by Kate Webster
© September 18, 2000
"Thanks, Jerry," Pete Malloy replied, tucking the navy blue LAPD uniform shirt into his waistband.
"Wonder what that's about?" Jim Reed asked his partner as he pulled his own denim shirt off and began dressing. As usual, Pete was nearly dressed and Jim had only just arrived, but the married Reed had a bit more to leave at home than his bachelor partner.
"I guess I'll find out when he tells me," Pete quipped as he pinned his shooting brass to the shirt and put on his tie.
"I heard they're lining up guys for extra duty this weekend, Pete," Ed Wells jibed from his place a few lockers down from Malloy's. It was general knowledge among the watch that Pete Malloy had big plans for a long-awaited three-day fishing trip off Catalina Island. He'd been talking about it and the brand new Penn Newport saltwater rod and high speed graphite drag reel he had saved for months to afford.
"I'll be sure to tell him you're interested, Ed," Pete joked as he secured his gun belt around his trim waist and closed his locker. "Thanks for volunteering." Pete picked up his attaché and helmet case. "See ya in roll call, Partner," he winked at Jim, who was laughing at Well's reaction to Pete getting one up on him, yet again.
When Jim Reed entered the roll call room a few minutes later he was surprised to see his smiling partner writing on the blackboard, which already announced September 17th A.M. Watch and P.J. Malloy - Acting Watch Commander. Jim chuckled to himself as he noticed the expression on Ed Wells' face when he entered and discovered the staffing change.
Sergeant MacDonald had been called out of town on a family emergency. His mother-in-law had been rushed into the hospital in the middle of the night, and Mac had taken Mary and the kids to San Diego, leaving the watch short-handed. With Lt. Harrison's recent retirement and no replacement as of yet, Captain Moore had put Pete Malloy in charge.
Malloy called the officers to order, and began roll call. Jim was impressed and proud of his friend's composure and finesse. Pete's trademark humor and casual demeanor were still evident beneath the acting commander's restrained exterior. Jim wondered how much longer they'd be riding together before the eleven-year-veteran took the sergeant's exam and Pete started doing this full time. He hoped their friendship would weather the change in rank.
"So be on the lookout for these guys," Pete was saying, referring to a band of car thieves targeting early model vehicles. "The activity may be a gang hazing. Report any similar M.O.'s to Auto Theft and to the Chief's new Task Force on Gang Activity." Pete took up the roster. "Car assignments will be as follows: Greene and Woods in Adam-17, Brinkman and O'Hare in Adam-56, Sanchez and Millett in Adam-14, Reed and Wells in Adam-12." Pete threw the briefest of apologetic looks at his usual partner before continuing. He lost no time in resuming the roll call after a glimpse of his friend's answering scowl.
The watch filed out to the lot, and as Pete observed, he secretly wished he were going with them. He especially regretted pairing Wells with his friend, Jim Reed. From the beginning there had been an odd dynamic between the two of them. Early on, Pete would have referred to it as animosity, but to Jim's credit, he'd learned to take Ed Wells with a grain of salt, a deep breath and a developing sense of humor. The kid's come a long way, he thought proudly. Maybe tonight will be good for them both. But even Pete Malloy couldn't let that thought go with a straight face. He chuckled as he gathered the paperwork into his notebook and headed for Mac's office... correction...the watch commander's office. He'd have to make that distinction tonight if he were going to be an effective leader.
Two hours into the watch, Pete Malloy was bored. It was an unusually quiet night and everyone seemed to be doing his job well enough that Pete felt a little superfluous. He wondered if Mac ever had shifts like this, or had he been at it long enough to have other duties Malloy had yet to discover, once the actual responsibility was resting on his shoulders. He'd need to know exactly what the job entailed if he was seriously considering taking that sergeant's promotional exam this time around. Pete had signed up, at least, done all the paperwork and studied the manual. It was all but a done deal. But moments like this, a little stray doubt would creep beneath his firm resolve.
What little activity taking place in the quiet station didn't require the rank of acting watch commander to handle. Pete almost wished for something to go slightly wrong, so he'd have to make a decision, or a even phone call. Well, almost.
He'd spent some of the time visiting Rusty and Sid on the desk, but even they were having a quiet night and after a few well-dropped hints, Pete realized his assumed rank was probably making them a little nervous. He made some excuse about paperwork and left them to their duties. He only wished he really had some of that paperwork to do.
