Watch the Monkey Swat the Patrol Car . . .
by CE Fox
Takes place the day after the shift in the episode "Northeast Division." With apologies to Mr. Heston.
"1-Adam-12, Daywatch clear," Jim Reed said around a yawn.
"1-Adam-12, you're not readable."
"Wake up, Rip," Pete Malloy cracked as he pulled the black and white LAPD patrol car into traffic.
Jim pressed the mic key and said distinctly, "1-Adam-12, Daywatch clear."
"1-Adam-12, reading you now. 1-Adam-12 clear."
As Jim yawned again, Pete couldn't resist another poke at his partner. "So tell me, did you get to see the big gorilla fall off the Empire State Building?"
"Yes, we did. And the television works better now than it did before."
"Thanks to that television repairman Rod Foreman called."
"Thanks to Rod," Jim corrected with just a hint of heat. "Come on, Pete. Give the kid a break. You heard what Mac said yesterday. Teenagers need all the self-confidence they can get. So lay off."
"I don't think Rod's the one with the self-confidence problem."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I haven't said a word to Rod. You're the one getting all bent out of shape because I'm yanking his chain."
Jim's reply was cut off by another yawn.
"What's with you this morning? How late did you stay up?"
"Well, King Kong was over at one o'clock, and then it took us a while to get to sleep."
Pete held up his hand. "Say no more. If you and Jean were re-enacting rescuing the girl from the monkey, that's your own business."
"Pete," Jim protested, then thought better of it. "Never mind."
"I will, thank you."
"You were the one that brought it up."
"And I'm beginning to regret it."
Jim laughed. "Anyway, the television set works like a charm. I'll have to figure out a way to repay Rod without letting him know that I know he called a repairman. When's the next scout meeting?"
"A week from Tuesday. I think they meet on the first Tuesday of the month."
"They have anything going before then?"
"I dunno. Check with Sergeant Miller. He's their advisor."
"I'll talk to him. You know, Rod's family doesn't have a lot of money. That's one reason he learned how to repair stuff. He's a good kid."
"Lot of those scouts are."
"You ever worked with the scouts?"
"Couple times, a few years before you came along. You're all the scout I can handle now."
Jim snorted. "Watch it, partner. All those gaudy stripes on your sleeve are going to your head."
"You're just jealous."
"You wait, one of these days I'll be your boss and you'll regret all these insults."
"I don't doubt that for a minute."
Jim leaned around the back of the seat and grabbed a brown paper sack.
Pete eyed the brown lunch bag with distaste. "Are you back to bringing your lunch? Didn't that suspect sitting on it cure you?"
"Pete, it saves us money."
"Not when suspects sit on it."
"Is this pick-on-your-partner day or what?"
Pete smiled. "Every day is pick-on-your-partner day. Partner."
"1-Adam-12, 415-unknown. In the alley between Grandview and Ardale, west of Ridgely. 1-Adam-12 respond code 2."
"Saved by the bell," Jim muttered, then responded to dispatch.
Pete picked up the speed a little and kept any more jibes to himself. They turned into the entrance to the alley. "I don't see anything," Pete said.
"Maybe whoever it was moved on."
They rolled the length of the alley, but all was quiet. "Check to see who called it in," Pete said.
"1-Adam-12, code 6 in the alley between Grandview and Ardale, west of Ridgely. Did the PR leave their name?"
"Negative, 1-Adam-12. No callback number given."
Jim roger'd and replaced the mic. "Guess we should take a look around."
"You take the alley. I'll go around front and talk to some of the business owners." Pete pulled the car behind a dumpster.
Jim put on his hat and pulled his baton out of its door holder, keeping an eye on the alley as he slid the baton into his belt ring. Nothing moved. The only sounds besides the muted traffic noise from the two cross streets were some pigeons cooing and flapping restlessly along the rooftops. The fire escapes were clear. All the back doors to the businesses in the strip mall lining the alley were closed. A chipmunk darted in and out of the bushy growth in the vacant lot on the opposite side of the alley.
Jim walked the entire length of the block, then headed back. He stopped at each dumpster, lifting the lid to check inside, but he didn't find anything except a lot of vile-smelling garbage.
Pete met him back at the car. "Anything?"
