A Week in the Life
E. A. Mallory
Dan and Carol Reed hurried inside, their excitement obvious on their faces. Jean waited a moment, then raised her eyebrows meaningfully at the remaining stragglers. "You too, fellas. No backing out of this."
Her husband Jim sighed and shot her an unhappy expression. His colleague, Pete Malloy, seemed equally reluctant. The two men looked at each other, then shrugged as if resigning themselves to their fate. They trudged inside, drinks in hand. Jean smiled at Pete as he passed her, and then snagged her husband as he went by.
He turned toward her, his brow still furrowed with displeasure. Jean reached up to briefly run her fingers through his hair. "This isn't going to kill you, you know."
"No," he scowled, "but I may wish it had."
"Ohhhh!" she scolded, and swatted him playfully as he passed.
Jean followed him and surveyed the crowded living room. Pete had seated himself on the floor, and was still busy reassuring the others that he didn't mind sitting there. Dan, Jim's father, would have none of that.
"Come on! You're one of the stars of the evening! You shouldn't sit on the floor!"
Jean could see the discomfort on Pete's face. Poor fellow! She couldn't help smiling to herself. Pete hated being the center of attention, and she knew he also would hate to let an older man take his place on the floor.
Jean watched for another moment, then jumped to the rescue with a touch of humor. "Oh, come on, Dad. The floor's the best place for the co-star of the evening. It'll keep him humble." She felt pleased to see Dan resuming his seat.
"Co-star??" Pete protested. "Don't I get top billing?" Jean knew he used humor to cover his embarrassment.
"Nope, not in this house. But you do run a close second." She sparkled at Pete, and then at Jim as he sat down beside his partner.
"Hmph," Jim responded. "Some loyal wife you are."
"Can I sit wif you, Daddy?" Three-year-old Jimmy ran and plunked himself in Jim's lap without waiting for an answer. "Are you weally gonna be on TV?"
"Yes, unfortunately," Jim replied.
"Wha's un-for-chat-lee mean?" Jimmy asked, twisting around to look up into his father's face. Jim just laughed and tousled the little boy's hair.
"Just remember, Jimmy, you only came out here to say 'goodnight' to everyone. It's already your bedtime, so you can't stay up and watch."
"Awwwww!" Jimmy pouted with his posture as well as his lip. His family chuckled, as charmed by his pouts as they were by his smiles.
The laughter and playfulness in the room delighted Jean. Nothing pleased her more than helping her guests to feel at home, even if they were mostly family.
Jean crossed the room and took Jimmy's hand. "Say goodnight to everyone, Jimmy."
"Aww, Mommy, pleeze?" The little fellow dragged his feet and stuck out his lower lip. Jean gently but firmly guided him through his goodnight rounds.
After the requisite waves and kisses and hugs, Jean carried her protesting son down the hall, and spent a few moments soothing him in his bed. Fortunately, he was very tired, and she was soon able to return to her guests.
"Here comes someone. Is that Judy?" Dan Reed pointed toward the car that had just pulled up in front of the house.
Pete stood to get a look. "Yes. Finally! I was getting worried."
Jean navigated through the overpopulated room to greet her guest at the door. Of course, Pete got to the door first, and greeted his lady friend with a kiss as soon as she crossed the threshold.
Jean gave Judy a swift hug as soon as Pete made her available.
"I'm so glad you made it! I was afraid you'd get here late and miss the beginning!"
Judy returned the hug. "I know, I was afraid of that myself. But David's sitter was late coming over, so there wasn't much I could do." Judy's nine-year-old son had wanted to come tonight, Jean knew. Pete had become like a second father to David, whose own father had died years before. But tonight was a school night, and Judy didn't want him up late.
"Well, we're just delighted that you made it."
"Hear, hear!" Pete raised his drink toward Judy.
Jean laughed as she gestured toward the other guests, "I don't remember who you've met and who you haven't. And besides, I don't want to put you on the spot to remember names."
"So," Jean continued, "I'll just do the quick introductions as if it were the first time."
She started at the right side of the room. "Here are Dan and Carol Reed, Jim's parents, of course. As if you could miss the family resemblance." The couple waved at Judy, and Dan flashed a very Jim-like smile.
"Then here are Bud and Candace Bailey, my parents." They exchanged some pleasantries as well.
"This is my baby sister, Barbara Bailey. She hates it when I call her my 'baby' sister, so that's why I do it."
"You have my sympathy," Judy smiled as she greeted Barbara. "My older sister used to do the same thing to me."
Jean smiled. "And this is Jim's sister, or should I say, 'baby sister', Linda." Linda rolled her eyes and accepted Judy's handshake.
With the introductions ended, Judy accepted the seat next to Linda, which Pete had insisted on leaving vacant for her.
"Can I get anyone anything before it starts?" Jean asked. Her mother jumped up immediately. "I'll help you get coffee for everyone," she suggested. The guests all nodded in agreement. Jean's sister, Barbara, came to help as well, and the three women bustled into the kitchen.
"What is it with men?" Barbara sighed. "Why do they feel perfectly comfortable sitting on their backsides and letting the women wait on them?"
"Because that's the way it has always been, I'm afraid," Candace replied.
As if to confirm their words, Carol Reed stuck her head in the doorway. "Need any more help?"
The women laughed and handed her some cups.
A chorus of voices called from the living room, hurrying the ladies back. Jean could hear the opening music of the long-awaited show, and she walked as quickly as her cup of coffee would allow.
"Welcome," the announcer intoned. "You won't want to miss a minute of our two-hour special, 'A Week in the Life'."
Jean squeezed in between Linda and Judy.
The dramatic opening music pulled Jean's thoughts back to the main event of the evening. She glanced at Jim and Pete, and saw nervousness on both their faces. Suddenly, without feeling quite sure why, Jean felt butterflies in her stomach as well. I can't imagine how they must feel right now.
She looked back at the screen in time to see the familiar police station from a new angle. The camera zoomed in from above, until the ant-like men in blue began to look more real.
"This documentary will attempt to bring you, in vivid realism, a week in the life of two Los Angeles Police Officers. Whatever your pre-conceptions about the police may be, we hope you'll stay tuned to get the real picture." Shrill music followed, increasing the sense of excitement around the show. But then, the dramatic introduction gave way to a commercial. Mr. Whipple, who never seemed to get a life, was telling yet another weird woman to stop squeezing the Charmin.
"I can't believe the show is finally coming on! It's so exciting!" Carol Reed exclaimed. The others all agreed. All, that is, except the two men on the floor. Jean shook her head in sympathy when she caught her husband's eye.
I'm beginning to understand why you haven't been looking forward to this.
An earnest-looking young face stared at them from the Television screen. "Hello, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Carl Ray, and I'll be your host for this enlightening look at the LAPD. I am coming to this assignment with a deliberately open mind. As a recent graduate of UCLA, I'm aware of the unpopular police activities on campus, and the general prejudice against law enforcement that prevails there. I have to admit, I've discovered a lot of those prejudices in my own mind while preparing for this show. But despite the preconceptions, I also feel a lot of curiosity. I wonder what makes those guys tick, what makes them do what they do. Are they really heroes, or are they power-hungry Gestapo pigs? I don't really know what to think."
The camera zoomed in on his face.
"I must warn you, ladies and gentlemen, that this will not be standard television fare. Frankly, it took quite a lot of convincing before some executives would even consider airing this program. But we live in tumultuous times, and police officers often show up in the middle of the chaos. If we are to better understand and deal with the times in which we live, we need to take a long, hard look at current realities, and at the people who play such key roles in them.
"We will show you several graphic and disturbing scenes in the course of this program, and therefore, it is not fit for minor children to watch.
"The producer and I chose not to make this a slick production. I'm going to share with you whatever I'm thinking or feeling as I follow these officers through their job experience. I want you to feel as if you are there with me.
"If you're willing to come with an open mind and challenge your prejudices, no matter which opinion you hold, then come along with me for a once-in-a-lifetime ride. Join me for 'A Week in the Life' of two LAPD officers."
Jean instantly liked the young reporter. She could sense his genuine desire to be unbiased. I wish some of my friends were this open-minded about Jim. I hope they're watching.
The documentary opened in what Jean recognized as Sergeant MacDonald's office. Mr. Ray addressed his audience again. "These are the officers we'll be getting to know. Officer Pete Malloy is an 11-year veteran of the LAPD, and the recipient of a number of commendations and awards." The camera zoomed in on Pete's face, catching his discomfort in vivid detail. Ray continued. "And this is officer Jim Reed, a three-year-veteran, and a highly respected officer in his own right." The camera closed in on Jim, who rubbed the side of his nose and tried, unsuccessfully, to look nonchalant. The camera then zoomed out to include Sergeant MacDonald. Mac, as he was called, spoke gravely to the team. Jean found his stiff seriousness amusing, but stifled her chuckle.
"Pete and Jim, I know I don't need to tell you about watching out for Mr. Ray here. What I'm more concerned about is having Mr. Ray take care of himself, too." He turned to focus on the reporter. "I know you want this to be as realistic as possible, and I appreciate that, but please don't put yourself in the line of fire if a dangerous situation occurs." It sounded scripted, and Mac looked relieved at having delivered his lines.
The scene changed. Jim and Pete went through their beginning-of-watch routine, stowing gear and checking the unit's condition.
"Would you tell me about all this equipment, Officer Reed?"
Jim smiled, this time seeming remarkably comfortable with the camera in his face. "For starters, this is where we keep the shotgun . . ."
Jean turned from the television to look at her husband on the floor. She knew why he had relaxed so much more in this scene. In Mac's office, Jim's accomplishments had been touted. He hated that. But now, the subject was his work, and he spoke with the ease of familiarity and professional pride.
Too bad he's not so relaxed now! Jim squirmed uncomfortably as he watched himself on the screen. He seemed embarrassed by the excited chatter from his relatives. Jean winked at him and turned back to the set.
Jim's televised image continued, oblivious to the stir it caused at home. ". . .And these are our helmets, in case we get into a situation where falling debris may pose a threat, or in a riot situation where we're likely to have things thrown at us or swung at us."
"Do you run into such situations often?"
"They happen," Jim replied cryptically.
The reporter chatted with the men as the patrol began. Ray began with the senior officer.
"So, Officer Malloy, are you married?"
Pete gave him the same look he usually gave trainees who called him "Officer Malloy."
"Call me Pete. No, I'm not married."
"I know this is a personal question, but since the divorce rate among police officers is rather high, I'm wondering if you have ever been married."
The camera focused on Pete's reflection in the rear-view mirror as he grinned and shook his head. He looked like a man who was glad to have escaped an awful fate.
"Nope. I'm a happy bachelor."
"Well, that makes two of us," Ray responded with a chuckle. He turned to Jim. "And what about you, Officer Reed. Are you married?"
Jim turned to face the camera and rested his arm along the top of the bench seat.
"It's 'Jim', and yes, I'm married. And I want it on the record that my wife is the most wonderful woman in the world. You be sure you air that part, okay?" The sparkle in his eyes came through plainly on the camera.
Watching in her living room, Jean felt honored and embarrassed at the same time. Everyone turned to look at her, with a chorus of chuckles and "Awwwws." Jean looked sidelong at Jim, and he returned her earlier wink. You rascal. She couldn't help smiling at him before returning her attention to the show.
"Okay, I'll air that." Ray replied. "But tell me, Officer Reed, what made you decide to be a cop, and how does your wife feel about it?"
On screen, Jim and Pete exchanged slow looks. Jean could almost read their minds. This guy gets right down to brass tacks, doesn't he?
Jim cleared his throat. "Well, I always knew I wanted to make a difference in the world. My heroes were cops and firemen and soldiers. I felt like they did something really important, and they made their lives matter. I guess this is the way I want to make my life matter." He paused and cleared his throat, looking very uncomfortable now.
"As for my wife, well," Jim paused. "She has a lot to deal with. Being a cop's wife is one of the toughest jobs in the world. She has to worry about my safety, she's had to deal with my injuries, she has to put up with my crazy schedule, and she even has to put up with insults because of my job. Any woman would find that tough to live with. But Jean is adjusting to it, and she's supportive of me even when she doesn't like what I do. We're really close, and even though she can't understand why I have to do this job, she accepts it. Her support means everything to me." Jim spoke with quiet conviction.
The television screen blurred as Jean's eyes misted. After a moment she stood, crouching low to stay out of other people's line of vision, and made her way to sit next to her husband on the floor. She snuggled close and whispered, "I love you." He kissed her forehead before turning to watch some more.
"You say you 'have to' do this job. What do you mean by that, Officer R. . .I mean Jim?"
"If I could figure that out, I'd have explained it to my wife a long time ago." Jim and Pete both chuckled, but then Jim's expression became thoughtful again. "I know that I've always been the kind of guy who likes to jump in and right wrongs, who likes to stand up for the underdog. I know that, if I weren't a cop, I'd still be trying to set things straight. I'd probably try to foil a bank robbery without the proper training, and I'd end up getting my head blown off. Maybe I'm a cop because it trained me to do what my heart needs to do, as safely as possible."