He'd listened to the radio for a while. But every time Adam-12 got a call, he spent the whole time either wishing he was out there responding to it himself or worrying that Reed was going to drive the unit off some imagined cliff. Then, when they arrived in relative safety, he fretted that Jim would get himself shot, and though he knew he had the mother hen thing in overdrive, he frankly didn't like what it was doing to his blood pressure. At least Jim was getting some time behind the wheel. Pete figured he'd never hear the end of that.
Finally, the phone rang, and as was usually the case, the hoped-for diversion was hardly wanted once it arrived. Pete Malloy grabbed his watch cap and headed for the lot. Adam-14 was calling for a supervisor. They had responded to a dead body call in a transient hotel on the East side of their district. It appeared to be a homicide, and it looked like it was going to be a long night.
The usual station wagon supervisor's unit was out for repair. There was an older model available, but since Pete wouldn't be needing to deploy anyone from a mobile command unit, he just grabbed his briefcase with all the gear he'd need on the field and the keys to one of the older patrol units, shop number 80942, and headed out on the road.
About an hour later, the detectives arrived and released Adam-14 from their duties of maintaining the crime scene. Malloy talked with Sanchez for a few minutes before they returned to patrol, reviewing how Sanchez's new recruit, Millett, had handled himself with his first dead body. But it was soon evident that Malloy was no longer needed on the scene. He slid into the driver's seat of his unit and pulled out into traffic. When he remembered to clear himself with dispatch, he reached across for the mic, suddenly thinking of Jim Reed. He'd give anything to know how his usual partner was getting along riding with the acerbic and sometimes insufferable Ed Wells.
"So we'd been out there three times that night," Ed Wells was showing no signs of slowing. He'd been talking non-stop since the shift began. "And I decided I'd had enough. When we pulled up they were at it again - hot and heavy! The wife was yellin' and waving this broom around and the husband was drunk and acting like a fool...the kids were hollerin' and crying and this shaggy old dog was barking! So we hauled 'em all in...the husband and wife to jail, the kids went with Child Protective Services...I even told my partner to call Animal Control to pick up the dog!"
"Are you sure you don't want to drive?" Reed asked for the third time this watch. He hoped it would at least change the subject. He'd heard just about all the old war stories he could stand from Ed Wells tonight and they were only three hours into watch.
"No, Junior," Wells sighed. "I'm not hung up on that power trip like ol' Pete. I much prefer sittin' over here and relaxing. Once you've been on the force as long as me, you learn a few things. You'll realize you can do this job without so much work if you just learn to be smart...I remember one night when I was working with ol' Benny Doogan...you never met him did ya? No, I think he was before your time. Now there was a policeman! He knew how to get the job done. Why, there was this one night when we brought in a whole ring of car thieves..."
Reed chuckled to himself, wondering what Malloy was doing right now. Probably enjoying a cup of coffee back at the station...and nice quiet cup of coffee. Reed sighed, wondering how much longer it would be before this was the norm, and Malloy was back at the station all the time, sporting sergeant stripes. Reed turned onto Sepulveda, only half listening to Wells' constant drone, knowing he'd be slower to complain about Malloy's little quirks, thinking how much he missed his sometimes frustrating but never annoying partner.
"1-L-20, clear from 1749 Crestview," Malloy spoke into the microphone.
"1-L-20, clear," the dispatcher repeated.
"1-L-20, roger," Pete answered, replacing the microphone. He certainly missed having someone else to work the radio. For a moment he almost admitted to himself that he missed Jim Reed's constant banter beside him. Truth was, he had been thinking a lot about that lately - or trying not to think about it. The promotional exam was in a little over a month. He was the odds-on favorite to make sergeant by the end of the year, in which case he'd be pulling this kind of solitary duty on a daily basis within months. Pete pulled the jacket tighter around himself and zipped it all the way up. Was it really getting that cold or was he just giving in to the loneliness of separate duty?
He turned West and headed for the warehouse district he and Jim had been giving some extra patrol the last few nights. There had been a rash of vandalism and graffiti hits along there the past several months and Jim had a theory. His younger partner's idea was that it was just the beginning of more serious trouble, possibly connected to the increased gang activity the city was experiencing elsewhere. Reed's always thinking! Pete mused with a chuckle.
He pulled the cruiser off the main street into the lots between the warehouses, shrugging off the creepy feeling running up his spine at being out here all alone. Pete figured that he'd subconsciously come out this way because he was thinking about Jim, and now being here without him was making him a little lonely. He reached down and turned the volume knob. Radio traffic had been sporadic tonight. At times Pete had wondered if his unit was working at all, but every time he'd checked it, it had worked fine. At the moment, however, there was no traffic at all, only static. He'd have given just about anything for someone to talk to, even Ed Wells, right now. He hadn't realized how long it had been since he'd pulled the lonesome duty of an L-car.
