Left Holding the Bag





By Audrey W.




December 16th


“Okay, and you need two IV bags of saline. . .”


John Gage looked over the list of supplies he’d laid on the desk near the base station and nodded. “Yep, an’ that’ll do it.”


He glanced at the small box on the desk with the other supplies the young nurse had already gotten for him. He’d hoped to get the opportunity to flirt with the pretty brunette that was fairly new to the hospital staff, but thus far she was too efficient on the job to give him much of a chance.


John and his partner Roy DeSoto had accompanied a couple of victims from an automobile accident into Rampart General Hospital and Gage was tasked with refilling the items they’d used at the rescue. With Roy still in a treatment room giving information regarding one patient to a doctor, the younger man desired to have a little more time to get the nurse’s attention other than for official business.


“So, you come here often?” He teased with a lopsided grin.


“Only when they pay me to,” she quipped back.


Gage frowned. She wasn’t smiling when she turned around, as he’d hope she’d be.


All business, he thought to himself.


But suddenly he found himself with the two packaged IV bags plopped into his hands, and the object of his interest quickly with her attention directed toward the other end of the desk.


Gage watched as she immediately stepped over to see what the new arrival. . .a paramedic he’d only seen around recently. . . wanted.


He was so locked on the exchange that he didn’t notice his partner come up beside him. He just stood in place, his mouth open, packages still in each hand.


Sure, the guy resembled Robert Redford, a movie actor heart throb to just about any female on the planet it seemed. But still. . .it wasn’t actually him.


“Got everything?” Roy questioned as he glanced at the small box of items still on the desk.


“Yeah,” John dazedly answered his gaze still on the nurse as she grabbed supplies for the other paramedic with a smile. “Yeah.”


Roy looked at the focus of his partner’s attention, then just shook his head as he grabbed the box.


“Let’s go.”


After one last look at the activity at the desk, John turned to follow, then realized he was still holding the packaged IV bags. He frowned. That was all he’d gotten out of the nurse, other than the supplies Roy had already taken off with.


 With a look of annoyance, he hurried to catch up with DeSoto.




“So you struck out, huh?” Roy asked as he drove the squad away from Rampart.


John turned slightly in the passenger seat. “I wouldn’t call it striking out. She just had to wait on another paramedic. That’s all.”


“If you say so.”




But the conversation was cut off by the radio in the squad. The paramedics were dispatched to an unknown rescue in a nearby residential area.


John grabbed the mic and pressed the transmit button.


“Squad 51, 10-4.”


Roy turned on the siren and lights; both men then donned their helmets as they headed for the scene.




The street had homes on both sides with Christmas lights visible in the daylight, though not near as decorative as they would be lit up in the dark. Gage imagined it would almost look enchanted if all the homes’ holiday lights were illuminated at once.


He was jarred out of his thoughts when Roy brought the squad to a stop.  Not far from the house at the address they were summoned to, a pretty woman in her mid twenties sat on the grassy ground just off the sidewalk.  The petite redhead was rubbing at her left ankle as she watched the emergency vehicle arrive.


An elderly woman who’d been standing beside her came toward the paramedics as they opened the compartments on the passenger side of the squad to retrieve some equipment.


“She didn’t want us to call for you, but the poor girl can’t stand up. As soon as she does, she’s just right back down on the ground, in pain.”


“What happened?” John asked.


“I saw her walking her dog. . .as she does by here  almost every day. . .only this time a cat came by. Well, her dog took off so fast, he pulled her down before she could let go of the leash.”


As she was explaining, a man who also appeared to be in his seventies came out of the house.


“You guys got here fast!” He called out, making his way across the yard.


“We weren’t far away,” Roy explained.


He and John had their supplies in hand and were on their way over to the victim.


“We would have taken her to the hospital ourselves,” the woman told them. “But we heard about the fire department bringing medical help to houses, so we thought we’d try it and see how it works.”


John exchanged a glance with Roy, his expression a cross between amusement and discouragement. Though they weren’t intended to be used for minor incidents, it sometimes occurred, thus they had to consider it just a part of their duty. But it occasionally had John a little disappointed at what they were dispatched out for and why when they didn’t really need to be.


Roy introduced himself and his partner as they placed the equipment down on the ground near the girl. He then assessed her injury while John contacted Rampart General on the biophone.


“Where’s the dog now?” Gage asked while he waited for a response from someone at the hospital.


The girl sheepishly pointed to a young cocker spaniel that was now lying in the next yard over, panting.


That’s the dog that pulled you down?”


She shrugged and with an embarrassed grin replied, “He caught me off guard. Besides, my left foot got caught in that extra wide crack in the sidewalk.”


He eyed the defect in the walk she was referring to, then took another glance at the dog before trying once again with the biophone.


“Rampart, this is Squad 51.”


After a few more seconds of waiting came the sound of head nurse Dixie McCall’s voice.


“Go ahead, 51.”


“Rampart, we have a female approximately twenty-four years old. . .” Gage looked to the victim for a nod of approval on her age, then continued with a brief rundown on the situation.  Before he was done, Doctor Brackett had joined Dixie, thus received the information he needed to direct treatment on the scene.


As the paramedics took care of her, she questioned, “What about my dog?  I can’t just leave Benny here.”


“Do you have anyone who can take him until you’re discharged later today?” John wondered.  


“Yes,” she said with a nod. “My sister lives just a few blocks over and down about a mile. Only, I don’t know how I’m going to get Benny over to her right now.”


When the elderly couple didn’t volunteer to help right away, Roy offered, “Johnny can drop him off.”


Gage looked sharply at his partner, his mouth open in silent protest. Had Roy forgotten the last time John volunteered to take a dog from an accident scene for a victim? He’d ended up being stuck with the canine for days. He would have to ask him. . .somehow. . .before he left.


“Oh, that would be wonderful. Could you really do that for me?”


Despite his misgivings, a pretty face was hard to say ‘no’ to.


“Sure. I’ll get him in the squad as soon as we have you situated.”


She called the dog over so that the paramedic and pet could bond slightly.


Soon the young lady was being loaded into a waiting ambulance, propped up on a stretcher.  With the biophone and drug box also in the vehicle, Roy went to climb in when John pulled him aside a moment.


“Man, why’d ya hafta volunteer me to take the dog?” he whispered.  “Don’tcha remember what happened last time?”


“Yeah, but this time the relative is right here in town.  She gave you the address. Just take Benny over and drop him off.”


Both looked at the dog that was now eyeing them from the closed passenger window of the squad.


“Roy, don’t say ‘just’. Things never work out quite right when someone says ‘just’.”


DeSoto grinned then stepped over to get in the ambulance. “See you at Rampart.”


Gage closed the rear doors, gave them two slaps and the vehicle was on its way, non code R.  As the dark-haired paramedic climbed in the squad and shut the driver’s side door, the elderly man came up to the window. The other rolled it down.