Jean turned to look at her husband. He seemed embarrassed, and avoided her gaze. But Jean felt as if she'd seen a new side of Jim. You never said anything like that to me before.
On the television, the police radio called out the words that brought Jim and Pete to full attention. "1-Adam-12, 1-Adam-12, see the woman. Unknown trouble. In the parking lot, corner of 4th and O'Keefe. 1-Adam-12, handle code 2."
Jim reached for the mic and acknowledged the call. Pete made a U-turn at the next intersection.
"Unknown trouble?" Ray queried. "Isn't it weird to head into a situation without knowing what it is?"
"It isn't our favorite kind of call," Jim replied. "But it happens a lot. Too many people get so excited that they give us the location and hang up. It would help if they would give us more information."
This time Jim didn't turn to look at the reporter as he answered. His eyes scanned the abandoned building in the empty parking lot that Pete drove into. The building had once held a small Mom and Pop grocery, but from the looks of it, no one had shopped there for years. It sported the usual signs of neglect; boarded-up windows, missing shingles, and rotting wood. The parking lot looked equally unkempt, with a large areas of broken pavement, copious weeds, and shattered beer bottles. The building sat back on the lot, so most of the parking space faced the road.
Jim radioed their location to dispatch.
The three men exited the car, shivering a little under the impotent winter sun. The area seemed calm.
Ray spoke up. "What is this? A prank call? A mistake? There's no woman here. I don't see anything going on."
"We don't know," Pete replied. "But we have to check it out thoroughly. The woman could be lying injured or dead somewhere. Or she could have gone into one of the nearby buildings to get out of the cold. Or it could be a prank call. Or an ambush."
"So, are you guys as nervous as I am?" The reporter's voice became hushed after Pete's explanation.
"Let's just say we're being vigilant." Pete motioned to Jim to head around the other side of the building.
"Why are you splitting up?" Ray whispered. He watched as Jim disappeared around the corner. "Isn't there safety in numbers?"
"Standard procedure," Pete replied distractedly. He checked a loose, wobbly doorknob and found that its lock held.
"Just come on, and if anything bad happens, get out of the way." A few moments later Pete turned to the reporter with a wry smile. "Don't get too nervous. It may be nothing."
Jim's shout froze them both. "Malloy, around back!"
Pete took off at a run, gun drawn. Ray pursued as fast as his camera equipment would allow, but Pete quickly left him behind and disappeared behind the building.
The reporter huffed breathlessly around the corner, then stopped in his tracks. "My gosh," he whispered. "For all I know, I could have just run into a very dangerous situation. I'll have to be more careful next time. I don't mind admitting, ladies and gentlemen, that I'm a bit nervous. But things look calm here."
The parking lot behind the building adjoined the rear of a large supermarket. Pete stood staring into the store's dumpster, his pistol re-holstered. Jim was nowhere in sight.
Ray approached warily. A moment later Jim popped up from inside the dumpster, and handed a little bundle to Pete. As soon as he could leap out, Jim took the bundle again, cradling it protectively.
"I'll get an ambulance," Pete said tightly, and ran back toward the cruiser.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I think he may have found a baby abandoned in that dumpster." Ray approached quickly now. "Is it alive? Why isn't it crying?" The reporter's voice betrayed his fear, but he didn't hesitate to bring the lens to bear on the infant's tiny face. Her little features twisted into a cry, but only a faint whimper escaped.
"She's too weak," Jim replied tersely. "Here, put that camera down and help me take my jacket off." The picture went askew for a few moments, and then Ray retrieved the camera with an apology. Jim wrapped the infant in his jacket and began a soothing monologue.
"Come on, little girl. Hang in there. Help's on the way. You're going to be ok. We'll take you someplace safe and warm." He gently patted the little bundle, and swayed slightly in the instinctive rhythm for comforting a baby.
Ray spoke softly into his mic. "The baby is a little girl, and she's been left, naked, in the cold. An umbilical stump is protruding from her navel, indicating just how young she is. This is truly a pathetic sight."
Jim adjusted the jacket so that it covered the baby's head better, then looked up as Pete approached. "Oh, good, you brought the blanket."
The men carefully transferred the baby to the soft flannel, wrapping her in life-saving warmth. Jim shouldered back into his jacket, then reached for the infant again.
"Let me guess," the reporter said softly. "You've got a little one at home, don't you?"
"Yeah," Jim nodded, not taking his eyes from the infant's face. "He's a lot older than this now, but it doesn't seem that long ago that I held him like this. I can't imagine leaving him in a dumpster. . . ." Jim's voice held a mixture of anger and sadness.
The wail of a siren drew their attention back to the screen. The men on the television turned expectantly toward the sound. Pete trotted toward the street, and returned a few moments later with the attendants in tow. Jim surrendered the baby with apparent reluctance, hovering protectively over it all the way back to the ambulance. Ray kept a respectful silence, letting the scene's own power speak for itself. He zoomed the camera in on the officers' faces, capturing their tender concern. The men watched until the ambulance wailed its way out of sight.
"I don't know how much longer she could have lived like that." Jim shook his head.
"Do you think she'll make it?" Ray asked.
"Yeah, I think we got to her in time. She was breathing regularly, and I could feel her heart beating pretty strongly."
"Good." The reporter sounded genuinely relieved. "What do we do now?"
Pete spoke up. "We take a good long look around here for the mother. She must have cared about the baby, if she was the one who called us. Moms often do hang around to make sure someone rescues their baby. If we find her, great. If not, well, that's just the way it goes. Either way, when we're done, we'll have a lot of paperwork to fill out. We can do that in the car."
"Uh, Pete," Jim said, looking suddenly uncomfortable. His nose wrinkled as if he smelled something unpleasant. "I think we should do our paperwork at the station."
"Oh, why's that?" Pete's eyebrows raised with curiosity.
"I think the baby peed on my jacket. I want to try to clean it up a bit."
Pete gave Jim one of his priceless looks, then walked back toward the dumpster, shaking his head. Jim looked sheepishly into the camera and shrugged.
In the living room, a chorus of giggles ran through the room, until an unexpected voice broke in.
"Daddy, why was dat baby in da garbage?"
"Jimmy!" Everyone spun around to see the little fellow in the hallway. He clutched his bear, and his brow furrowed much like his father's often did.
Jean jumped up to whisk him back to bed, scolding him for having gotten up.
"Wait, Jean," Jim spoke softly. "I think he needs an answer to his question."
Jean's heart nearly broke to think of her son's innocent mind grappling with such a horror, but she realized that Jim was right. We can't leave it like this. It's too disturbing. But what can Jim say to make it better? She carried Jimmy back to his father.
Jim seemed to struggle with his response for a moment. All eyes waited expectantly.
"We can't always understand why people do what they do, son," Jim spoke softly and brushed Jimmy's bangs gently off his face.
He so wants to shelter Jimmy. Jean sat down. She put a hand on her son's little shoulder, and rested her head against her husband's much larger one.
Jim continued. "But we know that, whenever we see a bad thing happening to someone, we should try to help. That's why someone called us to help that baby. Don't worry. The baby will be fine."
Jimmy nodded sweetly, his brow relaxing with the trusting acceptance only childlike hearts feel. Jim glanced down toward Jean's face, and she nodded and smiled. You did well.
Jean hurried Jimmy back to bed before he could see any other awful things. I hope I won't miss too much of the show.
When she returned, the scene had changed back to the inside of the cruiser. "For the sake of our viewers, I'll state that the search for the baby's mother turned up nothing, and now we're headed back to the station." Ray turned the camera off of himself and back toward the two officers. "Will anyone let us know how the baby is doing?"
"I'll call and check on her." Jim turned to face the reporter. His concern showed in his eyes.
"This kind of thing must be very emotional for you." Ray left the unspoken question hanging in the air.
Jim looked at Pete, as if offering to let him answer. When Pete stayed silent, Jim spoke up again. "It's a mixture of emotions." He rubbed at the back of his neck as he spoke. "I feel angry that she suffered that way in the cold, all alone. I feel sad for her, too. And I also feel sad for the mother, because she must have been in a desperate situation to do what she did. And I feel relieved and glad that we got to the baby in time, and that we were able to provide her some comfort and affection."
"Do you often find that your work causes powerful mixed emotions like this?"
Jim lowered his eyes for a moment. "Yeah, pretty often."
"How do you handle it?"
Jim looked as if he desperately wished Pete would step up to the mic. Pete seemed to pay unusual attention to his driving, as if he could not be disturbed at the moment. Jim sighed and resumed his spokesman role. "Well, a lot depends on the outcome. In this situation, the outcome is pretty positive, so you just focus on that. When the outcome isn't so positive, then you just swallow it and go on. Because you absolutely can't let it affect your performance on the next call. Whether you have to deal with someone who's trying to kill you, or someone who's insulting you, or someone who's grieving or panicking. . . no matter what you have to deal with, you've got to be completely professional. The public doesn't care about what you've been through before you arrive at their door. They expect you to be at your best. And that's as it should be."
"Okay, that's what it's like to deal with it professionally. But what about personally?"
Jim sighed again, and Pete gave him an amused-looking sidelong glance.
Jim rubbed absently at the side of his nose.
"Well, sometimes I have to get together with Pete afterward and talk through things over a beer. Sometimes I go to the gym and pound a punching bag. Sometimes I just go home and try to hide it all from my family, but that never works. Then, if I'm smart, I let my wife pry it out of me so I can get it off my chest. That's really hard for me to do, but I'm working on it. Because the stresses of this job can destroy you if you bottle them up inside."
Jim shrugged at the reporter's comment.
"Is it worth it?"
Jim flashed one of his wonderful smiles. "Just ask that baby."
Dramatic music played, and the show cut away to a commercial. Jean sat back, feeling her own mixture of emotions. Her husband's feelings had become her own, every familiar nuance of his expressions and voice speaking directly to her heart. And that poor baby. . . . She was lucky Jim found her. He loves children so much. She knew she wouldn't soon forget the sight of him cradling that fragile little life.
Jean turned to look up at her husband, oblivious for the moment to the chatter of those around her. He met her gaze, his eyes full of the emotions he'd just re-lived. Jean wished she could speak to him alone. She smiled wistfully at him, and then whispered, "You made a difference."
A look of grateful wonder filled his eyes, and she knew she'd said exactly what he needed to hear.
She snuggled close to Jim again, and laid her head back on his shoulder.
I'm finally beginning to understand this side of you. . . .
"Pipe down, it's coming back on!" Carol Reed waved the noise down. I can't believe I'm watching my son on TV! I hope the neighbors all tuned in like I told them to.
Carl Ray's face filled the screen once more. "Just for your information, ladies and gentlemen, the baby is now fine and awaiting a permanent home. Let's continue with 'A Week in the Life of Two LAPD Officers.' We are now entering day two of our tour. Again, let me remind you that there will be graphic and disturbing scenes coming up. Please do not allow minors to watch."
Carol could hardly sit still. She always thought it was terribly exciting that Jim was a policeman. She liked to imagine the adventures he must face. Oh, she knew the risks were there, but Carol wasn't the type of person to borrow trouble. Nothing could happen to her Jim, and that was that. So she never worried.
Well, almost never.
He has had his crises, hasn't he? She'd visited him in the hospital enough times to know that he could be hurt. But his stubborn survival only added to her belief that he was indestructible. So Carol impatiently ignored the small talk on the screen for the next few minutes, only growing interested when she heard the radio call.
"1-Adam-12, 1-Adam-12, a 211 in progress at the bank, 8594 Camden, code three."
Carol started to ask what a "211" was, but the reporter beat her to it.
"It means 'armed robbery'," Jim replied, sounding tense. "This is a very dangerous kind of call. Keep your head down, and do exactly what you're told." Jim's voice held none of the softness of the previous call. He now spoke with authority, the kind of tone that demanded obedience. Carol felt her heart swell with pride. That's my son!
The brakes squealed as Pete pulled the unit over in front of the bank. He had tended to leave the talking to Jim, but now the senior officer stepped naturally into command. "Stay in the car, and keep your head down if you hear any shooting." Jim radioed their location in and then the two officers piled out of the cruiser. Reed pulled out the shotgun before closing his door.
They ran, crouching low, toward the building. Jim took the near side of the door, flattening himself against the wall and taking furtive looks inside. His left hand quickly pumped a shell into the shotgun's chamber.
Pete used the cover of some low shrubs to cross over to the far side before moving quickly to his position against the wall. He held his revolver ready and looked toward his partner.
Jim gestured to him, apparently indicating the position of a suspect. Pete nodded.
Another patrol car pulled the camera's attention away from Jim and Pete. The newcomers looked toward Pete, then nodded and roared off. "I think they've been directed to go around back," the reporter explained. He sounded breathless with excitement and nervousness. He turned the camera back to Malloy and Reed, who stood poised for action.
Suddenly, both men jerked themselves away from the door, clearly reacting to some danger within.
An explosive blast split the air, mingled with a shattering of glass. The picture wobbled as Ray ducked low in the car, and then quickly re-focused as he apparently returned to his position. "That sounded like a shotgun, and a big one," he whispered hoarsely.