Pete noticed that the gate at the far end of the lot was ajar. He turned off his headlights and slowed down as he approached, reaching for the mic to call for a patrol unit as back up. He'd heard Wells' voice in Adam-12 go out on a traffic stop about ten minutes before, on the opposite side of their district. Even if they cleared the call immediately, it wouldn't be feasible for them to respond. Adam-14 was handling a domestic on Grayson Avenue, but perhaps Adam-56 was in the area.
On closer inspection, the chain crossed the gap in the gate and though both sides hadn't been lined up very closely, it was secure. Pete replaced the mic, flipped on the lights again. He made a wide curve with the cruiser, pulling out of the first lot and repeating the process at the next driveway, feeling a bit more like himself. It seemed there'd been no activity from vandals tonight. Fifteen minutes later, he'd checked the entire row of warehouses and was heading out of the last graveled lot, when he heard a pop and a sickening hissing sound. He threw it into park and got out to access the damage. The driver's side front tire was flattened to the ground. Obviously, it had picked up a nail or something in the gravel. Pete was glad he'd checked the spare in the trunk before he took the unit out, but the prospect of changing the flat himself in this lonely industrial wilderness was hardly appealing.
Pete pulled the mic off its hook and keyed it to alert the garage. "1-L-20, requesting city maintenance vehicle to meet me on Tac 2." Except for the crickets outside the cruiser, there was only silence. An expletive slipped from his lips in a long exhale. Pete fiddled with the connection at the microphone and where the cord met the radio on the bottom, then keyed the microphone again. "1-L-20..." He waited for a response, but none came. "1-L-20 to communications, how do you read this unit?" Still nothing.
"Well, Peter J., it looks like you're gonna do this one yourself," he groused as he replaced the useless mic and got out of the car. He could see his breath as he walked back to the trunk, fumbling with the keys in his leather gloves, feeling the chill seep through his protective clothing. Of all the luck... he thought as he opened the lid - moving the case and other gear from the top of the spare tire and hunting for the base of the jack, which seemed to be misplaced. "Ya had to come out here and check these damned warehouses, didn't ya?" he continued chiding himself. "Couldn't leave well enough alone and just go back to the station...do the job you've been assigned," Pete searched the recesses of the dark trunk. "No! You had to be a one-man police department! You've busted Reed for less!" He found the base of the jack, shoved all the way to the back of the trunk cavity and pulled it out along with the spare tire. It was not going to be an easy task getting purchase for the jack on the unsteady gravel.
But Pete soon realized that an unstable foundation wasn't going to be his only worry. The jack was broken. It would hold for three or four ratchets and then slip, dropping to the ground with a loud, sarcastic clattering. It was going to be a really long night.
Pete heard the radio squawk and decided it might be best to call for the garage again. By the time he got back into the car and keyed the microphone, the thing went dead...no lights...no static...nothing. It sounded like a short, or a connection loose inside the housing itself. At any rate, it was something he didn't have the proper tools nor the inclination to fix in this cold, remote location in the middle of the night.
Pete returned to the frustration of the broken jack, feeling even more defeated and more alone than he had all night. He thought of Tony, the affable garage mechanic who would have been dispatched to assist him. Pete could just picture him, bringing along his ready wit and probably a thermos of hot coffee like he had the time Malloy and Reed had been stranded in a torrential downpour with a blown radiator in the middle of Griffith Park. The recollection made him chuckle. The frustration of being stuck without transportation had quickly turned into one of Pete's funniest memories. Tony had regaled them with a handful of his famous stories and warmed their insides with steaming cups of brew as they sat huddled in the tiny cab of his tow truck. They were miserable, soaked to the skin beneath the unbreathing rubberized slickers, but laughing - together. There was a word he'd give his next paycheck to feel the meaning of just now. The jack slipped as if to punctuate his solitude.
"Ya know, Junior, we don't have to bust every bad guy in town on this watch...whadya say we save some for the other cops," Wells cracked, replacing his baton in the door. "You're acting like you got a quota or something. Whatsa matter? Tryin' to look good for that partner of yours? Why don't you wait till he makes sergeant for real?"
"Just fightin' crime, Ed." Jim chuckled at his own use of Pete's old quip. They had been busy tonight. Nothing serious but in addition to the calls from Dispatch that they'd rolled on, it had been one of those shifts were the crime just seemed to come to them. They had happened on a 459 in progress when Jim noticed a door ajar and they had run across more traffic violations tonight than he remembered in a single shift for months.
