Expect the Unexpected
Gray clouds had hung low over
As John Gage walked toward the nurses’ station in Rampart’s emergency room, he vowed to his partner that if he were called out to one more brush fire, it would be the one that pushed him over the edge and permanently damaged his sanity.
“As if your sanity wasn’t damaged long before I met you,”
Johnny’s eyes slid to the man. He’d heard what
“I said, if the clouds stick around they just might bring some rain.”
“Oh,” Johnny acknowledged, in a way that let
“Nope, I wouldn’t.”
“Lie to Johnny.”
Johnny smoothly took the mug out of
“Don’t be too certain about that, Dix. Ol’
“Glad you finally figured that out.”
“Am I going to need one?”
“Looks that way.” Johnny fished in his shirt pocket and handed the nurse a supply list. “There’s even thunder rumbling out there.”
“No, I don’t have my umbrella with me. Do you think the rain will hold off until after three?”
“Dix, if I could predict that,” Johnny said, “I’d be a weatherman, not a paramedic.”
“Very good point,”
Johnny cocked an eyebrow at his partner. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It sounded like it meant something.”
“Like you’d be happy if I was a weatherman and not a paramedic, meaning we wouldn’t be partners.”
“Or it could mean that I’d be unhappy if you were a weatherman and not a paramedic, meaning we wouldn’t be partners.”
“Yeah…I guess. But you sounded too happy when you said it the first time.”
“Define, ‘too happy.’”
“Too happy. You know. Like happy…only happier than normal happy.”
“Look, Johnny, I didn’t mean anything by it in the first place, so how about if we quit trying to define my state of mind…or yours either, which I have little doubt would take us the better part of the day, so given that, I think we should just--”
Dixie’s laughter interrupted Roy.
“What?” Johnny questioned.
The woman shook her head as the men put their coffee cups down before following her to the supply room.
“Nothing. It’s just that I can always count on you guys to brighten my day.”
“Listening to me and Roy argue brightens your day?”
“It sure does.” The woman fit a key into the lock on the door. She opened it and led the way inside the room that was lined with shelves filled with medical supplies. “Especially because I know neither of you means a word you say to the other.”
“We might,” Johnny argued.
The nurse exchanged a knowing smile with
“Okay, I will,” the paramedic said. “Which means this discussion isn’t over yet.”
“Oh, lucky me,”
The men waited while
A long rumble of thunder rattled the windows.
“Sounds like I’ll be dodging rain drops tonight.”
“Tonight?” Johnny questioned. “Do you have a date or something?”
“Or something,” was all
“What’s ‘or something’…if you don’t mind me asking, that is.”
Johnny blushed. Normally he was open to any and all advances from a beautiful nurse, but considering he thought of this beautiful nurse as an older sister, it was impossible for him to imagine coming on to
“Uh…no. I mean…well, that would be nice, but…uh….no. I mean…it’s not that I wouldn’t like to, Dix, but…”
“But what, Johnny?”
“Well, you see, Dix…it’s….well, uh…” Johnny looked at
“What’s your hurry?”
Johnny’s eyes grew wide with emphasis. “We just need to go.”
“I don’t see why. We can shoot the bull with Dix a little longer.”
Johnny grabbed his partner’s shirt and gave it a tug. “Come on.” The paramedic glanced at
“Yes, Johnny, I know how slick the roads can get. Thank you for reminding me.”
“Uh…sure. Sure. You’re welcome.”
The woman exchanged bemused smiles with
“What was that all about?”
“What was what all about?”
“Why you were in such a hurry to get out of there?”
“The big deal is that some of the guys have a pool going, and I’ve got twenty bucks riding on the answer.”
“You’re right. If
“Listen, I’m not the one who started the pool.”
“Who did then?”
“Dwyer, Stillman, and some of the guys from 45’s and 8’s. We were talking about it one night while we were bowling, and since no one really knows if Brackett and
“I keep changing my bet.”
“I keep changing my bet. I’m drivin’ Dwyer nuts…or so he says.”
“I’m sure you are.”
“Well, it’s twenty bucks we’re talkin’ about here. That’s not exactly small change.”
“Not in John Gage’s world it’s not,”
“Not in anyone’s world,” Johnny countered. “So if I’m gonna shell out twenty bucks, I wanna make sure I get it back, and then some.”
“How much could you stand to win?”
“Don’t know. It depends on which side I take, the ‘yes
“Are you nuts? Do you know what Brackett will do if he finds out about this? Not to mention what
“I know. That’s why I have to be careful going about this.”
“Going about it?”
“Yeah. See, if I can figure out if they’re dating or not, then I’ll know which side to stick with, and then I’ll win for sure.”
