This story is a sequel in the Knee High To A Grasshopper series, featuring Melvin Meyers as Johnny’s biggest problem creator. Although it’s not a necessity to read the previous stories in this series first, it might help since there are references to things in them in this story.
By Audrey W.
John Gage woke with a start. Quickly sitting up in his bed, he grabbed the wind-up alarm clock . . .the clock that had stopped ticking at three-eleven in the morning.
Oh crap! What time is it?
Being that his bedroom was still fairly dark, the paramedic hoped he wasn’t running very late. He sat up and threw back the covers, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. Once on his feet, Johnny picked up his watch on the dresser. He sighed in relief when he saw it was six-thirty. . . only a half hour later than he wanted to get up.
After a quick shower and shave, and dressed in his red boxer shorts, Gage headed to the kitchen to get himself a glass of orange juice. As he downed the cool liquid, his eyes wandered to the kitchen clock . . . the paramedic did a double take.
He glanced at his watch, back to the clock on the wall, then once again at his watch. It still said six thirty.
“Ah man! My watch stopped!”
The time in the kitchen being accurate, Johnny knew he had approximately five minutes to get dressed and out the front door in order to get to the station on time. He quickly set the nearly empty glass on the table and started to rush out of the kitchen. In his haste, the paramedic didn’t pay attention to where his feet were in relation to solid objects along his path. As a result, he slammed his right pinky toe into the doorframe between the livingroom and kitchen. White-hot pain shot through the man’s toe and radiated up through his foot. He leaned with his hands on the doorframe, foot off the floor, a string of swear words emanating from his mouth.
Regaining his composure, Gage placed his right heel down so he could get to a place to sit. A new round of pain shot through his foot, back to front. He lifted it and hopped over to the couch on his left foot. Plopping down, Johnny swore again. His toe was already extremely red and swelling. He was going to have to call Captain Stanley and let him know he would be late. Gage hoped the toe wasn’t broken and that the swelling would go down.
A few hours later, the dark-haired paramedic was back at home after a trip to Rampart, confirming what he’d hoped didn’t happen. He stared at his propped up right foot with the two end toes taped together.
“You had to break, didn’t ya?”
It was a tough drive to the hospital with his right foot bare and hurting, but Johnny had grinned-and-beared it, knowing he had to get the injury x-rayed. Not only for his own benefit, and also so he could give a valid reason to the captain for not being able to pull his duty the current shift after all.
Johnny stared at the television screen, where another game show was just beginning. “This is gonna be a long day,” he grumbled.
The men of A-shift were having a busy morning. Since starting their shift a few hours before, they’d responded to two fires: one a warehouse, the other a home. Finally getting some down time to relax, Roy called Gage to see how he was doing. As the senior paramedic hung up the phone, the others watched with interest.
“So, how’s the crip doing?” Kelly asked.
Marco frowned at the stocky fireman. “Chet, at least wait till Johnny’s back before you start in with the comments.”
“I’m practicing for that day.”
Mike and Marco exchanged glances and rolled their eyes.
“He’s doing okay,” Roy answered. “Just bored, which doesn’t surprise me. You know Johnny. . .he’s not one to sit still long if he doesn’t have to.”
Dwyer, who was pulling overtime to fill in for Gage, snickered. “I can’t imagine the guy stuck on the couch. I’ll bet he’s here next shift, even if he has to paint a shoe on his foot and a smile on his face to hide the fact it still hurts.”
Roy nodded in agreement. No way would his partner let an injury like that slow him down more than he absolutely had to.
After a day of not doing anything but watching television with his foot propped up and an ice pack on his toe periodically, Johnny climbed into bed. He wasn’t sure he was tired enough to sleep, but he reasoned that at least time would go faster if he wasn’t awake to watch the clock. The paramedic’s eyes opened wide the first time the covers touched his injured toe.
How can such a small body part hurt so damn much?
Johnny stuck his foot outside of the covers and laid his right leg on top of the blanket. After nearly two hours of lying in bed, he finally fell asleep.
Rolling over in his bed, Gage slowly opened his eyes. The room was dark, indicating it was either still nighttime or very early in the morning. What woke me up? A sudden realization of a burning sensation in his right little toe gave the paramedic the answer as to why he was awake.
“Man, don’t you ever quit?” He grumbled at his toe. Naprosyn . . .I need the Naprosyn Early prescribed.
The man slowly got out of bed, running a hand through his hair, and hobbled towards the bathroom. Unfortunately, along the way, he didn’t see the shoes he’d left across the room, and banged his already sore toe. White-hot pain once again shot through the injured toe, causing Johnny’s eyes to water.
“Shit, that hurts!” Putting his weight on his right heel, toes off the floor, he quickly limped into the bathroom and flicked on the light. A brief search in the medicine cabinet brought the reward of the desperately needed pain reliever. He filled a plastic glass with water and swallowed two tablets, hoping they would do the trick.
An hour later, Johnny sat on his couch, still waiting for the pain to go away. The dark-haired man frowned. For being such a small injury, the broken toe was proving to be one of the more annoying ones to deal with.
“You’re ruining my life, you know,” Johnny said, talking to his toe again. He sighed and decided there was only one thing left to do. . .give up. Gage lay down on the couch and turned his attention to the television where the morning news was coming on.
The newscast opened with a report of a large department store fire that was just being extinguished after a night of firemen being at the scene. The only injuries had been to the fire fighters, since the store was closed, but the building was huge and it was now a total loss.
Upon hearing that firemen had been injured, Johnny sat up, his attention intense on the screen. Had his shiftmates been called to the fire? He tried to look beyond the reporter to the trucks in the background. Sure enough, there was Engine 51, Captain Stanley waving somebody over.
At least Cap’s okay. . .I hope the others are. . .
Suddenly a familiar face joined the television reporter. Johnny’s attention shifted from the background to the man currently being interviewed. It was Melvin Meyers. Gage listened intently as the fireman explained what happened to a couple of others who were helping to put out the blaze. Much to Johnny’s relief, they were men from Station 45 and the injuries were very minor. However, according to Melvin, the paramedics from Station 51 had treated the men and they were taken to Rampart General Hospital as a precaution.
Next the reporter brought up the subject of Melvin being an inventor who had appeared on the Mike Douglas show at one time. When asked about his creation that could shrink people, Meyers answered with enthusiasm and honesty. Yes, he had appeared on the Mike Douglas Show and yes, he indeed had created a substance that could shrink a person. He quickly added that he didn’t have any of the stuff left.
Johnny shook his head. “Mel, Mel, Mel. . .they’re gonna have a field day with you. Why did you have to be so open?” He sat back and sighed. “Poor guy should’ve kept his mouth shut.” As he waited for the reporter to come up with questions to mock the fireman, Gage was surprised at what came instead.
“Can I just say one thing?” Melvin asked.
“Sure. It’s all yours.”
“I just want to say hi to John Gage if he’s listening. His partner, Roy, said he got hurt yesterday. . .the guy’s accident prone,” Meyers explained. “He’s a paramedic with Station 51, but I ran into him during one shift where I swear the guy was a disaster magnet. He hurt his ankle, got in an accident with their squad, got a concussion, and suffered smoke inhalation! All in less than twenty-four hours!”
“Okay, well, he sure sounds like someone who knows how to find trouble. Hope it wasn’t anything serious this time, John,” the reporter said, in mock sympathy. “And that closes our story at Milton’s Department Store. Now back to you at the studio, Jill.”
The rest of the news was background sound to Johnny. His attention was focused on the fact Melvin had once again called him accident-prone. . .and listed the injuries . . .on TV!
“Roy, why did you have to tell Melvin Meyers?” The dark-haired paramedic buried his face in his hands. “Man, I should’ve gotten together with Melvin before I got hurt again, to show him I’m not always getting injured. Now sure isn’t the time to argue my case. And now everyone will think I’m accident prone,” He groaned, wishing he’d been on duty and at that fire, like he should’ve been.
What Johnny and Melvin weren’t aware of was that someone else had taken a lot of interest in the interview. Brett Hayden, Jack Tweed, and Scott Mathews also had tuned into the newscast and were very intrigued with Melvin’s past. They had heard that a man may have invented a chemical that could shrink a person, but that it hadn’t been proven as a fact yet. Rumor was he’d been responsible for the disappearance of John Gage at least two times, but Gage could never recall what had taken place. Now was their chance to go directly to the creator himself and get the whole story.
