Roy DeSoto glanced at his watch as his partner John Gage rushed into the locker room at Station 51. It was five minutes before 8:00 roll call and Johnny had yet to change into his uniform.
“Cutting it kind of close, aren’t ya?”
“Not intentionally,” the younger man said as he roughly pulled his locker open. He immediately let go of the door and reached inside for his uniform shirt in the process.
Already dressed and ready for duty, Roy closed his own locker and leaned with his left shoulder resting on it. “What happened?”
Roy looked up and around. “Is there an echo in here?”
Johnny rolled his eyes as he pulled off his white collared civilian shirt.
Gage eyed his partner and shook his head. “Nope, I’m not gonna tell ya.”
“Because you’ll laugh.”
“It must not be very serious then.”
His light blue uniform shirt already on, Johnny reached into his locker to get his dark blue trousers and the hanger they were draped over. “Oh it’s serious, alright. It’s serious.” He glanced at Roy, one eyebrow raised. “I just don’t think you’ll see the seriousness of it. That’s all.”
Roy nodded knowingly after a brief moment of thought. “It’s girl trouble, isn’t it. . .”
His jeans off, Johnny stepped into the dark colored uniform pants and pulled them up.
“It’s not girl trouble. It’s just. . .well. . .Roy, ya see. . .”
Just then Marco Lopez opened the door and peeked in. “Cap says you guys have one minute to get lined up for roll call.”
“Go on,” Johnny said, motioning with his head toward the doorway. “No sense in both of us being late.”
“Okay, but I’d step up the pace if I were you.”
“I’ll be there. I just gotta get my shoes on.”
Roy gave one more glance at him, then followed Marco into the apparatus bay.
Johnny grumbled as he cleaned the sinks in the latrine.
“Man, if I’d just had my own car, I would’ve made it here on time and I wouldn’t be stuck cleaning the latrine right now.”
Of course, he still had to count his blessings. The captain was clearly in a bad mood so far this shift and the paramedic knew things could’ve been worse.
“I could’ve been stuck for more than a one-time deal.” He looked up at his own reflection in the mirror. “But you’d better hope you get your Land Rover back soon. . .real soon. . .”
“Fumes gettin’ to ya, John?”
The paramedic startled at the sound of the voice and whipped his head around to look at the grinning intruder.
“Geez, Chet, don’t do that.”
“Sure. Do what?”
“Sneak up on a guy while he’s workin’.”
“Didn’t look like you were working to me.” He stepped closer to where his reflection was visible in the mirror behind Johnny. “More like you were having a discussion . . .with yourself.”
“I was just thinkin’ out loud.”
“Oh. . .so what’s wrong with your Land Rover?” Chet wondered as he stepped up to one of the sinks and turned on the water.
Johnny stared at him in disbelief.
Chet did a double take before asking, “What?”
“Do you mind? I’m cleaning here.”
Realizing what the paramedic was getting at, the curly-haired fireman quickly turned off the faucet. “Sorry.”
“What’d you come in here for anyway?”
Chet got a blank expression on his face, then after a couple of seconds snapped his fingers as he remembered.
“Roy said you had a problem with somethin’, so I thought I’d come see if you were ready to spill. . .you know. . .”
“No I’m not ready to spill and yes I do know. You wanna know what’s buggin’ me so you can harass me about it the rest of the shift. . .or worse yet, the rest of my life.”
Chet chewed the inside of right cheek a moment as he nodded. “Basically.”
Johnny rolled his eyes. “Get outta here, would ya?”
“Sure, John, but if you need to talk . . “
Johnny watched the door close behind him, then looked in the mirror again.
“I’ve gotta get my Rover back soon.”
Johnny and Roy climbed into the squad at Rampart General Hospital after dropping off a victim they’d brought in. As Roy drove out of the lot, his partner questioned, “Aren’t you gonna ask why I was running late this morning?”
“I already did. And you said I wouldn’t think it was serious.”
Johnny turned in his seat to face the older man. “Yeah, but I was about to tell ya when Marco interrupted.”
“Well, then why haven’t you told me by now?”
“I’ve been waiting for you to ask again. You never give up this easy.”
Roy gave him a quick double take, then watched the road as he responded.
“You know. . .”
“Nothing,” the senior paramedic said with a shake of his head. “So why were you late?”
“Candy? As in the kind you eat or the one you’re dating?”
“I thought you said it wasn’t girl trouble.”
“It’s not. It’s not directly her. It’s her driving.”
“Isn’t she the one who wants to be a race car driver?”
“Yeah, she does. She does. And she’s pretty good when she’s goin’ straight. She goes a little over the speed limit,” he shrugged. “But she’s got good control.”
Roy just shook his head. “I don’t think I’m getting exactly what your problem is.”
“Man, how can I put it? You know my Rover’s in the shop. . .” When he got a nod in response, he continued. “Well, Candy’s drivin’ me around, including to work.”
“You should’ve made it in record time then.” Suddenly a devious grin spread across his face. “What’d she do? Make a pit stop?”
Johnny shot a quick glare. “Ha ha ha. Real cute. No. . .no, but. . .” he ran a hand through his hair, then shifted slightly in his seat. “Roy, the chick makes turns slower than anyone I’ve ever known!”
“Maybe she’s just being cautious. Look, if you like the girl so much, why pick on her?”
