For the Birds

By Audrey W.



Chet Kelly peered into the locker room of Station 51 from the dorm room entrance. Already dressed in uniform, he grinned and stepped inside, having found who he was looking for.


“Am I glad to see you.”


John Gage was busy at his own locker getting changed into his uniform and hadn’t noticed the mustached fireman. He looked over, then sort of spun to see who was behind him that Kelly may be addressing. They were alone.


“Oh, you mean me.”


“Of course I mean you.”


The paramedic eyed him warily. “Chet, cut with the buttering up. Whataya want?”


“What makes you think I want something?”


“Chet. . .!”


“Okay, okay. So I do.”


Johnny nodded knowingly. “’Course.”


“Yeah, but this is for your benefit, too,” Chet said with a grin.


“You want me to stop by and check on your apartment while you’re on vacation?”


The fireman pulled back. “I’m not going on vacation.”


“Well, that’s the only thing I could think of that’s to my benefit regarding you.”


Chet rolled his eyes at the comment, noting a slight grin on Gage’s face as the paramedic sat on the bench in front of his locker to put on his shoes.


“Look, you wanna know or not?”


“Sure, fire away.”


“Homing pigeons.”


Johnny stopped in mid tie of a lace and looked up at him, his face screwed up in disbelief.


Homing pigeons?”


“That’s what I said.”


“Whatabout ‘em?”


“I. . .uh. . .I wanna try it. Both of us try it,” he added, indicating he and John.


“You’re kiddin’, right?”


Chet sat down on the bench beside him, his mind solely focused in talking Gage into the idea. Uncomfortable with the close proximately to each other, the paramedic scooted away some.


“No, I’m not kidding.  A friend of mine knows a guy in Kentucky who sells the birds by mail,” Chet explained. “All we have to do is order the things and he’ll ship ‘um right out. Right to our front doors.”


“And why do we want him to do that?”


“We raise ‘um and sell ‘um to other people.”


Johnny shook his head. “Uh uh. I’m not gettin’ in on a deal with you. Look what happened last time we tried somethin’ together.”


Both men were quiet a moment as he gave his own words thought.


“Oh. . .that was Roy. . .”


Chet just shook his head. “C’mon. Whataya say?”


“Chet, I don’t know anything about homing pigeons. And need I remind you, neither do you.”


“I know they never get lost. And it’s a fun hobby. Ken said so.”


Johnny got to his feet. “How soon would we need to decide?”


The mustached fireman was up from the bench in a heartbeat. “You mean you’ll do it?”


“Well, now hold on. I’ve got a few more questions.”


Chet frowned. “Shoot. . .”


“Why don’t you ask Marco?”


“I did. But he needs to save money for  somethin’ else.”


“And Mike?”


“He didn’t say much.”


Gage knew Mike not saying much didn’t say much in itself.


“What exactly are we lookin’ at here. . .for cost.”


“Just a few bucks for each bird. I figure we each get a couple to start, a male and female. . .you know.”


“Where are we gonna keep these pigeons? It’s not like we can raise ‘em  in our apartments.”


“Ken said we could use the old pigeon loft at his place, it’s just a couple of miles outside of town.”


Suddenly Johnny got a sinking feeling. He hesitantly asked, “Why isn’t he using it?”


“You ask too many questions, John, you know that?”


“I wanna know what I’m gettin’ into, that’s all.”


“Okay, he lost interest in the hobby and sold his birds.”


“You sure it was just interest he lost?”


“Yes,” Chet said, irritation now in his voice. “So are you in or what?”


“Just tell me how do we make a profit if we’re spending money on feeding these feathered investments we pay for?”


“Once they start multiplying, the food’ll be more than covered by what we make on ‘um. C’mon, John, where’s that sense of adventure, that desire to go for the gold, that non-stop drive that usually keeps you nagging at Roy when you have an idea--”


“Alright, alright.”


Gage gave it thought. Suddenly he got the image of a loft full of pigeons and him outside with a couple - turning them loose only to see them come back shortly, happy to be home.


He could imagine the other firemen taking an interest in the hobby and at least buying two to have as pets. Maybe even some of the staff at Rampart would be interested in a bird or two.


And if word got out about all the firemen in Carson enjoying homing pigeons, maybe more firemen from across the country would mail order the birds from he and Chet, being they were fire fighters as well. ‘Brothers’ helping out ‘brothers’.


A smile spread across his face. With a pat on Chet’s shoulder, he answered, “I’m in. This is gonna be great!”


Chet nodded, a smile equally wide on his face. His biggest hurdle was over. Now they just had to get the birds.




“So, you’re really gonna go through with the homing pigeon plan,” Roy said as he took a seat across from his partner.


The men from A-shift were gathered in the dayroom at the station, most sitting around the table. Chet and Johnny had told them about the plan on their previous shift. Since then, they’d taken steps over the past forty-eight hours to get things in motion. 


Chet leaned back in his chair, the papers with all his business plans in front of him. He and Johnny were going over the details together.


“That’s right,” Gage said proudly. “You know it’s not too late to get in on the deal.”


“No thanks.”


