This was a story starter I had posted on another site before I ever wrote any fan fic, but it was never answered to. I am very honored that Ness wanted to write it with me. Thanks! :o)
House of Mirrors
By Vanessa Sgroi and Audrey W.
“So, partner, what are you doing after we get out of here?”
The two A-shift paramedics of Station 51 stood in front of their lockers changing out of their uniforms. For once it had been a fairly quiet shift for the entire station, and both men were in a good mood.
“Oh, man, Roy. I’ve got a date later today with this really great chick.”
“I should have known. This is a new girl?”
“Yeah, we met at this book store. I talked to her a couple of times before I asked her out. Her name is Samantha. She’s smart and funny. She makes me laugh.”
“So where are you taking her?”
“I decided to do something different. I’m taking her to the Buena Amusement Park. I think she’ll like that.”
Both men jumped at a burst of laughter on the other side of the lockers. A moment later, Chet Kelly poked his head around the corner.
“I bet you’re going to take her on all the scary stuff so she’ll grab you when she’s scared. Am I right?”
“No! I wouldn’t do that.”
“Ah, c’mon, Gage. Tell the truth. You’ll be glad to hold her close when you go through the Haunted House or one of those other things. Or even the roller coaster—unless she gets sick on you.”
“Chet! I am telling the truth. I wouldn’t do that. It’s . . . it’s sneaky.”
“Man, you don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s the brilliance of the plan. It’s sneaky but you get to hold a woman close and she’s happy about it.”
“Well, I don’t need stuff like that! I can hold a woman close without being sneaky.”
“Yeah, right. We all know how successful you are at that. Mark my words, Gage. You’ll regret it if you don’t prove to her how ‘manly’ you are when she’s scared.”
“Chet, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Go away. You shouldn’t be eavesdropping anyway.”
“I’m going. I’m going. But remember my words if the date starts to go bust.”
“Man, Roy, can you believe that guy? Like I’d take his advice on how to treat a woman!”
Johnny held his date’s hand as the two wandered through the amusement park. It was late afternoon and the two adults had been on several rides since arriving at the park shortly before lunch. The day was going very well, and Johnny was grateful he didn’t feel a need to try out Chet’s ridiculous idea of scaring his date on a ride.
The paramedic carried a large stuffed elephant that he had won for his girlfriend at a booth where he threw darts to pop balloons. Samantha glanced at her handsome companion.
“What do you want to do next?”
Gage shrugged, almost dropping the toy. He had to quickly let go of Samantha’s hand to grab the elephant before it hit the ground. “Ooops. That was a close call,” he said grinning. He fluffed up the animal and handed it to her, then glanced around. “I don’t know. How about the haunted house?”
“Noooo . . . I don’t like stuff that jumps out at me.”
“Okaaay.” Looking around again, Johnny noticed a Ferris wheel not too far away. “Well, what about that,” he said, pointing.
“The Ferris wheel?”
“Uh huh,” he nodded. “I promise I won’t make the car swing.”
“Okay, as long as you promise.”
Johnny was interrupted by a young woman screaming as she ran from the House of Mirrors nearby.
“Oh my God, oh God. . .help! Please, help!”
“What the . . .” The sound of high-pitched screams turned both Johnny and Samantha toward the House of Mirrors. A young girl was racing in their direction, tears streaming down her face. Gage watched as people shied away from the girl’s pleas for help. Several actually turned and hurried away as if they didn’t see her. Grabbing Samantha’s hand, the dark-haired man hurried toward the distressed girl.
“Hey, hey, what’s going on?” Johnny put a hand on the girl’s shoulder to focus her attention.
“My boyfriend needs help! Please, he’s gonna hurt himself!” Tears streamed down her face, and her words came so fast that she was barely understandable.
“Now, listen here, you have to calm down.” Both of Johnny’s hands rested on her shoulders in support.
The girl pulled free. “I can’t! Don’t you understand? He’s high on something, and he’s freaking out in the House of Mirrors! Mister, he’s got a knife!”
With that information, Johnny knew there might not be any time to spare. There was no telling what a guy could do to himself in that situation. Another thought came to mind. What if someone else is in there and doesn’t know what’s going on? He waved over a teenaged boy who was working the entrance to the Mirrors place. As the kid approached, Johnny addressed the upset girl. “Do you know what he’s on?”
“No,” came a breathless reply.
“You have no idea what it was?”
“No. No, I don’t know.” As she mumbled her answer again, her eyes slid away from the paramedic’s face and focused on the ground.
Johnny was sure she was lying, but didn’t want to waste time arguing. “Was anyone else in there with him?”
“No. . .I mean, I don’t know. Maybe just other visitors. I don’t know!”
“What’s his name?”
“Al . . .Alan. Please, just help him!”
