THE HAUNTING OF STATION 51
“Mr. Fireman? Are you there?” the soft, voice asked.
“Yes, sweetheart, I’m here.”
“Please, Mr. Fireman, will you hold my hand?”
He reached out to the seeking hand and grasped its softness into the tough leathered calluses of his own.
“Mr. Fireman?” she asked again.
“Hush, child. Save your strength. We’ll have you out soon,” he told her.
“No,” she whispered forlornly, “Please, don’t waste your time. I have heard the angels singing.”
He shifted closer to the trapped child. In the dimness he could see where the rods had pierced the young body. He knew, beyond a doubt, she would not live. But he still held onto hope.
“Mr. Fireman,” she whispered, her voice growing ever softer.
“Yes, sweetie, I’m here.”
“Can I make you a promise?”
His brows puckered into a frown. She wanted to make him a promise?
“Sure, sweetheart. Anything you want.”
She was silent. The sounds of digging filtered through the layers of metal and wood. A fine powder of dust sifted down, covering them both.
“I want to promise you, and all the other firemen, that if they get trapped and hurt like I am…. I will be there for them. I will hold their hand until help arrives for them. That way, they will never be alone, and they will know that someone cares.”
Tears rolled from the fireman’s eyes. He could only listen as her ragged breathing began to slow. He bowed his head in defeat. This time, death had won. Suddenly bright sunlight broke into their space, but it was too late.
“Good-bye, Mr. Fireman. Remember my promise.”
20 years later – October 24, 1974
Marco Lopez and John Gage walked into the station together. They were arguing about the previous day’s events.
“Well, Marco, next time I’ll set the ladder up!” Johnny teased his friend.
“Come on, man! It wasn’t my fault the ladder fell!” Marco’s eyes were twinkling.
Roy DeSoto, blond haired and senior member of the paramedic team, walked in on the argument. He grinned at Marco’s pronouncement.
“What ladder fell where?” he asked.
“Johnny came over yesterday to help me fix momma’s roof. The ladder wasn’t grounded right and it fell over. We spent a little more time on the roof than Johnny wanted!” Marco explained.
“A little time!” Johnny exclaimed. He turned to his friend and partner. “Four hours we sat on that roof waiting for someone to find the ladder so we could get down!”
“Yeah, but we finished the roof!” Marco laughed.
Johnny snorted, “Yeah, well, thankfully your sister, Teresa, came out and found the ladder, or we’d STILL be up on the roof!”
“We could have climbed down the tree, “ Marco said, his voice muffled by his locker.
Roy shook his head and grinned. He opened his locker and pulled out his uniform shirt. A small object fell to the floor. He leaned down and picked it up.
“What’s that?” Johnny asked.
“Looks like an antique cameo locket,” Roy said. He turned it over in his hands. “How’d it get in my locker?”
“You sure you didn’t buy it for Joanne and just forget?” Marco asked, joining the two paramedics.
“No. Joanne wouldn’t like it. She’s not into old jewelry.”
“Give it to Jenny, then. I bet she’d like it,” Johnny told his friend. He and Marco left the room.
Roy looked at the tiny locket once more then placed it in the front corner where he would be sure to see it when he left for home. He quickly finished dressing and headed for the day room. The locket was quickly forgotten.
The morning passed quickly for the men. The squad had three calls and the engine had six.
“Wonder what’s for lunch?” Johnny asked as Roy backed the squad into the bay.
“Probably sandwiches. Today’s Chet’s turn to cook. At least he’s not on one of his health kicks right now!”
Roy and Johnny had just returned from a run at Rampart. A nurse had managed to get herself stuck in one of the many vending machines.
“At least it wasn’t Dixie this time!” Johnny laughed, referring back to the rescue.
Captain Stanley stepped from his office. He waited for the two men to exit the squad. “Roy, John, could I talk with you two for a minute?”
Johnny glanced at his partner with a worried frown. “What’s the problem, Cap?”
“No problem. Just a question,” Hank told them. The two paramedics relaxed. He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a bracelet with a small charm dangling from it. The bracelet was tarnished with age.
“Hey, that’s cool, Cap! You going to give it to your wife?” Johnny asked.
“No, I found it in my locker this morning. I asked the others if they knew where it came from, but they said no. So I thought maybe you two might know?” He looked at them.
Roy held out his hand and Hank placed the bracelet in his palm. He dangled the charm in the sunlight coming in through the blinds. “It’s an old pumper truck.”
“It looks about as old as that cameo you found this morning,” Johnny said.
Captain Stanley looked at Roy, “What cameo?”
“I found an old cameo in my locker this morning while getting dressed. I thought maybe someone was playing a joke.” Roy rubbed the side of his nose. “You want to see it, Cap?”
“Yes. I was told by Chief McConnike yesterday at the meeting that the men from the other shifts were finding stuff in their lockers, too.”
“Wow!” Johnny said. “I haven’t found anything in my locker. But I guess I should look a little closer.”
Roy returned to the captain’s office and handed the cameo to his superior. Hank turned the locket over and studied the backside. He flipped it over once more then pressed the side. A hidden spring released and the locket opened.
“Any pictures?” Johnny asked.
“No, nothing. Not a mark on it to identify its owner, or where it might have originated from.” Hank placed the locket in his drawer with the bracelet. “Keep this to yourself. I’ll tell the others after lunch.”
The three men made their way to the day room where Chet had sandwich makings laid out on the table.
“At least we don’t have to worry about what’s in the food!” Johnny said in a stage whisper to Roy. He winked at his partner when Chet responded as expected.
“Just you wait ‘til dinner, pal! You’ll be eating your words!”
“Probably taste better than anything you cook,” Johnny shot back.
“Enough!” Captain Stanley interrupted before a full-scale war could start. “Everyone take a seat. I have some news to share from HQ.”
The men gathered around and Hank explained about the mysterious appearances of the cameo in Roy’s locker, and the bracelet in his. “The other two shifts have also been finding objects in their lockers, so keep your eyes open. If you find something that shouldn’t be there, report it to me immediately!”
“Yes, sir!” “Right, Cap!” they acknowledged. The meeting was interrupted by the klaxons.
Tone after tone rang from the speaker. The men darted to the trucks and waited. The last tone sounded. Static filled the station, but Sam Lanier’s voice never announced what the calls were for. The men of 51 looked to their Captain. He shrugged in confusion. Jumping from the cab of the engine he grabbed the microphone and called in to dispatch.
“LA, Station 51. We are waiting directions,” Stanley said into the microphone.
“Repeat, Station 51?” Sam’s voice answered.
“LA, we received the tones for an emergency. Where are we headed?”
“Negative, 51. No tones were sounded,” Sam answered, his voice full of curiosity.
“Uh, 10-4, LA,” Stanley said. The men left the trucks.
“Cap?” Mike Stoker asked for all the men.
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s a malfunction. I’ll call in on the land line and have them send someone to check it out.” Hank headed for his office. The door snapped closed.
By the end of the day the tones had rolled three times. Each time there had been no follow-up announcement. A man from the main office had come and gone. He had been there with the A-shift crew the third time the tones had sounded. He left as puzzled as the men he left behind.
The men settled in for the night. Out in the truck bay, Henry sat looking up at the squad. His tail thumped the floor in a rapid tattoo. He dropped a yellow ball and waited. Slowly it rolled across the floor and came to rest by the dorm room entrance. Henry grabbed the ball and ran back to the squad with it. Twice more the ball went rolling. Henry eagerly played chase, but when the ball refused to move again, he returned to his favorite position in the dayroom. He climbed onto the couch, and stretched out and fell asleep.
Charlie Dwyer sauntered into the station fifteen minutes early. He wanted to brag to Johnny about his terrific date from the previous night. He opened his locker and jumped back when a soft green piece of material floated out at him. It landed in a crumpled heap at his feet. He let out a yelp of surprise and stumbled backward over the bench.
Captain Hammond and Captain Stanley charged into the area. They took in Dwyer’s position on the floor and the green material on the floor.
“You okay, pal?” Captain Hammond asked the B-shift paramedic.
“Yeah, I think so. Just had the life scared out of me is all!” He rubbed the back of his head.
“Better let Roy and Johnny take a look at your head,” Captain Hammond said, not quite making it sound like an order.
“Yes, sir. Um, sir, what about this?” he indicated the green material.
“I’ll take care of it. Go get yourself checked out.” Hammond turned to the assembled men. “Everything’s okay, men. Go on about your business. Hank, let’s go to the office.” Hammond grabbed up the material and followed Hank to the office. They closed the door, leaving behind several disgruntled men.
“What do you make of it?” Hank asked, looking over the material. It appeared to be the remains of a child’s blouse.
Hammond sighed in frustration. He shook his head and said, “Either someone is playing a really bad joke, or we’ve got a stalker on our hands.”
“How do you feel about, uh, paranormal activities?” Hank asked his friend.
“What do you mean?”
Hank told the B-shift captain about the tones sounding, and the locket and bracelet he and Roy had found. He also told him about some strange sounds that had occurred in the truck bay the night before. Items had been moved from their normal spots, and other items appeared that had been missing for some time.
“Let’s just play this by ear for now, Hank. I’ll talk to Bob on C-shift, maybe he has some ideas.”
Chet strolled through the day room. Henry perked up at the sight of his favorite human. He thumped his tail on the couch and grunted in happiness when Chet stopped and gave him a good scratching behind the ears.
“Hey, mutt, anything exciting happen around here? Thought not!” Chet laughed at his own joke. He wondered for the ump-teenth time if a prank by the Phantom would lighten the mood around the station, then decided against it. Too many strange things were already happening for him to get into trouble because of a prank by the Phantom. He poured himself a cup of coffee, then headed for the locker room to change his clothes for the shift.
