Johnny Gage steadied himself after a particularly vicious bout of coughing.
"Itís your turn to ask me a question," Chet Kelly said, waiting for Gageís coughing spell to pass.
"Uh, lemme think." Instead of actually thinking of a question, the paramedic squeezed his eyes shut, then opened them slowly. The total darkness was beginning to mess with his head more than the hit it had taken as the floor he and Chet were standing on collapsed. With the dampness, it appeared theyíd fallen into an old cistern.
"Iím thinking still," Johnny answered. Fidgeting hurt his bruised body, but he couldnít sit still in the three inches of water.
"Howís your ankle?" he asked Chet.
"As fine as your head and ribs," Chet responded, "and that doesnít count. Come on, ask a question already."
It appeared that their situation was getting to Chetís nerves too, Johnny thought, even though he couldnít see him.
"Uh, every morning in the locker room," Johnny began, "you do something in your locker. What?"
"I donít think I like this game anymore," Chet said, huffing a breath.
"Itís a fair question," countered Johnny.
"So?" Johnny prompted after a prolonged pause.
"Itís for good luck, thatís all. Like when you tap that Smokey the Bear poster."
"What is it?"
"Nothing really. Just a good luck charm. Thatís all."
Curious, almost enough to push away the pain and frustration, Johnny continued, "A good luck charm? Like a rabbitís foot or something?"
"Or something," answered Chet evasively.
"Come on. You wanted to play this game," Johnny said. He broke into another coughing fit, making him dizzy and nauseated. "Weíre only at question seventeen so weíve got to answer four more."
"Oh, all right already." Chet sighed audibly. "Itís a four-leaf clover."
Johnny leaned back, resting his aching head against the cold, damp cement wall and smiled, unseen of course.
"Well?" Chet said into the darkness.
"Why a clover?" Johnny asked.
"Thatís number eighteen," Chet said.
"Okay," Johnny agreed, "so answer it."
"But itís my turn now."
"Just answer. You can have two in a row, too."
"Itís a four-leaf clover. Strong Irish good luck," Chet explained. "My mom gave it to me when I left for the fire academy. Sheíd given my dad one and he came home every day he gave it a tap."
"But he Ö" Johnny knew Chetís dad had died at a fire.
"Yeah. He was working out of a different house then. He didnít have it with him that day."
A silence lingered as dark as their surroundings.
"You tapped it this morning, didnít ya?" Johnny asked.
"Yeah," answered Chet. "Thatís nineteen."
Johnny rolled his eyes, but did feel better about their chances of getting out of the pit.
"Okay," Johnny said, "your turn."
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