CHiPs Chronicles

The continuing adventures of Jon & Ponch

“The First Step”


“Hey you two, not so fast.” Joe Getraer’s voice called.

California Highway Patrol Officers Jon Baker and Frank Poncherello stopped in their tracks and turned around, Ponch’s hand resting on the door leading out to their motors.

“What’s up Sarge?” Jon asked.

“The CHP Peer Outreach Program has been approved by Sacramento on a trial basis. They want two volunteers from each station.”

Jon and Ponch looked at each other and sighed. “And you want us to volunteer, right?” Ponch asked.

“Finally Frank, we understand each other.” Joe Getraer smiled.

“Wait a minute Sarge-” Jon protested.

“Let’s talk about this in my office, shall we?”

***************************************************

“Look fellas, I know I’m asking you for a big commitment, but I think you two are the best for the job. Everyone around here likes you. They trust you. That’s what this program needs.”

“Joe, c’mon-do you even think this program will do any good?” Ponch  asked, shoving his helmet under his arm.

Getraer looked at Jon. “Ask your partner. It was his idea.”

As Ponch turned to look at him, Jon rested his hands on his belt and sighed. “Whoa. It was not my idea exactly. Grossie and I were talking about his article in the CHP magazine about job stress.  I mentioned that  it was too bad there’s no one for the ones in trouble to talk to, and  Grossie just ran with it.”

“Well whoever came up with the idea, it’s a good one. We all know  how stressful this job can be. I’m asking you as a favor to me-give it a  try. I think you both can do a lot of good. ”

Silence fell over the room for a moment. “Okay Sarge. I’m game.”

Jon said finally.

Ponch looked at Jon and smiled. “Yeah, me too.”

“Thanks fellas. I’ll let you know when training starts.”

*******************************************************

“I dunno man…it’s a big responsibility, being trusted to help solve someone else’s problems.”

“Ponch, I’m not sure we’re supposed to solve anything. Sometimes it helps just to listen.” Jon’s voice was quiet.

They were off-duty, sitting in Sal’s Bar&Grill, waiting for  Grossie to join them.

Ponch gazed thoughtfully at his partner. “Something tells me you really know what you’re talking about.”

Kinda. I went to a counselor for awhile when I got back from Nam. It wasn’t easy, but it really helped. “Jon said, his voice low.

Before Ponch could respond, Grossie arrived. “Hi guys. Ready to

order?”

“We’ve been ready for half an hour. Where have you been?” Ponch

replied.

“I had to turn my article in. Almost missed deadline.”

“Are you a cop or a reporter?” Jon asked with a grin.

“I like to think I’ve conquered both fields.”

Jon and Ponch looked at each other and laughed as a waitress  approached.

Grossie rubbed his hands together.  “Let’s order, I’m starved!”

“Hey, did you say you’re a cop?” the waitress asked.

Jon looked up. “We all are, why?”

A look of relief washed over her face. “Hold on just one minute.” she disappeared into the crowd.

The three men exchanged puzzled looks. A second later, the waitress  returned.

“Um…we have a bit of a problem at the bar. I sure hope you can help.”

They followed her across the room to the small bar. As they approached, a loud drunken voice filled the air.

“Don’t you know who I am? I have connections ya know, connections!  And I want another scotch!”

Grossie turned to Ponch. “That voice sounds familiar-”

“I don’t believe it.” Jon said as they came upon the source of the  voice.

“Isn’t that Brent Delaney?” Ponch exclaimed.

Delaney turned his gaze on the three men. “Well if it isn’t Baker and Poncherello. God’s Gift to the CHP!”

Brent was disheveled and disoriented. An empty bottle of scotch sat on the bar next to him.  His blue eyes were puffy and bloodshot, and his jeans and wrinkled oxford shirt hung on his skinny frame. He was unshaven and in need of a haircut.

“Officers, he’s had a little too much. Can you see that he gets home okay?” the bartender asked, clearly annoyed.