“I’m not picking on her,” Johnny stated, a hand splayed on his chest. He paused a moment, then went on with, “Lemme me put it this way. She comes to nearly a complete stop every time she makes a turn. Every time, Roy! And then she goes about one half-mile-an-hour until she’s on a straight stretch of road again. Until now, I never thought a car could go that slow and still be movin’!”
Roy tried to hide the grin on his face as he quickly glanced at the younger man. “Does she realize most racing involves one turn after another?”
“I don’t know. But I’ll tell ya what I do know.”
“Sometimes it’s enough to make a grown man cry.”
Roy rolled his eyes at the comment. He could think of other situations that could bring a guy to tears. But Johnny being single and childless wouldn’t understand them.
When they got back to the station, Roy backed the squad into the apparatus bay. Once stopped, the paramedics climbed out and headed for the dayroom. However, Captain Stanley stepped out of his office before they reached the doorway.
Both men turned around at the sound of his voice. Hank motioned for the blond paramedic to follow him. “I need to see you in my office.”
Johnny watched as the two disappeared into the other room. He wondered what was going on but decided with the captain’s sour mood, he was better off staying clear of the senior officer anyway.
Hank Stanley pointed to a chair in front of his desk. “Have a seat.
Roy did as suggested and anxiously waited to find out what was up. Maybe he wants to know why Johnny ran late. . .but *five minutes*? He usually doesn’t make a big fuss over *that*.
The captain took a seat behind his desk and let out an audible sigh. “I suppose you’re wondering why I called you in here.”
“I have to admit you’ve got me curious.”
Hank leaned back and paused a moment. “I’ve got a little problem. Actually, that’s not true. I’ve got a huge problem. And I’m not sure what to do about it.”
“What is it?”
“Well, it’s gonna sound kind of crazy, but I’ve sorta got insomnia. I haven’t been able to sleep more than ten minutes here and there since we got off our last shift.”
Roy’s eyes widened. “That was two days ago!”
“Right. Two days and two nights to be exact.”
Now that he’d had this extra time with the captain, Roy noticed he looked tired. “How come?”
“I think if I knew, I’d be able to sleep.”
Roy nodded slightly, giving the well-made point acknowledgement. “Maybe you should be talking to Johnny instead. Remember he had that bout of insomnia a few years ago.”
“I thought about that. But he couldn’t solve his own problem till he practically dropped, so it didn’t seem like a logical choice.”
“I’d like to help you out, Cap, but I don’t know what I can do.”
“You just did it.”
Roy was puzzled.
Reading the senior paramedic’s expression, Hank explained, “You listened. And I’m hoping that now that I’ve mentioned it to someone, things’ll change.”
“Oh. . . I’m glad if it helps. But can I ask you something?”
“Why not tell Mike? He’ll be around you more often during the shift. He could look out for you.”
“That’s just it. He’d be looking at me everywhere we go and asking me if I’m okay. . .which would only lead to the others getting curious. Everyone would catch on.”
“Well, I hope this does work for you.”
“Me too. I tell ya, after awhile, it’s enough to make a grown man cry.”
Roy just nodded at the familiar words, a wan smile on his face.
“Everything all right?” Johnny wondered when Roy joined him in the dayroom. He took a gulp of milk as he leaned his backside against the counter and waited for an answer.
“Yup.” Roy kept his eyes on the refrigerator as he walked over to it and opened the door.
“That’s it? Yup?”
Roy set the milk carton on the counter and took a glass Johnny handed him after getting it out of the cupboard, his own drink still in his other hand.
“That’s it. Everything’s fine.”
“Well, if everything’s fine, why’d he call you into his office?”
Roy shrugged as he poured his milk. “To tell me we’re doing a good job.”
Johnny stared blankly at him while Roy kept his gaze elsewhere as he put the milk away and took a seat at the table, ignoring his partner.
The younger man frowned. I wonder why Cap didn’t wanna tell me, too?
The paramedics had only been back at the station for a half hour before they and the engine were toned out on a call for a motor vehicle accident on the freeway.
Johnny watched as Captain Stanley handed Roy the call slip through the driver’s side window and was almost certain he saw some sort of non-verbal communication between the two even in that brief moment.
He took the piece of paper from his partner and furrowed his brow in thought when he saw the captain trot past the front of the squad toward Engine 51.
Doesn’t he think I’m as good at this job as Roy?
But he had to shove the thought aside and focus on helping Roy navigate through traffic.
As they approached the scene, the firemen could see that the rear bumper of a car was resting on the concrete barrier on the outside edge of the freeway. The classic older model automobile had gone over the side of the freeway near an exit ramp and underpass. The front bumper rested on solid ground below, the body of it slightly suspended in air and tipped precariously at an angle.
“Not again,” Johnny remarked as he recalled how they’d responded to an almost identical situation with a pickup truck a few years earlier. Only this time there’d been traffic in the area to get around, though much of it was being diverted off at an exit a mile before the accident scene. What few vehicles made it through before the detour was set up had been routed through the two inner most lanes to get by. Below, automobiles were held in place a safe distance away in both directions in the event the wrecked car was to jar loose and tumble down.
The paramedics scrambled from the squad once Roy stopped it just beyond where the car’s bumper was. That allowed Mike to bring the engine up close enough that ropes could be tied off to hold the car in place as much as possible.
