The Ride Along
© October 12, 2007
"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.' " - CS Lewis
DING! DONG! CLANG!!! Pete Malloy was awakened by the clanking of bells for the third time in as many hours. He had just drifted off after tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable and wind down from his last tedious A.M. shift in this rotation. The first racket had come from the single iron bell at the little Mission San Miguel one block past the park. Calling the faithful to early mass it banged out its simple summons. Stoic and loud.
He somehow found sleep again and was well into a lovely dream. Up to his waist in a crystal stream pulling out trout faster than he could bait the hook. When the carillon at Ventura First Presbyterian Church began their processional, it caused such a cacophony that even a pillow over his head couldn't deafen the sound.
He had finally fallen back to sleep, and though he couldn't relocate that trout stream, it had been satisfactorily replaced by a bevy of bathing beauties populating his own private beach. Pete snored happily in the sun, at least until the clanging in the tower of St. Methodius Byzantine Church around the corner began the first notes of the Angelus. It's unrelenting triple strike, repeated in sets of three with a brief pause in between, bid Catholics one and all to a celebration of the Incarnation; three times a day.
DING! DONG! CLANG!!! Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Words that flowed from his childhood. Progenitorial echoes of centuries of tradition. He couldn't recall the last time he'd recited the ancient words yet there they were as though carved in granite. They rang in his head now, like the lyrics of some song you just can't shake.
DING! DONG! CLANG!!! Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Pray for us sinners…
Latin or English, it didn't matter, the words still came. Pete punched the mattress, trying yet again to find a comfortable spot. Just why was it that every time he had to work a turnaround like this, sleep was so hard won and elusive? No rest for the wicked! His mother had always used that epithet to get him out of bed on a Sunday morning. Despite that early training, Pete held to the belief that if the Creator rested on the seventh day, then sleeping in was a perfectly legitimate way to acknowledge his handiwork. Yet, apparently if you didn't get up and go to church, they would hound you with those infernal bells!
DING! DONG! CLANG!!! Nunc et in hora mortis nostræ. "Amen!" Malloy grumbled, burying his face in the pillow. "If I don't get a little sleep, the hour of my death may be sooner than you'd think."
He breathed in the scent of the freshly laundered bed linens, hoping to catch some of those pleasant dream images yet again. In less than two hours he had to report back to LAPD's Central station for P.M. watch. Switching shifts without a day off in between was murder. What could possibly make it worse? They'd taken a call late in the shift and though the good news was that it had gleaned an arrest, the bad news remained that said arrest had resulted in about an hour of overtime.
A fitful ninety minutes later he woke with a start to even more incessant ringing, much closer. This time it wasn't church bells ripping him from slumber but his Baby Ben alarm clock. Vibrating wildly, its green face glowed sadistically from the night stand.
Another shift awaited him, tired and sleep deprived or not. He padded to the bathroom, still only half alert, feeling for the shower knobs and skipping the light switch entirely. The water slapped him in the face rudely as he lathered up, still on autopilot. "I'm never going to make it tonight," he groused. You had no business taking Sally to that party up in the Hills before shift last night! He chided himself as he let the warm water beat on the kinks in his neck. When the water started to turn chilly, he turned off the stream and flailed for the towel.
Once he started shaving the instincts of years of this crazy yo-yo way of life kicked in and while he pulled on his clothes Pete let force of habit take over. He didn't take time to make breakfast, just donned his off-duty weapon and a light canvas jacket, grabbed his car keys and headed for another eight hours patrolling the streets of Los Angeles.
The fragrance of freshly brewed coffee wafted through the corridor of the station as soon as the door was opened, a smell of morning that propelled the place nearly any hour of the day. Pete felt his body react to the aroma on a cellular level. That little psychological boost transported him to the break room where the scent of java, extra strong, filled his nostrils. Pete's sleepy eyes widened as he poured the dark, steaming drink to the brim of a white ironstone mug.
A moment later, the first acidic gulp passed his lips, with barely a pause to blow across the surface and cool the piping brew. Warmth bathed his throat, sliding down his esophagus, shooting through every molecule of his body like a jolt of liquid electricity. At that moment the confirmed bachelor would have proposed marriage to Folger's famous Mrs. Olsen had she been there in front of him.
He was revived but still cranky when he entered the locker room and realized his partner was running much later than usual. Probably had trouble falling asleep too, but for different reasons. Pete figured Jean had been up when Jim got home and they would have wanted to spend some time together, talking over their separate days or whatever it was married couples did when out of joint schedules allowed them to see precious little of one another.
Pete opened his locker and began the familiar routine of taking off the clothes he'd only just put on less than an hour before at his apartment, to don the much less comfortable uniform of the LAPD. The calendar and temperate weather dictated that today he'd have to wear the long-sleeved class A's and a tie. He reached for the dark blue that had long ago become second nature, slipping the freshly laundered uniform from its cleaner bag.
Malloy couldn't remember when putting on this uniform had lost its novelty, but he was well aware that no matter how accustomed he became to the ritual, there were still days when doing so brought back the thoughts and emotions he'd experienced that very first time. Some days it was all so automatic that he was nearly dressed and ready before he realized it. Others - each button seemed imbued with memories and meaning.
It was usually somewhere during the application of the hardware to the uniform shirt that Pete's focus shifted. Thoughts of his ordinary day-to-day life that took precedence moments before fell away. He noted the neat block letters of his surname on the shiny silver rectangle above his right pocket. It added a personal responsibility to everything he was about to do in the shift that lay ahead.
Pinning his shooting medal on the left side of his shirt always gave him a little glimmer of pride. The weapons officer at the academy had given him special attention, noting a god-given aptitude and apparently enjoying the young recruit's eagerness . Val Moore, his first training officer, had encouraged him to keep up his time at the practice range and finally Pete himself had found a quiet satisfaction in the sport. There was no higher honor in marksmanship than the heavy medal he donned at the beginning of each shift, and no greater comfort than knowing he'd done his utmost to be prepared if he needed to resort to the use of his weapon.
But it was the gleaming silver badge that never failed to give Pete a moment of pause. Slipping the pin through the fabric and securing it above his left pocket was more than just a practical step in dressing for a shift as an LAPD officer. Something clicked inside him when he snapped that clasp shut. He was on-duty, with all the adjustments, major and minor, that condition entailed. And today, tired or not, that meant a deep breath and a determined, willful commitment to the obligation to serve and to protect.
Jim flew through the door to the locker room with a scant ten minutes left to change clothes and report down the hall to roll call. Pete grabbed both their gear to try to speed Jim along, saving him a seat on the aisle in the second row. Jim slid into that chair just as Sgt. MacDonald called the shift to order.
Mac had gone over all the special attentions and advised everyone of the rash of 459's in Adam-31's district, something the detectives were working on as well as the regular beat cars since it had become a hot spot. He was reading the list of car assignments when the impossible happened and Pete's day went from bad to worse like a speeding duece.
"Adam-12 - Reed and Malloy - special detail. You'll have a civilian from the chaplain's program riding along today." Mac recited before continuing with the schedule.
He wouldn't want to ride with me if he knew about those church bells this morning! Pete shot a look at Jim who smiled at the discomfort in his partner's expression. Jim Reed didn't mind the public relations part of their duties; in fact he rather enjoyed it. Pete Malloy on the other hand, preferred just doing his job, ordinary police work to schmoozing with the citizenry. He could be as polite and accommodating as anyone but playing tour guide to civilians wasn't why he'd become a cop.
Finally the shift was dismissed with Mac's usual admonitions and encouragements. As Pete stood to go, he caught his first glimpse of their evening's charge, and shut weary eyes. Standing with the lieutenant near the doorway was a tall, strikingly handsome figure in black with a Roman collar. The face was instantly recognizable. The unmistakable dark wavy hair and California tan, that blinding smile couldn't belong to anyone but his childhood friend, the now Father Jack Furillo.
Ferrying a new chaplain around answering questions and watching not to offend him was one thing, but someone Pete knew, or more to the point knew him, would be quite a different story. Pete was pretty sure it would take more than his current reserve of patience just to deal with being on constant display to a civilian for eight hours. Add to that his old friend's penchant for stories that Pete might find embarrassing, and his partner's taste for amusing anecdotes starring his former training officer, the punch lines of which would be at Malloy's expense, and this was stacking up to be a miserable night. Why of all days, today?
Pete turned on his heel and intercepted his sergeant's strategic retreat.
"Mac, could I see you a moment?"
"What is it, Pete?" Mac asked, his brow furrowed in response to Pete's tone.
"In your office?"
The partners followed Mac down the corridor in silence but as soon as the door closed behind them, Pete launched into his plea.
"Mac. I can't do this ride along tonight. You're gonna have to assign somebody else."
"You not planning to work your beat tonight?" Mac looked from Pete to Jim, who was looking as confused as the sergeant. He turned his attention back to Pete.
"Of course, but . . . " Pete began.
"The chaplains' corps wants all their new members to ride in a regular patrol car for at least one shift as part of the training program," Mac continued.
"Yes, but . . . "
"You two seem perfectly capable of giving him as good a night as anyone."
"But . . . "
"Besides. The request was clear," the sergeant continued. "You were asked for . . . specifically."
"By whom?" Jim interjected.
"The chaplains' office. Now I suggest you get started. I'm sure your passenger wants a full tour of duty."
"Mac . . . "
"What is your problem with this, Malloy?" Mac's annoyance was apparent, but the officers standing before him weren't usually known for goldbricking. Something clearly had Pete distracted and his commanding officer was determined to know the cause.
"Jack - Father Furillo - well - I know him."
"You do?" Mac seemed surprised. "Is he your priest?"
"Sort of . . . I guess."
"Sort of?" Mac smirked. "Been a while since you were at mass, Malloy?"
"We're . . . old . . . we, eh, we grew up together." Pete didn't miss his partner's peaked interest at this piece of information.
"Then I would think this would be a treat," MacDonald chuckled.
"Well you'd be wrong." Pete felt the fatigue grow by the second. "Least of all tonight."
"Pete. The request was for you and Reed. And I can't see any reason to go against that."
"I don't want to hear it, Malloy. You've got your assignment. Now hit the streets."
"But . . . "
Malloy and Reed were in the corridor, the door shut behind them before the word had stopped reverberating in their ears.
"I think he meant business," Jim gave the droll comment a perfectly straight delivery. His partner didn't react, just started down the hallway.
Jim followed, holding back the questions swirling from the exchange in Mac's office. Pete didn't volunteer for this sort of thing, but he'd never known him to wage an all out campaign against it. The younger man had been intrigued to discover that the priest they were escorting was an old friend of Pete's. He was looking forward to this shift now, hoping to hear a few good stories, but his partner's protests had set him to wondering.
Jim finally caught up to him and fell in step as they made their way down the hallway back toward the roll call room to retrieve their passenger.
"Dammit!" Pete swore under his breath. "Why tonight?"
"That'll be ten cents," Jim stuck out a hand.
"The swearing jar in Mac's office," Jim replied. "You remember the other day when he said the language was getting out of hand and we all had to start putting in a dime for every curse word?"
"With the day I'm having, I might as well lay a fin on his desk and get it over with."
"It's going to be an interesting night with a priest in the car," Jim chuckled.
"I may ask you to shoot me before the end of watch, to put me out of your misery," Pete replied in a deadpan. He was trying to turn around his foul mood, pulled along by his friend's good-natured teasing. "Don't argue, just do it."
"Sure thing, partner." Jim laughed as the senior officer continued down the hallway. "Eh . . . Pete?" Jim stood his ground about halfway from the commander's office and the door to the parking lot.
Pete swung around to face him. "What?"
Though his blue eyes were sparkling with the ribbing, Jim's face held a sober expression, one hand held out, palm up. "The dime?"
"You pick tonight to mess with me?" Pete shook his head. "Not your wisest move, Reed." Despite the bark, he'd made up his mind to get through the shift. Pete figured that his public relations maven of a partner would shoulder the bulk of entertaining and enlightening their guest. He only hoped the entertainment wasn't all at his expense. At any rate he thought, stifling a yawn. I've got enough to deal with just staying alert.
"Good afternoon, Father Furillo." Jim greeted as the partners pushed through the door. Jim was already taking the lead. "Jim Reed," he introduced in that easy manner of his, extending a hand and that dazzling smile of his.
Pete had to admit, he was glad they were partners.
"Hey, Jim. And it's Jack, okay?" the priest smiled warmly. "Especially tonight. We're going to be spending a lot of time together. Let's get past the formality, huh?"
"Eh . . . sure." But the look that accompanied his words said that he'd never get past the collar, let alone to a first name basis. Father Jack was about as informal as he was likely to go, and that might take the entire shift.
"How're you doing, Pete?" The priest's tone was open and sincere.
It was met with a slightly chilly response, "Fine."
"It's good to see you," Jack's expression never wavered, though his eyes searched Pete's face.
"Well, I'll go check out a shotgun and meet you at the unit," Jim offered. "Give you two a moment to catch up."
"I'll get the gun -" Pete interjected, grabbing his briefcase and helmet bag and setting off before anyone could argue.
They were left watching the empty space Malloy had vacated.
"I'm looking forward to seeing what it is you guys do," Jack stumbled a bit in the wake of Pete's retreat.
"Yeah, it should be pretty quiet on a Sunday night, but you never can tell," Jim nodded. The air was charged with a shared confusion. "So, Pete says you two grew up together."
"He …?" Jack looked truly surprised. "Yeah, we did."
Again the men groped for conversation. "Well, Pete's gone to get the shotgun… so I guess…we should head out and start on the car…"
"He doesn't seem overjoyed with this arrangement." Jack observed. There was a sympathy in his tone, and a sadness Jim didn't miss.
"Oh it's not that," Jim began, though he had no idea where he was going with that line if Father Furillo decided to pin him down. It was exactly that, and even he didn't know why. Thankfully the priest let it drop and they headed to the lot together in silence until Jim started explaining the check-out procedure.
"Hey, Malloy! Got religion, huh?" Ed Wells jibed as Pete entered the kit room.
"You know. I do see a certain glow about him today. Whadya think, Woods?" Ron Behr joined in.
"He's always looked like a choirboy to me," Jerry Woods chuckled, falling into the good natured teasing that seemed to be as much a part of being a policeman as carrying a gun.
"A choir boy with a damned good right hook!" Sgt. Menendez quipped when he noted Pete's glare. "I wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of it."
"You better watch your language, Menendez. Pete's on the God Squad today," Wells continued.
"You clowns wanna check out your weapons or spend the day cracking bad jokes?" the sergeant gently chided, motioning Malloy ahead of the others in sympathy.
"You letting Reed drive the Biblemobile today?" Woods joked, ducking a little when Pete turned a particularly lethal glare his way.
"Via con Dios," the sergeant smiled as Malloy accepted the shotgun.
"Everybody's a comedian!" Pete replied with a sideways grin.
When Pete returned to the unit, Jim was already performing the usual shift-change check list, explaining each step to their visitor. The older officer noted that his words were nearly verbatim what Pete had used on Jim's first day, though the tone and inflection were decidedly friendlier. He'll make a good TO someday, Pete mused as he handed the shotgun to his former pupil.
"You want me to drive?" Jim asked the oft-proffered question. Pete's answer was a look that made words unnecessary. "I just thought . . . since you went to get the shotgun."
Pete shoved the weapon toward his smiling partner.
"Cause if you want me to drive . . . " It wasn't that Jim hadn't learned to read his partner's moods by now, or that he didn't know when to quit. He was just trying to put Pete in a better mood and the issue of which partner drove the majority of the time could usually get at least a smile.
"Stow it," Malloy hissed under his breath, referring to more than just the shotgun.
But the tiniest glimmer of a smile set Jim to laughing as he locked the gun in its place beneath the front seat. Even after the frosty greeting, he knew his partner well enough to know his foul moods didn't last. He'd seriously thought that Pete might enjoy riding passenger tonight since he was acquainted with their guest, but Malloy's reaction proved his assumptions totally off track.
Jim still couldn't imagine why Pete found the prospect of this evening's assignment so very distasteful, but he knew that he might go a long time before he had an answer. He also suspected that whatever was bothering his pal would be overcome as much by Pete's dry wit and slightly sarcastic humor as by an actual acceptance of the situation. And he knew Malloy well enough to know that if he were still joking, no matter the problem, they would both survive.
"1-Adam-12. P.M. watch, clear," Jim announced, returning the mic to its clip.
A long audible yawn came from the driver's seat.
"Long night?" Jim teased, personally aware that Malloy was working on little sleep.
"Actually a little too short, except the part I spent with you. That was long and eventful."
"Getting too old to be a playboy when we've got to do a turnaround," Jim jibed. "That's like working a double!"
"Dancing with a pretty girl is nothing like working a double," Pete protested. It might have been a convincing argument, had it not been interrupted by another yawn.
"Ya don't say?"
"What about you?" the driver countered.
"We had our own party," Jim smiled. "Jean was up with the baby when I got home, so I spent a little time playing with my little buddy before getting to bed."
"So you didn't get much sleep either," Malloy concluded, stifling yet another yawn.
"Rough night?" the priest asked the partners from the back seat.
"A.M. watch rotation ended and this time we only had an eight hour break before reporting back," Jim explained. "And we did a little overtime last night besides. I know I got home well after nine this morning." Turning to address their passenger, Jim caught Pete's efforts to stifle yet another yawn.
"Are you sure you don't want me to drive, Pete?"
"You gonna clear us?" his partner asked with all the exasperation and little of the amusement his accompanying look usually held.
"I already did," Jim laughed. "You okay there, Pete?"
"I'm fine." He turned his attention back to the road and tried to analyze his own mood.
It didn't make much sense. He and Jack had been friends all the time they were growing up. After high school they'd lost track of one another as their paths in life diverged. But they'd recently run into each other again and it had been a friendly enough reunion.
He fought his resistance as they began patrol, running their usual weekend security checks, swinging past the schoolyard, the playground and rolling through the warehouse district without incident or interruption from the radio. Jim took the lead, as he usually did with civilians, running a nearly non-stop narrative explaining the daily routine of a street patrol officer and answering questions as they came. But that only made Pete chide himself all the more for his sour mood. Something just wasn't sitting right with him regarding this particular assignment, a nagging dread that had no name yet hung over him, coloring his mood and deepening the fatigue he was fighting to overcome.
About forty minutes into the shift, they responded to a call for parking complaints. Pete set his younger partner to the task of ticketing the cars, priest in tow. While they were occupied, Pete took the opportunity to question some of the local residents who were outside enjoying the mild weather about a couple of burglary suspects they were trying to track down. Mostly it gave him a chance to stretch his legs, get a little fresh air and a bit of distance.
"I'll bet you're sorry you didn't go into police work now, huh?" Jim joked as he ticketed the fourth auto while Jack watched. "All this excitement and glamour."
"Makes my life look positively dull. I guess every line of work has it's moments."
Jim looked up to acknowledge the priest's comment and noticed his attention was elsewhere. It didn't take a bloodhound to follow the direction of his stare. Jack was watching Pete a couple of blocks down the street. There was a melancholy air to the priest's expression.
"If you want to…" Jim stopped when Jack's head snapped back towards him. "If you…"
"Sorry? What were you saying?"
"Nothing," Jim shrugged. "Just thought you might want to go…with Pete."
"Oh," Jack shook off whatever was troubling him, smiled at the younger officer in way of apology. "No, of course not. And miss all this drama?"
"So, how long have you…" Jim stumbled, still a little uncomfortable with both Jack's attire and Pete's weird mood. "eh…when did you…decide…?"
"College. I was ordained about four years ago," Jack smiled, putting Jim at ease with his open manner. "How long you been a cop…eh…police officer?"
"Cop is okay," Jim forgave, tearing off another completed ticket and placing it beneath the wiper blade of a yellow Chrysler. "Better than what this guy will probably be calling me."
"Yeah. Thankless job, sometimes, I'd expect."
"It can be," Jim nodded, jotting the license plate of the next offending vehicle on a fresh ticket. "But I like it fine, most days. It'll be a year next month."'
"That long, eh?"
"No," Jack laughed. "Just, well, you look…a little young. I'm sorry, I suppose you get tired of hearing that."
They fell silent again as Jim started yet another citation. Jack fiddled with the change in his pocket until the sound of it drew the officer's attention. He crossed his arms across his chest instead.
"So, Jim. You're married?"
"Yeah!" his eyes lit up. "Three years. We've got a boy, five months old."
"Then lack of sleep is a constant thing with you."
"Pretty much," Jim realized they were both looking down the block towards Pete again. His partner was the five-hundred-pound gorilla they were both trying to avoid discussing. "Doing a turnaround like last night is brutal on everyone."
"Uh, huh," Jack didn't take his eyes from the uniformed man down the street. Pete was leaning against a porch banister, his hat in his hand, talking to an elderly couple with a small shaggy dog.
"Wouldn't trade it though."
"Being a dad," Jim beamed. "Best thing in the world!"
"Yeah," Jack agreed absently. "I'll bet it is."
"What made you want to be…?"
"A priest?" Jack anticipated mistakenly.
"Well, okay," Jim shrugged. "I meant, a chaplain."
"I suppose that's a little easier to answer. I guess I just always thought you guys…you…police officers had a pretty tough job, and if there was something I could do to help…I wanted to try." Jack's eyebrows raised. "Sounds funny out loud, doesn't it?"
"I wish more people felt that way. Not about the chaplaincy, but just in general."
"It isn't like when we were kids. There was more respect."
"Amen!" Jim's eyes flew wide with the imagined insult. "I'm…eh…sorry."
"Not at all, Jim. I heartily agree!" The laughter that followed erased some of the tension they'd been feeling but served to underscore the reasons behind it. They both found their focus drawn once again to the man in uniform a few yards away. "I'd hoped…"
"Oh, nothing," Jack leaned against a stone wall across the sidewalk from the cars Jim continued to ticket, hands in his pockets again. "So what else can you tell me about police work."
"How much time do we have?" Jim smiled.
At the other end of the block, Pete glanced at his watch. Figuring that twenty minutes was ample time to finish the parking detail, he thanked the dog-walking couple and headed back towards the unit to get out on patrol. Replacing his watch cap, the brim blocked the sun and gave him a better view of the top of the street. In his cleared vision Pete saw his partner and the priest in an animated conversation, laughing and looking much more comfortable with each other than they had when he'd checked on their progress a few minutes before. He fought the sinking feeling that he was the brunt of their shared joke.
The break hadn't done much to lift Pete's spirits. He just wasn't in the mood to deal with a civilian in the car today. Especially someone he felt might be critically evaluating his every word on a day when fatigue had worn his patience paper thin and might make those words less tempered than normal. Or someone so full of stories about their childhood and Pete's youthful foibles. And one thing clearly would never change; Jack loved telling stories.
"School playground, grade three," Jack was answering Jim's question of how the priest and Malloy had met when the older partner returned to the cruiser. "I was getting the worst of a tussle and Pete sort of . . . eh . . . extricated me. But I'm sure you two have more interesting stories than that."
"Quashing playground bullies?" Jim smiled. "Always the cop, huh partner?"
"I think the father would rather hear about what we do on patrol," Pete dismissed Jim's obvious interest in his boyhood misadventures, turning at least part of his attentions to the road.