"You call this fightin' crime?" Wells began when they were inside the cruiser. "That's the problem with you young guys - you don't know what police work is all about...back when I was first on the force..."
"Eh- Ed?" Jim interrupted, trying to hide the smile.
"You wanna clear us?" he chuckled.
"Sure -" Wells picked up the microphone. "Like I was saying - when I was first on the force..."
Jim Reed shook his head, Wells would never change. He noticed the car in front of them, the driver reacting strangely to the sight of the black and white. "Uh - Ed -" Jim interrupted, not the least bit sorry about cutting another of his stories short.
"Quit nagging, Reed...I'm clearing us!"
"Well - you want to call in that car up ahead?"
"Not another traffic stop!"
"Hey - don't blame me!" Jim joked. "I'm not the one driving like he's begging for it!"
"Boy scouts!" Wells snipped, shaking his head. He called in the license number of the vehicle they were following. The car checked out clean but something told Jim Reed to be extra careful this time. He wasn't sure if it was just being partnered with Wells instead of Malloy, but the hairs on the back of his neck were standing at attention as he pulled over the blue Toronado.
"Guess it's my turn, huh?" Wells groused as he grabbed his hat.
"That's okay. I caught it - I'll clean it," Jim laughed, trying to make light of the hinky feeling he was getting. He didn't want to explain it to Wells, but he'd rather be in control on this one.
Jim Reed's instincts were right on. The car might be clean but the occupants weren't. With five felony warrants between them it was the bust of the night. It wasn't their vehicle, but most likely the rightful owner had yet to miss their car. They called for a hook and Wells read their rights while Reed cuffed them and put the two suspects in the cruiser to take them to the station.
"Hey, Kid!" Wells' crooked smile made him look like an elf. "Not a bad piece of police work!"
"Thanks!" Jim tried not to smile, but he couldn't help it. Would the compliment have meant as much coming from anyone else? Maybe, if it had been his usual partner.
"Yeah, Petey Boy missed out tonight, huh?" Wells chuckled, picking up the microphone to call in. "Let's go rub Malloy's nose in this one!"
He'd finally gotten the car hoisted up enough to clear the tire, and was about to remove the final lug when the radio sparked to life. "I'm not falling for that again!" Pete snarled, pushing down on the lug wrench with a little too much pressure. The wrench slipped off the bolt and clattered to the ground. Another expletive escaped him as he pulled at the wheel to remove it. He fitted the new wheel on the hub and began replacing the lugs, finger tightening each one. The radio continued to cut in and out. Pete heard snatches of conversations through the window he'd left open, and mentally tried to connect the bits and pieces.
He straightened, standing, feeling the cold and dampness in his joints. Pete stepped to the driver's door, opening it and reaching across the inside of the car again to retrieve the microphone. "1-L-20 to communications..." but before he had finished the hail, all the lights on the radio went black. "Just great! What'd I ever do to you, huh?
Pete heard tires on gravel approaching his location. The insanely improbable thought that it was Jim Reed made his heart leap as he turned to see the disappointing truth. A pale green sedan with only one headlight pulled up beside him. The young man on the passenger side had wound down the window and was leaning out.
"Problem, Officer?" the smiling blonde politely asked.
"Just a flat, but I've nearly got it now," Pete replied, stepping out of the cruiser, his own hollow smile masking his disappointment. The sedan came to a stop, the three occupants emerging all at once; reminding Pete of the clowns pouring out of the tiny car at the circus.
"Hey, Reed, why don't you go find Malloy and give him the news. Then you give him the report and I'll book these...eh...gentlemen," Wells offered good-naturedly when they had their prisoners in the holding area. Jim didn't give him a chance to change his mind. He hurried down the hall to the CO's office, hoping Pete wasn't tied up with some administrative problem at the moment. He hadn't realized how much he wanted to tell his friend about the bust, how important it was to him to share it with his partner, until he was headed for the office. The arrest was a pretty big deal on its own, but he knew it was going to be even sweeter, telling it to Malloy. But the office was empty. Jim swallowed the disappointment and flagged down Brinkman coming out of the break room.
"Hey Brink- have you seen Pete?" he called.
"Nope," the dark-haired officer shrugged. "Maybe Rusty knows something. He's taking seven," he yanked his thumb towards the break room. Jim went in search of the officer, who'd taken a bullet in the knee cap four years ago and been assigned permanent desk duty.
"Hey, Jimbo!" Rusty smiled, standing with some effort as the younger man entered. "How are you and Wells getting along?"
"Okay," Jim replied, surprised that it was actually not entirely a lie. "You seen Pete?"
