Author: Tarlonniel PM
Hamlet famously said, "What a piece of work is a man." He intended those words as praise of mankind, outwardly at least, but the phrase has a somewhat different meaning today. Toss in the moon landing and let's play with man's duality a bit ...Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Crime - Words: 3,772 - Published: 03-12-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7918487
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Central Division's PM watch had passed inspection. Now blue clad officers moved among the black and whites, stowing gear, clearing hot sheet desks, checking lights, putting shotguns in their racks, making routine preparations for eight hours of patrol duty. Jim Reed placed his helmet case and that of his partner, Pete Malloy, into their unit's trunk, but before going to the passenger's seat he stopped and gazed up towards the clear, rain-cleansed November sky. A pregnant moon was beginning its climb towards the zenith - and somewhere on its surface walked two men. This was the second time humanity had set foot on Earth's nearest neighbor in less than six months, after centuries of gazing from afar. The young policeman's sense of awe had barely diminished. It still seemed incredible.
"Jim!" Malloy, with his usual wryly amused expression, waited by the driver's side door. He knew what Reed was thinking about; in July they had both been caught up by the Apollo 11 excitement. Now, though, they had more mundane matters to think about. "You comin'?"
Jim snapped back to Earth. "Yeah Pete," he replied, and got moving. They soon joined the parade of black and whites heading for their assigned beats, ready to protect, serve and successfully complete yet another shift in the city of Los Angeles.
The sun's last light was fading, leaving a dim but spacious glow in the west while Luna spread her own virgin light across the eastern horizon. A few bright stars were beginning to sparkle coolly overhead, mirrored in thousands by headlights on L. A.'s streets. One pair of the latter belonged to Adam-12. They had spent the first hour or so of patrol on only two things: explaining to a hot dog salesman (for the umpteenth time) what constituted proper parking signs and doing the follow-up after spotting a stolen car outside Tex's Bar and Grill. Both incidents amply reminded them that they hadn't eaten since noon.
"Hey, how 'bout 7?" Jim suggested, feeling his stomach start to growl.
"You're readin' my mind. Let's try the place Mac told us about at roll call."
"Okay. This is 1-Adam-12, requesting code 7 at 5340 West Olympic."
"1-Adam-12, continue patrol and handle this call. 459 in a residence. See the woman, 2077 Lankershim."
Jim sighed in frustration. "1-Adam-12, roger." He replaced the mic. "Pete, when was the last time we got 7 on the first try?"
Pete smiled ruefully. "The last time we both ate big lunches."
The address was in a residential neighborhood. Every house on the block had front walks, neat lawns and windows brightly lit against the approaching darkness. It was getting difficult to read house numbers; they were saved the trouble when a nice-looking middle aged woman came up as Adam-12 rolled by her curb.
"It's about Mr. Mills," she fretted through the window. "He lives just next door to me, a very sweet man. I hope nothing's happened to him."
"What do you mean?" Jim asked as he got out.
"Well, not too long ago I saw three teenage boys, strangers, talking to him on his porch. After a few minutes it looked like they forced their way into the house."
Malloy came around to join his partner on the sidewalk. "Are they still inside?" he said.
"I don't know. I went to call you and I suppose they could've left while I was on the phone. I haven't seen them since they pushed the door open. I'm awfully worried, officers, Mr. Mills isn't strong and he couldn't defend himself if ..."
"Yes, ma'am. We'll take care of it," Pete assured her.
"Thank you. When you're finished, could you let me know if he's all right?"
Pete nodded. "Sure."
She thanked them again and watched anxiously as the two men approached her neighbor's home.
Mr. Mills lived in a small, well-kept building, with comfortable wicker chairs on the porch and a small wrought iron lamppost decorating its walk. Light showed through gaps in the curtains and the front door standing slightly ajar. Reed stood ready as Malloy carefully pushed the door open - no reaction. After waiting a few moments, both officers cautiously peered inside.
The house was trashed. Pictures had been dashed to the floor, drawers emptied, lamps smashed, chairs scattered in all directions, statuettes broken and sprinkled in pieces among the ruin. A small black and white television set had been impaled by the fireplace poker; a beautiful old radio lay nearby, its ornate wooden cover cracked and splintered. Fearing that Mr. Mills had met a similar fate, the officers quickly began searching his house. They found varying degrees of destruction - some rooms hadn't even been touched. They didn't find the owner until Malloy checked a closet.
"Reed! Get an ambulance!" he called, kneeling down. Light from a single bulb showed that the elderly man had been badly beaten and bled from multiple injuries. Pete, pushing in among long cloaks and well-shined shoes, quickly checked for signs of life. Next he took a large overcoat and gently covered the victim, careful not to press on possibly broken limbs or ribs. Mr. Mills wasn't quite unconscious; he recognized the uniform and became slightly animated.
