No Way to Spend New Year's Eve . . .
by the Code 3 Wannabes
"1-Adam-12 clear," LAPD Patrol Officer Jim Reed grumbled into the radio mic. He waited for the dispatcher to acknowledge, then replaced the mic with enough force to cause his partner, Pete Malloy, to turn his attention briefly away from his driving and arch both eyebrows at Jim, whose scowling face betrayed considerable irritation.
"Careful with the equipment already," the older officer scolded. "This car has to last the rest of the watch, you know."
"Sorry," Jim mumbled insincerely. "I'm just in a bad mood."
"No kidding," Pete drawled, his voice ripe with sarcasm. "I never would've guessed."
"Ah, Pete, it just isn't fair!" Jim protested with an elegant whine.
"No, it isn't," Pete agreed, "But sometimes life isn't fair."
"It's New Years' Eve!" Jim continued with fervor. "We put in a full shift on Day Watch today, and by all rights Jean and I should be home, getting ready for a romantic evening out. But look at me. Still at work, cruising Pico Boulevard just waiting for the drunks to come crawling out of the woodwork."
Pete stopped the black and white at a traffic light and for a beat watched some of the humanity inhabiting one of the seedier areas of Los Angeles stroll by. Most of the citizens out on Pico Boulevard on this New Years' Eve seemed to be in search of liquid happiness, judging by the stumbling gait some of them already exhibited. Those not ready to imbibe could find a variety of other distractions on Pico -- most of them illegal.
"We both knew that the chances of our being off tonight were slim to none," Pete tried to calm his partner. "Mac warned us that the word would probably come down for double shifts for everybody." The light changed and Pete steered Adam-12 through the intersection.
"And he was right," Jim sighed theatrically.
"It is New Years' Eve in LA."
Jim's scowl deepened. "Jean and I had this great evening planned. A few hours at a party, then a late dinner, a champagne toast at midnight, and then...." Jim trailed off with another sigh.
"You aren't the only one who had plans," Pete reminded him. "I had a date with Cheryl."
"Yeah, but you aren't married to Cheryl. When I get home tonight, I'm probably gonna have to sleep on the couch. Some way to ring in the New Year. Alone. On the couch."
"Jean can't be that ticked," Pete protested.
"Oh, can't she?" Jim snorted. "You didn't hear her on the phone. She bought a new dress. Did her nails. She was pretty darned ticked all right."
"Yet another reason I plan to stay happily single." Pete quipped. He was more than happy to leave the complexities of married life to his partner.
"Many more nights like this, I'm liable to be single, too," Jim muttered.
"Relax. Maybe all will be quiet, and you'll be home before the new year gets more than a few minutes old."
Jim gave Pete a skeptical look. "I've got a real bad feeling that you're dead wrong on that one."
As if to validate Jim's dire prediction, the radio chirped to life.
"1-Adam-12, 1-Adam-12, a 415 fight. Corner of Pico and Alvarado. 1-Adam-12, handle Code Two."
Jim retrieved the mic. "1-Adam-12, roger." He replaced the mic, more gently this time. "See? It's already starting."
They had been only a few blocks from Alvarado, and it didn't take long for them to reach the scene. But when they arrived, there was no sign of any fight.
"Mighty quiet fight," Pete commented, as he reached for his hat.
"Musta been a fast one," Jim agreed.
They exited the prowl car, donned their caps and stuck their batons in the rings. People crowded the street , but none came forward to talk with them as they walked the area, looking for any signs of a disturbance. They each questioned a few citizens, all of whom denied any knowledge of any fight.
"You want me to verify the location with dispatch?" Jim asked, after a fruitless few minutes of questioning.
"Might be a good idea," Pete agreed.
Before Jim could move, however, a call from behind them caught their attention.
"Officers! Officers!" A shriveled little man, looking to be in his sixties, scurried toward them, wiping his hands on a dirty apron tied around his waist.
"Yes, sir?" Pete walked to meet him half way and Jim followed.
"I'm the one what called you," the little man wheezed. "I'm the bartender at 'The Dungeon' bar, there."
"What's your name, sir?" Pete asked.
"Doogan. Bill Doogan."
"Why'd you call the police, Mr. Doogan?" Jim questioned. He took out his notebook and started scribbling.
"Because there was this fight, here! And now they're inside, there!" Mr. Doogan gesticulated wildly toward The Dungeon.
"They're fighting inside?" Pete asked.
"Well, not yet, but..."
"Sir, will you start at the beginning please?" Pete requested. "Who was fighting?"
"I don't know their names...at least not their real ones. It was this gal Brandy and her, uh, uh, business manager, uh, Big Daddy." Mr. Doogan flushed.
Pete and Jim exchanged a semi-amused look.
"You mean Brandy's a prostitute and this Big Daddy's her pimp," Pete clarified.
"Well, uh, yeah." Mr. Doogan confirmed.
"And they were fighting? Physically fighting?" Jim asked.
"Oh, yeah! She was a' clawin' and a'scratchin', kickin' and a'screechin;....you never heard the like! And Big Daddy, he was slapping her around and cussin' at the top of his lungs, and once he grabbed her throat like this..." Dr. Doogan grasped his neck with a bony hand to demonstrate.
"So what happened?" Jim prompted.
"She kicked him and got away, she did. She run into The Dungeon, there...and he followed. I went inside there, to see what was gonna happen. See, I was on my break. All this stuff happened right on this here corner, here. And then like I said, she run in the bar to get away." Dr. Doogan rambled in breathless explanation.
"Are they fighting now?" Pete asked. He edged toward the bar in question, bringing Mr. Doogan along with a hand to the arm.
"Nooo, oh, nooo. She's unner the table in there, she is. She's hidin'...and still kickin'. Big Daddy's trying to get her out, he is."
"All right sir, if you'll just point us in the right direction and then stay out of the way," Pete instructed as they approached the door to The Dungeon.
"Oooh, now, don't worry, son. I don't want no part of trouble from Big Daddy." Mr. Doogan wiped his hands on his apron again and twisted it nervously. "Last I seen 'em, they was in the back corner on the right."
"Thanks, Mr. Doogan," Jim offered.
"Sure, sure." Mr. Doogan disappeared through the door.
Pete turned to Jim. "Let's go introduce ourselves to Big Daddy and Brandy," he said with a sardonic grin.
"My kinda people, I'm sure,"Jim returned unenthusiastically.
The Dungeon turned out to be aptly named. The interior had all the appearances of a dingy, uninviting hole. Devoid of music, and barely enough light to see their hands in front of their faces, the little bar had all the ambiance of a medieval dungeon. The floor squished under their feet, grabbing at their shoes with a sticky, slick goo composed of only God knew what. The major difference between the bar and its medieval namesake, though, was the temperature. Instead of cool, dank, and damp, the interior of The Dungeon felt tropical -- hot and steamy.
Pete wrinkled his nose. It certainly smells like a dungeon. And I don't even wanna know what this stuff on the floor is.
The two officers picked their way carefully through the dark, stuffy bar, avoiding random chairs and trying not to fall on the slick, tacky floor. A few customers dotted the crowded tables, and they sat mostly on the opposite side of the room. Crowd control surely wouldn't be a problem. They spotted Big Daddy right off, squatting by the back corner table on the right, as Mr. Doogan had indicated. The man appeared to be talking to the underside of the table. Apparently Brandy had taken refuge there.
"Are you Big Daddy?" Pete asked when he and Jim had flanked the man.
"Who wants to know?" Big Daddy demanded without looking up.
"LAPD," Pete drawled with authority. "Now, get up."
Big Daddy turned his head to look up at Pete and Jim. "Awwww, man," he moaned.
"Who called the fuzz? I ain't done nothin'!"
"We'll see about that, sir. Now, do as I asked and get up." Pete repeated.
Big Daddy slowly unfurled his body, and Pete realized then why the man had such a moniker. The dark-skinned man easily stood 6'4" and packed at least 250 pounds on his large frame. The dim lighting made it difficult to judge much about facial features or clothing, but Big Daddy sported the flamboyant attire very much in keeping with a man of his particular job description, right down to shiny patent leather wingtip shoes and a handful of gaudy gold rings. The clothing hung unevenly on the big man, and a small rip in his jacket pocket coupled with an overall rumpled appearance indicated that his tussle with Brandy had been a violent one. A three-scored scratch ran the length of the left side of his neck. Apparently the prostitute had held her own in the fray.
"We had a complaint about a fight," Pete said. He stared the big man down. "We were told you were involved."
"Man, you jive cops are always hassling a brother," Big Daddy growled. "I ain't done nuthin'."
"Then why is this lady hiding under the table, here?" Jim asked, pointing to where a scantily clothed woman crouched behind the pedestal table.
"Lady? What lady?" Big Daddy snorted.
"Shut your mouth!" The woman snarled.
"You shut yours, you tramp," Big Daddy hissed. "Shut up and don't say nuthin'."
