Way Out In a Manger: A Christmas Story

by Stacy W

©December 2001

Note: This story takes place during the show's third season, the day after "Pilgrimage."
"1-Adam-11, Snyder and Colfax; 1-Adam-12, Malloy and Brinkman…" Sergeant Saunders intoned as he ran through the car assignments for the day.

Surprised, Pete Malloy glanced over at Bob Brinkman. What's he doing here? Thought he had the day off today.

Brink caught Pete's questioning look and shrugged slightly before turning his attention back to the substitute sergeant, who was wrapping up the morning briefing.

"Hopefully, today will be quiet--the holiday, you know--but we typically see an increase in family disputes and medical calls. People having a little too much fun. And since we're a few officers short of normal watch, try to wrap up your calls as quickly as possible." The sergeant reviewed the room. "Be careful out there today, and Merry Christmas."

He was answered with a variety of "Merry Christmases" from the officers in the room, some more enthusiastic than others. Most of them would rather be home with their families. Only a few, Pete included, had volunteered to work the day. Pete's regular partner, Jim Reed, was one of the lucky few not scheduled for a shift this holiday.

A few minutes later, Brink joined Pete at the patrol car, where Pete was already running through the safety checks on the car. Brinkman leaned into the car and secured the shotgun in its rack, then stood up and propped himself against the side of the vehicle.

"So, Brink, you ready to do some real police work today?" Pete teased his temporary partner.

"Real police work? Like changing the tires on the patrol car? Maybe even bustin' Santa Claus? No wait, that's Jim's specialty."

Pete shook his head, wondering if Reed and he would ever live down having two flat tires in one day. Or arresting Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. "Nope. Like catching those car thieves that keep eluding you and Walters."

Brink rolled his eyes. "Those guys. Man, they're driving us crazy. Steal a car from the restaurant parking lot, then abandon it by the time it's reported stolen, in another parking lot. Ten times in the last week alone!"

"That's right. Those guys. They're moving into our district now." Pete finished checking the car. "Okay, Brink, get in the car. Time to roll."

"I'm guessing I'm not gonna drive today?" Brink asked, knowing Pete's reputation as a control freak when it came to driving the patrol car.


"Great!" Brink exclaimed. "Walters always makes me do the driving. This is gonna be a nice break."

Pete smiled to himself. Somehow, keeping control of the keys wasn't as much fun when there wasn't any competition for them. "Brink, just sit down and clear us with Dispatch."

The two officers climbed into their car, and Pete turned the key. As always, the engine started up with a quiet roar. Some things never change.

Brink's voice broke through his contemplation. "1-Adam-12, Christmas-Daywatch, clear," Brink informed the dispatcher.

The first sound to come through the radio speaker was an irritated sigh, followed by, "1-Adam-12, roger."

Pete glanced Brink's way. "A little early in the day to be tweaking dispatch, isn't it? You keep it up, she's gonna come wrap that microphone cord right around your neck."

"Ohhhhh. I'm so scared. You'll protect me, won't you, partner?"

Pete snickered. "No. You keep it up, and I'll help her." He turned the car out of the station driveway onto Benton Way, heading for a usually quiet residential neighborhood in Adam-12's district.

True to form, the neighborhood was quiet again today, with only a few children outside playing. Brink stifled a yawn.

"What's the matter, Brink? Police work boring you?" Pete asked.

Brink gave up trying to hide the yawn. "Nah. Kids." He pointed to two children, one riding a shiny big wheel, and the other on an equally shiny bicycle. "I bet their parents are inside napping after staying up all night putting those together. And I bet those kids tore the ribbon off at some ungodly hour this morning."

"Is that what you did last night instead of sleeping, Brink?"

"Naaahh." Brink's reply dissolved into another yawn. "Bobby's too little for a bike. But he came downstairs at three--bleeping-A.M. this morning, just as Cindy and I were finishing putting the presents out. Said he thought he heard Santa Claus down there."

"Busted, huh? Santa Brink?" Pete teased.

"No. Not yet. We told him we heard something too, but ol' Santa was too quick for us. I think he believed us, but then he wanted to see what Santa had left for him right away. So we were up for another two hours opening stuff. Who ever gave kids the idea that three a.m. was proper time to open Christmas presents? I think I got maybe an hour of sleep last night." Brink yawned again.

Pete wished he hadn't watched. He suddenly had to fight down the urge to yawn right along with his partner for the day. "Well, try to stay awake for the rest of the shift, then you can go home and sleep the day away."

Brink glanced down at his watch. "Seven hours and counting."

Pete glanced over at Brink. "So, what are you doing here anyway? I thought you asked for the day off the same time Jim did."

Brink scanned the houses before replying. "I, uh, um… forgot to get my request in on time."

"Brink, I saw you and Jim go into Mac's office at the same time. And Walters asked for time off the day after Jim did. How could you forget?"

Brink looked sheepish. "Okay. I forgot on purpose. Pete, you've sampled my wife's culinary skills before, right?"

Pete grimaced, remembering Cindy's effort at brownies at the last department picnic. They could have been used to build that new police station. Trying to be tactful, Pete stalled. "Well…"

"You have. Admit it. It's pretty bad. Well, if you can imagine, her sister is even worse. And the whole family is getting together for Christmas day at her sister's house this year."

"Ah-hah. You got to choose between the dangers of bad food or the dangers of patrolling the streets."

Brink looked over at Pete. "Bad food's not the half of it. I'd be eating bad food at the kiddie table."

Pete struggled to keep the laughter out of his voice. "The kiddie table? What, do they choose seating arrangements by emotional maturity?"

Brink glared at Pete in exasperation. "No. I'm just the youngest adult in the family. Cindy's the baby of her family, and she's three months older'n me. So I get banished to the kiddie table."

"Speaking of Cindy, what does she think of all this 'devotion to duty'?" Pete asked, smirking.

Brink looked sheepish again. "She, uh, thinks I let Reed have the last day off. You know, to celebrate his kid's first Christmas and everything."

"Aww, Brink. Isn't that sweet of her to be so understanding? And you, giving Jim the 'last' day off. Maybe I'll send her a box of candy."

"Pete," Brink gave him an exasperated, warning look. "If Cindy EVER hears about this conversation, I'll know who told her, and there will be consequences."

"Oh?" Pete replied, raising one eyebrow heavenward.

"Consequences," Brink repeated, gazing thoughtfully out the window at the passing street, an evil grin growing on his face. "Maybe…" He stopped to chuckle to himself. "Maybe I'll tell Reed some corny joke. Knowing him, he'll repeat it in your hearing a thousand times."

"Brink, you've got a real cruel streak in you."

"Heh-heh-heh," Brink chuckled. "I'll have to think of a real bad one."

