“Hang on!” Mike cried out suddenly, turning the wheel of the engine sharply.
The top-heavy vehicle swayed precariously as it careened away from the blue sedan that had run the red light, missing the car by just inches. As the engine did a 180, Mike clung white-knuckled to the wheel, fighting the urge to slam on the brakes as he expertly steered into the spin. Finally regaining control, Mike pulled the engine to the side of the road and eased it to a stop. Putting the rig into Park, he dropped his head onto his arms.
“Nice driving,” murmured Hank as he turned around to check on Chet and Marco. “You guys okay back there?”
A visibly shaken Marco only nodded, but Chet burst out, “What the hell happened?”
“Car cut us off,” Hank explained. “I don't know how we didn't hit him.”
“Idiots have all the luck,” Chet muttered. “Bet he didn't even stop, either.”
“Actually, she did,” Mike informed them. “Cap, we better check her out.”
Hank glanced out the window at the sedan, which had skidded to a stop just past the intersection after its near miss with the engine. A very pregnant woman was painfully making her way out of the driver's seat.
“Oh great,” Hank muttered, reaching for the radio. He winced as he stretched his arm out.
“Cap, you okay?” Mike asked worriedly.
“Yeah, just banged up my arm a little when I was holding on for dear life,” Hank teased, rubbing the arm absentmindedly. “Can you check her out while I call this in?”
Mike nodded and climbed down from the cab of the engine, hurrying toward the woman.
“Please help me,” she cried, clutching his arm desperately with one hand while holding her swollen belly with the other.
“Settle down, ma'am, settle down,” Mike soothed. “It's not good for the baby to get too worked up.”
“I'm not worked up, I'm in labor!” she screamed.
“You could be hurting because you're upset,” Mike suggested. “If you relax…”
The woman shook her head in violent protest. “No, I was in labor before. I was driving to the hospital because I couldn't reach any of my family. I'm sorry I didn't stop. I had a con --” She doubled over in pain with a loud moan as another contraction hit. “Please…do something.”
“An ambulance is on the way, ma'am,” Mike promised. “And probably some paramedics, too. They'll be able to help you.”
“Can't…wait,” she gasped. “The baby's coming.”
Mike caught her as she started to sink to the ground. He scooped her up and carried her back to the car. “How far apart are the contractions?” he asked as he laid her down on the back seat.
“Few…minutes,” the woman panted. “Getting…closer. And my…water…broke.”
“Is this your first baby?” Mike questioned.
The woman nodded as she curled into a fetal position on the back seat.
Hank, Marco and Chet came trotting over. Chet had a few wrapped blankets in his hand, and Marco was carrying oxygen.
“Stoker?” queried Hank.
“She's in labor. Pretty far along, I think,” Mike understated as he leaned out of the car and took the blankets from Chet. “Ambo on the way?”
“It's going to be at least 15 minutes. Same with the squad,” he informed Mike. “John and Roy just cleared at Rampart, and the next closest squad is half an hour away.”
“Fifteen minutes?” Mike muttered. He moved away from the car so the woman couldn't hear him. “Cap, I don't think she's going to make it that long.”
“How are you at delivering babies?” Hank tried to joke.
“You're the one with kids!”
“Yeah, but I didn't have anything to do with delivering them,” Hank admitted. “I smoked cigars with the other new dads while the wife did all the work.”
Mike glanced over at Chet and Marco, who were passing the oxygen mask back and forth heatedly, neither wanting to try putting it on the moaning woman. “They're not going to be any help either,” he muttered.
He stalked back to the car, grabbing the mask from Marco. Leaning back into the car, he gently touched the woman on the shoulder. She pulled away, until she saw it was Mike and noticeably relaxed. “Ambulance?” she asked hopefully.
“It's on the way,” he reassured her. “I'm going to put some oxygen on you while we're waiting, okay? Give that little one some fresh air?”
The woman nodded. “What's your name?” Mike asked as he slipped the mask onto her face. He ripped open the plastic wrap on the blanket, pulling it out and tucking it underneath the woman's legs.
“Angela Arn…” the rest of her name disappeared into a cry of pain as another contraction hit. Angela grabbed Mike's hand and held on for dear life.
Mike tried not to wince at the crushing grip. “Hi, Angela, I'm Mike. Hang in there, okay? You're doing great.”
Mike nodded. “But only my dad calls me that. And sometimes my captain.”
“My…dad…was…Michael.” She wriggled painfully on the seat. “This is…the worst…one yet.”
“I wish I could do something about the pain,” Mike sympathized. “But we're firemen, we don't know much about delivering babies.”
“She needs to breathe,” Chet spoke up. “My sister had her last kid without any drugs or anything, and they taught her how to breathe so it wouldn't hurt so much.”
“Breathe how?” Mike asked.
“I didn't learn it, she did!”
“Chet!” Mike exclaimed with a frustrated sigh.
“I think it was kind of like a dog, like panting,” Chet recalled, offering a demonstration.
“You better not be joking about this, Kelly,” Hank warned.
“I swear, Cap, it really worked for her,” Chet promised. “I didn't get to hear much about it, though, because Mom yelled at her for panting at Thanksgiving dinner.”
“Well, do what you can to help the lady,” ordered Hank.
Chet nodded. Mike backed out of the car so Chet could get in there. Chet put a hand on the woman's arm.
“Hi there, ma'am, I'm Chet Kelly,” Chet announced with a nervous smile. “I'm going to help you breathe, to try to get rid of that pain, okay?”
Angela shook her head.
“I know it sounds kind of strange, but it really works,” Chet tried to convince her. “You just have to pant like a dog.” He started panting.
“Go…away,” Angela growled, kicking out at him. “Want…Michael.”
Chet didn't have to be told twice. He scrambled out of the car, pushing Mike back toward it. “She wants you, Stoker.”
“But I don't know what to do,” Mike protested. “I've never heard about that breathing stuff.”
“Just try to get her to relax as much as she can,” Hank suggested. “If she calms down, it might slow down her labor until John and Roy or the ambulance can get here.”
Mike's frown registered his doubt, but he knelt back down next to the open door of the car. “Hi, Angela, how are the contractions?”
“They're…not…stopping,” she gasped.
“You should try doing that breathing with Chet, he says it really helped his sister.”
Angela shook her head. “He…scares…me.”
Mike couldn't help but laugh. “Yeah, he does that to us sometimes, too, but he means well. Why don't you let him help?”
“Too late,” Angela announced. “I've gotta push.”
“No, don't push, don't push,” Mike panicked. “Wait for the paramedics; they should only be a few minutes more.”
“I can't.” She let out a scream as she started to bear down.
“Cap, she's starting to push. What do I do?” Mike wondered.
“Get the blankets, and make sure you catch the baby when it comes,” was Hank's advice. “You also need to check and make sure there's nothing in the way of the baby coming out.”
“In the way?” a confused Mike questioned.
“She can't have a baby with her panties still on,” Chet announced.
Mike visibly paled. “Cap…”
“There's nothing there you haven't seen before, Mikey,” Chet teased.
“Shut up, Chet,” Mike, Hank and Marco proclaimed in unison.
“Put a blanket over her, maybe you won't have to see too much,” Marco suggested.
Mike ripped open another blanket and spread it over Angela's legs. “Angela, I…uh…I…I need you to undress a little, okay? So the baby can get out?”
“Take…off…whatever,” she managed to mutter between gritted teeth.
“Maybe you should…”
“Just do it!” she demanded.
Reluctantly, he lifted the blanket a little so he could reach under it and pull off her underwear. Worried when he saw the blood-soaked garment, he lifted the blanket lying on top of her a little more, trying to tell from the blanket underneath of her how badly she was bleeding.
“Can…you…see…baby…yet?” Angela gasped.
I am not looking.
“Michael?” The note of panic in her voice forced Mike to lift the blanket some more.
“Hang on a sec, Angela, I'll look.” He cautiously poked his head all the way under the blanket. “Oh, wow,” he declared. “I can see it! I can see the baby. Are you ready to push again?”
Angela shook her head.
“Come on, Angela, you're almost there,” coaxed Mike. “Just a few more pushes.”
“I can't,” she wailed.
“I can't go get the baby,” Mike reminded her gently. “It's up to you to bring that little one into the world.”
“I know. I can't even imagine what it feels like,” Mike sympathized. “But imagine what you're going to feel like when he or she is out and you have a beautiful, healthy baby.”
Angela nodded and reached for his hands. “Help me.”
“I'll do whatever I can,” Mike promised.
“Sit…up,” Angela requested, struggling to do so.
Mike helped pull her into a sitting position, but let go as she started to push again. Angela tried to stay upright but fell back on the seat weakly.
“Angela, you okay?” Mike asked worriedly.
“Tired,” she mumbled.
“I know you are, but we're almost there,” Mike coached. “Let me get one of the other guys in here to help hold you up, so we can get this baby out.”
“No, just you,” Angela protested weakly.
“I need my hands to get the baby,” Mike explained. “I can't hold you up at the same time.”
“Okay,” Angela agreed. “But not…the panter.”
Mike laughed. “Fair enough.”
He leaned out of the car. “I need one of you guys to help Angela sit up while she pushes.”
Chet stepped forward, but Mike put a hand up to stop him. “Not you.”
“Sorry, Chet, her request, not mine,” said Mike with a shrug.
“Marco, help Mike,” Hank commanded.
Marco climbed in the other side of the car. “Hi, ma'am, I'm Marco Lopez,” he told Angela as he helped her back into a seated position and sat behind her so she could lean against him.
“Let Marco hold you up, and you put all your strength into pushing,” Mike instructed as he ripped open another blanket in which to wrap the baby. “I think one more big push should do it.”
“Hope so.” Angela took a deep breath. She let it out with a grunt as another urge to push overcame her. “Now!” she gasped.
Mike ducked back under the blanket. “Great, Angela, great. Keep pushing,” came his muffled encouragement, barely audible over Angela's cries of pain and protest. “Here comes the head…Got it, got it. Hi there, little baby.”
“Out?” Angela questioned, trying to catch her breath as she leaned back against Marco.
“Not quite, Angela. I still need to get the shoulders and the rest of the body out. One more push, just one more,” he encouraged her. “One more push and it will all be over.”
Angela nodded, gritting her teeth as she started to bear down again, her effort accompanied by a steady moan. Chet and Hank both poked their heads into the car to watch the big moment.
“Got him!” Mike finally declared, quickly wrapping the baby in the blanket on his lap.
Mike nodded as he used the corner of the blanket to wipe out the baby's mouth. He was soon rewarded with a loud cry from the child. He lifted the baby up to hand him to Angela. “You have a son.”
“A son?” she choked out between tears, hugging the baby close. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”
Mike nodded, too overwhelmed by his own emotions to talk.
“Mike, you need to cut the cord,” Marco reminded him as he gently laid Angela back on the seat, the baby still clutched tightly to her chest.
“Cut?” Mike asked fearfully. “How?”
“Use this,” Chet suggested, pulling out his pocketknife.
“I can't use that!” Mike protested.
“How else are you going to do it?” Chet wondered, opening the blade and wiping it with the blanket.
Mike looked up at Hank. “Cap?”
“I don't know what else we could use,” Hank admitted.
“Do I just cut it? Won't that make her bleed even more?” Mike questioned.
“You have to tie it off.”
Chet's crewmembers all looked up in surprise at his declaration. “I watched Johnny once,” he explained. “He tied off the cord by the baby and tied off another spot a little further down, and then he cut it in between the two.”
“You're sure?” Hank asked.
Chet nodded. “Want me to do it?”
“No!” Angela and Mike declared in unison.
“Mike should have that honor, since he did such a great job bringing this little one into the world,” Hank decided. Angela nodded in agreement.