"Let's step outside," Pete snapped, nodding his head toward the door.
"Can it! Now move," Pete jerked his thumb over his shoulder.
"I ain't talkin' to you, man!" Big Daddy insisted.
"Look, mister, we can do this the easy way, or the hard way," Pete said, his voice rough.
Big Daddy turned to the partially hidden woman. "Don't you go nowhere, don't you talk to nobody," he warned. "You and me, we ain't done!"
"You are for now," Pete growled. "Come on," Pete took Big Daddy by the arm and pulled him toward the exit. "Reed, get the girl."
Jim got on his haunches, careful not to touch the goo-encrusted floor with his hands or even his uniform. He sure didn't want to smell like this place when he finally got home to his wife. The young officer looked under the table at the woman. Now that his eyes had grown accustomed to the dim lighting, he could make out some of her features.
The woman's clothing barely covered her assets -- typical for a hooker. Her bleached blonde hair had been over-teased so that it took on that wild, disheveled look, again typical of a streetwalker. The heavy makeup on her face had melted and run down her face, but not even the heavy base could hide bruises forming on her cheek.
What a life. Why does anybody want to live like this? "Are you Brandy?" Jim asked her.
"Come on outta there," Jim ordered kindly. "He can't hurt you. My partner took him outside."
Still no response. She looked at Jim with narrowed eyes, distrust and anger on her face.
"Look, I'm trying to help you," Jim explained. "If Big Daddy's beating on you, you can press charges."
"Ain't no cop ever helped no one like me," Brandy growled. "I come out and you slap the silver bracelets on me and I wind up in the tank! Besides, Big Daddy takes care of me."
"If he takes care of you, then why are you hiding under the table?" Jim asked. When she didn't respond, he asked, "Why were you and Big Daddy fighting? Money problems? You holding out on him, Brandy?"
"Go away, you stupid pig!"
"Can't do that. Come on out. We just want to get the story. We had a complaint; we have to check it out."
"No way! I ain't goin' anywhere!"
"Don't make me have to drag you out," Jim let a warning note creep into his voice.
"Just you try it, fuzz!"
Jim sighed. It definitely was going to be one of those nights. "Don't make trouble, Brandy," he warned again. "You're coming out of here, one way or the other. Now just do the smart thing and come on."
"No way! I ain't movin' from here!"
Jim stood, grabbed the edge of the table and pulled it away from the corner, so that he had access to the prostitute. He reached down and took her by the upper arm, which was a lot bigger and harder than he'd anticipated. In fact, now that the table was no longer blocking his view of her, she looked a whole lot bigger all over. He thought of the scratches on Big Daddy and felt the first stirrings of unease. Aw, come on, Reed, she's not that big. He pulled on her arm. "Come on, now, and let's talk."
"Nooooo!" Brandy screeched. And then, in a fraction of a second, she lashed out at Jim with every limb she owned.
Brandy kicked out with a stiletto heel and made contact just above Jim's left knee. She dug the spike in as hard as she could and dragged it back, taking skin and fabric with her.
Jim yelped and jumped back, keeping his hold on the angry young woman. Brandy strained against his hold, trying to break free, but his police training and superior strength countered her hysterical attack. He braced himself to jerk her up off the floor so he could cuff her, but Brandy struck out with her heel again and pulled back hard.
Jim took the brunt of the blow on the ankle of the foot he had been using to brace himself. He flinched from the force of the kick, his foot slipping on the gooey floor. He went down on one knee, struggling to keep from falling over completely, while keeping an iron grip on the streetwalker's arm.
Brandy took advantage of his compromised position and intensified her attack. Shrieking wildly, and moving faster than Jim would have imagined she could, she reached out with her three-inch nails and slashed Jim across the lower jaw and neck. She dragged her hand across his face, then grabbed his badge and tugged hard, simultaneously kicking out once again at Jim's leg. The fabric of Jim's uniform shirt gave away with a loud ripping sound, and his badge and shooting brass hit the floor and what was left of the front panel of the shirt fell from his chest and flapped around his waist. Her heel dug into the already torn pant leg and tore it even further. Jim felt warmth run down his leg and he knew the woman had drawn blood there, as well as on his face, which burned from her scratching.
"That's enough!" Jim roared at her. He hauled himself to his feet as the screaming Brandy twisted and squirmed in Jim's one-handed grasp, clawing, raking, and stomping at him with her spiked heels.
Jim felt like he was fighting a wildcat with eight legs. He jerked the gyrating woman off the floor with a forceful pull and got her to her feet. Jim slid his hand down her arm, then quickly pulled it back in a wrist lock, then stuck his leg in between Brandy's. With a quick move, he knocked one leg out from under her, throwing her off balance. Jim pushed her down over the table and pinned her there, face down, with an arm across the small of her back. He jerked her other arm behind her back as well.
Breathless and smarting from a dozen scratches and puncture wounds, his uniform in tatters, Jim used the weight of his body to keep her arms pinned behind her as reached for his handcuffs. He managed to get them on the wrists of the still screaming, squirming woman.
"Move, Brandy," Jim snapped at her, pulling her up off the table.
"Stupid, stinking pig!" Brandy spat at him. She continued to kick at Jim, occasionally making contact with him, as he propelled her out the door.
Pete walked slightly behind Big Daddy as the man trudged onto the sidewalk with the same attitude he'd shown inside the bar. The heavy swagger stopped as Big Daddy turned around to face Pete, crossing his arms insolently. Sneering, he slid his broad backside across the right front bumper of a light green Cadillac parked next to the curb.
"All right, get off the car," Pete said, gesturing with the fingers of one hand.
"Hey, man, it's my car," Big Daddy whined loudly as people walked by and stared.
"I don't care if it's yours or not. Now get off the car and move down by the patrol car."
"Damn," Big Daddy grumbled as he stood and the front of the Cadillac bounced back up, relieved of several hundred extra pounds. "The Man's always gettin' in my business... can't even touch my own car."
"Let's forget the car. I need to see your driver's license."
Pete watched as the man's meaty forearm stretched around his own wide girth and extended a plump finger and thumb into an inside pocket. After shuffling around a few seconds, Big Daddy retrieved the I.D.and gave it to Pete, along with a sullen stare.
"All right, Mr....Fudrucker? You're Percival Fudrucker?" Pete squinted at the typed print, trying to make sure he was reading it correctly. He also double-checked the photo as well. Yup, that's definitely Big Daddy.
"Yeah. But everyone knows they better call me Big Daddy." The large man's lip twitched as he folded his arms in front of him again.
"Mr. Fudrucker, why don't you tell me what was going on back there with you and ... Brandy?"
"It didn't sound or look like nothing." Pete scrutinized the slightly bleeding mark on the guy's neck. It was pretty nasty looking, he had to admit. And now, under the lights, he could see several other abrasions as well.
Big Daddy's hand reached up and touched the reddening welt, then shrugged. "Me and Brandy, we have our little..controversies, see? But we got an understandin'. I take care of her and she takes care of me."
"So that was just a little 'controversy' you were having inside?"
"Yeah, man. None of that heavy stuff. She saves that for people she don't like," Big Daddy paused, shifting his gaze from Pete to the empty door of the bar. "Like cops. Man, she hates cops."
Pete didn't let the smirk oozing from the huge man's face bother him. What did bother him was knowing that more than a few moments had passed since he'd left his partner in The Dungeon.
Jim tried to hold his shirt together as he shoved the prisoner out the door ahead of him, but it was hopeless. He let the flapping material fall and resigned himself to the inevitable. Sure enough, Pete glanced over at him, then did a double take. Pete's eyebrows raised and that irritating little smile he always got when he was about to tease him played around his eyes and lips. Jim braced himself.
"I can't take you anywhere," Pete complained, fingering the torn shirt.
Jim gave him his best "I am not amused" glare and opened the rear door of the black and white. He guided Brandy into the back seat and told her to watch her head.
"Hey, pig, what you doin' with my girl?" Big Daddy suddenly growled, straightening up from where he'd been lolling against the front fender of the patrol car.
"Take it easy," Pete immediately said, the smile vanishing.
"Why you puttin' my girl in the car?"
Jim shut the door on Brandy. "Assault on a police officer," he said.
Big Daddy unfurled his long arms. "You can't do that, pig. She assaulted you 'cuz she musta had a reason. What'd you do, rough her up some? Hit her with that stick you fuzz carry?"
Jim didn't take his eyes off Big Daddy, but he could feel the tension jack up a notch among the onlookers gathered on the sidewalk. If they weren't careful, the crowd of curious bystanders could suddenly take sides and turn hostile. And then they'd have a mob situation on their hands. "Why don't you just calm down, buddy," Jim said, his voice clipped but even.