Johnny’s mouth dropped when he saw the name plate on the vehicle. “Hey, it’s a DeSoto!”
“Wonderful,” Roy mumbled.
Chet and Marco took care of the ropes while Johnny carried a ladder he’d need to get into the car while it was still suspended.
As the firemen tied off the ropes at either end of the car, Johnny carefully leaned the ladder against the side as he asked his partner, “Have you noticed any movement from the driver?”
Roy shook his head and with a frown answered, “No.”
“You want me to do this again?”
Johnny was already on the ladder. “Nope, I’ve got this one.”
He continued up as the captain came over near the bumper of the car. “A DeSoto?”
Roy got the feeling somehow this rescue was going to follow him for weeks.
Once he got to the fifth rung of the ladder, Johnny reached over and attempted to open the front passenger door. It wouldn’t budge. Between it being slightly jammed and the car being an older model, which meant the doors were heavier, getting it open wasn’t going to be easy. The awkward angle didn’t help either.
“I need the crowbar!”
Once he had the tool, he braced the end under the edge of the door and gritted his teeth, grunting as he carefully worked to pop it loose. Soon the door gave. Roy helped Johnny get it open all the way from where he stood on the ground due to the fact Johnny couldn’t manage it completely from his position on the ladder.
Gage peered in at the fairly large man sitting in the driver’s seat. The front of his shirt had a blood stain on it that appeared to be from a cut on his chin that was dripping. Johnny surmised he most likely hit the steering wheel.
The paramedic carefully climbed in and briefly looked over the back of the seat for other victims. When he didn’t see any, he yelled over his shoulder to the crew outside, “There’s no one else in the car!”
He then went about checking over the driver, including his vital signs.
“That’s quite a cut there you’ve got on your chin.”
“I hit it. . .on the steering wheel.”
The paramedic gently palpated the man’s neck, noting a wince or two in response.
”A little. . .”
Probably snapped his neck pretty hard in the accident if he’s feelin’ it already. . . “You hurt anywhere else?”
“My. . .my leg. Right lower leg.”
Johnny felt over the man’s calf and below. It was evident his right ankle was fractured. He moved slowly till he was sitting back in the passenger seat and called out, “Roy, I’m gonna need some sterile gauze, a c-collar and a leg splint!”
After getting the victim set, the dark-haired paramedic slowly and gently maneuvered the injured man to the open door, where four sets of hands reached up and carefully placed him in the stokes on the ground. From there they lifted and carried it to the side of the freeway while Johnny climbed out of the wrecked car.
Before long, the younger paramedic joined his partner. Roy already had Rampart on the biophone, having taken over on the victim.
“You need me to do anything?” Gage asked, wishing he could work his way back to being the main one in control.
Roy shook his head. “I’ve got it.”
Johnny tried to dismiss any thoughts that since he had help from Roy here and there on the rescue it was going to make him look less efficient in front of the captain. After all, for now the victim’s well-being was more important anyway.
He squatted down and remarked to the injured man, “That’s quite a car you got there.”
“It’s a. . . 1959 DeSoto Adventurer. . . only ninety-seven. . .ever made.” The victim then asked, “How. . .how bad is it?”
Johnny glanced at Roy as the paramedic got the clearance to transport, then eyed the c-collar and the thick sterile bandage on the victim’s chin, and the splint on his right ankle.
“Considering you didn’t have seatbelts in the car, you’re pretty lucky.”
“No. . .I mean. . .the car. . .is it. . .is it. . .terminal?”
“As in totaled?”
“Yeah. . .”
Johnny glanced over his shoulder at the vehicle. “Nah, it’s not that bad. It could’ve been a whole lot worse.” He returned his attention to the victim. “Really other than the underside and the front end, it’s not in that bad of shape.”
Tears pooled in the man’s eyes. “Thank. . . God.”
He’s crying! He’s *crying*? Johnny couldn’t believe it. A grown man was crying over his car. True, they were tears of joy, but over a car?
Once the patient was loaded into the ambulance, Roy climbed in before Johnny could volunteer. Now he was in what he considered a lose-lose situation. By his not going with the victim, Roy was doing the majority of the work for sure. But if he made a big deal about it, he’d come across as a nut to the captain and others.
Gage sighed as he closed the ambulance doors and gave them two slaps. He’d have to wait for another time to show the captain he was just as efficient on the job as Roy was.
When he arrived at Rampart, Johnny didn’t see his partner anywhere in the corridor outside the treatment rooms. But Dixie McCall, the head nurse in the ER, was at the desk near the base station and pointed to Treatment Room Three when she saw Johnny.
He glanced at the door, but kept on toward her.
“I thought you were looking for Roy.”
Johnny shrugged. “Just wondered where he ended up.” He furrowed his brow and leaned against the edge of the desk. “Dix. . .”
The nurse looked up expectantly. “Yes?”
With second thoughts about bringing Dixie into anything, Johnny just shook his head slightly. “Never mind.”
“Is there something wrong?”
“Nah. . .not unless you wanna count startin’ the day out with latrine duty.”
“Yeah, but you know what they say. . .it’s a dirty job, but --”
“Someone’s gotta do it,” she finished with a nod.
