A First Time for Everything
by K. F. Garrison
Jim Reed gathered up his baton, hat, and briefcase, and closed the door to his locker. The rookie Los
Angeles Police Officer gave the lock a twist, then shifted his position so that he could unobtrusively
peek around the front row of lockers to the back where his partner's locker sat, still undisturbed.
Still not here. Pete's never late. I hope nothing's wrong. Maybe I should call. Jim glanced at his watch. Five minutes 'til roll call. Unless Pete Malloy swooped in the door in full uniform in the next few minutes, roll call would start without his training officer.
Jim jumped guiltily as the voice of Sergeant MacDonald boomed uncomfortably close to his ear. He whirled to face his watch commander, trying unsuccessfully to dampen the flush that started to creep up his neck and face.
"Yes, sir?" Jim said, hating that his voice came out sounding like an adolescent squeak. He sometimes thought that MacDonald took great delight in barking at him just so he could watch him squirm. Jim reckoned that was part of the price of being a rookie, but he still didn't like it.
"Where's your partner?" MacDonald's voice lowered a decibel, but it still held an edge, and the expression on the big Scotsman's face confirmed to Jim that he did, indeed, enjoy playing the heavy.
"I don't know, Sarge," Jim said. He tried to regain a modicum of composure, but the truth was, MacDonald still intimidated him, even after almost six months on the job.
"You don't, eh? Partners are supposed to keep up with each other." MacDonald crossed his arms across his barrel chest and cocked his head.
"Uh, you want me to go call him?"
"Might be a good idea," Jerry Walters said from over MacDonald's shoulder. Also a veteran of the LAPD, Walters' time on the job almost matched Pete's eight years. "You never know, he might be lying on the side of the road somewhere."
Jim blanched in spite of himself. The thought that Pete might have had an accident had crossed his mind, but he'd dismissed it as overly dramatic. But if Walters brought it up.....nah. Jim never knew quite how to take Walters, anyway. One minute the older officer would be laughing and the next boiling mad over little of nothing.
"And he'd be awful hurt if you didn't check up on him," Walters added, when Jim didn't respond.
"I'll go call him," Jim said, looking from Walters back to MacDonald. At least it gives me an excuse. Jim had become quite fond of his partner during the eventful six months on the job, considering him a good friend as well as training officer. He sure didn't want anything to be wrong.
"Not necessary," MacDonald said, his stern expression melting into a lopsided grin. "I just heard from him myself. He's running late this morning. He'll be here before the end of roll call. I just wanted to let you know."
"Oh," Jim said, holding back his sigh of relief. The news made him feel better, but drove the point home that just about anything was fair game when it came to torturing rookies.
"Reed, you must be a bad influence on Malloy," Walters said. "I've never known him to be late before. Not ever."
"Things happen sometimes," Jim said, with a shrug.
"I dunno," Walters said, with an exaggerated shake of his head. "Maybe you're a jinx, Reed."
"Get to roll call, Walters," Mac said good-naturedly, waving his hand toward the door.
"Pete Malloy, late," Walters said, as he gathered his materials. "I guess there's a first time for everything."
"Don't let Walters bug you," MacDonald said, surprising Jim with a warm smile and understanding tone. "He just likes to give rookies a hard time."
Seems like everybody does. Jim thought of Brinkman, with his bizarre sense of humor, and Wells, still out recovering from a recent shotgun wound, both of whom had dealt him their share of grief. And then there was Sanchez, Chavez, Johnson, Snyder...."I know," Jim managed to say.
"Don't worry, Reed. You and Malloy will be out patrolling in Adam-12 on time. But for now, we'd both better get to roll call."
"One-Adam-12 Daywatch clear," Reed said into the mic.
"One-Adam-12, clear," the dispatcher parroted.
Jim cast a sidelong look at his training officer as the older man backed their unit out of the parking space. Malloy's expression looked as sharp as Jim had ever seen it; no hint of Pete's customary sparkle lit his eyes. Damp hair clung to Pete's freckled forehead, darkening the strawberry-blonde strands. Jim noted a stray bead of water trickling down the side of his partner's cheek, and the line of his mouth could only be described as set in a steel scowl.
Pete hadn't spoken to anyone since he'd tiptoed into the roll call room and slunk into a chair in the back. He'd answered the good-natured ribbing his brother officers had given him with silent scowls and the occasional monosyllabic grunt. When Jim had joined him in the back of the room with a copy of the hotsheet and a smile, Pete had fixed him with that same steel scowl and snapped, "I'll meet you at the car." Then he'd gone to speak to MacDonald.
So, even though curiosity ate at Jim, he didn't dare ask his partner about his tardiness, lest he be on the receiving end of one of Malloy's acerbic lectures. Those lectures came few and far between, and generally only when they were well-deserved, but Jim wanted to avoid one if at all possible. Jim straightened in his seat and turned his head to watch the city as their unit merged into early morning traffic. Man, it's gonna be a long shift.
A half-hour passed and the only talking in Adam-12 came from the radio's near-constant squawking. It seemed to be a busy day for crime early on this Wednesday morning -- for everybody else's district. Jim prayed for a call to air for Adam-12. He prayed for an early-morning deuce, or someone to roll through a stop sign, or a car to pass them with a hot license. Jim had checked nearly every car that passed, hoping to spot one, but no luck. Jim wouldn't even object to getting a cat down out of a tree if it would put an end to the agonizing, icy silence that permeated their patrol car. Jim even metered his breathing, afraid that if Malloy heard the whisper of a breath, he'd growl.
Jim felt himself sweating, the tension in the car had risen so high. What if he's waiting for me to ask? Maybe he was sick. Maybe he thinks I don't care. Maybe I should just ask if he's all right. Jim risked a quick glance at his partner and vetoed that idea when he saw that the thundercloud had not dissipated from Pete's face. I just can't read him sometimes, even after nearly six months. Pete's so private and closed. I don't think he wants me to know too much about his off-duty life. Maybe he still doesn't trust me. Or maybe he doesn't like me very much. Jim and his wife, Jean, had socialized with Pete on several occasions, even setting him up with a date or two, but over the past several weeks, they'd not done anything after duty hours. Jim's natural rookie-induced paranoia caused him a moment's worry. That's because of Jean...she's only 3 weeks away from having the baby. She's not wanted to go out much. She's too busy getting ready. Last-minute details before we go to the hospital. Wonder where I put that checklist? Thinking of his wife and the imminent birth of his first child warmed him, and helped drain away some of his tension. But a radio call would be a lot better.
When Pete finally asked him that one word question, drawing him with a start from his musings, Jim jumped so hard he almost pulled a muscle in his shoulder.
"Well, what?" Jim said, and for the second time that day, he sounded more like a high-school freshman than a twenty-three-year-old man.
"I've been waiting all morning for you to ask me." Pete never took his eyes off the road.
"Ask you what?"
"Well, uhhh, I wanted to ask you. I mean, I, uhhhh, didn't want you to think I didn't care or anything, but you were in such a...." Jim broke off when Pete turned a glare on him. "uhhhh, you were so quiet, and you didn't seem to want to talk about it, and you wouldn't tell anybody at the station why, well, except for Mac, I guess you told him why you were late, but I figured if you thought it was any of my business that you'd tell me why you were late, but you didn't, so I figured..."
"Reed! Do you know what a period is? They go at the end of sentences. They help you to breathe when you're talking."
Jim blinked and shut his mouth. Sometimes he could never say the right thing. He wondered if he'd ever learn to read the many moods of Pete Malloy.
"There was a power failure."
"A power failure."
"That's right. There was a wreck two blocks down from my apartment building last night. Apparently some deuce clobbered a power pole and knocked the electricity out for six square blocks."
Jim whistled. "Took out your alarm, huh?"
"Yeah. I got one of those new clock radios that have the numbers that flip over, you know? Mine froze at 2:43 a.m."
"How'd you wake up? Sunlight?"
"No," Pete said, his scowl deepening. "Mrs. O'Brien knocked on my door."
"Who's Mrs. O'Brien?"
"Did she want to collect the rent or something?"
"No, she wanted to know why I hadn't gone to work yet."
"Your landlady keeps up with your work schedule?" Jim stared at his partner, eyes wide.
"I'll have to introduce you to Mrs. O'Brien sometime. She keeps up with everything. Once she knows who you are, she'll keep up with you, too. She's a widow, probably in her high sixties, but her age is a deep, dark secret. She hits me about here," Pete put a hand just under his shoulder, "and is about ninety-eight pounds of pure Irish stubbornness."
"Sounds like a match made in heaven," Jim said, grinning. The grin faded when Pete turned a sour look on him.
"I like Mrs. O'Brien, Reed. And if she hadn't knocked on my door at 6:35 this morning, you'd be riding with Sanchez or Walters now."
"I only meant...the Irish thing...." Jim's face reddened. He'd done it again; said the wrong thing at the wrong time.
"I know what you meant," Pete took one hand off the wheel and waved it at him dismissively. "And I'm sorry I've been such a grouch all morning, but I hate being late for anything. Especially for work."
An apology from Pete. Now there's a first. "It's okay. I'm just glad it wasn't anything serious, like you being sick or having a wreck or something."
"No, just an unhappy stroke of chance."
"You know, Pete, what you need is a..."
"Don't say it, Reed!" Pete held up a hand in a peremptory gesture.
Jim blinked again. Now what?
"After the morning I've had, I do not need a lecture on why I need a wife."
I should have guessed. "I was going to say that you should get you a travel alarm and set it, too, just in case something like that ever happens again," Jim said mildly.
"Oh," Pete said.
"Though, speaking from personal experience, a wife is a lot more fun to cuddle with in the middle of the night."
Jim couldn't help it. He laughed out loud at the exasperated expression on Pete's face.
"What are you, a one-note-Nellie?" Pete continued. "No matter what happens in my life, you think marriage is the answer!"
"And every time the word gets mentioned, even in passing, you overreact."
"Overreact? I'm not overreacting! If I was overreacting..." Pete broke off in mid-sentence as a blur of red passed the patrol car on the left.
"Do you see that?" Jim asked, sitting up straight, trying to get a look at the license plate on the speeding red pick-up truck. The light truck showed no sign of slowing.
"How could I miss it?" Pete leaned over and toggled the switch that lighted the reds, then accelerated slightly to close the gap between them. "He's doing 50, at a bare minimum."
"Fifty in a thirty," Jim said, still straining to make the plate.
Pete honked the horn as the truck continued at its illegal pace down the boulevard.
"I don't think he's gonna stop," Jim said.
"Can you make the plate?" Pete asked.
"Not at this distance."
Pete added a little more speed and honked the horn again. The truck slowed, but only because another vehicle moved into traffic in front of it.
"Got it now. Victor-Ocean-Ida, seven-nine-two." Jim ran a finger down the dash-mounted hotsheet, but didn't find it listed. He reached for the mic. "This is 1-Adam-12, requesting wants, warrants, and DMV on Victor-Ocean-Ida, seven-nine-two."
Pete honked one last time, as he moved up behind the truck. This time, the driver complied with Pete's request and moved the truck to the curb.
"About time," Pete said. He wheeled Adam-12 in behind the truck.
"One-Adam-12, Victor-Ocean-Ida seven-nine-two, no wants or warrants. A 1965 red Ford pick-up truck, registered to Morris Metzger, 765 45th East, LA."
"One-Adam-12, roger. Show us code 6 in the 1700 block of Buford Boulevard." Jim put the mic back on its holder, even as Pete opened his door and donned his hat. "I'll take him, Malloy."
The dispatcher acknowledged Reed's information, and Pete looked back over his shoulder, his face unreadable. "Be my guest," he said.
Pete watched Reed as his young partner crossed from the passenger side of the cruiser to the driving side. The way Reed jumped at taking the stop, Pete wondered what thoughts might be rolling around in the rookie's head.
Maybe he thinks I'm in a lousy mood and I might take it out on the guy. Guess I was a little grouchy for a while. Or maybe he just wanted something to do. He's got more energy than three of me.
Pete often found Reed's energy and earnest eagerness more than a little irritating. Indeed, that first night on tour together Pete wondered if Jim Reed might be too earnest and too eager to be properly trained. I had other things on my mind that night. But I'm glad I was wrong. Despite the occasional irritations, Pete had grown quite fond of his new partner. Just as Reed couldn't hide his eagerness and energy, he also couldn't hide his intelligence, courage, and compassion. And he had turned out to be easily trainable. He's coming along.
Some of that good training showed itself as Reed approached the driver of the truck in just the right manner. He addressed the driver with a warm, polite tone. Pete silently approved.
"Good morning, sir. May I see your driver's license?"
The driver stuck his head out the window and turned a venomous glare on Reed. "What the hell did you pull me over for, boy?"
"Sir, you were speeding. May I see your license, please?"
"Speeding!" The driver screeched, his voice sounding as grating as fingernails on a chalkboard. "I was not speeding!"
"Sir, the posted speed limit on this road is thirty miles per hour," Jim said, his calm, low tones a stark contrast to the man's high-pitched hysteria. "We estimate you were doing fifty. At a minimum. May I see your drivers' license, please?"
"Fifty! Fifty miles per hour! What is this, some high school initiation? Since when do they let high school kids on the police force?"
Pete had to bite his lip to keep from grinning. Even though a part of him felt sorry for Jim being the butt of abuse, he had to agree with the driver that even though he wore the uniform well, most times Jim looked like a kid playing dress-up. I think it's the hat.
"Sir, I need to see your drivers' license," Jim said, letting a slight edge creep into his voice.
"I am outraged!" The driver continued. "I'm being persecuted for nothing! I was not speeding! I haven't done anything wrong! You have no right to do this to me!"
Jim sent a questioning glance Pete's direction, but Pete merely nodded for Jim to continue. He wanted to see how Jim would handle this. They'd pulled over many an irate and argumentative driver before, but somehow this one seemed a little less reasonable than the others. He didn't strike Pete as dangerous -- at least not yet -- so he decided to give Jim a little more rope and watch him deal with the recalcitrant man.
"Sir, I need you to give me your driver's license," Jim said, repeating his request yet again. "I assure you that you were speeding. Now, please give me your license and we can get this over with."
"And what if I don't, baby blue?"
Jim obviously bit back a sigh. "Well, sir, if you don't comply, I'll have to call my sergeant. Then he'll come out here and explain it all to you, and if you still don't cooperate, you'll be arrested."