"Picking fights with the bigger kids?" Jim quipped, obviously not giving up that easily. "He's learned his lesson since then. Now he lets me handle the big guys while he waits in the cruiser."
"Rank hath its privilege." Pete's words were playful, but he wasn't quite feeling that.
"She wasn't that much bigger," the priest said sheepishly, a quick glance passing between him and the refection of Pete's eyes in the rear view mirror.
"A girl?" It was half question, half laugh.
"Do you really want to get into this?" Pete sighed.
"Yeah," Jim answered for him, much too eagerly.
"I was talking to Jack," Pete shot his partner a sideways warning.
"You fought a girl?" the younger partner couldn't resist.
"No!" The denial came in stereo from front and back seat.
"I couldn't fight her off because she was a girl," Jack explained.
"But you didn't have a problem with that, Pete?" Jim chuckled at his friend.
"I didn't fight her, Reed." Malloy's look said it all. He had a reputation as a lady charmer. Apparently it was won early on.
"He just got her attention," Jack laughed. "Which gave me time to get away."
"So you stole his girl?" Jim was having much too much fun with this line of questioning.
"Let's just say that Pete made the ultimate sacrifice, at least for an eight-year-old boy."
I'll say! Malloy mused, remembering that first school-yard assignation.
He hadn't really thought much about Emily Patterson before that day on the playground. At least he'd had no thoughts of her as a paramour, that was for certain. She was a grade ahead of them, nearly two inches taller and probably weighed more than either of the boys she was chasing. But until the moment Pete saw his friend in peril, thoughts of her being a girl, with all that would come to mean, were furthest from his mind.
After stepping into the fray, between his panicky friend and the bully of the third grade, Pete found himself face to face, or more precisely, nose to nose with a living, breathing, pig-tail wearing, rose-water smelling female! It had certainly come to be one of those pivotal, life-altering choices. And though a now grown Peter Malloy hadn't given it a thought in years, he could still feel how his eight-year-old heart had raced, his freckled-faced cheeks had glowed, and his grimy little palms had begun to sweat.
"So was he always a smooth operator with the girls?" Jim was asking when Pete's thoughts returned from a playground memory to the conversation in the cruiser.
"Well . . . " Jack chuckled, meeting Pete's eyes in the rear view mirror. "As I recall, he had his share."
Pete relaxed a notch, as he shrugged at his partner. At least maybe Jack wasn't armed to embarrass his old buddy, though Pete was sure his partner would be persistent. After all, it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
"1-Adam-12, respond to Hinton and Elm. 415 Juveniles, on the playground. 1- Adam-12, respond code 2."
"1-Adam-12, roger," Jim responded. "Benji?" he asked his partner, replacing the mic.
"Hope not," Pete sighed, making a right turn at the next intersection.
"I thought you had that settled," Jim said quietly.
"Optimist!" the driver snorted. "Sometimes I wonder why we bother. Maybe it's pointless."
"Cynic," Jim chided gently. He hated that his partner might be about to roll up on a big disappointment, especially tonight when he seemed distracted. "Have a little faith, Pete."
"That's the father's bailiwick. I'm just a cop…and a realist."
"Tonight you're a grouch. Maybe I should take this one."
Pete pulled the black and white onto Elm. "I got it…" he sighed, noticing a few familiar faces in the group of juveniles breaking up the fight when they caught sight of the cruiser.
"You want me to put us out?"
"This shouldn't take long," Pete slid out of the open door of the car, placing his hat on his head with a practiced patience. He took a deep breath and headed for the cluster of kids, now standing around as though nothing were happening. "Nick, Carlos, Benji……"
"Hey, Coach!" the tallest boy greeted with a wary smile. He made no attempt to hide his notice of Pete's uniform, or the priest who'd now joined them on the basketball court. "Eh…Officer Malloy."
"What's all this?" Pete questioned, easily intercepting the ball one of the other boys had nervously bounced.
"We…eh…we were just…" Several pairs of eyes tried desperately to avoid Pete's stare.
"You fellas wouldn't be fighting here on the basketball court, would ya?" Pete continued, passing the ball to his partner across the court.
"We were just in the middle of a game…" another of the boys began.
"Yeah, looked like some crazy type of tip-off to me," Pete smiled without mirth.
"Hey, Coach, we're on top of it…you didn't need to come out…" the first boy attempted to smooth over the situation, reaching in vain for the ball Reed now held fast. "Just a little misunderstanding."
"You realize you can't play in the tournament if you're got a beef with juvenile," Pete reasoned patiently. "And I'd hate to be the one to have to run you in…"
"Naw, Coach…there's no beef."
"It'd be real embarrassing if we had to forfeit the championship because my star forward got into it for fighting…'specially on a basketball court."
"We were just…" the boy tried to meet Malloy's eyes, but his own dropped to the ground. He kicked the toe of his sneaker against the pavement. "It just got a little outta hand, I guess."
"Uh huh," Pete folded his arms across his chest.
"Benji, we've talked about this…walk away, man." Pete's tone was quiet, personal. "Don't get yourself in a hassle. It isn't worth it."
"You've come a long way - but another problem with juvie and I can't work it out."
"Honest, Coach, it wasn't anything, really. Just a little horseplay that got outta control."
"Well, keep it quiet, huh?" There was an earnestness in Pete's request.
"Promise, Malloy…eh…Officer Malloy."
"I'll see ya Saturday, right?" Pete brightened.
"Yeah, thanks, Coach." Benji shot another look towards the father's collar. "You ridin' with the God Squad?"
"Father Furillo is with the chaplains corps," Pete chuckled. "He's at St Swithins, and don't get him started on you or you could be doing harder time than I'd ever give."
"Sorry, Father," Benji smiled.
"Hey, it's okay. Maybe you and the coach could bring your team to play against ours at St Swithins some time. Give me a chance to show Pet-…eh…Officer Malloy how it's done."
"I don't know, Father," Benji perked up to the challenge. "Malloy's a great coach and we're pretty tough."
"Just don't be showing how tough by fighting, eh Benji?" Pete winked. "Keep it quiet, okay? It's Sunday."
"Yes sir!" several boys called at once. Jim passed the ball back to his partner, who dribbled it twice and shot it towards the hoop. It bounced off the rim and two of the boys chased it down, laughing.
"Just not my night," Pete shrugged as they headed back to the waiting black and white.
"I didn't know you were coaching," Jack observed as they piled back into the car. "How long has that been going on?"
"Coupla years," Malloy dismissed, pulling back out on patrol.
"His team is headed for the championship," Jim added with pride in his partner's extra curricular work with the youth of their district. He planned to do the same when he got the chance.
"That's all volunteer, right?" the priest noted. "Do I detect a soft spot? A chink in the ol' armor? "
"I can chase them on a basketball court once a week, or run them down on the street and send them into the system too early," Pete rationalized. "It's not a difficult choice."
"I'm impressed, Peter," Jack smiled into the rear view.
"Don't put any halos on me, Padre. Completely pragmatic."
"Uh huh," Jim laughed at his partner's modesty.
"Clear us, would ya?" Pete prodded. "Let's try doing some real police work tonight?"
"How long have you been riding together?" Jack asked, changing the subject after Jim replaced the mic.
"Nearly a year," Jim answered.
"You work with anyone else? Or are you permanently matched?"
"We haven't picked out our china pattern yet, but we're usually assigned together," Pete offered with a shrug. "Nobody else can put up with him."
"Nobody else would let Pete drive all the time," Jim countered.
"So Pete does all the driving?"
"I let him drive!" Pete protested.
"Sure, partner. The required number of hours and not a mile more!"
"That's right," Pete smirked as Jim rolled his eyes. "I believe in division of duties by expertise."
"And then there's the fact that nobody else can read Pete's hieroglyphics." Jim smiled, trying to get in the last word.
"That's funny, Pete always had excellent penmanship in school," Jack piped up in quick defense of his friend.
"I still do," Malloy protested. "Can I help it they don't teach the rookies to read anymore?"
"I used to be jealous of his tiny block lettering, looked like offset printing! I remember Miss Bloom always commented on it."
"It must be an acquired taste," Jim chuckled. "And I'm not a rookie any longer."
"If you say so," his partner teased.
"You two get along pretty well then?" Jack laughed. Reading between the lines wasn't that difficult. These men were obviously more than just occasional partners.
"It's vital to survival on the streets that you trust your partner. So you do all you can to keep down any hassles. But it's nice to find someone you get along with. Someone you work well with. That makes the job easier." Pete answered with sincerity.
"Earlier, in roll call, the sergeant was calling out each car assignment. Are some people not permanently partnered or is that just a formality?"
Pete gave his own partner a sidelong glance, then returned his eyes to the road as Jim took the hint and began to explain car rotation and assignments to their passenger.
"Did you have a lot of partners before you two got together, or is it pretty common to find a good match right off?" Jack asked after Jim finished his detailed explanation.
"Well, I started with Pete so I couldn't answer that from first hand experience."
"It's up to the brass really. But if two officers work well together, it isn't unheard of to pair them long term," Pete offered when Jim seemed to hesitate.
"I-Adam-12, see the man, 415 Family dispute, 4725 Alameda. 1-Adam-12, handle code 2."
"The Parkers…again," Jim sighed, after acknowledging the call.
"Speaking of people getting along," Pete sniffed, signaling to make the turn at the next intersection.
"They've certainly been paired for a long time, but that's about all you can say for that relationship."
"Howdya think I feel? I've been listening to their particular brand of domestic tranquility for years now," Pete's brow furrowed. "Hey, something hinky about that one to you?"
"Family dispute…see the man, yeah that's a little strange." Jim agreed, playing with the microphone still in his hand. "Except it's the Perkins. She's probably too busy throwing things to dial the phone."
"You've got a point."
"Domestics…" Jim sneered under this breath as he replaced the mic. His body had stiffened and his jaw line twitched.
"You want me to take this one?" Pete proposed.
"No…it's my turn," Jim shrugged. He turned his face away from his partner, looking out the window in a pretense of watching for street signs.
"I just know how you hate 'em." There was sincerity in Malloy's offer.
"And you enjoy watching married couples going at one another, I suppose," Jack teased from the back seat.
"Sure, it serves to reinforce my staunch stand against entering the institution myself." Pete joked. After a moment that didn't bring the desired result, not even a glimmer of a smile from his partner, Pete continued. "I guess I just don't bring so much personal baggage to the scene. I'll take the Perkins if you want, Jim."
"No, it's mine," Jim surrendered. "Besides, Jean and I are great!"
"I'm delighted to hear it," Pete laughed at Jim's vehement delivery.
"And I could handle it just fine, even if we weren't…"
"Of course you could," Pete agreed. "I was just dividing the duties by expertise…"
"Then I'd be the expert on marriages, wouldn't I?" the younger officer countered.
"And you say that I'm grouchy!"
"I'm not grouchy…I just hate domestics…and the Perkins are…"
They had pulled up in front of the low green bungalow at 4725 Alameda when the scene before them interrupted Reed's thought. The front yard was littered with clothing and various household items. The partners stared at the mess and then one another for a moment with something between shock and amusement.
"You're the expert," Pete teased.
The three men made their way up the walk, stepping over pieces of debris from the fray. As they neared the porch, the officers had to duck, and only narrowly missed being beaned by a pair of oxblood wingtips lobbed out the open front door. Pete grabbed the lapel of the priest's tweed sports coat, pulling him to safety in the nick of time.
"You okay?" the officer chuckled, searching his old friend's face with a barely concealed grin.
"Yeah," Jack sputtered, visibly shaken. "Yeah, I think so. Good thing Father Conners taught you to bob and weave!"
"You'd be surprised what comes in handy," Pete smiled, letting go of his charge, satisfied the father had survived intact.
Jim looked from the rattled priest to his partner, hesitating a moment.
"Lead on, MacDuff!" Malloy prompted, following his protégé towards the sounds of the squabble.
The Perkins were in rare form. Glen had been drinking, not to excess, but just enough that his internal editor was malfunctioning where his wife was concerned. And Debbie was riding a hormonal roller-coaster that had her screaming threats at the top of her lungs one minute and crying hysterically the next.
Jim recognized the albeit exaggerated female half of the equation as only a married man could, and promptly engaged the husband, motioning for his partner to deal with the wife. It took the uninitiated bachelor a moment to realize he'd been had. His only consolation was that the also-single Jack Furillo had miscalculated as well and was at his side. Between them, they finally managed to calm Mrs. Perkins enough to get her to take a seat on the sofa, but by then the two friends realized that Jim had taken the easier road.
She was tearfully pleading her case to the two while Jim tried to pull Glen Perkins into the kitchen. Pete couldn't get much out of her ramblings for all the sobs, but she kept dabbing at her left eye with a dish towel. He didn't see any bruising, but he wanted to be sure.
"Did he hit you, ma'am?" Pete asked gently.
"He couldn't hit the side of a barn!" she was suddenly shouting clearly.
"I never laid a hand on her!" Glen came bolting from the kitchen, despite Reed's attempts to restrain him. "She clocked me on the side of the head with a bowling shoe!"
"You got in the way!" she was up from the sofa again, despite Pete's best attempts. "You could see I was throwing it out!"
"She broke my fly rod!" Perkins accused.
"I didn't break it…it wouldn't break…" Debra argued.
"It's in pieces! Look…look at this!" Mr. Perkins picked up the remnants of an obviously expensive piece of sporting equipment.
Pete felt a pang of sympathy, being an angler himself and wondered if he ought not recuse himself from the proceedings on that fact alone. But his cop instincts kicked in and he saw the item for the potential weapon it now was. A look at his partner assured him the danger hadn't escaped Reed's watchful eye.
"So how did it end up like this? I ask you!" Perkins hardly missed a beat, despite Reed disarming him and securing the broken fishing rod.
"And I'll tell you," she replied, fire in her eyes. "I backed over it with the car ...in the driveway!"
"Was that really necessary?" Pete was feeling sick at the thought.
"It took three tries!" she boasted. "We were supposed to go to my high school reunion…"
"We went to the reunion…last night! I spent all night with those bores…losers!" Glen Perkins insisted. "Whadya want from me? I don't even know those people!"
"They're my friends!"
"Then you spend time with them!" the husband spat.
"I wanted to…but after your behavior last night…I wasn't about to show up at the luncheon today alone!"
"What did I do now?" He feigned innocence.
"He was flirting outrageously with all the cheerleaders!"
"Cheerleaders?" he protested. "Those women were no cheerleaders! They were grown…married…mothers!"
"The girls who used to be cheerleaders, in high school!"
"Who are you talking about?" Glen asked, as though he really didn't know the answer.
"Beverly Danfield is 40 years old!"
"She's thirty three…same as me!" Mrs. Perkins was starting to tear up again. Pete braced for the waterworks.
"So what's your point? She's no cheerleader!"
"She stole my boyfriend at the Spring formal!" she whined.
"That was fifteen years ago!"
"It might as well have been last night! You know how I feel about that!"
"You're holding a grudge from fifteen years ago?" Mr. Perkins complained.
"It really isn't fair to bring up something that happened so long ago, before you were even married, ma'am," Jim tried to reason.
"The flirting…" she flashed the officer a look of defiance. "That was last night!"
"What flirting?" Glen again had a look of total innocence, though nobody in the room was buying it.
"You were hanging all over her!"
"One dance," Glen Perkins pleaded. "It was just one dance. The cha cha."
"You know I don't dance the cha cha!"
"I begged you to go to Arthur Murray with me," Mr. Perkins launched into yet another old gambit. "I begged her, officer. I got a special discount, from my job. They said that being a salesman, it could help with my totals, you know, entertain the clients a little. I begged her to go…but no…"
"You danced the cha cha with her because you knew I can't dance it!" She had melodramatically thrown herself on the sofa.
"I like dancing the cha cha…and you could learn it if you wanted to! You don't dance the cha cha to spite me!"
"Spite?" she exploded again. "You dance the cha cha every time there's a girl with a low cut dress! You do it to spite me!"
"Maybe if you danced the cha cha once in a while, I wouldn't flirt with girls who show a little…"
"Eh…Mr. Perkins," Pete intercepted, feeling they were getting dangerously close to a part of marital bliss he didn't care to witness. "I think we should get back to the point…"
"The point is…he flirted! See that! He admits it!"
"I did not flirt…I danced!" Glen Perkins threw his hands out in front of him dramatically. "Cuff me, officer! Take me to jail! I danced with a woman who wasn't my wife!"
"I can't arrest you for that, Mr. Perkins, but…" Jim hesitated.
"He danced the cha cha!" the wronged wife repeated.
"And I enjoyed it!" he turned back to Reed again. "Go ahead! Handcuff me!"
"I'm gonna handcuff the both of you if you don't settle down," Pete sighed.
"He flirted with the waitresses!" Debbie Perkins continued, ignoring the officer's threat. "Do you understand how embarrassing that was?"
"The waitresses?" Glen's attention was back on his wife. "Okay now, maybe you've got something. A couple of them were cute. You guys understand that, right? A guy's gotta flirt a little sometimes, right? With a pretty young thing?"
"I don't think it's advisable when you're with your wife, sir," Jim warned.
"Yes, sir, but…"
"You?" he inquired of Malloy, who didn't respond at first. "Huh?"
"No, sir…but that isn't the point," the older officer replied flatly.
"How about you?" he'd turned his attention towards the hapless priest.
"Uh, no…" Jack swallowed.
"No…I guess not," Perkins seemed to finally notice the significance of the Roman collar Jack wore. "But anyway…you're smart! They're trouble, I tell you…nothing but trouble!"
"I'm going to Mother's!" Debra Perkins rose and started heading for the bedroom, ostensibly to pack. "I'm not staying under the same roof with him!"
"That sounds like it might not be a bad idea, at least for tonight." Reed posed. "Maybe you'll have clearer heads in the morning."
"If you're going to your mother's…why'd you throw out all my stuff?"
She dissolved into tears on the sofa again.
"Listen, maybe it would be better if you stayed someplace else overnight." Malloy picked up the theme. "Do you have someplace you can go?"
"Well, yeah, I guess…"
"I'm leaving!" she insisted again.
"Your wife says she's going," Jim reasoned with Mr. Perkins. "So you could stay if you want."
"Why should I stay?" Glen countered.
"You could clean up the stuff from off the front lawn," Pete suggested.
"Why should I stay and clean up this mess? She made the mess! Make her clean it up!"
Malloy's look was comically sympathetic. "Do you really want her handling your stuff again…the way she's feeling?"
"Well…" the man stopped a moment in consideration.
Pete held up the sickeningly pitiful pieces of the irreparable fly rod.
"You've got a point."
There were finally able to resolve the immediate issues at hand and several minutes later, left the Perkins clearing up the junk from the lawn, together.
"Well, it wasn't quite kiss and makeup," Malloy summarized as Jim replaced the mic from clearing the call. "But I think they'll live to fight another day. How 'bout you, partner?"
"My money's on us back there before the shift is over," Jim sighed. "But there wasn't much we could do once they claimed to be willing to work things out."
"Happily ever after," Pete snickered. "That only happens in the movies."
"Oh, I don't know," Reed got that silly blissful look that Pete had come to think of as a signal a commercial for married life was in his future.
"Don't finish that sentence," Pete warned playfully.
"You two really seem to be well-matched as a team," Jack observed. "Does that happen often or is it something you have to work at?"
"A good working relationship can be more than just getting along," Jim was able to pick right up on the conversation about police procedures that had been interrupted by the radio dispatch. He was glad for the conversation to put the distasteful call behind him and in perspective. "Pete and I have our own way of working a call, a shorthand that lets us communicate with little or no words. Sometimes right in front of suspects without their knowledge."
"You mean like a code?"
"Yeah," Jim agreed, animated by the subject. "With certain key words or phases, we can convey messages secretly."
"Pete ought to be good at that," Jack laughed quietly.
"Oh?" Jim's eyes were dancing again. He was going to enjoy this at least as much as Pete had feared.
"We used to . . . " he stopped himself, eyes darting to meet Pete's in the mirror.
"This sounds interesting. Don't stop now," Jim encouraged.
"I probably shouldn't . . . "
"Father, feel free," Jim prodded. "I'm sure there are fascinating stories from Malloy's past and I'm dying to hear them all."
"Watch it, partner. Wouldn't want someone taking you up on that dying part."
"I can take a hint," Jack chuckled.
"No, no Father. Don't let him intimidate you." Jim prodded. "His bark is much worse than his bite anyway."
"I'm not here to stir up trouble. I'm supposed to be observing the well-oiled machine."
"We better take him back to the station and let them find him another team," Pete quipped.
"I don't think so," Jack smiled. "Your sergeant seemed to be glad to have me riding with you. Said you were two of his best."
"Mac said that?" Pete's eyebrows shot towards his hairline
"He never says that in front of us." Jim shook his head.
"Hmmm . . . " Jack considered quietly. It seemed pretty obvious that the partners were joking, but he wondered if the sergeant ever let them hear any of the glowing words he'd used to the priest when discussing these two officers.
"So what use did Pete find for codes back in school? He didn't cheat on his exams or anything?"
"Nothing so nefarious," the priest shook his head.
"Actually, under present circumstances, it probably looks worse on Jack than it does on me."
"You've got a point there, Pete."
"Jack and I used to be partners, sort of." The phrase dangled there like a carrot on the end of a stick.
"Now I'm really interested," Jim laughed. "Does this have anything to do with girls again?"
"Not a thing." Pete smiled, turning the cruiser onto busy Wilshire Boulevard, his demeanor giving Jack unspoken permission to tell this particular story.
"Now, Pete, if we're going to confess, we might as well come clean. It's good for the soul."
"In for a penny . . . " Pete shrugged. "As I recall, it was you who actually got me busted."
"You're right," Jack admitted with a hearty laugh. "You were pretty slick. I never quite mastered that."
"Would somebody tell me what's going on?" Jim was nearly bursting with curiosity. His partner seemed to be relaxing and this was really what he'd been hoping for, a chance to hear a few stories about Pete's boyhood stunts.
"Whadya think, Padre? Should we let him in on it?"
"Your partner and I used to serve together as altar boys, back when we were young and innocent."
"You might have been innocent," Pete snorted. "I was just inexperienced at the time."
"Father Conners could say the mass in under thirty minutes, but whenever Father Rojesky was serving you could plan to be there well over an hour . . . at least.
"An hour that seemed like days. Listening to his singing in Latin!"
"Singing?" Jack exclaimed, the memories flooding back. "We had a cat in our alley that made better music by the trash cans! God rest his soul."
"The cat's?" Pete sputtered.
"The sainted father's," Jack replied.
"Hopefully his voice was improved in Heaven."
"Amen!" the priest chuckled. "Anyway, back to the codes."
"We used to get a bit . . . eh . . . bored during those especially long services," Pete jumped in, obviously feeling more comfortable with this assignment for the moment anyway. Maybe the banter would keep him alert and make the time go faster. "It was particularly difficult trying to stay awake for early morning mass."
"Pete still doesn't like getting up early. Unless it's to go fishing," Jim interjected.
"Some things never change." Pete acknowledged.
"Well, in Pete's defense, I was even worse than he was, back then at least."
"It didn't help that you hadn't gotten to bed until after midnight," Pete snorted. "You see, the father here has always been an avid sports fan. Baseball was his religion when he was a kid. He was crazy for baseball in any form."
