By Audrey W.
His head felt like a throbbing toothache. . .
Toothache. . . .a toothache was one of the worst kind of pains to cope with.
He could sure use a couple of pain killers, he thought to himself. A little MS in an IV would certainly do the trick.
Unfortunately, he not only lacked the supplies, but there was no one with him to administer any of it even if it was with him.
That was the last complete thought John Gage had before his somewhat blurry and dimly lit surroundings drew to a pinpoint and disappeared into a darkness as he lost consciousness for a third time.
Roy DeSoto stared up at the ceiling of the ambulance. Now on the way to Rampart General Hospital as the victim of a rescue gone wrong, he wondered how the other paramedic involved was. That other medic was his partner Gage.
He’d wanted to stay on scene to find out, but it wasn’t up to him.
If he’d been there with his own commanding officer from Station 51, Captain Stanley, he may have been able to hold off his departure for a very brief time. However, with their other shiftmates already out on a call, the paramedics had been dispatched with the crew of Engine 116, thus they were under direction of another captain.
He recalled the words of the man after he requested permission to delay transport to the hospital once he was extricated from a heavily damaged building that had partially come down on him.
‘DeSoto, I’m responsible for your safety and I will not allow you to postpone the medical attention you need for something you can’t contribute to anyway. I understand why you’d want to. I’ve been in that situation myself a few times in my career. But having you on your way to a doctor is just one less concern on my mind. Don’t worry, we’ll get John out.’
Roy knew there was no disputing that the less distraction at a rescue scene, the more efficient. Thus it was mostly for Johnny that he’d not made the request to stay awhile twice.
But it still didn’t stop him from wanting to be there now. . .
You’d better be okay, partner.
John blearily opened his eyes. He winced at the throbbing ache in his head.
It reminded him of a toothache.
Where had he heard that before? The analogy sounded vaguely familiar.
He briefly recalled earlier thoughts on it; still no solution at hand.
Lying on his left side, the paramedic started to push himself up, supported by his forearm, but stopped midway. Not only did he feel a sharp pain shoot through his back, but something was holding him down.
He dropped back to his original position, his breaths in pants as he lay wondering what in the hell had happened.
Clavicle fracture, possible cracked ribs, debris in the left eye. . .those had been the words Roy heard back at the scene.
Still in transit to the hospital, the injured paramedic thought back to what had put he and his partner in a bad situation to begin with.
A passerby at an old warehouse reported seeing a roughly dressed grey-haired man stagger inside the building. He’d appeared to be clutching his chest. Concerned but not wanting to confront him on their own, they’d called the authorities.
A police officer was on scene when the fire department arrived, but hadn’t been able to locate the apparent vagrant. Thus a thorough search of the building was started. Johnny and Roy had taken the upper floor while two other fire fighters were on the lower. After several minutes, the men from Engine 116 reported they’d found the ‘victim’, a bit intoxicated and claiming to be in need of some fresh clean air instead of the staleness within the structure, but otherwise okay. Still, the paramedics would need to check him out, just to be sure.
With Johnny behind him, Roy wasn’t sure how far apart they’d been; if something may have caused his partner to hesitate a moment along the way. It might’ve been that Johnny didn’t run for what ever reason when Roy called out to him to do so.
All he knew was that as he, and he thought Gage, reached the lower floor to make their way toward the front exit to join the others who’d just gotten the man outside, the unthinkable happened. A loud blast and the interior of the building came down. When all had stopped, Gage was nowhere to be seen in the rubble around him.
Novocain. . .
That’s what John wanted at the moment. If he just had some novocain, maybe he could stop the throbbing of his mind.
But it wouldn’t stop the other feeling that had washed over him in the past few moments.
Nausea. . .
Though still not sure of the how, it was becoming clear of the what. And that was that he somehow had sustained a concussion, among at least one other likely injury.
Oh man. . .
He tried to recall what he’d been doing recently, what might have brought him to where ever he was. But the last thing he could recall was inventorying the squad with—
He startled slightly when he surprised himself with the dry, croaky sound of his voice as he’d called out his partner’s name.
Where was Roy? Was he okay?
Whether the victim they’d been sent to help was part of a sinister act, or even the passerby as well, no one knew yet. It was certainly possible. Because he’d been so insistent on suddenly leaving the warehouse, suspicions about the drunk rose.
He’d been found clutching a flask half full of whiskey, but it was possible he’d carried in and set up an explosive earlier, before he’d become intoxicated.
