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  Smoke Screen
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The Story Unfolds...

Season Four, Episode Twenty Eight..

   Smoke Screen    

Debut Launch: December 1st, 2005.

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From: "Robert Gutheim" <rguthei1@twcny.rr.com>
Date: Thu Dec 1, 2005  12:05 pm
Subject: Trouble for Johnny


Johnny's Landrover was full of gas.
::Which isn't always cheap, especially around LA.:: he thought.  

Gage was driving into work that morning, hoping to get there
as early as he could so he could avoid the wrath of The Phantom
of Station 51.

He was almost there when he heard a strange explosive like
sound coming from a nearby alley. Gage pulled up nearby and ran
into it only to find a badly wounded woman lying on the ground of
the trash filled alley.

He ran over to her and began checking her vitals as best
he could without a BP cuff.  Her respirations were either extremely
slow or nonexistent. Then he sighed. ::Not that it would have helped
much since I'm not getting a pulse anymore. And there's no way
she can stay alive with a head wound this bad.:: he said, seeing
gray matter sprayed out on the pavement near her shoulders.

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Not too far from the body, Gage concluded that he was dealing
with a pistol shooting when he saw a weapon on the ground.
It was barely visible underneath a piece of box cardboard.

Contrary to regulations, Gage picked up the gun with a
pen through the trigger ring , worried about safety.
::It can't hurt anything if I move this a few feet out into the open
into plain sight. I don't want it to get kicked by those who're gonna
respond to this mess. I still remember all too well what happened
after a head knocked Officer Vince got a hold of one of these that
was allowed to stay too close on scene..::

He was so engrossed with moving slowly so the safety
disengaged gun wouldn't jostle off his pen, fall, and go off,
that he didn't notice the sirens of a police car pulling up.

"Put down the gun, sir." a voice called out as a tall, dark
haired husky looking man in plain clothes walked up with
his weapon drawn. It was pointing at Johnny.

Johnny realized then what he must have looked like and
he carefully set the gun and pen down at his feet, muzzle
pointed away from the newly arrived policeman and his partner.
"I was checking the victim's vitals to see if she was still alive.
You see I'm a paramedic with the Los Angeles County
Fire Department." Gage explained, getting out his ID.
"You are?"

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"Im Sergeant Joe Friday, Los Angeles Police Department.  
This is my partner Bill Gannon. If you don't mind, we'd like to take
you downtown to answer a few questions." Sgt. Friday indicated.

"I'm on my way into work actually." Gage informed the
detectives.

"We'll explain things to your department chief." Gannon
promised him. "Please come with us."

His look told Johnny that he had absolutely no choice
in the matter otherwise.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Before too long Gage was being "interviewed." He was
surprised that he felt like he had to defend himself.
"Look, detective, I was simply driving into work when I heard
an explosive like sound coming from the alley. I stopped and
checked to see what it was, you know, in case anyone was hurt..."
His attempt at irony was lost on the detectives, even when
he tapped his paramedic's I.D. that they had taken out of
his wallet that lay on the table in front of him.

They said nothing.

Johnny sighed, doing what they had asked and went
on with his statement of account. "First thing I did when I found
the woman lying there was to check her over to see if she had
any vitals signs. "

The detectives looked at him blankly.

"You know, to see if I could get a pulse, or respirations,...
that kind of thing?"

The clarification finally registered on them and they both
nodded in understanding.

"Did you feel so compelled that you had to disturb a
crime scene like that past a pulse check?" asked
Gannon.

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"Yeah, I had to see if there was more I could do for her, guys.
I wasn't equipped to check her blood pressure without a bp cuff
and stethoscope since I don't carry them when off duty. And
I didn't like the way that gun was buried under all that trash.
I didn't want anybody to step on it. Folks can get themselves
killed doing stuff like that."

Gannon and Sergeant Friday just looked at each other with
raised eyebrows and that made the young paramedic
all the more nervous. ::Why am I sweating? I didn't do anything
wrong. Not seriously, anyway.:: he thought to himself.

