreciate any comments or reviews - Joanne.


A hard cold rain was falling - a hypnotic sound: almost soothing. The dense canopy of dark shiny leaves was all that shielded her from the wet filthy streets. This feral hedge was her refuge. She had no home. She felt invisible here - dry and warm in a cocoon of blankets and plastic. The throbbing in her cracked tooth had stopped. She could risk eating now -something other than raw aspirin. The gnawing in her belly was the only thing that could drive her into the icy sheets of rain - to risk being hunted down.


( Det. Christine Cagney slammed the empty Styrofoam cup down in disgust.)

Isbecki! You drink the last cup, you fill the pot!


(He turns to look at her.)

Oh yeah? Well, I'm busy.

(He saunters up to her and puts his hands on her shoulders.)

When was the last time you made the coffee, Cagney?

They are nose to nose now, in a classic stand off. Isbecki is sneering. He enjoys needling Cagney, but today he has outdone himself. Chris is at the end of her short tether - glaring up at him, chin out - eyes flashing. Det. Mary Beth Lacey looks up from typing, wondering if it is time to intervene before someone gets hurt. Mary Beth sighs and gets ready to grab Chris - she would hate having to listen to Victor whine for the rest of the morning.


(from his doorway)

Cagney! Lacey! In my office!

(Cagney doesn't move - refusing to break her staring match with Isbecki. She is still contemplating breaking his arms.)


(Glaring at Isbecki and grabbing Chris by the arm)

Com'on - If I had wanted to baby-sit, I could've stayed home with my kids.

(Cagney continues to glare at Victor over her shoulder as Lacey drags her to Samuel's office. Isbecki laughs and heads back to sit on the edge of Petrie's desk.)


See- what did I tell you? She's crazy about me.


(Looking up from his paperwork)


(clueing in) Oh.

You're right Victor, she'd have to be crazy.


( Lt. Samuels waits until they enter and then slams the door shut.)

So… you two have time to horse around?

( Mary Beth and Chris stand more or less at attention before his desk - not risking even a glance at each other. Samuels goes to stand behind his desk and waves a folder in their faces.)

How about those gang muggings?

(He continues before either detective can answer.)

I don't want the Gang Task Force waltzing in here and taking over our case on our territory- You two can't handle it? Then I will put Isbecki and Petrie on it.

Well? (evidently now ready for a response)

(Cagney clears her throat. Lacey agrees, with a glance, that Chris should speak for both of them.)


(clearing her throat again)

Well, Lieutenant. We still haven't found the witness - the homeless woman - Kate?

(he nods impatiently - he is aware of the details)

but we are still looking, it is difficult to know where to look - she isn't likely to go back to the scene -

You know how it is, Lieutenant, no one will talk to cops.

(Chris laughs a little - an attempt to invite him -as a fellow cop -to share their frustration. Samuels moves from behind his desk.)


(He jabs a finger in her face. She pulls back but doesn't retreat from his finger.)

So it's hard is it? - keep on it - Get results. Stop horsing around with Isbecki and go back out there and find her!

(Turning his attention to Lacey, who somehow manages to look even more nervous.)

Has Phipps been able to give any more details? We need more to identify those thugs.


No, sir. He is still very confused. Just keeps asking for this Kate.


(including them both in the windup to his tirade)

Then find her. - Find her before they do.

(He waves them out, and continues to glower as they leave.)


She was wearing several layers to keep out the cold, but even her wide-brimmed hat and raincoat collar hadn't kept the water from seeping down her neck. Her Irish Black Hawthorn walking stick beat a regular rhythm on the wet sidewalk. No one noticed her - most glances slid away, as they did from most embarrassing sights. She had to be careful - especially near her usual haunts.

Where to find food when you couldn't go to the usual places? The letter burned a hole in her pocket.

A childish hand had scrawled:

"Dear Mr. Or Mrs.

I am Laena My friend is named Brianne. We don't know who you are. But we call you Chucky C. We left you some food. Please leave us a note by the swings in the back. Please don't hurt us or anyone. Bye for now.

P.S. Who are you??

From Laena and Brianne

P.P.S. Please leave note on back ->"

The water ran in torrents down the streets and sidewalks. Rain poured from the brim of the hat that hid her from prying eyes. She could see her breathe in the wet and cold. It was risky going back to her old haunts - but she had to eat. The kids had left food before. Maybe they hadn't given up on her.