When the teenager arrived, Gage directed him. “Listen,” the paramedic glanced at the boy’s nametag, “listen, Billy, go put the ‘Closed’ sign on the door and then you need to call the cops and the fire department. Tell ‘em you’ve got a guy tripping out in there,” he said, pointing to the House of Mirrors. “And let them know he’s armed.”
The kid nodded, his face stunned. Man, I hope Old Man Blatt doesn’t find a way to blame me for this! Billy hurried and posted the “Closed” sign on the building, as he'd been told. He knew his next task should be to run and call for help, but he found himself rooted to the spot, wondering what might be going on inside. He'd never seen anybody strung out before; only what they showed on TV. He was terribly curious to see the real thing.
Watching the boy run off to do his bidding and anxious to help however he could, Johnny turned back to Samantha.
“You both stay here.” He started to head for the building when he felt someone grab his arm. He turned to see Samantha’s tense face.
“Shouldn’t you wait for help? You don’t know what you’re walking into.”
He patted her hand, touched by her concern. “Don’t worry. Help’ll be here soon. I gotta see what I can do for this guy.” He ran for the entrance of the building. As an afterthought, he called over his shoulder, “Don’t let anyone else in!”
Samantha held the elephant loosely in one hand as she tried to comfort the distraught girl.
“Don’t worry. Johnny knows what he’s doing. He’s with the fire department. He’s used to stuff like this.”
“B-but . . .”
“What’s your name, honey?”
“Listen, Missy, let’s go over and stand by the door. We’ll keep others out, just like Johnny said. Everything’s going to be fine.”
Johnny slowly made his way through the maze of mirrors. It was difficult to figure out which direction to go. The only way he could was to place his hands on the walls and feel for an opening to the next section. As he got farther in, Johnny realized there may have been an easier way in. The place probably had an emergency exit.
Oh well . . . at least the cops and other firefighters can get in easier that way.
He jumped when he came upon the images of two teenage girls in the next set of mirrors. The girls giggled at the paramedic’s reaction. One girl jabbed the other in the ribs and motioned toward Johnny’s reflection.
“So what if he scares easy,” she said. “He’s cute.”
“He’s probably got a girlfriend.”
Johnny spoke to the multitude of reflections in his view. “You girls see anyone else in here?”
“No, not yet.”
“Well, listen, head back for the entrance. You need to get out of here.”
“No way! We gave up three tickets each to get in here!” the bolder of the two girls informed him.
“Look, I’ll even give you mine,” Johnny offered. “Here’s ten tickets. Now go.”
Tammy grabbed them and headed deeper into the maze, her friend, Sara, close behind. Johnny swore as he tried to chase after the two, feeling along the glass as he moved. “Wait!”
Suddenly he could hear a young man yelling from close by. However, he still couldn’t see anyone. The yelling turned to wild senseless rants.
“Demons! Demons—that’s what you are! Get away! You won’t catch me this time! I can see you now.”
It wasn’t long before Johnny heard girlish screams mixed with the rants.
Damn it, I’ve gotta get them outta here.
Still feeling his way along the mirrored walls, Johnny rounded a corner and finally saw images of Alan in several of the glass panels; the two girls stood frozen in fear near to where the paramedic was entering. The hallucinating teen watched the three of them intently, his eyes as bitter cold as an Artic winter. Suddenly Gage realized he had no idea which was the real guy and which was a reflection.
Oh shit. . .
Billy hesitated and watched the dark-haired man rush into the building. Sparing a glance toward the snack stand where he could alert park security, the teenager considered his options. It would take time to get anyone over here. Why wait when he could go in himself and offer to help? He was sure the fireman would appreciate him doing that. Another thought occurred to him. If he went in there and saved the day, he’d be a hero. And that new status might be just the ticket to impress the girl he liked; the pretty girl named Gina who sold tickets for the Tilt-o-Whirl.
His decision made, the boy smiled, satisfied that he was doing the right thing. Without another thought, the young man slipped inside the back door and started in search of Johnny and the patron flipping out on drugs.
Johnny stood still and stared hard, trying to find a clue to indicate which image in front of him was real. A movement to his left drew his attention. Multiple images of the now quiet girls reflected back to him. One of the girls was frantically tugging on the arm of her friend. The second girl refused to budge. Unfortunately, the drugged out teen also saw this movement and launched into another tirade, repeatedly striking out at monsters only he could see.
“No! NO! Get away! Help me! Help me! They’re gonna eat me!”
The paramedic edged toward where he thought the girls were located, hoping to coax them away. He froze when Alan’s ranting escalated to ear piercing screams. The air conditioning kicked on with a groan. Johnny shivered at the cool blast of air roaring from the vent above his head.
Gage reluctantly started to move again. He’d gone no more than two steps when Alan’s screaming stopped. In the resulting silence, another voice was heard.
“Hey, hey, where are you? Where are you guys?”
Johnny groaned. *Another* kid in here? Oh man! This is ridiculous. Can this get any worse?