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The silence going on between the two detectives
began to bug Johnny and it made him start rambling like
he always did when he got uncomfortable about a situation.  
"You know maybe I should look into carrying them with me. I
don't think they would take up all that much space really. Then
it would be much more then a just simple first aid kit with me..."

Gannon and Friday said nothing and started whispering to
each other in conference.

Gage added more lamely, "...don't you think?"


-------------------------------------------------------------------


Meanwhile, at Station 51, Cap was not in a good mood.

"Any of you seen Gage around? The rest of us are all set for roll
call and that twit is nowhere to be seen!" Cap roared to
the rest of his men, including Gage's partner Roy DeSoto.

Hank pegged the blonde paramedic with a stare. He didn't
have to ask the question again out loud. He didn't have to.

Roy sang out. "Nope. Sorry Cap. I don't know where he is.
And yes, by now he IS usually screaming for Chet's blood
after getting nailed by one of the Phantom's pranks." Roy
explained, pointing to Chet, who was still standing at
attention to avoid catching flack from Hank's agitated ire.

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Just then the phone rang.

Mike Stoker fell out of line from in front of the Ward
and jogged into Cap's office to answer it.
"L.A. County Station 51. Firefighter Stoker speaking."

##Stoker, it's Gage. Is Cap there?##

"Yes, he is John. And he is not happy with you right about
now. I'd look out for him if I were y--" Stoker said as Cap
grabbed the phone.

"Give me that, you twit." Cap insisted. "Gage, where are you?!"

##Can't talk too long, Cap. It seems I'm being booked on
murder charges of all things.##

"What?!" Cap startled, almost dropping the phone.

Gage explained. ##I'm using up my one phone call to let you know
the scoop. Could you call the Fire Department lawyer for me to
come down here? I'm with a Detective Gannon and a Sergeant
Friday..##

"Gage, sit tight. I'll talk to McConikee and Houts see what I can
do to get you that lawyer. Don't do anything further to make it
any worse, you twit." Cap said before hanging up.

Johnny grinned despite himself. :: Cap's four letter apellative
only comes out when he's emotionally riled up but thoroughly
in your camp.:: he thought. ::Now why aren't these detectives
in mine?::

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From :  Roxy Dee <laterrapincabesa@hotmail.com>
Sent :  Wednesday, December 7, 2005 1:22 PM
Subject :  The Holiday Rigmarole~~


##Ladies and gentlemen....
The story you're about to read, is true.

Dragnet : The documented drama of an actual crime. For the
next thirty minutes, in cooperation with the Los Angeles Police
Department, you will travel step by step on the side of the law
through an actual case from official police files. From beginning
to end, from crime to punishment, Dragnet is the story of your
police force in action.  

You're a detective sergeant.
You're assigned to the homocide and burglary division.

You've already received a call about a shooting in an alley
down the block where you found an off duty Los Angeles
County firefighter paramedic, caught red handed, holding a
revolver by a pocket pen, standing over a recently deceased
young hispanic woman. The victim was later discovered to
have died of a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.  
The dead woman has yet to be identified by the county medical
examiner's office.

Your soul suspect's name is Johnny Gage who claims to
work out of a county firehouse, 51's. So you check it out.
That station agrees with your man's account of current employment
and you confirm the entity to be located nearby in the outlying
surburb of Carson City : an affluent community, that is most often
perfectly crime free by your recollection. A puzzling background
origin for a possible rampant murderer.

To you, your perp is nervous but he has yet to give away something
with which you can peg on him that links the apparent suspicious
actions that you witnessed on scene earlier, to the killing.
So far, Mr. Gage seems to be just a case of a good samaritan who
got there too late to do anything to help a damsel in distress.

But that could change. You've always realized that leads usually pop
up into existence when you least expect them to.

