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WLCD Part Three

"Nelson,  we have a problem."  The man was only slightly agitated now.
    "The buyers for the Collins' baby still want that baby.  We need to get that baby back."
    Mrs. Graham laid the sleeping baby down in the crib and prepared to go to bed herself as she turned out her light,  she didn't hear the patio door open and a silent intruder stepped inside.
    "Come on, Mike."  Chet was whining.  Mike had returned to work his next shift.
  As usual,  Mike was short on words.  But,  everyone on A shift know that Mike had been seeing the pretty social worker.
    "so, mike did you go out with that girl?"  As usual, they all crowded around to hear.
    "Yes, we went out. . . twice."  That was all he had to say on the subject.  Roy chuckled because he knew that was all that they would get from the quiet fireman.
    The little boy was rummaging through garbage cans in the desolate alleyway.  Somewhere in the distance a dog barked.  This time of year the pickings seemed to be a little better because of the holidays.
    He froze when he heard a gate creak and scuffling footsteps.  Instinctively he ducked down behind some garbage cans.  He heard a baby cry.
    "Shut that kid up!"  He heard someone say in a loud whisper.  He didn't know what made him do it,  but he followed them to a sandwich delivery van.
    "I put him to bed as usual and he was gone in the morning."  The old woman was hysterical as she related the events of the night.  Molly was taking all of this in and all the while she was thinking about what she would tell Mrs. Collins.
    "You let my baby get kidnaped again?  None of this would have happened if you had given me my baby when I asked."
    Molly felt guilty enough already without Mrs. Collins accusation.  Deep down she knew it wasn't her fault,  but she couldn't help thinking that Mrs.  Collins was right.
    Molly sat on the couch in her living room.  She knew that if her mom saw her right now she would say that Molly was having a pity party.  The phone interrupted her revery.
   Oh, hi Mike."  This did not sound like the Molly that Mike had come to know and love.
    "What's wrong, honey?"  Molly didn't know what it was.  Maybe it was just the sound of his voice,  but whatever the reason,  Molly broke down and started crying.  In the next few minutes,  she had told Mike everything.
    "Would it do any good if I told you it wasn't your fault?"  It was as if Mike,  in all of his calmness,  was an anchor for Molly's - uh - outrageousness.
   By the end of the conversation, she felt much better.
    "I need to see you again, Mike."  He wanted that as well.
    "My next day off is Thursday."  So they decided that they would see each other on Thursday.
    "Hey, Mike, what's going on with your girlfriend."  Mike ignored Chet's comment,  but told the guys what was going on with the baby.
    "You told her it wasn't her fault, didn't you?"  Mike just stared at Chet.
    "Do they have any leads on who might have done it?"  Cap asked.  Mike shook his head.
    "The babysitter still won't talk."  They took this all in.
    "She's not in trouble in any trouble is she?"  Roy asked with concern.
    "No, she did everything by the book.  They could tell by the look on Mike's face that he had very deep feelings for this woman.  In all the years that they had known Mike,  they knew that he dated,  but he was quiet about it.  He was still quiet about the girl,  but he couldn't help the look on his face when he spoke about her.
    The little boy knew exactly where the sandwich shop was.  sure enough,  there was the van parked right out front.  For a second, he thought that he had made a mistake,  until he heard the baby crying.
    "What do you tink you're doing?"  It was Melissa, the babysitter.
    "We want you to help with the Christmas program."  Molly was in her boss' office feeling like Charlie Brown.
    "It's good publicity for the agency."  Actually, Stacy Prentiss, Molly's boss, knew that she was feeling bad about the Collins case and just needed some distraction.
    "Here's the address.  You need to be there at four o'clock."  Molly knew that Stacy was not going to argue about it.  She had no choice.
    When she arrived at the Westside Multipurpose Center, Molly looked for Emma White who was in charge of the after-school program.  Emma led Molly to the room where the kids were.
    "So, are you the new director?"   One of the kids asked pronouncing it di-rect-tor.  Molly looked from one child to another.  They all looked as if they didn't want to be there.
    "What do you mean new director?"  The other kids laughed.
    "She said she had to go see a therapist."
    "You're not with them, are you?"  Buggs asked Melissa.
    "Of course, I'm with them.  I captured you,  didn't I?"  Buggs sort of chuckled to himself.
    "Yeah, but you haven't turned me over to those goons."  Melissa tried to hide the statement on her face.
   "You want to get that baby back to its parents as much as I do, don't you?"
    Who was the kid,  Melissa thought.  He looked to be about twelve,  but he was streetwise.