"He's still out on the road, I think," Rusty answered, throwing his trash in the container. "He went out to Crestview on that homicide a while ago and I haven't seen him since. Got a problem?"
"Hey, Junior..." Wells poked his head in the door. "Ya through jawing yet?"
As they set out again on patrol, Wells asked how the acting watch commander had taken the news of their big arrest.
"Pete wasn't in. He's still on the street. I was wondering if we could meet him for seven at that new steakhouse. Tell him then?"
"Seven with the watch commander!" Wells whined. "Oh, that's beautiful!"
"It's just Pete," Jim defended. "And you're the one that wanted to rub his nose in our felony bust."
"Yeah - but not while I'm eating!" Wells jibed.
"I hear the new steak place is great..." Jim tempted. "Best banana creme pie in the city!"
"Yeah?" One eyebrow raised as he considered it.
"That's what Jerry Woods said," the younger officer verified.
"Pete's going to just die when he hears this...I can't wait to see his face..." Jim reeled him in. Four years of riding with Pete Malloy had perfected his technique.
"Okay! Okay," Wells picked up the microphone. "1-Adam-12..."
"1-Adam-12, go ahead," the female dispatcher replied.
"1-Adam-12, have 1-L-20 meet us on Tac 2..."
"1-L-20, meet 1-Adam-12 on Tac 2."
When there was no answer, Wells asked communications for 1-L-20's location.
"1-Adam-12, stand by."
"Probably already taking seven at Jake's Clambake," Wells quipped. "They may not have banana creme pie, but the waitresses there wear the shortest skirts in the city!"
"1-Adam-12, switch to Tac 2." The male link operator's voice was tight.
"1-Adam-12 on Tac 2, go," Wells answered, after switching the channels.
"1-Adam-12, 1-L-20's last radio traffic was over an hour ago. Location just clear of 1749 Crestview, after responding to a request for supervisor." Reed and Wells stared at the radio. "1-Adam-12, do you copy?"
"1-Adam-12, roger," Wells turned the knob back to channel one.
From the silence they heard the female dispatcher's hail. "1-L-20...Code one."
Maybe he'd let his guard down because they seemed so helpful, offering...no insisting they finish the tire change for him. The big blonde had stated that he'd worked in his father's garage after school and all through college. Perhaps it was because he'd been feeling so alone and suddenly it was such a relief to see people again. Whatever the reason, Pete never saw it coming...
While opening the trunk to replace the blown tire and jack, a crushing blow to the back of Pete's head nearly drove him to his knees. He lurched forward from the strength and the surprise of the blow, reaching reflexively for the gun that was no longer in its holster. Foreign hands had snatched it from him, while other, rougher hands forced him down, embedding gravel in his knees. When he shook off the momentary confusion from the throbbing pain, he looked up into the barrel of his own service revolver. What was that statistic about the number of police officers shot with their own duty weapon? He couldn't get his mind around it, or the reality of his own situation, which had careened suddenly from the ridiculous to the dangerously absurd.
Funny thing about sergeants: if you don't watch 'em constantly, they seem to get into trouble. Wasn't that what Pete had said once about Mac? It must apply to acting watch commanders, too, Jim mused, trying to calm his growing concern with thoughts of his partner's unfailing sense of humor. But every sixty seconds or so, when the radio would call out "1-L-20...Code one." Jim's gut churned. His palms were sweaty on the steering wheel that Pete usually held. Malloy been missing now for half an hour - on top of the hour that had passed since he cleared from the homicide scene before they'd asked about him. Jim was ready to admit that he was getting worried.
An all points bulletin for Malloy and his cruiser had been dispatched. Every unit in the city was on the lookout for the missing officer. Captain Moore was in the field, mobilizing a search team in the general area of the homicide, in conjunction with the one already looking for the killer. There were no witnesses to the murder and therefore, no description to go on. But everything possible was being done to find Pete, the entire division was on alert. Officer James Reed was ready to jump out of his skin.
"Assume the position, Pig!" he heard someone behind him snarl as his arms were forced back with an agonizing grip. Pete felt the cold metal of his handcuffs being snapped around his wrists as he continued to gaze at the round steel end of his own gun. It was aimed between his eyes, only inches from his face. He could smell the gunpowder and the oil he used to meticulously clean the weapon.
"1-L-20...Code One," he heard distinctly from the fickle radio of the cruiser. It was all he could do not to laugh out loud...
