Vengenance of the Freeway Phantom
Sergeant Getraer had informed all the officers that they were getting in a new officer on their shift that day. The new officer that was being added to the personnel roster was a replacement for the empty spot left by a recent retirement. Of course, normally, that wasn't any big deal because officers came and went all the time. But, the bomb Getraer had dropped was that this replacement was a female officer.
Ponch wanted to be there, ready to meet and greet the new arrival--in his usual gentlemanly way, of course. The time spent waiting on his partner though, was beginning to make him edgy and he started to drum his fingers on the bike's gas tank. His mind began drifting toward how he was going to handle this---situation. His thoughts were so distant he didn't hear the motorcycle approaching him, or the shifting of gears as his partner slowed his bike down as he prepared to stop right beside him.
Suddenly though, he came back to reality and turned his attention in the direction of the sound. He gave his friend his infamous toothy grin and as John backed his bike right beside his, he told him, "'Bout time, partner!!"
"What do yah mean? I'm right on time---as usual. Umm, and what you doing here so early? You've never gotten here before me? What's up?!"
"Jon, have you forgotten already?! We're getting that new officer in today! That 'female' officer?! You know darn well I told you I wanted to get there early today."
His partner gave him an 'oh brother' look. "Ponch, she's just another officer." Even he knew that was a ridiculous statement when it came to his partner. Jon just thought he'd rattle his chains a little before they headed to work. "Ponch, go easy just this once! Simply welcome her like you would any other officer."
Ponch looked at him like he had come from an entirely different planet. "Jon, we're gettin' fresh blood here. We're..." he stopped as his partner just shook his head. "What?!"
"We're gonna be late if we don't get a move on," Jon told him, as he started up his motor and got it moving on the freeway.
Ponch followed and then rode right up beside him. "You know what, Baker?!" he spoke up to be heard over the two motorcycle engines.
Jon wasn't so sure he wanted to proceed with this, but he knew he was trapped, "What?!"
"With an attitude like that, you'll never get married!" With that retort, Ponch sped up his motor, knowing full well his partner would be right beside him, momentarily.
They arrived at Central and, of course, with Ponch in the lead, they quickly entered the building. Ponch took a look see around the hall as they walked down it, but all the faces he saw were of the people he knew. He stepped up to Grossie and asked, "Hey, you see the new officer yet?"
Grossie just looked at him and smiled knowingly, "Nope. Getraer will probably have her make her appearance right at briefing."
"Yeah, you're probably right," Ponch replied, sounding a little disgruntled. 'Briefing', he thought, 'the Briefing room, sure that's where she's hiding.' He left his partner standing next to Grossie and then headed in that direction. Both Baker and Grossie stood there just shaking their heads.
Ponch poked his head into the Briefing room, but there was nobody there yet. He shook his head and decided to go to the break room and visit the vending machine. He needed his daily dose of Ding-Dongs.
Getraer was in there, getting a cup of coffee before briefing. He had just learned a piece of very disturbing news, as to what had been going on out on the freeways after B shift came on yesterday afternoon--news that he had to relate to his people that morning and he was quite upset about it. He turned to see Frank heading toward the food machines. Joe could tell he was totally oblivious to the fact that he was even there---he was so intent on getting his daily rations. Getraer shook his head and commented to the young officer as he got his treat, "Frank, you keep eating those things, you're gonna turn into a Ding-Dong."
Ponch turned and as usual wore that toothy grin, "Ah, Sarge, these get me through the day. Besides, they're cheaper here than they are in any store."
The sergeant just gave his head another shake, "Uh, briefing's in five, Poncherello." Then as he stood up beside him, he tapped him on the shoulder, "Don't be late." He left the room still shaking his head.
Ponch stepped back up to the machine and got a couple more packages. He wasn't about to let his sergeant's 'hurry up' message cause him to forget his reason for coming in there. Once he got what he needed, he headed back out and almost collided with Bear. "Hey!"
"Easy, Ponch!! Good grief, you aren't gonna eat all those today are you?" Bear teased, knowing full well the forthcoming answer.