“She forgot this,” the man said as he held up a baggie. In it were two dog feces that resembled chubby tootsie rolls.


John reluctantly reached out and took the item from him, his facial expression one of disgust. He gave a sour glance at Benny.


“Roy had to say ‘just’. He had ta say it. . .”


He placed the closed baggie on the seat between them, then headed off, now more than ready to deliver the furry pet to someone else.




“Well, it’s about time you showed up,” Dixie McCall said as Gage strolled up to her desk at Rampart.


“Didn’t Roy tell ya? I had a delivery to make. “


She gave a nod, a smile still on her face. “He told me. So I take it the doggy duty went off without a hitch?”

“You mean the doggy doodie. . .”

When the comment was met with raised eyebrows, he dryly commented, “That was the ‘hitch’.  The old man on the scene was...uh. . .kind enough to give me the accessories that went with the dog. . .or rather from him."

He went on to tell her about the baggy and its contents, which he’d dropped in the trash can of the sister's neighbor that was on the curb as soon as he had the chance.


He didn’t want to mention the fact he’d kind of flirted with the girl’s sister, only to quickly be shown she wasn’t interested in anything but getting the dog.


“Where’s Roy?” John asked, glancing around


Dixie motioned toward the nurses’ lounge. “He was going to get a cup of coffee.”


“Sounds like a good idea.”


With a brief wave, he was on his way. 





“So next time we hafta take on a dog, it’s not gonna be me.”


Roy glanced at his partner as he brought the squad to a stop in the street in front of Station 51.


“Are you done?”




“The dog subject. Have you said all you need to say?”


Gage had been on a rant about his doggy experiences on duty since they’d left Rampart. Roy couldn’t wait to get back to the station so he could get out from the confines of their truck, where he was a captive audience. But still, there was no guarantee John was going to let him have peace and quiet yet.


The younger man gave the question thought while Roy backed the squad into the station bay.


“Yeah,” he firmly stated. “Yeah, I think I have.”


“Good. I’m going to hold you to that.”


“Okay. Fine.”


As they exited the now parked truck, John called out to his partner, “Just don’t let the cat outta the bag around here about the doggy doo. Or I’ll never live it down.”


“You got it.”


“I’m gonna hold you to that.”


Both men traded grins at their exchange of words.


Roy wasn’t ready for another rant to start, thus he figured that was one bag he could definitely leave closed.




Later as the paramedics washed and dried dishes from lunch, John requested, “Hey, remind me I need to stop at the bank on the way home in the morning.”


“Don’t forget to stop at the bank in the morning.”


Both men turned away from the sink and counter to see a smiling Captain Stanley just inside the room near the doorway that led to the apparatus bay.


With a smirk at the intended humor, John offered, “Thanks, Cap. But I think it’ll help more if it comes tomorrow morning.”


“What’re you going to the bank for?” Roy asked. “Maybe we can give you a trigger word to help you remember.”


“Why does anyone go to a bank? Money. Cashola. Some green.”


Roy figured he could point out that there were numerous reasons to visit a bank, such as ordering checks, making a deposit, opening an account, or even to flirt with the tellers. Not that he did the latter himself, but his grandfather was famous in the family for it.


“Why don’t you guys just go after you finish with the dishes? That is if you don’t get a run before that.”


“We could,” Roy agreed.


The captain made his way over to the stove, where he poured himself a cup of coffee. He then watched as another of his men came into the room. Marco was gathering garbage to take out to the larger can in the back lot behind the station.


He’d just grabbed the liner from the small dayroom can when the tones sounded. The engine crew was being toned out for a dumpster fire. Stanley quickly set his cup on the table and trotted out of the room while Marco handed a surprised Gage the liner bag he’d just gotten. The dark-haired paramedic nearly dropped the dish he was drying when he freed up one hand to receive the unexpected item.


“What’m I s’posed to do with this?” He called out to Marco.


“What I was going to do. Throw it out!”


With the clean dish still wrapped in the towel in one hand and the not so sanitary trash in the other, he looked at Roy, who reached out to take the plate. 


“Why me?” Gage wondered. “You’re right there,” he said as he motioned toward his partner with the garbage bag. “Why didn’t he hand it to you?”


“I guess you were just in the right spot at the right time.”


With the dish now safe in Roy’s hand, John grumbled as he headed out of the room to finish Marco’s chore for him.





December 17th



By eight o’clock in the morning, the men of A-shift were off duty, except for Hank Stanley. He needed to stick around awhile to talk to the next shift’s captain.


With a busy overnight at a three-alarm fire, the tired crew members trudged out to their respective vehicles to go home.


“Oh, don’t forget the bank,” Roy reminded his partner as they made their way across the lot.


“I didn’t. But I also remembered the bank doesn’t open till nine. No way am I gonna sit an’ wait now. I’ll just go later this afternoon . . .after I get cleaned up an’ take a nap,” he added dryly. “Thanks for reminding me though.”




Roy had the same plans as far as the shower and nap. He completely understood.




John reached to turn off his alarm as he blearily opened his eyes. It was just after twelve. It took him a moment to recall if that was midnight or noon.


He remembered he needed to get to the bank to take some money out for groceries, and a couple of Christmas gifts for Roy’s young son and daughter, along with wrapping paper to use on them.


There was a time he would have just used his credit card to pay for everything, but he’d recently had a bad experience with it that had left him wary of charging. First there’d been a glitch with his bill where a decimal was placed wrong. The result had been an amount of $849 instead of the actual total of $8.49.  Then he’d tried to straighten it out by phone, but rather than fix it, the problem was made worse when the incorrect amount was doubled instead. Gage tried to use cash or checks most of the time since to avoid the chance of another mix-up.


With it still being so early in the day, there was plenty of time for another shower to feel refreshed once again before heading out. The off-duty paramedic threw back the covers as he sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He ran a hand through his hair with a yawn, then got to his feet. Clad in a white t-shirt and red boxers, he made his way to the bathroom.




Gage listened to Christmas carols on the radio in his white Land Rover, sometimes singing along with the verses he knew from over the years, as he drove the few miles toward the bank.


 “. . .oh what fun it is to ride. .in a one horse open sleigh. . .”


He brought the vehicle to a stop in the small parking lot of the building. There weren’t a lot of cars there, but enough that he figured there might be a bit of a wait in line.


Dressed in blue jeans, a white collared shirt and green sweater, he walked up the sidewalk toward the entrance whistling the tune ‘Jingle Bells’.


Suddenly one of the glass doors was shoved open. A rather chunky man dressed in blue jeans and a black shirt immediately ran out, looking frantically toward the parking lot as he continued in motion with a white canvas bag the size of a large purse in one hand.


“Stop!” A bank security guard commanded as he also ran outside several steps behind the other.


As soon as the security guard emerged, a car in the lot tore off, squealing its tires in the process.