Several minutes later, humming broke the silence in the patrol car. Pete thought he recognized the tune. "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer." What he wouldn't give to have his usual partner sitting in the passenger seat. At least the songs Jim gets stuck in his head are relatively normal. "Brinkman, you wanna find some other song to sing? Jingle Bells, maybe?"

Brink's humming paused. "Nah. I kinda like this one." He resumed the song.

Pete rolled his eyes. "I don't. Brings back too many bad memories from when I was a kid in Seattle, and my Gramma got hit by a sleigh pulled by a bunch of reindeer."

The humming stopped abruptly. "Really?" Brink asked. "Gee, I'm sorry. I didn't know," he added sincerely.

Pete tried unsuccessfully to hold back a laugh. "No." He snickered again. "Brink, my Gramma and Grandad moved to L. A. before I was born. They never liked the snow. Besides, I don't think they use sleighs in Seattle anymore."

Brink glared at his partner for the day. "Consequences, Malloy. Remember that." A minute later, the humming began again. This time, Pete was treated to Brink's rendition of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."

Pete almost wished he'd let Brinkman drive, only because with his hands on the wheel, he couldn't be holding them over his ears.

A few minutes later, as the drove by a church, Brink's humming trailed off as his attention fixed on the large nativity scene in front of the sanctuary building. "Uh, Malloy, back up a bit," he requested.

Pete brought the patrol car to a stop and reversed direction.

"Okay, stop." Brink told him. "Oh, my God." He covered his face with his hands, stifling a laugh. "Oh, my. Oh, will you look at that. Oh… My… God." Brink's voice trailed off as he tried to contain his laughter.

Looking over at the nativity scene, Pete didn't see anything unusual at first. Plastic figures of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, and several wise men sat beside a frame stable. Inside the stable, another set of figures was grouped around a manger. Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, three wise men. Pete took a closer look, finally seeing what Brink had. The second set of figures was not plastic. They were all very much human, and very much naked. "Oh, my…" Pete almost repeated Brink's words, but stopped himself and reached for the radio mic. "1-Adam-12, Code 6 at 3300 block Alvarado Street…"

Just then, the au natural nativity spotted the black and white.

"Malloy, they're gonna split," Brink yelled, interrupting Pete's radio transmission as he jumped out of the car and went in foot pursuit of the fleeing figures, now running in several directions away from the crèche.

"…Group 310. Request backup and a supervisor to our location," Pete finished, tossing the mic onto the seat as he also jumped out of the car. Before setting off after the 'suspects', he ran to the trunk and grabbed the blanket out of it. After Jim's and his encounter with the inebriated and unclothed Jay Simmons, Jim had decided it would be a good idea to have one handy at all times, a decision Pete was grateful for right now. He set off running in the direction he'd last seen 'Mary' and one of the misnamed 'wise men' fleeing.

Pete chased the fleeing couple across the church's parking lot. Hampered as he was by the blanket, he doubted he'd be able to catch up with them. Maybe Brink's having better luck. He was about ready to call off the pursuit when the faux wise man tripped on the uneven gravel surface, falling hard to the ground. Pete winced, imagining all the places that could get scraped up. "Just one more benefit of staying clothed," he muttered to himself, running to catch up with the pranksters.

"All right, mister, on your feet," he demanded as he finally caught up with the prone man. "You just stay put," he added to 'Mary', who had stopped running when 'wise man' fell and was now standing near her downed companion, hands in the air, a baby doll dangling from one hand.

As Pete held the blanket up, hoping to shield the two from the view of passing motorists, the man slowly got to his feet, brushing dirt and bits of dry grass of his body. Pete held one end of the blanket out to him. "Wrap up in one end of this."

Turning to the woman, he gestured for her to come over to them. "Okay. Now you cover up with this end," he added, extending the free side of the blanket toward her. "Oh, give me the doll first."

Mary handed the plastic baby to him and for one brief moment, Pete wondered how he should carry it. Cradle it like a real baby, or just tuck it under my arm? He decided on the latter approach. Let the sergeant have some fun when citizens called in to complain about child mistreatment--he wanted to keep his hands free in case these two decided to run again. Hopefully, they wouldn't. Wrapped up as they were, he thought walking was going to be enough of a challenge. "Okay. Mary, Mister… whatever… let's go. Start walking." Pete motioned for the two to move back toward the patrol car.

Pete and his two prisoners had just arrived back at the car when the 'wise man' burst out laughing, almost losing his grip on the blanket as he pointed to a small group of figures approaching the car from the other direction. "Way out, man. Take a look at that," he howled. "Just like the Garden of Eden."

"Keep those hands on the blanket, mister," Pete ordered. He followed the man's pointing finger. Brink and two more of the streaking creche figures were walking down the sidewalk. In the absence of a blanket, Brink had made do with the most available materials to cover his prisoners--in this case, fallen palm fronds. Each man held one in front of him, and one behind.

As the trio arrived at the patrol car, Pete pointedly looked from the two prisoners to Brinkman.

"Hey, no one told me you had a blanket," Brink said, with a shrug of his shoulders. "I had to be creative out there."

The arrival of the backup unit and Sergeant Saunders forestalled any reply Pete might have made. Saunders walked over to the scene.

"What do you have here, Malloy?"

"It seems this group decided to give us their interpretation of the Christmas story, Sergeant." He paused for a second. "Their au natural interpretation."

"Ah," the sergeant replied. "So, how many of the figures did you two catch?"

Pete glanced over at their prisoners. "I got Mary and a wise man, I think. Looks like Brink caught Joseph and a shepherd. But, y'know, without the costumes, it's kind of hard to tell who we have here."

"Guess it would be," Saunders snickered.

"Sergeant," Pete interrupted. "You wouldn't happen to have a blanket or two with you?"

Saunders gestured toward the rear of his wagon. "In the back, Malloy."

"Great." Pete jogged to the car, tossed the baby doll into the back seat, and retrieved the blankets. He returned to the small group of prisoners and held the blanket up in front of the girl. "Okay, miss. You get your own blanket. You three," he addressed his remaining prisoner and Brink's two, "get to share."

Saunders came up behind him. "Malloy, put the girl in your unit. I've called for a female officer to ride in with her. Put the guys in Colfax's unit." He gestured toward Adam-11, where Colfax and Snyder were standing, trying very hard not to laugh, until they saw Saunders point their way. Pete almost laughed himself as he saw their faces fall as they realized they would be transporting the three naked men.

Over an hour later, they had finally finished their reports on the incident, a process that took longer than usual, since Brinkman would occasionally break out in uncontrollable snickering as he tried to describe the scene they had encountered.

Returning to patrol, they found the street remarkably quiet. It seemed most of the citizens of Los Angeles, or at least those in their district, had decided to behave themselves this holiday. Pete made sure to cruise through the known trouble spots in Adam-12's district, but no trouble showed itself.

In the passenger seat, Brink stretched and yawned again. "Maybe we ought to call in a 187."

"Huh? A homicide?"