Just then Roy came out of the treatment room and joined the two.
“How’s Mr. Martin?” Johnny wondered.
“Still upset over his car, but otherwise he’s doing okay considering.”
“Ah. . .you know, maybe if he had someone like Candy drivin’ him around, it wouldn’ta--hey that’s it!” he said with a snap of his fingers.
“Maybe I can find a way to hook Candy up with Mr. Martin. He’s probably gonna need a ride around for awhile, right?”
“Who’s Candy?” Dixie wondered, but her question was ignored as, flabbergasted, Roy reacted to his partner’s bizarre idea.
“You can’t be serious!”
“Who’s Candy?” the nurse tried again, looking from Roy to Johnny.
“No, I guess not. But it was a thought.”
“And Candy is. . .?”
“Oh, sorry, Dix. She’s an aspiring race car driver,” Johnny answered.
She raised her eyebrows in surprise, until Roy added, “But what he’s not telling you is that she’s driving him nuts. . .literally.” Then to Johnny he added, “She’s your girlfriend. And in case you’ve forgotten, your transportation for awhile too.”
“She’s not exactly my girlfriend. I mean, we’ve only been out on a few dates.”
Roy turned to Dixie. “If a guy’s dating a girl, what does that make her?”
“His girlfriend,” she shrugged, a slight smile on her face.
Roy shot a victorious grin at his partner, but Johnny’s attention was already on a pretty young brunette nurse that passed by. “Incredible,” the younger man whispered.
Johnny looked to Dixie. “Who is she?”
“That’s Tanya Miller. Works in maternity. She’s a very soft spoken, sweet girl.”
“How come I’ve never seen ‘er before? Is she new?”
“She works in maternity,” Roy answered flatly. “C’mon,” he motioned for Johnny to follow. “We’d better go before you get any ideas. Ones that wouldn’t be very fair to Candy.”
“What about the supplies?”
“You didn’t get them refilled yet?”
Johnny held out his empty hands and shook his head, his expression suddenly more serious when he recalled what first distracted him from getting the refill of supplies.
Roy missed the look as he stepped back over. He and Johnny took turns naming items they needed to replenish while Dixie gathered the stuff together.
Johnny thought about the pretty nurse from maternity as he and Roy headed back to the station. He wanted to ask Dixie if Tanya was single, but Roy was right. It wouldn’t be fair to Candy for him to hit on another chick. The fact was they were dating and she was being very generous in driving him around while his Land Rover was in the shop; even if it was getting on his nerves.
Besides, he thought to himself, how could I ask a chick out of I couldn’t even pick ‘er up for a date?
No, the timing was all wrong. Maybe if things don’t work out with Candy. . .
In the meantime his mind returned to his other problem. Why didn’t Cap wanna tell me *personally* that I’m doin’ a good job too?
He took a quick glance at Roy and thought about bringing the subject up before immediately dismissing the idea.
Roy in turn briefly eyed his partner. “What?”
Johnny shook his head. “Nothin’. . .nothin’. I was just thinkin’ about stuff. You know. . .”
“Yeah. . .I think I do.”
The younger man frowned at the likely insinuation, but that thought was dropped quickly as well when Roy slowed down to about one mile-per-hour to make a right turn.
“Ha ha. Very funny.”
When Roy and Johnny returned to the station, it was time for lunch. The engine crew had just sat down to a meal of chili and crackers before the two walked into the room. Johnny noticed Roy eye the captain a moment as he pulled out a chair.
“Hey, glad you guys could join us,” Hank said with a smile, though to Gage it looked out of place. It didn’t fit with the lack of brightness in his eyes.
The paramedics joined the others at the table and dug in, both more than ready to eat. Johnny was nearly through with his bowl when he noticed Mike Stoker hadn’t made a dent in his.
The captain had noticed as well, and addressed the engineer.
“What’s the matter, Mike? Not hungry?”
“Just waiting for it to cool down a little, Cap.”
“There’s an idea. Chilly chili,” Johnny snorted.
Mike would’ve at least smiled at the joke if it wasn’t for the fact that a small toothache that started the night before had turned into a massive throbbing pain anytime anything too hot or cold touched it. If he was home and alone at the moment, he was pretty sure it’d be enough to bring him to tears. He didn’t want to tell the captain, as Hank would be watching over him all shift, or insistent he go home. Neither of which he wanted. With a dentist appointment lined up for the next day after he was able to get time to himself earlier in the morning to make the call, he didn’t want all that spare time to think about what was to come.
The engineer glanced at Roy.
He’s good about keeping these kind of things confidential. . .
Thirty minutes later, Mike pulled Roy aside between the two trucks in the apparatus bay and filled him in on his problem. As Mike walked away toward the rear of the vehicles, the senior paramedic sighed.
First Johnny, then Cap, then Mike. . .
“Hey, Roy. . .”
His eyes widened when he turned and saw Chet approaching from around the front of the squad. Roy quickly headed for the dorm room as he said over his shoulder, “Uh. . .I’ve gotta make a phone call.”
Chet stood baffled at the hasty retreat. “I was just gonna ask him if he wanted to play a game of Checkers.”
When night arrived and it was time to turn in, it wasn’t just one man who lay awake, wishing sleep would claim him. Instead, for different reasons, four of the crew members were wide-eyed and wondering just how long of a night it was going to be.