"Clothing store owner, a Mrs. Peterson, heard something pounding and scratching at her back door about ten minutes ago. She got scared, called us."
"Third one down."
They walked over, but nothing looked out of place. Pete knocked on it and an elderly woman opened it cautiously. She put a hand to her chest and sighed. "Oh, it's you. For a moment I was afraid it was back."
"'It', ma'am?" Jim asked.
"Whatever was banging on my door. I told your partner. It was an infernal racket, banging and clawing. Scared me to death."
"Do you think it might have been a dog?" Jim asked.
"If it was, it didn't bark, really. I may have heard a sort of grunting noise. I don't know. My hearing's not what it used to be, and this is a heavy door. It could have been anything."
Jim glanced down at the ground and at the door. The area was asphalted, so no tracks, but there were some marks on the bottom of the door. "Ma'am, these scratches-are they new?"
"Just a moment," Mrs. Peterson said. She fumbled on the pair of reading glasses that hung on a chain around her neck. "Oh, no. Those have been there forever. No, there's no new scratches."
"Well, Mrs. Peterson," Pete said, "if you hear anything again, don't be afraid to call us or better yet, animal control. Sometimes the stray dogs around here get to be a problem."
"Oh, I'll call, Officers. Thank you both very much ."
They said their good-byes and headed back for the car. "Probably a dog," Jim said.
Pete started the engine. "Or maybe she was hearing the trash truck banging those dumpsters around. No telling."
Jim yawned. "We better get some more exciting capers than this or I'm gonna fall asleep."
"Just make sure you don't snore."
"1-Adam-12, what is your status?"
Jim reached into the car from where he stood by his door watching Pete get reamed out by an irate motorist. They'd pulled him over for running a boulevard stop and from the sound of his rant, you'd think they'd tried to bust him on child molestation. He saw Pete rip the ticket off the book and hand it to the red-faced man. "1-Adam-12, clear."
"1-Adam-12, see the man. 415-barking dog. 45601 Pickwick. 45601 Pickwick."
"1-Adam-12, roger," Jim drawled, then yelled to Pete to get moving.
Pete slid behind the wheel with a grateful sigh. "Thanks, partner."
"Don't thank me. We got a call. 415-barking dog."
"You take it. I've been barked at enough this morning."
"Wasn't too happy to see us, was he?"
"You said it, partner."
The barking dog was a small terrier mix in the back yard of a home where no one was home.
"Mr. Andrews works during the day. Usually Studly stays quiet, but he's been yapping at those trees behind the fence all morning," Lawrence Shelvin, a short, grey-haired retiree, said. He aimed an annoyed glare at the small black dog.
"'Studly'?" Pete asked.
"Yeah, Studly. Pretty grand name for a mutt no bigger than your shoe, but Andrews has a pretty good sense of humor. Anyway, it's got me a little nervous, the way Studly's acting, so I figured I better call, just in case."
"You did the right thing, sir," Jim said. "We'll check it out. Can we go through your back yard? Is there a gate back there?"
"Oh, certainly, certainly. Just let yourself through."
As they walked through Shelvin's back yard, Pete pulled out his baton. Jim saw it and grinned. "'fraid that ankle biter might nip at your socks?"
"No, I'm a little concerned that whatever it was Mrs. Peterson heard four blocks away has moved north."
Jim's smile vanished. Without a word, he pulled out his own baton. They reached the gate and let themselves through. Jim gestured at the brushy thicket that lined the alley-it was similar to the growth behind the strip mall crowding. "What's on the other side of all this?"
Pete shrugged. "Mostly a ravine that cuts into the hillside from the east. It ends about four blocks north of here, at Rimrock."
"Think we should call animal control?"
"Nothing to call them about yet. All we've got is a barking dog and a lady who heard a noise."
"Yeah, I guess," Jim agreed uneasily.
Pete laughed. "You've been watching too much King Kong."
They walked the width of the property without seeing anything, but a sudden flurry of birds exploded out of some trees about a hundred yards to the north. Pete turned that way, but Jim grabbed his arm. "Maybe we should get the car, roll along this whole alley."