“Sure. C’mon Brent, lets go for a walk.”  Ponch reached over and hauled him to his feet.

“Get your hands off of me!” Brent yelled, twisting away, fists  flying.

“Hey Brent, relax okay? Do you really want to get yourself arrested? Do ya?” Jon yelled.

Brent glared at him, then turned and stormed out of the restaurant. They followed him out to the parking lot. As Brent reached for the door of a shiny late model BMW, Jon stopped him.

“Don’t be stupid, okay? We both know you’re in no shape to drive.”

Brent looked up, hatred in his eyes. “Why don’t you all just leave me the hell alone?”

Ponch walked up behind Jon. “Fine, if that’s what you want. But you’re not driving home. It’s us, a cab or you can walk. It’s up to you man.”

C’mon Brent, let me give you a ride home so you can sleep it off, okay?” Jon asked.

Without a word, Brent handed Jon his keys.  The ride home was a silent one. Jon resisted the urge to lecture Brent, knowing it would be a waste of breath. The small cab of the truck was filled with the smell of alcohol. Jon made a face and rolled down his window. He pulled into the posh condo complex where Brent lived.

“Nice place. Which one?”

“48.” Brent slurred.

Jon parked and watched Brent stumble out. “Hey, need a hand?” he called.

Brent slammed the truck door shut in response. Jon watched him stagger inside and then drove away, his heart heavy and his mind troubled.

**********************************************************

“Jonny…Jonny, wake up!”

“Danny, what’s wrong?”

“Uncle Pete’s hurt, c’mon!”

Still sleepy eyed, Jon got up and followed his brother downstairs.

Pete sat sprawled in a chair, blood caked in his thick blond hair and running down the side of his unshaven face. He looked up at them, his bloodshot blue eyes uncomprehending. Jackson Baker was standing over his brother, a mixture of anger and sadness on his face.

“What happened?” Jon asked.

“Jonny, put your boots on. I need you and your brother to help me get Uncle Pete over to Doc Petersons.”  Jackson replied, ignoring the question.

Jon obeyed and followed his brother over to the table. As he got there the smell of whiskey overwhelmed him.

“Aw Uncle Pete-”

“Hush boy. Help me get him into the car.”

************************************************************

“Dad please…Mom’s worried. Let’s go home.”

“Not until I know your uncle is gonna be okay.”

“C’mon Dad..why do you even bother with him?”

Jack Baker whirled around in anger. “He’s family! Would you boys do any differently for each other? For me?”

Jon looked at his brother and swallowed hard. “No sir. I suppose not.”

Jack softened and put his arm around Jon’s shoulder. “Your uncle is hurting, Jonny. He ain’t been the same since he lost your Aunt Katherine. Drinking is his way of hiding from it. But he’ll be okay, you’ll see. We Bakers take care of each other. Never turn your back on family or friend, remember that son.”

Jon returned from his thoughts with a start. He ran a hand through  his hair and tried to relax. The clock read 3:15. He put down the book he’d been trying to read and sighed. Sleep was just not going to come tonight.

***************************************************

“Hey partner, you look like you didn’t sleep a wink last night.” Ponch said the next morning as they waited for briefing to begin.

“I didn’t. I couldn’t stop thinking about Brent.”

“Yeah. It’s too bad. I talked to a friend of mine over in West L.A.  Brent’s on suspension for showing up for duty drunk. Unbelievable. That’s not the Brent I knew.”

“Too bad. Wish we could help him somehow.”

“Hey, maybe the peer counselors at his station will do some good.”

“Lets hope so. Brent was a good cop.”

Getraer walked in and set his notebook on the podium. Okay listen  up……”

Jon’s thoughts drifted back to when they’d  first meet Brent, a brash, obnoxious rookie. They couldn’t stand him at first, but Brent had surprised them all and turned into a good cop. Jon  glanced at Ponch and smiled.  Kinda like another brash young rookie he used to  know.