The first man out swore, then tossed the bag in the paramedic’s direction as he took off down the side of the street on foot. All the while, the distant sounds of sirens could be heard.


A stunned Gage instinctively caught the bag that came flying at him. Before he could even completely take in what had just occurred he also heard. . .


“Drop it, hands in the air!”


He spun around to find the bank security guard holding a gun in his direction. His lower jaw slack in shock, John immediately complied.


“Just don’t move. The cops are almost here and you obviously won’t get any help from your buddies.”


“Wha. . .?” He glanced at the bag on the ground, then in the direction the man had gone. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. He’d come just at the time of a botched robbery and the culprit had ditched the bag of money on him during the escape, most likely because his ride had just panicked and left him.


“I’m not--”


He sighed.


“Look, the only ones you want just got away. I’m a fire fighter with the county. I’ll show you.”


He started to reach for his wallet, but another emphasis by the guard with the gun had Gage still once again, both hands up.


The police arrived on the scene in multiple squad cars. Luckily some of the officers knew him from times they’d had to team up on emergency responses and cleared him from being a suspect right away.


John and the security guard gave good descriptions of both the would-be robber and the car that sped away, thus everyone had hopes they’d be caught before they could try the stunt somewhere else. Especially since a news crew just happened to be a couple of lots down filming a story and rushed over to get the scoop on this one as well.


Though his near arrest had ended almost as quick as it had come about, the experience had John giving second thoughts on using cash over the credit card.




Joanne Desoto glanced at the TV set in the livingroom as she set a gift from one of the neighbors under the Christmas tree. What she saw had her giving a double take.




Her husband came in from the kitchen, where he’d just poured himself a cup of coffee.


“What is it?”


She pointed at the television screen.


“Look! Your partner’s on the Five O’Clock News.”


“. . .was immediately cleared as a suspect  after being caught with the stolen money in his hands due to a bizarre move by the would-be robbers. . .”




Joanne nodded. “Apparently Johnny got caught in the middle of a holdup.”


“Well, he did say he was going to the bank for money. . .”


Though playing it lightly for his wife, on the inside Roy was just grateful it wasn’t a news report about his partner getting caught and injured. . .or worse. . .in the middle of gun fire. He was going to have to call John to get the details of exactly what did happen.




Across town, Hank Stanley and his wife sat staring at their television in surprise.


“Good Lord,” the former commented.


“Poor Johnny, getting caught up in something like that.”


Well, he did say he was going for money, he thought to himself with a smirk.


“Only John,” he muttered. “This could only happen to John.”


“Hank, you should call him to make sure he’s really okay.”


He knew he was by the report on the news, but he did as his wife suggested to keep her happy. After three unsuccessful tries over the course of a half hour, the captain finally got through without a busy signal.




December 19th


Gage’s bank ordeal didn’t end with the news report. When he came back on duty two days later, he was greeted in the locker room by Chet Kelly with, “Well, if it isn’t ol’ money bags.”


The dark-haired paramedic gave a wry grin. “You heard, huh?”


Heard? It was all over the channel three news. The five o’clock, the nine o’clock. Heck, it may have even made the ten o’clock. I don’t know because I had to go to bed.”


“Well, I’m just glad it’s over. Man, I sure don’t wanna go through that again.”


“So did you get a reward?”


John had opened his locker and was in the process of changing his shirt. He shook his head. “Nah. That’s okay. I didn’t get hauled down to the station in handcuffs either. I’ll take that an’ call it a win. Besides, I didn’t catch the guy. Just the money when he threw it at me.”


“How’s it feel to hold that much money?”


He shrugged. “To be honest, Chet, I don’t even know how much money it was.”


“Hey, look. It’s money bags,” Marco said to Mike as they entered the locker room. Both men snickered while Gage eyed Chet. The fireman shrugged. What was he supposed to do if others picked up the same nickname for John as he had?




“So you never said if you ever got your own banking done after the close call,” Roy said as he and Gage inventoried the squad after roll call.


“Yeah, I did. I got it done. In fact, I was escorted in by the bank president, right over to a desk where they took care of me without having to wait behind anyone else.”


“That was nice of him.”


“Yeah. Only problem was that due to the reporters on the scene afterward, I was ‘held up’ at the bank just as long as I woulda been if I had to wait in line in the first place.”


Roy grinned. Even with a winning situation, his sometimes hapless partner couldn’t come out totally victorious.




About two hours into their shift, the paramedics were dispatched out on a rescue for an injury accident.


A male youth about sixteen years old was bagging groceries at a local store when he was hit in the head by a flying soup can that a young boy had launched from his mother’s cart as she was checking out.


Due to the close proximity and the angle he was hit, the bagger had dropped to the floor in a daze.


“That’s some throw your kid has for a five-year-old.,” Gage remarked to the mother of the offender while Roy helped an ambulance attendant to put the injured youth on a stretcher. With a concussion and cut on his head, the victim was going to need treatment at Rampart General.


The worn and worried look on her face was response enough to his remark. Apparently she was aware of her little boy’s capabilities all too well.    


John leaned over to pick up the biophone when he felt a tap on his right forearm. He turned to see a little old lady just under five feet tall. She had a grocery cart on the other side of her, two brown paper bags filled with food and paper goods in it.


“Excuse me, officer, but will you please help me out with my groceries?”


Roy was about to leave with the victim and attendants, the drug box in one hand, when he heard the request. He smiled as his partner tried to explain that one, he wasn’t an officer and two, he kind of had to leave.


“I’ll take that so you can help her,” Roy said, indicating the biophone.


John gave him a look of disbelief. It left him no choice but to help the woman out.


“Okay, uh, thanks to my partner here,” Gage told her, “I guess I have a few minutes after all.”


He again eyed Roy, mouthing ‘thanks a lot’.


“Oh good. I’m just parked a little ways out.”


She insisted on pushing the cart, as it helped her steady herself as she walked. John kept expecting her to stop in the parking lot from the time they reached the second row of spaces and beyond. Surely she wouldn’t have wanted to walk in and then out from far away.  But it wasn’t until they got to the very end opposite the store itself that they reached her vehicle. It was an older model car, from the 1950s.


“My husband always took very good care of his cars when he was alive, so I always park away from everyone else to keep it safe.”


“Yes, ma’am. I can see that.”


She fumbled in her large over-sized purse for the keys while John lifted one of the bags out of the cart, ready to put it in the trunk.


Five minutes later, he was finally on his way back to the squad. He gave a lopsided grin and wave as she drove past him toward the store, where she almost ran into another car anyway.


The paramedic drew up his shoulders and cringed at the close call. He then climbed into the driver’s side of the squad and headed for Rampart to meet up with Roy.




“Hey, haven’t I seen you somewhere else before?” Dixie asked with a smile when John met into her in the ER corridor at Rampart. She’d just come out of a treatment room, Roy right behind her.


“He does look familiar.”