“Whatta ya’ mean?”
“It sounds to me the only sure fire thing about this bet is that you’re going to lose.”
“Lose? But I just told you that if I figure out if
“Which won’t do you any good after
Johnny grimaced. “You’ve been watching too many of those horror flicks Chet likes.”
“No, I haven’t been. I’m just good at predicting what’s gonna happen if you insist on sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong.”
“I’m not sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong.”
“Okay, okay. Maybe I am. But I wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for the bet.”
“Then forget the bet.”
“ ‘Cause Charlie won’t give me my twenty dollars back.”
“Partner, the only return I think you’re gonna get is trouble where this bet is concerned.”
Johnny couldn’t think of anything to say in response, and more than that, he hated it when there was the possibility
By the time
As she got into the vehicle and turned on the ignition, Kel Brackett came over with an open umbrella in his left
hand sheltering him from the wetness.
“I thought you could use this,” Brackett said, closing the umbrella and handing it to her after shaking it off briefly.
“Kel, you’re going to get soaked yourself.”
“It’s not like I’m going to melt, Dix. Besides, it’s my idea you do this in the first place, so I’ve got to do what I can to keep my head nurse dry.”
“You’re right. You do owe me,” the nurse said wryly as she set the umbrella on the passenger seat. Returning her eyes to the doctor, she shook her head. “Go back inside. You’re getting wetter by the minute, not to mention the rain is dripping into my car.”
Brackett grinned and nodded. “Drive carefully.”
“I always do.”
With her window closed again,
I hope Ol’ Bill has coffee brewing when I get there. I’m sure going to need a cup by then.
“Yes, she’s on her way now. I wish the rain had held off longer, but Mother Nature does what she wants when she wants.”
“Sounds like a certain nurse we both know.”
“You don’t agree with this, do you?”
Early pushed his chair back from the table and stood up, taking his coffee cup to the sink.
“I think it could have waited until tomorrow when the
weather might be better--”
“Or maybe not, Joe. Time is of the essence in this case.”
“Either way, Dix is a big girl,” Doctor Early conceded. “She’s going to do what she wants to.”
Brackett chewed his lower lip, ignoring the other doctor’s departure from the room. He hoped he hadn’t made
Johnny Gage stood near the rear of the apparatus bay
watching the drops of rain hit the ground and splash up again.
“Jennifer calls them ballerinas.”
“The rain drops. When they hit like that, she says they look like ballerinas. Joanne taught her that to help her get over being afraid of heavy rains.”
Gage watched closely as the drops splashed at a rapid pace. “Whatever works, I guess.”
“So what’s on your mind?”
“You’re standing in the bay watching rain fall. You could be in watching TV, or better yet, changing into a dry uniform. So, what’s on your mind?”
“You think Dix knows something’s up? Like the bet? I mean not that she’d know it was a bet, or even that it involved her. . .but you think she knows something’s up somewhere? I mean, was I very obvious?”
“Yeah, but I doubt she figured you were any different from norm. . .from your usual self.”
Johnny glared at
“I hope if she and Brackett do have a date, they stay home. I wouldn’t be out in this stuff if I didn’t have to be.”
Johnny returned his gaze to the rain. “No kiddin’. Me either.” After a moment of silence, a smile crept across his face. “Joanne’s right. They do kinda look like ballerinas.”
"Okay, Bill, you just need to sign this last form and
you'll be all set."
"I don't know,
The nurse smiled warmly and placed a tender hand on top of the old, weathered one. "I know, Bill, but we've been over this before." She squeezed his hand. "We worry about you, you know... all of us."
Bill chuckled. "Doctor Brackett sent you out here, didn't he?"
Bill laughed lightly. "Oh, don't I know it."
"I came because I wanted to,"
Bill shook his head. "But,
"It's not what you think," she explained patiently, even though she, Kelly Brackett, and Joe Early had all had this discussion with Bill before. "It not a nursing home. It's called assisted living, and it's just a place where there'll be staff nearby in case... I said 'in case,' you might need them. But you'll have your own apartment, and there'll be lots of people there. You'll make all kinds of friends."
Bill remained silent; his face pensive.
It hadn't been easy. Most places were conventional nursing homes, and no one felt Bill was at that point. In-home aides were almost as expensive, and Bill had balked at the thought of a stranger sharing his home with him.
It was actually Craig Brice who had come up with the answer. All the paramedics knew Bill and worried about him. When Brice found out what was going on, he showed up at Rampart his next shift with a colorful brochure about a new kind of home for seniors. He said his great aunt had moved into one and was extremely happy with it. It seemed perfect, but convincing Bill was another matter. It had taken weeks to get him to agree, and even then, he had moments of indecision. Like tonight.