"Yes, sir. Try to relax."
"Three boys ... attacked me ... took wallet and ..."
"Don't worry about it. You can tell us later."
Jim stepped into view, but his partner's back was turned. "Pete?" The older officer looked up. "I called for detectives. I'm going to see if that neighbor can give us a description."
"Right. I'll wait for the ambulance." Reed nodded in reply and left.
"Who was that?" Mr. Mills' voice still held a lingering fear.
"Just my partner."
"Oh ..." The old man sighed and his eyes closed wearily.
Five minutes later the ambulance wailed off towards Central Receiving, reflected moonbeams making its paint glow ghostly white. It seemed like an omen from the netherworld - credulous bystanders held their loved ones closer.
A team of detectives was already on site to take over the investigation. Malloy and Reed had done all they could, but it didn't feel like nearly enough.
"Is he going to be all right?" Jim asked as they pulled away.
"The attendants thought so. He'd feel better if we could catch those boys."
"So would I."
The next couple hours were normal for a Wednesday. They cruised problem areas, made a few traffic stops and took one petty theft report. They also managed to get 7 without further trouble. The restaurant Sgt. MacDonald recommended turned out to be a small steak house which specialized in cooking over an open fire. This gave the meat wonderfully authentic smoky flavors, while customers' meals arrived piping hot. A few other officers waved hello as the Adam-12 pair entered. They soon found a comfortable place at one of the oak tables and relaxed. Jim teased Pete about their attractive waitress, Pete cheerfully ignored him, the food arrived quickly and by the time they returned to patrol both men were in a very good mood. It wasn't destined to last. Half an hour later Jim stopped in mid-sentence.
"Pete, on the right, look." He had spotted signs of a wreck ahead. Before long they noticed a police motorcycle parked nearby, but there was no traffic unit and no calls for one in this area.
"You'd better see if he needs help," Pete said as they approached. He pulled over and slowed to a stop. Reed hopped out, quickly disappearing behind the crumpled vehicle, its twisted metal silvered by moonlight and illuminated in flashes by passing motorists. A minute later he returned alone.
"Go on," he said shortly, getting in the car. His undercut jaw showed that something was more than usually wrong.
"What happened?" Pete asked as he pulled the black and white back into traffic.
"A girl ran her car into the barricade. She died instantly. Williams has already called for an accident team and the coroner." Malloy didn't pry any further - to affect his friend this much the scene must've been pretty bad. Once more, frustratingly, there was really nothing they could do.
After a few minutes Pete decided to change the unspoken subject. "Hey, uh, have you found out what's wrong with Jimmy?" The infant had been unaccountably irritable, causing both his parents and godfather some concern.
"Yeah." Jim quickly switched mental tracks. "He's teething."
"Teething," Pete repeated, not especially thrilled at the news. "Isn't that painful?"
"Sometimes. Every baby's different. Jean bought a teething ring this afternoon for him to chew on, that's supposed to help."
"Does he need anything else?"
Jim cast his partner an amused glance. "Don't worry, Pete, we've got it covered. I'm just gonna' have to get used to him waking up in the middle of the night again."
"Sounds like you need some earplugs."
"And water-proof shirts. He's been drooling like crazy."
Malloy looked disgusted. "Oh, no."
"It was worst this morning. I was sitting on the couch while Jean handed him to me and he slobbered all over my head. She thought it was hilarious."
Pete chuckled, earning a not-very-serious glare. "How long is this supposed to last?"
"Jean's mother said for about a year, but that most of his teeth will come in without any problems."
"Good. I don't like it when my godson's cranky."
"Hey, it's no fun for me either," Jim reminded him.
"Yeah, I know, but I only get to see him a few times a week and if he's grouchy ..."
"... then you worry about him until you come over again. Right, Pete?" This time Reed was grinning. Both he and his wife knew perfectly well that their friend was an old worrywart when it came to little Jimmy. Malloy scowled over at his partner and almost wished he hadn't brought up the subject.
He was saved from further ribbing by an ambulance traffic call. The neighborhood was much like that of their earlier 459, except this time the house was not silent. The sound of a woman screaming in pain greeted them as they approached. They quickly went inside and followed the cries to a bedroom; there a petite elderly lady was writhing on the floor in pain, blood from a gash in her head soaking the worn carpet. Her husband was bending over her helplessly. Reed gently moved him aside so Malloy could render aid, then, deciding it was best that the agonized man not see any more, helped him into the living room and an orange armchair.
"Sir, can you tell me what happened?"