She missed Phipps. He wasn't much company - but she was used to him.

There had been four of them. They were laughing and joking - they could have been playing a late night game of soccer. It had been her turn to find food. Phipps had stayed to play harmonica - trying to tease coins from the pockets of the Busy People.

She had heard the dull impact of boots on flesh even before she rounded the corner. Big black boots grinding pitiful whimpers from the man cowering on the ground. Kicking. Jeering at his weakness - at his weeping - daring him to stop them. She knew better than to interfere - she should have melted back into the night. But logic fell in the face of her rage - she rushed out screeching and flailing the blackthorn walking stick - barreling into them full tilt. She caught them unawares - and like some crazed banshee, she was able to land several blows before they could do more than avoid her. Distant sirens and lights were heading their way. It was their turn to melt into the night - like so many rats. But she knew who they were. Pulverizing the homeless - that was their sport - it paid to know who they were. It also paid to avoid them. But Kate was a street regular. They would look for her until they found her - before she talked. And because they would enjoy silencing her.

She had knelt by Phipps making sure - praying - that he was still alive. She found his harmonica trampled in the mud and pressed it into his hand.


Phipps. Here. You're going to be OK.

(as the sirens came closer)

I've got to go - they'll take care of you. Phipps?

(There is no response. She gives his hand one more squeeze and then she hobbles off into the night, driven away, in her turn, by the approaching sirens and lights.)

(Now she was on the run in the cold and rain. It would never have occurred to her to turn to the police. They weren't interested in people like her - unless they needed a fall guy. Not her. Not today.)


I hate this.

(Christine Cagney shone her flashlight into another face, rousting yet another soul in the cold night. She hugged her arms to her body, staring miserably through the rain dripping off her slicker hood as they moved on further. Further along the street and under the bridge, among the oil drum fires - among closed faces lit from below by smoky, smouldering fires. Among those desperately seeking heat from these faint-hearted fires. The two cops passed among silent, suspicious eyes. The only sounds came from rain on asphalt and the sputtering of the fires.)


(She tucked her hands into further into her coat, her own shoulders hunched against the cold. They've been pounding the wet pavement for over four hours now - making it another twelve hour day.)

They're all terrified. No one is going to tell us anything.

We'll never find her like this.


(Throwing up her hands in frustration.)

I don't know what else to do. Do you?


Yeah. Let's call it a night, Chris. Come at it fresh in the morning.


(As they head back to the car.)

Sure Samuels won't mind if we take time off to sleep?


Best not to bring it up.

The two girls were so excited they were fit to burst. Chucky C had turned up at last. They had almost missed her in the dusk (they knew she was a woman - an old woman). The woman with the cane had slowly made her way to the swings and taken the granola bars and apples the girls had left behind. Much to their disappointment, Chucky C had left no note in return. She had merely hobbled away in the rain. The girls talked long into the night, worrying about Chucky C - where she went in the rain; wondering who she was; where she stayed. Brianne was sure she was royalty fallen on hard times. Laena just knew she was an international criminal wanted by Interpol - she was equally convinced that Chucky C was innocent.

Their parents exercised much less imagination.

Early next morning in the precinct squad room, as Cagney and Lacey leave Samuel's office.


(She is reading from the folder Samuels has handed to them.)

The first real break in this case and a couple of kids come up with the lead. We're lucky the parents called the cops.


This Chucky C sure fits Kate's description. Up for another long day partner?


Let's hope we have as much luck as those kids-


(as they both grab their coats and umbrellas

and that we find her, Mary Beth.

(pauses, putting on her galoshes)

I think my feet are going mouldy with all this rain.

Damn! She'd gotten sloppy. She could always tell who the cops were - but she hadn't expected two women. They were following her. She couldn't outrun them - but she was far from out of the race.

Kate continued plodding down the street, barely changing direction as she turned into the street market. The two cops, of course, followed her. It was an old-fashioned market - where stolen watches and cheap jewelry were sold alongside fresh fish, used clothes and bored puppies. It was a Friday afternoon and the building was crammed with buyers, sellers, pickpockets and people seeking refuge from New York in winter.

Kate led the two cops on, right to the centre of the mayhem. Then she paused, and waited inconspicuously for the two women to approach. They were wary, these two - apparently they didn't want to spook her, but they drew closer, pretending to peruse the used books.