Chet shrugged, handing Mike the knife. “Suit yourself.”
Mike took the knife uncertainly.
Chet pulled a yo-yo from his pocket. “Here, you can use the string from here to tie it off.”
Mike cut the string off the yo-yo and cut it in half. He quickly tied off the cord in two places. Taking a deep breath, he held it as he cut. The blood drained out of Mike's face as he saw the blood draining out of the cord.
“Stoker?” Hank questioned worriedly.
They heard the sounds of sirens approaching. “Now they get here,” Mike muttered as the squad and the ambulance pulled up.
“Forget it, we handled it without you,” Chet announced to Johnny and Roy as they jumped out and started grabbing their equipment. The ambulance pulled up just behind the squad.
“Oh yeah?” Johnny challenged. “Let me see.”
Chet stepped aside to let Johnny see into the car. The baby was now sleeping quietly on Angela's chest as Mike stroked his cheek tenderly.
“You did this?” Johnny questioned Mike.
“Angela did all the work,” Mike answered. “I just caught the little guy.” He stood up. “You guys better check her out. I don't know what's normal when you have a baby, but it looks like she lost a lot of blood.”
Johnny nodded as he took Mike's spot in front of Angela. “Good job with the cord,” he told Mike. “How did you know to tie it off?”
“Chet told me,” Mike admitted. “Said he saw you do it once.”
“Guess I better not swat him out of the way the next time he lurks over my shoulder at a rescue then,” said Johnny with a grin. “He just might be learning something.”
“Nah, he'll probably just be trying to bug you,” Mike declared. He glanced back into the car wistfully. “Take good care of them, okay?”
“You know we will.”
Mike nodded and started back toward the engine. Hank clapped him on the shoulder. “Good job there, Stoker.”
“Thanks, Cap.” Mike looked back over to the car anxiously as Johnny and Roy lifted Angela and the baby onto the stretcher.
“They're in good hands,” Hank reassured him.
“I know, but…” Mike stopped, sighing deeply as he jammed his hands into his pockets.
“What do you say we tell Dispatch to put us available from Rampart for awhile?” Hank suggested. “We'll make sure they get settled in okay.”
Mike smiled broadly, his head bobbing up and down. “Thanks, Cap.”
Hank only nodded before climbing into the engine.
Dixie followed Johnny and Roy out of Treatment Room 2 and over to the waiting area, where Mike, Hank, Chet and Marco were milling around waiting for them. Mike stepped forward anxiously as they approached.
“Mother and son are both doing fine,” Johnny told Mike, clapping him on the shoulder. Mike's face broadened into a rare smile.
“Quite a job there, Mike,” Dixie complimented him. “I doubt my paramedics could have done it much better.” Johnny shot her a wounded look. “Of course, I'm sure that's because you learned from watching the best.”
“That's right,” boasted Johnny, as Roy rolled his eyes.
“Angela…the mom…are you sure she's okay?” questioned Mike. “She was really bleeding.”
“Not much more than normal,” Dixie assured him. “We're going to keep an eye on her for a day or two, but we don't expect there to be any complications, with her or with the baby. So, how are you going to celebrate?”
“Lunch!” declared Hank, Chet, Marco, Johnny and Roy in unison.
“It's a tradition,” Roy explained to a puzzled-looking Dixie. “We have to feed them every time we deliver a baby. So now Mike gets to return the favor.”
“I think I need to work out a deal like that with Joe and Kel,” said Dixie with a mischievous smile.
They're interrupted by the tones going off on Hank and Roy's handie-talkies. “Station 51, what is your status?” inquired Dispatch.
“Station 51 available at Rampart,” answered Hank.
“Stand by for a response,” commanded the dispatcher. There was silence for a moment, and then the dispatcher continued. “Station 51, Engine 127, multiple automatic fire alarms at the Birchwood Industries warehouse, 10036 Birchwood Drive, cross street Sepulveda. Multiple automatic fire alarms sounding, 10036 Birchwood Drive at Sepulveda. Time out 12:08.”
“Station 51 responding from Rampart General,” Hank answered up as he started for the door with Chet, Marco and Mike at his heels.
“See ya, Dix,” Johnny called with a wave as he and Roy followed them out. Dixie waved back as they disappeared out the door.
A few minutes later, the squad was racing along behind the engine when they heard Engine 127 come over the air and announce, “Dispatch, this is Engine 127. We've been alerted at the scene that a pressure problem in the pumps triggered the fire alarms at our location. We're going to investigate, just to make sure, but you can cancel Station 51.”
“10-4, Engine 127. Station 51, cancel your response,” ordered Dispatch.
“Squad 51,” Johnny answered.
“Engine 51,” responded Hank.
“Station 51 clear, 12:17,” Dispatch acknowledged.
Both the engine and the squad turned off their lights and sirens. Mike pulled the engine to the side of the road, waving at Roy to pull up beside them, which he did. “We're going to pick up lunch,” Mike called to Johnny out the window. “We'll meet you back at the house.”
Johnny answered with a wave before Roy pulled the squad away again. “So, what are we all in the mood for?” asked Mike.
He got three answers at the same time. “Tacos,” said Chet. “Burgers,” offered Marco. “Pizza,” suggested Hank.
“Seniority rules. Pizza it is,” Mike announced.
Johnny chomped hungrily into a slice of pizza, but didn't let a mouth full of food interrupt his conversation. “We're going to let you play paramedic more often, Mike, if this is how you reward us.”
Hank, Roy, Chet and Marco all nodded their heads in agreement as they dug into the boxes of take-out pizza on the table in front of them.
“No, that was a one-time thing,” Mike pledged, reaching for another piece. “No matter how great it felt.”
“Isn't it the best feeling?” Johnny agreed. “Seeing a new life come into the world. There's nothing like it.”
“The rest of the day's going to be pretty boring after all this, that's for sure,” Mike stated. His station mates groaned. “What?”
“You just cursed us!” Chet scolded. “You know if you say it's going to be a boring day then something's going to happen to prove you wrong.”
Mike shook his head. “You're just paranoid, Kelly.”
The station tones sounded loudly. “Good going, Mikey,” Chet muttered as he pushed away from the table.
The crew ran to the bay, most of them still with pizza in their hands, as the call came over the speakers.
“Station 51, Station 36, multiple vehicle accident with injuries on the 110 freeway, one mile South of the 405 Exit. Multiple vehicle accident with injuries, one mile south of the 405 Exit on the 110 freeway. Time out 13:32.
“Station 51, KMG-365,” Hank answered up.
“There goes your boring day,” Chet announced as they drove up the shoulder toward the four-car accident that was blocking half the freeway.
A crumpled Volkswagen Beetle was resting upside down in the back of a pick-up truck, having been propelled there by the Buick that had hit it from behind. The impact of the Beetle landing on the cab of the truck had sent the pickup wandering into the next lane, where it had picked off a Nova on its way toward the guardrail.
“Park her across these lanes, give us a little protection from that traffic while we get 'em out,” Hank commanded.
Mike acknowledged the orders with a nod, pulling the engine behind the wreckage and parking it sideways across three lanes of traffic. “Cap, you want a line charged?”
“Not yet. We'll probably need to wash things down, but let's take a look first,” Hank answered as he turned toward Chet and Marco. “Kelly, Lopez, get the engines shut down on those cars so we don't get any fire, then get out the tools. We're definitely going to need the jaws on that Beetle. Mike, help John and Roy with triage until 36s get here.”
Mike, Chet and Marco jumped down and headed for the wreckage, which Johnny and Roy were already surveying. Roy leaned in the window of the truck, while Johnny hopped into the back to check the Beetle.
A quick glance at what was left of the head of the driver of the pickup, and Roy knew he didn't have to even check for a pulse. He placed his hand on the man's neck just in case, finding nothing. He shook his head as he stepped away.
Glancing in the back of the pickup, he saw Johnny lying next to the Beetle. “I would shore that up before you crawl in there, Johnny,” Roy warned.
“I will, just wanted to let the lady know we're working on getting her out,” Johnny explained.
He's got someone conscious in there? “You need some help?” wondered Roy.
“I'll get Chet and Marco to give me a hand. You better go help Cap and Mike with the other drivers.”
Mike tried to pull open the crumpled driver's side door of the Nova, but it wouldn't budge. The driver rolled down the window. “Help us, we're trapped in here!” she cried.
“Is everybody okay?” he asked, giving a quick once-over to the two teenage girls in the car.
“My dad's gonna kill me,” the driver wailed.
“It wasn't your fault, Amanda,” the passenger declared. “That truck came right over into our lane.”
“I'm sure your dad will just be happy you're okay,” Mike reassured her. “Are you two hurt anywhere?”
“My arm and my neck hurt,” Amanda pouted, cradling her left arm. “And Nicole hit her head.”
“Did you pass out at all, Nicole?” Mike asked.
“I don't know, but it's bleeding,” she announced, lifting her hand off her forehead to show him the blood trickling down.
Mike fished out the 4X4s he had stuffed in his pocket and handed them to Nicole. “Hold these on that cut,” he instructed. “I'm going to go get a paramedic to look you two over.”
“Can't you get us out of the car?” Amanda whined. “What if it blows up or something?”
“It's not going to blow up,” Mike assured her with a patient smile. “That fireman out there is making sure of that.” He pointed to Marco, who was pulling the battery wires on the cars. “Plus, you're much safer in here than standing out on the freeway. Just hang tight, and we'll get you out in a few minutes.”
“What'cha got, Mike?” Roy called as he made his way to the Nova.
“Two girls, 16 or 17. One of them banged her head, the other looks like she broke her arm. She also says her neck hurts,” Mike informed him. “The damage inside the car isn't too bad, but they hit on both sides, so I think they were bounced around pretty good.”
“Can you put a collar on the one with the neck pain?” Roy requested. “I need to check out the driver in the Buick, but the other squad should be here any minute to look out for the girls.”
“Sure.” Mike trotted over to the trauma box, which was in the back of the truck with Johnny, as Roy headed for the Buick.
“What's he look like, Cap?” Roy asked Hank, who was walking away from the car in obvious disgust.
“Drunk as all get out and complaining that we're holding him up,” complained Hank. “I had to walk away before I punched the guy.”
“Is he hurt at all?” wondered Roy.
“He's bleeding all over the place, busted his nose on the steering wheel, it looks like,” Hank informed him. “As bad as that car is crumpled, though, I'll be damned if I can see anything else wrong with the twit.”
“I better check him out, just in case.”
Hank nodded. “I'm going to grab one of those cops and introduce him to our drunken friend.”
Roy chuckled as Hank stalked off. Mike approached Roy. “I've got the collar, and something to wrap up the other girl's head,” he told Roy. “I'm going to try to get the door open with a crowbar – can I let them get out once I pop it?”
“I think it should be okay, but if they complain of any pain when they start moving around, make them stay put,” Roy instructed.
Mike nodded and headed back to the Nova, leaning in through the window again. “Hi, girls, how are we doing?” he asked with a smile.
Amanda gave him a flirty smile in return. “Better now that you're back.”
Mike knew better than to respond to that remark. He held up the collar. “Amanda, I need to put this on your neck to keep it still, so you don't hurt it any further,” he explained as he slipped it on her. “Nicole, is your neck hurting at all?”
“Not as much as my head,” she whimpered.
“Has your head stopped bleeding?” he questioned.
“Okay, I'm going to wrap this gauze around your head to keep those bandages in place, and we'll see if that helps.” He leaned past Amanda and started to make his way around Nicole's head with the role of Kling. Nicole started whimpering. “What's wrong?”
“I had my hair just perfect today,” she complained.