Marco leaned from his chair at the end of the table toward Mike, who was seated on the couch a few feet away.


“How long do you think this is going to last?” he whispered out the side of his mouth.


“I give it a week, tops.”


The two watched and listened as the mustached fireman and dark-haired paramedic enthusiastically discussed their business adventure more.  




After a response to a junk yard for a worker injured by some of the machinery, Johnny and Roy were on their way back to the station from Rampart.


“You ever have a bird for a pet?” Gage asked.


“No, my mom didn’t think it would be such a good idea.”


The younger man looked at him in amazement. “Not a good idea?  How could it not be a good idea? I mean if ya got a parakeet or somethin’. . .maybe a bird that could talk. . .you know, like a parrot. . .what kid wouldn’t benefit from that?”


“Well, it wasn’t so much that I wouldn’t benefit from a bird. More like a bird wouldn’t benefit from our cat.”


“Ahhh,” he turned in his seat to face forward again. “I guess she had a point.”


Roy took a quick glance at him. “What about you? What kind of bird did you have as a kid?”


“I didn’t.”


This time it was Roy’s turn to get a look of amazement, only for another reason. “Then what was that all about a pet bird and every young kid benefiting from it?”


“I missed out too,” he said, disappointment in his voice.


Roy did a double take, then shook his head.




When they got back to the station, Johnny had no sooner located Chet in the locker room, stashing the papers in his locker. But before he could say more than two words, the squad was toned out for a possible heart attack victim.


“Catch ya later,” Gage called out as he turned and pushed the swinging door open, then trotted toward the smaller red truck in the bay.




Roy brought the squad to a stop at the curb and the two paramedics scrambled out. A middle aged man was laid out on the lawn, a small group of onlookers very close by. A woman in her late fifties stood closer, wringing her hands while a younger man was performing CPR on the victim.


The paramedics threw open the squad compartments, grabbed the immediate equipment they’d need and rushed over to the downed man.


“What happened?” Roy asked as they quickly got into place.


Johnny motioned for the CPR performer to move to the left so they could take over, but had him stay close in case they needed his assistance.


He checked for a pulse to verify what they’d been told – that the man dropped to the ground after clutching his chest, and had no heartbeat right before they arrived. Johnny shook his head. With that, Roy grabbed the defibulator while Johnny continued with CPR. In a few seconds, they were administering 400 watts to restart his heart.


Both men eyed the scope when the paddles were placed on the victim’s chest. No response.


“One__ two__ three__ four__ Clear!” the dark-haired paramedic called out and Roy zapped  him again. This time they had a rhythm.


With all the commotion going on, it wasn’t until Johnny had time to set up the biophone and Roy to get a reading on vitals that they noticed they were under attack. A hummingbird kept zipping around at them, never getting too close, but enough now to be a nuisance.


Johnny waved a hand from his squatted position to chase it off. But it was very persistent. 


“They have a nest nearby,” a neighbor explained. “They come after anyone who gets within ten feet of it.”


“Rampart, this is Squad 51, how do you read me?” He found himself ducking as the hummingbird got even closer. With an annoyed expression, Gage continued the transmission with the doctor on the other end of the line, all the while hoping they’d be out of there soon, for more reason than one.




Roy came out of Treatment Room Four and met up with his partner at the desk near the base station. Johnny was talking to Dixie McCall, the head nurse of ER.


“He sell you a pigeon yet?”


Johnny ignored the teasing remark. “How’s Mister Caldwell?”


“His vitals improved on the way in. But I don’t think he’ll be raking up anymore leaves anytime soon.”


“Maybe his neighbors’ll do it for him.”




“So what’s this about pigeons?” Dixie wondered.


Roy patted his partner on the back. “Johnny’s going into the homing pigeon mail order business with Chet.”


“Not exactly,” Gage corrected. “We’ll sell locally and by mail.”


“Well, Johnny, I didn’t know you knew anything about homing pigeons.” Her surprise sounded sincere.


Roy’s look told the dark-haired paramedic to be honest.


“I don’t. Not yet. But how hard can it be? Keep ‘em in a loft with plenty of food and water, lettum loose to fly sometimes for exercise and to keep ‘em trained, and the rest is even simpler. Sell ‘em.”


She looked at Roy and shrugged. “Sounds easy enough.”


“That’s what worries me.”


Johnny shot him the same annoyed glare he’d given the hummingbird.




As they climbed out of the squad back at the station, Roy asked, “So how do you expect to handle and train pigeons when you couldn’t get one hummingbird to listen to you?”


Johnny rolled  his eyes. The teasing was already getting unbearable and it had just started. As he came around the front of the truck, he offered, “ Because hummingbirds can’t be trained. ‘Least not while guarding a nest.”


The younger man went in search of his business partner while DeSoto watched  him disappear around the rear corner of the squad.


“He talk you into the homing pigeon venture yet?”


Roy turned around and grinned slightly. Captain Stanley had just come out of his office and saw Johnny head off through the apparatus bay.


“Nope. And he won’t. I have a bad feeling about this.”


Hank gave a warm smile. “You know, this might be one time they actually surprise us.”




