“What for?” the driver snapped. “What did I do?”
“You were doing 65 sir. That’s 10 miles over the speed limit. I’m going to have to cite you.” Jon explained as politely as possible.
As the driver handed over his license and registration, he let loose with a stream of obscenities that made Jon wince. The blond officer walked back to his motor, shaking his head at his partner, Frank Poncherello.
“Some people.” he muttered, reaching for his radio.
Ponch just grinned. “Hey partner, it takes all kinds.”
“Yeah, but if I ever become that kind, shoot me, and put me out of my misery.” Jon replied, walking back to the van.
“Hey, you want to put that in writing?” Ponch called after him.
Jon ignored him. “Okay sir, just sign here. It’s not an admission of guilt, just a promise that you will appear in court.” he handed the driver his license and registration back.
Cursing, the driver scrawled his name and handed the pinch book back to Jon. After making sure everything was in order, Jon handed the driver his ticket. “Have a nice day, and drive safely.” He winced again at another stream of obscenities. Sighing, he walked back to his motor, tossed his pinch book back into the saddlebag, and reached for his helmet.
“I dunno Ponch. What is it with these people? Don’t they know we’re trying to save lives out here? Ponch?”
Ponch wasn’t listening. “Unbelievable!”
Jon followed his gaze. Across the freeway, in the northbound rest area, four bikini clad models and two photographers were setting up a photo shoot. The sudden screech of tires on pavement let the two officers know they weren’t the only ones who’d noticed.
“Great. Just great. Betcha anything they don’t have a permit.” Jon sighed and started his motor.
“Only one way to find out. ” Ponch grinned and sped off, Jon close behind.
* * * * * *
Jon sighed as he and Ponch pulled into the rest area. “Ponch, you handle the traffic.”
“What? C’mon Baker, it’s your turn to handle that!” Ponch protested.
But Jon was already headed over to the group. As Ponch watched him begin to argue with the photographer, he shook his head. Something was bothering his partner.
“Hey, c’mon!” he shouted to a slow moving van, “let’s keep it moving!”
He looked up again to find the photographer and his models gone.
“That was fast.” Ponch said, waving an 18 wheeler through.
“Yeah, well, I made it clear I was in no mood to argue. Let’s get some lunch.”
* * * * *
“C’mon Ponch, hurry up. We’re gonna be late for briefing.”
“Take it easy, partner. We’ll make it.” Ponch replied, swallowing the last of his Megaburger, “we’ve still got half an hour. Now you wanna tell me what’s bugging you?”
Jon looked away for a moment. “Nothing, why?”
Ponch looked straight into his partners blue eyes. “C’mon Jon. This is Ponch you’re talking to. I know you better than that. What is it, woman troubles?”
Jon laughed. “Uh, no Ponch, I’m doing just fine.”
Ponch sipped his soda and grinned. “Oh that’s right, I forgot, you actually like staying home.”
Jon didn’t answer. “C’mon old buddy, what is it?”
Jon adjusted his baton and sighed. “I’m just tired, that’s all.”
“What’s wrong, don’t you sleep at night?”
Jon picked up his soda and took a long drink. “No, that’s not what I meant. I’m tired of the smog, the traffic, the ungrateful people. Do you think I enjoy being cussed out for writing a ticket?”
“C’mon Jon. I hear ya, but relax. It gets to everyone now and then.”
“Yeah, I know. But this is different. I’m not in this line of work for the fame and fortune, but a little respect now and then would be nice.”
Ponch made a fist and leaned his cheek against it. “Yeah, I know. It gets to me too partner.”
Jon finished his burger and made a face. “We have got to find some place new for lunch. I don’t think my stomach can take much more of this.”
“What are you talking about? This place has the best burgers in L.A.!” Ponch protested, straightening up..
Jon grinned as he stood up. “Now that’s a depressing thought. Let’s go.”
* * * * * *
Twenty minutes later they walked into briefing. Grossie looked up as they took their seats.
“Hey guys. Have you heard the latest?”
“Nope,” Jon replied, leaning on his helmet, “but I’ve got a feeling you’re going to tell us.”
“The National Highway Patrolman’s convention is being held in New York City this year!”
“Big deal. I never go to those things.” Ponch scoffed. “I know, but isn’t New York City supposed to be the most exciting city in the world?” Grossie asked.
Jon grinned. “Depends on what you consider exciting, Grossie.”
Joe Getraer walked in, a thick notebook under one arm. He set it on the podium and opened it. “Okay, listen up. We’ve been getting reports of drag racing on the unopened strip of the Harbor freeway. Now we aren’t talking a bunch of wild kids here. Word is we’re dealing with expensive cars, very expensive cars. Last report was of a Jaguar racing a Lamborgini. Keep your eyes open. There may be more going on there than meets the eye.”
“Drugs Sarge?” Barry Baricza asked.
“Could be Bear. One of the cars seen racing was reported stolen. It was found abandoned in Malibu. Word is there were traces of cocaine found in it. Okay, next item. I need 3 officers for a traffic detail on Melrose. They’re repaving part of it Saturday. It will be time and a half as usual. Anyone interested stop by my office. Last item. The National Highway Patrolman’s Convention is being held in New York City six weeks from now. All interested officers are invited and encouraged to attend. Stop by my office for a registration packet. Okay, that’s all. Hit your beats.”
* * * * *
Jon and Ponch sat on there motors by the side of the 405, keeping a watchful eye on the northbound traffic. Jon was cleaning his windshield as Ponch reclined on his motor and soaked up some sun.
“Ya know, Grossie’s right. New York City is supposed to be pretty exciting. After all it’s the city that never sleeps.” Ponch said.
Jon looked up. “And L.A. isn’t? Sorry Ponch, but when I think excitement, New York City isn’t at the top of the list.” he smiled and went back to his windshield.
Ponch shook his head and grinned, pushing his sunglasses up. “Oh, what do you country boys know about excitement anyway?”
Jon grinned. “That’s funny… we usually say that about you city boys.” He threw the rag he was holding at him. Ponch caught it and tossed it back, laughing.
“Seriously though,” Jon said, stuffing the rag back in his saddlebag, “you aren’t thinking of going, are you?”
“I dunno. I’ve never been to one of the conventions before.”
“Yeah, well I have. You think the scales are boring!” Jon reached for his helmet.
“That bad huh?”
Jon was about to answer when the radio interrupted him. “Attention Harbor units, be on the lookout for a black 1983 Dodge sedan, license Adam Nora 2685. Vehicle is believed stolen. Last seen going northbound on the 405 near Riverside. Units responding identify.”
“Jon, look!” Ponch grabbed his helmet as the suspect vehicle sped by.
Jon started his motor and grabbed the radio. “L.A. 7-Mary 3-4 have suspect vehicle in sight, northbound on the 405 near Glendale. We are now in pursuit!”
“10-4 Mary 3.”
Jon hit the gas and sped up behind Ponch, his siren wailing. The sedan swerved in and out of traffic as it tried to out run them. Jon looked at his speedometer, not liking what he saw. The needle was slowly rising….70…75…80…85…90….
“This guy’s nuts!” Ponch yelled.
“Nuts? He’s possessed! And he’s going to kill somebody if we don’t stop him!” Jon yelled back.
“Got any ideas?” Ponch asked.
“Look’s like he’s heading for the next off ramp. Let’s get a roadblock going up there!” Jon suggested.