You also get a call that an important piece of religious art has been stolen
from the oldest church in Los Angeles. There's no lead to its whereabouts
either. Your job? Find it and solve your woman in the alley's murder before
Christmas time.....##

::It was Wednesday, December 24th. It was cold in Los Angeles. We were
working the day watch out of the burgulary division.  My partner's Bill Gannon.
In the front office is Captain Mack. My name's Friday. I'd gone across
the street to buy stamps for some Christmas cards I was sending
out. It was 9:15 a.m. when I got back to Room 45; Burglary.:: thought
Detective Joe Friday. ::I sat  out on a table in the squad room and I started
to address the cards when Bill Gannon walked in carrying a stack of Christmas
boxes.::

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"Hi, Joe." greeted Bill Gannon.

"Hi."

"Christmas cards, huh?" chided Bill to Detective Friday. "A little late
aren't you?"

"Well, I was gonna send them out Monday, but we had that stakeout." grunted
the brown haired Joe Friday,  who still musing over Johnny Gage's case file,
photos and the notes he had taken while talking to his fire station's captain,
out of the corner of his eye even as he carefully wrote down his addresses
on his sparkling glittered envelopes.

"Take a look at this." Bill said tossing down a magazine of a newer brand
down in front of him.

"What's this? A comic book?" Friday asked, picking it up as if it was going
to bite him.

"No, you look through and there's a picture on the next page." Bill demonstrated
for him.

"Oh, yah. I've seen those on the newstand." he said, no longer peering
through the department store's magazine cover's peek hole.

Bill was still grinning. "They have cloth pasted in them."

"Cloth?"

"In the ads." Bill elaborated with a finger florish. "If you want to buy a suit
sample, it's right there." he said, indicating what had captured his eye on
the way to work enough to buy the issue.

"Hhmm, you mean you can feel it?" Friday asked.

Bill nodded. "Where you can try it out and feel it. There was one
for two hundred dollars."

"A suit?"

"Sure. The cloth comes from Scotland."

Joe tossed down the magazine in disgust. "What's it made out of?
Solid gold?"

"No. They got a special kind of goat over there. It's real smooth."

"Not a goat, Bill. A sheep."

"Well, a special kind of sheep then, cause it costs two hundred dollars."
Bill said, still enamoured with the sample he had found.

"You gonna get one?" Joe asked.

"I told Faye. She said wear the sample." Bill sighed ruefully.

Joe Friday's eyes twinkled in a glad I'm not you look. He returned
to torturously addressing his Christmas envelopes. And he
was good enough not to laugh.

"You ought to get married, Joe." said Bill, going through the packages
he had brought with him from the locker room.

"Yeah?"

"Laundry, meals, cards.. All taken care of." Bill surmised, handing to his partner
an ornately wrapped blue and gold foil present, that was elongated the length
of his palm.

"Might help." Joe agreed, taking the gift, his expression still dead pan.

"Wanna open it now? I always open a couple the day before." Bill smiled.

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Joe pegged him with a stare, ignoring his partner's brevity. "Stanley.."

"What's that? Your guess on what I got you for a present?" Bill asked.

"The answer's no. I'm not guessing that this is the Stanley wrench and
screwdriver set I asked for. It's too light. Stanley's a fire captain, at 51's down
in Carson, the boss who lines up our current murder man consideration,
Johnny Gage, with daily jobs to do with the county. You remember Hank?
Cooks the best chowder this side of West Hollywood." Joe admitted.

"Oh! I I remember him now. Didn't we speak to him about a case of a rescued
bum whose mattress was found to have contained eighty thousand dollars
in cold cash last year?" Gannon asked, snapping in fingers in discovery.

"We did. While he fed us that wonderful soup. I thought that Johnny Gage's
nervousness seemed familiar. Just got off the phone with Hank. He sounded
just like our medical man does in there. " Joe said, pointing to the interrogation
room behind them that had still had its one way glass view of the talking table
lit up with Johnny Gage leaning both elbows onto it from his chair while he
continued to fidget.  

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"He must have learned the anse trait from Hank Stanley directly." Bill said,
studying the paramedic carefully.

"Doesn't make him a murderer. A lot of people are a little jumpy under stress."
Friday said.

"Wouldn't jumpiness like that be a bad thing to have in a fire fighter?" replied
Gannon.

"That's what I asked his captain. And do you know what his answer was to me,
Bill?"