The teasing gleam was still in Pete's eye, but he nodded. "Not that I really think King Kong is lurking down there, but it'll be quicker. You stay here and keep a watch on things."
Staying there hadn't been in Jim's play book, but he agreed. As soon as Pete disappeared back into the yard, Studly nipping at his shoelaces, Jim took a firmer hold of his baton and started walking. He didn't really think King Kong was on the loose, despite Pete's teasing, but a rabid or vicious dog could be just as dangerous. He kept to the far side, away from the trees, as he walked slowly along. The birds had circled a few times, then settled back down onto the branches of a long-dead tree. The chirping buzz of insects resumed. He walked behind the back fences of several houses, most of which were well-maintained and neatly kept. A lawn sprinkler swished quietly in one. A portly yellow cat blinked sleepily at him from the fence of another.
He reached out and let the cat sniff his fingers. "What do you say, cat? See anything amiss around here, or is your pal Studly barking at shadows?"
The cat stood up and rubbed his jaw along Jim's fingers. He started to purr, then suddenly stiffened, staring at the brush across the alley. The hair on his tail started to bristle and a low growl rumbled deep in the cat's chest. Then the cat turned and leaped from the fence and took off toward the house, tail straight up and fluffed out bigger than a bottlebrush.
Jim still didn't see anything amiss, but from the prickly feeling on his arms, he knew if he'd had a tail, it'd be bushed out every bit as big as that cat's. He noticed the insects had quieted down again. He took a step toward the bushes and let out a low whistle. "Hey," he said softly. "Who's there?"
For a moment, nothing moved, then Jim nearly leaped out of his skin when another cat came streaking out from under a bush and followed the same trail the yellow cat blazed across the back yard. "Stupid cats," Jim muttered.
The welcome crunch of tires on loose gravel signaled Pete's arrival with the black and white. Jim was never more glad to drop into the safety of two tons of steel and glass.
"You look a little spooked, partner."
Jim laughed. "I am. Or was." He told him about the cats.
"That explains Studly's ire," Pete said.
"You think it's something else?"
"I don't know," Jim said uncomfortably. He didn't know how to describe the creeping sensation still badgering the back of his neck. Pete would probably scoff at him again for watching too many horror movies.
"We'll keep looking, then," Pete said easily. He kept the car to a crawl as they traversed the length of the alley. The alley emptied onto Rimrock Boulevard at the end of the ravine. Nothing looked out of place, but the brush was thick enough to hide an army of elephants.
"One more run?" Jim asked.
Pete didn't reply, just turned the car around and headed back up the hill. This time the weeds and trees were on Jim's side of the car. He stared intently into the greenery, but he didn't see or hear anything. "How wide's this ravine?"
"Not real wide. Maybe a hundred feet at the widest point, at the bottom of the hill near Rimrock."
"There another alley on the west side?"
"Not yet, but there's a housing development going in over there. Luxury houses on stilts hanging out into space, that kind of thing."
"Let's check it out."
Pete didn't argue. A few minutes later they were cruising past houses in various stages of completion. They got a few curious stares from construction workers, and when Pete parked the car at the end of the road, a man who looked like a foreman approached them. "Something I can help you with, officers?"
Jim climbed out of the car. "We're just checking out the area. Had a call on a barking dog on the next street over, and earlier we had a lady call in that something was growling and scratching at her back door."
"You think there's a mad dog or something around?"
"We don't know, sir. We're just checking the area. Have you seen anything?"
"I ain't seen nothing like that, but I'll let you know something-couple of the houses got vandalized last night. Nothing big, so I didn't bother calling, but there were some boards knocked down, some mud smeared around here and there. Only reason I even noticed was because it was right next to the construction office-that trailer right down there." He pointed to a small white trailer sitting by itself at the end of the street. "I figure it was probably kids."
"Probably so," Jim said.
A shout from the second house down caught their attention. A knot of workers had gathered at the back of the open flooring of one of the houses. They were craning their necks to look down the hill, and several were pointing.
"Let's check it out," Pete said.
Snatches of excited comments reached their ears as they hurried across the broken ground.
"It was a bear, I'm tellin' ya!"
"Bear shmare. They're ain't no bears in L.A."
"I think it was a dog . . ."
Jim looked over at Pete. "Something's definitely down there," he said quietly.