"Sure, why not?
"You'll be on such a sugar high, it'll take you till next month to come down off'n it," he chuckled at his own comment. Ponch simply gave him a look that made him take a step or two backwards and then quickly stepped out of the way. Bear turned to watch Frank stomp his way down the hall. Then, he went into the break room. He glanced up at the clock and groaned, as he saw that briefing was only a minute away. There'd be no time for coffee at the moment. So, with a grunt of sincere displeasure he turned and headed for the Briefing room---just making it, with thirty seconds to spare.
All the officers were now in their seats including the new one. Getraer came walking in carrying his notebook filled with the usual urgent notes that needed to be passed on to all the officers.
"All right, people, settle down!" he ordered them in his best commanding voice. The room got quiet very quickly, especially after they saw the look of concern on their leader's face.
"Okay, first order of business...I'd like to introduce everyone to our new officer, Stephanie Wilkes." He pointed in her direction, "Stephanie!" She stood up for just a moment and greeted everyone there with a smile.
Then he briefly filled everyone in as to where she came from. He also encouraged everyone to make her feel at home. Then he got down to some very serious business. "Okay, people, we've got a guy driving a green sports car who seems to enjoy creating some very serious mayhem out on the freeway. Last night, a motor officer was nearly killed when the suspect caused a ten-car pileup on the San Bernardino freeway. The officer is..." he paused a moment to look at Stephanie and then reluctantly continued, "the officer is listed in critical condition, with broken bones, lacerations and a lot of bruises. Doctors think he'll pull through, but his injuries will naturally require a lot of healing time. Unfortunately, we didn't get a license number." He continued to give them additional information regarding the incident. Then he passed on a few more items for them to keep their eyes open for. He finally ended the briefing with, "Okay, people, keep your heads up and your eyes open out there today." He closed the book, which told the officers he was done. He began to leave, but then suddenly thought of something else, "Ah, Jon? Frank? My office in five minutes," he requested and then turned to his new female officer, "Stephanie, you want to come to my office for a moment?"
The woman started to walk towards him, "Sure, Sergeant."
They walked down the hall and into his office. The sergeant sat behind his desk and motioned for her to sit in the chair in front of his desk. "Stephanie, first of all welcome to Central."
"Stephanie, I'd like you to team up with one of my best motor officers, Jon Baker. He's a good man." He stopped speaking and rubbed his chin. Then he stood up, walked around to the side of his desk and sat down on the corner, "Stephanie, I've read through you jacket. From where I sit, you're one very good officer. I understand that your move here was because of a personal situation that happened back in Sacramento. I need to know that you've come to terms with this and that you will be able to handle any given situation that may happen out there."
"Sergeant, I'm okay. I'm still dealing with it, but in my own way. Admittedly, I still have my bad moments, but I try to keep it out of mind while on duty." Well, she did her best anyway.
"Okay, good girl I'll have to hold you to that." He was about to continue when he heard footsteps in his office doorway.
"Oh, s'cuse us, Sarge, you wanted to see us?" Jon respectfully asked his superior.
"Yeah," Getraer said and turned back to the lady officer sitting there in front of his desk, "Stephanie, this is Jon Baker and Frank Poncherello."
She stood up and shook hands with the two men, "Hello, Jon...Frank.
"Umm, call me Ponch. All my friends do," Frank told her with his winning smile.
In turn, Stephanie flashed him back her prettiest smile, "Okay, Ponch it is."
Getraer shook his head and then proceeded, "Frank, " he cleared his throat and smiled, "Frank...Jon, I'm gonna split you two up for a while. Jon, I'd like you to team up with Stephanie." He stopped short when he saw the look on Ponch's face and that he was just about to make a retort, er, reply to that. "Frank, I thought you'd be happy about this. You'll be all by your lonesome out there for a change." He gave his young officer a wink and a mischievous grin, then turned back to Jon, "I need you to get her acclimated to the area around here."