"Arrested? Arrested?! You stupid neanderthal! What do you mean, arrested?" The driver didn't give Jim any chance to respond, but instead launched into a string of hysterical invectives and imaginative curses directed at Jim.
Jim's eyes grew wide as the tires on the pickup truck as the driver's harangue continued, the language growing worse and worse.
Pete's own eyebrows had climbed up to his hairline. He'd heard some foul and imaginative swearing in his eight years on the force, but this guy had now moved into sole possession of first place for the worst tirade he'd ever heard. A part of Pete wanted to intervene and help Reed out, but the training officer in him held back. As long as the driver didn't turn violent, he wanted to see if his partner could keep his professionalism.
Jim threw him a "can you believe this" look, and Pete returned one filled with sympathy, but he held his ground. Jim turned his attention back to the screaming driver.
"Sir, I still need your drivers' license, and if you don't comply immediately, I will call the supervisor."
The cursing stopped for a brief moment and the driver shifted in his seat, apparently going for his wallet. Pete took a step sideways to get a better view of the driver's actions, just to make sure it was a wallet the driver pulled out and not a weapon. The shift in position revealed a slightly built, just past middle-aged man, with a head of silvery-gray hair, longish, but neatly combed. He seemed calm at the moment, but Pete double-checked Reed's position just to be certain. The glance revealed that Reed still held proper position.
After all too brief a pause, the driver began to scream again. "You damned cops! You think you're so powerful! You're turning this country into a Nazi regime!"
Pete saw something white fly from the window and fall to the ground, and he realized the driver had thrown his drivers' license out the window. It fell at Reed's feet, as the driver continued screaming.
"There are too many damned laws in this town! You'd think a town as big as LA would know better! But noooo, you damned gestapo are always pulling your power trips and harassing innocent citizens!"
Jim looked down at the license lying on the side of the road, then shot a glance at Pete, while the driver kept up a steady stream profanity-laced lecture on the evils of the LAPD.
Pete kept his face neutral, even though he felt his ire growing at the juvenile actions of this driver. Throwing the license had been an ultimate insult, and, in Pete's opinion, one much worse than the verbal abuse he continued to fling at Jim. Pete noted that a pink flush had worked its way up his partner's face, and a muscle twitched at the corner of Jim's jaw -- sure signs the young cop was trying desperately to hang onto his temper. Pete tipped his head slightly to indicate that Jim should continue.
Jim knelt down without taking his eyes of the agitated driver, whose invective continued, and retrieved the license. He wiped dirt from the surface and held it up to read. "You're Morris Metzger?"
"Yes! Are you some cretin? Don't they teach you to read in the academy these days? It says that right there on the card! God, you are so stupid!"
"Is this your correct address, Mr. Metzger?" Jim somehow managed to keep his voice calm and even.
"Yes! It's correct! Now just do what you've got to do with it and give it back!"
"If you'll just stay in the car, please, while I write this," Jim said. He took the license and stepped to the hood of the black and white where he'd left the ticket book.
Pete saw a small trickle of sweat slide down Jim's temple as he leaned over to write the ticket, and a surge of sympathy swelled inside him. "Relax," he said, his voice pitched only for Jim's ears. "You're doing fine."
Jim looked up and shook his head, once, then went back to writing his ticket. Metzger's continued rant provided a dissonant background. Jim finished writing the ticket, then picked up the book. He gave Pete a pained look, then returned to the pickup truck.
"Mr. Metzger, if you'll just sign here," Jim indicated the proper line, "you can be on your way."
"WHAT?" Metzger's voice rose yet another decibel. "You want me to sign that? I will NOT! I'm not guilty, and I refuse to sign your...." Metzger went off on another profane tangent, then finished up with, "ticket! So what do you think of that?"
"Sir, signing the ticket isn't an admission of guilt. It's merely an agreement to appear in court."
"I still won't sign your double-damned ticket! I won't put my name on any document produced by a facsist organization like the police." Metzger crossed his arms over his chest.
"Mr. Metzger, if you don't sign the ticket, I'll have do what I said earlier...call my sergeant, and he'll come out and explain it all to you again, and if you still won't sign, you'll go to jail. I don't think you want to go to jail, sir." Jim's voice stayed calm and reasonable, but obviously Metzger was in no mood to be reasonable.
"Don't tell me what to think, stormtrooper! You and your pea-brain can't even begin to understand how I think! Take your..." Metzger rolled off a string of curses, "ticket and stuff it up your..." Metzger completed his invective with a particular part of anatomy not exactly considered a topic of polite conversation.
Jim said nothing but looked up at Pete helplessly.
Pete found his own temper dangerously close to the boiling point. I'm not gonna fool around with this jerk any longer. It's time to call in reinforcements. "Tell Mr. Metzger that I'm calling for the sergeant," Pete said, then moved so he could reach in the open window and grab the mic. He stopped, though, when Metzger screamed.
Metzger's scream could have landed him a role in any Hollywood B monster flick. He pounded on the steering wheel of his truck several times and screeched all the louder.
Pete straightened and looked Metzger's way, wondering if he should call for the men with the white jackets. The guy's a nut.
Jim backed up a step, completely startled by the unexpected outburst. He looked completely unnerved. The rookie looked over at Pete, eyes wide once again.
Before either man could do anything, though, Metzger's arm snaked out of the window. He grabbed Jim's ticket book from his hands. "Give me that!" Metzger shrieked. The man signed the ticket, then threw the book back out the window. Jim managed to catch it before it hit the ground.
Jim tore Metzger's copy off the book, then handed it and Metzger's license back to him. "Here you go, sir."
Metzger jerked the items out of Jim's hand. "Here's what I think of your ticket!" Metzger took the paper, folded it, then tore it into several pieces. He threw the shredded citation out the window and the papers fluttered to the ground. "Now, are you through with me, you stupid kid?"
"No, sir," Jim said, still managing to remain calm. "If you don't come out here and pick up this trash you threw out, I'm gonna write you another ticket. For litterbugging."
That's it, Reed, don't let him get away with that! The irritating situation now seemed to be turning more toward the ridiculous. Pete kept a close watch on Metzger, waiting for yet another explosion.
Metzger didn't disappoint him.
"You what? Litter-damn-bugging? Why don't you just give me a ticket for breathing? Or for having gray hair? I tell you, they just let any damn body put on a blue suit and start bossing people around!"
"There's a fifty-dollar fine for littering," Jim said evenly.
Metzger screeched again, pounded on the steering wheel a couple of times, then started yelling a stream of profanity that took into question Jim's parentage, his wife's heritage, the integrity of the Los Angeles Police department, and of authority in general. Metzger then slung the door to the truck open.
Jim had to step out of the way to keep from getting hit by the door, and he took another step toward the back of the truck when Metzger jumped out.
Pete did a double-take when Metzger stood up and glared at Jim. Not because he worried that Metzger might do something dangerous, but because even at full height, Metzger didn't clear Jim's shoulder. Pete couldn't see Jim's face, but he knew that the rookie had to be surprised at Metzger's lack of stature. Maybe that explains his persecution complex....
"I'm picking up the..." Metzger returned to his profanity as he bobbed up and down retrieving the remains of the shredded ticket, "papers! Do you see me, you disgusting piece of...."
Pete shook his head at the sight of Metzger, red-faced and screaming, picking up the ticket. He felt bad for Jim, and resolved to buy the kid a cup of coffee or something to make up for leaving him to deal with the irrational driver, but another part of him wanted to sit down and laugh for an hour over the entire ludicrous situation.
"Here!" Metzger held up a fist full of paper and shook it under Jim's nose. "I've got it! Now is that all, kiddie cop? May I go now? Pretty-please, with a cherry on top?"
"Uh, no, sir. You missed a piece." Jim pointed past Metzger's shoulder to one final piece of white paper.
That did it for Pete. He had to cough to keep from laughing as Metzger spewed out a final barrage of insults at Jim. The short man retrieved the last piece of the ticket, still screaming profane epithets.
"Thank you sir," Jim said, his voice as calm and smooth as if he'd been talking with his own wife. "You're done here."
Metzger crawled back into his truck and slammed the door, for once not saying anything.
"Have a nice day, sir," Jim said as Metzger cranked up and pulled away.
Pete completely lost it, then, and started to laugh as Jim turned and walked back to the unit.
"Thanks for all the help, partner," Jim said. He gave Pete an angry look.
"I'm sorry," Pete said between a laugh and a gulp of air. "But you did just fine. You handled him just right."
"Can you believe that guy?" Jim asked. "I've seen some angry drivers before, but he's the worst I've ever seen."
"It's a first for me, too, and I've been writing tickets since you were in junior high," Pete said, finally getting himself under control.
Both men moved to their respective doors and climbed back into the car. Jim sank into the seat, took of his hat and wiped a row of perspiration from his brow.
"I'm wiped out," the young officer sighed. "It took everything I had to keep from blowing my stack at that guy."
"Like I said, you did just right."
Jim narrowed his eyes at his partner. "That was some kind of test, wasn't it?"
Pete cranked up the car. "Maybe," he said, noncomittally. "Clear us, partner."
Jim yanked the mic off the holder. "One-Adam-12, clear," he reported.
"Well, teacher, did I pass?" Jim said, unable to keep the sarcasm from his voice.
"With flying colors," Pete said, then he started laughing again.
"Oh, great. I know this one's gonna be all over the locker room this afternoon."
"They'll never believe it. I saw the whole thing and I'm not sure I believe it! Too bad we didn't catch that on film. It'd be great entertainment at the next division picnic."
"Thanks a lot, Malloy."
"Not because of you, Reed...but that Metzger! I can't get over his behavior."
"If we got it on film, I wouldn't want to play it at the picnic, but I'd like to play it for all of Metzger's family and friends. Just embarrass the heck out of him."
"Was he wearing a wedding ring?"
"Didn't notice. But if he's married, I sure feel sorry for his wife."
Jim shifted in his seat and ran a hand through his hair. He blew out a breath, obviously still trying to calm down after the unsettling call.
"Tell you what," Pete said, after a beat. "Let's head over to the other side of the district and make sure all's quiet at Rivers' Gym and Duke's Café. I don't know about you, but I didn't get a cup of coffee this morning, so I could use one. I'm even buying."
"That sounds good," Jim said. He grinned and looked a little more relaxed.
They rode in silence for a few minutes until Jim broke the silence.
"I've been thinking about what you said."
"Getting that incident on film."
"What about it?" Pete wondered where this conversation was headed.
"Wouldn't it be great if we did have some kind of camera in the car? Mounted somewhere in the front or something. We could get all the deuces and the abusive drivers on film, and if a stop went bad, it'd be documented. It could be used as evidence."
"Only one problem with that. Cameras are so big it'd block our view driving."
"Maybe we could mount it on the roof, between the reds."
Pete looked at Jim askance. It actually wasn't a half-bad idea, but Pete thought it far too impractical.
"Tell you what you do, Reed. You work out the kinks, write it up, and you can present it to the chief of
police. Just be sure you include where the department's gonna get the millions of dollars it'll take to
fund it all."
"Now you're making fun of me," Jim said.
"Not at all. Five years ago we didn't have two way radios. Now we can't live without them. Maybe a camera in a unit will be the next big advance." I don't think Reed's wheels ever stop turning.
Before Jim could respond, the radio interrupted.
"One-Adam-12, One-Adam-12, a 415 family dispute. 798 Grapevine Drive, Apartment C. One-Adam-12, handle Code Two."
"One-Adam-12, roger," Jim acknowledged.
"So much for the coffee," Pete sighed.
Pete pulled the unit up in front of 798 Grapevine Drive with a heavy feeling in the pit of his stomach. He'd been to this place before. Despite the peaceful, pastoral sounding name of the street, Grapevine Drive was the polar opposite. Located in the heart of the worst area of Adam-12's district, hardly a day passed without a call from that street or one nearby. Pete recalled an incident about four years earlier where he'd responded to a double homicide in this very building. It had been a terrible sight, one that occasionally showed up in his nightmares.
"Family dispute," Reed said, a tone of dread in his voice. The rookie eyed the large Victorian structure with suspicion. "I hate these calls."
"Who doesn't?" Pete said easily, pulling away from his own dark thoughts.
"Place looks like it's about to fall down," Jim said, reaching for his hat.
"I've been here before. It's a poorly managed apartment house, and that's being generous. There are four apartments in there. C is upstairs, and watch your step, because you're right -- the place is barely one step above condemnation." Pete put on his hat and grabbed his baton from the door. "And if I remember correctly, the manager doesn't live on-site."
"That doesn't surprise me."
Pete and Jim exited the unit and walked up the sidewalk leading to the ancient wooden structure. The general disrepair of the place became more obvious as they grew closer. Cracked, chipped, and fading paint curled from warped and water-worn boards. Shingles missing from the roof gave it a gap-toothed appearance, and once elegant shutters hung askew alongside dirt-streaked windows. They tread carefully on the wooden porch, whose ancient, care-worn boards sagged beneath their weight.
The door to the building stood open, with only a rusting, misshapen screen door over the opening to keep out insects. They listened at the door for a few seconds before Pete opened it. The accompanying creak, though not unexpected, still grated on Pete's nerves and sent a shiver down his spine.
Pete walked through, with Jim on his heels. One lone, bare lightbulb provided only minimal light in the entry hallway, giving an eerie, surreal appearance to the interior of the apartment building, whose condition mimicked the outside. Faded wallpaper held the battle scars of many years of abuse and neglect. Dust and cobwebs hung from every available location. Bare wooden flooring creaked and popped with each step the officers took. Water stains scrolled across the ceiling and upper walls, no doubt a result of the many missing roof shingles.
"Watch your step," Pete warned, when they reached the staircase. He pointed out a couple of missing steps, and the others seemed none too secure.
Jim took hold of the wooden stair rail and gave it a test shake. "Don't lean on this too much, either."
"I won't." Pete picked his way carefully up the steps.
Besides the creaking of the stairs, only the sounds of normal life could be heard in the building; a too-loud TV, a baby crying, the sounds of something frying, the ticking of a clock.
"Whatever happened here, it seems quiet now," Pete said in a whisper.
"Yeah. I hope that's not bad news," Jim said.
Pete glanced over his shoulder to catch Jim's eye. His partner's expression seemed grim.
"Take it easy," Pete said.
Jim nodded, once, and Pete turned back around. "C's on the right."