"There was a time I wanted to announce for the Dodgers," Jack confessed.
"Announce? Not play?" Jim queried.
"I might believe in miracles, but your partner there kept me humble and realistic on the field. Any dreams I had vanished when I watched Pete at shortstop."
"No kidding - he was good?"
"You've played with me, Reed. I can still hold my own…"
"I've gotten smarter since then. Found something with less running required."
"Like police work?" Jim snorted.
"He dashed all our hopes of reflected glory when he didn't go out for the minors," Jack exaggerated, watching the two men in the front seat with their friendly jibes.
"It was getting hit by one of your wild throws from outfield that ended my career," Pete cracked. "Jack was rabid! He would listen to the night games on the radio under the covers, and then the commentary, the taped replay of games from the East coast and the call-in shows on late night."
"And you didn't dare get caught napping during one of Father Rojesky's masses."
"It wouldn't have been so bad if you hadn't snored so loudly!" Pete snorted.
"Could I help it the acoustics in the chancel were so good they could pick up your thoughts?"
The two old friends laughed out loud at the memories and the teasing and Pete felt himself really begin to relax.
"So . . . to keep me from a fate worse than eternal Hellfire, my good buddy Pete devised this code. We could communicate without words, even on opposite sides of the church nave."
"It was based on Morse code, with some . . . eh . . . variations" Pete interjected, his green eyes dancing with remembrance of innocent boyhood transgressions, kneeling on a cold stone floor, tapping out the bonds of friendship across a long oaken pew.
"And we'd discuss the game from the night before which along with batting averages and comparisons of our favorite players could easily take us through even the most interminable liturgy," Jack continued the shared reverie.
"I thought you said this was about girls," Jim had been sympathetic to the discomfort he sensed from Pete in the beginning, but that seemed to have eased and a part of him couldn't resist the opportunity to tease his partner. Or maybe it was more the rare glimpse of another time in Malloy's life that drew him.
"It was . . . eventually." Pete said slyly, memories of mischief reflected over decades in his smile.
"Yeah, we started talking about the games, but we soon were discussing other things . . . like girls."
"How old were you, partner?" Jim chuckled.
"Ten or twelve maybe."
"Pete was a bit precocious in . . . eh . . . certain areas." Jack joked.
"We had some very pretty girls going to our church," Pete snickered. "Tends to make a guy start thinking early."
"So I'm not surprised he's good at codes," Jack summarized suddenly. He wasn't completely unsympathetic to Pete's reticence to have his entire history revealed.
But Jim wasn't about to let this go without hearing the punch line, "You said you got caught?"
"Not me . . . exactly," Jack snickered. "I sort of got Pete caught."
"Did I ever thank you, by the way?" Pete shot a playful scowl into the back seat
"Luckily, besides being long-winded and tone deaf, Father Rojesky was also a bit hard of hearing," Jack continued, ignoring the accusatory stare he was getting in that rear view mirror
"So how did he finally catch you?" Jim asked eagerly, turning around in his seat. He'd caught the exchanged looks and knew there was something more behind this story.
"He never did catch me," Father Jack laughed. "But Pete had some juicy news about a certain blonde goddess who had smiled at him as she passed on her way to the communion rail. I don't suppose you even recall her name all these years later?"
With a wistful smile, Pete pronounced each nuance of every syllable, "Gwendolyn Anderson. You never forget the ones who you got you into that much trouble."
"So what happened?" Jim chuckled.
"Well, Father Rojesky wasn't officiating alone that morning. It was a special mass, scores of people and Father Conners was assisting."
"And while Rojesky was nearly deaf, Father Conners had ears like a bat!" Pete added emphatically.
"Not only that -" Jack sputtered, still chuckling at Pete's delivery. "He'd just returned from a stint in the Navy, as a chaplain on a destroyer off Japan."
"He . . . eh . . . sort of broke my code." Pete explained unnecessarily. His enigmatic smile testified to a memory that while humorous, was also still a bit painful.
"He not only caught you talking, he knew what you were saying?" Jim concluded.
"If only we'd still been discussing the game!" Pete cocked his head comically towards his partner. "Father Conners was a huge baseball fan."
"Yeah, just our luck, he caught you talking about a girl," Jack shook his head in mock dismay.
"Not just any girl . . . " Pete rhapsodized. "Gwendolyn Anderson!"
"So what did he catch you saying?" Jim's curiosity was at a peak.
"A gentleman doesn't discuss such things . . . " Pete feigned nobility.
"You were discussing it when you got caught," his partner protested.
"Pete wasn't a gentleman back then. That happened much later, " Jack laughed. "But a more intriguing question would be Pete's penance."
"Oh?" Jim's eyebrows danced above his widened eyes. "And just what kind of a sentence did you pull, partner?"
"Heavy time!" Pete moaned. "I served at every mass at St. Lucy's convent for the next month. Early morning, before school every day for an entire month. Maybe that will explain why it takes trout jumping in a stream to get me moving willingly that early in the morning now."
"It was the perfect punishment if you think about it." Jack spurted. "All those women . . . "
"Yeah . . . all nuns! Watching my every move. If so much as an eyebrow twitched, Father Conners was notified!"
"Oh, Pete! That's priceless!" Jim snickered.
"I think you're both getting a little too much enjoyment at my expense."
"Delight, Peter!" Jack laughed. "Much more than mere enjoyment. Pure joy!"
"Uh huh," he replied, unable to stifle a yawn.
"1-Adam-12, see the woman, 139 Maywood. Possible missing persons report on the husband. 1-Adam-12, respond code 2."
"I-Adam-12, roger," Jim responded. "Isn't that ... ?"
"'fraid so, partner," Pete sighed, making a wide left turn at the light and heading the unit back in the direction they had just come.
"Well, Father, this may be more your kind of call," Jim said quietly, returning the microphone. Something in that simple radio broadcast had a decidedly sobering effect on the two patrolman.
"Hope you like tea and cookies," Pete let out a long breath.
"Who doesn't?" the priest replied jovially. But the silence that followed left their passenger with questions that would wait to be answered in the neat little white house Pete parked in front of a few moments later.
"This could take a while," Malloy smiled wearily, straightening the watch cap atop his head. "But Reed was right. You may be more suited to this than we are."
Jack looked a little surprised. "Anything I can do to help."
"You a good listener, I suppose?"
"It comes with the job."
"You might just earn your money tonight."
They made their way up the flower-lined walk of a small but immaculate home that looked more like a fairytale cottage than a Southern Californian residence. Pete took the lead, stepping quickly onto the brick porch and tapping lightly on the jauntily painted yellow door.
"You didn't ring the bell," Jim noted with an enigmatic smile. "You know she likes the bell."
"I know," Pete sniffed. "She'll bust me for it, if everything's all right."
They waited a few moments before they heard shuffling behind the lace curtains at the window, then a tiny hand parted them just a bit, and the door was pulled open three inches.
"Peter Malloy!" the fragile voice exclaimed as a slight old woman swung open the door. "Well, I'll be! This is a surprise!"
"Didn't you call us, Mrs. Negley?" Pete asked gently, his face a studied mask of confusion.
"Oh, the police?" she replied, unlatching the screen door with a bit of a struggle. "Of course. You're here about my Jerry."
"Yes, ma'am," Malloy smiled patiently.
"I thought you'd ring the bell," she complained. "I do so love that door bell. My dear Jerry bought it for me. I hated the one that came with the house, it was shrill and uninviting. A doorbell should make you feel welcome, don't you agree?"
"Yes, ma'am," Pete nodded, a quick look to his partner when the little lady took a breath.
"So for a wedding anniversary, he bought me that sweet little bell," she paused a moment. "I suppose that's a funny gift, isn't it?"
"If you like it," Pete said softly, "then it isn't funny at all."
"You should have rung the bell," she sighed.
"I'm sorry. I forgot," he shrugged the lie. "You want me to go back and start again?"
She thought a moment, and then laughed. "That would be silly, wouldn't it?"
"If you like the bell…" Pete touched the button at the side of the door and a series of happy chimes sounded. Obvious delight bloomed on the old woman's face and was reflected for just a moment in the officer's tired eyes.
"Well, come in, come in!" she invited brightly, all smiles as she opened the door to them. "My, don't you look thin! I have a crumb cake fresh out of the oven. And I've just put on a pot of tea. You boys will join me, of course?"
"You spoil us," Jim replied, removing his hat as his partner had when they entered the little cottage.
"Oh!" she gasped when she caught sight of Jack's collar.
"This is Father Jack Furillo, Mrs. Negley," Pete introduced in an easy tone. "He's from St. Swithin's. He's riding with us tonight."
"That's lovely dear," she agreed, taking the arm Malloy offered chivalrously and allowing herself to be escorted into the parlor. She seemed fine with a visit from a strange priest as long as the police officers vouched for him, but appeared to dismiss him from her mind entirely the next second. "I'm simply a wreck with worry, you know. It's not like my dear Jerry at all. Not at all."
Pete settled her in a small needlework upholstered chair near a window. She gestured for her guests to take seats on the various pieces of comfortable furniture about the room. Malloy opted to stand near a table by the doorway into the kitchen. His eyes scanned the surroundings, then locked intently again on their hostess.
"He's never done anything like this before - just not come home. I'm sure something terrible has happened."
"How have you been, Mrs. Negley?" Jim Reed redirected, a look to his partner as she replied.
"Oh, I'm fine, you dear boy," she smiled. "Except for worrying about my Jerry. What could have become of him?"
"I'm sure he's fine," Pete assured evenly from across the room where he was discreetly looking through a pile of mail on the table and generally making an assessment of the condition of the house. So far he seemed to be finding everything in perfect order, and his demeanor was calm and patient, but there was something in the look he kept giving his partner that confused Father Furillo.
"Have you been feeling well enough to get out in the garden?" Pete asked.
"Oh yes," she nodded happily, "You don't suppose those roses grow in my living room, do you young man?"
"No ma'am," Malloy agreed, with a chuckle.
"They're beautiful," the priest complimented the colorful bouquet in the cut glass vase.
"St. Swithin's?" she questioned. The father's comment had apparently returned his presence to her mind and she took up conversation with him without skipping a beat from their introduction in the hallway. "I've been to your parish once."
"Really?" Jack seemed vastly interested, engaging her with that smile of his.
"It's the grey stone one on Addison," she described. "With the tall tower and the lovely bells."
"It is indeed," the priest concurred with pride.
"You have pretty stained glass windows. One with a shepherd, I remember, holding a little lamb."
"You have been there," Jack nodded.
"A long time ago. When Jerry and I were first married. You weren't priest there then, I don't suppose."
"No, ma'am," Jack answered, his voice rich and low. "Was it a special occasion, that brought you to St. Swithin's?"
"A baptism, I think," she nodded, looking out the window for a moment. "My niece was baptized at St. Mark's of the Fields. Isn't that a darling name for a church?"
"Yes, ma'am," Jack smiled, meeting her eyes across the room, seemingly unaffected by her non sequitur. "And who was baptized at St. Swithin's when you were there?"
"Oh, some baby, I suppose," the old lady chortled. "Usually a baby at a baptism, isn't it?"
"You baptize many little ones, Father?" Mrs. Negley asked after a moment.
"As many as I can get my hands on," Jack laughed, as did the woman across the room from him. "Not so many as I would like, ma'am, but there are a few."
"Babies are so full of joy and promise," she declared. "Do you have any?"
"Uh, me?" Jack looked confused.
"I would hope not!" Mrs. Negley chuckled.
"No, ma'am," the priest assured her of his lack of paternity.
"I meant the officers," she clarified with patience. "Peter Malloy?"
"No, ma'am," he replied with an even more virtuous emphasis of innocence than the priest, quite amusing both of his friends. "Not…as yet."
"Well, what's the hold up?" she queried.
"Haven't found the right girl," he shrugged, still surveying the room surreptitiously.
"Piffle!" the old girl exclaimed.
"The honest truth," Pete chuckled. "They aren't so easy to find nowadays."
"I have a son," Jim Reed volunteered. "Still just a baby."
"A son!" Mrs. Negley congratulated. "How wonderful!"
"We think so," the younger officer beamed. "He's pretty incredible."
"I'm sure he is," she agreed.
"Oh, he's special all right," Pete himself joined in with a wink to his partner. "A real pip!"
"We always wanted a son," she mused. "But we had a lovely little girl. She was the apple of our eye."
"Have you spoken to your daughter lately?" Pete asked, moving easily towards the mantle and a display of family photos in small wooden frames.
"Emily?" the little woman perked up. "She's very busy with the children and all."
"But she calls you? Comes to visit?" he continued, turning over a pink envelope and card lying on the end table.
"Oh yes. She brings the little ones when she can." The whistle sounded in the kitchen just off the sitting area. "I should get that tea kettle!"
"I'll get it," Jim Reed stood at ready.
"No, no!" Mrs. Negley chided as she struggled to rise from her chair. "What sort of a hostess would I be if I let you be mother!"
Pete traversed the room, lending her a hand and helping her up. He shot an amused look to his partner and mouthed the word mother, then followed the little woman to the doorway before being dismissed gently.
"I'm perfectly capable of getting the tea, Peter Malloy," she scolded and disappeared into the bright little kitchen happily.
"She's perfectly capable of getting the tea," Jim teased quietly as his partner joined him by the sofa. Then his tone sobered, "What do you think?"
"I don't know," Pete began, his practiced eye surveying the room yet again. "The place is spotless, there are freshly cut flowers, she's been baking and she put the kettle on for us. She seems perfectly fine."
"She keeps mentioning…"
"I know, partner, I know." Pete looked distracted for a moment. "You think you could keep her busy for a few minutes?"
"Sure thing. Whatcha got?"
"I don't know, maybe…" Pete shrugged. "Just…" The two men exchanged a wordless plan and then a nod.
"May I help with the tray?" Jim called, entering the kitchen a moment later.
"You dear, dear boy!"
"Can I help?" Jack asked Malloy from his seat on the sofa.
"Yeah, eat some cake," Pete suggested. "I need a few minutes."
"I think I can handle that," the priest chuckled, standing again and following Reed into the other room.
"Mrs. Negley," Pete called through the doorway. "Do you think I could use your telephone?"
"Oh?" she seemed confused. "My telephone?"
"I just need to …check in…with our watch commander."
"Oh, yes. Certainly, Peter. It's there in the hallway."
"I know where it is. Thank you."
"Tell him you're staying for tea."
"My! Something smells spectacular!" Jack exclaimed as he crossed into the kitchen, obscuring her view of Pete as the officer pinched an envelope from the end table.
Jack and Jim Reed kept her busy cutting and tasting crumb cake, assembling dishes and accepting a detailed explanation in the art of brewing tea while Malloy made a quick call to directory assistance. Another stealthy conversation across town to the former Emily Rossi nee Negley set his plan in motion. He returned the pilfered envelope to its place beneath the Mother's Day card on the doilied table, and joined the group just as they were returning to the parlor, trays laden with tea and cake.
"Did your sergeant say you could stay for tea?" the little woman asked as Pete helped her once again to her chair.
"Well, he said we might have to get back out on patrol," Malloy lied gently. "But I want to make sure you're all right, first."
"Oh, I'm fine," she acquiesced a bit sadly. "I would have liked…" The phone in the hallway rang. "I should…"
"Do you want me to get that?" Jim offered, standing again.
"No, thank you," she replied, accepting Pete's hand and heading for the small table in the hall that held the ringing phone. "Well, hello, Emily. What a surprise! I was just talking about you to my visitors."
Jim shook his head at his partner, who simply winked.
"Well, just now I have company, honey," she was saying into the receiver. "You're coming when?"
"We should probably get going, if you've got a phone call," Pete prompted. "Get back on patrol."
"If you must…" she looked at the cake and tea things. "Emily is coming over with her husband and the children. Isn't that nice? They don't live far."
"That sounds like a lovely visit," Jack pronounced. "I'm sure they will enjoy the crumb cake."
"Well, I suppose so…"
"We'll be back if you need us," Jim reassured. "Just call."
"Oh, I hate to bother you boys. You're so busy."
"It's no bother at all, ma'am." Pete patted her shoulder gently, heading for the door. "And everything will be just fine, I'm sure."
"Yes," she smiled brightly as she looked up at the three men at the door. "Yes, I think it will."
"Emily…" Pete reminded her, pointing to the receiver in the woman's hand. The sounds of a female calling Mom? were heard coming from the earpiece.
"Oh, yes of course!" Mrs. Negley chuckled. "You boys take care!" She saw them out the door and then resumed her conversation on the phone.
Once they were on the porch, Pete replaced his watch cap wordlessly and headed for the cruiser at the curb.
"That didn't take long," Jim congratulated, as they climbed back into the car. He reached for the microphone and cleared them before continuing. "What's this?" His partner had handed him a small slip of paper torn from the notebook he kept in his breast pocket.
"Emily Rossi nee Negley's phone number and address," Pete replied with satisfaction. "Make out an FI card would ya?"
"A Field Interview card? On Emily Rossi?"
"On Mrs. Negley," Pete shook his head. "So I don't have to go searching through her things next time, huh?"
"You called the daughter? Arranged the phone call and the visit?" Jack was slowly putting the pieces together in the back seat, a little amazed at what he'd witnessed.
"Directory assistance and a return address on a Mother's Day card," Pete answered humbly.
"What about Jerry?" Jack continued. "I'm assuming he's her husband. I thought we were there to take a report on his disappearance?"
"Mrs. Negley is a widow," Pete said quietly. "Jerry Negley has been dead since before I started on this beat,"
"Sometimes she forgets and she calls us for a missing persons report," Jim supplied the sad details.
"This happen often?"
"Twice in the last year?" Jim turned to his partner for confirmation.
Pete nodded, his eyes on the road. Despite his merry demeanor inside the house, the loneliness of the call had gotten to him.
"You two seem to know her pretty well for a couple of visits."
"Oh, we get calls there every so often. Sometimes it's a neighbor, concerned about her or she hears a noise in the night and we check outside for a prowler who turns out to be a raccoon in the trash cans. Or Pete just figures we should stop by and check on her," Jim chuckled, the gentle tease at his partner earning him a bit of a scowled warning across the seat. "Usually she's sharp as a tack. She just gets lonely mostly."
"But the husband thing? The forgetting?"
"Most times she'll talk about him, but she knows he's gone. This is about the fourth time since I started this district that she's called him in missing." Pete sighed.
"She usually comes around, once she starts connecting with people or talking about current events. But I gotta say, Pete, you got her off the subject pretty quick this time."
"It was the Father's talk about stained glass and baptisms that did it," Malloy shrugged off the compliment with the first excuse that came to mind. "I'm just glad I found that card. I was dreading having to actually invade her privacy and go through her desk drawer for an address book."
"Interesting piece of detective work there, Pete," Jack acknowledged from the back, sincerely touched by the area of police work he'd just observed and the soft side of his friend he'd witnessed. He hadn't expected to see such unvarnished caring from cops. "You were something with her, both of you. Gentle and kind and she had no idea about the phone call."
"Just part of the job," Pete drawled with sincere modesty. The sadness of the situation had underscored his weariness. He caught himself in another immense yawn. "Anybody feel like coffee?"
"I think you've earned it," Jack declared with sympathy from the back seat. The effect of their last call hadn't been lost on him either.
"Actually, I'm a little hungry," Jim answered. "I was looking forward to that crumb cake."
"Sorry, partner," Pete apologized. "I just thought it best to beat a quick retreat once we'd gotten her back on the path to reality."
"It might not be a bad idea to take advantage of the temporary quiet and get seven now before things heat up."
It was an unusually pleasant day. Just the right ratio of temperature to breeze and enough sunlight left as evening drew near to still be cheerful, but not blinding. They decided on an outdoor eatery and Pete chose a table close to the street and the patrol unit, leaving the window down so they could hear the radio. It was that or wait until Adam-18 had finished the detail for the captain's office. Things were momentarily quiet in their own district but the rest of the division was getting busy and they had been given a hesitant okay to their code seven as long as they could stay within earshot.
Pete ordered a cup of coffee and one of the breakfasts Mike's served 24hours a day. The order didn't escape his partner's friendly ridicule.
"You still trying to wake up?"
"They serve breakfast all day for a reason," the veteran defended.
"Yeah, for people who still aren't awake at nearly 7 pm."
"Did you have trouble sleeping last night?" Jack asked with genuine concern.
"Let's just say there were a few interruptions," he replied curtly. That tightness of mood returning automatically with the mention of his disturbed sleep.
"It must be difficult trying to sleep on different shifts. Probably pretty noisy in the daytime."
"Can't exactly complain about people mowing the lawn or playing ball in the middle of the day." Pete shrugged. He was not about to confide in the priest his feelings about the church bell reveille he'd suffered this morning.
"Although Sundays should be fairly quiet," Jack continued, leaning on the issue without realizing he was doing it.
"You'd think so..." Pete sighed, foregoing the complaint that leaped to mind even though Jack's collar gave him a most appropriate target.
"If you're still feeling sleepy, I could drive for a while." Jim jibed despite the warning look he received from across the table. "You could just kick back and I'll carry you."
"Trust me, I'll get more rest if I drive."
"You're crabby when you lose sleep!"
"Yet you fail to catch on..." Pete shook his head..
The food arrived, suspending conversation as the men began salting fries, spreading condiments and buttering toast. The trio dived into their meals without further comment, intent on making the most of their brief break. Each was poised with a first bite hovering between plate and palate when the patrol car's radio squawked to life.
"All units and 1-Adam-12. Respond to Los Angeles City College, 855 Vermont. See campus security reference a disturbance. 1-Adam-12, respond code 2."
"She's got radar!" Jim groused. "I think she's on a crusade to keep our weight down." Forks and food hit the plates as the men jumped from their seats. Pete took one desperate swig of coffee, scalding his tongue and throat as it went down.
"You okay?" Jack asked, genuine concern showing on his face as he watched Pete sputter.
"Not my day," Pete managed as he pulled the wallet from his back pocket.
"Forget it!" Mike yelled from behind the counter. "We'll settle up later."
The officers sprinted to the cruiser, their passenger only steps behind.
"I-Adam-12 roger," Jim acknowledged as they all scrambled into the car.
"Great," Pete growled, flipping on the reds and siren while maneuvering through traffic.
"What?' Reed questioned quietly beside him.
"Of all nights…" he broke off the complaint with a bitter swallow. Grousing wouldn't do any good, and the presence of a guest made it even less professional.
"What've you got?" Jack inquired from the backseat. The partners exchanged looks and Pete willed himself to overcome his distaste for this night's public relations fiasco.
"Looks like you're getting broken in hard and fast, Jack," Pete quipped, a noble attempt to alter his disposition once again and squelch this nasty mood of his, fatigued or not.
"I'm supposed to see what your job is like," Jack smiled, watching both officers in front of him.
"1-Adam-12, further on your call…Campus security report a 415 fight. Approximately 40-50 combatants with guns and knives. In front of the Administration building. Approach from Heliotrope entrance. Other units responding, approach Monroe entrance. 1-Adam-12, handle code 2."
"A real trial by fire tonight, Father," Jim shook his head, after acknowledging the update.
"A quiet shift wouldn't teach me much, I suppose."