“So what are we gonna do?” Jack asked the others. “Try to get him at his own station? His helmet had a forty-five on it, so that’s all we’d have to find.”
“We find the station, wait for the guy to leave, and follow him home,” Brett answered.
“And. . .?”
“Jack, think! We kidnap him and keep him till he makes us a batch of the shrinking stuff. . .then we get rich!” Brett explained.
Scott nodded in agreement. “It’ll be a piece of cake.”
“Let’s go,” Brett Hayden said as he stood up and turned off the television. “They’ll be heading back to the station soon.”
The three men went out the door, hoping they’d found their pot of gold.
Johnny opened his eyes and looked around the room. A different show was on the television screen, which meant he’d apparently dozed off sometime during the morning news. He sat up and swung his legs over the front of the couch. Getting to his feet, Johnny slowly limped into the kitchen. He glanced at the clock on the wall.
Fifteen after eight. I wonder if Roy’ll stop by after work?
As if in answer to his question, he heard a knock on his front door. Johnny quickly hobbled into the livingroom.
“I’m coming! Hang on!”
When he opened the door, there was his partner waiting patiently on the walkway than extended out from the second floor apartments.
“How’s the toe?”
“Oh, man. Don’t ask.” Johnny motioned for Roy to come in. “You know, I never realized how much a little thing like this could hurt,” he said as he closed the door.
DeSoto grinned. “You staying off of it?”
“Yes, I’m staying off it. But I’m so tired of TV, Roy, I’m going nuts.”
“It’s only been one day.”
“Yeah, but it was one long day.”
Roy looked around the room. “You need anything?”
“Nah, I’m okay. I’m even hoping to be back at work tomorrow.”
“I don’t know, Johnny. You don’t want to rush it. Think of how much you’d need to use that toe.” He glanced down at the injured foot. “Besides, it’s still swollen. You think you could get your shoe on okay?”
“I’ll play it by ear,” the younger man assured. “I just can’t stand the thought of being stuck in here for much longer.”
The blonde paramedic nodded in understanding. “Well, stay off it, keep an ice pack handy and maybe you’ll be back soon. What did they say at Rampart?”
“Just what I already knew. I broke it. But it should heal fine.”
“Okay, well, I’m gonna head on home. It was a long night,” Roy said, yawning.
“Yeah, I saw on the news.” Johnny narrowed his eyes. “Say, how come you told Melvin I was hurt again?”
“I don’t know. . . because you were?” The older man shrugged. “Did he call ya?”
“No, they had the department store fire on the news. And Melvin had to bring my name up. . .”
Johnny nodded. “Yeah, he did. And listed the injuries I got that time I had a bad shift. . .well, that time I had a bad shift and kept running into him. He called me accident prone on TV!”
“What’s the big deal? Hardly anyone’ll even know who he’s talking about.”
Gage splayed his right hand on his chest. “Roy, I’m not accident prone.”
The senior paramedic glanced at his partner’s injured toe again. “If you say so. Look, give us a call if you need anything, okay?”
“I will,” Johnny said. “By the way, what do you mean ‘if you say so?’”
Roy grinned again. “Nothin’. I believe ya. Now go get that foot up.”
Johnny watched his front door close then hobbled over to the couch. “If you say so,” he mimicked. “Ha, ha. Very funny.”
About seven minutes later there was another knock at the door. Gage had just sat down and gotten comfortable. “It’s open!” He yelled.
The dark-haired man figured his partner had forgotten to tell him something. Thinking it was Roy, he started, “What’sa’ matter. . .Melvin?”
“Hi, John.” The man was still in the doorway.
Gage got to his feet and stepped towards the visitor, smiling. “Well, c’mon in. C’mon in.”
Meyers complied. “Thanks. I just wanted to make sure you were doin’ okay. I know you’re used to being hurt, but--”
“Melvin, look. . .I’m not accident prone. This was just one of those things, ya know? It could happen to anyone.” Johnny spread his arms wide for emphasis.
“If you say so. . .”
The paramedic scowled at the comment before deciding to ignore it and carry on. “Who’s your friend?”
“Who’s my friend? Whataya mean?”
Gage motioned towards the doorway. “Your friend.”
“I didn’t bring a friend.”
Melvin shook his head.
Johnny hobbled closer to the open door. “Can I help you?”
The sandy haired man stepped into the apartment, a dark-haired man behind him.
“As a matter of fact you can,” Scott answered. He and Brett flashed badges up for the two firemen to see. “You’re both under arrest.”
“Under arrest?” Johnny asked in disbelief. “For what?”
“Drug dealing,” Brett explained. “We’re undercover cops. We’ve been following Mr. Meyers for quite awhile and we know you two have had private meetings before.”
“I’m not into drugs!” Johnny protested. He glanced at Melvin, who was standing with his mouth open in shock. Meyers shook his head slightly, indicating he was as much at a loss for what the policemen were talking about as Johnny was.
“Both of you, hands up against the wall, arms and legs spread apart.”
“You can’t come into my apartment and arrest me. I haven’t done anything.”
“Get your hands on the wall and spread ‘em now!” Scott yelled, pulling out a gun.
Both firemen complied. Scott and Brett briefly frisked the two prisoners, Melvin still in his uniform, and Johnny in gray sweatpants and a white t-shirt. In the mean time, Meyers and Gage exchanged puzzled glances.
“What did you get me into?” Johnny mumbled under his breath.
“I didn’t do anything. I’m as much in the dark as you--” Melvin stopped when he felt his arms jerked down behind him. He could feel the cold metal cuffs clamp around his wrists.
Johnny lost his balance as his arms were unexpectedly pulled down and back. He banged his forehead on the wall and the pain in his broken toe flared as he put more weight on it. “Oww! Hey, take it easy, will ya?” The only answer was the metal handcuffs being snapped on his wrists.
“Okay, let’s go,” Scott said, as he lead Gage toward the doorway.
“Wait, can’t I at least get shoes on?”
“You can call for someone to bring you some at the station.”
Johnny frowned. He couldn’t get both shoes on anyway, but if he could just find a way to stall, maybe Chet or someone else would be by. He gave up the idea of stalling when it became obvious these cops meant business.
Going down the flight of steps outside to get to the ground level proved to be a challenge for Johnny. He tried to put all the weight on the heel of his right foot when he had to step down, but a couple of times he was forced to step down too soon and a sudden pain shot up his broken toe, carrying into his foot. The paramedic bit his lower lip, trying to stay composed.
As they got to the car in the parking lot, Jack opened the back doors. Johnny was forced down into the backseat. He tried to be careful of his right little toe, but banged it on the back of the driver’s seat getting in.
Damn, it’s never gonna heal at this rate.
“Look,” he said through gritted teeth. “Just let me call someone. They can vouch I don’t have anything to do with drugs!”
“We can sort all that out at the station,” Brett re-emphasized.
Gage sighed. This was going to be a longer day than the one before. A quick glance out the window looking for any onlookers revealed none. Then Johnny remembered that it was the time of the morning when most of his neighbors would either be at work, or taking their kids to school. Apparently anyone else was busy inside his or her home.
Figures. . .the one time I need a nosy neighbor, they’re all busy.
Johnny watched as Melvin was placed in the front seat beside the driver. Scott sat on the other side of Meyers. This was the first time that something began to feel very off to Gage. Why weren’t he and Meyers together in the back? A sudden pinch in his right arm caused the paramedic to turn his attention to Brett, who was just getting onto the seat beside him. The man was putting an empty syringe into a plastic bag.
What the. . .? Johnny began to feel woozy and light-headed, his eyelids heavy. He tried to say something, but his mouth wouldn’t cooperate. The paramedic blinked hard in an effort to clear his head, but it was useless. Before long, the man beside him blurred and faded, as the drug induced darkness encompassed Gage. The paramedic slumped limply against the left passenger door.
Chet tapped on Johnny’s apartment door. He could hear the sound from the television, but no one heard his knock. He banged a little harder and waited. Figuring Gage must be asleep, Kelly walked back to his car and pulled out of the lot. He would try to call later in the day to see how the injured paramedic was fairing.
Johnny slowly lifted his head and squinted, peering at his surroundings. He wasn’t sure where he was, but he remembered being arrested. It was a long room with bare cement walls, a pool table at one end. Closer to him there was an old brown vinyl couch up against a wall. Tears were evident where stuffing was sticking out. On the other side of him there was an old white, dented washing machine.
