SOME DAYS AREN'T ALL THEY'RE CRACKED UP TO BE
Pete Malloy tapped the side of his fist impatiently against his leg. The bright springtime sun streaked
through the slats of the dirty venetian blind, causing the dust to dance in little sparkles against the light.
The sun made Pete squint. He stood in the middle of the sparsely furnished living room of a small
home. He observed as Charlie King, the home's owner and a known drug pusher, argued with Sergeant
MacDonald. "You don't need to harass me. You don't need to search my place. You don't need to
bother my stuff. And, you don't need to have your boys here poking through my things." King
accentuated each statement by jabbing a stubby index finger into Mac's chest.
MacDonald stepped back slightly. He kept his voice low and calm, "Don't touch me, King. All I need is a search warrant, which I have right here." The sergeant produced the document and at the same time motioned for Pete and his partner, Jim Reed, to begin searching the house. Mac and John Jenkins, a detective from Narco, stepped aside as the two uniformed police officers started the familiar search routine.
King took a seat on the sofa. He decided to try the friendly approach. "Look, Sarge, I'm clean. I swear it. I quit selling. Why don't you and the suit there sit down?" He gestured toward a chair. "It shouldn't take your officers long to realize I'm clean."
"We'll stand." The steel-blue gaze MacDonald fixed on King evidenced the fact that he was not interested in striking up a conversation or in hearing anything King had to say.
Malloy exited into a bedroom. Reed remained in the living room. He walked over to a table and checked the drawers. A large wicker basket filled with plastic Easter eggs sat on the table. Reed picked up a bright pink egg and shook it.
"Its candy," Charlie King grunted. "I give them to the kids in the neighborhood."
Jim, neither impressed nor convinced, opened the egg for himself. It held a generous portion of M&M's. Jim placed the open egg on the table, allowing a few pieces of candy to spill out. He opened another egg. More candy.
"I told you it's candy, man. No more, no less. Help yourself, if ya want."
Jim ignored King and moved to search a coat closet.
The two LAPD officers continued a thorough search of the premises while Charlie King annoyed MacDonald and Jenkins with his nervous chatter.
Malloy returned to the living room. He had gone over the bedroom and adjoining bathroom with the proverbial fine-toothed comb. He motioned Sergeant MacDonald over to the side. "Nothing, Mac." Pete shook his head.
"You sure, Pete? Did you check the light fixtures? Toilet tank? Tub drain trap?" Mac did not doubt Malloy's ability. He suggested these possible hiding places based on his years of experience and his 'leave no stone unturned' attitude. He really wanted to nail King.
Pete took no offense. He smiled as he thought of a past search. The drain trap had yielded the sought-after loot. Pete had to admit, even though the confiscated drugs went against everything he believed in, everything he stood for, the drain trap had been an ideal hiding spot. Pete had discovered it only on his second go round during that particular search. "All checked and all clean. How 'bout you, Jim? Anything?"
Jim Reed approached from the kitchen. "No. I even went through some old coffee grounds in the bottom of the garbage can. I know he's got a stash somewhere. I can feel it. But where?" Reed wondered aloud.
John Jenkins joined the three officers. "I have a thought. King has been mouthing since we got here. But have you noticed, it's all been directed at Mac and me? The only time he even looked at Jim or Pete was when Jim picked up one of those eggs. He seemed pretty determined to convince Jim they were filled with candy. If you ask me, he was just a little too eager trying to be casual about the whole thing."
"Check 'em. All of 'em." Mac nodded toward the basket.
Reed and Malloy walked over to the basket. They each picked up an egg and emptied the contents. Brightly colored candies rolled across the table.
"What's the deal? I told you three times it's candy. You got a hearing problem or something?" Sweat trickled down the side of Charlie King's face. He was suddenly very interested in the two men in blue.
The officers did not even acknowledge King. They continued to crack open eggs and empty the contents. A sizeable mound of candy grew on the table. "Got it!" Jim exclaimed. He was staring into a blue Easter egg. He poured a rainbow of pills into his hand. John Jenkins walked over with a plastic bag. He held it open as Jim deposited the pills. Jim picked up the empty egg and examined it more closely. On one end, he discovered a tiny black dot. He placed the egg in the bag with the pills. Jim and Pete opened every egg. The search produced eight eggs filled with pills. Each had a small identifying black dot on one end.
"Cuff him and give him his rights," Mac instructed Pete. "Good call, John. Nice work, guys. I'll see you later at the station." MacDonald afforded King only a slight look of disgust before he left.
Charlie King spoke as Pete placed handcuffs around his wrists. "Listen, what I said earlier about the candy being for the kids was true. I really do give those eggs to the neighborhood kids. But only the eggs with candy, I mean. I would never sell to a kid. I'd never try to hook a child."
Pete wasn't buying it. "Save it, King. If you're looking for me to nominate you for a good citizen award, forget it. Maybe you don't push to kids. But those kids won't be young forever. What happens in a few years when they're teenagers and they come around looking for something to make them happy? Pretty eggs filled with candy won't do the trick then. So, out of the goodness of your heart, or the emptiness of your wallet, you'll introduce them to your version of grownup candy."
