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      Page Four

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And immediately, the two downtown detectives knew that it was to thank all the fire
stations for all that they had done. "Oh, would you look at that?" said Bill, as the
overhead eastern star made a reappearance as the smoke from the upper story
apartment steamed and fizzled away into nonexistence above them. "It's just
going on midnight. It's Christmas Day." said the younger investigator. "Ohhh,
it's so beautiful out here now, Joe. Look.." he whispered, pointing to the strong
powerful light coming from the star glimmering in absolute purity over the city's
nightscape.  Joe saw that he had true tears forming in his eyes. Bill sighed, suddenly
moved beyond words. Gannon took off his hat and clutched it in feeling on the roof of
their unmarked car. "Merry Christmas, partner. Now that's what I call one h*ll of a gift."
And he turned his head so he could hear the collected voices from the church and
apartment evacuees more clearly on the soft rising winds.

"Merry Christmas, Bill. I do see it. And her... The singing's lovely.." he nodded
genuinely. For once, the famous Friday monotone was nonexistent and full of emotion.
"So...Where to?" Joe asked quietly, reluctant to destroy the almost tender, miraculous
moment. He was referring to their last as yet unsolved assignment concerning the
nativity statue still missing from the church manger.

"Well, I don't know." sighed Bill with a sad, wilting frown as he dragged himself back
to reality.

Friday was gentle, and willing to ease the sting of it. "We could stay and work on it

"Wouldn't do any good. We won't find it...Will we?" Bill paused, his foot on the
driver door's runner.

Joe nodded in agreement. "I don't think so."

Bill sighed. "No use kidding the priest. It'd build his hopes up." he said.

Friday got into the car and buckled in. "We might as well go tell him now."

Behind them in the rear seat, Johnny's lawyer, Trenton Cogley, was all smiles. "Merry
Christmas, fellas." he said gayly, fully ignorant of the bad tidings the two men now had
to deliver.

The two detectives dipped their heads at him, without saying anything.


:: 12:04 pm. We found Father Rojas. Bill told him how it was, that we didn't get
the statue back; nor could we by morning, but that we'd keep trying during the
week. He said he understood. We told him that we had to get on. As Bill and I
started to leave, the doors to the main entrance of the church opened. It was a
good two hundred feet away, something making a wheeled noise on the
ceramic tiled floor. It was hard to be sure, but it looked like a small boy
drawing a bright red wagon behind him. When he got closer, you could see
he was no bigger than a pint of milk. He was a luminous eyed little Mexican
boy with a face as young as yesterday. The priest suddenly knelt, and crossed
himself with a gasp.

::In the back of the wagon, was the missing statue of the child, Jesus. He picked
it up gently and walked over to us.::

The boy spoke with innocence, holding up the delicately painted statuary to
Father Rojas. "Feliz Navidad, Padre Rojas.." he said sincerely. "Aqui,
triago por tu, senor." (Merry Christmas, Father Rojas. Here, I brought this
for you, sir.)

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Rojas glanced up at the detectives. "This is Pablo Mendoza. Another altar
boy from the parish."

Joe joined them both on the boy's level. "Ask him where he found it."

Xavier and the boy exchanged a dialogue in lilting, musical Spanish. Then
Father Rojas looked up. "He didn't find it. He took it."

"Why?" asked Friday.

Rojas addressed the tiny, simply dressed boy again in his own language. The child
replied, fingering the face of the statue in the Padre's arms thoughtfully while he spoke
his mind. Soon, the priest had his final answer. "He says it's because of that wagon.
He promised himself that if he ever got the wagon, he would give Jesus the first
ride in it."

The detectives' eyebrows rose in mild amusement, touched by the innocence of boy's
acting motive for the petty larceny.

Seeing that the strange men before him were from the police department by the sight
of the guns shadowed in holsters underneath their jackets, Pablo spoke once more,
pointing at the main altar behind them, still covered with advent flowers.

Rojas translated. "He wants to know if the Devil will come to take him to H*ll." said the
priest, pointing to the detectives belt hanging handcuffs.

Bill pulled his jacket shut and Joe, next to him, did the same to calm the child. Then
Gannon smiled. "That's your department, Father."

Rojas grinned, glad that no example would be made of his parishner. And he absolved
the boy softly with reassurances with a stroke on the cheek. He rested a light hand
on his head, and smiled at him.