Pete strolled up to the door and rapped on it. After a few seconds, when no one appeared, he knocked again. "This is the police. Open the door, please. We'd like to talk with you."
The door to the apartment across the hall opened after Pete spoke. Both officers turned at the sound.
A tall, almost emaciated elderly man shuffled a few steps out of the door. "You're here," he wheezed, his lips pulled tightly over toothless gums.
"Yes, sir," Pete said. "Did you call the police?"
The elderly man took a shuddering, whistling breath before answering. "I did," he said, his voice so trembly he could hardly be understood.
"What's your name, sir?" Pete asked.
The man swallowed and took another breath.
"Take your time, sir," Jim said. He took out his notebook.
"Wilson. Jack Wilson. I got...the emphysema." Wilson coughed as if in emphasis.
"Yes, sir," Jim said, scribbling in his notebook. "Why did you call us?"
"I normally don't...get involved," Wilson wheezed. "But I thought he might kill her this time."
"Sir?" Pete questioned.
"Man what lives there," Wilson pointed with a shaky finger to the door of Apartment C. "Beats on that poor girl near about every day." He stopped to cough several times, and Pete worried that the old man might topple over at any moment.
"Do you know their names?" Jim asked.
"Renfro. That's his name. That's all I know. I hear...I hear him yelling and her crying and begging him to stop. Usually he does, but today..." Wilson shook his head and dragged in another wheezing breath.
"It was different today?" Pete asked.
Wilson nodded. "Longer. Sounded meaner...she screamed real loud. And Renfro...he took outta here like a scalded dog about a half hour ago and he ain't come back yet." Wilson coughed yet again. "That poor little gal...she don't look no older than 16."
Pete and Jim exchanged a look.
"And that ain't the worst." Wilson shook his head. "That gal...she's gonna have a baby. Imagine a man beatin' up on his pregnant woman," Wilson wheezed. "The world's goin' to hell."
Jim's look sharpened, and Pete broke the tense silence that Wilson's pronouncement caused. "Thank you for your help, sir. If you'll just go back into your apartment, we'll check things out."
"Sure thing, officers. I hope she's all right." Wilson turned and shuffled back into his apartment and shut the door.
"We'd better get in there," Jim said, his voice anxious as the look on his face.
"Let's try another knock," Pete said. He stepped to the door and banged on it with his fist. "Hello! This is the police! Open the door!" Pete leaned into the door and listened for a response.
"Anything?" Jim whispered.
Pete shook his head. "Ma'am? Are you all right in there?" Pete pounded on the door again. "Nothing," he said after a few beats.
"She could be unconscious," Jim said softly. He backed up as if he were ready to kick the door.
Pete bit back a sigh at his overeager partner's actions. "Let's see if the door's unlocked first."
Pete twisted the knob and it turned easily. He shot a significant look at Jim over his shoulder, and Jim had the good grace to look sheepish. Pete pushed the door open a bit. "Hello? Police. Do you need some help?"
This time, very faintly, very quietly, a whimper sounded from somewhere in the apartment.
"I heard it," Pete pushed the door fully open and walked in, Jim right behind him.
"Ma'am," Jim called out. "Police officers! We're here to help."
Pete scanned the immediate area, but didn't see anyone. "Check the bedroom," he instructed Jim, as he turned off to check the kitchen. He had to pick his way through clothing and other miscellaneous articles strewn on the floor. A pungent smell came from the kitchen, no doubt emanating from the piles of unwashed, food encrusted dishes that littered the small table, the countertops, the sink, and even the floor. How do people live like this?
"Malloy! In here!" Jim's voice, sounding urgent, came from the bedroom.
Pete hurried the short distance from the kitchen to the bedroom. There he found Jim kneeling over a very young, very bloody, very pregnant girl. Pete didn't hesitate. "I'll get an ambulance," he said, then bolted for the unit.
"What's your name, miss?" Jim asked. He knelt beside the girl, his heart broken at the sight of her bruised, bloodied, pain-filled face.
"Amy," the girl moaned.
"Amy Jefferson." She clutched at her swollen belly and moved her legs restlessly. "Please...help me...it hurts..."
"I know it hurts. My partner went to call an ambulance. Help's on the way. Try not to move."
"How far along are you?" Jim asked.
"I've only got...two weeks to go." She dragged in a ragged breath and coughed.
Just about as far along as Jean. How can a man do this to his lover...his child?
"Ohhh, officer...it hurts! Please help me." Amy reached out and grabbed at Jim's arm.
Jim knew he shouldn't let himself get sucked into Amy's suffering, but he couldn't help it. He kept seeing Jean as he looked at the slip of a girl writhing on the floor. He took her hand and held it. "Is the pain from the beating, or could you be in labor?"
"I don't know," Amy sobbed breathlessly. She clutched Jim's hand in a vice-grip. "This is my first baby! I...I don't know what labor feels like."
"How old are you, Amy?" Jim asked.
Amy hesitated. "Twenty," she finally said, then ended it with a pitiful moan and a sniffle.
Jim quirked an eyebrow at her. "You want to try again?" he asked gently.
"Did...the father of your baby do this to you?"
Amy sobbed a few seconds, then sniffed. "Y-yes," she said, with trembling lips.
"You're not married, are you?" Jim had noted the absence of a ring; and at sixteen, she couldn't marry without parental permission. Somehow he doubted she had it.
"No. Owwwww...." With her free hand, Amy clutched at her belly, and squeezed Jim's hand harder. "Owwwwww....."
I'm not an expert, but looks like she's in labor. "Take little short breaths, like this," Jim demonstrated the panting technique, remembering instructions from the childbirth classes he and Jean had attended.
Amy mimicked the panting, and, after a few long seconds, she relaxed. But she kept her death-grip on Jim's hand.
"When did you run away from home, Amy?" Jim asked.
Amy turned her face away from Jim and didn't answer. Tears tracked down her cheeks. Finally, in between sobs, she said, "Who says I ran away?"
"I do. You're sixteen, pregnant, not married..." And living in a place that would give me nightmares.
"What does it matter?" Amy asked. "Nobody cares. There's nobody.....back there....who cares anymore."
"How do you know? Have you asked lately?"
"It won't do any good," Amy moaned, and started a fresh round of sobbing.
"What's your boyfriend's name?" Jim asked, deciding to abandon the emotional subject of her home for the moment.
"What set him off today?"
"It doesn't take much to set Bob off," Amy said. "Are you gonna arrest him?" She turned her gaze back to Jim, her tear-filled eyes lighted by fear.
"You want us to, don't you?"
Amy shook her head. "He's all I've got...if he goes away....I'll be all alone....owwwww!" Her grip tightened again, as she obviously tensed against the pain.
"Relax, Amy. Remember the breathing." Jim demonstrated again, and soon Amy followed suit.
The sound of creaking boards and heavy footfalls caused Jim to lift his head and watch the door for Pete. Within a few seconds, his partner hurried into the apartment and walked over to the door of the bedroom.
"Ambulance is on the way," Pete reported.
Pete paused, looking around the room, and at the girl, and Jim found himself almost squirming at Pete's scrutiny. The look on Pete's face, while not exactly disapproving, matched that description close enough to make Jim feel uncomfortable. But Amy's grip on Jim's hand did not lessen, and he couldn't bring himself to let it go.
"Is she in labor?" Pete asked.
"I think so," Jim said.
"You get a name? Any details?"
"Her name's Amy Jefferson. She's sixteen, apparently a runaway, and she's not married to Renfro. His name's Robert Renfro. He's the one who did....this." Jim nodded toward Amy's battered face.
Pete's look lightened a degree. He pulled out his notebook and started writing.
"I...I don't want to have my baby...here," Amy said. She stopped panting, but her eyes still held pain.
"You won't," Jim said soothingly. "The ambulance is on the way. You'll be at the hospital before you know it. Don't be afraid."
"Miss Jefferson, do you know where Mr. Renfro went?" Pete asked.
Amy turned her head away and looked at Jim. "I didn't call you. I don't want him arrested."
"Amy, you shouldn't allow him to hurt you and your baby like this," Jim said. "Help us, so we can help protect you."
"He's all I've got," Amy said again, her tears flowing faster.
"Miss Jefferson," Pete said, his voice much harder than Jim's, "we don't have a choice in arresting him. You may not want to press charges for assault, but if you're sixteen and a runaway, he's guilty of other charges. Charges we can't ignore."
"Oh, please," Amy sobbed. She looked at Jim, pleading in her eyes. "Please don't take him away. My baby.....I need him!"
"Not like this you don't," Jim said. "Tell us where he is, Amy."
"I don't know, and that's the truth!" Amy's voice began to sound weaker, and when she spoke, she sounded more breathless than before.
"All right," Pete said. "Give us a description of him."
Amy set her lips in a line and shook her head, still sobbing.
Pete shook his own head. He looked at Jim. "I'll go call this in," he said quietly. "Get R & I working on it."
"Right," Jim said, with a nod.
Amy moaned again and clutched at her swollen stomach with her free hand. "Ohhh, help me, please! I can't stand this pain!"
"Easy, Amy," Jim soothed. "Remember the breathing."
"Jim," Pete said.
Jim looked up and met Pete's eyes. The almost disapproving look had returned. But as Amy moaned and writhed on the floor, the look turned to one of near-resignation.
"I'll be right back," Pete said, then turned and hurried out the door.
Jim turned his attention back to Amy, but he knew that Pete hadn't said what he'd really wanted to say. He wanted to tell me not to get emotionally involved. He wanted to tell me that I'm not acting professionally. He just didn't want to say it in front of her. Jim swallowed. He knew Pete was right. But Jim hadn't been able yet to conquer this part of his job -- dealing with the human suffering, the pain, and the resulting emotions. Those aspects of his job sat heavy on his heart. Thoughts of those who suffered filled his mind during the day, and haunted his dreams at night. Jim knew that somehow he'd have to learn to deal with the all-consuming emotions and learn to push them out of his head, but he also knew that mastery would be a longer time in coming.
Pete hurried down the stairs as fast as he dared, given their unstable condition, but his mind stayed in that tiny bedroom where his partner held a scared, injured sixteen year-old-girl's hand. Pete worried about the young mother-to-be, of course, angry that she wouldn't help them turn in the man who had beaten her so severely, and then left her and the baby to fend for themselves, but he worried equally about Jim. The look in Jim's eyes and the tone of his voice told Pete that the rookie had been drawn too far into Amy Jefferson's suffering and situation. Pete felt sure that Jim's wife being right at nine months pregnant had something to do with his seeming deeper involvement with Amy's situation, but regardless, Jim had to learn to divorce his personal life from his professional life. Jim Reed was turning into one fine cop, but Pete wondered if his young partner would burn out too soon from all the emotional load he insisted on carrying around.
Somehow I've got to teach him that middle ground. I've got to teach him how to care but not care so much that he destroys himself. I've got to teach him that the professional Jim Reed has to have a harder heart than the Jim Reed that goes home at night.
Pete jogged down the sidewalk to the passenger side door of Adam-12, reached in through the open window and took the mic off the holder. He took a couple of deep breaths before calling dispatch. If I don't, I'll have failed him. I can't let that happen.
Pete pulled Adam-12 into one of several parking spaces at Central Receiving hospital reserved for police vehicles. Surprisingly, no other LAPD black and whites occupied any of the other spaces, truly a rarity. Pete took the mic off the holder.
"One-Adam-12, Code 6 at Central Receiving hospital."
When the ambulance had arrived to transport Amy Jefferson to Central Receiving, she had clung to Jim's hand and tearfully begged him to go with her to the hospital. Of course Jim wouldn't say no. But the rookie had looked at Pete before answering, almost as if seeking permission. Pete had nodded once, knowing that the poor girl needed someone to help keep her calm, but again, he'd worried that Jim wouldn't draw the line of his involvement far enough away to keep from getting crushed by the drama of the situation.
So, while the ambulance had screamed away code 3, Pete stayed behind and questioned Mr. Wilson and other residents of the building to get a description of Robert Renfro, and a sketchy record of his usual comings and goings. That had been like pulling eye teeth. With the exception of Wilson, the residents had proven to be singularly unhelpful. Pete thought he got enough information to put out a broadcast, though, and he figured a few minutes perusing the FI cards later might turn something.
Pete donned his hat and strode across the parking lot to the entrance to the emergency department. When he got inside, he was both surprised and pleased to see that Sally Fisher manned the admissions and information station. Pete had dated the diminutive redhead a few times, and truly enjoyed her company. She had a spark and intelligence about her that Pete really liked. It's been too long since we've been to dinner. I'll have to remedy that. He removed his hat and greeted her.
"Hello, Sally, how's my gal today?" Pete favored her with a characteristic lopsided grin.
"If I see her, I'll be sure to ask," Sally shot back, returning Pete's grin with a half-hearted scowl.
"Aw, Sally, I'm hurt."
"You can drop that Pete Malloy Irish charm," Sally said with narrowed eyes. "I'm too busy to flirt today."
"My loss," Pete grinned. "Why are you here, anyway? This isn't your usual post."
"Mabel's out sick. I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, so I got elected."
"Sorry," Pete said, "but I'm glad I got to see you. You have dinner plans Friday?"
Sally narrowed her eyes at him, but her mouth quirked in a half-smile. "It's been six weeks since you asked me out last."
"I've been busy."
"Dating other people, I assume?"
"Aw, come on, Sally, I've been working PM watch for the past month. This is my first week back on days. Our schedules just haven't coincided." Pete said, giving her his most sincere look.
Sally didn't look convinced, but she did smile. "Call me tonight at home and we'll work something out."
Pete's grin widened. "Great. I'll do that."
Sally's expression sobered. "I assume you're looking for your partner."
"Yeah, I came to pick him up. He rode in with a pregnant juvenile."
"I noticed. A pregnant beaten juvenile," Sally's eyes clouded. "What a mess."
"More than you know."
"The last I saw Jim he was loitering around Treatment 2, where they took her." Sally paused. "And Pete, he looked a little rocky. Haven't you taught him yet that having a big heart's a liability in your line of work?"
Leave it to Sally to get right to the point. "Yeah, but he's a little slow in that department. Besides, you know Jean's due in just a few weeks. I think he's kinda mixing things up a little."
"So now you're a shrink, huh?" Sally couldn't hide a slight sparkle in her eyes. It made Pete all the more interested in seeing her again.