This isn’t a cell.
As he became more aware, he recalled the pinch in the arm and the empty syringe. The paramedic tried to move, but he was unable to do anymore than shift slightly on his bottom. His arms were held behind his back with the handcuffs and he was leaning against a metal support beam of some kind. When he moved his hands, he could tell they were on the backside of the pole. Johnny’s legs were tied down at the ankles to a floor drain grate. A woozy feeling coming over him again, he closed his eyes. He figured he must’ve been there awhile, as his bottom was sore from sitting on the cold concrete floor and his neck was stiff from his head hanging down. Gage wished he could at least rub the sore muscles and ligaments, but it was not going to happen.
I wonder where Melvin is? I hope he’s okay. Man, what do these guys want, anyway? Him? Me? Is this my fault?
Johnny’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a door opening and footsteps coming down stairs. He waited quietly for the person to appear in the large room.
“So, you finally woke up, huh? ‘Bout time,” Brett said, sitting down on a couch near a wall. He took a swig from a beer can.
Although there were no windows, the room was well lit from a bare light bulb in the ceiling a few feet from where the steps were. Johnny stared at the man, wondering if he should say anything. Suddenly a sick feeling came over him.
They haven’t worried about hiding their faces from me at all. Oh shit. . .I’m not gonna get out of this alive.
“What. . .what do you want?” Johnny asked, his voice rough from a dry throat.
“Haven’t figured it out yet?”
The paramedic shook his head.
“You were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“I was in my apartment. . .minding my own business.”
“Ah, but your friend decided to visit you right after work. . .we thought it was his place at first, but then we saw you and figured we had to take you, too.”
“We want him to recreate the chemical that can shrink things. . .the guy’s claimed a few times on TV that he did it.” Brett squished the now empty can in his hands and tossed it in the corner of the room. “If he does succeed, we need someone for him to try out his creation on.” The man shrugged. “You’re it.”
Johnny stared at the man in disbelief. “You really believe he can do that? You guys are nuts!” Although he still had recollections of being in a world of huge insects, mice and other things, Gage hadn’t quite figured out why and decided now was not the time to bring it up. “Where is Melvin? Is he okay?”
“He’s a lot better off than you.” Brett stood up and pulled a chain on the light, leaving the paramedic in the dark. “You better hope he can do it. Or it ain’t gonna be pretty for either one of ya.”
With that, the man left. Johnny shuddered in the cool, dark basement. How was he going to get out of this? And how long would it be before anyone missed him since he really wasn’t expected at work the next shift?
It was early evening when Chet stopped by Johnny’s apartment again. The fireman had planned on visiting sooner, but it had been a busy shift the night before and he’d unintentionally fallen asleep in the afternoon.
Kelly could hear Johnny’s television again as he knocked on the door. Like earlier in the day, he didn’t get an answer.
“Gage! It’s me . . . Chet! Open up, man!”
The Irishman waited a few minutes before trying to peek through a crack in the curtains that were in the livingroom window. He could see the empty couch and into part of the kitchen beyond, but there was no sign of Johnny.
Maybe he went to bed or somethin’.
Kelly shrugged and headed back to his car. He’d stop by Roy’s and see if the other paramedic had gotten a hold of Gage.
Johnny sat in the dark, listening to his stomach growl. He hadn’t eaten or drank anything since he’d woken up on the couch in his apartment. He had no idea what time it was or if it was a new day already. He shifted his weight on his sore bottom, trying to find a comfortable spot. But the concrete was making it a challenge. Gage moved his hands in an effort to get them free of the handcuffs, but it was no use. Nothing was going to give. The dark- haired man sighed.
Man, what am I gonna do? I’ve gotta get out of here.
Suddenly the lights came on and the paramedic squinted in the unexpected brightness. He could see that Scott had come down in his stocking feet.
No wonder I didn’t hear him.
“Whatsa’ matter? Too bright for ya?”
“A little,” Johnny rasped. “You guys have a shade you can put on that light?”
Scott laughed. “Yeah right. This isn’t exactly the Hilton, ya know.”
Gage snorted. Boy, did he know.
“What do you think?”
The sandy-haired man squatted down beside Johnny and held out a tuna sandwich. Gage didn’t relish the thought of eating food this guy had handled, but food was food. And he was hungry enough that it didn’t matter.
“Can you uncuff my hands so I can eat?”
“Take a bite.”
Scott held the sandwich up to Johnny’s mouth. “I said, take a bite.”
Seeing he had no choice, Gage did as suggested. His captor then set the remains of the sandwich on the floor an arm’s length away. He left and returned with a glass of water.
“Here, you need to wash that down.”
The paramedic gulped down the cool liquid as Scott tipped the container. When the water was gone, Johnny licked his moistened lips. “Thanks.”
Scott stood up. “You want more to eat?”
Johnny stared at the sandwich on the floor. He was hungry, but not enough to eat off the concrete. The paramedic shook his head.
Scott shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
“Where’s Melvin?” Gage asked, as he watched the man pick up the sandwich.
“You don’t have to worry about him. He’s being well taken care of.” Mathews grinned as he turned off the light. “After all, he’s the scientist. . .we need him. You’re just the lab rat.”
Johnny could hear the man’s laughter as he walked away and went upstairs.
And lab rats are expendable, Johnny thought to himself.
Chet felt more at ease after talking to Roy. Having found out that the senior paramedic had indeed gotten in touch with his partner earlier in the day came as a relief. Strange as it was, Kelly had to admit to himself that he was concerned when he somehow missed getting a hold of Gage twice. It seemed like Johnny should’ve answered the door at least one of those times.
Despite the relief, something made him want to try once more. He pulled into the parking lot at the apartment complex and climbed out of the car. As he got to the walkway on the second level, he noticed right away that Gage’s curtains were still closed. Chet knocked a few times then waited to see if he’d finally get a response. When he glanced away from the front door, he saw a gorgeous young blonde woman built like a Barbie doll coming down the walkway in his direction.
“I don’t think he’s home.”
Chet’s jaw dropped in surprise. “You know Gage?”
The woman nodded. “I see him sometimes in the laundry room.”
“I need to do laundry more often.”
She ignored the comment and continued. “I think he was arrested this morning. I saw him being taken to a car in handcuffs.”
“Yes, I saw it out my window.”
“For what? What’d he do?”
“I don’t know, but you’ll probably get your answer at the police station, if he’s still there.”
Chet nodded and stared at the woman, lost in a trance. “Yeah, I guess I will. Can I use your phone?” What an opportunity this would be. . .get invited into a beautiful blonde’s home and find Gage . . .couldn’t ask for a happier ending.
“Sorry,” she said, shaking her head. “I don’t have one right now. It was disconnected when I ran late on my bill.”
The stocky fireman’s face fell as he was brought quickly to reality. “Oh. Okay, well, I guess I can call Roy from the police station. Thanks!” Chet wished he could stay and talk to the woman, but he forced himself to put his shiftmate ahead of her in priority. A feat that wasn’t easy for the fireman.
“Sure. When you see him, tell Johnny I’m sorry, but I figured he’d get the standard phone call to at least let someone know where he was.”
Chet waved as he hurried down the steps. “It’s okay! I have a feeling he’d forgive you even if you were the one who had him arrested!”
He climbed into his car and quickly pulled out of the lot, heading for the police station.
Brett turned on the light in the basement and stared at Johnny. The man was sent down to check on the prisoner when they could hear him yelling from below.
“Well, what did you want?”
“Does a guy get to use the facilities around this place?” The paramedic asked, his voice raspy and quiet from yelling with a dry throat.
“Hold on. I’ll be right back.”
Gage watched Brett leave and go back up the steps. He wondered what was up, but figured the guy probably needed permission to let him use the bathroom upstairs. When the kidnapper returned, he had a gun in his hand and Jack behind him.
“Okay, let’s get you on your feet,” Hayden said, unlocking the handcuffs. Jack was untying Johnny’s feet. They helped the unsteady man to his feet. For the first time, Johnny realized how much the ordeal had affected him already. His right butt cheek was numb, and he felt woozy from lack of food. His broken toe had been throbbing, but now it was burning because he had to put too much weight on it getting up. Johnny winced, immediately trying to ease the weight off his right foot.