Kate moves casually to the book stall and speaks to the small wizened bookseller. He eyed Kate suspiciously, then eyed the two cops even more suspiciously. He finally comes to a decision - a decision felled by a very suspicious world view and a morning of very poor sales. He walks over to Mary Beth Lacey and lays a hand on her sleeve.


(nodding at the book in her hand)

You going to pay for that? - or pocket it like you pocketed the other one?

(At this point Kate ducks around the booth and heads for the rear entrance to the market. Christine Cagney leaves her partner to deal with the book seller and runs off in pursuit. She pushes past a woman and stroller )


Hey! Kate! Wait!

(And dodges around a man selling balloons)

We just want to talk!

(tripping over a milk crate of doorknobs)


(Kate had no intention of just talking. She had almost made it to the door when Cagney lay a hand on her shoulder. Kate turned, and started screaming while swinging her shillelagh wildly about her head. Chris managed to duck the walking stick only to loose Kate as she dove under the - "Good as New" - dinnerware table. Mary Beth arrived in time to see her partner diving under the floor length table cloth.)


(a muffled voice under the table)

Kate - get back here!

(The table starts bucking - plates and cups are jumping and the table cloth jumps and jerks as bodies hit the material. The attendant is grabbing at various plates and mugs - all teetering on the verge of falling. Kate has not stopped screeching.)




(A cheerful Friday afternoon audience has gathered. Lacey is holding them back, trying to keep some order in the chaos. Suddenly the crowd hushes. First her boots and then Christine Cagney emerges crawling through the broken dishes, candy wrappers, cigarette buts and other filth, - both hands gripping a kicking galosh. The boot is attached to Kate, still screeching, being forcibly dragged from under the table. Cagney has long red fingernail scratches down one cheek. Kate has not lost her grip on the walking stick.)


Be careful - Don't hurt her Chris!

(Christine barely has time to glare at her partner as she tries to drag the struggling Kate to her feet.)


(to the crowd as she moves to take Kate by one arm.)

Let's go! Nothing more to see.

(The crowd knows better. They're not going to miss a second of this. By the time the two cops have the older woman in protective custody, Mary Beth is nursing a bitten finger and Chris is rubbing a bump on her head. The crowd is cheering: handcuffed or not, Kate is the hands down winner.)

(14th Precinct squad room. Cagney and Lacey are at their desks, nursing their wounds. Both are glaring at Victor Isbecki, who is solicitously handing Kate a cup of coffee. Kate is no longer screeching, no longer wearing cuffs. Who would have thought that Kate could smile so charmingly? Not Cagney and Lacey.)


(holding ice to her head. She has pink antiseptic on her cheek.)

Do you think a possible concussion would be grounds for dismissing a homicide?


(poking at the medical tape on her finger)

Him or her?



(gracious even in sarcasm)

Unless you want a shot?


Cagney! Lacey! In my office.

(The two detectives look at each other as they get slowly to their feet. Great. The end to a perfect day.)

(as they enter)

Shut the door.

Sit down.

(noticing but not commenting on their condition.)

Good job bringing Kate in. I'm assigning Isbecki and Petrie to keep her in protective custody.


But Lieutenant -

(Samuels puts up his hand to stop their objections.)


I know, this is your case, but I want you two free to pursue other avenues.

Isbecki has talked her into testifying

(Chris and Mary Beth share a look that Samuels misses)

- but first we have to catch these guys.

Cagney. You're the right size and body type - I want you to go undercover as Kate - as bait to trap these guys. Wig and makeup -the hat and stick - should be enough to fool these guys - they only know her to see - they've never talked to her.

Lacey - you will head up the back up team. Cagney will be wired. We do this for as long as it takes.

(He pauses to gage their reaction. This is a dangerous assignment and both detectives have been over-worked on this case. It will mean much more overtime. He need not have worried. Both Mary Beth Lacey and Chris Cagney are more than willing to do what it takes to nail these thugs. He suddenly sees them - the bruises, the tiredness - the willingness to put themselves on the line. He is fond of them both. It now shows in his voice and his smile.)

You two look like you could use a rest. Be back here tomorrow morning. We'll spend the day briefing and start tomorrow night.

Any questions?

Christine Cagney looked furtively around the corner, down the alley, and then carried on- hobbled with her cane - down the street. She was very aware of Lacey, in her own bag-lady disguise, across the street, and of the other officers stationed on the street in their various disguises. An officer in an unmarked car monitored Chris's wire and all other communications. They've been working this trap for three nights now. Samuels was making noises about pulling them soon. There had been two more vicious muggings of street people. One man was in a coma. This gang, in its arrogance, appeared not to be worried about Kate fingering them. Apparently the cops were too stupid to stop their sport - let alone catch them.