The door between Pete and Jim no longer existed. The two men fired back into the building, then Pete provided cover as Jim disappeared inside. A moment later, Pete vanished into the darkness as well.
It seemed to Carol that the camera itself felt anxious for some sign of them.
Ray's hushed voice mercifully ended the silence.
"I have to admit, ladies and gentlemen, that I am terrified just sitting here. I cannot imagine how it must feel to run inside there. But, on the other hand, I'd love to be able to show you the events unfolding inside. Under the circumstances, I think I'll. . . .
Several rapid-fire shots rang out, interrupting the reporter's musings. The camera jerked as the reporter flinched hard, but this time he did not duck.
A long silence followed.
Back in the living room, Carol Reed sat forward in her seat, tense with fear. Dan patted her gently on the leg. "He's right over there on the floor, Dear. He came through it okay."
Carol relaxed, feeling a little foolish. Jim grinned at her.
The reporter on the screen had no such reassurance. "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm very concerned now for those officers. I've gotten to know Jim and Pete well enough to like them, and I feel such a sense of dread that something has happened to one or both of them. Wait. . . here comes someone." The camera focused on Jim, running out of the building with no attempt at stealth. "I think we'll soon find out what's going on," Ray commented.
Jim reached the patrol car a few seconds later, threw the door open and dove for the mic. "1-Adam-12, officer down, shots fired. Suspects are in custody. Requesting two ambulances and a Field Supervisor at our location."
"1-Adam-12, roger," the dispatcher intoned emotionlessly.
Jim tossed the mic down.
"What's going on in there?" Ray asked, but Jim was already sprinting back toward the building. "Not now!" he called back over his shoulder.
"Is the danger over?" Ray shouted across the widening distance between them. Jim responded with a quick thumbs-up.
"All right then, if the danger is over, it's time for me to go inside." The reporter joggled the camera as he maneuvered out of the car and sprinted across to the entrance. He kept a running commentary, though it wasn't clear if it was intentional or whether he was just thinking aloud.
"People are injured in there, and at least one is a cop. I almost hate to see who it is."
His camera recorded the huge sea of broken glass as he stepped gingerly through it.
"Oh, my." Ray stopped and panned the room with his camera. "Oh, this looks horrible!" The lens recorded pools of blood and motionless men with merciless detail. "I'm not sure how much of this I'll be able to show you, and how much will hit the editing room floor. But. . .oh no!" The camera zoomed in on one of two men sprawled on the floor. The man wore a badge, and was surrounded by his worried brothers in blue. His chest rose and fell reassuringly, but his pallor, his slack features, and the extent of his blood loss all spoke of a serious injury.
"It's one of the officers who went around back!" Ray's voice sounded shaky.
Pete approached the reporter quickly upon hearing his voice.
"Is he alive?" The young journalist showed no sign of professional detachment.
"Yes, but he's hit pretty bad. He should be all right eventually, as long as we can get him to the hospital soon enough." Pete kept worried eyes on the young man's unconscious form.
"What happened in here?"
Pete turned his gaze back to the camera and explained patiently. "You understand that this is not an official report, and that I can only give you my point of view."
"Yes, I understand that."
"All right. After the suspects shot the door out, we returned fire and rushed in the front. Wells and Campbell. . .that's Campbell who got shot. . . they rushed in from the back. Campbell took the hit almost as soon as he got in the door."
Pete's narrative was interrupted by the ambulance attendants brushing past. Ray and Pete watched mutely as the attendants placed the injured officer on a stretcher and rushed him out. Pete shook his head at the young man's pale features as the gurney bore him away. Pete's eyes shone with worry, and he clapped Wells on the shoulder as his colleague followed the stretcher out.
"He looks so young," Ray commented.
"Just 23. He's a rookie."
"Did he make a mistake? Is that why he got shot?"
Pete's expression became inscrutable. "I cannot comment on that at this time."
"Is he married? Does he have any children?"
Pete's eyes filled with pain. "He is married, but has no children. Sergeant MacDonald will inform his wife."
Pete paused a moment, and then took up his narrative where he had left off. "Anyway, as soon as the suspect shot Campbell, the rest of us started firing. The suspect who did the shooting is lying over there. He was alive for a while, but he died just before you came in here." Ray zoomed in for a better view of the body.
"His partner wasn't armed, and he surrendered peacefully without injuries. He was taken to that corner out of sight of the scene, because he was so shaken up by the. . .events in here. He's handcuffed to a post." Pete concluded.
"Who actually killed that one?" Ray kept the camera focused on the dead suspect.
"Ballistics will have to determine that for sure, but I can tell you that Wells had the best line of fire, and he did most of the shooting. It was probably him."
A second set of attendants filed by, and once again the men fell silent and watched them perform their grisly task. They covered the suspect's body with a sheet before lifting it. One lifeless arm slipped down toward the floor, and an attendant hurriedly retrieved it.
"I'm glad I don't have to look at him any more," Ray commented. "I've never actually seen anyone. . . like that before."
After the attendants left, a new idea seemed to strike the young reporter. "May I see the suspect that's out of sight over there?"
"Sure," Pete replied with a shrug. He led Ray over to the dejected young man. The suspect sat on the floor under Jim Reed's watchful eye. His head hung low and his whole body drooped with misery. Long hair kept his downcast face hidden, but after a moment he looked up at Pete and Ray.
"He looks even younger than Campbell," the reporter gasped.
"About 19, as I figure it. He's not talking right now. Frankly, it's been all he can do just to keep from throwing up." The handcuffed youth did look rather green, and upon hearing Pete's words, he quickly looked down again.
"So, this fellow was involved in a situation in which one of your comrades was shot and seriously wounded. You took custody of him before any cameras were trained on you."
"Yes, that's right." Pete sounded a bit curious about the line of questioning.
"You could easily have roughed him up a bit, and I wouldn't have known that it wasn't necessary. But there's not a mark on him."
Pete's eyes showed a glint of steel. "That's not the way we do things around here."
With that comment, Pete turned and walked away. The camera followed him as he greeted Sergeant MacDonald and began filling him in on the details. The men's faces were grim.
A few minutes later Pete returned. "There's a lot of mopping up to do here, and Wells went to the hospital with Campbell. We're going to have to transport this suspect back to the station, and then return to this scene. Procedures are different when people get shot."
Jim called Pete away, and the two men conferred a few yards away. Ray began a whispered commentary.
"I would have expected them to rough the guy up. Frankly, if someone had just shot one of my friends, and his buddy was standing nearby, I'd want to get revenge on him, too. But so far these men have shown incredible courage and remarkable restraint in the face of danger."
The scene changed. The men sat in the squad car, with Ray now in the front passenger's seat. Jim and the suspect sat in the back, the latter man sobbing out his anguish. "You killed him! You killed my brother! I can't believe he's dead!"
Carol couldn't help feeling sorry for the poor kid.
A moment later, the suspect lost his battle with nausea. The camera jostled as Ray lunged away, then zoomed in to show Jim pushing the ill man's head down toward the floor.
"Why is he doing that?" Ray asked, his voice alarmed.
"He's just trying to control where the mess goes. Also, while it's not the case here, sometimes people who become ill in the car are too out of it to protect themselves. We don't want anyone choking on their own vomit. That's standard procedure." Pete spoke casually, like a man who's been through it all many times before, but his face betrayed his distaste for the situation.
After several long moments the retching sounds subsided, and Jim let him sit up again. The suspect continued to moan out his misery. Reed gestured to Pete to start driving, and the unit moved off.
"Hey Ray, open your window, would you?" Pete couldn't hide the disgust on his face. Both officers had already opened their windows for maximum ventilation. The reporter hurriedly did the same.
Pete glanced toward Ray, and his face became alarmed. "Hey, Carl, are you okay? Do you want me to pull over?"
"No, no, I think I'll be all right. The cold air is helping." The poor fellow's voice didn't sound all right. The scene faded out, and then the venue switched to the break room at the station.
Ray addressed Pete from across the table. "Does that sort of thing happen often?"
The officer seemed distracted, and his eyes betrayed his deep concern for his fallen comrade. He was clearly not in the mood for small talk, but he humored the reporter.
"What, people puking in the car? Yeah, all the time. Usually it's drunks. But you never really get used to the smell."
"Yeah," Jim chimed in as he joined them. "Especially when it's all over your uniform." He seemed strangely upbeat.
"Good thing you had a clean uniform handy," the reporter replied.
"Yeah, and a shower in the locker room!" Jim grinned, turning his chair around to straddle it.
After a quick sip of coffee, Jim continued.
"I just heard. Campbell's in surgery, but the doctor says his prognosis is real good. Somehow the bullet miraculously missed all the major organs."
"That's great news!" Pete grinned, and Ray joined in with words of relief.
After a few moments and a few more sips of coffee, Jim continued. "So, Pete, did Tony have a lot of cars to work on before ours?"
"No," Pete replied. "He said he'd get right to it. But I gotta tell you," Pete continued, turning his attention to Ray, "the guys at the garage can never really get the smell out. It just lingers forever, and by the time it finally gets tolerable, someone else kindly upchucks and starts it all over again." The two officers chuckled together, clearly buoyed by the hopeful news of their colleague.
"And you can laugh about it?"
"Better to laugh than cry!" Jim quipped.
The dramatic music came back, and then the Doublemint Twins took over the screen for their chewing gum commercial. Carol sat back, feeling as though she'd been slapped with a good dose of reality. Jim's job isn't romantic or adventurous. It's not at all what I imagined. She looked at Jim as if seeing him for the first time. It's messy, it's terrifying, it's sad and gut wrenching. I had no idea.
Somehow, the excitement had gone out of the evening, but she felt grateful, in a sad sort of way, for her new understanding of her son.
Linda Reed let her mind wander during the commercial break. She replayed memories of her pain-in-the-neck older brother who scared her with frogs. Memories of the gawky teenager who shot up tall overnight, and made girls sigh when he walked past. Memories of the letter-wearing football star.
I resented him. I thought he was too big for his britches, especially after he got tall and turned into Mr. Athlete. I thought he was just fooling everybody, and I was the only one who knew that he was really just my snotty brother and not somebody special.
Maybe I was wrong.
Linda wasn't quite ready to be that generous.
Or maybe he's still got everybody else fooled.
Linda's musings ended with the sound of the show's return. A written notice appeared on the screen, reminding the viewers of the show's very graphic and disturbing content.
A few moments later, Carl Ray addressed them from the station's parking lot.
"Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen. It's a new day here for our two subjects, and we're getting ready to endure another shift in this car. I say 'endure', because Pete was sadly right. The smell hasn't begun to leave. In fact, I think it's gotten worse, though I'm not sure why." Ray lowered himself gingerly into the back seat and closed the door.
"I'll tell you why," Pete chimed in as he backed the squad car out. "The night watch sprayed some kind of nasty spray in here. I think I'll go after their badges for torturing their fellow officers." He wrinkled his nose with distaste as he spoke.
"I'm sure they meant well," Ray laughed.
"Yeah," Pete said dryly. "I bet they're falling all over themselves laughing right about now. They should know better than to try those perfumed sprays. What would you call that smell, Jim? Eau de Puke?"
Reed sniffed the air like someone testing a fine wine. "Vomitberry. Definitely Vomitberry." Pete's eyes twinkled with amusement in the rear-view mirror.
Light music segued them into a new scene. Ray filled in the blanks for his viewers.
"Most of the watch has gone by, and there's been nothing terribly dramatic. Mostly traffic violations and petty disputes. Pete and Jim tell me that they have lots of days like this. In some ways, the pettiness and the verbal abuse that they put up with is as draining as the terrifying times. But right now we're headed toward something called a '415'. That means 'Disturbance'. Now, I suppose that could be just about anything. But what makes this really dangerous is that there are possibly gangs involved. I don't like the sound of that. But here we are."
The two officers took in the scene as Pete pulled into a drive-in theater and threw the car into park. The westering sun provided adequate light, but dusk would soon bring dangerous darkness. After that, the theater's patrons would start to arrive. But for now, instead of movie watchers and necking couples, the parking area bristled with impending violence. Perhaps fifty leather-and-chain wearing hoodlums squared off against each other, with only a few rows of car-window speakers between their two groups.
Jim quickly reached for the mic. "1-Adam-12 requesting backup at the drive-in, corner of Wilson and 32nd. Possible riot situation. Have backup approach from the east."
"1-Adam-12 roger." The dispatcher called 1-Adam-36 and 1-Adam-14 to the scene.
"Stay in the car," Pete said tersely. He and Jim got out, sliding their batons into their belt rings but keeping a hand on them. They walked without hesitation and positioned themselves at the edge of the battle line between the surly, shouting, knife-brandishing toughs. A few of the youths hid their knives, but most of them viewed the outnumbered officers with scorn. Whistles, insults, and hoots of contempt greeted them from both groups, who seemed to have finally found one thing to agree on.
The camera zoomed in, and Ray whispered, "I'm turning up the sensitivity of my microphone. That way we may be able to hear better across this distance."
