A Closet Full of Memories -- Part 4
Jim Reed stood at the foot of his bed and stared at the items laying on it. He took a mental inventory of everything he saw.
Okay, extra underwear and t-shirt. Check. Two extra pair socks. Check. Shoes, shined. Check. One extra tie. Check. Hat, shiny brim. Check. He turned to the closet door and catalogued what he saw there. Two uniforms, pants and shirts. Check. Okay, all the clothing seems all right. My briefcase is here, with pens, pencils, a notepad Helmet case, with helmet. Check. Now for the hardware. Jim opened the well-worn sports bag that held more supplies and rummaged through it. Service revolver, clean. Check. Extra ammo. Check. Baton, handcuffs, flashlight with extra batteries…
"It's all there, Jim. Just like it was there five minutes ago when you checked it."
Jim looked up when his wife's voice sounded from the doorway. "I'm just making sure, Jean. I don't want to forget anything on my first day."
"You haven't forgotten anything, honey," Jean smiled, then walked over to him and put her arms around his waist. Jim reciprocated and pulled her close. "Are you scared?"
"Scared? Nah." Jim said. "What's to be scared of?"
"Plenty, from what I read in the papers," Jean said. She looked up into Jim's eyes.
Jim met her gaze and saw the worry in her dark eyes. He leaned down and kissed her on the forehead, then smiled at her. "Don't worry, honey. Most police officers go their whole careers without even having to draw their guns, let alone fire them." He'd told her that many times over the past few months he'd been in the police academy, but he figured one more time wouldn't hurt.
"Those policemen must not work in Los Angeles." Jean scowled, obviously unhappy at Jim's attempt to alleviate her fears.
"It'll be all right, honey." Jim squeezed her tighter. "Hey, it won't be much longer when I won't be able to hug you this close."
"That's several months away, silly," Jean said. She moved away from Jim's embrace and put her hand on her still-flat belly. "See, still flat."
Jim placed his hand over hers and pressed it gently. "For now. But I can't wait until it's not." Jim leaned down and put his face close to her stomach. "Hey, you in there! Time for you to grow! This is your Daddy talkin' to you, son. Hurry up!"
Jean laughed and pushed Jim's head away. "Jim, you're so crazy! You don't know if it's a boy or a girl."
"Sure I do. It's a boy. It has to be a boy." Jim pulled his wife close again.
"And why does it have to be a boy?"
"Because that's the way I ordered it up," Jim said. "A boy first. And then a girl, and then another boy. After that, it doesn't matter."
"My goodness, Jim, are you still set on having that many kids?"
"As many as you're willing to have and we can afford." Jim leaned down and kissed his wife.
When they ended their kiss, Jean sighed and lay her head on Jim's chest. "I think three sounds like a good number," she said. "But I can't guarantee the order. That's your department, if I remember my high school biology correctly."
Jim grinned. "Then we'll be all right, because I've got it under control."
Jean swatted at him playfully. "You're terrible. And you completely changed the subject, by the way. I was trying to be serious."
"Honey, don't worry," Jim said. He stroked her long, silky hair to help reassure her. "It's not like I'll be riding by myself. They'll assign me a partner. And he'll take care of me and teach me everything I need to know."
"I hope they give you a good one," Jean fretted, rubbing Jim's back. "One with a lot of experience."
"I'm sure I'll get a great one," Jim said, though Jean had voiced one of Jim's deep fears. He worried more about who he'd draw as his first partner - his training officer -- more than he worried about anything related to the job. He'd heard stories in academy, gossip and hearsay mostly, about bad partners and the nightmare situations that resulted from a lousy pairing.
"I sure hope so," Jean repeated. She pushed away from Jim and smiled. "The reason I came back here is to tell you that lunch is ready. I can't send you off to work on an empty stomach."
"I think I'm too excited to eat," Jim said.
"That'll be the day," Jean laughed. She took Jim by the hand and gently tugged him toward the door. "Come on. I've got a grilled cheese sandwich and a hot bowl of tomato soup waiting on you."
"How can I turn that down?"
"Since you never turn down food, I'd have no idea," Jean laughed.
Jim let Jean lead him to the kitchen table, where he sat down as she served him up some soup and a warm grilled cheese sandwich. But what he'd told her about eating was true - Jim couldn't take his mind off what he faced later that day, and those thoughts dulled his appetite. He'd been waiting for over five years to put on that blue uniform, ever since he'd finally made up his mind that he truly wanted to be a police officer during his senior year of high school. Now that the day had arrived, the anticipation - both excited and nervous - had built to a nearly unbearable level for Jim.
I can't believe today's the day. I made it. All the studying, the working out, the shooting practice…working late hours to keep our heads above water financially…it's all worth it now. Jim took a bite of his sandwich and a gulp of milk to wash it down, but even that small amount weighed heavily on his stomach. It doesn't even taste good to me. But I have to eat, though, because who knows if I'll get to eat during the shift. Sometimes I hear that you don't get your 'seven.' 'Seven.' That sounds so weird. But I guess I'd better get used to it. What if I forget all the radio codes? And the alphabet? Let's see…Adam, Baker, Charles, David, Edward…
"Jim? Did you hear me?"
Jim looked up from his bowl of soup, where he'd been visualizing the radio alphabet. "Uhhh, no, I'm sorry, honey."
"You're more nervous than you let on," Jean accused. She lay a hand lightly on Jim's arm.
"No, no, I'm not nervous," Jim said. "I was just wondering what it'll be like."
Jean smiled at him. "You're going to love it. I know it's going to be right up your alley."
"I think so, too." Jim covered Jean's hand with one of his own. "Now, what did you say that I missed?"
"Only that I wish Bill was starting today, too. I'd feel better knowing he was around."
"We'd probably only see each other at roll call," Jim said. He would have liked for his buddy, Bill Stenzler, to have started his career today as well, but Bill had opted to delay his start date one week so he could attend his brother's out-of-town wedding. Heck, I should just be glad that we got in the same division. We both got our first choices, which was really lucky. Now, if we can just share the same shift.
"Too bad you can't partner with him."
Jim laughed. "Two rookies together wouldn't be a very good idea. Talk about the blind leading the blind."
"Maybe in the future, though. After you're - what do you call it? Broken in?"
Jim nodded. "That's the term. And that might be a possibility on down the road. That'd be fun. It'd be nice having a partner that's your really good friend, too." Jim had met Bill during his senior year of college, during a career fair on campus where they'd both been talking to the recruiter manning the LAPD booth. They'd become good friends, fast, and Jean and Bill's wife Beth, had become almost inseparable.
"And you'd watch each other's back, too."
That's the real reason she wishes Bill was starting today. She's so worried. But I just don't know how to make her feel at ease. "Well, that's going to happen no matter who I'm partnered with. Don't you worry about that."
Jean bit her lip and sat silent for a moment, then said, "You do promise you'll be careful, won't you?"
"Cross my heart," Jim said, making the accompanying sign over his chest. He'd lost count of how many times he'd promised her that in the past few months.
"Well," Jean sighed and squeezed his arm, giving him a tight smile. "You finish eating. You'll have to leave soon."
"Yeah. I have to be there early to get my locker assignment, stow all my gear, and maybe meet my partner. And it's going to take a long time to haul all my equipment in." Jim forced himself to take another bite of grilled cheese. "Besides, you never know about the traffic, and I don't want to risk being late on my first day."
"What would they do to you if you're late for roll call?"
Jim shrugged. "I don't know, but I'm sure it's not good."
"Do you still want a peanut butter sandwich for dinner?" Jean frowned.
"Yeah, because I don't know if my partner'll want to eat out or if he brown-bags it. I'll take peanut butter because it won't spoil if it doesn't get eaten. Then I'll eat it for lunch tomorrow."
"That's not much of a dinner."
"After tonight, I'll have a better idea of what to do. I mean, I'm sure we'll talk about what he likes to do about eating." Jim gulped down the rest of his milk, but pushed the half-eaten bowl of soup away. I just can't eat any more.
"Jim, you need to eat more than that."
"I'll be all right, honey," Jim said. He scraped his chair back away from the table and stood. "I'm going to go pack the rest of my things."
"I'll make your sandwich for you," Jean said with a sigh.
"Thanks, honey." Jim returned to the bedroom and carefully moved the clothing items from the bed to the sports bag. With each addition, another layer of anticipation built itself in Jim's mind. I wonder what kind of calls we'll have? Mostly traffic stuff, probably. Wouldn't it be wild if there was a bank robbery on my first shift? Nah, nobody'll rob a bank late on a Tuesday afternoon. But maybe we'll get in a hot pursuit…gee, I wonder if my partner'll want me to drive? Maybe I shouldn't tempt fate. I should hope for a nice, quiet, calm shift so I can learn everything. Man, I hope my partner's a nice guy and that he'll actually teach me something.
And what if I goof up? Do something really stupid. I just know I'm gonna forget a radio code or something. What if we get something really weird like a cow in the road. What's the code for that?
Jim blew out a nervous breath and ran a hand through his hair, and then sat down on the edge of the bed. There's so much to remember. What if I really do screw up? I don't wanna wash out. I just know this is what I need to do with my life. I want to be good at it.
Jim reached over and picked up the last item remaining on the bed, a legal sized envelope. He turned it over and stared at it for a few moments, then slipped the flap up and took out the piece of paper folded inside. Jim unfolded it and smoothed it out, placing it on his lap. From the crisp, white paper, his father's shaky handwriting stood out in stark contrast.
Jim had read his father's last, loving letter to him innumerable times. So many times, in fact, the original had begun to show the wear and tear. Jim had finally decided to make a few photocopies of the letter and store the original safely away. Jim now sought out the part of the letter where his father had counseled him on being a good policeman, and read it yet again. As if his father stood looking over Jim's shoulder, the words resonated in Jim's heart.
Right now you say you want to be a policeman. If so, be the best policeman you can be. Work hard. Be fair. Treat those you protect and serve with respect. Don't abuse your position or the public trust. Do your best to get along with your co-workers. You'll spend a lot of time with them, so make the best of it. Unfortunately, you'll find that a lot of people you work with won't be as nice, or hard-working, or honest as you are. Always "take the high road" and don't get down to their level.
Jim ran his hand over the paper. "Dad, I wish you were here," he whispered. "I wish you and Mom could share this day with me." Jim had felt the loss of his parents keenly during the past week. Not having them at his academy graduation had been especially painful. "I promise I'll make you both proud." He looked up toward the ceiling. "Remember, you promised to look after me up there."
Jim heard Jean's footfalls coming down the hallway, so he folded the letter and stuck it back in the envelope. He reached over, opened his briefcase, and lay the precious copy on top of the other items in it. He closed the top just as Jean entered the room.
"Here's your dinner," Jean said, holding a brown bag up for him to see. "I put an apple and a pack of cheese crackers in there, too."
"Thanks. That sounds good." Jim took the sack from her and stuffed it into the gym bag.
"Jim, you're squashing it!"
"It'll be all right," Jim grinned at her. He reached over and zipped the bag closed. "All packed," he announced. He looked at his watch, then up at his wife. "And I guess I'd better go. It's almost one o'clock, and I'm supposed to be there by 2:30. I'd better not risk the traffic."
"You'd better not," Jean said in agreement. She gave Jim a tight smile. "Good first impressions are important."
"Yeah." Jim could see the worry behind her smile. He reached up to her and gently pulled her onto his lap. "How about a kiss for luck?"