"Yeah. I think someone killed our radio." Brink laughed at his joke. "We haven't got tagged with a call in hours. And it's been a while since I've heard anyone get called for anything."

Brink had barely finished speaking when the radio sprang to life. "1-Adam-12, 1-Adam-12, a 415, woman screaming. 10320 Laurel Canyon. See the woman, 10317 Laurel Canyon. Respond Code 2."

Pete glanced over at his partner, who was busy acknowledging the call. "Your wish is granted."

10317 Laurel Canyon turned out to be a small mansion in a neighborhood of medium-size mansions, and the woman who called them was an older woman. She and her husband greeted them at her front door.

"Merry Christmas, Officers. I'm Clara Bernard. This is my husband, Alfred. I'm so sorry to have bothered you today."

"Yes, ma'am." Pete replied. "Can you tell us what the trouble is?"

The older couple exchanged a glance before the woman spoke again. "I'm afraid I may have overreacted. It was the Chaney's, across the street. I heard Mrs. Chaney screaming; loud, horrible screams like something terrible was happening. I was so worried about that sweet Mrs. Chaney. I tried to call them on the telephone, but nobody answered. Soon after that, the screaming stopped."

"Yes, ma'am," Pete repeated. "We'll go check it out. You two stay here, okay?"

"Oh, yes sir. We'll stay right here, won't we, Alfred?"

The old man nodded. "Yes, sir. Right here."

Pete nodded at the couple, then the two officers walked across the street and up to the front door of the Chaney's house. Everything seemed quiet now.

Knocking on the door, Pete called to the residents, "Mr. Chaney? Mrs. Chaney?" When he didn't get a response, he rang the doorbell and repeated the summons. "Mr. and Mrs. Chaney? Anyone home?"

"Over there." Brink pointed to a man approaching from around the side of the house.

The man waved to them. "Officers? How can I help you?"

"Is this your house?" Brink asked the man.

"Yes. Mine and my wife's. I'm Douglas Chaney. Sorry I didn't hear you sooner. My wife and I out back, in the garage."

"Mr. Chaney, we had a report of a woman screaming earlier. Is everything okay?"

Douglas Chaney laughed quietly and ran a hand through his hair. "Everything's just fine. I'm afraid my wife just got a little excited about her Christmas present. You see, my company had a very good year, so I splurged a little on her gift. Bought her a brand new Porche. You want to come take a look?"

Pete and Brink exchanged a glance. Brink was nearly drooling at the thought of being that close to a new Porsche. "Yes, sir. I think we'd better."

"Right this way." Chaney led them around the house to where a woman was sitting in the prettiest bright red Porsche convertible either officer had ever seen.

"Wow," Brink commented. "Nice. Uh, the car, I mean."

Mr. Chaney walked over to the woman and helped her out of the car. "Lissa, these men are from the LAPD."

"Oh, no. Is something wrong?"

Pete smiled. "I don't think so. Someone heard you yelling earlier and got worried."

Lissa put one hand over her mouth. "Oh, dear. I didn't mean to worry anyone. I was just so excited about my Christmas present. It was that dear Mrs. Bernard from across the street, wasn't it? Oh, I'm so sorry I worried her. I'll go apologize to her right away. I'll take the car. Maybe she'd like a ride." She climbed back into the car, started the engine with the quietest purr they'd ever heard from an engine, and drove across the street to talk to her neighbor.

Mr. Chaney stayed standing next to the two officers. He shook his head in amusement. "That's my Lissa for you. Got a heart of gold, and the brains of a butterfly. But I couldn't live without her." Chaney smiled at Pete and Brink. "By the way, thanks for coming out here. It's good to know people are watching out for us, y'know?"

"Just part of our job, Mr. Chaney." Brink waved to the man as they returned to their patrol car to resume the watch of L.A.'s unusually quiet streets.

Pete didn't give too much attention to the next 'woman screaming' call that came through. It was assigned to Adam-11, although the street was close to being in Adam-12's district. If Snyder and Colfax needed backup, they'd probably respond. Snyder's turn to deal with overly enthusiastic gift recipients, he thought.

Brink, however, took more notice of the call. "2950 Dwight Street. That's across the street from Cindy's sister's house. Oh, great. I wonder what she's done this time," he commented. "I think that whole family just enjoys embarrassing me."

Pete glanced over at Brinkman, unable to tell what he was thinking. He didn't know if his temporary partner was really annoyed with the family or hiding worry behind a façade of irritation. What he wouldn't give to have his regular, more easily readable partner with him. Whatever Brink was feeling, Pete tried to pull his attention back to the here and now. "I'm sure they're fine. I'm not so sure about this guy in front of us here. The way he's weaving all over the road, he can't be sober."

Brink turned his attention to the driver who had just turned in front of them, just as the man ambled his vehicle all the way across the road, then back into his own lane. "Whoa, look at him go."

Pete reached down and flipped on the lights. "Maybe we'll earn our paychecks today yet. Call it in."

"Right, pardner. Let's go lasso us a deuce," Brink drawled as he reached for the radio.

It took several minutes of light-flashing, horn-honking, and finally siren-yelping before the driver of the car tried, unsuccessfully, to pull his car over to the curb. He ended up parked at a crazy angle to the curb. If his driving and parking ability hadn't already made it obvious, the man's unsteady departure from his car removed any doubt about his condition. The man and his female companion could not stand, much less walk, without leaning heavily on the vehicle.

"Oh, brother, are they ever drunk," Brink muttered to Pete as they got out of the car. Pete approached the man while Brink headed for his companion.

The man fixed a bleary-eyed stare on Pete. "Orficer, I Am Not Drunk," he announced carefully, hesitating on each word. He slumped sideways against the car. "I was just teshting tha shteering on my new car here," he slurred, patting the roof of the car affectionately.

Pete briefly looked over the car. Faded paint, a few assorted dents and more than a few rust spots. He put it a late 50's model. "New car, you say?"

The drunk man looked at the car, then looked back at Pete. "Well, it's new ta me, at leasht." He glanced around furtively, then leaned toward Pete and lowered his voice. "Me and Glenda, we forgot what our car looks like, so we, ah, borrowed thish one." He burped loudly, and Pete stepped backwards to avoid the fumes. "I think." The man dissolved into giggles. "We're going to a Christmas part…party."

From the other side of the car, Brink rolled his eyes at Pete, then turned his attention back to his prisoner. "How about it, lady? You steal this car?"

The woman looked up at Brinkman and giggled. "Dishn't steal it, cutie. We just borrowed this one. Just like we borrowed that one yesterday. The woman frowned, then held up her fingers and counted off several days. "Day b'fur yesterday."

