CHiPs Chronicles

The continuing adventures of Jon & Ponch

“Walls”


“Morning Grossie.” California Highway Patrol Officer Frank Poncherello said with a grin as he took a seat next to his partner, Jon Baker. 

“Morning Ponch, Jon. You guys got any plans for the long weekend?” the husky officer replied.

“Yeah, work!” Jon exclaimed.

“Don’t tell me you actually got Memorial Day weekend off?” Ponch added.

“Yep. Carol and I are going to take a drive up the coast.”

“Hey, that’s great Grossie. Just keep it under 55, okay?” Ponch said with a wink.

“Very funny Ponch.”

Sargent Joe Getraer walked in, looking harried. He set his notebook on the podium with a thump.

“Okay, listen up. Item one. You all know this weekend is a holiday weekend. The Patrol has added extra men on all shifts. Prepare to be extremely busy folks. Overtime is a distinct possibility.”

Scattered groans filled the air.

“Man, it isn’t fair. When do we get a holiday?” Jed Turner exclaimed.

“Okay, okay, I know how you all feel. I’m working this weekend too, if it makes anyone feel better.”

“Not really.” Barry Baricza grinned.

Joe ignored him. “Okay, next item. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is scheduled to open on Memorial Day. There will be a candlelight ceremony at City Hall that evening to recognize the officers in this state who have lost their lives in the line of duty. So far this year 5 CHP officers have been killed. I expect everyone who can to attend.”

The room was quiet.

“Okay, that’s all. Hit the bricks.”

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

“Hey man, that was really deep, you know?” Ponch said as he and Jon rode out of Central.

“Yeah.” Jon replied, his voice soft.

“Have you read about the memorial in Washington?”

Jon looked up into the sky before he answered, trying to swallow th lump in his throat. “It’s just another wall, Ponch.”

“You know anybody on it?” Ponch asked quietly.

Jon pushed back the sudden anger that welled up inside him. “Yeah I do. Gary. So do you. Remember Andy?” Jon’s voice could barely be heard above the wind.

“Oh my God…Andy!” Ponch said softly. He hadn’t thought about Andy in years. Guilt flooded him. He ducked his head and sped by Jon.

Jon caught up to him and reached over to grab his arm. “You okay?”

“Yeah, let’s pull over for a minute.”

They pulled off the freeway and rode a few miles to the beach. At 9am it was surprisingly empty.

Ponch watched the waves crash against the rocks, his eyes dark and troubled. “My God Jon…I haven’t thought about Andy in so long.”

“Yeah, me either..and the other day I suddenly realized I’d forgotten what Gary looked like. I had to dig through some old pictures.” Jon said, his voice husky with emotion.

The two men were silent as the gulls screamed overhead.

“Man, is that bad or what?” Ponch said finally.

“I dunno Ponch. I guess it just means we’ve been living, you know?”

“Yeah, well then why do I feel so guilty?”

Jon ducked his head. “Cause it just doesn’t make any sense. Why are we here? What are we doing right? What did Gary and Andy do so wrong?”

Ponch sighed. “Who knows partner, who knows?”

“Damn it!” Jon said suddenly, “why is it when people die they put a wall up to remember ’em? All walls do is seperate people!”

Ponch was surprised by his partner’s outburst. “Jon I-”

“I’m sorry Ponch. I don’t know where that came from.”

“Yes you do. I don’t blame you for being angry. Who wants to be a name on a wall?”

Jon looked out into the ocean. In the distance a sailboat floated by with a bright red sail.

“I thought that was something I’d beat. Now I can only hope I’m as lucky in this war.”

“We have been really lucky, haven’t we?” Ponch said.

“Lucky? We’ve been downright blessed!” Jon replied, laughing softly. He looked back out at the sailboat, it’s sail billowing in the wind. Suddenly he grew quiet.

“How long do you think our luck will last?”

Ponch leaned back on his motor. “I don’t ask myself those kinds of questions, Jon. A wise old man once told me you gotta live in the here and now, not the what ifs and if onlys.”

Jon smiled. He’d said that to Ponch on their first day as partners. “Old huh?”

“Yep. 34 going on 70 and taught me everything I know.”

“Thanks Ponch. I-”

“L.A. 7-David. Robbery suspect is in custody.” the radio suddenly blared.