"You'll have to stay in the car," Jim began to brief the priest, a sidelong glance at his partner for confirmation discovered Pete's eyes narrowed with concentration and grey with storm clouds.
"I think we'll be dropping our guest off at the entrance to campus…"
"What?" Jack protested.
"Why?" Jim echoed.
"I'm not taking a civilian into a gun battle!" Pete declared with a tone that broached no questions. "Not tonight!"
Pete maneuvered the black and white through late afternoon traffic as they approached the campus. He couldn't shake the feeling he'd had all night, that ominous dread that something was about to go horribly wrong. Maybe it was just the fact that deep down he knew he wasn't playing his A-game tonight. The ache of fatigue and that fuzzy cloud of sleep deprivation would make anyone question his readiness. Having the added stress of a civilian to look after wasn't easing that nagging doubt one bit.
He felt the nearly automatic defenses clicking into place as he steered them towards potential danger. His senses heightening, adrenalin pumping, his own heartbeat sounding in his ears.
Pete stole a quick glance to his right as he checked the rear view mirror. Jim was going through his own checklist, preparing for a hot shot call the way he'd been trained. It was evidenced by the rigid set of Jim's strong jaw.
Pete trusted that training. He'd been instrumental in honing the principles taught recruits at the academy, fine tuning his partner's technique and enhancing the young man's natural instincts. If Malloy had to face a gun battle, a knife fight or an irate grandma wielding a broom, there was nobody he'd rather have by his side, or watching his back. But there was precious little he could imagine he'd rather not be saddled with at that moment than the man in the collar sitting in the back seat.
Pete slowed the cruiser, slipping it deftly up to the curb near the entrance of the college campus. He'd cut the lights and siren a few blocks before, to approach with some element of surprise.
"Here's your stop, Father," Pete announced, a semblance of lightness masking the true level of his concern. "There's a newsstand on that other corner. Just don't wander too far and we'll be back for you when we're done."
"Godspeed," Jack raised a hand in blessing as much as a wave goodbye.
"You're really expecting that much trouble?" Jim asked, once Pete had pulled away from the curb again.
"I'm just not taking any unnecessary chances today," the veteran officer replied, eyes narrowed as they entered the campus gates. Jim knew that tone in his partner's voice. He turned his head and scanned the grounds for signs that things were not as they should be.
But as Pete pulled onto the tidy campus, nothing matched the description from the dispatch. He turned the cruiser onto the access road between the Administration building and the small brick structure that housed the campus security offices. A handful of students were milling about, dressed not in the normal casual clothes one would expect, but in pieces that could have come MGM's back lot. It was more likely they had been procured from the theatre department's costume shop. Roughly half the boys were wearing suits and fedoras straight out of Guys and Dolls. A couple were carrying violin cases. The rest sported various pieces of armor, breast plates or plumed helmets and a few still held shields. All of them were murmuring and muttering to one another. Not a one of them was fighting.
In the midst of this odd assortment, stood three armed campus security guards over a pile of mismatched weaponry; sabers, foils, broadswords and an impressive stack of what appeared to be machine guns.
The officers in Adam 12 exchanged amused looks before exiting their vehicle. "We're just in time for dress rehearsal," Jim quipped, reaching for his hat. Both men could feel the tension roll off them as they observed the odd assemblage.
"Don't tell me, Bigowski," Malloy drawled as he sidled up to the ranking security officer. "Auditions for the senior musical, right?"
"Looks like there's been a bit of a misunderstanding," the bulky, middle-aged man replied. His eyes were darting from the students nearby to the barely straight-faced policemen beside him.
Reed picked up one of the machine guns, twirling it on his finger easily. It was plastic and full of water. Jim pulled the trigger gently to confirm the fact, sending a stream into the air. "You wanna fill us in?"
"Apparently, it was a joke," the red-faced man admitted.
"A what?" Malloy stared at him, his expression blank.
"A prank," Bigowski continued. "Two of the fraternity houses decided to have a little …fun. Harmless fun, that's all. You can go."
"We're not the only unit that responded," Malloy replied, one hand pushing back the brim of his hat. His patience was waning as he remembered an abandoned breakfast and a piping hot cup of caffeine. As if to punctuate his statement, two other LAPD black and white units swung into position on either side of the Administration building. "How did this get so out of hand, Fred?"
"Could we do this in the office, later?" the big man pleaded. "I'd just like to get the quad cleared."
"You sure you want them to leave?" Malloy verified. "You aren't bringing any charges against them?"
"No," Bigowski shook his head. The poor man looked dejected and thoroughly embarrassed.
"Okay, you heard the man," Malloy's voice raised a decibel as he addressed the crowd. "Back to your dorms or your frat house or wherever you're supposed to be at this time on a Sunday night."
Some of the students began to disperse, but a few approached the officers.
"Is there a problem?" Pete's face was screwed up in confusion and annoyance.
"Our props, sir?" A tall blonde boy of nineteen dared, indicating the pile on the steps.
"Campus security will sort that out in the morning. In the meantime, they're being held for evidence." Malloy rolled his eyes at his partner. "And next time…try something a little less threatening, huh?"
"Like what, man?"
"I don't know…short-sheet a bed, paint each other green…" Malloy cocked his head slightly. "You're the geniuses; you figure it out. Just no more weapons, huh?
"Square, fuzz, really L-7," the young man drew lines in the air and made a face before heading in the opposite direction with this friends.
"You can call off the cavalry, Reed," Pete ordered, watching the last of the students filing across the quad.
The younger officer skipped down the few steps to a better vantage point for the two back-up units and flashed the four-fingered signal. A wave from each driver preceded their retreat.
"What happened, Fred?" Pete bent to pick up one of the theatrical swords and leaned on it like a comical conquering hero.
"They were…running around the quad, stalking one another, whooping and hollering and brandishing these…well…I thought they were…"
"So you called for backup before you knew what you had?" Reed summarized.
"We'd been hearing rumors," the guard continued. "Rumblings, ya know?"
"Don't tell me…" Pete smirked. "The Sharks and the Jets?"
"I'm serious, Pete. The word is, there's trouble brewing. Campus unrest."
"At Los Angeles City College?" Pete asked, indicating the weaponry with a wave of his hand. "Or Ancient Rome and the south side of Chicago?"
"I just know what I hear," he defended. "And if you'd been here when it started…"
"I'd have asked for front row seats and popcorn," Pete quipped. "You're all just lucky none of you went off half cocked and shot one of them!"
"Sorry, Pete," the older man sighed.
"You need help, getting this stuff put back in the theatre?" The offer was obviously rhetorical.
"We've got it under control, Malloy."
"Well, you need us…for anything…don't hesitate to call." The officers started to return to their cruiser. "Oh, and Bigowski…"
"Two on the aisle for opening night. Can you swing that?"
"You're a commedian, Malloy!"
A few minutes later, they'd retrieved their passenger from the corner newsstand. "Mac said you were the best, but that was really fast!" Jack laughed as he climbed into the back seat.
"We may be good, but even we can't make something outta nothing!" Pete sighed, wheeling the black and white back out on patrol.
"False alarm?" Jack questioned.
Malloy opened his mouth to respond, but another prodigious yawn took the place of the explanation.
"Want me to field this one, partner?" Jim chuckled. Pete threw up his hands in surrender, rubbing his face as he turned his attention back to the road.
Jim launched into the story of the campus "campus non-riot sparing no opportunity to mine the smallest nugget of humor. The priest in the backseat was enjoying the dissertation with easy laughter and even Malloy's mood lifted a bit.
"Too bad I missed it," Jack sighed between fits of residual giggles.
"Yeah, if I'd known we were playing the Keystone Cops, I'd have let you tag along," Pete shrugged, turning onto the entrance road to Griffith Park for a quick pass through before sundown. "But the way we got it from dispatch…"
"Malloy's a little rigid about his rule that says everyone stays in one piece," Jim laughed. "Especially civilians!"
"I don't need any trouble with the bosses upstairs," Pete defended. "Mine, or yours!"
"Mine?" Jack's eyebrows raised.
"Isn't He supposed to have each of those well-groomed hairs of yours numbered?" Pete met the priest's eye in their reflection in the rear view. The ghost of a smile was making its return. "I'm not sending you home with even one out of place, you hear? I got enough to worry about!"
"You've gotta have faith, Pete."
"Faith?" Malloy's eyebrows shot towards his hairline.
"It also says that His eye is on the sparrow, remember?"
"My feet don't fit a limb," Pete groaned. "And I'm much too exhausted to argue theology with a priest! But let's get one point straight…I will not put you in harm's way tonight, if it's humanly possible to prevent it. Understood?"
"I'm not worried, Pete…you see…I have faith…in you and your training…and in God."
"Jack!" Pete's teeth were clenched. He needed to get his point across before this night's irritation got out of hand. "You're a civilian, and I'm not putting you in danger. Clear?"
"I'm not in the least frightened, Pete. And I knew joining the chaplain corps would mean being in these sorts of situations. So you seriously needn't worry about my safety, if that what's got you so out of sorts."
"I am not out of…" Pete bit off the protest, honesty kept him from finishing that sentence anyway. "And you're safety is my job!"
"So I guess your soul is mine," Jack replied softly, truly sorry if he'd inconvenienced his friend. He'd been looking forward to tonight, and was confused and concerned at Pete's agitation.
"Then don't give me reason to be breaking any commandments, huh?" Humor. It had served to keep him on an even keel before. Ironically, Pete now found himself praying it would again.
"Which ones are you considering?" Jack chortled, relieved by Malloy's joking response. "Lying, swearing… killing?"
"That's a start…" Pete drawled, shooting a wicked look in the rear view mirror again. The priest wasn't the only one who regretted how things had gone between them tonight and Pete had a guilty conscience since his fatigue was the major cause of the tension. He resolved to try to perk up and enjoy the diversion despite the fact that he was fast becoming bone weary.
"Did you see that, Pete?" Jim indicated the green convertible that had just blown through a light, taking a fast right on red without so much as a pretense of a stop.
"I certainly did!" Malloy drawled, flipping on the cruiser's lights, checking on-coming traffic from the lanes to the left and following the offending vehicle around the corner. It was more than another block before the driver responded to the whelp of the siren Pete had resorted to when the sight of the cruiser's lights didn't seem to stop the car. "It's your fish…"
"Thanks," Jim grumbled, grabbing up the ticket book. "You're all heart."
"Hey, you caught it…you reel it in," Pete smiled, taking up his hat in his hand. "That's my motto."
"Big of ya!"
"I'll get the next one," he promised with a sideways smile.
"Sure." Jim headed towards the driver's side of the vehicle. "Good evening, ma'am."
"Officer," an attractive blonde in her mid-thirties was behind the wheel. "What's the problem? I'm in kind of a hurry."
"I could see that, ma'am," Jim looked towards Pete with an unspoken promise of payback.
"Then I don't understand why you stopped me," she continued, now noticing the red headed officer at the passenger side of her car and the priest hovering near the trunk. She gave Jack a double-take.
"Well, you seemed to be a little distracted, ma'am. You went through a light back there…"
"I turned right on red!" the blonde was becoming indignant. "It is perfectly legal to turn right on a red light in the state of California!"
"Yes, ma'am. After a complete stop. You -"
"Officer," she was now indicating Malloy, who seemed very near to repeating his fish analogy in order to escape participation as more than a cautious observer. He tried to signal that it was Officer Reed to whom she must address her petitions, but she was insistent. "Officer…"
"Yes, ma'am?" Malloy answered merely because not to would have been impolite.
"It is legal to turn right on a red light in California, isn't it?"
Malloy's look was a blank, neutral and pleasant, but unresponsive. He was still attempting to return the attention of the woman to his partner on the other side of the car.
"Well?!" she nearly bored a hole through him with her glare.
"Ma'am, I'm Officer Malloy, and this -" he indicated Jim with a flourish of his hand, redirecting her attentions, he hoped, once again to the driver's side of the vehicle. "This is my partner, Officer Reed. At the moment, Officer Reed is conducting this traffic stop, and I believe he's already indicated that the law requires a complete stop before turning right on red."
"You don't have to be rude!" she sniffed, turning her anger back on Reed. "I came to a complete stop!"
"No ma'am, you didn't." Jim said flatly. "Which is why we stopped you. Your license and registration please."
"It's your word against mine!" she argued, making quite a production of handing over the documentation Jim requested. "Seems you'd have better things to do than harass a law-abiding citizen!" This last comment was directed at Malloy, who yet again, let it slide.
"You broke the law about the complete stop, ma'am," Jim answered with measured tones.
"Well, that's only part of the law!"
"It's the part that counts, ma'am." Jim tore the ticket out of the book, and explained the procedures as Pete joined Jack between the convertible and the front of the cruiser. The two old friends exchanged carefully discreet looks of amusement as the transaction was completed in front of them.
"That was fun, huh?" Jim said with sarcasm as Pete pulled the car back into traffic. "I owe you, buddy."
"She wasn't so bad," Pete dismissed. "In fact, she was kinda cute."
"So why did you pawn her off on me, then?"
"'Cause she was kinda cute," Malloy laughed. "And I was way too tired for her kind tonight."
"You kept your cool, Jim," Jack encouraged from the back seat. "It was quite impressive."
"See there," Pete teased gently. "You impressed the clergy!"
"I'll…eh…" Malloy fought and lost the battle, the conversation was punctuated by yet another of his noisy yawns. "…get the next one."
"Wanna swing back by Mike's? I can try to get another seven. You never got your coffee," Jim offered.
"We're on the other side of the district now," Pete shook his head. "But if you want to try, we could hit Biff's. Wait till we're closer to Lancashire before you ask though."
"So do you get many people like that last woman tonight?" Jack asked once the partners had decided on a course of action for coffee. It served to return the conversation to police work and gave Jim a prompt for more amusing stories and a return to a lighter mood in the cruiser.
"More than my share at times," Pete complained through yet another yawn.
"That coffee's not coming a moment too soon?" Jim observed with more than a little concern. "Sure you don't want me to drive? You could…"
"Reed!" Pete exclaimed. His partner's mother hen routine was hard enough to take, but stomaching it in front of an audience was more than Malloy was willing to endure. "I'm fine! Nothing a cuppa Joe won't cure. You got that tan Ford? Lincoln-Ocean-Ida-3-4-2?"
"Nope," Jim replied after checking the hot sheet. "It's clean. Should I try for seven now?"
"Yes, Jim. We're at Lancashire…why don't you check for seven. That's an excellent idea!" Pete exaggerated, yet another attempt to let humor help clear up his dismal mood.
Dispatch responded to the request with an order to stand by for another call.
"Like I said," Pete sighed. "Not my day."
"1-Adam-12. Respond to Cherry's Produce, 4718 Inverness for a property report. See Mr. Bing."
"You've got to be kidding!" Pete sputtered as soon as Jim had acknowledged the dispatcher and replaced the microphone.
"What?" Jack's brow furrowed.
"Mr. Bing?" Pete leaned into the delivery, waiting for a reaction that didn't immediately come. "At Cherry's Produce? What are the odds?"
Jim stared at his partner a moment before the grin spread across his face as well. "It's your turn, you know. You going to be able to keep a straight face?"
"Of course, partner." Pete shrugged confidently. "Always the consummate professional."
"Yeah, right." Jim goaded.
"You doubt me?"
"Mr. Bing at Cherry's Produce," Jim repeated, hardly able to keep from succumbing to the giggles himself. "I'd say I have my reservations."
"Would you care to make it interesting? Say, a little wager?" Pete's sly smile was a compelling invitation.
"Bet? That you can't keep a straight face?"
"Or, who can last the longest?" Pete was starting to wonder where his cockiness had come from and just what he'd gotten himself into.
"Oh, let's not make it competitive. An exhibition game should be adequate entertainment," Jack spoke up. "This I gotta see!"
"A command performance," Jim agreed. "But I think I'll take you up on that bet before you come to your senses."
"Can I get in on this action?" the priest solicited.
"Sure thing, Father," Jim replied eagerly, grinning way too broadly.
"Ganging up on me? That's hardly showing teamwork, partner." Pete shot Jim a good natured warning.
"But it'd be a great display of consummate professionalism," Reed smirked in return.
Five minutes later, walking through the multi-colored stands of fruit and vegetables, Pete concentrated on keeping his thoughts sober and his face stoic. He'd dealt with numerous calls where a fit of giggles was all but unavoidable. Over the years he'd learned to hold back laughter, tears, disgust, or anger until the job was done and the time more appropriate for venting. He'd also discovered that while other emotions might be more difficult to overcome in the long run, laughter was the hardest to conquer on the spot.
Ultimately it was all a matter of discipline. Pete mentally pulled himself up by his bootstraps and approached the young clerk wearing a bright red apron emblazoned with cherries.
"Is Mr. Bing around?" Pete asked in a flat tone very unlike his usual friendly demeanor with a victim on a simple report call. "He called about a theft."
"Yeah man, somebody stole Peter."
"They broke in today while we were closed and took Peter Pumpkin. I don't know how either, he was pretty heavy!"
"Peter . . . pumpkin?" Pete clarified with the utmost restraint.
"Weighed a ton!" the young clerk whistled.
"A 2000-pound pumpkin?" Malloy repeated.
"Well, not quite. But it was one big squash. Ya dig?"
Pete nodded. "Then we are talking about a real pumpkin."
"A prize winning squash, Officer." Pete turned on his heel to face the short, portly gentleman who spoke. His cheeks matched the red of his apron. They did indeed remind Pete of cherries. "Barry Bing," the little man introduced.
Berry? Oh Lord! They aren't making this easy! "Officer Malloy," Pete replied, swallowing down the laugh. "What happened, sir?"
"We were closed today, since it's Sunday, but we came in this evening to receive some special shipments and found the theft. I can't figure out how they got the thing out of here. We had to bring it in on a dolly."
"About how big was the pumpkin?" Defensively Pete directed his energies into getting information. Facts, please! Just stick to the facts!
"Six-hundred-seventy-four pounds to be exact. It won the blue ribbon at the Los Angeles County Fair."
"Yes, sir. Do you have any idea about possible point of entry?" His eyes were glued to his pad and pen.
"We've got a broken window in the back. But I'm sure they didn't take it out that way."
"How do you think they removed it?" Pete chanced a look at the man, just for a moment. He was beginning to think he would get through this without losing his grip.
"That's the odd part. No doors were left open. The only thing I can figure is that they came back in, closed up and left by the same window." Mr Bing replied. "But that seems odd, doesn't it?"
That seems odd? Pete shrugged, "What was the approximate value of the property?"
"That's hard to say . . . "
"How much is pumpkin a pound?" Pete asked, biting the inside of his jaw to keep from losing his composure.
"This was a prize specimen," the bright cheeked little man protested. "I'd have to ask Miss Mellon"
"Melon?" Jim parroted, barely keeping himself from chuckling. Pete avoided meeting his partner's eyes, and kept the scowl for later.
"Yeah, that's Cherise Mellen. She's the owner." Mr. Bing clarified. "Did you need to speak with Cherry?"
"I don't think . . . " Pete protested. He was a man who knew his own limitations.
"If she can give information on the value of the property," Jim interrupted. He wasn't about to give Malloy a break.
"I'll get her, if you'll excuse me just a moment," the florid little clerk set off down the aisle.
"Certainly," Jim returned with a flash of his own 100 watt beam of a smile.
"You're in serious danger of forfeiting the wager, partner," Pete warned.
"The bet was that you could get through the call without losing it. Nothing was specified about the number of PR's involved."
"I'm inclined to agree with Pete on this one," Jack sympathized. "It may not have been expressed, but it hardly seems fair to goad him in the midst of the call."
"Thank you, Father," Pete sighed.
"Although I can't wait to see you engage Miss Melon," Jack snickered.
"You've always had a cruel streak," Pete replied through a clenched jaw.
"Yes, Officers?" a rotund woman of forty-five had approached from the office, "I'm Cherise Mellen. Cherry of Cherry's produce. Mr. Bing said you needed to see me about the theft?"
"Yes, ma'am. We were just trying to establish a value on the missing item," Pete replied, momentarily back on form.
"Oh, that's going to be very difficult. Our Peter was something of a marvel, quite a draw to our little establishment. Not to mention the horticultural significance of such a specimen. Hard to put a price on a thing like that, you know. Kind of like a beloved pet, I suppose."
"Yes, ma'am," Pete tried to redirect. His reclaimed composure quickly failing again. "We just need a dollar amount…for the report."
"Oh dear," she looked indeed distressed. "I wouldn't have the slightest…I'm afraid I was a bit attached to the silly thing. It's a shame Mr. Beene isn't here."
"Mr. Bean?" Jim prodded.
"Our accountant," Miss Mellon supplied matter-of-factly.
"Of course," Pete sighed.
To his credit, Pete kept his composure until the cruiser was pulling out of the produce company's parking lot. An explosion of guffaws barely held in check with enormous effort, his face was the color of vine ripened tomatoes. "Grand theft, pumpkin."
"I don't know, the way she talked about it, maybe it should be squash-napping," Jim chuckled.
"All those names, Berry, Mellon, Cherry…" Pete managed through more laughter. "I didn't know whether to ask for the owner, or the next of kin!"
"It was a little odd," Jack agreed. "With those names, could be they feel it's a part of the family."
"They named a pumpkin," Pete insisted. "I think that qualifies in the oddball department."
"I'd have to say Pete won that wager," Jack submitted as the black and white resumed its patrol. "So what exactly do we owe ya, Pete? Would lunch settle the bet?"
"The two of you buying me lunch? I think you're both getting off pretty easily. If I had lost I would have had to buy both your meals."
"I still don't agree that you won, partner." Jim protested. "You were starting to snicker there at the end."
"We were all snickering at the end." the priest acknowledged. "But if the wager is in dispute, why don't I pick up the check for everyone's lunch. Would that be fair?"
"Hardly fair. Jim lost the bet. I say he should pay up," Pete shook his head, unwilling to let his partner off the hook so easily.
"You're the one who couldn't keep a straight face," the younger officer countered.
"And you interfered," Malloy insisted. "Which should have forfeited the entire wager."
"All I did was suggest you speak with the manager. After all, you want to be sure to get all the information
"I'm sure that wasn't your primary concern," Pete snorted.
"Are you questioning my motives?" Jim feigned righteous indignation.
"No question about it. partner," he drawled.
"That settles it," Jack chuckled from the back seat. "Before you two decide to duel it out...I'm buying. Now, where are we eating?"
The trio was sitting at a booth at Biff's a few minutes later. "What's good here?' the priest asked as he perused the menu
"Pretty much everything," Jim replied. "And they have great burgers and Blue Plate Specials. Can't go wrong with those."
"Although you have to understand, my partner never met a food group he didn't like," Pete quipped. "Thank you, Connie."
The pretty, dark haired waitress had returned with glasses of water, cups and a carafe of steaming coffee on a tray. She smiled coyly at Pete as she filled the mugs to the brim. Tucking the tray under her arm she gave a shy look toward Jack, or rather his collar. Then pulling the order book from her pocket and snatching a pencil out from behind her ear, she stood at the ready. "What can I get my favorite boys in blue tonight?"
"Go ahead, Father," Pete offered.
"No, I'll let you two lead, Peter."
"Well, it's your turn, Reed." Pete nodded to his partner.