Later in the day, just after dinner, Johnny and Chet once again were drawing up their plans. The others had their chairs placed away from the table, their backs to the kitchen area and two shifmates, while they watched television.


“So we should both be getting our birds in about four days,” Johnny verified.


“Right. The guy is sending them out so they’ll get here on a day we’re off. And once I get my pair, I’ll drive over to your place and see--”




Both business men looked at the rest of the crew in annoyance. They didn’t know who shushed them, and figuring it could have been the captain, they didn’t dare do anymore than look. Chet lowered his voice to a whisper as he continued.


“And see if yours came yet. We can both go out to Ken’s place in my station wagon and get the birds set up.”


“That all sounds good except for one thing.”


“What’s that?”


“I’m not goin’ in that wagon of yours.”


Chet pulled back. “What’s wrong with my wagon?”


“Oh nothin’, ‘cept it’s known to die when you need it most.”


Chet scowled. “Okay. So we go in your Land Rover.”




With day one planned out, they joined the others to watch TV.




Nearly an hour past midnight, the crew was awakened by the tones.


“Station 51, unknown type rescue, 3424 Berry Road, three four two four Berry Rd, time out 00:53.”


An unknown rescue in the middle of the night was rather unsettling. It would be much better to have an idea ahead of time what they’d be walking into once on the scene. The only reassurance was that a police officer would be there as well. They were required to accompany the fire department on all responses during the night hours.


The men sprang from their beds and quickly donned their boots and turnout pants, then trotted into the apparatus bay and to their respective vehicles.


With their navy blue jackets on over their white t-shirts and helmets in place, Johnny and Roy headed out in the squad, the engine right behind.




The address was located just over three miles outside of town, around open land. Two houses, each on two acres, were in the immediate vicinity.


When the firemen arrived on scene, an officer was already there. Two squad cars in fact.


“That can’t be good,” Johnny mumbled as he opened the passenger side door of the squad.


“What’ve we got?” Hank asked one of the policemen as soon as he’d climbed down from the engine. His men gathered around as the officer explained.


“Seems to be a dispute between the neighbors.  We’ve got one guy with a bullet hole in his leg over there,” he said pointing toward one house. “And another with one in his arm over there.” He pointed to the other home.


Suddenly crowing could be heard from behind the first house.


“Sounds like they woke the rooster up,” the captain said while his paramedics rushed to grab the necessary equipment from their truck.


The cop rolled his eyes. “Actually, that’s what the feud is about.”


The captain raised his eyebrows. He sure wasn’t expecting that.




Johnny was sent to take care of the man with the leg injury, Marco accompanying him, while Roy and Chet would be with the other victim. The latter was also joined by Captain Stanley, so that Johnny could relay his victim’s information by use of an HT. Roy would have the biophone.  


Once inside the home, Johnny and Marco were guided to the livingroom where the middle aged man was lying on the floor, a folded blanket underneath him.


The paramedic carefully examined the bullet wound that was easily accessible due to the patient being clad in just white boxer shorts, socks and a plaid flannel robe that lay open. He only had to remove a bloodied bandage a family member had applied around the man’s upper left thigh. The bullet had gone completely through the fatty tissue on the inside of his leg.


Johnny wondered if the man realized just what kind of damage he might be looking at if the neighbor’s aim had been up and over a little more. The thought almost made him shudder.  


“You’re lucky. Looks like it’s just gonna be tissue damage.”  


“I hope. . . I got him better.”


“Charles, why did you have to go and shoot him?” the wife complained. Dressed in a pink fuzzy robe over her pajamas and a shower cap style bonnet on to keep her hair style in place, she was clearly upset.


“Nancy. . .he was comin’ at me with a gun. . . in his hand. I saw it. . .when he got in. . .the light.” He grimaced from pain as Johnny secured a sterile bandage to the wound. He had brought what he would need with him, knowing the type of injury.


“Damn fool . . .came over here yellin’ that Rodney. . . was keepin’ ‘um awake!” Charles continued.


“Rodney?” Gage looked to the man’s wife and two teenaged sons, then back to him.


“The rooster.”


“Oh.”  With the bandage in place, he questioned, “You aren’t on any medications, are you?”


“No,” Nancy answered.


Gage wasn’t sure if she meant herself or her husband, so he looked to the latter to verify.


“No, she’s right. . .I’m not.”


The paramedic nodded in acknowledgment, then proceeded to get vitals while Marco inquired, “So what woke Rodney up?”


The man didn’t answer, but the policeman standing by did.


“The rooster did the waking. Apparently he crows all night.”


“I thought they only did it when the sun started to come up.”


Johnny listened to the explanation as he jotted down Charles’s pulse, respirations and BP by palpation in his little notebook. The story left him in disbelief.




The victim under Roy’s care was also very fortunate. He’d only suffered a minor wound in the upper arm. As he was readied for transport to Rampart, he explained. “You know I wouldn’t have shot him if he hadn’t got me in the arm! The gun just went off when I was hit.”


But the fact the two men had shot each other wasn’t the hardest thing to comprehend. It was the cause of their feud that left the firemen shaking their heads; and the engine crew and Johnny requesting a quick glimpse of Rodney to see for themselves.