"Jack of all trades, Sally." He raised his hat to her in salute. "Thanks."
"I'll call you tonight."
"I'll be waiting."
Pete rounded the corner and spotted Jim immediately, standing by the bank of payphones across from the main nurses' station in the emergency department. Jim leaned heavily against them, arms crossed over his chest. He stared almost vacantly at the treatment rooms across the hall. Pete could see a multitude of emotions in Jim's expressive eyes, but worry and uncertainty seemed to be fighting for top billing. No wonder Sally said he looked rocky.
"What's happening, Reed?" Pete asked.
"Oh, Malloy," Jim straightened and came back from wherever his thoughts had taken him. "I just called the station to talk to juvenile. They were all tied up, though."
"We'll drop by the station after we leave here. Is she in labor?"
If anything, Jim's look became sadder and angrier all at once. "No. Her pain was coming from a ruptured spleen. They have to operate. They're getting her ready now, but by the time we got here, she was all but passed out."
Pete immediately turned sympathetic. "That's rough. Is the baby going to make it?"
"They don't know." Jim's words hung baldly between them, and Jim chewed his lip before he spoke again. "I had to take her into protective custody before they'd treat her."
Pete winced. Of course they wouldn't treat a minor without some type of release. I should have thought of that at the scene and reminded him. "Just a formality. For her own protection."
"Yeah. That's why I was trying to get ahold of Juvenile to get someone down here," Jim continued.
"That's the right procedure. You did just fine." Pete said, trying to bolster his partner's flagging spirits.
"Thanks." Jim blew out a breath. "Did you turn anything on Renfro?"
"Not much. I've got a sketchy description, and some information we can use. I thought we'd go by the station and look through the FI cards. From what I could gather, we're not the first unit to respond out there. He might even have a package."
"Did they want us to wait here on a juvenile detective?"
"No. Sergeant MacDonald took the information over the phone and he said he'd deliver it. Apparently there's been a big juvenile drug bust down at Phillips High School, and then a couple of kids got caught cutting school, and everyone's out or tied up."
"Let's go then. We never got that cup of coffee. It won't be as good as Duke's but it'll serve."
Jim cast one long, last look at the door to the Treatment Room. "Yeah. I could use one."
"Stop worrying about her. You've done all you can do. She's in good hands now."
"Yeah, you're right." Jim managed something that resembled a cross between a grimace and an attempt at a smile. "I've never had to arrest a victim like that before."
"Well," Pete nodded toward the hallway and they both started walking, "you know what they say."
"There's a first time for everything."
To Pete's surprise Jim actually chuckled. "That's what Walters said this morning."
"When you were late. He said there's a first time for everything. So this must be a day of firsts."
"We're not going to talk about that anymore," Pete said, with a warning scowl.
"Whatever you say, Malloy."
Jim sat silently and stared out the window on the way back to the station. Pete couldn't decide whether to let his partner stew in his own juices a while and talk on his own timetable, or go ahead and try to pry what bugged him out of him before they covered the last few blocks of their drive. I thought he'd made some peace with that situation. Guess I was wrong.
They got caught by a red light, and when Pete pulled the unit up to the intersection, Jim made the decision for him.
"I just don't get people sometimes," the younger officer said, turning a troubled look Pete's way.
"How so?" Pete asked.
"You know, why people act the way they do. Like that Metzger character, getting all bent out of shape over a speeding ticket. He acted like a darn fool." Jim paused. "And then there's Amy Jefferson."
"Yeah?" Pete said, his tone leading.
"All the way over in the ambulance, I tried to reason with her. To get her to try and contact her family."
"And she wouldn't go for it."
"No. Absolutely refused to talk about it. And she wouldn't do anything about that so-called boyfriend of hers, either. She's not gonna press charges."
"She's a juvenile. And she's in protective custody, so the decision is out of her hands," Pete reminded.
"Yeah, but she's not helping...light's green, Malloy."
"Oh." Pete tapped the accelerator.
"I don't understand why a woman would let a man treat her like that. Especially pregnant. You'd think she'd care more about her baby. And Renfro...what kind of man would beat up a woman he supposedly loved?"
"Maybe that's it. Maybe he doesn't really love her."
"I'd say that's probably right," Jim snorted. "But you'd think he'd care about his kid. I mean, I can't imagine doing anything to ever hurt Jean, ever. But certainly not while she was carrying my baby."
"One thing you've gotta learn, Jim, is that not everybody in the world thinks the way you do," Pete said, not unkindly. "Not everybody has your values. You love your wife, and you love kids. Unfortunately, not everybody in the world does."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," Jim said. "I guess I've just got to remember that. I mean, we don't get to see where people like Metzger and Renfro come from. The hangups they have."
"That's right. It's not our job to understand. We just enforce the law." Pete looked pointedly at Jim. "And you'd sleep better at night if you'd take that to heart."
"I guess I would at that." Jim paused and looked thoughtful as Pete wheeled the unit into the station parking lot. "One thing's for sure, though."
"No way I'm telling Jean about Amy Jefferson."
"Sometimes, Jim, you're smarter than you look."
"Thanks...ummm, I guess."
Pete laughed. He straightened the unit in their customary parking spot, then killed the engine. "Come on, let's get that cup of coffee."
"Then we can check some FI cards for information on Renfro, and see if Juvenile needs any more information from us."
They exited the car and headed for the back entrance to the station. As they opened the door, they had to sidestep as fellow patrol officer Sanchez came through from the opposite direction.
"Excuse me," Sanchez said, then he grinned when he caught sight of Pete. "Oh, hello, Malloy," he laughed. An odd expression settled over the lanky officer's face, and he laughed again.
"What's with you?" Pete asked.
"Oh, so you haven't seen the bulletin board yet, have you, Pete?" Sanchez asked between chuckles.
"No, we haven't been back in this morning," Pete said, eyeing Sanchez with suspicion. "What's on the bulletin board?"
"Oh, you'll see," Sanchez said, with another laugh. "Sorry I can't stick around to see your face, but I've gotta go out on a followup. See you later."
"Sure, later," Pete said. He watched Sanchez' retreating back for a moment, then turned a puzzled look to Jim.
"What was that about?" Jim asked.
"I dunno, but I'm not real sure I want to go in there."
"Maybe it's a message from some really sexy gal."
"Reed, do you ever take off those rose-colored glasses?" Pete asked. He stepped into the hallway and Jim followed him.
"Okay, maybe you're getting days off for being late," Jim said.
Pete stopped and impaled Jim with an exasperated look. "You're impossible."
"Hey, look who's coming out of the sarge's office," Jim pointed down the hall.
"Well, well, well, it's Ed Wells," Pete grinned at his own play on words. "Complete with sling."
"He looks good," Jim said.
"Matter of opinion," Pete quipped, but secretly, he was very glad to see his colleague recovering from his shotgun wound in record time. I just hope he learned his lesson from charging in without thinking like that. If he did, it'd be the first time he learned anything.
"If it isn't the Bobbsey Twins," Ed Wells caught sight of the pair and walked towards them. "You two keeping the streets clean while I'm gone?"
"Doing our best," Pete said.
"How're you feeling, Wells?" Jim asked. "The shoulder coming along?"
"Great. I feel great," Wells said, irrepressible as usual. "In fact, I feel so great, that I'm coming back to work tomorrow. I just got back from the doctor, and he cleared me for desk duty starting tomorrow."
"That's good news, Ed," Pete said.
"I was just working out the details with Mac," Ed hooked a thumb back over his shoulder. He then looked at Pete and grinned. "By the way, Malloy, I don't want to ever hear any more cracks about lame excuses for me being late."
"Ed, you've been using that 'I had a flat on the freeway' excuse for 7 years. Think of something better. But what brought that up?"
"You haven't seen the bulletin board yet, have you?" Ed asked.
"No, I haven't seen the bulletin board yet," Pete said with a half-sigh. "What's so interesting on the bulletin board?"
Wells snorted. "Why don't you take a walk down there and see for yourself."
Pete and Jim exchanged a look, and Pete shrugged. "Might as well get this over with."
"I think I'll tag along. Got nothing better to do," Wells said.
As the three men passed MacDonald's office, the Sergeant got up from his desk and opened the door. "Hey, Malloy, be sure to check out the bulletin board," he called, a Cheshire grin wreathing his face.
"That's where I'm headed," Pete said, now struggling to keep his irritation in check. Whatever this is, I know I'm not going to like it.
Pete spotted the item of interest several feet before he reached the station's bulletin board. Two plainclothes officers from Robbery/Homicide stood looking at a very large sheet of paper, obviously amused by what they saw.
"Hey, Pete!" The taller of the two men greeted him as Pete, Jim, and Ed walked up. "I don't know how you do it. You've really got the connections!" He burst out laughing.
"Yeah, now I know who to call next time I get in a jam," the other officer laughed. They both walked off together, still laughing.
"Read it and weep, Malloy," Ed said, with far too much enjoyment, in Pete's opinion.
Pete finally walked up closer to the board and started to read the oversized paper. His heart sank and his face reddened as the heading at the top jumped out at him. Written in black magic marker, in large, bold print he read, "Pete Malloy's Excuse." Underneath, there was a photocopy of a telephone message in the almost illegible scrawl of the desk sergeant, blown up to immense proportions, that stated:
To: Sergeant MacDonald
From: Mrs. Patrick O'Brien
Time: 8:15 a.m.
Message: Please ex. Pete Malloy from being late to work. We had a power outage at the apt. complex. He wasn't "dilly-dallying." Remind him I need him to take out my garbage when he gets home this afternoon.
Jim started laughing, but stopped when Pete reached up and ripped the paper off the board.
"Aw, Pete!" Ed objected. "Why'd you take it down? It was signed off on by the Lieutenant and everything!" Ed started laughing. "I mean, that's pretty slick when you get your landlady to speak up for you..."
"Ed, shut up," Pete said, crumpling up the paper.
Ed's grin spanned his face. Jim tried unsuccessfully to hide a grin of his own.
Pete glared at the both of them, but Ed chattered on.
"With a name like O'Brien, too...you must have this Irish connection, right? How old is this gal, anyway?"
"Ed, I told you to shut up," Pete snapped. He walked away, still clutching the paper. "Reed, I'm going to Records," he called over his shoulder.
"Some people can dish it out, but they just can't take it!" Ed called after him. He looked at Jim, who started to follow Pete down the hall. "Tell Pete he's spoiling our fun! It isn't often we get something on him."
Jim shrugged. "I've gotta ride with him all day," he said.
"No, smart. See ya tomorrow, Wells."
"Paydirt," Pete said, with grim satisfaction. He pulled out an FI card from the immense number in the tray through which he'd been looking.
"Really?" Jim looked over Pete's shoulder.
"Robert J. Renfro, 798 Grapevine Drive. This is the one." Pete looked over the card. "Six-three, 250, black and green."
"Six-three, 250. Beating up on someone not even half his size...." Jim's voice held barely leashed anger. Pete raised an eyebrow at him, and Jim took a deep breath. "What they'd interview him on?"
"Fight in a bar. Smokey Joes."
"That's about par for the course at Smokey Joes."
"No kidding." Pete shut the file drawer. "Let's go show this to Mac and get a broadcast out on this jerk. Then we can grab our coffee."
The two men made their way back to Mac's office and found him frowning his way through a pile of paperwork. Pete knocked once, then opened the door and walked on in.
Mac's frown turned to a grin when he looked up and saw Pete. "Wells told me you took the note down," he said.
"Did you doubt that I would?"
"Not really. Pete, that landlady of yours is something else," Mac said with a shake of his head. "Ol' Bobby could hardly write the message for laughing."
"Mac, I really don't want to talk about it," Pete said, repressing a sigh.
"All right, if that's the way you want it. What've you got there?"
Pete put the FI card on MacDonald's desk and updated him on the situation with Amy Jefferson.
"Okay, good work," Mac said. "I'll contact dispatch and have them put out a broadcast. Why don't you cruise the area around Grapevine more closely today. Maybe you'll spot him around the neighborhood. I'll also get on juvenile's case to get over to the hospital and check things out. Maybe a matron can get Amy to open up a little more."
"Thanks, Sarge," Jim said. "I really want to nail this creep. And somebody needs to wake up Amy Jefferson to the fact that Renfro's bad news."
Mac shrugged and narrowed his eyes at Jim. "Renfro we can handle. But Amy Jefferson may never see what she's doing now is a one way ticket to nowhere." His look softened. "Better get back on the street."
"Right. Come on, Reed."
"Oh, Pete," Mac called, as the two officers headed through the door.
"Don't forget to take out Mrs. O'Brien's garbage when you get home!" He roared in laughter.
Jim snickered and beat a hasty exit from MacDonald's office.
Pete just glowered at his sergeant and closed the door, using just a little more force than was really necessary.
"Looks like Renfro's gone to ground," Jim said, after their third circuit of the six-block area around Grapevine drive proved fruitless.
"Maybe. Or he may surface in the next five minutes. Don't worry, we'll turn him eventually." Pete shot a concerned glance at his partner. "You and I can't singlehandedly catch every crook in LA, you know."
Jim actually grinned. "Yeah. I know."
"So relax, already."
"We never got our coffee, you know," Jim said.
"Don't I know it. We'll try for early seven before too long."
"Now you're talking."
"One-Adam-12, One-Adam-12, a 415, woman screaming and crying. Parking lot of Marvin's Mighty Mart, 12500 Elmhurst. One-Adam-12, handle Code Two."
Jim jerked the mic off the holder. "One-Adam-12, roger."
"Marvin's Mighty Mart," Pete repeated. "That's a big store."
"She probably got a look at her food bill and went ballistic," Jim said. "Have you priced groceries lately?"
"I do eat," Pete said. He gave a signal and turned left onto West Valley Boulevard, which would take them to Elmhurst. "And if you think it's expensive now, just wait until the formula and diapers start adding up."
"Thanks for reminding me," Jim muttered.
They rode the rest of the eight-block drive in silence. Once they reached Marvin's Mighty Mart they didn't have any trouble locating the source of the problem. A small crowd of mostly women had gathered near the rear of the large lot. At the center of the crowd stood a tiny Asian woman, leaning up against an old, creme-colored Rambler. She wore a long, colorful peasant dress, a popular style among young women in LA at the moment. But the skirt didn't seem to fit in the flowing style Pete had been accustomed to seeing; instead, the fabric lay taut against the woman's legs. The tiny woman waved her arms wildly, and even through the closed windows of Adam-12, they could hear her screeching and crying.
