Judgements

Judgements

By Mady Bay – [email protected]

Written – Fall, 1998

Disclaimer – Nope, I don't own any of the CHiPs crew. Wish I did…

Judgements

Sergeant Gatraer called for attention in the briefing room.

"Listen up!" he started. "We've got a new hot sheet going around, so make sure to get a copy. The Sheriff's Department wants us to pay particular attention to the pick up trucks on the list. Apparently several custom made models have been stolen recently. They think they may be heading to a chop shop specializing in the high price accessories. Also, check your mailboxes. The court sent over a batch of not guilty pleas. Several of you have supporting depositions to write up. And let's be careful out there," he finished.

Jon and Ponch headed out to the hallway. Jon pulled a couple of the aforementioned not guilty pleas out of his mailbox, as did Ponch.

"I can't believe it!" Ponch exclaimed.

"What?" Jon asked, looking over Ponch's shoulder.

"Remember that hot looking lady who was soooo nasty to me? The one who couldn't believe we had the AUDACITY to stop HER! Remember her?" Ponch asked.

"You mean 'Miss Snob' is pleading not guilty?" Jon asked.

"Yeah, and you know what?" he asked.

"When she shows up for court, she's going to be all nice and prim and proper and we're going to look like the big mean CHP officers that harassed her," Jon replied, matter-of-factly.

"Yeah, but you know what?" Ponch asked with a smile.

Jon shook his head.

"I got her on tape," he replied. "She'll be sorry."

Jon just shook his head and laughed.

"Speaking of hot looking ladies, how'd your big date go last night?" Jon asked.

Ponch rolled his eyes. "You don't want to know, partner," he replied.

"Uh oh, what happened?" Jon asked.

"Well remember when she asked me if I liked racing? Well she invited me to a drag race last night," Ponch said.

"Yeah, so what's the problem?" Jon asked, confused.

"She didn't tell me that SHE was a driver," Ponch replied. "I spent the entire night with her pit crew, which was made up of three of her ex-husbands and two teenage sons!" he added.

"So what'd she do? Ask you to be a part of her team?" Jon chided.

"The point is, partner," Ponch began. "She looked so... so..."

"Feminine? Innocent? Young?" Jon interjected.

"Yeah!" Ponch responded.

"Well, Ponch, just like they say, you can't judge a book by its cover," Jon replied.

***

Bear was patrolling the 405 when he spotted a customized pick up truck in the middle lane ahead of him. He decided to check out the plate number, to see if it matched any of the ones already on the hot sheet he'd gotten in briefing that morning.

"LA, Fifteen Seven Adam," he spoke into the microphone. "I need a plate check on California plate David Four Eight Four King X-Ray."

"Stand by, Seven Adam," the LA dispatcher replied.

Then he saw the pick up start to accelerate. Bear followed, pacing the truck at seventy-five miles per hour. He switched on the cruiser's overhead lights and siren to pull the truck over.

"LA, Fifteen Seven Adam, I'm stopping that vehicle, a customized pick up, on the 405 near the exit 5 ramp," Bear informed dispatch.

Jon and Ponch heard Bear call in the vehicle stop and proceeded to the 405 to back him up.

They got there as Bear was walking back to his car.

"Whatcha got?" Ponch asked.

"Just speed," Bear started. "I thought I'd check him out, considering the truck and this morning's hot sheet. But he is the registered owner. So no problem there," he finished.

"Nasty looking guy though," Ponch remarked, looking toward the truck's driver.

"Yeah, he looks like he could be one of the Hell's Angels gang," Bear started.

"LA, Fifteen Seven Adam, data when ready," the dispatcher interrupted.

"Go ahead, LA," Bear replied, starting to write the speeding ticket.

"Seven Adam, vehicle comes back valid on a 1980 Dodge, color blue. Registered to Rocco Guacci of Malibu. Be advised there is an officer safety notice on an active warrant out of Broome County, New York for Mr. Guacci. I've already called New York and confirmed that it is still active and they are willing to extradite," she responded.