::We crossed over to the sanctuary. With the help of Father Rojas, the young boy replaced
the infant Jesus in its rightful place in the crib of the nativity scene. Bill and I could have
been wrong, but.. the small plaster statue seemed to approve. Mary, Joseph, Elijah,
Gaspar.. Malteer, Balazaar, the old shepherd, the young shepherd, the peasants.. They
all seemed to approve.

::The priest told the boy to go home. He took hold of his wagon and Pablo started the long
walk out of the church. There wasn't much we could say. There wasn't much TO say... We
just stood there and watched him go. Half way up, he turned to look back. Then he went
on out.::

The huge granite doors slid shut with a resounding echo behind him and the three
men of honor were left nestled in a soft, peaceful silence under the warm candlelight
from the side alcoves.

Bill was hushed. "I don't understand how he got that wagon today. Don't kids wait for
Santa Claus anymore?"

Rojas beamed, still looking at the tall doors. "It isn't from Santa Claus. The firemen in
all the surrounding stations fix up old toys, making them look like new, to give to all
our church children. Paquito's family? They're poor.." he shrugged in explanation self

Joe met his eyes evenly and a knowing sparkle seemed to shine out from
deep in their depths. "Are they, Father?"

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It was very early at dawn on Christmas Day, Dr. Brackett and Dixie were jolted out
of sleep from where they lay stretched on two separate couches by a ringing
telephone. It was Trenton Cogley for Dr. Brackett. Kel replied to the fire department
lawyer, instantly. "Yes, I'll be there, Cogley. First thing come Monday morning.
Merry Christmas to you, too. Goodbye."  And he hung up the phone.

"Who was that?" murmured a sleepy Dixie as she rose to clear the plates full of
food crumbs still scattered on the living room coffee table.

"Cogley. He says the case against Johnny is pure bunk. Turns out a couple of
mischievous altar boys are truly to blame for Maria Angel's killing." Kel replied,
grabbing up the empty wine bottle and glasses that they had used to toast in the
new holiday. "It's panning out so far, as purely accidental."

"Ooo," Dixie sighed. "Will the authorities go easy on them, Kel?"

"They'd almost have to. Both are laid up in the hospital with heavy cases
of carbon monoxide poisoning taken in at Marco Lopez's church during
Christmas services yesterday."

"Oh, ironic. That's .. really rough. It'll take weeks, ..months.. to determine
how much damage was done by their exposure..." Dixie frowned.

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"Don't I know it.." Brackett said, "I'll call Joe to see what their blood
carboxyhemoglobin percentage levels are sitting at to help him figure out
how things might go when we return to work tomorrow."

"It'll tear Marco apart if either one of them dies. He probably knows both
boys well."

"He's not going to press charges. Not now and not ever. Cogley told me as
much just now. He got Lopez's angle on how things'll stand, while at
the scene of a fire. 51's still there now, cleaning up." Dr. Brackett said.

"That's a long night of duty. And on Christmas, too. How on earth are they
gonna celebrate anything for being so tired like that?" McCall demurred.

"I don't know, Dixie. Maybe a few grateful residents from that fire
will give them a batch of holiday cookies or two to take back home with
them." Kel replied.


The gang returned to base just as the dawn came and swallowed up the mysterious
star that had overseen the events of the past night. They dragged themselves
out of engine and squad, moaning in fatigue. Marco had come, too, to collect
his car and to put the two pies they had received from the church congregation into
refrigeration for later.

"I'm bushed..." Cap said, sitting on the foot guard of the engine next to Stoker, who
was doing the same thing. "Everybody, forget the usual vehicle clean up. Top
priority is a round of hot showers .. and it's off to bed. That's it."

"Sure, Cap." Roy said, "But I am gonna check out the drug box to make sure we
have enough supplies with us for the next call."

The much fresher Gil Robertson, leaped in. "I'll... go fill up all our oxygen cylinders.
We used, what? Four at the fire?"

"Something like that." Gage sighed, sitting opposite the others on the squad's step

Chet Kelly saundered over to Johnny. "So, how does it feel to be a real free man?"

"Absolutely wonderful. I couldn't've asked for a better Christmas present."

"Wait a minute, Johnny." Marco said. "I thought as a Native American, that you didn't
celebrate Christmas. At all."