Pete turned to Jim. "Put him in the car, Reed." Pete loosened the grip he had on King's arm. "I'll meet you there. Suddenly, I need a little air." Pete pushed past King and headed out into the welcoming California sunshine.
Malloy and Reed turned King over to the booking officer. They grabbed a quick cup of coffee in the break room. "Ready to get back out on patrol, Jim?" Pete questioned.
"Yeah. I'm just gonna grab something out of my locker. I'll meet you at the car." Jim pivoted on his right foot and hurried to the locker room.
Pete sat waiting in Adam-12. Jim tossed his hat in back and climbed in. "Let's roll," Jim directed while stuffing a mysteriously shaped chocolate confection into his mouth.
"What are you eating now, Jim? Did you feed all your change to the vending machine again?"
"Ears. I got 'em out of my locker," Jim managed between bites.
"Chocolate rabbit ears. Jean bought this big chocolate bunny for Jimmy. We're making him a basket."
"And you ate off the ears?" Pete interrupted. "What are you going to do Easter morning, try to pass it off as a chocolate woodchuck or something? I swear, Jim, you beat all I've ever seen."
"No, Pete. You've got it all wrong. Jean dropped the rabbit and broke it when she was carrying in the groceries. She stuck the pieces in a bowl up in the cabinet and told me to eat them. She bought Jimmy a new rabbit. You want an ear? I brought both of them." Jim held out the uneaten piece of chocolate to his partner.
"That's okay. I'll pass." Pete held up a hand in refusal. "You need to remember two things, though. Don't leave that in the sun where it will melt and don't eat so much of it you get sick. I'm in no mood to clean a mess out of the unit. Chocolate or otherwise." Pete waited a moment for Jim's response. After a few seconds, he prodded, "You hear me, Jim?"
Jim swallowed hard. The chocolate was starting to coat his throat. He needed a drink. He cleared his throat. " 'Course I hear you, Pete. After all, I am the one sitting over here with three and a half good ears." Jim laughed at his own joke.
Pete blew out a disgusted puff of air. "You know, Jim, you and Jean should consider sending Jimmy to boarding school when he's older. He might survive in that atmosphere. They have good role models at those schools. The poor kid doesn't stand a chance, if you're all he has to pattern his life after."
Jim laughed. "Hey Pete, speaking of Jimmy, our church is having a big egg hunt and Easter pageant Saturday. The kids are going to sing after the hunt. You haven't lived 'til you've witnessed a group of candy-filled three- and four-year-olds sing before a live audience. You wanna come? Jimmy'd love for his Uncle Pete to be there."
"This Saturday? Yeah, I think I can make it. Thanks."
"Great. The egg hunt starts at ten o'clock in the big field behind the church. I'll tell Jean you're coming. She'll be glad."
"1-Adam-12, meet 1-L-20 on Tac 2." The familiar voice of dispatch.
"1-Adam-12, roger." Jim switched frequencies. "This is 1-Adam-12 to 1-L-20, go."
"Jim, Pete, We've got something brewing over at Taft High School. I'm not sure what, but word is, there's a student with a gun. You two get on over there and check it out. Keep me posted." Mac let out a worried sigh before he replaced the mic.
"Roger, Mac," Jim returned.
The drive to Taft was a short one. Pete pulled into the parking area reserved for teachers. He immediately saw a group of students standing outside looking in the windows of the school cafeteria. Pete and Jim approached the group. "I'm Officer Malloy. This is Officer Reed. Can someone tell us what the situation is here?"
A rather plain-looking girl with braces spoke up, "It's Gil. He's got a gun and he's holding it on Cindy. Do something. Hurry!" She flailed her arms wildly and pointed excitedly toward the door.
"Okay now, just calm down. Did you actually see a gun?"
"Yes. And if you look through that window you will see it too." The girl gestured frantically at the window directly behind her.
Pete and Jim stepped to the window. "You kids need to get back. Stay away from the windows," Jim warned. The officers peered in to find things just the way the girl had described. A skinny boy wearing glasses, a plaid shirt and dungarees held a gun in his right hand. He had his left arm around the throat of a very pretty blonde. He had the gun pointed at her head. Over to the far side of the room, a small group of students stood silently.
"Have any shots been fired?"
"No," the crowd of students chorused.
"How many entrances are there to the cafeteria?" Pete directed this question at the crowd.
"Three sets of double doors all leading off the main hall. And, another door goes from the kitchen to the lunchroom. If you walk around to the side of this building there's an outside door that leads directly to the kitchen." A tall slender boy, with jet-black hair, supplied this information.
"Show me the door." Pete requested.
The young boy complied.
"Jim, you go through the kitchen and stay out of sight. I'll approach from one of the main doors and try to talk him down."
"Right, Pete. Be careful. We don't know what we're dealing with in there."
Pete turned to the girl with braces. "What did you say the boy's name is?"
"Gil. Gilbert O'Dooley."
"And the girl?"
"That's Cindy Lawson." The girl supplied.