Mike Stoker was leaving the room as he entered. “Hey, Mike! How was your day off?”
“Pretty good. Peggy and I went to the beach for the day. Then we went to the movies. It was nice.” Mike left a gaping Chet behind.
“Wow! A complete sentence, no, four sentences! Must have been a good time!” Chet grinned. He opened his locker and stared in disbelief. Marco walked in and saw Chet staring into his locker.
“What’s wrong, Chet?”
“Look at this!” Chet exclaimed. He waved his hand towards his locker.
Marco peered around the open door and laughed. “That’s a new way to hang uniforms! How’d you get them to stay like that?”
“I didn’t do it! I opened the door, and there they were!” Chet groused.
“Let me get Cap. You know he said to tell him if anything else happened!” Marco trotted from the room. A few minutes later both men were standing in front of Chet’s locker. Captain Stanley had an instamatic camera with him and he took several different shots of the locker’s contents.
“Go ahead and straighten your locker now, pal. I’ll put these with the rest of the stuff we’ve been finding.”
Chet sighed and began to remove the shirts and pants from the hangers. He re-hung them and placed them together on one side of the locker. He then sprinkled a white powder in the bottom of his locker before closing the door.
“What’s the powder for?” Marco asked.
“Well, if the person doing this gets in my locker again, I’ll have proof it is a real person and not some ghost!” Chet explained.
“Ghost?” Johnny and Roy had walked in on the conversation.
“Yeah, Gage, a ghost. How else would you explain all these strange things going on?” Chet challenged.
“You’ve been watching too many horror movies, Chet. Everyone knows ghosts don’t exist!” Roy laughed.
“You know, Roy, Chet may have a point there,” Johnny said. He opened his locker carefully. When nothing jumped out at him, he proceeded to change his clothes for his uniform.
“Don’t tell me you believe in ghosts, Johnny?” Roy said in disbelief.
“Gee, Roy, I don’t know,” Marco spoke up. He picked up a shoe and started to put it on when he yelped and pulled his foot out. He tilted the shoe and several pieces of change fell to the floor.
“New banking method, Marco?” Johnny laughed.
“Um, no. Look, these coins are over twenty years old.” He held out his hand. In his palm lay two dimes, two nickels and a penny.
“What’re the dates?” Roy asked.
Marco held one of the nickels up to the light. He squinted at it then said, “1954.”
“All of them?” Johnny asked as he, too, checked the date on one of the coins. Captain Stanley poked his head into the room.
“Roll call in five minutes, guys. What are you looking at?” Hank opened the door all the way and went to see what had caught their interest. Marco handed him the coins.
“Where’d these come from?” Hank asked.
“My shoe,” Marco answered.
Captain Stanley sighed, “okay, I’ll ad these to our growing collection.”
“Um, Cap. Look at the date on the coins. They are all 1954, and the total is thirty-one cents,” Johnny said.
“Yeah, so?” Hank asked.
“This is October, Cap. In four days it’ll be Halloween. You know, October thirty-first?” Johnny fidgeted under his captain’s gaze.
“What’s your point, Gage?” Hank asked.
“Well, what if Chet’s right? What if we have a ghost here that’s trying to warn us of something that’s going to happen?”
“A ghost? You twit! There’s no such things as ghosts!” Captain Stanley shook his head. “Roll call in three minutes!” He left to put the coins with the other items in the desk.
The klaxons sounded. The men waited, breathless, to see if it was a real call, or if it was another malfunction in the system.
**Station 51...Structure Fire…1213 Industrial Blvd….1-2-1-3 Industrial Blvd…Time Out……08:05**
The men scrambled for their trucks. “KMG 365” Captain Stanley acknowledged.
The building was fully involved by the time the crew arrived. Captain Stanley ordered his men to start hauling lines and try to contain the fire in one building.
“Marco, Chet, take an inch and a half and hit the opening! Johnny, Roy, take another inch and a half and go to the north side!” He pulled out his HT and contacted head quarters. “LA, we have a building that is fully involved! Send out a second alarm!”
“10-4, 51” Sam Lanier replied.
Within minutes stations 110 and 28 had arrived on the scene. With their help, the fire was quickly brought under control. Captain Stanley was watching his men when something caught his eye. He stared at the building, trying to see clearly through the smoke. He blinked, then pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Hank?” said Station 110’s captain, “What’s wrong?”
“Did you see anyone over by the building just now?” Hank asked.
“Where?” asked Captain Hookraider.
“Over there,” Hank pointed to the now destroyed building. “I thought I saw a kid standing there.”
Hookraider looked to where the Station 51 captain was pointing. He wiped his eyes, then glanced back at his fellow captain. “You sure you saw someone, Hank?” he asked.
“No, maybe it was just the smoke playing tricks on my eyes,” Stanley replied, uncertainly.
“Yeah. Could be. I’d hate to think someone had been trapped inside.” Hookraider said.
“LA, Station 51. This fire is under control. All stations out, one hour.” Hank told the dispatcher.
“10-4, Station 51.”
Once back at the station, the men quickly went about their assigned duties. Captain Stanley sat in his office thinking about the fire, and what he had thought he had seen. He sighed and decided Hookraider was right. The smoke had played a trick on his eyes.
The tones sounded again.
**Squad 51…..Man down at movie house…….2221 Temporal Lane….2-2-2-1 Temporal Lane…Cross street Lamar…..Time out….10:45**
Roy and Johnny jumped into the squad and headed out. Just as they cleared the bay doors, Roy caught a glimpse of a child out of the corner of his eyes. He quickly put it out of his mind and concentrated instead on their call. Once at the scene the two paramedics found the reel man had fallen down the stairs leading to the film room. His left ankle was fractured, and he had also managed to bang his head hard enough to get a minor concussion.
“Where are you going to take him?” the movie house manager asked.
“Rampart General,” Johnny told him.
“I’ll call his wife. She can meet him there.” He walked off to make the call.
Roy and Johnny helped load the man into the ambulance. “I’ll ride in with him,” Roy said.
“Okay, meet you at Rampart.” Johnny closed the doors and slapped them twice. The ambulance pulled away, lights blinking and siren wailing its mournful tune.
Johnny gathered their supplies and trash. He started to climb into the squad when he saw a young child standing to one side. He grinned and waved. She returned the wave then skipped off. Johnny watched her disappear around the corner of the building. He thought that odd, since there was no exit on that side. He walked over to see what she was doing. He stared at the area around him. The girl had vanished. With a shrug Johnny returned to the squad. He opened the door and stopped in his tracks. Lying on the seat of the truck was a newspaper clipping. It was yellow with age, and very brittle. He picked it up and tried to read the story. All that he could make out clearly was the date and name of the paper. He carefully folded the old clipping, then went to collect his partner.
Johnny saw Roy talking with Dixie. He headed to the nurses’ desk and tapped his partner on the shoulder. “Ready to go, Pally?” he asked.
“Uh, yeah. What’s your hurry?” Roy asked. He noticed how agitated his partner was.
“Um, I just think we need to get back. Ah, I have something I need to give to Cap.” Johnny explained. Roy’s eyebrows rose in surprise.
“What is it?” he asked.
Johnny rubbed the side of his nose. “You know Cap said to let him know if we found or saw anything?”
“Oh!” Sudden comprehension made Roy move to join his partner’s side. “See ya later, Dix!” Roy and Johnny said.
“What?” Dixie asked, but the two paramedics had quickly disappeared through the doors.
Dr. Morton saw Dixie staring towards the doors. “What’s up, Dixie?” he asked the head nurse.
“Something’s up with those two!” she exclaimed.
“Johnny and Roy? When is something NOT up with those two?” Morton grinned and dodged as Dixie took a playful swipe at him.
“Oh you!” she said in exasperation.
Johnny gave his captain the newspaper clipping. Hank tried to read it, but could only make out the date and name of the paper.
“Cap, why don’t I call the library and see if they have this issue on micro-fiche?” Johnny asked. “We could at least find out what the article is about.”
“Good idea, Johnny. Ask if they would mind bringing a copy to us. Let them know we’ll reimburse them for the copy.”
Several minutes later Johnny reported that a friend of his would drop the copy by the station later that afternoon.
“Good deal, pal,” Captain Stanley said.
Just as the men were sitting down to lunch, the tones sounded again. They jumped up and ran to the trucks.
Mike stumbled over a small object on his way to the engine. He kicked it out of the way, then climbed into the driver’s seat and waited for the captain to join them.
** Station 51….Station 36…..MVA 405 Pasadena Exit…..MVA Pasadena Exit…Use Victorville on ramp…time out 12:45. **
“KMG 365,” said Stanley. He, too, tripped on the small object. He kicked it aside and joined his crew on the engine.
“Here’s the ramp,” Johnny said to his partner. “Vince is waving us on through.”
The engine followed closely behind the squad. They parked on the side of the highway and all the men climbed from the trucks. Johnny and Roy began to check on the occupants of the nearest vehicles while Hank sent the rest of the men to check on the other cars scattered across the freeway.
“What have ya got, Roy?” Hank asked the senior paramedic.
“Nothing major, Cap. She’ll be fine.” He smiled at the woman in the car. She grinned at him and nodded her thanks.
“Okay, go see if you can help your partner. It looks like he has his hands full with that man.” Hank motioned towards where Johnny was struggling with a heavily overweight man.
Roy jogged over and joined his partner in an attempt to calm the man. After a few minutes, the man passed out and Johnny heaved a sigh of relief.
“Get Rampart on the line. He has a broken leg and a nasty contusion on his forehead. I also think he may have some internal injuries,” Johnny said. He wiped his brow of the sweat that had beaded on his forehead.