“Go for it partner!”
“L.A. 7-Mary 3&4 still in pursuit of 10851 suspect, northbound 405. Request additional units for roadblock!”
“10-4 Mary 3&4.”
Minutes later, as they approached the off ramp, they saw two CHP cruisers blocking the far end of it, parked nose to nose.
“We got him now!” Ponch yelled.
Jon was about to answer when a look of horror passed over his face. The sedan wasn’t stopping….in fact according to his speedometer, it was picking up speed.
“What the hell is he doing?” Ponch yelled.
Jon grabbed the radio. “Bear, Jeb, get out of the way! He’s not gonna stop!”
They watched as the two officers scrambled out of their cars and dove into the tall brush on the side of the road. Minutes later the sedan hit, filling the air with the sickening crunch of metal grinding against metal. It went airborne, flipping over, and then landed upright..then,with a roar, the battered car disappeared. Jon was so absorbed in watching the spectacle unfolding in front of him that he forgot about the roadblock in front of him. At the last minute, he slammed his brakes, sending himself sprawling onto the hood of Baricza’s cruiser. Cursing softly to himself, he slowly slid off and got to his feet.
“Jon man! You alright? You okay?” Ponch exclaimed.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Only my ego is bruised.” Jon managed a brief smile.
“Man, I can’t believe you did that. Now Ponch I can see, but you?” Turner asked.
“Yeah, well I can’t believe what I just saw.”
“I just called it in. I’m not sure dispatch believed me.” Baricza said.
Ponch looked up as he get Jon’s motor upright. “Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something like this comes along.”
Jon took his helmet off and looked into the sky, sighing. “He must have been going 95 at least.”
“I told ya Jon, he’s crazy.”
“Ponch, seems to me anyone willing to go to that length to avoid getting stopped must really have something to hide.”
“Would it help if we ran a check on all the hospitals? There’s no way that guy didn’t bang himself up pulling that stunt.” Turner suggested.
“Worth a shot, Jeb.” Ponch replied.
Jon sighed. “C’mon Ponch, let’s get going..we’ve got paperwork to do.”
As Turner and Baricza headed back to their cars, Ponch reached into his pocket and pulled out a quarter. Jon rested his hands on his belt. “And what’s that for?”
“This is to decide who tells Getraer what happened.”
* * * * *
“It what?? You expect me to believe a car busted through a roadblock and just drove away, is that it? Baker, have you been eating Poncherello’s Ding Dongs??” Joe Getraer snapped.
“Sarge, it’s the truth. Ask Jed and Barry. It was their cars he busted through.”
Joe ran a hand over his face. “Wonderful. So I’m short two cruisers now?”
“Nah, Sarge, just a few dings and dents…” Ponch started.
“Dings and dents? Dings and dents?” cried an outraged voice behind them. They turned around and found Harlan standing there, his hands on his hips.
“Okay Harlan,” Getraer said, “how bad is it?”
“Both cruisers are going to need new radiators, fenders, headlights, batteries, a good body shop…”
“How long Harlan??” he interrupted.
“At least a few days. Maybe a week.”
The sergeant sighed. “Okay Harlan, get to work.” He turned to Jon and Ponch. “You two get those reports done and then turn the whole thing over to Auto Theft.”
“No way Sarge. This guys mine.” Jon replied firmly.
“Baker, need I remind you what your job is? Turn it over to Auto Theft!”
Suddenly Grossie poked his head into the office. “Sarge, we just got a report on that Sedan Jon and Ponch were chasing. It was just found up in the Hollywood hills. There’s a team going over it now.”
Jon grabbed his helmet. “Man, I need to get out of here.”
“What’s that, Baker?” Getraer asked.
“Nothing Sarge.” Ponch replied, watching his partner leave, “Things are starting to get to Jon.”
“Things? What things Frank?”
“You know Sarge, the smog, the traffic, the lack of respect out there.”
“Well, if he wants a vacation he can always go to New York.”
“Oh sure.” Ponch replied, turning to leave. “No stress there.”
Ponch found Jon in the break room, staring into a cup of coffee. Ponch took a seat across from him. “Hey man, what’s going on? Why are you letting stuff get to you so much?”
Jon looked up, his blue eyes dark, his voice troubled. He slouched in his chair as he spoke. “I dunno Ponch. I just can’t seem to shake this feeling. I’m just so tired of it all.”
“Jon, it’s the nature of the job. People are never going to enjoy getting cited. And I may be wrong, but I doubt L.A. will ever be smog free. ”
Jon broke into a smile. “Yeah. ”
Ponch leaned on his helmet. “Jon, what was it you used to say, about this job, about the peaks and valleys? You’re in a valley, man, that’s all.”
Before Jon could answer, Getraer poked his head in. “Frank, I almost forgot to tell you. The verdict came in on the Buckley case. ”
Ponch straightened up. Richard Buckley was a man Ponch had busted for drunk driving. Ponch had been in and out of court for three weeks, battling continuances. “Yeah, so how long did he get?” he asked.
Getraer sighed. “He copped a plea, Frank. He got a fine and probation.”
“What?? This is some kind of a joke, right?”
“Sorry Frank. I know how badly you wanted this. Maybe next time, huh?”
Ponch watched him leave. “Unbelievable. What good is it busting these guys if the courts aren’t going to do anything but put them back on the roads? I just don’t get it partner. ”
“Believe, me Ponch, I know how you feel. But think about all the guys we have put away,” he sipped his coffee, “I think we’ve got a pretty good record.”
Ponch suddenly broke out into a grin. “Hey, I thought I was supposed to be giving you the pep talk. ”
Jon finished his coffee and tossed the cup into the garbage. “You did. Thanks. Maybe I am taking things too seriously. I think I’m going to put in for some vacation time.”
“Hey, I know a way for you to save your vacation time and still get a vacation.” Ponch said mischievously.
“I know I’m going to regret asking this, but how’s that?”
“I have it on good authority that the department is offering all expense paid trips to New York City.”
Jon looked heavenward. “Ponch, I already told ya, I’m not interested in the convention, or New York City for that matter. It’s just not cup of tea.”
“Jon, you’re not giving the place a chance. It’s nothing like L.A. Has it ever occurred to you that you might actually enjoy it?”
“The city or the convention?” Jon asked with a grin.
“Both, man! Look, we both need a change of scenery, right? C’mon Jon, you want to get away from all this, New York’s about as far as you can get. It could even be fun.”
Jon looked thoughtful. “I have always wanted to see the Museum of Natural History. And Maybe we could take in a Yankees game…”
“Now you’re talking partner!” Ponch grinned.
“I don’t believe I’m actually letting you talk me into this.” Jon said, trying to hide a smile.
“Maybe he can talk you into hitting your beats too.” Getraer’s voice said as he walked by.
Ponch laughed. “C’mon partner.”
* * * *
“Hey,” Jon said later as they rode down the Harbor Freeway, “you never told me why you’re so high on this trip. Since when do you like conventions?”
“It’s not the what, ol buddy, it’s the where…New York City! I used to spend summer vacation their when I was a kid…. my grandparents used to live there. Man, I used to think it was the most exciting place on earth. Better than Disneyland!”
Jon laughed at his partner’s excitement.
“Attention Harbor Units, 11-83 just occurred Northbound near Culver. Units responding identify.”
“L.A 7-Mary 3&4 responding. ETA of 10.”