Lacey blended well into the wet dark street. A bag lady checking the dumpsters, peering at passers by. Every sense was attuned - all to keeping Cagney in sight - watching the street for any sign of the thugs. The streets were wet, headlights and tail lights, bar signs and street lights reflected in the dark asphalt. Lacey could see her breathe in the night. Her hands were numb from the cold.

The cry was muffled, the kicking - dull thuds. Lacey could just make out the dark figures in the alley to her right - swarming around the figure writhing on the ground.


(urgently into her radio)

Lacey here - Mugging in progress at my location! All Officers attend.

Lacey worked her fingers trying to limber them as she reached for her gun. She worked her way slowly down the alley wall. They had not noticed her yet. She needed to give the officers blocking the other end of the alley time to get in position - but it was also imperative that they stop the vicious beating taking place. Lacey was also very keenly aware that the thugs were very likely armed.

Two clicks on the radio signaled that the other team was in place. Lacey ran into the open - stopped with her feet planted - both hands on her weapon.


Police! Freeze!

Officers ran from behind Lacey and towards the perps from the other side. The thugs had no stomach for fight with a real opponent. The man on the ground hadn't moved. Officers were cuffing the perps, and assisting the beaten man as Lacey holstered her gun. She had her first good look at the perps and suddenly realized that these thugs weren't the gang members. This was some motley crew of creeps - this was a random mugging of a passer by. The gang out to silence Kate was still out there.

Lacey looked up and saw Williams - the officer who had been assigned to communications in the squad car. She grabbed him roughly by the arm and shouted


Where's Cagney?

She had seen the officers leave their posts and run towards the alley at the far end of the street - Chris had turned to return and give assistance. But someone had other plans. A hand was clamped over her mouth - an arm choked off her windpipe. She couldn't cry out - could barely breathe as she was dragged to the alley.


You left her there?!


But we had the perps…

Lacey didn't wait around to hear the excuses. Williams was no rookie - and procedure was very clear. You never left a wired undercover cop - never. Even an armed cop. Now Chris was missing.

Lacey tore back to the street, half expecting to see Chris waiting there, still in character, and leaning on that cane with some sarcastic remark directed at Williams. No such luck - No Chris. Lacey barely broke stride as she tore across the street to the squad car door. She ripped the door open and listened to the radio - praying that Chris was still wired.


(Still holding her, speaking into her ear.)

Hello Kate. Long time no see.

He threw her roughly into the arms of a second man who laughed and tossed her bodily to a third man. A huge fourth man grabbed her from behind, wrapped his arms around her and lifted her until her feet were off the ground. She could barely breathe, let alone fight back. She wondered briefly what happened when all your ribs broke.


Where's your cane, now?

He squeezed her tightly and shook her leaving Chris gasping for air through the pain in her chest. Even given the opportunity she wouldn't have drawn her gun yet. The back up team needed time to regroup. She was still wired and they would be monitoring her. If she drew her gun without back up these guys would scatter - the whole sting would be a waste - and these bastards would go free. So far they had been toying with her - like cats with a mouse. But things were rapidly getting beyond that point. She would have to draw her gun to protect herself. Hurry Mary Beth. Hurry.

The sounds of sirens - an ambulance arriving.


Damn! Cops!

(pulling a knife)

Let's get this over with.

He moved in quickly - advancing on Cagney who is still squeezed tightly in the arms of the fourth thug.


Jeeze wait, will you! I don't want blood all over me!


Pin her to the ground then, you moron! And make sure she doesn't scream.

Cagney took a page from Kate's book and bit down as hard as she could, twisting and elbowing her captor in the gut as he lifted his hand from her mouth. Chris dropped to her knees as she fell. She drew her gun -



(No response. These guys were higher than a kite.)

I'm Police!

She may be armed, but she was also surrounded. She had no hope of covering them all. Far from scattering, the thugs tightened the circle, advancing on her. They were invincible. The stakes had been raised - but they still had nothing to lose. His grip tightened on the knife, and the leader smiled. Chris fired - just as she was grabbed from behind.

(A shot echoed down the street.)


All officers - alley at Burrard and 45th - north side. All units in place - follow procedure - NOW!