Precisely at that moment, the lights went out and brilliant white flashes from a number of strobe lights filled the room.
Samantha glanced around the area surrounding the House of Mirrors. With the “Closed” sign up on the attraction, there were a few disappointed faces as people turned away. However, for the most part, everything had returned to normal. No one in the vicinity seemed aware that anything was taking place inside.
She scanned over the crowd in search of a sign of the fire department or police approaching, but didn’t see anyone in uniform. The park security hadn’t even shown up on the scene. Samantha was brought out of her thoughts when Alan’s distraught girlfriend voiced similar concerns.
“Where’s the help that’s supposed to be coming?” Missy asked, wiping tears from her eyes. “Shouldn’t someone be here by now?”
Samantha put her arm around the young girl and handed her the stuffed elephant to hold. It seemed like a useless gesture, but better than nothing. “I think it’s too soon unless they were in the area to begin with. And that’s not likely.”
“What about the cops that work in the park? Someone’s gotta help Alan!”
“Johnny’s in there. He’ll help him till they get here.” The woman looked at the House of Mirrors and wondered how Johnny was fairing. She knew he had a lot of experience dealing with situations other people would run away from. He’ll be okay, Samantha tried to reassure herself.
Johnny took a couple of steps backwards when the strobe lights first began.
Man, this is not what I need right now.
During one of the quick flashes, he could see the terrified faces of the two girls reflecting in the multitude of mirrors. The next flash, they were trying to get away. The next few seconds played out like a slow motion movie as the girls and the freaked out teen seemed to come together in the reflections of the mirrors, Johnny’s own reflection in the background. But the paramedic’s attention was attracted to another image slowly approaching from the other direction. He now could see the teenager who ran the House of Mirrors coming in beside his own reflection in several of the other mirrors in view.
“Get out of here!” Gage whispered loudly in hopes of not upsetting Alan any more than he already was. Billy kept coming toward him. “I said get out of here. Now.” The paramedic used a firm voice but tried not to sound angry.
“Look, I don’t need any more people in here than I have right now.” Then Johnny remembered something he needed to know. “Is there an emergency exit to this place?”
Billy nodded in answer to the question. Suddenly Alan let out a guttural yell that sent the youth off and running in a panic. Though Billy quickly disappeared from Gage’s sight, he didn’t make it far before his panicked state had him disoriented.
At the same time the park employee ran off, Johnny’s attention was drawn back to the girls and Alan as the freaked out youth continued to let out guttural screams while he swung at the girls’ images with his knife. Johnny knew it wouldn’t be long before the two teens huddled together and crying would end up hurt or worse. He had to act soon. The paramedic hoped the strobe lights would work to his advantage.
Johnny made his way toward the other mirrors, feeling along the glass walls as he rounded the next corner. The others were close enough to touch now although he still couldn’t tell what was real and what was reflection. Focused on the girls, he didn’t catch the bewildered expression on Alan’s face as the paramedic inched closer.
Without warning, the regular lights came on again. Johnny squinted in the brightness, still seeing slight flashes from the strobes. He quickly rubbed at his eyes, then yelled as the inevitable came to be. Alan reached straight out at the girls with his knife, cutting one on the arm.
“Run!” Johnny yelled.
Tammy and Sara didn’t hesitate. It was as if Johnny had willed them to go himself. They tried to run, feeling their way along the wall. To keep the attention off of the fleeing girls, Gage began to talk to the freaked out young man.
“Alan, listen to me. It’s going to be okay. I’m here to help you.” He reached out tentatively, looking at what he hoped was the real man. He kept his eyes trained on Alan’s and continued to talk to the youth. “It’s okay, man. I’m not gonna hurt ya.”
“No, get ‘em away from me! They’re tryin’ ta kill me! Get ‘em away!”
“No, they aren’t real, Alan.”
In a matter of seconds, Alan charged, swinging the knife as he yelled once again, “Get ‘em away!”
Johnny quickly tried to put distance between himself and Alan by stepping away. “They aren’t—” He stopped in mid-sentence as he felt the blade slice across his abdomen. He jumped back, only to end up against a mirror. The paramedic looked down to see the damage.
“What are those things?” Alan screamed, his eyes wide in fear as he stared at Johnny’s wound. “Why are you letting them out?”
“Wha. . .?”
“The monsters! You son of a bitch! You’re letting more of them out!”
In a moment of panic, Alan reached out and by his luck, got the real paramedic and not just a reflection. Johnny quickly looked up in time to feel a hand on his shoulder but not soon enough to stop the incredibly strong youth from shoving him hard against the mirror right behind him. The back of Johnny’s head connected with the hard surface, the glass spider webbing in a small circle at the point of impact. Stunned, Gage slid down the glass and sat. He woozily looked up at Alan as the young man screamed about the little demonic creatures running out from the blood. As Johnny tried to get up, the strobe lights cycled on again.