"She fell. She hit her head," trembled the man, wringing his gnarled hands. "I called for help. Can you help her?"
"We'll try, until the ambulance gets here. What's your name?"
"Henry. Henry Ditewig. Her name is Olivia. Is she hurt badly?" His troubled eyes begged Jim for reassurance.
"I don't know, Mr. Ditewig. The ambulance will be here soon and they'll get her to a good hospital." Jim continued calming the man, aided when Mrs. Ditewig's shrieks began to soften. He glanced around their tidy house - shag rug, homely furniture, pictures of children and grandchildren on every wall and shelf. It was like nearly every grandparents' house that he'd ever seen ... including his own. The vision of Mrs. Ditewig crying out in pain, white hair streaked with red, seemed so sad and out of place that it was almost unreal.
At last the ambulance arrived. Reed went to help put the injured woman on the stretcher. She began to moan and gasp again when moved; an attendant immediately diagnosed shattered back bones. They took her out of the blood-stained bedroom, through the cozy house and down the neat front walk, with her husband following in fear and sorrow.
After watching the ambulance go its way for the second time in one shift, Reed and Malloy walked back to Adam-12 in silence. After a few minutes on the road Jim spoke up.
"Do you want to drop by Central Receiving later and see how she's doing?"
"No." Pete's face was grim. "Don't look her up. It's much easier that way."
Hours slipped by. The immense vault overhead darkened to match their uniforms, stars sprinkling it like the glint of streetlights off silver badges. Werewolves aside, full moons tended to bring problems and it wasn't unusual for them to start building a week in advance. This time, however, only late movie goers and their ilk were enjoying the clear evening. Perhaps a sad Wednesday night would turn into a quiet Thursday morning.
Reed and Malloy spent the time hoping that an expected hour of paperwork wouldn't get any longer, wanting to forget about their depressing shift. They were doomed to disappointment. Twenty minutes before end of watch they received another medical call, Code 3.
The location was a fairly run down one-story apartment complex. Makeshift curtains hung in most of the windows, while the parking lot's painted lines had almost faded away. However, it was clean and well-lighted, still maintaining its respectability. A neon vacancy sign and empty swimming pool hinted at former wealth.
The officers headed for door #7. It was opened by a hysterical 15-year-old who didn't waste any time.
"Save him!" she screeched, tugging Reed inside. "Help him, please!" In her excitement she almost towed the officer through a chair and coffee table.
"Woah, calm down." Jim took firm hold on her arms. "Where is he?"
"In here." The girl rushed them to a bedroom. On its beige carpet lay another, older teenager, obviously dead. His head and upper body were dusky crimson; his legs had turned deadly pale. His arms stuck straight out towards the ceiling and blood trickled from his nose, eyes and ears. His mother completed the tragic scene, desperately performing CPR. Malloy walked over to her.
"Ma'am," he said, trying to ignore the body. "Ma'am, we'll take care of him." He moved her away and into Jim's charge.
"I didn't know what to do," she rambled frantically while being led towards a couch in the living area. "Tom wasn't breathing so I called the hospital and they told me CPR but it didn't work and ..." Reed tried to calm her down a bit as her daughter came over.
"What's wrong with him?" the girl asked fearfully. "Is he going to be all right?"
Jim paused and both women looked at him expectantly. They all knew what his answer would be - somehow that didn't make this any easier. "I'm sorry," he said, wishing those words didn't sound so cliched.
There was silence for a short eternity. Then the teenager began to sob; she sat down near her mother and hid her face against the cushions. Jim had to take a quick, deep breath before continuing.
"What's your name, ma'am?" he asked, taking a nearby chair and pulling out his notebook.
"Oh. Mary Dennison. This is Tina."
"And your son's name was Thomas?" Jim continued gently.
"Yes." Mrs. Dennison drew a long breath. "He starts a new job tomorrow, so when I got home I looked to make sure he was asleep. He was on the floor ... when I turned him over his arms were so stiff ..." She shuddered and began to cry as well.
A second later Malloy came in, looking like he'd aged ten years. He beckoned his partner away.
"I canceled the ambulance and called the coroner." He glanced at Mrs. Dennison, who was trying very hard to keep herself under control. "Can she tell us what happened?"
"I think so." Jim filled Pete in and they both returned to the couch.
"Mrs. Dennison?" Malloy waited until she looked up. "Do you have any idea what happened?"
Her gaze dropped, returning to the opposite wall. "Tom had seizures. He hated his medicine - a few weeks ago he just stopped taking it. Our doctor said this might happen, but Tom didn't believe him." She choked on the words. Pete nodded and brought his partner away again.
