Treat and Trick?
October 31 7:35a.m.
Finishing up the equipment check, John Gage and Roy DeSoto began putting the equipment back into the squad's compartments.
"I tell you Roy, working on Halloween is always a pain! You know we're going to end up treating nothing but a bunch of drunks playing dress-up or kids who have eaten too much candy! Why, I bet we get…"
Tones sound "Engine 110, Squad 51 for Squad 110, man down 5342 South Linchburg Avenue. Cross street Miller, time out 7:35."
John hopped into the passenger side of the squad as Roy raced around to the driver's side. John glanced over as Roy opened the door and reached for his hat, then turned his attention back to the map he had just opened. A clatter of plastic on concrete startled him into looking back over to Roy's side of the squad. What he saw startled him; the driver door stood open and a confused Captain Hank Stanley looked at him with a slip of paper in his hand.
"ROY!" Called Cap as he turned to look around the bay. "ROY! WHERE ARE YOU? John, where did Roy go? I just turned around to give him the address slip and he was gone."
By this time the rest of the crew had entered the bay to find out what the commotion was about.
"He was just there a split second ago…." said a wide-eyed Johnny.
Mike Stoker was standing in the dorm doorway. "He didn't come into the dorm."
"Ay, Dios Mio!…. Or the kitchen."
Chet Kelly finished looking in the Captain's office, "He's not in the office!"
With a feeling of shock, John was out of the truck in a flash and began looking around and under the squad and engine calling for Roy every few seconds.
Realizing that something was definitely wrong, Hank grabbed the mic, "LA, this is Station 51, be advised Squad 51 is out of service and we may have a possible Code I, please dispatch a replacement squad to Engine 110's location. KMG-365." Turning to the men, "OK, let's search this place top to bottom. Check the bathroom, the parking lot, the street, he can't be far!"
After several minutes of searching, the men returned to the bay, obviously confused by the turn of events.
"LA, this is Station 51, we have a missing man. Please respond a police unit and supervisor to our location."
Hank went over to a frantic Gage, "Johnny, I just don't get it. He was standing right behind me, I heard him drop his hat and by the time I'd turned around he was gone. The bay doors weren't even open yet."
Picking up Roy's helmet from the ground, Johnny looked up at Hank with wide, shocked eyes. "His hat… His hat…"
"What about his hat?"
"I saw him reaching for his hat…. and…. he just vanished… " With a moan Johnny slid down the squad until he was sitting on the ground hugging his knees. "He's gone…. the spirits have him, I just know it!"
Looking down at John, the rest of the men could only fear that this time Johnny might be correct.
October 31 11:25 am
Mike stood outside between the engine and the squad that were now parked in the driveway. He scanned the street, hoping for some sign of the missing paramedic. He just couldn't handle being inside any longer. He'd told the detectives and the Chief all that he knew about Roy's disappearance, which was nothing. He'd been in the dorm making up the beds when the tones had sounded. He'd gone over to the door just in case the engine might be toned out and had still been in the doorway when he'd first heard Hank call out for Roy.
Looking over at the open bay door, Mike could hear snatches of conversations from the police and his co-workers. "Maybe this was Roy's idea of a Halloween prank…." "Maldito! He wouldn't…" "Roy's the responsible person in the station, he wouldn't worry us, especially during a call." "He's a professional at all times.."
Chet stepped out of the open bay and handed Mike a cup of coffee, "Mike, the Chief want's to talk to us for a minute."
Entering the bay with Chet, Mike stood to the back of the group of firemen and police as the Chief McConkee began to speak.
"Men, we face an unknown situation here with the disappearance of DeSoto. We don't know if he's missing because of illness or foul play. The police and some of our own search and rescue teams will be combing the area trying to locate him, and I have every confidence that he WILL be found."
"I know that you would all like to be out with the search teams and I'd like to stand the station down but with the heavy holiday traffic, it is necessary to keep you on the job. For safety and investigative reasons, the police will have two men stationed here at all times, a patrol car will travel to all of your calls, and the lines will be tapped in case there are any ransom demands. Hank would you like to add anything?"
Looking a bit gray in the face, Hank stepped forward, "Thank you, Chief. I'm sure that we'll all act with our usual professional skill. Gage, your replacement partner…. "
Mike was no longer paying attention to Hank Stanley's words. Instead he looked at the ashen figure off to one side of the group. Gage, the center of everyone's attention, didn't appear to even notice the multitude of eyes upon his slumped figure.
Taking a sip of his coffee Mike thought, "He looks like he's going to keel over at any minute." Just as he finished that thought he felt a sudden jab on the back of his neck. Then pain like a lightening strike flashed though his body, he tried to cry out, but every muscle was frozen. The last thing he felt as the world turned to gray was a feeling of flying. Unnoticed, the coffee cup tumbled from his hands…..