“So ends another battle in the war.” Jon said softly.

“Yeah, but who’s winning?” Ponch asked.

“L.A. Any unit in the vicinity of Melrose and Almond, assist 7-Adam with an arrest. Suspect is intoxicated and belligerent.”

“L.A. 7-Edward responding.”

Jon shook his head. “I bet he won’t remember a thing after he sleeps it off.”

“Yeah, but the people he hurt sure will.” Ponch replied, reaching for his sunglasses.

“Let’s hope it didn’t go that far.”

“Attention all units. 2-11 in progress at the rest station, 405 north near Glendale. Units responding identify.”

“L.A. 7-Mary 3+4 responding!”

As they roared off, the sailboat lowered it’s sail and disappeared over the horizon.

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

Later, they joined Bonnie, Baricza, and Grossman for lunch. A headline on Grossie’s newspaper caught Jon’s eye as he sat down.

“POPULAR COMEDIAN CRITICIZED FOR COP BASHING JOKE”

“Cop bashing joke,” Jon said, “now that’s an oxymoron if ever I heard one.”

“Yeah, really. That guy ought to spend a day on the beat with us. That would sure change his mind.” Baricza added.

“You know what really burns me? Who do you think he’s gonna run to if he gets into trouble?” Ponch said.

“You guys going to the ceremony Monday? Bonnie asked.

“Sure are.”

“I was thinking about taking some time off and going to D.C. to see the new memorial. Might make a good story for the CHP magazine.” Grossie said.

“PIGS!” a voice shouted as a dark van drove by.

“Bonnie rolled her eyes. Jon just shook his head.

“Obviously someone with too much time on their hands.” said Grossman.

“Nice to be appreciated, huh?” Ponch added.

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

Monday evening arrived warm and breezy. As everyone gathered around City Hall, the sun set in a blaze of of crimson and yellow. After a flurry of speeches candles were passed around and lit. Jon and Ponch stood with Joe Getraer and the rest of the officers from Central. He stared into the tiny flame of his candleas the names were read, saying a silent prayer of thanks that he and all those he cared about had remained safe. Nearby, Ponch was doing the same.

“Gary Bertrom”

A chill ran through Jon. Damn, he thought. Damn I miss you. Suddenly Gary’s voice came back to him.

“Hey Jon, do me a favor, okay? Promise me if I die you’ll keep on living.”

“Stop talking like that, would ya? You’re not going anywhere.”

“Yeah, well promise me you will anyway. Somewhere out there there’s a rookie greener than grass who’s gonna need a lot of help from you.”

He’d just laughed. “Okay Gary, I promise.”

A week later Gary was dead. Jon took a deep shuddering breath and looked over at Ponch. How could Gary have possibly known?

“Andrew Stratowski”

Ponch looked up into the sky.

“Even if I save just one life it will be worth it, don’t you understand?”

Andy’s words echoed through Ponch’s mind. “Yeah I do, Andy.” he said softly, his eyes filling with tears.

The mayor stepped up to the podium. “Here in the United States a police officer is killed in the line of duty every 52 hours. There are an average of 65,000 criminal assaults against police officers every year. You are all to be commended for your courage, dedication, and willingness to to put it all on the line to protect this state’s citizens. Thank you and God Bless.”

Applause filled the air.

“And now, please join me in the Policeman’s Prayer.”

As the sun disappeared in a moonless sky, a thousand voices began to pray.

“Lord, while I’m on my beat
May I know that you’re with me.
And protect me as I go to guard others lives and property.

Help me to ignore those who scorn
And show me no respect.
But be mindful of all citizens
I’ve sworn I’ll protect.

Be with my fellow officers
And guard their safety too.
May I always put my duty first
In the work that I must do.

May I not disgrace the uniform
But bring pride to the badge I wear.
That I’ll be a good policeman Lord,
Is my only prayer.
Amen.”

Silence fell as the group began to blow out their candles. A radio call suddenly shattered it.

“Attention all units- 11-99. Officer down, Harbor Freeway south. Shots fired-repeat shots fired.”

Brushing away tears, Jon and Ponch looked at each other and blew out their candles.

-0- 

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October 20, 2011 - Posted by | Fiction

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