Alan continued to yell as he watched monsters streaming from the other man’s body. His drugged mind refused to reconnect with reality. Spinning around, he lashed out with his fist, pounding at his own image shimmering in the mirror. Alan wasn’t seeing himself however. The image he saw in the mirror during the brief flashes of light was that of a demon; a demon with razor-sharp teeth, glowing ruby eyes, and mottled brown black skin. With a final drawn out shriek, Alan was gone, disappearing in the blink of an eye.
Gage was still woozy from the encounter with the mirror. The strobe lights were enhancing his dizziness. Slowly, he struggled to his hands and knees and then to his feet. Johnny tried to stand straight but failed. Breathing shallowly, Gage remained hunched over. His headache throbbed in time with the burning pain flaring across his abdomen.
Johnny examined the wound the best he could in the darkness. As far as he could tell just by touch, the wound seemed to be fairly shallow but was bleeding pretty heavily. It also continued to hurt like hell. For that matter, his head was killing him too. Oh, man.
The lights finally snapped back on, and Johnny blinked at the sudden brightness. Swallowing against nausea, the dark-haired man looked around in an attempt to locate either Alan or the girls. All he saw was his own reflection.
With a grunt, Johnny stepped forward on shaky legs. Using his hands, he touched the mirrors in front of him in an attempt to find the correct passage. As he shuffled along, he left behind bloody smears and handprints.
Samantha looked around the park once more before glancing down at her watch. She was sure that help would have been here by now and was puzzled. She looked at Missy.
“Why don’t we head toward the entrance to the park? Maybe we’ll be able to direct the rescue people this way.”
With a worried glance at the entrance to the House of Mirrors, Samantha led the girl away.
Billy ran out of the House of Mirrors entrance and fell flat on his stomach, having tripped over his own feet in his haste to escape. He quickly got up and headed for the nearest first aid station for help. He never looked around to see if Samantha and Missy were still present nor looked back to see if Johnny or anyone else had made it safely from the ride.
Tammy and Sara clung tight to each other as they fumbled their way along the mirrors in search of the exit. Smears of blood remained on the glass in places from the cut on Tammy’s arm.
When they heard Alan’s screams sounding closer than before, a panic came over them.
“He’s coming, he’s coming!” Sara cried.
“I want my mom!” Tammy whimpered.
“C’mon, Tammy, we’ve gotta get outta here!” Sara pulled her friend along. As they came around another corner of the maze, they were met with a sight neither expected.
A sign clearly marked the emergency exit.
“Let’s get outta here!”
As they made their escape into the sunshine outdoors, the two girls sat on the ground against the side of the building. For now, Tammy was too relieved at being free of the maze to even think about her bloody arm.
Demons and monsters. Every direction he turned, Alan was surrounded by them. Terrified, the man swung out in defense against the images. His strength still increased, the mirrors spider webbed one after another where his fist connected. Although the glass was designed to stay in place in case of breakage, Alan saw something different taking place. His mind processed the broken glass as being in motion. Eyes wide in amazement, he watched the pieces of glass climb down and run toward his feet. Alan went to put his hands to his head when he caught the gleam of the knife blade still in his right hand. A grin spread across his face.
You can’t get me now.
He plunged the cool steel into his gut.
Johnny stumbled slightly and paused as he took a few quick breaths. He was growing woozier by the minute. The mirrored walls rocked as he glanced around. He looked at his bloodied hands.
Although the paramedic felt the need to sit down, he knew Alan could still do more harm to the girls or himself if no one was there to stop him.
I hafta’ do somethin’ . . . gotta find him. He stumbled slightly as he forced himself to weakly press on. Can’t let ‘um hurt those girls.
Johnny ignored the throbbing in his head and the increasing nausea, his left hand again on his bloody abdomen.
Samantha stopped just inside the front gates of the park. There was no sign of the police or fire department anywhere.
“Stay here,” she told Missy. Not sure what else to do, Samantha went to one of the ticket booths at the entrance to see if anyone had word on when help would arrive. She was stunned to find out no one had been told to be on the look out for emergency crews. She suddenly realized the teen boy hadn’t called for help when he was supposed to. As she started to trot away, a park employee called her back over.
“We just got word, the police and fire department should be here in about five minutes. Park security is on their way to the House of Mirrors now.”
Gage stopped again after a few steps and cocked his head to the side, listening. He no longer heard Alan’s terrified ranting. Instead he heard the sound of pounding, followed by the sound of breaking glass. What the paramedic couldn’t tell was exactly where it was coming from. It sounded like it was straight ahead, but he’d learned things were easily distorted in the House of Mirrors—including noise. After listening for a few seconds, the dark-haired man moved forward and slowly turned a corner, hoping all the while that he was heading in the right direction. When the lights cycled off once again, Johnny groaned as the strobe lights played havoc with his dizziness and nausea.