"That it is," Jim agreed, tapping the menu as he made his final scan. "How's the special, Connie?"
"The beef stroganoff is dee-lish," she smiled.
"That's what I'll have."
"Thanks, partner," Pete shook his head, opening his own menu again.
"Sorry, it sounded great."
"Yes it did. Go ahead, Padre. I'll have to rethink this."
"You said it was my turn," Jim defended.
"Because it was, and I figured you'd bust me if I didn't play fair."
"In a heartbeat," Jim finished with a toothy grin.
"Even though I did win the bet."
"A completely separate matter," Jim argued smugly, enjoying the fact that he'd snatched victory from defeat.
"Father?" Connie redirected to the obviously confused cleric whose eyes were busy following the verbal tennis match between the partners.
"Uh - the stroganoff sounded good, but..."
"It's okay, Father," Jim assured the wary priest. "You can order it. It's just Pete's silly superstition."
"I'll have the fish sandwich and cole slaw," the elder officer jumped in, handing the menus back to Connie who was trying hard not to laugh. "The Father will have the stroganoff."
"Uh, yeah," Jack agreed. "I guess."
"And it's not a superstition," Pete clarified. "It's a precaution."
"Did I miss something?" Jack finally asked in desperation.
"It's Pete's rule," Jim started. "We never eat the same thing."
"And I'm assuming he has a good reason?"
"Food poisoning," Jim whispered after Connie left to put in their orders, careful not to alarm their fellow diners.
"If someone were going to poison your food, wouldn't they be just as likely to add it to both plates?"
"I'm not paranoid," Pete sputtered, having just taken a sip of the fragrant coffee. "Just wary."
"I still don't understand how this works."
"Once a while back we both ate the goulash at a diner where we'd eaten often. We both got sick and ever since, Pete's got this phobia."
"I just don't want to have to drive you to Central Receiving to get your stomach pumped while I'm doubled over myself." Pete laughed. "So as a precaution, we never order the same thing while on shift."
"Of course, that'd be the only way Pete would let me drive," Jim countered playfully. "If he was totally incapacitated."
"Actually, now that I think of it, doesn't sound like a bad rule," Jack agreed.
"You wanna change your order, Padre?" Pete teased.
"That's alright, Pete. I'll take my chances with the stroganoff. You can drive us both to the emergency room."
They passed a quick thirty-five minutes enjoying the food and the stories. Though most were about police work, humorously told by Jim at his partner's expense, the embarrassment level was kept to a merciful minimum. Pete just kicked back and let the banter flow between his friends, past and present. He mused at their similarities; dedication, loyalty and especially a shared penchant for teasing him. They even looked a bit alike; tall, lank, dark, piercing eyes, quick and winning smiles.
But the act of relaxing, letting his guard down emotionally, allowed Malloy to truly assess his fatigue level. He was starting to wonder when he was going to hit his second wind and just how long he could run on sheer will and adrenalin. He hoped the entire shift was like the calls they'd had so far, fairly routine or false alarms. Low on the danger scale.
"More coffee, Pete?" Connie prompted gently in response to his sleepy-eyed stare. It wasn't often she was able to arrive at their table without the handsome bachelor's astute gaze noting her approach.
"Hmmm, yeah," he stifled another yawn, moving his cup to accept the bitter liquid energy. That's what he needed; another jolt of courage, another infusion of caffeine. "Thanks," he nodded, taking a sip and checking his watch. "Ya 'bout finished?" Pete prodded his partner, who was enjoying the last morsel of pie before him. It was the younger officer's second piece, donated by Malloy who didn't have much of an appetite after all, once the food had arrived. He had to admit, watching the production of Jim devouring it was almost as enjoyable as eating it himself. It also saved him working off the extra calories.
"What time is it?" Jim asked around a mouthful of apples and pastry.
"Time to enter you in an eating contest," the older partner chuckled. "And Sharon's probably wondering what's happened to us."
"Hmmmmm," came the wordless acknowledgement as Jim was still attempting to shovel in the last of the dessert.
Pete drained his cup again. "Are you fit to travel?"
"Has it been forty-five?" Reed looked at his own watch, as if to confirm.
"I don't care…" Pete stood stiffly and stretched as discreetly as possible, retrieving his watch cap from the seat. "If I sit here another minute I'm gonna turn to stone. Let's roll, huh?"
"Right behind ya, Pete." Jim shrugged. He and Furillo slid out of their side of the booth. The priest left several bills on the table, and thanked the waitress himself on the way out, following the two partners by only a few steps.
"So you get forty-five minutes for lunch, or…eh, dinner or whatever? Is that what you said?"
"That's the maximum time for code seven," Jim clarified as Adam 12 rolled out into the early evening traffic. "Sometimes we just grab a quick bite. Once in a while we get lucky."
"Some shifts we couldn't buy a seven and I have to hear about it for eight full hours!" Pete joined in. "My partner tends to get peckish."
"He's a growing boy," Jack defended jovially. "Though I've no idea where he puts it."
"You wanna clear us, Reed." Pete chided gently, "Or are you too full of apple pie?"
"1-Adam-12, clear," he complied quickly. "You're just sorry you missed out. Green eyed jealousy ."
"I didn't miss a thing," Pete shook his head with a smile. "My green eyes saw every last bite."
"1-Adam-12. Burglary in progress. 492 Broadhurst. Suspect vehicle described as a blue panel van in the driveway. Two large male Caucasians in green jumpsuits near the rear of the house. Possible third suspect in the van."
"1-Adam-12, Roger." Jim replied into the microphone. "Hopefully it's just the neighbors moving without sending out a change of address notice."
"I'm not feeling that lucky tonight." Pete dismissed, flipping on the reds but not the siren and speeding up the unit's approach. He cut the engine several houses away from the address, tucking the black and white behind a red VW van.
"Let's go see what's up."
"Me?" Jack sniffed, sure he'd misunderstood.
"Behind that pickup oughta give you a good vantage point in relative safety," Jim motioned to a large, early model behemoth across the street which could be a safer location, away from the cruiser. "You can probably see a lot from across the street."
"Just stay down," Pete admonished. "We don't know what we've got."
They proceeded to the dispatched address stealthily, utilizing trees, hedges and parked vehicles to mask their approach.
"I'd feel a lot better if the padre were waiting in the cruiser," Pete whispered in a moment when they were huddled closely behind an old Ford sedan.
"He wants to see how we operate," Jim insisted. "And he's no more in danger in that spot than any of the civilians on the street."
"Still, I wish..." Pete sighed, trying to shake off that nagging sensation he'd had since this shift began. "I'd just prefer to return him in one piece."
"Mother hen!" Jim's grin flashed even in the growing dusk.
"Just worried about the penalty for losing a priest," Pete shrugged.
"You'll do great as a meter maid," Jim teased.
"I was more concerned with the asbestos uniform I'll be sporting in the next life," Pete quipped. The humor, dark as it was, still made him feel a bit more comfortable and in control. It helped him focus.
They made their way behind a garage near the property in question. Just as reported, the unmarked panel van was backed into the driveway, well away from the street. It was partially hidden by trees and gathering shadows. In the dusk the partners could just make out two figures moving near the back window. Jim motioned furtively to his partner who acknowledged with the slightest of gestures before advancing across the yard.
They moved with catlike stealth, their presence unnoticed by the burglars who were too busy passing items out the back window and packing them into the waiting van. The officers remained hidden behind a corner of the neighboring garage as they assessed the situation and watched for their opportunity. They could now see the third man, inside the house, passing items to his companions.
The next time one of the men rounded the open door at the back of the van, Pete was there to meet him, a drawn gun and a finger to his lips effectively silencing the startled burglar. Jim quickly cuffed the man to the handle of the van's door, instructing him to keep quiet and indicating his own weapon as a deterrent.
Jim positioned himself where he could reinforce those instructions as well as cover his partner's movements across the darkened lawn to the open window and their prisoner's accomplices. Pete didn't attempt to mask his own footsteps on the stone path. The other burglars were too preoccupied with passing a large box out the window to notice that he wasn't their comrade. Turning to hand off their parcel, they were met instead with the barrel of a police issue revolver and Pete's toothy grin.
"Evening, boys," the officer drawled, motioning the man beneath the window up against the wall.
"Don't move a muscle," Jim commanded, indicating the third man inside the house as he approached from behind. He held his ground, gun trained on both suspects as his partner patted down and cuffed the man outside.
"Now it's your turn," Jim invited. "Nice and slow and keep those hands where I can see 'em."
"Better call for a transport unit," Pete instructed his partner as they walked all three prisoners back to their waiting cruiser and Jack's amazed smile. "Good fishing tonight," he nodded towards the priest. "Seems we caught the limit."
Jack spent the best part of the next hour learning the intricacies of the booking procedure, and watching as Pete and Jim logged electronics and household items as evidence.
"Is this place always this quiet?" Jack asked as the three of them sat in the alcove outside lockup, Reed and Malloy finishing their reports and log book entries.
"It's Sunday night, so things are usually fairly slow," Jim replied. "But tonight the station is pretty well cleaned out. There's a student demonstration that has most of the watch busy…"
"You're kidding!" Pete interrupted, his eyes wide. "Bigowski was right?"
"Right rumor, wrong campus, Pete," Jim chuckled. "They're all over at UCLA. Got about twenty units tied up with some sit-in at the Admin building."
"Well then we better hit the streets, partner," Pete prodded, standing and gathering his gear. "Looks like it's just me and you left protecting the citizens of Los Angeles!"
"Oh, brother!" Jim grabbed his own notebook and his watch cap and followed Pete down the hall.
"I never realized how much of your job is paperwork," Jack noted as they returned to the cruiser to continue patrol.
"Writer's cramp is an occupational hazard," Jim quipped.
"And you thought it was all action and glamour," Pete snickered.
"I was pretty impressed at the way you two handled that last caper," Jack shook his head. "Even if it all ended quietly. In fact, that was actually the beauty of it."
"Did go down like clock work," Pete smiled, sliding into the driver's seat. "If I do say so myself."
"They aren't all that easy," Jim assured. "Or that amusing. The looks on their faces when Pete showed up instead of their cohort. Too bad you missed that, Father!"
"I had a pretty good view from my safe distance," Jack chuckled. "Looked like John Wayne moseying across that yard by yourself, Pete."
"I wasn't alone," he replied. "Couldn't you see the cavalry bringing up the rear? My partner had me covered the whole time."
"I never quite understood that concept of being covered. I mean, he can't keep you from being jumped or shot. Not from so far away."
The two officers stared at one another wordlessly, then burst into laughter. "He's pretty sharp, for a priest," Pete declared, his grin wide. They continued their conversation of police procedures as Malloy steered the black and white into the mid evening traffic of their district.
"So you don't always have such an easy time of it?"
"Not hardly," Malloy swallowed. "Some calls can go sour real fast."
"There was an element of luck with that one," Jim admitted.
"Yeah. Sometimes they just hand it to you…" Pete smiled, "…pardon the pun. Those guys were too busy feeling smug to entertain the thought that someone could be onto them."
"It isn't always the case, but once in a while a perp's cockiness trips him up," Jim agreed.
"Or sheer stupidity," Pete mused, remembering at least one particularly amusing incident. "Tell him about the guy who tried to report that his friend had stolen his rare coin collection."
"Oh, Mr. Oleander?"
"That's the one," Pete replied with something between a yawn and a chuckle.
Jim turned in his seat to face his audience and began. "We respond to what sounds like a perfectly normal theft report…a rare coin collection. Well, this guy, Mr. Oleander, tells Pete that he knows who took the coins…that this other character is the only one who had access to the collection."
"And that they were friends."
"Yeah," Jim took Pete's prodding in stride and continued, hardly missing a beat. "Not only does he say they were friends, but they had been business partners. So we take the information, and we go visit this other guy, the former partner, a Mr. Cavanaugh."
"That's right," Malloy yawned again, a bit amazed at his partner's memory for names.
"Yeah, so Pete starts interviewing Mr. Cavanaugh, and he tells us that the coins belonged to him, because his partner hadn't paid him his share of the money," Jim paused for effect. "From a heist years before where they'd both stolen the collection from the rightful owner!"
"At least the previous owner," Pete chuckled. "I always suspected that he might have gotten them illegally as well."
"Did seem to be something weird about those coins!"
"Maybe they were pirate plunder," Malloy's eyes flashed with mischief.
"Oh, that's priceless!" Jack exclaimed through guffaws.
It was growing dark fast now and the Sunday evening traffic had thinned out considerably. The radio had been quiet for a full twenty minutes, despite the fact that there were only a handful of patrol units not assigned to the UCLA demonstration. Even Jim Reed seemed to have run out of funny stories and interesting details of police work. The partners and their passenger had fallen silent themselves some time ago, merely watching the lights of the city and the gathering shadows of the buildings, trees and parked cars as night began to fall.
"I hate to jinx us, but if we don't get something pretty soon, I'm gonna die from boredom," Pete groused after yet another impressive yawn.
"You getting sleepy?" Jim teased. "Or just jealous you're not booking some cute co-eds at UCLA?"
"I passed sleepy about six blocks back," Malloy sighed. "And I already had my share of crazy students tonight. Remember our riot?"
"We were trying to keep you entertained," Jack piped up from the back seat. "I guess we just ran out of material."
"Besides your riot, we broke that burglary ring tonight," Jim teased, "Just how much action do you need, partner?"
"Yeah, I'd think when business is slow, that'd be a good thing." Jack chuckled.
"I'm not asking for trouble," Pete protested. "Don't get me wrong. I just want something to do besides sightsee."
"Uh, huh," Jim didn't sound convinced. "Unless it's keeping your eye on a bevy of co-eds."
"Bevy? I thought it was a gaggle of co-eds," Jack joked. He felt for his friend's struggle with fatigue and if humor was needed, he'd do his best to oblige.
"It's a gaggle of girls," the bachelor supplied with the voice of authority. "It's an exaltation of co-eds!"
"I'll bet you get some crazy calls." Jack prompted as a signal for more discussion when the laughter subsided again.
"Our share…" Jim agreed.
"And then some!" Pete interjected.
"Hey, remember that prowler call…on Hawthorne?" Jim reminded. "The one where the woman called about someone skulking around in her rose bushes…and just as we roll up on it, she's dumping ice cold water from the second story bedroom window…in December, mind you…and it turns out the guy is her husband!"
"She'd locked him out earlier because they were arguing. You could hardly blame her," Pete added, tongue firmly in cheek. "They'd been expecting guests, he was late and the roast was burnt."
"That was funny," Jim slapped his knee, remembering the sight of the man flailing and freezing.
"You wouldn't think it was so amusing if Jean did it to you," Pete taunted.
"Jean would never do that to me," the happily married man affirmed.
"Don't be so sure," his partner argued with a wicked smile. "We've been pulling a lot of overtime lately. Maybe you should wear your slicker home."
"My personal favorite," Pete continued, thoroughly enjoying his partner's harmless scowl. "…was the bartender who phoned in a brawl…a good 45 minutes past last call. So we roll on a fight call, and end up writing him a citation for serving after hours."
"If you're gonna talk about wild drunks, we've gotta tell him about the domestic with the woman who was complaining because her husband wouldn't let her park her own car in her own garage,"
"Yeah, that's one for the books," Pete agreed. "Go ahead, tell him."
"We get there, and she's plastered! She can hardly stand. She's slurring her words and calling Pete - Officer Mallard…"
"Or Malaria," Pete supplied.
"It was Mallory. Anyway, she was a real mess!" Jim had to stop to chuckle at the image he was replaying in his mind of the comically drunk female and his long-suffering partner. "So finally, poor Pete has had his limit. This woman isn't hearing anything we're telling her, taking none our our suggestions to wait until the morning when she's…eh…a little less impaired. So Pete finally hauls off and tells her 'Lady, maybe your husband was right! Maybe he was just worried you'd wreck the car and the garage in the process!'"
"Good times!" Pete mused sarcastically.
"I-Adam-12. 211 Silent. 741 Sycamore, at the pharmacy. 1-Adam-12, Handle code 2."
"I-Adam-12, roger," Jim acknowledged. "Four blocks to the right."
"You're a regular atlas," Pete quipped, his tone suddenly tight again.
"Huh?" Reed read the sudden switch of mood, but didn't understand the reason for his partner's sharp response.
"Never mind," the senior officer sighed, a look of apology thrown across the front seat. "I asked for this, didn't I?"
Usually Pete Malloy willed himself to a hot shot call with all due haste. He could remember dozens of times when he'd practically forced the engine into over-drive with a mantra of Come on! Come on! under his breath. But he couldn't recall a time when he'd actually wanted it to take longer to drive four blocks. That dread was back, cold and heavy. Why tonight?
On the alert once again, the partners silently prepared for the potential at the scene. Pete cut the lights as they pulled onto Sycamore's 700 block, just north of the pharmacy. Two sets of well-trained eyes pierced through the growing shadow of dusk, mapping the area and searching for things that were out of place.
"Stay put," Pete ordered into the back seat as he slipped out of his door, holstering his night stick and removing his revolver in nearly a single motion. "Unless I tell you, do not leave this car!"
He didn't wait for a response. The suggestion that there'd be any argument waged against his uncompromising tone was ludicrous. He joined his partner at the front of their cruiser and with a barely perceptible nod, they headed for the pharmacy.
Pete had done something atypical; he'd parked nearly half a block from the storefront, forcing the partners to walk past a handful of cars to get to the entrance. Making his way gingerly towards their destination, he was already second-guessing that decision. He'd done it because they had a civilian with them. It had been Jack's safety that caused him to vary from his usual pattern. Malloy wondered if his partner had noticed the subtle alteration in procedure, and prayed it wouldn't make a difference in the outcome.
They passed a brown Chevy parked in front of the now closed deli, next to Morgan's Pharmacy and Pete hesitated, his partner so in sync, Jim halted without so much as an extra footfall. In the gloaming, the officers could just make out a figure moving in the window. It was impossible from their present position to determine how many suspects were inside, or the number of customers and employees who were held in danger.
Pete felt a trickle of sweat down his back and conversely, his mouth go dry. "Nice and slow," he breathed. He only wished his own pulse would obey that order.
The officers split up, circling the car in front of the Chevy that had acted as a barricade. Jim ran around the front of a long blue Buick and Pete tucked in past its rear quarter panel, guns raised. There was movement inside the store, behind the signs advertising Bromo Seltzer, Polident and Burma Shave. Poised to make a synchronized dash across an expanse of open sidewalk, the partners suddenly froze. Several high-pitched bursts had zinged across the concrete apron, pinging off the metal of the row of parked cars.
Shots peppered the blue Buick, forcing them to take cover behind it. Pete surveyed the scene and after a quick pat on his partner's back, made a dash to the black and white parked a few car-lengths beyond. He needed to get to the radio and call for backup, but they also had a passenger to worry about tonight.
He skidded beside the cruiser, like sliding into third base, opening the passenger door and ducking inside. Jack peeked over the front seat.
"Keep your head down!" Pete scolded as he grabbed for the radio. He keyed the mic and quickly gave dispatch their location, briefing them on the situation in as few words possible. Another round of gunshots attacked both the Buick Jim was hiding behind and the brown Chevy parked between it and the LAPD unit.
"Pete!" Jack cried, moving in the back seat to get a glimpse of his friend crouched outside the patrol car. "Are you okay?"
"Dammit, Jack!" Pete spat. "Get down! What the hell are you trying to do?"
"That language isn't necessary, is it?"
"And stay the hell down!" Pete countered, the repeat of the expletive calculated this time for emphasis. His partner trapped behind a vehicle riddled with bullet holes a few yards away, the closest back-up nearly five minutes out and the added worry over his civilian passenger had his nerves severely frayed. "Damned fool."
"Peter Joseph . . . "
"What? You're gonna argue with me now?" Pete tossed the mic on the seat and removed the shotgun from its rack beneath. His words came through clenched teeth. "Keep down and keep quiet till I get us outta here, hopefully in one piece!"
"Sorry," came the hushed reply.
"And you might hear one or two more slips before this is over," he continued, readying the shotgun as he spoke. "I suggest you concentrate on something else or prepare to be offended."
"So now he's planning the profanity?" the priest said under his breath.
"You heard that?" he sputtered.
"Right now I'm so wired, I could hear your heart beating. Now make like a seat cover and don't move until I give you the go ahead. Can you do that?" Pete switched the toggle on the radio to public address. He couldn't wait for reinforcements, he'd have to engage the suspects with what he had.
Malloy had long ago become aware of the mutability of time. Any young boy walking home from school with a note from the teacher, or playing in a stream or anticipating Christmas morning can tell you that how long is a moment is an inexact science. A police officer hugging his patrol car awaiting back-up while drawing fire is an expert on the subject. If Pete hadn't stolen a glance at his watch every fourteen heartbeats, he'd have sworn he'd need a calendar to measure the time between his cryptic request and 1-Adam-43's answering arrival.
Fortunately, with four alert and highly trained officers facing down two inexperienced junkies looking for a fix, bullets and brains were on the side of the LAPD. It took nearly half an hour and most of Pete's reserve of strength and wit but they were loading the surrendered suspects into the back of 1-Adam-43 for transport before dark.
"You okay?" Pete asked as he gave his partner a good once over
"Yeah, you?" Jim turned it around, the smile playing on his lips showed the effects of relief he was slowly allowing to surface.
"Yeah," came the tight reply. Pete wasn't lowering his guard just yet.
"What about the father?" Jim asked as they walked back to their own unit.
"He's kissing vinyl if he knows what's good for him."
"Let's check on our guest's comfort, shall we?" Pete called into the partially lowered window as they approached Adam 12. "You okay, Jack?"
"Father?" Jim's voice held concern as he jerked open the back door.
"Is it all right for me to talk now?" The priest asked, still not moving a muscle.
"Jack! You scared us half to death. Get up!" Pete exclaimed.
"Are you sure its okay for me to move?"
"Yeah. It's a four. Good grief!" Malloy refrained from any more graphic language than that. Now that the danger was over, he regretted what had passed between them.
"It's okay, Father," Jim assured, helping him up with a hand on his arm.
"A little excitement, eh, Jack?" Pete threw his old friend a crooked smile.
"Is that what you call it?" The priest dusted himself off, stretching limbs stiffened by fear and his restricted quarters.
"Like I said, these things can go sour really quick." Pete sighed.
"Sorry you got in the middle of that," Jim apologized.
"No, I'm here to observe what you fellas deal with out here on the streets. I suppose this is part of it."
"Well it isn't a daily occurrence." Pete shrugged. "Thank, God!"
"Speaking of that," Jack cleared his throat dramatically. "Your language, Peter Joseph Malloy, was appalling!"
"You caught me on a bad day, Padre," Pete chuckled. "I'm usually much more creative."
"You find it humorous?" the priest continued, the glint in his eye belying the serious tone he affected.
"I find nothing funny in having my civilian passenger trying to get himself shot!"
"I was just concerned for your safety."
"That isn't your job. But it is mine to bring you home in one piece. I don't take kindly to your making that task any harder than it already is."
"That was certainly not my intention," Jack looked contrite.
" But I am sorry if you were offended by how I expressed that concern." It was as close to an apology as Pete was likely to go at the moment, no matter how bad he actually felt.
