I don't own SOSF, the characters or anything to do with the original series. All writing is done for fun and definitely not for profit.
Part 1 of this story is told from Mike's POV.
The Second Christmas
Christmas Eve, 1971
It was the day before Christmas. In a few hours, the sun would set and many of the stores would call it for the season, closing their doors until after the holiday. Festive lights would soon adorn the town, and while San Francisco wasn't known for its white Christmases, it was cool and grey enough that you'd swear you'd soon see a snowflake or two fluttering around.
Steve and I were headed back to headquarters when we got the call. Back-up assistance was needed for a convenience store robbery. We were only blocks away. "Inspectors 8-1 responding," I answered. Steve made a sharp right down to King Avenue as I threw the red light on the rooftop. Within a minute, we were at the scene.
Already there were a couple of black and whites and an ambulance. I saw Officer Keating, a tenured patrolman whom I had the pleasure working with on numerous occasions.
"Dale, what do we have here?" I asked. Apparently, the clerk had escaped and relayed that the owner had been shot to death, leaving only the robbers, a woman and her two young children in the store.
"Have you made contact inside?" I directed my thoughts back to Keating.
"Not as yet," Dale replied. "I'm working with dispatch to place us through to the store phone."
A minute later, dispatch returned to the line and we could hear the phone ring through the radio.
"Yeah?" came the answer on the other end.
"This is Sergeant Dale Keating with the San Francisco Police Department."
"Isn't that special?" came the reply. We had the right number, no doubt.
"We don't want anyone else to get hurt. Why don't you turn yourself in? If you do, you'll avoid a whole lot of additional hassle."
"Why should we? The old guy was shot and he's already probably dead. We've got a broad and her two brats in here. We'll trade them only for our freedom. Sound fair?"
"We're listening." Keating wanted to keep him on the line as long as possible. In these situations, ever second counts.
"You tell your bigwigs that we've got a Mrs. Carter Richmond here with her two kids. If you want to see them alive, you'll get us on a private plane to Mexico. Got it?"
"Are Mrs. Richmond or her children injured?"
"No, they aren't. And if you want to keep it that way, I suggest you get us what we need and fast."
The sergeant disengaged the radio mic. "Someone needs to get a hold of Mr. Richmond.," Keating thought for a moment. "Reed, see if you can locate the husband."
"On it," said his partner.
Keating shot me a quick glance. "What do you think?"
"I think you play along with it until we get men in position to enter the store."
Steve joined in the conversation. "From the witness, I just heard there are two men, both heavily armed. They were in there to rob the store, but the owner pulled a gun. They shot him and the clerk managed to escape and call for help."
"The woman and her kids," I began.
"She's a frequent customer. A Mrs. Richmond. They just live a block away." Steve motioned to the south.
In no time, a man arrived on the scene clearly distressed. The clerk recognized him as Mr. Richmond, and with that, Keating called him over.
"Your wife and kids are in there. We're doing all we can to get them out safely," I tried to reassure the man.
"I can't believe this is happening. On Christmas Eve of all days. God, please don't let anything happen to them."
There was still hope, I thought. But I wanted to do everything I could to get those kids and the woman out of there. "Let me try something."
Keating handed me the mic. "Patch me through to the store again," I ordered dispatch. A minute later, the other thief answered the phone.
"This is Lieutenant Mike Stone of the San Francisco Police Department."
"Hey, wasn't the last guy only a sergeant? We've moved up in the world, Tommy!"
"Shut-up!" I could hear in the background.
"Say," I tried to put on my friendliest voice. "You've got a couple of young kids in there and their mom. Why don't you let them go? It's Christmas Eve, after all."
"And that would leave us with nothing."
"But they're kids. They don't deserve this. Let them go and we'll see to it that you'll be treated as fairly as possible. Cooperate and we'll do what we can to help you."
"Help us with what? Getting a life sentence for murder?" The word 'murder' must have frightened the children because we all suddenly heard crying in the background. "Lady, shut your damn kids up!"
"It doesn't have to be that way. The clerk said the owner had pulled a gun on you guys. Perhaps we can talk it down to 2nd degree. What do you think?" I wasn't at all certain that would be the way it would go, nor did I want them to get off that easily, but at that moment I'd do anything to get those kids out of there.