Roy quickly set up the bio-phone and contacted the hospital.
“Rampart, this is Rescue 51, do you read?” he paused. “Rampart, this is Rescue 5-1, do you read?”
“Go ahead 51, this is Rampart,” Brackett’s voice floated from the bio-phone.
“Rampart, we have a male, approximately 50 years old. He is severely obese. He is the victim of a motor vehicle accident. He has a fractured right tibia and a contusion on the left side of his forehead. Also, he may have internal injuries. B/P is 150/85, pulse is sixty. Respiration’s 28 and shallow. He is diaphoretic. ”
“10-4, 51. Start an IV with Ringer’s Lactate. Keep an eye on his vitals, especially his B/P. Transport as soon as possible!”
“10-4, Rampart! IV Ringer’s, keep eye on vitals and transport!” Roy repeated back. He and Johnny quickly readied the man and were loading him into the ambulance when a yell came from Chet.
“Cap!” Chet ran up to his superior. “Marco’s been hit by a car!”
“What?” Captain Stanley exclaimed.
“Some kid decided to leave the scene in a hurry and hit Marco!” Chet was agitated and kept trying to pull his captain along.
“Roy, Johnny!” Captain Stanley called even as he and Chet raced by the ambulance. “Marco’s been hurt! Let 36’s paramedics go in with your patient!”
Cunningham and Brice heard Captain Stanley, and raced to take Roy and Johnny’s place. Cunningham gave the two a ‘thumbs up’. Roy and Johnny
quickly took off to help their injured shift mate.
Marco lay quietly on the asphalt. His face was ashen. Blood seeped from a gash on the back of his head where he had hit the ground. His arm was at an odd angle to his body.
Roy knelt beside the unconscious man, and began to take his B/P and other vitals. Johnny opened the bio-phone to contact Rampart once again.
“Rampart, this is Rescue 51!” he waited.
“Go ahead 51!” Dr. Brackett said.
“Rampart, we have a male, 27 years old, victim of a hit and run. Vitals are…..” he looked at Roy.
“B/P 90/60, pulse 45 and rapid, respiration’s 18.”
Johnny repeated the vitals then continued, “Victim has a broken left ulna. The arm has been splinted. He has also suffered a blow to the back of the head. The wound was bleeding, but is now under control. He is unconscious and unresponsive to any stimuli.”
“51, start an IV with D5W TKO. Transport immediately. Get me a new set of vitals in five minutes!” Brackett ordered.
“10-4, Rampart!” Johnny replied. He closed the portal and helped ready their friend for transport to Rampart Hospital. “Roy!” Johnny called. He pointed to Marco’s uninjured hand. He had it curled as if holding on to something. A smile spread across his face, but he remained unconscious.
Marco was quickly loaded in the waiting ambulance and taken to Rampart, where Dr. Brackett met them at the door. He quickly had the fireman on the exam table and was barking out orders when Dixie McCall pushed through the door. She took Roy’s place and began taking a new set of vitals.
Forty-five minutes later Marco was sent up to orthopedics to have his arm set and placed in a cast. He had regained consciousness and passed the neural exam with ease.
Roy and Johnny waited until their friend had been placed in a room before calling and letting those waiting at the station know how their comrade was doing.
“Hey, Marco,” Roy said softly as he and Johnny entered the room. “How you feeling?”
“Tired and very sore!” Marco answered. “Hey, who was the kid holding my hand out there? I didn’t think she would be allowed to ride in the ambulance,” Marco told the two paramedics.
“What kid?” Johnny asked.
“The little girl. She was holding my hand the whole time. Real pretty thing, too. Strange, though, she never spoke, just smiled and patted my hand.”
Johnny and Roy stared at Marco. Roy gave a slight shake of his head when Johnny opened his mouth to speak.
“We don’t know, Marco, but we’ll try to find out and let you know,” Roy told him.
“Great, thanks, guys.” Marco yawned. The painkiller was making him sleepy.
“We’ll stop by tomorrow and check up on you,” Roy said, and motioned to Johnny they needed to leave.
“Thanks again, guys,” Marco said as he drifted off to sleep.
“What kid was he talking about?” Johnny asked as he and Roy left the hospital. “I didn’t see anyone! Did you?”
“No. Marco may have been hallucinating. You know that happens with a serious head injury sometimes.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I was thinking that maybe we ought to tell Cap what he said, though. But I guess it would be kind of silly, wouldn’t it?”
“Maybe,” Roy said thoughtfully, “then again, maybe not.”
Roy and Johnny made their way to the day room where the men were sitting around the table. They were handing around the copies of a newspaper Johnny’s friend had delivered while the two were still at the hospital.
“Here, you two, read this.” Hank gave them a copy of the article he had found. It matched the faded copy Johnny had found on the seat of the squad.
They quickly scanned the story. Johnny asked, “What’s this got to do with all the weird things going on here?”
“Good question, pal. I’m trying to track down the fireman mentioned in the article. If he’s still alive, I’m hoping he can clue us in,” Hank told them. The telephone rang. Chet jumped up and grabbed the receiver.
“Station 51. Fireman Kelley speaking.” He stood listening for a moment. “Hello?” he asked. When he received no answer he placed the phone back into its cradle. He gave his crewmates a perplexed look. “No one was there. It was dead air!”
“I’m getting the creeps, guys! Too many unexplained things are going on here. Maybe we should called a priest or something and get him to bless the station!” Chet said. He rubbed his arms as the air in the room suddenly became cold. All eyes turned to stare at Chet. They were rubbing their arms as well.
“What?” Chet asked. “I didn’t do anything!”
“It’s not you, Chet. It’s what you said,” Mike Stoker spoke for the first time since returning from the run.
The klaxons sounded. The men ran for trucks, but once the tones stopped, only static filled the air.
By the time the shift was over, every man was ready to head home and put their strange day behind them. They did not stay around to chat as they usually did. Captain Stanley stayed just long enough to fill in the B-shift commander before he, too, left for home. He hoped that with two days off the men would be able to forget the strangest shift they had ever had, but little did he know that an even stranger shift awaited him and his men.
Mike Stoker stood in front of his locker. He was holding a tiny object in his hand. The door opened and Jerry McMillan, Marco’s temporary replacement, entered the room.
“Morning, Mike. What’s up?”
Mike looked up. His gaze was unfocused. “Morning, Jerry. Um, better ask the Cap. He’ll fill you in.”
Jerry looked at the engineer in surprise. His answer was not what had been expected. “Uh, sure, okay.” He quickly stowed his gear and left the room.
Mike continued to study the object in his hand. He had found it attached to his uniform shirt. He tossed the pin up then caught it and folded his fingers around it. Quickly shutting his locker he went in search of his captain.
“Cap?” Mike said after knocking on the door to the office.
“Yeah, Mike. What’s up?”
“This.” Mike handed the pin to the captain and waited for his reaction.
“Where’d you find this?” Hank asked.
“It was pinned to my shirt. I almost missed it, but it was in the way of my badge.”
Hank studied the small pin. He opened the drawer to the desk and tossed it in with the rest of the collection. “The collection is growing!” he said.
The telephone on Hank’s desk rang. He grabbed it up and said, “Station 51, Captain Stanley speaking.” He listened to the voice on the other end of the line. Mike started to leave, but Hank motioned for him to stay. “Yes, well. Thank you for calling. I appreciate you taking the time to let me know.” He listened some more. “Okay. Yes. Uh huh. Thank you again.” He hung up the phone and stared into space.
“Cap?” Mike said.
“That was the daughter of the fireman mentioned in the paper. Her dad was killed two years after that fire. She said he only spoke about the girl that was killed once. Said something about a promise she had made before she died.”
“She didn’t know what the promise was?” Mike asked.
“No,” Hank shook his head. “But it would be interesting to know. It’s just too bad the promise was never told to anyone else.”
Mike and Hank left the office. Captain Stanley called the men for morning roll call and assigned chores. He was making announcements when he suddenly noticed the men were not paying attention to him. Instead, they were looking at something behind him. He turned around to see what had captured their attention.
A small yellow ball was rolling across the floor. It bounced off his shoe and rolled over to Johnny’s foot where it came to rest. A clicking sound came from the day room. Henry rounded the rear of the squad and sat down beside Johnny. His tail beat a happy tattoo on the floor. A low ‘woof’ came from deep in his chest. The ball rolled over Johnny’s foot and bounced across Roy’s shoes to land in front of the Basset Hound. Slowly it rolled way, and a happy Henry followed its progress across the bay floor.
They men watched in fascination as the Basset grabbed the ball and began to run around, dodging now and then as if playing with someone. He disappeared into the day room and the men heard him climbing onto the leather sofa. They crowded through the door and stared at the now sleeping Basset.
“I never would have believed he had it in him!” Chet said to no one in particular.
“Who was he playing with?” Johnny asked.
Chet looked at his shift mates and said, “I’m telling you, guys, we have a ghost!” No one disputed him.
Captain Stanley cleared his throat. He glanced at Marco’s replacement to see his reaction. Jerry stood with a grin on his face. His shoulders were shaking with suppressed laughter. A tear trickled down his cheek. He saw the captain looking at him and finally gave in to the mirth he was feeling.
“Ghosts? Come on, guys. Spooks and ghosts and goblins are only in books!” He turned and left to room to start on his assigned duty. A few minutes later a loud scream pierced the station. All the men ran to the latrines where Jerry was sitting on the floor. He was holding his head and muttering to himself.
“You okay, pal?” Stanley asked as he knelt in front of the downed man.
“Uh, yeah, Cap. I uh, just scared myself.” He chuckled. “Guess I have a better imagination than I thought!”
