Just Say Boo!
By Audrey W.
October 30th 1974
John Gage startled at the little white ‘ghost’ that suddenly appeared through the doorway.
The LA County paramedic and his partner Roy Desoto were in the process of taking the grandfather of the white-sheet-covered youngster out of the bathroom where he’d fallen, fracturing his hip, when the little one surprised them for a second time since their arrival.
“Got you again, huh?” His partner Roy DeSoto teased when he noticed.
“I’ll give ya this, kid,” the younger paramedic said, ignoring the other’s comment. “You got the timing down. You’ll make a great haunted house ghost some day.”
“Now, Bobby, you stay out of the way. These firemen need to get your grandpa to the hospital,” the mother said as she pulled off the sheet and drew her son off to the side.
“Ah, mom,” he groaned.
In the meantime the paramedics continued on with their charge, the ambulance attendants pushing him out on the gurney while the others carried the boxes containing their medical supplies and equipment.
* * *
John gave the rear ambulance doors two slaps, indicating they were secure. As he headed toward the rescue squad parked behind it, the ambulance pulled away, lights and sirens in use.
Once again, Gage found himself startle as he turned toward the squad. He was glad his partner wasn’t there to see his being caught off guard by the mini ghost for a third time.
“I see you got your sheet back.”
“It’s not a sheet. It’s my ghost skin!”
“Oh, well, I stand corrected,” he said with a crooked grin.
He stepped in the direction of the squad when he heard the child peeking through cut out eye holes ask, “Mister, did you really meant it when ya said I’d make a great ghost in a haunted house someday?”
Gage rubbed the ghoul’s head. “Sure.”
“Bobby, what did I tell you?” His mom called out as she came down their sidewalk. “You leave the fireman alone.”
“It’s o--” Gage started, but she cut him off with a raise of her right hand and a ‘no’ with her head shake. “Yeah, I’d better get going. My partner’s gonna be wonderin’ what happened to me.”
As he continued on and climbed into the truck, he heard the boy exclaim, “Guess what I’m gonna be when I grow up, Mom!”
“Nope! A ghost!”
Gage watched in the passenger side mirror as he pulled away, having made sure the street was clear to pull into.
Bobby’s mom didn’t look too thrilled with his latest ambition.
* * *
“About time you showed up,” Roy called out when his partner came around the corner in the ER corridor at Rampart General. He’d been waiting at the desk where the call station was located, the equipment he’d taken in the ambulance on the floor near his feet.
“I got delayed by a little spooky kid,” the younger man explained as he reached the other.
“He got you again, huh?”
Gage rolled his eyes. “No, he--” He noticed the doubtful expression on his partner’s face. “Okay, so he got me again. I just wasn’t expectin’ the kid to be outside already. That’s all.”
“With all the rescues we’ve been on involving youngsters?”
“I just wanna know how come you didn’t even jump once. Not even the first time he caught us totally off guard.”
“I’ve got two of my own, remember? I’m ‘boo’ proof.” Roy picked up the drug box and biophone, then motioned for John to get the oxygen tank. “C’mon, let’s get back to the station. Maybe the guys’ll have lunch waiting for us.”
“Boo proof,” the younger man muttered as he followed.
* * *
John stuck his head out the passenger window of the squad as Roy brought it to a stop after backing into the apparatus bay of Station 51. He sniffed the air.
“Smells like spaghetti. Wonder if Mike stepped in an’ took Chet’s turn to fix lunch. . .”
“Let’s hope. Chet’s last experiment with spaghetti sauce left a lot to be desired.”
Roy opened his door while his already-out-of-the-squad partner trotted around the front of their truck. He climbed out and closed the door as John kept on heading toward the dayroom.
The younger man said over his shoulder, “Man, I hope it’s ready. I’m starvin’.” As he entered the room first, Gage began, “Is that spa—aaah! What the--”
He immediately startled, instinctively pulling back as he swung out with one hand when a black winged figure was suddenly directly in front of his face.
Chet stood off to the left, an old broom handle in his hands, snickering at the paramedic’s reaction to the toy bat he’d gotten just for the latest prank on his unsuspecting victim. The bat was tied onto the end of the handle by a thin black string.