“Hey Baker, care to share the joke?” Getraer said, breaking into his thoughts. Scattered laughter filled the room.

Jon looked up. “What? Oh sorry Sarge-just daydreaming.”

“Yeah, well how about doing that on your own time?”

He managed a smile. “Sorry Sarge.”

Joe nodded. “Okay, hit your beats.”

**************************************************************

“Hey Baker, care to let me in on where we’re going?” Ponch called  over the roar of their motors, “Last time I checked, the freeway was that way.”

“I just want to check on Brent. Make sure he’s all right.”

“Man…you know Jon, one of these days you’re going to have to realize you can’t change the world.”

“Doesn’t hurt to try, now does it?”

Ponch’s laughter was carried in the wind. ” I thought I would have  corrupted you at least a little bit by now.”

Jon’s laughter joined Ponch’s as they swung into Brent’s complex.

“Sorry to disappoint ya, but hey, the kid-”

“Jon!  Look out!” Ponch yelled.

Jon jerked his head around in time to see a blue BMW headed straight  for him. He swerved out of the way just in time, hit the curb, and tumbled off his bike into the bushes. He scrambled to get up, swearing under his breath.

“I’m all right!” he yelled, “Go get em!”

Ponch nodded and roared off, siren wailing. Jon righted his motor and reached for the radio.

“L.A., 7 Mary 3. Mary 4 is in pursuit of a reckless driver, in a late model blue BMW last seen heading east on Mulberry.” he said breathlessly.

“10-4 Mary 3.””

Brushing himself off, Jon climbed back on his motor and took off.  He hadn’t gone more than a mile or so when he came upon Ponch and the BMW.  Ponch, furious, was yelling at Brent.

“What’s with you man? You could have killed Jon, you know that?  Put your right hand on your head. NOW.”

Dejected and weary, Brent did as he was told. He looked up as Jon approached.

“Jon! Look, I’m sorry..it was an accident..I didn’t see you!”

“Save it for the judge, okay? How much have you had to drink today?” Ponch snapped.

“I haven’t been drinking!” Brent exclaimed, “Honest. Give me a breath test if you don’t believe me. Or a sobriety test. I don’t care. I’m dead sober.”

“I know you don’t care. You’re lucky Jon isn’t dead!”

“Ponch, lay off!” Jon interjected.

“Jon-” Ponch began to protest.

“Ponch, I said that’s enough. Let me talk to him, okay?”

Ponch looked at them both, pushing his sunglasses up. “Yeah,okay.”

Slowly he turned and walked over to his motor.

Jon watched him go then turned back to Brent, yanking his helmet  off. “Brent, what the hell is going on? You’re not the Brent I used to know. That Brent was a pretty good cop, if I remember.”

“I’m a damn good cop.” Brent replied firmly, folding his arms

across his chest.

“Then why did you get yourself suspended?” Jon asked, irritated.

“Why do you even care?” he retorted.

“Brent, I’m your friend. I want to-”

“WERE my friend. I haven’t heard from you, Ponch, or anyone from Central since I was transferred to West L.A. That was 5 years ago. You’re just a guy I used to know.”

The words stung, but Jon couldn’t deny them.

“Look,” he said finally, “You know how crazy this job is. I’m sorry we didn’t stay in touch. If you want my help, you know where to> find me.” he looked up as Baricza’s cruiser pulled up. “It’s up to you.”

***************************************************

“Look, I’m not saying I don’t feel for the guy. But c’mon Jon.

It’s not your problem.”

“Ponch, we’re becoming peer counselors, remember? Doesn’t that make it our problem?”

Ponch stood in front of the vending machine in the break room, digging in his pocket for change. “No. It makes it the peer counselors at HIS station’s problem. If he chooses to even say anything.” he found two quarters and dropped them in the machine, watching as the package of Ding Dongs he chose dropped. He grabbed them and sat down across from Jon.

