THE CAT, THE HAT AND THE LAUNDROMAT
Jim Reed stood with his foot propped up on a bench in front of a row of lockers. He bent over to tie his
shoe and noticed a pair of feet coming towards him. He made the visual trip from the feet, up the body
and into the eyes of his partner, Pete Malloy. "Mornin' Pete." Jim went back to tying his shoe. "Hey,
Pete, what's that on the cuff of your pants?"
"What?" Pete looked down at the tan pants he wore. They were covered with hair around the hemline of one leg. "Darned cat," Pete muttered more to himself than to Jim.
"You got a cat?"
"No, Reed, I don't have a cat. There's an old stray that's been hanging around my apartment building for a few days. The crazy thing seems to like me for some unknown reason."
"Must be that animal magnetism. You feed it?" Jim questioned.
"What do you mean, not really? Either you fed it or you didn't."
"Well, last night I stopped on the way home for a burger and fries. The cat spotted me and started rubbing all over my leg. I threw a little piece of hamburger to it. I tried to throw it as far from my apartment as I could. I had a weak moment, okay?" Pete offered this explanation with growing exasperation.
"And, when you left your apartment this morning, there it was. Am I right?" Jim asked with a smirk.
"You can't feed strays, Pete. Especially cats. They claim you as their own and they never forget the hand that feeds them," Jim explained as if he had it on great authority.
"Well, thank you, Dr. Doolittle. So, how do you suggest I rid myself of this pesky feline? Perhaps you could come over and talk to it." Pete glared at his partner, embarrassed by the predicament he had gotten himself into.
"I don't know, Pete. Just stay strong and try not to feed it any more. That is, unless you plan to keep it. I'll see you in roll call, partner." Jim turned and walked out the locker room door.
Pete Malloy waved his partner off as he buttoned the shirt of his LAPD uniform. He pinned on his badge and shooting brass.
"Malloy?" Juan Sanchez came around the corner of the row of lockers.
"Good morning, Juan." Pete smiled at his fellow officer. "How's it goin'?"
"Can't complain. Listen, Pete, did I hear you telling Reed you've got a stray cat hanging around?"
"Yeah. What about it?" Pete hadn't realized anyone else had heard the earlier conversation.
"My sister's kids have been pestering her to get them a pet. I bet she'd take it. Give it a good home. You sure it doesn't belong to anyone? Does it look healthy?"
"It looks like a cat, Juan. Yeah, I guess it looks healthy enough. Maybe a little thin. I'm pretty sure it doesn't belong to anyone. If your sister wants it, it's hers. Talk to her and let me know something. It is a cute cat. Be nice for it to have a good home," Pete said, relieved by this possible solution.
"Okay, Pete. I'll get back with you." Juan started for roll call.
"Hey Juan," Pete called after him. "Thanks."
Pete opened the driver's side door of the patrol car. He tossed his hat on the back seat and climbed behind the wheel. Jim got in on the other side. He secured the shotgun in the rack and settled in for day watch.
Pete looked over at Jim. Jim's eyes were closed and his head leaned back against the seat. "You okay, Jim?"
"Yeah. I just feel a little blah this morning. Kinda queasy. No big deal." Jim sat up and tried to appear more alert.
"You think it's morning sickness?" Pete teased.
"Could be. I've always hated mornings," Jim said through a yawn.
"Yet another thing we have in common, partner," Pete agreed. "So, are you all right to work today?"
"Oh sure. Matter of fact, I'm fine now."
Pete wasn't totally convinced but he let it go.
"1-Adam-12, 415 fight, two juvenile males, 328 Highlander Street, respond code 2."
"1-Adam-12, roger," Jim responded to dispatch.
Pete maneuvered Adam-12 over to the curb near 328 Highlander. Both officers surveyed the scene before exiting the car. Two juvenile males were going at each other in the front yard. "Lets get this over with," Pete remarked as he grabbed his hat from the backseat. Jim followed his senior partner's lead.
"Okay, break it up, fellas!" Jim barked at the scuffling youths. The two boys looked at Jim for an instant, but continued fighting.
"That's enough. Move away from each other. Now!" Pete spoke with an authority that made the boys take notice.
They started to move away from each other, but the younger-looking of the two decided to give one last shove. He pushed his opponent hard in the chest. The boy fell back against Pete, knocking Pete's hat off. Pete tried to steady the boy, but he lost his balance and fell backwards. The young boy landed on top of Pete. Pete landed on top of his hat. Pete untangled himself from the boy and stood up. He took the boy by the arm and pushed him up against a tree. He searched the boy for weapons and found none. Jim did the same with the other boy, yielding the same results.
"Now, what's the trouble here?" Pete demanded.
"I'll tell you what the trouble is. The trouble is, he took my money."
"I did not take your money, man. You must have lost it somewhere."
"I didn't lose anything. You took it."
The two boys argued back and forth until Jim stepped in. "All right, just keep quiet for a second. We'll get this all sorted out. Let's start with names."
"Mark Lemons," the older boy offered. "And he did take my money."