The arrangements were made, and all that was left was to get Bill to sign the contracts. The administrator had called earlier in the day and told Kel there was a waiting list to get in, therefore they needed Bill's paperwork as soon as possible. It had seemed like an easy matter for
She glanced out the living room window. It was dark now, and still raining hard. She didn't relish the thought of driving in this weather. She turned back to Bill.
"It's really a great place, Bill. I'm sure you'll love it there."
The old man chewed on his lower lip thoughtfully, then a smile broke out on his ruddy face.
"You know what we need with this rain,
“Those ballerinas look like they’re really dancing now.”
Johnny watched the raindrops splashing in wild abandon on the driveway, as
So busy with his theorizing, Johnny didn’t notice
“You know, Johnny, I don’t have anything against
“Wonder what his problem is . . .”
Spending the evening with Bill had not been
After the meal,
The hour was late when
“I’ll be fine. I promised Doctor Brackett that I’d drop these papers off at the Center tonight, so I need to stop there first.”
“But it’s too late for that now. Oh, my, I’ve kept you here much too late, making you listen to an old man’s rambling. You’re probably tired after your long day at the hospital.”
“Now that’ll be enough of that! I enjoyed my visit, and besides, you make a mean pot of chili.”
Bill’s laugh lightened their mood, if only a little.
“Really, Bill, I do need to drop these papers off so we can get you on the waiting list, and from there it’s not too much farther to my apartment.”
“There’s a shortcut you could take back into the city. It’s something of a rural road, but it will bring you to the main highway close to the Center you’re talking about. It’ll save you several miles, if you’re interested.”
“Sure, I’m interested.”
It took only a few moments for Bill to describe the route, and after repeating it back,
Several miles down the road,
Still, she reasoned that the route was a safe one; after all, Bill had assured her there were homes scattered along it. As long as she followed his instructions,
Mesmerized by the sound of the radio, the darkness, and her own fatigue,
“Darn it. Now I’ve got to backtrack. I knew I should’ve stayed on the main route. At this rate, I’ll never get these papers delivered for Kel. Oh, well, at least it’s not raining anymore.”
With a sigh,
Intent on her driving,
The lightning bolted across the evening sky, illuminating the clouds that hid within the darkness. The clouds swirled angrily, threatening another onslaught of rain. The wind howled with enough force to rattle the big bay door, adding the perfect touch to the all-too predictable B movie that was playing on the TV.
The paramedics had
been busy since getting supplies from
John Gage looked around the room, noting the concentration Chet bestowed on the television set. Captain Stanley looked as if he could fall asleep at any moment as he slumped further down into his chair, and Mike was glancing between the TV and the sports page he held in his hands.
A game of cards began at the kitchen table after the movie. Hank had just said he’d skip the game in favor of going to bed, when the tones sounded. Chairs were pushed back and left askew as the crew rushed to their vehicles.
"Station 51, respond with police to the 1700 block of
"Station 51, KMG-365."
Here’s six, Johnny
thought in reference to the number of MVA’s he’d been
called to since early afternoon.
The engine followed the squad from the bay and nearly out of the city. When they reached their destination, the headlights from each emergency vehicle shone clearly on the reason they'd been summoned.
Two autos in the middle of a lonely road, both crashed together head on. A red pickup truck sat crumpled into a white Ford sedan with steam rising from its hood.
As the men exited their vehicles, the wind picked up and a low rumble of distant thunder sounded. The air smelled of rain, night crawlers, and damp earth.
"He's dead. Strong smell of alcohol, too."
Hank shook his head in a cross of anger and disgust. "Well, let's go see if John needs any help," he replied while grabbing his HT from his coat pocket. "
As the captain and Roy hurried to the other car, Johnny was circling it, looking through the shattered glass with the aid of a flashlight. Chet and Marco were searching the immediate area outside of the vehicle.
"What've you got, John?" Hank asked.
"I think it's empty," the paramedic replied as he began yanking on the driver's side door. Using all his might, it finally groaned in protest and opened. “I wanna check behind and under the seats.”
Hank nodded. They’d been at the scene of more than one
accident where a vehicle appeared to be empty, but upon further searching the
men would find a petite woman, a slightly-built teenager, or a young child,
nearly hidden within the wreckage beneath damaged seats or a crumpled
Johnny grabbed hold of the steering wheel as he straightened, then pulled back, looking at his hand.
"He must've gotten out through this side of the car,"
"Hey! There's blood over here on the ground," Mike called, using a flashlight to look at the drips on the pavement below him.