"Well, I suppose that's part of learning what it's like out here," the priest shrugged.
"You could say that," Jim chuckled.
"Why don't we get back out on the streets, whadya say?" Pete suggested.
"So what did you say?" Jim asked as Pete pulled the black and white back into traffic.
"Nothing." Pete shrugged, assuming Jim thought he'd mistaken a noise for conversation.
"No, I mean, back at the pharmacy. What language was Father Furillo talking about?"
"Never mind," Pete shook his head.
"I am sorry, Pete," Jack spoke seriously from the back seat.
"It's okay," Malloy replied. "I'm willing to assume you weren't entirely serious."
"About the cursing?" Jack chuckled. "Not entirely. But I wasn't apologizing for that. I got in the way back there. I suppose that was part of my education. You didn't need to be worrying about me and I just . . . it was strange. I wasn't afraid for myself. It happened so fast and I was just mesmerized, watching you and Jim, and all the time worrying about you."
"About us? We were worried about, partner!" Pete winked at Jim, trying himself to make things light again.
"I always worry about you," Jim feigned a hurt look.
"I never give you a second thought," Pete teased. "You're not a rookie anymore, remember?"
"Yeah, that I believe!"
"I guess I felt safe here in the car, or maybe because you were there, taking care of things," Jack turned a little serious again but he was glad they were joking and the tension between them from before had passed. "But all the while, I was scared that I was going to watch one of you get shot. It almost didn't feel real, though I knew it was."
"Everybody reacts differently the first time. Even cops," Jim comforted.
"We got out with our skins still attached," Pete chuckled. "And about the creative language . . . if I offended you..."
"I'll expect you at confession this weekend," the priest joked, meeting his friend's eyes in the mirror again. "I'm already working on a creative penance."
The ride back to the station was quiet. Both officers were still recovering their bearings from the flood of adrenalin and the repressed fear of the shootout with those young addicts. The nervous energy flowed off them in palpable waves as they sat silently staring out the windshield at the fading sky. Pete felt his heart rate returning to normal, his breathing no longer shallow and forced. But there was a metallic taste in the back of his mouth and he sensed the beginnings of a headache.
Brinkman and Wells in 1-Adam-43 had already started booking the suspects when Malloy and Reed swung down the corridor, Father Furillo in tow.
"I thought it was our arrest, Pete," Jim complained in low tones as they stowed their weapons in the lockers in the hall.
"We'll get these clowns into a cell, Junior," Wells bragged. "You guys can do the paperwork."
"That's just because Ed can't write," O'Shaunnessy, the officer assigned to lockup quipped.
"Somebody's got to get back out on the streets," Brinkman added, as he and Wells waved their good-byes. "Mac left strict orders for everyone to make it snappy with the reports and arrests and get back out on patrol."
"Must still be at UCLA," Jim mused, feeling less put-out that it was an administrative call and their collar hadn't been stolen by the other officers.
"Have we heard anything, Shaun?" Pete inquired of the keeper of the jail.
"Everybody's down there, Pete!" The older officer supplied. "Mac, Sanchez, Miller, the skipper himself! They called out SWAT and most of the special units, the detectives."
"Sounds like some party," Malloy whistled. "Guess our invitation got lost in the mail, partner."
"Just as well," Reed lied a little. "Another shift of overtime and I might need that slicker after all."
"Huh?" O'Shaunnessy frowned, missing entirely the reference that set the trio laughing.
"Nothing," Jim shrugged, returning his attention to his report. If they were under orders to make fast work of the paper, he wasn't going to complain, but he was going to make it quick.
"How's it sounding?" Pete pressed the old Irish officer further, worry lining his already tired face. "Gotten any updates?"
"Nothing much. It's going to be a bad one, Pete. Most of the brass are still up in Sacramento at the conference. And I heard that they wanted to call Gus Baran out, but he's on vacation in Montana for two weeks."
"So who's the negotiator?"
"I think it's Jerry Miller."
"Jerry? He just had that jumper last night, he must be beat!" Pete really felt for the detective, who'd spent most of their last shift trying to talk a guy off a ledge. Malloy had done that once or twice and didn't wish it on his worst enemy. And he didn't envy Miller tonight's duty one bit.
"And tonight's looking like quite the brannigan!"
"Brannigan?" Jim questioned.
"Just an old cop term, Junior!" O'Shaunnessy laughed, borrowing Wells' favorite nickname for the popular young officer. "A fight…a donnybrook. Looks like it's gonna be a long night."
"Yeah," Pete breathed a deep sigh, compartmentalizing his worry for friends and co-workers and the duty that lay before him. "Well, in that case, I guess we better get back on the air. Sharon's probably going crazy in communications tonight."
"The radio's been pretty quiet," O'Shaunnessy offered. "Except for that 211 you guys had. It's funny. Did you ever notice, Pete, that sometimes when there's a hot shot call in the division, it seems like everything else just drops dead silent?"
"Sometimes," Pete sighed. "And sometimes, the routine calls are just like popcorn. Come on Reed, Jack…we can finish these later. I think we'd better get back out there."
"Right behind ya, partner," Jim smiled. Anything to get out of writing another report at the moment.
Malloy squinted into the darkness as he pulled 1 Adam 12 back onto the street. He noted the alteration in his tension level. He'd survived the flush of adrenalin and the exhausting aftermath as the level of brain chemical plummeted and his blood pressure, heart rate and respiration slowed once more. Slowed but didn't return to normal. They were still on patrol, and the fact that most of the division, and other special units of the LAPD were tied up in a stand-off at the campus put something in the veteran officer's nervous system on alert.
A piece of him would have rather been across the district, joining his friends and fellow officers, helping with the big call that would be talked about for weeks in the locker room. For Pete, it wasn't the glory, but he'd admit that, at least in part, it was the rush. If something momentous was going down in the division, it was a drag not to be in the thick of it.
But pulling routine patrol when some intense situation was going on somewhere else in the city had its own eerie feel to it. It was lonely duty. You felt left out, and you couldn't stop worrying about friends in danger. Friends you couldn't possibly help because you had the rest of the city to serve and protect.
From his seat in the back it wasn't difficult for the priest to read the somber mood of the partners. The tense silence, stolen looks across the shared darkness spoke of their disappointment at not being with their comrades across town at the stand-off. Jack was even feeling a little guilty that his assignment with them could have meant the difference in that decision.
Jack had hoped this night's shift would be more than just part of the chaplaincy training. He'd asked for this team because of his friendship with Pete Malloy. The shared stories, all the things he'd learned, and watching his old friend in action had been more interesting and more fun than he'd anticipated. But seeing the partners now, he was beginning to realize that their view of the evening would be somewhat less memorable.
He decided to try to distract the officers with conversation. It was bound to make the time go by faster, and he still had much to learn. Mostly he wanted to fill the void the news of the stand-off had caused.
"What that officer back at the station said, about it turning quiet when a big call is going on …" Jack broke the stillness with another procedural question that would prompt Reed to speak.
"Sometimes it isn't like that at all," Jim replied. "With so many less cars on the street, it can get really busy. Domestics and traffic accidents, drunk drivers, burglaries, purse snatches…crime doesn't often take a holiday."
"But apparently, tonight we're getting a bit of a reprieve," Malloy exhaled slowly. "Maybe you were right, Padre…somebody up there likes us!"
"I guess you just live right, eh Pete?" Jack jibed.
"Malloy?" Jim joined in. "Hardly!"
"So then, nothing's changed much," Jack was glad to be able to lift their spirits with some good-natured mischief. "I thought maybe he'd cleaned up his act."
"What?" Jim picked up on the tease. "You mean Pete Malloy wasn't an eagle scout?"
"He may have worn the uniform…"
"Merit badges and everything!" Pete insisted with a repressed grin.
"But he was hardly what you'd call a model citizen!" he taunted.
"How can you say that?" Malloy cried in mock outrage.
"I was there," Jack replied simply. "Remember?"
"I do remember," Pete argued jovially.
"Remember what?" Jim chimed in, turning to face the priest in the back seat. "Come on, Father. I know you've got a really good one on ol' Pete here. Frankly, I think he deserves it."
"I don't know," Jack hesitated.
"Sure he does," Jim said. "And so do I! You've seen what I go through with this one on a daily basis."
"The kid's got a point, Peter."
"I'm not convinced you've got anything that incriminating," Malloy was sorry for it as soon as the cocksure comment had flown. Jack could well be a library of all his childhood peccadilloes, it just depended on what he had committed to memory.
"Oh yes I do, Peter Joseph, and you know it!" The words hung in the charged silence.
"You wouldn't dare…" Pete was regretting his momentary change of heart, and even more, his own tragic slip of the tongue. He couldn't believe his old friend would really embarrass him on purpose. Pete's bravado before had been just that, meant in fun. But was Jack about to cruelly expose some long-forgotten failing just for spiteful entertainment? "You're a priest. You took vows to keep counsel."
"I'm not talking about your confessions, Pete," Jack sputtered. "I'm talking about youthful indiscretions. Surely you don't have your partner believing you're perfect!"
"And why not?" Pete attempted to joke off the apprehension he had in just what might come from his old friend's lips.
"Hardly!" Jim choked, enjoying the fun.
"A little hero worship is healthy," Pete shrugged. "Commands respect."
"Oh brother!" Jim rolled his eyes.
"Besides…" Jack went on, his voice a bit more serious. "I wouldn't be telling tales on anyone but myself. I was just as guilty."
"Really?" There was a knowing look exchanged between the two old friends in the rear view.
"Maybe more so," Jack continued. "And as I said before, confession is good for the soul."
"I'm not so sure…" Pete squirmed a bit, mentally running down a rather daunting list of possible scenarios, but he saw nothing malicious in the priest's sincere stare. "I don't even know what you're thinking of telling."
"What could it matter all these years later," Jack winked. "You might be surprised what humor is gleaned from the distance of a couple of decades."
But Jim wouldn't be denied. "Like the man said…It was a long, long time ago. What could it hurt?"
"It wasn't that long ago," Malloy defended comically. So far all the stories Jack had shared had been harmless, and amusing and Pete would consent that he'd enjoyed both the priest's re-telling and his own remembering.
"Go ahead, Father," Jim prompted. "You were kids, after all. Everyone does silly stuff when they're young."
"How young?" Pete questioned strategically, another look in the mirror met the priest's soft expression.
"We were fourteen," he replied, his face an open book. There was something deep within his eyes that gave it all away. Something that admitted long-denied culpability to what was about to be revealed and perhaps a willingness to unburden an old guilt.
"Jim, you wanna hear about the first time Pete ever got drunk?" Jack interrupted.
"No!" came from the driver's seat.
"Yes!" came excitedly from the passenger's at the self-same moment.
"Pete wasn't always the upstanding citizen you see before you," Jack began, a mischievous glint in his eye as he met Malloy's look of capitulation. "In fact, for a future officer of the law, he was downright wicked, nearly a juvenile delinquent!"
"This I gotta hear!"
"You might rethink my being godfather to Jimmy after this one," Pete hedged. It had been a long time since he'd thought about the events of that night. He wasn't entirely certain that he was ready for the retelling. But more than his reticence to exposure, he was curious about Jack's perspective. He didn't remember them ever speaking of it.
"We were happy lads of fourteen…" Jack began, his voice taking on the styling of a troubadour, purely for comic relief.
"Good grief!" Pete rolled his eyes heavenward, still on alert, but beginning to welcome the memories that came flooding back. Even if they had initially caused shame.
"As I was saying…" the priest continued, without the affected vocal tone this time.
Pete listened as Jack launched into his own point of view on a very private recollection. There were only a handful of people who knew anything about the incident, and none of them knew what Pete recalled…
They had indeed been fourteen, the three of them: Pete Malloy, Jack Furillo and their third musketeer, Bobby Peters. They'd been fast friends since the first day they'd met on a playground five years before which in childhood is forever. It was nothing for them to be in minor scrapes together on occasion, playing hooky or harmless pranks. Later in high school, it had been those two who'd accompanied Pete on another painful misadventure, when he'd rolled his father's Buick into a ditch! Of course it would have been them!
They'd been at St Alban's church all weekend, part of a much larger group, for a special overnight retreat for the young boys of the parish. It was Saturday night and the programming was over, and they were supposed to be sacked out in their sleeping bags on the floor of the gymnasium. But fourteen being a difficult age, they'd gotten a little bored and were in no mood for either sleep, or the unsanctioned card game they'd somehow organized in the undercroft without alerting the parental chaperones or the college-aged counselors.
It was time for a little expedition into the catacombs of the basement of the old church with a couple of flashlights procured from the sexton's office at the end of the hall. They'd all served St Alban's together, as altar boys since they were ten. They knew the less traveled areas of the aging edifice like the layout of Superman's fortress of solitude in their favorite comic books. Many was the time they had wandered off during the long lines awaiting Saturday confession to find adventure enough to save their boyish sanity. This time, the trio had been followed.
Danny Monroe was two years younger and determined to be a part of the group, despite the fact that they mostly ignored him. Bobby and Jack had siblings and knew well how to avoid the tag-along; one from practice, the other by the painful memory of his own treatment at the hands of an elder. But Pete, being an only child, had the most sympathy for the boy and would often let him hang around, especially when the other two were doing chores or homework and not there to notice. This evening, Danny had slipped away from the boys his age, and followed the three to their hideout behind the vestment closet in the sacristy.
Jack and Bobby had insisted he immediately be banished, but Pete reasoned with them that returning Danny would only risk exposure for themselves. Thinking of it now, Pete smiled at his own youthful Machiavellian tendencies and wondered indeed how he'd come to find his moral compass. Perhaps it had been at that weekend retreat.
After the requisite ghost stories and other boyish rituals to conjure the proper mood, they made their way down the creaky steps to the sub-basement. With two flashlights and three stubs of candles, found in the box where Sister Agatha stored used beeswax for melting down to make new, they made their way past the boiler room. Behind some boxes of faded old magazines and yellowed newspapers with headlines of Nazi invasions and Allied victories they found a wooden crate with a few dusty bottles. Assuming the stash was long forgotten, secreted away by the sexton, the boys hefted the plunder back up the steps to their clandestine spot behind the cedar protected robes and surplices and indulged in their first drinking game.
"So right there in the church?" Jim exclaimed flabbergasted. The headlights of an oncoming car had pulled Pete back from his reverie. "You were drinking stolen wine in the church?"
"You were warned," Pete said solemnly. There was the slightest chance that hearing of this transgression would indeed change his friend's view of him. The risk had already been taken. Maybe it was inherent honesty or remembering the reckless abandon of youth, but Pete didn't feel the need to stop the revelation now.
"Pete found the corkscrew in the little drawer where the altar guild kept it and we popped open an ancient bottle of port."
Malloy could still feel the exhilaration his fourteen-year-old self had experienced at the bold gesture. He'd been in those hallowed rooms dozens of times, robed in the spotless white of his office as acolyte. That night, it was under cover of darkness and he was wearing dungarees, an old blue sweater and high-topped Keds. And there was nothing particularly innocent about his intentions or his actions.
The port had been way too strong for the boys, though none of them would admit to it. But after a few swigs, passing the bottle around and making a big production of wiping the top each time with a shirt-tail and their mouths afterwards on their sleeves, they opted to try another selection.
Pete had tasted Jamison's once when an uncle brought a bottle to celebrate some family milestone with his father. He remembered it burned going down and that the discovery of her son's imbibing had brought stern words from Mary Malloy. Fortified by this night's company and perhaps even a bit by the cloying port, Pete thought the whisky would be the true test of manhood.
On the strength of a dare the bottle was passed. The dark liquid seemed to glow from within, illuminated by the flickering candle and boyhood fantasy. Pete had been first to take a swallow, bracing himself for the initial acrid taste, the long slow burn down his throat.
The vintage was old and the whisky smoother than he'd remembered. It reminded him of a summer when he was nine, spent on his grandfather's farm when he'd sneak off from chores in the heat of the afternoon. He'd climb up a twisted apple tree with a book about the old west, or pirates or knights of the round table, eat his fill, throw the cores to the ground and nap in the crook of the spreading limbs. Maybe it was significant, the taste reminding him of choosing pleasure over duty, but his second swig of Jamison's went quickly to his head. He felt dizzy and warm and giggled for no reason as he passed the bottle into Jack's clamoring hands.
The dark haired boy nearly snatched the prize from his friend, lifting it quickly to his lips and taking a deep gulp. His eyes watered as the sting of the dark liquid scorched his esophagus and the first euphoria burst in his brain. The next minute he was retching in the corner, an object of derision by his friends.
"Couldn't hold your liquor, eh Father?" Reed was laughing sympathetically, when Malloy noticed them again. The memories were vivid and Pete found himself getting lost in them easily.
"That's what he gets," Pete heckled from the driver's seat. "An Italian just doesn't have the constitution for Irish whisky." His words were playful, but his thoughts were far from simple as he remembered that night. There were things about it he'd long forgotten, or thought he'd put away with childhood.
Jack continued undaunted. "I'd been a caution to Bobby Peters, who just took a sip, and young Danny let the bottle pass. Pete took another good stiff swig, his eyes were already shiny in the firelight. When it was my turn again, I gave it another shot. That one I kept down."
Pete remembered like it was yesterday. Bobby hadn't cared for the whisky much, said it burned, smelled funny and tasted worse. Young Danny tried the second go-round at Pete's rough coaxing, with a similar reaction to Jack's. So they looked through the bottles still in the crate and found a couple with a label printed in what looked like German. Pete had seen the language on some souvenirs his father brought home from the war. Four boys who had grown up watching Audie Murphy movies and General Ike on the newsreels, who'd played at fighting the Jerrys on their own backyard Western Front while their fathers were somewhat nearer the real one just couldn't resist a taste of the Riesling.
The wine was sweet, and after the caustic whisky, it tasted like soda pop. Long drafts of the amber libation slipped down their gullets with greedy delight. They were feeling silly and dizzy and full of themselves. Pete didn't remember who had popped the second cork, or when exactly, but they were soon giddy and laughing, talking about baseball and girls they hadn't really made out with, and challenging one another to small feats of daring. They passed the night passing the bottle until things got out of control.
At some point just before dawn Jack had snatched the bottle away from Bobby and was dancing about like a dervish. Bobby grabbed for the wine, but his impaired balance sent him reeling back against the oaken closet. Something in Pete's brain was still working despite intoxication, and fear of discovery had a slightly sobering effect. He reached to catch his falling friend, but missed, then jumped towards the other to stop his mad cavort. Jack's red Converse sneakers kicked at the restraining arms and upset the candle in the middle of this woozy band.
Danny squealed, but Bobby stopped his shouts with a firm hand across his mouth, the resulting flames rallying his own faculties with a quick slap of terror. He pulled the younger boy from the circle as the fire gained momentum. Seeing the blaze as the candle ignited Bobby Peters' discarded canvas jacket on the floor, Pete let go of Jack, who's equilibrium was faulty at best. He fell towards the fire that was growing more intense and hit the ground hard. Pete grabbed the first thing his hand could find, and covered both the flaming jacket and his wobbly friend, smothering the fire and toppling the partially empty bottles. The crisis averted, the four boys starred at one another as the soft first light of dawn crept through the narrow leaded glass window.
"You nearly set fire to the church?" Jim's voice was hard to decipher. Did he find the anecdote amusing or alarming?
"We did our best," Jack chuckled. At the moment, he probably looked the worse in the scenario, but that fact did little to keep Pete from the darker thoughts he'd been grappling with during the recitation. There was quite a bit more that he remembered.
"You could have been killed," Jim declared. "I can't believe you had the presence of mind to put it out!"
"Instinct," Malloy admitted simply.
Truthfully Pete had long ago given up trying to figure their luck. It might well have been the most foolhardy thing he'd ever done. How had he let that memory slip from his mind so completely. And the fire hadn't been the last of the damage from his transgressions that fateful night.
In the growing dawn, Bobby and Pete had hurried to clear away the evidence of their overnight carouse. The jacket was ruined, scorched beyond repair. Bobby spirited it and the nearly empty bottles to the incinerator down the hall while Pete tried to rally Jack and put right the rest of the desecrated sacristy. In the light he saw what he'd used to douse the flames and felt suddenly sick. Even inexperienced at drinking, he knew it wasn't just the alcohol that turned his stomach. Burning the parament had been an accident, in the commission of a rescue. The discarding of it would have to be a willful act, and he wasn't certain how far he was willing to go with that just yet. He folded the scorched fabric and stuffed it in his duffle bag to deal with when his head wasn't pounding.
Woozy, Jack was leaning against the back of the closet, his eyes heavy with intoxication. Pete suddenly wasn't feeling his earlier giddiness. He kicked his friend's leg roughly and ordered him to his feet. "We've got mass in less than an hour," Pete had whispered hoarse with lack of sleep and the night's revelries. "We've got to get this place cleaned up."
"It stinks in here!" Bobby commented, coming from the fresher air of the corridor. "Father's gonna know there was a fire in here!"
"Not if I can help it," Pete vowed, riffling through the drawers in the sacristy for the implements of deception. "Where's Sister keep the incense?"
"Pete!" Bobby slapped his buddy on the back. "That's genius!"
"Today's not a high feast day," Jack slurred from the corner, where he lolled, still dozing. "We don't use the thurible today. It'll never work."
"If you'll keep your trap shut," Pete threatened quietly. "I've got it covered. Now help me find those matches and Bobby, you return the flashlights before the sexton finds them missing."
Wobbly, headachy and more than a little sick, the three friends and their young charge returned a kind of order to the room that allowed them to cover their transgressions. By the time Sister Agatha entered the sacristy, the air was thick with the spicy incense and Pete was bent over the thurible blowing on the coals.
"Whatever are you doing, young man?" she chided, snatching him away from the heated brass receptacle.
"We got up a little early, Sister," Pete lied easily. "So I thought I'd get the charcoal started. Sometimes it isn't going good until halfway through mass."
"Well, did Father Rojesky ask you to start the incense?"
"No, Sister," he replied, seeing his plan dissolve before his eyes. "I was just trying to be helpful."
"Hmmm," she considered him closely a moment. "We aren't using the thurible this morning. So put the lid on it and set it over on the counter and go get washed up. You boys shouldn't be playing with fire! You're serving this morning, I suppose?"
"Yes, sister," Jack replied, throwing a look at Pete that said he thought they'd gotten away with it. And they nearly had.
Early mass was easy. The crowd was small, there was no organ music and only two altar boys were needed. Bobby and Pete having the stronger constitutions seemed the least impaired and so they suited up quickly and leaving Jack and young Danny dozing back in the gymnasium, met Father Rojesky in the hallway. Pete grabbed the heavy brass processional cross and lead the way into the nave of the church. Forty-five minutes later, they were rolling up their sleeping bags and stowing their gear in the gymnasium with the rest of the boys of the parish, like nothing had ever happened. Except for headaches and a dubious feeling when they smelled breakfast coming from the kitchen, they were congratulating each other on escaping unscathed.
But the second service wasn't so easily mastered. For one thing, it was Father Conners who celebrated the mass, and the younger priest was sharper on the uptake than the elderly Rojesky. He kept watching the boys as they clustered together behind a screen in the chancel, partially hidden by the pipes of the organ and some statuary. Jack couldn't seem to shake the sleepiness that had overtaken him and kept leaning on things, and Pete and Bobby were unnaturally pale and queasy. Danny didn't make it.
