Angels We Have Heard While High
by CE Fox
©December 19, 2000
Author's note: This story takes place somewhere in the midst of seasons 5 or 6, where there's no
Adam-12 Christmas episode for that "year" in Pete & Jim's partnership.
"Uh, Tony?" Officer Jim Reed interrupted the LAPD mechanic before he started reciting all four hundred potentially defective parts of a New York cab. "Just fix the belt, okay?"
"Oh, yeah, sure, sure," Tony said with an affable grin, hitching his pants up around his generous waist. "Hey, look, it's gonna take me about twenty minutes. You guys go get a cup of coffee or something, and I'll have her running silent as the night before Christmas by the time you two get back."
"Sounds good, Tony," Pete Malloy said, then glanced at his younger partner. "Let's go ahead and take seven. You've already got your lunch and I can grab something out of the machine."
Jim patted his midsection. "No argument here. I'm surprised you haven't heard my stomach growling."
"That was your stomach? I thought the San Andreas finally let loose."
"Funny, Pete. Real funny. But since it's almost Christmas, I'll cut you some slack. Lemme grab my lunch." Jim fished his lunch out of the back seat, sketched a good-bye wave at Tony, then hurried after Pete. He caught up with him half-way across the parking lot. "So, Pete, you done with your Christmas shopping? Only a couple weeks left."
"I finished my shopping before Thanksgiving," Pete said smugly. He winked. "It's all a matter of organization."
Jim snorted. "Sure, Pete, rub it in. I can't help it if certain people won't tell me what they want."
"I don't want anything from you but time with my godson, I told you that already."
Jim just shook his head. "You're as bad as Jean. She told me she just wants some mistletoe."
"Well, at least you know where you can find some-up around Pilgrimage amphitheatre."
"Don't remind me. I still have nightmares about that missing kid, that we didn't ever find her."
"Well, don't sweat it, Jim. You'll find your mistletoe. You always do," Pete said as he held open the door for his partner.
They headed down the hallway to the break room, Pete digging in his pocket for change for the vending machine and Jim whistling a short segment of a Christmas carol, slightly off-key. He stopped whistling. "Pete, what's the name of that song? That little part of it's been going through my head all day but I can't remember the rest of it."
"I dunno. Your whistling was so off-key I couldn't recognize it."
"Come on, I wasn't that off key. It's the one with all the gloria's in it."
Pete paused outside the break room door, a pained expression his face. "I don't know, Jim. 'The Hallelujah Chorus'?"
"No, that one goes 'Hallelujah! Hallelujah!'" Jim sang. "Naw, this one goes something like 'Glo-oo-oo-o-ria . . .' What is it?"
"Jim, do I look like a contestant on Name That Tune?" Pete turned his back on his partner and walked to the lunchroom.
"It's something about angels," Jim said, ignoring Pete's sarcasm. He hummed a little as he walked into the room, staring down at the floor in concentration. He suddenly snapped his fingers. "'Angels We Have Heard On High'!" he said triumphantly, right as he bumped into Pete, who had come to an abrupt halt half way to the vending machine.
Jim regained his balance, then looked around to see what had confounded his partner. "What the-Ed, what is all this?" All the tables were covered with brochures and envelopes and boxes, and Officer Ed Wells, all five-foot-nine of him, stood right in the middle of the chaos.
"Policeman Bill is sending out Christmas safety brochures, all right? Hey, don't touch those! I've gotta keep all this arranged by zip code." Ed reached out and slapped Pete's hand as Pete tried to scoot a box over to make room for them to sit.
Pete fixed a stare on Ed, then moved the box anyway. "Ed, this is the breakroom, not Santa's workshop. We gotta eat!"
"You can eat anywhere, Malloy. This is official police business."
Jim pushed another box to the side, ignoring Ed's protesting yelp, and sat down while Pete resumed his interrupted journey to the vending machine. Jim dug into his brown bag lunch. "So, Ed, how'd you get roped into playing Santa's postman?"
"Hey, keep that drippy sandwich away from those envelopes! You want the LAPD to look like a bunch of slobs?" Ed snatched a box of empty envelopes from in front of Jim, bumping Jim's elbow as he did so. Jim's pastrami sandwich fell out his hand and splattered onto the table.
Jim gave Pete an exasperated glance as he tried to reconstruct his sandwich. "Wanna eat in roll call?"
"Might as well," Pete sighed, banging on the side of the machine until it surrendered a can of stew. "I'd sure hate for you to get any of that Russian dressing on Ed's letter to Santa Claus."
"Funny, Malloy. You two are a couple of real clowns!" Ed yelled as they made their way out of the room. "You could at least offer to lick some stamps!"
The door swung shut on Ed's tirade. Jim let out a laugh. "Whaddya think, should we lick stamps for dessert?"
"Not on your life. Ed volunteered for that, let him lick the stamps."
"I may go help him as soon as I finish lunch."
"Be my guest. You always had a soft spot for volunteering."