“Sometimes you make it so easy, Johnny baby.”
Chet had discovered early on in there time as shiftmates that the paramedic was a fun target for pranks, thus had played quite a few on him, including rigged water bombs in his locker.
Gage looked at the rest of the crew seated at the table, their plates of spaghetti in front of them. They all were enjoying his vulnerability too much.
Roy would have enjoyed it more if he hadn’t just come close to being knocked silly by his partner’s sudden backwards motion and if he’d been able to actually see it from within the room. But he still had to grin.
“You sure are jumpy today,” he quipped.
John glanced over his shoulder with a frown. “Gee I wonder why.” He then returned his attention to the others. “Chet, do you sit around just thinkin’’ of ways to irritate me?”
“Sometimes.” The prankster then shook his head. “Actually it comes pretty easy.”
The dark-haired paramedic rolled his eyes and sighed. Maybe he needed to borrow Roy’s kids to ‘boo’ proof him.
* * *
“So you haven’t mentioned what your kids are gonna be for Halloween,” John said as he and Roy cleaned up the dishes from lunch. The engine crew had been dispatched out for a junk yard fire, thus the paramedics were left to get the kitchen area back in order.
Roy took the next washed dish from him and began to dry it with a towel.
“That’s because I still don’t know.”
The younger man quickly turned to face him, a stunned expression on his face. “You kiddin’ me?”
Roy shook his head. “Nope.”
“But tomorrow’s Halloween!”
“Yeah, I’m quite aware of that. And believe me, they are, too.’ He figured being a bachelor with no kids, the other probably didn’t know to what extent they reminded him and their mom of it. “All I know is Christopher is either going to be a cowboy or superman and Jennifer is going to be a ballerina or a princess. They both already have the stuff to dress up as either, so it’s no big deal if they wait till they’re going out the door to decide.”
“If you say so.”
“Last Halloween Jennifer didn’t even want to go out trick-or-treating. Once she stepped outside and saw a scary costume on someone, she was back inside. Chris had to get extra candy for her.” He got a thoughtful look on his face, making his partner curious.
“What? What’s that look about?”
“I was thinking how Jennifer’s reaction just reminded me of you.”
Once again the dark-haired paramedic rolled his eyes. “Ha ha. Real cute, Roy. Real cute.”
* * *
After the dishes were done, the paramedics sat watching the game show ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ on TV at the opposite end of the room from the kitchen. Roy pulled a chair from the table to sit on, John took a seat on the dark leather couch against one of the walls.
“Ya know,” Gage began, “When ya think about it, it’s like a bunch of grownups in Halloween costumes on this show.”
“I suppose. Only the treats are a lot better than candy.”
“Unless they get zonked.”
Roy was about to agree when the klaxons sounded. The two were dispatched out for a man down.
* * *
“I can’t believe this,” the paramedics could hear a man groan through an open doorway off the kitchen as they were led into the room.
“That’s him,” his wife motioned toward the sound. She then hollered down into the basement, “Jim! The fire department’s here!”
He didn’t sound very enthused that help, whatever kind he needed, had arrived.
John went down the staircase, the black trauma box and biophone and in his hands, while Roy gathered some quick information from the woman.
“How old is he?”
“Does he have any history of health issues?”
“Just an occasional bruised ego.”
DeSoto had to grin at that answer.
With the drug box in hand, he joined his partner who was already assessing the rather heavy set victim. John had found him seated on the bottom step, cradling his arm, his right leg outstretched.
“Roy, it looks like a probable fractured radius. Severe ankle sprain.”
“Damn Halloween,” Jim grumbled.
“Sir?” Roy questioned as he set up the biophone.
The wife had come down to just above the group and explained, “The grandkids visit us every Halloween. They come and stay for a couple of days when it falls on the weekend.”
“Normally it goes off without a hitch,” her husband added through gritted teeth as Gage worked to secure his injured arm with a splint. “But the damn kids got this idea it’d be fun to scare their grandpa.”
“Don’t tell me they jumped out and said ‘boo’.”