Wow! Had Getraer lost his mind?! Ponch was not pleased to be going solo and he figured Getraer knew it too. He wanted to comment that Jon should be the one out there by himself. Ponch wanted to be the one to take Stephanie under his wing. But their commander had spoken and the look Getraer had given him caused him to swallow back his reply.
"Okay, Jon, Stephanie, head on out will yah," he cleared his throat. "Umm, I need to talk to Frank here a minute." Baker and his new 'female' partner filed out of the room.
As soon as they were gone, Ponch asked, "What gives, Sarge?"
"Frank, I...take the seat there, will yah?" Getraer urged and went to sit back behind his desk. "I need you to simply...ahh, nuts, Frank, I need you to stay away from Stephanie." That wasn't the way he wanted to put it.
Ponch was mortified, "What do yah mean?"
"I mean, I don't care if you talk about every day trivial matters, just don't go expecting anything else...okay?" Getraer studied the young man who was sitting right there in front of him. He could tell by the look on Frank's face that he was clueless as to what his sergeant was trying to get at. "Look, Frank, don't ask her out on a date, don't try to romance her. Just treat her like you would any other officer, okay?"
"Ah-uh, Sarge, didn't you see those gorgeous brown eyes...and that smile?!" He stopped for a second, then, "Nah, of course not. You're married. But man, asking me not to..."
Getraer put up a hand to stop him, "Down, Romeo, down! Look, Stephanie transferred here because...because she had to have a change of scenery, okay? I don't want to go into details with you about this, because I feel that's up to her--if she wants to divulge her reasons to anybody. Right now, just keep it on a 'friends only' basis." He paused momentarily and looked directly at him, "Got it?!:
"Sure, Sarge, sure."
"Okay, head out and just be careful out there."
Ponch left the room with his mind naturally reeling about what Getraer had just told him--er, ordered him not to do. Of course, with his line of reasoning, one way or another, he'd come up with a way of, well, getting around the 'order'. But at the moment, he figured he'd better just move along and get his motor on the road.
As Jon and Stephanie walked to their motors out in the parking lot he decided he'd try to learn a little more about his new partner, "Mind if I ask a few questions? Just to get to know you a little better." he grinned as he figured he'd better qualify the reason for asking.
"Sure, why not?"
"How long have you been with the CHP?"
"Uh, almost five years now, " she answered, after a brief pause.
Then after she answered a few more trivial questions they were now ready to start their motors to head out, but Jon had one more innocent question, well, he thought it was innocent anyway, "What brings you to Central?"
Stephanie's emotions suddenly shifted to one of extreme sadness as the truth for the reason rushed up at her. She quickly looked straight ahead, wiped a stubborn tear from her eyes and put on her sunglasses. She finally answered his question, "Change, Jon, I needed a change." She suddenly got her motor going and moved it forward toward the intersection, trying to hide the moistness in her eyes and the stubborn tears that slowly came down her cheek. As she stopped at the intersection knowing she had to wait for Jon she quickly stuck her gloved finger under her glasses to rub the stubborn tears away. She was well aware that now was not the time to lose whatever grip she had on her emotions.
Jon was beside her almost instantly and saw the movement, "You okay?"
"Yeah, just got something in my eyes is all," she told him somewhat truthfully. Then both officers headed out on the freeway.
Their morning patrol had started out by assisting an out of the area motorist having mechanical issues. First of order of business was to make sure wrecker personnel were notified to come and pick up the car. Then, while waiting for the wrecker they made sure the owner of the vehicle remained safe. Once that had been accomplished, they continued on patrol.
Ponch was cruising along on his beat. It sure was different out there, under that blue California sky riding the freeway--solo. His attention to his surroundings though was just as acute as ever, if not more so.
He had been traveling behind this one particular car now, for quite some time. It had been moving well below the posted speed limit. He was just about to pull it over to see what was wrong, when it started to weave in the lane--instantly placing him on alert. he also held back a little and slowed down even more. He put on his lights, signaling the driver to pull over. But, apparently, the driver didn't see them, or was ignoring them. So he flipped the siren switch on and then turned it off--just to get the driver's attention. That didn't work either. He did it once more, but there still wasn't any reaction from the motorist. So he checked traffic behind him and then changed lanes to come up beside the driver's window. He motioned her to move over to the side of the road and the car's operator finally complied.