"Yeah, and it always gets me into trouble. But how much trouble can licking a few stamps cause?"
Pete looked at Jim for a moment. "Don't even speculate, partner."
"All right, how many of these are you sending out?" Jim asked. He picked up a stack of sealed envelopes and riffled them with his thumb.
"What? You're gonna lick four thousand stamps?"
"No, I'm not gonna lick four thousand stamps, Reed. Haven't you ever heard of metered mail?"
"So why'd you ask us to help you lick stamps?"
"Because I've got about a hundred of my own that I'm sending to my relatives back east."
Jim dropped the stack of envelopes. "Lick your own stamps, Ed."
"Jim, come on, cut me a break, would you? Just do a few for me. I've gotta get these out today."
"Okay," Jim said reluctantly. "But just a few. I've only got about fifteen minutes left on seven. And you owe me for this."
"Thanks, Reed. I knew I could count on you."
"Just don't let it get around. Where are the stamps?"
"Right here," Ed said, handing a sheet of Christmas stamps to Jim. "Picked 'em up this morning, so the glue should be fresh."
"Ed, they're not donuts. Stamps don't go stale."
"Lick, Reed. Just lick."
After ten minutes of stuffing envelopes and licking stamps, Jim made a face. "You know, Ed, I think I was wrong. I think stamps can go stale. I'm gonna get a sponge to use instead." He got up and headed for the sink in the corner.
"There isn't one. I checked."
"Then I'll get one from the bathroom. I'll be right back."
Jim pushed through the door into the hallway, pausing briefly as a slight buzz in his head startled him. He shook it off and headed for the locker room and the bathroom beyond. He didn't know if there'd be a sponge there, but it couldn't hurt to check.
The buzzing rattled in his head again, this time louder and accompanied by a touch of dizziness. "Whoa," he muttered, putting his hand out against the cool tiled wall. The tiles swirled briefly in a kaleidoscope of dull green. Jim leaned against the sink, squeezed his eyes shut, then reopened them. He squinted, then looked closer at the wall. A purple mushroom had sprouted from the grout between the back of the sink and the wall. "Wow," he whispered. While he was watching it, another mushroom sprang up next to it. This one was neon orange. Jim rubbed his eyes, then looked again. A blue mushroom had joined the first two.
The door swished open behind him. "Hey, partner, you about ready to hit the street?"
Jim continued to stare at the mushrooms.
"Hey, Jim, you hear me?"
"Pete," Jim said slowly. He waved his hand in a vague come-here. "Look at this."
Pete walked over. "Look at what?"
"Those!" Jim pointed. C'mon, Pete, how can you not see this?
"It's called a faucet, Jim. Now come on."
Jim blinked and the mushrooms were gone. He looked up at Pete. "There were mushrooms . . . ." His voice trailed off as he stared at Pete's hair. The buzzing noise was back, and now he knew what was causing it. He pointed at Pete's head. "Pete, I can hear your hair growing," he said in awe.
"No, really," Jim insisted. He suddenly reached out and tugged on Pete's hair. "It's growing. I can hear it."
Pete's eyes slowly looked toward his forehead, and Jim's hand tugging on his hair, then at Jim's eyes. "Jim, that's . . . great," Pete said slowly and carefully. He reached up and pried Jim's hand off his hair. "I've got an idea-let's go show Mac."
Jim grinned, then laughed. "This'll fracture him! Who knew you could hear hair grow!"
Jim apparently could hear Sergeant MacDonald's hair growing, too. After fending off Jim's attempts to feel his hair, Mac looked at Pete with grave concern in his eyes. "What do you think it is?" he whispered.
Pete shook his head. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say he was on LSD."
"Reed on LSD? Pete, come on."
"Look at him, Mac. He's not exactly in the same room with us any more. I'm not sure he's still on the same planet. If it's not LSD, I hate to think what might be wrong with him."
Jim had given up on their hair and was now staring intently at the water cooler. "It's singing," he said, a childlike smile lighting his face. "The water's singing! Hey, how 'bout that!"
Mac rubbed his face with both hands. "Okay, okay. What was he doing when you found him?"
"He was in the bathroom, staring at the sink. He said there were mushrooms growing out of it."
"Okay, back up some more. What happened before that?"
Pete kept his worried eyes on his partner as he thought back. "We were taking seven in the roll call room because Ed had the Policeman Bill brochures all over the break room. We ate-"
"What did Jim eat?" Mac interrupted.
"Pastrami sandwich he picked up at the deli this morning. An apple. Couple candy bars."
"What did he do with the sack?"
"It should still be in the waste can in the roll call room."
"Did he seem okay after he ate?"
"Mac, he was right as rain. He told me he'd meet me at the car, that he was going to go help Ed with his envelopes. He joked about licking stamps for dessert."
"Licking stamps? Those things go out through the mail room. It's all metered."
"I don't know, Mac. All I know is that Ed asked him to help lick stamps and you know Jim, sometimes he's a sucker to help anybody out, even Wells. So he went and licked stamps." Pete suddenly froze. "Mac, you don't suppose the stamps . . ."