"No, what?"

"He said he's put up with four years of Gage's twitchy mannerisms and has
yet to see a character flaw that he didn't like in the guy. Then he proceeded to tell
me just how many people his paramedic has been accredited with as having
saved."

"How many?"

"1,017." Joe replied.

"That many?" Gannon gaped.

"Yep. Just got off the phone with the fire department division chief, too. Mr. Houts.
He came up with the same quote when I asked, when I checked up on Stanley's
statement from the phone call before."

Bill sagged onto the desk and set down his Christmas packages. "Then we're
back to square one on our alley girl."

Joe nodded.

Gannon wrinkled his forehead. "Tell me again how we're able to hold murder
charges over this Gage fellow?"

"He was holding the gun. The woman's blood was on his hands. Because Cap
says we gotta go through the motions. And because there were no witnesses to
support his alibi. "

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"None that we know of." Bill said, staring off into the distance as he leafed through
the folder containing their second assignment, to solve the church art theft.

"Say again?"

"We found Mr. Gage at 0700, right?"

"Right."

"Well, doesn't holiday mass let off right about then? Maybe our murder victim
was a member of the congregation." Bill said. "This church's in the same alley."

Joe immediately got up from his desk, abandoning his cards. "Then let's
kill two birds with one stone. Release Mr. Gage on bail. Say on five hundred
dollars worth. He should be able to afford that on a fireman's pay. If he can't
cover it I'm sure his stationmates will do it for him."

"Aw, Joe. You're such a softy. You're letting him out so he can be home for
Christmas."

Friday looked up without expression. "I'm afraid things won't be so merry yet for
him for a while, Bill. Even if he's innocent. He's got a guilty conscience a mile
long and for things he didn't even do. Come on. Let's get to the church and see
if we can get some of the right answers to our questions that our squirrely Mr.
Gage couldn't really answer for us."

"Anything else on the alley murder showing up?" Gannon asked.

"Nothing else."

"I hope it stays quiet. I got more shopping to do." Gannon says, reaching
for his detective's jacket.

--------------------------------------------------------------

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From: "Cory Anda" <andacory@...>
Date: Wed Dec 7, 2005  6:16 pm
Subject: The Ties That Bind..  


The police man and the detective were on the boulevard,
heading back to the crime scene locales of both their currently
assigned jobs when another question just begged Bill to ask it. Joe
had remained silent while he considered the legal options for the
young paramedic that he knew both he and his partner had already
found to be liked immensely by all concerned, including themselves.

Gannon broke the stillness as he drove the Fairlane.
"Anything doing?" he asked, pointing a nose at the quiet
police CB radio in the car.

Joe picked up the chin he had resting on his hand.
"Hadding and Pryor were in on that market holdup."

"Did they come up with anything?"

"Nah, the city's not talking much tonight." Then
he held up a package that he had already wrapped for
someone in delicate fawn yellow from out of a voluptuous
pocket in his trench coat. "Do you see that? Real rice
paper pages with persimmon perfume. Leather binding."

Bill raised both his eyebrows over the steering wheel.
"Joe, you'll never learn." he said, clucking his lips in sympathy.

"Well, what's the matter?" Friday asked, not changing his
position or the present's, which he was holding up for Bill to
admire.

"No woman wants a stationery set. Get her something personal."

Joe started up with petulance. "It's got her initials on it..."

Bill smiled. "No, no. You want something more sentimental.
Romantic..." he began to soothe gently in advisement.

Joe didn't move, talking fast from the corner of his eye,
immediately changing the subject. "WhatdidyagetFaye?"

"It's different in my case." pursed Gannon with a stiff lip.

Joe insisted. "Whatdidya ..get ..Faye?" he said more slowly.

Bill sighed. "....A sewing machine..."

Joe's face never changed. "That romantic?" he asked monotone.

Gannon had the grace to look uncomfortable. "Well, it is in a way."