Johnny and Roy were at Rampart, just having gotten their supplies refilled by a young nurse at the desk. The two were about to head back to the station and to bed when they were stopped by Nancy and Tina, the victims’ wives.


“Are they going to be okay?” Nancy wondered.  “Both of them?”


“They should recover fine,” Roy assured. “They’re both very lucky it wasn’t more serious.”


“I told Bill just to use earplugs,” Tina informed them. “But you know how stubborn men can be--oh. I’m sorry,” she said as she realized she had just probably insulted the paramedics. “But you have to admit, you guys can be.”


Both men figured it could go both ways. . .women stubborn, as well as men. But now wasn’t  the time to start a debate.


“Yes, ma’am,” Johnny simply agreed.


They bid the ladies a good night and headed out for the squad.





“You know, you should consider going into the blind, blond rooster business instead,” Roy commented as he drove the squad.


Johnny shot him a ‘very funny’ type look. “Ha ha.”


“Just think of the money you’d make.”


“Yeah, and the neighbor’s I’d tick off with a rooster that can’t tell night from day so he keeps ‘em up all hours.” He shook his head. “No thanks.”


“You’re being stubborn, you know.”


With that his partner cracked a grin. “Aren’t we all?”


Roy glanced at him, a smile on his face as well.


“Well, there’s one thing for sure,” Johnny commented as he looked out the passenger window.


“What’s that?”


He turned his attention to his friend driving. “I think I’ve heard of everything now. A blind rooster with a yellow comb? How in the world did that happen?”


“I don’t know, but we’ve got a lot of years ahead of us with this job. Something tells me that won’t be the strangest thing we ever run across.”


Johnny snickered and he once again watched out the window beside him. “You’re probly right, Roy. You’re probly right.”




Five days later. . .


Roy could tell by the grin on his partner’s face that the first day with the homing pigeons had to have gone well.  He hadn’t seen him looking so much like the cat that ate the canary in a long time.


He’d just finished getting changed for work when his partner had come into the locker room in search of him.


“So, ask me,” Johnny said as he rocked on his feet, his arms folded across his chest.


“Ask you what?” Roy teased.


“C’mon, you know. Ask me how it went.”


“Okay. How went it?”


Gage frowned, his brows furrowed. He obviously was not amused. “Roy, I’m serious.”


“Okay, how’d it go with the pigeons?”


The smile returned to the younger man’s face. “It was far out! The best decision I’ve ever made! Man, you should get in on it. It’s gonna be so easy, nothin’ like work. More like gettin’ paid ta have fun.”


“Isn’t that what we do now?”


“Yeah, but this is a whole ‘nother kind of fun!”


Roy eyed the uniformed man. Was he really going to stick with this new adventure? As he closed his locker, he asked, “So who takes care of the birds now that you and Chet are here for twenty-four hours?”


“Ken. He’s just gotta check on them. You know, make sure they have food and water.”


“I’ve gotta hand it to you guys. It sounds like you’ve got it all worked out.”


“Oh we have, Roy. Man, we have.”


The senior paramedic almost regretted not jumping on board. Almost.




After a day that consisted of a dumpster fire, a child stuck in a laundry chute and a near drowning in a park lake, the crew got together in the lot behind the station for a brief game of basketball.  Mostly it consisted of them just taking turns shooting hoops while they passed time until dinner, which was about an hour away.


“Too bad you couldn’t bring your birds here,” Marco said. “We could turn them loose and see how long it takes them to come back.”


“If you ask me,” Mike remarked as he made a basket. “It doesn’t sound like much fun.”


Both Johnny and Chet took offense to that, but just let it go. They each figured Mike didn’t know what he was missing out on.


“We couldn’t turn ‘em loose from here yet anyway,” Johnny explained.


“Yeah,” Chet put in as he positioned himself to try a shot with the ball. “They have to get used to where they’re at. They’d probably just go back to Ken’s place from here.”


“You guys come up with names for the pigeons yet?” Roy wondered. By the expression on his partner’s face, he was almost certain he was going to regret asking.


“Mine’re Sonny and Cher.”


Johnny shook his head. He still couldn’t believe Chet came up with the same names he’d wanted to use . . .and worse than that, kept them!


“What’re yours?”


Gage looked to see Mike waiting for an answer to his question.


“Go ahead, John, tell ‘um.”


The dark-haired paramedic shot Chet a glare. “Roy and Joanne,” he mumbled.


Roy’s eyes widened. “You named the birds after us?”


“Well.” Johnny motioned toward Chet with his right hand. “He took the names I wanted and I couldn’t think of another couple.”


“You should be honored, Roy.”


He glanced at Marco. “How so?”


“Out of all the names available, yours were first on his mind.”




“Oh yeah. Never mind.”


And the conversation ended with that, as the klaxons sounded and the squad was dispatched out on a call for a child injured. It was at an address not far from the park with the earlier near drowning, on a dead end street.





As they came around a corner, Johnny’s eyes opened wide.