John looked at Roy, hoping he wasn’t about to bring what happened earlier in the day up.
In the meantime, Jim answered, “I wish that’s all it was.”
While John gathered vitals and Roy contacted Rampart on the biophone, their still-in-pain patient continued with his story.
“The two boys swore they heard strange noises and saw something go behind the water heater over there.” He motioned toward the appliance with his good arm, causing Gage to reach out to hold him still. But it didn’t stop him from carrying on. “So I’m slowly going up to it and Daryl, the youngest one, yells ‘There it is, Grandpa! It’s a ghost!’, the light suddenly goes out and we’re in pitch darkness. I just hear him yelling ‘run, Grandpa, run’. Well, what’s going to be anyone’s first reaction when they’re in sudden darkness and they don’t even know why the light went out? I really just wanted to get up the stairs and turn it back on. But I only made it a few steps when my foot slipped off and down I went. My arm hit the edge of a step in front of me and. . .well. . .you know the rest.”
“Where are they now?” Gage wondered.
“Upstairs in the spare bedroom, thinking about what they did,” the wife answered. “And they’ll stay there until they come to realize how dangerous of a stunt that was.”
After giving Jim’s vital signs to Roy to relay to Rampart, the younger paramedic questioned, “So did you find out who turned off the light?”
He nodded. “David, our other grandson, had made it up the stairs while I was distracted and turned it off. They’re good boys, they just used poor judgment. I can’t say trying to run up stairs I can’t see at my age was a good decision, either.”
“At any age,” Roy put in.
They had the woman go back upstairs to meet the ambulance crew when they arrived. With Jim’s bad ankle and his being heavier than average, there was no way he’d be walking up himself, even with assistance. In the meantime the paramedics treated him with an IV and necessary medication directed by the doctor at Rampart.
Gage eyed the basement surroundings. “Have you ever had anything ghostly happen down here?” He certainly hoped not.
“Not yet.” Jim quickly knocked on the wooden step he was seated on with his free hand. “Can’t hurt,” he told the two firemen with a shrug.
* * *
On their way back to the station after leaving Jim in good care at the hospital, the paramedics were able to talk more about their last rescue.
“You know that’s your future.”
“I can see it now. Maybe your grandchildren’ll take lessons from Chet’s grandchildren.”
He glanced at his not-so-happy partner in the passenger seat and smiled, then quickly returned his attention to the street ahead.
“If I get to the point of having grandkids,” John said, his gaze on the other now. “I’m sure I’ll be ‘boo proof’ by then.”
* * *
Once at their destination, John and Roy again headed for the dayroom. Gage made sure Roy was in the lead this time.
"I'm not takin' any chances. Besides, I wanna see just how 'boo proof' you are."
But as the senior paramedic entered through the doorway, the door to the supply closet that was near it flung open. At the same instance, out jumped ‘something’with a loud "boo!"
Only catching the movement out of the corner of his left eye, John instinctively shoved his partner, knocking him a few steps forward as he tried to quickly get in the room behind him.
Immediately after, laughter filled the apparatus bay as Chet stumbled out of the closet, the mop he’d tossed out still on the floor. The rest of the crew enjoyed the prank from further back in the bay. Chet's timing had been a little off, it was a few seconds late, but it was obvious he’d hit it right enough to be effective.
Roy shook his head. “What’d I tell you. Your future.”
The dark-haired paramedic sighed.
* * *
Another rescue and meal later, the men at Station 51 were all gathered around the TV in the dayroom. A Charlie Brown Halloween special was on, something the firemen enjoyed more than each was willing to admit.
Chet rubbed his chin in thought. “Am I the only one who sees a bit of Gage in Charlie Brown?”
“Oh come on,” the paramedic a couple of chairs down protested.
“And you’re his Lucy,” Captain Stanley commented.
John then had to giggle, as Chet looked less than pleased being compared to a girl, even a cartoon one.
Before the half-hour show ended, the klaxons sounded. Once again John and Roy were trotting to their squad while the captain acknowledged the call at the podium just outside the dayroom in the bay.
* * *
Roy brought the squad to a stop in the driveway of a two-story home. The covered porch was decorated with two carved jack-o-lanterns, candles burning inside them. One had a frowning face, the other a wide toothy grin.