"Anytime," Jean said. She wrapped her arms around his neck as Jim spiraled his long arms around her waist and drew her closer.
Jim kissed his wife - a long, warm, lingering kiss, with which meant to comfort and reassure her as she dealt with her fears about his job. But, as usually happened when Jim kissed his wife, he lost himself in the pleasure of her touch, and the kiss became much more. Jean was the one thing that could drive all other thoughts or concerns from his mind. Jim eased onto his back, nestling Jean onto his chest. He deepened his kiss and entwined his hands in her hair, wondering if he could delay leaving the house for a half hour or so.
Just as he had decided that he could, Jean unexpectedly broke their kiss, turned her head and lay it on Jim's chest.
"What'd you do that for?" Jim asked, his voice husky.
"You'll be late," Jean whispered back. She didn't look at him, but gently rubbed his chest.
"All of a sudden, I don't care."
"Yes, you do, and so do I." She paused. "So you need to go." Jean started to get up, but Jim tightened his hold.
"I love you," Jim said. He placed a hand under Jean's chin and tilted her head towards him. He could see tears in her eyes, and that scared him. The last thing he wanted or needed was for her to constantly worry about him.
"I love you, too. And I'm so proud of you." Jean's voice sounded strong, despite her moist eyes. "I know I've been worrying, but I really am proud. You've worked so hard, and I know you're going to be a great policeman." She smiled at him, and the load lifted from his heart.
"I want you to be proud. And I don't want you to worry. It's going to be all right." Jim kissed her again, this time lightly and quickly.
"I'm sorry to be such a worrywart. I'm going to blame it on my hormones, okay?"
Jim laughed and sat up, gently setting Jean to her feet. "Why not? They seem to be responsible for everything else lately." He lightly patted Jean's belly. "But that's okay, because it'll be worth it in about seven months."
"It sure will." Jean's smile widened. "Something tells me this is going to be some year."
Jim matched his wife's grin as he stood up from the bed. "Me, too. We've waited a long time to finally get started on our goals. Now we're on our way. I've got a real job, with real benefits - we're gonna have a baby, and finally some financial freedom."
"Oh, Jim, do you think we might could afford to get into a house before the baby comes?" Jean asked, looking hopeful.
"I don't know about that. I'd have to do some more figuring."
"Even if we just rented for a while, it'd be nice to have a yard."
"We'll have to see how it goes. I promise you, we'll be in a house as soon as we can swing it." Jim leaned over and kissed his wife again. He walked over to the dresser and opened the box where he kept his personal firearm. Regulations required him to own one and wear it whenever he was off-duty. Jean didn't like the idea, but accepted it as part of the job.
"I know, honey. I don't mean to pressure you or anything."
"You're not. I want a house as much as you do." Jim took the gun out of the box, checked the load, slipped it into his holster, and clipped the holster to his belt. He pulled his shirttail out to cover the gun because it was much too hot today to wear a jacket. "My son has to have a place to learn to play ball."
Jean rolled her eyes. "There you go again, with the boy thing. What if it's a girl?"
"I told you, I'm sure it's a boy." Jim leaned over for one more quick kiss. "And I've gotta go."
"Call me if you get a chance and tell me how it's going, okay?"
"I will if I get a break. I just don't know what to expect, or how my partner will be about things like that. But if you don't hear from me, don't worry. I might not get a chance to make a call." Jim picked up his uniforms from the doorknob with one hand, then managed to grasp both his gym bag and briefcase in the other.
"I'll try not to worry."
"That's my girl. Walk me to the door?"
Jean crooked her arm around Jim's and they walked to the door. "My shift's over at 11, remember. So I won't be home until close to midnight. Don't wait up."
"Silly, of course I'll wait up. I can't wait to hear all about it." She reached up and gave him a peck on the cheek.
"You need your rest."
"I've got plenty of time to nap. I'll be fine."
"Make sure you do get enough sleep."
"Don't worry. Oh, Jim, wait right here a second, okay?" Jean snapped her fingers as if she suddenly remembered something, then hurried off to the back of the apartment.
"Where are you going?"
"To get something," Jean called over her shoulder.
"Hurry, okay? I need to go."
"Okay, just a sec!"
True to her word, Jean returned quickly, with their camera in her hand. "I have to document this day for posterity!" She said. "Now, stand still and smile for me."
"Come on, smile. Hold your uniforms so I can tell what they are. That's good. One, two, three!" Jean snapped the picture, and the flashbulb popped obediently. "That'll be great!"
"Now I'm blinded," Jim said, blinking his eyes, fighting the blue dot that danced before them..
"Now you know how I feel with you taking my picture all the time." Jean walked over to him. "One more kiss?"
Jim obliged her. "See you later, honey."
"Okay, be careful."
"And good luck!" Jean called as Jim slipped out the door.
"Thanks," Jim called over his shoulder. He hurried into the parking lot of their tiny apartment complex and unlocked their sedan. He tossed his bags and briefcase into the front seat but hung his uniforms on the clothes hook in the back. He settled into the front seat, shifting a little as the weight of the gun on his hip bothered him a little. It seemed weird to be wearing a gun in his civilian clothes. But I'm sure I'll get used to it. As he backed the car out of its parking place, he waved at Jean, who stood in the door watching him.
Jean's right. I like our little apartment, but we really need a house. My son's gonna need a yard to play in, with a fence so he'll be safe. But I've got a little while longer to figure out how we can swing it. I hope I can hack the job!
Traffic turned out to be heavy and slow, and Jim realized he'd made the right call by leaving when he did. No matter what he'd said in a moment of passion, he really did care about being late. Lieutenant Moore had told him over the phone to be there an hour before roll call - that meant 2:30 - so he could fill out some paperwork and get a crash orientation to the station. And of course, meet his partner.
Just thinking about it all made Jim break out in a sweat. Even though he'd worked so hard for this day, wanted it so badly, and pretended to Jean that he wasn't worried, he really was worried. My life's about to change so much. Am I really ready? Can I do this? Can I make the grade as a cop? A father?
Jim stopped for a traffic light, and took a deep breath, mentally chastising himself for letting his doubts run amok. "You're trained. You're ready. You can do this."
Even as Jim repeated the words to himself, an LAPD black-and-white crossed the intersection in front of him. He watched the two-man cruiser until it disappeared from his view, a big grin crawling across his face. Like a sign from above, seeing the car and his new colleagues sparked his excitement all over again. That's going to be me in just a few minutes. Not years from now, months from now, or weeks. But today! Just a couple of hours and that'll be me. I can't wait.
The light changed to green, the traffic cleared, and Jim continued on his way, alternately urging the flow of traffic to speed up, and looking at his watch. He had plenty of time, but the congestion on the road made him a bit nervous about being late. All he needed was for a traffic accident to shut down the road. Fortunately, that didn't happen, and he reached the station without too much of a delay. In fact, he drove around the block a couple of times because he had a few extra minutes to kill.
Jim watched the steady flow of black and whites going in and out of the parking lot as he drove by and wondered at the fact that he would soon be calling the men in those cars friends. At least he hoped so. He'd heard all those stories at the academy about how veterans loved to pick on the rookies. But Jim had survived those types of rituals before during his sports career so a little hazing didn't bother him in the least. He planned on showing them he could do the job, on the job. I'm up to a little hazing. I've been through it before. And I've doled out my share, too, so I know how to play the game.
Jim finally steered the car into the parking lot and parked in the space furthest away from the door. He sure didn't want to tick anyone off by getting their favorite parking spot. He took his time gathering his uniforms and equipment. He didn't want to appear too eager. First days are hard. It's hard to find that perfect middle ground between too nervous and too laid back. But like Jean said, first impressions are important, so I'd rather be early than late.
Jim walked across the parking lot, and he couldn't decide whether he wanted to throw up or dance for joy. He settled for a grin that got wider as he opened the back door and entered the Central Division station. Jim noted with an odd sense of pride the shiny floors, the general cleanliness of the hallways, and the overall sense of order in the building. His mother had always said that clean meant somebody cared. Somehow that thought comforted him. If anybody should care, it should be the police. We should definitely care. I know I do.
Two uniformed officers, both shorter than Jim, and one considerably so, came out of a door marked "Break Room" and Jim slowed down to let them pass. "Afternoon," he said.
One officer nodded at him and offered a small smile, but the other stopped and put out a hand to stop Jim. "If I'm not mistaken, Green, here's a prime specimen of 'rookie cop.' "
"I think you're right," Green agreed. "He's got all the signs."
The much shorter officer narrowed his eyes at Jim. "Well, speak up, kid. You a new guy here or what?"
"Yes, sir," Jim said, automatically falling into academy protocol. "This is my first day."
"I never would have guessed. You graduate from academy last week?"
The short officer shook his head and sighed. "I swear, they get younger every year."
Green nodded. "They sure do."
Jim didn't know quite how to respond to that, so he simply nodded and said, "Yes, sir," again.
Green laughed, but the other officer merely scowled. "You workin' PM?"
"Who you partnering with?"
"I don't know, sir. I'm supposed to report to Lieutenant Moore. He said he'd tell me then."
"Hey, Ed, Walters said he was getting a rookie," Green said. "Maybe this is him."
"No, remember, Walters' rookie isn't starting until next week."
"That's right. Well, maybe Sanchez, then. Or Malloy."
Ed grunted and an odd look covered his face. "Malloy. Like he needs another rookie."
"Oh, what do you know, Ed?"
"More than I get credit for around here," Ed said. "Well, good luck, kid. We've got bad guys to catch. I'm sure I'll be seeing you around, 'cause I'll be back on PM next week."
"Thanks," Jim said, and smiled.
"You'll find the Lieutenant in the Watch Commander's office, right down the hall, there," Green hooked a thumb over his shoulder.
"Thank you," Jim repeated.
"Oh, we'll find plenty of ways you can repay us for our kindness," Ed said, as he swaggered away.
"Later," Green said, and followed Ed.
"Yeah, later," Jim said. He watched the two officers for a beat. Well, I know Bill's partner's name now. Walters. Wish I knew mine. Jim looked over his shoulder, spotted the black and white sign that said "Watch Commander," and headed in that direction. Guess there's one way to find out.
Jim stopped when he reached the glassed-in office, and noted that a middle-aged uniformed officer wearing sergeant's stripes sat at the desk, head bent low, doing paperwork. Not a lieutenant…but I guess I'll ask. Jim rapped on the glass window of the door, and the sergeant's head popped up. He studied Jim for a moment, then waved him in.
"Excuse me," Jim said, as he managed to juggle all his equipment and uniforms and got the door open. "I'm looking for Lieutenant Moore."
"He's not here yet," the sergeant said. He shuffled through a pile of papers and retrieved one, read over it, then looked up at Jim. "You Reed?"
"Yes, sir. Jim Reed. It's my first day."
"No kidding," the sergeant said, but softened the sarcasm with a smile. "Welcome to Central Division, Officer Reed." He extended a hand to Jim.
Jim set his equipment bag and briefcase down and shook the sergeant's hand, grinning. Officer Reed! I can't believe it. I like the sound of that!
"My name's MacDonald," the sergeant continued. "The Lieutenant's on his way, but he suspected you might be early and he clued me in. I'm working a double tonight, so I'll be with you through the PM watch."