Roy hit the brakes. Four adult geese with a line of four babies were crossing the street. Much to the paramedics’ dismay, they too stopped rather than running for safety; in both lanes of the road.


“Oh man.”


“I’d beep the horn, but if the siren isn’t scaring them away. . .”


“Beep the horn, Roy! Beep the horn. Just give it a shot!”


He reluctantly complied, but the large birds stayed put.


Johnny shook his head. “Unbelievable, man. Unbelievable.”


“I’ll try rolling forward. That should give them a scare.”


He slowly did as he said, but all that happened was the birds disappeared completely from view. They didn’t run out from in front of the truck in any direction.


“We’ve gotta get those birds to move, Roy. . .who knows how much time we have to spare!”


“I know. Well, I guess there’s only one thing left to do.”


Johnny looked at him in surprise when he opened his door.


“You’re not goin’ out there ta chase ‘em off.”


“No__ we are.”


The younger man frowned. Geese could be ornery as it was. But adults with their babies increased the odds of being attacked. Viciously.


Once they were both out of the cab, Johnny came around the rear of the squad and joined Roy on the driver’s side, near the corner of the front bumper. His hands on his hips, he stared at the still motionless birds.


“They don’t seem bothered by us either.”


“We’re gonna have to charge them.”


Gage didn’t like that idea either. But they had to do something and fast. The young victim down the street a ways was still in need of their help. The delay had been long enough already.


On the count of three they gave it a go, hollering as they rushed the feathered road block. But instead of the group running for cover from them, they found themselves back in the squad, the parents returning to their young ones in the middle of the lanes.


“Man, I knew geese could be mean, but that was ridiculous. Totally uncalled for!”


“Yeah, we’re lucky we’re fast on our feet.”


Johnny looked out at a few spectators watching from their porches. “Maybe we oughta charge an entertainment fee,” came his sarcastic remark.

“Always the entrepreneur.”


“So, now what do we do? Obviously, no one’s gonna give us a hand.”


Roy looked at him. “You’re the bird expert.”


“Homing pigeon, Roy. Homing pigeon. They’re a little different from geese. ‘Sides, I’m not an expert yet.”


“Well, I guess we take the sidewalk.”


“In the squad?”


Roy didn’t answer, but rather put the truck in reverse. Once the feathered foe were in view again, he turned the steering wheel and started toward the right side of the street. He hoped the residents in the area would forgive him for any grass he tore up or flattened.


Just then the geese continued on their way and the road was clear. Roy immediately veered back to the left and continued on toward their destination.


“We did it! I guess we showed them.” Johnny looked anxiously ahead with hopes that the slight delay wouldn’t be disastrous.


Roy didn’t want to remind the victorious passenger that the geese had actually showed them. And like his partner, he just hoped the birds had cleared the way in time.




Luckily the injury to the ten-year-old child wasn’t life threatening. The adventurous red-haired boy had fallen off a branch from a tree in the back yard and fractured his left forearm. Though it would have been better for the youth if the paramedics had gotten there sooner, he certainly would have preferred earlier relief from the pain, the slight delay caused by the geese wouldn’t result in tragedy.


Once he was safely at Rampart, his upset mother there waiting as well, Johnny and Roy were once again on their way back to the station.


“What’re we havin’ for dinner again?”


Roy glanced at his passenger. “Mike’s making some new dish. . .tuna something.”


“That’s right.” There was a moment of silence, then, “You wanna stop an’ get a burger and fries to hold us till it’s ready?”


“Sure. Why not.”


Two blocks down the street, they pulled into the lot of a local hamburger stand.




Roy backed the squad into the apparatus bay and brought it to a stop, then turned to face his partner.


“How come you always suggest we get something to eat when you know you don’t have any money on you?”


“I don’t plan it that way, Roy. It’s not planned at all. It just happens. . .coincidence,” he shrugged.


“Maybe you oughtta go into the business of inviting people out to eat, then conveniently being broke. Coincidentally or what ever. You’d probably make more that way than with the pigeons.”


“Oh brother. Look, I said I’d pay you back, and I will.” He took in the doubtful face. “I will.” As they opened their doors to climb out, he added, “By the way, your idea wouldn’t work. As soon as I accepted the free meal, the money’d be gone.”


Roy just shook his head. Gage was right. As much as he hated to admit it, the younger man was 100 percent correct. He only hoped that he wasn’t correct about Sonny, Cher, Roy and Joanne bringing in a fortune someday. The feathered namesakes, that is. Or there’d be a few regrets among those who turned down the chance to join him and Chet in their endeavor.




Just over five hours later, the crew of Station 51’s A-shift was able to settle down for the night. The dorm was darkened and quiet, with only the occasional sound of a snore.


A good portion into the night, the klaxons went off, the lights immediately on.


“Station 51, motor vehicle accident, 3215 Pine Hill Road, three two one five Pine Hill Road, time out 02:11.”


The men hurried to put on their boots and turnouts that were on the floor beside each bed, then made a dash for their trucks parked in the bay.




The location was once again away from the heart of Carson. Sporadically placed homes along one side of the street were built over a grassy hillside that dropped off rather sharply. The houses were on stilts to support them underneath and out along the part of the structures farthest away from the road. 