“Be glad you still got a head, Nic. I bet that guy over there doesn't have much of one,” Amanda observed, pointing in the direction of the demolished pickup's cab. “Did you see him?” she asked Mike. “Is he all smushed?”
“Let's just worry about you two,” Mike suggested. “I'm going to try to get your door open with this crowbar, Amanda. Once I do, I want both of you to slide out this way. But if anything starts hurting more when you move, stop and we'll get you out on a board instead, okay?” They both nodded. “Good.”
He stuck the crowbar into the frame of the door and put his full effort into opening it. Amanda and Nicole watched him closely. “He's so cute,” Amanda murmured with a giggle.
“He's not bad for an old guy,” Nicole admitted.
“I bet he's not that old. Somewhere in his thirties, probably,” Amanda guessed.
“And you're 16. Think about it, Mandy,” chastised Nicole. “There are laws. Of course, that doesn't mean we can't dream now and again about being saved by him.”
They both burst out laughing as Mike finally got the door to pop open. “What's so funny?” he wondered.
“Nothing,” the girls squealed with another burst of laughter.
Mike shook his head. “C'mon, let's get out of there.”
Amanda slid out of the car, still cradling her arm. “Can we go home in your firetruck?
“No, you two are going in an ambulance to get checked out,” Mike informed them. He steadied Nicole as she swooned while getting out of the car. “Nicole, you okay?”
“I'm a little dizzy,” she admitted, holding tightly to Mike's arm as he walked her toward the engine.
“Faker,” Amanda muttered under her breath.
“Mandy, I'm not…”
Mike caught her as she fainted, scooped her into his arms and started for the engine.
“Need some help there, Stoker?” Bellingham called as he and Brice approached.
Mike nodded. “I'm done playing paramedic,” he announced with a sigh. “I'm going back to my engine, where I know what to do.”
“Which car was she in?” Brice questioned.
“The Nova,” Mike informed him as he carried Nicole over to Squad 36. “She was the passenger. She seemed fine except for the cut on her head – she was talking to me and she got out of the car on her own. Then she just passed out.”
“I hate when they do that,” Bellingham muttered.
Mike and Brice ignored him. “This is the driver,” Mike told him, nodding his head in Amanda's direction as he laid Nicole down on a blanket. “She was complaining of neck pain, so Roy had me put a collar on her before she got out of the car.”
“My arm hurts, too,” Amanda piped up. “I think I broke it. It feels like my other one did when I fell off the top of the pyramid in cheerleading practice, and that was broken in two places.”
“Come over here and I'll examine your arm just as soon as we find out what's wrong with your friend,” Brice instructed.
“She's just faking, so she can get more attention from all the cute firemen around here,” Amanda insisted. “She pulled the same thing last week at cheerleading practice so Tommy Gehrity would feel sorry for her and ask her out.”
“I'll tell you if she's faking,” Bellingham announced, pulling out the smelling salts. He waved them under Nicole's nose, but she didn't move. “She really is out. Brice…”
Brice already had the blood pressure cuff out of the trauma box and was extending it to him. Bellingham wrapped it around Nicole's arm as Brice turned to Amanda, who was staring at Nicole.
“She's not faking?” Amanda asked anxiously.
“No,” he replied shortly. “Your neck hurts?” He loosened the collar and palpated her neck.
“A little bit. Is Nicole going to be okay?” she asked.
“We'll take good care of her, honey,” Bellingham assured Amanda before Brice could answer.
“If you don't need me anymore…” Mike started.
“We've got it, Stoker,” Brice assured him.
Mike nodded and started to walk away.
“Thanks, Mike,” Bellingham called after him.
“Yes, thank you for saving us, Fireman Mike,” Amanda added with a flirtatious smile.
Bellingham snorted in amusement as Mike blushed the shade of his fire engine. Mike hurried away.
He looked around for Hank who was talking with Vince next to his squad car. The drunk driver was in the back of the car, kicking at the seat. “Mr. Policeman! I didn't do anything, Mr. Policeman,” the man yelled.
“Knock it off, pal,” Vince ordered, shooting the drunk a withering glare. The man quieted down for the moment.
“Thanks for taking him off our hands, Vince,” Hank said gratefully.
“No use wasting an ambulance on him when I can run him by Rampart on his way to jail,” Vince reasoned.
“Jail?” the drunk cried. “But I didn't do anything, Mr. Policeman! I was just driving along and that little Bug thing got in my way.”
“Tell it to the judge, buddy,” Vince told him as he climbed into the car. “Thanks, Hank,” he called with a wave.
Hank waved back as Mike approached.
“Brice and Bellingham are here, they're taking care of the girls in the Nova,” Mike informed him. “Should I go help the rest of the guys with the Beetle?”
Hank nodded. “Johnny says the lady's going downhill fast, so we really need to get her out of there.”
“K-12?” Mike asked.
“Kelly's already got it, but we just got the car shored up enough to work on it,” explained Hank. “See what you can do to help him and Lopez.”
Mike nodded and trotted over to the Beetle as Hank waved over an approaching tow truck.
Mike saw a pair of legs sticking out of the crumpled remains of the Beetle, clad in blue uniform pants. Roy hovered in the back of the pickup next to the legs, with the biophone, trauma box and defibrillator in front of him. The defibrillator paddles were stretched into the car, and it squealed as Roy charged it up.
“200-300-Go!” Roy called out. He studied the screen as Johnny discharged the paddles. “Still v-fib, hit her again,” he instructed, hitting the charge button. The machine squealed to its full power, but this attempt was even less successful than the first. “Asystole,” he informed Johnny as he picked up the biophone.
“Damn,” Chet muttered from next to Mike. “Another few minutes and we would have had her out of there.”
“Don't give up on her yet,” Marco chided.
“They've already zapped her five times, Marco, let's be real,” Chet shot back.
“How is he treating her in that little space?” Mike had to wonder.
“This is Gage we're talking about,” was Chet's only answer.
“We did pry it open a little bit before the lady went south,” Marco explained, pointing to the K-12 sitting next to the car. “But then we had to let Roy in there with the defibrillator.”
“What's happening?” Hank asked as he approached the trio.
“Doesn't look good, Cap,” said Chet. “They had to shock her a few times, and now she's flatlined.”
“All because of a stupid drunk,” Hank muttered.
Roy hopped out of the truck. “Let's get her out of there, guys.”
“Did you get her back?” questioned a surprised Chet.
“Not yet, but Johnny's not giving up, so the only way we're going to get him out of there is to get her out,” Roy explained.
“Do it,” Hank commanded, sending the guys hurrying into action.
Roy put a hand on Johnny's shoulder. “We can't win all of them, Johnny.”
“Yeah, I know,” Johnny acknowledged. “But that doesn't mean I have to like it.”
“I'd worry if you did,” answered Roy.
“John, Roy,” Hank called, waving them over.
“Yeah, Cap?” Roy asked as he and Johnny trotted toward the engine.
“Do you two have to head over to Rampart?” Hank wondered.
“Bellingham took those girls in, so we can help you guys clean up here before we go for supplies,” Johnny offered.
“We're almost done, just waiting on the tow trucks to get everything out of the way,” Hank told them. “You two should head out, so you can get back in service as soon as possible.”
“Yes, sir,” Roy answered.
“Can you make sure Chet doesn't eat all the pizza before we get back?” Johnny requested.
“I won't make any promises I can't keep, John,” answered Hank with a smile. “Let me get Mike to move the engine so you can get out of here.”
“Thanks, Cap,” said Roy. “Ready, Johnny?” Johnny nodded, gathering up the equipment and heading for the squad.
Hank pulled his H.T. out of his pocket. “Okay, Stoker, go ahead and move her,” he commanded over the radio.
“10-4, Cap,” Mike answered, climbing behind the wheel of the idling engine. He revved the motor as he stuck his head out the window to look behind him. Cars stretched down the freeway as far as he could see, all trying to merge into the only two lanes the engine wasn't blocking. Mike saw the driver of an 18-wheeler rocking anxiously in his seat as he eyed Mike closely, ready to move the moment Mike did.
Hold your horses, buddy, I'm not out of the way yet.
The truck driver wiped his arm across his sweaty brow as he watched Mike. “C'mon, fireman, get that thing out of the way,” he muttered. “I got places I gotta be.” He grabbed the clutch tightly with one hand, while absentmindedly rubbing his chest with the other.
Mike didn't notice the truck driver shift into gear as Mike turned his attention to the side of the road, where he saw Hank signaling that it was clear for him to move. Mike slowly started to pull the engine toward the side of the road, freeing up most of the blocked lane.
He stopped when he noticed one of the tow trucks hauling the accident vehicles starting to pull away. Mike eased on the brake and waved for the driver to pull in front of him. The driver flashed Mike a grateful smile, which suddenly turned to a look of panic as a terrible screeching sound cut through the air.
Mike didn't have time to finish the thought before he was slammed into the steering wheel. His head bounced off the windshield, his helmet leaving a spiderweb crack in the glass before it tumbled off his head. Although gasping to get back the wind that had been knocked out of him, Mike didn't fail to notice that he was about to be pushed into the tow truck.
Mike turned the wheel sharply. The engine let out a squeal of protest.
Unfortunately, the tow truck driver wasn't expecting the defensive maneuver and slammed his truck into reverse, putting him directly in Mike's path again. The engine leapt onto the back of the tow truck, the driver's side catching on the truck's crane and crumpling against it.
The sickening crunch of grinding metal continued for what seemed an eternity as the 18-wheeler battered the engine and the tow truck. The three skidded to the side of the road, stopping only when the tow truck hit the embankment. With a final squeal of metal on metal, they sputtered out less than two feet behind the squad.
Hank looked up from the gravel in which he'd landed after diving out of the way of the trucks. “My God,” he murmured as he saw the mangled engine suspended between the two trucks. “Gage, DeSoto!” he bellowed frantically.
Johnny and Roy were already trying to scale the wreckage, but Johnny jumped down when he saw his captain sprawled on the ground. “Cap, you okay?” Johnny asked anxiously, running a practiced hand down Hank's back.
“I'm fine,” Hank insisted, shrugging him off. “Check Stoker.”
“Roy's got him,” Johnny assured Hank, helping the unsteady man to his feet. “Are you sure you're okay?”
“I've gotta get more help,” Hank muttered, fumbling in his pocket for the H.T.
He blew out a deep breath before clicking it on. “L.A., this is Engine 51. We have a second motor vehicle accident at this location, involving Engine 51. I have a Code I and two others injured,” he reported. “Request additional squad, two more engines and two ambulances immediately.”
“10-4, Engine 51,” came the reply from Dispatch. Hank didn't hear the additional help being toned out as he circled the wreckage.
“Cap, where should I start?” Chet asked, hoisting the Hurst.
“I don't even know,” Hank admitted with a shake of his head.
“That wreckage doesn't look too stable, Cap,” Marco prodded gently.
Hank nodded. “Shore it up as best you can,” he instructed. “Use whatever you can find, I don't think you're going to be able to get much equipment off the engine.
Marco nodded and trotted off as Hank looked up at the engine. “DeSoto, what's going on up there?”
“Cap, I need the biophone and O2,” Roy yelled down.
“On the way, Pal,” Hank promised.
Johnny already had the equipment out and was starting to climb the wreckage. “I've got it, Cap.”
“Gage, I need you to check the other drivers,” Hank commanded. “Kelly, take this equipment up to DeSoto. And find out what we're going to need to get Stoker out of there.”
“Sure, Cap.” Chet set down the Hurst and took the boxes from Johnny. He put the boxes up on the tow truck bed then climbed up behind them. As he tried to get onto the engine, it began to rock precariously.
“Watch it, Chet,” Marco warned. “There's not much keeping the engine up there.”