Pete met Brink's gaze. "Brink, better bring the woman over here. Then go call for a tow truck for the car." As soon as the two were together, Pete pulled a notebook. "Okay, before you say anything else, I need to advise you of your rights…"

A few minutes later, the two drunks were secured in the back of the patrol car, and Pete and Brink were just getting into the car themselves. They stopped when they saw Sergeant Saunders' car pulling up behind theirs.

Saunders walked over to the two officers. "Those your two drunken car thieves?" he asked them.

"We think so, Sergeant. The car hasn't been reported stolen yet, but it's not registered to either of them. If nothing else, we're taking them in for drunk driving."

The sergeant nodded. "Right." He turned to Brinkman. "Bob, did you hear Adam-11's call--the 415 on Dwight Street?"

Brink nodded. The officer known for his quick wit suddenly couldn't think of a word to say.

"That was your sister-in-law. Apparently, they got some spoiled eggnog. Made all of them sick, and your sister-in-law got a little panicked and ran into the street yelling. Now, they're all going to be okay; the ambulance crew just took them all to the hospital as a precaution, but I've got a very scared five-year-old down at the hospital who could sure use his Daddy right now."

"He's okay?" Brink managed to ask.

Saunders reached out and grabbed his shoulder. "He's fine. I guess he doesn't like eggnog. Listen, you're off-duty as of right now." He gestured toward his car, where another officer, one of the two assigned to the desk that morning, was standing. "Anderson and I will take these two back to the station for you, and Malloy can process them in when he gets back from dropping you off at the hospital. Malloy, come see me when you get there."

"Yes, sir." Pete nodded to the sergeant, then opened the rear door of Adam-12. "Okay, you two. We're switching cars." He helped Anderson move the pair to the back seat of the sergeant's car.

Within minutes, Brink and Pete were on their way to Central Receiving Hospital. The short drive had never seemed longer to either officer. Brink sat in silence for the first time since Pete had met him, and Pete wasn't sure what to say. When they arrived at the hospital, Pete parked the car in one of the emergency spots, and the two officers jogged into the hospital waiting room.

A blond-haired young boy sat in one of the chairs, wearing a dejected look despite the best efforts of a nurse to keep him entertained. As soon as Brink and Pete entered the room, the boy suddenly smiled, jumped off the chair, and ran to Brink with a cry of "Dada!"

Brink grabbed his son up off the floor. "Hi there, Bobby. What ya doing?"

Bobby Brinkman, Jr. frowned. "Everybody got sick."

Brink tweaked his son's nose. "Yeah, I know. But they're going to get better, okie-dokie? And until then, we're gonna do 'guy stuff,' like watching the football game, okay, kid?"

"Okay." Bobby stuck a thumb in his mouth.

After grabbing Brink's arm to get his attention, Pete asked if everything was okay. When Brink nodded, Pete waved. "I gotta get back to the station. See you in a few days," he added quietly.

Pete returned to the station, and knocked on the door of the office Mac usually occupied. "Sergeant Saunders?"

Saunders looked up from the paperwork that never took a holiday. "Malloy. Come on in." As Pete entered the office, Saunders shuffled some of the papers into a neat stack. "Brinkman find his son?"

"Yes, sir. The nurses were watching Bobby Junior in the ER's waiting area. They were real grateful to see Brinkman. The little guy was really scared."

"Which little guy--Brinkman Junior or Senior?"

Pete smiled. "Both, I think."

"Well, I'm glad they're back together, and everyone's going to be fine." Saunders rearranged some more papers on the desk. "Where's that doggone report? Ah, here it is. You know, those two drunks we brought in for you? They confessed to five other of these car 'borrowings' on the way in. What a pair." Saunders shook his head in disbelief. "Looks like you two may have solved that string of car burglaries in the area."

Pete smiled. "Brink and Walters will be glad to hear that. Those burglaries were driving them crazy."

"Yeah, I know." Saunders agreed. "Well, Malloy, you'd better go get those two processed, then you can finish out this shift in an L-car. I'll call in someone to work the PM watch with you."

Pete looked up in confusion. PM Watch?

"Oh, by the way, you're working PM watch today also." Saunders continued.

December 25, PM Watch

"1-Adam-12, PM Watch clear," Jim Reed intoned the by-now familiar words into the microphone, and a half-minute later, dispatch acknowledged and Jim hung the microphone back on its hook.

Pete looked over at the comfortingly familiar form of his normal partner. If he had to work a double, at least he had familiar company, although Jim probably wasn't too happy about it. "Hey, Jim, I'm sorry you got pulled away from your family today."

Jim flashed one of his smiles in Pete's direction. "It's okay. I was there for all the important events this morning."


"Yeah, like Jimmy opening his presents. Pete, you should've seen him go at it. He's gonna be a real tiger. Had those boxes unwrapped in record time."

"My godson. Gifted in gift unwrapping," Pete joked.

"Ha-ha-ha," Jim faked laughter. "Pete, don't ride with Brink anymore. He's a bad influence on you. Anyway, when I left, Jimmy was taking a nap, and Jean and her sister were having a 'private', girls-only talk about something. You know Laura--that's Jean's big sister--is getting married in a few months."

"Another bachelor trapped by your wife's family. Those girls are a positive menace to freedom."

"Pete." Jim's voice held a hint of the lecture to come. "You just don't know what you're missing."

"Hold it, partner. How about as a Christmas present, you skip the matrimony pitch?"

Jim opened his mouth to respond, then closed it. "Okay. But only because it's Christmas." He shifted in his seat and tugged at the waistband of his pants, trying to get it a bit looser.

Pete noticed the action. "What's the matter? All that eating you do finally catching up with you?"

"Just today's eating. Jean's mother cooked enough food to feed an army."

"I guess she know you were coming."

"Bwah-ha-ha. Funny, Pete. I mean it, she had a whole breakfast prepared for us. Eggs. Bacon. Sausage. Potatoes. After we finished eating all that, it was time to open presents, and when we finished that it was time for lunch. She'd done an entire banquet--a turkey and all the trimmings. And then Pop Fuller and I were watching football, and she'd made an extra pie for football-watching time. I'm serious, if Sergeant Saunders hadn't called, they would have had to roll me out of that house tonight, because I sure wouldn't have been able to walk after the supper Mom Fuller had planned."

Pete glanced over at Jim. "Never thought I'd see the day when you'd turn down food. You sick?"

"Pete," Jim began in a slightly exasperated tone of voice. The radio cut in before he could finish his retort. "Buzz off," he growled hurriedly before turning his attention to the radio.

Dispatch tagged them with a call that sounded pretty big: a burglary in progress at 3212 Orange Grove Circle West, respond Code 3. Jim acknowledged the call, then hung the microphone back on its hook with a puzzled look on his face. "Strange time of day for a burglary," he remarked.

"Yeah." Pete reached for the switches to activate the lights and siren. "Makes our job easier, though."