A police officer was already on the scene, a requirement for any rescues after sunset as a precaution for the firemen’s safety. He got out of his squad car on the side of the street when the paramedics arrived.
“I just got here,” Officer Vince Howard said as he went to the door with John and Roy. He eyed the home in front of them while the others grabbed equipment from side compartments of their squad. “Seems awful quiet around here for a person being trapped somewhere.”
“Maybe they’re all still trying to get them untrapped while we were on the way,” Roy offered. He handed an oxygen tank on wheels to Vince.
When they got to the front door of the house, Gage knocked on the door with his free hand, the biophone in his right one. Roy rang a doorbell when he noticed the button. It wasn’t long before the door opened revealing a teenaged girl in a bell bottom jeans and a green sweat shirt.
“I thought I called the fire department.”
“You did,” Roy assured. “We just have to have a policeman with us after dark.”
“Oh. I thought. . .nevermind.”
“You called about a person being trapped?” John asked.
“Yes, it’s my brother. Well, one of ‘um.” She stepped aside so the three men could enter. “Our parents are out, so Billy decided to mess around with an old trunk our mom has. He got in and had our little brother close it on him. Davey got the padlock for it and locked him in. We can’t find a key.”
“How long’s he been inside it?” Roy wondered.
“I don’t know. . .I lost track of the time.”
John turned to go back outside. “I’ll get the bolt cutters.” He handed the biophone he’d been carrying to his partner before exiting.
Roy and Vince followed the girl upstairs to her parents’ room.
“You gotta get ‘um out before our mom and dad get home or we’ll all be grounded forever,” she exaggerated, annoyance in her voice.
The youngest boy was beside the large fancy wooden trunk, a terrified look on his face.
“Am I gonna get arrested?”
Officer Howard worked to assure him that was not the case while Roy assessed the situation with the trapped brother.
* * *
John hurried into the room with the bolt cutters, having peeked in a wrong room first.
“He’s okay,” Roy filled him in. “But very uncomfortable right now.”
“I didn’t lock it,” Davey told his sister for the fourth time since the men arrived. “I didn’t.”
“We’ll talk about it after they get Billy out.”
“But I didn’t.”
As Gage cut the padlock off, he heard his partner ask the sister, “No one’s going to jump out and say boo, are they?”
John shook his head. Would Roy ever let him live this shift down?
DeSoto opened the trunk as the dark haired paramedic tossed the lock on the floor. A very sweaty teenaged boy immediately scrambled out. It was obvious he’d had more than enough with the trunk.
Officer Howard squatted down to face Davey while the paramedics checked Billy for any medical issues.
“Son, if you didn’t lock it who did?”
“The boogey man.”
“The--?” He looked up at the sister for clarification.
“It’s just a thing he makes up. He blames the ‘boogey man’ for a lot of stuff.” She then eyed her littlest brother. “You gotta stop. We all know it’s you doing whatever.”
“But it’s not! I told you. Sometimes he even hides under my bed!”
“You coulda killed me,” Billy shot at him.
“But--!” He frowned and looked down, kicking the carpeted floor with one foot in frustration that no one believed him. “It was him,” he mumbled.
* * *
With everything looking good as far as the victim’s condition, the paramedics wrapped up the rescue by advising all three siblings to not play around with the trunk anymore.
“We won’t,” Billy and his sister promised in unison.
As they went down the hallway, Gage caught sight of some movement in the first room he’d looked into on the way in. While the others continued on, the kids leading them, he stopped and watched as a cat in the room slowly slinked up to the twin bed against a far end wall. The pet stretched out its neck slightly to try to peer under the edge of the bedspread that was nearly touching the floor. Obviously unable to see anything, it slowly moved to one end of the bed and peeked around the side edge of the spread.
Gage got the eerie feeling the kitty was about to be pulled underneath. It’s what would happen in just about any horror movie.
Suddenly startled by something still unseen, the feline quickly pulled back from the bed with a hiss. It immediately turned and darted past the observer and out of the room.
Gage watched as the cat continued down the stairs, out of sight, then once again looked into the room.