"Sounds like it."
They finally climbed over and through the unfinished house and made it to the back. "Whatcha got?" the foreman said, pushing through the tightly bunched men. They saw the two officers and parted like the Red Sea.
"I dunno, Jonesy. It looked like a bear to me," one burly man insisted. He held a hammer like he was expecting the bear to come leaping through the open stud walls.
Jim scanned the area. The ground dropped sharply away just below the house. When the place was completed, the owners would have a knockout view of the LA skyline, but their kids wouldn't have much of a back yard. "Where'd you see it?" he asked.
"Down at the bottom there, just at the edge of the trees."
Jim looked where the man pointed but he didn't see anything.
"It was there, I'm telling you!" the big worker insisted.
"I guess we could go down there and check out the area where he saw it," Jim said.
Pete looked at him like he was out of his mind, but Jim didn't really know what else to do. The construction workers were all looking at them like they were the long-awaited Messiahs.
Pete glanced at the expectant faces ringed around them and gave in. "All right, let's go look."
The man named Jonesie pointed down the street. "You can get down there pretty easy if you go back down the road to that second house on the left. There's a path behind it that'll take you down the hill and into the brush."
Pete nodded, giving him a barely-sincere smile that faded into a glare when he transferred his gaze to Jim. "Come on, partner."
Warmth flooded Jim's face, but he merely turned on his heel and headed for the path.
Once they were out of earshot and headed downhill, Pete hissed, "You and your bright ideas. I'm getting covered with dust."
"What was I supposed to do, back off and make us and the entire LAPD look like chickens?"
"If there is a bear, I'm leaving you to fight it."
"You're all heart, Pete."
Ten sweaty minutes later, no bear, unless Jim counted the one his partner had turned into. He didn't say a word as they climbed back up the hill.
"Did you see it? Did you?" the big man asked expectantly.
Pete didn't bother to stop on his way back to the patrol car, so Jim answered. "No, sir. There wasn't anything down there that we could find."
"I know it's in there. You just wait, you'll get a call and it'll be somebody got ate up."
Jim nodded at the man. "We'll keep our eyes open."
"You better keep that shotgun loaded!" the man called after him.
Pete tried to blow the dust off the brim of his cap. "You owe me a clean hat. And a shoe shine."
"Pete, come on, knock it off."
Pete tossed the hat with disgust onto the seat. "Next time anything comes in remotely related to animals, we're calling animal control. I don't care if it's a man in a gorilla suit robbing a bank."
"1-Adam-12, Code 30-ringer, A&J's Package Liquor, 4415 Rimrock. 4415 Rimrock. 20 minute delay on the man. Respond code 2."
Jim acknowledged. "4415 Rimrock," he repeated. "That's just around the corner west of Ridgely. It backs onto that ravine."
"Don't say it."
"Maybe the bear got thirsty."
"You had to say it," Pete sighed.
"I'll get the back," Jim offered as they pulled up to the curb some fifty feet down from the liquor store, in front of a taxidermy shop. Even from that distance, they could hear the faint jangle of an alarm bell from within the liquor store.
"Take the shotgun," Pete called as Jim climbed out without it.
Jim hesitated questioningly.
"Just in case," Pete said with an embarrassed shrug.
"Won't hurt." Jim freed it from the clamps and perched it on his hip as he walked around the building. Another view of the same alley: similar blank rows of service entrances, clusters of dumpsters, trash cans and crates. Jim felt like he'd sung this tune already. The only difference in this section of the alley was a chain-link fence-the kind with red and white plastic strips woven through the links for privacy-separating the alley from the wilds of nature. Halfway down, the fence was shoved inward and bent, the strips shredded and ripped away. Jim slowed a step and hefted the shotgun.
He walked forward cautiously, checking each doorway and behind each stack of crates and each dumpster until he reached the broken section of fence. He peered around it, but nothing was there. He pulled at it with his free hand. There was no way of knowing how long it had been like this. Could have been damaged this morning or a month ago. He turned his back on it and eyed the liquor store building. A fire escape led to the roof, and there was a delivery entrance beside it-a faceless, latchless steel door that could only be opened from the inside. He walked over and put his fingers in the crack between the door and jam and tugged. It held fast. There were no other doors or windows in the concrete block wall.