Gage gave his partner a sour look.


“Well, I would’ve been here a bit sooner if I hadn’t been volunteered as a bag boy,” he said, his gaze still fixed on Roy.


“I was referring to your picture being on the news.”


“Me, too,” Roy added.


“Oh. . .that..”


“So how did it feel to hold that much money at once?” She asked.


He shrugged as he repeated what he’d told Chet earlier.


“I don’t even know how much it was.”


He had to admit to himself, that was one bag he wished he could’ve hung onto longer, just to be able to find out.




“Next time you get to be the bag boy,” John stated as he glanced at his partner from the passenger seat of the squad.


They were on their way back to the station from Rampart and the younger man was going to use the time to make sure they were ‘on the same page’ on the subject, just as he had with the dog situation.


“I thought you liked helping the ladies.”


He didn’t comment on the line, but rather went on about the experience.


“You know, she parked nearly out of the lot! I mean all the way to the op--”


Gage was interrupted by the tones over the radio. They listened as Dispatch sent them out for an unknown type rescue. Their conversation would have to wait.






When they arrived at the apartment location, the paramedics were informed that a nineteen year old male seemed to be having an allergic reaction to something, though what his roommate wasn’t sure.  


“We’re cleaning the apartment up, man. . .his mom and dad are coming down from San Francisco for Christmas and we knew they’d be upset if they saw it how it usually is. We’re bachelors,” the roommate shrugged. “Whatta we care about how the place looks when it’s just us here? But Jake wanted to make his mom happy, ya know?”


Gage nodded as he set up the biophone to contact Rampart while Roy questioned the victim about his symptoms.


“Are you having any difficulty breathing, Jake?”


“Not yet. But it feels funny when I swallow. I thought I might quit breathin’ on the way if Danny drove me to the hospital and that would be the end of me for sure! He wouldn’t know what to do.”


Roy looked over the rash that had appeared on his arms. He’d told them it was also on his legs and stomach. It was blotches of tiny red bumps that Jake complained were quite itchy. 


“Did you come in contact with something you haven’t before that may have caused this?”


“Yeah! Just about everything. I’ve never cleaned up a place like this before. My mom always did it at home. It could be anything!”


Roy and John had to trade amused grins on the admission. These two young men were obviously just recently out on their own for the first time and very inexperienced with housekeeping. The paramedics had to wonder how they expected to impress the girls with a messy apartment.


John explained the situation, then gave a list of Jake’s symptoms and vital signs over the biophone while Roy once again checked him over.


“Well, it looks like the rash has tamed down some, your symptoms may be subsiding. How’s your throat feel?”


“About the same.”


“No worse?”


Jake shook his head.


“Okay, good. We’ve got an ambulance on the way. We’ll take you in for observation. They can run a few tests and see what you might be allergic to.”


Jake’s face brightened. “Hey, that would be cool, man.”


“Your mom and dad may just have to see how we live,” Danny told him. “’Cause I don’t think I can get this whole place done by myself.”


“It’s okay. Mom’ll get what we don’t anyway.”


John figured he was probably right. She’d likely get some satisfaction from still being needed by her son as well.


A short time later, the paramedics were on their way out of the apartment with Jake on a stretcher when Danny grabbed John’s right upper arm to stop him.


“Hey, uh. . .do you know anything about vacuums, by chance?”




“Yeah.” Danny ran across the room and hurried back with an upright Hoover in hand. “My girlfriend leant it to me. Trouble is, it’s not sucking up very well. Do you know what the problem might be?”


“Maybe the bag’s full.”


He gave a puzzled look. “Bag?”


“Well, yeah. You mean ya don’t know vacuums have bags?”


Danny slowly shook his head. John glanced over the porch rail, where Roy was about to the ambulance with the others. He’d need the biophone Gage had in his hands.


“Wait here. I’ll be right back.”


Good grief, he thought as he trotted down the outside steps.


After a brief explanation to Roy, John was back as promised. He unzipped the outer sack of the cleaner that housed the bag. Sure enough, it was packed full.


“Now, see ya gotta take it off carefully so you don’t send the dirt you swept up flyin’ back into the air and on the floor.”


Still squatted down beside the cleaner, he held up the freed full paper sack with a round hole at the end facing upward.


“Only thing is, you’re gonna need a new one from your girlfriend before you can use the vacuum again.”


“I guess that means I’m done, too, then. Far out, thanks!” He grabbed a denim jacket and set of keys off the couch, then sprinted for the door. “Bowling alley, here I come.”  After a brief time of being out of sight, Danny peeked back in. “Can you close the door behind you? Thanks!”


“Hey, what about Jake?”


But he was gone by the time Gage got to the word ‘about’.   


John looked at the empty open doorway, the dirty full bag in his hands, then the doorway again. With a sigh, he got to his feet.


“Kids. . .”




December 22nd


Since he hadn’t been able to finish his Christmas shopping the previous couple of days off, and time beginning to run out, John decided to brave the crowds at one of the local malls to do just that. All he needed was to find Jennifer DeSoto a doll of sorts since he’d already gotten her brother a toy bull dozer.


As he looked over the baby dolls in the toy store, he pondered what would be best. The same too many choices he’d run into last time were again holding him up.  Should he get one that drinks and wets? A cuddly soft one to sleep with? One that talked when a string on her back was pulled?  The off-duty paramedic was really wishing he’d followed his original instinct and asked Roy what would be best.


An ‘eenie, meenie minie mo’ decided  that the drinking/wetting baby won out.


After making the purchase, he exited the store with a bag in hand. Suddenly he heard a scream followed by multiple voices yelling for someone to help. His gaze immediately found the source. John ran toward the crowd forming inside a casual restaurant joined to a dime store within the mall.


“Someone help! He’s choking, he can’t breathe!”


John quickly pushed his way through the onlookers with their many Christmas themed shopping bags.


“I’m a paramedic,” he said to a frantic middle aged woman as her husband struggled for a breath. He was still in his chair, his expression complete fear.


Gage dropped the shopping bag with the doll to the floor.


“Someone call the fire department and an ambulance!” He directed as he pulled the man to his feet.


Right away he reached around the victim from behind, his hands circled around the man’s abdomen. His dominant hand in a fist just under the breastbone and his other hand firmly around the fist, he pulled inward, pressing into the victim's abdomen with quick forceful upward thrusts.


It took six abdominal thrusts in quick succession to dislodge and expel the object, which was a piece of pastry. 


The man then collapsed as he continued to struggle to breathe. John lowered him to the floor. As he continued to help the man, he didn’t notice three young ladies in particular with their gazes locked on him, mumbling amongst themselves how ‘cool’ and ‘cute’ he was.


“What’s wrong with him?” The wife cried out. “Why isn’t George breathing yet?”


“He may have aspirated some of the powdered sugar from the pastry,” John sharply replied, having had noticed a white substance coating the remaining pastry on the plate.