“Did you hit your head?” Roy asked, the paramedic stepped into the room and knelt beside the captain.
“Awe, yeah, but not hard. There won’t even be a bump. I was kneeling down when I fell.” He refused to tell them that someone had pushed him, and that someone had been a young girl.
Roy checked his pulse, as Johnny checked Jerry’s eyes with his penlight. “I think he’ll be fine, Cap,” Roy said.
“Be a little more careful, pal,” Stanley told the man.
“Yes, sir,” Jerry answered sheepishly.
Throughout the morning objects were moved, or came up missing. Missing objects showed up in strange places. Items that had disappeared on previous shifts showed up where moments before, nothing had been. Captain Stanley kept adding objects to the desk drawer. Once in a while a surprised cry would come from one of the men when something either appeared, or disappeared from view without warning.
Chet found his favorite puzzle book lying in the oven when he went to turn it on to cook lunch. Roy found his stethoscope looped around the latrine doorknob. Mike and Jerry found their turnout coats hanging from the hose wrack, and Captain Stanley found the contents of the drawer strewn all around the office.
Jerry quickly learned to keep his disbelief to himself. Twice he had felt himself pushed from behind, only to find no one there when he spun around. Henry slept through the day as usual, with the one exception that morning.
Nerves were beginning to fray when Mike Stoker spotted her, for the first time that day. He had gone outside to retrieve his turnout coat for the second time. She stood in the shade of the building. She watched as he climbed the tower and grabbed his coat. He was muttering to himself as he climbed down. He stopped when he saw her. She smiled at him and waved, then darted behind the tree. With a cry, Mike ran after her. By the time he was around the tree, she had vanished.
The tones rolled from the speakers and he darted inside to take his place on Big Red. He sat and waited with the others. When static came from the speakers he angrily stomped from the bay and out to the back of the station.
He stood with feet firmly planted apart. “Okay, you brat!” he said. “Come out now!”
The others stood inside the station and watched Mike’s antics.
“He’s lost it for sure,” Chet said. The others shushed him.
Mike waited. Suddenly an object landed at his feet. He glared at it, then angrily kicked it aside. “I don’t want your toys! I want you!” he demanded.
A giggled danced through the station followed by a soft sigh. Henry came running out to stand beside the engineer. He had the yellow ball in his mouth. Carefully he placed it at Mike’s feet and whined. “Henry, I don’t want to play with you!” Mike told the Basset. Henry nudged the ball closer to Mike’s foot. Mike started to kick it out of the way, then stopped. He bent down to grab the ball and was thwarted when it rolled away from him. Henry barked his pleasure. Mike stalked from the parking lot and paused long enough to say, “Okay, wise guy, you bring her to us!” Henry grabbed the ball and began to run around.
The men watched the hound as he continued to play. They finally left the happy dog and went back to their chores. Henry ran in and jumped back onto the couch. He flopped down exhausted.
The front bell rang. Captain Stanley answered it and was surprised to see a young woman standing there with her arms full. He stood speechless, then moved to relieve her of some of her burden.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“Yes. Jerry called and told me about the trouble that you’ve been experiencing. Oh, I’m his sister, by the way, and he asked me if I could check out some history for you.” She gave him a big smile and walked in the door.
“Jerry!” Captain Stanley called. “Your sister is here!”
Jerry walked from the day room and grabbed the folders from his sister. He grinned at all the things she had brought with her.
“Cap, this is Candy. She’s the parapsychologist of the family. I thought she might be able to shed some light on the station’s little problem.”
“Well, it’s certainly nice to meet you!” Hank told her and shook her hand. “Come on in and Jerry can introduce you to the rest of the crew. I’ll join you in just a minute.”
Jerry and Candy entered the day room where the men were sitting around discussing the ghost and all the trouble she was causing. They looked up as the brother and sister walked in.
“Hey! Who’s this?” Johnny said, jumping up from his chair.
“Guys, this is my sister, Candy. She teaches Parapsychology over at the college. I asked her to do some checking up on the situation for us. I thought, maybe, she could give us some insight as to what is going on!”
“That’s great, Jerry,” Roy said, hesitantly. “Does Cap know you called her?”
“Yes. I introduced her to him. He’ll be in here in just a minute.”
Captain Stanley walked into the room. He looked around at the men who were standing and gawking. He shook his head. Slapping his hands together and rubbing them broke the tension in the room.
“Did anyone offer Miss Ah….” He looked at Jerry’s sister.
“Just call me Candy, sir,” she laughed.
“Okay, Candy. Did anyone offer Candy some coffee?” Hank looked at his men.
A mad scramble followed his question and Candy was soon seated at the table with six firemen surrounding her.
She flipped open two of the folders she had brought with her. Inside were pictures of an old building. The worn and faded sign read “GOLD DUST HOTEL and APARTMENTS. ROOMS, $ 3.00 WK.” The men studied the pictures then looked at Candy for an explanation.
“Long before this station was built, the building in the picture was on this lot. In 1945 until 1954, it housed approximately forty to fifty families. In 1954 a truck hauling some new ‘sucker rods’ rammed the building. Right next door to the building was a fenced in play yard for the tenants’ children. Around four o’clock the truck barreled the corner of the street. The driver had lost his brakes and had no way to stop. When he hit the building he went through the fence into the play yard. When the truck jolted to a halt, the load he was carrying broke loose and fell on three children playing there. It was two sisters and a brother. Their ages were four, five and fourteen. The two youngest children were not hurt seriously, but their oldest sister was pinned under a pile of the rods.” She pulled two pictures from the pile on the table and passed them around. The old photographs showed a wrecked truck with its load scattered around.
“When the volunteer fire department arrived on the scene, the two youngest were being treated by their parents. The oldest, as I said, was pinned under the pile of rods and bricks.
“One of the volunteers managed to wiggle his way into the debris and found the girl.” She pulled another picture from the pile. This one was of a young black man wearing a fireman’s uniform of the day.
“He managed to carry a long pipe with him so he could communicate with those waiting for news of the girl, should he reach her. When he got to her she was barely conscious. He called down the pipe to let the rescuers know she was alive. It wasn’t until he got closer that he saw how bad she was really injured.”
“It took the rescue workers ten hours to get enough of the debris cleared so they could get to her, and him. The other firemen tried to get him to leave the girl so he wouldn’t get hurt himself, but he refused. He didn’t want her to be alone any more than she was before they arrived.” Candy paused in her recitation.
“What was the man’s name?” Chet asked.
“Michael James Mullins, III.”
“But he’s black. I thought blacks and whites didn’t mix in those days?” Chet said, voicing the others question.
“They didn’t,” said another voice from behind the group. All those in the room turned to face the newcomer.
“Who are you?” Captain Stanley asked as he stood up and approached the man.
“My name is James Michael Mullins. The man you are talking about is my Grandpappy. I got word from Candy’s assistant she was over here. She said something about a possible poltergeist?”
“Captain, I’d like you to meet one of my best assistants in the field. He can probably answer your questions better than I can.”
Introductions were quickly made. Candy brought him up to the point where he had interrupted her narration. He nodded. Reaching out for the picture of the smiling man, he studied it briefly before picking up the story.
“Michael James was an extraordinary man. He never let race, color or anything else stop him from doing what he loved. And being a fireman was his love, next to Grandma, of course,” he grinned at the men.
“He crawled in to be with that little girl. He didn’t care that she was white. All he knew was that she was hurt and needed someone to be with her. For ten hours he lay in that tumble of metal and bricks and dust, just so she wouldn’t get scared.
“I remember him telling me the story. He said she was as calm as could be. She knew she was dying. She asked him to hold her hand. He said when she asked him that he just couldn’t say no. He wiggled closer to her and gathered her as close to himself as he could without hurting her any more than she already was. It broke his heart knowing she wasn’t gonna make it out alive, but he just held her close and kept talking to her.
“Just before she died she made a promise to him. Funny thing is, he never said what that promise was. But after that, if any of the men under his command got hurt; they always said they saw her there with them and she offered to hold their hand until help arrived.”
Roy spoke up, “You said it took them ten hours before they could get to her? What time was it when she died? Do they know?”
James Michael scratched his head in thought. “If I remember correctly, Grandpappy said she drew her last breath at the “Witching Hour’. The day the accident happened was October 30th, but they didn’t get them out until the next day around four in the morning.”
“The Witching Hour?” Chet said.
“Three o’clock in the morning, Chet,” Johnny informed his friend.
“I thought it was midnight!” Hank said.
Johnny shook his head. “Nope, the true witching hour is three a.m. That’s the time when it is the darkest, and when most people die.”
“I never knew that!” Hank was surprised at Johnny. “Learn something new every day!” The people around the table laughed at him. Hank did not mind.
Candy and James stayed and answered questions until the tones sounded sending the men of 51 on a run to a structure fire. They waved at the departing men then quickly gathered their paraphernalia together and left the station.
Five minutes into the run, the call was canceled. Mike turned the rig around and headed back to the station. Johnny and Roy followed in the squad. Just as Mike began to back the rig into the bay, they were toned out again.
**Station 51….Station 36….Truck 110….tanker over the edge of a cliff…..Ironside Canyon Road….1/2 mile from highway exit ramp…..time out…13:55**
“KMG 365,” Hank acknowledged from Big Red. Mike turned the rig around again and headed back the way they had just come. Roy did a U-turn and followed.
“Man, I hope that tanker isn’t carrying anything hazardous!” Johnny said.
“You and me, both!” Roy answered.
Station 51 arrived on the scene. Officer Vince Howard and another man stood waiting for them. Vince waved them forward. Captain Stanley was jumping from the truck even before it came to a full stop.
“What have we got, Vince?” he asked.
