Chapter 1: The accident
It was a warm, humid late night in the City of Los Angeles. Two men dressed head to toe in black, dashed from the back entrance of a warehouse to a truck carrying flat, tightly wrapped parcels of different shapes and sizes. The taller, burlier one stopped to wipe the sweat off his brow and neck and tossed his parcel on the ground disgruntled.
"Forget this. I need a cig break."
His skinny partner shoved him and he picked up the parcel and dusted it off.
"Jordan, you idiot! Do you know what these are worth? You heard the boss. There better not be one nick or scratch or else we'll pay for it. And I don't mean money."
"Pipe it down, Eddie! Do you wanna wake the neighborhood? Alert the cops? I've been on this gig long before he hired you, and I know what I'm doing. I'm more concerned about that other package he wants us to take care of. It's a lot bigger than this stuff and very freakin' stubborn." Jordan rubbed his hand where he received two large bite marks.
Eddie loaded the last boxes in the back of the truck and secured the door. "Happy now? We're finished. This last package is personal and he wants it to look like an accident. You know how avant-garde these people are. If it were my decision…" He popped open a switchblade and ran the blunt end across his neck. "One slice and problem solved."
Jordan struck a match on his boot and lit another cigarette. He laughed at his partner in crime. "No way, too messy." He pulled a handgun from the pocket. "One or two quick plugs with this and you're done. Just like old Steve who thought he could make sales on the down low. The boss doesn't tolerate competition." Jordan chuckled. "You know, for someone with a name like the boss, you wouldn't expect them to be so evil. But Steve got what was coming to him. Those are the breaks."
Eddie shrugged. "Can't blame a guy for trying, if people wanna waste millions on this junk then why shouldn't others profit from it? There's plenty to go around. We're the ones busting our humps and taking a risk sneaking around. I don't really care how it goes down, just as long as I get a heavy cut. I'll deliver to whoever is asking. Anyway, we gotta find Stevie a nice resting place."
A loud crash and a shrill alarm from inside the warehouse broke the stillness. Jordan flicked his cigarette.
"Damn it! Looks like we underestimated that last package! Come on!"
3:30am California Freeway
Bobby Nelson did all he could to stay focused on the road. Now he understood why all those so-called buddies of his didn't make the cut at the CHP Academy two years ago. They behaved like hopelessly immature children, and tonight Bobby partied right along with them. It was a wild 'sleep where you fall' affair at his friend's swanky beach house and brimmed with good food, women, booze – and plenty of frat boy antics.
If there were other 'kicks' passing around Bobby wasn't aware of it, and his friends knew better than to bring them out in his presence. Although he had his share of fun, half the night he felt like a chaperon, making sure people limited their alcohol consumption and used designated drivers. Becoming a cop matured him in ways he didn't think possible and Bobby chose not to 'fall' anywhere at the party. He almost forgot he had to fill in for Grossie's shift Monday morning and he would have never made it back in time with the rush hour traffic.
As he drove along he suddenly regretted his decision to leave and even staying at the party so long. In four hours he had to be suited up and ready to roll on these same Freeways for the early bird patrol. Bobby exhausted himself working the morning shift all last week with Poncherello, and then Grossie begged for Monday off to get a painful wisdom tooth pulled. Bobby hated to admit it, but the long hours and vain attempts to keep up with the night life caught up to him fast. This was despite his constant boasts of being young, virile, and energetic. Ponch told him that soon he'd learn to draw a fine line.
Bobby yawned loudly and flicked on the radio. Three minutes later he shut it annoyed. It was no help keeping him alert. The on-air stations featured a bunch of soft-spoken DJs playing Beethoven classics that were sure to knock him right into dreamland. He needed another cup of black, sugarless coffee to give him a jolt. It occurred to him that he was awake for almost twenty-three hours straight. Ponch constantly warned him about the 'all nighters.' He related a story of when he and Jon Baker stopped a crotchety old man for a busted taillight. The geezer took forever and a day to rifle through his wallet and stuffed dashboard for the license and registration and Ponch fell sound asleep standing upright with the ticket book in hand. He didn't wake up until Jon came over and shook him…three times.
The road stretched on for miles into near pitch-darkness and Bobby's vision warped from gray to black over and over. He rubbed his eyes and slapped his cheeks. A car behind him picked up speed and drove fifty feet ahead. The heavy tire squeals and smell of burning exhaust invigorated Bobby and he straightened up after slinking almost half a foot down in his seat.
"I don't care what time it is, you're not gonna start speeding on my watch." He muttered.
Bobby gritted his teeth and caught up to the car. He veered left and the car slowed. The driver looked his way and shifted anxiously up and down, but it was hard for Bobby to see him clearly. Bobby sighed. He was too tired to make a late-night example out of the driver and let him pass again. Five minutes later they were still the only cars on the road, traveling in the same direction.