A few minutes later, they arrived at the scene. The only thing out of place was an extension ladder propped against the side of the house. Everything else looked exactly as it should on Christmas afternoon. Jim and Pete walked over to the ladder and carefully laid it down on the grass. If a burglar had used that way into the house, he wasn't going to come out the same way. They walked around to the front door.

Standing to one side of the door, Jim knocked on it. "Police!"

Seconds later, the door opened and a five-year old boy stuck his head out. "Hi."

Jim squatted down in front of the boy. "Hi yourself. Did you call the police?"

"No," the boy replied. "But my Mommy did. She's in there." He pulled the door open further and pointed somewhere to the left of the door.

The two officers stepped around the boy and followed his pointing finger into the living room. A woman stood in the middle of the floor, pointing a rifle at the fireplace. "You just stay put, you here?" she yelled toward the fireplace. "Don't try anything!"

"Police, ma'am." Pete said quietly. "Can you put the rifle down?"

The woman turned her head around, lowering the rifle toward the floor. "Oh, thank God you're here! There's a burglar in the fireplace!" She laid the rifle down on the coffee table. "Sorry. I just didn't want him hurting my kids." She extended a hand toward Pete. "I'm Mrs. Patty DiMarco. My husband's out of town on business and I was celebrating Christmas with my kids when I heard somebody coming down the chimney. I somehow figured it wasn't Santa Claus, you know?" she giggled nervously.

"Yes, ma'am. Now, why don't you step back for a minute while my partner and I figure out what's going on, okay?"

"Of course. Sammy, come to Mommy. Let's stay out of the officers' way." The boy ran his mother, who had squatted down beside a playpen where a younger child was playing, unaware of the excitement taking place around her.

Pete walked over to the wall and banged on the brick with his baton. "Hey! Anyone in there?"

A very muffled voice floated out of the fireplace. "Yes! Please, help me. I'm stuck. And I'm not a burglar!"

Pete exchanged a look with Jim. "If you're not a burglar, what are you doing in there?"

The man groaned. "Can you just get me out of here, please? I'll explain everything."

"Okay, mister." Pete squatted down in front of the fireplace and carefully leaned over until he could look up the chimney. A foot above his head, he could see a man's feet hanging. He reached up and pulled on the man's leg.

"Ouch! Ow! Leggo! That's not gonna work!" the man yelled. "I tell you, I'm stuck. Do something! Something else!"

"Okay, mister. Just calm down." Pete told him, then crawled out of the fireplace and turned to his partner. "Jim, go call the fire department. He's really stuck in there."

Jim looked down at his partner. "Sure. Hey, you're looking a little like Santa Claus yourself."


"Covered with soot. Really, Pete, you ought to be more careful." Jim laughed quietly as he headed out the door to the car.

Pete glared at his partner's departing form until Mrs. DiMarco approached him with a handful of wet paper towels.

"Here, officer. You did get a little dirty in there."

Pete wiped at his face and hands. "Thanks."

A few minutes later, Jim returned. "Fire department's rolling. They should be here in five or ten minutes."

"Good. I'm gonna get started on the report. Why don't you take Sammy outside and show him how a real police car works?" Pete turned to the boy. "How about that, Sammy? You want to take a look inside a police car?"

Sammy's eyes lit up. "Yeah! Can I, Mommy?" When his mother nodded, the boy eagerly followed Jim out of the house.

Jim had just finished up showing off the car when the fire department arrived on the scene. Sammy immediately lost all interest in the patrol car as the shiny red fire truck pulled up behind them, lights flashing and sirens blaring.

Jim followed Sammy back to the fire truck, silently wondering how the LAPD stayed in business when the LAFD had a much more exciting recruiting tool.

The fire captain leaned out the window of the truck as Jim approached. "Officer, we had a report of a man stuck in a chimney?"

Jim nodded. "Yes, sir." He explained the situation to the fire captain.

Captain Schultz shook his head. "Uh-huh. Officer, you sure this isn't some kind of joke? Revenge for losing the Fire/Police football game last month? Because if it is, there's gonna be trouble. We left Christmas dinner back at the station for this."

"No, sir. It's not a joke. You'd better come take a look." Jim gestured for the fire crew to follow him into the house.

The firemen's disbelief lasted until their captain looked up the fireplace himself. Schultz stood back up, shaking his head in amazement. "Gentlemen, there really is someone stuck in there," he told his incredulous crew. "Markley, Archer, you two try to get him free."

After trying to pull the man out through the fireplace with no success, the firemen decided the best bet would be to pull him out the top of the chimney, the same way he went down it

Jim and the DiMarco family gathered on the front yard, watching as the firemen propped ladders against the house, climbed up to the roof and gathered about the chimney. They watched as one of the firemen was lowered down the chimney by his associates, apparently to tie a rope around the stuck suspect. A few minutes later, the fireman was pulled back out of the chimney, holding a large bag in one hand. The group of firemen on the roof began pulling on a rope, and soon a soot-covered man emerged from the chimney. His rescuers and the small crowd of witness on the ground started at man.

Sammy DiMarco was the first to recover. "It really is Santa Claus!" He burst out laughing as the bedraggled man was led down the ladder by the firemen, his beard hanging askew and his formerly red suit blackened with soot and torn where he had got caught on the flue.

<<<<>>>>"1-Adam-12, clear." Jim cleared them with dispatch after they finished wrapping up the call. "That poor guy. Just trying to play Santa for his nieces, and look at all the trouble he got.

Pete looked over at his partner and snickered. "He should've checked the address better. He wanted Orange Grove Circle East, not West. At least Mrs. DiMarco was understanding about it."

After the man, soon identified as Mr. Mark Guffey, was freed, he explained that his brother, Jeff, of 3212 Orange Grove Circle East had asked him to play Santa Claus and come down the chimney to surprise the children. A quick phone call to Jeff Guffey had confirmed the story, and once Mrs. DiMarco understood what had happened, she refused to press charges. Mark Guffey had been released with the recommendation to be more careful next Christmas.

The stuck Santa was the last call the officers received that afternoon. They spent the time stopping a few drunk drivers, but for the most part, they just drove around their district, looking for trouble that apparently was not showing itself this holiday.

Dark had just fallen before the next call came through the radio. "1-Adam-12, family dispute, 2641 West VanArden. 1-Adam-12, handle Code 2."

Jim rogered the call, then hung the mic back on its holder with a quiet sigh. "That's the Buehler's address, isn't it?"

"Yup," Pete replied.

"Great. We were just there last night. Why don't they just get a divorce or some counseling at least?" Jim growled, his good mood from earlier in the shift rapidly evaporating.

Pete didn't respond to the rhetorical question, and for a few minutes there was silence in the car as they headed for the small house on VanArden Street.

The dispatcher's voice broke the silence. "1-Adam-12, update on your family dispute call. Fire now reported at the location. The fire department has been notified and is responding. Code 3 is authorized."

Pete reached for the switches to activate the lights and siren. "Time to go play fireman, partner."