“What’s your problem?” Brett asked, seeing their prisoner’s reaction.
“My toe’s broke, you id--” The paramedic knew better than to finish what he was about to say. “I broke my toe yesterday.”
Neither of the two men replied, but simply stepped back, leaving Johnny standing on his own in front of the floor grate.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” Jack asked.
“I. . .here? I. . .gotta go. . .here?”
“Piss in the grate,” Brett demanded. “It’s the only choice you’ve got.”
Eyeing the gun pointed at him, Johnny ignored the awkwardness of the situation and took care of business. He hadn’t been sure he could do it under gunpoint, but was relieved that he was able to. Once he was done, Brett ordered that he sit back on the concrete floor. The two men secured Gage back in the handcuffs and tied his feet to the grate. Turning out the light, Brett and Jack left the dark-haired man trying to cope with the burning sensation that was flaring in his aggravated broken toe.
Roy walked into the police station and looked around for Chet. He could see the fireman at a desk in an apparent argument with a police officer. DeSoto shook his head. Whatever it’s about, he’d better not make things worse for Johnny.
Kelly looked somewhat relieved when he saw the blonde paramedic approaching.
“Man, am I glad to see you.”
“What’s up? Did you find out why Johnny was arrested?”
Chet shook his head. “Nope.”
“No? Why not?”
“That’s just it, Roy. . .according to these guys here, he wasn’t!”
“He wasn’t?” DeSoto looked first at Chet, then the policeman. Both were shaking their heads. “Well, where is he then? Why was he taken away in handcuffs?”
“I have no idea,” the officer answered. “Maybe it was a prank by some of the firemen you guys know. If they’re anything like us, they’ll pull stunts like that. But I just know it wasn’t us, and unless he’s missing for over twenty-four hours or you have reason to believe there’s foul play involved, it’s not our problem.”
Roy stood in stunned silence. This wasn’t what he’d expected at all. He’d take his partner being arrested due to a misunderstanding over not having any idea where he was. Roy looked at Chet, who was still insistent Gage had to be there somewhere.
“Chet. . .Chet!” Roy called out, getting the stocky fireman’s attention. “Who told you Johnny was arrested?”
An entranced expression came over Kelly’s face. “A chick at Gage’s apartment building. And, man, you shoulda seen her. Long blonde hair, deep blue eyes, and a figure as perfect as a Barbie doll. I mean this chick was awesome, man!”
Roy stared at Chet a moment, then once again found himself shaking his head. “Chet, stay with me here. Johnny may be missing, remember?”
“Well, yeah, I know. . .I know. But the chick was hot! And even more amazing than that was the fact she knew who Johnny was!”
DeSoto signaled for Chet to step away from the officer’s desk. “Look, let’s go back to Johnny’s and see if we can find anything else out. When we have more information, we can come back here and talk to someone if we need to.”
The thought of seeing the woman of his dreams again made Roy’s suggestion sound all that much better to Chet. After agreeing they needed to go to Gage’s place again, Kelly followed DeSoto out of the police station.
DeSoto and Kelly arrived at Gage’s apartment complex in record time. The two men glanced around the lighted area as they walked towards the building.
Gee, that looks like Melvin's car, Roy thought as he and Chet passed a blue Buick Skylark on their way across the parking lot. The paramedic let the thought go, his focus returning to his missing partner.
When they got to Johnny’s apartment, Roy knocked on the door, hoping he would get an answer. He tried the knob a couple of times, thinking the door might be unlocked, but it wouldn’t open. Chet peered in the window between the curtains. The Irishman shook his head.
“I don’t see ‘im at all, Roy. But the TV’s still on.”
“Well, where did the woman you ran into live?”
Kelly got a blank look on his face and shrugged. “I don’t know. She came from that direction,” he said, pointing to his left.
“Where exactly did you talk to her at?”
“Here. Right here on the sidewalk where we are now. I was standing here at the door, and all of a sudden came this gorgeous blonde out of nowhere.”
“Didn’t she say which apartment she lived in?”
“No. And I didn’t think to ask. She was so. . .so. . .you know. . .heck, I’m lucky I remembered Gage’s name to ask about ‘im!”
“There’s only one thing to do. Ask the landlord where she lives. What was her name?”
The blank expression returned to Chet’s face.
“Don’t tell me. . .you don’t know.”
“Well, I. . .”
Roy leaned his right shoulder on the outside of Johnny’s still closed apartment door and glanced at his watch. It was already eleven-forty. It was going to be a long night.
Gage somehow had managed to fall asleep, but after an hour he found himself awake again. Not having access to his watch or any windows in the room, he had no idea how much time had passed or if it was a new day. He moved his head side-to-side in an effort to loosen his stiff neck.
The room was dead silent in the pitch black, no sound of footsteps on the floor above. Johnny figured by that fact, it was probably sometime in the night. He wondered again about Melvin Meyers and just what had happened to him. Maybe the men were treating him better like they claimed, but even if that was the case, he had to be confined somewhere or he would’ve come looking for the paramedic by now.
I wonder what Roy and the others are gonna think when they find out I’m gone? I wonder how long it’ll take ‘em to figure it out? He closed his eyes. I wonder how long it’ll be before I get feeling in my ass again?
He tried to swallow, but his throat was too dry. The only good thing was that he was so hungry, he’d already passed the feeling of starving, and was feeling comfortable again.
Man, I’d even trade this for another day on the couch watching TV.
Melvin was locked in a bedroom on the second story floor of the house. The man had waited until he hadn’t heard a sound from his captors for a while before trying to figure a way out of the room.
When they had first brought him into the room, he’d noticed that the doorknob was reversed and the interior button lock was on the outside of the door. If that was all they were using, a piece of wire would be enough to release the lock. Meyers searched around the supplies he’d been given to work on the formula. There was a long piece of wire formed in the shape of a figure eight to hold two glass jars together. Melvin took the jars out of their holder and bent one end of the figure eight out straight. He whirled the extended end round and round until it snapped off in one straight piece. The fireman/chemist looked at the wire with a gleam in his eyes. This could be his ticket out to find John, and get them both out of the house.
Johnny’s landlady let Roy and Chet into his apartment. Once they stepped inside, it became obvious he hadn’t been there for awhile. The television was on the same channel as in the morning, his bed was unmade, no dirty dishes were in the sink, a single glass that once had juice in it still sat on the kitchen table. The two friends knew the next step was to call the police.
“It’s gonna be tough at work tomorrow if we’re up all night,” Chet commented.
”Yeah, but you think you could sleep right now anyway?”
Kelly shook his head in reply. He had to admit, he couldn’t.
Melvin quietly snooped around the moonlit house. He was determined to find John before he allowed himself to leave. Not knowing which bedrooms upstairs might have any of the three criminals in them, he decided his best bet was to not look upstairs, but rather take a chance that Gage was somewhere on another floor. After a search of the main floor didn’t turn up any sign of the paramedic, Meyers decided to try the basement.
Johnny looked in the direction of the stairs. He could hear faint footsteps coming down. The paramedic hoped whichever of the three men it was, that he would have a glass of water with him.
“John? Are you down here?” Meyers whispered.
“Melvin?” Johnny croaked.
“You sound terrible.”
“Yeah. Where are you? It’s too dark in here.” Meyers felt along the wall for a light switch.
“There’s a pull chain light a few feet in front of the stairs.”
At that information, Melvin reached above his head, feeling for the chain.
“How’d you get down here?” Johnny rasped.
“I picked the lock on my door. These guys aren’t real bright.”
Gage nodded. “No kiddin’.” There was a time when he had figured Meyers was a few bricks short of a wall, but it was becoming apparent the fireman/chemist was more like a genius that simply had shortcomings in the social department.
The light came on and Johnny shut his eyes against the assault from the sudden brightness.
“S’okay.” The dark-haired man squinted at Meyers. “Maybe you should just go get help.”
“No. I got you into this. . .I’m gonna get you out of it. . .we leave together.”
“But. . .”
Melvin untied Johnny’s feet then walked behind the support pole that connected to the ceiling. “You’re still handcuffed?”
“Yeah. I don’t think you’ll get me loose.”
“Maybe I can smash them,” Meyers said, looking around for something small, but heavy.
“Melvin. . .”
“Or maybe I can pick the lock, like I did with the door.” He pulled out the wire, straightening it again, and started for the keyhole in the cuffs.