Jim Reed couldn't get the thought out of his head: a lonely stretch of road, a camper and a traffic stop gone horribly wrong. He knew they'd both made a nearly fatal mistake that night. What he wasn't certain of, would Pete make that same mistake again? Jim hoped he'd learned that lesson, himself, enough for a lifetime. A long lifetime. And right now, he prayed that it had made just as indelible an imprint on his partner. He had almost been too superstitious to say it aloud, but he finally mentioned a traffic stop as a possibility, or more precisely, to rule it out. "Pete's a pro. He'd have called in his position, put himself out if he'd stopped someone," Reed had insisted, trying to convince himself as much as Wells.
"Maybe," Ed Wells shrugged, sounding way too blasé. They were discussing a fellow officer's disappearance; how could he be so glib? "He's been at this a long while, Junior. Ya tend to get a little comfortable."
"But, he wouldn't relax procedure," Jim argued, suddenly feeling defensive of his friend, the man who'd trained him to be a cop. He knew, better than anyone on earth, what kind of a police officer Pete Malloy was. He hoped he was right.
"Yeah, Malloy's pretty by-the-book," Wells stretched his legs, leaning back in the seat. His comfort level was annoying Reed. "But there's such a thing as complacency. Things start to feeling a little routine sometimes...the non-emergency syndrome. Didn't Pete ever warn you about that?"
"He warned me," Jim replied, his jaw tight. "About a lot of things."
"Well, we just gotta hope he remembered, huh?" Wells sighed, watching his partner with half-closed eyes. "Don't worry, kid. Malloy's gotten himself outta some pretty rough scrapes before."
"Yeah," Jim concentrated on the road, trying to keep positive. Trying to think like Pete Malloy.
"He's probably just somewhere out of ear shot of his radio," Wells sighed. "Having that code seven we never got."
"Not without clearing it with dispatch," Jim insisted, remembering another time when Pete Malloy hadn't given his location...another time he hadn't replied to a code one hail...because he couldn't. That time his radio hadn't been operational and he'd been severely injured, at the bottom of a hill in Griffith Park... alone. Jim recalled the man who'd come across Pete, stolen his weapons and left him to die. He breathed a silent prayer that Fate would be kinder tonight.
Lying in the dark, Pete still felt the cold seeping into his bones, but it was no longer of major concern. The sticky feeling at the base of his skull told him he was bleeding from the blow of the tire iron. The sleepiness gave information he'd rather not process just now: a concussion, at the very least. The gag on his mouth made it hard to swallow. Six shots rang out, piercing the blackness. Pete felt the burning sting of contact where at least two of the bullets had connected with his flesh. He heard the tires of the green Chevy as it sped away, skidding on the loose gravel, leaving him helpless and alone. Pete knew he had been hit, but with his hands cuffed behind him, it was impossible to accurately assess the extent of the injuries. He thought they were probably minor, though with no way to stop the bleeding, the severity of the wounds would soon be less important than how long it took them to find him. One thing Malloy knew for certain: the caliber of the bullets. He should; he'd loaded the gun himself.
And he heard the muffled, but familiar voice of his training officer, now Captain Moore, sounding a bit less detached than the dispatcher as he called: "1-L-20 - Code one."
Jim pulled a U-turn in the middle of traffic, flipping on the overheads, which coupled with a quick-thinking driver and the grace of God, just barely kept them from being broadsided.
"And just where do you think you're going, Junior?" Wells snapped, grabbing the dashboard for support as Reed swung the black and white around.
"To find Pete," Jim said with simple, unflappable resolve.
"I suppose you know where he is," Wells snarled.
"Maybe," there was a set to Reed's jaw that Ed Wells noticed. He knew that look. There was no sense arguing with a man wearing that expression, especially James A. Reed.
"In other words, No!" Wells argued anyway.
"I'm playing a hunch, Ed," Jim shrugged.
Wells was quiet for a moment as the unit sped towards only-Reed-knew-where. "Well, ya wanna tell me where we're going?"
Reed didn't answer right away.
"A location would help when I call it in, Jim!" Wells nearly pleaded.
He couldn't remember the last time Wells had called him by his Christian name. It sure got the younger man's attention. He looked at the acerbic officer a moment, the briefest of glances. It was a move he'd watched Pete do a thousand times - not quite taking his eyes from the road. Pete Malloy had perfected it. Making the same move now made Jim feel somehow closer to his friend...and further from finding him than he wanted to feel.
There was something in Well's eyes he'd never seen before. Was it concern? "I wanna find him, too," the voice beside him in the dark was soft, and deadly serious.
"Put us code 6 at the warehouse district off Riverside," Jim replied.
"The warehouses..." Wells protested.