Several minutes passed as Tammy and Sara sat in silence. They had both finally stopped shaking. As if choreographed, each of them roughly wiped at the remnants of tears on their faces. Sniffling, Sara looked over at her friend. She blinked a couple of times before speaking.
“Hey, your arm’s bleeding pretty bad.”
Tammy looked down at the cut on her arm. Now that her terror had subsided, her arm was throbbing pretty good. Her eyes filled with tears once again.
“Do you think I’ll have to have stitches?”
Sara shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe. Why?”
“What am I gonna do for the big dance at school next week? I’m going to look hideous!”
Sara rolled her eyes at her friend. Standing up, she reached down and helped Tammy to her feet. “C’mon. We better go find some help.”
With his mind still focused on fighting the increasing nausea, throbbing headache, and the intense stinging sensation from within the knife wound in his abdomen, it took a minute for Johnny to realize the pounding on the glass had stopped. Feeling his way with his hands, he found the opening to a new corridor and turned in that direction. Gage paused for moment in indecision.
The lights came back on just as he started forward again. Blinded, he tripped over something in his path, landing with a thud. Pain exploded in his head and along the path of the cut on his abdomen. With a groan, Johnny sat up and looked to see what he’d fallen over. It was Alan. Gage was horrified to see the knife handle protruding from the youth’s stomach.
Johnny crawled over to the stricken teenager. He examined Alan the best he could. The paramedic grimaced as he watched the knife handle quiver with each heaving breath the boy took. Alan’s muscles jerked and twitched.
In an attempt to stabilize the knife, Johnny pulled off the t-shirt he was wearing, and after tearing it into strips, he carefully wrapped it around the knife. It wasn’t the perfect solution, but it was the best he could do.
Suddenly, Gage’s stomach rolled and unable to fight it anymore, he leaned as far away from Alan as he could and vomited.
After arriving breathless at the nearest first aid station, Billy hurried inside to find help. A security employee was just heading toward the door.
“You . . .you’ve gotta. . .come . . .qui. . .quick,” the teen gasped.
“I’ve got a call to check out. You’ll have to find someone else. The desk clerk can help you.”
“No. . .you. . .you don’t. . .under. . .stand.” Billy paused to swallow. “It can’t . . . wait.”
“Look, kid, I’ve got a possible emergency at the House of Mirrors. It can’t wait.” The man brushed past him.
The youth looked stunned. Someone had gotten word out . . . had the man who’d gone in to help escaped safely? Or had the situation gone from bad to worse while Billy was searching for help. If only I’d done what I was supposed to the first time, he pouted. Billy hurried behind the security employee, hoping they weren’t too late.
Tammy and Sara ran through the crowd of people who were making their way from one attraction to another. Her arm still bleeding, Tammy was growing weak from exerting so much energy in addition to coming down from the adrenaline rush they’d both been through. As Sara squirmed her way toward the first aid station, her friend stopped moving, exhausted. Tears ran down her cheeks.
“Look! There’s a security officer now!” Sara yelled. When she didn’t get an answer, she turned around. Tammy was no longer with her. “Tammy? Tammy!”
After a few seconds of worry, her friend became visible in the crowd and staggered over to Sara. “I’m gonna be sick.”
“Don’t worry. Help’s on the way. Look!” Sara said, pointing to the man and Billy approaching at a fast pace. “And there’s the first aid station behind them.”
Tammy gave a weak smile. They’d done it. They’d reached the help they needed.
Samantha slumped against the gate in relief when she was given the news. Johnny was going to be getting some help very soon. She hoped that nothing had gone wrong. The thought made her turn and run back in that direction, not even thinking to tell Missy what she was up to. All she could think about was Johnny, and wonder if he’d made it out yet safely.
“Wait!” the younger girl yelled. “Shouldn’t we wait here?” She watched as Samantha disappeared into the crowd. To an empty space where Samantha had just been, she hollered, “I’ll stay here so I can tell ‘um what’s up!” Missy squeezed the stuffed elephant tight in a hug and turned to look out at the parking lot beyond the gates. Tears formed in her eyes. “Oh please be okay, Alan,” she whispered. “Please don’t hurt yourself. Help’s on the way.”
After checking the man’s vitals as best he could, Johnny had to sit beside Alan and lean against the glass wall behind him. The paramedic was feeling woozier and didn’t want to chance passing out. He looked down at the now exposed wound in his abdomen. Though it was still oozing enough blood, he counted his blessings that it wasn’t any worse. Once again the strobe lights cycled on and Gage found his head pounding inside to the rhythm of the flashes. He rubbed at his eyes, then opened them and in his weary state, found himself fixated on the image of the knife in Alan’s gut. He could see the slight rise and fall of the handle as the man breathed and the lights came on and off again. It was like an image out of a horror film.