"What's the problem here?" Jim addressed a particularly muscular young man who had a mouthful of chewing tobacco. "Are you in charge of this group?"
"What's it to you?" the man sneered, and his fellows laughed with approval. The young ruffian approached Jim, who stood his ground and made no moves toward his baton or his gun. The two men stood eye-to-eye, equals in height, but not in physique. The gang leader had the definite advantage over Jim in that regard, and the punk knew it. His posture showed exaggerated ease and lightheartedness, like a man who knows he has nothing to fear. Sarcasm dripped from the smirk on his lips. "Like I said," he repeated, "what's it to you, little man?"
Jim stood unflinchingly, but Pete looked poised to leap to his defense if need be.
Backup arrived suddenly, both cars at almost the same moment. Some gang members began to get flighty, looking for possible escape routes. But Jim and the muscleman continued to face each other while the four backup officers approached. Soon six lawmen surrounded the gangs. No officer brandished a weapon. Their demeanor showed confidence and control. The muscleman became slightly less cocky.
Jim's eyes never wavered from the man he'd singled out. After a moment he repeated his question. "Are you in charge of this group?"
"What if I am? Is that a crime?" the punk sneered, resuming his bravado.
"What's your name?" Jim asked calmly.
"Puddintame," came the scornful reply. The tough guy seemed bolstered by the hoots and laughs his comments elicited from the gang.
"Puddintame, huh? That's real cute. Now tell me, a guy with a cute name like that wouldn't be the kind of guy to go carving people up, would he?" Jim's voice was carefully moderated, somewhere between sarcastic and commanding.
Puddintame rolled his eyes and glanced back toward his laughing comrades. "Aw shucks, officer, I'm a real pussycat."
"That's what I figured. So why don't you tell me what this party's all about?"
Puddintame chewed his tobacco with exaggerated smacking noises, then puckered and directed a foul-looking brown stream at Jim's shoes. "Nah, I don't feel like it, piggy boy," he replied. His friends chuckled.
"All right," Jim said with a shrug. "If you want us to get the whole story from their point of view," he gestured toward the opposing gang, "that's okay with me." He turned to survey the second group, apparently sizing the members up to see who might be in charge.
"Hey, wait a minute, that's not fair! What are you taking their side for?" Puddintame seemed to have some ruffled feathers now. "Isn't that unconstitutional or something?"
"No," Jim replied, turning as if to walk toward the other group. "If I got a little rough trying to force you to talk, that would be unconstitutional. But letting you keep your mouth shut and hang yourself, the law's got no problem with that." Jim addressed the rival gang. "Hey, you with the dragon tattoo, are you the one I should talk to?"
"Listen, Pig, you gotta hear my side of things!" Puddintame grabbed Jim by the arm. The other officers tensed for action, but still kept themselves reined in. Jim stared silently at Puddintame for several long seconds, and then spoke in a voice so low that Ray's microphone could hardly pick it up.
"Let go of my arm." The determined set of his jaw was visible even from the camera's distance.
It was not a request, and no tinge of fear weakened his command. The two men stood practically nose-to-nose now, and the gang leader seemed to be sizing his opponent up. Finally, after several long seconds, he released Jim's arm.
The other gang members seemed to lose confidence with that simple gesture. Their leader had blinked. He had backed down, not from a threat, but from a softly spoken word. They protested. "Come on, Sharky, you don't have to do what the Fuzz tells you!"
"Shut up!" Sharky yelled. He turned back to Reed. "They invaded our turf and got their filthy hands on one of our women. This is a matter of honor, and it has nothing to do with the police."
"I'm afraid it does, when there are knives and clubs and who knows what else. Blood was gonna flow, and that makes it our business. So tell me, where's your turf?"
"Forget it, man." Sharky turned away.
"No, I'm not gonna forget it. Where is your turf?" Jim's voice took on the same controlled, authoritative tone that had cowed Sharky once before.
Sharky stopped and looked back at Jim. "From Holt to Fillmore, and from 115th to 130th."
"So you're in their territory now?" Jim gestured toward the rival gang, who hollered in agreement.
"Yeah, but we had the right, because it's a matter of honor. They know that."
Jim raised his voice to address all of the hoodlums.
"All right, so here's the deal. You have two choices. Option One is for you and your gang to go back to your turf and stay there. And you," Jim turned to the other gang, "will stay on your turf. You've got three patrol cars and six cops right here, and several more covering this area. We'll get the word out, and we'll all be watching for any kind of trouble." He turned back toward Sharky.
"If there is even a hint of violence, Sharky, we'll come looking for you personally. You and Mr. Dragon Tattoo over there."
"Me?" The rival gang leader protested. "Don't go harassing me, fuzz." His cohorts shouted their agreement.
Jim spared them a baleful glance before turning back to Sharky. "Option Two is for you guys to start your rumble here and now. But I've got to warn you. I don't recommend Option Two. Six armed cops aren't fun to waltz with, and we could have a dozen more in riot gear here in a few minutes. You dig?"
Sharky glared at Jim for several long moments, clearly weighing his options. Then a subtle shift in his demeanor signaled his surrender.
"We can do our thing another day. And we will," Sharky continued, shaking his fist at the other gang, "some time when The Man ain't watching." His next comment was replaced by a bleep.
With that and similar testosterone-laced declarations, both gangs went their separate ways.
Jim called out after them. "Remember, we're watching you." The six officers stayed to supervise the bloodless retreat.
"Good talking, partner!" Pete said when the punks were out of earshot.
"Yeah," a backup officer added. "I was sure there was gonna be a riot. Nice work."
The officers returned to their respective cars. Jim radioed in an advisory about the gangs, and reported their unit clear.
"Okay," Ray began. "I've got to ask you about this, because I'm amazed at how that went down. There've been some riots on campus in the last few years. I haven't been there to see them, but I've always heard the students talking about them. They always say it's the Gestapo's fault, that the pigs started it, stuff like that. To hear them tell it, you guys like nothing better than bashing people's heads in."
Jim and Pete both chuckled. Pete turned toward the backseat. "Have you ever been outnumbered in a riot situation, with people throwing every imaginable thing at you, people damaging property that you're somehow supposed to protect, people getting injured when you're supposed to maintain the peace and protect the public?"
"No." Ray seemed short on words at the moment.
"I have. Quite a few times. Let me tell you, it's an awful feeling. I don't know a cop anywhere who likes riot situations. And every cop I know would much rather defuse a situation than escalate it. Of course we come in with weapons and riot gear, because we need to protect ourselves and the public. We want to be able to go home to our families and friends too, you know. But our stance is never aggressive. We'll do whatever we have to do to bring a riot under control, but I promise you, we would never do anything to intentionally start one."
"All right," Ray continued after a few moments' reflection. "Tell me something else. You're the senior officer, right?"
"That's right," Pete replied.
"Why did you let Jim do all the talking? It seems like everything was on his shoulders."
"Well, for a couple of reasons. You may not have noticed it, but he and I take turns handling our calls, and this was his turn. Secondly, he was doing an excellent job. He zeroed in on the biggest guy in the biggest of the two gangs, and took him on one-to-one. He knew that, if he could talk his man down, the smaller fry would fall in line. And that's exactly how it played out. Believe me, if things had turned sour, we would have jumped in. But I had one compelling reason to have confidence in Jim."
Pete's eyes sparkled with mischief. "Because he had the best training officer in the division!" Pete turned again and cranked the ignition.
"Oh, please!" Jim moaned. "Don't air that nonsense, all right?"
The light humor provided a good transition, and another commercial began to play. As the Marlboro man galloped across the screen, Linda Reed's thoughts turned inward again. She reviewed images of a big brother who teased her mercilessly, but who also stood up for her against some local bullies. A big brother who knew how to push her buttons, but also knew when not to push them. A big brother who had sometimes surprised her with kind words when her knees were scraped or her heart was broken.
Maybe he wasn't such a bad brother. And anyway, he has grown up. She looked at him thoughtfully as he conversed with his wife.
This isn't a game for him. He's not playing cop for fun and fooling everybody. He's the genuine article.
I ought to get to know him better.
Stan "Bud" Bailey looked over at his daughter. Jean seemed both proud of her husband and worried at the same time. Bud had felt tense watching his son-in-law on television, even though he knew Jim would be okay. It must be twice as hard for her.
Bud thought back to the first time he laid eyes on Jim. He was a strapping high school senior wearing a letter jacket, who had just been kissing Bud's daughter in a car in front of the house. Who is that kid, and how does he dare get that cozy with my daughter when I've never even heard of him? Bud's fatherly instincts were on full alert, and he had to fight off the urge to go pound on the car door.
Bud smiled at the memory. Jim had come in to meet them that day, and had quickly redeemed himself with his respectful manners and his conversational skills. I could tell even then that the kid was quality. Over the years that Jim and Jean dated, Jim had become like the son that Bud and Candace never had. I never had a doubt about them. But this police thing. . . .
Bud had plenty of doubts about Jim's choice of careers. He had always known that Jim was interested in police work, but he kept hoping the young man would outgrow it. Jim did well in college, and he excelled in athletics, all while working part-time to help support his family. Bud encouraged him on several occasions to become a Phys Ed teacher, and Jim had never seemed to resent the advice. Even after Jim entered the Academy, Bud held out hope for a change of heart. When Jean announced that she was pregnant, Bud had felt sure that Jim would do the responsible thing and choose a more sensible career.
He had been wrong. Even while Jimmy was just a lump in his mommy's middle, Jim had sat down with is father-in-law and told him in respectful but firm words that his choice of jobs was not negotiable.
Bud had felt angrier than he cared to admit. You're going to get your fool head blown off, and leave my daughter a widow with a little baby to care for. How could you do something so irresponsible? Bud had never voiced the words to Jim, but the knot in his gut got bigger with every injury, every close call that Jim went through. I bet I never even hear about half of them.
I just want my little girl to be safe and happy.
Bud's musing was broken by a nudge from his wife. "I'm getting myself some more coffee. Do you want some?" He nodded and gave his cup to her.
Maybe he'll get this job out of his system soon, and move on to something sensible.
Candace returned with his mug just as the program resumed. Bud reluctantly tuned his mind back into his son-in-law's pre-recorded week, feeling his jaw clench at the sight of the "graphic content" warning.
Carl Ray's familiar voice took up a narrative. "We've just received a call about a silent alarm going off in a warehouse. I'm planning to accompany the officers inside. They're not too happy about that, but they've agreed because I've promised to stay low, keep my mouth shut, and do whatever they tell me. I've got to admit, my heart is really racing right now."
Pete and Jim approached the building, guns at ready. The officers found an unlocked door, and silently swung it wide. Ray hung back and off to the side for safety, then followed them in when no violence erupted. The two lawmen began an oft- rehearsed routine, working smoothly together like a well-oiled machine. Every motion reflected disciplined precision as they conducted their search.
From his seat on the couch, Bud had to admire what he saw. They're careful, I'll give them that. No tomfoolery. That's good to know.
The silence was eerie. No narrative, no conversation. Bud felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck. The officers took some more soft, wary steps, and then Pete motioned Jim around a corner. Jim took a careful, furtive survey of the scene, and then disappeared from the camera's view.
A sudden noise made everyone in the living room jump. Pete reacted the same way on the screen. Running footsteps pounded overhead, and the camera swung upwards toward the catwalks. Someone was briefly visible up there, and it definitely was not a police officer. Pete came back into view, straightening from a crouch but keeping his revolver trained upward. "Reed, are you all right?" There was no need for stealth now.
"Yeah, you?" Jim moved back into view, keeping vigilant watch like his partner did.
"Yeah. Did you see him on the catwalk?" Pete spoke softly now.
"Yeah, but I lost him in the shadows."
The two men surveyed the area carefully, moving around to view the catwalks from several angles. They led with their revolvers, every motion taut with extreme vigilance. Every dark shadow, every crate potentially hid an unknown danger. Bud found his own eyes scanning nervously for the suspect.
Suddenly Pete tapped Jim's shoulder, and pointed out an apparently promising-looking area. The two men approached it cautiously.
Pete motioned Jim over to the far side of a pile of crates. Both men kept their revolvers aimed and ready.
"Jim, look out!" A shout from Pete made Jim whirl around. He followed his partner's line of vision, sized up the danger, and dodged out from under a falling crate. It narrowly missed him, crashing violently to the floor with a heavy thud.
That thing must have weighed a couple hundred pounds. Bud felt his heart pounding at the close call.
Almost simultaneously, Pete yelled "Freeze," and squeezed off two rounds at someone on top of the crates. Jim took rapid aim in the same direction, but the suspect had jumped down on the other side.
"Give it up!" Pete shouted. "There's no way out. You're surrounded."
"Don't shoot! I'm coming out! Don't shoot" The voice sounded scared.
Surrounded, huh? Good thing that jerk believed the lie. Bud had to admire Pete's guts.
"Keep your hands up high, and make no sudden moves." Pete's tone brooked no argument.
A moment later the suspect appeared, nervous and shaken. "Don't kill me, please."