"Okay. Thanks for your help. You kids stay here and keep away from the windows." Pete turned and headed for the school's main entrance.
The principal, Mr. Meredith, met Pete as he entered the school. "Is there anything I can do? My secretary is trying to contact the boy's parents."
"That's fine. No, nothing else for now. Just make sure no one goes into the cafeteria." Pete instructed.
"I've alerted the teachers. We have a code we use. I made an announcement over the P.A. We're now under total lock down. No teacher will allow any student to leave the room until further notice. All restrooms have been checked. The halls are all clear. I think everything is immobilized for the time being."
"Good." Pete nodded.
Pete walked to one of the double doors outside the cafeteria. He stopped just out of sight. "Gilbert O'Dooley, this is the police. Put the gun down and let the girl come out. You won't be hurt."
"Go away, cop."
"Gil. My name's Pete. I want to help you. Look, why don't you let Cindy go? You don't want to hurt her, do you?"
"Yeah. I mean no. Just go away and leave me alone." Gil O'Dooley stammered nervously.
"Gil, let Cindy go."
"Well, then, how 'bout this? Is it okay if the rest of the kids in there come out?"
"Sure. I don't care about them," O'Dooley replied with little concern.
"Good." Pete stepped to the door with his gun drawn. He could see Jim standing at the door leading from the kitchen to the cafeteria.
"Okay. Everybody walk over here, slowly," Pete directed. He kept his eyes and his gun trained on Gil O'Dooley.
The small group of kids did as Pete instructed. O'Dooley didn't even look in their direction.
"Gil, thanks. I knew you didn't want to hurt them. You don't want to hurt Cindy either, do you?"
Gilbert O'Dooley flinched slightly. He let his right hand drop limply to his side. The gun slid to the floor. "No. The last thing I want to do his hurt Cindy," Gil replied with an almost eerie compassion to his voice. He released his hold on Cindy. She hurried past Pete and out into the hall with the other students.
Pete stepped toward Gil. Jim approached from behind. He gently pulled Gil's arms around behind him and handcuffed him. "We're going to get you some help, Gil. We've got some people we'd like you to talk to."
The group in the hall swarmed on Cindy Lawson. "Cindy, Are you okay?…Were you scared?…Did Gil say anything to you?"
"I'm all right." Cindy Lawson turned suddenly and scanned the crowd. She walked directly to a very handsome young man. He was tall and muscular. He smiled at her with sparkling white teeth. He held his arms open as if to embrace her. She stopped just short of his welcoming hug and slapped him hard across the face. "Why didn't you do something? I could have been killed!" Cindy screamed angrily at the stunned boy.
"Hey, I'm the star quarterback. I'm starting center for the basketball team. We were state champs last season. I couldn't risk getting myself hurt or killed," the shallow boy replied smugly.
"But you were willing to risk me? Well, this Friday, you'll be the star quarterback without a date." Cindy Lawson turned and walked away.
Jim escorted Gilbert O'Dooley down the hall. Pete followed close behind. "Hey wait, please," Cindy called. She walked up to them. O'Dooley looked scared. His face was tear stained and his glasses kept fogging up. He tried to wipe his nose on his shoulder. He stared at the floor.
"Gil, did you send flowers to my house last week?" Cindy asked softly.
"Yeah." Gil continued his close watch on the tile floor.
"You should have signed the card."
"I called your number a few times too, but I always hung up as soon as anyone answered." Gil remained with his head cast downward.
"Why?" Cindy asked.
"Oh sure. Like you'd talk to me or go out with me." Gil shuffled his feet. Jim Reed looked away. He felt as if he were intruding on a private conversation.
"Maybe I would have. I'd at least like to be your friend."
"But you're so pretty and so popular," Gil stammered.
"Well, silly, how do you think I got to be so popular? By making lots of friends, that's how. And, I'd like to have another. Why don't you call me again sometime, Gil? Only don't hang up this time," she offered with a smile in her voice.
Gil raised his head slightly allowing his eyes to meet hers for a brief moment. "I'm sorry, Cindy. I didn't mean to scare you. I don't know what I was thinking. I'd never hurt you. The gun isn't even real. It's a toy."
Cindy looked at Pete. He nodded confirmation that the gun was indeed a fake.
"Its okay, Gil. Just do what these police officers say and try to get better." Cindy Lawson started up the hall. She stopped and held Pete back as Jim continued out with Gil. "You will help him, won't you? I mean you're not just going to throw him in jail are you?
Pete smiled at the pretty, blonde girl. "We'll do all we can to help him, Cindy. But, I think you've already done a lot for him."
"Thank you." Cindy went back inside the cafeteria. She watched from the window as Jim and Pete helped Gil into the patrol car.
"Clear us and let's get at it again," Pete instructed as he pulled Adam-12 out of the station parking lot.
"1-Adam-12 clear," dispatch parroted.
"Cindy Lawson seemed like a nice girl," Pete remarked. "She could have made things a lot worse for the O'Dooley kid, and been well within her rights."
"You're right," Jim agreed. "She reminded me of Jean when we were in high school. You know the type, nice and friendly to everyone. Popular but never phony."