Snapping out of the slight trance-like state, Johnny glanced at his own image in the multitude of mirrors. “You sure have seen better days,” he remarked to himself. When he heard a man’s voice call out, Johnny struggled to get to his feet. He started forward toward the sound of the voice. Someone had apparently come in through the regular or emergency exit. “Here!” he called weakly. “We’re here!”
The security guard easily made his way deeper into the House of Mirrors attraction. He knew the route well, as he was required to do a check for stragglers just before the park closed for each night.
As he rushed forward, the lights went out, slowing him down slightly. He yelled to the youth behind him, “Go turn that stuff off! And then make sure the fire department knows where to come.”
In the distance he heard, “We’re here!” in answer to his call. He pushed forward, using his hands for guidance. After a few twists and turns, the lights came back on and a few steps later, he came upon Johnny and Alan. For a moment he stared in shock.
Missy stood gazing into the crowd where Samantha had disappeared. The sound of sirens behind her signaled the arrival of the rescue squad. Missy turned toward the front entrance. When she saw the two paramedics walk through and talk to a park employee at the gate, she stood speechless for several seconds, suddenly reluctant to discuss Alan. Finally, she approached the rescue men.
“Yes?” One paramedic asked.
“I . . . it’s m-my boyfriend,” suddenly Missy started to cry, “h-h-he in the House of Mirrors.”
It took a minute for the two paramedics to get her calmed down enough to get a coherent story from her. After hearing enough, one of them turned to a another park employee who was part of the security team. “Where’s this ride at?”
“Over on the east end of the park, not far from the Ferris wheel.
They looked up to see the tall wheel towering over the attractions. It was a good distance away.
“Is there a cart or something we could ride over on?”
“Yeah, I’ve got one right beside the gate.”
The two trotted over to where the cart had been pointed out, their medical equipment in hand. Missy and the security guard were close behind.
“Can I come?” She noticed reluctance in their reaction. “Please?”
A quick nod and she climbed into a compact rear seat beside one of the paramedics. The security guard drove the threesome to the location.
The scene before him had a surreal quality to it. He certainly was not prepared for what he saw. The security guard moved closer to Johnny.
Gage focused on the man in front of him.
“He—he’s high on something.”
“Did you stab him?”
“N-no. He freaked out. Got in a few licks at me. Then did that.”
“Shouldn’t we, like, take it out or something?”
“NO! No, if you do, he might bleed to death. I . . . I’m a paramedic . . . with the county. I stabilized it the best I could,” Johnny groaned at the renewed throbbing in his head, “Is help on the way? Medical help?”
“Yeah. Yeah. Help should be here any minute.”
As if on cue, they heard yelling coming from the front of the building. The security guard already inside hollered out instructions as to their location and it wasn’t long before the two paramedics and the other security guard were there. A police officer wasn’t far behind.
“Johnny Gage? What the heck?”
“Hey, Steve, uh . . . long story. T-t-take care of the boy.”
Paramedic Steve Chase bent down to examine Johnny while his partner moved over to Alan.
“Hey, who’s in charge here? I believe it’s me. So let me give the orders.”
Johnny nodded and laid his head back without argument.
Tammy and Sara sat in the first aid station, a nurse taking care of the injured girl’s arm. The security guard they had run into had told the girls to head directly for the building as he ran for the House of Mirrors after they rattled off in hysterics what took place inside the attraction.
Tammy looked up from her place on the exam table when a police officer stepped inside the room.
“You the girls who had the run in with the man in the House of Mirrors?”
Sara nodded. “Yes, sir. My friend—”
“I got hurt,” Tammy explained, holding up her bandaged arm.
“I understand your parents aren’t here?”
“No,” both girls answered.
“Did you get hurt?” He asked Sara.
He wrote down a few notes then looked at the two girls. “Okay. Well, I need to get *you*,” he said to Tammy, “to an ambulance outside so you can ride in with a paramedic. They were both sent into the House of Mirrors for now. Your parents are being notified to meet us all at Rampart General Hospital. I’ll need a statement from you both while we’re waiting.”
The two girls nodded. They began to alternate telling their story as the three slowly made their way to an ambulance outside.
As Steve and his partner began to assess their patients, Johnny tried to fill them in on more details. Still sitting up against a wall at the moment, he weakly gestured toward Alan. “He was. . . high. . .some kind of drug.”
“Any idea what?” Steve asked.
The injured paramedic shook his head. “His girlfriend . . . probably knows. He was . . . was pretty strung . . . out.”
“Oh, I think we met the girlfriend. She didn’t mention a thing about it.” Steve explained. “Could be she just wants to protect herself by staying quiet.”
Steve’s partner, Carl, heard the news and sent the officer to find out from Missy what her boyfriend was on. They would need to know so as not to give him anything that may make him worse.