Ponch moved over to the shoulder and stopped behind the vehicle. The driver appeared to be a little old lady. He wondered what he'd find out as to what her problem was. He stood there by the driver's window watching the woman. She was attempting, albeit, rather unsuccessfully, to quiet her little dog down. He grinned when he saw that the animal wasn't any bigger than a large rat. He couldn't believe how something that small could have such a loud, obnoxious bark. Through all the noise, he tried to get the woman's attention, "Ma'am?!" It seemed as though she was ignoring him, as she continued to try to get the noisy mutt under control. He tried a second time, "Ma'am?!" Still nothing.
Finally, she admitted to defeat in getting anywhere with her dog and turned in his direction, so Ponch continued, ""Ma'am, were you having some sort of problem on the highway?" he quickly inquired. "You need help or something?"
She came back with and rather loudly, "Hello, Officer. Why did you stop me?! I wasn't speeding!"
He smiled at her, "No, Ma'am, you weren't speeding. But you were traveling too slowly for freeway traffic. That can be just as dangerous. I just wanted to check if something was wrong before it became a hazard."
Her little mongrel was still yapping during this whole time. Still not answering him, she turned her attention back to the little mutt, "Now, Sweetie, you must be quiet, mommy's trying to talk to this nice young man." Then to Ponch she said, "Sorry, Officer, Sweetie doesn't like it when people come so close to the car," that was all she said.
Ponch suddenly had the feeling that he was talking to the wind. He hadn't received a single answer to anything he had asked her. Either she simply couldn't hear, or maybe her hearing aid, if she had one, wasn't working. Finally, he decided he might as well just give up. So, speaking a little louder, he told her, "Ma'am, I'm not going to cite you for anything, but you really should try to drive closer to the speed limit, okay?" he urged and stepped away from her car.
"You have a good day, too, Officer!" she wished, and then, ever so slowly, she maneuvered her car back onto the highway.
Ponch stood there momentarily watching the car as it crawled off down the road. It continued on so extremely slow, that he figured it would probably be tomorrow before it finally disappeared from view. With a shake of his head he went back to his bike and moved on down the highway himself. It wasn't long before he got tied up on something else.
Jon and Stephanie had just completed a traffic stop, when they heard Grossman's traffic. "LA, 7 Mary 5 in pursuit of a tan sports car," then Grossie gave his location and the direction he was heading in to LA dispatch. The driver of the vehicle could be the guy they were looking for. He remembered Getraer had said the guy's car was green, but he still wasn't about to take any chances.
The dispatcher then contacted the officers on the freeways."Any available unit in the vicinity of 405, Mary 5 is in pursuit of a tan sports car, any available unit please acknowledge and assist." The dispatcher gave further information as to where Grossie was on the 405.
All officers that were available and in the approximate vicinity were listening intently, Grossie needed back up and fast. Without a word, both Jon and Stephanie sped up their motors and headed in Grossman's direction. There wasn't an officer within a fifty-mile radius that didn't want to catch the suspect, especially if this could be their guy. Even Bear soon came up behind them to give assistance.
All three soon were able to catch up to Grossie and join the pursuit. Jon checked his speedometer and frowned. They were now traveling almost ninety miles an hour. 'If this is the suspect...and anything happens at this speed...' he wouldn't allow himself to complete the thought. Just as he looked up again he and Stephanie heard Bear's panic-stricken traffic.
"Mary 5, abort the pursuit!! Grossman, back off!! Now!!" For some reason, what Bear thought he had seen what the guy start to do, or was about to do, caused his sheer panic for Grossie's life. The driver of the sports car had got between two other cars and Bear had a sinking suspicion of what the guy was going to do.