A sign of recovery, the man managed to wheeze. It was followed by another, then a succession of coughs, his eyes watery.


Gage supported the man with a hand on the back while he sat recuperating. The wife thanked the paramedic repeatedly for saving her husband’s life. He was still in a partial state of shock at his close call, but grateful to be alive.


“Thank. . . you. . .” he managed in a very raspy voice. The sentiment was followed by more coughs.


“Just take it easy, George,” John told him.


Soon the on duty paramedics arrived, one being the Redford look-alike. John briefed them on the situation. He patted George reassuringly on the shoulder before he moved back to allow them space. This time he noticed the three ladies in their early twenties standing nearby and realized they seemed to be shook up from what they had witnessed. 


“You need me for anything?” Gage asked the medics. 


“No, we got it.”


He stood up and went to reassure the girls.


“I never saw anyone almost die before,” one said as she wiped at the barely there tears in her eyes, her other hand holding a wrapped gift box.


“Look at me! I’m still shaking,” another added. She held out her left hand, the movement she referred to overplayed.


“He’s gonna be okay,” John told them. “They’ll take good care of ‘im.”


“Can you stand with us? You know. . for support?” The third one sheepishly asked.


It seemed a little awkward of a request considering they didn’t even seem to know the victim, but who was he to turn down the chance to be in line with three pretty chics? He was a bachelor after all. And any situation could bring the right girl into his life.




He picked up the bag with Jennifer’s doll, then stood between two of the ladies. It wasn’t long before one, then another, snuggled up close, working their way under his shoulders slightly. Feeling awkward again, he hesitantly put an arm around each. The situation got even more bizarre when the third girl stepped closer to be included. Just his left hand reached her shoulder closest to him.


They all seemed to be vying for his attention. He hoped they wouldn’t start to fight. That was the last thing he needed to be in the middle of now.


It was decided George should be taken to Rampart General for a doctor to check him over more thoroughly. He was still very raspy and coughing occasionally. As soon as the paramedics had him on a stretcher, John said to his entourage, his smile wide for their benefit, “See? He’s gonna go to the hospital and get the best of care. I know the doctors there, and they’re great! Now whata say we all get a cup of. . .”


His words trailed off as all three gals broke away from him and followed the on-duty medics, the ‘Redford’ guy in particular. But the break wasn’t entirely complete. The third lady’s purse had slipped off her shoulder and John found himself holding the strap in his left hand, the bag dangling.


He’d apparently grabbed onto it accidentally when he put his hand on her shoulder.


“Uh. . .hey. . .I believe this is yours!” He called out. But they were so focused on the other firemen in uniform, none of them heard his attempt to alarm them.


He glanced around, feeling awkward for the third time. John let out a slight laugh and shrugged when an elderly woman gave him a scornful look.




Returning the purse to its rightful owner didn’t net him any advantage. But that was okay with John. Any chic who could change her mind so fast about men was bound to be heartache in the future anyway. 


But it didn’t make him any happier to have girls pulled away as if by magnetic force by the same guy twice!



December 23rd


The next shift proved to be a busy one from the start. From a downed elf call to a hardware store fire that left three people with smoke inhalation, then a motor vehicle accident with multiple injuries. By late afternoon, the men from Station 51s A-shift were ready for some down time.


However, just as they settled in the dayroom after a late lunch to watch TV, the men were sent out for yet another motor vehicle accident.   




The rescue only involved one vehicle, but it wasn’t going to be simple. The driver of a green van had lost control as he’d come around a corner too fast on a canyon road and gone over the steep embankment.  It was barely visible among the brush, and the firemen figured if there hadn’t been a witness, it could’ve gone unnoticed for quite some time.


“They sure are lucky someone saw it happen,” Chet voiced as the engine crew and paramedics looked down from the side of the road above.


“If they survived,” John solemnly reminded.


He and Roy trotted to the squad to grab their gear while Chet and Marco tied off two ropes on the front fender of the engine. The paramedics would have to make their way down about thirty feet to reach the wreck. Their medical equipment would be brought down in a stokes once it was confirmed what was needed.




Once down, John and Roy discovered one of the rear doors to the vehicle was open, providing a partial view of a plastic life-sized Santa statue and two plastic reindeer piled just inside.


A collage of a Christmas tree, Santa, angel and wrapped package was on the side of the van. Below it the words ‘Christy’s Christmas Deliveries’ and a phone number.


As they quickly approached the front that faced downhill, the two saw that the driver was still inside the wrecked van, slumped to the side against the door. A seatbelt had apparently held him in place.




Hank watched anxiously from above, along with his engine crew and a police officer. They all hoped this would be a rescue and not a recovery mission.




As soon as the driver was in clearer view, Gage and DeSoto saw his eyes were closed, his face bloodied.


“It’s jammed,” Roy stated when tried to pull the driver’s side door open with no success.


John returned to the open back, then tossed out the Santa and reindeer to make it easier to get to the front section. His partner hurried around to the passenger side to try that door. It was already partially open, apparently a result from the accident.


The man regained consciousness and blearily looked around just as both paramedics gained better access to him.  


“Who. . .?”


“We’re with the fire department,” John explained from where he stood between the backs of the bucket seats.   “I’m John Gage and that’s my partner Roy DeSoto beside you.”


“Fire. . .?”


“We’re paramedics,” Roy clarified. “Just hold still and take it easy. You’ve been in an accident. We’re gonna check you over, then get you out of here and to a hospital.”


“Accident?” Suddenly the man ignored the instructions and sat up straight in the seat. “Barry! Whe. . .where’s Barry?”


The rescuers exchanged puzzled glances.


“Was there someone else in the van?” John asked.


“Is there. . .a brown suitcase. . .in the back?”


The answer seemed strange. But with a head injury, a person’s train of thought could be scrambled or confused.


Gage gave a quick once over behind him. His shook his head. “No.”


Roy had gotten the man to lean back against the seat again and held him in place.


“Yes,” came the answer to the earlier question. “Barry. . .my. . .uh. . .my brother.”


Once again the paramedics looked at one another, this time in concern. They hadn’t encountered anybody else on the way down. Though the brother could have been thrown out and been lying hidden in the brush.


John grabbed the HT they’d brought down with them and keyed the mic.  


“Engine 51, HT 51.”


“Go ahead.”


He listed what would be needed in addition to a stokes, then delivered the news, “Cap, we’ve got a second victim, but he’s not located within the immediate vicinity of the vehicle. I’m gonna do a quick search of the surrounding area, but the passenger and rear doors were all unsecure. He may’ve been thrown out on the way down.”


“10-4. I’ll have Chet and Marco start a search as soon as we get the equipment down to you.”


“10-4, Cap.”




By the time they got the victim topside and ready for transport, Marco, Chet, Mike and the officer had all searched the hillside for Barry and had come up empty. Calling out his name brought no responses and they hadn’t seen him anywhere in the brush within the vicinity of the path the van had taken. Nor had they seen a brown suitcase.