"Stay with Jim, Pete. I'll get Wells." He paused on his way out. "And Pete, get Jim's weapon from him."
Mac found Ed sitting at a table in the break room, staring into space. "Ed?"
Ed's sleepy blue eyes trailed over and slowly focused on Mac's face. "Hey. What's happening?"
"Why don't you tell me?"
"Oh, man, it's great. Out of this world."
Mac was afraid to ask, but he took the plunge. "What's out of this world?"
"I'm watching the air come out of my mouth when I exhale. It's purple. I never noticed before. And you know what? Yours is pink!"
"Uh, Ed, can you give me the stamps you were using?"
"The stamps you and Jim Reed were licking."
"Oh, yeah. Sure, Mac." Ed looked carefully over all the litter on the tables and finally found what was left of a sheet of stamps. "Here they are."
Mac took the stamps, holding them by one corner in the forlorn hope that a fingerprint or two might have survived Jim and Ed's handling. "Thanks. Ed, you wanna come with me? Got something I want to show you in the lock up."
"Sure, Mac. Hey, your breath just turned green. Maybe you should get a mint."
Pete quietly locked the door to Mac's office, wishing he had some way to block the windows off. A few officers had apparently heard the news and were grinning at Jim through the glass, at least until Pete gave them the heave ho with a glare and a jerk of his thumb. Jim was still quietly contemplating the water cooler with a dreamy expression on his face. At least it looks like he's having a good trip . . .
He'd no longer had the thought than Jim suddenly frowned. "Jimmy," he whispered.
The frown disappeared. "Hey, there's more mushrooms!" Jim reached out a hand and touched Mac's desk, obviously trying to pick them. "Aw, rats, they're gone. Where'd they go?" Jim bent down and looked under Mac's desk.
Pete would have laughed at the confusion on Jim's face if the situation wasn't so alarming. If Jim was on LSD-or something-from those postage stamps, how many other innocent people might fall prey to the malicious prank? At least Jim was in the safety and relative shelter of a police station, but what if a bus driver or a fireman or someone out driving their car got hold of one of those stamps . . . .
The doorknob rattled, then Mac knocked lightly. Pete reached over and unlocked the door. "How is he?" Mac asked.
"About the same. Seems quiet enough. What about Wells?"
"Higher than a kite. He says he can see his breath, and it's purple. Mine's apparently green."
"What do you want to do?" Pete said quietly. He wasn't sure why he was whispering. Jim didn't seem to care what they said. He glanced at his partner, who was now bent over, peering up cooler's spigot with one eye, the other squinted shut.
"You know what, Pete?" Jim said, still awestruck, "I think there's angels in there." He turned his head so his ear was to the spigot.
Mac winced. "I'll call for an ambulance. I've got Ed in the lockup, and detectives have sealed the break room. Let's get Jim over to the lockup, too. It's more private, and more controlled than my office."
"Right, Mac." Pete crossed over to Jim and touched him on the arm. "Hey, partner, I hear there's some good mushrooms in the lockup."
"Far out," Jim said. He grinned and stood up, weaving just a little. Then his smile vanished again, and his eyes widened. "Jimmy. Where's Jimmy?"
"Jimmy's at home. With Jean."
Jim's eyes seemed to lose focus. "No angels . . . there's no angels there . . ." He twisted around and looked at the water cooler. "There all in the water. They won't help. They can't help Jimmy."
"Jim, not all the angels are in the water. They wouldn't all fit," Pete said as reassuringly as he could. He tugged gently on Jim's arm. "Now, come on. Let's go see those mushrooms."
Jim jerked his arm away. "Pete, I don't want to see the mushrooms."
"Okay, partner. We can stay here," Pete said, glancing at Mac, who nodded slightly as he spoke to communications on the phone.
Jim paced the length of the room, then back. He ran agitated hands through his hair, then spun around and stalked across the room again, his breathing coming ragged and fast. "Jimmy's . . . he's . . . . oh, man . . . ." He rubbed his face, then looked wildly up at the Christmas decorations hanging from the ceiling. "Mistletoe. No no no. Can't get any. Not there. Not back there . . . can't . . ." He suddenly dropped into a chair and started rocking back and forth, his eyes screwed shut. "I can still see them. They're . . . they're everywhere, Pete. On the hills. In that church. Oh god, they're all over that cross . . . . can't see the beacon. Gotta get him. Jimmy'll fall . . . he can't see . . . can't see . . . "
"Jim, take it easy. Take it easy." Pete put both hands on Jim's shoulders. Jim's muscles were knotted up as hard as rocks.
Mac slammed the phone down. "Ambulance will be here in about three minutes."
Jim suddenly lunged out of the chair toward the door. "Jimmy! Gotta get Jimmy!"
"Jim, calm down!" Pete yelled. He threw both arms around his partner and wrestled him back into the chair. "Jimmy's fine. He's fine. Calm down."