By the time Adam-12 arrived at the scene, the front half of the house was already engulfed in flame, and the Buehlers' were engaged in a heated argument on their front lawn.

"…you couldn't be happy with a nice, safe plastic tree," they heard Mrs. Buehler yelling as they got out of the car. "Noooo. Not for you. YOU had to go out and buy a real tree last night. Well, just look what it got you, mister. I hope you're happy now."

Mr. Buehler waved a closed fist at his wife. "The real tree wouldn't have caught on fire if you hadn't thrown that stupid fake 'pine' scent candle at me. Or if you'd watered the tree sometime today."

Mrs. Buehler put her hands on her hips and leaned toward her husband. "My fake tree didn't need watering," she said loudly and slowly.

Jim looked over at Pete, who had joined him on the passenger side of the patrol car, and rolled his eyes. "Oh, brother…"

Pete shook his head. "Why don't you go deal with the fire department. I'll take care of these two."

When Jim nodded and headed toward the newly-arrived fire truck, Pete walked over to the fighting couple. "Okay, you two. Break it up," he told them.

Mrs. Buehler turned to face him. "Officer, would you just look at what he did this time. Just look!" She waved an arm toward the raging inferno that had been their living room, nearly backhanding Jim across the face as he also approached the bickering Buehlers.

Jim grabbed her arm. "Watch out!"

Mr. Buehler laughed. "Look what I did? What I did? No way. Nuh-uh. This is all yours." He started to shake his fist in his wife's direction again, but Pete grabbed his arm.

"That's enough of that. Now you two listen up. If you keep this up, we're gonna have to arrest you both for disturbing the peace. Now can you break it up for a while?" he asked.

"Humph," Mrs. Buehler grunted. "Breaking up. That's the best idea I've heard in a long time. First thing tomorrow, I'm finding a lawyer and filing for divorce."

Mr. Buehler strained against Pete's grip on his arms. "No you're not. I'm gonna get a lawyer and divorce you. You just wait."

"Okay, that's enough," Pete barked. "Jim, take Mrs. Buehler over to the fire truck and let the medics check her over. Mister, you come with me." Pete hauled Mr. Buehler over to the patrol car for a little talk.

<<<< >>>>"Do you think they're really gonna do it?" Jim asked his partner as they returned to patrolling the streets. It had taken several hours to get the Buehler's settled into separate hotels and finish the reports from the fire.

"Who, and do what?"

Jim rolled his eyes. "The Buehlers. You think they're really gonna split up?"

"Don't know. It sure would make holidays quieter around the division." He thought for a second. "They don't really have a home to go back to."

"Yeah." Jim sighed. "At least it'll be quieter for the rest of tonight." He turned to stare out of the side window, lost in thought. "Probably a good thing, them getting some time apart."

"Probably is," Pete agreed. Hoping to distract his partner for his gloomy thoughts, Pete reached for the temperature control of the car's heater and bumped it another notch or two warmer.

Jim turned from the window. "Pete, what are you doing?"

"Makin' it warmer in here. Hadn't you noticed it's getting chilly outside?"

Jim waved a gloved hand at Pete. "Yeah, I had noticed. But you never get cold, and you're always hassling me about making the car too hot for you."

Pete shrugged. "Merry Christmas."

Jim smiled. "Gee, thanks Pete. I don't know what to say…"

"1-Adam-12, see the woman, unknown trouble, in Griffith Park, behind the restrooms at the south end of the park. No further information available," the dispatcher broke into the conversation.

Pete glanced over at his partner, who was already reaching for the microphone. "How about '1-Adam-12, roger,'" he muttered.

"Huh?" Jim shot him a confused look before picking up the microphone. "1-Adam-12, roger." He hung the microphone back on its hook and blew out a concerned sigh. "Great. Unknown trouble."

A few minutes later, they arrived at the somewhat remote parking lot near the restrooms. Pete flipped the car's headlights off, and both officers scanned the area from the relative protection of their car, looking for some sign of the supposed trouble that had brought them to this quiet, deserted-looking corner of Griffith Park.

"Nothing," Jim muttered.

"We'd better go investigate. Behind the restrooms, right?" Pete opened his door and stepped out into the chilly night, sliding his baton into place and settling his hat on his head. On the other side of the car, Jim was mirroring his actions. They slowly approached the restrooms, still seeing no sign of the reported trouble or the person who had reported it.

Jim gestured toward the pay phone on the wall between the bathroom doors. "Probably the phone they used there," he commented.

"Yeah," Pete replied as he looked over the scene. "Jim, watch the windows. I'm gonna see if anybody's home." He walked to the door of the men's room and knocked on the door. "Police. Anyone in there?" he called before cautiously pushing the door open. You couldn't be too careful with unknown trouble calls. The 'unknown trouble' could be a psycho with a gun and a desire to shoot a policeman. When there was no answer from inside, he carefully entered the room. A half-minute later, he emerged. "Empty."

Jim moved into position to watch the window on the women's room as Pete walked to stand beside the door to that room. He repeated his actions and again, no one answered his call and his quick check of the interior revealed a room as empty as the men's room had been.

He exited the building. "Nothin' there," he informed his partner. He looked around again then gestured toward the dense shrubbery and trees growing behind the restroom, only feet away from the rear wall. "The caller said behind the building. Let's go check it out."

The two officers spread out, pushing their way through the tangled undergrowth, looking for anything out of place.

A few minutes later, Jim jerked his foot free from another clump of brambles that caught his sock and tore at the knit fabric, and probably at the skin underneath.. So far, the only thing out of place in this wood was him. I'm not dressed for a midnight hike. Of all the stupid places for an unknown trouble call, this has got to top the list. Suddenly, his flashlight shown on a scrap of light material that contrasted with the dark forest. He hurried toward the spot.

Pete was still exploring his little patch of woods when he heard Jim call out. "Pete, over here!" The senior officer quickly began shoving his way through the brush toward the sound of Jim's voice. A minute later, he broke into a small clearing. He spotted his partner kneeling down in front of a tree, beside a cardboard box. As he neared, he heard Jim's quiet voice. "It's okay, sweetheart. Don't cry now. Ssshhh. It's okay, baby."

"I hope you're not talking to me, partner, 'cause if you are, I'm driving you back to the station and trading you in for a working model. What do you have there?"

Jim turned from picking a small bundle up out of the box. "Looks like an abandoned baby," Jim told him as he unzipped his jacket and tucked the bundle inside, closer to the warmth of his body. "Can't be more than a few months old."

"A baby." Pete repeated. "What kind of…" Pete stopped himself from saying what he really felt. What kind of scum would abandon a baby out here in the cold, on Christmas day, of all times? He looked around the scene again, his instincts telling him they were missing something; that things weren't as simple as they looked to be. Behind him, he heard the baby's quiet, insistent cries and the sounds of Jim cooing to the baby as he rustled through the cardboard box, probably looking for a pacifier for the infant. And why wasn't the poor little thing crying before now?