* * * *
When they got there, they found a single car, a green Chevy, lying sideways along the guardrail. Jon called in for a tow truck and paramedics while Ponch ran to the wreck. He got to his knees and yanked the battered door open. As he did, the smell of cheap whiskey nearly knocked him over.
“Hey, you okay?” he asked
“Just ducky officer!” the driver, a pudgy man in his early 40’s replied, his words slurred,blood from the gash in his head dripping onto the lapel of his blue suit.
“Can you move?” Jon said, joining them.
“Oh sure!” the driver replied cheerfully. Together, the two officers pulled the driver out.
“What’s your name?” Jon asked, making a face as the driver opened his mouth to reply and another wave of cheap booze assaulted them.
“Roger. Roger S. King Esquire!” the man replied proudly.
“Mr. King, how much have you had to drink today?”
“Oh just a little bit. A teensy weensy bit.”
Jon rolled his eyes as the paramedics pulled up. “What do we got, Jon?” asked one of them.
“Just cuts and bruises, Keith,” Jon replied, “and about 90 proof.”
“Yeah,” Ponch added, “you and Amy are gonna need your oxygen masks with this one.” he grinned.
Jon eyed the smoking car. “Hope that fire unit gets here soon.”
“They were right behind us.” called Keith.
As they directed traffic around the scene, they watched as Mr. King was treated. Jon stopped in mid-wave as he saw him reach into his jacket and pull out a small bottle of whiskey. As the two paramedics tried to take it away from him, he got angry and suddenly hurled it toward the wreckage.
“Damn!” Jon cursed, running toward them, Ponch on his heels. “Get down!” he shouted.
The bottle hit the car and shattered, instantly igniting, with a good sized explosion. Ponch looked up from where he’d dived, and glanced toward the two paramedics. “You guys okay?”
“We’re fine.” Keith replied, shaking his head as the Engine pulled up.
Jon sat up. He’d dived next to Ponch when the explosion hit. “You okay Ponch?”
“I’m fine partner. But I can’t wait to book that guy.”
Jon nodded. “And after that, let’s catch the next flight to New York.”
Ponch grinned as they walked over to Mr. King. The paramedics had finished with him, and he was standing there, staring at his burning car. As Jon and Ponch approached, he turned to them, a contrite look on his flushed face. “Oops.”
“Man, what do they want, our whole life story?” Jon exclaimed from the patio, looking at the thick registration packet he was holding.
Ponch laughed as the doorbell rang. “Food’s here.” They were at Ponch’s apartment, filling out their paperwork for the convention.
“Hey, how much do I owe ya?” Jon asked, walking inside, reaching for his wallet.
Ponch scanned the receipt the delivery boy handed him. “10 bucks.”
Jon handed him two crisp five dollar bills and stuffed his wallet back in his jacket.
“What, no tip?” Ponch asked with a grin.
Jon laughed. He opened up one of the bags and began unpacking steaming cartons of Chinese food. “Ponch, what did you do? Order one of everything?”
Ponch paused as he reached for some plates. “Not everything.”
“Oh, I forgot, this is dinner for you for the next month, right?” Jon grinned.
“A month? No way. 2, 3 weeks tops.”
They filled their plates and went back out to the patio. It was a beautiful evening. The air was warm, the breeze soft, and the setting sun bathed the boats in the marina in a pink purple glow.
“Okay,” Jon said after swallowing a spoonful of Egg Drop soup, “I think I’ve got mine done, how bout you?”
“Give me a minute.” Ponch said, putting down a sparerib. They ate in silence for a few minutes.
“Hey Ponch, have you ever seriously thought of leaving the patrol?” Jon said suddenly.
Ponch wiped his hands and sat back. “No. No way. Never. You?”
Jon stared out at the marina. “No, not really. I’d probably hate myself if I did.”
“Yeah. Isn’t it something, for all the complaining we do, ” he smiled, “we wouldn’t give it up for the world.”
Jon returned the smile. “That’s for sure. Besides, you need someone to look after you.”
“Aw man, you sound like Getraer!” Ponch said, laughing.
* * * * *
Jon looked at his watch for the millionth time and sighed. It had been Ponch’s idea that they meet at the airport. Their flight was at 7am, it was now 6:35am. Leave it to Ponch to be late. He checked his pocket to make sure his ticket was still there, and checked his watch again. They were going to miss their flight for sure.
“Jon!” Ponch called breathlessly, running up to him, “Whew, made it!”
“Ponch, where have you been? Our flight leaves in 20 minutes!” Jon said as they hurried toward the gate.
“Sorry partner..there was an accident on the freeway. I had to stop and help.”
“Yeah, I guess you did.” Jon replied, his annoyance fading.
After they settled into their seats on the plane, Ponch reached into his carry on and pulled out a book.
“Attention all passengers. This is your pilot, Captain Van Cise. You’re on flight 802, non-stop to Kennedy airport in New York City. Please listen to the flight attendants, they’ll have important information for you. Thank you for flying United and enjoy your flight.”
Jon watched as Ponch’s eyes followed one of the flight attendants as she moved past them. Oh, he’ll have no problem listening to them, he thought to himself, smiling. He glanced at the book Ponch was holding. “The Complete Guide to New York City.”
“Hey Ponch, I thought you knew all there was to know about New York.”
“I do…but it’s been awhile since I’ve been there..I thought I’d brush up.”
“You do that.” Jon grinned and opened up his newspaper.
“CHP OFFICER ARRESTED IN DRUG STING-DRUGS WERE SMUGGLED IN LUXURY CARS, SAYS SOURCE”
“Ponch, look at this!” Jon exclaimed, a sick feeling in his stomach.
“One of us?” Ponch asked quietly.
“I hope not.” Jon said scanning the story. Suddenly his face went white.
“Jon? Jon, what is it?” Ponch asked “Oh no…It can’t be…it just can’t be!”
“See for yourself.” Jon said, handing Ponch the paper. Ponch scanned the article, his eyes widening in disbelief.
“………CHP spokespersons declined to identify the officer in question, saying only that he was assigned to the Central station in Los Angeles….”
“I don’t believe it! One of us? No way!”
“I hear ya Ponch, but it’s right there in black in white.” Jon replied.
“Man, I’m sorry, but I can’t believe one of our own is bad. Not our shift anyway.” Ponch said, looking out the window.
“I doubt it too, Ponch. Can you see any of the guys involved in something like this?”
Ponch had to laugh. “No way, man.”
Jon sighed as he thought about the people he’d worked with for years. Every morning he saw the same faces. Could one of them be capable of something like this? It was impossible, just impossible.
“Hey, Baker, listen to this!” Ponch exclaimed, reading from the paper.
“Sources close to the case said that the link to the officer was a 1983 Dodge Sedan, found abandoned in the Hollywood Hills after being reported stolen by its owner, an unidentified businessman from Bakersfield. The car, with heavy front end damage, allegedly received after it drove through a police roadblock, was found to contain at least three of the officers prints…..”
“I don’t believe it…that’s the guy we were chasin!” Jon said in disbelief.
“Yeah, no wonder he didn’t want to stop!” Ponch replied with a wry grin. “Aw man…I’m glad they got him.”
“Yeah, me too,” Ponch said, ” job’s hard enough as it is, without him giving us a bad name.”
Jon was silent for a minute. “You think he was working alone?”
Ponch folded the paper and shoved it under the seat. “I hope so partner. I hope so.”
