He notioces a huge pile of toys just next to the Administration Building's concrete wall. Volunteers keep watch over the toys.
"Andrew," says a dark-haired bespectacled man wearing a black outfit. "How are you doing?"
"Very well, Father," replies Andrew. "I just got these toys from downtown. They have some pretty good deals there."
"Well, we'll give the toys to the young kids at Christmas, and by Easter they'll be collecting dust," says Father Dominic Dicenzo, the priest who serves as headmaster for the orphanage.
"I put a tracking pin inside one of the stuffed toys. I need to test my tracking device."
"So you still have that hobby."
"Yup. Anyway, I have to be at the restaurant in an hour. I'll see you later, okay?"
Andrew returns to his apartment in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. The past few days had been busy. He had just finished with his final exams at Pacific Southwest University.
The apartment is empty. Paul Stokes is still working at his job at a restaurant in Universal City. He enters his bedroom. His bedroom, in addition to having a bed and a dresser and a desk and a closet, also has a Los Angeles Lakers pennant pinned to the plaster wall.
He opens a desk drawer and takes out a photograph. The photograph was taken last year at Mount San Jacinto State Park in Riverside County, near Palm Springs. It has an image of Andrew and a young woman, both dressed in heavy winter coats and wearing knit caps over their heads, standing on a deep pile of snow, with bare trees in the background.
"Darlene," he says.
This will be his first Christmas without her.
The next morning, Dominic Dicenzo walks to his office. Opening the door, he walks inside. It looks normal, with a desk, Hon steel file cabinets, wooden bookcases, and a Christmas wreath. He sits down.
"Something's missing," he mutters.
Then he notices that the toys are gone.
He had stashed the toys in his office. He remembers locking the door.
Did someone move the toys elsewhere? Did someone break in and steal them? It is time for a staff meeting.
And so the stasff meeting is held in a second-floor conference room.
"Did any of you move the toys?" asks the priest.
"Maybe someone stole the toys,"suggests the security supervisor.
"Jesus Christ," says Father Dominic. "I can not believe this. We'd better call the police."
"Are you sure that the toys were placed in your office?" asks Detective Lieutenant Donald Drake of the Los Angeles Police Department. "You simply did not misplace them."
"I saw the volunteers load the toys into my office with my own eyes," replies Father Dominic. "At least three other people saw the toys loaded into my office."
"And you discovered it missing when?"
"This morning, when I went into my office."
Drake had come here upon hearing of a possible burglary at the orphanage. Uniformed police officers search the grounds, asking residents and staff questions and searching for clues.
"I'm surprised you would show up here yourself for a simple burglary," says the priest.
"I don't have that much of a caseload right now," replies the detective. "Christmas is only two days away. I still got some shopping to do."
"Dop you have any leads on Jonathan Scaife?"
"No. His trail has been cold for years. Listen, it might be possible one of the residents stole your toys. I know that you take in a lot of street kids."
"It's possible." Father Dominic knows that most residents only stay here temporarily- street kids fleeing an unhappy home life- or worse. "We're known as a refuge for unwanted children."
"Maybe they left fingerprints or at least shoe prints. We'll let you know if we find anything revealing."
"Amazing," says Andrew, sitting at home in his apartment's living room. "Half of the building is empty."
"Yeah, a lot of people went home already," replies a tall red-haired man who is his roommate Paul. "I've got to workj tomorrow during the day."
"My restuaruant is gonna hold a Christmas Party tomorrow." He then hears a ringing. "I'd better go answer that." He walks into his bedroom and answers his Motorola cellular telephone. "Hello."
"Andrew, this is Father Dominic," says Father Dominic.
"You need preparations for Christmas dinner? You can count me in!"
"It's about the toys. They've been stolen."
"What?" asks Andrew.
"I remember putting them in my office last night. When I went in this morning, they were gone."
"Who couild have taken in? One of the kids?"
"Don't know. But I think there is a way to find out. I remmber you put a tracking pin inside one of the toys."
"It was a stuffed bear. I forgot about that! I can track whom the thief is. I just hope the transmitter still works."
"It may be time for the Crusader to take an evening stroll, if you know what I mean."
Father Dominic hangs up the telephone and goes out for a late afternoon stroll on the orphanage grounds. He can feel a cool breeze blowing against his face.
He catches the sight of a Fox 11 News van parked on Franklin Avenue, just outside of Our Lady of Charity. He sees a reporter wearing a business suit. Some of the staff and residents are speaking with reporters.
"Hello there," says the reporter, holding a microphone with the Fox logo. "Do you have a statement."
"Father Dominic Dicenzo, headmaster," says the priest. "What do you want?"
"We understand that some toys had been stolen from here."
"That's right. We reported it to the police. How did you know?"
"We have our sources, sir."
A brown UPS truck pulls over to the curb. The engine shuts off and the driver, a man in a brown outfit, gets out of the left side of the truck.
"Are you from this place?" asks the UPS driver.
"I work here," replies Father Dominic.
"Sign here please."
Father Dominic signs the form.
"Where can we unload these toys?"
The priest looks and sees packaged toys inside the UPS truck.