"Why didn't you buy a catcher's mitt?" Friday replied dryly.
Right then, the car phone went off. Joe picked up the receiver and turned
up the volume. "Burglary. Friday. Yes, that's right. You've got the
right department.....Ok, Padre. We'll be right out. No, you can tell us
about it there. Good night." and he hung up the phone. Then he turned
to his partner, "It's the Golden Church. About the theft. We're closest."

- -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -

::Bill and I checked in with the office and rode over to the church
at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Main...:: narrated Friday's thoughts.

::The Old Mission Plaza Church. Founded in 1781, the year Los Angeles
became a pueblo.  The outside was typical early spanish design,
complete with scarlet azaleas lining the walls. They called it the Nuestra
La Senora Reina. Her founders had been mostly from Mexico. And their
ordained priests still held services there. They had flattened an old stable
floor and had added grapevines, trees and flowers. A young priest crossed the
courtyard to meet us. He had been sitting on a stone bench reading his morning
prayers as padres have done here for one hundred and seventy two years.

We asked for Padre Xavier Rojas who had communicated with us and we were
told that he was inside. We entered a side door.....

The church seemed to glow with the hundreds of moulded candles flickering on
both sides of the altar and in the shrines throughout the church.

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It was empty except for a few people praying. Surrounding the main altar were
several old oil paintings in gold frames. The air was heavy with the scent of
advent flowers. We found Father Rojas near the sanctuary looking at the
nativity scene. He told us about the crib. It was a seventy dollar duplication
of the scene at Bethelem. The parishioners had taken up a collection for it
thirty one years ago. Every year it was put up December 22nd and taken down
after the holy season.

It was beautiful.....  Except that one of the shepherds had lost an arm.. The
sheep was old and cracked. And the infant J*sus was missing. Father Rojas
led us back into the sacristy... ::

- -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  - -  

"I'm sorry to bother you men..." said Father Xavier Rojas.

"It's all right, Father." said Bill.

"...especially now, the holiday season."

Joe gave a small nod for Rojas to go on. "We cashed our checks,
Father. Will you tell us what happened?"

Bill elaborated more. "Or what you think happened?"

Xavier sighed, folding over his intricate red and white robes.
"I discovered the statue was missing right after the six o'clock mass."

"Did you say the sixth?" Bill asked Xavier about being its officiary.

"Yes. I started the collections, wrote them into the directory and
then last of all, I usually stop by the crib to pray." Father Rojas
said.

"Was the statue missing before the mass?" Joe asked him.

"I don't know. But it WAS there last night."

"How late is the church open?" Gannon wanted to know.

"All night."

Joe brindled a bit. "You leave it wide open so any thief can walk in?"

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"Particularly thieves, sergeant." smiled Xavier.

"You say it was there last night, Father? How late?" asked the
younger detective.

"Ten or eleven o'clock. We had confessions."

"No one saw it after that?"

"One of the altar boys. He says it may have been there.  
He thinks it was."

"Did he see it?" Friday clarified.

"He's not sure." distressed the padre.

"What's his name?" Bill asked softly, touching the priest on
the arm to calm him.

"Hefferman." Xavier led the two detectives over to a plain, heavily scratched
desk, and slid over an open ledger for them to view. "Here's the schedule.
You'll find him in the names for every mass there."

The two detectives made use of the information and leafed through
the pictures of the congregation included in the margins. One particular
image halted them of a young female singer with a face they immediately
recognized. Her name was Maria Angel Lopez. Their young murder victim.

Joe did his best not to sigh in reopened pain.
"Was there a big crowd at the six o'clock mass this morning, Father?"

"Why do you ask?"

Friday and Gannon both exchanged uncomfortable looks with each
other.

"Padre. I'm afraid we have some ...very bad news. Have you known
this young woman long?" he said holding up the dog eared photograph
of Maria in a christening veil up so the father took it into a gnarled hand.
"It's important."

"Why, yes. This is Maria Lopez. She's a cousin of one of the firefighters
who attends church here twice a month with his mother. She's such a sweet
child, and one with G*d. I've known her all her life. I was the one who
christened her a few days after she was born." he grinned happily in
remembrance.

"She's related to a firefighter?"