    "How long have you been on the street?"  Melissa asked.  Buggs lowered his head.  He didn't look too confident now.
    "A couple of months.  I ran away from my foster family.  If you could call it a family.  The old guy was just collecting money.  He didn't really take care of us.  He beat me up if I said anything,  and, as you know, I talk a lot.  So, I beat it outta there."
    His life sounded a little like Melissa's being bounced from one foster home to another.
    "Okay, we'll get the baby back."
    It had been three days since Mike had seen Molly.  He had spoken  to her often on the phone,  but he was anxious to see her.
    Mike was picking her up at seven and they were going to see a movie.  this was not Mike's first choice.  He much rather wanted to be alone with Molly, but snuggling with her in a darkened theater would  have to do.  It was there in the darkness and the quiet of the theater,  that Mike made a decision.
    Molly was going crazy.  Christmas was only two weeks away and the play didn't look like would ever get together.  She was at her wit's end one day when Mike walked in.
    "Hey,  you need some help?"  He had the entire A shift from the station and they were armed with hammers, saws and wood.  Mike thought that he saw tears form in Molly's eyes as the guys set to work on the set.
    "I love you Mike."  She said easily and comfortably.  She was shocked that she had said it,  but her feelings were genuine.  Mike kissed her soundly on the lips and then blushed as the guys whistled and clapped.
    At the end of the day,  Molly was feeling much better.  the set was built and the kids did do a little better on their lines that day.
    As Molly took the trash out after the Center sponsored dinner, she heard a sound.
    "Who's there?"  she called.  she was just a little scared.  This was not the best neighborhood.
   "It's just me.  I'm not doing anything."  It was Buggs.  He was scrounging for his nightly meal.
    "Are you hungry?  'Cause if you are,  we still have some food left inside.  Come on."
    Buggs hesitated,  but eventually gave in.  Buggs ate ravenously.
    "Honey, you ready to go?"  Mike came in just then, but saw that there was one more guest there.
    "Oh, who is this?"  Buggs could barely be understood as he continued to eat.
    "I think he said Buggs."  Molly giggled.  Molly spooned some more food onto Buggs' plate.    
    "You don't have to scrounge in trash cans anymore.  This center provides meals for kids everyday."  She stroked Buggs' curly mop of hair that was in bad need of a cut.
    Molly pulled Mike over to the side.
    "Mike, if I can talk him into it, would you take Buggs home with you tonight?"
    Mike was surprised.  After all, she was a social worker.
    "Don't you have to put him in the Juvenile Center or a sanctioned foster home?"
    Molly put her hands on her hips and fixed him with an exasperate look.
    "You are a sanctioned foster home.  I trust you.  you're a good man Mike Stoker.  He looks as if he's had a lot of abuse in his life.  I know you can't be a full-time foster home because of your job.  I just need you to get him cleaned up while we find another placement for him."
    Mike looked at the boy and then he looked at Molly.  He knew at that moment,  that he would do anything that this beautiful woman asked of him.  
    "OK,  let's see if he agrees."
    "Melissa, come here please."
    Melissa was frightened.  She knew that Mr. Nelson knew that she had been Questioned,  but she wanted to assure him that she didn't tell the police anything.
    "Look, if I had told them anything,  they would be here right now arresting you guys."  She had a point.
    "Okay, but remember, we're going to be watching you."  Melissa smiled as she thought about how she would go about stealing back Christopher.
    "So, you're a fireman, huh?  That's pretty cool."  Buggs and Mike were at mike's house.  Buggs had received a hair cut and Mike had bought him some new clothes.  He had just taken a shower and he and mike were watching televison before it was time to go to bed.
    "So,  why did you leave your foster home?"  Mike asked calmly.
    "My foster father wasn't very nice to me."  mike had a feeling that this was the case.  
    "So, how can we be sure that you won't run away from your new home or run away from here?"  Buggs' was to Mike so he didn't see the tears in the little boy's eyes.
    "You don't treat me like he did.  You're nicer. . . "  Buggs wiped away a tear as he stood up.
    "I guess I'd better go to bed now.  He said as he headed for the room that Mike had already showed him.  Mike sighed heavily as he thought about the life that Buggs must have had.  Mike thought about his own childhood and the love that he felt as a child.  He thought about how not all children have the same good memories of Chistmas.
    Mike went in to check on Buggs before turning in.  the little boy was already fast asleep.  Mike resisted the urge to ruffle his curly hair as he slept.  This was probably the best nights sleep he had in a long time.