"I just..." Jim couldn't defend his feelings, he could barely hold onto their validity himself.
"I know! I know!" Wells cried, picking up the microphone. "Ya got a hunch!"
"1-L-20 - Code One..." the dispatcher's voice was professional, neutral, yet the constant repeating, interrupting the chatter of the search vehicles reporting in, gave it a plaintive sound in the night. Pete Malloy heard it off in the distance as he began to give in to seductive unconsciousness.
"And your gut tells you he came out here?" Wells sniped as they prowled the deserted industrial district.
"We've been giving these a periodic check for the last few nights," Jim explained. "He'd have come right by here returning to the station from Crestview."
"I don't know...I'd have taken Franklin and cut over to Ventura," Wells challenged.
"Pete would have passed right by here," Jim said with conviction he was having trouble keeping at the moment, faced with nothing but empty parking lots. "Malloy hates the traffic on Ventura. The lights are twice as long that way."
"Hey - what's that?" Wells prompted, pointing ahead of them at a flashing golden glow around the corner of the far building. "Reed! It's the ambers! A prowl car! It's Pete!"
Jim's foot pressed hard on the accelerator as he noticed the sound in Wells' voice: excitement, worry. Jim couldn't wait to tell Pete this story. He prayed he would get that chance. The black and white lurched forward as the tires tried to get traction on the loose gravel drive.
"Whoa! I think you left my stomach back there..." Wells complained.
The scene before them had the eerie feel of something horribly wrong. There at the end of the drive was the LAPD patrol car Pete had signed out a few hours earlier, the driver's door open, the overheads flashing. A blown tire lay behind the unit, just under the trunk, pieces of the jack scattered beside it, along with the tire iron. The only sign of Pete Malloy was the watch cap lying on the front seat.
It made no sense. The tire had been changed, but where was Malloy? As his long-time partner and friend stood staring at the familiar object on that seat, resisting the urge to snatch it up, trying to make order of the chaotic scene, the radio mournfully begged once again: "1-L-20 - Code one."
"Reed," Wells pulled him from his dark thoughts. "You better call us in. There's blood on this tire iron."
As Jim approached the back of the unit, to verify Well's grisly findings, he noticed something that made his own blood run cold. "There are bullet holes in the trunk lid!" Jim's words were barely audible, the color draining from his face.
"Call us in!" Wells ordered, wanting to spare the young officer from the horror they might find. It was no secret that Reed and Malloy were closer than most partners.
Jim sprinted for the other black and white to alert the captain that Malloy's vehicle had been found. They would begin a search of the area - looking for the officer. It was quite likely that he was wounded. Jim felt dizzy as he reached in through the window for the microphone. He knew he was going to be sick. But there was duty to be performed first. Pete needed his help.
"Reed!" Ed Wells' cry sounded frightened. It gripped Jim's heart. "Call an ambulance! Code Three!"
Jim Reed didn't replace the mic when he'd finished the abbreviated radio traffic. He tossed it down and sped back to join Wells. The shorter officer was on one knee, feeling for a pulse among the freckles on Pete's neck, his hand coming away with gooey red that reflected in both men's eyes. As he felt the icy fingers of fear tighten around his heart, Jim bent to remove the bandanna that gagged Pete's mouth. The first sign of life was a groan that sounded too suspiciously like a ragged "Reed!" to be ignored.
"Hey, Pete!" Jim replied, his hand gently cradling Pete's head as it lay in the dark trunk cavity.
"I...da..." Pete mumbled, hoarsely.
"Don't try to talk, Pete...just lie still. The ambulance will be here shortly," Wells soothed, his voice unusually gentle as he removed the handcuffs from Pete's wrists.
"I...da...Charles...O...Ocean..." Pete forced painfully through the fog as he regained consciousness. "Four... five...three."
"Is that the car that did this?" Jim verified, rubbing Pete's wrist and arm to return circulation, his friend's hands were like ice.
"I'll call it in," Wells offered, heading for the radio. "You remember anything else, Pete? Color? Make?"
"Green...a Chevy, I think...there were three of 'em," he answered, trying to sit up. Jim moved to help him, not entirely sure that was the best thing just now, but too happy to see that his friend could make the effort to discourage him.
"Okay, Pete. Just take it easy. Were you shot?" Jim didn't even try to keep the concern from his face.
"Yeah," Pete admitted weakly. "Couple a times...but I don't think they're much... probably flesh wounds." He met Jim Reed's worried frown with a genuine smile. "I'll live."
"Funny thing about partners: if you don't watch 'em constantly, they seem to get into trouble," Jim smiled, responding to the spark of teasing in Pete Malloy's green eyes.