"Yes, sir," Jim said. When he couldn't think of anything else to say, 'yes, sir' seemed to be appropriate.
"He wants me to go ahead and give you your locker assignment, and take you down to the girls in the office and get your paperwork done."
MacDonald smiled him. "We'll take care of your locker first, so you can stow your stuff while you fill out your tax forms and other things."
"Thank you, sir."
Sergeant MacDonald sat down, opened a desk drawer, and pulled out a box full of keys. "Let's see…I think number 22 will be a good one." He fished a key out and then closed the box and put it away.
Jim almost laughed, but held it in check. It's some kind of sign--to get my old playing number!
"I'll take you down and show you the locker room, make sure your key works your locker and all that. Then we'll go up to the office. By that time, Moore ought to be here, and he'll talk to you a little bit before roll call."
"Yes, sir, thank you."
MacDonald came around from behind the desk and opened the door for Jim. "Roll call for PM watch starts promptly at 3:30," he said, as they walked through. "Don't be late. That's a surefire way to make your sergeant unhappy."
"I won't be late, sir," Jim said.
"You know the regulations about wearing the uniform in, right?"
"Yes, sir. They told us in Academy."
"That's for your safety. If you're running late, you can wear it in if you cover up with a jacket and leave off your brass. You have an off-duty piece?"
"You know the rules about that?"
"Yes, sir, it's right here." Jim patted his hip.
"Good man. Here's the locker room. There's a pay phone in here, bathroom, even a shower. It's always a good idea to have a change of clothing in your locker. Extra uniforms, ties… you just never know what you're gonna run into out there."
Jim paused to let the older officer go into the locker room first. "We have some exercise equipment, as you can see. It's important to keep in shape. But I can tell you don't have a problem with that. You played ball in college, didn't you?"
"Yes, sir. Football mostly."
"I read that in your package. I remember reading some of your press in the papers, too. Rumor has it you're pretty fast."
Jim felt his face flush, despite his best efforts not to. He couldn't figure out how to answer without sounding cocky or overly modest. He settled for neutral ground. "I've had a lot of good coaching."
"Speed comes in handy in this job. Here's your locker. And the key. Try it out."
Jim put down his equipment bag and briefcase and took the key. It worked perfectly and the door opened obediently.
"You'll catch onto this soon enough, but let me show you how most officers do it. Gun goes here, and some extra ammo…the equipment belt hangs here - you can leave your equipment right on there. Baton, here; briefcase and helmet bag fit down here. If you have extra shoes, they can fit back there."
Jim nodded, taking it all in.
"Some guys like to mount a mirror in the door. That's allowed. You'll want your extra socks and so forth in here, too. Keep your key on your personal key ring so you don't lose it. Any questions?"
"Good. Stow your stuff away and let's get you down to the office. You'll have plenty of time to situate your locker before roll call. If not, you can do it at end-of-watch."
"Yes, sir." Jim carefully hung his uniforms in the locker and placed his helmet bag and equipment bag in after it. He took a moment to put the locker key on his key ring before he shut the door.
"Make sure you have your driver's license with you, Reed." Sergeant MacDonald said. "We need a copy, and we have license checks periodically to make sure they're up to date."
"Yes, sir." Jim's hand automatically went to his back pocket where he kept his wallet.
"And you'll want to keep your wallet as thin as possible," MacDonald said, as he motioned Jim to follow him. "But you'll learn all of this from your partner, or from your own experience."
"Do you know who my partner is?" Jim asked.
MacDonald gave him a sideways glance. "I'll let the Lieutenant talk with you about that. I know who he has in mind, but there may be a last minute change in plans, so I don't want to say anything."
"Yes, sir. Sorry."
"Don't apologize. I know you're anxious to know who you'll be stuck riding with eight hours a day for the foreseeable future."
MacDonald laughed. "These ladies I'm about to introduce you to are probably going to become just as important to you as your partner," he said. "These girls make sure you get paid every two weeks, and they also type up your reports. So it pays to treat them nicely."
"Oh, by the way, there's the roll call room," Sergeant MacDonald directed his attention to a doorway to their right as they passed it. "There's a sign, so you can't miss it."
"Yes, sir. Does it matter where I sit? I don't want to take anybody's spot."
MacDonald laughed. "Sit anywhere you want, son. If somebody growls at you, tell 'em they should have gotten there on time."
"Uhhhh…yes, sir," Jim said, thinking that probably wouldn't be the best way to ingratiate himself with his new colleagues.
MacDonald laughed louder. "First day is rough, Reed. But don't worry, it won't take but a couple of days to get to know your brother officers and get used to the routine. You'll probably take some ribbing, but that's part of being the new kid on the block."
They rounded a corner and Jim heard the distinctive sound of office work - typing, ringing phones, rustling papers and chatter.
"Here we are - the business office." MacDonald walked through the open office door first. "Hello, ladies."
"Hi, Sarge," a tall, leggy blonde standing at a filing cabinet greeted him with a smile. A shorter, dark headed woman waved at him while talking on the phone.
"Hello, Mac," another one called from behind a desk in the back of the room, not missing a beat on her typing. "Can you please tell your boys to write neater? I swear, some of these guys must think they're doctors or something."
MacDonald laughed. "Peggy, I thought you could read anything after all these years."
"I can," Peggy said, "but I'm gonna bill the department for the glasses I need now."
"I've got a new one for you, ladies," MacDonald changed the subject. "This is Jim Reed. He needs to take care of some paperwork."
"Hi," Jim said.
Peggy looked at Jim with a bit of a scowl, then back to MacDonald. "Looks nice, but how's his handwriting?"
"Never mind Peggy," the blonde smiled at Jim and extended her hand. "She's having a bad day. Lots of reports to type up. I'm Julie. I do payroll."
"Jim Reed," Jim took her hand, shook it, and flashed her a smile.
Julie returned the smile and pointed to the girl on the phone. "That's Martha."
Martha nodded and smiled. "And there's two others who aren't here right now. One's at lunch, the other is off today. You'll meet them later."
"Julie, can you take care of Reed here? When he's done, send him down to the Watch Commander's office."
"Can do, Sarge," Julie said.
"Reed, I'll see you shortly," MacDonald said, then left the room.
"Welcome to Central Division, Officer Reed," Julie said brightly. "Have a seat right here, and I'll get you the papers you need to fill out."
"Thank you," Jim said, and took the indicated seat.
The one introduced as Martha hung up the phone. "Sorry about that," she said to Jim. "I missed your name."
"Jim. Jim Reed."
"Welcome, Officer Reed. Who are you being partnered with?" Martha asked.
"I don't know yet," Jim said.
"You're working PM for now?" Martha asked.
"Listen to you. Yes, ma'am. That makes me feel really old."
"Sorry," Jim said. He took some papers from Julie.
"Oh, it's okay. It's all that Academy training. But just call me Martha."
"All right, Martha." Jim gave her an apologetic grin.
"Walters is getting a partner," Julie said. "At least that's what he said."
"Next week," Peggy said from the back of the room.
"Wells is still on Day Watch so it won't be him," Martha said.
"Lucky you," Peggy commented with an arch to her eyebrows. She went back to her typing.
"It's obvious who it'll be, then," Julie said.
Jim thought the girls seemed as anxious as he did to know who his partner would be. He fully intended to listen, though, because he'd learned that somehow secretaries always seemed to have an inside pipeline of information.
"Malloy," Peggy said, continuing to type.
That was the second person who'd brought up the name Malloy. Must be something to it.
Martha sighed, and a wistful look crossed her face. "Pete. What a sweetheart."
"Yeah, he is." Julie agreed. She sighed, too, and got the same weird, sad look on her face. "Poor Pete." She sat down at her desk. "I need you to fill out these, and sign at the bottom of each."
"Okay," Jim said, but inside he was dying to know why Martha had said 'Poor Pete.'" But he decided not to ask. He didn't want to get a reputation as someone who butted into people's business.
"You'd better hope you draw Malloy as a partner," Peggy said, without missing a keystroke. "He's the best."
"He's impossible," Julie said, with a harrumph. "But you gotta love him anyway."
"You're the one who insisted on going out with him," Peggy said. "I warned you."
Jim didn't look up from his paperwork, somehow feeling like he was eavesdropping in the ladies room or something. This guy Malloy must not be married. Maybe that's why she said 'Poor Pete.'
"Do you have your driver's license with you, Officer Reed?" Julie asked, swinging the conversation back to business.
"Yes, ma'am…uh, sure, I do. You need to see it?"
Julie laughed. "I love rookies," she said cheerfully. "Yes, I need to make a copy of it."
Jim fished it out of his billfold and handed it over.
"Be right back," she said, getting up from the desk. "The copy machine is down the hall. I hope it's working. This new technology can get frustrating."
The phone rang and Martha answered it. She started up a conversation with someone, something to do with vacation leave. Peggy kept typing, though she would mutter under her breath occasionally. So Jim stifled his curiosity and busied himself with completing his paperwork. He managed to get it done before Julie got back with his license. He sat as patiently as he could, but what he really wanted to be doing was talking to the Lieutenant and getting the name of his new partner. It's almost three o'clock. I need to get dressed. I'm sure not going to have time to organize my locker if things don't move faster.
Martha hung up the phone and smiled at Jim. "I couldn't help but notice you're wearing a wedding ring," she said shyly. "How long have you been married?"
These girls don't pull any punches! "Three years."
Peggy stopped her typing. "Did you say three years?"
"Yes, ma'am. We just had our third anniversary a couple of months ago."
"My goodness, you just don't look old enough!"
"I'm twenty-three," Jim said, hoping he didn't sound too defensive. He knew he looked young, but it still irritated him to be thought of as a kid. I hope the uniform will age me. "And my wife's pregnant with our first child. She's due in March."
"Congratulations," Martha said.
"I feel like the Ancient Mariner," Peggy sighed, then went back to her typing.
"You do look much younger than twenty-three," Martha agreed.
"Well, Officer Reed, I only had to kick that stupid copy machine twice before I got what I needed," Julie came back into the room and handed Jim his license, rescuing him from the age conversation.
"I'm done with all the paperwork," Jim said. "I put it on your desk."
"Good, because I saw Lieutenant Moore come in as I left the work room. Let me just look these over and then you can go." Julie slid into her chair, and quickly scanned the papers. "They look fine, Officer Reed. And Peggy, his handwriting is very neat," she called over her shoulder.
"We'll see what happens to it when he's been on the job a couple of weeks," Peggy said, "and he's writing a report at midnight when he's half-asleep."
"I promise to try to keep it legible," Jim said. He stood up and gave them all a smile. "It was nice to meet all of you. I'm sure I'll be seeing you around."
"You sure will," Martha said. "Good luck to you."
"Good luck and be careful," Peggy added. "We don't like hearing that nice young men get hurt on the job."
"I will, thank you."
"And if you happen to get partnered with Malloy, will you please tell him that Julie is still alive and waiting for his phone call?"
Jim didn't quite know how to respond to that, so he grinned. "I'll try to remember that."
"Do you remember how to get to the Watch Commander's Office?" Julie asked.
"I think I can find it," Jim said. He gave them a short good-bye wave, then stepped into the hallway.
He did remember the way to the Watch Commander's office, and when he got there, Sergeant MacDonald was gone and a very tall, distinguished looking older gentleman, dressed in civilian clothes, sat at the desk. I assume that's the Lieutenant. Jim rapped lightly on the glass window in the door, and the man waved him in, standing as he did so.