A woman and her husband had been awakened by the sound of tires screeching, then of metal banging and glass shattering. They’d come out of their home and turned on the outside light, only to see tire tracks leading off the edge of the road just past their house. A look farther down with a large flashlight revealed a wrecked car about twenty-five yards down the embankment.


An officer on scene set up his spot light to aim down toward the wrecked vehicle in an effort to make the rescuers’ job easier. 


Johnny and Roy got their safety belts on and tied off on ropes that were also tied off, one to the front bumper of the engine, the other to the rear bumper of the squad.


Though the lighting provided helped, the paramedics still had to be careful with their footing, as much of the ground was hidden by brush and grass. But soon they reached the upright vehicle and removed their belts to take a closer look. The banged up roof revealed it had rolled at least once.


Johnny removed his helmet and let it drop to the ground, while his partner just pushed his own up slightly.


“There’s a woman in here!” Roy said as he shown his flashlight in the cracked driver’s side window.  “We’re gonna need the crowbar!” He called out to his partner. He couldn’t get the door open.


While the senior paramedic contacted the captain on the HT, Johnny walked around to the passenger side and noticed the front door was slightly ajar, the window all the way down inside of it. He quickly turned to scan the area with his own flashlight as thoughts of a possible second victim entered his mind. There was no immediate sign of one.


“I can get in from here!” He opened the door and climbed inside.


“Cap, we’ve got a female victim; we need a crowbar, the stokes, a backboard, the trauma and drug boxes; better send the oxygen down just in case, too. You think you can relay to Rampart from up there?”


“10-4, Roy. We’ll send the stuff down and I’ll get Rampart on the horn. You need more manpower?”


Roy glanced at the unconscious woman on the other side of the glass. Johnny was getting her vitals as best he could with no supplies on hand. She remained motionless.


“Roger that. At least one more to help get her out safely.”


“10-4. I’ll send Chet.”


Roy put the HT in his turnout coat pocket and went around to the other side of the car to talk to Johnny. He heard a groan from the woman as he leaned inside.


“She’s comin’ around.”


Roy looked past his partner to the driver. She was fortunate she had her seatbelt on. It was unlikely she would’ve survived this violent of a wreck without it.


“I hope there wasn’t a passenger. The door wasn’t exactly shut.”


“It was already open?”


“Looked like it had been and maybe just rested closed when the car finally ended up here.”


“If she can’t tell us, we’ll need to start a search.”


“Right. I looked over the back of the seat. She’s the only one in the car.”


Roy pulled out of the auto and radioed the latest bit of information to the captain. He then heard Johnny.


“Ma’am, it’s okay. Just don’t move. You’ve been in an accident, but we’re here to take care of ya. We’re paramedics with the L.A. County Fire Department. Everything’s gonna be okay. ___But we need to know if anyone else was in the car with you. Did you have a passenger  in the vehicle?”


Her mumbled reply wasn’t audible from where Roy stood. He leaned inside again. “What’d she say?”




Roy relayed that to Captain Stanley, who was just as grateful as they were. The last thing they needed was a potentially critically injured victim hidden in the brush somewhere. Besides that, they needed the man power to take care of the driver.


As soon as the extra help and equipment was down to them, Roy popped the driver’s side door open with the crowbar for easier access to remove the woman they now knew as Carol.


Johnny had the handie talkie in his possession and gave her vital signs to the captain up above so he could pass them on.


Soon they had Carol secured on a backboard, a c-collar around her neck. She was then carefully removed from her totaled car and secured in the stokes, a yellow safety blanket covered her entirely below the chin.


Johnny tucked an IV bag up under her left shoulder, while Roy and Chet prepared to guide the stokes as it was pulled up to where the ambulance was parked near the engine.




Once Carol was placed on a stretcher and inside the ambulance, Roy climbed up inside with her, the biophone and drug box were on the floor near his feet.


Johnny went to close the rear doors when she weakly cried out, “My. . .my baby. . .my. . .baby. . .”


The paramedics looked at each other, then her, stunned. There hadn’t been anyone else in the car. . .she’d said so. That left only one other thought in their minds, which Roy automatically voiced.


“Carol__ are you pregnant?” She certainly wasn’t showing if she was.


“No. . .My. . .my baby. . .Shel. . .Shelley. . .,” the nearly whispered words were followed by a groan.


Alarm registered on the mens’ faces.


“Do you have a daughter? Was she in the car with you?”


She didn’t answer Roy’s question, but rather closed her eyes tight and gave a low moan.


“Take ‘er in, I’ll stay and help search.”


Roy didn’t have any choice but to agree. The woman needed to be in the hospital as soon as possible. Johnny quickly closed the doors and gave two slaps to indicate they were secure. He then took off toward the captain, who was talking to the police officer.


“Cap!__Cap!” As he stepped up to him, Johnny explained, “We’ve got another victim. She said her baby girl Shelley was with her.”


“Are you sure? I thought she said she was alone.”


“She started cryin’ for the baby,” Gage shrugged. “I don’ know which is true. She could be confused. . .she was still unconscious when we got to ‘er; she’s got a grade two concussion. But who knows for sure.”