It might have been the heat and the fact that he was clothed in the red linen cossack and heavily embroidered surplice besides his shirt and sweater and corduroy pants, but he passed out sometime during the long mass. Pete had gotten him into the alcove beneath the organ pipes when he realized the kid was feeling rocky, but despite his efforts to remove the boy's oppressive vestments, Danny had slipped away. The notion that nobody saw Danny keel over gave Pete yet another of his brilliant ideas. He signaled for Jack to help and they pulled him further behind the barrier, then rushed to continue their duties, so no one would notice the youngest boy's absence.
And perhaps nobody would have, had all gone as planned. They were still a little drunk and Pete's hands were shaking as he held the missal for the priest and poured water over Father Conners' hands before the mass was said. Danny had been carrying one of the candles in the second service, Pete the thurible…which the easy-going priest had decided could be used since the charcoal was already hot. At the recessional, the boys' slightly addled brains had been able to determine that a candle would be missed on the way out, but the thurible wouldn't, so the still warm censor was left behind the altar unnoticed. At least by most.
"We hightailed it back to the sacristy," Jack was summarizing when Pete left his own memories behind and began paying attention to his friend's rendition once again. "And when confronted by Father Conners as to the whereabouts of the fourth of our little band, Bobby mentioned that Danny hadn't been feeling well, which was not a complete untruth. We told him the boy had slipped out during the service and gone home."
That wasn't entirely the way Pete remembered things ending.
"So they never found out? You got away with it?" Jim's tone was incredulous.
"Pretty much," Jack replied, a melancholy look passed between the friends. "Bobby and I knew when to beat a swift retreat, but Pete was probably hanging around to make time with some girl and when Father Conners stumbled across Danny, sleeping it off in the chancel, he most likely discovered Pete looking guilty and got him to confess."
"That isn't…exactly…how it happened." Pete stated simply. His thoughts were far more complicated.
"Are you questioning my honesty?" came the challenge from the back seat.
"He's a priest, Pete," Jim reminded, a broad smile still lighting his face from his enjoyment of the tale.
"It isn't your veracity I'm doubting, Father," Pete replied with exaggerated deference. "It's your memory."
The radio interrupted with a dispatch for a hostage situation in a residential area nearby. A distraught man, recently returned from the Army on a medical discharge was holding his wife and three children inside their small home on Waverly.
The happy banter in the black and white was abandoned as the three men sat in stunned silence. Pete turned them in the direction of the call, as Jim acknowledged the dispatch. The link operator requested that they meet 1-L-90 on Tac 2 and Lt. Moore gave them a little more information on the call.
An officer in communications had been able to speak to the man, George Oleynik on the phone. In fact, they were still trying to keep in contact with him. He refused to entertain any suggestion of a police officer entering the home. He'd stated that he was heavily armed and that the only way he was coming out was dead.
Pete took the microphone, when Lt. Moore had requested he speak with him directly. "This is Malloy."
"Pete," the commanding officer's voice was tense. "I wish I had more for you, but I'm afraid you're going to have to handle this one. We have no negotiator, with the UCLA mess."
"Understood," Pete replied.
"We're trying to shake someone free, but odds are, you're on your own with this. At least for the present. You're closest backup is busy at the moment, but we'll get you some help as soon as possible."
"Roger, Val," Pete answered into the mic. "I'm not sure more cops is what we need so much as a way inside."
"That, we're leaving up to you, Malloy."
Pete handed the mic back to his partner, and continued wheeling the cruiser towards their call.
Why'd we have to be poking around in the past? Pete thought as he struggled to shake off the complexities he'd been dealing with since Jack had brought up their unspoken history. Truth was, that episode had been more important than Pete had ever admitted, even to himself. Right now he needed a clear head to deal with what lay ahead, not questions about something forgotten from his past.
There had been much more to the story. Pete had returned to the church alone, his conscious suffering with dreadful thoughts of Danny alone in the darkened building, wakening to shadows and illness…or worse. His still slightly inebriated imagination had dreams of the child dying from their prank. Seeing the empty chancel behind the screen where they'd left their young friend was enough to scare him stone sober.
Father Conners had discovered Danny where they left him, scooped up the boy and whisked him to the rectory, left under the watchful eye of his indulgent housekeeper. Then he'd returned to the darkened church to catch the perpetrators. Father Conners, having been a boy once himself, had figured out what must have happened, and pretty much who was responsible. But he left it to Malloy to confess.
Pete had taken the fall for stealing and distributing the alcohol, and for the fire which it turned out they hadn't been able to cover up with the smell of the incense. He took the blame for Danny too, his guilty conscience was in over-drive. He'd never told who was with him, and though he always suspected that Father Conners knew, the priest didn't betray Pete's trust in the matter. He'd allowed the boy to take the punishment alone.
It may well have been a turning point in a young man's life. Something about his feeling of responsibility, his gratitude that his friend's life was spared and the gentle forgiveness of a loving priest had made Pete seriously consider his future. It might have temporarily headed him in the direction of the church, at least until adolescence took a firm grasp and he knew a life of celibacy had NOT been in his future. Malloy had gladly discovered law enforcement would afford a similar opportunity for giving of himself to some greater good, while allowing him the pleasures of the flesh.
He'd found himself far from church in the years between. Life's changes had brought more questions than answers and Pete had more doubts than belief these days. He hadn't thought about that time in ages, the wild passions of youth or the scare that had started him down a more responsible path than most. Now here it was stuck in his mind at a time when he needed all of his faculties in complete control.
"1-Adam-12... Further on your call. Go to Tac 2..."
The radio's dispatch pulled him once again squarely into the present. Lt. Moore gave them a quick update. The subject had hung up before, but they were attempting to get him back on the line. Communications was doing everything possible to make a deal to get inside the house once Adam-12 arrived.
They were less than three blocks from the scene. As the black and white pulled onto Waverly, Moore had one more message: Oleynik had asked to see a priest.
"Well, that's convenient," Jack replied from the backseat. It was the first words he'd uttered since the original dispatch.
"You're not going in there, Father. That's for certain," Pete declared.
"If he's requesting a priest…"
"There's only one reason he'd ask for a priest, and I'm not prepared to commit suicide by cop!" Pete's answer was low and clipped.
"I don't…" Jack looked perplexed.
"He wants to set up a situation where we have no choice but to kill him." Jim explained. "Maybe he can't do it himself with his kids there."
"I'm counting on that," Pete asserted. "But he's not going down like that either. And I'm not putting anyone else at risk. Clear?"
"I have an obligation," Jack said quietly.
"If it comes to it, you'll be given a chance to administer last rights," Pete had turned around in his seat now, the engine silent. "But I'm still holding out for a conclusion that doesn't require your services. At least nothing so final. Let's see what other options we can come up with."
Pete and Jim climbed out of the car into the dark night, donning hats and slipping clubs through the rings. They approached the house without discussion, walking slowly up the sidewalk.
Shots rang out as they reached the lawn of 238 Waverly. They dived back to the cruiser, their passenger was already lying across the back seat.
Pete flipped the toggle to public address and engaged the subject inside. "This is the police, Oleynik. Time to give this up…"
They sat in silence for some time. A restive space filled with the slightest of noises; crickets, the leaves moving in the trees, the squeak of a leather shoe moved in nervous agitation. But not a sound from the house at 238 Waverly Street.
"What do you think?" Jim asked in just above a whisper.
"I think we're running out of options," Pete sighed, lifting the microphone to his mouth again. "Oleynik! We're out here to talk to you. Why don't you come out here so we can hear what you've got to say."
Another long pause stretched between them and the house a few yards away. The officers couldn't shake the thought of a frightened wife and terrified children behind that closed door. The priest had grown quiet, in an obvious attitude of prayer in the back seat. Nobody moved.
But Pete's hail was interrupted by the door opening, and the barrel of a gun emerging.
"Make no mistake, cop!" a man's hoarse voice crossed the expanse of yard without the benefit of amplification. "I will kill you! Just try me!"
Pete turned to his partner a moment, before flipping the radio back to Tac 2 to update the Lieutenant.
Ten minutes later, they'd gotten no further in their negotiations except that now Oleynik had promised to kill any officer who tried to come in his house and was threatening to begin shooting his family.
"We need a way in," Jim sighed, his jaw twitching with frustration.
"We have one," Pete stated, the faintest hint of a smile played on his lips. An idea had been forming itself since one of Moore's broadcasts. He wasn't certain, but it just might work. It was likely their only hope. "Jack, I need a favor."
"You're not sending him in there!" Jim gasped.
"Pete -" Jack sputtered. "I'm willing to help any way I can, but I feel just a little out of my element here."
"You'll do just fine, Father."
"It worries me when you call me Father" Jack sighed, searching Pete's expression.
"Relax, would ya! Both of you." Pete chuckled. "I would never send a civilian into danger. I just need a wardrobe change."
"Father Peter Joseph Malloy at your service," Pete smiled, his hands in a prayerful attitude over his chest, a very convincing brogue coloring a suddenly gentler tone.
"You've got to be kidding!" Jack choked, somewhere between disbelief and succumbing to a fit of relieved hysterics.
"Pete," Jim questioned. "What have you got up your sleeve?"
"Not my sleeve, partner. But I think the good father's tweeds should work nicely."
"My . . . my clothes?" Jack stuttered as relief washed over him. "You want my clothes?"
"Well, your shirt and jacket anyway. That should get me through the door."
"Pete, you're just gonna waltz in there . . . alone?"
"Priests don't travel in pairs, partner. That's nuns."
"No, that's nuts! I can't let you . . . " Jim protested.
"Jim, we need to get in there and force him to release those hostages. Once we've done that, we can work at taking him down. Hopefully with as little trouble as possible. It's getting in that's going to be the hardest."
"And you think masquerading as a priest will help?"
"I'd bet my life on it." Malloy said firmly. Saying it aloud had only reinforced his belief that the plan had a chance.
"I pray that's not prophetic," Jack shook his head.
"Pete, you can't go in there alone," Jim demanded. He was already starting to feel that panic of losing control of a situation.
"We haven't got much choice, partner, and those kids don't have a lot of time. He's been at this a while and from what Communications says, he's sounding pretty unstable. Everybody is tied up across town and we're short of brass because of that police conference in Sacramento. The lieutenant mentioned a chaplain while he was talking to him from the communications center. Sending one in there is a believable step."
"But you're not -"
"Thanks to Father Jack here, he won't know that until we've got the situation under control," Pete assured.
"You're going to use my collar to lie to him" Jack asked, his eyebrows furrowed with unspoken doubts as he began to assess the situation.
"Well, I'd have worded it a little differently," Malloy shrugged. "But that's basically the plan."
"I'd like to go on record as saying I have serious problems with the plan." Jim spoke up. He couldn't believe his partner would do something so rash without so much as a discussion.
"I'm open for suggestions," Pete shrugged, removing his tie.
"Anything that doesn't require someone going in there . . . alone," Jim insisted.
"We wait for SWAT, and that's if they get themselves clear from across town, and our boy in there has got exactly the confrontation he wants. And there's nothing to keep him from harming his family while we're sitting around doing nothing in the meantime."
Jim met his partner's eyes with a steely glare. He knew Pete Malloy wasn't above a sacrificial move if it was called for, but he wasn't suicidal or reckless. He was hoping to get him to at least take a second look at what seemed an impulsive plan. "You go in there and he has himself another hostage."
"Not if I convince him to release the others. Which is my first order of business." Pete said with conviction, beginning to unzip his uniform jacket. "It may be an exchange for a while, but it's much better odds."
"Well don't get undressed just yet, Pete. I'm a little uncomfortable with this plan of yours myself," Jack hedged.
"Now what? We don't have time for all this discussion, and I don't recall putting it up for a vote."
"As I understand it, you need my clerical collar for this to work," Jack asked.
"Yeah, Jack. You want me to say pretty please?"
"I want you to slow down. I'm not happy with you using the priesthood as a cover. It's deceitful."
"I promise to go to confession as soon as we're finished here."
"We'll discuss the theology surrounding that statement at a later time, Peter Joseph, but I can't let you use my office in the perpetuation of a falsehood."
"I respect your position, Father, but we don't have the time for a moral debate. There's a terrified woman and three small children in there, facing imminent danger."
"I know . . . "
"I'm willing to take the responsibility of a lie on my soul, in order to end this stalemate. Sometimes the situation calls for a little playing with the facts. But if we don't do anything and those kids are hurt, it's on both our heads."
Jack's protest withered. He began removing his wool jacket. "God forgive us what we're about to do in the name of charity."
"Amen," Pete smiled, slipping out of his own jacket.
Jim's sigh was a wordless prayer, much more desperate from the sound of it. He leaned against the black and white, watching the bizarre exchange of costume happening just beyond the beam of a street lamp. He hoped beyond reason that his partner's plan would work after all.
His thoughts were darker than the shadows hiding them beyond the street lights. He wondered if Pete would have listened to a more seasoned partner, Walters or Woods, or even Ed Wells. At least Ed would argue with him, Jim mused, crossing his arms tightly in front of his chest. He felt as though he'd blow apart.
Jim assumed they'd been partners long enough that Pete should have listened to his objections with more attention. He hated the thought that when it came to such a dangerous decision, Pete had hardly given his concerns a hearing. It wasn't wounded pride so much as the fear that he'd failed his friend with his inexperience, or Pete's presumption of his lack of wisdom. Jim wished he'd been able to come up with an alternative that would have at least given them something to chew on. Anything besides this crazy plan.
He watched the two old friends undressing just out of sight of the house, and wondered had there not been such a ready disguise, if the idea would have even occurred to Pete. An hour ago they'd been laughing at the anecdotes and enjoying this boyhood friend of Pete's, never realizing the dangers ahead. Jim remembered his partner's reticence at the beginning of the shift, and wished they'd heeded that red flag long before now.
"Pete," Jack hesitated once again as he began removing his stiff white collar from the black clerical shirt. "If this man thinks you're a priest, he may want to unburden himself . . . "
"I'd gladly take his confession," Pete chuckled, unbuckling his gun belt.
"Seriously, Pete. A confession for you is merely an admission of guilt, but for me . . . the confession is sacred. And I took a vow that I would keep it so . . . "
"Jack," Malloy assured, his expression suddenly sober. "Without reading him his rights, I can't use anything he tells me. It'd be inadmissible. And somehow I think Mirandizing him first would blow my cover a bit."
"So if he starts to confess?"
"I'll ask him to wait for the real priest waiting outside," Pete snickered, unbuttoning his uniform shirt.
"And if he asks for last rights . . . "
"Just say a prayer that we both get plenty of time for the giving of rights of all kinds after I've gotten him in custody."
"I'm reminded of what I wrote in your yearbook." Jack's smile hinted at a bit of mischief yet. "You recall?"
"Not precisely, at the moment. But for some reason I still remember what Mary Ellen Stanton wrote." Pete pulled the tails of his shirt from his waistband.
"Pete, I'm begging you to keep chaste thoughts while you're pretending to be me."
"Sorry. You asked." he shrugged, taking the clerical garment from his old friend's hand. "It was something about death, wasn't it?"
"I couldn't tell you what she wrote, but I have an idea it wasn't G rated."
"Nothing about that girl was G rated!" Pete winked, tucking in the shirt and re-buttoning his waistband. "I meant what you wrote."
"What are you two babbling about?" Jim's nervousness and worry had turned him impatient.
"One of those corny rhymes kids write at the end of term." his partner explained. "When you are sick and going to die, Call me up and I will cry. Was that it, Jack? I'm deeply touched."
"It was not!" Jack answered with feigned annoyance. "I was much more mature than you, even back then. I wrote: If you get to Heaven, before I do, Bore a little hole and pull me through. How could I know it might be a possibility?"
"And that's supposed to give me comfort now?" Pete cringed, struggling with the unfamiliar garment's construction.
"I only said it just popped into my head. I guess it was all this making a production of our good byes. The tension made me think of something ridiculous." The look he gave his friend contradicted his playful tone. There was worry in his eyes and something still unspoken.
"Uh, huh. How the heck do you wear this thing?" Pete groused, tugging at the stiff stand up collar on Jack's black clerical shirt.
"It's a matter of grace, I guess," Jack laughed, shaking his head at his friend's pained expression. "May I remind you this was your idea?"
"If I'd known it was this uncomfortable, I'd have drafted Reed for this assignment."
"It's not too late to change your mind on the whole thing." Jim proposed. His entire body rigid in an attitude of indignation; arms crossed, jaw working nervously.
"Nobody would believe those chiseled good looks had ever been allowed to take a vow of celibacy," Jack winked at the younger partner.
"Don't remind me," Pete sighed. "I'm trying to forget that part of this charade."
"Here. Let me help you with this." Jack turned Pete towards him and began adjusting the stiff white tab into the slots of the collar. He laughed at the scowl on his friend's face. "Relax, Romeo. Wearing this for an hour or so won't cause permanent damage to your love life."
"Hmmmm?" the bachelor wasn't convinced.
Jack took a step back, admiring his work. "If Father Rojesky could see you now!"
"He's probably spinning in his grave," Pete sighed, pulling at the collar again in exaggerated discomfort.
"Actually, I was thinking he'd have pushed even harder towards your taking the vows. You look pretty good, my friend."
"Well, don't get any ideas. I have no plans to make wearing this a habit," Pete assured. "Pardon the pun."
"Speaking of plans, there's a little one of yours I'm hoping works better than it has any right to," Jim grumbled, joining them as he stepped away from the black and white.
"Hey, Jack says I look the part. We're halfway there."
"I don't like it," his partner shook his head. "If Mac or the Lieutenant were here, I don't think they'd approve either. It's dangerous."
"Foolhardy," Jack added. "At least that's my civilian assessment."
"It's the only chance we've got, as I see it, and I did open the floor for suggestions." Pete shrugged into the tweed jacket. "And since Mac and Jerry and the Lieutenant have their own hands full and SWAT occupied across town, I guess we're on our own. How do I look?"
"A passable priest, I suppose," Jack chuckled.
"I'm still against this, but that doesn't seem to matter." In his favor, he kept the full scope of his emotion from his tone.
"I'm sorry, Jim." Pete turned a sympathetic smile his way. "And I ran it by the only brass available by radio before I said anything to either of you. So you don't need to worry about approval."
"I doubt Mac would be thrilled," Jim argued.
"Probably not," Pete shrugged.
Jim smiled slightly, not wanting his hatred of the plan to come between them as partners, especially not now. Pete was the senior partner, and the decision was ultimately his. And he'd been right, nobody had come up with a better idea. "I would never confess a thing to you. But . . . well. it's a little scary how you look like you belong in that get up."
"Don't get used to it," he scowled. "We get the go ahead from dispatch?"
"Yeah, They tried for a chaplain and an officer, but he said the priest had to come alone. I can go as far as the walk. I guess we just hope for an opening then."
Jim's heart was clearly not in this and considering that, Pete gave him points for professionalism. "I have a feeling that's not going to happen. Did he agree to release the wife and kids?"
"Not yet, but they think you might have a chance once you're inside."
"Wish me luck."
"You're not going in there without a weapon!" Jim reminded. His surrender had limits.
"Hardly," Pete shook his head, reaching for his revolver in the gun belt lying on the hood of Adam 12. He slipped a pair of handcuffs out of their leather case and began securing the tools of his trade where they were both accessible and well hidden by the jacket of his disguise.
"Sorry, Father," he apologized, watching Jack's expression darken as he observed these last preparations. "I'm only going to use the force necessary, but I'm not going in there unarmed."
"Darn right you're not!" Jim asserted.
"Save a little of that protectiveness for your performance at the door, partner," Pete laughed. "He might think it's hinky if you just give up a civilian so easily, even a police chaplain."
"Don't worry. My resistance won't be an act." He looked towards the house, unable to meet Pete's smile.
Pete turned back towards Jack, "And I don't plan to have to take out the gun, not with a bunch of scared kids in there, but I can't take the chance."
"I understand. I may not like it, but . . . " Jack handed Pete a worn leather volume. "If you're going around dissembling yourself as a priest, you might as well really look the part. Just watch the colorful language, huh?" Jack attempted the tease, but his eyes belied the playfulness. There was worry etched in them.
"On my best behavior," Pete promised with more than the mock sincerity of crossing his heart. "I'll try not to tarnish your collar, Jack, and see if I can remember a little of what Father Conners taught us."
"And I want this back," Jack tapped the book now in the breast pocket of the tweed jacket his friend was wearing. "I have other collars but there's only one of these."
"You'll get it all back, I promise." Pete chuckled.
"It carries the blessing of the Holy Father, so take good care of it."
"The pope?" Pete's eyes flew wide.
"So you can understand why I want it back," he looked deep into his friend's eyes, the message unspoken though clear.
"Maybe I shouldn't . . . "
"Keep it in safety and may Saints Patrick, Michael, Tarsicius, and Jude go before you. And Pete . . . " Jack's eyes were misted, his square hand gripped Pete's shoulder. "Be careful."
"Always," Malloy tried to sound light.
"I mean it. That man . . . he's . . . desperate. And he doesn't seem to mind if he takes someone with him. Even his own family," Jack squeezed the shoulder gently. "Just . . . take it easy, huh?"
"Relax, Father. This is what I do. And believe me, I have no intention of dying wearing this." His voice had a serious tone again, but the twinkle in his eyes returned as he secured his gun in his waistband. "You remember what I wrote?"
"In my yearbook? Something equally inappropriate no doubt." Jack shook his head.
"It's been a long time, but let's see . . . I think it went like this: If in Heaven we do not meet. Side by side we'll stand the heat,"
"Perhaps you should focus more along the lines of my poem at the moment. It has a better outcome, I think."
"And if it gets intensely hot . . . " Pete continued, the smile playing on his lips as he scanned his memory for the words penned over a decade ago.
"You two are impossible!" Jim complained, the concern thinly veiled with annoyance.
The old friends smiled at each other as the punch line occurred to them simultaneously. They ended the hokey poetry together, with a flourish. "Pepsi Cola hits the spot!"
"Oh brother!" Jim sighed.
"That's Father Malloy to you, my son." Pete winked. "And on that note, I'm going in."
Jim accompanied him down the sidewalk and up the walk, but they were met by the barrel of a gun sticking out a narrow gap in the door as soon as they stepped into the yellow illumination of the porch light.
"That's far enough. I said no cops!"
Pete raised his hands over his head, one clutching the precious borrowed Bible.
"You asked to talk to a chaplain," Jim called across the space between them and the unseen subject.
"I said I'd talk to a priest," the man agreed. "What's your name?"
"Father Malloy," Pete answered, his tone even and gentle, the voice he'd assumed in his role as Father Malloy hardly recognizable to his partner. "I'm from St. Swithins on Addison." There was no answer to the lie. Pete felt himself praying the man would believe the ruse, and wondered if the divine petition was in reaction to wearing the costume. "I'd like to talk with you, George. Why don't you come out on the porch and ..."
"Okay, Mr. Oleynik, just relax," Jim soothed, his own hands in a neutral attitude, but Pete had no doubt he was a split second from drawing the weapon at his side.
"Maybe I could come in then," Pete continued his impersonation. "I'd like to help if I can."