"Face down on the floor, spread-eagled. Move it!" Pete's voice reflected his anger at the man who had nearly flattened his partner. The suspect complied quickly.
Pete nodded to Jim, and the latter holstered his revolver, approached the suspect, and thoroughly patted him down. As he worked, he recited the Miranda rights. Pete's revolver didn't waver until Jim handcuffed the man and hauled him to his feet.
"All right, pal," Pete began as he holstered his pistol. "Where's your partner?"
The suspect looked suddenly nervous, shifty-eyed. "Wh-what makes you think I have a partner?"
"Your reaction just gave him away, mister," Jim chimed in. "So where is he?"
Pete glanced up, and his face contorted with a mixture of terrible emotions.
"Freeze!" Pete took lightning fast aim above and behind Jim. Reed shoved the suspect out of harm's way, whirled around, and leveled his own revolver.
The second suspect dropped something with a metallic clatter and raised his arms. "Don't shoot, man. I ditched the gun." The officers secured him just as they had his partner, and escorted both suspects to the patrol car.
The scene switched to the break room, where Ray grilled the officers with questions.
"Pete, you just saved Jim's life twice in there. Why weren't you shaking life a leaf?"
"You should've seen what my gut was doing." Pete sipped at his coffee.
"So you were scared?"
"Of course I was scared. I'd have to be an idiot not to be."
"What about you, Jim? You're the one who just about died, twice, and I don't hear you making plans to go home and pull yourself together. You're ready to head back out on the streets, aren't you?"
"Don't you have a nerve in your body?"
Jim chuckled. "Of course I do. Courage doesn't mean never feeling fear. It just means not letting fear stop you from doing what's right." Jim took a hearty swig from his coffee mug.
"Besides, I know that Pete is there for me. He's pulled me out of more fires than you can imagine."
"Yeah," Pete added. "And don't tell anyone that I admitted this, but I owe my life to him a few times over as well.
"Yeah, well, I could tell you more stories of how he's saved my neck," Jim countered.
"Wait, wait. I didn't want to start a war between you two." Ray chuckled at the officers. "I guess it would be safe to say that you two have developed a real trust in each other."
"Yeah," Jim replied. "When you know you can trust someone with your life, what more do you need to know about them?"
The scene faded out. An annoying little fellow appeared, hawking Chesterfields. Bud sipped at his coffee, surprised that it had gone cold. I must have forgotten to drink it.
He looked over at Pete, watching how he modestly, often humorously deflected any praise that came his way from his Jim's family.
That Pete fellow is all right. I feel better knowing he's watching out for Jim. I guess I always knew, but seeing it makes it more real.
I'm glad I got to watch this.
Candace Bailey munched on some popcorn, but she barely noticed it. Her attention remained fixed on her daughter. Jean continued to play the thoughtful hostess, providing snacks and cheery small talk during the commercials. But Candace knew her daughter too well to miss the pretense. She recognized the worry behind Jean's eyes. She noticed, too, that Jim and Jean kept avoiding each other's eyes. He knows that last story really shook her up. And she doesn't want him to know how upset she really is.
Candace sighed. That's the same dance they've been doing for years. He tries to shelter her from the reality of his job, and she tries to pretend it's okay. When they finally do face things, she ends up calling me, all upset because they've argued and nothing has changed.
Candace put her bowl aside, letting Bud finish the rest of her snack.
Jim's a great guy, and Jean really loves him. I know they'll make it through. But I wonder if they'll ever really be at peace with this.
Sensing that the commercial break was ending, Candace steeled herself for another emotional scenario. I hope it's all small stuff from here on.
Somehow, that didn't seem too likely. Not with that blasted warning sign up there again.
The scene opened in the patrol car. The siren blared loudly, and the reporter struggled to make himself heard above its strident call.
"We've just been called to a house fire. At this point we don't know how bad it is. It could be a trash can burning, or it could be total destruction. There may be people home, there may not. I'm beginning to realize just how often these officers have to rush into situations, and deal with them correctly, with no time to prepare in advance."
For a few moments Ray let the siren have the floor, but then he broke in again.
"I can see the smoke, and it's really billowing. We're blocks away, and this is looking like a very big fire."
A few moments later the speeding patrol car reached its destination. A large two-story Queen Anne-style home writhed under the gnawing of massive flames. Everything from curtains to shingles blazed and smoked, and the roar of the inferno nearly blocked out all other sounds.
"No fire trucks yet," Pete noted tersely, and moved hurriedly out of the unit. Jim made his required radio call, then leapt into action as well. The camera moved closer as Pete questioned a hysterical woman in the front yard.
"Is anyone in there?" Pete grabbed the woman's elbow to steady her.
"Yes! Yes! The Hendersons are both in there. At least, they usually are. They're old and feeble, and they're always at home. Oh, you've got to help them!
"Are there any rooms they stay in more than others?"
"Yes. Laura is bedridden. That's her room, there on the corner. She smokes, and she falls asleep. I've always been afraid this would happen!" Pete motioned Jim over, and the younger officer ran toward the smoke-filled window.
"What about Mr. Henderson?" In the background, glass shattered under Jim's baton, and he hoisted himself up and into the window. Black smoke engulfed him before he was fully inside.
"Clarence usually watches TV in the living room," the neighbor told Pete, her voice near a scream. "Hurry!"
Pete nodded and motioned for the neighbor to stay back. He ran up to the front door, felt it, tried the knob, and then kicked the door down. Smoke billowed out, though not as much as had come from the bedroom. Pete dropped low to crawl on his belly. A moment later he was obscured from view.
Seconds ticked slowly by.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I am not a coward, but I can honestly say that I'm not sure I could have run into that inferno. I'm not terribly religious, but I'm remembering a few prayers I learned as a child. Right now, there's nobody but God watching out for Pete and Jim."
Fire trucks screamed onto the scene.
A few moments later, Jim tumbled out of the bedroom window. He lay where he had fallen, coughing and gasping for air. Rescue personnel ran immediately to Jim's side.
Pete appeared, dragging an elderly man out into the yard. More rescuers rushed to help. Pete watched for a moment as a fireman placed a mask over the old man's ashen face.
Pete looked like he could have used some oxygen, too, but he waved away the offer between deep coughs. A few moments later he sank down to sit on the ground, and this time the fireman refused to take "no" for an answer.
Another fireman queried the neighbor. "Could anyone else be inside?" The captain barked orders to his men. Fire hoses belched out rivers of water. The scene became one of organized chaos.
Jim tried to wave off his rescuer, and pointed repeatedly in the bedroom window. The fireman only shook his head as he wrestled the oxygen mask onto his reluctant patient. A moment later he pulled Jim to his feet and hurriedly steered him away from the roaring flames. Jim appeared to be fighting him, trying to get back inside, but his strength was sapped.
A few moments later, the bedroom's roof collapsed with a dreadful, shuddering crash. Jim stopped fighting, but kept looking back, regret plainly etched on his face. A moment later he half sat, half collapsed beside Pete. Both men continued to cough despite the oxygen masks strapped to their faces.
The fire captain approached to check on the officers, then on the old man. The latter lay motionless, his face still the same shade of blue-gray as before receiving the oxygen. The attendant quietly shook his head at the captain's unspoken question.
The ground seemed to shudder as more roofing collapsed, and the once gracious Queen Anne hissed and groaned out her death cry. Wood sheeting skated across the lawn, sending officers and firefighters scrambling. Ash and burning embers rained down. The battle line moved further back as firemen regrouped and renewed their assault. No one attempted to rescue Mrs. Henderson. Her husband now lay covered with a sheet. Neighbors sobbed and gasped. Firefighters barked orders and pushed sightseers back.
The chaos faded slowly to black.
The new scene opened in a hospital room. The officers sat impatiently, enduring whatever tests and general fussing the medical staff inflicted on them. Their uniform shirts lay draped over chair backs, and nurses slipped stethoscopes under the men's grey, sweaty T-shirts.
"Yes, I can breathe fine now!" Jim's voice held unmasked irritation. "C'mon, I don't need to be admitted. That'll just upset my family for no good reason."
On his side of the room, Pete voiced similar assurances. "No, I don't feel dizzy, and there's no pain in my chest. Yes, I feel fit to return to duty."
A rap on the door turned everyone's attention to Sergeant MacDonald.
"How are my men, Doc?" Mac asked with typical bluntness.
"Stubborn as always." The doctor moved to greet the newcomer.
"As always? Oh, yes. You have met them before, haven't you." Mac's face expressed his commiseration with the doctor over his obstinate charges.
"Yep. More than once. You really need to take better care of your men, Sergeant."
"Hmph. I've been trying to knock sense into them for years." As always, Mac's brusqueness failed to cover his concern.
"They're okay, but I want them on light duty for the rest of the day, just to be safe."
Jim and Pete rolled their eyes at each other but said nothing. Mac nodded his agreement.
"Okay, you two, hit the showers and then the paperwork. Get out of here. Enough loafing."
The camera zoomed in on Mac, while the other two officers buttoned on their shirts in the background.
"Sergeant," the reporter asked, "do you often have to deal with injuries on this job?"
"Yes, my officers do get injured, though often they're just examined and released like this. We're careful, because we need to be sure our officers are fit for duty. So we have them come in here even when it may seem overly cautious." Mac nodded somewhat stiffly at the reporter and turned to leave.
The scene shifted again. Pete and Jim looked freshly showered, and wore clean uniforms. Both men sat at a desk with papers in front of them, but only Pete wrote anything. Jim sat with his chin on his hands, deep in thought.
Ray's voice whispered softly into the mic. "I'm staying back a little, and using my zoom lens to allow me to watch unobtrusively. I can sense that Jim is a bit upset, and I want him to feel free to talk to his partner about things."
It did in fact seem that Jim and Pete had forgotten about the camera. After a few moments, Pete looked up at Jim with an expression of mild exasperation.
"Don't tell me you're brooding about the Hendersons."
"I am not brooding." Jim shuffled some papers and pretended to get down to work.
Pete sighed and laid down his pen. "All right, partner, spill it."
Jim looked up at Pete, irritation in his eyes. "I'm all right, Pete. Nothing to spill." His words came out clipped and a little angry.
Jim ignored his partner and wrote something on his report form. After another exasperated look, Pete returned to his own scribbling. There was silence for a few moments, and then Jim's writing hand slowed to a stop. He tapped his pen on the paper distractedly, causing Pete to drop his pen again.
"Reed, either spill it or go work at another table! I feel like I'm working over the San Andreas Fault with you banging on the table like that."
Jim clenched his teeth a little, then threw his pen down as well.
"It's just that I could see her. I could see her, Pete. She wasn't burning. The bed was on fire, the curtains were on fire, but she was laid out on the floor. She must have tried to get out, but couldn't. I don't know if the smoke overwhelmed her, or if she would have been too frail to walk that far under normal circumstances."
He ran his hand over his hair, seeming anxious as he spoke.
"I only know that I could see her, and I wanted desperately to get to her, but the smoke was so thick that I couldn't breathe. I tried to push my way closer to her, but I felt myself starting to black out. I realized that I had to get out and get some air or I'd be the next LAPD fatality."
Jim looked down at the table, pain etched on his features. He seemed to be watching the scene of the fire all over again, and not even seeing the table in front of him. His fists clenched and unclenched with frustration. Finally his sorrow-filled eyes turned back to Pete.
"I had to turn around and leave her there, Pete! Do you have any idea how awful that felt? I couldn't do it. I wasn't strong enough. I didn't have what it took. Maybe she was already dead, I don't know. That's the problem. I'll never know. I'll have to wonder my whole life whether just a bit more courage, a bit more strength might have saved her life."
Pete's eyes held the compassion of shared experience.
"Yes, I do know how it feels to have to leave someone, and wonder. And I know how awful I felt afterwards, and how no one's words really made me feel any better. But I'm going to tell you what they told me then. And I know that what I'm saying is true."
Pete sat back and looked unwaveringly into his partner's eyes. Jim sat with his forearms folded on the table in front of him, awaiting his mentor's encouragement.
"You did the right thing, Jim. You were blacking out already. You know that if you had lost consciousness in there you never would have woken up again. So what more do you expect of yourself? A dead cop can't rescue anyone."
"This live cop couldn't rescue her either, Pete."
"We can't win them all, Jim, you know that. After all these years on the force, do I still have to tell you that?" Pete's tone was not unkind.
"I know the words, Pete, and I can nod my head and agree to them. But I just can't get those words to make any difference in how I feel. I know it's crazy, but it almost feels like it's better to die trying than to back out. I didn't give her my best effort, Pete."
Pete sighed and shook his head. He clearly had been over this road many times before with his sensitive younger partner.
"Of course you did, Jim. You always do. That's one reason why I know I'm telling the truth. If you were someone else, some rookie I didn't know, I might wonder whether you might have done more. But you never do anything halfway, Jim. You always do your best. You aren't capable of anything less. If you couldn't get to her, no one could have. And I mean that."
"Yeah, and like I said, I know that's true. In my head, anyway. What do I do about this stupid heart of mine that won't quit hurting about it? Every time I close my eyes I see her lying there."