“Well, we certainly can’t take any chances.” He looked toward his other men, who were just coming over to see what Johnny was talking about. “Chet, Marco, Mike, grab your flashlights…help John search for a second victim.”


As soon as they were briefed on the situation, the three and Johnny spread out in search on the steep slope, this time without the added safety precaution of ropes. There was too much ground to be covered since a child was ejected. The light-weight small figure could have been tossed a great distance. The police cruiser’s spot light once again illuminated the area, and the men used their flashlights for added visibility.


Despite being cautious with his steps, Johnny winced and hissed in pain when his right ankle twisted awkwardly, a wave of pain shooting up his leg at the same time. His right foot had landed in a small hole that was just enough to cause it to turn when put his weight on it. Johnny stepped out of the hole and shown his flashlight down at it as he stood with all his weight now on his left leg. The hole had been hidden on the edge of a group of brush. He slowly put some weight onto his right leg. Yep, it hurt like hell.




He glanced at the others, still in motion as they called out the child’s name, then the captain looking down at them along with the officer. He knew he should say something to his superior officer. But right now there was a youngster who needed his help, and the fact they hadn’t heard any crying or whimpering all this time indicated it could be extremely serious. His little problem could wait. He’d just have to be cautious with his steps and keep most of his weight to the left.


Johnny continued on with a limp he hoped he could blame on the fact he was on a slope if anyone noticed.


“C’mon, where are you?” he asked in a low voice. He showed his flashlight beam on his watch to get a clearer view. They’d been searching for several minutes already. “Just don’t give up, sweetheart. . .Just don’t give up. . .” 


Johnny paused for a third time since his mishap. He was really hurting. 


Suddenly Marco called out several yards away from where the car had rolled, “I found something!”


At that same moment, the HT in Johnny’s turnout coat pocket crackled, followed by, “HT 51, Engine 51.”


Gage was on his way toward Marco, as were Chet and Mike from father away in the other direction from Johnny, when he pulled the radio from his pocket. “Engine 51, go ahead.”


“John, I just got a call from Dispatch. Seems Roy found out we aren’t looking for a child at all, we’re looking for. . ”


At the same time he said the words, so did the paramedic, only in question, when he saw what Marco was holding up.


“A bird?”


Johnny didn’t take his eyes off the feathered victim in the cage as he put the HT up near his mouth, depressed the transmit button and acknowledged, “10-4.”


Chet and Mike were already caught up to him and noticed his new way of walking. “What happened to you?” the latter wondered.


“I’ll tell ya in a minute.”


It seemed Chet was going to help him, but Johnny put up a hand and shook his head. “I’m okay.”


The three made their way, Johnny with a pronounced hobble, to where Marco still stood with the brass cage that was much like what Tweety Bird from the cartoons lived in, flat on the bottom and rounded at the top. With Marco’s flashlight beam shining on the interior, they could see it was a small parrot of some kind, with blue feathers and a red tail. Her perch had stayed in place and she was sitting up on it, a mirror at one end, bell at the other.


When they got close enough, they could see a small gold plate on the cage door that had in big black letters, ‘Shelley’.    


“Is she okay?” Johnny asked as he peered closer.


“Yeah, did she break anything?” Chet wondered.


Marco shrugged. “I don’t think so. The door was open, she was just sitting inside.”


“How could she have survived a ride like that?” Johnny pondered out loud, looking back at the wrecked car.


“Maybe she flew with the cage. Literally,” Chet suggested.


What ever happened, the fact that she was okay was nothing short of a miracle to them. If only Shelley could explain. There had to be something they were missing.  


“Well, let’s get this little lady outta here,” Johnny said as he turned to leave. But as soon as he put a little weight on his right foot, he couldn’t hold back another hiss in pain.


“Sure you’re okay,” Chet commented as he got beside him. “What happened?”


“I twisted my ankle or somethin’ in a hole over there,” he explained with a wave of a hand.


“When?” Marco wondered.


“Not long after we started the search.”


The answer didn’t surprise any of the men.


Chet got on his right side and motioned for Johnny to lean on him. “C’mon, you aren’t gonna make it up there on your own.”


The discouraged younger man complied and they slowly made their way up while Marco carried the bird in her cage, Mike alongside Chet in case he needed to trade off.


When they got to the top, the captain wasn’t thrilled with the news on Johnny. The condition of the bird was a huge surprise however.


“So how is it a grown man gets injured taking a step, but a bird can take a horrendous trip in her cage and emerge without a scratch?”


“Well, as far as John goes--”


Chet was stopped in his explanation to Hank by a punch in the left shoulder.


The captain called in the Code I and reported Squad 51 as 10-8 to Rampart General Hospital.


“Take him in the squad, Chet. You can ride back to the station with Roy.”


It was obvious John was in considerable pain, but the supplies they would need to remedy that had gone with Roy. He watched as Chet helped the limping medic.


“Birds of a feather. . .” he commented under his breath.




As soon as Chet pulled the squad up to the emergency entrance at Rampart, he bolted for a wheel chair inside. Johnny opened the passenger side door and waited for assistance to arrive. There was no need to risk falling flat on his face now.