It immediately became obvious that Big Daddy wasn't about to calm down. Before Pete or Jim could react, he lunged forward and grabbed Jim by one arm and his belt, hurling him with such force that Jim lost his footing and nearly flew through the air. He hit the cinder-block wall of The Dungeon hard enough to drive every last bit of air out of his lungs. He sagged to the sidewalk, gasping like a beached fish. Big Daddy reached down and grabbed Jim's equipment belt and started to lift him off the ground for another throw. Jim kicked wildly, but he was at the wrong angle to do any damage. Somewhere beyond the roaring in his ears he heard the crowd gasp, then let out a ragged cheer.
Jim fully expected Big Daddy to throw him into the crowd where he'd be ripped limb from limb, but Pete's loud shout sounded like sweet music. "Freeze right there, Fudrucker!"
Big Daddy abruptly turned loose, and Jim fell flat on his back against the sidewalk. He rolled over on his side, slowly, and drew his legs underneath him. He stayed that way, on his hands and knees, until a small trickle of air seeped back into this lungs. He vaguely heard Pete cuffing Big Daddy and telling the crowd to disperse, show over. Then he saw his partner's feet walking toward him.
"You okay, Jim?" Pete asked as he squatted down and brought his face into Jim's line of sight.
Jim nodded, still unable to talk. Finally, he got his wind back with a loud whoosh. "Yeah," he gasped. "You?"
"Oh, I'm fine. I'm not the one letting myself get tossed around like a basketball."
"You're all heart," Jim muttered, bracing himself against the wall as he staggered to his feet.
Pete steadied him, then stood back and surveyed the damage. "And you're a mess."
Jim eyed Pete's immaculate uniform with undisguised disgust. "Yeah, well, don't get any smudges on your badge," he growled, then trudged toward the patrol car. He noticed that his shoes stuck to the sidewalk with each step. He pulled at his flapping uniform shirt again, then saw that his own badge and shooting medal were both missing. He stopped, his shoulders slumping.
"What's the matter?" Pete asked.
"My badge and shooting brass are still inside somewhere. I guess Brandy must have torn them off."
Pete's lips twitched, but he stopped just shy of outright laughter. "I'll go find them, Jim. You can call for back up to transport these two and then we'll run you by Central Receiving."
"Thanks," Jim mumbled. He finished his trip to the black and white, jerked the door open and picked up the mic as Pete headed back into the bar. "1-Adam-12 requesting a unit assist us with prisoner transport. Corner of Pico and Alvarado."
Jim waited for the dispatcher to pass off the assignment to another car. Please don't send Wells, please don't send Wells....
Pete walked back into The Dungeon and headed back to the corner where he and Jim had originally confronted Brandy and Big Daddy.. He took out his flashlight and shined it on the floor, hoping Jim's badge and brass would reflect enough light to be seen in the darkened room.
Mr. Doogan caught sight of Pete and scurried over.
"Is your partner all right, there, officer?" the bartender asked, still nervously wiping his hands on his apron.
"He'll be all right," Pete assured him, moving the beam around the floor.
"That Brandy, she's a mean one, she is. Your partner, there, he was getting all scratched up, he was."
"Yeah, he's got a few scratches," Pete agreed. A flash of reflected light revealed the location of Jim's badge. Pete knelt down, took a handkerchief from his pocket and pulled the badge and brass out of the goo on the floor. The tacky, semi-solid ick liberally coated both items. Jim's gonna love this. Pete folded them both in the handkerchief and stuck them in his pocket.
"That there your partner's badge, there?" Doogan asked.
"What was that other thing, there?"
Pete got to his feet. "It's a shooting medal. He shoots well."
"Oh. You got one, too, there."
"Yours there don't look like his," Doogan observed.
Pete bit back irritation, surprised Doogan could see anything in the darkened bar. "No, sir. Now, are you gonna...."
"So, which one is better, there?"
"Sir?" Pete's brow furrowed.
"Which one of ya shoots better, there?"
"I do," Pete growled quietly. "Now, sir, are you gonna press charges against Brandy or Mr. Fudrucker?"
"Mr. Whowhat?" Doogan did a double take.
Pete sighed. "Big Daddy's name is Percival Fudrucker."
Doogan simply blinked at Pete, then burst out laughing. The little man laughed until tears ran down his face. "P...Percival...Fudrucker? No wonder he goes by Big Daddy, there."
"Yes, sir. Now, are you going to file any charges?" Pete asked with as much patience as he could muster.
"Oh, no, no way, officer. They really didn't do nuthin' to me. I just didn't want him to hurt her out there. Uh, uh, I don't want no trouble with Big Daddy...I mean, Mr. Fudrucker." Doogan stopped laughing long enough to answer. "But your partner there, he should."
"Don't worry," Pete nodded.
Mr. Doogan leaned in and whispered conspiratorially to Pete. "Check her shoes, there, officer. Deadly weapons they is."
"How so?" Pete whispered back, immediately feeling stupid for doing so.
"Them shoes is her secret protection. She has metal tips on the heels there and special taps on the front. Says if her, uh, customers get rough, she has a built in weapon. I seen her rip a man's leg open with 'em once, there."
No wonder Jim looked like he'd been in a catfight. "Thanks for the tip, Mr. Doogan."
"Any time officer. If I can ever be any help there, let me know."
"Just call if either of them give you any more trouble."
"I will officer, I will."
Jim sat in the patrol car, waiting for the back-up unit to arrive. He rode herd over Big Daddy and Brandy, who had resumed their squabbling. The bickering only served to exacerbate the pounding in his head, which ached worse than the burning scratches, but paled in comparison to the throbbing in his shin where Brandy's stiletto heel had drawn a deep groove. His already sour mood began to quicky spiral into an even worse one, mainly due to the fact that Ed Wells would indeed be one of the officers to transport the bickering duo to the station.
God, can this night get any worse? Why did it have to be 36 she gave that call to? What terrible thing have I done to deserve this?
"You crazy woman! I want my money!" Big Daddy yelled angrily, pulling Jim's attention away from his problems momentarily.
"You been smokin' something, Big Daddy, I ain't got none of your money!" Brandy screeched in return.
The prostitute's voice grated on Jim's nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard. "All right, shut up, both of you!" He roared at the squabbling pair.
"She's just a..." Big Daddy began, but Jim cut him short with a hand motion and a hard glare.
"The next one of you who opens his mouth is gonna get a gag stuffed in it!" Jim growled angrily. "Now zip it! Both of you!"
Both prisoners met Jim's glare with one of their own, but apparently they believed Jim's threat to be genuine, and they stopped their fighting.
As Jim stared them down, he caught sight of Adam-36 approaching from the rear. He looked to the door of the bar, hoping that Pete would emerge and save him from having to face Ed Wells, but his partner didn't show. I'm never gonna live this down.
Jim decided that if he was going to take heat from Wells, he'd rather do it outside of the car so that the prisoners wouldn't be a party to it. He painfully unfolded his body and eased out of the car. He shut the door behind him and turned to face Wells.
But Wells's partner, Bob Brinkman, emerged from 36 first. "Reed, what's....." the officer began, but his mouth dropped open when he got his first good look at his battered colleague. "What happened to you?" Brinkman blurted, walking quickly toward Jim. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine. Suspects got a little rough." I don't have to tell him which suspect.
"You're bleeding," Brinkman said with concern.
"It's nothing," Jim shrugged it off, then regretted the motion when his head protested.
Wells sauntered over then with his customary swagger, hat pulled low over his eyes. He looked Jim over with an exaggerated motion of his head, then shook it with a "tsking" noise. "Reed, Reed, Reed," he sighed. "You're out of uniform. No hat. Not even a shirt. Junior, I should put you on report."
Jim narrowed his eyes at the older officer, but said nothing. Wells examined him again, then turned and peered into the back seat of Adam-12 to take a look at the suspects.
"You are going to Central Receiving, aren't you?" Brinkman questioned.
"It looks worse than it is," Jim assured him.
"I hope so, because it looks pretty bad!"
Suddenly Wells started laughing. He turned and then leaned down to look at Jim's torn pant leg and the gash behind it. "The girl did this, didn't she? Don't try to deny it," he pressed, when Jim didn't answer. "You don't have to be a genius to figure it out. You've got scratches on your neck and torn pants that look suspiciously like they were made by a spiked heel."
"She doesn't like cops," Jim mumbled. He felt his face coloring despite his best efforts. Come on, Pete, and rescue me from this jerk.
Wells actually howled he laughed so hard. "Oh, Junior," he wheezed when he finally caught his breath. "You'd better start eating your Wheaties."
"Knock it off, Ed," Brinkman came to Jim's defense.
"Pete's gonna have to keep you on a tighter leash," Wells continued.
"Just take 'em to the station and book 'em on disturbing the peace and assault on a police officer," Jim finally had enough and snapped at Wells.
"Both of 'em?" Brinkman asked.
"Both of 'em," Jim confirmed.
Moments later, Jim could still hear the sound of Ed Well's laughter after the other squad had already left the scene. It wasn't something one could easily forget. At least now he could sit down and take some pressure of his injured leg.