"That's pretty much how it looks, but let's make sure there aren't any weapons or drugs around."
"Right." The apartment had a living area, kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms, all small, all sparsely and cheaply furnished. It didn't take long to do a thorough search; the most threatening objects they discovered were a pocket knife and a bottle of aspirin. Neither officer brought them to the coroner's attention when he arrived.
Reed returned to Mrs. Dennison while Malloy showed their visitor the bedroom. She was still on her couch, running thin hands through long, dark, graying hair. Tina had gone to find solitude in her mother's room, though its thin walls could only partially isolate her. Jim got the number of a family friend who could come stay with them. He called and explained what had happened; almost before he'd finished Mrs. Elrod was on her way. Glad of finally bearing good news, Reed relayed it to Mrs. Dennison and sat down nearby again. She was gazing at a picture in her hands.
"This is Tom and his father," she said softly while handing it to Jim. Two men stood on the short green grass of a city park, enjoying some bright afternoon sunshine. Their clothes were soaking wet after a spontaneous romp through the lake behind them. Mr. Dennison stood a head taller than his son and had obviously used that advantage - his light blond hair remained dry while Tom's was drenched. A broad grin, mirroring his father's, showed that the boy held no grudge.
"Where is your husband?" Jim asked, handing the photo back.
Mrs. Dennison's face was wistfully sad as she accepted it. "He died two months ago. I haven't finished paying for his funeral ... I don't know how I'll afford Tom's ... " Jim listened in silence as she continued talking, beginning to realize that this family had been through a lot of tragedy.
It wasn't long before Mrs. Elrod arrived and found her friend more private seating in the kitchen. Reed was left with nothing to do; he took a chair further from the kitchen's open archway and started reviewing his notes. He tried to think of anything he'd missed that they would need for their reports. He tried not to think of the body, the blood, the mother trying uselessly to save her child, definitely not about the old man in the closet, the old woman on the floor, the girl thrown violently against the ...
Malloy entered and immediately noticed that Reed was a bit overwhelmed. He could empathize; after their disheartening shift and half an hour with Tom's corpse, his own limits were being tested. That's why he'd come to get the DOA slip info from Mrs. Dennison instead of wrapping up with the coroner. Funny how being a veteran never insulated him as much as he thought it would 8 years ago - but watching Reed, he knew it still helped quite a bit. He decided to give his partner an escape route.
"Jim, go sit on the radio. I'll finish things here." The young man nodded. He tucked his notebook into one pocket and slipped out.
Adam-12 was parked by apartment #1, whose occupants, along with all of Mrs. Dennison's other neighbors, had never deigned to show themselves. Jim opened the unit's passenger side door and dropped ungracefully inside. He felt like his 16 months of experience had been increased a hundred fold since 4 o'clock, even though only one of their major calls involved a crime. This wasn't his idea of policework; this wasn't what he'd trained and prepared for all those weeks in the Academy. It was just one senseless tragedy after another, and their inability to help was unprofessionally aggravating. He watched in renewed irritation as Tom made one final exit from #7.
The moon was nearly full; it lit up her surroundings with a cool glory, bright enough to do reports by. Somewhere on that shining world two men were walking. The President saw them off; Intrepid landed with pinpoint accuracy in the Ocean of Storms; two lightning strikes didn't prevent their success. This radiant sphere, with its mottled patches of darkness and light, its craters and plains, was man's newest conquered frontier. In the last few days humanity had seen and done amazing things - but also terrible things. The dry, barren moon was awash with reflected joy, but the vibrant Earth couldn't escape Eden's sorrow. And there was little to do about it except love, pray and help pick up the pieces.
Malloy came out to find his partner staring, expressionless, up towards the stars. "Are you all right?" he asked quietly. Reed was silent for a few seconds.
"I don't know. It ... this isn't what I expected when I took the job."
Pete nodded and leaned against their unit. "Neither did I, but it comes with the territory."
Jim looked over in frustration. "Can't we do anything besides stand by and watch?"
"Sometimes that's what's needed. It's tough, but no one said this was going to be easy."
Reed sighed. His partner's answers usually just confirmed his worst suspicions.
Malloy was still for a moment, then straightened up. "C'mon. We've got a lot of paperwork to do." He headed for the driver's seat while Jim faced forward.
"I'd better call Jean when we get in."
"Sure. Take your time." Pete started the engine and Adam-12 began making its way home.
These incidents are true. I adapted most of them, changing circumstances and locations, from Officer Russell's now-defunct Life On the Beat list archive. Jim, Pete, Mac and the others are fictional characters, of course - but there are thousands of real police officers who are just as brave, kind, dedicated and worthy of praise as those we meet and love on Adam-12.