"Yeah, that's how I'd envision Jean in high school. You're a lucky man, Jim."
"Right again, partner. She's pretty and she can cook. What more could I ask?" Jim joked.
"Speaking of cooking, you about ready to take 7?"
"Yeah. Dukes?" Jim asked.
"Sure." Pete headed the unit in the direction of the familiar eating establishment.
"Man, traffic's thick for a Thursday. I hope all these people aren't going to Duke's. I guess I'll pull around the corner and park. There's no place in front." As he parked in the nearest available spot, he groused, "Great. We only get 45 minutes and we've got a 30 minute walk ahead of us."
"You're showing your age, Malloy. The walk will do you good." The two officers started their trek.
"I'm going to walk across the street and get a paper out of the box," Jim decided as they rounded the corner. "Order me a chili, would ya, Pete?"
"Gotcha. See ya inside," Pete said as he turned and entered Duke's.
"Pardon me, sir, are you the bus driver?" A strange-looking little man approached Jim at the paper box.
"No. I'm a police officer. Can I help you?"
"Step back please, you're crowding Larry," the little man cautioned.
"Are you Larry?" Jim inquired as he obediently stepped back.
"No. I'm Dave. This is Larry." The strange man gestured toward the empty air to his left.
"Oh, I see." I see you're either drunk out of your head or off your rocker. "Say, Dave, have you been drinking today?"
"Me? No. I never touch the stuff. Now Larry here, he's been known to throw back a few on a special occasion. Of course to Larry, Tuesday's a special occasion. He can always find something to celebrate… What's that, Larry?" Dave jerked his head suddenly to the left. "You what? Are you sure? Okay we'll go back and find them."
This poor guy's having an entire conversation with himself. He seems sober enough, though. Jim stood patiently waiting for Dave and Larry to finish talking.
"Excuse us, please. Larry says he took out his teeth in the bus station restroom and left them on the sink. He also asked me to apologize for the way he must sound. You know, not having his teeth in and all." Dave didn't wait for Jim to reply. He just turned sharply and hurried off.
Jim stood leaning on the paper box. There's one of those born every minute, too. Harmless enough, I guess. Oh well, my chili awaits. Jim secured a newspaper from the box and sprinted across the street.
He entered the restaurant, nodded a greeting at Duke and gestured to Pete that he was going to the restroom to wash his hands.
"Who was the little guy at the paper box?" Pete questioned as Jim slid into the booth.
"Him? Oh, nobody. Just your typical Humpty Dumpty," Jim said as he fought with the cellophane on his pack of crackers.
"How's that?" Pete looked puzzled.
"You know - a good egg, but slightly cracked." Jim touched his finger to his temple. He took a big bite of chili, which he quickly discovered was too hot. He took an even bigger gulp of the orange soda Pete had ordered for him. After getting the temperature in his mouth back under control, he started to explain to Pete about Dave and his imaginary friend Larry. Just as he was getting to the part of the story about Larry's teeth, Ed Wells burst through the door.
"Well, here you are." Ed approached the table smiling like the cat that swallowed the canary. "Why don't you girls just go ahead and take the rest of the afternoon off? I seem to be doing your job for you anyway."
Pete shifted restlessly in his seat. He wasn't in a bad mood. He just wasn't in a Wells mood. "Ed what are you babbling about? And, please spare us the theatrics."
"What I'm babbling about, Malloy, is while you and Junior were sitting here having a tea party, Woods, Brinkman and myself apprehended three juvenile delinquents who had taken it upon themselves to decorate Adam-12 for Easter."
Pete snapped to attention at the mention of Adam-12. "Wells, for the last time, cut the drama and spit it out. Did something happen to the car?" Pete was quickly losing patience.
"Okay, okay - here's how it went down. Slide over, Reed." Ed bumped hips with Jim as he slid uninvited into the booth. Jim sloshed chili all over the table as he reluctantly scooted, allowing Ed to sit with him. "Easy, Reed. I just had the uniformed cleaned."
Pete glared at Ed. "Wells, either tell us what's on your mind or get out of Jim's way so we can go see for ourselves."
"Yeah, Pete. Sure. Sure." Ed Wells loved an audience and he planned to hold Reed and Malloy captive as long as possible. "I decide to meet Woods and Brinkman here for 7. So, I'm driving along and I pass Duke's. By the way, did I mention I drew an L-car today?"
Pete and Jim nodded. They remembered the assignment had been mentioned at roll call.
"Anyway, I come to the intersection of the side street there where you parked and I see these three kids pelting your unit with raw eggs. I mean they're really pouring it to ol' number 12. They must have 4 or 5 dozen eggs. So, I cruise on past, you know out of sight, and I radio it in. Woods and Brink are the next block over so they come in as back-up. We close in on the little perps from either end of the street. Three 14-year-olds are now being escorted to the station and your patrol car looks like you drove through a hen house."
Pete wadded his napkin and tossed it on the table. He heaved a sigh, "Let's go survey the damage, Jim. Man, this has been some kind of day, huh?"