"You must be Reed," the man said, extending his hand. "I'm Lieutenant Moore."
"Yes, sir. Jim Reed, sir." Jim shook his hand.
"Welcome to Central Division."
"Thank you, sir."
"Sergeant MacDonald told me he's given you your locker assignment, and you've done your paperwork in the office?"
"Yes, sir. It's all taken care of."
"Have a seat, have a seat," Lieutenant Moore indicated a chair across from the desk. He glanced at his watch. "I got delayed at home by a leaky toilet, so I wasn't here as early as I'd planned. I apologize for that."
"That's okay, sir. You can't very well leave a leaky toilet."
"Certainly not. Especially when the wife insists on it being fixed before you go. Anyway, let's get down to business so we can get dressed."
"Reed, I'll be honest with you. I've studied your academy package and it looks really good. Your book work, your shooting, and especially your physical abilities all are above average. Top ten in your class. That's good."
"Thank you, sir. I've worked hard."
Moore nodded. "It shows. But I tell you, Reed, the thing that impressed me most is what your instructors have said about your work ethic. About your ability to get along with others. They said you exhibited leadership. That kind of skill is hard to put on paper."
"Thank you, sir."
"I heard one story in particular that made me very glad we were able to accommodate you here in Central Division. Sergeant James said you befriended a young man on the verge of washing out and helped him to straighten up and make it through."
Gee, Sergeant James told him about Red Lightsey? What else does he know about me? "He just needed a little encouragement," Jim said.
"That may be true, but it's not everyone who would give out that kind of encouragement in a competitive situation like the academy. That shows maturity and class. I like that."
"Thank you, sir."
"You've got a lot of potential, Reed. I will caution you, however, to not rush things too much. This isn't academy anymore. This is real life, and the streets aren't as forgiving as academy situations. You excelled at the academy, maybe even got comfortable there. Don't make the mistake of getting comfortable on the street. Not in the sense of losing your focus."
"Yes, sir, I'll keep that in mind."
"Listen to your training officer and do exactly as he tells you to do. It's his job to take you and teach you everything they didn't tell you in academy. It's not an easy job, so cooperate with your TO - don't compete with him. I'm putting you with a man who is one of the finest police officers I've ever had the privilege of working with. He's got seven years on the force and he's the senior man on the watch. He's the best I've got, and if you'll do what he says, you'll have the chance to be as good as he is."
Jim's heart sped up a little. I'm riding with a senior lead. That's great. Seven years…that'll make Jean feel better.
"His name's Pete Malloy, and I'll introduce you to him at roll call. Meanwhile, you and I had best get dressed, or we'll be late for roll call." Moore stood and once again extended his hand to Jim.
Jim rose and shook hands with his Lieutenant, his mind whirling. I did get that Malloy guy. Everybody's mentioned him, so he must be really good.
"Welcome aboard. Good luck, Reed. Relax and do your best. You'll be fine."
Jim pushed his musings about his new partner aside for the moment. "Thank you, sir. I'll do my very best. I promise you I'll give this job everything I've got."
"I have no doubt of that, Reed. And I'd expect no less."
Jim followed Moore out of the door and walked with him to the locker room. Lieutenant Moore pointed out the report desk, lock up, break room, an interrogation room, and a hallway leading to the detectives' offices as they walked. Jim took it all in, straining to remember every detail.
When Jim entered the locker room this time, he found it abuzz with activity. What looked to be most of the PM watch had already assembled to dress for duty. Jim looked around, wondering which one was Malloy. Moore turned and went to his own locker without saying anything, so Jim went to his, feeling eyes of the veterans of the watch look at him curiously. But none offered to speak, so he stayed silent as well. Instead, he fished out his key and unlocked his own locker. As he prepared to dress, he could hear snatches of conversation, but he let most of it roll right over him. All he could think about was putting on the blue uniform for the first time. That and wondering all about the mysterious Pete Malloy.
I wonder how old he is? If he's been on the force seven years he's probably at least 30. 30. Man, that seems so old. And if he's not married, I wonder why not? Divorced, maybe? That could be why Martha said 'poor Pete.' They did warn us in academy that this line of work puts a strain on a marriage. But Jean and I -we'll get through it. I'll make sure of that.
Jim carefully tucked his uniform shirt into his pants and smoothed out every fold and wrinkle. He had no idea if there'd be an inspection with every roll call, and how tough the Lieutenant would be with it, but he didn't want to take any chances. On this most important first day, everything had to be perfect. As Jim pulled his belt through the loops, he looked around the locker room surreptitiously. Most everybody seemed relaxed and happy, smiling and talking. He heard one officer telling a joke to a nearby companion. They look so much older than I do. No wonder those girls thought I looked so young. I guess the job ages you.
Next came the shoes. He slid into them and tied the laces tight, careful not to leave fingerprints on the shiny patent leather. That done, Jim reached for his tie and put it under his collar, wishing he already had a mirror mounted in his locker. That's the first thing he'd do tomorrow when he got up - he'd head out to the nearest dime store and pick up one. Jim glanced toward the Lieutenant and saw him speaking seriously to a blond man standing nearby. The blond man turned and glanced Jim's way, then immediately turned back to the Lieutenant. Could that be Malloy? He's the only one in the room not smiling. He looks upset. Maybe he doesn't want a partner. That Ed guy said Malloy didn't need another rookie. Maybe he's…oh, knock it off, Reed. You don't even know if that IS Malloy.
Jim concentrated on getting his tie perfectly aligned, then reached into his bag to take out his badge. His hands shook with excitement as he opened the box and took out the golden shield. It gleamed in the box, and the intricate design made Jim grin every time he looked at it. But today - today -- badge number 2430 would take on new meaning. It would be worn on the chest of a full-fledged Los Angeles Police Officer. Jim pinned the badge to his shirt and his heart swelled with pride and a sense of accomplishment. I thought nothing could beat the feeling of academy graduation. But this is even better. Mom, Dad, I'm finally here. I'm going to be the best police officer in the history of the department. At least, I'm going to try.
Jim rubbed the badge with a rag Jean had stuck in his bag, and while he had the cloth in his hand, he took out his hat and gave the bill a shine as well. That done, he glanced at his watch and noted he had only ten minutes before roll call, so he hurried through the rest of his preparations. He put on his equipment belt and stuck his baton in the ring. He put two brand-new pens in his right pocket, along with a small note pad, then snapped the pocket flap closed. He picked up his briefcase and helmet case, stuck his hat under his arm, and took a long last look around his locker, running a final mental inventory. Okay, I've got it all. Time to do this. Jim drew in a deep breath and slowly blew it out. It amazed him how he could be so excited, yet so nervous at the same time. Last time I felt like this was on my wedding day. That turned out pretty good, so this probably will, too.
Jim closed his locker and headed for the door. He noted that both the Lieutenant and the blond officer had already left. In fact, he was about the last one left in the locker room. I'd better hurry. As Jim passed the last row of lockers, another officer barreled around the other side, and almost ran into Jim.
"Oh, sorry, man," the officer said. "Didn't see you there."
"No problem," Jim said.
"Hey, you're new," the officer said. "First shift?"
"Yes, sir." Jim set his cases down and extended his hand. "Jim Reed."
The officer shook his hand. "Fidel Sanchez," he said with a smile. "Welcome to Central Division. It's a great place to work."
"Thank you. I'm happy to be here. Central was my first choice."
"Smart man," Sanchez nodded toward the door. "We'd better head to roll call."
"Yes, sir." Jim picked up his cases and walked through the door Sanchez pushed open.
"You graduated last week?" Sanchez asked.
"Man, I remember my first day on the job. I was scared out of my wits. But I survived. And you will, too. Do you know who your partner is?"
"Ahhh, Malloy." Sanchez said.
Jim looked at Sanchez and saw that same odd look come over his face that had come over the other officers' faces he'd met earlier in the hallway. What's the deal with Malloy?
"Malloy's a great guy," Sanchez continued, after a beat. "He'll teach you everything you need to know, kid, so pay attention."
"Have you met him yet?"
"Not yet. Lieutenant Moore said he'd introduce me at roll call."
"That's good." They reached the roll call room then, and this time Jim opened the door for Sanchez. "Hey, why don't you sit next to me, and I'll introduce you to my partner and some of the clowns who sit around me. That is, if we have time."
"Thanks." Jim looked around the room. Some officers had already taken a seat, but still others milled around, talking. He saw Sergeant MacDonald standing at the board in front of the room, writing what looked like car assignments on it. He did not see the Lieutenant, nor the blond officer.
"Most guys pretty much sit in the same place," Sanchez said to him, "but it's no big deal if you get someone's seat. They'll get over it." He pointed to a seat on the end of the third row. "Why don't you sit there? That's my usual seat, so I'll just slide over one."
"Are you sure?"
Sanchez laughed. "Sure." He walked in and sat in the second seat.
Jim put his bags on the floor beside the first seat and started to sit down, when the Lieutenant walked into the room with the blond officer. The latter man still looked grim.
"There's your partner now," Sanchez said, nodding his head toward the pair.
So that IS Malloy. He looks so…intense. Jim watched as the Lieutenant and Malloy walked his way. He wiped his suddenly sweaty palms on his pants.
Sanchez must have noticed because he chuckled. "Relax, Reed. He won't bite."
Jim glanced down at Sanchez and gave him a half-hearted smile. "Thanks." But you can't prove that by me right now.
"Jim Reed, meet Pete Malloy," Lieutenant Moore said, as they approached. Still Malloy did not smile.
Just be yourself. Jim extended his hand and offered Malloy his widest grin. "Pleased to meet you, sir."
Malloy took Jim's hand and shook it firmly. He finally offered up a ghost of a smile, a closed-lip, one-sided offering that Jim noted didn't quite reach his eyes. "Likewise," he said. "Welcome to the division, Reed."
"Thank you, sir," Jim said, putting a full helping of warmth into his voice. He studied his new partner as closely as he could without appearing rude, using some of the observation techniques he'd learned at the academy. Malloy stood only an inch or two shorter than Jim, which put him right at six feet tall. Jim estimated his weight at about 185. Jim had earlier figured Malloy to be about thirty years old, and he didn't change that opinion, even though he thought the man's freckled, slightly rounded face gave him a more youthful appearance. The thing that made him look every bit of thirty, in Jim's opinion, were the eyes - light in color - green - Jim decided. But they seemed lifeless and troubled, almost hardened. Don't judge on a five-second inspection.
"I'll leave you two to get acquainted," Lieutenant Moore said. He clapped Malloy on the back. "Treat him right, Malloy."
"Always, Val," Malloy said.
"I'm looking forward to riding with you," Jim said. He watched Malloy's boyish face to gauge his reaction.
"Is that right," Malloy said in response. Jim thought he saw some life come into Malloy's eyes, and the smile widened slightly.
"Yes, sir. The Lieutenant said you're the senior lead on the watch. That's great."
"It is, huh?"
He's certainly noncommittal about things. Maybe that's what happens after seven years on the force.
Sanchez spoke up. "I told him how lucky he was to draw you for a partner, Pete."
Malloy looked around Jim and gave Sanchez a look. "Thanks for the endorsement, Fidel."
"Anytime, Pete." Sanchez chuckled.
"All right, men, let's get roll call underway," Sergeant MacDonald barked from the front of the room. "It's 3:30 and we have a lot of information to give you today, plus an inspection."