"One more word and I'll put cuffs on both of you and take you in." Pete was well beyond his limit.
"How old are you, Mark?" Jim asked.
"What about you?" Jim nodded towards the other boy.
"I didn't take…"
"No." Jim held up a hand to silence the boy. "Name and age only for now."
"Steven Clark. Fourteen."
"Thank you. Now, Mark, let's hear your side. Steven, you'll get your turn next." Jim tried to keep his voice on an even keel.
"This morning before I left the house, my old man - I mean my dad, gave me ten dollars. I met up with Steven and now my money's gone. What else could have happened to it?"
Jim offered no possible explanation. "Okay, Steven let's hear what you've got to say."
"I don't guess I have anything to say. Except I did not take his money!"
Mark, the older boy, was suddenly quiet for a moment. He looked down at his feet and finally spoke, "Oh, man. I can't believe I did that."
"You remember something?" Pete questioned.
"Yeah." Mark replied. He grinned at Steven. "I'm sorry, man. My ten bucks is in my shoe. I put it in there so I wouldn't lose it."
"You are so stupid." Steven glared at the other boy, but a slow grin started to spread across his face.
"No hard feelings, buddy?" Mark offered his hand to Steven.
"I don't know. That all depends on how much of that ten I'm getting," Mark returned, shaking his friend's hand.
"So, we're all square here?" Jim inquired.
"Yeah, guess so," Steven shrugged.
"I'm cool, too," Mark agreed.
"Hey, guys, shouldn't you be in school?" Pete gave both boys a stern look.
"Well, we go to the trade school. Our first class isn't until 10:30. We're on our way now."
"Okay. I'm glad everything worked out, but if we get any more calls on either one of you, you won't get off with a warning. Is that clear?" Pete pointed a finger at both of them.
"Yes, sir," they complied in unison.
As the two boys hurried off, Jim stepped back out of their way and put the heel of his shoe on Pete's forgotten hat. He bent down and scooped it up. He tried to manipulate it back into shape and wipe the heel print off with his sleeve. "Sorry, partner," Jim offered Pete an apology along with the misshapened hat.
Pete took the hat and continued trying to straighten it. He said nothing, only shook his head and walked towards the car.
"1-Adam-12, clear," Jim said and replaced the mic.
"1-Adam-12, clear and a call. See the woman, unknown disturbance, 4416 Kingman Place."
It was about a three-minute drive to the call site. "1-Adam-12, show us code 6 at location."
The two officers walked up on the porch and knocked on the door. A middle-aged woman answered. "Hello, gentlemen. I'm Mrs. Branch. Thelma Branch. Thank you for coming."
"Good morning, ma'am. Did you call about a disturbance?" Jim asked.
"Yes, officer. It may be nothing, but I noticed three boys go into a shed a few doors down. Since then, I've heard noises that, quiet frankly, sound a little like gunshots."
Jim threw a quick glance over to Pete. "Mrs. Branch, how old are these boys?"
"Oh, young. I'd say ten or eleven maybe."
"Could you show us the shed, please?" Pete held the door open for Mrs. Branch to step out onto the porch.
"Yes, it's three doors down, behind the house with the yellow shutters." Mrs. Branch pointed down the street.
"Thank you. You can go back into your house now. We'll check into it and let you know something." Pete and Jim started toward the shed.
"Malloy, should we call for back up?"
"Let's try to get a closer look, first."
The officers approached the shed quietly. They listened for a moment from a distance. Pete stepped closer. He cautiously peered through a window. He walked silently back to where Jim stood. "I don't think we need back up. They don't have a gun. Come on. Let's go talk to them."
Pete and Jim walked to the door of the shed. Pete knocked. "Police officers, boys, we need to talk to you. Open the door." A moment of silence followed. Then the door slowly opened.
Three scared-looking boys stood in the shed. A hammer and a half-used box of caps for a toy cap gun lay on the concrete floor. The boys had been popping the caps with the hammer, producing the gunshot sounds.
"We'll need your names." Jim took his notepad and pencil from his shirt pocket.
"Yes, sir," all three boys tried to answer at the same time.
"Okay, take it easy, guys, one at a time. You first." Jim pointed to the smallest of the three boys.
"John Baker, your honor," the boy answered nervously. The other boys started to snicker, but Pete silenced them with a look.
"You next." Jim pointed his pen at another boy.
"And, you?" Jim spoke to the heaviest of the three. He was eating a candy bar and had a reserve candy bar sticking out of his shirt pocket. He hitched his blue jeans up with his free hand and pushed his glasses up on his nose before he answered. "Larry Davis," he finally offered.
"Boys, what's the story here?" Pete kept his voice stern.
"Oh, the whole thing is dumb." Lee Connors appointed himself spokesman for the group.
"Well, um … how do I say this? You probably won't believe this, but we've never done anything like this before. We're not bad kids."
Pete smiled at Jim. He nodded at Lee to continue.
"Anyway, some of the guys at school mess with us sometimes. They call us stuff like, 'The Good Humor Men' and 'Mr. Good Bars'. So, yesterday some of them were saying that the three of us would never do anything like ditch school. Well, they kept on 'til finally we decided to show them. Instead of walking to school this morning, we met and came here."
