It was a lovely fall day in 1968, but that didn't stop the criminals from plying their trade. Daywatch was kept busy handling the usual calls and hoping to get off in time to enjoy the sunshine. It was only an hour before end of watch when Adam-12 and X-ray-47 were called to a 211 at a supermarket. By the time they arrived the thieves had made good their escape, but one of the cashiers said she had written down their license number - somewhere. In her excitement she'd misplaced the valuable scrap of paper. She started looking for it and Officer Miguel Anzures said that he and his partner would begin checking the premises. Malloy went out front to wait for the team from latent fingerprints. Reed headed in the opposite direction to tell dispatch what little they knew. While waiting Pete decided to start the reports; it had been a long day and, like everyone else, he wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. However, he soon realized he'd left the report book inside. He was about to go in when the market's front doors opened.
"Could you go get the report book?" Malloy asked as a familiar face emerged.
"Report book?" The young man looked at him in surprise.
"That's right, the report book. It's inside on the counter."
"Yes, sir." The officer turned and walked back into the building. Pete thought the answer was a little odd - Reed hadn't called him "sir" in months. A few moments later the doors opened again and Jim came out.
"What's wrong?" Pete asked. That earned him another surprised look.
"Yeah. Where's the report book?"
"Yes, Reed, the report book. I asked you to get it, remember?"
"Oh, uh, sorry." Jim turned and went back inside. Pete watched him with some perplexity, then shrugged and resumed his vigil. Within a minute he was interrupted by a woman's voice. It was Mrs. Johnson, the one who had caught the license number.
"Officer Malloy! I found it!" She was leaning out a side window.
"Thank you, ma'am. I'll have my partner get it," he called in reply. She ducked back inside. 15 seconds later -
"Here's your report book." Pete took it without looking up.
"Good. That was quick." He missed the slightly puzzled glance he received. "Mrs. Johnson found the license number. Can you go get it?"
"Mrs. Johnson?" Now Pete did look up, starting to become a bit annoyed. He knew Reed was tired - they both were - but that was no excuse.
"That's what I said. Are you having trouble hearing me?"
"Oh, no, sir. I'm going." The other officer hurried off again. Malloy mumbled something about rookies and tried to concentrate on the reports. After a minute Jim walked out of the store once more.
"Malloy? Where'd you leave the report book?"
"It's right here," Pete replied, giving Reed an odd look.
"Well, if it's right there, why'd you tell me to get it?" Jim rejoined in apparent confusion. Malloy straightened up, irritated at how dense his partner was being.
"I told you to get it because it was on the counter and I needed it. Why else?"
"But I ... what ..."
"Forget it. Just forget it." Malloy didn't want to follow this thread any further. "Did you get the license number?"
"Mrs. Johnson found it?"
The older officer scowled at him. "No, the 5th street wino's pink elephant ran off with it! What is wrong with you, Reed?" Jim didn't answer; instead he made good his escape into the building. Pete stared after him in mixed exasperation and bewilderment. This wasn't like Reed at all. He tried to quell his growing aggravation. After a few minutes he'd calmed down ... and the doors opened.
"Here's the number," the young man said, handing Malloy an old receipt.
"Thanks," Pete replied, hoping that this would be the end of the nuttiness. "Why don't you go sit on the radio until we finish up here?"
"But Anzures said ..."
"Go sit on the radio," Malloy repeated, slowly and emphatically. He didn't feel like arguing. "Stay there until I tell you otherwise. Understand?"
"Yes, sir." There was that "sir" again. Pete watched his partner walk off, trying not to get angry. For such a promising young officer Reed was acting very unprofessionally. He decided they would have a serious talk after watch. A short time later he heard the doors open again.
"Here's the number. That Mrs. Johnson must be pretty shook up, she thought ..." Jim stopped in his verbal tracks as Pete slowly fixed him with a deadly glare.
"Is this some kind of game, Reed?"
"I ... I don't ...," Jim stammered, more than a bit discomfited by Malloy's gaze.
"You don't," Pete interrupted in a dangerous voice. "Fine. Great. Now how about explaining to me why you aren't in the unit?"
"The unit?" Jim repeated helplessly.
"Reed!" Pete was almost shouting. "Look, I don't know what's going on with you, but it stops. Now. If it doesn't, Sergeant MacDonald is going to hear about it. And this is going on your next performance review. Understand?"
"Yes, sir," Jim answered automatically.
"Now go sit on the radio, and if I see you out of the unit again I'm putting you on report. Got it?"