"What is this?" Reed asked when Malloy handed him the long narrow gift-wrapped box. They'd both arrived a little early this morning, eager to begin their first shift back together in Adam-12 in nearly five weeks, though neither would ever admit that as the reason. Pete had finally been returned to active duty by the doctors, and he'd been able to convince MacDonald that he was ready to handle field work again. The Scotsman's decision had been one of self-preservation; he knew another day of Malloy on the desk would probably kill the both of them.
"Well, there's one fool-proof way to find out." The dappled face broke into a huge grin. "Open it, Reed!" Pete ordered, pulling his uniform shirt over the clean white tee.
"It isn't my birthday," Jim frowned, still trying to figure the reason behind the present.
"You know, you keep it up with those brilliant deductions, you just might make detectives," Pete chuckled, shaking his head at his partner's quandary. "Would ya just open it, before everybody gets here!"
Jim popped the white ribbon and ripped the blue plaid paper, opening the box warily, to the undisguised amusement of his partner.
"Pete!" Jim exclaimed, breathlessly. "It's your Penn Newport!"
"Correction," something about Pete's smile had gone suddenly serious. "It's your Penn Newport, Partner."
"But -" Jim was still stuttering. The lustrous black, epoxy-coated rod and shiny casting reel lying in that box had been the topic of conversation in Adam-12 since he could recall. "It's a custom rod and reel, Pete! You saved for months for this!"
"I'd have never gotten a chance to use it if it weren't for you..." Pete busied himself with his shoe laces, but Jim knew the significance of that admission.
"Pete! I couldn't!" he refused, truly touched by the gesture.
"Listen! You know that fishing trip I didn't make it to..." Pete smiled, giving it an easy tone as he dismissed the abandoned plans and the seriousness of the reason for the forfeit. "Well, when I called to rebook it, they had an extra berth. I scheduled us both on a two-day trip to Catalina next weekend...and I've already cleared it with Jean, so you can't refuse. You can try out that baby on some California Yellow Tail."
"Okay," Jim smiled finally figuring a way out of this dilemma. "I'll go fishing with you to Catalina...and help you break in your new custom rod and reel. Deal?"
Pete's face was unreadable for a time, but something was working behind those green eyes. Jim Reed knew him well enough to suspect it was the most sincere gratitude the older man had ever felt. Neither of them would ever speak the words hidden in that look. Pete's face slowly blossomed into a smile that threatened at any moment to become a full fledged grin. His eyes sparkled as he slapped his friend on the back. "Deal, Partner!"
"Hey, Pete!" Jerry Woods greeted as he entered the locker room. "That your new Penn Newport?" The look that passed between the friends was lost on Woods and the other officers now filing in. Reed handed the box back to Malloy with a wink and began dressing.
"Yeah, Jerry. Ya gotta see this!" The inflection in Pete's voice let his partner know just how great the offered sacrifice had been. Elated, Pete spent the next few minutes showing off the counter-balanced handle and contoured barrel grip and the high-speed graphite drag reel, as Jim silently got into his uniform, smiling to himself at the secret between them and sincerely glad he'd found a compromise.
"Malloy!" MacDonald's voice had that commanding tone that said Don't mess with me!
"Yeah, Mac?" Pete chuckled, still too excited to note the ominous unspoken message in the sergeant's summons.
"I've just spent the last ten minutes being yelled at by Captain Moore, who can't understand why my top training officer and lead man on the watch has suddenly decided not to take the sergeant's exam next week! When I finally got in a word edgewise, I suggested we have that officer come in and speak for himself!" Mac rarely showed anger or frustration, but he was clearly not happy. "So suppose you march yourself in there and explain it to both of us!"
"Be right there, Mac," Pete stifled the laugh but his dancing eyes betrayed him.
"On the double, Malloy!" MacDonald barked as the door swung shut behind him, Pete's amusement obviously hadn't escaped his notice.
"Yes, sir!" Pete replied, grabbing his gunbelt from the locker door.
"Pete!" Jim grabbed his arm, pulling him aside from the other officers ooohing and ahhing over the fishing tackle and preparing for shift. "Did he say you're not taking the promotional?"
"That's what the man said," Pete drawled, pulling the belt taut around his middle.
"But - why?" Jim asked, totally nonplused by this news.
Pete Malloy shrugged, securing the cherished rod in his locker and latching the door. "You know I never liked fishing alone, Partner."
And to all the real-life police officers out there who wear the badge proudly and put themselves between us and harm's way...may God always take the watch with you!