Hank Stanley tried lying in every position he could think of in an effort to fall asleep. When none worked, he gave a sigh. It was hopeless. The captain lay on his back and stared up at the darkened ceiling.
What’s a guy gotta do to get some sleep?
Obviously his little talk with Roy hadn’t helped.
Mike Stoker had popped a couple of aspirin before going to bed, but it wasn’t the pain keeping him awake for the moment. Every time he closed his eyes, he could see the dentist coming at him with the drill in hand. Just the sound alone sent a shiver through his spine.
The engineer rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. He hoped the hours went by fast.
At least if I stay awake all night, by the time I get to the dentist tomorrow I’ll be so tired, I won’t know *what’s* going on. . .
Another bright side was that Roy had kept the secret and no one knew about his little dilemma.
Roy thought he’d fall asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. Unfortunately, his concern about the captain was keeping him awake. He wanted to get up and check on the superior officer. But that would likely give Hank’s problem away to the others.
He flopped from one side to the other, his back now facing Gage in the bed across from his.
I don’t need Johnny to see me still wide awake. He’s liable to get concerned and start asking me all sorts of questions. . .like I need that right now. . .
He closed his eyes and figured if he was still awake later, he could always get up when the rest of the crew had been asleep awhile and check on the status of the captain then.
Johnny had way too much on his mind to even consider going to sleep. He stared up at the ceiling, his hands clasped behind his head, as he contemplated his many problems.
First there was Candy. He really did like the chick. She was cute, very thoughtful. . .and her ambition to be a race car driver kept her interesting. But how much more could he take of her nearly-come-to-a-stop driving? And was that the only thing that bothered him about her?
Maybe if I hadn’t seen Tanya, it wouldn’t be buggin’ me so much. . .
Which brought him to his next issue. Tanya Miller. Roy was right; he hadn’t stopped thinking about her, as wrong as it was.
She’s beautiful, quiet, sweet. . .and I could even stop in and say hi to her between runs. . .but I can’t just drop Candy. What if I drop Candy and Tanya says no? Or has a boyfriend? Dix didn’t say if she had a boyfriend, he quickly reminded himself. Oh man! That’s right! She never said. I’ll hafta ask her when Roy’s not around.
And that brought him to his third problem. He took a quick glance at the paramedic who’d seemed a bit restless at times himself, then returned his gaze upward.
I’m as good at this job as Roy is. . .I do just as much as he does. . .sometimes more! Maybe that’s it. Maybe I’m doin’ too much. Maybe Cap thinks I’m volunteering for risky situations when I should let Roy have a crack at ‘em. But that’d be *crazy* of him to think that. As long as we get the victim out, it shouldn’t matter who does what.
He turned his head to eye his partner once again. His brow furrowed, Johnny frowned.
Man, Roy, would you really keep all that from me?
Only one thing was clear now. It was going to be a very long night.
No sooner had the four men eventually fallen asleep, when the klaxons sounded and the lights came on in the dorm just after midnight. Eyes flew open and a collective groan could be heard in the room before the horn was replaced with the dispatcher’s voice.
Unbeknownst to each other, the four groaners also shared a thought when they realized they actually had been sleeping and would have to go through the same process all over again later.
I don’t believe it. . .
The men immediately donned their turnouts and headed out to the apparatus bay and their trucks.
Finally morning arrived and it was time for B-Shift to take over. As Johnny gathered some of his dirty uniforms he’d need to drop off at the cleaners from his locker, Chet sauntered up to him from the entrance of the dorm room.
”So, you’re really not gonna tell me what’s buggin’ ya.”
“You mean other than you?” He couldn’t hide the playful smile behind the remark.
“Okay, I’ve gotta give ya points for that one. But really. . .you can tell me, John.”
With his uniforms now in one arm, Johnny closed his locker and turned to face the nosy fireman. “Not_ on_ your_ life.”
He then left the room, with hopes Candy had gotten driving lessons in the past twenty-four hours.
Johnny closed the medicine cabinet in his bathroom and popped the two aspirin into his mouth before taking a large swig of water to wash them down. He placed the empty glass near the sink and gripped the edge of the counter with his hands as for the second time in twenty-four hours, he spoke to his image in the mirror.
“I’ve gotta get my Rover back. . .and soon.”
He sighed as he recalled how Candy had nearly gotten them into an accident with her slow-paced right turn into the dry cleaners’ lot. A large truck that had come up from behind was barely able to stop when the driver realized just how slow they were moving.
That’s as close as I wanna get to needing the fire department to come to our rescue. Man, the guys woulda never let me live it down.
He almost wished he’d let Roy give him a lift home.
Almost. . .
The senior paramedic had offered earlier in the morning, but Johnny was still trying to figure out what was going on with his partner and the captain. He was afraid he’d say something he might regret later. Nope, that was just going to have to be resolved later. . .
Hopefully next shift.
Johnny looked at the bags under his eyes. He needed more sleep, but with the auto shop opening soon and the fact he needed to find out if his Land Rover was going to be ready today, and with Candy in his kitchen fixing him a breakfast she insisted he have, getting some additional rest was going to have to wait.
As he made his way to the kitchen, Johnny had to chastise himself for wondering what Tanya was doing for breakfast.