“A tanker truck hauling butane went over the side here. My partner and I went down to check them out. The cab is pretty crushed. The driver is caught behind the steering wheel. I smelled gas leaking, so be careful! I think the tank on the cab is ruptured, but I don’t know about the tanker.”
Stanley nodded. He yanked the HT from his pocket. “LA, we need a full brush assignment. We have a tanker hauling butane over the side of a cliff. Diesel is leaking, and there is a possible leak from the tanker. Contact OK Butane and let them know they will need to send out another truck to transfer the cargo!”
“10-4, 51” Sam Lanier answered. Tones rolled over the airway and Sam’s voice was heard calling in reinforcements.
Station 36 and truck 110 pulled in just as the tones started to sound out. Hank filled in the two captains. It was finally decided to send in one set of paramedics and keep one set topside. Roy and Johnny grabbed the equipment they thought would be needed.
“Johnny, I smell diesel fumes! We better use the porta-power to try and get this dash off him,” Roy told his partner. Johnny nodded and walked a little ways from the crumpled truck. He pulled out the HT and called up to his captain.
“Cap, we need the porta-power down here. There are diesel fumes, and I think butane fumes, down here. We’ll need to get him out and treat him topside!”
“Okay, Johnny!” Stanley replied. “Chet, get the porta-power and take it down to Roy and Johnny. Give them a hand down there getting the man out!”
“Right, Cap!” Chet called and trotted to the squad. He grabbed the needed tool and joined his crewmates at the damaged truck.
“We’ll have to move quick. These fumes are building fast and could blow at the least little spark. Chet, put this blanket over his face and hold it there. Johnny and I will get this dash moved,” Roy ordered.
Chet did as he was told and braced himself for the sound of popping glass and bending metal.
“Okay, that should do it!” Johnny called. Roy stepped up to take Chet’s place. The man began to moan and thrash around.
“Sir! You have to be still! You’ve been in an accident. We’ll have you out in just a minute!” Roy tried to calm the agitated man.
“My wife!” the man said. “My wife!”
Johnny looked at Roy, then at the mangled truck. “Your wife was riding with you?”
“Yes. She was lying in the sleeper compartment! Please, you’ve got to help her! She’s pregnant with our first child!”
Roy glanced at the back of the cab. The interior was totally crumpled. He looked at Johnny and both agreed silently. “Don’t worry about your wife. We’ll do what we can for her. You just relax now and let us help you!” Roy told the man.
They quickly removed the man from the mangled cab. Johnny climbed inside and searched the mess behind the driver’s seat. He was about to give up his search when he spied a leg sticking out from under a mattress. He reached out to check for life signs. He was surprised to find a strong, steady pulse beating in the ankle.
“Roy! I found her! She’s alive!” Johnny tried to move the mattress, but could not get it to budge. “Chet, can you give me a hand here?” Chet crawled into the cramped space of the cab. “Grab that side of the mattress closest to the door and see if we can move it enough to get to her.” Johnny directed.
Both men shoved and pushed until the mattress moved enough to allow the paramedic access to the motionless woman. Johnny squeezed in beside her. He quickly assessed her condition.
“I think we can get her out. She doesn’t appear to be caught on anything. We’ll just have to be careful and try not to hurt her back.”
“Okay, Johnny. Where do you want me?” Chet asked.
“I’m going to try and straighten her better. You get her legs and steady her. Try to keep her as straight as possible.”
“Gotcha!” Chet moved into position. He carefully grasped the woman’s legs and held them steady as Johnny slowly moved her upper torso in line.
“Let’s get her out of here!” Johnny said. Johnny stepped backwards, guiding his burden carefully around the broken glass and bent frame of the cab. Chet followed slowly, trying to keep her legs level with her back.
Suddenly the cab shifted. Chet lost his hold on the woman as Johnny fell back. The cab jolted again, knocking Chet to the ground. His leg was pinned under the bent frame. “Argh!” he cried as the weight of the cab landed on his leg.
Roy ran over and helped Johnny move the woman to safety. “I’m going to go help Chet!” Johnny told his partner. Roy nodded.
Johnny returned to the trapped fireman. He scanned the area, trying to decide how best to help his friend. He heard Roy calling on the HT that he had dropped. The cab shifted again, causing Chet to scream in agony. A piece of metal had imbedded itself in the fireman’s leg and every time the cab moved, it ground further into the limb.
“Chet, stay calm, pal!” Johnny spoke to his friend. “Roy, he’s trapped under the cab! He’s got a piece of metal through his leg! I need some help!”
“Okay, I’m coming!” Roy called back.
A breeze had picked up, and the tree holding the cab and tanker in place swayed. The cab groaned again and began to slide the rest of the way over the edge. Johnny jumped and grabbed onto Chet. He tried to free the wounded man’s leg before he, too, was pulled over. With one final groan, the cab swept over the ledge and disappeared into the overgrowth. Chet screamed once more then passed out as the force of the cab’s slide yanked the metal fragment from his leg. A large hole was left where the metal fragment had been. Johnny clamped his hand over the wound. Blood had spurted immediately after the piece of metal left the leg. He knew Chet was in grave danger. If they did not get him to the hospital immediately, he could loose the leg.
‘I need a tourniquet!’ he thought to himself. He could not see anything to use. He reached down and unfastened his belt. He quickly wrapped it around Chet’s leg just above the gapping hole.
Roy and Johnny quickly loaded the now unconscious fireman into the waiting stokes. They signaled to the waiting men that they were ready to take him up. Halfway up the cliff side, Johnny lost his footing and began to slide back down. His safety harness caught him and he quickly scrambled his way back to his partner’s side.
“You okay?” Roy asked as they resumed their climb.
“Yeah, just a couple of scrapes. Nothing serious,” Johnny told him.
Once on top Chet was placed in the waiting chopper and they lifted off to make the run to Rampart. Johnny opened the bio-phone and made contact with the doctors there. Orders were given and treatment was started. Doctor Brackett and Dixie McCall were waiting for the paramedics and their patient when they landed.
Chet was taken to surgery immediately. Dr. Early was already in the operating room. When Chet was rolled in, he stepped up and began assessing the damaged leg.
“We’ll need to get this artery sutured first, then we’ll worry about the nerve repairs.” Dr. Morton, who was assisting, nodded his understanding. Three hours later Chet was wheeled into recovery.
Roy saw the doctor enter the waiting area and look around. He spotted the waiting paramedics standing by the nurses’ desk. He smiled as he approached the two men.
Roy relaxed when he saw the doctor smile. He knew the doctor would not smile if things had gone badly.
“Well, Chet is in recovery, now. I think he’ll have a full recovery after some rehab.”
“That’s great, Doc!” Johnny said with relief. “How long will he be out?”
“I’d say about a month, at least. He’s going to have a tough time for the first couple of weeks, but with work, he’ll be fine.”
Roy and Johnny left the hospital. They were quiet on the way back to the station, each lost in their own thoughts. Roy backed the squad into the bay. Captain Stanley was waiting in the doorway to his office. He raised his brows in question.
“Dr. Early said Chet should have full use of his leg after rehab, but he’ll be out at least a month.” Roy followed his captain into the day room. Johnny handed him a cup of coffee. He offered another cup to Hank, who accepted.
“His replacement will be here any minute. I’ll be in my office doing the paperwork.” Hank sighed and left the room.
“You know, this keeps up and all of A- shift is gonna be in the hospital before the shift is over!” Johnny said.
“Let’s hope not,” Mike said as he, too, poured a cup of the strong black brew.
“What the!” Captain Stanley called from the truck bay.
The men charged out the door and stood in surprise at the sight that greeted their eyes. The lights on both the engine and squad were flashing. The wiper blades swished back and forth, and the headlights kept blinking from dim to bright.
“ENOUGH!” roared the captain. The spectacle ceased. Quiet ruled for a brief moment, then a sigh echoed around the chamber. A loud crash was heard from the dorm area. The men ran to see what damage had been done. Lying on the floor was the telephone and lamp that had been on the desk next to the captain’s bed.
“I think you ticked her off, Cap.” Jerry said softly.
“Humph, just like a spoiled child,” Hank said. “Johnny, cleanup this mess. I’m going to my office and call Jerry’s sister. I want to ask her some questions.”
The klaxons sounded. The men ran to the trucks and waited.
**Station 51…Structure Fire…1321 Bloomingdale Lane…1-3-2-1 Bloomingdale Lane…Cross Street Hartford…Time out 1745**
The trucks blasted their horns as they pulled into traffic. The men had put the problem of the station in the back of their minds as they concentrated on the upcoming job.
The building stood on a corner lot. Its façade faded and time worn. Kids tossing rocks broke the windows out long ago. The front door hung by one hinge. A large hole was in the place where the stairs had been.
Captain Stanley approached the dilapidated building with caution. He squinted, trying to see inside the building without having to climb onto the dangerous looking porch. A thin trail of smoke appeared from one of the broken windows.
“Jerry, you and Jake get an inch and a half and go in through the back. Roy, you and Johnny get the real line and follow me inside!”
“Okay, Cap!” the men called and ran to do his bidding.
Hank, Roy and Johnny carefully climbed onto the porch and entered through the front door. Roy held the hose ready. Johnny steadied his partner while at the same time pulling the line in the door. Hank clicked on his flashlight and shone the beam around the room where they were standing.
Cobwebs and dust littered the once grand hallway. Overhead a chandelier hung in sad copy of better days, it crystals dull with dirt and grime. Hank was surprised someone had not stolen it long ago, or at least removed all the crystals.
Roy and Johnny followed their captain closely. They walked in awed silence from room to room. Ancient splendor was all around them. Dust, dirt and cobwebs covered it all. Small dust clouds rose as they walked. Their footfalls echoed in the empty chambers of the old dwelling.