"What do you think about that decision now?" Jim asked.
"Like I said, the whole idea was a dumb one," Lee Connors admitted. "And boring. There wasn't much to do in here and we couldn't go anywhere."
"Yeah, and scary. I knew we'd get caught." John Baker had found his voice.
"Yeah, and at least at school, we knew what time lunch was going to be." Larry Davis rubbed his stomach. Everyone laughed at Larry's opinion of the situation.
"Have any of you ever heard of truant?" Jim looked questioningly at each boy.
"Wasn't he a president?" Larry guessed.
"No, son. That's Truman. Officer Reed said truant," Pete corrected.
"Truant means you try to dodge responsibility. In this case, you had a responsibility to go to school and you didn't. You're truant. If it becomes a habit, legal action has to be taken," Jim explained.
"And," Pete interjected, "You're not only truant, you're also trespassing. Among other things."
"Are you going to arrest us?" John Baker's eyes were as big as saucers.
"Not this time. But you boys need to understand how serious your actions were. Any plans to ditch school again?"
"No, sir … no way … not me … nope," all three boys chorused.
"Are you going to tell our parents?" Lee's voice held the slightest bit of hope.
"No," Pete answered.
"Whew!" All three boys drew a collective sigh.
"You are," Pete informed. "We'll take you all home and you can explain all this to your parents."
"Man, I am sooo dead," Lee Connors fretted.
"Me too. I'll go straight from my bedroom to the old folks home. Grounded for life," John summed up his pending doom.
"Yeah. My folks are gonna give it to me good," Larry agreed.
"You'll probably have to go without dessert for a year, Larry." Lee Connors playfully poked his friend in the stomach.
"Ah, cut it out, Lee." Larry slapped at Lee's hand.
"We need to go now. We'll need your addresses." Pete led the boys out the door into the bright mid-morning sunshine.
"One more thing boys," Jim added. "Sometimes, good kids grow up to become good police officers. Just something you might want to keep in mind."
Thoughts of an unavoidable confrontation with their parents marred an otherwise enjoyable police car ride for the three truant boys. After dropping off the last of the three, Pete commented to Jim, "Now those were some decent boys. Just got a wild hair, I guess. I don't think we'll have any more trouble out of them."
"I think you're right," Jim nodded in agreement.
"How 'bout code 7?" Pete suggested.
"You read my mind." Jim grabbed the mic. "1-Adam-12, requesting code 7."
"1-Adam-12, okay 7."
"Where to?" Pete asked.
"I don't care."
"How 'bout coneys?"
"You sure? I forgot about your stomach problem."
"I told you, I'm okay now," Jim assured his friend.
"Okay then. Coneys it is."
They each ordered foot-long coneys with the works and split an order of fries. They sat outside at a picnic table and ate. The foot-longs were sloppy, but very tasty. "These things are really messy today," Jim commented. "Good thing they didn't charge us for napkins."
Pete laughed an agreement as he took another huge bite.
They finished eating and headed for Adam-12, and the many afternoon calls that awaited them.
Jim got in and sat down. He looked over to find Pete standing outside the car door, sporting a very disgusted expression.
"Great! Just great. That's all I need." Pete stared down at a giant glob of chili that had escaped the many napkins he had employed and had landed, with a splat, on his shirt. "Hang on, Reed. I'm going to get a few more of those free napkins and try to salvage my shirt." Pete tossed his hat on the backseat and started back to the coney stand.
A rather large crowd of patrons had converged on the stand. It took Pete a few moments to maneuver his way to the box of napkins. He grabbed a handful and rubbed at the nasty stain. He managed to clean off the biggest part.
He returned to the car and out of habit reached to remove his hat. He realized he wasn't wearing it and glanced at the backseat. "Hey, Jim, did you move my hat? I pitched it on the backseat earlier. Maybe it fell on the … Reed, what's wrong with you?"
Jim leaned hard against the window, eyes half closed, pale and sweating. "I don't know, Pete. It just hit me all the sudden. I decided to relax while I waited for you, so I turned sorta sideways and put the side of my head on the back of the seat. Next thing I know, my chili dog is doing an encore. I didn't have time to turn around, open the door or anything. It hit me that sudden. Wham! Well, I sure didn't want to throw up all over the unit, so I reached over the seat and …"
"Oh no. Please say you didn't. You did … you tossed your cookies in my hat, didn't you? I can't believe you."
"Pete, I'm sorry. I swear I'll make it up to you. I'll buy you a new hat."
Pete stared at his partner for a moment. Jim looked chalky and very repentant. Pete debated on whether or not to continue the hard time he was giving Jim or to just let it go. He decided Jim had probably suffered enough. "Forget it, Reed. Senior partners learn they have to be prepared for anything from their juniors. I've got another hat in my locker back at the station. We'll stop by and get it. But what about you? Central Receiving? Home? What?"
"Actually, Pete, I feel much better now that it's out of my system."