"Backup already been here and gone? That was fast."
Jim looked up to see his partner walking toward him, both hands apparently empty. "Trust me, it wasn't fast enough," he scowled. "And what took you so long?"
"What took me...? Pete stopped, taking in the sight of his bedraggled partner's countenance. "Oh, wait a minute. Don't tell me. 36?"
"Yeah," Jim nodded, then sighed. "I'll never hear the end of this, will I?"
"Oh, sure you will. In about ten years or so."
"Thanks, Pete. You continue to be a source of encouragement for me tonight."
"As always, partner. Hey, how's the leg feel?" Pete bent over to take a closer look at Jim's outstretched limb. He carefully moved the shredded pieces of fabric, then winced as he saw the torn and bleeding skin beneath his fingers. Mr. Doogan was right--Brandy's shoes should be registered as a deadly weapon. It looks like she literally dragged a nail down his leg. And enjoyed doing it.
"It'll be okay, Pete. Just hurts like hell."
"Come on, then. Let's get you to Central Receiving."
Pete resisted the urge to help as his partner shifted the rest of his tall frame back into the squad and shut the door. Returning to his side of the car, Pete slid behind the wheel and quickly grabbed the mic. "1-Adam-12, show us on a follow up at Central Receiving."
"Wait." Jim looked at him expectantly.
"My badge and shooting brass. Did you find 'em?"
Pete pulled the handkerchief holding the rescued items from his pocket and deposited it into Jim's waiting hands. Turning the key in the ignition, he shook his head. "The things I do for you."
Shifting into gear and pulling into traffic, Pete glanced over at his partner. He'd hoped for a clever comeback to his last remark, not an expression of gratitude. But from the way Jim looked right now, he was feeling anything but clever. Pete guessed irritation, frustration, fatigue, and pain were right on top of the list...with pain probably starting to edge into first place. Urging the gas pedal with a little more pressure, Pete remembered the conversation they were having right before the 415 call. This is no way to spend New Year's Eve.
An hour later, they were back on the streets, Jim sporting a fresh uniform, clean badge and shooting brass, plus a motley collection of bandages. The most noticeable one swathed the side of his neck. "I look like a reject from a vampire movie," he grumbled, craning to see the doctor's handiwork in the rear-view mirror.
"Do you mind," Pete growled. He yanked the mirror back in position.
Pete glanced toward Jim's leg. "That leg good to run on if you need to, or should I handle the foot pursuits?"
"It's fine. Didn't even need stitches."
"Ribs and all okay?"
"Pete, I'm fine," Jim said, exasperation tinging his words.
"Just checking," Pete protested mildly. "I mean, I don't want to go back out on the streets with defective equipment."
"Pete, lay off, all right? If I wasn't fit for duty, the doc woulda said so."
Pete smiled faintly. Jim was still in a classic Reed Snit. And Pete was sure Jim would stay that way until 12:01, when the opportunity to kiss Jean to welcome in the new year was lost forever. Ah, well, at least he had Jean to kiss when he got home after shift. Cheryl would be at the party, without him, and after a double shift, he was too tired to show up looking for her when he got off. Now if he was married to her, she'd be there waiting, just like Jean. He felt a pang of jealousy, but he banished it quickly when he reminded himself of the doldrums of married life. Painting bathrooms. Painting bedrooms. Painting the living room. Then moving to a bigger house with bigger rooms that all needed painting. Crazy.
Pete's musings were interrupted when he heard Jim clear them for the second time.
"Uh, partner, did you hit your head when Big Daddy tossed you into the wall?"
"You cleared us five minutes ago."
Jim blew out a frustrated breath.
"Don't worry about it," Pete said. "Maybe things'll calm-"
"1-Adam-12, 1-Adam-12, business dispute, 7200 Lombard. 7200 Lombard. Respond code 2, but use caution. PR states chainsaw involved."
"Did I hear that right?" Pete stared at the radio as if expecting it to answer. "A business dispute, possible chainsaw? On New Year's Eve?"
"You heard it right," Jim answered, then keyed the mic. "1-Adam-12, roger."
"Maybe it's a drunken logger."
Jim gave him a sardonic glance. "Sure, Pete. If there's one thing L.A.'s full of, it's loggers."
"Anything's possible in La-la-land," Pete reminded him. "Especially on New Year's Eve."
Lombard turned out to be a well-lit street lined with small mom-and-pop businesses. Many of them had closed long ago due to the holiday, but a few businesses still operated even at the late hour. But unlike the nearly-deserted scene the officers had encountered after the fight call at The Dungeon, a considerable crowd had gathered at the Lombard address. Where the people had come from, Pete couldn't even begin to imagine. Even through the closed windows of the black and white, Pete could hear the unmistakable roaring of a chainsaw. He supposed that had been the thing that had drawn a crowd.
"Watch yourself, partner," the older officer warned, as he picked up his hat.
"Don't worry," Jim assured him.
They exited the car and pushed their way through the crowd, which, as it turned out, stood a respectable distance away from the action taking place, apparently as wary as Pete of anyone wielding a running chainsaw, despite their curiosity.
Pete reached the clearing first and stopped when he caught sight of the persons involved in the fracas. A tall, lanky man stood with his back to Pete, dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt. He held the chainsaw out in front of him, apparently threatening three women, who stood in front of a tree, arms intertwined. For a wild moment, Pete wondered if the man was, indeed, an inebriated logger, but he dismissed that possibility after observing that the man in question didn't have the build for such a profession. The women yelled at the man; the man yelled back at the women, all of it sounding completely unintelligible over the din of the chainsaw motor.
Jim joined Pete and after surveying the scene turned an unreadable look on his partner.
"I have no idea," Pete yelled in response to Jim's unspoken question. "But we don't wanna sneak up on this guy. Let's circle around and get in front of him."
"Right." Jim turned to his right and made a wide arc to move in front of the screaming man.
Pete duplicated Jim's maneuver to the opposite side. Several long strides took him to a point just short of in front of the chainsaw-wielding man. When Jim was in a similar position, he waved his hands to get the man's attention and yelled, "Sir! Will you please turn off the chain saw?"
The man turned toward him and stared at him with a baleful look, but he didn't turn off the machine.
"Officers!" One of the women broke formation and ran up to Pete. "Please help us! This man is crazy."
On the surface, Pete couldn't help but agree, but until he had the whole story he couldn't afford to make any assumptions or judgments. "Just stand back, please, ma'am."
"But he's trying to cut down our tree!" The woman moaned.
"Nobody's cutting down any tree," Pete assured her. "Now go back and stand by the tree."
"Yes, sir, but please do something!" The woman begged, then walked back to the tree, where her companions continued to scream at the man.
"Sir!" Pete repeated, raising his voice a decibel level, "Please turn off the chain saw!"
When the man still did not comply but continued to glower, Pete took a step toward him, and made a peremptory motion with his hand. Out of the corner of his eye, Pete saw Jim also take a step and move his gun hand over his holster. "Shut down the chain saw!" Pete commanded, as loud as he could make his voice. "Now!"
Slowly and deliberately, the man reached over and killed the power to the chainsaw. The raucous noise died instantly, leaving only the hysterically screeching voices of the women as the only sounds in the night air.
"Thank you officer! He was trying to cut down the tree!"
"He's going to cut down our tree! Arrest him!"
"The man's a loon! Take him to jail!"
The voices of the three women competed with each other as they each tried to air their complaints at once. The man chimed in with a booming voice, "It's coming down, I tell you, it's coming down!"
"Everybody, shut up!" Pete roared. He taxed his voice to the limit and it cracked slightly on the word "up;" but he got his point across. All four combatants fell silent.
Pete cleared his throat, hoping his face hadn't revealed his chagrin over the adolescent voice-lapse, but he covered by saying more quietly, "Thank you. Now, one at a time, let's hear the story. Ladies, you first." Pete pointed at the woman who had run up to him earlier. "Ma'am, how about you being the spokesperson? Give me your name and your side of this. And sir, how about putting the chainsaw on the ground?"
The man made no move to comply, but continued to level a hateful look at Pete.
"The man said put the chainsaw on the ground. Now." Jim spoke for the first time, his voice controlled, but definitely dangerous sounding.
The man shifted his gaze to Jim briefly, and seemed to size him up. After looking between the two officers for a few seconds, he slowly put the chainsaw down on the ground.
"Thank you, sir," Pete said sarcastically. "Now, ma'am, your name?"
The woman stepped forward. "I'm Alice Morgan. Those are my sisters, Allene and Alana. And that's our tree! And he's trying to cut it down!"
"You're damned right I'm trying to cut it down! Not only that, but I'm gonna cut it down!" The man screeched in return.
"You'll get your turn, sir, but for now, be quiet," Pete warned, holding up a hand.
"That damned tree is ruining my business! It's covering up my sign! The roots are tearing up the sewer! And..."