Jim's eyes were wild as he pushed against Pete's restraining hands. "No no no no . . . Pete, you gotta . . . we gotta. . . the beacon. . . . it's gone. . . . it's gone . . ."
Pete was vaguely aware of Mac opening the door and shouting for help, but he had his hands full keeping Jim down. Hurry, Mac!###
Detective Jerry Miller blew out a hard breath as he perched a hip on the corner of his desk. "Okay, where'd the stamps come from?"
"Wells said something about getting them at a convenience store on his way in this morning," Jerry Woods supplied. "I talked to Ed this morning before roll call-he was running late and told me that was the reason."
"Ed lives out near Santa Monica, doesn't he?"
"And how many convenience stores between here and there," Jerry sighed. "Okay, we'll put out a broadcast, then start pounding the streets . . ."
Mac's voice suddenly boomed down the hallway. "I need officers, now!"
Jim buried his head in Pete's stomach and bulled his way out of the chair, driving Pete helplessly toward the wall. Pete hit hard enough to rattle the windows, but he somehow kept his grip on Jim. Pete vaguely heard shouting, then Mac and Miller boiled through the door and grabbed Jim from behind. Pete regrouped and along with Woods dove for Jim's legs, and they finally managed to wrestle him to the floor.
Jim writhed underneath them. "Noooo!" Jim screamed. "Lemme go! Jimmy . . . out there . . . he's out there . . . we gotta get him . . . no angels . . . lemme go!"
"Jim, calm down," Miller said through gritted teeth. He had Jim's right arm and shoulder pinned but Jim kept arching his back and twisting his body. He risked a look toward Pete. "I don't know how long I can hold him. I thought LSD was supposed to make you mellow."
"Not if it's a bad trip," Pete grunted, trying to get a better purchase on Jim's kicking leg. "Mac, how're we gonna get him in the ambu-"
Jim shouted again and gave another massive heave. Miller lost his grip on Jim's arm and fell against Woods, and that was all Jim needed. He jerked his arm free from Mac's grip, clobbered Pete in the breadbasket with his knee and was on his feet and out the door before anyone could recover.
"Get him!" Mac yelled, scrambling to his feet. He skidded out the door and around the corner, yelling at the officers in the hallway to stop Jim, but they were all so stunned no one reacted quickly enough.
Pete made it to his feet finally and ran out into the hallway, for the first time in their partnership cursing Jim's fast legs.
Pete, Mac, Miller and about five other officers scrambled out the door and into the parking lot. No sign of Jim anywhere. A few moments later, Woods came gasping around the corner of the building. "No sign of him out front."
"How could he disappear that fast?" Mac said incredulously. "LSD's supposed to make you shaky and unsteady."
"Mac, Jim holds the department gold medal for the 100 yard dash. And he can keep it up a lot longer than a hundred yards. Even unsteady," Pete said miserably.
Mac grimaced. "And if he got in a car . . ."
"If he did, it wasn't ours," Pete said. "Tony's still got it."
"Okay, he's probably on foot, then. I doubt he could have gotten any other car started quickly enough. Men, get in your units and we'll start a circle search. I'll set up the command post right here. Malloy, get your car back and take Benton Way out to Temple, then north. Woods, you take Fillmore out to . . . ."
Pete didn't wait to hear the rest of the assignments. He dashed across the parking lot to the garage. "Tony!" he yelled.
"Hey, Pete! She's purring like a-hey, what gives?" Tony's grin vanished as Pete snatched the keys from his hand.
"I'll explain later!" Pete called as he dove into the car. He backed it out of the garage. If the fan belt was still squeaking, he couldn't hear it over the squeal of his tires.
Gotta get Jimmy . . . he's out there . . . the beacon . . . he might not see it . . . what if he doesn't see it . . . what if he falls?
Jim ran on, his feet pounding the sidewalk, barely seeing the pedestrians who were giving him curious looks as he thundered past them.
He ran across streets, dodging cars and ignoring the blare of angry horns.
He had to find Jimmy before it was too late.
Ed Wells sat peacefully in the lockup, blowing out clouds of purple air. He smiled as the ambulance attendant came into the cell. "Hey, buddy, I'm Ed. Howya doin'?"
"I'm Bill and I'm just fine. I'm here to take you for a ride."
"Hey, that's cool. Where we going?"
"To a place where they'll fix you up real good."
"That's groovy, man. Hey, you know what? I can see my breath. It's purple." Ed blew into Bill's face, not noticing the attendant's wince. "You know what else? Yours is green, just like Mac's. I'd get a mint, if I were you."
"Yeah, I'll do that," Bill muttered. "Now come on, get up."
He let Bill guide him onto the gurney. As they rolled him down the hallway, he watched the Christmas decorations roll by. "Angels we have heard while high," he sang, then giggled.