"Now look, Reed. That's what you said earlier, but now I'm temporarily out of uniform and shy one hat. By the way, where is my hat?" Jim jerked his head toward the window. Pete looked beyond the window to see a trash can. He nodded and continued his tirade, "Are you absolutely sure you're okay? Be sure, because I don't have any more spare hats. What's next, my pocket? Are you gonna need me to take off my shoe in case you feel a little woozy?"
Jim blushed. "No, Pete, I'm really feeling better. Maybe if I had some of the pink stuff, you know, just as a precaution. Could we swing by the drug store?"
Pete got in the car. "Never mind the drug store. I've got a bottle in my locker. I told you I'm prepared for anything. We'll go to the station and get it and my hat."
Pete opened his locker. He took out his hat and placed it on his head. He handed Jim the bottle of medicine. Jim sat down on a bench and took two big gulps out of the bottle. "Here ya go, Pete. Thanks." Jim tossed the bottle to Pete. The cap was loose and came off as Pete tried to catch the bottle. Bright pink medicine splattered on Pete's pants.
He looked down at his pants, then over at Jim. "One of these days, Reed." He shook his head and grabbed a towel out of his locker. He dabbed at the spots on his pants. Jim found another towel and wiped the spilled medicine off the floor.
"Are you ready to get back out on patrol?" Pete asked.
"Yeah. Let's go."
Pete barely had the unit started when dispatch came across with a call. "1-Adam-12, see the woman, 407 Maple Court, possible missing child."
"407. There it is, Pete."
They parked and then walked about half way up the sidewalk leading to the house. A frantic young woman met them. "Please find my little girl! She's missing. Someone has her. Oh, please help me." She had placed her hands on Jim's chest and looked at him with tears pooling in her eyes.
Jim gently removed her hands. "Ma'am, we'll do everything we can. But first we need some information."
"Could we step inside, please," Pete suggested. Inside the house, the woman seemed to settle down, slightly.
"Now, if you can, please give me your name, then start at the beginning and tell us what happened." Jim's voice was calm and professional.
"All right, I'll try. My name is Debra McFarland. My little girl's name is Samantha. She's seven. She had a dental appointment this afternoon. I picked her up early from school. We came home because it was a little early for her appointment. When we got here, she stayed outside to play hopscotch. She draws the hopscotch thing on the sidewalk with chalk. Anyway, I came inside to finish up some cleaning. She was only out there alone for a few minutes … just a few minutes. I looked out the window to check on her and she was gone. I went out and looked up and down the street. I looked around back. Everywhere. She's gone. I just know someone has her."
"Mrs. McFarland, could you give us a description of Samantha? What was she wearing today? And do you have a recent picture of her?" Jim questioned.
Mrs. McFarland moved to get the picture. "She's about three-and-a-half feet tall. She has red hair and green eyes, like mine. She's wearing a pair of navy blue pants, a short-sleeve pink top and white tennis shoes. She also has on a straw hat with a big white daisy on the front. I guess that's kind of silly, but Sammy loves hats. She wears one almost every day." She looked at the picture in her hand. She fought back tears as she handed the picture to Pete. "Oh, and she has big dimples when she smiles." Pete looked at the picture. The child was beautiful. Crimes against children, the worst part of being a cop.
"Mrs. McFarland, we'll get a broadcast out right away." Jim handed her a card. "Please stay here. If you think of anything that might help, please call the number on the card. Our watch commander at the station will contact us."
"Ma'am, I assure you we will move quickly and we'll do everything we can." Pete knew the promise wasn't much, but he offered it anyway.
"Thank you, officers."
Back in the patrol car, Jim radioed dispatch to broadcast a description of the child. "Pete, do you want to go door to door, or how should we handle this?"
"Let's drive around a couple of blocks, see if anyone's outside. If we don't scare anyone up on the next block or two, we'll canvas door to door." Pete rolled the car slowly up the street and around the corner. He spotted two elderly ladies standing in a well-manicured front yard. He stopped and Jim hopped out. Pete waited as Jim quickly questioned the ladies. He returned to the car after only a few seconds.
Pete heaved a deep sigh. "It's never that easy, is it?" On down the same block Jim spotted a teen-age boy sitting on a curb, bouncing a basketball. This time Pete parked and they both stepped out to talk to the boy.
"Hi. I'm Officer Malloy. This is my partner, Officer Reed. We're looking for a little girl." Pete held the picture out. "Have you seen her today?"
The boy took the picture. He studied it for a moment. "No, sir. I don't think so. Sorry. Did something happen to her?" He asked curiously.
"We're not sure. Thanks for your time." Pete reached to take the picture.
The boy held on to the picture and stared at it some more. "Hey, wait. I guess I was trying to remember kids that walked passed here. No little girls did. But now that I think about it, there was this old green car that drove past about twenty minutes ago. I've just been sitting here waiting for my buddies. We're going to go play some ball at the park. Anyway, this beat-up old car drove past. It stopped at the traffic light and I saw a little girl in there. She was short, so I couldn't see very much of her, but she definitely had red hair. I remember thinking she looked like a carrot top."