"LA, what's the warrant for?" Bear asked.

"Assault of a police officer," she said.

Bear, Ponch and Jon all looked at each other when the dispatcher told them the reason for the warrant. They immediately put up their guards. Bear got out of his car and headed cautiously toward the truck. Jon and Ponch followed, heading toward the other side of the truck. All had their hands on their holstered weapons.

"Mr. Guacci, keep your hands where I can see them and step out of the truck," Bear ordered.

"What's the problem officer?" Guacci asked, confused. "I showed you the registration, this IS my truck," he continued.

"Just step out of the truck, sir," Bear repeated.

The man complied, opening the truck door and raising his hands in front of him. Bear quickly turned him around so that he was up against the truck.

"Put your hands behind your back," Bear ordered.

The man complied and Bear handcuffed him quickly.

"Please, tell me what this is about!" he pled

"There's a warrant out for your arrest," he started.

"What??! You've got to be kidding! I've never done anything!" the man protested.

"Well according to the computer there's a warrant for you out of New York for assaulting a police officer," Bear informed him as he was patting the man down for any possible weapons or contraband.

"That son of a bitch!" the man exclaimed.

Ponch helped Bear put the man into the back of Bear's patrol car as Jon searched the truck for any possible weapons or contraband.

"Truck's clean!" Jon yelled back to Bear.

"I'll ride with you back to the station. Jon'll stay here until the tow truck can come get this guy's truck," Ponch said.

The ride to Central was tense. Bear and Ponch wondered about the case in New York. Wondered about the man they had in the back of their patrol car. Wondered just how he had assaulted that police officer. The man didn't say anything to them. He just kept muttering "that son of a bitch" over and over. Finally Ponch got sick of it.

"Will you please shut up!" he cried.

"I'm sorry man. It's just that this is just so stupid!" he started. "That police officer is or was my brother in law. I didn't assault him. I pulled him off of my sister, who HE was practically assaulting. Damn! This is just his way of getting back at me for interfering!" he reasoned.

"Look, whatever the story may be, we still have to go by what the computer tells us. It'll be up to you and your sister to straighten this out when you get back to New York," Bear said, a touch of sympathy in his voice.

"I know, I know. I'm sorry," he said.

"You believe him?" Ponch asked Bear.

"I don't know yet," he began. "We don't have all the facts. And so far, this guy has been nothing but cooperative," he added.

***

Bear and Ponch brought Guacci into one of the holding/interrogation rooms at Central. They removed one of his handcuffs and secured it around a small pipe attached to the top of the table in the room. Sergeant Gatraer motioned Bear and Ponch into the hall.

"This the guy wanted out of New York for assaulting a cop?" Gatraer asked.

"Yeah, though he says it's all some scheme of his brother in law's," Bear said.

"Pretty rough looking," Gatraer said, nodding to the man.

Ponch and Bear looked at him again. Guacci was well muscled. He obviously worked out. His arms and what they could see of his chest and back were covered in tattoos. His clothing was dirty and ragged. Not one you'd pick a fight with.

"He's been cooperative with us, so far, Sarge," Bear remarked.

"Let's hope he stays that way," Ponch added.

"Alright. Finish the paperwork and the booking. Suzy said the fax from New York with the copies of the warrant was starting to come through. Let me know when you're done and ready for an arraignment," Gatraer said, starting to head back to his office.

"Right, Sarge," Bear said.

Bear and Ponch headed back into the holding room and pulled some forms off the shelves that they'd need for the arrest paperwork. Ponch was deciding exactly which ones he'd need when the whole room started shaking.

"Earthquake!" they shouted.

Before they could search for cover, a large crash was heard and the walls and ceiling started to come down around them.