Pete pulled the unit up and killed the engine. With that noise gone, he could tell that the woman screeched not in English, but in Chinese.
Obviously, Jim heard it, too. "Malloy...do you speak Chinese?"
"Sure. And Russian and Swahili, too." Pete rolled his eyes. He grabbed his hat and put it on as he got out of the unit.
"Excuse me, folks, excuse me," Pete gently pushed his way through the crowd of women to get to the distraught woman by the old Rambler.
"About time you got here," a sharp voice sounded from the crowd.
Pete ignored the jibe and went straight to the crying woman. "Ma'am, ma'am, calm down," he said, holding his hand up in what he hoped to be a calming gesture. "We're here to help you. What's the problem?"
The woman pointed frantically toward the car, speaking as fast as Pete had ever heard a woman speak. Tears rolled down her face. She pulled at her skirt, jiggled the obviously locked door handle, and pointed again to the car. Pete looked more closely, and saw a baby sitting in a car seat on the other side of the front seat. The infant looked to be about six months old and it was crying, too. Only the mother's crying drowned it out.
"Okay, ma'am, just stop crying," Pete said, though he realized she probably didn't understand him, either.
"She doesn't speak any English," the same sharp voice came from behind him as the Asian lady continued to screech and cry.
Pete turned to seek out the owner of the sharp voice, but Jim had already spotted her, so Pete continued to try to calm the agitated woman. He heard Jim start to question the woman in the crowd.
"What's your name, ma'am?" Jim asked.
"Charlotte Granada," the woman said.
"Do you speak Chinese?" Jim asked.
Granada laughed, but her voice held more scorn than humor. "If I did, I wouldn't be standing here doing nothing, now, would I?"
"Do you know what the problem is?"
"You don't have to speak Chinese to know what the problem is," Granada continued, the sharpness in her voice growing to irritating proportions. "She's locked herself out of her car, and her baby's inside. And she's stuck in the door."
"Stuck in the door?" Jim swivelled his head to see exactly what Granada meant.
"Yeah," Pete confirmed. "Her dress is stuck in the door, and it's locked. All the doors are locked, I can see her keys are inside, and so's the baby."
"We would have called her husband," Granada broke in, "but since she doesn't speak English..." she shrugged. "So we called you."
"Did anybody try to use a clothes hanger to pull the lock?" Jim asked.
"None of us knew how to do that." The tone of Charlotte Granada's voice indicated it would be shocking for any self-respecting woman to be able to break in a locked car.
"Of course not," Jim said. "Thank you for your help."
"Partner, get ours out of the trunk and see if you can jimmy up the lock," Pete said. He was having little success in calming the woman, who now had returned to her wild arm gesticulations as accompaniment to her hysterics. She strained against the skirt of her dress, which was firmly trapped in the locked door.
"Okay," Jim ran back to the car.
"Please, lady," Pete said. He placed a gentle hand on the woman's shoulder. "We're going to help you. Your baby's going to be okay. We'll have the door open in just a minute." I wonder how on earth she got her dress stuck in the door like that. Since she can't speak English, I guess we'll never find out.
Pete looked back at the squalling baby. He figured it to be a girl, since it wore a pink ribbon in the shock of black hair sticking almost straight up off her head. She doesn't seem to be in any danger, and the temperature out is cool, so she's probably not overheated. I'm sure she's fine.
"Got it!" Jim said breathlessly. "I'll work from the other side, because she's blocking the lock on this side."
Jim ran around to the other side of the car. "Oh, poor baby," he cooed through the glass. "Don't cry. I'm gonna get you out." Jim took his fingers, found the flexible weatherguard between the window and the car body, then extended the elongated clotheshanger through it.
The child's mother gasped and shrieked more loudly when Jim inserted the makeshift device.
"It's okay, it's okay," Pete said, smiling his best smile. "He's very careful. Your baby," Pete cupped his arms over one another and rocked them back and forth to give her some sign language, "is safe. O-kay."
"O-o-kay," the Asian woman parroted, speaking the first intelligible words since they'd arrived.
"Yes!" Pete nodded, then made the universal "okay" sign with his thumb and forefinger. "Okay."
The woman nodded and quieted down. She watched Jim work while she wiped at her eyes.
Pete watched Jim as well. He knew that his partner would work slowly and meticulously, so that the clothes hanger would not slip and make contact with the baby. But Pete also knew that watching the baby cry through the window would tug at Jim's heartstrings, and cause him to work as fast as he could.
Jim got the loop at the end of the wire around the lock and pulled, but the metal slipped off. "Almost had it," he said, frowning.
"Slow and easy," Pete said. "The baby's not in immediate danger."
"Right." Jim took a deep breath, jiggled the wire backwards, then rerouted it back to the lock. He slipped the loop around the top of the lock, then pulled slowly upward.
Pete tensed as Jim eased the wire upward. After what seemed like minutes, a satisfying, tiny click indicated that this time, it had worked.
Jim blew out his breath. "Got it!" He opened the door, and patted the crying baby on the shoulder with one hand, while leaning over to pop the lock of the driver's side door. "It's all right, baby, it's okay. Mommy's coming."
Pete opened the driver's side door, and as soon as her skirt fell free, the woman raced around to the other side. The crowd applauded and then began to disperse, the excitement over.
Jim stepped out of the way of the obviously relieved mother, and she leaned in and started comforting her baby. By the time Jim had removed the wire and walked around to join Pete, the baby had stopped crying and instead, cooed and gurgled happily.
"Nice job, partner," Pete said.
"Thanks. Looks like everybody's okay."
"How are we gonna write a report since she doesn't speak English?" Jim asked.
Pete's brow furrowed. "I guess we can use some sign language to get her to give us her driver's license. That's all we really need."
"I guess that's right."
"She's coming back around here," Pete said. He watched the now-happy woman come back around the rear of the car.
The woman wore a smile that traversed her face. She kept bowing her head and repeating a phrase over and over that sounded to Pete like "Shay-shay." I guess that means thanks.
When the woman reached Jim, she threw herself to her knees at his feet and bowed her head to the tops of his shoes over and over again, all the while repeating the sibilant phrase.
Jim's mouth dropped open and his eyes widened. He looked at Pete, obviously desperate for help out of his unusual situation.
Pete knew his eyes must have been as wide as his partner's. Never in his eight years of police work had he ever had a person he'd assisted bow at his feet. The look of panicked confusion on Jim's face caused him to laugh out loud. He spread his hands and shrugged.
Jim scowled briefly, then turned his attention to the woman. "Uhhhh, ma'am, uhhhh, ma'am, get up," Jim gently took her by the elbow and tugged upward. "Uhh, please?"
The woman bowed faster, even planting a few kisses on Jim's shoe tops. For the second time that morning, Pete had to turn away to keep from completely losing his composure. What a day Jim's had!
It took a few more seconds of Jim's quiet pleading for the woman to stop bowing and comply with his request. She finally did let him help her up, but she kept slightly bowing and repeating the two-word phrase "shay-shay."
"You're welcome," Jim said, apparently deciding she was trying to thank him. He kept a light grip on her elbow so that she wouldn't fall at his feet again.. "Malloy...do something!"
Pete pulled himself together and tapped the woman on the shoulder. "Ma'am," he said. Once he got her attention, he put his hands out and moved them back and forth in a "driving" motion, then made the small rectangular shape of a driver's license with his fingers. "I need your driver's license, please."
The woman frowned at him, so Pete repeated the motions and asked her again, unconsciously raising his voice. "I need your driver's license!"
"Malloy, she's not deaf," Jim said, putting a hand over his ear. "But I might be, after that."
Pete scowled. "You get through to her then."
"Point to her purse on the seat there," Jim said, "then repeat your motions."
Pete sighed, pointed to the purse, then pantomimed again. With a much lower voice he said, "Driver's license."
"Ahhhh!" the woman smiled, then pulled her purse off the seat and opened it. She pulled out her billfold and gave Pete her license. Jim took the opportunity to bolt for the unit and put distance between himself and the grateful mother.
"Don't camp out over there," Pete said over his shoulder. "I'm gonna need the report book."
Pete and Jim waited until the woman successfully started her car and pulled out of the lot before clearing. After Jim had cleared them and hung up the mic, he turned to Pete.
"This has been the weirdest day," Jim said with a half-chuckle and a shake of his head.
"You're not kidding," Pete agreed. He started up the car and pulled out of the lot of Marvin's Mighty Mart.
"Can we take seven now?" Jim asked.
Pete chuckled at the plaintive sound in Jim's voice. "Sure. Where we goin'?"
"I don't care, as long as there's food and coffee."
"We didn't make it to Duke's this morning. And we haven't seen him for a couple of days."
"That's fine." Jim reached for the mic, but before he could even take it from the holder, dispatch broke in.
"One-Adam-12, One-Adam-12, a 459 report. See the woman. 154 Cherokee Circle. One-Adam-12, handle Code Two."
"Figures," Jim muttered. He picked up the mic and depressed the button. "One-Adam-12, roger."
It took well over a half-hour to take the report from the woman, who turned out to be an elderly widow. She seemed so confused about things that Pete began to wonder if there had really been any burglary at her home at all, especially when they found no sign of foreced entry. But they took the report with patience and kindness and assured the woman they would do their best to recover her property. Pete made a mental note to check with detectives later to see if the woman might be a "frequent reporter."
As soon as they got back into the unit, Jim cleared them and got permission for them to take seven at Duke's Longhorn Café.
"I hope the chili's fresh today," Jim said.
"Let's see, today's Wednesday." Pete waggled his hand back and forth. "Could go either way, partner. Depends on how business has been."
"I hope it's been good, because last time the chili tasted like it was a week old."
"That's probably because it was," Pete laughed. "Duke's not Scottish, but he might as well be when it comes to squeezing a dollar."
"Yeah. It guess it's hard to...look out, Malloy!" Jim yelled in warning, pointing toward a car streaking toward them from the intersection ahead, blowing through a stop sign in excess of the speed limit.
Pete hit the brakes hard and swerved the unit away from the onrushing vehicle. Adam-12's rear end skidded around, just barely missing the other car. Pete pulled them out of the skid quickly, his driving skills proving expert once again.
"You okay over there?" Pete asked, as he straightened up the car. He leaned over and activated the reds.
"Yeah." Jim released the white-knuckle grip he'd had on the dash to keep from being slung into the windshield. "Look at that guy. He's all over the place."
"He's starting early today." Pete honked the horn at the driver, whose car weaved from one side of the road to the other. His body moved from side-to-side behind the steering wheel. "I don't think he's even aware we're back here."
"He can't even sit up straight, Malloy," Jim said. "We'd better pull him over before he kills himself."
"Or somebody else." Pete honked the horn again and inched their cruiser closer to the dangerously swerving car. He wanted to get the driver stopped before he blew through the next block's stop sign. When the horn failed to produce the desired result, Pete warbled the siren.
That seemed to get the driver's attention, because he hit his brakes, screeching to a stop so hard and fast that Pete nearly rammed him from behind.
"Good grief," Jim muttered.
Pete turned the microphone to PA function and grabbed the mic. "Driver of the car, pull over to the curb. Drive slowly to the curb and pull over."
The driver moved forward again, with a screeching lurch. He barely missed a mailbox as he tried to pull to the curb. His front tires jumped the concrete and dug a small trench in someone's front yard. The erratic driver then returned to the main road, crossing all the way over to the other side of the street. Fortunately for all involved, there was no oncoming traffic. But he managed to bring his car to a stop before striking any other object. He then fell over into the seat, disappearing from their view. His hands still gripped the steering column.
"Thank goodness." Jim picked up the mic. "One-Adam-12, cancel our request for seven and show us Code 6 in the....500 block of 7th Avenue. We have a possible 502."
"Looks like Duke's chili's gonna have to wait." Pete grabbed his hat. "I'll take him, partner. You run him."
"You think our boy can walk?" Pete asked Jim. He pulled Adam-12 into their regular parking spot back at the station, and glanced at his partner in the rearview mirror. Their suspected 502, a twenty-four-year-old man named Chip Collins, had spent most of the ride to the station leaning over on Jim's shoulder. Jim finally had to resort to holding Collins by the arm to keep him upright.
"Come on, Mr. Collins," Jim said to his prisoner. "We've got a nice place for you to sleep it off." Jim eased out of the car, still holding him by the arm.
"But....ossifers...I'mmmm not druuunk," Collins insisted. "I on...only had 2 beeerrrssss."
"Yeah, we know," Jim said. He tugged on Collins' arm to encourage him to slide out of the back of the cruiser.
"And probably 20 shots of whiskey to wash it all down, based on the smell of things," Pete joined Jim at the door. "Come on out, Collins."
" 'sss too far," Collins moaned.
Jim rolled his eyes and pulled the inebriated man from the back seat. He and Pete had to half-carry the jelly-legged Collins into the station. They hauled him down the hallway to attempt the breathalyzer test. It took quite a while to make the exceptionally drunk Collins understand what to do, then they had to hold him steady while he tried to breathe into the machine. Eventually, though, between the two of them and the assistance of a station officer, they got the job done.
"I think we have a new world's record here," Pete said, as he examined the readout from the machine. "Let's get him booked, partner."
"Okay, Mr. Collins, let's go make your reservations," Jim stood and pulled Collins up from the chair. Collins overbalanced and stumbled forward into Jim's chest. He threw an arm around Jim's shoulder to keep from falling, and Jim wound up having to encircle Collins' waist to keep them both from tumbling over.
"Whoa, there!" Jim said. "Take it easy, Mr. Collins."
"Lets dansche, ossifer," Collins slurred, smiling up at Jim.
"I don't think so."
"I like to dansche," Collins said. He pulled down on Jim's neck so that they were nearly face-to-face.
"Mr. Collins, please," Jim pulled back, making a face as Collins' liquor-infused breath obviously overwhelmed him.
"You two make a great couple," Pete said with a chuckle.
Jim shot Pete a menacing glare as he struggled to push Collins away and hold him upright at the same time.
"Hey, ossifer. You're a lousssy danscher."
"Sorry," Jim said irritably.
" 'sssokay," Collins said, as he stumbled back onto his feet. "You're...kinda cuuute. You mmmarried?"