“Roy needs this equipment. Can I get up there without making things worse?” Chet questioned anxiously.
“I think so, but be careful,” Marco instructed.
“I'm always careful,” Chet grumbled as he stretched to put the O2 box and biophone on the engine. He hoisted himself up after them with a grunt. The engine swayed with his every move.
“Cap, can we stabilize this any?” Roy called down.
“We're working on it,” Hank informed him. “There's nothing to anchor her to right now, the squad wouldn't hold her if she went.” He winced as the engine rocked from Chet scrambling across it. “Kelly, watch how you're stepping up there.”
Chet ignored the scolding but began to tiptoe more gingerly across the top of the engine. “Sorry about the swaying,” he apologized when he finally made it to the engine cab. It's not an easy climb up here.”
“Guess I was full of adrenaline when I did it,” suggested Roy from inside the cab. “You got the biophone? I really need to get him an IV.”
“Right here.” Chet passed it through the window, but purposely avoided looking inside. If the engine looks like this, I don't think I want to see Mike. “I have oxygen, too.”
“Give it here, he needs it,” Roy instructed. Chet held the blue box at the window, but Roy didn't take it, so he reluctantly leaned inside the cab.
“How's…” he stopped short when he saw a battered Mike lying on the seat, the bottom half of him not visible beneath the crumpled dashboard. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” he muttered.
“He's alive,” Roy assured him. “It's going to be hell getting him out of here, though.”
Chet nodded in agreement as he gathered himself together and surveyed the damaged cab. “We're going to need more than just the Port-a-Power, and there's no room in here for equipment,” he noticed. “We'll have to come in from the outside with the Hurst, get that dash up off of him.”
“I wouldn't do anything until we get the engine stabilized,” Roy warned. “It could roll right off of here if we shake it up too much.”
“Does Mike have time to wait for all that?” Chet asked as he watched Roy slip the oxygen mask over Mike's ashen face. “Because I'm willing to tumble the engine if it means getting him into Rampart faster.”
“If the engine goes, Mike goes with it,” Roy reminded Chet. “And if that dash comes in on his legs much more he's going to lose them.”
He picked up the receiver of the biophone. “Rampart, this is Squad 51.”
“Go ahead, 51,” came Brackett's voice.
“I'm going down to let Cap know what's going on,” Chet whispered loudly.
Roy nodded as he glanced at his notepad. “Rampart, we have a 33 year old male, the unrestrained driver of a fire engine that was hit by an 18-wheeler and pushed into a tow truck,” Roy informed the hospital. “The victim is pinned under the collapsed dashboard of the engine, from the hips down. He's responsive only to painful stimuli at this time. We can't yet determine the extent of injury to his legs or pelvis, they're inaccessible. There is a large contusion on his chest compatible with impacting the steering wheel, but there's no crepitus, and breath sounds are equal bilaterally.”
“Give me the vitals, 51,” Brackett ordered.
“BP is 90 over 60. Pulse is 122. Respirations are 30 and shallow,” Roy informed him. “Skin is cool and diaphoretic. Pupils are equal but sluggish. The victim also has a superficial lac on his forehead. Bleeding was easily controlled with pressure.”
“10-4, 51. Start two large bore IVs with Ringers. Run them wide open,” Brackett instructed.
“Two IVs, Ringers, running wide open,” Roy repeated, picking up the already primed IV.
“Stabilize the neck and spine as best you can during extrication,” Brackett added. “Any idea how long it's going to take to get him out?”
“That's hard to say, Rampart,” Roy admitted. “We need to stabilize the engine before we can even attempt extrication. Estimate 45 minutes to an hour before transport.”
“51, can you get an EKG?”
“It'll take a few minutes, Rampart,” Roy let Brackett know.
“Send it as soon as you can, 51. And I want vitals every five minutes,” commanded Brackett. “Also, let me know when you're ready to pull him.”
“10-4, Rampart,” Roy replied. He leaned out the window of the engine. “Cap, I need the…the…the…” he hesitated, blanking on the word. “The defibrillator!” he finally called. “I mean the monitor,” he hastily added.
Hank stopped short when he heard Roy's request. Brice was approaching the captain at that moment and nearly ran into him. “I think DeSoto would be down here himself if he really needed to defibrillate, sir. Rampart is probably just requesting a strip,” Brice tried to assure Hank when he saw the stricken man's face.
Hank looked at him blankly a moment. “Brice, what are you doing here?” he finally asked.
“I heard you call in a Code I,” Brice explained. “I figured it was Gage again, so I requested permission to return to the scene.”
“You were in your squad?” questioned Hank.
“Yes, sir,” Brice replied crisply. “Where would you like me?”
“Grab your equipment and help Gage,” Hank commanded. “He's working on the truck drivers. Kelly! Kelly, where are you?”
“Under here, Cap,” Chet called from beneath the engine, where he and Marco were trying to use what they could from the tow truck and the engine to steady the engine.
“I need you a minute, Pal,” he requested.
Chet crawled out. “Yeah, Cap?”
“Take the cardiac monitor up to Roy, and find out if he needs anything else,” instructed Hank.
Chet nodded and grabbed the monitor. He heaved himself back onto the engine, which shuddered at the movement.
“Easy, easy,” Hank chided.
“Sorry,” Chet muttered as he crept across the top of the engine again, pushing the monitor in front of him.
“Do you have the monitor?” Roy called as Chet reached the cab of the engine.
“Yeah. You need anything else?” Chet asked.
“Not right now. How are the other drivers?” Roy wondered. “Does Johnny need any of this equipment?”
“No, Brice just came back with his squad,” Chet informed him. “How's Mike?”
“His pressure's holding, but I'd be happier if he was conscious.” He took the monitor from Chet and tried to find a place for it in the cramped cab.
“Want me to put the biophone up here?” offered Chet. “I can relay to Rampart for you.”
“No, you need to get back to helping Marco steady this thing so we can get Mike out of here. Put the trauma box up there for now,” he instructed, handing the box to Chet. “I've fixed him up as best I can until we pull him.”
Chet set the box on the roof. “It's right up here if you need it. And I'll be down below if you need anything else.”
“Be careful,” Roy called as Chet started back across the engine.
“This is me you're talking to not Gage,” Chet grumbled.
“Be careful anyway,” Roy advised, turning back to Mike with a sigh.
“And hurry,” Mike murmured.
Roy jumped at the unexpected response from his patient. “Mike, Mike, can you hear me?” he asked anxiously. Please tell me I'm not hearing voices.
“Hurts,” Mike moaned.
“I know, buddy, I know,” Roy soothed, attaching the EKG leads. “Try to hang in there. Can you tell me exactly where it hurts?”
“Legs,” Mike groaned.
“It looks like they're pinned under the dashboard of the engine,” Roy explained as he studied the monitor. “Can you feel them at all?”
“That's a good sign, Mike, although I know it doesn't feel that way to you,” Roy told him. I promise we'll get that dash off of you as soon as we can, but we need to stabilize the engine first, so you don't get hurt any worse than you are now.”
“You're talking to me. That's pretty good, considering what the engine looks like,” Roy tried to joke.
“A truck hit the engine,” Roy explained. “It pushed you into the tow truck that was hauling away the cars from the other accident, and the engine is kind of sandwiched between the two.”
“Cap's…going…to…kill…me,” Mike struggled to say.
“He's more worried than mad,” Roy told him. “Where else do you hurt?”
“Are you having any trouble breathing?” Roy questioned.
Mike tried to shake his head, wincing at the movement. “Hurts,” he groaned again.
“Your neck hurts?” Roy asked worriedly, checking the collar.
“I don't know if Rampart will let me give you anything,” Roy admitted. “You hit your head, pretty hard from the looks of that windshield.”
“Helmet,” Mike protested.
“You had your helmet on when you hit?” asked Roy.
“I'll see what I can do,” Roy promised. “But first you have to answer a few questions for me.”
“Don't worry, they're easy questions,” Roy assured him. “What's your name?”
“How about your full name?” quizzed Roy.
Mike hesitated a moment. “Michael Charles Stoker, Jr.” he finally answered.
“Do you know where you are?” Roy continued.
“I mean physically,” Roy clarified.
“What fire engine?”
“51,” answered Mike weakly, clenching tightly at another wave of pain.
“Good, good. One more question and I'll quit bothering you,” Roy promised. “What year is it?”
Mike mumbled something incomprehensible. Roy shook him gently. “Mike, can you tell me what year it is?”
“1976,” Mike muttered.
“Good.” He picked up the receiver of the biophone. “Rampart, this is Squad 51.”
“Go ahead, 51.”
“Rampart, our patient is now conscious and alert and in extreme pain,” Roy informed Brackett. “EKG is showing a sinus tach at 140 with no other ectopy. Request permission for 5mg MS, IV.”
“Doesn't you patient have a head injury, 51?” Brackett chastised.
“There is a laceration on his forehead, but the patient states it's from his helmet, not the windshield. It is no longer bleeding,” Roy explained. “His pupils are equal, and the patient is oriented times three.”
“Any nausea, dizziness or double vision?” questioned Brackett.
“Not…from…my…head,” Mike groaned. “Please, Roy.”
“Negative, Rampart. Can I go ahead with the MS?” Roy pleaded.
“What's the BP?” Brackett wanted to know.
Roy pumped up the cuff, sighing as he got a reading. Sorry, Mike, no way he's going to okay pain meds now. “Blood pressure is 84 over 52.”
“Hold off for now, 51,” Brackett instructed.
Mike let out a groan that sent a shudder down Roy's spine. Brackett and Dixie heard him, too, through the open radio line.
“Kel…” Dixie started.
“It's not worth killing him to get some temporary relief,” he growled. “His pressure's only going to keep dropping the longer he's in there, I'm not about to help it along.”
Roy was informing Mike of the same thing on the other end of the line. “I know you hurt like hell, Mike, but if we give you some morphine it's going to bring your blood pressure down lower than it already is.”
“If it goes too low, we might not be able to get it back up,” Roy explained.
Mike whimpered but nodded in reluctant understanding.
Suddenly, Chet landed with a thud on the hood, the Hurst in his hand. Mike choked out a cry.
“Watch it, Chet,” Roy seethed.
“The engine's stable,” said a defensive Chet.
“Maybe so, but Mike is right underneath where you're jumping,” Roy scolded.
“Don't tell me, tell Mike,” grumbled Roy.
“Are you telling me we can't work from the hood of the engine?” Chet queried anxiously. “How are we going to lift the dash? There's no room to work from the inside, right?”
Roy looked around and realized Chet was right. “Mike…”
“Just…don't…jump,” Mike said weakly.
“Go ahead and work from the hood,” Roy instructed. “But try not to jump around too much. Mike's conscious now, and he's feeling every move you make.”
“Rampart can't give him anything?” Chet wondered.
“No, so let's make this as fast as we can, okay?” Roy requested.
“Record time, I promise, Mike,” Chet vowed. “Do you have a blanket to put over you guys while I take out the windshield?”
“Grab me one from the trauma box, will ya?” Roy asked.
Chet pulled out the blanket and tossed it through the window. “Just holler when you're ready.”
Roy nodded as he ripped open the packaging and then spread the blanket over himself and Mike, careful not to get tangled up in the IVs. “Okay, Chet, go ahead,” he called.
Chet loudly slammed his axe into the windshield, and the engine lurched again. Mike let out a cry and began clawing desperately at Roy's leg. His lips were moving, trying to tell Roy something, but no sound was coming out.
“Mike? What's happening, Mike?” questioned Roy anxiously.
“Legs,” Mike finally managed to gasp.
Roy shrugged off the blanket covering them. “Chet, stop!!” he yelled before Chet could attack the windshield again.
