Etched Steele Images
By Michael Bledsoe
Christmas season in Los Angeles was a time of many contrasts. On one corner stood a traditional Santa, cheerfully ringing his bell and standing watch over his red metal pot hanging from its tripod. On the side walk across the street a rugged Santa in short pants skated by in the mid-sixties heat wave. The street lights were adorned with sleighs, holly leaves and snow flakes even though the probability of sleighs and snow flakes was exceedingly unlikely. In the street, an older model station wagon cruised through the light morning traffic sporting a huge menorah on its roof, the candles being replaced with lights. The contrasts of Los Angeles made it a fun place for many to live in.
The man watching these sights through his sunglasses was not smiling; in fact, his face seemed deliberately devoid of expression. Carrying the contrasts a little farther, one could look a little closer at the lanky man who had just gotten out of an older model stretch limousine. One would have expected him to be dressed immaculately; instead he wore faded blue jeans and a well worn brown leather jacket. His black hair was greased back and he seemed to be chewing gum as he watched the contrasts of the City of Angels.
He slapped the top of the limo twice and it sped away into the traffic, and only then did he turn to face the seedy-looking building to which he had come. It was an old converted store-front that now housed the Lost and Found Mission. The man walked slowly to the closed door of the mission and knocked firmly. After a momentary pause the door swung open.
A short, stocky man with short cropped red hair opened the door. He was wearing an apron over dark clothes and at his neck was a clergy collar. "Ah, Johnny, you've come. Now we can get started." The door was now opened wide by the broad shouldered clergyman and Johnny was ushered into the mission.
Inside was a meeting room, which, in contrast to the exterior, was nicely apportioned and well kept. Obviously much time and care had been put into the Lost and Found Mission. The two men walked through the meeting room, down a hallway past rooms that housed sleeping men and into a clean kitchen. A group of people waited expectantly and greeted Johnny enthusiastically. He removed his sunglasses revealing piercing blue eyes. He was handed an apron and after he hung his leather jacket on a coat rack, the cooking began with Johnny taking the lead.
People of many races and positions in society were contributing to the food preparation and everyone seemed to be having a really good time, except Johnny. The corners of his mouth were slightly turned down and though he tried to not inflict his mood on the others, they noticed his air of sadness. This yearly occurrence has given most of the regulars time to have gotten used to his closed mouthed sadness.
Flash forward several hours and move to the meeting room. There a sizable crowd has gathered and they were listening to the short clergyman.
" Just remember, the Big C, Jesus Christ himself was an outcast of society. He ran afoul of the Man and the Man tried to put Him in His place. But He wouldn't go into His place. He spread the news of His Father, the news that He was the way to salvation. Accept the son and ask forgiveness. The Big Fella is quick to forgive and forget. Give up those bottles and give up those needles and he will take your sins and He will put those sins as far as the East is from the West. He puts those sins into the Sea of forgetfulness and he can never remember them. But I have to warn you, you can't go into the presence of the Big Fella with any sin. That's why you need forgiveness."
"Now, its time for our Christmas dinner, but before we eat," the crowd seemed to all sigh as one. The red haired clergyman continued," I have a few thank you's to get through. Once again I would like to thank Remington Steele for his continuing contributions to the Lost and Found Mission." The crowd clapped politely. The clergyman looked up, through the ceiling, "I'd like to thank Immel Wallace, who founded the Lost and Found Mission. Without him, we wouldn't be here." There was more polite clapping and a few "amens."
"Without further ado " the minister shook his head ruefully. "Woops, I almost forgot. Johnny, come on out here." Our hero came out into the meeting room, wiping his hands on his apron. The crowd started cheering and catcalling. "I want you all to thank Johnny Todd for preparing our holiday feast again this year." The crowd went wild, people shaking Johnny's hand and patting his back. He took it in an embarrassed stride.
"Speech! Speech! Speech!" Johnny stepped forward and smiled for the first time.
"Well mates," he began in a strong Cockney accent, "If it weren't for Wallace, a lot of us wouldn't be straight. We would be wandering and lost." Even though he was smiling, there were tears welling up in his startling blue eyes. "But we are found tonight. Thankfully!"
"Amen, Johnny! Okay, everybody, let's go eat!"
Everyone streamed into the dining hall as Johnny retrieved his leather jacket and left his apron on the hook. He took one last look around, a quirky crooked smile decorated his face and disappeared out the door.
On the street the limo was waiting. He took one last look at the building, then opened the door and got in. Inside a small woman with auburn hair and a graceful neck was waiting. The limousine took off and the tag, R STEELE, could clearly be seen. He slid over and wrapped his long arms around her.
"It never gets easier?"
"It wasn't your fault."
"I know, but I still feel responsible." He shook his head, wanting to shake the memory out. "I miss him every day. It's funny. There were times, when we were just friends; I could go weeks without thinking about Wallace. Now he's there in my memory all the time."
"Maybe it was meant to be."
"What do you mean?"
"Without his death, Remington Steele would not have funded the Lost and Found Mission all these years. Without that funding, the mission might not have lasted all these years. Without the mission, a lot of people wouldn't have been helped to go straight."
"I see your point, Laura, but I don't necessarily have to like it. Though," he paused, "I might be one of the ones who stayed straight because of his death. There were times when I was tempted, but running through my head was the thought, 'What would Wallace do?'"
As the limo drove into the night, the sleighs, holly leaves and snow flakes glowed in the mysterious land of contrasts.