"I said be quiet!" Pete yelled again.
"It's our tree and you won't cut it down!" Alice Morgan took a couple of steps toward the man, as her sisters joined her in chorus.
"All right, enough!" Pete took Alice by the arm and pulled her back as Jim stepped between she and the angry man.
"Look, pal, we said button it," Jim growled at him. "You'll get your turn, but if you interrupt again, I'll put the cuffs on you and throw you in the car."
"You wouldn't dare," the man growled back.
In answer, Jim reached behind him, took his cuffs off his belt and took a few steps toward the man. Jim locked eyes with him and never blinked.
"Okay, okay," the man held up his hands in surrender and took a step backward.
"Now, you were saying, Mrs. Morgan?" Pete prompted.
"Miss. Miss Morgan. My sisters and I run this business here," Alice Morgan pointed with a long arm to a darkened store behind the tree. "And this is our tree. Our father planted it there twenty-five years ago when he opened the business. I was ten years old, my sisters seven, and five."
"And?" Pete asked.
"And? And? And it's our symbol!" Alice spluttered. "It's an apple tree! It's the name of the store -- The Apple Tree." When Pete looked at her expectantly, she continued, "We sell all kinds of apple-related things. Apple juice, apple cider, apple candy, apple pie, apple spices, apple-shaped notepads, apple-shaped canisters, apple...."
"I get the idea," Pete assured her.
"Anyway, Mr. Bartow there's been getting really testy about the tree lately. He's been threatening to cut it down, and now he's really trying to!"
"That your name, sir? Bartow?" Pete asked.
"Yup. I own the shop next to those crazy sisters. The Mellow Mushroom. It's a pizza place!" Bartow exclaimed in defense as both Pete & Jim's eyebrows went up at that name.
"He thought he'd come here late on New Year's Eve and cut it down while we weren't around! But we fooled him," Alice said smugly. "We came down to get some cider for a party and we caught him powering up that chainsaw! Now I want him arrested for trespassing!"
"Was he ever inside your store, Miss Morgan?" Pete asked.
"No, I don't think so."
"Well, Miss Morgan, your store front is actually city property. It's a public place. We can't arrest him for trespassing," Pete told her.
"Well, what can you arrest him for?" Alice demanded.
Pete shrugged. "Let's hear his side first, before we go arresting him, shall we? Okay Mr. Bartow, your turn."
"Like I said, "Bartow began, "I own the pizza place next to The Apple Tree. The tree is so damned big, the branches are blocking my sign. No one can see it! And it drops apples all over the place, making a real hazard! The roots are tearing up the sidewalk, and getting into the sewer pipes, and it's just a mess. I've been asking them to prune the thing, but they won't!"
"I'll check it out," Jim said. He walked off to study the tree and its surroundings more closely.
"So you just thought you'd come down here and cut it down at 10:30 on New Year's Eve?" Pete asked.
"I'm desperate! I'm losing business!"
"You can't cut down our tree!" Alice Morgan shrieked. "It's our property! It's a family heirloom!
"It's a hazard! Whoever heard of a big ol' tree like that in a business district of a city the size of LA?" Bartow shouted back.
"Okay, okay, that's enough," Pete intervened before the shouting match could resume.
"Officer, he can't cut down our tree!"
"Miss Morgan, this is really a civil matter. I'm afraid that actually, your tree belongs to the city of Los Angeles."
"What?" Miss Morgan exclaimed.
"I'm sorry, but it's planted on a city right-of-way. Once it took root and started growing, it became a part of the city's real estate. Neither of you really have any rights to it." Pete explained. "And if it's tearing up the sidewalk and the sewer system as Mr. Bartow claims, the city may make you cut it down."
"See? See?" Mr. Bartow crowed. "I knew it."
"Now, wait. I said, 'if.' Like I said, this is a civil matter. I suggest, Mr. Bartow, that you contact your attorney and have him contact the appropriate city offices. And Miss Morgan, you'd be wise to get an attorney, yourself."
"Oh, our tree, our tree!" Miss Morgan moaned. "You can't take our tree!"
"It's out of my hands," Pete said. "My concern is that there's no more fighting here tonight. Mr. Bartow, take your chainsaw and go home. Call your lawyer January 2nd. You sisters go home, too and do the same. If we have to come back here, you'll all go to jail for disturbing the peace."
"You can't arrest him for pointing that chainsaw at us?" Alice asked.
"Did he ever really threaten you with it?" Pete asked. "Did he advance on you? Threaten to hurt you?"
"Nooo," Alice said slowly. "Just the tree."
"In fact, I kept tellin' them to get away. I didn't want to hurt them at all."
"So there we are," Pete said reasonably. "Let's all go home and let your lawyers do the fighting."
"Fine by me,"Bartow agreed.
Jim walked back over to the group. "The sidewalk is cracking and bucking. Looks like the roots are taking over."
"Aha! Even the police agree."
"We aren't here to take sides," Jim informed Bartow. "Just to keep the peace."
"Well, ladies, are we done now?" Pete asked.
"We'll go if he goes first and takes his chainsaw!" Alice exclaimed.
"No problem, lady. I got a wife at home waiting for a New Year's kiss."
"A word of warning, Mr. Bartow. We'll file a report on this incident. If we have to send a unit out here for any reason, like I said, you'll go to jail."
"I won't make a peep. Now that I know I have legal recourse, I won't cause any trouble." Bartow picked up his chainsaw. "See you in court, ladies."
"Not so fast," Pete stopped him. "I'll need some information for my report."
"1-Adam-12 clear," Jim said into the mic.
"How's the leg and neck?" Pete asked.
"Fine," Jim assured him. "Those aspirin the doc gave me actually helped. And whatever that salve was. It really dulled the pain."
"That bandage on your neck might scare Jean," Pete remarked. "Maybe you should warn her before she catches sight of you."
Jim touched the oversized bandage that swathed his neck. "Bandage overkill," he sighed. "It may be the only thing that keeps me from sleeping on the couch tonight."
"Are you back on that kick? I'm telling you, sweet little Jean won't be mad for long. You couldn't help it."
"Sweet little Jean?" Jim snorted. "Boy, she really has you snowed, partner. You've never seen her really mad. I have."
"I'm gonna tell her you're trying to ruin her reputation with me."
"She'd agree with me, Pete. I'm telling you..." Jim trailed off and his eyes locked onto a car up ahead of them.
"What?" Pete picked up on Jim's change of attitude.
"Gold '66 Mustang up ahead's on the hot sheet, I think, let me check...."Jim ran his finger down the hot sheet list. "Mary-Ocean-Ida-245...yeah, here it is. The car's hot."
"Good catch, partner," Pete praised. "Call it in."
With no warning, the Mustang suddenly roared off ahead of them, its rear lights becoming smaller at an alarmingly rate.
"He's spotted us!" Pete said, tensely as he flipped on the siren and lights.
"1-Adam-12 in pursuit of stolen '66 Mustang, license plate Mary-Ocean-Ida-245." Jim kept one hand on the mic as he watched the erratic flow of cross traffic. There was never a good time for a high-speed chase but New Year's Eve would undoubtedly make the Top Five List.
"All units on all frequencies, stand by, 1-Adam-12 is in pursuit." As always, the link operator's voice remained amazingly calm. "1-Adam-12, go ahead."
"Suspect vehicle is gold, 1966 Mustang...northbound on Alverada, approaching Commerce."
"Driver...possibly two passengers," Pete noted aloud as he closed the distance between the two cars.
"Pete, your left!"
Jim's two-second warning separated 1-Adam-12 from a collision with a semi backing out blindly into all lanes of oncoming traffic. Forced to slow down, Pete veered painstakingly around the tail end of the trailer's rig and attempted once again to catch up to the Mustang. A glance at his side mirror told him that the truck was now blocking the entire street.
"You see him?" Pete asked, his irritation tempered by appreciation for his partner.
"There, Pete," Jim craned his neck and leaned forward. "About a block up...he's turning right."
"Yeah. Doesn't that turn into a dead-end alley?"
"It sure does. He's either new in town and doesn't know where he's going..."
"Or he does know where he's going," Jim finished his partner's statement, hoping it was the first one and not the latter.
"I don't like this. Better call in backup, Jim." Pete pulled off the busy street onto the dark, deserted one. It was an abrupt and noticeable difference.
"1-Adam-12, code 6 at corner of Pomeroy and Alverada. Request back up. Code 77."
"1-Adam-12, roger. Code 77. Stand by."
Pete moved the black and white forward slowly a few feet, then stopped completely. In the background, he heard their request go out on the air and hoped for a quick response. This is just too hinky.
Their amber lights ticked off an eerie counter to the crimson glow of the reds across the walls of the surrounding buildings. Empty wooden pallets stacked on top of on another threw crisscross shadows on the ground. The headlights of the black and white reached out to expose a dingy, gray pickup truck. The tip of the beams barely caught something else. One half of a shiny, metallic rear bumper peeked out from behind the pickup. One half of a license plate also showed up...along with the numbers two-four-five.