“What?” questioned Chet, not bothering to hide his annoyed tone.
“That engine shifted more onto Mike that time,” Roy revealed. “We need to stabilize it back the other way or the next shift could cut his legs off.”
Chet nodded contritely and quickly scrambled across the top of the engine. “Cap, we need to shore this up more,” he called as he headed back to the ground.
Roy put a reassuring hand on Mike's, which was still clinging to Roy's leg with all the strength he had left. “Mike, tell me what's going on,” Roy commanded.
The only answer he got was Mike's anguished gasps as he tried to fight off the pain.
“Try to relax, Mike, try to relax,” Roy coaxed. “It won't take Chet and Marco long to stabilize things, and then he'll be back up here to get you out.”
“Scared,” Mike mumbled.
“Yeah, Chet was kind of scary with that axe,” Roy tried to joke.
“No,” Mike protested weakly.
“I know, Mike, I know,” Roy assured him softly. “But we're going to get you out of here soon. And you know you'll get the best care available at Rampart.”
He again got no answer from Mike. “Mike?” He pinched Mike's shoulder. Mike groaned. “Sorry, Pal, I didn't mean to hurt you more. I just wanted to make sure you were still with me.”
“Roy,” Mike called anxiously, clinging to Roy's leg.
“I'm right here, Mike, I'm not going anywhere,” Roy assured him, squeezing his shoulder reassuringly.
“Don't…let…me…die,” Mike mumbled just before slipping back into unconsciousness.
Twenty minutes later, Roy was once again huddled under the blanket with Mike as Chet laid waste to the windshield.
“Okay, Roy, windshield's out,” said Chet finally, pulling the blanket off of Mike and Roy.
“Watch the IV,” chided Roy as the blanket snagged on one of them.
“I see it.” He picked up the IV. “How you doin', Mike?”
“He's hasn't come around again,” Roy let him know. “How long til we can pull the dash?”
“As soon as I get the chains in place and the roof off we should be ready to go,” Chet informed him, pulling on a chain.
“You don't have any help?”
“It's nuts down there,” Chet said with a sigh. “There was another accident up the road that Engine 36 spotted on their way back here. They had to stop and handle it, because one of the cars was on fire and it would have taken another engine at least a half hour to get there. 127s are on the way, but they're hung up in all the damn traffic. So it's us and Brice right now.”
“No one else can help you?” Roy grumbled.
“It's not like anyone's sitting around out here, DeSoto,” Chet mumbled defensively as he starting hooking up the chain.
“So I should just let him bleed to death?” Roy shot back. “Because that's what's going to happen if we don't get him out of here in the next few minutes.”
“Marco, I need help up here!” Chet called frantically.
“In a minute,” came a muffled reply from down below.
“We don't have a minute,” Chet bellowed. “I need someone up here now!”
The engine shook slightly, and soon after Johnny scampered across the top of it.
“What do you need, Chet?” Johnny asked as he skidded over the cab of the engine and landed on the hood.
“Watch it, Gage, Mike can feel that,” Chet chided him.
“He's conscious?” Johnny asked as he poked his head through the windshield.
“I thought you had a patient,” said a surprised Roy.
“He's dead,” Johnny responded matter-of-factly. “You need me?”
“No, Chet does. We've got to get this dash up quick. But can you get me two more bags of Ringers first?” he requested. “The trauma box is on the roof.”
“There's only one left,” Johnny informed him as he poked through the box. “Want me to go down and get another one from Brice?”
“No, we don't have time,” Roy told him. “We need to get him out of here before we have two fatalities from this accident, too.”
“I can't keep his systolic up, even with two IVs running wide open,” Roy explained with a frown. “You know it's going to crash even more when we pull him. His pulse is dropping, too.”
Johnny tossed him the bag of Ringers. “Let's get him out of here then.”
“Johnny, can you get the roof while I finish with the chains?” Chet requested.
“Sure thing.” Johnny pulled on his gloves and picked up the cutters, positioning them on the A bar of the engine. “Roy, you might want to get back under the blanket,” he cautioned.
Roy nodded and covered himself and Mike up again. Johnny braced his feet on the hood of the engine and squeezed the controls of the cutters. He adjusted his footing as the steel teeth chewed through the metal post, throwing him off balance.
“Harder, harder, harder,” he coaxed himself as he gripped the controls. But the metal only twisted in the grip of the tool, refusing to break. “C'mon, damnit, c'mon,” he muttered.
The metal gave way with a sudden snap, nearly sending Johnny tumbling.
Chet couldn't help but snicker. “You're getting soft working the Band-Aid brigade, Gage,” he teased Johnny. “Want me to take over?”
“I got it,” Johnny declared, slamming the spreaders against the post on the other side with renewed determination.
Roy listened from under the blanket as the tools roared above him. All their noise couldn't drown out Mike's labored effort to breathe. “Hang in there, Mike, we're almost out of here,” he murmured. “You've made it this far, you only have to keep going a little bit longer.”
He squeezed the new IV bag tightly, watching for any signs of movement from Mike. But the engineer remained still. “I'm almost used to Johnny getting hurt like this,” Roy admitted. “But the rest of you guys…” He sighed. “Sometimes I hate this job.”
“I really hate this job sometimes,” Chet was grumbling at exactly the same moment. With a grunt he hauled up the last chain and attached it.
“This isn't easy on anyone, but we can't let it get to us right now,” Johnny warned. “Are we almost ready here?”
“Ready when you are.”
Johnny poked his head through the windshield. “Roy, we're just about to pull the dash. Do you need anything besides the backboard and trousers?”
“A helicopter would be nice,” Roy remarked. “I don't even want to think about how long it's going to take us to get to Rampart in this mess.”
“Cap called for one, he knew we'd have to get to Rampart as quick as possible,” Johnny told him even as they heard the 'copter's blades approaching in the distance. “Once they find a place to land and we get him in, we should be there in less than 10.”
“I hope that's soon enough,” Roy mumbled.
“Johnny didn't hear the comment as he pulled the H.T. from his pocket. “Engine 51, this is Squad 51. We need a backboard and an anti-shock suit.”
“We've got it waiting for you,” Hank promised. “Anything else?”
“We'll need some more hands to get him down,” Johnny requested. “We want to make the trip as smooth as possible.”
“127s just got here, but we can't put any more men up there,” warned Hank. “The rig's not stable enough. You three are going to have to carry him down. And one of you will have to come down and get the board.”
“10-4, Engine 51,” Johnny replied with a frown.
“Johnny, let's do this,” Chet barked.
Johnny nodded as he shoved the H.T. back into his pocket. He pulled on the chains, making sure they were all attached, and then waved a hand at Chet.
Chet yanked the cord on the spreaders, bringing them back to life.
“Roy, you ready?” hollered Johnny.
“Yeah,” Roy called back. “I'll tell you when we've got it up enough to pull him.”
“Go ahead, Chet,” Johnny commanded. “I have to go down and get the backboard.”
Chet grabbed the controls of the spreaders in a death grip and began rolling back the dash. Johnny scrambled down the wreckage to where Hank was waiting.
“How's Stoker?” a worried Hank asked as he handed Johnny the equipment.
“Pretty bad off, Cap,” Johnny admitted with a shake of his head.
“The copter's landing right down the road, and they've got a doc on board to help,” Hank informed him.
“Good,” said Johnny with a nod. “We should be ready in a few minutes.”
He nimbly climbed up the wreckage with the backboard and MAST trousers. “Stop, stop, stop, stop!” he heard Roy yelling as he reached the cab of the engine.
Chet was too focused on pulling the dash to hear him. Johnny dropped his equipment and waved his hands to get Chet's attention. “Hold up, hold up!” he yelled.
Chet cut off the motor. “What?”
“He's free,” Johnny explained. “C'mon, let's get him out of here.”
Johnny grabbed the backboard and laid it in front of the windshield, spreading the suit out on top of it.
“10-4, Rampart, will re-contact when we get him on the ground,” Roy was acknowledging into the biophone as Johnny poked his head inside.
“What do you need?” Johnny asked as he started rummaging through the trauma box.
Johnny yanked two out of the trauma box, tearing open each package and flinging the pad at Roy in one swift movement. Roy caught them with equal precision.
“How bad?” Johnny wondered.
“Open femur fractures on both sides, but he's not losing too much blood from his legs -- I don't think he severed any arteries,” Roy told him. “I couldn't get pulses in either leg, but that could be because his pressure's so low. Color's still good in both of them. His pelvis is definitely fractured, though.”
“Which is probably where he's losing the blood,” Johnny guessed.
Roy nodded. “I couldn't get a BP,” he confessed to Johnny softly.
“He's still breathing on his own, Roy,” Johnny reassured him. “And we'll get his pressure up as soon as we get him into the suit.”
Roy nodded as he lay the bandages across Mike's legs, wrapping each with the Kling Johnny handed him.
“Is the suit on the board?” questioned Roy.
“Ready and waiting,” Johnny told him. He examined the mangled cab. “There's no way we're going to get a board in here. We'll have to lift him out through the windshield, and then lay him on it. Can you get his legs okay if Chet and I grab his shoulders?”
“No, I need you to help me, so we can keep his legs as stable as possible,” Roy instructed.
“Where do you need me?” Chet asked.
“You're going to take the top; Roy and I will get his legs out,” Johnny informed him. “Take it nice and easy, the last thing he needs is to be jostled around more.”
“Sure, Johnny.” Chet reached in through the window, grabbing Mike under the armpits. Roy detached Mike from the cardiac monitor, and then got into position with Johnny by Mike's legs.
“Ready, one, two, three, go,” Johnny called out. The three men lifted Mike out of the mangled cab and onto the board in one fluid motion.
“Johnny, can you try and get a pressure?” Roy requested as he wrapped the suit around Mike's legs.
Johnny pumped up the cuff, frowned as he let it deflate, and then pumped it up again, putting a hand on Mike's wrist as he let the air out again. “I'm not getting anything,” he announced. He pressed his fingers to Mike's neck, feeling around to try to find a pulse and shaking his head in frustration.
“Chet, squeeze that IV bag as hard as you can,” ordered Roy as he set the oxygen box between Mike's legs and checked the flow rate.
“What will that do?” Chet wondered.
“Get the fluid into him faster, hopefully bring up his pressure,” Johnny explained.
“This should help, too,” said Roy, inflating the suit.
Johnny checked Mike's blood pressure again. “I still can't get a BP.” He checked for a pulse at Mike's neck. “I've got a carotid now, though, so it has to be at least 60. Let's get him down before it crashes again.”
Roy nodded as they strapped Mike onto the board. Chet stopped them as Johnny and Roy prepared to lift Mike. “How are we going to do this?” Chet wondered.
“Very carefully,” Johnny told him. “We can't get any help – Cap says the engine will go if we put any more guys up here.”
“Is there any way we could hand him down from the hood, rather than carrying him back the way we came up?” Roy asked.
“It's too high,” Johnny answered with a shake of his head. “We'd have to rig a rope and the Stokes to get him down that way, and we don't have time for that.”
“Maybe not,” Chet spoke up. “The engine's too unstable to get more people up here, but we could put a few guys on the tow truck, hand him down to them, then have them hand him down to another crew on the ground.”
“That will jostle him around too much,” stated Johnny. “Plus, I don't think we have the manpower.”
“127 is here now, and we got plenty of cops down there who I'm sure would help,” Chet answered. “And I don't think he'd get any more bumped around that way than he would with the three of us trying to carry this backboard down the wreckage.”
“Chet's right,” Roy decided. “It probably would be easier to hand him down. Just get as many hands as you can, so we can keep him as still as possible.”
Johnny nodded and pulled the H.T. from his pocket. “Engine 51, Squad 51.”