Jim climbed the fire escape quickly, stopping long enough at the top to look over the roof's edge. The roof looked clean, as did the roof of the neighboring businesses, although he had a disquieting moment when he thought he saw a gorilla lying on the roof next door. "No way," he whispered, then looked again, remembering it was a taxidermy shop. The lump of dark fur didn't move, and as he looked closer, he didn't think it was really a gorilla. Just a pile of abandoned furs of some sort. There were several discarded animals scattered near it. A moth-eaten otter. A bedraggled wild turkey. A moose head that had seen better days.
He turned his back on the odd collection and checked the entire liquor store roof . It was as empty as it appeared. The only thing interrupting the flat gravel of the rooftop besides a ventilator fan was a small hut-like building providing what was likely an access door to the inside of the store. He tried it, but it was locked. He walked to the front of the building and looked down. Pete was standing on the sidewalk. "Anything?"
"Everything's tight. Looks like our day for false alarms."
"Either that or they've come and gone already. Come on down and we'll wait for the owner."
Jim nodded, then momentarily froze as he heard a grunting noise behind him. He whirled around, but nothing was there.
"Jim?" Pete called.
Jim lifted the shotgun. Nothing moved on the roof. "I heard something," he said, just loud enough to carry down to Pete.
Jim nodded, then moved sideways, keeping the edge of the roof behind him as he cut off the angle between himself and the small hut. He ran the last few steps and ducked behind its cover. If there was something on the roof, it must be on the other side. He held his breath, listening, but the grunting noise wasn't repeated. The longer he stood in the complete silence, the more he wondered if he had simply imagined the noise.
He worked his way all around the utility shack. Nothing. And nothing on either roof adjacent. The otter and his miserable companions lay unmoved, the moose head, the turkey . . .
The pile of black fur was considerably smaller. "Oh, no," Jim whispered.
He heard the grunting noise again, right behind him.
Pete reached for the radio mic, but three beeps stopped him from pressing the transmit button.
"Attention all units and 1-Adam-12, be advised that Circus Maximillian has reported an escaped gorilla near the intersection of Parkersdale and Rimrock Boulevard. Parkersdale and Rimrock Boulevard. Use extreme caution if found and notify dispatch immediately. KMA-367."
Pete glanced uneasily at the roof and keyed the mic. "1-Adam-12, request a backup at our location."
Jim turned very, very slowly and froze. It's a nightmare. It's gotta be a nightmare. I watched King Kong too many times in one week. I'll pinch myself and wake up. He pinched his leg, but nothing changed.
The gorilla perched less than five feet above him on the roof of the small hut stared down at him with baleful black eyes.
Jim had never actually known the feeling of being weak in the knees until that moment. He had the shotgun in his hand, but he had no idea if he could swing it up and get a shot off should the gorilla decide to charge. Even if he did manage to get a shot off, the gorilla would probably land right on top of him, and if it wasn't dead . . . . Jim swallowed hard.
Pete hurried around the side of the building. Jim wasn't in the alley. "Jim!"
No answer. Pete ran for the fire escape and climbed as quickly as he could. The sight that met his eyes when he cleared the roof line nearly made his heart stop completely.
Jim stood motionless, staring transfixed at a very large gorilla. Pete froze, afraid that any movement might cause the animal to spring at Jim. Jim must have caught Pete's movement out of the corner of his eye, because his left hand motioned ever so slightly at him to stay back. But even that tiny movement made the gorilla growl and shift his weight. Jim didn't move, but Pete could see his chest was working like a bellows. Hang in there, partner. There's gotta be a way out of this.
He looked around the rooftop, but nothing offered any immediate solution. Much as Pete hated leaving Jim, the best thing he could do was get to the black and white and radio for the circus people. Saying a prayer for Jim's safety, he slowly backed down the fire escape.
Jim nearly passed out when the gorilla growled at his tiny hand movement. He froze, only stopping his frantic praying when he sensed Pete retreating down the fire escape. He didn't know if maintaining eye contact with an angry gorilla was good or bad, but he didn't dare pull his eyes away.