Sure enough, the suspect got up ahead of both cars and then quickly swung his car to the right--just close enough to the car to clip the driver's side front bumper, throwing the car completely out of control. As that car spun around, it hit another car in the other lane and created a domino effect. The driver of the tan sports car simply, merrily continued on his way down the freeway knowing full well the mayhem he had left behind.
Grossie managed to slow his bike down enough to where he could do some fancy maneuvering to keep from becoming the second officer to be injured in such a fashion. He pulled his bike off onto the shoulder of the freeway and watched as cars continued up ahead of him to collide with one another. Finally the mayhem came to a halt, with the hit and run driver long gone.
Stephanie and Jon pulled up behind Grossman and stopped. Bear had taken on the task of stopping traffic that was behind him, by running interference--moving his patrol car back and forth in the lanes, as a signal to those cars that they were to come to a complete stop.
There was a lot of work that needed to be done now and the first order of business was to get medical help out there. That's what Jon took care of, "LA, 7 Mary 3...We need fire and paramedic assistance at our location. We have a multiple MVA (motor vehicle accident)." As soon as he was through with this traffic, he quickly asked Grossman, "Hey, you okay?"
Grossman had already assured Stephanie that he was when Jon was talking with the dispatcher, but it bore repeating, "Y-yeah, I'm fine. But man, that was way too close. That definitely had to be our guy."
"You're right, you came mighty close to biting the dirt on that one," Stephanie told him, as she shook her head in disgust.
"Yeah, remind me to thank Bear for saving my hide."
"Hang tight here till you quit shaking. Stephanie and I'll get to work," Jon told him. He could almost see his fellow officer's body vibrate from the sheer terror of how close he came to being seriously injured...or killed.
They quickly left his side and went to check on the other people who weren't so fortunate to stay out of harms way. They went from car to car, till Jon found a very seriously injured man who had a badly bleeding laceration, which he had to hold pressure on till the paramedics arrived. "Stephanie, you find anybody else with serious injuries?" he asked as she came back from double-checking a few of the victims.
Before she could answer, the paramedics arrived. So she signaled to Jon to hold on to that thought and she directed one of them to a couple of 'seriously' injured people who needed medical assistance---immediately. The other paramedic ran over to Jon as he had motioned that he needed help and in a hurry.
Baker continued to assist as much as he could. After bandages and a C-collar were applied, Jon helped to get the victim out of the car and down onto the pavement where he could be assessed for further injuries. The ambulances still hadn't shown up. But additional paramedic units had arrived on the scene to assist the crew that was already there.
Once Jon and Stephanie were freed up in helping the medics they got busy helping Bear with traffic control. With the fire trucks, rescue trucks and also now the wreckers on scene they were kept busy making sure traffic moved carefully through the congested area or were stopped moving entirely when necessary. Plus with ambulances now arriving on scene they had to make sure that they were able to get in position to get to patients that needed to be transported to the hospital.
At long last all the victims had been taken care of, the wreckers hauled away the crumpled vehicles away. At this point when Jon finally had a chance to look around and see more clearly the entire area that had been involved, it struck him of all the paperwork that would be involved--and in triplicate.
After the lanes were clear of all the cars and debris, the traffic was allowed to flow once again more freely. Bear chatted momentarily with the three motor officers before continuing on his patrol. Jon patted Grossie on the back, "Hey, why don't you go back to Central and take a well-deserved break. Heaven knows, after what you just went through you deserve one."
"Yeah and have Getraer catch me sloughing off? Don't think so, Jon," Grossman told him with a shake of his head.
Jon grinned, "Umm, I think when you tell him what happened; he'll give you at least five minutes to have a coffee break, don't you?"
"Yeah, maybe you're right, 'course, knowing Getraer he'll demand to know why I didn't nail the guy!"
Both Stephanie and Jon were forced to chuckle on that one. "Hey actually, all three of us deserve a break," Baker determined. "C'mon let's go!"
The trio arrived at Central, took their 'deserved' break and then headed back out on the freeways. The rest of the day was filled with the usual, eventful patrols--which ended up with the predicted endless paperwork.