Good news arrived once breakfast was over. Johnny telephoned the garage and sure enough, his Rover was done. He was minutes from being a fully independent man again. But his smile over the good news soon faded to an ill expression. One little problem still remained.
There’s a lot of turns getting to the place. I sure hope we get there before it closes this afternoon, he exaggerated to himself. Without getting run over first, that is. . .I don’t know what’s worse,” he wondered as he eyed his companion now sitting across from him on the livingroom couch and forced a happy lopsided grin. Me drivin’ tired or her drivin. . .period. . .
Johnny smiled at the smooth hum of his Land Rover’s engine when he started it up. A loud grinding noise that had plagued it for weeks while he tried to figure it out himself was gone.
“Good deal,” he said with a wide lopsided grin. Now it was time to head for home. He’d already sent Candy on her way so that she could get some of her own errands completed.
“After all,” he’d told her, “there’s no sense in both of us hangin’ around while I take care of the paper work.”
Now Johnny whistled as he drove his own vehicle down the street, his dark hair blowing slightly in the breeze from the open windows. It felt good to be in control of his own well-being on the road again.
The paramedic yawned as his long night and busy morning caught up to him.
I can’t *wait* to get home. It’s gonna feel great to kick back and relax just knowin’ when I wake up later, I’ve got a set of wheels if I wanna go anywhere.
Lost in thought, he didn’t recognize the familiar car farther ahead until he was close behind and it suddenly came to nearly a complete stop as it approached a right turn. He hit the brakes hard to avoid rear ending the vehicle and had almost breathed a sigh of relief when he was slammed into from behind.
Roy came into the locker room and was surprised to see his partner already there. He smiled as he greeted the younger man, who still had his back to him.
“Well, you’re here early! What happened? Did you talk Candy into letting you drive her car?”
“It can’t be you got your Land Rover back. I didn’t see it out there,” he commented as he stepped over to his locker beside Johnny’s.
“Actually I did.”
Roy glanced in the direction of the lot. “Where is it?”
“It’s in the shop.”
He furrowed his brows in puzzlement. “I thought you said you got it back. . .”
Johnny turned to face him. It was then Roy saw a butterfly bandage on his chin, slight bruising around it.
“I did. But I. . .uh. . .I lost it again.”
His thoughts suddenly off the Land Rover issue and onto the other, Roy asked, “What happened to you?”
The younger man sighed and explained about what happened the day they’d gotten off their last shift.
“And before I knew it,” he concluded, “I was the middle of a metal sandwich. My chin hit the steering wheel,” he added as he gently touched the bandage. “I wish my Rover had more than just a lap belt. . .it sure woulda’ helped.”
“Are you okay? Did you get hurt anywhere else? What about Candy and the driver who hit you?”
“Oh, I’m okay. Now. Candy has a mild case of whiplash. The other driver seemed to be kinda high. He was fine, of course.”
“So how’d you get here?” Roy asked as he continued with getting changed.
“You see that very used looking blue four-door sedan in the lot?”
Johnny thumped his chest with his right thumb. “That’s my rental car. The other driver wasn’t insured, so I hafta pay for my own. I went to Rent-A-Wreck.” He let out another sigh. “I couldn’t exactly ask Candy to drive me around in her condition. Her car’s in bad shape too. Besides, we broke up.”
“Broke up? Why? Don’t tell me she blames you. . .”
“Nah. . .at least I don’t think so. No, Roy, she said she realized on the drive home. . .before my grill was rammed into her trunk. . .that other than giving me rides, there wasn’t enough to our relationship to keep it goin’. We don’t have much in common. I mean, I like bowling, fishing and being outdoors. . .she likes watching stock car races, dotes on her cat and prefers malls. I like hamburgers and fries, she wanted me to try quiche. Hasn’t she heard? Real men don’t even like quiche!”
Roy just shook his head. Would Gage ever find the girl of his dreams? Then another thought came to mind. I wonder if Cap and Mike faired any better with *their* problems. . .
As the paramedics exited the locker room, Johnny leading the way, Roy noticed his partner was walking rather gingerly.
Sure he’s okay, he thought sarcastically. “Did you go to Rampart after the accident?” he questioned.
Johnny stopped just as they entered the apparatus bay and turned around to face him. With an eye roll, he responded, “Of course I did, Roy. I couldn’ta not gone even if I wanted to.” After a pause to consider if what he’d said made any sense, he continued. “Stoney from 8’s was there. He made sure I went for an ambulance ride to Rampart. I’m okay. Really,” he re-enforced. When Roy’s face still showed doubt, he let out a sigh. “I’m fine. Just a little sore is all.”
“Okay, but if you--”
“I’m o_kay,” he interrupted. Finally satisfied he’d convinced his partner, he continued on, very glad that Roy couldn’t see him wince.
But Roy wasn’t completely buying the ‘fine’ part. However, experience with the younger man’s tendency to shrug such things off told him that the answer wouldn’t change if he pressed the issue. Then again, since Johnny was checked out at Rampart and released, maybe he really was fine and just sore, as he claimed.
I’ll just keep an eye on him. . .for now. . .
In the meantime, he still had to check with Hank and Mike.
The paramedics had just made it to the rear of the squad when Chet Kelly came around the corner. Johnny bit back a gasp as he startled; Roy took a step back. Both men then eyed the curly haired fireman, their mouths agape.