The passerby would be difficult to find to question. They’d made the anonymous call from a pay phone.
It was sort of ironic that less than a year earlier, Gage and DeSoto been sent to rescue a lone man in an old warehouse. He’d been pinned under debris when a bomb he’d set went off, trapping him. It was only part way into the rescue that they’d learned from the serial bomber that there was yet another one set to go off very soon.
Through circumstances no one could have predicted, Johnny ended up alone and injured in the structure, unable to escape without help. Roy had gone in and gotten him out just in time before the building blew up. Then they’d been lucky the explosive was a little late going off.
Not this time, though.
As he felt the ambulance make a turn into the hospital lot entrance, Roy wondered if they’d ever have all the answers on the who and why of the latest bombing.
He quickly shoved those brief thoughts out of his mind, since even more important wasn’t who did it or why, but how Johnny was fairing; if he was still even alive.
John took in his still dim surroundings. His source of light was slivers of a beam from a flashlight through very narrow cracks between the debris of sorts that cocooned him.
He flexed his right hand as he suddenly recalled having a large black flashlight in it. He figured he must’ve dropped or lost it somehow, though he still wasn’t sure exactly how. A shift of his gaze upward revealed a beam that had come down at an angle. It was preventing more stuff from falling onto him.
What Gage didn’t remember was that having removed his helmet along the way as they'd searched, the beam had whacked him on the crown of his head as it came down, knocking him unconscious. The impact split the skin enough that he was going to need a few stitches. His helmet now was to his backside, out of view.
He’d been unconscious for a few minutes the first time, shorter periods since.
He looked toward his mid section and could make out another large splintered piece of a beam that lay across his hips. It was held in place by the other assorted materials that the other one couldn’t hold back.
It was no wonder he couldn’t move to a sitting position.
He closed his eyes and swallowed convulsively as another strong wave of nausea washed over him.
As it passed, he once again thought of his partner.
“Roy?” He called out, his voice sounding weak. “Roy!” he yelled louder. “Can. . .can you. . .hear me?” He panted.
He waited in complete silence. No answer.
A few seconds later, John lifted his head off the cold concrete floor, then vomited.
Roy watched the lights pass by overhead as he was wheeled down the corridor of the ER on the stretcher. How long would it be before Johnny saw the same sight?
He’d already decided he had to tell himself that eventually Gage would. There was no way Roy would allow himself anymore moments of doubt that his partner survived the blast.
“In three,” he heard Dixie McCall say.
He saw the head nurse’s look of concern as he was moved past her into the treatment room she’d indicated, while she held the door open.
Roy was transferred to the exam table by his paramedic escort and an ambulance attendant. Doctor Early stepped up beside him with equal concern on his face.
“Johnny?” Roy asked, before the doctor could utter a word.
Early looked toward the doorway at Dixie for a hint of the latest news before he answered with, “No word yet.” Then a brief smile and, “Try not to worry too much, Roy. You know what they say. No news is good news.”
“Yeah,” he replied with a slight nod, though the words really didn’t change much. He doubted the doctor really believed it 100 percent at the moment either.
Whoever first said that hadn’t just left their partner behind somewhere within a nearly demolished warehouse.
John winced as he opened his eyes. A powerful stench filled his nostrils and he grimaced in disgust.
His gaze on the floor in front of him revealed the source not far from where he lay.
With the realization of a taste in his mouth that pretty much matched the odor, he remembered.
How long ago had he gotten sick? Had he passed out? For how long?
Though it had only been for several seconds, for all he knew it could’ve been for minutes. Concern made its way into his muddled thoughts. He knew that loss of consciousness wasn’t a good sign.
John eyed the beams illuminating from the flashlight. They weren’t any dimmer than before. So that would indicate he hadn’t been out too long.
He rubbed at his aching head. All this thinking was increasing the throbbing pain. Or maybe it was just due to time. After all, he couldn’t exactly be improving with no medical help and stuck in the same situation.
Once again his thoughts went to his partner. Was Roy somewhere going through the same thing? Was he worse off?
He would’ve frowned when he was met only with silence, except it suddenly dawned on him that maybe it was a good thing he didn’t get a reply. Maybe it meant Roy wasn’t trapped anywhere.
John closed his eyes tight. The throbbing in his head had added a faint but steady buzz.