This was a fortunate break. Jim and Pete hoped it would pan out. They continued to question the teenager. "Do you remember anything about the person driving the car?"
"Well, not much. I didn't think he was important at the time. Let me think. Dark hair, sorta shaggy lookin'. Of course, he was sittin' down, so I couldn't see much. Probably not real tall … you know, kinda average. He was wearing a white T shirt."
"About how old would you say he was?" Pete continued.
"Oh, not very old. I guess about your age."
Pete couldn't resist shooting a quick smirk at Jim. "Thirties, maybe?"
"Yeah. That sounds about right."
"You're doing great. What about the car? Anything more you can tell us about it?"
"Um … like I said it was green. It was a Chevy. I think a '64. It was real beat-up lookin'… had rust spots all over it. The rear bumper was totally smashed in on the left and the right headlight was broken. That's about all … no wait! I think I remember the license number, or at least part of it."
"Good for you!" Jim praised. "You're really helping us a lot."
"Thanks. Well, I remember it because sometimes me and my friends try to make up things about cars or the drivers, using the letters. The letters were U A O. I thought that could stand for ugly all over, because that car sure was. And, I think the numbers were 186. But I'm not a hundred percent sure about that. I am sure about the letters, though."
"Any idea which direction he was headed?"
"That way," the teen pointed. "I'm almost sure he went into Griffith Park."
"Thanks for all your help." Pete shook the young boy's hand.
"You're welcome. I hope you find her. I've got a kid sister and …well, you know."
"Yeah. Thanks again."
The two officers hurried back to Adam-12. Jim keyed the mic, "1-Adam-12 with an additional on the possible child abduction. Suspect is believed to be a white male in his thirties with dark hair, wearing a white T-shirt. Last seen headed for Griffith Park driving a green 1964 Chevy with rust spots, extensive left rear damage and a broken right headlight. Possible California license, Union-Adam-Ocean 1-8-6. Request 1-L-20 meet us on Tac 2."
"Roger, 1-Adam-12." Dispatch relayed the description of the suspect and then continued, "1-L-20 meet 1-Adam-12 on Tac 2."
"This is L-20 to Adam-12. Go."
"Mac, we got a good tip that our child abductor was seen headed for Griffith Park. We'd like to go there now. And could you send a couple of units there to patrol the park?"
"Roger, Jim." Sergeant McDonald responded.
"Mac, we'll be entering the park from the north. Advise other units use alternate entrances to park."
Once Pete heard the okay from Mac to head to the park, he wasted no time. It was a short drive. They entered from the north on Griffith Park Road and had driven only a few yards, when Jim saw something, "Pete!"
"Yeah, green Chevy. I see it."
"No, Pete. To the right."
Pete's eyes darted quickly to the right. A dark-haired man ran out of a thickly wooded area. He was half-leading, half-dragging a small red-haired girl. He spotted the patrol car and let go of the little girl's hand. He ran back towards the woods. Pete screeched to a stop. "Go! Watch yourself," he instructed Jim.
Jim quickly exited the car. He ran a diagonal across a grassy region and pursued the man into the densely treed area.
Pete walked towards the little girl. She looked totally horrified. She stood perfectly still, looking back at the trees. Pete feared she would be so scared and confused that she might turn and run back into the woods. He stopped about five feet in front of her. He squatted down, balancing against the iron pole of a swing set. He made eye contact with her and said, "Hi, Samantha. My name's Pete. I'm a police officer. I came here to help you."
Samantha McFarland did not move or speak. She stared at Pete for a full minute. Finally, she walked to him, placed her hand on his forearm, looked him in the eyes and in a voice barely above a whisper said, "Could you take me home? I know my address." Tears welled in her eyes, but she wouldn't let them fall.
Pete fought a few tears of his own. He tried to keep his voice light, "Sure, sweetie, I can take you home." Maybe she needs to go to the hospital. "Samantha, did that man hurt you?" Pete put the question to her as gently as he could.
"No. He came to my house. I was outside playing. He pushed me into his car. We drove around for a long time. I wasn't talking, but he kept telling me to be quiet so he could think. I stayed very quiet. I hoped he would think about taking me back home. But we came to the park. We got out of the car and walked over there where those trees are." She pointed. "We walked back in the woods some. Then we saw this man up in a tree. I think he was cutting the limbs off the tree."
Limbs were probably obstructing the power lines, Pete thought. He placed an arm around the little girl's shoulders and nodded for her to go on.
"Then the man told me we had to leave. He grabbed my hand and pulled me real hard. We came out and then he left me. He scared me."
"I know he did, honey. But, you're safe now and I'll take you home very soon." Pete felt like he needed to change the subject. He noticed the small straw hat the little girl held. She nervously folded and unfolded the brim. "Hey, I like your hat."
"Thank you. I like yours, too. Can I try it on?" Samantha looked longingly at Pete's police hat.
"Sure you can." Pete took his hat off and placed it on her head. It fell down over her eyes, invoking a trace of a smile.
"Do you want to try mine on?" The little girl offered the straw hat to Pete.