A few moans erupted from the officers at that, but all of them moved to take a seat. Jim noted that Malloy went a couple of rows back and sat by himself in the middle of a row, until a dark-haired officer, who looked older than Malloy, sat down next to him. Two officers moved to sit next to Sanchez, but all they did was nod, and Jim returned it.
MacDonald barked out the alphabetical roll call, and Jim scribbled down the last names of the officers as the sergeant called them out. He knew he'd never remember them all, but he could study them later and learn them more quickly. When MacDonald got to the "Rs" he called out a "Rodgers" then went on to the "S" names. Saving the new guy for last, I guess. The last name called turned out to be "Walters," the dark-haired officer who had sat next to Malloy. Now I can tell Bill what his partner looks like.
Jim scribbled down a quick physical description of Walters on his notepad, but looked up when MacDonald said, "We have a new man on the watch tonight. Just graduated academy last Saturday. He'll be riding with Malloy. Jim Reed. Stand up, Reed."
Oh, great. Jim stood up quickly, smiled and nodded, then sat back down. A few guys verbalized a "hello" and he heard one guy in the back say "Fresh meat." He heard another say, "Are we sure he's out of high school?"
Their voices got drowned out by MacDonald, who continued with the briefing. "Okay, men, morning watch highlights that affect you include a 211 at the all-night market at the corner of Magnolia and Brenner. Suspect is a male Negro, approximate age 19, about 5' 11, 150. Suspect was dressed in black t-shirt, jeans, and white sneakers. He used a small caliber snub-nosed revolver. He took about 250 bucks from the register, and fled on foot. Last seen in the vicinity of the McKee Housing Project. Walters, that's in your area, so make sure you step up patrols there."
"You got it, Mac."
MacDonald shuffled some papers, then continued, "We also got a wire from San Diego PD regarding a rape-murder suspect believed to be in the LA area. Suspect's name is Jack Lennox. White male, brown and brown, 6 feet, long, stringy brown hair, sometimes worn back in a ponytail. He has family that lives on Michaelson Boulevard, and someone reported having seen him in the area as of yesterday. I'll post his picture on the bulletin board, but I have photocopies up here, so take a copy and put it in your cases. This guy is a very bad hombre, so consider him armed and dangerous. Keep an eye out for him." MacDonald paused. "That's it. Any questions?"
"Yeah, Mac," someone called from the back of the room.
"What is it, Rodgers?"
"Mac, I tore up my jacket last shift and we were outta those forms so I can get some help getting a new one. Did we get in any this morning?"
Before MacDonald could answer, the man Jim had identified as Walters laughed and called out, "Rodgers, how many jackets have you gone through in the past six months? You're gonna bankrupt the department."
"Hey, can I help it if I'm the only one around here doing any real police work?" Rodgers grinned.
That brought a round of hoots, catcalls, and good-natured murmuring from the men in the room, and Jim grinned, even though he didn't know this Rodgers at all. It just feels comfortable. They like working together.
"All right, you goons, knock it off," MacDonald growled.
"I'll check with the girls in the office," Lieutenant Moore spoke for the first time in the briefing. "I'll make sure you get a form sometime today."
"All right, men, listen up for the car plan."
MacDonald began a recitation of the car assignments, and Jim strained to listen for his unit name and designation.
"Adam-6, Brinkman and Walters; Adam-11, Sanchez and Brown; Adam-12, Malloy and Reed…."
Jim tuned out after that. He wrote down on his note pad A-12, and as an afterthought, stuck the "1" designation for the Central Division in front of it, just in case he forgot in the heat of a call. He folded it quickly and stuck it in his pants pocket so he could get to it. Although I don't want to have to look at a piece of paper. That'd make me look dumb for sure.
"…and Sergeant Williams will be L-95." MacDonald said.
Lieutenant Moore stood. "All right, men, line up outside for inspection."
A few of the men moaned at that, as they all stood and stretched, and gathered up their materials.
"Do we have inspection every day?" Jim asked Sanchez.
"No, but from what I hear we have them more than most divisions. The Captain's a real stickler for spit and polish." Sanchez looked at Jim. "You look all right, though. But check your cap bill…fingerprints on that will get you a reprimand."
"Thanks." Jim made sure he had all his belongings, and followed Sanchez out the door. He had no clue where he should go, so he just went with the crowd and stuck close to Sanchez.
The men filed down the hallway and went out the back door to the parking lot where Jim had parked. Jim squinted against the brightness of the mid-afternoon sun, as he looked around, trying to figure out what to do. He thought his new partner might come over and give him some guidance, but instead, Sanchez came to his rescue.
"Put your briefcase over here on this bench, get your baton in the ring and put on your hat," he whispered over Jim's shoulder.
"Oh, thanks, Sanchez." Jim grinned at Sanchez and did as instructed. "Do we have to line up alphabetically?"
Sanchez laughed. "No. Just fall in at attention and wait 'til your dismissed."
Jim took a quick glance to see where his new partner stood, thinking he'd go stand beside him. He finally saw him down at the far end of the line, and decided it would look too obvious for him to walk down there. Besides, the Lieutenant took his place before them and MacDonald cleared his throat, so Jim stepped in next to Sanchez.
"Attention!" MacDonald barked, and, almost as one the PM Watch of Central Division snapped to.
The Lieutenant stepped forward and, with arms clasped behind his back, slowly inspected each officer. Jim kept his eyes straight ahead and his back ramrod straight. This is just like academy!
The Lieutenant stopped in front of Jim and studied him almost twice as long as he had any other officer. Jim kept his eyes straight ahead, hardly daring to breathe. A bead of sweat trickled down his back, and he wondered if he had everything in place. Oh, man, if I screw up on the first day…
Finally, the Lieutenant murmured quietly to him, "Good man. Good luck out there today."
"Thank you, sir," Jim said in return, still looking straight ahead.
The Lieutenant passed him by then, and Jim relaxed only marginally. Man, that was scary.
The Lieutenant continued his inspection and finally returned to stand before them. "At ease, men," he said.
Again, the men of the watch moved almost in concert to the correct position - hands behind back, feet slightly apart. Jim felt right at home with these new colleagues; it encouraged him to see the professionalism and attention to detail these men seemed to exhibit. Excitement bubbled up inside him, but he kept his face neutral.
"All right, generally, you look pretty good," the Lieutenant said. "We could use a few less fingerprints on the capbills. Some of those badges aren't hitting the shine rug as you leave the locker room; and remember, in this division, you can cut yourself on those shirt creases." He nodded to MacDonald. " Sergeant."
"Watch, ten-hut!" MacDonald barked, and once again, the watch complied.
"Okay, let's hit the streets," Lieutenant Moore said.
After only the briefest of moments, MacDonald said, "Fall out."
And just like that, Jim's first roll call and inspection ended. Time to hit the street. I can't believe it's time. He went to the bench and retrieved his briefcase and helmet bag, then turned to walk to his assigned car.
That's when he realized - he didn't know where his assigned car was. He had no idea of the shop number of the vehicle, and even if he did, he didn't know where it would be parked. Jim looked around for Malloy, but didn't see him in the mass of navy blue Dacron milling around the parking lot. So he just stood, looking around toward the sea of black-and-whites, hoping to catch a glimpse of Malloy.
The crowd of men on the watch began to thin as partners headed to their cars, or men to their motors. And still, no sign of Malloy. Great. I feel like a darned fool standing here. Where's Malloy? Is this some kind of 'get the rookie' joke? Or am I just supposed to guess?
Jim watched what seemed to be the last pair of men walk to their car. He was just about to break into a full panic, when someone tapped him on the shoulder. He spun around to see Malloy standing right behind him, a wry look on his freckled face. Jim hoped he didn't look too relieved.
"Didn't we meet at roll call?" Malloy asked.
Jim grinned and nodded. "Yes, sir!"
"You know, I can tell right off…"
"You've got a real flair for police work."
That's nice of him! "Yes, sir!" Jim's grin widened.
"Reed, do me a favor?"
"Yes, sir." Jim couldn't grin widely enough. His new partner already needed a favor!
"See if you can manage to follow me to the car." And with that, Malloy turned and walked away from him, a tight smile plastered on his face.
Jim's own smile faded and he stared after his new partner for a moment, trying to figure out if Malloy was being mean, or if he was just teasing a little. But he didn't take too long to think, because he sure didn't want to be left standing in the parking lot looking stupid. He fell in behind Malloy and followed him to a cruiser parked up against the building. An officer leaned inside the driver's side, gathering material from the car. Jim assumed it was a day watch officer, coming in from the end of his shift, and Malloy's next words confirmed that.
"Bill, how 'bout those reds? Were they checked? They were B. O. last night."
Jim listened for the reply as he put his own briefcase into the car.
"Yeah, they're okay. Shotgun's locked in the rack. I gave it the five-point safety check. I'll sign you out for it."
"Thanks," Malloy said.
Jim straightened, and Malloy tossed him a set of keys. Jim managed to snag the toss.
"Helmets in the trunk," Malloy said, pointing to his own helmet case.
Jim grabbed Malloy's case and opened the trunk. He stowed both their cases in there and, as he reached for the decklid to close it, he heard Malloy call to him,
"Do you know what this is?"
Well, that's an easy one. Jim looked up and grinned at his partner. "Yes, sir. It's a police car." Surely he doesn't think I'm THAT stupid. Jim walked around the back of the car to join Malloy, who took off his cap, a scowl on his face. The older man leaned his left elbow atop one of the "Mickey Mouse" reds and said sternly,
"This black and white patrol car has an overhead valve V-8 engine. It develops 325 horsepower at 4800 RPMs. It accelerates from zero to sixty in seven seconds, it has a top speed of 120 miles per hour. It's equipped with a multi-channel DFE radio and electronic siren capable of emitting three variables - wail, yelp, and alert," Malloy ticked off three fingers as he flew through his recitation.
Jim didn't think he'd ever heard anybody talk so fast. All he could do was look at Malloy and nod his head. Yeah, he knew all this. He'd heard it in academy. He knew a lot about cars, thanks to his dad. All this was old news. He wondered why Malloy was laying this lecture on him now.
"It also serves as an outside radio speaker and a public address system," Malloy continued, not missing a beat or taking a breath. "The automobile has two shotgun racks; one attached to the bottom portion of the front seat, one in the vehicle trunk. Attached to the middle of the dash, illuminated by a single bulb, is a hot sheet desk, fastened to which you will always make sure is the latest one off the teletype before you ever roll."
Jim desperately wanted his partner to take a deep breath, so he interrupted with, 'Yes, sir."
Malloy did stop and breathe, then. He looked at the red over which his arm lay draped, and stroked the red glass with his hand, caressing it almost lovingly. "It's your life insurance." He looked up at Jim and added solemnly, "And mine. You take care of it, it'll take care of you."
Jim nodded for what felt like the millionth time. "Yes, sir. You want me to drive?"
Malloy blinked at him wordlessly, and the boyish face became a mask of disbelief.
I guess not. Jim shook his head "no" a couple of times.
Malloy still didn't say anything, but the disbelieving look didn't waver. Malloy leaned over, took his baton from the ring and stuck it in the door holder. He then turned and walked away from the car, leaving Jim staring after him wondering what in the world Malloy had in mind.