“Okay Partner, talk to me. Why are you taking this so personally?”

Jon gulped his coffee. “It’s private, okay Ponch?”

Ponch bit into a Ding Dong and chewed thoughtfully. He swallowed and then said in a low voice, “Jon…um…you didn’t used to have a drinking problem, did you?”

“No Ponch, I didn’t, okay? Would you please just drop it?” There was irritation in Jon’s voice.

Ponch swallowed the last of his Ding Dong and stood up, grabbing his helmet. “Okay, I get it. Sorry for caring.” he tossed the wrapper into the trash and walked out.

Jon sighed. “Ponch wait-”

He got up and hurried to the door in time to see Ponch disappear outside. He sagged against the doorjamb and ran a hand through his thick hair. If this keeps up, I’m gonna need a damned peer counselor.

*******************************************

“Damn it Ponch, pick up!” Jon slammed the phone down in frustration. Ponch had barely spoken to him the rest of the afternoon, and now he was refusing to answer the phone. Jon hated it when Ponch was mad at him. He wasn’t used to it. Usually Ponch was the one driving him crazy.

He reached into the fridge and took out a carton of milk. He poured  himself a glass and downed it.  Picking up the empty glass to put it in the sink, he stopped and stared at it. I could use a beer. The thought came into his mind so suddenly it startled him. He put the glass down and reached for the phone again.

“Hullo?” a tired voice answered.

“Hey Uncle Pete, didn’t wake you did I?” Jon said, taking a seat at  the breakfast bar.

“Jonny! Good to hear from ya son. No, didn’t wake me. Just had a long day. We moved the horses to the south field today.”

“Sorry I couldn’t be there to help.”

Jon could hear the laughter in Pete’s voice. “No you’re not. You love it out there. Do you even remember how to ride a horse anymore? They  ain’t as fancy as that motorcycle of yours.”

Jon laughed. “Hey that’s not fair. I ride Ole Gray every weekend and you know it.”

“What about that partner of yours, Ponch? He ride?”

Jon laughed harder.  “He doesn’t ride anything that doesn’t have brakes.”

Pete sighed. “City boys.”

Jon’s laughter died. “Pete, can I ask you something personal?”

“Well I suppose so. Ain’t got no secrets worth keepin anyways.”

Jon was silent a moment. “Um..What..I mean…how did you stop drinking?”

Pete coughed.  “Well Jonny, it wasn’t easy. You know how bad things was. I never forgave myself for what I put you and your brother through. Anyways, one day I realized that all the whiskey in the world wasn’t gonna bring your Aunt Katherine back. I looked in the mirror and I hated what I saw. Your daddy had even given up on me. My son had disowned me. I had a granddaughter I didn’t even know. Then one night a few days later I was driving down Old Birch Lane when this horse just came outta nowhere. Big beautiful stallion he was. He just ran across the road. Scared the hell outta me. Slammed my brakes and ended up kissin the tree in front of McCormack’s Hardware store. I left the truck there and walked the rest of the way. I figured that was God’s way of givin me a slap upside the head. Next mornin I found myself outside the AA meeting at the church.  I almost walked away, but then a voice in my head said, damn it Pete, if Jonny can get through his war, you can get through yours.”

Jon searched for something to say.

“Jonny, why you asking? There something you’re not tellin me?”

“No, it’s just there’s this friend of mine. Another officer. I trained him years ago. I just found out he has a drinking problem.

I want to help him but I don’t know how.”

“Oh Jonny, some things never change. When you were six you gave your new jacket to the Wilkenson boy when you found out his family was too poor to buy him one of his own. When you were 12 you helped Mrs. Diaz pass her citizenship test. I see you’re still tryin to change the world.” he laughed softly.

“Someone’s gotta try, right?”

“Jonny, I’m sorry. This is one time when you have to let someone help  themself. Your friend won’t stop drinking until he’s good and ready.  Until he’s so sick of it he’d rather die than drink another beer or down another shot. Once he reaches that point, then you can get him the help he needs. ”

“Maybe you’re right, Pete. Maybe I just ought to let him be.”