Andrew approaches the Our Lady of Charity Home for Children as the Crusader, vigilante super hero. Dressed in a black outfit with white crosses on his front and back, he enters the building.
"It's you again," says Detective Drake.
"I placed a transmitter inside a teddy bear," says the super hero. "We can find the thief."
"i should let you know that we received more toys," says Father Dominic.
"Well, we can't let a thief run around loose. He has to be brought to court for his crimes."
With determination burning in his soul, the Crusader goes out into the night.
The Crusader follows the signal by viewing the backlit liquid crystal display screen. His dark outfit makes him hard to see in this early evening. After walking about a bit, he triangulates the position oif the teddy bear containing the tracking pin.
"It's over there," he says, looking at the silhouette of an apartment building. The neighborhood is quiet, with the occasional sound of a barking dog. He knows that jhe will need to go inside to trinagulate which apartment the toys are being kept at.
So he throws up a grappling hook. Using his powerful legs, he propels himself to the roof of the building. He then jumps down to the courtyard.
He walks around the courtyard, comparing the signal. He then figures out which apartment the toy is in. It is inside a first-floor apartment.
It is in here. He picks up a radio. "I found the place," he says. "It's at..."
Then the door opens, and a dark-haired man steps out.
the Crusader leaps out, scaring the man. He bursts into the apartment.
He hears a woman scream and chattering in Spanish.
"Where are the toys?" the super hero asks.
A man goes to a telephone attached to the wall of a small kitchen and picks up the receiver.
"Call the police," says the Crusader. "When they find the toys you stole." The Crusader stands at the open door. "No one leaves until the police arrive."
A few minutes later, Detective Lieutenant Donald Drake arrives, accompanied by uniformed police officers.
Are you sure the toys are in here?" asks the detective.
"Right over there," says the Crusader.
Detective Drake walks to a Christmas tree in the apartment's living room. "One of these toys?"
The Crusader takesa a box wrapped in red wrapping and unwraps it. He opens the box and takes out a teddy bear.
"It's this one," says the super hero.
"There should be a lot more than that," says one of the uniformed cops.
The man continues jabbering in Spanish. A little girl comes out of the bedroom. One of the police officers questions the man.
"They said they didn't steal the toys," says the police officer. "They got it from some street peddler."
The Crusader wonders if he had just terrorized an innocent family. He is speechless.
"I think he's telling the truth," says Drake. "But perhaps they can lead us to the real thief."
"Listen," says the Crusader. "I'm sorry for scaring you like this. Some toys were stolen from an orphanage. They were meant for children rescued from the streets. But we ask for you to help these kids."
"What were you doing?" Detective Drake asks angrily, standing next to a Ford Crown Victoria police car parked justy outside the apartment.
"The toy was in there," replies the Crusader. "I had to take the chance."
"You could have at least waited for us," says the detective. "We could have gotten a warrant; there are some judges staying up late at night for that. But you just broke into someone's home. I could arrest you for that!" He looks around, and notices that the super hero had bolted.
"Should we look for him?" asks a police officer.
"No. Let him go."
The next afternoon, Christmas Eve, Detective Drake walks along the sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood. He notices street peddlers peddling toys. He is dressed in scruffy clothes instead of his normal business suit.
He approaches one of the peddlers, a nondescript man with brown hair wearing a green sweater and blue Levi's jeans.
"Hello there, sir," says the peddler. "Need some toys for last-minute Christmas shopping. We sell half of what Toys-R-Us charges."
"This must be a steal, right?" asks Drake.
"You are under arrest for burglary and theft," says the detective, showing his badge.
the peddler abandons his wares and runs off, pushing his way through the crowd of shoppers looking for deals on clothes and toys.
He trips and falls onto the sidewalk. He looks up and sees a human-shaped figure, clad in black, with a white cross on the front.
"I'm not fond of people who steal from orphans," says the Crusader, lifting the thief up by the shirt. "You should be lucky the cops are here to protect you from me."
He throws the crook to the ground just as the police arrive. "Take this scum away. I've a Christmas party to go to tonight."
"We did it," says Drake. "The thief led us to the storage unit where he and his accomplices stashed the toys. He was willing toi cooperate once we found the fingerprints."
"Thanks," says Father Dominic, talking over the telephone while sitting in his office. "We'll be praying for him."
On Christmas Day, the toys are given to the residents of the orphanage.inside the mess hall, which is decorated with a Christmas tree and other Christmas decorations. Ironically, after the burglary, Our Lady of Chairity received more toys than were stolen. Most of the stolen toys were returned, except for a few that is being kept for evidence.
Fahter Dominc smiles as these children rescued from the streets of Los Angeles get their presents. He hopes that they will show this same generosity to others.
Miles away, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park-Hollywood Hills, Andrew Curtis walks along the grass. The hillside has a few trees and many gravemarkers.
He approaches one grave marker. Darlene Jenelle Garland. The first person he loved.
He notices a miniature Christmas tree, about one foot tall, next to the grave. Her parents must have placed it there earlier.
"Merry Christmas," says Andrew, leaving a bouquety of red roses for his departed love.