Pete wanted to floor the accelerator, but he held himself to about twenty-five miles an hour. He didn't want to risk missing a glimpse of Jim. He looked carefully at the people on the sidewalk, trying to read their faces, their minds. Had they seen Jim? He saw a group of people waiting at a bus stop and pulled over. He stood up on his side of the car. "Any of you see a man in an LAPD uniform run past here about five minutes ago?"
One man snickered. "What's the matter? Did he go AWOL?"
"Did any of you see anything?" Pete repeated, more sternly.
"I did, Officer," an elderly lady in a ratty fur coat said timidly. "He was running very fast, that way." She pointed a palsied hand towards the north.
"Thank you, ma'am," Pete said and dropped back down into the car. He wheeled back into traffic, pulling out just ahead of the bus slowing for the waiting passengers. If I'd been a minute slower, those passengers, and my witness, would have been gone.
Maybe all the angels weren't in the water cooler after all.
He was getting tired. Out of breath. It's too far away . . . too far . . . .
Jim slowed and looked frantically up and down the street. Where was Pete? They had to get up there . . . . had to find Jimmy . . . .
He saw a prowl car turn the corner.
Jerry Woods wheeled around the corner, saying a prayer that he'd see . . . "Thank you," he sighed as he caught sight of a familiar tall figure standing on the sidewalk watching his approach. He grabbed the mic. "1-L-14, I've got the officer in sight on Evans Avenue, three blocks east of Fillmore."
"Roger, L-14, hang on to him!" Mac responded.
Woods pulled up beside Jim. He set the parking brake and got out. "Reed, you call for backup?" he said. Seemed like a little role-playing might help. Jim still looked pretty spooked.
Jim stared at Jerry for a long moment, then suddenly blurted, "I need your unit." He hurried around the front of the car toward the driver's side.
"Okay, Jim, but how about I drive," Woods said, keeping his voice conversational as he put a hand on Reed's chest to stop him from trying to crawl behind the wheel.
Jim knocked Woods' hand away, then shoved him hard. "I said I need your unit!" he yelled.
Jerry staggered backward, got his feet tangled and fell to the ground. By the time he scrambled to his feet, Reed was behind the wheel. "Jim! Don't-" Jerry yelled, but the roar of the engine and the blare of the siren drowned out his words. Jerry had to jump back to keep from getting hit by his own black and white as Jim tore down the street.
Pete couldn't believe his eyes. He pulled onto Evans and found Jerry Woods running toward the corner. He stopped the car and Jerry dove into Jim's normal seat. "Jim stole my unit!" he yelled, grabbing the mic.
"Which way?" Pete asked tersely.
Jerry pointed north as he put the new wrinkle in the situation on the air.
Pete drove through the narrow streets as fast as he dared, honking and blipping the siren at slower moving vehicles that weren't getting out of his way fast enough. As he passed a rusted yellow Volkswagen, he tried to think of where Jim might be headed. Jim had been muttering something about beacons, and crosses, and mistletoe . . . . Pete suddenly stood on the brakes. Why the hell didn't I realize it earlier?
Jerry slapped both hands against the dash. "Did you see him?" he asked, looking around wildly.
"No, but I know where he's headed. Give me the mic."
" . . . where that kid got lost in the hills behind around Pilgrimage Amphitheater, Mac. Remember?"
Mac keyed his mic. "It's definitely worth a look, Pete. Keep me posted."
"Roger, Mac. KMA."
Jerry Miller walked out of the station in time to hear. "They find him?"
"No, but Pete thinks he's headed toward Pilgrimage Mountain. The same one that Indian family nearly lost their little girl on a couple Christmases back."
"Why's he think that?"
Mac shook his head. "He thinks Jim's having some sort of flashback to a missing kid we rescued out that way. Why he thinks that, I have no idea, other than it could simply be the Strawberry Fox has a hunch. Let's just hope he's right. What've you got?"
"I'm on my way to Santa Monica. Call came in on a 415, possible OD, at an elementary school out there that's less than a block from one of those Quickstop convenience stores. I'm not the Strawberry Fox, but I have my own hunch that it has something to do with tainted stamps."
"Keep me posted."
"Will do," Jerry promised. He tossed Mac a casual salute, then got in his unmarked car.
The pastor of Lighthouse Community Church, keeper of the blue neon cross that shown through the bright LA nights above the Pilgrimage Amphitheater, tried to live a simple, unworldly life, but one of his few concessions to extravagance was the top-quality police scanner he kept on a shelf above his desk. Today, like most days, its quiet hiss and chatter provided a constant backdrop to his quiet study of scripture. He reflected often that listening in was very much like looking through a glass darkly. He heard the dispatcher send out call after call, but he rarely heard any of the officers' responses, and he seldom knew how the calls turned out. Hearing only one half of most of the transmissions reminded him of how often one could only hear and understand a part of God's reasoning. But just like God saw the whole picture, that dispatcher heard all the transmissions and knew what was going on with all her charges. Pastor Johnstone found that thought reassuring.