“Go ahead, Squad 51,” answered Hank.
“Cap, we're going to need some men up here right away,” Johnny requested. “Five or six, if you've got them.”
“John…” Hank started.
“We know we can't put 'em on the engine,” Johnny interrupted. “We're going to have them stand on the tow truck, and we'll hand Mike down to them, then they can hand him down to another crew on the ground.”
“Are we going to need a Stokes for that?” Hank questioned.
“No time, we're just going to use the backboard,” Johnny explained. “And we need those guys up here quick.”
“They're on the way,” Hank promised.
Mike Morton was waiting by a stretcher when the backboard was handed down to the crew on the ground. “Get him to the ambulance,” he commanded as the attendants strapped Mike in.
Johnny and Roy jumped down from the wreckage, their arms full of equipment. They hurriedly followed the stretcher.
“Where's the copter?” Johnny asked Hank.
“About half a mile down the road. That's as close as they could get,” Hank explained. “How is he?”
“Hanging in there, Cap,” Roy told him with a grim smile.
“Give me a status report,” demanded Morton as they loaded Mike into the ambulance.
“We couldn't get a BP or any pulses after we pulled him, but we got a carotid once we put the suit on,” Johnny started.
“Where's the other IV?” Morton wondered.
“We had to lock it off, we ran out of fluid,” Roy explained. “He's got two bags in, though, and this one is still running wide open.”
“Run this on the other line,” Morton instructed, pulling a packet of whole blood out of a cooler on the seat and handing it to Johnny. “Has he been conscious at all?”
“Briefly,” Roy informed him. “Not for the past half hour, though.”
“Give me a rundown on injuries,” instructed Morton.
“Fractured pelvis,” Roy reported. “Bilateral femur fractures, open, but with no apparent arterial bleeding. Fractured tib fibs on both sides. Bruising on the chest and ribs, but no crepitus, and breath sounds are equal bilaterally.”
“What about his head?” Morton asked, lifting the bandage.
“Just a lac,” Roy assured him. “His helmet hit the windshield. He was oriented times three when he was conscious. Pupils are equal but sluggish to react.”
“This is your engineer, isn't it?” Morton asked, recognizing Mike. Johnny and Roy both nodded somberly. “I'm sorry.”
“Just fix him up, Doc,” pleaded Johnny.
“We'll do all we can,” Morton promised. “Let's get an EKG and another set of vitals before we get to the 'copter.”
Johnny started on the vitals as Roy turned the monitor back on. “Doc, take a look at this,” Roy requested.
Morton glanced at the monitor. “Were his T waves peaked like that before you pulled him?”
“Not that I noticed,” Roy told him.
“Do you guys carry Calcium Chloride?” questioned Morton.
“Yeah, but we don't use it much,” replied Roy, rummaging through the drug box.
“Pressure's at 60, but his pulse is still dropping,” Johnny warned.
“Got the Calcium Chloride,” Roy announced.
“Good, let's try that. But have an amp of atropine standing by, too, just in case,” Morton commanded.
Johnny readied the atropine as Roy prepared to give the Calcium Chloride.
“Do I give the whole thing?” questioned Roy.
Morton nodded. “But you've got to push it real slow, Roy,” he instructed. “Too fast and he could go into asystole.”
Roy nodded, biting his lip as he cautiously administered the medication. Morton watched the monitor closely. “Good, good.”
The ambulance pulled to a halt. “We're at the helicopter, Doc,” the attendant called back to them.
“Thanks, George,” answered Morton. “I could use an extra set of hands,” he told Johnny and Roy.
“How about two extra sets?” Johnny suggested, his attempts at a casual tone not fooling anyone.
Morton nodded. “It'll be cramped, but I think we can manage it.”
Johnny let out a sigh of relief. “Thanks, Doc.”
Roy sat on the stool behind the counter at the base station watching as Johnny paced in a nervous circle around the desk. “Would you stop?” Roy finally requested. “You're making me dizzy.”
“How can you just sit there?” Johnny ranted. “We should be in there, we should be doing something!”
“We've done everything we can,” Roy explained gently. “We'd only be in the way in there.”
“No we wouldn't, we know what we're doing,” Johnny insisted.
“Don't you think I'm dying to go in there?” Roy shot back in frustration. “I promised Mike I wasn't going to let him die, and now all I can do is sit here and hope that promise doesn't get broken.”
“We don't have to just sit here!” Johnny exclaimed. “We can help in there, instead of feeling so damn helpless.”
Roy sighed deeply, getting his emotions back in check. “We wouldn't be helping,” he said finally. Johnny started to protest, but Roy cut him off. “It's different when you're in there with someone you know, Johnny,” Roy told him. “Out on the street, it's easier to keep it together. You know you have to keep going or your friend isn't going to make it here alive. But once you get here, and you know there's no hope left if things go wrong in there...”
“I've been in there before with you, I know what it's like,” Johnny interrupted.
“Not really. I've never been that seriously hurt,” Roy reminded him. “You've never seen that nervous twitch that Brackett gets when he thinks he's going to lose a patient and known your best friend is the reason it's there. You haven't felt all the adrenaline drain out of you just as Morton barks out that you have to start an IV so that friend's pressure doesn't bottom out before he makes it to the operating room. You…”
Johnny cut him off with a curt “I get the point.”
“Don't be angry, Johnny,” Roy said softly. “I was only trying to keep you from some unnecessary frustration. The day's been hard enough as it is.”
Johnny stopped his pacing in front of Roy's stool, but still shifted from foot to foot anxiously, obviously wanting to say something. “You've never told me about that before. What it was like when I was hurt,” he finally murmured.
Roy waved off the comment. “There was no need for you to know. You had more important things to worry about.”
“So, since you've been through this before, I have a question,” Johnny told him.
“When does this stop?” Johnny wondered.
“What, being scared?” asked Roy. Johnny nodded. “Not until the day you see him walk out the door of this place. And sometimes not even then,” he added softly.
“He is going to do that, right? Walk out of this place?” questioned Johnny worriedly.
“His legs were in pretty bad shape,” Roy said somberly.
“But we've seen worse,” Johnny reminded him. He leaned on the counter thoughtfully. “With some physical therapy, his legs could be as good as new.”
“It will take awhile, but his legs will probably be okay, yeah,” answered Roy.
“But that won't mean a thing if he bleeds to death,” Johnny realized.
“Not a damn thing,” Roy muttered, getting up out of the chair and heading for the coffee machine. He found the pot empty.
“I'll make more,” Johnny offered.
“Don't bother,” said Roy. “It will only make me more nervous.”
“At least we got him here alive,” Johnny reminded him.
Suddenly the door to Trauma 2 opened and Mike was wheeled out. Morton was on one side of the stretcher, squeezing a bag valve mask as they ran for the elevator. Brackett held the rail on the other side with one hand and carried two bags of blood in the other. Neither acknowledged Johnny and Roy as they hurried forward, but Dixie stepped in front of the paramedics, blocking their way.
“They're taking him up to surgery, you know you can't go with him,” she said gently.
“He still has the suit on, Dix,” Roy noticed.
“His pressure bottomed out when they started to deflate it,” she admitted. “They're going to try again in the OR.”
“Did he stop breathing?” questioned Johnny.
“No, but Kel thought it best to intubate him before it got that far,” she explained. “Are you guys out of service?”
Johnny nodded. “At least until Cap, Chet and Marco get here with the squad.”
“Any hope of salvaging your engine?” Dixie wondered
“Not after Johnny cut the roof off,” Roy told her.
“That was the least of the damage,” Johnny said in his defense. “You've never seen anything like it, Dix.”
“And I hope I never do,” she said with a shudder. “It sounds like Mike is lucky to be alive.”
Johnny and Roy both nodded somberly.
“He has you guys to thank for it,” she complimented them. “Even Morton admitted how impressed he was by the way you two kept your cool.”
“Roy worked him, he gets the credit,” Johnny insisted. “I killed all my patients today.”
The base station radio crackled to life before Dixie could reply. “Rampart, this is Squad 110,” came a voice over the radio.
“Back to work,” said Dixie with a sigh. “Why don't you two go wait in the lounge? I'll come get you the minute there's any news.”
Johnny and Roy nodded as Dixie picked up the radio. “This is Rampart, go ahead, 110.”
“He alright?” Hank asked Roy. He pointed to Johnny, who was now wearing a hole in the floor in front of the doctors lounge sofa with his pacing.
“He's not used to this waiting,” Roy explained.
“Yeah, for once it's not him we're worrying over,” said Hank with a wry smile.
“Mike's going to come through, Cap, same as Johnny always does,” Roy reassured Hank.
Hank nodded, but he didn't look at all certain that Roy was right.
The door opened, leading all three men to turn in expectation. The disappointment showed on all their faces when Bellingham walked through the door. “I take it there's no news yet?” Bellingham said.
Hank shook his head. “He's in surgery.”
“So you guys are staying out of service?” he asked Johnny and Roy.
Johnny nodded, but Roy didn't. “Do you need us?” Roy questioned.
“It's kind of crazy out there,” Bellingham admitted. “We really could use you and Johnny back out on the street today, if you're up to it.”
As if to prove his point, his H.T. beeped to life. “Squad 36, what is your status?” asked Dispatch.
“Squad 36 available at Rampart,” Bellingham replied.
“Stand by for a response,” Dispatch commanded. 36's tones came over the H.T. “Squad 36 in place of Squad 51. Respond to man down, 407 Hall Court, cross street Sharon Drive. Man down. 407 Hall Court. Time out 16:27.
“Squad 36,” acknowledged Bellingham. “See you guys,” he called as he ran out.
“Johnny, maybe we should make ourselves available, help those guys out a little,” Roy suggested after Bellingham had gone.
Johnny shook his head. “Not until we hear something about Mike.”
“That could be a couple more hours,” Roy reminded him. “And I don't know how much longer I can just stand around here doing nothing.”
Johnny looked questioningly in Hank's direction. “Do we have to, Cap?”
“I'm not going to be able to justify keeping the squad out of service much longer, but I can get a replacement crew in for the two of you. I don't want you back out there if you're going to be too distracted by all this.”
“Well, Johnny?” Roy queried his partner.
Before Johnny could answer, the door opened again. This time, it was Chief McConnike standing there. He nodded at Johnny and Roy. “Gage, DeSoto.”
“Hi, Chief,” they replied in unison.
McConnike crossed to Hank, shaking his hand. “Any word yet?”
“He's in surgery, Chief. They said it could be awhile,” answered Hank.
McConnike nodded. “Where's the rest of your crew?” he questioned worriedly. “I was told only Stoker had been hurt.”
“Lopez and Kelly are fine, sir,” Hank reassured him. “They're in the chapel.”
“Good, good. Sometimes a few prayers can make all the difference in these situations,” he commented.
“I hope so,” Hank murmured.
“What about Stoker's family?” McConnike wondered.
“His wife was in Houston with her sister, who just had a baby,” Hank informed him. “She's getting the first flight back she can find.”
McConnike nodded. “You up for a few questions about what happened, Hank?” he asked gently.
“Of course, sir.”
“Ms. McCall said we could use Dr. Brackett's office to talk. Excuse us, fellas,” he said to Johnny and Roy as he left. Hank followed him somberly.
“What's he have to ask about?” wondered Johnny after they'd gone. “Mike didn't do anything wrong!”
“He probably just wants all the details so he can write up a report,” Roy suggested. “I'm sure there's a mountain of paperwork to be done when an engine gets destroyed like that, even if it was someone else's fault.”
“Yeah, I guess you're right.” Johnny flopped down onto the sofa with a sigh and closed his eyes as he leaned back against the cushions.
Roy sat down next to him. “Johnny, I think we need to talk about today.”