Maybe I should play dead . . . no, that's for bears . . . but maybe it'll work on gorillas, too . . . and maybe when I drop to the ground, he'll spring at me and have me for lunch . . .
Jim stayed where he was.
Pete grabbed the mic with a shaking hand. "1-Adam-12, officers need help. We have located the escaped gorilla. Send back up units and someone from the circus to our location."
Pete waited long enough to hear dispatch start the broadcast, then he hurried back around to the rear of the building.
Jim didn't know what he did wrong, but the gorilla suddenly stood straight up and pounded its chest. He opened his mouth, baring all his teeth in a deafening bellow. Jim decided right then and there he wasn't going to stand meekly and wait for the big ape to leap down on him. He turned on his heel and ran.
Pete heard several loud thumps and a roaring bellow. "Jim!" He raced for the fire escape, but before he put his foot on the first rung, his partner practically leaped from the edge of the roof onto the ladder. Jim slid more than climbed down the fire escape.
Pete didn't wait to be told twice.
Jim outdistanced Pete despite the fact that Pete had been closer to the ground. By the time Pete rounded the building, Jim was diving into the car. Pete just hoped his partner didn't lock him out in his panic. He yanked on his own door handle and it opened. He dropped inside and slammed the door shut.
"You okay?" he asked.
Jim was breathing too hard to answer, but he nodded. He held out his hand with a breathless laugh-it was shaking like a leaf.
"Me too, partner," Pete said. He waited until Jim slowed his gulping of air, then motioned toward the empty rack on the floor. "What happened to the shot gun?"
Jim jerked his thumb toward the roof.
"We'll get it later."
Jim nodded. He tucked his trembling hands under his arms. His breathing slowed marginally.
"So, you awake now?"
Jim laughed again, a nervous explosion of relief. "Yeah, you could say that."
Adam-34 screeched to a halt in front of them. Pete climbed out of the car and walked over to them. He noticed Jim climbed out as well, but his partner elected to stay very close to their car. Not that Pete blamed him one bit.
"You guys find that gorilla?" Officer Jerry Woods immediately asked.
"You might say it found Jim."
Jerry's eyes widened as he looked quickly over at Jim. "You okay?"
"He's just a little shook up," Pete said. "Look, there's not a lot to do until the circus people get here. But we need to block off the streets. That thing is up on the roof, or at least it was five minutes ago."
"We'll take Rimrock and the mouth of the alley," Jerry offered.
As he pulled away, another unit roared up, and Pete directed them back to Rimrock and Ridgely to stop traffic there. Then he returned to the car. He didn't bother asking Jim to stop traffic. His partner was still white as a ghost. "Who's responding?"
"Adam-17, Xray-14, Adam-24, and Mac. They're all on Tac 2. Adam-17's covering Pickwick and Ridgely and Xray-14's picking up Ridgely all the way back to Rodale, up at the top of the hill. Adam-24's covering the new development on the other side of the ravine."
"You up to heading back into that alley?"
Jim took a deep breath and nodded, but Pete thought he still looked pretty shaky.
"Yeah, Pete. I'm fine, really."
"You could wait here to fill in Mac."
"And worry about you? No thanks. We'll stick together."
They walked back to the alley, keeping their heads on swivels. When they still hadn't seen the gorilla by the time they reached the fire escape, Jim sighed with resignation. "I guess one of us needs to go up and make sure he's still there."
"Just be careful."
Jim glanced sharply at him. Pete shrugged. "You've already proven that you can run faster than it can."
"Terrific," Jim muttered, but he started climbing the fire escape. Pete watched him hesitate at the top, then peer carefully over the edge. Whatever he saw sent him scrambling back down.
"He just went over the front."
For the second time, they raced around the building, Jim again taking the lead. He skidded to a halt just before reaching the front corner. "Uh, Pete," he said.
"I see it," Pete sighed.
The gorilla had climbed on top of their patrol car. He sat on the roof, inspecting the can lights. He banged the flat of his palm on one of them, then slapped the metal roof.
"What do we do?"
"Pray he doesn't crawl inside?" Pete offered.
"I wonder if he has a driver's license."
"Don't even think it."
"Uh oh, he's trying your door."
"If he eats my hat, you're buying me a new one."