Jim nodded, took one last drink of orange soda and shouldered Ed out of his way. The two LAPD officers quickly settled up with Duke and made their way to the door.
"What's this?" Ed Wells held out his hands in mock surprise. "No 'Thank You, Wells'? No 'Good police work, Ed'? I thought you'd be buying my food today, seeing as how I helped… okay guys, you're welcome," Ed called after Reed and Malloy as they exited without acknowledging Wells.
"For cryin' out loud. Can you believe this?" Pete stared in disbelief at what earlier had been a vehicle to be proud of. What had been a shiny work of chrome and steel was now a mess of splattered egg yolk and shells. The entire car dripped with the gooey, slimy gunk.
Jim Reed knew how his senior partner felt about Adam-12. It was more than a police car. It was a tool that they used everyday on the job. A tool to be respected and kept in top condition at all times. "Let's take her in and have Tony clean her up. That egg will really eat the paint job if its not cleaned off soon." Jim made a futile attempt to pick a few pieces of shell off the hood as he spoke.
"Yeah," Pete agreed. "And, as hot as it is today, the sun is practically cooking this mess into the car. I guess we better try to clear off the windshield some. Why don't you run around the corner and explain to Duke what happened. Ask him if we can have a couple of wet towels. Maybe we can at least clean off the glass enough to see how to drive to the garage."
Jim hurried around the corner. He quickly returned with a bucket of warm water and some towels. The two officers attempted to clean their way through the goo on the windshield and the back glass. They made a few swipes at the windows as a crowd of onlookers gathered and stared in disbelief.
"Show's over folks. Go on about your business." Pete sounded direct and professional. He had a feeling in the pit of his stomach that registered somewhere between anger and embarrassment. He understood the crowd's curiosity, but he had little time, and even less patience, for gawkers.
"That's good enough." Pete sighed as he gingerly tried to find a place on the door handle that wasn't plastered with egg. "Lets let Tony take care of the rest."
"Right, Pete." Jim emptied the bucket by the curb. He opened his door and tossed the bucket in the back seat. He slid in and wiped his hands on one of the damp towels. Contact with his door had left a gooey yellow mess dripping from his fingers. "Watch is almost over. Should we try for another unit or just leave the car with Tony and head to the station and start on our reports for the day?" Jim questioned.
Pete drummed the steering wheel, silently contemplating. "Reports," he decided. "I've had enough of the streets for one day."
"I hear ya, partner," Jim agreed.
Friday morning introduced itself gray and rainy. The light spring shower had transformed into a steady downpour by mid afternoon. The patrol car that had been bombarded with eggs was now being showered with fat raindrops that plopped on the windshield in a steady rhythm.
"Man, sometimes you can't win. Tony gets the egg cleaned off and now its pouring rain. Seems like there's just no way to keep the car clean," Pete Malloy complained as he shifted in his seat, trying to keep from being hypnotized by the constant swishing of the wipers.
"Yeah…achoo! Excuse me. I hate this weather. I think…achoo!… the rain must stir up all the mold and junk in the air. It always does a number on my allergies or sinuses or whatever it is. All I know is I woke up this morning and my head felt like someone was driving a train through it. Then my dumb nose started running. Drives me crazy." Jim sniffed loudly and rubbed at his eye with the back of his hand.
"Hopefully, the rest of the day will be easy. But, I wouldn't count on it. This kind of weather usually brings out all the wackos," Pete reasoned.
"Sure. You'd think the rain would keep the crazies inside, but no. They're alive and well and living in L.A. Rain or shine." Jim offered this opinion around another of many sneezes.
"Well, our last two calls were fairly routine and we made it through lunch without getting egged, so maybe we'll luck out for the rest of watch." Pete tried to put a positive spin on his voice.
"1-Adam-12, 311 on the corner of Axtell and Hill Streets. Respond code 2."
"See, Jim? I told you we'd be lucky the rest of watch," Pete stated sarcastically.
Jim shot his partner a bleary-eyed gaze and responded to dispatch.
Pete stopped the car on the corner of Axtell and Hill. The 311 subject was a male in his late sixties. He stood in the middle of the intersection, totally naked, but covering himself with a bright orange umbrella. He twirled the umbrella in front of himself as he danced quite a convincing rendition of Gene Kelly's 'Singing in the Rain'.
"Oh brother! Pete, ol' buddy, I'll give you a dollar if you'll handle this one and just let me sit here in my nice safe car." Jim shot a hopeful glance Pete's way.
"Jim, there ain't enough dollars in the world. Lets get this over with, partner."
The two officers made their way through the crowd of on-lookers that had gathered. They approached the man slowly. The last thing they wanted was for him to become unnecessarily alarmed and drop his umbrella.
"Does anyone know who he is?" Jim questioned the curious gazers.
"Yes. I'm the one that called you. My name is Withers. Theodore Withers." A fragile-looking older gentleman extended his hand to Jim.
"Officer Reed," Jim said shaking the man's hand. "This is Officer Malloy." He nodded toward Pete. "You say you know this man?"