"No. I better not. A pretty hat like that should only be worn by a pretty little girl. Would you like to go now?"
Pete stood up and took the little girl by the hand. They walked across the same grassy area that Jim had sprinted across earlier. Jim met them at the patrol car. He gave Pete only the necessary information, "It's a 4, Pete. 1-X-Ray 14 is transporting." He would give him the details later.
At that moment, Mac pulled up in L-20. He had stopped by Maple Court and picked up Debra McFarland. She stepped out of the car.
"Mommy!" Samantha shook loose from the grasp Pete had on her hand and ran to the waiting arms of her mother. Then she cried. They both did.
Debra McFarland eventually made her way over to Jim and Pete. "Thank you both for finding her. I can't tell you how scared I was. I thought I'd lost her forever. Thank you so much."
"You're welcome. We're just glad it turned out the way it did," Pete answered as he gave Samantha a little wink.
"Mrs. McFarland, whenever you're ready, I'll take you and Samantha home," Mac offered.
"Yes. We're ready now. My husband is waiting for us there. Thanks again," she called over her shoulder to Pete and Jim as she walked to Mac's car.
"1-Adam-12 clear," Jim sighed and replaced the mic. "My stomach's churning like crazy."
"Not again, Reed! Do I need to pull over?" Pete slowed Adam-12, preparing to stop.
"Oh, no, Pete. I didn't mean that. I was just thinking about that last call. It's horrible the things people do to children…and in broad daylight. Can you believe that?"
"Horrible doesn't even start to describe it. But we've traveled that road before, partner. You know you just need to move on. It's a cold, hard fact that as long as there's a child in this world, there will be child molesters. The best we can hope for when we get those calls is that they end the way our last one did. With a happy ending and very little permanent damage."
"Yeah," Jim nodded. "Yeah."
"1-Adam-12, 211 just occurred, 100 block of North Hamilton Street. Hinkle's Jewelers. Handle code 3."
"1-Adam-12, roger," Jim responded. Pete flipped the toggle and the lights and siren came to life.
Pete guided the car to the curb in front of the jewelry store. "1-Adam-12, show us code 6 in the 100 block of North Hamilton. Request back up." Jim barely had the words out when Pete spotted two men exiting the jewelry store. The two men split up at the door, each running a different direction.
"You take the one that went around the corner. I'll get the other one," Pete shouted to Jim as they both took off on foot pursuit.
Pete ran hard, keeping his suspect in sight. He followed him up North Hamilton, past Cline's Drug Store, past Stoner's Shoe Repair. The chase continued … past O'Leary's Bakery, past The Tip Top Toy Store.
The suspect suddenly stopped and ran into Wang's Laundromat. What is that fool doing? Pete wondered. He entered the laundromat a few seconds after the suspect. He spotted the suspect and started to close in on him. The suspect ran along a row of front-loading industrial-sized washers, all running on different cycles. As he passed each one, he reached out and yanked the handle, opening the doors. The massive one-eyed monsters erupted, belching forth an ocean of soapy water and various items of clothing. Pete came upon the flowing lake of laundry too fast to even consider stopping. He hit the watery mess at full speed, sliding face first through the sudsy pool. His slalom ended when his right shoulder slammed into the wooden leg of a table. He righted himself and sat leaning against the table leg. He watched as the suspect doubled back through the laundromat and headed toward the door. Pete started to get up, but he noticed his partner standing at the door of the laundromat. He slumped back down on the floor.
Pete reached down an untangled a pair of pantyhose from his left leg. They had constricted around his thigh like a mighty nylon python. He twisted around and fished a soggy sock from down the back of his shirt. He sat there dripping and tried to take stock of himself. He seemed to be in one piece, although his shoulder screamed.
After a few minutes, Pete looked up to see Jim walking through the Laundromat, carefully avoiding the wet jumble of clothes and soap. "Well, Malloy, what …"
"Watch it, Reed! One word and I'll bust ya. First your rank and then your knee caps." Pete took the hand that Jim offered and slowly climbed to his feet. "So, what's the latest? Did we get them?"
"We?" Jim started, but let it go. "Yeah, we got 'em both. Brinkman and Woods rolled on the back up. They're taking them in now. Are you hurt?"
"Nah. Nothing to speak of, anyway. Cracked my shoulder, but I'll live. It's almost end of watch. Lets head to the station and get started on those reports, partner."
The ride to the station was a squishy one for Pete. He sighed and squirmed for most of the ride.
"Well, Pete, there is a small bright spot," Jim tried to cheer up his partner.
Pete turned an incredulous stare on Jim. "Okay, let me see." Pete ticked off the events of the day on his fingers. " I've had a stray cat shed on my pants. I've had a 15-year-old hot head knock me down and land on top of me. I've had a hat smashed up, stepped on and puked in. My uniform's been stained with chili and splattered with medicine, which just happened to be a sissy pink color. I've had to deal with a stomach-turning potential child molestation call. I took a swan dive through a pool of soap and strangers' laundry. I banged my shoulder and I'm still not convinced I didn't break my collarbone. Sorry, Reed, but I'm having a hard time finding a bright spot in any of this."