The shattering coffee cup made everyone jump and caused the policemen to grab at their guns. All heads turned to Chet who stood closest to the shattered remains. Chet stared dumbfounded at the mess that was in nearly the exact spot as where Roy was last been seen standing.. Then in a sudden flash of understanding, he looked around frantically for Mike. "MIKE!… MIKE!!…. Damn it, that was Mike's cup of coffee….. HE WAS JUST STANDING THERE…" he yelled at the group as he raced out into the driveway followed quickly by the rest.
October 31 5:15 pm
Sitting around the table was a solemn group of men. Edgily eyeing their surroundings, none appeared overly interested in the Chinese food that the Chief had sent. The numerous runs through the day had kept them busy but nothing could blot out the knowledge that not one, but two of their number were missing. One taken from under the noses of the entire station, four police officers, and two detectives. To say that the situation was creepy would be an understatement.
The sound of the squad backing in was a welcome, if startling, change from the eerie quiet that had invaded the station.
Sitting in the squad holding some supplies on his lap, Gage felt like the world was falling in on him. He was always a man of action, not the type to sit around on his hands. Now he felt absolutely helpless, unable to help two of his best friends.
Glancing nervously around, "Do you want any help putting the supplies away?" said the redheaded and freckled young man in the driver's seat. Brian Anderson, a paramedic new to the area, hoped the answer was no. He didn't want to be in the bay any longer than was absolutely necessary.
As he got out of the squad, Johnny looked over at the nearly quivering paramedic and with a sigh, "No, go on and get something to eat. I'll be fine."
Opening the compartments, Johnny pulled out the drug box and dropped the supplies into the box. Shutting the drug box, he stood up to place it back in the compartment when he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Quickly spinning around he found himself face to face with an unimaginably large spider that was sitting on the cab of the engine. Half the size of a man and with fangs dripping venomous ooze, the spider leaped straight at Johnny.
With a speed born of shear fear, Johnny managed to scream, dodge, and swung the drug box simultaneously. With a near miraculous precision, the edge of the box hit the spider's head in just the right spot to stun the beast. However, the momentum carried it forward to hit Johnny with a glancing blow to the hip. One fang glazed his hip, tearing threw the fabric of his pants.
Johnny was spun around by the force of the strike and landed on the floor next to the squad. The spider fell only a few feet further. Johnny could hear screaming as he tried to scuttle away from the spider and realized that it was his own voice. As he tried to move, Johnny felt a horrible pain spreading from his hip. For an instant he thought his hip was broken. As he fell back into a prone position, his eyesight began to dim. As the lights went out, he saw the spiders legs begin to move.
Marco Lopez sat toying with the noodles on his plate. He'd pretty much given up on trying to eat the noodles. He looked up as Brian entered the break room alone.
Brian stopped when he noticed the intense stares that he received. He glanced back into the bay and sheepishly admitted, "Gage, is putting some supplies away."
With a disgusted snort, Marco stood up and trotted out into the bay. No way was he going to lose another friend. He had nearly cleared the back of the squad, when a scream rent the air, sending chills throughout his body. In a rush, his heart at a near standstill, he ran toward the scream.
"Mierda! Mierda!" Marco couldn't believe his eyes. There on the floor in front of him was the largest spider he had ever seen, fully half the size of a grown man. Farther on, he could see Gage laying slumped on the floor next to the squad's bumper.
To Marco's shock the spider began to move. Grabbing the pry bar from the engine, Marco began to swing at the spider in a frenzy. His world narrowed and grew still, his whole purpose focused on an overriding need to kill the spider.
Marco nearly fainted when in mid swing he was grabbed from behind. Fighting and swearing, fearing for his life, reality crashed back into him and he realized that Chet had him in a bear hug, pinning his arms and that he was surrounded by a crowd of people.
"IT'S OK… YOU CAN STOP…. It's dead!" Chet yelled into his ear.
Chet now held him up, more than he held him pinned. With the rush of adrenaline leaving his body, Marco swayed as his knees turned to putty. He began to shake uncontrollably and was quite glad when Chet sat him down on the floor and helped hold him in a sitting position.
The rush of blood in his ears kept Marco from hearing the comments around him, but his sight was less foggy. He could see from where he was setting that Brian was kneeling next to Gage. He saw that all the policemen had their guns drawn and were prowling around the area. He was confused by this activity, then it dawned on him that they were searching for more spiders. The thought made his stomach spasm.
"AAAGGHHH!! Marco, watch it!" Eyes shut and stomach heaving Marco felt better just knowing that his aim was still perfect.