Captain Stanley walked briskly toward the man who'd found the accident. He'd been leaning against his station wagon, unable to leave the scene since the wreck was blocking his way home.
"Sir? Are you the one who called this in?"
"Yes...yes, I am," the man answered, extending a hand towards Hank, who shook it. "My name’s Joe Rakes. I was coming home from a double shift and damned near ran into this mess myself. I turned around, went to the convenience store back a ways, and used the pay phone to call you guys."
"We appreciate that," Hank said. "Could anyone have stopped here while you were gone calling this in? Maybe picked up one of the accident victims?"
"I doubt it. There isn’t but three or four more houses now until you turn off onto Highway 12. The road’s usually desolate this time of night. That’s why I like to travel it. After I’ve worked a double shift all I wanna do is get home. Don’t wanna deal with stop signs at every corner, or get caught in traffic. I can shave about twenty minutes off my drive if I use this as a short-cut to the highway.”
thinking about how much he hated getting caught in rush hour traffic when he
went off-shift at in the morning.
“Listen, did you happen to see anyone wandering around out here?"
"Nope. Not when I first came upon the accident, nor when I got back after reporting it. Sorry."
"Thanks, Mr. Rakes. I hate to delay you further, but you’ll need to stick around in order to give your statement to the police. A squad should be here in a few minutes."
“Okay.” The lean man with the weary eyes pointed to the cars. “Can’t go anywhere as it is until those are outta my way.”
“I’ve called for tow trucks. They should be here soon as well.”
Joe pulled his jacket collar up around his neck to ward off the damp chill. “I’ll be in my car, if that’s okay. I called my wife after I called you guys. She knows I’m gonna be late. Maybe I can get some sleep while I wait.”
“Might as well,” Hank agreed, knowing the police would wake the man up when they were ready to speak with him.
The captain turned
away as Joe climbed into his car. He jogged to where his men were gathered
around the white sedan.
"Gentlemen, listen up," Captain Stanley began, "we've got a victim wandering around somewhere who's obviously been injured. Get a flashlight if you don’t already have one and let's find him!"
"Her, Cap," Chet announced, picking something up from the side of the road. He showed everyone the purse he'd found. He unzipped the purse and pulled out a wallet, announcing the name on the driver’s license he retrieved. "
"What?" Johnny and Roy asked simultaneously.
Johnny shifted the beam of his light to the car’s interior again. He hadn’t paid any attention to personal affects in the vehicle earlier, other than to vaguely note an umbrella and a legal-sized white envelope that appeared to be stuffed with papers. Johnny grabbed the envelope and umbrella, backed out of the car, and reached a hand toward Chet.
Hank didn’t object to Johnny’s actions. It was the type of thing one friend would do for another, and better that Dixie’s purse was with someone she trusted, as opposed to being put in the vehicle and towed with the car to the impound lot until a member of her family could claim the items.
get those flashlights and start looking around.” The captain pointed. “That
trail of blood is heading down this hillside."
Another gust of wind blew as Hank finished his sentence. He hoped this new storm that was moving in would hold off until after they’d found the injured nurse. He called dispatch once more, letting them know of this latest situation. He heard a siren in the distance, and watched as a squad car rounded a bend in the road.
“Go ahead,” Hank
instructed his crew. “Start your search. I’ll stay here long enough to talk to
the officer, then join you.”
Roy and Johnny moved out quickly, worried about
The men of Station 51 spread out, so that when they started sidestepping down the slick hill they were yards apart from one another in an effort to search the biggest amount of territory they could cover. Two fat raindrops smacked against the lip of Johnny’s helmet, then bounced off. Two more thick drops plunked against the sleeves of his turnout coat. Like his captain, the paramedic hoped the rain didn’t start in earnest again, since that would only hamper their hunt.
Soon the search was
spread out for over a quarter of a mile, and Hank Stanley requested that dispatch
call another unit in to help.
Johnny stopped suddenly at a thick of shrubs, his eyes focusing on where he held the flashlight beam. "
“We'd better find her soon. With all this blood she's losing …"
acknowledged of his partner’s uncompleted sentence.
The men broke of their conservation when they heard it. Someone was moaning.
Johnny walked forward a few steps, intent on finding the source of the noise, but his mind lost that train of thought as his feet flew out from underneath him.
Johnny tumbled in full rotations down the steep, wet slope. He bounced over rocks and shrubbery like a child’s discarded toy, and when he finally came to a halt it was because a boulder four feet tall by five feet wide was in his path. The paramedic’s breath was knocked out of him in a powerful, “Ug!” as his right side impacted the immovable object.