"I said no cops!"
"No, just me," the ersatz cleric assured. "The officer will stay outside."
"Then make him leave!"
"I can't do that, Mr. Oleynik," Jim insisted. "I won't come any closer, but I can't leave. You know that."
There was no answer for some time. The partners began to wonder if they'd lost this gamble. Worried looks passed between them and then they heard the tight voice again. "Just the priest."
"Are you sure about this?" Jim asked his partner soto voce .
"Why don't you send the kids outside while you talk with the chaplain?" Jim bargained.
"No way! My kids stay here with me and my wife!"
"Tell him it's okay," Pete told Jim quietly.
"My kids stay with me!"
"All right," Jim sighed.
"I'm ready to come in now, George, so we can talk," Pete again addressed the partially open door.
"No cops," the man insisted. "No tricks!"
"Just me, like we agreed," Pete insisted. At least that wasn't entirely a lie.
"Well, it's against my better judgment, but the father here insists," Jim made it sound convincing. "We'll be right out here, by the car. That's not going to change."
"Just stay off the lawn, away from the house!"
"Okay," Jim stepped back a couple of paces.
He watched his partner intently as he slowly approached the house up the narrow sidewalk. He'd have given a week's pay to be allowed to accompany him. The door closed behind Oleynik and Malloy and Jim's eyes fluttered shut a moment. Maybe it was a prayer, or just desperation but he whispered to himself, Please let this work!
After a few minutes, he decided to move back to the unit and check in with the radio. As he crossed the sidewalk he noticed the tall, dark haired figure in the shadows, wearing Pete's jacket over a white tee shirt. The image gave him pause. How did this night turn so strange?
"Now we wait," Jack said simply as Jim reached into the passenger door for the radio mic.
"I hope we don't have long to wait," he replied. "I-Adam-12 to 1-L-90."
"Go ahead, Reed," Val Moore's calm, clipped delivery was little comfort in the dark.
"Malloy's inside," Jim reported. "We tried but he wouldn't go for it, so Pete went in alone."
There was a short silence before he heard Moore's measured response. "We're working on getting you some backup. Keep me apprised, Reed."
"Roger," he replaced the mic on the hook, and leaned against the black and white, unaware he was being watched by the priest in a patrolman's jacket.
Jack studied the young man intently staring at the house beyond them. He'd seen people in distress, worried, frightened, grieving. It was part of his job. The mix of emotions that crossed the young man's face gave it a maturity in the dim light of the street lamps.
He watched as Jim toyed with the magazine of ammunition on the side of his gun belt, trying to imagine the thoughts and fears behind those earnest blue eyes. It wasn't difficult for Jack to read the officer's anxiety and apprehension; he felt much the same way. They both admired the man they'd watched walk into that terror-filled house. They both worried for his safety, and wondered if they'd seen him in life for the last time.
But as he was used to facing the waiting alone, the young man to his left was obviously wishing for reinforcements. Support that sounded like it was too far off to be of much good. His heart went out to the young cop's plight, he wished he could give him something solid to hold onto.
"Your lieutenant, what kind of man is he?" Jack asked quietly.
"Lt. Moore?" Jim turned back to watch the house again, not that any answers were forthcoming. "He's strict, but fair."
"Known him long?"
"He was one of Pete's training officers," Jim said absently, his thoughts were pulled to his own worried imaginations of what might be happening behind those curtains.
"He sounded like he trusts you two to handle this," the priest comforted.
"Hasn't got much choice," Reed summed up.
"I didn't hear any undue worry in his voice."
"You wouldn't," Jim sniffed. Moore was one cool cookie. It wouldn't be the first time he sent a man into a hopeless situation, knowing it might be a lethal choice.
"It's out of his hands."
"Yeah." Jim was quickly realizing that they were all just as powerless as Lt. Moore to do anything to help Malloy now. They really did just have to wait it out. He thought it seemed more difficult standing only a few yards away. "What were those saints you mentioned to Pete before he went in?'
"Patrick, Michael, Tarsicius and Jude," the priest replied with a smile. "And any others who care to listen!"
"Why those?" Jim asked, trying to calm his nervousness with something.
"Well, Patrick was obvious, because Pete is Irish, I suppose," Jack began with an incongruous smile. "And Michael the Archangel you know, is the patrol of police officers."
"Yeah, I think I've heard that one," Jim hadn't paid much attention to such things before, but he knew a couple of the officers actually wore a little medal around their necks with a symbol of an angel holding a sword and shield. He'd never seen Pete with one. "And the others?"
"St. Tarsicius is the patron of altar boys," Jack chuckled a little. "I guess after our conversation earlier, I figured he'd be one to invoke. Always wondered if he didn't have a little to do with the fact that we didn't burn St. Alban's to the ground that night, cause by all rights, we should've."
"He's for desperate cases and lost causes," Father Furillo admitted with a look of chagrin. "And if ever there were a case for his consideration…"
Two black and whites pulled to the curb at the far corner. Jim glanced at the officers walking towards them, but his attention returned to the house, drawn like a magnet. It didn't matter much now if they had all seven thousand of the LAPD here, Pete was still inside with a gunman, alone.
"Reed?" Mac inclined his head towards the house they were watching so intently they hadn't even acknowledged his approach. His single word asked all the questions Jim was hoping to avoid answering.
"We tried to wait," he began. "But things started to escalate and Pete was sure we didn't have time."
"He may have been right," Brinkman agreed as he joined the cluster behind Adam 12. "We've been here a couple of times on domestic disputes. Something just isn't right about that guy. Real quiet type, but you could tell there was something bubbling underneath."
"You a shrink now, Brinkman?" Ed Wells spoke up as he sidled in next to Jim Reed. "You let him go in there alone, Junior?"
"Not really my choice," Jim replied, feeling the heat of resentment creep up to his hairline.
Wells and Brinkman found a spot in one of the neighboring yards, beneath a large spreading tree, and leaned against it to wait. They were talking quietly to themselves, but mostly they watched the porch of the house at 238 Waverly, and shot nervous glances back at 1-Adam-12.
Mac hitched a seat on the quarter panel of the unit with a sigh. Jim noticed the commanding officer looked a little worse for wear. This night had taken a toll on his nerves. He was doing an eight-hour turnaround just like his men, it hadn't been an easy shift, and it wasn't over yet.
Jack was leaning against the other side of the unit, alone. He'd moved away when the other officers arrived, either to give them privacy, or get his own, Jim wasn't sure. He looked particularly worried, the fingers of his right hand were tracing the white hash mark on the left sleeve of Pete's traded jacket. Jim recognized the emotion in that gesture and decided to join him in his vigil.
The priest acknowledged his approach with a weak smile and a questioning look in his eyes. Jim shook his head in response to the unasked question. Nothing had changed since the reinforcements arrived. For now, they'd play out this scenario and hope that Pete was making more progress than they were.
There was a long stretch of silence between them, both men watching for any sign of their friend's success inside the house. Finally, it was Jack who spoke again, quietly and with much feeling. "Pete went back and confessed, you know."
"The wine. The fire. Danny. Pete always had an overactive sense of justice." Jack sniffed. "He couldn't just walk away, so he went back and turned himself in."
"Just like that?"
"I think his conscious was bothering him, worrying about Danny."
"So you all got in trouble?"
"No, just Pete." Jack looked a little uncomfortable. "Pete took the rap, as the kids say…for the alcohol, for the fire and even for leaving Danny. And he took the punishment. Apparently he never mentioned who else had been involved. And the rest of us let him."
"You never told?"
"Bobby's in politics now, so I suppose a little lie among friends isn't such a weight on his conscience. I went to Father Conners while I was studying for the priesthood, as an act of contrition and got his side of the story. But I hadn't thought about in years." Jack mused. "Pete's like that, you know. Always the one you could count on in a pinch. A real friend."
"Yeah," Jim replied wistfully, his thoughts dark and worried. He was quiet for a long time before speaking again. "What was the punishment?"
"You mean besides the book Father Conners threw at him?" the priest snorted. "And ol' Brian could dish it out, lemme tell you. I once got forty Hail Mary's and 25 Our Father's for, well, let's just say I gave up all that sort of thing when I took the vow. But Pete's? I can't . . . eh . . . oh yeah. I remember now. Pete spent the next three Saturdays cleaning out the basement of the rectory. All by himself. Still hard to believe he never ratted us out. We never even talked about it. Pete never brought it up."
"I'm not really surprised," Jim said quietly, thinking of his friend, inside that house, alone with a gunman.
"Well, he better get out here soon so I can . . . " Jack lapsed into silence himself as he stared at the house beyond them in the darkness. "Eh . . . get my collar back."
"You're worried about him, aren't you?"
"Worried about Pete?" Jack chuckled. "Should I be?"
"I don't know," Jim mused. "I am, I guess."
"I suppose it's a matter of faith," the priest suggested.
"Faith? You mean that we should pray for him?"
"Couldn't hurt," Jack shrugged. "I find, even if nothing else, prayer always seems to help the penitent."
"Then if you don't think prayer would help him, what did you mean?"
"I'm sure a little word offered Heavenward would be appreciated, but I was thinking more of faith in your partner," Jack answered. "Pete's pretty resourceful right? Been through a lot in that year you've been together?"
"As I recall, Pete's been an officer a lot longer than that, hasn't he? Must have found himself in quite a few bad scrapes."
"And he got out of all of them . . . yeah . . . I got it. But . . . "
"I'm just saying to have a little faith, Jim."
"He's in there alone this time," he protested.
"And you'd feel better if it were you?"
"I'd like to . . . to have some control over it at least, yeah."
"But that wouldn't be faith, would it?" Jack smiled wistfully. "That's the hard thing about faith for me. The giving up of control."
"You have trouble with faith? Isn't that your job?"
"Well, this is yours," Jack shrugged, crossing his arms in the jacket he'd swapped with Pete, and joining Jim in leaning on the cruiser. "And you seem to be having a little struggle with it now. I guess none of us gets off that easily."
A shot rang out, followed by a tense silence.
"Mac?" Every atom of Jim's body was on alert, but he didn't realize he'd actually moved until the resistance of the sergeant's broad hand restrained him as it lay gentle but firm against his chest.
"Easy Jim," the commanding officer spoke slowly in just above a whisper. "We're going to do this right."
"He shouldn't be in there alone!" Jim started to shrug off another hand on his shoulder until he realized it was Father Furillo.
"Maybe that's why he's coming out with someone," the priest offered with a suppressed chuckle.
Jim threw him a questioning look, then followed Furillo's dark eyes to the porch of 238 Waverly Street. Illuminated by a single yellow bug light overhead were the images of a familiar looking Irish priest leading a haggard, unshaven man with his hands cuffed behind him.
Despite Jim's instinctive lurch before, Wells and Brinkman were the first to move to intercept the pair. The prisoner was handed over to the officers with deceptive facility as the tension of the standoff melted into the darkness.
"Howdya get the drop on him, Pete?" Brinkman questioned as he took charge of Oleynik.
"Oh, just expert police work, Brink. You know how it is," Malloy teased as he handed over his prisoner to Wells and his partner for transport.
"I'm sure your official report will be a little more detailed," Mac approached the clerically clad officer with a practiced look of disdain.
"Sure, Mac," Pete smiled. "It'll be an fascinating read."
"You mind giving us a little preview?" Mac prodded, insistently.
"Wouldn't want to spoil it for you."
"You're out of uniform, Malloy." The look he gave made the officer straighten his shoulders and stop laughing. "Enlighten me."
Pete quickly explained the ruse with the clothing swap they had used to get into the Oleynik house, then turned the tables on his commanding officer. "So how'd it go over at UCLA?"
"Things broke up pretty quickly there after the SWAT team lobbed twelve canisters of tear gas into the administration building. They're loading up the wagons with demonstrators and taking a good portion of them by ambulance. Now the problem is clearing the area of the gas which doesn't seem to be dissipating. But that's the fire department's headache."
"Twelve canisters?" Pete let out a whistle. "What happened, Mac?"
"To hear Jerry Miller tell it," the Scotsman chuckled. "It was officer fatigue. He was just sick and tired of the whole mess."
"Speaking of interesting reports!" Pete's smile danced in his eyes, tired but relieved.
"You made pretty quick work of this arrest," Mac acknowledged. "Just how did you get the drop on him so fast?"
"Darndest thing," Malloy's enigmatic smile had returned. "When I got in there I noticed they all looked like they'd been to
Hell and back. Oleynik hasn't slept in days and I think he's pretty much exhausted. The family has been terrified."
"I've been fighting to stay awake all night myself. I took one look at this whole family, frightened but most of all just worn out. And I then, despite myself, I had to stifle a yawn!"
As if to demonstrate, Pete set off once again with a prolonged, deep inhalation, a shake of his head and a slow, noisy exhalation. "Sorry, Mac."
"He's been like that all night," Jim pronounced.
"What does that have to do with you getting the slip on the guy?"
"Well," Pete subdued yet another. "I started…and you know how contagious the darned things are? Well, then Oleynik started. And after the first one, I saw my chance and I…" another fit of yawns had begun, passing among the weary, sleep-deprived gathering. "Sorry, Mac. That's about it, I guess I just worked with what I had."
"I'll read the report," the supervisor shook his head, walking back to his own black and white.
"Hey, Mac," Jim called after him. The grin on the younger officer's face hinted at his enormous relief. "Don't we even get points for ingenuity? Resourcefulness?
There was no answer from the retreating supervisor, but Pete and company noticed a hand fly to his mouth as Mac inhaled, shuddered and exhaled as he made his way along the sidewalk with his back to them. They were indeed contagious.
"So you didn't get bored or anything out here, did ya?" Pete chuckled, as they watched Mac return to his station wagon.
"We were just chatting," Jack winked from behind the younger officer. "Told Jim a little more about your criminal past."
"Can't leave you two alone for a second," Pete shook his head, climbing into the driver's seat. "Hey, Jim. Before Mac gets away, you wanna see if he wants us to stick around and work with the detectives?"
"Sure, partner," Reed seemed suddenly eager to obey any order; the relief from worry poured off him like sheets.
"Kid was plenty worried about you back there," Jack reported after they were alone.
"Yeah," Pete's head was leaning on the steering wheel. The exhaustion of yet another flush of adrenalin ripping through his weary body. "He had reason."
Jack let the honesty of that simple admission fully sink in. "I was a bit anxious myself."
"Afraid you wouldn't get this back?" Pete handed the borrowed slim black volume through the open door.
"Concerned I wouldn't get the chance to hear you forgive me."
"Forgive you?" Pete was suddenly alert again. He turned towards the priest standing outside the cruiser. "For what?"
"You never told." There had been something hanging in the silences between words the whole night. Pete realized he was about to hear the confession of a priest. "We never talked about it, not once. You didn't even confide in us about the punishment. Bobby and I got that from the scuttlebutt on the playground. You went back in there to find Danny and take whatever consequence there was - alone."
"It was years ago," Pete shrugged off the sincere words. "Like you said, it can't make much difference now."
"I never had the guts to own up to it back then," Jack continued, bent on having this settled between them at last. "But it made a difference in how I lived the rest of my life, I think. Always wanted to try to measure up to your example."
"I hope you set higher goals as you went along."
"None for bravery and integrity," Jack's dark eyes were shiny with emotion. "Or friendship."
"Well, we both learned a few things that day," Pete sighed, closing his eyes for a moment.
"Pete," Jim came running back up to the unit. "Mac wants to see us back at the station…pronto."
"You heard the man," Pete turned the key in the ignition and once Jack had cleared from it, closed his car door. They set off across the district to the station.
They entered the crowded station just at shift change. The trio was met with a collection of odd stares, some elbows to the ribs and more than a few whispers. But it wasn't until they entered the CO's office that they realized the reason.
"Pete," Moore's long, dour face was particularly stern. "Is there something you wanted to tell me?"
"No, sir," the officer replied, hoping their interview would be short. They had paperwork stretching ahead of them for hours.
"Are you sure?"
"Positive, Val. Unless it's to say thanks for the backup."
"So no unusual developments on your tour? Nothing noteworthy I should be looking for across my desk?"
"Can't think of a thing, Lieutenant."
"Eh…you're still out of uniform, Malloy!" The tired officers broke into laughter at Pete's odd appearance. "Now unless you've taken the vow, get to the locker room and get ready for inspection before you get on that paperwork."
"Yes sir," Pete sighed, leading the way for his old friend.
"I wasn't alone," Pete smiled as the two of them headed for the now deserted locker room, leaving Reed to begin the reports. "Father Conners was okay once you got him away from church."
"Peter Joseph Aloysius Malloy!"
"Jack!" Pete gulped. "Aloysius?"
"Wasn't that your confirmation name?"
"If it was, I'd want to keep it quiet," Pete stifled the laugh Furillo's old joke always elicited.
"I thought sure…"
"Aloysius isn't even Irish."
"Figured maybe your father just read too much James Joyce."
"That was his confirmation name."
"Good for him," Malloy shook his head, opening the door to the locker room.
"So what was it again? Ulysses? Urbicius?"
"Never mind!" Pete avoided. "Unless you want to talk about yours."
"Eh, perfectly right. Never mind, Aloysius!" Jack agreed, barely covering his smile.
"Not even close," Pete chuckled around yet another yawn. "What were we even talking about?"
"You'd made some unkind comment about Father Conners away from church," Jack reminded. "And I was scolding you for it."
"You know what I mean, Jack. When he was off duty, he was a pretty good guy. He wasn't quite as hard on me as I imagined. And I suppose now that I know you've been sweating it all these years, I should make another little confession on the subject."
"Well, there were a couple of perks along with that punishment."
"Father Conners had a killer baseball card collection. Remember my Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays rookie cards?"
"You didn't steal them while you were being punished?"
"No!" Pete's face showed shock and amusement. "What are you, crazy? I didn't steal them."
"Father Conners gave them to you?"
"I think he might have suspected that I wasn't quite alone in my guilt on that caper in the sacristy."
"I still can't believe you never told him." Jack's simple look spoke volumes. "You said a couple of perks, and I don't think you just meant two baseball cards."
"No, there were about two hundred in that collection," Pete chuckled, remembering the long ago coup and the cards that were even now in a shoe box in his closet. Cards that would one day go to his son, if he ever had one, or perhaps to his godson.
"So . . . what was the other perk?"
"Father Conners, it would seem, was human. He even had a niece."
"She was visiting one of those weekends. Veronica. She was a couple of years ahead of us in school, and, well . . . she was way ahead of us otherwise. For the first time, I was glad I was tall for my age." Pete's expression suggesting much more than his words had admitted.
"You dirty dog!"
"Hey! Go easy on that imagination! We were in the basement of the rectory, and her uncle was right upstairs. Besides, I was all of fourteen."
"Yeah, and she was an older woman of sixteen. I'd have loved to have taken your confession the next week."
"Wouldn't you though." Pete winked, as he opened his locker, enjoying the teasing with his old friend.
"You better take that thing off." Jack indicated the borrowed collar. "After that story, I may have to burn it."
"Jealousy doesn't suit you, Jack."
"I'm not jealous," he argued, defensively. "But just once I'd like to get the better of you in one of our memoirs."
Pete sat in the back of the old stone church, the cool grey pillars stretched above his head like the prayers of the faithful around him. Strains of an old hymn swirled about like dust particles in shafts of multicolored light that streamed in from a sunny Los Angeles morning.
He watched, from his seat behind one of the massive pillars, the proceedings at the altar. Robed figures moved to and fro in a rhythm he'd thought long forgotten. His eyes didn't leave the towheaded altar boy holding a silver bowl in one hand and handing a linen towel to the tall, dark-haired priest. The child poured the water over the hands of the cleric who mouthed the cleansing prayer Lavabo inter innocentes from Psalm 26. Pete was surprised to realize the words still came to mind so easily.
He smiled as he caught Father Furillo's gentle hand give the boy's shoulder a squeeze once they had returned to the altar. Pete had seen the mistake too, but wondered how many of those assembled would have caught such a minor error. To the boy's credit, the correction was done in a quiet attitude. Hands slowly returned to a praying position over his chest, instead of dangling at his sides. The look on the child's face said he'd remember next time, but more importantly that he'd been forgiven.
Malloy hadn't intended to go forward for communion at St. Swithin's that morning. He was there to settle a debt and the terms hadn't been specific regarding just how much participation would be required. He continued to watch as his childhood friend took up the elements and blessed them, saying prayers that were etched in his soul. Funny how they had hung around all these years, despite his lack of attention. There was something compelling in the words, the tone of Jack's entreaty to come forward and be reconciled.
The grey haired usher paused at his row, and Malloy stood in obedience, bowed his head a bit awkwardly from lack of practice and joined the others walking towards the altar. A look of great joy and absolution passed between the old friends as the priest laid the thin wafer in the policeman's waiting hands. Forgiveness was the order of the day.
Later, Pete waited in the shadows as he watched the young acolytes who had slipped from their vestments to turn into ruffians once again. They were tussling in a corner of the transcept, laughing at some shared joke. Boys will be boys. His attention turned to observe Jack Furillo shaking hands with parishioners, kissing babies and blessing little children with a hand to the head. The priest's smile was radiant. There was something of the mischievous boys they'd been so long ago, but duty had changed them both.
Pete caught sight of the prized stained glass window, the shepherd cradling the little lamb in the crook of his arm. He remembered their shared tour of duty, only a week ago, the little lady who'd described the window from memory, and the priest who had dealt with her so patiently. However did we grow to be who we are?
"You owe me, big time," Jack interrupted his musings with the punch line. "But I never thought I'd see Pete Malloy at my communion rail."
"Just settling a debt," Pete replied with a smile.
"Well, we aren't square until my Crusaders have wiped up our gym floor with your Pussycats,"
"That's Wildcats," Pete protested with a chuckle as he followed the priest down the hall from the church to the rectory.
"Our floor needs a good polishing, whatever you call them. Let's get some of Clara's fried chicken and berry cobbler and then we'll watch the slaughter of your Kitty cats." Jack pulled the ornate chausible over his head with all the decorum of the fourteen year old hooligans they'd once been.
Malloy shook his head, laughing as they entered the well appointed rooms.
"You may not be so cocky when this is over. My guys are pretty sharp," he insisted.
"Hey, you borrowed my collar." Jack slipped his robe onto a hanger behind the door. "You owe me this, that was the deal. You wouldn't let your team beat mine under those circumstances, would you?"
"In a heartbeat!"
Thanks to Cathy, for always insisting, challenging and questioning, even if it makes us crazy!
To the regular line-up: the Adam 12 writers, Messrs. Webb and Cinader for creating a world too fun to leave alone, even 30 plus years later.
To the actors who took characters from the page and made them lifelong friends, especially McCord and Milner (Marty, our prayers are with you!).
And to the men and women of faith who serve our men and women in uniform…abroad and at home! You make the job a little less ugly!
Thanks to Cathy, for always insisting, challenging and questioning, even if it makes us crazy! To the regular line-up: the Adam 12 writers, Messrs. Webb and Cinader for creating a world too fun to leave alone, even 30 plus years later. To the actors who took characters from the page and made them lifelong friends, especially McCord and Milner (Marty, our prayers are with you!). And to the men and women of faith who serve our men and women in uniform…abroad and at home! You make the job a little less ugly!