Today, the open Bible on his desk lay unread. The one-sided broadcast was too fascinating to listen to with only one ear. He adjusted the squelch. Some fifteen minutes earlier, he had heard the dispatcher announce that an officer had gone missing. Pastor Johnstone's eyebrows had shot towards his hairline and he abandoned his study of the Book of Job to listen. He knew all the numbers of the cars, and somehow felt he knew all the officers, although he'd only met a handful face to face. But they seemed like friends. He recognized each voice. He often prayed for their safety.
" . . . advised the officer has been sighted and is now driving shop number 85010, assigned to 1- Adam-34. Subject last seen heading north on Evans Avenue."
1-Adam-34. That belonged to the officer with the slow, deep voice. Could he be the one missing? A loud crunching noise from the parking lot interrupted Pastor Johnstone's musings and made him jump. He hurried to the window, expecting to see some student driver practicing in his father's station wagon, but he was surprised to see a patrol car instead. As the black and white sideswiped another light standard, Pastor Johnstone noticed the big 034 on the car's roof.
"That's him," he whispered. He watched for another moment as the car jerked to a stop against a curb and a tall, young officer stumbled out of the car. The man headed for the bluffs on the back of the property.
"Father, have mercy," the pastor prayed, and hurried to his telephone.
Jim stood on the edge of the hillside, looking around. He's here. Somewhere. He's gotta be here . . .
He started down the steep slope.
"All units involved in the search for the missing officer and 1-Adam-12, be advised he has been spotted on the property of Lighthouse Community Church, 8500 Pilgrimage Mountain Road. 1-Adam-12, respond code three."
"I knew it," Pete said grimly. He reached down and flipped on the lights and siren while Woods roger'd the call. "We were talking about that missing child case right before lunch. Jim must be having a flashback, only somehow he thinks Jimmy's the one out there."
Jerry Woods' face creased with worry. "That's rough terrain."
Pete nodded curtly. "I know, Jerry. I know."
Pastor Johnstone hurried out to the parking lot, bypassing the crumpled patrol car as he ran to the back edge of the property. The land dropped away so sharply there, and that officer looked . . . well, he looked like he was drunk or something. But that couldn't be possible, surely. Perhaps the man was sick.
Johnstone skidded to a stop at the edge of a steep drop off. "Officer!" he called. "Can I help you with something?"
The officer, about twenty feet down the slope, turned around. Johnstone was struck by the intensity in the man's dark blue eyes. They looked almost too intense. "You seen a little boy around here?" the man barked.
"No, sir, not today."
"He's . . . he's here . . . somewhere . . . the beacon . . . " The man's eyes clouded over briefly, then he shook his head hard and ran both hands through his hair. "He's on this hillside. We gotta . . we gotta find him . . ."
Johnstone swallowed hard, suddenly noticing that the officer didn't have a gun in his holster. Yes, something was wrong. Seriously wrong. He had all the look of, well, of being high. "Why don't you come back up here, and we'll wait for more officers to arrive. Why, it was just a year ago another little child was lost and the police did a wonderful job of organizing a search for-"
"No!" the man yelled, cutting off Johnstone's words. "No! There's not enough time. He's lost . . . Jimmy's lost and I gotta find him. I gotta find him." The man gave him an anguished look, then turned his back and started scrambling down the hill, calling out the boy's name.
Johnstone wasn't sure whether to stay by the cliff, scramble after the officer, or run back into the church to call the police again. He was saved having to choose when he heard a patrol car scream into the parking lot. He waved down the driver, who pulled the car to a screeching halt less than a foot away.
A strawberry-blonde officer lunged out from behind the wheel. "Did you call in about an officer?"
"Y-yes, sir. He just started down the hill. He doesn't look right."
The blonde officer looked down the hill, then turned to his partner. "Woods, get it on the air. Jim's right down the hill."
"Got it. You want me to come with you?"
"No, let me go by myself. I might be able to get through to him better if I'm alone."
"Sure thing, Pete. Be careful."
The blonde officer headed down the slope, leaving Johnstone with the older officer, Woods, the one with the smooth, deep voice. Despite the tense situation, Johnstone was pleased to link the voice with a face. Johnstone waited until Woods finished his radio call, then asked, "What's all this about?"
"You wouldn't believe it if I told you," Woods sighed.
Pete scrambled down the hillside as fast as he could without tumbling out of control. Jim was about thirty feet below him, moving fast. "Jim!"
Jim glanced back over his shoulder, then continued down the hill. His foot slipped and he went down on one knee. Pete's heart rocketed to his throat, but Jim regained his balance and stood up. He paused for a moment, his head cocked like he was listening for something, then started off again.
"Jim, hold up!" Pete yelled. His foot slid out from under him and he fell down hard on his tailbone. He cursed and scrambled to his feet. He'd lost another twenty feet or more on Jim. At this rate there was no way he could catch his partner. Pete cast a worried glance at the unforgiving drop off. "Lord, if you've really got all your angels penned up in the water cooler, now would be a real good time to let one out," he whispered.