Johnny lay there momentarily stunned. He’d lost his flashlight in the fall, but still had his helmet on, which was bound to make Cap happy.
Good thing I tightened the chin-strap. Cap would have my ass if I’d lost my helmet and than smacked my head against this rock.
It was then that Johnny looked at the ‘rock.’
Make that ‘this boulder.’ No wonder I feel like a mule’s kicked me.
Johnny winced as he pushed himself to his knees. He grabbed his side with his left hand and held it there. He took deep, shaky breaths, not so much because of the pain, but because of the adrenaline rush that was borne from the surprise of tumbling down the hill more times than he could count, and then stopping so quickly and forcefully.
you idiot. The first thing you learn at the academy is
the rescuer should never become the guy needing rescued. A lot of good you’re
Johnny didn’t cut
himself any slack. He continued to silently berate himself as he stood on
wobbly legs. There was a part of Johnny
that was willing to acknowledge it wasn’t his fault he’d tumbled down a
drop-off that had been hidden by darkness and long grass, yet there was the
part of him that was all too aware his misstep meant people were now looking
for him, rather than concentrating on finding
“Over…” Johnny stopped and took a deep breath. He winced once more, but this time when he attempted to respond to his captain his voice came out louder than a weak croak.
“Over here, Cap!”
A flashlight beam swept the area, then landed on the paramedic.
“Yeah...yeah, I’m fine!”
Johnny moved toward the beam. It was a struggle to climb the steep hill, especially as the rain began to intensify. The soles of Johnny’s boots kept slipping out from under him. When he tried to take his left hand off his side in order to gain better balance, a dull throb urged him to replace the pressure.
The paramedic followed the flashlight beam as he ascended the hill. When he got close enough to his captain, Hank reached out a hand. Johnny grasped the hand and let Hank pull him up onto more solid, level ground.
Johnny gasped for breath, the exertion from both his fall and climb making him feel like he’d just run three miles at an all-out sprint.
“Sorry about this, Cap. I…one minute I was on solid ground, and the next minute I wasn’t.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s dark, it’s raining, and this hillside is slick as ice.” Hank traveled the flashlight beam over Johnny’s body. “You’re sure you’re all right?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. My right side’s a little sore, but I’m okay.”
“No…below my ribcage. Feels like it’s bruised. Like I said, I’m fine.”
“I’m sure you are, but when you get to Rampart have someone check you out, okay?”
agreed as he started walking. “Where’s
Johnny trudged along beside his captain, silently cursing the way the grass tangled around their boots and pant legs. Without it to hamper them, they could have walked twice as fast.
“And John?” Hank smiled into the darkness.
“Glad to see you kept your helmet on this time, pal.”
briefly, “Yeah, me too, Cap,” then sobered as they
approached the hubbub surrounding
“I’m fine,” Johnny
assured. He couldn’t hide the wince that involuntarily crossed his features as
he got on his knees to aid
a little sore. How’s
Johnny looked down
to see that
“She’s got a deep gash just under her hairline, and a gash in her right arm, along with multiple cuts and bruises. Brackett just ordered an IV of Ringers.”
Johnny reached for
the IV setup while
Johnny shifted his attention to his partner once again. “Does Brackett know?”
“I told him.”
Johnny nodded. He could imagine the feeling in the ER right
The woman didn’t answer, but instead, her eyes lethargically traveled the limited area she could view, since the C-collar prevented the nurse from moving her neck.
The nurse’s eyes flicked over the man’s face, but she didn’t seem to be able to focus on his features. “Wha…what?”
“I…who…where...where am I?”
“You were in an accident, Dix, but you’re gonna be fine. Roy and I are giving you our VIP treatment.”
Johnny could tell
that the question in
Johnny asked another series of questions.
“Day?” the nurse’s voice parroted weakly.
“Dix, where were you coming from?”
concerned glances with
“Na…name? My…my name?”
“Yeah. What’s your name?”
“I…I don’t….what did you…did you call me?”
The woman’s brow furrowed. Johnny could tell she was on the verge of getting upset over her inability to answer his questions.
“Never mind, Dix,” he soothed. “It’s not important right now.”
The woman searched Johnny’s face a moment, but when she still wasn’t able to determine whom this young man was, she closed her eyes in an effort to escape her headache, and her confusion.
“Let’s get her in
“10-4, 51. Get...get her in here as soon as you can.”
Had a lot more bruises the time I wiped out on my bike racing Tom Chandler down Lindberg hill when I was twelve.