Chet’s face and forearms were sporadically dotted with numerous faint pink spots the size of dimes.
“What happened to you?”
“Uh. . .maybe I should be asking you,” he countered, touching his own chin with a finger to indicate the bandage and bruise.
“Ah, that’s nothin’.” Johnny waved the question off, but when he saw Chet still waiting, he offered, “Okay, I had a little run in. . .uhm. . .well, you know.”
“You’d better be more careful who you select for your dates, John.”
Not wanting to have to say more than he already had, Gage brushed off the comment and pressed on with Chet’s situation. “So what happened to you?”
“Uh. . .whataya mean?”
“What do I mean? What do I mean?”
Chet looked to Roy. “Ya ever notice he says a lot of things twice?” he asked as he absently scratched at one of the spots.
“Calamine lotion.” Roy offered.
“Well, I know that. I had that much figured out.” He tried to ignore it when Chet gave Roy a knowing look and continued on. “But, man, Chet, where’d ya go to get ate up like that?”
“Remember I said I was gonna go fishin’ with Matson from 16’s yesterday?”
Both men nodded.
“Apparently every mosquito in LA County decided to too.”
“Oh man! Well, why didn’t ya just pack up and leave?”
Chet scratched at another dot on his right arm as he explained. “It started out with one annoying bite. By the time we realized it was an ambush, the damage was done.”
“Don’t scratch at ‘em,” Johnny said as he pulled Chet’s hand away.
“Easy for you to say.”
“Well, there you go,” Roy said to his partner with a motion toward Chet.
“You won’t be alone in your misery.”
Johnny gave him a disbelieving look. He not only hadn’t considered himself miserable, but he sure as heck didn’t need Chet bugging him again.
“What’s he miserable for?” Chet wondered. “‘Cause he got beat up by a girl? Or is this still about what ever it was the other day?”
Johnny kept his eyes locked on Roy while Chet looked from one to the other, once again absently scratching at a bite.
“I think that’s my cue to leave,” the senior paramedic said, his right index finger up for emphasis. He then quickly stepped around Chet and headed for the captain’s office, leaving his partner still eyeing him and the curly-haired fireman wondering what he wasn’t being told.
Once Roy was out of sight, Johnny shifted his attention to his frequent nemesis.
“Don’t scratch,” he said as he knocked Chet’s hand away again. He then looked in the direction of the Captain Stanley’s office.
I wonder what’s up now? Why’d he go in there *this* time?
He kept his gaze in the direction of the office, tuning out Chet’s ongoing questions, until he was in the dayroom himself.
Hank Stanley finished a phone call and placed the telephone receiver back in its cradle as he looked up at Roy in the doorway from his seat behind his desk.
Roy did as requested, asking as he made his way into the room, “I was just wondering if you had better luck with your sleep; if the insomnia was gone.”
The captain leaned back in his chair and rubbed at his left eye. “Not entirely. I did manage a coupla hours of sleep last night. But I still can’t get more than that.”
“So the talking about it didn’t exactly help. . .”
He shook his head. “Not really. It looks like I’ll just hafta make the best of it until it resolves itself.”
“How long can you go like this?”
“I don’t know,” he said with a shrug. “But if I feel it’s affecting my job performance, I’ll step back until I do get through it.”
“Okay. . .well, if there’s anything I can do. . .”
“There is one thing.”
Roy waited for the next request.
“Keep an eye on John. I understand he was in a motor vehicle accident yesterday. He was cleared as fit for duty, but just in the event the doctor missed anything.”
“I will.” It didn’t surprise him that despite having troubles of his own, the captain was more concerned about his crew. Now all he had to do was find Mike and see how things went at the dentist office.
Mike looked over from his seat on the couch as Johnny and Chet came into the room. He’d expected to see Roy as well, but the senior paramedic wasn’t with them.
“C’mon, John, tell me why Roy said you were miserable,” Chet pleaded.
“Maybe he had a premonition,” he remarked sarcastically with a sideways glance. “Because I’m sure feelin’ pretty miserable now.”
“No really. . .I’m serious.”
Johnny turned his head to look at Mike, then Marco, who was sitting at the table with the morning newspaper in front of him.
“Do you believe it? He doesn’t think he can make me miserable.”
Marco smiled and shook his head, as Mike commented, “I think you two kind of have a draw on that one.”
“There ya see?” Johnny asked his foe, then Mike’s words sank in, “Hey, wait a minute. . .”
“What happened to your chin?” Marco asked.
Chet was about to explain it for Johnny when Roy walked into the room and the conversation ended for all. He looked around, feeling awkward at suddenly seeming to be the center of attention. He cleared his throat, then asked, “What’d I miss?”
“Nothing important,” Marco explained. “Just John and Chet deciding who’s the most miserable.”
“We weren’t – oh never mind,” Johnny said with frustration. He then eyed his partner. “We should be asking you what’s up. How come you had to see Cap before roll call?”
“His office was the safest place to hide from you and Chet,” Roy shrugged, drawing a frown from both men. He saw that Mike appeared to be okay, a slight smile on his face at the exchanges. But Roy wasn’t about to ask in front of the others. The last thing he needed was another shiftmate upset that he brought up the subject of misery.
He’ll let me know when he wants to. . .