"Yes. His name is Daschel McAllister. He danced over from the community theatre around the corner. At one time he was a big name star there. But, now he can't even get a bit part. He's just too old to play the roles he wants to play. He went to an audition this morning. I think he must be distraught over not getting a part again. His mind's not what it used to be, I'm afraid."
Daschel McAllister caught sight of Reed and Malloy. "I say, are you from props and lighting? I hope so, because this setting will never do. I need more light over here." McAllister pointed his umbrella with a flourish, temporarily exposing himself.
"Hey Jim, I've got an idea. Give me your rain slicker," Pete instructed.
"My rain slicker? But, Pete, its raining and I'm sick and…"
"Jim, do you want to get this guy off the street or not?"
"Well, yeah, but what about your slicker?" Jim whined.
"Look, Jim, this guy's obviously your size," Pete surmised.
"Oh, all right," Jim conceded, shrugging out of his raincoat.
Pete held it out to Daschel McAllister. "No, Mr. McAllister, we're not from lighting. We're from wardrobe. There's been a last minute change in script. The director has decided he wants you to wear the coat after all."
"What? I can't work like this. Too many changes. No. I say no!" McAllister punctuated his statement by thumping his umbrella soundly on the sidewalk.
"Look, McAllister, we both know how temperamental the director is. He'll have his way in the end. He always does. So why don't we all save ourselves some grief and just give in. You wear the coat and I'll see what I can do about getting you more lighting." Pete continued to hold out the coat as Jim looked on in disbelief.
"Oh, very well." McAllister took the coat and put it on, buttoning every button.
Jim quickly picked up on Pete's lead. "Uh, Mr. McAllister, we're finished shooting this scene now and I've brought the car around to take you back to your dressing room." Jim stood at the patrol car with the back door opened. He gestured for McAllister to enter the car.
"Good man," Daschel McAllister praised Jim.
Once inside the patrol car, McAllister became much more coherent. He was able to provide Jim with his daughter's name and telephone number. They called her from the station. She brought him some clothes and took him home.
"As long as we're here, we might as well stay and do some paperwork. You start on the reports. I'll get us some coffee." Pete offered as he headed in the direction of the coffee pot.
Jim sat at a table with a stack of papers spread before him. After what seemed to Jim a very long time, Pete appeared with a cup of lukewarm coffee. He offered the cup to Jim. "Sorry, it took me so long. Mac stopped me. He was telling me about some warehouse break-ins. You know how he is when he wants to talk."
"Yeah, well, maybe next time I'll go for the coffee and you can push the ol' pencil for a while. And, I notice you went ahead and drank your coffee while it was hot."
"Look, Jim, I said I was sorry. You know how Mac…
"Oh never mind Pete. I'm just tired and ready to go home. I've got a big evening ahead of me. Let's go." Jim gave Pete a half smile as he pushed back from the table.
"See ya tomorrow at the egg hunt. Ten o'clock, right?" Pete held the door open for Jim as they stepped out into the parking lot.
"Hey, you got any plans for tonight? Jean and I are going to help Jimmy dye Easter eggs for the egg hunt. Why don't you come over?" Jim invited.
"Got a date, partner. I'll take a rain check, okay?" Pete stood leaning on his car.
"Right. See ya, tomorrow."
Jean Reed entered her usually spotless kitchen to find her usually innocent child bent over slobbering and spitting on the floor. "Jimmy, sweetie, are you okay. What are you doing?" She hurried to him.
James Reed, Jr. straightened up and turned to face his mother. He had purplish-green slobber on his chin. His little white T-shirt was stained and splotched with the same color. "Mommy, this too-laid is yucky. I dwinked wed and gween. I don't wike it." He displayed his distaste by spitting one last time.
"Oh, Jimmy, it's not Kool-aid. It's Easter egg dye. Remember we talked about coloring the eggs?"
"Yes. I fawt we used cwayons to colow," Jimmy agreed innocently.
"Not this time. Let's see if we can get you cleaned up. I'm afraid the egg dye will stain and just have to wear off." Jean rubbed at her son's face with a wet cloth.
Jim Reed appeared in the doorway. "What's up?" He caught a look at his son's face. "Jimmy, what'd you do?"
"I dwinked the egg colow, Daddy." Jimmy hung his head and his eyes filled with tears.
"Oh, well Sport, I guess you're still a good egg." He lifted his son's chin with a crooked index finger. "I'll get a mop and we'll help mommy clean the floor. And, don't you drink anything else unless you ask first. Okay?" He tapped his little boy lightly on the head with his knuckle.
"'Kay, Daddy." Jimmy smiled. All was well in his world now.
Pete Malloy parked and walked around behind the church to the big field. He scanned the gathering crowd and eventually spotted the Reeds.
"Mornin' Pete. Glad you could make it. Some of the church members got here early this morning to hide the eggs. They're going to divide the kids into groups according to age and turn them loose in just a few minutes," Jim explained.
"Sounds good. Hey, Buddy." Pete winked at Jimmy. "Wow, what happened to your face?" Pete spotted the stain on Jimmy's chin.
"Long story." Jim shook his head. "But, from the looks of some of the other stained kids I've seen here, Jimmy's not the only one that colored more than eggs last night."