November 1, 3:00am
Mike felt like he was wrapped from head to toe in cotton. His world was gray and formless. He knew he had a body but he just didn't know where he'd put it. He remembered that there had been pain and fear, but now it was quiet and pain free. Looking around at the gray fog that surrounded him, he wondered, "Am I dead?"
Out of the fog, object like symbols began to appear; as he watched they became words. He could almost make out what they said. Then it dawned on him that he wasn't seeing the words, but hearing them. "Michael? Mike? Wake up! Come on, I know you're in there."
The quiet gray fog began to recede and he found himself looking into a beautiful pair of eyes. He decided that this was a definite improvement to the fog. When he tried to reach for the eyes, his hands felt disjointed and a million miles away. The fog began to creep back in.
With a grin Dixie turned to Dr. Brackett, "The anti-venom appears to be working. He's coming out of the coma!"
November 4, 7:30 am
A now much improved Roy and Mike sat up in the hospital room that they shared. John sat in a chair next to the beds since he was still a bit on the weak side. Hank, Marco, and Chet stood regaling them with the tale of the mutant spider, an escaped experimental subject of some new growth hormones.
Looking at his partner, "I can't believe that there was a spider that big. You're pulling my leg," said a disbelieving Roy.
"Roy, that thing was big enough to pick both of you up off the ground! Believe me it was HUGE!! I nearly had heart failure when I saw it. What I can't believe is that Marco managed to kill it, with a pry bar no less." John gave a shudder as he glanced at Marco, who was trying to hide behind an IV stand. "'Course I missed that part of the show."
Hank chuckled, "Actually the best part of the show was when Marco threw up all over Chet and …."
"WHAT, I MISSED THAT…? Drat!"
In a haste to change the subject, Chet said, "Anyway to continue the story, everyone's in the bay trying to figure out just what's happened. I'm taking care of Marco." Looking at crimson Marco, "I thought you'd been bit the way you were shaking. That new kid, Brian, was working frantically on Gage. MOREOVER, there's this huge f***** spider splattered all over creation. Before you could bat an eye, there were cops crawling all over the place with shotguns and…."
October 31, 5:45 pm
The ambulance with Gage pulled out of the drive, headed code three for Rampart Hospital.
Now that calm had momentarily returned, it didn't take long for the searchers to look up at the ceiling of the bay and notice the slightly ajar ceiling panels.
Detective Friday, looked over at Captain Stanley. "Have your men set up some access ladders for our teams. Do you know how much space there is between the ceiling and the roof? I'd hate to run into another of those monsters in cramped quarters."
"I can get the plans from my office but I believe there's about a 4 foot space above the false ceiling."
Within minutes, the engine crew and the paramedics from Squad 14, Brice and Bellingham, watched as the police started up the ladders, with flashlights, and guns at the ready. Turning to Chet, Hank ordered "Grab a reel line off the engine and charge it! I want to be ready in case anything comes out past those guys!"
As quiet fell upon the station, Hank could feel his nails sinking into his palms in frustration, but he couldn't stop. About the time he was ready to scream there came a shout from inside the building.
As the men began to rush forward an officer stopped them with an upheld hand at the bay door. Keeping a leery eye on the ceiling, "Wait until they've cleared the area, then we'll let your medics in to check out the victims."
After an eternity that only lasted a few minutes, the all clear was heard. Upon entering the bay, Hank met Friday who said, "It had them stored up in the ceiling like Christmas presents waiting to be unwrapped. It doesn't look too good, our men can't tell if they're alive or dead."
Extrication and assessment of Roy and Mike began in earnest when Brice reached them and pronounced them alive, if only marginally.
November 4, 7:40 am
"Luckily, the spider hadn't decided to dine on you yet but was just keeping you fresh…. Boy, I don't know what we would have done if….."
A sudden tapping of heel to floor interrupted Chet's speculations. Dixie stood in the doorway. "Gentlemen, I hate to stop such a fascinating story, but these two need their rest." Directing her gaze at Johnny, "And you need to go home, you're supposed to be on bed rest!"
November 12, 9:30pm
It was the first shift back for the entire crew. It was a bit unnerving, but as the day wore on, the crew seemed to return to normal. The station had been gone over carefully by hazmat crews, and the spider was now relegated to the realm of station and department legend.
"Well, no sense putting it off. We should try to get some sleep before we get called out." Hank doubted that he'd get any sleep, but felt that he needed to try for appearances sake. With weary grumbling, the others followed him into the dorm and into a restless night.
Mike tossed and turned in his bunk. The movements and sounds from the surrounding beds told him that they were having a similar problem. Except for Chet that is. His snore was a good indication that the feisty little Irishman was sleeping the sleep of the innocent.. or was that the righteous?. The thought caused Mike to snort into his pillow. "Chet - Innocent or righteous now there's a thought.." Feeling a giggling fit coming over him, Mike decided to get up and go get a glass of milk from the kitchen before it erupted. "Can't have the others think I'm having some sort of fit or breakdown!"