"Forget about your hat, my lunch is in there."
The gorilla managed to get the door open. He swung down off the roof and climbed inside.
Pete rubbed his face with one hand. "What do we do now?"
"We could shut the door on him, I guess. At least he'd be contained until the circus people got here."
"Be my guest."
"He's your date, partner."
"It's your door."
Pete scratched the top of his head. "You've got a point."
"We'll go together."
"Just talk nice to him. None of that Charlton Heston 'damn dirty ape' stuff."
"Don't worry. He'll never know I rooted for the humans in Planet of the Apes."
They walked slowly toward the car, which was now rocking a bit as the gorilla bounced on the seat. He was wearing Pete's hat. "Damn, dirty ape," Pete whispered.
They got about ten feet away before the gorilla noticed their approach. He bared his teeth and roared, and Pete and Jim scrambled back to the safety of the corner.
"So much for that idea," Jim said. "You know, your hat doesn't look half bad on him."
"You think so? Well, I got news for you partner-he just discovered your lunch."
Sergeant MacDonald's station wagon pulled up behind them. "Either of you hurt?" Mac asked as he got out of the car.
"Jim got a little shook up, but we're all right," Pete answered.
"Good, glad you're both okay. Fill me in."
Pete pointed toward their unit. "See for yourself."
"What's he doing in there?"
"Offhand, I'd say taking seven," Pete said.
"I meant, how'd he get in there?"
"Opened the door and climbed in, just like any good LAPD officer."
"Think he'll go for the sergeant's exam?" Jim deadpanned.
"I'd say if Mac made it, he oughta have a good shot at it."
"Will you two clowns knock it off," Mac growled. "The circus people are on the way. Should be here any minute. You've got the area blocked off?"
They both nodded.
"Think we should try to shut your door, Pete?"
Pete tugged at his ear. "We, uh, tried that already, but if you want to give it a shot, be our guest."
"He didn't let you come close?"
"He growled at us," Jim said.
"That's all? And you let that stop you?"
"It shook the windows, Mac," Pete added.
Mac glared at the patrol car as if it were somehow at fault. "Let's just hope the circus people get here before he figures out how to unhook the shotgun."
Jim bit his lower lip. "The, uh, shotgun's not in there."
Mac looked first at Jim's empty hands, then at Pete's. "Then where is it?"
"On the roof."
Pete tried to derail Mac's growing anger. "It's a long story, Mac. I promise we'll tell you the whole thing, as soon as this is over."
"I can't wait." He gave them both one last exasperated look, then stalked to his own car.
Pete took a deep breath. "That went well."
Jim didn't bother replying.
Five long minutes later, a white van with the words "Circus Maximillian" emblazoned on the sides pulled behind Mac's station wagon. A short, pudgy man clad in safari-style khakis and holding a leash hurried out. "I'm Franklin Delaney," he said with an English accent Jim wasn't sure was genuine. "Where's Garbanzo?"
"Garbanzo?" Jim repeated.
"Yes, yes, Garbanzo. Our lowland gorilla. We were called by you people to come get him."
Jim silently pointed to the patrol car, where Garbanzo sat quietly behind the wheel, still wearing Pete's hat as he thoughtfully shredded their log book. Before he started on that, he had dismantled the hotsheet desk, ripped the microphone off the cord and tossed it out the window, and chewed the brim of Jim's hat to shreds. The one saving grace up to this point was that Garbanzo did finally close Pete's door.
"Is he all right? You people didn't hurt him, I hope?"
"He's fine," Jim said in a flat voice.
The little man hurried over to the patrol car and opened Pete's door. "Come on, Garbanzo. Time to go home."
The gorilla thrust his lower lip out, but he meekly quit the patrol car and submitted to having the harness and leash fastened around his neck. But when Delaney reached out to pull Pete's hat off his head, Garbanzo bellowed and thumped his chest.
"Tell him he can keep it," Pete called. Then in a softer voice to Jim, "No way I'm putting that back on my head."