Now his only worry was if Johnny reminded him all day about what he had started. He was sure to be miserable by the end of the shift if that happened.
It wasn’t long after roll call that the station was sent out on a response for a motor vehicle accident. As they hurried to the scene, Johnny flexed his right arm, drawing attention from his partner.
“You sure about that?”
“Yes, I’m. . .look__Roy__ I said I was a little sore. I’m just tryin’ to work some of that soreness out. That’s all.”
Roy gave a quick glance in his direction, then returned his eyes to the street ahead. “By the way, how is it you’ve been getting around the station without a hint of a problem, but you seemed to be walking on egg shells earlier this morning.”
“Determination, Roy. Determination. I don’t want Chet to catch on.”
“So you’d rather he think a girl beat you up, instead of the truth. . .someone else caused you to get in an accident.”
“Got it. That makes a lot of sense,” he said with an eye roll. Maybe the accident rattled his brains a little too.
When they arrived at the scene, Roy noticed his partner walked gingerly again until the engine crew joined them. As they approached the three cars that were bumper-to-bumper, the obvious result of a chain reaction accident, Roy couldn’t help but make a comment to Gage.
“Sort of a dejavu’ for you, huh?”
Johnny just shot him a sideways glare as Officer Vince Howard came over to the group to fill them in.
“It doesn’t look like there’s any serious injuries. Just one lady is complaining of a sore wrist, another a sore neck, and one child slipped off a backseat, but he seems to be okay; just shook up.”
“Okay, we’ll take a look at ‘em,” Roy said. He and Johnny headed toward the sidewalk where those involved were gathered.
Hank looked over the cars. The first two were damaged the most. Luckily none was bad enough to leak fluids onto the pavement.
“Looks like we aren’t gonna be needed here.”
Vince nodded in agreement as he too eyed the vehicles. “They’re lucky it wasn’t worse.”
Suddenly something caught the captain’s eye. “Is that middle one a DeSoto?”
“Yep. You don’t see them around much.”
“No, but this is our second one in the past few days. In fact we responded to an accident with one last shift.”
Overhearing the exchange, Chet couldn’t wait for the opportunity to point it out to the paramedics. He beamed as Johnny came over to explain the situation to their captain.
“Looks like we’ll just be transporting the victim with possible whiplash. Everyone else is okay, but we did recommend a couple of ‘em see their own doctor if they have any problems crop up.”
“Hey, John,” Chet called out.
The paramedic eyed him, wondering what he might be needed for.
“You’d better keep a close eye on your partner,” the curly-haired man continued when he saw he had his attention.
“Why? Or do I wanna know?”
Chet motioned toward the cars. “Another DeSoto.”
When he got a baffled look in return, he elaborated, “It seems DeSotos are accident prone.”
Roy overheard the remark along with a slight snort from Johnny as he brought Gage’s helmet over to him. He shook his head.
This coming from a guy with mosquito bites all over his arms and another who just recently got released from Rampart.
He quickly went back over to help lift the victim onto a stretcher while Johnny gathered up the equipment.
Roy rode in the ambulance while Johnny followed behind in the squad. When they arrived at the hospital, Roy went with the patient and Johnny waited at Dixie’s desk.
“So, how’re you feeling?” she asked after the usual greetings were exchanged.
“Okay. Just sore.”
“You seem to be moving a little slower than usual.”
“Yeah. I don’t wanna jar myself too much.”
When he saw her eyebrows raise in question, he explained, “If I could stand still all shift, believe me, I would.”
“You need to see a doctor again?”
“No! Uh,” he grinned in an effort to buffer his outburst. “No. . .no, really it’s nothin’. Actually my biggest problem is Chet. I don’t need Chet to get word that my Land Rover plowed into Candy’s car.”
“Oh, right. But maybe it’d be better if you just got it over with and told him. How’s she taking it, by the way?”
“I don’ know. She broke off our relationship.”
“Ooooh. . .not so good then, huh?”
“It’s not the reason she broke it off. Not the reason at all. At least I don’t think so. She said once I had my Land Rover back, it dawned on her our entire relationship was based on her being my chauffer. ‘Course now it’s gone for awhile again and so is she. . .”
“So how are you getting around?”
“Rent-a-Wreck,” he said with a frown.
Johnny was about to ask about Tanya in Maternity when Roy joined them, changing the younger man’s plans.
“Did you get the supplies?” Roy wondered.
“Supplies. You know, those things we use on the job when someone needs our medical assistance.”
Johnny rolled his eyes, only to find himself doing it again when Roy looked around and remarked, “Don’t tell me Tanya walked by again.”
“All right, all right. Enough.” The younger man shook his head in disbelief, then pulled a small booklet from his shirt pocket and tore out one sheet of paper with several items listed on it. He passed it to the head nurse. “This is what we need.”
Dixie smiled at both of them. “I’ll have these for you in just a couple of minutes.”
As she set to work gathering the items on the list, Roy questioned his partner. “So if it wasn’t Tanya, what distracted you?”
“Nothin’. I was just havin’ a conversation with Dix. That’s all. Just an innocent conversation. Anything wrong with that?”
“With you, hard to say.”
The comment elicited another eye roll, but Johnny decided to not say a word. Roy was already three up on him with remarks and he didn’t need to bring on a forth.