“Let me take your
spot, Gage.” Chet slipped in beside Johnny. “You can help
At first, Johnny wondered if he’d made some facial expression that indicated lifting the backboard had caused him pain, but when Chet didn’t say anything else, or even spare Johnny a glance, the paramedic was assured that wasn’t the case. Everyone knew how touchy Doctor Brackett was concerning the medical equipment the paramedics used. All of it was expensive, and Brackett never replaced anything without putting a hapless paramedic through a Spanish inquisition before signing the necessary supply forms. Obviously, Chet didn’t want to risk facing Brackett if some piece of equipment was accidentally dropped and took the kind of tumble Johnny had.
Six men carried the
backboard up the hill, followed by Roy and Johnny with the equipment.
“See you at Rampart,”
Johnny said. His eyes fell to
Johnny put the
trauma box in its compartment, then climbed in the
squad. He took off his helmet and laid
it next to
By Johnny’s watch, it took them twenty-five minutes to reach Rampart. Had the roads been dry, they could have made better time, but between the rain and the slick pavement, it was dangerous to push their speed too high.
Johnny didn’t have
to ask anyone where
Johnny entered the
room to see Brackett, Early,
passed in which the doctors assessed
“Order a unit of blood, Carol,” the doctor instructed as well. “She’s lost a lot as a result of this head wound. It didn’t help any that she was wandering around for God knows how long.”
Johnny bristled a
little at that remark. He wasn’t sure if
Brackett was trying to place blame at the feet of the firefighters who were
searching for the nurse, or if it was just a comment made in general regarding
the circumstances of the accident, and wasn’t meant to be taken as more than
Each time Brackett
or Early tried to get a response from
When the X-ray technician arrived with the portable unit, everyone exited the room. Brackett caught Johnny’s deep wince when the paramedic bent to pick up the items he’d placed on the chair.
“Johnny? Are you okay?”
Johnny had unconsciously placed his left hand against his right side again.
“I’m okay. Just kinda sore.”
“Kind of sore in what way?” the doctor asked as the group exited into the hallway. Doctor Early was paged to pick up a phone call before anything else could be said.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes, Kel. I want to look at those X-rays with you.”
Carol headed toward
the nurses’ station after saying, “Call me as soon as you need me again, Doctor
Brackett.” Carol was in charge of the
evening shift. Since she wasn’t able to do anything for
“Thanks, Carol,” Brackett said, appreciating how concerned his staff was for their injured colleague – not that he expected anything less. He was concerned, too…very concerned, and he had a difficult time hiding that when he faced Johnny and Roy again.
“Like I was saying, Johnny, kind of sore in what way?”
“It’s nothing. I took a tumble down the hill when we were looking for Dix.”
The doctor reached out a hand and palpated Johnny’s right side. The paramedic took a sharp breath.
“A little. But it’s just bruised.”
“Come on, let’s go across the hall.”
promised Captain Stanley he’d have his side looked at, he didn’t protest as
Brackett led him and Roy to Trauma Room 4.
He knew this examination wasn’t necessary though, and felt the
physician’s time could be better spent attending to
“Take your shirt off and climb on the table.”
Before doing as Brackett requested, Johnny handed the doctor the items he was carrying.
“Here. These are
The doctor took the
things Johnny held out to him. He put
“I should have never suggested she go,” Brackett muttered.
When the physician didn’t say anything else, Johnny ventured, “Doc?”
Brackett looked up at the men. “Old Bill.”
“What about him?”
“We’ve been trying
for a while now to talk him into moving to that assisted living center Craig
Brice told us about. Bill finally agreed to it.
There’s a waiting list to get in, so the director called me this morning
and said we should get Bill on it as soon as possible.
the forms back in the envelope and turned to place it on top of
Johnny glared at the physician. “How could you?”
“How could you send
“That’s not what you just said. You just said, ‘I should have never suggested she go.’”
“That’s what I said, yes. But--”
Because Brackett had no defense, and because he felt guilty enough as it was, he resorted to pulling rank as his temper got the best of him.
“What gives you the right to question me, Gage?”
“What gave you the
right to send her to Bill’s, Doctor?” Johnny countered.
John Gage and Kelly
Brackett stood staring at one another through narrowed eyes. Both of them silently acknowledged that what
Brackett finally broke eye contact with Johnny. He and John Gage were tenacious, and both of them had a temper, so Brackett knew one of them had to be willing to give in first. In this case, the Hippocratic oath meant he had to be the one to say “uncle” – figuratively speaking.
The doctor kept his voice even and devoid of anger when he said, “Johnny, take your shirt off, please, and get on the tab--”
Before Brackett could finish his sentence, Carol pushed the door open.