* * * * *
“Ladies and Gentleman, this is Captain Van Cise. Welcome to New York City. We’ll be landing in 15 minutes. Please return your trays to the upright position. I hope you enjoyed your flight and thank you for flying United.”
Jon awoke with a start. He turned and looked at Ponch, who was slumped against the window, snoring softly. Jon laughed and shook his head. “C’mon sleeping beauty, wake up, we’re here.” Jon said, shaking him.
“I’mwake…I’m awake..” Ponch said sleepily.
Jon glanced at his watch. 3pm. Then he grinned sheepishly as he remembered he wasn’t on Pacific Time anymore. He turned his watch ahead to 6pm. Jet Lag here I come, he thought to himself.
Ponch stirred next to him and sat up, blinking. “Here already?”
“Yep. Don’t forget to turn your watch ahead.”
“Huh? Is it Daylight Savings or something?”
Jon laughed. “Ponch, we crossed three time zones, remember?”
Ponch grinned. “Oh yeah, we did, didn’t we.”
Jon clapped him on the shoulder as they got ready to leave. “Don’t worry, you’ll feel it soon enough.”
* * * * *
They stepped into the New York air, glad to be up and moving. The early June evening was warm. “Well what’s next Ponch? Grab a taxi?” Jon asked.
“No way man…too much of a hassle, too expensive. We’ll take the subway.” Ponch told him, heading for the entrance.
“The subway? What do you know about the New York subway?” he replied.
Ponch tapped the cover of his guidebook. “It’s all right here, old buddy.”
“Somehow that doesn’t give me a feeling of security.” Jon said, following him over to the token booth.
“C’mon partner! You patrol the freeways of L.A. all day and you’re afraid of the subway?” Ponch teased, handing the stony-faced collector behind a wall of battered, dirty plastic a 10 dollar bill. Without changing expression, she shoved handful of tokens towards him. “Thanks!” Ponch said,flashing his grin. He handed Jon a token and put the rest in his pocket. The collector didn’t even blink.
“Which one do we take?” Jon asked, looking at the maze of signs.
Ponch grinned. “We’re taking the A-Train all the way.”
Jon rolled his eyes. “Lead the way.”
They went down a flight of crumbling concrete stairs, its surface marred with gum and grime. The platform wasn’t much better. The ground filthy, with puddles of something that might have been water here and there. Ponch wrinkled his nose. “Man, what’s that smell?”
“I’d rather not find out.” Jon replied. As they laughed, the train rumbled into the station. They got aboard, lugging their bags behind them. There were no empty seats, so they grabbed one of the chrome poles by the doors. Jon looked around. Discarded newspapers and coffee cups littered the floor, as the passengers sat sullenly, some buried in a book or a briefcase, others swaying to a Walkman, still others just staring into space. Sitting next to Ponch was a young man, maybe 20, staring intently at them. Not knowing what to do, Jon smiled briefly, then looked away. The windows and walls were etched with all kinds of graffiti, from the political to the pornographic. Some of it was enough to make even Ponch blush. Just then. the train came to a stop. Ponch felt a tug on his jacket. He turned in time to see the young man next to him bolt with a wallet in his hand.
“HEY!” Ponch yelled, “Hey, he’s got my wallet!!!”
* * * * *
Joe Getraer put a stack of reports in his outbox and sat back, rubbing his eyes. Quitting time. Finally. He looked at the clock and smiled. Baker and Poncherello should be in the Big Apple by now. What he’d give to see Jon’s reactions. He stood up and reached for his jacket.
Joe looked at the man standing in his doorway. He was fairly young, late thirties, maybe forty, his dark hair stylishly cut, wearing a non-descript blue suit. “That would be me. How can I help you?” He held out his hand.
“Agent Forest, DEA. May we talk?”
Joe shook his hand. “Have a seat.”
“Sergeant, I trust you’ve heard about our latest arrest.”
“The CHP officer? Oh yeah…it’s all over the station.” Joe ran a hand over his face.
Forest reached into his briefcase and took out a green file folder. “Sargent, do you know this man?” He placed a picture of an officer in front of him. Light brown, almost blond hair, blue eyes, thin lipped, and clean shaven.
“No, I don’t. I take it this is the officer you arrested?”
“Yes it is. Please keep it to yourself.”
“Of course.” Joe looked at the picture again. “He looks kinda like Jon.” he mused.
“Oh nothing. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“I’d like to question your officers, if that’s okay.”
“Sure, but you’ll have to wait til tomorrow. A-Shift ended awhile ago.”
“Tomorrow will be fine.” Forest replied, reaching for his folder. As he took it, something fell out and hit the floor. Getraer reached over and picked it up.
“A plane ticket?” he asked, handing it back to him.
“Yes, he had that on him when we arrested him. Apparently he was planning a trip.” As Agent Forest slipped it back in the folder, Joe saw the destination on it. New York City.
* * * * *
Jon watched Ponch pace anxiously back and forth in front of him as they waited for the officer behind the desk to notice them. They’d run after the guy who had stolen Ponch’s wallet, but being unfamiliar with the city, hadn’t gotten far. Jon was already beginning to yearn for the safety of a freeway.
“Next!” he barked, as two uniformed men lead a man in cuffs away. As Ponch approached the desk, the officer eyed him warily. “Welcome to the 1-2-8. How can I help ya?”
“My wallet was stolen!” Ponch exclaimed, “We were on the subway and-”
“And you want me to get all available units out there looking for it, right?” the officer interrupted.
“Well…yeah.” Ponch stammered.
“My boy, do you have any idea how many wallets and purses get stolen here every day? Let alone how many get stolen on the subway? Your wallet is probably in some trash can right now, and it will probably be in Fresh Kills by morning. Minus your cash and credit cards, of course.”
He opened his mouth to holler to the next person in line when Jon spoke up. “Excuse me,” he eyed the man’s nameplate, “Sargent Rickey. Fresh Kills? Where’s that?”
The sargent threw his head back and laughed. “It’s not a where, it’s a what. Fresh Kills landfill, the proud home of New York City’s trash.”
Jon looked down. He didn’t enjoy being made fun of. Suddenly he looked back up. “C’mon Ponch forget about it. As long as you’ve still got your badge you’re all right. I’ll lend you some cash.” he turned to leave.
“Badge? Are you two cops?” Sargent Rickey called after them.
They turned around and went back to the desk, ID’s in hand. “We sure are.” Ponch said,”I’m Frank Poncherello, he’s Jon Baker. California Highway Patrol.”
Rickey eyed their badges. “Moleski! Williams!” he barked, drawing the attention of two female detectives at a desk behind him, “Check these two out will ya? They claim to be cops.”
“Now why would we be lying?” Jon asked, his anger rising.
A few minutes later the women returned. “They’re legit Sarge. They’re motor cops with the CHP.”
The Sargent began to laugh. “Ah..wheely boppers…..so you must be here for the fancy convention in town. Now we real cops, we don’t have time for such things.”
Jon bit his tongue. Ponch bristled. “Now wait a minute. I agree our beats are probably nothing like yours, but we’re out there laying it on the line everyday, same as you!”
Rickey’s eyes narrowed. “I just call em as I see em.”
Jon grabbed his badge. “C’mon Ponch, let’s get out of here!”
“Yeah.” Ponch said, his dark eyes flashing with anger.
“Welcome to New York!” Rickey called after them.
