Rating----T for language and violence
Disclaimer-----I don't own Mannix and if I did it would be out on DVD already
Comments------This story is dedicated to my sister, Louise, who is and aways will be Mannix's number one fan. Merry Christmas, Louise, I hope you enjoy the story
Joe Mannix watched Toby Fair and smiled. The young man had come to mean so much to him over the last few years and Joe hoped to take it a step further. He thought about the brightly wrapped package nestled at the back of his dresser and silently prayed Peggy would give him the answer he hoped for. He'd already told his father what he intended to do on Christmas Eve and had promised the older man that he would get down on one knee and ask the question in the age old fashion.
Joe looked at the woman seated beside him and felt as if everything hinged on her answer. Toby had the basketball and Joe heard and felt Peggy's excitement before turning his attention back to the game. Toby had invited him to come watch the final home game before the Christmas break and Joe happily agreed. He'd picked them up and they'd driven here together and would be going out for dinner at a small Italian place Joe frequented.
"Joe…Joe…did you see that?" Toby asked excitedly.
"I sure did, Toby, that was some shot," Mannix said of the amazing basket the young boy had made from outside the free throw zone. It gave his team a four point spread and as the seconds continued to tick off the clock it looked like it would be enough to win the game for the home team.
"Toby, Coach Willows is telling you to get back in there!" Peggy said, clapping her hands when her son hurried back on the court.
"He keeps this up he'll have a good shot at going pro when he graduates," Mannix observed.
"I don't even want to think about graduation yet," Peggy told him "He's just starting middle school and I want him to enjoy every minute of it…Toby!"
Joe held her back as the coach and several others rushed onto the court when her son was struck from behind and shoved into the wall. His head struck the surface and he went down hard. Joe knew Peggy wanted to go to her son and led her down from the bleachers and over to her son. He could feel her trembling as she knelt next to the coach, and couldn't help the smile that formed when Toby shook off their concern and sat up.
Joe turned when he heard the referee telling the bigger boy he was out of the game and that there would be repercussions for his actions.
"It was an accident!" the boy snapped.
"I don't think so," the referee shook his head as the boys father stepped onto the court.
"My son said it was an accident and I believe him. It ain't his fault he's bigger than the others…"
"It is when he purposefully throws his weight around! This is the third game I've reffed where your son has blindsided a member of the opposite team and he's just lucky no one's been seriously hurt."
Joe moved to the side of the referee as the bigger man fisted his hands at his side. Joe knew the type, had seen his kind numerous times through the years and hated the idea that his son could very well mirror his father in size and attitude. The father already sported a black eye and Joe was petty sure the man's nose had been broken on more than one occasion. The father stood beside his son and Joe could see the slight smile on the younger 'bully's face.
"Look, my son's…"
"Your son's out of the game and I want you both off the premises or I will call the police…"
"You have no right…"
"He has every right…now why don't you do as he says and leave before the police do arrive," Joe warned.
"What business is it of yours?" the behemoth asked, towering over the detective in his angered belligerence.
"The young man your son blindsided is…"
"Young man…he's nothin' but a wimp…"
"Mister, I'm not a man to interfere in someone else's problems, but you keep this up and your son is going to turn out just like you and that makes him as much a victim as Toby. Why don't you go home…"
"Are you gonna make me?"
"No, I don't believe a school basketball court is the proper place to fight…"
"My dad would tear you apart Mister!" the boy spat.
"Well, son, right now is not the time or place," Mannix said, turning away as Peggy called to him.
"Joe, Toby is okay…he wants to finish the game," Peggy said and stood next to the detective.
"Well now ain't this grand. You and the pretty lady got somethin' goin' on or is she just a bed…"
"I wouldn't finish that sentence if I were you…"
"Well ya ain't or we'd be talkin' with our fists instead gummin' each other ta death!"
"Ray, we need to leave," a weary looking woman said as if afraid to raise her voice above the man.
"Shut the hell up, Joannie!" Raymond Spencer said and backhanded the woman across the face.
Joe reacted instinctively and latched onto the fingers of the bigger man's right hand. He bent them back, forcing Spencer to his knees by twisting until his own upper body strength forced the man to acknowledge that he could not escape.
"You don't ever hit a woman!" Mannix snarled, his face filled with anger at the bullying attitude of the other man. "Now I'm going to let you go and you're going to leave without laying a hand on anyone else. You touch either of them again and I swear I'll teach you a lesson you'll never forget."
"I have the right to hit…"
"No…you don't. You feel like hitting someone then meet me at O'Malley's gym tomorrow afternoon and we'll see whether you have the guts to face someone your own size!" Mannix offered and released his hold on the man who immediately grabbed his fingers.
"You broke my hand…how the fuck do I fight with a broken hand?"
"It's not broken, but it could be if you keep using language like that around these kids," Mannix vowed.
"Ray, let's go," Joannie Spencer cried and pulled her son away from the gathered parents. "Come on, Roger, we need to go home!"
"I'm going," Raymond told her and stared at the dark haired man who'd shown him up so easily. "You better watch your back, Mister, because no one fu…messes with me and gets away with it!"
"Mannix, Joe Mannix," the detective shook the referee's hand.
"Carl Leonard…have you ever thought about becoming a referee, Mr. Mannix? You handled Spencer easier than anyone I've ever seen," the referee told him.
"Bullies like Spencer are cowards when confronted by someone who's not afraid to stand up to them," Mannix said.
"Well, if you ever decide to try your hand at being a referee just give me a call and I'll point you in the right direction. Right now I'd say it's time to finish this game. Toby, are you sure you're up to playing?"
"I'm okay, Mr. Leonard," Toby assured him and moved back to his team who high fived him and turned their attention to the net where he would be doing his free throws.
Joe and Peggy moved back to their seats and watched the last few seconds of the game tick away. When the final whistle sounded both teams moved to the center of the court and shook hands with each other before moving back to the benches. Parents, friends, and family moved in to congratulate both teams, the confrontation with Raymond Spencer already forgotten.
"Boys, you played a great game and I'm proud of all of you. Just remember there is no…"
"I in T.E.A.M.," the boys finished amidst the chuckling laughter of their parents.
"I guess I have drilled that into your heads enough times," Darryl Smithson said. "Now why don't you get out of here and enjoy your Christmas vacation?"
"Yes, Sir!" Toby said and turned to find Joe Mannix and his mother waiting for him.
"Are you ready to go eat the best Italian food you've ever tasted?" Mannix asked.
"I sure am, Joe…can we have garlic bread…"
"Only if we have cheese on top," the detective told him and led the way out of the gymnasium. He smiled as Toby high fived several kids he knew well. Peggy was speaking with several parents and it felt good to be a part of the excitement. He knew there would be prejudices…people who wouldn't be happy with his plans, but as long as they loved each other that would be enough.
"Joe, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Peggy, just thinking," Mannix assured her with a smile as they left the school and made their way toward his car. He opened the passenger door and waited for her to sit inside before moving to the driver's side. Toby was already seated behind him and had his window down, talking excitedly with his friends.
"All right, Toby, it's time to go," Peggy said and waited for the young man to close his window.
"That was some game, Toby," Joe said, looking in the rear view mirror in time to see the huge smile on the child's face.
"Thanks, Joe," Toby said and buckled his seatbelt. "Coach Smithson says I have a good chance of going pro."
"He's right," Mannix assured the boy before turning his attention to the road.