Pete and the station officer burst out laughing as Jim's face flamed red.
"Button your lip and let's go, Mr. Collins."
"Pete, Jim, step into my office a minute, huh?" Sergeant MacDonald stopped the duo as they walked toward the parking lot after having finally finished booking Chip Collins.
"Sure, Mac," Pete said. Mac looks grim. I wonder what's up.
"Oh, man, we're never gonna get lunch today," Jim said.
Pete led the way into the Watch Commander's glass-encased office, and Jim shut the door behind them. MacDonald didn't go behind his desk, but rather hitched his hip onto the corner and indicated that Pete and Jim should sit.
"Sit down, Pete, Jim," Mac said. His face spoke of a man about to say something he really didn't want to.
Pete knew that look well. His heart rate went up slightly. "What's up, Mac?"
Mac gave them both a sympathetic look, but his gaze lingered a touch longer on Jim. "I just talked with Sergeant Greenewall from Juvenile. He went down to the hospital to investigate the Amy Jefferson situation."
"What'd he find out?" Jim asked. "How's she doing?"
Mac took a deep breath. "Amy Jefferson died on the operating table. I don't know all the details but there was some kind of complication."
"Oh, man," Pete said. He stole a look at Jim, who stared at his shoes, his face drained of color.
"What about the baby?" Jim asked in a near-whisper. He didn't look up.
Mac paused a long time before answering. "A boy. Stillborn."
Pete lowered his own eyes for a moment. He heard Jim suck in a breath.
"Naturally, the charge against Renfro is now second-degree murder," Mac said after a moment of heavy silence. "I've turned the case over to detectives, but I wanted to tell you the latest since you made the initial call."
"What about locating her family?" Pete asked.
"We're working on it. Detectives are checking the usual leads -- missing persons reports, DMV, neighbors. They'll turn something." Mac looked at Jim again. The rookie had not yet lifted his eyes from his shoe tops.
Pete glanced over at Jim when he noticed Mac's gaze settling on his partner. Pete could see the iron knot of tension in Jim's jaw and the fists clenched at his sides. Both gave mute testimony to the battle Reed waged within himself to deal with his sorrow and anger. I'm glad we're not in the locker room. If we were, Jim might be buying another locker door.
"Intensify your patrol in the Grapevine Drive area," Mac said, pulling Pete away from his thoughts. "Just in case."
"Right," Pete said.
"I heard you cancel your request for seven to handle the deuce." Mac nodded toward the tank where Collins had passed out. "Clear and take seven now."
Bless you, Mac. "Okay, you're the boss." Pete stood to go, and when Jim didn't get up, Pete tapped Jim's shoulder lightly. "Let's go, partner."
Jim got up wordlessly and followed Pete out the door. Neither man saw the concerned look their watch commander gave them as they left.
"Shake it off, Reed," Pete said, not unkindly. He'd wanted to give Jim enough space to work through his feelings and either talk it out or push them aside, but Jim had done neither. Pete had sat in the booth at Duke's Longhorn Cafe and watched his partner play with his chili and brood for long enough.
Jim dropped his spoon down on the table with a clatter and looked up at Pete, his eyes full of pain. "Tell me how, and I will," he said. Jim's voice held a hint of anger, but obvious desperation drove his question.
Pete spread his hands. "Everybody's different. What works for me probably won't work for you." Pete felt badly for his partner, whose big heart seemed to be working overtime today.
"You said I'd learn. You said I'd learn to shut it all out." Jim closed his eyes, obviously recalling a conversation held in the locker room not too many weeks ago on another incredibly emotional day of work. That had been the day Jim had smashed in a locker door after hearing of the death of an abused child. That child had died on the table as well. He shook his head. "But I'm not. I'm not getting this lesson. Maybe I just don't..." he trailed off.
Pete waited for a beat, then prompted Jim. "Don't what?"
"Nothin'." Jim pushed his uneaten bowl of chili away and stared at the table top.
Pete knew his partner well enough by now to know what the unspoken words had been. In his mind, he could almost hear Jim say them. I don't have what it takes to be a cop. I'm not going to make it. Pete bit back a sigh. He hardly knew what to say to reassure Jim that he did have what it took; that he wasn't alone in suffering from a call gone wrong. All he knew was that he had to try.
"Jim, nobody expects you to completely forget the things that happen on the job. Some of them are ugly. Some of them are painful. Some of them make you mad as hell. We're only human, and we can't help reacting to those things." Pete paused and waited until Jim met his gaze. "You might remember Amy Jefferson for the rest of your life. You might never forget that little boy that Bates abused, or the crazy actions of Metzger this morning. It's just part of the job, and they'll become your war stories, or your motivation to do your job better, or maybe the reason you walk away from it one day.
"But what you've got to do is find a place...somewhere...in your heart, or your head, where you can put the Amy Jeffersons and the Renfros and the Metzgers while you get on with your day. When you're out on the street, you need one-hundred percent of your mind on your job, because you never know what the next call will be. It might be something mundane like taking a 484 report, or directing traffic at a b. o. signal, but it just might be a 211 silent, or a couple of punks high on God-knows-what, who'd love to put a bullet right between your eyes. You know by now that one minute you can be driving down the street, sharing a joke, and the next, you can be facing a life-and-death situation. You need to be all there." Pete tapped his own forehead for emphasis, then smiled at Jim to lighten his words. "You dig?"
Jim snorted lightly and managed a small smile, obviously amused that Pete had used that currently hip phrase. "I dig."
"So prove it to me by eating something," Pete pushed Jim's bowl of chili back in front of him. "I don't want you fainting from hunger on me."
Jim picked up his spoon and took a bite. After swallowing the savory stew and washing it down with now-lukewarm coffee, he looked at Pete. "Malloy?"
"Do me a favor, huh?"
"Don't say that again."
"Say what again?"
"'You dig.' Don't say that again. Somehow, it just doesn't sound...right...when you say it."
Pete quirked his mouth and glared at his partner. "Just shut up and eat, Reed."
During the last ten minutes of their lunch break, Jim seemed to have pulled at least partially out of his funk. After Jim had eaten most of his lunch, Pete had shoved a dime at him and told him to go call his wife. Jim had complied, and had definitely come back in a better mood. Jim reported that Jean had been busy all morning, cleaning out her closet and putting finishing touches on the nursery. She's nesting, Jim had said, with a grin. Apparently that was a good thing; Jim said it meant nature was preparing her for the birth of her baby. Pete thought that sounded like an old wives' tale, but if it helped bring Jim out of his depression, he wouldn't question it.
Jim's life is really going to change in a few weeks. Maybe I should ask him to go fishing or something before the baby comes. Who knows when we might get a chance after it gets here.
"One-Adam-12, One-Adam-12, see the woman. A malicious mischief report. 722 Cardinal Lane. One-Adam-12, handle Code 2."
"One-Adam-12, roger," Jim acknowledged. He scribbled down the address. "Cardinal Lane. I don't think I've ever been there, have I?"
"We've prowled there a couple of times. It's on the far side of the district." Pete checked traffic, then pulled a U and headed the cruiser in the opposite direction. "Quiet street, mostly retired or elderly live there. It's one of the older neighborhoods -- you know, big lots, huge front yards, good places for kids to play. I don't believe I've ever had a call there."
"Malicious mischief. Sounds like some juveniles might have discovered a quiet street where they can wreak some havoc."
Thanks to light mid-afternoon traffic, they made the drive in short time. Pete turned onto the street, and as he expected, found it to be quiet. But the number of cars parked on the street rather than in driveways did surprise him.
"Seven twenty-two is on the left there," Jim pointed out the house. "And looks like somebody clipped her mailbox."
"Looks like." Pete pulled over to the curb in front of the address and killed the engine. "There's a tire trench dug in the yard, too. Somebody's been playing mailbox pinball."
"You were right about these front yards," Jim said. "They're huge. Glad I don't have to cut it every week."
They donned their hats and walked up the sidewalk. As they made their way up the steps to the porch, the front door opened and a tall, broad-shouldered, gray-haired woman emerged, looking fiercely angry.
She reminds me of a teacher I had in grade school. I'll never forget Sister Mary Margaret and her ruler. Pete rubbed at the back of his hand subconsciously.
"Officers, thank you for coming so quickly," the woman said. "They're still over there! Maybe you can arrest them."
"Arrest them for what, ma'am?" Pete asked mildly.
"For that! Tearing up my yard!" The woman waved her hand expansively. "And my mailbox! Did you see that? That hoodlum practically flattened it!"
"Yes, ma'am, we saw," Pete said. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Jim take out his notebook. "When did all this happen?"
"Just about a half-hour ago. That's why I called you people. You see, this car..."
"Excuse me, ma'am," Jim interrupted. "May I have your name, please?"
The woman turned a haughty look on Jim. "Young man, it is rude to interrupt."
"I'm sorry, ma'am," Jim apologized with grace, "but I do need your name."
"It's Mrs. Virgilia Mayfield. That's Virgilia, not Virginia. V - I - R - G - I - L - I - A. Mrs. Virgilia Mayfield. I'm a widow. Now, young man, did you get all of that?"
"Yes, ma'am," Jim said.
"Spell it back to me, young man. I want to make sure you got it correctly. You see, almost everyone butchers my name, either in pronunciation or in spelling. It becomes annoying after the number of years I've been enduring such ignorance."
"Yes, ma'am. That's Mrs. Virgilia, V-i-r-g-i-l-i-a Mayfield."
"Very good young man," Mrs. Mayfield nodded in approval.
"Now, Mrs. Mayfield," Pete said with a smile, "Tell us what happened."
"Well, officers, you see that two-story house directly across the street? The one with the three cars parked on the street in front? And the one in the garage there?"
"Yes, ma'am," Pete nodded. He'd noticed the house when they first came onto the street. The older, Georgian-style home was the largest one on the block, a two-story, and the only one to have an attached garage. Like the other homes, it boasted a large front yard, treeless save for one rather small elm just off the driveway to the garage. But it had been the three cars parked on the street in front that had attracted his attention.
"Mr. Ernest Delbert used to live there. He was such a nice man, but he was very elderly, and a widower. He got to where he couldn't take care of himself, so his daughter had him placed in a nursing home. So sad," Mrs. Mayfield shook her head. "His daughter then rented out the home about a month ago. Imagine that! She's renting her childhood home out to strangers. And not very nice strangers, either."
"What do you mean?" Pete prompted.
"Well, for one thing, they're very loud. The people who live there play loud music a lot. And the traffic! There are cars constantly going in and out of that place, at all hours of the day and night. They're all young...probably college-age." She surveyed Jim with narrowed eyes. "Probably just older than you, young man."
"Yes, ma'am," Jim said with resignation.
"Go on, ma'am," Pete clamped down on his own amusement. Apparently he wasn't the only one that thought Jim looked like a kid in his uniform.
"Well, that blue car there," Mrs. Mayfield pointed at a souped-up baby-blue '65 Mustang parked across the way, "came roaring -- and I do mean roaring -- onto the street about a half-hour ago. He was going so fast that when Mrs. MacDougle's cat ran out in front of him, he had to swerve to miss it! That's when he dug up my grass and hit my mailbox."
"So he didn't target you deliberately?" Pete asked.
"How should I know that? I know he swerved to miss the cat, and I suppose that should be good for something. But if he hadn't been traveling so fast, he wouldn't have torn up my yard!"
"Did you talk with him about it?" Pete asked.
"I most certainly did! I marched right out here and called to him! But officer, he merely showed me an obscene gesture and laughed at me! And then he walked into the house." Mrs. Mayfield waggled her finger under Pete's nose. "Now, I want you to march right over there and arrest him!"
"Mrs. Mayfield, I'm afraid we can't do that."
"And why not?" Mrs. Mayfield drew herself up to full height; that put her almost eye-to-eye with Pete.
Pete tried not to think of Sister Mary Margaret's ruler. "Because what he did was probably an accident, and if it wasn't, it's still only a misdemeanor. We aren't allowed to arrest people for committing a misdemeanor unless we witness it ourselves."
"Well, I never!" Mrs. Mayfield exclaimed. "That's ridiculous!"
"It's the law, ma'am," Pete said gently.
"So you aren't going to do anything? I wasted my time!"
"We can go talk to the driver, take some information, and warn him to slow down in a residential area. We can even ask him to straighten your mailbox. But he's under no obligation to do so."
Mrs. Mayfield sighed. "He was so rude. I doubt he'll comply."
"You never know."
"Oh, all right. Go and talk. For all the good it will do."
"Yes, ma'am. You stay here in your house, and we'll come back after we're through talking and let you know how it goes."
"Just give him a good tongue-lashing!"
"I'll do my best, ma'am."
"I'll expect a full report when you're done." Mrs. Mayfield said, then turned and marched back into her home.
"Too bad about all this," Jim said. He pocketed his notebook and matched Pete's strides down the sidewalk.
"Not much we can do," Pete said.
"I know." Jim said, without much enthusiasm. He looked at the crooked mailbox.
"Don't even think about it," Pete warned.
"You know what." Pete pointed to the house across the way. "You go knock on the door, while I go to check out the tires and front bumper of the Mustang."
"That's a real bomb," Jim said, with an admiring glance at the souped-up Mustang. "I bet it can really move."
As Jim made his way up the sidewalk of the expansive front yard, Pete studied the tires of the Mustang, not surprised to find grass and dirt stuck in the treads. A quick check of the front bumper showed some scratches and a minor dent, which could have come from anywhere. Pete took his notebook out of his pocket and scribbled down the license plate. On a hunch, he turned to the other car parked in front of the Mustang, a late model Cadillac, and wrote that number down as well. The plates of third car, a brand-new Lincoln Continental, were partially blocked, so he decided to get that one later. For now, he needed to join Jim so he could deliver Mrs. Mayfield's tongue-lashing.
Pete stuck his notebook back in his pocket and looked up to see that Jim had almost reached the front porch. Something scratched at the back of his brain but refused to surface. The presence of so many cars on this street disturbed him. Even if a bunch of college kids had rented the house, which was quite possible -- it didn't seem right. College kids don't drive Caddys or Continentals.
Pete shook his head and took a step to join his partner, but the sound of shattering glass froze him in mid-stride.
Pete's gaze traveled to the source of the sound -- a second-story window at the front corner of the house -- and whether he actually saw the gun aimed at his partner, or his deeply ingrained police instincts made him act before his brain registered the glint of metal, he didn't know. But he moved, even as he yelled out warning to Jim.