* * * *
As soon as the walked into their hotel room, Jon dropped his bags and collapsed on the bed nearest the window. “Aw man, what a day.”
“You’re telling me. Now I gotta cancel all my credit cards. Thanks for covering my part of the room, partner.”
“Don’t worry about it, Ponch. I know you’ll pay me back.” Jon smiled.
“I’m not.” Ponch laughed. “I’m just wondering how you can afford it!”
Jon winked. “That’s easy. I don’t buy all the junk you do.”
“I know,” Ponch laughed, “you just borrow mine!”
Jon stretched and sat up. “What time is it?”
“Wanna call room service?”
“Jon, you read my mind!”
* * * *
The next morning at 8am sharp, two sleepy highway patrol officers made their way to the registration line at the convention’s entrance. As they waited, Jon looked around the sunny lobby. New York sure looked different during the day. Last night he felt like he was in a bad detective movie. This morning things looked bright and clean. As he approached the desk, he noticed two men watching him. One was tall and lean, maybe 50, with a scowl on his handsome face. The other looked like he was Mexican, or maybe Asian, with smooth sharp features and dark hair, slicked back. Jon figured they were fellow convention goers. He smiled at them as he reached the desk. To his surprise they nodded and disappeared.
* * * *
20 minutes later they were on the street in front of the hotel, blinking in the bright sun.
“Well, we’re all set. Looks like we have the rest of the day to ourselves. What should we do?” Jon asked.
Ponch reached into his pocket and pulled out a pair of tickets. “I know what we’re doing tonight.”
“Wait a minute. Are those Yankee tickets?”
Ponch grinned. “They sure are. The hotel concierge got them for me. We’ve got seats on the third baseline for the Yankees-A’s game tonight!”
“Sounds great. But what should we do until then?”
“Let’s take the Ferry to the Statue of Liberty.” Ponch suggested.
“I’m game. Can we stop at Ellis Island? I’ve always wanted to check that out.”
“Yeah me too. Oh, and don’t forget, Grossie wants some souvenirs.”
Jon laughed as they headed down the street. “I wonder why he didn’t come? This is definitely Grossie’s thing.”
“Hey, you know Grossie. He says flying upsets his…how did he put it…his delicate sinuses.”
They both laughed. Ponch pulled out his guidebook. “We have gotta go check out Rockerfeller Center! NBC Studios are there ya know.”
“So? Jon, NBC is responsible for some of the best shows on TV!” Jon shrugged.
“I don’t watch that much TV, you know that. I want to check out the Museum of Natural History.”
Ponch nodded. “Okay. I want to check out the nightlife!”
“C’mon man…don’t you want to know what New York girls are like?”
“COMIN THROUGH!!” yelled someone behind them. They jumped out of the way just as a bike messenger, his bag packed with packages, sped by, jumping the curb. Jon and Ponch just stared.
“He’s lucky I left my pinch book at home!” Ponch said finally.
* * * * *
When the Statue of Liberty ferry headed into New York Harbor, Jon and Ponch were on the upper deck, enjoying the breeze and the sunshine. Behind them was Manhattan, the World Trade Center towering over them. To the right was New Jersey, to the left, Brooklyn, its namesake bridge sparkling in the sun, and Governor’s Island, a Coast Guard station. A bright orange Staten Island ferry boat chugged by them, headed for the island.
“Amazing.” Ponch said softly.
“I know…and we thought L.A. was a big city!” Jon said.
“Oh it is, partner…but this…” They were silent for awhile. “Hey Jon, have you ever been this far east?”
Jon didn’t answer right away. “Once.”
“Really? Where did you go?”
“D.C. Look! There she is.” They both watched as the boat approached the statue.
“Wow…” Jon said softly.
“Yeah….this is what it’s all about, ya know?” Ponch replied, not taking his eyes off it. As the ferry docked, Jon caught sight of two men on the lower deck. They looked oddly familiar. By the time he and Ponch had made their way off the ferry, the two men had disappeared in the crowd. Jon put it out of his head. You’ve been a cop too long, he thought. Relax and be a tourist for once.
* * * * *
“HOT DAWGS! GET YOUR HOT DAWGS!” Jon grinned as he and Ponch took their seats along the third base line.
“Wow..would you look at this place?”
“I know!” Ponch said, “there’s so much history here. The Babe, Mantle…”
“Yeah,” Jon laughed,”makes me wish I’d kept my old baseball card collection.”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” boomed the PA system, “welcome to historic Yankee Stadium, home of the legendary New York Yankees! The snack bar areas are located on the odd levels. Beer is not sold after the 7th inning. Enjoy the game!”
“Ponch,” Jon said suddenly, “how did you buy these tickets without any money?”
“Relax partner. I called my mom in Chicago early this morning. She wired some cash to the hotel. I couldn’t let you pay for everything!” Ponch smiled.
Before Jon could answer, they were drowned out by a chorus of boos as the Oakland A’s starting pitcher jogged in from the bullpen.
“Hey, they’ve got Allen starting, huh?” Jon said.
“Yeah. He’s okay I guess. 3.10 ERA is a little high though.”
“Ponch, it’s one of the lowest in the league!”
“They never should have gotten rid of Paulson.”
“C’mon Ponch, what was he doing for them? Only thing he was good at was giving up home runs.”
“NOW TAKING THE FIELD, YOUR NEW YAWK YANKEES!!” A tremendous cheer went up around the stadium.
* * * * *
“Aw man!” Ponch shouted as the A’s third baseman, Carney Landsford, grounded out to Don Mattingly to end the A’s half of the inning. It was the 6th inning, and the Yankees were up, 7 to 5. “What was that? My mother can hit better than that!” he shouted. Jon took a bite of his hot dog and shook his head, marking the play on his scorecard.
“Face it Ponch, the Yankees have a better pitcher.”
“What’s this? 1 day in New York and you’re turning into a Yankee fan?” Ponch laughed.
“Now up, outfielder Dave Winfield” the PA announced. The pitcher shook off two pitches, then nodded, went to his windup, and threw. “Crack!” The ball was headed right for them. Ponch stood up and caught it, ignoring the sharp sting that it sent through his hands.
“Hey! Alright Ponch!” Jon said with a grin.
* * * * *
It was after midnight when they got back to the hotel. The A’s lost, 12- 7, but they both agreed the game had been fun anyway. Jon kicked his shoes off and sat down on his bed. He was looking forward to a good night’s sleep. He yanked his shirt over his head as Ponch emerged from the bathroom.
“Hey, what are you doing?”
Jon opened his suitcase and took out a pair of pajama bottoms. “I’m getting ready for bed, why?”
“Bed? At this hour? C’mon Jon! Let’s go hit the clubs!”
“No thanks Ponch. I’m bushed.”
“Jon, you’re in New York! The city that never sleeps!”
Jon laughed as he folded his jeans and put them on a chair. “Yeah, well this is the kid who does. Go ahead without me, Ponch. Have fun. Oh, and be careful, huh?”
“Don’t worry about me partner.”
* * * * *
Jon awoke promptly at 5:45am, like he did everyday. His body protested, telling him the clock was lying, and it was only 2:45am. The soft snoring coming from the other bed told him Ponch had made it home okay. Sighing, he turned over. He was just about to fall back asleep when the phone rang.
” ‘Lo?” he answered sleepily.
“Central Park, 9:30.” said a deep voice.