Delaney shrugged, then led Garbanzo toward the white van. As he passed near Pete and Jim, Jim instinctively took a step back. Delaney noticed and stopped. "Oh, don't worry. Garbanzo's harmless. He just puts on a good show, don't you, young fellow? He's only half-grown, loves to tease people by acting like King Kong, which is really about all he does as far as tricks. Gorillas aren't the showmen chimps are-they're shy, for the most part, although now and then you get a real corker, like Garbanzo here. He's an orphan. I rescued him from a black marketer in Kenya and bottle raised him myself. Would have liked to return him to the wild, but it just didn't work out. He'd been caught in a trap, you see, and buggered his foot up royally. Bloody poachers should be shot." He pointed to the gorilla's crippled left foot, which Jim hadn't noticed before. "Any rate, he'll be going to a zoo soon. He's a real pussy cat." Delaney rubbed the top of the gorilla's head playfully.
"I'll take your word for it," Jim said.
Garbanzo took a few steps toward Jim until he reached the end of his leash, where he stopped and puckered his lips toward Jim.
"See, officer? He just wants to give you a kiss to thank you for letting him play in your car!"
Pete made a noise somewhere between choking and laughter. Jim promised himself to pay his partner back later as he worked up a semblance of a smile. Feeling somewhat absurd, he said, "Tell him it's nothing." Pete's snorts turned into outright chuckles.
The gorilla strained forward and the leash snapped out of Delaney's hand. Before Jim could react, Garbanzo was on him. He fell to the ground with two hundred pounds of hairy ape on top of him. He cringed, waiting for the death blow . . . then his fear turned to disgust as two large, leathery lips planted a slobbery kiss on his cheek.
"Here now, Garbanzo! No! Get back!" Delaney shouted, seemingly to no effect.
Jim finally managed to push the overly affectionate beast off and rolled to his knees. For a moment he found himself eye to eye with the gorilla. Jim tentatively reached out a hand, and Garbanzo touched it with his own, then scooted back to Delaney's side.
"See, officer? A pussy cat! Thank you for all your help." Delaney retrieved the leash, and he and Garbanzo climbed into the station wagon. Garbanzo clambered into the passenger seat and settled in like it was something he did every day.
Pete helped Jim to his feet. "That's something else," Jim said, shaking his head with wonder. "He's really something."
"That's not what you were saying up on that roof."
Jim pursed his lips. "Oh, I wasn't ever really all that scared."
Pete stared at him. "Are you kidding? You were paralyzed!"
"Okay, maybe for a little while,"Jim admitted sheepishly.
"I'm just glad it all turned out okay. Look, I'll see if I can put our car back together, and you get back up on the roof and track down the shotgun from wherever you flung it."
"I didn't fling it. I . . . dropped it, that's all."
"Get on the roof, Reed."
Jean Reed dropped six hot dogs into a saucepan of water and set it on to boil. Gourmet fare it wasn't, but there was a good movie on television tonight, so she figured chili dogs and chips on TV trays in the living room would be the order of the evening.
As she started chopping an onion, she heard the front door open and Jim's best Ricky Ricardo sang out. "Honey, I'm home!"
She smiled to herself. She never had the heart to tell him his best Ricardo sounded more like a Mexican bandit than a Cuban bandleader. "In the kitchen!"
She heard his footsteps as he came in, and then his arms circled her waist from behind. She leaned back against him. "Hi, baby," she said. She turned her head to catch his kiss. He tasted warm and salty and just right.
"You smell like an onion," he said with a playful squeeze.
"I know. Chili dogs for supper."
"Mmmm," he said as he buried his face in her hair.
"I figured we could eat in the living room. There's a good movie on tonight."
"Great. That's just what I need after the day I had."
"Uh, not really. It was just . . . different."
"You wouldn't believe it if I told you."
She wasn't sure if that meant 'don't ask', or if he really did have an oddball day. "You and Pete find another lady with a houseful of chickens?"
He laughed. "No, not exactly."
She finished chopping the onion. He was still hanging onto her waist, watching over her shoulder. She scraped the chopped onions into a bowl. "Tell you what-you can put your feet up and lose yourself in a movie tonight. Forget today ever happened."
"It's a deal. What's the movie?"
"Planet of the Apes. You know, Charlton Hest-Jim?" He had dropped his head onto her shoulder with a whimper. "What's wrong?"
"Those damn, dirty apes!"
Thanks to the usual suspects. ;)