"Yes, sir." Reed turned and walked off, but not before Pete saw the confusion and shock in his eyes. Malloy couldn't help thinking that this all wasn't really Jim's fault - it was so amazingly uncharacteristic of his friend. He was still staring at the reports, trying to sort out what had happened, when Anzures approached.
"Hey, Pete?" The officer looked up, glad to see another face. For the last five minutes the world seemed to have lurched out of phase with reality.
"Did you tell my partner to sit on the radio?" The world tilted again.
"Mig, I've never even met your partner."
"Well, he just told me that you told him to sit on the radio. I thought you were going to have your partner do that."
"I am having my partner do it." Pete was starting to wonder if all the rookies had gone daft at once. "Look, why don't you get him over here and we'll straighten this out." Anzures nodded and left.
Pete didn't know much about Miguel's partner, just that he was a probationer and had been assigned to Anzures about the same time Reed joined the force. Pete had no idea why the young man would make up a story about being told to sit on the radio. He decided not to wrack his brain about any more of this nuttiness and went back to work. A few minutes later he heard two people returning.
"Malloy, this is Paul Culv ... what's wrong?" Pete was staring at the young man by Miguel's side in sheer disbelief.
"Is this some kind of practical joke?" That remark earned Pete two puzzled glances.
"Joke?" Anzures echoed. "No one told me about it."
Malloy took another, closer look at Culver. "Just a minute. Stay right there." He hurried off towards Adam-12. A few moments later he and Jim came back around the corner and it was the other senior officer's turn to be astonished. For some time all four officers stood and stared at each other. Anzures looked at both rookies in amazement; Pete did the same, becoming more relieved as he realized what had probably happened; Reed and Culver looked at their partners and at each other, wearing identical expressions of confusion on their identical faces.
Anzures finally spoke up. "Paul, take your hat off."
Culver obeyed. Pete looked even more relieved.
"Take yours off too, Reed." Miguel looked a bit easier in his turn. The younger officers appeared alike in almost every respect, but while Jim's hair was dark and close cut, Culver's was light and more stylish. It reassured both older officers that they were still sane.
"You didn't tell me you had a relative on the force," Anzures said, turning to Culver.
"I don't," was the reply.
"Well, then, we must've just reunited two long-lost twin brothers." Malloy was still glancing from one to the other in amused incredulity.
"Do we look that much alike?" Jim queried.
"Alike!" Pete chuckled. "If you both used the same barber I. A. D. couldn't tell you apart."
"You sound the same too. You're both probationers, both sharpshooters, both married - this is uncanny." Anzures shook his head.
Culver and Reed eyed each other in curiosity for a moment, then Culver began to laugh. "We're not twins, we're triplets!" The other three looked at him in surprise. Pete tried to ignore how odd it was seeing Reed's familiar grin on someone else's face.
Soon Anzures realized what his partner was talking about. "That's right. Wow, this is really getting strange."
"What? Is there another one?" Jim asked.
"Yeah," Culver replied in amusement. "The black sheep of the family. You see, after I graduated from the Academy I worked undercover for narco. One night someone robbed a liquor store near where I was supposed to meet a dealer. For awhile they had me pegged as the suspect. Just about everything pointed my way, including an eyewitness. Then a guy they caught robbing another joint confessed and cleared me. Turns out we were dead ringers. That means there're two of us out here on the streets and one in the pen."
"I feel like I'm in an episode of The Twilight Zone," Pete commented wryly. "Let's get back to work before my double shows up."
"All right." Miguel's eyes suddenly gleamed mischievously. "But maybe we should get together after watch. We might have some fun with the guys at the station."
"It's a date," Pete replied, already picturing Mac's face. With that the two pairs went their separate ways.
"Three Jim Reeds," Malloy mused as they made their way back to the unit. "Sounds like the beginning of a nightmare."
"I'd feel the same about two Pete Malloys." Reed said it with a smile, but Pete suddenly felt a little guilty. He remembered the chewing out he'd given his partner; Jim, nice guy that he was, had apparently forgiven him without a second thought. Pete wasn't quite ready to let himself off the hook that easily.
"Wait a minute," he said. Jim turned, wondering if he'd stepped over some line with his last joke. "I want to apologize for letting you have it back there."
"Oh, it's all right, Malloy. You couldn't have known."
"It's more than that." Pete looked at his partner seriously. "I should have given you the opportunity to explain; instead I just got upset. I guess I'm more tired than I thought. I'm sorry, Jim." Reed smiled again.
"That's OK, Pete. You've forgiven me for so many mistakes in the past few months that we won't be even until I make captain."
"You've got a point," Pete replied, smiling back, and the two returned to patrol.