"Jim, why do you suppose the fireman wouldn't let you go back in there?"
"Because he felt like I needed oxygen. He felt like it was more important to treat me than to rescue her. Why? Why is my life worth more?"
"Jim, when your heart gets hurt, your head turns off." Pete shook his head, but his tone softened his words. "That fireman wrestled you into oxygen not because he 'felt like' you needed it, but because in his professional judgment you did need it. And he wasn't the only fireman there. Another one could have gone in to attempt a rescue. None of them did. That's because their trained eyes could see that it was hopeless. They could see that the roof was about to collapse. That's why that fireman rushed you away as soon as he could. There was nothing any of them could do, and they know more about fire than you and I ever will. If they were sitting here, I know they'd agree with me. So stop torturing yourself."
Pete pushed back in his chair, tipping it a little onto its back legs.
"Besides, how much time passed between receiving the call and arriving at the scene?"
"About 5 minutes." Jim shrugged as if the point were meaningless.
"And how long were you in that bedroom before you had to get out?"
"Maybe two minutes. What's your point?" Jim appeared impatient with the turn the conversation had taken.
"Well, if you, a very healthy, athletic fellow in your twenties were nearly overcome after two minutes, what do you suppose are the odds that a frail, bedridden old woman was still alive after at least seven minutes?"
Jim reluctantly acknowledged the point with a nod.
"Besides," Pete continued, "That fire was probably burning for a while before anyone noticed it. She may already have been dead before the call even went out."
Pete leaned forward to emphasize his next point. "Jean doesn't deserve to be a widow because of your futile effort to save someone who was beyond help."
Jim hung his head, clearly stung by hearing "Jean" and "widow" in the same sentence. He shrugged, but not dismissively this time. His gesture seemed more like surrender.
"Yeah." Jim seemed irritated at himself for needing to be reminded about his wife. He picked up his pen and tapped it a few more times, fidgeting as if he were feeling more agitated than before Pete counseled him. Pete just sat quietly, watching his protege with gentle concern.
After a few moments Jim rose to his feet. Pete sat back with eyebrows raised questioningly, but he did not press for an explanation.
Jim started to look sheepish. "I want to go call Jean."
Pete smiled softly and nodded, but after Jim moved out of sight, Pete sighed and shook his head. He returned his full attention to his paperwork. The scene faded to black.
A woman appeared on the screen, proclaiming the virtues of Adorn Hair Spray. Candace Bailey sighed and shook her head, just as she had seen Pete do.
He really can't help it. He feels like he's obligated to save the world. I wonder if he even thought of Jean and Jimmy while he was trying to get back into that building.
Candace looked over at her daughter, reading every little nuance of her expression and posture.
She and Jim are still avoiding looking at each other.
Jim knows it.
And they're just going to do the same old dance again.
Candace felt a lead weight in her stomach. Two such wonderful people, with such a deep love for each other. Why does there have to be this one awful sword hanging over their heads?
Just then, Candace saw her daughter give a sidelong glance toward her husband. Jim seemed to sense it, and half-turned his head, cautiously, toward her. After a moment they looked full into each other's eyes, and the emotions that passed between them took Candace's breath away.
Fear. Love. Dread. Acceptance. Anger. Understanding. Both of them felt the same conflicting emotions, but from different points of view. Worlds apart.
And yet. . .and yet. . .
Something else passed between the young man and his wife. Something subtle, but it brought a flicker of a smile to Jim's lips. Jean looked away quickly, as if her own emotions became too much to bear.
Maybe I underestimated them. It almost looked like. . .like they planned to face this thing. Once they're alone together, that is.
Come to think of it, it's been a while since I got one of those tearful phone calls from Jean.
I wonder. . .
Candace felt a surge of hope, especially when she saw Jean turn moist eyes back to Jim. The love that passed between them could have been seen by a blind man.
Candace felt herself relaxing back into her chair, feasting her eyes on their love.
Oh yes. This is good.
Barbara Bailey stared admiringly at her brother-in-law and his partner. She felt a little jealous of her big sister's find. She'd felt that way since the day she first laid eyes on Jim. She would have been mortified for Jim to know it, but she had developed a real crush on him that day, and she had never really gotten over it.
And Pete. . .Pete was definitely too old, but she still felt drawn to him. So easy on the eyes, and so kind, and caring. And besides, he's a cop, so he's heroic, too. The way he saved Jim's life in that warehouse. . . .Oh, why can't I find a man like one of them? Where's my knight in shining armor?
Jean had often taken Barbara into her confidence, especially when Jim had been injured or in mortal danger. Barbara always tried to be supportive, but she could not for the life of her understand Jean's point of view.
I would gladly live with all that stuff, just for the privilege of having a hunky hero for a husband. She doesn't really appreciate what she's got. If I had a man like that, I'd never, ever complain about anything.
Several years separated Barbara and Jean. At just twenty-three, Barbara's starry-eyed view of the world persevered long after her sister had confronted cold reality. She was a pretty girl, no less so than Jean, but her idealistic hunt for "Mr. Right" made her snub several nice, decent young men.
Her thoughts turned to Darrin, a very likeable, bright, kind young man in her sophomore philosophy class. He had asked Barbara out repeatedly, and she had been willing to spend some time with him between classes.
He's nice and all, but, he's definitely not Jim. He's not athletic, not muscular, not heroic enough. Could I imagine him running into a burning building to save a damsel in distress?
No, I don't think so.
Just when did I know he wasn't for me? Barbara's mind instantly turned back to the day she'd watched him playing Frisbee with some friends. He wasn't very good at it, and at one point even sprawled flat on his face trying to catch a low one. Barbara remembered the sinking feeling in her heart. Too bad. I really kind of liked him. But he's not my Prince Charming.
If I can't find another Jim, I'll just be single.
Her heart skipped a beat as the show returned. Another chance to see Jim and Pete in action. Barbara felt guilty about her crush on her brother-in-law, and darted a quick glance at Jean. Her sister didn't seem to notice Barbara's admiration for Jim. Good.
After the requisite warnings, Carl Ray introduced the next segment.
"Of course, ladies and gentlemen, unlike in the police shows on TV, in real life the good guys don't always come out smelling like a rose. Our documentary wouldn't be realistic if we didn't show you the failures as well as the successes. So, we've put together this montage, just to give you a glimpse of the things that sometimes go wrong when you wear a badge."
The camera caught a purse-snatching outside the cruiser's window. The patrol car leapt into pursuit, siren blaring, but of course the suspect took off across an open field to avoid them. Pete brought the unit to a screeching halt, and Jim bailed out before it had fully stopped.
Watching Jim run was like watching poetry in motion. The man was built for speed. His ground-eating strides quickly closed the gap between himself and the suspect, and he angled in for the tackle as if he were wearing an LA Rams uniform instead of LAPD blue. The angle of view shifted rapidly, as Pete wheeled the cruiser into an intercept position in front of the suspect and then joined the foot pursuit. The snatcher's fate seemed certain. Jim leapt into the tackle as he'd done so many times, both on and off the football field.
But then, in a moment of desperation, the suspect put on an unexpected burst of speed. Jim's tackle fell short, and he was in a poor posture for softening his own fall. His graceful tackle became an embarrassing belly-flop onto the hard ground, but not before the fleeing suspect's heel caught him full in the chin. Jim's head snapped back just before his body crashed and skidded in the dirt. The suspect continued with only a slight stumble, but Jim lay sprawled, completely motionless, and completely undignified.
Pete took the suspect down with a tackle of his own, cuffed him, and hauled him at a run toward Jim's motionless form. Pete's worry was obvious on his face. A short distance from his fallen partner, Pete ordered the suspect face-down on the ground, and kept a close eye on him while checking on Jim. The camera closed in on the action.
Jim was unconscious. Out cold. Pete slapped lightly at his cheeks, calling his name, even making a quick check of his carotid pulse. After a few moments, Jim began to rouse.
"I can't believe it, partner! He K-O'd you!"
Jim just moaned in response, then made a wobbly, confused attempt to stand and continue his pursuit.
"Whoa, partner, it's a four." Pete smiled. He pulled his staggering partner back down, seated him safely on the ground, and examined the hard, red knot blooming on his jaw. Jim's head wobbled, and he looked ready to pass out again.
The scene changed. Pete and Jim warily approached a house, flanking the front door with guns drawn. After knocking and getting no response, Pete drew back a foot and gave a mighty kick to the door.
The door didn't budge. Pete obviously had counted on a much different outcome, and the unexpected rebound knocked him backwards. His head cracked against the concrete slab of the carport, and he grunted. Jim dropped quickly to check on Pete, but the downed man waved him off. A crashing sound from the back of the house told of breaking windows and escaping suspects. Jim took off at a hard run, but returned empty handed not long after.
Pete still sat on the slab, shaking his head to clear his mind. Both men looked rather sheepish, though Jim's face also registered some worry for his partner.
"I never got a visual. Don't know which way they went. I'd better go call this in." As he disappeared from the camera's view, his voice still came through plainly. "Great, just great! Broadcasting about unknown suspects running in an unknown direction wearing unknown clothing. . . ." His muttering faded into the distance.
"This is not going to play well with the brass," Pete informed the camera, managing a little humor through his pain.
Another scene, another day, yet another foot pursuit. Jim chased a man through a small pasture, dodging the occasional horse as he ran. He gained ground on the suspect steadily, and it looked like he'd get his man for sure. But then the suspect leaned down, scooped up something moist and brown, and flung it at Jim. The officer dodged, but still caught some of it with the left side of his face. He threw his arms up to wipe the offending mess away, but then his foot slid in another pile of muck. Jim slipped and landed ungraciously on his backside, sitting, of course, in more of the nasty, fresh manure. He scrambled to his feet, but by now the suspect was well ahead.
The fleeing fellow seemed to know his way around farms, because he quite handily squeezed himself between two strands of barbed wire fence without slowing much at all. Jim took the hazardous route a little more slowly, and ran on as fast as he could, but the suspect disappeared into a small wooded area.
The camera caught Adam-12 wailing its way around the woods, safely on dry asphalt, to intercept the suspect on the other side. It returned a while later, suspect safely in custody. Pete opened his door and stood up. He stayed in the car's doorway, watching Jim's approach with ever increasing amusement.
Jim bore no resemblance to the heroic white knight of his sister-in-law's dreams. His hair and face were smeared with muck, as were his hands from trying to clean himself off. His trousers looked even worse, and his posture looked profoundly dejected.
"Hey, Jim," Pete managed to choke out, "that isn't dirt, is it?" He barely contained his laughter as his partner shot him a murderous glare.
Jim started to pull the cruiser's door open when Pete stopped him.
"Uh-uh, partner. No you don't!"
"What?" Jim shot back, his tone irritable and tired.
Pete's look of amusement was almost, but not completely, replaced by one of distaste.
"I don't know if you've noticed it or not, but you stink!" The last word seemed to strike Pete's funny bone, and he chuckled even harder. His eyes took on that irresistible twinkle that could so often lift Jim's spirits.
Not this time. Jim was in no mood, especially since his own dignity, or lack thereof, caused his partner's mirth.
"That's easily said by the wimp who stayed on his backside in the nice, clean cruiser and drove on nice, clean roads while making his partner do all the dirty work." Jim's tone was half angry, half pouting. He yanked the door open and dropped himself vengefully into the backseat.
"If I've got to wear this crap, the least you can do is enjoy the smell." The censors bleeped the mild expletive, but the word showed up clearly on his lips.
Jim turned his face toward the window, now captured on television in a full-blown pout.
"Get a good picture of that," Pete joked to the camera. "He looks exactly like his three-year-old son when he sulks like that."
Jim's pout turned immediately to embarrassment, and he kept his face turned away from the camera for the rest of the scene. Something about his tightly folded arms spelled out trouble for Pete, too.
Another commercial break arrived. Barbara looked at her sister and brother-in-law, feeling awkward and childish somehow.
Jim was acting like a jerk. He does pout like a little kid sometimes. And he slipped and fell on his butt in a pile of horse manure? Had it all over his face? Got knocked cold when he missed a tackle?
And what about Pete? I've never seen a cop on TV who couldn't kick a door down. It was humiliating!
Barbara felt strangely angered, as if her heroes had proven themselves liars. But, for all her starry-eyed immaturity, Barbara was not a child anymore. New thoughts and new insights began to occur to her.
Jean's not embarrassed. Why not? How can she watch her husband make a fool of himself and not be embarrassed?
Even Jim and Pete can laugh about the whole thing. How can they stand it?
Barbara's thoughts wandered back to something Jean had said to her long ago.
"There are no perfect people," she said. "Even the greatest guys have their faults. You're too picky, Babsy." That's what she told me. I thought she was being ridiculous.
Does Jean love him the same, even though he's not a storybook hero?
Storybooks are for little kids.
Barbara felt foolish. Maybe I need to grow up.
And maybe I need to give Darrin another chance. . . .
Judy Montgomery saw only one face in the crowded room. Pete had taken her breath away the first time she ever saw his impish grin, and she still found it hard to take her eyes off of him.