"No dice," was the response. I heard a loud click from the end of the line. I was disappointed with the result and needed to map out a new strategy.
"Trade." I heard a quiet voice beside me.
At that moment, I had no idea what was said or who had said it. I looked to my right and saw Steve. "What?"
"Trade," he repeated.
"What are you talking about?"
"I'll go in there in exchange for the family." Steve answered as earnestly as possible.
"No way," was my firm and final answer. Mr. Richmond, however, had other thoughts.
"If you won't let him go in there, Lieutenant, then let me. It's my family."
"Definitely not." While I could arrange a deal for another officer to go in, I surely could not put another civilian at risk.
"He can't do that, sir," Steve responded for me. "Mike, think about it. It gives the family a chance and it also gives those guys a bargaining chip, or at least they can think that."
"What makes you say that?" I asked, although I already knew the answer.
"It's basic. You give them a chance to show they are willing to work with us, then the true negotiations can begin"
He was right. In hostage situations, when someone is injured, it speaks volumes when the criminals are willing to do the right thing and let the wounded go. It was a similar situation here. But I couldn't let Steve be the one to make the sacrifice.
"I'll do it," I said gruffly.
"That would make no sense at all."
"And why is that?"
"Because you are the negotiator. You are the man. Once you go in, who is going to have the clout for them to want to talk to?"
He was correct, but definitely not right. "Over my dead body," I responded somewhat dramatically.
"There's nothing that any of us want more than to have those kids safe. Right?"
"But why you? You've got…" I began to say that he had his life in front of him, but he quickly cut me off.
"I've got no one. It's Christmas and people should be with their families. All the other cops here are married and some even have kids."
"Well, my daughter is grown…"
"And she would love to have a grandfather to introduce her kids to. Mike, it will be okay."
"How do you know?"
"I trust you to get me out of it. Now make the call."
Another two minutes later, the one who wasn't Tommy picked up the line. "Yeah."
"It's Stone again. Look, it's Christmas Eve. You want us to deal with you, you need to do something for us in good faith."
"Oh yeah, what's that?"
"A trade. One of my men for the woman and her kids." I swallowed hard on that one.
"Hold on." I could hear him cup the handset and talk to "Tommy". I couldn't make out a word.
Not long after, he was back on the line. "You know, we're not heartless bastards, Stone. Send one of your men in and we'll release the kids."
I didn't think they'd release the entire family, but thought it was worth the effort to try again. "Why not the mother, too? She needs to be with her kids."
"Push it, Stone and you get nothing."
"Okay, okay. I'll send my man in and you release the kids. Deal."
"Not quite yet. Your man needs to be stripped down. No gun, no belt, no tie and no shoes. I don't want no bulky coat either. Just shirt and pants, nothing more."
I was uncomfortable, but not surprised, with the idea that they would give Steve no ability to protect himself.
"Oh, and one more thing. He comes over with his hands behind his back and in cuffs. No cute tricks. Understand, Stone?"
I really hated that one; almost to the point where I called the whole deal off. But then I thought of the kids. "Understood. As soon as he gets to the front door, I want you to let the kids out. If there's any funny business, so help me, you'll go down."
For that, I was rewarded with another loud click.
I nodded at Steve. "No gun, belt, tie or shoes."
"Yeah, I heard. At least I can wear socks. It's a little cool out, you know," Steve tried to joke.
"Are you sure?" I asked one more time, but I knew the answer as I watched him take off his tie and belt.
"I just want to know one thing," he answered with a lopsided grin.
"Are you going to slap the cuffs on me?"
I shook my head. "Dale, get over here."
I watched Steve hand Dale his own cuffs. "Good luck, man." Dale whispered in Steve's ear as he gently cuffed Steve's wrists behind his back.
Steve gave him a quick nod. "Let's get those kids back to their dad and then maybe we can get the mother and me out of there before Santa comes around."
Steve turned around and began his sock-footed journey to the convenience store with hands cuffed behind his back. Just then a chilly burst of air blew down the street. I could see two children on the other side of the glass door and prayed that they would be in their father's arms in a matter of seconds.