"Reed! Get down!" Pete cried. He dove for cover behind the blue Mustang. He heard the crack of gunshots -- one, two, three -- before he even hit the pavement behind the car. That he didn't hear answering shots from Jim chilled him to the core. "Reed!" he called out. He fought down panic and pushed himself to his haunches, drawing his gun. About that time, Pete heard Jim's weapon answer fire. In the two-to-three seconds it took Pete to align himself, note though the car windows that Jim had taken refuge behind the only tree in the front yard, and squeeze off a shot toward the window, all hell broke loose.
Bullets started streaking fast and furious from the house. Pete couldn't even allow himself a fraction of a second's relief that Jim was alive and able to return fire, or to wonder if Jim had been hit at all. Volleys of gunshots came not only from the upstairs window, but from closer to ground level as well. Bullets flew from what seemed like every direction at once. Pete saw a body in a downstairs window, took aim and started firing.
Bullets pinged and ricocheted off the Mustang's hood and plowed through the glass windshield. As bullets shattered windowpanes of the house, the neighborhood reverberated with the sound of jangling explosions. Pete kept his head low and fired at the general direction of the house, though at the range he was at he knew he had little or no chance of actually hitting anyone, despite his considerable shooting skills. At of the corner of his vision, he could see that the modest elm tree Jim hunkered behind gave him precious little cover. Pete saw bark flying from the tree as bullets dug into the wood. Dirt spewed upwards at Jim's feet as the bullets hailed down. Unconsciously, Pete willed Jim to stay calm and focused. His first real firefight.
It was as vicious a firefight as Pete had ever been in, and it had come out of the blue. Even as he fired, fractured thoughts raced through his mind. What the hell have we stumbled onto here? We need back up. I can't make it to the unit...the guy in the upstairs window has an angle and he'll pick me off for sure. But I've got to get Jim outta there.
Pete heard a small lapse in the gunfire, saw at a glance that Jim had to stop and reload. Pete took his remaining shots, spacing them to give Jim time to get his bullets in the chambers. Even as far as he hunched away from Jim, Pete could see his partner's hands trembling with the tension of the moment as he thumbed bullets into the gun. It seemed like an eternity to Pete. What's taking him so long? I guess he's scared out of his mind.
Jim got his gun reloaded, and when he started firing again, Pete ducked down low to reload his own weapon. As he pushed the bullets into the chambers, he considered once again making a run for the unit. We've gotta have help. Jim's in a terrible spot. But the fifteen feet that separated him from Adam-12 and the radio offered no cover. If I try it and get hit, then I'm no help at all. Can't leave Jim alone. Pete snapped the cylinder back into place, then turned and fired at the house. Surely one of the neighbors will call the police...
A bullet skimmed off the hood of the car and whizzed dangerously close to Pete's face. He dodged involuntarily and changed his aim to track the direction that bullet had come from. Useless! I can't hit anything at this range. Pete popped off another two shots, then glanced at Jim. His partner had squeezed his body behind the small elm, and it looked like he had to suck in his breath to make himself small enough to stay behind it. For the first time Pete noticed that Jim's hat lay on the ground several feet from the tree. He only hoped it had fallen off when Jim dove for cover.
Pete tracked a movement out of the corner of his left eye, and turned his head to get a better look. He saw the barrel of a shotgun protruding from the bottom left window of the house, aimed at Jim. Pete changed his aim and squeezed off three quick rounds at the window to drive the assailant back. If he gets a shotgun blast off at Jim, that tree probably won't cover him. Pete noted that his shots caused the bearer of the shotgun to pull back slightly, because the barrel retreated back through the window.
"Reed! Shotgun on the left!" Pete warned. Jim subtly shifted his position behind the tree, but he didn't answer. Jim continued to squeeze off shots, his primary aim going to the second story window.
A fresh volley of bullets drove Pete lower behind the car as the Mustang took the brunt of at least a half-dozen lead slugs. He managed to get two more rounds off toward the window where the shotgun wielding criminal hid, then he heard Jim's gun go silent again, and saw Jim reaching yet again for more ammo. Pete only had one more round left before he would need to reload. Again, he found himself willing Jim to hurry. Even as he thought the words, he saw Jim drop a bullet to the ground as he rushed to reload. Pete's heart sank to his shoe tops. Easy, partner! Hang in there!
Pete saw the shotgun barrel poke through the window again, so he used his last remaining round to discourage the person from firing. Then he had to slide down behind the dinged up Mustang to reload his own gun even as their assailants continued sending an unnerving barrage of bullets in their direction. Pete grabbed bullets from his pouch and started loading. It's not good for both of us to be reloading. It won't take 'em long to figure it out...come on, Jim!
The sound that Pete had been dreading echoed through the popping gunfire, as the shotgun boomed out loud. Pete heard buckshot impact the tree, and he heard Jim's sharp intake of breath. "Reed!" Pete popped up to sight Jim, even as he pushed the last of his bullets into their chambers.
Jim didn't answer, but Pete saw him turn on the balls of his feet and start firing at the window where the blast came from. Pete didn't see any blood, but he couldn't tell if Jim had come out of it unscathed. Pete closed his gun's cylinder and also fired into the same window. The barrel of the shotgun disappeared from view, but the never-ending hail of bullets from other areas of the home continued.
This has gotta end. We can't hold out indefinitely. Pete fired off two more rounds, hoping to keep the owner of the shotgun away from the window. He noted that Jim had returned his aim to the second story window. Please, somebody call us some help!
Pete saw that Jim turned suddenly to his right and seemed to look into the garage. "Malloy! I think someone's making for the car!" Jim yelled. Jim shot four quick times into the garage, and both rear tires began to deflate.
Good thinking, partner! Pete threw a couple of rounds in that direction, as well. He knew that if anyone got an angle on Jim from the garage, Jim would have nowhere to go for cover. Pete saw Jim flinch as a particularly aggressive hail of bullets ate more pulp from the scanty elm, but Pete had to duck lower himself, as the guy in the second story window moved his aim to the Mustang. I wish I could get that guy! Pete paused, took more careful aim, then squeezed off two shots. Pete didn't know if he'd struck the gunman, but at least no more bullets came from that location.
Pete heard a noise from the garage area, and as he turned to check it out, he saw Jim whirl back to his right and put two bullets into the rear windshield of the car parked there. Somebody's moving in there! Jim then reached back for more bullets, obviously depleted yet again. Pete duck-walked down to the rear end of the Mustang to get closer to Jim and to the garage. He had an uneasy feeling about Jim being weaponless, even for a brief time. Pete ignored the bullets still raining from the house and aimed for the garage door.
Five seconds later Pete was glad he had changed his aim. A person, half-hidden, appeared at the edge of the garage door, aiming a rifle at Jim. "Reed!" Pete yelled, then used his own last two rounds to back off the assailant. Neither bullet struck the gunman, but they dug wood from the edge of the garage and sent the would-be assailant back under cover.
Jim had jerked his head up at Pete's warning, and slid back toward his left, even as he continued to ram bullets into his gun. But flying lead from the house gave Jim few options for coverage.
Pete looked around desperately for anything that might give him enough cover to offer Jim more support, but all he saw was an expanse of treeless grass, and a small plastic garbage can on the street. Nothing! Pete reloaded his own weapon, even while keeping one eye trained on the garage. Since Jim had his own weapon reloaded, Pete felt a little better, but still, Jim's eyes couldn't be everywhere at once, so he watched the garage for his partner, while Jim popped off an occasional shot toward the house.
While Pete loaded the last two bullets into his gun, a flurry of movement from the garage made him look up. Two men appeared in the doorway, one on the left side, the other on the right. Both aimed weapons toward Jim. "Reed!" Pete called in warning.
Jim whirled, firing rapidly at the door. Pete slapped the cylinder closed and came up firing as well. One man ducked back, but the other fired a quick shot from a small caliber handgun. The snap shot dug into the tree at Jim's face level, spraying bark and pulp in all directions. Jim responded by throwing himself down on his stomach, and pushing his body around with his feet to make himself a small a target as possible for both the gunmen in the garage and the ones in the house. On top of that, Jim managed to fire off two more rounds at the garage.
Pete felt sweat born of nerves pouring out of every pore of his body. It rolled off his forehead and into his eyes, and it made his shirt stick to his back like glue. The firefight, already vicious, had just taken a turn for the worse. Jim's not going to last there! We've got to get some help! Just when Pete thought it couldn't get any worse, he heard the unmistakable sound of a car door opening and slamming. They're going for the car! If they get the car out of the garage, Jim's a dead man. There's nowhere he can go.
Jim had flattened the rear tires, but with men as obviously desperate as these appeared to be, Pete knew with certainty they didn't care. And it didn't matter how far they got; if they managed to get out of the garage with cover and angle, they could kill Jim easily. Faced with no time and imminent deadly danger, Pete made a decision.
"Reed! Cover the house, now!" Pete yelled.
Jim complied without question. He turned to fire toward the house, still lying on his belly. As he did, Pete crouched over, but stepped out from behind the Mustang to get a clearer shot toward the garage. He emptied his remaining rounds into the car parked there, exploding the front windshield and battering the metal with bullets. A slug from the house picked at the pavement near his feet and Pete dove back for the cover of the car, praying he'd bought Jim more time. He grabbed for more ammo and hoped he had enough time to reload.
And then, the most beautiful sound Pete had heard all day split the air. Sirens. Lots of sirens. Help at last. "Hang in there, Reed, help's on the way!" Pete crammed his bullets in as Jim stopped shooting, apparently having emptied his gun again. Jim staggered to his knees as he reached for a fresh load of bullets.
Pete decided to issue a warning before he shot again."You in the garage! Throw your weapons out and come out with your hands up! You hear those sirens? You're about to face an army of shotguns! Come out now while you have a chance to live!"
No one answered from the garage, but Pete thought he heard movement in between the continued shots from the house. He trained his handgun on the garage door as Jim finished reloading. Jim fired back at the house and Pete kept his gun aimed at the garage door.
The sirens blared more loudly, and within seconds, a black-and-white roared onto the street. Pete waved it to the far side of the road, and the driver, who Pete could see was Jerry Walters, with Brinkman riding shotgun, screeched to a halt. Both Walters and Brinkman bailed out on the opposite side, guns at the ready. A second black-and-white barreled in after that, parking oppositely from Walters and Brinkman, though they eased their black and white closer to Pete's position. Mac's wagon pulled in immediately behind that unit.
"There's at least two in the garage, and probably two in the house!" Pete yelled as the second set of officers began spilling out of their car and taking cover. "Jim's pinned down!" Pete pointed, though his partner's plight was obvious.
"Stay put!" Mac yelled, then dove for his mic and began barking into it. The gunfire continued, but now, Pete and Jim had some help. Mac finished talking, then yelled for Walters. "Walters! Take your unit over to Bluebird Drive and come in from the back! I've got 56 on the way there, too!" Staying low and behind cover, Mac opened the back of his wagon and pulled out a tear gas kit.
"Right, Mac!" Walters and Brinkman climbed back into their unit and peeled around to leave.
"Hang in there, Reed!" Mac called. He finished loading the tear gas gun, and then he tossed it to the nearest officer, Sanchez, who took up a protective position at the front of his unit. Once again, Mac reached for his mic, but this time, his gravelly voice reverberated from the PA system atop his station wagon, drowning out the gunshots, which had lessened in frequency. "You men in the house! This is the police! You are completely surrounded! You have exactly thirty seconds to stop firing before we send in the tear gas! Throw out all your weapons and come out with your hands up! I repeat! You have thirty seconds to come out!" Mac pulled away from the mic. "Hold your fire, men!"
All of the policemen present stopped firing. A few scattered shots continued from the house area, aimed mainly toward Jim. Pete saw Jim lean against the tree, his posture looking tense but weary. His partner's back heaved rapidly, but he still held his aim.
"Twenty seconds!" Mac roared through the intercom.
"We're coming out!" A voice called from the garage. "Don't shoot!"
"Throw out your weapons first and come out slowly, with your hands up!"
Pete watched as a rifle and a handgun came flying out of the garage, landing with a metallic clatter on the driveway.
"Now come out with your hands up! You in the house! Ten seconds!"
"Don't shoot! Don't shoot!" the first gunman came out of the house, his hands held high.
"Keep your hands up and move slowly toward me!" Mac directed, foregoing the PA for his own commanding voice.
"All right, man, all right! Just don't shoot!"
"You, too, buddy!" Mac snapped at the second gunman following on the first one's heels. "Keep those hands high! Walk slowly this way. Johnson," Mac called to Sanchez's partner, "Take 'em when they reach the street."
Mac spoke back into the intercom. "You men in the house! Time's up!" He paused, and when the scattered gunshots continued, he turned to Sanchez. "Smoke 'em out."
Sanchez took aim at the bottom right hand window, already broken from gunfire. He shot the tear gas grenade into the home. It went off with a loud hiss and white smoke curled out.
The gunshots stopped almost immediately.
"Everybody stay put," Mac warned.
By this time, the two garage gunman had reached the street, and Johnson screamed for them to lie down on the pavement, arms outstretched. Mac covered them with his gun while Johnson made short work of patting them down and getting them handcuffed.
"Stay there," Johnson snapped, when he'd finished.
"Johnson, take Sanchez another round of gas," Mac said. There had been no sign of any of the gunmen in the house surrendering, but there had been no further gunfire, either.
Johnson ran to comply, even as the sound of the dispatcher broke through on the radio. "1-L-90, 1-L-90, meet 1-Adam-56 on Tac 2."
Pete continued to watch Jim as Mac switched his radio to the proper frequency. His partner still leaned against the tree, gun still trained toward the house. His chest and back heaved with each breath. He looks okay, but I still can't tell. If I could see his face... Pete's thoughts got interrupted by Mac's harsh voice.
"Fifty-six says that three men exited the rear of the house and jumped the fence. Walters and Brinkman nabbed two of 'em and Greene's in foot pursuit of the third. Chavez is backing him up." Mac took no chances, and remained behind cover as he moved to the men handcuffed on the pavement. "How many were in the house?"
"Go to hell, pig," the second gunman spat. "Go look for yourself."
"Don't worry, we will. And we'll find just what it was that was worth you ambushing two police officers," Mac growled. "I hope it was important, because you're going down hard for this one."