“What? Listen, I think you have the wrong-” He was interrupted by a dial tone.
* * * * *
As Jon showered and got dressed, he couldn’t get the mysterious call out of his mind. Was it really a wrong number? The two men he’d seen on the ferry and at the convention kept coming back to him. Could it be related? He thought idly about showing up, but even he knew Central Park was huge. Chances are whoever it was would never find him. He left a note for Ponch and went out to get the paper and some breakfast. After picking up the Daily News and some muffins and coffee, he walked down the street. Opening his paper he thumbed through it. An item under National News caught his eye.
“(AP)Seattle- Two Washington State Troopers have been suspended pending an investigation into allegations that they were involved in a drug trafficking network in which drugs were smuggled in expensive cars being shipped out of state….”
He folded the paper shut and flagged down a cab. “Central Park.” he said. climbing in. Jon stepped out of the cab and looked around. Behind him was Central Park, its 843 acres of forest, grass, lakes, and meandering paths teaming with people. Couples and students lounged under trees, people tossed frisbees to their dogs, and joggers, walkers, roller skaters, and baby strollers filled the paths. Some people sketched, others read or talked, still others sat quietly with their thoughts or slept. I must be crazy…how am I ever going to find these guys? Jon thought to himself. I need help. He waited for the light to turn, then joined the throng of people crossing the street. He jogged over to a pay phone, dug a quarter out of his pocket, and dialed.
“Hullo?” Ponch’s sleepy voice answered.
“Ponch it’s me. Listen, get dressed and meet me over at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”
“Huh? Man, what’s going on?”
“I don’t have time to explain. Just get over here, okay?”
“All right all right…I’m on my way.”
Jon hung up and sat down on the massive stone steps of the museum. Crowds of schoolchildren, art students, and tourists walked by. He glanced at his watch. 8:12. At a quarter to 9, a yellow cab pulled up and Ponch stepped out, looking less than happy. He paid the driver and walked over.
“Okay, I’m here. What’s up?”
Jon told him about the mysterious phone call. “Jon, this is New York. People get prank calls all the time. C’mon!”
Jon unfolded the paper. “Ponch, read this. Sound familiar?”
Ponch quickly scanned the article. “Yeah, sounds like the same setup our guy was involved in.”
“It’s the same one, Ponch. It has to be.”
“Yeah, so what if it is?”
“Ponch, I think this article and the call are connected.”
“Jon, you’ve been watching too many bad movies. How could they possibly be connected?”
“I dunno Ponch. It’s just a feeling.”
“Look Jon, if you think something’s going down, turn it over to the NYPD.”
Before Jon could answer, the phone next to him rang. After hesitating a few minutes, he answered it.
“Act normal. We’re watching you. Meet us by the stables.” Dial tone.
“Was what that all about?” Ponch asked.
“That was the same voice that called me this morning. He wants me to meet him by the stables.” Jon said quietly.
“The NYPD has a stable in the park. But how do you know they meant you?” Ponch replied, a knot forming in his stomach.
“They said they were watching me. Tell me how to get to the stables Ponch.”
“No way man, I don’t like this.”
“Ponch, if I don’t do this they are just going to find me anyway.”
“Jon, let’s go to the police. This isn’t our turf, remember?”
“I know Ponch. But if this guy is who I think he is, going to the NYPD is the last thing we want to do.” He told Ponch about the two men at the convention and on the ferry.
“This is heavy man…too heavy. Will you at least call Getraer?” Ponch said with concern.
“Yeah, Ponch. After the meeting. Let’s go.”
* * * * *
A few feet from the stables, Ponch backed off and made himself as inconspicuous as possible. Jon swallowed hard and walked into the stable area. He took a deep breath of horses and hay and relaxed a bit. There were 4 horses there, munching on their breakfasts. Jon barely had time to admire them when the two men approached from around the corner. They were the same two as before.
“Morning. Glad you could make it. Where’s your buddy?”
“I told him to buzz off. Figured you didn’t want him around.”
The tall lean one ran a hand through his graying hair. “Smart man. CHP, right?”
“Officer Ryan I assume?”
Jon fought the urge to correct him. “Right.” he said gruffly.
“Call me Adams.”
“Okay. And him?” Jon motioned to the other man,standing in the corner, his smooth Asian features showing no emotion.
“As long as you do good work for me, you won’t have to worry about him.” Adams paced in front of him, pulling out a cigarette and lighting it with an expensive looking lighter. “Your friend. Going to be a problem?”
“No way. He only does what I tell him to do.”
His lips curved in a crude smile. “Good. You’re exactly what they said you’d be. This should be a very profitable relationship for both of us. You’ll receive more instructions later.”
10 minutes later, after shaking hands, Jon left the stable. As soon as he was far enough away he sat down, willing himself to breath again. He got back up and hurried to meet Ponch. So much for their vacation. He’d just fallen into a nightmare, and he was pretty sure he wouldn’t be waking up any time soon. Jon sat down on the bed and picked up the phone. Ponch was on the extension in the other room of their suite. Taking a deep breath he dialed. “Yeah, Sargent Getraer please.” he said quietly.
* * * * * *
Joe Getraer arrived in his office just as the phone began to ring. Geez, he thought, I can’t even sit down in this place anymore. He grabbed the receiver on the third ring. “Morning, Sargent Getraer’s office.”
“Jon!” Joe said in surprise, taking a seat, “good to hear from you. How’s New York?”
Jon scratched his neck. “Sarge, you’re not going to believe this, but we’ve got a problem.”
Joe sat back and sighed. “Okay, give it to me. What’s Poncherello gotten himself into this time?”
“Hey!” Ponch’s voice protested, “What makes you think it’s me?”
“Oh, hi Frank. You’re on the line too.”
“Yep. And for your information, Jon’s the one who’s gotten himself into something.”
Joe could hear the grin in Ponch’s voice. “Jon? Jon’s in trouble? Not you Frank? Well that’s refreshing.” Joe replied.
“Hey, would you two stop it? This is serious.” Jon snapped.
Something in Jon’s voice concerned him. “Sorry Jon. What’s the problem?”
Jon took a deep breath and told him everything, with Ponch occasionally chiming in. Joe sighed and ran a hand over his face. Looking up he saw Agent Forest walk in. “Jon, sit tight. I’ll get back to you ASAP. What’s the number again? Okay. Bye.” He hung up and gave Forest a hard look. “Sit down Agent Forest. Tell me, the name of the officer you arrested wouldn’t be Ryan, now would it?”
“How do you know that?” Forest demanded.
Joe told him Jon’s story. The agent was quiet for a moment. Then a smile spread over his face.
“Excuse me, but I see nothing amusing about this. One of my officers-my friends-is in danger here!”
“Oh, there’s no danger as long as he continues to play along. And he will. You see Sargent, Adams is the head honcho of the whole operation. He thinks Baker is actually Rick Ryan, the man we arrested. This is perfect!”
“Perfect?? What happens when he finds out Jon isn’t Ryan?” Getraer exclaimed.
“He won’t. We’ve got Ryan in custody, and we’ve made sure his arrest was kept out of the news. Nobody knows his name. As far as the world knows it was just an anonymous arrest. Sargent, how can I contact Officer Baker?”
“I’ve got the number of his hotel. But I’m not giving it to you until you tell me exactly what your plans are for my officer.”