Now she knew where Chris was. A second shot. Mary Beth Lacey led the team rounding the corner of the dark alley. She was driven by adrenaline - felled by anger and fear. Anger at the situation that had put Chris at risk - and fear for her partner's safety. None of this showed, however, as she pulled her team together and led them in the rescue operation.

Lacey swung around the corner, gun at the ready. Chris was pinned to ground - struggling with the huge thug straddling her. She took in the whole situation - two men lying on the ground while a fourth was running away- straight into the arms of two officers at the other end of the alley. Mary Beth Lacey acts.

Lacey signals to her backup team and tears into the alley. Other officers follow - all with their guns drawn.



Cagney had downed the leader - and had managed to twist around to wound the man who had grabbed her from behind. But a third thug had grabbed her as she fought off her first two assailants. He had her pinned- holding her by the hair and the wrist of her gun hand. Her hat and wig are long gone. He looked up at the arriving cops and then down again at Cagney. This had never been about winning. It was about crushing, inflicting pain. He twisted his hand in her hair.


Let her go! Now!

Chris had stopped struggling now - waiting for Lacey to talk - or shoot - him down. Some sense of self preservation- or maybe the iron edge in Lacey's voice - finally manages to assert itself and the thug looks up. He slowly raises his hands, still straddling Cagney on his knees. Two officers rush up - one covering him while the other roughly puts on the cuffs and reads him his rights.

Mary Beth is already kneeling by Chris. She helps her partner to her feet as officers swarm up behind her - taking custody of the perps. Mary Beth lays her hand gently on Chris's shoulder. She gets no immediate response. Chris finally holsters her gun. She turns to look at Mary Beth. Her eyes slowly focus on her partner.


You OK?

(Cagney nods.)

(Lacey hugs her - gently as Cagney winces. Her ribs are quite sore.)


Thank God.

(Looking up at Mary Beth and almost whispering as she looks away again.)


They almost got away with it, Mary Beth. Almost.


(turning Chris so that Cagney has to look at her)

But they didn't.

Hugging her again.

We almost blew it, Chris.

(Chris looks at her blankly. Mary Beth's voice is breaking.)

Both women are fighting shock. Cagney the shock of almost being killed and shooting two men - Mary Beth from the shock of almost losing her partner. Mary Beth is also feeling responsible for the failure.

We almost lost you.

(Cagney still doesn't understand.)


shaking her head)

I'm really OK, Mary Beth.


Listen to me Chris. Williams left the radio - left you.

(As Chris continues to look at her blankly.)

I didn't know where you were until you fired that shot Chris.

(Cagney absorbs the information in silence. She looks up at her partner and then puts her arm around Lacey.)


It's a good thing you were in charge, then, Mary Beth. Who else could pull such a disaster out of the fire to get to me in time?

(giving Mary Beth a squeeze)


(She is teary eyed.)


(Her voice is still husky, returning the squeeze - gently.)

Thank God you're OK.

They stand in silence, struggling with their emotions. Chris is beginning to feel very sore. Both are exhausted and very aware of the other cops watching them. Mary Beth knows how hard Chris is working to maintain a professional demeanour - her tough cop attitude. She continues in a lighter tone as they leave the scene.

Isbecki and Petrie will be livid with envy.


(only too glad to catch the mood)

Yeah, well I will be only too happy to gloat.


Unless, of course, Kate has come to her senses.


So we rub it in while he's recovering in traction.


I'm fine with that.

They turn the corner from the alley to the street. Cagney stops to pick up the shillelagh she had dropped when she was grabbed. As they walk further down the street, Mary Beth takes charge of the walking stick, swinging it with the flair of an expert, much to Christine's delight. Their laughter echoes down the street until it is drowned by the siren of yet another ambulance.

The rain turned to snow that cold New York winter. There were still people living on the street and they were still avoiding those preying upon them. Three thugs were convicted. The leader died from his wounds. Williams was written up and demoted for dereliction to duty. Lacey was exonerated from any responsibility in William's actions and the firearms team supported Cagney's actions in shooting both thugs. Kate testified, received several solid meals, some dental work and a decent pair of warm boots in return. She became a Victor Isbecki social project - when she was in the mood for social workers. Phipps recovered sufficiently to be released - free to play his harmonica and avoid social workers and cops.

The precinct installed a new coffee urn - one large enough to serve bad coffee long past the time anyone was willing to drink it.

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