Jim pulled something out of the box, then stood up, a puzzled expression on his face. "Pete, come here for a second," he said quietly.

Pete turned away from scanning the woods and walked over to his partner. He reached down to tug on one of the little feet kicking at the end of the blanket-wrapped bundle Jim held in his arms, a bundle that was now happily and noisily sucking on a bottle.

Jim twisted slightly to move the baby out of Pete's reach. "Pete, don't do that. You tickle her, she's gonna spit up all over my shirt." Jim admonished.


"She. You see the pink ribbon tied in her hair?" Jim asked.


Jim rearranged the bottle so the baby could suck down more formula, bouncing her in his arms slightly. "Listen, something's not right here. This baby hasn't been out in the open that long. Feel her cheek. She's too warm to have been out in this air for more than a minute or two."

Pete followed his partner's instructions, and the baby happily smiled and gurgled formula all over her face, the blanket, and Jim's shirt. "Hey, you were right." He smiled at the baby girl, then wiped her face with a clean spot on the blanket. "About everything. You're gonna need to get that shirt washed, by the way."

Jim fixed a disgusted look on Pete. "Also, her formula's too warm. If she'd been out here since dispatch got the call, it would be a whole lot colder."

Pete glanced around the area again, the hinky feeling from earlier suddenly making a lot more sense. "So, what are you thinking?" Pete prompted his partner.

Jim bit his lower lip and blew a breath out. "I'm thinking whoever called Dispatch left this baby here for us to find. And not that long ago, either."

"And they're probably still in the area, right?"

"Right." Jim nodded as Pete once again scanned the area. Movement behind a bush caught his attention, and he took a few steps toward the bush to investigate.

A blur of denim jumped out from behind the bush and took off running away from the small clearing where the two officers stood.

"Jim, stay here!" Pete barked, then took off in pursuit of the fleeing girl. It was, however, a short pursuit. The girl tripped over a protruding tree root and fell to her hands and knees before she'd gotten more than fifteen feet away.

Pete stopped at her side. "Okay, missy. On your feet," he told her, then reached down and grabbed her arm to help her up off the ground. Now that she was standing still, Pete could see she was young--maybe twenty, if that--and skinny. Way too skinny. She stood beside him, staring at the ground and sobbing quietly, her short brown hair falling forward to cover her face. "Miss, are you hurt?" he asked her.

The girl shook her head. "No."

"Okay. Let's go back and talk to my partner." Holding her arm firmly, he led her back to the clearing. By the time they got there, Jim had quit feeding the baby and was now entertaining her with a stuffed cat he'd apparently found in the box.

Pete gestured to the baby Jim held cradled in his arms. "Miss, is that your baby?" he asked her.

For a minute, the girl didn't respond. Finally, she nodded. "Yes… yes she is," she managed to stammer.

"Why did you leave her out here in the park like that?" Pete growled. "She could've gotten sick, or died from exposure, or some wild animal could have got her or…" He decided not to mention the human predators who sometimes populated the park.

"No… no," she whimpered. "I was watching. Holly was only out in the open alone for a minute or two--just after you started looking around the woods here."

"You're the one that called us," Pete stated the obvious fact.

The girl nodded, fighting down more tears. "I just didn't know what to do. Holly was born three months ago, and then Andy… Andy died in that accident two months ago, and now I'm being evicted from our… my apartment tomorrow." She started sobbing again. "I thought this way… at least she'd get a good home with people who could take care of her."

"Miss, there are places you could go besides out on the streets. The Salvation Army shelter, for one."

"But I can't take care of Holly. Like Andy always said, I can barely take care of myself."

"There's people at the shelter who can help you decide what to do. Put you in touch with people who'll help you find that 'good home' for Holly, if that's what you want."

"It doesn't matter anymore, does it? I'm going to jail now, aren't I?" she asked, bitterness tinging her voice.

Pete glanced over at Jim and baby Holly. Jim met his eyes, then glanced down at the baby in his arms. Pete could almost hear what he was thinking. She's already lost her father. Don't take away her mother, too. "Well, miss, I don't think we have enough evidence to charge you with anything. It looks like you take good care of the baby." He looked the girl over again. Too pale, overly thin, under-clothed for the cold night air. "Better care than you've taken of yourself, from the appearance of it. You were only a few feet away from the baby when we found her. Looks like somebody saw you walking in the park and got the wrong idea."

The girl sniffed. "You're not going to arrest me?" When Pete shook his head, the girl burst into tears again. "So what is going to happen to me and Holly?"

Pete patted her on the shoulder. "The park closed a few hours ago, and camping's not allowed here, so we'll take you two down to the shelter. For now, let's get you two back to the car. It's too cold out here for you and the baby." Keeping one hand on her arm, in case she decided to bolt again, Pete leaned down and picked up the box that had served as the baby's cradle that day, then gently pushed the girl forward, leading her back to the patrol car. Jim followed close behind, still carrying baby Holly.

Pete settled the girl in the backseat of the car, then walked around to the driver's door and reached into the car for the radio mic. He caught a brief glimpse of Jim gently handing the baby to her mother. That brought up a memory of Jim placing a different baby-Pete's godson, though he hadn't known that yet--in his arms. He smiled at the memory before stretching the mic cord to its limit and almost entirely closing his door to give himself a bit of privacy for the conversation with dispatch. "1-Adam-12, show us code 4 at the scene. We will be transporting the woman to the Salvation Army shelter." He paused to give dispatch time to reply.

Jim took the opportunity to interrupt him. He stood at the open trunk of the patrol car, looking through the various equipment they kept there. "Pete, where's that blanket? I thought we were keeping one back here?" he asked.

Pete looked at Jim and raised an eyebrow. "Remember why we put the blanket back there in the first place?" he asked, knowing full well Jim remembered. The look on Jim's face when he'd seen Jay Simmons was something Pete would remember for a long time.

"Ooooh," Jim replied, comprehension dawning on his face. "Another drunk?"

"Not quite, and not just one." Pete held up a hand to halt further questioning as he heard dispatch roger his last transmission. "Don't worry, Brink will tell you all the details next time you see him. It's not a story little ears need to hear." Pete pointed to the backseat.

Jim gave him an exasperated look, closed the trunk lid, and returned to the girl sitting in the car. Pete watched Jim remove his jacket and wrap it around the girl's thin shoulders. Guess I'll have to keep the heater cranked up. He's gonna be freezing in a minute. He watched the girl pull the jacked tightly around her thin frame. How could a girl that young think no one would care about her? Pete suddenly got an idea. Maybe this once, they'd get a Christmas miracle. He raised the mic again and asked Sergeant MacDonald to meet him on Tac 2. As soon as dispatch responded, Pete flipped the radio to the other frequency.