Roy had hoped to get word on Johnny before he was sent up to the second floor to Orthopedics to have his fractured collarbone addressed. Unfortunately, things hadn’t turned out that way. He could only be grateful that Dixie promised to get any updates to him as soon as possible, no matter where he was.
He still refused to go back to even remotely entertaining the notion that Gage hadn’t survived. To do so would be giving up on his close friend and colleague.
“Gage! Can you hear us?”
He listened intently, wondering if what he heard was real. It was his name in a couple of vaguely familiar distant voices.
“Here!” He hollered back. . .“I’m here!”
He hoped they wouldn’t ask where ‘here’ was. He had no idea.
“He’s behind that chunk of ceiling!”
Well, there was his answer. They knew where he was now.
The buzzing in John’s mind grew louder and it wasn’t long before he figured out it was actually the sound of the k-12 as the rescuers cut their way through that chunk they had referred to.
Soon some natural light filtered in from an opening and he was then joined by two paramedics from another station. As the new arrivals assessed the situation on getting him out and John’s condition, he asked, “Roy?”
“He’s okay. A little banged up, but nothing life threatening. He’s already being taken care of at Rampart.”
That brought some relief to the injured paramedic. But still disoriented from the concussion, he hadn’t figured out why he and Roy ended up like they did. Maybe when the others quit asking him questions regarding his condition, John surmised he could find out more on that.
In the meantime, the still nauseated paramedic sure wished they could give him something for the lingering throbbing pain in his head.
Novocain. . .
It did remind him of the ache from a bad tooth, after all.
Where had he heard that before?
Oh yeah. . .
Roy slowly opened his non-patched eye and turned his head to the right. It was after three o’clock in the morning and the hospital room was lit only by a fluorescent light above the other bed in the room.
He studied the figure lying supine in it, the head of the bed at an angle that propped the patient up. There was a bandage on his head, much like a cap only a little further on the sides as well. An IV bag hung on a pole beside the bed, its tubing snaking down to where it was connected to his left arm.
John Gage was asleep at the moment, his next hourly neuro check not due for awhile. At first the checks had been every thirty minutes. But as his muddled state and overall condition improved through the evening, the frequency had been decreased.
At least he’s doing better. . .
Roy thought back to the relief he felt when Dixie informed him that Johnny was finally in their care. Though concern still lingered until a complete skull series was done on the younger paramedic and results showed no serious complications, however he had suffered a small hairline fracture along with the split.
The only other injuries Gage had sustained were a badly bruised right hip and pinched nerve in his back, the latter assumed to be from when according to him, he tried to get up and couldn’t.
It could’ve been a whole lot worse, partner. . .for both of us. . .
He knew once Johnny sorted it all out, he’d echo his thoughts.
Being that the next nurse in to do the neuro check would likely inadvertently wake him up as well, Roy decided he’d better try to get back to sleep. At least the sling with the swath wrapped around it to hold his left arm close to his body wasn’t uncomfortable. The pain medication he was on helped too.
He took one more look at Gage, then was soon resting again.
John lazily opened his eyes to squints at the insistence of a female voice, his left shoulder being gently shook.
“Wha. . .?”
“I just need your attention for a short time, Mister Gage,” she explained in a hushed tone as she reached in her smock pocket for a penlight. “Then you can go back to sleep.”
He groggily looked past her, to where he saw Roy in the other bed, returning his gaze.
Oh yeah. . .
They were both at Rampart. He displayed a slight crooked smile for his partner before complying with the nurse’s direction to look at the ceiling so she could check his pupil reaction. He didn’t get to see the grin he got in return.
Though they’d been divided in the flash of a moment, it was just over a couple of months before John and Roy would work together again. With Roy’s recovery slightly longer than Gage’s, the latter was paired up with a replacement until his regular partner returned to duty.
John still could not remember much about the explosion, nor part of the shift that had transpired that day prior to it.
No viable evidence against the vagrant at the scene was found, thus he wasn’t charged with a crime. With no other suspects identified, it would just have to go as one of the open cases filed away. Luckily there hadn’t been anymore incidents like it since. Apparently this time it hadn’t been a serial bomber at play.
Both John and Roy could live with how it turned out. The fact they were alive, and that their partnership hadn’t been blown to smithereens along with the interior of the warehouse, was what mattered most to them now.
Though it has nothing what-so-ever to do with the meaning of the lyrics, this story was inspired by the song ‘Novocain’ by Green Day. I just thought of Johnny during part of it. :o)
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