Chet and Marco were currently widening their search area with hope they were on the right track. 


With their patient about to leave the scene, there was another thought on Gage’s mind. He leaned close to the stretcher the man was now secured on. 


“Daryl, is Christy an actual person? A relative of yours maybe?”


The dark haired paramedic’s question brought on a puzzled expression to the victim.  


“Wha. . .?”


“The logo on the van. Christy’s Christmas Deliveries. Who’s Christy?”


“uh. . .uh. . .sister. Our. . .sister.”


Gage stood up straight and took a small notepad out of his shirt pocket. He motioned for the police officer to step over while Roy helped to load their patient into the ambulance.


“There’s a phone number on the van with a business logo Christy’s Christmas Deliveries. He says she’s their sister.” He tore off the top sheet of paper from the tablet. “I wrote down the number,” he explained as he handed it to the cop.  “Hopefully she’ll be there.”


“I’ll radio it in. Thanks.”


John gave a nod then turned and started toward the ambulance. Roy was already seated on the padded bench inside, ready to go with their charge.


“See ya  at Rampart,” John said as he closed the doors, then secured them. He slapped them a couple of times, the ambulance pulled away, then he headed for the others.


“Cap, whata we do about his brother?”


“We’ll stay here on the scene awhile longer to help search. You follow Roy. I’ll request another paramedic unit if we find him.”


He did as directed, though he didn’t have a good feeling about leaving the area with a possible victim in need of help, even though he wouldn’t have all the supplies possibly necessary anyway.




With the ambulance quite a ways ahead of him, John drove just slightly above the posted speed for the road he was on. He could meet up with Roy in ample time at Rampart.


As he came around a corner a couple of miles down hill from the accident scene, Gage noticed a section of brush ahead and a few of yards off to the side move oddly. It stopped, then moved again as he brought the squad to a stop in a turn off on the right shoulder of the road.


The curious paramedic climbed out, his eyes squinted in scrutiny.


“Hello! Anybody there?”


There was a muffled sound he couldn’t quite make out, but it sounded like it was possibly  human made. He thought about contacting the captain on the radio to let him know he’d come upon something, but decided to investigate further first. Then he could give a fully accurate report.


I wonder if this could be Barry?


“Hello?” He called out again, this time more as a question.


There was no sound in response. John pursed his lips and stepped closer.  




The officer at the scene trotted from his squad car over toward Captain Stanley, who was carefully on his way down another section of hillside to help in the ongoing search.


“I’ve got some news you’re going to be interested in!”


Hank stopped from where he was a few yards from the roadside and looked upward.  “What?”


“That ‘sister’ your victim referred to?”




“Christy Granger reported her van stolen; and not by any family members.”


The captain turned to look down at the partially exposed wrecked vehicle.


He could just imagine the reaction his paramedics would have when they got the news about the stolen van.  After all, with the new development, the victim they’d taken in was going to need to be questioned by a police officer and likely put under arrest right there at Rampart.





John took one more cautious step forward when a man suddenly stood up from the thick brush that had been hiding him.


Both men wore a look of surprise as they recognized each other right away.


It’s the guy from the botched bank robbery!


“You!” The other called out.


John immediately found himself staring at a handgun pointed in his direction. He slowly raised his hands up in surrender.






Roy hoped the captain and the rest of the engine crew had some luck in finding the other victim of the accident. If he was seriously hurt, his ‘golden hour’ would soon be running out.




“That’s quite a lump you’ve got on your head,” Gage said, having noticed one along with bruising on the man’s left temple. This guy had to be their missing victim from the wrecked van. “Someone needs to take a look at it. I can do that right now. . .just you an’ me here,” he added as he motioned at the guy then himself with his right index finger. “Whaytaya say?”


With no answer from the other, the dark haired paramedic started to turn his head in the direction of the squad. “I don’t have all--”.


“Don’t move or you’re a dead man.”


He stopped in mid motion, the rescue truck just in his peripheral vision, his hands still up in surrender. He had no idea what this guy was capable of, but he was sure a wrong move of any kind wouldn’t bring the situation to an end in his favor.




As the ambulance made another turn onto a street a few miles from Rampart, Roy glanced out the back window and noticed his partner still wasn’t in view with their squad.  He didn’t think much more about it. If the other had left the scene a few minutes later than them, he wouldn’t be right behind anyway.  


The paramedic then returned his attention to the victim. So far there had been no complications along the way.




Barry kept his gun pointed at his hostage as he stepped out of the brush after picking up something with his free hand. When he was in the clear, John saw that he had a brown suitcase with him. The gunman limped closer, revealing the head injury wasn’t his only issue. It was surprising he’d traveled such a far distance from the accident scene in his condition, since it was now a certainty that’s where he’d come from.


He tossed the cloth covered case at the paramedic’s feet.


“Pick it up!”


John couldn’t believe it. Here he was once again being thrown a bag from this same would-be robber.


And I doubt it’s full of clothes. . .


For Barry to have the case with him after the accident told Gage that he likely had finally accomplished a hold-up of sorts with his partner or brother, or what ever Daryl was to this guy. He was probably carrying the money or ‘goods’ in the case.


He slowly lowered his right arm as he leaned over to pick the bag up, all the while keeping his gaze locked on Barry. John wondered what exactly this guy’s plan was. Would he make him drive him somewhere? Or would he shoot him anyway and leave him to die in the brush?  His thoughts were interrupted by Barry.


“Okay, get over to your truck. Open the passenger door and put that suitcase on the seat.”


Gage complied, the barrel of the hand gun pressing into his back as the other followed him.




Thinking everything was under control elsewhere, Hank and the rest of the engine crew continued their search for the other victim of the accident. The officer assisted, ready to place him under arrest as soon as he was found.





“I really think you ought to let me take a look at that head injury,” John commented as he leaned in the squad cab after placing the suitcase in the middle of the seat.  “Funny thing about head injuries. You may think you’re doin’ okay. . .but very often there’s a lot goin’ on that you aren’t even aware of. Not to mention you obviously hurt your leg, too.”


“I’m fine. You just need to worry about yourself.”


Gage frowned. Though he’d hoped to turn things around somewhat by putting himself back in the role of paramedic, he truly was concerned about the man’s health and well being. It was possible the guy’s condition was deteriorating and neither would know for sure until it became a crisis. He glanced over his shoulder as he chewed his lower lip in thought. He then quickly returned his gaze to his captor.


“I helped your brother.”


Barry scoffed. “Nice try. But I don’t have a brother.”


“Oh. . .well, Daryl said you were his. Must’ve been the head injury had him confused.”




John nodded. “Yeah, your partner.”


After a pause, Barry asked, “He’s alive?”


“Uh huh. And on his way to a hospital; like you should be.”


The gunman shook his head. “No way.”