He shook his head. “It’s a kid’s imagination. There’s no such thing as the boogeyman,” he assured himself. Still, he was kind of curious.
Curiosity may have killed a cat, but no one ever said it killed a fireman.
He entered the room, then walked over to the bed. After taking a deep breath, he leaned down, lifted the bedspread up and peered under the piece of furniture.
Nothin’ but a couple of board games in boxes. What scared the cat?
Gage involuntarily shuddered. Something had clearly frightened the cat and it sure as hell couldn’t have left yet, he hadn’t taken his gaze off the bed. If anyone jumped out and yelled ‘boo’ now, he was likely to nearly jump out of his skin.
* * *
“About time,” Roy called out when his partner emerged from the house. He and Vince were over by the rescue squad, showing the three kids all the ‘cool’ things about it underneath the glow of a street light. The ‘boogeyman’ and trunk were obviously already forgotten by the trio.
“I was about to come in on a search and rescue,” Roy teased as he joined Gage on the porch.
“I was just watching the family cat.”
“Odd. I’d say odd.”
“Right up your alley. ”
John glanced down at the smiling pumpkin nearby. “Don’t encourage him,” he playfully quipped before following his partner, the bolt cutters in hand.
* * *
On the way back to the station, John eyed his partner in the driver’s seat of the squad.
“Do your kids believe in the boogeyman?”
Roy took a quick glance at him, then shook his head.
“Almost, but Joanne and I eventually convince them it’s all imaginary when they bring it up.”
“Huh. . .”
Roy once again briefly looked at him.
“Don’t tell me I need to convince you.”
He went on to tell his partner about the cat and the bed.
“What would you have done if something jumped out at you?”
John shrugged. “Got the hell outta there, for one. That is, after I picked myself up off the floor.” He briefly gave it more thought. “Too bad Chet wasn’t there with me. I coulda’ got ‘um good with a ‘boo’ while he was watchin’ the cat.”
Roy just shook his head.
“Whataya’ mean ‘no’?”
“He would’ve gotten you first.”
Gage half frowned, his brows furrowed, arms folded across his chest. He didn’t want to admit it, but Roy was probably right.
Both men remained silent, each wondering for a few moments what the cat did see, but not wanting to admit it to the other.
* * *
As John climbed out of the squad once the paramedics were back at Station 51, he stated out loud, “Be ready. Somethin’ tells me Chet’s still at it.”
“I say we don’t go to the dayroom.”
Roy stopped a few steps from the doorway leading to it.
“Where do you suggest we go?”
“To the locker room.”
“To. . .?”
“I don’ know,” he said in exasperation. “Wash up,” John suggested with a wave of his left hand, then with a wave of his right, “Straighten up our lockers.”
“Would ya just go.”
“Okay, but you know he’ll out wait you,” Roy commented over his shoulder as they continued on.
However they only got as far as the rear of Engine 51 when a white-sheet-clad Chet jumped out from behind it with a loud “Boo!”
Roy grinned as John jumped.
“Gotcha!” the curly-haired fireman said as he pulled off the sheet, just two holes for his eyes cut out of it.
John shook his head. Roy was right. He was never going to be ‘boo proof’. But at least he handled ‘investigating the unknown’ without a hitch. He briefly thought about the situation with the cat again. He thought about telling Chet, but. . .no. . .it just wouldn’t have the same effect as being there with a sudden ‘boo’ from behind while watching intently. Still, he had to wonder what the cat saw or heard that he couldn’t.
* * *
Later around two o'clock in the morning of the 31st, Davey lay in bed, eyes wide open while he listened to the sounds of the game board boxes being shifted around in the darkness underneath. It wasn’t fair. Why couldn’t this boogeyman be like the ones in comic books he’d seen and just say boo. . .
This was inspired by an incident in our home. Our orange tabby cat made us aware we aren’t alone in our house. I started recording some of the stuff and it was when he slinked up to the bed in one room that I realized ‘monsters’ under the bed sometimes are very real. We just can’t see them. Here’s a link if you want to see what inspired this story.
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Halloween Stories Stories by Audrey