Jim watched Malloy walk over to the Lieutenant, and they began a conversation. Paranoia struck quickly. Oh, man, is he complaining about me already? Maybe he doesn't want a rookie. Maybe he wants his regular partner back. Maybe he's telling the Lieutenant what an idiot I am. And I AM an idiot - asking to drive on the first day out. I'll need to wait a couple of weeks on that.
The conversation turned out to be short, and Malloy headed back his way, looking grim. He pointed his first two fingers at Jim and made a circular motion to indicate that Jim should get in on the other side.
Jim hurried around the back of the car and got in. His hat got knocked askew as he ducked inside the black and white, and he nervously straightened it as he shut the door. Malloy watched him, looking almost amused, Jim thought, as Jim struggled to get settled.
"Hats in the back," Malloy said. "These roofs are too low."
"Oh, sure." Jim tossed his hat onto the back seat bench, then picked up the old hot sheet. "Anything special to do with the old hot sheet?"
"Fold it up and save it for scratch paper." Malloy looked grim again.
"We've got a whole pad right here," Jim said with a grin, hoping Malloy would finally favor him with a smile.
"Fold it and save it. It's gonna be a long night."
Jim folded the paper, but stopped when Malloy said, "Keys?" He held out his hands and looked even more annoyed.
"Oh," Jim said, looking at the keys that he still had palmed. He handed them over to Malloy, who stuck them in the ignition and started the car. Jim finished folding the old hot sheet. I don't think Malloy likes me very much. He sure doesn't seem happy to have me with him.
"Clear us," Malloy said, nodding toward the radio.
"Huh?" Malloy's words brought Jim back from his worried thoughts.
"Do you know where the radio is?" Malloy asked, his voice so exasperated and irritable, that it made Jim both nervous and a little irritated himself.
"Yes, sir, it's right there," Jim pointed to the device. What kind of question is that? First he asks me if I know what the police car is and now the radio. Am I gonna get a five-minute lecture on the radio, now?
"Clear us," Malloy repeated, sounding as if Jim might be the stupidest rookie to ever graduate the academy.
Jim picked up the radio, his insides churning. Malloy stared at him, with that 'I can't believe you're this dumb' look on his face. This guy was making him so nervous he couldn't even think straight. Jim pressed down the button on the mic. "This is…." Jim's mind went completely blank. What's our unit designation again? Dang, I can't remember… But he did remember that he'd written it down and stuck it in his pocket. So he hurriedly dug into his pocket and retrieved the slip of paper where he'd written down 1-A-12 during roll call. Good thing I did that. I knew this was gonna happen! "…this is unit 1-A-12, we are clear."
Wordlessly, Malloy reached over and took the mic from Jim's hand. He arched his eyebrows at Jim and twisted his mouth in a frown. The older man put the mic to his mouth and said, "1-Adam-12, PM watch, clear." He then took the mic and with a dramatic and deliberate motion placed it back into Jim's hand.
By this time Jim was so shaken, he barely heard the dispatcher respond, 1-Adam-12, clear.
Malloy looked at him expectantly, but Jim had no clue what his partner expected of him. He tried not to sweat, but they weren't even out of the parking lot and he already had messed up six ways from Sunday.
When Jim didn't do or say anything, Malloy said, in a tone reserved for four-year-olds learning how to use a fork properly, "1-Adam-12, roger." He nodded at Jim.
Jim pushed the mic button down and parroted Malloy's tone almost exactly. "1-Adam-12, roger."
Malloy didn't quite sigh. He rolled his eyes and put the car into gear without further comment. But the look on the older officer's face made Jim's stomach fall somewhere around his ankles.
As Malloy backed the car out of his space and headed toward the streets of LA, any excitement Jim felt about going on patrol had been replaced by sheer embarrassment and more than a little terror that he would never be able to do anything to please his new partner. Malloy was right. It was gonna be a long night.
"I can remember every detail of that shift," Jim said, with a half laugh.
"I've tried to forget it all," Pete said, grinning.
"It was quite a night. I remember that crazy lady and her salamander, the suffocated baby, the pursuit…"
"The disobeying of my orders," Pete broke in.
"Of course you'd remember that. I think you remind me of that caper at least once a month."
"I never wanted to throttle anybody as much as I wanted to throttle you when you came sauntering back with those juvies in tow."
"As soon as I got a look at your face, I thought you just might take out your gun and shoot me yourself."
"It was tempting. But with the Lieutenant so close by, I knew I couldn't get away with it." Pete looked at the picture again and shook his head.
"You've come a long way since that night, partner."
"Thank goodness, huh?"
"Yeah." Pete looked at him and grinned again. He cleared his throat and parroted rookie Jim's less-than-stellar radio debut. "This is….unit…1-A-12. We are clear." He cackled as Jim reddened.
"That was your fault that I screwed that up so bad," Jim said.
"My fault? How do you figure that?"
"You scared me senseless, that's how I figure that. After that speech I got about the patrol car, and then you asking me about the radio, well, any brains I had got scrambled."
"I was beginning to wonder if you had any brains."
"I thought you said you couldn't remember anything about that day," Jim said.
"I said I was trying to forget it," Pete corrected. "That wasn't exactly the greatest day of my life."
"And I didn't make it any easier."
Pete gave a little snort. "No. But that was my problem, not yours." Pete stared down at the picture, and they both sat quietly for a beat or two before Pete spoke up again. "But you know what I remember most about that day?"
"Probably telling me to marry the tree," Jim said.
"No," Pete laughed. "I remember seven."
"Seven? Seven what?"
"Seven, seven, you meatball," Pete said. "You know, dinner."
"Oh. Well, I did kinda put my foot in my mouth, at dinner I guess. I'm not surprised you'd remember that." Boy, I remember it. I thought I'd really blown it after that.
Jim sat stiffly in the patrol car as Malloy piloted them slowly through their district. He stared out the window, looking for suspicious activity, but as dusk fell over the City of Angels, Jim's mind was far from the job. Instead, all he could think about was what Malloy had told him as they'd eaten dinner - You won't be seeing me after tonight. I'm leaving the job.
That simple pronouncement had hit Jim as hard as if he'd known Malloy for years instead of hours. He'd known from the get-go that something had been eating at Malloy, and he'd tried to get him to open up about it. Jim hadn't been surprised when Malloy wouldn't spill his guts. After all, Jim was just a wet-behind-the-ears rookie to Malloy; a stranger who'd been thrust into his life by the whim of a supervisor. But Jim had really wanted to help Malloy, and he wanted the older man to understand his sincerity. Despite their rough start, and Jim's ineptitude in the parking lot, things had gotten better between them. Getting that goofy first call with the ditzy lady and her salamander had relaxed Jim, and academy training had then kicked in. By the time they'd gotten to the pursuit, Jim felt like he had his legs back under him, and his brain in gear. In fact, Malloy had complimented Jim on how he'd handled himself during the pursuit and the subsequent arrest and booking.
When they had left the station after booking the two suspects, Jim had even felt at ease enough around Malloy to joke around a little about the speed of the pursuit, and to Jim's surprise, Malloy had jokingly offered to let Jim drive the rest of the shift. Jim felt pretty good about his ability to get along with his new partner, and they had a good conversation going over dinner. Jim had enjoyed Malloy's choice of a diner for their "seven" and was glad he'd left the food Jean had packed him in his locker. Jim had proudly told Malloy of his impending fatherhood, and had confirmed that the older man was, indeed, a bachelor. Malloy seemed relaxed, almost amiable, and Jim had started to really warm toward his training officer.
Then I had to go and ruin it by sticking my nose into Malloy's business. Now he thinks I'm some immature busybody who doesn't know when to shut up. Leaving the job! I thought it might be trouble at home. Or financial difficulty. Or a fight with a girlfriend or a sick parent. But leaving the job!
Jim clinched his fist, angry at himself for the way he had reacted to Malloy's pronouncement and the things he had said to his new partner after that. How could I be so inconsiderate and stupid? To say you get used to seeing death. Trying to sound so tough and glib…and then it turned out to be his partner! No wonder everyone was saying "Poor Pete," and had that weird look on their faces. They knew he'd just lost a partner. No wonder he didn't want another rookie. No wonder he's acting so on edge. Now I understand why that Ed guy said what he did. I wanted to help but I'm just a constant reminder of what he's lost. Reed, sometimes…
"Look at me, Reed," Malloy said, his voice sharp.
Jim jerked his head around guiltily, wondering if Malloy had called him more than once. "Yessir?"
"Where are we?"
"Huh?" Jim said, then started to turn to look for a street sign.
"Don't take your eyes off me," Malloy said, pinning Jim with a look that dared him to do so. Malloy had slowed the car to almost a crawl. "Just tell me where we are."
Jim flushed and felt that same rush of panic that he had earlier that afternoon in the parking lot. "Uh, uh, we're on Lankershim," he managed to blurt out, relieved he could remember that much.
Jim felt sweat oozing out of every pore on his body. Malloy had flung another test question at him that he had no way of answering. He tried to remember the last landmark they'd passed, but nothing came to his mind. "Uhhhh…"
"Too late, we're all dead," Malloy said, with that same impatient tone he'd been using most of the day. "Or some innocent civilian is, because you can't tell dispatch where to send backup if bullets are flying, or we have a TA and I'm unconscious."
Jim's flush deepened, intensified by shame. He'd failed again. "I'm sorry, sir," he said.
"Sorry doesn't cut it on the street," Malloy said. "Out here, we've only got each other. And we're the only people standing between the citizens of LA and chaos. You have to depend on your partner to watch your back and work with you. There isn't always a street sign within sight, or a building with numbers. If some militant shoots me in the middle of the block how will you get help to me?"
Jim swallowed. Of course, Malloy was right. "I wouldn't be able to, sir."
"That's right, you wouldn't. I've been watching you since we left the diner, and I could tell you weren't seeing a thing you were looking at. Am I right?"
"Yes, sir. I'm sor…you're right. I get your point."
"See that you do, Reed," Malloy said. "This isn't the academy any more. Out here, it's life and death. And there's about a half million people who'd love to send you straight to the death part. And another half million who wouldn't give a damn if they did. Is LA your home?"
"Yes, sir. I was born and raised here."
"Then you know how it is. If you don't learn anything else from me tonight, learn that lesson. Always know where you are. Your life, and your partner's life depend on it."
"Yes, sir." Jim turned his head to look back out his window and quickly gathered his bearings, blowing out a frustrated breath. "We just passed Starling Way."
"Get into the habit of checking the addresses as we patrol. Street signs, buildings, familiar landmarks." Malloy's voice had softened and now he talked as a concerned teacher. "As you get more experience in your district, it'll get easier. You'll learn your way around and you'll just about automatically know your numbers without looking. But sometimes we have to serve out of the district for whatever reason, and you need to have developed the habit of knowing exactly where you are."
"Yes, sir. I understand."
"Good. And Reed…" Malloy paused.
"I'm not angry with you. It's not your fault that I'm leaving the force. I'd made up my mind to do that before I ever even met you. It's not your fault or your problem. So get that guilty look off your face."
He's reading me like a book! "Yes, sir. I…I'm sorry I brought up a bad subject for you. I just…"
Malloy waved his hand in dismissal. "Forget it. It's okay. Look, the Lieutenant will give you a new partner, and you'll be fine. There are a lot of good men in the division. I'll make sure he puts you with someone who'll treat you right and teach you how to survive out here." Pete slowed and made a right turn at the next intersection.