Forest stood up and began to pace. “Very well Sargent. My people have been trying to infiltrate that organization for months. It’s the only way to get the information we need to bring it down for good. Officer Baker seems to have fallen right in. Provided he can continue his good acting, he will be our link. He can get us the information.”
“Are you serious? Jon’s a CHP officer, not some sort of secret agent! You could get him killed!”
“That’s highly unlikely.”
“Oh? So can you guarantee me his life won’t be placed in immediate danger?” Joe demanded, his steely blue eyes flashing. The agent was silent. “Didn’t think so.”
“Call your officer Sargent.”
“On one condition. You let Jon decide what he wants to do. If he wants to take this assignment from you, so be it. If he doesn’t, that’s the end of it.”
Joe sighed and began to dial.
* * * * *
“What??” Ponch exclaimed.
“Jon, you don’t have to do this.” Getraer’s worried voice added.
Jon sat silently, trying to digest what he’d just heard. They want me to go undercover for the DEA?
“Officer Baker,” Agent Forest’s cold, calm voice said, “you have the opportunity to be instrumental in taking millions of dollars of drugs off the street.”
“You don’t understand…I’m not a drug agent..sure I’ve done undercover work before, but…”
“Officer Baker, the choice is yours. If you choose not to assist us, then so be it, but then you can expect this operation to continue. If you do assist us we could shut it down in a matter of weeks.”
“That’s not fair!” Ponch exclaimed, “don’t go laying some kind of guilt on him. He didn’t ask for this mess you know!”
“With all due respect Officer Poncherello, please stay out of this. This concerns Officer Baker and myself. No one else.”
“The hell it doesn’t!” Ponch exploded, “Jon is my partner and my best friend. I’m not going to sit by and let you talk him into a decision that could get him killed!”
“Jon?” Getraer’s voice, it’s anger carefully controlled, asked, “Jon, what do you think?”
“I think,” Jon replied, “that it’s my decision. If I can do something to get these jerks off the street, than I have to do it. I’m a cop.” he took a deep breath. “Okay, Agent Forest. Tell me what to do.” Ponch slammed the extension down angrily. While Jon took down Agent Forest’s instructions, Ponch paced back and forth. He’s crazy, he thought. Baker’s really lost it. When Jon hung up he turned to him.
“Listen Ponch, I-”
“No, you listen! Are you trying to get yourself killed?”
“I’m doing my job.” Jon replied quietly.
“This isn’t our turf man. This isn’t even our league!” Ponch exploded.
“Does that make me any less of a cop? Does that make the badge mean any less?” Jon shot back. “How can I turn my back on this and still call myself a good cop?”
“I never said to turn your back on this. I told you to turn it over to the proper authorities! They had no right-”
“Ponch, it was my decision, remember? I want to do this. I want to bring these guys down, and down hard.”
“So do I partner, so do I, believe me! But I don’t want to lose my partner in the process!”
Jon softened. “Hey, Ponch, look. I understand your concern. And I appreciate it more than you know. Sure I’m scared. But I gotta do this.”
Ponch sighed. “Yeah, I know you do. So what did Agent Forest say?”
Jon ran a hand through his hair. “It sounds pretty simple actually. I just stay here for the rest of the convention, and keep the act up.”
“And when we get back to L.A.?”
“I’m supposed to meet with him and Getraer.”
The two men were silent for a minute. Suddenly Ponch grinned.
“Yeah? What’s so funny?” Jon asked.
“I was just thinking. Man, I talked you in to coming here for a vacation. And look what happened. We got ourselves into another one.”
Jon had to smile. “Yeah, we sure did. Guess we should have known better.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“C’mon Ponch. We’ve always had this talent. Remember the off road race we entered?”
“Correction, you entered. You just dragged me along. Said it would be fun.” Ponch smiled.
“Well, wasn’t it?” Jon grinned.
“Oh sure…I just love spending my days off chasing after mob gold and riding over unexploded mines!”
“Hey, at least we finished the race!” Jon laughed.
“Yeah, no thanks to that Supersport dude.”
“Oh yeah, wasn’t he a barrel of laughs.” Ponch grinned. “Well Mrs. Supersport was sure nice.” he winked.
Jon began to laugh. “Do you remember when Harlan tried to show off on the radio?”
Ponch’s laughter joined him. “Oh man, he tried though, didn’t he?”
The shrill ring of the phone interrupted them. Jon looked at Ponch, then answered it. “Hello. Yeah….Uh-huh…” Jon’s face paled,”No problem, should be easy. Got it. Okay..I’ll be there.” he hung up. “That was Adams. He wants to see me in an hour.” he sat down heavily on the bed.
Ponch sat down next to him. “What’s wrong?”
Jon looked up. “Ponch, I want you to get the next plane out of here, you got it?”
“What? You think I’m leaving you here? No way! We’re partners, remember?”
“Ponch, listen to me! He wants me to get rid of you, understand?”
Ponch stood up. “Wait a minute-”
“No, there’s no time. Get out of town. I’ll figure out something. I’ll tell him I took care of you.”
Ponch was speechless. This was just too much. Ponch and Jon just stared at each other for a few minutes.. neither one knowing what to say. Finally Ponch spoke. “They want you to kill me?” his voice was sharp and quiet.
“All they said was they want you out of the way.”
Ponch relaxed. “Man you had me scared for a minute!”
Jon ducked his head, then looked up. “You wanna know about scared? I’ll tell ya about scared! Ponch, how do you know that’s not what they mean?”
Ponch just grinned. “Consider me out of the way. But I’m not going anywhere.”
“Ponch c’mon, I don’t want you getting mixed up in this. This is my job to do, not yours.”
“Jon, I’ve been mixed up in this since you asked me to meet you at the park! We’re a team, remember?”
Jon sighed. “What I wouldn’t give for a nice, safe, smoggy freeway.”
“Hey, you get to the meeting, I’ll call Getraer.” Ponch watched Jon leave and picked up the phone.
* * * * * *
“WHAT?” Getraer exclaimed, “That does it. I want both of you back in L.A.”
“Believe me Sarge, we wish we were there. This is unbelievable, you know?”
Joe sighed. “I know. Where’s Jon?”
“He’s at another meeting.”
“Okay..sit tight and let me know what happens. Oh- and Frank?”
“You’re not coming home alone, got it?”
“I wouldn’t dream of it Sarge. ”
* * * * * *
“Well?” asked Adams, the sun glinting off his dark glasses, “Did you do the job?”
“It’s been taken care of. He won’t be causing any problems.” Jon said crisply.
“How can you be sure?”
Jon didn’t waver under his stare. “Even a cop has a price.”
Slowly, a smile spread over Adams craggy features. “Excellent. I like you Ryan. We’re gonna go far together.”
“Yeah?” Jon demanded. “Starting when?”
“Starting now. There are people waiting for you in L.A. You’ll be contacted when you get there. The sooner you get there the better.”
“And what do these people want me to do?”
“Very simple. I ship my product out on auto carriers. Nobody ever thinks to check each car. I just need you to be sure my carriers get across the border.”
“Wait a minute. You know where I’m stationed. My beat is nowhere near the border.”
“Doesn’t have to be. I need you to provide information, that’s all. Where there are roadblocks set up, what weigh stations are open, and so forth. Is that a problem?”
“No. No problem.”
“Very good. You’ll be meeting with my Border Patrol contacts back in L.A. Have a good trip.” With that he motioned to his ever present companion and walked away, leaving Jon standing alone in the park.