“Melvin. . .”
“Get out of here. . .go get help. You aren’t Batman and these guys aren’t cartoon villains. You can’t--” Johnny stopped when he saw Melvin looking at him, a hurt expression on his face. “Oh, okay, give it a try.”
Meyers smiled. “Just hang in there, John. I’ll have ya free in no time.”
“If you say so. . .”
After a few minutes, the handcuffs popped open and Melvin took them off his friend. Johnny brought his tired arms around to his front and massaged his wrists.
“I told ya I could do it,” Meyers beamed. He helped his friend to his feet.
Gage stood still a minute as he waited for the room to stop spinning. It had been too long since he’d eaten and the paramedic was light headed and weak. Soon the two men slowly made their way to the steps. Johnny wasn’t sure he would last long before he would pass out. He limped up the steps behind Meyers, both his sore toe and numb butt making the climb difficult. As they got to the top of the stairs, Brett and Scott appeared in the doorway. Startled, Melvin stepped back down a step, nearly losing his balance. The sudden movement was enough to throw the already injured paramedic behind him off balance and Johnny fell back against the wall, as he grabbed onto the railing. Pain seared through his broken toe and he twisted his left ankle in the process of trying to find his footing again.
“Ahh!” Gage groaned, as he tried to figure out which foot was the best to put most of his weight on. Neither brought him any relief. Great, now both feet are screwed up.
Scott escorted Melvin to the bedroom upstairs and handcuffed the fireman/chemist to the front bedpost. “Just what did you hope to accomplish with that stunt?” Mathews asked. “Now unless you’re actually working on the project, you’re gonna be handcuffed to the bed.” He shook his head. “You could’ve had it so good, if you just hadn’t been so stupid.”
Meyers glared at the man. He’d think of another plan. He had to.
Brett grabbed Johnny by his left arm and quickly walked him down the stairs. Gage winced with every step, trying not to lose his temper. It hurt like hell no matter what way he stepped on either foot. When they got to the basement, Brett once again handcuffed the paramedic to the pole and tied his feet to the grate.
“Can I at least have a drink of water?” Johnny asked, his voice barely audible.
“You’re lucky I don’t shoot you right now and put us all out of our misery. You’ve been nothing but a pain in the ass since we brought you here.”
Johnny looked at the man in astonishment. First of all, it was not his idea to be brought here. Second, he’d been quiet the entire time except for when he needed to go to the bathroom. The third thing was, he’d love to have a little pain in his ass. . .at least he’d be sure it was still there. The paramedic opted to keep silent. Now was not the time to piss off this man just to make a point he probably wouldn’t see anyway. Gage frowned as he shifted his gaze to the floor.
Brett nodded at the defenseless man. “That’s smart. Keep quiet and you may get breakfast in the morning.” He turned to leave, making sure the light was off before he went upstairs.
Gage sat alone in the pitch dark, feeling more helpless than he had since this whole ordeal had started.
Roy and Chet stared at the television screen at Roy’s house. The two men had notified the police about their missing shiftmate, and gave them what little facts they knew. The landlady was able to give the officers the apartment number of Chet’s dream girl by the description Kelly gave, but the woman was not at home when they attempted to contact her.
Now DeSoto and Kelly were watching an old B-horror flick, trying to pass the time. Both men would shift their attention to the telephone often, in hopes the police, or Johnny himself, would call with some news.
“Whataya think Cap’s gonna say when he finds out Gage is missing?”
Roy glanced at Chet. “I think he’s gonna wonder why we didn’t tell him sooner and then give us the third degree on what we know.”
“Yeah.” Chet shifted in his seat. “What do you think happened?”
“Well, if Melvin Meyers was involved like the other times, I’d say Johnny was a victim of some crazy circumstances. But being that Mel--”
“What? You stopped with Mel. . .Mel what?”
“I do know where he lives. Let’s go.”
Chet stood up, ready to follow the blonde paramedic. “What are you thinking?”
“Melvin wanted to know where Johnny was the other day. Now all of a sudden my partner is gone. What do you think?”
“I don’t know, Roy, but it’s more than what we’ve had to go on so far.”
The two firemen got into Roy’s car and headed for Melvin’s apartment. Halfway there, Roy hit the brakes, nearly putting Chet into the dashboard.
“What the hell. . .?”
“Sorry, but next time, have your seatbelt on, would ya?”
“Oh. . .oh sure. Next time warn me you’re gonna stop in the middle of the road.” Chet stared at the driver. “So, why did you stop?”
“Do you remember seeing a blue Skylark in the lot at Johnny’s place?”
“Uh. . .no. But I wasn’t lookin’. Why?”
“Just call it a hunch.” Roy turned the car around and headed back for Johnny’s apartment.
Gage tried to fall asleep, but the discomfort of the floor, the throbbing in his left ankle and the burning pain in his right little toe was making it impossible. He was also back to feeling nauseated from hunger. The night couldn’t go fast enough for the unfortunate man.
What did I do to deserve this? Was it that last prank I played on Chet to get even? He looked up into the blackness above. “I swear what he did to me was far worse than that,” he said, his raspy voice cracking. “After all, I had to go on a run soaking wet. He just had flour all over his head. . . and shoulders . . .and pants. . . and shoes.”
The paramedic sighed. There had to be a way to pass the time. I know! Johnny closed his eyes and pictured every woman he’d been out with, one at a time. Maybe with a little luck, counting women would have the same effect as counting sheep.
Roy pulled his car up near the blue Buick Skylark he had noticed earlier. He got out and walked over, pulling on the driver’s side door. By luck it opened.
“Is this Melvin’s car?” Chet wondered.
“I don’t know, but he drives one like it,” Roy explained. “I’ll know for sure once I find the registration.” He opened the glove box and pulled out a handful of papers. Many were credit card receipts from various stores. He manages his finances about as well as Johnny does. At the bottom of the stack was the paper Roy had hoped to find. The vehicle registration verified that it was indeed Melvin’s car and those were Melvin’s receipts.
DeSoto climbed out of the car and pulled Chet over to his own car with him.
“Well. . .?”
“Chet, it’s Melvin’s car. And he left it unlocked, so what does that tell you?”
“He wasn’t planning on being out of it long.”
“Right. And it also means, he might be with Johnny wherever he is. Johnny’s Land Rover has been in the same spot all day,” Roy said, pointing across the lot. “And I know this car was in this same spot when we were here earlier. That girl really must’ve seen Johnny taken away in handcuffs. . .what we need to know is if anyone else was. . .”
“Yeah. Like Melvin Meyers.”
“Right. Let’s go to a pay phone and call the police.” The blonde paramedic started to get into his own car. “They’re gonna need to look into the possibility of a double kidnapping.”
“I can’t believe this,” Chet said, walking around to the passenger side.
“I know what you mean. But it doesn’t surprise me if Melvin’s involved.”
Johnny woke to an already light room. As he opened his eyes, he once again found himself squinting as he waited for his eyes to adjust to the brightness. He could hear a sort of clicking noise, followed by a thud. It was Brett playing billiards at the other end of the room. The man looked up from his game and smirked. “Sorry I woke ya, Sleeping Beauty.”
Gage yawned. “What time is it?” He croaked.
“In the morning?”
Brett nodded. “I find I play my best in the morning.”
“Can I have some water?”
Brett didn’t reply, but rather continued to play his billiard game. Johnny glanced at his injuries and was surprised at how much his ankle had swollen. It was almost three times its normal size. His broken toe was black and blue, the bruising traveling up the right side of his foot, and it was at least twice its size still as well.
“Do me a favor,” the paramedic said in a quiet tone. “If Melvin really makes something that shrinks things, have him put a little of it on my ankle and toe.”
Brett snorted and set his pool cue down. Johnny watched as the man headed up the stairs. Soon Hayden was back with a small glass of water.
“Here.” The kidnapper put the glass up to Johnny’s lips.
The paramedic drank the water as quick as it was put into his mouth. When the liquid was gone, Brett stood up, the glass in his hand. It was only a minute before Johnny found himself vomiting the water up. Hayden jumped back, an angry expression on his face.
“What did you do that for?”
“I couldn’t keep it down.” Johnny looked at the wet spot on his right pant leg and the small puddle on the floor beside him. Great!
“Well, you ain’t gettin’ anything to eat now, that’s for sure,” Brett said, disgusted. “You blew it, buddy.”