"Thanks," Jim said, but he felt an illogical sense of deep disappointment, and a sense of unease. I barely know this guy. Why am I taking this so personally? What's it to me if Malloy leaves the force? Jim looked out the window and made sure he saw the street sign. He then answered his own question. Because I can already tell he's too good a cop for the city to lose. And he's too good a person to run away from a problem he can't escape. Even if he leaves the job, his partner will still be dead. He can't escape that fact, no matter where he goes. But how can I tell him that? I'm just a stupid rookie.
Jim searched his soul for something - anything - he could say to Malloy to get him to reconsider his decision to leave. He'd probably already said too much; overstepped his bounds, but Jim felt a true need to do something. It didn't even make sense to himself, but some inner voice told him to do something. Mom always said that caring about people was more important than anything, and sometimes the people who needed caring the most were the first to push it away.
Jim checked another street sign. I don't think I realized until now just how smart my mother was, and how she influenced me. She sure was right about people needing help pushing it away, because that's what I tried to do when she died. I think Malloy's doing the same thing. But I can't tell him that. I've already said too much. But what if it would help? If I won't see him after tonight, what have I got to lose?
Jim took a silent, deep breath. "Malloy?"
Jim swallowed, then started talking before he could change his mind. "When I was sixteen years old, sports, cars, and girls were pretty much my life. In that order. I played every sport I could in high school, and I was saving up for a special car, you know?"
"Yeah, I know. Sounds like a pretty typical sixteen-year-old guy to me."
"Yeah. Well, one week in April I'd had a really great week. I ran track, and our team won the meet. I took a lot of first places and did really well."
"So you're fast, huh?"
"Well," Jim hedged, again, not wanting to brag, but he figured he should be honest about something that would impact the job. "Yeah. I'm pretty fast."
"That'll come in handy in this job."
"So I've been told. Anyway, after the track meet on the weekend I played in a baseball game later in the week, and had a great game. My family was there, and I got a game-winning hit and a crucial stop. I went home and Mom had made chili, my favorite meal. I was feeling on top of the world. Mom and I had a nice talk and then she left to go take a casserole to a lady in our church who'd just had a baby. I offered to drive her; it being night and all. Of course she said no, she'd be right back. " Jim had to swallow before he could go on. He found it hard to talk about even after seven years. "But she never came back. She wrapped our car around a tree - we still don't know how it happened, exactly. There were no witnesses that we know of."
"I'm sorry," Malloy said quietly.
"Thanks. It broke my heart at the time. I was mad at the world, and God, and suddenly everything that had meant so much to me meant nothing. All I wanted to do was hide in my room and wallow in my misery. My dad made me go back to school, but I couldn't concentrate. And I couldn't bring myself to even look at my baseball uniform. I refused to play. I felt guilty, like if I did something I enjoyed, it would dishonor my mother. It was my dad who finally convinced me that the opposite was true. He reminded me that I had talents and gifts, and that by not using them, and by not living my life, it would grieve my mother. That's not something that she would have wanted."
"Reed," Malloy interrupted. "I know what you're trying to do, and I know you mean well. You're obviously a nice kid, and your heart's in the right place. But like I said earlier, all the talking's done. The decision is made. This is something I have to do. After you've been on the job for a while longer, you'll understand why. I hope to God you never have to make a decision like this, but if you do, you'll need to do what's best for you, not what's best for everybody else. So, I appreciate your effort, but I don't want to talk about it any more."
"Yes, sir. I'm sorry. I won't say anything else."
"Good. Now, where are we?"
"500 block of Miranda," Jim answered.
"Way to go, junior. You'll get the hang of it before you know it."
Jim didn't respond, but went back to watching the streets. I gave it a shot. All for nothing. Tomorrow, I'll be riding with somebody new. I don't understand why that already feels wrong.
The link operator came on and interrupted the silence of the car. "KMA 787…7 p.m."
"Put your foot in your mouth?" Pete asked.
"Yeah," Jim said. "I was young and stupid and I had no idea how much you'd been through. I was pretty insensitive."
"That's not the way I remember it."
Jim snorted. "How, then?"
Pete smiled tightly and looked at the photograph, tapping it lightly on his knee.
"I remember a young man full of optimism and energy, eager to do everything just right. I remember a young man with a big heart - so big he really cared about someone he'd known less than eight hours."
"Young and stupid," Jim repeated.
"Young, yes," Pete agreed. "Hell, Jim, you're still young. But you were never stupid."
"I was a pain in the butt all night," Jim laughed humorlessly.
"Maybe," Pete said. "But not out of spite. Out of concern. And even though you were the last thing on earth I thought I needed, somebody else knew better."
"The Lieutenant sure made the right call with us."
Pete looked up at Jim. "I wasn't referring to the Lieutenant."
Jim wrinkled his brow, puzzled by Pete's statement. If not the Lieutenant, who? Not Mac, or even the Captain.
"You made a difference that night, Jim." Pete put the picture back in Jim's hand. "Someone who far outranks the Lieutenant made that call."
Realization dawned then, and Jim found his throat unexpectedly constricted. Making a difference. That's all I ever really wanted to do… make a difference. I guess I really didn't realize just how much hinged on that first night. Who knows where we'd both be now if it hadn't gone down the way it did. Realization struck a second time, even harder, making the day's events along with the memories and musings it had led to fit together like a final piece of a difficult puzzle. Everything that happens in life happens for a purpose. All the joys, the pain, all the difficult circumstances, make us who we are. And someone who knows a lot more than we do knows exactly what we need, even when it seems wrong to us. I guess I always knew that, but maybe I needed reminding. I never realized that cleaning out a closet would teach me such a lesson. Guess I'll have to thank Jean for making me do it.
Jim smiled at his partner. "Thanks, Pete. That means a lot to me."
"Well," Pete stood up and stretched, "It meant something to me, too." He paused. "Once I got over wanting to kill you."
Jim laughed, for real this time. "Ah, come on, Pete, you know I did the right thing."
"I know no such thing," Pete countered. He leveled a finger at Jim. "One of these days, you'll have your own rookie to train, and you'll know how it is. I hope you get one just as headstrong as you were."
"Thanks a lot, but I don't plan on training any rookies anytime soon."
"You never know," Pete said. "Besides, you're ready."
"Whatever you say, Pete." Jim put the pictures back in the small box and placed it in top of the closet with the other reorganized boxes. Me, train a rookie? No matter what he says, I know I'm not ready for that. I hope that doesn't happen for a while.
A car door slammed outside, and Jim smiled, feeling his heart get lighter. She's finally home. "That's Jean," he said.
"My cue to leave," Pete said.
"Don't rush off, Pete. She'll be glad to see you." Jim headed for the door. "I'm going to go see if she needs help with the groceries."
Pete trailed him. "You really were worried."
"She was gone a long time." He didn't elaborate on why that especially bothered him today.
"And you call her a worrywart."
"All right, lay off," Jim groused. He reached the front door and opened it just in time to see Jean struggling up the steps with two overloaded grocery bags. "I've got it hon, hold on."
"Thanks, honey," Jean sighed, as Jim relieved her of the bags. "They were heavy. Hi, Pete!"
"Hi, Jean. Anything else left in the car?"
"Yes, but it's not groceries. I'll get it later."
"Where've you been so long?" Jim asked, as he paused to let Jean enter the house.
"Oh, I decided I needed to make another stop," Jean said.
"You could have called."
"Sorry. You weren't worried, were you?"
"No," Jim said, and Pete made a strangled sound from behind the couple. "All right, maybe a little."
"Awww, how sweet of you," Jean smiled, and reached up on tiptoe to kiss Jim on the cheek. "Remember this day next time it's 1:00 am and you haven't called to let me know you're on OT."
"I'll put these in the kitchen," Jim said, giving Pete a minor glare.
"I saw all the trash on the street," Jean said to Pete. "Jim didn't con you into doing his job, did he?"
"No, he was all but done when I got here. I just helped him get the trash out."
"Thanks. How about staying for dinner?"
"Thanks, Jean, but I've got dinner plans."
"Anybody I know?" Jean asked.
Pete laughed. "Can't I have a little mystery in my life?" He asked.
"Not around Jean," Jim called from the kitchen.
"All right, I won't be nosy. I'll just go check out the bedroom and see if Jim's done what he was supposed to do. But don't be a stranger, Pete. Jimmy always wants to see his dear 'Unca Pete.'"
"Give him a hug for me when he gets home from your parents."
"I will. Bye, Pete."
"See you soon," Pete promised.
Jim came back into the living room as Jean left to go to the spare bedroom. "Thanks," he whispered. "Nothing personal, partner, but…"
Pete put up a hand and grinned. "Say no more. With my godson out of the house, I figured you wanted a little private time with Jean."
"You know, Pete, sometimes, you're not so bad."
"I aim to please," Pete said.
Jim stuck out his hand to his partner, and Pete shook it. "Thanks again for the lure and for the assist. I guess…"
A squeal from Jean interrupted him, and her voice sounded from the back room. "Oh, Jim, it looks great!"
"Again, my cue to leave," Pete laughed. "Looks like you're out of the doghouse."
"Sounds like it." Jim grinned.
"See you tomorrow, partner."
"I'll see myself out."
"Okay." Jim waited for Pete to close the door, and then went to join Jean in the guest bedroom. She greeted him with a hearty hug and a kiss.
"Jim, it looks so great!" Jean repeated. "It's more than I ever expected. I didn't dream you'd throw so much away."
"A lot of it was just junk," Jim said. "And some of it I thought we'd already thrown out when we left the campus apartment."
"Jim, I'm so proud of you. You even vacuumed the rug! Thanks so much for doing such a great job." Jean hugged and kissed him again, and Jim was more than happy about her gratitude. "I promised you a wonderful evening as a reward, and you certainly have earned it. I'm going to go make you a wonderful dinner."
"No, Jean, I don't want you to do that," Jim said, as he held her close.
"Why not?" Jean looked up at him, clearly puzzled.
"I feel like I should thank you for making me do it," Jim said. "And I'm sorry that I put it off for so long."
"I think I need to sit down," Jean said, but she grinned at her husband as she said the words.
"Let's do that," Jim said. He led her over to the bed and they sat down on the edge of it. Jim slipped his arm around her shoulders and kissed the top of her head.
"What's gotten into you?" Jean asked.
"Nostalgia, I think," Jim said. "I found so many old pictures and mementos in those boxes, that I spent a lot of the time reminiscing. And thinking. And realizing a lot of things that I needed reminding about."
"Such as I need to introduce Jimmy to his Grandma and Grandpa Reed. I know he's young, but I want him to know something about my mom and dad."
"I think that's a wonderful idea, honey."
"Do you think it'll confuse him if I show him pictures? What if he asks why he can't see them?"
"Then we'll do what we always do - tell him the truth. We'll tell him they're in Heaven with Jesus. I think he can accept that."
"Are you sure?"
"No, but I'm sure enough so that I think you should go ahead. In fact, I'd like to see them myself." Jean said. "You know, I'm not sure I ever saw one of your family albums."
"You probably didn't. Dad packed them away after Mom died. He never wanted to look at them again.." Jim paused. "I guess that's why I've never been anxious to get them out and show them to you or Jimmy. I was imitating Dad, I guess."
"I guess so." Jean gave Jim a kiss on the cheek.