"Jimmy, they're showing everybody where to hunt now. You go stand over with those boys and girls and someone will show you where to go." Jean pointed to a big group of children who were fidgeting excitedly while trying to listen to hunting instructions.
The rest of the morning was a wild blur of chaos and excitement. The Reeds enjoyed standing back and watching the kids hunt the colorful treasures. Pete decided to walk around the field and just look and listen. What he saw and heard made him smile…
…Two small boys ran upon a small pile of leaves at the same time. They guessed there was an egg hidden somewhere within. When they discovered only one egg, instead of fighting over it, they each took a turn stomping on it and smashing it. Then they giggled and ran off to the next hiding spot.
…A cute little girl was having no trouble finding eggs. But, she only placed certain ones in her basket. The others she carefully put back in their assigned hiding spot.
Pete wandered over to the little girl. "Hey, sweetheart, why don't you keep all the eggs you find?" Pete asked.
"I only like the green ones. Someone else can find the rest," She explained.
…One very young child had his basket filled to the brim with leaves and sticks and grass, but no eggs. This, however, was not a problem to the little boy. He skipped along happily, oblivious to the fact that he was eggless.
… "My mama says you can eat these eggs cause they been cooked," A young boy who was tall for his age explained to his friend as he took a bite, shell and all, of a yellow and blue speckled egg. He spat the tasteless, crunchy mess on the ground and decided mama didn't know best after all.
"Hello officer. Do you remember me?"
Pete turned to see a pretty blonde teenager approaching him. He thought for a moment. "Oh, sure. Cindy Lawson from the high school. What are you doing here?"
"I brought two little girls I baby-sit. I hope that's all right."
"I'm sure it is. There's a big bunch of kids here, huh?" Pete made small talk with the girl.
"Yeah and even more eggs. I heard they hid over a thousand eggs." Cindy provided this statistic while swatting at a fly on her tanned leg. "Oh, when I left my house this morning there was a little stuffed Easter rabbit tied to the railing on my front porch. It was from Gil O'Dooley. This time he signed the card."
"That's nice." Pete nodded.
"I think Gil will be okay. He just needs friends. We all do." Cindy Lawson smiled at Pete.
"That's for sure," Pete agreed.
"Well, I better go round up the two kids I brought. It was good to see you, Officer Malloy."
"Good to see you too, Cindy. Take care."
"Jimmy's age group will sing first," Jean explained as she and Jim and Pete made their way to a pew about mid way up the church auditorium. The church quickly filled with proud parents waiting to see their little stars shine.
"Now, to begin, we have our three- and four-year-old choir, under the direction of Mrs. Ella Jean Rogers. They will sing three songs. When they are finished, we would like the parents of these wonderful children to stand so that your child can come and sit with you," the pastor of the church announced.
Mrs. Ella Jean Rogers, a heavy-set woman in her early fifties, led a group of twelve children toward the stage area. The last child in line, a small boy with red hair and freckles, decided to check the potted plant over by the window for any undiscovered Easter eggs. He never found his way back to the stage.
Jimmy Reed looked out and spotted Pete as if it were the first time he had seen him that day. "Pete!" Jimmy waved furiously as he climbed the steps to find his place on stage. Pete grew red in the face and gave Jimmy a small wave from the waist.
Mrs. Rogers continued, unperturbed. She lined the children up in two rows, took out a pitch pipe and blew into it. "Toot," three children mocked the sound. Mrs. Rogers raised both of her slightly flabby arms high in the air. She gave her choir a definite down beat and started them singing a ridiculously off-key, but precious version of 'Here Comes Peter Cottontail'.
Two sweet little girls on the front row decided to hop like bunnies. They continued hopping throughout the song.
The tall boy, who earlier had tried to eat the blue and yellow speckled egg, now stood on the back row of Mrs. Rogers' choir. Just as the second song began, he produced a plastic egg from his pocket. He cracked the egg on the head of the boy standing next him and proceeded to pantomime frying the egg on his friend's head, complete with sound effects.
Mrs. Rogers, who some would later say should be canonized, continued on, smiling sweetly at her rowdy brood.
One little boy stood on the end of the front row. He stared at the wall, not moving and not singing. After the first two songs, he decided to be seated on the steps. He remained there until his mother came up later to get him.
A little girl on the second row stood very straight and tall. She sang in her best voice and smiled her sweetest smile. She was a ray of sunshine in Mrs. Ella Jean Rogers' portion of the program. She was well behaved and cooperative, with one slight exception. She held the hem of her darling lavender dress and rolled it up as she sang. The more she sang, the higher the dress climbed. Half way through the third song, she had exposed her pretty pink lace panties and her navel. Jimmy Reed was standing to her left. He took full advantage of this opportunity. He poked his finger in her belly button, causing them both to giggle uncontrollably. The only good resulting was that she let go of her rolled up dress, allowing the hemline to fall back into place.
Jim turned bright crimson and started sliding down in the pew, trying to avoid the imagined stares coming from every direction.
"Did you see what your son just did?" Jean whispered in his ear.
Jim nodded slightly and slid some more, too embarrassed for words.