“C’mon, man. Ya wanna get outta here alive. I want you outta here alive. The best way to assure that is to get the medical attention you need.”


“I told you, I’m fine. Just do what I say!”  Barry demanded.


A sour expression on his face, John sighed.




“Looks like your suspect got away,” Captain Stanley commented to the police officer after their thorough search ended with no sign of the other victim from the accident anywhere. 


“For now. Not sure that’s the best case scenario for him though.”


The captain nodded in agreement. If the guy was hurt bad enough and wandering around in the hills, he probably never would make it out alive.


He and his crew headed for the engine .





“Okay, now we get in. . .”


As he started to walk toward the front of the squad to go around to the driver’s side, John was stopped by words he couldn’t believe he was hearing next.


“No, you get in on this side. “I’m drivin’.”


The paramedic turned to face his adversary.


“Are you kiddin’ me? Look, you may think you’re fine, but you aren’t in any condition ta drive!”


“I think I know how I feel better than you. I’ll do just fine. Now get in on this side.” He raised the gun slightly as a reminder who was in control and why.


John sighed again in disgust, then walked heavily back to the passenger door. Once there, he paused a moment. Was this guy really ruthless or was he all talk? He certainly came across as one to flee any scene rather than stand his ground. Was it worth the risk to find out?


I probably oughta let ‘um shoot me, he thought to himself. He’s gonna get us both killed anyway. . .


The sound of Barry’s voice brought him out of his thoughts.


“Wait! Don’t get in till I do!”


Gage wondered if the guy realized that once he was in, the incentive for the other to do so would be reduced by a great margin. In fact, he could probably be out of sight before Barry even knew what was going on.


He glanced at the brush filled hillside nearby, then his captor as the man slowly got into the squad. Physically, Barry was no match for a healthier person. 


Then again. . .could he really leave the squad in the hands of this guy? 


‘Course a truck can be replaced. . . He reasoned with himself. Then another argument for holding his ground crossed his mind. The engine crew would be by eventually since the victim they were looking for was obviously with him. He could try to stall and buy some time till that happened.


“You getting in or what?”


John once again looked at the injured man. Going by the guy’s way of handling this whole mess told him that he wanted to be ruthless, but probably didn’t have it in him.


The paramedic shook his head. “Not unless I’m drivin’.”


“Hey, I’m not the one who wrecked the van, you know. I can drive.”


Again, John shook his head. “Not in the condition you’re in now. Nope. I’m not goin’ anywhere with a guy who’s likely to pass out behind the steering wheel of a moving vehicle. And it’s not just us you gotta think about. What if you hit someone else?”


Barry considered his words while the other looked in the direction he’d driven from, almost willing Engine 51 to show up.


 Finally his captor spoke.


“I never thought about that.  I’d sure hate to ruin someone’s Christmas.”


John cracked a slight lopsided grin. He’d been right. This guy wasn’t ruthless at all. He actually had a soft spot.


“Then I drive?”


He nodded.


As Barry started to climb out, John trotted around the front of the truck toward the driver’s side, all the while trying to think of another way to stall their departure. His mind on that, he didn’t pay attention to Barry’s exit from the cab.


Suddenly there was a loud ‘pop’. John felt something slam into his right upper thigh, just below his hip. It wasn’t a strong enough impact to take him down, but it did cause him to stagger back a step.


Barry stood beside the open driver’s side door, his lower jaw slack in stunned surprise. After a few seconds, he finally managed to speak. “I . . .I shot you! I really shot you!”


“Shot. . .?”  Dumbfounded himself, Gage looked down at the point of impact, expecting to see blood. There was nothing to indicate he’d been wounded, other than it stung at the point of contact. But it didn’t feel like a gun shot wound should.




Barry winced from a throbbing pain that had started in his head. Maybe the paramedic had been right after all, he surmised. Or maybe it was from the sudden stress he was under now that he’d apparently hurt someone. He never intended to. All he wanted was to be rich and living somewhere on the beach in a big mansion. Now he’d be in a big house, alright. A big house called ‘jail’.


He looked at the red truck beside him. He could still leave.


Then he turned his attention back to the uniformed man he’d, in his perspective, nearly killed.


What was it his mother had always told him? Two wrongs don’t make a right. Shooting a person was bad enough. Leaving him would be . . .well, what a desperate man on the run does. After all, he had just left his injured partner with the wrecked van.


Still, with his mother’s voice in his head, he couldn’t bring himself to do it again. With a rub at his aching head, he made his way over to the medic.




Still stunned at the whole turn of events, John ignored Barry as he put a hand over the area that was still in pain. It was then he felt something in his trouser pocket.


Don’t tell me. . .


He reached inside and just as the other was in front of him, pulled out a very damaged quarter, a nickel and dime with it.


The bullet’s trajectory would have hit him in his femoral artery, which could have been fatal. But it apparently hadn’t penetrated his skin due to the loose change in his pocket. The coins had miraculously deflected the bullet and left him uninjured. Instead, the quarter and nickel had been the casualties.


Gage recalled earlier in the day when he and Roy had been at Rampart. He was set to put a quarter in a vending machine in one of the lounge rooms when they received a call over their handie talkie and had to leave on a run. He’d put it in his pocket then, and out of habit just before trotting out behind his partner from where he stood in front of the machine, had quickly checked the change slot for any money left by chance by someone else. The dime and nickel had been the result.


Those extra few seconds in that room with the vending machine had likely saved his life now.


“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”


He looked up and noticed Barry rubbing at his own forehead as he apologized.




“Yeah. . .”




“Why’re you asking me how I am?  What about you?”


“I’m okay. It’s alright, man..”


Barry crinkled his nose and squinted both in puzzlement and pain. “Huh?”


The paramedic held out the coins. “They got the worst of it.”


He could see that Barry still didn’t comprehend.


“These coins I just took outta my pocket. They got shot. Not me.”


Relief suddenly spread across his face, despite his headache.


“So I didn’t almost kill you?”


“Well, you could’ve if it weren’t for them. But, no,” John shook his head. “You sure didn’t.”


Well, that was both good and bad news. Because although he was glad the paramedic was fine, at the same time, that left him with a problem. A hostage who knew he wasn’t a threat. Somehow he was going to have to change that.





Roy came out of Treatment Room Four, surprised to see a police officer standing right outside the doorway. He immediately glanced around for who he had expected; his partner. But there was no sign of him.


“How’s he doing?” The officer asked.


Roy pointed to the door that had just closed behind him.


“The guy we just brought in?”


He nodded. “Yeah, is he going to be able to answer questions soon?”


“You’ll have to ask Doctor Brackett when he comes out.”


“Can’t you tell? You just came outta there.”


“It’s not my call to make.”


With no more to say, the obviously frustrated policeman leaned against the wall to wait while Roy continued on in search of Gage. He didn’t think twice about the cop wanting to ask the victim questions about the accident. It wasn’t routine for one to be there waiting, but had happened before.