"Yes, to Marco Lopez from Station 51, one of the county's I believe,
located a few miles down the road."

Joe's face fell even more dead pan and he rose from his seat, setting
down an offered cup of tea that had grown cold.

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Bill took the older man's shoulders. "Father, I think you should sit down."

"Something's happened to Maria? No!" the padre immediately guessed.

"Yes, padre. She was killed by gunfire only this morning around seven,
right after mass in the alley immediately behind the church."

Xavier's breath caught deep in his throat and he caught himself on the
edge of the desk. "And do you know her killer yet?"

"We don't. Not for sure. There was only one man found standing over
her body when we got her shots fired call."

"And who was he? If he's not a patron of my church, he shall surely pay
with eternal d*mn*tion."

"His name is John Gage, and he's also a firefighter. And we've learned
that he's a paramedic, too,..." Bill said softly, reluctant to add the
rest. Finally, he said it. "...from Station 51."

Xavier's face blanched pure white and the two detectives thought that
they would have to catch him falling into a faint. But that never happened.
"Oh, my goodness. Has someone let Marco know about Maria's murder yet?
This is simply ... terrible.. I--"

"Here, padre." said Friday, giving over the tea that would have been his.
"Drink this. It'll help."

Bill went on. "We didn't know about the connection between Johnny Gage
and Marco Lopez until now. Rest assured that we'll get to the bottom of this,
Father. We don't think that Gage is Maria's murderer. His basic character
doesn't fit the profile."

"I hope not. Pitting friend against friend can scarcely be imagined,
detective." he took in a big breath. "Do you want me to tell Mr. Lopez about
his cousin? He is working today at the station."

"We'll do it. Mr. Gage's probably already met bail and may be headed there.
We'll share the information with the two of them in the presence of their
superiors for moral support." Gannon said, rising. "Thank you, Father."
said Friday, rising from his chair.

"And about the statue, we'll solve that mystery, too." Bill promised.

"Was there a large crowd of people here after the six o'clock mass?"
Friday questioned Rojas before they lost him in fresh grief.

"Not many. Uh,...People are usually going to work." said
the tearful padre.  

"Did you notice anyone strange hanging about Maria
in particular?"

"Not especially. I came back here,.. I took off the vestments.
I suppose it was ten, fifteen minutes before I went back out
into the church. She had stopped singing by then."

"Was it empty?" Bill plugged, looking desperate for any new suspect.

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"No, people were coming in for the seven o'clock." Xavier sighed.
"I'm so ashamed that I didn't even notice that Maria had gone missing,
too."

"Can you check with the other priests, Father?"

"I can."

"Please do. It's very important that we find the killer or else this
young paramedic may pay the unfortunate price."

"I shall, believe me. I will most diligently."

"Just for a check on the pawn shops, on our second task,
how much is the infant statue worth?" Bill asked Father Rojas.

"In money?" Xavier frowned, genuinely surprised by the odd question.
He was still stunned by the news of the murder of Maria, the
most devout celebre' of his congregation by far.

Friday smiled then. "That's the point in pawn shops, Father."

The older gray haired man sighed and wiped away an escaping tear.
"Only a few dollars. We could get a new one, but it wouldn't be the same.
We've had children in the parish: they've grown up and married.
It's the only J*sus they know."

"We understand." said Friday.

"....And we've had children who died....Like her.." the Padre choked
up as he hugged Maria's choir picture. " It was the only J*sus they
knew....So ...*sob* many of the people who come here are simple
people. They wouldn't understand, sergeant. It would be like changing
the evening star. "

"We'll do our best, Father." promised Bill Gannon.

"That's why it would mean so much to the Lopezes, and to the
church, to have it back for the first mass on Christmas..."
Rojas said.

"That's not very long, Father. Less than twenty four hours." Bill
frowned.

Friday silenced his partner with a small shake of his head.
"If anything turns up, you know where to get in touch with us."

"Yes." Rojas sighed. "It's sad, isn't it?"

"How's that?" asked Bill.

"In so short a time, men learn to steal and kill."

Friday allowed the grieving man of the cloth a look of hope.
"Yes, but consider us, Father."