From the back of the house they could hear Jerry and Jake as they entered the building. A sudden crash, followed by a muffled curse, came from the back rooms. They heard Hank chuckle.
An ominous creaking was heard from overhead. Johnny looked up and cried out, “Watch it!” He pushed Roy towards the captain. Both men fell forwards as he jumped backwards. The ceiling crashed down around them. Jake and Jerry ran from the kitchen area and into the hall.
A pile of debris clogged the hallway. Dust rose from the still settling pile. Hank and Roy slowly pushed themselves from the floor. They looked around for Johnny, but only a pile of old ceiling tiles and timbers were visible.
“Johnny!” Captain Stanley called. The men held their breaths, waiting. More dust fell from the now gaping hole over their heads. Roy approached the pile and scanned the area.
“Johnny!” he called. Only silence answered the calls.
Hank pulled the HT from his pocket. “LA, we have a Code I at this location. Please respond another squad and an ambulance! Also, respond another engine company to this location.”
Cap, we found a pile of old clothes smoldering in the kitchen area. We doused it with water and made sure it was out,” Jerry informed his commander.
“Okay, Jerry. Go out to the squad and get a pry bar and ropes. Roy, get your gear and set it up.”
Roy started to protest, but Hank cut him off. “We can’t do anything until help arrives. This way you’ll be ready to help him as soon as we get him out!” Roy nodded and reluctantly left the building.
The building creaked and groaned as the wind picked up. Dark clouds rolled in; forks of lightening flashed across the sky. More debris fell from the ceiling and Hank jumped back. He made a mad dash for the door, but when he was just short of the opening, the remainder of the ceiling came crashing down around him.
The men stood outside the rapidly falling structure, helpless to help either of their two comrades. Roy could not believe his eyes. First Johnny, and now his captain, was buried in the rubble.
Mike stood in shock at the sight before him. He and Roy quickly assessed the situation and decided to wait, as Captain Stanley had told them to do, until the other Engine Company had arrived. Mike contacted headquarters with the update on their present dilemma.
“LA, Engine 51. We have a Code I times two at our location. Request ETA on Station 36.”
“10-4, 51. Stand by,” Sam Lanier told him.
The tones sounded across the airwaves and Sam could be heard requesting 36’s ETA.
“51, ETA for Station 36 is five minutes.”
Mike acknowledged the dispatcher then threw the device into the seat of the truck.
“We can’t wait! Roy, grab a couple of shovels. Jerry and Jake, let’s get in there and carefully try to move some of this stuff away from Cap and Johnny’s last known position!” Mike did not wait for an answer. He charged up to the now fallen building and began to carefully climb over the pile of rubble.
Roy joined the three men and gave each a shovel. He and Mike started trying to shift some of the larger pieces of ceiling and roof. In the distance the sound of 36’s siren could be heard approaching. Mike halted the men and had them stand down until a plan of action with the men of 36 could be formed.
Captain Dalton jumped from the slowly rolling truck and ran up to the men of 51. “What have we got? We heard you call in the Code I!”
Mike filled the captain and pointed out the last known location of Captain Stanley and Johnny Gage. With a quick eye Captain Dalton started barking orders. The men braced the walls and erected night-lights so that when darkness fell they could continue working.
The storm that had blown in was beginning to worsen and hampering the rescue efforts. Lightening was flashing every few seconds instead of minutes and the rain fell fast and hard. The men ignored the coldness and continued to search for their fallen brothers.
Captain Dalton could be heard yelling into the HT over the roll of the thunder. More men appeared and the search picked up. Time crawled for all of them as they kept running into one roadblock after another. Finally a yell went up.
“Cap! We’ve found Hank Stanley! He’s alive!” yelled one of the off duty firemen who had joined in the rescue effort. A mad scramble by the men soon had the unconscious fireman free and treatment started. The search resumed for the still missing paramedic.
Johnny lay in the darkness. He could hear people calling his name, but he was unable to answer them. Something heavy was lying on his chest, making breathing difficult. He groaned, bit the sound did not penetrate the debris covering him. A flash of light briefly illuminated the area where he had landed when the ceiling caved in. He rolled his head sideways trying to see his surroundings, but the darkness was complete.
“Roy?” he called when a sound reached his ears. Someone was crawling towards him slowly. The sound caused chill bumps to form on his exposed arms. An eerie feeling overcame him. “Cap!” he called, trying again to get someone’s attention. The sound drew closer. He could hear short gasping breaths being drawn. The sound stopped. Johnny squinted into the darkness.
“Who’s there?” he asked, nervousness causing his voice to break. “Answer me!” Something cold slid across his legs. He struggled against the heaviness that was holding him down. A searing pain traveled through his chest and down his side. He felt sweat break out on his face and under his arms. He struggled against the encroaching darkness he knew meant unconsciousness. “Is someone there?” he tried again.
The sound of crawling began again. Out of the shadows a figure appeared. Its very shapelessness caused the hair on the back of Johnny’s neck to rise, and fear reared its ugly head.
“Who are you? WHAT are you?” he cried as the shape drew closer and closer to him. The air grew cold and clammy. A gray mist formed into the body of a young girl. She sat quietly watching him. Her eyes appeared to be filled with tears. She reached out to him with a pale slender hand. Johnny recoiled from her touch. She offered a reassuring smile and continued to reach for him.
Johnny’s heart beat a rapid tattoo in his chest. He could feel himself rattle with each breath he took. He tried to inch away from the apparition, but the thing on his chest held him securely in place.
“No!” he cried when he felt her hand slide into his. He struggled against her grip until he finally gave in to the darkness that beckoned.
She stood before him. Her hair floated in the breeze of the afterworld. Her skin was pale, almost translucent. She smiled at him and tried to speak. Johnny shook his head, unable, or unwilling, to comprehend what was happening to him. Something brushed his mind. It was soft and soothing. Johnny relaxed. She was holding his hand. Something drifted into his memory. A part of a conversation came to mind:
“I promise to hold the hand of any fireman who is hurt or injured, until help arrives.”
Johnny mouthed the word, “OH!” as he realized who the young girl was, and why she was there with him. He looked down and saw her tiny hand engulfed in his. ‘Something so small,’ he thought, ‘to bring so much comfort.’ He smiled at her.
She never spoke, just stood there with him. Johnny had no idea how long they stood together holding hands. Time had come to a stand still for him. He drifted on the currents of the otherworld, waiting. His memory of what brought him to this point was quickly fading. He enjoyed the feeling of security.
The men continued to dig and move debris. Several hours had passed and over a ton of rubble had been moved, yet more remained. The situation deteriorated constantly as the storm raged. The high winds and torrential downpour kept the men slipping and sliding across the area they were searching. Several had sustained minor injuries during the search.
Captain Dalton looked at his watch for the fifth time in over an hour. It was almost three o’clock in the morning. The paramedics golden hour had passed long ago, but the men refused to give up on one of their own. Dalton shook his head, amazed that so much energy was still apparent even as late as it was. He had just signaled the relief team to enter the site when a shout erupted from the rescue crew.
Dalton trotted over to the team that was standing still. A light gray mist was rising from a hole that had been uncovered. The men backed away as the mist intensified. Suddenly it dawned on him; the mist was rising FROM the hole, slowly and methodically. Several of the gathered men crossed themselves and began muttering prayers.
Roy DeSoto leaned over the hole and peered down inside. “Give me a light!” he shouted and one of the men passed him a flashlight. He pointed the bright beam down into the darkness and gasped. Johnny was lying on the floor of the basement, unconscious. His face had a blue tinge to it.
“I need a rope and a safety belt!” Roy called. Two men separated themselves from the collective group and ran to the waiting squad. They returned moments later, each with a safety harness and a length of coiled rope. Roy and Mike quickly placed the belts around their waists. The men grabbed the ropes and tied them to the engine. Several men placed themselves along the ropes and prepared to hoist the men into the hole to the man below.
“Dwyer, set up the bio-phone. We’ll need a stokes, backboard and c-collar once we are down.” Roy told the paramedic from 36. Dwyer nodded and headed for the squad to retrieve the requested equipment. Roy and Mike stepped into space and began their journey to their injured friend far below.
The men felt as if the ride down took forever, even though they knew it was only a matter of seconds. Roy’s feet touched the ground and he flung the rope away from him. Kneeling next to his injured friend, he quickly checked for injuries. He found a large bump on the back of Johnny’s head and several small cuts along his cheek. A large gash ran from his neck down to his shoulder and in under his turnout coat.
Mike was trying to move the large beam that held Johnny in place. “Cap! I need some help down here to move this beam!”
“I’m sending two men down now!” Dalton called back. “We are tying off the ropes to secure the beam and keep the wall from falling in. Roy, how is he?”
“Not good, Cap!” Roy called up. “As soon as this beam is moved we’ll need to get him topside for treatment.” Roy was worried about Johnny’s complexion. He had placed the oxygen mask on his friend and opened it to run one hundred percent. Johnny had not moved or responded to any stimulus. His breathing was ragged and Roy feared a collapsed lung.
Ropes suddenly appeared around him and Johnny. He stood up and helped Mike and the two other men secure the ropes to the beam.
“Roy, stay with him and be ready to move him out of the way once we have the beam up.” Mike instructed.
Roy grabbed the collar of Johnny’s turnout coat and braced himself. He watched as the men, both in the hole and on top, began to pull on the ropes. The beam lifted slightly. Dirt and sheet rock fell on them. A large crossbeam ripped loose and fell, knocking Mike down. He lay still. Roy dodged the men and swiftly pulled his shift mate from danger. The men scrambled to secure the new danger.