Crossing the bay to the kitchen, Mike froze when he heard soft sounds coming from the equipment locker that held the turnout gear of the off duty shifts. "It's just a mouse, repeat after me.. It's just a mouse." However, to be on the safe side, Mike grabbed an axe out of one of the squad's compartments before approaching the locker.
Mike reached out and slowly opened the locker.. In the dim light spilling from the kitchen door, Mike could make out a spider sitting on the shelf in the locker. His heart froze, "BABIES, it had babies." Babies the size of a dinner plate. The spider reared up and hissed at him from the shelf. With a cry he swept the spider off the shelf and began chopping at it with the axe. As he smashed the first spider, he saw a dozen more on the floor around him.
With a cry, he began swinging wildly at the creatures and stomping on the ones that got too close to his feet. At any moment, he knew that one of them would bite him and then it would be all over.
Movement and sound from the kitchen drew his attention. Standing there in the lighted doorway was another spider. Not a baby, this was an adult like the one that had grabbed him. Now infused with anger overriding his fear, he charged at the adult spider swinging the axe. The adult managed to duck the swing, but Mike felt a satisfying crunch as his follow-up kick landed full in it's ugly face.
Mike's feelings of triumph and relief were short-lived as the swarm of smaller spiders hit him from behind, bearing him to the ground. Turning on his back as he fell, he tried to get the axe between him and the horde but found his arms pinned by the weight of the spiders. As he struggled, a shadow fell over his head. He looked up straight into the hideous eyes of the large spider as it poised above him, ready to strike. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that the gray fog was returning. Knowing that his time was near, Mike gave one last defiant cry, then blacked out.
Mike felt like he was wrapped from head to toe in cotton. His world was gray and formless. He knew he had a body but he just didn't know where he'd put it. He remembered that there had been pain and fear but now it was quiet and pain free. Looking around at the gray fog that surrounded him, he wondered, "Am I dead?" "WAIT a minute.. I've been through this before…" with that the fog blew away.
Mike looked around, he was laying on the floor. Cap and Chet were next to him, firmly holding his arms to the ground and Marco, for some reason, was sitting on his legs. They were looking down at him with a mixture of horror and shock. He noticed that Roy was off to the side, getting something out of one of the trauma boxes.
"Roy! He's awake!.. Hey, pal… how are you feeling. You kind of went out on us there for a minute."
"I'll say!" Rasped Johnny as he sat off to the side cradling his stomach.
With a start Mike remembered the spiders and began to struggle. "Spiders! Spiders!" jerking hard Mike tried to get free.
At his struggles, they just clamped down harder, "Calm down, calm down.. What are you talking about, What spiders…"
"The ones that grabbed Roy and me and…and stuffed us… ." Mike's voice died off as he saw the confused and baffled looks from the others. He knew that something was definitely wrong.
"Roy, is he hallucinating? What's wrong with him?"
Ignoring the question, Roy rechecked Mike's pupils. "I thought maybe someone slipped him some drugs in all that Halloween candy he'd eaten last night but he doesn't show any obvious signs of drugs." Sitting back on his heels, "Just a few questions. Do you know where you are?"
"What's your name?"
"What day is it?"
"November 12th, it's our first shift after…." Roy's raised eyebrows told Mike that this wasn't the correct answer.
Later that night and after a quick trip to Rampart - November 1 3:00 am
Mike sat at the table, head in his hands. "It was a dream?" Looking through his fingers at Gage. "I could have killed you!"
"Gage, the giant mutant spider!"
"Shut up, Chet." Chorused the room.
"Don't worry, I'm just a little bruised and sore from your kick. You did pig out on the leftover Halloween candy, we just won't let you have any sugar before bed in the future."
With a groan, Mike buried his head in his arms.
"Pal, at least this time your sleep-walking didn't end up with the engine parked somewhere across town! However, I do believe we're gonna start tying you to your bunk at night."
Looking out the door at the mess on the bay floor, Chet looked over at Mike and chuckled. "Hey, Mike.. How are you going to explain to B and C shifts that you turned their helmets into kindling?"
The only answer from the table was a soft whimper…
The scene where Mike wakes up from the fog and sees symbols is actually something I remember from when I woke up after being knocked out at karate tournament. I had gotten kicked right on my left cheek bone. It was positively the most unique thing I've ever experienced, processing sounds as visual objects, not being kicked. Quite weird.. When I came around the fog stayed but did move out a few feet from me. I could see legs around me but at above knee level there was nothing but churning fog, which eventually lifted after a minute.