***

Jon watched as the pick up truck bounced off the back of the flatbed tow truck. The earthquake had knocked him to the ground when it started. He quickly scrambled away as the truck rolled toward him. He and the tow truck operator both cursed. When the earthquake stopped Jon rose and looked around. It hadn't lasted that long, only about thirty or forty seconds, but it had been severe enough to shake things up pretty good. Many cars on the highway around him had swerved back and forth trying to compensate for the earth's movement. Many had crashed. Jon started heading toward the highway, hoping to get things moving and back to normal again, and to help anyone who'd been injured. He thought about calling in to LA or Central. But as he listened to the other patrol units over the radio, he realized that he'd only add to the already redundant radio traffic. His transmission could wait a bit. As he made his way from car to car he thought about his friends and family in the area. He hoped that they had all fared as well as he did and were all right.

***

"Bear? Hey Bear? Can you hear me?" Ponch called weakly.

"Hmmm, yeah, I'm here," Bear replied, wincing.

"You okay?" Ponch asked.

Bear looked down at himself. A piece of metal from the ceiling tile framing was protruding from his thigh, the end of it tangled among the rest of the framework and tiles surrounding Bear.

"Uh…um, no. My leg's messed up," Bear replied quietly. "I can't move it."

"I can't move either," Ponch said.

Bear looked over in Ponch's direction for the first time. All he saw was Ponch's right arm sticking out from under the fallen book shelf and ceiling debris.

"Oh, shit!" Bear exclaimed.

Pain had swept through his leg as he had tried to get up to go help Ponch. The tangled debris kept him in place as well.

"Don't move any more," Guacci said to Bear. "You keep moving that leg and that metal bar is going to cut you even worse."

Bear looked at the man. He'd forgotten all about him. He was crouched under the table where he'd gone for cover when the quake began. He was still handcuffed to the top of the table, which was covered with debris. A loud moan from Ponch interrupted any further thoughts.

"Ponch? You okay?" Bear called.

"Oh, God! My ribs! It's hard to breathe!" he gasped.

***

Gatraer pulled himself up off the floor of his office. He dusted himself off, wincing as his arm throbbed.

'Definitely broken, Joe,' he thought to himself.

He made his way out of the office and down the corridor. He stopped in his tracks at what he saw around the corner. A large truck had crashed through the roof of Central. Joe realized that it must have come from the highway bridge that goes practically right over the building. He slowly made his way toward the truck, dreading what he'd find inside. Then he saw a figure climb out of the cab. Sindy turned to Gatraer and shook her head. She'd been in the women's locker room down the hall when the quake happened. She'd gotten a few bumps and bruises, but was all right. She was the first to get to the truck in the hallway.

"Okay," Gatraer started, sighing. "Let's find out who was here when the quake happened. I want to make sure everyone is accounted for."

"Sure, Sarge. Did we have anyone in holding? The truck landed pretty much in the area of all the holding and interrogation rooms," she said.

"Oh, God!" Gatraer exclaimed. "Bear and Ponch were with a prisoner in room three!"

***

"I can't breathe," Ponch gasped.

Again, Bear struggled with the debris on top of him, but his movements only caused more pain and blood loss in his leg.

"Ponch, I tried," Bear started. "I can't get to you. I'm sorry," he said.

"I can help," Guacci interjected.

Bear looked at him.

"Give me the key. I'll help you," he said.

Bear looked toward Ponch, heard him gasping for air. He looked at Guacci again.

"No, Bear," Ponch said quietly.

"I know first aid," Guacci began. "You can trust me. I didn't do what they say I did," he said to Bear.

Bear looked at his eyes. He reached for his keys.

"No Bear! Don't do it!" Ponch yelled when he heard the keys jingle.

"You need help, Ponch!" Bear exclaimed.

"He assaulted a cop! How do you know he won't just leave us here to die? How do you know he won't assault us?" Ponch demanded.

Bear stopped. He looked at Guacci again.

"I swear to you, I just want to help," he said, holding out his hand.

Bear took his keys off his belt and threw them to Guacci.

"NOOO!!" Ponch screamed.

Bear said a quick prayer, hoping he'd made the right decision as he watched the man unlock the handcuff from the table.