"That's him," Jim whispered, although he wasn't sure why. The car lights announced their presence as loud as any shout.
"Yeah. Let's hang tight until backup arrives."
As if on cue, the radio squawked. "1-Adam-12, be advised no back up available."
"Terrific," Jim muttered, then acknowledged the call. He looked at Pete. "How do you wanna handle it?"
Pete studied what little he could see of the car, which wasn't enough to tell him anything. He opened his door and silently slid out from behind the wheel, knowing that Jim would follow his lead without being told. Pete pulled out his gun and motioned with it for Jim to go look.
Jim crouched low, gun drawn. Five quick steps put him behind the tailgate. He eased his head around the left side, then waved at Pete to join him.
"What've we got?" Pete whispered.
Jim nodded toward the crenelated top of the old brick building. "They've headed for the roof. I just saw one of them duck away from the edge."
Pete studied the rusted fire escape. He didn't like it, not even a little bit. If the suspects were laying for them, he and Jim would be fish in a barrel as they climbed that fire escape. "Let's check the next building, head up to the roof from there."
Jim nodded and they quietly raced in the shadows to the next building. Jim tugged on the fire escape, to make sure it was sturdy, then started up, Pete close on his heels. He paused before taking a careful look over the roof's parapet.
It looked clear, so Jim pulled himself up over the roof's edge. He crouched low and crabbed his way over to an air conditioning duct to use for cover. Jim eased around the edge of the duct and strained his eyes to the limit, looking for the suspects on the adjacent building's roof. He saw nothing, so he moved to the other side to look and to also make room for Pete beside him.
"See 'em?" Pete hissed, after he'd crossed the roof to a position beside his partner.
"Not yet." Jim carefully eased around the edge to get a look from the other side.
After a few seconds of scanning the opposite roof, he spotted the suspects -- three of them -- crouched in a similar position behind an air conditioning unit, looking down over the roof.
"Pete," Jim whispered, "I got 'em. Three male suspects, crouching behind an air unit."
"See any weapons?"
"Can't tell from here."
"What're they doin'?" Pete asked. He crabbed around to join Jim on the other side.
"Lookin' for us, I think," Jim said over his shoulder. "They have their backs to us."
Pete shifted positions so he could see the three men crouched on the roof. "We'd have 'em cold if we could just get over there," he observed.
"These buildings are close," Jim responded. "We could jump."
"I suppose we could, but they'd hear us. And we don't know if they have weapons," Pete pointed out.
"Right." Jim looked at the suspects, then looked around the roof, looking for some way to keep an advantage over the oblivious suspects. All he saw was empty darkness until his eyes fell on a pile of paint cans in the far corner of the roof. A thick wooden plank lay beside them. Jim figured it would easily reach between the close buildings.
"Pete," Jim pointed. "There's a board lying over there."
"So?" A note of suspicion laced Pete's voice.
"So, we lay it between the roofs, crawl over, and we've got the suspects. Quietly. No fuss."
"Maybe no fuss for you," Pete squawked. "I don't think I want to perform a high wire act tonight. What if they turn around while we're suspended in mid-air?"
"They won't. They think we're on the other side." Jim turned and looked at Pete. "We can't follow them up the fire escape, 'cause they'd see us. If we jump, they hear us, if we go back down we might lose 'em. I'll go first and you can cover me. When I get over, you follow, and I'll cover you."
"What about your leg?"
"It's okay, Pete. Come on, let's move before we lose 'em."
"All right," Pete sighed. "I know I'm gonna regret this," he moaned quietly.
Jim slipped his gun back into its' holster and crept silently to the dim recess. A glance over his shoulder told him Pete was keeping an eye on the suspects and they hadn't moved from their location. His hands clamped down on the lengthy piece of lumber and felt the roughness of the unfinished wood. Certain that it wasn't rotten, he picked it up easily and kept it close to his body as he made the short return trip across the roof.
"They still there?" Jim whispered, resting one end of the plank against the retaining wall.
"Yeah. Fidgeting a bit but so far they haven't turned around." Pete glimpsed the strip of wood as he kept his revolver trained on the three figures. He was confident that it would reach across the gap separating the two buildings. It was the width that bothered him. That thing had sure looked a lot broader when it was just an old board and not a catwalk.
"Pete, it'll work."
"It better, partner. I'm not too crazy about the consequences if it doesn't."
Keeping as low as possible, Jim lifted their substitute bridge and stretched it between the two structures. He managed to get both ends braced as securely as possible, considering the circumstances. Pete maintained his cover position, signaling Jim to proceed...quickly.
Jim crawled painstakingly forward on hands and knees, ignoring the vast space below and around him. Just a few more seconds and he'd reach the other side.
He was less than a foot away when the palm of his left hand made contact with something very sharp. Jolted and surprised by the stabbing pain, he instinctively withdrew his hand...and knew he was in trouble. That small but sudden move shifted his balance on the plank. His left hand reclaimed a tentative grip to compensate. Jim pitched his weight forward onto his right forearm, using the rest of his body as an anchor. In the back of his mind, he wondered if he'd land on a bed of nails. But it was better than falling to the pavement below. It took all his willpower not to claw and scramble for the building's edge that very instant. Instead, he remained very still in his precarious position and cautiously looked ahead. He hoped he hadn't alerted the suspects of their presence behind them.
Pete barely kept himself from letting out a yell when Jim teetered on the edge of disaster. I knew I should have pulled rank on this crazy stunt. He didn't resume breathing until Jim started moving again. When Jim reached the other side, he waved at Pete. Pete set his jaw and climbed onto the board, inching carefully along until he reached the other side. By some blind bit of good fortune, the suspects still hadn't turned around to see them. He clambered over the parapet and ducked behind an electric transformer beside Jim. He raised a questioning eyebrow at Jim, but Jim just shrugged.
"Nail," he whispered, pointing to his left hand, which sported a slowly oozing cut.
Pete nodded, then jerked his head over his own right while pointing over Jim's left shoulder. Jim nodded, and they separated, each keeping to cover as they circled around either side of the three suspects. Pete waited until he saw Jim peek around an air conditioning unit. Jim lifted his chin and that was all the signal Pete needed. He stood up, drawing his weapon. "Freeze, police!" he yelled at the top of his lungs. Jim did the same.
All three suspects jumped comically, then spun around with their hands raised. One of them had a revolver that clattered to the asphalt rooftop. "D-don't shoot, man!" he stammered.
"Face down, arms out to your sides," Jim growled. They complied and Jim made quick work of patting them down and cuffing them.
Pete finally put his gun away. As he took one of the suspects from Jim, he paused. "Jim, the next time you decide to play Ringling Brothers, find another high wire partner."
Jim grinned. "Aw, come on, Pete. It was a piece of cake."
"Uh huh. How's your hand?"
Jim's grin faded to an exasperated frown. "It's just a little cut, Pete. I'm fine."
"I'll call for backup to transport and then you're heading to Central Receiving to get it looked at."
"No arguments," Pete snapped, putting just enough severity in his voice to let Jim know he had no other options.
Jim gave Pete a last mulish look, but he yanked on his suspect's arm and headed toward the door that would take them to the interior stairs. Pete shook his head and smiled. They don't come any more stubborn than my partner . . .
"If you die of tetanus, I'm not coming to your funeral," Pete growled at Jim.
The two had returned to patrol after booking the three GTA suspects. The station had been in such an uproar with officers booking 502s, 415s, and other typically minor New Year's offenders that they hadn't stuck around very long, especially after Mac had come out growling for them to get back on the streets. Jim had ducked into the locker room long enough to put a band-aid on the puncture wound, over Pete's loud protests, which continued as they pulled out of the station parking lot.
"Pete, my tetanus shot is up-to-date. The doc said so just a few hours ago. And I'm not going to Central Receiving twice in the same night. Besides, Mac would have our jobs if we didn't finish the last hour of the shift on the street," Jim explained calmly, not looking over at his partner. "You saw what a circus the station was."
"Ummm," Pete responded, his tone dripping with disapproval. "When your hand shrivels up and falls off, I don't want to hear any whining."
Jim burst out laughing at Pete's ridiculous scenario for his hand. "Pete, I promise, as soon as I get home, I'll have Jean fix it up," he managed between chuckles. "She's used to patching up my little boo-boos, as she puts it." Jim's expression suddenly turned sour. "That is, if she's speaking to me."
"It'll serve you right if she doesn't."
"Oh, so now you're turning on me, huh?" Jim pouted. "I'd expect at least a little sympathy from my partner, since I missed out on a romantic evening with my wife and wound up getting all beat up on the job."
"I'm the one who needs the sympathy," Pete contradicted testily. "I'm the one having to listen to you moan about it all night."