* * * * *
Ponch paced back and forth in the hotel room. He sighed with relief when he heard a key turn in the door.
“Hey.” Jon said as he walked in.
“How’d it go?” Quickly, Jon filled him in. “Well at least we’re going home.” Ponch said.
Jon suddenly laughed.
“Care to share the joke?”
“I told them I paid you off..can you imagine?”
Ponch grinned. “You couldn’t afford me!”
* * * * *
Jon sighed as he walked into Central. It was good to be home. He walked into the locker room and got into uniform. He stopped as he caught sight of himself in the mirror. The man looking back at him was the same man he’d seen for 36 years, but he felt different. He knew he was just doing a job, but even just pretending to be a bad cop made him feel dirty and sick inside. He reached up and touched his badge for a minute, then slammed his locker shut and walked out.
* * * * *
“Have a seat, Officer Baker.” Agent Forest said.
Jon took a seat across from Getraer’s desk. Ponch leaned against the closed door behind him. “Officer Baker, have you been contacted since your return to L.A.?”
“No I-” the phone interrupted him.
Joe picked it up. “Sargent Getraer speaking. Just a minute.”
“Jon, you’ve got a visitor at the front desk.”
Taking a deep breath he got up and walked out to the lobby. When he got there, the lobby was deserted, but there was a manilla envelope sitting on the counter. He took it and went back to Getraer’s office.
“What’s it say?” Ponch asked.
Jon handed it to him. “SUNSET HOTEL, 8PM”
“Excellent! Excellent!” Forest exclaimed. “We’ll get you wired up before then. If all goes well this could be it.”
* * * * * *
Jon stood bare chested in Getraer’s office as he was wired. His stomach was in a knot, and his heart was pounding. Please let this be the end of it, he thought.
“Okay, you’re all set.”
Jon reached for his t-shirt and yanked it on, then grabbed his shirt. “I sure hope this works.”
Forest watched him, arms folded across his chest. “You and me both, Officer Baker.”
“He’d better have plenty of backup.” Getraer said.
“Don’t worry about that, my men have the place surrounded already.” Jon glanced at his watch. 7:32. “I’d better get going.”
“There’s a car waiting for you outside.” Forest tossed him a set of keys.
“Hey partner,” Ponch said, “good luck!”
“Thanks Ponch..I just hope I don’t need it.”
After Jon left, Getraer turned to Forest. “Aren’t you going to be there?”
“You bet I am.”
“Good. We’re going with you.”
“I don’t recall inviting discussion on the matter.”
Agent Forest threw his hands up. As they were about to leave, the phone rang. “Sargent Getraer.” Joe listened, an angry flush spreading over his face. “WHAT? What do you mean, released?? By who??. No damn it, he already left!” he slammed the phone down.
“What is it Sarge? What’s going on?” Ponch asked.
Getraer glared at Forest. “The real Officer Ryan was released earlier today. They think he’s made contact with Adams. If he has, Jon’s going into a trap!”
“Oh my God..” Ponch said, his face pale.
“But that’s impossible…my people-” Forest stuttered.
“Your people screwed up, and it may cost Baker his life!” Getraer snapped, furious and terrified.
“Sarge, we’ve got to stop him!” Ponch exclaimed.
“I know Frank. Try and catch up with him. I’m going to put an APB out.”
Ponch was already gone.
Ponch gripped the wheel of his Firebird, his foot inching the gas pedal further and further to the floor. His dark eyes scanned the street around him. As he turned the corner, his eyes fell on a dark green sedan in front of him. He grabbed the radio. “Sarge, it’s Ponch. Do you read?”
“Go ahead Frank.” Joe Getraer’s worried voice responded.
“Sarge, I found him. I’m gonna pull him over now.” Ponch’s voice was filled with relief.
Before Ponch could respond, a black sedan pulled up along side Jon’s car. As Ponch watched helplessly, the man inside pulled out a gun and began to fire.
“L.A. Any units in the vincity of Sunset and Brenton..Shots fired! Repeat shots fired! Officer needs help!” Ponch yelled into the radio.
Meanwhile, Jon was running on pure adrenaline as he tried to dodge the bullets and keep control of the car. It felt like his heart was going to pound itself right out of his chest. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the sedan disappeared. Jon screeched to a stop and slumped over the steering wheel. Ponch stopped behind him and ran to the car, the sound of sirens growing louder behind him.
“Baker, you alright? Jon, talk to me!” he demanded anxiously.
Jon looked up, his face stony with anger. “That’s it. This game is over.”
“What are you talking about? Did you see who shot at you.”
“You better believe it!”
Back at Central, Jon was furious. He paced back and forth in Getraer’s office until Agent Forest arrived. “You’ve got a lot of explaining to do, mister. Just who are you anyway? Do you know what attempted murder of a police officer gets you in this state?” Jon exploded.
“Now wait just a minute,” Getraer interjected, “just what the hell are you getting at, Baker?”
“Sarge, this is the guy who shot at me. I’ll testify to it in any court.”
“What??” Getraer exclaimed.
“Officer Baker, you are obviously mistaken. Take some time to clear your head-” Forest began coolly.
“My head is clear thank you! And you tried to blow it off. I’ll swear to it.” Jon snapped.
“Come to think of it,” Getraer said quietly, “You disappeared right after the call came in.”
“Well of course Sargent. I had to get to the scene as soon as possible. for Baker’s safety.”
“You set me up!” Jon replied angrily,” you knew all along that the real Ryan had been released. You wanted me to get killed all along. When Sarge got the call you decided to do the job yourself!”
“Officer Baker, why would I want you killed?”
“Because I was doing my job. It makes sense now. You’ve been dirty from the start. You picked me to go undercover because you figured I had no idea what I was doing. You used me to look good with your department!”
Forest’s eyes narrowed. “You can’t prove a word of that.”
The phone rang. “Sargent Getraer’s office.” Ponch answered. He listened quietly, then hung up the phone. “He doesn’t have to, Forest. That was the LAPD. They picked up Ryan and Adams a few minutes ago, and it seems they are more than happy to spill their guts for a deal.”
Getraer stood up and reached for his cuffs. “Agent Forest, you’re under arrest for the attemped murder of a CHP officer. You have the right to remain silent….”
After Forest was taken away, Ponch turned to his partner, his brown eyes filled with amazement. “How did you manage to figure all that out?”
“It sort of fell into place when I realized he was the one shooting at me, Ponch. I’d had a bad feeling about him from the start.The rest was just a lucky guess.”
“Lucky is right. The word from downtown is they can’t shut Adams and Ryan up.” Ponch grinned.
“Good. I hope they all go away for a long time.” Jon’s smile was filled with relief.
“Me too, ol buddy, me too.” Ponch said as they walked into the warm night.
The next day, under a bright sunny sky, they met up with Grossie and Bonnie for lunch.
“Hey Jon, you look beat.” Grossie greeted them. “You too Ponch.”
“Thanks Grossie.” Jon replied, sitting down.
“You know what you two need?”
“No, but I bet you’re gonna tell us.” Ponch said.
“You need a nice vacation.”
Jon and Ponch looked at each other and rolled their eyes.
“No thanks Grossie. We’ll take a nice smoggy freeway anyday.” Ponch replied with a grin.
“Yeah,” Jon added, “there’s no place like home.”
No comments yet.