"Us?"

"If some of them didn't, you and I would be out of work. Now
let's try to save a paramedic, together, so he won't find himself
out of his." Joe said with conviction.

Next to him, Bill Gannon's eyes shone with the same passionate light.

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**************************************************
From: "Patti or Jeff or Cassidy" <theaterhost@voyagerliveaction.com>  
Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2005 13:07:07 -0800 (PST)
Subject:  [EmergencyTheaterLive] Brown Against Blue


Captain Stanley was more than grateful that the station
hadn't been called out of the house yet while all personnel he
had requested from L.A. Headquarters, came.

Houts was hanging about in the office and the lawyer
that Gage wanted was still gathering background information
from the others on shift. :: Man, ...Marco, Stoker, Kelly
and Roy, are taking this bombshell event rather well. Wish I
could say the same for myself.:: thought Cap.

For the third time, he cleared his throat and leaned on the
map outside his own office door, waiting for it to reopen.

The side door buzzer rang, making him jump.

"I got it!" called Chet and he skidded on the garage floor,
colliding with Boot, who was just as eager to get there, to
see if Johnny had arrived yet from the police station.

His face fell when he saw that it was two men, holding up
detectives badges. Stanley pulled up on his belt, fighting
a lump in his throat that had formed ever since he had received
the phone call from Johnny about the murder wrap. He dropped
all pretense of formality. "What's new, fellas? Can I interest you
in some coffee? We've a fresh pot in the kitchen on the stove."
he tried to grin.

Joe Friday surprised him by looking around the vehicle bay
before speaking. "Is Fireman Marco Lopez available, captain?
It's rather important that we speak to him immediately."

"About what may I ask?" Hank said, sweeping nervous fingers
through his hair.

Right then, a happy disturbance interrupted the three of them
when the gang celebrated Gage's appearance through the
station's kitchen door.

Bill stopped smiling. "Uh, I think it would be better if we all
talked together about this captain. It'll be best for all concerned
if we do. After all, fire crews harbor no secrets from each other, or
so I was led to believe by Chief Houts."

"That fact is definitely true, detective. Uh,... This way..." he said,
showing the two investigators to the kitchen table.

The animated babble surrounding Johnny that was filled with
worry, encouragement and energetic advice dropped into silence
instantly when Gannon and Friday took the chairs Cap offered them.

Hank's face fell. "Fellas, have a seat. These two gentlemen have
something to say that can't wait until later. Marco, this is meant for
your ears, too, so don't go wandering off."

Uncomfortable and clearly uncertain, the gang did as they were told,
filing in around the kitchen table. Stoker immediately handed out coffee
mugs to everyone, but forgot to pour anything.

No one noticed the oversight.

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Chet Kelly got up quickly, "I'll......go get the Chief and Johnny's lawyer.
Is that ok if I do that, pal?" he said looking at Gage.

Gage was still deciding how to place his arms in front of him through
his agitated state of worry. "Yeah. By all means! Uh,.. if that's all right
by you guys....heh." he said without humor to the two policemen.

They nodded. "That might be a good course of action. We don't want
to interfere with anyone's rights under the law." replied Bill Gannon.

When Chief Houts and a young, fresh faced lawyer with a side part sat
down, the nervousness in the kitchen grew palpably. Especially when
Houts, a department icon, refused a fill into his coffee cup.

Hank cleared his throat. "Detectives, Bill Gannon and Joe Friday,
everybody. I've been led to believe that they're working on the case
against Gage here." he said carefully, taking his own chair awkwardly.

"Not against Gage. We're simply a neutral investigative party. It'll be up to
a courthouse judge to decide Johnny's eventual guilt or innocence. We're
merely here to seek out some details to answers that haven't been made
clear yet." He looked to the fire department lawyer who had taken a seat
near his nervous client. "May we proceed, sir?"Joe asked the lawyer.

He got a nod from him. "Go ahead. For your records, my name's Trenton
Cogley of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. I'll be representing Mr.
Gage through any formal proceedings until there's a resolution found in this
case."

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