Jim rolled his eyes. "You're getting surly," he warned.
"So sue me," Pete responded.
"There's no talkin' to you when you get like this," Jim sighed. "If you were Jimmy, I'd say it's time for a nap."
Pete started to reply, but the dispatcher broke in, so he merely glared at his younger partner as the call came through.
"1-Adam-12, 1-Adam-12, a 415 party. See the girl, 98 Pomeroy."
"1-Adam-12, roger." Jim acknowledged. "Pomeroy. High rent district," he commented dryly.
"Yeah," Pete nodded, all business once again.
Pomeroy was located at the farthest eastern perimeter of their district in a low-crime, high-rent area. Homes located there generally had circular, front-facing driveways, swimming pools, and professionally maintained lawns. Number 98 proved to be no exception. Pete guided the car through the gate and pulled to the top of the drive. He'd barely killed the engine when the front door opened and a teen-aged girl ran out.
"Oh, officers, thank God you're here!" the girl exclaimed, twisting her hands nervously.
"Calm down, honey, and tell me the problem," Jim soothed, as he exited the car, donning his hat. Loud music assaulted his ears, but it came from next door.
"You hear the music, don't you?" she cried.
"Yes, ma'am, we hear it," Pete assured her. "It's loud, all right. We'll go talk with them about it." He thought that the teen seemed a bit overwrought just to be worried about loud music.
"Oh, it's not just the music!" the girl wailed, still wringing her hands. "You've got to do something about them!"
Pete reached out and gripped the girl's shoulder. "Okay, just calm down. Do something about who?"
"Take a deep breath, and start at the beginning," Jim urged. He smiled at the girl, hoping to settle her down.
"Okay, okay," the girl complied, taking a big, gulping breath.
"Tell us your name, please, miss," Pete asked.
"Tammi. Tammi Nichols."
"Do you live here, Tammi?" Jim scribbled in his notebook.
"No, sir. I...I'm babysitting for the McAllisters' -- they live here." Tammi informed them.
"Do you know their first names?" Jim prompted.
"Uh, uh, Mike and Sue McAllister. They have two kids, 6 and 8."
"And how old are you, Tammi?" Pete asked.
"Sixteen. I'm their regular sitter. They're at a New Year's Eve party." Tammi twisted her hands again as the music suddenly grew louder, and raucous laughter drifted over the fence.
"Would you like us to call them for you?" Pete offered.
"No, no, just please, please make those people next door stop doing what they're doing!"
"Well, besides playing loud music, what exactly are they doing?" Pete asked.
"Oh, it's awful! Just awful!" Tammi shuddered. "And in front of the little kids! I can't get them away from the windows watching them! You can see out the kids' bedroom windows to the backyard next door. And they're just....in front of the kids....." Tammi covered her face with her hands.
Pete and Jim exchanged a puzzled look. "Who lives next door?" Pete inquired.
"I don't know their names!" Tammi exclaimed. "Some old people!"
"How old?" Pete prompted.
"Oh, old! Older even than you!" Tammi said earnestly.
Pete's lip twisted and Jim covered his mouth to keep from laughing.
"Oh, Officer, I mean lots older than you," Tammi corrected, noting their reactions. "Like a grandpa age."
"Oh," Pete nodded, marginally relieved. "So, what are these, uh, old people doing?"
"Oh, officer, do I have to say it?" Tammi asked. "It's just so...gross and disgusting. Just please go and make them stop."
"I'll go over there and check it out," Jim offered. He handed his notebook over to Pete. "You can get the rest of the info and meet me over there."
"Oh, thank you, Officer!" Tammi said gratefully. "There's a back gate in the corner that's closer."
"Thank you, miss," Jim smiled at her again. "Now, just calm down. I'll take care of the problem."
Jim went through the back gate of number 98 Pomeroy as Pete continued to talk to and calm Tammi Nichols. For the life of him, he couldn't figure out what the girl was so spooked about. As he closed the gate, Jim looked up toward the second-story windows that faced next door, and saw two young boys standing in one of them, laughing and pointing next door. Whatever it is, the boys don't look spooked. They're enjoying it.
A wave of wistful nostalgia overtook Jim as he made his way across the yard and suddenly recognized the music blasting from the stereo. Glenn Miller's "String of Pearls" had been a favorite of his parents' and hearing it brought back memories of his now-deceased mother and father dancing in the living room. He wished that they were still around to see their grandchild. He shook off the maudlin thoughts. I don't believe we've ever had Glenn Miller music playing at a 415 party.
As Jim got closer to the neighbor's backyard, the sound of splashing water punctuated the lively Miller tune. Swimming on New Year's Eve? These old folks must be pretty lively. Jim walked over to the solid wooden gate and pounded on it with his fist. The wall surrounding the backyard was high and brick, and he couldn't see over it or the gate. But he could hear lots of merriment, loud music, and other assorted noises. He could also smell a faint odor of alcohol mixed with chlorine.
"Hello!" He called out. "Hello, police!" Jim paused, but he feared he couldn't be heard over the celebration going on. After a minute passed with no response, he pounded again.
When his second summons got no response, Jim lifted the gate handle and pushed the wooden door open. He stepped in, took a good look at the situation, and did a double take. Then a triple take. Jim suddenly realized exactly what had young Tammi Nichols so shook up. In two years on the force, he'd never seen anything like what he was witnessing now, and he fervently wished he wasn't seeing it now.
Eight senior citizens, obviously rip-roaring drunk, cavorted around the pool in the backyard, all of them completely and utterly naked. Several of them skinny-dipped in the pool. A few of the octogenarians chased each other around in the backyard, with a beer clutched in both hands, and one couple sat in a swing in the corner of the yard, engaging in behavior better suited for the privacy of one's bedroom. No wonder Tammi Nichols didn't want to talk about it, and no wonder the two young boys watching from the bedroom seemed to be so entertained.
Oh, brother. Oh, brother. I think I'm in over my head here.
Jim glanced hopefully over his shoulder even though he knew it was too soon for Pete to appear. And he was right. Reluctantly turning his attention back to the enthusiastic gathering, a dismal groan escaped him. That's when he realized that he'd been standing there slack-jawed and presumably looking like the village idiot. Jim quickly blew out a breath and closed his mouth. Maybe it was a good thing his partner wasn't around just yet.
Unfortunately, none of the elderly partygoers had noticed his presence so he was still witnessing all sorts of shenanigans. The sooner he took action, the sooner he'd stop seeing...what he was seeing. At least he hoped he would. His eyes uncomfortably searched for the closest male. One old man, medium height and skinny, stood facing a low diving board. Hands on his bony hips, he appeared to be pondering it quite seriously
Oh, please don't let him try a swan dive!
Clearing his throat loudly, Jim took a couple of steps forward in an attempt to alert the old guy. "Sir? Sir?"
Jim kept his expression polite but neutral as the fellow turned around to answer him. He squinted at Jim, nodded, then ambled over at a rather spry pace. A brightly colored beach towel was draped over the back of a nearby lounge chair and Jim grabbed it, offering it to the man.
"Officer, now see here, what's the problem?"
"Sir? Uh, do you mind, please?" Jim still held out the pink and yellow towel.
"Oh, all right. Keep your pants on!" The old man's cackling laughter accompanied his staggering struggle to wrap the towel around him like a toga. It took several revolutions before he could secure it around his pale body. "So who the heck are you, sonny?"
"I'm Officer Reed. Mister...?" Jim started to rub his nose, then realized how fidgety that looked, so he crossed his arms. Then he uncrossed them and rested both hands on his belt. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the two pale, sagging shapes clutching each other in the porch swing suddenly fall out. Drunken giggles floated across the yard. He crossed his arms again and turned more squarely toward the old man.
"You can call me Al, short for Albert."
"Al, I hate to tell you this but your little...party...is creating a nuisance. It's disturbing the neighborhood."
"Too loud? Oh, all right, we'll turn it down. But whoever heard of Glenn Miller being too loud?"
"No, Al, it's more than that. It's...other things. Your state of undress and some of the ....activities." Jim remained focused on Al. "It's causing a bit of an uproar with the neighbors."
"Serves them right for lookin' where they ought not to be lookin'! Doesn't a body have a right to privacy on their own property?"
"Yes, sir, but your party isn't exactly...secluded. And there are children in the area." A mental image of the youngsters in the window zipped through Jim's mind. He hoped Al was nearsighted, just in case.
"Well, I guess you have a point, Officer Reed. I suppose we could find some swimsuits...somewhere," Al replied, crossing his scrawny arms in front of a somewhat concave chest. "So do you want to tell them or should I?"
"Uh, well, I think it'd probably be better coming from you, sir."
"You afraid us old folks might give you a hard time, young man? Looks like you've already had your share of that already!"