Until things started to wind down, Johnny didn’t realize just how much he was hurting. But now that the adrenaline started to wear off, he was becoming more aware of how bad he felt. Between being slammed into a mirrored wall and having the strobe lights all around for part of the ordeal, he had developed quite a persistent headache. The paramedic also was beginning to feel weak and shaky from the wound to his belly and the blood loss that resulted from it.
Steve Chase noticed his patient wince and hiss in pain as he slowly helped the dark-haired man lay flat on the floor. “You hurt anywhere besides here?” he asked, taking a closer look at Alan’s handiwork with a knife. He gently wiped at the wound, eliciting a groan from Gage, then placed a gauze pad over it. “He really got you good.”
Johnny nodded in a delayed answer to the first question he’d been asked. “M . . . my head hurts. He hit it . . . on the wall.”
“Did you lose consciousness?”
“No.” Johnny winced again. “I . . . didn’t. Strobe . . . lights . . . didn’t help,” he grinned weakly.
Gage tried to look where Alan was being worked on. He could hear the vitals being read to Rampart, and they didn’t sound good. The policeman had returned with news that the young man was high on LSD.
“Is he . . . gonna be okay?” Johnny asked, well aware that paramedics rarely had the answers bystanders wanted.
“Always worried about everyone else, huh, Gage?” Steve glanced over at the other victim, then began to check for injury to Johnny’s head. “He’s lucky he had you here to secure that knife.”
Johnny just nodded and caught a glimpse as Alan was lifted onto a stretcher. He looked extremely pale.
Steve moved his hand from the back of Johnny’s head. “You’ve got quite a bump there. Some scabbing and blood, but not a lot. I think you just split the skin a little.” He pulled out his penlight and checked Gage’s eyes. When he was done, he put the light back in his pocket. “Eyes are okay. Any dizziness?”
“Yeah . . . some.”
“I’d say you’ve got a mild concussion. Sorry, but you know I won’t be able to give you anything for the pain from the knife wound.”
Once again, Johnny nodded. “S’okay.”
Steve got on the HT and relayed a call to Rampart. He gave a run down on Johnny’s condition and waited instruction. Due to the seriousness of Alan’s condition, his partner had already left with the injured man. It was vital they get him into surgery as soon as possible.
Gage groaned, then looked around blearily from his position on the floor. “Samantha. . .”
“10-4 Rampart. D5W TKO, and transport as soon as possible.” Steve set down the HT and looked at Johnny. “Samantha? Is there another victim somewhere?”
“No . . . my date. She’s out . . . side . . . I hope.”
“Oh, the pretty lady who was in tears and worried about you?” Steve forced a smile. “You sure go all out to impress a date.” When he saw Johnny took the sarcasm as it was intended, Steve continued. “Don’t worry. She’s still waiting. It was all we could do to keep her out of here.”
“Some way . . . to end a date . . .”
“Yeah. I’m sure it’s one she won’t soon forget.”
After getting Johnny ready to transport, Steve helped to carefully lift him on a stretcher. He was taken out the emergency exit. Many park visitors had gathered around the House of Mirrors to see what was going on. A news crew was just arriving as Johnny was being taken to the waiting ambulance.
Samantha hurried over to her date. “Johnny!” When she saw his pale appearance, glassy eyed look and the large gauze pad on his belly, she broke into tears. “Oh God, I’m so sorry! I thought help was on the way and I found out too late that it wasn’t. I’m so sorry”
“Not your fault,” Gage weakly assured. He was feeling more tired by the minute as lethargy set in more after coming down from the adrenaline rush he’d been on.
Samantha turned to Steve. “Can I ride in with him?”
The paramedic shook his head. “But you can ride in the front of the vehicle.”
She smiled, gave Johnny a reassuring squeeze of his hand and a kiss on the cheek, then hurried to the front passenger side.
Johnny was lifted into the back just as a news reporter approached. He stuck the microphone into Steve’s face. “Can you fill us in on exactly what went down inside the House of Mirrors?”
Steve climbed inside and turned to face the reporter. “Sorry, I don’t have any details.”
An attendant closed the doors and hurried to the driver’s side.
The reporter watched with disappointment as the vehicle pulled away through the crowd. He then continued on with speculation on what he thought may have happened.
“Treatment Room Three,” Dixie McCall directed Paramedic Carl Pryor. The kid on the stretcher was going downhill fast. Kelly Brackett’s impressive skills were going to be put to the test.
“His BP is down to 80/60,” Carl called out.
The ambulance attendants quickly, but carefully, transferred Alan to the exam table while Carl gave a rundown of the rest of the boy’s vitals and condition.
Brackett moved next to the table and studied the imbedded knife while simultaneously barking out treatment orders. Concern and determination darkened his expression.
“Hey, Gage, don’t go out on me!”
Johnny’s eyes slowly opened. “S-sorry. Didn’t mean to drift.”
“How you doin’?”
The dark-haired man shivered and sighed. “I’m cold.”
