It was an unusually dreary Monday in L. A. The weekend had been overcast, prompting most citizens to stay indoors and hope for better weather tomorrow - by dawn it was obvious that hope was in vain. Huge black clouds turned day into twilight; they promised that the already wet streets would be cradling puddles at least an inch deep before nightfall. There was a chill wind blowing, which showed no signs of letting up until it had explored every dark corner and cranny in the city. Traffic was more congested than usual as drivers contended with slippery streets; even the news was uninteresting.
It was the kind of day a police officer hated most. After the weekend, businesses would open to find windows broken and property gone and citizens would discover when leaving for work that their car radios were missing. This created plenty of paperwork, with a nice helping of boredom and angry victims in a hurry on the side. Out on patrol, any traffic stop meant working in a wet uniform until there was time to change at the station. Then, at night, every wind gust seemed to set off an oversensitive alarm, which would have to be investigated with as much caution and thoroughness as a genuine burglary in progress - just in case. Officers Pete Malloy and Jim Reed reported to work with a distinct lack of enthusiasm; Jim was downright unhappy, Pete simply resigned.
"It was supposed to be partly sunny," the younger man grumbled, adjusting his belt.
Pete gave him a bemused look as they left the locker room. "Don't tell me you still believe in the weatherman."
"What do you recommend, a frog?"
"Just do what senior officers always do."
"Make the junior officer issue all the traffic citations." Pete ignored Jim's glare as they entered the briefing room, where they found most of their fellow officers having similar conversations. Mac soon quieted them down and began the briefing - basically, besides a rash of false alarms, the last watch had had some trouble keeping busy (criminals also seem to dislike bad weather).
Thankfully the rain held off during inspection, but as the black and whites started out it began coming down in sheets. Jim, looking out his window, prayed that anyone contemplating a 211 today would rather give up than take a jog in that. The patrol car was warm, but not enough for an officer soaked to the bone and pierced by the chill currents which were toying with the tree tops. Of course there was bound to be an impatient motorist or four daring the rain slicked roads, which meant standing in the rain writing tickets while offenders sat in their cars, warm, dry and annoyed. Watching the headlights illuminate the road ahead, Jim moodily wondered if God was punishing him for some unknown sin.
The dark mood, unlike the dark day, didn't last. After awhile the rain took a backseat to talking about Jimmy's latest crawling escapades. Jim cheerfully detailed the speed and skill with which his son had been evading his wife - which led said wife to decide it was time for the next level.
"Jean and I are going to try to get him walking tomorrow; we've been moving everything breakable to higher shelves."
"What about the corners on your furniture? Have you covered them with cloth or something?" Pete had an uncanny knack for worrying about his godson.
Jim grinned, his earlier weather-induced depression by now completely forgotten. "Yeah, Jean's mother caught that one. We've got so much padding put up that our house is starting to look like an insane asylum. You want to be there for the experiment?" Before his partner could reply, a pickup not far ahead made a lane change - almost hitting a smaller car, which slammed on its brakes just in time. "Hey, did you see that?"
"Yup." Pete flicked on the reds and maneuvered behind the dark blue Ford. Jim suddenly realized what was coming and looking out at the pouring rain and tossing branches his good mood started to fade. As Pete parked behind the offender, wheels kicking up spray from curbside puddles, Jim pulled his collar well up and waited glumly with one hand on the door handle. Pete had been relieved to see his partner regain his usual good cheer and was disappointed that prospect of a cold shower had dimmed it once more. Thinking quickly, he hit on an idea which was to both their advantages.
"Hey," he said, before Jim could open the passenger's side door. "I'll do this one if you promise me something." His partner looked over in surprise.
"None of Jean's girlfriends over tomorrow night."
Jim's smile reappeared as he eased back into the seat. "Deal."
Pete quickly returned the smile, then braced himself before opening the door, while his partner reached for the radio.
The rest of the morning was spent handling the usual Monday burglary reports. When things slowed down they decided to go Code 7 at the station so Pete could change; there they found quite a few fellow officers who had had the same idea. They congregated in the break room to complain about the weather and swap rainy day tales. The coffee was hot, the station was warm and the stories were good, so the Adam 12 team soon joined in.
They were halfway through lunch when Wells and Brinkman came in, wet, hungry - and grinning from ear to ear. This was enough to gain quite a bit of attention and the shorter man quickly engaged the rest by proclaiming that he had a tale to top them all. Grabbing a cup of coffee, Wells sat himself in the middle of the room and started talking.
"We're having a really slow morning, see, just taking 459 reports. When we get a report of a traffic accident in front of that bar on Alameda, we figure we'll see if we can help. We get there but no one's hurt and the cars are still in the bar's parking lot; since it's slow we decide to stick around until a traffic officer shows up." Wells glanced around to make sure everyone was paying attention, then continued.
"Well, the driver of one car is this real little guy, maybe four feet tall, dark hair, in a suit. He tells us he's called his wife, so we're waitin' in the black and white not far away, trying to imagine what the kids look like. Then up drives this other car and out gets a woman about six feet tall. We're thinkin' she's some strange bouncer at the bar, but she walks over and starts arguing with the shrimp. I decide I should hear this so I roll down my window a little. She's asking him why he was at the bar and he's trying to explain; she won't really let him, though, so he's getting pretty steamed." Wells leaned forward slightly, wearing his naturally impish grin. "Suddenly he starts yelling 'Pick me up!' So cool as cucumber she leans down, grabs him under his arms and hoists him up 'til they're staring each other right in the eye. Then this guy, dangling two feet off the ground, hauls back and round house slaps his wife! And next he shouts out 'Put me down!,' so like nothing's happened she sets him back on his feet and he marches away!" Wells and Brinkman were laughing again at the memory, while the other men gave each other amazed smiles.