But her feelings were much deeper now than that initial attraction. She found Pete to be a man of sterling character, tender and yet strong, wise without being condescending. He shared his heart freely with her, even when the discomfort of it made him squirm. And when he took her in his arms. . . .
Judy had no doubt that she loved Pete Malloy. And she felt pretty certain that he loved her, too. But he had never asked The Question, and she was glad.
Is love enough? Am I really ready to say "I do" to this life?
She looked at Jean, a woman who was living with realities that Judy could only imagine. All throughout the show, Judy had kept an eye on Jean. She had watched her friend's face fill with pride and with fear, anger and tears, love and sorrow.
Life with a cop is an emotional roller coaster. And you either have to endure the ride all the way until retirement, or. . . .
. . . .or they never make it to retirement.
Could I bear to say goodbye to Pete that way? In a coffin? Wouldn't it be easier just to say goodbye now, get the tears out of my system, and go on without him? I could tell myself that he's okay, and be happy believing that, and never know if something bad happened to him.
She felt her eyes misting over at the thought.
Judy, who are you kidding?
Why do I have to love him so much? That's what has Jean trapped too. She loves Jim too much to say goodbye, so she has to live with the fear.
Is it worth it? If he asks me The Question, what will I say?
Judy yanked her thoughts back from the depths when she saw Pete stand and move toward her. His handsome features shone with concern, and he knelt beside her, taking one of her hands in his.
"Are you okay with this? We don't have to watch, you know." Pete kept his voice low, for her ears only. His eyes seemed to swallow her up, and the lump in her throat grew until it hurt. Judy had to look away.
"No, Pete, I'm okay," she heard herself say, though she scarcely knew why she said it. A quick glance back into Pete's eyes told her that he wasn't fooled for an instant.
She leaned forward and kissed him briefly, all too aware of the sound to the show's return. "I have to look at the truth, Pete. I have to figure out how I feel about it." Her whisper was barely audible, even to him.
Pete's eyes filled with that look, the one that nearly broke her heart whenever she saw it. He was afraid, but he would be patient. He wouldn't push. The decision was hers. After one last lingering look into her eyes, he turned and sat on the floor right in front of her feet.
Thanks for staying near me. She laid a hand briefly on his shoulder.
Judy became aware again of the others in the room. Most of them politely ignored their intimate moment. Jim, however, gave Pete a meaningful look, like a man who understands. And Jean turned the same expression toward her.
Judy hardly knew what to do with her feelings.
That sums Pete up. He loves me, but he won't push me. He's afraid, and he won't hide it, but he's still so strong and gentle in the face of it.
Oh, why do you have to be so wonderful?
She turned her eyes reluctantly back to the television. Her stomach tightened as the written notice promised more mayhem.
The warning faded away. Carl Ray spoke up from inside the cruiser.
"We're headed for a narco raid. That's cop lingo for busting up a drug scene. We've been sitting here on stakeout for a while, and we've seen quite a few hype-lookin' types go in and come out. Officer Malloy here is coordinating the stakeout. Pete, what are we waiting for?"
Pete replied without turning his attention away from the drug house. "The law has very high standards for PC. That's Probable Cause. It means that we have to have a really good, iron-clad reason to go busting into private property. That's to protect the citizens' constitutional rights." He squinted a little against the sun.
"Waiting for it also protects us, because if we go charging in there without PC, the case will be thrown out of court, and our efforts will have been for nothing."
"What more PC do you need? I'm just an average citizen, but it sure looks to me like they're selling drugs in there."
"We're hoping to spot a known hype going in there. There are also a few technicalities. . . wait a minute. . . ." Pete whipped his field glasses up to his eyes for a closer look. His posture straightened as his scrutiny became intense.
"Whatcha got, Pete?" Jim seemed to be searching for whatever had caught his partner's eye.
"PC on a silver platter, if I'm right."
"Yeah, I see it now."
"What is it?" Ray sounded lost.
"You might not be able to see it because of the bushes, but that guy that just left went around the corner of the building. He was rolling up his sleeve as he went. I think he's preparing to shoot up."
"Shouldn't we move in?" Ray sounded eager now.
"Patience. 36 is down there, and they've got a clearer view of the suspect than we do. If he starts using something, they'll holler."
The radio broke into their conversation. "Adam-36 to Adam-12, we've got a guy shooting up!"
Pete grabbed the mic. "CP to all units, move in! Repeat, move in!" Pete obeyed his own order even as he barked into the radio. He cranked the engine and floored it hard. Units sprang from several hiding places, all converging on the house in question. Hypes began jumping through the windows and fleeing in all directions.
Pete and Jim leapt out of the car, followed closely by Carl Ray. Pete shouldered his command role with effortless decisiveness. He shouted and gestured orders to the men under his authority, dividing up his resources with a trained eye. Several officers, including Jim, took off in foot pursuit, while Pete and some others stormed the house. The camera followed closely behind Pete.
Malloy found himself instantly in a scuffle with a long-haired, bearded man. The other officers gave him no assistance, as they each took on suspects of their own.
Pete was at a disadvantage when it came to height, but the hype was skinny and wasted. The match would have been an easy one for Pete, if his opponent weren't high. People on drugs sometimes had unbelievable strength, and Pete found himself fighting hard and long.
The druggie seemed to have a hundred arms. Every attempt to pin him only left Pete with a handful of nothing. Slippery as an eel, the suspect squirmed free and landed blows or kicks every few moments. He worked under none of the ethical constraints that held Pete back, and so he appeared for a while to have the better of him.
But Pete was no rookie, and no weakling either. He fought with quiet, bulldog determination, and eventually found his moment. He forced the suspect's arms back, and at the same time used his leg to sweep the suspect's feet out from under him. The hype smashed helplessly onto a sofa, face down, and Pete snapped his handcuffs on with satisfied finality.
Huffing slightly, Pete took a rapid survey of the room. His colleagues appeared to be faring even worse than Pete had. None of them had succeeded in subduing their suspects, and Jerry Woods in particular seemed about to be overwhelmed. Pete hurriedly pulled his own suspect up, hauled him to the stairs, and re-cuffed him to the banister. He then leaped in to assist Woods.
With two officers wrestling him down, the hype re-doubled his already frantic efforts. His arms and legs flailed wildly, and both Malloy and Woods took a beating. But technique triumphed over brute strength, and the two officers brought their man under control fairly quickly. Pete turned for a quick look at his other colleague, and relaxed a bit when he saw Roberts securing his own suspect at last.
The three officers straightened up, for the first time letting their own soreness and fatigue show a bit. Pete gave himself only an instant, though.
"Roberts, keep the lid on this can. Woods and I will search the rest of the house." The junior officer nodded, and the camera followed Pete as the search began.
Pete moved toward the left, and Woods took the cue and moved right. Both men held revolvers at ready.
One of the handcuffed suspects began yelling. "Hey, there ain't nobody back there! I said, don't go back there!"
Pete and Jerry exchanged looks, and their spines stiffened a bit more. Their thoughts were clear on their faces. Somebody must be back there. Or else something they don't want us to see.
Pete checked a bedroom, but found no one. As he returned to the hallway he met up with Woods, whose search of another bedroom also found no one. Neither man spoke.
Pete cautiously pushed open another door, as Woods did the same across the hall. Pete's door opened into a bathroom, and after a second Pete yelled urgently.
"Jerry, in here!"
The camera moved back to make room for the other officer, then tried to squeeze in to see what Pete had found.
"I'll call an ambulance," Jerry said, and ran out to his unit.
With more room now, the camera moved in closer. Pete knelt beside a bedraggled form. A young woman, probably in her early twenties, lay senseless on the floor. Beside her, an assortment of pills lay scattered about, and several dirty needles bore testimony to the cause of the woman's collapse.
The woman may once have been beautiful, but it was hard to tell now. Her hair could not have been combed in weeks, and the filth on her body made it unlikely that she had bathed any more recently than that. Her bones protruded from malnutrition. Worse, she now lay in a pool of vomit, the right side of her face submerged in it. Her face wore a ghastly shade of blue, and her breaths came shallow and ragged.
Pete gently reached down into the putrid mess and lifted her head out of it. There was no clean place he could put it on the floor, at least not that he could reach. So he cradled her filthy head on his knee, tender despite. . . .everything.
All together, it proved an overwhelming sight, and the pain of it shone in Pete's eyes when he turned to the camera.
"Whenever anyone tells you that drug use is a victimless crime, you be sure to tell them about her." Pete's eyes held fire, and he spoke with a clenched jaw. "I see at least one like this every week. Each of those men out there does as well."
A choking, shuddering gasp pulled Pete's attention back to the pitiful, half-starved creature at his knee. The woman stiffened convulsively, frothed a little at the mouth, and then fell limp. Her breathing stopped, and Pete pressed his fingers against her throat in search of a pulse. After a moment he removed his fingers slowly, sadly. He placed her head back on the floor, because he had other duties now.
Pete began to gently search the body for some sort of identification.
"Sometimes I can find next of kin, and sometimes I can't. When I can, I have to go tell heartbroken parents about their son or daughter. The circle of victims only widens. Often, when it's a girl like this, I'll find out there's a baby somewhere, lying alone and neglected, filthy and screaming, uncared for because of this 'victimless crime.'" Pete's search came up empty, and he turned angry eyes back to the camera.
"Nothing. No ID. No name. We may never find out who she was. She may be buried in an unmarked grave somewhere without anyone to mourn her passing. She had no name to her pusher either, probably. He didn't care about her. He only cared about the money she brought him. If drugs are the favorite pastime of this 'love culture', why does the love get more scarce when the drugs flow more freely?"
Pete jerked a thumb toward the handcuffed men in the living room. "Did you hear him? He said there was nobody back here. That's what she is to him. A nobody. He knew she was here, and he didn't want us to find her. Why? Because he would rather she died in a pool of vomit, alone in this bathroom. If we didn't find her, we couldn't blame him for what happened to her. How's that for 'Peace, Love, and Harmony?'"
In the background, a siren signaled the approaching ambulance. But Pete wasn't through with his litany just yet.
"Who had to come hold this woman's head so that her last breath wouldn't be taken in her own vomit? Was it one of her enlightened, flower-power friends? The ones who bailed out as soon as trouble appeared? No, I'll tell you who it always is. It's the Gestapo Pigs, that's who. I've never met a pusher yet who cared half as much about his victims as we do." Pete's chest heaved with the power of his emotions.
"Excuse us." Two ambulance attendants pushed their way past the reporter. Jim appeared behind them.
"No hurry, gentlemen." Pete rose, his bitter tone betraying his disgust with the whole situation.
Jim took in the dreadful scene with a quick, sweeping glance, and his eyes filled with sorrow as well. But he had duties to perform, and he kept his feelings where they belonged.
"We're all back and accounted for, three suspects in custody. No major injuries." Jim moved aside to allow the attendants to carry their sad burden away.
Pete nodded and brushed past Jim as well. Jim watched his partner with concern in his eyes. He could clearly see that this one had gotten to his friend. After a moment he turned toward Ray, allowing an expression of regret to cross his features for a moment. Then he followed his colleague out.
Ray stayed behind. He let his camera take a long, slow pan of the bathroom. Silently he zoomed in on the needles, the pills, the vomit. After a long silence, he spoke in hushed tones.
"Death is ugly. I had never actually seen the moment of death before. It seems obscene that it should have happened here, like this. What an epitaph for a wasted life. I hardly have words for this."
The reporter did something he rarely did. He turned the camera on himself, and let his own emotions show clearly to his audience.
"I really don't know what to say. I've always kind of wondered why the law made such a fuss over drug use. I confess, my sympathies lay more with the hippies on that issue. What was the harm?" Ray's face twisted with pain as he again surveyed the room.
"I hope you're allowed to see this. I hope the editors don't decide it's too graphic. And I hope lots of hippies are watching." Ray seemed to struggle with his own feelings for a few moments.
"Pete asked some questions that we all need to answer." His words were now so hushed, it was clear he was mostly talking to himself.
He turned his eyes back to the camera. His expression became one of shocked amazement. "Pete sees at least one like this every week? And each of the other officers does as well?" Ray's voice choked up.
"I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but I'm finding it hard to be objective here. Forgive me." He shook his head, clearly overwhelmed by what he had witnessed. The camera turned away, and then went black.
The Reed living room remained silent after the commercial break began. The moment was too powerful to disturb with words.
Judy felt lost in shock and pain. She, too, had never seen someone die before her eyes. The sight shook her deeply.
After long moments of reflection, Judy turned her eyes toward Pete. She found him already looking intently at her, a question clear on his face. Do you understand?
She leaned forward with her elbows on her knees and her chin on her hands.
"How do you do it?" she whispered. "How do you face this stuff, day in and day out, and still come home and treat me so. . .selflessly?"
Pete smiled, his eyes full and bright. He dipped his head modestly at her praise, and flushed just a little before looking back at Judy. "Because if there's one thing this job has taught me, it's that the only hope we have is love, kindness, goodness. The Golden Rule. It's what the hippies are looking for, too, but they're looking where they'll never find it."