Steve pulled the blanket down and checked the gauze pad covering the wound, noting the blood that had soaked through. Pulling the cover back up, he arranged it a little higher on Gage’s torso.
“It won’t be much longer until we’re there.”
“Good. I . . . I hope that kid makes it. You should have heard him screaming.” The fallen paramedic shifted on the gurney and moaned at a particularly sharp throb of pain in his belly.
Steve squeezed Johnny’s shoulder in support. “Well, he has a chance because you were there to help.”
“I wish . . . wish I could have reached him before he did it though.” Regret was heavy in his voice. He remained quiet the rest of the trip.
Dixie was there to greet the second ambulance. “Treatment One,” she smiled down at the dark-haired man, “Johnny Gage, how do you get yourself into these things?”
Without thinking, Johnny shrugged and immediately regretted it. “Don’t ask me, Dix. I was just on a date.” He pointed with a bloody hand to the woman trailing after the gurney.
“I tried calling Roy but couldn’t reach him so I called your captain instead. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Ahh, Dix, you didn’t have to. But thanks.”
“He said he was heading straight over. He should be here in just a little bit.”
Once inside the treatment room, paramedic Steve Chase rattled off his patient’s vitals. After Gage was transferred to the exam table, he bid them all farewell leaving Dr. Early to begin his examination.
“Dix, how’s the boy?”
Johnny noticed the head nurse’s expression despite her attempts to hide it.
“He didn’t make it? Ah, damn it. I should’ve . . .”
“No, no, he’s alive. Kel’s with him now. It’s . . . it’s touch and go. He’ll be going up to surgery any minute.”
The paramedic swallowed hard as he considered her words.
“Now, let’s worry about you.”
“Oh, I’m all right. Just a headache and a cut. That’s all.” He was completely ignoring the fact that he felt like hell.
“John Gage, it’s a little more serious than that, and you know it!”
He would have argued further, but at that moment Dr. Early began examining the wound and Johnny hissed in pain.
Without looking up from what he was doing, Dr. Early questioned, “Did I hear you say you were on a date when this happened?”
“Yeah. Some date, huh?”
“Well, I bet the young lady certainly got more than she bargained for.”
“So did I, Doc. Believe me, so did I.”
Johnny was given a localized anesthetic, and Joe Early proceeded to stitch up the slice on the paramedic’s abdomen. An IV of plasma hung on a pole beside the table to replace what Gage had lost.
Feeling tired after all he’d been through, Johnny closed his eyes. Though he was too concerned about the outcome with Alan’s injury to get any sleep, just resting felt good. His headache was temporarily relieved with pain medication, but he figured it would be back soon enough. He wondered what Samantha was thinking wherever she was now. The date sure hadn’t turned out like he’d planned.
Soon Johnny was moved to a room. A bandage had been placed over the sutures on his abdomen; luckily, his head wound hadn’t required any stitches. A short while after Johnny was settled, the door opened and in walked Hank Stanley.
“Hey, Cap.” The paramedic sounded groggy.
“Well, I hear you’ve had quite an afternoon,” Hank said as he pulled a chair closer to the bed. “You doin’ okay?”
Johnny nodded slightly. “Yeah. Heck of . . . a way . . . to end a . . . date . . .”
“I don’t think the lady’s too concerned about the date. I met her in the waiting room. She’s worried about you.”
“Any word on . . . the kid?”
Hank sat back and shook his head. “Hey, worry about John Gage, pal. If you could only see yourself.” He looked at the door of the room. “Your ‘friend’s’ down the hall from here. Doctor Brackett says he’s going to make it . . . thanks to you.”
Johnny sighed in relief. “I messed up.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. You probably went into the situation without thinking it all the way through. And that could have been a huge mistake.” The captain sat forward. “But if you hadn’t gone in, those two girls they say were in there might’ve been hurt worse or killed . . . not to mention what would’ve happened to the kid. You did what you had to do.” He sighed. “But don’t make a habit of going into situations like that if you can help it. Your luck’s liable to run out.”
Johnny looked at the man through droopy eyes. “Deal . . .” he furrowed his brow. “Did you say . . . Samantha was here?”
“I guess you are listening to me after all.” Hank smiled. “Yes, she’s in the waiting room down the hall. They won’t let her in to see you yet since she’s not family.” Stanley could tell by the puzzled expression on Johnny’s face that he was wondering something else. “I’m almost family; they had to let me in.”
“Right.” Johnny sighed. “You know, Cap . . . the guys may knock it. But there’s a lot to be said for just having . . . a simple dinner date for eight dollars and forty-nine cents.” Johnny winced as he shifted his position slightly. “You didn’t see me . . . in a hospital then.”
Captain Stanley snickered. His paramedic hadn’t lost his sense of humor. “You’re certainly right there, pal. Yep, you sure are.”
Thanks heaps to Jill Hargan for the beta read and suggestions! We appreciate it very much! :o)
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