"But I'm not going to do that any more." Jim got up from the bed, and went to the closet. He took down the box labeled "Reed Family Photos" and ripped it open. He pulled out the large album and stuck the loose pictures in it as well. "One less box for the top of the closet," he said.
"I'm proud of you, Jim. I know it's not easy to think about all that happened."
"I think I'm ready now, and I want to show them to Jimmy. And to you, of course."
"I can't wait to see them all. You'll enjoy showing them off a lot more than you think."
"I hope so."
"What else interesting did you find?"
"Old love letters you wrote to me," Jim said with a smile. "I saved those out, too. I thought we could read some of them later."
Jean giggled. "That'll be fun."
"Oh, and that reminds me," Jim held up a finger, "I found this." He stepped over to the chest where he'd put the caricature of he and Jean on their honeymoon and held it up for her to see.
"I thought we destroyed that wretched thing!" Jean squealed, laughing.
"Obviously not. It's awful, isn't it?"
"I'm sure we never looked like that. Maybe we should burn it before our kids use it against us one day. I'd hate for anybody else to ever see that." Jean shuddered.
"Uhhhh, too late. Pete saw it."
"You showed that to Pete?"
"Not on purpose, baby. He came in here to help me bag up the mess and he saw it laying on the chest. I tried to beat him to it, but he had a head start."
"What'd he say about it?"
"Well, after he picked himself up off the floor laughing, he said he thought they nailed me pretty good, but that it didn't flatter you at all."
"I don't think it flatters either of us. We need to bury that one deep."
"I'll burn it if you want me to."
"No, we probably shouldn't. We'll just hide it somewhere. Did Pete see anything else embarrassing?"
"Yeah, as a matter of fact." Jim put the caricature and his photo album down on the chest and returned to the bed. "You remember that picture you took of me before I left for the station for the first time?"
"Of course. You found that? I've been looking for that picture for a while."
"I found it and a lot of other recent pictures in a little box. I figured you meant to do something with them, but they got lost in the closet mess."
"Where'd you put all of them?"
"They're in that little box on the closet shelf. I'll get it down for you when you want it."
"I need to get those in an album. I'm glad you found them for me. Did Pete laugh at that one, too?"
"A little," Jim said. "But we mostly just talked about that night and how it changed both our lives."
"I'd like to have heard that conversation," Jean said with a smile.
Jim shrugged. "There wasn't that much to it. But it did get me thinking about how weird life is sometimes. I mean, what if I hadn't ridden with Pete that night? What if I'd been assigned to Walters instead?"
"I don't want to think about that," Jean shuddered.
"That's what I mean, though. Would Pete still be on the force, or would he have moved away? Would I have been the one to die at the market instead of Bill?"
"Sorry, honey. But when you think about the little things we take for granted all the time, you don't realize how they can make a big difference. Take the night we met, for instance. I met you because I missed a practice foul shot, and I had to chase it down. What if I'd made that shot? Would we have met? And if my Dad's gas station hadn't been robbed, or if I hadn't lost my mom like I did, would I still have decided to be a cop?"
"Boy, you really have had quite a day, haven't you? Those are some pretty deep thoughts."
"With no real answers, either," Jim said, with a wry smile. "But something Pete said reminded me that we're really not the ones in charge of those things, now, are we?"
"No, we're not," Jean returned the smile, then gave her husband a kiss. "And it takes a special kind of man to realize and admit that."
"I guess I just needed reminding about some things. Especially about my parents - I shouldn't pretend that they didn't exist just because they're both gone."
"Oh, Jim, you haven't been doing that," Jean put her arms around Jim and hugged him close.
"In a way I have. By burying the photographs, and never talking about them, I was essentially doing just that. But no more. In fact, maybe in a couple of days, we could run out to the cemetery and put some flowers on their graves. I haven't been out there in a long time."
"I'd love to do that," Jean said. "I'll take care of getting the flowers. Any specific requests?"
"No, use your own judgment. You could call Jane and see if she has any ideas."
"That's a good idea. I'll do that."
"Except," Jim paused, "I'd like something lavender on Mom's grave."
"Lavender. Can do."
"Thanks, honey." Jim gave her a kiss. "For everything. Now, I'm going to go take a shower and clean up. And when I'm done, I'll take you to any restaurant you want."
"Jim," Jean reached out and took Jim's hand, keeping him from getting up. "Wait a minute. While we're talking about serious things, there's something I wanted to talk to you about."
Puzzled, and a little worried, Jim frowned. "What is it, honey?"
"Well, I was going to talk to you over dinner tonight. That's one reason I wanted to fix you a really special meal here at home, so we could have a nice, long talk."
"Is something wrong?" Jim asked, his stomach knotting up. It always scared him when Jean got so serious.
"No, no," Jean squeezed his hand and shook her head. "Nothing's wrong. At least I don't think so."
"Then tell me what's on your mind."
Jean looked up at him and smiled. "Don't look so scared. I just want…well, Jim, I…" Jean trailed off.
"Tell me," Jim prompted softly, but his insides roiled. What's bugging her? My job? Maybe she wants to go to work. Or take a vacation, or buy a new house. Surely it's something like that. "You know you can talk to me about anything. That's what we're about, right?"
"Of course, sweetheart. I know that. But this is really important to me, and I wanted to wait for the right moment."
Jim put his hands on her shoulders and looked straight into her eyes. "If it's important to you, it's important to me. Tell me."
Jean took a deep breath. "Jim, I want us to have another baby."
Of all the things Jim expected her to say, that wasn't one of them. Surely she knows I do, too. "Honey, I do too. But do you mean right now?"
"Yes. That's exactly what I mean. Jimmy's three years old now, and I really didn't want our kids spaced out any more than 3 or 4 years apart. We might not be as lucky as we were with Jimmy. It might take me a while to get pregnant. And then of course, it's almost a year after that. So I'm really ready to start right away."
"How long have you felt like this?" Jim asked.
"About six months, I guess. Something like that."
"Six months! Why haven't you said anything before now?"
"I was thinking you'd say something first. Especially after I started hinting around about cleaning out this room for either a nursery or for Jimmy a room. I thought surely you'd jump on that. After all, you were the one who always said you wanted to have four or five kids. And I've really been surprised that you haven't asked me already. You haven't changed your mind, have you?"
"No, of course not," Jim assured her. "I want more kids. I guess that's just something else I've not been very honest with myself about."
"What do you mean?"
"I've been thinking about it, too. But I've not said anything because I guess I'm worried about finances. I know how hard it's been for us with just Jimmy. When I think about having more kids, I worry about how we'll make it. So I guess that's just something else I pushed out of my mind. I seem to be getting good at doing that."
"I think pushing things out of your mind is a Reed family trait. At least on the male side," Jean said.
"Guilty," Jim admitted. "But honestly, hon, finances are the only thing that worries me about having another baby. You know I'm crazy about kids, and I really do want more. I guess I was hoping I'd get a few more raises, or take the investigator's exam and pull down more money first."
"That could be years from now, honey. You know what they say, Jim. We said it ourselves before we had Jimmy. If you wait until you can afford it to have kids, you'll never have any."
"I know," Jim blew out a breath.
"I understand why you're worried about it," Jean said. "You're so responsible and such a good provider. And even though you don't talk about it, I know you worry about getting hurt and unable to work."
That surprised Jim a bit. Usually Jean's the one who doesn't want to talk about me getting hurt.
"But I don't want us to live like that," Jean continued. "I don't want us to plan our lives around what might happen. I worry about you, too. You know how I feel about parts of your job. But I also know that if we let those worries and fears run our lives, we'll lose the happiness we've been so blessed with."
Jim looked at his wife and felt his heart overflow with love and pride. How did I get so lucky to get this remarkable woman to love me? Jim gathered Jean up in his arms and held her close. "I love you," he whispered into her ear.
"I love you, too, honey," Jean whispered back.
They held each other quietly for a moment, and Jim felt ashamed at his lack of faith. I guess I'm not through learning lessons yet. I t took a day like today to show me how many things are holding me back and I didn't even realize it. "Honey," he said, "I'm sorry. I guess I haven't been much of a husband if I couldn't pick up on something this important. I guess I've been so wrapped up in my job and getting things done, that I haven't been listening like I should."
"Jim, don't apologize. It's partly my fault, too. I know how you hate when I play games, and that's what I was doing by not coming straight out and telling you earlier."
"Maybe instead of going fishing in a few weeks, we should just stay home and use the time to slow down and get back in touch with each other." Jim stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head. "Nothing's more important to me than our marriage, and our family."
"No, I think getting away will be good for the both of us," Jean said. "Part of the problem is that you're working so hard both on the job and at home, trying to do everything. I almost felt guilty, putting the pressure on you to do this project today, but now I'm glad I did."
"I'm glad, too." Jim lifted Jean's head and gave her a warm, passionate kiss. Jean responded in kind, and they savored the long, intimate moment.
When they finally broke their kiss, Jim looked straight into Jean's eyes. "Honey, if you're ready to have another baby, then so am I. In fact, I think I've been ready for a long time and just now realized it."
"Jim, are you sure? I don't want to force you into something you're not ready for. If you need more time to think about it…"
"I'm sure, honey. Absolutely sure."
"Oh, Jim, that makes me so happy!" Jean said. She leaned up for another kiss and Jim obliged her. "I know this is the right decision. Why don't you go get that shower," she said, when they ended it, "and I'll have a surprise for you when you get out."
"Now, honey, I don't want you to waste half our evening cooking," Jim said. "If you really want to stay home rather than go out, let's just order a pizza and spend that time we save just being together."
"Oh, I wasn't talking about dinner," Jean said, her eyes twinkling. "I had a different kind of cooking in mind."
"Really? You want to explain that?"
"Well," Jean got up from the bed and tugged on Jim's arm so that he'd follow her. "You never asked me where I went when I made that extra stop today."
Jim put his arm around Jean and they walked from the guest bedroom into the hallway. "Okay, I'll bite. Where did you go?"
Jean got the devilish twinkle in her eyes again. "SueEllen's Boutique," she said.
"Ohhhhh, really?" Jim said. That was the place where he often shopped for special gifts of lingerie for his wife. "Did you buy something…interesting?"
"I'll let you be the judge of that," Jean smiled. "Now, go take a shower." She gently shoved Jim toward their bedroom.
Jim took a step in that direction, but then grabbed Jean around the waist and pulled her to him for another kiss. Jean squealed, then laughed, submitting to the kiss, but then pushed Jim away again.
"You. Shower." She pointed to the bedroom.
"Yes, Sarge," Jim laughed. He sidestepped the playful kick Jean sent his way, then headed into the small bathroom off their bedroom.
Jim stripped down, readying himself for the shower, feeling a little giddy. Jean was right; it had been quite a day for him. As he had cleaned that closet, it had been almost as if he'd opened a book on his life and had leafed through it chapter by chapter. The good, the bad, the scary, the funny - it had all been there, and somehow, in "reading" it today, he'd found a new perspective.
And now Jean and I have just decided to write a new chapter. Who knows how it'll turn out? But I do know one thing; this one's going to be fun to write.
As always, a big thanks to the creators, actors, and writers who made the Adam-12 universe come to life. A huge thanks to Cathy for her unrivaled editing skills. Also thanks to Susu, Betsy, and Susan F., who read over a lot of this and urged me to carry on. And to all the Pete Malloy fans out there--I promise he will be the star of my next effort (it's already in progress).