A minute later, Mac responded to his call. "One-L-20, Malloy. What do you have, Pete?" he asked.

"I don't know for sure. A young lady and baby who are about to lose their home it what it looks like. Listen, can you check with Missing Persons, see if they have a report on a female, age about 20, five-five, maybe 100 pounds, light brown hair and blue eyes? There may also be a baby missing." Pete glanced toward the backseat of the car as the girl made a derisive noise and muttered something about wasting time.

"Roger, Malloy," Mac responded. "Stand by."

As he waited, Pete glanced back at the young woman again, idly wondering why she felt so alone in the world, why she felt there was no one she could turn to.

Mac's voice on the radio broke into his thoughts. "Malloy, is your party's name Julianne Harper?"

Pete looked back at the girl, who was now wearing a surprised look on her pale face. "That your name, miss?" he asked her.

She nodded. "That's my maiden name, but yeah." She looked over at Jim, who was standing outside the car door. "I didn't think they cared."

Pete picked up the mic again. "That's an affirmative, Mac."

"Well, tell her I've got a very worried couple at the station right now filing a missing person report. Bring her on in. Maybe we can save everyone some paperwork tonight." Pete could tell from Mac's voice that he wasn't just concerned about the paperwork. He didn't want it to show on the radio, but he was obviously just as anxious as Pete was to have this work out.

"Roger, Mac." Pete replied. "On our way."

It wasn't long before they arrived back at the station. Pete got out of the car and walked around to open the door for Julianne. She didn't get out of the car right away.

"Wait… what if … what if I don't want to go in there. I mean, what if they don't really want me back?" she stammered, tears welling in her eyes.

Jim reached over and patted her shoulder reassuringly. "They want you. They're down here filing a missing person report, aren't they?"

Julianne nodded. "I guess so."

"They are. Listen, if it doesn't work out, the free ride to the Salvation Army shelter will still be available, okay? Why don't you give them a chance? You don't have anything to lose."

She nodded again. "Yeah, I guess not." She handed her baby to Pete, then unenthusiastically climbed out of the car and allowed Pete to lead her into the station. Jim followed close behind after retrieving the box carrying the baby's meager possessions.

Julianne's reluctance lasted only until she saw her parents sitting in Mac's office. With a cry of "Mama" she pulled free of Pete's guiding hand and ran into the office; into the arms of her mother and father.

Still in the hallway, Jim looked down at the tiny bundle in Pete's arms. "Looks like you're gonna have your family this Christmas, angel," he told her. He tickled her foot, and the baby smiled and giggled. "That's right. You can do it. Spit up on his jacket for me. Be a good little girl," he begged.

Pete glared at his partner. "Jim."

Jim did his best to look innocent as he looked away from the baby into Mac's office. "We'd better go give her back to her mother."

The two entered Mac's office, and Mr. Harper pulled away from his wife and daughter, picked up Jim's jacket from where it had fallen on the floor and walked to the two officers. He held the jacket out. "I guess this is yours," he said.

"Yes, sir." Jim took the jacket from him.

Mr. Harper looked like he wanted to say something else. Finally, he reached out and clasped the two officers on their shoulders. "Thank you," he finally said. "Thank you for bringing her back to us." He stopped talking for a minute to compose himself. "Things haven't been good between use since she met Andy, but Patty and I decided it was time to reconcile. We went to her apartment yesterday, and found her gone… long gone from the looks of the place. We checked with her landlord… her landlord," Harper spat out, "and found out that Andy had died last month, and he hadn't seen her since he told her last week that she was going to be evicted tomorrow. That… man was threatening to throw her belongings in the street if we didn't take them with us. Can you believe that?" Harper was almost sputtering again. "What kind of monster throws a young girl and a baby out onto the street on Christmas Day?"

"I don't know, Mr. Harper." Pete tried to calm him down.

Mr. Harper nodded. "Anyway, we thought we'd never find her. Los Angeles is so much bigger than Santa Barbara," he almost chuckled, obviously trying to get control of his emotions. He looked over at his wife and daughter. "Thanks again."

Pete smiled at Mr. Harper. "Just part of our job, Mr. Harper. Hey, have you met your granddaughter yet?"

Mr. Harper's face lit up. "No, I haven't. Actually, we didn't know we even had a granddaughter until that landlord told us about the baby." He held out his arms and Pete gently laid the baby in them. "What's her name?" he asked as he gently stroked the baby's face.

"Maybe you should ask your daughter that question," Pete suggested, gesturing across the office to where the other women of the family were still hugging and crying.

As Mr. Harper and baby Holly rejoined the family, Mac called the two officers outside to the hallway. "Let's give them a little privacy," he said as he pulled the door to behind him. He looked at his officers. "I thought dispatch sent you out on an 'unknown trouble' call. Was she the trouble?"

Jim looked back into the office, where Julianne was now holding her baby while her parents hovered over them. "A little slip of a girl like that? Nah, she wasn't any trouble at all."

Mac gave him a friendly glare. "What I'm asking, is did she file a false report? Misuse the emergency system?"

Pete glanced into the office. "No. She really did need help, she just didn't know how to ask for it."

"Okay." Mac looked into the office. "Well, you two better get back on the streets." He gestured toward the door to the parking lot. "There's still two hours left on this watch, and citizens to serve and protect."

"Going, Mac," Jim responded, before heading down the hallway to their waiting patrol car. As soon as they exited the building and the door closed behind them, Pete reached for Jim's arm. "Jim, wait a second. I almost forgot your Christmas present."

"Huh?" Jim asked. He thought he'd already got his present from Pete, in one of the boxes Jean and he had unwrapped that morning.

Pete rustled around in his pants pocket, finally withdrew a small item and dropped it in Jim's hand. "Here ya go. Sorry I didn't have time to wrap it for you."

Jim looked down in astonishment at the car keys resting in his hand. Gradually, one of his million-watt smiles replaced the surprised expression. "You're really gonna let me drive?"

Pete shrugged. "Merry Christmas, partner. Just don't make me regret this, okay?"

"Sure." Jim almost jogged around to the driver's side of the car, threw himself into the seat and happily began adjusting the seat and mirrors to fit his taller frame. Cheerful whistling drifted out of the patrol car as Pete opened the passenger side door. A Christmas tune. "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth."

Pete rolled his eyes heavenward. "What's wrong with the traditional favorites? Doesn't anybody know the old songs anymore?" he moaned.

Jim apparently heard his lament and switched songs. Unfortunately, his next choice wasn't any better to Pete. "Away in a Manger."

Pete laughed at the memories from this morning that song pulled out of his head. "Reed, shut up and drive."

This story is dedicated to all the police, firefighters, EMT's and others who work through the holidays so we can enjoy the days in safety. Thank you for all you do for us.

As always, many thanks to all involved in the original Adam-12.

Holiday Duty