“Mike!” Roy called. He gently slapped the engineer’s face. Mike moaned, but did not open his eyes. Roy looked up. “Cap! Mike’s been knocked unconscious! I need Dwyer down here, now!”
The situation was going from bad to worse, Dalton thought. “Dwyer! Roy needs your help!” Dalton stooped over the opening and called down, “Roy, we’re sending down the stokes. Get Mike into it and let’s get him out of danger!”
“Right, Cap!” Roy called. He motioned for the two other firemen to help him with the engineer. With Mike secured and pulled from immediate danger, Roy once again concentrated on his partner. Johnny rolled his head and moaned. Roy was jubilant.
“Johnny! Open your eyes!” Roy demanded. Johnny rolled his head again, but did not respond.
“Roy, we’re going to try again. Be ready to pull him out!” Dalton called. Roy waved his understanding and again braced himself to pull his friend to safety.
The walls had been re-braced and more support was placed along the edge of the opening. “On the count of three!” Roy heard Dalton directing. He counted with the captain and when the beam moved, he pulled.
Johnny slid free from his prison. Roy sat down with a grunt of surprise and relief. He swiftly moved his partner away from the wall and more to the middle of the hole. Another stokes was lowered with the requested equipment. Dwyer followed behind it.
The c-collar was placed around Johnny’s neck. Dwyer directed the men to help in log rolling Johnny onto the backboard, then quickly placing him in the stokes. Roy was pumping the B/P cuff as the men placed the injured paramedic into the stokes and fastened him in.
“Let’s get out of here,” Roy said. The situation reminded him too much of another hole where their captain had once been found. Dwyer glanced at the senior paramedic’s face and recalled the same incident from two years previous.
“He’s going to make it, Roy,” Dwyer said encouragingly. Roy gave a tight smile and a brief nod as their belts tightened and they were raised from the basement of the now demolished building where Johnny had been trapped.
“Rampart, Squad 36. How do you read?” Dwyer called into the bio-phone. Roy was working on Johnny, Cunningham on Captain Stanley and Dwyer was monitoring Mike Stoker.
“Squad 36, we read you loud and clear,” Dixie answered.
“Rampart, we have three victims of a cave in. All three are firemen from Station 51. Victim one is a male, age 31. Suffered a blow to the head. He is still unconscious. B/P 100/70, pulse 60 and respiration’s 18. Victim two is a male, approximately 34 years old. He has suffered multiple cuts to the face, arms and neck. He has a large contusion on the left side of the head. He has a broken right tibia and possible broken ribs. B/P is 90/60, pulse 110, and respiration’s 25 and shallow. The leg has been splinted.” Dwyer handed Roy the bio-phone.
“Rampart, victim three is a male, 28 years old. He has a large bump on the back of the head. He has a deep cut running from the base of his right ear down to his collarbone and into the upper chest area. The cut is fairly deep along the chest. He has possible broken ribs. Victim had a blue tinge to his skin when we first gained access to him. He is currently on 100% O2. B/P 100/80, pulse 65, respiration’s 25.”
Brackett listened to the report on all three victims. Once again Station 51 was sending almost a full crew to them for injuries sustained in the line of duty.
“Squad 36. On the first victim, start an IV D5W TKO. Transport as soon as possible. On the second victim, start an IV with normal saline, and a second IV with 500 Cc’s Ringers.
“On the third victim, start two IV’s, one D5W TKO and the second Ringer’s lactate. Keep all victims on O2 and transport immediately!” Brackett ordered.
“10-4, Rampart!” Dwyer responded. All three paramedics treated their patients as ordered and soon had them ready to transport.
Johnny began to aspirate. “Roll him!” Roy cried and held his friend’s head as he vomited. Once the retching had stopped, he was placed in the ambulance and swiftly transported to Rampart.
Mike floated in the gray silence. He saw a young girl approaching him. She smiled and waved. He recognized her as the same child he had seen earlier in the day. He frowned and called out, “Why were you making so much trouble today?” She smiled and waved at him. Mike ran towards her. “Who are you?” She shook her head and frowned. “Where am I?” She pointed to her right. Mike saw someone else standing in the gray mist. He approached the figure standing so silent and still. He recognized his captain, and friend.
“Cap?” he called. Hank turned and saw his engineer approaching at a fast walk. “Cap? Where are we?”
“Good question, Mike,” Hank answered. Their voices fell flat in the grayness.
“Are we dead?” Mike asked, suddenly frightened.
“I don’t think so. I can still hear voices around me that I recognize, and I can still feel the pain from my broken leg.” Cap took a step and the gray mist swirled around him. “Did you see the girl?”
“Yes. I tried to get her to talk, but she just smiled and pointed to you.” Mike looked around. “Where’d she go?”
“I don’t know. Up until just a moment ago, or was it hours? She was holding my hand and offering support.” Captain Stanley stopped and listened. He began to fade from the mist. “See ya on the other side, Mike!” he called and vanished.
Mike opened his eyes. A bright light from overhead caused him to wince in pain. A woman stepped between him and the light. “He’s awake, Kel,” she said to someone outside his line of sight. Someone else stepped into view. He recognized Dr. Brackett. “The woman must be Nurse McCall,” he thought.
“How’s the others?” Mike asked.
“Don’t worry about them right now. I need you to answer a few question for me,” Brackett told him in his gruff way. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
“Getting beaned by a large wooden beam at our last call,” Mike answered him.
“Do you remember why you were there?”
“Yeah, we had a call of a structure fire. The house was old and collapsed on the Captain and Johnny.”
“Good. I think you’ll be fine. We’ll keep you here the rest of the day and tonight for observation. But I think you’ll be able to go home tomorrow.” Bracket smiled at the fireman on the exam bed.
“What do you mean, the rest of today?” Mike asked, confused. The last he recalled it was still night.
“You’ve been here several hours, Mike. It’s now ten in the morning.” Brackett’s face twitched. “You were hit pretty hard. You’ve been unconscious since you arrived this morning around six.”
“Guess that’s why I have such a devil of a headache, huh, doc?” Mike grimaced.
“Afraid so, Mike. Get some rest, now. We’ll be moving you to a room shortly.” Dr. Brackett left the room.
Dixie stepped up to the bed and adjusted the IV drip. Mike watched her in silence for a minute then asked, “How is Cap and Johnny?”
“Your captain was moved to a room a few minutes ago. He is still unconscious, but stable. He has some broken ribs and a broken leg. He’s also suffered a minor concussion, which is why he is still unconscious.”
“What about Johnny?” Mike persisted. He saw Dixie frown before she turned away from him. “Miss McCall, how’s Johnny?”
“Johnny is holding his own. He’s got pneumonia. One of his lungs had collapsed, but it has been re-inflated. He also had some broken ribs and a broken collarbone.” She smiled at him, not sure if she should tell him everything. Johnny was still unconscious, and currently up in surgery to have a large blood clot removed from his right lung. The bump on his head had resulted in a hematoma and had to be removed surgically. He had spiked a fever while in the emergency treatment room, and cooling measures were put into motion.
“He’s going to be okay, Mike. He’s got the best doctors in the county working on him right now.” Dixie smiled and stepped aside when two orderlies entered the room and transferred him to a gurney. “I’ll stop by and check up on you later.”
“Dixie, what aren’t you telling me?” Mike had reached out and grasped her arm. He gave her a look that spoke volumes. Dixie refused to meet his eyes.
“You just get some rest, Mike. I’ll talk to you in a little while.” Dixie patted his arm and motioned to the orderlies to take him to his room. Mike watched the head nurse walk away. He hoped he and the captain would be sharing the same room. Even if he was still unconscious, Mike knew he would feel better being able to see for himself how his superior, and friend, was doing.
Roy sat in the day room of the station. He was waiting to hear from the hospital before leaving for home. It felt strange to be the only one left of A-shift. A sound from the truck bay interrupted his thoughts. He knew there was no one else in the building because the squad and engine had been called out to a house fire ten minutes earlier.
He walked into the bay and looked around. The small yellow ball Henry had been playing with rolled to a stop at his feet. He bent down and picked it up. He bounced the ball and thought about the ghostly haunt at the station. It was now Halloween, October 31st. He wondered what would happen after this day. Would she stay around? Where did ghosts’ go? Where had she been the past years? Why show up now? Then he remembered. Yesterday had been the twentieth anniversary of her death. They had found Johnny and Captain Stanley at three a.m. and had freed them two hours later. Almost the exact same time she had died, and been found twenty years earlier.
Was she the reason they had been called to the old house? Was it because of her that the accidents to the men had happened? Roy shook his head. No, he decided. They were just freak accidents that happened after she had materialized at the station. He bounced the ball once more then tucked it into his jacket pocket. The telephone began to ring. He hurried to answer it.
“Station 51, Fireman DeSoto speaking.” The line was filled with static. Roy frowned and started to bang the phone down when a soft whistle came through the line. He held the telephone away from his ear and listened to the sound. It was a vaguely familiar song, but one he could not place immediately. The whistling stopped and the line went dead. He replaced the receiver and stood lost in thought. The sudden jangling of the phone made him jump. He grabbed the receiver and listened before he spoke.
“Hello? Is someone there?” Dixie asked, her voice sounding perplexed.
“Hey, Dixie. It’s Roy. I’m sorry about that. I just had a strange experience and was afraid it was about to be repeated,” Roy explained.
“Oh,” Dixie said and paused. “I was hoping to catch you before you left for home. Captain Stanley and Mike are both awake. Johnny is out of surgery, but is still unconscious. He is stable now.”
“Great!” Roy said, relieved that his comrades were starting to respond to treatment.
“Marco and Chet are both doing well and will probably be sent home in a few more days.” Dixie paused then asked, “What’s been going on at the station, Roy? Why all the injuries all of a sudden?”