The physician ran
from the room without thinking to instruct Johnny to stay put until someone was
free to look at him. When Johnny and Roy
got into the hallway, they saw Doctor Early running into Trauma Room 2. They waited a few minutes in order to get
51, possible heart attack at 665
Johnny put the speaker to his mouth and pressed the ‘talk’ button. “Squad 51, 10-4.”
The men hurried from the ER. They never returned to Rampart that night. The call of a possible heart attack turned out to be an elderly widow who lived alone, and was frightened when a loud ruckus came from under her bedroom window. Johnny discovered two metal garbage cans on their sides, with trash strewn across the driveway. He used a broom he found hanging in the woman’s carport to sweep up as much of the mess as he could and push it all back into the cans. In the meantime, Roy assured their patient that the clatter she’d heard was likely caused by a couple of rowdy dogs, took her vital signs, and gave her a clean bill of health.
“Your vital signs
are strong, ma’am, but if you want to be transported to
“Oh, I don’t need to go to the hospital,” the petite, white haired lady assured from her perch on her living room sofa. “I never thought I was having a heart attack, young man, I was just scared. It was that fellow on the other end of the phone who kept asking me if I was having a heart attack. I finally told him yes, so someone would come and look around the outside of my house.”
“I already told you, I’m not ill.”
And you’re sure
there’s no one out there?”
“Yes, ma’am, I’m sure. My partner used a flashlight and looked all around the house. He’s certain it was just dogs.”
“Well…that McHenry family on the next block does let their dogs run free sometimes.”
“I guess not. Thank you for coming.”
“Oh, don’t you worry. I will.”
“Where you goin’?” an exhausted Johnny questioned.
“Back to Rampart. You never had your side looked at.”
“Are you sure?”
straightened, pulled his shirt from the waistband of his pants, lifted it, and
studied his right side. He twisted his
“I thought you said there was.”
“That’s because it
felt like there was, but evidently not.
Come on, back the squad in and call Rampart before we turn in. I wanna know how
“Why don’t you call Rampart?”
“ ‘Cause I don’t wanna talk to Brackett.”
“Why? Because you’re afraid he’ll chew your butt for what you said to him.”
“No, ‘cause I’m
still pissed at him for sending
“Johnny, I think
Doctor Brackett was telling you the truth when he said
Johnny climbed out
of the squad, being careful not to slam the door in consideration of the
sleeping engine crew. “I don’t care what
you think. I know what I think, and
until we know if
walked into the dayroom.
“Has she regained consciousness…become any more aware than she was when Johnny and I brought her in?”
“Okay…well, thanks. I’ll call again before we go off-shift.”
“You do that. It’ll mean a lot to
“Yeah, I’m sure it
When the man hung
up the phone, he filled Johnny in on what Carol had said. Johnny didn’t like the fact that
headed for the dorm. If
The engine crew was
toned out at . Johnny lay in his bunk,
wide awake as Marco, Chet, Cap and Mike pulled on their bunker pants, grabbed
their jackets and hurried to the bay. Cap thoughtfully hit the lights on his
way out, but Johnny didn't think that would do much to help him sleep.
He sighed, then instantly regretted it at the twinge in his side. He held his breath for a moment, then let it out slowly when the pain subsided. A quick palpation didn't produce any tenderness, so Johnny dismissed it. He's already convinced himself that his difficulties sleeping didn't stem from his aches and pains.
The rain had continued off and on through the night, with occasional rumbles of distant thunder, and it only reminded him of
Brackett! What the hell was he thinking? Aren't doctors supposed to be super smart? Well, I may be only a hose jockey, but I damn sure know better than to send a woman out on a night like last night. Those papers could easily have waited for dryer roads and better light.
Johnny almost sighed again, but caught himself before he did.
Johnny ran a hand through his hair and sat up slowly. There was no sense lying here nursing a grudge for something that had already happened. He wasn't going to get anymore sleep, so he decided to get up and start some coffee in case the rest of the guys got back before the shift ended. He stepped into his boots, stood and pulled up his pants, feeling only a slight tug at his side.
Satisfied that he was indeed, only bruised, the paramedic shuffled off toward the dayroom. With any luck, there'd be a donut there he could scrounge.
Kelly Brackett sat
in his office, one hand supporting his head, the other tapping a pen nervously
on the desktop. He'd spent the night in ICU checking on
Brackett had been in his office for the last hour and a half. He'd drunk more coffee than he should have, and was trying to ignore the beginnings of a headache. None of that mattered. Nothing mattered now except
Damn! Why did I let her go? Why didn't I tell her to wait? Gage was right. I knew how bad the roads were. Why didn't I make her wait?