Bobby's grip slackened on the wheel. He lowered his eyes and ducked his head. He abruptly heard a loud popping noise and what could have been a tire blowout. Another vehicle came out of nowhere from behind and flashed their high beams. Bobby was blindsided. He swerved a fast left and just missed skimming the little, white Ford he followed. The Ford weaved in all directions and ran straight off the road.
"Oh crap! What did I do!" Bobby brought his car to a screeching halt and he heard a woman's terrified scream.
The Ford slammed down a slippery embankment and rolled on its side. It flipped twice and finally came to a stop on its hood at the muddy bottom. Bobby frantically jumped out of his car and slid his way down to help.
"Hello! Answer me if you can!" He wished he had a flashlight.
There was no answer and he smelled gasoline. Bobby struggled through knee deep mud to reach the car. He saw a portly man slumped over the backseat window and sticking out halfway. He was like a dead weight and Bobby couldn't wedge him through the opening.
"Hold on fella! I'll get ya, but ladies first!"
He looked at the front seat and saw the silhouette of a young woman face-down in the mud and she was close to drowning in it. Bobby couldn't worry about injuries. He got on his belly and raised her up, then quickly cleared an air passage for her nostrils and mouth. She was unresponsive.
"Hang on, sweetheart, I'm gonna get you out of here!"
He ripped her seat belt off and dragged her body through the window. He stumbled, and almost dropped her until he tossed her over his shoulder and ran to a dry part of the embankment.
"Oh shoot! The other guy!" Bobby attempted to run back for him when he saw a spark.
"NOO!" He screamed. No please, no!"
The front of the car caught on flames and five seconds later the entire car exploded. Bobby threw himself on the ground and shielded the woman with his body as flaming metal pieces flew up into the air and just missed striking them. When the danger passed Bobby picked her up and carried her higher. He lay her on the ground and put an ear to her mouth.
"Oh God! Not you too. Don't die on me!"
Bobby raised her head partway and opened her mouth. He brushed his fingers around to get rid of excess mud clogging her throat. He laid her flat and sealed his mouth over hers, then blew in two times.
"Come on, baby. Breathe! Please breathe for me!"
He repeated the process and was ready to start CPR when she sputtered and gurgled. Bobby gasped.
"I knew you could do it." He whispered.
He helped her up and patted her back while she choked. He stared at her neck curiously. There was a cloth wrapped around it, but it wasn't a fashion scarf.
'A gag? She was gagged?' There was no time for inquiries.
"Easy, easy! You have a huge bump on your head, it might be a concussion."
She gripped his arm tight and screamed when she saw the car fire. She tried to get up, but staggered. Bobby caught her before she fell.
"It's okay, I got you. Don't move around so much."
"No…no…nooooo! I have to get away!" She stammered.
He kept his voice level and calm. "You have to stay here; you were in a bad accident. You can't go over there. It's…it's too late."
Bobby gazed at the car and held his mouth horrified. The man left behind was caught up in flames and the rank smell of his burning flesh filled the air. The woman saw the body and she burst into tears. Bobby pulled her close and she sobbed into his chest.
"I'm really sorry. I couldn't get him in time. I had to get you first." Bobby tried to comfort her.
She pulled away. "Who…what? Please take me away!"
Bobby helped her stand. "I will! I'll take you back to my car. I have a CB and I need get an ambulance and fire department here fast."
The girl was woozy and fainted against him. Bobby panicked. He checked her pulse – she was still alive. He toiled up the embankment until he lowered her safely onto the pavement. After calling the appropriate responders for the accident, Bobby changed the frequency, and hoped that Frank Poncherello kept his receiver on for overnight transmissions.
"Viking-T to Firebird, Viking-T to Firebird! Come in! Over!" Bobby's words faltered and stuck in his throat. He looked at the woman and she was still unconscious. Bobby felt nauseous and dizzy. He fiddled with the dials. "We got an…11-80, Code 2…Code 3, L.A. 15 Mary 7 requests… 11-41, need back-up…over!"
Bile crept up his throat and he spit up. A man was possibly burned alive because of his reckless behavior. Sweat beads dripped down forehead. He wiped them off and recoiled in pain. When he lowered his hands he saw blood. He couldn't even be sure if it was his own. The stinging sensation on his forehead told him otherwise. His whole body numbed and his vision blurred in and out. His face paled as he slid down the side of his car and shouted into the transmitter.
"Ponch! Come in, Ponch! It's Bobby! I need you!"
*CHP Codes (Thanks for the links, Daynawayna!)
15 Mary 7- Bobby's code name
11-80- Accident, Major injuries
Code 2- Urgent
Code 3- Emergency
11-41- Ambulance required
The CB radio in Bobby's car is not canon, but I decided to give Bobby and Ponch handles for the dramatics of this scene. Viking T – Bobby is a descendant of Vikings and his middle name is Torvald. I picked 'Firebird' for Ponch because it was his famous car in seasons 2-5.