Gage didn’t care anymore. He ached everywhere, and what didn’t hurt was numb. The dark-haired man just wanted the whole thing to be over with, and hopefully that would be with these idiots behind bars for a long time.
The guys should be going to work about now. I hope they know I’m missing.
Hank Stanley waved Roy over to his office as the paramedic walked towards the dayroom. Once they were inside the small room, the captain closed the door and motioned for Roy to sit down. The blonde man opted to stay standing, as did Hank.
“I’ve been notified that John and Melvin Meyers are missing.”
“That’s how it looks,” Roy replied. “At first a neighbor thought Johnny was arrested, but the police had no record of it.”
“Yeah, I understand you and Kelly were up most of the night doing your own bit of detective work.” Stanley took in the shadows under his senior paramedic’s eyes. “You guys gonna be okay to work this shift?”
DeSoto nodded. “Yeah, we’re okay, Cap. I think we both got a few hours of sleep. No telling if Johnny did where ever he’s at.”
“So any ideas what may have happened?”
“Well, I got a call early this morning telling me the witness to the ‘arrest’ saw another man in handcuffs besides Johnny, so I’m assuming that was Melvin.” Roy sighed. “You know how it is, Cap. Whenever Gage and Meyers get together, things just seem to go wacky.”
The captain cracked a small smile. “You aren’t kiddin’. There was the time John disappeared when he went to look for Melvin’s rat in that building fire, only to appear out of nowhere over a day later in the same building during another fire; then turning into an accident waiting to happen when he found out Meyers was in the fire department.” Hank shook his head. “And, of course who could forget that time when John was missing and then suddenly appeared in that mud puddle soaked head to toe, like he’d been swimming in a muddy lake.” Hank thought back to the first weird instance and remembered Roy trying to convince him John had shrunk “Roy, you don’t suppose. . .?” He glanced at the paramedic and saw a look on his face that was a combination of shock, surprise and disbelief. “Ah, never mind. We don’t know if Melvin was around then, anyway. But why would they be taken together?”
Relieved they didn’t have to rehash the possibility that Johnny was once shrunk to the size of a bug . . .more than once . . .Roy shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m gonna try to call Johnny’s aunt in San Francisco after roll call to see if she’s heard anything about a ransom. She’s the only relative I can think of that they’d contact. I would’ve had the police call her, but I forgot all about her until this morning.”
Stanley held out the receiver to the phone on his desk. “Call ‘er now. Roll call can wait a few minutes.”
Staring at the pool table, Johnny wished he could do something more than just sitting on the floor to pass the time. Even just to have the sound of a radio would be better than nothing. The paramedic glanced up at the uncovered light bulb. At least this time they had left him with some light. He didn’t feel as shut off from the world.
The sound of two sets of footsteps brought the man out of his thoughts. He watched as the sandy-haired man and the pool-playing host came down the stairs. Both men soon stood in front of Gage. After a few seconds of silence, Johnny spoke.
“We’ve been discussin’ what to do with you,” Brett said. “And we decided we messed up when we brought you here in the first place.”
If the paramedic could’ve thrown his arms up for emphasis, he would have. Instead he could only express himself verbally. “No kiddin’.”
Scott stepped around alongside the prisoner. “Well, you’re still gonna come in handy. . .just in a different way.”
Johnny wasn’t sure he was ready to hear the rest, but he had a feeling there wasn’t going to be a choice.
“Either your buddy meets the deadline for creating that chemical we want, or you’re gonna be dead.”
Johnny looked from one man to the other in disbelief. He then stared at Scott. “So when is this deadline? How long has he got?”
“Until nine o’clock tonight. If it’s not ready then, you’re history.”
“Nine o’clock? What ever happened to midnight?” Johnny asked, hoping to gain a few extra hours. “Bad guys always give people till midnight.”
Brett rolled his eyes. “That’s just on TV. Besides, we’ll need all night to dispose of your body.”
Gage shook his head. This was unbelievable. His life was in Melvin’s hands. And it all depended on the chemist/fireman inventing something that never really existed . . .or probably hadn’t. Melvin, you’d better be thinking of another plan to get us out of this place . . . and soon!
“Now,” said Scott as he turned to take something from Jack, who had just come down to join them. “Just so you don’t have to sit here all day thinkin’ about dyin’, we’re gonna give you somethin’ to make you sleep. It should last until about seven or so.”
“Oh, nice,” Johnny said sarcastically. He winced as a needle was stuck into his right arm. After a few minutes, the paramedic felt himself drifting away, his head bobbing as he tried to keep it upright. He lost the battle and slumped to the side, his head hanging down.
Melvin pulled the piece of wire out of his pocket. The chemist/fireman smiled as he held it up. He knew he could get free of the handcuffs holding his one arm to the bedpost and also the locked door of his room. He would just have to wait until nighttime again, when the captors would be asleep. This time he would leave without Gage and get them some help. A sudden noise outside his room, had the man quickly putting the wire back into his pocket.
The door opened, revealing Scott. “Ready to start your work day?”
Melvin nodded and forced a smile.
“Good. Because we have a new deal for you.” When he saw he had the prisoner’s attention, the man continued. “You have until nine o’clock tonight to have the project complete and ready for us, or your friend downstairs dies.”
“Nine o’clock?” Melvin wondered. “What about midnight? I thought people always got until midnight?”
Scott shook his head, and sighed. “You two must watch the same movies. It can be whatever time we want it to be. There’s no set rule for deadlines,” he defended. “And we say it’s nine o’clock. Got it?”
Melvin nodded, his mind racing as what to do next. He didn’t have until night to make a move. He’d have to do it sooner. But what could he do? His eyes traveled over the supplies in the room. He had an idea.
“I’ll call you guys up here as soon as it’s ready.”
Scott nodded. “Good. We thought that would get you to work faster.” He unlocked the handcuffs and shut the door as he left.
Meyers could hear the push button lock being set. The fireman/chemist quickly went to work mixing ingredients.
Roy had gotten a hold of Johnny’s aunt and confirmed that ransom wasn’t involved; at least not yet. She hadn’t heard a word from anyone. The paramedic assured the woman he would keep her informed of any news he received.
After roll call, the men were assigned duties before being sent on a call for a multiple motor vehicle accident. Dwyer was pulling duty for Johnny again, which was a relief to Roy. If he was going to have to work beside someone else, it was good that the person was a paramedic he knew real well. This way Gage’s replacement would understand if DeSoto was miles away in thought between runs.
A few hours later, Melvin held up the glass of mixed chemicals. He kept the solution a distance from his face as he studied it in the light. Looks good, I just hope it works. He left the filtered mask that he had been working in over his nose and mouth, and slowly poured the liquid into the floor vent. Feeling slightly light-headed from the fumes, Melvin grabbed a pillow off the bed and placed it over his nose and mouth as well.
Hopefully it won’t get to Gage as fast since he’s in the basement, so we can still get out of here.
The fireman/chemist looked at his watch, eyeing the time he started the experiment. Hopefully in another hour or less, he and Gage would be on their way out the front door of the house. No way was he going to leave John behind knowing these guys wanted to kill him.
Scott and Brett sat watching television, while Jack was out running an errand. The two kidnappers began to feel different but neither gave it thought. The process of change was so slow, that by the time they realized something was very wrong, they were both near the point of dozing off. Brett stood to find out what the cause of his wooziness was, and simply collapsed on the floor. Scott was slumped down on the couch.
After popping the lock on the door again, Melvin quietly snuck down the stairs. He paused after each step, waiting to hear if there was any sign of someone coming towards him.
Once he was on the main floor, he saw Brett on the livingroom floor in a heap, and the top of Scott’s head over the back of the couch. The third man was nowhere to be seen.
Great! I’d better get Johnny and get us out of here fast! I hope the other fool’s not with him.
When Melvin got to the basement, he saw Gage slumped over, feet still tied to the floor, his arms secured behind the pole. The dark-haired paramedic’s eyes were closed and he appeared to be breathing deeply. . .too deeply. . . as if in slumber.
“No, John, no. . .not yet,” the fireman/chemist’s muffled voice cried out. Melvin hurried over to his friend and untied the man’s feet. “You gotta wake up, Gage. We gotta get out of here. Now!”