"The traffic officer came up half a minute later," Wells went on. "We were laughing so hard I'll bet he thought we were high. I don't think he believed what we told him." His audience might not have believed him either, except that Brinkman was shaking his head and chuckling in corroboration.
Wells and his partner returned to the locker room to change, promising to answer everyone's questions when they returned. Jim and Pete weren't able to wait; they reluctantly finished their meal and headed back out on patrol.
Luckily, no more car-toting idiots crossed their path that day. The afternoon passed fairly quickly; dispatch gave them little time to get bored, though the incidents were routine. It was as dusk closed over the city that, unfortunately, the call of the day came in - 415, reported by a neighbor. As Pete drove up a darkening street in one of the residential districts, he could make out a small crowd ahead (it had stopped raining about an hour before, though the wind was still biting shrewdly). The officers quickly discovered that a married couple, both drunk, had been brawling in the street.
"They were going at each other tooth and nail," the warmly dressed neighbor woman huffed to Pete. "No thought for their little girl, no sir! Lizzie just stood out here in the road, watching. It's disgraceful the way those two ignore her, the poor thing. It's not that they don't care, but with one or both being drunk half the time ..." She shook her greying head in disgust.
"So it wasn't just one of them swinging, ma'am?"
"No, no, officer, when they argue they hit each other like nobody's business. She was hitting him too." Pete closed his notebook and thanked her. He'd already taken Mr. Barrett, an irritable young man, into custody. Mrs. Barrett was being interviewed not far away. She was also young, with long dark hair and harried eyes. Her daughter stood quietly by her side. Jim looked up as his partner approached and both stepped back to talk for a minute.
"She says there's no family or friends for the girl to go to."
"And he says the girl won't go with anyone but her mother." Pete cast a jaded glance at the woman and pretty child. "Guess we'll have to let her go with a citation."
"Yeah." Jim's look was one of concern. "I can't believe she got in trouble again so quickly." Mrs. Barrett had been arrested by the men only last night for 502.
Both walked over to give the 'good' news, which the woman took predictably well. Jim, after finishing with the mother, turned to the daughter. "Elizabeth, right?" he inquired in a friendly voice. She nodded shyly.
"How old are you?"
"Four," she whispered, admiring how the officers' badges reflected a nearby porch light.
"No, that's not right, you're five yea ..." her mother began, then stopped, with a strange look on her face. Jim was puzzled, but continued with his next question.
"Do you know when your birthday is?"
The girl smiled faintly and in the sweetest voice imaginable replied, "Today." Jim managed to return the smile, but the lingering smell of alcohol in the air kept it from really reaching his eyes.
While booking Mr. Barrett after a silent drive to the station, the partners discovered that he had been arrested only months before for brutally beating his wife. Even that wasn't destined to be the last they heard from the happy family; returning to their patrol car the men saw Mrs. Barrett once more - bailing her husband out.
Pete and Jim finished their patrol off with a Code 30 Ringer in a rather large dental clinic. Both were pretty sure the wind had struck again but they had to search just in case, especially since the manager showed up in a state of near panic. All was quiet inside; in fact, as Pete remarked, it was actually a nice respite from the wailing wind. Jim was checking out an examining room when -
He nearly jumped out of his shoes and Pete came running. Much to his embarrassment it turned out he'd set off a motion detector. During the ride back to the station there were plenty of compliments on his ability to catch villains by surprise. Jim pretended that the ringing in his ears drowned out his partner's teasing; he also extracted a promise that Wells would never know about the incident. Pete was relieved to have something to joke about. He knew the Barrett case was weighing a little too heavily on his friend's mind.
Rain was again falling softly; it glittered and swirled through the wilderness of L.A. Wet streets gleamed under the headlights of citizens hurrying to the warmth and comfort of their homes, thankful that night had replaced the long, gloomy twilight at last.
The parking lot was deserted as the Adam 12 team pulled in, preparing for an hour or more of pencil pushing. Despite his partner's attempts to distract him Jim was still depressed, both by the weather and the events of the day. However, as he followed Pete inside a ray of light caught some spray from the station's gutter. Suddenly a tiny rainbow winked into existence in front of the young officer, resplendent against the surrounding darkness. The flash of color caught Jim's eye immediately; though it faded in an instant, that instant was enough.
"Reed, are you coming?" Pete called, wondering why his friend had stopped.
"Yeah," Jim called back, continuing into the brightly lit station, letting the door swing closed. He was smiling, in spite of the paperwork which awaited.
Outside, rain drops danced in intricate patterns; the wind whistled a nameless tune; millions of city lights shone like the unseen stars; and, as Jim had been reminded, sometimes the darkness only served to make the light more beautiful.
These incidents are true. I adapted them, changing circumstances and locations, from three wonderful sources that sadly no longer exist: Officer Russell's Life On the Beat site and list archive, Mr. Gaspirtz's Police Humor site and Sheriff Dettwiler's site. 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.