"I can honor the spirit of the day. Nothing in my belief system says that I can't do
such a thing. All the well wishing and the giving sentiment, is very reminiscent of my
own people's sacred days when they come." Gage said, chuckling. Then his stomach
growled. "Wow, I'm hungry now?"

"Why not?" DeSoto grinned. "I can't imagine the food in that jail was any good."

"It wasn't. I couldn't eat a single bite of it."

Cap coughed some soot out of his chest and rose to his feet. "You know that
sounds like a terrific idea. Eating, I mean. How about we cook up leftovers and
then enjoy some of that pie before we detail ourselves clean, ok fellas?"

"I'm for that.." said Chet and so did everybody else in other ways.

The gang entered the kitchen, rubbing Boot's still smoky coat in firm praises,
when they all stopped dead in the doorway leading from the vehicle bay.

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Standing in the rec room, were Detectives Friday and Gannon, flanking a fully
decorated, and delightfully alighted, Christmas tree.

Bill was solemn and he nudged Joe to pull his hands down from behind his back
to present a more sincere picture. "Uh, hi fellas." Gannon began. "I suppose
you're wondering why we're here. We, uh,.. wanted to apologize to Mr. Lopez
directly and to the rest of you for our earlier behavior towards him.
It was thoughtless and very unbecoming of a police officer to have done what
we did."

Joe nodded gravely. "Same from my end, too. I'm sorry to have caused so much
trouble. We had no idea that you would be sickened so badly, Mr. Lopez."

"Apology accepted, sir. Uh, sirs.." said Marco. Then he stepped forward. "Wow,
what a wonderful tree. How long did it take you to put it up and decorate it?"
he asked.

"Not long." answered Joe Friday. "We had help. Father Rojas's church choir was
here en masse not too long ago. They figured they could express their gratitude
that would agree with departmental polices about gratuities in this tree, for saving
Leonard and his friend and the two altar boys. Technically, this is just a little
sidework that could be classified as redecorating."

The firemen grinned then and Marco Lopez was the first to take the detectives'
hands to shake them in heartfelt forgiveness. Then everyone was lost in the heady
smells wafting from the heavy pine needles, from sap and from the bright clusters
of holly berries making the Christmas tree's branches fill with the spicy scent...
of Christmas.

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Dr. Brackett reported first thing that Monday morning to the paramedic regulatory
board. He had a loose end to tie up concerning the discipline the committee wanted
to lay on Johnny Gage for his apparent recklessness in trying to come to Maria
Angel's aid.

He set the committee heads straight onto their ears.

"I know things were dangerous for my paramedic. Name any firefighter paramedic
who never encounters at least some danger while working on the job. I concede
that Johnny Gage took on a lot of risk to himself unnecessarily. He just didn't
clearly know the possible legal ramifications that his actions would have at the
time he had to act. All my paramedic wanted to do then, was to help, as he was
trained to do, by me. So I offer you a compromise, ladies and gentlemen on the
board, ..if you lay aside his written reprimand.

"I offer you an amendment proposal to the paramedic program, officially.
I can submit to you, this..."

With that, Kel Brackett approached their long table of deliberation set up
in the back of the city courthouse with a packeted outline that he and Dixie had
created together on Christmas Day. "I propose to you the following new protocol.
No paramedic shall attempt to render aid to any victim until such time as the scene
is declared fully safe to enter. Attempts will be made to secure the scene by using
the police department, where necessary, before any care is rendered whatsoever."

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Eyebrows went up all around the committee table. It surprised each and every one
that such a common sense idea had escaped them so completely. And it drove
its credibility home even more to have a real life bonafide practicing medical doctor,
show it to them so poignantly.

It was no time at all before the disciplinary paperwork, halfway
in the works for Johnny, was dismissed soundly into the shredder.

As he left the judicial offices, Kelly Brackett could only smile as he took hold
of Dixie's arm tightly on the return trip to the parking lot where his convertible
was parked. "Well, looks like we found a way to help out Johnny and Marco, without
stuffing our noses directly into it."

"I'm sure glad we finally did. But let's not tell them anything, ok? It'll be our little
secret." she whispered. "Merry Christmas, Kel. That was showing absolutely
the best kind of Christmas spirit."


::You have just heard Dragnet, a series of authentic cases from official files.
Technical advice comes from the office of Chief of Police W. H. Parker,
Los Angeles Police Department....::



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Episode Twenty Eight, Season Four

Emergency Theater Live

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