“I'm okay, Roy,” Johnny assured him, but the nervous way he was tugging his hand through his hair betrayed his true emotions. “Worried as hell, but that never killed anyone, right?”
“I'm not talking about Mike, and you know it,” admonished Roy. “You lost two patients. That's rough, even on a good day, but with everything else that is going on…”
“I'm handling it, Roy,” an agitated Johnny insisted as he got up off the couch and began pacing again.
“No you're not,” Roy shot back. “If you were handling it, we'd be back out on the street right now.”
“Why can't you just cut me a break?” complained Johnny.
“Because it won't do you any good,” Roy explained. “If you don't talk about all this, you're going to stew on it until it drives you crazy.”
“Fine, then I'll go crazy!” he declared, storming out the door. He nearly took out Chet and Marco, who were about to enter as Johnny burst out of the lounge.
“Hey, Johnny. You okay?” asked a worried Marco.
Johnny ignored him as he stalked off down the hall.
Marco looked at Chet questioningly. Chet shrugged. “In another one of his moods, I guess,” he muttered.
They stepped into the lounge. “Any word on Mike?” Chet asked Roy.
“Not yet. But McConnike just came to talk to Cap about the accident,” Roy revealed. “They're in Brackett's office.”
“You don't think they're going to try to make anything of this, do you?” Chet wondered.
“They can't. We all saw it wasn't Mike's fault,” Marco spoke up.
“I think it's just a formality,” Roy reassured them.
“What's up with Johnny?” Chet questioned Roy. “He nearly tackled us on our way in here.”
“Lay off him, Chet, he's having a rough day,” Roy demanded.
“He's not the only one,” Chet reminded him.
“He watched two people die today. I think he's one up on the rest of us,” commented Roy. “Let's give him a little time to get his head together.”
Half an hour later, Johnny sat staring out at the city from the edge of the roof of Rampart, his feet hanging over the side and his arms resting on the lower bar of the railing that surrounded the top of the building. Dixie climbed out of the stairwell onto the roof and blanched at the sight of him so close to the edge. She gingerly made her way across the roof, but had to stop when she caught a glimpse of how high up she was.
“Only for you would I come out here,” Dixie muttered softly.
She took another cautious step. “You're not planning to jump, are you?” she called to Johnny.
He leaned back to look at her and shook his head. “Nah. Just trying to clear my head a little.”
“Do you have to be up so high to do that?” Dixie questioned.
“It helps,” Johnny admitted with a small smile that faded quickly. “Any word on Mike?”
“I called up to the OR a few minutes ago. He's still in surgery,” Dixie informed him.
“Should it be taking this long?” Johnny wondered.
“It hasn't been all that long, really, although I'm sure it feels like forever to you guys,” Dixie sympathized. “He was bleeding internally, so they would have had to deal with that before they could get started on setting any of his broken bones.”
“So what are you doing up here, if there's no news yet?” questioned Johnny.
“I brought you something,” Dixie announced, taking a small pouch out of her pocket and handing it to him.
Johnny couldn't hide his surprise as he looked at the brightly colored fabric and tobacco inside the bag. “Canli wapahte,” he murmured. “How did you…”
“I have a drawer in my desk with files for each of my paramedics,” she confided. “I put things in there that I think will help them through when they're having a rough time. Some of them are easy – all I have in Roy's file is Joanne's phone number. Yours was one of the hardest. I know you usually like to go off hiking somewhere when you're upset, but I couldn't exactly keep a mountain close by for you. Praying usually helps most people, but I didn't know what kind of religion you practiced. You didn't have any preference listed on your medical form, and even Roy wasn't sure. We have your old medical records from the reservation, so I knew you were from a Lakhota tribe. I did some research into a few of their traditions and found out about…How did you pronounce it?”
“Canli wapahte,” Johnny answered.
Dixie nodded. “If that isn't what you need, I have some other things that might help – rosaries, Bibles, the number of a great priest, lots of chocolate…”
“No,” Johnny said hoarsely. “This is right.”
“Good. I'll give you some time alone then, so you can do what you need to,” she told him with a smile. “But you have to promise me you'll check in with your partner when you're done. He's almost as worried about you as he is about Mike.”
Johnny nodded. “Thanks, Dix.”
“Anytime,” she assured him with a smile. “I'll see you downstairs.”
She ducked back into the stairwell to the roof and descended the stairs, finding Roy waiting for her at the bottom.
“He's on the roof?” Roy asked.
Dixie nodded. “Leave him alone a little bit longer,” she instructed.
“He's fine,” she assured him. “But there's something he needs to do before he comes in. Go ahead back to the lounge, I told him to check in with you when he's done.” Roy didn't move. “Scoot, DeSoto,” she ordered, putting her hand on his back and gently guiding him down the next flight of stairs with her.
“You're sure he's okay?” Roy questioned anxiously.
“I wouldn't have left him alone up there if I wasn't sure of it,” she assured him.
Roy nodded, and they continued silently down the stairs until they reached the landing for the third floor. “Come with me a minute, I need to make a stop,” Dixie requested. Roy hesitated. “We won't be long, I promise. There's someone I want you to see.”
Roy followed her through the doors and down the hall, not even noticing where they were headed until Dixie stopped at the large window that looked into the nursery. “Second one from the right,” she said, nodding at the babies inside. Roy looked at her blankly. “The baby that Engine 51 delivered this morning,” she explained, smiling as the blue-capped bundle yawned widely. “The mother picked a fine name, don't you think?”
Roy glanced at the name placard on the front of the baby's bassinet, which read Michael Angel Arnelli. A small smile spread across his face, erasing the worried lines that had been lingering there. “Mike's going to be so honored,” Roy murmured. “He was over the moon about this little guy. Even bought us all pizza today to celebrate.”
“You can tell Mike all about him when he gets out of surgery,” said Dixie. The worried lines shadowed Roy's face again. “He's going to pull through, Roy,” Dixie assured him.
“I keep telling myself that, but I don't know, Dix,” Roy muttered with a shake of his head. “He really took a beating. When I crawled into the cab of the engine and saw him pinned there…” He stopped, shuddering at the memory. “I never thought we'd be able to pull him out alive.”
“Maybe he got his hands on a couple of Johnny's nine lives,” Dixie teased.
“Hope not. Johnny needs all he can get,” Roy said with a wry smile. “I think Mike's just made of strong stuff.”
“All you guys are.”
“I don't feel that way right now,” confessed Roy.
“You want me to…”
“Joanne's not home. Jen has Brownies today,” Roy said, anticipating her offer. “I'm just going to go back down with the guys until we hear something.”
He put his hand on the glass of the nursery window, glancing one last time at baby Michael before he turned and wandered down the hall toward the stairs. As he opened the stairwell door, he saw Johnny on his way down and waited for him to catch up.
“Roy, I'm sorry about before,” Johnny started to apologize, but Roy put up a hand to stop him.
“Don't worry about it. Feel better?” Roy asked.
“Yeah, thanks to Dix,” answered Johnny. “She always knows just the right thing to do, you know?”
Roy nodded. “We're lucky to have her.”
“What did McConnike say to Cap about the accident?” Johnny wondered. “They're not going to make any trouble for Mike, are they?”
“Cap doesn't seem to think so. The witnesses all told the same story about the 18-wheeler jumping the gun before Mike was out of the way,” Roy explained. “I wish we could have talked to that guy and found out what the hell he was thinking.”
“I don't think he was thinking,” Johnny theorized. “He was in cardiac arrest when I got to him, but his foot was still all the way down on the pedal. I figure he had the rig in gear when his heart blew, and he just went down on the accelerator when he passed out.”
“I didn't realize he was that far gone when you got to him,” said Roy.
“Yeah, I doubt there was much we could have done, even if we would have had the resources to really work him,” Johnny admitted. “I did try, once Brice showed up and took over the tow truck driver for me, but…” He stopped, shaking his head. “You know how it is.”
Roy nodded in understanding. “So you're okay with losing him?”
“Not really,” Johnny admitted. “I hate that we have to make choices like that, to let one go that we know we probably can't save to work on one we know we can. I wish there could have been enough paramedics out there for everyone. But I know I did all I could under the circumstances. That'll make it easier to live with.”
They reached the first floor and pulled open the door of the stairwell just in time to see Brackett stepping off the elevator, pulling on his lab coat over his soiled surgical scrubs. “Doc!” Johnny and Roy called in unison.
Brackett stopped and waited for them to hurry over. “Hi, guys, I was just coming to talk to you.”
“How's Mike?” Johnny asked cautiously.
“Hanging in there,” answered Brackett with a tired smile. “He tried to cut out on us a few times, but you know how I am about getting you hose jockeys to follow directions, and I finally got him to listen to me and stick with us.”
Johnny and Roy both acknowledged his attempt at humor with small smiles, but they weren't very convincing.
“Seriously, guys, it was touch and go there for awhile. He arrested on us when we took off the suit,” Brackett admitted with a sigh. “But we were able to get him back pretty quickly. After that he hung in there with transfusions until we finally found the source of the internal bleeding. Once we got that taken care of, I turned him over to Ortho. They're still working, it will probably be awhile.”
“What do they say about his legs?” questioned Johnny anxiously.
“They're still trying to determine the full extent of the damage,” Brackett informed them. “Is Captain Stanley still here?”
“In the lounge,” Roy told him.
“I should let him know what's going on before I get back to the OR,” said Brackett.
“We'd much rather have you back up there with Mike, Doc,” Johnny admitted. “I'm sure those other guys are good and all, but we know you, you know?”
Brackett nodded with a bemused smile. “Will you two fill in Captain Stanley and the rest of your crew for me?”
“Of course,” Roy assured him.
“Thanks, guys,” Brackett called, already starting for the elevator. “I'll be back again when I have more news.”
Johnny and Roy headed in the opposite direction and pushed open the doors of the lounge. Chet, Marco and Hank were gathered around the table, talking, but they stopped and turned anxiously as Johnny and Roy entered.
“Everything okay, you two?” Hank inquired.
Johnny nodded. “Yeah, Cap.”
“We just talked to Brackett. He told us Mike is still hanging in there,” Roy revealed. “They found what was causing the internal bleeding and fixed that, and now they're working on fixing his legs, but he doesn't know yet how bad the damage is to them.”
“So we just wait some more?” mumbled an annoyed Chet.
“Cap, Roy and I were going to go back in service,” Johnny announced. “If that's okay.” He directed that last part at Roy, who nodded.
“That's fine with me,” Hank told them. “We shouldn't be too far behind you, just as soon as they can get us a replacement engine and another engineer.”
“A replacement engine and engineer?” Johnny echoed.
“They need to put the station back in service, although, as I've told Chet and Marco, we're all free to request replacements if we feel we need to,” Hank explained gently. “That includes the two of you.”
“No, we're good, sir,” Roy told him. “Right, Johnny?”
“Yeah,” Johnny agreed. “We're good.”
Hank nodded and reached for the H.T. lying on the table. “LA, this is Station 51.”
“Go ahead, 51.”
“Be advised that Squad 51 is now back in service, and is currently 10-8 from Rampart,” Hank told them.
“10-4, Station 51. Putting Squad 51 back in service and 10-8 from Rampart General Hospital at 17:48. Is there any update on the status of Engine 51?”
“Negative, LA, we're still waiting on equipment,” replied Hank. “Will advise when there's further information.”
“10-4, Station 51.”
“You guys going to stick around here until you get a call?” Hank asked Johnny and Roy as he set down the radio.
Roy shrugged. “Seems like the best place to be.”
“I want to talk to Dixie before we go anywhere,” Johnny told Roy. “Can I have the radio?”
“I'll go with you,” answered Roy. “Got a few thank you's for her myself,” he added softly, as they stepped into the hall.