“Dixie, it’s a long story. One I doubt anyone in their right mind would believe unless they were here to experience it.” Roy told the curious nurse.
“You’re going to HAVE to tell me all about it!” she told him. “Sorry, I have to run. See you in a little while?”
“Okay, Dix. Thanks for calling.” Roy hung up the phone. He dug in his pocket for his keys. He had already called Joanne and told her he would be stopping by the hospital on his way home. He patted his pockets. The ball was gone. He looked around thinking it must have fallen from his pocket. Henry watched from the couch. He finally gave up looking and left the building.
A fine mist floated in the truck bay. Henry ran out and dropped the ball at its base. The ball rolled across the floor and bounced off the wall. Henry gave chase and returned the ball over and over again. The mist faded when the sound of the engine returning filled the bay area. The door slowly opened. Henry grabbed the ball and hurried back to the couch where he collapsed as if nothing had ever happened.
The men filed into the room. They headed for the coffeepot, then each man found a spot to collapse on.
“Think we’ll have any weird things happen today?” asked the B-shift engineer.
“Man, I hope not! A-shift was wiped out yesterday. Can you believe it? Roy was the last man left!” said Jimmy Starman, one of the hose jockeys.
“Well, it will be interesting to see what happens when their shift comes around again!” said Mark Gaymoon, the newest paramedic of the station.
Roy parked his car in the back parking lot of Rampart Hospital. He walked through the emergency doors and spotted Dixie at her desk. He approached her and waved when she looked up and saw him. She smiled as he reached her.
“Well, you want to explain what’s been happening at Station 51 to cause so much commotion and so many casualties?” she teased.
“Umm, not really. It would take more time than you have breaks,” Roy told her. Dixie looked around Roy and frowned. “What’s wrong?”
“I thought I saw a child behind you. But I guess I was seeing things.” Dixie arched her eyebrow at Roy’s reaction. He spun around as if expecting to see someone there.
“Roy?” she asked.
“Sorry, Dix. Like I said. It’s hard to explain. What rooms are Mike and Cap in? Can I go up and see them?”
“They are sharing a room. 614. They should be awake by now. Marco and Chet are awake, too, and right next door.”
“Thanks. See ya later, okay?” Roy waved and walked away.
Dixie watched his retreating back, then blinked her eyes. A shadow followed the paramedic into the elevator. It looked like a young girl. She ran for the elevator, but the door closed as she reached it. She gave the door a thump then jumped when a voice behind her said, “Beating on the elevator door never works, you know. You have to push the little green button.”
“Don’t be funny, Kel Brackett!” Dixie shot back. “You should have seen what I saw just now.”
Dr. Brackett waited. When Dixie turned to leave he caught her gently by the arm and stopped her. “What did you see that has you upset?”
“Do you believe in ghosts?” she asked.
Brackett looked at her in surprise. Whatever it was he expected her to say; that was not it. “What?”
Dixie shook her head, “Never mind.” She walked away leaving a very confused doctor wondering if she had lost her mind after all.
Roy tapped on the door to room 614 and walked in. Mike and Hank were discussing the events of the past twenty-four hours. They greeted Roy with broad smiles.
“Well,” Hank said jovially, “How’s it feel to be the last man on the totem pole, pal?”
“Strange, very strange. Let’s not do a repeat any time soon, okay?” Roy said with a grin.
“Say, Roy,” Mikes said softly. “You have a shadow!”
“What?” he said and turned around again, trying to see what Mike was seeing.
“He’s right. Whatever, or whoever, is right behind you!” Captain Stanley said.
Roy backed against the wall between the two beds. He stared at the spot Mike and Hank indicated. Sure enough, there was a slightly darker area hanging in mid air.
“Now what do we do?” Roy asked.
“Communicate with it?” Captain Stanley said in a matter of fact voice.
“How?” Mike and Roy asked.
“Well,” Hank rubbed his neck. “I guess, just talk to it?”
“Okay, Cap. Go ahead,” Roy told him.
“Me?” Hank squeaked. “Why me?”
“Because you’re the Captain, and you get the big bucks?” Mike said, grinning.
“Gee, thanks, pal.” Hank looked at the gray area for a minute. The other two men waited, expectantly. Twice Hank started to speak, but stopped. “What do you say to a ghost?” he finally asked.
“Umm,” Mike said. “Hi?” Hank and Roy looked at Mike in surprise, then burst out laughing.
Dixie walked into the room and saw Roy with his back to the wall. She heard the laughter and wondered what was going on with this special group of men. Marco and Chet were wheeled in after her.
“Hey, guys!” Chet greeted his fellow workers.
“Hi, Cap. Hey Mike!” Marco said.
“Hey, guys!” Hank greeted his men.
“Hi, Chet, Marco,” greeted Mike.
“How’s Johnny doing, Dix?” Roy asked, since they were now all together in one room and all could hear the answer.
“He’s doing fine. He’s awake, but weak. He’s been asking about you fellows. I think someone needs to stop by and see his partner before he leaves.” Dixie said with a smile.
“I was planning to stop and see him. I’m glad he’s awake!” Roy said, expressing the feelings of each man in the room.
“You boys don’t stay too long, and you two,” she glared at Mike and Hank, “stop yacking and rest after everyone leaves!” She smiled at the men, then left the room.
Roy did not stay long after Dixie left. He wanted to go check on his partner and see for himself that Johnny was on the mend.
Johnny greeted his partner with a weak grin. “I was beginning to think I had been deserted!” he joked.
“I was talking with the other guys. Chet and Marco will probably finagle their way up to see you in a little while,” Roy told him. “I’m glad to see you awake, though. I wanted to ask who you were talking to in the ambulance on the way here.”
“Huh?” he asked, confused. “ I don’t remember talking to anyone. I had a strange dream, though.”
“Did it involve a girl named, let me see, her name was…Kimberly? Yeah, that was it. Kimberly.”
Johnny thought for a minute then shook his head. “I don’t remember. I do know I dreamed of a kid about thirteen or fourteen years old and she offered to stay with me. She said , ‘To keep you company until they get here’. I guess maybe she meant you guys.”
“I think so. Remember what Jerry’s sister and Michael James told us?”
“Oh, man! That’s right!” Johnny’s eyes lit up. “You really think that’s who I saw in my dream?” Johnny became lost in thought. Roy stood watching him as he relived the memory of the dream. “Yeah, that makes sense! I don’t think I ever really believed in ‘ghosts’ before. I mean, yeah, my people believe in spirits, but a real ghost? WOW!”
Roy shook his head in amusement. “Let me tell you about my experience at the station today.” Roy told Johnny everything from the time B-shift left on a call to his arrival at Rampart. He told him about the ‘shadow’ that had followed him into Mike and Hank’s room.
“So, where is it now?” Johnny asked.
Roy looked around. “I don’t know. Maybe it gave up and left.”
“I dunno, Pally. Today is Halloween. Isn’t this THEIR day?” Johnny asked seriously. “I wonder if she’ll be around tomorrow?”
“Or the day after?” Roy added.
B-shift sat around in the day room watching TV or reading. Some were dozing on the couch. Henry was asleep, his head in Dwyer’s lap. Suddenly he perked up and rolled off the couch. He headed for the day room. The men jumped in surprise. A soft “woof” came from the truck bay. Dwyer and his temporary partner, Craig Brice, walked over to see what the dog was barking at.
Henry was sitting beside the squad. His tail was wagging hard enough to make his whole body move. “Woof!” he barked again, dancing in place.
Brice whistled at the dog, trying to get him to leave the bay area. Captain Hammond did not like the dog out of the day room. Henry ignored the paramedic. He reared up onto the running boards of the squad and barked again. A small yellow ball rolled from under the squad. Henry grabbed the ball and headed back to the couch in the day room. He hopped to his favorite spot and collapsed.
Dwyer and Brice stared at the squad. The lights flashed their amber color around the room, then turned themselves off. Brice left the doorway and returned to the couch. Dwyer stood waiting. He felt a cold touch on his cheek, then it was gone. The other men in the room reacted to the sudden chilling of the air.
“Man, the temperature must have dropped 60 degrees suddenly!” Bill, the engineer for B-shift, said.
“Probably,” said Dwyer, watching the gray mist he had come to recognize as the station’s ghost. “But I suspect it is going to get warm again real fast.”
“Why do you say that?” asked Coleman, one of the hose jockeys.
“Look,” Dwyer pointed to the rapidly disappearing mist. “She’s leaving us.”
“But it’s still Halloween!” exclaimed Bill.
“Maybe so, but I bet she has fulfilled whatever need she had yesterday and this morning.”
“It won’t be the same around here! I kinda got used to finding things in strange places!” said Coleman.
The temperature in the room rose back to a comfortable level. Henry snored in his spot on the couch. He rolled over to his back and the small yellow ball bounced to the floor and rolled under the leather sofa. Brice knelt down and reached for the ball. His hand found only air. He poked his head further under the furniture, sure he would find the ball.
“It’s not here,” he said in a matter of fact voice.
“No. I imagine she took it with her.” Dwyer told him.
“Took what, where?” asked Captain Hammond.
“Our ghost left!” Bill told the captain.
“Good, now things can get back to normal!” Hammond said. He poured himself a fresh cup of coffee and left the room.
Johnny lay in the hospital bed, half-awake. Suddenly his senses became fully alert. He looked around the room. The sudden chill let him know she was there. He sat, waiting. Something cold brushed his cheek. A gentle ruffling of his hair, and the room was once again comfortable. She had left.
“Good bye, Kimberly,” Johnny said softly. Something dropped onto the bed. Johnny reached out and picked up the small yellow ball.