Once he got the handcuffs released, Meyers watched in dismay as Johnny fell over and lay on the floor in a heap. There was no sign of consciousness at all.
“I didn’t mean to knock you out, John. C’mon, wake up.”
When he still didn’t get a response, Melvin laid Johnny out flat and gave a sternal rub. Nothing.
Nothing? But how . . .?
As he started to lift the man’s upper torso and insert his arms under Johnny’s, Melvin noticed a tiny puncture mark in Gage’s right arm.
“Oh no. They drugged you. . .and I drugged you. . .oh shit. . .”
He wasn’t a paramedic, but Melvin knew that too much of any sedative in a person’s system was not good at all. And he had no idea just how much John had received between him and the kidnappers. He was too small of a build to drag Gage up the stairs by himself in his own weakend condition. The only hope was to get out of the house and find help. Meyers slipped his arms the rest of the way under Johnny’s and dragged the man towards the couch. Once beside the piece of furniture, he laid the paramedic down and carefully pushed him underneath. Then he took off the filtered mask and placed it over the unconscious man’s face, securing the elastic band behind his head. Meyers held his own hand over his nose and mouth tightly as he got to his feet and ran for the steps. He had to get out before he breathed in any fumes as well.
Meyers flung open the front door of the house and was met by Jack. The startled fireman jumped back, the surprised kidnapper doing the same. After a moment of staring at one another, both men made a move.
Jack stepped inside, as Melvin glanced towards the basement.
“What are you doing out?” Jack demanded.
“I. . .I . .they. . .your buddies let me out because I got the project done. But they tried it out on John Gage and he escaped!”
The kidnapper shook his head. “He did not. The guy’s asleep in the basement.”
“No! He was asleep, but part of the chemical reaction to shrinking woke him up. It’s powerful stuff! He ran out when he was about two feet tall! Now who knows what size he is!”
Jack eyed Meyers carefully. “Where’re Brett and Scott?”
“Uh . . .uhm. . . super strength is a reaction to shrinking, too. John knocked them out. Just pow, and they were out for the count.”
Jack pushed past the fireman and looked into the livingroom at his two unconscious friends.
“Holy shit! They are out!” He spun around and stared at Melvin. “No way a little guy did that.”
“Yes,” Meyers said, nodding. “Yes, he did, I swear! Go look! He’s gone!”
Jack pulled out a gun and pointed it at the fireman/chemist. He motioned for him to come along. Melvin held his breath, hoping the fumes wouldn’t over power him before he could get out of this latest fix.
Both men peered in the basement below from the top of the stairs.
“He. . .he is gone!” Jack said, astonished. “Well, little legs can’t get him too far! C’mon!”
“Yeah, c’mon. You’re gonna help me find ‘im!”
As they ran out the front door, Melvin wondered how he was going to get help to John in time.
Roy and Dwyer were on their way to a call for a dog bite victim, when a car whizzed past them, going well over the speed limit. Suddenly it slowed and veered off the road, coming to a stop in an open lot. The driver’s door flew open and Melvin Meyers stepped out, waving his arms wildly.
“Meyers?” Roy questioned in disbelief.
“Huh?” Dwyer looked through the windshield at the man coming towards the edge of the street.
“Call us in as a still alarm. Have them send another unit on the dog bite run, and a police unit to our location.”
As soon as Roy brought the squad to a stop, he jumped out, and trotted over to Melvin.
“What are you doing here? Where’s Johnny?”
The look of fear that came over Meyer’s face alarmed the blonde paramedic even more.
“What kind of trouble have you gotten him into now?”
Melvin shook his head. “I. . .I didn’t. . .look, Roy. . .oh never mind. But there’s one of the kidnappers passed out in the front of that car,” he said, pointing to the vehicle he’d gotten out of. “He was making me drive to go find John and when the guy passed out, I decided to go to a police station. But when I saw it was your truck I was passing, I--”
“Find Johnny? I thought he was with you?”
“He was. . .he’s not really gone. That was just--” Melvin could see the paramedic was growing impatient. “He’s at the house they were holding us in. We gotta hurry!”
“Where is it?”
“Let’s get in the squad and I’ll direct ya there.”
As they trotted to the truck, Roy noticed Meyers seemed somewhat unstable on his feet.
“I think I’ve been close to passing out, myself, but I’ll be okay.”
“Is your ‘passenger’ all right? Over all, I mean. . .”
“I wouldn’t worry about ‘im. . .it’ll wear off.”
DeSoto couldn’t help but wonder what the fireman wasn’t telling him. Gut feeling was Meyers had done something to get away, and the man in the car was the unsuspecting target.
Melvin continued talking, informing Roy of his partner’s condition, as the fireman/chemist got in on the driver’s side of the squad and slid over to the middle of the seat. “I think John overdosed on sedatives. It was an accident. But, Roy, John wouldn’t even respond to pain.”
The senior paramedic was beyond concerned. This latest bit of news unnerved him. And what was bothering him more was he knew Johnny needed help and they couldn’t leave to give him that help until police arrived to take over the unconscious criminal.
Relief came as the siren from a police car could be heard approaching. The three firemen waited a moment until the cops arrived. They explained what was going on, who was asleep in the car, and had the officers request more units to the area.
“Let us get the suspect in our custody, then we’ll follow behind you,” one officer directed. “You’re gonna need police to go into the place before you anyway, just to make sure it’s clear for you to get to your buddy.”
Roy couldn’t argue the point. He and Dwyer couldn’t rush in not knowing what was going on in the house. That could spell disaster for everyone, especially Johnny.
Brett pushed himself up off the floor as he slowly came to. He shook his head in an attempt to clear it, but the movement only made him dizzy.
Scott was sitting on the couch, his elbows on his thighs and his face in his hands. When he heard his friend stir, he looked up.
“Man, I feel hung over.”
“What happened?” Brett asked, still on his hands and knees.
“I don’t know, but I have a feelin’ our pal upstairs had somethin’ to do with it.”
The two men stared at each other a minute, then both suddenly got to their feet and ran to the still open front door.
“Ah, man, I’ll bet he got away,” Scott said, frowning.
“Yeah, maybe so. But I doubt his snoozin’ friend downstairs did.”
The two once again exchanged a glance. If they still had a hostage in the basement, there was a chance of luring the fireman/chemist back.
Having a feeling Brett was thinking the same thing as him, Scott said, “I need more fresh air before I go in that basement.”
Brett shook his head in disgust at his friend. Scott could wait outside if he wanted, but Hayden was determined to see if Johnny was still in the basement.
The squad and four police cars converged on the house non-code R. It caught Scott, who was just going back into the building, completely off guard. He was quickly handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a squad car.
When Brett saw that Johnny wasn’t in his usual spot, he looked around the basement briefly. But he was starting to feel the effects of the lingering fumes in the room and decided he’d better head upstairs for fresh air again. As he stepped onto the main floor, a voice sounded from off to the side of him.
Brett did as ordered and glanced over in the direction the sound had come from. There were a three cops with guns trained on him. The criminal sighed and placed his hands on his head in surrender.
Knowing they had the three men involved in the kidnapping in custody, the police officers okayed it for the paramedics to go in.
Their SCBA gear in place, Roy and Dwyer rushed into the house, and headed straight for the basement. Melvin had warned everyone involved about the fumes in the house, and the paramedics didn’t want to take any chances of either of them falling ill to residual gasses.
As they reached the bottom of the steps, they could see Johnny under the couch. The two men got right over to the unconscious man and pulled him out. Roy immediately checked Gage for a sign of life.
“His breathing is labored,” he said, his voice muffled by the mask. “Let’s get ‘im out of here now!”
Dwyer nodded as he helped Roy get the dark-haired paramedic on his shoulder in a fireman’s carry, all the while being careful of Gage’s swollen ankle and broken toe. Johnny hung limp as they made their way up the stairs.
Once outside, Roy laid his partner on a yellow blanket Melvin had spread out on top of the grass. As he quickly took off his SCBA gear, DeSoto looked at the equipment the fireman had already set up. Meyers was on the biophone, talking to Brackett.
DeSoto would thank the man for his help later. For now, Johnny was the only focus of his attention. Dwyer removed the filtered mask off of Gage’s face and replaced it with an oxygen mask. He then began to help Roy get the victim’s vitals.