Johnny flashed him a crooked smile. “Maybe we should hit that flower cart in the lobby before we see her,” he suggested.
They wandered down the hall, taking a back set of double doors out of the ER to another hallway leading out to the lobby. Roy snuck occasional glances at his partner as they walked silently together.
“What?” Johnny finally asked.
“You're sure you're okay?”
“Okay is a bit of a stretch,” Johnny admitted. “But I'm good enough to get back to work.”
“Guess that's about all I can ask for after the day we've had today,” said Roy with a sigh.
Johnny nodded and pushed open the door to the lobby. He glanced out the windows that formed the front wall of the room and noticed the setting sun in the distance. “Is it that late?”
“No wonder I'm starving,” mumbled Johnny, rubbing his stomach unconsciously. Roy grinned. “What?”
“If you want to eat, then I know I don't have to worry about you anymore,” he explained.
The handie talkie suddenly squawked to life, ringing out the squad's tones. “Squad 51, respond to a domestic disturbance with injuries. 1624 Figueroa Boulevard. 1624 Figueroa. Police are already on scene. Time out 19:03.
“Squad 51, responding from Rampart,” answered Roy as he and Johnny trotted back toward the Emergency Department.
Roy brought the squad to a stop behind a police cruiser. He and Johnny jumped out and were grabbing their equipment when Vince approached.
“What'cha got, Vince?” questioned Johnny.
“Drunk took a swing at his wife, she swung back with the frying pan,” Vince answered with a wry smile. “We can't tell if he's out of it from the beer or the bang on the head, so we thought we better call the paramedics. Didn't think I'd see you guys back out here today, though. How's Stoker?”
“Still in surgery, but he's hanging in there,” Roy informed him. “Was this guy unconscious at all?”
“I doubt she would have called us if he hadn't been knocked out,” said Vince. “These two are always going at it each other. But he was awake when we got here.”
“She wasn't using the frying pan at the time, was she?” wondered Johnny.
Vince shook his head. “No, lucky for him she was in the middle of washing dishes when he went at her, so he only got doused with a few soap bubbles, not dinner.”
Vince pushed open the screen door leading into the kitchen. A man sat in front of the cabinet under the sink, clutching a bloodied towel to his head, muttering and moaning. His grey tee shirt, already straining to contain the man's enormous beer belly, was clinging even more tightly to his gut now that it was soaked with blood and bubbles. “Dave, the paramedics are here to take a look at you.”
“Officer Vince, I told you he don't need none of them perry-medics,” called the man's wife from the breakfast nook, where she was sitting opposite another police officer, who was taking notes as he talked to her. “Just let him sleep it off and he'll be fine.”
“I don't know, Faye, you got him pretty good this time,” Vince told her. “Let these guys check him out, just to be safe.”
“I didn't hit him that hard,” Faye protested. “No harder than he hit me.”
“But he was only using his hand, not cast iron,” Vince reminded her.
Faye laughed. “You're a funny man, Officer Vince.”
Roy, who was taking Dave's blood pressure looked up at Vince. “Sounds like you've been here before.”
“I see Faye more than I see my own wife,” Vince muttered. “Their neighbors are always calling us about them, but they usually don't do much damage, so we just leave them to fight it out. Guess I'll have to run Faye in tonight, though. The frying pan was going a little too far.”
Faye overheard his comment. “You can't arrest me, Officer Vince!” she protested. “He deserved the pan for what he said. Telling me he's going to toss me out for that bimbo at the bar. Just because she's got a good job as a cocktail waitress, and I ain't got nothing. I could do a job like that, but Davey, he don't like me to work. He wants me home to take care of him.”
“You're doing a hell of a job,” mumbled Vince.
Roy grinned, but Johnny didn't seem to have heard the exchange. “Roy, what's his pressure?” he asked as he checked Dave's pupils.
“190 over 110, but he looks like the type who would run high,” answered Roy. “Why? You see something?”
“His left pupil's fixed,” Johnny informed him. “And if you listen to what he's muttering, he's not making much sense. We need to get him into Rampart. Quick.”
Roy pulled out his H.T. “L.A., this is Squad 51. Do we have an ambulance enroute to our location?”
“Affirmative, Squad 51. Stand by for ETA.” The radio went quiet for a moment. “Squad 51, the ETA on your ambulance is approximately five minutes.”
“10-4, LA,” Roy responded.
“You're taking him to the hospital?” Faye screeched. “I gotta go with him, Officer Vince. You can't arrest me, I gotta go take care of Davey.”
“Settle down, Faye, he's in good hands,” Vince soothed, leading her toward the door. “You need to come with us for a little while, but I promise you we'll check in with the hospital so you know what's going on with Dave.”
“No!” Faye tried to pull away. “Let me go, let me go, I gotta be with Davey!”
“You have to come with us, Faye,” Vince ordered.
Johnny covered his free ear to block out the argument and grabbed the biophone. “Rampart, this is Squad 51, how do you copy?”
“Go ahead, 51,” came Dixie's voice.
“Rampart, we have a male, approximately 45 years old, who was hit on the left temple with a frying pan,” Johnny informed the hospital. “Bleeding is being controlled with pressure. There is discoloration behind the ear, but no sign of blood or fluid in the ears. Patient is conscious but stuporous, and unable to follow commands. His left pupil is fixed and dilated, right pupil is sluggish to react. BP is 190 over 110. Pulse is 114. Respirations are 30. Patient is intoxicated.”
“Any other injuries, 51?” asked Dr. Early.
“51, start an IV, D5W, TKO,” Early instructed. “Continue to monitor patient's alertness and mental status, and transport as soon as possible.”
“10-4, Rampart, IV D5W TKO, monitor and transport,” Johnny repeated back. “Ambulance is five minutes out, so we should be to you in about 15.”
“10-4, 51. Report back if your patient's condition changes enroute,” ordered Early. Faye's screaming could be heard over the biophone as Vince pulled the hysterical woman out of the house. “And let us know if you acquire another patient,” he added wryly.
Johnny and Roy tried to pin a struggling Dave to the stretcher while running alongside it as the ambulance attendants wheeled the gurney through the ER doors.
“Take him in 4,” Dixie instructed.
They hurried into the room, where Dr. Early was waiting. “You weren't kidding when you said he was combative,” he commented as Johnny, Roy and the orderlies struggled to move the flailing Dave from the gurney to the hospital bed.
Dave's foot suddenly broke free of Johnny's grip, catching Johnny under the chin and sending him tumbling to the floor. Distracted, Roy loosened his grip on Dave's other leg and was rewarded with a kick of his own. He landed next to Johnny.
“Dix, get some restraints,” Early ordered. “You guys okay?”
Roy nodded and started to get up, but Johnny put a hand on his arm. “Maybe we should stay down here, considering the day we've been having.”
“That's probably not a bad idea,” agreed Dixie as she handed the restraints to the attendants to let them wrestle Dave into them. “Although if you do that, you won't be able to go up and see Mike. He should be heading for recovery right about now.”
Johnny and Roy both scrambled to their feet. “How is he?” they asked in unison.
“Kel says he looks good,” Dixie told them with a smile. “He's still unconscious, but his pressure's up, and by the looks of things, he should be able to come off the respirator in a day or two. He won't be running around anytime soon, but he will be back on his feet eventually.”
“Dix, call X-Ray and get them down here,” ordered Early as he and the attendants finally got their patient strapped to the table.
“They're already on their way,” she informed him, even as the X-ray tech came pushing the heavy machine through the door.
“He's going to need a new IV, too, after we're done shooting,” Early told her.
“Don't you guys want to stick around and help with that?” Dixie asked Johnny and Roy.
“We'd love to, Dix, but we really need to find Cap and the other guys,” Johnny told her with a grin. “Do they know yet about Mike?”
“No, they got another engine and were called out before I talked to Kel,” Dixie explained.
“We should call the station, see if they're back yet,” Roy suggested to Johnny, who nodded. He watched Dave bucking in his restraints as the X-ray technician tried to shoot pictures of his head. “But we will come back and help with that IV, if you need us.”
“No, I can handle him,” Dixie assured them. “He's no worse than some of the grumpy doctors and paramedics I've had as patients.”
“We're not that bad,” said Johnny defensively.
“No, you're worse,” she teased. “Go on, get out of here. I've seen too much of the both of you today.”
Johnny and Roy left the room with a wave.
Johnny hesitated once out in the hallway. “Should we go see Mike?”
Roy shook his head. “Dix said he was going to be okay, right? And the other guys probably haven't had the time to make dinner, so we should get something for everyone to eat. You're still hungry, aren't you?”
“I'm fine, Roy,” Johnny declared. “But I'd feel better if we looked in on Mike.”
“Well, maybe a quick glance, to make sure he really did pull through OK,” Roy agreed.
Johnny smiled. “Thanks, Roy.”
“I'm doing it for me as well as you,” Roy admitted, punching the button for the elevator.
Two days later, Johnny and Roy knocked on the door to Mike's hospital room and were greeted by his wife Michelle, who threw her arms around both of them and kissed their cheeks. “Johnny, Roy, I can't thank you enough for what you did for Mike,” she gushed. “He wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you.”
“It was all Roy's doing, Michelle,” Johnny told her.
“I only made sure he got here, the docs were the ones who pulled him through,” said Roy modestly. “How's he doing?”
“A million times better than the last time you saw him,” she proclaimed with a smile. “Come on in, the other guys are already here. I'm going to leave you all be for a bit and go grab a cup of coffee.” She kissed both of them on the cheek again. “Thanks again.”
She bustled off down the hall as Johnny and Roy stepped into the room. Hank was sitting in a chair next to Mike's bed, while Chet and Marco hovered on the other side of him. Mike's legs were both in traction, and he was connected to multiple IVs, but he was awake and alert enough to give Roy and John a wave as they entered.
“Hey guys,” he croaked. He rubbed the front of his neck. “Sorry, throat's sore.” Hank handed him a glass of water, which he sipped gratefully.
“Getting tubed will do that do you,” sympathized Johnny. “Try ice chips, they help numb the scratchiness a little.”
“The voice of an expert,” Chet teased. Johnny only scowled at him.
“Good to see you awake, Mike,” Roy told him, shaking his hand.
Mike didn't let go of it right away. “I owe you a thank you.”
“You don't owe me anything.”
“Just my life,” said Mike softly.
There was a moment of awkward silence, but Johnny quickly filled it. “So what did the docs say about how long you're going to be laid up?” he questioned.
“Two months at least,” Mike told him.
Johnny gave a low whistle.
“Oh good, you're all here,” came a voice from the doorway. Dixie was standing there with a package in her hand, smiling.
“You have something else to show for all you've been through, Mike, aside from that impressive array of casts there,” she declared, handing Hank the package. “You've made it official. You guys are the first station to have the entire shift hospitalized here at one point or another.”
Hank let out a groan as he opened the package. “You put it on a plaque?” He dropped his head into his hands. “I am never going to live this down.”
“It's no reflection on you, Cap,” Roy assured him.
“Sorry, but I couldn't resist, Captain Stanley,” Dixie told him with a mischievous smile. “Not that I think it will keep this lot from getting into more danger.”
“It is what we do best, Dix,” said Johnny with a smirk.
“Let's try not to do it quite so often,” she told Johnny, ruffling his hair fondly.
“Dix!” Johnny whined, smoothing his hair down.
“That's pretty twisted, to commemorate something like that,” Chet told Dixie. She was about to respond indignantly, when Chet slipped an arm around her. “I knew there was a reason I liked you, Nurse McCall. May I buy you a cup of coffee?”
On everyone's laughter, FADE OUT
Note: This story originally appeared on KMG-365
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