He could hear him. He was crying. Jimmy was crying. Lost. Alone.
Jim stumbled downward, his feet kicking clouds of dust while dried vegetation snatched at his pant legs. He tripped again, falling hard on his hands and knees. Rough, rocky soil scraped the skin of his palms, bit into his knees, but he didn't feel any pain. He scrambled back to his feet and looked over a ledge. It wasn't too far down.
"Jimmy . . ." he whispered.
Pete heard the growling sirens of more patrol cars gathering up at the church. Angels in black and whites, he thought wryly. Sure, why not. But right now they were about a hundred feet too far away to be of much help. Pete winced as he saw Jim go down again, then stagger to his feet dangerously close to the edge of the drop off.
"Jim, be careful, be careful," he whispered intently. He pushed himself faster, narrowing the gap, trying to ignore the unwelcome bit of knowledge that kept drumming in his head. LSD makes you lose your depth perception . . .
Jim heard someone call his name. He staggered back a step or two and slowly turned his head, reluctant to pull his eyes away from the ledge below him. "Pete, he's there . . . Jimmy's there," he said, waving downward. "I'm gonna jump down there and get him."
"Reed, hold it right there!"
Jim hesitated, confused by Pete's tone. He sounds like he thinks I'm a suspect . . . or a green rookie . . . I haven't done anything wrong . . . Jimmy. . . I just need to get Jimmy . . . Jim shook his head slightly at his partner, then turned back toward the edge.
"Reed, I said hold it! That's an order!" Pete shouted again, hoping his commanding officer tone would break through to Jim, but Jim just shook his head, his eyes confused and unfocused, then turned away and took another step toward the cliff. Pete's heart skipped several beats, then just about stopped. He's gonna do it. He's gonna jump . . . .
Tossing caution to the winds, Pete launched himself at Jim, praying that somehow, some way, his momentum wouldn't push them both over the fifty-foot drop off.
He plowed into Jim, knocking him to the ground just short of the edge. He heard Jim grunt and braced himself for a battle, but Jim lay still. "Jim?" Pete said gently.
Jim opened his mouth but no sound came out. He tried a few more times and finally, with a heaving gasp, said, "Pete? What . . . "
"Take it easy, Jim. You had the breath knocked out of you, that's all."
Jim stared at Pete for a moment, then looked around in confusion. "Pete, what happened?" he asked, rolling over onto his side and pushing himself up. He winced, then looked in alarm at his bleeding hands. "Pete . . . ?"
"Take it easy, Jim. You're okay. Jimmy's okay, too."
"Jimmy? What? What about Jimmy?"
Pete sighed in relief. He could tell from Jim's fuzzy gaze that things were still far from normal, but at least he was finally emerging from his dangerous delusion. "Never mind, partner. I'll explain it all later."
Jim relaxed slightly. "Jimmy's fine," he mumbled. Then he looked up toward the church, fear widening his eyes again. "But the beacon . . . the beacon . . . I can't see it. Pete, I can't see--"
"It's still there, partner," Pete soothed. "You just can't see it because of the hill."
"Are you sure?"
Jim stared at him for almost a full minute, then looked out over the valley. "I thought . . . Jimmy was lost," he said in a small voice.
"He's not. Just take it easy." Pete watched Jim carefully, bracing himself for another battle in case Jim went berserk again, but Jim's breathing slowly calmed, and a peaceful look settled on his features. He tipped his head back and shut his eyes, then to Pete's surprise started humming under his breath.
"Partner, you okay?"
Jim stopped humming, but he kept his head tilted toward the sun. "Yeah, I'm fine. Jus' fine. Jus' listenin'."
Pete glanced around, but the only sounds were the scraping noise of officers heading down the hill toward them. "That's Mac and Woods headed this way."
"Nah, I don't mean them. They sound like a herd of water buffalo. I'm listening to the singing."
"The angels. The ones that were in Mac's water cooler. I guess they followed us. How about that?" Jim laughed, then gave Pete a sunny, uncomplicated smile.
"Yeah, how about that," Pete repeated with a smile of his own. Yep, the trip definitely ain't over. He hauled out his handkerchief. "Let's get those hands cleaned up."
"Pete, I don't want to go in there," Jim said, stopping in front of the locker room door. The last time he'd gone through that door was the beginning of that crazy day a week ago. He didn't remember a lot of what had happened-it was all a crazy quilt jumble of scattered images, but much of what he could remember was painfully embarrassing.
"Jim, it'll be fine. Quit worrying."
"It's just so doggone embarrassing, Pete. I can't believe I thought there were angels in Mac's water cooler."
"Hey, everybody understands, Jim. It could have happened to any of us."
"Yeah, but it happened to me," Jim grumbled. "I was the idiot staggering around a hillside looking for a kid that wasn't lost."
Pete sighed. "Would you just get in there so we can get ready for roll call?"
"Is Ed back to work?"
"Seriously, Pete. Is he?"