He looked deeply into her eyes, and let his original question come to the surface again.
Do you understand?
Judy felt her breath come short. For once I understand why. Now I can't figure out how. How you do it every day and keep your sanity.
She glanced up at Jean, who snuggled closely with Jim and seemed lost in thought.
Just like I can't figure out how she does it.
Judy turned her eyes back to Pete, who still waited patiently, expectantly. She reached out and laid a hand on his cheek, her eyes misting over.
"If you can face all of that every day, the least I can do is be there for you when the day is through." I'll find a way, somehow.
Pete snuggled close, laying his cheek against hers, ignoring the others in the room.
"Is that where you want to be?" His question came soft as a breath in Judy's ear.
Judy's heart pounded. Is this The Question? She couldn't be sure.
"All I know," she began, barely hearing herself over the pounding in her ears, "all I know is that I can't imagine my life without you." She lifted her face to look back into his eyes, but kept her whisper feather-soft. "I don't know how to face some of these things, but I'd rather learn how by your side, than walk away and never face them at all."
She swallowed the lump in her throat. "I love you, Pete Malloy."
This time his eyes misted, too.
The blaring music of the returning documentary broke in like an unwelcome intruder. Pete's eyes looked regretful, but also held the promise of more heart-to-heart talking once they were alone. He turned and sat back on the floor to watch some more.
Judy doubted she would hear anything on the Television. Her pulse raced, and her thoughts whirled even faster.
What have I just done?
Dan Reed sat quietly in his chair. Unlike the others, he had stayed quiet throughout the show. That was just his style. He stayed in the background sometimes, but not out of shyness. Dan was a deep thinker, and right now he had a lot to process.
I've always been so proud of Jim. I've always known that he was a man of character and strength. I always knew he'd turn out well. But I have to admit, I wasn't prepared to see what his job is really like. All the tragedy he's dealt with in just one week. . .it's overwhelming. There's more to Jim, and to Pete, than even I realized.
Dan's respect for Jim's partner had grown a great deal during the course of the evening. Oh, he had always liked and looked up to Pete. But he only seemed to meet him at times of tragedy and stress, when Jim was hospitalized. He had appreciated Pete's caring and concern, but naturally his thoughts had turned mostly toward his son.
Now he had a better idea of the man, and he liked what he saw.
But Jim. . . .
Jim swelled Dan's heart with fatherly pride. Not arrogance, but gratitude and love.
I don't know what we did right, but just look at him!
Dan turned his attention back to the television when he heard the show resume.
Carl Ray introduced the new segment.
"Ladies and gentlemen, as you are surely aware, I have shown you but a small portion of the officers' week. Much of the time, their work isn't as dramatic as the scenes you've seen here. I want to show you a montage of what the officers consider 'routine patrol work '. The reason we saved this segment for last is because, frankly, I wanted you to get to know and appreciate these officers before seeing this part of the show. I want you to understand the context in which the next events would have occurred. These scenes were filmed on the same days as the dramas you've just been watching. Put yourselves in these officers' emotional shoes, and then come along and experience their 'life as usual.'"
The inside of the patrol car appeared, with the now familiar view of the backs of the officers' heads. The men were quietly discussing their wounded friend, when in front of them, a car cut off another with nearly disastrous consequences.
"Nice move," Pete said tightly, and flipped on the lights. The offending car pulled over with an angry screech of brakes. Jim called in the code 6 and ran the plate while Pete got out and strode toward the car. Suddenly the car door flew open, and the driver jumped out with angry gestures and shouts.
Pete flinched and reached for his gun, but did not draw it. Off to the side, Jim jumped to his feet and drew his weapon, though he kept it pointed down.
"Hold it, mister." Pete's voice was firm, and he kept his hand on the butt of his gun. "Calm down or you're going to find yourself in handcuffs."
"Oh, that's just like you Gestapo, isn't it! You love nothing better than pushing innocent citizens around. You're nothing but a bunch of bullies, and we're supposed to respect and obey you just because of your shiny badge? Come on and rough me up, cop. Come on! It's what you want to do, isn't it?" The man gestured toward Pete, beckoning for a fight.
Pete had relaxed marginally.
"I don't want to rough anyone up, Mister. . .?"
"Oh, sure you don't."
"I need to see your license please."
"What for?" The motorist spat on the ground with rage.
"Just give me the license, please."
"Hmph. I thought only communist countries required people to show their papers to drive around town. You'd feel right at home in Moscow, wouldn't you, pig?"
Pete's face wore only a slightly amused expression. Jim continued to show mild concern about his partner's safety, but had holstered his gun. His face, too, held no anger at this verbal assault. A moment later he cocked his ear toward the radio, listening to the DMV report. He acknowledged the call, then approached Pete and the irate motorist.
"The car's clean," he reported. He waited until Pete held the man's license in his hand, and then continued. " It's registered to a Geoffrey Powell, Santa Monica."
"That checks with the license," Pete commented. He spoke again to the driver. "Mr. Powell, we didn't pull you over to give you permission to drive around town, and we didn't pull you over out of some strange desire to rough people up. We pulled you over because you cut off another motorist and almost caused a bad accident."
"That was nothing! You're harassing me about that?"
"It was only 'nothing' because you got lucky, Mr. Powell. I've seen lesser offenses kill people. I'm going to have to write you a ticket."
With that, Mr. Powell became outraged. He screamed epithets that earned him a multitude of bleeps, stamped his feet, spat, and nearly danced with rage. Through it all, the officers watched him with quiet dignity.
Another scene. Jim approached a car with a lovely young lady behind the wheel. She stepped out as Jim approached. The woman wore white fur and a tight mini-skirt. She looked Jim over with obvious admiration.
"Ma'am, can I see your license please?"
"Certainly, Officer." She batted her eyelashes, and made the word "Officer" sound positively seductive.
"Is this your correct address, Miss Wilkinson?" Jim asked, with the softest note of mild irritation in his voice.
"It sure is." She worked her eyelashes again, and made her voice even more alluring. "Wanna come over some time?" Her neckline plunged low, and she positioned herself to show off her assets to best advantage.
"No ma'am, I don't," Jim said firmly, keeping his eyes above her chin. "What I am going to do is give you a ticket for speeding. You were doing 45 in a 30 mph zone. Would you come over to the sidewalk, please?" Jim escorted her out of the road and began to write her up.
The seductress disappeared, and the angry witch took her place.
"You listen here, mister. I know my rights. My father is a personal friend of the Police Commissioner."
Jim appeared to tune out her tirade, and wrote the ticket unperturbed.
"There you are, Miss Wilkinson. If you would just sign here, it is not an admission of guilt, but just your agreement to appear in court."
"If you don't rip up that ticket right now, I'm going to call your supervisor and tell him you made indecent advances toward me! I'm going to tell him that you tried to. . .to touch me! Your face will be all over the papers this evening. What do you think of that?"
Jim gestured toward her with the pen again. "Just sign, please."
Miss Wilkinson rolled her eyes and accepted the pen and pad. "You'll regret this. You can't go pushing people around like this."
Jim reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out his card. He scribbled something on it and handed it to the young woman.
"Here's my card with my name and badge number on it. I've written my supervisor's name and phone number on it as well. If you have any complaints about my conduct, feel free to give him a call."
Miss Wilkinson rolled her eyes again, and threw the card disdainfully at Jim's feet. "Pig!" she spat, and flounced back to her car.
A flurry of images now. Pete taking a kick in the shin from a female motorist. Jim and Pete both, in scene after scene, listening to taunts, screams, insults, jeers, accusations, and threats. Motorists' faces twisted and contorted with burning hatred. The sheer volume of the abuse became overwhelming, even from the safe distance of the Reeds' living room sofa.
Through it all, the two officers performed their duty with quiet professionalism.
And then, as if to accentuate the unfairness of it all, the audio track continue to play the record of abuses, but different images began to appear. Jim cradled the abandoned baby while shouts of "Pig" echoed. Pete saved Jim from a murderous attack, while someone raged on about the Gestapo. Campbell's ashen face and bloody form lay on the ground, while someone threatened to "make you pigs pay." Pete ran into a burning house and pulled out a victim, while someone stormed, "I'll have your badge, you worthless bleepity bleep!" Jim disappeared into a smoke-filled room, while someone screamed "You're not worth the pig slop you roll in."
The angry voices faded into the background, replaced by a recent top-40 hit, "One Toke Over the Line." Pete lifted the dying woman's head out of the filth, then turned pain-filled eyes to the camera. The image froze, then faded dramatically to black.
Carl Ray's face re-appeared. He looked somber.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, this concludes our documentary. I'm sure I don't need to tell you my opinion of these officers. I started out deliberately unbiased, as I stated. But now I can state with utter conviction that the officers I rode with truly are Los Angeles' Finest. And from what I saw of their colleagues, they too are worthy of that title.
"No one denies that the occasional bad cop turns up somewhere. No one denies that even good cops make mistakes. But before you rush to judgment, before you quickly believe every bad thing you hear about law enforcement, I hope you remember this story, and these good men. And the next time someone in blue pulls you over, think twice about what you say. The man may have just saved someone's life, or watched helplessly while someone died, or nearly been killed himself. Or all three.
"And maybe, just maybe, you did deserve that ticket.
"I'm Carl Ray. Goodnight."
The picture faded out. Another inane commercial came on, jarring in its triviality. Pete leaned forward and snapped off the set. Silence settled over the living room.
Dan Reed closed his eyes, reliving the powerful scenes he'd just witnessed. In a way, that final segment affected him more profoundly than the others.
Jim is someone I'm proud to know. I'd feel that way even if he weren't my son. And Pete is as fine as they come, too.
How does it feel to know that you're doing your best, and get treated like dirt all the time?
It's so hard to know he's facing that every day. He's still my little boy, no matter how grown up he is. I still can see the tears on his cheeks when the other first-graders called him "string bean." I can still hear his heartbreak when he wore his new cowboy boots to school and the bully beat him up and took them away. Back then I could help make the hurt go away. But now, what can I do?
Dan opened his eyes and looked again at his son. After a moment he went over to sit beside Jim, and waited quietly for his turn to talk to him. When the others had finished sharing their hearts with Pete and Jim, the latter turned to his father with expectant eyes.
Dan's heart filled. He and Jim always connected. He could always reach his son's heart, even back during those turbulent teen years. May we always be this close.
Dan reached out and put a hand on his son's shoulder. He looked intently at his son, wanting his face to fill in where his words were inadequate.
"I'm proud of you, Son. I am so proud of you. And I love you."
Jim's eyes brimmed with feeling, and he seemed unable to find a response. That was perfectly okay with Dan. Some things are way too deep for words, anyway.
He patted Jim's shoulder and rose to leave.
LA doesn't deserve you, son.
Jim stood in his doorway, waving as his family members pulled away. His eyes spotted something in a secluded part of his yard, and he squinted for a better look. A slow smile spread across his face, and he turned away.
"Whatcha smiling about?" Jean asked, slipping an arm around his waist. Jim wordlessly pointed at the scene in their yard. Pete and Judy stood wrapped in each others' arms, sharing snuggles and kisses and, apparently, soft words as well. Jean smiled, and they left the doorway to give their friends some privacy. Jim closed the door behind them.
"What do you think? Will Pete ever ask her? And if he does, will she say yes?" Jean couldn't contain her matchmaking urges.
Jim looked meaningfully into her eyes. "Would you want her to?"
"What do you mean? Judy and Pete are perfect for each other!" Jean almost scolded him for his foolish question.
"Would you want Judy to join the ranks of anxious police wives?" Jim asked, his tone betraying his own anxiety. Jean searched Jim's eyes for the question behind the question.
He wants to know if I think being a police wife is worth it. . . .
Jean considered her answer carefully.
"She already loves him, and she already worries about him. Two such wonderful people, so in love with each other, ought to be married. I wouldn't wish my worries on anyone, but since she's already got them, well, I can certainly wish her the happiness of a wonderful marriage."
Jim lowered his face toward hers as if to kiss her, but then stopped, tantalizingly close.
"So, I'm not going to regret this documentary for the rest of my life?" His voice sounded a little worried, but also a little bit playful.
He's pretty sure I'm not mad, but just in case I am, he's going to be irresistible. . . .
She held back, enjoying raising his suspense. He moved coyly closer, teasing her with near-kisses. She knew he recognized the game she was playing, and he was thoroughly enjoying winning her surrender.
Finally she raised her eyes to his, losing herself in their blue depths.
"No, you won't regret it."
She met him halfway, and poured her whole heart into their kiss. She knew how to take his breath away, and wasted no time doing so. Before long he was working his way down her neck, his whole body asking another unspoken question.
This time she didn't need to look in his eyes to know what it was.
Jean closed her eyes and smiled. She knew how to say "yes" without words, too.
Oh yes, Jim, it's definitely worth it.
Thanks to K. F. Garrison and C. E. Fox for their proof reading. Thanks to my husband John, who invented the word "Vomitberry." And finally, thanks to my three sons, without whom there would have been no need to invent such a word.