"Lousy fuzz!" the gunman said with a snarl.
"There was just the five of us," the other gunman said.
"Shut up, you freak! Make 'em work for what they get!"
"I told you it was stupid to start shooting!" The first gunman cried. "We don't even know what they wanted." He looked up at Mac. "There were just five of us. The house should be empty."
"Johnson, Sanchez," Mac said, "Grab a mask from the back of the wagon and check it out. Reed, get back here. Malloy and I will cover you."
Johnson and Sanchez moved to follow Mac's orders, and after just a few seconds' hesitation, Jim pushed away from the tree and, crouching low, sprinted for the blue Mustang. He dove behind the fender, next to Pete, chest working up and down like a bellows. Jim's cheeks flamed scarlet from a face nearly as white as an undershirt. His hair stuck to his head because of the sweat that drenched it, along with his uniform shirt. A medium-sized scrape that oozed blood swept across his right cheekbone. He turned eyes wide with a combination of exhilaration, fear, and relief on Pete.
Pete regarded him with mild concern. "Jim, you okay? Did you get hit?"
Jim shook his head, but didn't speak.
"Is that a 'no' for 'you didn't get hit,' or a 'no, I'm not okay?'"
Jim took a shaky breath. "Not hit," he managed to get out. He dragged his sleeve over his forehead to clear the perspiration.
"What's this from?" Pete reached out with his index finger and tapped Jim's cheek under the scrape.
Jim flinched away from Pete's touch.
"Take it easy," Pete said, pitching his voice calmly. He realized that Jim still had an adrenaline overload coursing through his veins. Pete knew that mainly because he was still trying to get his own hammering heart under control. He thought back to his own first firefight, and could remember each detail as if it had happened only last week. Pete remembered his fear, excitement, the dread of making a mistake. And he remembered that, when it had finally ended, how it had taken him a long time to calm down. All I wanted to do was sit down and shake. And throw up. "Did you scrape your face on the tree?"
Jim nodded. He still breathed so hard Pete thought he might hyperventilate.
"You did good, partner," Pete said. He fished his handkerchief out of his pocket and gave it to Jim. "Use this."
Jim nodded again, eyes still wide, unable to speak. He did press the folded linen against his cheek to blot most of the blood away.
Mac joined them then. He put a hand on Jim's shoulder. "You okay, Reed? You didn't get hit?"
Jim shook his head, and he managed to squeak out, "No, Sarge."
"What's with the cheek?"
"I....uh...scraped it on the tree."
"I see. Well, you can fix it up when you get back to the station. Pete?"
"I'm fine, Mac."
Mac looked from Pete's face to the yard, then to where Johnson and Sanchez had just made their way through the front door. He looked back to Pete. "I'd chalk that up to a minor miracle," he said.
"No argument here, Mac," Pete said. He looked at Jim, who, if anything, looked even more pale than he had just a few seconds earlier. He's gonna fall apart if he doesn't do something. Pete shot Mac a look, then looked back to Jim. "Let's get those guys in the unit," he said, putting a tone of "let's get back to work" in his voice.
Mac apparently picked up on Pete's line of thought, because he nodded. "Take 'em to the station and get 'em booked. You can start on your reports. We'll mop up here."
Pete stood and put his gun back in its holster. Jim followed suit, but Pete could see the tremor in his hand as he put the gun back to its proper place. Jim stuffed the bloodied handkerchief into his side pocket and blew out a breath. Pete caught Jim's eye, then nodded his head toward the two prone suspects.
Pete pulled one of the men up off the pavement, and Jim got the other. They propelled them toward Adam-12. "Read them their rights, partner," Pete said, when they had reached the car. Pete settled his prisoner against the fender. Jim put his beside the other and with a shaking hand reached for his pocket for his notebook that had the Miranda rights printed on it. It took him two tries to get the flap up. Once he got the notebook out, he held it close to his chest, but even that didn't completely hide the tremors that plagued him.
Pete watched him with complete empathy, but he dared not let it show on his face. The last thing Jim Reed needed right now was sympathy; what he needed was routine. The shakes are settling in. Gotta keep him focused.
"You have," Jim began, but his voice came out a shaky, hoarse rasp. He stopped, cleared his throat, then started again. "You have the right to remain silent. If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have," Jim had to stop and take a deep breath, "the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you by the court at no charge. Do you understand each of these rights as I have explained them to you?"
"Yes," the more cooperative of the two men said.
"You?" Jim asked, eyeing the second one.
"Yeah, yeah, man."
Jim put the notebook back in his pocket on the first try. Pete reached over and opened the rear door of the unit. "Get in and slide over," he instructed.
"Watch your head," Jim added. He wiped his forehead again, and swallowed hard. He blew out another breath. He started to get into the back with the prisoners, but Pete caught him by the arm.
"What?" Jim asked.
Pete reached in his pocket and took out the keys to the unit. "Drive us back to the station."
Jim stared at the keys, then turned a dumbfounded look to Pete. "What?"
"Drive us back to the station," Pete repeated. "You do think you can find it, don't you?"
"Then let's go," Pete said, then he narrowed his eyes at Jim, and pressed the keys into Jim's hands. "Just don't get used to sitting behind the wheel."
Jim blew out yet another shaky breath. "I won't." He paused, looked at his feet, then managed a weak, one sided smile. "Thanks."
Giving the keys over to Jim had been one of the hardest things that Pete had ever done, but the therapy of driving, even for the short distance to the station, appeared to have worked for the rookie. Jim's breathing had slowed on the drive, and most of his color returned to his face. When they reached the station, Pete kept Jim busy with details of booking the two gunmen, then gave him the responsibility of writing the report. Jim appeared much calmer as he worked through his duties, though he'd still hardly spoken, except to give directions to the prisoners.
Walters and Brinkman had reached the station shortly after Jim and Pete, hauling in the other three gunmen, but they had returned to the field after booking their men to assist MacDonald and the others with follow-up reports.
With all five gunmen safely stowed in the cage, Pete sat with one hip hitched on the report counter while Jim sat in one of the chairs, dutifully writing up the arrest report. Jim wrote slowly, and with deep concentration, and had somehow managed to keep the fading tremors out of his handwriting. Pete kept quiet and merely watched Jim work. There would be time later to talk about the incident, to let Jim re-live the intense moments and, indeed, express any residual feelings about it. Such an emotional "debriefing" would be an important part of learning something from the experience. But for the time being, the more important lesson was being learned -- Jim finding a way to push the emotions aside and continue to function as a professional. Pete had been trying to teach that lesson to Jim since the first week they rode together; and that lesson seemed to come to a climax on this most unusual of days.
Pete felt pretty proud of his partner. He's really hanging in there. I can tell he's shook, but he's doing his job. That's all anybody can ask.
"Malloy?" Jim dropped his pen and looked up at Pete.
"How long do you think the shooting review will last?"
Pete shrugged. "I don't know. It could be a long night. But then, again," Pete chuckled, "we never hit anybody, so who knows?"
"Kinda embarrassing, isn't it?" Jim said, looking sheepish. "I shot off nearly thirty rounds and never hit anyone."
"Well, you were at a distinct disadvantage."
"I guess so." Jim ducked his head, picked up his pen, then dropped it again and looked up at Pete. "That was my first real shootout, you know."
Pete nodded. "I know."
"I don't mind telling you, I was pretty scared."
That couldn't have been easy to say. "Me, too, partner."
"Really?" Jim seemed surprised.
Jim settled back in his chair and something like relief settled over his features. "The thing that scared
me was, there just wasn't any room for making a mistake. That's the thing about this job that's so hard.
In some jobs, you make a mistake, you pick up a pencil and erase and start over, or at the worst you
lose a few bucks. But in this job, you make a mistake and you lose your life."
"That's right," Pete agreed. "And that's something you need to remember every time you put on the uniform."
"After today, you don't have to worry about me forgetting that." Jim picked up the pen again, but tapped it on the table a couple of times, a strange look on his face.
"What's the matter?"
"I was just thinking about this day," Jim said. "How weird it's been."
"It's been one for the books, all right."
"Walters and you -- you both didn't know how right you were this morning," Jim said.
Pete frowned. "Right about what?"
"About there being a first time for everything. Remember, I told you he said that about you being late, and then you said it in the hospital." Jim actually chuckled, but it lacked true humor. "You know, I'd forgotten all about you being late, and that nut Metzger, and Renfro, and even Amy Jefferson." Jim sighed and tapped the pen on the table a few more times. "Nothing like a gun battle to put things in perspective, huh?"
"I'd prefer a much less dangerous way of forgetting your troubles," Pete said.
"Me, too." Jim looked past Pete's shoulder. "Here comes the Sarge," he said.
Pete followed Jim's gaze and saw Mac as he strode up the hallway, hat in hand.
"Pete, Jim, how're you doing?"
"Fine," Pete said,
"Good, Sarge," Jim echoed.
Mac fixed them with a wry look. "That was some shootout you two were involved in. That's the most excitement that neighborhood's seen in twenty years."
"I don't doubt it," Pete said. "Did you find out why they came up shooting?"
"Did we ever. Apparently, you two stumbled onto a major drug manufacturing ring. When Sanchez and Johnson went in the house, they found pill making machines, chemicals, paraphernalia, and enough drugs already manufactured and packaged to supply LA's drug scene for the next six months. Narco's gonna be drooling all over this one."
"No wonder they didn't want us knocking on their door," Pete said. "I figured it was something like that."
"Yeah, those are some real bad boys you've got locked in the tank there. Not only did they have all the drugs, but they had a regular weapons arsenal in there, too. With enough ammo to stay holed up for a long time."
"Good thing you got there when you did. Sounds like Jim and I got lucky to get out of that one alive."
"Luckier than you think," Mac said. He held up the hat he held in his hand, and for the first time Pete noticed that it wasn't Mac's sergeant's hat. "Reed, you left your hat at the scene, so I brought it to you." Mac handed it over to the rookie. "Take a good look at it."
Jim took the hat, and his eyes widened. Directly above to the right of the metallic emblem that adorned the front center of the hat, a single bullet hole pierced the navy fabric through. The accompanying exit hole was located in the top of the hat. Jim ran his index finger over the hole. "Oh, man," he breathed.
Pete looked at the hole and felt sick to his stomach. How on earth did that bullet miss Jim's head? He looked at his partner again and wondered if his own face had grown as pale as Jim's had just turned.
"Sometimes," Mac said quietly, "we get lucky, and the bullet just bounces the right way." He caught their eyes a moment, then walked to his office door. "Better finish up that report. We'll be convening a shooting review within the hour." And with that, Mac disappeared inside his office.
Jim stared at the hole in his hat. Pete found that he couldn't quite take his own eyes off it, either. "Looks like I'm lucky my first shootout wasn't my last," Jim finally said. The rookie's voice sounded much calmer than Pete expected it to. Jim lay the hat down on the counter and stared at it some more. "Now I've gotta shell out twenty bucks for a new one."
Pete would have gladly bought Jim ten hats at that moment. Knowing how close they had come to a different outcome unnerved him completely. Pete kept his emotions in check; again, he didn't dare spook Jim further by letting his own anxiety show. "I can loan you the dough if you need it."
Jim looked up, shook his head quickly. "Thanks, Pete, but that's okay. I can swing it." He swallowed hard. "I'm just glad Jean won't see it. She'd get too scared."
Just like I did. "No, I don't think it'd be a good idea to tell her about it right now," Pete said. She sure doesn't need this kind of stress right now. And you don't either. I wish there was a way to erase this nightmare of a day. Even as he thought those words, an idea popped into his head; maybe the answer to a day of unending stress. "Hey, you know what? I forgot to tell you, I saw Sally Fisher at the hospital this morning. I'm supposed to call her tonight for dinner."
"Oh, yeah? That's good news. Sally's a nice gal." Jim jumped on the change of subject, though he kept staring at the hole in his hat.
"Yeah, she is. But I've been thinking. Before the baby comes, we should get away somewhere for a day. Sally and Jean get along real good. Why don't we plan a day of relaxation on our next day off? After today, I think we both could use one."
"You're not kidding. What'd you have in mind?"
"Something really quiet, with no people around, where we could take a nice quiet picnic lunch and just kick back and relax."
"That sounds nice." Jim finally drug his gaze away from his damaged hat. "But I don't know of any place like that around here."
"Not in LA, no. But there's this ghost town up in the mountains...Silverlode. Ever heard of it?"
Jim frowned. "Can't say that I have."
"I've been wanting to get up there for a couple of years now. This might be the best time. A deserted ghost town, no tourists, no bad guys..." No shootouts.
"Sounds good, but how far is it? I don't know if Jean needs to ride that far."
"I'm taking Sally, remember? She's a nurse."
"Yeah, that's right." Jim brightened. "I'll talk it over with Jean, we'll give the doc a call, tell him we'll have an RN on the spot. Surely it'll be okay."
"Great. Peace and quiet, rest and relaxation. It'll be just what the doctor ordered. For all of us." Pete slid off the report desk. "How about a cup of coffee? I'm buying."
"Sure." Jim grinned, and this time, it seemed sincere. "I'll finish this up."
"When you're done, you should go clean up that scrape. Jean's sure to ask about it."
"Oh, that's right," Jim's hand went to his cheek. "Thanks for reminding me."
"Just don't want to see you get in the doghouse, partner."
Jim's grin widened. "Thanks for everything, Pete."
Pete shrugged. "That's what I'm here for."
"Oh, and uh, Pete, speaking of the doghouse, you might be the one in there tonight."
"Me?" Pete frowned. "What'd I do?"
"More like what you didn't do," Jim said, and by now his grin was in full bloom. He held up his watch for Pete to see. "It's almost five o'clock...and we're about to go into a shooting review."
"So," Jim said, clearly enjoying himself, "who's gonna take out Mrs. O'Brien's garbage?" He began to laugh, probably more from hysterical relief than from any humor in the situation.
Pete scowled at him, then decided that hearing his partner's hyena-like laugh was worth a little humiliation. He bit back a sarcastic reply, then turned and walked toward the coffee room, hiding the grin that broke out on his own face. Despite the infuriating, tragic, and horrifying events of the day, they'd both survived to go home at the end of the shift. On top of that, Pete felt confident that Jim Reed had made gigantic strides in his journey to becoming a first-rate cop. All in all, sometimes a cop couldn't ask for anything more. Mac's right: sometimes we do get lucky.