“Jonny, your mom always used to say that my drinkin was between me and God, and God would tend to it when it was time.”

Mom was pretty smart, wasn’t she?”

“Sure was. Just look at her son.”

**************************************************************

When Jon walked into the lobby at Central the next afternoon, his mind was still on his conversation with Pete. And then there was Ponch.

Jon sighed and shook his head.

“Bad morning?”

Jon looked up to find Marcia, the pretty front desk clerk, smiling at him, a package in her hands. He grinned sheepishly, hands on his hips.

“Yeah, you could say that. Hey, you got a present?”

Marcia laughed, dark eyes sparkling. “Yeah, for you. Came special delivery this morning.” she handed it to him.

“Thanks. Catch ya later.”

She blushed. “I hope so.”

****************************************************************

Jon carried the package into the report room and sat down. He reached for his pocket knife and carefully opened the box. Inside was a note and a small envelope.

“Proof that miracles happen.” Pete’s rough handwriting said on the note, “May God bless your friend the way He’s blessed me.”

Jon put the note down and opened the envelope. A heavy brass medallion slid into his palm. On one side the number 15 was etched into the brass inside a triangle. On the other side was the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

Jon ran his fingers over the words and picked up Pete’s note again.

“The number signifies the number of years of sobriety. AA gives each member a medallion on the anniversary of the beginning of their sobriety. I got this last week.”

Jon put the note down, tears blurring his sight.

“Hey you okay?” Ponch’s voice said.

Jon shoved the medallion and note in his pocket. “Yeah Ponch. Listen about yesterday-”

Ponch sat down across from him and sighed. “Jon, you don’t have to. I’m sorry. I overreacted, and I shouldn’t have pressed you so hard in the first place. Okay?”

Jon opened his mouth to say something, then closed it. Suddenly he grinned. “I’m sorry too Ponch. Still partners?”

Ponch looked up from his report and grinned. “Forever, Baker.”

*********************************************************

As the next few weeks passed, Jon tried to keep tabs on Brent, with little success. A week after he and Ponch completed their Peer Counselor training, he came home from a date and found Brent sitting outside his door. He looked tired and troubled, a weeks growth of whiskers covering his handsome face, his jeans and polo shirt rumpled. As Jon reached his door, he looked up with bloodshot eyes.

“Jon I…I don’t know where else to go. I want help….I don’t want to drink anymore.”

Jon opened his door, then reached a hand out to Brent. “C’mon in.”

He flipped on the light and put some coffee on. “What brought this on, Brent?”

“I dunno Jon. It just seemed like it was time. It used to be no big  thing, having a few drinks with the guys. But then it was more than that. The guys stopped hanging out, but I didn’t. I didn’t see anything wrong with it- until it was too late. Until there was nothing   RIGHT left. Yeah,it’s time… time to stop wasting my life. I’m 34 years old and I don’t have a thing to show for it. My wife left me, my badge is gone, my family won’t speak to me…..” he was near tears.

Jon reached into his pocket and touched the medallion. then poured two cups of coffee.

“I’ll help you Brent, but only if you’re really wanting to help yourself. This isn’t going to work otherwise.”

Brent looked up with a shuddering breath. “Jon, I have a drinking problem, and I want help.”

****************************************************************

Jon took a seat in one of the metal chairs arranged in a circle. He looked at the handful of pamplets in his lap, determined to learn as much as he could. Sunshine streamed across the blackboard of the small classroom as a young woman stood up.

“Good morning! Do we have any newcomers today?”

Jon looked at the man sitting next to him. He was clean shaven, bright eyed, and nervous as hell. “Go for it.”

The chair creeked as he stood up. “Hi…I’m Brent and I’m an alcoholic.”

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October 20, 2011 - Posted by | Episode Sequels, Fiction

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