Unable to sit any longer, the doctor got up and walked to the window that overlooked the parking lot. The sun was just coming up, shining pink and purple through the clouds. It wasn't raining at the moment, but it looked like the storm wasn't quite through drenching the
The sound of rain made the doctor lean closer to the window. He realized it was coming down again, promising another wet day. He sighed and jammed his hands into the pockets of his lab coat, wondering when he might be able to show his face up in ICU again without Joe getting on his case.
The phone rang on Kel’s desk and he hurried to answer it. The voice on the other end gave him the news he'd been waiting all night to hear. A smile broke out on the man’s face as he thanked the nurse and hung up. Doctor Brackett’s smile was still there when he breezed out of his office and headed toward the elevator.
Johnny took the
last drink of his third cup of coffee and glanced at the clock. It was still a
few minutes before shift change, and the engine hadn't come back yet.
Johnny’s fingers drummed anxiously on the table as
"Well?" he asked, when
Johnny let his grin spread across his face as he sat back in his chair. "All right. That's great news. That's really great."
"Carol says Brackett's with her now."
Johnny gave a derisive snort, which earned him a ‘look’ from his partner.
I'll back off. But I still say it was really stupid of him to send her out to
Johnny just shrugged, then glanced up as he heard voices in the bay that told him B shift was arriving.
"You gonna go see her this morning?" Johnny asked
"Joanne'll want to see her too, so I think I'll go home and eat first. That way we can go together after the kids are off to school."
"That's probably a good idea," Johnny agreed. "That way it'll space out her visitors."
The paramedics greeted Dwyer and Anderson at their lockers. The B shift paramedics hadn't heard about
Kel Brackett loosened the BP cuff from
Brackett frowned, furrowing his brow. He didn’t want his friend and colleague to have to deal with the aftermath of the accident yet. Although it clearly wasn’t her fault, Kelly was sure
“Look. . .Dix. . .” There was no avoiding the answer. He could tell by her expression that she wasn’t going to let him off the hook. At least not before the medication took hold enough to knock her out. “It wasn’t your fault. You were hit by a drunk driver.”
“Is he all right?”
The doctor hesitated a moment before shaking his head. “He was dead before the fire department arrived.”
He watched as tears welled up in the eyes of the normally strong-willed nurse, and then trickled down her cheeks.
“It wasn’t your
fault,” Brackett reiterated while plucking a Kleenex from the box on the
nightstand and handing it to
“He’s right, you know.”
Brackett turned quickly to see John Gage standing in the room, the door closing behind him. The doctor wasn’t certain if Johnny’s comment of, “He’s right, you know,” meant that the paramedic was saying Brackett was at fault, or if Johnny was simply reassuring
“Johnny,” the nurse whispered as she tried to force a smile. The news she’d just been given made smiling difficult, and she used the Kleenex to dab at her tears. Given her injury and current frame of mind,
Johnny stepped past Brackett without so much as a nod in greeting. He still wasn’t happy with the idea that
“How’re you feelin’, Dix? You’re looking better.”
“Hey, it got us out of the station for awhile. You know how we are . .we love the outdoors,” Johnny smiled. “Besides, there were a lot of guys other than just me and Roy looking for you. You’re a popular lady, you know.”
“It’s good to see she’s doing so well already.”
“Yes, it is,” Brackett agreed, folding his arms across his chest. He tucked her chart up under one arm. “Listen, about last night. . .”
“Never mind,” Johnny said, despite a tone of voice that told Brackett the paramedic had yet to ‘forgive and forget’. Johnny appeared to be putting his concerns for
“Yes, we were.” The doctor decided it
was best to change the subject for both of their sakes…as well as for the
“How’s the side?”
“Not even a bruise.”
“Hmmm.” Brackett nodded. “Good.” The physician’s mind was half on his question, and half on the patient in the bed. It had been a long night, and the doctor was as exhausted as Johnny appeared to be. “Well, I guess you got lucky. But if it gives you any problems, be sure and get in here.”
“I will.” Johnny glanced over at the sleeping nurse, then spoke to Brackett, keeping the conversation strictly business. “I’m gonna head out.
Brackett unfolded his arms and opened the chart again. “Okay, Johnny. Get some rest. You look tired.”
The only answer Johnny gave the man was a clipped, “Yeah,” leaving Brackett once again certain that ‘forgiving and forgetting’ on Johnny’s part was going to take a while.
As he turned to leave, Johnny felt a twinge in his right side again that he discounted as quickly as the twinge came and went.
It can’t be anything serious, or I wouldn’t
still be standing by now.
Stepping into the hallway, the exhausted paramedic slowly made his way to the elevator. He couldn’t wait to get home.