Roy still wasn’t aware that the man he’d just brought in was a suspect wanted for driving a stolen vehicle. With their haste to get the victim into the treatment room for care, no one involved at the hospital had been briefed on that part of the situation yet.  




Barry was now sweating profusely, his skin pale. He’d tried to quickly think of a plan to gain the upper hand on his hostage situation. But in his condition, nothing was working fast. In fact, he figured he was lucky he could pull together a cohesive thought at all.


He vaguely heard Gage say he was going to call for help over the radio when he mumbled, “I think I’m . . .gonna. . .”


John caught him as he suddenly passed out. With a grunt from the exertion, the paramedic lowered him to the ground as easily as he could. He immediately dropped down beside the unconscious man and began to check his vital signs. 




Roy glanced at his watch again as he came out of the men’s room. There was still no sign of Gage anywhere in the corridor.


There’s no way Johnny would be this late.


Roy headed for the base station to ask if anyone there had heard anything from the apparently missing paramedic.  






The captain and others were more than surprised to see the dark-haired paramedic leaning over a man on the ground adjacent to the squad.


Mike brought the engine to a stop a safe distance in front of it. The engine crew immediately climbed out and trotted toward their shiftmate and his charge.


“What happened?” Captain Stanley asked, then right away added, “Don’t tell me. . .is this our missing victim?”


John looked up from where he was kneeled beside the still unconscious man and gave a nod.  He wanted to tell them about the incredible save by his money and all the other stuff that had transpired, but first priority was taking care of Barry, perhaps saving his life. The rest could wait till later.


He’d also make sure the police knew that Barry had a soft streak. He wasn’t a hardened criminal.




Roy got his answer as soon as he reached the base station. Doctor Morton was in the process of giving Gage instructions via a relay from headquarters. Apparently he and the engine crew had found the other victim.


The bigger surprise would come when he found out how close his partner came to being a victim himself and that they were dealing with criminals all along.




“Wow, who’da thought that carrying change in a pocket could actually save a life?”


“Or at least prevent a serious injury,” Marco said in response to Chet’s comment.


Once they were all back at the station together, the paramedics and engine crew had gathered around the table in the dayroom to discuss Gage’s close encounter and the capture of the two felons.


The captain shook his head as he thought back to when the police checked the contents of the suitcase. “That sure was a lot of money they had in that bag.”


“Yeah. It was pretty heavy, too.”


“I’m just glad the bullet didn’t go beyond your money,” Roy stated. He was still as amazed as the rest of the crew.


Chet looked to Gage. “So what are you going to do with the quarter and nickel? Frame ‘um?”


“I thought about that. But then I had a better idea.”


They all waited for him to continue.


“I’m gonna carry ‘em around in my pocket every where I go. ‘Cause not only were they good luck, just imagine how impressed a chic’s gonna be when I show ‘er and tell her the whole story? It’s gonna be one helluva a pick up line.”


They weren’t surprised getting a date out of the ordeal would be first on Gage’s mind.






December 25th


Johnny whistled the tune ‘Hark the Harold Angels Sing’ as he closed his apartment door behind him, the bag with the DeSoto children’s gifts in his left hand. It was Christmas Day morning and the off duty paramedic was in a very good mood as he anticipated the reactions he’d get for the presents. After all, Christmas wasn’t the same unless it included the magic and excitement involved with kids.


He gave a nod in greeting to a family who was gathering outside an apartment a few doors down. They had a large cardboard box of gifts sitting on the railing while they waited for the last of four young children to use the bathroom inside.


After he passed them and wished them a merry Christmas, Gage continued with his whistling as he made his way down the steps, unaware that disaster was about transpire above.




“Finally!” The mother haughtily exclaimed when she saw her ten year old son come in a hurry toward the front doorway. He rushed right past her and into the railing.


The boy fell onto his back as the box of gifts immediately disappeared in the other direction.





John had no sooner reached the bottom step when he suddenly found himself under a barrage of festively wrapped packages from above. They fell to the right and left of him, some bouncing off his shoulders and arms.


But it was the blow to his head by a neatly wrapped tea pot as he ducked that proved to be the worst. The off duty paramedic briefly saw a flash of white stars before his vision faded to a pinpoint and then blackness.


He lay in a heap on the sidewalk, oblivious to the group from above rushing down to him.





Gage groaned as he slowly rolled over onto his back and glanced upward. He squinted at the brightness behind the faces staring down at him. He could vaguely hear a siren in the background.


“Don’t worry; help is on the way,” one lady told him.


He reached into his right pant pocket and felt the damaged coins still there. What ever had happened, they sure didn’t help this time. Then he remembered. . .


Presents. . .


He was surrounded by them.


He blearily glanced around as he placed a hand on the back of his head, a throbbing pain now in full swing. He instinctively brought his hand forward to check for blood. Luckily there was none.


Then he had another thought.


Where were the gifts he’d been carrying? After a brief slow scan, he recognized the bag nearby, the two children’s presents still partially inside it.


“I’m sorry. . .I’m so sorry,” one of the ladies he’d seen on the upper walkway apologized from beside him.


He gave her a weak lopsided grin. “S’okay,” he assured, though he felt anything but ‘okay’ at the moment.




As soon as the paramedics arrived to his aid, Gage’s lower jaw went slack. Of all the rescue teams to get, his had to be the one with the Redford look alike.


Couldn’t this guy have the day off?


More tenants from the building gathered here and there to watch once the fire department had arrived and it became apparent something had happened.


Gage noticed a young lady standing nearby that he’d met into in the apartment complex laundry room a few times. He’d tried to get a conversation going with her. Maybe between this and the coins in his pocket, he’d finally have something captivating to talk about. Later. . .when he wasn’t dealing with the worst headache of his life.


The paramedics continued to work on him. But when a few of the ladies, including John’s interest, seemed to be enclosing on their space, Mr Hollywood handed John the IV bag attached to his arm.


“Here hold this.”


He then stood up. The dreamy expressions on the various female faces weren’t lost on the downed man nor the partner motioning for the ambulance attendants to come over.


“I’m sorry, but you ladies are going to have to move back,” ‘Redford’ said as he motioned for them to clear the area.


An oxygen mask over his nose and mouth, John looked astonished at the IV bag in his hand, then the women still enthralled with the uniformed man in front of them.  


He didn’t know if it was just the concussion or reality, but somehow he’d gotten a serious dejavu’ for Christmas. 




My thanks to Lisa and Tammy for the inspiration with a purse incident with Randy Mantooth, and allowing me to act on it.   :o) The not being able to breathe from inhaling coating from food in the mouth. . .let's just say I personally researched that one by accident. Longest several seconds of my life, I'd say! lol  Some things are exaggerated, some medical not quite spot on. . .but for the tone of the story, it's intentional. :o) 








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Christmas Stories