"Ed Wells. He took his family to Catalina for the week. There's no chance of running into him when we get to the station," Jim informed.
"Oh yeah. You may have something there, partner. It's small consolation, but at least it's something," Pete agreed.
At the station, Pete went straight to the locker room and changed out of his wet uniform. Jim started right in on the reports. He would change later.
Pete joined Jim as he was finishing the last of the reports. Pete closed his eyes and leaned his chair back against the wall. Jim wrote feverishly. Pete would give the reports the once over when Jim finished. "Long day, huh, Pete?" Jim commented without looking up.
Pete stirred slightly. "Today, I'd have to say long life."
"Whatsa matter, Malloy? You feelin' old?" Jim teased.
"Yeah, I have to admit, I'm beat."
"Hey, why don't you stop by the house later tonight? I got Jimmy a new train set. I put it all together last night. It's really neat. Lots of track, bells that clang, and the locomotive spits out little puffs of steam. You should come play with Jimmy. Guaranteed to make you feel young again."
"I bet my godson loves that. Did he have fun playing last night?"
"Well, um actually, Jimmy was already in bed when I set the train up last night. I just ran it around the track a few times to make sure it worked," Jim declared a little sheepishly.
"Reed, you're pathetic. I can't believe you played with your kid's train set before he got a chance. But, yeah, I think I might stop by and help Jimmy break in that train. Sounds like a good way to unwind."
"Great, Pete. Try to make it around 7:00 or 7:30." Jim finished up the last of the reports and slid them across the table for Pete's approval. Pete rocked forward and brought his chair down on all four legs. He quickly perused the reports. "Looks good, Jim. Let's get out of here." Both officers stood up and started for the locker room.
Jim changed out of his uniform. He stood at the door ready to leave, "See you tonight, Pete."
"Okay, Jim. Do I need to bring anything?"
"No. But if you decide to stop by the laundromat, make sure you wring yourself out good before you come. Jean wouldn't want you dripping all over the carpet." Jim shot a big, cheesy grin at Pete.
Pete grabbed his stuff and headed for his car. "Hey, Pete," a voice called from behind. Pete turned around. "Oh, hi, Juan. How'd your day go?" Pete wasn't in the mood for small talk, but he tried to be pleasant.
"So-so," Juan Sanchez replied. "I talked to my sister."
"That's nice." Pete wondered why he needed to know that.
"About the cat?"
"Oh right!" This morning seemed like a lifetime ago to Pete. "So, what's the verdict?"
"Well, I made the mistake of calling when the kids were home. They overheard their mother say the word cat. So, now she's trapped. No way out. Is it still okay for me to take it?"
"It's okay with me. I don't own the cat. As far as I'm concerned, if it's still at my apartment, you can have it," Pete shrugged.
"Mind if I stop by this evening? The nieces and nephews are anxious to get it."
"Not a problem. I'm due at the Reeds' about 7:00. Can you make it before then?" Pete asked.
"Sure. I'll try to be there between 6:00 and 6:30. Thanks."
"See ya then." Pete got behind the wheel of his car and headed home.
Pete looked out the front window of his apartment. He saw Juan and a little girl walking toward his door, so he stepped out to meet them. "Hey Juan, who's your friend?" Pete smiled at the little girl.
"Pete, this is my niece, Maria. She came to pick up her kitty," Juan explained with a grin.
The little girl holding Juan's hand looked up at Pete. She had shoulder-length, raven-colored hair, big brown eyes and a smooth dark complexion. She was gorgeous. "Well, hello, Maria," Pete smiled at the little girl. "You're very pretty. How old are you?"
"Five. But I'm going to be six," Maria answered.
"Oh, really? When will you be six?"
"On my birthday," the little girl stated matter-of-factly.
Both men laughed. "Gee, Pete, I thought you were smarter than that," Juan joked.
"I've got your cat all ready for you, Maria." Pete pointed to a box sitting just outside his door. "I coaxed it into that box with a piece of leftover chicken." Pete directed this at Juan. "Actually, it didn't take much coaxing. This cat seems to be fairly friendly. I hope it likes kids."
Maria turned loose of her uncle's hand and walked over to the box. "Ooh. Hi, kitty," she said softly. She reached inside the box and started to stroke the soft fur. Instant purrs.
Pete and Juan exchanged small talk while Maria became acquainted with her new pet. "Wonder if it's a boy or a girl," Juan commented.
"He's a boy, Uncle Juan," Maria threw over her shoulder. "I looked."
Juan and Pete shared a wide-eyed, speechless stare. "Um, Maria, sweetie ..." Juan wasn't sure how to approach this delicate subject. "Honey, where did you look?"
"At his face." The little girl never took her eyes off her new cat. "I know he's a boy, because he's got a moustache just like my daddy."
Juan and Pete both knelt down in front of the box. They examined the cat closely. It was white with orange and black markings and just under its nose was a small black patch of fur that looked very much like a tiny moustache. Both men laughed relieved sighs. "Maybe I'll confirm the gender of our little feline friend later," Juan decided. "Listen, Pete, I guess we better shove off now. I know you were on your way to Jim's. Maria, say thank you to Pete."