“Johnny? Johnny! Can you hear me?” Roy asked, hoping to get some kind of response. He tried a sternal rub. Gage lay unmoving. “Johnny!” Roy frowned. His partner was out, period. He prayed it wasn’t permanent.
When Gage was ready to transport, Roy climbed up into the ambulance beside him. Dwyer closed the doors, giving the customary two slaps and watched as the vehicle pulled away.
Melvin walked up beside the man and sighed. “I hope John’s gonna be okay. I never meant to hurt him.”
The paramedic patted the man on the back. “We know. You probably saved his life.” He glanced over at the officers who were leaving the scene with the kidnappers in their cars. “I take it you’ve given your statement?”
“Yeah, for now.”
“Let’s get you checked out at Rampart.”
Meyers nodded and the two men walked towards the squad.
Roy watched his partner for any sign of consciousness as they sped along in the ambulance. Johnny’s eyes remained closed; his body still, other than the rise and fall of his chest.
“C’mon, Junior. Wake up.” The senior paramedic took Gage’s vitals again to give an update to Rampart. The good news was that the younger man’s breathing was improving. Roy was grateful for that much. “Hang in there, Johnny. Hang in there.”
Gage felt like he was floating in the clouds. He struggled to open his eyes, but his lids felt like lead. The man could hear a voice in the distance. Unable to discern who it was, the paramedic gave up and allowed himself to drift back into oblivion.
When the ambulance arrived at the hospital, the doors were flung open. Brackett was waiting outside, ready to escort Gage inside. The patient was quickly lifted out of the ambulance and whisked down the corridor, into a treatment room.
Roy helped transfer Johnny to the exam table, then stepped back as the doctor went to work. Meyers soon came into the room with a list of the chemicals he had mixed. He handed it to Brackett, then joined Roy in the wings.
After several more minutes had passed, Kel noticed that Johnny’s eyes were partially open. The paramedic was staring at the doctor, a glazed look to his eyes.
“Well, that’s a start,” Brackett said. “Johnny, can you squeeze my hand?” He asked, placing his hand in the younger man’s. He felt a faint movement of the patient’s fingers, then the eyes closed and Gage was once again unconscious.
“Is he gonna be okay?”
“I think so, Roy,” Kel said, nodding. He folded his arms across his chest. “The main worry is brain damage, but it’ll be awhile before we’ll know more there. At least we know what some of the stuff in his system is, since Meyers supplied us with the list. I’ll have the lab run tests to find out what else he was given.” When he saw a worried expression still remained on the blonde man’s face, Brackett forced a grin. “Johnny could follow my command to squeeze my hand. That’s a good sign.”
The paramedic gave a wan smile and turned to face Melvin. “Thanks for the help. I’m sorry I blamed--”
Meyers held up his hand to silence DeSoto. “It’s okay. I blamed me, too.” He looked over at the dark-haired man on the exam table. “I’m just glad John and I both got out of the situation. . .alive.”
“Why did those guys kidnap you two, anyway?”
The fireman shook his head. “You won’t believe it, but c’mon and I’ll tell you the whole story.”
The two men glanced over their shoulders at their sleeping friend as they left the treatment room. On Melvin’s suggestion, they headed for the cafeteria. He was worried about John, but Meyers was also hungry.
The following day, a still tired, but very happy, John Gage was propped up in a hospital bed and reading a comic book Melvin had given him earlier. He felt sluggish from the mixture of drugs the day before, but didn’t mind. The man was just relieved to be in familiar surroundings, and have his butt on a soft surface.
It may be sore, but at least I can actually feel my ass again.
Due to the large amount of sedatives that had been in his system, the paramedic wasn’t able to have anything more than aspirin for pain relief. The residual of the drugs that still remained, and ice packs, were enough to ward off most of the aches in his sprained ankle and broken toe, anyway.
Johnny looked up from his magazine when the door to his room opened. He smiled when he saw that it was Roy.
“Hey, c’mon in.”
DeSoto complied, and closed the door behind him. “How’re ya doin’?”
“Better. Much better.”
“Last time I saw you, you were out if it. I came to check on ya between calls, but you could barely hold your eyes open.”
“Yeah? Huh,” Gage set the comic down on his lap. “I must’ve been out of it. I don’t even remember anything after being in a basement and getting a shot in the arm. Next thing I know, I wake up this morning here feeling like I’ve been run over by a semi.”
Roy wandered over closer to the bedside and glanced at the book on his friend’s lap. “You’re reading a Batman comic?”
“Well, yeah. . .you know, they’re really pretty good.”
“Don’t tell me Meyers is rubbing off on you.”
“Roy, c’mon. The guy’s never been anything but trouble for me. Why would he be rubbing off on me?” Johnny asked in a defensive tone. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
Suddenly the door to the room burst open and in walked Melvin, a stack of comic books in his hands. “I got some more for ya, John.” He paused and smiled when he saw DeSoto. “Hi, Roy.”
The blonde man raised his eyebrows and looked from the fireman in the doorway to his partner. Johnny shrugged, looking like the cat that ate the canary.
“You two are becoming alike.”
“No we’re not,” the younger man argued. “Are we, Melvin.” He stated, hoping to get reinforcement on the issue.
The fireman shook his head as he walked over and set the stack of comics on a tray table. “John has a long way to go before he’d be like me.”
“Yeah--” Gage stopped, giving Meyers a wary look. What did he mean by that? Is that supposed to be a good or bad comment?
The remark was forgotten when another visitor came into the room.
“Hey, John. . .Roy. . .Meyers. Boy, the gang’s all here, huh?” The stocky fireman noticed the comic books on the table. He walked over and picked one up, flipping through the pages. “You into Batman now, Gage? Man, you must’ve gotten hit on the head or somethin’.”
“Look, before you and Roy start labeling me as a Super Hero freak, it so happens there’s a lot to learn from comics. . .and if I ever get in another situation like Mel and I just were. . .well. . .” the paramedic sighed. “Well, I just want to have an idea of how to get out of it.”
“You gotta be kidding.” Kelly looked from Johnny to Roy. “He’s kidding, right?”
“Chet, if it weren’t for him reading these, Melvin would probably still be locked in a room and I’d be dead. It was his trick that he learned in issue number five that saved us.”
“Johnny, don't tell me you're gonna waste all your time reading these stupid comic books while waiting for someone to kidnap you again . . .which the odds of that happening twice are probably about as good as a person getting hit by lightning more than once. . .when you’ve got what you’ve got waiting for you at home.”
“What I have waiting for me at home?” He looked from Chet to Roy. “What do I have waiting for me at home?”
Roy grinned. “Chet ran into your laundryroom lady.”
“Yeah,” Kelly answered. “A gorgeous tall, blonde with a figure like--”
“A Barbie doll,” Gage finished.
“Well, I got news for ya. The outer shell is all there is to that chick. The lights may be on, but I sure as hell haven’t found anyone at home yet, if you get my meaning.”
“But she’s awesome, man!”
Johnny shook his head.
“Chet, I’d take reading any comic book over having a conversation with her.”
“Who said anything about a conversation?”
Johnny gave Chet a disgusted look, then grinned at Roy. They both were amused at how consistent Kelly was about his taste in women. If a chick was still breathing, Chet would be interested.
“Well, we’d all better be getting out of here and letting you get some rest,” Roy offered, noticing his partner still looked a little drained.
“Yeah, I guess I should get some sleep. Cap said he’d be by this evening and I’d hate to be too tired for visitors.”
“I’ll bring you more comics when you get done with those,” Melvin offered, as he went out the door.
“Okay, thanks again, man.”
Once Meyers was gone, Chet gave Johnny curious look. “You aren’t really gonna be readin’ all those Batman comics, are ya?”
The dark-haired man shook his head. “Nah, I just didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings. He means well.”
“That’s a relief. For a minute there I thought we’d lost ya to the Super Hero Worship Syndrome.”
Gage yawned. “No, Chet. Now get out of here, would ya?” He teased. “I’m tired.”
The two visitors left the room and headed for the elevator. Johnny leaned back into his pillow.
I really could use some more sleep.
He closed his eyes, but a few minutes later they were open again. The paramedic sighed, staring at the comic book still on his lap. Giving in, he picked up the magazine.
I guess I’ll get some sleep after I see how Batman gets Robin out of his latest jam.
My thanks to Kenda for the beta read! Any errors, medical or otherwise, are mine. And thanks to Jane and Tracy R. for the encouragement. :o)