Jim started to back up and allow the venerable host the opportunity to make an announcement. But Al clutched his elbow and pulled him along with him to the corner of the pool. Jim waited as the old man waved his arms and shouted, trying to get the attention of his guests. In the interminable moment that followed, Jim allowed his vision to refine...in order to look at the copper-colored roof of the small white cabana. He also noticed the exotic foliage that bordered the brick wall. He saw how it trailed all the way back to the gate entrance....where his partner now stood watching him with undisguised amusement.
Just how long has he....?
Jim felt his arm being tugged on again and spun around, only to realize that the music was noticeably subdued. Sixteen naked eyes, not counting Pete's, were silently staring at him from various locations. The quiet was interrupted by a splash in the pool. Jim looked down at his feet, which were now wet, and came face to face with a rather heavy-set woman. Her plump arms rested on the tile at the edge of the swimming pool. A pair of thick pearl-frame eyeglasses allowed huge brown eyes to gaze up at him. Thin strands of blue-gray hair peeked out of a flower-petal bathing cap. She gave him a surprisingly toothy smile and held up one prune-wrinkled hand to him.
"Give a lady a helping hand, sonny?"
Jim swallowed hard and cast a helpless glance back toward Pete, but Pete seemed to content to remain by the gate smirking. Jim narrowed his eyes at his partner, projecting a promise of a long painful death as soon as he escaped from this geriatric hell. Pete's smirk widened.
"Officer, I'm waiting," a coquettish voice summoned from near his ankles. Still trying to avoid focusing on anyone, he glanced around and saw another towel laying on a lounge chair. He snatched it up and tossed it into the pool.
"Put that around you," he muttered.
The woman pouted at him, but she took the towel and covered herself. But when she reached up for a hand, the towel slid off and sank to the bottom of the pool. Jim refused to take her hand, instead pointing silently toward the steps at the other end of the pool.
"And I thought you young people were supposed to like having fun," she sniffed, then swam away.
Jim turned to Al. "Sir, do I have your assurance that you'll all get dressed and keep the noise down?"
Al looked down his beaky nose. "Of course. Albert Crenshaw is a man of his word!"
"All right, sir. I'll leave you to it. We don't want to have to come back."
"Well, we don't want you back! Young fuddy-duddy," the fat lady sang out from where she floated on her back in the center of the pool.
Jim paused, then jerked his thumb in the direction of the couple enjoying each other's company, ensconced once more in the swing. "And make those two break it up or take it inside."
"They're married, officer!" Al assured him.
"That's beside the point," Jim pointed out, his desperation to escape the awkward situation causing him to sound irritable. "Married or not, what they're doing is creating a nuisance."
"All right, officer, I'll take care of it," Al promised.
"Make sure that you do," Jim warned, "because if we do have to come back, you'll all go to jail."
"Rest assured, young man. Oh, and, uh, Happy New Year."
"Thanks. Same to you, sir," Jim mumbled.
Jim kept his eyes averted and beat a retreat to the gate, where Pete still stood with that smirky grin plastered all over his face. "Thanks for the assist, partner," Jim hissed as he pushed by him.
"You seemed to be handling things just fine. I was afraid too much officer presence might incite them to riot."
Jim gave Pete the glare that crack deserved. "Thanks a lot, Pete."
"Any time, partner. Any time." Pete clapped him on the shoulder, then led the way back to the McAllister's residence to reassure the young baby-sitter she'd have no more problems.
Just as Pete and Jim returned to Adam-12 and settled in, the dispatcher's dispassionate voice came from the radio.
"KMA 367 -- 12:00 a.m."
"Hey, happy new year, partner," Pete offered quietly.
"Yeah, thanks. Happy new year, Pete," Jim returned unenthusiastically.
"How about a little more enthusiasm over there? I know I'm not Jean, but..."
"I'm sorry," Jim apologized. "I haven't been very good company tonight."
"It hasn't exactly been your best night on patrol, either." Pete couldn't hide a grin. "Let's see, you were attacked by a vicious prostitute and an angry pimp, by hidden nails three stories off the ground, and then traumatized by a horde of drunken, naked octogenarians. Does that about cover it?"
"Don't forget nearly an hour at Central Receiving and no new years' kiss from my wife," Jim reminded him.
"Silly me," Pete laughed. "Come on, it's end-of-watch. Let's head for the barn."
"Sounds good to me."
Pete guided the car back into the near-empty streets of LA. The sound of firecrackers exploding filtered through the quiet radio noise and indicated that many of the citizens of the City of Angels celebrated the turning of the new year with more than good food and alcohol. After a few minutes of silence between them, Jim spoke.
"I guess if I can't spend the stroke of midnight of the new year with my wife, it's not so bad to spend it with my best friend," he said with a grin.
"Thanks, I guess," Pete returned the grin. "Just as long as you don't expect me to kiss you."
"Somehow, it wouldn't be the same," Jim laughed.
"You don't know how relieved I am to hear...." Pete began, but a cry from Jim interrupted him.
"Pete! Look out!" Jim pointed to Pete's left, where a dark sedan sped through a boulevard stop, heading straight for them.
Pete's skill behind the wheel and extraordinary reaction time saved them from a crunching collision, as he managed to steer the black and white out of harm's way. The sedan whizzed by them, carving a crooked path down the cross-street.
"Good driving, partner!" Jim praised, catching his breath after the close encounter.
Pete reached over and hit the reds as he turned Adam-12 to pursue the wavering car. "That was just a little too close," he breathed.
"I don't even think they saw us," Jim commented.
Pete tapped the horn as he caught up with the errant driver. "Let's explain it to them," he growled.
Jim sighed for what seemed the hundredth time that evening as he pulled his car into the driveway of his home. The house was completely dark; only the solitary porch light illuminated the night. The young officer glanced at his watch. One fifty-three. I don't blame Jean for giving up on me. I'd give up on me, too. At least I don't see my clothes on the front porch.
Jim got out of the car, locked it, and trudged tiredly up to the front door. By the time he and Pete had stopped the drunken driver and his equally drunken passengers, transported them, booked them, and finished their reports, the clock had worked its way around to 1:30 a.m. and they both had started to fade after the long, eventful double shift. Jim had called Jean to warn her he'd be late, but he hadn't anticipated being quite this late.
Jim put his key in the door and opened it, trying to be quiet. He expected to open the door to a pitch-black living room, but instead, a faint amber glow from a lightly scented candle lit the room, accompanied by the sound of soft music from the stereo. It took him a second to realize it was some kind of Hawaiian music.
"Hi, sweetheart," Jean called to him from the semi-dark.
"Hi, honey," Jim felt fatigue slip away from him as he caught sight of his wife curled up on the couch wearing some of the "outta sight lingerie" he bought for her for Christmas. "You're still up."
"Of course. How could I go to bed before we rang in the new year together?" Jean smiled at him.
Jim felt a load lift off his shoulders as he realized Jean wasn't angry at him over their spoiled evening. "I'm afraid we missed midnight, though, honey. I'm really sorry."
Jean smiled at him tolerantly and patted the couch next to her. "Well, just don't stand there, honey. I saved you a spot." Jean's smile turned seductive.
Jim joined her on the couch and slipped his arms around her. "Love your outfit," he whispered in her ear.
"I thought you might...Jim, what's that on your neck?" Jean exclaimed.
Jim reached up and touched the swath of bandages on his neck. "Oh, that...well, it's nothing really. I was trying to bust a prostitute and she took exception to it. It's just a scratch. They got carried away at Central Receiving on the bandages. They must charge by the inch." Jim kissed his wife tenderly on the neck. "I promise you it's nothing."
"Cross my heart."
"Okay," Jean snuggled into Jim's embrace, apparently satisfied. "Guess what?"
"Mother and Daddy came by and picked up Jimmy earlier. We have the whole house to ourselves until tomorrow evening."
Jim's grin widened. "So," he asked coyly, "you have anything planned?"
"Funny you should ask," Jean reached up and kissed him on the cheek. "According to my calculations, they haven't rung in the new year in Honolulu yet. So I dug out an old Don Ho record, and we can just pretend we're there." She grasped Jim's wrist and looked at his watch. "In one minute, we can ring in the new year with thousands of residents of Honolulu."
Jim couldn't help but laugh as he hugged his wife close to him. "I love you, Jean," he said, after kissing her quickly. "One of these days, I'll take you to Hawaii for real. We'll sip exotic drinks on Waikiki and watch the sun set."
"One day, I'll hold you to that. But for now, our imaginations will be good enough."
"I've got plenty of imagination," Jim assured her.
"I'm counting on that," Jean whispered.
Jim swept her up in a kiss that made them both forget about counting down to a new year, and drove all thoughts of a tiring double shift, angry suspects, and drunken citizens far from Jim's mind. All that mattered to him now was the beautiful woman he held in his arms and the love they shared. Time's passage became irrelevant as they shared their intimate moment, but if this kiss was any indication, it was indeed going to be a happy new year.
And he didn't even mind sleeping on the couch.
Happy New Year, everyone!