"Thank you, Pete," the little girl dutifully responded.
"You are so welcome, sweetie. Take good care of your new friend. Okay?"
"Okay. I will," Maria pulled her eyes away from the cat long enough to offer Pete a quick smile.
"Thanks again, Pete. I'll see you, tomorrow." Juan gathered up the box. "Let's go Maria."
"See ya, Juan. Bye Maria." Pete waved to the little girl as she followed her uncle to his car.
Pete walked to his own car and started the engine. It had been a long day, and he looked forward to relaxing with his godson and that new train. But first he had to make a quick stop at the toy store.
After making his purchase, Pete drove to the Reeds'. He parked in the driveway and made his way up the sidewalk. He didn't have to knock. Jim, with little Jimmy riding on his hip, met him at the door. "Hey, buddy." Pete reached out and tickled Jimmy on his barefoot. "I brought you something."
Jean appeared at the door. "Hey, Pete! Come on in. And I've told you a hundred times-you don't have to bring Jimmy something every time you come over."
"I know I don't have to. I want to. I enjoy bringing my godson prizes."
"Gee, Pete, you never bring me anything," Jim joked.
"My pwize, my pwize!" Jimmy tried to bring them back to the important matter at hand.
They all walked into the living room and Jim stood Jimmy on the floor. Pete took a small blue-and-white-striped train engineer's cap out of a bag and plopped it on Jimmy's head. "It's a hat just like the real train drivers wear," he explained to his godson. Jimmy took it off, looked at it carefully and placed it back on his head. Pete made eye contact with Jim and said, "You stay away from it. You seem to have it in for hats today." Jim made a face at Pete.
"Jimmy, tell Uncle Pete, 'thank you'," Jean reminded.
Jimmy walked over to Pete, patted him on the leg and said, "Fanks for my hat, Unca Pete." He took Pete by the hand. "Come see my twain."
Jean went into the kitchen to finish washing dishes.
The three "little boys" sat on the floor and played train. "Hey, this is great," Pete commented.
"Yeah," Jim agreed. "Here's the locomotive that really steams, and the boxcars with doors that slide open and closed."
"Ah, the big red caboose. This was always my favorite," Pete said as he picked up the caboose.
"Why, Pete, because it's bright, shiny red?" Jim wondered.
"No. Because I knew when I saw it, the end of the train was there and I could drive on across the tracks."
"You're just full of nostalgia, aren't you, Pete?"
They watched the train go around the track and they each took turns working the control, although the two bigger boys seemed to manage an extra turn every now and then.
"Me next. Me next," Jimmy fussed.
"Boys, play nice," Jean reprimanded from the kitchen.
Jim needed to stretch his legs. "Be right back," he said as he stood up. He tousled Jimmy's hair and started for the kitchen.
"Hey, Jim, bring me some water, please," Pete called after him.
Jim went into the kitchen. He talked to Jean a few minutes, ate a cookie, got Pete's water and returned to the living room.
"Here ya go, Pete." Jim handed Pete a large glass of water.
"Reed, I'm not planning to stay forever," Pete said as he took the glass.
"What are you talking about?" Jim questioned.
"Well, you brought me enough water to last a month. I only wanted a few drops to put in the locomotive. I wanted to see the little puffs of steam come out."
"Oh. I thought you were thirsty."
Jimmy suddenly jumped up. "I wanna make the steam. I wanna put the watew in." He started towards Pete, tripped and fell. Pete tried to catch Jimmy, but instead caught a lap full of cold water. The shock of the cold water made Pete suck in deep gasp of air.
"Son, you need to be more careful. I've told you about what happens when you get in too big a hurry," Jim scolded.
"I'm sawwy, Unca Pete." Jimmy offered an apology.
"That's okay, buddy. It was an accident."
Jean appeared from the kitchen with two towels. She had gathered from Pete's gasp and the conversation that followed that something or someone needed to be cleaned up. She tossed one towel to Pete. The other, she dropped on the floor and used her foot to blot some of the water out of the carpet. "Pete, I'm sorry this happened. Let me get you a pair of Jim's sweats to wear home."
"Not necessary, Jean. I've grown kind of used to driving around with wet pants," Pete quipped.
"I'm a big boy now. I don't have wet pants no more," Jimmy chimed in.
Everyone laughed and Pete continued, "Seriously, I'm not that wet. I think your carpet got the worst of it." He picked Jimmy up and hugged him, being careful not to get him wet. "Besides, I need to be going and I think Casey Jones here needs to wind down a little before bed." He put Jimmy down and walked to the door. The Reeds followed.
"I'll see ya tomorrow, partner," Jim said. "And let's see if we can make it through the day without you getting stomped on, run over, or drowned."
Pete tugged ruefully at his wet trousers, reflecting tiredly on his long, sticky, soggy, hairy day. Tomorrow had to be better. "It's a deal, partner."
Thanks to Cathy for all her help and for maintaining such a great site. And, thanks to everyone who sent feedback on my first story.