"He's our best chance, Ponch," Bear pled.

"You're wrong, Bear!! They'll get to us in time," he reasoned. "You're gonna regret this!" Ponch yelled before crying out in pain.

"Ponch? Ponch?" Bear called.

He received no answer.

"If you do anything to hurt him, I swear I'll kill you," Bear warned as Guacci headed toward Ponch.

***

"Sarge, I think we can get to the holding rooms through here," Sindy called.

Gatraer followed her into the women's locker room.

"There's a hole in the wall. I think we can get through it and to the holding rooms from there," she said.

"Lead the way, Cahill," Gatraer replied.

The two wove their way through the debris-strewn locker room to the far end of it.

"Bet you've never been in here before, Sarge," Sindy remarked.

***

Jon finally got the roadway cleared and traffic moving again. The tow truck driver and several of the people on the highway helped out. He heard LA dispatch report the truck over the side of the highway and onto Central. He knew he had to get back there to find out if his friends were all right.

'Just like every other CHP officer out of Central,' he thought as he rode his motorcycle down the highway.

When Jon got back to Central, he couldn't believe what he saw. The back end of a ten-wheeler was sticking out of the roof. He saw the broken rails and fencing above on the bridge.

"God, I hope nobody was under that," he said.

"Unfortunately, we think there were some people under there," Grossie interjected.

Jon looked up, startled. He hadn't seen Grossie approach him.

"What? Who?" was all Jon could muster.

"Sindy, Turner and Fritz are in there, trying to dig there way to the holding rooms," he replied. "We found Sindy and the Sarge trying to get through the women's locker room to them. Sarge's got a broken arm, so I got him out to the first aid tent Harlan set up," he continued.

"Ponch," Jon said quietly, making a beeline for the building.

***

"He's unconscious, but breathing," Guacci started. "But if we don't get him out from under here, he won't last too much longer," he finished.

Bear watched as Guacci got a grip on the bookshelf. Guacci used all his strength to pull it up, grunting loudly in the process. Bear could feel the torn muscles Guacci got from where he was sitting. He flinched as the bookshelf crashed to the floor loudly. Then, as silence settled in the room again, Bear heard someone calling his name.

"Bear?! Ponch?!" Sindy called.

"In here!! Hurry!!" Bear called back, his voice muffled by the wall that still stood between them.

Sindy and Turner took their batons and started swinging them at the wall, hoping to punch through the sheet rock to get to their fellow officers. Finally they managed to get through. Turner made the hole wider and peeked through. He first saw Bear, lying under a pile of ceiling tile and metal framework. Then he saw Guacci leaning over Ponch. He knew they'd had a prisoner in with them. Turner took one look at the man and drew his weapon.

"Step back from him, right now!" he ordered.

Guacci refused to listen, because Ponch stopped breathing. He ignored Turner and continued to give Ponch artificial respiration. Turner did not see what he was doing and repeated his order.

"I said, step back from him, now!" he ordered.

"No! Jed! It's okay!" Bear pled. "He's helping him!"

Turner looked at Bear's weary face and then took a closer look at Ponch and Guacci.

"Come on! You gotta get him out of here! Now! He's not breathing!" Guacci yelled.

Turner and Fritz immediately went to Ponch's side. They carefully lifted him up and carried him out through the hole in the wall.

Jon met them in the hallway.

"Ponch!" he cried.

"We gotta get him out, fast!" Fritz replied, panting from the effort. "He's not breathing."

Jon helped clear the way out of the building and led them to one of the ambulances that had arrived. He got in with his partner, oblivious to anyone else.

Sindy had in the meantime gone to Bear's side. She took a look at his leg and the jagged piece of metal in his leg.

"You're going to need some bolt cutters or something, to get him out," Guacci said, also approaching Bear.

"We've got a pair in the locker room. They've got a bunch of extra stuff stored in there," Sindy said, already heading to the hole in the wall. "I'll be right back."

Bear looked up at the man. Looked at his dirty clothes and tattoos.