Ah, the single life, Pete mused. He found the entire situation thoroughly entertaining.
Mrs. Rogers raised her arms and gestured with great flourish, directing her choir to end their third and final number. She turned to face the audience. Her smiled revealed the pride she felt. "And, now if the parents of these children will stand." She raised her hands, motioning the appropriate parents to rise.
Pete elbowed Jim, "You think there'll be any parents too embarrassed to claim their child?" he whispered.
Jim laughed silently. "It's a definite possibility," he whispered back.
"Shhh." Jean poked Jim in the rib.
"He started it." Jim pointed at Pete.
"I don't care who started what. Both of you need to straighten up. You're acting worse than some of those children," Jean hissed at her husband.
"Pete, Jean said for you to straighten up," Jim joked with his partner.
"Okay," Pete complied. "And, one of you should probably stand to claim your son. He's getting a little antsy up there looking for you." Pete nodded toward the stage.
"Oh!" Jean Reed exclaimed as she jumped to her feet, her face red with embarrassment over forgetting her own son.
After gathering Jimmy and sitting politely through the rest of the program, which included a nosebleed, a crier, and two fake sneezers, the Reeds and Pete stood in the parking lot.
"That's a whole lotta eggs ya got there, kiddo. Whatcha gonna do with 'em?" Pete asked Jimmy as he peered into his godson's Easter basket.
"I dunno." Jimmy shrugged shyly and turned to his mother. "Mommy, do these eggs have chicks in them?"
"No, sweetie. Those aren't the kind of eggs with chicks. Those eggs have been cooked."
"Well, then, I'll eat em. Okay, Mommy?" He looked at Jean.
"Sure, you can eat a couple of them. We'll have to peel them and they might need salt."
"Pete, we're going to lunch at that new diner downtown, why don't you come too?" Jim invited.
"Okay. I've been wanting to try that place," Pete agreed.
"Lets just take one car. I'll drive," Jim suggested.
Pete climbed into the back seat with Jimmy. They settled in for a closer inspection of the Easter eggs. "I like the owange one best," Jimmy decided.
"Blue's my favorite." Pete sorted through the basket Jimmy held on his lap. "Do you like the purp…"
Pete's question was abruptly interrupted as Jim slammed on the brakes. Pete instinctively shielded Jimmy with his arm. The basket of eggs slid from Jimmy's lap and eggs rolled under the seat.
Jim quickly regained control of the car. He pulled to the side of the road. "Is everyone all right?"
"We're fine back here," Pete assured.
"Honey?" Jim turned to Jean.
"Yes. I'm okay."
"Can you believe that dog? It just darted out of nowhere. Lucky I didn't hit the dumb thing. Oh well, if everybody's okay, we'll go on …yuck! What a mess." Jim stared down at his feet. Somewhere in the midst of all the commotion, he had stepped on and thoroughly smashed about three of Jimmy's eggs into the carpet of the floorboard.
Jean fished a wrinkled Kleenex from her purse. "Here, try to clean your shoes a little. We'll take care of the car at home."
"Thanks." Jim took the tissue and rubbed at the smashed egg clinging to his shoe. Some of it wiped off. Most of the egg, however, smeared into the side of his sneaker, leaving a yellow stain.
"Never mind, sweetheart. I'll wash them at home." Jean waved her hand at Jim to stop cleaning. "Let's go. I'm starving."
"Oh, all right." Jim let out a disgusted sigh as he put the car in gear and pulled cautiously back on to the street.
"Hey, this place is small but nice," Pete commented as they stepped inside the new diner. "Smells good too… Jim, will you stop worrying about your shoes." Pete noticed Jim still sulking about his stained white tennis shoes.
"Yeah. Okay. Just bugs me, you know? And have you ever noticed that eggs stink?"
"Worse than your shoes? I don't think so, partner," Pete teased as they piled into a booth by a window.
"Well, hey there. How y'all doin'?" A very southern-sounding waitress with big hair and a tiny waist greeted them. She popped her gum about every third word, which delighted Jimmy. "I'm Becky Jo. I'm just gonna leave y'all some menus and let y'all take a few minutes to study out what y'all want. I'll be right back with some waters and a color page and crayons for my little friend here." She mussed Jimmy's hair before leaving the table.
Becky Jo returned with the promised water and coloring tools. "So, what can I get for ya'll?" She asked as she passed out the waters.
She took orders all around and finally arrived at Jim. "Alrighty, and how bout you?" Becky Jo pointed her pencil at Jim.
"What's your special today?" Jim inquired.
"Egg salad, sugar."
Jim looked at his foot sticking out in the aisle. The ugly egg stain stared back at him. He sighed, closed his menu and tossed it on the table. "I'll just have a burger and a coke."
Becky Jo hurried to the kitchen to turn in their orders.
Jim shook his head. "I've had enough egg-related problems the last few days to last me a lifetime."
Jean and Pete laughed and nodded in agreement.
"You're eggsactly right, Partner," Pete quipped. "Eggsactly right."
Author's note: Wishing everyone a Happy Easter and an egg-citing spring!