It was only a brief minute before Chet returned with both a chair and a nurse to help. Johnny’s right shoe was off and his still-sock-covered foot gave hint to swelling in his ankle.  


“Man, Gage, you sure it isn’t broke somewhere?”


“No, I’m not sure. But I hope not.”


An x-ray was definitely in order.


Once they had the wounded paramedic situated, they wheeled him inside and to an available treatment room.




Roy walked into Treatment Room Two, where his partner was seated on the exam table, his legs straight out in front of him.  Chet was standing nearby and Doctor Morton was looking over vital signs while a nurse telephoned for X-ray.


“What’dya do?” Roy asked, his eyes on Johnny.


“We found Shelley.”


“No, I mean to your ankle.”


“He stepped in a hole,” Chet supplied. It earned him a disgruntled look from the injured man.


“Just lemme’ tell ‘um.” Johnny looked at Roy. “I stepped in a hole.”


Chet went to protest, when Roy said, “I know. He does this to me all the time.”


Both men got a disgruntled look from their friend. “It’s hard ta see holes covered by brush in the daylight,” Gage continued. “You should try it at night; even worse.”


“Is it fractured?” Roy asked as he peered closer at the slightly discolored and swollen ankle.


Johnny pulled his leg away a bit as Morton answered, “It doesn’t appear to be, but I’m having it x-rayed as a precaution to make sure I’m not missing anything. Better safe than sorry, as they say. Either way, he’s not going to be running into any burning buildings very soon.”


“Hey, this doesn’t mean your not helpin’ with the pigeons, does it?”


“Chet, it’s my ankle. I can still handle a bird or two.”


“What’s with the pigeons?” the doctor wondered. At that moment the phone rang and the doctor went over to answer it. “Doctor Morton here___ Yes, yes, he is___ Okay, thank you.” He turned to face the others. “They’re ready for you in X-ray.”


As he and Roy helped Johnny off the table and into the wheel chair, Roy promised to explain about the pigeons later.  He wanted to beat Chet to the offer, because even Morton didn’t deserve to be put through the sales pitch of Chet Kelly.




The following day at his apartment, Johnny learned from Roy what had happened with the accident that had set him up for his sprained ankle. Or at least as much as Carol was able to tell the doctor.


Carol always let Shelley, an African Parrot, ride loose in the car, so she figured she must’ve on their way back from visiting her parents in San Francisco. She recalled hitting a large bump and her passenger window dropped open. It hadn’t been working properly since she bought the used car. It must’ve frightened the bird because all she could recall from there was a small dark image going out the window and she panicked. Next thing she knew she was in the hospital. Likely, she’d lost control of her vehicle and somewhere along the way, the cage was thrown out. All they could assume for the rest was that Shelley somehow found her cage, and was going to stay put for the night in the safety of it. After all, birds normally didn’t fly at night; unless they were frightened into it, anyway.


It sure explained how the parrot could avoid injury with a crash landing like that. She hadn’t been in it.




Nearly two weeks after his ankle sprain, Johnny was back on duty. He’d spent his first few days with an ice pack on the injury a lot of the time, and kept his foot elevated as much as possible. He went with Chet to take care of the homing pigeons with crutches for support, but that hadn’t gone as expected.


“Well, welcome back!” Roy said when he saw his partner enter the locker room with a very slight hint of a limp.




Gage didn’t seem real happy. Maybe there was a way to cheer him up.


“How’s the homing pigeon business? You haven’t been very clear about it when I’ve asked over the phone.”


“Did ya hafta bring that up already?”


It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that was probably why he was unhappy.


“What happened?”


Johnny opened his locker and sat just inside, his bottom resting on the edge. “We took them out the third day we had ‘em. Turned the birds loose and waited for them to come back.”




He looked up at Roy with sorrowful brown eyes. Chet had told him he avoided telling anything to the guys. Now he’d have to. So much for 'partnership'.


“They flew home.”


“It worked? They really came back?”


Johnny shook his head. “No, they flew__ home, Roy. Back to the original owner.”


Roy’s eyes widened. “All the way to Kentucky?”


The younger man nodded. “Uh huh. They aren’t supposed to fly more than a few hundred miles. I guess we got exceptionally determined and durable homing pigeons.”


“That’s too bad. So is he sending them back?”


“No,” he said with a shake of his head. “Nope, we decided the bird business is. . .well. . . for the birds.”


Roy cracked a grin. “Well, you know what they say.”




“There’s no place like home.”


“Ha ha. . .” Johnny stood up and turned to face his locker. “You’re a real comedian, Roy. Why, you oughtta go on TV and. . . .”


Roy kept a smile on his face as his partner went on and on. At least he’d gotten Johnny to quit thinking about the pigeons.





This was inspired years ago when I saw pigeons being mailed out at the post office. :o)  I could just imagine if they flew back when they weren’t supposed to, though I do believe those were. The rooster was inspired by the one who lives behind us, when it would crow in the night, not much during the morning hours. I don't think it's blind, but the imagination takes over, eh? ;o)




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