"I believe you," he said quietly.

"Huh?" Guacci replied, confused.

"I believe you. About the warrant," he said.

"Oh. Thanks," Guacci said, unable to think of anything else.

"Thanks for helping Ponch, too," Bear added.

"Back in New York I was an EMT for my local fire department," he started. "I couldn't NOT help. Just like when I saw my sister getting pushed around by her husband. I HAD to do something. Maybe I did punch him. But he was hurting my baby sister. What else could I do?" he finished.

Sindy had reappeared with a set of bolt cutters before Bear could reply.

Guacci showed her where to cut the metal framework pieces sticking out of Bear's leg. Guacci had removed his tee shirt and used it as a makeshift bandage. Soon the three were headed out of the building.

***

Ponch woke up slowly. First he realized he was in a hospital room. Then he realized that he was not alone. He looked over to see Jon asleep in a chair next to the bed.

"Hey, partner," he rasped.

Jon woke immediately and leaned forward.

"Hey, yourself, Ponch," he replied.

"I knew you guys would get us out," Ponch said, sleepily content.

"Yeah, Sindy, Turner and Fritz found you guys just in time," Jon said.

"I knew it," Ponch started. "I told Bear not to let that guy loose, that he was going to kill us," he continued.

"No, Ponch," Jon interrupted. "That guy is the one who saved you."

"What?" Ponch gasped.

"It's true," said a different voice.

Ponch and Jon looked up to see Joe Gatraer, complete with new white cast on his arm, standing in the doorway.

"It's true," he repeated. "Guacci lifted the book shelf off of you and started artificial respiration on you when you stopped breathing. He saved your life," he finished.

Ponch was quiet. He didn't know what to think. All that came to mind were his harsh words to Bear. 'You're gonna regret this!' rang through his memory.

"Is Bear okay?" Ponch asked, quietly.

"Yeah. He'll be on crutches for a couple of weeks, but the doctor's don't think there's any permanent damage to the leg," Jon replied.

"I want to see him," Ponch demanded.

"As soon as the doctors say it's okay," Gatraer responded.

***

Two days later Ponch heard a knock on his door.

"Come in!" he called.

Bear entered the room slowly. Sindy popped her head in quickly.

"I'll be back in a little while," she called, waving to Ponch.

Ponch smiled and waved back to her as he watched Bear ease into the bedside chair.

"How are you feeling?" Bear asked.

"I'm alive, thanks to you," Ponch answered.

"It wasn't me," Bear started.

"But it was," Ponch interrupted. "If you had listened to me and not given Guacci the keys, I'd be dead right now."

"You don't know that," Bear said, looking down.

"Yes, I do. Now," he began. "I also wanted to say that I'm sorry to you," he said, pausing at Bear's confused look. "For yelling at you. And for not having faith in your judgement," Ponch continued.

"Ponch," Bear started. "You could have been right about Guacci too," he offered.

"I know. And thankfully, I wasn't," he replied. "But I refused to believe otherwise. But you - you saw through him. You talked to him. You were able to look into his eyes. What's one of the most important things they teach at the academy? Reading body language. We all know that we're supposed to look beyond what the person is saying and beyond how they're dressed. You were able to do that. I wasn't. I took one look at him at that traffic stop and I made my mind up about what kind of person he was."

Bear just shrugged his shoulders. He didn't think he did anything out of the ordinary. Sindy peeked into the doorway.

"Safe to come in?" she asked.

"Sure, come on over," Ponch replied, patting the bed.

"I just talked to Gatraer. The Captain's okayed your travel voucher to New York," Sindy told Bear.

"New York?" Ponch asked.

"I called the District Attorney's office where Guacci's warrant originated," Bear began. "I faxed them a sworn statement, telling them about how Guacci saved your life and helped get me out of there, too. I'm going to fly to New York in a couple of weeks and testify on his behalf."

"Tell Gatraer, I'd like to do the same," Ponch said. "No more judging books by their covers for me."