Pete relented and nodded. "Yeah, came back a couple days ago. He didn't get as big a mouthful as you, the doctor said. And from what the lab came back with on the few stamps that were left, you may have gotten a little extra kick in yours."
"Yeah, Jean said the doc said something about traces of something in my blood. PCP, maybe? I can't remember what she said, but I guess it wasn't just pure LSD." Jim rubbed his face. "I don't know what all was in it, but I do know it gave me a whopper of a hangover. I had a headache for three days."
"Well, whatever it was, lets just hope you don't run into it again. I've still got a bruise on my sternum from where you kicked me."
"Pete, I'm really sorry. You know that I'd never-"
Pete held up a hand. "I'm teasing, partner, and I probably shouldn't be. I'm just glad it wasn't any worse. And I'm very glad the doc didn't think you'd have any lasting effects-you're squirrelly enough as it is. Now come on." He started to push the door open.
Jim ignored Pete's insult. "Wait a minute, Pete. About the guy that did it-wasn't he a clerk at a store or something? Miller told me the day after, but you know . . . " Jim twirled his finger around in a circle by his temple. "I wasn't exactly processing stuff right yet."
"Really? Funny, I didn't think you were any different than your usual self."
Jim glared. "Lay off, Pete."
"Okay, okay. Look if it'll get us in that locker room so I won't look bad because my partner made me late for roll call, I'll tell you. The guy was a clerk at the Quickstop, thought he'd have a little fun by slipping LSD on the backs of postage stamps and selling them to customers. Besides you and Ed, Miller said a sixth grader got hold of some of them. Made him pretty sick, but he's going to be okay."
Jim nodded. "That's good. I do know one thing-I'll never lick another postage stamp again in my life."
"Good. Now would you just move it?"
Jim squared his shoulders and shoved open the door. Woods was at his locker, Wells was doing leg presses on the weight bench, and a handful of other officers stood around in varying stages of dress. Jim hurried to his own locker, hoping to escape everyone's notice.
"Hey, look who's back!" Woods said as he glanced up from tying his shoes. "Good to see you, Reed."
So much for sneaking in. "Thanks, Jerry," Jim said, then found himself swamped as all the other officers came over and shook his hand or slapped him on the back.
Wells was the last to come over. "Hey, Reed. Welcome back. Look, I'm sorry-"
"Ed, don't worry about it. Wasn't your fault."
"I know, but still, if anything had happened out on that cliff, well . . . "
Ed looked so uncharacteristically contrite that Jim couldn't help smiling. "I know Ed. I appreciate it. How about you? You okay?"
"Oh yeah, never better," Ed assured him. He slapped Jim's back, then returned to his locker. Jim carefully opened his own locker. He expected to find it filled with mushrooms, or angels, courtesy of his brother officers' twisted humor, but it was undisturbed except for a sprig of green. "Hey, who put the mistletoe in there?"
"Guilty as charged, partner. Since we were already there, I grabbed some off that hillside. Again, I might add."
"That's two I owe you, Pete," Jim said. He put the mistletoe where it wouldn't get crushed, then carefully slid the paper sack he'd been carrying onto the shelf. He waited until everyone had filed out of the locker room, then said, "Uh, Pete?"
"Hmmm?" Pete's voice was muffled by the yellow golf shirt he was pulling over his head. As he yanked it all the way off, his hair crackled with static electricity.
"Please tell me that's not your hair growing I hear," Jim quipped.
"I don't know-maybe you should tell me," Pete said, raising an eyebrow. He noticed the sack. "What's that?"
"It's for you," Jim said, pulling a Christmas present out of the plain brown bag.
Pete stared at it. "I told you not to get me anything."
"Would you just take it?"
"So what'd you finally come up with?" Pete asked with a sly grin.
"Open it and see."
Pete sat down with the present on his lap and carefully peeled the tape loose, then unfolded the green foil paper. "What is it?"
"A box," Jim said drily. "Look, just open it and quit trying to get me to tell you what it is."
Pete snickered as he lifted the lid off the plain white box and dug through the tissue paper. His expression turned from mischievous to thoughtful as he pulled out a small crystal statue of an angel. He glanced questioningly at Jim.
Jim shrugged, suddenly embarrassed. "It's, ah, an ornament. For your tree."
"I see that."
"And it's, uh, just my way of saying thanks. And there's a steak dinner to go with it."
Pete carefully tucked the angel back in the box and replaced the lid. He finally smiled. "Angels in black and whites," he said.
"Nothing. Just a thought I had on that hillside."
Jim nodded and let it pass. "Merry Christmas, Pete."
"Merry Christmas, partner."
Thanks to the usual suspects: my ever-patient beta readers, Susu & Karen, and for Dawn, medical reference extraordinaire, who's gotta be wondering why I was asking about possible long-term side effects of a single dose LSD. ;) Karen, I'm sorry I ruined "Angels We Have Heard On High" for you as you sing in the choir this Christmas. Just try not to snicker too loud. And thanks as always to the creators of Adam-12.
Merry Christmas, everyone!